Wednesday, October 29, 2014

777 Challenge

Mandie Baxter, all around cool girl and fellow redhead, tagged me in the 777 challenge.
The 777 challenge is when a writer is challenged by another writer to post the seven lines of text, seven lines down on the seventh page of their work-in-progress.
 You can check out Mandie's 777 here on her blog. And, from my current WIP (that is still in first draft mode and currently killing me), here's mine...

When I leaned over to rub at a bit of dirt smudged on the rubber toe of my shoes, Charlotte Lafleur raised an eyebrow at me. She was a small girl with silky dark hair and judgey little eyes. She’d been flashing them at me all morning. In homeroom when I sat Dad’s ratty army bag on the floor next to her designer-looking purse. In science when I’d pulled out a crumbly spiral-bound notebook and everyone else flipped open their laptops. At the bathroom sink when I’d brought my sudsy hands to my nose to smell the lavender and chamomile soap.

And the meme says I have to tag a few peeps, soooo: 
Stephanie Scott, Dana Elmendorf, and Erica Chapman, you guys are up next! <3

What's Up Wednesday - 10.29.14

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up.

You can participate by going to Jaime's blog here. Or Erin's blog there.

Mmm apples...

What I'm Reading

I'm back from vacation--and I'll do a reading wrap up post soon, but I've hit that 105 books read mark! This week I'm reading an eARC of Jennifer Niven's ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES and ohhhmygosh it's so good! 

It's being pitched as The Fault In Our Stars meets Eleanor & Park, which I think is a really lofty comparison to live up to, but definitely worthy. The book is so good. I hope this one gets more pick up as the pub date grows closer. I'm definitely going to put Jennifer Niven on my list of authors to watch for in 2015. Check it out on GoodReads

What I'm Writing

I did that thing where I wrote a complete first draft, and then had to rip it up and completely replot the middle and end. I actually had to sit down and rewrite out:
  • What is the problem?
  • What is the solution?
  • Who are the antagonists? What do they want and how does it conflict?

What Works For Me

When I used to paint, we were taught to always take steps back to look at the whole picture. I feel it's the same way with writing. I can focus on a scene or a section, but I have to keep taking steps back to look at the whole picture.

That's why my plotting post-it method works so well for me. It sucked having to rip them all down and start over, but I think I'm going to have a stronger story for it.
From this:

To this:

What Else I'm Up To

I'm back from vacation! We traveled from Miami down to the Virgin Islands and then up to the Bahamas. We hit up St. Thomas, San Juan, and Grand Turk. I read many books and got quite a bit of sun (as much as my pasty self can!) and ate much chocolate cake.

Want to see some pictures?

Have an awesome week--see you next Wednesday! <3

Sunday, October 26, 2014

For Your TBR Pile - Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Blue Lily, Lily Blue
By Maggie Stiefvater
Published: October 2014, Scholastic

From GoodReads: There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.
Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Thank you NetGalley and Scholastic for the eARC!

My Thoughts:

This is my absolute favorite series! And it only keeps getting better with each book.

In Blue Lily, Lily Blue, the Raven Boys and Blue are still searching along the ley lines for their buried king as well as Blue's missing mother. The journey takes them to Blue's home and inside caves and into the hands of the Gray Man's ex-boss.

Stiefvater keeps the story twisting and turning so that Blue and Gansey have no where to go but to each other for help. Adam's new role as magician is also wonderfully explored and Noah makes his ghostly appearance more than once. Plus, the squash song!

I can't wait to see where else this series goes in it's final installment next year.

Friday, October 17, 2014

For Your TBR Pile - Under A Painted Sky

Under a Painted Sky
By Stacey Lee
Published: March 17,  Putnam/Penguin

From GoodReads: Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. 

With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

Thank you Penguin for the ARC!

My Thoughts:

There are good books, and there are ridiculously good books. Under A Painted Sky is ridiculously good.

