3 S.R. Johannes: September 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bookanista: A Desires for the Dead sneak peek

Have you read The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting?

You are missing out big time if you haven't.

The Body Finder is a YA thriller that begins with an intriguing and promising premise: violent deaths leave a unique imprint on the victim and the killer, and Violet Ambrose can sense them. Add in the facts that her uncle is the local police chief and that a serial killer is on the loose, and you have the makings for an exciting suspense/horror novel. Unfortunately, The Body Finder never lives up to its potential. Instead, most of the book deals with the relationship between Violet and her lifelong best buddy, Jay, who has suddenly blossomed into the junior-class hottie. Does he know that she is attracted to him? Does he feel the same about her? Is he really oblivious to all of the girls throwing themselves at him? Could they, should they, will they be more than friends? These questions are mulled over. And when they are finally answered, the writing devolves into near-bodice-ripper style.

What I love?

  • It is a thriller and you don't see many of those page turners in YA
  • Kimberly has a distinct voice. Violet is sassy and smart. Even though the book is in 3rd person, you feel so connected to the characters.
  • The relationship between Jay and Violet is adorable. I love their banter. The relationship is a good one. Balanced and healthy. I think kids need to see it can be this way.
  • I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. There's a scene in the woods that is gripping. I read this book in just a few days. (and I will never run in woods again)
  • The cover is to die for!

Desires of the Dead (coming March 2011)

I got the Desires ARC a couple months ago. Desires is just as good as The Body Finder. A nice surprise when the sequel delivers.

Violet can sense the echoes of those who've been murdered—and the matching imprint that clings to their killers. Only those closest to her know what she is capable of, but when she discovers the body of a young boy she also draws the attention of the FBI, threatening her entire way of life.

As Violet works to keep her morbid ability a secret, she unwittingly becomes the object of a dangerous obsession. Normally she'd turn to her best friend, Jay, except now that they are officially a couple, the rules of their relationship seem to have changed. And with Jay spending more and more time with his new friend Mike, Violet is left with too much time on her hands as she wonders where things went wrong. But when she fills the void by digging into Mike's tragic family history, she stumbles upon a dark truth that could put everyone in danger.

As far as what I like?

Ditto to everything above.

In Bookanista News

1. We have three new members: Veronica Roth, Megan Miranda, and Jesse Kirby!
2. The cover of Elana Johnson’s POSSESSION has been revealed.
3. Lisa Roecker is about to have her baby and is going on maternity leave from blogging. (Congrads Lisa - we will miss you!) Check out Laura's hilarious announcement.
4. ARCS of Beth’s ACROSS THE UNIVERSE are now out!!!
5. Christine Fonseca’s book EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS is coming out on FRIDAY!!!!!!

Check out the other Bookanista's Reviews today:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Rats are Back - Hilary Wagner and Nightshade City!

Comment on this post by midnight Est time tonight and I'll do a random drawing for a sparkly new Hardback of Nightshade City:)

Today, Hilary Wagner (author or Nightshade City. (and yes Rick Riordan blurbed it!!) stops by today to discuss some marketing ideas.

Nightshade City summary: Deep beneath a modern metropolis lies the Catacombs, the kingdom of remarkable rats of superior intellect. Juniper and his maverick band of rebel rats have been plotting ever since the Bloody Coup turned the Catacombs, a once-peaceful democracy, into a brutal dictatorship ruled by decadent High Minister Killdeer and his vicious henchman, Billycan, a former lab rat with a fondness for butchery. When three young orphan rats--brothers Vincent and Victor and a clever female named Clover--flee the Catacombs in mortal peril and join forces with the rebels, it proves to be the spark that ignites the long-awaited battle to overthrow their oppressors and create a new city--Nightshade City.

"Fans of Redwall and the Warriors series will love this heroic tale of good versus evil in a subterranean society of rats." --Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series ^

I met Hilary over a year ago in an online writer's group. It's been so exciting to see her embark in this journey and I'm so happy for her.

Hey Hilary, before we get started, tell everyone about you.

I write middle-grade and young adult novels. I love brilliantly written, colorful stories, which leave me still thinking about them the next day--a touch of creepy doesn't hurt either! I live in Chicago with my husband Eric, our seven year old Vincent and our two year old Nomi. We also have a neurotic Italian Greyhound, Louie, who is adorable, but very whiny! ;)

Okay, now tell us about your amazing new book.

I'm cheating on this part!

Here is the summary from my publisher and there is a lot more on the official site. From Holiday House, "This enthralling animal fantasy, in the classic tradition of Redwall and Watership Down, encompasses timeless themes of honor and loyalty, family ties and lost love, alliances and betrayals. Readers will respond enthusiastically to this surefire page-turner, by a talented new novelist, set in a brilliantly imagined world filled with easy-to-root-for heroes and villains they'll love to hate."

