Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Brilliance of Others

Maybe it's because my life is all about summer right now.

Maybe it's because all my creativity is going into my WIP and the yummy things I've been cooking up in the kitchen.

Maybe it's because that stack of bills I've been ignoring keeps staring at me reproachfully, warning me that they can't be avoided much longer.

Maybe it's all of the above?

Nothing I write in this little space could be as brilliant as what Michelle Argyle wrote here. The last few days haven't offered up any heartwarming moments like this one from Susan Quinn. I haven't got a new cover to reveal like Beth Revis. And my babies are much larger than Tiana Smith's new bundle of joy.

So while I don't have much to say today, it's good to know that others do. Especially when I read a post like this over at *Headdesk*, inspired by something I wrote a few weeks ago! (Always happy to create stress for my readers! Sorry, Mandy -- and you're welcome!)

Back to the writing cave I go. Isn't summer wonderful?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What I'm Reading

One of the best things about vacation is having more time to read. I brought along a bag of eight books (yeah, my husband thought I was insane, too!) but only got through four. A fifth one I just couldn't get into so I stopped at page 78. I may try it again because everyone raves about it, but it was really annoying me! The ones I enjoyed reading were:

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
(from Goodreads) Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb — males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out. When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape — to find her twin brother and go home.

(my comments) I read this in a day. I couldn't put it down once I started. Yes, I had some questions, but nothing big enough to make me not want to read. And now I wait (impatiently!) for the sequel...

Finny by Justin Kramon
(from Goodreads) Fourteen-year-old Finny Short can’t make sense of her family’s unusual habits: Her mother offers guidance appropriate for a forty-year-old socialite; her father quotes Nietzsche over pancakes. Finny figures she’s stuck with this lonely lot until she meets Earl Henckel, a boy who comes from an even stranger place than she does. Unhappy with Finny’s budding romance with Earl, her parents ship her off to Thorndon boarding school. But mischief follows Finny as she befriends New York heiress Judith Turngate, a girl whose charm belies a disquieting reckless streak. Finny’s relationships with Earl and Judith open her up to dizzying possibilities of love and loss and propel her into a remarkable adventure spanning twenty years and two continents.

(my comments) This unfortunate cover doesn't convey what a great story lies inside. It's interesting to see a guy's perspective on a love story, of how much he thinks a female will put up with from the man she loves. Technically not a YA, but the book definitely has crossover appeal.

Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
(from Goodreads) According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object-an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas-it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him. The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking-er, focusing on-Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.

(my comments) Lindsey Leavitt's sense of humor always comes through in her books and this one is no exception. Full of fun characters, heartbreaking situations, believable family dynamics and a sweet budding romance, this book confirms that Lindsey can write about more than just tiaras :P

Wisdom's Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

(from Goodreads) Princess Wisdom, known as Dizzy, longs for a life of adventure far beyond the staid old kingdom of Montagne.

Tips, a soldier, longs to keep his true life secret from his family.

Fortitude, an orphaned maid, longs only for Tips.

These three passionate souls might just attain their dreams while preserving Montagne from certain destruction, if only they can tolerate each other long enough to come up with a plan. Tough to save the world when you can't even be in the same room together. Magic, cunning, and one very special cat join forces in this hilarious, extraordinary tale by the author of Dairy Queen and Princess Ben. An incredibly creative tale told with diaries, memoirs, encyclopedia entries, letters, biographies, even a stage play, all woven together into a grand adventure.

(my comments) I read this MG to review for Shelf Awareness Consumer, so I can't post it here until it posts there! But I will say that the story was quite unexpected -- and that can be a good thing :D

What great books have you been reading this summer? Any recommendations?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Lovin'

Ballard School's 6th grade graduates
Yesterday was the last day of school. And I'm telling you, the teachers were just as excited as the students :) My son is now done with elementary, ready to move on to middle school in the fall. I cried at the promotion ceremony (ok, I admit, I do every year!), hugged the students I'll miss, celebrated as we pulled out the yearbooks we'd worked so hard to put together.

