Monday, January 30, 2012

Those first 1,000 words...

I keep tweeting that I think I'm at the finish line with the new ms but I still can't quite get there.

Today, as I revised, I came back to those first pages I wrote--the ones in which I first connected with the character and the story. I still love them but I'm not sure they fit anymore in terms of the emotional level at which my mc should be at this particular moment in the story plot-wise.  I'm pretty good at killing my darlings, but I've gotta say that deleting those first magical pages when you feel a story start so that you can get to the finish is still tough.

What do you do with those first 1,000 words?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Elana Johnson's new covers of awesome!

The unbelievably talented and absolutely dear Elana Johnson has got a new book coming out this June. It's called SURRENDER--the sequel to her awesome 2011 debut, POSSESSION. Know what's even cooler? To match up with her super-pretty new SURRENDER cover, S&S has redesigned the POSSESSION cover for the upcoming paperback edition.  Without further ado (and you know how I LOVE illustrated covers), here's the pretty! Don't we love the turquoise and periwinkle--and the freedom-trapped-flying-things motifs? (Once you've looked, pop on over to Elana's blog to say hello and discover super-spectacular writerly goodness.)

Sorry but this one looked blurry when I enlarged it!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bookanistas: IN HONOR by Jessi Kirby

FIRST, just a quick note of thanks for all the great comments on yesterday's post about award-winning book covers. Keep 'em coming!

PLOT WITHOUT SPOILERS...Struggling to come to grips with the death of her soldier brother, Honor embarks on a journey in his old Impala. Her destination: the farewell concert of her favorite rock star. Her un-planned-for (and perhaps undesired) companion: her brother's childhood best friend and current beer-swilling society drop-out, Rusty. But the place Honor is really trying to reach can't be found on any map.

OF LITERARY INTEREST...There are several things that make this an exceptional road trip novel, not the least of which is the Pala--a car, a character, a metaphor for things worth trying to fix. As in her first novel, Jessi Kirby writes in a very special way about nature, about landscapes whether they're sandy beaches or spiritual mountaintops. Tales of journeys can feel deliberate as characters tick off one stop after another but this narrative feels so natural, so effortless. As you read along, you get a sense that Honor was just meant to be at each place she discovers--to find pieces of her brother, and of herself.

FINALLY, JUST GOTTA SAY...IN HONOR, Jessi Kirby's second novel, is a bittersweetly beautiful and finely crafted jewel. I first read the arc quite awhile ago and so had to reread it to write this post. The second read was even more rewarding than the first. The novel is rich with layers of imagery, twisting and turning as much as the roads Honor and Rusty navigate, exploring one of life's great questions:  Which is more important, the destination... or the journey?

Where can you click for more Bookanista goodness?

Christine Fonseca brings you a special Guestanista review of SPRINKLES & SECRETS Shannon Messenger delights in DEAD TO YOU – with giveaway
Beth Revis interviews TEMPEST author Julie Cross – with giveaway
Jessi Kirby takes a shine to the SURRENDER and new POSSESSSION covers
Jen Hayley gushes over THE GIRL WHO LOVED A CITY
Veronica Rossi is crazy for INCARNATE
Nikki Katz marvels at A MILLION SUNS
Gennifer Albin is on fire over CINDER
Tracy Banghart is all about THE OTHER LIFE
Jessica Love wonders at THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
Hilary Wagner mourns over THE DEATH OF YORIK MORTWELL -- with giveaway

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Anybody notice something about the Newbery & other ALA award-winning covers?

Ooh, don't you love a quiz?  In no particular order, here are some winners and notables. And, in the immortal phraseology of Sesame Street, WHAT ABOUT THESE IS KIND OF THE SAME?


IF YOU GUESSED...None of these covers are photo-illustrated...YOU'RE RIGHT! (Don't you feel Sesame Street self-esteem just oozing from your pores?)

I'm no expert in book design but something in my gut tells me that if you want your novel to be taken as "award-consideration worth" or "of serious literary merit," steering away from photos-of-girls covers may be a very good idea.

IF you want to test my theory a bit further (I will add a caveat that there is the occasional photo image but the person is generally SMALL and contextualized in a LANDSCAPE, not mooning out at you while wearing a pretty red dress), take a virtual wander through this year's ALA winners or  ALA Medals books from years past  (hints: WHEN YOU REACH ME, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX).  Or consider some other titles recently on the hype radar (hint: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and, er, THE HUNGER GAMES).


Monday, January 23, 2012

The Words I Never Write

As a writer, the delete button is an escape, a necessary evil and, often, a friend.  When I write in verse, economy of words, paring away the unneccesary, the obvious, is essential. Despite this, I think I edit myself less as a novelist than I do as an "author" and blogger.  When I write a novel, I'm writing in the voice of my characters. But when I make a statement as an author-of-books, when I post an opinion on my blog, that's just me.

If you've met me at a cocktail party, or know me from the neighborhood, you know that I'm kind of an opinionated broad.  And, while I'm happy to chat about ALMOST anything over wine, I usually have a sober second thought before putting these opinions in print.  Where they'll never go away.  And could, possibly, become fodder for one of those angry Twitter strings.

