Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The end-of-year book binge -- help, please!

Well, hi! I've missed you guys!

Life and the holidays have swept me (and the other FNC-ers) away from the blog as of late, but we'll be back in full force soon enough.

Until then, I'm on a book binge, and I need some suggestions!

In the past week, I've read Last Sacrifice (OMGGGG Richelle Mead thank youuuuu) and I FINALLY read Before I Fall --- soooo lived up to the hype (Lauren Oliver, I'm your newest fan). And now I'm starting on my ARC of Across the Universe, which promises to be a stellar debut. (Hi, Beth!)

And then....... well, there are SO MANY books on my shelves that I haven't read yet. Can you guys tell me which you loved, so I know in which order I should read them?

Here's my list, in no particular order:

Ballad, Maggie Stiefvater
Inside Out, Maria V Snyder
Flash Burnout, LK Madigan
An Abundance of Katherines, John Green
Mostly Good Girls, Leila Sales
Jellicoe Road, Melina Marchetta
My Invented Life, Lauren Bjorkman
Love is the Higher Law, David Levithan


Alright, tell me your favorite(s) in the comments, please! Anything else awesome I should read? Did you get any great books for the holidays?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

No Kiss Blogfest!

Do you want an awesome spine-tingly day of this?

Do you want to get your heart racing, and your swoon factor sky-rocketing like you do when see this?


Or a day of moments like this that will make you scream "OMG JUST KISS ALREADY!!!!!!"

Or "WTF GET OUT OF THERE AND LET THEM KISSSSSSSSS"


Then you clearly need to sign up for the NO KISS BLOGFEST!!! 

Get ready, it's coming January 2nd, 2011! The swoon will grab you!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Contemporary YA spotlight: A.S. King and Josh Berk signing recap

Here are two YA authors to add to your TBR pile/Christmas list: A.S. King and Josh Berk.

A.S. (Amy) King is the author of DUST OF 100 DOGS and the newly-released PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ. Josh Berk's YA debut is THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN.

Why people more important than us think you should pay attention!
- VERA DIETZ has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist! Amy joked, "It's critically acclaimed, which is a really strange thing to say -- the critics have acclaimed it."
- HAMBURGER HALPIN also received a starred review from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and it was part of Kirkus Reviews' prestigious list of 2010 Best Books for Children and Teens!

Frankie and I had heard great things about their books -- but we wanted to know more! So when the authors came to our fave local(ish) indie, Chester County Book & Music Co., we made sure to be there.

AWESOME BOOK DETAILS
FOR READERS:

PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ - Eighteen-year-old Vera's spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she's kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything. So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, or even the police. But will she emerge and clear his name? Does she even want to? (from Amy's blog)

THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN is the story of Will Halpin, an overweight deaf teen who spends his first year at a mainstream high school looking for love, failing Algebra, unraveling the school's social scene, trying to get invited to the greatest party ever … and, oh yeah, solving a murder. (from Josh's website)


AWESOME WRITERLY DETAILS
FOR WRITERS: 

Beyond being very funny, Amy and Josh had great insights into the business, so of course we took notes for you guys! Here's the rundown on main points of their talk:

Their paths to writing YA:
JOSH: Josh, like many authors, started off wanting to write the great American novel. His first novel had a dual POV -- half teen, half adult. Then while getting a Masters in Library Science degree, he took children's/YA lit classes and realized that what he was writing was more YA. HAMBURGER HALPIN was his third novel, and his first sold.

AMY: Amy wrote 7 novels over 15 years before becoming a published author. Most were adult novels with teen protagonists. Her agent sent novel #6 to a YA imprint, and she changed the MC's age from 23 to 19. It sold! Her seventh book was the first written solely for a YA audience.
Amy, Josh, Frankie and I

Agreeing to disagree:
- Amy's begun doing character sheets for recent novels. Josh hates them.
- Josh thinks query letters are pretty easy. Amy thinks they're really, really hard.

How they capture the teen voice:
JOSH: He listens in on kids' conversations. Plus, universal things never change. Slang, technology, and pop culture do, but the basic struggles and traumas are the same.

AMY: She looks back at herself as a teen. She had traumatic teen years, and part of her is still stuck there. She checks in with her nieces for pop culture references and slang.

While writing...
JOSH: Anytime he's stuck, he writes, "And then a bunch of crap happens." He jokes he'll name a book that one day.

AMY: Writes "add" in the places that need more detail.

The excellent cover for the paperback version,
available this June!
JOSH: He doesn't schedule writing time. He has a full-time job and young kids, so he writes whenever he can.... even in traffic! He has to turn off the internet to write.

Advice:
AMY: Pay for Backspace! It's worth it. And she goes by Miss Snark's rule --- get 100 rejections before giving up.

Lessons learned so far:
- You must understand your genre. And publishing today kinda requires a literary agent.
- Your first book should always stand alone.
- Don't be afraid to follow your own rules. (Amy wrote a blog series called The Writer's Middle Finger about this: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
- Josh and Amy agreed on one major thing --- as a writer, all you can 100% control is the quality of your next book. You have to go with the flow. Amy's first agent switched agencies, then she switched agents, and she's also switched publishers. Josh is with the same agent, but his agent has switched agencies. Editors leave, agents change, you can't control distribution of your book, etc. Write the best book possible, then go out and meet people to spread the word -- independent booksellers, librarians, teachers.


In conclusion, the signing was delightful -- I got a signed copy of both VERA DIETZ and HAMBURGER HALPIN (thanks, Joanne!), and I can't wait to read them!!!

Frankie with Joanne, one of our fave indie bookseller/writer/blogger friends!

And just in case we hadn't convinced you...... trusted book bloggers love these books!

Links with which to stalk support and learn more about our new author friends:
A.S. KING:
Blog / Website / Twitter / Buy PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ

JOSH BERK:
Blog (which you should totally check out because Josh mentioned meeting us) / Website / Twitter / Buy THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Agent Interview! Laura Blake Peterson of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

Check out the GLA blog for my interview with veteran literary agent Laura Blake Peterson of Curtis Brown, Ltd.!

Find out the three biggest synopsis mistakes she sees, why she stops reading partials, the top three industry websites she recommends that her prospective clients read, and more!

(Keep an eye out for more GLA interviews by yours truly in the coming weeks!)

Previous agent interviews of mine on the GLA blog:
Elana Roth 
Andrea Somberg 
William Clark

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Vampire Diaries: By The Light Of The Moon

Lockwolf Mansion

I already know this is going to be the BEST. EPISODE. EVER! Why? Because Mason’s Werewolves Gone Wild video is playing on repeat in Tyler’s room! WOOHOO!
Meanwhile, Tyler is grabbing all sorts of things to aide his transformation. And one more call to Mason.

Mason’s Phone: This number has been disconnected on account of Mason is dead.

Tyler: Why don’t you EVER answer your phone!

And then…some girl is listening to the message….intrigue…

La Casa De Gilbert

Bonnie: The most important thing we can do is destroy the spell in the moonstone

Elena: Actually, my boyfriend’s in a tomb. And I can’t have sex.

Bonnie: You broke up with him.

Elena: I’m fickle in this episode.

Bonnie: *hides the moonstone in her purse*

Jeremy: Elena, FYI, my suicide mission last episode was better than yours!

Bonnie: I’m out of here. *leaves behind purse* whistles*

Elena: *steals the moonstone* HAHA! Suicide mission! Here I come!

Bonnie: You totes stole the moonstone!

Elena: Ummm….no?

Bonnie’s Bag: I’ve been robbed!

Bonnie: Since your decision making skills are made of fail this season, I’ve decided to witch you permanently inside your house.

Elena: WHAT! *bangs on air* FML

Tomb of You Can Not Leave. Ever

Stefan: You witched her into her house?

Damon: I imagine it’s more comfortable than being witched into a tomb. Here’s a care package, candles, irons, condoms, blood.

Katherine: Klaus is totally going to kill you.

Damon: I’m practically the main star, I can’t die.

Stefan: Just keep Elena safe.

Damon: *wiggles eyebrows* Oh I will.

Lockwolf Mansion

Jules: I’m a friend of Mason’s from Florida. He never came home.

Tyler: :O

The Only Restaurant in Mystic Falls

Aunt Jenna: What are we doing in this scene?

Alaric: Attempting to establish this week’s plot point.

Aunt Jenna: Oh right. Is it working?

Alaric: Nah, we’d better make out instead.

Tyler: Caroline, this girl Jules I’ve never seen before said Mason never went to Florida.

Caroline: We’d better go get your wolf on. *secret head nod at Alaric*

Alaric: I do have a purpose in this episode!

Elena’s House of You Can Not Leave. Ever.

Damon: Haha, you’re locked in your house and you can’t come out.

Elena: I hate you.

Damon: You looooove me. You want to kiiiiiiissss me.

Elena: I still hate you.

Alaric Calls: Damon, everyone knows Mason is dead missing

Damon: GG, Jeremy, babysit your sister.

Lockwolf Plantations/Woods/Fields

Tyler: *unloads wolf gear*

Caroline: I’m sure Mason is still alive and that I have no knowledge at all of other vampires killing him dead 5 episodes ago. Nope. None at all.

Lockwolf Mansion:

Jules: Let me know please if you hear anything. Where’s your son?

Mrs. Lockwood: What do you want with my son?

Jules: I’m here to deliver him a pair of jorts.

Jules then drives her truck away and pulls over and calls someone and is all like, yeah, Mason is totally dead and also his nephew’s a werewolf.

The Only Restaurant in Mystic Falls

Jules: Hello good men of town. Do you know Mason?

Damon: So, Alaric – wolf? Or not a wolf?

Alaric: Here’s some wolfsbane. Let’s find out.

Werewolves Gone Wild: Transformation Chamber

Caroline: Did you even read the instruction manual on these chains?

Tyler: Yeah, how to restrain a werewolf, page five. Hand me some wolfsbane…AAAAAAAAAH! It burns us! We can’t eats it.

Caroline: I’ll put it in water.

Tyler: Is shirtless.

Frankie: FINALLY!

Caroline: Woah woah…with the nekkidness.

Frankie: SHHHHHH

Tyler: Um, I’m pretty sure I don’t get to keep my pants in this.

Jacob Black: WHY aren’t you wearing jorts?

Meanwhile Bonnie makes her way over to Warlock Junior’s house whose name I still don’t care enough to use…Luka or whatever. Anyway, he’s all like WTF did you channel me against my will, Woman! I gave you the big O the other day and that was so not cool because you almost made me dead, but I’m alive, so you’re forgiven. Also all witch’s grimoires is belongs to us! Want to do a spell?

Bonnie: Let’s break this curse! *produces moonstone*

The Only Restaurant In Mystic Falls

Alaric: I’m drunkers. Want a drink.

Jules: Ummm

Damon: Excuse me Miss, is this fail-drunk harassing you.

Jules: No.

Damon: OMG! What is that really BIG thing behind you?

Alaric: *wolfies her drink*

Jules: I don’t see anything. You guys are weird.

The Tomb of Hot Sex: But Only In Your Dreams

Katherine: Not drinking blood is the suxor. You won’t like it.

Stefan: Shut up.

Katherine: I’m bored? Sex? *strips*

Stefan: You can’t tempt me!

Katherine: Oh yeah…

*NO SHIRTS*

**KISSING**

***UP AGAINST THE WALL***

The Wall: oomph

Lamesauce! It’s just Katherine messing with Stefan’s dreams. I guess there really won’t be Team Satherine.

Elena’s House of Not Leaving. Ever.

Elena: Aunt Jenna? Seriously, what are you doing in this episode?

Aunt Jenna: Inadvertently helping the bad guy.

Elijah: HI!

Elena: AAAAAAAAAH!

Elijah: Elena, nice to meet you. Let’s have a chat…

Meanwhile back at The Only Restaurant in Mystic Falls, Damon is failing at convincing Jules to drink her Wolfied Drink….

The Dungeon of Teenage Werewolves

Tyler is all chained up and freaking out! He looks hot! And Caroline is trying to comfort him and OMG this whole scene is painful and romantic and emotional and gah!

Jacob Black: I remember how upset I was over my first transformation.

Tyler: You had an EFFING fever! *arm cracks* This is NOT the same!

Caroline: Jacob Black, go home!

Jacob Black: *Wolf-splosion*

Caroline: *Tyler-hair stroke*

Awwwww

Elena’s House of You Let the Bad Guy in AGAIN You Idiot!

Elijah: So I’m not going to kill you.

Elena: Duh! I’m the star of the show. I’m invincible.

Elijah: Fine, then just stop with these suicide mission storylines. Just be a normal girl, and I’ll draw out Klaus and do the killing thing. Also lots of witches have your back. Deal?

Elena: One more thing…

Elijah: Seriously? You want to negotiate with ME?

Elena: *star of the show*

Witchcraft 101: Candles on a Rooftop

Warlock Junior: Ready to do some spells?

Bonnie: Yayyyy witch-gasm!

Warlock Junior: Oh yeah.

The Moonstone: Wait…why am I floating? AAAH! I’m exploding! I’m exploding! Stop the explosions, I am Season 2’s plot device! *calls agent*

Dungeons and Werewolves

Tyler:AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Caroline: OMG OMG OMG It will be ok!

Tyler: *arm snap* *hairy arm growth*

Awww, poor poor Tyler!

The Only Restaurant In Mystic Falls

Damon: It puts the drink in its mouth, it puts the drink in its mouth.

Jules: *picks up drink* ARE YOU SERIOUS?!? You Wolfied my drink. That’s it! Full moon! You’ve been MARKED, vampire!


The Dungeon of My Werewolf Transformation Hurts Worse Than Yours, Jacob Black

AAAH! Caroline is holding shirtless, convulsing Tyler while he FREAKS out and his bones explode and his teeth grow in and she’s trying to calm him down but then he starts breaking chains and biting and YELLOW EYES! Abort! Abort! Caroline locks Tyler in and she’s crying and SAD, but girl, do NOT get bit! Because you’ll die! Ok? Whew, Caroline is safe!

Tyler: Is a wolf


Outside The Only Restaurant

Damon: I’ve been marked? What the hell kind of crap is that?

Alaric: Dude, I don’t know. I used to be a vampire hunter, but this season I’m only good for being an idiot and misleading viewers in the promos about having a purpose in the plot.

Damon: Go home.

Salvatore Mansion:

Damon: *hears noise* *searches for wolves*

Rose: Hey! I came back.

Damon: What do you want?

Rose: Well, it’s the mid-season finale and my Breaking Dawn audition kind of failed.

Damon: Ok fine, but I’m telling you…side characters on this show either die, or inherit stupid storylines.

Rose: I can live with that

Windows: ARE SMASHED!

Jules-Wolf: RRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWRRRRRR

Damon: I told you.

Rose: NOOOOOOO! I want the stupid storyline! Stupid storyline! Stupid storyline!

Jules-Wolf: *om nom vampire shoulder nom*

Rose: AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!

Jules-Wolf: *window jump*

Damon: Oh look, your wound didn’t make you dead.

Rose: Sweet! Stupid storyline, here I come!

House of Magic
Daddy Warlock: Did you trick the witch?

Warlock Junior: Yeah, here’s the moonstone.

The Moonstone: YAY! I’m alive!

Daddy Warlock: Ok, before you go do your math homework, Elijah needs a favor…

The Tomb Of OMFG Can I Get Out Already?

Stefan: Katherine, you suck!

Katherine: Not true. I love you.

Stefan: Prove that there’s something good about you.

Katherine: If you want to find Klaus and protect Elena, start with Isobel – she found me, she can find anyone.

