Friday, December 30, 2011

My Year in Writing--2011

It's sort of become my tradition that my last post of the year is a month by month summary of my writing journey over the past twelve months. (You can find 2010's post HERE and 2009's post HERE). And since this year was a BIG year, it was kind of crazy to look back and see how far I'd come. Lots of ups and downs and twists and turns and unexpected happiness. I hope you guys enjoy!

Saved from myself
I had high hopes going into 2011, promising myself that THIS would be the year I'd sell a book. But a number of revision woes paired with the realization that it'd been a year since I first met Laura at a conference and had nothing to show for it except a pile of discarded revisions (and, of course, an AMAZING agent--which I was very grateful for) made me start to doubt that this project was *really* going to get me anywhere. So I started considering a terrifying option (starts with "sh" and rhymes with "delve"). I even asked Laura if she thought we should put the project aside--but she convinced me to keep going. A few days later I went to ALA midwinter and ended up talking with someone at the Simon & Schuster booth. She asked me about my book and after I described it, she strongly recommended I have Laura submit the project to Liesa Abrams when it was done, saying it sounded like something she would like. That turned out to be a VERY good suggestion--but more on that later.

Broadening my horizons
Back in December, I'd made plans with a friend to attend the San Francisco Writer's Conference--and the time had finally come! But I was excited AND terrified because it was my first time traveling anywhere by myself (probably hard to believe with all the traveling I've done recently--but this was the beginning of that). And I'll admit, I was more than a little nervous when I got there. Fortunately, it didn't take me long to adjust and I realized, Hey--I can do this traveling-by-myself thing! I even figured out how to catch a train to meet my lovely agent for lunch (got off at the right stop on the first try--you have no idea what a miracle that is!!!!) And while Laura and I were talking, she suggested I attend the Big Sur Writers' Workshop in a few weeks to get some additional feedback on my draft. It took a few calls to convince my husband, and several emails to get squeezed in after registration had already closed, but then it was settled. I was traveling again--this time by road trip!

Not sure if it was the 7 hour drive I did (by myself!) to get up to Monterey for the conference, or the amazing (albeit somewhat intense) revision advice I picked up while I was there--but I came home from Big Sur feeling like I could conquer the world and DETERMINED to make my publishing dream a reality. Cue a chaotic three weeks where I pushed myself harder and wrote and revised more than I EVER thought I could. And... ended up sick as dog because of it. (I am such a bad example when it comes to taking care of myself).

Thanks to the Head-Cold-Of-Doom (which I'm fairly certain was actually walking pneumonia--go me!) April was a bit of a slow month. Especially since it also involved a bit of WAITING. (Oh publishing, why do you do it to us?) But it ended with a bang. I was still under the hazy fog of cold medicine when my phone rang out of the blue one evening with Laura's name in the caller ID. Her first words were, "I'm so sorry for the emotional roller coaster I'm about to put you through" and my heart sank thinking, she's dropping me as a client. But no--it wasn't that (thank goodness). She'd heard from Liesa Abrams about my book (yes, my book was on submission--hence the WAITING)--and Liesa had loved what she'd read. BUT, before I could get too excited, Laura told me she needed a synopsis for books 2 and 3--A.S.A.P.  And...I didn't have one. *head explodes*

Dreams Come True
After much scrambling and panicking and pulling-of-all-nighters, I managed to assemble the synopsis we needed and Laura sent it to Liesa and promised she would let me know when she heard back. Naturally that meant I kept TRYING not to think about it, whilst stressing and worrying and thinking about it constantly. Four days later my phone showed Laura's number again and I answered it, preparing myself for the worst. BUT IT WAS AMAZING NEWS. A three book offer.  I... kind of went into shock. Especially since it was a pre-empt, which meant decisions had to be made quickly. A few hours later, Liesa and I had "the call" (most amazing two hours ever!!!) and, after two days of back and forth phone calls and emails with Laura to iron out all the details, it was official. Liesa Abrams was my editor. I WAS GOING TO BE PUBLISHED!!!!!! And then Laura had to go and say, "but we won't announce until we have the contract." Major buzz kill. :D

Keeping secrets is hard. Keeping huge, life changing secrets is even harder! But even though my book deal was The-World's-Most-Impossible-To-Keep secret, it was also very much a reality. I got my first round of edits (equal parts scary and exciting) and set to work on them. And at the end of the month I flew to New Orleans to meet some friends at ALA and got a tiny glimpse of what it's like to be an S&S author. Everyone at the booth knew who I was--and they even snuck me into the S&S party one of the evenings. But the best part was that the girl I'd met at ALA in January was there, and I got to personally thank her for suggesting we send my draft to Liesa. I will be forever grateful for her amazing matchmaking skills.

