Friday, June 28, 2013

And the Winners Are...

First off, a big thank-you to everyone who entered and helped spread my news! I really appreciated all the posts, tweets, and status updates. And now for the winners:

Lisa B.

Congratulations! Please e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com so we can figure out who gets what. (Cukki219 will get the first choice, Kimberly the second, and Lisa B., you'll just get whatever's left over--sorry!) I'll be on the road today, but I'll definitely get back to you within the next day or two.

Have a great weekend, all!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

One Small Piece of a Love Story

Sometimes, I worry that I'm losing touch with teen me. That I'm forgetting how monumental those years felt. That I'm minimizing them in my mind, so how will I ever be able to write about them convincingly? But a scene from Lauren Oliver's REQUIEM sparked a memory today that I haven't thought about in years, and since it hit me so forcefully, I thought I'd share it with you.

It was the summer after my junior year. Honey Bear (though I didn't call him that then) had just finished his first year of college. What had started as a tentative friendship eighteen months earlier had steadily grown into love, though not an easy one. We'd both felt strongly that we shouldn't date exclusively, so we hadn't. But as our feelings had deepened, that had proved more difficult. And now we were facing two long years of separation.

Young men in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are strongly encouraged to donate two years of their lives as well as thousands of dollars to go out and preach the word, so we both knew this was coming. We both believed in the counsel and wanted him to serve. But I don't think we expected to be as in love as we were. He came over to say good-bye a few days before he left, and for literally hours, we just sat on the couch, forehead to forehead, and cried. We must have said a bunch of stuff, too, but now, twelve years later, I don't remember a word of it. I just remember the crying, the clasped hands, the feeling that Something was slipping away.

After a while, the phone rang. We both knew it was his dad even before my mom answered. So we kissed one more time--slow and sweet, the only way we knew how--and he left, maybe for the last time. I watched him drive away for as long as I could, until our neighbor's house and the curve of the road swallowed my view, and then he was gone, maybe for good.

It was only one day (just a few hours, really), but that one day is forever stamped on my memory. And every time I think back on it, I feel seventeen all over again.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Belated Book Deal Celebration + Giveaway!

First off, don't miss my guest post for Team Krista alum Mackenzi Lee! She asked me a few weeks ago to participate in "Four Book Friday," her newly minted blog series about four books that changed our lives, and I'd love to hear what you thought of the four books I chose. (If you've read them, of course--and if you haven't, what are you waiting for?)

Next up, the main event! If you were around the blog this April, you probably heard me shouting the news about Steve's book deal from the rafters. Thanks to "The Writer's Voice" (which was also a smashing success), I had to put off some of the celebration, and then I was too busy scrambling to finish Bonnie to blog, but now I'm fresh out of excuses:) To that end, I give you the "Krista Got a Book Deal!" giveaway, which features a few of my favorite series from G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers.

Prize Pack #1
Hardcovers of Maureen Johnson's THE NAME OF THE STAR

I like a lot of Ms. Johnson's books, but THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH solidified this series as my favorite. Plus, it's kind of cool to think I now have TWO things in common with the inimitable Maureen Johnson: an agent and a publisher:)

Prize Pack #2
Hardcovers of Marie Lu's LEGEND and PRODIGY

Here's another case in which I thought the second in the series was even better than the first. Ms. Lu kept me guessing right up until the end, and I'm very much looking forward to the third and final installment, which is slated to come out next winter.

Prize Pack #3
A critique of your query and the first ten pages of your manuscript

Okay, so this one's kind of lame, especially compared to the other two, but I don't think I'll have time to offer a more substantial edit. But hey, you can't just have two prizes in a giveaway; it's got to be one or three:)

To enter, I only ask that YOU BLOG, TWEET, OR FACEBOOK ABOUT THE CONTEST WITH A LINK BACK TO THIS POST. Once you've done one of those things, please LEAVE A LINK TO YOUR POST, TWEET, OR STATUS UPDATE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW and consider yourself entered! (Of course, you're welcome to blog AND tweet AND Facebook, but you'll still only get one entry. The economist in me knows this probably means you'll only do one of those things, but that's just as well. I don't want you to feel like you have to blast your friends and random Internet acquaintances with Krista spam to give yourself a better chance at winning.)

The contest will stay open until Thursday, June 27, at 11:59 p.m. EDT, and then I'll announce the three random winners sometime the following Friday, June 28. The first person selected will get to pick which prize pack he or she wants, the second will get to pick from the remaining two, and the third will just get whichever prize pack is left over. Anyone who lives in one of the countries The Book Depository ships to may enter, so this contest is open (mostly) internationally. Good luck!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Book Recommendation: THE COMEBACK SEASON by Jennifer E. Smith

I don't like cancer books. There, I said it. I think it's just because I read too many of them as an eleven-year-old (all right, I admit it--I was a Lurlene McDaniel junkie), but for whatever reason, I have a hard time getting into them. But then the library didn't have THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE, so to get my Jennifer E. Smith fix, I decided to try THE COMEBACK SEASON. Plus, it sounded like it might be a good comp title for Bonnie, so at the very least, I could chalk it up to research.

