Thursday, March 31, 2011

My March "Reads" and A to Z Blogging Challenge

I had a productive listening month. Sixteen books total, including these eleven YA:

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal...The False PrincessCity of Ashes (The Mortal Inst...Radiant Shadows (Wicked Lovely...Unearthly (Unearthly, #1)Beautiful Creatures (Caster Ch...NomanslandThe Sky InsideStrange Angels (Strange Angels...Gimme a CallThe Year of Secret Assignments...

I've already blogged about a few of these, but I just want to add that I enjoyed CLOCKWORK ANGEL even more than the Mortal Instruments series (but I do love historical). I also loved GIMME A CALL where a wish and a drown cell phone give a senior girl the chance to speak with her freshman excellent twist on the time travel book.

Soulless (The Parasol Protecto... I also want to mention an adult book, SOULLESS, by Gail Carriger. Very similar to CLOCKWORK ANGEL and well worth reading.

Starting tomorrow I'm doing the A to Z blogging challenge (link on sidebar image). Over eight hundred people are involved (isn't that astounding?).

I'll be doing an A to Z How Many Have You Read/Heard Contest. Each day will feature audiobooks I've listened to that have titles starting with that day's letter. Comment on which ones you've read. Most will count as one entry, and older/more obscure books will count as two.

At the end of the month I'll draw names for several prizes including cool bookmarks, books, ARCs and a $10 Barnes and Noble gift certificate.

Finally, "Q" day will have a separate query crit giveaway.

Come join the fun!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday- My Semi-Literate Childhood

This week's YA Highway Road Trip topic:
What books were you obsessed with as a kid?

Unlike most writers and English degree holders (I am both), I cannot tell of a childhood with my nose buried in books (not w/o resorting to fiction, anyway:). In fact, in grade school, my least favorite subject was English...because it mostly consisted of copying sentences out of a textbook to correct them (no handy workbooks back in my day).

All that changed in Jr/Sr High when I fell in love with literature and became obsessed by Historical Romances (thanks to a friend who read her mom's castoffs then loaned them to me).
Still, there were a few books that caught and held my attention as a youth. Like the Little House series: 

The Complete Little House Nine-Book Set (Little House, #1-9) I loved the TV show, and had a whole collection of the books. It threw me that the first book didn't have anything to do with Walnut Grove, but when my mom explained that it was set before the TV show, I gave them a try and enjoyed them.

The Hidden Staircase (Nancy Drew, #2)
I also had many Nancy Drew books, this one being my favorite. I loved the idea of secret passages and ghosts, only I wanted them to be real instead of some non-magic mystery to expose.

Which leads me to this book:

A Gift of Magic(God love Goodreads, I haven't seen this book in years). This is about a girl who has the gift of ESP. I did devour this book, which confirmed for me years later as a teacher that if you put the right book in a child's hand, even a reluctant reader will get hooked.

What about you? Any Childhood favorites?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Debut Author's Challenge #3


Sinda has been raised as a princess but finds out that she's only been a stand in to keep the real princess safe. Then she finds out that her and the princess may not be the only ones who've been lied to.

This book blooms like a flower, starting with Sindas's internal identity struggle and ending with a struggle for her whole kingdon. Wonderfully plotted, and her love interest, Keirnan, is loyal and wonderful...the most totally crush worthy guy I've read in a while.

My only regret is that I bought it on Audible, but now my library already has it...So, check it out. Your library might surprise you too.

If you like this, you might also like:

Palace of MirrorsIncarceron (Incarceron, #1)

Anyone else read this yet? What about the Debut Author's challenge? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday- Location, Location, Location

This Week's YA Highway Road Trip Topic:
Which book character would you like most as a next door neighbour?

 Fifth Avenue, Soho, Upper East Side...Sure, like most Americans, I'd heard of these places, but even as a Sex in the City fan, I never understood much about Manhattan geography until I moved to the NYC metro area.

