Friday, September 30, 2011

A collection of Friday awesomeness

First thing's first: Meant to Be has a new release date! Mark your calendars for November 13, 2012. You can read straight through your Thanksgiving holiday, and then buy it for all your favorite readers for the holidays!

Thanks for the great comments and tweets on my post about YA guys with heart. Here's a few suggestions that were added in the discussion

  • Noah Shaw, from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
  • Ky, from Matched
  • Luke, from Forgotten (haven't read this yet, definitely going to!)
  • James, from Audrey, Wait!
  • Ethan Wate, from Beautiful Creatures
  • Will Grayson, from Will Grayson, Will Grayson
  • Tyler, from Moonglass
Thanks to everyone who chimed in!

The best part of this week was definitely yesterday, when I ran from the train to my apartment in a monsoon just so I could get this out of my mailbox and start reading:

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

It's every bit as good as every other blogger on the Internet said it would be! And the finished product is just gorgeous. I love the colors.

And finally, here's a video of my buddy Hayward Williams, performing an encore at a show he did recently with Jeff Foucault. I've known Hayward for years (he's married to one of my college besties, Kathleen), and he graciously let me steal his name/music to use in Meant to Be (spoiler alert: I thanked him in the acknowledgements, too).

Anyway, his music rules and this cover is awesome.

So enjoy today, this last day of September, and get psyched up for my favorite month, OCTOBER! I'll be eating lots of pumpkin things and planning a trip to New York to meet with some folks in ye olde publishing industry.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

REVIEW: If I Stay/Where She Went aka TEAM ADAM!

Last week I noticed a lot of bloggers posting about books it seemed like everyone else had read that they hadn't. Which got me thinking about it on my end. I bought a copy of If I Stay by Gayle Forman about a month ago when I was visiting my mom. I was worried I'd need another book to read if my flight home got delayed, but it didn't, and so I've had If I Stay hanging around on my nightstand ever since. Everyone and their dog raves over it, but it just never jumped out at me to read.

Well, I finished Sarah Mlynowski's Ten Things We Did (review forthcoming on that one, because I really loved it), and I needed something to fill the void between that and the release of Lola and the Boy Next Door. And so on Friday morning, I picked up If I Stay. I read it on  the train ride to get my haircut, on the train ride back, and at lunch. Midway through my meal at Four Bugers, I realized I was going to have to get my lunch wrapped up to go, because I was about the burst into the loudest, hardest sobs of my life.

Because If I Stay is WONDERFUL. I don't want to write a crazy in-depth review, because I think the book really is better if you just sort of enter the world on the first page and get wrapped up in the story. And you will. I finished the book by Friday night, and that was WITH finishing up my copyedits AND cleaning my entire house in preparation for my mom's visit on Saturday!

It was so good, that I hadn't even finished If I Stay yet when I ran out to pick up the sequel, Where She Went. And then I read that in TWO days, and that's while my mom was in town!

The one thing I want to say about Gayle Forman's writing: she makes you feel like you've known these characters your whole life. I don't know how, in about seven pages, she makes you fall so deeply in love with Mia's parents that when the big bad occurs, you can barely hold yourself together. I have never sobbed as hard and as many times in a book as I did while reading If I Stay, and it's 100% a result of the incredibly rich and wonderful characters Gayle wrote.

And the last thing I'll say?

Team Adam. All the way.

Which brings me to the last thing: I now have an Adam-shaped hole in my reading life. I need more of him, or characters like him, which is to say YA guys with some serious heart. Examples? Marcus Flutie, Patrick from Fixing Delilah, Etienne from Anna and the French Kiss, pretty much any of Sarah Dessen's homeboys, especially Dexter, Owen, and Wes.

So, dear blog readers, what books should I read if I want more Adam in my life?! Leave the suggestions in the comments, or tweet them with the  hashtag #YAguys

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Perfect Storm

My copyedits are here. And they're due on Friday.

