Tuesday, August 31, 2010

THE REPLACEMENT By Brenna Yovanoff

THE REPLACEMENT by Brenna Yovanoff has been getting a lot of well-deserved buzz and we'd like to add to it.

A bit about the book:
Mackie 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 slowly dying in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us. He just wants to play bass guitar and find out more about an oddly intriguing girl named 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.

Lila's Take:
THE REPLACEMENT is one of the best YA books I've ever read written from male first person POV. Brenna just nails Mackie's voice. I loved everything about Mackie and his world. From his loyal friends to his family who loves him in spite of the fact that he's from another world. There's magic in this book. You won't want to miss it.

Brenna was nice enough to humor us with our patented, totally random interview. Proof that she's not only a kick ass writer, she's also a pretty cool person.

1. Tell us about your book in 140 characters or less.

Mackie isn't human. Also, his town is plagued by baby-thieves. This, plus music, kissing, and dead things.

2. Where did you get the idea for THE REPLACEMENT (as the official idea whores, we have a vested interest here.)

This is tricky, because I'm definitely not a lightning-strikes kind of writer. I think I had the same general idea maybe twenty times over the years, and one day I just thought, "Well, I'd better sit down and write this thing!"

3. Someone has a pair of scissors to your head (oooh, SCARY!) and you have to choose: Awesome title or gorgeous book cover?

You've found my kryptonite! Which is that I hate choosing between things. But if the scissors are hanging over me, I'm going to go with gorgeous cover. A good cover can make a serviceable title into something extraordinary just through proximity. Also, titles intrigue me, but covers make me walk over and pick up the book.

4. When did you know you had to be a writer?

I think I knew forever and just didn't take the possibility seriously. I'd been writing every single day since I was eleven, because I literally could not stop. At twenty, I said, "Self, this is getting ridiculous. If you worked this hard at math, you would be a physicist by now. But you don't want to be a physicist. Also, you don't want to be the fitting-room girl at Ross Dress for Less anymore, so let's get a move on!" (Sometimes I talk to myself.) (Which may qualify as an occupational hazard.)

5. Twizzlers or M&Ms?

This is another hard one. I am a candy fiend and adore them both. (And they are both fun to eat, which is how I gauge candy-quality. Seriously.) But if I absolutely *have* to pick, I'll say M&Ms, because they are chocolate and come in a variety of colors. Also, I like sorting things by color.

Leave a comment for a chance to win ALL of the books being featured on our blog this week! Good luck...

Monday, August 30, 2010

FRIEND IS NOT A VERB by Dan Ehrenhaft

Okay, so we first fell in love with Dan when we were cyber-stalking him while out on submission. This is what did us over. His list of non-blurbs is genius. Genius! So it's no surprise that we absolutely loved his newest novel FRIEND IS NOT A VERB.

A bit about the book:
When your older sister disappears inexplicably, and your girlfriend dumps you, the logical answer to the craziness in your life is to become a rock star. This is the solution that Henry (Hen) comes up with. With the help of his best friend, Emma, Hen sets out to solve the mystery behind why his sister ran away—and why she has just as suddenly returned. In addition, Hen decides to take bass lessons so that he can win a spot in his ex-girlfriend’s band, and her heart. Along the way, Hen learns more than just how to play the bass, and discovers that maybe the right girl for him has been there all along. This quirky, well-crafted novel offers an appealing cast of characters and several interwoven story lines. The mystery surrounding Hen’s sister moves the story along, as does Hen’s tendency to narrate his life like a “Behind the Music” episode.

Lila's Take:
FRIEND IS NOT A VERB is one of those books where you read the last line, sigh, close the book and smile. Actually smile. I can't exactly explain why, but this book reminded me of the movie Juno. No there were no sixteen-year-old girls getting knocked up, but it had a cool retro-vibe on account of the musical references/themes and highlighted solid friendships and unexpected love. Plus, the wit and dialogue were spot on. It was really refreshing to read an actual feel-good book for YAs--it came at the perfect time and was a really nice pick-me-up. So...PICK IT UP!

Dan was generous enough to stop by and answer a few of our random questions...enjoy!

1. Tell us about your book in 140 characters or less.

Writers, turn off your laptops. This is the greatest novel of all time and as such marks the much-hyped Death of the Novel. You’re welcome.

2. Where did you get the idea for FRIEND IS NOT A VERB (as the official idea whores, we have a vested interest here.)

Okay, silliness aside... Part of the idea was born in 1995, when I was on vacation with my wife (then girlfriend) in the Dominican Republic. Half-hidden in the hills above the beach were all these strange, gorgeous, modern mansions, and we wondered who lived in them. For some reason, I thought they had to be crooks or fugitives. So the sister-and-her-friends part of the story came first. As I wrote bits and pieces of that, the story of the life the sister abandoned ended up becoming more compelling to me, because I identified with her little brother. That's when I really began to write the novel in earnest--about 3 years ago.

3. Someone has a pair of scissors to your head (oooh, SCARY!) and you have to choose: Awesome title or gorgeous book cover?

Hmm...that IS a tough one. I'd have to say an awesome title, because a cover can always be redesigned in the next printing. And a title grabs your ears, not just your eyes. In spite of all the digital revolution, books are still about words. (At least, I hope...)

4. When did you know you had to be a writer?

After I read THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin. I was 10, and it blows my mind today as much as it did then. [Editorial Note: Lisa gave me this book in 6th grade and I swear it transformed me into an actual reader (I think I qualified as more of a skimmer before this life-changing event.) LOVE.]

5. Twizzlers or M&Ms?

Neither, which I realize is a major character flaw. I can't stand sweets. I have no idea why. Can I choose mini-burgers instead?
If you'd like the chance to win this book (and four others), don't forget to leave a comment!

Friday, August 27, 2010

LiLa's Epic Book Recomendation Week - Comment and Win!

Laura and I are heading to Hilton Head this week for the first ever mega-Roecker family vacation. We are beyond excited for an entire week at the beach with our parents, husbands, brother-in-laws and kids.

The only problem is that we've been feeling horribly guilty about neglecting the blogosphere for a week. As usual our guilt = your gain, and we've arranged for a week's worth of book recommendations, author interviews and giveaways especially for you!

Monday we'll have Dan Ehrenhaft drop by to answer questions about his latest FRIEND IS NOT A VERB.

Tuesday we'll be busy talking you into reading Brenna Yovanoff's THE REPLACEMENT (it won't take much convincing, trust us).

Wednesday you'll be hearing all about our love for Adele Griffin's THE JULIAN GAME.

Thursday we'll be dishing on the fabulousity of THE SECRET SOCIETY OF THE PINK CRYSTAL BALL by Risa Green.

Friday we'll be gushing about THE DUFF by the AMAZING Kody Keplinger.

Best of all, one lucky reader will win a copy of all of these books! Just leave a comment every day for an entry to win. When we get back we'll compile all the comments and select a winner. Get excited and have a great week!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Bookinistas: GRACE by Elizabeth Scott

Okay, so we have to begin this post with a confession. Neither of us have read LIVING DEAD GIRL by Elizabeth Scott. We have heard absolutely incredible things about this book, but are kind of terrifed. We both have daughters and have vowed to read the book after they are grown and gone.

But when an ARC of Elizabeth's newest book GRACE crossed our paths, we each devoured it in a matter of hours. This book is truly like nothing we've ever read. Check it out...

Here's what the back cover has to say:
Grace was raised to be an Angel, a herald of death by suicide bomb. But she refuses to die for the cause, and now Grace is on the run, daring to dream of freedom. In search of a border she may never reach, she travels among malevolent soldiers on a decrepit train crawling through the desert. Accompanied by the mysterious Kerr, Grace struggles to be invisible, but the fear of discovery looms large as she recalls the history and events that delivered her uncertain fate.

Told in spare, powerful prose by acclaimed author Elizabeth Scott, this tale of a dystopian near future will haunt readers long after they've reached the final page.

Lila's Take:
This book truly is haunting. The idea that Grace's world could be our near-future is terrifying. Even more terrifying is the fact that in some countries, this already is a reality. Terrorism, suicide bombers, child-soldiers. And yet Elizabeth writes with such an undeniable beauty, her flawless prose in stark contrast to the dark themes of the book. This is an intense book that really makes you think about how incredibly lucky we are for the freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis. GRACE would make a fantastic pick for a YA book club.

Here's what the other Bookanistas are up to this week:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

WTF Wednesday: Caption This

When I saw this photo of Angelina and her twins in Hungary on UsMagazine.com the first thing that popped into my head was, "Wow, Angelina looks hungry in Hungary." Hilarious AND totally out of the box, right?


Anyway, just when I thought I had the market cornered on clever celebrity captions, I read this comment from someone who goes by Name (creativity abounds!):

"dirty old liar, lying about your age, your 'children' - whom you adopted to create a charity and pay a lot less in taxes, you old cheap smelly unmadrried ho."

Now I don't know about you guys, but I think the whole "dirty old liar, lying about your age" thing has kind of a nice ring to it, no? Not to mention the blatant typos and the rather liberal interpretation of tax law.

So, what say you readers? Can you top Name's batshit crazy commentary on Angelina? We'll be lurking in the comments to find out.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tell the Truth Tuesday

Our truth this Tuesday: We have absolutely no idea how we're going to get everything done before we leave for the beach on Friday.


So in lieu of yet another post about how overwhelmed we are, we're sending you over to the blog of our fabulously talented agent mate, Stasia Kehoe. Stasia's YA verse novel, AUDITION, is being published by Viking next year (see, I told you she's fabulous AND talented) and she's doing this cool blog series where she interviews writing partners and guess who's up this week? That's right, US! We're even giving away some fun LIAR SOCIETY swag, so be sure to follow Stasia's blog and leave a comment.

Oh and don't forget to tell us your truth this Tuesday in the comments. Misery loves company, so feel free to bitch and moan right along with us.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Time Management LiLa Style

A conversation with LiLa via phone because Laura has changed the password on Lisa's Skype account denying her access to her #1 time suck.

Lisa: So, I finished my chapter. Does that mean I get Skype back now?

Laura: No.

Lisa: COME ON! I'm dying over here. I feel so alone...

Laura: You know the rules. Your husband said no Skype until after the baby is born. You need to be resting up for the big day! Plus, aren't you supposed to be nesting or something?

Lisa: I hate you.

Laura:  We have our WIP, LIAR SOCIETY launch stuff, the second book to edit and, oh I don't know, a NEWBORN baby to worry about.

Lisa: I still hate you and now I have nothing to do when it's your turn to write.

Laura: Go. To. Sleep. Or go read an ARC or something. We need to write more book reviews.

Lisa: Give me Skype back or I'm quitting writing.

Laura: Don't make me change the Twitter password too...

Lisa: I. Hate. You.

Laura: *cackles*

So, um, obviously we're working through some time management issues on our end. How do you guys manage your time? Have you ever had to give up something you enjoyed that was impacting your productivity? Clearly we could use some advice...

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Friday Made of Fab

1. One week from today the entire Roecker family is heading to Hilton Head for a little R&R. Well, as much R&R as you can get in a house with 3 sisters, their husbands, 4 kids under the age of 5 (6 if you count the buns in the ovens), and two VERY generous grandparents. The 14 hour drive is definitely going to be interesting. My poor husband is convinced that my water is going to break somewhere in West Virginia. And because vacations make us feel guilty we've got some super fun stuff planned for the blog when we're gone. Get excited.

