28 February 2014

First Line Fridays: Jen Malone

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.

Today's guest is Jen Malone, debut author of AT YOUR SERVICE, coming August 26.

Jen Malone once spent a year traveling the world solo, met her husband on the highway (literally), and went into labor with her identical twins while on Stevie Nick's tour bus. These days she saves the drama for her books. She is a former Hollywood film publicist and current college professor who lives in the Boston area with her husband and three children and (someday, when she wears her husband down) a pet hedgehog. She lives north of Boston with her husband and three children, teaches at Boston University, and travels the world as a workshop facilitator.

Here's the blurb for her book:

Chloe Turner has pretty much the BEST life. She gets to live in the super fancy Hotel St. Michele, New York City is her home town and her dad Mitchell Turner, concierge extraordinaire, is teaching her all the secrets of the business so she can follow in his footsteps. After helping him out with a particularly difficult kid client, Chloe is appointed the official junior concierge tending to the hotel’s smallest, though sometimes most demanding, guests.

Her new position comes with tons of perks like cupcake parties, backstage passes to concerts, and even private fittings with the hippest clothing designers. But Chloe hasn’t faced her toughest challenge yet. When three young royals, (including a real-life PRINCE!) come to stay, Chloe’s determined to prove once and for all just how good she is at her job. But the trip is a disaster, especially when the youngest disappears. Now it’s up to Chloe to save the day. Can she find the missing princess before it becomes international news?

Sounds like so much fun! Let's get started:

What are the opening lines of your book?
"Oh. Holy. Yikes. 

Pigmy elephants sound like they’d be adorable, but when they look ready to charge at you? Mmm . . . not so much.

I crouch low in the high African grasses, the stalks tickling my bare calves below my skirt and try to hold as still as possible. News flash: not super easy in heels. Even the really short kind, which is all Dad lets me wear."

Oh, I love these! Especially since from the cover, I would have never have guessed the book starts in the African brush...makes me want to read more and discover what happens next!

Where these lines set from the first draft? And if not, how many times do you think you've changed them?
Pretty much, which surprised me when I went back to look, because they usually do change for me. But the first draft opening read:

"Oh. Holy. Yikes.
Pigmy elephants may sound adorable, but when they look ready to charge at you… not so much on the cuteness factor"

Why do you think this opening is perfect for your novel?
Although it sounds like she's in Africa, as the scene progresses it becomes clearer that Chloe is actually inside an exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, borrowing a rare headdress so that one of the guests at her hotel can have an authentic tribal wedding, despite the very glittery NYC locale. I wanted to start by showing one of the truly bizarre things her job as Junior Concierge for a posh NYC hotel might require of her, but also give it a setting where kid have to sort of puzzle out what the heck is going on. I thought the museum might capture kid's imagination and let them know we're about to go on an adventure all around NYC. 

Ok, now I love them even more!

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

Well who doesn't love Charlotte's Web's "Where's Papa going with that ax?"? Clearly some drama is going to follow that first line. But I actually like when the first line makes me laugh and shows great voice, because then I instantly know I'm in for some fun. I recently read Tracy Martin's ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE OF MY HEART and the first lines made me legit laugh out loud: 

"Some people are like a venereal disease. Not that I know what one is like firsthand, thanks, but I did have to sit through health class. My point is, these people are the product of a moment of fun in your past, a wild and crazy passion that you look back on with longing and regret. And just when you think they're gone for good, they return to irritate the hell out of you." Love it!

Oh, I haven't read that one...but how could you not want to after a line like that?
Thanks so much for joining us!

Be sure that you head on over to Twitter and follow Jen @jenmalonewrites

And don't forget to Preorder At Your Service!

21 February 2014

First Line Fridays: Sashi Kaufman

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.

Today's guest is Sashi Kaufman, the author of THE OTHER WAY AROUND coming MARCH 1 from Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner Books.

Sashi is a middle school English and science teacher who lives in Portland, Maine with her husband and daughter. She is also an amateur trash picker. She loves Maine and believes that ice cream is a vitamin.

(who doesn't?)

Her debut novel, THE OTHER WAY AROUND, was an ALA Booklist starred review. They wrote, 

"Often frank, other times startling, always filled with the familiar wanderlust 
most every teen experiences, this book has wheels.

That's a freakin' fabulous review, right? Here's the blurb:

Andrew West goes to an all-girls school and he still can’t get a date. If that’s not bad enough, his Mom is the headmaster. Everyone seems to have the wrong idea about Andrew. His teachers think he’s a good student who doesn’t apply himself -he really is trying. The kids at his old school thought he was a goth. His cousin Barry thinks he’s gay.

