Thursday, August 30, 2012

Don’t Turn Around - Book Birthday!

By Jordan Dane

This is my week to post, but I couldn’t let my blog mate, Michelle Gagnon, not get a shout out for her debut YA – DON’T TURN AROUND – that was officially released by Harper Teen on Aug 28th. (Book 1 of a series.) Making a leap from writing adult thrillers to creating stories for teens is a huge endeavor. It’s reinventing yourself for another group of readers. That can be scary, yet very fulfilling in ways you never imagine.
Early reviews have been stellar too. Starred reviews are very rare. Many talented authors can go a life time without seeing one. Below are two for Michelle.

"Be prepared to stay up all night reading."
~VOYA (starred review)

“Gagnon’s YA debut is a pulse-pounding scary-great read…[that] will have teens begging for more. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for preteens and teens, a surefire hit.”
~Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Don’t Turn Around (Series-Book #1)
by Michelle Gagnon
HarperTeen, Now Available!
Sixteen-year-old Noa has been victimized by the system ever since her parents died. Now living off the grid and trusting no one, she uses computer hacking skills to stay safely anonymous and alone. But when she wakes up on a table in an empty warehouse with an IV in her arm and no memory of how she got there, Noa starts to wish she had someone on her side.
Enter Peter Gregory, A rich kid and the leader of a hacker alliance. Peter needs people with Noa¹s talents on his team. Especially after a shady corporation called AMRF threatens his life in no uncertain terms.
But what Noa and Peter don¹t know is that she holds the key to a terrible secret, and there are those who¹d stop at nothing to silence her for good.    Fans of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO will devour the story of Noa, a teen soulmate to Lisbeth Sander.

Buy at these LINKS

So happy book birthday, Michelle. You've earned a victory lap! I'm very proud of you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

10 Things I've Learned Since Becoming Published

Just in case you may not have noticed, my very first published book was released about 4 months ago (it's still crazy surreal to say that, lol), and I thought it the perfect time to take a look at what all I've learned since then. 

In the syle of David Letterman, here's 

The Top Ten Things I've Learned 
Since Becoming A Published Author

10. Book Two is even harder to write than Book One.

9. I'm still just as unsure of my ability to form coherent sentences as ever.

8. Promoting oneself is probably the hardest part of the process.

7. Self doubt is like Tax Day or your grandparent's birthday--it sneaks up and
smacks you in the face before you know it.

6. Just when you think you've learned all the rules,
you find out that the rules can be broken.

5. The Internet: The real reason 99.99% of writers release a book but once a year.

4. Social Media is an awesome way to pimp your book.

3. Starting a new project while simultaneously worrying non-stop
about your debut novel makes for many a sleepless night.

2. Sales are not the most important thing.

1. Getting an email/tweet/DM from someone who loved your book
makes 2-10 totally worth it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Catching Up

 By Dan Haring

Hey folks! I know it's been a while since my last post. The last month has been a pretty crazy one for me. My family had been living in Southern California for the last 5 1/2 years, and for the most part, we loved it. What we didn't love was the lack of job security. So when a really good job offer from Blue Sky Studios (They do the Ice Age movies) came in, we jumped at it. The only problem? It was literally on the other side of the country in Greenwich, CT, 2802 miles away. But it was a great opportunity, so we rented a truck, piled all our junk in it, and hit the road. (I'm purposefully glossing over the packing process, which was awful.)

I've driven cross-country a few times, and loved it. But I'd never done it with four kids under the age of seven. Thank goodness for dvd players and Disney. Speaking of which, on one of our last California days, we hit up Disneyland one last time and grabbed a plush Perry the Platypus, and decided he was going to be our traveling buddy.

I highly recommend driving across this amazing country. There are a million things to see, and even things like the open expanses of Kansas can be breathtaking. But again, maybe don't do it with little kids and a moving truck. (All said and done, the kids did great, though.)

After five long days on the road, we finally pulled into our new home in Connecticut. It was hot and humid, trees blocked the horizon in every direction, and there were spiders everywhere. I know I wasn't alone when I thought we should just turn around and head back.

But one word that kept coming up when we told our friends and family about the move, was "adventure." "This is going to be such a fun adventure" they'd tell us. And you know what? They were right. Getting lost and adjusting to new things and leaving our comfort zones and seeing my kids' faces when they saw fireflies for the first time. This is an adventure. And what's life for if not to have adventures?

A great American hero, Neil Armstrong, passed away this last weekend. As I was reading about his life, one quote of his really stuck out to me. He said, "I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don't intend to waste any of mine." Great words to live by, and ones I hope I can follow. I don't want to miss out on adventures because I've become complacent, even if it means leaving behind everything I know. The clock is ticking, and so are our hearts. Let the adventure begin!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hi from the new Weekend Warrior!

Hey! It's P. J. Hoover here, the newest blogger here on ADR3NALIN3.

 This is me! Hi!

Here are a few quick things about me because I want to say hello!

