Saturday, December 26, 2009

Winners of the December book giveaway!

And now, it's time to announce the winners of this month's huge book giveaway!

For both of Barrie's fabulous books, the winner is...

Solvang Sherrie !!!

Personally, I think this is wonderfully fitting. I mean, I'm giving the books to Sherrie, and the main character is named Sherry. :)

For Pile #1

Liana Brooks !!!

For Pile #2

Donna Gambale !!!

And, for Pile #3

xxsquigglesxx !!!

Congratulations to the winners!!! Please email your snail addresses to tabitha at tabithaolson dot com and I will get those out to you as soon as I can. You have thirty days to collect your prizes.

For those who didn't win, check back next saturday when I announce the next bunch of books I'm giving away! Sure, it's not as many as this month, but there are still plenty to be had. And more ARCs, too!

Happy Holidays everyone!!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, and hoping Santa brings everything you've ever wanted. Have a safe and happy holiday!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Hiatus

Last friday was my kids' last day of school. They are home for the next two weeks, so with that, and the fact that I am working on revisions for my agent, I am going to take a little blog vacation.
I will still announce the winners of the big book giveaway on the 26th, but other than that I will be busy trying to write and keep my kids occupied. :)

Have a great holiday, everyone! And see you in the new year!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

Summary: Sarah Byrnes and Eric have been friends for years. When they were children, his fat and her terrible scars made them both outcasts. Later, although swimming slimmed Eric, she stayed his closest friend. Now Sarah Byrnes -- the smartest, toughest person Eric has ever known -- sits silent in a hospital. Eric must uncover the terrible secret she's hiding, before its dark currents pull them both under.

This book was released in 1993, and I wasn’t reading YA at the time. A good friend of mine told me about it, so I picked up a copy from the library.

I loved this book. When I first started reading it, I had no idea when it was published. By the voice alone, I thought it would have been in the past few years, so I was really surprised when I looked up the original copyright date. It’s so fresh, and it captures the mind of a teenager so well, that it feels timeless. For all you writers looking to write this way, this book is an excellent example!

As for the story, the characters are interesting, real, and compelling, and I wish I had known about this book when it first came out. This book does an amazing job of exploring friendship, rivalry, self-image, and abuse.

My favorite part was Eric’s class, Contemporary American Thought. I never would have survived this class in high school, but I sure want to take it now! It is a place to express and defend opinions, offer different points of view, and figure out how to make all these opinions play nice. I loved it. Though, it was a place for the author to come out a bit – some of the messages were a bit obvious, mature, and heavy, and the class was the conduit. But that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book.

If you haven’t read this book, you should. It’s fantastic.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Interview with Barrie Summy!

Today, we have an interview with Barrie Summy, author of the I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES series. The second book in the series, I SO DON'T DO SPOOKY, came out just last week, and Barrie has an interesting story that goes with it. I'm sure this hasn't happened to many people!

Tell us about I SO DON'T DO SPOOKY‏.
Sherry (short for Sherlock) Holmes Baldwin is baaack!! Sherry and her ghost mother team up in a new mystery. Can they keep The Ruler (Sherry's stepmother) safe? There's robotics, ghost hunting and some serious toilet papering. It's scary. It's spooky. It's fun. Oooooo. (p.s. Of course, Josh is back too!)

Or here's the blurb from
Someone’s out to get Sherry’s stepmom. . . .Can she save her before it’s too late?

Did you know that the main campus of the Academy of Spirits is at a Dairy Queen in Phoenix? Me either. Until now. Some weird stuff has been happening to my stepmother, Paula, and the Academy has asked me, Sherry Holmes Baldwin, to get to the bottom of it. They think someone’s trying to hurt her.

I really don’t want to get involved—my life is way too busy. Josh and I are celebrating two blissful months of togetherness. And my best friend, Junie, is finally showing a teeny bit of interest in clothes and makeup after years of brainiac behavior. But being that my mom is a ghost and all, me, my brother, and my dad rely on Paula a lot. So it’s not like I can just ignore what’s going on. Especially since my mom is competing at the Ghostlympics. If she comes in first place, she earns five minutes of Real Time.

And that means I’ve got to get involved in a creepy, freaky mystery.

But . . . I so don’t do spooky.

It sounds great! What was the inspiration behind your idea?
Let's see....I was interested in the idea of Sherry helping someone she didn't necessarily like. So, that's where a mystery involving The Ruler was born. I did some online judging of websites for high school robotics teams. So, that's where the robotics stuff came from.

Congratulations on the next book in the series coming out in May! Did you always envision this as a series?
Thank you! Well, I always envisioned it as a series. But I'm not sure everyone else did! ;)

How often do you write, and how much do you write in one sitting?
It depends if a deadline is looming large! In general, I try to write five days a week. I try to write for a couple of hours each morning when my kids are at school. After that, a lot of my writing time is in spits and spurts. For instance, I write Thursday afternoons, when my daughter is at her piano lesson. I write in my car when waiting for kids to finish swim practice. I am forever indebted to the inventor of the laptop!

I love it when I can check into a hotel room for the weekend and do nothing but write. That doesn't happen too often, though.

Is there anything you have to have in order to write?
my laptop. Plus, I find I'm most productive if a machine is running. Like, for example, the dishwasher or the washing machine. Then, I feel as though my chores are getting done while I write!

What do you do when you get stuck?
I try a variety of things. First, I repeat over and over, "Do not panic. Do not panic." Then I go for a stint on the treadmill or I walk the dog, change writing locations, skip the problem area. And, if all else fails, I eat licorice. Lots of it.

What are you working on now?
The fourth book in the series: I So Don't Do Famous
In this book, Sherry busts up a teen burglary ring in Hollywood.

What does your writing space look like?
I write at the kitchen table or in this huge lazy boy in our living room.

How much do you read, and what are you reading now?
I actually read less than I used to. ;( I used to read a book a week, now I'm down to a book every other week. I'm currently reading What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman. Loving it!
Thank you so much for joining us today!!
To see more of what Barrie is up to, check out her blog. For a chance to win a copy of both her books, go here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Unofficial Official Agent Appreciation Day

Today is Unofficial Official Agent Appreciation Day!

What does that mean? Well, basically, it's a day devoted to all the amazing things agents do, invented by Kody Keplinger.

I am devoting my post to my agent, Andrea Cascardi. Pardon me while I gush a bit. :)

Andrea and I have only been working together for a few months, but her talents have shown through. Her keen insight has strenghtened my story in ways I couldn't imagine on my own. Her enthusiasm is palpable, and her no-nonsense attitude is a perfect match for my own. In case you couldn't tell, I love working with her. :)

So, Andrea, I dedicate this day to you. Thank you for everything!! I'd bake you your own cake, but I'm afraid it will get squished in the mail. So here's a virtual cake for you.

Lots of other authors are appreciating their agents today, and you can see the full list on Lisa and Laura's blog.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Summary: It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.

Earlier this year, I wrote up a review of GRACELING. I had a few issues with the ending and the main character’s growth, but I still liked the story.

Fire is better. I still have some of the same issues, but, overall, the author handled things in a more sympathetic and understandable manner.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

The biggest issue I had with GRACELING was her lack of growth due to an incredibly large aversion to marriage. In FIRE, the aversion to marriage is still there, but the motivation behind it is more understandable. Fire is a human monster, meaning she’s unnaturally beautiful and has powers of mind control. But she’s not a monster in the sense that she takes advantage of these gifts and bends everyone to her whims.

Her father, however, was a monster both genetically and mentally. He took joy in making others suffer, and, in the process, made the whole kingdom miserable. Fire managed to grow up with compassion (something her father lacked entirely), so she won’t do what he did. But she’s afraid of turning into him, so she has written off both marriage and children.

I completely understand her reasoning here. She has valid reasons for not wanting to risk her own children turning into someone like her father. I wouldn’t be able to handle that, either. In GRACELING, there wasn’t a clear reason for Katsa to be so resistant to marriage. Not by the end, anyway. But FIRE handles this much better.

That said, the whole aspect of marriage still has an awkward feel to it.

