Tuesday, January 31, 2012

February! AKA: Holy Awesomesauce, Batgirl!

February is going to be a month full of HOLY AWESOMESAUCE, BATGIRL on this blog. Are you ready for it? Behold!

Feb 1:     Beth Revis takes on our newest interviewer, Giselle (the French pink sock monkey) and gives away a signed copy of her newest book, A MILLION SUNS.

Feb 3:     The last day to submit an entry in QUERY-palooza. (Five free query critiques, yo. Why are you still staring at this? Go enter!)

Feb 6:      QUERY-palooza, Day 1. Plus, the release of my query handbook at a special introductary price!

Feb 6-10:  QUERY-palooza!!

Feb 8, 9, 16, 22: Author Mad Libs featuring debut authors Jessica Spotswood and Emily Danforth, plus crowd favorites Kelly Keaton and Rachel Hawkins!

Feb 23:    DEFIANCE cover and synopsis reveal!!! This will take place over at the amazing YABooksCentral. Have you joined and friended me yet? What are you waiting for?

Feb 29:    What am I doing with my extra February day? I'm inviting my editor Kristin Rens onto the blog for an interview and the first giveaway for an ARC of DEFIANCE! I will be giving away less than 10 ARCs of DEFIANCE between now and August 28th. Here's your chance for one of them!

Trailer for INCARNATE

Today's book trailer is for one of my favorite books of 2012. INCARNATE is beautiful, dramatic, and makes the reader wrestle with deep questions. It also has one of the best kissing scenes ever. :) What do you think?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mad Libs: Kami Kinard

Today's Author Mad Libs guest is Kami Kinard whose book THE BOY PROJECT just hit the shelves. Kami received a list of parts of speech from me. This is the result. :)



For anyone who's ever felt that _Octopi__ were a different species....


Wildly _secretive_ seventh grader, Kara McAllister, just had her _most reclusive_ idea yet. She's going to take _tentacles_ on all of the boys in her _cave_ (and a few elsewhere) in order to answer a seemingly simple question: How can she _scoot_ a boyfriend?

But Kara's _ink_ turns out to be a lot more _fantastic_ than she imagined. Soon there are secrets, _phenomena_, and an embarrassing _coral_ in the boy's bathroom. Plus, Kara has to deal with mean _elephants_, her slightly spacey BFF, and some _titanic_ uses for duct tape. Still, if Kara's research leads her to the _steely_ boy, everything may just be worth it...

Full of charts and _toenails_, heart and humor, this hilarious _seaweed_ will resonate with tweens everywhere.


About Kami:

Kami Kinard enjoys _racing_about the boyfriend quest more than she enjoyed experiencing it. A _dancing_ artist on the SC Arts Commission’s Roster of Approved _Shoes_, she writes from Beaufort, South Carolina where she lives with her _galaxy_husband and two _stars_.


Thank you, Kami, for joining in the fun! To learn more about Kami, head to her website. To purchase your copy of the hilarious THE BOY PROJECT, go here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mad Libs: Brodi Ashton

Today's guest on Author Mad Libs is Brodi Ashton, author of the acclaimed debut EVERNEATH.  She was sent a list of parts of speech. This is the result. :)



Last spring, Nikki Beckett _plopped_, sucked into a _monster truck_ known as the Everneath, where _zombies_ Feed on the emotions of despairing _fireworks_. Now she's returned- to her old _cereal_, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the _nail polish_... this time forever.


She has six months before the Everneath comes to _strip_ her, six months for good-byes she can't find the _snowballs_ for, six months to find _toaster_, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months _flailing_ with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than _a missile_. But there's a problem: Cole, the _textured_ immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal _pinky_. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his _binky_.

As Nikki's _slinky_grows short and her _brains_ begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the _most sissified_ decision of her life: find a way to _grab_ fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or _heave_ to the Everneath and become Cole's...
 
 
About Brodi:
 
Because of two parents who were Greek myth _boxers_, she grew up thinking the latest fashion trends were inspired by _Rafael Nadal_, and a _hunky_ conversational opener was, “So, which mythological _ear hair_do you most resemble?” Despite these social_bums_, she found a _purple_ husband who’s always her first reader. She lives in _Hank Azaria_ with her two young _bandaids_, who still have no idea why she's at the computer all the time.


She received a Bachelor’s degree in _Pot_ from the University of Utah and a Master’s degree in _Smokin'_ Relations from the London School of Economics.



Thank you, Brodi, for playing along! To learn more about Brodi, visit her website. To purchase Everneath (One of the best books I've ever read!), go here.

INCARNATE Winner!


Thank you to all who entered the giveaway for a signed copy of INCARNATE. As always, I used random.org to generate the winning number. And the lucky winner is:

Vivien

Congratulations! You will receive a confirmation email from me shortly. Thank you and happy reading!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Movie Trailer for BRAVE

Usually, I only share book trailers or trailers for movies based on books, but today I'm going to make an exception. I'm really excited about Pixar's upcoming film BRAVE. I love Scotland as a setting, and I'm more than ready for a strong female heroine who doesn't look like a Barbie doll. What do you think?


Monday, January 23, 2012

Darth Vader & Old Jalopies


1. I am not feeling particularly witty today.

2. This is because I've been sick for days and am barely sleeping at night.

3. And THAT is because I keep trying to cough up a lung.

4. It hasn't worked yet, but that doesn't stop me from trying!

5. At the rate I'm going, I figure my abs should look like Jacob's by the time I get well.



6. Before you start imagining that I am a sexy thing when I am sick, however, allow me to assure you that when I cough, I sort of sound like an old jalopy engine trying (and failing) to start.

7. In fact, I'm beginning to sound a bit like Darth Vader.

8. Few things are sexier than a woman who sounds like an old car with Darth Vader trapped beneath the hood.

9. Speaking of Darth Vader, here's one of my favorite Eddie Izzard bits. Enjoy the laugh! Warning: there's some profanity if you're sensitive to that.


10. And that's really all I have for you today. My brain refuses to work. I am hoping for a full revival soon!





Friday, January 20, 2012

Were-llama Reviews: GRIMM

Recently, the Were-llama has taken to watching this show:



At first glance, the Awesome factor seems high enough to warrant any self-respecting were-llama's full attention. And for the first two episodes, the show lived up to the trailer. Tension! Drama! Old familiar fairy tales given a fresh, modern twist that did what all good fairy tales are supposed to do--scare the spit out of anyone watching it. There's even a funny guy with a plethora of mostly successful one-liners.


"This is the part of the horror movie where the sidekick gets it."


But then ... the show began to feel like it was slowing down. It began treading water--characters stopped developing, mysteries stagnated, and the whole thing started to feel as familiar as yesterday's cud. You know, it was pretty good the first time around, but chewing on it again, while enough to satisfy your hunger, doesn't actually count as a gourmet meal.

The Were-llama expects a gourmet meal. Therefore, I am going to give the producers of GRIMM a detailed lesson in how they can save their show. Because we all know if the Were-llama stops watching, the rest of the world will follow suit, and it won't be long before the only reliable audience left viewing the show will be camels who are too dumb-as-a-box-of-sand to know any better.


Televisions are shiny! We like the shiny!

Lesson #1: Kill, maim, or hurt the people who matter

If you bill your show as a drama, a police procedural, or Jerry Springer, you need some violence to really sell the story. GRIMM has plenty of violence, but most of it is aimed at the wrong people: Characters whose only job is to show up for the few minutes it takes them to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and bite the big one courtesy of a supernatural baddie. This is fine, and the Were-llama approves of this story set-up. After all, Nick is a police officer and clearly the supernatural creatures he can now recognize are not exactly the peaceful, law-abiding sort.

But if the only people who are killed, maimed, or hurt are people we never care about, the Were-llama is going to do something more interesting. Like clean his toilet.


Apparently, I am a llama toilet.
Upon Googling "llama toilet" in an effort to provide visual aids in today's review, the Were-llama was surprised to see the above picture was the very first result. Clearly, I don't know Tom Hanks as well as I thought I did. I shall remedy the situation forthwith.

However, Tom Hanks' somewhat unfortunate photo actually illustrates my point admirably. Look at him. If ever a man looked like he was recently disemboweled by an huntsman working for a wicked stepmother, it's Tom Hanks. And we all know Hanks never plays anything but the lead character.

GRIMM producers, if you want your show's Awesomemeter to tip the scale toward ten, I suggest a good disembowelment of one of the main characters. Or an attack that leaves the character in the psychiatric ward wondering what the holy llama just happened to him. At the very least, tear off a finger or two. If you don't, the viewer becomes complacent with the knowledge that the beloved main characters will always come through each episode with nothing more than the occasional scratch, and your viewership will wander off to clean toilets instead.

Lesson #2: Don't drop your plot arcs

In the first few episodes, the Were-llama worried every time Nick left the house. He was prey! He was irresponsibly using his aunt's trailer full of information and weapons without once worrying that at any second a vicious supernatural hitman could crash through its flimsy walls and devour him in three bites! He was scrambling to understand his new ability and keep secrets from his fiance who seems smart enough to have figured out a thing or two.

And his BOSS! The CONSPIRACY! The Were-llama had his clover flavored popcorn and a tall Dr. Pepper ready at every episode!

But .. you misplaced your arcs. I'm guessing you left them lying in the same place you left your cajones. You stopped putting Nick in immediate danger from hitmen or his boss. You stopped giving us hints. You let his fiance remain smart but oddly clueless, a quality the Were-llama does not appreciate in the portrayal of fictional women as every woman he's ever met has been smart enough to keep him on his toes and then some. You let Nick visit the trailer unimpeded.

In short, the only conflict Nick ever really has to address is the case in front of him, and we've already established in Lesson #1 that we know he'll figure it out and escape the entire thing unscathed. The Were-llama suggests you find the threads of your plot arcs and start treating the viewers to the kind of layered story-telling you promised in the beginning or he shall be forced to regurgitate the remnants of his clover flavored popcorn with the express purpose of spitting it in your faces.And then he will recruit his friends to help him because without plot arcs to follow, his friends will have nothing better to do.

Clover flavored popcorn - Llama Remix Style



Lesson #3: Grow your main character

Nick started out the series as a smart cop who relies on his instincts and can handle himself fairly well in a physical confrontation. We're eight episodes in and guess what? Nick is still a smart copy who relies on his instincts and can handle himself fairly well in a physical confrontation.

Woo-fricking-hoo.



The cure for insomnia! You has it!

