Monday 31 December 2012

The Final Four Books for 2012!

It's the last day of 2012, so what better way to see out the year than with my final four books on my 20 Books for 2012 list? Only with these, I'm going to cheat slightly. Y'see, these books aren't actually out until 2013, but as the authors are my fellow Lucky 13s, I got to read the ARCs, and they are so fantastic I had to include them on my list.

CJ Flood - Infinite Sky

Iris's mum's has left home, her brother's going off the rails and travellers have set up camp in the family's paddock. When Iris befriends Trick, a traveller boy, tensions spill over and events take a turn that will turn Iris's life upside down. This is an exquisitely written book which will stick in your mind long after you've read it. I predict great things for INFINITE SKY!

Demitria Lunetta - In The After

There was Before – before the monsters came; before humanity as we know it ended. And there was After. That's where Amy and Baby live, struggling to survive.  When they're rescued and taken to New Hope, a colony of fellow survivors with plenty of food and shelter, it's like a dream come true, but they soon realise that nothing there is what it seems… This is a tense, gripping thriller packed with twists and turns that keep you guessing all the way through. I loved it!

Elsie Chapman - Dualed

In Kersh, everyone has an Alt - a twin raised by another family - and when the time comes, they're both activated and must hunt each other down. Only the strongest alt will survive and be deemed worthy of a place in society. West Grayer's time has come, but a tragic mistake has left her wondering if she deserves to survive. DUALED is a thrilling, gritty read which deftly blends action, romance and suspense in a brilliantly realised dystopian setting.

And finally (drum roll please…)

Imogen Howson - Linked

Elissa's future used to look bright. All that changed when she started suffering terrible headaches and pains, and having strange visions, and unexplained bruises started appearing all over her body. Just as she's about to undergo a cure, she discovers the truth behind her problems: she's been sharing the experiences of a twin she never knew existed, Lin. Together, they end up on the run, hunted down by a government who'll stop at nothing to get them back. LINKED is a breathless roller-coaster ride of a book, with a denouement that will leave you reeling.

Want to check out some more amazing books that will be out in 2013? Then head over to my group blog The Lucky 13s – if I hadn't been limited to 20 books with this list, they'd all be on there!

Don't forget – today is your last chance to win a signed ARC of ACID! If you haven't entered the giveaway yet and you'd like to, head on over to my cover reveal post and leave your name and Twitter handle or email address in the comments. The competition closes at midnight GMT and I'll be announcing the winner on here tomorrow.

Thanks for reading this blog throughout 2012, and I hope 2013 brings you everything you wish for and more. Happy new year!

Saturday 22 December 2012

ACID Cover Reveal & Signed ARC Giveaway!

So, this cover is probably the worst-kept secret on the internet as it's been up on Amazon and Goodreads for a while now, but for anyone who hasn't seen it… here it is! Isn't it gorgeous? I am so, so thrilled with it, and the cover model looks EXACTLY how I imagine Jenna to look. I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of her, would you?

From the back cover:

ACID - the most brutal police force in history.
They rule with an iron fist.
They see everything. They know everything.
They locked me away for life.

My crime?
They say I murdered my parents.
I was fifteen years old.

My name is Jenna Strong.

Squee! A huge thank you to Larry Rostant and the design team at Random House Children's Publishing for coming up with such an amazing, badass cover! And even more gigantic thank yous and mince pies/gingerbread Santas to all the awesome book bloggers who are posting ACID's cover on their blogs today as well: Serendipity Reviews, So Many Books, So Little Time, Bookangel Booktopia, Pug's Story Corner, My Favourite Books, Books 4 Teens, Sister Spooky and Readaraptor!

So, do you want to win a SIGNED ARC of ACID? Of course you do! To enter, leave a comment below this post, along with some way of getting hold of you - Twitter handle, email or blog link. The competition will run until midnight GMT on Sunday 31st December 2012, and is open internationally. I'll announce the winner on Monday, 1st January 2013 to kick off the new year in style!

The giveaway is now closed - congratulations to @mcrogerson (comment number 70) who won the ARC!

Happy Christmas, everyone!

Monday 17 December 2012

The Hound

Regular blog readers might have noticed I've been taking a blog break. Apologies – this wasn't planned. A few weeks ago, The Hound (that handsome stripy fella in my photo) fell ill, and twenty-four hours later, he had to be put to sleep. This post is written in his memory.

Dear Hound,

Do you remember the first time we met? I didn't know this then, but you were always wary of people you didn't know. Yet that day, a chilly November Saturday, you walked straight up to me, leant on me and looked up at me. Your gentle gaze hit me like a lightning bolt, and I knew from that moment that you were going to be mine.

Do you remember that day the following weekend when we brought you home? You'd never lived in a house before; never had a proper bed. The first time you lay down on your duvet and blankets, I could see the wonder in your eyes. At first, you wanted to be left alone, but as the evening progressed, you inched closer and closer to us – first laying in the doorway to the living room, then behind the armchairs, and finally, curling up on your blanket by my feet. And do you remember when you found the toys we'd bought for you? You'd never had those before, either, and when you chewed one and it squeaked, you couldn't work out where the sound was coming from.