A well-researched Western that keeps the pacing tight and the stakes upped around every turn, the entire time I read this one, I couldn't help but think how educators and librarians were going to latch onto this one. The story was ripe with educational material, but woven into a story that kept the pages turning.

The characters were FABULOUS. From Dragon Andy to Tiger Cay, Stacey Lee wove in the Chinese Zodiac into her characters and the decisions they made, readers are sure to think about them long after the book was finished.

The best was that the story had a wonderful ebb and flow of excitement and danger followed by these contemplative character developments. It felt like the story took a breath in between plot points, which I loved. Stacey Lee is a fantastic writer and this book is so worthy of every award I see it winning once it debuts.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Agents Like Us - Christa Heschke

I'm posting an agent interview bonus this week! Christa Heschke from McIntosh & Otis is here!

She is looking for picture books, middle grade, and young adult projects. You can read more about her here and here, see her submission guidelines there, and follow her on Twitter @ChristaHeschke. Her answers are below in bold.

Christa on Agenting

  • When writers query me, I really wish ...They’d do their research--meaning sending projects that are in genres and age groups I’m looking for. Also, tell me why you’re querying me specifically and know your story’s hook! What do you see it sitting next to on the shelf?
  • My favorite part about being an agent is ...Everything! Can I say that? :) I especially love client interaction and editorial work!
  • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story is ...A compelling voice and a premise I haven’t seen quite done that way before. I love books that take risks, whether it be telling the story from a unique POV, utilizing a unique structure or pushing genre boundaries. I also love a good twist a la We Were Liars or Gone Girl. 
  • Whenever I make a book deal, I ...Am super excited to tell the client the good news!
  • I really wish I saw more middle grade of all types, especially contemporary, mysteries for YA and MG, lighter, funny YA in the slush. 

Christa On Clients
  • My ideal client would be ...Someone who is dedicated to their craft and is willing to work hard. It’s often tough breaking in and getting that first book deal, so one should be willing to revise and take constructive criticism well. It’s hard to be in this industry if you take rejection too personally. Some of the greatest books were rejected dozens of times before being sold. It’s all about finding that right editor who will get your project and be passionate about getting it out to readers. 
  • What I love most about my current clientele is ...Their dedication. They are true writers. They are always writing new things and coming up with new ideas. They are also team players---they know we’re a team and support each other!
  • What I want most for any client is ...To sell their projects, build them a writing career and help them to become the best writers they can be. I love brainstorming and working on editorial work. There’s almost nothing better than watching a good writer grow and become a great writer!

Christa On Life
  • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be ...A marine biologist, dolphin trainer or teacher. 
  • My favorite (non-client) book is ...The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. 
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of ...the zombie apocalypse. I have an overactive imagination and probably watch too many horror movies!
  • My secret boyfriend is ...Eric Northman from True Blood, Channing Tatum, or Captain Hook from Once Upon Time (TV show). If only….lol.
  • I have a total girlcrush on ...Jennifer Lawrence. She is so funny and seems really down to Earth! 
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I ...have spontaneous dance parties or burst into song. 
  • My favorite drink is ...Apple cider. I love it all year round!
Want to see more Agent Interviews? Check them all out here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Agents Like Us - Brent Taylor

Brent Taylor from Triada US Literary Agency is here to share all his agenting secrets and slushpile wishes!

He is looking for all types of middle grade, young adult, new adult, mysteries, and women's fiction. You can read more about him here, see his submission guidelines there, and follow him on Twitter @NaughtyBrent. His answers are below in bold.

Brent on Agenting

  • When writers query me, I really wish ... I don’t know where this statement is supposed to jump off to. I’m so grateful to be considered by any writer that wants to share their work. 
  • My favorite part about being an agent is ... Seeing a project evolve from initial concept, to first draft, to finished product. It’s exhilarating. 
  • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story is ... a unique perspective. Narrators and stories that expose me to new worlds and teach me things. I’m always looking to grow, and that’s one of the reasons reading has always been a huge part of my life. 
  • Whenever I make a book deal, I ... I haven’t made a book deal quite yet, but I’m working on it! A dance party in my home office is definitely going to happen. 
  • I really wish I saw more adult psychological suspense and young adult contemporary in the slush.

Brent On Clients
  • My ideal client would be ... a stone cold reviser, passionate and hardworking, and brilliant. 
  • What I love most about my current clientele is ... all four qualities listed above.
  • What I want most for any client is ... to see their work placed with—and loved by—an audience.
Brent On Life
  • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be ... an agent. There has never been a plan B for me, because there’s nothing in the world I’d rather be doing. 
  • My favorite (non-client) book is ... I just read HOOK’S REVENGE by Heidi Schulz and think she’s a fantastic new voice in middle grade.
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of ... spiders but this isn't very secret.
  • My secret boyfriend is ... James Franco.
  • I have a total girlcrush on ... James Franco. He writes poetry, for crying out loud.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I around my kitchen.
  • My favorite drink is

Want to see more Agent Interviews? Check them all out here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Top 5 - Vacation Reads

It's been a while since I've done a Top 5 list! After much deliberation and angst, I've narrowed down my vacation reads. These fine books win the vacation of a lifetime aboard Carnival Cruise lines. They'll bask by the Lido deck, soaking in the rays from the Caribbean sun and the occasional smear of my SPF 50+.

The winners are:

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Ever since The Last Time We Say Goodbye left me with an epic book hangover, I knew I would definitely take this one--and it would most likely be the book I crack open first. Cynthia's writing is gorgeous and I can't get enough of it.

Shooting Stars: My life as a paparazza by Jennifer Buhl

I picked this one up at ALA last January and unfortunately didn't get to read as quickly as I wanted. I love that it's an autobiography about the world of paparazzi and should fend off all my TMZ addictions while I am away from the Internet. I hear Adrian Grenier makes an appearance too--so!

All That Glows by Ryan Graudin


I don't care what anyone says--I love faeries. I love that this is a twist on gender in that the girl soldier is sent to protect the prince. And I love that it's a Ryan Graudin book because The Walled City was absolute perfection.

Shadow and Bone by Lauren Bardugo

I am so late to the party. I am beyond late. Like, I got there and crumbled SOLO cups were all over the yard and the only people left were puking in the bushes. I'm finally getting to this one.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

HAHA! But I am so early to this party! Half of me wants to go, "Nah nah nah! Look what I have!" and the other half is like, "Be an adult, Valerie. It's just a book." But I'm excited to dive into this one....and I'm considering leaving it on the cruise ship for someone else to enjoy (Carnival Glory, just saying).

Friday, October 10, 2014

For Your TBR Pile - The Last Time We Say Goodbye

The Last Time We Say Goodbye
By Cynthia Hand
Published: February 10,  Harper Teen

From GoodReads: The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn't look at her like she might break down at any moment.

Now she's just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that's all she'll ever be. As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there's a secret she hasn't told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.

Lex's brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn't have to be real to keep you from moving on.

Thank you Harper Teen for the ARC!

My Thoughts:

This book was love at first sight for me. I read the synopsis and my first thought was, "This book is going to wreck me." And it did on, like, the fifth page.

The funny thing is every time I've talked about this book, people cringe when they hear it's about a girl whose brother commits suicide. But this book is not so much about suicide, and more about how a family can recover from it.

Cynthia Hand's prose is gorgeous and countless times I wanted to start highlighting passages (but didn't because I hear book abuse is bad).

The guilt Lex carries with her is palpable and raw. I loved that the character was so analytical and used her logical skills to overcome grief. It was an interesting how she rationalized her brother's death, pushing away her friends and boyfriend, comforting her mother, and forgiving her father. Most of all, the relationship she had with her brother was loving and wonderful. It completely broke my heart how much she loved him and missed him--and even sought him out when she new logically he wasn't there anymore.

Yes, this book will wreck you. But in a very, very good way.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Whats Up Wednesday - 10.8.14

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up.

You can participate by going to Jaime's blog here. Or Erin's blog there.

This new pic still makes me want an apple...

What I'm Reading

I'm still nursing a horrible reading hangover. So I've been listening to a lot of audio books while commuting to work. This week I'm really into The Tyrant's Daughter! It has an awesome voice and such an intriguing premise. Has anyone read this one?

What I'm Writing

I'm kinda kicking myself in the ass. A few of my RWA friends and I created this #BICHOKathon event over the weekend. We were going to write and get a lot of words down. I started off okay Friday night with 1,300 words, but then Saturday I fell apart with a migraine. I was starting to beat myself up pretty bad when I figured, "hey--one day doesn't matter. Just pick yourself back up and keep going."

I'm going to keep using the hashtag to meet my word goals. Anyone can join anytime!

What Else I'm Up To

One more week til vacation. One more week til vacation. One more week til vacation!!!

That is the only thing I am fixated on right now. It is my finish line in the form of a huge cruise ship with virgin pina colatas (since I don't drink) and comfy chairs to read in. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Currently Reading - October 2014

As of this blog post, I am at 96 books for the year! Seriously, I wasn't sure I was going to read 60 and somehow I upped my game.

So the big challenge is...I'm about to go on a late vacation and will be cruising on down to the Caribbean for a week. Which books should win an all-access pass to the Lido deck with me?

I went through my shelf and tried to look for things that were either:
A) beach reads
B) paperbacks or older ARCs--anything light that can be shoved in my suitcase
C) stuff I just really want to finally read

The pile keeps growing so I'll have to hack this down a bit still. With as fast as I've been reading lately, I might go through a book a day.

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Valerie has read 1 book toward her goal of 55 books.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Whats Up Wednesday - 10.1.14

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up.

You can participate by going to Jaime's blog here. Or Erin's blog there.

Woot! What's Up Wednesday! I love this new photo! It makes me want a honey crisp apple NAOW! :)

PS--OMG When did October happen!?

What I'm Reading

Oof...I don't know...I just finished two AMAZING books and have total book hangover! Stacey Lee's Under A Painted Sky and Cynthia Hand's The Last Time We Say Goodbye were such perfect books. I have a huge stack, and nothing's really grabbing at me...which might be a good thing because I need to do some serious damage on my own word count.

What I'm Writing

I'm around 30K on my current WIP. I had a little issue when I wrote myself into a corner, had to back up, and figure out which new way to go. I still a little green at plotting, and sometimes that plotting doesn't get the story moving how I want it to.

Before I started writing, I painted a lot. I learned that you should never focus on one small piece for too long and keep taking steps back to look at the whole picture. So I've been trying to look at the whole picture to figure out what I need in that one small piece that is screwing up my pacing.

What Inspires Me

Last weekend I went to the Chapter By Chapter BookRave in New Rochelle, NY. Everyone was there. EVERYONE! Including BFF Kelly and me.

But overall a huge thanks (and watch me drop all these names) to Jodi Meadows, Joy Hensley, Lee Bross, CJ Redwine, Elizabeth Eulberg, Megan Whitmer, Kelsey Macke, Dahlia Adler and Sarah Guillory (Sarah--I'm sorry I didn't talk to you longer!) for being there and being awesome.

Oooh! Also, Jay Crownover was there! She is so cute in person and was giving out ARCs of Rowdy, (plus a ton of tattooed boy swag!). If you want a fun NA romance to cuddle up to and like your boys inked, check out her Marked Men series.

What Else I'm Up To

I'm in full-blown vacation mode. I have three weeks until I board a cruise ship for the Caribbean and I've started throwing all my sundresses in a suitcase and stacking up which books I want to take with me. I am ready to go! 

I will end this post with pictures of where I will be in three weeks so we can all ooh and ahh. Ready?



[photo credit: Carnival Cruise Line]
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