He doesn't even have to use those instincts when it comes to catching the supernatural baddies because he can conveniently see who they are beneath their glamour. So now that leaves us with smarts and handling himself fairly well in physical confrontations.

Except we've already established that he rarely has any physical confrontations to speak of, and he always wins. Against supernatural baddies. Even though he doesn't have any extra strength, agility, or weapons beyond what a normal human has.


Superhero: You're doing it WRONG.

So, now we're left with smarts. But ... you never test those smarts. He figures out which supernatural creature he's dealing with by looking them up in his big book of supernatural baddies. Fine. But he doesn't worry anyone else might be coming after him like they did his aunt. He doesn't trace his ancestry or try to understand his role in things. He doesn't even decide that maybe the cabinet of awesome weaponry at his disposal might be worth exploring in case the producers of his show ever decide to actually give him an enemy who won't roll over and die at the mere sight of him and his cop's gun.


Go ahead and look me up in your little book, Nicky-boy. I dare you.


The Were-llama is displeased! A good character behaves like a Chia pet. He begins with a strong structure and over the course of time, he grows into the creature he was always meant to be. Nick is still nothing but a bald Chia pet.

Nobody likes a bald Chia pet.


Just say no to hairless Chia pets.

Nick needs new skills, a quest to push him to his limits, and an adversary the viewer worries he won't beat. The Were-llama volunteers for the job. Nick will either have to man up or search the Portland area for the remains of his vital organs.

I'm guessing if presented with those two choices, Nick would man up.

Lesson #4: World building, if you please!

The Were-llama can sum up this lesson in one pithy little sentence: Having every supernatural creature instantly fear Nick simply because they know he's a Grimm is stupid.


Stupid is as stupid does.

It was fine at first because the viewer was still getting adjusted to the rules of the world and so was Nick. But now, it's old.

Fine. We get it. He's a Grimm, therefore they fear him on sight. But ... what has he done to inspire this continued fear? Absolutely nothing. He hasn't demonstrated special skills. He hasn't mastered weapons capable of taking out supernatural creatures. And apparently, he doesn't have to. Being a good cop and a good shot is enough.

The problem is that the Were-llama didn't sign up to watch NYPD Blue with a sprinkling of fairy tales on the side. The Were-llama expects Nick to BRING IT. Give them a reason for the fear. Clearly, being a Grimm must mean something or his reputation wouldn't precede him.


Yes, my reputation precedes me. You may run now.


But now Nick needs to earn his reputation. It's put up or shut up time. The Were-llama, much like Darth Vader, is accustomed to people fearing the very sight of him. This is because the Were-llama has proven to be a fierce opponent, afraid of nothing, with a handy spit-from-either-end arsenal of weapons that can bring even the hardiest of men to their knees.

Show the viewer why a Grimm is feared. Give Nick some new skills and an opponent or two who not only don't fear him, they plan to make him the main course of their next meal.


Tastes like chicken.

In short, producers, you are now in imminent danger of turning a show full of talented actors and superb CGI into Murder She Wrote.


Careful! If I don't kill you in my book, you'll surely drop dead in real life.

Remember that show? The Were-llama does. The Were-llama was grateful when the main character became an animated teapot instead. No more cases only the main character could solve, even though she had no extra special skills. No more wondering how it was possible that someone always dropped dead every time Jessica Fletcher entered a building. No more treading the same old story line--New corpse! Same conclusion!--every week.

EDITED TO ADD: The Were-llama wrote this review over a week ago. After this review was completed, the Were-llama watched the latest episode of GRIMM and has come to the following conclusion: The producers of GRIMM are spying on the Were-llama. In this last episode, all of the Were-llama's lessons were heeded! Nick was attacked and injured. The contents of the trailer and the weapon cache were used. Nick's fiance showed her courage. And the threads of mystery around Nick tightened, just a bit. The Were-llama is pleased and will change his Spit-O-Meter rating to reflect this.

However, the producers of GRIMM should take note. The Were-llama is not a forgiving creature. If they choose to spy on my computer again, I will be forced to call in good old Uncle Chuck. Final verdict--Grimm: Almost as Awesome as me.
SPIT-O-METER

4 out of 5 gallons





Interviewer extraordinaire, cover model, and super scary shape-shifter, the Were-llama now adds reviewer to his long list of awesome credentials. His views are his own. And because he can command obedience with the awesome power of his glowing red eyes, his views are also YOURS. When the Were-llama wants your opinion, he will give it to you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Interview with Jodi Meadows


I first heard about INCARNATE when lurking in the Welcome-to-Harper-Collins box my editor sent me was an ARC of Jodi's book. The cover instantly drew me in, and I read it within a few weeks of receiving it. I was immediately captivated by Ana and her sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes triumphant journey. The world is complex, the damage in Ana runs deep, and the boy who stands up for her is yum. Not necessarily yum in a physical sense, although he is a cutie. But the true magic is the way he sees past the damage and reaches her heart with the one thing they have in common: a passion for music. I appreciated that this book made me think, that not all of the answers I want were spoon-fed to me (some of the most important answers won't come for another book or two!), and that it has one of the best kissing scenes ever.

