Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Northern California, here I come!

I'm hitting the road again with my friends from the STAGES ON PAGES book tour.  This time, we're bound for Northern California.  If you're in the area, please come and say hi.  And if you have an opportunity to tweet/blog/fb about this to any book buddies you may have in the NoCal area, THANK YOU!

Wednesday, MAY 30 from 3:30-5 PM at Belmont Library, 1110 Alameda de las Pulgas, Belmont, CA
with Elise Allen, Katherine Longshore & Gretchen McNeil
*Win a bundle of novels by Stages on Pages authors*

Thursday, MAY 31 at 6:30 PM at Center for the Arts, Grass Valley, CA in conjunction with The Bookseller
with Elise Allen, Kim Culbertson, Katherine Longshore & Gretchen McNeil
*In a lovely theater space, these authors may not just read, they may dance...and sing (hear that, opera buffs?)*

Friday, JUNE 1 at 7:00 PM at Towne Center Books, Pleasanton, CA
with Elise Allen, Katherine Longshore & Gretchen McNeil
*Meet up with us for dinner and book biz chat at Blue Agave, Pleasanton (5:30 pm)*

Saturday, JUNE 2 at 11:00 AM at Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
with Elise Allen, Kim Culbertson, Katherine Longshore & Gretchen McNeil
*We'll be playing AUTHORS ON THE SPOT and raffling books, swag, and a 20-page manuscript critique!*

Are you interested in the synergies between the literary and performing arts? "Like" Stages on Pages on Facebook by June 4 and you could also win a bundle of books by tour authors!

Monday, May 28, 2012

On creativity and marketing "mash-ups"

It's almost summer and trailers for blockbusters are flooding the shores of promotional beaches.  Two that recently caught my attention: THE RAVEN and ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER. Two icons of literature and history reimagined as forms of sleuths. Still, both movies testify to our culture's (at least the producers of our culture's) reliance on historically recognizable "brands" (yes, I'm calling our former president a brand) to fill movie seats--to yield success.

I know there's nothing truly new under the sun.  At its core, even a new novel tells an "old" story about love or sacrifice or greed--something from those seven deadly topics.  In the writing biz, we pitch in shorthand.  (e.g., you tell your agent your book is HUNGER GAMES meets PRIDE AND PREJUDICE).  Recent Suzanne Collins juggernaut aside, sometimes it saddens me how MUCH film entertainment simply revisits the past and how little really reaches forward to create new worlds, new heroes.  Collins herself cites mythology as one of her inspirations for the trilogy yet her society and characters feel fresh and her social commentary is challenging. The most amazing thing, I think, about Collins and other new-branders, Rowling & Meyers, is that their books were not made into films called SHAKESPEARE'S TWILIGHT or HARRY POTTER VS BATMAN.

GLEE may have popularized the "mash-up" song presentation style, but I'm not sure I dig it for movies. Especially when it feels like all that was done was to take one of those editorial meeting pairings like STAR WARS meets NANCY DREW and put it on the screen, keeping recognizable elements of the titles, while spending insufficient time exploring the validity of the combination to create a work of any cinematic merit beyond special effects.

I'm not saying there isn't room for those quippy AVENGERS (yeah, I liked it!) on movie screens this summer. This isn't a call to action, just a rant.  And a hope. For more films that are a little daring.  A little  less familiar. Even just a little new.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Summer of Ballet TV

Whether we're still in the wake of Gleekdom or just because ballet is never out of style, summer television is going on pointe with not one but TWO new dance programs

This new ABC family series stars Broadway's amazing Sutton Foster, so I'm definitely tuning in.  Here's a preview by a ballet teacher.

And, on the heels of the award-winning documentary FIRST POSITION comes the CW's reality program about ballet competition.  Here's what Cinemablend said about it. Reality television is not my favorite genre but if the dance is well-filmed, I'll give it a try.

Will you be watching?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bookanistas: SHADOW TITLES

Gotta love the trends.  You know, covers with faceless girls, girls suspended in water, red dresses or gravity-defying hair sweeps.  And don't even get me started on the whole one-word title thing (yeah, admittedly I'm guilty of this myself--I love me a strong, solitary, er, word!).  
Today, for your consideration, I present THE SHADOW PHENOMENON...