  1. Yes, I'm new to the blog. I'm thrilled to be here! Why blogging? Why me? Well, as it turns out, I actually love to blog. Places you might already find me are:
    1. My own personal blog
    2. The Enchanted Inkpot YA Fantasy blog
    3. The Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels blog
    4. If you really care, you can check out my website which probably has more information than you ever wanted to know about me
  2. I am the "Weekend Warrior" here on ADR3NALIN3. As to what exactly that means, I'm not quite sure. Some reasons I might be right for this "Weekend Warrior" job are:
    1. I battle monsters in MMO games on the weekends (and often on weeknights during the summer and holiday breaks). My favorite MMO is Wizard101, and if you don't play, you're seriously missing out. It makes for fantastic family time!
      I think I look kind of cool!
    2. I swing giant kung fu weapons around, but this actually happens to be mostly during the weekend. Except for today when I'll be heading to a 3 hour seminar to learn a drunken immortal form. Cool, right?
    3. I attempt to keep peace between my two kids. This is the trickiest of the three.
  3. I have 2 books coming out from Tor (who is just such an amazing publisher that it makes me all squishy and warm inside.
    1. SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 2013) is a young adult dystopian/mythology story. It's set in the future where global warming is basically killing the earth. And yeah, there's a girl. And a guy. And the Underworld. And then stuff happens. I've seen some sneak sketches for the cover, and I'm getting pretty psyched for it! You can find more about it here.
    2. TUT (Tor Children's, Winter 2014) is a middle grade mythology story about King Tut who's this 14 year old kid who's immortal and lives in modern day Washington DC. He's trying to find the afterworld while running from his evil uncle and a crazy cult. You can find more about it here.
  4. I used to be an engineer, so I tend to look at writing as a very methodical process. I write a first draft. I revise the heck out of it. And then I revise again and again until it's good enough to tape out (engineering humor, sorry). When I write posts about writing, please keep this engineering thing in mind and forgive me for it.
  5. Because I used to be an engineer, I love all sorts of nerdy things. I refer to these dorky things as often as I possibly can.
  6. I think every book needs at least one Star Trek reference. And song lyrics from the 60s, 70s, or 80s hidden within the pages.
  7. ADR3NALIN3 is very hard to type! I am hoping I will get better at this! :)
  8. Since we're now such great friends, you can call me Tricia!
    1. The P in P. J. is for Patricia
    2. The J in P. J. is for a really long Polish maiden name
So anyway, I'm thrilled to be here and among such great blogging company! Looking forward to lots of fun blogging together!

Happy Weekend!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Do Book Trailers Work?

by Michelle Gagnon

Last week, Harper Teen unveiled the book trailer for my upcoming release, DON'T TURN AROUND. Pretty cool, because they managed to snag a spot on the Entertainment Weekly website, so for a (very) brief few minutes there I almost felt famous.
And I have to say, all bias aside, I think it's a killer trailer.
But that being said, does a book trailer drive sales the same way that a film trailer does? A lot of authors spend considerable time and money having trailers produced. I did myself, a few years back, when my second adult thriller BONEYARD was released. I was pretty pleased with the result, and that remains my bestselling novel. But I have to confess, I think that has more to do with the amazing cover it had, as opposed to the trailer.

There are some trailers that, frankly, I've loved. My friend Daniel Handler has a fantastic one for his latest YA release WHY WE BROKE UP. It's laugh out loud funny; my daughter in particular loves to watch it over and over. But did it manage to drive sales? That's the frustrating thing about marketing: no one can say for sure.

So I'm curious: has a book trailer ever compelled you to purchase a book that you might not have picked up otherwise? And what are the best (and hey, why not: worst) book trailers you've ever seen?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Something like a dream...

by A.G. Howard

Last Thursday, it finally hit me. It's really happening. The dream that I fought so hard and so long for is at last within my grasp. Literally. ♥˘˘♥

Because my Splintered ARCs (advanced reader copies) came in the mail. And for the rest of that evening, I was *FLOATING*. Still am.

In fact, I can't seem to climb down off of this cloud ... might have something to do with how beautiful they are. See?

One thing that really struck me was what a unique marketing tool ARCs are. They're not just some unedited paperback version of the hardback. They have all kinds of juicy info on the inside and the outside to entice buyers for the book.

So, since I can't hand out an ARC to everyone to show you, I'll share a few of the details via pictures. First, the back cover:

Hopefully, the text is big enough that you can see the different sections.
  • First there's the blurb by a respected and already published author, to let buyers/readers know that fans of said author might like this newbie author's work, as well.
  • Then comes the book synopsis with a hook that will hopefully make buyers and readers equally excited to invest time and/or money into the story.
  • After that comes the marketing information. In other words, what the publisher is doing to get exposure for the author and the book, and in turn, helping to make the buyer's job to sell books easier.
  • Book specifications follow, such as numbers of pages, price, ISBN, age recs, etc...
  • The Publisher's insignia and address, and the distributor information for anyone interested in ordering

So basically, the outside is like a really elaborate business card. :)
The inside offers a preview of the finished layout. Chapter fonts, text fonts, designs, pictures, etc... are all on display. No holds barred, this is the time to display everything the book has to offer aesthetically, like a peacock spreading out those tail feathers to get the attention of his mate. And let me tell you, Splintered has some very pretty tail feathers (thanks to Amulet's design team for their artistic talent and foresight!).

ARC picture collage by Gabrielle Carolina

So, there's a quick peek at the ins and outs of ARCs.

Hope everyone has a great week! As for me? I'm going back to hugging my book. See you soon! :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pretty Little Liars, SCBWI, and me!