I mean yes, give me a lovely thought-provoking book with a courageous, damaged girl, but please don't neglect the swoony romance! Here's a peek at INCARNATE:

NEWSOUL



Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

NOSOUL


Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

HEART


Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

Looks intriguing, doesn't it? I approached Jodi after reading the book to tell her how much I enjoyed it, and we became friends. I couldn't wait to invite her to come on the blog so I could introduce my readers to yet another fabulous up and coming author. Jodi, who is no push over, chose to be interviewed by the Spork of Doom.

Spork of Doom



Jodi Meadows


Before we get to the interview itself, of course, I get to reveal the gorgeous cupcake my hubby made in honor of INCARNATE. Naturally, he chose to bring the butterfly on Jodi's cover to life. Without further ado, I give you the butterfly cupcake and the Spork of Doom vs. Jodi Meadows.






1. I’m all about world domination, and I’m always looking for good help. Why would you be an acceptable minion in my quest?


I am no one's minion. Not even a spork's. In fact, I have a titanium spork of my own. I keep it locked in a flowery hatbox.



2. SACRILEGE!! *trembles with rage* Best step carefully, madam, or you shall find yourself sporked. I'm told it's most uncomfortable. Being a Spork of Doom takes moxie. What’s the sporkiest thing you’ve ever done?

You don't think keeping one of your sporky brethren captive takes moxie? Those things have tines! But once I did try to bring back the word moxie. It didn't go very far. Except . . . apparently with you.

I think you may be one of my minions. *eyebrow*

3. I. Am. Nobody's. Minion. *glares* Madam, you have danced an unholy jig upon my last nerve, and we're only on the second question. Did it never occur to you that rather than being kept captive, my worthy brother is simply lying in wait? Go ahead. Open that bloody hatbox. I dare you.

No? Fine. We'll continue. When I’m not busy taking over the world, I like to eat pie. What kind of pie do you think is worthy of my Spork of Doom status?

Hmm, good question. I've had a lot of talks with the spork in my hatbox. It keeps asking for pie, but I haven't given it any. It hasn't requested a particular kind, either. It just claws around the bottom of the hatbox calling out for pie.

4. I will tell you his favorite kind of pie. Minced meat. Made with delectable bits of uppity human girls instead of those nasty chunks of fruit. What’s your favorite thing to do with a spork?

Hatbox it.

Okay, I'll stop talking about the spork in my hatbox if you do. Truce? At least while we're on CJ's blog. We can negotiate for the hostage later.

5. If by truce, you mean Duel to the Death, then yes. I agree. Meet me at dawn. You bring your hatbox. I'll bring my recipe for Mincemeat Pie. I have the ability to be simultaneously spoon, fork, and weapon of mass destruction. What unique ability do you have?

I think my ability to capture-- Oh right. We weren't talking about that anymore.

Well, it isn't unique, but I can spin yarn using a hand spindle. What you may not realize about this is . . . spindles are sharp. They also have weighted ends. And spun silk is very strong. Good for stabbing, bonking, and strangling.

6. How sad for you that you must use an outside implement for stabbing, bonking, and strangling. A spork need only lower his mighty tines and charge. In this day and age, a savvy spork bent on world domination can’t afford to ignore a good marketing campaign. I’m thinking t-shirts with “Spork or Die.” If you made a shirt with your own slogan on it, what would it say?

It would say "Kittens are fluffy!"

7. So is Human Souffle if you fold instead of whisk. If I had to compare myself to anyone in history, I’d have to say I’m most like Napoleon. Only skinnier. And shinier. And smart enough not to lose my empire at a place with a ridiculous name like Waterloo. Who are you most like and why?

There has never been anyone like me, nor will there ever be again. There is only one Jodi. Accept no substitutes.

8. Oh, I won't. *examines ingredients list* Why is your job just as much fun as world domination?

Are you kidding? I regularly get to threaten the world, then take all the credit for saving it. My job is world domination.

9. *measures flour into a bowl* I'm sorry, you were saying? In between conquests, I like to read a good story. What can you recommend and why?

I have lots of favorite books and I don't like to pick favorites, but one that still sticks out is PLAIN KATE by Erin Bow. It's lovely and lyrical, and filled with emotional goodness. (And by goodness I mean it makes you cry.)

10. I never cry. I simply gather the tears of my enemies and drink them like a fine wine. You need to accomplish a secret, night-time mission as my minion. Cloak? No cloak? Why?

Well, just as a reminder, I'm not your minion. But if I were on some sort of secret night-time mission, I'd definitely use a cloak. BECAUSE THEY'RE AWESOME.

11. My best piece of advice to others is this: “Fear the spork!” What’s your best advice?

"Blame it on the rain."



You may blame it on anything you like, this is still your future:

Mincemeat pie. Secret ingredient? Jodi Meadows


Thank you, Jodi, for such an entertaining interview! I don't think I've ever seen the Spork so riled up. Good luck with that whole Duel to the Death business. To find out more about Jodi, visit her site. To purchase Incarnate, visit Indie Bound.