Still waiting
Another month of secret keeping. I was starting to get really good at avoiding questions or giving the kind of vague answers that don't actually tell anyone anything. (I would make an excellent politician at this point). But I kept myself busy by finishing up my revision and going to Comic Con--where I got to meet more of the awesome S&S team and became thoroughly convinced I'm with the best publisher ever. All I needed was for their legal department to get me my contract so I could share the happy news.

STILL waiting!!!!
Still no contract (have I mentioned that publishing is slow?) but this month I had far too much going on to really feel the waiting. I had SCBWI LA, where I got to meet my awesome editor in person (it's amazing I didn't tackle hug her right there in the lobby!) and spend three days following her around like a lost puppy soaking up as much Liesa time as I could and realizing just how lucky I am to have such a kind, smart, funny, FABULOUS editor to work with. And the rest of the month was swallowed up by the chaos that is WriteOnCon. I really can't explain how we pulled together such an amazing (and exhausting) conference--but we were able to help far more people than I ever thought possible. The success stories are still trickling in. (And I'm still recovering) :)

OMG--are we seriously still waiting????
Okay, I'll admit, at this point the waiting was getting a *tiny* bit old. Especially since I FINALLY got my contract (huge, HUGE moment, btw). But we still couldn't announce because S&S had decided that we needed to change my title and Laura wanted to use the new one in the announcement. And unfortunately, I SUCK at titles (no really, I have a blog post percolating on this subject--titles are NOT my friend). So I spent the next few weeks sending lists of suggestions--which were all rejected (because they were horrible)--and driving Laura and Liesa (and probably everyone else I talked to) crazy because I could not find a name for my impossible-to-title book. But all the frustration finally paid off when we landed on KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES, a title I absolutely love. And I promise I will tell you the story of how we got there someday--it's a good one.

With the title in place, Laura put the announcement into PM and PW and the news was FINALLY out there. Which led to one of the most surreal weeks of my life. Everyone's support and enthusiasm was seriously overwhelming, and I will never be able to properly explain how much it meant to me. And it was SUCH a relief to be able to talk publicly about what I had going on--especially since my copy edits arrived and DUDE. I am not a fan of those things. Thank goodness I could finally whine about them to all of you (somehow I suspect you guys were less excited about that). 

Now that I was done with the waiting I expected life to go back to normal. But what I didn't realize is that my life has a slightly new definition for "normal" now, one that includes lots of switching gears, and balancing different things. So November became all about learning how to juggle. I wish I could say that I've perfected the system for it, but it's still very much a work in progress. In the meantime I'm getting really good at setting priorities and making To Do lists and tackling things one at a time. 

Bring it on!
Still lots of chaotic things going on, but I've switched my primary focus to the item with the highest priority: writing book 2. Not gonna lie--it's SCARY writing a sequel, and I have spent more time than I'd like to admit worrying that I won't be able to pull it off. BUT, I finally realized that every step of my journey so far has been nothing more than me doing the best I can, working hard, leaning on people who are smarter than me, and trusting that I can do it. So... I'm just going to keep doing that. Word by word, page by page, revision by revision, I'll get there. I just have to believe.


Yep--it's official. 2011 was a CRAZY year. And I have a feeling 2012 is going to be even more exciting/chaotic/eventful. I really have no idea what I'm in for--but I have no doubt it's going to be a wild ride. I really hope you'll come along with me!

See you in the new year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bookanista Review: 12 books I can't wait for in 2012! (and a pre-order giveaway!)

Since it's the end of the year--and my Bookanista Reviews are generally for upcoming titles--I thought I'd use my last post of 2011 to spotlight 12 books coming in 2012 that I am so insanely excited about.  Some of them I've been lucky enough to already read, some I can't wait to get my hands on, but all of them I will be counting down the days until I can buy my shiny copy.

And I want to emphasize that this is in NO WAY an exhaustive list--at ALL. (seriously, if I featured all the books I'm excited about this post would be a mile long). And I specifically limited myself to books where the official description and cover art were already available, so I could give them a proper feature. So this is just a *tiny* glimpse of the amazingness 2012 has in store for us. But check out this awesome:

Middle Grade:

MAY B, by Caroline Starr Rose
Coming 1/10/2012

I've known it since last night:
It's been too long to expect them to return.
Something's happened.

May is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May's memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she's determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose's fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.

THE HUMMING ROOM, by Ellen Potter
Coming 2/28/2012
Hiding is Roo Fanshaw's special skill. Living in a frighteningly unstable family, she often needs to disappear at a moment's notice. When her parents are murdered, it's her special hiding place under the trailer that saves her life.

As it turns out, Roo, much to her surprise, has a wealthy if eccentric uncle, who has agreed to take her into his home on Cough Rock Island. Once a tuberculosis sanitarium for children of the rich, the strange house is teeming with ghost stories and secrets. Roo doesn't believe in ghosts or fairy stories, but what are those eerie noises she keeps hearing? And who is that strange wild boy who lives on the river? People are lying to her, and Roo becomes determined to find the truth.

Despite the best efforts of her uncle's assistants, Roo discovers the house's hidden room—a garden with a tragic secret.

BEYONDERS: Seeds of Rebellion, by Brandon Mull
Coming 3/13/2012
Picking up after the incredible cliffhanger ending of A World Without Heroes, the next BEYONDERS book opens with Jason back in our world. Yet after all his efforts to return home, he finds himself itching to cross over to Lyrian. Jason knows that the shocking truth he learned from Maldor in Book One is precious information that his friends in Lyrian, including Rachel, all need in order to have any hope of surviving and defeating the evil emperor.

After Jason succeeds in finding a way back to Lyrian, he's immediately in more danger than ever. Meanwhile, Rachel and the others have made their own progress--as well as discovered new enemies.

As the group ultimately rejoins, they strive to convince their most needed ally to join the war and form a rebellion strong enough to triumph. At the center of it all, Jason and Rachel come to realize what roles they have to play--and the answers are as surprising as they are entirely riveting.

TWICE UPON A TIME, by James Riley
Coming 4/24/2012
Jack and May are back for another adventure in the world of fairy tales with a twist. This time, they're on the hunt to learn May's true identity after the surprising reveal in Half Upon A Time about May's grandmother's real intentions.

Searching for answers brings Jack and May to the world of the Sea King, landing them right in the center of a battle between mermaids and the Pirate Bluebeard.

The laughter and action are as nonstop as ever in this next book from new author James Riley!

A HERO FOR WONDLA, by Tony DiTerlizzi
Coming 5/8/2012

Finally, Eva Nine has gotten what she has always wanted: other humans. When she and her friends are rescued by Hailey, another human, Eva couldn't be happier. Now she has everything she has ever dreamed of. Hailey brings Eva and her friends to the human colony New Attica, where humans of all shapes and sizes live in apparent peace and harmony.

But all is not idyllic in New Attica, and soon Eva Nine and her friends realize that something very bad is going on--and if they don't stop it, it could mean the 
end of everything and everyone on Orbona.

THE COUNCIL OF MIRRORS (Sister's Grimm book 9), by Michael Buckley
Coming May 8, 2012
In the final volume in the Sisters Grimm series, Sabrina, Daphne, and the rest of the Grimms and their friends must face off against the Master to decide the fate of Ferryport Landing—and the world. When Mirror fails to escape the barrier using Granny Relda’s body, he turns to his plan B: killing all the Grimms so that the magical barrier collapses. In the meantime, Sabrina has gathered the other magic mirrors as advisors on how to deal with their mortal enemy. They tell her to join forces with the Scarlet Hand against Mirror, in exchange for offering all the citizens of Ferryport Landing their freedom. This final chapter is the end of the road for several beloved characters, but the conclusion is sure to satisfy devoted fans of the series.

Young Adult

DEAD TO YOU, by Lisa McMann
Coming February 7, 2012

Ethan was abducted from his front yard when he was just seven years old. Now, at sixteen, he has returned to his family. It's a miracle... at first. Then the tensions start to build. His reintroduction to his old life isn't going smoothly, and his family is tearing apart all over again. If only Ethan could remember something, anything, about his life before, he'd be able to put the pieces back together. But there's something that's keeping his memory blocked. Something unspeakable..

WANDERLOVE, by Kirsten Hubbard
Coming 3/13/2012
It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond? 

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry into this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story.

BLACK HEART, by Holly Black
Coming 4/3/2012
Cassel Sharpe knows he’s been used as an assassin, but he’s trying to put all that behind him. He’s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He’s trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he’s trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he’s been raised to believe the government is the enemy.

But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what’s right and what’s wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what’s a con and what’s truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet—this time on love.

ALL THESE LIVES, by Sarah Wylie
Coming 6/5/2012
Sixteen-year-old Dani is convinced she has nine lives. As a child she twice walked away from situations where she should have died. But Dani’s twin, Jena, isn’t so lucky. She has cancer and might not even be able to keep her one life. Dani’s father is in denial. Her mother is trying to hold it together and prove everything’s normal. And Jena is wasting away. To cope, Dani sets out to rid herself of all her extra lives. Maybe they’ll be released into the universe and someone who wants to live more than she does will get one. Someone like Jena. But just when Dani finds herself at the breaking point, she’s faced with a startling realization. Maybe she doesn’t have nine lives after all. Maybe she really only ever had one.

