Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Recommendation: Candor

Pam Bachorz
Pages: 272
Ages: 14+

Oscar Banks is perfect. Straight A's, community service advocate, all-around model citizen. Just like every other high schooler in Candor.  Which is why a slot in the model community is in such demand by parents of troubled teens. 

What people don't know is that in Candor, you are what you hear.

Candor is definitely one of my favorite recent reads. In the vein of Megan McCafferty's Bumped, it's one of those books that gets under your skin. Primarily, I was drawn in by the premise: a planned community where teens are brainwashed by the town founder through subliminal messaging.  The founder's son, meanwhile, spends his days and nights trying to fight the brainwashing with messages of his own ... while making somewhat shady business deals on the side. I will say that I would have loved to see the concept and the relationships developed quite a bit further. I know there's no sequel, but I would have liked one! I felt like the book ended just when I wanted more. 

Candor was a fast-paced read. Nearly impossible to put down (I technically did, but only because I had to get off an airplane)! The characters were well-layered, and I found it fascinating to watch them struggle to bend the 'Messages' to their own free will. 

Sometimes it was difficult to like the characters: Oscar - arrogant, underhanded, and selfish. Nia (love interest) - somewhat standard quirky-artist type, rebellious, promiscuous ... and then of course the brainwashed masses of Candor High. But the fact that they were difficult to like made them all the more real, and re-emphasized the extent to which they were products of their own environment. 

Books like Candor:

Similar mind-games themes: Maze Runner by James Dashner, Insignia by S.J. Kincaid, Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore, Forgotten by Cat Patrick

Similar voice: Feed by MT Anderson, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Want more book suggestions? See my other Book Recommendations.

But you don't have to take my word for it
Need some more convincing? Check out reviews of Candor from Don't Take my Books Away, Lucid Conspiracy, and Eating YA Books

Friday, June 1, 2012

Book Recommendation: Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

This book is nothing
like it's cover!
Beth Fantaskey
Pages: 368
Ages: 14+

Jessica's in 4H, never been kissed, and, oh yeah - she just found out she's a vampire. And not just a backwoods Pennsylvania variety vampire ... but a vampire princess,  complete with arranged marriage to extremely handsome, stuck-up, and selfish Romanian vampire clan prince. 

So I have a confession. I never really jumped on the vampire crazy-bus (stretch-hearse?) when it came roaring through a few years back. I didn't much like vampire tales going in, and I liked them even less after my brief time dabbling in the sub-genre. One huge exception for me however, was the 
Parasol Protectorate series--which if you've been following me long, you know I adore and can't wait for the YA series to be released in 2013!!

But now folks, I'm proud to announce, I have discovered another exception to my no-vampires policy! Like the the Parasol Protectorate, Beth Fantaskey's
Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side takes at once a more humorous - and arguably also darker - look at the vampire world. 

And I loved it. 

This book had me giggling constantly. And the best part? The author wanted me to. 

Cause don't get me wrong, I've laughed at pretty much every vampire book I've read, but I don't think I was supposed to. 

Jessica's Guide, we open on everyday life for smart, slightly geeky/slightly horsey Jessica Packwood who quickly crosses paths with the debonair and ridiculously obvious vampire Lucius Vladescu. She stabs him in the foot with a pitchfork, he comes to live in the spare apartment at her vegan parents' house and enrolls in her school. Hilarity ensues. As it progresses the book takes a more serious turn, and there are things I question about Jessica's decisions, but all in all it was a very satisfying read - funny, and with more substance than many of the vampire tales I've read. 

I know I'm really late to the party on this one, but after hearing so many great things, I finally picked it up (I'm so glad I did!) And with so many reviews for the sequel (Jessica Rules the Dark Side) bouncing around the interwebs these days, I figured there might still be folks out there like me who might interested in hearing about book one!

Books like Jessica's GuideParanormalcy by Kiersten White, Rampant by Diana Peterfreund, Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare, The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger

Want more book suggestions? See my other Book Recommendations.

But you don't have to take my word for it
Need some more convincing? Check out the reviews of Jessica's Guide at The Feminist Fairy Tale Reviews or The Girl in the Cafe

Monday, May 28, 2012

Is distinctive voice always a good thing?

Obnoxious Distinctive Pinkie Pie
The other day, I talked about books that hooked me from page one. Why did they hook me? The same reason, every time: Voice. A well developed voice (be it author or narrator) is what grips the reader from the first paragraph and refuses to let go. Which of course is why authors crave it and why agents scream for it.

Voice is great. Distinctive voice, better. Really distinctive voice, best. Right?

From a reader's perspective I'd argue: not always.

