Monday, February 28, 2011

Updates and Epicness and other cool things!

Hey guys!

Once again--I'm having to postpone my Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday post (though I will have some links at the end of this post to some awesome authors keeping the torch going for me) because I just have too. many. things. to tell you about.

I...kinda overbooked my February. And my March. So some of my regular series may experience the occasional interruption here and there. Apologies in advance. I promise I will get back to the routine soon!

Okay, so...where to start?

First: Thank you to ALL of you who supported THE LIAR SOCIETY fangirls videos last week. They were a ton of fun to make and I hope they were just as much fun to watch. And we now have an AWESOME contest going to support TLS's release. We're giving away TEN SIGNED BOOKS you guys. TEN!!!! Click HERE for the contest details and entry form!

Second: Went to a fabulous SCIBA author event on Saturday, where I got to meet something like 20 amazing authors. I'm sure I'm going to forget more than half of them but off the top of my head: Cecil Castellucci, John Stephens, Andrew Smith, Brandon Mull, Dr. Cuthbert Soup, Lauren Kate, Alyson Noel, C. Alexander London, Helen Stringer, Eve Bunting, Judy Blundell, and a bunch more I'm forgetting. So. much. fun.

It was also sweet--and embarrassing--because the organizers added me to the slide show of authors they showed at the beginning, listing me as one of the aspiring authors to watch out for. Part of me beamed at the acknowledgement. The other part of me wanted to crawl under the table and hide like, do you think they're looking at me???? Kind of a cool/surreal/is-this-what-it's-going-to-be-like-someday? moment.

Sadly, I only took 2 pictures at the event (#ShannonFail) but here they are:

Me, with Brandon Mull

Me, with my agent-in-law, Andrew Smith

And I'm not telling you this to brag. I'm telling you because I got a LOT of free books. So keep your eyes out for a HUGE contest (or maybe a weeklong contest) coming in the next few weeks. As soon as I have a second to organize it. It. is. coming!

Third: WriteOnCon. Epic things are happening guys. I know I keep saying that. But seriously--they are. And we're *almost* ready to start sharing some of them. In the next two weeks we have a ton of tremendous contests coming up and WE'LL BE ANNOUNCING THE ANNUAL CONFERENCE DATES!!!! Not to mention tonight--maybe even as you're reading this--we have an AWESOME live event happening with the lovely Suzie Townsend (FinePrint Literary) and Maria Gomez (Associate Editor with Harper Collins). Stop by http://writeoncon.com/ at 9pm EST to participate. Otherwise a replay will be available.

Fourth: I know I promised a San Francisco Writers Conference update--and I PROMISE I have one coming. In the meantime, I'll just say it was a blast. Learned a lot. Toured the city. Met some amazing friends. Even got to take a train and meet my fabulous agent for lunch!!! (one of the highlights, by far). And I think this picture of me and the Carolina Valdez Miller sums it up:


I feel a little like I left my heart there. And my brain. But that's probably just because I have so. very. much. to. do. (Carol also gave an update of some of our shenanigans HERE).

Fifth: In case you missed it--I've finally drawn contest winners for the February blog contests. Click HERE to see if you were one of the lucky ones.

And...I think that pretty much covers everything.

For those of you desperate for some awesome middle grade recommendations--and really, WHY wouldn't you be?--check out these other, loyal bloggers who are keeping MMGM going while I flake off:

Shannon O'Donnell: Always impeccable taste. Always awesome. Today she's featuring THE ATOMIC WEIGHT OF SECRETS. Seriously, go THERE.

Sherri Peterson: She's featuring an interview AND A GIVEAWAY with Michael Spradlin. Click HERE for the details.

Ben Langhinrchs: He's featuring RINKITINK IN OZ and has a TWO BOOK GIVEAWAY. Make sure you go THERE to read and enter.

Brooke Favero: She's featuring one of my favorites. THE BFG, by Roald Dahl. Click HERE to see what she says.

Joanne Fritz: She's always got the goods on upcoming reads. Today: SMALL AS AN ELEPHANT, by Jennifer Richard Jacobson. Go HERE to read her thoughts.

And if you've done an MMGM on your blog, let me know. I'll happily add linkage. Let's keep spreading the Middle Grade love! :)

Happy Monday!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Contest Winners! (Late again--SORRY!)

Hey guys!

So so so so so so so so so so so so so sorry for not posting these earlier. I have somehow managed to completely overbook my life for February and March, so yeah, balls are getting dropped. Thank you for bearing with me.

And I have three different winners to announce, so I'm diving straight in.

First--the winner of THE GIRL WHO COULD FLY, by Victoria Forrester is...


Yay!

*tosses sparkles*

Next up--the winner of the signed paperback of EYES LIKE STARS, by Lisa Mantchev is...


Yay!

*tosses confetti*

And--last but CERTAINLY not least--the winner of the ARC of WHERE SHE WENT, by Gayle Forman is...


YAY!

*shoots her with silly string*

Okay--if that's you: PLEASE EMAIL ME AT PACKRATX (at) HOTMAIL (dot) COM WITH YOUR MAILING ADDRESS!!!! I don't have time to email you guys (and a couple of you didn't have email addresses attached to your profile) so PLEASE email me sometime in the next 2 weeks. Otherwise I'll have to draw a new winner. (And if you see your friend's name in there, let them know).

For everyone else--I promise, I am planning an EPIC contest. Or maybe a week of contests. It's hard to say. But it will be BIG. Because you guys deserve it. And I have a TON of books to give away. 

Thanks for your patience. My blog schedule will probably be a bit chaotic these next few weeks. PLEASE bear with me. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Liar Society Fangirls--Day Five

Last--but CERTAINLY not least--we have the absolutely amazing Kimberly Derting. You've seen Elana Johnson, me, Beth Revis, and Suzanne Young get caught up with Liar Society fever.

Now it's time to watch Kim TRY to resist LiLa's books Siren call--and fail epically. Enjoy!


Heh. We're still waiting on Oprah's call. Personally I think she'd look AWESOME in a pink wig, don't you?

Hope you guys enjoyed these vlogs as much as we enjoyed making them. If you did--I promise, THE LIAR SOCIETY is even better. If you didn't--uh, don't worry, THE LIAR SOCIETY is nothing like these.

And because we seriously cannot tell you how much you all NEED to read this book, Beth, Elana, and I (though guys, I'll confess, it was mostly Beth and Elana) organized a LIAR SOCIETY contest of epic proportions--starting Monday. Here's all the details

To enter, all you have to do is one (or both!) of the following:




  • Tweet! Use the hashtag #liarsociety (so we can find you). If you have pinkified your avatar in some way, you get an extra entry. We'll randomly be selecting one hashtag user Monday through Friday next week. (PS: @ reply @landlroecker and they'll pink your hair FOR you. So no excuses.)
  • Blog! Just put our button for THE LIAR SOCIETY somewhere on your blog, preferably front and center where it's easy to spot. And we made that easy for you, too--just copy and paste the code under the button and it'll show up in your blog easy-peasy, all linked up and ready to go.


We Love the Liar Society!





Questions? Ask 'em in the comment section! 

Rules:
America only (sorry!) 
Contest runs Monday-Friday next week (but feel free to put the button up/tweet earlier!) 
2 winners per day--one from blogs, one from tweets

    Thursday, February 24, 2011

    Liar Society Fangirls--Day Four

    Before I start today's post, there's something that has to be said.

    Yesterday, the writing world suffered a tremendous loss when the amazingly talented and wonderful woman, L.K. (Lisa) Madigan, lost her fight to pancreatic cancer. I'd never had the pleasure of knowing her beyond blogs and Twitter, but I adored her both online and on the page. And she was friends with so many of my friends, I've felt this loss very deeply. My thoughts and prayers are with all suffering through this loss.

    Part of me wondered if I should hold off today's TLS festivities. But Lisa was such a joyous, supportive person, I have a feeling she would want us to go on, to keep talking about happy things, about great books, to keep supporting friends with fun and laughter.

    So that's what I'm going to do, but with a slightly heavy heart. And I find myself compelled to add that if you haven't had a chance to read FLASH BURNOUT or THE MERMAID'S MIRROR, I highly recommend you do. Lisa was kind enough to leave behind these stories for us to hold to, now that she's left us. Savor them--they're a tremendous literary legacy.

    And...I think that's enough sadness for one day.

    It's time to focus on something truly hilarious. This is not really a Bookanista post today, because we're continuing with The Liar Society Fangirls videos. But since TLS is an AWESOME book I highly recommend (you can read my review HERE) I'm counting it for the Bookanistas too.

    You've seen Elana Johnson, me, and Beth Revis all go...a little crazy for THE LIAR SOCIETY. But NO ONE goes quite as crazy as Suzanne Young. You'll see what I mean...


    I don't care how many times I watch that--it STILL makes me giggle.

    And come back tomorrow when Kimberly Derting shows us why resistance is futile when it comes to this book. See you then!

    For more book recommendations, check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to:


    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Liar Society Fangirls--Day Three

    Okay, you've seen Elana Johnson go pink. You've seen me go insane (and pink). Now let's see what happens to Beth Revis when she lets THE LIAR SOCIETY into her life:


    Anyone else think she should go pink all the time? It really IS her color!

    Tomorrow we have Suzanne Young--and I'm not lying when I say I actually snorted when I first watched her footage. Do NOT miss it. :)

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Liar Society Fangirls--Day Two

    Okay, so yesterday you saw the frawesome Elana Johnson get taken over by THE LIAR SOCIETY. And today...it's my turn.

    And um...fair warning. This is DEFINITELY the biggest dose of Shannon Shame I've ever given you. Only for LiLa, and their amazing book.


    Yeah...I have nothing to say except...

    Love you LiLa!

    *hides from the humiliation*

    And come back tomorrow so see how THE LIAR SOCIETY affected Beth Revis!

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    Liar Society Fangirls--Day One

    So here's the deal. A few weeks ago I was included in an EPIC email chain from some of my favorite writers, wanting to brainstorm ideas for a way to show the blogosphere just how incredible THE LIAR SOCIETY, by Lisa and Laura Roecker, is.

    After much hilarity...we settled on this: 

    5 vlogs. 
    5 fangirls. 
    5 fabulous pink wigs. 
    All kinds of awesome.

    A new vlog will be posted each day this week--and trust me guys, they are a crack-up. I can't decide which is my favorite. So I'll leave it up to you.

    Up today is the ever-hilarous Elana Johnson. Enjoy!


    *blushes*

    Oh, and btw--you can blame my husband for that horrible leg shot. I SPECIFICALLY asked him if the cat had hiked up my skirt and he was like, nope it's good. SIGH. I wish I at least had a tan. And some muscle tone.

    *grumbles*

    But that's NOTHING on the Shannon Shame I have for you guys tomorrow.

    Make sure you stop by to see it.

    It.

    Will.

    Be.

    Epic.

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    A mini Shannon Update

    Hey guys!

    So, I'm still here in the VERY awesome city of San Francisco. Still in the middle of the San Francisco Writer's Conference (SUCH an awesome Conference btw). Still with the lovely Carolina Valdez Miller. Still having SO MUCH FUN.

    I promise--I will have an EPIC update to come (let me put it this way: Carol and I brought a video camera. So yeah, there will be a vlog).

    But I'm doing this quick post because I wanted to give you a heads-up to the change in blogging schedule next week. All my regular series are postponed until the following week (so yes, there will be no MMGM or Shannon-Style or questions being answered)--but don't worry, what I have in store for you is EVEN BETTER.

    There WILL be vlogs. There WILL be Shannon Shame. And yes--you do NOT want to miss it. I'll even give you a hint. It has SOMETHING to do with this:


    Yeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

    The Epicness starts Monday.

    Are.

    You.

    Ready???????

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    SO SILVER BRIGHT COVER REVEALED!!!!!

    This is one of those posts where there's really not a whole lot I can add to it. So for once, I'm going to keep my ramblings to a minimum and just say HOW GORGEOUS IS THIS COVER??????????????


    I really could stare at it all day. Love, Love LOVE!

    In case you missed it yesterday, I'm giving away a signed copy of EYES LIKE STARS (the first book in the trilogy) HERE. Make sure you enter for a chance to win.

    And...that's really all I have to say. I'd type more, but...I'm too busy staring at the pretty pretty cover.

    Have a great weekend everyone!

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Bookanista Preview: So Silver Bright Cover Reveal--AND A GIVEAWAY!!!!

    Yay--it's Bookanista Thursday again, and I am SO excited today because I get to be part of a very special campaign to promote a book I have been waiting FOREVER to read: SO SILVER BRIGHT, by the lovely Lisa Mantchev

    I think most of you know what a huge Lisa Mantchev fan I am. (I mean, I gave her a whole WEEK on my blog last year). Her books truly are one-of-a-kind, and I have been desperate for SO SILVER BRIGHT since the day I finished PERCHANCE TO DREAM.

    Sadly, I still have a bit of a wait on the book (though they tell me an ARC might be on the way soon--*SQUEALS AND DIES OF HAPPINESS*) But...they gave me something to tide me over. See, Lisa's books aren't just known for the page-turning, gorgeous, unlike-anything-else writing. They're known for their AMAZING covers.

    I mean, they really are GORGEOUS. So gorgeous I'm tempted to buy prints and hang them on my wall. Look at how awesome they are:




    We're talking seriously, seriously beautiful art. So I've been DYING to see the cover art for SO SILVER BRIGHT, crossing my fingers, toes, and eyes it wouldn't let me down.

    Well, I can tell you right now--IT DOESN'T DISAPPOINT. It *might* even be my favorite of the three. And today, I am honored that I get to help reveal it!

    But... only a little piece.

    In what I think is a brilliant (and evil) campaign, Feiwel & Friends has been revealing the cover piece by piece all week throughout the blogosphere. So today, I have a tiny snippet for you--and the rest will be revealed right here tomorrow. Make sure you come back.

    Are you ready for it?

    *drumroll please*

    Ta Da!


    AHHHHH--it's Bertie's eyes (with WAY cool eyeliner, btw) and silver hair!!!!!

    Love, Love, LOVE!

    And just to tease you even more, here's the blurb from the back of the book:

    Bertie thinks her quest is almost done. With the help of Ariel and the rest of her friends, she has managed to find her father and rescue the kidnapped pirate, Nate, from Sedna the sea goddess. Now all she has to do is reunite her father, The Scrimshander, with her mother, Ophelia, and she will finally have a true family of her own. However, things are never easy for Beatrice Shakespeare Smith. Her father has vanished, Sedna is out for revenge, her own actions have trapped the Theatre Illuminata, the only home she’s ever known, into a strange kind of limbo, and the stress of her in-between state is tearing apart the fragile threads of her mother’s sanity. Bertie’s best hope for salvaging the situation may lie in the summons by Her Gracious Majesty, Queen of the Distant Castle and hope of winning the magical boon given to the most pleasing performance. Bertie is caught between her growing responsibilities to home and family and the dream of flying free, just as her heart is torn between her two loves, Ariel and Nate. With so many forces pulling on her, how will Bertie be able to choose which wish to make come true?

    In case you missed the other cover pieces, you can find them here:


    AND--because Feiwel & Friends is AWESOME--they've donated a signed paperback of EYES LIKE STARS for me to give away to one lucky commenter on today's post. (Trust me guys, you want this book. This series is not to be missed!).

    To enter, make sure you follow my blog and leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm PST on Saturday, February 26th. I'll draw one random winner and post their name on February 27th. One slight change from my usual contests though: this contest is limited to US and Canada residents only (or, those with a US or Canadian mailing address, at least). Since I'm not the one providing the prize, I didn't get to set all the rules this time. Sorry international followers!

    Ready...set...GO!

    And make sure you check back tomorrow for the full reveal. I promise YOU WILL LOVE IT!

    For more awesome book recommendations, check out what the rest of the Bookanistas are up to:



    Sarah Frances Hardy is nuts for THE NINTH WARD                     

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Revision--Shannon Style (Part Three: Critiques)

    For those of you who haven't been following this series (or just don't remember because I ramble about so many things it's hard for you to keep up) I've spent the last two weeks talking about my revision process. I've covered my drafting process HERE and my own personal revision process HERE. And today I'm going to talk a little about what I call the third "phase" of my revision process: The CP/Beta Phase.

    Mind you--as you know from those previous posts--my poor CPs have already been involved throughout the whole process. In fact, by the end of this phase, they'll have read my draft three times (have I mentioned how amazing the Sara(h)s are? Cause um...YEAH! They = awesome.) So obviously the CP/Beta phase has a lot more to it than: send draft to CPs. (Though that would have made this post nice and easy to write).

    And since today's phase is a pretty painful part of the process, I'm bringing out the big guns before we get started. The chocolate COVERED Twizzlers.

    Why the big guns? Because what I'm really talking about in this post is: how I work through critique notes. Which is not an easy thing to do.

    Though, I'll admit. I'm currently a very lucky girl. I have two wonderful, smart, talented Critique Partners who have the perfect blend of "getting what I'm trying to do" and "pushing me to make me better." They still give me a ton of notes to wade through. But I never have to worry that I will completely disagree with their take on my project.

    It...wasn't always that way. For a long time I didn't even have CPs. And then, as I tried to find them I had some...interesting experiences.

    Nothing against those readers--at all. Writing is just subjective, and not everyone will like the same things or get what you're trying to do or read things as fast as you'd like or work well with you. It happens. And I'll talk more about finding CPs in another post someday (once I figure out what the heck to say in it) but for now, since we're talking about critiques, I'll just briefly cover how *I* judge if I can work from a critique, or if it's...off.

    Here's the thing. I actually have a very thick skin. No really, I do. I couldn't have survived film school if I didn't. (Let me put it this way: we had to read our scenes out loud, in front of the class, and then everyone--including the teacher--told you what you did wrong. It. was. brutal.) So...I'm good with criticism. I don't ENJOY it. But it doesn't freak me out. At least, not when I can see their point. And I'm pretty darn good at seeing their point.

    So when I get notes back on my draft, I've learned to listen to my gut reaction to them. Let's face it: even though we all know we're going to get notes back, and they're not going to say: IT'S PERFECT--DON'T CHANGE A THING!, deep down, we're secretly hoping it'll be like: add a few commas here, tweak these five lines of dialogue and you're golden. So...when we get back SIGNIFICANTLY more notes than that, it's kind of like a punch to the gut. Like, "crap...I have a lot more work to do."

    But that is an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT FEELING from: "wow...they, hated my project" or "wow, I completely disagree with what they're saying" or "wow, I hate their suggestions." That reaction is a sick-to-your-stomach-curl-up-in-the-fetal-postion-and-sob kind of reaction--and I've learned from past stressful experiences that it means the critique is off. Doesn't mean they're WRONG (maybe their suggestions would work if I wanted to change the book into something different from where I was going.) But they're not right for me.

    So I have actually thrown out entire batches of notes from people, because they just didn't see my project the same way I did. It was scary and hard for me to do that--because I'm not one to dig in my heels and say, "no--I'm RIGHT!" But if thick-skinned me is nauseous because I just don't like anything they had to say about my draft...well...I've learned that my gut is telling me what I'm too afraid to admit: that the critique is off. And if the same thing ever happens to you, I hope you'll come to realize that it's okay--you don't HAVE to do what the notes say. Think carefully about them of course. But you can reject them if they don't fit.

    And fortunately, I now have The Sara(h)s, so that hasn't happened to me in a long time. But...that doesn't mean I apply every single one of their notes. Again, I've learned to listen to my gut. I have some methods I use to judge the notes, but I'll cover those next week, because that is a HUGE part of my fourth phase of revision: The Agent Phase. So for now, let's just skip to the part after I've decided what I do and don't agree with and have a plan. Here's how I tackle the draft from there:

    The Sara(h)s send me their notes as a word doc, with comments in the margins. Before I start working on them, I create an entirely new version of the draft (usually Master Draft 2 at that point). Then I open their notes file, along with my new draft and work side by side. (Oh, and I should mention, I tackle one Sara(h)s notes at a time, so every chapter gets reworked at least twice)

    I scroll to their first comment. Scroll to that part of the draft, and reread. Half the time it's a quick fix. Adding more description. Clarifying or correcting an inconsistency. Trimming something repetitive. Finding a better word. Etc. Sometimes it's something bigger and I may have to rewrite a large section of a scene, or make a big cut. Either way, as I work, I highlight all the changes in teal highlighter, so they stand out in the draft like this. 


    I do that because it makes it easier for me to see the draft evolve. I know some people do "track changes" and let Word keep track of all of that for them. But that feature drives me crazy because it marks every. little. change. I just want to track the big stuff, so I can see what I did to the scene and really make sure the new stuff is consistent with the other stuff. If it reads seamlessly--even with the glaring teal highlighter--I know I have it right. If the new stuff stands out, I need to blend more. 


    Bonus: I can resend it to the Sara(h)s with the highlighter in there, that way if they're strapped for time, all I ask is that they read the highlighted sections to see if they're satisfied by the change. They don't have to reread the whole thing again--unless they want to--because they've already read it twice and are starting to get too close anyway. 


    Which is where my Beta Readers come in.


    I know, you're probably wondering what the difference between a CP and a Beta reader is. Everyone draws their own distinction, but for me a CP is someone I'm going to let read my REALLY messy stuff, someone who's going to brainstorm with me, someone who's going to read chapter by chapter because I want them to be really thorough, and someone who is going to read the draft multiple times. My Betas are the people who get the full draft all in one go (sans highlighting), it will be much cleaner (in theory) and they will probably only read it once. Basically I'm bringing them in for "fresh eyes." 


    They also read much quicker because--while I, of course, want them to note anything that bothers them--I don't want them constantly having to slow down to make tiny tweaks and comments. What I'm really looking for at that point is: pacing, believable character arcs, and does the plot make sense? And that becomes MUCH clearer when the draft is read in as few sittings as possible. 


    I have a number of different people who Beta-read for me, and I use them based on their availability. Usually they get a desperate email saying, "Hey--are you too busy to do a quick read?" And if I send the draft to them, they know I'm hoping to get it back from them in about a week--unless of course something comes up for them. They read nice and quick and send me the draft back--usually with a lot less comments than a critique. But it's AMAZING what they catch. I definitely, DEFINITELY recommend using Betas in your process.


    From there, I do one more round of adjusting based on my Beta-Reader's feedback, sometimes asking The Sara(h)s to read isolated scenes or chapters if I made a major change. And once they're happy and I'm feeling like I've done all I can do, then...*gulp*...it goes to Laura. 


    And we enter the dreaded Agent Phase, which I will talk about next week.


    *Phew*--do you see why we needed the chocolate covered Twizzlers this time? That is a LOT of work. I tell ya, this process is not for the feint of heart! But it's what turns my draft from a mess of word vomit into something presentable enough to show my agent--so it's worth it.


    Still...I think I'm going to need some chocolate covered Twizzlers now. *noms* Anyone want to join me?

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    Marvelous Middle Grade Monday--The Girl Who Could Fly (and a Giveaway!)

    For today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, I thought I'd talk about a book that I read for a rather unconventional reason: THE GIRL WHO COULD FLY, by Victoria Forester.


    I can't remember how I stumbled across it--but I do remember very distinctly what made me buy it. The blurb on the cover. And the reason I remember that is because *whispers* I'm not usually influenced by blurbs. 


    I know, I know--as an author they're very very important. But...as a reader...I don't know. For some reason it doesn't matter to me if an author says they like it--even an author I like. I'd much rather know if a friend liked it, or go by the back cover copy, or read a few pages to get a feel for the voice.

    But this blurb caught my eye--and NOT because of who it was (though aside from J.K. Rowling this is pretty much the best blurb you can get):

    “It’s the oddest/sweetest mix of Little House on the Prairie and X-Men. I was smiling the whole time (except for the part where I cried). Prepare to have your heart warmed.” —Stephenie Meyer, The Twilight Saga

    I mean...Little House on the Prairie meets X-Men?????????

    Uh...yeah...I had to know more. Especially after I read the cover copy:

    You just can’t keep a good girl down . . . unless you use the proper methods. 
    Piper McCloud can fly. Just like that. Easy as pie. Sure, she hasn’t mastered reverse propulsion and her turns are kind of sloppy, but she’s real good at loop-the-loops. Problem is, the good folk of Lowland County are afraid of Piper. And her ma’s at her wit’s end. So it seems only fitting that she leave her parents’ farm to attend a top-secret, maximum-security school for kids with exceptional abilities. School is great at first with a bunch of new friends whose skills range from super-strength to super-genius. (Plus all the homemade apple pie she can eat!) But Piper is special, even among the special. And there are consequences. Consequences too dire to talk about. Too crazy to consider. And too dangerous to ignore. At turns exhilarating and terrifying, Victoria Forester’s debut novel is an unforgettable story of defiance and courage about an irrepressible heroine who can, who will, who must . . . fly.

    I don't want to give too much away and ruin the plot for anyone. But it's a beautiful, touching story full of fast-paced action and a seriously cool blend of science fiction and fantasy. Pretty sure I read it all in one sitting, and even though it stands alone very well, a big part of me hopes there might be a sequel someday. I'd love to know more about Piper. She's a sweet, wonderful character.

    But as always with my MMGM recommendations--I don't just want you to take my word for it. I want you to see for yourselves. So I'm giving away a paperback copy of THE GIRL WHO COULD FLY to one lucky commenter on today's post. To enter, make sure you follow my blog, and leave a comment by 11:59 pm PST on Saturday, February 26th. I'll draw one random winner and post their name on Sunday, February 27th. International entries welcome.

    Need more MMGM love? Make sure you check out:

    - Shannon O'Donnell's can always be counted on for an incredible MMGM. Go HERE and see what she's featuring today.

    - Aly Beecher is featuring THE TROUBLE WITH CHICKENS, by Doreen Cronin. Click HERE to read her review.


    - Ben Langhinrichs is featuring THE ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES by Patricia Wrede. Click HERE to read his thoughts.


    - Joanne Fritz has a spotlight on THE GREAT WALL OF LUCY WU by Wendy Wan-Long Shang. Click HERE to read her review.


    -Brooke Favero also has an MMGM on FALLING IN, by Frances O'Roark Dowell. Click HERE to read her review.

    And if you've done an MMGM feature on your blog, email me a link (or leave it in the comments) and I'd be happy to update this post.

    Happy Monday everyone!

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    AHHH--THE WINNERS

    Okay, this is seriously becoming a bad habit. HOW COULD I FORGET TO POST THE WINNERS?

    Oops.

    Getting right to it, the winner of INVASION, by Jon S. Lewis is:

    YAY!

    *tosses confetti*


    And the winner of THE MAZE OF BONES (The 39 Clues, book 1) by Rick Riordan is:


    YAY!

    *flings sparkles*

    If you see your name there, check your email--you have one in there from me  asking for your mailing address. And if you don't see it, please email me at packratx (at) hotmail (dot) com. I'll ship off your prize next week.

    For everyone else who entered, keep trying! Sooner or later you HAVE to be one of the lucky winners. 

    Sorry again for the delay. Hope everyone had a great weekend!

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    Sucktastic Memos

    Dear Yesterday,

    I'm sure you'll try to convince me that since the zombie-duck apocalypse didn't happen and Were-platypus (or is it platypi?) have yet to take over the world, you really weren't all that bad. But considering the fact that you included the words "cat fight," "Veterinarian," and "large, pus-filled abscess," I think I have sufficient evidence to say: YOU SUCK.

    Frustratedly Yours,
    A very dissatisfied Shannon



    Dear Mangy Gray Cat,

    I consider myself a friend to all things feline. In fact, the ridiculous amount of time I spend cleaning cat hair off everything I own gives me adequate proof of my generous, kitty-loving ways. But mark my words: if you set so much as a toe--nay, a WHISKER--within a 50-foot radius of my home, I'm getting the hose. And I have one of those nozzles that makes the water shoot out like a plasma blaster.

    Ominously yours,
    The crazy blonde lady you should be very, very afraid of



    Dear Veterinarian,

    Honestly, I know how lucky I am to have you. You give me wonderful discounts because my cats were strays, and you made room in your very busy schedule to squeeze in an emergency patient. That being said, I really, REALLY don't think you have any idea how cruel it is to tell a girl who gets light headed just THINKING about gore that she must: apply warm compresses twice a day and extract all the pus. Especially when you follow it with: be careful, it might squirt.


    Squeamishly yours,
    The customer who nearly passed out in your examination room



    Dear Patrick,

    I'm very, very sorry I couldn't run downstairs fast enough to protect you. I'm also very, very sorry for your shaved bottom. I'd like to tell you that it doesn't look as humiliating as you might be thinking. But it really, really does. Maybe keep a low profile in the neighborhood until it grows back. Or walk backwards.

    Unhelpfully yours,
    The lady who feeds you, so you're not allowed to hate her



    Dear Followers,

    If you can't tell by my previous memos, yesterday was kind of an ordeal and I didn't have the time or energy to tackle your questions. (or to respond to yesterday's blog comments) I promise I will make up for lost time next week. Once I'm no longer up to my elbows in cat pus.

    Regretfully yours,
    The blogger who just used the word "pus" way too many times, and hopes her followers will forgive her for it

    Thursday, February 10, 2011

    Bookanista Review: Where She Went, by Gayle Forman--AND AN ARC GIVEAWAY!!!!

    Another Thursday, another awesome book, another gushing Bookanista Review. But today, I'm doing things a teensy bit different.

    See, sometimes a book is SO amazing, I have to step back and realize: *I'm* not capable of properly communicating the sheer awesomeness of it. Sometimes I need to bring in someone more articulate than me, to say everything I want to say, but SO much better than I could ever possibly say it. 

    (And then I can just take credit for it. Muwhahahahaha)

    No, of course, I would NEVER do that.

    Well, okay, I am bringing in help. But I'm NOT taking credit for it. I WANTED to. But...she's kind of important to my writing process, so it wouldn't be a good idea to tick her off.

    (also: this has nothing to do with me being buried by WriteOnCon planning and not being able to coherently write anything other than emails.)
    (okay, maybe it does)
    (and maybe I'm also stalling because I'm afraid after reading this you'll never want to suffer through one of my reviews again)
    (and maybe I also just love parenthetical statements)
    (and now that I've done so many of them I feel like I can't stop)
    (ahem)

    So the review you're about to read was written by none other than my adorable friend, loyal CP, and AMAZING writer (whose book comes out 2012--mark your calendar) Ms Sarah Wylie. She is a HUGE Gayle Forman fan and has impeccable taste in books (and no, I'm not saying that because she reads my writing). Take it away Sarah. Put me to shame:

    ***

    WHERE SHE WENT is the highly anticipated sequel to the much-beloved NYT bestseller, IF I STAY. Check out the gorgeous cover:


    And here’s the blurb at the back of the book:

    It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

    Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future and each other.

    Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.


    My thoughts


    Confession: I’m a firm believer that books you loved (like, a lot) that can stand alone are like childhood houses. Do not go back. Everything will seem smaller and greyer and disappointingly unfamiliar. But if you DO go back--if you’ve been forced by say, the supreme coercion of Twizzlers (it happens)--then accept the fact that you’re going to be disappointed.

    I was nervous about reading WHERE SHE WENT. I loved Mia and Adam in IF I STAY, and I wanted to keep my image of them, my assurance that they had turned out okay. I worried we were going to see sides of them that were unfamiliar, that maybe changed the ideas I had about who they were and what they’d become in the three years since we’d seen them.

    And it did. But I shouldn’t have been worried.

    Gayle Forman explores with admirable honesty the aftermath of devastating loss, of growing up and apart, of loneliness, and of living with the choices you make. The prose is beautiful, simple, and raw. Though it lacks the big heartrending premise of IF I STAY, WHERE SHE WENT broke little bits of my heart, surprising me again with how much I cared for these characters. I sobbed, you guys. I also read it in one and a half sittings--the half because I had to put it down to fully immerse myself in said sobbing--so there’s that.

    Though you could probably read and understand it without having read the first (although WHY would you want to??), this book is best appreciated after reading IF I STAY.

    WHERE SHE WENT is a rare sequel that not only lives up to very high expectations, but exceeds them. I adored it! Highly, highly recommended.

    ***

    See why I needed a professional? I feel like I should just turn the blog over to her much more capable hands. But...then I wouldn't be able to whine and post pictures of gorgeous celebrities and cause shenanigans so SHE CAN'T HAVE IT NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS!!! 

    ahem.

    Anyway, now that Sarah's convinced you why you NEED to read this book, you're probably lamenting the fact that it won't be available until April 5th. But I have good news! 

    I managed to snake a highly coveted ARC for you guys when I was at ALA mid-winter, and I'm giving it away to one lucky commenter on this post. To enter, make sure you follow my blog, and leave a comment by 11:59 pm PST on Saturday, February 26th. I'll draw one random winner and post their name on Sunday, February 27th. International entries welcome.

    (See, Sarah may do the awesome reviews--but who gives you the prizes, huh? HUH?)
    (yes, I'm not above bribery)

    And...go!

    For more awesome book recommendations, here's what the rest of the Bookanistas are up to:


    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Why I love living in SoCal

    Sure, it's REALLY expensive here and we have terrible traffic and smog problems and all that jazz. But I think this picture pretty much sums it up:


    First: LOOK AT OUR WEATHER!!! 

    I mean, I took this picture on Saturday. So when the rest of the country was buried under a Snowpocalypse--look, we have SUNSHINE AND BLUE SKIES AND SOME OF US ARE WEARING SHORT SLEEVES!!!!!! 

    *resists urge to stick out tongue*

    But despite the good weather, I'll confess that when I started writing, part of me felt like I was living on the wrong coast. Like New York had ALL the writers and I was all by my lonesome in my sunny oasis. But as it turns out--there are a LOT of us out here!

    Pictured above (from left to right) is Lisa Cannon, Debra Driza, Cindy Pon, Kirsten Hubbard, Nikki Katz, Andrea Ortega, and me. Some of us are published. Some of us are agented. Some of us are close. But we're all writers, living right here, in sunny SoCal. And we all met up for an epic lunch to swap war stories and encourage each other along. 

    And there are quite a few more we could have invited. This was kind of a last minute thing, so in our scrambling we forgot a few people. (sorry!) Plus we didn't invite any of the OC-ers or LA-ers because we were meeting in San Diego and weren't sure if they would want to drive in. But next time we're planning to extend the offer to everyone--and oh yes, there will be a next time. 

    So we're NOT alone here in SoCal. We have lots of writers out here. And we're making an effort to get to know each other more, support each other more. In this stressful, complicated, confusing business, it's nice to have a group you can turn to and commiserate with. And here in So Cal, we have it. And it's awesome!

    What about you? Anyone else here in SoCal? And if not, have you found other writers in your area? I bet there's more than you realize. There were WAY more than I realized. :)

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Revision--Shannon Style (Part Two: Personal Revisions)

    Last week I talked about my revision method during rough drafting, which--in a nutshell--is that I do SOME tweaking on big, important things, and try to leave the rest for later. (If you missed it, you can read the post HERE).

    So now we're up to the second phase of my revision process: the Personal Phase. Which is basically just a more official way of saying: the phase where I dive in and try to clean up my own mess. And believe me, it's QUITE a mess to clean up.

    (Ugh--I need a truckload of chocolate and Twizzlers just thinking about this...)

    So this is basically the roll-up-your-sleeves-and-dive-in-head-first stage. And I always start by turning to the handy: Things I need to Fix File (which I talked about last week). It's usually at least 10 pages long at that point (single spaced no less--I told you, I am a MESSY drafter). And I read through it several times so I really familiarize myself with it.

    Some of the things on there are clear what I have to do. But most of them are simply "problems." Meaning I know something's wrong, but I haven't quite figured out how to fix it. Which means it's time for a brainstorming session with my CPs--another huge reason why I have them read the draft as I write it. That way they're up to speed with me and can help me figure this stuff out, (Yes, even though this is the Personal Stage, I make my poor CPs work) (Yes, I rely VERY heavily on my CPs.) (Yes, it's amazing they put up with me) (Yes, I probably need to send them more presents)

    Okay, so, the brainstorming session. Basically I log into a chat with one of them and start with something along the lines of: THERE'S THIS BIG PROBLEM WITH MY DRAFT AND I CAN'T THINK OF ANY WAY TO FIX IT AND I'LL NEVER FIND THE ANSWER AND DOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!

    And they (after most likely running to grab a GIANT bottle of alcohol) say: Okay, so tell me what the problem is.

    So I ramble for...5-10 minutes. Explaining what the problem is, and what solutions I've already rejected and why (and yes, there's plenty of whining in the mix too). And then, we play the "What if?" game.

    They throw out ideas. I reject them. I throw out ideas. They poke holes in them. Round and round we go. Usually for at least an hour. But the AMAZING thing about that process is: I ALWAYS end the chat with the solution. Every. Single. Time. 

    There's something to be said for tossing out bad ideas. Nothing makes it clearer what WILL work, than thinking about what WON'T work. I highly recommend it.

    So after thanking them a million, zillion times and telling them I'd be lost without them and promising them my kidney and a small piece of my liver, I am ready to dive in to the revision. Which means...rereading. A lot, lot, LOT of rereading.

    I know some people at this point like to revise on paper. I hate it. I hate making notes for myself and then having to go back and apply them. I would so much rather save time and make the change right then. So I work in the actual file. And yes, I know, that does mean I might delete something I regret. Which is why I create a new file called: Draft One--Deleted Pieces. I cut, copy, and paste pretty much everything in there. Single words, no. But sentences--yes. And certainly big chunks. Every so often I do go back and take something from there, so it's worth the time. Plus, it's fun to see how much the draft has improved when I reread that garbage.

    Anyway, when I work through the draft, I work chapter by chapter. I read the chapter once, tweaking anything from the "Things I need to fix file." Then I read again, to see how I like the changes, and if they bring up any new issues, etc. I read again, watching for repetitive phrases and words. I read it out loud, to catch awkward rhythm--especially with the dialogue. I read again, trying to ask myself if what I'm saying is clear and if I've described the setting enough. Then I read again, to see if the writing feels like it's good enough, or if I need to push myself to do better.

    All of which means I do a lot of: listening to my gut. 

    Deep down, I KNOW when something's wrong with my book. Do I still miss stuff? Of course--because I'm just too darn close to the project. (That's why my revision process doesn't end here) But over my years of writing I have found time and again that whenever I let something go, something I'm just not happy with but think--eh, I'm probably over-thinking it. I WILL get notes on that very same thing. My inner editor isn't as dumb as I sometimes think she is. So I'm learning to listen to her. 

    Usually takes me 3-4 hours per chapter to feel like I've gotten it to a point where there's nothing more I can do. At which point, I send it to my CPs for a much more thorough critique than they did the first time, and move on to the next chapter. (Okay, fine, I have a VERY bad habit of rereading the chapter one more time the next day and making a bunch more changes and sending my poor CPs an email titled: DON'T USE THOSE PAGES--USE THESE!!!!!!) (I always promise myself I won't do it) (And at least half the time, I do) (It really is amazing they haven't flown to California to beat me over the head with my laptop)

    And from that point, it's out of my hands, until I get feedback from CPs. Which is one of the reasons why I like working chapter by chapter with them. I know it's a bit harder to get a feel for the pacing, but I like that I always have something to work on, so I don't get to that point where I've sent off the ENTIRE DRAFT and can now do nothing but bite my nails and obsessively check my email and try not to go insane while I wait for them to get it back to me. Instead, I have the next chapter to work on. And by the time I get to the end I have an inbox full of critiqued chapters to go back to. I let my Beta Readers address the pacing in the CP/Beta Phase. Which I will talk about next week.

    So there you go--a relatively scary glimpse into the crazy way I attack my drafts. Sadly, all I've probably accomplished with this post is making you feel VERY sorry for my CPs (and VERY happy you're not one of them). And many of you probably work very differently from this. But this is what works for me. Still a long way to go from here. But I'll talk about that next week.

    *Phew* 

    That was stressful. I think I need more chocolate. Anyone want to join me? *noms* And what about you guys: how do YOU attack your drafts during the first round of revision?

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Marvelous Middle Grade Monday--The 39 Clues (plus a giveaway!)

    *Phew* After a couple of strange weeks, Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday is finally back to normal! (hee, we'll see how long it lasts--February is kind of a crazy month). And today I'm featuring a series that--I'll confess--I didn't think I was going to like. But I LOVED it: THE 39 CLUES.


    Here's the blurb for the first book, THE MAZE OF BONES, by Rick Riordan:

    What would happen if you discovered that your family was one of the most powerful in human history? What if you were told that the source of the family's power was hidden around the world, in the form of 39 Clues? What if you were given a choice — take a million dollars and walk away...or get the first Clue? If you're Amy and Dan Cahill, you take the Clue — and begin a very dangerous race.

    At this point you're probably thinking um...that sounds really cool--and I thought you loved Rick Riordan. All of which is true. So why didn't I think I would like it?

    Honestly, it was the format of the series. Multiple authors writing the different books, so they could push a book out every few months. And such a huge focus on an interactive website and supplemental card game. I don't know, all of that just made me think the quality of the story and writing would be sub-par. Sometimes I can be a book snob. :P

    But I AM a huge Rick Riordan fan, so eventually I had to give it a chance. And I am happy to say my concerns were completely and utterly unfounded. I was hooked from the very first sentence, and raced through the entire series as fast as I could read. These books are hilarious, the plot is fact-paced and interesting, and characters are great. I have no doubt kids would love them.

    And kids aren't the only ones. My husband--who is NOT a reader (I can *barely* get him to read my stuff)--has read the entire series. I know. I'm stunned too. But he's a history nerd, so he was curious about the way the books take historical figures and weave them into the central mystery. And he loved them. So much so that he even played the online game, which he said was really well done. (Um, btw, I should probably mention that he's just as big of a kid as I am. He's just not a reader).

    So yeah, they're fantastic books, and definitely worth giving a try. And to make it easier for you to do that, I'm giving away a copy of the first book in the series, THE MAZE OF BONES, to one lucky commenter on this post. To enter, make sure you're a follower of my blog and leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm PST on Saturday, Feb. 12th. I'll draw one random winner and post their name on Feb. 13th. International entries welcome.

    And...go!

    For more awesome MG recommendation:

    - Check out what the lovely Shannon O'Donnell's blog. She can always be counted on for an incredible MMGM. Go HERE and see what she's featuring today.


    - Ben Langhinrichs also makes his MMGM debut with a spotlight on the books of Eva Ibbotson. Click HERE to check it out. 


    -Brooke Favero also has a MMGM feature on one of my favorite MG books THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY. Go HERE to see her thoughts.


    -Joanne Fritz is back with another MMGM, this time on THE WONDER OF CHARLIE ANNE, by Kimberly Newton Fusco. Click HERE to read all about it. 

    And if you've done an MMGM on your blog and would like me to link you, let me know. I'd be happy to update this post. 

    Happy Monday!

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Bookanista Review: Invasion, by Jon S. Lewis--AND A GIVEAWAY!

    Phew--it's been a busy week in Bookanista-Land. New members have been added. LOTS of emails were exchanged. And I have another awesome book to feature and give away. Good times all around! So let's get on with the review, shall we?

    Today I'm featuring a book I was very excited to get my hands on: INVASION, by Jon S. Lewis.


    Not only is he seriously one of the nicest, funniest authors I've met, he's the co-writer of one of my favorite middle-grade series: The Grey Griffins. INVASION is his first solo effort, and his first step into the YA age range, so I was DYING to see what he did with it. Cue much squealing when his publicist offered me a copy (which I will be giving away to one of you at the end of this post--but we'll get to that.)

    Here's the official blurb from the publisher:

    Colt McAllister is drawn into a war against things he thought only existed in comic books.
    After a car wreck takes the lives of his parents, Colt moves to Arizona to stay with his grandfather. There, an informant tells him that his parents were actually murdered because his mom, a journalist, was getting ready to write a story exposing Trident Industries.

    Along with Oz and Danielle, his new comrades at Chandler High, Colt vows to uncover the truth. But the more they learn, the more bizarre reality becomes. Mind control, jet packs, and flying motorcycles only scratch the surface of what they discover.

    Colt is recruited by a secret organization called the Central Headquarters Against the Occult and Supernatural. But the battle isn't just against an out-of-control giant corporation. A gateway to another world is opening, and the invasion has already begun.


    Jet packs, mind control and the secret organization of C.H.A.O.S.? Um...yes please.

    There were many things I loved about this book, like Jon's hilarious sense of humor, or the way he peppered in so many specific details about his settings that he totally nailed the feel of SoCal and Arizona (and as someone very familiar with both of those areas, I'm picky about that. Well done Jon!) But I think what I liked better than anything is that INVASION fills a gap in the market, a gap I often get asked for recommendations for and have so few books to recommend.

    It's YA, but I'd say it ranges more toward the lower end of YA, the 13, 14, and 15-year-olds. Bonus: it's a boy book. Don't get me wrong--as a supremely girly-girl I still found plenty to enjoy (and remember, I don't even like Sci-fi as a general rule)--but boys will LOVE this. I mean, it has Aliens. Sasquatch. Jet Packs. Training sessions that are like giant, virtual reality video games. Comic Books. Plasma blaster guns. Do I need to keep going? Cause I could. There is SO much good stuff. 

    There really aren't enough boy books, especially in the YA realm, and so many of them fall more into the John Green, deep, meaningful, intellectual realm. So where are boys who want to read something light and fun and don't want to read a sappy love story between some average girl and insert-supernatural-creature-X-here supposed to turn? Well, now they can read INVASION. And I have no doubt they'll love it.

    I also can't review a Jon Lewis book without giving his website a shout out. Not sure how he does it, but he gets the COOLEST art done for each of his books. Check out the INVASION artwork HERE. If you needed more motivation to read the book, those pictures will do it. So many cool creatures and characters. Love it!

    But don't just take my word for it--see for yourself. I'm giving my precious copy away to one lucky commenter on today's post. To enter, just follow my blog and leave a comment on this post between now and 11:59 pm PST on Saturday, February 12th. I'll post the winner on February 13th. International entries welcome.

    For more awesome recommendations, check out what the rest of the Bookanistas are talking about: