Sunday, May 31, 2009

Contest: Catching Fire

Yeah yeah, I am totally serious. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I'm paying (a lot) for my internet usage, so I can't add cover and description, but I'm sure you're all tired of hearing that. :)

Comment to win. This is US only because this trip to the US has made me POOR. +1 for each time you link straight here. Leave as many comments as you have entries. (So if you enter and do one +1, you leave two comments; one entry and 2 +1s = 3 comments, etc.)

Not sure when the deadline is (we'll see what the response is), so hurry!

Contest over. Winner announced here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I'm in NYC!

Hi all, have to make this quick cos my hotel charges for internet. I'm in NYC and I met a ton of people today, including Michelle Zink, Alea, Lenore, Amy (My Friend Amy), Melissa Walker, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Korianne, Marie, Steph Su, Sharon, and many many others I'm not gonna say right now cos of time. But anyway, it's been fab. If anyone wants to meet at BEA tomorrow, I'll be at the YA Editors' Buzz. K? See you then!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Contest: Lisa Schroeder's Books

You saw Lisa Schroeder's Pub Story.
Now it's time to win Lisa's books.

From Lisa herself:

Man, Elizabeth Scott is a tough act to follow, giving away a whole stack of books. I only have two books out, but I’m happy to give away one of each to two lucky people.

I Heart You, You Haunt Me
Girl meets boy.

Girl loses boy.
Girl gets boy back...

...sort of.

Ava can't see him or touch him, unless she's dreaming. She can't hear his voice, except for the faint whispers in her mind. Most would think she's crazy, but she knows he's here.

Jackson. The boy Ava thought she'd spend the rest of her life with. He's back from the dead, as proof that love truly knows no bounds.

Far From You
Lost and alone...down the rabbit hole

Years have passed since Alice lost her mother to cancer, but time hasn't quite healed the wound. Alice copes the best she can, by writing her music, losing herself in the love of her boyfriend, and distancing herself from her father and his new wife.

But when a deadly snowstorm traps Alice with her stepmother and newborn half-sister, she'll face issues she's been avoiding for too long. As Alice looks to the heavens for guidance, she discovers something wonderful.

Perhaps she's not so alone after all...

Sound good? You have until June 3rd to enter. Leave a comment indicating which one you'd like, or, if you have no preference, let us know that.

If you link directly to this contest post
+1 If you link to Lisa's Pub Story

Please leave as many comments as you have entries (for instance, one entry = 1 comment, 1 entry + 1 extra entry = 2 comments, so on). Makes my life easier. ;)

Contest closed. Winners announced here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pub Story: Lisa Schroeder

Author guest blogs + publication paths = Pub Stories. It's a Tuesday thing. Click here for more info (esp. if you're an author wanting to participate). Click here for a list of all participants.

* Noteworthy: Lisa gave a bit of insight on the production of novels in verse: snagging an agent, selling, word count, editing, etc. I've never found this sort of info easily, which is why I think this is a particularly informative Pub Story.

About Lisa: Lisa is the author of two young adult novels, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME and FAR FROM YOU, both published by Simon Pulse. She works as a Compensation Analyst by day at a local hospital and squeezes writing in during the early morning hours and on the weekends. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two sons. In 2010, she’s excited to have two new novels coming out -- a mid-grade novel called IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES and another YA novel-in-verse, CHASING BROOKLYN. Visit her online at

The Story
I had been writing for a long time. A. Freaking. Long. Time. Like years and years. And all around me people were getting big deals with their exciting books for kids and teens and skipping through the field of publishing daisies, and holy crap did I want to SKIP through those daisies too!

Although I had published a picture book with a small house, my dream was to publish a novel. I’d written three mid-grade novels that didn’t go anywhere. The third one I’d come close to getting an agent a couple of times, but I still wasn’t skipping. So, in 2006 I read about an on-line YA class an author was offering and I signed up. 2005/2006 was when the young adult world really started to take off. YA novels were selling like crazy. It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted to go where it was hot, it just made sense to learn more about writing for this age group in case I ever had a story idea that would fit.

I read a LOT of YA during that time and discovered Laurie Halse Anderson, Sonya Sones, Sarah Mlynowski, Ellen Hopkins, Sarah Dessen, and many others. So, I started writing a YA novel, and while in the middle of that story, I had a dream about a girl whose boyfriend died and he loved her so much, he couldn’t leave her. I got up the next morning and started writing about Ava and Jackson – the story that eventually became I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME.

The weird thing was that the story came out in a different format from anything I’d ever written. I wrote ten pages before I sat back and thought, Lisa, what in the ^&*% are you doing? As if it isn’t hard enough to get a book published, now I was writing in this sparse, poetic style that would probably make it even harder.

Still, I liked what I had, so I kept going. The story poured out of me like nothing else I’d ever written. I found it fun and challenging at the same time to tell the story in this unique way. Still, I worried that calling it “verse” when I wasn’t nearly as poetic as other verse authors would mean I would be stuck on the boring old sidewalk forever while others around me continued to skip through those daisies.

I finished the book and had a few people give me critiques, including Sonya Sones, who was incredibly helpful in getting my book polished and ready to submit. Finally, in August of 2006, I was ready to start querying agents. I put the word count in the letter, and at that time, the book came in at a whopping 13,600 words. Verse novels are just shorter. (It did grow by about 2,000 words, though, during the revision process with my editor). One agent told me (after reading only the query letter) – this is too short to be a novel, it’s probably more of a novella. Another agent told me – I wouldn’t know a good verse novel from a bad one, so I’m definitely not the agent for you. It wasn’t long before I was frustrated and feeling like it would be back to the Idea Store again to find a new idea and start over on a new project.

Finally, I had an agent request to read the manuscript, because she had a client who had been talking about writing a novel-in-verse, and she was “curious.” This, by the way, proves my point that so much of what happens in publishing is luck, i.e. right place, right time. A couple of weeks later, she e-mailed me and said she loved the book and thought the verse created a unique atmosphere that she didn’t think I would have achieved had I written in traditional prose.

We had to submit to quite a few editors before we found one who fell in love with it. I mean, let’s face it. I had this paranormal story going on combined with what is traditionally a very literary style. I think most editors read it and just weren’t sure what to do with it. Is it literary? Is it commercial? What IS it?

Anyway, Simon Pulse took me on and although I’m still very much a struggling author with a day job trying to break out, I’ve finally gotten to skip through the field of publishing daisies. I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME came out in January, 2008 and is in its seventh printing. Simon Pulse bought my second novel in verse, called FAR FROM YOU, out now, which is another book about love and loss, healing and hope. I just finished revisions on my third one, coming out in 2010, called CHASING BROOKLYN, another ghost story, this time with two ghosts, one who is tormenting Brooklyn and another who is trying to protect her.

