Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation: THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab

Happy Friday! Our book recommendation this week is THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab:

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.
But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.
Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget.

Kristi's take: I love a good, creepy ghost story all on its own, but this one also involves witches. Ghosts and witches together? Um, yes please. I personally don't think you could have a more perfect combo, so I was hooked on the premise alone but the author's writing is what brought it all home--it's lyrical, haunting, and gorgeous. This was reminiscent of the stories we used to tell each other in my neighborhood when I was a child (often when trying to out-scare each other). The setting in this book was so richly imagined that it felt like a character in itself, and don't get me started on the wind--let's just say I'll never hear wind the same way again. If you haven't read this one yet, I highly recommend it!    

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation: WITHER by Lauren DeStefano

I've been lucky to read some great books lately. I'm currently in the midst of another great read that I'll recommend shortly, but my recommendation for this week is: WITHER by Lauren DeStefano. It's the first in the Chemical Garden trilogy and I can't wait to read the next one.

From Goodreads:

Obviously, something went terribly wrong. Genetic mutations have festered, reducing human longevity to twenty-five, even less for most women. To prevent extinction, young girls are kidnapped, mated in polygamous marriages with men eager to procreate. Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery, a recent victim of this breeding farm mentality, has vowed to break loose from its fetters; but finding allies and a safe way out is a challenge she can only hope she will survive. 

Kristi's take: If you love dystopian and strong female MC's as much as I do, you'll love this book. I don't want to give anything else away, but seriously--it's a must read. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Contest Monday featuring free book giveaways

Literary Rambles pointed me to a fabulous Winter Book Giveaway by Regal Literary. They are giving away some great books, including Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger which I've been dying to read. Enter through the end of November.

Anna Staniszewski is hosting an August/September debut giveaway. Enter to win one of several incredible books by 2011 debut authors. A few of these, which are already on my TBR list, include The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. Check out the link for other great titles and enter by Nov. 28th.

Good luck, and happy Monday!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's NaNoWriMo Time!

Today, November 1st, is the official start day of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). If you're in need of some great tips and free downloads of things like blank beat sheets, check out the NaNoWriMo posts over at Storyfix.com. Even if you think you know what you're doing, the story-planning advice there is well worth going over. I laid out my entire novel for the month ahead of time, and used many of those posts for guidance.

For those of you NaNo'ing along with me, I wish you the best of luck--it's an exhausting, yet satisfying endeavor. My goal for this year is to make my first draft tighter than in previous years, so that I'm not spending another six months in revisions. It's good to have goals, right? Try to have fun with it, and use a NaNo buddy to keep yourself accountable. Now stop reading and get to writing!

How many others are NaNo'ing this year? If you've done it before, are you approaching it differently this time? 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--BLISS by Lauren Myracle

I'd already planned on recommending this one by Lauren Myracle in October because it makes for a good creepy, Halloween read:

As I was basically was under a rock for the past week (e.g. no internet), I didn't hear all the kerfluffle over her book SHINE until yesterday. The fact that she handled the incident with such grace and professionalism makes me want to recommend any book of hers even more. I plan on reading SHINE ASAP, and hope you enjoy BLISS as much as I did.

From Goodreads:

Lauren Myracle brings her keen understanding of teen dynamics to a hypnotic horror story of twisted friendship:
When Bliss’s hippie parents leave the commune and dump her at the home of her aloof grandmother in a tony Atlanta neighborhood, it’s like being set down on an alien planet. The only guide naïve Bliss has to her new environment is what she’s seen on The Andy Griffith Show. But Mayberry is poor preparation for Crestview Academy, an elite school where the tensions of the present and the dark secrets of the past threaten to simmer into violence. Openhearted, naïve Bliss is happy to be friends with anyone. That’s not the way it has ever worked at Crestview, and soon Bliss is at the center of a struggle for power between three girls—two living and one long dead.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--SAVE THE CAT

As I'm in the midst of two YA's that I'm sure I'll be recommending to you, I thought I'd post a recent read on craft that I loved. SAVE THE CAT, written by screenwriter Blake Snyder, is about screenwriting but can easily be applied to books. As a former pantster, it even inspired me (along with Scrivener) to do some outlining before starting my new manuscript. He has tips on everything from loglines to scene breakdowns. It's an incredible book and I highly recommend it to all writers out there.

One of Hollywood's most successful spec screenwriters tells all in this fast, funny, and candid look inside the movie business. "Save the Cat" is just one of many ironclad rules for making your ideas more marketable and your script more satisfying - and saleable. This ultimate insider's guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a show biz veteran who's proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat.

Anyone else read this? What did you think?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation: DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

Today's awesome book rec is DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth:

From Goodreads:
Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place in mortal danger. Veronica Roth's young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances.