Carol Tanzman here! A few weeks ago, I attended the SCBWI National Conference as a faculty member. That means that I presented a break-out session AND I got to attend all the other sessions—the best part. So many inspiring authors, wonderful editors, agents, published and pre-published writers (and illustrators) of picture books, middle grade and YA. And yes, some great parties but, ahem, we are here to talk about the conference!

First, if you don’t know about SCBWI, I am here to tell you: it is a most awesome group. It is the only professional, as well as aspiring, writers and illustrators dedicated solely to the kidlitosphere. After you join the national organization, you are also automatically a member of your local region. There are one-day writer’s days at the local level, weekend retreats, various workshops set up for a Saturday or week-day evening, schmoozes (gabfests for a couple of hours with local writers), critiquenics (where you can get a couple of pages critiqued by published authors for free!), and two national conferences: summer in L.A. in August, winter in NYC in February. There are also grants you can apply for, ten page contests to win—and access, access, access to professionals in the publishing.

At the conference, some of the things I did were: attend a wonderful writing workshop led by YA author Gary Schmidt, participate in an intimate, round robin evening discussion on LGBTQ issues in YA facilitated by one of the regional advisors of the LA SCBWI region (Lee Wind) along with panelist Arthur Levine of Scholastic, an incredibly moving keynote by Golden Kite winner Ruta Sepetys (her amazing novel is Between Shades of Gray), an overview of Amazon’s new publishing arm for children’s and YA books, the illustrators portfolio display… and… well… I could go on and on. The truth is that the nicest, and most helpful, people in publishing belong to SCBWI.

Of course, I would be remiss in not sharing a fun highlight. At the faculty signing, I was paired with Sara Shepard—she of Pretty Little Liars fame. Here we are at our table, Sara (on the left) with her new book, The Lying Game, and me (on the right) with mine, Circle of Silence. 

I bet you can tell from the picture what a truly sweet person she is! (where do those devilish plots come from, Sara?)

So yes, it was a fun, fun, time!  Thanks to SCBWI for having me. And I urge anyone who writes for children up to YA to join the organization!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Those Boys in the Basement

Ever have those moments when you've slaved all day over a hot keyboard and gotten in all your pages and so you think, okay, I deserve a break today? (And, no, I don't mean a Big Mac and fries.)  Or let's say you've been fretting all day and you just can not, for the life of you, figure out how to tweak something to make that plot go?  In either case, you get up, walk away, head out to the gym--and then <DOH> it hits you, that Bart Simpson moment: how you're going to have to go back and tear up about five of those ten or twelve pages because you messed up.  Or that messy plot point unravels for you?  Or there's something even better you coulda/shoulda/woulda written if you've only been THINKING?  

Ah, but the trick is: you thought of it because you didn't.

In BAG OF BONES and ON WRITING, King calls it the boys in the basement.  Other people call it: muse, the subconscious, the unconscious, the artistic impulse.  Me, I call it both a Bart Simpson moment and a necessary ingredient to creativity: those instances when you have relaxed your conscious attention to a task and, Eureka, the answer--or a reasonable facsimile--presents itself.  For it to work for me, I need to be exercising or out in the garden, out in the sun, or hiking--doing something outdoors.  I have a writer-friend who routinely takes a nap if he comes up against a plot point that just won't fix itself.  Stephen King goes for long walks, and so does his protag in BAG OF BONES.

What we're all doing is diverting our attention from the task at hand.  We're removing ourselves from the surround and environmental cues that not only dictate how we should be behaving (i.e., hoeing a garden is altogether different from tapping on a keyboard and composing sentences) but create the expectations that we SHOULD both create and be creative.  That is, we're taking ourselves out from under the eye of the boss-man, who'll certainly dock our pay if we take one second's extra break than we're entitled to.

We all know the difference in these styles of thought, too, because we feel them and we feel the transitions back and forth.  (Hinky and unsettling, but true.)  Conscious thought is analytic and derivative; that is, when we're focused on a task, we think about it and make judgments.  We winnow; we parse and pare; we don't encourage the weeds.  Unconscious thought is, of course, much more closely related to dreaming, when the mind makes what feel like bizarre associations on the basis of connections we've forgotten about.  Think of the dream's imagery as the brain's attempt to find near-matches, places where your experiences should be slotted.  Those pathways are not logical; they're not derivative; they're a bit like weedy cross-connections: dandelions that worked their way into your cucumber patch because both plants have yellow flowers.

Allowing your unconscious to help you out is a bit like letting the boys in the basement play.  You need to relax enough to allow them to play, and for many of us, that means distractions: walking, napping, ripping out pesky weeds, breaking up of dirt, cooking dinner, doing the laundry; anything that allows your rigorous control over where your thoughts go to slip a bit.

But creativity is still a two-step process.  Yes, you can let the boys play.  They can come up with an interesting and novel solution.  But then you have to allow that solution to become conscious; it has to translate and transfer itself from the back of your mind to the front.  This isn't trivial either.  If you've ever tried a dream journal (I did, waaaay back when I was in analysis), you realize how stupid your dreams feel and sound and how fleeting they are once you engage a secondary, cognitive process like forming words with a pen or pencil.  What felt so logical or emotionally laden in a dream becomes, well, kind of dumb in the translation--and you also tend to forget if you can't find a way to allow the transfer to occur, and quickly.

