Thursday, December 13, 2012

Year in Review: 2012

This year, I ...

1) Reproduced

The End!

Okay, while that was more than enough excitement for the year, it would also make this my shortest blog post ever, which means I may as well have Tweeted it instead (and probably will).

So here are some more stats.

This year, I...

1) Reproduced

2) Sold my second Young Adult novel, High and Dry, to Amulet Books

3) Read 46 books (27 Young Adult or Middle Grade; 2 Non-Fiction;13 Adult; 4 Graphic Novels). Next year I hope to read more Non-Fiction as that's usually a bigger category for me.

4) Interviewed four Young Adult and MG novelists (Sarvenaz Tash, Trish Doller, Diana Renn, and Katie McGarry and Natalie Bahm) about their fantastic debuts for the Lucky 13s blog and my own blog (YOU ARE HERE)

5) Hosted a guest post and giveaway for Samuel Park and his wonderful novel, This Burns My Heart

6) Wrote an essay about Malinda Lo's Ash for the LA Review of Books

7) Wrote three guest posts (A "Day in the Life" post for Sophia Chang's series; "How Do You Choose a Narrator?" for Lisa Gail Green's blog; and A Tribute to Hollis Resnik for Amy Spalding's Musical Theatre Monday Series)

8) Revealed Maria T. Middleton's beautiful cover for my Young Adult novel, Bruised (in stores 3/5/13!)

9) Joined SCBWI

10) Made some new friends who graciously shared advise and writerly comfort (waves to Cat Winters, Elisabeth Dahl, Shelley Coriell, Anita Grace Howard, and Ann Stampler)

11) Cried approx. 17,000 times from exhaustion, joy, grief, and as a general hobby

12) Other Things I Don't Remember Right Now

Did you blog a year in review for 2012? Link me in the comments below. I'd love to read about it.

And if we don't talk till 2013, Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Interview with THE SECRET UNDERGROUND's Natalie Bahm

Need to find a great kids' book for the holidays? Look no further than Natalie Bahm's middle-grade contemporary adventure, THE SECRET UNDERGROUND:

Twelve-year-old Ally is the only witness to a bank robbery in her small town. Unable to block out the memory of the robbers, a notorious gang known as the Gauze Men, Ally joins her little brother and a bunch of neighborhood boys digging a hole in her backyard. Only the hole isn't just a hole - it's a massive set of tunnels snaking beneath the neighborhood and heading for an abandoned steel mill. Ally is old enough to know the danger, but she reasons spending time with sixth-grade heartthrob Paul is more fun than sitting at home with her worries. And dangerous it is - none of the kids' parents realize the tunnels exist, but the Gauze Men might.

Not only is the story a heart-pounding read, but all proceeds of the book go to help a sick baby. 

LASTLY! If you're an aspiring writer with a finished OR unfinished manuscript, you must check out Natalie's blog, where our mutual agent, Sara Megibow, is offering a 50-page critique in honor of Natalie's debut. It runs through December 12, so hurry over there for details. 

And then hurry back and read my interview with Natalie, who is one of the most genuinely kind and talented people I know.  I hope you enjoy our chat (picture us with mugs of cocoa, next to a fire). (It wouldn't be accurate, but that's the feel I wish to evoke.)

What sparked the idea for THE SECRET UNDERGROUND? 

My dad used to tell us stories about when he was a kid.  He lived in a tiny town in Idaho and he and his friends got into all sorts of mischief, including digging tunnels and caves in a vacant lot down the street. I was kind of fascinated with digging when I was a kid too, only my parents wouldn't let us dig tunnels (for good reason!), so when I grew up I wrote about them instead. :)

The Gauze Men bank robbers are so vivid and creepy -- how did you come up with them?

I think they were probably partially based on the bad guys in GOONIES.  In the first drafts of the book there was only one Gauze Man.  The other two came in later.

Was the town you grew up in anything like the town in the story? I found the abandoned mill to be particularly poignant.

Not much--unfortunately I grew in a pretty big town totally devoid of steel mills.  But I lived in the foothills and the kids in my neighborhood were always building secret forts up in the hills behind our houses.  I think the mill idea came from Geneva Steel, a gigantic steel mill that used to sit right on I-5. We'd drive past it on trips to Utah and I was always blown away by its size. It was demolished a few years ago and there was a feature about it in the newspaper with tons of cool pictures.  I remember thinking it would have been the perfect place to hide out.

What were your favorite books when you were Ally's age?

When I was a little younger I was obsessed with everything by Roald Dahl.   I read Number The Stars in fourth or fifth grade and it started a bit of a war book binge. I think by the time I was Ally's age I was kind of a reluctant reader.

Are there any special songs, films, or books that you turned to for inspiration or creative renewal when writing UNDERGROUND?

GOONIES for sure.  I think I was reading mostly YA while I wrote it, so that might have contributed to the little romance. 

The ending is extremely tense -- without giving anything away, did you find your heart racing as you wrote? Did you ever worry the children were in too much jeopardy?

It is tense!  I think I definitely had some heart-racing moments while I was writing it.  The funny thing is it didn't start out that way.  The first ending I wrote was actually kind of light and funny.  I think I rewrote the ending about a hundred times by the time the book came out. The current ending might be too scary for some kids!  My ten-year-old niece told me she had to sleep in her parents room after finishing it! Luckily my daughter and my eight-year-old nephew thought it was awesome.

Ally sometimes finds it easier to relate to the boys than the girls. Did the same hold true for you? Were you ever a tomboy growing up?

My best friend in kindergarten was a boy. We never fought.  We just had adventures and played nice.  He moved away in first grade and after he left all my friends were (very drama crazy) girls. I think I always kind of missed him and the simplicity of our friendship.

Did you draw a map of the town or the tunnels to keep everything straight in your head (or even just for fun?)

I think I did early on.  It was a make-believe town so it was hard to remember where everything was in relation to everything else.

You held a successful auction for baby Jayden. How did the idea to sell your book for charity come about? 

I actually decided to do the book before we had the auction.  I'd been talking to Jayden's grandma and hearing about all the horrible things his family was going through--struggling to make ends meet at the same time as their sweet baby was fighting for his life. It hadn't been very long since I'd had a sick baby in the hospital, so I could kind of relate. I just couldn't imagine dealing with financial stress at  a time like that. I felt like I really needed to do something to help.  I called Sara and asked if we could use THE SECRET UNDERGROUND as a fundraiser and she thought it was a great idea.  But, even though we put it together really fast, it took 5 months to get the book out.  While we were working on it, I decided to do the fundraiser so we could get the family some money sooner. The auction was a great success and helped them through some of the toughest months they'd had.

Can you give us an update on Jayden's health at the moment? 

I'm so happy to have good news to report. He's doing really well now!  He's had a couple of very scary hospital visits in the last six months--one where his family was almost certain they'd lose him.  But Jayden is so tough!  He miraculously recovered and even gained a little weight and now he's home and healthier than he's ever been.  He's still tiny.  At two, he weighs less than twenty pounds. Plus, his immune system is weak so any illness sends him straight to the ICU. He's nowhere close to out of the woods yet, but he's doing well for now.  His family is so, so grateful for all the love they've been shown from people all over the world. It means so much to them to hear how people they don't even know are buying books to support Jayden.

Happy Holidays, Natalie, and thanks so much for (metaphorically) sitting down with me.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Upcoming Author-y Events

Here goes!

1) This Saturday, December 1st - I'll be handing out Bruised postcards (with invites to my book launch) at the 6th Annual Santa Clarita Arts & Literacy Festival. If you live in the area, please stop by and say hi. I'd love to see you! BONUS: Laurisa White Reyes (Rock of Ivanore) will be doing a reading and signing.

2) January 26-27, 2013, I'm doing two book signings at ALA Midwinter in Seattle with fellow Amulet author Cat Winters (In the Shadow of Blackbirds). Exact dates and times to come. BONUS: Tom Angleberger (The Strange Case of Origami Yoda) will be at ALA, too!

Monday, November 26, 2012

HIGH AND DRY Sells to Amulet Books

My second novel, a Young Adult mystery called High and Dry, sold to Maggie Lehrman at Amulet Books!

Here is the fancy Publishers Marketplace listing, 'cause it ain't real till PM announces it:

Author of BRUISED Sarah Skilton's HIGH AND DRY, set in a California desert town in which a high school soccer player is framed for a stranger's near-fatal overdose, blackmailed into uncovering a missing flash drive, and pressured to throw the big game, all while trying to win back the girl of his dreams, again to Maggie Lehrman at Amulet, in a nice deal, for publication in 2014, by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency (World).

I've lived in L.A. since 1999, so it was only a matter of time before I tried my hand at a sun-soaked mystery.

Did you know?
Living in L.A. eventually turns you into a private detective.

Huge thanks to my agent Sara Megibow, my beta readers, the Writing Night peeps, and my friends and family for their support. I'm thrilled to be working with Maggie again.

It's been enormously fun researching mysteries, and I hope you enjoy reading High and Dry as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Giveaway: Five-Book Prize Pack, Contemporary YA!

This year I'm grateful for so many things. Most of all, I'm grateful for the birth of my beautiful son, my husband Joe for being a terrific dad and supportive partner, and our parents for helping us out in every conceivable way. (Waves to both sets of Mom and Dad.) Publishing-wise, I'm grateful to the four authors who read and blurbed* my debut novel, Bruised, which comes out March 2013.

To thank them, I'm giving away copies of their latest books, plus a signed ARC of Bruised, over at YA Books Central, starting today and going through Mid-December.

I highly encourage you to enter the give-away so you can read their amazing books! They are my contemporary YA heroes, and I can't thank them enough for their kind words, below:

"The kind of book that keeps you up late at night and lingers long after you've turned the last page. Imogen's struggle in the aftermath of trauma is brutal in a raw, beautiful way. I loved everything about it."
Trish Doller, author of Something Like Normal

"Raw and real, Bruised is an important read for all teens, especially those who feel they’ve lost their way. This beautiful book sows the true power of sports."
Miranda Kenneally, author of Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker

"A powerful, gripping portrait of one girl's struggle to survive a violent tragedy... Sarah Skilton brings her heroine to a place of self-forgiveness and healing with extraordinary realism and humanity."
Mariah Fredericks, author of The Girl in the Park

"A poignant look at a family groping to come together; an offbeat romance with charm and heat; and a heart-rending but ultimately triumphant story of a girl reclaiming her life. Absolutely absorbing!"
Ann Stampler, author of Where it Began

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday, with lots of pumpkin pie!

*most awkward word of all time?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Super Cheesy Post About Dreams, Etc.

Today, the Spring 2013 Abrams Kids' catalog went live.

Abrams is a publishing house known for its breathtaking artwork (their byline is "The Art of Books Since 1949"). Flip through the catalog and you'll see why.

When my agent Sara and I accepted the offer for BRUISED in 2011, my editor Maggie sent me a lovely welcome basket of books, as well as the latest Abrams Kids catalog. I immediately began dreaming of seeing my cover listed in those pages. I still have that first catalog, and a subsequent one I swiped while in New York two summers ago. They're on my bookshelf, and soon, they'll be joined by a third!

Thanks for letting me gush without irony today.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Kidlit Cares & YA for NJ - Helping Out Victims of Hurricane Sandy

Love to read?

Want to help out victims of Hurricane Sandy?

Head over right now to Kate Messner's Kidlit Cares auction (many bids close tomorrow, 11/9).

If you've missed the chance to bid, check out Kieran Scott's YA for NJ Facebook Page for updates on their brand-new auction, set to launch November 16th. As of this afternoon, more than 80 amazing YA and MG authors are donating signed books.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Upcoming Giveaways for BRUISED

My ARCs for BRUISED arrived on Monday!

[insert crickets]

What's an ARC, you ask? It stands for advance reader's copy. It's the almost-final-but-not-quite version of my book, printed like a paperback and sent to critics and reviewers in advance of the publishing date (which in my case is March 2013).

If you're a librarian, book seller, blogger, or reviewer, feel free to request a copy at my website. I'll forward the request to my publisher (no guarantees, but we'll do our best to accomodate you). For those who prefer to read online, BRUISED will be available on NetGalley in November.

If you don't fall into any of the above categories but you'd like a sneak peek at BRUISED, here are three opportunities to win one:

1) My first giveaway will be Monday, October 27th, at Iceybooks, alongside my Amulet sibling Cat Winters, who'll be giving away a copy of her debut IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS.

2) My second giveaway will be the week of Thanksgiving, and will include copies of books by the wonderful authors who blurbed BRUISED, including (drumroll...) Miranda Kenneally, Trish Doller, Mariah Fredericks, and Ann Stampler!

3) In January, I'll be doing a signing at the Amulet booth for ALA Midwinter in Seattle, whee.

