Aug 31, 2012

Friday funnies - Aug. 31

My agent posted this on FB, prompting several minutes of fun as I hurled insults at anyone in earshot.

You gotta try...

LOVE this.

And been here:

The dangers of unrealistic encouragement:

DO join us Monday for the start of our Fact or Fiction bloghop. There'll be fun stories and some awesome news I get to share!!
Have a great weekend,

Aug 26, 2012

YA fall books preview

This summer, I had the privilege of reading several upcoming fall titles via Netgalley. (LOVE Netgalley!) And today I'm sharing the best of the lot. You can find reviews I've done on these titles over at Goodreads, but I'm just sharing the blurbs here because....
This list is really a PRIZE list!! WOOT! As you may know, Emily King and I are hosting the What I Did Last Summer: Fact or Fiction? bloghop next week. Your job: to fool us with two summer stories - one fact, the other fiction. The writer who fools the most into thinking their story is fiction when it's actually fact gets to choose one of these books for their very own. How cool is that?? (Want to join us? Go here to sign up. The list is small right now - exactly how I like it - but there's room for a few more.)

UNSPOKEN by Sarah Rees Breenan (Go here to read Sarah's interview, and here to read my first reaction to this title. Serious. Love.) Release date: Sept. 11
Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

IRONSKIN by Tina Connolly; Release date: Oct. 2
Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation"—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio...and come out as beautiful as the fey.

Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.

THE BRIDES OF ROLLROCK ISLAND by Margo Lanagan; Release date: Feb. 12
On remote Rollrock Island, men go to sea to make their livings--and to catch their wives.

The witch Misskaella knows the way of drawing a girl from the heart of a seal, of luring the beauty out of the beast. And for a price a man may buy himself a lovely sea-wife. He may have and hold and keep her. And he will tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she. He will be equally ensnared. And the witch will have her true payment.

Margo Lanagan weaves an extraordinary tale of desire, despair, and transformation. With devastatingly beautiful prose, she reveals characters capable of unspeakable cruelty, but also unspoken love.

THRONE OF GLASS by Sarah Maas, released Aug. 7
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

 Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim?

As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

DARK LORD: THE EARLY YEARS by Jamie Thomson; release date: Oct. 2
The Dark Lord is confounded when he awakens in the middle of a small town on a planet he's never seen before. What is this strange place, why do they keep calling him Dirk Lloyd, and why is he powerless against these earthlings who insist on finding his parents? Could it be that Dirk Lloyd is really a human incarnation of the Dark Lord who, after a cataclysmic final battle with his arch nemesis, was hurled into the Pit of Uttermost Despair, aka Earth? Or is he just a lost and confused boy? The Dark Lord must regain his rightful place in the universe before his powers of domination and destruction are lost forever, and help comes from a most unlikely source . . .

Obviously, this list isn't all encompassing or the post would be wayyy too long. Other great YA reads: Send Me A Sign by Tiffany Schmidt, Gennifer Albin's Crewel, The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors, Swipe and Sneak (first two in a series) by Evan Angler, and Blood Red Road - which is already out but too good not to mention - by Moira Young.

What great new titles have you read recently?

Aug 23, 2012

Friday funnies - Aug. 24

I love the How It Should Have Ended Series. Especially this one:

Thinking of getting a beta or a critique? Check out YAStands - link in the sidebar - there's a list of us who love to beta. Then don't do this:
Discourged napping is totally missing from my process. *resolves to add*
 I always knew my cats weren't from here:
Lol via Blogsoup

 Have a great weekend!