Kristi's take: This is one of those "unputdownable" books. I loved Tris' vulnerability and strength, and her relationship with Four was complex and fascinating. The plot is fast-paced and exciting, so much so that I easily read this in one sitting. Elements of this book reminded me of Ender's Game, Uglies, and even Harry Potter, but they were combined in a unique and totally fresh way. I'll definitely be reading the next one in this series.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One author's self-publishing journey featuring Rick Daley

I pride myself on being somewhat knowledgeable about many aspects of the publishing world, but confess to knowing almost zilch about self-publishing. I've noticed recently that several writers I know through blogs/etc. have chosen the self-publishing route and I was curious about their decision. I thought I'd pick the brain of one such person so they could share their thoughts about self-publishing.

I first "met" Rick Daley through Nathan Bransford's blog, and those of you who know him already know how funny he is. When Rick contacted me to let me know about his book The Man in the Cinder Clouds, I was very excited for him and wanted to know more about his journey. His blog (link below) details his journey more comprehensively, so be sure to check that out and follow him after you read this. You can get Rick's book through Amazon here. This is the book:

this is Rick:

...and here is the interview:
1) Hi Rick. Thanks so much for talking to us today. Tell us what your book is about and the target audience/etc.

The Man in the Cinder Clouds is a must-read for anyone who has ever believed in Santa Claus.  Boys and girls ages 9-12 will relate to the characters especially well.  At 35,000 words—the story is just over 160 pages in print—it’s a quick read for an adult…something you can easily polish off in a night or two during the busy holiday season.  It’s also a great book to read with your kids. Here’s a short summary:

The freezing temperature is the only thing cool about Jason’s trip to the North Pole, but things heat up when his father discovers a book buried deep in the ice.  This is no ordinary book, mind you. For starters, it was written by an Elf. And if that’s not enough, the book proves the existence of Kris Kringle—you know, Santa Claus.  It’s a story you have to read to believe, and once you do Christmas will never be the same. 

Young Kris Kringle, orphaned as an infant, sets out on a quest to find his real family by bringing gifts to the children of Oldenton on Christmas.  There he finds two orphans who are about to lose everything they have to a greedy uncle.  With only days before Christmas, Kris must try to help the kids, deliver his presents, find his family, and prove that human virtue does exist…even in the most unexpected of human hearts.

2) What made you decide to self-publish your book?

Many things.  This was not a decision to take lightly.  Here were the key factors:

-         Speed to Market.  A traditional publisher would not be able to get my book on a shelf this year…in e-book or print.  I’d be very lucky if was available next year if I had gone the traditional route…more likely it would be 2013 before people could read it.  Now I have it in both formats, ready for Christmas 2011.
The Market Environment.  The traditional publishing industry is in a transitional period, and no one knows how long it will last or what will come next.  I don’t think it is dying, but it’s at a crossroads between old ways of doing things and new markets, and it’s deciding which way to go. While the traditional publishing industry considers its options, writers also have their own choices to evaluate.  Writers used to be at the mercy of the publisher, but self-publishing gives full control to the writer.  Not to mention higher revenue per book sold.  Now the trick is selling a lot of copies, something publishers have excelled at due to their large, coordinated sales forces.   But the times, they are a-changin…A few self-published authors (e.g. John Locke, Amanda Hocking) have generated envious sales volumes without the corporate sales and marketing machine.  With the rise of social networking, word-of-mouth is showing its true power in marketing. 

While the self-publishing market does still carry a general stigma of low-quality vanity projects, many readers are starting to realize that a good story can come from anywhere.  Self-publishing is better respected than it was two years ago, and will continue to evolve into a competitive vehicle for writers to consider for publishing.
-          My book.  I believe it’s a great book, and the story is very special to me.  I’ve been through extensive edits, critiques, and revisions and I think the story is as high a caliber as one you would find traditionally published.  It’s getting great reviews from adults and kids, and I am glad that people have the opportunity to enjoy the story this year for Christmas.

3) For those readers who have no idea about the process of self-publishing (like, ahem, me), what resources did you find most helpful for "learning the ropes."

I learned most by watching my peers who self-published before me.  I followed their blogs and read posts about the different stages in the process.  I bought copies of their books in print and Kindle to see the quality of the writing and the formatting / design of the finished book. 

I chose CreateSpace on a friend’s recommendation and I’m happy with their quality and service so far.  I’d love to test their high-load capacity ;-)

Consider your goals.  If you hope to sell a ton of books and you want to self-publish, it’s possible, but you must be prepared to take on the role of publisher and promoter, not just writer.  You are the sales and marketing department, the administration and finance department…basically the CEO of a start-up company.  You will need to set aside a budget for cover art, promotional copies, and marketing.  It will take time and money.  If you try to self-publish just because it’s fast and cheap the end result will reflect that. 