You can view the trailer on the Nightshade City website!

What do you feel is the key message of your book?

There are a few, but I have to say the key message is never letting a few decide the fate of many. Don't ever let anyone tell you you're not allowed to live a good life.

In promoting Nightshade City, what creative marketing is planned for your book?

Let's just say, I'll be passing out a lot of gummy rats! I think a big thing for me is word of mouth. Marketing can be very organic and writing friends have been fabulous spreading news about the book. My publicist is targeting blogs from everything to fantasy book lovers to animal lovers! I learned so much about rats by contacting rat experts! They've been great and gave me valuable info, not to mention graciously spreading the word about Nightshade City. Rat lovers are good people! Holiday House has deep ties with educators and librarians. Every time I see a school or library ordered my book, I can't help but get a happy, cheesy grin!

As a new author yourself, what advice do you have for authors promoting their books?

Gosh, it can be tricky! You want to promote your book on Twitter, Facebook, etc, but then again, you don't want to seem that that's all you post about, which can be tricky if you have a job, spouse, kids, et (I have all of the above, plus the neurotic dog). I think you need to balance postings about your book, while connecting with others. I love the people I'm connected to--there is a fabulous network of writers out there who want to see you succeed. It might sound hokey, but I'd like to think as writers, we are all in this together.

With promotion, you really need to think beyond the obvious. I love animals, so writing a book about rats and connecting with rat lovers, ratteries, etc., only made sense for me--it helps my book, but it also helps me, I've met a lot of generous caring people! So, two things I suppose. First, think outside the normal realm of who might buy your book. For example, if you write a book about a teenage girl who has physic powers, find groups who truly believe in the clairvoyant. I'm sure they love books on the topic and not just the non-fiction kind! Second, give a little to your on-line community and you'll get a lot! People are truly amazing!

NIGHTSHADE CITY is available at Barnes and Noble stores nationwide, Indie Booksellers, Amazon and more.

You can also follow Hilary on her blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

SCBWI Carolinas - A pictorial essay

I'mmmmmmm back.

I know you all have been soooooo worried and lonely without me.

Sorry I was out of pocket.

I was on faculty at SCBWI Carolinas this past weekend. (BTW we are missing Laurent Linn and Elizabeth Dulemba in this pic :( Bummer) It was AWESOME! I had to drop off the blog b/c I had 2 presentations and I had to work on them last week. Hopefully they went well. (If it didn't, DON'T Tell me. If it did, toot my horn all you like!)

BTW - you should be following all of these people's blogs and twitters because they are great resources. I know because I heard them all talk.

I love going to conferences and finding those little nuggets that stick with you esp. when you don't realize it at the time. I love flipping back though notes until you find the ones that grab you - kinda like shopping on the racks at TJMAX for the perfect shirt. You go through a lot of basic everyday stuff, but when you find something - its totally fabulous.

Here are a few that touched me so maybe they will help you:

Alvina Ling (Sr. editor at Little Brown) talked about the difference between Literary vs Commercial. She said, "The difference between commercial and literary is language. We look for the sweet spot in the middle. If you get feedback you are 'too commercial' -it probably means you need work on your language and writing style. If you get feedback that you are 'too literary' - go back and focus on your pacing/plotting." She said you should assess - really scrutinize - every word and look for an even better alternative. Alvina also encouraged writers to query the more junior agents/editors b/c they are more willing to take you on and work with you on your book.

I must admit - I was a little scared (petrified) to meet Alvina. I know fro following her blog and twitter that she's brilliant and also has a list of amazing clients. I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep up with her. That she'd be so much smarter than me, it'd be like talking to a 6 year old for her. Ok - so how funny and cute is she? Not only does she love Karaoke (we even broke out into song a few times at the same time, singing the same song) but she also loves food - eating it AND taking pictures of it. You think I'm kidding? Here's a hot of her taking a picture of my delicious chocolate cake. And I had to wait until she was done to eat it!

She's also hilarious and so sweet and thoughtful. Oh yeah and she says "NEBULOUS" a lot. She even joked about it being a new drinking game.

Alan Gratz (author of new book Fantasy Baseball)
talked about Pacing and Plotting.
He suggested dividing your book into 3 acts with the middle act being the largest (like 50% of your book). He said "You should always have 2 overarching plots in the book - the external (conquering something outside the character) and internal (growth)."

Alan rocks and is hilarious. One of those naturally funny people. He's smart and everything he says is interesting (well almost :) I loved hanging out with him and learning from him. Sharing tidbits we've learned along the way. I'm bummed he's not still living in
Atlanta b/c I think we could be great friends.

