Thursday, October 29, 2009

Vampire Diaries: Episode 7: Haunted

A random dude walks to his car...looks like we're back to opening with cheesy horror movie cliches. Oh Kevin Williamson, we missed your signature scenes these last few episodes.

I sense a vampire nearby. Now is it Vickie? Or Damon. Ooh its NOT a random guy walking! It's Tyler. That must mean...

Oh HAI Vickie!

She's sitting in Tyler's car and she is STARVING!

Tyler: OMG Vickie, what are you high on NOW?

Vickie: Vampire! AUGH!

Vickie wigs out and tries to vampirize Tyler, but...

Stefan: Super vampire interception! Tyler is saved.

Tyler: Dude.

Damon Giggling: Dude?

Stefan: Dude? What is this dude? What does that mean?

Damon: Step aside while I compel the little guy.

Damon's Eyebrows: Wiggle

In Elena's Room:
She wakes up in the bright cheery morning of her room as she usually does. Will we hear a diary entry? No! You know, I kind of miss those things. I mean this show IS called the Vampire Diaries! Right? Come on, Elena, write something, make it epic.

At the Salvatores:

Damon: Man, I totally killed Aunt Jenna's ex-newscaster boyfriend in the last episode and they didn't even put it in the newspaper. Where's my glory? Why do I bother?

Vickie: I'm hungry. Food?

Stefan: Here I have some veggie blood for you. Check out the menu. What would you like? Bambi? Thumper?  Simba? Take your pick.

Damon: You know, PETA doesn't appreciate you.

Vickie: Yum!

Someone's at the door! Oh HAI Elena.

Elena: Stefan, what do I tell people? Everyone is looking for Vickie. Jeremy's ready to call the National Guard.

Stefan: I know, I'm sorry. I'm trying to help her. She has all of these issues and her reaction to the bloodlust is like her drug addiction.

Elena: What did you like study with Freud or something? You were alive back then. Right?

Vickie appears at the top of the stairs.

Elena: Are you ok?

Vickie: Ok? OK! Are you freaking kidding me? I'm dead!

Elena: Oh right...sorry, forgot.

At Bonnie's Witch Grandma's House:
Bonnie: So we're really witches? Awesome. When can we stop with the history lesson and do some spells? I want to burn cars.

Grandma: Go to school, Carrie!

At the only restaurant in Mystic Falls:
Tyler's parents plot and Damon ovehears...

At Mystic Falls High School:
Caroline: Hey everybody. Glad to see me? I knew it. Now listen, you need to write to Kevin and tell him I'm absolutely necessary for every episode. Ok? Remember the bikini. Just upgrade my contract and...

Bonnie: Oh be quiet, will you? It's too early for this. I wasn't in the last episode either.

Caroline: Yeah but I'm blond. Anyway you got your own scene two minutes ago.

Bonnie: With my grandmom!

Caroline: Ugh! Fine. Here. Take Damon's sparkly necklace.

At the Salvatores:
Stefan: Here, drink coffee!

Vickie: Omg dead people pee! Why do I have to pee I thought I was dead. Oh wait I don't have to pee. I'm dead.

Elena: Listen, you need to leave Jeremy alone, you might bite him.

Vickie Vamp Face: You little priss! Don't tell me what to do, I'll rip your head off.

Elena: Oh crap! There's more than one bad ass in this episode now.

Outside the Salvatores:
Elena: She threatened me!

Stefan: Right now everything is mixed up, for her, hurt hunger, anger, love, lust.

Elena: Whatever Freud, just keep her away from my brother.

Vickie and Damon are Bored!

Vickie: Why did you kill me?

Damon: I was bored

Vickie: Seriously?

Damon: When you live forever you have to find new hobbies.

Vickie: Well Im bored.

Damon: Ok. Fun time!

Outside of Salvatore House:
Damon: here's how you go really fast! Go on live a little. No pun intended, NOT!

Vickie runs away!

Damon: Oops my bad!

Stefan: We're going to have to buy her a leash!

Vickie goes home:

But she can't go in. She needs to be invited. So Matt invites her in and makes her dinner and she complains the whole time until Stefan is at the door:
Vickie: Don't invite him in. PlzKthanx!

At Elena's:
Elena: Forget about Vickie

Jeremy: Huh? What? Wha? Don't you can't, you can't say those things to me. Are you even speaking in English?

Text Message from Vickie: Happy Halloween, lover. I want to suck your blood.

At the Coolest Halloween Dance Ever:
Everything is super colorful and awesome and Elena is dressed like a nurse?

Back at the only restaurant in Mystic Falls:
Tyler's parents are STILL there and now in costume and drinking dirty martinis.

Damon: Hello, sexy lady.

Tyler's Mom: Why helloooo, are you a gardener?

Damon: I look into my eyes.

Tyler's Mom: Why did you get something in it?

Damon: Why does everyone in this town have Anti-Damon jewelry on!

Back at the Coolest Halloween Dance Ever:
Elena: Where's Vickie? Is she here?

Matt: Yeah, you know she was missing for a few days and dissapeared and died and got made into a vampire after she did this awesome dance and all these campers are dead and the police want to talk to her, not to mention the hundred people in the search party, but we came to the dance instead. Anyway she's here somewhere. She's a vampire.

Elena: You have NO idea.

Back at the Only Restaurant:
Damon: Ooh you like Anti-Damon? I can get you more, wink wink.

Tyler's Mom: Oooh lalalala. You're a flirt!

Damon: You're a cougar.

Tyler's Mom: Your 150 years old!

Damon: Touche!

Meanwhile at the Dance:

Matt and Stefan go at it over Vickie: This bromance is over!

Stefan yells at Matt, "I'm trying to help her" and he has the most emotion in his voice I've ever heard him use.

Vickie, finds Jeremy finally. Kiss kiss baby, lets blow this joint.

