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1. Ask an Editor: Hooking the Reader Early

In this series, Tu Books Publisher Stacy Whitman shares advice for aspiring authors, especially those considering submitting to our New Visions Award

Last week on the blog, I talked about the importance of following submission guidelines and basic manuscript format. This week, I wanted to go into more detail about why a reader might stop reading if they’re not hooked right away. Here are some comments I’ve heard our readers make about manuscripts that didn’t hook them:

  • Story does not captivate in first few chapters
  • Boring
  • Writing not strong, or not strong enough to hold a young reader’s (or teen’s) interest
  • Parts of the writing are very strange (not in a good way)
  • Sounded too artificial
  • Reminds me too much of something that’s really popular
  • Too Tolkienesque or reliant upon Western European fantasy tropes
  • Concept cliche

How do you get your writing to have that “zing” that captivates from the very beginning? This is a little tougher than just following the directions—this is much more personal to each reader and each writer.

Is your writing boring readers?

There are a couple different issues in the list above. Some readers lost interest simply because they were bored. If you find yourself telling readers of your book, “Don’t worry! It gets really good in chapter five!” consider whether you’re starting your book at the right moment in time. The phrase “late in, early out” is one to remember—perhaps you don’t need all the information that leads to the “really good” part. Or perhaps you need to revise to make that information more interesting and faster paced.

I don’t recommend simply dumping this information into a prologue. Many young readers skip prologues entirely, and many more readers will lose interest if your prologue is long and boring—it’s the same principle as saying “just wait till chapter five!”

If the information in your first few chapters are crucial, yet readers are getting bored by it, consider spooling that information out little by little over the course of the book. You need to find the balance between giving enough information for the reader to be intrigued and wanting to know more, without overburdening the reader with so much information that they become overwhelmed or bored.

been there done thatFor example, take the first few pages of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. On page 1, Taylor sets up the scene: it’s an ordinary day in Prague (interesting point number one: how many books are set in Prague?) and Karou is walking down the street toward school, minding her own business. It’s an active scene—something is happening—but it’s more about Karou’s internal mundane thoughts. However, it doesn’t stay mundane for long. By page 2, she’s been attacked.

But it’s not your average “you have to have an action scene in the first scene!” attack. The author plays with expectations, intriguing the reader and making you want to know what happens next. We get some ex-boyfriend banter (also against expectations) and the promise of interesting, embarrassing things to come by the end of the chapter.

It helps that the book is well written. But it’s more than good prose that hooks the reader here—she spools out just enough to let you know that this is a unique book, and that you want to know more. The next two chapters do the same thing, and bit by bit, the reader comes to know Karou’s intriguing magical background.

What she doesn’t do is infodump in a prologue or the first few chapters about Karou’s history, the history of the world, and the history of the strange beings who raised her. Save those details for when they matter.

Look at your favorite books and read like a writer. For hooking a reader, look in particular at excellent examples of the first five pages of a wide variety of books. There are many ways to effectively open a book, and you need to find the way that works for your story. Reading other books like a writer will help you to zoom in on ways to perfect your craft.read like a writer

Another great resource for writers trying to figure out how to hook readers is editor Cheryl Klein’s essay “The Rules of Engagement” in her book Second Sight. It’s no longer available online (and I don’t believe the book is in e-book form), but it’s worth the price of the book for her discussion of various ways to hook readers via character, insight, action, and other methods. (Bonus: you also then get access to all her other thoughts on writing and revision.)

Over-reliance on common tropes

Several readers commented that several books relied too much upon Western European fantasy tropes (elves, fairies, etc.). There are ways of hooking readers with familiar story elements, but often most high fantasy tales boil down to “my elves are better than yours.”

The Coldest Girl in ColdtownLook for new inspiration. (We’ll cover worldbuilding more in full in a few weeks.) But especially in the first few chapters of your book, avoid leading with ideas that have been-there-done that.

If your story concept relies on tried-and-true tropes, it’s not the end of the world. Take a look at books coming out now that are successfully changing the mold—books like The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, who has revamped (haha) the vampire genre, for example. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown updates the genre, makes vampires scary again. In what ways can you update and revamp the concepts in your book to hook readers?

The solution to your writing being “not strong enough”: practice 

The number one complaint as to why a reader wasn’t hooked was that the writing wasn’t good. Once you get past obvious grammar and punctuation mistakes, this comes down to a greater need to practice your craft. Write regularly—it doesn’t have to be every day, but do it consistently. If your problem is time, you might find useful this advice from New Voices Award winner Pamela Tuck on how to carve out time to write on a regular basis. She has ELEVEN children, who require a lot of time and attention, especially because she home-schools them.

The more you practice, the better you’ll get. And next week, we’ll begin to drill down on elements that you can work on in the whole book, such as voice.

Stacy Whitman photoStacy Whitman is Editorial Director and Publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS that publishes diverse science fiction and fantasy for middle grade and young adult readers. 


Filed under: Awards, New Voices/New Visions Award, Publishing 101, Tu Books, Writer Resources Tagged: ask an editor, how to, Laini Taylor, New Visions Award, Science Fiction/Fantasy, stacy whitman, Tu Books, writing advice

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2. Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone): Laini Taylor

Book: Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy, Book 3)
Author: Laini Taylor
Pages: 624
Age Range: 13 and up

Dreams of Gods & Monsters is the final books in Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. (See my reviews of Book 1 and Book 2). If you have read the previous books, you will certainly wish to read Dreams of Gods and Monsters. I think that it wraps up the series in a quite satisfactory manner, while leaving the door open for other books set in the same world. 

As in all of Laini's books, the prose in Dreams of Gods and Monsters is rich and evocative, particularly when addressing love and longing. The characters are so fully developed that even when they surprise you, you find their change/growth consistent. The world-building in this series is very strong, with this third book in particular making the history of Eretz (and Earth as conceived by Laini) more clear. The plot is full of twists and surprises, including a character newly introduced in the final book who plays a pivotal role. 

I will confess that I had to put this book aside about half-way through, and read something else. The characters were facing so much suffering that I needed a break. But once I came back to Dreams of Gods and Monsters, I read eagerly to the end, and was pleased by the interweaving of plot strands as well as the personal resolution for Karou. 

Here are a few of my favorite quotes (though in truth one could open this book at random and find something lyrical and worth quoting on nearly every page):

"Out of betrayal and desperation, amid hostile beasts and invading angels and a deception that felt like an explosion waiting to happen, somehow, here was a beginning." (Page 30, Karou)

"So much to rue, but to what end? All unlived lives cancel one another out. She had nothing but now. The clothes on her back, the blood in her veins, and the promise made by her comrades. If only they would keep it." (Page 110, Karou)

""My wife likes to say that the mind is a palace with room for many guest. Perhaps the butler takes care to install the delegates of Science in a different wing from the emissaries of Faith, lest they take up arguing in the passages."" (Page 274, a Professor of Science)

"No one would understand it, but who cares? She'd just glare at them until they went away. That worked in almost any situation." (Page 419, Zuze) 

Dreams of Gods and Monsters is a must-read conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. If you haven't read the first two books, and you enjoy fantasy novels with strong characters (particularly strong female characters) and lavish world-building, you are in for a treat. Gather up all three books, and immerse yourself in Laini Taylor's world of angels and monsters, battles and resurrections, suffering and love. 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids) 
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Source of Book: Purchased it on Kindle

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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3. Dreams of Gods and Monsters

The brutally epic finish to this visceral trilogy shimmers with momentary beauties. Hosts of angels reveal themselves to Earth, as rebel chimaera band together with Misbegotten in a final stand against the war tearing their world apart. All the while, our swoony (but damaged!) protagonists struggle to reconcile their love, lives, and destinies. Books mentioned [...]

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4. Stuart Beattie to Script the ‘Daughter of Smoke & Bone’ Film Adaptation

Hollywood screenwriter Stuart Beattie will write the script for the Daughter of Smoke & Bone film adaptation.

In the past, Beattie wrote the screenplays for Collateral (2004), 30 Days of Night (2007), and the forthcoming I, Frankenstein (2013). As we previously noted, Palak Patel and Joe Roth will produce.

Author Laini Taylor endorsed Beattie and the entire film-making team with this statement: “It’s been fantastic to delve into the world of the book with a screenwriter of such insight and experience. Between Stuart, Joe Roth and Universal Pictures, we’ve got a team with massive epic flair, and I can’t wait to see what unfolds as we move toward bringing Karou, Akiva, Brimstone and the world of Daughter of Smoke & Bone to the screen.”

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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5. 5 writing tips from Laini Taylor

I love these writing tips from my friend Laini Taylor. My favorite is #2:

“Never sit staring at a blank page or screen. If you find yourself stuck, write. Write about the scene you’re trying to write. Writing about is easier than writing, and chances are, it will give you your way in. You could try listing ten things that might happen next, or do a timed freewrite.”

Read all her tips here.



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6. Snow White & the Huntsman Producer to Adapt Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Universal Pictures has acquired the film rights to Laini Taylor‘s young adult novel and National Book Award finalist, Daughter of Smoke & Bone.

Oz: The Great and Powerful executive producer Palak Patel will serve as an executive producer. Snow White & the Huntsman producer Joe Roth has signed on as a producer.

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers released this book in 2011. Days of Blood & Starlight, the sequel, came out in November 2012. Taylor plans to conclude her series with a not-yet-titled third book.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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7. Best Young Adult Books with Pure Imagination

By Nicki Richesin, The Children’s Book Review
Published: September 8, 2012

Thanks to Lori Lawson of Pure Imagination for her stellar new fall picks for YA readers. So come along with her and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination. Take a look and you’ll see into your imagination….

The Evolution of Mara Dyer

By Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was my favorite book in 2011. I’ve been dying for the sequel ever since then. The Unbecoming was a crazy thrill ride of twists and turns. It was hard to know what was real or not and I loved that! Luckily, I’ve had the chance to read The Evolution of Mara Dyer already and I must say that it was a worthy sequel. These are must reads.

Ages 14 and up | Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers | October 23, 2012

Ask the Passengers

By A.S. King

A.S. King is one of my favorite authors. She’s on my auto buy list because I know I will love anything she writes. I first fell in love with her writing with The Dust of 100 Dogs. Then she blew me away with Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Her books continue to amaze me and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us with Ask the Passengers.

Ages 15-18| Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | October 23, 2012

Days of Blood and Starlight

By Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone left everyone I know in awe last year. Laini Taylor is an amazing talent in the YA world. Her writing and world building are breathtaking. Days of Blood and Starlight is a highly anticipated read for me. I have no doubt that Taylor will amaze again.

Ages 14-17 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | November 6, 2012

Meant to Be

By Lauren Morrill

I’m a huge fan of fun YA romance novels. Throw in a London backdrop and I’m definitely going to read it! I can’t wait to dive in to this debut novel form Lauren Morrill.

Ages 12 and up | Publisher: Random House Children’s Books | November 13, 2012

Love and Other Perishable Items

By Laura Buzo

I’ve been hearing some very positive buzz about this book. The story sounds great, a 15-year-old with a crush on a 21-year-old. I’m very anxious to see how that plays out.

Ages 14 and up | Publisher: Random House Children’s Books | December 11, 2012

Nicki Richesin is the editor of four anthologies The May QueenBecause I Love HerWhat I Would Tell Her, and Crush. She is a regular contributor to Huffington Post, Daily Candy, 7×7, Red Tricycle, and San Francisco Book Review. Nicki has been reading to her daughter every day since she was born. For more information, visit: www.nickirichesin.com.

Original article: Best Young Adult Books with Pure Imagination

©2012 The Childrens Book Review. All Rights Reserved.

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8. Daughter of Smoke and Bone (DoSaB, #1), by Laini Taylor

Release Date: September 27th, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Age Group: Young Adult
Overall: 5 out of 5 Stars (Unputdownable!)
Categories: Paranormal, Romance, Angels, Reincarnation, Magic
Goodreads Page 
Read in March 2012

Summary:
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.


Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
My Opinion:

I started this book without having read any reviews, so I didn't know what to expect. Laini's world definitely blew me away. I was not expecting that! 

The writing style of this book is so light and at the same time, intense; I couldn't put it down (but there were times when I had to). Taylor's descriptions made my imagination soar through the cities she wrote about, imagining scenes, towns, people, like a good book is supposed to do.

We start out not knowing who Karou is, or where she comes from; we only know that she has a lot of secrets, like her family and Brimstone, the closest thing to a father she has. With her blue hair, she's a rebel that seeks the truth about herself, but at the same time, does not want to disappoint mighty Brimstone. 

Her human friend Zuzana, is an ordinary girl, your typical teenage friend. I'd love to see more of her, see how she progresses in the story. Karou keeps many secrets from her, but she's still loyal to her, and that says so much about her character. She's definitely an anchor for Karou, who's losing touch with everything that means something to her. 

There are so many characters worthy of mentioning, but then this post would be very long. Karou's "monster" family is extremely caring, I started loving them just as much as Karou does. 

The veil between our world and the Other Side (I read the book in Spanish; how do you call Brimstone's world?) is thinner than Karou

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9. GUEST BLOGGER: Lewis Buzbee Interviews James Preller About His Upcoming YA Novel, “Before You Go”

Greetings, I’m Lewis Buzbee, guest-blogger for the day.

Guest blogger: Lewis Buzbee.

It’s true, I’ve hi-jacked James Preller’s blog to bring you a very cool conversation with Mr. Preller (he makes me call him that) about his newest book, Before You Go (Macmillan, July 2012), which is his first Young Adult novel. I’ve taken control here because Mr. Preller is a very generous writer who frequently trumpets and supports the work of his fellow writers, and I figure it was time to hear from him. James has interviewed me twice, and our conversations have been so enjoyable, so thoughtful, I wanted to turn the tables, see what he had to say.

Before You Go, I must tell you, is a deliciously good book, whether you call it YA or not. It centers on a tough summer in the life of Jude, who has to face all of the toughest questions — what is love, what is death, what comes next? It’s everything a novel should be; it’s funny, moving, troubling, smart, and illuminating. Forget the labels, it’s a beautiful novel, and you should read it.

James, you’ve written picture books, chapter books, and middle grade novels; Before You Go is your first Young Adult novel. Why now?

Before You Go was the most logical step in a haphazard career path. You could argue that writing older and longer has been a gradual process for me, roughly parallel to the growth of my own children (Maggie, 11, Gavin, 12, Nick, 19). But you asked, “Why now?” and frankly I don’t have an easy answer for that. Except: opportunity. I’m lucky to have an editor, Liz Szabla, who doesn’t look to put me in a box or turn me into a brand. She supports my randomness.

How was writing Young Adult different?

I felt that writing for young adults came closest to my natural voice. I loved going back to my 16-year-old self, tapping into that rich and vigorous vein. So many ideas and feelings and memories bubbled forth. First love, big emotions, friendships, wild times, painful times, all of it. Location became central to this story, and I set it in my hometown, including real places I’d been. That trip out to the Amityville Horror House, for example, that’s something many of us Long Island kids did in our boredom, in our driving-around-looking-for-something-to-do lives. I am instantly transported back into that car with my high school friends, Kevin, Eric, Billy, and Jim –- a bunch of guys, a little lost, trying to figure out Saturday night.

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10. Sunday - a long week ahead

Tomorrow - over at BoB - Chime goes up against Daughter of Smoke and Bone.    Now that the book I thought would go all the way has been kicked out, is it a little, um, self-pitying for me to pout and say I don't care which book wins?  YES!!  Yes, it is.  I do have an opinion about this match.

Chime was the second most difficult book in this year's Battle for me to get into.  (I still haven't finished Life.   I will. I promise.)  Briony's stream of consciousness, anxiety-ridden narrative is so confusing.  But I was so glad I persevered because none of her rambling is wasted.

On the other hand, I slipped into Daughter of Smoke and Bone like I was sinking into a fragrant long-awaited bath.  Ahhhh, what a lovely setting, ahhhh, what intriguing characters, ahhhh, blue hair.  Isn't this indulgent?  And then.... there was the battle-y part.

Very Short Digression:  I am getting really really REALLY tired of battle-y parts.

Back to BoB;  The battle-y part was followed by the heart-breaking romance part and the WHAT??!!! ending in Daughter.   That's a lot to pack into one book.

So, there you have it.  Hard to get into but satisfying Chime goes against seductive, action packed Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

I could toss a coin as one of our esteemed judges did.  I could use my Chobani Oracle Cup and pull out the name.  But this time, I think I will just predict that....  Oh, my, this is so hard.

I choose Chime over Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  I think it was the battle-y part that pushed me over the edge.  I suspect that excellent judge e. lockhart, will have a more intelligent take on this match.  And, as I say over and over, I will not be disappointed in either book moving on. 

StoryFUSION!!!  So much StoryFUSION prep work going on.  If you don't hear much from me this week, that is why.  Check the Storytelling page for updates and schedules and stuff.




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11. Watch for It: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, The Girls of No Return



We HEART Laini so much! And wow to her latest novel! Between multiple starred reviews and a movie sale, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a must to find. You must read it before it hits the big screen. Laini is as fresh are ever. All the divas are talking about this one. Congrats, Laini!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor
Little Brown Books, 2011



And here's a heads up sneak peek for February, 2012. Watch for The Girls of No Return by Erin Saldin. Kirkus calls the work, "A smashing debut." I was intrigued and held in wonder and suspense from the first page. Be prepared for a journey into the wilderness and into self. Congratulations, Erin! Enjoy the moment!

The Girls of No Return
by Erin Saldin
Aurthur A. Levine Books, February, 2012

LorieAnncard2010small.jpg image by readergirlz

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12. Yay Laini! Yay Daughter of Smoke and Bone!

Film rights just sold to Universal Pictures, as you can read here:

http://shelf-life.ew.com/2011/12/14/daughter-of-smoke-and-bone-movie-exclusive/

Laini is a wonderful person (as are her daughter and husband), and her writing is imaginative and fresh.

I'm so excited for her!




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13. Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor



Reading Level:     Young Adult 

Hardcover:          418 Pages 

0 Comments on Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor as of 12/12/2011 6:57:00 AM
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14. Rgz Salon: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Reviewed by René Kirkpatrick



René Kirkpatrick has been a bookseller and book buyer, specializing in children's and teen literature, for many years.She has a degree in elementary education and reads widely across all genres. She is currently a buyer at Third Place Books.

We're honored to have her here as part of the rgz SALON, a feature where four of the top kidlit experts clue us in to the best YA novels they've read recently. Here's René, discussing Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor.

"Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a fabulous fantasy filled with demons and angels, starlight and hell. The story focuses on blue-haired art student Karou who runs mysterious errands for a person who may not be human while she tries to get through school. When black handprints begin to appear on door lintels around the city, she becomes swept up in a war between winged beings and the only family she’s ever known.

"A big, thick book that guarantees hours of riveted reading, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a great book for the teen (or older!) reader of fantasy. The story takes place in Prague and seems to be firmly anchored in the here and now with this other world just out of sight. I would read it again just to see what I missed the first time around." 14 and up. $18.99. Little Brown.

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15. October: Would you want to live forever?












Laini says, "In Hatchling, the gift of long life is also a curse. Would you want to live for hundreds of years if no one else around you could?"


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16. October: Giving Up Humanity












Laini says, "In Hatchling, the Druj have given up their humanity in exchange for other things. What is humanity? What is it that they've given up? What do you think is the nature of humanity?"


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17. Lips Touch Roundtable

Little Willow: Welcome to the roundtable discussion of Lips Touch by Laini Taylor, which was our featured book for October. Many thanks to all of the roundtable participants. Today, I'm joined by readergirlz divas Lorie Ann Grover and Melissa Walker as well as Enna Isilee from the blog Squeaky Books.

Lorie Ann Grover: Oh, it's a delight to host Laini and discuss Lips Touch! Almost as fun as her funky Laini's Ladies. Have you seen them? Mine hangs in my kitchen! But okay, let's get to her collection of stories!

Little Willow: Lips Touch is a collection of three stories: Goblin Fruit, Spicy Little Curses, and Hatchling. What was your favorite scene or character from Goblin Fruit?

Melissa Walker: I loved the description of Kizzy when she was introduced, and the reasons why the goblins wanted her and knew she was easy prey. I was instantly mesmerized.

Lorie Ann Grover: I loved her grandmother, trying to warn her! Listen, Kizzy!

Little Willow: I wanted to warn Kizzy as well. I thought this story was a great way to kick off this collection, and I liked the fact that each story took place in a different time and location. Goblin Fruit took place in current times. If this story had been set in Victorian times instead, how would it have been different? What might have stayed the same?

Melissa Walker: I thought the story was pretty timeless. I loved that it was set now, because it has an ancient feel to it but seemed perfectly modern, too. It was a nice combination.

Lorie Ann Grover: I think the modern setting made it so accessible. It acted as the bridge to this intriguing, mysterious fairy tale. Maybe it would have been a tad longer bridge if it had been set in the 1800s.

Little Willow: Are you impulsive? Do you often - or ever - give into temptation?

Enna Isilee: I used to be. Before I had a job I would fritter away every meager penny that I earned. Now that I have a steady income I'm actually more careful with my money (I have to be). I've never been impulsive with love. I'm very square. I don't think I've ever had a lustful thought. Always the good girl.

Little Willow: There's not an impulsive bone in my body. I'm extremely cautious, and I tend to overthink things. No matter what, whether it's a decision that has to be made in an instant or something I have more time to consider, I trust my gut. If my gut tells me not to do something, I don't do it. Period.

Melissa Walker: I was very, very good in high school, but I broke out of that mold in college and acted impulsively on too many occasions. I learned a lot from giving in to temptation, and I'm glad I learned it young.

Lorie Ann Grover: Are we talking chocolate here? Because I cave for chocolate. :~)

Little Willow: Lorie Ann, here's a healthy granola-and-chocolate bar for you. What's the difference between being tempted by something and wanting something? Where or how do they overlap?

Lorie Ann Grover: I think a desire can be honest, good, and right. While the word "temptation" lets you know that the desire is likely unhealthy, not to your ultimate benefit or another's.

Little Willow: Are any of you superstitious?

Lorie Ann Grover: Not a lick.

Enna Isilee: I'm EXTREMELY superstitious. Mostly when it comes to numbers. I hate the number 3, love the numbers 7 and 2. I always stop the microwave at 4 seconds, so that it never gets to 3. As for curses... I certainly believe in mental curses. If someone tells me I'm going to have a bad day, I probably will because I believe it. Then again... maybe that's how magic works. ;)

Little Willow: Maybe so, Enna!

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18. Danke, Laini!


We've LOVED having Laini here this month! Thank you so much for hanging out.

A few highlights:


The LIVE! Twitter Chat with Laini!

What's up next from Laini: "I just finished my new book, Daughter of Smoke & Bone (fall '11). Now: the sequel!"

We adore you and can't wait for more books, Laini! Happy Halloween!



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19. Librarian Preview: Little Brown and Company (Fall 2011 – Winter 2012)

Previews, previews!  Lovely little previews!

And we find ourselves back at the Yale Club, across the street from Grand Central Station, and a whopping 10 minutes away, on foot, from my library.  There are advantages to living on a tiny island, I tell ya.

As per usual, Little Brown pulled out all the stops for the average children’s and YA librarian, in order to showcase their upcoming season.  There were white tablecloths and sandwiches consisting of brie and ham and apples.  The strange result of these previews is that I now seem to be under the mistaken understanding that Little Brown’s offices are located at the Yale Club.  They aren’t.  That would make no sense.  But that’s how my mind looks at things. When I am 95 and senile I will insist that this was the case.  Be warned.

A single day after my return from overseas I was able to feast my eyes on the feet of Victoria Stapleton (the Director of School and Library Marketing), bedecked in red sparkly shoes.  I would have taken a picture but my camera got busted in Bologna.  I was also slightly jet lagged, but was so grateful for the free water on the table (Europe, I love you, but you have to learn the wonders of ample FREE water) that it didn’t even matter.  Megan Tingley, fearless leader/publisher, began the festivities with a memory that involved a child’s story called “The Day I Wanted to Punch Daddy In the Face”.  Sounds like a companion piece to The Day Leo Said “I Hate You”, does it not?

But enough of that.  You didn’t come here for the name dropping.  You can for the books that are so ludicrously far away in terms of publication (some of these are January/February/March 2012 releases) that you just can’t resist giving them a peek.  To that end, the following:

Liza Baker

At these previews, each editor moves from table to table of librarians, hawking their wares.  In the case of the fabulous Ms. Baker (I tried to come up with a “Baker Street Irregulars” pun but it just wasn’t coming to me) the list could start with no one else but Nancy Tafuri.  Tafuri’s often a preschool storytime staple for me, all thanks to her Spots, Feathers and Curly Tails.  There’s a consistency to her work that a librarian can appreciate.  She’s also apparently the newest Little Brown “get”.  With a Caldecott Honor to her name (Have You Seen My Duckling?) the newest addition is All Kinds of Kisses.  It’s pretty cute.  Each animals gets kisses from parent to child with the animal sound accompanying.  You know what that means?  We’re in readaloud territory here, people.  There’s also a little bug or critter on each page that is identified on the copyright page for parents who have inquisitive children.

Next up, a treat for all you Grace Lin fans out there.  If you loved Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat then you’ll probably be pleased as punch to hear that there’s a third

7 Comments on Librarian Preview: Little Brown and Company (Fall 2011 – Winter 2012), last added: 4/25/2011
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20. Fusenews: Sifting the Nifty

From sopping wet New York City here is your philosophical question of the day: If April showers bring May flowers, what the heck do May showers bring?  Ponder that while I hand you a piping hot plate o’ Fusenews.

  • My library branch is turning 100 next week (you may have noticed the pretty New Yorker cover that referenced this) but it’s acting pretty spry for a centennial.  For one thing, NYPL is coming out left and right with fancy dancy apps!  Here’s one for the researchers.  Here’s another that’s a game.  Here’s a third that lets you reserve books.  Insanity!
  • This week’s Best Post Ever: Travis Jonker is a genius.  A full-blown, certified genius.  He’s come up with a Middle Grade Title Generator that leaps on the current trend of titles that sound like “The (insert word ending in -ion) of (insert slightly off kilter first and last name for girls)”.  He came up with a couple examples like “The Gentrification of Geraldine Frankenbloom” but his commenters really picked up the gist of the idea and ran with it.  Rockinlibrarian’s “The Zombification of Apple McGillicutty” (which I would read in a red hot minute) may be my favorite but a close second was Lisa’s “The Excommunication of Willow Diddledeedee.”  I got nothing so cool.  The best I could come up with was “The Computerization of Sarasota McNerdly.”  I doubt it would sell.
  • Adam Rex recently penned a post that works as An Open Letter to Everyone Who Thinks It Must Be Easy, Writing Children’s Books.  It’s in response to Paula Poundstone (whom I also like) and her recent faux pas on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me when she told Brenda Bowen that she thought it would be easy to write a picture book.  Note, if you will, that Poundstone has not actually attempted to do so.  In fact, the only stand-up comedian picture books that immediately come to mind are those by Whoopie Goldberg, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, and Jeff Foxworthy.  And weren’t those memorable!  Not in a good way, of course.  Particularly the Leno.  *shudder*
  • She wrote it back in 2006 but it still applies today (particularly in conjunction with Adam Rex’s post).  Meghan McCarthy asks the age old question What makes us qualified to write for children? I believe Anne Carroll Moore once asked Ursula Nordstrom the same question about editing for children (a cookie for everyone who remembers Nordstrom’s response).  Yet another reason why we need to follow-up on Peter Sieruta’s suggestion to create an Anne Carroll Moore/Ursula Nordstrom crime solver series.  I envision Moore as the Bert to Nordstrom’s Ernie, don’t you?
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21. Video Sunday: Sophisticated Vid Day

We begin this week with something extraordinary.  A book trailer that looks like a movie trailer (no real surprises there) but that includes so many specific details to its book that you’re half inclined to think that the movie version already exists.  Super 8’s actor Joel Courtney stars in trailer for The Dragon’s Tooth by ND Wilson.  What’s funny about it is that its locations are eerily perfect, the scenes amazing, and yet it has one aspect that makes me sad.  You see, the hero of this book and his sister are dark skinned.  Yet here you can see that they’re pretty darn white.  To be fair this is entirely due to the fact that Mr. Courtney is friends with Mr. Wilson’s kids and that’s how he got the part.  Still . . . sigh.  Ditto the fact that an elderly woman from the book now appears to be 45.  Perhaps elderly actresses are difficult to find sometimes?  But aside from all that this is a remarkable piece of work.  Maybe the best movie-like book trailer I’ve ever seen.  Little wonder since it was directed by the author himself!  If that whole writing books thing doesn’t work out, I can see a second career ready and waiting. Thanks to Heather Wilson for the link.

Along similar lines is this trailer for Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  When you’ve been following an author since day one, there’s an instinct to claim them.  I loved Ms. Taylor when she wrote her Faeries of Dreamdark books back in the day.  Now she’s hugely popular and I feel very possessive of her.  With a whopping 50,000+ views (holy moses!) this next video is not as sophisticated as Wilson’s, but it has its own ineffable charm, no?

A very different kind of book trailer involves the recent winner of The Society of Illustrator’s Original Art gold medal.  I daresay that this is the first time in my own recollection that a nonfiction title has won the award (and from National Geographic at that!).  And I can think of no better way to see the art than this little video right here:

Gorgeous. Thanks to Jules Danielson for the link!

If I hadn’t begun with all those book trailers I probably would have begun with this glimpse of the staged production of How to Train Your Dragon in Australia.  Because when it comes to stage puppetry, you ain’t never NEVER seen nuthin’ like this:

7 Comments on Video Sunday: Sophisticated Vid Day, last added: 8/14/2011
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22. What I'm working on now, and book trailers!







I'm in the throes of editing hell...actually, I'll rephrase that--I'm in editing HEAVEN! Just a whole lot of it at once, is all. But the books are SO GOOD, and this is the meaty part of my job that I love the most. Speaking of, I've been meaning to update my "How I Edit" post from almost exactly five years ago, as technology has changed my process somewhat. Perhaps that will be for next week.

What I was working on this past weekend specifically was finishing up an editorial letter for the first book in Libba Bray's new four-book series, The Diviners. It's a YA historical paranormal with hints of horror (okay, more than just hints) set in New York City in the 1920s. Flappers, Ziegfeld's Follies, speakeasies, political protests, secret government experiments, cults, ghosts, supernatural powers, and oh yes, a serial killer. It's magnificent, and coming out next Fall.

This past weekend I've also been working on Chris Colfer's middle grade novel The Land of Stories, coming out next August. It's a fantastical adventure to a fairytale land, and it's a page-turner, with unexpected twists and turns, a lot of heart, and best of all it's funny. I was reading it on the subway and found myself chuckling out loud at the dialogue. I'm excited for the world to see that this kid can write as well as he can sing. And boy, do I love his voice (I can listen to his version of Blackbird all day).

So, while I keep editing, I wanted to share with you two trailers that were released recently. The first is for Peter Brown's hilarious new picture book You Will Be My Friend!, starring Lucille Beatrice Bear, who some of you might remember from his last book, Children Make Terrible Pets. You Will Be My Friend launched earlier this month, and on Saturday I attended his book launch party at Powerhouse Studio in DUMBO. And as Lucy would say, OH! MY! GOSH! This is the cutest trailer EVER!



This second trailer is for Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone which officially pubs tomorrow! Happy early book birthday! There's been an incredible amount of excitement and buzz for this book, and the love, especially from bloggers, has been tremendous (and well-deserved, although I may be biased...).



Isn't that cool?

Okay, back to work!

0 Comments on What I'm working on now, and book trailers! as of 1/1/1900
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23. Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor & Giveaway

Release Date: September 27, 2011
Series: Trilogy TBA
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a rich, imaginative tale of magic and monsters, war and heartbreak. The world-building in this novel is breathtaking, the backstory a tapestry woven with strands of legend and otherworldly secrets. Laini Taylor's style is beautiful and intelligent, bewitching in its elegant flair. The pacing is perfect with never a dull moment, whether the intensity comes from the heat of battle, the awe of discovery or the mystery of Taylor's monsters.

Laini Taylor's imagination knows no bounds. This is the most creative, original story I have ever read. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a book that cannot be easily defined. It is a long history of war and senseless hate, otherworldly races and ancient magic. It is a fantasy and a tragedy and a romance. It is all these things and more. The descriptions are lush and vivid, the characters terrifying and oddly compelling, the lines between good and evil hopelessly blurred. It is a tale of self-discovery and irrepressible love, a coming-of-age story like no other.

Karou is such a compelling heroine, the kind of girl that shouldn't be crossed. She is quirky and mysterious -- from her naturally blue hair to her bullet-scarred belly -- a complex character who is alive and engaging from page one. Her mental life runs deep as she struggles with a lifelong sense of emptiness, and the constant frustration of vague answers from the only family she's ever known. Karou is smart and skilled, and she knows there's more to the story than she's been told. She is fearless when she needs to be, but vulnerable at heart. It's impossible not to fall in love with this one-of-a-ki

27 Comments on Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor & Giveaway, last added: 10/1/2011
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24. Trailer Tuesday: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Mara Dyer, and Dark Eden

I found some great trailers to share with you this week. All three are ridiculously well done.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Have you read it? Write your review here!





The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Have you read it? Write your review here!





Dark Eden by Patrick Carman

Have you read it? Share your thoughts here!



I'm especially intrigued by Dark Eden. The iPhone App integration looks like pure Epic Win. Have any of you downloaded the App? Let us know what you think in the doobly-doo below.

2 Comments on Trailer Tuesday: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Mara Dyer, and Dark Eden, last added: 10/25/2011
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25. OMG

Sometimes I start a book happily, but midway something crops up - a character that jars, or an event that feels off-kilter, or a change of mood - that disappoints me.  This year I decided to just put those books down.  I don't have time to read books that bother me.  There are too many books, so the t-shirt says, and increasingly, too little time.

Well, I am VERY happy that I did NOT put down Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.  Honestly, when the angel showed up I almost chucked it in.  This book has shown up on several "Best of 2011" lists and I felt duty-bound to as least skim through to the end.  So happy I did because OMG!!!



Taylor creates such an appealing teen character in Karou, and her family of misshapen beings is so loving that when that angel shows up, all angry and forbidding, the reader just knows he's wrong!!! Beautiful, yes!  Stunning, of course!  Sexy and irresistible?  That goes without saying - but very very wrong.

The book's setting is Prague, the IT city for 2011, I think.  The plot revolves around a centuries-old battle between magical peoples.  The protagonist, a teen art student, is so much more than just a teen.  Her "family" appears to be made up of genetic experiments or demons.  Her guardian's business is collecting teeth, animal and human.  When the sexy tortured angel shows up, all the questions about her past and her strange life are answered.  OR are they??  The story is to be continued.  And, sigh, as much as I hate to admit it, I have been drawn into this maelstrom of paranormal adventure and romance and I WILL want to find out what happens next.  Thanks, Laini Taylor, for adding yet another series to my ever growing list of  Books-I-Want-To-Read!

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