Aug 19, 2012

UNSPOKEN and Sarah Rees Brennan

I'm SO excited to introduce you to savvy author, Sarah Rees Brennan, today. This interview has been on hold since March, when I finished an ARC of her latest paranormal YA, UNSPOKEN. The ARC included Sarah's email address (brave!) so of course, I had to tell her how much I loved this book. (also brave for me but kinda stalkerish/fangirlish) She responded very graciously not only to my gushing first email but to an interview request...which she then turned around in .5 nanoseconds. o.O  I really, really like organized people. being one myself and all. ahem. *looks modest*

Sarah's debut novel, The Demon's Lexicon, came out in 2009 - the first in a trilogy -  and got a starred review from the School Library Journal. Critics said that "even teens who don't consider themselves genre buffs will appreciate the solid writing, fast-paced plot and authenticity" Sarah created. She's also co-written Team Human with Justine Larbalestier, a vampire tale with a little zombie mixed in....Now, just from their blurbs, I can tell you that neither of these books fit my usual milieu. I'm not a paranormal fan. The thought of vampires fills me with such intense sarcastic power, my eyes practically roll out of my head and all I can parrot is: "whatever! whatever! whatever!"

BUT...what that reviewer said? True. Sarah's storytelling transcends genre. UNSPOKEN  hooked me with one line: Kami Glass is in love with someone she's never met—a boy she's talked to in her head since she was born. I read the novel in .5 nanoseconds. It was that good. And a bit inspiring. (read about that, plus see Unspoken's book trailer, here.)
Moi:  So Unspoken is set in the Cotswolds, one of the most adorable places on earth. Whyever did you choose it for the setting of this magical story?

SRB: My aunt lives there, so I know the place. ;) I've been to the Cotswolds many times, both to visit my family, and on walking tours, and when I was writing Unspoken I stayed in a small town, visiting others, walking through fields, and getting attacked by a very large fountain and a very small goat. (The countryside can be a dangerous place...)
I knew I wanted the English countryside, and I wanted to write about a small town, somewhere that was really beautiful but also remote: somewhere that seemed like a countryside idyll, until it didn't, somewhere with a lot of secrets under shady trees and amidst loveliness that was almost magical.
In the Cotswolds the town names seem like stories (Stow-on-the-Wold, Moreton-in-Marsh, the Severn Vale are real places, and Sorry-in-the-Vale seemed to fit right in.) Even the stone there looks like gold from a fairytale: it was perfect.

Moi: I LOVE that Kami is half-Japanese. Talk about if you thought about this ahead of time, or if she just popped out of your head, fully grown. Will Japanese folk-lore get more play in the next two books?

SRB: Kami being part Japanese wasn't the first thing I knew about her (that was that she was a schoolgirl reporter, and then that she had a goofy sense of humour)... but it was one of the early things. I've read quite a few Gothic novels (you know, huge manor, mystery and secrets!) in which the heroine finds herself in a Mysterious and Strange Land, but the heroine herself was always white and English, and of course a lot of English people aren't white! It started to seem weird to me that someone with the same background was front and centre again and again.
Kazuo Ishiguro, a writer of Japanese descent living in England, said: "I grew up with a very strong image in my head of this other country, a very important other country to which I had a strong emotional tie[...]. In England I was all the time building up this picture in my head, an imaginary Japan."

That really struck a chord with me. Kami's never been to Japan, and the stories she knows about it are uniquely her stories, but so are the English stories: she has so many stories. I knew from early on that folklore was a part of the plot, and I didn't want it to be just traditional English folklore. Countries have a lot of variety, have many different kinds of people all living there, making up the fabric of a home, and lots of different stories wind together to become one. I wanted to talk about that in Unspoken, which is so much about imagination and stories: about the imaginary worlds inside your head, and the different people who make up a homeland.
Moi: The most compelling thing for me about Unspoken was your tension. Talk about drafting tension - is there a magic formula to creating great tension between characters? Are you able to tell while you're writing if you've achieved that, or does that knowledge always come w/ beta feedback?