Hey you guys remember Mr. Tanner? He died at the football game? Yeah. Episode 3. If we were following the book he would have died tonight...which makes me think someone else might...but who could it be?

Damon: Where's Caroline. OMG Bonnie, that's my crystal.

Bonnie: No! Mine, mine, mine, mine.

Damon makes a grab for it and it burns his hand. Bonnie's eyes widen as they do whenever she has a witchy moment. She runs away.

Jeremy and Vickie are going to do it by the school buses...
Vickie: Come away with me, we can be together FORever..

Jeremy: K!

Vickie: Like really for eternity.

Jeremy: K!

Vickie:Chomp Chomp!

Jeremy: WTF Vickie! Ow!

Elena runs at Vickie with a bat!
Vickie and Elena throw down.
Stefan comes and overpowers Vickie, but she has some sneaky super vampire stealth and escapes and vampirizes Elena.


Stefan Stakes Vickie! OMG. Jeremy is crying. Elena is horrified and Vickie dies slowly and suddenly has decayed a few days.


Break to a commercial and close up AGAIN on Vickie's several days old dead body. Ewww!

Damon shows up to deal with the mess because Stefan can't. Dude Stefan, what can you do? Elena tries to beat up Damon and avenge Vickie's death, but Damon can't be moved. He tells her he doesn't care and to LEAVE NOW because she is bleeding and smelling tasty but then he kneels by Vickie's dead body and that remorse? Oh Damon!

Bonnie goes to see Grandma witch to confess her latest Carrie moment with Damon's sparkly necklace which is actually Bonnie's great great great great great great great great ancestor super witche's necklace!

Back at the Dance:
Matt: OMG where's Vickie?
Elena: She's dead! I don't know.

Matt: You're bleeding, are you hurt?
Elena: No, its Strawberry syrup, same stuff they used in Carrie.
Matt: Really?
Elena: Well yeah Kevin Williamson, remember. They're even showing Scream on HBO, right now.
Matt: Oh right.

Elena leaves, beats the crap out of her steering wheel and comes home to find Stefan sitting like a watch dog on her porch.

Where is Aunt Jenna?!?

Inside the house Jeremy is having a total meltdown
Jeremy: Why does everybody die on me???????

OMG poor Jeremy I am so sad. First his parents, now Vickie and he is so confused!

Stefan sits alone on the porch, with swelling music to show how emo he is, probably rueing the day he became a vampire, and wishing he could have finished his psycho-therapy twelve step program with Vickie until Elena comes back outside.

Stefan: I wanted to help her

Elena: Jeremy is CRYING. I dont want him going through this again. You need to compel him, make him forget.

OMG Stefan is going to drink Elena's blood to get strong enough to use his vampire powers and compel Jeremy!

Oooh no Damon is here, Damon will do it.

I don't know Kevin Williamson, my idea is better...

Anyway, now Stefan is so sad because he lost Vickie and couldn't help Vickie and Elena is still not his girlfriend.

Elena: This sucks. I want to forget everything too, I want to forget meeting you and everything that happened.

Stefan: You do?

Elena: No...if that happened, there wouldn't be a show.

Stefan: Or it would be like one massive rerun. We'd meet, you'd fall in love with me again, I'd be careless, you'd discover I was a vampire, someone would die...

Elena: Yeah, like the second half of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Good point.

Damon: Good night. Jeremy can't remember a thing.

...And that was episode 7!

Wooo- next week it looks like the fun is back when Stefan's ex, who is NOT in the book comes to town.

Let us all take a moment to mourn more moments like these...

What'd you guys think?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wondrous Linkage, Library Love, and Inspiration Abounds

First off, there's a fantastic web site you need to check out --, the fabulous brainchild of Mary Kole, an associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. The articles are wonderful. Plus, there's a query contest that's drool-worthy. You can thank me later.

Secondly, I snuck over to the library across the street from work...and left with 8 books. My name is Donna, and I have a YA addiction. But this is what's awesome about blogging -- all you lovely fellow YA readers will be JUST AS EXCITED as I am! Here's my stash:

The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan

How to Be Bad - E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle

The Year of Secret Assignments - Jaclyn Moriarty

Twenty Boy Summer - Sarah Ockler

Paper Towns - John Green

Looking for Alaska - John Green

Take Me There - Susane Colasanti

Perfect You - Elizabeth Scott

Don't ask me when I'm going to read these, in addition to the pile of TBRs I already have at home. But I'm GIDDY. (As you can see, I'm going with a theme of non-paranormal/fantasy/dystopian books (besides The Forest of Hands and Teeth) because that's alllll I've been devouring lately.)

Please, please recommend where I should begin!

I'll leave you with a second link - to It's absolutely addictive and hilarious (if you're a little twisted), and it might just help you bust out of your writing rut.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Things that come in threes!

Wonderful things come in threes. Bacon, lettuce, and tomato. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Tall, dark, and handsome. Little pigs. Amigos. Wishes. [I swear this has a point.] See, I have three main characters in my novel Multiple Choice, and the chapters alternate among their stories and points of view.

As of tonight, I have three chapters left to write. One for each character.

I figured this deserved a blog post. I mean, way back in the fall of 2007 I wrote the first three chapters as a class assignment. Haphazardly, with a shoddy outline for what might possibly be the rest of the novel. Two years later, I'm on the last three. I couldn't be more excited and proud of what it's become, thanks in no small part to my FNC ladies. :: Hugs! ::

I'm aiming to be done by December, a sort of unofficial NaNoWriMo final hurrah. This sounds silly, but a tiny part of me is in awe that I just might be finishing a novel. I read so many blogs of ridiculously prolific agented writers [LiLa, Natalie, Steph, and many many more], and here I am going googly-eyed about writing one little book. (Alright, it'll be about 100,000 words and 18 chapters. Not so little.) But this is such a huge life goal that I'm so close to accomplishing, and I'm beyond giddy with possibility. I figured -- before the stress of revisions and query letters, why not enjoy the moment?

