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Jan. 27th, 2014

Writers Need to Hear No

Read my guest post about why I think writers need to hear no, and also enter to win a copy of The Fallout.
http://www.booksnob-booksnob.blogspot.com/

Dec. 31st, 2013

True Confessions: I read grown-up books.

I wrote a lot in 2013. A lot. 5 complete novels, about 240,000 words. But I also read a lot in 2013. A lot. Only about a third of the books ended up on my Goodreads page but by my estimate, I read about 90 books. And here's my confession: only about half were YA. The rest? Adult novels. Some were even GASP literary fiction. (I know. Dirty words among some of the YA crowd.) Here's the thing: adult fiction is GOOD. And I won't apologize for reading it and loving it. I write YA, I love reading YA, BUT my best book list of 2013 is comprised of grown-up books. In no particular order:

ordinary-grace-200This one slayed me. Slayed me. "New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family— which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother— he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years. "



This one was epic,gut wrenching, and powerful. "Two doctors risk everything to save the life of a hunted child in this majestic debut about love, loss, and the unexpected ties that bind us together.“On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones. Havaa, eight years old, hides in the woods and watches the blaze until her neighbor, Akhmed, discovers her sitting in the snow. Akhmed knows getting involved means risking his life, and there is no safe place to hide a child in a village where informers will do anything for a loaf of bread, but for reasons of his own, he sneaks her through the forest to the one place he thinks she might be safe: an abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded. Though Sonja protests that her hospital is not an orphanage, Akhmed convinces her to keep Havaa for a trial, and over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate."


Larry Watson's "Montana 1948"is one of m favorite books EVER, so when I saw this, I knew I had to get it. It broke my heart. "Dalton, North Dakota. It’s September 1951: years since George and Margaret Blackledge lost their son James when he was thrown from a horse; months since his widow Lorna took off with their only grandson and married Donnie Weboy. Margaret is steadfast, resolved to find and retrieve her grandson Jimmy — the one person in this world keeping James’s memory alive — while George, a retired sheriff, is none too eager to stir up trouble. Unable to sway his wife from her mission, George takes to the road with Margaret by his side, traveling through the Dakota badlands to Gladstone, Montana. When Margaret tries to convince Lorna to return home to North Dakota and bring little Jimmy with her, the Blackledges find themselves entangled with the entire Weboy clan, who are determined not to give up the boy without a fight."
A friend had been telling me to read this for a while. Finally did. So good. "They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .
  Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.  Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?
This is the first fiction by the author of The Glass Castle and Half-Broke Horses (two of the best books I've ever read).
It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, a woman who “found something wrong with every place she ever lived,” takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations.
An impetuous optimist, Bean soon discovers who her father was, and hears many stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place. Because money is tight, Liz and Bean start babysitting and doing office work for Jerry Maddox, foreman of the mill in town—a big man who bullies his workers, his tenants, his children, and his wife. Bean adores her whip-smart older sister—inventor of word games, reader of Edgar Allan Poe, nonconformist. But when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts and makes friends, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn. And then something happens to Liz.

So I could keep going, but I'll stop here. I have more grown-up books to read. Shhhhhhhhhhhh...