If you just want to see your book in print and make it available for your family and friends, please take the time to make it a quality product.  The worst book I’ve ever read was a self-published eBook (I read it several months back.  I won’t reveal the title, but it was an adult murder-mystery that was so bad it was almost, but not really, funny).  There is a stigma about self-published books being slushpile vanity projects, but the tides are turning, and there is opportunity for those who are willing to take it seriously and put the time and money into it.

4) What was the trickiest/most difficult part of the process for you, and how long did it take you to have a complete book?

I guess completing the book is the trickiest part.  Knowing when it’s done, and when changes aren’t making things better…just different.  The book took years to write, and you can read more about the story-behind-the-story here: http://mydaleyrant.blogspot.com/2011/08/my-path-to-publication-part-one.html

5) Is there anything you learned along the way that you'll do differently next time?

I am impatient.  I will always struggle to learn to take my time and not rush things.

6) What are you working on next, and do you plan to self-publish again?

I am currently outlining a sequel to The Man in the Cinder Clouds, and preparing to have illustrations made for my book Rudy Toot-Toot, a story about a little boy who was born on a bean farm and has a special power, almost like a super-hero: he can fart.  But after a monstrous emission scares all the customers away from the family bean market, Rudy must learn to use his…talent…in a special way to lure the customers back, otherwise the bank will take  away his home.

I plan to self-publish Rudy Toot-Toot, and the sequel to The Man in the Cinder Clouds, but after that, who knows?  I’m not opposed to traditional publishing.  I just think self-publishing is right for me and for these specific books.  Future books may have a different fate.

7) Do you think the trend towards electronic publishing helps those who want to self-publish?
Absolutely.  There are fewer headaches in e-books, particularly in delivery.  Create the file once, then people can download it instantly and begin reading.  It makes an author’s works more accessible, not to mention lower priced (without sacrificing any $$ in royalties).

The biggest thing writers need to be aware of is the quality of their final product.  If we are going to truly pass the hump of dis-approval for all books self-published, we the publishers need to police ourselves and ensure our work is competitive to the other books available on the market.

8) Random fun question: What's something about you that not many people know?

I kick butt at Sudoku.  It’s due to the way I make notes in the cells, it allows me to see patterns and set up a bunch of answers that fill in like dominoes once one number is found.  Maybe I should write a book about it!

Thanks, Rick!!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Contest by Kody Keplinger

I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday weekend. We just got back from the mountains and I have a truckload of laundry and work to do, but I found a great contest that I had to pass along. Kody Keplinger, author of THE DUFF (fabulous book if you haven't read it), has a new book and a new contest. Her new book is SHUT OUT and you can check out the trailer here. To enter, just leave a comment on her post--that's it. One winner will have a character named after them in her fourth book. How cool is that? I'm just wondering how she'll pull it off if the winner's name is Humperdink or something equally bizarre (no offense intended if your name is Humperdink--I'm sure your parents didn't mean it). Deadline: Fri. Sept. 9th. Good luck!

Oh, and I'll have another fabulous book recommendation for you on Friday! Happy Tuesday!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This week concludes the summer edition of Friday Book Recommendations--school is back in full swing here and my time for pleasure reading has already decreased. *sighs*  However, I'm ending with a book that I loved, loved, and then loved some more. Yes, it's creepy and yes, the cover is made of awesome. Check it out:

Summary from Goodreads:

A mysterious island.An abandoned orphanage.
A strange collection of very curious photographs.
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

Kristi's take: Though it's hard to top the levitating girl on the cover, the vintage photographs woven throughout the book are eerie, strange, and haunting. I loved how the photos tied in with the story, and the setting in rain-soaked Wales was perfect. I couldn't even begin to explain the world-building, with its time loops and shape shifting, but luckily, the author does a great job of it--and makes it seem believable. My only quibble is with the psychiatrist character. NOTE: This isn't a spoiler because it's rare to find a psychologist or psychiatrist in ANY book or movie that isn't a) incompetent b) nuts c) a psychopath/murderer d) sleeping with their clients or e) some combination of the former. Most of us are actually ethical, competent, and hard-working. *steps off soapbox* Aside from that, I couldn't put this book down and will definitely be reading the sequel. FINAL NOTE: If you dislike clowns as much as I do, one picture in the book is downright freaky. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--THE REPLACEMENT by Brenna Yovanoff

It's time for Week #3 of Friday Book Recommendations: Summer Edition. My pick this week is THE REPLACEMENT by Brenna Yovanoff. I've made no secret that I tend to pick books based on the cover alone, and this book was every bit as amazing as the cover. Seriously, how could you see this cover and not pick up the book? In fact, the only book I've seen with a cover that matches the creepiness factor of this one is the book I'm recommending next week!