So, do "shadows" in a title hook you in?  Graphically, I love the text represented as a shadow against the girl's cheek on the cover of Robin Wasserman's new book.  Which one would you pick up first, and why?

For more book love and interview fun, check out these other Bookanista blogs!
LiLa Roecker interviews an Actual Young Adult

Shannon Messenger celebrates SURRENDER – with arc giveaway
Jessica Love is all about IN HONOR
Christine Fonseca interviews author Jo Ramsey

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion Day ;)

FIRST, congratulations to the winner of the FREE, LIVE, IN-PERSON AUTHOR VISIT from MOI!!!

I can't wait to visit Wisconsin for the very first time!

One of the big challenges of morphing from blogger-book-reviewer-aspiring-writer to blogger-published-writer is the issue of self-promotion. I mean, I started blogging because I love to read and write and I don't want that to change.  On the other hand, sometimes there's something going on in my writer-life that I want to share.  So, what to do?  Best answer I've got so far is self-promote sparingly and hope you don't offend.  So, with no further ado, two things...

It's little fuzzy, but here I am reading from AUDITION at the Poetry For All panel at TLA last month.  It was coordinated by the amazing and gracious Sylvia Vardell.  And, besides me, she's got clips from all the other poets!


And, if you live in Northern California, pop on over to STAGES ON PAGES to see a list of venues I'll be visiting with the amazing Gretchen McNeil, Katherine Longshore, Elise Allen and Kim Culbertson.  Tell your friends!  (Here we are on fb if that's easier.)  And, if you can make it to one of these events, drop a comment below and become a SPECIAL GUEST.  You don't have to be published and since you're kind enough to swing by my blog I already know you're awesome!

Monday, May 21, 2012

When you're not a writer, do you drive a MINIVAN? Then, check this out!

The delightful @DanZevin (if you're Twitterly-inclined) is hittin' the road with his hilarious new book about being a writer-dad and other stuff that'll make you laugh and sigh. 

Go HERE if you want more info about dates and times to get your signed copy in person.

Friday, May 18, 2012

RAOK Winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered. I hope you all had as much fun as I did spreading the RAOK love and celebrating our wonderful writing community! Thanks again to Becca and Angela for their amazing idea and the huge amount of work they put into this project. Now, for the winners…

The CONTEMPORARY COOL PACK goes to jpetroroy
Copies of MOONGLASS; ADIOS, NIRVANA; and THE LIAR SOCIETY will be on their way to you!

And pages and pages of SCARY SCARY STUFF were won by C. Lee McKenzie
Get ready to shiver while you read POSSESSION; BAD TASTE IN BOYS; and POSSESS!

I will email you directly to get mailing particulars for your prizes—and you might find an extra surprise in there, too!

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I am a wimp.  I still remember seeing the movie "Carrie" when I was thirteen (before you start thinking I'm THAT old, note that this was a rental movie at a sleepover--okay, it was on Betamax!) and being unable to sleep for a week. And don't even get me started on "Silence of the Lambs."

However, I recently read Kendare Blake's ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD and GIRL OF NIGHTMARES for a freelance project. And I am so glad that I did because, scary aside, these books are wonderfully written.
In both of these fresh, fast-paced tales about friendship, family, love, loyalty and the undead, the author keeps a commanding hold on her narrator's voice. True and clear in every line. The novels are rich with great descriptions like, “Nestled in between refurbished family homes are houses cut out at bad angles, their coats of paint peeling in scabs..."  Blake builds upon the classic newcomer-to-high-school story by creating a world in which magic hovers around everyone, whether they are aware of its power or not.  Beyond ghost story, Blake nudges readers to ask themselves why they believe what they do and whether they think love has limits. 

I finished ANNA and immediately picked up GIRL OF NIGHTMARES. I wanted more of Cas and his unlikely cohorts--popular, pretty Carmel and nerdy yet magical Thomas--and more of that pitch-perfect narrative voice.  Horror or not, this wimp is definitely on board to read anything by Kendare Blake for the sharp, gorgeous writing and richly drawn characters. Sure, these books are scary but really the first word I'd choose for Blake's work is high-quality.
For more book love, click along...