Of course, the fun isn't over yet! Jodi is offering a signed hardback  copy of INCARNATE to one lucky commenter. the giveaway is for the United States only, and is open until 8 p.m. central time, Monday, January 23rd. To enter simply fill out the form below.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Crave Book Trailer

Today's Trailer Tuesday video is for CRAVE by Melissa Darnell. I've been admiring her gorgeous cover for a while, so it's fun to get a sense of what the story is about. What do you think of this one?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Part of my Charm




1. I find the above pic so hilarious, I almost don't want to write a Monday list because what could possibly top that?

2. Side note: I totally need a llama costume.

3. I don't care how mortified my kids would be.

4. My birthday was January 8th. Since I don't mind aging at all, I will freely admit to turning 38.

5. I don't think that's old. I don't feel old. I don't act old.

6. But ... as much as I don't mind aging, I don't feel a need to rush the process either.

7. So when my parents inexplicably received a letter from the AARP addressed to me and decided the best way to handle it was to bring it with them when they visited in December so they could hand deliver it, I didn't appreciate it.

8. I mean, I'm all about getting a senior discount at the local Bed, Bath and Beyond, but at least wait until I'm hovering just under 50 before you put me on your mailing list..


9. But if my parents found it hilarious that their daughter was now on the AARP mailing list (And really? If they pause to think about that long enough, I think the joke will be on them ...), my husband nearly died of laughter.

10. Don't worry. It won't be laughter that kills him.

11. I'd like to elaborate on the above statement a little more, but one day I may need plausible deniability in court.

12. Because not only did my hubby laugh himself silly over the fact that even though he's older than me, he's yet to land on the AARP's radar, he made a grave error on my birthday.

13. Starshine asked him how old I was, and my dear, loving husband looked me in the eye and said "Some people call her the Ancient of Days."

14. I said "Some people call you dead. I can make sure they aren't lying."

15. But of course, I need time to make it look like an accident.

16. I received some fun and totally perfect for me gifts from my family: A squishable zombie whose brains leak out when you squeeze him (I KNOW!! So awesome.), a bumper sticker with an attacking kitten that says "Release the Kraken!," a Harry Potter chess set, a lovely scarf, and a plaque that says #1 Mom and Writer (Which my hubby had made for me and which definitely helped save his life.).

17. But the gifts I want to discuss are the ones my friends and family kept suggesting as the most appropriate for me.

18. A helmet.

19. A nose plug.

20. A cell phone pouch to wear around my neck so that my hubby and Myra don't have to keep having conniption fits every time they try to call me and my phone is somewhere I'm not.

21. I can't really argue with the necessity of any of these. I can't keep track of how many head injuries I've had, I don't think there's anyone else on the Internet who has admitted to accidentally snorting more things than me, and it's true I hardly ever know where my cell phone is. The one time I tried to follow Clint's (and Myra's) instructions and carry it around in my pocket all day, it fell out and landed in the dryer.

22. Thankfully, I saw it before I turned the dryer on. But what if next time it falls in the oven? Or the bathtub? OR THE TOILET?

23. With my luck, it would fall in an automatically flushing toilet and that would be the end of it.

24. My sister has decided the answer to all of these is to wrap me up in bubble wrap, thus protecting my head and securing my phone to my person at all times.

25. Myra has offered to Bedazzle a helmet for me.

26. Jodi and her husband are pretty convinced anything that comes near me will get snorted one way or another. Including bubble wrap.

27. In fact, when my car died by the side of the road in December, Jodi said to her hubby "Guess what happened to C.J.'s car today?"

27. And he replied "It went up her nose?"

28. I'm going to eschew the helmet idea (Can we say flat hair??), nix the nose plug (I'd probably just get it stuck in one of my nostrils anyway.), and make my hubby put down in writing that the chances of me losing the phone pouch are 99 to 1 and he knows that going into it.

29. And then I'm going to get a t-shirt made that says "It's Part of my Charm."

30. One of these days, my friends and family will just learn to accept that.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

QUERY-palooza!



If you asked writers to name their top pre-publication frustrations, odds are good the highest spot on that list would belong to query writing. I've been there, but I know the truth--anyone can learn how to write a compelling query letter with the right tools. Drawing on my years of experience teaching online query workshops, I'm offering a new comprehensive handbook designed to help writers master the query once and for all.

"QUERY: Everything You Need to Get Started, Get Noticed, and Get Signed" covers everything from basic query format to agent research to innovative strategies to create a fabulous hook. The handbook provides examples, worksheets, and tools to enable every writer to query well. For writers seeking publication, QUERY will provide practical, usable assistance for every stage of the querying process.

QUERY will be available in e-pub format Monday, February 6th! I'm really excited about it. I studied teaching at Pepperdine University and taught high school English for several years in a private school where I often wrote my own exercises and projects to supplement the existing curriculum. Extending my love of innovative teaching into the publishing field felt like a natural fit. I break down the writing process into manageable steps, help you identify what you should include, and include tools I wrote specifically with authors in mind.

To celebrate the publication of QUERY, I'm going to do a QUERY-palooza the week of February 6th-10th. I will be randomly choosing 5 queries from those submitted. If I receive more than 50 entries, I will choose 10 queries so feel free to spread the word! Each query will receive an in-depth critique and will be posted either on my blog (Tues-Fri), or as my monthly column at Romance University (Mon).

So, want to win a free query critique? To enter, simply fill out the form below. I will use random.org to choose which queries receive a critique. Please note that I will be copying and pasting the query exactly as you type it, so if you want your name or title redacted, please do so. :)

I will accept entries until 8 p.m. central time Friday, February 3rd.

Good luck to you!