Steph asked – how is writing, submitting, and revising a verse novel different from a traditional novel?

I think some houses view verse novels as risky. Editors wonder if teens will open up the book and be turned off by the format. Certainly Ellen Hopkins, a NYT best-selling author, has proven teens will read verse. On the other hand, not everyone is going to like it. I know that. I get that. And it’s okay! Just like not everyone likes fantasy, not everyone likes historical fiction, etc. etc. Ultimately, just like any book, I think it comes down to telling a good story. That has to be the number one goal each and every time. The format in which I choose to tell the story isn’t as important as telling a good story.

As far as revising a verse novel, it’s really tricky because with my editor’s help, I go in knowing what needs work to make the story better and to make the characters more developed. But at the same time, I’m constantly asking myself, is it poetic enough? There are times when lots of dialogue is needed, and let’s face it, realistic dialogue is not going to be poetic. So I do the best I can, and hope people know it’s a fine line, and hope they might try to appreciate the challenges writing a novel-in-verse comes with.


Thanks, Lisa!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Waiting for You Winners

Erica and Iryna!

Email me your addresses, please!

Edit: If you're in NYC!

Just as an addendum to my last post looking for writers/agents/editors/publicists/etc going to BEA, this came up: I'm going to be in NYC Wednesday (May 27th) through Monday (June 1st--but I don't know when my flight leaves, so there's that). So if you're not necessarily going to be at BEA, or you are but prefer meeting elsewhere, email me anyway.

And again, the reason I'm doing this is because this is like the greatest opportunity ever to get some real info about agent and editor jobs, the industry, etc., all face-to-face.


Sunday, May 24, 2009


I AM!!! :D

I feel silly doing this, but since this is sort of a really huge thing for me (cos I live abroad and will be traveling to NYC exclusively for this), I want to make sure I meet everyone I know or who knows me who will be there. And since I have found out some autographing authors whose names aren't on the lists, and others still who aren't signing but will be there nonetheless, I want to ensure I have everyone.

So if you'll be there (and you don't have to be an author--lord knows I'm hoping to meet some editors, agents, etc just to chat about their jobs), email me. Let's schedule some face time. ;)

And I really do mean it about the agents/editors/etc (particularly editors). I'll be making a college choice in a year and this is a golden opportunity for me to learn more about the job (since it's what I really, really want to do). I promise that:

I won't try to hand you an unsolicited manuscript.
I'm harmless.
I won't take up a lot of time. I'm a fast talker.

Like I said, I feel silly doing this. But a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, and a girl doesn't go to NYC all the time. And a girl would also like to let you know that you don't have to be in YA for her to want to meet you. I'm a people person--I like meeting everyone.

Retrospective (3)

** If you've sent me any email in the past two weeks, please note that I am overrun with distractions from Le Real Life and what with the upcoming BEA and all, and I haven't had time to respond to hardly anyone. Sorry, sorry, it's coming! **

Anyway: This is not my idea: I've see "this week in review"-type posts everywhere. Sometimes "this month in review". Same thing. However, I've had a few people ask me if they could do it after I did a In Hindsight post two weeks ago (of course you can! It's everywhere!), and I've seen a couple do it since, and I think this would be a neat way to keep up with each other's blog if we get behind. Thus, a retro meme type deal.

So, if you want to participate, just post what you did in this past week (feel free to link here so people know where to get other people's list) on your blog and add a link to your post below.

1. The drama continues...

2. Elizabeth Scott stops by for her Pub Story. (!) Hers is one of first novels being sold third and coming out first and third novels sold coming out sixth and all that kind of weird timing. Oh, and of three different editors for one manuscript. Quite confusing unless you read it. So do.


4. And then I read an awesome book called Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead and reviewed it.

Add yourself to the list if you've participated:

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

I think this book was up for grabs at BookDivas a couple of years back and the only thing that stopped me from getting it over Angel’s Choice by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (a good one--and my first ever review) was the cover. (If not BookDivas, probably some other similar situation.) It, in my opinion, made (makes) Vampire Academy look derivative and I’m just not so into vampires that I can read stuff that didn’t come recommended to me.

Now, I’m trying really hard to learn to love the cover because, god forbid, it is what it is, but you don’t have to tell me twice to love the story behind it. I already do.

Moroi vampire princess Lissa Dragomir and half-human, half-vampire (dhampir) Rose Hathaway are finally caught two years after fleeing St. Vladmir’s academy for reasons only Rose could tell you. In a world where the Moroi--or good, magical, harmless vampires--are dwindling in numbers with the proliferation of Strigoi--bad, killer vampires--the burden of protecting the Moroi falls upon the dhampirs, who need them for procreation. Gifted with an unique bond that allows her to experience Lissa’s feelings, delinquent Rose’s only saving grace against expulsion from the Academy is that she’s the princess’s ideal guardian.

But being under house arrest and exhausted with all her extra training with the steamy Dimitri Belikov as part of her preparation toward becoming a guardian (making up for lost time, if you will) doesn’t stop Rose from piecing together shocking truths and parallels between her recently orphaned friend’s depression and magic, their bond, and an enigmatic former teacher who was taken away.

Well, the first thing I can tell you is that Vampire Academy isn’t derivative.

Rose, the main character, may be hard to like at first. Her fierce loyalty, passion and strength may come across as cocky and irritating, but with each passing page, her character is unveiled and what you see is that she’s determined to keep her best friend safe. Which is the beauty factor of this book: at its heart, it’s a tale of friendship.

Lissa and the supporting cast are all just as well written, but it’s a good thing this is told from Rose’s perspective, as she’s my favorite. Well, from the girls. There’s your assortment of hot guys thrown in for good measure, but y’all can sigh over those yourselves. ;)

What struck me most, however, was how unique the mythology here is. I won’t get into it because it’s very carefully plotted to be relevant to the conflict and such, but it’s presented prominently and the vampiric culture was almost a character itself in that it leaped to life. You had your religion, your customs, and your taboos, and you can’t help but become immersed in it.

And what I appreciated a lot? The ending wasn’t a cliffhanger whatsoever but just as effectively makes me wish I had the second book right here with me. (Which I will, if the good Lord permits my bookstore to ship it out on time, in two days.)

I can see where the Vampire Academy series gained their fame and momentum. If this first book is of any indication, it’s a perfect contender for word-of-mouth: it propels praise. I just couldn’t wait to start talking about how much I liked it. It was an immensely fun and satisfying read, complete with originality to boot.