2. For those of you who have asked, I'm due to have this baby September 30th. Yup, that's right. I'll be at my most pregnant during the hottest months of the summer. Super planning on our part. We (and by we, I mean ME) decided that since this is most likely our last baby we should be surprised about the sex. Although, I have this feeling that it's going to be a girl....

3. We have the Tim Gunn of beta readers. I almost peed my pants when Tim Gunn commented on some poor Project Runway contestant's booty shorts: "For me, the cut of the shorts and the color of the shorts, it really says 'diaper.' Especially because they're quilted, so there's a thickness to it." Oh, how I love Tim Gunn. You know what I love even more? Our critique partner does the exact same thing for us. We sent her a very rough first chapter of our WIP and she kind of said, "For me, the voice here, it really says Gossip Girl, when you're going for Scream. Genius.

4. Mark your calendars for Monday August 23rd at 9 PM EST. We've scheduled a feedback chat/debrief for WriteOnCon. We're already hard at work on planning for next year and we want to know exactly what you guys thought about our inaugural year. Just don't bring up Error 403, okay? Kind of a sore subject...To join us for the chat just head over to http://www.writeoncon.com/ Monday night.

5. WriteOnCon was featured in PublishersWeekly. We are so proud and so excited! Thank you all for helping us make this event such a huge success!

Have a fabulous weekend everyone!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Bookanistas: PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White

Ok, so unless you've been living under a rock you've probably heard all about PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White. The truth is we've been stalking Kiersten for a long, long time now. Yeah, we follow her hilarious blog and we turn green with envy every time she posts a witty tweet. Kiersten pretty much rocks and while we'd really like to hate her because she's so funny and talented and her debut novel is generating a crapload of buzz, she also happens to be very, very nice, so it's pretty much impossible NOT to like her. Hmph. 

And even more annoying, PARANORMALCY totally lives up to all the hype.

Geez, some people...

Here's what the back cover has to say: 

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

LiLa's Take: 
Evie is SO much fun. She's hot, relatable AND she knows how to kick some vampire ass. What's not to love?

I don't want to give too much away here, but PARANORMALCY is a completely fresh take on paranormal YA. It kind of flips the whole genre on its head and Kiersten's light and engaging style makes this a REALLY fun read. And the romance...sigh...let's just say there are good boys and bad boys and the whole thing is very dreamy/steamy. Loved.

Still not convinced? You can read the first 70 pages online for free. Read it now and tell me that you're not dying to pre-order. Just add it onto your Mockingjay order. There's still time for pre-order prices AND free shipping.

Here's what the other Bookanistas are up to this week:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cold Feet

In a little over a month, the Li of the LiLa is going to be out of commission for a few hours days weeks. Lisa deserves a proper maternity leave and while her husband has threatened to hide her computer for 6 weeks, I've sat back and nodded, encouraging her to take her time. But inside I'm a freaking wreck.

Ever since we were little, Lisa has been my voice and this blog is no exception. Lisa couldn't wait to begin blogging after we started writing while I had never heard of a blog in my entire life. I love editing her posts and chiming in on posts of my own when I have something especially interesting to say. But 6 weeks of interesting? Wowsers.

Editorial note from Lisa: For the record, I fully intend on smuggling my laptop into the delivery room with me. Yes, I realize this might indeed lead to the destruction of my marriage, but I believe wholeheartedly in drugs, so it's not like I'll be doing Lamaze breathing or anything. Also, goal #1 as soon as I get home from the hospital is to figure out how to feed the baby and blog at the same time. Yeah, I like to set the bar high as far as motherhood goes. 6-weeks without a computer? I think not. 

But you should know, dear readers and Lisa (because I know you're just as afraid as I am that when you return we'll have lost 500 followers or something), I have been brainstorming some extra-special posts to use while Lisa is laid up. I may be forced to dust off my celebrity files and bring back the tried and true Us Weekly poems. Maybe even share a few of my own gems from back in the day. But rest assured, the blog will go on.

Even if I have to feature sad, one-sided Skype conversations begging Lisa's husband to unearth her computer.

*Yes, that's a single blue tear rolling down my cheek. It's not aimed at you future niece or nephew. Don't take it personally, I'm just scared. End of story.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tell the Truth Tuesday

1. I've become a Goodreads junkie. I have no idea how it happened, but lately I've been obsessing over the people who want to read LIAR SOCIETY rather than obsessively checking StatCounter. Sort of makes me long for the simple days when a hit from NYC was enough to make my entire afternoon.

2. Madonna's "youthful glow" freaks me out. Like, a lot. I can't help but imagine her sacrificing virgins to achieve that kind of skin at 52.

3. I love me some Chuck Bass, but when I saw this I couldn't help but wonder WTF Chuck? Where's the purple? Isn't that like his signature color?

4. Sunday night is my new favorite night of the week. Between Mad Men and True Blood there is no better night for TV.

5. Late-night-chocolate-covered-Twizzler-craving-Lisa, REALLY hates sensible-Lisa who unfortunately does all of the grocery shopping.

6. Laura is trying really hard to give me a pep talk right now, but I'm ignoring her. It's really hard to feel peppy when you have a small human trying to claw its way out of you. Yeah, being knocked up in 90 degree weather really doesn't agree with me.

7. One problem with having a tiny human trying to claw its way out of you is that my husband has now enforced curfew again. I think he's mistaking bitterness for exhaustion. Either way, if I'm not in bed by 11 PM tonight he's going to hide my MacBook. Bastard.

9. We're working on a new project. We have an outline and everything. But we're scared to write it. Really scared.

10. We're obsessed with Mark Ruffalo. He was ridiculously hot in The Kids Are All Right. Plus, it's a really fantastic movie.