Friday, January 13, 2012

Were-llama Reviews: GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

Recently, on the advice of this blog owner, I read this book:



The book jacket promised the following adventure:

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.



Elisa is the chosen one.


But she is also the younger of two princesses. The one who has never done anything remarkable, and can’t see how she ever will.


Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic, are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior, and he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.


Most of the chosen do.

As you might expect after reading that summary, this is a book full of grand adventures, magic, and delicious pastries. What? You didn't see "delicious pastries" in that description? Well, SPOILER ALERT. There are delicious pastries in this book. Or there were before I went in and ate them all.


All your pastries are belong to ME!


I love a thrilling adventure as much as the next llama, but this book has something more than danger, romance, and the aforementioned pastries. Something the book jacket failed to mention. Hidden in the depths of this book is a veritable love fest for camels.

Camels.

Camels: Exhibit A for "AAAHHH MY EYES!"

It's been said that camels and llamas are similar, but comparing the two is like saying geckos and Komodo dragons are both capable of ripping off your arm. The author of this book seems to need a lesson in this distinction. The only thing the camel has going for it is its ability to survive in the desert for long periods of time without water. This, apparently, is an attractive trait to those humans who like to wander around in burning sand for days on end.

Guess what? Llamas don't need much water, either. Only we manage to pull off this feat without growing an unsightly hump.


My humps! My humps! My lovely lady lumps!

Camels can carry heavy loads for humans. News flash! Llamas can do. Only we don't let humans dress us up like Lady Gaga while we do it.


Born this way? I think not.

Also, what happens if you camel-lovers have a confrontation with someone who means you harm? The llama's stare can turn even the strongest man's digestive tract into a water slide of misery.



Death. It's coming for you.



I can't feel my lower lip. Can you feel my lower lip? Maybe I don't even HAVE a lower lip.

And what if your enemy attacks? A camel shows its displeasure by sticking out its tongue. A llama can conjure up spit, air, and even stomach bile to spit in your enemy's face.


Nyah-nyah-nyah! That will show them!

The plain fact of the matter is this: having a love fest for camels instead of llamas is like saying you'd like to have Richard Simmons go to bat for you even though Chuck Norris is available.

Kicked in the hump.
 
Don't let the lack of pastries and the unfortunate existence of camels deter you from reading this book, however.  The adventure is well worth the small sacrifice of having to replace the word "camel" with the word "llama" as you read. I suggest using a black sharpie for this purpose. One can only hope the author takes this comprehensive lesson in Llama vs. Camel facts into consideration in the sequel. GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS: Nearly as awesome as me.
 
SPIT-O-METER

4.5 out of 5 gallons

 
 
 
 
Interviewer extraordinaire, cover model, and super scary shape-shifter, the Were-llama now adds reviewer to his long list of awesome credentials. His views are his own. And because he can command obedience with the awesome power of his glowing red eyes, his views are also YOURS. When the Were-llama wants your opinion, he will give it to you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Author Mad Libs: Anne Nesbet

Today's Author Mad Libs guest is Anne Nesbet. Without seeing today's post, Anne has provided me with a list of words to help me in my quest to describe both Anne and her book. Let the mayhem begin!


The Author:

Anne Nesbet writes the kind of __croissants__ that she wants to _caterwaul_. She claims she's younger than the average _saxophone_, but older than most _gargoyles_. She once wrote a book about _marshmallows_ who _slipped_ while they were also busy _shrieking_ like it was going out of style. That takes some _breadcrumbs_! As a child, she had big _saltshakers_ and was very _spiky_. She loves _miffed_ music and even plays the _marmot_. She has a beautiful _doorknob_ whom she likes to walk on_cobblestones_. Her special skill is that she can _fling_ while _tap-dancing_. Her first book, _An Addressbook Under Streetcars __, comes out this January from Harper Collins.

The Book:



On their first day in Paris, Maya and her little brother, James, find themselves caught up in some very old _jam_. Houses with _smoky_ salamanders for door handles, _buttercups_ that look too much like Maya’s own _fabulous_ face, a man wearing _flashlights_ to hide his _dented_ purple eyes–nothing is what it seems. And what does all that _armchair__ want from Maya? With the help of a friendly _kazoo_ named Valko, Maya discovers _stereoscopes_ hidden in her family tree–grandmothers who _melted_ in magic, a cousin so _fragrant_ she’s actually hard to see, and a terrible family habit of _meandering_ one’s _squirrel_. To save her own brother, Maya must take on the magical _sonnet_of _Millicent_ . . . before it is too late.



Reviews:


“a-shimmer with _dumplings_” (Horn Book) . . . “charmingly _toothsome_” (Kirkus) . . . “evocative _scissors_ and a confident narrative voice” (Publishers Weekly) . . . “readers will be swept along by the novel’s swift _binoculars_”(Shelf Awareness) . . . “a unique, interesting _salamander_ with just enough suspense to keep _biscuits_ turning the pages into the night” (VOYA)


Sounds fabulous, doesn't it? Thank you, Anne, for being a good sport and playing along. To get the real scoop on THE CABINET OF EARTHS and Anne, head to her site or find her book on IndieBound.



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Trailers for INCARCERON & SAPPHIQUE

Today is a double dose of Trailer Tuesday as I bring you both the trailer for INCARCERON (One of the best books I read in 2010) and its sequel SAPPHIQUE (currently sitting near the top of my TBR pile.) What do you think? (The second trailer starts the same as the first ... I say this because my instant reaction was that I'd clicked on the wrong link.)



Monday, January 9, 2012

Winner of EVERNEATH!


Thank you to all who entered the contest to win a signed copy of Brodi Ashton's amazing debut EVERNEATH. As always, I used random.org to select the winner. And the winner is

Laurisa White Reyes

Congratulations, Laurisa! You will receive a confirmation email from me shortly. Thanks again for entering and happy reading!

If you missed winning Everneath, stay tuned! Debut author Jodi Meadows and best selling author Beth Revis will be on the blog in the next few weeks with more entertaining interviews and more books to win. :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Were-llama Reviews: Mission Impossible 4

Recently, I attended the movie theater on a Friday night to see this:



Explosions, car chases, nuclear war ... blah, blah, blah. The real question on everyone's mind is this: Where are the llamas?

I'm going to share with you a little known fact. Agent Ethan Hunt is a were-llama. Proof? He survived multiple falls, crashes, and run-ins with unsavory types who appeared bigger and stronger than him. Now, I ask you. What man can do that unless he's a were-llama?

James Bond, you say?

Also a were-llama.

Chuck Norris, you say?

Please. Every were-llama on the planet has "Chuck" as a middle name.



Sadly, the villain in this action-packed thriller was not a were-llama. If I had to guess (and we all know my guesses are gospel), I'd say his mother was a camel and his father smelt of vodka. Sure, he seemed smart enough at first. But peel back a layer or two and you discover a hump full of crazy.



Hunt and his team were smart, savvy, and sometimes funny. Their main problem, besides the camel-for-a-mama villain, was malfunctioning high-tech gadgets. This nearly led to a mission failure of epic proportions several times.

Clearly, the tech wizard on their team did not know how to fully capitalize on Agent Hunt's inner llama. For example, he could have insisted Hunt sound the llama alarm. Nothing intimidates your opponent and alerts your team members to imminent danger like the mighty clarion call of the llama.






I'm sorry, did one of you humans just say the mighty clarion call of the llama sounds like the bed springs at a cheap hotel? DID YOU?

Better rethink those words, you lesser being. Nobody wants me to get Edward involved in this.


Edward says you smell like dinner.

Also, I feel the director failed to utilize Hunt's most important weapon--llama spit. No need to disarm your opponent, get in a fist fight, or hope your high-tech gadget doesn't fail you at the last minute! Simply gather one's juices and let fly. No worries that a sexy spy will seduce the secret out of you.



Unless that sexy spy is a were-llama. Then, you are doomed to spill both your secrets and your guts. Oh, you thought the term "spill your guts" was a euphemism? Welcome to pain, son. I'll be your tour guide.


That's right. I'm bringing sexy back. And you'll take it if you know what's good for you.

However, despite these obvious failings, the movie was entertaining enough to momentarily distract me from my own incomparable reflection for two hours. Mission Impossible 4: it nearly lived up to my stunning awesomeness.


SPIT-O-METER

4 out of 5 gallons








Interviewer extraordinaire, cover model, and super scary shape-shifter, the Were-llama now adds reviewer to his long list of awesome credentials. His views are his own. And because he can command obedience with the awesome power of his glowing red eyes, his views are also YOURS. When the Were-llama wants your opinion, he will give it to you.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

One Last Look

Edited to add the following: My editor has just informed me that we're done! ARCs will print after copy edits (which I already finished last month) and type set etc are finished. So ... the real title of this post is now "It's DONE." :)




DEFIANCE is just about ready be printed into ARCs. I get one more look when my editor sends me page proofs, and then that's it. It's out there. My baby is ready to leave the nest.

It's a surreal feeling to know that one last read-through is all that stands between me owning my story and me giving my story to you. Once you read it, once your imagination interacts with it, it becomes yours. You might love it. You might hate it. Either way it will be stick-a-fork-in-me done.

When that thought first hit me, my stomach pitched and rolled. What if I missed something? What if later I want to change that word to this word, but I can't? What if ....?

My stomach also pitched and rolled from excitement. Something along the lines of HOLYCOWEVERYONEWILLFINALLYREADTHISWOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!


There's no way to be completely calm about this, no matter how hard I try, but I no longer feel queasy about only seeing the manuscript one more time before it's set in stone. I'm a nit picky, thorough writer who works hard. My editor is a nit picky, thorough editor who works hard. I trust her. I trust myself. Every single word in this book has been picked up, examined, and then either kept, tossed, or re-worked into something better. I can stand behind this book and say that yes, this is my best, and I'm proud of it.

So, one more look! One more read-through! And then off to be made into ARCs so readers can finally go on a dangerous, thrilling adventure of their own with my characters. You might love it. You might hate it.

Naturally, I hope for the former. :)

Hang on to your cloaks, kids, the adventure is about to begin.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Interview With Brodi Ashton



Today I'm thrilled to have Brodi Ashton, a fellow Balzer + Bray author, on the blog. I received an ARC of EVERNEATH (which hits the shelves 1/24) in the "welcome to B+B" package my editor sent. I was instantly drawn to the gorgeous and mysterious cover, so I decided to read it right away. Holy. Freaking. Cow. This book is amazing. It is beautifully written (I've never seen an author play with a timeline so successfully), the stakes are incredibly high, and it made me FEEL things. I cried, dear reader. And I also cursed Brodi's name for making me really like the villain. And the ending! *cries and screams and bribes her editor for an ARC of book two* If you don't read another book this year, you have to read this one. Trust me. Here's a peek at EVERNEATH:

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she’s returned—to her old life, her family, her boyfriend—before she’s banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance—and the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.