You definitely get your money’s worth after 300+ pages of action-packed narrative at $9, is all I’m saying.

Further: I'm sorry, but someone really needs to fix the typographical errors herein. It's been 17 printings y'all, there's just no excuse anymore.

Razorbill | 332 pages | August 16th, 2007 | Website | Excerpt | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Win All Elizabeth Scott Books!

Yooohooo! Okay, a little confession: I edited Elizabeth Scott's Pub Story a bit. See where it says:

I figure there's only one way to finish this story - you know who I really have to thank?


All of you who've bought my novels and told your friends about them, sent me emails, and just generally remind me every day that I am the luckiest girl ever.
It should say:

I figure there's only one way to finish this story, and that's to give one person a copy of every single novel I've written. That's right--a copy of all of my novels--because you know who I really have to thank?


All of you who've bought my novels and told your friends about them, sent me emails, and just generally remind me every day that I am the luckiest girl ever. So, one person will get signed copies of the following:

Bloom, Stealing Heaven, Love You Hate You Miss You (out June 2nd), Perfect You, Something, Maybe, and Living Dead Girl.

Whoever thinks I'm beyond excited about hosting this contest would be right. ;)

So, descriptions!

Lauren has a good life: decent grades, great friends, and a boyfriend every girl lusts after. So why is she so unhappy?

It takes the arrival of Evan Kirkland for Lauren to figure out the answer: She's been holding back. She's been denying herself a bunch of things (like sex) because staying with her loyal and gorgeous boyfriend, Dave, is the "right" thing to do. After all, who would give up the perfect boyfriend?

But as Dave starts talking more and more about their life together, planning a future Lauren simply can't see herself in -- and as Lauren's craving for Evan, and moreover, who she is with Evan becomes all the more fierce -- Lauren realizes she needs to make a choice...before one is made for her.

Stealing Heaven
Dani has been trained as a thief by the best - her mother. Together, they move from town to town, targeting wealthy homes and making a living by stealing antique silver. They never stay in one place long enough to make real connections, real friends - a real life.

In the beach town of Heaven, though, everything changes. For the first time, Dani starts to feel at home. She's making friends and has even met a guy. But these people can never know the real Dani - because of who she is. When it turns out that her new friend lives in the house they've targeted for their next job and the cute guy is a cop, Dani must question where her loyalties lie: with the life she's always known - or the one she's always wanted.

Perfect You
Kate Brown's life has gone downhill fast.
Her father has quit his job to sell vitamins at the mall, and Kate is forced to work with him. Her best friend has become popular, and now she acts like Kate's invisible.

And then there's Will. Gorgeous, unattainable Will, whom Kate acts like she can't stand even though she can't stop thinking about him. When Will starts acting interested, Kate hates herself for wanting him when she's sure she's just his latest conquest.

Kate figures that the only way things will ever stop hurting so much is if she keeps to herself and stops caring about anyone or anything. What she doesn't realize is that while life may not always be perfect, good things can happen - but only if she lets them....

Living Dead Girl
Once upon a time I was a little girl who disappeared.
Once upon a time my name was not Alice.

Once upon a time I didn't know how lucky I was.

When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends -- her life. She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over.

Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her.

This is Alice's story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget.

Something, Maybe
Everyone thinks their parents are embarrassing, but Hannah knows she's got them all beat. Her dad made a fortune showing pretty girls--and his "party" lifestyle--all over the Internet, and her mom, who was once one of her dad's girlfriends, is now the star of her own website. After getting the wrong kind of attention for far too long, Hannah has learned how to stay out of sight...and that's how she likes it.

Of course, being unknown isn't helping her get noticed by gorgeous, confident Josh, who Hannah knows is her soul mate. Between trying to figure out a way to get him to notice her, dealing with her parents, and wondering why she can't stop thinking about another guy, Finn, Hannah feels like she's going crazy. She's determined to make things work out the way she wants....only what she wants may not be what she needs.

Love You Hate You Miss You
It's been seventy-five days. Amy's sick of her parents suddenly taking an interest in her. And she's really sick of people asking her about Julia. Julia's gone, and Amy doesn't want to talk about it. No one knew Julia like she did. No one gets what life is without her.

No one understands what it's like to know that it's all your fault.

Amy's shrink thinks she should keep a journal but instead, Amy starts writing letters to Julia. And as she writes letter after letter, she begins to realize that the past holds its own secrets--and that the present deserves a chance.

Not too shabby, huh?

Official stuff: ONE winner gets all of these signed. This person must be in the US. This person must be awesome. This person must comment to enter.

Deadline: Two weeks from now - June 3rd.

How to enter: Comment for each entry you get. First one's free. Then, if you do any of the extras, leave a comment for each thing (TELLING me what you did for that entry) (like seven extras + regular entry = 8 comments) so it's easier for me to draw names. Sorry to be anal but anyone who's does multiple entries knows how painstaking tallying everything up is.

+ 1 if you link to this contest post
+ 1 if you link to her Pub Story
+ 1 if you link to my review of Bloom (since it's my favorite, I think it's my best review of her books)
+ 1 if you join the Elizabeth Scott Facebook group
+ 1 if you link to the Facebook group
+ 1 -sekkrit-

So yeah, that's seven entries you can get, plus however many more you earn by linking to this from different places. ;)

Contest closed. Winners announced here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pub Story: Elizabeth Scott

Author guest blogs + publication paths = Pub Stories. It's a Tuesday thing. Click here for more info (esp. if you're an author wanting to participate). Click here for a list of all participants.

A bit about Elizabeth: Elizabeth Scott grew up in a town so small it didn't even have a post office, though it did boast an impressive cattle population. She's sold hardware and panty hose and had a memorable three-day stint in the dot-com industry, where she learned that she really didn't want a career burning CDs. She lives just outside Washington, DC, with her husband; firmly believes you can never own too many books; and would love it if you visited her website,

The Story

Here's my pub story. The first young adult novels I sold were actually the second and third ones I'd written--but they didn't come out until years after my first novel--which was the third novel of mine that sold--had been published. (In fact, that third novel comes out this June!)

What happened was this: I'd been writing for fun for about five years when some friends talked me into sending stuff out. I had a few short stories published and wrote up a query letter for my first young adult novel, Bloom. I didn't do anything with it though, until I ran across an agent's blog entry about email queries back in April 2005.

I thought-- "Hey, email query! I can do that! I'll send it off, get rejected, and then boom! I've tried and can tell everyone so! Hurrah!"

And then the agent wrote me back six minutes later and asked to see the first three chapters.

About five hours after that, she asked for the full.