Here's to the home stretch!

What's been worth celebrating in your writing life recently?

* PS - If you have any sort of love for Christopher Walken, click on that Three Little Pigs link. It's amazing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

In which I simultaneously proclaim my loserdom and my love for Lara Zeises. (Review: The Sweet Life of Stella Madison)

Once I got a full-time job, Friday nights stopped being the night to go out and started being the night to stay in. I look forward to my weekly Friday night hibernation like it's no one's business. It's my time to decompress, my "me" time, and even if you're my best friend, I resent you for planning something that keeps me from my me time. In high school, I felt like a loser if I stayed home Friday night. "Grown up" me? Embraces the loserdom. Going out is why God invented Saturday night.

I love you loserdom. I do. (High school me shakes her head in disbelief.)

How did I spend this lovely Friday night? I devoured a book and a fantastic episode of Dollhouse.
[By the way, rumors abound that Dollhouse will be cancelled. Apparently I'm the only one home Friday nights watching it. Join me in my loserdom and help me save this increasingly brilliant Joss Whedon creation.]

What book? You ask.

THE SWEET LIFE OF STELLA MADISON by Lara Zeises. But of course.

Summary (from Lara's website):
It's not easy being the daughter of a famous chef and a restaurant owner when your idea of a great meal is the kind that's served via a drive-through window.
Seventeen-year-old Stella Madison's food-loving parents have been separated for years, but they're still as sweet to each other as can be, which is just the way Stella likes it. When their connections help her land a summer job at the local newspaper, the salary is hard to resist. There's only one catch: she's expected to write about food.
Now Stella will need all the advice she can get to complete her assignments. Luckily, she has Jeremy, the hot new intern at her mom's restaurant, who's more than happy to help. Soon, Stella can't stop thinking about Jeremy--but where does that leave Stella's boyfriend, Max, who recently dropped the L-word? If that's not confusing enough, her dad's interest in the pretentious programming director of the Food Network seems to go beyond the culinary, and it looks like her mother might be cooking up a romance of her own….
The Sweet Life of Stella Madison is a warmhearted, delectable novel about what it means to love and be loved, especially when there are a few too many cooks in the kitchen.

Way way back in August, the FNC roadtripped down to Delaware to attend the release party for STELLA, and we were treated to delicious mini cupcakes and a fabulous reading from Lara. Seriously, I heard her reading the pages again as clearly as if it were yesterday, and it totally made me smile.

Most of you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Lara in person, but let me tell you ... she's a trip. Lara's funny in an effortless way -- a mix of silly and sarcastic that gives me the "I've been there" giggles -- and she's totally passionate about life. This comes through loud and clear in STELLA.

Lara has a fantastic voice as a writer. Her dialogue is the stuff to be envied, and Stella and every other character really rang true to me.

By the way, it's casually mentioned that Stella is a size 8-10 ... and she has ZERO body issues. Hallelujah.


I wanted to be BFFs with Stella, Olivia, and Kat. No lie. They had the kind of genuine, strong, supportive friendship that severely lacks in many YA novels. They understood each other's flaws, didn't take crap from one another, and provided much needed icewater-to-the-face honesty. With a hug.

The pacing was perfect, and even though STELLA was a quick read, it didn't feel at all like fluff. In fact, beneath the witty writing, there was a satisfying amount of depth. (Stella's parents aren't invisible OR one-dimensionally evil, but they sure have given her emotional issues. Plus, Stella has a humdinger of a love triangle. Yep, I said humdinger.) But that's what I've come to expect from Lara.

Also worth mentioning -- I usually despise first person, present tense narration because it completely distracts me. This may be the one and only time that STELLA MADISON and THE HUNGER GAMES ever get compared, but both Lara Zeises and Suzanne Collins managed to make that narration feel completely natural. Plus, they both created two male love interests that I can't choose between. (Peeta vs. Gale, meet Jeremy vs. Max.) Cue the awe.

And because it's nearly bedtime (oh yes, my Friday night loserdom includes passing out in a sleep coma before midnight), I'll just say this: the next time you're in the mood for a funny, well-written book with characters you'll wish would jump off the page and hang out with you, pick up THE SWEET LIFE OF STELLA MADISON. You won't be disappointed ... but you may get a little bit hungry.

(And the inventor of the midnight snack rests soundly in his grave.)

Want more Lara? Check out her interview with the First Novels Club and read her blog!
Buy THE SWEET LIFE OF STELLA MADISON on Barnes&Noble, Borders, and Indiebound.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ballad Review

Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater is the sequel/companion novel to Lament, read it's review HERE!


Remember us, so sing the dead, lest we remember you

James Morgan has an almost unearthly gift for music. And it has attracted Nuala, a soul-snatching faerie muse who fosters and then feeds on the creative energies of exceptional humans until they die. James has plenty of reasons to fear the faeries, but as he and Nuala collaborate on an achingly beautiful musical composition, James finds his feelings towards Nuala deepening. But the rest of the fairies are not as harmless. As Halloween—the day of the dead—draws near, James will have to battle the Faerie Queen and the horned king of the dead to save Nuala's life and his soul.

Maggie has really gotten her story telling technique down in Ballad. She stepped away from a single narrator (like Dee in Lament) and had Ballad told in alternate points of view (like Sam and Grace in Shiver). Ballad is told by James (Dee's best friend, super hot bag-piper omg I'm in love with you) and Nuala, a leanan sidhe fairy who is kind of a psychic vampire or a succubus stealing years off of men's lives in return for being their muse and inspiring amazing works of art or in James' case, beautiful bagpiping music. We also get to be a little bit in Dee's head by seeing some of her unsent text-messages to James.

I only have two complaints about Ballad:

1) It made me WISH that Maggie had written Lament in the same way. I'd love to have seen parts of the story from Luke's point of view!

