Monday, April 30, 2012

IRA 2012 in Chicago!

Here is a pic of the booth from my first IRA when Nightshade City
came out. Yes, I LOVE that poster with the rat!!

The 57th annual International Reading Association Conference in Chicago is finally underway! I've been lucky enough to go the last 2 years and I'm so thrilled I'll be there tomorrow! If you don't know about the IRA, its a fantastic annual conference at McCormick Place in Chicago where thousands of educators gather to celebrate teaching literacy and ways to learn more about their craft. I think last year over 30,000 people came to the conference! Did I mention 30,000? The IRA is not just a conference, but the world's leading organization of literacy professionals. Please be sure to check them out at

If you happen to be going to the conference this year, I'll be there tomorrow from 2pm - 3pm signing copies of THE WHITE ASSASSIN (read the IRA review here!) at the Holiday House booth (#1940)! Please come by! The exhibit hall is huge so be sure to grab a map or print one from the IRA conference website.

Did I mention the exhibit hall is HUGE????
Okay, come see me tomorrow! ;) I say, road trip!!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Got a Book Deal? Now What?

Do not lick your editor. Maybe your agent though....

I posted this a long while back, but have been asked about this a lot, so here is my list of things to consider after you get your book deal, with some new additions. Please feel free to add anything I might have missed and you don't have to be published  or traditionally published to contribute! This list is for all!

1. Don't be scared of working with your editor! You'll do fine! Generally, they are very nice people.

2. Be prepared to take what you consider the most special parts of your book...OUT!

3. Concerns? TALK TO YOUR AGENT! He/she knows the business and they will tell you if you're concerns are justified or you're freaking out for no reason. (I would fit into the freaking out for no reason category). If you don't have an agent, don't worry! Ask your friends. Check forums, author websites. The information is out there.

4. Don't be afraid to ask your publisher LOTS of questions-- if you don't ask, you won't get.

5. Your publisher may change your release date several times--this is totally normal, especially for a debut.

6. Know that you have NO control over the cover art...but be happy when your publisher does ask for your input and if they don't, have a nice piece of cake (preferably tiramisu) and tell yourself, they know what they're doing.

7. Keep in mind that Barnes & Noble, along with Indie stores, do NOT pick up every book, even from big publishers! There is nothing you can do if they decide not to carry your book in their brick and mortar stores, so don't worry about it--it does not mean your book won't be successful and this happens to authors all the time.

8. Don't fret if you only get a one book deal (becoming the norm these days), but be merry when they buy the sequel six months later--off a proposal no less! That means they like you, they really, really like you!

9. There are a lot of things out of your control in publishing--in fact--most things. Before giving yourself a facial tick, take a step back, inhale a deep solid breath, and realize no matter what's in store for you, you made did're a first-rate writer--YOU!

10. If you're publisher wants you to speak somewhere--DO IT! Suck it up and say yes. I was terrified the first few times, but it gets easier and you will get BETTER! Speaking engagements can be thrilling! They are a fantastic way to connect with readers and to land more speaking gigs, which can be very lucrative! :)

11. Remember QUALITY, not quantity. It's not a race! Put out good books and the deals with come!

12. Ask ALL your friends to help you with a blog tour and return the favor!!!

13. Walk into indie stores and introduce yourself! DO IT! They will be happy that you did. Don't be shy. Tell them you're an author. Give them an ARC! They may order your book and do a whole lot more. Indies are GREAT!

14. When you get your first royalties statement, don't freak out about returns! Even bestselling authors have returns--lots of them! It's a normal part of the business!

15. Sleep is for suckers.

What would you add to this list?? :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Plot Kitty is Plotting!

One day I will get you my pretty. Oh, yes...
Of late I've read some great books with fantastic plots and some other books that while good, didn't have the fantastic plot I was looking for or it wasn't carried out the why I was hoping for. To me, a perfect book is one that combines deep characters with an intriguingly original plot. 

What YA or MG books have you read with "blow me away" plots? The kind where you're left scratching your head, wondering how the author came up with something so insanely amazing?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bookanistas Guest Post & Giveaway with YA Author Aaron Karo

Hello everyone! I'm excited to have debut YA author and comedian, Aaron Karo, here today to talk about the importance of voice in today's YA and how he created the voice of Chuck Taylor, the main character of Aaron's new YA novel, Lexapros And Cons (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, April 10th, 2012).

Writing in the 1st person can be tricky, so read Aaron's great post to find out how to make your MC more engaging and real, just like Chuck Taylor in Lexapros And Cons! And be sure to enter the giveaway to win a copy of this great debut YA! Take it away Mr. Karo!

My First Person
Since the the protagonist in Lexapros and Cons, Chuck Taylor, suffers from OCD, he spends a lot of time dealing with repetitive thoughts, worrying, and talking to himself. Chuck is not only the narrator, but he also carries a heavy burden of the dialogue. Therefore, I needed to make sure his voice was spot-on. So, how does a 32-year-old man write the voice of a 17-year-old boy? Well, quite simply, I wrote Chuck as the younger version of myself.
All of the OCD symptoms that Chuck suffers in the book – including, as you will read in the soon-to-be-infamous first sentence, his tendency to count how often he masturbates – are actual symptoms that I too have suffered from. Granted, not all of the symptoms hit me at once as they do Chuck (for instance, I haven’t counted how often I you-know-what since about 9th grade), but they were all very real nonetheless. So that aspect of getting inside Chuck’s head was made easier by the fact I simply had to get inside my own head.
This is my first YA novel, so developing believable dialogue between the characters was a concern early on. Before I started writing, though, I made one crucial decision: I would not “write down” to the age group. If you’ve actually spoken to a teenager recently, you know they are some clever bastards. Their vocabulary is more sophisticated than one might think and they’ll spot a faker right away. So Chuck really speaks the way I do. Sure, there are a couple of instances where he seems preternaturally introspective, but I felt it was better to err on that side rather than reining him in. 

Chuck’s friends and classmates were more of a challenge, since not only are they not based on me, they’re not based on anyone and for the most part are purely fictional. In those instances I used Chuck’s voice to guide me. A lot of Chuck’s conversations are rapid-fire repartee where I knew what Chuck was going to say and I let the other characters react to him accordingly. There are very few scenes where characters other than Chuck are talking to each other. And that’s simply because it didn’t feel as organic to me. Without Chuck in the room to tell me if the other kids were talking funny, I couldn’t really tell.

Strangely, the characters that were the toughest to develop were the older ones – including Chuck’s parents and teachers. Theoretically, I am closer in age to them than I am to Chuck. Yet it was still an undertaking to get their voices right. I’m just not privy to a lot of conversations between adults and teenagers. Oftentimes I just went by gut and then went back and massaged any dialogue that felt forced in hindsight.

Ultimately I prefer writing in the first person because it provides a captain for the ship. Without Chuck to lead Lexapros and Cons, it might have crashed and burned. Since there’s so much of me in Chuck, I really enjoyed hearing him chatter away incessantly. I honestly spent less time trying to figure out what Chuck would say next, and more time trying to get him to shut up!

To enter the giveaway:
1. Leave a comment on "voice" in writing and how you find yours or tell us your favorite YA voice from other authors.
2. Follow this blog, if you don't already, because I'm needy. 
3. That's it, easier than ordering take out! Winner will be announced this Wednesday!

More about Aaron:
In 1997 Aaron Karo wrote a funny email from his freshman dorm room that eventually spawned his celebrated column Ruminations, the humor website, and three books: Ruminations on College Life, Ruminations on Twentysomething Life, and I’m Having More Fun Than You. Also a nationally headlining comedian, Karo has performed on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and his one-hour special Aaron Karo: The Rest Is History premiered on Comedy Central in 2010. Lexapros and Cons is his first novel.

Find Aaron on Twitter! 

More fab Bookanista reviews!
Christine Fonseca  gives a shout out for REGRET
Carrie Harris swoons for STRUCK
Corrine Jackson cries heaps over STORY OF A GIRL
Stasia Ward Kehoe loves up THE LIBERATION OF MAX MCTRUE
Debra Driza gives away WANDERLOVE
Katy Upperman delights in GRACELING
Tracy Bangha shares some CLARITY and PERCEPTION
Jessica Love delights in THE SCORPIO RACES  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Project Mayhem Needs Your Vote!!

Hello everyone!

Project Mayhem, the middle-grade blog I'm a part of, is up for a blog award on Goodreads for the IBBA Independent Book Blogger Awards! 

Please show your support for all things middle-grade and give Project Mayhem a vote! 
The bigger we are, the more great middle-grade giveaways and posts we can do for YOU!

Each Goodreads member can vote for up to three blogs! 
Voting opens Today - April 23rd!

Independent Book Blogger Awards
Vote for PROJECT MAYHEM for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bookanistas Review, The Danny Dragonbreath Series!

In 2010, while at the International Reading Association Conference  in Chicago, I was handed an ARC of Dragonbreath, Curse of the Were Wiener, by Ursula Vernon. Okay, so the title got me right there. I mean really, could there be a better title for a book? I think not.

So I brought this colorful ARC home to my then seven year old, who was immediately taken with the cover, not to mention the cool graphic style of the illustrations.  My son is the epitome of a reluctant reader. A book that's 10 pages long is 10 pages too many. So when he saw the ARC, he looked through the entire thing, pouring over the illustrations, then quite casually, put the 100+ page book on a shelf to let sit there for some time.

Over the last two years I've gotten him to read a few of the Wimpy Kids, small sections at a time, for school reading and my own piece of mind.

Just last month he had his first real book report due in school. The kids had to pick one fantasy book, talk about it in class, listing specific plot points, making a drawing of the main character and asking the character a list of questions.

So, my son came home freaking out over his project and what he should write about. He went to his enormous shelf of unread books and picked up a few that were very thin and not fantasies. I pulled out the Dragonbreath ARC, told him to sit down and start reading. After a few typical moans and groans he began reading...and reading...and reading. My husband got home from work and he was still reading. He read in his bed that night and then picked up the book as soon as he woke up and read some more, finishing the entire book sitting in his bed that morning.

My son read an entire book in one day! MY SON!

These books are witty and fast paced. Danny and his cousin Wendell are always getting into some sort of trouble with ninjas or sea monsters or were wieners (of course) and the graphic novel style of these books will appeal to any kid, reluctant or not.

This is his actual book project from last month.  

He got 100%!!

My son's questions for Danny Dragonbreath:
Are you happy being a dragon?
What's it like to have a tail?
Does it hurt to breathe fire?
Are Were Wieners scary?
Do you like school?

Other fabulous Bookanista Reviews!

Christine Fonseca  is wow'd by WANDERLOVE

Stasia Ward Kehoe reads for National Poetry Month

Katy Upperman delights in SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY

Tracy Banghart honors THE HEX HALL trilogy

Corrine Jackson is thrilled over A TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER