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Monday, December 31, 2012

Kiss This Year Goodbye

Here we are at the end of yet another year. While this past year had more ups and downs than 2011, I'm actually a bit sad that it's over. Maybe because it flew by so fast, I didn't get half the things done I wanted to. Maybe because the things I did accomplish, I'd like to be able to do all over again.

Here's a quick rundown on my 2012:

*For anyone who knows me personally, you know what an emotional rollercoast ride this past year has been right from the start. My grandparents' house burnt down in January, resulting in my grandmother being in the hospital roughly half the year. She gave us lots of scares during that time, but she's home now and doing great. They've rebuilt and moved in just in time for Christmas. Small miracles that mean a lot. Sure they lost 50+ years of accumulated memories, but we didn't lose either of them. In fact, it made us all appreciate them much more.

*During this time, I managed to publish my first book. My goal for the New Year was met, although it officially came out after my birthday. The shift from writing, editing and querying to marketing was a bit tougher than I expected. I'm slogging away at marketing, with one of my New Year goals to get the book into a lot more bookstores as well as do some serious work on my second children's book. Don't worry, my more 'adult' writing will still be getting some attention.

*Which brings me to the next highlight of the year: first drafts finished on two mss and substantial work done on two others. Because of all my readers, WHAT THE WHOLE TOWN KNEW got the push it needed to get finished. I also have GENERATION GAP waiting in the wings for editing and PROMETHEUS' LANTERN is a third of the way done. Without support from all of you, I wouldn't have gotten half of this done. Now, WHAT THE WHOLE TOWN KNEW is going through a second edit & revision before heading off to Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I'll keep everyone updated on how it goes.

*Hard to tell if this is a highlight of the year or not, but this past September I turned 30. It went by with very little ado; family gathering with cake and presents. I'm still finding it hard to believe I'm not still in my twenties. I think I'll pretend that part of the past year just didn't happen and continue to give my age as 29.

*I attended my first Con! Ok, so it wasn't *THE* Comic Con, but it was still cool. I'm hooked and looking forward to next year. With a better hotel this time around.

*Lost Smeagol, my cat of 8 years in May, on his 8th birthday. He had a bad heart that went undetected. That had to be one of the worst days of this past year. It's only hit my kids in the last few weeks that he's gone for good. Delayed grieving isn't any better than immediate grief.

*Because of us losing Smeagol, we adopted another cat a few months after. Mouth is a gray tiger and a bully. We took her in to be a companion for our other cat who was also grieving Smeagol's loss. Too bad Mouth, while friendly, doesn't like other cats and dogs. We've worked out an...arrangement.

*My GoodReads goal was not met, which is surprising given how much I read. Then again, I do a lot of online MS reading/critiquing and none of that counts. Next year, I shall try to do better.

I think that sums up 2012 for me. Not a totally terrific year, but not as bad as 2011. Here's to making 2013 even better.

How was everyone else's year? Are any of you ready to show 2012 the door or are you going to be sad to see it go?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's Beginning to Get Close to Christmas...

Christmas is less than a week away. How it snuck up on me this year, I don't know. My Christmas cards never were made, forget about being sent. Tree still isn't up and presents aren't wrapped. I haven't baked anything or candied any orange peels.

For those of you who don't know me well, this is bad. Usually I have the majority of my shopping done before Halloween and wrapped by Thanksgiving. Our Tree Decorating Party has evolved over the years to a full out celebration involving most of our family. Cards have always been something I look forward to since we do photos with the kids so relatives across the country can get updates at least once a year. Baked goods and candies get piled on platters and given to neighbors, friends and family. Somehow, none of that happened this year.

I could say we got busy, but it seems like a convenient excuse. I could say we got lazy, which is closer to the truth. But really, I haven't felt very Christmas-y this year. From talks with other friends and family, it seems to be a common complaint this year. Maybe we're all waiting for the world to end in two days.

