RTW: All My New Favorites

YA Highway often does a "best book you read" for the last Road Trip Wednesday each month, and a lot of us have trouble picking just one title!

So for today's blogfest, they want us to list our "Top Five Favorite Books of 2011" Yay, we get five whole books to list! Many of these titles will be familiar to other road trippers, because they were recommended by me or other participants in posts throughout the year. And I'm a visual person, so I'm including all the covers.

In no particular order (confession: because I couldn't decide how to rank them), here are my Top 5 Favorite YA Books of 2011

I do have a warning included for Scorpio Races in a previous post here.

So what are your top 5? Do you have any recommendations to add to my reading list for next year?

Christmas Bird Count!

Yes, I know today's the day after Christmas, but it's the day selected for the Folsom Christmas Bird Count so that's when we got out to take a tally of the bird species in our area. It starts very early in the morning, but I do not, so I'm going to join my husband a little later in the day.

He's much better at bird identification than I am, but I must admit I'm an excellent spotter. That should give you some clues about our personalities: he will take the time to stay in one spot and confidently identify a single bird. I spot a bird, and then I'm trotting off, "oh, there's another one! and look over here--skunk poop!"

So whatever your plans are for today, have a good one! And may they not involve too much skunk poop.

RTW: Where Do You Get Your Fix?

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

This week's topic: Where do you buy most of your books? No one is judging! (hey, YAH, is this a secret book marketing poll?)

I've found all sorts of places to support my book habit, which started back when my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I worked in a glorious huge independent bookstore. Now our bookshelves line just about every available wall.

We give books as Christmas and birthday gifts, so our favorite fix is the book sales put on by the Sacramento Friends of the Library and the Sac SPCA. I have a dresser drawer that is constantly filled with books for all ages, and whenever an occasion comes up I just burrow into the pile and select some favorites. Many of the books have library markings, but I've also picked up wonderful gift books that don't look like they were even cracked open.

We also have a marvelous book-warren called The Bookery in Placerville, and they are total enablers since we can bring in books to trade for more books. How great is that?

Since our local Borders closed, there aren't any new book shops (though Bookery can order things) within a doable radius. So I admittedly have been buying mostly through our Amazon Prime account, with some supplementary orders from B&N. And, I've been buying a lot more e-books and getting both print and e-books from the library. Anything to make sure this bibliophile gets her fix!

What about you? Have any great book-buying opportunities where you are? Don't forget to go to the comments on the YA Highway RTW post to see everyone else's answers!

Yes, I really am allergic to chicken, so you'll have to enjoy this cool chicken (the graphic address changed, so there's no dancing chicken, sorry) while I draw names (well, the numbers assigned in the order you commented) with random.org.

And the first winner is...

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Kris Atkins, you wanted the Amazon gift certificate, so expect an email later today from me and Amazon!

and the second winner is . . .

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Christina Mercer, you wanted a lovely Faces of Fat Kitty City Calendar, so let me know if you want me to mail it or deliver it!

And winner the third is . . .

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Sophia Chang, you wanted the Amazon gift certificate, so expect an email later today from me and Amazon!

Thank you to everyone who entered, and all the followers that have stuck with me all this time! And if you didn't win but wanted a Faces of Fat Kitty City Calendar, you can still get one through Fat Kitty City.

(name gifs from 123glitter.com)

100 Followers Celebration!

Contest closed! Thanks for entering and check back on Monday to see the three randomly chosen winners!

Okay, so I've been planning on doing a giveaway once I hit 100 followers, and I've been hovering at just under 100 for some time. (And BTW,if you're thinking of doing a giveaway of your own, here's a post on legal things to make you tear out your hair.)

I logged on this morning to do my post anyway, planning on calling it the "Close Enough to 100 Followers Celebration". Imagine my surprise and delight when I peeked at my followers and it showed 101! A big thank you to the Blogger community for sticking with me.

But I'm sure you want me to stop blathering and get to the good stuff: what are the prizes?

There will be three randomly chosen winners from the comments on this post, and each will get their choice of:

A digital or hardcover Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (see my post on it here)

A Faces of Fat Kitty City Calendar; a donation of $20 will be made in your name to get the calendar (see all the pages here)

Or an Amazon.com gift card for $15 and pick out what you want!

Now for the rules:
Unfortunately, this giveaway is only open to U.S. addresses (unless you're able to redeem an Amazon.com gift card or get the electronic edition of SR anywhere--tried to find if you can do that outside the U.S. and the site was vague).

Tweets and shares are always appreciated, but not necessary to enter or win. You also don't need to be a follower, but you must leave a contact in your comment, or have it available through your Blogger profile. My last contest, I had to do a lot of online legwork to track down one of the winners and this time around if I can't reach you easily, I'll pick another name.

Also leave which item you would choose if you win in your comment, please.

The contest will end December 16 at 11:59 PM, Pacific Standard Time, and the winner will be announced December 19 on my blog. I do have an Amazon Prime account, so there's a chance that your prize will get to you by Christmas if it's the hardcover book; I can email the gift card or the code for the electronic edition, so those could reach you even quicker. The calendar will be shipped via media mail; the USPS site says that can take 2-8 days.

Addendum: As a Pay it Forward, I'd like to direct your attention to Christine Johnson's YA Authors Against Animal Abuse auction. Some great swag up for auction from the likes of Carrie Ryan, Cassandra Clare, Julie Kagawa and more. I'm hoping for the Carrie Ryan books myself, but higher bids for the critters are good too!

RTW: I Can See Shangri-La from Here!

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

This week's topic: How far would you go to get published? We writers can form quite an attachment to our characters and stories. But we also know publishing is a business, and sometimes to make it in said business--to really build a career from it--we have to bend a bit. How far would you go to break into the publishing world?

I've been a little spoiled with my freelance articles--I've never been asked to revise them or change them. Reshoot the photos, yes, and the magazines have done some light copyediting but that's it. Pretty sweet, but it kind of established unrealistic expectations about how much revising I would be expected to do because that didn't carry over into fiction.

I lost my first "sale" of a short story when my college lit mag asked me to change the ending and I refused. I did give it some thought, but decided not to do it. Unfortunately, I didn't find out that it killed the deal until they actually released the lit mag, and mine wasn't in there (after I'd told everyone it would be, of course!). So I have no idea if I'd known that, whether it would have changed my mind. And of course, years later, I did change the ending but for different reasons. Aspects of the story changed, and that meant the ending no longer fit. (And I eventually found a home for Hornworms in Hunger Mountain)

Earlier this year while querying, I got a revise and resubmit request from an agent. When she was setting up the phone call to go over her concerns, she let me know they were "not minor". So that sent me into a panic (and I do mean a panic--how a writer's imagination can run away with her!) over what sort of changes she might request and whether I would be willing to make them. Fortunately, they were suggestions that worked for the story and made it stronger, so I was glad that I gave them a chance.

But I do know that there are aspects of my book I would not be willing to change. Usually if a character or plot device isn't working, I spend a bit of time trying to discern whether it's just not working in this form and I can write it differently, or whether it truly doesn't belong in the story at all. And when my CPs give me advice that I don't agree with, I try to examine why they would have made that suggestion. So most of the time even if I feel their suggestion was way out there, I can find the flaw in the passage that made them feel it needed something else. My fix may not be what they suggested in the end, but hopefully I will have addressed the issue.

What about you--how far are you willing to go? Don't forget to go to the comments on the YA Highway RTW post to see everyone else's answers!

Magick 4 Terri Auction

My teen years and young adulthood were shaped by some wonderful fantasy books, many of which had a connection to Terri Windling. She seemed to have her fingers in a lot of wonderful pies (my apologies if that metaphor made you crave pie).

Terri is going through some hardships currently, and some of her friends and colleagues have gotten together with this mission:

"Terri Windling and her family have been coping with health and legal issues that have drained her financial resources at a critical time. Due to the serious nature of these issues, and privacy concerns for individual family members, we can't be more specific than that, but Terri is in need of our support. As a friend, a colleague and an inspiration, Terri has touched many, many lives over the years. She has been supremely generous in donating her own work and art to support friends and colleagues in crisis. Now, Terri is in need of some serious help from her community. Who better than her colleagues and fans to rise up to make some magick for her?

Through the next 18 days, we'll be posting personal offerings from the likes of Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin, Wendy & Brian Froud, and many more! Besides bidding on these beautiful items, YOU can also post your own skills, services, arts, crafts, or whatever else you'd like to offer for auction!"

So if you'd like to help support this worthy founder of so many fantasy elements, go the Magick 4 Terri auction.

I've been quickly outbid on the items I was after, so this is turning out to be a hot auction!

Top 5 Reasons for Me to Lose That Weight

I know I've had the best excuse for gaining weight, but over the last year I put on about 20 pounds. Then in the last few months, I put on another 10 to make it a nice round 30 pounds (and I do mean round, my waist is only a memory). So now that I'm on my way to getting better, I'm determined to try to lose some weight. Here are my top 5 reasons why, in no particular order:

1. I NOW SNORE LIKE A WARTHOG Prior to this, I might have let out a delicate little piglet snort in my sleep occasionally, but now it's at drunken sailor volume. My husband even said that the other night, he dreamt he was sleeping next to a wild animal and woke up to my snoring. Weight gain can definitely promote snoring and sleep apnea, so the warthog needs to migrate on outta here.

2. I'M TIRED OF PEOPLE ASKING ME, "WHEN ARE YOU DUE?" Yes, I know I look like the right age for my childbearing years, and the majority of the extra weight has settled in my abdomen. But it's to the point where I've started giving strangers a made-up answer ("I'm four months along") because it's easier than seeing their embarrassment when I give the real answer ("Not pregnant, just fat, but thanks for asking") So time for that pseudo baby weight to drop.

3. MORE CLEAVAGE=MORE CLEAVAGE I'm not complaining about going up a cup size in my boobs (and my husband hasn't shared any complaints either) but I draw the line at having a cup size in my back fat. Because I've refused to buy new bras, my back fat gets pushed into back cleavage that is showing way too much in sweater season. Time for the back cleavage to split.

4. IF YOU CAN'T BEAT 'EM, JOIN 'EM My mother has been back on Weight Watchers for about 3 months, which means she is obsessed with "points". Every phone call or in-person meeting is filled with a recitation of how many points each item she has put in her mouth is worth, and incredulous lists of how many points the things she chose to not put in her mouth would have been. Despite my gentle comments meant to discourage such behavior, like "Hey Ma, save it for your Weight Watchers meetings and people who care" or "Mom, a list of points does not a conversation make", she still does it. So why not jump on the WW bandwagon and let her do all the points tracking for me?

5. REALITY BITES Last week I started back to water aerobics, and I got the bright idea to step on the locker room scale. And that's when reality hit: it's not the horizontal stripes that make me look fat, it's not the baggy sweater I grabbed out of my husband's drawer that makes me look fat--IT'S THE EXTRA 30 POUNDS OF FAT THAT MAKES ME LOOK FAT.

So if you've decided to lose weight, what's your inspiration?

Faces of Fat Kitty City

I've mentioned it before, but I volunteer at a wonderful cage-free, no-kill, local cat sanctuary called Fat Kitty City where I take photos and mostly do this (while wearing a cat hair smock):

But last year, I started doing a calendar of my favorite digital paintings of the kitties as a fundraiser, and I had so much fun that I decided to do it this year also. Go on over to my other blog, Fat Kitty City Nitty Gritty, for a sneak peek at what this year's calendar holds.

Beauties like this for example:

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving!

RTW: Time for Thanks

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

This week's topic: What writing or publishing-related thing(s) are you most thankful for?

Okay, I do a lot of tongue-in-cheek posts, but this one's going to have some serious stuff seep into it. I'm thankful for all the people (my husband, my crit group, my betas) that support me in my writing life and regular life, because otherwise both aspects could have had some major setbacks in the last year.