And 2) This isn't so much a complaint as it was really hard to see the change in Dee's character from Lament, though if you know what happened in Lament, it's understandable.

But now onto the gushing.  I have a crush on this book! I do! It's just so lovely, there is nothing like Maggie's command of language. The romance is....Maggie Stiefvater romances are in their own category. She has this way of taking the most mundane moments and stretching them into something epic. The result is her characters are so realistic, I forget they are being written by a writer. They just are, they feel pain, they bleed, love, laugh, cry, and I'm right there with them. The love in her stories feel true. What else is great? Her stories are thoroughly character driven and they have to make tough choices, and it's their choices I think that take them to another level.

In Ballad James is working through his feelings for Dee, working through his feelings for Nuala, and also issues with his own self-worth, life as an artist, mortality and the mark he will leave on this world-all things that whether you are an artist or not yourself, you can relate to.

What's also great is James never feels like Dee. Maggie is great at writing disctinctive voices and including little gritty subleties that let you know a boy is narrating or a girl.

Seriously, I just completely fell in love with James, and I want more. I really hope that we will get to read more about Maggie's fairies soon. All of Maggie's books definitely have a spot in my re-read pile. Ballad was fantastic!

The Quarreling Couple

To the alchemists, they are Mercury and Sulphur, to the Regency Era, they are Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, and to a lot of people today, they are Ron and Hermione.

Ok, I'm veering a little off track from the Disney love here because the Quarreling Couple is one of my FAVORITES! And for some reason, Disney doesn't seem to know this about me. But Anastasia does...

....and so does a little movie called Quest for Camelot (and well, about 1,000 other romantic comedies).

Here is what I LOVE about this sort of couple. They not only find true love and live happily ever after, they also have...CHEMISTRY! And lots and lots of sexual tension. Ooooh! It takes an entire movie's worth of fighting and veiled flirting to get to the big kiss at the end.

Let's look at Anastasia and Dimitri. The minute these two meet, sparks are flying and so are the insults. What's even better....Dimitri is a con-artist, so not only is he lying to Anya, but he's using her and this gives him a nice cozy seat in the club of bad boys (no he's not quite so evil as Patch or as hungry as Edward or as snarky as Jace....but I'll take him!). While Dimitri is annoying the crap out of Anya, she is throwing every insult she can fling in his direction. It's typical kindergarten love. But how does this heighten the story? Well we all know that when a main character lies to another main character, at some point...the truth comes out! And when that truthful shitteth doth hit the fanneth, even more sparks are going to fly! But more importantly, it leads to a HEAP LOAD of character development, my favorite thing!

Dimitri plans to bring Anya to the grand duchess of Russia who is willing to pay a HUGE sum of money for the return of her granddaughter, missing since Rasputin (in a very interesting interpretation of history) destroyed all the Romanovs. Dimitri doesn't believe Anya is the real thing (but she is!). However, everything changes when he realizes he loves her and that she truly is the missing Anastasia.

Does he continue with his course? Does he take the reward money? And what happens when the love of his life is restored to her place amongst the royals and he remains a dirty con-artist? Should he forget the money and lie to Anya to stay with her? Or sacrifice his happiness for hers? He has some big choices to make, and they're not easy. Plus when he is exposed as a con...Anya is none too happy.

But then, as if things couldn't get steamy and intriguing enough, we're given a little icing on the cupcake. It turns out that Dimitri saved Anya's life as a little boy, and took a pretty bad beating for it too.

So what do we have? A sympathetic bad boy who is not just the prince that will offer a kiss at the end, but a guy with a head on his shoulders, a big heart and his own journey to complete.

Let's look at Anya, she has no memory of her past. All she wants is to find her family, but then when she starts to remember being the grand duchess Anastasia, she realizes her life is in danger. Oh and she is in love with Dimitri.

Can she resume her role as grand duchess? Will her grandmother believe it's her? Will her life be in danger? Will she ever see Dimitri again? Did he ever even love her or was he just helping her for the reward money?

But of course in the end...BIG KISS, true love, happily every after and a lifetime of fighting and flirtation to always keep them on their toes:-)

So I thought I'd count down my top ten favorite quarreling couples (in no real particular order)! The ones who really go at it, fight to the end and never ever let the other one-up them.

10.  Luke and Lorelai from Gilmore Girls

9. Henry and Danielle from Ever After

8. Katniss and Peeta from The Hunger Games who are technically not a quarreling couple but an actual FIGHTING couple

7. Kat and Patrick from 10 Things I Hate About You

6. Cher and Josh from Clueless

5. Dimitri and Anya from Anastasia

4. Kaylee and Garrett from Quest for Camelot

3. Ron and Hermione from Harry Potter

2. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice

1. Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy from Becoming Jane

Jane Austen really knew what she was doing!

Honorable mention: Westley and Buttercup, Clary and Jace, Buffy and Spike.
So who are your favorite quarreling, fighting, sparring, teasing couples?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Notes on a Conference PART 2: RUCCL One-on-One

Previously on ... the Rutgers One-on-One Conference: (What? You haven't read PART 1 yet? Get on it!)
When we left off, lunch had just ended and the Five-on-Five portion of the day had begun. So who were the five mentors at my table?

In addition to the lovely and aforementioned Julie Tibbott (my mentor), Editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Pamela Gruber, editorial assistant at Little, Brown & Co, the mentors were:

Stacey Barney, Editor at Penguin Putnam: She has this no-nonsense vibe that I completely respect. It seems like she has high standards AND a sense of humor, which is a great mix in an editor. Among many other YA and MG titles, she's edited DONUT DAYS and (the upcoming) BOYS, GIRLS, AND OTHER HAZARDOUS MATERIALS.

Christian Trimmer, Assistant Editor at Disney-Hyperion: He's so much fun and wears a bow tie spectacularly. But you can tell he knows what he's talking about. Talent and personality? I'm sold. He edits MG, graphic, and YA novels, including (the upcoming) THE GHOST AND THE GOTH and CARTER FINALLY GETS IT.

