I am in love with this blog.
About a year ago, I was introduced to Melina Marchetta by the fabulously talented Kristin Miller who sent me a copy of Jellicoe Road and subsequently changed my life.  After falling in love with her brilliant writing, I immediately set out to read everything else she'd ever written.

Fast forward to last week.  I picked up a copy of her newest release Finnikin of the Rock when I was in Missouri for the Missouri Writers Guild Annual Conference.  I read it.  Loved it.  Read it again.  Loved it even more the second time.

At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh in order to save the royal house of his homeland, Lumatere.

And so he stands on the rock of three wonders with his childhood friend Prince Balthazar and the prince's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood. And Lumatere is safe.

Until the 'five days of the unspeakable', when the King and Queen and their children are slaughtered in the palace. And an imposter king takes the throne.
And a curse is put on Lumatere, which traps those caught inside and forces thousands of others to roam the land as exiles, dying of fever and persecution in foreign camps.

But ten years later Finnikin is led to another rock to meet the young novice, Evanjalin. A girl plagued by dark dreams, who holds the key to their return to the Land of light...

Instead of risking plot spoilers, I'm not going to do anything but say If you liked Kristin Cashore and Graceling and Fire, you will LOVE Finnikin of the Rock.
In this remarkable account of the April 20, 1999, Columbine High School shooting, journalist Cullen not only dispels several of the prevailing myths about the event but tackles the hardest question of all: why did it happen? Drawing on extensive interviews, police reports and his own reporting, Cullen meticulously pieces together what happened when 18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold killed 13 people before turning their guns on themselves. The media spin was that specific students, namely jocks, were targeted and that Dylan and Eric were members of the Trench Coat Mafia. 

According to Cullen, they lived apparently normal lives, but under the surface lay an angry, erratic depressive (Klebold) and a sadistic psychopath (Harris), together forming a combustible pair. They planned the massacre for a year, outlining their intentions for massive carnage in extensive journals and video diaries. Cullen expertly balances the psychological analysis—enhanced by several of the nation's leading experts on psychopathology—with an examination of the shooting's effects on survivors, victims' families and the Columbine community. Readers will come away from Cullen's unflinching account with a deeper understanding of what drove these boys to kill, even if the answers aren't easy to stomach.

Dave Cullen's Columbine was one of my favorite reads last year and the most powerful.

Columbine had every reason to affect me on a personal level. In 1999, I was a senior in high school in a suburb northeast of Pennsylvania with a socio-economic background similar to Columbine High School. Parts of the campus look eerily similar. In fact from the aerial shots of the school, the two biggest differences between my high school and Columbine is the amount of windows (our school had none) and the mountains in Colorado.

One of the victims, though completely unrelated to me shared my last name. And like me, she was also a senior, captain of the swim, and taking an identical load of classes. After the shootings, students in my high school, students who were ignorant, insensitivie, and simply immature, wore trench coats to school, called in fake bomb threats from payphones on campus hoping to get a day off from school, and several kids made an effort to point out every eerie similarity between my life and the life of the girl who died in Colorado.

Last year when a shark in my office mentioned how good it was and waved a copy of Columbine in front of me, I had to borrow it. I spent two consecutive nights up too late reading and rereading certain chapters, I have to believe, while it does affect me on a personal level, it should have the same affect on anyone, even those who are too young to really remember Columbine when it happened.

Columbine is now out in paperback with new material, including a 12-page afterword: "Forgiveness." Vignettes on three victims in very different places eleven years later, and the central role "forgiveness" played in their recovery. Plus startling new revelations about the killers' parents and discussion questions.

As a former high school teacher, students, teacher, and administrators should all read and talk about this book.  Prevention starts with awareness.
This weekend I finished reading the latest novel in the Mercy Thompson series (one of my favorite urban fantasy series), Silver Bourne, by Patricia Briggs.

When mechanic and shapeshifter Mercy Thompson attempts to return a powerful Fae book she'd previously borrowed in an act of desperation, she finds the bookstore locked up and closed down.

It seems the book contains secret knowledge-and the Fae will do just about anything to keep it out of the wrong hands. And if that doesn't take enough of Mercy's attention, her friend Samuel is struggling with his wolf side-leaving Mercy to cover for him, lest his own father declare Sam's life forfeit.

All in all, Mercy has had better days. And if she isn't careful, she might not have many more to live...

Definitely a fantastic new installment in the Mercy series.  I was enthralled from the first page until the end.  And of course anyone out there who loves urban fantasy should definitely be reading this series.

Check out the sample chapter.
My Claudia Gray Contest has now officially come to a close.

I'm excited to be giving away a copy of Hourglass the third book in the Evernight Series. After using the Research Randomizer,the winner is...

Shelley. Check out her blog!

Congratulations. I've sent you an email. Send me your address so I can ship out your new book! :)
I just finished reading The Daughters, Joanna Philbin's debut novel (yes, she's Regis Philbin's daughter), and she can write!  I was impressed, immediately sucked in, and I read the novel on a Saturday afternoon on my beachfront balcony (thank you, Emerald Coast Writers Conference!).

Fourteen-year-old Lizzie Summers always expects fawning photographers and adoring fans to surround her gorgeous supermodel mother.  But when Lizzie is approached by a fashion photographer who believes that she’s “the new face of beauty,” Lizzie surprises herself and her family by becoming the newest Summers woman to capture the media’s spotlight.  

In this debut young adult series tailored for younger teens, author Joanna Philbin explores what it’s really like to grow up in the thick of the celebrity world. As Lizzie and her two best friends (and fellow daughters-of-celebrities) juggle normal high school events with glamorous family functions, they discover the pitfalls of fame and the importance of friendship.