Voice can be an instant turn-off for me. Particularly narrator voice. If I find a main character annoying, chances are I'm simply never going to like the book. In fact, I'm probably going to put it down right then and there. If I do keep going because I feel I have to, it's going to feel ... like I have to. It was that beautiful-much-sought-after-by-writers distinctive voice which suddenly made reading a chore. By developing an (overly?) distinctive voice for the main character, the author narrowed the audience for their book, excluding me. In that case, I'd much rather read a book with less voice, but killer characters, premise, and plot. But maybe I'm crazy?!?

What do you think about voice? Is distinctive voice always a good thing?
Can voice land you an agent, but limit your audience?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Literary Agencies that Represent YA & MG Sci-Fi, Fantasy

We heart literary agents!
Looking for a lit agent can be tough. Places like QueryTracker, AgentQuery, and Manuscript Wish List are amazing resources. But it can still be a challenge to find an agency with agents that represent both the genre and age category you're writing for.

So, here is a list I compiled of 200+ literary agencies with agents that represent YA or MG speculative fiction.

Hope this helps some of you on your querying journey!

Note that I've just listed the agencies here. Some have one agent who reps YA or MG SFF, some have multiple agents who do. Hopefully with a bit more sleuthing you can find the agent that's the right fit for your project.

This was last added to in April 2019, last link-checked Jan 2013. 
Agency preferences are subject to change.

Please check the agency guidelines before submitting!!

Literary Agencies that Represent
YA or MG Fantasy & Science Fiction

I've tried to screen these to the best of my ability, however, there are some newer agencies on the list. Always, always do your research before submitting! Make sure you submit to a reputable agent!

The table below contains two tabs: YA and MG. You'll need to toggle over if you want to see the MG list. (Here is a link to the actual spreadsheet)

*If agency name is followed by an asterisk, they rep YA, or MG but didn't specify if they'll take speculative YA
Last Addition: April 2019
Last Complete Check: Jan 2013

NOTE: If you can't get the scroll bar to work, try these work-arounds:
(1) Click on the chart, then use page-up/page-down keyboard commands
(2) Click on the white space toward the bottom of the scrollbar to scroll down. 
Dragging the grey bar seems to work to scroll it back up

Other Resources: Query Resource Roundup || Query Tracker || Manuscript Wish List || Agent Query || Literary Rambles: Agents who rep  YA  MG  PB || Publisher's Marketplace || My List of Links to Agent Interviews || Association of Authors' Representatives || Published To Death || List of Agent Blogs || Agents Looking for SFF Writers compiled by Erica Verillo.

This post was inspired by Amanda over at It's all in my Head. Thanks Amanda!

Also check out the Contest List and Pitch Factory if you're interested in entering an agent-judged contest as an alternative to querying!

Got any more agencies to add?

If any of you know of any other agencies that have agents who represent Young Adult fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal/dystopia etc, let me know and I can add them to the list! Also if you notice any errors or misrepresentations, please let me know so I can correct them!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Recommendation: Bitterblue

Kristin Cashore
Pages: 576
Ages: 14+

Leck has been gone for eight years, but his kingdom is still suffering in the aftermath of his insane rule. Now his daughter, Bitterblue, is queen of Monsea, and the palace is determined to push the past behind them and start anew. But after years on end buried in court decisions and paperwork, Bitterblue begins to question the sanity of her advisers, and wonders if anything is really being done to heal the city. Disguising herself as a commoner, she creeps out into the city after nightfall and begins to get a glimpse of just how much her father took from those beneath him. To truly heal the city, she needs to uncover the secrets of her father's past, if she can bear to search for them. 

Bitterblue was a, yes, bittersweet conclusion to the Seven Kingdoms series.  While reading the other books might help, and many of the characters make guest-appearances, this volume was really stand-alone. I loved it just as much as the other two, though in a very different way. Where Graceling and Fire were action-packed, this book took place primarily in the castle. Cashore did a brilliant job (as always) in bringing the reader right alongside the main character. You could feel Bitterblue's frustration at how little she understood, and her and longing to be free from the confines of the castle, but all the while knowing she needs to do something to heal the wounds her father left. The book is more political and a little darker, perhaps, than the others -- of course, given that the main character is devoted to uncovering Leck's past, you couldn't expect it to be light. Bitterblue is a castle-full of intrigue, heartbreak, and deciphering, and a great cross-over for lovers of mystery who'd like to ease into high fantasy. Highly recommended!

 (and Ms. Cashore, I really hope there are more books with Bitterblue - love this heroine!)

Want more book suggestions? See my other Book Recommendations.

But you don't have to take my word for it
Need some more convincing? Check out the reviews of Bitterblue at Reading Teen,  Almost Grown Up, and Anna Reads.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Non-Bookish Blogs/Sites

This week's Top 10 topic was a bit of a stretch for me. I'm super lame and with the exception of an apparently incurable obsession with Pinterest, I really don't browse the internet for fun all that much. I don't even get on Facebook unless I have to. I know, *gasp* right? Which is why I'm super excited to see what all of you have put for the Broke and the Bookish's Top 10 this week. Maybe I'll get some procrastination inspiration!

Top 10 Blogs/Sites that aren't about Books:
Now, I also excluded myself from including blogs about writing books because I figured (a) that is cheating and (b) they would take over the whole list.

Just For Fun
These are my go-tos when I need a little dose of fun. Or just a little more bizarrity in my life.

PhD Comics
Sometimes these comics portray my life a little too accurately. But in a strange way it does help to know that all around the globe, fellow grad students are laughing at my/our plight.

This is one of my new bloggy faves. The stuff on here is just so awesomely all over the place. For example, did you know that Nestle owns Ralph Lauren? That some people make chairs out of magnets, plastic and iron filings? Or perhaps you've really been wanting an origami ukulele kit?

So I don't often click on reddit posts, but they're is fun to keep on my igoogle page, if even just to see the  currently trending titles.

I know it looks like a book.
It is, but it's also a blog!
Ok, these sound all newsy and "educational", which usually means boring ... but really I do love them. Even Google Scholar, which I've been spending far too much time with lately due to my hideous lit review.

"Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of violent crime?" 
-- find out on this blog/in the book

A great blog from the NY times with all sorts of breakdowns of economic/sociological/psychological phenomena.

My favorite news site ever!

Google Scholar
Oh darling Google Scholar. I can hardly remember the days before you were an ever-open tab on my browser. Now, there's always one more peer-reviewed journal article that needs reading.

I also like to make things out of other things. Preferably involving twigs, yarn, paints, fabric, old clothing, or all five.

You knew it was coming, I mean who doesn't have Pinterest on their list this week? If they don't, they're lying. We all know they spend at least 4 hours a day on there pinning and re-pinning away.
I guess it's also cheating that I put this on here, because I do use this to collect images to inspire my WIPs. But I'm ok with cheating. I mean it's Pinterest.

Oh She Glows
So I love finding new recipes, particularly vegan ones, and this girl is the queen of veganizing. Love her concoctions. Also check out Bryant Terry!

This site is a great source of inspiration for all things handmade. And if you want to see some really cute wool ornaments/toys, check out my friend's site: Bossy Feltworks. Also for awesome vintage, you should drop by Meat Market Vintage ... they used to have an Etsy, but now it looks like they're flying solo!

** I also suspect that tumblr will be making a stronger appearance in my life in the near future.

What are your favorite non book related blogs/websites?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

You had me at hello : Books that Hooked

The first 'big-kid' book I ever owned was Little Women (thanks Nan!). Inside, the lady that gave it to me pasted a sticker that read: 

         Books fall open, you fall in.

My whole life, this has been so true: I don't just read books, I devour them. I lose myself in them. 

Or it was true. Don't get me wrong, I still love to immerse myself in a story - and I try to do so on a regular basis - but the fact of the matter is that it takes more to hook me than it used to. So I love it when I find a book that just grabs me from page one.
Here are a few recent reads that 'had me at hello':

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos - R.L. LaFevers
I usually read YA, not MG, but oh the snarkiness of this protag! I adored her!

Circle Nine - Anne Heltzel
This one sucked me in by the beautifully confusing chaos of its MC's mind. I couldn't put it down because I had to figure out what the heck was going on.

Shiver - Maggie Stiefvater
In the post-Twilight years, I was so skeptical of werewolf stories. But reading Ms. Stiefvater was such a lovely experience.

The Iron Thorn - Caitlin Kitteridge
I mean how can you not be hooked with an opener like: "There are seventeen madhouses in the city of Lovecraft. I've visited all of them." ?!?? Answer: you can't - you must read on!

Of course that's just a few books. There are so many others that could populate this list... Chime by Franny Billingsley, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Soulless by Gail Carriger, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Bumped by Megan McCafferty, Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen, The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale etc...

So what is it that hooks?
Looking back at all of these examples, it's the voice that grabs me. The distinctive attitude of the narrator, the lyricism of the author, the flavor of the story. I might not have heard anything about the novel or feel sort of "meh" about the description on the dust jacket, but if the voice grabs me, I'm gone.

Have you had any 'had me at hello' reads recently? Which books hooked you from the very start? What are your favorite first chapters/first lines? Is it the voice that hooks you too? Or something else?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Getting to know you (aka agent-stalking)

I'm not stalking ... just curious
Hopping on the query train is a scary thing for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that you're looking for more than just someone who thinks you have potential and therefore will try and fix/sell your work. In many ways, you're looking for a partner ... as Anne would say: 'a kindred spirit.'