SRB: Thank you. ;) Golly, I have never thought about tension as its own thing: you write the characters as realistically as you can, and the relationship between them as well as you can, and conflict or tension arises because of the people they are: it seems real and you care if the writer's succeeded in making you believe in the characters and care about them.
Kami has a lot of tension with a lot of people: her parents, her imaginary friend, her real friends, the people she's known all her life and the new people entering her life. Tension comes from the characters and the story they're in, the secrets revealed and the truths and lies told: whether you find or lose people as the story goes on, whether someone rubs you up the wrong way or fits with you. I enjoyed writing about Kami and Ash and Jared and Angela and Holly and everyone else, in many different combinations! I'm glad that came through!
I never know if I've achieved anything, but my critique partners saying 'Yes, that bit has the desired effect' or 'Add pain, more pain' or 'This banter isn't sitting right with me' or 'SO AND SO IS A CRAZY PERSON'... always very helpful. They're very helpful people. ;)

Moi: This book is the first of three, right? So how did you plot - a timeline? Rough sketches of each chapter? How is plotting a series different from plotting a single book? I mean, you can't go back to the first one and fix details later, if your third book goes in an entirely different direction, right?
SRB: I've never actually plotted a single book! I'm a series-writing kind of lady: I get so attached to the characters and the story that just one book doesn't seem like enough. I had a rough plan (not chapter by chapter) for the following books by the time the first one was finished: I know how the series is going to end, even if I end up taking a different path. I always know endings, and a few scenes in the middle, and then I figure out how to get there.
Besides, with publishing dates as they are, it is possible to go back and fix things if I absolutely need to. I'm partway through writing the third book now, and the second one is written and with my editor, and I can still change sentences in the first if I have to. Waiting for readers to read the first book is torture, but having it all flow together is achievable!

Moi: Some publishing questions: you've switched houses for this series. Did you have to go out on sub for Unspoken? If so, how was it different than when you submitted for your debut...and do editors give helpful feedback, even if they pass on your project? (you can tell that last one is for me. :)
SRB: I did have to go out on submission for Unspoken, yes! It was more or less the same as for my debut: agent gives you list of editors based on her thoughts (I had more suggestions this time around because I knew more), asks the editors if they wanna read, and then the editors go off with the book. You sit and wait, fainting and gnawing on electrical cords and then fainting again. Normal behaviour! Eventually, someone gets back with an offer. Maybe more than one someone. You then pass out for the fifty-seventh time, this time from relief and joy.
Editors sometimes just say 'Pass' and sometimes give helpful feedback: it very much depends on the editor. I've had great feedback from editors who I didn't end up working with: you remember the great feedback because you think 'Would definitely work with in the future.'

 Moi: Many say that houses have their own editing style. In general, have you noticed a big difference between how houses edit?
SRB: Oh, yes. Every editor edits differently, I think, but even house standards vary: Simon & Schuster did all its edits on paper, so I'd often feel bad about the huge packages going to and fro from Ireland, where I live.
With Random House it was all electronic, and the change in format made a big difference: sometimes I had to print out pages to remember how I used to edit! But then Harper Collins struck a middle ground electronic edits and on-paper copy edits.

Moi: You've got a heavy hitter for an editor - the VP of Random House for Children's Books. Talk about how you earned that attention and if it's made a difference so far in your publishing journey, compared to your last series.

SRB: Well, I've been very lucky with editors. Karen Wojtyla at Simon & Schuster, who edited my Demon's Lexicon series, and Anne Hoppe at Harper Collins, who currently edits my Team Human books cowritten with Justine Larbalestier, are excellent and heavy hitters, to borrow a phrase, as well. All three of my editors deserve acclaim because they are great!
Mallory Loehr, my editor for Unspoken and the other Lynburn Legacy books, is wonderful, though. I met her at a convention before Unspoken was even finished, and I was awestruck to meet Tamora Pierce's editor, because I'm a big fan of Tamora Pierce. She was funny, smart, and loved a lot of the same writers I did, and I thought that one day it would be amazing to work with her. I didn't dream I would work with her so soon afterward. I don't think anybody knows how they attracted an editor's attention... you just send the book out into the wide world, having made it the best you can, and hope it finds a really good home. Unspoken did.

