Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Giveaway!

The girls at the Gripped Into Books blog are giving away a bunch of books to celebrate that they've reached 300 followers. You can enter here: 300 Followers Giveaway.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Huge YA Romance Giveaway!

The girls at the Girls Without a Bookshelf blog are giving away pre-orders of 10(!) YA romances in honor of Will & Kate's Royal Wedding. Two winners will receive five books each. Go here to enter: Giveaway Royal Wedding Treat. Deadline is May 10th.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Author Love: Deb Caletti

If I could be any YA author (not as in have their life and their popularity, but actually steal their writing style), I would be Deb Caletti. I never hesitate in naming Sarah Dessen as my favorite YA author – her writing is fun and emotional and the perfect boys totally suck me in. But Deb’s writing actually makes my heart jump around in my chest. When I reach the end of a scene and pause where that extra white space is, I realize that I’ve been holding my breath. Her words physically affect me. That’s how powerful they are.

The thing is, the way she writes is nothing like my writing style. She’s so descriptive and metaphoric and lyrical. Her writing is downright beautiful. My writing is more fast-paced and dialogue heavy. And I enjoy writing the way I write, but every time I read one of Deb’s books I’m so jealous of her talent.

I just finished her newest book, Stay.
 (How gorgeous is that cover?!)

From the jacket flap: Clara’s relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it’s almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is – and what he’s willing to do to make her stay.

Now Clara has left the city – and Christian – behind. No one back home knows where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won’t let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough…

This novel was a little different from all of Deb’s other ones because of two things. First, it’s told in chapters alternating between the present and the past. And then Deb also incorporated footnotes into the story. The footnotes and still in the voice of the narrator, as if she is really telling her story as a story to someone else.

What I really loved about this novel was the subject matter. I feel like there are tons of YA novels about abusive boyfriends, but this was the first one I’d read about an obsessive boyfriend. This guy loves the girl so much that it drives him crazy. I think it’s a great topic for a YA author to tackle. And what I loved even more was that in the present parts of the story, Clara is trying to move on with a new boy. I love how strong she is.

Deb is amazing. And I’ll leave you with an example of her wonderful writing:
“I had been a shy girl, a cautious, mostly quiet one, but I had been renamed and renamed again, redefined until I couldn’t see myself anymore.”

Everyone should read Stay! And check out Deb's website: Deb Caletti

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Critique Partners = Magic

Since I started writing seriously, I’ve had quite a handful of friends reading my stuff, with some being more helpful than others. But I just recently worked with my first real critique partner, whom I found through a partner match-up that the amazingly talented Maggie Stiefvater hosted on her LiveJournal. (Maggie Stiefvater)

First of all, I knew that this would be a great experience, because having someone read my work who is also working on the same type of manuscript means that they will really know what they’re talking about. Everyone posted a description of their story and then people could contact each other based on that. I read through over 100 comments, and since Maggie is a paranormal YA writer, that’s what almost everyone else was writing. But luckily, I found someone who was working on a YA contemporary that sounded similar to my own.

After working with her, I noticed some things about critiques…

1. A lot of the little things I noticed in her MS were things that I had spent a lot of time working on in my own early stages of revision. I was glad I could pass on the tips that it had taken me a while to figure out.

2. A lot of the things she pointed out with my MS were things I already knew needed to be fixed. But for some reason, I hadn’t. For some things, I was just being stubborn and I liked things the way they were, even though I’d read so much that told me doing these things wasn’t good. And for other things, it may have just been laziness. I was going to put this MS aside for a long time and focus on my second one, so I didn’t want to bother with any more big revisions.

3. Some other things she pointed out were things I hadn’t noticed on my own. But once I read her comments I thought, “Duh. That’s so silly. I could fix this easily.”

So biggest lesson learned: If I know something needs to be changed, but for some reason I want to keep it the way it is… IT MUST BE CHANGED. Because if even I know it’s wrong, then any agent/editor is going to hate it.