4) If you carjack me on the 405 you'll end up with a copy because I keep one in my work bag.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

New Library Opening

I hate to brag, but my 8-month-old son was invited to the social event of the weekend last week, and he took me as his plus one. (Okay, everyone in town was invited. And he needed me to dress him, drive him, and wheel him around. But my point remains.)

I'm talking about the New Old Town Newhall* Library grand opening.

There was a street festival too, but we skipped it in favor of air-conditioning. The New Old Town Newhall Library has a YA section (yay!), a homework section, a meeting hall with local artists' work on the walls, two sets of bathrooms (I don't know why I'm including that, but it impressed me), a wall lined with laptops you can check out, couches, a childrens' section, old timey photographs (presumably of Old Old Town Newhall) and a screening room.

There are also books!


I see many days spent here in the future.

*A close cousin of the Bob Loblaw Law Blog

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cover Reveal: BRUISED

I'm proud and excited to reveal the cover for BRUISED, my contemporary YA novel coming March 2013 from Amulet Books!

Art design by Maria T. Middleton. Click to enlarge.

16-year-old Imogen Malley has spent most of her life in the shadow of her popular older brother, but there is one area in which she excels: martial arts.

As the youngest black belt at her dojang, Imogen loves assistant teaching more than anything in the world, and she plans to open her own martial arts studio one day. Per the Tae Kwon Do student creed, she's come to think of herself as a potential hero, a defender of the weak, and a champion of justice.

Her confidence disappears when she freezes up at an armed robbery that leaves someone dead. Guilt-stricken and numb, Imogen is left to wonder if martial arts failed her, or she failed it.

Estranged from her family and friends, who don't understand why she's still beating herself up for failing to act, she struggles to get by on her own, and decides to prove herself by teaching another student how to fight –- no holds barred, no protective gear, no rules.

When the image you have of yourself is shattered, how do you make it whole again?


Barnes and Noble

Friday, September 14, 2012

More Links to Other Places! A Discussion About Choosing Narrators

The gracious Lisa Gail Green invited me to participate in a Q&A at her blog this past Monday.

I answered the question, "Who is the narrator of your story, and how did you decide?"

Find out what I said about 16-year-old Imogen -- a girl skilled in martial arts who is the main character of BRUISED -- and how I knew she was the only possible narrator for this story...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hello My Little Neglecterinos

Blogging's taken a backseat at the moment while I finish up edits for Bruised. And, you know, raise my kid and stuff. The good news is I've gotten a sneak peek at my book's design layout and cover ideas and they're amazing!

I also have a couple of guest posts and an ARC giveaway lined up for the fall.

Happy back-to-school to those who celebrate, and come back soon for a cover reveal!

P.S. Is anyone else reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn? (Obviously many people are reading it, as it's a bestseller, but I mean, is anyone who also reads my blog reading Gone Girl?) Without spoiling me, are you digging it? I'm fairly obsessed and never have enough time to read as much as I'd like of it.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Red Letter Week - A Sleeping Baby and a Book Cover Teaser

On Wednesday night, my almost six-month-old baby slept through the night for the very first time, from 6pm to 6am.

So why didn't I sleep?

My mind was racing, in a good way. I was thinking about the extradorinarily cool cover concepts my editor had emailed me earlier in the day. I kept going back and forth over them, and reordering my favorites in my head.

To see some of Amulet's past covers, check out designer Maria T. Middleton's blog, and watch this space for my cover reveal later this year!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

This is One of Those Posts Where I Just Send You to Other Posts

Here's what I did this week instead of writing this blog post (which I am doing now):

1) Los Angeles Review of Books published an essay I wrote for its Revisiting Fairytales series, in which I discuss ASH, Malinda Lo's young adult retelling of Cinderella.

2) Sophia the Writer graciously allowed me to join her Day in the Life series. So here it is, a Day in Sarah Skilton's Life. (Normally, that is summarized as "dishes-laundry-dishes-laundry," but I chose an idealized version to showcase here.)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Recommended Read: Where it Began by Ann Stampler

Where it Began by Ann Redisch Stampler opens with a fairly simple premise: a teenage girl wakes up in the hospital, having barely survived a car accident. She has no memory of the night in question, but she's certain she's to blame.

The narrative voice is fresh, crisp, and incredibly witty. I absolutely loved it. (Also, there is BILLY NASH. BILLY NAAAAAAAAAAAASH.)

What makes the book stand out so much? I shall tell you!

Narrative Voice
Gabby's narration is fabulously sarcastic. She considers herself a "sub-regular" at school, skill-less and destined for some crappy no-name college while her classmates head to Princeton and Stanford, but as readers we quickly realize she has an inaccurate, harsh view of herself. In truth, she's a talented artist, and an extremely witty young woman.

Check out how Gabby describes some of the people in her life:

Boyfriend Billy Nash, polo-playing golden boy of the school: "Billy sticks out his hand like a politician who is pretty damned sure he is going to get my vote. Then he flashes me The Grin. The smoldering, adorable grin. Like he knows that I'm going to race from precinct to precinct and vote for him over and over all day long."

Friend Lisa: "Lisa had been on a religious Outward Bound where she learned to survive if she ever gets stranded in Wisconsin with only dehydrated stew, a toothbrush, and a pocket Bible."

Mother Vivian (always Vivian; never Mom): "She is sitting in the corner on a green plastic chair, maybe too far away for me to see her clearly. Or maybe in her quest to look as if she's made of ten-years-younger, wrinkle-free plastic sheeting, my mother has found a way to get herself permanently, cosmetically airbrushed so nobody can see her all that clearly."

Use of Humor
I really like books that maintain a sharp, biting sense of humor amidst very real, very painful drama. Where it Began does this expertly, placing both elements in stark relief. Gabby has suffered through a terrible car crash; her face is bashed in; her boyfriend seems to have mysteriously abandoned her; and her alcoholic parents who live "in the lower dregs of Bel Air" have pinned all their hopes for social advancement on their daughter's continued attendance at the prestigious Winston School.

Despite the heartache and confusion that swirls around the story, and despite the increased evidence that poor Gabby has been left out to dry, the book is also deeply, darkly hilarious.

As part of his latest probation terms (it turns out Billy is anything but a golden boy), Billy is supposed to be counseling other teens at the Youth League shelter in Santa Monica. Of course, he has no intention of doing this. As Gabby puts it, "The only helpful counseling he could possibly be doing would have to be arriving by astral projection via the psychic cat that's always out there on the Third Street Promenade in a wizard hat making money for his half-zonked owner."