Do you remember your first night here? Alone downstairs, you cried, until, ignoring the advice we'd been given by the kennels, we came downstairs to comfort you. And do you remember, after that, how quickly you settled in? How everyone who saw me out walking with you exclaimed over your size, your tiger-stripe markings and your gentleness? Watching you unwrap your presents that first Christmas was a joy. You got an orange ball which you chased all over the garden, leaping around like you were on springs.

Then, thanks to something that had happened to you before you came to us, you got sick. It took four months and a change of vets to get a diagnosis, during which time you were wasting away before our eyes. I was terrified we'd lose you, and couldn't believe you were going to be taken away from us so soon. But you were a fighter, and we fought for you too, and slowly, you began to come round. You weren't the same dog, and you would never be truly well again, but for us, that made you all the more special. Despite everything, you loved and trusted us, and we had a bond I've never known with any animal before. Life eventually returned to something like normal, and we were able to enjoy you more than ever before.

Do you remember the summer evening walks we used to go on, where you'd stalk through the long grass in the twilight, ears pricked up, your sharp eyes seeing things in the shadows we didn't even know were there? Do you remember how you used to get all your toys out of your basket, one by one, and fling them around? Do you remember lying on your 'sun lounger' in the garden, and I fetched a cushion to put under your head? Do you remember how you used to wait behind the front door when I got back from work, whinnying in excitement? 

I wish we could have had one more day with you. Three years was not enough. Without you in it, the world is a very different place, and I don't know if we'll ever get used to it. But I'm glad we got to share our lives with you for a while.

Rest in peace, The Hound. We'll never forget you. x

Thursday 22 November 2012

Dinos and Jungles and Bear Traps, Oh My!

I'm over at the Lucky 13s today, blogging about my first novel, which contained a suicide, two dino attacks, an explosion, a jeep crash, a near-drowning, an earthquake and a landslip… all by page 115! It also had the most dramatic ending EVAH. Find out more here!

Dinos and Jungles and Bear Traps, Oh My!

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Almost A Proper Book

Last Wednesday was a bit of a special day for me. I'd just got home from work when there was a knock at the door, and I opened it to find the postman standing there with a large padded envelope. My reaction? I tore it from his hands, grinning like a maniac, saying 'I've been waiting for these!'

I'm sure he thought I was completely mad. But I make no apologies. For this is what was inside that envelope…

Proof copies of ACID (or ARCs – Advance Reader Copies – as they're known in the US)!

Aren't they gorgeous? This isn't the final cover – I'm hoping to reveal that before the end of the year – but it's so striking. I love it! It feels slightly surreal that, 19 years after deciding I wanted to be a writer, almost 5 years after first writing this story, and 16 months after it sold to Random House, ACID is almost a proper book. A book that people are going to read. Yikes. I think I might go and hide under the bed for a while…

Plus, I have a new publication date! ACID will now be available from 25th April 2013, which means there's just over 5 months to go. Double yikes.  

Don't forget, if you're a blogger, bookseller, reviewer or librarian who would like to request a proof copy of ACID, you can do so via the form on my website, or via the page at the top of this blog.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

20 Books for 2012 - the Penultimate Post!

I realised yesterday that I'm long overdue for a 20 Books for 2012 post, and as there's only a few weeks left before the end of the year, I thought I'd better get off my you-know-what and get one written. For anyone who hasn't seen my original post, back in June, I took the Bookstart 20 Books for 2012 pledge and promised to share 20 children's and YA books on my blog. You can see all the books I've talked about so far on this page, and here are the next batch!

Abi Burlingham – A Mystery for Megan (Buttercup Magic)

When Megan and her family move to Buttercup House, she soon finds a friend in Freya, the girl next door. But a new friend is not the only surprise that awaits Megan; there’s the treehouse, some mice with magical powers, an extraordinary cat and a very special dog called Buttercup. This is a gorgeous book for 6-9-year-olds, or anyone who still remembers what it was like to be that age, about friendship, secrets and the power of using your imagination. I devoured it in hours and can’t recommend it highly enough!

Ali Sparkes – Frozen in Time

It’s the summer holidays, and Ben and Rachel are bored... until they find a secret vault buried at the bottom of their garden. Inside are the cryonically suspended figures of Polly and Fred, a boy and girl their own age, who were put there by their father in 1956, only for him to disappear and leave them frozen in time. This is a thrilling adventure for anyone who was or is a fan of Enid Blyton, following the ups and downs of Polly and Fred’s adjustment to twenty-first century life, and their search for answers about what happened to their father as they’re hunted down by sinister Soviet officials...

Chris Haughton - Oh No, George!

This is possibly my favourite picture book EVER. When Harris goes out to the shops, George, his dog, promises to be good. And he tries – he really does. But there’s the cake... and the cat... and some earth that’s just asking to be dug... You can probably guess the rest. Being a Hound minion dog owner myself, I could really relate to this book and just adored the bright, quirky illustrations, especially on the last page!

