Monday, April 11, 2016

Anticipated Releases in 2016

Hello, Blogger my old friend. It's been too long!

2016 is flying, bringing us closer to some of the most anticipated releases of the year. Here are the top three books I can't wait to read in 2016:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Expected publication: July 21, 2016

I know, I know, there is basically no way it can live up to my expectations. But I just can't help myself. We're getting another Harry Potter book!

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Expected publication: April 26, 2016

The Raven Cycle has been a wild ride full of lovable characters, and I can't wait to see this series reveal all of its secrets.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Expected publication: September 27, 2016

Six of Crows had an excellent ensemble cast and tons of adventure. I can't wait to see where the band of outlaws goes next.

Do you have any books you're excited to read as we rush on toward summer?

Monday, January 18, 2016

SCBWI Florida 2016 Regional Conference

Happy New Year, everyone! If you write children's books, I have one more resolution for you for 2016. If you don't belong to SCBWI, join. If you're a member but not an active one, get involved. And if you're already involved, step up and volunteer to help or join the regional team. I promise you won't regret it.

Click here for more info.

The SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) is a fabulous organization. Since joining, I've learned and grown as a writer and found my tribe as a person. At this year's Florida regional conference in Miami, we heard from so many fabulous faculty members: Jonathan Maberry, Michele Hodkin, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Debbi Ohi, and Tammi Sauer--and those are just a few of the authors, not mentioning the agents and editors.

My top three takeaways from the conference this year:

1. Help other people in the industry as much as you can. The publishing business is a business, but it's not a competition. Helping each other matters. I am so grateful for the opportunity to help writers in my local critique group and celebrate their successes. I often learn even more from them in the process.

2. Step outside of your comfort zone. Maybe this means striking up a conversation with someone in the field, even if you're an introvert. Maybe it means writing ambitiously or accepting well-considered feedback. As your comfort zone grows, so will other areas of your life.

3. Tension is everything. Whether internal or external, in the setting, tone, action or in relationships, keeping tension on every page of your manuscript will keep your readers turning the pages.

If you're a member of SCBWI, what are some the reasons you love it? Do you have other organizations that have made a huge impact on your writing life? Feel free to share below in the comments!

Music for today: I Know What I Am by Band of Skulls

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Cover Reveal: The Rogue Retrieval

I am so excited to share the gorgeous cover for Dan Kobolt's The Rogue Retrieval today! While this isn't the YA or MG fare I usually review, I am so excited to read this one. Dan is an awesome member of the online writing community. He has a gift for all things sci-fi and fantasy, and his blog is filled with useful information for writers of all genres and age groups; you can check it out here.

Without further ado...

Pre-order it here!

The summary, courtesy of Goodreads:

Sleight of hand…in another land.

Stage magician Quinn Bradley has one dream: to headline his own show on the Vegas Strip. And with talent scouts in the audience wowed by his latest performance, he knows he’s about to make the big-time. What he doesn’t expect is an offer to go on a quest to a place where magic is all too real.

That's how he finds himself in Alissia, a world connected to ours by a secret portal owned by a powerful corporation. He’s after an employee who has gone rogue, and that’s the least of his problems. Alissia has true magicians…and the penalty for impersonating one is death. In a world where even a twelve-year-old could beat Quinn in a swordfight, it's only a matter of time until the tricks up his sleeves run out.

Scientist and blogger Dan Koboldt weaves wonder, humor, and heart into his debut novel, The Rogue Retrieval. Fans of Terry Brooks and Terry Pratchett will find this a thrilling read.

Doesn't it sound amazing? The Rogue Retrieval releases January 19, 2016. You can pre-order it here at Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Book Review: Until I Find Julian

Buy it here
I received an Advance Review Copy of Until I Find Julian by Patricia Reilly Giff this summer, and it released on September 8, 2015.

The Summary:

Twelve-year-old Mateo lives in Mexico with his mother and grandmother, and his older brother Julian works across the border in the United States to support their family. When a raid on Julian's work site leaves him out of contact and possibly arrested, Mateo journeys across the border himself to find out what really happened.  

The Review:

I enjoyed this contemporary middle grades story on several levels. The vivid descriptions of life in Mexico transported me into Mateo's world. Both his voice and his heart kept me turning the pages; I read the entire book in one day. And yet, the story as a whole left me a bit unsettled.

As an adult who reads mostly YA and MG novels, I rarely find myself reading through the lens of a parent. I've never been troubled by twelve-year-olds slaying monsters or going away to magical boarding schools, maybe because the fantasy element always reminds me that I'm reading a story. But in Until I Find Julian, I couldn't shed my "mother" glasses. Mateo travels alone through Mexico on foot. He pays a coyote to smuggle him across the border, then makes his way to Arkansas relying on the kindness of strangers. With no money, no food, and without speaking English, Mateo manages to find his brother's abandoned home. Until I Find Julian does ultimately end happily, but all along I felt more worried about Mateo than a desire to journey with him.

I plan to have my own eleven-year-old read this book to see how his reaction differs from mine; this may be a time when I'm too far out of the target audience to be objective.

3 out of 5 stars.

Music for today: First by Cold War Kids

Monday, August 24, 2015

Writer Resources

The online writing community can be phenomenal, but it can also be overwhelming. Some great resources have been shared on the Pitch Wars hashtag over the past week to help navigate the rules and language of publishing. Here are my favorites:

What is a WC, you ask? (Hint: It's not a potty in France.) The publishing biz loves abbreviations. A few years ago Dahlia Adler shared a fantastic glossary to help you wade through the alphabet soup of MSs, LIs, and CPs.  

Literary agent Janet Reid hosts this must-read resource for querying writers. Though new-comers should read the entire website, in the post linked above, the shark herself boils down the answer to the essential question: What is a query letter? 

Literary agent Jennifer Laughran keeps her former blog open for references like these, and Wordcount Dracula is one of the most popular posts. In it she explains the accepted norms for word counts (WC) in children's books.

Literary agent John Cusick addresses taking measure of yourself as a writer. He also recently posted here about effective queries

Friday, August 7, 2015

Pre-order of the Week - My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights

Last year, my friend Angelica R. Jackson wrote great post on what pre-orders mean for authors. (You can read the full post here.) Today I wanted to share some of that information, along an awesome middle grades book available for pre-order now!

Ordering ahead rocks for readers. You get the book delivered to your door on or sometimes even before release day, and you don't have to worry about a brick-and-mortar not having the title you've anxiously awaited.

Pre-orders can also be a great boost for the author. These numbers can increase the size of the initial print run and/or the promotional budget.

For all of those reasons, I was thrilled to pre-order My Seventh Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin last week! Check out the gorgeous cover and all the info:

Pre-order it here!

Football hero. Ninja freestyler. It's seventh grade. Anything is possible.
All Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And if he wins a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, he’s on his way. The problem? His dad wants him to play football. And Dillon’s freestyle crew, the Dizzee Freekz, says that dance studios are for sellouts. His friends want Dillon to kill it at the audition—so he can turn around and tell the studio just how wrong their rules and creativity-strangling ways are.

At first, Dillon’s willing to go along with his crew’s plan, even convincing one of the snobbiest girls at school to work with him on his technique. But as Dillon’s dancing improves, he wonders: what if studios aren’t the enemy? And what if he actually has a shot at winning the scholarship?  
Dillon’s life is about to get crazy . . . on and off the dance floor in this kid-friendly humorous debut by Brooks Benjamin. 

I can't wait to read it! Congratulations, Brooks!

Music for today: Mercy by Muse

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Heart Problems

I had a post on books all ready to go last week. But the far too common tragedies, national and local, washed over my news feeds, and a familiar sadness and frustration came with them. Suddenly my book love felt small and unimportant in the face of more and more brutality.

We all like to think these things won't keep happening, maybe because we all like to think that other people are basically good. But that's the problem. People aren't good. I'm not suggesting we don't have a gun problem, and a racism problem, and a sexism problem. But truly, deep down, we have heart problems.

We all feel sadness, anger, hurt, or entitlement. It's how we react to those feelings that not only define us, but also tear down or build up the people around us. I read the sentiment on social media this week that we need more regulations and enforcement, not more prayers. The comment broke my heart a little more, because it's not a one or the other proposition for me.

I am a Christian, so I see the world in the light of those beliefs. I believe the world is broken. That people are broken. I believe we need God, and that Christians and non-believes alike make messes of our own lives and God's intentions for us.

Even if you don't believe the Gospel, try to imagine loving someone enough to sacrifice the life of your child to save him. A person who hates and curses you. Who may be a liar, thief, or murderer. Or maybe just someone who tries to be good, but makes mistakes. I know I wouldn't be able to do it. But God did. And we are commanded to love each other as He did. Sometimes it's hard to love the people close to me, much less strangers or even people who would do me harm.

I think we could see amazing change if only we could genuinely love like that, and see that love multiplied out in the world. And as Christians, that kind of love can impact lives for Jesus. So I pray that I can love more like that, and that others will, too.

Next week, I'll be back to the book scene. But today, I just needed to share a little of the faith that keeps me going, even when things in this world look bleak.