Margery Cuyler, Publisher at Marshall Cavendish: She has this incredible vision of cultivating talent and discovering new authors that's reflected in how Marshall Cavendish operates. You can tell she really believes in what she does. She's also written 45 books and has previously worked as an editor.

Basically, Five-on-Five operated in a Q&A format. Of course I was the first to raise my hand. (Twelve years of Catholic school -- I can't undo the hand-raising instinct.) Here's a brief, paraphrased recap.

I asked what their ideal author would do to market a book.
Christian: He recommended a web site, author Facebook page, and Twittering. He suggested working with local teachers and librarians and calling the Community Relations person at your local Barnes & Noble. Primarily, though, you need to keep your editor/publisher in the loop!
Margery: Emphasized the importance of publishers sending books to bloggers.
Julie: Recommended you send a list of your personal blog contacts or recommendations to your publisher -- they might not know everyone. Also, if you have a marketing plan, approach the publisher's marketing department with it to see if they can fund it with money from their marketing budget.
Pam: Reiterated that it's most important that you communicate your ideas and plans with your publisher to make sure there's no conflicts or conflicts of interest.

Another mentee asked about response times for unagented submissions.
Stacey: Admitted she had a slow response time for unsolicited submissions (months) because she had current projects and agented submissions to work on first.
Margery: Marshall Cavendish has a monthly meeting in which every employee gets together and they spend three hours reading slush (unagented submissions). There's still a 4-to-6-month turnaround, but 20% of their list comes from new talent.
Pam: Like many publishers, Little, Brown doesn't accept unsolicited submissions.

Question about author relationships.
Basically the consensus was that the majority of relationships are positive. Occasionally an author's head will get too big and cause trouble, but as long as an author is open to criticism and is willing to work with the editor, everything's peachy. Stacey pointed out that she calls every single author before offering them a deal because sometimes she can tell right away that they won't work well together, so it's in everyone's best interest to know beforehand.

Questions about preferred novel lengths / language & sex in novels.
Regarding length I think Stacey said, "After Harry Potter, anything goes." Everyone pretty much laughed and agreed. The consensus about word count AND language/sex --- if it's right for the novel, then it's right. Don't force language; don't be more wordy than necessary. If your work is true to itself, then the editor won't ask you to change it.

After the Five-on-Five, all that was left was the keynote by Judy Freeman, a well-known children's literature consultant. I didn't know what to expect, but I DIDN'T expect a sing-a-long or that many giggles. Judy's presentation had quite a few interactive elements (at one point we acted out pages from Mo Willem's ARE YOU READY TO PLAY OUTSIDE?), which was fun. She brought to my attention a lot of awesome picture books (I'm not well-versed in them at all), but she didn't mention much YA. However, there was a slide dedicated to the influence of a little series by Stephenie Meyer. Have you heard of it?

Anyway, to re-emphasize how this conference was made of awesome, here's a list of who sat around me during Judy's presentation:

Alvina Ling (Senior Editor) and Connie Hsu (Assistant Editor) from Little, Brown - Both of these ladies were incredibly sweet and chatted with me for a couple minutes, even though by that point I'm sure they were exhausted. The two of them have edited such excellent (and varied) books as WABI SABI, WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, and THE DEVOURING. Seriously, I love Little, Brown editors! They're wonderful! (Also, follow Alvina's blog if you don't already.)

Beth Fleisher and Joe Monti of Barry Goldblatt Literary - Together, they're 2/3 of the well-respected agency (Barry also attended, but I didn't get a chance to meet him formally). Barry Goldblatt Literary represents YA authors such as Libba Bray, Robin Wasserman, Cassandra Clare, and Lauren Myracle. (One moment - let me pick my jaw up off the floor.)

One of my goals at the conference was to speak with agents, but because of the lunchtime setup, I hadn't gotten a chance. Because Beth and Joe (two agents I'd REALLY wanted to meet) were RIGHT THERE, I knew I'd regret it if I didn't at least introduce myself. They were nice enough to talk with me at the very end of the conference, and Beth even encouraged an impromptu pitch. Beth, I'd like to publicly apologize for probably sounding like a bumbling idiot, because I think I got about 50% of my point across. (I REALLY need to work on translating my passion for my novel into a pitch.)

After that, it was time to leave. I walked past the BUSLOAD of editors and agents ready to head back to NYC (and resisted the urge to sneak onboard) and got in my car to drive the hour back home. My conclusion? Totally worth it. Of course, I regret not meeting more agents, but the editors I met were fantastic, and I feel like I got my money's worth 196%. And next time, I'll be ready to pitch.

My top three pieces of advice for a mentoring conference:
(1) Be prepared: It's not stalking. It's preparation. Do you want to go home filled with regret because of a missed opportunity? Plus, research means an increased chance of easy conversation pieces. The other side of "be prepared" means to know what you want to work on/discuss with your mentor. This is invaluable time you have -- don't waste it!
(2) Make the first move: Your dream agent/editor will most likely not fall into your lap. (Unless you trip him/her, which I SERIOUSLY discourage.) Take a risk! Walk up and politely introduce yourself. What's the worst that could happen? (You could vomit and pass out, yes. But hey, that's memorable. Imagine that query letter - I met you at the conference in July. I was the one who puked on your shoes.)
(3) Keep an open mind: Just because someone ISN'T your dream agent/editor doesn't mean you shouldn't take full advantage of being in their presence. Get to know them - even if they edit MG and you write picture books - there's nothing wrong with networking! You never know what could come of it, even if it's just a great conversation.