You've made your spreadsheet, with all the names of potential agents, and the work they've repped in the past, some of it (hopefully) somewhat in the same literary universe as yours. You've read at least one or two or twenty of the novels they've represented. You've got some sort of rating system where by  gut instinct use of an elaborate algorithm derived from years of research, you've determined your exact agent-writer matchability score. But then you start to personalize your query letters and you panic. 'How well do I really know this agent? Are we really the best fit? What are their pet peeves? What do they like to see in a query letter and what don't they? Do they like a personalized intro first or the pitch first? Is this book right for them right now? Will they even like me??'

Interwebs to the Rescue!  -- Agent Interviews
Thankfully the internet is a beautiful place, and much of this information is right at our fingertips. In addition to QueryTracker, Agent Query, Publisher's Marketplace, there are all sorts of places to find transcripts of interviews where agents dish on their likes/dislikes and generally provide all sorts of useful insight for the nervous querier. Here are some of the best sites I've found for agent interviews:
Haunting author blogs and twitter feeds are also great ways to get to know your potential future agent. And remember, it's not stalking, it's research! ; )

What about you?  What are your tips for researching literary agents? How do you personalize your queries? Have you ever launched an agent to the top of your list based on the personality you've seen shine through in blogs posts or interviews?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Passing on the writerly love!

What an awarding week! I've been slogging through a massively unwieldy literature review for my dissertation and it's been ugh, just ... sloggish. Thankfully, the folks over at Bookshelf Muse have dubbed this Random Acts of Kindness to Writers Week and I'm definitely feeling the love.  I adore the online writing community - you guys are the best!! So now it's time for me to pass on the love with some awards! All these bloggers have awesome writing blogs. If you haven't checked them out yet, you should!

Thanks Randi Lee at the Emotional Process of Writing  a Novel, A.K. Fontinos-Hoyer , Katharina Brendel at My Writing Journey, Liz Parker at the English Bad Ass and Charity at This is Life for making my week a little brighter with these sweet awards!

I'm awarding the Kreativ Blogger Award to:

Sydney Aaliyah // Tonya at Tonya's Musings // Miss Cole Seeks Publisher // Alisia Leavitt  // Robin Writes//Melanie at Daydreamer to Writer  // Donelle at a Little Dversion 

And I'm awarding the Sunshine Award to:

Amy at Limey YA Lit Girl
// Skye at Write or Die Trying  // Laura at Stranger than Writing // Elodie at CommutingGirl  // Kate Scott Writes // Christina G. Gaudet // Aderyn Wood // Mandie Baxter //Danica's Writing Corner  // Stephanie at My Personal Fairytale 

For more details on the awards, read onwards!!

Kreativ Blogger Award

Randi Lee at the Emotional Process of Writing  a NovelLiz Parker at the English Bad Ass  and A.K. Fontinos-Hoyer  awarded me with the Kreativ blogger award, which I'm totally flattered by, because they have AWESOME writer blogs. Seriously, if you haven't checked them out, you need to!!

How the Kreativ Blogger Award works is this: (1) Answer the 10 questions below, (2) Share 10 random facts about you, and (3) Nominate 7 other bloggers for the award! So without further ado:

Ten Questions:

1. What is your favorite song? At this precise moment I really like Bronte by Gotye, and also the anime video that goes with it. 
2. What is your favorite dessert? Anything smothered in chocolate.
3. What ticks you off? People who drive really fast through roundabouts, either completely oblivious to or not caring that I am walking on the crosswalk.
4. What do you do when you're upset? Yeah, I go ahead and cry. But I also do this when happy, sad, embarrassed, joyful, hungry ... I'm not emotionally prejudiced. Tears can be for any occasion.
5. Which is/was your favorite pet? My favorite future pet would be a chicken or goat, especially if I learn how to make goat cheese.
6. Which do you prefer, black or white? Black, no question. White never stays white anyway. 
7.What is your biggest fear? Hmm ... well I really would rather not see one of those freaky spiders they apparently have here in Australia. You know, like the kind that eat snakes.
8. What is your attitude mostly? Frantic. Is that an attitude? 
9.What is perfection? A day spent discovering new things (preferably at the ocean or on windy, cobbly streets), and then coming home to my husband, a cup of tea and a book.
10. What is your guilty pleasure? **see favorite dessert**

Ten random facts about me: 
1. When I was younger used to write with no spaces between words. Asyoucanimagineitwasverydifficulttodecipher.
2. Sometimes I wish I could be a little kid again so that I could wear costumes, climb trees, and build forts without people looking at me funny. 
3. 95% of my clothes I buy used.
4. I always wake up before 6am.
5. If I don't eat something right away in the morning, I get very grumpy. 
6. When I get very grumpy, nothing sounds good to eat. 
7. I've been a vegetarian since I was 15. 
8. TV shows usually annoy me because I feel like I'm wasting my time -- I'm recovering from this, sort of.
9. I can't bear to waste my time. 
10. I once drove all night so that I could get to a certain beach in time for low tide (Unlike watching TV, I did not consider this a waste of my time).

