Saturday, July 23, 2011

Books I LOVED so far this year, part 2 of 2

In some ways, I feel a little silly about this one, because there is nothing especially profound or life-changing about it. But Kerstin Gier's RUBY RED is probably the most FUN I've had with a book in a while. For some odd reason I thought this translated-from-German time travel story would be more "epic romance" or dark in some way. I suppose the Germans gave us the Grimm Brothers, sturm und drang, and NOSFERATU, and on some sub-conscious level I expect them to be serious. Well, plus, I have quite a few relatives from Germany and as lovely as they are, "hilarious" isn't how I'd describe them.

This book was fun and funny. (It's not really HILARIOUS either, but, it is amusing.) It's actually set in England, and concerns Gwen, who comes from a family of time travelers. Only certain people time travel, and it is prophesied before their birth, so Gwen thinks she's just an ordinary girl while her cousin is expected to time travel, until she finds out that her mother lied about the day she was born, and she's actually the one. There is kind of a secret society built around the time travelers, and a number of mysterious figures that Gwen isn't sure if she can trust. She's sort of thrust into this web of plans without preparation, accompanied by fellow time traveler (and, OF COURSE, hot boy her age), Gideon.

This is just the beginning of the story, and I cannot WAIT for the next installment.

Things I loved about it:
--Big old-fashioned eccentric families. I LOVE them. This is why I love Nancy Mitford and CONFESSIONS OF THE SULLIVAN SISTERS. This book even has ancestors from previous times, so, tons of potential, but even in the present we have the intimidating grandmother, and the sort of loony but lovable aunt, and all sorts of semi-tropes that I nevertheless adore. And there are lots and lots of secrets that I want answers to.
--Gwen's friendship with her best friend Leslie. I am so TIRED of girls in paranormal books that are themselves serious and studious and gorgeous but they have a wacky boy-crazy best friend. Gwen and Leslie's friendship? I actually bought it. They are both sort of silly typical teenagers who love to watch movies. (They are not boy-crazy.) They have a lot in common. I don't know about you, but my best friends growing up and now were actually a lot like me. They weren't "wacky" in comparison to me. I like seeing this. Leslie already knows about Gwen's time traveling heritage and provides support when Gwen finds out she is actually the time traveler.
--"Fun" history. As a history buff I love the time traveling aspects, but I also love that this book doesn't take itself over-seriously. In some ways the tone actually reminded me of early Harry Potter books, with charm and humor to spare and memorable characters. Middle grade readers could appreciate it, but it certainly has plenty of hints at romance for older readers as well.

A good read for a lazy summer day.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Books I LOVED this year so far, part 1 of 2

So, at some point earlier in the year, I was asked to blurb a book. My first reaction:

"WOW, YES! I would LOVE to blurb a book! I can't believe someone would value MY name recommending ANOTHER book! This is a rite of passage!"

Writers gets excited about these things! But then it occurred to me that I am a pretty picky reader. I feel bad to be so picky, but I am. I can ENJOY many books but ADORE few, and I don't want to put my name on a book about which I had misgivings. Still, I couldn't very well pass up the opportunity to blurb my first book.

The book in question was called A LONG LONG SLEEP and was described as a sort of sci-fi Sleeping Beauty tale. It arrived, and not wanting it to get lost in the dread TBR piles of doom, I started reading it as soon as it arrived...

...and didn't stop (except for life obligations like dinner) until that night when I was done.

"Holy guacamole," I thought. "They asked me to blurb THIS? This is the kind of book I want to clutch to my bosom and never let go, except that I also want to immediately lend it to everyone I know so they can share it with me." (In fact, I was going to give away an ARC with this review but I ended up lending it out to a string of people, sorry!) I seriously haven't taken a book to my heart so much since Graceling.

Part of that is definitely the boy situation. There is nothing that gets me so much as getting a crush on a book character, and I must say that alien boy Otto is there with Graceling's Po and Edward from A True and Faithful Narrative as far as book boy crushes. When he was first introduced I thought he was going to be sort of a brooding angst-muffin weirdo, but he actually turns out to be sweet and intelligent and his relationship with the main character is founded on intellect and heart rather than hotness. But I say "relationship" instead of "romance" because the boy situation is complicated:

Let me backtrack a bit. This is the story of Rose, whose parents own a huge corporation and who frequently put her in stasis, a sleeping tube basically, while they gallivant around being rich important people. Anyway, as it turns out, while she is in stasis a plague wipes out much of the population and she is forgotten in her tube for 60 or so years. She is discovered and awoken by a boy named Bren, and we also get flashbacks to the boy she left behind, Xavier. All these relationships are interesting and there is no formulaic love triangle situation. There is also a definite bittersweet note and no HEA, but it's not sad either. It's just the kind of ending I like: hopeful and thoughtful and a little complicated but not cliff-hanger-y.