Luckily, I just bought this:

Which is going to make the work waaaaaaay more fun!

I'll post a better update on Friday, when this is done. Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mr. Rogers: He Was Not Afraid of the Dark

Today I want to share with you one of my all-time favorite pieces of writing. It's called "He Was Not Afraid of the Dark," and it was written by James Poniewozik. It was initially printed in Time magazine, March 10, 2003. I ripped it out and carried it in my wallet for years, finally putting it in a plastic sleeve and depositing it in a scrapbook. I've never found it online anywhere, so I'm going to type the entire thing out for you, that's how much I love it (please don't get mad at me, Mr. Poniewozik. I just truly love this piece, and can't find anywhere online to link to it).

I have no idea why it meant so much to me, other than the fact that I grew up on Mr. Rogers, and in the days and months after September 11,  2001, I feel, like a lot of my generation probably did, that we needed him. And when he died,  it felt like we lost a huge part of our childhood, and maybe even worried about where our own children would learn all those great lessons that Mr. Rogers taught us, like how they make crayons and how the mail gets sorted and how to be kind, generous people.

So here it is, nearly 10 years later (and 10 years after the day we all wished Mr. Rogers could give us a hug and tell us it would all be ok).

He Was Not Afraid of the Dark

If you remember Mister Rogers as warm, fuzzy, and innocuous as a cardigan sweater, you did not really know Mister Rogers. It is true that Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which lives on in reruns, was an island of tranquility in a children's mediasphere of robots and antic sponges. And in real life, Fred Rogers, who died last week of stomach cancer at age 74, was evidently as sweet and mild mannered as the kindly neighbor he played on TV. An ordained Presbyterian minister, he didn't smoke, drink, or eat meat, prayed every day and went to bed by 9:30 each night. To cynics and parodists, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was a namby-pamby zone of pint-size feel-goodism, and Mister Rogers himself a wimpy Stuart Smalley for tots.

But part of what made Mister Rogers' Neighborhood great and unique is that, for all its beautiful days in the neighborhood, it was also the darkest work of popular culture made for preschoolers since perhaps the Brothers Grimm. Mister Rogers was softer than anyone else in children's TV because so many of the messages he had to impart were harder. That your parents might someday decide not to live together anymore. That dogs and guppies and people all someday will die. That sometimes you will feel ashamed and other times you feel so mad you will want to bite someone. He even calmed fears that may seem silly, but to a child are real and consuming -- like being afraid to take a bath because you might be sucked down the pipes. Mister Rogers gently sang, "You can never go down/ Can never go down/ Can never go down the drain."

Monday, September 12, 2011

We are the champions!

Second straight and fourth overall season title for the Wicked Pissahs!

Our  championship trophy is called The Golden Fez, since we bout at Shriners Auditorium in Wilmington, MA. It's pretty cool.

More updates later. Still basking in the big win!

Friday, September 9, 2011

A little Friday happiness

It's Friday! And after three days of drizzly rain, the sun is back and the weather is breezy. Much too nice to sit inside and blog, so instead please enjoy these bits of Friday fun:

Saturday, my derby team will be defending our 2010 championship title. It's going to be pretty epic, so if you're in the area, I recommend you come on out. Online ticket sales go until midnight. If you miss that, you can buy at the door. Click here for more info.

Laura Marling with Mumford and Sons covering Jolene. Having grown up in East Tennessee, I'm kind of a huge Dolly Parton fan ... and well, this is pretty awesome.

Speaking of Mumford and Sons ... they're totally my fall tunes of choice right now. Did you know Marcus Mumford (oh ye of awesome hipster haircut and three piece suits) is engaged to Carey Mulligan? Yeah ... talk about a hipster power couple...

Le sigh... I will do my best not to be jealous. Hope you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A lovely holiday weekend

So lovely, that I'm not even updating about it until Wednesday!