The next day, she sent me a note asking if we could talk that night, and I ended up signing with my first agent. I'll call her Agent Q, and she worked for a small agency that has since become part of a larger agency.

Agent Q sent Bloom out to an editor on an exclusive and I settled in to wait.

Fast forward a few months, and I'm at an SCBWI conference and have arranged to have the first ten pages of my second novel critiqued. I figure it can't hurt to have an editor read them and tell me what needs to be fixed, you know?

So I get to the conference and I'm staring at all the published authors and trying to guess who my critique editor, Tara Weikum, is. I spot her right away--she's gorgeously dressed and just looks like someone who knows so much about books.

I'm instantly terrified. What was I thinking sending in those ten pages? Will she at least like something? Maybe the first chapter? A little bit?

I'm one of the first people to be critiqued, and so I go, trembling, to meet with her.

And she likes the pages! In fact, she says she wants to see all of the novel, which is called STEALING HEAVEN.

Tara ended up buying that novel and and my third novel about a month after that conference. STEALING HEAVEN came out last June and will be out in paperback this July and that third novel, LOVE YOU HATE YOU MISS YOU, will be in stores on June 2nd, almost four years after the book sold (So you see, when people talk about how productive I am, it's more a matter of timing than anything else :-) )

And remember that first novel, a little story called BLOOM? I asked Agent Q to send it out after STEALING HEAVEN and LOVE YOU HATE YOU MISS YOU sold, and she did, and it sold to an editor at Simon Pulse. That editor actually ended up leaving the company, and BLOOM passed to another editor. Orphaned before I'd even been published, but at that point--having parted ways with Agent Q and signing with a new agent, Robin Rue at Writers House. who took a chance on me after her then-assistant (and now agent herself!) Diana Fox decided she liked the query I'd sent, I thought, "Bring it on!"

And then S&S did some reorganizing and I ended up with another editor.

That's right. Editor number THREE.

I was so nervous--at this point, I was afraid the book would never be published!--so I arranged to go and meet Bloom's new editor.

That editor was Jen Klonsky and the moment I met her, I knew Bloom was in great hands. And it was--Jen and Simon Pulse have been AMAZING to me.

So that's my story. Sold my second and third novels before my first, had my first novel come out first, and my second and third come out after later novels!

I figure there's only one way to finish this story - you know who I really have to thank?


All of you who've bought my novels and told your friends about them, sent me emails, and just generally remind me every day that I am the luckiest girl ever.


Further: Hey y'all, back to Steph. I'm just tacking this here at the bottom (maybe tackily so, but so it goes) to say that Elizabeth is one of the classiest authors I've ever talked to and her books are addictive fun. My favorite is still Bloom, so if you're looking for a place to start: You're welcome. ;)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ai ai ai

Hey all,

I wasn't around this weekend and when I got back, I heard something not-quite-so-good that happened on Kristi's blog and involved me and a couple of authors, apparently. You won't find it up anymore because Kristi removed them (mostly anon commenters bashing other people? I can very clearly see why she'd do that), and neither could I, so I don't have the full story. All I know is--

One of the criticisms directed at me was of my vlog. For those who didn't watch it, I got on camera and set up a little scenario where I took Courtney Summers's debut novel, Cracked Up To Be, and took it hostage until Courtney she lets read her next book, Some Girls Are. It was a joke, and I though most people got that, except now I see they didn't because this commenter was appalled at how I was "demanding a book" and how they were "appalled" Courtney found it funny.

Guys? Courtney and I email a lot. We converse. This isn't out of the blue, and it's not me demanding a book--it is a long-running joke I have with Courtney since she's in what seems interminable revisions and all I want is another Summers book. I was struggling to make my vlog a bit, as Courtney would put it, ~*sparkly*~, so I threw that storyline in there. I wouldn't do it with (m)any other authors, but I knew Courtney would probably be amused.

In fact, we're doing something very ~*sparkly*~ with Some Girls Are, which you'll see when the time comes, but yeah: That's why the subject comes up all the time between us. It's just a ritual. I bug her about her book, she goes ALL CAPS on me, and we talk about shiny objects.

Anyway, I can't believe we're arguing semantics over a vlog where a stuffed turkey grinded with a book. I wish people would get the full story. The worst thing about this is that it was an anonymous commenter, so I can't even email them. Please get your facts straight before you go bad-mouthing someone, especially if you don't sign your name by it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

How gorgeous is THIS cover?

Seriously, I think it's one of my favorites ever. It's the paperback version of The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson, which I loved and reviewed last year. What I like about this is that the hardcover cover art reflected on the humanity aspect of this novel, whereas this new cover is its scientific side. Very effective change of scenery. I think I'm actually going to pick one of these up myself--even though I already own the hardcover. See? Pretty + love = Steph spending $$$ (could this count as an alliteration?).

The blurb: In the not-too-distant future, when biotechnological advances have made synthetic bodies and brains possible but illegal, a seventeen-year-old girl, recovering from a serious accident and suffering from memory lapses, learns a startling secret about her existence.

It really is quite good.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Shadowed Summer winner SMD! Thanks to all who entered.

Don't forget you can still enter:

Good luck!

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey is trapped by promises she’s made to the dead. A vow at her mother’s deathbed lock her into the responsibility of taking care of her large family. Shortly after, her older brother inexplicably runs away and her pa can’t go on his logging job, thus placing the family in a financial strain. Pa is distant, things are bleak, and the future Mattie was hoping for at Barnard College quickly evaporates into thin air when she slowly realizes how dire the situation is. It’s 1906, they’re poor, and there’s no one to help them.

Fate would have it, however, that her father would need her to take a job six miles away from home, at Glenmore, a resort/hotel. There she comes face to face with her second promise she’s to make to the deceased: a guest, Grace Brown, hands her a stack of letters and makes her swear to burn them--and then turns up dead in a boating accident and her fiancĂ© is nowhere to be found. Mattie is spooked, and she reads the letters…and finds out there’s more to Grace’s life and death than just that and that there might be more to her--Mattie’s--life, too.voice. I know many people who read this blog are writers, so if you’re one, I know this would sit especially well with you: Mattie is basically the queen of all aspiring writer heroines. Even though she grew up in a rural setting where many are not properly educated, she insists on using correct grammar and writing daily. She loves reading, and if you’re familiar with the classics, you’ll get her many references to them. The dictionary her mother spent a lavish amount of money on is her most prized possession. She has a word of the day, every day, without fail.

There are a lot of things that work here, most of all Mattie’s And you know what was one of my favorite scenes, actually? When she comes across this really nice notebook at the store, and it costs 45 cents. She has 60 cents from selling fiddleheads, and even though her family is wanting for food, and even though she’s extremely considerate of them, she can’t stop herself--she buys it. And later she’s reprimanded for this. It’s such a powerful, trying section of the book.

Despite the focus the official description seems to place on Grace Brown’s death--based on true facts--this is more of Mattie’s story than anyone else’s. The events leading up to the letters and Grace’s death take up the majority of the story, and things switch to the present--when she’s reading Grace’s letters--as they begin relating back to Mattie’s own life. What really sucks is that just when Mattie begins to truly live, the book ends, but it’s an instance where I’ll happily defer to my imagination for contingency because everything up till then was wonderful. The writing is just that beautiful and evocative.

This book, to me, is one and the same as Prep--if you’re not into reading slow-moving, very thoroughly explored, multifaceted stories, you probably won’t enjoy it. But it is, hands down, one of the best, most satisfying books I’ve read in a long time. Despite all my touting of how it’s wonderful this, and wonderful that, do you know how I know it’s a winner? It’s by how easy writing this review was. Positives are usually the hardest, and yet here I am with so much to say. That’s how you recognize a jewel. I kind of want to hug it and never let go. A.

Further: Grace Brown's murder and Jennifer Donnelly's inspiration for writing this book.

Harcourt | 380 pages | April 1st, 2003 | Jennifer's website | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hahaha, "bit lit".

LOVE this term for vampire novels. Acquired from a PSnark interview with Australian black dog books publicist Kristen Young. This is a part of an event Adele is hosting, wherein she interviews all sorts of personnel from Aussie pubs. Go check it out!

When friends get negative...

Following Kristi (The Story Siren)'s discussion yesterday about whether bloggers and authors could/should be friends, I have a followup question:

Have you ever written a negative review for an author friend?

Have you ever received a negative review from a blogger friend?

(That's two questions? Oh whatever, they're one for each demographics. So!)

I ask because: I have a number of authors I talk to frequently. Those may not all represent deep deep friendships, but they are still, nevertheless, friends, and in my opinion, when you get to that territory, you have to proceed with caution. I am wickedly hard on books and nitpick things some of my (non-author) friends find insane. But so it goes.

Anyway, up until a while ago I had had the luck of genuinely enjoying books by those authors I had regular contact with. And then...I found one I wasn't so crazy about. And I posted a review and I felt sick to my stomach and I didn't know what to do. It irreparably damaged the relationship I had with that author--and I think a negative review always does, to some extent--which sucks because the person in question is someone I really and truly respect.

I guess what I'm asking is, is it possible to be friends with someone who reviews your book negatively?

Before I hand it to you guys: I am well aware that my real duty is with my readership and reporting back to them as honestly as I can. I do that--I hope I've earned your trust after all this time. ;) But friendships within the community--as relatively small as this one is--do happen, and this is a very sticky situation. As much as I believe a book is separate from its creator, there is also the fact I am very publicly citing every little wrong thing about the manifestation of a friend's years of work.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Dystopian high school sex comedy" indeed!

From the woman herself:

Alessandra Balzer at Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins Children’s Books acquired World English rights to New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty’s new novel in a two-book deal from Heather Schroder at ICM. Bumped is a sharply funny and provocative dystopian novel set in a world where only teens are able to have babies, and are contracted by adults to carry them to term. Megan is best known for her Jessica Darling series, which started with Sloppy Firsts and most recently ended with Perfect Fifths.

I remember when she talked about this in her Girl Week interview...

Pub Story: Heather Duffy-Stone

Author guest blogs + publication paths = Pub Stories. It's a Tuesday thing. Click here for more info (esp. if you're an author wanting to participate). Click here for a list of all participants.

A little back-story:
I loved This Is What I Want to Tell You (Flux, 2009) and reviewed it here. Shortly after, Heather got in contact with me about an unanswered question I had, and coincidentally, I was just thinking about starting Pub Stories--and she was the first person I asked to participate! /trivia

About Heather: Heather is a counselor, a writer and a teacher. For the moment, she lives in Brooklyn, NY. Her first novel, THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO TELL YOU, which is about falling in love for the first time and maybe getting a tattoo, will be published by Flux in March 2009. Visit her online at

Selling This Is What I Want to Tell You felt surreal. For a long time I never thought something like that could happen to me.

I had considered myself a writer for most of my conscious life. It was the only thing I ever wanted to do. After I graduated from college, where I studied Literature and Creative Writing, I applied to MFA Programs in Fiction. I didn’t get in. To any of them. This really shook my confidence, which to be honest was fragile to begin with. I stopped writing for a long time. And when I did write, I did so in secret. I didn’t want anyone to know or see what I was doing in case they wanted to see it.

Two years ago I moved back to New York after living in Italy for a time and I had this idea. I had to write it. I was ready for people to see it. I just had a feeling about it. So I joined a writing class. And I wrote like crazy for four months. I just wrote so hard. During this time I read an interview with Andrew Karre who was the Acquisitions Editor at Flux. That’s who I want to edit my first book, I thought. That’s it. My friend Micol Ostow had a book coming out with Flux and she agreed that it would be a good match for me. I finished the book in December 2007 and I sent it to Andrew on New Years Day. January 1, 2008. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no agent. I just felt like it was time.

Over the next month Andrew asked for the manuscript and read it and we had a few conversations. The first time we spoke, I knew. He got the book. He said all the right things. I felt like I was living in a fog. When I received the offer letter from him, I literally turned off my computer and went and sat on the other side of the room. I couldn’t believe it.

It was at that point that I found my agent, Jenoyne Adams. She’d been recommended to me by a few people and it so happened that she represented two incredible writers, Nora Pierce and Reyna Grande, who I had worked with years before when I was living in Los Angeles. When Jenoyne and I talked on the phone, I was in Vermont visiting my niece who was only a few weeks old. Everything was covered in snow. I know this sounds over the top, but I just had this feeling that so many things were beginning…

Monday, May 11, 2009

Epic Contest: The Chosen One

Oh, I'm just doing a teeny, tiny giveaway. You know...*twirls hair*

*snaps bubble-gum*


It's just for a mere FIFTY HARDCOVER COPIES of The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams.

Nothing big, really.


Pfft, who am I kidding?! This is huge! Biggest contest I have ever held--and you're all gonna help me turn it into a success, right? :)

Here's some info:

Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated polygamous community without questioning her father’s three wives and her twenty brothers and sisters. Or at least without questioning them much—if you don’t count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. But when the Prophet decrees that Kyra must marry her 60-year-old uncle—who already has six wives—Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family.


Special Circumstances:
And I reviewed it yesterday here. Those who commented on the review before this contest was posted and do not own/have not read a copy (ie ARC) of this yet, if you're in the US or Canada, please become a Facebook fan and email me to claim your copy--you're an instant winner! First seven people to email me for this win!

Everyone else?
Here's what you do to enter! -US & Canada only-

Leave a comment (one entry). If you have a Facebook page, go on and become a fan.
I obviously cannot monitor who DOES have a Facebook page and who doesn't, but those who do and become a fan and tell me so, you get +2.

+1 if you link to my review.
+1 if you link to this contest post directly.

(That's a total of 5 entries--more if you do the latter two things in many different places!)

But first...
First three people to leave a comment and become a fan on Facebook automatically win. If you're one of them, email me your address, please!

To make things interesting, the top ten people who talk about this contest the most and in the most places (and tweets do count for this--one apiece) will automatically win. Be sure to list every place you linked (and what you linked) from, and put your grand total somewhere.

To make things even more interesting: I'm reserving some copies for a second sort of giveaway when this one is over. More details to follow.

Any questions? Giveaway open for three weeks. That's June 1st, people!

Contest closed. Winners announced here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

In thirteen-year-old Kyra’s world, a man must have three wives in order to go to heaven. In Kyra’s world, she’s got two mothers besides her own, twenty brothers and sisters, and more on the way. In Kyra’s world, modern medicine is forbidden, books are burned, and people like her fifteen-year-old sister Emily, with mental disabilities are seen as God’s pariahs.

But Kyra doesn’t question any of it. Or at least she wouldn’t, if not for her hidden passions: the boy she’s secretly fallen in love with and hopes to marry and the Mobile Library on Wheels she sneaks off to. The bookmobile opens her eyes to two worlds: the realm of fiction, by which she’s getting more enamored by the book; and a world depicted in the newspapers she reads, where there are doctors who could help her mother through her risky pregnancy.

And then Kyra’s whole world is shaken when she finds out she’s been Chosen to be her uncle’s seventh wife. Armed with the knowledge she knows of life within and outside her commune, Kyra has four weeks until the wedding has been set in order to make the single riskiest decision of her life.

I immediately identify with any book where the main character is forbidden to read and yet finds a way to do just that, and falls in love with it even when she knows she shouldn’t because it’ll only land her trouble. There’s just something so powerful and heartbreaking in that trope that does me in every time, and if nothing else, in this book, where everything seems foreign, it was that element--that love for reading--presented in the very beginning that I used as a crutch going into Kyra’s world.

You know, thinking about it now, I think that is the root of my fascination with books set in repressive atmospheres--that emotions and desires most view as basic are considered a crime to the residents therein. I can’t imagine a place like that, but it exists nevertheless, and the struggle to liberty is a journey I’m always willing to embark on.

So imagine the situation here: Kyra’s thirteen and is told she has to marry her ancient uncle, an act that even she knows is incest. She’s mature from being her mother’s firstborn and having to look after her younger siblings, but even the maturity acquired in the place she lives doesn’t save her from falling into the trap of hoping she’ll get to marry the boy with whom she’s in love. Her father tries to reason with their leader, but to no avail. As the wedding draws nearer, it becomes clear just how corrupt the values she’s been told to hold holy are (and this is a spoiler, so I won’t specify), but what’s the alternative? Run away and expose everyone? Lose her beloved family?

The story is written sparsely enough to create a space for the reader to step in, and leaves off in an open-ended manner that might not resonate with some. Even so, The Chosen One is ambitious and nothing short of gorgeous. B

St. Martin's | 200 pages | May 12th, 2009 | Publisher page | Facebook fan page | GoodReads | IndieBound | Amazon


This is not my idea: I've see "this week in review"-type posts everywhere. Sometimes "this month in review". Same thing. However, I've had a few people ask me if they could do it after I did a In Hindsight post two weeks ago (of course you can! It's everywhere!), and I've seen a couple do it since, and I think this would be a neat way to keep up with each other's blog if we get behind. Thus, a retro meme type deal.

So, if you want to participate, just post what you did in this past week (feel free to link here so people know where to get other people's list) on your blog and add a link to your post below.


Contests: A list of various online contests; win Waiting for You; win Shadowed Summer (this week's Pub Story giveaway!).

On Sunday, I vlogged. And it was creepy. Preview: There is a turkey and he dances.

I then asked you what your favorite 80s movie is so I could gain some much-needed culture.

Then I cranked up the awesome by picking a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, Ash by Malinda Lo, for my Waiting on Wednesday. I just think that's the most unique angle ever.

Pub Story: Saundra Mitchell, author of Shadowed Summer, proves that sometimes quitting doesn't make you a quitter, it makes you a published writer.

Random! Once again! 50 things (about me). Preview:

27. I am not traditional in the slightest except for the fact I really, really want a crazy Greek wedding.

28. But I don’t know if this means I want a marriage. Do I?

29. Oh who am I kidding: I am so traditional in some aspects. I want a marriage.

30. And many, many kids.

31. Except that if I live in NYC, will that even be possible? The many, many kids bit?

32. Fine, I’ll settle for three and--

33. Four.

Annnnnd - a list of some upcoming sad-sounding books because I'm into that sort of thing.


Okay, so, good? Link up if you wanna participate!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Remember Amaze Me, Faze Me, Daze Me?

I haven't done that in forever, have I? Here are some new additions to my 'what comes out in 2009' list, featuring books I found that deal with hard premises. I may make this like a regular feature - 'From the tragic wing' or something - depending on how many more I find!

After by Amy Efaw
(August 11th, 2009 // Viking Juvenile - Amazon | Indiebound)
Who would leave their own baby in the trash to die?

Certainly not someone like Devon--a straight-A student, soccer player with Olympic dreams, more mature than her own mother. But desparation and panic drover her to do what most people can't even imagine. Now Devon's in a juvenile detention center, charged with attempted murder. If she's tried as an adult, she faces life in prison.

Does Devon deserve that punishment? Your answer depends on whether you believe her story--that she didn't even know she was pregnant. Was she buried in a denial so deep that she was unable to register the seemingly obvious signs of pregnancy? Or were her actions the result of a more devious, premeditated plan?

Steph: I've read it and it is indeed very good. You can see a dedicated post for it here.

Positively by Courtney Sheinmel
(Sept 15th, 2009 // Simon & Schuster Children's - Amazon | Indiebound)
An unforgettable novel about a girl struggling with HIV.

Steph says: Interested to see in how this pans out. I would also love to see more of a synop (what are the circumstances??), but in any rate, I'll definitely keep an eye out for this one.

