Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Happy Happy Joy Joy! Congrats Sara Raasch!

This is one of my bestest friends/crit buddy/partner in crime - Sara Raasch.

Look at her? Isn't she so cute?

Well, let me tell you a secret, behind that warm smile is a plotting/world-building/character-developing genius!

Want proof? Check this out:

Sara Raasch's debut SNOW LIKE ASHES trilogy about a fierce chakram-wielding warrior from the Kingdom of Winter, who must struggle to free her people from the tyranny of an opposing kingdom while also protecting her own destiny, to Kristin Daly Rens at Balzer & Bray, in a pre-empt, for publication in Fall 2014, byMackenzie Brady at Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency.

Yes, that's right, she just signed an incredible 3-book deal with Balzer & Bray for her book Snow Like Ashes! I love this book so SO much. Like so much I want to marry it and cuddle it for all time.

But, since I can't do that...I'll settle for telling everyone how amazing it is. :) You should all buy it and read it, then you shall see. Well, you can't right now, but just mark your calendars for Fall 2014 and THEN go buy it. You can thank me for the tip later.

Pop over and congratulate Sara on her blog and read more about how this all went down because seriously...I'm still reeling on her behalf. In the meantime:

Congratulations Sara & Snow Like Ashes!!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Happy Book Birthday, THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER!

I'm so excited to announce that it's release day for my fellow Friday the Thirteener and awesome friend, Megan Shepherd and her book, THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER!

I had a chance to read this book on ARC tour and it was SO good. It's deliciously dark and twisty which, as you all know, is totally up my alley. Plus the world building and atmosphere sucked me in from the first page.

So, go congratulate Megan on Friday the Thirteeners! Or better yet, go buy her book! You will not regret it. :)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Back in America and ARCs at ALA-Midwinter!

This was the view from my balcony for the last week. It was stunning. There was so much fun to be had I clearly can't fit it all in one post. And as my brain hasn't returned from its vacation yet, we'll ease back into it. Plus, an ARC of INSOMNIA came with me! So I shall be sharing many pictures of that, too. It was a veritable (Caribbean) ARC tour...if you will. ;-)

Speaking of pictures that make me happy...

Check this one out!

Those are my books! Go ahead. Stare at the stunningly-shocking-creeptastic-shivermaking-loveliness! And So many of them! At the ALA - Midwinter Meeting! Right there where you could see them and people could pick them up and everything!

*...Freak out*

Excuse my breathing into a paper bag for a moment here... Did any of you attend ALA-Midwinter? If so, did you pick up an ARC? If not, what have you been up to this week?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Warm Sun & Sandy Beaches

While you read this, I'm probably somewhere in the Caribbean. Where it's warm and I get to sleep in and smile even more than normal.

At least, that's the goal.

So, this blog is taking a vacation, too. I'll be back next week with pictures. I promise! :) There are many exciting things brewing over here and I get to start telling you all about them soon.

Have a great week!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Forging Fridays - Too Little = No Hook

Today is our second Forging Fridays Query! Yay! Again, I won't be stating the identities of the volunteers for Forging Fridays unless otherwise requested. If you feel like unmasking yourselves in the comments, be my guest. But, I won't mention anyone by name.

On to our next query! *applause* *cheers* *confetti*


Dear _____,

I am writing to you because you represented ________ by _________, and I feel my first novel, COUNTERACT, has elements in common with that book. COUNTERACT stands completed at 45,000 words. Great! This is a very important part of the email that many forget: the reason you queried this agent/editor. Whether it is because of something they said they are looking for in an interview or something similar that they represent, you should explain why. It shows you did your research! Always a good thing! :)

