Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday: Best Book Read in September

Can you believe September is almost over? I can't. Maybe it's just me. Most of my month blogging-wise was taken over by three high-profile agent pitch contests: Cupid's Literary Connection's CAGI, Deanna Barnhart's Gearing Up to Get an Agent (GUTGAA) and Brenda Drake's Pitch Madness. While GUTGAA is still onging, the other contests earned me some agent interest (yay!) with half the agents requesting to read my full manuscript and the other half partials. One agent I found on twitter (lurking during Pitch Madness) said to pitch her and she asked for a full. Whoa! All that to say, if you are ready to dive into the agent query process for traditional publishing, keep up with the blogs mentioned since they offer opportunities like this.

Beyond that, it's Wednesday and time for YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday.

The topic today is: Favorite Book of September.

Image: Goodreads
This is the first month in probably a year or more that I only read a couple of books. It's partly due to spending more time writing and on the blog stuff mentioned above, and second I've also had a few health issues :/ BUT. I'm currently reading Gillian Flynn's GONE GIRL which is fantastic. I will probably finish it this weekend, because whenever I pick it up it's really tough to put down.

This is a current bestseller, and I can see why. The story is told from two alternating points of view: Nick, who in the present finds his wife has disappeared on their 5th anniversary, and his wife Amy, narrating through journal entries from the five or six years leading up to her disappearance. What's fascinating is the examination of their crumbling marriage from the differing POVs, and that neither narrator is entirely trustworthy. Something sinister is afoot, and it's unclear whether Nick is capable of hurting his wife, or if she mastered a plan on her own. Either way, I don't buy that she was kidnapped. I've been guessing the whole time.

Beyond the psychological thriller aspect, the writing is fabulous. Flynn wrote for Entertainment Weekly (for which I'm a long-time subscriber) and her knowledge of the industry and of the downfall of magazine publishing seeps through the pages in both obvious and unexpected ways. It's also darkly funny. I can't wait to finish this one.

How about you? What's the best book you've read this past month?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday

First: I wanted to announce the winner of my 200 follower contest is: Kelley!
Thanks for commenting Kelley. I'm sending out CATCHING JORDAN to you this week.


Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic is: In honor of this month's Bookmobile book, Marissa Meyer's CINDER, name a fable or story you'd like to see a retelling of. If you're feeling creative, come up with a premise of your own!

Road Trip Song of the Week: "A Dustland Fairytale" by The Killers

What a coincidence: my library has the audiobook of CINDER waiting for me to pick up. To be honest, I'm not crazy about fairy tales in general, but I've heard such great things about this book that I wanted to check it out for myself.

Like I said, I'm not super into fairy tales, but I've watched the recent fairy tale-themed TV shows. Last season I watched Once Upon a Time, and while it's at least different than a lot of current shows, I prefer the real life aspects of the show (Jennifer Morrison is awesome) over the hokey fairy tale parts. I think if I was a kid I'd love it, but now that I'm older it's tough to take seriously a wicked witch who acts like she's on a daytime soap opera. NBC's Grimm is pretty cool, it's edgier and less campy than Once, but I haven't kept up with that show as much. This fall, The CW is bringing back Beauty and the Beast starring Smallville's Kristen Kreuk (who played Lana Lang), so I'll check that one out for sure. Maybe it will be a fun show that hoepfully doesn't take itself too seriously. Maybe I can match it up with my other CW guilty pleasures: Hart of Dixie and The Vampire Diaries.
How about you? Do you have any favorite fairy tale retellings?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Review: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder
Ann Patchett
Adult Contemporary
Published: 2011

Image: Goodreads
I mainly post reviews of YA books since that's what I'm writing and I need to do plenty of research to know the market. I also read outside of YA, and State of Wonder is just the type of fiction I gravitate toward.

Dr. Marina Singh is by her employer to travel to the Amazon when one of her fellow scientists turns up missing during a research trip. He's reported dead, but given that her coworker left behind a wife and small children, Marina agrees to find out what happened, although with great reservation.

What follows is a vivid journey of hot, humid travel and deep self-discovery. Dr. Swenson, a highly-devoted researcher who was the last to see her coworker alive, is her reluctant and abrasive guide in the jungle. It turns out, Dr. Swenson is also the doctor Marina trained under, and who Marina blames for the reason she left her medical practice and turned to research.

The characters are deeply flawed but each searching for their own truth. There's a mystery in the jungle, not only with her colleagues disappearance, but with the drug her company is researching, which is for a potential fertility drug that could change the industry. In the midst of unraveling these truths, Marina also works through her own past hurts. Patchett is a fantastic writer. This is a great book if you like accessible literary fiction with a flair for mystery and travel.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering September 11, 2001

I'm the type who likes to reflect on events. If it's Memorial Day I read a story about a heroic soldier. With the September 11 attacks, for a few years I found it very difficult to rehash what had happened. After watching so much TV coverage and having that event take over for weeks and months, I didn't want to relive pictures of the burning towers. And I'm not even from New York.

As time went on, I started reading the stories. The experiences of first responders are heartbreaking, but incredibly inspiring. I wrote my reflections on 9/11 on the tenth anniversary last year.

Image: Wikimedia Commons
This past year, while writing my Young Adult historical novel set in 1963, it fascinated me how similar the 9/11 attacks were to President Kennedy's assassination. The shock and the horror people experienced, and how the nation came together in mourning. One of the best sources I found was an archived TV Guide article (thank you to the host site for posting) written just two months after the assassination, which detailed how the event unfolded on television. The JFK shooting was one of the first national tragedies broadcast live as it happened. The shooting itself didn't air live, but everything from then on: Jackie Kennedy standing stoic in her pink suit as VP Lyndon Johnson was sworn in on Airforce One, the funeral, and lots of air time devoted to citizen's reactions. Exhaustive analysis dissected every new bit of information, much like how 24-hour cable news channels operate today. Only a handful of channels existed then, and all of them aired assassination coverage. Even Oswald's shooting was captured live, which is quite terrifying to imagine. Almost like watching that second plane hit the World Trade Center eleven years ago.

The widespread coverage is probably why people like me in the Midwest, who lived  nowhere near the attacks in New York (or the Pentagon or Pennsylvania where the fourth plane crashed), felt so connected to the tragedy. We watched it unfold, the horror of it all, on television and online. An attack like that cannot be forgotten, and with it, the images of crumbling towers, people flooding the streets, and firefighters, police and regular citizens covered in dust and debris, unconcerned with themselves in order to save someone else's life. The images of heroism are what I choose to remember, along with how our nation truly felt united--although sadly by tragedy--for a few solid weeks.

Are you observing the 9/11 attacks in any way? Have you come across an inspiring reflection or article? Please share if you have.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Round Up + 200 Follower Giveaway

Friday Friday Friday! Are you as energized by September and the upcoming fall season as I am? Even though school semesters no longer define my life, I've always looked forward to fall. 

Deana Barnhart

Thanks to everyone who visited my blog this week for Deanna Barnhart's Gearing Up to Get an Agent (GUTGAA) blog extravaganza. Thanks to you, I crossed 200 followers! I've really enjoyed connecting with so many friendly and inspiring writers.

To show my thanks, I'm hosting a giveaway! I have a shiny new signed copy of CATCHING JORDAN by Miranda Kenneally.
image: Goodreads
Here's your chance to read this before her second book comes out next month: STEALING PARKER, which isn't technically a sequel but takes place in the same story universe. See the end of this post for the entry form.

Besides GUTGAA, I threw my pitch in for Brenda Drake's Pitch Madness and also sent forth an entry for Cupid's Literary Connection's Come and Get It (CAGI) contest. These host bloggers really make a difference for a lot of writers aspiring to be published. Please check them out and show some comment love!

Writing Contest Opportunity!

To all you writers looking for feedback on your work and hoping to land an agent, please consider submitting your work to my Romance Writers of America chapter's Four Seasons contest (deadline Sept. 15). Your story needs to have some romantic aspect to it, for Young Adult the romance can be more secondary. Your entry will be read by at least one published author (there are some great ones in the chapter), and finalists will be read by an agent AND an editor familiar with each category. The YA agent is Sara Megibow, who's a pretty big name (and Miranda Kenneally's agent). I would so enter this contest if I could!

A fee is required for entering, which can deter some people. Let me share this: I've entered two RWA contests this year and was impressed by the detailed feedback sheets I received from the judges. For the second contest I entered, I finaled and am waiting on results. That feels good! Finaling (and winning) contests are great to add to your agent query letter, especially if you are low on writing credentials. The fee goes directly to the chapter so they can continue to host events like this to give writers access to the publishing industry.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book Review: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Kirsten Hubbard
YA Contemporary
Published: May 2012

Image: Goodreads
Does a book ever excite you so much that by page 2 you start making a list of everyone you want to share it with? For me, Wanderlove is that book. The voice practically leaped from the pages and sucked me in. This is a great read to wind down the end of summer.

Bria just graduated from high school and booked a trip to explore Guatemala with a tour group. She intends to get over her ex-boyfriend Toby and create new and empowering experiences for herself. The trouble is, Bria gets in her own way. She's pretty down about herself early on, having struggled with what is slowly revealed to have been an emotionally abusive relationship with Toby. She gives up her art, and the idea of art school, when Toby's competitive nature essentially shames her into taking a backseat to him, and she no longer feels she has her own identity. Her parents don't understand her, and her two best friends think she's using her trip to escape rather than to deal with life.

But Wanderlove isn't all gloomy introspection. Bria is an optimistic, life-loving girl, who just needs to find herself. She discovers her tour group is more in tune with the over-50 crowd which makes her feel like even more of an outcast, and she longs for a more spontaneous, culture-invasive experience among the vagabond backpackers she sees in the first days of her trip.

Bria meets brother and sister duo Starling and Rowan who have been travelling through Central and South America for several years. She ditches her tour group, ready to soak up the backpacker experience. Along the way, she tentatively sketches, although she's afraid to embrace her artistic inclinations because of the hurt she experienced with Toby. Starling and Rowan take her to remote small islands and bustling hostels. As much as she enjoys traveling with them, both are secretive, especially Rowan. He mentions a troubled past, but makes Bria promise not to ask, and in return, he won't ask what she's really running from.

I loved how Bria's personal journey matched so well with her travels. The book even features sketches from Bria's book, drawn by the author. This is an example of how great YA literature can be -- it's fun, but intimate. The writing is top notch, and the characters are so likeable, even though they struggle with liking themselves. I highly recommend Wanderlove to any fans of YA, travel and self discovery.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gearing Up to get an Agent: Meet and Greet

Deana Barnhart

Good morning bloggers! Happy Labor Day to everyone in the U.S. Hopefully you're all sleeping in and getting in a final cookout before summer ends.

September kicks of Gearing Up to get an Agent (GUTGAA) over on Deana Barnhart's blog, a blog hop and contest opportunity for those of us trying to get our work published. Today starts with a meet and greet for the participating bloggers. You can see a brief bio to the right. My current work is Young Adult historical set in the 1960s, and future projects are all YA Contemporary, where my heart lies. 

Meet and Greet!

Where do you write?
On the couch with my laptop and usually a kitty or my husband nearby. Sometimes I send myself lines in an email or a text depending on where I am and what I'm doing.

Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
My cat: Mitch
A kitty or a space on the couch full of fur where the kitty sits. 

Favorite time to write?
I love it when I can block off a whole Saturday, but if I can get some work done early Saturday I feel like I've accomplished something.

Drink of choice while writing?
Usually just water, or else herbal tea.

When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
I accomplish much more with silence. Sometimes I don't realize I've been sitting in silence until an hour goes by. I've been known to queue up Netflix while I work; I watched the entire Felicity and Gilmore Girls series primarily while writing.

What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
Image: Wikimedia Commons
My story THE ASTRONAUT'S DAUGHTER is YA set during the space race era of the 1960s. Last year when the space shuttle program ended, I was amazed to hear serious discussion about privatizing space travel. Just 50-60 years ago rockets were volatile death traps! I started thinking about the early astronauts and what that must of been like for the families. Setting my story in 1963 meant I could show the fame and fortune the astronaut families experienced, along with the contrasting civil rights movement, and of course, the Kennedy assassination. What would it have been like for the daughter of an astronaut to go through all of this -- sudden popularity, changing worldviews and threats to her father's safety? 

What's your most valuable writing tip?
READ. Know the genre you're writing in as well as you can, but still take time to read outside of it. Ninety percent of my reading over the past two years has been YA because my story is, but I make sure I read books outside of YA.

See below for the other blogs involved: