Friday, June 28, 2013

Book Talk - IN THE AFTER by Demetria Lunetta

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Years of living with the aliens has forced Amy to live in silence. She wears no shoes, never speaks, and moves quietly through the dark streets of her abandoned neighborhood. The predators hide during the night, slipping through the sewer grates only to come up during the day and violently rip apart any food source they can find.

Amy was alone when they came, and can only assume that her family and friends are dead. A desperate run for food to a convenience store lands another responsibility in her hands - "Baby," a young girl too traumatized to speak, which may be the one thing that kept her alive while she wandered the streets silently.

Amy and Baby communicate through sign language, moving silently through their home by day and through the outside world at night when they are in need of food. Experience has taught them that the aliens aren't the only thing to be feared - some of the human survivors are just as likely to take their lives, and their well-stocked home with a generator is a high-value item in their new world.

Dedicated to survival and always ready to attack, they expect nothing but hostility from everyone they meet. So, when they are miraculously rescued and delivered to New Hope, an outpost of survivors that mimics life from Before, Amy suspects it's too good to be true.

Has living like an animal for so long destroyed any hope of being civilized for Amy? Or is she right to suspect that all is not as it seems in the clean, controlled world of New Hope?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

An SAT with Demitria Lunetta, Author of IN THE AFTER

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is fellow Class of 2k13 member Demitria Lunetta, author IN THE AFTER. A Chicago native, she holds a BA in Human Ecology and has spent countless hours studying the many ways in which people are capable of bringing about their own destruction. In case the end is near, she always carries a good book and a chocolate bar--the two items essential for post-apocalyptic survival.

Writing Process:
Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I actually don't have a set writing process. Sometimes I outline, sometimes I don't. It really depends on how complicated a plot I’m working with and how many characters in the story. I have a strangely high capacity for remembering small details…awesome for writing but bad for the people who borrow books from my home library. You know who you are. I’m coming for that copy of GAME OF THRONES you borrowed last year.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

IN THE AFTER took four months to write. It was at a time I could completely focus on writing. If I have a lot going on in my life it takes anywhere from six months to a year. I also have side projects that I think about for years before even acting on them…so I guess I’m saying anywhere from a few months to a lifetime.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

I like to work on one project, but think about others. I have too much of a wild imagination to completely shut out other project distractions.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

I don’t remember having a first time. I started “writing” in kindergarten, making up elaborate stories involving characters from the movies I’d watched…one involved the characters from the Wizard of Oz meeting Ewoks. Clearly my imagination knows no fear.

How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?

I tried to query a fantasy novel a few years ago that only got rejections. I loved that book and it was hard to move on, but I decided I had to keep going forward. In case all the rejections were because of a problem with my query I decided to do a ton of research on successful queries. The work paid off when I tried to query a travel book. Unfortunately, that was also when the economy was in the gutter so it was a no go for travel books. My third time was the charm though, and to be honest, even if I didn’t get an agent for IN THE AFTER I would have moved on to the next project and kept trying, always examining what I could do better. The only way to fail is to give up. Yes, it’s very THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD, but it’s the truth, and that won’t be the last POLLYANNA statement I make.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

I don’t know if quitting is the right word, but I’ve definitely put MS away for another day. Sometimes things need to sit for a few years and be revisited. You should definitely put aside an MS if you’re stuck or simply sick of it. You don’t want to start to hate what you’re working on.

Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them? 

My agent is Katherine Boyle with Veritas Literary and I sent her a traditional query letter after researching her on the AAR website.

How long did you query before landing your agent?  

For IN THE AFTER I queried for about a month before I got my first offer. I then contacted the eight or so agents who had partials and fulls and let them know I was offered representation. I got three passes and five “Holy crap, I’d better hurry up and read so you can make your decision!” Then I spoke to those five agents and chose the one I thought best suited me.

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

Time for me to channel POLLYANNA again…Don’t take rejection personally. Writing is extremely subjective and a hundred no responses can come before that one important yes. All you need is one agent who believes in your work. Keep trying! Also, chocolate helps.

On Being Published:
How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?

At the time of writing this I haven’t seen my book but I imagine it will go something like this:
SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeee! I may have to be escorted from the book store.

How much input do you have on cover art?

I knew I wanted my cover to be dark/creepy/eerie but other than that I let Harper Teen do what they do.

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

This may sound na├»ve, but I didn’t realize I would get bound advance copies. I mean, I knew they existed and that reviewers got them to read, but when I opened the box of ARCs I was beside myself.

Social Networking and Marketing:
How much of your own marketing do you?  

I think it’s important to market your own book as much as you can on social media sites and connect with readers. I have a blog, a Facebook page, and I'm on Twitter.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

You should definitely start building your platform before you get an agent. Blog and tweet to share your experiences and follow other aspiring writers. You’ll be amazed at the sense of community.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Yes! Social media is an good way to connect with readers. Believe me, I was hesitant at first. I thought “Why should I be on twitter…who gives a crap about what I have to say?” But I’ve completely changed my tune. My blog, twitter, facebook, they’re all places for readers to find you and your book.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Super Swag Giveaway!