I wish I'd also found the time to meet these agents:
Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary
Victoria Horn, Liza Dawson Associates
Tracy Marchini, Curtis Brown Ltd.
Beth Miller, Writers House
Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Agency
Elana Roth, Caren Johnson Literary Agency
Joanne Stampfle-Volpe, Nancy Coffey Literary
Becca Stumpf, Prospect Agency
Emily Van Beek, Pippin Properties
Anna Webman, Curtis Brown Ltd.
Tina Wexler, ICM
Marietta Zacker, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency

This list breaks my heart, but at least attending the conference allows me to query them! And if you think this list is long, there were even MORE editors I didn't get to meet. Sigh. But I think I did pretty well for myself, considering the time I had, and I'm so so happy that I applied!

(Thanks to Theresa Martin Golding for suggesting the conference!)

Want more RUCCL? Read Alvina's take on the day on her blog.
Any questions I didn't answer? Comment with them below!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Notes on a Conference: RUCCL One-on-One

As promised, here's the full dish on the Rutgers One-on-One conference . First off, I was ecstatic to even be attending, because you had to apply, and only 70-something authors and illustrators were accepted (based off a writing sample and college admissions-esque essay). Which meant that there were 70-something editors and agents in attendance as mentors. Talk about intimidating and awesome.

What did I do to prepare? After the initial jumping up and down when I received the acceptance letter ("They like me! They really like me!"), I knew I was going to do some hefty research. There was a list online of all the mentors, and I wanted to know a bit about them and who they edit/represent before walking into the conference.

* I'm one of those people who need to be organized to feel competent and in control, so yeah, research. Love me some Googling. Plus, it helped me narrow down a list of people I really wanted to speak with.

And then ... it was Saturday.

My One-on-One mentor was Julie Tibbott, an editor from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She was impossibly friendly, wonderful, and helpful, and has thus prejudiced me against any editor who's anything less. Julie and I spent our 45-minute One-on-One session discussing possibilities for my query letter, which I've been fighting with for months now. She gave me some great suggestions and a fresh perspective, and also had some positive feedback on the pages I'd sent in with my application (yay!).

Julie's responsible for acquiring such lovely books as Sydney Salter's MY BIG NOSE AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS, Marlene Perez's DEAD IS... series, and the upcoming THE CLEARING (by Heather Davis, author of NEVER CRY WEREWOLF).

During lunch, we were assigned to the tables of our Five-on-Five groups, but we mentees were free to wander about and chat with whomever we wanted. Now, there wasn't much wandering, which disappointed me because it meant that the mentors rarely had a free moment. Basically my options were: (1) hover and interrupt or (2) seek out the people on my list who were miraculously unoccupied for five minutes. I chose #2.

Look who I met!

Ruta Rimas, Assistant Editor at Balzer & Bray (new HarperCollins imprint)
I looked for Ruta because Balzer & Bray published THE SHIFTER, and you all know how much the FNC loves Janice Hardy. Ruta also loves Janice, and we happily chatted about the book for a few minutes. Ruta = awesome. And we took a picture together to say hi to Janice.

Hi Janice!

Yeah, Ruta's way cooler than I am.
Balzer & Bray is also responsible for Amy Huntley's THE EVERAFTER, so they're definitely an imprint to look out for. (3 of the 6 books on B&B's launch list were from debut authors!)

I also met editor Gretchen Hirsch, who was Kimberly Derting's editor when she worked at HarperCollins. (She's now with Atheneum/McElderry.) Pretty much I just thanked her for helping to bring THE BODY FINDER into existence. Yay Kim! (Gretchen's also responsible for JESSICA'S GUIDE TO DATING ON THE DARK SIDE.)

And since my Five-on-Five table mentors were also fabulous, I spent the rest of lunch chatting it up with both Julie Tibbott and Pamela Gruber. Pam's an editorial assistant at Little, Brown, & Co. She was also born and raised just outside of Philly, which automatically makes her cool. Plus, she let me ramble on endlessly about books I was reading and how the idea of talking to agents intimidated me. Pam currently works with picture books and novelty books, but she's interested in acquiring YA in the future.
And LB&C has quite the YA list! They published this little series called TWILIGHT, but that's not even the half of it. How about - HATE LIST, ONCE WAS LOST, PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS, ASH, TWENTY BOY SUMMER, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, THE DEVOURING, and THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN?

Yeah, I thought so.

Julie and Pam agreed to take a lovely picture with me so that you guys could see firsthand how nice they are.

I don't look overeager AT ALL.

And then it was time for Five-on-Five.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

I Came, I Saw, I Conferenced.

So I spent my Saturday in Piscataway, NJ for the much-awaited Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature (RUCCL) One-on-One Plus Conference. Since it's a mentoring conference, there were equal amounts of editors & agents as there were aspiring (and some published) authors/illustrators. All I can say Seriously, the mentors in attendance were all kinds of important and awesome. (At one point, I was sitting in the auditorium surrounded by 2 agents and 2 editors that are totally on my to-be-queried list. Eek!)

Anyway, I'm quite exhausted, so a detailed post (with pictures!) will be up Sunday or Monday, so keep an eye out for it, because it'll be chock full of lovely details about these fabulous people and how I mostly didn't make a fool of myself.

Last but not least, I thought you might want to know that I almost rear-ended someone on my way home. Why? Well, I realized that the DVD player in the SUV in front of me was playing Beauty and the Beast, and I got a littttttle too close trying to see what scene they were on.

Anyone else ever almost get into a car accident watching someone else's movie? Those things are dangerous, I'm telling you.

Now it's time to relax and read some Soulless. Or The Shifter. Or both. I can't decide! Shiny new books, you torment me...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vampire Diaries Recap: Episode 6

Last time on the Vampire Diaries...
Elena: Stefan is not a vampire!
Montage Scene
Elena: No! He's not!
Elena: No, no, no, no, no he's not!
(The CW must have heard how excited I was for the montage scene, because they showed it AGAIN!)

Elena runs to the Salvatore House to find Stefan and confront him and...White light!

Flashback! To Mystic Falls in the year that Stefan was a human:
Ooooh it's going to be one of those episodes. YES! Reminds me of Angelus and Darla, awww.