SURRENDER, by Elana Johnson
Coming 6/5/2012
Forbidden love, intoxicating power, and the terror of control…

Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi.

All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn. Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque....

TIMEPIECE, by Myra McEntire
Coming 6/12/2012
A threat from the past could destroy the future. And the clock is ticking... 

Kaleb Ballard's relentless flirting is interrupted when Jack Landers, the man who tried to murder his father, timeslips in and attacks before disappearing just as quickly. But Kaleb has never before been able to see time travelers, unlike many of his friends associated with the mysterious Hourglass organization. Are Kaleb's powers expanding, or is something very wrong?

Then the Hourglass is issued an ultimatum. Either they find Jack and the research he's stolen on the time gene, or time will be altered with devestating results.

Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their unusual powers to find Jack. But where do they even start? And when? And even if they succeed, it may not be enough...

The follow-up to Hourglass, Timepiece blends the paranormal, science fiction, mystery, and suspense genres into a nonstop thrill ride where every second counts

*Phew*--I think I just imploded with anticipation. 2012 is definitely going to be an amazing year in the book world. I can't wait!

And since I bet you guys are just as excited as I am (and are feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole: how will I be able to afford so many awesome books????) I've decided to help one of you out. I'm giving away a pre-order to one of these books, and the winner will get to pick which one they want!

To enter, make sure you follow my blog and leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm PST on Saturday, December 31st (it's a quick contest this time because I feel like the winner should be drawn before we're officially in 2012). I'll post the winner on Sunday, Jan. 1st, 2012. And sorry international followers, but for these pre-order contests I have to limit them to US only. But I promise I'll have more contests for you next year!

For more fabulous book recommendations, check out what my fellow Bookanistas are talking about:

Megan Miranda marvels at UNDER THE NEVER SKY
Corrine Jackson gushes over THE MAPMAKER AND THE GHOST
Stasia Ward Kehoe gets psyched for 2012

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A New Look for the New Year!!!

Okay, I know it's not *technically* 2012 yet--but what can I say? I'm impatient--and I HAD to launch my shiny new blog design the second it was ready.

ISN'T IT PRETTY?????????????????????

I've been blogging for two and a half years and this is my first time having an actual, custom template/header. It's so cool to have one that's just so... me. Every tiny detail is 100% Shannon now. A perfect way to start what will probably be one of the most exciting years of my life--the year my book finally hits shelves!!!!



(Hee--can you guys tell I'm writing this with a fever? Stupid head cold won't go away!)

Anyway, huge, HUGE thanks go to my friend Erin Bowman, who seriously deserves a prize for her long suffering and patience (and ability to wade through lengthy emails filled with lots of, "maybe we should try this, or THIS or THIS!!!!!!!") and coming up with this PERFECT design. I pretty much owe her a lifetime supply of cupcakes. Or maybe my first born child. (Erin, if it were me--I'd go with the cupcakes) ;)

And btw, if you guys don't know Erin already I STRONGLY recommend you get thee to her blog straight away. Not only is she one of the sweetest people ever, but she's an incredibly talented writer with a crazy-awesome YA trilogy launching in 2013. Trust me--you want to know her. And you want to read TAKEN.

Okay, I *think* that's enough all caps and exclamation mark abuse for one day (well... maybe FEW more) (!!!!!!!!!!!).

There. That should do it. See you guys tomorrow for a contest and Friday for a special end-of-the-year post. Hope you're all having a good week!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: My Favorites of 2011--and a giveaway!

Still trying to meet my probably-impossible-but-I'm-going-for-it-anyway Book 2 writing goal, but I couldn't let 2011 end without one more MMGM. And I couldn't think of a better way to wrap up an amazing year in MMGM than to give a shout-out to my five favorite middle grade reads of the year.

But I'll admit--it was HARD picking favorites. I hate doing that in general. Plus, I read SO MANY amazing books this year, how could I limit myself to only 5? So I've narrowed the pool by only picking books that were actually released in 2011--which STILL left me an insane amount to chose from. But, made it a little easier.

Okay--without further ado, here are my five favorite reads of 2011 (in random order!):

BEYONDERS: A World Without Heroes, by Brandon Mull

I love everything Brandon writes, but I especially love this series because the world is so refreshingly new and exciting. (I mean, what other book has a character enter the new world by getting swallowed by a hippo?) Filled with amazingly detailed locations, fascinating new creatures (the Amar Kabal might be my favorite new fantasy species ever) and lovable characters, it's everything I want out of this kind of book and definitely left me desperate for more. (Oh, and I've read the sequel, and DUDE! But more on that later!)


This is a book I discovered by happy accident. I met the author when I was at ALA and he was so nice (and HILARIOUS!) that I HAD to get my hands on a copy of his book. And I loved it. I mean, how could I not love a book about a blind thief? Not to mention it has awesome illustrations throughout. And it's FUNNY. Definitely the kind of book everyone will love--boy, girl, kid, grown-up. Even if you *think* you don't like middle grade, I have a feeling you'll love Peter Nimble.


I'll admit, I picked up this book wondering if I was going to like it. I LOVE Lisa McMann, but she's a YA writer, and YA voice and MG voice are two very different things. But as it turns out, Lisa rocks at both. Not only does this book have pretty much the coolest concept ever: a dystopian middle grade (think Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games)--but the world she created is the kind of place that made me want to jump through a painted doorway and spend all day with my talking blackboard and magical art supplies. Not to mention it takes kids that felt "unwanted" and empowers them. Definitely a theme I can get behind. (*waits impatiently for book 2*)

THE CHEERLEADERS OF DOOM (N.E.R.D.S. series 3), by Michael Buckley

The title pretty much says it all, but I'll gush anyway. I love everything Michael writes (if you haven't tried his Sisters Grimm series yet you NEED to!!!), but what I love about this series is that not only does it take nerds and turn them into super spies, but it takes their "weaknesses" and turns them into superpowers. Allergies? Hyperactivity? A bad habit for eating glue? All assets in N.E.R.D.S. land. And if you can't tell by the cover (and title) and awesome illustrations throughout, these books are flipping hilarious. You'll want to start with book 1 if you haven't read this series yet. But if you're up to speed you MUST read book 3. 


Besides the PERFECT cover and awesome title (makes me want cupcakes and ice cream EVERY time), Lisa's another one of those authors where I love absolutely everything she writes. She's amazing--and you should definitely check out her YA books (like THE DAY BEFORE) if you haven't already. But if you like contemporary middle grade with lovable characters and a ton of heart (and LOTS of sweet treats), this companion novel to IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES (also fabulous) is the book for you. And even if you *think* you don't like that kind of thing, I HIGHLY recommend you give it a chance. This is the kind of book that's hard to pass up. Kind of like dessert. :)

I could seriously keep going--there were SO MANY amazing books this year. And I'm sure I've overlooked some (many because they're probably still buried in my TBR pile, which I'm woefully behind on thanks to all my previous deadlines and now my aforementioned probably-impossible-but-I'm-going-for-it-anyway Book 2 writing goal.) But hey, that just means I have plenty of books to feature on MMGM in the new year. Can't wait!

And it WOULDN'T be MMGM if I didn't have a giveaway, so of COURSE I have one for you. And since I'm featuring five books this time I'm going to do things a little differently and say: Winner's choice! I'll pick one random winner from the comments on this post and let them pick which of the five books they want as their prize. To enter: make sure you follow my blog and leave a comment by 11:59 pm PST on Saturday, December 31st. I'll post the winner on Sunday, January 1st 2012. The best way to kick off a new year (the year my OWN middle grade book comes out---AHHHHHH!) (ahem) Oh, and international entries are welcome--as always!

Ready? Go!

And while most people are taking the week off for the holidays, there are still a couple other MMGMs floating around out there:

- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week!

- Susan Uhlig has two awesome features today: HEART OF A SHEPHERD and GROUNDED. Click HERE to learn more about them.

And if you want to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog. It's easier if you email me before Monday, that way your link will be included in the post from the moment it goes live. But if you decide to spontaneously join the fun, I do update the post at several points throughout the Monday. Just email me a link and I'll add you when I do!

Happy Monday!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Under the Never Sky Winner

Still waging war with Book 2 (ugh, why are sequels so HARD!), but I realized I have a quick winner to announce.

The winner of UNDER THE NEVER SKY, by the amazing Veronica Rossi is...


*tosses confetti*

If that's you, please email me at packratx (at) hotmail (dot) com with your mailing address and I will make sure and get you your prize. For everyone else--see you next week!

*dives back into drafting Hell*

Monday, December 19, 2011

In which I become determined to be productive

So... I had this crazy, I-knew-it-was-impossible-but-I-made-it-anyway writing goal for how much progress I wanted to make on Keeper book 2 before the end of the year.

And... well... lets just say I'm NOWHERE NEAR it.  In fact, I'm so far away from it I'm already conceding defeat.

That--however--does NOT mean I'm giving up!

I have a new goal. A slightly-more-realistic-but-still-relatively-impossible goal that I AM DETERMINED TO DO EVERYTHING IN MY POWER TO MEET.