OH yeah and he has a new book coming out that is brilliant. Knowing him, it's probably funny too. Liz is his editor on it and she's as excited about it as he is. Its called FANTASY BASEBALL where a boy plays baseball with characters from literature. It's an adorable book for MG that comes out in March 2011 - so look for it!

Liz Waniewski (editor at Dial) talked about some trends she's seeing in submissions that she thinks are a bit oversaturated. PB - bedtime, monsters, going green, grandparents, love you books, boredom, first day school, and baby bird books. For novels - new kid at new school, popular vs outcast, high fantasy, divorce, sulky teen, ordinary kid discovers powers, paranormal.

Liz is adorable and sassy. She loves sports (esp softball) and fantasy, and sci fi. She is the editor on Incarceron, Lady Bug Girl, as well as several of Alan's books. Its amazing how fun and real editors are b/c we (or is it just me?) tend to see them as old fogies sitting in their offices, slashing through books, laughing in an evil way, while reading War and Peace over and over. Liz is so sweet and a brilliant editor. Not only that but I think if I was in NYC - we'd be buddies (right Liz, tell me we would! If not - just pretend and nod.) b/c we laughed a lot and talked about books - debating and discussing - over an entire dinner. So fun. Alan is very lucky.

Chris Richman (Upstart agent) talked about agent relationships. "If you have an agent (or an editor) that takes on you and your work. Know they really have to love it b/c we have to read the book at least 10 times so we better love it." He gets about 500 queries a week. In almost 2 years - Chris only has 10 clients so he has to connect with each book in a special way.

Now, this is the second or third time I've been on faculty with Chris and he cracks me up. The guys is so down to earth and funny. You should definitely query him b/c he has a heart of gold and seems to know this biz very well. he could list off all 13 imprints at Penguin! That's impressive. Oh yeah and his name is RichMAN not Richmond. That seems to be very important to his family so be sure to get it right when you query him. :) He loves board games - scrabble, balderdash - as well as sports. His cuff links are even scrabble letters. Though I'm not sure if they are worth triple or not.

Elizabeth Dulemba on Picture Books - I don't have any nuggets from Elizabeth's talk because we spoke at the same time. But she's always full of them. Elizabeth Dulemba is one of my favorite people who I never get to see enough of even though she lives in Atlanta. We went to high school together. But even though she was a little older and much cooler - she never holds that against me :) The special thing about Elizabeth is she is always looking out for other people. I even heard her pitching someone else's book to an editor b/c she thought the editor would like it. Seriously! She is so sweet and I'm lucky to have her as a friend.

Laurent Linn Art Director at S&S spoke about art illustrations (bummer I did not get a picture of him :( He's funny and brilliant and also worked on the Muppets, which was fascinating to me.

I love finding the nuggets at conferences

I was lucky enough to get to hang out with all these cool people b/c I was on faculty talking about Author marketing and Branding. I was also pleasantly surprised to have a standing room session with about 50-60 people. So thanks to all the Carolina attendees that took time out to listen to me. It makes me happy knowing I might be helping authors get on their way to promoting themselves and their books.

Somewhere along the way, I met Megan Miranda (author of Fracture - 2012 and repped by the amazing and brilliant Sarah Davies at Greenhouse who also happens to be one of my top 10 recommended agents and people to know) Megan just sold a 2 book deal to Bloomsbury/Walker in June. YAY Megan! You know how you meet someone and you just click? Like you've known them forever. That was Megan. We hung out the rest of the conference and laughed a lot. She's adorable and her book sounds amazing. So look for it Winter 2010. (This is the only pic I had of the two of us us but she doesnt like this pic - I think its so cute of her.)

FRACTURE, in which a girl survives a fall through the ice into a Maine lake and subsequent brain injury, only to discover that she now has a strange and frightening affinity with the dying.

Beth Revis (author of Across The Universe, Jan 2011)
I must say I was a tad nervous/excited to meet Beth. I've known her online for a couple years and we have been routing each other on this journey from the sidelines. At that time, neither of us was even agented and we both only had a few followers. She is also a fellow Bookanista and an occasional email cheerleader to me when I need a pep talk. We met for drinks Sat evening. She had been out of town at a Book show and was sweet enough to come by the hotel to meet me before embarking on a 2 hour drive home. Megan joined (crashed!:) our party and the three of us giggled for about 2 1/2 hours. Beth is just like she is online. Sweet, funny and so deserving of everything she is getting. I truly adore her (now - even more) and am so glad we got a chance to hang out. Not to mention, she gave me an ARC (which is AMAZING BTW!!!!!) of her book, Across the Universe, Jan 2011. Not that I'm bragging or anything :)

