Monday, May 21, 2012

On hiatus for the next month (in other words... back to Revision Beach!)

If you've come to this space looking for middle grade or young adult book reviews, or general bookseller observations, or the occasional rare post on writing...  I'll be back in about a month!  I'll miss reading your blogs, but I'm taking Laurie Halse Anderson's advice and staying off the internet to accomplish what I need to accomplish.  I'm determined to finish this latest revision in the never-ending work-in-progress.  And then I'm determined to finally start querying this middle grade novel, which happens to be the first novel I wrote.  And maybe I'll even do some writing on my third novel.  Or is my fourth?

What about you?  Are you writing, revising, or in-between projects?

Back in four weeks or so. In the meantime, I'll leave you with some inspirational photos.

Friday, May 18, 2012

And the winner of DEVINE INTERVENTION is...

The winner 


Congrats, Gretchen! 
Expect an email from me asking for your mailing address. 

For the rest of you, the book comes out June 1, 2012!  If you have a local bookstore, show your support and buy a copy.   Thanks.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Real Winner -- and a False Prince

First, I need to announce the winner of the SIGNED hardcover copy of JAKE AND LILY by Jerry Spinelli (please note that I have the book, but it will be signed on May 22 at Chester County Book & Music Company):


Congratulations!  Expect an email from me asking for your signing preferences and your mailing address.
And for those who didn't win, don't forget my other giveaway for an ARC of DEVINE INTERVENTION by Martha Brockenbrough.  You still have a few more days to enter at THIS POST.

*   *   *   *   *

Today's MMGM:

The False Prince (Book One in the Ascendance Trilogy) by Jennifer Nielsen (Scholastic, 9780545284134, April 1, 2012, for ages 8 to 14)

Source:  advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from Indiebound): The False Prince is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

Why I liked it:  What's not to like? Adventure, intrigue, false identities, exciting swordplay: this book has it all!   The publisher says it's for 8 to 14, but I'd call this upper middle grade -- there is some violence, so be forewarned if you're thinking of giving this to an 8-year-old.   I love the character of Sage, who narrates the tale. I love his sarcasm and street smarts -- and that cool trick he does with the coin.

It's hard to talk about this book without giving away the secret, so I won't say more other than I really loved the story.  It pulled me in and made me forget the contemporary world existed.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger.  For other MMGM bloggers, see my new bloglist over on the right!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Class of 2K12 - An Interview with Katherine Longshore, author of GILT

GILT by Katherine Longshore (Viking/Penguin May 15, 2012, for ages 12 and up) 

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from Indiebound): 

In the court of King Henry VIII, nothing is free--
and love comes at the highest price of all.

When Kitty Tylney's best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII's heart and brings Kitty to court, she's thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat's shadow, Kitty's now caught between two men--the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat's meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

Why I liked it:  Besides all the fascinating court intrigue, gossip, flirtations, and dangerous secrets?  I really liked Kitty. She's a complex, well-rounded character.  Only a few chapters into the book, you feel you know her.  It's a long book, but well worth reading, and would be especially fun for a rainy weekend. Have some tea and chocolate and settle in for a while!

Katherine Longshore graciously agreed to answer a few questions today.

Class of 2K12  
Katherine's Blog (the YA Muses)

Welcome, Katherine! Do you outline before you write? If so, does it end up changing before you finish the first draft? What change surprised you the most?

I think I would like to outline before I write.  I didn’t with GILT, and suffered the consequences of many dead-end tangents.  But I had a strong concept of how I wanted the book to be presented.  It was a very stylized format.  And I found that I couldn’t write to that format.  The characters didn’t follow it, and it just didn’t fit my writing style.  So I dropped it long before I finished the first draft.

With the second book in the series, I submitted an outline for approval.  And went wildly off-track.  My character fell in love with completely the wrong guy, and the book is better for it.

That is so cool that your character took over and fell in love with a different guy!  I love that! How long did it take to go from the idea for the book to the draft your editor accepted? Was it months or years? Did you go through endless revisions, beta readers, etc, before starting the submission process? Did you ever want to pull out your hair?

I got the idea for GILT at least two years before I started writing it. I had been reading a lot of history, and wanted to write a different version of Henry's teenage Queen. Different from the slutty, fashion obsessed dimwit often presented. But I wasn't sure how I was going to go about it, and I was already writing a different book, so I put it on the back burner.

But then my concept for my middle grade novel tanked, and I turned eagerly to my new idea. Writing the book took about a year, including five revisions (cutting around 200 pages – I’m a total pantser and overwrite continually) and a round with beta readers, before I started querying agents.

With every draft, I want to pull out my hair at least ten times.  I suffer the throes of agony, moaning, “What made you ever think you could write a novel?”  And then I eat some chocolate, sit down, and keep writing.

Chocolate is always good!  Tell us a little about getting your agent. How many queries did you send out? How long did it take before you got an offer of representation?

I went about finding an agent by the book. I wrote and revised my novel, had a trusted group of writer friends read it, revised again, and wrote a query. I logged on to upon the advice of a friend, solicited names of agents from other friends, followed all of the guidelines, and hit send. My 1st query resulted in a request for a full from the one agent I had met in person. The next 10 resulted in rejections. But every time a rejection came in, I sent out another query, so I always had 6 to 10 queries out at a time. It took a couple of months before I got an offer, and even then I realized that was amazingly fast.  I was very fortunate to get offers from four amazing agents.  But something with Catherine Drayton just clicked.