The 2nd Annual 


is finally here!!!

When:  June 24th thru June 30th


Why:  For a chance to win lots of cool promotional items signed by 55+ of today's best middle grade and young adult authors!

Every day for seven days, Laurisa's blog will spotlight some of the most amazing new books for kids and teens! Monday June 24th thru Saturday June 30th visitors will be able to enter for chances to win one of 6 Swag Packs containing everything from signed bookmarks and postcards, to pins, pencils, totebags, stickers, key chains, lip balm, charms and more all donated by 54 of today's top middle grade and  young adult authors! Most of it is autographed!

On the last day, SUPER SWAG SUNDAY, one last MEGA SWAG PACK will be given to one very lucky winner! This pack so far includes everything listed above PLUS:

1- hardbound copy of THE UNWANTEDS signed by author Lisa McMann

1- TEST TASTE charm bracelet


1 - LOVE AND LEFTOVERS charm necklace

1 - SEND ME A SIGN guitar pick

1 - paperback copy of EVERTASTER: THE BUTTERSMITH'S GOLD signed by author Adam Sidwell

1- hardbound copy of THE SCORCH TRIALS signed by author James Dashner

1- paperback copy of THE ALWAYS WARS signed by author Margaret Peterson Haddix

1 - OyMG! T-shirt

1 - Original Artwork Print from FISHTALE signed by author Catherine Masciola

1- LOSING IT water bottle signed by author Erin Fry

1 - hardbound copy of LOSING IT signed by the author

1 - paperback copy of HYSTERIA signed by author Megan Miranda

1- hardbound copy of STARTERS signed by author Lissa Price

1 - poster of THE BINDING STONE signed by author Lisa Gail Green

1 - DRAGONWITCH pencil

1 - signed Margaret Petersen Haddix PIN!

1 - MONSTERS (Ilsa J. Bick) Back Pack & Advanced Reader Copy

1- Paperback copy of DESMOND PUCKETT MAKES MONSTER MAGIC signed by author Mark Tatulli

1 - DC SUPERHERO Totebag

1 - paperback graphic novel TERRA TEMPO

Just a few of the very cool MEGA SWAG PACK goodies!
Where is this all taking place???


Stop by every day from June 24th - 30th  

for plenty of chances to win!

See you there!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mindy Being Stupid on Saturday

I usually don't post on Saturdays, but I made a vlog to celebrate fellow Class of 2k13 member Kate Karyus Quinn's debut, ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE. I feel like it deserves it's own special place. Or rather, that being an ass needs to be present on the internet in many, many places.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Book Talk: YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE by Jennifer Castle

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

When Justine was five a camera crew walked into her elementary and picked her table group at random to be the cast of a documentary series. Five at Six was a big hit, showcasing five average American kindergarteners as they plowed their way through the first year of school. It was so popular that a second film was green-lighted - Five at Eleven. And now it's time for Five at Sixteen... but Justine is holding out.

The rest of the cast - Rory, Nate, Felix and Keira - are in, but Justine struggles with making the commitment. She was the media darling at five; the confident star of the show at eleven. Now the world wants to know how she turned out at sixteen. But she's not even impressed by what she's done with her life.

Beyond her own insecurities, how can she explain that her once-best-friend Rory was a great pal in kindergarten, but that her autism became a stumbling block in the road of friendship as they grew? Or why the perfect and poised Keira - hijacked by a divorce announcement in an earlier film - seems to hate her for no particular reason? Should she admit that she can't stand the once sweet animal lover Nate, who has turned into an uber-jock? Or that Felix seems to want more from her than friendship and she can't return that?

High school relationships have never been easy, but it's so much worse when the entire world is watching.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

I survived one helluva storm last week, so this week's thoughts are related -

1) Among the ruins of one of the trees we found a poor dead birdy who must've been hanging out in his home when his home broke in half and fell over. The weird thing is that while I was stacking wood onto the word cord I found a perfect, unbroken robin's egg nestled into a fork. That egg had fallen at least forty feet onto the ground, been passed over by the chainsaw, somehow avoided the metal head of the wood splitter and was now staring me down over at the wood cord. I have to imagine that the dead adult bird was probably thinking WTF?!?! SERIOUSLY!??!

2) When you live in the country, tornado sirens from town can sometimes be heard over the storm. The complete dead calm that preceded our particular storm last week made it possible for me to hear the sirens coming from three separate towns as I stood in my yard watching clouds rotate right above my head and thinking... WTF!??! SERIOUSLY!?!

3) Smart people own emergency radios powered by hand cranks, requiring no electricity or batteries. Really smart people know exactly where they put them so they can find them in.. um.. an emergency. I am only a smart person. However, I can tell you exactly where I used to store it in my old house. And I was thinking as I ran around my current house looking for it... WTF?!? SERIOUSLY!?!?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A BBCHAT with Emily Keyes of The L Perkins Agency

A new BBCHAT awaits you! For my new followers, this is an acronym for BigBlackCat's Humane Agent Talk: In Which A Particularly Agreeable Agent Answers a Series of Questions that Have Nothing to do with Queries or Submission Guidelines. Yeah, don't try to make an acronym out of that last bit.