Whatever the reason for the holiday blues this season, I hope we can all shake it off over the next couple of days. Santa is depending on us!

To all my friends, family and readers - Merry Christmas, Happy (Belated) Hannukkah, Happy Kawanza: Whatever you happen to celebrate, Happy Holidays!!!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

If You're Looking for Something to do...

Just a quick reminder that I'll be reading and signing books at Jesse M. Smith Library tomorrow at 11. Bring the kids. I have it on good authority that there will be snacks. ;-)

Hope to see you all there!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Next Big Thing - Blog Hop

Sorry this week's post is late. It's been busy in my household with Christmas Caroling, (yes, actual door-to-door caroling) decorating, school events and trying to get some writing/editing done. With Christmas and ABNA right around the corner, breathing down my neck, spare time isn't something I've had a lot of lately. But, I was tagged for THE NEXT BIG THING Blog Hop by Veronica Bartles yesterday and thought it would be fun. So, here it goes.

What is the working title of your book?

Oooo, um...the unfinished draft I'm working on is PROMETHEUS' LANTERN, a sequel to MOTHER OF MONSTERS. Editing and revision-wise, I'm working on WHAT THE WHOLE TOWN KNEW and MOTHER OF MONSTERS. I'll stick with PROMETHEUS to answer the rest of the questions. ;-)

Where did the idea come from for your book?
Woke up with 'By the light of Prometheus' Lantern' bouncing around in my head and needed to figure out what the heck it could mean. A sequel MoM seemed like the best course of action, although I hadn't planned on doing any sequels until I could sell Book 1.

What genre does your book fall under?

Greek mythology/fantasy

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Tough one since I don't have all the characters fully present yet and I rarely write with actors in mind. I'll give it a go.

*Maya* - Jennifer Lawrence might be the best pick I can think of.
*Hera* - Michelle Pfeiffer comes to mind. I think she could pull it off well.
*Hades* - my image of him is dark and sad, but not evil. I'd like to say Johnny Depp, just so I could cast myself as Persephone, but Sean Bean or possible David Tennent are closer.
*Persephone* - Hmm...I'm thinking someone along the lines of America Ferrera.

There are lots more players, but as you can see, I'm really bad at this game.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Hera's back with a vengeance, this time her target doesn't stop at the world of the living.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Hoping to get representation. Doing the self-publish thing with my children's book proved to be more time consuming and harder than I thought. Having industry know-how behind me would make things a lot easier.
How long did it take for you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Still working on it. Started it at the end of NaNo and put it aside to work on edits for WHAT THE WHOLE TOWN KNEW.

What other books would you compare this to within your genre?

Ugh. I hate comparing my work to others. Mainly because it's never *really* like whoever I compare it to. I can tell you that my work is heavily influenced by the likes of Jasper Fforde, Piers Anthony, Terry Pratchett and whoever I happen to be reading at the time I'm writing. Some of my work has more influence in it than others.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

This is a follow-up to my NaNo project from last year, MOTHER OF MONSTERS. MoM was inspired by an agent on Twitter stating there aren't enough centaur MCs in books and my brain taking on the challenge of how to put a centaur in a more primary role.

What else about your book might pique a reader's interest? 
ZOMBIES! I mean, Hera is taking over the Underworld this time around. What would you expect there to be?

Now I get to tag. If I tag you and you've already played or don't want to play, that's fine. If you do want to play, than, TAG! You're IT!
John Lucas Hargis , Kay Kauffman & Katrina Jack
Go! Check them out. :-). 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Break on Through

It's official! They finally announced it. Amazon will be hosting their annual Breakthrough Novel Awards (ABNA) again this year. But, they've made some big changes.

First of all, Penguin is not part of this year's contest. Instead, Amazon Publishing will be in charge of the winning manuscripts. This means a more streamlined process with a faster timeline. It may also lead to more aggressive marketing of the winners, given that Amazon stands to gain more from the published books than when Penguin was the publisher. This is, of course, speculation. We'll see how it all plays out once we get there.