Use of Setting
Where it Began takes place in the Three B's (Bel Air, Brentwood, Beverly Hills), as well as the Valley, the West Side, and all of Los Angeles. Stampler clearly knows this world and fully immerses the reader in it.

Because Billy is easily bored, he takes Gabby all over the city in his beloved Beemer. "The best Pho 999 for Vietnamese noodles so far out on Sepulveda, it is almost at the far end of the Valley"; "hickory burgers on the red faux-leather stools at the counter at the Apple Pan on Pico"; "Versailles for Cuban plantains and black beans in Culver City"; "tacos at La Canasta, which is somewhere so far south and east of downtown that it looks like some whole other country"; "the Cajun place at the Fairfax Farmers' Market that has homemade yam potato chips fried up and ready to eat by ten a.m."

Having been to several of those places, I can attest to the accuracy of those descriptions. Yum.

Billy Nash
Speaking of Billy, he's an enviably well constructed, well written character, equal parts seductive, fascinating, and horrifying. As a reader, I wanted Billy around. Just like Gabby, I yearned for and anticipated his texts, instant messages, phone calls, and cameos. He's impossibly magnetic. He's also an appalling human being, and waiting for Gabby to arrive at this conclusion (as readers will probably do early on) fills the book with tension and occasional frustration, yet I understood completely why Gabby was in love with him and in thrall to him.

In short, I'm rather obsessed with this book and I hope you like it, too. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Biggest Fear About Being Published

I harbor many irrational fears. As New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane puts it, "Sometimes the brain is a dungeon." Just ask my husband about the phase I went through in college when I became convinced that a cinder block was going to hit me on the head (thrown off a dorm balcony during spring cleaning, of course).

Here's the thing: I'm not scared people will hate my book. (I hope they don't, but if they do, I can accept that. Everyone has different taste in stories. It's really okay.)

No. What frightens me are the people who will dislike what they think has occurred in my book, rather than what has actually occurred. The Misinterpreters, I'll call them.

A friend of mine wrote a project a few years back, in which the words "[FirstName] Effing [LastName]" showed up as a tribute to a celebrity. (You know, like when you think someone's "effing awesome.") This phrase was used on a few occasions, within a larger context of showing that the author had idolized the celebrity and wished to emulate her. Well, an early reviewer claimed that the words, "Eff You, [First Name, Last Name]" were used, and lambasted my friend for being crude and disrespectful toward the celebrity. In short, the reviewer had not only missed the point, he or she had gotten it backwards, and then reviewed the wrong information.

What's frustrating is that there's no recourse in those situations. It's not a matter of opinion or taste, it's a matter of being factually incorrect, but pointing this out risks looking defensive or whiny.

So now you know all about my fear.

Writers: What are your publishing fears?

Reviewers: If you were to misremember or misinterpret something, would you want to be corrected (not by the author, but perhaps by other readers)? Or would you consider that a breach of the reader/reviewer code?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Purposeful Errors

If you knew a book had purposeful errors, would you still read it?


Well, guess what -- you already have. Hahaha!

That was kind of a mean trick question. You see, every single book has purposeful errors.

Let me explain. There comes a time in an author's life when he or she will face copyedits (copy edits?). For me, that time was this week. Copyeditors (or copy editors? I DON'T KNOW ANYMORE) are brilliant, detail-oriented people who not only spot and fix typos, grammar mistakes, and spelling errors, but also serve as continuity experts (comparable to script supervisors in TV and film, which means they notice if your character is wearing a green sweater at the beginning of the scene but a purple one by the end).

In short, they save authors from super embarrassing mistakes and also help prose shine before books get published. They're invaluable.

Sometimes, however, writers choose to keep a sentence or word that's incorrect because it suits their character's voice, either in actual dialogue or in narration.

For example, the main character of BRUISED, my YA novel, is a 16-year-old girl who loves martial arts more than anything. She struggles to make Cs in school, so it wouldn't make sense for her to speak with proper grammar all the time. This is not to say all teenagers spend their days spouting purposeful errors; a different teenager in a different book would speak with correct grammar but my girl Imogen's not one to say "whom."

So next time you read a book and think, "That's flat-out wrong! How did that slip by?" It didn't. It was noticed, possibly agonized over, and deliberately kept.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Observations During a Walk - A Mystery

1. Hipster boy at the elementary school pre-first bell, outside in the recess/lunch area, wearing a baseball cap, tres cool sunglasses, and a necktie over jeans and a T. I'm kind of obsessed. Who is this kid? Is he the school fixer? Where does he fit in the hierarchy, or does he not play those reindeer games? Also: am pleased to see that Converse are still in, for both genders.

2. Tiny sock, missing its mate, under a bit of shrubbery at the edge of the lake. Normally this would've looked sinister, but my own son is constantly kicking his socks off so I know exactly how this happened.

3. Woman in skinny jeans, high heels, and chiffon-like fancy black cardigan walking her dog. Not caring who sees, and despite her ridiculous shoes, she scales the wall to the community clubhouse. It is not a small wall, ya'll.

There's a story in here somewhere, I just know.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Odds & Ends

Today's the last day to bid at Brenda Novak's charity auction for Diabetes research. As of this second, you still have eight hours to win from me a full screenplay critique or 50 pages of a novel critique (presumably the first 50 pages but you know, I'm flexible). Thanks and good luck! If it's too rich for your blood, I'll be participating in another auction next week.

Also I'm writing this from beyond the grave because the latest episode of Mad Men was so depressing I would've given it 5 out of 5 razor blades had I reviewed it. Instead, I send you to a terrific analysis at

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Los Angeles Novels for Every Mood

I started Jennifer Bosworth's STRUCK this week, a YA book about a teenage lightning addict living in post-Apocalyptic Los Angeles. The setting is pitch perfect and Bosworth clearly knows her L.A. stuff.  It got me thinking about my other favorite novels set in L.A. -- novels that absolutely couldn't be set anywhere else:

1. THE LONG GOODBYE by Raymond Chandler (classic hardboiled mystery)

2. DOGTOWN by Mercedes Lambert (gritty, unglamorous East L.A. of the 1980s)

3. MY HOLLYWOOD by Mona Simpson (overpriveleged families of Santa Monica, seen through the POVs of immigrant nannies)

4. WHITE OLEANDER by Janet Fitch (the brutality of the foster care system)

5. HOLLYWOOD by Charles Bukowski (hilarious and insane look into alcholic writer's movie-making experience)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What Having A Baby Has Taught me About Life, The Universe, and Everything

1. Turns out it's possible to function on 4 hours of sleep a night. Had I known this sooner, I could've written twice the number of manuscripts currently under my bed.

2. Babies appreciate every minor sensation the world has to offer because it's all new to them. As a writer, this can be invaluable to observe. (Yes, you know what, Elliot? You're right: The way light comes through the window and creates shadows along the wall IS beautiful and worth staring at.)

2a) What once seemed like minor scenarios have become highlights of my life. Like Elliot dancing, teaching himself to roll over, splashing in the bath, and blowing raspberries. Each milestone squeezes my heart. And he'll never be this small again, so each day is acutely poignant.

3. Sometimes a 2-hour commute on the 405 on a Monday morning is a welcome, restful respite from the 96 hours that preceded it.

4. Changing diapers, long feared, ended up being nothing whatsoever and the least of my worries.

5. I always knew Joe was my partner, but now he's really been in the trenches with me. And there's something sexy about a guy who knows how to rock a baby to sleep.

6. With time to read at a premium, only good books make the cut. (Sorry, bestseller that shan't be named. You've sapped my will to live. Although the extraordinarily repetitive nature of your prose does make it easy to drift off, which is sometimes helpful.)

7. My respect for other parents -- particularly my own -- has increased one million fold.

8. Just when I think my friends, loved ones and neighbors couldn't be kinder, someone does something so generous and thoughtful it blows my mind. Example: my cousin sending me a sleep mask and a bright red leather bag so I would feel pampered as a new mom. And the things my parents and in-laws have done for us are too numerous to even grasp or summarize.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Getcher Novel or Screenplay Critiques Right Here

I'm participating in Brenda Novak's Annual Auction for the Cure to Diabetes. As you may have guessed, it's an auction, and it raises money to find a cure for diabetes.

Do you have a novel or screenplay that you'd like me to critique? Come place a bid! Don't be nervous. I do this for a living. (Wow, that sounded dirty.) I just mean, I read screenplays for a living, and when I'm not doing that, I'm writing novels for my other living, so I have experience and knowledge and all that good stuff.

I'll stop blathering now and let someone else blather.

The lovely, gracious, and talented Melanie Bennett won a novel critique from me last year. Here's what she has to say (thanks, Melanie!):

"Sarah critiqued a manuscript for me and her smart advice and insightful comments were a big part of why that manuscript earned me three offers of representation. She critiques in a way that helped me feel her experience with my work as a reader, but she backed it up with the writerly know-how of strategies for fixing issues. It's a great combination and well-worth a big, fat donation to a charity if you get the bonus of her mad skills."

Sound good? Operators are standing by and I'd love to help you whip your writing project into shape. Please let your writer friends know about the auction, and please consider helping out a good cause.

You can bid here until May 31st.


I'll be particpating in another fundraiser on June 2nd. More details to come...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Recipe for Successful Line Edits

1. An editor who's smarter than you (Maggie is wicked smaht and insightful; together we're conspiring to make me look like less of an idiot).

2. A cooperative, sleepy baby who'll take naps so you can work.
Okay, so I'm not exactly working.

3. A sense of humor. My all-time favorite line edit concerns whether a character would be eating Pop-Tarts vs Toaster Strudels. (It's an issue of icing.) We've both done research and a winner will be crowned any day now.*

And in this corner...
4. The desire to tweak. Just call me Tweaker Sarah**! I love tweaking lines to get just the right phrase, mood, and style. Line edits give me the opportunity to do this to my heart's content.

Watch out for the Dough Boy. He'll cut ya.
I know you are dying to find out whether we went with Pop-Tarts or Toaster Strudels. You'll just have to buy, steal or borrow BRUISED next Spring.
*Unsurprisingly, Maggie was correct.
**Now I sound like a meth head

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Barnes & Noble Binge

You may have noticed I didn't review Mad Men on Monday. Basically, it was impossible to be depressed this week because three friends' debut books came out!*

1) Sarvenaz Tash's Middle Grade adventure, THE MAPMAKER AND THE GHOST. I read the book last year in ARC form, and now I get to own a copy.

It was thrilling to see her book "in the wild." I also got to interview Sarvenaz at the Lucky 13s blog.

2) Publishing-mate Shelley Coriell's fabulous Young Adult novel, WELCOME, CALLER, THIS IS CHLOE. (Bonus: It was shelved next to THE GIRL IN THE PARK, the newest release from one of my favorite authors, Mariah Fredericks!)

3) Agency-mate Jennifer Wolf's YA, BREAKING BEAUTIFUL. I've heard nothing but amazing things about her work so I'm excited to dive in; I ordered a copy and hope to pick it up next week. Jennifer was also interviewed over at Lucky 13s.

*Okay, so I haven't watched it yet. Apparently raising a baby cuts into one's TV schedule. Who knew?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Line Edits!!!

My line edits arrived this week. I can haz feelings of being a real writer?

For those who don't know, line edits are the low-down nitty-gritty edits. I've already been through the broad, plot-based edits. Now my fabulous editor, Maggie Lehrman, is focusing her genius brain on phrasing, sentence structure, word use, character emotions, etc.

The last time I felt this excited, book-wise, was during my trip to New York City last summer to meet my agent and editor.

There are certain milestones in the life of a debut novelist that instill soul-numbing terror or heart palpitations of delight (and I have an irregular heartbeat to begin with). Line edits cause both.

On the one hand, I'm thrilled.  I'm in the game; I'm part of the great writing conversation. THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING.

On the other hand, THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING. This is officially the penultimate chance to fix, you know, every single word in my manuscript because PEOPLE ARE GOING TO READ IT NEXT YEAR.

Next come copyedits, and then THIS IS REALLY, REALLY HAPPENING.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mad Men 5x4: Forever Plaid

Who among us hasn't wanted to see Pete receive a beat down? That it came at the hands of Lane Pryce was surprising but still satisfying; I don't think Roger would've been up to the task. Besides, Roger's style of punishment is verbal abuse.

Prostitutes automatically ensure a base rating of 1 razor blade, and Pete's whiny "I have nothing" confession in the elevator is worth half a razor blade, I suppose. Also, a guy named Handsome stole Pete's jail bait target right out from under him. Ha!

What a difference a year(?) makes. This time last season, Don was getting slapped by a "woman of the night," and living in a hovel. Now he's attending suburban soirees with his wife and actually remaining faithful to her, not to mention giving Pete the stink eye for messing around.

This is a short review because I'm having difficulty typing. I'm still blinded by the "festive" dinner jackets everyone wore to Pete and Trudy's.

