Thursday, January 23, 2014


Without any ado, the winner of my ARC is theoneiwantedtobe!

I don't have a way to contact you, so please e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com with your name and mailing address, and I'll get ALL FOUR STARS in the mail.

To everyone who entered, thanks. ALL FOUR STARS comes out in a little less than six months, so the wait is ALMOST over:) And to everyone who commented on Bonnie's title, double thanks. We're still considering our options, but Bonnie should have an official title within the next week or so!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Help! Bonnie Needs a Real Title

Help! I'm almost finished with Bonnie, and I still haven't come up with a title. I feel like I'm stuck in a bit of a rut, so I thought I'd throw some ideas out and see what you guys think:







I know it's tough to evaluate a title when you have no idea what the story's about, so here's a query-style summary I came up with on the fly as well as the first page:

The Summary When seventeen-year-old Karina Hart gets a text from an unknown sender--at pearl st bridge. its over--she doesn't assume a race ended. She assumes the sender's about to jump. And sure enough, when she gets to the bridge, she finds Matthew Singer, who's standing on the railing, considering the drop. Before their lives went down the toilet, they used to be friends, and Karina sees Matthew as a chance to redeem herself.

Fifteen-year-old Karina Hart knows as soon as she gets home that her sister is dead. Still, she can't quite believe it when she finds Lily in the bathroom, an empty bottle of sleeping pills clutched loosely in her hand. Lily promised her she wouldn't kill herself, and like a fool, Karina believed her. If Karina hadn't been so stupid, Lily would still be alive.

As the front story moves forward and the back story moves backward, Karina realizes why she feels compelled to save Matthew from himself and, more importantly, where she needs to go from here. But knowing and doing are two very different things, and Matthew's life isn't the only one that hangs in the balance. If she can't figure this out, she might lose her mind, literally.*

The First Page I get the text on Monday night, in the locker room at the Y. My phone chirps in my pocket, but I don’t pull it out. My parents would assume I’m either in the pool or on the road, and none of my friends bother to contact me anymore. I towel off my hair, then stuff my things in my bag. It isn’t until I’m trudging out the door, the last one to leave (as always), that I slide my phone out of my pocket. I don’t recognize the number, but the message makes me trip:

at pearl st bridge. its over

A dozen explanations race through my head--a car died, a race ended, someone just had a baby on the side of the road--but the only one that makes sense is also the only explanation I can’t think out loud.

I flick back to the number and remind myself to breathe. The digits gleam in the dim light, but I still can’t place them. The number isn’t in my contacts, and the sender didn’t sign.

Whoever sent the text didn’t mean to send it to me.

At least that’s what I tell myself as I half jog, half stumble across the parking lot to Lily’s car--my car--the car she left behind. For the first time since I inherited it, I have a hard time getting the key into the lock.

“Stupid key,” I mutter even though I know my hands are trembling. As I climb into the car, the only things I can think about are those six little words: at pearl st bridge. its over.

I know it's almost as tough to evaluate a title based on a few hundred words, but if you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them! (And if you have any other ideas for the title, feel free to throw them out!)

*Please note that I realize how vague and mostly unhelpful that third paragraph is. It's just hard to summarize two diverging plotlines in a single paragraph, and since this isn't an official query, I don't want to give myself a headache:)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book Recommendation and ARC Giveaway: ALL FOUR STARS by Tara Dairman

If you've been hanging around the blog for any length of time, you've almost certainly heard me gush about Tara's MG debut at one point or another. I first fell in love with Tara's blowtorch-wielding heroine when Tara entered one of the very first rounds of "An Agent's Inbox"--you can still find her entry in the archives--and I've been stalking following Tara's journey ever since. In the two and a half years since that contest, I've had the pleasure of reading the rest of ALL FOUR STARS, and it was every bit as delectable as I'd hoped it would be:)

Gladys Gatsby, the aforementioned blowtorch-wielding heroine, may know how to make a mean crème brûlée, but she can't figure out how to be the soccer-playing, fast-food-eating, one-hundred-percent normal kid her parents want her to be. When she sets her kitchen on fire with the aforementioned blowtorch, her dreams of becoming a food critic go up in smoke, literally. Gladys may be down, but she definitely isn't out, as she's about to land that dream job with The New York Standard--and they don't seem to realize she's only eleven.

As an on-again, off-again foodie (which is to say that I like eating great food a heck of a lot more than I like cooking it), I immediately gravitated toward Gladys's story, but it was Gladys herself who captured my heart. If I were still eleven (and if she were, you know, real), I'm sure we would have been great friends.