Second, the categories have been shaken up. Where there once was two categories to chose from (General Fiction or Young Adult) there are now five (GF, Mystery/Thriller, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror, Romance and YA). The hope is that by dividing them up this way, all entries will get a fair shot at the top prize. It also means that all categories will be represented in the winning entries.

Which brings me to the third change. MORE PRIZES!!! Previously, only two entries were guaranteed a publishing contract, one GF and one YA. This year, five entries will have that chance. Amazon will award one overall winner with a $50,000 advance, and four first place prizes with an advance of $15,000. For those who haven't followed along in the past, $15,000 advance was the top prize. This is a huge change for us writers.

Fourth is the competition will be tougher. More countries are being allowed to enter and with the change up in the categories, fewer entries for YA will be taken.

Most of the other rules are still in place. Word count MUST be between 50,000 and 150,000. Excerpt is between 3,000 and 5,000. Pitch is 300 or less. Elimination rounds are run the same way with Amazon
Publishing going through the semi-finalists instead of Penguin.

With all the changes, I've decided to jump ship on Young Adult and enter the Mystery/Thriller category with WHAT THE WHOLE TOWN KNEW. So, you can all stop voting on it now. At least until it makes it into the final 5. Then you can all vote like crazy.

Interested in entering with me? Check out the rules and important dates here. Read through the discussions and meet some interesting people. Then, prepare for the opening of submissions on January 14th.

Good luck and happy writing! ;-)

Monday, December 3, 2012

And Suddenly it was December

This year has flown by. I can't even remember it starting in the first place, and now we're at the end. Christmas is around the corner (Yikes!) unless we hit the End of the World first. Since it's better to be safe than sorry, I thought I'd help you all with your Christmas shopping.

Usually I don't do book recommendations on here since you can always check out my Goodreads to see what I like, but I've read a lot of awesome books this year, so I thought a bit of a recap and organization was in order. I read all over the spectrum, so I'm going to pull only a few for each age group. These will only be books I've read this year. I was going to do only ones published this year, but several of my picks were published at the end of last year and didn't find their way into my hands until this year. So, we'll call them all 'Recently Published.' Ready? Here we go.

Middle Grade (MG)

Liesl & Po (Lauren Oliver)
Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice,until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.
That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.
Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey
From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver comes a luminous and magnificent novel that glows with rare magic, ghostly wonders, and a true friendship that lights even the darkest of places. (Goodreads.com)

Great book for kids almost into YA but not there yet. Fast paced to keep their attention with just enough magic and supernatural elements to make it fun. Be prepared for teary eyes.

Breadcrumbs (Anne Ursa)
Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn't help it - Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn't fit anywhere else. And then, one day, it was over. Jack just stopped talking to Hazel. And while her mom tried to tell her that this sometimes happens to boys and girls at this age, Hazel had read enough stories to know that it's never that simple. And it turns out, she was right. Jack's heart had been frozen, and he was taken into the woods by a woman dressed in white to live in a palace made of ice. Now, it's up to Hazel to venture into the woods after him. Hazel finds, however, that these woods are nothing like what she's read about, and the Jack that Hazel went in to save isn't the same Jack that will emerge. Or even the same Hazel.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbsis a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind. (Goodreads.com)
A fairy tale retelling of a lesser known story. A strong female MC and an underlying message that people do change, no matter how much we want them to stay exactly the same.

A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness)
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth. (Goodreads.com)

A very quick read about overcoming fears and letting go when can't hang on anymore, even if it means losing the ones we love. Another book bound to make you tear up. It's powerful and identifiable for many pre-teens.
Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.
With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful. (Goodreads.com)

Don't let the overly long (and slightly complicated) title fool you. This book gets my vote for 'Favorite MG Book of...Ever.' Think 'Alice in Wonderland' with a bit of a darker tone. I loved this and am waiting to get my hands on the second book in the series.