When his Thanksgiving break goes tragically awry he decides to run away. He catches a ride with a strange group of older teenagers. The Freegans are street performers and dumpster divers. As Andrew travels the country with his new friends he leaves behind the expectations of others and discovers what he expects of himself.

Sounds awesome! Let's get started:

What are the opening lines of your book?
“When do girls fart? I know guys let it fly basically all the time. Any time it’s funny, when they feel like it, as a weapon, to clear a room. But girls don’t seem to do this. In fact, if anything, girls seem a lot more attuned to avoiding anything that smells bad.”

I've read a lot of first lines, but these had me smiling.  Especially as the mom of two boys...

Where these lines set from the first draft? And if not, how many times do you think you've changed them?
I’m pretty sure these have always been the first lines of my book. 

Why do you think this opening is perfect for your novel?
My main character starts out as one of a handful of boys at an all-girls school. This seemed like the perfect way to introduce something he might be thinking about in that situation. Plus I feel like it gives you a sense of his voice and his role as the consummate observer.

Give us your favorite opening line(s) from a favorite book, and tell us why you love them:
“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch.” 

This is the opening line to John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. This book is one of my favorites and it’s also another road trip novel –one of the best in that sub-genre. I think the urge to “be someplace else” is one that many adolescents can relate to!

Oh, I love that! This is from one Steinbeck I haven't read... though, after The Grapes of Wrath, I'm always a little hesitant to start a Steinbeck. Luckily. East of Eden mostly cured me of that.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Sashi! And good luck with your release next week!

Be sure you head over to Twitter and follow Sashi @sashikaufman
Head on over to Goodreads and give THE OTHER WAY AROUND some Goodreads Love

And don't forget to pre-order The Other Way Around (Fiction - Young Adult)

Anyone Want A Query Critique?

I'm thinking about doing a free query critique for the first of the month. I'm kind of a query ninja. Plus, I was an editor for Samhain and an intern at Entangled, so I have a LOT of experience reading slush.

I'll do a drawing for one person, and they'll get a full critique on the blog on March 1.

If you're interested, enter the drawing!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

14 February 2014

First Line Fridays: Whitney A. Miller

Welcome back to First Line Friday.

Today's Guest is Whitney Miller, author of The Violet Hour, coming March 8 from Flux Books.

Each Friday I invite a guest author to share the opening line from their book and their favorite books. 

Whitney A. Miller lives in San Francisco with her husband and a struggling houseplant. She’s summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, ridden the Trans-Siberian rails, bicycled through Vietnam, done the splits on the Great Wall of China, and evaded the boat police in Venice. However, her best international adventures take place on the page.Whitney is represented by Jennifer Laughran at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Her upcoming The Violet hour has been called a "delicious thrill ride" and Kirkus reviews calls the premise "interesting" and "gruesome."

Gruesome? Sounds like a fun Valentine's day! So let's get started:

What are the opening lines of your book?

Purity. Death.

Our train neared Harajuku Station. A frisson of electric anticipation rolled through our group. Pressed between the throng of mid-day commuters, the Ministry kids trembled like grape clusters on the vine. All of us had reason to be nervous, but only I had reason to be afraid.

Oh, these are great! Right from the beginning we get chills!

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

They're not exactly the same, but this was always the opening scene. I was at a writing retreat when I wrote the first pages of the first draft. Someone threw out a challenge - first person to use the word "frisson" and get it in a published draft wins, so I tossed it in there as a joke. But then I liked it and it stuck! (P.S. I win!)

I hope it was a huge prize!

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

I love these lines because they create the promise of the book - high anxiety, foreign adventure, something dark and dangerous lurking just out of reach!

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

"Walking to school over snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day. It seemed like just another Monday, innocent but for its essential Mondayness, not to mention its Januaryness." - Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone

I love these opening lines for SO many reasons. I mean, snow-muffled cobbles? Hello, genius. And don't even get me started on Mondayness and Januaryness! More important than the clever use of language, though - these lines create a contract with the reader. This is going to be a blue-gray trip through some magical contradiction. Beautiful yet horrible. Dark yet light. Fun yet frightening. Taylor infuses these words (and all the rest!) with such layered feeling that you simply must pause and admire. 

These are some of my favorite, too. Taylor's imagery in the opening scene is just so lush and the irony of the utterly normal Monday that starts off such a fantastical adventure for Karou is brilliant. Plus I love inventing words.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Whitney!

Be sure to add The Violet Hour to your Goodreads shelf! And check out Whiteney's Website.

And don't forget to PREORDER The Violet Hour

10 February 2014

A Confession...