As a Jersey Girl for five years now, I've had a chance to walk the streets, shop the town, navigate the subway (totally intimidating until after your first time) and play tour guide to a lot of our visiting family. This last part means I've been to the Statue of Liberty approximately 7.5 times more often that the average metro area resident (many of whom have never been there).

Cupcake (Cyd Charisse, #3)   I've also had a chance to decide where I'd want to live in Manhattan. And that would be in the Village, next door to Cyd Charisse. While I might not be young enough (or old enough, oddly enough) for her to hang out with, the inner bohemian in me finds that world...her book world and its real counterpart...very appealing.

What about you? Which fictional character would you like to share fences with?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Quick Query Tips

Queries, Queries, Queries...

I've got them on the brain again since I did my query critique giveaway. I'll do another one in April, but until then, here are a few tips:

These aren't all-encompassing or hard-and-fast rules...just a few things that seemed to help streamline the process for me.

1. Shorter is better. The blurb I have for CHEATER BEATERS on my sidebar was the entire synopsis for that query, and I received (by far) the most responses on that book. While I don't think most books can have that short a synopsis (none of my others did), the goal should be: Entice don't explain. Raise questions don't give answers (esp about the ending of your book).

2. Add voice and tone without being gimmicky. This is a fine line sometimes, but an important one not to cross. Multiple readers can help with this.

3. I'm going to go against grain and say personalizing letters (beyond putting the right name at the top) isn't all that important, though research is. Follow submission guidelines, which can vary from agent to agent, even within an agency, and submit to agents who fit your genre, or closest to it if it's a great agency w/o a perfect fit (that's how I got my wonderful agent). 

4. Flow is so important. Agents read hundreds of these things a day. Having to slow down to read yours could mean they will stop. No separate sentences describing your protag. Blend that in with the plot. Read it out loud. Repeatedly. Also, feel free to abbreviate the genre and word count after the title in parentheses. As in: CHEATER BEATERS (YA Romance 65K). This little shortcut allows you more options for how to put this needed info into the query without taking up a whole sentence for that alone.

5. Make a wish list of respectable agents (check Preditors and Editors, my fav spot), but don't send from the top of your wish list to the bottom until you know you have a "working" query. Send five or six "testers" to a mix of agents from the top, middle and bottom of your list (the bottom ones still being respectable but small, or maybe ones who don't "exactly" specialize in your genre). When you get your first request or two, you know you have a "working" query. Then send to your top picks.

6. Rejections are part of the process. Like dating, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. I broke out in hives (literally), for the first and only time, after I mailed out my first set of queries. Even the form rejections hurt in the beginning, but later it was only the "close, but not quite" ones that gave me real pain. Remember, it's a numbers game.There are usually at least fifty respectable agents you can query in your genre. Then you can start the process over again with the next book.

Any questions? Comments? Concerns? As I said, these aren't hard-and-fast I love discussions, so feel free to disagree :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Latest Audiobook Love

Strange Angels (Strange Angels, #1) If SUPERNATURAL and BUFFY had a baby, this book would be it. But as much as I love both those TV shows, it's Lili St. Crow's writing that totally won me over with this book. It flows so well, and the protag (Dru's) voice is amazing.

I should warn audiobook listeners that her inner monologue (wonderful as it is) is often untagged, so when the narrator reads it, you sometimes wonder if the character just said it out loud or not. But those infrequent hiccups are worth working through.

My only plot gripe is that I'm not sure I believe that her dad would have told her so little about her supernatural background, but I understand that it can be stronger for the protag to learn about her situation, little by little, along with the reader. Also, her dad's reasons might be explained more in future books of this series...which I'm so looking forward to reading/hearing.

If you like this, you might also like these series:

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)Graceling (The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy, #1)The Summoning (Darkest Powers, #1)Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely, #1)  The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)        

Anyone else read this one? What did you think?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday

This week's YA Highway Road Trip topic:
                                 Who (from real life) have you written into a book?

