Tuesday, March 29, 2011

So This Is What's Up

So I was totally going to post my agent story on Friday. And then I was going to post it on Sunday, along with a notice of a hiatus. And then, well, Monday comes and goes.

My excuse? My family is on vacation. And I got my edits from Super Agent Vickie. Awesome, right? But pretty time consuming. So, yeah.

I'm on hiatus.

At least this week. You know me, OBSESSO. Super Agent Vickie's notes are so freaking amazing, that I can't help but want to devote every waking moment to them. But in order for that to happen, I must take some time away from blogging and other equally worthwhile Internety pursuits. I'll be back soon, though. I swear.

But, I've got a few announcements, so check them out, okay?



Today, I've been tagged by Christine Fonseca to answer a question on Christine Bryant's blog, Day Dreamer. She asked a great question, so do me a favor and stop by HERE, pretty please? So I don't feel like a chump. It's only one question, which really got me thinking and digging deep. Hopefully I answered it okay. While you're there, check out Christine's blog. She's so sweet and talented. You'll love her.



MOONGLASS In honor of the pending release of her debut novel MOONGLASS,

Jessi Kirby is having five weeks of massive Giveaways!

This week, she's giving away a super Crystal Cove prize pack. Be sure to stop by, introduce yourself, follow, all that good stuff. And then enter. You don't want to miss it. Also, be on the lookout for MOONGLASS. It looks AMAZING!!!


Here's the summary:

I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now, I've thought maybe my mother drowned in both.

Anna's life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It's bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love- a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface.

While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that were buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide means that nothing- not the sea glass that she collects on the sand and not the truths behind Anna's mother's death- stays buried forever.


I cannot wait to read this!



balloons & streamers

Remember Friday is your last day to enter my AGENT SIGNING GIVEAWAY! You don't want to miss this opportunity to win:

  • You WANT!!! -->A first page crit from Super Agent Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary Management
  • Signed copy of Escaping into the Open: the Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg
  • Signed Hardback of Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

  • Signed Hardback of Passing Strange by Daniel Waters

Also, helping me celebrate, you can win mega prizes from all the blogs listed below:

Heather McCorkle

Critique Sisters Corner

J. Koyanagi

Simon Larter

LK Gardner-Griffie

Sara McClung

Lola Sharp

Elizabeth Davis

Tracey Neithercott

Kristen Yard

Christine Fonseca

Jonathon Arntson 

Eisely Jacobs

Denise Grover Swank

The giveaways end on April 1 at midnight (some might have extended, so be sure to check!).



Thanks so much for stopping by today! I hope you'll take a moment to make a few  more quick little stops before you go.

Pretty please with a cherry margarita on top?


P.S. I will miss you.

Friday, March 25, 2011

There's a Rumor that Publishing is Unpredictable (Just Ask Christine Fonseca)

You might be surprised by how little control an author usually has over what happens to her book after she hands it over*. The cover, the formatting, and a book's distribution, for starters. Just this past week, I've had several author friends discover something completely unexpected about their books. One of them was Christine Fonseca. So I decided to sit down with her and have a little chat about her experience.

Me: Hi Christine! So happy to have you visit! I spruced up the place just for you. What do you think of my new sculpture?

Christine: Um…well…you did this for…ME????

Well...um, sure. Yeah, sure. I totally brought in a giant butter sculpture of a half naked Jared Leto in just for you.

Eh hmm. So a little birdie told me something unexpected happened to you yesterday. Wanna tell me about it?

DUDE! You won’t believe it. There I was, in the thralls of some seriously intense work ( no really – it was INTENSE) when I received an email from a teacher friend telling me she got an email from Amazon that my book was shipping. Which book, you may ask (I know I did), 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids! The one that was due out in May. Of course, I didn’t believe her. But when I checked…YEP. My book is out. EVERYWHERE. EEEKKKK!!!!!!

Gasp! Who knew that could even happen? Without the author even knowing about it?? Dang.

It must be the work of aliens.

OR your book is so awesome they just had to release it early. What is your book about and who would be the ideal reader for it?

Success-Secrets 101 Success Secrets is a guidebook for gifted kids ages 8 – 12 (though my Teen thinks it’s good for teens too). It covers all of the advice I would ever want to give kids in one, easy-to-read and understand book.

Oh man, I LOVE it already. Can't wait to get my own copy. It sounds perfect for me and my kiddos. I can see this being an ideal book for educators to have in their classrooms as well.

So, what made you decide to write this book?

The idea was originally from my agent. She suggested an advice book of some kind. After pitching it to my editor and tossing ideas around…POOF! 101 Success Secrets was born. As I wrote it, however, I realized this was more than just some little advice about school and friends – this was something special. I interviewed more than 1000 kids and parents for this book. I am so pleased with the result.

Holy cannelloni, that must have been a lot of work. And on top of all that, you’re also a fiction writer, right? Does your work with kids influence your fiction?

I am a fiction writer, YA to be exact. Working with teens for the last decade or so has definitely influenced my novels. I get to hang out with them, hear about their world. The result – books that hopefully capture the life of Teens. I will admit, I write stories that are intense. I can’t help it; that is definitely an influence from my work with kids!

Seems to me that writing for teens must be a really natural path for you. I can't wait to read your fiction.

Alright, it’s time for some invasive questions.

London or Fiji? Fiji, no question

Beans or filet mignon? Filet Mignon all the way (did I mention I cook…like I REALLY REALLY cook?)

Croissant and cappuccino or biscuits and gravy? Croissant and cappuccino, hands down!

Chocolate or Jared Leto? Dude…unfair question!!!

Dude, it’s been so AWEsome to have you here, I want to capture this moment forever with a picture. Smile.

profile pic

Aw, you're so cute! Look at you and your pretty smile. But...wait. What's that in your purse.? THAT. Sticking out right...GOT IT! HA! *waves picture around*


Oh dang…that is me in a former, teen life, dressed up for a jungled themed party with my BFF…Don’t judge!

Me? Judge? Never. Jungle is so in again.

Thanks so much for chatting with me, Christine! Congratulations on the release of your new book! Now I have to run. I've got a book to buy...


Christine Fonseca is a School Psychologist by day and YA and nonfiction author by night. Her books include Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students (2010) and 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids (2011). She can be found hanging out on her blog, facebook and twitter - or sipping skinny vanilla lattes at her fav coffee house.

Be sure to go wish Christine a happy book birthday today!

101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids: Pssst! Want to know a secret? 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids: The Ultimate Handbook is a must-read for gifted kids ages 8 to 12 who want to find success in school and life. If you know gifted kids, they will love the 101 awesome secrets, tips, and tricks included in this book!

Chock full of fun suggestions and practical strategies, 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids covers topics including bullying, school performance, perfectionism, friendships, and sibling rivalries. Fun quizzes, tip sheets, and practical Q & A sections from other gifted kids and preteens make this book fun to read and give gifted kids insight into everything they've ever wanted to know about being gifted. Proven strategies for dealing with stress management, parents' and teachers' expectations, anxiety, cyber-bullying, friendship troubles, and more make this the must-have guide for every gifted kid!

101 Success Secrets can be found:




For the record, Christine is probably the fifth author friend I've had this week who found out her book was either releasing early or was unexpectedly out in the wild already.

Lesson one in publishing? Be prepared for any eventuality.

*Often, publishers have teams of people who help determine a book's demographic and will base a lot of their marketing and distribution decisions off of that. While authors might want to have a say in these decisions, they may not actually know what's best. That's some of the reasoning, anyway.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

ANOTHER contest?? ANOTHER Agent Signing?? OH yeah.

One of the things that nobody really talks about when they discuss what it's like to get an agent is how awesome it is to have AGENT-MATES!! Okay, so maybe it's not normal to be this excited about such a thing, but shortly after I signed with Vickie Motter, I met another of Vickie's clients, Cambria Dillon, who I now adore (there's yet another agent-mate I had a chance to meet, Kristine Asselin, but I'll introduce you to this lovely later). Cambria's not only my agent-sister, she's freaking amazing. Here, see for yourself.

She's as happy as she looks. Seriously. Makes my day when I see one of her emails arrive in my inbox.

Okay, so Cambria signed with Vickie about a month before I did, and guess what? She's celebrating her big news this week by giving away new prizes every day. Also, in an incredible act of generosity, Cambria asked to interview ME during HER agent signing celebration week. For real.  This should tell you a little bit about Cambria. Not enough? I also interviewed Cambria just so you could get to know her a little better. Check out how our little chat went:

Me: Hi Cambria! So happy to have you visit! I spruced up the place just for you. What do you think of my new sculpture?

Cambria: Thanks for having me! Two thumbs up on the sculpture…but uh, I think Sculpture Jared would prefer NOT to be sporting a tiara. Just sayin'.

Err...well. About that. See, there was thing, and then--look, a flying pig! 

*Cambria glances out window* 

*Carol spinning-kicks tiara off Jared's head* 

*Cambria turns back around, eyebrow arched high*

Oh, what a shame. You missed the pig. It was FAST. Anyway...eh hmm. Back to the interview. In two words or less, please tell us ALL about yourself.

Punchy fun!