Ali Lewis – Everybody Jam

Danny lives in the middle of the Australian outback, and last year, his brother was killed in an accident. But nobody talks about it. His fourteen-year-old sister is pregnant, the rains haven’t come and as the annual cattle muster draws near, knowing he has his brother’s shoes to fill only increases the pressure on Danny. Then an English backpacker, hired by his mother to help out, arrives, a secret is revealed, and suddenly, the cracks are too big to paper over any more. This is a funny, gritty coming-of-age YA novel which I absolutely loved.

Jean-Claude Mourvelat – Winter Song
Originally published in France, this book is a dystopian YA with some fantasy elements blended in, set in a fictional country in a wintry, bleak world. A sinister force called The Phalange have seized power, and four teenagers, Milena, Bartolomeo, Helen, and Milos, must escape from their prison-like boarding schools in to help join the fight against the authorities, who killed their parents many years before. I’m not usually a huge fan of translated books, but this had been done incredibly well and I was captivated by the story and the imagery the writing conjured up.
Andy Mulligan – Trash

Raphael, Gardo and Rat live on a rubbish site, eking out a living by sorting through the mountains of trash other people have thrown away. Then, one day, he finds a bag containing something which leads him to an exciting and special discovery. But he’s not the only person after the bag’s contents, and soon he and his friends are playing a cat-and-mouse game with the authorities, who will stop at nothing to get what they want. Apparently this novel was inspired by the time the author spent in the Philippines (although it isn’t specifically set there), and gives a real insight into the grinding poverty many people in the real world are forced to live in, yet it manages to be incredibly hopeful.

So, just four more books to go and I'll have fulfilled my pledge. Hurrah! What about you? What are you reading at the moment that's just too good to keep to yourself? Tell me in the comments!

Monday 5 November 2012

The Five Stages of Writing a Novel (According to The Hound)

I have an idea!



Wait… I have to actually write this thing, don't I?


I did it! I DID IT! …Whaddya mean, I have to write a second draft??

Wednesday 31 October 2012

The Next Big Thing

Fellow YA author Elsie Chapman (DUALED, out from Random House Children's on 26th Feb 2013) has tagged me to take part in a blog hop this week, The Next Big Thing. It's supposed to be about our works-in-progress, but my WIP is too rough to share at the moment so I'm going to talk about ACID. I hope that isn't cheating! 
1) What is the working title of your book?

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
The very first spark came from a story a friend and I challenged each other to write when we were 14, about someone being imprisoned in a brutal future world. Many years later, I came back to it, and ACID was born.

3)What genre does your book fall under?
Dystopian YA.

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmm… I'm not sure! I actually haven't thought about this… rubbish, aren't I? I guess I see my characters so vividly inside my head, I can't imagine them looking like anyone else.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
ACID, the most brutal police force in the world, locked Jenna Strong up for a terrible crime she struggles to remember, but now she's been broken out by a mysterious rebel group and must use all her strength and skill to stay under ACID's radar.

6)Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I'm represented by Carolyn Whitaker at London Independent Books, and ACID will be published by Random House Children's Publishing next year.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About 6 months.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Hmm… I've seen it compared to The Hunger Games and Matched. I think it will also appeal to fans of Divergent, and Jenna's been compared to Lisbeth Salander!

9) Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Lots of things! That idea from when I was 14 that never quite left me. George Orwell's 1984. Reading an article about how, in 2009, the Shetland Islands supposedly had more CCTV cameras than the San Francisco Police Department, which I found VERY sinister…

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
ACID is full of twists and turns which (I hope!) will keep the reader guessing to the end.  

Tagged for next week (Week 23) are some of my talented writer friends. Check out their blogs next Wednesday, November 7th, when it's their turn to post answers to these same questions about their own works-in-progress!

Amy McCulloch 
Happy Halloween!

Wednesday 24 October 2012

A Saturday of Spaceships And Magick

Last Saturday, I headed off my first ever con, BristolCon – not just as an attendee, but as a guest, with a slot on a panel and a chance to read from ACID. I was a touch nervous by the time I got to the Ramada Hotel, but as soon as I got inside, everyone was so lovely that those nerves quickly disappeared. Once I'd registered, there was a bit of time before the first panel I wanted to attend, so I headed straight for the booksellers' room and loaded up with books, then wandered off to look at the stunning artwork on display in the dealers' room. I particularly loved seeing the prints by Dan Chernett, who did the artwork for Chris Wooding's MALICE and HAVOC, two of my favourite books of recent years. Unfortunately they were wayyy out of my price range, but I can always dream…

Then it was time for the first event I wanted to go to – an interview by Juliet E McKenna with John Meaney. It was really entertaining, as was the panel that followed, a discussion about 'netiquette' and how not to make a twit of yourself online, with Mark Aplin from Fantasy Faction, Marc Gascoigne, publisher at Angry Robot, and authors Guy Haley, Dolly Garland and Robert Harkess. I particularly agreed with Dolly's point about not trying to be controversial unless it's about something you really believe in, and about how your blog is 'your' space and if you don't feel comfortable about responding to someone who's clearly just trying to cause trouble, you don't have to. And happily, the general consensus among the panel seemed to be that it's OK to blog about your dog every now and then, so worry not, Hound fans, he's going nowhere!