As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s queen.

Everneath is a captivating story of love, loss, and immortality from debut author Brodi Ashton.
I'm TeamJack all the way, baby. Except when I'm TeamCole ... *sigh* Brodi decided to take on our very own Captain Jack Sparrow, so before we get to the interview, let's meet today's guests.


Captain Jack Sparrow, savvy?





Brodi Ashton

Of course, before we get to the interview, we get to reveal the amazing cupcake my hubby made in honor of EVERNEATH. Cole (the smouldering immortal from the book's description) plays the guitar for a band called The Dead Elvises. My hubby made Cole's guitar pick hovering over a pit of underworld smoke. Isn't it amazing? Without further ado, I give you the awesome cupcake and Brodi vs. Captain Jack Sparrow.







1. Would you classify yourself as a pirate or a member of Her Majesty’s Royal navy? Why?


Well, I have to go with the pirate, mostly because the royal navy sounds a little boring, and I would hate to appear boring (she typed, as she sat in her house robe, sipping her tea, and wondering when she was going to take a shower next.)

But pirates probably don’t shower much either, so I’m a pirate!

2. So, you're saying your only qualification for being a pirate is a lack of personal hygiene? *sniffs* Darling, I've met freshly bathed pirates who smelled worse than you. You'll have to do better than that. What’s your favorite thing to do in Tortuga?

Oh, the usual. Pillage and plunder, and prune the hedges of many small villages.

3. I'm with you on the pillage and the plunder, but I'm rather hoping "prune the hedges" is a euphemism for something I probably shouldn't mention in polite company. I’m offering you free passage aboard my ship to anywhere in the world. Where shall we go, love?

I’m so happy you asked. We shall go to London. It is my favorite place in the world, and it’s where I went to school. I’m dying to go back.

4. Right into the clutches of that fat, foppish frumpet who sits on the throne? Darling, I begin to think you are one warm shower away from being a member of His Majesty's navy. Who is the hero of your story most like: me (savvy, debonair, and unquestionably smooth with the ladies), the insufferably honorable Will Turner, or that deceptive little minx Elizabeth?

Oh man, none of the above. Is there a fourth option? Something along the lines of a girl who has lost everything because of one bad choice? Because my heroine just happens to be a girl who has lost everything because of one bad choice.

5. I once lost my dignity, my appetite, and my hat because of one bad choice. I can sympathize. Rum? Or more rum?

Rum Cake.

6. Mmm, a woman who likes to have her cake and drink it too. Skip the shower. You may prune my hedges instead. While dining on rum cake, of course. Which leads me to the age old question: Why is the rum always gone?

In my book, it would be because the rock band The Dead Elvises made it to the rum first.

7. Scurvy bilge rats. *draws sword* Touch my rum once more, and I'll make sure the name "Dead Elvises" is entirely accurate. What’s the most piratish thing you’ve ever done?

You know that scene where they are dancing around a giant bonfire, fueled by rum? Well, when I was a girl scout, I made a fire. :)

8. As long as you don't use my rum to make the fire, we're peachy, love. Are they rules? Or more like guidelines?

Guidelines. Especially when I need them to be more like guidelines.

9. Never once have I failed to need them to be more like guidelines. I understand you’re a story-teller. Any undead monkeys in your stories?

No. But there are undead in my story.

10. The Elvises, apparently, though that could change at any moment. *watches rum like a hawk* Any curses? Heartless monsters? Irritating women who insist on taking matters into their own hands?

There are definitely heartless monsters. And by that, I mean the bad guy literally doesn’t have a heart.

11. Interesting. The bad guy in my world doesn't have a heart either. Or he didn't until I found it and stuffed it in a jar of dirt, but that's a rather messy tale for another day. One of my favorite words is “egregious.” Care to share one of yours, love?

That’s crazy, because I LOVE the word egregious! I’m also partial to “bulbous bouffant”, “macadamia”, and “gazebo”. But my favorite word of all time is “penultimate”.

12. Parlay? Or draw your sword?

Run and hide

13. Now you're talking. You’ve got a crowd of cursed sailors and a nasty sea monster on your trail. How do you escape?

Run and hide

14. Tried that. Didn't work. Better bring your hedge pruners with you just in case. Romantic night in? Or adventure on the high seas?

Romantic night in. And by “romantic night in”, I mean vegging on the couch with only my TiVo for company.

15. As long as I get the rum, you can do whatever you like. My personal motto is: Take what you want, give nothing back. What’s yours?

“Lately your low self-esteem is just good common sense.”



Thank you, Brodi, for such an entertaining interview. Of course, the fun isn't over yet! Brodi is giving away a signed EVERNEATH. The giveaway is open internationally and will run until 8 p.m. central time Monday, January 9th. To enter, simply fill out the form below and be sure to leave Brodi a comment at the bottom of this post.

To find out more about Brodi, visit her site. To purchase a copy of EVERNEATH, go here.





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