For me, that means talking to myself, out loud, especially since I'm usually miles from home.  Yes, I get many strange looks because I have to keep talking, or my attention begins to wander again.  (This is both good and bad.  I may lose what I just discovered, but I may also gain something else.   In the middle of the night, if I jump up after a long period of staring at the ceiling and letting my attention wander, then I have a little tougher time deciphering what I meant if I've written it down.  Hearing my own voice tends to sock it home.  Even then, I still forget, which is kind of a pain.  Not to mention the fact that I'm jumping up and down all night long, and the husband is . . . well, a little annoyed.  OTOH, I have a very understanding spouse who doesn't seem to mind talking for a while in the wee hours.  He understands the value of calming the savage beast.)  I know other authors carry notebooks; some talk into digital recorders or their phones.  We all have our ways of translating that play into the work we've secretly been doing all along.

The important thing is to recognize that not paying attention allows us to solve complex problems--BUT that only works when we actually have a goal.  In other words, if you're inattentive and sort of a space cadet and have no real goal or problem or purpose . . . yeah, you're going to flounder, you're going to drift, and no Eureka moments for you.  On the other hand, if you are engaged in solving a complex problem, then not paying attention--not thinking about what's bothering you--will actually help the boys help YOU find the answer.

Now, excuse me . . . oooh, there goes a really pretty butterfly . . .

Friday, August 17, 2012

Flash Fiction Day – A Story in Every Face

By Jordan Dane

In my short story anthology – Sex, Death, and Moist Towelettes – I wrote a story using the inspiration of a British man wearing a top hat, dressed in a tux with a slight wince and beads of sweat on his upper lip. On Her Special Day became his story. Something in that man’s face stopped me and made me look closer. I found a whole life and family in his eyes and now that story is in a book.

So today’s flash fiction will feature faces that stopped me. Pick one and write a short story of your own. Who knows what ideas it will spawn? Even if you’re not a writer, we are all drawn to the emotion in other’s. It’s one of the solid reasons we read books and get yanked into a novel. We all have a natural storyteller waiting to come out. Please share yours, even if it’s only to tell us that one of these guys looks like your Uncle Mort.

I own these images and acquired the right by purchasing them for my book trailers, website, or for promo reasons.

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

Image 5

What do you think? Do these people know each other? Are any of them related? Could they all end up in a story? Inquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Creativity/Happiness Connection

by Jennifer Archer

About a year ago, my sister and I were talking about my writing and she made a comment that sparked an idea for a non-fiction book that I've since written with a co-author. "I remember being creative as a kid," she said. "I made ceramics and did a lot of other things. What happened? I don't have an imaginative bone in my body anymore. I'd like to have a creative hobby but I don't have a clue what I'd be good at or even what would interest me." 

My sister has raised two great kids and is a very accomplished business person, a partner in an insurance firm. She is a self-made woman who managed to climb the ladder of success in her field without even having a college degree. She is smart and personable and beautiful. Yet, it was clear to me that my sister felt as if something important was missing in her life -- a piece of the puzzle that keeps a happy life in balance. 

I started thinking about the importance of creativity as a part of a full, happy life and asking myself if there is a creativity/happiness connection. Intrigued, I thought about the role creativity has played in my own life and contentment. I also did research on the topic of creativity and happiness and talked to my writing friend Mary Schramski, who studied creativity extensively while working on her Masters and Ph.D. Mary also taught creative writing for many years as a college professor. When all was said and done, I came away with the certainty that having a creative outlet, or simply living with heightened creative awareness, leads to a more complete and joyous life. So Mary and I decided to write a book on the subject: HAPPINESS REHAB: 8 Creative Steps to a More Joyful Life.

Which leads me back to my sister's question: What happened? 

What happened to my sister's imaginative instincts is all-too-common. As human beings, we're all born creative. If you don't believe this, observe children and think about your own childhood. Children play make-believe. They dress up like Mommy or Daddy. They pretend to be teachers or firemen. They draw pictures and make up stories. But as time goes by, the circumstances of life and added responsibilities slowly begin to try to reign in our imaginative instincts, or at the very least, to restrict them. We start school and are told to stop daydreaming. We're instructed on what kind of story to write or what to paint or sketch, and then our efforts are graded. Even more time passes and suddenly we have homework, then a job, then others who rely upon us. Imagination often gets pushed aside, then buried, to make room for the more practical thought processes that help us do what we need to do to meet our obligations and get through each day.

The good news is that my sister was wrong when she said she doesn't have an imaginative bone in her body anymore. Her creativity still exists. It's  buried somewhere deep inside of her. She just needs to unearth it to tap into it again. In our book HAPPINESS REHAB: 8 Creative Steps to a More Joyful Life, Mary and I include several Practices to help start that process and also suggest attempting a few "exploriments." Exploriments are a hands-on way to rediscover an old creative passion, or to form a new one. For instance, anyone wanting to rediscover or enhance their creativity might try one of the following:
1.      Grab your camera (or buy an inexpensive disposable camera) and take off on a photo-taking mission. Snap shots around your neighborhood, the mall, a park, a cemetery, an amusement park. Or simply take photos inside of your house or in your own backyard.
2.      Buy a new cookbook or pull out an old one you seldom use. Find a recipe for something unlike anything you've ever made before. Assemble the ingredients and utensils you need, tie on an apron and get cookin'.
3.      Rearrange and redecorate a room using furniture, knickknacks, lamps, pictures, etc., that you already have on hand. Position furniture in a way you've never considered before. Combine items you never thought about putting together -- a pillow on a sofa, a picture above a chair, a flower arrangement on a table.
4.      Take a field trip to a hobby store and wander up and down the aisles. Explore the artificial flower department. Touch knitting and crochet yarn. Feel the texture of upholstery and clothing fabrics. Scoop loose beads for making jewelry into your hands. Shake tiny bottles of artist oil paint and look at all the brushes. Take note of where you linger the longest, what catches your eye, and what keeps drawing you back for another look.