11. Laura has to finish this blog post because I'm one minute away from missing curfew. Shit.

12. Lisa just sent me a text presumably from her bed. I predict her BlackBerry AND MacBook will be missing tomorrow.

13. I've toned down Bitter Lisa in this post. She is not going to be happy.

So, what's your truth this Tuesday?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ruminations on Subjectivity and the Fetal Position

Have you ever been in a bookstore with 10 other writers?

I don't recommend it.

It's actually kind of fascinating to watch people pluck books off shelves and say, "Ugh, I hated this book." Um, really? That's one of my favorites. Or, "Omigod, that book was AMAZING." Seriously? I couldn't stand it. "Don't you just LOVE this book cover?" Uh, no, I think it's fugly. 

I guess it's true that there's really no accounting for taste. But man is it frustrating. Because the thing is, books are personal. When I love a book, I want other people to love it too. I can't even imagine what it's going to be like when LIAR SOCIETY hits the shelves. Mentally, I know that not everyone is going to love our book, but intellectually acknowledging that fact and having people rip it apart on GoodReads are two very different things.

So, have you read a book that your friends hated? Or have you hated a book that your friends loved? How do you deal with the insane levels of subjectivity in publishing? Personally, I'm considering the fetal position. Or I would be considering the fetal position if I could still bend that way.

Friday, August 13, 2010

In Which We Wrap-up WriteOnCon and Make a BIG Announcement

Thank you so much to all of you who joined us for WriteOnCon 2010. We had so much fun, but please excuse us while we take a REALLY long nap.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Bookanistas + WriteOnCon + THE IVY = Awesome

This week (in between WriteOnCon fun - have you guys had the chance to look at all the incredible posts and transcripts from the past couple of days? Check them all out here! ) we're welcoming authors of THE IVY, Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur.

Here's what the cover has to say:
Congratulations! You have been admitted to the most prestigious university in the world. Now what are you going to do?

Callie Andrews may not have money or connections or the right clothes, and she may have way too many complications in her love life, what with—

the guy she loves to hate

the guy she'd love to forget

the guy she'd love to love

and Matt
the guy she really should love

—all vying for her attention.

But she has three fantastic roommates (best friends or her worst nightmare?) and a wholesome California-girl reputation (oops) and brains and beauty and big, big dreams.

Will it be enough to help her survive freshman year at Harvard?

LiLa's Take: Do you like Gossip Girl? If yes, then you will enjoy THE IVY. The first book in a series I felt like reading this novel was a little bit like watching a Gossip Girl marathon, complete with a cliffhanger ending that will have you dying for the next book.

Lucky for us the gorgeous (and talented) authors of this fun new book decided to drop by for a quick interview. Of course we couldn't help but feel a tiny bit jealous of these co-authors. We mentioned that they're young, gorgeous and went to Harvard right?:

1. How did you guys decide to write a book together?

The idea of writing a book together started brewing during our sophomore year at Harvard when we were discussing a YA novel written by a fellow classmate that was almost very successful. We started thinking that it couldn’t be that hard (false assumption) and that it’d be a very fun thing to do together (true assumption!).

Over our junior year, we talked a lot about the concept, and how it should be set during freshman year at Harvard. We wanted to provide a look into the real life behind the ivy-covered walls, but we also wanted to portray the universal college experience of a young adult. Harvard is competitive and serious, but it’s still similar to any other college in terms of the social side, which, as you can tell from The Ivy is rife with drama, scandal and tons of fun!

However, we didn’t get serious about the book until the end of our senior year, when we were ready to graduate and go off into thereal world. We had most of our brainstorming down on paper in the form of an extensive outline, and feedback from an editor on the first couple of chapters, so Lauren took a part-time job that summer to give writing a shot. Come August, she had written enough to feel confident that she could finish, and decided to defer a Masters program at The University of Oxford to give The Ivy a real shot. Rina had returned to Turkey and temporarily moved to London to work a full-time finance job, and receiving new chapters from Lauren was undoubtedly the highlight of her week!

[Editorial note: WAY more glamourous to read new chapters in London and Turkey. Point one for the gorgeous Harvard writers.]

2. How much of the book is based on your real-life experiences at Harvard? Did you base any characters on yourselves or people you knew?
We’d basically have to kill you if we told you. We pinky swore not to tell anything--EVER.

[Editorial note: Um pinky swears? Have you girls tried arm wrestling? This point goes to LiLa for sure.]

3. What is your writing process like? How do you guys collaborate on projects?
We do our brainstorming together, and then Lauren does the actual writing (she was the English major, after all!). In terms of the day to day, we email constantly about the tiniest little details--both book-related or otherwise. We're kind of codependent that way.

[Editorial note: Codependency for the win! Let's call this one a tie, shall we?]

4. What was your road to publication like?
In the middle of our senior year at Harvard, Lauren attended a talk for English majors given by the VP of a major publishing company. After the meeting, she somehow tricked him into giving her his email address. We pitched him the idea via email and he seemed very interested. The problem was, we hadn’t written anything yet!

Lauren scrambled to write the first three chapters of the book in the next few days--with Rina yelling frantically over her shoulder--and sent it off. Then... there was a LONG period of silence. Just nothing. Finally we received a rejection letter citing the sample chapters as "too YA." (Up until this point, it wasn't exactly clear to us who our audience was, but when we saw that it was like--duh! Teens have so much more fun.) Anyway, we thought it was over until we received another email several months later, this time from an editor working at the YA division of the same company. We were actually in the Bahamas for our senior year spring break and had to turn Rina's blackberry on to data roaming, because it clearly was an emergency. We nearly broke the phone (or more like broke the bank) while trying to send off those chapters.

Then we waited... and again, there was a LONG period of silence. Finally weeks before graduation, we cracked and emailed the editor to give her a nudge. She responded back with some great advice that made us (more like Lauren) believe that there was hope in The Ivy after all. Lauren spent the entire summer writing and sending off chapters to Rina as Rina rejoiced, cheered, pep-talked and gave back feedback.