Here just a few of the topics about which I've drafted and deleted blog posts...
  • Childrens Book Reviews in the Wall Street Journal
  • Why Google should pay ME
  • Tolling on the 520 bridge and Seattle politics in general
  • Blogger...ahhhh, Blogger
  • The trouble with defining the YA NOVEL today
Honestly, I've even edited this LIST.  Sometimes I get frustrated because I think hope I have a few interesting ideas to share--ideas that might spark productive conversations. And, in truth, with my paltry 1,000 Twitter followers and 370 blog members, I don't have a large enough bully pulpit to rock the world like, say, Miley Cyrus (heehee!). Still, I have this weird hesitation about editorializing on the interwebs.

Anybody else???

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bookanistas: Cover love for GETTING SOMEWHERE by Beth Neff

The amazing Beth Neff's debut novel,

GETTING SOMEWHERE is a contemporary YA novel about four girls grappling with the consequences of the actions which have brought them together at an experimental juvenile detention program--on an organic farm. I'm a total sucker for illustrated covers, and I love the way this art weaves the girls together with vines and leaves as if they're part of something green, growing, larger than each of them as an individual. Score! So, happy book birthday to GETTING SOMEWHERE and congrats, Beth!

How do you feel about photographed versus illustrated covers?
And for more Bookanista goodness... 
LiLa Roecker adores AUSTENTATIOUS
Christine Fonseca is wild about WOLFSBANE
Nikki Katz takes a shine to UNDER THE NEVER SKY
Katy Upperman is dazzled by A MILLION SUNS
Shannon Messenger welcomes four wonderful new Bookanistas
Gennifer Albin joins the Bookanistas with a great giveaway
Tracy Banghart is wowed by ON FORTUNE’S WHEEL

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


The inimitable Holly Cupala whose second novel, DON'T BREATHE A WORD, pubbed this month, invited some author friends to share their thoughts about the power of words. Thus, I find myself in the company of these amazing writers: Beth Kephart, Denise Jaden, Melissa Walker, Justina Chen, Lish McBride, Lisa Schroeder, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, CJ Omololu, Stephanie Kuehnert, Tara Kelly, JoĆ«lle AnthonyJanet Fox, Tina Ferraro, and Janet Lee Carey (although I am way too melodramatic--sorry). Anyway, check it out!

Monday, January 16, 2012

OMG - I Forgot to Blog!

It's MLK Day and the kids are home from school. There's a LOT of snow outside (by Seattle standards) which means we're pretty well stuck in the house.  After finishing up the family's post-holiday go-round of stomach flu, I'm still playing catch-up on a couple of freelance jobs.  I start teaching choreography for a local school musical I'm helping with tomorrow. And I'm trying to finish a new ms.

I don't know about you, but I get into a pretty weird head-space as I feel the words "the end" getting closer and closer.  Have I written enough? Too much? Is the mushy middle of the novel still too mushy? Are my secondary characters sufficiently well-drawn?  Is the book okay or will my mother be the only one who really likes it?  And it doesn't help to be overwhelmed with other stuff.

Translation: There's been some procrastinating going on.  Here are a few things I've done this past week in the time I didn't have to spare:

1. Wrote three poems about marriage and family that have nothing to do with YA manuscript.
2. Cleaned the playroom.
3. Reaffirmed my preference for cabernet over pinot noir.
4. Read my five-year-old a book (for 10-year-olds) on chess and tried to teach him to play.
5. Finished putting the holiday decorations away (while vaccuuming up the fake pine needles, came upon a piece of Easter grass, proving that I am not always so on top of the housekeeping scene).
6. Built a snowman with my kids...and a snow fort.

You'd think I'd have found the time to write my Monday blog post but, alas, as I sit down now to finish revising aforementioned freelance job, I realized that, no, blog still has Saturday's post.  So, for what it's worth, here's something.

Happy Monday! (I think)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

COVER TIME: Keeper of the Lost Cities

Yesterday, the insanely busy Shannon Messenger revealed the cover for her debut mg novel, Keeper of the Lost Cities. Check it out!

So much pretty...the author name on the pedestal, the gorgeous & complex lantern, the light shining right out from the page. What do you like best about this beautiful cover art?

Thursday, January 12, 2012


First, a quick reminder to click on over to win a FREE, LIVE AUTHOR VISIT from me!

Now, on to this Thursday's books! I’m starting my reading year looking up to the heavens with two amazing titles by fellow Bookanistas.

Beth Revis follows her gorgeous, NYT-best-selling debut novel, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, by reuniting readers with Amy and Elder in her second impeccably-crafted and heart-rending sci-fi mystery, A MILLION SUNS. 
Veronica Rossi explodes onto the dystopian scene with the gut-wrenching adventures of sheltered Aria who is exiled to the "Death Shop" wastelands. There she meets the wild, renegade Perry, who may be her only hope for survival UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

These books are very different but I cannot help but find it kind of fitting to start the new year in REAL (?!) life, with two titles that aim for (and reach) literary heights, with ideas and images that turn us skyward.

Want more Bookanista inspiration? Click along!

Christine Fonseca introduces some fabulous reads for 2012
Veronica Rossi adores EVERNEATH
Debra Driza is in a frenzy over LARKSTORM with giveaway
Katy Upperman sings the praises of BEFORE I DIE

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I'm doing a huge giveaway! If you post a review of AUDITION on Amazon or B&N, you could win a FREE, IN-PERSON AUTHOR VISIT from yours truly!
BUT with all your work, homework, and extracurriculars, do you really have time to write anything extra, even for a prize? As someone who writes, wants to support YA literature, doesn’t love everything, and has limited time, I've developed this quick model. Feel free to tweak it to suit your own needs...

  1. Write a one-sentence plot description (without spoilers). Think of it as a movie trailer line.
  2. Write 2 sentences explaining what interested you. Comment on a character (intense, relatable, hot), a relationship (mother-daughter, boyfriend-girlfriend), or something abstract, such as setting (cool that it takes place at Disney land) or imagery (the author uses ice cream flavors to represent different moods of the main character). Pick just one or two of these suggestions.
  3. Write a summary comment. Here you can say, “liked” or “loved.” If you really hated it, you are welcome to say so. I’m a bit of a Golden Rule gal myself, so I try to note something that appealed to me even if I don’t think the book totally worked. For example, “The author really tries to get inside the villain’s head and, even if you don’t reach the book’s conclusion with compassion for this character, you feel like you’ve been given a detailed glimpse into the mind of an angry troll (or whatever).”
I can put together one of these reviews in about twenty minutes (for some examples, check my Reviews page). Of course, if I love a book, I sometimes take more time. However, I want to help bring awareness to YA literature so I feel that getting a decent review done quickly is sometimes better than taking six months to finish a really detailed look at a novel.

Every review written counts as one entry in my giveaway, so if everyone in your class writes a review, you’ve got tons of chances to meet me in person. I'll come to one school in the continental US for FREE (airfare, travel, hotel, all covered). Plus I’ll bring a signed book. And swag. Mystery swag :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dear Twitter Bots and other very random things for this Monday.

Just fyi, there are a zillion words and phrases (such as barf, acne, hair color, Tom Cruise) that I plan to use once and only once in my tweets. I wish you wouldn't retweet and follow based on these terms. I will only block you (and, if you're gross, report you). What is really the point of a "Barf Bot"? Bloggy friends, did you know such a thing exhists. And, a warning, before you use the word "mascara" in a Tweet--you better really want to learn a lot about cosmetics. Just fyi.

Stomach flu ripped through our house this week, so the fact that I managed 5,600 words this weeks makes me feel a little braggy. Especially since I got the flu myself and it came with a CRUEL migraine headache--the kind that hurts so much you can't even giggle because it makes your brain rattle painfully inside your skull.  That said, gonna give a shout-out to Aleve PM. That stuff rocks.

Before I got sick, drank a fantastic red wine, a 2006 Pirouette from the Columbia Valley. Just fabulous.

And, finally, while recovering on Sunday night, watched the entire first season of Showtime's EPISODES. Hilarious, intelligent, raw--great comedy. Almost great enough to make me spring for Showtime. Yeah, it was that good.  Tamsin Greig is SO my new girl crush even though she...Well, if I tell you what she does in Episode 7 it'll really spoil the season for you, so I'm gonna just say, well, I'm shutting up.

Doesn't get much more random than that, eh?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bookanistas: FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB by Antony John

Plot without spoilers…Seventeen-year-old, deaf Piper may be the last person you'd imagine landing the role of manager of a high school rock band called Dumb--it's probably the last thing she imagined doing herself. But, between her parents' "borrowing" from her college savings and her best friend (the only other deaf kid at their school) moving away, senior year is looking like it'll be a disaster already, senior year is already a bit of a nightmare so she somehow stumbles into the chaotic role. Piper got a lot to learn, not just about management and the music scene, but about hopes and dreams and people and art...and maybe about how to be happy.

Of literary interest…TThe notions of hearing and communicating, giving and receiving, through speech, sign, expression, body language and music are twisted, turned and examined with incredible elegance and insight.  This is a beautifully crafted novel, with a unique and compelling protagonist. There were moments when I began to worry I was getting near the end because I didn't want to leave Piper and the band!
Finally, just gotta say…I love the way the author weaves the stories of Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix into the story with such passion for their music.  Oh, and the scenes with Piper and Ed in the coffee shop are great: clean, simple, and sometimes a little smokin' :)

And here's more Happy New Year Bookanista deliciousness for you...
Elana Johnson offers musings on her Bookanista moments

Jessi Kirby savors HOW TO SAVE A LIFE
Nikki Katz is crazy for ASHFALL
Debra Driza  adores ANGEL FALL
Shelli Johannes-Wells celebrates January Bookanista books--plus a DISCOVERY OF WITCHES giveaway
Lila Roecker shouts for joy over SHATTER ME.