Description from Goodreads:
Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

Kristi's take: This is the first book I've read in awhile with a male MC, and I LOVED it. Brenna's writing style is haunting and beautiful, and the relationship between the MC and his little sister brought me to tears more than once. I'm calling this a 'summer vacation read' because you won't be able to put it down. The tension is high throughout the book, the setting and characters are eerie (hello, living dead girls), and I couldn't stop reading until I finished it. You might not want to read this one too close to bedtime though. ;)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray

Fun Summer Pick #2: As I said last week, I thought I'd give a run down of my favorite reads from this summer. What makes this a perfect beach read is that the majority of the book takes place on a beach--not the kind of beach I'd want to inhabit, but a beach nonetheless. I give you my second summer pick: BEAUTY QUEENS by the uber-talented Libba Bray.

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program--or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan--or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Kristi's take: This was my first book by Libba Bray, although her others are all on my TBR list. I'll admit that I picked this book up and put it down again several times before deciding to go with it. The premise seemed so over-the-top and wacky that I wasn't sure it was for me. I'm SO glad I gave this book a shot. The characters, plot, and setting are completely over the top, but that's sort of the point of satire. I laughed out loud throughout the entire book, and especially loved her footnotes and contestant profiles inserted in the chapters. Issues such as consumerism, commercialism, feminism, terrorism and some other "isms" I probably missed are addressed, but with a witty and hilarious vibe. If you like your sarcasm sharp and your humor intelligent, this book is for you. I loved it and will be moving her other books to the top of my list.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--Summer Edition

For the next few weeks, I'm going to highlight some of my favorite summer reads from the last two months. The first one up won't come as a huge shocker, being that we've centered an entire contest around it and all. Speaking of which, you only have a few days to enter for a chance at your own signed copy of this:

Bad Taste in Boys (Kate Grable #1) 
Someone's been a very bad zombie.

Kate Grable is horrified to find out that the football coach has given the team steroids. Worse yet, the steroids are having an unexpected effect, turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless flesh-eating zombies. No one is safe--not her cute crush Aaron, not her dorky brother, Jonah . . . not even Kate!

She's got to find an antidote--before her entire high school ends up eating each other. So Kate, her best girlfriend, Rocky, and Aaron stage a frantic battle to save their town. . . and stay hormonally human.

My take: Pure fun. This is the perfect summer read--I read it in an afternoon and enjoyed it thoroughly. I loved Kate as the nerdy, brainiac, epileptic MC, and not to give away spoilers, but I loved how the epilepsy was integral to the plot rather than just an added affliction. Also: that cover. Yeah, I know I've already gushed over the cover in the past, but it's so awesome that when my 7-yo saw the bookmark on the counter, he took it for himself and said I couldn't give it away with the book. To sum up, I can't wait for the next Kate Grable installment.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Borders Book Carnage

I've heard all the reasons why Borders went out of business and why many bid them good riddance, from horrible customer service to poor business strategies and failure to jump on the ebook wagon. Truth be told, my favorite book store is our local Tattered Cover but...Borders was by far the closest book store to my house and the staff there were always awesome to me. My hubby and I would go there almost every date night after dinner to browse. I've taken my kids there numerous times, and loved watching their excited faces as they explored the kids' section and got to pick out a book. I did most of my holiday shopping there last year and spent so much money I was sure I'd keep them afloat. That's why even though I wasn't surprised, I was still sad to see Borders go.

So last weekend, my hubby and I paid our final respects and went there after an amazing dinner. I expected to stroll through the aisles one last time, lingering in the YA section and giving a nod here and there to my favorite writers. What I didn't expect was book carnage. It looked something like this, only much worse:

Gone were the neatly shelved books in alphabetical order. Instead, Lauren Myracle was tossed onto Libba Bray, while Carrie Jones bumped up against Holly Black. It was mayhem and madness, and made me kind of sad. I fought the urge to straighten them all and put them back in their respective places. I know electronic publishing is the wave of the future, and books will still sell in various formats, but there is one old-school book lover here who will miss my trips to Borders. Farewell, Borders!

I know there a lot of Borders haters out there, but anyone else who will miss them? Or at least feel sad about the demise of a bookstore?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Win a signed copy of Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

Wanna win this signed book by zombie-riffic author Carrie Harris?

I thought so. Just head on over to my other blog at Sisters in Scribe for the deets. Good luck!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Writing more than one book at a time

Until now, my writing process has been fairly straight forward:

Step 1. Get story idea.
Step 2. Write it and revise ad nauseum.

End of story (pun intended). I never worked on more than one thing at a time, because I  became obsessed with that one manuscript. This time around has been a little different. I've gotten excited about several different projects and couldn't pick just one. I know last week I confessed to a little summer slacking, but I've started working on three different projects. (Side note: as I tend to be an over-achiever by nature, my definition of slacking might differ from others.) They're pretty different in scope (boy-centric MG, YA ghost story, and YA horror).

