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ASK AGAIN LATER’s Cover is Live at YA Highway!

Today is the day!  I’ve been waiting for this for so long!!

You can finally see the cover to ASK AGAIN LATER over at YA Highway!  Many many thanks to the ladies over there for being such excellent hostesses and generally excellent people.

Now get over there and gaze, people!  Gaze!!

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My Own Personal Book Awards

I’ve read some spectacular books this year.  So spectacular in fact, that I couldn’t resist giving out a few awards in some categories of my very own creating.  

There are five books in each category, and I swear to you, they could really go in any order, and their ranking here does not reflect anything but the order I found them on my reading list.  Looking at them now, I’m pleased to see what a diverse list this is.  My taste usually runs to the Contemporary side, but it just goes to show you never know what’s going to rock your world.

So without further ado, I give you…

My Five Favorite Reads of 2011

1.  The Name of the Star 
Maureen Johnson

Johnson hit this one out of the park.  (You can see my full review on Goodreads)  I was a little nervous how it would play, since she’s one of my favorite contemporary writers.  But I am here to tell you, this is now my gold standard for what paranormal must be.  The characters still had all the layers and humanity of a contemporary, and their experience with the ghost world fit right in.  Fast-paced and compelling.  I can’t wait for the next one!

2.  Divergent
Veronica Roth

The moment I finished this book, I ran to my mom’s house and told her she had to put down whatever else she was reading and start it.  She finished the next day.  This book is straight up addicting from the get-go.  It’s intense, fascinating, and so unexpected.  Everything you think you know about dystopian will be turned on its head.  Is INSURGENT out yet?!

3.  Chime
Franny Billingsley

I read this book only after reading Mandy Hubbard’s blog post about what editors were looking for.  When asked, more editors said they wished they’d edited CHIME than any other book.  For that reason, and in spite of the cover and the jacket flap, I read it.  Oh. My. God.  It was NOTHING like I expected.  It was brilliant and painful and so different from anything else I’ve read.  I couldn’t put it down.  If you don’t believe me about any other book, please go get CHIME as soon as you possibly can.

4.  I Capture the Castle
Dodie Smith

My friend Johnny recommended this book to me.  It’s older–written in the 1940s, and first published in 1949.  Strangely enough, the author is also the author of ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIONS.  This book is pure magic.  Bizarre, and hilarious, and romantic, and wonderful.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Another one I forced my mother to read as soon as I finished.

5.  Putting Makeup on Dead People
Jen Violi

I was excited about this book based solely on the title.  Violi delivered an amazingly layered story that pulled me in from the start and made me want to stay longer in her world.  It was quirky, and unexpected, and tapped themes I haven’t seen handled so delicately in YA.  Intricate as lace.  You should definitely put it on your to-read list.

The Five Books That Made Me Feel 
Like a Hack As a Writer in 2011

3.  Chime
Franny Billingsley

Billingsley’s story is a master class in world building.  The language, the voice, the characters, the setting, the structural devices…there was nothing here that didn’t work for me.  It was like being miniaturized and settled comfortably in an old-fashioned music box, watching wide-eyed while the mechanisms did their magic.  I could die happy if I ever wrote something half this good.

2.  Ashes
Ilsa J. Bick

Holy action movie on paper, Batman!  This one left me breathless.  It was particularly harrowing to read for me since it was set so close to where I live.  Bick even referred to local restaurants by name.  I loved the realism, and the believability of this awful future.  She even gave explanations for her character’s survival skills that rang so true I didn’t question her for a moment.  Amazing.

3.  My Invented Life
Lauren Bjorkman

Bjorkman’s use of language left my mind spinning.  This book was actually challenging to read at times because of the stream-of-consciousness style (though that’s not even really the right description).  I felt like I was never given a full hand in a high-stakes poker game.  I’m not sure I loved this book, but it certainly gave me a lot to think about.  YA is NOT dumbed down, and this book is proof.

4.  Imaginary Girls
Nova Ren Suma

I have rarely loved to hate a character as much as I hated Ruby in IMAGINARY GIRLS.  Suma created a David Lynch-like atmosphere in this book where I never felt like I had both feet on solid ground.  This was another one of those books where I was never sure if I was enjoying it or not, but I couldn’t help admiring Suma’s skill.  Characters, voice, setting…everything wove together.  And I love that some mysteries were never fully explained.  (But I still hate Ruby.)

5.  The Replacement
Brenna Yavanoff

Wow, this book gripped me from the first page.  It was like reading a book set in a Tim Burton movie.  Like others on this list, I never felt completely at home in this world, but it was so rich and believable I couldn’t help turning pages.  Only the ending let me down in any way.  I’d still highly recommend it.

My Five Favorite Female Characters for 2011

1.  Cassandra from I Capture the Castle
Dodie Smith

I really don’t know how to put words to my adoration for Cassandra.  She’s totally of her own time, yet delightfully madcap and modern.  I could easily imagine a teenager from today having the same kind of adventures Cassandra and her family went through.  She’s a complete delight, and you will never regret reading her story.

2.  Ruby Oliver from Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural. If My Life Weren’t Complicated I Wouldn’t Be Ruby Oliver 
e. lockhart

Ruby has been one of my favorites since I read the first installment in her series a couple years ago.  She’s funny, and smart, and self-centered, and confused, and good-hearted, and quirky without wearing it like a badge of honor, and her footnotes just make me want to be her best friend.  Sometimes, I wanted to strangle Ruby for being so stupid, but all her decisions were so human and relatable, in the end I still wanted to hug her.

3. Clio from Girl at Sea
Maureen Johnson

Clio is everything I love about Maureen Johnson’s writing.  She’s smart, unsure of herself, wise beyond her years, but somehow naive.  Best of all, she was dropped into the middle of a story that screams out to be made into an action/comedy, like, now.  Are you listening, Hollywood?  Clio’s observations of her world, and the other characters were laugh-out-loud funny.  Yay for girls in action roles!

4.  Rory in The Name of the Star
Maureen Johnson

And oh look, another Maureen Johnson character!  Feel free to take the reasons above and apply them to Rory.  Her near-death experience by humiliating choking episode, love of processed cheese-food-product, and willingness to use her paranormal abilities to get her homework done make Rory a character you can absolutely get behind.  Trust me, you’ll love her.

5.  Donna from Putting Makeup on Dead People
Jen Violi

Donna is definitely the quiet one on this list.  I loved her introspection, and the way she dedicated herself to her interests, whatever they were and however outside the norm.  She made me root for her so hard, right from the beginning.  She reminds me of a friend of mine, so of course I want to climb inside the pages and squeeze her to bits.

My Five Favorite Male Characters for 2011

1.  Roger from Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour
Morgan Matson

Roger is fun, and self-assured, but totally broken at the same time.  I loved the way he didn’t question Amy’s fear of driving, and went along with every strange twist in their journey.  I also loved the restraint he showed, and of course, his awesome taste in music (By the way, if you search some of the songs on his playlist on YouTube, you’ll find a ton of the others suggested in the side bar.  How cool is that?).

2.  Eldric from Chime
Franny Billingsley

Eldric was like a small sun dragged down to earth.  I could just picture him vibrating with energy and bubbling with laughter.  I loved his bad boy side, and his humor, and the way he “played” with Briony when she needed him to.  Such an amazing, rich character.

3.  Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door
Stephanie Perkins

Cricket was unique and weird, and adorable.  I am a sucker for a smart boy, and Cricket fit that bill to a T.  I loved the way he dove into anything that came up, from pie-making, to pizza box sliding.  A great, romantic lead that would have any girl with a thing for nerdboys swooning.  Loved him.

4.  Tobin from “The Cheertastic Christmas Miracle” 
Let It Snow 
Maureen Johnson, John Green, Lauren Myracle

Tobin is everything I like about John Green’s writing.  Funny and sarcastic without delving into snarky, full of joy at the wonderment of life, and not even completely embarrassed about it.  Totally willing to dive straight into a bad plan and ride it out, no matter what.  Green writes about the kind of kids I knew in high school, and Tobin was no exception.  A lovable delight.

5.  Shakespeare Shapiro from Spanking Shakespeare
Jake Wizner

Rarely have I read a character who could pull off self-pity as successfully as Shakespeare.  He made me care about what happened to him, even though he saw himself as a victim of circumstance.  Hilariously honest and self-depricating to a fault.  I loved his relationship with his parents, and the way he was so utterly inept with the girls in his life.  Hilarious and adorable.  Hidorable.

Best Love Stories of 2011

1.  Tris & Four from Divergent
Veronica Roth

Oh, the understated sexual tension!  Oh, the forbidden aspect of the student-teacher attraction!  Oh, I am so going to kick Veronica Roth’s ass if anything bad happens to Four, I swear to God!

2.  Briony & Eldric from Chime
Franny Billingsley

Mmmmm, animal magnetism in a repressive historical time period!  Eldric and Briony simmer together and you just want them to finally let it happen!  So good.  Romantic without being sappy, obstacles you can actually believe, only a little bit wanting to clock one of them over the head with something heavy and scream, “Can’t you see he/she loves you?! AG!!”  So so so so good.

3.  Anna & Will from Sixteenth Summer
Michelle Dalton

This book is everything sweet and wonderful about that first real love.  All that wrapped up in a spectacular oceanside setting that made me want to move to Georgia.  And if you know me at all, that is REALLY saying something.  Love how this one ended.  And I won’t spoil it for you, so there.

4.  Mia & Adam from Where She Went
Gayle Forman

Adam and Mia have made my heart ache since IF I STAY.  I was going buggy for most of this book, so desperate was I to know everything would work out okay.  Amazing character development from the first book, and I bought every word of it.  It will fill you with longing and ennui, but in a good way.

5.  Lola & Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door
Stephanie Perkins

Okay, who doesn’t love Stephanie Perkins?  If you haven’t read ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS you have obviously got to get your priorities straightened out.  I didn’t love Lola as much as I loved Anna (the characters, not the book), but still the romance was so honest and realistic I couldn’t help putting this book on my list.  Plus…Cricket.  I mean, yum, right?  As much as I wanted to thump Lola over her head with a book a few times, I suppose it would have been dishonest of her to see the light too soon, right?  Even when that light is Cricket.  If you love romance, this is the one for you, trust me.

So, there you have it!  For more Year-End goodness, may I recommend checking out YAHighway?

Leave your favorites in the comments!  My To-Read list can never be long enough.

– Liz

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On Tumbling for Tumblr

I’ve fallen in love with Tumblr.  Do you guys know about this thing?

In case you don’t, it’s another blogging platform (*looks around, shifty-eyed, for the Blogger Re-education Enforcement Agents*).  But here’s the thing with Tumblr:  You can put up ANYTHING.  It’s got built-in functions to make posting text, pictures, videos, quotes, links, chats, and audio as easy as clicking a couple of buttons.  You can e-mail things directly to your Tumblog without even logging into the thing.
And there are lots–I mean lots–of amazing Tumblogs to check out and follow.  There are Tumblogs with themes, like one I could weep over on a daily basis called Eat Sleep Breathe Dance, or the fascinating I Love Charts.  Others are whatever strikes a person’s fancy, like The Monica Bird.
I’ve fallen for the ease of use, the amazing things to find and share around the Interwebz.  I love the search feature on the Dashboard, where you can type in any old thing and find someone, somewhere, who has posted something about it.
So, now I want to know:  Who else Tumbles?
You can find mine here, where I post about writing, funny stuff, beautiful stuff, my cousin and his rockin’ accordian, and other fascinatin’ rhythms.  Check it out.  And if you haven’t tried Tumblr, might I suggest you put on your big girl panties and dive in?  It’s not at all scary if you just take the first step off the diving board.
– Liz

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Oh my stars I owe you guys a real blog, but until I can get my act together, I have to have to have to send you over to Kristen Lamb’s blog.  She takes on the Star Wars prequels and schools us all in the art of story telling.  One of those posts that made me want to stand in my desk chair fist-pumping and shouting “YES! That!  Exactly that!”

And excerpt to get you running to read the rest:

Mistake #2 Heroes are not babies, and bad guys are not whiners.
OMG…I wanted to SLAP Anakin Skywalker. If the end goal was to make Anakin into DARTH VADER the greatest bad guy EVER…then no whining. Scene after scene of Obi-Wan just doesn’t take me seriously got old really quickly.
Yes, as writers it is a great goal to have flawed heroes, because perfect characters lack depth. But, I feel there are certain character attributes that will alienate fans. Whining is one of those.

See?  You totally want to read the rest, don’t you?  What are you waiting for?

– Liz

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Happy Memorial Day, Blogiverse!

I’ve again returned from an arduous journey tramping through the wilds of the Internet Jungle, collecting rare specimens to display here in my own little corner of the world.  I bring you…Link-a-Palooza!

First, in case you missed it, agent Mandy Hubbard took herself a little trip to New York and had a sit-down with dozens of editors.  What did she ask them?  The same question we’d all like to ask them:  What are you looking for?  And then she went and put it all in the Epic Post on YA/MG Trends.  Read, memorize, and go forth informed.  But remember–DON’T CHASE TRENDS.  This is just to help you know where to market your current projects.  Chasing trends will only end in heartbreak.

Next, agent Natalie Fischer (a.k.a. Princess Unicorn CEO) has some great revision suggestions with even more links to other revision posts on her blog.  Read it and weep.  Then do what she says even though you want to cry, because she’s right.

The Intern continues to impress me with her thoughtful posts from the safety of anonymity.  Her Thoughts on Universals will make you think long and hard about what you’re writing.  And you will be grateful.

If you don’t already know Hannah Moskowitz, you obviously haven’t been reading my blog very long.  But even if you’re old pals with Hannah, you should read her post on creating the playlist for her latest book, Invincible Summer.  She has a particular fondness for covers in her book playlists and I found the greatest site for finding those amazing covers that just may inspire a new scene, book, or who knows what.  The Site of Awesomeness Covered in Awesome-Sauce is  Cover Me where you can find the most unusual covers you’ll ever here.  Just be warned:  You may lose a lot of hours to browsing this site.

And finally, your moment of zen.  Watch it to the end.  Trust me.

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On the Awesomeness of J.A. Souders

This weekend, I got the only news I can think of that might excite me more than getting a publishing contract of my very own:

My awesome crit partner, best-friend-I-never-met, future-superstar, natural redhead, and all-around cool person Jessica Souders sold her amazing book RENEGADE to Tor Teen!!!

Seriously, I could not be more excited for her if she was chosen to be the Princess of Florida (that’s a thing, right?).  And I could not be more excited that soon all you people are going to get to read her story.  This thing is going to blow your mind.

Here’s the announcement from Publisher’s Marketplace:

Jessica Souders’s RENEGADE, about a female assassin in an underwater Utopia who realizes her memories have been altered and her mind and body aren’t under her own control, to Melissa Frain at Tor, in a nice deal, in a three-book deal, by Natalie Fischer at Bradford Literary Agency (World English). Translation: 

Are you in?  You’re so in.

So now, your job is to go fan up.  Trust me, you’re going to want in on this when this story hits the shelves.  You’re going to want in on it early so you can make like a hispter and say you totally heard about it before anyone else.

Go to her website, follow her blog, follow her on Twitter, and Like the RENEGADE fanpage at Facebook.  Got it?  Great!

How was your weekend?

– Liz

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Road Trip Wednesday: Who Should Narrate the Audio Book?

I am an audiobook nerd.  I love them, and I always have.  They remind me of the very act of roadtripping, because my family and I used to listen to them on our long drives down to Florida for Spring Break (when you’re coming from Wisconsin, that’s a LONG LONG drive).

Now, with the wonder that is, audiobooks fill my iPod just as much as music does.  Though, I must confess, my listening has dropped off considerably since I don’t have a work commute anymore.

There are some books I actually prefer to hear rather than read.  The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, for example.  Her books are short and pure candy goodness.  So, I like to prolong the enjoyment by listening to the amazing Lorelei King read them to me.

In YA, one of my favorite audiobook experiences was HOW I PAID FOR COLLEGE and its sequel ATTACK OF THE THEATER PEOPLE by Mark Acito.  The reader, Jeff Woodman (who, by the way, also reads John Green’s books), not only created distinctive voices for each character, he sang all of the song references.  He sang them beautifully.  Reading the book would just not have been the same, because although I know these songs, hearing them in my head is just not the same.  If you haven’t read these books, you really should consider taking a listen.  Pure joy.

So over at YA Highway today, the Road Trip Wednesday topic is Audiobooks, and who should read them.  I’d give a vital organ to have Jeff Woodman read one of my books, but if I had to pick a dream combination of reader and already-published novel, I think I’d go with Jodi Foster reading THE HUNGER GAMES.  I’d love her to use that soft West Virginia twang she hinted at in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS to bring life to Katniss.  What a dream come true!

Now get over to the Highway and check out everyone else’s suggestions!

– Liz


Road Trip Wednesday is a “Blog Carnival,” where YA Highway‘s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

To participate, just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link in the comments at YA Highway.

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Road Trip Wednesday with YA Highway

This morning, I’m diving into the weekly blog carnival hosted by YA Highway.  For this week’s Road Trip Wednesday, the ladies of the Highway want to know:  If your WIP was a song, what would it be?

For my latest project, there is a full-on playlist, but this is the one song that really sums up the whole story:  Bon Jovi’s (You Want to) Make a Memory.


Hello again, it’s you and me
Kinda always like it used to be
Sippin’ wine, killin’ time
Tryin’ to solve life’s mysteries

How’s your life? It’s been a while
God it’s good to see you smile
I see you reachin’ for your keys
Lookin’ for a reason not to leave

If you don’t know if you should stay
If you don’t say what’s on your mind
Baby just breathe
There’s nowhere else tonight we should be

You wanna make a memory?

I dug up this old photograph
Look at all that hair we had
It’s bittersweet to hear you laugh
Your phone is ringin’ I don’t wanna ask

If you go now, I’ll understand
If you stay, hey, I got a plan

You wanna make a memory?
You wanna steal a piece of time?
You can sing the melody to me
And I could write a couple lines
You wanna make a memory?

If you don’t know if you should stay
And you don’t say what’s on your mind
Baby just breathe
There’s nowhere else tonight we should be
We should be

You wanna make a memory?
You wanna steal a piece of time?
You can sing the melody to me
And I can write a couple lines

You wanna make a memory?
You wanna make a memory?

Now, follow the link above to the YA Highway and enjoy the song stylings of all the other Road Trippers this week.

Do you have a WIP theme song?

– Liz

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From the Depths of The Slog

I had a lovely conversation over the weekend with some fellow writers.  One of them mentioned a blog post she’d read about the Four Stages of Writing Development.  We didn’t have computer access at the time, so I wasn’t sure I’d ever find the meme in question.  But as is so often the case when I find myself wont of something, I give out my battle cry, “To the Google!”

And my trust search engine steed once again led me straight to my quarry.

Mary Carroll Moore’s blog was the home to this particular tidbit, which she calls “Unconscious Competence.”  I implore you to read the whole article right now.  I’ll wait.  You know I’m good at waiting for you people.

Ah, you’re done?  Excellent.

This is the part that spoke to me:

This isn’t a fun stage, even though it turns out better writing than any of the other stages so far.  It’s what my MFA teachers used to call the “slog.”  We slog through the writing now, not really lifted up by it, not really energized.  But, at the end, we have something pretty darn good.

I am Atreyu, and my first draft is the Swamps of Sadness

These days, I find myself deep in Stage 3.  Slogging my way through a first draft and wishing like hell it was my third.  But still, the words come…sometimes only 100 at a time, but they come.  And if you add enough 100’s together, you eventually find 70,000, right?  And then you’re not so deep in the morass any more.

Falcor, a.k.a. Unconscious Competence

Stage Four, I’m coming for you.

– Liz

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In Which I Collect the Wisdom of the Interwebz…

…just for you, my faithful readers.

There’s been a lot of good stuff in the blogosphere lately.  Or, maybe I’ve just been procrastinating too much, but the fact remains that I have entirely too many windows minimized on my desktop for too long now, and the time has come to disseminate the goods to you fine people.

First, Dawn Rae Miller’s love/hate letter to her Kindle made me laugh.

Next, Roni Loren puts the smackdown on the stigma against romance novels.  And I laughed again.

Then, Chazley Dotson compares revisions to building a Lego castle in a cave.  And it was true.

Finally, John Scalzi slays me again with his Electronic Publishing Bingo Card.  So I laughed some more.

And now, your moment of zen:

(Background:  This is a real Bollywood movie, but the subtitles are buffalax’s interpretation of what English words the original Hindi sounds like–not the translation.  Hilarity ensues.)
Happy Monday!
– Liz

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