Friday, October 29, 2010

Why I write...

Writing a book is HARD. Publishing a book is even harder. And, I'll confess, there have been quite a lot of times when people have asked me (or--fine--sometimes I even ask myself):

Why do you put yourself through this? 

And the answer is this:



Reading was a huge huge HUGE part of my childhood. In fact, I could've very easily been one of these kids in this picture. (If it IS from 1986 I might actually be one of them. Hm...I don't *think* I ever crimped my hair like that...) And I don't know what I would've done without all the books I read growing up,

I'm not exaggerating. My family was pretty darn broke when I was a kid. So going to the library, where I could pick ANY BOOK I WANTED and take it home to read over and over and over was the biggest treat EVER. 

I know kids are different now than they were twenty years ago. But...when I go to bookstores or signings or book fairs I still see kids there, reading books. Buying books. Loving books. And I hope hope hope someday mine will be one of them.

Money? Fame? Eh...I honestly don't care that much about those. Not saying they wouldn't be nice...but they don't really have anything to do with why I write. I write because I love telling stories. And hopefully one day I'll get to share those stories with kids and have them sitting in a circle in a bookstore or library, reading MY book. THAT's why I do this.

What about you? Why do YOU write?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bookanista Review: The Search for WondLa, by Tony DiTerlizzi--and a signed ARC giveaway!

As promised on Monday--I have a very special Bookanista review--with an awesome giveaway with some very special items. But before we get to the prize, let's talk about the wonderful book itself: THE SEARCH FOR WONDLA, by Tony DiTerlizzi.

NOT surprisingly, the cover is gorgeous. 
I love, love, LOVE Tony's Illustrations

And here's the blurb from the publisher:

When a marauder destroys the underground sanctuary that Eva Nine was raised in by the robot Muthr, the twelve-year-year-old girl is forced to flee aboveground. Eva Nine is searching for anyone else like her, for she knows that other humans exist, because of an item she treasures—a scrap of cardboard on which is depicted a young girl, an adult, and a robot, with the strange word, “WondLa.” Tony DiTerlizzi honors traditional children’s literature in this totally original space age adventure: one that is as complex as an alien planet, but as simple as a child’s wish for a place to belong.

Breathtaking two-color illustrations throughout reveal another dimension of Tony DiTerlizzi’s vision, and, for those readers with a webcam, the book also features Augmented Reality in several places, revealing additional information about Eva Nine’s world.

I was lucky enough to pick up my ARC at Comic Con, which meant I got to hear the PR people from S&S gush about how excited they were for this book. I also got to meet Tony:

And get the ARC signed and grab some of the limited edition sketchbooks--which I will be giving away at the end of this post. But first things first: the review!

I had high expectations after all the gushing I heard from the peeps at S&S--not to mention I'd flipped through the book and seen some of the fabulous illustrations--and the book definitely lived up to everything I'd hoped for.

Eva Nine is a wonderful character. Stubborn and vulnerable and smart and sweet and real. I could feel her fear and her loneliness, her wonder and confusion. And the world! I don't know where Tony gets his imagination from, but I want to borrow it for a few days. Trees that wander and giant water bears with telepathic powers and all the different settings and gadgets. It's all described so perfectly you can see it without the drool-worthy illustrations throughout--but those take everything to the next level. 

My only complaint is that it TOTALLY ends on a cliffhanger and now I'm going to have to wait like a whole year to find out what happens next. *cue Shannon grumbling* But it's a wonderful read that falls into that unofficial "upper-middle grade" category, which means it's perfect for fans of both MG and YA. And it's on sale now, so I definitely recommend you go pick up a copy.

But I also managed to get my hands on an extra ARC, which I'm giving away today to one lucky commenter--and it's SIGNED:

And as if that weren't cool enough, I'm also including the limited edition sketchbook they were giving out at Comic Con--and oh yeah, that's signed too!

But I'm not done yet. Because I love you guys so much, I'm also giving away the extra sketchbooks I snagged (which, sadly, aren't signed) to two lucky runners up:

So just to recap. One lucky commenter wins a signed ARC and a signed sketchbook, and two runners up win a limited edition sketchbook. Cool beans, right?

And I'm going to keep the contest simple again. Simply follow my blog and leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm PST on Friday, November 5th to enter. I'll draw a lucky winner and post their name on Saturday, November 6th. Contest open internationally.

Oh, and I know some of you want extra entries in these things, so if you tweet or post about this on your blog/facebook and leave me a link in your comment I'll give you three extra entries. Sweet deal, right?

So have at it in the comments. And good luck!

For more awesome reviews, check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to today:

Christine Fonseca and Lisa and Laura Roecker are raving over MOCKINGBIRDS.
Jamie Harrington is dying over CRESCENDO.
Michelle Hodkin is loving some book blogs.
Kirsten Hubbard is gushing over ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS.
Carolina Valdez Miller interviews the incredible Daisy Whitney.
Megan Miranda is blown away by SHIP BREAKER.
Veronica Roth is delirious over DELIRIUM

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Drive vs. Competition

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with one of my writer-friends, and she confided to me that she worries she's too competitive. And I quickly reassured her that I didn't see her as a competitive person at all. Because personally, I draw a firm distinction between being driven and being competitive.

To me, a driven person is always pushing themselves as hard as they can to do the best they can. To write the best book they are capable of writing and sell as many copies of that book as possible. Whereas a competitive person is all about winning. It's not about just doing the best they can--it's about beating other people. 

And I know some people would say I'm splitting hairs there--but I don't think I am. Because in my mind a driven person celebrates when they reach number one because they worked so hard and got as far as they possibly could. A competitive person, on the other hand, celebrates because they're just a little bit better than everyone else. Do you see the difference?

