Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Importance of Being (Slightly) Arrogant as a Writer

I wrote a guest post on the ever-fabulous Guide to Literary Agents blog on why a small percentage of arrogance is critical to your productivity and success as a writer!

And there's a pie chart!

Check it out HERE!

Happy writing!

(For more places to find us elsewhere on the blogosphere, check out our Top Posts page!)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

5 books (and 2 trilogies) most worthy of your holiday money!

Being a bookworm is a hobby that, when unchecked, requires lots of bookshelf space and money. Choosing which books to buy — especially when there are so many options! — can be a tough decision. And nobody should have to suffer from buyer's remorse.

Personally, I'll borrow every book I read from the library (yay libraries!) and then only purchase the ones that I loved so much they're worth a reread (and a post recommending them here!). These also happen to be the ones I push onto my friends when they're looking for a good book, hence my bookcase is more like its own mini library, something of which I'm totally proud.

In no particular order, here are my 5 favorite books of those I reviewed on this blog in 2012. They are well worth your Christmas money / bookstore gift card spending! Each book title is linked to my full review.

For more suggestions, check out our complete list of all the books we've recommended on the blog this year!

Please leave your recommendations in the comments, because I have gift cards of my own to spend!

1. GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers

Assassin. Nuns. Not that I need to say more, but this is perfect if you love kick-butt heroines, historical fiction, achingly good romance, internal conflict, monarchy troubles, and books you can sink your teeth into, like FIRE by Kristin Cashore.

2. CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein

This is the number one book I've been recommending because it really has made my all-time favorites list, and I don't see it being ousted anytime soon. It's everything you want in a book and more, and it's elevated the YA genre.


You might have heard that this has garnered some big-deal top honors in a few Best of 2012 lists. Acclaim aside, this book has Green's signature sense of humor and tackles a rough subject head-on with grace and a few necessary tuggings of the heartstrings. Ok, I wept like a baby. Green's best work since LOOKING FOR ALASKA.

4. FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS by Diana Peterfreund

A standout Jane Austen retelling, this time of PERSUASION. It took me a little to get into it, but once I did, I was transported. Excellent dystopian world-building, characters so real you want to smack them upside the head, and romantic tension that gives you so many bosom-clutching, all-caps FEELINGS that Ms. Austen would be proud.

5. THE CROWN OF EMBERS by Rae Carson

This book is the sequel to GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, and it. was. amazing. Most trilogies' middle novels are lackluster at best, but I think I loved this one even better than the standout first book! This series is what I deem "relatable high fantasy" — in that there are magical elements in an imagined world, but it feels more like historical fiction than anything. (AKA, no elves to speak of.) Read it, read it, read it.


Let's not forget my favorite book of 2011!
THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater
(reviewed by Sara)


Two awesome series that were completed in 2012 that are well worth the three-book purchase —

Holly Black's Curse Workers trilogy:

Jeri Smith-Ready's Shade trilogy:

Happy buying!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book recommendation! PRODIGY by Marie Lu

At BEA in 2011, LEGEND was everywhere. It was a totally buzzed-about debut, so I got my hands on an ARC...... and proceeded to wait a couple months to read it. And then I loved it.

Fast-forward to BEA 2012. The ARC of the sequel, PRODIGY, was being released. Not only was I first in line for Marie Lu's signing, but I also started PRODIGY on the train home... and finished it fewer than two days later.

At long last, the release is just over a month away, and I get to tell you why you should read it, too!

Summary from Goodreads: The Elector Primo of the Republic has died, with his son assuming power over what’s left of the USA’s West Coast as it teeters on full-blown chaos. June and Day join up with Patriot rebels so they can rescue Day’s brother and head east for the Colonies. In order to help, though, the rebels want June and Day to kill the new Elector, who may pose an even greater threat than his father.

Here are the top 5 reasons I (highly!) recommend that you read PRODIGY:

1. Lights, Camera...
Like LEGEND, PRODIGY throws you right into the action, picking up where LEGEND left off, with June and Day on the run from the Republic. I read the book at an almost breathless pace, but I liked that the action was more Alias- or Mission:Impossible-esque situations. And there were plenty of excellent in-between scenes so rife with urgency and tension that I never was bored. (I rarely say this with books, but I really hope this trilogy ends up being made into movies.)