That 1800's hairdo is not working for you, bud. Niether is the jacket. Where's the leather? Oh human were so uncool!

Oh Hai Elena Katherine! Your dress is very pretty. Love the hair!

Present Day Mystic Falls:
Elena: What are you? What are you? OMG what are you?
Stefan: Say it! Out loud!
Elena: No!
Stefan: Damn! It worked so well when Edward did it. Ok, fine! I'll tell you. But just so you know...all of that stuff in Twilight is wrong. Also the stuff they showed in Buffy, totally wrong. Oh and some things you read in Anne Rice? Also wrong. Baby, I'm going to change your life when I tell you the real deal.
Elena: Oh no you won't, Vampire. I'm leaving!

Stefan: (Super vampire speed move!)
Elena: Aaaaaaaaaah!

Dead Townie Druggie Bonfire:
Damon: Mmmmmmm yummy, blood. OOh alcohol. FIRE!

While Damon is burning the bodies of his victims he calls Stefan.

Damon: Yo bro, sup? Had the buffet, it's delish! WHERE'S MY RING PRECIOUSSSSS!
Stefan: Finders keepers, losers weepers.
Damon:Fine the whisky is mine! Oh Hai Vickie, you're not dead-again. Do you want to be....undead? Muahahahahaha.
Damon's Eyebrows: Are excited

Elena's House:
Stefan is lurking around outside her window while she sleeps. I told you that you needed to do that Stefan, like 3 episodes ago! Glad you got with the program.

Elena and Stefan Do Lunch:
Elena: Facebook quiz-Vampire Edition! Bats? Coffins? Sunlight? Garlic? BLOOD?
Stefan: Myth, myth, legend, fallacy, salacious rumor! Oh, that one's true.
Elena: Are there more of you? Am I going to be picked up off a baseball field and dragged away by some traveling vampire who wants a snack?
Stefan: No of course not, I don't even play baseball
Elena: Oh that's a relief. Ok so you and Damon are the only ones. The ONLY vampires in Mystic Falls. (Yeah sure Elena, now you know there's going to be another one)

Dead Townie Druggie Bonfire:
Kyle XY's Mom, that other guy, and the Ex-newscaster gather.

Ex-newscaster: I got the watch! Let the mojo doing begin!
Kyle XY's Mom: Good, because that Vickie girl is still alive!

Salvatore House:
Damon: Ugh, I'm so bored! I've already done my eyebrow workout. Where's my ring. Where's Stefan? I have my best one-liners when I'm with him. Pout. Ok I guess I'll replace him. Here Vickie, drink the nice blood.

Stefan and Elena in the middle of nowhere that didn't use to be nowhere, but used to be Stefan's home.

Is it time for another flashback scene? Ooh goody!

Elena: How old are you?
Stefan: 17
Elena: No stupid, how ooooooold are you?
Stefan: really, really, really old.

Flashback: Mystic Falls in the Year that Stefan was Human:
This is also the year that Damon wore suspenders!

And Elena Katherine is a flirt, naughty naugty all this talk about rough play.

Elena Katherine: Hehehehe take me to the ball boys...both of you.

Back at the Salvatore's:
Vickie took a shower! She is clean, she is wearing peek-abu bootie undie-shorts. And she is feeling GOOOOD!

Back to the Year that Stefan was a Human:
Oooooh things are steaming up...Elena Katherine and Stefan sex scene turns into Katherine vampiring Stefan. Stefan's O-face OMG-you're-biting-me-face is almost identical to Angelus's...

The next morning: Katherine is laced up in the sort of corset that would make Elizabeth Swan faint. And her hair looks FABULOUS!
Stefan is pissed about the vampirizing. But not so pissed after he's been compelled...

Vampire Mojo Time
Got the pocket watch? Great now let me take it apart and re-assemble it into a super secret vampire tracker device.
Ex-newscaster: Hello! It's called a compass.

Dancing with the Vampires: AKA The Greatest Scene EVER!
Vickie and Damon decide to dance around the Salvatore House in the best sequence I have EVER seen! They hold hands, they frolick, they do the dirty dancing. And then they have a pillow fight!

Damon's hips: Swivel

Vickie's Body: Spins

Then Damon sees a picture of Katherine and now the party is over.

Damon: Damn, whore you suck. You know what would be awesome?!? Death!

Vickie: Neck Snap...DEAD!

At Elena's:
Jeremy: Vickie, what's wrong? What are you high on? It's the middle of the day.
Vickie: Out of the way lover boy. Kiss me, feed me! Augh, sun it burns. Oooh food.
Jeremy: Wow you're really messed up, even for you. I'm calling your brother.

Matt: OMG, what is she high on now?
Vickie: I'm teething!
Stefan and Elena show up and Stefan knows immediately what's wrong because he's a vampire and he knows these things.
Stefan: Everybody back. I've seen this before. Vickie is just transitioning into a vampire. Psssh. No biggie.
And NO ONE notices or questions Stefan's sudden expertise in drugs vampire transitions.
Stefan: Get her upstairs. Stat!

Vickie and Jeremy up in bed. Uh-oh that hug has landed her face unecessarily close to his neck. She is about to vampirize him, but she doesn't. Go Vickie. And Stefan leaves to track her down and keep her from drinking blood.

Ex-newscaster: Come on magic compass, tell me where the vampires are.

At Elena's:
Damon at the door!
Elena: Get out of here! Go away I hate you, OMG!
Damon: Dont look at me with those judgy little eyes.
Elena: Just go.
Damon's Eyebrows: Are Enthusiastic

In the Woods: Vickie's Vampire Transition Breakdown:
Ok I feel really bad for Vickie right now. Poor girl. But it's ok because Stefan is going to help you. But then Stefan gets SHOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And the ex-newscaster is there with his stake! Oh noes!