My, you are concise. *Carol’s distracted by shirtless Jared Leto*

*Cambria takes opportunity to flash a real bio at readers*

Well, two words really isn't a whole lot, especially since I'm the Queen of Rambling AND Queen of Tangents. You probably didn't realize you were interviewing royalty today, huh? Okay, okay…in all seriousness, I write contemporary YA and live in Maryland with my husband (BicycleDude) and two-year-old daughter (Toddler Trouble). I have a blog and also contribute to Adventures in Children's Publishing. Oh! And I'm running an awesome contest this week, so go check it out (and enter for a chance to win a crit from Carol!)

Oh, so sorry! Got a bit distracted. A fly, you know.

*Cambria tucks hands behind her back. Whistles.*

Eh hmm. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about where you are in your publishing journey and how it’s gone for you?

I signed with Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary Management in February and after doing a couple rounds of revisions, just went out on sub last week. It's been exciting, nerve-wracking, and fast and slow all at the same time.

Holy catfish, that's fast. How exhilarating! Must be hard to do anything but refresh email. What is your project about?

The story I queried is a contemporary YA called LIFE AFTER SEND. It's about a popular girl who sends a sext to her boyfriend, who must then deal with the social backlash when the picture gets a rather public viewing.

Dang, that sounds awesome. So timely and relevant to today's teens! I look forward to reading it. Would you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on at the moment? Any new projects?

I'm writing the first draft of another contemporary YA about two teens in love who question their place in each other's lives when what they thought they knew, turns out to be wrong. It's a dual narrative…and um, there's some other stuff that happens too. Obviously I need to work on my one-line pitch.

No work necessary. That has definitely piqued my interest. But I'm curious how you go about creating your new stories. Would you tell us a bit about your writing process?

My first drafts are usually all over the place because I'm an in-betweener – I outline a little and pants a LOT. But once I have the story down on the page, I create a big storyboard, which helps me see the major areas I need to fix, things like plot threads and pacing. After that, I send it to my critique partners to rip apart. And then it's REVISE, REVISE, REVISE.

Sounds like we work in similar ways!

Alright, it’s time for some invasive questions.

London or Fiji? Bring on the huts on stilts! Fiji for sure!

Beans or filet mignon? Depends on what kind of beans we're talking about…if we're talking about JELLY BEANS – then totally the beans! If not, then filet mignon.

Croissant and cappuccino or biscuits and gravy? Croissant and cappuccino!

Chocolate or Jared Leto? Hmm…tricky…I would say Jared Leto ONLY if I'm guaranteed Jared a la Jordan Catalano.

Dude, it’s been so AWEsome to have you here, I want to capture this moment forever with a picture. Smile.

Photo on 2011-03-21 at 21.55 #6

Now this, folks, is Cambria Dillon. Smart, sweet, supportive, thoughtful, and super talented. She's got a mega bright future ahead of her. Be sure to stop by Cambria's blog and wish her a hearty congratulations! And while you're there, remember to enter her giveaway. For today, I've offered up a five page critique of the winner's manuscript, and Cambria's also giving away a SIGNED copy of FEED by M.T. Anderson. Holy cannelloni. And that's not even all. She's giving away prizes every day with a super prize on Friday. Go check them all out. And while you're there, you can take a peek at my interview with Cambria, in which you can get a glimpse of my agent story.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Cambria! It was a pleasure and an honor to have you.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reflecting on The Hambledown Dream

Over the last year I've had the distinct pleasure of getting to know the very talented--smart, witty, kind, and encouraging--author Dean Mayes via Twitter, blogging, and Facebook. Yes, he's from the land down under, but that's not even the coolest thing about him (although, yes, very cool--he pronounces his name Dane. *American swoon*) Dean has also published a gorgeous romance, THE HAMBLEDOWN DREAM, set in both Chicago and Australia. Dean's publishing team has just redesigned the book and is now launching the 2nd edition of the digital version with a beautiful new cover. Dean has also digitally signed the first fifty copies. So...hurry! (See the links at the bottom!)

I didn't doubt for a second that I would like The Hambledown Dream. I'm always a sucker for a good love story. But Mayes gives you more than just a sweet fluffy romance. The Hambledown Dream features beautiful writing, a bit of magic, a touch of music, compelling characters, and the passion of two souls reaching for one another across the burden of distance and impossibility. I was both absorbed by the novel, by its lyrical prose that reads like a song, and moved by the storyline of a man whose love is so strong, even death cannot stop it. The Hambledown Dream is at times gritty, but it's real and life affirming, filled with poignant longing. It's an emotional book that pulls you in by the heartstrings.