I thought if I started on all of them, one would sort of "take over" and I'd finish that one first, but so far, I'm still drawn to all three. Granted, I haven't gotten that far yet but I wondered how that has worked for others. On the plus side, it gives me the opportunity to go back to something with fresh eyes pretty quickly if I've worked on a chapter for a different ms. One big negative is that if I keep working on all of them at once, it will take me that much longer to finish something.

Has anyone out there worked on more than one ms at a time? What did you see as the positives and negatives? Did one eventually take over? Am I crazy? NOTE: my lovely blog sisters are prohibited from answering that last one. :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Slacking

I officially switched into summer mode last week during a family beach vacation in North Carolina. Here's the view from our balcony (photo taken by my hubby with his iPad2--which I have to admit is pretty cool):

I didn't write a single word the entire week, but I didn't feel guilty about it either. In fact, after falling asleep one night to the sound of crashing waves, I dreamed a cool new story idea that I'm really excited about. For me, down time fuels my creativity and re-energizes me. It also gives me more time to read, which hopefully makes me a better writer.

As this is my son's last week of school, I know I'll soon be spending more time at the pool than at the computer, and I'm okay with that. I tend to do my biggest spurts of writing in the fall and winter, while I spend most of my summer outdoors. Come September though, when my kids are back in school, I'm ready to crank out pages again. I know some writers write almost every day of the year, no exceptions. Some are published authors with contracts and deadlines, and others are driven by different motives. I love writing and will always do it, but for now, I'm fine with finishing one book per year. And spending summers with my kids? Priceless.

What about you? Any other cyclical/seasonal writers out there? Any die-hard writers who think I'm a total slacker?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I'm a sucker for underdogs. If you ask me who I want to win in any given sports match-up, I'll usually ask who's supposed to win and then I go for the other guy (unless it's my favorite team, but they're never supposed to win and are permanent underdogs--sorry Chiefs). My hubby and I watched The Fighter this weekend (based on a true story), and though I loathe boxing and am not a big fan of violence in general (well, unless aliens, space monkeys, or vampires are involved), I loved the movie. Part of it was that the movie focused as much on him as a person as on the fighting (and the family dynamics alone make this a must see), but what hooked me were the odds. Because they were stacked against him and his crack addict brother from the get-go. And he won anyway. 

 Remember the Titans (also based on a true story) blew me away and is one of the few movies I'll watch every time I catch it on t.v. This coach had to win every single game to keep his job and fight racism while doing it--I get chills just thinking about this movie.

I realize these are sports related examples, but I think sports lends itself well to the underdog theme. Remember, the Boston Red Sox coming back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Yankees and win the 2004 American League Championship (pure awesome). Or the one-armed catch that helped the Giants beat the Patriots in a Super Bowl outcome no one expected (never mind that the receiver later shot himself in the leg).

I'll bring this around to young adult books (and try to curb my use of parentheticals in this post--geez). The underdog theme might involve the MC fighting back against a tyrannical government in a dystopian society (a la Uglies, The Hunger Games, The Giver, Possession), or the MC is an average human attempting to survive/defeat the all-powerful paranormal creature (Need, Twilight, Hush Hush), or they're attempting to defeat normal, real-life issues like death and high school (If I Stay, The DUFF). Chances are, if the odds seem insurmountable and like there's no way the MC can succeed, it's my kind of book.  

What about you? What are some of your favorite underdog stories? (They can be either books or movies, and I swear that's my last use of parentheses for this post).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

3 Signs That I'm Revising

 I'm in major polishing/revision mode for my new ms, and some telltale signs have appeared:

1) My basket runneth over. Okay, if you've read my prior laundry related posts, you know I haven't seen the bottom of my laundry basket in years (seriously, I think it's possessed). But I aim to keep the clothes level lower than the rim of the basket. Hey, it's good to have goals. This week, a tower of abstract clothing art has overtaken my closet.

2) My inner addict emerges. I know I'm in trouble when I wonder if mainlining caffeine would be a more efficient delivery method than drinking it. While coffee is the biggie for me, chocolate also has a way of disappearing when I'm revising. I've tweeted about the evil called Cadbury Creme Eggs, but since Easter is over, my ass is safe for another year.

3) Sleep is for babies. There's not much I love more than my sleep. In fact, my husband would attest that I am a baby--like, a huge, super cranky one--when I don't get enough (and with two young kids, I never get enough). For me to willingly sacrifice sleep is not typical, but I've been up til midnight or later for the past week because I've been so excited about finishing revisions. As I do best with 8-9 hours of sleep, I realize this 4-5 hours a night thing will catch up with me soon, but I'm really close to the end. At least I better be, or my hubby is going to spike my coffee with benedryl.    
Can anyone relate to these? What are your signs that you're deep in writing/revision land?
Also, I wanted to pass along info about a great upcoming event: Want to ask an agent a publishing question? Super-agents Kathleen Ortiz and Liz Jote are going to do a LIVE podcast on Thursday, May 5th at 9pm ET.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--NEED by Carrie Jones

Happy Friday! My book recommendation this week is NEED by Carrie Jones. This is another one I picked up in the book store based solely on the cover and title. After reading the jacket flap, I was sold.