If you like cooking, comedy, or pint-sized characters with gallon-sized hearts, you'll love ALL FOUR STARS. It comes out on July 10, so get those pre-orders in, but if you can't wait until then (and if you can't, I don't blame you), I'm giving away my ARC. To enter, you must have a mailing address in the United States and tell me in the comments what you wanted to be when you were eleven (or, if you can't remember that far back, what your favorite dessert is). Contest closes next Wednesday, January 22, at 11:59 p.m. EST (or 8:59 p.m. PST). I'll announce the winner the next day!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

From Submission to Offer with Meredith Rich

I'm thrilled to start the new year with my interview with Meredith Rich, digital editor at Bloomsbury Spark. I haven't done many interviews in this series, but when Jenny Kaczorowski, who was on my team for "The Writer's Voice" last year, sold THE ART OF FALLING to Bloomsbury's new digital line, I knew I had to get her editor to answer a few questions.

KV: First off, tell us a bit about THE ART OF FALLING. What’s it about, and what did you love about it?

MR: I think I fell in love with FALLING from the moment I read the #pitmad tweet, and then I just crossed my fingers that it lived up to my expectations. I might as well let that tweet speak for itself:

YA - Bria knows exactly who she is - the militant vegan, purple-haired Queen of the Art Room - until she kisses the HS quarterback #PitchMAS

What I love about this book is that it feels so warm, so wistful, and it really breaks out of the typical YA contemporary tropes when it comes to character building. On the surface Bria might look like a stereotype but we quickly get to know that she is anything but. Also the fact that I actually have my own pair of purple Doc Martens didn't hurt.

KV: Jumping in to say I fell in love with FALLING, too, as soon as I read the query, so I know exactly how that feels:) All right, back to the interview!

How quickly did you read Ms. Kaczorowski’s manuscript? Is that pretty typical of your response times on submissions, or do those vary?

MR: I am pretty sure I flew through THE ART OF FALLING after finding it in #pitmad but then I waited for a bit before bringing it to acquisitions, just to make sure that it really stuck in my mind. Response times can really vary for me based on everything else that is going on here at Spark, and the schedules of our team for acquisitions. In preparations for the launch I was juggling a lot and my response time slowed as I was in full on edit mode. Due to the volume of submissions we receive I can only respond if interested in a project, but I try to keep that to a two month window.

KV: After you finished THE ART OF FALLING, did you pass it on to a colleague for a second read? Do you usually do that?

MR: With Spark I have the honor and sometimes terrifying privilege of really being able to fight for a book based on my own judgement. But thankfully, before I move forward with anything I have a great team that reads an excerpt and gives great feedback and perspective, made up of colleagues from editorial, marketing and sales. Incidentally, these folks in my acquisitions meeting are the same masterminds who work on all of our print books as well, so they are absolutely brilliant to work with.

KV: How did you prepare to bring THE ART OF FALLING to your acquisitions meeting?

MR: For all potential Spark titles, I give the manuscript a full read and usually let it sit for a few days. If I can't stop thinking about it, I begin prepping the acquisition proposal, which looks at a variety of factors. I include my pitch for the book, information about the author, a writing sample from the manuscript, competitive titles and their sales. Given that Spark is an eBook line, we also look at an author's digital presence. You don't have to be a twitter maven, but knowing what twitter is certainly helps!

KV: What happened at that meeting? And what might have happened? What are all the possible outcomes?

MR: I would say that FALLING was a pretty easy sell for the whole group. Jenny is fantastic and the book is so easy to love that I think it was one of those, "great, let's do it, what's next?" moments.

It's not always that simple, and sometimes I really fight for books that I love, and sometimes I realize that my team is absolutely right about the flaws in a project and you have to let them go. Sometimes you push for a book and they wind up going in another direction.

One of the best things that I have learned in these meetings and building a line is that not every book that I love is a fit for Spark. You can swoon for something and know that it won't sell, or that a trend is over, or that it just doesn't have enough of a hook, or that there is something similar that has already been published by Bloomsbury. In the end it has to be the perfect combination of a book I love, and something that we feel is timed well with the market.

KV: How did you present your offer to Ms. Kaczorowski, and what was that conversation like?

MR: I made our offer in writing via e-mail, and the only sad part about doing it via e-mail is you don't get to hear the jumping up and down when people accept! Jenny had a few others who were still looking at her manuscript, so I had to wait for a few weeks until I found out that I would be the lucky editor! (See, we worry about rejection too!)

KV: Of course, making the offer wasn’t the end of the road. What sorts of things did you and Ms. Kaczorowski discuss before everyone signed the contract?

MR: We went over the terms of the contract, I clarified a few items, and that was it! I really wanted to make sure she felt comfortable with the terms, especially since she was submitting to me directly rather than through an agent. We also have a great contracts team that is happy to translate any legal-ese, and I completely understand that it is sometimes necessary!

KV: I know Bloomsbury Spark is open to unagented submissions, so what other kinds of stories are you looking for?