And last not certainly not least - Carrie Ryan, author of Forest of Hand and teeth.
Yes you heard me right. The CARRIE RYAN! I had lunch with Megan and Carrie on Sunday at a delish Mexican place before I left. I met Carrie over breakfast a few weeks ago at the Decatur Book Festival. After chatting some, she gave me her card and phone number. Said she'd love to meet me when I come to Charlotte. She too just flew into town - having finished the SmartChicks tour - and got in late Sat night. Let me just say - I have a BIG author crush on Carrie. I love her books, but more importantly - I love her writing. So this last week - when we were texting about meeting up - I was all giddy and jumping around my house. Drove my hubby crazy! Needless to say I was so nervous - ME meeting Carrie Ryan for lunch - WHAT????!! This world is crazy. I dragged Megan (like it was sooooo hard to convince her :) along with me so I didn't look like a total dork. Carrie is so funny and sweet and down to earth. We laughed, shared stories and tips for over 3 hours! I finally had to go b/c I had a 4 hour drive back to Atlanta in the rain. But I'm convinced the 3 of us would have sat there all night if I lived close by - chatting and laughing. I am so glad I met Carrie and got to know her better - again the instant click. (I hope she felt it too :) (Watch, she probably thinks I am a dork and I just don't know it yet :)

What a weekend right?

So try to go to conference, you NEVER know who you will meet or what will happen that can make it all worth while.

For me - I've listed at least 9 reasons here alone.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Agent Pitch Winners!

Here’s Sarah choice for winner and some honorable mentions (there were so many good ones!)

Winner: High Hopes by Lisa (contemporary YA)

You win a critique of a query letter and your first chapter!
Lisa - congrads and email me at sjohannes@bilaninc.com for instructions

HIGH HOPES is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey,” but instead of going to Bath, eighteen-year-old Katie Moreland takes a trip to Florida for Spring Break week. There, she meets Hal Tilney, who quickly wins her over with his charm and wit, and who also happens to live in one of the most haunted houses in America – the home where the events of “The Amityville Horror” took place. When Katie is invited to visit for the weekend, her horror-obsessed brain goes into overdrive and she imagines ghosts and ghouls around every corner. Hal tries to explain to her that all the sinister stories about the house are just rumors, but Katie is convinced that the Amityville home is hiding a dark secret. Katie tries to find the source of her supernatural suspicions, but doesn’t know she also runs the risk of something truly scary – losing the guy she loves.

Honorable Mentions
  • Flight by Allison Morris (literary fiction/magical realism)
  • Unraveled by Susan Bradley (YA mystery)
  • Mercy by Jess (YA magical realism)
  • The Last One by Chersti Nieveen (YA dystopia)
  • Waiting for April by Jaime Loren (paranormal romance)
  • The Ghost Writer by MarcyKate (YA ghost story)
The “honorable mentions” are in no particular order and that they were all great!

Next week, Sarah may post some critiques of these pitches so stay tuned.

I'm unplugging this week and heading out of town to be on faculty for SCBWI Carolina conference in Charlotte. I'll be back next Monday with a whole slew of fun new posts!

Have a great week! :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Today is supposed to be a post for the Bookanistas but my heart is a little too heavy for it.

My dog, Bud, is not doing well.

My dog is losing his spunk, his zest for life, his bowel function when he sleeps, and he can barely walk, see or hear. The one thing that keeps me filled with hope is that he still eats and steals food from everyone. I always felt as long as he was eating, he'd be ok.

I always prayed I would not have to make a decision regarding my dogs' passing. I mean it's not my job right? Its not in my human job description. But as my dog withers away, I'm faced with the question -

how do you know when it's time to let go?

I'm conflicted. I dont want to help him pass out of this world and into another - out of convenience or even too soon. But I also dont want him to suffer in any way.

A couple years ago, my boxer went quietly into the night. He was fine one day, the next morning my daughter and I found him in his bed - he had died in his sleep. Besides seeing both my grandparents die when I was little, I hadn't faced death in a long time before my dog. At least not with anyone close to me. At the time, I took my Boxer's death hard. I had NO idea he was leaving us - he was happy the day before - and I felt like there was so much left unsaid. So much love that I hadn't shown. I felt guilty that I hadn't given him tons of time the days or weeks before b/c of the busyness of being a parent to young kids. Yet at times, I was thankful he didn't suffer at all. That he had a peaceful transition.

Since that day, I've coddled my Jack Russell (who has been mine for the last 15 years) for the last 2 years. I wanted to be sure that if to be sure everything was said that needed to be said.

But now, as part of me wants my dog to move on to a happier place where he can run and stay young forever, the other part of me is afraid of making the decision to let him go. Since this has really been my dog, my husband feels (rightly so) that it is ultimately my decision. But anyone who knows knows I cant make this. I cry at commercials. I cry when I hear sad stories on the news. I cry at songs, books. And any sign of anyone or anything suffering - whether it be a dog or other animal, I lose it.

So my question - how do I know? Everyone says I will but I am wondering if that is really true. I dont think we actually know when it's a good time, I just think we come to accept that its time. But what if i make the decision and not only do it too soon, but regret it for the rest of my life. Then what? I can't take it back or do a "do-over". I have to live with that forever and wonder if I did the right thing.

I pray every night that a higher power comes in and transitions my dog before I have to make a decision on my own. Yet then I feel guilty for cutting my dog short of what could be some extra time on this Earth with me.

I'll never have a dog like this one. He was my first dog. I'd grown up with cats my whole life. My ex-fiance bought him for me in 1995 and he has been a good dog. Bud has stood by me through thick or thin. He's traveled across the country in a carry-on dog bag with me. He's driven thousands of miles with me. He licked my tears when my heart was so broken that I wondered if I'd ever be the same. He moved to the beach with me for a few months and it was just he and I and the water. He filled a space that some didn't care was empty. He was there when I got married, when both my kids were born. He was by my side helping me recover through surgeries, sadness, and loneliness. Always with a smile on his face.

Any dog we ever get again will never be just mine. Will never be the same. because you see no matter what anyone says, you can never love a dog the same after kids. Its not that you love them less, its that you realize how much you can love something more.

So I feel like I'm losing more than my dog when he goes. I feel like I'm losing a piece of me, my history, my past, my innocence, my youth. A piece that will never be the same.

I'm reminded sometimes of his funny spirit and how full of life he has always been until now. Jumping, smiling, playing, barking, scratching, jumping, eating, playing jumping eating (did I mention jumping?). When I first saw him among a litter of Jack Russells, I knew he was spunky and the one for me. He came running around the corner, bouncing like a jack rabbit with a very tiny stick in his mouth. While all the other puppies milled around my feet, Bud was the only one that demanded I give him all my attention. Clawing and begging for my attention. For me to take that stick and throw it to him. For me to share a moment with him.

And he won.

Now as my dogs spots seem to fade quickly so does his strength. And with that, so does my hope that he can stick it out just one more year. So does my hope that he too will go quietly into the night.

And in comes the reality that no one or no thing lives forever. Yet everyone and everything will live on.

I could use any advice if anyone has gone through this.

Thanks for listening. Sorry about the heavy post. I'll be back and peppy tomorrow :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Today's Agent Pitch Contest!

It's time again for another agent pitch contest. I love doing these because not only do they get you in front of an agent but they also help the agents get some fresh queries :)

Today, the pitch is being judged by Sarah LaPolla from Curtis Brown LTD. You can read her interview with me here. And see her agent bio here.

Here are some other interviews to help you get to know her taste and style:
YA Highway
Mother, Write, Repeat
Guide to Literary Agents

Gets a 1st chapter/query critique from Sarah!

When: Begins today, Tuesday Sept 14th at Noon EST and ends Wed Sept. 15th at midnight EST (I will close comments when it officially ends so if you get a comment in, you are counted.)

What: Leave your paragraph pitch in the comments on this post. Your pitch can be NO MORE than 4 or 5 sentences and MUST be something Sarah is looking for.

  • If your manuscript is still in WIP - you may enter since this is a query critique
  • Your pitch must only be 4 to 5 sentences. Your entry must follow the rules to be counted.
  • This is for unagented/unpublished book writers only. (if you've published articles or essays - you can enter!)
  • You can only enter ONCE so choose wisely!
  • You must be a follower of my blog and either twitter or my newsletter (whichever you would use more :). If I were you, I would also follow Sarah's blog and Twitter too!
In the comments you MUST leave the following information to be considered:
  • title of book
  • genre
  • your paragraph pitch
  • your email
Good luck!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Agent Pitch Contest - Sarah LaPolla (Curtis Brown LTD)

NEWSFLASH: Sarah LaPolla is doing an Agent Pitch Contest starting tomorrow morning at 9amEST! It will be an paragraph pitch of no more than 4 sentences. Winner gets a special prize (revealed tomorrow :)

So get your pitches ready and come back tomorrow for more deets!

For now, here is a little about Sarah!

Hi Sarah, tell us about yourself and how you got into agenting?

I am an associate agent at Curtis Brown, Ltd. and have been with them since 2008. I started as the foreign rights assistant and a few months ago I started building my own list. Before getting my job at Curtis Brown, I received my MFA in creative nonfiction from The New School. I still vaguely consider myself a writer, but I always knew I wanted to be the one to make things happen for other writers, as opposed to getting my own work published. (Maybe, possibly, someday though…) While I was in grad school, I interned with Loretta Barrett Books and the Renee Zuckerbrot Agency, and I knew I wanted to continue down that career path. So here I am!

What is your biggest pet peeve when receiving submissions? Query fails vs query successes?

It bothers me when it is very clear the writer has done no research whatsoever before querying me. Another pet peeve is when authors compare their books, whether for better or worse, to other popular novels. I’ve been getting a lot of Twilight-meets-blank lately and then realize that the only thing remotely close to Twilight in the book is that a vampire shows up. I want writers to be able to describe their work without relying on anything else other than their own story.

As an agent, how do you plan on helping your clients promote their books?

I have my own blog, which I will use as a marketing tool when the time comes (promote books and events, hold contests, etc.) I’m also pretty active on Twitter. I would encourage my authors to do the same. Ultimately, I think the bulk of publicity still ends up falling on the publisher and the author, but the role of the agent is changing in that way. The outlets for effective marketing also change fairly often, so I plan to keep up with those trends as best I can.

What are you looking for and how can authors submit to you?

I love literary fiction, urban fantasy, magical realism, narrative nonfiction, and young adult fiction. I’m also always looking for engaging narrators and strong, complex characters. I should also point out that I am never, ever looking for picture books, romance novels, or general nonfiction books.

Authors can email me their query letters and the first five pages of their project, pasted into the body of the email, at sl@cbltd.com.

Last question, if you could have a special power, what would it be and why?

Teleportation, easily. It would be so time-saving, and I’d go so many places! Plus, my commute to work would be pretty sweet.

If you have any questions for Sarah, feel free to leave them in the comments! Don't forget to come back tomorrow!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Bookanistas - Hex Hall and Demonglass

First I'll talk about Rachel herself. Adorable, Hilarious, So fun. I met her a couple years ago online just before she sold her books to Hyperion. She is honestly one of the funniest people I've ever met right up there with Lindsey Leavitt. So as you can imagine I love hanging out with both or either of them. I only hope they think i'm half as funny as them. :) In addition to this series, Rachel has another one coming out in next year or two, Rebel Belle, which sounds awesome.

I read Hex Hall last year and loved it. But I never blogged about it? I know crazy right? So when I saw Rachel this past weekend, she gave me an ARC of Demonglass. Of course, I devoured it immediately.

Hex Hall

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters. By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus.Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect. As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.
Sophie is a great character - vulnerable, ballsy, hilariously snarky. The inner dialogue is snappy and the book is pacy. Now, lets talk about Archer a bit - hotty, magical, cutie patootie. He's
The humor was perfect for me - a good balance. I laughed out loud many times. I love that it is a light, fun, pacy paranormal. Not too dark. Just the right mixture.

Cover Love
I love the reflection on this cover. It's bright and unique, and I think it captures the mixture of fun and intensity this book conveys quite well. Once you've read the story, you'll totally get it and how it connects!

Demonglass Teaser
Demonglass is just as good as the first book and picks up on some of the unanswered questions from the first book.

Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch. That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (aka witches, shapeshifters, and fairies). But that was before she discovered the family secret, and that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth. Turns out, Sophie’s a demon, one of only two in the world—the other being her father. What’s worse, she has powers that threaten the lives of everyone she loves. Which is precisely why Sophie decides she must go to London for the Removal, a dangerous procedure that will destroy her powers. But once Sophie arrives she makes a shocking discovery. Her new friends? They’re demons too. Meaning someone is raising them in secret with creepy plans to use their powers, and probably not for good. Meanwhile, The Eye is set on hunting Sophie down, and they’re using Acher to do it. But it’s not like she has feelings for him anymore. Does she?

Demonglass comes out next year so I suggest you get Hex Hall now so you can grab it off the shelves.

Check out the other Bookanistas posts this week:

Jamie Harrington: THE DUFF
Elana Johnson: PERSONAL DEMONS (Wednesday Edition)
Shannon Messenger: PARANORMALCY and a GIVEAWAY
Beth Revis: EAT, PRAY, LOVE
Scott Tracey: MATCHED

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Decatur Book festival recap


Since I've started to get more requests, my marketing biz is focusing more author client for swag and promotion. So if you need any buttons, posters, flyers, postcards, bookmarks, tshirts, twitter/blogger backgrounds, or custom web site designs that you can manage - keep me in mind. I can also help come up with book campaigns, other giveaways, and teaser lines you can use on the road. Some of this can be for published AND prepublished authors. I give 20% off to SCBWI members. You can get more information at my web site. Also if you need fabulous book trailers, my friend Vania rocks!

Decatur Book Fest

Had the best weekend.

Not only was most of it spent with my family. But on Saturday, I spent the whole day in Decatur amongst writer friends, gorge weather, and frawesome panels.

Hung out with Jennifer Jabaley (Lipstick Apology), book trailer guru, Vania, Rachel Hawkins (Hex Hall, DemonGlass), Myra McEntire (Hourglass, 2011, Egmont), Victoria Schwab (The Near Witch, Hyperion 2011) and Michelle Hodkin (THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER, S&S 2011).

Some authors I got a chance to chill with were Carrie Ryan (yes you heard that right! Holy crap right and she was a sweetie pie ) and the always-hilarious, Jackson Pearce.

Panel - Chicken Nuggets of Brilliance

Romantic Realism, Realistic Romance with Terra Elan McVoy (author of Pure and After the Kiss) and David Leviathan (co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson)
  • The mechanics of romance is not what grabs teens. Its the emotional romance.
  • Think about what makes it real. Love is not perfect so when a love scene is - its boring
  • The awkward moments are where the realness lies.
  • Sometimes romance is impacted by the surroundings and what is happening
  • Pull from real life - but ask what if to change the scenarios. What if I hadn't had my first kiss. What if my first kiss was good? bad?
  • Romance i funny not serious. Funny moments are always buried under the glistening eyes and puffy lips.
Creating a Fantastical World with Jessica Verday (The Hollow), Kathleen Duey (Skin Hunger), Saundra Mitchell (Shadowed Summer), Cinda Williams Chima (The Exiled Queen)
  • Make the world believable so when you introduce the unbelievable, the reader buys into it.
  • If you are writing fantasy - read historical books to learn about essentials like communities, plagues, sickness, government etc
  • You can create a fictional town in a real world to make it your own.You can create bible for made up worlds.
  • University of Idaho is a great resource for research.
  • Don't invent characters, interview them.
  • Setting should be from characters POV. If they are in their house - they would not describe their sofa unless they tripped over it. Do not describe things that the character knows only do what the reader cannot assume.
Zombies vs Vampires Smackdown with Alyx Harvey (Blood Feud) and Carrie Ryan (Forest of Hands & Teeth)
  • Writers take too much time away from writing. get away from the Internet and be sure you are writing on your book a little everyday.
  • Carrie Ryan wrote every night when she got home from practicing law and read the chapters to her husband
  • Both authors wanted strong characters that could take care of themselves.
  • Both always think their books are not good when they are writing it.
  • When you get stuck - ask yourself "What is the very worst that can happen" and do it.
  • In moments of tension you can either blow something up or kiss.
  • It is important in a series to have character arcs in each book as well as an overarching series arc that connects it all together.
Real Issues in an unreal world with Rachel Hawkins (Hex Hall books) and Nancy Werlin (ExtraOrdinary)
  • Kids face same issues. The paranormal aspects highlights the strangeness that adolescents feel on a daily basis.
  • Paranormal is so hot b/c kids want to escape. Or they want to feel special.
  • Hope the move is towards funnier paranormal but paranormal will always be hot. Yet there will always be another trend.
After the panels, I went to dinner with Myra, Rachel, Victoria, Michelle, Vania and some other girls. We ate, had a beer and laughed.

The things I love most about these kinds of events are:
  • the energy you get from other writers
  • how close each of us really is to being the next big book (yet it seems so far)
  • the little nuggets of brilliance I always seem to find
  • getting to know the authors and listening to their journeys as well as their struggles along the way
  • talking about my writing and reading passion with people who get it
  • realizing - once again - I am not alone in this crazy publishing world
  • creating everlasting bonds and friendships
  • expanding my support system
  • buying other authors books, knowing I am supporting their dream
And still - I am always amazed at how I feel I know people just from meeting them online. I know this weekend, I've met a lifetime of friends in just one day.

Any of these nuggets grab you the most?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Bookanistas - Paranormalcy is all it's cracked up to be and more!

Today I'm going to give my blogger buddy, Kiersten White, a Happy Release Week/Month/Year! shout out. I've been following her for a long time and it's been awesome watching the process - fro her being sick, to struggling with Flash out, to selling....BIG!

Just in case someone has not heard of Paranormalcy, it is my duty to tell everyone. ( I appointed myself :)

Author: Kiersten White
I had the pleasure of meeting Kiersten in LA at SCBWI. WE had dinner and laughs. Even spent time taking pictures with her first hardback. She even taught me a thing or two about posing for pictures. She's versatile that way.

Good times.

She is as adorable in person as she is on her blog. Here's a little interview with her I did a few weeks ago.

Premise: Paranormal + Boys + Action!
Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.
But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.
So much for normal.

Cover Love!
Um hello - just look at it. It is gorgeous. And what's even more annoying, is that this book totally lives up to the hype. Its cute and witty, and intriguing, and mysterious. Oh yeah and it has - HOT BOYS! What more could you want?

What I love!
I had the pleasure of getting the arc back in May so I've been dying to discuss this book with everyone. I love Evie - she is sassy yet adorable. Spunky yet endearing. She cracks me up just like Kiersten. I read this book in a couple days. Seriously, I cracked up even on the first page and didn't put it down til I was done.

Be sure to stop by and check out what some of the other Bookanistas are reviewing today:
Lisa and Laura Roecker with the scoop on THE SECRET SOCIETY OF THE PINK CRYSTAL BALL
Myra McEntire is also dishing about PARANORMALCY
Elana Johnson is raving about THE REPLACEMENT
Shannon Messenger is praising THE BRIMSTONE KEY
Christine Fonseca is celebrating AMAZING AUGUST RELEASES
Carolina Valdez Miller is gushing about JANE

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Rocking Writing Tools

Winner of The Familiars Arc is....


Congrads and email your address to me at sjohannes@bilaninc.com.

NOTE: All packages to date will be mailed by Friday. If you have not gotten yours, it should be there next week.

Mary Kole, agent at Andrea Brown is doing a webinar at Writers Digest. IT looks awesome so you should check it out! "Publish your children's, tween, and teen fiction in today's market". for only 79$. Looks like it covers:
  • The essential elements of books written for younger children, tweens, and teens
  • How your kid reader thinks about fiction and what they want
  • What agents and editors look for in terms of pitch, writing, and book premise
  • How to make your hook absolutely irresistible
  • What separates an aspiring writer from a contracted author in this field
PLUS YOU can submit 1-2 pages of your work and all submissions are GUARANTEED a critique by instructor/agent Mary Kole!!! This is worth it alone...


My Favorite Writing Tools

Today I wanted to give you guys some writing tools I use. I could not write without them. Some you have heard of, some you may not have. BTW - I get no kickbacks or anything from these. It is just what I use as a writer.

1) MAC set up -
  • MAC AIR - I have had a couple Macs over the years - Old MacBooks, the new Macbook. I must say my MAC air is awesome. It's so light. You'd be surprised how much of a different 2 obs is when you take your laptop everywhere. It also has back lit keys. Now I never thought I'd have backlit keys but i must say it comes in very handy on airplanes (especially at night) and if I write in bed when hubby is sleeping. Now as a side note, I used to be a PC user. Anti MAC but I have converted. It takes a couple weeks to get used to it but you can get Microsoft word so it did not hinder my writing at all.
  • Wireless keyboard and docking station. Since I wrote so much, the lap top was forcing me to look down alot. This is not good for someone who has bouts of vertigo. So my hubby got me a docking station. When I am at my desk, i dock my laptop so the screen is at eye level and use the wireless keyboard. That way I don't have to look down as much.
  • Mighty Mouse - If you have a MAC (especially the AIR b/c it only has one USB port - you have to get the mighty mouse. I cant explain why. It just makes the MAC easier to use. What can I say - it's Mighty.
  • Headphones - I have a 3 year old and a 6 year old. I prefer to write in my office so if hubby is in charge and I get to write - they are essential.
2) MACFreedom
Freedom is a software that shuts off your Internet access. You basically set a timer and it will not let you back on until the time is up. Even though it is by MAC, you can get this for PC or Macs. I've always had Freedom but didn't use it until recently. It's not that I spend too much time on the Internet. The problem was that if I got stuck in my book, on a chapter or scene, the first thing I do is automatically click on the Internet and check Twitter or Facebook. It wasn't the time I was spending on the Internet, it was that I would not push through the hard points in my book. I was lazy. The Internet gave me an excuse to jump ship when something wasn't working. As soon as I started using Freedom, I was forced to push through hard points and great stuff came of it.

3) Write or Die
Write or Die is a online task master. You can use the online version or the desktop version (so you can turn off your Internet). Basically you set a word count or time period that you are going to write. Then you set up how much you want to be pushed. Basically you are punished if you stop, you can set a grace period and if you stop writing beyond that - it will either, give you a reminder, make a loud noise, or start erasing your words to force you to keep typing. I like to use this if I need to bust out a certain amount of writing in a short amount of time. Like write a chapter when my kids are in quiet time for 45 minutes. The good thing is you set your own goal, grace period and consequence.

4) Scrivener
Scrivener is a new way of working. Instead of working in a long document where you are paging down to find stuff. You basically pull in your document and organize it in chunks - either by chapter or plot line or both. It has a cork board for notes and outlining function. It takes a few hours to set it up the way you want it but after that - editing or revising a book is easy. If you do not think in a linear fashion - this is for you!

5) Tweetdeck - for someone like me who is obsessed with social networking and is especially active on Facebook and Twitter, TweetDeck gives me an easy way to check it all. You can pull in your Facebook news as well as set up groups that organize tweets as they come in. For example, I have Agents, Publishers, Fav Authors, Marketing columns. I can glance at any of them and scan the tweets without taking tons of time in Twitter. If appropriate, I can also update FB with tweetdeck so I don't have to bounce around in different places. I could not be efficient at social networking without it. I'm sure there are others, but this one works for me.

Tell me - what other tools do you find useful?