After Lauren was finished with the manuscript, we got into the whole ordeal of finding an agent. We realized the book must have been somewhat readable and entertaining (to people other than just us!), because we received an overwhelmingly positive interest from the agents we contacted. We signed with Rosemary Stimola and after a few months of editing (Lauren ended up cutting about 25% of the original manuscript), Rosemary negotiated a four book deal with Greenwillow!

[Editorial note: Harvard? Bahamas? VPs of Publishing houses? Crap. I think we almost need to give the gorgeous Harvard gals two points for this one.]

5. And now for the most important question of all...Twizzlers or M&Ms? 
Hmmm, hello? M&Ms! OF COURSE! We are unanimous on this front.

[Editorial note: Um, sorry girls the correct answer was Twizzlers. Duh. Point goes to LiLa.]

Well, we're sorry to say that Lauren and Rina totally beat us 3 to 2, but, hey, at least it was close. And the good news is that everyone wins when they pre-order a copy of this dishy new book. Now if we could just convince them to send us the manuscript for Book 2 in the series....

Here's what the other Bookanistas are up to this week:

Christine Fonseca - PARANORMALCY
Kirsten Hubbard - GIRL, STOLEN
Carolina Valdez Miller - THE DUFF
Bethany Wiggins - TELL ME A SECRET
The Plot This Belles - THE DUFF

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WTF Wednesday

2 3 words. FORBIDDEN Error 403 (thanks Shelley, we must have blocked that part out!)

Thank you for being patient as we worked feverishly to iron out the kinks of WriteOnCon--it sure was feeling kinky. Anyway, have no fear. If you missed something yesterday morning, mosey on over to the schedule and click the links to get all caught up.

AND stay tuned for another fun-filled conference day! Raise your hand if you're still in your pajamas from yesterday!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Becoming A Career Author by literary agent Catherine Drayton

We offer a warm welcome to literary agent Catherine Drayton! She's stopped by to offer some valuable advice about becoming a career author. Take it away, Catherine!

Becoming a Career Author

It is every writer’s dream – a steady income, a grateful publisher and an audience impatient for your next book. We all know these are tough times in publishing: Many respected authors are struggling to secure deals for their next books and publishers are looking for authors who have the potential to break-out (by that I mean sell over 100,000 copies).  So how does the debut author approach the business of writing and give themselves the best shot at becoming a career author?

You need good people on your team.

Writing is no different from any other profession. A good mentor is essential to success. You need someone on your team who believes in your writing, wants you to succeed and has the experience to offer constructive advice. I don’t mean family and friends – I can’t tell you how many times writers tell me that their ‘students loved the manuscript’ or ‘friends say it’s great’ and have encouraged them to send it to agents and publishers  – they will never be able to offer you the honest, professional feedback that you need to improve as a writer.  In fact, when I hear these lines, I often only half-jokingly suggest that the writer consider sharing their manuscript with an enemy or two because if they admit they love it, the writer’s probably got something good.

Where do you find that person? Perhaps it is your creative writing teacher, a writing buddy, an online critique group, or a published author who sees potential in your writing. You need someone whose judgement you trust, who you can respond to on an intellectual rather than emotional level, who doesn’t say, ‘It’s great’ just to avoid hurting your feelings. Preferably it is someone who has experience in the craft of storytelling and is well read in your genre. Many authors these days are part of online writing groups and find a great deal of support and constructive criticism from their fellow writers. But don’t make the mistake of listening to everyone and trying to meet their concerns. Settle on a few that you trust.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to add a good agent to your team. Take your time to research the agents before you query them. Look at their track record in selling your genre and write to them personally.  Demonstrate that you’ve studied up on them and explain why, based on their current client list, you feel that you’d be a good fit.  You’re selling your work and yourself to busy strangers who will appreciate that you’ve reached out in a professional manner.  It’s a lot more work that knocking out a one-size-fits-all cover letter, but the chances of your reaping positive results will be much, much higher.

When your book is sold treat your editor well.  Their career is tied to your success so remember that they are on your side. If you have a delicate issue, ask your agent to raise it with the editor. Your agent is there to handle the potentially upsetting business issues and to help you preserve your goodwill with your editor.  People work harder for people they respect.  So, earn your editor’s respect.  Always look to make your encounters positive.  Meet deadlines, revise diligently, express appreciation.

Once you have chosen your mentors, listen to them. You chose them because you trust their judgement and at times what they have to say may not be easy to accept but remember they want you to succeed!

I want to tell you a funny story I recently heard about a woman who is today an internationally best-selling mystery writer.  She began her professional writing life as a political speech writer and freelance journalist for women’s magazines.  When her second child began nursery school she had three free hours each morning that she hadn’t had in years.  She was an avid mystery reader and thought she could write a good one herself, so she used those three hours to write what became her first manuscript.  When she was finished, the first person she asked to read it was her husband – a high-powered lawyer as well as a big mystery reader himself.  His response?  Not, “Honey, you’re brilliant…..this is the best novel I’ve read in years!!”  It was, “I’ve read worse.”   Better than brutal, but pretty tough.  Undaunted, she rewrote the manuscript based on his critique, managed to find an agent, a publisher and a place on the bestseller list.

Know what you’re good at.

When writers start out they often experiment with a number of genres, styles and narrative points of view. Ultimately – make that sooner rather than later –you’ll need to settle on what feels most natural. Don’t chase commercial success by trying to grab onto the latest fad (did anyone mention vampires?!) as what’s ‘hot’ is elusive. Success comes with great writing, strong plots and a vivid imagination. Once you’ve established your audience, keep delivering what they want. It is naive to think that your publisher will want to publish everything that you write, especially if you insist on changing genres. Publishers want to build brand recognition for their authors, so if you write commercial women’s fiction or literary YA keep delivering better books in that genre each time.

Keep learning.

Just because you’ve gotten a book published don’t stop learning. Take creative writing courses, read incessantly and practice your craft.

Don’t give up your day job.

Whatever you do don’t give up paid employment until you’re sure that you can have enough income from your writing to support yourself for three years. You have living expenses, health care and taxes to pay and there’s no guarantee that your publisher will keep publishing your books or pay ever- increasing advances. Knowing that you have an outside income allows you to enjoy your writing. I’m also a firm believer that if you stay involved in the outside world it will benefit your writing. There are new experiences and new people to meet and it’s a lot less stressful if writing is your passion. Even very successful authors involve themselves in the world by teaching, attending festivals and making school visits. Writer’s block is a real danger when all you have to do is stare at the computer and think about the bills you have to pay.

Promote your writing.

Increasingly, authors are expected to become heavily involved in promoting their writing. No longer can you sit in a garret and let your art speak for itself. The first thing an editor will ask when they’re interested in a manuscript is, “Does the author have a website and are they actively involved in social media? The well-prepared author is already part of at least one on-line community. The key is to expand your influence and exposure through expanding your network. Get involved in blogging and Tweeting, contribute to other author’s blogs and join critique groups. Be generous and supportive of your fellow authors and you’ll find that when the time comes that you need support you’ll have a community behind you.

Catherine Drayton graduated with a Bachelor of Arts/Law from the University of Sydney and a Masters of Law from University of New South Wales. She worked as a copyright and defamation litigator in Sydney for four years before moving to the United States in 1995. She had a brief stint as a literary scout and then joined Arthur Pine Associates in 1998. She currently works for Inkwell Management, where she represents both fiction and non-fiction writers and has had considerable success with books for children and young adults. Her clients include New York Times bestselling authors and a number of internationally successful writers. She represents Markus Zusak, John Flanagan, Becca Fitzpatrick and Beth Hoffman, amongst many others.

Bringing the Funny by author Rachel Hawkins

Wow. Can you believe we have the amazing Rachel Hawkins here? She's the author of HEX HALL, one of the best YA novels I've read this year. Yes, I might be a little biased. Whatever. She's frawesome! She's here to tell us how to bring the funny to our writing.

Bringing the Funny

I never set out to write funny books. When I first sat down and started on the book that became HEX HALL, I was convinced I was writing a dark mystery full of DEATH and BLOOD SACRIFICE and all sorts of other things that were IN NO WAY COMICAL.  Yes, my book would be like if Anne Rice and Flannery O’Conner had a baby (You know. Though science.) I would pose for moody author photos, wearing lots of eyeliner, and maybe some black velvet. Okay, so I hadn’t owned anything black velvet since an unfortunate flirtation with the Goth look in 9th grade, but whatever. The point is, I would write spoooooky books full of Angst and Danger.

Then I sat down to write. In my opening scene, I had a girl, Sophie Mercer, arriving at a creepy boarding school with her mom. It’s August, and the school is located on an island off the coast of Georgia, so the humidity is pretty intense. As they get out of the car, Sophie’s mom asks her what she thinks about the place. Sophie’s reply? “Awesome. I always wondered what it would be like to live in someone’s mouth.”

I stared at that line.

I deleted it.

I wrote it again.

I looked at it some more.

“Okay,” I thought . “So my Super Dark Book O’Death starts with a joke. Big deal. It’s kind of a smart-ass joke, so that’s acceptable. It’s not like The Funny is taking over or anything.”

So I kept writing, finally getting to the end of Chapter 1, where a werewolf attacks Sophie. “Yes!” I thought, fingers flying over the keys. “Werewolf attack! Nothing funny about that!” But as the werewolf charged Sophie, preparing to rip her throat out, did my intrepid heroine scream a four-letter word, or an awesome disemboweling spell? Nope. Sophie opened her mouth, and out came: “BAD DOG!”

This time, I didn’t even bother with the delete button. I closed the whole document and walked away from the computer. For the next few months, I tinkered with HEX HALL, the voice in my head going, “No one wants funny in their paranormal. It’s like the opposite of peanut butter and chocolate. How many funny books featuring the BRUTAL MURDERS OF TEENAGERS have you read, moron?”

But here’s the thing: When I was writing a dark, serious, angsty paranormal, I wasn’t having that much fun. When I was writing about Sophie doing pratfalls, or making an inadvertent dirty joke to her crush, I was grinning at the keyboard. So I gave in. I wrote a Funny Book (that yes, just happened to feature the brutal murders of teenagers.)

Luckily for me, it turned out that people did want funny in their paranormal, and I learned a very important lesson about why it’s so important to be true to your own voice. Of course, it meant I had to return that black velvet ball gown to the store, but that’s neither here nor there.

So if you’re thinking about Bringing The Funny, the best advice I have is: DO IT. I wasted too much time being scared of The Funny!

As for more specific advice:

1)      If ALL your test readers think a joke isn’t funny, it probably isn’t. If it’s just one or two, though, keep it in. The Funny is HIGHLY subjective, after all!

2)      Make sure The Funny is in keeping with the rest of the book. For example, HEX HALL originally had jokey, faux-fairy tale chapter titles, like, “Wherein Our Heroine Cries Like a Dork, Uncovers a Mystery, and Makes Lifelong Enemies.” Now, I thought this was HILARIOUS, but it didn’t take me long to realize that those chapter titles really, really clashed with the tone of the book.

3)      Have fun with all kinds of humor. I love a good witticism as much as the next gal, but then, a well-timed physical gag makes me crack up, too. Remember there are lots of types of funny, both big and small. Use all of ‘em!