First, let me say Happy September! While I love summer, fall is my favorite season of the year. I love the first day of school, school supplies, sweaters, pumpkin-flavored things ... and the start of September means I'm only one month away from October, which is my favorite 31 days of the entire year. And THIS year, on October 9th, I'll be celebrating one year until Meant to Be releases!

But I'm getting ahead of myself. It's only the first week in September! The Labor Day weekend included a fabulous dinner at Craigie on Main (sit at the bar. The bartenders are amazing and watching them mix fancy cocktails is really fun), a delicious brunch at Deluxe Town Diner, and kayaking on the Charles River. Sunday was also the LAST SCRIMMAGE OF THE SEASON! Our championship bout is on Saturday, and then season is over!

If you're in the Boston area, get your tickets online!

 Sadly, on the way home from THE LAST SCRIMMAGE OF THE SEASON, another driver attempted to change lanes while I was in her blind spot and SMASH:

Poor lil Prius is wounded!
Luckily, I have very good insurance, and the girl I hit happened to have the very same good insurance, so all this is getting taken care of easy peasy (and I get a free rental while my lil Prius is in the shop!).

In book news, I got some fabulous surprises in my mailbox this week.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
by Michelle Hodkin

This one came to me courtesy of the Apocalypsies ARC exchange. Someone (forgive me, I can't remember who!) picked this up at BEA, and it's been making the rounds through the Apocalypsies. I can't even wait to read it. I've read such crazy amazing reviews, so I'm psyched to get to read an early copy!

by Jill Hathaway
This one arrived courtesy of ANOTHER Apocalypsies ARC exchange, this one where we all share our own ARCs. I'm reading it now (we've got two weeks before we have to send it on to the next person). I stayed up late last night reading the first half (with the cool, rainy weather we're having here in Boston, it was the perfect book to cozy up with), and I'll probably finish it tonight. I'm seriously loving it. It reads like a contemporary, it's got some mild paranormal elements, but mostly it's just an awesome mystery/thriller. I'm so sucked in that it was really hard not to skip my stop on the train this morning and just keep reading!

My TBR list is growing by the minute. While home in Tennessee visiting my mom, I picked up If I Stay by Gayle Forman and Paranormalcy by Kiersten White (yeah, I really have to stop saying I'm not a paranormal fan ... I'm pretty sure the jig is up). I wish I could just making reading my full-time job...

In MY book news, Meant to Be is officially in copyedits now, and pretty soon I should be starting work in earnest on book 2! Oh how time flies, right? This time last year I'd probably only written about 8 chapters of Meant to Be. And now it's well on its way to becoming a real live book, with a cover and typesetting and everything ... my lil baby is almost all grown up. 

Hope everyone else had a lovely holiday weekend, and to my East Coast buddies, stay dry out there!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

INTERVIEW: Gina Damico, author of Croak

With Meant to Be scheduled for release in October 2012, I was lucky enough to join a group called The Apocalypsies. They're a totally fabulous group of children's, middle grade, and young adult authors with debut novels coming out in 2012. I've had a great time meeting and chatting with them, and as we draw closer to the big year of our debuts, I'm even more excited to start reading their novels!

Thanks to NetGalley (no really, thanks NetGalley!), the first Apocalypsies book I got to read was Croak by Gina Damico, and if it was any indication ... well, I'm in for an entire year of spectacular books.

First, a little bit about Croak (from Goodreads)
Fed up with her wild behavior, sixteen-year-old Lex's parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than that of shoveling manure.

He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach Lex the family business.

She quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. But Lex can't stop her desire for justice—or is it vengeance?—whenever she’s forced to kill a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. Will she ditch Croak and go rogue with her reaper skills?
I feel like a broken record these days, but it remains true: I'm not a big paranormal fan. Really, I'm not. But I couldn't put Croak down. What I think really got me was the humor and the snark that still had a lot of heart. It read like a contemporary novel, just with some awesomely cool supernatural elements. I started reading Croak while on a derby trip, and I had to stop because I nearly woke my roommate with all the laughing. Luckily, with Gina not only being a fellow Apocalypsie, but also a fellow Bostonian, I knew I'd be able to grab her and share her hilarity with all of you.

