Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick-or-Treaters You Should Stay Away From...

Happy Halloween, folks! Hope you're stocked up on candy and spooky reads today! 

Me? Well, I'm... scared.

You see, trick-or-treaters will knock on my door tonight. And although I love giving people unhealthy foods, I may just keep all my lollipops to myself when these dudes come around.

Here's my Halloween Survival Guide: Trick-or-Treaters You Should Stay Away From:

Muscles? HA! Nobody cares, dude. Nobody cares. If he shows up half-naked to your doorstep, he should not be trusted, people. Plus, nobody cares about muscles.

*stares at muscles*

Do not take his hand. Ever. No matter how deep and reassuring his voice is when he says he'll save your life. Dudes that do this might kidnap the heck out of you, okay? Say no to the hand.

Why do I insist on staying away from all this pretty?

Oh, come on. You know the truth about pretty, don't you?


Now if you'll excuse me, I must go chain myself to the wall before The Pretty ring my doorbell.


Are you prepared for The Pretty today? What survival tips work best for you?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Guest Post: YA Author Miranda Kenneally And GIVEAWAY!!

Yep. I have another amazing guest post (and first ever giveaway!) for you today, folks. I'm thrilled to welcome YA author Miranda Kenneally to the blog! Since Miranda's debut novel, Catching Jordan, features a girl who plays football, I figured I'd ask her about her favorite YA sports movie. (Bonus points: she chose a movie I LOVE).

Take it away, Miranda!

Varsity Blues: The Ultimate YA Sports Film

Varsity Blues came out when I was 16. The movie is R-rated so I had to buy a ticket to “She’s All That” and sneak into Varsity Blues. Also, I went with a guy who turned out to be a major asshole, but that’s beside the point because the movie was INCREDIBLE.

The plot of the movie is thus: Mox has a great family and a super cute girlfriend, but he wants out of his football-obsessed town. He wants to go to Brown University. Mox is very smart and wants to focus on school, but everyone expects him to play for the football team because that’s what athletic guys are supposed to do in Texas. Mox finds out that the coach has been forcing the star quarterback, Lance, to get cortisone shots in his injured knee so he can keep playing. Then Lance gets sacked hard and the coach denies he knew anything about Lance’s injury.

Mox has to step up and take over as quarterback for the rest of the season because Lance’s knee is ruined. Mox is disgusted with the coach and his overbearing ways, and throughout the season, Mox lets the coach bully him and threaten his dreams of going to Brown. Finally, Mox steps up and confronts the coach, which inspires the rest of the team to confront their bully of a coach too.

Why is this movie great YA? It starts with a serious problem. Mox sees that his best friend Lance is injured, but the coach tells Mox it’s none of his business. When Lance gets hurt, it inspires Mox to confront the issue.

YA is all about hope and Mox has big dreams he wants to fulfill. Other secondary characters have similar dreams about wanting to move beyond football, and Mox inspires them too.

Ultimately, Varsity Blues isn’t about football. It’s about standing up for what’s right. It’s about confronting bullies. It’s about going after dreams. That is Reel YA. 

Miranda Kenneally is the author of CATCHING JORDAN, a contemporary YA novel about football and femininity, coming in December 2011. Other books include PLAYING PARKER (fall 2012) and BAD, BAD THING (spring 2013). Miranda is the co-creator of Dear Teen Me. The Dear Teen Me Anthology will be published in late 2012. She enjoys reading and writing young adult literature, and loves Star Trek, music, sports, Mexican food, Twitter, coffee, and her husband. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook. Miranda is represented by Sara Megibow at Nelson Literary Agency.

A huge thanks to Miranda for stopping by! And to celebrate the release of Catching Jordan, I'm throwing a preorder giveaway! There are two rules to enter the giveaway: 1) be a follower; 2) comment on this post. That's it! Contest ends on November 2nd,  and I'll be choosing one winner through

Here's Catching Jordan's official blurb:

What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there's a new guy in town who threatens her starting position... suddenly she's hoping he'll see her as more than just a teammate.

Best of luck to all who enter!! :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Guest Post: Shaun David Hutchinson + DONNIE DARKO = Awesome YA Novel

I'm pleased to welcome Shaun David Hutchinson to the blog today! Shaun's the author of The Deathday Letter, a hilarious yet touching YA novel that should be on everyone's to-read pile. And since I loved this book so much, I figured I'd ask him to stop by and share his awesomeness with you. 