Rachel Hawkins is a 30-year-old former teacher who left teaching to take a chance and get serious about finishing that book she’d always wanted to write. Her first book, HEX HALL, was the result of that leap of faith. She’s a graduate of Auburn University in Alabama and lives with her husband and four-year-old son. The second book in the HEX HALL series, DEMONGLASS, comes out March 1, 2011. Rachel is currently hard at work on the final book in the HEX HALL trilogy.

Illustrating Children’s Books by author/illustrator J.H. Everett and Studio 5 (part 3)

The Illustrators of Studio 5 join us for a three-part series on Demystifying Illustration. Their third segment discusses how "Publishing is teamwork."

Illustrating Children’s Books by author/illustrator J.H. Everett and Studio 5 (part 2)

The Illustrators of Studio 5 join us for a three-part series on Demystifying Illustration. Their second discussion focuses on "Storyboarding and Storytelling."

Illustrating Children’s Books by author/illustrator J.H. Everett and Studio 5 (part 1)

The Illustrators of Studio 5 join us for a three-part series on Demystifying Illustration. First they discuss "Plussing the story."

Give Yourself Permission by editor Molly O'Neill

Welcome to WriteOnCon, Molly O'Neill, an associate editor with Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Children's Books. She is a force to be reckoned with on twitter, where I stalk, er, follow her delightful insights into the publishing world. She's here today to motivate you to give yourself permission.

Give Yourself Permission

Welcome to WriteOnCon!

If this were an in-person conference, you’d probably be drinking really bad hotel coffee right now, listening to microphone checks, sitting in a less-than-comfortable chair, and wondering why they insist on keeping it so darn cold in the room.

Instead, I hope you’re sipping your favorite kind of caffeine in a comfy chair at home, or, if it comes right down to it, kinda getting paid to be here, since you’re sneaking peeks at this site during your day job (but don’t worry; we’ll never tell). There are definite perks to this whole online conference idea, and we owe enormous thanks to the masterminds behind WriteOnCon for creating the kind of conference that people can attend while in their pajamas!

Speaking of conferences, last month, I was on the faculty of a week-long writers' conference that makes daily, one-on-one dialogues between faculty and writers a prominent part of its schedule. The writers I spoke with each day were united by an interest in writing for children/tweens/teens, but they came from immensely varied backgrounds and levels of experience with the craft and the practice of writing. Over and over in these conversations, I found myself giving the same piece of advice, no matter who I was talking to. At first I was worried that all the writers might compare notes and think I only had one piece of wisdom to offer! But over and over, this idea really seemed to resonate for the writers I talked to, albeit in about 50 different ways, and I hope it will do the same for all of you. I guess some advice truly can and does apply to nearly ever writer—a nifty sort of one-size-fits-all-but-means-something-different-to-everyone-who-tries-it trick. So what was the magic suggestion?

Simply this: Give yourself permission.

Being a writer is a solitary act of will—it can only happen in the first place if you actively choose to do it. Your writing depends entirely on you for existence. And your life as a writer depends on you, too. If you grow as a writer, it is your doing. If you remain static as a writer, it is your doing. You are boss and worker and teacher and student and coach and cheerleader all rolled up in one writerly self, in a sense. And you know yourself as a writer better than any outsider could. So ask yourself—what sort of permission do you need as a writer, in order to make yourself a better writer today than you were yesterday, and in order to help your stories become all you hope they will be? And then—give yourself that permission. Today. Now. Before you write another word, give yourself permission:
  • Permission to call yourself a writer.
  • Permission to collect sparks of inspiration from even the unlikeliest of encounters.
  • Permission to wander your way into telling stories completely unlike those you perhaps once thought you would write.
  • Permission to start writing something new—totally, gloriously new—even if the thought terrifies you. Especially if the thought terrifies you.
  • Permission to admit that a story you’ve been trying to write isn't working, or isn’t actually something that you love writing anymore, and to liberate yourself from it. And then, to start something new. (See above!)
  • Permission to stray from your outline.
  • Permission to keep writing, even if it feels like you may never "get there."
  • Permission to steal the parts of a story that ARE working out of a story that mostly isn't, and to use those parts to make something fresh.
  • Permission to change your manuscript from first-person to third (and possibly back again). Or to change tenses, or settings, or main characters, or any other part of your story, once you see a way to make it better.
  • Permission to let a character become someone totally different than you originally expected him/her to be.
  • Permission to kill a character. (And to cry a little when you do so.)
  • Permission to hire a babysitter, or to blow off some homework, or to order dinner in, or whatever it takes, to give yourself a little more space in your life for writing.
  • Permission to write a scene or story that might make certain people who love you shocked and surprised.
  • Permission to submit something.
  • Permission to fail, maybe more than once. (Because you can't fail unless you've tried.)
  • Permission to feel things deeply as a writer—disappointment, grief, doubt, jealousy. But then to balance those negative emotions with more positive ones: ambition, determination, persistence, hope.
  • Permission to be where you are in your path as a writer. Right now. Even if you think you should be farther along.
  • Permission to write in the oddest of places—on the back of kleenex boxes and receipts; at ballet lessons or soccer practice or with a car full of groceries going warm; on napkins in restaurants; in the bathroom of a friend or relative's house when you've gone to visit—in order to capture an idea, or images, or words that flash into your mind, already strung perfectly together.
  • Permission to ignore all the conflicting pieces of advice, and simply to write the story within you that wants to be told.
  • Permission to step away from measuring yourself against other writers.
  • Permission to be inspired by EVERYTHING.
  • Permission to be uninspired...but to try to write through it anyway.
  • Permission to mess up. Possibly many times. Every day.
  • Permission to do what you need to protect yourself as a writer—to turn off the internet, or to stop reading blogs for awhile, or to avoid Twitter—and enable yourself to do that thing which writers must do—TO WRITE.
  • Permission to think of your characters as real people (and to perhaps actually like them better than some real-life people you know).
  • Permission to delete.
  • Permission to write things that perhaps no one but you will ever see.
  • Permission to write things that perhaps many people will see.
  • Permission to...Write On!
So take a minute, here and now, before visiting the forums, or going on to the next post. Ask yourself what kind of permission you need today—in the story you’re working on, or in the bigger picture, in your life as a writer. And my list of permissions is only a beginning—what other kinds of permissions do writers and stories need? Share your own ideas and words of permission in the comments below. You never know who else you may inspire!