Meet the author

DeanMayes Dean Mayes has been writing, blogging and dreaming for most of his adult life, in between practicing as a Pediatric ICU Nurse and raising his two children, Xavier and Lucy (who was born during the writing of his debut novel The Hambledown Dream). Dean's passion for writing began when he was about six years old and he got a purple dragon stamp on his first piece of creative writing in the 2nd grade from Mrs Furnell. Apparently it was a big deal to get a purple dragon. Ever since, Dean has strived to create lasting stories, vivid characters and visual tome that is immediately engaging. Dean lives in Adelaide, Australia with his partner Emily, his children ...and his cross-breed cattle dog Simon.

by Dean Mayes

Australian, Denny Banister had the world at his feet; a successful career, a passion for the guitar and he is in love with Sonya – his best friend and soul mate. Tragically, Denny is struck down with inoperable cancer and he is destined to die.

Meanwhile, Andy DeVries has almost nothing; he is alienated from his family, he moves through a dangerous Chicago underworld dealing in drugs, battling addiction & now he’s gone and overdosed - jeopardizing the only thing that matters to him; a place at a prestigious Conservatory for classical guitar.

Having been snatched from the abyss Andy recovers, but he is plagued by dreams - memories of a love he has never felt, and a life he's never lived. Driven by the need for redemption and by the love for a woman he's never met, Andy begins a quest to find her, knowing her only by the memories of a stranger and the dreams of a place called Hambledown...

A Few Words with the Author

Recently, I had an opportunity to sit down with Dean and have a bit of a chat. Here's how it went.

Me: G'day mate, I'm so rapt ta have yoos visit me blog.

Dean: [Crickets]

What, is that too much? It’s the accent, isn’t it? I can never get it right.

No, No that's fine, very nice – although if you hada mentioned chucking a shrimp on the barby, I may well have had to kill you.

Ha! I'd never do that! *Chucks shrimp kebab over shoulder* 

By the way, I totally spruced up the place for you. What do you make of my new sculpture? I had it shipped all the way from Australia, just for you.

Is that a gun he's holding right there or...?

Err, no. It's, um, a mallard duck. But, you know, abstract.

Alright then, let’s get down to business. How did you come up with this story? The Hambledown Dream seems to straddle a line between contemporary fiction and fantasy—magical realism, perhaps. Did you set out to write something with a magical element? A romance? What were you hoping to achieve with this story?

Hambledown was an idea that I've had for around eight years actually. Very early on, I had this singular thought about a reincarnation story where you have someone who is noble and proud, being given a second chance at life – but – in the body of someone who is duplicitous and mean and not very likeable. When I came to sit down with the story proper – I had three elements. That original idea, classical guitar and some sort of love story. I didn't know how that love story would evolve, so it was a discovery for me as I wrote the story. I believe I set out to achieve and did achieve - something that is very organic and 'real world' despite the paranormal element, which is very subtle.

I totally think you achieved it! Indeed, so many of the characters in your book felt so genuine and thought out. Do you think you’d ever write a story about any of these secondary characters? What kind of story?

I've been asked whether Hambledown is a one off – whether there is a sequel to it somewhere within the other characters. And the short answer is – for now – no there isn't. However I have revisited Hambledown in my mind many a time since I finished the novel. It's a place I enjoy very much and the characters there have become 'friends' if you will. I did write a short story follow up which you can read on my blogwhich is a kind of coda to two of the most cherished characters from The Hambledown Dream.

Awww, phooey. Would've loved to see more of Beck. Or Samantha. Or a story about Beck AND Samantha...

Well then, what are you working on now?

I'm about 25K into a new project which is tentatively titled “Gifts Of The Peramangk”. It's set here in Australia and it follows the journey of an eight year old Aboriginal girl who lives in abject poverty in suburban Adelaide. However she has a gift – she has been taught to play the violin by her grandmother and when we meet her, she is an undiscovered virtuoso. Amidst a life of violence and despair, there seems little hope for this little girl. But she is about to be discovered and it will change her life forever.

It's set against the back drop of one of Australia's most difficult chapters in 'The Stolen Generations' – something that still affects our indigenous population today. I'm really excited about it because it is challenging me like no other writing project I've attempted. It's a contemporary work which will possibly appeal to young adults as well as adults. I think I'd like to make it as accessible as possible.

It sounds amazing! I look forward to reading it. Okay, so I happen to know that you’re a huge Star Wars fan. If you were to choose one character from Star Wars to narrate for an audio book, who would you choose? And why?

I just saw James Earl Jones (Darth Vader) on GMA in your good country recently, where he was asked to recite Justin Bieber's “Baby, Baby, Baby” and I thought – man if he can pull that off then I would LUUURRRRVE to have him read Hambledown.

I agree! He's a perfect one to read The Hambledown Dream! Your book is made to be read aloud by  a master.

Alright, it’s time for some invasive questions.

London or Fiji? London

Beans or filet mignon? Filet mignon

Croissant and cappuccino or biscuits and gravy? Croissant/Cappacino x 5

Chocolate or Jared Leto? Excuse Me?????

Okay, so I probably should tweak that last question. Some people might prefer cake. 

Dude, it’s been so AWEsome to have you here, I want to capture this moment forever with a picture. Smile.

Isn't Dean awesome? A great guy with a fantastic book. You can find him here:

Dean's blog
Dean on Twitter
The Hambledown Dreamer on Facebook


And before you go, check out the international release trailer for THE HAMBLEDOWN DREAM. It really captures that sense of longing that carries the reader through the book:

Thank you so much, Dean! It's been a pleasure to have you visit my blog! Even if you can't appreciate my abstract Mallard art from Australia.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Another Look at Will Grayson, Will Grayson

This week has been incredible. So much celebrating! Only problem is the work doesn't really stop for the celebration. Actually, it only builds up. So I haven't had a chance to do much reading.Which really stinks because I've gotten about six books in the mail in just the last few days. It's killing me, like walking past Krispy Kreme donuts without stopping. Who can actually do that??

So, I've decided to repost a review I posted ages ago for an event called SPREADING THE AWESOME hosted by Elana Johnson. Y'all remember that? OMG, I'm so not a y'all kind of person I have no idea where that came from except perhaps from near-death sleeplessness. It's a particularly amazing book, and definitely worth a second and third and probably thirteenth mention from me.

Anyway, please keep in mind this was my first review. I've edited it a little to make it less ridiculous. But...it was my first attempt at reviewing. That's all I'm going to say about that. Try not to laugh. Karma and all that.

by John Green and David Levithan

About the book:  One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.
Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan’s collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won both them legions of faithful fans.

My Review

Okay, 1. One of the funniest books I’ve ever read, hands down, and 2. THE funniest YA book probably, like, EVER. Seriously, I laughed my way through this book, which is crazy because there were some very poignant, sad moments in this that—by the way?—totally took my breath way. The voices of both Will Graysons were so strong and alive and so dang genuine that by the end, I swear to you, I felt like I’d just spent hours talking to these guys.

And Tiny Cooper? Holy catfish, the guy was supposedly only a sidekick, but really, that’s just too weak of a description for him (uh, a little like his name). Tiny is the rubber band that pulled the two Wills together, but he’s also the glue for pretty much the whole book. He’s gigantic with an equally large heart and with such a positive energy that you can’t help but love him and every ounce of his idealism. But you know what I crazy-love about him? He isn’t just the token gay best friend on the sidelines like we so often see depicted (Yawn…give us something genuine, Hollywood)—Tiny is so much more than this. He’s, of course, massively fabulous, but he’s also naive and sometimes insecure with such a deep-seated yearning for love that it handicaps him at times, causing him so much unnecessary hurt. And he is soooo different from the Wills, who are both just as radically different from one another.

Will1, Tiny’s best friend, is straight, but that’s not really what differentiates him. What makes him so distinct from Tiny is his nearly crippling inability to make choices, particularly regarding love. He has this self-deprecating sense of humor that is often ironic, sometimes satirical, and always dry—and squirt-milk-through-your-nose funny. Will2 struggles with serious depression, which is only compounded by being a teenager. But he is so wicked funny in a dark, hyperbolic,  just-short-of-emo, satirical way that keeps the reader from sinking into that depression with him. The beauty of Will Grayson, Will Grayson is that it does deal with regular adolescent issues, but approaches them in a way that is accessible, especially to teenagers. And it’s freakishly entertaining with intellectual teens that still feel like teens (no Dawson’s Creek wannabes).

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a must read. I give it **********.

That is by far the worst ending to a review I've ever written. Here's what I should've said: Will Grayson, Will Grayson will change the way you view young adult literature. It's funny; it's deep; it's moving; it'll appeal to girls and boys equally. And it will stick with you long after you close the book.

If you've already read WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, you might not be surprised to know that it was nominated for a Children's Book Week Children's Choice Book Award for 2011. Now is your opportunity to GO VOTE for it!


Be sure to check out what the other Bookanistas are highlighting this week!!

Elana Johnson shares her love for Like Mandarin
Christine Fonseca purrs over Save the Cat
LiLa Roecker is sweet on Like Mandarin
Shelli Johannes-Wells explores Dark and Hollow Places
Bethany Wiggins is enchanted by My Fair Godmother
Shanna Silver praises Possum Summer
Carrie Harris falls for Head Games
Rosemary Clement Moore travels Across the Universe
Katie Anderson goes Retro
Corrine Jackson celebrates Where She Went
Stasia Ward Kehoe sings about The Mockingbirds

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Would Have Given Anything to Be Like...

In Like Mandarin, 14-year-old Grace Carpenter would give anything to be like Mandarin Ramey. Mandarin is seventeen, self-assured, irreverent and mysterious; the notorious wild girl of their small Wyoming town.

Like Mandarin

From Grace: Sure, maybe most of the attention Mandarin got was negative. But it wasn't the kind of disdainful brainfreak attention I got, when I got any at all. Hers was lust. And jealousy. Because even as they condemned her, every single girl wanted to be her.
But nobody more than me.
I want to be beautiful like you, I thought, as if Mandarin were listening.
I want apricot skin and Pocahontas hair and eyes the color of tea. I want to be confident and detached and effortlessly sensual, and if promiscuity is part of the package, I will gladly follow your lead. All I know is I'm so tired of being inside my body.
I would give anything to be like Mandarin.

Grace's fascination with Mandarin borders on obsession. When they're paired together for a project, their explosive friendship rocks Grace's world – which makes Mandarin's betrayal even more devastating.

So, in honor of LIKE MANDARIN, I've been asked to blog about who my Mandarin was. This has, of course, changed over the years.


When I was about ten, my American grandma introduced me and my siblings to free movies from the library. And thus began my obsession with THE PRINCESS BRIDE. Because I fell in love with Wesley, so I desperately longed to be Princess Buttercup.

54_Miracle-Max1Uh, no.

This one.


These two still turn my insides into a wobbly, gooey mess. Wesley was so handsome, so perfect, and had such an irresistible voice. Princess Buttercup was a bit of a stupidnut, but she was beautiful and Wesley loved her. For a ten year old, that was enough.

But as I got way older, like a year later, Grandma checked out GONE WITH THE WIND. And this time, I fell in love with Ashley. I know, I was supposed to love Rhett Butler, but he's a grown woman type of man, you know. Ashley was all soft-spoken and sweet and whimpy-sexy, just perfect for a sixth grader. And Scarlett wanted him. Melanie Wilkes wanted him. So I wanted to be them.

Rhett-Scarlett-scarlett-ohara-and-rhett-butler-6915942-640-480 Melanie_Wilkes

Scarlett was stupidselfish, but she was strong and resilient. Melanie Wilkes was stupidgullible but she was the kindest, noblest woman ever. I wanted to be, like, their love child. And then marry Ashley. As I got older, I wised up and saw Rhett's appeal, but by then I'd moved on to Axl Rose.

And then, I fell in love and got married (not to Axl Rose), and one day my husband made a casual mention of Kate Beckinsale and my WTF radar kicked in. I was like, all sly and stuff: "You like brunettes, don't you." And his pupils dilated and his jaw tensed and he was like, "I love you and you're a brunette, so yes." And then I looked her up and understood. So, yeah. After that, I wanted to be like her, too. For obvious reasons.



But now, as much as I'd still love to be Kate Beckinsale, she doesn't exactly influence me. Like at all. Not like this person.


This is me with my Mom when I was about...two? We were near the old Humbolt Hotel in Playas, a beach not far from Guayaquil where I was born. My mom stood out like, well, a pasty white person in Ecuador. But she was so strong, you know? Having moved to Ecuador without knowing a lick of Spanish. And she was so determined to raise us kids right, all four of us, and would make us American donuts and pie to eat right along with our arroz con pollo. For our birthdays, she would make paper hats out of newspapers and always our favorite cakes. For me, it was cherry cheesecake.

It's from Mom I get my writing. When I was a kid, I used to sneak into her journals and couldn't believe that anyone I knew could write so beautifully, better than the stuff I read in books. Then when I wrote my first real book in sixth grade, HOW THE ELEPHANT CAME TO BE, she acted like it was the most perfect book she'd ever read, and has kept it to this day. She's the one who gets to read everything I write first, and she always makes me cry with how much she loves it. She makes me feel special, like I could do anything. And she's probably the nicest person in the world. Mom is beautiful like Princess Buttercup. Also strong and resilient, kind and noble--like the love child of Scarlett and Melanie. She's not brunette though, so that's good.

My big sister is brunette, though. But that's okay, because she's awesome. I want to be just like her too.


To this day, she keeps me from falling.



I would like to thank all of you who offered me such tremendous support in the last few days. I was blown away by this online community of writers and book people, friends and family. It was all so overwhelming, but exhilarating. I'm just so moved by it all. Inspired, really. I can't thank you enough. I promise, I'll post my agent story. Soon.

I also owe a special thank you to those of you who threw me my blog party yesterday. You guys have wormed your way into my heart. Thank you for being such amazing people. I look forward to each of your successes.

And to my agent, Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary: thank you. Many times, thank you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

So, I Have Some News (and a Mega Giveaway of a Kindle and More)

Okay, so. Yeah.

This post is one I sometimes thought I wouldn't ever get to write. I mean, I think we've all been there. On the other side of confident. So. I'm kind of flabbergasted. Humbled. Thankful. Dazed.

The inside of my head sort of sounds like the inside of a bee hive. Buzzzzzzzzzzzz. It's weird to say it even, these words. My and agent. Like in the same breath. So, I'll just, for the moment, tell you whisper:

I have an agent.

Her name is Vickie Motter. She's very cool. I like her very much. She took a chance on me.

Honestly, I think that's about all I can say about that today. Because of that buzzing in my head?

So, I'll just tell you that I'm having a giveaway. And I'm not doing it alone. That's part of the reason why I'm just so holy $#!% taken aback. Because people wanted to celebrate with me. Like, willing to even give stuff away for it. And to be honest, if I talk about it any more, I'm going to start sobbing and be unable to finish this post. Their friendship. Their generosity. That of everyone who helped me along the way. Reaching out. You guys. My and agent. It's got me just. I don't know. overwhelmed.

So, yeah, just take a look at the giveaways below. Go to all of their blogs pretty pretty please. They're all amazing people and bloggers. You'll like them. Follow them, okay? And then enter their giveaways. And then come back and enter mine (entry is at the bottom). I'm looking forward to giving these prizes away. I wish I could do more for you. Because I'm certain that I didn't make it this far alone. Your support, your blogs full of advice, encouragement and inspiration, it's all made the difficult journey easier and OMG I can't do this without crying. Okay, moving on.

I don't normally require a follow for giveaways, but this time around, I'd like to reward my bloggie friends. So please be sure you follow, okay? And if you'd like to win the kindle, please make sure you follow all the blogs participating in the Mega Giveaway ( a couple have alternative requirements; you'll see). They're all linked below.

I owe a lot of people Thank Yous, so I promise I'll post that soon, along with my agent story. But for now, thank you. For being a part of my life. I hope I can celebrate with you your own good news, whatever you're wishing for.

Agent Signing Celebration Mega Giveaway

Winner 1: A 1st page critique from my agent Vickie Motter!

Winner 2:
slate-shasta-main-wifiA Kindle Wireless Reading Device

In order to win this one, you will need to follow all the blogs in the giveaway to qualify.

Winner 3:
escapingintotheopen Signed copy of Escaping into the Open: the Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg

Winner 4:
shade Signed Hardback of Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

Winner 5:
passingstrange Signed Hardback of Passing Strange by Daniel Waters



(You will need to subscribe or follow her RSS feed)

One winner will win: 
WRITING DOWN THE BONES, by Natalie Goldberg
HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL, by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman

One winner will win all three:
  • Stephen King's ON WRITING
    • Ray Bradbury's ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING
  • Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD

(In lieu of a follow, you will need to LIKE her Fan page)
Winner 1: A signed copy of MISFIT MCCABE (or ebook)
Winner 2: A signed copy of NOWHERE FEELS LIKE HOME (or ebook)
 Winner 3: A canvas book bag

One winner takes all 3:
A signed copy of THE DARK DIVINE
A signed copy of RAISED BY WOLVES

A $25 Amazon gift card

A $25 Amazon gift card

A Hardcover of Across the Universe

A Signed copy of PERSONAL DEMONS by Lisa Desrochers

(You will need to subscribe to her blog)

101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids: The Ultimate Guide
A partial Critique

A $15 Barnes and Noble gift card

Winner 1: DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

ANGELFIRE by Courtney Allison Moulton
ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins
HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins 
DEMONGLASS by Rachel Hawkins

To enter my giveaway, please fill out the form below:

If you want to enter to win the kindle, make sure you check the box for the kindle and follow all the blogs participating! This giveaway starts at 10 AM EST March 14 and ends midnight EST April 1.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mesmerized by Imaginary Girls

As Bookanistas, we can only recommend/review books that we love, so sometimes it takes a while to find just the right books for our Thursday posts. We have to read a lot. So it's such a relief when I come across books like IMAGINARY GIRLS; I knew within the first few pages that this was a book I would want to recommend. I'd been captivated by the cover when Nova Ren Suma first revealed it, but it doesn't take long, a few lines maybe, before you realize you have something special.




Summary: Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.

But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.

With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about.


I read IMAGINARY GIRLS almost entirely in one sitting. I was mesmerized by this book. The writing won me over first--so impossibly beautiful and sharp and resonant, every line leaving its mark on you long after you've moved on to the next and the next. But closely tied is the voice, which grabs hold of you from word one and just doesn't let go, not even after you close the book.  Chloe is perhaps one of the strongest, most vivid narrators I've had a chance to read, insecure and awkward, flawed and tunnel-visioned in her devotion to her sister--yet not blind to the strangeness of the events around her. In fact, she's more than aware of the abnormality of the life she's sucked into as she reunites with her sister Ruby, a startling character with an intense, free spirit and beauty; and it's Chloe's consuming curiosity that will unravel the threads of Ruby and Chloe's tightly-knit world.

But things don't just come undone in one untimely moment.  From the very beginning, you know that there's something dangerous lurking beneath the surface--of the reservoir and of Ruby's exterior. And from there, the intensity just doesn't stop. It's not that there's an insane amount of action. There's just this tension that builds and builds as the mystery grows bigger and bigger, and before you know it you're racing through the pages because you have to know what's going on. You just have to--just like Chloe who can't help but dig and dig even though it might mean exposing an uglier side of the one person in the world she loves most. It's such a gripping story. I whipped so fast through this, never a dull moment, but it wasn't the action that drove the pace; it was Nova Ren Suma and her masterful delivery.

I don't know that I've read anything like this in a long time. It reminded me a bit of Isabel Allende's House of Spirits or even Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude. There was a strong sense of the supernatural weaved into the story as if it's just the way of things, a second plane of reality, that while questioned perhaps, doesn't jolt by virtue of it being magic, but rather shakes things up because of the consequences of it. That's the beauty of magical realism: it throws something not quite normal at you, but you sort of just run with it. You quickly get over the hurdle of the supernatural, accepting is as a part of the reality (because Chloe does). But while the subtle magic holds the eerie plot together, it's the relationship between the sisters that really drives the story and pulls the reader in. Their intense bond serves as the catalyst for the story and in an incredible twist, forces the unexpected resolution. IMAGINARY GIRLS is a fast, but haunting read, beautiful and intense throughout.

IMAGINARY GIRLS will be available June 2011.



Be sure to check out what the other Bookanistas are highlighting today!


Elana Johnson devours Demonglass

LiLa Roecker shines a light on Clarity

Christine Fonseca joins The Liar Society - with giveaway

Shelli Johannes-Wells swoons over Possum Summer

Scott Tracey leaps for The Liar Society - with giveaway

Myra McEntire invites Lisa & Laura Roecker into the fort

Beth Revis hosts a blog tour stop for Like Mandarin

Bethany Wiggins falls for A Change of Heart

Shana Silver is mad for Bad Taste in Boys

Carrie Harris drinks in Bloodthirsty

Sarah Frances Hardy loves The Liar Society

Stasia Ward Kehoe wonders at Where She Went

Veronica Rossi delights in Delirium

Click here to join The Bookanista Book Club at The Reading Room where you can check out all the books we're buzzing about!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

And So The Noise Goes Like This

Talk too much Click image for source

So, pretty much I never run out of things to talk about. When I was little, the chatter happened in Spanish and with a higher pitch (except for when I would walk around making sounds like gurgle gurg glurg lurg belurg pretending like I could speak English). But basically it was all the same: chatter chatter chatter. I never ran out of topics, opinions, or WTFISTHAT or whyyyyyyyyy?

In middle school, my BBF and I would exchange letters--you know, the kind you fold up in weird puzzly shapes and scribble For your eyes only and LYLAS CIEVY & KAYDEE BFFE and if we'd had OMG that would've been on there too, and tossed across the room when your teacher's back was turned? Yeah, well, mine didn't fold up into puzzly shapes very well because they were usually at least five pages long. Okay, fine, closer to ten. Filled front and back. Whatever. But I had SO MANY THINGS TO SAY DAMNIT. My poor BFF was always like dang, girl and she tolerated all my stories and one time I pulled this major prank on her and wrote her this long letter about this old guy coming after me when I left the corner store eating my 75 cent strawberry hand-dipped ice cream cone with a bubble gum ball at the bottom, and then he jumped me--and so the letter went on and on, with super minute details and tension and gripping OMG WHY DIDN'T SHE CALL TO TELL ME THIS? and then the letter ended with me saying, "and then he pulled my leg. just like I'm pulling yours," and she was like, "YOU @#$% OMG! I HATE YOU THAT WAS AWESOME!"

And then as I got older I learned to talk less and listen more sometimes. I would fill pages and pages of journals and notebooks and scraps of papers writing stories and scenes and plays without ends sometimes not making any sense at all. And then as I got even older my stories got stronger and smarter and more clever but I still tried to do things like follow rules because damn nobody likes a run-on or fragments. Right?

And finally one day I realized that maybe I had something with this writing thing. When most every other dream died except the ones that truly mattered, there it was, this new dream--this thing I had been doing forever and ever, thinking it was always just because there was too much in my head. And the fact was that's exactly what it was--too much in my head, but the more I got it out and onto paper, the better I got at turning it into something that made sense and sounding like a real story, and the more I reached into my characters, the more I learned about myself. It didn't seem to matter how much I wrote, I NEVER RAN OUT. Always, there were more words and stories and people I'd never met before in my head who were all like dude, let me outta your head, and so I had to keep putting them on paper. The words the words, they always keep coming.

So yeah. I never run out of things to say.

But this week,