COUNTERACT is the story of Tommy and Carine, two teenagers brought together by chance very vague, give us a bit more here as the United States braces for a chemical weapons attack. From who? Why? Who is the enemy? There are a lot of questions unanswered here. When you have too many unanswered questions, your audience doesn't care enough to find out. We need enough info to care about what happens. We don't have that here yet. The government issues an antidote to the poison, but the side effects of the drug render people incapable of caring what’s happening to them. More on this. What is happening that they should care about? Is them not caring worse than the effects of the chemical weapons?We need more information to care what happens to the country or the characters When Tommy and Carine discover the true nature of the threat again, this is not the back of a book. It's okay to reveal some of these details. Especially if they'll help hook the agent/editor. , they must rely on each other to survive. Believe me. Keeping it short and sweet is a very good plan, but you've taken it a bit too far here. We have no voice and not enough information to care about the world or the characters. Every word needs to count in a query and while you've done an excellent job of keeping it brief, not having enough of the right information can be just as bad of a problem. 

I committed twenty years this isn't necessary. You NEVER need to/should tell an agent or editor how long you spent on a project to researching and writing REDACTED, an historic non-fiction based on the journal of my great-great-great grandfather.I am also co-author of REDACTED, an inspirational collective memoir about finding hope, humor, and grace in life’s unexpected moments. Because none of this is the same genre as COUNTERACT, you really don't need any of this, but you can keep it in if you choose. It probably won't help or hurt you.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you. perfect ending. Many say too little or too much. This is just right. :)


Okay, that's it for today and this query. Thank you so much for volunteering, oh mystery writer! :) I really hope this helped you and I think your basic concept is here, we just need more details to really grab your audience. You are brave to send in a query, to me or an agent. Well done! :)

So, what do you guys think? Agree or disagree with my assessments? Discuss! Also, happy Forging Fridays! May we all be tougher and stronger thanks to our days in the fire. 

And we're always looking for new volunteers for Forging Fridays! Details on how to submit your query here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

So Far 2013 = The Awesome

I'm really liking 2013 so far. Good things are happening. I'm loving it. This post will be about some good things that have happened already, or are coming soon.

There are new Lucky 13's books debuting every day, (you can check out Lucky 13's January good news post here) but one I'm especially excited about is Splintered by the very cool A.G. Howard. I heart Anita. She's awesome. And I am SO excited for her! Plus, her cover is quite likely in my top 5 favorites of all time. LOVE!

See what I mean? Yay for new awesome books being available! Buy some, k? :)

And speaking of cool covers. Two incredible YA authors had new cover reveals this week! Kasie West revealed the cover (+ an ARC Giveaway) for her hilarious and heart-warming new contemporary (July 2, 2013) THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US.

This cover is so perfect for this book. And just thinking about this book makes me want to sigh happily and draw hearts on nearby objects. :) LOVE IT!

The other cover reveal is for the first book in James Dashner's new Mortality Doctrine Series, THE EYE OF MINDS. Dude...gamers, hackers, and people being taken hostage in virtual reality? Umm...YES, PLEASE! They did the exclusive cover reveal on a little site called EW. You may have heard of it. This cover screams Sci-Fi -- Futuristic -- & PICK ME UP NOW!

One more awesome thing that has not yet happened, but is about to = the release of the next book in Brodi Ashton's Everneath series, EVERBOUND. I loved Everneath and am SO excited for the release of this next book in the series. I'm a little sad because Brodi's launch is next week and I won't be able to make it. 

BUT I won't be able to make it because I'll be lounging on a beach in the Caribbean...thus the reason I'm only a little sad. ;-) 

But I did want to show the lovely cover and say, EVERBOUND releases on the 22nd! Buy it and stuff! :)

Seriously...these covers (and this post by association) are stunning. 

Well done me (*cough* and all cover designers involved *cough*). 

Well done indeed.

Monday, January 14, 2013

ARCs, Conferences & Blurbs--Oh My!

Some of you may have seen on Facebook or Twitter, but I received my ARCs! 

Squee! Look at the stunning creepiness of them! :) I know it's hard to believe, but these are even cooler in person. Staring at them is the most incredible experience ever! It's my story, my characters, my words! In an actual book. Wow...