MR: I would say right now I am looking for more genre fiction (high-concept science fiction and fantasy in particular) and contemporary romance as long as it has a great hook and feels fresh. We are looking for more male main characters, and also for stories that would do well with an international audience. Right now I am also on the hunt for fun YA/NA romance novellas for various times of the year (think prom, spring break, snowy winter, etc.).

As for my personal taste, I am always drawn to a really strong voice, I love humor, and I am looking to expand our New Adult offerings. I love stories that take you on an adventure and spark your imagination, but also let you get a good sigh-worthy moment in now and then.

KV: What's the best way to submit to you?

MR: You can find all of our submission guidelines here:

Please do include a query and information about yourself including links to your online presence. If I like your submission it makes it that much easier to find out more about you! I am always accepting submissions from agents as well, so if you are interested in Spark and have an agent, please ask them to submit to me directly. 

Thanks again, Ms. Rich, for this helpful information. I've been one of Jenny's fans for a long time, so it was nice to get this glimpse behind the scenes. And for those of you who plan to submit to Bloomsbury Spark in their near future, definitely check out their Facebook page.

I'm also happy to report that THE ART OF FALLING is now for sale! You can purchase it through any of these platforms:

Barnes & Noble
Amazon Kindle
Google Play

Happy reading, and Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Another Movie Review from Honey Bear

We finally saw Pacific Rim, and Honey Bear's review made me laugh out loud. Now, I know a lot of you enjoyed the movie, so let me preface this by saying we did not. The first hour was entertaining, but the remaining HOUR AND A HALF could have used a really solid edit. Like, really solid. So this review totally falls under the category of irreverent and less-than-complimentary, like his review for Eclipse. Enjoy?

Pacific Rim (2013) *1/2 (Directed by Guillermo del Toro)

The film begins with some growly-voiced expository narration that spoon-feeds you all the ridiculous world-building you need to know: “The alien monsters came out of the ocean and destroyed our cities. We built giant robots. We didn’t invest in really big cannons with loads of firepower to put along the coastlines--we invented and then built astronomically expensive robots with tons of moving parts, and barely any firepower (some of them actually use giant swords). And we didn’t make them remote controlled--there has to be people in them. And not just one person, 'cuz they would get a bloody nose. So TWO people have to use them. But since they’re both controlling the robot simultaneously, they have to link to each other psychically and share all their deepest fears and most horrible memories while fighting giant monsters in their giant robots. And we won every fight. Until we didn’t. And now everything has changed…”

We then see the main character, who I will call White Guy #1 (all the white guys in this movie look the same, but after a while you start to tell them apart), and his brother, White Guy #2, fighting a monster, who manages to rip White Guy #2 right out of the robot’s head. White Guy #1 still manages to beat the monster. Fast forward five years and White Guy #1 is approached by his old giant-robot boss, who I will refer to as Black Guy:

White Guy #1: “I can’t go back to being a giant robot pilot. I can’t do that again. Not ever. Not again. Never. I’ll never, never, NEVER do that again.”

Black Guy: “We all die someday. Come die in a big robot.”

White Guy #1: “Okay!”

He then goes to a base in Hong Kong, which houses the last four giant robots left. Luckily, rather than attacking the now-defenseless cities of the world, all the giant monsters that come through the portal make a beeline for Hong Kong. But before any of that happens you get an hour of character “development.” White Guy #1 meets White Guys #3 and #4. They add nothing to the plot but do manage some confusion, as they look just like White Guys #1 and #2. 

White Guy #1 also meets Japanese Girl, who he fights with sticks, enabling him to discern that he is psychically compatible with her. (I assume these stick fights will replace online dating in the future.) Then Black Guy says, “She’s not ready to be a pilot. I’ll never let you pilot a giant robot with her. That’s impossible. It will never, ever, EVER happen.” Then the next morning he’s like, “Suit up, Japanese Girl!” and she’s his new copilot. 

Then some other short-lived story obstacles keep them from fighting more monsters for another twenty minutes. Along the way, nobody obeys a single thing that Black Guy tells them to do. Then you get the second monster fight. Then there is another half hour of nothing (there might have been something, but I probably slept through it), then they have their big last fight. Somewhere along the line the most annoying scientists in the history of cinema figure out some stuff and the guy who played Hellboy pops up acting like a sixth-grade bully. And that’s it. Three big fights in two and half hours. 

Many people who saw this film in theaters said that while the movie was kind of dumb, and the plot simple, and the dialogue bad, they still liked it because…“It has giant robots fighting giant monsters! What’s not to like?!” Well, that argument might have worked on me when I was twelve years old, but these days I guess I expect a little more out of my movies. It’s just Power Rangers with a budget. Power Rangers mixed with Independence Day. With the interpersonal skills of Top Gun thrown in for good measure.