These are just a few of the exploriments Mary and I came up with. With a little thought, you can invent others on your own.

Another helpful creative tool that we recommend is starting a Creative Happiness Journal. Write down your thoughts about your own creativity. Recall any imaginative pursuits you engaged in as a child. List what's holding you back from becoming more creative. Record your fears, your hopes, your dreams. Write down your experiences with any exploriments you undertake. Note your newly-found creativity and happiness as it unfolds. Don't worry about the correctness of your journal. Spelling, grammar and neatness don't matter. Simply write down what you're thinking and experiencing.

Creativity is a wonderful gift -- one we're all given at birth. I have experienced, firsthand, the joy of living a full creative life, and I know that creativity can bring anyone more happiness. If you have trouble recalling a time when you were creative, or you feel as if you've hit a creative roadblock, try a few exploriments or start a Creative Happiness Journal and begin to rediscover the joy that, as a child, you experienced daily.

HAPPINESS REHAB: 8 Creative Steps to a More Joyful Life by Jennifer Archer & Mary Schramski, Ph.D., will be available online soon. Visit Jennifer's website and blog for more information and to vote through Friday, 8/17/12 on the cover you like best. You'll be entered to win a prize just for casting your vote!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cover Reveal & Book Trailer - Indigo Awakening

I have seen the cover for Indigo Awakening (Book #1 in The Hunted series, Dec 18, 2012, Harlequin Teen) evolve through Harlequin's art department and it got better each time. Many thanks to the hard-working and creative people at Harlequin!

This cover was inspired by the first appearance of the mysterious Gabriel Stewart in Indigo Awakening, a runaway boy who rescues my brave girl, Rayne Darby, from a gang of thugs after they follow her into an abandoned zoo at night. Rayne is looking for her younger brother, Lucas, after he escapes from a mental hospital. Lucas is being hunted by a covert and fanatical church who hunts "his kind." Rayne could use Gabriel's help, but he has reasons of his own to refuse her.

Gabriel has way to many secrets that could make things worse for her, not the least of which is his strange companion, Hellboy, and unimaginable psychic powers that could put a target on both their backs.

Because of what you are, the Believers will hunt you down.

Voices told Lucas Darby to run. Voices no one else can hear. He’s warned his sister not to look for him, but Rayne refuses to let her troubled brother vanish on the streets of LA. In her desperate search, she meets Gabriel Stewart, a runaway with mysterious powers and far too many secrets. Rayne can’t explain her crazy need to trust the strange yet compelling boy—to touch him—to protect him even though he scares her.

A fanatical church secretly hunts psychic kids—gifted “Indigo” teens feared to be the next evolution of mankind—for reasons only "the Believers" know. Now Rayne’s only hope is Gabe, who is haunted by an awakening power—a force darker than either of them imagine—that could doom them all.

They are our future—if they survive…

I also have a book trailer for my book. Enjoy and let me know what you think. I can't wait to see this cover up close and in my hands.

Indigo Awakening Book Trailer - (Use this LINK if you have trouble with the video.)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bella vs. Katniss

by Diane Weipert (aka T.J. McGuinn)

Today we're so excited to welcome Diane Weipert, aka T.J. McGuinn, whose awesome YA debut THE WAKING MOON is tearing it up on Wattpad right now (you can read it there FREE!) I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy months ago, and it was one of my favorite books of last year. So definitely check it out!
And now, without further ado: Diane Weipert dicusses being a tomboy and damsels in distress...

When I was little, I was a daddy’s girl. I loved doing errand runs with my dad, even when he went to boring places like the hardware store. Even though I wasn’t into sports, I’d wear a Raiders jersey and watch football games with him, dancing around and high-fiving whenever our team got a touchdown. And even though I hated to ride roller coasters, I would always suck it up and go with my dad, so that he wouldn’t have to ride them alone. But more than anything else, I’d go with him to see action movies--loud, explosion-filled stories that I never would’ve watched on my own.

For me they were “guy movies.” The heroes were strong. They never showed fear. They always kept their cool. And there wasn’t a bind too tight for them to escape. And these heroes were always men.
The women in the films were always beautiful. But that was it. Beyond the perfect curves and gorgeous hair, they didn’t have much going for them. They couldn’t find their own way out of a shoebox. They ran away from bad guys in impractical footwear. They wore very little and screamed very loud. And I hated that I was supposed to identify with them.
Then Terminator II came along. According to its backstory, the Linda Hamilton character, who’d spent the first Terminator movie running around in a pink waitress dress, had spent several years in a mental institution getting really buff and really tough. Now she was strong. She never showed fear. She always kept her cool. And there wasn’t a bind too tight for her to escape. Throughout the movie, I put myself in her place. I imagined I could be that strong, that cool, that tough. It was then that I understood why guys like those movies so much. And why I never did.