So, since this week is generally a super quiet week in the blogosphere--and I could REALLY use the extra writing time--I've decided to take the week off of blogging. (I know, I'm sure you're all DEVASTATED by this news.) But I will be back next week for some end-of-the-year posts and contests and whatnot that I hope you'll stop by for.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a lovely, lovely week filled with all kinds of wonderful, happy things. Me? I have a date with my W.I.P. And I intend to kick some serious MS boot-ay. ;)

Oh, and despite the slow blogging week (and my total failure to support my own meme--#Shannonfail), there are a few MMGM's going on:

- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week!

- Pam Torres takes is RACING THE MOON. Click HERE to read her review.

- Deb Marshall is spreading the love for SCARY SCHOOL--with an author interview AND a giveaway! Click HERE for all the details.

- Gabrielle Prendergast is championing THE IRON MAN. Click HERE to see why she loves it.

See you next Monday!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Million Suns Winner!

Hey guys! I'm still in Vegas (driving home today, actually--which means as you read this I'm *probably* sitting in traffic. Try not to be jealous...)

Anyway, I have a winner to announce, for the pre-order copy of A MILLION SUNS, by the uber fabulous Beth Revis. 

The winner is...


*tosses confetti*

Okay, if that's you, please email me at packratx (at) hotmail (dot) com with your mailing address and I will arrange your prize. For everyone else, keep checking back. I always have new contests starting.

Hope everyone is having good weekend!

Friday, December 16, 2011

It's that time again!

Those of you who've been following me for a while know that every year, right around this time, the Hubs and I head to Vegas.

It's a weird tradition that has mostly to do with SUPER cheap hotel rooms and awesome shopping--not to mention Vegas is empty and I hate crowds. But it's also just our fun getaway to soak up some kitschy scenery, eat at some amazing restaurants, and hey--maybe try to relax a bit (I know, we might be the only people who go to Vegas to RELAX instead of party!)

Anyway, if you need me, I will be eating steak frites along the fake Champs de Elysee and hailing fake Caesar with my credit card at the Caesar's forum shops, shopping all the sales. But no, I most definitely will NOT be at any of those crazy shows like Thunder Down Under. Nor will I be--no matter how much the Hubs tries to convince me--at the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop.

(If you watch Pawn Stars, you know what that is. And no--I'm not a fan of the rather boring show. But the Hubs is--and tough, we are not going to a Pawn Shop!)


Anyway, I hope you all have lovely weekends with whatever you will be doing. I'll see you all on Monday!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bookanista Review: Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi--AND A GIVEAWAY!

I'm so excited for this week's Bookanista Review, you guys! It's for a book I read months ago, and have been DYING to gush about ever since. But I wanted to wait until closer to release. So yay--now I can finally tell you how awesome UNDER THE NEVER SKY, by the incredible Veronica Rossi is!

Here's how the publisher describes the story:

Since she’d been on the outside, she’d survived an Aether storm, she’d had a knife held to her throat, and she’d seen men murdered. This was worse.

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

In her enthralling debut, Veronica Rossi sends readers on an unforgettable adventure set in a world brimming with harshness and beauty.

Now, many of you may know that Veronica is a fellow Bookanista--and you may think that biases my opinion. But I promise, I am still VERY capable of being subjective. Yes, I most definitely picked up this book hoping to love it as much as I adore the author. But after that, it's up to the book to sell me on the story. And UNDER THE NEVER SKY had me from the first page.

I know some people will probably lump this book into the dystopian genre... but I'd say it's more of a futuristic Sci-Fi thriller. However you categorize it though, there's no need to worry about the post-apocalyptic fatigue I think so many of us are feeling (*raises both hands high*). UNDER THE NEVER SKY is refreshingly different from all of the other books out there--one of my favorite things about it.

I'm not sure there's much I can say that the STARRED Kirkus review hasn't already said for me, but I'll try. The world is layered with awesome details that make it feel interesting and original. The characters are beautifully flawed, which makes them wonderfully real and relatable. Plus there's a SERIOUSLY steamy love story.

And the best part about the romance is that it builds at a believable rate. It's not insta-love-at-first-sight (far from it, actually). Nor is it I-hate-hate-hate-hate-you--wait, actually I LOVE YOU AND CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT YOU, as I see so often in books. Instead the relationship grows from time and circumstance in a way that feels completely natural. So by the time the characters are ready to accept their feelings for each other, we are too.