With Unspoken, it was really great how absolutely Mallory kept me in the loop: I heard everything about covers (and I have the best cover ever, thanks to Mallory finding my wonderful cover artist Beth White). I had regular calls and emails, even when Mallory was on maternity leave! She has been amazing, and thanks to that it's been smooth sailing. I really love Mallory and feel very lucky she took a fancy to Unspoken! '

Moi: So how often do people ask you why you haven't written about leprechauns, seeing as how you're Irish and all. :)
SRB: Never, there doesn't seem that much demand for a leprechaun tale. I have however many times declared that I was going to write a story in which a girl is wooed by a hot, hot leprechaun. It's going to be called GETTING LUCKY... ;)
How about 50 shades of green? *snicker*

Moi: Now, a question about the Demon's Lexicon, your first series put out by Simon & Schuster. In reading the synopses on your site, it's clear your premise follows that of other published authors in this genre - there are plenty of demons/evil running riot but no recognized higher power to offset your evil dudes. (The good guys are humans, right?)  And you're not alone in this lack. Everyone seems to agree on the face of evil...but nobody can write a recognized GOOD higher power into their secular MS without controversy and/or genre change. Why do you think this is?

'The good guys are humans, right?' Er, well, no? Some of them? The hero of my Demon's Lexicon series is a demon. ;)
The demons in those books are not Christian demons (hell, heaven and angels are entirely unknowable to my demons as well as to my humans)--they are the creatures from Sumerian legend, made of fire when humans are made of earth, dangerous but not necessarily evil any more than humans are necessarily good. I can't speak for other authors, but I'm not really interested in writing about clear-cut absolute figures of good vs evil.
I'm interested in shades of gray, how people not originally evil turn toward it, how love is born and endures. So that's what I write about. I hope it's what people will want to read about.
Thank you very much for the interview! ;)

Thank YOU for stopping by, Sarah! Next Monday I'll post my top fall YA reading recommendations, one of which the winner of our Fact or Fiction bloghop will choose for his/her very own. Sign up here.
Have a great week!

Aug 17, 2012

Friday funnies - Aug. 17

It's the first week of school here!

How I feel on this Friday:

What my students believe:

I need a shirt that says this:

Stop by Monday for an awesome interview with author Sarah Rees Brennan, whose book, UNSPOKEN is at the top of my fall reading recommendation list that'll be posted the following week. Sarah also wrote Team Human and The Demon's Lexicon and is a seriously generous person. I can't wait for you to meet her!

Have a great weekend!

Aug 12, 2012

How to write like a guy if you're a girl, part II

(WriteOnCon is THIS week! If you write kidlit, check it out here. I highly recommend it! And go here to sign up for our Fact or Fiction bloghop in September.)
The first post on this topic focused on characteristics of guy narrators/MCs. Today I'm highlighting plotting traits of fiction that appeal to boys/young men. I've mentioned in earlier posts that YA geared entirely toward boys is super-small...probably for a few reasons: as evidenced by NPRs recent top 100 YA reads list, most YA authors are women; and guys as a whole (especially teen guys) aren't big readers to begin with.
However, in case some of you are writing to reverse this trend - the one where teen guys aren't big readers -  here are a few characteristics of boy-friendly fiction I've noticed in my reading travels.
1. Guys like books with violence. A lot of it. I'm not talking about gruesome, bloody battles with lots of dismembered parts. Consider Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. The entire book focuses on the development of Ender into a master soldier/strategiest. Card includes the violence almost clinically. In the Harry Potter series, the violence escalates but again, Rowling uses it as a sign of escalating conflict rather than dwelling on the bloody reality. So does Suzanne Collins in The Hunger Games and James Dashner in The Maze Runner. In all these books, violence is a tool rather than an end to a means. And if you can put a different twist on the violence - one of your characters is into martial arts - all the better.

2. Guys don't like soap opera-dwelling angst. In Ender's Game, the MC endures all kinds of emotional and physical stresses but Card details Ender's reactions - and his angst - very swiftly. Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen both have plenty of emotional fall out from their actions but neither of them dwells on it. They're always moving forward, turning their angst into action. 

