Road Trippy Wednesday: Best Book in October

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: What was the best book you read in October?

Okay, so the photo above has nothing to do with the books I'm going to mention--it's just something I saw on the way home. What appeared to be a large shrubbery merged onto the highway; the pickup was so overloaded you couldn't see the vehicle at all from the back. I had to take 3 photos before I got one that shows a wheel to prove there is indeed a pickup under there.

I thought to myself,"Boy are the Knights Who Say Ni going to be happy when he brings them that shrubbery!"

On to the books: my picks are three books from the same series, Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate. I've already blogged about how I dipped my toe into Soulless and was then sucked into a vortex of do-nothing-else until I had read Changeless and Blameless also, but I'm not sure that counts as a proper review.

I haven't read steampunk very widely (does The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson count? That's one of my all-time favorite books), but as far as I can tell they fit the genre, with the added bonus of vampires and werewolves. And yes, I too am reaching saturation on vampires and werewolves, but I'm always on the lookout for books that put a new twist on the fuzzies and the fangies.

And Gail Carriger does manage a new twist, both with the paranormals and the alternate history/world she has created. The main character's voice is so strong, and it fits her personality so well. I can't wait to read the next book (2011!), even though I thought the third one dragged in places. These are just great, fun reads, with a little bit of sass and spice thrown in.

3 Exciting Contests for YA Novel Writers

Since they've been dropping hints, I expect Operation Awesome to announce their one-sentence pitch any day now. So have that one-sentence pitch ready to go!


Along with the logline (one-sentence pitch), the Guide to Literary Agents blog wants the first 150-200 words of your finished YA manuscript. "Top 3 winners all get: 1) A critique of the first 10 pages of your work, by judge Tamar Rydzinski. 2) A free one-year subscription to" This is the 7th contest he has run, so there might be similar opportunities in the future. No entry fee, but he does ask that you spread the word about the contest and/or add him to your blogroll. Contest is open Oct. 21-Nov. 3, with winners notified "by e-mail within three weeks of end of contest. Winners announced on the blog thereafter." Found via Rachel Allen Dillon


For an entry fee of $15, Gotham Writers' Workshop has a Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest opening on November 1. They want the first 250 words of your YA novel plus the title, and the Grand Prize Winner will have the opportunity to submit an entire manuscript to YA literary agent Regina Brooks and receive a free, 10-week writing course, courtesy of Gotham Writers' Workshop.

The Top Five Entrants (including the Grand Prize winner) will receive a 15-minute, one-on-one pitch session with Regina Brooks, one of New York’s premier literary agents for young adult books. They will also receive commentary on their submissions by editors at Candlewick, Scholastic, Harlequin, MacMillan, Viking, Roaring Brook Press, and Sourcebooks and receive a one-year subscription to The Writer magazine.

The First 100 Entrants will receive a copy of Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks. Winners are announced on Feb. 4, 2011, and be sure to read all the official rules.

For their "grand opening" in September, the blog Operation Awesome ran a one-sentence pitch contest judged by a mysterious agent. They naively said that the contest would end at 50 pitches or the end of September, whichever came first--they had their 50 entries in twelve hours!

I entered fairly early, and kept badgering my critique partners to do the same before all the slots were taken. The badgering paid off for one of those partners when she caught the eye of the agent, Mandy Hubbard. Nancy didn't even win the prize of a full read, just a mention that her pitch sounded intriguing; she still had to go through the query-full-phone call process. (Gaah--I couldn't sleep at all when Nancy told me she'd gotten an email asking a good time to call!)

Well, she ended up signing with Mandy Hubbard and got an agent out of the contest! Here is Nancy Herman's story. So now you know these contests work!

P.S. Operation Awesome has been dropping hints that they are about to run another contest, so be sure to check their site often!

Apples to Apples

YA Highway and friends are at it again for Road Trip Wednesday.

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: what are your comp titles/authors?

This question is bound to come up at some point in the submission process, so it's well worth some thought. But, like queries and pitches, it can be frustrating because comparisons often don't feel like they capture the uniqueness of your book. Makes sense, though--if your book is exactly like another (published) one, why write it? Why would anyone buy it, for that matter?

For YA books, I think mine is most similar to the Blossom Culp books by Richard Peck. Different time period and the protag is younger than mine, but otherwise similar in that Blossom and my Isabelle both communicate with spirits. And those around them react with varying levels of acceptance.

I also think The Historian would be a good comp--except that my book is only about 93,000 words, only a fraction of Kostova's 241,000 word tome. And I'm less likely to use that as a comp anyway because it seems like an overly ambitious choice--sort of like saying "I guarantee this book will be a multi-million copy bestseller" in my query. I've heard not to do that. Or was it that you should do that, I can't remember?

Bryce Bonanza

As promised, here are a few pictures from our Bryce trip. Storms made for fantastic clouds. There are a few more in my scenics gallery.

Soulless Confession

Yesterday afternoon I was all set to post for Road Trip Wednesday, but I made a rookie mistake with the new Kindle:

I downloaded a sample of Soulless by Gail Carriger. Then I read the sample. Then I hit buy. Then I did nothing but read Soulless for the rest of the day and evening.

Laundry? Pfft!
Dinner? Boil some turkey hot dogs and open a can of beans, toss in direction of husband.
Finish the reading for Thursday's critique group? There's always Thursday morning . . .

I know I'm somewhat late to the game for this title (again!) I really don't know why it took me so long to read it, there are so many great elements: vampires! werewolves! steampunk goggles (man am I jonesing for these for myself)! bustles! unseemly wrestling on the settee! witty banter!

What more could you ask for? Exceptional writing, you say? That's there too! And yes, I enjoyed this book so much that it justifies all these exclamation marks cluttering up my post!

Teaser Tuesday, new section from revisions

I've mentioned that I'm working on revisions for Those Lost at Sea and Drowned, and I wanted to post a section I've redone. The original version had Isabelle hearing her father's voice about a month after he'd killed himself (if you're new to the story, she can hear spirits but has renounced her powers after a terrifying childhood encounter in a haunted room) and shutting him out instantly, but I realized I'd missed a good opportunity to shed some light on what kind of relationship they'd had. So I'm trying this out:

Hoping that a good night's sleep would take the strain from my features, I went to bed while it was still light. As I was drifting off, I heard someone whisper my name.

"Papa?" I was still half asleep, but even in my groggy state my father's death seeped into my memory. "No—"

A pressure in my ears, and the voice came again, "Isabelle, listen . . ."

"No, I won't listen." I curled the pillow around my head. "Not even for my own father. That way madness lies, and I can't bear it."

"Filial ingratitude! In such a night to shut me out! Your old kind father . . ." His dramatic delivery ended in a chuckle and I wondered if he'd gone mad.

Despite myself, I sat up and was about to question him when I recognized his words from Shakespeare's King Lear. We'd made a game of it since I was a child—entire conversations trading lines from literary works.

"No, I will weep no more," I said, keeping to the same passage. "The tempest in my mind doth from my senses take all feeling. No more of that."

He must have gotten my meaning that if I let him in it would open the way for other spirits, for Papa did not speak up again. I squeezed my eyes shut and rolled into a ball, and eventually I dropped off to an undisturbed rest.

P.S. go to the Novels page above or click on the Teaser Tuesday label to see more teasers from this book

I had a conversation last week with some friends about emergency food stores, and at the time I realized that I might need to pay special attention to having staples on hand since my food allergies wouldn't let me just go loot some Doritos at the end of days.

Didn't think anything more of it, until I had a dream last night. A dream where the zombies were coming (old-school slow, shuffling zombies) and we were going to have to pack up the car and hightail it to the desert or some other unpopulated place. So I'm running around searching the cupboards, and a whole army of the living dead is coming up the street. At one point, there is an old man trying to chomp my arm through my sweater, and I'm yelling to my husband, "All we have is applesauce! And garbanzo beans!"

Horrifying! Especially because I hate garbanzos--applesauce is all right though. And zombies are bad, of course.

Some highlights from the announcement on Delacorte Press's website:

The prize of a book contract (on the publisher’s standard form) covering world rights for a hardcover and a paperback edition, including an advance and royalties, will be awarded annually to encourage the writing of contemporary young adult fiction. The award consists of $1,500 in cash and a $7,500 advance against royalties.

1. The contest is open to U.S. and Canadian writers who have not previously published a young adult novel. Employees of Random House, Inc. and its subsidiaries and affiliates, and members of their families and households are not eligible.

2. Foreign-language manuscripts and translations are not eligible.

3. Manuscripts submitted to a previous Delacorte Press contest are not eligible.

1. Submissions should consist of a book-length manuscript with a contemporary setting that will be suitable for readers ages 12 to 18.

2. Manuscripts should be no shorter than 100 typewritten pages and no longer than 224 typewritten pages. Include a brief plot summary with your covering letter.

1. Manuscripts must be postmarked after October 1, 2010, but no later than December 31, 2010.

Writers will be notified between January and April as submissions are evaluated by the editors. Final contest results will be announced on our Web site on or around April 30, 2011.

Addendum: They announced the winner on their contest site.

Revision Swamp

Deep in the revision swamp since we've been back from our trip, so I haven't been posting as often. Or trolling my blogger friends' sites, sorry. But the pumpkins ripening in the garden made me feel Halloween-ish and I thought I'd inflict the following videos on you:
P.S. I should warn you that I found these videos as a result of my nephew declaring a "terrible music day" where we all nominated videos in a facebook thread

Agent Pitch Contest on Market My Words

In a similar contest on Operation Awesome, one of my critique partners got an "honorable mention"--which led to a request for a full! This is a great exercise, also, to distill your book into just a few sentences.

Pretty simple to enter on Shelli's blog ; this month's agent is Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency.

Scenic northern California coast? Check! A collection of well-known editors, authors and agents? Check! An entire weekend devoted to intense discussions of your writing and children's writing in general? Time to concentrate on writing without being distracted by all the everyday demands of home? Check and check!

Two separate chances to attend the Big Sur Children's Writing Workshops, one in December (December 3-5, 2010) and one in March (March 4-6, 2011).

I've heard good things about these workshops and the resulting successes, but haven't had a chance (or the funds) to sign up yet. They take place near where my husband grew up in Salinas, so we actually have the option to visit family in the area and get the "commuter rate." But that only knocks off $120 from the registration, alas.