1970s, I see you on the horizon and you're not pretty.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"What makes a book well written?" My Useless Response to a Tweet

Last week on Twitter I observed that whenever a book is praised for "getting people to read" it's never because the book is well written.

To which another Tweeter asked, "What does a well written book have? I am trying to write one... what do you think makes a book well written?"

Hmm. That's pretty subjective. Also, it's easier for me to list what makes a book poorly written, so naturally I am taking the easy way out.

Don't Do This:

1. Unoriginal characters (and/or characters you don't care about)
2. Telling instead of showing (don't say things, prove them)
3. Cliches
4. Carelessness
5. Poor use of language
6. Overused or redundant phrases and descriptions
7. Inexplicable behavior (if I don't believe your characters would do something, or if I don't understand why they have done something, it throws me out of the story)

There! A perfect blueprint! Go forth and write!

Oh, was that not helpful?

Hmm, again. It's hard to make a list of what well written means. It's like pornography: you know it when you see it.

If I wish I'd written it, and/or I momentarily consider quitting writing altogether because Now There Is No Point, that means it was well written.

What do you think makes a book well written?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mad Men 5x3: Rickets From the Haunted Mansion

Okay, no need to prolong this.

Let's just jump right in and award the latest episode of Mad Men 4 rusty razor blades out of 5 on the Depressing Scale (tm).

After a series of extremely uncomfortable meals (which is also an efficient summary of Inglorious Basterds, FYI), Joan dumps her rapey husband and decides to raise her baby solo. It's horribly sad that the little guy won't have a father, but it sounds like he wouldn't have had much of a father, anyway; without consulting his wife, Greg signed up for another year in Vietnam, explaining that "they need him" over there. And isn't the baby actually Roger's anyway? Wait, that just makes it all the more depressing. This isn't helping. Never mind.

Elsewhere, Sally is abandoned to her nutty step-grandma for an evening of horrors. Grandma forces Sally to eat a sandwich, "crusts and all," and later relishes in sharing lascivious information about a serial killer with the sleepless, terrorized child. Then she GIVES SALLY A SLEEPING PILL. You remember Sally, right? THE LITTLE GIRL? (And possibly the best actor on the show?) Sally proceeds to heartbreakingly fall asleep under the couch.

"Victimized females under couches/beds" was a theme. Apparently that's how the only survivor of the aforementioned Chicago-based serial killer's rampage managed to save herself. So in Don's literally feverish portion of the plot, Don dreams that he has strangled a former lover and shoved her corpse under the bed. She's wearing one heel (which ties in with the Cinderella-style ad campaign he didn't want to do).

Other depressing things, in case that's not enough: Peggy gets da-runk and wonders if Dawn, the black secretary, might possibly steal the money Peggy blackmailed Roger into giving her. (The blackmail part was hilarious, actually; Peggy got Roger good.)

Lastly, Megan endures the longest elevator ride of her life when a random woman throws herself at (male, white) Don.

I'm sure there were other depressing things but that's enough to make my case I think.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Back to Work

I love my job, and I love my co-workers.

But heading back to work after my maternity leave has been tough. Luckily, my husband is a magician who works from home, so he'll be on Daddy Duty while I'm at the office. Last Thursday we did a trial run. It went like this:

Joe: It's your day off from Elliot. What do you want to do?
Me: Spend it with you and Elliot.

Eventually I headed to the computer to catch up on emails and stuff, but it was so hard not to respond when I heard Elliot fussing or crying in the other room. Joe's an excellent father and I trust him implicitly to do a great job -- but I have to admit, I wanted to step in constantly, such as when I heard things like this:

Joe: I'm going to go upstairs now. I am covered in poop.
Joe: I don't know what your deal is, little man, but you're clearly fidgety.

And of course I wanted to join in on the fun:
Me: So! What are you guys up to? Are you going on a walk? ...Can I come?
Joe: We already went on a walk.
Me: Oh.

~An Hour Passes ~

Me: Ooooh, you could Skype with my grandma. She would LOVE that. Here's my phone, her number's right there, do you need me to set it up or show you how to do it? (Keep in mind my husband is much more technologically savvy than I am.)
Joe: Um, I think I can figure it out.

~Twenty Minutes Pass ~

Me: You know what you could do right now? You could read him a book! Or tickle his feet! Or do Tummy Time! Or listen to music and dance! Or --- oh GOD I JUST WANT TO SNUGGLE HIM AND KISS HIM ALL OVER BUT I CAN'T FOR FOUR HOURS AND TEN MINUTES.
Joe: I got this. Just, go do your thing until 6 o'clock.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mad Men 5x2: We Need To Talk About Betts

Oh, Betty.



Mad Men pulled a switcheroo and got me to care again about Betty. BETTY. I've always found her fascinating, and often pitiable, but in recent seasons she's become downright villainous toward Sally, which is obvs not okay. I also found her storyline with Henry Francis to be less than compelling during seasons three and four, but now I feel bad for both of them. Henry swears he doesn't even notice Betty's weight gain.

First, we wonder if she's a suburban cliche; then we fear she has cancer; and then we realize, no, she's a suburban cliche. And in that last scene, scored to Sound of Music's "I am 16, going on 17," we watch Betty devour not one but two hot fudge sundaes -- the second being a discard of her daughter's, whom Betty accused a while back of being "pudgy" herself. Eek.

This "Betty almost dies; no wait, she's just eating too much" subplot earns the ep 3 razor blades all by itself. Add to it Pete's public, office-wide dis of Roger, and my "Dawning" realization that I don't even feel bad for Roger -- who not only mocks the new black secretary behind her back but exhibits not a single iota of sympathy toward Don regarding Betty's possible demise -- and you've got 3.5 out of 5, baby.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Even as a delirious, sleep-deprived mother of a 10-week-old boy, I read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews in two days!

What makes it so awesome?

1. Our narrator, Greg, a senior in high school, behaves the way a real person would, teenager or no. I LOVE THAT. Upon hearing that his sort-of ex-girlfriend from middle school has leukemia, and that his mother wants him to reach out to her, here's how he reacts: "Urgh!"

Mostly, he's inconvenienced by Rachel's imminent demise, claiming several times that it, and their forced friendship, has "ruined" his life. This is how people think. As a result, I wasn't thrown out of the story by a perfect protagonist, yet Greg remains sympathetic because he genuinely tries to keep Rachel's spirits up by going over to her house every day and making her laugh.

2. Different scenes are presented in different formats, such as screenplay style, bullet points, or outlines. Besides being hilarious, it keeps information brisk and entertaining. Even descriptions of the movies Greg and Earl make are written like quick film reviews, with star ratings at the end.

3. The whole book is funny as hell. My favorite part is when (minor spoiler alert or whatever) normally straitlaced Greg and (less straitlaced) Earl accidentally get high after drinking their favorite teacher's mysterious soup. HAAAA! And then they can't decipher a text message, and it cracked me up like crazy.

4. Greg regularly breaks the fourth wall, referencing the fact that we're reading something "he" wrote, and how awful the book is, and how it may cause us to "want to do a homicide."

If you're looking for a YA book that works on about a thousand levels, add Earl to your list.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mad Men 5x1: A Bold Bean Ballet

This season started like a squillion months late, but here we are! As usual, I'll be rating new episodes of Mad Men based not on the quality of the show -- which tends to be uniformly high --  but on how suicidal it makes the viewer.

Using a scale of 1 to 5 razor blades, I'll discuss the most depressing aspects of the program. It doesn't help that the show airs late-ish on Sunday nights, when most of us are already quivering wrecks of dread anticipating the work week ahead of us.

However, last night's two-hour season premiere really wasn't particularly depressing.

I mean, black protestors getting hit with water bombs from an office building was certainly depressing; a wrecked, exhausted-looking Joan fighting with her mother was depressing; and Pryce's lack of respect toward his black cab driver was uber depressing; but Crane describing what he'd do to Zou Bisou Bisou was more funny than depressing (though not from Megan's perspective I guess). In fact the entire episode was more funny than anything else.


1) Roger Sterling: "Why don't you sing like that?"
Jane Sterling: "Why don't you look like him?"

2) Everyone playing a frantic round of Pass the Baby when Joan stopped by

3) Pete's power play against Roger that sent Roger to the Staten Island Ferry at 6 am

4) All the partners squished on the couch in Pete's office (where they couldn't even smoke to deal with the situation!)

5) Megan summing up the rest of the cast with this reasonably astute assessment: "They don't smile; they smirk."

6) Pryce has what amounts to phone sex with Dolores, of the lost wallet; and Don and Megan play a kinda weird "you can't look at me while I clean in my underthings" sex game.

So all in all, 2 razor blades out of 5. Which is probably for the best, because with a double episode you really don't want more than a 3 rating. Still, I was a tad disappointed that no one got drunker at the surprise party. This is Mad Men, after all. I was probably drunker than any of the characters, and I was only sipping wine.

Question: was the wallet owner supposed to be a mobster?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Results of my First Book Giveaway

Thanks to everyone who participated in the lottery* to win a copy of Samuel Park's terrific historical novel, THIS BURNS MY HEART.

I put numbers in a hat and pulled out #8, Julie Musil. Congratulations! Please DM or email me your address.

I also asked commenters to list their favorite historical novels. Mine is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. (Have you seen my coming-of-age smackdown analysis of Scout vs Francie?)

Here's what others said, if you're into that sort of thing (bulking up your To-Read lists):

  • BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys
  • THE DOVERKEEPERS by Alice Hoffman
  • THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett
  • Anything by Phillipa Gregory (like THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL)
  • ORCHID HOUSE by Lucinda Riley
  • GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
  • THE BOOK THIEF by Marcus Zusak (three votes)
  • JOSEPHINE BONAPARTE series by Sandra Gulland
  • FOREVER AMBER by Kathleen Winsor
  • SHOGUN by James Clavell
*Whenever I see the word lottery now, I think of that gut-wrenching scene in Waiting for Superman.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Guest Blog & Giveaway! Novelist Samuel Park ("This Burns My Heart") Discusses His Heroine's Tough Choices

I'm excited to welcome Samuel Park to my blog today. To celebrate the paperback release of his highly acclaimed historical novel, THIS BURNS MY HEART, I'm hosting my first giveaway!

I read HEART in hardcover last year and found it to be gorgeously written, cinematic, and completely absorbing. Samuel graciously agreed to share his thoughts on the book's controversial heroine, Soo Ja, whose unhappy marriage in 1960s South Korea forms the basis of the story. I also asked him to discuss his research methods, since his descriptions and style immersed me in the time period.

Without further ado, take it away, Sam...

Hi Sarah! Thank you so much for having me on your blog. I’m thrilled to be here.

You asked me to write about a character making tough, compelling choices that may be difficult for readers.

I suspect you asked me that question because the heroine of my book, Soo-Ja, makes a seriously bad choice at the beginning of the book. At that point, the reader either throws the book away in frustration, or plunges deep into the narrative, to see how it all turns out. As the author of the book, of course I always hope it’s the latter.

But I like that you asked that because it’s something that often comes up in discussions of the book. A lot of readers, to be honest, disagree with a lot of her choices, and find her maddening. Still, I think that’s what makes her seem human and three-dimensional—we’ve all made terrible choices, and wondered how to make them work. And that’s sort of the theme of the book: the permanence of choice. Are we stuck with the consequences of our choices, or can we find a way to undo them?

To make that work, I think you have to lay the groundwork to make her choice seem plausible. The choice can’t be a clearly bad one. The character has to lack some vital information that the reader has. It has to make it seem like she’s doing the right thing in the situation.

Then, you have to make it clear why she makes the choice, and you have to make it seem practically inevitable. I think this is when human psychology comes in. So often, we do things that are self-defeating, and against our own interests. How many of us have chosen the wrong person to date, or said/did something that sank our prospects at work? I think Soo-Ja is a version of that, but in a grand scale. I think part of the reason Soo-Ja’s story resonates with people is that it’s about a universal theme—disillusionment in marriage. No matter how great the partner you pick is, no matter how terrific your relationship is, the dirty little secret of marriage is that a lot of people find it a bit disappointing. In other words, no matter who you choose, you feel slightly letdown. Soo-Ja’s is just an extreme version of that.

Your second question was about my research methods and integrating real life into a story. I think that balancing the demands of fiction with fidelity to real life can be very tricky. Basically, I took some elements of my mother’s life and fictionalized it. I would create composite characters, or tie together events that actually happened months, or even years apart. I made up a tremendous amount, and the book is certainly a work of the imagination. However, the part where I borrowed the most from real life was in terms of the motivation and the psychology of the characters, as well as the dynamics between different characters.

Also, I think when you borrow from real life, you borrow not just a certain truthfulness that can’t be faked, but also a certain investment in the material that otherwise might not be there. In other words, I ended up investing these characters with some of the same love, curiosity, and interest that I feel for the real life people who inspired them.