Dec. 3rd, 2013

Indies First

So no sooner had I typed The End on my NaNo book Saturday morning, than I quickly got ready to head down to my local bookstore, Chapter 2 Books. I am not a salesperson. I suck at selling things in general. I've never even been very good at bake sales, where delicious things should be able to sell themselves. But on Saturday, I shoved aside the introvert, determined to help sell some books.
Chapter 2 is a cozy store on the main street of downtown Hudson, Wisconsin, a town on the St. Croix river, just over the bridge from the Twin Cities. Their shelves are full, with as much selection as the space allows. When I left nearly four hours later, I had experienced many persuasive moments:
-A mother wanted books for her 12 year old daughter : left with a hardcover of Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, she also ordered a hardcover Cinder, and bought copies of The Compound and The Raft.
-A woman wanted a good book for Xmas break: left with a hardcover of Gone Girl
-A woman wanted Xmas presents for her parents: left with two books for her mom (forgot what I talked her into)and ordered Dr. Sleep for her dad.
-Talked my friend Bobbi into Cutting for Stone
-Talked a lady into The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls.
-A mom wanted books for her 10 year old boy: left with two copies of The Compound, one for her son, one for his class
-A mom wanted books for her two sons: left with The Compound, The Fallout, and two other YA's I convinced her to buy
-A mom trying to buy her daughter a book. Daughter is 14, reads everything, I kept handing her book after book. No luck. Finally, handed her Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo. She wanted it and they ordered Shadow and Bone. Her mom took The Compound for her brother. Then, the girl asked for The Fault in our Stars. They were sold out, but I said, "Wait!" I grabbed The F**k It List by Julie Halpern. Girl read the back. Score!
-Older guy has read everything. Was leaving empty-handed when I saw Larry Watson's brilliant Let Him Go. I grabbed it and waved it in the air. "You read Montana 1948?" Guy turned around. I said,"This is his new one. It is so good." He said, " I gotta have that."
So yay! I was not dead weight. I talked a lot of people into a lot of books,and even shamelessly sent every copy of my books out the door. Maybe I missed my calling...

Nov. 30th, 2013

A love letter to NaNoWriMo

Whew. Today marks November 30, the end of National Novel Writing Month. And, for the first time since 2006, I did it! I passed 50k and finished my novel this morning. Many of the words were written in airports and on planes and in hotel rooms, but the book is done. As I happily note all the NaNo'ers tweeting about their victory, I am also bracing myself for the onslaught of naysayers. The ones who say things like: "Anything you write in 30 days is crap." Well, I'm here to say that most first drafts are crap. But here's my take on it: I recently got a new book deal with Feiwel and Friends for two more YA novels, the first of which is The Detour. I sold the book based on a synopsis, so it still had to be written. Given that it is due in March, that meant I needed to start writing soon. So I did. I spent all of November drafting The Detour. That first draft will suck, yes. But I would rather spend only 30 days on the draft than have it languish over the holidays and into the new year, and then it is February and I'm still not done and I've spent 4 months on a piece of crap draft.
Guess what, naysayers? Thanks to NaNo, I have a completed draft of The Detour. And it is not entirely crap, because every day I went over everything else I had written before starting in again. So Chapter One has been revised at least 30 times, Chapter Two at least 29 times, Chapter Three at least-- well, you get it right? Yes, the last week of writing needs a lot of help, but I AM DONE WITH THE DRAFT. I can now spend the next few months revising and perfecting, versus sitting here thinking, "OMG, I have to write the draft."  So thank you NaNoWriMo! A heavily revised version of The Detour will hit bookshelves Fall 2015.
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May. 25th, 2013

One of those moments...

Last year when I signed on to write a middle grade series with Feiwel and Friends, billed as a cross between Lost and Swiss Family Robinson, Jean Feiwel suggested I read Swiss Family Robinson. I immediately went to my shelves to see if I had it. I thought I had a copy somewhere but couldn't find it, so I downloaded an e copy. So fast forward a year and the first book of the series is in copy edits and the second is with my editor. But believe me, I've been tuned into everything Swiss Family Robinson for over a year now. So today I was starting to pack up some of my books for our impending move in August. I have a lot of old books. A lot. So only part of me was surprised when I found this:photo (2)photo (3)And it had this inscription:photoMartin Stuve was my grandfather, my dad's dad. He was killed in a horrific accident when my dad was little, leaving my gramma with three little kids. (She then did the biblical thing and married his brother. So my Grampa Manley was actually my great-uncle.) I never knew Martin's birthday before today when I saw this. I was born two days after what would have been his 60th birthday. I think I just figured out the dedication to the first book of the series.

May. 22nd, 2013

This is why I do what I do....