Alaric: Did you say Isobel? My ex-dead-vampire wife? WOOOHOO! I may have a purpose this season after all!

Stefan: How’d you get in this cave?

Alaric: *whistles*

Elijah: Hello, Katerina.

Katherine: AAAAAH!

Elijah: Anyway, Elena decided to free you Stefan, so you can leave. But Katherine, you must stay in here FOREVER. Until Klaus kills you.

Katherine: OMG, Stefan don’t leave me!

Stefan: GG

The Morning After The Werewolf Chamber of Secrets

Tyler: Caroline?

Caroline: Tyler? OMG you’re naked! Here’s a blanket. *post-wolf snuggles*

Tyler: *cries*

House of Elena

Stefan: I’m FREE!

Elena: Let’s have sex!

The Black: There’s nothing to see here, move along, move along

Salvatore Mansion

Rose: So I’m going to stay here with you and help Elena.

Damon: Stupid storyline ahoy!

Rose: Also we can be friends with benefits?

Damon: Ok! *removes her robe* Umm…I think you’re back to side character who dies.

Rose: What?

Wound: I’m killing you a lot.

Rose: Crap!

FIN!

Epic Contest of Epicness!

Hey everyone --

Have you been over to Beth Revis's blog lately?  She's holding the most epic contest for the upcoming release of Across the Universe!

So check out Beth's blog and enter!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Getting Personal

We don't get too personal here at the FNC.

Sure, we talk about our house renovations, and our bad days, and our wedding plans, and our embarrassing moments, and our joys and struggles in writing and revising, but we keep it relatively detached from the nitty-gritty of our personal lives, and we keep it focused on the writing.

And we should--that's what we're all here to talk about, after all.

But this can be tricky, because, at least for me, the personal life and the writing life are really quite entwined. I struggle to separate them, and sometimes a topic comes along that demands a very personal touch.

So it is with today's topic: Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork. I read this book about 11 months ago, and I loved it. I couldn't put it down. The ending left me wonderfully satisfied, but wanting for more.

Throughout the book, I laughed aloud, and I wept. Oh, how I wept. I wouldn't call it sad, though, but poignant, and so very real.

How is this post, which at this point reads as a book review, something so personal? Here's how:

Marcelo, the protagonist, is a late-teenage boy who has Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. Six months before I read this book, a young member of my family (he was 3 1/2 at the time) was diagnosed with mild-to-moderate autism.

While none of us were expecting it, the diagnosis didn't come as a big surprise, either. We had known for a while that something was up, and a loud "Oh!..." was uttered by the whole family as we began to put together the pieces of his behaviors and symptoms. There were tears, for sure, but there was also a collective sigh of relief as we learned the services that would become available to him in response to his diagnosis. Learning to live with and in spite of autism will be a life-long journey for him, but we can see the progress he has made already, and we are thankful for that.

When I first picked up Marcelo, I didn't know the main character had Asperger's Syndrome. I had heard good things about the book, but no specifics. When the Asperger's element became apparent within the first chapter, I put the book down. I didn't want to read an "autism book."

The book sat on my nightstand for a few days before the good things I'd heard about the it, and the fact that Cheryl Klein edited it, won out. (I've enjoyed everything that Cheryl Klein has brought to the world, so I decided I should trust her.)

The story, a coming-of-age of sorts, chronicles the summer that Marcelo works as a clerk in his father's Boston law firm. It is not an "autism book" at all. It's a story about a teenage boy and the adventures and struggles he has as he navigates a tense father-son relationship, the ugliness of the cut-throat corporate environment, first love, and real human suffering. Marcelo is startlingly realistic, and his life and character, though certainly impacted by Asperger's Syndrome, is so much more than that. Marcelo is the character; the syndrome is simply part of the background.

As a writer, I am awed by Stork's ability to create such a realistic character and to grapple with the weighty questions of God and human suffering without cliches or trite answers or heavyhandedness.

As a reader, I blush as Marcelo wades into his first romance, with all its awkwardness and tenderness. What fun!

As family to a young boy with an autism diagnosis, I appreciate a book about a character rather than a syndrome. He is a person, not a diagnosis. This is so important.

Mr. Stork, thank you for Marcelo in the Real World.

Dear reader, if you haven't read it yet, I recommend that you do.

Soon.

I hope you laugh and cry as much as I did.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Richelle Mead Signing + Giveaway (X post)

2
Donna and I just returned from Richelle Mead's Last Sacrifice Tour book signing in Doylestown, PA, and WOW!

The museum where they held the event was packed--I'm guessing all in all, almost 200 people showed up! But luckily--we were VERY lucky actually--we got seats with Jamie from The Broke and Bookish Blog. And then a few minutes later, Richelle came in!


She started off by reading an excerpt from Last Sacrifice which wasn't too spoilery--a pretty funny one actually--where Rose gets a surprise marriage proposal (not from any of our guys) and then gets into a fight with the guy's sister, unintentionally proving she is worthy of marrying the girl's brother.

Then she did some Q&A. And we took notes!

Donna with Last Sacrifice

Donna and Frankie
On how many hours she spends a day writing: Richelle basically said that writing is her full time job, and she treats it like a job, getting up every morning and going to her office--in her house to work. She usually sets a goal for the day, like she will write an entire chapter or must write 2,000 words. Once she finishes her goal, she is finished work for the day--sans other pressing deadlines. Sometimes, on a good day she can write a chapter in 4 hours, other days she's working well into the evening to get it done.

On writing voices in multiple series: She's been writing three series for awhile now, Vampire Academy, The Dark Swan Series and The Georgina Kincaid series, and for her it's very easy to switch from Rose (VA) to Eugenie (DS) and to Georgina (GK). She never gets confused because all three characters are so different and so are their worlds.
On choosing which voice to use: Richelle must have the craziest writing schedule in the industry--three simultaneous series with books coming out every few months! So she keeps a strict schedule and pretty much picks to write about/or revise whoever has the next deadline.

On what to expect for Georgina and Eugenie: The last book in the Georgina Kincaid books, Succubus Revealed will be released September 2011 (WAAAAAAH! So far away). 

Eugenie's 3rd book (aka Richelle's book of doom) is coming out February 2011. Because it's the third book in the series, you know it's going to end on a whammy that will probably leave you curled up in a ball, because that is what Richelle does to people in her third books. It's always the turning point in the story and will end in a huge cliffhanger.

Seriously, people who have read Shadow Kiss know what she's talking about. And Succubus Dreams...omg agony! Richelle admitted that the end of Succubus Dreams still makes her cry (thank goodness, Im not the only one!)

On her feelings finishing Vampire Academy: She is definitely sad to leave Rose's story and the series itself behind. Also from a writing perspective, she found it difficult to write a complete ending where everything was wrapped up--since she usually ends on cliffhangers. Before she could be like, "Ok, this person dies and...THE END!" Not this time:-)

On the Vampire Academy Spin Off Series:YES! There is one! It's called Bloodlines and will be out August 2011 (WHICH OMG IS SOONER THAN GEORGINA). Bloodlines will take place in the Vampire Academy world, with characters we know already. She couldn't say more, BUT...

Friday, Entertainment Weekly will be announcing all the exciting info for Bloodlines, so two more days guys and we'll know things!

On getting chapters to flow: Richelle is a hardcore outliner. She outlines everything, and uses a white board to map out her ideas, and then charts everything to see how the chapters influence each other. I think she writes mostly in order, but she said she'll stop working on a chapter if its really giving her trouble and move onto the next one if she feels it will more easily. Then she goes back and edits to smooth everything out.

A Richelle Mead rough draft takes 3 months. And revisions take 6.

On whether Richelle is really on the cover of Succubus Blues: So someone asked if Richelle modeled Georgina after herself, and she said no--beside the fact that she is kind of every character in a way. Mostly she and Georgina both love MAC make up and Starbucks.

However a lot of fans have thought she looked so similar to the cover model (they both have red hair, even though Georgina actually has light brown hair with honey blonde highlights) that they thought it WAS her.

And funnily enough, her mom got into an argument with her over whether or not she was really on the cover. 
"Richelle? Is that you?"
"MOM!"
On the VA Movie: Yes, it has been optioned, but there is no guarantee and nothing to report yet. But The Official Vampire Academy Movie Page on Facebook is super active, so you should check it out for news.

On Returning to Rose's Story: Richelle said she could see herself returning to Rose later (SQUEE), but right now they both need a break (Rose was tortured enough). She said maybe in a few years, but if she did, something REALLY BAD would have to happen to Rose--yikes. 

When I went up to see her, I asked if the new Rose stories would be more adult, and she said it's come up before, but she thinks it'd still be marketed the same way--as YA--but Rose would be older. So....who knows...Richelle never writes down to her younger audience, but she does keep out more explicit writing for them.

On where she gets ideas and inspiration: Every time someone asks her where she gets her ideas from, I just kind of crack up inside and think Georgina' first convo with Seth in Succubus Blues. But basically, she gets inspiration from life, from going out and doing and observing things. Things she's done, mythology she learned, a wacky convo at Starbucks she overheard are all things that can end up in her book. And the best way to cure writer's block--step away from the computer, go out and do something.

The Signing:
 So after a VERY long time, which actually didn't feel so long because I had great company, we all got in line to see Richelle and SQUEE of all SQUEEEEEEEEEES! SHE REMEMBERED ME! We went to see Richelle last May in Delaware for her Spirit Bound tour and you guys, this MADE my night--maybe my week!  Nay! My month!
And look! (reader porn)!

Squeee-sauce!
PLUS....There's the Giveaway! I got a second copy signed for one of you!

I'm signed! You should win me!



Hope you enjoyed!

Who's finished reading Last Sacrifice? Has anyone seen Richelle on tour?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Last Sacrifice Review (X post)

SQUEEEEEEEEEE! Guys, every single thing about this book--and this series in general--was AMAZING! I absolutely adored the way Richelle decided to wrap things up and the direction she took Rose's story in.

I'm going to try and make sense of why I loved it, but be prepared for a lot of gushing. Also I plan to keep this review spoiler-free of Last Sacrifice info--as much as I can. But if you haven't finished reading the other five books, this MAY be spoiler-rific, and seriously--WHY are you readingg a review for the 6th book when you haven't read the first five--because you totally should do that. Right Now!

Ok, soooo top 5 reasons it rocked:

1. Last Sacrifice was Hilarious! I know that sounds odd considering it is a mostly dramatic series, but Richelle KNOWS how to mix the funny and the snark with the serious, and in Last Sacrifice she had her game on!

Examples! (Non-spoilerific--I hope!)

There was a look of woe on his face that was almost comical. Raids, bullets, criminals...no problem. A missing duster? Crisis.

I have it on good authority that Victor's going to have car trouble. Also that Robert really likes Cheerios, so if you want some, you're out of luck. He doesn't seem like the sharing type.

And I'll leave it at that because I don't want to give too much away, but out of all the Vampire Academy books, I was laughing the hardest at this one.

2. The Twists and Turns
I will just say that they NEVER stopped, up until the very last moment, Richelle takes you for a RIDE! And I was surprised. A lot!

3. The SWOON
I promise not to say ANYTHING about who she ends up with or anything that happens with Team Dimitri or Team Adrian, only that the SWOON factor was through the roof this time--I lost track of how many times I sighed.

4. The Action
Kind of a given, but it was Kick-butt!

5. The Character Development
The emotional arc of one character in particular was PERFECT (all were good, but one stood out) and I won't say who, but seriously, this was one of the best things she wrote and the pulling on my heart strings when this character fought to grow---OMG, I NEED to read Last Sacrifice again.

So as of right now...I think Last Sacrifice may be my favorite Vampire Academy novel, knocking down the unstoppable Shadow Kiss!

I can't say enough good things about Richelle and her writing and loving every minute of reading her books and GAH--just read it!

So yeah...stellar finish! I soooo can't wait for the spin-off series! And hey, I think I didn't spoil anything. Go me! Except yes, Robert likes Cheerios. Sorry about that.

P.S. Donna and I are going to see Richelle in a little over an hour! YAY! Will recap tomorrow:-)

Richelle Mead! Richelle Mead! Richelle Mead!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tonight, Frankie and I are traveling to Doylestown, PA to see SuperAuthor Richelle Mead for the official LAST SACRIFICE tour!

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

If you're in the area, you should come too!

Details:
Wednesday, December 8 - Philadelphia (lies, lies, lies - Doylestown's an hour away) - 7:00pm
Location: Mercer Museum
84 S. Pine St., Doylestown, PA 18901

If you're not in the area, check out the rest of Richelle's tour schedule HERE.

And if Richelle's tour comes nowhere near your hometown, stay tuned for a recap of the event!

For a recap of the Spirit Bound tour event we attended, click HERE.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Vampire Diaries Recap: Sacrifice

Opening Credits


Elena’s in bed and there next to her is..could it be…

Elena’s Diary: That’s right BITCHES! I’m back. She still writes in me. There’s still a reason this show is called The Vampire Diaries. And you know what, ever since she dumped Stefan, we’re sleeping together.

Audience: Ewwww

Elena’s Diary: I meant LITERALLY!

Daddy Warlock: *creeping through Elena’s bedroom*

Edward Cullen: Ooomph! Hey man, watch where you’re going.

Daddy Warlock: Dude! I have dibs on this house, go back to Forks!

Elena: *stirs in her sleep*

Daddy Warlock: Great! Now look what you’ve done.

Elena: *Wakes up, investigates strange noise*

Kevin Williamson: I love this creepy music. SO classic and representative of my earlier work.

Audience: We know. And now someone is going to jump out at Elena in 3…2…1…

Elena: AAAAAAAAAH!

Alaric: It’s ok! It’s just me.

Elena: But your NAKED.

Alaric: Oh…yeah... Ice cream?

Aunt Jenna: Sorry, did our sexing wake you?

Elena: Ummm kinda…

Aunt Jenna: But it’s not weird or anything is it? Because, like I used to listen to you and Stefan getting it on and...

Elena: This conversation! Over! Now!

Aunt Jenna: You know, I thought you’d be happy I finally got a sexy storyline.

Elena: Only I can have those storylines, its my show.

Alaric: I don't serve any other purpose in this episode. Night.

Elena: Night.

Daddy Warlock: Thank goodness! I have things to steal. OH! A hairbrush. I’ve been needing one of those.


The Tomb of Doom


Damon: Hello, Katherine. You’re looking pale.

Stefan: We can haz moonstone now?

Katherine: Pssh. Get me out of here, use the witch, and I’ll give it to you.

Stefan: Ok! Deal.


La Casa De Elena


Damon: Ok, so we went to see she who shall not be named.

Stefan: And she was like, get me out of here and I’ll give you the moonstone.

Damon: And we said yes!

Elena: WHAT!

Damon: No I mean, we were totally lying. We just need Bonnie to witch us into the tomb, steal the moonstone, and witch us out and witch her in there FOREVER.

Elena: Worst. Plan. Ever.

Damon: I thought it was pretty good.

Stefan: We have to do it. We need to destroy it and destroy the curse, then no doppelganger sacrifice, and we all live happily ever after. We win!

Elena: NO! I can’t let you risk the lives of the people I love. Like the people I care about, and the people I LOVE, like the people who make their eyebrows wiggle. And the Damon people I LOVE!

Damon: OMG! SQUEEEEEEEE!

Mystic Falls High: Magic 101


Bonnie: My nose keeps bleeding and I keep passing out. WTF?

Warlock Junior: Oh I can fix that. Channel me. It’ll double your strength. Here let’s trade jewelry. Now stand still and concentrate.

The Wind: Blows

The Leaves: Swirl

Bonnie: Ooooooooooh! Aaaaaaah! EEEEEH! Ooooh!

Frankie: Um….did Bonnie just…did she have a…

Warlock Junior: Oh Yeah! And I didn’t even touch her.

Jeremy: Bonnie! Want to hang out? Why were you with that guy? Love me instead

Bonnie: *stupid grin* Oh! Damon texted me. *Holds onto Warlock Junior’s necklace*

Salvatore Mansion



Rose: Damon… you shouldn’t leave a 500 year old vampire alone…naked…Oh…you’re not Damon. *awkward*

Elena: WHY is everyone naked in this episode? Anyway, since you like kidnapped me and stuff two episodes ago and planned to sell me to Elijah, I figured you probably don’t mind if I die. So take me to Slater and I’ll break the curse.

Rose: What’s in it for me.

Elena: You can walk in the sun! Duh.

Rose: Oh, right. Ok, let’s go.

Mystic Falls High: Basketball Court



Matt: Hey, Tyler. I’m like really sorry that I tried to kill you and stuff three episodes ago. Also, I’m sorry that that girl died. I think I'll cry now.

Tyler: Man points…you’re losing them.

Caroline: Matt! How are you…are you ok…

Matt: Gotta go!

Caroline: So Tyler, there’s a full moon coming and you need a plan on what to do before you turn into a Lockwolf.

Tyler: I have a plan. You can go now.

Caroline: Dude, I’m like the most awesome character ever this season. Trust me. You need help.

Salvatore Mansion:


Bonnie: Ok, I’m going to witch you guys in and out of the tomb.

Jeremy: You can’t! I have a special ring. I’ll go in the tomb.

Damon: You are an idiot. She’ll kill you and then Elena will kill me for letting you die. Again.

Bonnie: Jeremy! Step down. I can do the spell. Just get me something that belonged to Katherine.

Stefan: Here, this is the only picture of Katherine that the props department could afford.

Bonnie: *FIRE*

Stefan: WAIT! That picture is from the series trailer, it’s an important artifact.

The Picture: Is burning.

Bonnie: It’s cool. I’ll turn this into ash and then throw it on Katherine to weaken her. Then you have enough time to get the stone and get out.

Damon: This is not going to work.

Bonnie: My nose is bleeding.

Damon: Case in point.

La Casa De Slater:
Rose: Knock, knock. Oh well, he’s not home.

Elena: *glares*

Rose: Oh fine. *knocks the door down* Slater? You home?

Slater: Is dead.

Rose: OMG! I don’t think he can help us anymore.

Elena: You’ve got to be kidding me! Why didn’t you watch the end of the episode last week. Great, whoever exploded the coffee shop probably killed him too. What a waste of our time.

Rose: Whatever, I’m going to stand by the special windows that don’t let the sun hurt vampires and sulk.

There is a noise in the closet.

Rose: Alice?

Alice: WAAAAH! My boyfriend is dead. WAAAAH!

Elena: You are like the most cliché looking vampire ever. Seriously? Red lips? Black dress? Eyeliner?

Alice: I’m human, you idiot.

Elena: Ooh. I see. Do you like Twilight?

Lockwolf Woods/Plantations/Fields/Forest/Half of Mystic Falls



Tyler: I understand why you can’t be with Matt, because you have to lie to him. Oh and this is where my family keeps the dungeons for plebians.

Caroline: Yah I know. I was in them 4 episodes ago.


Tyler: You do?

Caroline: ….

Tyler: Anyway, this is where Uncle Mason used to go when he was turning into a Lockwolf. Check out the scratch marks. And the chains. I totally have a video of this stuff on youtube. 5,000 hits.

Caroline: Oh look! Mason’s diary.

Mason’s Diary: Werewolf diaries SCHOOL all Vampire Diaries!

Vampire Diaries: Not uh!

Mason’s Diary: Oh yeah! Mine comes with video.

Vampire Diaries: Damn!


Salvatore Mansion

Jeremy: Bonnie! You’re not strong enough.

Bonnie: Shush. *Puts her finger to his lips*

Team Beremy: EEEEEHHHHHH!

Jeremy: OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG I love you!

Bonnie: I’ll be fine. Don’t do anything stupid.

Jeremy: *does something stupid*

House of Slater


Elena: What’s Slater’s computer password?

Alice: I’m not telling you! I’m in mourning. *tear*

Elena: Rose will make you a vampire if you help.

Alice: It’s KStew!

Elena: …

Rose: I am so NOT biting her! She's wearing an "I heart Edward bracelet!"

Edward Cullen: Hey! That was a gift.

Elena: Edward! Get out of here. So Alice, send a message to the dude who knew Elijah—because Elijah is totally dead—and tell him I’m here and I’m ready to say hi!

Rose: That will get you killed!

Elena: Yah.

Rose: This was a SUICIDE mission?

Elena: Look, I’m the only character on the show who can’t do anything about this whole mess, and since I haven’t been invited to any of the secret witch/vampire/vampire hunter/special ring bearers meetings, and no one has kidnapped me for two episodes I had to do SOMETHING to bring all the attention back to me. Anyway, I’m sure Damon or Stefan will save me at the last moment. And then I can have a dramatic scene! And cry.

Rose: You're unreal.

Elena: No, I’m just the star of the show and I’m really, really good at it.

Alice: Email, sent. Girl, you’re going to die. Rose, make me a vampire now? ktnxbai


The Tomb of Doom


Jeremy: Sup Katherine. I’m here for the moonstone.

Katherine: Seriously? They sent YOU in? Ok, come here so I can kill you.

Jeremy: Katherine, get ready to Make. My. Day. *shoots vampire needle* *throws vampire-weakening ash*

Katherine: Is down

Jeremy’s Hotness Factor: Earned 10 points! Go little Gilbert, go!

Jeremy: Searching for the moonstone on Katherine is weird…I feel like I’m feeling up my sister. Crap! Where is it?

Frankie: OMG Jeremy! Hurry up! You only took a little bit of that witch powder. She’s going to wake up! OMG you found it! GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT! JEREMY! When you’re stealing the gold of a sleeping dragon, you do not stop and stare at the gold. You're a side character in a horror series! You grab it and run!

Katherine: *Vampirizes Jeremy*

Audience: *facepalm*
Jeremy: *throws the moonstone out* Awww, he went on a suicide mission just like his big sister.

 
Outside the Tomb


Bonnie: Hey! How did the moonstone get out?

Katherine: Look at my new toy. Tastes like Gilbert.

Bonnie: NO!

Katherine: Open this tomb witch, because he’s wearing a special ring so I can him over and over and over again. It's fun.

Stefan: CRAP! She fed. She’s all strong again and stuff.

Damon’s Cell Phone: *rings*

Damon: Hello?

Rose: Um, yeah so come to Slater’s now? Elena, suicide mission, originals and stuff.

Damon: Finally, I can get my own screen time. Rescue Mission Elena Ahoy!


Daddy Warlock’s


Daddy Warlock: Dude, did you know Elena’s brush has all natural bristles?

Elijah: Um, do the spell now.

Daddy Warlock: *Cuts Elijah for blood sacrifice witching*

Elijah: *Sees Elena*


House of Slater

Elena: Stares out window

Elijah: BOO!


Daddy Warlock’s

Elijah: Found her.


Tomb of Doom



Bonnie gets her witch on

Meanwhile, back at the Warlock’s Lair, Warlock Junior is down for the count

Daddy Warlock: What is Wrong?

Warlock Jr.: Bonnie Bennet stole my necklace.

Daddy Warlock: WTF is wrong with you?

Bonnie: Muahahahaha. Channel THIS bi-atch!


La Casa De Caroline


Tyler pops in the video of Mason.

YES! OMG! This means we get to see Shirtless Mason! Shirtless Mason we’ve missed you. Seriously someone needs to have a talk with those Salvatore brothers and tell them to take their shirts off

Mason: I’m kind of dead now.

Oh right. Carry on.