And that is just the beginning of the exciting news in this post.

Yes, seriously...

Because I also found out recently that my publisher will be featuring Insomnia at the ALA Midwinter Meeting this upcoming weekend in Seattle! They will have ARCs available at the Flux booth. If you'll be there, make sure to stop by and pick one up. the last little while, I've received THREE incredible blurbs from some stellar YA authors! I can't even believe it. It's surreal.

"Cleverly written and dangerously dark, Insomnia will take you to the brink of insanity. A must read for thriller and romance fans alike." 
-- ELANA JOHNSON, author of Possession

"Completely unputdownable. I've decided to nickname Johansson 'Scary McScarypants,' because she spooked me in all the best ways. Who do I have to bribe to get book two now?!" 
-- CARRIE HARRIS, author of Bad Taste in Boys

"Insomnia is the perfect blend of everything I love in a story. Suspense, twists, characters with many levels that make me wonder just how good or just how bad they really are. I highly recommend this book to everyone and I hope a sequel comes soon!" 
-- JAMES DASHNER, author of the #1 New York Times Bestselling Maze Runner series. guys! How am I supposed to focus on anything? I'm just a big ball of messy excitement over here! :) Thanks for stopping by to celebrate with me. Anything exciting happening with you?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Forging Fridays - It's in the Details!

Today is our first Forging Fridays Query! Yay! We love volunteers! I don't believe I stated this before, but I won't be stating the identities of the volunteers for Forging Fridays unless otherwise requested. If you feel like unmasking yourselves in the comments, be my guest. But, I won't mention anyone by name.

Here is our very first volunteer! *applause* *cheers* *confetti*


After 18-year-old Anne Marie Gessner refuses to go to college and moves in with her grandmother in Paris, she’s determined to learn about her French mother, who died 10 years prior.  But her plans change when she stumbles across the diary and letters of the infamous Charlotte Corday, an aristocrat known in French Revolution history for murdering journalist Jean-Paul Marat. Good start! We have an age & a main character, but there are some things regarding motivation that are lacking. Without having read the book, I'm guessing the inciting incident here is Anne's decision to not attend college and move to Paris (or possibly finding the diary). We have no idea what makes her decide to pass on college. We want to care about what your main character is doing from the first paragraph and a big part of that requires us to know a bit about WHY she is doing things.

As Anne discovers the secrets her family kept from her about her mom, Charlotte’s life starts taking over Anne’s, literally. While reading Charlotte’s writing or standing in front of her portrait, Anne time travels, turns into her distant relative complete with all her memories, and experiences everything that shaped Charlotte, from the evacuation of Caen to the death of Charlotte’s mother. But she can’t control the time travel and occasionally comes back to the Paris of November 2005, when immigrant youths riot for equality. A few points to discuss here: 1 - We have a bit of disjointedness from the first paragraph to this one. The end of the first paragraph is about how her plans to find out more about her mom get derailed by some unknown thing. This paragraph needs to go directly to the unknown thing, in this case, the time-travel bit. When we go back to the mom in the start of the first sentence, I feel like I missed something. 2 - There are some clarity issues about what is actually happening. You call it time-travel, but she is actually in Charlotte's body? This really isn't clear enough here. 3 - The sentence saying "Charlotte's life starts taking over Anne's, literally" is troublesome. I can see the clever angle you're trying to get to here, but it isn't quite working. Especially because if I'm understanding this correctly, isn't it Anne who is taking over Charlotte's life? (going back and living it in her place?) Or are they switching places? You can see the confusion I'm having here. 4 - Why is the coming back to the present a problem? Why are the rioting youths even mentioned? If they aren't a bigger part of the plot then they don't need to be here. If they are a bigger part of the plot, tell us how. Would she prefer to stay back in Charlotte's time? If so, what makes her want to stay there? Again, we meed more insight into motivation.

