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.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The March Debuts

It's almost March, which means a new batch of Lucky 13* debut authors to celebrate. YA fantasy and paranormal dominate this month--from android girls to genies and succubi, this month has it all! And don't miss our YA contemps and our poetry for younger readers. You'll love this crop! As usual, links point to more detail about each title as well as authors' personal websites and blogs. 

Being Henry David by Cal Armistead
March 1 (Albert Whitman Teen)
YA contemporary thriller

 Bruised by Sarah Skilton 
March 5 (Amulet Books)
YA contemporary

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos
March 5 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
YA contemporary

Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger
March 5 (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children)
MG contemporary novel in verse

The Inventor's Secret (Cragbridge Hall #1) by Chad Morris
March 5 (Shadow Mountain)
MG time-travel mystery

Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger
March 5 (Simon Pulse)
YA paranormal romance

The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett
March 5 (Tor Teen)
YA fantasy / paranormal

The Culling by Steven dos Santos
March 8 (Flux)
YA dystopian / sci-fi

MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza
March 12 (Katherine Tegen / HarperCollins)
YA sci-fi thriller

Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley
March 19  (Katherine Tegen / HarperCollins)
YA contemporary

The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar
March 21 (Dial Books for Young Readers)
YA paranormal

Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden
March 26 (Harcourt Children's Books)
YA contemporary

Forest Has a Song by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
March 26 (Clarion)
picture book (poems)

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
March 26 (St. Martin's Griffin)
YA contemporary mystery/thriller

* What's a Lucky 13? An author lucky enough to be publishing his or her very first book for kids or teens in 2013! Each month, I'll introduce a new crop of fabulous debut fiction. Search for the tag 2013 debuts to see more, and read the Lucky 13 blog right here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February Link Love

All the best stuff I've read around the weboverse in the last month!


Cynsations compares 2 launch parties: one for a picture book and one for YA
Agent Rachelle Gardner on how to boost sales of other people's books--and your own
Chuck Sambuchino on How to Support a Writer's New Book (via Writer Unboxed)
New service from the Author's Guild lets writers set up virtual book tours/visits (via AppNewser)

Wastepaper Prose interviews several authors on their previous misconceptions about publishing and what they've learned
Why & how to declutter your writing life (Elizabeth Craig, Mystery Writing Is Murder)
Teen Library Toolbox on what teens want from libraries (and books!)

Eden from Project Mayhem on knowing when to let go of the book 
Lisa Cron (Writer Unboxed) on 5 Reasons Readers Love Your Story 
Elizabeth S. Craig of Mystery Writing Is Murder has timesaving tips for writing a series
Joanna Penn on How to Take Your Writing Further (Write to Done)
Kat Zhang of Pub(lishing) Crawl tells us how to write more vivid scenes

Marie Lu from Pub(lishing) Crawl interviews agent Kristin Nelson
Chuck Sambuchino with answers on FAQs about writing query letters (via Writer Unboxed)
Middle Grade Ninja tells you exactly how NOT to get an agent
Literary Rambles spotlights agent Amy Jameson of A+B Works
Middle Grade Ninja asks 7 questions of agent Elena Mechlin (Pippin Properties)
... and of agent Laura Rennert (Andrew Brown)
Agent Pam van Hylckama Vlieg featured on Literary Rambles

PW unveils Scholastic's brand-new cover for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (isn't it gorgeous?!) 
PW reveals that Lauren Oliver's Delirium trilogy is being developed for the Fox network
another from PW: Classic American Girl advice book gets an expansion
NPR's Renee Montagne interviews Tony Kushner about Maurice Sendak's final book 
Michael Pietsch, incoming CEO of Hachette, on Why Traditional Publishing Is in a Golden Age via NPR
Jason Boog of Gallycat offers good news on kidlit sales
PW: Kidlit booksellers talk about what books they anticipate most in spring 2013  

PW  talks to Katherine Applegate about winning the 2013 Newbery
School Library Journal: Writing for the Middle Grades: A Roundtable with Birdsall, Stead, & Wilson 
Lindsay Deutsch of USA Today interviews Kate DiCamillo about her upcoming book, Flora & Ulysses (plus a sneak peek!)
Literary Rambles talks to Elsie Chapman, debut author of the YA dystopian Dualed