This time last year, when I went in for my regular annual checkup at my doctor's I pointed out the lump in my neck and wondered, "Is this supposed to be here, or am I growing an Adam's apple? Cuz as far as I know, I've always been a girl." The doc said, "hmm" and sent for an MRI.

It came back as multiple nodules on my thyroid, probably goiters (there's a word you want to hear in your 30s) or adenomas. So two inconclusive biopsies later and half a year later, I could have a risk of cancer as low as 5% or as high as 30%.

But in the meantime, one nodule had grown some so a total thyroidectomy was recommended. They were so confident that this was all benign that they kept pushing my surgery out to fit in people with more life-threatening conditions. Since I was working on a revise-and-resubmit at the time (yay!), I was totally fine with that.

So I finished the revisions and sent them off a few days before my surgery, and was satisfied that my recovery time would overlap with the agent's reading time. My surgery went well, the recovery was a cake walk compared to the back surgery I had a few years ago, and everything was on track.

Now if you're a writer reading this, did you just have an "uh-oh, that sounds like the calm before the storm" moment? Because it was--after being assured multiple times that this was most likely benign, that phone call where they told me it was thyroid cancer came as a shock.

But the cancer word was cushioned with some (relatively) good news: my cancer had fairly clean margins, there were no indications that it had spread to my lymph nodes, and the radiation treatments for thyca are not as destructive as other kinds of radiation.

And this time they were right: I had my radiation at the beginning of the month, and the scans show no metastasis. So I'm good; no worries for another year, when they will do an ultrasound and check my thyroglobulin.

Went from a thyroid cancer diagnosis to thyroid cancer survivor within the space of a few months, what a roller coaster ride! And along with all this stuff, I had the usual writing drama with revisions, querying, the revise and resubmit requests, and so on. My crit group got a few panicked emails in there, believe me! And my husband had to pick up a lot of slack around the house, so thanks to all of you!

This week, I'm making some more cuts to my first novel, and then back to working on my next book. Onward!

Together we're better - ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association Support Community

What about you--What are you thankful for in your writing life or otherwise? Don't forget to go to the comments on the YA Highway RTW post to see everyone else's answers!

RTW: Rite of Passage Reading

I missed my Monday post this week (thought I had another auto-post queued up, oops) so I was determined to jump on Road Trip Wednesday to make up for it. And lucky me, I actually had something to say on this topic! Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors and followers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination through the YA Highway site and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: In high school, teens are made to read the classics - Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Bronte, Dickens - but there are a lot of books out there never taught in schools. So if you had the power to change school curriculums, which books would you be sure high school students were required to read?

I secretly enjoyed* some of the titles on our high school reading list--in fact, I'd already read most of them. I say secretly because it irked me to no end to be forced to read a book, and then discuss it at length with other students forced to read it and therefore unlikely to contribute anything beyond what the teacher wanted to hear. But the third high school I attended (which happened to be a continuation high school) let us pick from a list of books, and it actually had science fiction titles!

As to books I consider to be required reading for teens, I have two titles that I always give to my teen nieces and nephews as a sort of rite of passage. And no surprise, they're both science fiction.

I've heard from a few charter school students that Ender's Game is on their reading list, and kudos to those teachers. This book raises so many of the big questions for teens like making decisions for yourself, coming to terms with others' expectations for your life, and living with the consequences of choosing to defy or meet those expectations. As well as more everyday, relatable topics like bullying, sibling rivalry, adults that want you to act your age and are disappointed when you actually do. All this, and a fascinating world-building and action-packed plot too.

The second book that I give to teens, especially girls, at age 16 or older would never make it onto a high school reading list because of all the graphic sex. It's not gratuitous, definitely integral to the plot, but it's graphic enough that I give a copy with a warning.