Sunshine Award
I received this lovely award from Katharina Brendel at My Writing Journey and Charity at This is LifeIf you haven't checked out their blogs yet, you should definitely hop on over!For the Sunshine award, answer the ten questions below post ten random facts about yourself, and then pass the award on to ten other bloggers!

The Ten Questions:

1. Pantser or Plotter?
I'm more of a pantser I suppose ... well no, that's a lie. I'm more of a plotter, but I don't necessarily plot conventionally and I never follow my own advice anyway.
2. Do you listen to music while writing? Yes, but only instrumental music. Never classical, unless I'm writing an epic battle scene, but instrumental. Right now I'm listening to Nightmares on Wax.
3. What genre do you write in? Fantasy, dystopian, and my next WIP is going to be a bit steampunky I think.
4. Books on writing you recommend? I can't think of any off the top of my head.
5. Which are your favorite authors? This is an impossible question for me! when I was growing up, Madeline L'Engle, L.M. Montgomery, C.S. Lewis. Now there are so many to add to the list I couldn't even begin!
6. How long have you been writing? I think my first "book" was when I was eight. It was fifty pages, and its protagonist was "Annamarie" who was the daughter of a woodcutter. I think I wrote short stories before that though.
7. What is your favorite part of the writing process? I love it all, except when I doubt myself.
8. How do you capture ideas when you are on the go? I always try to keep a notebook or at least a scrap of paper on me.
9. How do you handle bad reviews? I try to distance myself from them and think of them more academically. Sometimes the reviews say more about the audience/reader than the work. But sometimes/most times they actually can provide really valuable feedback for me on how to improve my writing, and that's great!
10. Worst writing mistake you make: Using "was" ... I think my dissertation writing is affecting my other writing!

For the ten random things, I'm going to cheat and refer you to the list above!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Things I learned from my mom

In celebration of Mother's Day I blogged on my other blog today:  Things I learned from my mom.

Feel free to hop on over and check it out!

(and if you're my Mom - click on that link up there! It's my other blog, not this one. I might have told you the wrong one!)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Book Quotes

Visit the Broke and the Bookish!
This week's Top Ten Tuesday question at the Broke and The Bookish asks:

What are your Top 10 Favorite Quotes from Books?

I was so excited when I saw today's topic. Some of the quotes popped into my head the instant I read the question. Others are from books/authors that I love as a whole, and it was painful to try and just pick just one excerpt. But I did it! Hope you enjoy!

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
      - A Poem by Bilbo Baggins
         in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring

"It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." - Albus Dumbledore in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

“Some beautiful morning she will just wake up and find it is Tomorrow. Not Today but Tomorrow. And then things will happen…wonderful things.” - Anne Shirley in L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Windy Poplars

“The minute we begin to think we have all the answers, we forget the questions.”― Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet

“The world isn't just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn't that make life a story?” ― Yann Martel, Life of Pi

“I know that the whole point—the only point—is to find the things that matter, and hold on to them, and fight for them, and refuse to let them go.” - Lauren Oliver, Delirium

“There were two things about Mama. One is she always expected the best out of me. And the other is that then no matter what I did, whatever I came home with, she acted like it was the moon I had just hung up in the sky and plugged in all the stars. Like I was that good.” ― Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees

Never promise to do the possible. Anyone could do the possible. You should promise to do the impossible because sometimes the impossible was possible. And if you failed, well, it had been impossible. - Terry Prachett, Going Postal

"A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge." - Tyrion Lannister in George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones

“Do you realise modern social mores exist for a reason?"
"I was hungry, allowances should be made.” 
― Gail Carriger's Soulless

What are your favorite book quotes?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Book Recommendation: Insurgent

Veronica Roth
Pages: 544
Ages: 14+

After what happened, nothing could ever be the same for Tris. And it isn't. Torn with guilt for what she's done, and sorrow at those she's lost, Tris tries desperately to find new purpose and meaning in a world where factions are crumbling, alliances are shifting, and the city is devolving into chaos. But will her search for the truth drive her further from those she loves?

Even more so than Divergent, Insurgent is an action-filled page-turner. Tris and the rest of the "loyal" Dauntless are on the run, desperately trying to stay one step ahead of their pursuers while developing a plan to take back the city and avenge those from Abnegation.

I loved that Tris' character got even more complex in this book. She pushes back emotions that you want her to confront, she reacts in ways that you see will hurt her in the long run. Much of the story explored the nuances of being influenced by the different factions, and I found it disturbing and wholly fascinating. Tris lost some sympathy from me in this book, but I actually love the story all the more for it.  Definitely a favorite for 2012!