2. He Said, She Said
June and Day alternate points of view again, but in PRODIGY, Lu did an even better job at making their voices distinct in the way they phrase and view both people and situations. She reinforced their differing pasts by weaving details in their narration, which I liked. Since her debut, she's definitely become more deft at balancing their POVs, and June and Day's complementary (and sometimes contradictory) opinions and interpretations of the same situation really added to the story.

3. The Swoon Factor
Le romance. LOVE IT. June and Day don't know each other all that well, but they share a bond, so there's this awesome balance of HOT tension and swoony, sweet moments. (Plus the requisite miscommunications and frustrations were well done.) The best news? None of this ever overpowered the actual political plot.

But seriously. Marie Lu, I bow to your ability to evoke the swoon.

Especially in that one scene in the beginning.
You know the one I'm talking about.

4. Trust No One.
So yes, there are some romantic moments between June and Day, but they also were archenemies like, two weeks ago, which complicates their ability to trust and understand one another. Also, they've been through enough to automatically question everything they hear and everyone they meet.

In PRODIGY, they're working with the Patriots, a rebel group that Day had always fought against joining and June had always tried to destroy. The Patriots want June and Day to kill the Republic's new Elector Primo in exchange for rescuing Day's brother from the Republic, but murder isn't really their style.

Suffice to say that with all the secrets and conflicting motivations, there are multiple battles of duty vs loyalty vs instincts.

5. The End! Almost.
PRODIGY certainly does not fall victim to Middle Novel Syndrome. (Primary Symptom of MNS: Nothing Actually Happens. It's just a happy little bridge to the third book, with barely any stakes and indiscernible plot.) PRODIGY certainly has high stakes and a distinct plot (which comes to a full conclusion!), but as with any great middle novel, it leaves us dying for the final piece of the trilogy.

 Marie Lu signing PRODIGY at BEA.

Obviously, I have severe love for this book. I think I liked it more than LEGEND, but that may just be because I already cared about June and Day when I began. Either way, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Leave your thoughts (or a link to your review) in the comments!

Pre-order PRODIGY now! It releases Jan. 29, 2013.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanking your cheerleaders

Confession: The longest I've ever run, without stopping, was a mile.

And I did that once, about a month ago, totally on a Forrest-Gump-esque whim.* I constantly joke that the only thing that could make me run is someone chasing me with a knife. But I also understand that there are people who love running, who can't imagine living without going on long runs almost every day.

Running is a language I don't speak.

But on Sunday, I decided to wake up while it was still dark to cheer on my friend Hannah as she ran the Philly Half Marathon. I made a sign, but as I agonized over exactly what to write (it was my first race, had to make a good impression!), I decided that, since my presence was for Hannah, my sign would be for all the runners I would see before and after she passed me by.

What did I write?

total stranger,

My plan was to stand and see Hannah two places along the race route, and then at the finish. So I'm standing by myself in the cold, dark morning, and the runners start to come by. And I'm cheering and hooting and holding the sign, and I couldn't believe the reactions.

Runners were laughing and pointing and yelling "thanks, stranger!" and hollering "hey, that's me!" and saying "great sign!" — over and over and over again. And the ones who were focusing (or huffing and puffing) so hard that they couldn't say something gave me a smile or a thumbs up or a wave.

I couldn't believe the reaction that little sign was getting, and how much people appreciated and were cheered on by me, a total stranger. It was so wonderful to know how much my enthusiasm mattered to them. Even though I certainly didn't understand the drive to run 13.1 miles, much less 26.2, my support and encouragement had an impact.

That's when I thought about all the random people in my life who take the time to ask about my writing progress. Not just close family and friends, but co-workers, acquaintances, people I know from high school and college that I barely talk to anymore, friends of the family.

They're not invested in my life and happiness in any particular way, and most of them probably can't fathom having the urge to write a novel, but they still remember, and they still ask, and they still encourage me.

Being a marathon spectator reminded me to show my appreciation for the people who care, who cheer me on, who hope that I succeed in getting published. When I'm on that metaphorical mile 6 and there are 20.2 miles to go, they're what keep me moving forward.

I hope all our U.S. readers have a happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!

*Basically, the whim was this quote exactly, except instead of running cross-country, I ran a mile.

"That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going."

Monday, November 19, 2012

The retreatiest retreat ever! In pictures!

The first weekend in November, we escaped to our favorite little cottage in rural Pennsylvania for a writing retreat. Once again, we found ourselves ridiculously productive ... except for when we allowed ourselves to be distracted by the cuteness that is Sara's baby Robin, who was in the womb the last time we retreated, but who joined us for the first official time!

Here's a photo recap of the non-writing parts of the weekend because, let's face it, photos of writers staring intently at laptops are kinda boring.

Farm-fresh eggs from our hosts!

Plus, fresh-picked daisies and delicious homemade
lemon-poppyseed loaves!

I might've started off my Saturday with leftover Halloween candy...
breakfast of champions.

Frankie playing with Robin in between writing sessions.

Such a cute little man!

The farm!
(Not pictured: a horse, two other goats, 
a few chickens, and two friendly barn cats.)

We've officially decided that these retreats are golden writing times. We get to reconnect as friends and critique partners, and we also are able to let our writing take front-and-center priority for 48 hours. This retreat involved drafting, revising, and even re-imagining our WIPs. 

Like a writing conference, writing retreat weekends are totally revitalizing, and we all left excited to keep writing. Since that weekend, we've been emailing a lot more about our work, and our productivity has continued to be above-average. We're definitely making this a biannual tradition!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why Michelangelo would've made a great critique partner.

We FNC ladies have been quite prolific lately, and we're all closing in on a major critique-a-thon, since our individual WIPs are just about ready for a second (and third, and fourth) set of eyes. 

Frankie sent some chapters our way last night, and then we had this Gchat conversation, which reminded me of the importance of critique partners during revision ...
Me: One more night, and I'll be ready to send you my first three chapters.
Frankie: Woo! So excited!
Me: I can't wait to read yours. Let's tear each other's work apart and make it AWESOME.
Frankie: Sounds like a plan to me!!!
Only with trusted critique partners can you be THAT excited at the prospect of getting a returned Word document chock full of comments and lengthy suggestions for revision. It's the knowledge that the CP knows and loves your work as much as you do, and with that passion will help you transform it into the best novel possible.

This reminds me of the famous Michelangelo quote: "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." 

That's a perfect metaphor for revising, except that your critique partners are your marble-carving buddies. They see that angel too, even when the rest of the world sees a block of stone, and they won't stop until the marble angel reflects your vision exactly.

Anyway, I'm feeling all kinds of warm and fuzzies toward my critique group, and I wanted to share the CP (and revision) love! Share yours in the comments!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Writing Exercise #4: Conflicting Internal Feelings

We're continuing our weekly critique group writing exercises, posting them here for you guys to join in!

This week's exercise comes from Donald Maass' Writing 21st Century Fiction, and it's all about adding conflicting internal feelings, which can add delicious amounts of depth to a scene.

The couple that epitomizes conflicting emotions.
Pick a moment in your manuscript and look at what your MC is feeling. Write down a contrasting or conflicting feeling that is also true in that moment. Add this opposing feeling to the scene.

What does your MC most want? What is the opposite of that? When and how can your protagonist want both of those things?

Pick another moment in the manuscript to show when your MC wants the opposite of what they normally want. What does your MC to achieve this? Can you add this opposite desire to two more scenes?

What is the moment when your MC rejects what they most want in the world? How does your MC throw the opportunity or desire away (in a way that is final, they cannot change their mind).
Ok, so maybe this baby's conflicted emotions are
more external than internal, but...

Want more from Donald Maass? Pick up Writing 21st Century Fiction (Writer's Digest Books, Sept. 2012) today, and check out this sneak peek from Writer's Digest!

Previous exercises:
Exercise one - Character Profile
Exercise two - Character Theme Song
Exercise three - Character Bedroom

Thursday, November 8, 2012

73 writing exercises to improve your NaNoWriMo draft

Hey, NaNoWriMo-ers!

This is a URL to bookmark for Dec. 1st:

From here, you can download 73 writing exercises from Donald Maass' THE BREAKOUT NOVELIST.

Use them to transform your NaNo novel from drab to fab!
(That line must be read in an infomercial voice.)

And even if you're not a NaNo participant, don't discount the usefulness of writing exercises to get you out of a writing/revising rut or to help you add depth to your characters or plot.

PS - If you're a fan of Maass' exercises, check out the book WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL, from Writers Digest Books.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Giveaway! 4 Books, 4 Moods, 2 Winners

When choosing my next book, my first consideration is what type of story I'm in the mood for. Do I want a fast-paced dystopian, a sweeping fantasy, a lighthearted romance, or a tense thriller? Do I want a quick, addictive read or one that I'll savor? I often find that, no matter how much I want to read a book, if I'm not in the mood for it, back to the shelf it goes after less than a chapter.

Here are four books for four very different moods, and two lucky winners get the two books of their choice!

If you're in the mood for something... Captivating
BOOK 1: WHAT'S LEFT OF ME by Kat Zhang (ARC, HarperCollins)
Debut about a world where everyone's born with two souls in one body... but if you don't "settle" with one dominant soul, you're deemed an illegal hybrid. Addie and Eva never settled, though Eva lost her physical control over their body, but they're willing to risk everything for a chance for Eva to move again. I was most fascinated by the push-pull of the girls' relationship, and Zhang's skillful handling of the unique dual narration of the girls.

If you're in the mood for something... Satirical
BOOK 2: BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray (Scholastic)
What happens when a plane full of Miss Teen Dream contestants crashes onto a supposedly-deserted island? If you're a fan of satire, feminism, and analyzing our meaningless, consumer-driven lives (bonus points for movie reference), then (1) you should be a Communications (or Women's Studies) major and (2) you should read this book.

If you're in the mood for something... Atmospheric
If you're looking for a lush, poetic, and dark story told through multiple narratives, this book's for you. Lanagan uses selkie lore to weave a haunting tale about an island where the men's wives are actually seals transformed by a witch into enchanting women. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill YA. I'd read this book with a cup of tea on a rainy afternoon.

If you're in the mood for something... Forbidden
BOOK 4: VENOM by Fiona Paul (ARC, Philomel)
Two words: Renaissance Venice. And not just any Renaissance Venice, but the one you find in the middle of the night, hidden in the shadows. With secret societies, grisly murders, grave robbing, and illicit romances, VENOM has everything you need for a delicious guilty pleasure read.

Hailey R. and Susan H.!
We've sent you an email to claim your books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 12, 2012

Writing Exercise #3: Character Bedroom

The third weekly writing exercise that Sara sent is all the delightful blend of setting and character, and how they complement one another.

Exercise three - Character Bedroom

From Sara's email...

Think about your MC's room (or living space, if they don't have a place that's solely their own.) What does it look like? How have the decorated it? What are the important possessions? Is it clean or messy? Think about what the space says about them. If the setting itself is significant to your story, talk about that, too—why do they live there? Do they enjoy living there or would they rather move? How long have they lived in the same space? If there was a fire, what are the possessions they would save?

I like this exercise because I remember my room being so important to me as a teenager. It was like my own personal art canvas—my clothes were on the floor on purpose, I'd decorated my door with tons of stickers, I had emails from friends printed out and taped to the walls, I always had music blaring. So now talk about your characters' own art canvases!

Poor Harry and his cupboard!
Not much room for decorating...

This has been our favorite exercise thus far, and it's even inspired some new scenes in our WIPs!

Let us know how you like it, and don't forget to tell us about your teenaged bedroom in the comments! (Don't even get me started on my Buffy the Vampire Slayer and David Boreanaz posters, and I totally had a save-the-diaries plan in case of fire!)

Previous exercises:
Exercise one - Character Profile
Exercise two - Character Theme Song

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Writing Exercise #2: Character Theme Songs!

We've all been hard at work on our WIPs, and Sara has been sending us weekly writing exercises to help us think more broadly about our novels.

Our first exercise, a Character Profile, can be found HERE.

Second exercise (taken directly from Sara's emails to us!): Character Theme Songs!

Consider some things that remind you of your characters or get you in the mood to write about them. One of my favorite things to do is to give my characters a theme song of sorts that either reminds me of them, or a specific part in the story, or their mindset.

Pick/tell us about your character's theme song (for as many characters as you would like.) Explain why you picked the song—include lyrics or YouTube links if you think they'd be helpful!

(Look, a productive excuse to watch YouTube videos!)

For some insight into our answers...

Sara chose Florence & the Machine's "Heavy in Your Arms" to represent a super creepy relationship in her WIP:

Frankie chose Marina & the Diamonds' "Are You Satisfied?" as her antagonist's theme song:

What do you think of this exercise and our choices? Share in the comments your example, if it worked for you, if it didn't, or if there's another exercise that really helps you out with your writing.

Stay tuned for the next exercise, and happy writing!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why THE RAVEN BOYS stole my heart.

I'll always have a certain affection for writing recommendations for Maggie Stiefvater's books because one of the very first reviews we wrote on this blog was for SHIVER, Maggie's first "big" book. I've developed so much as a writer, reader, and blogger in those years, and it's been so much fun watching Maggie's books and career evolve as well.

Maggie has a way with character and atmosphere that gets you totally invested and drawn into her books, and THE RAVEN BOYS doesn't disappoint.

Summary from Goodreads:
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”
It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.
     Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.
     His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
     But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.
     For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
     From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.
I became so fascinated by Blue's story and the strange way of living that's normal for her and her clairvoyant family. I loved the small-town feel and the distinction between the locals and the Aglionby students. Blue starts off an outsider when she meets Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah. The boys have a familiar, nuanced dynamic that just enchanted me, and when they welcomed Blue into their inner circle, it's like they welcomed me into it as well.

As for the paranormal part of the story, THE RAVEN BOYS is a lot less about the whole "you'll cause your true love to die" thing and way more about awesome old legends and the hunt for ley lines that leaves this series open to some very, very cool sequels. Without a doubt, I'll follow the Raven Boys wherever they go.

Though THE SCORPIO RACES is still my favorite of all of Maggie Stiefvater's books, THE RAVEN BOYS is quite the contender, and I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

I received an ARC at BEA, but my copy had already been pre-ordered. Lucky for you, THE RAVEN BOYS is available now from Scholastic!

Have you read THE RAVEN BOYS? Link to your review in the comments!

Monday, October 1, 2012

I'm a little obsessed with THE CROWN OF EMBERS.

I'm having so much of a fangirl moment right now that it's almost difficult to write a coherent recommendation for Rae Carson's THE CROWN OF EMBERS.

First off, it's the epically awesome sequel to THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS*. No snoozeworthy middle-novel-syndrome here; this book rocks.

It sets such a high bar for high fantasy, and Rae Carson has established herself among the ranks of Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore.

What's THE CROWN OF EMBERS about? (Summary from Goodreads.)
In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her—except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

This series has everything you want:

- The main character is made of awesome. (Hi, Elisa!) She's intelligent and strong, but she's still coming into her own as a queen, so there's plenty to root for. There's this whole business about her being The Chosen One in an all-important prophecy, but she doesn't let that get in the way of her getting. stuff. done.

- The stakes are high. Basically, everyone wants Elisa dead, and for a number of reasons. Everywhere Elisa turns, there's an enemy, and some come to her under the guise of friendship. All she wants to do is lead her kingdom in the right direction, but all these attempts to undermine, de-throne, and assassinate her make that a little difficult.

- The swoon is SO swoony. In THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, I never knew what Rae Carson would do in terms of Elisa's love interest, because that person changed as Elisa's situation changed and as she grew as a person. By the end of the book, I knew who made me the swooniest, and in THE CROWN OF EMBERS, I was happy to see that Elisa was feeling the same way. But of course, there are the inevitable obstacles that lead to the most delightfully torturous romantic tension.