Young Adult (YA)

This category is hard to chose, since I read a LOT of YA. Narrowing it down to four and trying to give you all a variety to choose from. If none of these picks grabs your interest, check out my Goodreads page. I have many others I enjoyed that someone on your list might like, too.

Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein)

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.  That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmf├╝hrer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team. (Goodreads.com)
Starting with my favorite one because I don't want to accidentally leave it out. This is one I have been raving about to anyone who sits still long enough to listen to me. For those who know me, that's saying something about the awesomeness of this book. I'm not huge on war stories or histories in general, but this book is so well done, I couldn't not read it. For parents with teenage daughters, if you're tired of them reading about how girls need to find love and can't do things for themselves, do yourselves, and your daughters, a favor and get this for them. You'll thank me later.

Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he’s doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak.

Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he’s a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces . . . or else. 

With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin? (Goodreads.com)
I did one for the girls, now here's one for the boys. It's funny, fun and a bit creepy. It had me laughing out loud more than once. The second book in the series, Necromancing the Stone, is also out, but I haven't gotten my hands on it yet. Maybe it will make next year's list.

Cinder (Marissa Meyer)

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. (Goodreads.com)

Another retelling of, you guessed it, Cinderella. But I'm going to go ahead and make a bet that even the guys wouldn't mind reading this one. Cinder is, after all, a cyborg and a mechanic. Not a whole lot of lovey-dovey going on in this story. Reading it made me hate (and completely love) Marissa Meyer for coming up with this unique concept on an old favorite. I only wish I could have thought of something equally as cool.

Lucky Linderman didn't ask for his life. He didn't ask his grandfather not to come home from the Vietnam War. He didn't ask for a father who never got over it. He didn't ask for a mother who keeps pretending their dysfunctional family is fine. And he didn't ask to be the target of Nader McMillan's relentless bullying, which has finally gone too far.But Lucky has a secret--one that helps him wade through the daily mundane torture of his life. In his dreams, Lucky escapes to the war-ridden jungles of Laos--the prison his grandfather couldn't escape--where Lucky can be a real man, an adventurer, and a hero. It's dangerous and wild, and it's a place where his life just might be worth living. But how long can Lucky keep hiding in his dreams before reality forces its way inside?
Michael L. Printz Honor recipient A.S. King's smart, funny and boldly original writing shines in this powerful novel about learning to cope with the shrapnel life throws at you and taking a stand against it. (Goodreads.com)

Picking the last one was hard, but I wanted one that was good for both boys and girls and didn't center on anything supernatural. This is another great coming of age and learning to let go. 

Again, I have many others that I could recommend, but I don't want to overwhelm anyone. If you have a teen or a YA reader that you need to buy for and want more ideas, email or leave me a comment. I'd be more than happy to point you in the right direction.


The Dovekeepers (Alice Hoffman)

Blends mythology, magic, archaeology and women. Traces four women, their path to the Masada massacre. In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean desert, Masada. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Four bold, resourceful, and sensuous women come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her twin grandsons, rendered mute by their own witness. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and expert marksman, who finds passion with another soldier. Shirah is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power. The four lives intersect in the desperate days of the siege, as the Romans draw near. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets — about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love. (Goodreads.com)

Again, I'm not much of a historical fiction reader, but this one was well done. Strong women MCs with intertwining stories. 

The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern)
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des R├¬ves, and it is only open at night. 

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. 

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. 

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart. (Goodreads.com)

A former NaNoWriMo novel that became something more. This is beautiful and the writing is lovely. Try not to get lost in the magic of it.

Well, that's about it for me. Hope some of my recommendations help. If any of you have read something unforgettable this year, let me know in the comments. I'm always on the lookout for new and different authors and books!

And don't forget to vote on WHAT THE WHOLE TOWN KNEW. Be honest. You won't hurt my feelings. Much. ;-)