Summary from Goodreads:

Zara White suspects there's a freaky guy semi-stalking her. She's also obsessed with phobias. And it's true, she hasn't exactly been herself since her stepfather died. But exiling her to shivery Maine to live with her grandmother? That seems a bit extreme. The move is supposed to help her stay sane...but Zara's pretty sure her mom just can't deal with her right now.

She couldn't be more wrong. Turns out the semi-stalker is not a figment of Zara's overactive imagination. In fact, he's still following her, leaving behind an eerie trail of gold dust. There's something not right - not human - in this sleepy Maine town, and all signs point to Zara.

In this creepy, compelling breakout novel, Carrie Jones delivers romance, suspense, and a creature you never thought you'd have to fear.

Why I liked it? Well, it's creepy and funny which scores big points in my book. I loved the voice of the MC, Zara, and the secondary characters were well-developed and endearing. WARNING: You'll never see pixies as cute again after reading this. If you want a fast-paced, tension-filled page turner, check this out. I'm almost finished with the second, CAPTIVATE, and can't wait for the next one. 

Anyone else read this? Anyone look at tall, pale men differently now (no offense intended to tall, pale non-pixie men)?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Flirting with the Enemy

Not so long ago, I shared my tragic news with you about my husband crossing over to the dark side. At the time, I reported I was sleeping with the enemy. Well, the iPad2 arrived at our house last week...
...and um, I kinda like it. Don't get me wrong. I'm totally not cheating on my books because I don't use it for reading, but I'll admit to browsing the app store when no one's looking. My hubby downloaded some games onto it for my 4 and 7-yo, and the graphics are amazing. Seriously, my son hasn't touched the Wii once since we got it.

It also has two cameras and you can do weird special effects with them (well, I can't--I barely understand my point and click camera), but my hubby snapped this pic of me when I wasn't paying attention. I'm not actually blue, green, and red in real life. Also, notice how hard I'm working on revisions:

But my favorite thing happened when my hubby opened up a bookcase app and showed me my books sitting on his "shelf," right next to The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, one of my all-time favorite books. For him, the device is convenient and more conducive to reading on the go. Though I still prefer old-school books and don't know if I'll ever read one on the iPad, I get that this works better for him. Basically, I've warmed up to the idea of having this device in my home...and even enjoy playing around on it. You won't tell him, right?

Anyone else out there who's an unwilling convert to new technology? Anyone else's kids forgo the Wii for some Fruit Ninja iPad action?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sharing Great News

As you know, the publishing business is super slow, so it's not too often I get to share fun stuff. But today I do. My awesome critique partner, Jeanne Ryan, (who has an equally awesome agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette) got a book deal!!! I told her when I read this book it would be "the one," and I'm so happy to share her Publisher's Marketplace news with you:

Jeanne Ryan's debut NERVE, about a teen girl lured into a voyeuristic online game where her decisions could have deadly consequences, to Andrew Harwell at Dial, by Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency (World).

If you like uber-creepy YA's (and this one is WAY creepy), you'll love it! The release date is Summer of 2013. You can follow Jeanne on Twitter @Jeanne_Ryan (tell her I sent you!)

In other great critique partner news, Niki Masse Schoenfeldt has a second picture book coming out in Spring 2012. It's titled DON'T LET THE BEDBUGS BITE and is being published by Shenanigan Books. She also has a PB published by Orchard House Press titled Nature's Lullaby. Niki recently obtained representation with the fabulous Sandy Lu of the L. Perkins Agency. Follow Niki on Twitter @nikiofware and check out her blog The Fractured Keyboard

All of my critique partners are so wonderful, supportive, and encouraging, and it makes me really happy to help them celebrate their good news! You girls rock! 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--Possession by Elana Johnson

I tore through the ARC of POSSESSION this week (it releases in June) and I loved this book...so much so that my poor laundry basket overflowed to the point that my 6-yo suggested I buy a second basket. I loved the relationship between Vi and Jag, and Elana did a fantastic job of world-building. I told Elana my only issue was where the book ended...and I meant that in a good way. I turned the last page, like "What? It can't end here." I won't give anything away, but I told her I need the second book, like now. If you like dystopian, this is a must read book. Elana is also hosting a super awesome contest on her FB page and the details are here. I don't know if I'm allowed to say what everyone who enters will get, but it's really cool. Here's the cover and blurb for POSSESSION:

Vi knows the Rule: Girls don't walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn...and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi's future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they're set on convincing Vi to become one of them...starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can't leave Zenn in the Thinkers' hands, but she's wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous--everything Zenn's not. Vi can't quite trust Jag and can't quite resist him, but she also can't give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