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles
(August 11th, 2009 // Candlewick - Amazon | Indiebound)
What I could find about it:

Jo said it used to be called SLUT.

One pregnancy. Four friends. It all adds up to a profound time of change in this poignant, sensitively written YA novel.

Tells, from four points of view, the ramifications of a pregnancy resulting from a "one-time thing" between Ellie, who feels loved when boys touch her, and Josh, an eager virgin with a troubled home life.

Steph says: I am sold.

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
(October 1st, 2009 // Little, Brown - Amazon | Indiebound)
Samara Taylor used to believe in miracles. She used to believe in a lot of things. As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy in to the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reason to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town is kidnapped, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam's personal one, and the already-worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel.

Steph: I gotta say, I'm not big on religious inner conflict, but I have a feeling Sara Zarr can make me enjoy it. I also love the title--I wonder if it alludes to the 'once' of the past or innocence. We'll see.

How It Ends by Laura Wiess
(August 4th, 2009 // MTV/Pocket Books - Amazon | Indiebound)
Lenore asked Laura what the book is about (as there is no description anywhere), and here's a portion of it:

How It Ends grew out of some haunting, unanswered questions and two completely separate, very disturbing images I've had tucked away in the back of my mind for years. The unanswered questions were born as a result of several people who were dear to me passing away and me realizing -- after it was too late, of course -- that there were so many things I'd never asked them, stories only they knew that I should have taken the time to listen to and mostly, odd fragments of info discovered after their deaths that couldn't be resolved and will now always remain mysteries.

You can find the rest on Lenore's blog by clicking here.

Steph says: Ooo!


I'm one of those people who love sad-sounding stories because they often resonate with me. And I know I can't be the only one. Who's with me?

Friday, May 8, 2009

50 things about me

Aka, what one does on an uneventful Friday evening.

1. I may have a crush on Joe Jonas. I like his twirly (not girly, mind) dance moves.

2. I also like his stage presence.

3. But mostly I have a huge ol’ crush on Dr. Chase.

4. I have two feet of naturally brown hair.

5. You touch it, you die.

6. Speaking of “die”, I once had it highlighted (dye--get it? Get it?! :P).

7. I hated it, and it took three years to grow out. More or less.

8. I’m one of those perpetually unhappy people no matter what the situation: when I have options or when I don’t have.

9. Here’s how I see it: too many options = a lot I end up not picking because I can only choose one.

10. Not enough (good) options = I’m trapped.

10.5 But if I can take my pick, I’d rather have choices to pick from.

11. I have a friend who bites her toenails (yes).

12. I tried doing it once and it just utterly grossed me out in a way I cannot express with mere words.

13. But more than anything, I was grossed out when my cousin tried to show me the “Two Girls, One Cup” video. Forget the loss of a hymen as the loss of innocence--that was what robbed me of mine.

14. The above is as true as they come, which goes to show you how clearly unstable SOME PEOPLE are.

15. My biggest fear is that I’m stupid.

16. When I read The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld, the guys in my class wanted to know if they fit the bill.

17. This would actually be flattering if they meant it. They were being ironic.

18. This was in 2007, aka my Year To Forget. That means I was unhappy, reclusive, and clearly repulsive.

19. (English) words cannot express how much I hate Portuguese.

20. I don’t even know accurate enough words in Portuguese to explain my disdain of it.

21. Which may be part of the problem.

22. Despite what anyone says, I want to be an editor.

23. The reason being that even though they’re underpaid, overworked, and so stressed, there is absolutely nothing else that has called to me like that job has.

24. Although I wouldn’t mind being a prosecutor.

25. Which means I’ll be studying law, and that’ll be my fallback career in case the editor thing doesn’t fly.

26. (Please please please, Universe, make it fly.)

27. I am not traditional in the slightest except for the fact I really, really want a crazy Greek wedding.

28. But I don’t know if this means I want a marriage. Do I?

29. Oh who am I kidding: I am so traditional in some aspects. I want a marriage.

30. And many, many kids.

31. Except that if I live in NYC, will that even be possible? The many, many kids bit?

32. Fine, I’ll settle for three and--

33. Four.

34. Though I’m sure I’ll be over it after the first.

35. What does the fact I’m talking about kids and marriage at fifteen say about me?

36. I’m really, really hesitant about posting or saying anything that might offend anyone.

37. I’m also quite aware of how that sounds given our surroundings.

38. I’m allowed to curse in front of my parents.

39. And my teachers.

40. And so, by proxy, in front of everyone else.

41. Just not at them.

42. My parents also allow things most people’s parents wouldn’t, including my most liberal friends’ parents.

43. Ironically, they’re the strictest of all my friends when it comes to school attendance and other “old fashioned” manners.

44. These words will probably come back and bite me in the ass when my parents do something I don’t like, but anyhow, most of the time, I have the coolest parents in the world.

45. Also, the coolest brother.

46. And if Taren says one more sexual thing about him to me, I will flush her down a toilet.

47. “Hubby”, “pics”, “totes” and “vids”, are all abbreviations that annoy me.

48. Which, okay, only “pics” and “vids” give me hives. “Hubby” is all right sometimes.

49. On that same note: you don’t SURF the WEB.

50. You surf a wave. You browse the internet.

...and you should probably expect more of these at random. I had fun. Hope you did too!

Who wants free books?

Cindy Pon, author of the newly-released Silver Phoenix, is holding a really massive contest in which you can win a $100 gift card OR one of her original Chinese brush paintings. (I'd take the painting but that's just me.)

More info on that here.

Reader Rabbit is having an abundance of Canadian Month (have you check that out yet?) contests! Here are the links:

Jennifer E. Smith, author of The Comeback Season and You Are Here is also holding a contest:

In honor of the release of my new book, You Are Here, I’m running a contest to see who can put together the ultimate road trip mix. In the book, Emma and Peter drive from New York all the way down to North Carolina. What would you have listened to along the way? You don’t have to make an actual mix or send in any music; just list the twelve songs you think would be the most fun to listen to while driving, and I’ll draw the winners randomly.

Prizes include: the very first signed copy of You Are Here, a signed copy of my first book, The Comeback Season, and, in honor of the road trip theme, audio books of Twilight, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and The Lightning Thief.

Send all entries to thecomebackseason AT by Friday, May 15th.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Contest: Shadowed Summer

Winner of Prophecy of the Sisters is Amber!

« Saundra Mitchell's Pub Story thataway.

Now, for the giveaway of one signed, hardcover copy of Shadowed Summer, Saundra's debut novel!

Nothing ever happened in Ondine, Louisiana, not even the summer Elijah Landry disappeared.