So like Caroline narrates what’s happening to Mason from his diary while Tyler watches it on the screen and I think there’s something about wolfsbane and the transformation sucking and taking hours…but…MASON IS SHIRTLESS.

Tyler: I can’t do that! I can’t!

Caroline: Sure you can, you’ve got muscles. Just take your shirt off. Here let me help you.

Tyler: Why are you being nice to me?

Caroline: Because I’m awesome. Also because I recently became a monster too and I was all alone when it happened and then I killed a man, and I think Team Cyler could be really hot.

Matt: Is at the door! Oh noes!

Caroline: Hi Matt! I love you.


Matt: I love you. Hi!

Tyler: *cock blocks*

Oh snap!

House of Slater


Damon: ELENA! What on earth are you doing?

Elena: It’s my show! Rose! WTF did you call him?

Rose: Sorry, Elena, but I had to.

Alice: OMG, are you like Damon Salvatore? I collected your vampire trading card.

Damon: We’re leaving! Now!

Elena: No!

Damon: I will carry you home right now!

Elena: *fights Damon*

Damon: Seriously?

Elena: Let me go. I never make any decisions! You guys decide everything.

Damon: That was ONE episode!

Elena: I won’t let the Damon people I LOVE die.

OMG, Elena’s eyes have totally told Damon she loves him 10 times in the last half hour. Also, he's holding her kind of sexy...

Tomb of Doom


Bonnie’s Nose: Is bleeding

Jeremy: Stop! You’re not strong enough.

Katherine: Knocks Jeremy out.

Bonnie: Passes out.

Meanwhile, Warlock Jr is having a seizure!

Stefan: Bonnie! NOOOOO!

Katherine: Seriously, wake up. I’m still in this freaking tomb.

Bonnie: I can’t. Too weak.

Katherine: Fine. *pulls up Jeremy*

Stefan: *super vampire run inside the tomb* *Jeremy toss*

Bonnie: *hugs Jeremy*

Stefan: *is trapped inside the tomb with Katherine FOREVER*

House of Slater


A bunch of vampires come in to see the doppelganger Elena, and then ZOMG! Elijah, who is NOT dead is there and kills the men and then…leaves?

Daddy Warlock’s

Elijah: Found Elena, she’s safe. Very safe. Exactly how I need her. MUAAHAHAAHA!

Daddy Warlock: You make no sense.

Audience: We agree.

La Casa De Gilbert

Jeremy: Bonnie, you don’t have to walk me to my room. Unless you want to make out and stuff. Then it’s ok.

Bonnie: How can you be SO stupid!

Jeremy: Me? You were the one with the nose bleed!

Bonnie: I didn’t want you involved.

Jeremy: I didn’t want you to get hurt.

Bonnie: You can’t have feelings for me.

Jeremy: You have feelings for me!

Bonnie: And in case you haven’t noticed, every other guy I’ve dated on this show died. Also, all of your girlfriends died too.

Jeremy: We have so much in common.

They lean in, the music swells and then….AH! No kiss! You know, this would be perfect for the NO KISS Blogfest…

Bonnie: Leaves

Team Beremy: WTF Bonnie!?!?

And then Damon gets Elena home

Damon: For the record, what you did today was totally stupid.

Elena: Whatever. If I hadn’t gone on a suicide mission, someone would have kidnapped me.

Damon: How do you know?

Elena: It’s in my contract. 3 kidnappings per season.

Jeremy: Um guys…Stefan…(cough) tomb (cough)

The Tomb of Doom

Elena: *Tries to run in* STEFAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNN! NOOOOOOO!

Damon: *holds Elena back*

Elena: Noooooooo!
And then they struggle against each other and she’s up against the wall and they’re fighting and Stefan is listening. And holy hell! Just do it already!

Team Dalena: *FIST PUMP*

Seriously, I can’t believe they didn’t kiss.

Damon: Stefan, how did you get locked in the tomb again?

Stefan: *shrugs* It's my contract to get trapped her once per season. Just work with the moonstone and keep Elena safe. K?

Damon: K.

Katherine: *laughs* They are soooooo going to hook up next week.

Stefan: *facepalm*

FIN!

Cooking and Writing. Just don't set the book on fire.

Earlier this year, the FNC had a chance to give a presentation and do a Q&A with the graduate writing class where we all met, back in 2007.  This was in the spring, also known as the final push during my YoH (which stands for Year of Hell, for those keeping score.)  Without going into detail, I'll just let it be known that I'm an elementary school teacher and there was a lot of crying (mostly on my part) during the 09-10 school year.

 Which meant that I was doing very little writing.  Which lead to even more crying.  (And a lot of showing up to meetings going, "Okay you guys, the thing is...")

So when we did this presentation, I kind of felt like a fake.  I'll admit it.  There was Frankie with her agent, and Donna with her finished WIP, and Janine with her picture book, and me with...what?  A over-revised first chapter and a half-thought out idea for a story arc?

But then Donna explained to the group that I liked to let things marinate.  I'm a marinator (I don't know if that's actually a word, but it is now!)

Since then, I've had the summer off and I've written a bunch and I feel like a productive member of society again.  Also, the whole crying thing is finally under control.  But the marination comment stuck with me.  Because the more I think about it, the more true it becomes.  Not only that, it made me realize that the fact I wasn't writing--as in, typing into a word document stuff about my characters--didn't mean I wasn't "writing."  Like, thinking deep deep thoughts about my story and my characters and about the writing process.

Which lead me to think about cooking.  Like writing, I love to cook.  Like writing, I love marinades.  And like writing, I really enjoy not quite knowing where things are going to end up.

For me, cooking and writing are really similar.  I take something I know that I like.  In writing, that's probably using fantasy or something fantastical as a base.  In cooking, it's usually chicken.  (I love chicken.)

Next, I throw some other stuff in.  In cooking, that usually means putting the chicken in a plastic baggie and throwing in some spices, salt and pepper, some wine, olive oil and maybe a few random things, like soy sauce or chilis or pesto or salad dressing or...all of the above? and letting it sit in the fridge for a few hours.

For writing, that means thinking about some elements that I'd love to see in a story.  For example, one of my favorite albums is Coldplay's Viva La Vida, and one of my favorite songs is "Violet Hill," and one of my favorite lyrics in the song is "Was a long and dark December/from the rooftops I remember/there was snow/white snow."  When I heard this song, I just knew I wanted it on my WIP playlist.  I loved the mood and the quiet epicness of it.  Then, this past winter in the Northeast, we had a lot of snow.  And once, we had a snowicane.  Which is what happens if you have hurricane stuff and snow stuff at the same time.  The coolest part of the snowicane was the fact that there was lightning AND snow at the same time, which are two of my favorite weather things of all time.  So then I decided I also wanted a snowicane in my WIP.  Which was awesome, because then it meant I had a reason for putting "Violet Hill" on my playlist!  It was my snowicane song!

The thing about marinades is, they don't work right away.  The chicken needs some time to just sit and soak in all the flavors that are swirling around it.  If you dunk something in a marinade and then throw it on the grill right away, it'll have SOME flavor, but definitely not compared to the flavor of letting it sit for a few hours. 

For me, this is true in my writing as well.  I definitely have those moments where the words just fly from my fingers and the pages fill up, but mostly, I need to sit on something until it's good and ready.  Sometimes this means I write until I don't know what's going to happen next, or I have a vague idea of what's going to happen but haven't figured out the logistics of it.  Sometimes I DO know what's going to happen next, but I need it to sit so because it doesn't feel like it's ready for writing yet.  This means that I have a lot of post-its shoved into pockets and purses and write notes on my hands a lot.  But I also feel like I don't have to go back as often and take out plot pieces that aren't working, because I've already thought them through.  And when I do off-course (which just happened recently, actually), I like to sit on it until I've figured out why it's wrong, and how to fix it.

(Interesting sidenote: Acidic marinades actually start to turn chicken white as they marinate.  The acid actually starts the cooking process.  So when things marinate, it's like the story is WRITING ITSELF!)

(Sidenote two: Don't let things marinate too long.  Over-marinated chicken meat gets tough and chewy.  Same for stories.)

So you wait and wait and wait and wait...and then you cook it, and eat it, and everything is super yummy!  And you write, IT'S super yummy too!  And while you were waiting for your chicken to marinate, you had time to make side dishes, like understanding your characters and figuring out backstories and checking Twitter.  Uh, I mean, thinking more deep deep thoughts.

I know all of this makes it sound like I do more thinking than writing--and sometimes that's true--or that I sit around and don't write until two days before a critique meeting--also sometimes true--but in general, I actually feel pretty productive.

So, what about all of you?  What kind of a cook are you?  Are you more of a baker?  Or an order-outer?  Do you have a favorite recipe?  If you do, please share!  I love finding new things to make.  (One of my favorite recipes is pesto.)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

In case you missed these incredible posts.

I'm linking here to two incredible blog posts I read yesterday. They were on drastically different topics, but both had a personal honesty and eloquence that resonated with me long after I finished reading.


Libba Bray's post about World AIDS Day just blew me away. What a beautiful, heartbreaking story. I've been trying to describe it further, but nothing measures up -- so please, read it for yourself. (Link.)

Natalie Whipple's post about struggling through 15 months on submission spoke directly to every writer's greatest fear and reminded us all why we keep trying. If you have time, scroll through the comments, too. (Link.)


I'm so grateful that they shared their stories, and I hope you take the time to read them, and that they are as meaningful to you as they were to me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On ugly duckling new novels and the advent of the FNC.

Welcome to December, AKA DonnaMakesSeriousProgressOnHerNovelMo!

It's so intimidating to start a new novel. And exciting. And awkward. I've even compared it to a blind date. I remember wondering how our blog title, First Novels Club, would hold up after we've finished our first novels, and the answer I came up with was, "Well, every novel's a first novel."

Oh, how right I was.

But 99% of relationships in life that are truly amazing begin with long, uncomfortable pauses: True love. Best friends. And novels.

I have to believe that all 5,000 words of this new novel (it has a name, but I'm holding it close for the time being) will develop into something amazing. And I doubt, all the time. I convince myself that no way am I a strong enough writer to tell this story properly. I should give up. It's too hard.

And then I found something buried in my email archives that makes me believe that this gawky, blundering draft will become graceful and compelling: the very first emails between me and the other FNC ladies. From way back in December 2007, when our fiction class (in which we met) was ending.

The thread made me smile ... how green we were, how hesitantly happy. Primarily, we were exchanging contact information, discussing possible meeting times after finals, the usual. But I noticed one common element that I copied from the emails:

Me: I'm really happy about this group thing... makes me feel like a "real writer" haha.

Janine: I'm looking forward to this too!

Sara: This is way exciting--it'll be nice to keep getting feedback after the semester's over!

Frankie: I'm really excited to get together with everyone.

We were all excited. And that's all it took to get over the fact that we were practically strangers and had NO idea what we were doing. We would figure it out. And we did. There was no way we could've predicted everything that would happen in the next three years. No way to know we'd become best friends.

I'm superbly excited about this new novel, and those emails make me believe that it'll be enough to get me through the awkward beginnings to something I'll be proud of. I hope it gives you hope too!

How's your new (or NaNo) novel doing? What's your fave method of powering through the awkward phase? I prefer wine and my Steven Halpern channel on Pandora to get in the zone.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NanoFAILmo.

So, I guess it's confession time.

Today is November 30th.  It's the last day of Nanowrimo.  I should be typing my 50,000th word sometime today, and uploading my novel for verification and that awesome sense of accomplishment completing something like Nano gives you.

Except, I'm not.

Because my final word count came in at a little over 15,000.

So, like Donna, I failed.  I did not complete Nanowrimo.

But you know what?  I think that's okay.

Because even though I didn't win, here's what I learned through Nanowrimo this past month:

--Nanowrimo isn't for everyone.  And that's not to say that there are some people who have the willpower to do it and some who don't.  I mean that it really isn't for everyone, because not everyone writes the same way.  Some of us sit down and can write for hours.  Can write 10,000 words in a day.  And some of us can't.  I've found, if I have literally NOTHING else to do in a day, I can write about 3,500 words in a day.  And on an average day, I can write between 600 and 900 words. And I've learned that's okay.

--Nanowrimo isn't always healthy for your writing.  I wrote about 15,000 words this month, which is the most I've written in a month in a really long time.  But what I found happened is that I was so focused on the word count that I lost sight of my personal writing goals, my subplots, and a lot of logistics that needed to go into my story.  For example, I was writing an escape scene.  It needed a lot of different elements--a diversion, guards, a getaway, and a lot of different characters during different things at the same time.  I wrote that scene during Nanowrimo.  And then promptly realized that it didn't make much sense, because I'd been so obsessed with the words on the page that I forgot about everything else.  I'm not going back to fix it just yet, but I know it's something that wouldn't have happened if I wasn't rushing.

--I think the most important thing that Nanowrimo taught me was how to make my writing more of a priority.  This was the first month that I tried to write every day.  I came home and didn't just flop onto the couch and get swallowed into Twitter or Facebook.  I wrote almost every single day.  Even if it was only 100 words, I wrote often.  And that was great.

Maybe I'll try again next year.  Hopefully by next November I'll be finished with my current project and it'll be the perfect time to throw caution to the wind and barrel out 50,000 words of something random and new.  But until then, I think I'll keep plugging away, 100 words at a time.

How about all of you?  Did you succeed?  Did you fail?  What did you learn from Nanowrimo?

Friday, November 26, 2010

StumbleUpon: Welcome to your new addiction.

I credit one of my staffers for opening my eyes to the (new) best procrastination tool EVER.

I give you: StumbleUpon

Tagline: Personalized recommendations to help you discover the best of the web.

"But, Donna, what does that MEAN?"
This brilliant little gem of a website asks you what areas of life you're interested in (as specific as "Board Games" and as fuzzy as "Chaos/Complexity"), and then you "Stumble" from web page to web page of AMAZINGNESS.

My friends now hate me because I constantly spam their inbox with links that I got from StumbleUpon. But they love me, because did I mention they're links of AMAZINGNESS?

And I'm not the only one who thinks so! This blogger compiled a whole set of StumbleUpon addiction-related images, like this one:


And since this is a writing-related blog, I had to pretend that there was a legitimate reason I posted about this site. So, yeah, maybe you'll Stumble right on out of your writer's block or into your next plot ... but if not, who cares? It's kinda like randomly surfing the web, except 98% of the pages you find are made of awesome.

Side Effects: You may find yourself with a condition known as CTS (Compulsion to Stumble), so make sure you start when you have at least a free hour to roam the Internets. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Some of my favorite Stumbled links:
For funny - http://theoatmeal.com/comics/cook_home
For art - www.womansday.com/Articles/Family-Lifestyle/12-Cool-Colored-Pencil-Sculptures.html
For travel - http://opentravel.com/blogs/fairytale-destinations/

Have you tried StumbleUpon? Is anyone NOT a fan or has been wholly disappointed by their Stumbling results? Any recovering Stumblers out there?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS: The Quad-Review, Part 2

Yesterday we brought you the first part of our epic Anna and the French Kiss quad-review, when we talked about ANNA's general awesomeness, the characters and friendships, and sexy hobbits.

Today, part two!

ON PARIS AND STUDYING ABROAD:

Donna: As silly as it sounds, you really feel like Anna enters a world that has already fully been existing before she came on the scene. That's strong world-building.

Sara: Definitely.

Janine: Paris makes everything better.

Sara: And I love how Paris becomes more than a setting, it's almost a character too.

Frankie: So does French kissing! And the food--I told Janine that if we ever get to Paris, I might have to go non-vegan for a bit.

Janine: She really captured the essence of Paris, I think, without being too or over descriptive. I really felt like I was there, but it was truly a feeling, not an image in my head.

Sara: It was a taste in my mouth.

Frankie: In my heart!

Sara: Every page FEELS like Paris.

Donna: Anyone can research details of a city (she hadn't even BEEN there when she wrote this!), but she got the heart of the city -- from the perspective of an outsider who becomes an insider. What I also loved was that, though Anna was in Paris, it wasn't like her pre-Paris life ceased to exist. She still had complications at home, and when she went home for break, life hadn't stopped without her. 

Frankie: Oh yes, that feeling of coming home again after you've been away--and you're heart and soul feel like they're somewhere else and nothing feels right anymore!

Janine: The aspects of adjusting to international life--and life back home--were very realistic.

Donna: Yes! All four of us have been there, and I agree.

Sara: The reverse culture shock over Anna's Christmas break was perfect.

Janine: It's very disorienting, and I could relate to what Anna was experiencing.

Sara: Me too. It reminded me so strongly of my winter break during my Junior year abroad in England.

Donna: And when I came home from my semester in Australia.

Frankie: It just reminded me of every break I had at Cornell. I was a state away and still...

Sara: How you think your home life was on pause for the past three months because you weren't there.

Janine: I found myself thinking of my first flight home from Japan and parting with my traveling partners at the airport. I was so happy to see my family, but they had no idea what I had experienced.


ON CHARACTER GROWTH AND BRITISH-ACCENTED BOYS:

Sara: Oh, and can I say how much I love that a) Anna has interests outside of pining over a boy and b) that college was totally brushed over and not a big deal?

Donna: The novel really was about her YEAR in Paris, not just the OMG CUTE BOY part of her year. Like Frankie said, she and Etienne were real friends.

Janine: And that Anna, as much as we loved her from the beginning, she really does grow as a character from beginning to end, and Paris and Etienne were a part of that growth.

Frankie: I'd want to be friends with him, too!

Janine: "Friends"?

Frankie: Lol--well....no. But yes. But he was also just a NICE guy!

Janine: It's okay, Frankie, we all crushed on him, I think.

Frankie: And funny, and easygoing, and someone you felt you could talk to and trust with all of your secrets and problems.

Sara: Oh, and I felt like Perkins really captured Etienne's British-ness.

Frankie: She did! His voice sang off the page, you never forgot he was British, but she didn't overdo the slang, she got it right.

Donna: He just FELT British.

Janine: Perkins knew when to put the British touch in. Not too little, not too much.

Sara: How does she do it?!

Frankie: I want to go to the Stephanie Perkins School of Writing.

Hi, Stephanie! We think you're wonderful.
Donna: Me too!

Janine: Can I come too?

Sara: Can we make it our next road trip?

Frankie: Hahaha! Stephanie...we're coming over.


ON FINAL THOUGHTS:

Janine: I was relieved to learn there will be more of them, and I like that they will be companion books rather than sequels.

Sara: Anna, je t'aime!

Janine: Oui!

Sara: C'est tres bien. (Go high school French, go!)

Donna: Te amo, Ana! (I took Spanish.) 

Janine: I love this book. My heart is still racing a little from finishing it yesterday. Read it! Read it!

Sara: Right. Now. 

Donna: Buy it for your friends, too, because they'll steal your copy.

Sara: It's the perfect Holiday gift! Hanukkah is early this year!

Frankie: Anna Oliphaunt, I like you very, very much. Were you real, you'd be my friend. Were Etienne real, sorry, my heart belongs to him. Etienne St. Clair, you short little man, I LOVE you!

FIN!

So... have we convinced you to pre-order ANNA yet? Anyone else out there read it already?

LINKS!
- ANNA on Amazon
- ANNA on IndieBound
- ANNA on Goodreads
- Stephanie Perkins' website

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS: The Quad-Review, Part 1

We were lucky enough to get our hands on the most-coveted Anna and the French Kiss ARC, and after we all took turns reading it, we agreed on one thing: it deserved a quad-review.

And this quad-review was so epic that we split it into two posts, lest you get overwhelmed by the sheer awesomeness of this book.

About ANNA:
Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend.
But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt.

We give you: PART ONE!

ON OVERALL GUSHING:

Frankie: This review is easy: I LOVE IT I LOVE IT I LOVE IT

Janine: I couldn't put it down. And when I had to, I couldn't think about anything else but picking it up again. And I want to go to Paris. And I want to study French. And I want to eat macaroons and sandwiches with drippy Fontina cheese. And maybe even wear uncomfortable shoes. And any book you can say all that about--including that it makes you WANT to STUDY something, must be pretty good.

Donna: I read ANNA in one sitting --- and it's not a short book!

Sara: No! But it doesn't feel long.

Janine: It flies by--which is the only sad thing about--that it ends. :(

Donna: Well some of us, (coughFrankiecough), just pick it up and re-read it. That's kinda the only cure, til Stephanie Perkins' next book comes out.

Frankie: You HAVE to read it twice!

Sara: Can you believe this was Stephanie’s debut?

Janine: Um...no. I cannot believe that. It is so perfectly paced and the tension is so just right.

Donna: It kinda makes me hope there are like 17 imperfect novels in a Perkins house drawer somewhere. Because there has to be SOME explanation for this.


ON CHARACTERS AND FRIENDSHIPS:

Donna: So let's talk about the details of ANNA --- Anna is an American teen who gets sent to a Parisian boarding school. Sounds pretty tame. The brilliance is in the execution.

Sara: Like the characters. Anna is anything but boring.

Janine: I agree with Sara--but she's also so normal. Ya know? In a writerly sense, she is very realistically written. In a character sense, she's a normal highschool girl with her own interests, opinions, quirks and insecurities. I LOVE that. She just felt so real.

Sara: I thought Anna was a lovely balance between shy and outgoing--It would be really easy to write a wallflower character, considering the crazy circumstances she's put into. But Perkins let Anna's personality shine through on every page.

Janine: Not contrived at all.

Sara: She didn’t feel like an overly dramatic reality TV version of a teenager.

Frankie: Yes! And she was so relatable--I can't think of one moment or feeling she experience that I couldn't relate directly to my own life

Donna: And she was someone I wanted to be FRIENDS with. Whereas many YA characters that I love, I know I'd never be friends with them in real life.

Sara: Yes!

Janine: I wanted to be her friend too!

Frankie: I didn't! I wanted to be her! Because I wanted Etienne St. Clair, the best love interest ever.

Janine: Oh, ok, yah. good point

Donna: I love the development of friendships and relationships in the novel. Because Anna joins in with an established group of friends in Paris. And though she becomes one of them, she still feels separate.

We love it too, Stephanie!
Sara: And she isn't everyone's best friend.

Frankie: Yeah, what made Etienne and Anna's relationship work so well and feel so tense was because they really were friends, within a larger group.

Sara: In fact, there's even some tension between her and other group members.

Janine: Which I think is a very real part of highschool.

Donna: The push-pull of friends, the tension of girls liking boys who like a different girl, and vice-versa.

Frankie: You don't always know who to trust, sometimes you feel like your friends don't like you and it's all in your head--she totally captured that. But in Paris!


ON SHORT GUYS AS LOVE INTERESTS (AKA LOVE FOR ETIENNE ST. CLAIR):

Donna: I LOVE THAT HE WAS SHORT.

Frankie: Never in my life have I fallen for a shorty! THAT is how great he is.

Sara: The shortness made him more British. Like a hobbit!

Frankie: He'd be a perfect hobbit.

Janine: Not at all like a hobbit!

Frankie: Hobbits are cute!

Sara: Like a hot hobbit.

Donna: Oh, ladies.

Frankie: He'd be the hobbit all the other hobbits were in love with.

Janine: I love hobbits, but I do not envision hairy feet on Etienne!

Sara: Haha. True. He'd been much more well-groomed.


Stay tuned for part two of the quad-review tomorrow, when we talk about Paris, culture shock, and English French American Boy Masterpieces!

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