Friday, January 29, 2010

Where I Am...

Hey Guys!

As you probably know (because I've been whining/stressing all week. Okay, two weeks. All right--a month! Whatever!) I'm not here right now.

I'm at the San Diego State University Annual Writer's Conference!

So...if you need me, I won't be here because I will be...

-at a Conference where I don't know ANYONE
-pitching my project to agents and hoping they don't tell me that it sounds like Suckfest 2010
-getting my first 10 pages ripped into by an editor
-stressing
-panicking
-not eating
-not sleeping
-have I mentioned that I will be ALL ALONE IN SAN DIEGO FOR THREE DAYS??????

AHHHHHH!!!!!!
*Panic Attack*

(Even Roget Vito Messenger isn't calming the panic--though he is packed and ready to go and looking VERY handsome, if I do say so myself)

*bites nails*
*faints*

But really, in all seriousness, I AM nervous--but I'm also SO excited!!!!!!!

Not because I'm expecting to land an agent or get an awesome critique on my pages or get requests for my WIP (though I certainly wouldn't complain...). But because I can't wait to meet some new writer friends, meet agents in person (and hopefully discover that they aren't nearly as terrifying as they seem), and hopefully learn a bit more about writing/publishing.

Whatever happens--whether it be Shannon Shame or Shannon Success or anything in between (believe me, there's plenty of opportunity for both)--I promise a full update next week!

And if you want a glimpse of the schedule I'll be enjoying/stressing about, here's a link to the conference website.

See you guys next week!

And, for your viewing pleasure, here's how I hope my pitch will NOT go...
(if you follow Colleen Lindsay on Twitter you may have already seen it, since that's how I found it)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Who Wants to See a Were-Platypus Cupcake?

I do! I do!

Okay, I am SOOOO going to get in trouble for this...but I just can't help myself.

Not sure how many of you follow the fabulous C.J. Redwine, but she has a little poll going on at her blog that I want you guys to help me with.

See, she made the mistake of letting her followers suggest cupcake designs (classic mistake, I mean really, WHAT was she thinking?) and of course she got some rather interesting suggestions--some of which came from me (somehow I don't think you guys are surprised by that)

To be fair, all I suggested was 'platypus,' because I personally feel that the platypus is a highly under appreciated mammal--especially in baked goods. I mean, have any of you ever seen a platypus cake? I think not. So I thought it was high time we did!

And because I'm not her only evil follower, someone decided that it needed to be a Were-Platypus (which is AWESOME!) and C.J. foolishly decided to include it in her poll, thinking it would be a joke.
(Poor girl, will she never learn?)

Naturally it's winning by a landslide!

So of course C.J. is trying to rally with blog posts and Twitter campaigns and all kinds of other shenanigans to stall the Were-Platypus vote.

And that's just cheating! So I'm running a counter campaign (and praying that this won't turn into another blog war. C.J. would destroy me. She has a Spork of Doom and she's NOT afraid to use it.)

So please, if you love me at all--or just like me a little--or just want to see what a Were Platypus cupcake would look like, hop on over to C.J.'s blog and vote for Wally.

Yes, he has a name.

In fact, C.J. gave him a whole profile
(somehow she thought this would make him less popular, silly girl)

Name: Wally the Were-Platypus
Occupation: Fighting underwater crime
Hobbies: Eating sushi, listening to show tunes, and polishing his bill
Special Attributes: He can turn into a duck-billed, web-footed platypus at the drop of a hat. Or when he wants to show off for the women's' swim team.

Come on people, let's make this happen!
Wally the Were-Platypus FTW!!!!!!
*runs and hides from C.J. and her Ninja Spork of Doom*

Friday, January 15, 2010

Book Review: Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder

I'll be honest. I don't do book reviews.

Maybe it's because of Film School, where we were NEVER allowed to turn our papers into reviews. Or maybe it's because I'm not big on criticizing someone's art--especially in public--so I can't imagine ever giving a negative review (which then kind of negates the purpose of doing a review). Either way, I usually prefer to do book recommendations and just rave about something I love. So I was more than a little nervous when I realized I would need to do an actual review of Chasing Brooklyn when I organized Lisa Schroeder week--especially since I hadn't read the book when I was putting everything together.