It comes down to the attitude. 

Drive is about working hard and being motivated. Competition is about stomping others into the ground. And while there are certain situations where competition is beneficial--sports, for instance--I just don't think it has any place in the literary world. 

I'm more inclined to agree with Shannon Hale, who has championed the fact that all of us--especially children's writers--are on the same side: the side of books and reading and keeping the publishing industry alive

I've blogged about this before (and was probably more articulate--my brain seems to be getting mushier by the day), but I wanted to say it again, because this is something I'm SO proud of the children's publishing industry for. The kindness, support, and generosity is astounding. Writers don't try to push each other down to top the bestseller list. They champion each other, cheering their friends and their books along.

Sure, it's not perfect--but on the whole I find a warm, caring, encouraging group of writers who work together to spread the word about books and reading. And I applaud that. It's what makes the literary world such an awesome place, and motivates me to work as hard as I can to be a part of it.

I'm a very driven person. But please guys--if I EVER become competitive--slap some sense into me a.s.a.p, okay? Promise? 

Sign up to Smack-Shannon-as-hard-as-I-can-if-she-becomes-a-competitive-jerk in the comments. :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Left out...AGAIN!'s almost November (OMG How did that happen???--stupid Time Goblins!) and if you've been on Twitter or hopping around the blogosphere (or pretty much anywhere except under a dark and isolated rock) you've seen that everyone is talking about the same thing: NaNoWriMo.

Everyone is buddying up and posting the banners and buttons on their blogs and buzzing about the new WIP they're about to dive into. And once again, I'm feeling sad and pouty and left out....

Last year I'd promised myself--PROMISED--that I would organize my writing schedule to start a shiny new draft November 1st and NaNo right along with the rest of you. doesn't always go according to schedule (something I find SEVERELY annoying) and I'm just not in a position to start a new draft right now. 

So once again I shall be left out of all the NaNo coolness. Le Sigh.

The one silver lining to this is that several of my writer friends will be NaNo-ing in one form or another, so come December I'll have LOTS of shiny new drafts to rip apart read and critique! And, for those of you participating, I'm happy to be your cheerleader.

Go! Write! Win!

Hm. That's not the world's greatest cheer. Perhaps I will spend some time constructing a proper NaNoWriMo cheer just for you. :) 

(and no, that's not what my stomach looks like--I wish--and no I will NOT wear a cheerleader costume to Comic Con next year!)

But what about you guys: How many of you are NaNo-ing this month? How many of you aren't and want to pout and sulk along with me?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Oh, the places I'll be...

Hey guys!

I know you probably stopped by expecting another Marvelous Middle Grade Monday feature--but I needed to use today's post to remind you all of the incredible event we have going on over at WriteOnCon tonight:

The lovely and fabulous Sara Megibow with Nelson Literary will be generously giving an entire HOUR of her night to answer all your publishing questions (you do not want to miss this one guys. Sara is AWESOME, and since it's a solo chat she'll have time to answer LOTS of questions).

The event starts at 9:00 PM EDT (6:00 PM PDT) and will be held at the WriteOnCon website. Please come and join us. We promise fun, fantastic information, and...probably some shenanigans too. (someone seems to feel the need to dance during these things. I wonder who that could be...*coughs*)

And I know this isn't much of a proper post--sorry about that--but that's also because my real post today is over at The Mixed-Up Files Blog.  It's my debut contribution and well...I'm scared you guys. I SO don't want to be The-Post-That-No-One-Reads. So can you please please PLEASE hop over there and leave a comment?

I know I beg you guys to do that every time I do a guest post or interview (I'm pathetic like that) but this time I would really really REALLY appreciate it, since this kind of like my first day at a new job and I really want to prove to them that I don't...well...SUCK. So yeah, if you could help a girl out I might love you forever.

Need more convincing? How about some puppy dog eyes?

How can you resist that? Click HERE to find my post.

And to make up for missing Marvelous Middle Grade Monday this week, I'm doing an extra special Bookanista review on Thursday, featuring an awesome Middle-Grade book and a very special giveaway. So make sure you stop by for your chance to enter.

Okay...I think that's everything.

Reminder about WOC event--check.
Desperate begging--check.
Shameless self promotion for Thursday--check.

Yep, I think I covered it all. :)

Hope to see you at the event tonight! Who's planning on coming, so I know to keep an eye out for you?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Red Pyramid Winner!!!

Once again I am overwhelmed by your support and enthusiasm for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday--you guys are AWESOME!!!

And I have drawn a winner for the copy of  THE RED PYRAMID...

 and I'll try to avoid the stalling and get right to it. The winner is....





*tosses confetti*

If that's you, check your email--there's one in there from me requesting your mailing address. I'll ship your prize out as soon as you respond.

For everyone else--thank you again, for visiting my blog. For commenting. And most importantly, for supporting middle grade, and helping it get the attention it deserves.

Things will be a little different next week because Monday is a WriteOnCon event, so I won't be doing a Marvelous Middle Grade Monday feature. But I will be including a special giveaway on Bookanista Thursday, so make sure you check back for that! 

Have a great weekend everyone! 

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm Growing Up! (Well...only a little--but still!)

Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have noticed that I FINALLY changed my Twitter name this week. (and the rest of you, seriously WHY aren't you on Twitter yet?????) :)

That's right--@packratx is gone. GONE! Replaced by something a little more professional:


And I know, this probably doesn't seem like the monumental change I'm making it out to be--but to me, it actually is.

See...I created that Twitter account with no intention of doing anything other than following celebrity gossip. I didn't follow writers or publishing pros. I didn't have any followers. And I certainly didn't tweet. But at the time, I didn't have a blog. I didn't even have a complete first draft. So the idea of promoting myself or my book online wasn't even a consideration.

But a lot has changed since then. I have this blog. I have an agent. And I realized...well...I should probably stop using a Twitter name based off an email address I created back when I was like 16. (Some of you probably remember those days of: Do not use any form of your name for your email address it's DANGEROUS!!!! But--for those of you wondering--I will still be using that email account. Too many people know it and use it for me to close it down)

So--with the encouragement of a few followers who promised not to unfollow me if I made the switch--I  edited my account. And...promptly got a bunch of tweets from my friends teasing me about finally growing up.

I guess I am. This writing thing is not just a phase for me. It WILL be a career. So the more I treat it like one, the better.

But if you're worrying that I'm going to be all mature and boring from now on, let me put your mind at ease. I may be growing up--but I will never be mature. Need proof?

Check out what I bought the last time I went to Target (and forgot to get the responsible, important things I went in for, no less)


OMG I love these little things. I am obsessed with them. OBSESSED. I lined them up all along my computer:

(In my defense, I do write MG so this is practically research *coughs*)

So yeah...same silly, rambling, immature Shannon sure to stumble into all kinds of Shannon Shame and #Shannonfails. Just in a slightly more professional package.

And that's what I accomplished this week. What about you guys? Please, share your accomplishments! (And CLEARLY no accomplishment is too small) ;)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bookanista Review: The Familiars, by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson

I can't believe it's already Thursday (*shakes fist at time goblins for stealing my week*)--but at least that means it's time for another Bookanista Review! And this time I'm focusing on a fabulous middle grade fantasy: THE FAMILIARS, by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson.

Awesome cover, right?

Here's the official blurb from the publisher:

Is the kingdom's fate in the hands of an orphan cat?

Running fast to save his life, Aldwyn ducks into an unusual pet store. Moments later Jack, a young wizard in training, comes in to choose a magical animal to be his familiar. Aldwyn's always been clever. But magical? Jack thinks so—and Aldwyn is happy to play along.

He just has to convince the other familiars—the know-it-all blue jay Skylar and the friendly tree frog Gilbert—that he's the powerful cat he claims to be.

Then the unthinkable happens. Jack and two other young wizards are captured by the evil queen of Vastia.

On a thrilling quest to save their loyals, the familiars face dangerous foes, unearth a shocking centuries-old secret, and discover a destiny that will change Vastia forever. Their magical adventure—an irresistible blend of real heart, edge-of-your-seat action, and laugh-out-loud humor—is an unforgettable celebration of fantasy and friendship.

Sounds cool, right? Well...IT IS!!!!

Imagine if Harry, Ron, and Hermoine got captured 100 pages into Harry Potter and Hedwig, Scabbers and Crookshanks had to rescue them. It's like that--but better, because these animals have magical powers too! It's such a cool concept, and I can see why it's already being made into a movie by Sony Animation.

I mean, I'd fully expected to love this book. It's middle grade fantasy with a CAT for the lead character--it's like it was written for me!!!! So yeah, I had high expectations. And it definitely lived up to them.

Kids will love this book. The plot is action packed. The characters are funny and lovable. And there's so much to wonder about and worry about that it's definitely the kind of book that's hard to put down. (I know for a fact this would've been one of those books that as a kid I would've snuck out of bed to read by my nightlight. I would not have been able to sleep until I knew how it ended!)

But there's plenty of adult appeal too. Middle Grade at its best is like a Pixar movie--fun for the whole family. And THE FAMILIARS is an excellent example. It's available now, so get thee to your favorite bookstore or library and pick up a copy for you or your kids. You won't regret it.

Want to learn about more awesome books? Check out what the rest of The Bookanistas are up to today:

Elana Johnson Tells Us About TORMENT


Christine Fonseca Moons Over MATCHED

Shelli Johannes-Wells Marvels over Middle Grade 

Kirsten Hubbard Woos Us with WITHER

Myra McEntire Beholds the British Special Edition of the TWILIGHT SAGA


Carolina Valdez Miller Is Moved By MARBURY LENS

Megan Miranda Swoons Over STOLEN

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's not your baby any more

For reasons far too boring to get into, I've been thinking a lot about revision lately. Specifically: WHY IT'S SO HARD AND FRUSTRATING AND MAKES ME WANT TO MASH MY HEAD INTO THE WALL UNTIL I REACH A COMATOSE STATE AND NEVER HAVE TO THINK AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (And yes...I *might* be a little overdramatic)

And I've come up with a lot of answers, most of which center around the fact that with revision you have to turn that crud-pile of a first draft into something...well...GOOD! Which is...yanno...HARD! (Sorry, talking about revision makes me feel the need for ALL CAPS a lot) :)

But there's another reason too. See, because no writer is--or should be--an island, revision is that point where you take your draft--your BABY--and hand it over to CPs or your Agent or Editor. And unfortunately, from that point's not just your baby anymore.

The thing hand your draft--your BABY--over to your CPs/Agent/Editor knowing that they're going to return it to you with feedback. And you fully expect that the feedback will require a lot of work and make you feel like you are a complete idiot for missing all of these very important things. You're prepared for that. You can handle it. You expect it.

But there's also the other kind of feedback. The I-really-hate-that-this-is-a-valid-point kind of feedback. The kind that makes you cut your favorite jokes or scenes, redefine or remove characters you love, or rewrite entire sections of your book--not because they're bad, but because they need to be different. It's the kind of feedback that makes you wish you could be immature and pout and moan and throw a tantrum and demand that it be YOUR way. (Or is that just me?) But you can't.

Because when you're don't always get to have things your way. Your way might slow the pacing, or be too similar to something else already published, or be too confusing for people who do not have your brain, or not be nearly as funny or cute or clever or sweet as YOU think it is. So even though it's your draft--your BABY--you have to change it. It's not just YOURS anymore. You're writing it to be PUBLISHED. Which means you have to think about what the majority of readers want from the story. And that might not always be the same thing you want.

So how do you deal with that? first, you probably pout and moan and whine (again, maybe that's just me). But suck it up and make the changes. You always stay true to yourself and your vision of course. But it's also about sacrifice--for the good of the book and your career. It makes revision hard and stressful and very, VERY frustrating. But you get a better book out of it in the long run. Hopefully one good enough to sell.

(And hey, that's why most authors have deleted scenes on their websites, right?).

But what about you guys? Have you ever cut or changed something you might not have wanted to, because you knew it was the right thing for your book? Please--commiserate with me in the comments!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Daring to imagine a different life...

We all make choices in our lives, and some are harder than others. For me, one of the toughest decisions I've made so far was leaving Hollywood.

Not only had I worked my butt off for five years to get to that point (and let me clarify that I really wasn't that far--but I did have my foot in the door), but I also had more than a few friends who thought I was crazy to walk away--and told me so. Not to mention there were quite a few annoying people who saw it as a sign of failure when I left LA and returned to my hometown. (Yeah, there was a lot of "well look who came crawling back...")

It was scary and hard and I lost a lot of sleep during that time. But I got through it by reminding myself of one of my favorite movie quotes ever, from You've Got Mail.

When Meg Ryan's character **SPOILER ALERT** announces that she's going to close her bookstore because it's losing money, her friend Birdie tells her that closing the store is the brave thing to do. And when Meg Ryan agues that it isn't, Birdie tells her this:

"You are daring to imagine that you could have a different life."

I have clung to those words because they are so true. Changing your mind can feel like failure--but it's not. It's being brave enough to admit that you want to have a different life than the one you'd been working toward. 

In my case, I'd realized that I just didn't belong in Hollywood. That I'd never be happy there. The cowardly thing really would've been staying there and being miserable, just because I was too afraid of what people would think. So I dared to imagine that I could have a different life. I figured out what it was I loved (writing) and I went after it. 

Do some people think I'm crazy? Probably. Especially since I still don't have a book on the shelves with my name on it. But I'm okay with my choice. And hopefully someday I'll reach the dream I've been chasing. 

I'm not entirely sure why I've been thinking about this--I walked away from Hollywood almost seven years ago. But I had that quote on my mind and I thought I would share it--along with how it has helped me--because I wonder if some of you have felt the same way at some point. 

Maybe some of the people in your life think you're crazy for writing a book. Maybe you feel bad that writing takes time away from other things. Maybe you're querying or subbing and dealing with the heartache of rejection and wondering how to keep going. Whatever it is, I wanted you to know how brave you are. 

You are daring to imagine that you could have a different life. 

Be proud of yourself for being brave enough to do it. You should be! And someday it will pay off and you'll be so glad you did it. 

What about you guys? Any quotes from books or movies help you through a difficult time? (Or is that just me?) If nothing else, anyone a fan of You've Got Mail? I swear I could watch that movie a thousand times and not get tired of it. :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday--The Red Pyramid (and a Giveaway!!!)

So it's Monday again--which means of course we're talking about more marvelous middle grade (I'm really not sure I'll ever get tired of that alliteration). :) And today I'm featuring a book that probably doesn't need my help--but I'm giving it a shout out anyway: THE RED PYRAMID by Rick Riordan.

In the world of middle grade, I'm pretty sure the only person to outrank Rick Riordan is J.K. Rowling. His panel at Comic Con was HUGE, and when he does a signing like a thousand people show up (at Comic Con you had to draw a lucky random ticket--and even then, that only got you one signed book). So yeah...he's basically a rock star. Which is actually pretty cool considering how under appreciated middle grade can be.

He made his mark on the children's writing world with his Percy Jackson books, but when he finished that series he launched two new series. The Heroes of Olympus  (why is B&N taking so long to ship my copy of THE LOST HERO--WHY???) and The Kane Chronicles, book one of which is THE RED PYRAMID, which came out earlier this year.

Like the Camp Halfblood books, THE RED PYRAMID is a mix of modern kids and ancient mythology--with a ton of Riordan's trademark humor. But this time he focuses on Egyptian Mythology, and the book is a dual POV between two siblings: Carter and Sadie.

Things I love about the series:

- The fact that Riordan kept writing after Percy--releasing new books with very little delay. He knew his fans wanted more and he gave it to them, which is crucial when it comes to getting kids to read (and keeping them reading).

-The book is LONG for middle grade (I am a huge fan of long middle grade--for self serving reasons of course. *coughs*)

-Carter and Sadie each have their own unique voices--and are also different from Percy. The dual POV was a new trick for Riordan, and I thought he pulled it off nicely.  I love watching authors stretch themselves and branch out.

-Kids LOVE these books. Yes, there were a lot of Camp Halfblood fans at Comic Con. But there were a lot of Carter and Sadie fans too--pretty incredible considering the book had only been out a few months.

So yeah, basically it's awesome and I'm eternally grateful to Riordan for helping keep middle grade alive and present and hot (and for writing long books--hehe). Which is why I decided to feature the book today, even though it's already sold a zillion copies.

And because I like to include a giveaway on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, I'm giving away a copy THE RED PYRAMID to one lucky commenter. (Sadly, it's NOT signed. I could only get one signed book when I met him and well...I'm keeping that one for me. *stingy*)

But it's still a beautiful hardcover and an awesome book--and it's free to one lucky winner! All you have to do is be a follower of this blog and leave a comment on today's post by 11:59 pm on Friday Oct 22nd. I'll use to choose the winner and post the name on Saturday, Oct. 23rd. International entries welcome!