One thing I will say to those of you who haven't read it yet: Re-read Divergent before diving in. I didn't, and since it had been so long, I got quite lost in the cast of characters. There are a LOT of secondaries in this book, and I felt I didn't get enough time with any one of them to really remember the whole of who they were. So do re-read Divergent (or check out Veronica Roth's "But I read Divergent a year ago!" -- thanks Crystal for pointing this out)

For more Divergent/Insurgent fun, take this quiz to see what faction you are. As I suspected, I was Amity. If I had to choose, I think I would pick Amity, Erudite, or Divergent (obviously)!

Want more book suggestions? See my other Book Recommendations.

But you don't have to take my word for it
Need some more convincing? Check out the reviews of Insurgent at The Pretty Books, It's All in my Head, and the very lengthy review at Reading Teen.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Novel Editing Part III: Them's Cuttin' Words

Ok, so can you tell by the uncharacteristic twang of my title, that I've been watching a lot of Firefly lately? (P.S.: Best. Show. Ever.)

But to the topic of my post ... I already talked about my attempts to reduce my WIP's word count by Chainsaw and by Pruning Shears, but today I wanted to talk about specific words that are overused and/or unnecessary. How do you get rid of 'em? Easy! Carve them out, one by one.

The Scalpel

We've all seen the lists. Five overused words! Top Ten words to carve from your novel! Comprehensive-overwhelming-list-of-words-you-need-to-cut!

So I sat down, and I did it. It was the most painful part of the process by far. Cutting the big stuff? Characters, scenes? Easy! Tightening up sentences and paragraphs? So fun! Trying to cut specific, commonly overused words? Torture! Here's what I learned.

  • Cutting overused words did improve my novel.
  • It did not reduce word count!!
  • Some words are super easy to cut, others required a total re-write of sentences or paragraphs.

Shallow Cuts, aka The Easy List:
These, are my faves.You can fly through these ones, often (but not always) with very little re-writing. While they're part of everyday speech, you can often cut them out of a sentence without changing its meaning. Here your word processor's "Find" feature is invaluable. Does the sentence read all right without the word? Great!
Find. Highlight. Delete!

  • Almost, about, around, approximately, basically, nearly
  • Back 
  • Just
  • Then
  • That
  • Very, really, truly, actually, exactly, utterly
  • Somewhat, somehow, sort of
  • Little, (a/little) bit, all
  • Adverbs (do you really need that adverb?)
  • She noticed/saw/looked (the reader knows if it's described, it's the MC who saw it)
A Little Deeper:
These get trickier. You probably will need to replace or re-write, not just cut.
  • Like
    • Is it for a simile? Is your WIP overrun by similes??
    • "Felt like" "seemed like"? The verbs might be able to stand on their own (but these are kinda weak verbs ...)
    • Other possible replacements: same as, this way, about 
  • "The [Subject] was [Verb]ing"
    • This is actually an easy one. Just replace with: "The [Subject] [Verb]ed"
      For example: "She was dancing" changes to "She danced."

Brain Surgery:
Maybe it's just me, but editing for these overused and otherwise problematic phrases was often painful, and sometimes resulted in reworking entire paragraphs to accommodate the revisions. The end result was satisfying, but the process was loooong.
  • It was/There was
    While this sort of construction can be used to add emphasis to the sentence, overuse diminishes that power, and makes the writing sound a bit stuffy. The problem is there are lots of different reasons that you might have used it.
    • She/he/it was + [adjective]
      Use action, feelings, dialogue, or body language to convey the message. For example:
      "She was tired" could easily be conveyed by saying:
         >> Her arms drooped.
         >> She considered another shot of espresso.
         >> "Please tell me this shift is almost over."
    • She/he/it was + [location]
      People, and even objects don't always just have to be there. They sit, sprawl, spread, sway, stand, lay, hang, dangle, perch ... etc. 
    • Was it too passive?
      This can be a trickier fix, but too many instances of "was" might mean you're slipping into the passive voice. Passive sentences aren't always bad, but too many can be distracting.
  • Suddenly
    While overused, taking "suddenly" out of a sentence can leave it sounding too flat. Unfortunately, reworking can be a pain. I find I'm left with a few options:
    • Show the characters' reaction to the event (check out the Emotion Thesaurus' Surprise section)
    • Provide a longer lead-in to the event, then describe the event in more dramatic detail.
    • Leave in the suddenly. Cause face it - some things happen suddenly!

Your Own Personally Overused Words:
Everyone writes differently. The words I overuse may not be the ones you overuse. How can you spot these in your own work? It's difficult to do on your own. Betas/critters can help, but if you need some instant computerized feedback, these resources can be invaluable at helping you spot problem areas:

Other Great Resources on Overused Words:
Janice Hardy - Spit n' Shine || Rachelle Gardner - How to Cut 1000 words || Vampire Words || AK - Just & Other Words that Plague 1st Drafts || Overused Adverbs, Adjectives || Overused Words || Peggy Edelman - Wordle Underrated || How Do You Know When Your Manuscript is Ready? || Words that can weaken sentences ||

What words or phrases do you think authors overuse? Which words show up too often in your own work? What tips do you have to make this part of the editing process less painful?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

When Writing's a Chore: Things I Do To Trick Myself

Do you ever have those days where writing feels like a chore?