Everyday life is difficult. It is rife with moments that make us feel stupid or ugly or alone or misunderstood. We’re at the mercy of the world and all its cruel whims. We feel helpless. That’s why we’re drawn to books and movies. They allow us to escape the limitations of our lives (and ourselves) and experience the extraordinary. And there’s nothing extraordinary about a hand-wringing damsel in distress. It’s just an exaggeration of how we secretly feel every day.

Just like boys, (who, I’m sure, also spend their waking hours feeling inadequate and insecure) we’d like to get lost inside some fantasy realm where girls have more to offer than bulging sweaters. We’d like to know that there’s power in us. That we can save ourselves, and others, too. That we aren’t just breasts, butt, and legs, but brain, muscle, sinew, knuckle, and a thunderous beating heart.

The main character in my novel The Waking Moon is a regular 16-year-old girl facing bizarre and horrifying circumstances on her own. But she doesn’t sit around waiting to be saved. She takes control. It’s what we all want to do. 

If you ask me, we’ve spent enough time longing to be ravished by a gorgeous vampire. It’s time for girls to grab bows and arrows and get in the game. We have a revolution to lead!

Diane Weipert has written mostly for film. Her feature Solo Dios Sabe premiered at Sundance in 2006 and starred Diego Luna and Alice Braga. Since then she has developed scripts with actress Michelle Rodriguez and written a psychological horror script for Eddie Izzard's production company. Diane's young adult novel The Waking Moon, written under the pen name T.J. McGuinn, is edging in on 1,000,000 reads in only two months on Follow her on Twitter: @dianeweipert 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Like, Try, Why

by Michelle Gagnon

My publisher has a new community called, "Epic Reads," which has an awesome feature. Every week they post a "Like, Try, Why" where they pick a few uber-popular books (or TV shows, or movies) and offer suggestions for the perfect follow-up read. This is so perfect for someone like me, who tends to start reading more and more slowly as I approach the end of a book that I'm loving; and I get downright teary when the book ends and there's nothing else like it on my TBR pile.

So here's an example of one of their recent "Like, Try, Whys":

Too perfect, right?  Because once I'd run through everything Kristin Cashore had written, I was in such a fantasy groove I really wanted something similar, but for once Goodreads wasn't coming through for me.
And now, I know: The Girl of Fire and Thorns.

So for a fun exercise today, see if you can come up with at least one, "Like, Try, Why." Doesn't have to be long, in fact the more concise your "why" is, the better!

Anyway, here's mine:

If you Like:                                 Try:                                                                                            

Because Banished is dark and so well-written, with a slightly misfit heroine who's just discovering that she not only has powers, but that there are evil forces keen to use her for them, and that in fact she's part of a powerful legacy. And the sequel, Unforsaken, is awesome too!

Really hoping this provides more fuel for my TBR pile!


Monday, August 6, 2012

The Last Word

A few nights ago, I participated via Internet in a big teen lock-in and got a question I hear frequently: why did I choose to end ASHES the way I did?  Now, for those of you who haven't read the book, never fear.  I won't ruin it by telling you HOW it ends.  Let's just say that I broke several rules, and I did that on purpose.  In fact, the end breaks enough rules that a recent Horn Book article talked specifically about this: that the "shocking" conclusion was among the "coolest" examples of an author being "daring enough (or heartless enough, depending on your tolerance for sad endings) to let their protagonists face seemingly insurmountable obstacles and find that they are, indeed, just that." 

Which is pretty darned cool in and of itself.

But, back to the question.  Why did I do that?  Well, whenever I'm asked, I always ask the question right back, not because I'm being coy but I want to hear what or how people think/feel/react.  The answer I hear most frequently is that I did it to make people buy the sequel.  EEEEHHHH!  Wrong.  (Although it's true that my editor and I went back and forth about this--he was a tad nervous about breaking SO many rules--when I explained why, he was right on board.)  Some people think I'm trying to be shocking just for the sake of being shocking, and that's also wrong, but it's a tad closer to what I was thinking and trying to convey.  Going for that emotional gut-punch isn't far off.

Let's think, though, about what good beginnings and endings do for us.  A great beginning grabs our attention, right?  But a fabulous beginning sentence or paragraph also sets the tone for the novel; it hints at what's in store.  For example, one of my favorite beginning lines of all time belongs to William Gibson's cyberpunk classic, Neuromancer:  "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."  Oh, my goodness, is that evocative or what?  You instantly "see" that sky; you know what color it is; you also know that we're talking a lot of light and tech because only a ton of light--and that means, a big city--has the ability to wash out a black sky and bright stars.  (Or skies are muddy orange; I've noticed this in places like New York, where I wonder if people even remember that looking up is fun to do.)  Regardless, that line sets up the entire book.  You've garnered tons of information from fifteen words.  Fifteen.  That's amazing.

Similarly, a great last line (or last couple of lines) sends the reader and the book on her way, and if the writer is very skilled, evokes the mood the writer wants you to walk away with.  For example, at the end of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, poor mute Melinda, who's found not only courage and closure but her voice, has the last word: "Let me tell you about it."  