Now I just may try to find the time to make these revisions before I start grad school in July. Of course if I do, then that means another round of querying. So I’m making this my second priority, after the first draft of my WIP. Because right now I’m much more excited about this second MS than the first one.

But I’m so grateful for this experience, and thank you to my wonderful critique partner Linda. I’ll be excited for the chance to work with her again or another partner in the future.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kody's Giveaway!

In order to celebrate the year she turns 20, Kody Keplinger (young and fabulous author of The Duff) is giving away 20 books in 20 weeks over on her blog! Check out the post here 20 in 20 - Week 2.

Now first of all, I think it's so great that she's celebrating her birthday by giving presents to other people. So this week's giveaway is a copy of the book A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford. I'm not a huge paranormal fan, so I haven't heard anything about this book yet. BUT in order to enter the giveaway, Cody wants everyone to leave a comment on her post telling about the craziest thing they've ever done to their hair (in honor of the novel's MC who has pink streaks). Since I think this is such a cool way to have people enter, I have to do it.

I'm leaving my crazy hair story in her comments, of course, but I figured I'd post it here too. So...

In high school my best friend Dorey and I used to dye our hair all sorts of colors. We never did our whole heads, but we'd either do streaks or just the tips. But my favorite thing I've done to my hair was when I was 20. I must have been feeling nostalgic for high school, because I decided I wanted to dye one streak of my hair with all different colors. I believe it started orange at the top, then green, then pink, then purple, then blue at the bottom. And it was awesome-tastic!! I was a waitress at a diner at the time, and can I just tell you that everyone loved it. I was constantly having my senior citizen customers commenting on how cute it was. I thought that was so cool.

Now the colors faded after a while, so I do have some pictures with this hair but they're after the colors had started to fade.

Here's Dorey dying it for me:

And here it is:

Author Crushing: Eileen Cook

Sometimes it’s funny how I end up reading a certain book. My TBR pile is so big it’s threatening to knock over my TV. So I have many, many books vying for my attention every time I try to make a selection. My greatest love is YA contemporary and often when I’m browsing the new releases in a bookstore, I’m discouraged by the lack of this genre (everyone seems to be on the paranormal bandwagon these days) so I grab any contemp I see. I’m pretty sure this is how I came to buy The Education of Hailey Kendrick by Eileen Cook. It’s been in my pile for a couple months now. Then recently, I bought a whole stack of books at a local Borders’ closing sale (sad) – one of which was Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, one of Eileen’s older books.

So (unnecessarily-long story short) I didn’t read either book immediately, but last week I was in the mood for a fast and fun read so I chose Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood. And boy am I glad I did!

Synopsis from jacket flap:

In the final weeks of eighth grade, Lauren Wood made a choice. She betrayed her best friend, Helen, in a manner so publicly humiliating that Helen had to move to a new town just to save face. Ditching Helen was worth it, though, because Lauren started high school as one of the It Girls – and now, at the start of her senior year, she’s the cheerleading captain, the quarterback’s girlfriend, and the undisputed queen bee. Lauren has everything she’s ever wanted, and she has forgotten all about her ex-best friend.

But Helen could never forget Lauren. After three years of obsessing, she’s moving back to her old town. She has a new name and a new look, but she hasn’t dropped her old grudges. She has a detailed plan to bring down her former BFF by taking away everything that’s ever been important to Lauren – starting with her boyfriend.

Watch out, Lauren Wood. Things are about to get bitchy.

A line I loved: “Sunday mornings the Wood family could be counted on to go to church no matter the weather. If a once-in-a-century blizzard struck the area, then you could be Mr. Wood would purchase a dogsled team and mush his family there to prove their commitment to being upstanding members of the community.”

While the lesson Helen learns in this story is predictable from the start, this is a hilarious read that will make the day of any teenager who has ever hated the popular girls. Helen’s voice is perfect and this book is fast-paced and fun.

Of course the moment I finished this, I realized I owned another book by the same author, and I eagerly began reading The Education of Hailey Kendrick. And this was just as good as her previous one.