All of my books have at least one character who is (more or less) based on a real live person. I say, "more or less" because they are still highly fictionalized and rarely have their real life appearance or plot things that really happened to them.
Vincent Van Gogh - Roses

My first book has the most. They were a crutch to help
me with characterization. Now I do it more for
sentimental reasons...wanting to have people, and
sometimes settings, that/who've
meant a lot to me represented in my books.

Writing a real person sort of reminds me of an impressionist painting. You're not aiming for a replication of reality but a reflection of it based on feelings that is somehow even more real than a carbon copy would be. It's a way to capture that "magic" element of characterization by using your impression of and feelings for a real live person.

It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to, the feeling for the things themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures.
(Vincent Van Gogh)

What about you? Any people from your life in your books?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Debut Authors Challenge #2

Unearthly (Unearthly, #1) I haven't read too many angel books, but so far this is my favorite. Clara is a part angel who has visions that reveal her purpose here on Earth. There are two love interests (of course), a dark angel, a mom who keeps secrets, and a new-found fellow angel friend. And the Wyoming setting is a character all its own. Good stuff. I found myself not wanting to stop listening.

This audiobook, being new and a debut, may not be in your library for a while, but it is available now through Audible.

If you like this, you might also like these series:

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush, #1)The Summoning (Darkest Powers, #1)Evermore (The Immortals, #1)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Favorite Picture Book Blogfest

 Come Blog With Me!

Today, I'm going to rewind my book love a few years...In college, I read literature by night and picture books by day (I worked at a child care center), so when I saw this blogfest, hosted by The Write At Home Mom, I couldn't resist.

And, of course, I can't pick just one.

First, the best all-time classic to read to reluctant/fidgety little listeners:

The Monster at the End of this Book (Big Little Golden Book) (You pretend you can't turn the pages, and they have to "help.")

And almost anything by Audrey and/or Don Wood will also work:

Silly Sally (Red Wagon Books)   Quick as a Cricket (Child's Play Library)   The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear (Child's Play Library)

This one I've read so many times I could recite it in my sleep:
 One Hungry Monster

The beautiful art of Denise Flemming In the Tall, Tall Grass

A teddy bear story has never been so clever:  Where's My Teddy?

And Pigs have never been so funny: Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore! 

Finally, my favorite for parents to read to their kids: I Love You, Stinky Face  

 Wow. That was fun. Thanks for that walk down memory lane.

What about you? Any picture books to recommend?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday- I Just Gotta Be Me

This week's YA Highway Road Trip: In honor of the release of Kirsten Hubbard's Like Mandarin ~ 

Growing up, who did you want to be like?

At the risk of sounding like an unrealistically functional child/teen, I never wanted to be like anyone but me. A skinnier me, no doubt, but me.  Sure, I tried out (repeatedly) for cheerleading in middle school, but that was more about hoping to get a boyfriend than anything else. I didn't want to be like any of my friends who were cheerleaders and/or had boyfriends. I just wanted to cheer and have a boyfriend of my own. I suppose that's a very fine line there, but I don't remember crossing it.

In high school, I finally got those boyfriends of my own. I also sang and did theatre. And while I admired other singers and actors (famous ones and my peers), I didn't want to be like them. I wanted to improve my own voice and acting. A clearer line this time, and I still didn't cross it. 

I suppose I have my very accepting and supportive parents to thank for this solid sense of self. So, as a grown up, I would like to be like someone them as a parent.

What about you? Who did you want to be like growing up?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My March Giveaway with Talli Roland's Launch Week

For my March giveaway, I'm Joining Talli Roland's launch party for her book, THE HATING GAME.

The Hating Game To celebrate, she's giving away tons of great books.

I'll be adding BRILLIANT, by Rachel Vail to that list.


So go check it out!

BTW, anyone interested in seeing more query crit giveaways from me, check back in April, around day Q, as I'm doing the A to Z blogging event next month.