Thanks for stopping by, Gina! So let's get down to it. Croak is your debut novel ... how did you get here?

Oh man, even I'm not sure. Maybe via sorcery of some kind?

Long answer: I've always been a ravenous reader, and while I wrote a bit in college, I stopped after I graduated because I never thought I'd be able to turn it into a career. But since I didn't know what else to do - and because I'd tried pretty much every other random job under the sun and none of them stuck - I turned back to writing and Croak just kind of fell out of my head one day. I took it to a conference and met Tina Wexler of ICM, who was a fan of the TV series Dead Like Me (also about grim reapers) and somehow, despite my frizzy hair and complete inexperience, was intrigued. By the time I got home that night, she had already emailed me to request the manuscript. Eventually she became my agent, and she sold it to Julie Tibbott at Graphia/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and now here I am.

Short answer: I walked into a bookstore one day, looked at all the YA novels on the shelves, and said to myself: "I can do that." So I did.

Tell us about your inspiration for Croak.

I'm not exactly sure where the inspiration for the plot came from, but I can tell you what I was doing when it arrived: I was working at a bread store, and it was empty. No one in Boston wanted any carbs of any kind that day. So I was doing a crossword puzzle to pass the excruciating time, when Lex suddenly popped into my head, followed by Uncle Mort. And they were Grim Reapers. Maybe there was a crossword clue about the afterlife or something? I still have no idea, but I raced home afterwards, started writing the first chapter, and everything else fell into place after that. Much bread was consumed in the process.

So you do improv comedy. That's pretty awesome! Croak is pretty stinkin' funny ... how does your improv experience come into play with your writing?

The writing that I did in college was actually for a murder mystery comedy troupe. (Foreshadowing much?) Our shows were very unique - they were half scripted, half improv. The experience I gained in both areas was invaluable in learning how to shape characters and give them funny traits - because theater is all about exaggeration, so that the audience can see and understand what the actors are doing; there are no close-ups in theater. So I applied that to the characters in my book by trying to make each one quirky in their own way, with snappy dialogue that's aimed to keep the audience's attention. Because the one thing theater people want more than anything is attention.
Gina's cat and a scythe ... because hey, why not?

How are you going to celebrate the release of your debut novel?

Probably with a bucket of cheeseballs, a chocolate milkshake, and a celebratory chasing of my cat around the house. Maybe I'll work in some sort of launch party too, if I can squeeze it in to all of my valuable cheeseball-gorging time.

Are you working on more adventures for Lex, Driggs, Uncle Mort, and the rest of the Croak universe? What can ya tell us?

I am! The second book in the series is titled Scorch, and will be coming out in Fall 2012. Let's just say that while there is still fun to be had, things continue to go from bad to worse for the Croaker gang, and that I can promise thrilling battles, daring escapes, a painfully awkward shower scene, and a surly camel.

I hear you headed off to the woods for a couple days. What books did you take with you?

My yearly camping trip got cut short because of the hurricane, so I never got to Zombies vs. Unicorns, which has been sitting on my shelf for weeks, mocking me with its best title ever. But I did get to finish A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, which is great because up until now I haven't read any of her books, which I think should be a federal crime.

Thanks so much for having me, Lauren! Since I don't have a final cover yet, please enjoy this photo of my cat Lenny with a scythe that I found at an antique fair instead. Apocalypsies forever!

Well thanks for coming by! Your book made me laugh so hard I thought I might pee a little ... of COURSE I needed that girl on my blog!


If you miss Dead Like Me or loved Hex Hall, you definitely need to pick up Croak. Croak releases on March 12, 2012 and is now available for pre-order on Amazon! Visit Gina at her blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, or at Goodreads and be sure to add Croak on Goodreads.