Today I'm over at Tangled Up In Words blogging about identifying as a writer:

I love reading other people's path to publication stories. I love seeing how there are so many different paths and so many different types of writers out there. But I have a confession: sometimes, these stories make me feel like an interloper. Sometimes they make me wonder what I'm doing.

You've probably all read them, the I've Always Known I've Wanted to Be a Writer Since FOR-EVER stories.

Mine isn't one of those.

The I've Always Been a Creative Type/Artist/Marcher to the Beat of My Own Drummer stories.

Mine isn't one of those either.

Here's the thing--I never thought about being a writer. Even back when people learned that I'd decided to drop the poli-sci/pre-law major and only go with English, I'd get the question, "Oh, so you want to be a writer?" My answer was the same. "No," I'd tell them. Just no.

Because I was reading writers and didn't have enough self-confidence or ego or Chutzpah to eventhink "Yes, maybe."

Maybe once, back in eighth grade when I learned that S.E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders when she was a teenager, maybe then I thought about being a writer...for like five minutes.

Read More HERE

07 February 2014

In Which I Take A Hater to Task

It’s happened yet again. Another writer has published another essay in another major paper about how Young Adult literature is so very bad for Literature (with a capital L).

Pardon me while I roll my eyes.

The latest offering, Michelle Dean’s “Young Adult Dystopia,” was published on January 31st in the New York Times. No, I don’t care to include a link. No sense driving any more traffic that way. 

The essay makes the usual moves: lamenting the lack of originality in the literature, citing from a few narrow examples, generally critiquing the level of writing. In some ways, it’s nothing new. Actually, in pretty much every way, it’s nothing new. The fact that The Grey Lady continues to devote space to an argument that has already been made (and refuted) and made again (and refuted again), however, makes all the parts of me seethe. The writer. The reader. The scholar. The professor.

So bear with me, dear reader, as I refute these charges against Young Adult literature once more, using all of the many caps I wear.

Let us start with the me that is a writer. Well, to be quite honest, this part of me thinks that it might be better to say nothing at all. To sit quiet and play nice and let the whole mess blow over, but then I see that Ms. Dean seems to think that all of New York Publishing is out tracking downevery young person with an aspiration to write a dystopian or fantasy epic.” I was unaware that this was occurring. Perhaps I should do something to make myself more conspicuous. A flare perhaps? An ad in the Times? Perhaps my strategy for becoming a published author has been wrong all along.

After all, as Ms. Dean insists, the pressure to find the next Hunger Games seems to have created “a blunt carelessness in selecting and editing new work for publication.” The thoughtful editors who have kindly had to pass on my work for very specific reasons might say otherwise, but who are we to ask them? It is not as though we expect our news sources to actually use sources or do research any longer. And, yes, I realize Ms. Dean’s piece is one meant for the Opinion Pages, but one would assume that fact would hold court there as well.

But these thoughts, I’m sure, are nothing more than the writerly side of myself feeling a bit down—and perhaps jealous?—of the success of others.

Well, then. Let us go on, shall we?

First-Line Friday!

It's probably the hardest thing to get right--the first line of a book.

I know I can't really start writing until I know what it is, and if I start writing before I know what it is, everything's a mess. Because the first line sets up the tone, introduces the character and the character's voice, introduces you to the setting, and also, usually, serves as the first bit of exposition. It's a powerhouse all in a handful of words.

And a good first line is memorable. A first time hooks you and pulls you into the story with a hundred questions of why? and what? and fingers grabbing for more. Those lines that make you turn the page...

We all have our favorites:

Call me Ishmael.  (not my favorite, btw)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I am an invisible man.

124 was spiteful. (maybe my favorite)

All this happened, more or less.

Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. (no, wait. THIS is my favorite)

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall. (dammit, this one's good, too)

You better not never tell nobody but God. (ahhhh!!!  Can't. Pick. Just. One.)

You probably recognize quite a few, right? These all come from classic literature. But great first lines aren't just for the classics:

I am a coward.  Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she'd been told that she would kill her true love. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I am Josephine Darly, and I intend to live forever. Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

I know I'm not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The list could go on and on... And on and on some more.

I'm designating Fridays for first lines here on this blog, and I have an amazing lineup of writers who are going to be sharing their first lines from their first book and their favorite first lines of all time:

Whitney Miller
Sashi Kaufman
Jen Malone 
Kate Hannigan
Lisa Cocoa
Skila Brown
Christina Farley
Rebecca Petruck
Marie Langer
Kate Ormand
Lori Lee
Rin Chupeco

And more!!

Be sure to check back on Fridays to see what these authors have in store. And be sure to leave a comment and tell me what your favorite first line is... I'm always up for some inspiration.