As her two realities intertwine, Anne must decide whether to follow Charlotte’s destiny — to murder a radical leader for the good of France — or to follow her own path. What she decides ends up shaping her own life in the present, and that includes what she learns about her mom’s life. Okay, now we're at the consequences part of the query. What are the stakes? They need to be specific and we need to know why it's a problem. "Shaping her own life in the present" is very vague. We need more specifics. Shaping it how? And that gets us to the root problem with this query. We know very little about the character. You've told us some about the plot, but we know very little about Anne. Is Anne terribly unhappy with her life and that's why she'd prefer to stay back then? If so, what makes her unhappy? Did she fall for someone in either timeline (or both)? If she stays back as Charlotte, will she be stuck that way? Will she go to jail for the murder? Must she decide if she's capable of murder? If she's not, will she change history? We need concrete risks and rewards. I am certain there are details in the story, you need to share some of these with us in the query. A query needs to make us care and be intrigued by a story and characters. You can't do that without more details and specifics. This does not mean it needs to be longer. I wouldn't make it longer. It means you need to use your space better. Also, the last sentence needs to pack a punch. This one is punch-less, but concrete consequences will help that.

One last note. Voice is lacking through this entire query. This is a very common problem. In this case, I feel like when you add in the details and let us get to know Anne a bit better, this may be at least partly resolved. Another EXCELLENT option is to take your query and tell the same facts and sentences from 1st person and Anne's POV. As though Anne sat down and wrote a letter to someone about what happened to her. NOTE: DO NOT USE THIS LETTER AS YOUR QUERY. It's just a great method for tapping into the voice of your character and your story. Afterward, using that letter as a reference, rewrite the query including more of the voice you found in the letter. Make sense? 


Okay, that's it for today and this query. Thank you so much for volunteering, oh mystery writer! :) I really hope this helped you and I think your concept is different and intriguing, the query just needs some polish. It takes guts to send in a query, to me or an agent. Go you! You have awesome guts! :)

So, what do you guys think? Agree or disagree with my assessments? Discuss! Also, happy Forging Fridays! May we all be tougher and stronger thanks to our days in the fire. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mondays Rock

So, I have some incredibly awesome things happening. And I'm all bouncy, smiley, and twitchy because of it. Kind of like this:

I'm waiting for some final approval to share all of it, but I believe I'll be able to share on Monday. There will be blurbishness, pics, news about ARCs & events and possibly a vlog where I may or may not end up bleeding.

It will be EPIC. Tune in Monday! :)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Finally Saw Les Miserables!

On Friday, I finally saw Les Miserables. This is a big deal to me. When I first saw the previews for it, I turned to my husband and said, "I do not remember ever wanting to see a movie this bad."

I grew up doing musical theater both in school and a local community theater. The first professional musical I ever went to see was when the Les Mis was on tour and my mom took me to see it. I was 11.

It was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. It evoked emotions in me I didn't even realize I possessed. Afterward (it was a matinee), we went out to dinner at a Japanese steakhouse type restaurant. My mom and I were flipping through our playbills and they sat a couple at our table. Our conversation went like this:

Them: (laughing) Did you go see that today?
Us: Yes! Did you?
Them: (glance at each other) We were there...
Us: Didn't you love it?
Them: (looking a little bashful) We were in it. We play Marius and Eponine.

Me: *DIES*

I will never forget that moment. They may as well have told me that earlier that day they were Batman and Catwoman. It hadn't occurred to me that after doing something as incredible as that performance was to me...the actors just morphed into regular people going out to dinner.

So, yeah...Les Mis holds a special place in my heart. And I loved this movie. Being able to see the emotions on the characters faces as they went through the story I know so well was magical. Also, Jean Val Jean has NEVER been so sexy (even when they tried to make him un-sexy).


What about you? Have you seen it yet? What did you think?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Forging Fridays Query Critiques - I Did WHAT?

I've seriously been so excited for these query critiques. I really enjoy polishing queries. And I've had a few brave souls send in their queries already.

THANK YOU! Keep them coming!

But, before I put you awesome people under the microscope, I thought it would be unfair not to show you a bit of where I started. This way you'll know there is no need to be embarrassed, because I've done it all. I learned the hard way. 

You'll see...

A few months ago, I was dared to post my very first query on the Friday the Thirteeners blog. When I say query, I use the term VERY loosely. Some of you may have seen this before, but I'm going to re-post it here so you can see/remember the numerous mistakes I made. I'll post my color commentary in red so you can see just how mortified I am about this now and feel all shiny-good about yourself and your query. :)


Dear Kristin Nelson, (undoubtedly the best part of the email, unless your name is Kristin Nelson)

Hello! (*sigh* at least I was enthusiastic) My name is Jenn and I'm considering writing a book. (Yep. You read that right -- considering) I've never done much writing, but I'm a fast learner and I have faith that I can figure it out. (OH! I have faith! Well, I should've led with that. It's a game changer) I'm sure you hear this kind of thing all the time because from your website, I see that you're a literary agent. (...apparently I just read her title and quickly closed the browser. Otherwise I would've learned that SENDING THIS WAS A BAD IDEA) You seem like you might be the perfect person to help me with this! (Please, kill me now)

Is there any particular place you'd recommend starting when learning to write? (*head desk*) How does the publishing industry work exactly? Do I hire an agent and then start writing? Or is that backward? (There's really nothing to do but shake my head and laugh at this point)

Anyway, as you can see, I have many questions! Let me know if you'd prefer talking on the phone and we can schedule a call. (Yes! And then we shall have tea with the Mad Hatter, but bring a jacket because HELL has frozen over!)

Thanks so much!


Seriously. Reading this now, I want to grab newbie-writer-me and shake some sense into her. Good thing more-experienced-writer-me has a sense of humor or there would be some kind of time-travel violence going on. 

Now that we've all had a good laugh at my expense, here is my point. Did I make mistakes here? I think we can all agree - YES! Did it ruin my chances in the future? No. In fact, I think writing queries and pitches has become a strength of mine. 

So, there you go. Making mistakes helps you learn. We'll be diving full force into the volunteer queries starting next week. If you've been hesitant to send one in, do it!

In the meantime, your Laugh of the Day is on me. ;-) Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy Book Birthday, PROPHECY!

Today is the release day for PROPHECY by fellow Thirteener and fantastic human being, Ellen Oh. First, the cover. I mean...I really don't have to say anything. The smoky dragon does it all. Love it!

I got an early sneak peek at this book while it was on a Thirteener ARC tour and absolutely loved it. There are so many things that are fantastic about it, but it's the unconventionality that I loved the most. I loved all the Asian flair to it. It was so refreshing to see a teenage girl who was not only obedient to her parents, but it didn't make her a wuss and she didn't whine about it in private. Kira is strong. There is no doubt about that, but she also knows when someone is giving her good advice or direction. I respect that about her so much. I also love that there is a touch of romance, but it isn't the focal point of the story in any way. And the evolution of not only Kira, but the other characters is so good from beginning to end.

Anyway, love this book. Love Ellen. Happy day. :)

Also, over on Friday the Thirteeners, the stunningly talented Natalie Whipple is showing off her skills with some great fanart for PROPHECY. AND Elsie Chapman is celebrating with a hilarious PROPHECY post on The Lucky 13s! So much book birthday love today! Go stop by and check it out!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

You guys! It's here! It's 2013!

Okay, so...I've been reduced to incoherent giddy babbling. I'll try to pull myself together, but I can't promise anything.

In the meantime, stop by the Friday the Thirteeners blog where I posted today with some resolutions and goals we have for the next year. Come tell us what you're working on. Does your goal have to do with Krispy Kreme's also? ;-)


Happy New Year!

P.S. I'm still looking for queries to critique for Forging Fridays! Be brave! Send me something. :) I'll be gentle.