Do you revise one novel while writing another? Or do you feel you need to write and revise one novel and get it as polished as possible before moving on to your shiny new idea?

Because of deadlines, I have to attempt to write one novel while revising another (or at least while waiting for edits), but I find it very difficult. It takes several days, or even weeks, to get into the rhythm of a new voice. I find it very hard to switch gears. I'm hoping this will get easier over time, and that I never let one voice bleed over into another novel.

Tell us what darling you had to kill that you really really wish you could have kept.

It took a long time for me to delete the scene in which the newly married Anne of Cleves makes her triumphant progress into London as Queen. I have a great fondness for Anne. She's probably the least noticed and most maligned wife of Henry VIII. Because he called her ugly and fat, she's been portrayed this way frequently throughout history. Of course we know that one person's opinion is not necessarily the truth, but there it is. I wanted to write a scene where Anne got the chance to shine. If only briefly.

The scene did not move the story forward, and reflected too closely a more important scene later on. So it had to go. But one day, I hope to write Anne again.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Katherine!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Giveaway Reminders -- and a Remarkable MMGM

Giveaway Reminders:  Don't forget you still have until Sunday night, May 13, to enter my giveaway for a signed hardcover copy of JAKE AND LILY by Jerry Spinelli!  Go to THIS POST to enter!

You also have until Thursday night May 17 to enter my giveaway for an arc of DEVINE INTERVENTION by Martha Brockenbrough.  Go to THIS POST to enter!

Now onto today's MMGM recommendation:

Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley (Dial, April 17, 2012, for ages 8 to 12)

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from Indiebound):

A wonderfully whimsical debut that proves ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

In the mountain town of Remarkable, everyone is extraordinarily talented, extraordinarily gifted, or just plain extraordinary. Everyone, that is, except Jane Doe, the most average ten-year-old who ever lived. But everything changes when the mischievous, downright criminal Grimlet twins enroll in Jane's school and a strange pirate captain appears in town.

Thus begins a series of adventures that put some of Remarkable's most infamous inhabitants and their long-held secrets in danger. It's up to Jane, in her own modest style, to come to the rescue and prove that she is capable of some rather exceptional things.

With a page-turning mystery and larger-than-life cast of characters, Lizzie K. Foley's debut is nothing short of remarkable.

Why I liked it:   The premise is great! This is wonderfully goofy and charming and the kind of book I would have loved as a kid.  There's a quirkiness reminiscent of Roald Dahl.  The town of Remarkable is populated by a collection of colorful characters.  Oh, and there are pirates!  Yes!   How Jane figures out what's really going on in Remarkable is, um, rather remarkable, and yet it all fits together.  A fun read.

What colorful, quirky characters have populated your favorite books?

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger.  For other regulars, please see my sidebar (and if you don't see your blog in there, please give me a nudge).

Friday, May 4, 2012

DEVINE INTERVENTION -- One hilarious and touching novel and a GIVEAWAY

No, that's not a typo.  It really says "DEVINE" Intervention.  Just ask Martha Brockenbrough, the queen of grammar.  She's the founder of National Grammar Day and SPOGG (The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar) and the author of Things That Make Us (Sic).   And now she's making her young adult debut with Devine Intervention, about a girl named Heidi Devine and her guardian angel.

Devine Intervention by Martha Brockenbrough (Arthur A Levine/Scholastic, June 1, 2012, for ages 12 and up)

Source: advanced reading copy from the publisher

Synopsis (from Indiebound): There is a great legend of the guardian angel who traveled across time and space for the human girl he loved, slaying those who would threaten her with a gleaming sword made of heavenly light.

This is not that story.

Jerome Hancock is Heidi Devine's guardian angel. Sort of. He's more of an angel trainee, in heaven's soul-rehabilitation program for wayward teens. And he's just about to get kicked out for having too many absences and for violating too many of the Ten Commandments for the Dead.

Heidi, meanwhile, is a high school junior who dreams of being an artist, but has been drafted onto her basketball team because she's taller than many a grown man. For as long as she can remember, she's heard a voice in her head - one that sings Lynyrd Skynyrd, offers up bad advice, and yet is company during those hours she feels most alone.

When the unthinkable happens, these two lost souls must figure out where they went wrong and whether they can make things right before Heidi's time is up and her soul is lost forever.

Martha Brockenbrough's debut novel is hilarious, heartbreaking, and hopeful, with a sense of humor that's wicked as hell, and writing that's just heavenly.

Why I liked it: One of the funniest and at the same time most touching YA novels I've come across in a long time.  Laugh-out-loud moments combined with truly heart-wrenching moments make this one unforgettable experience.  Honestly, this is one of those books you wish wouldn't have to end because you're having so much fun reading it.  Jerome is just plain goofy and yet endearing and sweet in his own way.  And yes, he has an arrow stuck in his head, he doesn't know what "discourse" means, and he's found a way to get around the rule of no swearing in heaven by substituting words like Chevy and flask. 

Heidi is serious and shy and isn't ready to die.  She's just been through a humiliating experience at the school talent show, and anyone who's ever survived high school knows what that's like.  Heidi and Jerome could easily become heaven's odd couple -- but the author surprises you with an unexpected turn of events.  Or several.

And since I enjoyed the heck out of this novel, I want to give away my arc, so someone else out there can enjoy it too, before the book pubs in June.  To enter, all you have to do is be a follower and comment on this post.  United States entries only (sorry!).  You must be at least 12 years old to enter.  This giveaway ends at 10 pm EDT on Thursday, May 17.  Winner to be announced on Friday May 18.