Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman

Tennyson is very concerned when his sister, Bronte, starts a new project, in the form of social rehab of a loner, Bruiser, who looks like he's descended from the Hulk. Tennyson feels their home life is already complicated enough with their parents separating. But Tennyson gets to know Bruiser and realizes that he's an okay guy, if a little wierd. He and Bronte figure out that Bruiser has a secret as terrible in practice as it is wonderful in the abstract. They try to help him, but sometimes the person in the mirror needs help the most.

"Bruiser" is told from four persectives, and I was impressed with how convincing each of the voices were. I loved the Special Thing Bruiser could do, which I won't describe here. It was cool and very believable, though.

I also loved the theme of how pain is a necessary part of life, and it reminded me a bit of "The Giver" in that way. I'll just say that Bruiser changes a lot of things for the people he cares about, and sometimes protecting someone isn't in their best interests.

Thanks to Around the World Blogs for lending me this ARC. The book was released in June, and the paperback will come out in April. Definately worth reading and nothing was out of place. I highly recommend.
Glutton for Punishment?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Don't Wring Your Hands!!!

What to do when you are rejected:

  1. Refresh your email to make sure it wasn't a mistake.
  2. Find something to get angry about. You know it's in there. "This is a form rejection!!! I bet they didn't even read it!!!" OR "This criticism is too vague to even help me!!!"  OR "This criticism is specific, but it could apply to chapter one or chapter twenty-one!!!" Regardless of how your anger expresses itself, remember to use exclamation marks. Lots of them. We all know there's no better revenge against an agent than multiple exclamation points. Oh, yes. We have our weapons, too.
  3. Read the rejection again. If it's an email, print it just so you can have the satisfaction of balling it up and throwing it in the trash, or setting it on fire, if you run like that.
  4. Cry a lot, and make sure to tell people how devastated you are, and how cruel the publishing industry is. Facebook is very helpful in this regard. Don't worry about being an emo. Your true friends will want to know what you're going through.
  5. Shoot an email to your crit partner crying about number two above. Delete them from your address book if they reply and tell you someone else will be interested. After all, this is their fault for not telling you what you needed to fix in the first place!
  6. Get a milkshake. That's the drink I'd feel most guilty about drinking that I'd actually drink, but I'm sure you will adjust the beverage to fit your own personal demons. Get fat/drunk/stoned. That will show them!!!
  7. Make sure not to write anything constructive for a few days. Mull over the rejection for many hours. Accept that you suck and you'll never be published. And everybody who ever said they loved your story has bad taste in literature and is a pathological liar. They're all out to get you.
  8. OR Make the suggested changes, if the agent was jerky enough to provide any feedback. Stay up all night if that's what it takes. Email the agent back and ask them to look at your revisions. They'll be impressed with your passion, I promise. You might be willing to forgive the agent if they see the error of their ways.
  9. If some idiot tells you that you're not being very professional, remind them that you would like to be a professional, but you keep getting rejected! What kind of a trap is that? This is a good spot to use any short words based in Anglo-Saxon. 
Yes, I got a rejection. It was actually extremely helpful, and I still cried. A lot. I emailed a crit partner. I was frustrated. And then I got on with my life. If you're querying, you can't afford to lose a whole day of writing every time someone doesn't like your book. Because how will you be able to write EVER when you finally are published? Have you read any reviews on Amazon lately? Even books I love have pros and cons.

Seriously. Pick the last book that you really liked and go read the reviews. Unless you read Narnia, I guarantee you someone hated it. I was shocked that not everyone loved The Queen of Attolia. There are 58 reviews of The Queen of Attolia, and 6 are very negative. What are these people thinking? That's one of the best books I've ever read! Read the bad reviews. Laugh about how they didn't get it and remember again that there's a lot of subjectiveness in this business.

I am taking querying very slowly, and I think this has been a good thing for me. "Pulse" is my first book, and I've been fortunate enough to receive feedback from some of the agents I've contacted. The criticisms I got yesterday were very hard to hear, but now that I've gone through my stages of grief, I can see that she was right. It's very good that I didn't send out queries to all the agents on my list at once, because I still have lots of options, and that feels great. I plan on taking a few weeks to think about the criticism recieved, then fix it. I'll work on another project in the meantime.

So, when you get a rejection, keep breathing. Cry. Get it out, and get on with your life. I find doing something non writing related for a while helps, like playing piano or taking the kids to the park, or cleaning the disaster that was my kitchen.

Something to think about, though: If you query ten agents a month and lose a day with every rejection, you've cut down your writing time by a third. That would really be a shame, wouldn't it? Good luck, friends.
Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

Spoilers for "Hush Hush" ahead. You're warned.

I like the cover.

In "Hush, Hush", Nora Grey fell for the ultimate bad boy, fallen angel Patch. He lied to her, placed her in dangerous situations, and was actually plotting her death for the entire book. Nora knows she should probably stay away from him, but just can't say no and mean it.

"Crescendo" builds on this. I had forgotten how Nora operates, so I spent the whole first half of the book like a kid watching a horror movie: "No, don't investigate the mysterious thumping in the basement in the middle of the night with a half-dead flashlight during a rainstorm. Don't do it!"

I like my characters to be smart, to have some self-preservation instincts. Nora does not have this. Some people don't even notice, they love her for being so trusting and/or foolish. In "Hush, Hush", perhaps they trusted the writer that Patch would end up being worth it, but all I could think is, "Why would you go out again with someone who treats you that way?" There's more of that in Crescendo, too, although the book follows the required mid-series breakup formula.

I will say that Nora was a lot more proactive, if misguided, in this book, and the funny best friend was, well, funny. Patch's character was much more likeable and I found myself rooting for him. There were some scenes that were very fun to read.

I don't have to fall in love with a main character, but I couldn't lose myself in Nora at all. This may say more about me than about the book. I am not a let's-hope-this-doesn't-kill-me kind of girl. She was really emotional and insecure, and that was hard for me to read, too, but it wasn't beyond my experiences as a teen. I saw people act in ways that were at least this dumb.

I wish that Fitzpatrick had reminded us of how the whole Nephilim/fallen angel thing worked earlier in the story and how the first book had ended, because it took a while for that info to be restated, and I'd forgotten most of it.

The second half of the book really picked up and I read it much faster. I don't know if I will read the next book in the series, but maybe. I like tension in a relationship to be based on misunderstandings, not demeaning actions, and in that way, Nora's relationship with Patch was much more plausible to me in Crescendo. But with other characters, Nora is a total pushover. I'd like to tell Nora that she doesn't have to let guys treat her like she's a piece of trash, and I'd like to have a good, long talk with her mother for encouraging Nora to spend time with a psycho childhood friend. Neither Nora nor her mom have a backbone. Sigh.

TONS of people loved "Hush, Hush," and they will love "Crescendo," too. I was engaged with the story, but in a frustrated, "Wake up, girl!" kindof way.

Thanks to Around the World Tours for sending me this ARC. Anybody who reviews YA books on their blog can sign up, so check it out. They are also looking for YA ARC donations. Happy reading!
Glutton for Punishment?

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Why do you blog? Some people have goals about how many blogs they will visit and comment on, how many link backs they will make every week, and how many how many how many.

I tried that. For about a month.

It was stressing me out, and making it hard for me to want to write here.

At the University of Florida (and I suspect it is similar in most colleges), there were two main plazas that most everyone walked through on their treks from the dorms/parking lots to their classes. The Hari Krishnas would serve yummy vegetarian glop for a dollar donation on Fridays. The "Redcoats" would stand up on buckets in their maroon suit coats and yell at the girls in short shorts that they were the whores of all the earth, and the boys were informed their fornication would lead to their everlasting damnation, etc. And usually Yoga Guy was out there on his mat, too.

It was a rare day where I wouldn't see someone that I knew as I walked through. The plazas were a place to hang out and relax, a place to listen to people argue, a place to lay under the trees and look at the clouds or just lean up against a tree and read.

Blogs are that same type of thing for me. I'm on my way to email, or renew my seriously overdue library books, but I take a few minutes to hang out with you guys on my way there.

That's what I'm going for on my blog. I haven't checked my new visitors vs. returning visits, duration of visit, how the person got here. I understand that such stats would be useful if this were a business. But it's not. This is where I hangout. Stay as long as you like. Come back when you can. I'm not worried about it.

I comment when I'm interested in the topic and have something to say. When I follow someone, it's not part of my master plan to have X number of followers by X date. I follow someone because they intrigue me in some way.

I understand the usefulness of branding and online presence. I think it's great for people who can think like that, but it freezes me up. The blog is fun. That's my motivation.

Why do you blog?

Thanks for reading and commenting. Getting your take on things is the best part! 
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, September 20, 2010

What keeps you up at night?

I'm ready to admit that I'm terrified of messing up my search for an agent.

It's the way that the timing is out of my control that kills me. Let's say, for instance, that I have a partial out to an agent that takes a full 6 weeks to read 50 pages. And then let's say that a new agent comes on the market, someone with decades of experience in the industry, and I fire off a query letter, thinking basically that New, Experienced Agent wouldn't want me, but I'll give it a shot. And then she requests a full, and she's got superfast turnaround.

Then say that a non-query email with a likewise New But Extremely Talented Agent leads to that agent asking what I write, and I tell her, and she says to send her a partial, too.

This would all be really awesome, right? Except I don't know how to handle this. I know it's silly to worry about it, because reading is not offering representation, not at all, but what if New Experienced Agent or New But Extremely Talented Agent offer representation? Do I wait for Super Yet Slow Agent to get back to me? Do I send them an email and hope they will get back to me soon enough that I don't look like a total butthead to N.E.A. or N.B.E.T.A.?

That is what I worry about. Looking like a jerk. That and not having an amazing relationship with my agent. I want to know that their input helped me to take it up a notch. I want an agent that gets who I am and what I'm about. I want someone who will know that if they aren't sure if I'm joking, that I am. I want somebody who shoots me an email out of know where, telling me they were thinking about my book, and wouldn't it be cool if....

I want someone who loves my book as much as I do.

Excuse me. I have to go read some agent blogs and make sure I get all this etiquette right. And go check out my friend Teresa's blog post on her editing letter. Very informative, and she always manages to throw in some good lines. Really, go find out why you need to get an ulcer, pronto!

And Kathryn Magendie has a brilliant post on the relationship betwen chipmunks and procrastinating. And M&Ms. You need to know this stuff, I promise!
Glutton for Punishment?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I thought I Made This Up.

I found a story about a woman, Jill Price, whose memories don't fade. She's been tested by various researchers and they've concluded she has accurate recall of daily events back from the time she was 12. (She kept a daily journal all those years.)

She describes the memories as a split screen, and says that a dozen or so times a day, a memory will be triggered by a smell, a song, a sight, and she reexperiences that memory.

From the USA Today Article-
The constant onslaught of memories is both a curse and a blessing, Price says. Especially under stress, the good memories give her great comfort. "I have this warm, safe feeling, and I can get through anything." The dark side is that she recalls every bad decision, every insult and excruciating embarrassment. "Over the years, it has eaten me up."
Peaceful sleep is rare because memories assault her, she says. "It has kind of paralyzed my life."
My MC, Lara, deals with the good and the bad of having a perfect memory. Can you imagine living this way? I thought I was making this stuff up.
Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Hunger" by Jackie Kessler

A girl with anorexia attempts suicide, but Death gives her a second chance by appointing her as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse: Famine.

Lisa is tired of being fat. She still has a muffin top, for goodness sake! How could her friend suggest that she has anorexia? When her boyfriend agrees that he's worried, she can't take it anymore. Enter: Mom's antidepressants. Lisa swallows one pill, then another. Then another. And then a delivery man rings the doorbell and hands her a package that contains scales, and tells her, "Thou art Famine: Go thee out into the world."

I'm not particularily interested in eating disorders, but the connection to Famine and Lisa's ultimate twist to her duties was intriguing. This book did not read as a self-help book, not at all, but I found the thought patterns a bit disturbing. Anyone who has fought themselves against grabbing an ice cream sandwich by how many calories it contains will recognize the thinking, and maybe even wonder if it would be so hard to lose track of "normal".

In my psych classes, I learned that when asked to select what images match their body types, anorexics will select body types that are more ample than their real body. There's a fundamental shift in perception, and that came across very clearly, as did the way that food becomes the most important relationship in Lisa's life.

"Hunger" comes out in October, and I thought it was worth reading, whether or not you are interested in eating disorders. And for those of you who are looking for books for your own teens, be aware that there are references to Lisa fooling around with her boyfriend. It doesn't get into any details, but from the character's perspective, it is a given that a girl with a boyfriend will be sexually active. I found it interesting that Lisa's self-perception changed when she and James went from being best friends to dating.

Thanks to Around the World Blog Tours for the opportunity to read this ARC. Now I'm off to the post office to send it to the next person! And for anybody that noticed I didn't get this review up yesterday, my apologies. I've come down with a cold.
Glutton for Punishment?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Time, Time Time, Is On My Side. Err, Not Really.

I started writing this post as a list of all the ways I'm overwhelmed right now, but it sounded a little pathetic so I erased it and started again. The point was that a lot of things are in flux right now for me, and none of it is bad, just changes. Some of it is even exciting- like we're going to be closing on a house any day now!

The hard thing is that while I get used to the increased pace, I'm not getting a lot of writing done. The good thing is that if I can make it through the adjustment period, I'll be much more involved in my kids' activities and time with them is never misspent.

Organization has never been one of my strengths, but I'm trying. I'd like to be able to be a cub scout leader, homeroom mom, writing workshop member, blogger, chaffeur, child care expert (my own kids plus two extra), new home owner/amazing designer/renovator and not go crazy, but it is feeling pretty crazy. I'll let you know how it goes.

I'm laughing as I think about my overly generous estimates on how much time I would have to write every week. Can you hear me? Because it's pretty loud, and a teensy bit on edge. 25 hours a week, I thought. Too funny.

I try not to get annoyed when life happens, like this morning. Two yearly checkups for the kids plus a snafu with the appointment scheduler (not a mistake on my end, amazingly) means I spent all three of today's precious free hours today at the doctor's office. Grrr. At least we had a whole bag of library books and Eli is well on his way to becoming a member of the celebrated Hundred Book Club. Three hours is a long time to read picture books.

But, an exciting thing- I signed up a while ago at Around the World Blog Tours- it's an ARC (an advance copy) sharing site, and I got the first book today, Hunger by Jackie Kessler. I will let you know how I liked it on Thursday. Around the World Blog Tours is pretty cool- you join the site, pick which books you would like to review, and you get a book in the mail. It's a pretty cool system and an easy way to get ARCs for those of us who can't make it to Book Expo or wherever else it is that people get them. 

Another good thing- the dream that I had where I got my book published by a vanity press, only to have an agent contact me the day the boxes of books arrived (and the covers were AWFUL!) ended up not being real. Whew! I was really really relieved that I wasn't going to have to hand sell them all. It was almost as bad as those dreams where one of my kids is drowning or about to fall off a cliff and I can't stop it. *shivers* Okay, it's not in that league at all, but it was really upsetting.

I've got one partial out right now to an Ms. Agent, someone that Mr. Agent referred me to, and have started a new edit, which I hope to finish up within two weeks. That will be well within the 4-6 weeks Ms. Agent said she would need to respond, so hopefully this won't backfire. I keep thinking it's perfect (enough) and I'm done, but it's not and I'm not.

Have a great day and write a little for me. I have to go finish my child protection training for cub scouts.
Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, September 3, 2010


Twitter paralyzes my brain. I can't handle the limits of 140 characters to express something awesome. I would retweet and get all linky, but the things I would retweet are from my friends, who are already on Twitter, and they're all friends with each other, so there's no point.

I'm overthinking Twitter, I know. I basically lurk, following the agents I'm interested in and some friends and publishing people. You should definately follow me. "Kelly_Bryson" Because I will not be bothering you much, but when I do, it will be scintillating.

Facebook is a little better, but I wonder did I say too much, was I too bland, too many updates, not enough updates to feel connected?

The blog is a lot more comfortable to me, though. Have I mentioned lately how much I adore your comments?

The kids are back in school, and with that comes the infamous parent-child notebook. I try to make it fun and interesting for the kids, but I hold back a little. You know, the teacher might read it and think I'm a nutball, or something. She might not want me to volunteer for field trips anymore.

I didn't hold back last week. I wrote all kinds of craziness to my Lou-lou about what privileges the special student should have, like getting to go to the moon, getting a baby monkey that she can teach sign language to, whatever popped in my head.

My Lou-lou wrote back to me yesterday and told me I was funny. We're going to get some vocab flash cards, and I'm going to keep trying until she tells me I'm scintillating. Maybe I can do this.

How do you feel about the social media part of being a writer? Where are you comfortable?
Glutton for Punishment?