Hand's down, though, I think that Libba Bray is fabulous at these type of send-off last lines/last paragraphs, and IMHO, her best work can be found in her Gemma Doyle series.  All her last lines are great, but my particular favorites (lines and paragraphs) can be found at the end of A Strange and Terrible Beauty

"The wind shifts, bringing with it the smell of roses, strong and sweet.  Across the ravine, I see her in the dry crackle of leaves.  A deer. She spies me and bolts through the trees.  I run after her, not really giving chase.  I'm running because I can, because I must.  

Because I want to see how far I can go before I have to stop."   

This is a perfect send-off for that first book because it is all about beginnings and a young woman daring to break the rules.  This end does, in fact, set up the beginning of the next book and helps you understand where this series is headed.

Most often, when I reach the end of a book I'm writing, I know what the last line is because I knew it from the beginning, and the whole book has been a journey to that last line.  The one time I was a little surprised by where I ended up was at the end of SHADOWS, not because the line hadn't been "said" in my head already but because it wasn't the last line/scene but the penultimate scene.  When I got to the end, though, and penned what I had imagined the last line ought to be, it just didn't feel right.  Just didn't.  I realized after a few minutes that the book's journey had really ended the scene before.  So I switched them around, and now I do think that SHADOWS ends in a way that both evokes what I want to people to feel and summarizes the journey.  (I'm sure you'll tell me if I'm right.)

But back to ASHES: this is the G-d's honest truth about why I ended it the way I did.  It's actually kind of artsy-fartsy, but my reasoning went like this: ASHES is a book about what happens when the world falls apart.  Nothing remains that you recognize; all the niceties are swept away.  Alex has to endure in that world, where all the old rules no longer apply.  So my feeling was if she has to do that, why should you get a break?  I wanted you to experience the same kind of shock and dislocation she does, that moment when you finally, truly understand that nothing will ever be the same again.

That's why I did it.  Do I succeed?  I dunno; you tell me.  But I sure hear enough from people who are FRANTIC to find out what happens next; who are so shocked and upset they want to yell and scream at me (that's fine; just be civil); who think about throwing their books or Kindles across the room (some actually do).  All that's good because that means you felt something.  You weren't indifferent.  You weren't . . . oh, cool.  You were . . . SAY WHAT?

All good.  Mission accomplished.  That you care is all and the best a writer can hope for.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Most Mortifying Moment of My Life

by Michelle Gagnon

Pre-faint. I fell into the lap of the woman yawning behind me. She sure woke up quick...
One of my all-time favorite books (and a popular gift for friends who write) is called, MORTIFICATION: WRITERS' STORIES OF THEIR PUBLIC SHAME.

It includes vignettes from such storied authors as Roddy Doyle, Michael Ondaatje, and Val McDermid on the most embarrassing experiences they've ever had during their writing careers. For example, did you know that Margaret Atwood's first-ever book signing took place in the Men's Socks and Underwear section of a department store? Or that some of Chuck Palahniuk's fans started throwing dinner rolls at him during an event in San Francisco? And apparently Stephen King was once forced to sign so many books that his fingers cracked and started to bleed.

Up until last October, my most mortifying moment as an author occurred at a local bookstore, when not a single person showed up for my reading.

And then along came Litquake.

Litquake is San Francisco's premier literary festival, a week-long celebration of the written word that features hundreds of authors reading at dozens of events. More than 16,000 people attended last year. Being asked to participate is a big deal, particularly for one of the most coveted spots.
And for the 2011 series, I was included in a great one, entitled, "These Mean Streets: Reality and Fiction Collide."
I was the only woman appearing on a slate with a former mob informant; the terrific writer, working PI, and all around great writer David Corbett; and a slew of other big names. The event was being held at Tosca Cafe, one of my favorite bars in San Francisco.

All in all, it was shaping up to be an exciting evening. Thanks largely to the fact that the event would be happening in a bar, I even managed to convince several friends who don't ordinarily attend readings to come along.

You can never predict how big the crowd will be at one of these events, but that night, Tosca was packed. Standing room only, easily a couple hundred people in the room.

I was nervous, and hadn't slept terribly well the night before. Too nervous to eat very much all day, in fact. So I did what any sane person would do--I drank a glass of wine to calm myself down.
I was scheduled to be the third reader of the evening. I sat through the first two, my mouth dry, palms slick with sweat, tapping the pages of my chapter on the table (to the growing irritation of my friends).

And then, it was my turn.

I've performed in hundreds of dance performances, and have participated in dozens of author events over the past few years. One thing I know: the minute I get up there, the nervousness dissipates and I'm fine.
So there I was, standing in front of a microphone with a spotlight bearing down on me, facing this hot, crowded room.

Initially, everything was clipping along just fine. I read the first few pages of my chapter, and the crowd seemed appreciative--at least, no one was heckling or throwing things at me.

In the middle of page five, the words started swimming before my eyes. I paused and tried hard to force them back into focus. They refused to cooperate. I realized that for the space of at least a minute, I hadn't said anything. Panicking, I tried to collect myself. I stood up tall, found my place, and got through another paragraph.

I've never fainted before in my life--never even came close. But next thing I know, I'm lying on my back with a total stranger inches from my face, yelling, "Were you locking out your knees?"

Which even in retrospect doesn't seem to be the first thing you should ask someone who has just passed out cold.