Damon: Nobody kills my brother but me! Augh!
Stefan: NOOOOO!
Vickie: Has vampirized the ex-newscaster. Aunt Jenna will be PISSED!

Back at Elena's (again):
Elena: Thanks for explaining about vampires to me. But I think we should see other people.

Stefan: What,'m a sexy centuries old vampire. And I'm vegetarian!

Elena: I am not a Mary Sue!

Stefan is Stunned!

Elena is Heartbroken. How many minutes into the next episode you think until they get back together?

Next week: Vampire Vickie terrorizes the town and Caroline is pissed because no one noticed her sexy cat costume.

Also completely MIA this episode: Bonnie, Aunt Jenna, and Caroline. Where my girls at?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

As promised... YA Villain Study: Gaston from Beauty and the Beast

Let's face it, everyone loves a good bad guy. After all, what's a hero without a villain? Imagine Superman without Lex Luthor. Harry Potter without Lord Voldemort (or Draco Malfoy or Snape, for that matter). Wesley without Prince Humperdinck. Dorothy without the Wicked Witch. Stefan Salvatore without Damon. Clarice Starling without Hannibal Lecter. Old Yeller without rabies. (Did I go too far? Alright, lemme hear it: "awwwwwwwwww.")

Truly great villains enhance heroes. Test them. Force them to make difficult choices. Make both the hero and the reader question who they are and what they know. A one-dimensional villain does none of that. (The Wicked Witch is very close to this, but she's green, so we forgive her. But you can totally see why Gregory Maguire had the urge to write Wicked.)

*Side note - You don't have to have some epic story with a clear-cut, monstrous villain or antagonist for this post to relate to you. After all, every character should have a little bit of a villain in them, right? So readers and writers of contemporary realistic fiction, never fear! I'm one of you!

Anywho, today we're focusing on Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, examining him as if he were a villain in a modern Young Adult novel. Why?
1.) I'm obsessed with Beauty and the Beast. Common knowledge.
2.) Everyone knows Disney movies. Easy example.
3.) Gaston is both a good and bad villain, so he works well for my purposes.
4.) Did I mention I'm obsessed with Beauty and the Beast?

What do we know about Gaston?
He's the town hottie, and he knows it. Quite a brute though, but the townspeople have this love/fear relationship with him. In the song "Gaston," they start off by saying that he's "perfect, a pure paragon" and "everyone's favorite guy" ... but then we learn more. He basically intimidates them because he's a bully. (Remember that kid you hated in school? That's him. Gaston stole your lunch money. Then he took steroids, popped his collar, and became that mean dumb jock in high school who snagged everyone's girlfriend.) People hang on to him and suck up to him because he has power.

So when the ever-shallow Gaston sees Belle, he thinks: "Hark! Arm candy!" But his oh-so-romantic proposal (the idea of giving foot rubs and seven boys running around really makes a girl's knees wobble) doesn't work because Belle wants something a little more evolved in a husband. She politely declines. Apparently she never got the town memo that "no one says no to Gaston!"

Enter Gaston the Uber-Villain. (Say that in a Terminator accent, please.) Now Belle has to pay, because she humiliated him. Who does he go after? First her eccentric father, then her exceptionally hairy, fanged boyfriend. Eek!

Why Gaston's a Good Villain
He provides a wonderful foil to the Beast, who is the unconventional hero in this story. The fairy tale teaches that beauty is only skin deep, and not to judge on appearances alone. Therefore, if the gorgeous, manly specimen is truly "beastly" within, then the hideous beast can be a kind, learned gentleman who spouts Whitman at will and understands that sometimes all a woman needs is dark chocolate and a bubble bath. Ahem. Basically, their contrasts enhance each other.

Why Gaston's a Crappy Villain
Did someone say one-dimensional? We get it, he's a shallow meanie. Duh. There are SO MANY things we don't know about him. First off, how did he become so darn proud and entitled? What made him so obsessed with his looks? Was he a scrawny kid who got teased but then hit puberty first? What kind of family does he come from -- large/small? poor/rich? I want to know! (Stomps foot.) Does he have any goals or dreams for himself? (Perhaps Mr. Universe aspirations?) Has he ever had a real friend?

What would really really make Gaston an awesome villain is if he actually had some humanity, some depth. What if Gaston were the kind of guy that Belle could fall in love with? Maybe he loves reading too, so they have a real connection, but then Belle realizes that he's not a very nice person. Then Gaston's obsession with her is more legitimate, and he has a reason to feel betrayed when she chooses the Beast. Never underestimate the power of sympathy when dealing with a complex villain. That's why we all love Lex Luthor -- he used to be Superman's best friend. And Snape being in love with Harry's mother? Classic.

Or, if a character's going to be all evil, at least give him some real personality! See Hannibal Lecter and Prince Humperdinck. Throw Bellatrix Lestrange in that group too. She's all sorts of awesome.

In Conclusion...
I love Gaston, I do. But he had all this villain potential just frittered down the drain. (Do you hear me, Disney? FRITTERED!) The Beast, in my opinion, is way more appealing of a hero than Prince Charming because he's constantly fighting the darkness within. Gaston, as the bad guy, lacks the opposing complexity that he deserves.

*Addendum: I still totally enjoyed when he fell off the side of the castle and died, though.

You Tell Me
So who are some of your favorite villains from YA, classic lit, TV, movies, etc?

Post by the Numbers
Ah-nold Schwarzenegger references: 2
Books mentioned that became movies/TV shows/plays: 6
Snarky asides: 5
Random uses of bold font: 7
Kickass images made on the Paint program: 1

Post about YA villain writing on Teens Writing for Teens
Article on The Motives of Villains and Heroes
FNC YA Character Study: Aladdin
FNC YA Character Study: Ariel
FNC YA Character Study: Belle
FNC Jacket Copy for YA Beauty and the Beast
FNC Disney Princes Smackdown: Charming vs. Philip
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