3. The setting is nuts-and-bolts realistic. World building is precise, the rules are clear and cause-and-effect is logical. Think of Star Wars or Battleship Galactica or any popular sci-fi. Sure, there are lots of gadgets and cool wizardry but all of it is based on fact. Yes, the sci-fi genre requires such careful attention to what-could-be, but I believe that's one of the reasons so many guys are sci-fi fans. The realistic use of imagination appeals to them. (LOTR is, of course, an exception, although Tolkien's world has very clear rules...and also lots of #1 and #2.)
4. Guys like plot-driven stories or stories based on fact. There's a whole genre for character-driven stories: chick lit. Jodi Picoult, Barbara Delinsky, Jennifer Weiner - they're all great, but my husband or son are as likely to pick up a book in this genre as they are to get a mani/pedi.
5. Guys like books about guys. Hunger Games has proved that this trait isn't because most guys are sexist (although I think that's a factor) - it's because most books with female MCs concentrate on girl-stuff. Angst. Little violence. Lots of deep thinking. Little action. Lots of he-said, she-said drama. Etc. Guy MCs force the author to concentrate on guy interests.
6. Very little romance. Need I say more?
So what did I miss? What are some YA novels you've read that would appeal to a guy audience?
Have a great week!

Aug 9, 2012

Friday funnies - Aug. 10

In case you missed Monday's post, there's a fact-or-fiction bloghop coming up next month. Go here to check it out.... and please join us!!

Speaking of fact-or-fiction, check out this link for one of those stories that's almost too cool to be true. It's about one of those chance meetings that can change the way you think.


                                  Am I the only one who thinks being able to force-choke someone would be a really handy skill? Esp. where one's teenagers are concerned...

Filed under "almost too ick to eat"

The Olympics of cat sleeping positions

Have a great weekend!

Aug 5, 2012

Fact or Fiction Bloghop coming up!

Can you tell a great story, one that's so good, it's hard to tell if it's fact or fiction?
Next month, Emily King and I are hosting a bloghop where you'll share your favorite summer memory - whether it be hilarious, a comedy of errors, sweet-as-pie, adventurous or the kind of story you're glad to have over - as well as one that's pure fiction. Everyone else's job? To spot the fact from fiction. The writer who fools the most commentors wins the prize.

Confused? Let me break it into bullet points. (I love me some bullet points.)
  • Monday, Sept. 3: Post one summer story, true or false, it doesn't matter but it should be under 500 words.
  • Tuesday: Sept. 4: Hop to other participating blogs to check out your competition.
  • Wedesday, Sept. 5: Post your other summer story. If Monday's was your truth, have Wed. be your fiction story. Or vice versa. (Again, under 500 words.)
  • Thursday, Sept. 6: Hop to other participating blogs. Decide which one is true and which is false and put your vote in the comments of each entry.
  • Friday, Sept. 7: Your reveal. Tell us which story is true and which is false.
  •  Late Friday or early Saturday, Sept. 8: PRIZES!!! Emily and I are giving away FOUR total - two grand prizes for the stories that fool the most commentors; and two critiques for the runners up in each category. The PRIZES will be a book of your choice from lists Emily and I have compiled. My list will be Best Fall Fiction Reads, which I've previewed via ARCs and that come out starting next week. Emily's got a list of nonfiction books she's putting together.
  • In other words, I'll be awarding the writer who fools the most with his/her fiction - meaning most people thought it was true -  and Emily will be awarding the writer who fools the most with his/her nonfiction. The critiques will go to the runners up in each category.  Make sense?
No, the stories you share do not have to happen this summer. Reach back into your childhood for the best one as long as one of your stories is absolutely true. You're on the honor system here but we trust ya. ;)
Sound like fun? Sign up in the linky below. (It's working now! :) Then check back the third week of August. I'll be interviewing Sarah Rees Brennan, author of The Demon's Lexicon and Team Human, as well her newest release, UNSPOKEN, coming out next month (one of my faves). Then I'll post the list of hot fall fiction I recommend, which the fiction bloghop winner will choose from as his/her prize. Emily will post her nonfiction picks around the same time.

Questions? Post them in the comments. And we hope you'll join us next month!

Aug 2, 2012

Friday funnies - Aug. 3

My kids like this video more than I did...for obvious reasons...but it mentions the Olympics, so...

Whoever said you had to pick just one profession? (I heart Johnny Depp.)

Green is such a pretty color.

Have a great weekend!