12 September 2014

First Line Friday- Joshua Bellin

Today's First Line Friday Guest is my fellow Fall Fourteener, Joshua David Bellin, author of SURVIVAL COLONY 9.

In a future world of dust and ruin, fourteen-year-old Querry Genn struggles to recover the lost memory that might save the human race.

Querry is a member of Survival Colony Nine, one of the small, roving groups of people who outlived the wars and environmental catastrophes that destroyed the old world. The commander of Survival Colony Nine is his father, Laman Genn, who runs the camp with an iron will. He has to--because heat, dust, and starvation aren't the only threats in this ruined world.

There are also the Skaldi.

Monsters with the ability to infect and mimic human hosts, the Skaldi appeared on the planet shortly after the wars of destruction. No one knows where they came from or what they are. But if they're not stopped, it might mean the end of humanity.

Six months ago, Querry had an encounter with the Skaldi--and now he can't remember anything that happened before then. If he can recall his past, he might be able to find the key to defeat the Skaldi.

If he can't, he's their next victim

So let's get started!
What are the opening lines of your book?

Survival Colony Nine starts with a single word of dialogue, the name of my main character: “Querry.” The word is spoken by Querry’s father as he wakes his son in the middle of the night during an attack on their camp. Here’s a little bit more:


My dad’s voice in the dark.

“Son.  Come on.  Time to get moving.”

His hand on my shoulder, shaking me from sleep.

“Querry.  On your feet.  Now.”

I opened my eyes to more darkness and my dad’s shadowy shape filling the tent.  I couldn’t make out his face, but I could hear his quiet breath.  There was no urgency in his voice, there never was, but I knew this was for real.

Were these lines set from the first draft? And if not, how many times do you think you've changed them?

You’d think that with a single word, nothing would have changed, right? Wrong! I never changed the idea of using a single word of dialogue to open the book, and the lines that follow that word remained almost exactly the same from first draft to final version. But the word itself changed many times. In the first draft, the word was “Son.” In a later draft, the word was “Hey.” Before I’d fully established the characters, their speech patterns, and the way they related to each other, I even experimented with “Boy.” But in the end, I decided the main character’s name was the right choice.

Why do you think this opening is perfect for your novel?

A couple reasons. First, Querry is an amnesiac, so I wanted to open the novel abruptly, in a disorienting way, with the reader knowing no more about what’s going on than he does. But also, for reasons I can’t delve into without giving away major surprises, it’s important that the first word in the book is Querry’s name. And that’s all I’m going to say about that!

Give us your favorite opening line(s) from a favorite book, and tell us why you love them:

Can I give two? My first would have to be from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” I love the rhythm of the language, and also how this line sets up so many questions: “What’s a hobbit? Why do they live in holes? What’s interesting or special about this particular hobbit?” I also love the opening line from Roger Zelazny’s sci-fi/fantasy novel Nine Princes in Amber: “It was starting to end, after what seemed most of eternity to me.” I love the mystery (What’s “it”? Why is “it” starting to end?), and I also love how this line throws the reader right into the narrator’s experience. Zelazny’s narrator is an amnesiac too, and we’re immediately as confused as he is. Who knows--maybe that’s where I got the idea for the opening lines of my book!

Love it! 
SURVIVAL COLONY 9 is out September 23!!
Be sure to ADD it on Goodreads and PREORDER your copy now!

04 April 2014

First Line Fridays: Skila Brown

Hi everyone!

Today's First Line Friday guest is Skila Brown, author of CAMINAR.

Skila Brown is the author of Caminar, a story about a boy who survives the massacre of his village and must decide what being a man during a time of war really means. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee, lived for a bit in Guatemala, and now resides with her family in Indiana.

Here's the blurb:

Set in 1981 Guatemala, a lyrical debut novel tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war.

Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet—he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist.

Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.

Sounds wonderful, right? It gets better! CAMINAR is a novel in verse. Can't wait to hear the first lines!

What are the opening lines of your book?
Where I'm From

Our mountain stood tall,
like the finger that points.

Our corn plants grew in fields,
thick and wide as a thumb.

Our village sat in the folded-between,
in that spot where you pinch something sacred,

to keep it still.

Our mountain stood guard at our backs.
We slept at night in its bed.

Where these lines set from the first draft? And if not, how many times do you think you've changed them?
I write out of order, so it took me a few drafts to settle on which poem would be the opening poem. But the poem itself didn’t change a lot from draft to draft.

Why do you think this opening is perfect for your novel?
It sets the right tone—a tone that carries itself throughout the book and becomes especially strong in the ending.

Give us your favorite opening line(s) from a favorite book, and tell us why you love them:
Oh, at least five good ones come right to mind! Like, from Ruta Sepetys’s Out of the Easy, “My mother’s a prostitute.” But since I’m talking about setting a tone in a book, I’ll go with M.T. Anderson’s Feed which has such a memorable first line: “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.” The grammar and structure of that sentence is perfect. Matches the novel’s tone to a T. 

Thanks so much for joining us! CAMINAR is out in stores now, so be sure to go buy yourself a copy!

02 April 2014

Cover Reveal for Sarah Harian's A VAULT OF SINS

So one of my agent sisters, Sarah Harian has a new book coming out, and the cover is...in a word... HOT. And today I get to help share it with the world!!

 Sarah Harian grew up in the foothills of Yosemite and received her B.A. and M.F.A. from Fresno State University. When not writing, she is usually hiking some mountain or another in the Sierras, playing video games with her husband, or rough-housing with her dog.

Author links:

In her stunning New Adult debut, The Wicked We Have Done, Sarah Harian introduced readers to the Compass Room: a twisted experimental jail where the guilty and the innocent suffer alike. But breaking out was only the beginning…

Even though she’s escaped, twenty-two-year-old Evalyn Ibarra is anything but free. She’s desperate to return to a life that no longer exists, but prying reporters continually draw her back into nightmarish memories, using the tabloids to vilify her. Bad press is the last thing she needs during the trial of the year: the case that she and her fellow survivors staked against the Compass Room engineers. A case that could terminate the use of the inhumane system forever…

But in her dreams, she is still locked in that terrifying jail.

When she wakes, someone is trying to communicate with her in secret, through strange and intricate clues. As Evalyn follows their signs, she uncovers a conspiracy that goes so much deeper than her own ordeal. A dangerous intrigue that only she can bring to light. One that will force her to work with the one person she doesn’t want to see.

The person who owns her heart…

So are you ready to see the cover?? ARE YOU!?

Scroll down!













A Vault of Sins by Sarah Harian 
(Chaos Theory #2) 
Published by: Intermix (Penguin)
Publication date: September 2014
Genres: New Adult, Thriller

28 March 2014

First Line Friday: Chris Struyk-Bonn

Welcome Back to First Line Friday.

Each Friday, I invite a guest author to share the opening line from his or her upcoming release and a favorite book. 

This week, my guest is Chris Struyk-Bonn, author of WHISPER.

Here's the Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Whisper, who has a cleft palate, lives in an encampment with three other young rejects and their caregiver, Nathanael. They are outcasts from a society (in the not-too-distant future) that kills or abandons anyone with a physical or mental disability. Whisper’s mother visits once a year. When she dies, she leaves Whisper a violin, which Nathanael teaches her to play. Whisper’s father comes to claim her, and she becomes his house slave, her disfigurement hidden by a black veil. But when she proves rebellious, she is taken to the city to live with other rejects at a house called Purgatory Palace, where she has to make difficult decisions for herself and for her vulnerable friends.

Sounds amazing!! And that cover... GORGEOUS!
So let's get started:

What are the opening lines of your book?
On the very first day of my existence, hands pushed me into the cold water and held me down, waiting for me to drown, but even then I was quiet and knew how to hold my breath. ~Whisper Gane

Were these lines set from the first draft? And if not, how many times do you think you've changed them?

Honestly, I have no idea how many times I have changed those lines, but it is many. The lines actually make up a prologue to the story and my writing group and I got into quite the discussion concerning the benefits and drawbacks to using prologues. My group members claimed that it felt like a cheat sometimes, a catchy opening that had little to do with the book or had been stolen from a critical moment and then tossed up front to hook the reader. The other side of the argument was that it could reveal something new about the character and was relevant to the plot. I think that my prologue does this – it tells the reader that the main character has had a tough life, has battled to find success, and yet does this in a quiet, determined manner. That’s Whisper.

Why do you think this opening is perfect for your novel?
I like this opening because it doesn’t feel like a cheat to me – it feels like a revelation. We begin to know something about the character right in the opening lines and immediately the reader establishes expectations about the main character, a quiet character who is determined and knows how to fight her battles through grit and resolve.

Give us your favorite opening line(s) from a favorite book, and tell us why you love them:
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. ~Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye

After reading these opening lines, who wouldn’t want to dig further into the book and figure out who this kid is? Right from the start we know he’s caustic, sarcastic, critical, and he’s not going to waste the reader’s time with unimportant details. As a reader, that’s an invitation that’s difficult to refuse, and I certainly didn’t refuse that invitation when I was nineteen and encountered Holden for the first time. He captured my attention and his view of the world felt so honest and true, that I’ve loved him ever since.

Thanks so much for joining me today!

Be sure to check out WHISPER-- it's out on April 1st!