I was hoping to have time to hear Emma Newman, who I was on my panel with later, do a reading, but unfortunately the Netiquette panel overran so I missed it. However, I did get to see her, Dev Agarwal, Aliette de Bodard, Gareth L Powell and Leigh Kennedy talk about space travel and dysfunctional families, which was really interesting, particularly the discussion about the idea of what a 'family' is and how that might change in the future.

Then it was back to room 1 for the launch of Stephanie Burgis's A RECKLESS MAGICK. It was great to hear Stephanie read from the book and lovely to chat to her (albeit briefly) afterwards, as we've talked on Twitter and Facebook but never met in 'the real world' before. The book was the perfect read for my train journey home yesterday – I devoured it in a couple of hours – and I'd recommend it to anyone who loves the Regency era and a good old-fashioned adventure with a liberal helping of magic!

By now it was 3pm, and I was getting pretty desperate for something to eat so I didn't pass out halfway through my panel (which wasn't until 7), so I sneaked out to meet a friend who was passing through Bristol, and we grabbed some dinner at one of the little cafes by the river. We also visited a Chinese supermarket where I picked up the most gorgeous tin of jasmine tea (I'm a little bit obsessed with blue-and-white stuff).

I returned to the Ramada just in time to see the panel being held in honour of BristolCon's 'Ghost of Honour', the late Colin Harvey, and the launch of Colinthology, an excellent-sounding anthology which I will be purchasing as soon as I can (it's available from Wizard Tower Books and all proceeds go to the charity Above and Beyond).

And then it was time for my reading. Eek!

But it went well (I think!). At least, no-one fell asleep or threw things, which is always good. Straight afterwards, my panel began, which was called 'YA: Just for Girls?', with Moira Young, Emma Newman and Kim Lakin-Smith, and expertly moderated by Foz Meadows. My mind always goes blank with these sorts of things and I never feel as if I have the slightest clue what I'm on about, but the others were brilliant and the audience asked lots of interesting questions – we could have gone on talking all night. The conclusion we more or less unanimously came to was no, YA is NOT just for girls. The problem of boys stopping reading after a certain age is not caused by there being too many female authors or protagonists (because there aren't!), but by social conditioning – by boys and girls being seen as alien species to one another and any crossover between the two being viewed seen as a bad thing. Someone also asked about YA being heavily biased towards romance, and whether that put boys off reading it. This is another point I disagree with. I think because being a teenager is such a tempestuous time – a time of such great physical and mental changes – and often, at that age, you are discovering boys or girls for the first time, everyone assumes that YA fiction is mostly romantic. But there's plenty of stuff out there that has little or no romance in it at-all, if romance is what turns boys off reading YA (which again, might be due to social conditioning).

Anyway, as Moira said to me afterwards, "I think we sorted that one out!

After that, Foz gave a reading from her WIP, an intriguing-sounding YA novel, and then there was just time to go to the bar and hear organiser and all round BristolCon superstar Joanne Hall give thanks to everyone for coming. I would have loved to have stayed for the live music, but I needed to catch a train as my parents (who I was staying with for the weekend) were very kindly picking me up from the station, and I didn't want to be dragging them out at stupid o'clock to meet me. So off I went, lugging a bag of signed books and goodies, exhausted but happy.

A HUGE thank you to Joey for inviting me to take part, and to her and and every single one of the other volunteers who kept everything running so smoothly and made it such a wonderful day. I am in awe of your organizing skills – I hope you've all had a chance to recover and I hope I'll see you again next year!

Wednesday 17 October 2012


This has been a slightly exciting couple of weeks.

First up, Delacorte have bought US rights to ACID and will be publishing it sometime in 2014!

On Saturday 20th October, I'll be at BristolCon, where I'm going to be doing a short reading from ACID and taking part in a panel discussion called YA Fiction: Just For Girls? with Foz Meadows, Moira Young, Emma Newman and Kim Lakin-Smith. What a line-up, eh? Plus, Stephanie Burgess will be launching her latest book, A RECKLESS MAGICK. Can't wait!


And I've found out who my cover designer is… although that's going to remain a secret for now (sorry!). Suffice to say, I am very very excited about it!

 I'm off to lie down in a darkened room now… see you next week!

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Writing YA Is Not A Rehearsal

Recently, I was asked a question. The question. The one that most, if not all people who write for children and young adults gets asked at some point:

"When are you going to start writing for grownups?"

I wasn't in a situation where I could say what immediately came into my head, so all I could do was look at them like this:
Errr, WHAT did you just say?  (Image licensed for use under Creative Commons)

But later – much later, long after this person had gone, because that is what ALWAYS happens to me – I thought of a proper (and polite) answer.

This is it.

I came to writing YA after trying everything else, including writing for adults (which nearly made me give up on writing altogether – you can read more about that here). But I didn't start writing it because it was a last resort, or because it's easy. I didn't start writing it because I wanted to hop on a bandwagon or because it was 'something to do' while I was striving towards writing 'proper' books for adults. And I don't know any other children's or YA authors – and that includes authors who write for young people AND adults – who started writing it for that reason either.

Y'see, it's not only the author you insult with a question like that. It's their readers, too. To dismiss books for young people as somehow being inferior to those for adults is to dismiss the young people themselves – as if, somehow, they and the books they read have less worth.

You only have to read a handful of the many amazing children's and YA books that are out there right now to realise what a crazy attitude this is. As categories, they contain some of the most challenging, frightening, beautiful, downright exciting books I've ever read. Philip Pullman, anyone? Roald Dahl? Melvin Burgess? Malorie Blackman? Tabitha Suzuma? I could go on… and on…

Which isn't to say I don't enjoy books written for adults, because I do. In my mind, there's no distinction – and there wasn't when I was younger. If a book is well-written, has a gripping storyline, relatable characters, I'll devour it no matter what age group it's aimed at; I've been the same all my life. Which is why, when people start pitching one category against another, looking down their noses at literature for younger readers, it drives me crazy.

I may write for adults one day, or I may not. Why should it even matter? Kids are not just adults-in-training. Their books are not dumbed-down versions of the books their parents and the other adults around them read. And the writers who write for them aren't just doing it as a rehearsal. We write what we write because we can't not write it – because it's in our DNA.

And we're having a great time doing it, thank you very much.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

In Praise of Editors

…but first, a shout-out for another good cause. Twitter friend and talented artist and graphic designer Angie Shawcroft is helping to organise a Spooktacular Sponsored Stroll at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire on Sunday 28th October to raise money for Cancer Research UK. Follow the link for more info or click on the image to register.

And now down to the serious business of this post.


Before I went on my September blogging break, I read this blog post, which left me, well… mystified. One paragraph in particular stood out:  I am really sick of reading about how writers can’t possibly string together so much as a tweet, let alone an entire novel without someone else hanging over their shoulder steering the course. That’s what editors do, after all. Were you fully aware of that? Editors take other people’s material and structure it to suit either their own preconceived notions or the fiscal necessity of the platform they’re editing for.

Um… what?

I am a debut author who is going through the later stages of having her first novel prepared for publication next year. So far, ACID has been worked on by 3 different editors and has gone through 2 major rounds of revisions and a round of copyedits. The whole experience – though it has been a lot of work – has brought me to one conclusion:

Writers need editors.

Perhaps it's because I love revising anyway (much more so than writing first drafts!), but I've found the whole editing process – once the initial post-first edit letter OMG-why-didn't-I-see-all-the-things-that-are-wrong-with-this-book-it-needs-so-much-work-I'm-the-worst-writer-ever shock wore off – both exciting and thoroughly rewarding. The insight the team at RHCP have had into my book is incredible, strengthening it in ways I'd never have thought possible. If the version of ACID that's hitting the shelves next year was the version that originally sold, I'd be cringing at the thought of people reading it (not least because I have a mathematical blind spot, and always get mixed up with my chapter numbers and dates!).

At no point has my original vision for the book been lost. At no point has anyone tried to change the book just to fit in with a preconceived notion or platform. It's my book, made better with the advice and guidance of skilled (and lovely) people who are true experts. Made better in ways that, because as an author I am often too close to my own work to see its flaws, I could never have managed by myself.

No, I don't need an editor hanging over my shoulder steering the course as I write my novels. But I do need editors to help those novels realise their full potential once the first draft is written (and also my beta-reader, and my agent, and… you get the idea). I truly believe that whether you're starting out or an old hand, traditionally- or self-published, the input of others is what helps you shape your work and get better at what you do.

Editors, I salute you.

Friday 28 September 2012

I'm Back! (With A Thank You, Book News And Info About A Good Cause)

A MASSIVE thank you to Ellen Oh, April Tucholke, Mindy McGinnis and Amy Tintera for stepping in and keeping this blog alive while I finished off my WIP. I hope you enjoyed their guest blogs as much as I did.

Book news: The first draft of my WIP is now with my editor *chews nails*, and yesterday, I got my proof pages for ACID - squee! 

Don't they look fab? I love the fonts they've used for the titles and section and chapter headings, and as for the bits where… aha, well, you'll have to wait and see. I can't wait to start reading through them. And I may have ARCs - Advance Reader Copies - soon too!

And now for something completely different. Some Twitter friends of mine, headed by the lovely Nettie Thomson, are collecting jokes to be published in a book which will raise money for the mental health charity SANE. Mental illness affects many people from all walks of life, and charities like SANE campaign to encourage awareness and understanding and initiate vital research into conditions such as schizophrenia and depression, as well as supporting people affected by it, along with their families and carers. 