- The worldbuilding is excellent.  The story is set in such a richly-developed world, and we get to see even more of it in THE CROWN OF EMBERS. I love when a setting — from Elisa's bedroom to the streets of the city to a ship — is more than just a backdrop. Everything from food to clothing to language to religion add depth to the world.

- The end. All I can say is, I read it in literally one sitting, finished the last page, put the book down, and yelled, "I have to wait A YEAR for the last one?! I can't wait a year!" And then I'm pretty sure I whimpered in distress at the thought. Is it time to pre-order yet?

All in all, THE CROWN OF EMBERS is a book I'm recommending to everyone I know. It's definitely worth the purchase, and I officially consider Rae Carson a must-read author. Go buy this book!!

Anyone else as enamored with this series as I am?

* I just went back and re-read that post recommending FIRE AND THORNS for the first time since I wrote it, and it's crazy how similar it is to this one! I was equally blown away by my fangirly love for the first book, and I read it just as obsessively quickly — now that's the sign of a great series.

Friday, September 28, 2012

2013 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market Giveaway!

For all of our followers who are also writers, we have something special today! We're giving away two copies of the 2013 Children's Writers & Illustrator's Market. This is the second year Donna and I have had the opportunity to contribute to the CWIM.

This guide has everything! Advice on building your author platform, on writing the perfect query letter, what agents are looking for, and lots of awesome advice from some of your favorite authors.

Check out my interviews with Kiersten White and Marissa Meyer! And Donna has the scoop on some amazing agent advice.

Isn't it pretty! I took this after my copy came in the mail.
This book is seriously an awesome resource for anyone early in the publishing game. There's a detailed section on every literary agency that represents children's books as well as details about all of the different children's publishers. And it's in stores now.

But because we love you guys, we're giving away not one but TWO copies. All you have to do to win is comment below with the best piece of writing/publishing advice you've ever heard. And that's it. Though, we'll totally appreciate the gesture if you tweet about this post too. 

Win the 2013 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market by commenting with your best piece of writing/publishing advice.* Deadline: October 5th.

*Two winners will be selected at random**
**Sorry, US residents only

Monday, September 24, 2012

What's your day job?

Sometimes I feel like two different people — on one hand, I'm the office manager of a university student newspaper, a full-time job. But I've also been a blogger, writer, and YA fanatic for just as long as I've had that position — over four years.

Rarely do those two worlds intersect, except for when I leave work early to attend a book signing or conference, and when I write a blog post during my lunch (like I am now). Or when one of my college students says they're reading a YA novel, and I start babbling with excitement until I realize that they aren't really interested to hear my enthused recommendations for other YA titles they may enjoy.

Anyway, this whole thing came to mind because I had to write an email today and used the phrase "in my mailbox," which of course made me think of the In My Mailbox meme ... and then I realized that likely NO ONE at my work would get the reference.

Then I thought maybe, MAYBE someone would.

Maybe they're just like me, living these oddly disjointed lives. (And like Sara, I don't always mind the separation!)

So that got me wondering — Is the cashier at the supermarket secretly a blogger? Is the UPS delivery guy a huge John Green fan? Is one of my students an aspiring writer?

We need a secret handshake, or something. Or we all need to wear DFTBA tshirts.

So what's your day job? And do the people around you know you're a blogger/writer/YA fan? Leave it in the comments!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Stretching Your Writerly Brain!

After the success of our first retreat, the FNC is gearing up to retreat again this November.

Some of us will be working on our books up until that point, and will be using the weekend to give a really big push to our manuscripts.

Some of us may or may not have opened up our WIP in over three months. Yes, that someone would be me. It turns out carrying a nine pound baby, then giving birth to a nine pound baby, then caring for a nine pound (now 2 month old!) baby is A LOT of work! Which means not a whole lot of time to dedicate to writing.
Here is a gratuitous picture of the adorable guy who has taken up all my time.

Now that the littlest critiquer is a bit older and has developed a reasonably predictable routine, I've decided it's time to sit down and start writing again. But you know what I realized?



So to jumpstart things, I've decided to try to do one writing exercise a week to get me thinking about my book again. If that means I also write before November, awesome! If not, that's okay--at least I'll have a better mindset going into our retreat.

The other ladies of the FNC will also be exercising with me, since you can never think too much about books!

And now, here's your chance to exercise right along with us. Every week we'll post the writing exercise we've emailed out to each other. Take it, use it, love it, tell us about it! Share in the comments your example, if it worked for you, if it didn't, or if there's another exercise that really helps you out with your writing.


Here we go:

Our first prompt is taken form the book, What If: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. This is one I used to do all the time in high school when I had a new idea for a story. It's a long one! I always edit/omit these categories depending on what I'm working on--for example, my story is fantasy and I've created my own world, so I won't be using the astrological sign category because they don't exist in my book.

This is perfect for a character that needs fleshing out, that you need a new perspective on, or need to get into the mind of again. I think this exercise also works well for double-checking your characters for authenticity. Sure, you think you've got it all figured out, but if you can't talk about them like real people, then they won't feel real to the reader.

Fill in the blanks for a character of your choice:

1) Name:
2) Nicknames?
3) Sex:
4) Age:
5) Appearance:
6) Education:
7) Job:
8) Status/Money:
9) Marital Status:
10) Family, ethnicity:
11) Accent/Diction:
12) Relationships:
13) Hobbies:
14) Obsessions:
15) Beliefs:
16) Ambitions:
17) Religion:
18) Superstitions:
19) Fears:
20) Flaws:
21) Strengths:
22) Pets:
23) Taste in books, music, etc.:
24) Favorite foods:
25) Handwriting:
26) Astrological Sign:
27) Talents:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

We shall retreat! AGAIN! In the retreatiest cottage ever.

You guys might remember our epic writing retreat weekend last April — you know, 38,000 words written, farm animals galore, general hijinks, and hot tub goodness? Well, we're doing it again!

The first weekend in November, the FNC will escape to a 1700s stone farmhouse called Lincoln-Boone Country Cottage for another productive weekend of word wars and more food than you can imagine.

For real, guys, THIS IS THE RETREAT COTTAGE. It's so very retreat-y, right?
And it's older than Jane Austen. Jane would totally be like,
(Apparently, the Amish neighbor sells sticky buns that are to die for. We'll have to investigate.)

So there aren't any hot tubs or farm animals... but there are oak trees and wisteria and a wishing well and apparently a wonderful view of the valley.

That would be a wishing well.
*Please oh please let my characters cooperate*
The drive up to the cottage. Talk about secluded!
And guess who's joining us ... again! Baby Robin! Last time, he was all cozied up in Sara's belly, but this time, he'll be 3 months old and napping away while we word war. 

You'd be napping, right, Robin?
Anyway, we've all been working furiously on our WIPs (except for Sara, but she gets the Newborn Exception), and we're so excited for this weekend away to give an extra boost to our productivity.

Just like last time, we found this lovely (and super, super affordable) cottage via, so grab your writing buddies and schedule a retreat of your own!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

You should jump on the COLD KISS / GLASS HEART bandwagon.

COLD KISS is one of those books that, when someone asks me what I like most about it, I can pinpoint the answer in a heartbeat.

It feels real.

Ok, it feels real if, like main character Wren, you had crazy magical abilities that you didn't understand and your boyfriend died tragically and you accidentally-on-purpose magicked him back to life...ish.

Normally, you'd think that would be the end of a paranormal YA: "Look! I'm special! My boyfriend is alive again and we'll be together forever!"

With COLD KISS, it's the beginning. It starts when you realize that your undead boyfriend isn't quite the same person he used to be. When you realize that everyone else thinks he's gone and buried, so you have to hide him from the world. When you realize that your crazy, impulsive, grief-driven decision was the worst thing you could possibly have ever done. 

And you have to deal with it.

It's as much about grieving and learning to let go and taking responsibility for your mistakes as it is about figuring out what to do with the undead boyfriend hidden in your neighbor's garage ... and the complication of the cute new guy who's reminding you what it's like to crush on someone warm-blooded.

