Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Win an ARC of How to Save A Life by Sara Zarr!

I love Sara Zarr. When I went through my whole YA renaissance/marathon reading spree a couple years ago, Sweethearts was one of the first books I picked up, and I didn't put it down until I got to the last page. And then I set about reading everything she wrote. Sara's books fall into the "serious/heartfelt" category of YA for me. When I want something that punches me right in the gut and then gives me a giant hug, I'll go for one of her books or something by Courtney Summers. [I just reread that sentence ... I promise, it's a compliment!]

So when School Library Journal sent me an ARC of How to Save A Life, I literally squealed with delight. It was already on my preorder list, and then to get to read it early? Lucky me.



Jill MacSweeney just wants everything to go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. You can't lose one family member and simply replace him with a new one, and when her mom decides to adopt a baby, that's exactly what it feels like she's trying to do. And that's decidedly not normal. With her world crumbling around her, can Jill come to embrace a new member of the family? 
Mandy Kalinowski knows what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, she knows she wants a better life for her baby. But can giving up a child be as easy as it seems? And will she ever be able to find someone to care for her, too? 
Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about what it means to be a family and the many roads we can take to become one.

And let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint. Sara Zarr is a master storyteller. The two distinct voices in the story really felt like two separate individuals with intertwined stories (instead of how sometimes multiple perspectives just sound like the author looking through a different set of eyes). The only thing that bothered me about it was how much I wanted to be reading it in the winter in front of a fire with a cup of hot tea. The atmosphere just screams for that setting. It felt a little wrong to be reading it in the summer. But guess how I remedy that? By pre-ordering the book and then rereading it in November!

And here's the best news of all. I loved this book so much that I want to share it with you! All you have to do is fill out the form (yep, I'm all fancy now with Google forms!), and you're entered to win. And yes, you can still get bonus entries by tweeting about the contest, following the blog, or liking my Facebook page. You ONLY need to enter your name and email address to enter the contest. All the rest is bonus! Easy peasy!

Feel free to use this tweet to make it even easier (or get creative!): Win an ARC of How to Save A Life by @sarazarr from @laurenemorrill http://bit.ly/pcP8kJ




Contest closes Friday, August 5th. Contest open to US Residents only (sorry!). Winner will be selected via random.org

Monday, July 25, 2011

That time I met Sarah Dessen while on vacation

Wow, my blog updating has been a little lax lately, huh? Mostly because I'm lost in the world of roller derby and first drafts, and also because I actually got to take a REAL. LIVE. VACATION. last week, one that didn't involve traveling for derby or visiting family. We loaded the dog up in the car and headed down to Cape Cod on Thursday and Friday. We played it fast and loose, finding a hotel in Provincetown after we got there, discovering an amazing restaurant in Wellfleet, and then spending Friday morning/afternoon at Nauset Light Beach.

While I was there, I noticed that Sarah Dessen was ALSO on vacation in Cape Cod, and had planned a signing at Eight Cousins Bookstore in Falmouth for Friday afternoon. YES! I had to go, of course.

The shop was small and adorable, and PACKED with fans. This was my first ever book signing (I know, can you believe it?), and I was actually kind of nervous. The nerves stemmed from any number of reasons, including, but not limited to:

  • Sarah Dessen is my favorite YA author, and discovering her books back in 2006 is what got me to finally write my own YA.
  • I was the oldest person in the shop who wasn't someone's mom. Seriously, Adam sat outside with the dog, and he kept texting me things like, "The tweens just keep pouring in!"
  • While I waited for it all to start, I kept running over and over in my mind possible things I could say to her that didn't make me sound like a crazy person or a dork.
I bought a copy of Along for the Ride (because after I read it, I sent it to my sister, Claire), and also bought a copy of What Happened to Goodbye for my sister. I had also brought along my copy of The Truth About Forever, because it's my absoute most favorite of all her books, and I definitely wanted to get it signed.


Sarah read from the first chapter of What Happened to Goodbye, and then answered a few questions. I loved that she admitted how hard writing can be, and how many times she's failed at it before getting to one of the beautiful books that got published. I love that even her tenth book was a struggle, because having read the finished product, I know that even the worst writing experiences can render the best results.

And then it was time for the signing. I was really close to the front of the line, which was good, because I didn't have too much time to over think what I wanted to say. And then after only a few minutes, I was standing right in front of her. And OH. MY. GOD. I was nervous ... I handed her my books, told her what to sign, and then I took a deep breath and just burst.

"I just want to tell you that I have my first YA coming out next year, and you were a huge inspiration to me during the whole process and I just love your books and thank you!" And I think I was grinning like a crazy person the whole time.

But instead of being creeped out or annoyed, Sarah thanked me and sincerely congratulated me and then asked for the title and publisher of my book. And then she welcomed me to the YA community. Sarah Dessen. Welcomed ME to the YA Community.

And then my brain caved in.

She seriously couldn't have nicer to me. It's pretty awesome to meet your idol and find out she's just as amazing as you imagined! I hope I have even HALF her career, and am always as kind and generous to my readers as she is to hers.




I got a picture with her, where I'm pretty sure I have that crazy person grin happening again. I was trying not to take up too much of her time, or seem like I was trying to push my own book or anything, but it might possibly have looked like I was running for the door. I wasn't Sarah, I was just too nervous to act like anything that resembled cool!

Either way, a totally successful author signing, and I will definitely be going to many more!


Now before I head back to the mighty mighty first draft of Book #2, here's a few more pictures from my fabulous whirlwind Cape Cod vacation.

Lucy in Provincetown, watching the world go by

The Provincelands 

Lucy chilling on the beach

Lucy after her swim in the Atlantic!

The perfect Cape Cod lunch

It may have been a scorcher in Boston, but it was
a lovely 85 degrees and breezy on the Cape!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Catching Up

My plea for writer friends worked! I've got a couple volunteers to trade pages, and in fact, by the end of today the fabulous Tori Scott is going to be on the receiving end of the very first pages of #thebeach (the working title/hashtag for my new YA). Tori is already an awesome cheerleader/drill sergeant, and on top of that I get to read pages from her super awesome YA work in progress (it's not my place to share, but I'll just tell you that that main character is like a teenage Dexter Morgan ... I'm hooked). Tori read the first three chapters of Meant to Be, and she sent me the nicest note afterwards. I think this is the start of a fantastic partnership!

I haven't done any kind of roller derby update in while. Last weekend my team had a bout again the Cosmonaughties, and we won! It was really fun, and I played well. Here's a few awesome shots from the game by the talented Joe Medolo.

My semi-signature lunge/lean. I'm not a big girl, but I've got wicked long legs. Derby is a great sport for teaching you how to appreciate and use the body you've got.

I don't usually jam, so when I do there's always something silly that happens ... like I go sliding into the VIP seats after calling it off!

Love seeing the teamwork amongst the Pissahs. Look how we're all reaching for each other while we try to block Splitter Noggin!

Blocking Space Invader, with what I hope isn't an illegal elbow!

I really really REALLY love this picture of me yelling across the track ... the consensus seems to be that I should use it as my new author photo. Not sure how my mom would feel about my headshot being of me wearing booty shorts ... actually, I do know how she'd feel. She'd prefer I had a nice haircut and a sweater and was smiling at the camera just like in my senior portraits!

This coming weekend I'm off to New York, where my Pissahs will be taking on the Manhattan Mayhem of Gotham Girls Roller Derby. It's going to be a really great game. Tickets are available online, so if you live in NYC and haven't seen derby, this is a great chance! And if you come, please oh please come high five me on the track after the game!

Alrighty, back to work. And by work, I mean going over these pages I'm about to send to Tori. I get so nervous when I have to send work off, which is funny, because the WHOLE POINT of this is for people to read it!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Writing: It takes a village?

WANTED: Crit partner who loves 
YA contemporary, comedy, and romance, and 
who will kick my butt daily.

Here's the thing about the publishing process. You may be high now, but your next low is only a page away. I don't say this to be a Debbie Downer. It's true! I can't tell you how much I celebrated selling the book, finishing the first draft, finishing revisions, finishing revisions again, and finishing revisions AGAIN ... but because we never write just one book, we inevitably find ourselves back at the dreaded bottom of the hill, pushing that first draft up up up, sweating and screaming and crying the whole way.

(What, you don't hate first drafting?)

I read about authors out there who are more disciplined than Navy Seals, rising bright and early for breakfast, then parking their butts at their computers until lunchtime. I hear these people don't even check their email. THEIR EMAIL! Who are these people, and what part of their brain did they have to get removed in order to be this disciplined?! And do you think my insurance will cover such an operation?

You see, I'm ... well ... not that disciplined. I have a hard time waking up in the morning, and I have a hard time not checking email, then Twitter, then Tumblr ... then checking them all over again. I have a hard time not watching JUST. ONE. MORE episode of Bones. I have a hard time ... well, I just have a hard time. And I think the answer to this is ...

PEER PRESSURE

So I'm looking for two things.

1) Some awesome crit partners or motivational virtual writing buddies. Via Email, Twitter, Facebook, or blog comments, let's connect and cheer each other on as we work to get through this messy business of first drafting. And once that evil first draft is in the bag, we can help one another shape and mold until we have a serviceable book in our hands.

2) A writing group. Anyone in the Boston area want to meet up and not talk? Well, maybe talk a little, but mostly sit at the same table and force one another to really crank out a word count. I love writing at the Cambridge Public Library, which has parking AND is T accessible. The main floor has great big tables and they don't require you to be silent there, so it could be the perfect place to work as a group.

If you'd like a little peer pressure in your life (the good kind, anyway), then leave a comment here. Let me (and the readers) know a little bit about what you write and where you are in the process, and maybe a Twitter or email contact. Let's see if we can't get something going, so that pretty soon we're all back at the top of the hill, waving our finished novels over our heads and dancing and cheering. Sound good? I think so!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

That's my bag, baby

It's been a CRAZY WEEKEND. Four straight days of derby, and with a night of practice tomorrow, I'm about to make it five. I'm stinkin' exhausted. I'll be trolling flickr for photos of my bout experiences and will definitely share them when they come available, but until then, enjoy this ridiculous(ly informative!) post about the crap I carry with me every day.


I got this awesome new Timbuk2 click messenger back on super duper sale from RueLaLa. Seriously, it was only $25, which is pretty good for a bag that is waterproof and will last you FOREVER. Timbuk2 bags come up for sale on RueLaLa fairly frequently, so if you want one but don't want to shell out a ton of cash, I definitely recommend you sign up (click the link for an invite!).


The bag is the perfect size to hold all my writerly/derby necessities, without being a giant messenger bag that weighs me down. You can't tell from the picture, but it's perfectly purse-sized without being ... well ... a purse (I'm not a big purse person, but I LOVE BAGS!). So let's get down to business. What exactly ARE these writerly/derby necessities?


I bought my awesome leather Kate Spade wallet from a recent sample sale, and while I still paid more for the wallet than the average amount of money that it holds, I love it. It smells all buttery and leathery, and I'll use it for FOREVER. I've wanted one since college, so after my very first advance check came, I splurged.

I carry a book with me everywhere I go. Seriously. Everywhere. Current read? Are You Going to Kiss Me Now? by Sloane Tanen. It's a really hysterical book with a snarky, funny teen voice and lots of great references. Only about 30 pages in, and I definitely recommend it as a fun vacation read. I'm actually surprised I haven't seen this book appear on more blogs!

After reading Rachel Hawkins old posts on her publication process, I got oddly inspired and bought this spiral-bound blank book for brainstorming and scene crafting. I carry it with me all the time, and whenever something comes to me, I'm quick to jot it down. I like the spiral design, so I can make great use of all the pages and also fold the cover back when I'm writing on the train.

The Moleskine is an 18-month planner that I just bought, mostly because it starts now and goes through December of 2012 ... which means I can flip to October 2012 and put my release date in! And the countdown continues...

Pens and pencils ... lots of pens and pencils. For lots of writing. Or in case I jump out of my writer's block and need to do lots of writing.

The old iPod nano belongs to my husband, but since losing my old original iPod shuffle, I've got his nano on loan for doing derby endurance. I find it easier to push through endurance workouts when I've got my special derby playlist.

Chapstick/lip gloss ... never leave home without it. I have a serious addiction.

CLIF SHOT Bloks, aka little gummy electrolyte cubes. They're perfect for bout days, when I need some energy and nutrition without eating something heavy that will aggravate my bout-day jitters! The tootsie pop is another bout-day item ... a sweet treat for finishing a game!

Ibuprofen ... a must for any derby girl. It's a full-contact sport on roller skates, people. There are lots of aches and pains that go with it!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

YA ruined my life ... except that it didn't. And doesn't. And won't.

Remember how I said I'd be gone for a few days while I worked on my shiny new project? Yeah, I lied... I have something to say.

When I was in the 7th grade (which would make me what, 12, maybe 13?) I checked a book out from the YA section of my local public library. It was about a teenage girl who was sent to live with her dad in Las Vegas. He may have owned or worked in a casino, I don't really remember. I remember the cover had a girl in a convertible on it, and Las Vegas seemed way more exciting than my hometown of Maryville, TN. That's entirely why I picked it. I have NO IDEA what the book was called or who wrote it. What I DO remember is the scene where the main character goes on a date with a boy, they drive out to the desert, and she gives him a blowjob.

Yep.

I read the passage maybe six or seven times, then took it to school and showed my friends while sitting in Mrs. Lawson's pre-algebra class.  I remember thinking, "If my mom knew I was reading this, she might take it away!" so I kept the book carefully hidden while I finished it. Then I returned it to my local library.

Not a very exciting story, right?

Despite me reading the passage several times, sharing it with my friends, *knowing* it was illicit and still being somewhat excited about it ...that form of sexual activity (or most others, for that matter) did not enter my world for many many (do you hear that mom? MANY) moons to come.

I also read Go Ask Alice when I was in the 5th or 6th grade. This was one I was afraid to check out from the library, so I read it in chunks every time we visited the B Dalton at Foothills Mall. Seriously, I read the whole thing over the course of a few weeks that way. Guess who didn't have a drink until she graduated from high school? I also didn't start hookin' for drug money, let the record show. I blame Sweet Valley High, which scared the bejeesus out of me with that one book about the girl who parties ONE TIME and her heart explodes and she dies ... or something like that.


There was an article published awhile ago where the author noted the quaintness of parents wanting to ban books, as if kids are turning to LITERATURE for depravity. Kids who read dark books aren't reading them because the books are dark or the kids are damaged or are hoping to be damaged. They're reading the books because THEY. LIKE. TO. READ. And the books are good. Kids know what good books are (Twilight notwithstanding), and they'll grab for them every time. The subject matter ultimately doesn't matter. If a kid is clamoring for darkness and depravity, they need look no further than the Internet. It's free and faster and you don't have to worry about wading through all that pesky character development before getting right to the BJs.  I just hope my kid is cultured and intellectual enough to look for sex in books.

And finally, if anyone out there is still trying to sing the song about dark/edgy/evil/depraved YA books being the only ones out there, think about this: You think black covers are the only covers because you've been effectively marketed to. That's like saying the Olive Garden is the only Italian restaurant out there, and you people need to keep your mitts off my library. Look for yourselves, folks. A simple Google search will give you a plethora of delightfully happy or nostalgic or light (and still totally well-written) YA and MG fare.

Oh, and does anyone know what that Vegas book was called?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A gaggle of cool links, because I'm busy READING and WRITING!

The holiday weekend was a lot of things, but productive was not one of them. Maybe it was the margaritas, maybe it was the slip 'n slide, maybe it was the fireworks or the sunshine or the heat or ALL THE FREEDOM, but I didn't write a single word.

Ok, I take that back. I wrote four sentences. FOUR SENTENCES! So I have a lot of catching up to do right now. Plus I have roller derby games on Friday night, Saturday night, AND Sunday morning. Yikes.

So while I'm gone, here's a few fun things to look at and read:

It's not going to turn out the way your thought
This popped up on my Tumblr dash today, and I instantly fell in love. I think it's a good read for YA authors, to remember to give your characters (and yourselves) some perspective.

See you later, speculum at Slate.com
Soooo this is going to change the way we approach our lady bits... though I will say, the article is right at the end. I like my annual visit to my gyno (who happens to practice at Planned Parenthood, bastion of all that is good about sexual health). You do not lie to your gyno. You always tell the truth. And there's something oddly therapeutic about that, no?

HelloGiggles
Yes, yes, Zoey Deschanel is one of the gigglers ... but the real star is Molls, who I've been following on Tumblr/Twitter for a couple years now and who is a SCREAM. Seriously, subscribe to their feed, it'll get you through many a dreary day.

Custom Latitude/Longitude Bracelet on Etsy
I want one for Bloomington, IN, where I went to college and grad school, and where part of my heart will always live.

Sporcle - Mentally Stimulating Diversions
Click it. Then I'll see you in a week.

Tip Tuesday: Once Upon A Time
An awesome post from Casey McCormick's blog on how to write Chapter 1. I'll be using this as I polish my weak-ass first chapter.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

REVIEW: Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins

Let me start by saying I'm not a big paranormal fan. I can take a good dystopian from time to time (*ahem* Hunger Games/Delirium/Matched), but for the most part I'm a straight-down-the-middle contemporary realistic kinda gal, bonus points if there's some romance and a lot of comedy thrown in. Which is why (as I've said ten bajillion times) the Jessica Darling series is my all-time YA fave.



But thanks to some blogs I follow, along with following Ms. Rachel Hawkins on Twitter, I decided to give Hex Hall a whirl. I had the free sample chapter sent to my Kindle, and this is what I saw on the very first page:
"Well?"
I stepped out of the car and into the hot thick heat of August in Georgia.
"Awesome," I murmured, sliding my sunglasses on top of my head. Thanks to the humidity, my hair felt like it had tripled in size. I could feel it trying to devour my sunglasses like some sort of carnivorous jungle plant. "I always wondered what it would be like to live in somebody's mouth."

Isn't that just the most evocative and hilarious description of southern summer swamp atmosphere you've ever read? Right away I knew this was going to be a well-written and funny book, my favorite kind, even if it is paranormal. The moment I read that last line, I bought the book immediately. It didn't disappoint. Sure, there's witches and warewolves and *gasp* even vampires in this book. But at it's core, Hex Hall feels like a hilarious high school book, you know, if your friends turned into wild dogs and smelled your hair and a ghost hung out next to your locker.



I loved it is what I'm saying, and if you haven't read it, I certainly recommend it. Shockingly, I'm only just now getting around to reading the second book in the series, Demonglass. I picked it up from my local library, along with a fat stack of other books. And let me tell you, I was in a reading rut for a couple days. I was reading things I liked, but I couldn't get sucked in. I started to wonder, Are these books bad? Or am I bored with reading? What's going on? 

Turns out I just needed a little Rachel Hawkins in my life, because from the moment I opened the cover of Demonglass, I didn't want to close it. I even got trapped on the T today due to a police action at Central Square, and I didn't even care. I could have sat in that tunnel all day, I was having so much fun reading!

Rachel Hawkins is a kickass storyteller. She never betrays a thing, and the whole time you're swinging back-and-forth between theories on the characters and events in the story. Archer Cross: Good guy or bad guy? Nick and Daisy: Friends or foes? Cal or Archer? What's up with The Eye? What's up with Sophie's dad?

And holy cliffhangers! Each chapter ends in such a way that you HAVE to turn the page and see what's next. And as I was cruising to the end of the book, I couldn't help but notice that the action was HIGH and the tension was GROWING in an inverse proportion to how many pages were left in the book. I kept thinking, "How is she going to do this?" as the pages ticked down five, four, three ... until I was on the last page, last paragraph, last line and BAM. It was over.

Touche, Rachel Hawkins. I will be pre-ordering Hex Hall 3. Turns out when you write a strong voice and snappy dialogue, when you craft a tight, tense, interesting story, and when you write funny jokes, it doesn't matter the genre. Paranormal or not, I LOVE the Hex Hall series.

Friday, July 1, 2011

We have a release date!

For those of you that follow me on Twitter, this will be old news, but with all the craziness of this week, I haven't had a chance to officially post and tell you that I got my release date! Get your pens and your calendars out and put a big star next to

October 9, 2012

455 days away! Not that I'm counting (except that I totally AM! In fact, check the bottom right column on this page, and you'll note a shiny new countdown widget). I wanted to make some kind of pretty PhotoShop graphic with the date, but my PhotoShop skills are damn near nonexistent, so if anyone out there wants to procrastinate on their writing .... well, I'd certainly love that!

Having the release date is pretty exciting. It's making it all a lot more real, and even though that date is SEVENTEEN MONTHS AWAY, I could not be happier. Fall is my favorite season, after all, and putting together an awesome launch party in my favorite month is going to be spectacularly fun.

In other news, you guys should also go check out the Paper Lantern Lit blog. They're giving away some snazzy PLL tote bags filled with books, and since those ladies were at BEA, I'm guessing there's going to be some serious not-yet-released gems in there! I don't know about you, but I'd cut off my left pinkie toe for a copy of Lola and the Boy Next Door. And The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer warrants my right one! Soooo if anyone has either of those and wants to trade for a shiny new pinkie toe... just sayin', the offer's out there.

Speaking of advanced copies ... I'm doing my Sara Zarr giveaway next week, so check back if you want an ARC of How to Save a Life (and trust me, you do).