I'm having one of those days. Not with my WIP actually, but a journal article I'm supposed to be writing for my PhD. After working so hard on editing my book, I got a serious case of writer burn-out. I'd sit down in my chair, and my mouse (all on its own of course) would move away from the journal article and click on my email, my blog feed, my pinterest, some random/awesome website comparing U.S. Politicians to Game of Thrones characters . . . anyway, you get the picture. And then I remembered: Do one of those things to trick yourself into thinking you want to write!

Change of Scenery: 
This doesn't necessarily mean I pack up and head for a coffee-shop, though that's great too (Sidenote: I wish there were more coffee shops set up for that in Australia - in my mind it's the country's only major shortcoming). What I often end up doing is moving from the desk to the couch or the bedroom. Often that can snap me out of whatever I was doing and into "Girl, Focus!" mode.

Change of Clothes: Ok, so growing up I lived in dress-up clothes. There was a new outfit for every mood, or sometimes every song if I was listening to music! Now, if I'm feeling unmotivated to write, I'll switch from pjs to professional or vice versa. Just the change itself usually helps get me in a better mindset - either more relaxed or more energized.

Pleasure by Association:
 I think I did this for a long time without even really realizing what/why I was doing it. Basically I'd schedule my writing to coincide with something nice. For example, my husband and I would sit on the couch and work on stuff together - different projects obviously, but at the same time. When he wasn't available, I'd get myself a nice cup of tea or a sodawater and lime and settle in. 

Music: So I can't very often listen to music with noticeable lyrics while writing, but things like RJD2, Ratatat, Four Tet, Mum, Little People, or Sunlounger are all great. And sometimes I'll do a pre-write pump up song with something embarrassing like Haddaway or something actually good like Teagan and Sara or Florence or Feist. 

Remember that Feeling?! I try to remember the euphoria of writing when everything's going right, and remind myself that it could happen again, today maybe, if only I would just start writing!!! 
Of course this one doesn't work so well for journal articles. I don't think I've ever felt euphoric writing an academic article. 

Take a Break:
 If I'm really stuck, I take a break from writing for a day or two, or even just a few hours. Besides, pretty much all my best story ideas come while doing the elliptical, going on a hike, or washing the dishes. 

More resources on dealing with writer's block:

Writer's Block || Fear is the Mind Killer || Writer's Block? Plotting Day! || How to Beat Writer's Block || Overcoming Writer's Block || Writers Digest Links || Writer's Block: Does it exist? How do I get over it? ||

Also check out tips from other authors the first Wednesday of every month at the Insecure Writer's Support Group!!

So what do you do to get yourself out of your writing slumps?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books to be Made into Movies

This is a weekly meme hosted at Broke and the Bookish. This week's question is:

What are the top ten books you'd like to see made into a movie?

A few weeks ago I posted about what books I didn't want to see as movies. But there are so many that I would love that it was even more difficult to answer today's question. I've picked a few off the top of my head. Most of these don't have any movie prospects that I know of yet, but some do and I'm so excited!!!


These girls would take on the big screen in a big way. Could you imagine Katsa and Fire? Tris leaping for the trains? Kira getting sciency one minute, then racing through the streets, dodging riots, staging escapes the next? I was so excited to hear that Divergent is being made into a movie. I would love to see all of these in the cinema!

Graceling Series - Kristin Cashore

Divergent -
Veronica Roth

The Partials -
Dan Wells


Now, don't get me wrong, the stories and the action are amazing in all these too. But I think more than anything, I would just love to see the fantastic worlds that these books are set in. To see Cinder's New Beijing,  ... Lirael's cliffside dwelling with the Clayr, the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre ... Uglyville and New Pretty Town and The Smoke. I would get so distracted by the setting I'd probably have to watch the movie twice! Not that I'm complaining =) I've heard talk of Cinder being optioned for movie, but no concrete news. The Uglies Movie, however, seems like it's going to happen.

Cinder - Marissa Meyer

Abhorsen Series - Garth Nix

The Uglies Series - Scott Westerfeld


These I would love to see on film for the beautiful storytelling and the just so perfect romance. I like my romances with less steam and more substance and the relationships in each of these novels are slow and sweet and awkward and beautiful and real and I just adore them. I'm so excited that Unearthly is being developed as a TV show on the CW -- I hope everything goes through!

Unearthly - Cynthia Hand

The Goose Girl - Shannon Hale

Chime - Franny Billingsley

What books would you love to see as movies?

Twitter Illiterate

So the other day I finally succumbed and joined Twitter. Problem? I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing!!!

There are lots of fancy wigdets and gadgets and feeds to add to my blog, but I can't even get the cute Twitter Follow Me button to show up in my sidebar! Boo....

I also realized (after several days of lurking) that half the time
I have no idea what anyone is saying on there! Everyone is speaking in some tricksy language! Eek. It's time to get Twitter-literate.

While I get things up and running, feel free to follow me!

See I can get it to work here! Why not the sidebar??? Anywho, I'm probably going to be a lurker for awhile while I learn Twitter-Speak, but pretty soon I'll join in the fun! In the meantime, I'll leave you with some links:

Twitter Resources for Authors:
NB: How to Use Twitter || A Writer's Guide to Twitter || How to Effectively Use Twitter || Tips to Build Following ||

What are your Twitter tips? How do you use Twitter to help your writer platform? What are the main mistakes Twitter-newbies (like myself) make?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Novel Editing Part II: Line-by-Line

This post is Part II of my novel editing saga. I posted earlier about Part I: Edit-by-ChainsawBut once you've eliminated the big stuff (Unnecessary side-plots, characters and backstory), what comes next?

The Pruning Shears

We've all heard of it. The dreaded  line-by-line edit. "Want to cut down the word count on your novel?" they say (in big scary circus voices) ... "Well then you'll need to do a line-by-line edit! MUHAHAHAHAH"

The problem is, they're right! Or at least in my case they were. While cutting the big things out of my manuscript saved me 5K words, doing a line-by-line edit saved me 15K!! IT WAS EPIC! I LOVED IT!

And it only took about 10-15 hours of work. Really not that bad in the grand scheme of things.

Set a Goal: Chapter quota
Some people set goals for themselves by page. I prefer to do this by chapter. I took the number of words I wanted to cut from the manuscript (10,000), divided by the number of chapters (20) and determined that I needed to cut 500 words from each chapter. This gave me some flexibility as to where I wanted to make my cuts. Note: I did not deviate from my goal. If by the end of the chapter, I hadn't made my quota, I forced myself to do another pass.

What to Cut: Helpful Questions
Now it's difficult to say what you're going to need to do when doing a line-by-line edit, because each author has their own writing style, their own quirks and strengths and weaknesses. But what I found helpful was to constantly ask myself the following questions while editing:

Over-stating: Did I just say that?
Sometimes you write a sentence and then think, ok, that was good, but maybe I can explain it better. So you write another sentence and another and another. And then you don't go back and cut the previous attempts.
Cut them!

Overstating Part II: Will the readers 'get it' without me telling them?
There's often a lot of room to cut words from action scenes. You don't need to tell the reader that the MC looked. If you describe what was there, they'll know she looked. She doesn't always need to walk on the path or the floor. Its assumed that if she's walking she's not going to be doing so on the air or in a bush!
See also: Janice Hardy - Get over over-stating || Janice Hardy - Repeating Yourself ||

Tighten-Up: Can I make this sentence a teeny bit shorter?
Unnecessary words often sneak into sentences without you even noticing them. A shorter sentence isn't always a better sentence, but it often can be! Especially if you're trying to cut words and clean up the text!

Purple Prose: Honestly, how purple can you get?
Purple Prose : Query Tracker
Description is great. Description is beautiful. But if you have twenty-thousand long-winded, flowery descriptions of the sweeping landscape, her turbulent emotions, his dreamy, brooding face face, his piercing eyes, his strong, lean hands, the way his hair etc ... well that's just a little boring isn't it? Besides your readers aren't going to notice that one sentence when it's buried in a mountain of other overwritten passages. So whenever you hit a passage of flowery description and you think "Ooh, now doesn't that sound particularly nice?" Stop. Red Flag. Ask yourself these questions:
  • How many adjectives do I really need? Wouldn't 1-3 be better than 9-10?
  • Did I just use an SAT word when I could have used a simpler one?
  • Did I just break up an action scene?
  • Is this imagery important to the story/plot? 
    • If it's important, does it stand out, or is it buried between other descriptions?
  • How many times have I used a metaphor or simile to describe something lately?
  • Let's be honest, did I just include this sentence to show off my incredible prose-writing skills?
Essentially, in the words of Arthur Quiller-Couch - Murder your darlings.

See also: Big Mistake #3 - Overwriting || Two Signs of Over-writing || Keeping the Purple Out of Your Prose || Purple Prose || 6 Signs of Description Misuse || How to Put Your Manuscript on a Diet

Next week, I'll be posting part III of my novel-editing journey: getting out the scalpel!

What about you? What do you struggle with when editing? What are your tips and tricks for doing line-by-line edits?

Note: As you might be able to tell I love links  : )   So, as always, please feel free to link to your blogs or other resources in the comments!


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