But when I got my hands on Chasing Brooklyn a few weeks ago I realized I had nothing to worry about. Only glowing, five star reviews here. So now the only challenge is figuring out a how to talk about what makes it so wonderful in a way that does it justice. It's kind of a stretch for me. Silly I can do. Intelligent is a WHOLE other ballgame.

Never-the-less, here goes:

Here's what the publisher says about Chasing Brooklyn:

Restless souls and empty hearts

Brooklyn can't sleep. Her boyfriend, Lucca, died only a year ago, and now her friend Gabe has just died of an overdose. Every time she closes her eyes, Gabe's ghost is there waiting for her. She has no idea what he wants or why it isn't Lucca visiting her dreams.

Nico can't stop. He's always running, trying to escape the pain of losing his brother, Lucca. But when Lucca's ghost begins leaving messages, telling Nico to help Brooklyn, emotions come crashing to the surface.

As the nightmares escalate and the messages become relentless, Nico reaches out to Brooklyn. But neither of them can admit that they're being haunted. Until they learn to let each other in, not one soul will be able to rest.


I would add that it's a verse novel,  a dual narrative, and while it is Lisa's gift to fans of I Heart You, You Haunt Me, it's not a sequel, and definitely stands alone. There's loss. There's love. And above all else: there's hope. It's also my favorite book she's written thus far.

What I love about all of Lisa's books is that she has a way of making me like things I normally wouldn't. I'm not really a big verse novel person. Nor am I into ghost stories. And I'm generally not a fan of anything that makes me cry. But I adore her books. I would love to figure out how she does that, but it remains a mystery. Maybe she has magic powers I don't know about.

Somehow she manages to make me forget that I'm reading poems instead of paragraphs. In fact, I think this story would lose its power if it were written traditionally. The verse feels so intimate--like diary entries--that you really connect with the characters on another level.  And while the format makes for a quick read (my first time through only took a couple hours) I would strongly encourage anyone to read slower (or to read it twice) because there are subtleties woven through the words that are too easily lost while speed reading.

Bottom line: It's a wonderful story to sip and savor--not gulp--and I highly recommend it for anyone who loves touching stories about living with loss and finding a reason to keep going.*

I won't say anymore because I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but I'd love to know what you think of any of that, so I'm willing to bribe you. I'll give one extra contest entry to anyone who leaves me a comment about this post (just make sure you give me the name you entered the contest under so I can add it accordingly) And if you're not entering the contest I'd still love to hear from you, and I'd love to know if any of you plan on reading Chasing Brooklyn (not because of my review, just because it is awesome) :)

Oh, and time is running out to enter the Lisa Schroeder Contest. Remember, I'm not only giving away a three book prize pack (one of which is signed). I'm giving a the second prize winner a copy of Chaing Brooklyn too! So if you haven't entered yet, you might want to get on that.

Thanks for reading!

*And to fulfill the FTC's requirements, yes, I was given a free copy of Chasing Brooklyn for hosting a day of the blog tour. But I also bought my own copy and I'm giving the free one away so it did not affect my opinion in the slightest. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How Poetry SHOULD be done!

Lisa Schroeder week continues with our celebration of poetry--and today, we have the good stuff! I promise, you won't have to read more of my horrible poems. (*sigh of relief*) It's ALL you guys.


Some of you emailed me poems to post, and some of you will be linking to posts on your blogs. But first, Lisa Schroeder selected one of her favorite passages for me to include (and since it's her week, I figure she should probably go first)


This is from Far From You


autumn perfection



Outside
the air was cool
and crisp,
the way you want your sheets
when it's blistering
hot.



We walked to the park
and ran through the leaves,
picking them up
and throwing them at each other,
as if they were snowballs.


Instead of loud splats
we got quiet flutters
of crimson and amber.


He pulled me to him,
spun me around,
and we fell
into a bed of foliage
fit for a king.


I wanted to freeze
the moment
in my mind
forever,
because there's nothing better
than flutters
of the heart.