His mother knew he ascended to heaven, the police believed he ran away, and his girlfriend thought he was murdered.

Decades later, certain she saw his ghost in the town cemetery, fourteen-year-old Iris Rhame is determined to find out the truth behind "The Incident With the Landry Boy."

Enlisting the help of her best friend Collette, and forced to endure the company of Collette's latest crush, Ben, Iris spends a summer digging into the past and stirring old ghosts, in search of a boy she never knew.

What she doesn't realize is that in a town as small as Ondine, every secret is a family secret.

Comment to win. You have until May 13th.

If you link to this contest
+1 If you link to Saundra's Pub Story
(And you get a +1 bonus if you do BOTH, making it +3 total)
+1 -sekkrit- criterion

That's a total of four extra entries possible!

Contest closed. Winner announced here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pub Story: Saundra Mitchell

Author guest blogs + publication paths = Pub Stories. It's a Tuesday thing. Click here for more info (esp. if you're an author wanting to participate). Click here for a list of all participants.

(It's not Tuesday, but we'll flow with it anyway!)

Saundra Mitchell on herself: A longtime screenwriter, I'm a debut novelist this year with my southern gothic ghost story, SHADOWED SUMMER. When I'm not writing books, I'm the head writer and an executive producer for Fresh Films ( and Girls in the Director's Chair ( teen filmmaking programs where we provide the instruction and equipment, and teens get to make short films. And when I'm not writing books or screenplays, you can catch me goofing around on the Internet, writing fan fiction, brushing up on my history, making paper, soap or bread from scratch, or taking pictures of cemetery statuary. You can visit me online at!

The Story
This is mostly a story about quitting.

Which- I know, inspiring, right? But it's the truth. After fifteen years as a screenwriter, I was burned out. Tired of writing other people's stories. Tired of watching actors and directors and sponsors change my words from the script to the screen. Tired of being the last one to see any given film, tired, tired, tired. I had forgotten how to love screenwriting, and I was ready to quit.

But I have a busy head; I'm bad at just quitting. Give me free time, and I'm liable to do something... untoward with it. So rather than just quit screenwriting, I told myself, "Self, write a book! That will be yours! See how it goes!"

And I did! I wrote my first novel, THE WESTON BOYS that spring, polished it up, and started querying agents. I loved that little book, so fierce and full of passion and intention. And boy howdy, I queried the bejeezus out of it. I got partial requests, full requests, and then, in the end... rejections. Lots and lots of rejections. As I started to run out of places to query, I wrote another little book, THE INCIDENT, just to see if I could do it again. Since I didn't want to have two novels out to agents at the same time, I submitted THE INCIDENT to the Delacorte Press prize, just for haps.

After eighty (yes, eighty. 8. 0.) rejections on THE WESTON BOYS- well, two things. I loved screenwriting again, and I was ready to give up on the whole write-a-novel-that-is-all-mine bag. Except, again, I have a busy head. I'm bad at just quitting. But, I do like to gamble with the universe, so I told myself, "Self! You owe THE INCIDENT ten queries." And I decided if I didn't get a literary agent in those ten queries, I would be done with writing novels.

I got an agent for THE INCIDENT in two queries.

And my agent was awesome- we got along so well. We loved chatting and gossiping about celebs, and we were busy revising THE INCIDENT while we waited to hear on the Delacorte Press prize. Several months later, I didn't place or show, and my agent and I had whittled THE INCIDENT down from 72k to 50k, changed the title to LAST SUMMER'S IRIS, and started submitting.

At first, I thought it was wicked exciting that one of the major houses offered a revision letter (not an offer.) But it turns out that you can revise for six months without an offer, and at the end of six months have a drastically changed manuscript and no offer. And since we were revising with this editor, all other submission stopped. Dead. Dunzo! It tied things up with one person who isn't willing to commit, so this is both a lesson in writing and in dating: if they're just not that into you, it's probably time to move on.

The thing is- the notes from this house were fantastic, and I could have done them all. I did do them all- except for ONE. Can Iris be crazy, instead of haunted? the editor asked. And you know, Iris could have been crazy instead of haunted- but she wasn't. That was my line- it was a ghost story, it had always been a ghost story, and it always would be a ghost story. So with regret, after months of revising and hoping and wishing, I withdrew my submission. Commence floundering.

So much floundering; my agent didn't want to submit it anymore, I didn't want to write something new just for the editor who'd spent six months working over LAST SUMMER'S IRIS, and then a this, and a that, and so many little things that I can't even detail all ended up in one thing:

I had to quit my agent.

And because we had contracts and agreements, it had to be decisive- formal letters, and waiting periods before I could legally pursue other representation. And during that waiting period, I really did believe that I would be done writing novels forever. Hey, I'd gotten close. It was a good try. But LAST SUMMER'S IRIS bothered me at night; it had never been submitted widely. I'd worked so closely with one editor that my agent and I never really sent it anywhere else.

And my busy, bad-at-quitting head said, "Try again."

And I said, "No thanks, crackbaby. Look, I have scripts again! Yay, we love scripts."

Busy, bad-at-quitting head said, "TRY AGAIN OR ELSE!"

And since it's my head, and I have to live with it, I decided to acquiesce in such a way that I got my way in the end- I would query ONE agent. One. And if I didn't get that agent, then I would be done forever. So I went back to the draft we'd submitted, before all the revisions with that editor, back when the book was still mine. And I used up the waiting period researching agents, studying them, reading the books they represented. If I was going to gamble on just one, I had to make it the right one at least. That way, my bad-at-quitting head couldn't come back later and say, "FAILXOR! YOU DID NOT TRY! DO IT AGAIN!"

When the waiting period expired, I wrote one query letter for LAST SUMMER'S IRIS, to Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger, Inc.. She was building her list, I liked all the books on her list that I could read, and- just for shiny good luck- her latest book sold was called GHOST ROAD BLUES. With her, I figured, Iris could stay haunted and sane forever. I wrote my one last query letter for literary representation ever and sent it into the mists.

Sara responded from the mists- she requested a partial. Then a full. Then representation.

Three months later, she sold LAST SUMMER'S IRIS to Delacorte Press. Yeah, the same Delacorte Press with the prize that I'd lost, on the big bloaty 70k version of this book, back when it was called THE INCIDENT, and had an entirely different ending. And now it has an entirely different title- that's why a little ghost story about a girl named Iris debuted this year, as SHADOWED SUMMER.

So, see- this is a story about quitting. You don't have to be certain, cheerful or optimistic to succeed- you just have to be willing to try one more time. Sometimes you have to be ready to walk away, you really do. You have to be ready to fail. But you always have to try once more to make sure. And that's my pub story.