(links go to Kirkus reviews unless otherwise noted)

My Brother's Book by Maurice Sendak (picture book)
Night Sky Wheel Ride by Sheree Fitch, illus by Yayo (picture book)
Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle (MG contemporary)
A Dash of Magic by Katherine Littlewood (MG fantasy)
The Secret Room by Antonia Michaelis (a 2012 MG fantasy; review by Project Mayhem)
A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff (MG fantasy)

Blaze, or Love in the Time of Supervillains by Laurie Boyle Crompton (YA contemporary; review by The Busy Bibliophile)
City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster (YA fantasy; review by In Bed With Books)
Dualed by Elsie Chapman (YA dystopian; review by Sparkes and Lightning)
Infinite Sky by C.J. Flood (YA contemporary; review by Fluttering Butterflies)
Me, Him, Them, and It by Caela Carter (YA contemporary; review by The Hiding Spot)
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (YA historical)
Pivot Point by Kasie West (YA paranormal)

Genie Wishes  by Elisabeth Dahl (MG contemporary; April 2, Amulet Books)
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters (YA historical ghost story; April 2, Amulet Books)

Remember my rant about the New Adult category? Here's another take, by Rachel Siegel of Publishing Crawl
Have time to read one chapter a week? Middle Grade Ninja's new book club does just that, starting with Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire

image courtesy of wikimedia commons; available for reuse under this Creative Commons license

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hopping to the Luckies

Yes, it's blog-hopping time again, and while I ought to have posted this yesterday, guess what? I didn't. If you've ever seen one of those old cartoons where the character is split in two and tries to run in two different directions, you'll have an idea what my life has been like lately. (Yeah, don't even have time to find an example. Or, apparently, to use pronouns.)

But whatever is posted on the web stays there for all eternity--or so we're told--so you won't have any trouble finding this link today on The Lucky 13s, where we middle-grade writers talk about why MG is cool, why we love it, and why we write it. Call it a late Valentine. And pass the chocolate.

image from wikimedia commons; copyright Stewart Butterfield but reusable under this Creative Commons License.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pet Peeve: Farewell to Direct-Address Commas

I hardly feel right even being peevish about this error because everyone I know commits it. Or perhaps I should say that everyone who emails me or texts me commits it.

And yet.

Well, darn it all, it does bug me: the casual casting off of my dear friend the direct-address comma. What the heck am I yammering about? So glad you asked. Compare these two greetings:
Hello, Holmes. How are you doing today?
Cheerio Watson. Not at all well, thanks.

According to Chicago and every other style book on the planet, Watson has written his greeting correctly, while Holmes slacks off in his usual comma-hating manner. (Unfair. Yes. Sorry.) Holmes ought to have written:

Cheerio, Watson.

Just as when someone types an email to me, it should open with:

Hi, Claire,
Hi, Claire!
Hey, Anal Grammar Lady!
Hello, you stuck-up so-and-so,

But everyone omits that comma. And while I'm willing to let it slide (really? Is that what you're doing?), I'm afraid this habit may leak into other forms of prose. So even if your emails aren't perfect--and whose are?--make sure your more formal prose is correct:
"I think I've solved the case myself, Holmes," said Watson proudly.
"Don't be ridiculous, Watson," Holmes answered. "You couldn't have, old chap. That's my job."
"I'm sorry, my friend, but you're wrong this time. While you were off at the bookshop, I compared the prints I lifted with your database. And I think, dear boy, that the killer is ..."
"Oh, do be quiet, you nattering hobbit. If I wanted the help of amateurs, I'd have consulted the cat."

And so forth.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday Fave

I'm not going to do this every week. I won't even schedule it. It will just hit you out of the blue--BAM!--a Friday Fave. Every once in awhile, I'll note a favorite something-or-other. Because it makes me sad to think that some of you might have missed this particular thing. Whatver it is.