Good luck everyone!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Softwire (Book 1) Winner!!!

Ahhh--how is the day already halfway over and I haven't posted the winner????? Darn you time goblins!!!!

Sorry about that guys. But I have drawn a winner and I will cut right to the chase. Quick reminder of what's up for grabs:

A signed paperback of Virus on Orbis 1 (Book 1 in The Softwire Series)

And according to the winner is...

*drumroll please*





*tosses confetti*

Okay Janel, check your email--you'll find one from me asking for your mailing address. 

For everyone else--THANK YOU for your enthusiasm for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. I'm blown away by your comments and support.

I will be back with another great book/author and a giveaway on Monday, so make sure you stop by for your chance to enter.

Have a great rest of the weekend!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Beware of Time Goblins!!!!!

Once again I find myself scratching my head and asking the same question: OMG HOW IS IT ALREADY FRIDAY?????

And while we're on the subject: HOW IS IT MID OCTOBER---OF 2010????????

I mean, I know I've been busy, but seriously, WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE??????????

And really, there's only one possible answer. Clearly my CP, the lovely and talented Sarah Wylie, is right. Time Goblins are real!

They creep in when we aren't looking and gobble up all our time!!!!

And they must be stopped.

So I declare war, Time Goblins--WAR!!!!

I'm on to you now. I'll be ready for you the next time you try to sneak in and steal my week. Oh yes Time Goblins! You have met your match in me. I shall find a way to defeat you.

Who wants to join in the fight? Feel free to enlist in the T.G.W.B.D.A.* in the comments.**

*The Time Goblins Will Be Destroyed Army

**This rambling and possibly ridiculous post has been brought to you by a very overworked, exhausted, and possibly dangerously troubled mind.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bookanista Review: Selling Hope, by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

I have been so excited for this week's Bookanista review you guys. SO EXCITED! Because I get to introduce you to an absolutely amazing book that I bet a lot of you haven't heard of. SELLING HOPE, but Kristin O'Donnell Tubb.

Ooo...look at the gorgeous cover!

This book is awesome you guys. AWESOME! In that I-should-give-up-writing-because-I-will-never-be-that-good kind of way. I have total writing envy. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if this book rakes in a bunch of honors and awards. It deserves it.  

Here's the official blurb:

It’s May 1910, and Halley’s Comet is due to pass thru the Earth’s atmosphere. And thirteen-year-old Hope McDaniels and her father are due to pass through their hometown of Chicago with their ragtag vaudeville troupe. Hope wants out of vaudeville, and longs for a “normal” life—or as normal as life can be without her mother, who died five years before. Hope sees an opportunity: She invents “anti-comet” pills to sell to the working-class customers desperate for protection. Soon, she’s joined by a fellow troupe member, young Buster Keaton, and the two of them start to make good money. And just when Hope thinks she has all the answers, she has to decide: What is family? Where is home?

I'll admit, I actually hadn't heard of the book when the publicist emailed me offering the ARC. But when I read the blurb I thought uh--Middle Grade + Vaudeville + Buster Keaton = WIN. And I was right!

Oh, and yes. When I say Buster Keaton I mean THE Buster Keaton:

He's one of the stars I spent the most time studying back in film school because I am obsessed with old, silent movies, and his are some of the best. If you haven't seen Sherlock Jr.,  The General, or Steamboat Bill, Jr. get thee to Netflix and check them out!!!

But I digress. 

The events in the story are not biographical--but they are authentic (man I hope I'm using the right words). Buster Keaton did tour the Vaudeville circuit, and Halley's Comet did cause mass hysteria, so you can't help feeling like, "okay, so, this didn't necessarily happen--but it could have." And may I just say that the 15-year-old Buster in the book is totally swoon-worthy? I'm more than a little in love with him. 

And the writing. OMG the WRITING!

I loved every word. 

I loved the zinger jokes breaking up the text, like the whole book was a Vaudeville act. 

I loved the way she pulls you so deeply into the time that you feel like you're really in Chicago during the comet panic. You live the dirty alleys. The run-down boarding house. The crowded, stuffy theater. The itchy clothes. 

I loved the language. Movies called "Flickering Flicks" and customers called "Coins." And Huck! Where has that swear word been all my life????? I am determined to make "Huck" happen. (Insert Mean Girls quote here). But seriously, Huck! How fun is that?

So yeah, in case you can't tell--I LOVED this book, and I highly recommend it to anyone--no matter what age you are. Middle Grade is not just for kids--and this book especially. You will love it!

You can't buy a copy until November 9th, but you can read an excerpt on Kristin's website. Go there and prepare to be hooked! :)

For more fabulous reviews, check out what the rest of the Bookanistas are up to today:

Elana Johnson is spreading the word about XVI.

Lisa and Laura Roecker are head over heels for Half Upon a Time.

Christine Fonseca is celebrating Cinders.

Shelli Johannes-Wells and Myra McEntire can't get enough of The Near Witch cover
Megan Miranda is excited about Monsters of Men.

Carolina Valdez Miller highlights the hottest November releases 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mark your calendar for WriteOnCon's next Live Event!

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, we've been hard at work here at WriteOnCon, lining up Industry Pros for our special Live Events, and we're ready to announce the next one!!!

(I'll pause while you jump around and toss confetti and celebrate and stuff) 

We're trying hard to make each event unique, awesome, and fun--so we're super excited about this month's event, which will be held on:

Monday, October 25th, 2010
at 9:00 pm EST

And will feature a very special Live-Chat with the fabulous Sara Megibow of  Nelson Literary Agency, LLC. 

About Sara:

Sara has worked at the Nelson Literary Agency since 2006. For three years, her main responsibility was to be the first reader for all queries, sample pages and full manuscripts submitted to the agency. In 2009, Sara was promoted to Associate Literary Agent and is actively acquiring new clients. The Nelson Literary Agency specializes in representing young adult and middle grade fiction, romance, science fiction and fantasy, commercial and women’s fiction (including chick lit) and high concept literary fiction. Nelson Literary Agency is a  member of AAR, RWA, SFWA and SCBWI. Please visit our website for submission guidelines, and feel free to visit Sara’s Publisher’s Marketplace site to learn more about her personal tastes and recent sales.

We know, we're amazed at how cool she is too--and you guys will get to spend an entire hour asking her all your most pressing publishing questions!!!  And since it will be a solo chat, we should be able to get through a ton of questions. 

So make sure you mark your calendars for October 25th--you do not want to miss out on this awesome opportunity. We promise fun, fabulous info, and well...probably some virtual dancing. Though I'll *try* to restrain myself.

See you October 25th!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tell The Truth Tuesday: The #Shannonfail Edition

1. So, I'm still a little sick--but it's my own fault. I've been ignoring all your good advice and staying up too late trying to finish a ton of important stuff. #Shannonfail

2. I also ignored my sore throat and went to a concert on Saturday night and didn't get to bed till almost 2am. AND I sang along with the songs--very off key--using up a lot of the voice I had left. #Shannonfail

3. was ANBERLIN! I refuse to call that a #Shannonfail. REFUSE.

4. Those same things keeping me up late at night have also kept me away from blog hopping--which pretty much makes me the Worst. Blogger. Ever! #Shannonfail

5. I miss you guys. A lot. I hate not knowing what you're up to, or reading all the funny things you have to say. I will be back soon--I promise. In the meantime, THANK YOU for bearing with the #Shannonfail.

6. I also haven't been on Twitter much. I swear I'm suffering Twitter withdrawls. The prolific use of hashtags in this post seems to testify to the truthfulness of that statement.

7. And as if that weren't bad enough, I'm also way behind on email. Those of you waiting for a response, I promise--it's coming. I have not forgotten. It's just a temporary #Shannonfail

8. Plus, part of what's keeping me busy is WriteOnCon stuff.

9. We've been hard at work organizing the monthly events, and we'll be announcing the details of the next event tomorrow. Yeah. You probably don't want to wait. Well too bad! (How's that for  #Shannonfail?) :)

10. But to make up for it, here's a funny and totally random lolcat. Enjoy!

(I swear this is what my cats think)

*Phew* That was a lot to confess. What about you guys? Anyone have anything they want to get off their chest? Please, unload in the comments.

And come back tomorrow to find out what WriteOnCon has in store. Our next event is going to be all kinds of awesome. You won't want to miss out. #tease


Monday, October 11, 2010

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday--The Softwire Series (and a Giveaway!!!)

Okay, I'm not entirely sure I'll be able to organize these every Monday, but I'm going to try to do as many as I can, because--as you all remember--I'm officially on a Middle Grade Crusade!

So today we're talking about four books I absolutely adore: The Softwire Series, by P.J. Haarisma.


I gave the series a quick shout out a couple of weeks ago in my Middle Grade Spotlight, but I wanted to spend a little more time singing its praises. Plus I have a signed copy of the first book to give away--but we'll get to that in a minute. ;)

I discovered the series thanks to Project Book Babe (P.J. was one of the authors there, and I made it a point to read the books of all the authors on the panel before I went to the event) and fell in love instantly. Which is doubly amazing considering they're Sci-Fi, and I'm not all that huge of a fan of Sci-Fi. But the world of these books is so interesting, it's impossible not to get sucked in.

Basic premise? Johnny Turnbull is the first human Softwire--a human able to link directly to computers through his mind. And in the high tech rings of Orbis his skill is invaluable. He quickly becomes the focus of intergalactic intrigue. But there's a dark underside to the world, and the deeper he gets into the rings, the more he struggles to know who he can trust. The books are action packed and incredibly hard to put down. And I am so jealous of his world building. The richness and layers he adds to everything make the world jump off the page. 

So yeah, they're awesome--and you do not have to be a kid to appreciate them. I promise. Bonus: there's an amazingly cool online environment to go along with the series. (I swear, if I had more time I would be so hooked on that website.) I definitely hope everyone gives the books a chance.

Which is why I'm giving away one of my precious signed copies of book one--and a bookmark:

And just like last week, I'm going to keep this nice and simple. All you have to do is follow my blog and leave a comment on this post between now and 11:59 (PST) on Friday, October 15th. I'll post the random winner on October 16th, and send their prize as soon as I receive their mailing address. International entries welcome. :)

Good luck everyone!

Oh, and thanks for all the get-well-soon wishes last week. I'm still a *little* under the weather, but I'm doing much better. You guys are so sweet to care. :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Atlantis Complex Winner!!!

Sorry for the late post guys. This cold is still slowing me down. *coughs*

But I have drawn a winner for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday's signed copy of THE ATLANTIS COMPLEX. Ooo, look at the pretty prize...

And the winner is...

*drumroll please*



(sorry, couldn't resist stalling a *little*)




*tosses confetti*

So check your email, Matt. There's one in there from me asking for your snail mail address. 

And a huge thank you to everyone for all the support for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. I have another fabulous MG series and a giveaway to feature this coming Monday, so make sure you check back so you have a chance to win.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Okay, I'm Ready for the "I Told You Sos"

So ... I'm sick.

It's just a cold--and not even THAT bad of one. But it's definitely knocked me on my butt. *sigh*

And yes, I realize it's largely my own fault. Too many nights up till 2am and missed meals and not taking vitamins and going going going on only fumes. Believe me, I'm getting plenty of "I told you sos"--and I have no doubt many of you will join in. But that's okay, I deserve it. I definitely brought this on myself. *grumble*

So I'm laying low today, hoping that if I'm a good girl and stay in bed and drink fluids and all that jazz that it won't turn into "the cold that won't go away" like what happened last time.

But don't worry about me. I've got my "Sick Day Movies" already queued up (Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility). I've got Theo--aka "the gremlin"--to keep me company (he LOVES when I'm in bed all day):

(and I took this picture yesterday, so you can see I'm not deathly pale or anything)

Not to mention I have no shortage of awesome books to read:

(and this is just one stack of ARCs. There's 2 more. And at least 4 piles of recent releases. My TBR piles are out. of. control.)

But I'm sorry for such a lame post. My slight fever is making the whole being coherent a tad more challenging that it already is. So I'm just going to quit while I'm ahead and stop here. :)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Oh, and if you haven't entered for a chance to win a signed copy of Eoin Colfer's THE ATLANTIS COMPLEX, you better get on that. You only have till midnight tonight to enter. :)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bookanista Preview: Desires of the Dead, by Kimberly Derting

If you heard a high pitched squealing sound on Tuesday around 2:30 pm Cali time, it was probably me, opening a manilla bubble mailer from HarperCollins to find this:

Oh yes--that's right. I am the proud holder of a DESIRES OF THE DEAD ARC by my adorable and fabulous agent-in-law, Kimberly Derting. And it doesn't come out until March 2011!!!!!

*pauses to SQUEE!!!!!!*

And I swear, I'm not just using this post to brag. (In fact, I fully intend to give this copy away in the near future, once I'm ready to part with it, that is.)

But right now, it's Bookanista Thursday and since I can't seem to think about anything other than how excited I am to dive headfirst into this book (why, WHY did it have to come during such a crazy-busy week????), I thought I'd use today's post to tease this book a little. Why? Because I can!!!! *evil laugh*

First: the cover. OMG, I can't even begin to describe how much I love this cover. I didn't think they could ever live up to the haunting beauty of THE BODY FINDER's cover:

But they did!

The vivid colors. The way we're deeper into the flower this time. Plus, I love seeing Kim's name at the top, like she's the most important thing (which I think she is. <3 Kim!)

But it's not just about the cover. The story inside is what really counts, and I can't tell you how excited I am to learn more about Violet and Jay. Here's the official blurb:

Violet can sense the echoes of those who've been murdered—and the matching imprint that clings to their killers. Only those closest to her know what she is capable of, but when she discovers the body of a young boy she also draws the attention of the FBI, threatening her entire way of life.

As Violet works to keep her morbid ability a secret, she unwittingly becomes the object of a dangerous obsession. Normally she'd turn to her best friend, Jay, except now that they are officially a couple, the rules of their relationship seem to have changed. And with Jay spending more and more time with his new friend Mike, Violet is left with too much time on her hands as she wonders where things went wrong. But when she fills the void by digging into Mike's tragic family history, she stumbles upon a dark truth that could put everyone in danger.

Chills guys! I have CHILLS!

And even though I haven't had a chance to really dive in, I can say this: I read the prologue.


Yeah, I can already tell I will be reading this in one sitting. And then probably reading it again the next day. Dang she knows how to draw you in! 

I promise I'll post a full review a little closer to the release. And like I said, I will be parting with this bad boy, as soon as I've satisfied my Jay and Violet fix. So keep an eye out for the contest. You won't want to miss it. 

But for now, if you need me, I'll be cranking through my To Do list as fast as Shannonly possible so I can finally dive in. *dies of impatience*

Want more awesome recommendations? Here's what my fellow Bookanistas are up to today:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Beauty of a Bad Idea

Bad ideas have a bad reputation.

As writers, we don't want bad ideas. We're always searching for that elusive good idea. Whether it be a solution to a plotting issue, or the premise of the next international bestseller. And it's absofabulonderful (yes, I make up my own words) when those genius ideas come to us all on their own.

But most of the time we have to seek them out. Search for them. Expend a lot of blood, sweat, and tears and maybe even sleep and food and sanity to get them. 

And in my experience, I've found that the best way to get to something good is to consider a whole lot of something bad

Anyone who's ever suffered through had the privilege of participating in one of my (in)famous brainstorming sessions knows that I'm kind of notorious for spewing out massive amounts of abhorrently craptastic ideas in rapid succession. But the thing is--I know they're horrible. I fully expect them to not be the solution at all. (In fact, I usually hope they aren't, because they're so ridiculously awful it's horrifying to think of a book actually including them). And that's exactly why I do it.


Because when you have to think about why an idea won't work, it usually makes it easier to figure out what will work. The more you come up with reasons why a suggestion doesn't fit with your characters or your plot or you just hate hate hate it, the more you start to narrow down what you're actually looking for. And once you have that direction, you can almost always follow it to a solution that actually works.

It works for me anyway. So far I've never had a brainstorming session end without us having come up with a real, working plan. Bonus: we have a lot of fun laughing at and rejecting all the atrocious ideas we've put on the table.

So I say embrace bad ideas! Don't write them, of course--that would be shudderworthy. But don't be afraid to throw them out there and think about them. Because you never know when something bad will lead to something good.

And who knows? Maybe the next international bestseller will be that ninja-zombie-unicorn book you realized you just had to write. Hey, it could happen. I bet no one would've thought sparkly vampires would be a phenomenon ten years ago. ;)

What about you guys? How do you come up with your ideas?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Celebrating "Now"

Yesterday was the first "Fall-ish" day here in Southern California. Gray, misty skies. Temperatures cold enough to require jeans and jackets (well...for us wimpy SoCal-ers at least. You cold climate types would probably be in tank tops).

And I couldn't help thinking all day: I hope this lasts.

I love Fall. Soup for dinner and heavy blankets in bed and all the stores smelling like cinnamon and selling pumpkin flavored treats. But it doesn't last very long over here. We get a few, scattered days where we put our wool coats and boots to good use. And the rest of the time it's hot and sunny and we walk around wondering if we're ever going to stop running our air conditioners. It can get a little frustrating.

Which is why I'm trying to adopt a new attitude: celebrate now

I'm going to try to stop wishing I could have more or less than what I have at the moment, and just enjoy what I have right here, right now. Because nothing lasts in this complicated world--and that's actually a good thing. For every refreshingly crisp Fall day that I wish would last forever, there's a yucky humid, windy day that I can't wait to  have over. Good things don't always last. But neither do the bad. So just enjoy the good when you have it and  celebrate now.

And I think the same thing applies to writing. We all have our days where we want to delete every last word, back over our computers with our car, and flee to Canada to start a new career as a Zamboni driver (okay, maybe the rest of you handle the bad days better than I do). But there's also many, many days where the words are flowing and the characters have pulled me into their world and I can't ever imagine doing anything else--ever.

I'm going to embrace those days more--cling to them more, celebrate them more. So I have them ready to carry me through the bad.

So in that vein, I'm going to dust off my favorite pair of boots and head outside to enjoy SoCal's tiny sample of Fall. Maybe I'll even indulge in a pumpkin flavored treat--without even wondering how many calories are in it. 

And then, I'm going to write. Because I'm celebrating now. I'll deal with what comes tomorrow when it happens.

Anyone else want to join me? What do you feel like celebrating? 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday--and a Giveaway!!!

So...I've decided that I'm on a crusade. A Middle Grade Crusade. (hey--that rhymes!) :) Because when it comes to the Blogosphere, Middle Grade is kind of...forgotten.

And I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with YA. I love YA--and will continue to read YA and talk about YA on my blog. But as a Middle Grade writer--I've realized that I'm really not doing enough to give Middle Grade the attention it deserves. It's a huge category with a ton of amazing books and writers--and it's all kind of flying under the radar at the moment (online at least). So I'm going to do what little I can to change that. Starting today!

First of all, I'm happy to announce that I was lucky enough to be accepted as one of the new contributing members for The Mixed-Up Files Blog!!!! Not sure if you've heard of it, but it's a fabulous group of middle grade writers who have teamed up to spread the news about all things middle grade related. I highly recommend you check it out when you have the chance. (Here's hoping I don't drive them all too crazy with my trademark rambling ways and get myself booted off the team) :)

Secondly, I've decided to feature more middle grade on my blog. Which means you'll definitely be seeing more Middle Grade Spotlights, like I did last Thursday. And I'm also introducing a new meme I've cooked up: Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. (hehe, I love alliteration--if you can't tell)

What is Marvelous Middle Grade Monday?

At least once a month I'll feature a fabulous Middle Grade book or series on my blog on a Monday. It might be a review. It might be an author interview. It might be a giveaway. Or maybe it'll be some combination of all three. The important thing is, it'll shine a light on Middle Grade, hopefully showing people that it's NOT just for kids (or adults who are large children). It's for everyone who loves fun, well-written books.

And I thought I'd start today with a series that's kind of the gold standard for Middle Grade writers: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer.

Honestly, this series doesn't necessarily need my help--it's sold like a bazillion copies and has the full support of the Disney-Hyperion promotion team (I've never seen such an elaborate book tour in all my life--Disney doesn't play around). But I wanted to start here because this was one of the first MG series I discovered as an adult, and is a big part of the reason I ended up as a Middle Grade writer.

Basic premise: 12-year-old billionaire and super-genius Artemis Fowl has discovered the truth about fairies. Namely that they live in a secret, high tech society deep underneath us with a special task force--the LEPrecon--and all kinds of rituals and rules. And he's decided to exploit them, in various schemes to prove his superior intelligence and secure the Fowl family fortune. 

The plots keep you on your toes, never quite sure what scheme Artemis is working this time, or whether he's the good guy or the villain. And the way Colfer has reinvented fairy lore and magical creatures is fantastic. Not to mention they're hilarious. Even my husband--who I barely convinced to read MY book (he's not much of a reader, le sigh) has read and loved this series. The books may be sold in the children's section, but they are very adult friendly. Think Pixar movies. (I swear adults love those movies more than kids do.)

And because the books are so very awesome, I'm giving one lucky commenter a SIGNED copy of the newest book in the series: THE ATLANTIS COMPLEX, along with a special flash drive Disney put together with all kinds of cool extras (I'm telling you, Disney's not playing around with their promo for these books).

Yes--that's right! This is going to be one of my simple contests. Meaning there's only two rules: be a follower of my blog and leave a comment on this post by Friday, October 8th. International entries are welcome. And you only have to tweet or blog about the contest if you want to. Easy Peasy. I'll post the winner on Saturday, October 9th.

And if any of you want to start having Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays on your blog, let me know. I'd be willing to link to your posts when you do. Middle Grade Bloggers Unite!!!! :)

Oh, on a Shameless Shannon Self-Promotion Side note (how's THAT for alliteration?): I've done a keynote blog commencement speech thingy (wherein I tried to be inspiring. The odds of me actually pulling that off aren't good) for the end of Iggy&Gabi's DIY-MFA. If any of you would be so kind as to pop over there and leave a comment so it's not like, her most unpopular post ever, I'd be VERY grateful. *bats eyelashes*

And don't forget to leave a comment here to enter for the signed copy of THE ATLANTIS COMPLEX. Good luck!