You may not be able to see it in the pic, but the full title is The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Ladies Illustrated Primer, and it truly is a formative book for young ladies. On the surface, it's got some incredible, early Steampunk imaginings (I would totally be a craftsperson for the Vickies, even with the rules) and cyberpunk elements. But it also has a thread of story throughout, with girls finding their own kind of power and honor, and therefore their own paths in life.

If you haven't read this one, put it on your own required reading list! What about you--what books did you hate reading in high school, and which ones would you substitute for the required reading list? Don't forget to go to today's YA Highway post to see what everyone else had to say.

*The exception was Steinbeck; I had this weird brain hiccup in that I loved his stories, but couldn't wade through the actual writing. The Grapes of Wrath has some truly heartbreaking elements, East of Eden has such classic story conflicts, but as a teen I just couldn't get into his writing style. I've done a little better as an adult, but Travels with Charlie and Cannery Row are the only Steinbeck books I've truly enjoyed.

Book Rec: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I don't do reviews, but I do recommend books through the RTW Best Book of the Month posts. Only, I've just read a great book and it's November 3--the end of the month is too long to go without mentioning it! Here's the trailer, which I also love:

What's not to like? Horses, and not-horses, dark legends, a mysterious boy . . . but be warned that there is a healthy portion of blood and violence and peril (people as well as animals, though it's usually the animals that get to me more in books). If you're not sure if that warning has put you off, download the sample through Kindle or whatever app you use. Enough of a taste of what is to come shows up in there that you should be able to make up your mind.

As an aside, I tried to read her Shiver series and had a difficult time connecting with them. Can't even articulate why, but I had no such problem with this book.

Happy Halloween!

To celebrate Halloween, I thought I'd post a tiny teaser from Spirits from the Vasty Deep:

As I was drifting to sleep finally, I felt someone sit on the edge of my bunk and heard a woman softly singing in Spanish. "Mamá?" I called sleepily and reached out. But the hand that clasped mine was cold and dripping, and my nostrils filled with the scent of sodden wool and brackish water. I came awake and scrabbled against the wall, my heart pounding.

The dim light from the corridor showed me I was alone in my bunk. A strange sensation crawled across my skin, over the entire length of my body. As if many spirits were trying not just to talk to me, but to grab hold of me as well. Never had the veil between the worlds felt so thin, not since the haunted room back in the boarding school.

That's when Ruby started screaming, in a long drawn-out wail of horror.

Hope you enjoyed it! Any plans to celebrate Halloween?
We don't even get kids coming to our house any more, since it's on a dark country road.

Minoutaur Books First Crime Novel Competition

Minotaur Books, along with the Mystery Writers Association, is once again running a First Crime Novel competition.

There is no entry fee, but there is an extra step of requesting an entry form by sending an e-mail to MB-MWAFirstCrimeNovelCompetition@StMartins.com, with the following information:
Name of Entrant:
Manuscript Title:

All requests for entry forms must be received by Minotaur Books by email by November 15, 2011. DO NOT SEND MANUSCRIPT SUBMISSIONS TO MINOTAUR BOOKS.

Each entrant will receive an entry form by email containing the address of the judge to whom he or she will send (by regular mail or next-business-day delivery service) his or her manuscript. Entries must be postmarked no later than November 30, 2011 and received by judges no later than December 15, 2011. Winners will be notified March 31, 2011.

The winning entrant will receive an "offer to enter into its standard form author's agreement with the entrant for publication of the winning Manuscript. After execution of the standard form author's agreement by both parties, the winner will receive an advance against future royalties of $10,000. On the condition that the selected winner accepts and executes the publishing contract proposed by Minotaur Books, the winner will then be recognized at the Edgar Awards Banquet in New York City in April 2012."

So if you are an unpublished author over the age of 18, here's your chance at a publishing contract! Good luck to those who enter!

Miss Snark's First Victim & the Baker's Dozen

Two posts in one day! I had the MeeGenius one below queued up for auto post, but I ran across a great opportunity through Monica B.W.'s blog that is time sensitive, so I'm posting this too.

Miss Snark's First Victim is running their 2nd annual Baker's Dozen Agent Auction. No, you don't get to bid on agents--it's actually the agents who will be bidding on your work!

The details:

* $8 entry fee

* Submission dates vary for MG/YA and adult titles, so be sure to read those carefully on the page linked above, but YA/MG is set for Nov. 1 & 3

* Submit your logline and first 250 words of your polished manuscript

* The 60 winning entries will be posted for critique, and hopefully requests from agents in which they bid with the number of pages they'd like to see--up to a full manuscript.

Sounds like a fun project to me; even if you don't experience the thrill of a bidding war, you should still come away with some valuable feedback. Monica says the spaces fill fast (and she got her agent through the last one), so don't hesitate if you're interested!

MeeGenius Contest for Children's Ebooks

News of MeeGenius's contest for authors of children's ebooks (ages 2-8) has been floating around the blogosphere, but in case you missed it here are some of the details from their website:

"MeeGenius is searching for the next great children’s book author, and is extending an invitation to aspiring and published authors to submit a manuscript. Winning manuscripts will be beautifully illustrated, professionally edited, and published online at MeeGenius. It’s as simple as writing, submitting, and having MeeGenius’ online community vote."

The process looks like this:
Submit Your Story by November 1, 2011

Manuscript Voting Round
(November 28 – December 18, 2011)
All of the stories will be posted to the MeeGenius website for review by the larger community. There are two ways to advance through the Manuscript Voting Round:

Popular Vote
Next to each story will be a “Like” button for visitors to press. The stories to get the most “Likes” from the community will go on to the Finalists Round.

Staff Favorites
In addition to the books chosen by the larger community, “Staff Favorites” will be picked by MeeGenius to enter the Finalists Round.

Finalists Round
(January 31 - February 21, 2012)
If you are one of the authors to get into the Finalists Round, your book will be professionally edited, and illustrated, and produced for the final round of voting! Again, your story will be voted on by your peers, fans and family — but this time everyone will see your book with illustrations and showcased on the MeeGenius website, and vote on whether you will be the Author Challenge 2011 Winner!

Winners Announced!
March 7, 2012
Prizes include a publishing contract+cash prize+collection of MeeGenius's ebooks for the school library of your choice

This sounds like a great opportunity to get your ebook published, or at least get some feedback on it! Good luck to those who enter!

Inspired by the myth and reality of Steve Jobs's adolescent years, Andrew Carre has opened for submissions of MG and YA novels about the young entrepeneurial and inventive spirit:

"So, I’m open to novels with main characters who personify this spirit. YA or older middle-grade. No biographies, no thinly-veiled novelizations of biographies. No books that extend into adulthood. Standard genre rules apply. Offer ends 11/7/11. Void where prohibited."

Guidelines are here. This is another very specific "want", but maybe someone has something that's nearly ready to go.

RTW: Writing Travelogue

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

This week's topic: What has your writing road trip looked like so far? Excitement? Traffic Jams and detours? Where are you going next?

My writing journey has definitely had some roadblocks and detours, but the most frustrating part is when I chug chug chug up that hill.

Finally get to the top, start to celebrate, and then realize there's another hill just beyond it. An entire mountain range with meadows dotted with flowers and gamboling critters

and impossibly sheer rock faces with jaggedy bits

But I'm close enough to see the Promised Land off in the distance

What about you? What has your writing journey looked like? Don't forget to go to today's YA Highway RTW post and follow the links in the comments to see everyone else's answer!

P.S. In case anyone was curious, these pix are all my own artwork.

Contest for Chilling Winter Tales

The Toasted Cheese Literary Journal's Dead of Winter Contest for short horror fiction opened October 1 (with no entry fee, yay!). Here are some particulars, but go to the guidelines page for full details:

*Stories submitted to the 11th Annual Dead of Winter contest (December 2011) must use the theme SKULL AND BONES

*The word limit is 2000–3000 words.

*Stories MUST be set in winter.

*Stories must fall in the horror genre. As to subgenres, any is allowed but note that the judges prefer gothic, dark fantasy, erotic horror (PG-13 max), noir, psychological horror, quiet/soft horror, and suspense horror. The judges tend not to like sci-fi horror, extreme/splatter horror, Lovecraftian, etc. Please no creepy children, people who don't know they're dead or overdone "monsters" (vampires, were wolves, sasquatch, etc.). As to gore level, we'd far rather know what's going on inside a character's head than to see it on a pike. We want to be disturbed, unable to shake your story and compelled to leave on every light in the house after reading it.

*The contest opens October 1, 2011 and the deadline for submission is 11:59 PM ET December 21, 2011.

*Email entries to dow2011[at]toasted-cheese.com with the subject line: Dead of Winter Contest Entry

Good luck to all who enter!

RTW: Best Books of September 2011

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

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

I didn't read much this month, at least not many new books. I attempted The Dead Father's Club by Matt Haig, and despite the voice being very similar to the much-enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, DFC didn't hold my interest.

And over our vacation, I treated myself to rereads of the last two books in the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer, in preparation for the release of the next one, The Mark of the Golden Dragon, on October 4. Yay! I predict that title will make an appearance in Best Books of October.

And these are arriving tomorrow, so I'll cover them in October also:

Yes, you might recognize The Replacement from so many RTWs last week--y'all talked me into finally reading it! So enough about what I haven't read this month, and let's get to the book I did read:

Some of you may have read the interview I did with author Karen Sandler back in May, well before the book release this month, so I was excited to finally read Tankborn. It lived up to my expectations, with a detailed world and society, and the spice of forbidden romance. Here's the short blurb: When best friends Kayla and Mishalla, genetically engineered slaves on the planet Loka, develop friendships with higher-status boys, they discover a shocking, evil plot that leads them all to begin to question the strict caste system of their world.

So did you read much this month? What was the best book you read in September? Don't forget to go to the YA Highway RTW post and follow the links in the comments to see everyone else's answer!

Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week runs from September 24-October 1, 2011 and this year one of the events to help draw attention to censorship is the Virtual Read Out, where readers can present excerpts from their favorite banned books.

On the Banned Books Week YouTube channel, you can see people celebrating the triumph of the power of words over censorship by reading aloud from books that have been challenged or banned. There is also this short video with Judy Blume, which has some great points about why people try to sensor books for children and what affect it actually has:

For my contribution to the Virtual Read Out, I chose Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. This book was challenged for its religious viewpoint, variously described as anti-Christian and anti-authority.

The controversy stepped up when a movie was made from the book, which is ironic because the movie neatly sidestepped a lot of the issues of religion and stuck to the adventurous and otherworldly parts of the book. Which were the parts I liked the best anyhow! Don't get me wrong, I did appreciate the discussions which his version of the origins of sin stimulated, but to me this book is a marvelous adventure tale.

So I chose to record a reading of a glimpse into another world from The Golden Compass:

Only a few flubs, not bad! What about you--any special plans for Banned Book Week? Did you post a video for the Virtual Read-out?

RTW: Cover Songs

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

This week's topic: What are your all-time favorite book covers?

As a teen, if a book cover had a horse on it, I was almost guaranteed to pick it up. This meant I read a lot of bad romance novels with artwork done by folks who were savvy to the horse factor in book-buying decisions.

Have you ever noticed just how many historical romances from the 80s have horses on them? It's a formula of cleavage (her decollatage and his pecs), tight breeches, and wildly blowing long hair (and it seems that wind-blown-hair look also appears in YA book covers.), with a horse thrown in somewhere. If not horses, unicorns would do in a pinch, and they more often appeared in SF/Fantasy.

But over time my taste in cover artwork has changed, influenced by my own experiences with painting, sketching, graphic design, and photography. I find that I like covers that are simplistic and graphic-looking

or photographic with a twist

and lush and artistic (still love some of the girls in period dresses but they are becoming overdone and it's harder to make yours stand out)

I'm not much into abstract covers. What about you--what covers have caught your eye?