*sigh* She is one talented lady. 


Okay. Now it's your turn!


(And sorry, blogger is being weird about fonts so some of the poems that follow will be different sizes. I tried a zillion ways to fix it and it would NOT cooperate *shakes fist at technology*)


First, a beautiful contribution from the amazingly awesome Q.




Self-contradiction

To watch you
suffer
where I have not--
and anything I could say
is wrong on every level,
hollow and insincere,
even when sincerely meant--
it would only cheapen your pain.

And I cannot help but be happy,
because I have not your
reasons
to be unhappy.

With every piece,
(broken for you)
crashing to the ground
entrapped in my silence,
my heart
cries
and cries, "Unfair!"
though my head knows
it is not so.

You refuse to speak;
I hide behind my best defense,

silenced.



And from Heather Zundel--our resident Superhero and poet extraordinaire we have:


Rain

When you see the sky start to darken,
hear the low rumble of thunder rolling in
like a growling, a rising and falling of breath
that swells, charges the air until it is
tangible, prickling your skin even if you
cannot tell it for what it is;
something happens then, as you feel
the first drop of rain break and
shatter against your skin, something
unconscious and miraculous and
simple all at once, like becoming
a child again, if just for that moment,
you open your eyes and see the world
for what it truly is --- perfection.



Last up, three beautiful haikus from the lovely and talented Myrna Foster:










The Wasp


The metallic wasp
flickers blue in the sunlight
and works undisturbed.




The Storm


A herd of horses
turns their faces from the wind.
Rain pelts their behinds.




Sunset in the Desert


Roadrunner running
long and gray over the rocks.
Shadows grow longer.






Okay, those are all the poems that were emailed to me (I hope--I checked a few times to make sure, but if I missed yours let me know and I will add it A.S.A.P.)


And for the rest of you, I'm really hoping you'll post a poem on your blog today and use this lovely little Mr. Linky Widget to lead everyone to them. It can be something you're proud of or something you wrote as a kid and can't stop giggling when you reread--it's up to you! I'm sure everyone would love to read them. (And remember, everyone who participates will receive 2 extra entries in the contest  to win all three wonderful Lisa Schroeder books) Here's the Mr. Linky. I hope some of you sign up and I hope the rest of you check out the links--some amazing talent is sure to be revealed!


(And tune in tomorrow for my review of Chasing Brooklyn and one more chance for extra entires in the contest!)



Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Interview with YA author Lisa Schroeder

She's here! She's here! She's finally here! The amazing and talented Lisa Schroeder is here today to talk with us about her books and writing secrets! 


(Squeeeeee!!!!!!!!!)


*Deep breath*
Okay, I'm blowing it. I'm supposed to be professional and dignified. 
I can do this! 
*Clears throat* 

*Straightens up to a more intelligent-looking posture*

Thank you so much for stopping by today Lisa--you have no idea how honored I am that you would grace my silly little blog with a visit--especially since I know how hectic your life is. I'm always SO amazed when you talk about your busy schedule. What are your secrets for juggling a job, a family, guitar lessons AND writing amazing books. Do you get more hours in the day than the rest of us?
I wish I got more hours in the day! Actually, big changes are coming in 2010. I've resigned from the day job to focus on the writing for awhile. I'm equally excited and terrified, because it's a HUGE leap. But I'm hoping a net will appear as I take that leap. For the past five years, I've worked in the HR department of a large teaching hospital, and have had to squeeze the writing in on the side, getting up early in the mornings and putting in long hours on the weekends. I figure I'll give myself a year, and I will probably have to get a half-time job at some point, but it's going to be nice to have a break from working alongside the writing for a little while.
What I tell other writers who are struggling with the time issue, because I totally understand, is that when there's a will, there's a way. When I was in the middle of a first draft, I'd make myself open the document every day and at least write 100 words. I mean, that's like what, 10 minutes of work? I think half the time, the battle is just opening the document and diving back in. Once you do that and get going, it's not so bad. And I think we can find 30 minutes in a day if we really want to. It might mean giving up something once in awhile - sleep, internet time, TV - but 30 minutes is doable, right?