Christine Fonseca interviews author Sandra Almazan

Jessica Love falls for UNBREAK MY HEART

LiLa Roecker swoons over STORYBOUND

Megan Miranda is giddy for GILT

Debra Driza celebrates STARTERS

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Yes, I am goading you. And not just because the deadline to enter my giveaway for a FREE-LIVE-AND-IN-PERSON-AUTHOR-VISIT-WITH-MOI ends SIX DAYS from today.  I am goading you because (drum roll please)...


Believe it or not, those reviews and "likes" on Amazon and B&N improve our stats and that, my friends, is showing the love for your writer tribe.

Also, an AMAZON review only needs to be 20 words long. So, if we start with I THINK THE THING I MOST ENJOYED ABOUT THIS NOVEL WAS, you are more than halfway there!

Cut-and-paste with my blessings, folks.  Complete the easy sentence and put it on Amazon.  Send the link to your favorite teacher or librarian and they're practically finished with the entry for my AWESOME giveaway.  Then, wait and see.  Maybe I'll be turning up (FREE) in your town sometime soon.  Plus, I might bring my ultimate banana chocolate chip muffins. Yeah. That.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Random Act of Kindness BLITZ!

There are some people in this writing world who make it better. People who are honest and helpful, who have amazing imaginations and put them out there on the page for you to breathlessly follow. You know them from their wonderful blogs. And you definitely know it when you read their books.

Becca and Angela at The Bookshelf Muse know how critical these special people can be to a writer's career (and mental health).  So, in their utter coolness, they are commemorating the release of their book The Emotion Thesaurus by hosting a TITANIC Random Act Of Kindness BLITZ.

I'm joining them, since it seems like the perfect opportunity to celebrate a few of the folks who keep me from throwing in the towel some days.  And, since a great way to get to know these amazing people is through their books, I'm giving them away so YOU CAN MEET THEM, TOO. Just a few clicks below and you're entered to win! It's that easy!

Do you know someone special that you'd like to acknowledge? Send them an email, give them a shout out on Twitter, or leave a kind comment about your writer buddy below and I'll hop on over and check out their blog or website!

Becca and Angela have some special RAOK gifts over at their blog, so once you're done spreading the love, you may want to click along over to The Bookshelf Muse.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Memories for Mother's Day

I was thinking about images that take me back to the safety and warmth of my childhood home.  So many of these memories are tied to my mom and grandmother.  Here are a few:

  • The smell of garlic sauteeing in olive oil.
  • Curling up under a hand-knitted afghan--in colors a bright mishmash of skeins from the sale bin.
  • Any song from Joan Baez's "Diamonds & Rust" album.
You reading this mom?  Happy Mother's Day!

What takes you back?  Leave a comment below.  Or just share it with your own mother-person.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bookanistas: UNGIFTED by Gordon Korman


Cover art for UNGIFTED
was unavailable so
I made you this pretty
Korman cover montage :)

Gordon Korman is the author of my fifteen-year-old's favorite book. Even discussing POP can bring tears to his eyes. So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read an arc of Korman's new middle grade, UNGIFTED, before passing it along to my boy!

Plot without spoilers...UNGIFTED is the story of Donovan Curtis.  He's a good kid but much more of a doer than a thinker or planner.  This tendency gets him into all sorts of trouble including being accidentally enrolled in his school district's gifted program. But can Donovan, an all-around likeable guy, fit into a community of intellectual amazons and social misfits?

Of literary interest...Korman artfully employs snippets of lore about a family forebear who survived the sinking of the Titanic, to explore issues surrounding genetic and social inheritances of many kinds into his tale.  Other strong elements include the well-drawn relationship between Donovan and his married, pregnant older sister. Oh, and look out for the phrase "Atlas shivered" to enjoy!

Finally just gotta say...From previous novels including SCHOOLED and NO DEAD DOGS, it is clear that Korman is fascinated by the concept of intelligence, the tensions between institutional education and intellectual curiosity, and the many different types of knowledge needed to help society function.  He pursues this interest on the pages of this funny, quirky little novel that starts as a seemingly straightforward story of a middle school prankster and becomes something you don't put down. A story that touches your heart and lingers in your mind.

And more Bookanista review goodies...
Christine Fonseca adores IN HONOR
Tracy Banghart basks in SUNSHINE
Shelli Johannes-Wells give some spring cover-lovin’
Debra Driza shares a “happy debut week” vlog for HEMLOCK

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

IN HONOR hits shelves today!

I was lucky enough to read an early arc of Jessi's beautiful sophomore novel.  Here's my Bookanista review from January.

And here's a snap of Mr. Bacon on horseback beside the book for, well, no reason except that I'm obsessed with making books pose in silly places.

Monday, May 7, 2012

It's Children's Book Week!

The celebrations always include great art.
Here's Lane Smith's bookmark!

Now, go do something book-ish!
Writers, teachers & librarians, go HERE to learn more about the Children's Book Council.
Or click along to find some ideas to celebrate CBW for kids or for teens!
And if you wanna win CBW stuff, click here: http://www.literaryrambles.com/2012/05/childrens-book-week-giveaway-hop.html!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bookanistas: GILT by Katherine Longshore

DISCLAIMER: Katherine Longshore and I share an editor, who sent me an arc of GILT.  Therefore it was with some trepidation that I turned to the first page.  Obviously, I hoped I would love it for so many reasons. Sometimes, you get lucky...

Plot without spoilers...When her best friend, Catherine Howard, catches the eye of King Henry VIII, Kitty Tylney's quiet life is upended and she finds herself at court. There, innocent Kitty begins to realize that wealth and power are not only glamorous but dangerous and that, in flirting with the king, her best friend is also playing with fire.

Of literary interest...Katherine Longshore is a great anglophile and the book is impeccably researched and full of fabulous details.  Luckily, she is also a terrific writer, able to make 16th century England accessible to the contemporary reader (even one like me who did not exactly study hard in my college European History class).  Longshore brings us into this spectacular foreign world (as richly described as any, er, wizard boarding school) and then connects us to characters so real they remind us of our friends (and some enemies).

Finally, just gotta say...I read this book in one sitting. Didn't even get up for a cuppa tea.  And it's 416 pages long, so that's saying something. I found myself so involved the life of Kitty--feeling for her, worrying for her, struggling along with her as life at court came unraveled--that I BECAME Kitty Tylney, awed by the gilt of the world into which I was thrown and terrified as I began to see hints of tarnish. The end of this story is a gut-wrenching blend of historical fact and astonishing drama. I closed the book thinking three words: I. WANT. MORE.  You will, too.

Where else will the Bookanistas take readers this week? Travel here...
Christine Fonseca revels in TO RIDE A PUCA
Katy Upperman adores UNDER THE NEVER SKY
Tracy Banghart delights in THE DISENCHANTMENTS
Gennifer Albin celebrates SHADOW AND BONE
Jessica Love is wowed by YOU’RE THE ONE THAT I WANT
Shelli Johannes-Wells is crazy for CLOCKWISER

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

IRA 2012 and a word on conferences

For those of you who know me, my confession of being a conference junkie is no surprise.  So, OF COURSE I wish I were in Chicago this week for the International Reading Association's 2012 Convention.  I'd have gotten books signed by Neal Shusterman and Kendare Blake, listened to lunchtime words of wisdome from the amazing Jacqueline Woodson, attended Jennifer Wells' presentation on "The Successful High School Writing Center" to improve my writing workshops, and generally spent too much time squealing at the sight of favorite authors in the exhibit halls.

Luckily, they IRA folks are a friendly bunch, so I've been able to follow along via their COMMUNITIES
listings on their website, and by following #IRA2012 on Twitter.

While I missed IRA 2012, you can be sure I'll get there sometime. Meeting educators, authors, bloggers and book lovers of all kinds; learning so much about your craft, your market and your community; and just spending time in spaces filled with so many books, is always worthwhile. IF you possible can, try to get to a national or large state reading, education, or library conference sometime.  Even if you just drive there for the day and buy an inexpensive exhibit hall pass.  I guarantee you will not regret it.