26 March 2014

Women and YA: In Defense of Romance

Recently, Kelly Jensen wrote a really fabulous essay for Book Riot called "A Censored History of Ladies in YA Fiction." In it, she makes a wonderfully compelling argument for the history of women in the genre of YA by tracing S.E. Hinton's first book through Judy Bloom and onward to some of the innovative women writing fiction for young adults. Her evidence is stark, compelling. She points out the real ways women have routinely been censored for telling the stories that concern women. As a result, in a genre were, number-wise, women should be on top, the opposite is more often true

"Even in a world where women do publish in heavier numbers than men do, they are underscored, underseen, and undervalued. Twilight is and will remain a crucial part of YA’s history — YA’s female-driven history — despite or in spite of the fact it doesn’t garner the same praises that those held up as idols within the community do. Men like John Green become symbols of YA’s forward progress and Seriousness as a category, whereas Stephenie Meyer gets to be a punchline."

What I love about Jensen's piece is that it directly challenges the notion that "genre" fiction should exist on the periphery.

But also recently, I was really kind of startled to see an exchange on Twitter that seemed to be in response to (and support of) this essay, and at the same time seemed to be repeating much of the cultural values the essay is so very carefully critiquing.

Sarah Dessen, whose work Jensen cites and who has been so important to the growth of realistic YA contemporary fiction, made some really interesting remarks on Twitter. Someone has Storified them, if you want to check them out: http://storify.com/sarahdessen/rant

Basically, Dessen talks about the experience of being in a book store and finding her books were not stocked in Teen Fiction or Realistic Fiction but in Teen Romance.

There's something about this exchange that bothers me, but let me start by saying that Sarah Dessen has every right to say that her books don't belong shelved in "Teen Romance." In fact, I'd agree with her, though not for the reasons she lists. While her books do have love stories, they do not always focus on that romantic relationship in the ways that a traditional Romance would. In terms of genre, I'd absolutely agree the shelving was off in this case.


It's the way that she subtly talks about why this shelving bothers her that bothered me. It's in the way the syntax of her sentence separates "YA Novels" and "YA Romance."

Let me be clear: I do not think Sarah Dessen was in any way consciously attempting to put down or belittle Romance as a genre. I don't think it was her intention to make Romance seem like something "less" than what she writes.


21 March 2014

First Line Fridays: Lisa

Welcome back to first line Friday!

Each Friday, I invite a guest author to share the opening line from his or her upcoming release and a favorite book. I was out of town, and didn't manage to get last week's up in time, so you get two this week!

Today's guest is Lisa Colozza Cocca, debut author of PROVIDENCE, which just came out this month! 

Here's the blurb:

The eldest of ten children on a dirt-poor farm, Becky trudges through life as a full-time babysitter, trying to avoid her father’s periodic violent rages. When the family’s barn burns down, her father lays the blame on Becky and her own mother tells her to run for it. Run she does, hopping into an empty freight car. There, in a duffel bag, Becky finds an abandoned baby girl, only hours old. After years of tending to her siblings, 16-year-old Becky knows just what a baby needs. This baby needs a mother.  With no mother around, Becky decides, at least temporarily, this baby needs her. When Becky hops off the train in a small Georgia town , it’s with baby “Georgia” in her arms. When she meets Rosie, an eccentric thrift-shop owner, who comes to value and love Becky as no one ever has, Becky rashly claims the baby as her own. Not everyone in town is as welcoming as Rosie though. Many suspect Becky and her baby are not what they seem. Among the doubters is a beautiful, reclusive woman with her own terrible loss and a long history with Rosie. As Becky’s life becomes entangled with the lives of the people in town, including a handsome boy who suspects Becky is hiding something from her past, she finds her secrets more difficult to keep.  Becky should grab the baby and run, but her newfound home and job with Rosie have given Becky the family she’s never known. Despite her guilt over leaving her mother alone, she is happy for the first time. But it’s a happiness not meant to last. When the truth comes out, Becky has the biggest decision of her life to make. Should she run away again? Should she stay—and fight? Or lie? What does the future hold for Becky and Georgia? With a greatness of heart and a stubborn insistence on hope found in few novels of any genre, Providence proves that home is where you find it, love is an active verb, and family is more than just a word.

Sounds great!
Let's get started:

What are the opening lines of your book?
I first met Baby Girl in a freight car.
I was carrying a bag.
She was sleeping in one.

Where these lines set from the first draft? And if not, how many times do you think you've changed them? 
The lines were in the first draft,  but they weren't the first lines. I had a critique of the first draft at a SCBWI event. The editor suggested I start the book at that point. It has been the book's opening lines since then.

Why do you think this opening is perfect for your novel? 
They establish the theme of providence and destiny. They also draw a quick picture of the characters.

Give us your favorite opening line(s) from a favorite book, and tell us why you love them.
One of my favorite openings is the first line from Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo:

"My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni and cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog."

Why? The line gives a firm idea of who India Opal Buloni is and establishes her voice beautifully.

Find Lisa Colozza Cocca online:

Don't forget to order Providence