Take it away, Shaun!

What character from a teen movie deserves his own YA book?

I love movies almost as much as I love books.  Having an older brother, I grew up with the great teen movies of John Hughes and others from that era.  The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, One Crazy Summer, Better Off Dead, Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  In fact, I sometimes pitched THE DEATHDAY LETTER as a Ferris Bueller's Day Off type adventure...the big difference being that my character dies in the end.

There are so many to choose from.  I think the geek from Sixteen Candle could definitely have his own YA series (and I think Jake Wizner could totally write it).  One of my favorite teen movies, Stand By Me, was already a novella by Steven King.  I'd love to see more of Brendan Frye from BRICK, and I bet Steve Brezenoff would own writing a book like that.  But for me, if I were writing it, I'd want to write a YA series about the character Donnie Darko from the movie of the same name. 

Clearly, that's not possible (and if you've seen the movie, you'll understand what I mean--if you haven't, quit reading this and go watch it).  But what draws me to Donnie is the oddness of him.  I'm drawn to reading and writing characters who don't fit in.  Characters who are average and normal and on the outside.  I'm drawn to misfits who are forced into unique situations.  A random, horny teen having to decide how to die.  A scared guy living in a hospital.  An orphan searching for his parents' murderer.

The character of Donnie is this guy who talks to a giant talking rabbit.  He hallucinates.  He narrowly avoids being crushed under the weight of a jet engine.  But he's not special.  He's normal.  Maybe a little mentally unstable.  But he still worries about dying, and girls, and kissing.  And despite the fact that he might possibly be living in a parallel timeline created by a paradox, life goes on.  Because we're all normal, a little screwed up, and living in this surreal world.

Those are the people who are interesting to me.  Donnie Darko...and Frank the rabbit. 

And if I had a second choice, it'd be Brian Johnson, the geek from the Breakfast Club.  Because I'm betting at some point, he loses it.  And I think that'd be interesting to see.

The clock is ticking?
Ollie can't be bothered to care about anything but girls until he gets his Deathday Letter and learns he's going to die in twenty-four hours. Bummer.
Ollie does what he does best: nothing. Then his best friend convinces him to live a little, and go after Ronnie, the girl who recently trampled his about-to-expire heart. Ollie turns to carloads of pudding and over-the-top declarations, but even playing the death card doesn't work. All he wants is to set things right with the girl of his dreams. It's now or never?

Huge thanks to Shaun for sharing his pick!! And if you haven't done so yet, go check out The Deathday Letter, which is in stores now!
Have you seen Donnie Darko? If so, what's your favorite thing about it? Any other dark movie characters you think should get their own YA novels?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Marketing Lessons With Ryan Gosling

So. Marketing. Not exactly my favorite thing to discuss, and I certainly haven't discussed it a lot on ye old blog. 

Folks, there are exceptions.

Ryan Gosling is sure as heck one of them.

Le evidence:

Le marketing lesson of the day: If you want your book to stand out, regardless of genre, do the unexpected.

And don't apologize for it :)

Now tell me: what do you think of the Feminist Ryan Gosling Flashcards??? And do you think they can help you write a better book? 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Guest Post: Laura Pauling's SOUL SURFER Plot Buster!

Our guest post for today comes from the one and only Laura Pauling!! Before I even launched this blog, I knew I had to reach out to Laura. Her Plot Busters blog feature has helped me so much with my writing, and I'm sure a ton of other writers can say the same. Fortunately, Laura's here to share a Plot Busters post! 

Take it away, Laura!

Surfin’ movie structure to make your story stronger.

I wanted to watch Soul Surfer, the story of Bethany Hamilton, but at the same time dreaded it.  

Maybe because I couldn’t imagine the horror of a shark biting off my arm while doing something I loved. Maybe because I’m a mom and her story would strike chords in my own life. Maybe because I knew the movie ran deep with themes of survival and answering the tough question: Why God?

Then my daughter wanted to see it, so we watched it together.

Bethany’s story of survival is so powerful that I doubted a movie could do her justice. And I don’t think the movie did.

Let’s break it down with Blake Snyder’s beat sheet and see.

Opening Image: The story opens with home videos and showing Bethany’s desire to surf.

Theme Stated: Bethany’s spiritual leader at church tells her, “Things aren’t always what they seem.” And “God has plans for you…”

Set-up: We meet Bethany and see her involved with a happy family, a church; and, of course, her surfing and winning contests. We see her turn down a mission trip she’d committed to because of her surfing.

Catalyst: It would be really easy to say “duh” when the shark bites off her arm. But that doesn’t happen until the end of Act I. I believe the catalyst is when Rip Curl offers to sponsor Bethany and she must choose between surfing and her commitment to church. Great internal conflict.

Debate: The debate continues through out Act I about her decision to surf.

Break into Two: The shark bites off Bethany’s arm and she must face her new life.

B Story: Bethany starts on the road to recovery both physically and emotionally.

Fun and Games: We see Bethany try and do things on her own like make breakfast for her family and grocery shop. (Though I can’t really call it fun and games with this movie.)

Midpoint: Finally, Bethany serves her family breakfast and announces she’s ready to surf again.

Bad guys close in: Bethany attempts to get back on the board and compete and struggles. (There’s no “bad guy” but we see her fight with reaching her dream.)

All is Lost: At Regionals, Bethany gets caught in a big wave and refuses help; and after, she gives away her boards and gives up.

Dark Night of the Soul: Bethany talks to her dad and questions God.

Break into Three: Bethany goes on a mission trip and provides inspiration to a hurting community by helping an orphan boy surf. She arrives home to tons of fan mail from Regionals.

Finale: With a renewed attitude, Bethany trains more seriously and enters Nationals. She doesn’t win first place but she turns out a winner.

Final Image: Bethany has survived and found a way to live with her new life.

What I learned from the structure of the movie and emotion:

For me, the movie failed in showing how low Bethany must have felt after losing her arm. I mean, the first day she was home they showed her attempting to make breakfast. Really? The first day? And she was only a little frustrated. And then she went grocery shopping. They never showed her really hit the low depths of the grieving process.

So, flip it around to the end of the movie, she has conquered and stands victorious.

I didn’t feel the emotion at this victory that I should have because I never saw her experience the lows of her grief.

Do you show that mirror image of your character to show how far they’ve come?

For the record, Bethany Hamilton is incredible. She’s a modern hero who persevered with an incredible spirit and her faith in God. I loved the pictures they showed at the end of the movie of the real Bethany, all smiles, and totally bawled.

I still haven't seen Soul Surfer, but yeah. I have a pretty good feeling I'll bawl, too. 

HUGE thanks to Laura for stopping by! Make sure you follow her blog and on Twitter

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Blog Chain: The Critique Partner Edition

So, so, so sorry I've been MIA the past few weeks! In fact, I've been so MIA that I forgot to post for the blog chain! *face palm*

Okay. Time for some blog chainin' :)

This round's question is from the lovely Sarah. She asks:

Do you work with critique partners? How did you find your crit pals, and what influence have they had on your work?

First answer: Yes, I have critique partners. Two. And no, you can't have them :)

Second answer: I found them through the wonderful world of the blogosphere. My first CP ever had commented on agent Mary Kole's Critique Connection post. I recognized her from her blog, which I followed and enjoyed. Since I didn't have a CP, I decided to email her, and waited for her reply. Luckily, she took me on as CP, and we've been together for over a year. We actually belonged to a critique group, but since I prefer to share my pages once the whole thing is done (instead of just a few pages every three weeks, and while still drafting), I left the group. But she stayed with me!

*hugs first CP ever*

My second CP and I have a similar story. She'd submitted to Natalie Whipple's Crit Partner Classifieds post (yes, I'm a stalker. Don't tell anyone...). I read the description she'd written about her project and could not. Stop. Laughing. Also, she loves Veronica Mars. Done deal. So I emailed her, and lo and behold, we hit it off. We've been together since this past February, and I currently owe her the longest email in the history of emails. 

*hides face*

Third answer: Their influence on my work is HUGE. Both CPs get rambling emails with new WIP ideas, writerly frustrations, and of course, sample pages. I have this annoying habit of starting and quitting a project, and they manage to both shout at me and cheer me on. But what I enjoy most about having two set of eyes looking at my work is how they sometimes spot the same problem, and how sometimes they spot problems the other didn't. One CP is a pro with sentence/scene structure, character development, plot holes; another CP is a genius at dialogue, voice, setting, and that ever-elusive thing called tension. 

I do think I drive them crazy with my whole "Oh, you know what? I'm not feeling this story anymore" attitude, but they haven't kicked me to the curb yet! *crosses fingers* 

And who are my awesome CPs, you ask?

*squeezes CPs*

Without them, I'd be WAY more lame than I already am :)

Don't forget to check out Matt's post today, and go read Sandra's post tomorrow!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Agent Sarah LaPolla's One-Line Pitch Critique!

I know, I know. I don't post on Fridays.

BUT this exception is worth it. 

Today I'm sharing agent Sarah LaPolla's critique from Reel YA's first ever contest!

But before I jump into Sarah's feedback, here's the winning one-line pitch from Lori M. Lee:

Title: Harbinger
Genre: YA cyberpunk fantasy

Pitch: To save her brother from becoming a Golem, a cybernetically enhanced soldier, 17-yr-old Kai must uncover the secrets of her dying city and defy its supernatural rulers.

And here's what Sarah had to say

This is a great one-sentence pitch in that I know who the main character is, what type of world she lives in, and what will be at stake for her. What made me pause a little was the mention of a Golem as a cybernetic creature. I’m curious to see where the original Golem myth comes into play, if it does at all. It might make it clearer to say “cybernetically enhanced Golem” and let us know what he is fighting for (or what he’s told he’s fighting for), so we get a better sense of how this story will be different. I love the second part of this sentence. I can visualize a dark, decaying city that’s been taken over by these soldiers. It paints a grim picture, but promises action and a strong sense of character. I also like that the person she is fighting for is her brother, and not a love interest. The familial connection makes her fight that much more tangible for the reader, and I can tell that it will be a bond worth rooting for.

Not only did Sarah offer amazing feedback, but she also requested the first three chapters of Lori's manuscript! Congrats, Lori!! 

One-line pitches are very hard to pull off, but as shown by Lori, it's not impossible. I hope her pitch and Sarah's feedback provide a clearer picture for those of you still struggling with your pitches! 

And in case you're craving more agent feedback, stay tuned for Weronika Janczuk's turn soon! Also, I'm throwing another One-Line Pitch Contest next month, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

Now tell me: what's the hardest thing about one-line pitches for you? How do you tackle such a short description of your manuscript without losing your mind? 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

One-Line Pitch Critique Contest WINNERS!

Thanks SO MUCH to everyone who entered Reel YA's first contest!! Trust me. There are more to come! 

Now. With the help of, I've chosen two winners to have their pitches critiqued by agents Weronika Janczuk and Sarah LaPolla. 


Here they are! :)

The winner of Weronika's one-line pitch critique is:


The winner of Sarah's one-line pitch critique is:

Lori M. Lee!

CONGRATS, ladies!! I'll be sending you an email shortly!

And remember: both Weronika and Sarah have graciously agreed to share their feedback here on the blog, so stay tuned for that! 

Have a great day, everyone :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Official logline:
A film inspired by the classic Shakespeare play, "The Taming of the Shrew", set in a modern day high school. 

My review:
10 Things I Hate About You hit theaters in 1999. By then, 90% of the actors in the film were total unknowns. In particular, these two:

Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger as Kat Stratford and Patrick Verona

I'm not sure if there's a more iconic couple in teen films from the 90s. To me, Julia and Heath made this movie. Not only are their characters compelling on their own, but the. Chemistry. Between them. We all know the formula, don't we? Bad Boy woos Tough Girl. Against her better judgment, Tough Girl falls for Bad Boy. Bad Boy breaks Tough Girl's heart. He apologizes, she forgives him, and they live happily ever after. 

Then we have these two:

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Larissa Oleynik as Cameron James and Bianca Stratford

Again, familiar formula. Nice Guy is fascinated by Popular Girl. But Popular Girl doesn't know he exists. Then Nice Guy pushes his way into Popular Girl's life. He saves her when she needs to be saved. Even so, Popular Girl likes Popular Douche. Nice Guy pines for her anyway, and eventually changes her mind with his niceness. Happily ever after again. 

To me, these formulas don't do much for the movie. I don't particularly find films as engaging when they don't surprise me. But... wait for it... the. Chemistry. It's hard not to love these relationships. How they interact with each other. How they don't say what they mean, and don't mean what they say. And the ANGST. Oh, the angst... 

10 Things I Hate About You changed many things. Among them, the actors' careers, and teens' lives. The former was due to the unexpected success at the box office. The latter? Too broad of a scope for me to pinpoint just one reason behind it. But my guess? The realness of the chemistry has something to do with it. If you haven't seen this movie, I recommend checking it out primarily for that. 

Also, you will laugh your face off. Guaranteed.

Have you seen 10 Things I Hate About You? If so, what do you like most about it?