Today, the fave is


I know ... big deal. It's an orange vegetable. Or fruit. (I never get that right. If a fruit has a seed, aren't most things fruits and not veggies? But I digress.) But the pumpkin has a flavor that just sends me. (Don't know that expression? This is it.) Imagine a world without

pumpkin muffins
pumpkin pie

creamy pumpkin-curry soup (yes, it really IS good)*
Ben & Jerry's Limited Edition Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream
pumpkin-spice latte 
DQ Pumpkin Pie Blizzard
pumpkin bread
pumpkin jelly roll filled with cream cheese

They all make me swoon. In fact, whoever first married the pumpkin with cream cheese should be knighted. And given a big chunk of feudal lands. Maybe a nice house like this one.

Thank you, pumpkin cooks. I love you all.

*I happen to make a kick-butt pumpkin-curry soup. I'll send you the recipe if you want.

images: top: This image is in the public domain because it contains materials that originally came from the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of copyright Dairy Queen. Bottom: publicity shot, cast of Masterpiece Theater's Downtown Abbey.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Review: THE SPINDLERS by Lauren Oliver

Middle-grade fiction
HarperCollins, 2012
256 pages, $16.99

I confess, I love Lauren Oliver. You may remember me gushing over her first middle-grade novel, Liesl & Po, after which I devoured and loved Before I Fall (YA). While The Spindlers isn't as poignant, it's just as much fun and as well written as her other books.

The story is simple enough: Poor Liza discovers that her brother, Patrick, has been snatched one night by the Spindlers, a race of horrid spiderlike creatures who live in another world Below. The Spindlers feed on souls, and the Thing That Was Once Patrick is clearly a poor substitute for the real thing. Brave, resourceful Liza resolves to bring him home, and so she goes Below armed with a broom (because spiders, she reasons, hate brooms). There she meets up with an array of characters and creatures and is forced to undergo trials and tests in her quest to free Patrick.

It's Oliver's writing that sets this story apart from other quest/rescue tales. She draws her characters so completely, renders their emotions so sympathetically, that we're immediately attached to the outcome. The prose is beautiful, spare, even lyrical, but not difficult to read. Middle-grade readers will quickly identify with Liza, laughing at some of her encounters with those Below, and shivering at others. This is a story with a classic feel and a winning heroine that will please just about everyone.

Wish you had your own copy of  The Spindlers? You can win one right here on this blog as part of my Countdown to Pub Day Party! Go enter. Yeah, now.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Countdown to Pub Day Party Giveaway!


The party just keeps rocking on, blogfrogs! Pub Day for The Key & the Flame is fast approaching, and once again, I'm giving away some marvelous middle-grade fiction to celebrate. Last month, Chelsea P. was the lucky winner of Jacqueline West's Spellbound. And this month, hang on to your bookmarks because someone will win ...


The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver (yeah, in hardcover!)
author website

The scoop from Goodreads:

One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning, when she woke up, he was not. In fact, he was quite, quite different.

When Liza's brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.

She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.

To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers' nests, where she encounters the evil queen and must pass a series of deadly tests--or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.

From New York Times best-selling author Lauren Oliver comes a bewitching story about the reaches of loyalty, the meaning of love, and the enduring power of hope.
Kirkus Reviews named this book one of the Best of 2012, calling it "[a] refreshingly creepy, intricately woven tale.... Richly detailed, at times poetic, ultimately moving; a book to be puzzled over, enjoyed and, ideally, read aloud." 

As usual, I'll throw in a few The Key & the Flame bookmarks signed in my own illegible hand to add to the prize pack. So go ahead! Enter already.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, February 1, 2013

Where Character Names Come From

Happy Frosty February, blogfrogs. Yeah. No exclamation mark--both because I dole them out with grace and restraint and because the word frosty should be applied to milkshakes from Wendy's, not weather. I like to bundle up at Christmastime and watch the snowflakes waft down and all that jazz, but I have cabin fever now and want to be outside. And I'm a weather wimp, so tramping around with three sweaters under my winter coat in the 8-degree wind is not my idea of going outside.

Not that any of this rant applies to the hop-hop-hopping you should do if you'd like to read about the many ways in which the debut kidlit authors of 2013 go about naming their characters. For that, you should hop on over to the Lucky 13s blog. That'd be here.

image courtesy of; copyright Alex Gorzen but reusable under this Creative Commons License.