CONTEST: One lucky commenter will win a brand new copy of the ARC, the first in a great new YA series.  Gossip Girl fans, this one's for you. Be sure to include your email address so I know how to contact you.

Extra entries:
+1 New followers
+2 If you're already a follower
+1 Linking to my contest on your blog, twitter, etc. Include links. (up to 5)
+3 For posting about my contest on your blog. (Must be actual post)
+2 Add me to your blog roll
+3 for referring someone to the contest
+3 for being the person referred

This contest is open internationally! It will end April 30th at 11:59 pm Eastern time. Winner will be announced May 1st. Good luck and happy entering!
I just got back from the Emerald Coast Writers' Annual Conference in Fort Walton Beach FL where I took pitches on Friday and Saturday mornings.  And it occurred to me, some of the writers could have used a rundown of "What to do" vs. "What NOT to do."

So here it is.


Introduce yourself and say your name when you meet an agent.  (One of the advantages to meeting an agent is that you're getting to know them.  Your name is important.)

Prepare.  Just like a query, start with what your book is about - who's your character, what happens to them.

Write your succinct pitch down on paper and bring it with you.  If you're nervous or have a brain drain, pull it out.  (Reading from a piece of paper is way less embarrassing than staring at us blankly and going "uh....")

Come prepared.  With possible questions.  If you finish the pitch early, you can ask anything - if you can't think of anything, ask about good book recommendations.  We love talking books.


Corner an agent somewhere strange - like the bathroom or a locked car - and launch right into a pitch.  (If you have the opportunity, like you're in the car or a bathroom with an agent, talk to them first - as a person - and then mention your book.)

Pitch to any available agent - research which agent is right for you and your project.  If you have a slew of pictures books and an adult thriller, try to pitch to an agent who handles both genres.  Or when you pitch to the agent, ask them for query recommendations.

Just not show up to a scheduled pitch session.  If for some reason, you've decided you're not ready to pitch or the scheduled agent isn't right for you, go anyway.  You've got the chance to talk to someone in the industry - ask them questions!

Be nervous!  We're love hearing about books!
Dr. Peter Brown is an intern at Manhattan's worst hospital, with a talent for medicine, a shift from hell, and a past he'd prefer to keep hidden. Whether it's a blocked circumflex artery or a plan to land a massive malpractice suit, he knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Pietro "Bearclaw" Brnwna is a hitman for the mob, with a genius for violence, a well-earned fear of sharks, and an overly close relationship with the Federal Witness Relocation Program. More likely to leave a trail of dead gangsters than a molecule of evidence, he's the last person you want to see in your hospital room.

Nicholas LoBrutto, aka Eddy Squillante, is Dr. Brown's new patient, with three months to live and a very strange idea: that Peter Brown and Pietro Brnwa might-just might-be the same person ...

Now, with the mob, the government, and death itself descending on the hospital, Peter has to buy time and do whatever it takes to keep his patients, himself, and his last shot at redemption alive. To get through the next eight hours-and somehow beat the reaper.

After hearing I had to read Beat the Reaper from a friend several times (okay so it ended up being a demand), I got my hands on a copy.  And once I cracked open the first page, I could not stop.  The next night I was up until 2:30 reading and loving it.

In addition to the passage which talks about defenestration, a favorite threat of the wonderful and benevolent mean and sharkly Janet ReidBeat the Reaper has just about anything I could ask for.  The writing is fantastic.  Peter's voice, from page one had me captivated - he's funny, sarcastic, and enthralling - especially in his footnotes, which are brilliant.

Alternating present and past chapters, I was captivated by his backstory, his family history, the involvement in the mob, and especially his love story (more on that next). The "past" chapters were my favorites. The characterization and the backstory feels thrilling (even more so than some of the present hospital scenes), it’s that I-cannot-stop-reading-about-this-guy’s-life, which I think is pretty hard to do. But the way the backstory unfolds, and the way it’s paced – perfect.

I love love love the heartbreaking love story aspect of Beat the Reaper.  It’s just this love story that’s so romantic yet so unconventional – one of those things that if some random person just tried to explain it, it wouldn’t sound romantic at all, yet getting the story from Peter's voice and the way he explains it - again, it’s perfect.

Josh Bazell's debut is fabulous.  I am breathlessly awaiting the follow up - or the movie which is supposed to include Leonardo DiCaprio - whichever comes first.
It's not the only genre I'm looking for.

Keep in mind when you're querying agents, yes you want to query agents who read and like the genre you're writing, but an agent who represents a manuscript just like yours might not want another one.  It doesn't do us any good to have unpublished projects which are going to compete with each other.

So yes I love YA - send me your fantastic YA manuscripts.  I will always love YA - especially literary or upmarket YA with a commercial hook.

But I also love middle grade and adult fiction too - paranormal romance, urban fantasy, science fiction, women's fiction, contemporary romance...

What I'd love to find right now in particular:

A paranormal romance with a fast paced great plot line - something that could be a series (a la JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood Series, which makes me feel a little like an addict...ok a lot like an addict)

An intricate middle grade fantasy series with amazing worldbuilding (no wizards please)

A dark romantic fantasy with an epic cast of characters, intrigue, betrayal, etc (a la Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel Series or Anne Bishop's Black Jewels Trilogy)

A strong female protagonist urban fantasy novel that's not vampires but has a strong voice (like Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress Series)

A fun contemporary literary middle grade with a great commercial hook.

For more info, check out my submission guidelines and FinePrint's website.
You might think this is how @dankrokos got his agent.  You'd be wrong.  Here's the truth: