Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

Hi! I haven't posted for What's Up Wednesday in a while. For more info on that, see go to Jamie Morrow's blog. Check here for participating blogs.

What I'm Reading

I'm finishing up the YA thriller Creed by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Curie. They are debut authors who also were fellow Pitch Wars mentors this fall. AND I got to meet them at Anderson's for a YA author panel!

What I'm Writing

NaNoWrimo! I'm plowing through plot holes galore in the spirit of literary abandon! This time I'm trying out a YA with spies and intrigue--the antithesis to my little summer beachstory I wrote last Nano.

What Works For Me

This section is new for me! So this month, the built-in goals of Nano work for me because there's a deadline, a goal, and a larger community to support reaching it. I have not yet lost a Nano in the 3 years I've done it, so that's motivation for me. Plus, having a new draft that's something different than the two manuscripts I worked on over the past year is really refreshing. Even if it's terrible, it's something different!

What Else Is New

I survived mentoring through Pitch Wars, I finaled in three RWA chapter contests (and won one of them! The Molly via Heart of Denver RWA). I've had ups and downs with my writing but I've been really encouraged by my writing colleagues. Still plugging away.

Oh, and I was in tropical bliss during our first snowfall back home. Happy birthday-slash-anniversary to me :)

Enjoy your holiday! (Americans).

What have you been up to? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Review: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

image: Goodreads

Not a Drop to Drink
Mindy McGinnis
Young Adult Dystopian
Published: 2013

I am not huge on dystopian world YA novels. I loved The Hunger Games and Legend. Divergent was OK, and I saw The Maze Runner movie (so you can see my investment waning).

Not a Drop to Drink scales the focus way, way back from governments and factions to one girl and her mother, who live off the grid and spend virtually every waking  moment defending their freshwater pond, as water is scarce. Sixteen-year-old Lynn has known nothing else other than her remote farm, her mother, and a nearby neighbor they are on cautiously friendly terms.

Until Lynn loses her mother (not a spoiler, it happens early), and she is on her own. When people camping nearby need medical attention, Lynn and her neighbor go to help. Only Lynn has been taught not to trust anyone. Even leaving her pond for an hour sets the tension high. Distant smoke sets off alarm bells, and stories of men traveling in packs to steal and destroy cause Lynn to further distrust. Every page there is survival, fear, and determination, and Lynn's struggle between her newfound compassion for others and the strict teachings of her mother provide a boatload of tension.

Warning here: there are some intense scenes in this book, and I will state right out that while there is a romantic thread, this is not a romance. While there is a hopeful ending, this is not a happy shiny rainbows type of book. If you're cool with that, I wholly recommend this book for showing the emotional impact of a post-apocalyptic world-gone-wrong, and one where you don't need to roll your eyes at forced world building. The fears built up in this world are human nature at its core, and that's compelling enough when it's written this well.

The author's companion novel In a Handful of Dust is available as of September 2014.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Insecure Writers Support Group IWSG

This month's timely IWSG post hits right during the middle of Pitch Wars agent requesting. Talk about insecurity--and I'm not even pitching! But I've mentored a writer for the past two months, having gotten to choose a writer from the Pitch Wars contest "slush" to help out for this very agent round. Whew!

And so far, no agent requests based on the pitch and first page. 
Which doesn't mean that the story isn't good, or that the writer isn't there yet. She's a phenomenal writer who I ended up choosing because her voice is excellent. When I read her stuff, I thought, she can write ANYTHING. 

Maybe this story didn't get bites from these agents with this contest, but this is only the beginning. 
Still, it's tough to see others get page requests when this one did not. We've still got another day. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween! 

And Happy NaNoWriMo EVE.

Tomorrow,  November 1st, is when writers all over the world blast forward with a new draft.

Here's a little inspiration:

Kristen Lamb's blog has a great article (from a great series) on  how to write a terrific Nano novel, minimize revision, and improve your odds of finishing. Even if you're not much of a planner or plotter, coming up with a core story idea and a pitch keeps you focuses on a central goal:

Kristen Lamb's Nano novel article

To sign up for National Novel Writing Month, go here:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars
E. Lockhart
Young Adult Mystery
Published: May 2014

image: Goodreads
The Goodreads summary:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

Oooh, compelling, yes?

This is a more literary take on mystery, and for me, it really worked. The whole time I knew *something* was majorly messed up with this family. Cady, her cousins, and a family friend their age run free and wild on their family's private island (who wouldn't want that?), but among the bickering of the Aunts and Cady's grandparents, something sinister brews.

And then, a tragic accident. Only you, as the reader, only get to know the aftermath--not what actually happened. Cady spends a year with depression and memory loss before she finally returns to the island to sort out what happened. Everything is different. Her cousins aren't the free spirits they once were, and they want to ditch the aunts and hang out by themselves. Even their family friend is acting more mysterious. No one will tell Cady what happened, so she's left to uncover the mystery herself.

It's true, the less you know going in, the more impact. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

We Need Diverse Books

Are you passionate about books? Do you want to see stories that reflect every child, even those who don't commonly see themselves represented on book shelves?

The We Need Diverse Books group has a fundraising campaign going on right now. The different levels of one-time donation support have perks including stickers, buttons, totes, posters, and even agent critiques!

Details here at

Some great authors are behind this group and project. Lots ongoing on twitter under #WNDB or #WeNeedDiverseBooks or their tumblr site:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

image: Goodreads
 Meg Wolitzer
 Young Adult Contemporary
 Published: September 2014

I love this premise: emotionally damaged kids surviving their loss at a tucked-away Vermont boarding school, and the teacher who encourages them to journal while reading Sylvia Plath. This book is like gateway reading to The Bell Jar, one of my favorite books. 

Wolitzer is a wonderful writer, with a number of adult market books of note. Plus, I saw her speak at Anderson's Books YA Literature Conference and bought this book a few days prior to its release (special!). I wanted to 5 star this book in the first chapter, though something about the overall execution knocked this down a bit for me. Perhaps my own inflated expectations. 

I read  Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar at fifteen. It's a complex novel exploring depression. Belzhar, which is a take on the words bell jar, takes a somewhat lighter approach, though the trauma the characters have experienced is quite serious. The lead character Jam (a nickname though I can't remember the full name) plays somewhat of an unreliable narrator. All we know going in is that her boyfriend died, and the details are revealed over the course of the book. To me it seemed the story started in a moody place, but ultimately did not go as deep into their grief and depression as I expected. Instead, the story takes a somewhat higher level approach, and focuses on the friendships between the kids enrolled in the special English course they were each handpicked to take. 

Also, there is a mystical element. I thought I'd mention that, though it sort of veers more Magical Realism than fantasy. I would definitely recommend this for teen readers, especially as a companion to reading The Bell Jar, which might make the classic feel more accessible.