NOTE: I don't post to this blog super-duper often anymore, because I'm busy writing, well, books. (Read more about that here.) For more up-to-date, day-to-day ramblings, visit my Facebook page.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Coming in January: Fabulous Books

Look out, world, here come the Lucky 13s! What's a Lucky 13? Any one of those authors (including yours truly) lucky enough to be publishing their very first book for kids or teens in 2013. So roll out the red carpet! Here come the January titles. Look for them online or, pretty please, in your local indie bookstore.

Prophecy by Ellen Oh
January 2 (HarperTeen)
YA fantasy

The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell
January 10 (Dial)
YA fantasy

Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
January 15 (St. Martin's)
YA contemporary

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
January 15 (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
YA paranormal

Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook
January 29 (HarperTeen)
YA contemporary

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
January 29 (Balzer+Bray)
YA historical

Hooked by Liz Fichera
January 31 (Harlequin Teen)
YA contemporary

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Fireworks and fanfare and hearty congratulations to  Kit G., who is the first winner in my Countdown to Pub Day Party giveaways! She will soon be the proud owner of a copy of Cathrynne M. Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making as well as a few of my own The Key & the Flame bookmarks. Huzzah, Kit!

Feeling growly with envy and morose because you didn't win? Never fear. I've got monthly giveaways going on until Pub Day (April 2, 2013). The next one is coming up on New Year's Day, so come on back and try again.

image courtesy of wikimedia commons; (c) Kabir Bakie but resuable under Creative Commons License 2.5.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Yes, More Giveaways!

Hey, blogfrogs, if you're not getting enough giveaway fun right here on my blog, hop on over to Dorothy Dreyer's site, where she's giving away a $50 Amazon gift card!

(No need to point out that my giveaways look a bit stingy in comparison. That wouldn't be kind.)

Dorothy is promoting her upcoming book, My Sister's Reaper, due out in May 2013. You can read all about that right here. 

And remember that we'll have a brand-new giveaway right here on this blog on January 1, 2013. It's a great way to kick off a very lucky year!

The Secret to Writing More

 I came upon a blog post recently entitled "The 7 Habits of Highly Prolific Writers." I highly recommend it to all aspiring writers. For one thing, it's very brief and gets to the point.

Unlike myself.

Here's the takeaway from that article that I lit upon: "Sit down and write." That doesn't sound like rocket science, nor does it sound like anything especially new. But here's the thing: Very few people do that.

When I was (much) younger, I did a lot of whining that went something like this:

"I don't have time to write. I have a stupid full-time job."

"Why do I have to do homework? I'd much rather write my story."

"I'm so tired when I get home I can't get up the energy to write."

There was a lot more to it, but since it was whining, I don't guess you really want to read it.

I do remember one evening hanging out in the kitchen while my dad was cooking dinner. I was on one of my "poor me, I never get to write, and it's my life's dream" rants. He said, "So why don't you go do it?"

I hummphed in that classic You haven't been a kid since the Great War, how would you understand anything? teen attitude and went up to my room.

And I wrote something.

The fact is, if I'd done as much writing as whining, it wouldn't have taken me so long to get a publishing contract. I got close plenty of times--I'd get a little something published, then slack off, then get something else published. I got encouraging letters from editors and agents. And I let other things get in the way.

Don't get me wrong: They were good things. Things like raising a kid, dealing with some personal issues, learning balance and structure in my life. They may even have been necessary to get through before I could bring the writing around full circle. But the fact is, however justified, I did put other things before the writing.

So I have no one to blame for my delayed success but myself.

I don't kick myself now, because as I said, those things I put first were necessary and wonderful. But neither do I sit around saying, Gee, how is that some people publish at 29 and I'm publishing at %&*#^ age? I know why. I'm okay with it.

Make sure you're okay with the choices you make. Are they necessary? Then fine. But if they're not, then figure out why you're not writing. Maybe it's because it's really hard and scary. And it is. But be honest: Focus on that, work on that. Don't whine that you can't find time.

When you must write, you find the time.     

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmastime Is Here

The merriest of Christmases to all of you! Sometime today, amid all the eggnog quaffing and paper ripping and squabbles with siblings or parents, take a few moments to breathe. If you can step outside into the icy air, do it. If your air is warm and balmy, still do it. May your day be filled with peace and love and quiet.

Sometimes it really does pay to lie back, and think of England.

image: Keswick, Cumbria, England. Copyright Alan Cleaver. Creative Commons license.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Soulful Christmas

Cartoonist Joshua Held honors the Drifters' version of "White Christmas." Bing would've been proud.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Birthday Books

Yes, people know what I like. Here's the birthday haul.

... and in list form, from the top of the stack:

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores by Jen Campbell
The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life compiled by Nava Atlas
 The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
 The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

The Cassandra Project by Jack McDevitt & Mike Resnick
The Diviners by Libba Bray

I ... can't ... wait. Like Charlie let loose in the chocolate factory, I am ready to pig out! (yeah, on books!) Thank you, family and friends, for making my birthday PERFECT.

P.S.: For those looking for YA or MG book recommendations, note that these are almost all categorized as "adult" titles, except for The Fault in Our Stars (YA) and The Diviners (YA).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book Lists 2012!

One of my favorite things about the end of the year is all the Best Of lists that come out. This year I'm bringing you book news from all over--the Bestest Books of 2012.

Parenting Magazine: Best Children's Books of 2012 to Give as Gifts
(as opposed to keep for ourselves?)

The New York Times: Notable Children's Books of 2012

Kirkus Reviews: Best Children's Books of 2012

Publishers Weekly: Best Books of 2012: Children's Fiction
Publishers Weekly: Best Books of 2012: Children's Nonfiction
Publishers Weekly: Best Books of 2012: Children's Picture Books Editors' Picks: Best Books of 2012: Middle Grade Editors' Picks: Best Books of 2012: Teen Editors' Picks: Best Books of 2012: Picture Books

Goodreads: The 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards

Wondering where the overlap is? Here's a list of books that appeared on more than one list:

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The One & Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Son by Lois Lowry

This Is Not My Hat  by J. Klassen

Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

So, what are you still doing reading blogs, then? Don't you have some holiday shopping to do? Or at least a trip to the library? Get going. 

Not much time left to get in on this month's Countdown to Pub Day Party giveaway! Click here to win a copy of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Our Deep Sorrow

Words cannot express the feelings I have today for the community in Newtown, Connecticut. I feel grief with the families whose children were taken from them; sadness for the families of the brave adults who tried to protect them; and sorrow for a young man who needed help and somehow did not receive it. I also feel for the special needs community, whose children may be looked at differently--again--in the wake of a tragedy. Please do not judge them by one horrible act.

Our president was so eloquent that I will let him speak for me. Blessings to all.

Friday, December 14, 2012

This Is the Truth

It really is. And you can get it on a T-shirt by clicking here.

Have you entered the Countdown to Pub Day Party giveaway? Check out this month's goodies here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What's a "New Adult"?

cartoon (c) 2012 CM Caterer
Sorry, blogfrogs, but I'm behind the times. I've only recently heard about a new, frankly dorky genre called New Adult. But it's been around awhile, according to this interview from 2009. Let me state upfront that I am not dissing St. Martin's or Georgia McBride, who conducted the interview. In fact, it was helpful to me. I do bemoan my own lameness in not recognizing the NA genre before now.

Be all that as it may, I reiterate my opinion that creating yet another literary genre is wearisome. A writing friend of mine suggested that NA makes grown-ups feel better about reading what's essentially still YA. Maybe so. But I would suggest we all get over it and just read, I don't know, books.

I read and enjoy YA, but I also recognize that it's something of a marketing ploy. To Kill a Mockingbird did quite well for many years, thank you, as a book for adults. It was published in 1960, before the YA genre existed. And yet, sometimes now it's discussed as a YA book because it has a 9-year-old protagonist.  "People tend to dismiss books in which the centerpieces are children or young adults," author Anna Quindlen wrote on the occasion of the book's 50th anniversary. And by "dismiss," we mean, "throw it in the YA category." Doing that will certainly turn a lot of people off a book--people who think YA is lightweight fiction all about teenagers and their romances with werewolves and vampires. But it also will draw a certain audience to the hot young thing that is YA fiction.

Ditto Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief. In Australia, the novel was shelved with the adult fiction. But U.S. publishers didn't dare miss out on the chance to paste a YA sticker on it. Yes, the protagonist is young. Does that automatically make a book YA?

I think that's what's happening with the New Adult genre. The exploits and growing pains of twentysomethings aren't, apparently, the stuff of Real Adulthood. (That's the next genre coming down the pike, I guess.) No one, the market seems to be saying, is going to care much about what happens to people this age, so we'd better shut them off in their own genre where no one else has to look at them.

The life of a twentysomething doesn't have to be seen through a myopic lens that can't encompass the greater society. They're adults. Let their stories be told through adult books. I"m not trying to diss YA, but why extend its reach beyond its boundaries? YA does reach an adult audience, but some adults simply won't read a young adult title because "it's for kids." There comes a point when a book can graduate out of YA and just be shelved with everything else.

Shoehorning New Adults into their own genre is just a way of saying, You're not ready to play with the big kids yet. You know what? I think they are.

More on this topic: The Guardian weighs in

Tell me: Do you like the idea of a new genre? Or is it lame city?

Don't forget to get in on the goodies at the Countdown to Pub Day Party! Details about this month's giveaway are right here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pet Peeve: Anymore vs. Any More

I'm betting there are quite a few folks out there who think these are the same thing, right? Or maybe we can just choose to stick a space in between these two words if we feel like it. After all, we do that with all right and alright, and no one seems to mind.

Yeah, you're right. I'm the one who does mind.

anymore = any longer; currently/now (has nothing to do with a physical measurement)
Isn't Doctor Who on television anymore? In the summer, it was on every Saturday night.
I'm sure that Billie Piper isn't in the cast anymore.

any more = a quantity; additional
Do you have any more jelly babies?
No, the Doctor ate them all. I don't have any more Jammie Dodgers, either.

Note that anymore is used with a negative construction:

I don't sit home Saturday nights anymore.

You will (of course) see it used with a positive construction, but be aware that it annoys yours truly and she may not bring you a cuppa and a Jammie Dodger if she hears it:

Anymore I just go to the pub instead.

In that instance, anymore means "these days" or "at the current time."  It may be used colloquially if you don't mind setting yours truly's teeth on edge, but it should be avoided in writing. Because I don't want to scribble on your paper.

photo: Matt Smith defies the Daleks as Doctor #11. Learn more about the show here.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

Bring on the cake and presents! Okay, observe the oddity that it is also Pearl Harbor Day, which few people even remember. But then, cake and presents. In the meantime, see below for a photo of baby me.

That's right. It was so long ago that most people took photos in black and white. Actually, the world itself was in black and white. No, really. You go check. I'll wait here.

image: Me with Patrick, one of many long-suffering cats, Detroit, Michigan.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Middle-grade fiction
Orchard Books, 1990
240 pages, $6.99 (paperback)
Newbery Honor Book

This is one of those books that seem to find their way to reading lists and and English classes, probably because of its many distinctions (Newbery Honor, ALA Notable Book, etc., etc.). But don't let that put you off. (Yes, sometimes I too am put off by awards. Some of those books are so serious.) This book is part mystery, part sailing adventure, and partly the story of a girl who defies the conventions of her time. Charlotte is a girl traveling alone to America from England with a rough crew of sailors in 1832. While she makes friends on the boat, soon it becomes obvious that the captain is unstable and Charlotte could find herself in grave danger.

The plot moves along rapidly--I blew through the 240 pages to learn what would happen to Charlotte--and as always, Avi's writing carries the story, illuminating every detail. Some reviewers have objected to the ending, calling it unrealistic, and I can certainly see their point. But that didn't much bother me. (No spoilers, sorry.) I just enjoyed the quick-moving tale and the well-drawn characters. A great read for any age!

My goal is to post a review of a middle-grade novel I really enjoyed on the first Thursday of every month. Search for more recommendations using the tag Recommended Reading.

The Countdown to Pub Day Party is on! Enter this month's giveaway here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Countdown to Pub Day Party Kickoff


Let the Countdown to Pub Day Party commence! The Key & the Flame will be hitting the shelves on the first Tuesday in April, and I'm celebrating the countdown for the next four months. The first Tuesday of every month up till pub date, I'll give away a copy of a marvelous middle-grade novel. On April 2, 2013, our party will culminate in a wowza palooza giveaway of a hardback, signed copy  of The Key & the Flame, accompanied by much swag and fanfare. So let's get started with the very first Countdown to Pub Day Party Giveaway, which is ...

(trumpets please)   

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
author website (which is quite cool in its own right)

the description from Goodreads:
Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.
With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

Charming, fun, fabulous--you will love this book, which is the first in a series. Enter below to win your very own paperback copy, and a few signed The Key & the Flame bookmarks too.
a Rafflecopter giveaway