So how can you get involved? Firstly, go here to find out more about it. Then, if you're not on there already, sign up for Twitter, and tweet your favourite joke, plus the hashtag #TweeHee, in 140 characters or less. There's 3 days left to contribute jokes, so get tweeting!

See you next week!

Tuesday 25 September 2012

The Lucky 13s Take Over, Week 4: Amy Tintera - Writing Advice I Ignored

It's my final week in the writing cave before I send my WIP to my editor (eep), so today, Amy Tintera is guest blogging for me. Take it away, Amy!

There’s a lot of good writing advice out there. So much, in fact, that I’m not going to talk about it. Instead, let’s talk about the advice I totally disregarded.

(But first, a quick note: Everyone is different. No one can tell you how best to write. Just because the below didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Try a few of them!)

And now, the Writing Advice I Totally Ignored:

1. Don’t rush just to get words down. There’s no point in writing words you know you’ll delete later.

            Nope, sorry, this one doesn’t work for me. I’ve moved away from word count a bit, and I do focus more on producing quality words, but I still need my messy first drafts. In fact, they’re not even first drafts. Their messy messy messy rough drafts I maybe don’t even finish.  I recently wrote 45,000 terrible words of Reboot book two. It was insanely helpful in figuring out the story.

2. Find a critique group to read your work as you write it and help motivate you to finish.

            Critique groups that meet weekly (in person or online) are not for me. I can’t have someone else’s opinion on my work when I don’t even know what I’m doing yet. My beta readers (basically crit partners who read the finished second draft) are very, very important. But I like to keep early reads to my agent and my sister (and even then, on a very limited basis).

3. Read your draft out loud.

            This one will probably come back to haunt me. I’ll probably be standing up in front of everyone at my book launch, reading from Reboot, and realize it’s terrible. But still, the idea of reading 80,000 words out loud sounds exhausting and terrifying. No thank you.

4. Publish a short story first.

            This is really great advice for people who write short stories. But I don’t. I write novels. Short stories sound very, very, hard to me. You have way less words to build character arcs and your story. (Although, I would consider writing a novella. But I haven’t tried that either. Yet.)

5. Get a professional editor to look at your manuscript before querying agents.

            I actually saw this advice on an agent’s submission guidelines and I don’t like it. I think writers do need outside people to read their work - critique groups, beta readers, your (honest) friends - but I do not think you need to pay a professional before even submitting to agents. (This, of course, does not apply to self-publishing. If you’re self-publishing I think you really do need a professional freelance editor.)

6. Print out your manuscript when it’s time to edit. It will make it easier to catch mistakes.

            It might be easier on my eyes, but that sounds like a waste of paper and ink to me. And I’m really bad about replacing my paper and ink. Let’s not make my life more difficult.

7. Write first thing in the morning, before you go to work or start your day.


8. Don’t plot the ending in advance. You have to earn it.

            I can’t remember where I read this piece of advice, but it’s always stuck with me because it provoked a major WHAAAAAAT response. Of course you have to earn your ending. But for me, I need to know where I’m headed in order to figure out how to get there.  

9. Keep a diary or a journal.

            Spending that much time with myself sounds terrifying. I’d much rather hang out in my character’s heads.

10. Don’t start out writing novels.

            Why not? 

Amy Tintera is a full-time writer living in Los Angeles, CA. HarperTeen will publish her debut novel, REBOOT, in Summer 2013. Visit her website and blog: or follow her on Twitter: @amytintera

Wednesday 19 September 2012

The Lucky 13s Take Over, Week 3: Mindy McGinnis - Sex in YA - You Know You Want It

While I'm in the writing cave finishing my WIP, some of my fellow Lucky 13s are stepping in to guest blog for me. This week, I'm handing over to Mindy McGinnis. 

"... and you know you want me to give it to you." Biff's words to Lorraine in Back to the Future had me totally flummoxed for a looong time. What was it? How could Biff give it to her? And why was he trying to touch her panties in the front seat of the car during the dance? Why was Lorriane talking about Marty's Calvin Klein's in their meeting scene? What's the fixation with underwear?

I remained in the dark about these topics for awhile. I knew sex existed, but I didn't have the whole Tab A, Slot B mechanics of the dance figured out until er... well... later. Not so today's teens. Blame it on the media, blame it on the culture, blame on parenting, blame it on the rain (how many 80's references can I get in here?) Let's just set blame aside and focus on the fact that it simply IS. My opinion - kids aren't having more sex, or earlier than before - it's simply no longer a taboo subject.

So, because it's not taboo, because they do know the mechanics - what do we write about it? Do we write about it?

It's up to you. I've read some really graphic sex scenes in YA. I don't find them offensive. I have a hard time believing there's anything in there that the average teen hasn't already been exposed to. However, I do monitor content in the books that I give out to junior high students - not necessarily because I think they're about to have their minds deflowered - but because their parents DO believe that, and they might have my ass in a sling. And I need my ass. I use it everyday.

My own philosophy runs thus; I have always believed that less is more. Why does Jaws work? 'Cause you don't see the shark. I typically refrain from physically describing my characters because I want my readers to fill in their hot guy, their hallway bitch, themselves as the MC. So when it comes to those backseat moments, or when my MC invites a guy over to "watch a movie," (yeah right, I have yet to see the end of Ferris Bueller's Day Off), I want them to fill in slot B on their own. Something happened. Unless it's imperative to the plot, does it matter what? Do they need the description? Do they need to see that shark?

Here's a great example from Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix: (I know you're saying "What!  An HP makeout scene?") Oh yeah... it's there. A meeting of Dumbledore's Army has just ended. Everyone has filed out except for Cho and Harry, who are kinda hanging out there in the Room of Requirement... and who didn't guess that thing had multiple uses? pg. 456-457:

"I really like you Harry."
He could not think.  A tingling sensation was spreading throughout him, paralyzing his arms, legs and brain.
She was much too close.  He could see every tear clinging to her eyelashes...
He returned to the common room half an hour later to find Hermione and Ron..."

Hey! Wait a second!! Half an hour later? Gee... what were they doing? Now, obviously Rowling had a duty to her young readers to keep it clean, and to her older readers to keep it interesting. Not so for all writers, certainly. But I think it's a good example of letting the reader take it to their own level - of comfort, of familiarity, without being told what happened.

My own writing gives a little more detail than this highly gratuitous page break, but you get the idea.

One last thought - what do you want your readers to take away from your book? I haven't read Breaking Dawn, but I know that Edward and Bella break the headboard, cause that's all anyone wanted to talk about. Other than that - zero clue what the plot is about.

I'd love some feedback! What are your thoughts? Show the shark, or keep him underwater?  :)

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut dystopian, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, will be available from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins Fall, 2013. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

The Lucky 13s Take Over, Week Two: April Tucholke - The Mystery Notebook

While I'm in the writing cave finishing my WIP, some of my fellow Lucky 13s are stepping in to guest blog for me. This week, I'm handing over to April Tucholke. 

When I was 14 I flew to CA to visit my cousins. I read a lot, a lot, of Agatha Christie that year, and made a MYSTERY NOTEBOOK to put clues in. It was just a regular lined notebook that I wrote MYSTERY NOTEBOOK on. I took the notebook with on my trip, fully expecting to find, and solve, many crimes with it. Um...yeah.

April Tucholke's debut novel, BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, is out from Dial/Penguin in Summer 2013. You can find her at

Wednesday 5 September 2012

The Lucky 13s Take Over, Week One: Ellen Oh - Swan vs Eagle

While I'm in the writing cave finishing my WIP, some of my fellow Lucky 13s are stepping in to guest blog for me. This week, I'm handing over to Ellen Oh.

So since Emma invited me to share something with her blog readers, I thought I’d share a story about my Mom and how she kept me sane during the time I was querying PROPHECY. I had just left my previous agent and was in that phase of wondering if I’d ever get representation again and I was a nervous wreck. I stressed about everything, I checked my email box hundreds of times, I stalked agents online, wondering whether or not they were reading my MS, I second guessed myself all the time.  I was not rational.  And it didn’t help that it seemed like all my writer friends were getting book deals while I still labored in the trenches. I couldn’t see clearly. Until my Mom gave me the smackdown.

My folks came down for a visit during the height of my submission craze. They'd known that I'd been under a lot of stress and were worried about me. The first thing my Mom said was to turn off the laptop. "All that computer does is give you stress. Turn it off and come sit down and talk."

I turned off the computer and sat down, heart sinking for the lecture that I knew was coming. It won't matter if I'm 60 years old, my parents will always lecture me. That's life.

"Ellen, why are you so stressed about this book?" my Mom asked. "Why don't you forget about it already."

"That's impossible, Mom. I just can't forget it."

"Not forget forever. Just for a little while," my Mom said. "Listen, don't be stuck on your book. Let it go and be happy. When you are happy, really happy, then go back to it. Nothing works when your brain is filled with stress." She rubbed at the crease between my eyebrows. "Your brain is all filled with worry and stress and miserableness. Why you want to put that in your book? You put that in your book - who will want to read it? Happiness makes you healthy. Healthy makes your brain happy. Then you write your book."

I nodded and sighed. "It's not that easy..."

"Of course it's not easy." My Mom shook her head at me. "You and your sister got your writing gene from your Dad. He's a great writer. Great newspaper columnist (my Dad had a column in the national Korean American paper for years). But then he writed 3 books and they don't do good. He's depressed and gives up writing. That's why he's worried about you girls. But I'm not worried. I know one day people will applaud me just for being your mother. You will be great one day. But don't rush it. You don't have to. I will live until I am 110! You have plenty of time. Don't rush."

I began to laugh. "Thanks Mom. Maybe one day then it'll all work out for me. It's just hard when I see all my friends succeed and I wonder when it will happen to me."

My Mom smiled and grabbed my hands. "What kind of writer will you be? Some writers will write 10 books that are all forgettable. You will be the writer that writes one book, but it will be unforgettable. I believe in you. Some people lay eggs that turn into chickens - others lay eggs that turn into eagles. You are no chicken. You are an Eagle. One day you will soar."

"Funny - I thought you were going to say swan, but I like the eagle analogy better," I said.

"Swan, BAH! Only look good on outside. Open its mouth and the ugliest sound come out. Eagle is better. Look strong, look powerful, be strong, be powerful."

"Thanks Mom, you're right."

"Of course. I'm almost always right."

Ellen Oh's debut novel, PROPHECY, will be released January 2nd, 2013 by HarperTeen. Visit her at, like her Prophecy Series Facebook Page or follow her on Twitter -

Wednesday 29 August 2012

In Two Places At Once, Plus More Books for 2012

I'm in two places at once today! As well as being here, you can find me interviewing Sangu Mandanna about her awesome dystopian debut THE LOST GIRL over at The Lucky 13s. THE LOST GIRL released yesterday and is a gripping tale of love, loss and life with a unique dystopian twist. I absolutely love it and I'm hoping to have Sangu on this blog for a chat when TLG releases with Random House in the UK early next year (publisher siblings, yay!).

I reckon it's time for some more 20 Books for 2012 now, so here are the next three I'm adding to the list:

FROSTFIRE by Zoe Marriott
A fantasy YA about a girl who is possessed by a demon, and when she's forced to join a band of rebel soldiers and grows close to their two leaders, is terrified she won't be able to protect them from her own terrible power. I just finished reading this, and thought it was wonderful. The writing is exquisite and the heroine is brilliantly kick-ass. And the cover is beautiful!

I've always been a huge fan of Sarah Dessen, but I reckon she now has some serious competition for the crown of realistic romantic contemporary. I already loved Morgan's first book, AMY AND ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR, but this one, a story about a girl whose family take one last vacation together before a life-changing event, forcing her to face up to the ghosts of her past, just blew me away. Warning: do NOT read this book in public unless you don't mind total strangers seeing you flat-out bawling. And make sure you have plenty of tissues!

THE WITNESS by James Jauncey
A gritty, near-future dystopian set in Scotland, where conflict over who should own land in the Highlands is escalating. A teenager witnesses a massacre and ends up on the run with the only survivor, a young boy. Everything about this book is just breathtaking. One of my favourites of all time.

From next week, I'm going to be AWOL (at least from blogging) for a while. My book 2 deadline is looming ever nearer, and I need to take time away from the blog to make sure I get the MS finished. However, it won't be sitting in the corner of the internet gathering cobwebs. Some of my fellow Lucky 13s are taking over, starting with a post next week from the awesome Ellen Oh, so I hope you'll still stop by for a read.

Until then, to the writing cave… see you again at the end of September!

Thursday 23 August 2012

Lots of Links!

I'm missioning on with the WIP, which is now at over 78K and moving into the last third of the story. It's over 4 years since I last wrote a first draft and I'd forgotten what it feels like to reach that point where this collection of words, paragraphs and chapters begins, at last, to feel like an actual book. A ragged-round-the-edges, riddled-with-plot-holes-so-big-you-could-lose-a-bus-in-them, going-to-need-a-ton-of-work sorta book, but a book nonetheless. It's so exciting!

As a result of all this writing, my brain has turned to roughly the consistency of porridge and all I could do when I remembered I had a blog post to write was stare blankly at the screen and drool slightly. OK, maybe I didn't drool, but you get the idea. So this week, I'm doing a links round-up.

First up, I have a board on Pinterest where I'm adding the covers for my fellow Lucky 13s debut novels as they're revealed. There are some amazing covers - I can't wait to read the books inside them! You can see them here.

I have a Pinterest board for my WIP. They're pictures that capture the mood I'm trying to create with the book. There may also be some hints at the locations and characters… check it out here and let me know what you think!

On 15th August, me and my fellow Luckies took part in the amazing WriteOnCon, offering some writing and marketing tips. If you missed them, you can find them here.

Over at Presenting Lenore, it's Dystopian August, where you can get sneak previews of some amazing dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels that are coming out next year from a few of the Lucky Thirteens: Polly Holyoke, Amy Tintera, Melanie Crowder, Amie Kaufman and her Apocalypsie co-author Meagan Spooner, Alexandra Duncan, T. Michael Martin and my writing twin (or should that be Alt?) Elsie Chapman. You can also catch up with what dystopian and post-apoc books are out now in this post.

On Ink & Angst, Pam Witte is running an incredible, international Gate Crashers' Author Appreciation signed book and swag contest. What are you waiting for? Go enter it here!

And lastly, agent-mate Dan Smith has had an offer from a publisher for his first children's book. Congratulations, Dan!

Is there any cool stuff I've missed this week? Tell me about it in the comments!