Finally, when people talk about research, they usually mean the books and articles they read. But what about the emotional research? The feelings, fears, and anxieties associated with that society, that period, or that country? I tried to really pay attention to how I felt emotionally about the locations and situations I was writing about, as ultimately the emotional truth gives the reader a much more fulfilling experience than when you just focus on getting facts right.

Thanks again for hosting me on your blog, Sarah! It’s been a pleasure! And I wish the best to everyone who is entering the giveaway!  

Originally born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Korean-American author Samuel Park is the author of THIS BURNS MY HEART, which was chosen as one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2011, a People magazine “Great Reads in Fiction,” and one of the Today Show’s “Favorite Things.” THIS BURNS MY HEART was also a Kirkus Reviews’ Best Fiction of 2011, a BookPage Best Book of 2011, and an Indie Next List Notable Book.

THIS BURNS MY HEART is just out on paperback and is going to be a Starbucks Bookish Reading Club selection starting the week of March 13. The promotion allows Starbucks customers to read the book for free for 2 weeks when signed into the Starbucks Digital Network at the stores. The book is also going to be in the Target Emerging authors program.


Intrigued? Enter my giveaway to win a copy of this terrific book. Simply comment below, stating you'd like to enter the contest, and -- if you're so inclined -- please tell me the title and author of your favorite historical novel.

I'll pick a winner out of a virtual hat next Thursday and mail him or her a copy of THIS BURNS MY HEART (international shipping is fine, too).

Good luck!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I'm a Mom Now.

I can't be my crappy old self anymore.

I must become a crappy new self!

I have a beautiful, healthy, vital son. Baby boy Elliot is wonderful, and his father has been endlessly amazing. We don't know what we're doing. We're spinning plates. (Cue Radiohead song, or something equally poignant.)

Elliot was extremely considerate and didn't go into labor until the day after I turned in a manuscript to my agent. I think that earns him a dedication slot, yes? Not to be all Suri Cruise by keeping him under wraps -- he's utterly adorable -- but I've decided not to post pictures of him publicly yet. Not sure he needs an Internet presence this early in his young life. This will likely change in the future but for now I'm Cautious!Weird!Luddite!Mom. If you're jonesing for baby pics, check out these images of my niece when she was 9 months old.

Also: Remember how I railed against "too much information" and women who feel compelled to share allllll the details of their nightmare labors? I get it, now. I get the compulsion to blurt this stuff out.

My labor was a 30-hour disaster, a checklist from childbirth class of "everything that might go wrong, plus things you've never heard of." Don't worry, I won't post details, and I certainly won't inflict the tale on any unsuspecting pregnant women. But I get it, now.

Perhaps needless to say, posts will be sporadic for the immediate future. Elliot and I have lots of ground to cover.

This blog entry was brought to you by real caffeine.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

So Your Critique Group's Awesome. Now What? How Do You Decide Which Notes to Implement?

Just about every writing blog I follow has at some point addressed the importance of critique groups, and I couldn't agree more. They're vital to making your work shine. A good critique group can mean the difference between signing with an agent or not, or even landing a book deal or not. We all need other writers to point out inconsistencies, plot holes, info dumps or just plain bizarre/bad writing. We also need cheerleaders to encourage us and point out the moments they loved. The best beta readers are a combination of the two.

Assuming you already have a core group of committed critique partners whose opinions and advice you respect, it's still difficult to decide which notes to listen to, and which to ignore!

Here's how I go about figuring it out:

1. Is there a consensus about some aspect of the story? (Do 3 out of 3 AI judges agree?) Then take another look at the problem, even if you don't want to, even if it's a pain in the butt to fix. There's a reason they all brought it up spontaneously. It's a problem. Consider this a bonus. It makes things easier.

2. What does your gut tell you? Even if only one person sees a particular problem, that doesn't mean you can automatically disregard it. You can usually tell right away if he or she has hit a nerve. Did you feel defensive or self-concious when it was brought up? Were you secretly hoping nobody would notice it? It's probably worth changing or you wouldn't have had that reaction.

3. What does your gut tell you, part B: Is the reader trying to help you tell your story, or are they trying to help you tell the story they wish you had written? If the former, give it serious consideration. If the latter, don't worry about it and move on. Luckily, it's been a long time since I've run into this dilemma; my beta readers all seem to "get" my style and help me see it through. I'm super grateful for them!

How do you handle critiques? Do you follow the above guidelines or do you think I'm nuts?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My New Website & The Amazon Dilemma

So in a frankly scary burst of energy last Saturday, I made myself a little website.

I'd had the domain name for years but hadn't done anything with it, and it was time to admit I was never going to code a site from scratch, no matter how much I pretended it was going to happen. I have basic html skills but no patience when it comes to design. I wanted something clean and colorful, where I could introduce myself and my book to the world, or at least to a corner of the web.

Next order of business: I know I'm late to the party, but I think this topic is worth revisiting.

Remember that super-annoying, condescending Slate article ("Don't Support Your Local Bookseller") late last year? I found some excellent rebuttals to it I'd like to share:
In Los Angeles, we have a thriving indie bookstore community (Skylight Books in Los Feliz; Vroman's in Pasadena; Book Soup in Hollywood; Diesel in Brentwood; and Libros Schmibros in Boyle Heights, to name a few). The Borders in my town has closed, and the Barnes & Noble near my office is about to. Driving 40 minutes to the nearest indie isn't always a possibility for me. I'd like to support local booksellers and I often do, but sometimes the convenience of Amazon lures me away.

How do you balance Amazon versus indie stores?

Do you have access to local booksellers in your neck of the woods?

Edited to add: for some reason this post went out twice, so I deleted one version. Sorry to lose the comments :(

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Scout vs Francie: A Coming of Age Smackdown

To kick off the new year, I decided to ditch YA for a little while and re-read some classic "adult" books. So of course I chose coming-of-age novels, ha. (YA wouldn't let me go so easily.)

Both are historical and both feature strong-willed young protagonists. As you've probably deduced from the title of the post (and, um, the images), the books I chose were To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

Although Mockingbird won the Pulitzer, and is obviously well written, I (whispers) prefer Tree. It was a close call, but for me, Tree is a delight from the very first page, whereas Mockingbird takes a little while to get started. Don't get me wrong; the second half of the book is utterly amazing -- and pays off all the "slower" parts from the first half -- but it's not one I can read over and over the way I can Tree.

However, my opinions could certainly change over time, and once I'm older I might flip my position.

Have you read both books? Which do you prefer?

Need a refresher? Take my quiz and find out if you're more likely to dig Scout or Francie: