2014 Debut Author Challenge

I’m not super-active over on GoodReads at the moment, but it was so much fun perusing this list of 2014 YA, MG, and NA debuts! So many authors I recognize–some of them from back when they were entering contests or signing with their agents, some from writer friends I’ve been cheering for even longer, and some I hadn’t heard of before and am thrilled to have discovered them here! I will probably read even more than the ones I’m listing in this post, but I picked my top twenty I’m really looking forward to reading.

SAMSUNG

  • No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown. I cannot wait for this book. Yes, Jaye is one of my critique partners. Yes, I’ve read this book before. Still, I am so excited to read it in its final form! Ahhhh!
  • Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman. Munich in the 1930s? This book sounds so up my alley I can’t even. Is it April yet?
  • A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller. I pretty much love turn-of-the-20th-century anything, but throw in dreams of a career in the Arts, and I’m a guaranteed reader. Can’t wait for this!
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. I have to admit that the title grabbed me with this one. The description makes it sound like just the sort of literary novel I love, so I’ve got high hopes!
  • Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule. I hadn’t heard of this one before, but a fantastic singer and magic coming from the woods? Sounds like a mysterious page-turner!
  • The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer. Another one I hadn’t heard of before this list, but it also sounds gorgeous and delicious.
  • Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy. Love the way this sounds like a kind of reverse-Fault-in-Our-Stars.
  • Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis. I’ve really been waiting for this one, and seeing the spooky cover and blurb made me want it all the more. Looks like a total page-turning mystery!
  • Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin. As if Bourne Identity meets Divergent isn’t enough, I was already a huge fan of this author for her writerly perseverance. Plus, she’s really funny on twitter.
  • The Chance You Won’t Return by Annie Cardi. This sounds like such a moving read, but on top of that, I’m psyched to dig in because I was lucky enough to read the author’s first chapter of a different story at a workshop with Nova Ren Suma at NESCBWI last year, and I absolutely loved her writing. Can’t wait for this!
  • Gilded by Christina L. Farley. I love international settings, so Korea with some magic thrown in sounds pretty cool to me!
  • All Four Stars by Tara Dairman. This just sounds totally adorable. An 11-year-old restaurant critic? I can’t wait for the hijinks!
  • Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis. Snow White in space? Yes, please.
  • At Your Service by Jen Malone. Ahhh, Jen’s first published book! Like ALL FOUR STARS above, this just looks like a super-fun read, and I can’t wait for it!
  • Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz. I have been waiting for this one since I first saw the deal announced on twitter. Captain Hook’s daughter in a Lemony Snickett voice, people!
  • Any Way You Slice It by Kristine Carlson Asselin. This one had me at the Mystic Pizza comparison. I’m pretty sure I know what I’ll be eating when I read this one.
  • Nil by Lynne Matson. The stakes totally grabbed me–a year to escape the island or, um, DIE? Sounds like a total page-turner to me. I’m already invested before I’ve begun reading!
  • Pointe by Brandy Colbert. I’m a sucker for anything with ballet, and I’ll admit that the cover totally drew me in even more, so I’m hoping I love it!
  • The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine. This sounds like a cute, fun romance, but on top of that, I was lucky enough to hear the author read from this book a couple of months ago. So funny! Looking forward to reading the rest.
  • Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler. Again, I’m a sucker for anything with the Arts, so I was already interested in this, but I also happen to know that some of the author’s favorite books are some of my favorite books, so that makes it all the more enticing.

Like I said, I’ll hopefully end up reading even more than these, so please share what debuts you’re most looking forward to this year!

2013 Reading Stats and Faves

I always want to read more books than I can squeeze in a year, and 2013 was no exception.

First off, my final tally for the year: 58 books total. Last year, I read 59. However, this year, I finally started to not finish books I wasn’t loving. On top of the 58 books, I started another 30-40 books. I usually give a book a good 50 pages before bailing, but I found I was sometimes getting as far as 100 pages before deciding it’s not for me. I also skimmed a bunch more books for research purposes, but I didn’t include those in my count either.

So how did the 58 books break down? Probably not surprisingly, the vast majority were YA. The deets:

  • YA: 39
  • Adult: 10
  • Non-fiction: 4
  • MG: 3
  • New Adult: 1
  • YA in Spanish: 1

I had quite a few favorite books this year, and I’ve been recommending some in my Twofer Tuesday posts throughout the year, like these two great YA page-turners. I also read quite a few great adult books, including THE NIGHT CIRCUS (mind-blowingly amazing!), THE EXPATS (fast-paced and thrilling!), and THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND (tragically beautiful!).

As wonderful as so many books I read last year were, my absolutely favorite book of 2013 was one that spoke to me right from page one–one of those books that seemed like it was written expressly for me: FAR FAR AWAY by Tom McNeal.

SAMSUNG

The voice blew me away, the writing was gorgeous, and the characters real. I already can’t wait to read it again. If you’re looking for a modern day fairy tale, I simply can’t recommend this book enough.

Happy reading, and happy 2014!!!

What’s Up Wednesday? Week 3!

Yay! Another successful week for the Ready. Set. WRITE! version of What’s up Wednesday!

What I’m Writing:

Actual progress this week! I finished plugging all the feedback I’ve collected into my WIP’s original outline in Scrivener, doing massive thinking along the way about what I need to do to resolve each issue when I start the actual rewrite. I probably sound like I’m on the slow road to nowhere with this approach, especially after letting the manuscript sit for almost a year, but with this particular project, I decided to give it all the time it needs, which is apparently a lot. But now that all my thoughts and ideas are in place, I decided I’m actually ready to start messing around with the new outline for this new version! I dug in yesterday and feel like I’m actually planning a new manuscript now. Yay!

What I’m Reading:

I’d started BELLE EPOQUE byElizabeth Ross last Wednesday and I only needed another day to finish it. What a beautifully-written, atmospheric read! If you like historical fiction that transports you to another place and time (like late nineteenth century Paris!), this book is for you.

I’m almost done reading the other ARC I borrowed from Jennifer Malone’s BEA haul. :-) ENTANGLED by Amy Rose Capetta is another YA sci-fi, and I’m hoping for a huge, satisfying ending, so I’ll find out soon.

I’m also beta-reading a wonderful historical fantasy for a new critique partner I met at NESCBWI.  It’s so well-written that I know it’s going to find a home. Love that feeling!

What Inspires Me:

I spent a lot of time this past weekend in a couple of online German photo archives, and while I could probably spend weeks just doing this, even a couple of days were helpful too see the details of the time and place.

What did dance students wear in Munich in 1916? I found this image on http://timelineimages.sueddeutsche.de:

Schule für Tanz in München, 1916

And this one of disabled veterans doing calisthenics (also relevant to my story) in 1917 on http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org (the image resides at the Preußischer Bildarchiv):

Kriegsversehrte bei sportlichen šbungen

I’m trying not to spend too much additional time on research since I already did a boatload of research for my previous version of the manuscript, but as a history geek, it’s definitely part of the rush.

What Else is Going on:

Summer is in full swing, and I’ve been taking my small twins out to the beach, the pool, and the park as much as possible. They’re also really starting to love to read by themselves. One of my favorite moments last week was sitting on a blanket in our back yard with one of my girls while I read my book and she read hers. Bliss!

Looking forward to reading about everyone else’s weeks, too!

Twofer Tuesday: Comp Titles

For the uninitiated, “comp titles,” or “comparison titles” are titles of books that you or your publisher think are similar to your manuscript in some way. For a couple of great posts on comp titles, check out this post on Pimp My Novel and this post on Taryn Albright’s blog.

I’m always on the lookout for comp titles–partially because I like to read what I like to write, but also because I don’t want to suffer the agony of finding an already-published book just like mine out there after putting all the effort into it. I recently read two great comp titles. They couldn’t be more different from each other, but that’s fine because they’e for two different manuscripts. One is a comp for my completed ms I’m shopping (see Currently Querying) and the other is a comp for my current WIP (see this blog post).

The idea of the first book, a YA novel called RADIANT DAYS by Elizabeth Hand, captured my attention before I even read it. An art student in the 1970s whose life intersects with 19th Century poet Arthur Rimbaud? Yes, please!

Once I began reading, I was swept away. Told in alternating POV chapters (1st person for the art student Merle, and 3rd for Rimbaud), the reader is immediately drawn into each character’s passion to create art. I particularly loved the lyrical voice Hand uses to bring the two worlds of these characters together through their art:

I closed my eyes, and for the first time realized how a poem might be like a painting, each word a brushstroke, a color or flash of motion: words combined the way I mixed pigments, or slashed a sun across a wall in arcs of neon below.

Another brilliant character in the manuscript is the vagrant fishing at the edge of the river on both character’s worlds–an Orpheus-like character whose presence brings Merle and Rimbaud together. Merle, who’s lost her home, her girlfriend, and her collection of sketches, doesn’t know where to begin again since she’s lost everything. The vagrant’s response?

“Screw that, Little Fly. You lost everything? Big fucking deal. Boo hoo. You said you were an artist, right? Well, this is where it starts to get interesting.”

The second didn’t really end up being a comp title after all, but I had to read it to find out–and I’m glad I did. VOICES by Arnaldur Indridason is a police thriller for adults set in Iceland. Basically, a thriller set in Iceland? My kind of book.

It was a total page-turner, but was set in a hotel in Reykjavík and didn’t have the MC getting out all that much. However, it was pretty cool to see all the awesome Icelandic names and drool over the buffet meals.

He walked past the table and admired the herring, smoked lamb, cold ham, ox tongue and all the trimmings, and the delicious desserts, ice cream, cream cakes and chocolate mousse, or whatever it was. 