Synopsis from jacket flap:

Hailey Kendrick always does exactly what’s expected of her. She has the right friends, dates the perfect boy, gets good grades, and follows all the rules. But one night Hailey risks everything by breaking a very big rule in a very public way… and with a very unexpected partner in crime. Hailey gets caught, but her accomplice does not, and Hailey takes the fall for both of them.

Suddenly Hailey’s perfect life, and her reputation, are blowing up in her face. Her friends are all avoiding her. Her teachers don’t trust her. Her boyfriend won’t even speak to her for long enough to tell her that she’s been dumped.

They say honesty is the best policy – but some secrets are worth keeping, no matter the cost. Or are they?

A line I loved: “I was going to be so good I would make Mother Teresa look like an escapee from a Girls Gone Wild video.”

One thing that made this book so great: there’s a hot boy. Of course, there’s also Hailey’s personal struggle to do the right thing, which I know is a common YA theme. But Eileen keeps the plot interesting and realistic, and has you rooting for Hailey. She also deals with a family issue that I’m sure many teenagers could relate to.

Naturally, I had to order Eileen’s first book, What Would Emma Do?, online and read it the day it arrived. And this one was amazing. One of those books that’s so good, that when I finished I was so full of inspiration and wanting to write something that would touch people the way this book touched me, so I went straight for my computer and worked on my current WIP for the rest of the night.

From the back cover:

There is no greater sin than kissing your best friend’s boyfriend. So when Emma breaks that golden rule, she knows she’s messed up big-time. Especially since she lives in the smallest town ever, where everyone knows everything about everybody else… and especially since she maybe kinda wants to do it again. Now her best friend isn’t speaking to her, her best guy friend is making things totally weird, and Emma is running full speed toward certain social disaster. This is so not the way senior year was supposed to go.

Time to pray for a minor miracle. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time for Emma to stop trying to please everyone around her, and figure out what she wants for herself.

A line I loved: “I want to go officially on the record that if I ever say high school was the best time of my life, you have my complete permission to take me out back and shoot me.”

I loved this one the best because it dealt with organized religion, which is something I have strong opinions about. Emma struggles with her own faith when she starts to realize that the people in her small town are hypocritical and judgmental – and they seem to be using their “faith” as an excuse for everything. I was outraged by what was happening in this town, but I enjoyed cheering Emma on as she found the courage to fight for what she believed was right.

One thing I noticed after writing out these synopses was that all three of them were very… I don’t want to say misleading, but they just didn’t capture the heart of each story. Read these books! They will not disappoint.

In short (ha!), I now have a new author to watch, which is exciting. What makes this so great is that both reader-me and writer-me heart Eileen. I read in many, many genres – but I write YA contemporary. While reading in general helps with your own writing skills, reading in your specific genre helps immensely. And I’m always on the hunt for new work in my favorite genre.

PS: Eileen has a website and she blogs at http://www.eileencook.com/

Friday, April 8, 2011

First Post, We Should Celebrate!

Hello, everyone! I'm new to the whole blogging thing, and you'll have to forgive the simplicity of this one because I'm admittedly tech-tarded. I've been using LiveJournal for many years, but that's for more of a personal journal.

As an aspiring author, I figured it was time to start connecting with other writers and readers. I finished my first young adult novel last year and began researching and querying agents. That's when I read over and over again the importance of building a platform even before you get an agent.

So here goes... I am currently working on my second young adult manuscript. I've decided to put my first one aside for now because I just got accepted to the Vermont College of Fine Arts Writing for Children and Young Adults program. I start in July and I know that will soon be taking up all of my time. Once I've learned from the MFA program, then I'll resume my quest to get published, but for now it's all about the reading and writing.

I'll be using this blog to share book reviews, author/agent/industry info, my own writing process, and my experience in my MFA program. And since I'm random, I'm sure there will be plenty of other stuff thrown in here too.

That's all for now!
Happy Blogging!

Follow, follow, follow, follow the yellow brick road!