Not to mention, the writing is gorgeous. I raced through this book because I HAD to know what would happen--but as soon as I was done I wanted to go back and read more slowly so I could really sink into the words and appreciate them for their beauty. But alas, I had the Bookanistas' copy and had to pass the ARC along. So I'll have to reread as soon as I can get my hands on the shiny hardcover--which is coming SOON. Like, January 3 soon. SO EXCITING!!!!!

Trust me when I say this book is worth reading. Which is why I want to help one of you get your hands on a copy. And Veronica has been amazing enough to donate one of her copies to one lucky commenter on this post!

To enter, make sure you follow my blog and leave a comment on this post by 11:59pm PST on Thursday, December 22th. I'll draw one random winner and post their name on Friday, December 23rd. International entries are--as always--welcome.

I do also *hope* that whoever wins will end up posting a review for the book somewhere--or blogging/tweeting/FB-ing about it--to help spread the love and get some more mileage out of the prize. I can't require that for entry. But I'm hoping the winner will feel inspired to. :) 



For more fabulous book recommendations, check out what my fellow Bookanistas are talking about:

Elana Johnson takes a shine to A MILLION SUNS
Jessi Kirby devours BITTERSWEET
Veronica Rossi  is in a frenzy over FRACTURE
Katy Upperman  ponders THE FUTURE OF US
Stasia Ward Kehoe sends Santa her YA book wish list

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Learning how *I* write a book

I'm finally diving back into KEEPER book two drafting (these days my writing schedule is all about juggling). Which meant I spent most of yesterday rereading the few chapters I'd already written--before my last deadline interrupted things--trying to get back in "the groove." And I discovered something surprising:

I actually liked them. 

No, that does not mean they were shiny and perfect--I promise you, they weren't. In fact, they need a lot of work. But that's actually what I liked about them--crazy as that may sound. Because what I could really see in those rough chapters was: 

I know what I'm doing this time.

As all of you now know (thanks to my post last week) it took me a while to learn how to write KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES (*coughs* twenty drafts *coughs*). But through that hellish ordeal I learned something important: How to write a book.

More specifically, I learned how *I* write a book.
  • I learned my drafting process. How I need to overwrite and cut back, because that's how I surprise myself with unplanned scenes that add so much to the story. Even though it means I end up throwing away thousands and thousands of words.
  • I learned how to really listen to the characters and trust what they're telling me--even if it totally screws up all my plans. 
  • I learned that I can find a solution to any problem I come across. Sometimes it doesn't come easy, but if I think it through and keep at it I will figure it out. There's ALWAYS an answer.
  • I learned that it's okay to let the early draft be a mess. To keep pushing forward anyway and deal with cleaning it up later, once the whole story is in place
And I could see all of that reflected in my first few chapters. Sure, there were lots of places where the writing needed some polish or trimming, and the characters were already starting to steer me a few places I hadn't planned on going. But... that's my process. And I can see that this time. I can see where the strengths and weaknesses are, what's working and what isn't, and what I need to do. Which is the most important thing I learned throughout those twenty drafts.

I've learned to trust my instincts. Sure, those with a sharper eye than me (*waves to Laura and Liesa*) will ALWAYS catch important things I miss. But... I also know what I'm doing. I know the process I need to go through to write MY books. And as long as I know that, I can do it. 

Which is probably the best piece of advice I can give any writer. Figure out how YOU write. Sure, craft books and other writers can give you pointers. But in the end, that can only tell you how THEY write. You need to figure out how YOU write. Try different things. Figure out what works for you and what doesn't. And once you find your method, stick to it and believe in it. 

That's what I'm doing, anyway. I'm wading back into the muck of book two, believing I'll find my way through if I just keep pushing forward. Here's hoping I'm right! Bring it on Book Two--I am CONQUERING YOU!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

AHHH--It's Getting Official!

So... THIS happened yesterday:

Ahhhhhhhhhhh--thats ME!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

ON AMAZON!!!!!!!!!!!!*

It only has the ebook version so far (don't worry, the hardcover WILL be added--these things just have a weird way of updating in their own inexplicable order)--but it's there!


And ... I know things like this are GOING to happen (if they didn't that would be kind of bad, I mean, I kinda need my book to become available to buy places).

But yeah, getting a google alert for my book and finding it on Amazon with my name as the author was one of those seriously surreal moments.

(and my author name is a link--you can click it and everything!!!) (*clicks*) (*clicks again*)

(I'm betting most of you don't find that nearly as exciting as I do!)

But... YOU GUYS--THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And it's happening soon. In fact, since Amazon has spilled the beans for me, I guess this means I can share my current, official release date. KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES is scheduled to launch into the world on...



10 . 02 . 2012


I really <3 all those pretty 1s, 0s, and 2s in there


Oh, but I wouldn't go tattooing that anywhere if I were you guys (since I'm SURE you're all planning on doing that). Release dates are notorious for changing, so it's very possible that will not stay my release date. But, for the moment, that's the official date. And um... holy crap that's SOON!

*bites nails*

*stares at pre-order button*

*wonders if she should order one just to see if it works*

*realizes how lame that is*

*isn't sure she cares*

So... that's my week so far. How's yours going?????

*My mentioning this is NOT any sort of "buy it on amazon" endorsement, btw. Obviously I am happy and honored if anyone decides to buy my book--anywhere, in any format. But... my heart will always truly belong to Indies.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The History of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday--and linkage!

I get asked a LOT of questions about MMGM.

What is it? 
How did you come up with it? 
How can I be a part? 
Why are you such a genius?*

*Okay... it's possible I made up that last one...

So I thought I'd use this week's post to give a quick history of MMGM, and explain how it works for those who don't already know. (I swear--this has nothing to do with me being behind on my reading) (okay, fine, it does) (but I do actually get asked those questions a lot) (so there!) (hee)

Okay, so... MMGM stands for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, and it's a meme I created to help spread the love for middle grade in the blogosphere. If someone wants to be a part, all they have to do is blog on a Monday about a middle grade book they love--ANY middle grade book they love--and email me a link to their post so I can add it to the master list on my blog. Then everyone can hop from blog to blog, soak up all the awesome book recommendations, and connect with other middle grade fans. Simple, easy--and a whole lot of fun.

And I came up with the idea because... well... honestly? I'd realized that I was being a HORRIBLE middle grade supporter. 

No really--I was.

Not only had I noticed that middle grade didn't get a lot of attention in the blogosphere, but ... I'd noticed that whenever I blogged about anything middle-grade related, it was my lowest trafficked post--by far. And since I was working hard to build up my following and increase my traffic, I'd started avoiding talking about middle grade as much as possible. Especially on Mondays--which were my peak traffic days. 

And then, about a year ago, I realized: WHAT AM I DOING??????

I am a middle grade writer and I'm avoiding talking about middle grade?????? 

So I decided I needed to change that--stat. If my middle grade posts weren't popular that just meant I wasn't trying hard enough. I needed to make them more exciting--and I needed to find other people who loved middle grade and connect with them. And so MMGM was born.

I chose Monday specifically because it was the day I'd previously given an "absolutely-no-middle-grade-mentions" policy. Plus, I figured if I wanted to give the books a PROPER spotlight, they deserved my highest traffic day. (And of course, it had that handy alliteration). 

I decided to focus on one book (or series) a week, and to try and feature them in a way that made it clear who would best appreciate them, which ones were more adult friendly, etc. I also decided that my features would always include a contest--partially to generate more traffic, but mostly because I couldn't think of a better way to spread the love for a book than to help someone else read it. (though contests are not required for other people who participate. That's up to each individual blogger). And then... I decided I would TRY and encourage other bloggers to join me.

I'll admit--I was terrified no one else would. And for the first few weeks, it was just me.

But then... it started to grow. Little by little, my list of links slowly got longer. And every week it grows a little bit more. 

Sure, it's no Waiting on Wednesday or In My Mailbox--and it probably never will be. But it's an awesome group of bloggers with a serious passion for middle grade posting about books they love every Monday. To me, that's a huge victory, and I'm amazed every week when I put the list of links together and see all that middle grade love. It's proven that there IS a place for middle grade in the blogosphere.

So I now proudly present... this weeks awesome MMGM links!

- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week!

- Joanne Fritz has chills for WINTERLING. Click HERE to see why.

- Sherri Larsen has a special treat: a character interview and a giveaway of THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS. Click HERE for all the fun.

- Pam Torres takes us to WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON. Click HERE to read her review.

- Michael Gettel-Gilmartin is in love with MOST WANTED Click HERE to see why you should be too.

- Sheila Calderon Blankemeier reminds us why we shouldn't miss THE UNWANTEDS. Click HERE for her review.

- Deb Marshall is featuring DOGSLED DREAMS--with an author interview AND a giveaway! Click HERE for all the details.

- Danika Dinsmore has a lovely multicultural read for us this week: HABIBI. Click HERE to learn more about it. 

- Gabrielle Prendergast is championing a classic about a kid, a farm house, and a blue ribbon. Click HERE to see what it is.

- Myrna Foster falls in love with DRAGONSDALE. Click HERE see why you should too.

And if you want to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog. It's easier if you email me before Monday, that way your link will be included in the post from the moment it goes live. But if you decide to spontaneously join the fun, I do update the post at several points throughout the Monday. Just email me a link and I'll add you when I do!

Happy Monday!