The BBCHAT is designed to get the personality of the agent in the spotlight, and an enterprising querier can use this information to figure out if the agent is a good fit for them, rather than just another agent who happens to cover their genre. The last question involves something that oddly resembles a contest, and ties in with the blog name.

Today's guest for the BBCHAT is Emily Keyes. Emily has a growing list of clients and is also the Contracts and Foreign Rights Manager at the L. Perkins Agency. She’s very passionate about YA, teen and middle grade novels and is looking to acquire in those areas. Follow her on Twitter for some great publishing talk!

What are you reading right now and why do you like it? 

I just finished BETTER NATE THAN EVER by Tim Federle. I liked it because it felt like a new story I hadn’t read before, because the main character (a boy in middle school who doesn’t yet know if he’s gay or straight, but loves musical theater) isn’t a protagonist you see a lot of. It also reminded me why I kind of love New York City, and why I’m privileged to live here, which is nice because I need perspective to keep me from being grumpy and negative.

Paper or plastic?

I’d say paper. I like actually having the books that I love. But I do really enjoy my e-reader for reading manuscripts and submissions—it saves on so much paper waste.

What's on your bucket list?

My actual list of things to do one day are pretty boring (for example, “redesign website,” “maybe get teeth whitened”). I would like to travel more. My new thing is that I want to go to a conference in all 50 of the states. I have a jpeg and I color in the states I’ve been to in Paint, because I am strange. But I also want to go abroad more—that would probably be personal time.

Have you ever ridden a mechanical bull? (It’s on MY bucket list, so that's why it's here).

I have not, but now I’m really sad about it.

If you had a guaranteed sell, what type of story would you like to represent?

I realize this is not specific, but I would like to sell the kind of book that ten or twenty years from now, some now-adult will remember with such clarity they can remember details like they read it yesterday. So many stories are told and then forgotten. I’d just really like to work on something that stays. (It could be a small thing, for instance, whenever you got to the Metropolitan Museum of Art you have to look in the fountain and see how much change is in there because you’ve read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and know that is how little kids living in the Met pay for their sandwiches. Rest in Peace, EL Konigsburg.)

Lastly, Emily has provided three facts about herself... except one of them is a lie. Vote for the lie in the Rafflecopter below and the winner will receive an e-copy of MY LIFE AS A LUMBERJACK: OR HOW I FELL FOR THE WRONG GUY by Sara V. Olds, a lucky writer who can call herself Emily's client!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 17, 2013

When Life Hands You A Derecho, Make A Wood Cord -- Or, Life Lessons from Irish Farmers

Those of you who follow me on Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook know that I recently lost an entire building on my property to a nasty-bad storm. When I say nasty-bad, what that means is that there were very large items flying through the air at high speeds. One of them was a tree, and it hit my shed. The shed is no more. The good news is that I had recently toyed with the idea of turning that shed into a chicken coop and becoming a chicken-person. Because of general hem-hawing on my part, that never came about, and the would-have-been chickens were saved from being crushed by simply not existing in the first place.

The storm itself was a derecho - it's kinda like all the benefits of a tornado without the bother of a  funnel cloud - except I almost scored one of those, too. The boyfriend and I were peering at some rotation up in the sky when he suddenly bolted outdoors, camera in hand. This is one of the non-plusses of having a photographer for a boyfriend. Nervous for his safety and somehow feeling I could stop a funnel cloud from touching down if I were right next to him, I went outside too, and got stuck staring up at something really mesmerizing that had the ability to kill me in a split second if it felt like it.

Luckily for me it was feeling benevolent and passed over, but there was another cell that was taking some dance lessons from it, and decided to try out that whole rotation thing. It was right over my parent's house, which I can see from my house, and my sister can see from hers. Suddenly my phone rings and it's Sister, calling to say that there's a storm-spotter in her driveway and they're filming. So I rush inside, turn on the TV and there's Mom and Dad's house. Sister and I are so excited we call them to tell them to turn on the channel we're watching so they can see their house on the news. Oh, and also that there was a funnel cloud forming above them.

And that was the extent of our excitement for the evening. There was another line of storms coming at us, but it was loving on Illinois at the time, scheduled for a 1 AM rendezvous with Ohio. So I battened down the hatches, brought in wind chimes, pre-emptively put pets in the basement and then considered the ethical question of what to do with my car.

I don't have a garage. I always park in the driveway, directly under a big tree. My car is always covered with bird poop, but that's not part of this story. It's over 10 years old, makes noises it shouldn't, and is dedicated to going left of center when I'm not interested in doing so. So my moral dilemma is this - I know there's a storm coming, and I always park my old, insured car under a big tree. Can I conceivably leave it there when I have perfectly serviceable outbuildings?

My conscience won't let me. I put it in a big barn that was possibly built by a guy named Noah. It's that old, and that sturdy.

Sleep comes. Derecho comes. Sleep goes. Outbuilding goes. Barn stays. Car stays. Massive branch as thick as my body that fell over 30 feet lands where the car normally would've been. My conscience feels good, but my common sense is screeching.

Sister shows up with her husband and my cousin the next morning, and everyone gets out their toys. With our multiple chainsaws, machines to drag debris, and my log-splitter we clean up everything in about four hours. We feel good, we feel pretty accomplished, we have some beers. We make a wood cord that will keep my house warm for a solid month this winter, which is my revenge on the tree.

And yesterday the transmission went out on my car.

Conscience, I shake my fist at you.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Book Talk: ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE by Kate Karyus Quinn

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Annaliese has been returned home after her disappearance a year earlier. The last time anyone saw her she had wandered into the back yard of a high school party shortly after losing her virginity. Covered in blood and screaming, her last moments were caught on videotape.... then she was gone.

Her return brings questions with answers she doesn't have. She has no memory of the past year, and can't explain how she ended up hundreds of miles away from home. Only too happy to have their daughter returned to them, her parents don't push for answers. Annaliese knows she should be glad to be home. She should be responding to these adults who clearly love and care for her. But she won't allow herself to be lulled into the escape of avoiding her convictions. The DNA might be right, but somehow, she knows she is not the real Annaliese Gordon.

Annaliese's memory slips back to her piece by little piece, revealing images that only reinforce her belief that something has gone terribly wrong. She's haunted by the faces of other missing girls, the image of a bloody razor, and detailed re-living of events she could have never been present at. Now, being threatened by a perfect stranger who claims to know her, Annaliese must piece together who she is and what happened to her in order to break a vicious cycle hungry for a new victim.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) Now that school's out I've been doing some housecleaning. I decided I was sick of one of my couches, but couldn't fit it out the door. So I went and got my hatchet, hacked off the legs, dragged it into the yard and burnt it. Yep. That's how Mindy cleans house.

2) It's an indication of my fashion consciousness when I call a salon to get a haircut and when they ask me what kind of shape I want, I start describing the option I chose for my Mii on Wii Fit.

3) Why can't dog piss smell better? WHY??

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

An SAT with Kate Karyus Quinn, Author of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE & Giveaway!

Today's guest for the SAT is fellow Class of 2k13 member and Harper-mate Kate Karyus Quinn, author of ANOTHER LITLE PIECE. Kate has two college degrees - a BFA in Theatre from Niagara University and an MFA in Film and Television Production from Chapman University. In addition, her short romantic fiction pieces have been published in Woman’s World magazine.

ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE has been described as the spine-tingling horror of Stephen King meets an eerie mystery worthy of Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series. I've read it, and I'm here to tell you - that's no lie! ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE is available today from HarperTeen.

ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE is a gorgeous, dark and daring story. There are so many elements involved that there are times the reader literally has no idea what is going on -- and personally I loved that experience. Too often our reader-brains are so good at discerning where the plot is going that authors can't surprise us anymore. But you certainly did! How did you manage to keep your readers in the dark, yet still entirely engaged in the story?

The twisty plot for ALP developed organically… which is to say that I was making it up as I went along. I wasn’t going completely by the seat of my pants, because I had a notebook where I would write little notes for the next five to ten scenes. Of course, sometimes something would happen in one of those pre-planned scenes that I wasn’t quite expecting, and I would have to adjust a little. The one thing I did to make sure the story didn’t go completely off the rails and stayed somewhat focused was that I made sure to coming back to Annaliese and what her goals were. Anytime I got lost, I brought it back to Annaliese trying to find the truth of what happened to her and understand exactly what she was.

My writer-brain was fascinated by the concept you present in ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE. It starts out feeling like a contemporary crime drama with psychological twists, then veers into paranormal elements and a sweet romance out of left field -- all with a very unreliable narrator. Did you ever wonder where the heck in the bookstore this thing was going to land, genre-wise?

I honestly wasn’t worried about where it would fit on the shelf, because I knew it was young adult and one of the things that I truly love about writing YA is that such a broad spectrum of books all fit together under one big umbrella together. However, I was concerned about my book ever making it onto any shelf at all due to language, sex, and violence (you can read more about that here. I knew that I was stepping pretty close to the line of what was appropriate for the genre and I wanted to make sure that I hadn’t gone soaring over it. So I started looking for other YA books that were pushing the boundaries to see how far they’d taken things… and maybe to also just feel a little bit less alone.

Some of the books on that reading list were:
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

I also read a trilogy of novels that some of you may have heard of, called The Hunger Games. By the third book when characters flesh was melting off, I felt fairly reassured that the level of violence in ALP was okay.

You take a brave step in making your love interest a not-so-dreamy dude. Your male MC has issues of his own, and doesn't have movie star good looks or a hunky hell of a body to make up for it. Were you worried that writing the less-than-perfect male love interest would be a problem?

As a reader I enjoy a hero with a healthy dose of hunk in him, especially when paired with the violet-eyed perfect size 2 wisp of a heroine. There is a certain amount of wish fulfillment that is really satisfying when reading that kind of romantic dynamic. However, when I sit down to write, my heroines turn out more like me – not the fairest in the land and not the warty-faced witch, but instead somewhere in between. Of course, you can still match the perfect guy with the less than perfect girl – and I love that dynamic as well (hello Twilight!). 

In the case of Annaliese, she is just such a messed up girl and broken in so many ways, that I think she needed someone equally messed up to match her. I guess that guy could’ve had a six pack and bulging biceps, but instead as I wrote, Dex came out tall and gangly and… oddly charming. I liked him. Annaliese liked him. I could only hope that readers would respond to his nontraditional brand of charm as well.

Self-awareness, deep-seated desires and wish fulfillment play a huge part in the plot of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE. Are these elements that you think help draw in teen readers, or do you think that adults can fall under these spells as well?

I think half of my teenage years were spent lost in a daydream. I crushed on guys I barely knew, which was convenient because the reality of their teenage boy stuff never intruded on my fantasies. The handful of guys who showed interest in me, I couldn’t run away from fast enough. Even so, I often felt like I was missing out on the whole having a boyfriend rite of passage, but anytime I got close to it, it looked so different from the way I’d imagined that suddenly it didn’t look so great anymore. 

I’ve been guilty of this as an adult as well. I think anytime you get sucked into the idea of the perfect anything whether that be a boy, a dance, or a dream house – you’re setting yourself up for a fall. Annaliese’s fall, though, is a little rougher than most. And in the end she has to decide what is really the most important thing to her.  

So I think both teens and adults can find different things to talk about there, but maybe just approaching it in slightly different ways and with two slightly different perspectives. I also think some discussion between adults and teens can be generated by another big theme of the book. Annaliese has this feeling that she is a monster and doesn’t feel as if she fits in her life. I think teens can relate to that, and from the adult side, I think parents will nod in recognition of the feeling that their sweet little baby has grown into a (sometimes monstrous) teenager that seems completely different from the child they once knew. 

Overall, I think there are some themes that universal and that almost anyone can relate to them no matter where they happen to be in their lives.

To celebrate the release of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE we're giving away a prize pack! A copy of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE, mini notebook. listerine strips (that part will make sense when you read the book), and bookmarks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Humane Society Is A-OK

If you follow me on Twitter you're probably aware that I'm kind of an animal person. I've got dogs and cats, I swerve to avoid pretty much anything (including field mice and frogs) and I've even been known to pick up worms off the sidewalk once the rains have gone away and they're getting close to crispy.

People are aware of this, and I can't tell you how many unwanted kittens, puppies, cats dogs, and dormice have been offered to me. Pretty much constantly. One enterprising neighbor actually caught me on the road, literally put the cat through my window when I rolled it down, along with a bag of cat food and just kind of... well that was that. I had a new cat.

But of course I can't say yes to everyone, and I recently had a student ask me if I wanted some kittens.

Me: "No. I'm chock full on the cat level."
Student: "I keep trying to find somebody but I think we're just doing to dump them."
Me: "NO! Don't do that! Take them to the Humane Society!"
Student: "Why? They'll just kill them."

No. No. No. No. NO!

First of all I have to say that I don't think anyone who harbors this initial thought about Humane Societies and shelters is stupid. I really, really don't. They're just reiterating what movies have taught them since they were small. If you can name one cartoon or kids film that features a kind, friendly dog catcher / pound keeper, I'll buy you ice cream. Also the dog shelter scene from Lady & The Tramp has, I think, scarred everyone who has ever seen it for life and damned all shelters from ever having a good reputation -- unless we know better.

So I'm here to help make you know better. And other nicely formulated sentences.

When you take an animal to the Humane Society it receives veterinary treatment, vaccinations, feline leukemia testing, flea and tick prevention, and is also spayed or neutered. Some societies even micro-chip their animals upon taking them in. I guarantee you that no kitten, cat, puppy or dog gets free health care when they're dumped alongside a country road. What they get is a hawk, a coyote -- or even worse -- a very cruel human.

Workers and volunteers also spend time with the animals in the shelters - dogs are walked and played with, cats and kittens are petted. Petfinder even has a remote play option where you can activate toys remotely in cat shelters across the US to play with the cats there.

When I adopted my cat recently I went to a shelter that I'd been at about two weeks previously. I specifically went because of a cat I'd spotted on Petfinder, but I thought I'd scratch the ears of a few of the buddies I'd made from the visit before - but most of them were gone. Their "furr-ever home" placement at that shelter is that high. The volunteer in the cat room at the time told me I better grab up my new cat on that visit, right then. She knew if I waited, he'd be gone.

At this same shelter they monitor their "long term residents" (cats who have been at the shelter for a long time) for attitude changes. Sure, these cats have shelter and food, and people who pet them... but they seem to know they're at a shelter. True depression can set in and these cats slowly degrade. Once this happens the staff at this shelter offers the cats for free. No adoption fees. Just prove you can provide a good home and the cat is yours.

So no -- they don't "just kill them."

And kittens? Good luck finding one - that's pretty much what ever shelter I've visited has said. They can hardly get the kittens brought to them vaccinated and spayed / neutered before someone comes to take them home.

So please, cats, dogs, puppies, parakeets, bunny-rabbits... anything. Don't think for one second that you're doing them a favor by dumping them instead of taking them to the Humane Society.

You're not.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Super Swag Sunday!

So I usually don't post on Sundays, but I'm participating in a huge swag giveaway with Laurisa Reyes this month and I wanted to help promote it. However, all my blogging spots are filled right now with all my friends who are debuting, and some great giveaways of my own I have planned. But then I thought - hey, I know - I'll post about it on.... SUNDAY! Yeah. I'm a genius.


The 2nd Annual


When:  June 24th thru July 1st


Why:  For a chance to win lots of cool promotional items signed by 42 of today's best middle grade and young adult authors!

Win? Did you say WIN?


Every day for seven days, Laurisa's blog will spotlight some of the most amazing new books for kids and teens! Monday thru Saturday visitors will be able to enter for chances to win one of 6 swag packs containing everything from signed bookmarks and postcards, to pins, pencils, totebags, stickers, key chains, lip balm, charms and more!

On the last day, SUPER SWAG SUNDAY, one last MEGA SWAG PACK will be given to one very lucky winner! This pack so far includes everything listed above PLUS:

1- hardbound copy of THE UNWANTEDS signed by author Lisa McMann

1- TEST TASTE charm bracelet


1 - LOVE AND LEFTOVERS charm necklace

1 - SEND ME A SIGN guitar pick

1 - paperback copy of EVERTASTER: THE BUTTERSMITH'S GOLD signed by author Adam Sidwell

1- hardbound copy of THE SCORCH TRIALS signed by author James Dashner

1- hardbound copy of THE ALWAYS WARS signed by author Margaret Peterson Haddix

1 - OyMG! T-shirt

1 - Original Artwork Print from FISHTALE signed by author Catherine Masciola

1- LOSING IT water bottle signed by author Erin Fry

1 - hardbound copy of LOSING IT signed by the author

And more prizes are still being added to the pile!

So be sure to stop by Laurisa's blog every day from June 24th thru July 1st for plenty of chances to win. Stop by now and follow the blog to receive notifications of when the event starts posting.

See you then!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Book Talk - INSOMNIA by Jenn Johansson

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Making eye contact has never been so personal.

Parker is cursed to enter the dreams of the last person he's had eye contact with. Every night, he enters intimate fantasies, horrific nightmares, and sought-after wishes of whoever he locked eyes with last. His ability is his secret, one he can't even share with his best friend, someone who's dreams have always offered a bizarre kind of relief. Dreaming of surfing while being half shark himself is certainly better than reliving the domestic violence nightmares of the lady working at the gas station.

And while the inroads into other's lives can offer him chances to make differences - like discretely leaving a pamphlet about a battered women's shelter behind - the toll on Parker is more than he can handle. Parker's nights are filled with the emotions of other's subconsciousness, never allowing him true rest. He calculates that he hasn't slept in four years - and his doctor believes it may be killing him.

Right when Parker is on the edge of a breakdown, he accidentally locks eyes with Mia, the new girl in school. That night he enters her dreams, a place of such simple peacefulness and beautiful landscapes that he is able to fall asleep inside them himself. Healthy for the first time in years, Parker makes it his mission to look into Mia's eyes every day - then avoid contact with everyone else until he can sleep.

But that kind of behavior immediately raises questions. Mia is scared of Parker, and while he's never done anything to cause her harm there's definitely someone who wants to. She's been getting threatening emails that have escalated, and everyone thinks Parker is the one sending them. As Mia tries to avoid him and Parker is thrown into the violent world of other's dreams once more, he discovers he's been leaving his bed at night... which makes him question whether he might be Mia's stalker after all.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Everyone knows I had eye surgery last week, so this week's thoughts are... related.

1) During most doctor office visits the doctors are always really big on letting you know what's going on. "OK, you'll feel a little pinch here as we draw the blood. Great, flowing well now... that's a great vein... one more vial and .... OK, you can relax your arm, you're all done!" Or - "Alright, there's going to be a little bit of pressure here. Now maybe a sting as you feel the novocaine going in... and you'll start to lose feeling little by little... and now you should be just about numb..."

Not so when you're getting eye surgery.

I laid down and it went like this. "Alright, look up at the light and you'll be able to see the little red dot of the laser. Just stay focused on that, and if it disappears for a second that's perfectly normal." And then... it just got quiet. And then the laser dot disappeared.

And I thought... "They're not really talking to me. I bet that laser disappeared because they're scraping my cornea off right now. Oh dear Jesus, they're scraping my cornea off right now!! NO WONDER THEY DON''T NARRATE!!!"

2) When you have your corneas scraped off you are compensated with drugs. Valium is your friend before surgery, morphine eye-drops that I suspect find other ways into your system are post-op BFF's, and there's also one hell of an effective oral painkiller to top it all off. So, having experienced all of these things within a small timeframe, I had... I'll call them mind pictures. I wasn't asleep, I just had an interesting series of visuals while my eyes were closed. And one of these, produced as a gift from my librarian brain, was a new addition to the How to Draw series.

Yes, apparently my brain wanted to supply me with a train of sketches for the How to Draw the Well-Adjusted Family, complete with cookouts, playing catch, picnics, and I think there was a canoe trip.

3) I had a VERY odd moment when a repo man showed up at my house while I was recovering. He was looking for a former occupant (I swear) and apparently had dropped by the day of surgery but I didn't even notice *cough* Valium *cough.* On the 2nd day he showed up my dogs went nuts enough to wake me up and I answered the door and explained that the person didn't live there anymore. He was a really nice guy who had actually had the same surgery I had so we talked about that for a bit. As he was leaving he says, "I'm really glad you answered the door today. No offense, I know you can't get around right now because of the surgery, but this is clearly an older home, the yard hasn't been mowed and your car hasn't moved since yesterday. If there's no response and no indication of activity at the home two days in a row, it's our company policy to call the police to let them know they might want to make sure.... you know... that someone hasn't died inside the house."

So I'm REALLY glad I answered the door too, because I definitely didn't want to explain to the cops why a mid-thirties woman is at home in the middle of the afternoon on a workday, answering the door in her nightgown and robe, wearing Stevie Wonder glasses and high off her gourd.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

An SAT with Jenn Johansson, Author of INSOMNIA

Today's guest for the SAT is Jenn Johansson, author of INSOMNIA, and a fellow Friday the Thirteener. Jenn loves writing, playing board games, and sitting in her hot tub. Her dream is that someday she can do all three at the same time. In INSOMNIA, instead of sleeping, Parker Chipp enters the dream of the last person he’s had eye contact with. If that isn't interesting enough for you, I bet the first line will have your attention: It’s been four years since I slept, and I suspect it is killing me.

INSOMNIA will be available June 8th, from Flux.

Writing Process:

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I’m a hybrid. I write a very broad, very general outline to give me a blueprint and then I feel very comfortable veering off of it when it feels right.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

Straight through drafting without taking time off in the middle…it takes about 6-8 weeks. And then I start editing and revising. 

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

Definitely one project at a time, except if they’re in different phases. I can draft one and edit another, but I really prefer focusing on one and putting the others aside until later.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

No. I really didn’t even think I was writing a book at the time. I just wanted to get this idea out of my head. It wasn’t leaving me alone. By the time I realized it was a book I was too far in to get suddenly nervous about the whole thing.

How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?

One…but it had been revised/rewritten about seventeen times.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

Yes. I knew it was time because I was finally so sick and tired of it that I didn’t want to look at it anymore. I also had a new idea that was really starting to pull on me and I didn’t want to make that one wait any longer. So I moved on, and I’m so happy I did.

Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?  

My agent is the amazing Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. I got her through a traditional query slushpile process. She read the first 50 pages of my book and then offered…I told her to finish the book and let me know if she still felt the same. She did. I squealed. We lived happily ever after.

How long did you query before landing your agent? 

My first (trunked) book, I sent over 100 queries and got quite a bit of interest but no offers. With Insomnia, I sent just over 30 before I got my offer. 

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

Most authors I know got their agent through the slush pile. It does work. You just have to keep writing, keep trying and keep improving. There is no shortcut or keyword, it’s all about hard work and perseverance. 

On Being Published:
How did it feel the first time you saw your book for sale?

A convoluted mixture of thrilling and terrifying. I’m not sure if it’s ever going to stop feeling this way. 

How much input do you have on cover art?

Very little. They showed me what they liked and I gave a couple of minor suggestions. They took a couple, said no to the rest, and it was done. I love what they did with it. 

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

Nothing smoothes out after you get an agent or a book deal. The roller coaster keeps going and still has just as many violent ups and downs. I think people just get a little better at holding on and enjoying the ride. 

Social Networking and Marketing:
How much of your own marketing do you?  

Quite a bit of it. Flux helps out here and there and opens doors I can’t get through, but I do a lot of it on my own. I'm on Twitter, I blog, have my own site, Tumblr and Facebook. Of course I'm also on Goodreads, as is INSOMNIA

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

I think it’s a good idea to start before. It takes years to get people to listen and pay attention to what you have to say. It never hurts to get a jumpstart on that. 

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Yes! I think there are many people I know through social media who otherwise wouldn’t have heard of me or my book who have ordered it and are excited about it. The internet makes the world even smaller and gives even more weight and power to word of mouth. We should all be trying to take advantage of that whenever possible. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mindy's Law

The basic tenant of Mindy's Law is much like Murphy's Law - but with more swearing.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook you know that I had eye surgery last week. For the full effect of Mindy's Law to be clear to you, I first have to give you a brief overview of my medical history, ophtamologically speaking.

I've never been able to see jack shit, but I never realized this wasn't normal either. I always had a book right up to my face, or my cross-sititch right under my nose (go ahead, make fun - I'll stab you) and since these are kind of close-up style things no one thought much about it - including me. Sports is another story but I honestly think sports is 90% intuition and the fact that I played a few - and played them well - while being nearly blind for a long while says a lot.

In any case, in about 7th grade I noticed that my friends could spot other friends coming into the cafeteria at a much higher rate than I could. I was kind of mystified by this, and was even more so when I asked how this was possible and my friend said, "Duh. I can just *see* them."

Wait - what? You're supposed to be able to distinguish facial features from across a room? This was news to me.

Away to the eye doctor I went. Hello glasses and contacts. You can imagine what a shock it was to me to experience the world. I enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that when I went to college I decided I never ever wanted to stop enjoying it, and I acted how most most college kids do - I did some things I shouldn't have, and I didn't do some things that I should have. Like take out my contacts. Ever. Sleeping, eating, walking, whatever, you name it - I had them in. I managed to give myself a nasty little disease called GPC (I call it GPS becuase it's easier to remember and the doctor always knows what I'm talking about anyway). Also - don't click on that link unless you want to see something really nasty.

So, my own case of GPC was so nasty that my doctor called in all the nurses to have a good look and declared that I should be the poster child for GPC. Apparently I was much more disgusting than anything that has ever been witnessed. So I was banned from contacts. Forever.

Enter the glasses. I don't mind them too much. Except for when I'm playing sports and worried about a line drive jamming the bridge up into my nasal cavity. Or when I'm gardening, and I'm so sweaty that my glasses slide right off my nose and into the dirt for the 20th time. Or when I'm swimming and can't see a damn thing and end up having conversations with people I think I know, only to discover that I don't know them, and have been conned into a poolside conversation with the type of male I'd rather avoid.

Another time being a glasses wearer comes in very unhandy is when your puppy eats your only pair of glasses, leaving you unable to find your phone, and stuck in your own house until someone shows up randomly (it was 16 hours) and you make them drive you to a Lens Crafters.

So when I decided my gift to myself upon being published would  be the gift of sight. This decided, I went to a guy who can give people that (not Jesus, but close, in my estimation) and discovered that not only do my eyes totally suck, but my corneas are on the thin side. To be cautious, the doc wanted to wait 6 months, test my corneal strength again, and see if they'd gotten any weaker in the meantime.

Over the course of those 6 months my left lens started popping out of my glasses at inopportune times, and one of the rubber leg things on the bridge that hold it on your nose broke off. But I didn't care, and I wasn't spending money on new glasses. So I go back, get the test done to find out that my corneas haven't devoured any body building powders lately and are still quite thin. But - I still have options - I can take part in an experimental test that can give us some numbers about stuff and things and those numbers regarding stuff and things would ease the doctor's mind enough to say, Yes, let's make you be able to see.

So, I signed papers to be a guinea pig. That part was actually pretty fun, but it involved three different test trips and no one ever gave me ice cream. Those numbers and stuff and things made everyone feel comfortable with letting me have surgery - but not LASIK.

My corneas are to thin for LASIK. Instead I get to have AST - which basically means that there's no flap like in LASIK. They just scrape your whole cornea off and it grows back better and more awesome and in pink. I was ready to agree to receiving donated eyes from a serial killer if he had good vision, I didn't care.

So last wek, I'm totally psyched to be on my road to vision when I take my Valium, done my paper hairnet, clutch my teddy bear (provided by the clinic, they're very nice) and have the very memorable experience of watching my own cornea be scraped away - AND -

... the laser stopped working.

No shit. I'm lying on the table with my teddy bear and my cornea gone and, well, there's no laser.

Before you ask, no, I wasn't going to some hole in the wall joint where a dude in bib overalls with a dirty pitchfork scraped off my cornea and then suddenly realized they didn't even own a laser - nothing of the sort. This place is a highly-respected, top-of-the-line, eye-dcotors-go-here type of place. And let me tell you, they were mortified.

I honestly  can tell you that I totally understood. I can't say how many SMARTboards and InFocus machines have failed me when I needed them doing presentation. Granted, nobody's cornea is flapping in the wind in my scenario, but... shit happens.

And Mindy's Law states that it's usually gong to happen to me.

Everything was sorted out the next day. My uncut eye was treated, we're waiting for my other eye to heal before we can treat it (doc said about 6 weeks) and in the meantime I'm lying around with Stevie Wonder glasses and audiobooks, petting my new cat and marveling at the fact that one day I will be able to see.

Damn I'm looking forward to that.

And yes, by the way, I have typed this whole thing out by feel. I can't see shit.