I have big plans for this summer. I have a lot of writing/revising to do, and I need plenty of time to just enjoy my kids. They're growing up so fast. I don't want to miss any of it.

So I won't be blogging as much this summer, probably just once a week with a few special posts thrown in here and there. I'll miss being around to interact as much with all my bloggy friends, but I wouldn't trade the time with my family and my writing for anything.

We're going on vacation so I won't be back here until June 22. In the meantime, tell me YOUR plans for the summer. I hope they involve lots of fun and LOTS of writing!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Before You Hit Send...

It happens to the best of us. We finish writing a book we’re excited about. Our friends tell us how wonderful it is. Our critique partners say it’s the best we’ve written yet. Sponge Bob’s annoying song starts running through our heads, “I’m ready! I’m ready! I’m ready!”

So we send it out.

And get smacked down.

I can’t speak for every other writer out there, but I can share what I’ve learned from the experience.

You’ve only got one shot.* Once an agent turns your query down, you can’t rewrite it and query them again. Your chance with them is blown, at least until you have a new book written. Make sure your query is the best it can be. Make sure your novel is the best it can be.

Agents are busy. Even though you’re giddy with excitement because you met them at a conference and you want to get the story to them right away before they forget who you are, take a deep breath and slow down. Chances are they’re going to be inundated when they get back from a conference and that doesn’t even take into account all the queries, partials and fulls that were in their inbox before they left. It will likely be weeks before they read your submission.

Take your time and make sure what you’re sending out is the best. How? Here are a few tips:

Let your story sit. At least a week, preferably two or three weeks. I’d heard this one but I didn’t have the patience. I figured it was one of the rules I could break. Turns out it’s a good one, even for seasoned writers. Never underestimate the power of distance. Being away from your story helps you spot issues or clunky prose more clearly.

Print it out. If you’ve only been looking at the story on screen, you’re not getting the full impact of your words. Just like taking time away, seeing the words on a piece of paper will give you a completely different perspective on your novel.

The truth hurts. Even if there’s only one person telling you something in your story sucks, don’t completely discount what they’re saying. That one critique could be all that’s standing between making your story good and making it great.

Perfect your query. You’ve spent a long time working on your novel. Spend at least a proportional amount of time working on your query. It should have the tone of your story, include a strong hook and leave the reader wanting more. Get as many people as possible to read that query and give you feedback. (Query Queen Elana Johnson is giving away copies of her book From the Query to the Call on her website. Her blog has plenty of fantastic advice on querying.)

Query slowly. Don’t query everyone on your list all at once. Send a few out and gauge the responses. If agents are asking to see pages, then your query is doing its job. If you’re getting rejects without requests, then you need to work on harder on your query.

Every situation is different, but you owe it to yourself to give your story the best shot. Most importantly, don't get discouraged. Even bestsellers get rejected. (And if you'd like to read some of the rejections received by a recent bestseller, check out this post from Kimberly Derting, author of THE BODYFINDER.)

*I did email an agent to ask if I could resubmit after I made drastic changes based on her earlier rejection. She was gracious enough to say yes. And then she rejected me again :) But don't count on this. Many agents specifically state that they will not accept re-queries on the same project.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Entering the H.I.V.E.

I first heard about this book during a session with editors at the SCBWI conference last summer. I knew right away I wanted to read it.

Hogwarts may be for students who display a talent for magic. Kids who have a knack for evil wind up at HIVE, the Higher Institute of Villainous Education. Hidden inside a volcano on a deserted island, students take classes like Villainy Studies and Stealth and Evasion 101, all designed to turn them into supervillains. 

But nobody chooses to attend HIVE. They are kidnapped and brought there, sometimes with their parents' consent, sometimes not. And leaving is not an option. So can a group of students plan an escape and actually make it out?

Full of action, suspense, an epic battle and a giant carnivorous plant, HIVE is a promising start to an adventurous series. Book 6 in the series came out last September so can you guess what we'll be reading all this summer?

Find out more about the books on the HIVE website:

Looking for more good middle grade books? Check out these bloggers:
Shannon Whitney Messenger
Shannon O'Donnell
Joanne Fritz
Myrna Foster
Brooke Favero
Anita Laydon Miller
Deb Marshall
Barbara Watson
Michael Gilmartin

Friday, June 3, 2011

Lenny Lee Fest

You've probably seen his icon around the internet. You can't help but smile when you see this ray of sunshine. So today, to bring some extra happiness to this awesome 11-year-old, I'm posting a poem that my son's class recited last year for Mother's Day.

As far as I know, the author is anonymous. I love the simplicity of this poem. We spend so much time striving for perfection when really, there is beauty to be found in life with all it's flawed imperfections. Lenny Lee is one of those people who looks on the bright side of everything, who brings me joy every time I get a comment or an email from him. If you've never visited Lenny's World before, here's the link: He's an amazing writer, he loves animals and he loves to share hugs.

I hope you like the poem, Lenny. Thank you for all the smiles you bring. ((Giant hugs))

Queens and Kings of Imperfection

We are queens and kings.

It might not seem
Like we are queens and kings,
But look carefully
    And see,
Gloriously crowned,
Beautifully inept,
Marvelously imperfect,
Queens and Kings of Imperfection.

We leave perfection
To the few
    Who seek
        what cannot be attained.
    Who desire
        what cannot be given,
    Who yearn for
        what cannot be achieved.

And we accept
    Our crowns of imperfection.

We offer this crown to you,
For it is the crown of truth
    And joy
    And laughter,
    And wonder,
    And freedom
    From the tyranny
    Of trying to be
        What can never be,
            was never meant to be,
                and will never be.

Wear your crown with joy
And rein with the freedom to:

Run in the wind,
But come last in the race.

Write poetry,
Without any need to publish.

With neither grace nor rhythm.

Sing opera,
Without a tune.

Play baseball,
But never hit a home run.

But not perfection.

And love,
    Not just the best in you,
    But the sad, weak, discouraged,
    And sorry parts, too.

It might not seem
Like we are queens and kings,
But look carefully
    And see,
Gloriously crowned,
Beautifully inept,
Marvelously imperfect,
Queens and Kings of Imperfection.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Publishing News

During BEA last week, middle grade books got some extra attention with their first ever Buzz Panel. Since I've never attended BEA (someday!!) I didn't realized that there wasn't a buzz panel before now. Young Adult books, of course, get plenty of attention. I'm glad to see that middle grade is getting noticed, too.

And what were they buzzing about? New books by Matthew Kirby (I interviewed him here) and N.D. Anderson look amazing. And YA author Lisa McMann will be introducing a new middle grade series that sounds very promising. Publisher's Weekly has a full article about the buzz panel here.

You may have noticed that a growing number of literary agents are helping their clients e-publish. Now Bloomsbury is taking advantage of the trend. They've formed an imprint that will work with literary agents to create e-book and print-on-demand editions of books where the rights have reverted back to the author. The imprint, Bloomsbury Reader, will launch in September with 500 titles. Publisher's Weekly has the full article.

Stories of self-publishing success keep making big news. But the Washington Post ran an article about the self-publishing "gold rush" with this quote from Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords: “We have less than 50 people who are making more than $50,000 per year. We have a lot who don’t sell a single book.” So much for a gold rush. Read the full story at the Washington Post.

Starting June 23, you'll be able to download two FREE audiobooks every week through August 17. Some of the free titles include Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (who I was thrilled to interview last year), Little Brother by Cory Doctorow and Storm Runners, the newest title from Roland Smith (I interviewed him here). Get the full list of audiobooks and links for downloading at School Library Journal.
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