Happy Reading! Anyone else read this yet? 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--hush, hush by Becca Fitzpatrick and POSSESSION preview

Before I get to my weekly recommendation, I need to tell you about a book that will be featured here as soon as I finish it. I got the ARC in the mail yesterday and though I only just started it, I can already tell you that POSSESSION by Elana Johnson rocks. More to come on that soon, but here is the very cool cover:

My recommendation this week is one I read awhile ago. The author is a fellow Coloradoan, and I'll admit I picked this one up in the store based on the cover. Why hello, hot fallen angel, I'd love to read all about you. Luckily, Becca Fitzpatrick's hush, hush also delivered great writing and a fast-paced plot. The relationship between Patch and Nora had great tension and kept me turning the pages. Also, did I mention there's a hot, fallen angel? If you're a fan of paranormal or urban fantasy, you'll love this!

Goodreads description:
For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her...until Patch comes along.
With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment, but after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is far more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

Has anyone else read this? Anyone else like hot, fallen angels? 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--THE DUFF

My pick this week is THE DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger. I read the ARC last year and loved this book:

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.
But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Kristi's take: I think everyone can relate to The DUFF, because it taps into those teenage feelings of not fitting in (regardless of whether you were "fat" or not). I also liked that it addressed the issue of teen sex in a realistic, but not glorified, way. There are teens out there having sex, and I know that some people think if teens don't read about sex, they won't do it. I'm not going to touch that one, so I'll just say that in my experience working with truckloads of teenagers, the most educated ones make the best decisions. Also, I should mention that this is a contemporary book with nary a paranormal creature in sight. For those of you who know how much I love me some zombie fae serial killers, you know what a high recommendation this is.

Anyone else read The DUFF? What did you think?  

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

3 Common Mistakes I Found While Judging a Writing Contest

I was honored when asked to return as a judge to a regional writing contest this year. After judging for several years, I've noticed a trend in things that I've found with contest entries. And let me start off by saying that it's WAY easier to judge than to write. Just because I observed these things in the writing of others doesn't mean that I'm not guilty of doing them myself. As anyone in a critique group knows, it's easy to be objective about a book...when it's someone else's book!

Here are the 3 most common mistakes I found:

1) Starting the story in the wrong place. In the contest entries I reviewed, the writer often started out by showing the MC (main character) in their ordinary world before getting to what made the story unique. The result was, well, ordinary. This isn't the place for the character to sit and reflect on their life, or to start a normal day. Cut this part out and get to the unusual part. If you don't hook the reader in the first paragraph, you probably won't, and you definitely won't hook them by describing how the MC brushes their teeth. (NOTE: None of the contest entries began with a character brushing their teeth--or any other body parts. Any examples are fabricated entirely by moi.)

2) Telling instead of showing. This is something that every single writer out there has struggled with at one time or another. If you haven't, please leave a comment below and let us know your secret.
Telling: Jack was so angry that he threw his glass of orange juice at me, then emphatically stormed out the door which slammed loudly behind him.
Showing: Jack's hand tightened around his glass of orange juice. I ducked as the glass shattered against the wall. "There's your daily dose of Vitamin C," he said as he walked out the door. (Not perfect but you get the idea)

3) Over-writing. Adding multiple modifiers to your sentence does not make it stronger. In fact, excess adjectives and adverbs take away from the impact of what you're trying to convey. Remember Stephen King's quote, "The road to hell is paved with adverbs." It's a case where less is more. (TIP: use the FIND function in Word to search for -ly words. This catches a ton of adverbs)

Over-writing: The scorching, sizzling sun blazed brilliantly overhead, causing a cascade of sweat to drip down my already overheated body.
Simplified version: It's flippin' hot out.

Do any of these ring a bell with you? Any other common errors you've noticed in your own first drafts?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Doing My Part for Borders

I was devastated to hear about the bankruptcy of Borders, even though I'd all heard it was coming. Although I'm a big believer in supporting independent bookstores, Borders is the closest one to my house, and those of you with small children know that you often have to take the easiest route. Plus, my kids LOVE the kids' section at Borders. We had to do an errand at the mall today, and my kids got really excited, which is not their typical reaction when I announce errands. They asked, "Can we go to Borders?" Being the great mom that I am, I responded, "Why, yes. Yes we can!"

Luckily, the one by my house is not one of the multiple stores closing in Colorado. I'd like to think it's partly because of me--my holiday shopping there alone should keep them in the black for awhile. After my 3-yo picked out a Tangled book and my 6-yo chose the newest Geronimo Stilton adventure, I left them in the capable hands of my hubby and meandered to the YA section--my favorite! So what did I add to my never-ending TBR pile?

NEED by Carrie Jones...

...and Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder.

There were so many other pretty covers calling out to me, but that's okay. I'll be back.