Molly O’Neill is an Associate Editor at Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsChildren’s Books, where she edits all kinds of books, from picture books to middle grade novels, to books for young adults. She blogs about publishing, editing, and the convergence of life and art at http://10blockwalk.blogspot.com and you can find her on Twitter as @molly_oneill.

Refining Your Craft with Each Book by author Janette Rallison

What a treat to welcome career author Janette Rallison to WriteOnCon! I've met Janette--though I'm sure she doesn't remember--and she is fabulousity in the flesh. Today she's here to dish about having staying power in the publishing industry.

Staying Power

I used to think that having a book published was some sort of approval stamp of my writing ability—like having stores carry my novel meant I had mastered the craft.  Ah, what charming naiveté I had back then.

Truth be told, I knew very little about plotting when I started out.  I got lucky that my first story came together without much effort on my part.  That happens sometimes.  But you can’t depend on it.

If I could attribute my success at being able to continue to sell novels to one thing, it would be all of the hours I’ve logged in trying to learn how to improve my writing.  (Well, that and the fact that I seem to have an unending supply of embarrassing moments from my real life that I can use in my books.)

So here are a few of the most important things I’ve learned while writing the last sixteen books.  (Numbers seventeen through nineteen will be out next year.)

1)      Make writing a habit.  Find a time every day to do it.  I’ve written while nursing newborns.  I’ve written while waiting for kids at swimming, dancing, and gymnastics lessons.  (Did I mention I have five kids?) You don’t need to wait for inspiration.  Write when you can and the inspiration will come.

2)      Take advantage of other authors—no, not literally—I mean take advantage of the vast amount of information authors offer you.  Right now I have over forty-five books on writing sitting on my bookshelf.  You can find a book on any aspect of the craft that you need.  Get some and read them.  They will save you a ton of time on revisions.

3)      Which leads me to a couple of points of craft that you really should know before you sit down to your computer: Don’t let your characters wander through your novel without motivation and goals. If you do, your reader will want to slap your character.  Repeatedly. Whatever genre you’re writing, your main character has a problem and your book is the story of how they deal with that problem.  Your character should have a goal and be working toward it.  Check over each scene and ask yourself what conflict is going on in each one.

4)      Your character must have reasonable motives for everything they do.  Granted, in real life people do things without thinking. They often make no sense. Take, for example, Lady Gaga’s wardrobe choices.  Or the fact that teenage boys are all currently brushing their hair forward so that it looks like it is attacking their faces.  You see my point.  However, your characters must always have clear reasons for the things they do or you’ll lose reader sympathy.

5)      Have a satisfying ending.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be happy (although most readers prefer that type) and your main character doesn’t have to reach their goal, but you as the author have an unwritten contract with your readers.  You’re asking them to invest their time and money in your story and you in return need to answer your story question and tie up loose threads.  Your ending is not a dream, it is not a jumping off point to your next novel, and whatever else you do, it is not some artsy non-ending where the reader is supposed to interpret for themselves what it all means.  If readers wanted to come up with their own endings, they would write their own stories, not buy yours.

6)      Learn to use point of view.  Put us deeply into your character’s head and we’ll care about what happens to him or her.

7)      All right, now I’m getting off the craft soapbox and going on to a few other things I’ve learned. Selling the book isn’t the end, it’s the beginning.  Oh, I know you thought you were just supposed to sit back and write the book, but not so, my friend, not so.  You’re supposed to be out promoting yourself.  This means doing a website, contacting newspapers, bookstores, and any other venue that might be interested in your book. This means—in my case—getting up in front of auditoriums full of junior high kids and giving presentations. And what could be more fun than a crowd of antsy, hormonal teenagers?  Well, sometime live tarantulas, but that is beside the point—because very few tarantulas buy books.

8)      Network with other writers.  Pretty much everything I’ve learned about this business has been from fellow authors.  They’ve sent me flyers so I can see what’s supposed to be on them, they’ve told me how to write proposals for conferences, and pointed me in the direction of people who can do booktrailers.  They’ve listened while I’ve griped about revisions and cheered me up when I’ve been so burned out I was spitting out ashes.  There are tons of email lists and critique groups out there.  Find one you like and join.

9)      Read a lot.  Not only is it fun, it will help improve your sense of pacing.  That’s like eating a Snickers bar and having it help you lose weight.  (I keep eating Snickers bars, by the way, and so far it hasn’t actually helped me lose weight.

10)  Keep in mind that writing books will probably not make you rich or famous.  In fact, it probably won’t change your life all that much—unless you count the fact that you will have less time to do housework. Write because you love writing

Janette Rallison writes books because writing is much more fun than cleaning bathrooms.  Her avoidance of housework has led her to writing 16 novels. Her award winning young adult novels, such as My Fair Godmother; Just One Wish; and her latest; My Double Life have sold over 900,000 copies. Most of her books are romantic comedies because hey, there is enough angst in real life, but there’s a drastic shortage of both humor and romance.  She lives in Chandler, Arizona with her husband, five kids, and enough cats to classify her as eccentric.

Don't call this a comeback

So it’s been a minute. Or 10. Or truthfully more like 2,102,400. At least we think that’s how many minutes there are in 3 years, but let...