A while ago I got this email from a teacher:

Good Morning!
I teach 10th grade English to students with learning disabilities, mild cognitive disabilities, and emotional disabilities.  It is close to impossible to find a novel that all are interested in and will actually participate in discussion about.  I begged and begged my director and she was able to purchase me a class set of your novel, The Compound.  It's such a pleasure to teach this novel!   ALL my kids listen while I read and have much to discuss, which never happens.  They even groan and complain when we have to stop reading or class is over.  I've even had two of my copies come up missing and two students who checked it out of the library for their parents to read.  I wish I could convey to you how unusual this is!  I teach the core curriculum, the same standards, as a general education class and it is very difficult for my students.  They are now working on these standards and don't even realize it because they are so excited about his story.  THANK YOU!

A few weeks later, I had a library event in her city and she came to see me. She was so sweet and I hugged her and offered to Skype with her students. Here’s the thing: I reserve the right to charge or not charge for my Skypes. This gets me into trouble with other authors, but would you be able to get a letter like that and then not do the Skype simply because they don’t have a budget? I’m not that person and I never will be. So today was the Skype. And those kids were great. They had a million questions and made me laugh, and I made them laugh too. I was so glad I took the time. And then I got this email:

Thank you so much!   Of course, after we hung up they started talking a mile a minute.  They're such good kids and this is the first time many of them have finished a book or even liked reading.  Our system's superintendent and assistant superintendent were here also.  The assistant superintendent said she'd have to get us The Fallout so that we can read both next year.    I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone!!

I can't thank you enough for the excitement you have brought to English class.  This will be a lasting, good memory for my kids who have so few things to be excited about.

So yeah. That was pretty much a really good use of my time. And it reminded me of why I do what I do.

May. 21st, 2013

Tour!

I'm thrilled to announce I'll be part of the Fierce Reads Tour in the fall. Marissa Meyer will be the guest on our leg. I'll keep you posted on the cities...fierce reads tour

Mar. 27th, 2013

The Compound disguised as Core Curriculum...

Today I received this email from a teacher: I teach 10th grade English to students with learning disabilities, mild cognitive disabilities, and emotional disabilities.  It is close to impossible to find a novel that all are interested in and will actually participate in discussion about.  I begged and begged my director and she was able to purchase me a class set of your novel, The Compound.  It's such a pleasure to teach this novel!   ALL my kids listen while I read and have much to discuss, which never happens.  They even groan and complain when we have to stop reading or class is over.  I've even had two of my copies come up missing and two students who checked it out of the library for their parents to read.  I wish I could convey to you how unusual this is!  I teach the core curriculum, the same standards, as a general education class and it is very difficult for my students.  They are now working on these standards and don't even realize it because they are so excited about his story.  THANK YOU!

Mar. 26th, 2013

The Raft is in great company on the 2013-14 PA Young Reader's Choice Award Master List for YA

http://www.psla.org/assets/Documents/Awards/PA-Young-Readers-Choice/MasterList2013-2014.pdf

Mar. 21st, 2013

An Update on My Attempt at a Fast Draft

Yesterday was Day Nine of working on the new novel. About seven last night, just shy of 54,000 words, I typed The End. Of course, now I'll spend a lot of time revising, over and over, but I am still amazed at the fact I wrote a novel in nine days. A novel with characters that I have come to love despite only spending a week with them. ( And believe me, there are characters I spent a few years with and still can't stand.) Sunday was my biggest day, with the word tally being just under 10,000 after about nine hours of writing. My shoulders were knots of steel by Sunday night. So let me put this in perspective: Typically, it takes me anywhere from six to nine months to a year to write 50,000 words. I aim for 1,000 a day, but often do not come close to that. Which is what makes this nine day writing frenzy so absolutely out of character for me. I procrastinate. I am easily distracted by television, snacks, and books written by other people. I like to take naps. But this story just wouldn't let me go. I couldn't sleep at night because the voices were yelling out the scenes in my head. There were times when I felt the thing was writing itself and I couldn't type fast enough to keep up. (Another thing about me? Crappy typist.Horrible.) I don't know what it is about this story, but it just wanted to be told, I guess. Whether or not it ever ends up on a bookshelf remains to be seen, but I will be sure to let you know. For now, I'm hoping the voices are silenced.

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