*Picks jaw up from the floor* 
Forgive me for a minute while I TOTALLY LOSE MY COOL! 


Squee! That is the Best. News. Ever!!!!!!
I'm so happy for you--and I know great things are going to come from this! 
*happy dances*


*sits back down*


*clears throat*


Sorry about that. I’m just so excited for you. I promise--it won't happen again. 


*Shifts back into interview mode*


What was your biggest challenge writing Chasing Brooklyn? Was there one scene or character in particular that was especially difficult to tackle? If so, what made it so hard and how did you work through it?

CHASING BROOKLYN is another ghost story, specifically for the fans of I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME. So the first challenge was to make it different, and yet give readers an emotional read again. I decided to write it from the point of view of two characters, Brooklyn and Nico, and adding that second narrative helped make it different. But, it also make it much more difficult to write. Not because writing a male character was hard, but because suddenly I had two characters telling a story, so it was almost like writing two books at the same time. 
I can't think of one scene that was specifically hard to write - but one of the things I struggled with was one of the ghost's motivations. I hadn't thought about it much - WHY is this ghost is haunting her? My editor made me really think about it and dig deep and figure it out so the story would make more sense. Yeah, making sense is kind of important, isn't it?  
It is? *Makes note to self: remember, your story needs to make sense!* Maybe THAT'S why editing is taking so long. :)
And on that note: since a lot of my followers are currently unpublished writers--including myself--do you have any secrets you'd like to share to help us on our path? Is there anything you've learned along your journey that you wish you'd known at the beginning? Are there any mistakes new writers make that we should try to avoid?
Oooh, secrets! Let me see if I can think of a secret. Okay, here's one - psssst - you should be able to describe your book in one sentence. Yes, I know it's a pain to figure out that sentence, but it's important. And it needs to be a sentence that makes someone go - oooh, I want to read that book! 
Before I even start writing a book anymore, I try to describe the premise in a sentence. In today's competitive market, a hook is really important. That doesn't mean your book necessarily needs to be high concept, but it does need to be something that when you say - my book is about xyz, the person listening perks up.
So spend time getting that sentence polished. Once you have a sentence, you can then expand a bit for the query letter, when it's time to query agents. 
As far as mistakes, one thing I've read about in two different blogs (one by an agent and one by an editor) is how important your title is for getting your thing read quickly. A good title makes a difference! So spend time on it - make sure it's something interesting, something special. Because apparently, a great title DOES catch the agent or editor's eye and can often move it to the top of the pile. I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME is different, but it also catches your interest I think, right?
It totally did--for me at least. *resists the urge to gush endlessly about how much I love I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME* And that's excellent advice. I'll need to work on the sentence for my book before I start querying.
And while we're on the subject of querying, how many rejections did you get during the querying process? Did you keep any of them? Which one was the worst, and why? Do you have any secrets for how to heal from the sting of rejection? Secret ointments maybe? Copious amounts of chocolate?
Hundreds. Literally. And yes, I still have many of them, because they're good to show at talks that it's important to not give up. But I was writing picture books and mid-grade novels for the first few years, trying editors and agents, and I was not afraid to submit. In fact I know I submitted many things that weren't really ready. 
I got one pretty harsh rejection from an agent who I had submitted a few different things to, including pages to I HEART YOU YOU HAUNT ME. She said it was just too sad and she really didn't think teens would want to read something like that. Of course I went on to sell it and now with over 60,000 copies in print, I think it's safe to say teens DO want to read something like that. 
I know some rejections hurt. A lot. I wish I had something that took the sting away, but mostly I just want writers to remember it's ONLY ONE OPINION. I have learned that so often in this business it simply comes down to taste. Just because someone doesn't like something doesn't mean it's garbage. So keep going and find that one who DOES like it. 
That is excellent advice. I'm going to tuck that away and reread it when I enter the query wars--assuming I ever finish editing! And speaking of the torture that is editing: How many revisions do you go through with your books? Do you let anyone read the first draft? Does your family ever read your drafts? How many critique partners do you have? What is it that tells you a project is ready to pass on to your agent?
I'm one of those weird writers that does quite a bit of revising as I go along. But sometimes I need help making sure I'm on the right track. With this last novel I wrote, I sent it to my agent and a friend after about 75 pages to see if it was going okay. They both had suggestions and I ended up rewriting it.  When the first draft was complete, my husband read it and didn't get the ending, so I rewrote it. Then I sent it to a couple of people to critique. The ending still wasn't right, so rewrote it again, along with some other changes. And finally, after about 3 months of revising, I felt like it was ready to send to my agent. 
I think it can be hard to know when it's done, but mostly, I just go with my gut. When I can't think of anything else I can do to make it better, and I know I've worked hard to make it the best it can be, it's time to send it.
Wow. I can't wait to get to that point--I am SO sick of editing! Which makes me wonder: Do you ever have days where you don't feel like writing anymore? Do you ever hit walls in your drafts that you don't know how to get around? Do you ever doubt yourself? If so, how do you keep going? Any secrets for staying motivated?
Oh, absolutely. And you know, I do think sometimes it's important to step away from the computer and fill the well, so to speak. I find I will have a few months where I write pretty consistently every day. And then, I'm happy having a couple of months where I'm not writing. Having breaks like that makes me happy to get back to it. I go back renewed and refreshed and excited about writing again. 
I think I've learned over the years that when I find a roadblock in the manuscript and feel blocked, it's usually because I took a wrong turn somewhere. At that point, I look at what has happened prior to that point to see if I've perhaps written myself into a corner. And then I back track if necessary, and job down some ideas of what I want to happen next.
I've also learned that to make reentry back into the manuscript as easy as possible, DON'T leave for the day at the end of a chapter. Leave in an exciting place, in the middle of a chapter, and leave notes for yourself to remind you of what you wanted to write next. 
As for doubt, it's a writer's greatest enemy. Don't let it take over. Open the manuscript and dive in and don't think about it too much. Getting lost in your story is the best way to combat the doubt. I always tell myself, when I'm wondering if the thing sucks too much to finish, that I'm writing that draft for ME. Because I want to see what happens. I try to forget about anyone else and just write it for myself. 
I think that is the hardest and most important part. Thanks so much for the reminder. Okay, one last thing and then I will let you go—I promise. Your first middle grade Novel, It's Raining Cupcakes comes out in March, and since cupcakes happen to be one of my favorite desserts, I have to ask what your favorite cupcake flavor is.

Mmmm, I love talking cupcakes! When my editor asked me if I wanted to try and come up with a couple of recipes to go in the back of the book I said - you bet! And I created this applesauce cupcake recipe that I really love! I'm one of those crazy people that love applesauce donuts - I like the spiciness or something, I guess.
But my favorite cupcake shop cupcake has to be this chocolate mint one I had at work one day that was to die for. Wouldn't it be dangerous to live near a cupcake shop? Delicious and dangerous!!
*wipes drool off chin*
Okay, yum—now I REALLY can’t wait for It's Raining Cupcakes! That recipe sounds amazing. Well, Lisa, thank you so much for visiting today (and putting up with my insanity)—you really made my year. And I can honestly say that I adored Chasing Brooklyn (I read it in one day) and I know great things are going to happen for you in 2010 because of it! (Stop by Friday for my glowing review!)


*Phew*
I did it!
My first author interview--and with one of my favorite authors!
Thanks to all my followers for reading and don’t forget to enter to win not one, not two, but ALL THREE awesome Lisa Schroeder books. AND--because I'm really curious to hear what you guys think of my first author interview--I'll give ONE EXTRA ENTRY in the contest to anyone who leaves me a comment today (well, to anyone who's entering the contest who leaves a comment--though if you're not entering you're still welcome to leave a comment. I love comments!) So please, leave a comment, make sure you let me know what name you entered the contest under, and I'll add your extra entry. It's that simple. :)


And tune in tomorrow as Lisa Schroeder week continues and we talk a little bit about poetry and I share some awful poems I wrote as a kid. Shannon Shame is sure to be included!