Thankfully, there was an open booth behind me. According to my friends (who delighted in detailing the exact order of events after I'd recovered slightly), I said, "I'm dizzy," then sat down hard in the booth behind me. After which I proceeded to plummet ungracefully into the lap of the woman occupying the banquette (featured in the photo above, right before we became much better acquainted).
And of course, this was the one and only time that I'd decided to wear a dress for a reading. Meaning that I pretty much flashed the entire audience. Thank God I was wearing tights.

My friends helped me outside and plied me with glasses of water and relatively fresh air (there were a lot of smokers around). Strangers came out to check on me. The rest of the reading proceeded inside; sadly, I missed most of it. As a favor, the event organizers let me get up and finish my story at the very end of the evening.

A week later, during the closing party, Litquake impresario Jack Boulware informed me that they've never had an author faint before--apparently it was the talk of the organizing committee. So much so that they're debating naming an honorary award after me next year. Word is still out on whether it will be bestowed for passing out or remaining conscious.

So now, should the editors of MORTIFICATION ever contact me, I can assuredly put Stephen King's most embarrassing moment to shame.

I'd love to hear about your most mortifying experience, either during and event or really, at any point in your life. Please. It will make me feel better.

Side note: My publisher just released a FREE prequel novella that includes a sneak preview of my upcoming release DON'T TURN AROUND. It can be downloaded to pretty much any eReader or smartphone out there by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The One Place I Always Feel At Home

by Jennifer Archer

"A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort." -E.B. White

There’s a scene in my novel THROUGH HER EYES, in which sixteen-year-old Tansy, on her first day at a new high school, escapes to a remote corner of the library during the lunch hour to avoid having to eat alone in the cafeteria. When I wrote that scene, I knew exactly what Tansy was feeling because I once did the very same thing. I moved to a new city and started a new school at the beginning of my junior year in high school, and I hid out in the library during my lunch period for the first several days. 

Everything at Amarillo High School felt foreign and unfamiliar to me – except the library. The second I stepped into that hushed room full of books, I experienced a sense of calm and comfort. I’d found the one place in the building where I could let down my guard, relax, and just be myself. I was surrounded by old friends – the hundreds of characters I’d come to know through years of reading.

Since then, my fondness for libraries has only grown stronger. There was a time when I even entertained the idea of becoming a librarian. I’m sure that career involves stressors that only those who do the job can understand, but I still fantasize sometimes about spending my days amongst the shelves and stacks. Such a peaceful workplace seems a rarity in our hustle-bustle world. But libraries and librarians offer us so much more than a place of calm. They provide information on a variety of topics, learning materials, and entertainment. I can spend hours in a library and never get bored.

Because I can’t imagine life without libraries, I wondered how they came to be such a fixture in our American communities so I did a little research.  According to History Magazine

The oldest library in America began with a 400-book donation by a Massachusetts clergyman, John Harvard, to a new university that eventually honored him by adopting his name. Another clergyman, Thomas Bray from England, established the first free lending libraries in the American Colonies in the late 1600s. Subscription libraries - where member dues paid for book purchases and borrowing privileges were free - debuted in the 1700s. In 1731, Ben Franklin and others founded the first such library, the Library Company of Philadelphia. The initial collection of the Library of Congress was in ashes after the British burned it during the War of 1812. The library bought Thomas Jefferson's vast collection in 1815 and used that as a foundation to rebuild. It wasn't until waves of immigration and the philosophy of free public education for children that public libraries spread in the US. The first public library in the country opened in Peterborough, New Hampshire, in 1833. Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie helped build more than 1,700 public libraries in the US between 1881 and 1919.”

Sometime after the Civil War (approximately 1876), the American Library Association was founded, and Melvil Dewey developed and published a method of classifying and organizing materials within libraries called the Dewey Decimal Classification System. During this period, the profession of “librarian” became more recognized with Katharine Sharp’s involvement in the founding of the library school at the University of Illinois. Mr. Dewey recommended Ms. Sharp for the job, and she is now considered to be one of the most important library educators in American history.  

In the decades since, libraries have changed and adapted with the times. Computers, the internet, the e-reader – all have altered the way libraries operate. But one thing hasn’t changed since the late 1600’s when the first lending libraries in America opened their doors: Libraries and librarians strengthen our communities and enrich our lives.  

~I am honored to have been chosen as a Featured Author for The Spirit of Texas Reading Program – Middle School during the upcoming school year.  This Texas Library Association sponsored program is in its first year. The TLA website states:
The original idea for the Spirit of Texas Reading Program came from Texas author, Andrea White. Mrs. White envisioned a more robust, dynamic relationship between Texas libraries and Texas authors/ illustrators where authors and illustrators constantly came into Texas libraries either in person or via the internet to talk to students about their books and the writing process. With the help of librarians Natasha Benway (South Regional Public Library), Rose Brock (Coppell ISD), Renee Dyer (Weslaco ISD), and Jennifer Smith (East Central ISD), Mrs. White’s original idea was further developed to include an interactive website, original programming by Texas librarians, and annual awards for Texas authors/illustrators. The Spirit of Texas Reading Program began in 2011. The name “Spirit of Texas” was chosen because the program hopes to encourage a greater understanding of what it means to be a Texan and an appreciation for the literary works of and about Texas and Texans.”

For more information about this wonderful program, visit the Spirit of Texas website