Have you purchased any books recently? Anyone else feel like bookstores are a little slice of heaven?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld

Happy Friday! My pick for this week is UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld:

Playing on every teen’s passionate desire to look as good as everybody else, Scott Westerfeld (Midnighters) projects a future world in which a compulsory operation at sixteen wipes out physical differences and makes everyone pretty by conforming to an ideal standard of beauty. The "New Pretties" are then free to play and party, while the younger "Uglies" look on enviously and spend the time before their own transformations in plotting mischievous tricks against their elders. 

Tally Youngblood is one of the most daring of the Uglies, and her imaginative tricks have gotten her in trouble with the menacing department of Special Circumstances. She has yearned to be pretty, but since her best friend Shay ran away to the rumored rebel settlement of recalcitrant Uglies called The Smoke, Tally has been troubled. The authorities give her an impossible choice: either she follows Shay’s cryptic directions to The Smoke with the purpose of betraying the rebels, or she will never be allowed to become pretty. Hoping to rescue Shay, Tally sets off on the dangerous journey as a spy. But after finally reaching The Smoke she has a change of heart when her new lover David reveals to her the sinister secret behind becoming pretty. The fast-moving story is enlivened by many action sequences in the style of videogames, using intriguing inventions like hoverboards that use the rider’s skateboard skills to skim through the air, and bungee jackets that make wild downward plunges survivable -- and fun. Behind all the commotion is the disturbing vision of our own society -- the Rusties -- visible only in rusting ruins after a virus destroyed all petroleum. Teens will be entranced, and the cliffhanger ending will leave them gasping for the sequel. (Ages 12 and up) --Patty Campbell

Kristi's take:  I knew I was going to love this book from the first line: "The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit." I'll keep this short--if you love dystopian, you'll love this book. I can't wait to read the rest in this series. Has anyone read the rest? Are they as good as the first?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What Book Are You Reading Now?

I stayed up way too late last night in order to finishing my judging duties for a regional writing contest. I'll give some input into the process in my post next week, but thought I'd do a quick poll for today. It's that time for me again...I'm almost finished my book club book and need a new read. I took your prior recommendations to heart and finished Nightshade,  Paranormalcy, and The Sky is Everywhere. Since you clearly give great recommendations, I'm asking for help again. What are you reading this week?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Recommendation--Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Happy Friday! I guess I'm on a male protagonist kick lately, as my last two picks were The Maze Runner by James Dashner and The Giver by Lois Lowry. I'll continue the streak with a strong recommendation for Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card:

Summary from Goodreads:
In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Kristi's take: If someone told me (before I read this) that I'd like a book centered around military tactics and war, I'd have said they were crazy. But I loved this book, because the book isn't just about war, it's about Ender Wiggin. His character felt so real and heart-breaking to me, and his connection (or lack thereof) to the humanity (or lack thereof) around him had me rooting for him in every battle. Also, I love it when I'm thrown by an ending and this book did that to me. This book was also one that I thought about long after I put it down. Has anyone else read this? What did you think? 

Friday, January 14, 2011

THE GIVER by Lois Lowry

I'm going old-school in my pick today, as in all the way back to a book first published in 1993. It did dystopian before dystopian was cool. It won the 1994 Newbery Medal, yet stirred much controversy and remained one of the most "challenged" books of the 1990's: THE GIVER by Lois Lowry.

Summary: The novel follows a boy named Jonas through the twelfth year of his life. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to "Sameness", a plan which has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of "Receiver of Memory," the person who stores all the memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. When Jonas meets the Giver, he is confused in many ways. The Giver is also able to break some rules, such as turning off the speaker and locking his door. As Jonas receives the memories from the previous receiver—the "Giver"—he discovers the power of knowledge. The people in his community are happy because they don't know of a better life but the knowledge of what they are missing out on could create chaos. He faces a dilemma: Should he stay with the community, his family living a shallow life without love, color, music and knowledge or should he run away to where he can live a full life?

What I liked: I'm a huge fan of all things dystopian, yet what struck me about this book was its originality. It's a simply written, yet powerful story of a young boy, and I was completely hooked from page one. This book has clearly had a huge influence on the genre--I've recently read several dystopian ARC's, and saw a movie (Equilibrium), that included similar elements. If you read or write dystopian, I'd say this is a must read, and it would make for some great book club discussions!   

Monday, January 3, 2011

Autographed Book Giveaway Winners

Results of our autographed book giveaway over at Sisters in Scribe are in...we have winners! Out of a total of 204 entries from 69 different entrants! You guys rock!

Winner of THE MAZE RUNNER is Fi-Chan!

Winner of THE DEMON KING is Theresa M!

Winner of WAKE is Dari!

We have your mailing addresses, so you don't need to do anything else. If you didn't win this one, don't worry! We will host many more giveaways in the future! As always, thank you guys for entering! We heart you!