While it didn’t turn out to be a comp title for me, it’s always great to read a master at setting up mystery and suspense. We weren’t sure until the end who had committed the murder in the first chapter–tons of twists and red herrings. And lots of cool woolen sweaters.

Non-dusty Historicals

While I personally love all kinds of historical fiction, I also adore the trend people have recently coined “non-dusty historical fiction.” Sounds exciting, right? Thrilling, even!

But what exactly does “non-dusty historical” mean?

A few examples I think fit this term:

  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (YA, WWII, narrated by Death, possibly my favorite book ever. Read it, read it, read it! Oh, and yeah, here’s what the author signed in my copy when I met him at an SCBWI event in Munich.)

  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (YA, medieval French nuns who are also assassins. Um, hello?)
  • Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen (YA, retelling of Robin Hood by a female member of his gang with one amaaaazing voice.)
  • Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (Adult, Fitzgerald-esque portrayal of a twenty-something girl on the rise in New York with some of the most beautiful writing I’ve read this year)

These books are historical but don’t read like traditional historical. In each of these books, the fiction–the story itself–is what draws the readers in, with its voice, characters, or the thrill of an exciting plot that happens to be set in the past because that’s when it would have happened.

If you’re not convinced that there are historicals out there that offer as much of a thrill ride as some of the exciting sci-fi and dystopian stories out there, read this great post by J. Anderson Coats over on the Corsets and Cutlasses blog–btw a great new blog for historical fiction fans: http://corsetsandcutlasses.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/notonthequiz/

I think you’ll agree that “non-dusty historical” is definitely a thing, and a thing worth reading. Bonus points for suggesting other must read examples.!

September #Wipmadness Week 4!

It’s hard to believe we began last week with the midpoint of the month and we’ll close this week with the month’s end. This whole month flew by for me, but I ended up hitting my15K new words goal this past weekend! Since I’m on a roll, I’m going for 6K more this week so I can finish up the month with a nice, even 50K total. How are you all doing on your goals?

No mater how you did, I hope you’re still trying. It’s so motivating for me to see your shining faces here each week. We’ve been discussing what inspires us to work on our WIPs this month, and this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about one more great source of inspiration: you all, my #wipmadness writing buddies.

I can’t tell you how much it means to me to share the joys and challenges of the writing life with you all. I’ve read many of your wonderful manuscripts, cheered for you when you got agents (OK, sometimes screamed for you when you got agents!), and gave or gotten virtual hugs at the bumps on the road. Writing may be very solitary, but I definitely need this support network to motivate me as much as I need my WIP to inspire me on its own. So a huge thank-you to all of you!

And on that note, this week’s prize goes to:

Angelina!

Congratulations! Just let me know which book you want: Circle 9 or The Breakup Bible.

Hope you continue to find all kinds of wonderful inspiration–and writing friends–all around you. And best of luck racing to the finish line this last week of September!

Twofer Tuesday: Novels With Beautiful, Beautiful Writing

I read a lot, and what makes me love a book more than anything else is beautiful writing. I’d be the type of agent (if I were ever an agent, which I wouldn’t be) who’s ask for literary, lyrical novels. The kind of novel that knocks me over with that type of prose is rare, and when I find one, I just want to hold it and savor each delicious word.

Unbelievably, I came across not one but two such novels (both debuts) in the past few weeks and I feel compelled to recommend them: RULES OF CIVILITY by Amor Towles and THE GIRL WITH BORROWED WINGS by Rinsai Rossetti.

RULES OF CIVILITY is a novel for adults, which means that just picking it up was a surprise for me, as I normally don’t even bother with books for adults since there are so many great YA novels on my TBR list. This is only the second book for adults I’ve read this entire year. Yet the first pages pulled me in with its atmospheric details and the writing made me weep with its beauty. There were so many zingers in this book I couldn’t possibly note them all, but I have to share one that sums up the tone of this gorgeous book:

For what was civilization but the intellect’s ascendancy out of the doldrums of necessity (shelter, sustenance and survival) into the ether or the finely superfluous (poetry, handbags and haute cuisine)?

The entire book is this beautiful. The. Entire. Book.

THE GIRL WITH BORROWED WINGS is a likewise gorgeously-written flight that had me sobbing by the end, and again, not so much by the engaging plot and complex characters, but by the beautiful prose. This might be the best-written romantic tension I have ever read, and it goes on and on in the most wonderful and perfectly believable tease. With that in mind, a teaser for you:

But having him beside me, with my father’s itch clawing into my back, my fingers shaky because of what I had just put them through, and things beating to and fro, in one direction then another, inside of me, was already more than I could stand.

Can you even stand waiting for more? I devoured this book in one sitting.

I’m already looking forward to more books from both of these authors and in the meantime, these books have edged their way into my short list of favorite books of all time. It’s been a pretty good month to be a reader. :-) Hope you enjoy them, too!