As it turned out, the book wasn't very comparable to Bonnie at all, but it was still an awesome read.

THE COMEBACK SEASON follows fifteen-year-old Ryan Walsh, whose life has been less than spectacular since her baseball-loving dad died five years earlier. When she ditches school to catch the first Cubs game of the season, an annual tradition she's overlooked for the last five years, she doesn't expect to bump into Nick, the new kid at her school who apparently loves baseball at least half as much as she does. And she certainly doesn't expect this chance encounter to possibly set her life on repeat, but that's precisely what it does.

I think what I loved most about THE COMEBACK SEASON was its realness. (Have you noticed how I often I mention this in book recommendations?) It didn't feel sappy or overdone, and it never got melodramatic (which, admittedly, it could have). It was just a book about real kids living real lives against the backdrop of a baseball season. Oh, and one of them has cancer.

If you like contemporary fiction or baseball or any combination of the two, you'll probably love THE COMEBACK SEASON. Of course, even if you don't, you should still give it a try. I don't love or even like baseball, but this book and MONEYBALL* almost converted me. Almost.

*Another awesome baseball book I think everyone should read, though this one is nonfiction. It's more about economics than it is about baseball (which is probably why I liked it so much), but it has a lot of real-world applications. You might have seen the movie a few years ago, but not surprisingly, the book is even better.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

(Work-in-) Progress Report: Bonnie

Word count (to the nearest thousand): 67,000
Status: Out of my hands
Attitude: Exhausted

Well, it finally happened. For a few days last week, I officially hated Bonnie. It didn't last long (now I'm only tired of her), but I can confirm there were a couple of moments when all I wanted to do was pitch her over a cliff. Thankfully, I didn't (I think I'm thankful, at least), and now she's safely into the hands of her next round of readers.

I don't know why, but these moments of self-loathing always take me by surprise. At the outset, I expect to love every project for every second I'm working on it. I forget how hard, how painful, it will be (it's kind of like childbirth that way), so when the self-loathing hits, I worry that something's wrong, that I've wasted the last six months or whatever on a manuscript that's going precisely nowhere.

But what I hope I'll remember from here on out is that it's ALWAYS like this. I always decide at some point (usually while I'm line editing) that every project is hopeless, that it's the dumbest thing ever, that I should give up right now. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if I don't hate a project at least once in the process, I'm probably not giving it everything I've got. That's kind of nutty and counterintuitive, but at least in my case, it's also true.

How do you get through those moments of self-loathing? Or maybe I'm the only one who hates her stories at some point...? (Bonus points for using as many parentheses as possible!)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Agent-Author Chat: Uwe Stender and Deanna Romito

I'm pleased to welcome Uwe Stender of TriadaUS Literary Agency and one of his newest clients, Deanna Romito, for another installment of "Agent-Author Chat." Over the last few years, this interview series has become my favorite; I love hearing from agents about the people and projects they're passionate about (and what first brought them together!).

Ms. Romito's answers will appear in orange, Mr. Stender's in blue. We're not focusing on a query this time, since Ms. Romito and Mr. Stender didn't connect through the slush pile, but I'm sure you'll still find her journey informative--and entertaining:)

KV: Ms. Romito, how did you first come up with the idea for TRUTH HEIST?

DR: I’m never really sure how I come up with my ideas. Honestly, I think I take in everything that’s going on around me and somehow it all mixes together so that when it’s finally ready, I can’t stop thinking about it. There was a show I absolutely LOVED called Lie To Me whose main character was a deception expert and it was so interesting and fun to watch. It went off the air two years ago, but I think it planted a seed that eventually sparked the idea for TRUTH HEIST. I remember thinking, “What if a kid could do that?"

KV: Tell us a little bit about your querying experience. How many queries did you send? Did you send them in batches or all at once? Did you ever pull back and revise your query and/or your manuscript, and if so, why did you decide to do that?

DR: Well, this is my second time around with querying and finding an agent, so it was a very different experience for me. I have a lot of agented friends now, I’ve worked with agents in various contests and auctions, and I’ve met quite a few agents in person. All of that made them much more than names on a list for me and I put a lot of thought into who might be a great fit. I sent out nine queries and also received two requests from talking to agents at conferences. It ended up being two small batches--one before my first May conference and one after.

Because I got such a positive response in a fairly short period of time, I didn’t need to revise the query or manuscript. But that doesn’t mean I’m not revising now. ;)

KV: How did Mr. Stender come to request your manuscript?

DR: This is a story of being in the right place at the right time and taking advantage of opportunities. I attended the Pennwriters conference in Pittsburgh and was in the main room when they announced there were extra slots for pitches. (I hadn’t signed up for one when I registered because I wasn’t looking for an agent at the time.) I figured, why not? I’d done my research and knew Uwe Stender was looking for Middle Grade, so I put my name down.

The next day, I went to the pitch session, told him about my story, and he asked for the full.

That’s the short version. The longer version involves a luau, Twitter, and an offer. :) You can read the whole story on my blog if you’d like.

KV: Jumping in to say you should really click that link if you haven't already. That's the entertaining part I mentioned above:) All right, back to the interview!

Mr. Stender, when you heard Ms. Romito's pitch, what caught your attention?

US: I loved the title and the concept immediately.  When she pitched me, I silently prayed that her writing would match the awesomeness of the idea.

KV: Obviously, the manuscript met--or exceeded--your expectations. What did you love about TRUTH HEIST?

US: The concept, the title, the narrative voice, the writing, and there is a character in it called “Sniff” who just made me laugh out loud each time he appeared.

KV: How quickly did you read Ms. Romito's manuscript? Is that pretty typical of your response times on requested material, or do those vary?

US: I started it on the Sunday when I got back from the conference where I met Deanna and I finished it on Monday, which is quite a bit faster than usual, but sometimes I do read a manuscript that quickly.

KV: Ms. Romito, now that you’ve reached the querying finish line, what do you wish you had known when you were back at the start gate?

DR: I have to say that having been through querying before, I had a definite advantage at the start gate. I truly believed that a pass from an agent (I’m not a fan of the word rejection, lol) just meant he or she wasn’t the right fit. Sure, I wanted them all to love it, but if they didn’t, they weren’t who I was looking for. We all deserve to have an agent who loves our work and is excited about getting it out into the world.

KV: Mr. Stender, what querying tips do you have?

US: Have a great hook and grab me with it right away!  Then, make sure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors in the query. 

KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you’d like to share with us?

US: Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.  And don’t take rejections personally.

DR: My advice is to become a part of the writing community and make friends along the way. Chat in writing forums, tweet, participate in contests, comment on blog posts, tell another writer how much you love his/her pitch, go to conferences--whatever you have fun doing. Critique partners and writer friends are invaluable and are great sources of information, advice, and encouragement. Good luck!

Thanks, Mr. Stender and Ms. Romito, for these responses! I think TRUTH HEIST sounds fantastic and certainly hope to pick up a copy from my local library someday. (I'm a library girl, for those of you who haven't noticed...)

Also, I wanted to thank you faithful readers for being patient with me these last few months. I've been on a bit of a revising binge and haven't had as much time for blogging, but now that I've turned Bonnie in (hooray!), I plan to get back to a more usual routine. Until next week!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review: THE HUACA by Marcia Mickelson

Today's the last day of Marcia Mickelson's blog tour for her new novel, THE HUACA, and I'm pleased to be a part of it. Ms. Mickelson and I share a love of writing and BYU football, which means we'd be fast friends:)

THE HUACA follows seventeen-year-old Ellie Cummings, whose mother died six months earlier in a vicious home invasion gone horribly wrong. The police have zero leads, and Ellie's given up hope of ever finding out who killed her mother or why. Then Gabe de la Cruz, the mysterious loner from her history class, insists that he can help. He shows her a hand-carved box that allows him to travel to the afterlife, a place the Incas called Hanan Pacha, and communicate with the dead. At first, Ellie can only see her mother, but as her strength in Hanan Pacha grows, her mother is able to send her images of her final moments, and Ellie realizes the huaca may be the key to cracking the case.

What did I like about THE HUACA? The twist. It genuinely took me by surprise and raised the stakes tenfold. I also thought the bits of Incan culture sprinkled throughout the story were intriguing and well-applied. (In fact, I wish Ms. Mickelson had had more time to develop those!) What didn't I like about the book? The sometimes scattered storytelling. The novel couldn't always decide whether it wanted to be a contemporary, a love story, or a fantastical mystery, and there were a lot of scenes that didn't really contribute to the main plot. Also, it took me a while to like Gabe. When he first introduced Ellie to the huaca, she was (understandably) freaked out, and he used his physical superiority to force her to enter Hanan Pacha. Boys need to know that that's NEVER okay.

On the whole, I thought the book got better as it went and ended up in a surprising place. If you like contemporary stories with commercial hooks, you'll probably like THE HUACA!

In the interest of full disclosure, I did receive a free e-copy of THE HUACA in connection with this review, but as you can see, that didn’t stop me from giving you my honest opinion about the book.