Two of the royal family have illegitimate children (one of which is a woman, and she never marries). The king ends up courting a commoner, who also has an illegitimate child. These are all wonderfully open-minded ideals, and perfectly acceptable in today’s world. But with royalty? The whole basis of royalty is that royals are on a level higher than everyone else, therefore everything they say or do has to have a veneer of perfection fixed over the top. This definition of royalty was even acknowledged in the story, so I found it a bit odd. If royalty had been defined differently, then that would have made this much less awkward.

Another issue I had with GRACELING was Katsa’s lack of struggle – she never had to fight in order to gain something. Unfortunately, the same thing happens in FIRE. Fire’s story is largely internal, and she is on a personal journey to accept herself and acknowledge that she can do good with her powers. I think that’s wonderful, because there are many people on similar journeys. The big difference is that we struggle along the way, make mistakes, and have to work really hard in order to get what we want. Neither Fire nor Katsa do this. They’re both clearly on a journey, but we don’t experience any struggling with them. We’re told that they’re working on something, and then a few pages later they have it. For me, that’s cutting the reader out of the most important part of the journey. After all, it’s the hardest part, and watching Fire struggle would have sparked more sympathy, as well as created a closer connection to her.

The last big issue I had with the story was Leck. I don’t understand why he was there, except to tie this story to GRACELING. He made some things more difficult and he did something that was really awful, but he wasn’t central to the story. If he’d been written out, those complications he caused could have easily been picked up by the real bad guys. I think his presence was supposed to intrigue me, but instead he annoyed me. Especially with what happened to him at the end.

Still, I liked the story, and I will definitely read the next book after FIRE. But I do wish the author would insert less of her own beliefs and stay true to what the story demands. Even if that isn’t what she herself would do.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

100 Books!

I did it! I read one hundred books this year! I read my hundredth book over the weekend while laid up with the flu. Not fun, but I can't think of a better way to pass the time when you're achy and miserable. :)

I managed to consistently read two books a week. Even with two kids, major house problems, agent revisions, and Nano. I am quite proud of myself. :)

I haven't stopped reading, but with the holidays approaching I may only get through a couple more. But who know? I might manage to keep reading two books a week. :)

How about the rest of you? Have you been able to keep up with your reading goals?

Monday, December 07, 2009

When To Start Submitting

"When should I start sending queries to agents or editors? Is a synopsis and a few chapters sufficient? Or do I need to have a completed novel?"

This question comes across the internet pretty regularly, in blogs, discussion boards, listservs, you name it. Though I've been seeing it more often lately. Not sure why.
The short answer to this question is this: you MUST finish your novel first. Why? For many reasons.
1. Not everyone is capable of finishing what they start. Since agents and editors don't know you personally, they don't know if you possess that particular skill. So if you approach an agent with only three chapters and an outline, they won't know if you will finish the first draft, plus get through all the necessary rounds of revision (once an editor buys your work, you will have to go through at least one round of revision - it's just the way it is).
2. It takes many drafts to make a good novel. Whether you revise as you go or write multiple drafts, you still need to re-read what you've written. If you don't, then you really have no idea what kind of quality you're submitting. It also means you're sending out a project that does not reflect your full potential. Therefore, you're not showing the agent or editor what you can really do. It makes it easier to set your work down.
3. As you write, you will likely make discoveries about your characters, setting, plot, etc, which could change the way your story unfolds - even if you've planned everything out. In other words, the agent/editor might end up with a different product than she expected. That could raise some issues, such as cancelled contracts.
4. These days, the query count has skyrocketed. That means your work really needs to stand out from the massive pile on the agent/editor'S desk. An incomplete project isn't going to do this, because it is not the best that it can be. 'Potentially good' isn't going to cut it, because there is still no guarantee that you will finish what you started. So, it's really in your own best interest to send out a novel that you have gone through more than once, and make it as good as you possibly can.
There are exceptions, of course. If you have already published a novel (not self-published) and proven that you can make it through the process, then your subsequent books will likely sell on proposal. Also, non-fiction generally sells on proposal - three chapters plus outline. But fiction doesn't work this way for debut authors. We get to work on spec until we establish ourselves.
Many writers start querying too soon. Either they don't want to put in a bunch of work for a project that might not sell, or they are too excited about the story to wait until it's done. But we get one shot with agents and editors, so we need to make sure to hit them with the absolute best work possible do they will have no reason to say no. An unfinished project will never do that.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

December Book Giveaway!

I can't believe it's already December. It's been one heck of a year for me, and I'm in the mood to celebrate. Really celebrate. And who better to celebrate with than you all? :)

So, I've got lots and lots of great stuff to give away this month.

First and foremost, I'm giving away two books by fabulous author, Barrie Summy.




Look for an interview with her later in the month!!!

And, I have more books to give away. Three huge piles of books, actually. And here they are:

Pile #1:
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - ARC
The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
The Midnight Charter by David Whitley - ARC
Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
The Alchemist by Michael Scott
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Pile #2:
Liar by Justine Larbalestier - ARC
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams - ARC
Sold by Patricia McCormick
Ash by Malinda Lo - ARC
Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan - ARC
How To Steal A Car by Pete Hautman - ARC
Escape Under the Forever Sky by Eve Yohalem

Pile #3:
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl - ARC
Fallen by Lauren Kate - ARC
My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters by Sydney Salter - ARC
Demon Princess: Reign or Shine by Michelle Rowan - ARC
Three Witches by Paula Jolin - ARC
How To Be Popular by Meg Cabot
Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer

Be sure to read the entry guidelines carefully, so you get all the entries you're entitled to.

To enter: - Leave a comment on this post.
- For an additional entry, become a follower of this blog and leave another comment telling me so. If you already are a follower, leave a comment telling me this.
- For an additional entry, post a link to this contest, then leave a separate comment with the URL. If you post to muliple locations, then leave a separate comment for each URL.

I will announce the winners on December 26th, and you will have thirty days to collect your prize.

Good luck!!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Post NANO Update

I don't know about the rest of you NaNo-ers, but I'm still tired. :) My final word count was 58,509 words, which I wrote in three weeks - I had two kids home from school the whole week of Thanksgiving, and I got zero computer time after that. So writing all those words in such a short amount of time took a lot of brain power, but I'm slowly recovering. :)

In the last couple weeks of NaNo, there were many threads/blog posts/conversations about its effectiveness. Many people were cursing the whole idea of NaNo. Lots knew that they were writing dreck and had nightmares about re-reading any of it. Some were finding NaNo helpful, though didn't know how much they'd written would be usable in the actual novel. And a very few got a lot out of it - like, they got a real novel out of it. I'm one of those very few.

Why did some get so much out of NaNo while others were tearing their hair out and screaming at whoever thought this whole thing up? Well, writing process has much to do with it - some write faster than others. The ability to deal with stress and a heavy workload also contributes. But I think there is one thing that really stands out: goals.

When you sat down to write for NaNo, what was your goal? To write 50,000 words? To write a novel? To kickstart your novel? I took a look at what writers were saying while under the NaNo influence, and sort of mapped out goals to outcome.

In most cases, if the goal was to write 50,000 words, the end result was dreck with lots and lots of unnecessary words/subplots/characters/etc. If the goal was to kickstart the novel, most writers ended up with pages and pages of unusable text, but had a really solid feel for the novel and were excited about sitting down to really write it. If the goal was to write a novel, most writers did that, even if they didn't get to 50,000 words.

My goal was this: by the end of November, I wanted to have a novel written, regardless of how many words I ended up with. It so happened that my novel was longer than that, and it's still not finished. But word count was not my first priority. The story was. I set a daily word count goal, and did my best to reach it - but, if I couldn't reach it, I did not sacrifice the story.

If you let the word count take priority, then that's what you're going to end up with. But if you let the story take priority, then you may or may not end up with 50,000 words, but you'll have a good story. The key is to take a look at how you work, and then tailor NaNo to your needs. That way you can get the most out of this truly grueling process.

I doubt I'll do NaNo again, but if I do, there are some things I know I need to have. I must have an outline, and character journals. Also, I need to have a solid first chapter - because, for me, everything flows downhill. Without those things, I would get nothing from NaNo. But with those things, I could get a novel, which would be my goal.

What was your goal? And what did you end up with?