Wren is a complex, complicated character, and she doesn't fit into any cookie-cutter mold. Sometimes I wanted to shake her until she saw sense, but I understood her mistakes. In the sequel, GLASS HEART, we explore more deeply into Wren's magical abilities — including their darker side — and why discussing them has been so taboo in her family.

I enjoyed this second glimpse into Wren's life because, again, the book delves into an area that usually isn't written about: The time after "The End," when the crazy plot has wrapped up and the main character is adjusting back to being normal (or some semblance thereof, in Wren's case).

Her relationship with Gabriel (the aforementioned "cute new guy") is developing and hitting a few bumps, and she's testing the limits of her powers and how she wants to integrate them into her life. GLASS HEART is more traditionally coming-of-age in that Wren is setting her own course for the first time, and she's pushing against the expectations of the people who love her.

Like COLD KISS, the end satisfies the reader, and I have it on direct authority from author Amy Garvey that GLASS HEART completes Wren's story. (So refreshing not to have the almost obligatory trilogy!)

GLASS HEART releases on September 18th, so be sure to read this standout duo! (I purchased my copy of COLD KISS and received an ARC of GLASS HEART at BEA.)

Full disclosure: I'm friends with Amy Garvey. She's awesome, so it's no surprise that her books are great, too.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

In which I steal Ian Somerhalder's cheese.

When you spend two weeks copyediting a guide to gourmet cheeses and mix in a brief twitter conversation with Frankie about the upcoming Vampire Diaries season premiere ... dreams can get strange.

I was in a tiny NYC apartment, and I lived next door to Ian Somerhalder. Somehow, there was a hole in the shared wall between our apartments, and I reached through and grabbed a bag of cheese —

Specifically, this bag of cheese:
Soooo not gourmet. But still yummy.

— from his mini fridge and stole it. Ian then came over and was very, very angry that I stole his cheese.
Nobody steals my cheese cubes.
And then... I woke up.

Should I chalk it up to the perils of freelance copyediting before bed?  Maybe. But why couldn't I have dreamt that Ian Somerhalder was feeding me gourmet cheese? Now that's a good dream.

Can anyone top me in the absurd work-related dream category? And who else is excited about the Vampire Diaries premiere?! Leave it in the comments!

Vampire Diaries Season Premiere Preview

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Two YA Events For The Philly Area

For any of our awesome blog readers who live in or near Philadelphia and LOVE reading or writing YA books, I have two really awesome events coming up in the next few months.

This event is FREE and open to the public!
Tuesday, October 23, 2012 from 5-7PM.
Location: Arcadia University, Glenside PA in the Rose Room of Grey Towers.

Moderator: Frankie Diane Mallis

Amy Garvey

E.C. Myers

Jeri Smith-Ready

Maria V. Snyder

K.M. Walton


And...onto event two!

YA Writing Workshop

I'm partnering with Arcadia University and  Musehouse to bring you this one night talk with...well, with me.

(Copied from the Musehouse catalog/website)

Writing the Young Adult Novel 
One-Day Workshop Are you writing a young adult novel? Or considering writing one? This workshop is for you. We'll look at not only what makes a book a young adult novel, but what makes it successful. Savvy writers who want to break into the young adult industry need to know how to navigate through this ever-changing field. So we'll also be looking at current trends in the market and how to understand the trends, but still write the story of your heart. The process of querying, signing with an agent and networking in the young adult industry will also be covered, along with personal tidbits from the instructor’s journey to publication. Get ready for a crash course in the young adult novel and how to bring your own YA book out into the world.
Date: Saturday, November 10, 2012
Time: 7 — 8:30 p.m.
Fee: $40
Instructor: Frankie Diane Mallis

Frankie Diane Mallis is a young adult fantasy writer in the Philadelphia area, represented by Laura Rennert. She is a professor of composition and creative writing at Arcadia University and currently teaches the popular Writing For Children class. Frankie also runs a small children's library in Elkins Park. When not writing or teaching she is often blogging or tweeting. You can learn more by visiting her website 

Hope to see some of you at one or both of these events!
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