Other things I like:
--Rose herself can be a little passive at times, particularly in the beginning, but she does grow throughout the book, and her initial passivity makes sense. Also, she is an artist and it doesn't feel tacked on, which I loved.
--It's futuristic and sci-fi, but not a dystopian, IMO. The dystopian part has basically already come and gone. Maybe post-post-apocalyptic or something.
--The Plasticine. So creepy! I love it!!
--The book knocks the whole GMO food thing in a couple of spots. I saw a review complaining about how the reasoning doesn't make sense scientifically, but frankly I find GMOs in real life disturbing, insufficiently researched, the company that is pushing them consistently evil, and the public very unaware and uninformed about them. What can I say, I'm an ethical foodie. So I like seeing it addressed fictionally.
--It's a page turner but also lovable. I frequently find that page turners tend to be gripping, stressful types of books for me, whereas books where I fall in love with the characters meander more, sometimes too much. Why this is, I'm not sure, but anyway, this book grabbed me both plot-wise and character-wise which is rare.

I've seen some complaining about the sci-fi aspects in general or the future-speak (which I usually don't like either, but in this book I was okay with it), so this will be a YMMV kind of book especially if you're coming into it as a sci-fi fan. But as a character story, I loved it SO SO much and everyone I know who's read it has agreed.

A Long Long Sleep comes out August 9th.

Now I finally just found a second book I'm in love with this year. I'll blog about that one soon.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Magic Under Stone just went up on Amazon!

Amazon is where many authors learn important things about their books, lol, and this is no exception. The release date is April 12, 2012!? That could be highly subject to change, but it's some proof that this book really is coming. It isn't an imaginary thing I wrote and sent into the publishing ether.

And how about that cover! Same model as Magic Under Glass (v. 2.0 )...I adore it. The book and the greenery both really capture the feel of book 2 I think.

And here is a description:

For star-crossed lovers Nimira and Erris, there can be no happily ever after until Erris is freed from the clockwork form in which his soul is trapped. And so they go in search of the sorcerer Ordorio Valdana, hoping he will know how to grant Erris real life again. When they learn that Valdana has mysteriously vanished, it’s not long before Nimira decides to take matters into her own hands—and begins to study the sorcerer’s spell books in secret. Yet even as she begins to understand the power and limitations of sorcery, it becomes clear that freeing Erris will bring danger—if not out-and-out war—as factions within the faerie world are prepared to stop at nothing to prevent him from regaining the throne.

I can't add much to that yet because I still haven't done edits!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Winged people!

Between the Sea and Sky has been getting a fair bit of attention from mermaid lovers in the YA community, which is AWESOME, I love mermaids and always have. My sister's 6th (I believe?) birthday party was mermaid themed and my mom made us a mermaid costume which I wore at the party and refused to take off even though you couldn't walk in it.

However, I feel a little bad for Alan and the winged folk in the book, because they just don't get the attention. There are very few books about winged people in general. I'm not talking about angels, just regular down-to-earth, if you will, people who have wings. Surely I'm not the only person who dreams of flying?

At first I thought it was because, scientifically, winged people just aren't very possible. But, mermaids? Yeah, they're no better and there are lots of mermaid books, especially this year. But there are a fair amount of mermaid myths. Maybe it's the combination of implausibility combined with relatively few myths that keep winged people off my shelf. =(

I'll admit, my interest in winged people was sparked in childhood when I was heartily obsessed with the Elfquest comics. There is a tribe of levitating mountain-dwelling elves in the story, who can fly for a short time but also ride giant birds for longer distances. One elf, Tyldak, really wanted to fly with his own wings so he got Winnowill, the villainous shape-shifter, to painfully shape his arms into wings. He wasn't the hottest looking elf around after that (for one thing, he couldn't really wear clothes around his bat-esque body so was reduced to wearing a little V-shaped fur thing--IN THE SNOW--why was he not freezing??) but he was still one of my favorite characters, especially since he was sort of an anti-hero which is always fun.

I was always eager to rip-off Elfquest around age 12, so I made a bat-winged race who also lived in a mountain. They could wear normal clothes for some reason. I didn't really explain. But the door was open for winged people of all kinds. Feathery wings, bat wings, winged sea fairies with green "fin wings", wings instead of arms, wings plus arms--lots of wings. Although for some reason, I kept sticking my winged people in cold mountains and fairly primitive societies, and the only winged character I really loved actually had crippled wings which he had amputated so he could live a human life. So despite my love of wings, it never quite clicked.

Another story I loved as a kid was Gwinna, by Barbara Helen Berger, which was sort of in the "meaty picture book" format. Gwinna started to grow wings from her back so her foster mother tried to bind her chest to stop them, but of course that doesn't work, and of course she learns to fly and...I don't know, stuff happens and the pictures are pretty. I guess I should reread it. But my young angst-loving self was mesmerized by the attempt to suppress her growing wings and the lovely pictures of a flying girl.

Of course, if there is one thing possibly more mesmerizing than a flying hot guy (er...I mean, person) it is a flying cat! I also loved the Catwings books by Ursula K. LeGuin as a kid. I mean, they are SO cute! I could DIE of how cute they are! I wish someone would make merchandise of this! I want a BAG and a THERMOS!

I actually didn't originally intend for Between the Sea and Sky to be about winged people at all. I always felt like poor mermen always got shafted in stories so I firmly intended to make the love interest a merman. But...oh, well. Shafted again. I had a minor character who was a semi ill-tempered winged man who was Esmerine's boss, and one day I was drawing him and I realized This is the man for her. Unlike the cold weather tribal winged folk of my childhood stories, I based the winged people in Between the Sea and Sky more on the astrological element of air--they're intellectuals and scholars, and they mostly stick to warmer climates. Physically, I tried to make them semi-scientific so they have "bat" wings rather than arms. They still need some magic to fly, but, well, less. And I tried to make them attractive! Bat-winged boys might be a little too weird for some readers, but on the other hand, if you've always WANTED a bat-winged boyfriend, well, right now I pretty much have the monopoly on that market... ;)

I do need to scan some better pictures of Alan!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

An ode to my agent on the anniversary of my first "YES"!

It took me three years (plus a week, if we want to get technical) to find an agent. I had given myself four before I'd told myself I better start pursuing another career path, even if I kept writing on the side. At the time, it felt like forever, but in hindsight, I'm glad, because Jennifer Laughran wasn't even an agent for much of those three years. Sometimes things take a while for a reason, clearly.

As soon as she started agenting, she moved to the top of my pile. I knew of her from the children's writer boards known as The Blue Boards. I found her a wee bit intimidating, but smart and hilarious and helpful, and I LOVED her taste in books, which is not easy to do with me. I'm a persnickety reader. And although she was new, which I suppose holds an element of risk, she was with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. A lot of my friends were repped by agents there. They sold a lot of books, almost all children's/YA, which has always been my passion. I'll admit I dreamed of being able to say I had an ABLA agent.

It actually took me two tries to get a yes from Jenn, but on July 2nd, 2008 (well, it was just after midnight, so technically, July 3rd, but she was in California at the time, so CLOSE ENOUGH), she emailed me about the full manuscript of Magic Under Glass that she loved it and wanted it. It had been one heck of a journey getting to that point, a road paved with glowing rejections and revision requests, friends getting agents and book deals, a lot of persistence and rewriting and an occasional pit stop in "Will it EVER be my turn!?" land.

Technically, it took another week to be official, because I had other fulls out, but I positively GLOWED my way through the family 4th of July party. I've never cared for summer but I have to admit it seems to be my magic season, career-wise. In a little over a month I'd have a book deal, and I was relatively mellow in comparison on that day because I still could hardly believe I had an agent!!

Of course, every writer dreams of getting an agent who will sell their book. I was willing, at the time, to accept a semi-mediocre agent so I could get my book on editor's desks. I just didn't really know better, because people weren't very vocal about bad agent experiences. It wasn't until after I HAD an agent that I really got to hear horror stories, see friends struggle with agents who might sell a book but drop the ball in other ways--and subsequently, struggle with the question of exactly when is an agent not doing their job enough that one should actually part ways? I have thanked my lucky stars many times over that Jenn had been the first agent to fall in love with my writing, because my career path has had its share of bumps, to be sure, but Jenn knows when to send a Youtube video of kittens, and when to just tell me I'm awesome. She gives great revisions suggestions and uses the cutest stationary. She's fed me when I was starving in NYC and been the voice of reason when I've freaked out. Her other clients are a pleasure to know and a lot of them are my friends. I've never doubted that I landed in the right place.

Anyway, I'm not usually one for the public gushing, but three years feels like a milestone to me, because so many things in my career have happened in three-year or three-week increments. It feels like a "looking back" point now. And I am truly grateful for all the wonderful events of the last three years. This time three years ago, I was just working in a health food store and dreaming, dreaming of just the sort of email that would finally appear in my in-box that night...