Month: February 2016

Pitch Madness 2016 Mario Kart Edition!

My dear friend Brenda Drake is hosting a contest called Pitch Madness. This year’s game is Mario Kart!

This Friday, February 26th, from 12:01 AM to Midnight EST, she will have a submission window open for anyone who would like to enter.

From Brenda’s own site:

Pitch Madness is a contest to win a request from one or more of the amazing agents listed in this post.

Sixty finalists move to the agent round. Pitch Madness will accept Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult completed and polished fiction, novel length manuscripts only. No non-fiction. One entry per writer.

For details about the contest and how to enter, go to this post. Good luck!

All the twitter fun will be happening on the hashtag #PitchMadness!

I Just Read . . . The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

This book’s most impressive aspect for me was characterization. Even when I wondered here and there about certain aspects mentioned below, the characters were so compelling I couldn’t help myself. I did extra chores just so I could finish listening to the end on audible.

The Kirkus Review says . . .

The challenge? Surviving the genocide of the human race when aliens attack Earth in the not-too-distant future.

Sixteen-year-old Cassie, her brother Sam and her dad survived the first four gruesome waves of the attack. Together, the three wait out the titular fifth in a military base for survivors until school buses arrive to take all children to safety, including her brother Sam. Cassie, her dad and the rest of the adults are then divested of their weapons and marched into a bunker by their protectors. Cassie escapes, only to see her dad (and everyone else) brutally executed by their so-called protectors. She then embarks on a mission to rescue her brother. As in his previous efforts (The Monstrumologist, 2009, etc.), Yancey excels in creating an alternative world informed by just enough logic and sociology to make it feel close enough to our own. The suspension-of-disbelief Kool-Aid he serves goes down so easy that every piece of the story—no matter how outlandish—makes perfect sense. The 500-plus-page novel surges forward full throttle with an intense, alarming tone full of danger, deceit and a touch of romance. The plot flips back and forth with so much action and so many expert twists that readers will constantly question whom they can trust and whom they can’t. Best of all, everything feels totally real, and that makes it all the more riveting.

Nothing short of amazing. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 7th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-399-16241-1
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online: March 6th, 2013
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2013

My thoughts . . .

From the very beginning, Yancey does an amazing job with his characters. Their decisions never felt like a plot device. Their emotions rang true.
The premise is unique in that the aliens (like The Host) look like the humans, which keeps us guessing as to who are the aliens and who are the humans, one of Cassie’s biggest problems. While the plot twists and turns were cool, I thought they were predictable. (I’ve been plotting way too much lately).
From Kirkus: “The suspension-of-disbelief Kool-Aid he serves goes down so easy that every piece of the story—no matter how outlandish—makes perfect sense.”
I did not find this true. There was a major flaw for me, which was why an alien race so advanced that they’ve been watching us for thousands of years has the capability of literally eliminating every single human, but they choose not to.
Nope. Wouldn’t happen.
Overall, this was an amazing read! I highly recommend it and hope the movie does it justice, though I keep expectations low these days.
I’ll be reading the next two in the series sometime in the near future.

From Rick Yancey’s Website . . .


Rick is the author of fifteen novels and a memoir. His books have been published in over thirty languages and have earned numerous accolades and awards from around the world. His young adult novel, The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, was named a “Best Book of the Year” by Publishers Weekly and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal. In 2010, Rick received a Michael L. Printz Honor for The Monstrumologist. The sequel, The Curse of the Wendigo, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His latest novel, The 5th Wave, the first in an epic sci-fi trilogy, made its worldwide debut in 2013, and will soon be a major motion picture for GK Films and Sony Pictures.

There’s a lot more about Rick Yancey on his website. Click here to go take a look!

I Just Read . . . THIEF OF LIES by Brenda Drake

What a fun read! This book took me a couple of chapters to get into, but then it really pulled me in. If you like romance and a really great twist on what’s lurking in your local library, this book is a must-read.

Kirkus Review says:

A girl learns about her magical heritage and preordained fate just as an evil wizard threatens to take over an enchanted world in this YA series opener by Drake (Touching Fate, 2015).

Gia knows she loves libraries. But she doesn’t realize that she can use them as portals to other libraries around the globe until she accidentally falls into a book, taking her friends Nick and Afton with her. On the other side, they encounter a horrible creature the size of a rhino under attack by several teenagers in armor, including Arik, a dreamy warrior who shares a love of Gia’s favorite children’s book. These teens are Sentinels, protectors of the gateways between the human world and the realm of Mystiks, or magical folks. Not only does it turn out that Gia is a Sentinel herself, but she’s also the prophesied daughter of two Sentinels—an illegal union—and she may bring about the end of the world. But Gia’s not one to let prophecies and rules interfere with her dreams; she agrees to train as a Sentinel for the summer, as long as she’ll get her old life back in the fall. But as Gia becomes deeply involved in the Mystik realm, where anyone could be an agent of Conemar, the sinister wizard set on global domination, she realizes that more depends on her there than at home. This familiar-feeling novel boasts some energetic new twists. Drake’s worldbuilding is intriguing: powerful battle globes (Arik wields a fire globe; “He can manipulate the fire into a thin whip”), new races of fairy creatures who work in tandem with Sentinels and wizards, and—best of all—portals in libraries, which many readers will eagerly believe are mystical places. And while Gia possesses a clear teen voice, her romantic feelings remain inconsistent; her relationship with Arik seems on again, off again before it ever starts. Other plot points, such as the mistaken identity of a key character, remain muddled. And a late-introduced love triangle seems inserted almost haphazardly.

While suffering from too many characters and some convoluted plot elements, this novel still offers an exuberant mashup of portal fantasy and chosen-one motifs.

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63375-221-4
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online: Jan. 6th, 2016

My thoughts . . .

Kirkus is tough! I think we should focus on the last phrase, “this novel still offers an exuberant mashup of portal fantasy and chosen-one motifs.” It was a great escape for a couple of cold winter nights.

From Brenda Drake’s Amazon Page:

Brenda Drake AuthorBrenda Drake grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Connect with the author:   Twitter   |   Website

Upcoming Conferences for Midwest Authors

Is an illustrator at a conference a con artist?

I admit, that was bad. But whenever I think of something even minutely clever, I must share it. Mock at will.

So conferences . . .

In my opinion, they’re necessary. I’ve become a better writer, been inspired, uplifted, networked, and gained a few stories to tell in the process. Writing is such a competitive field, some agents and editors are choosing clients exclusively from writers they meet at conferences.It shows you’re committed through increasing your education and putting writing first.

Here is a small list of conferences here in the Midwest if you feel so inclined.

SCBWI Kansas Region 2016 Events

logo-scbwiSaturday, Feb. 20: LET ME SAVE YOU 20 YEARS . . . Speed Course in Children’s Writing and Publishing workshop with Lorri Cardwell-Casey, Overland Park. Registration now open.

June 3-9: CRITIQUE ACROSS KANSAS AND MISSOURI. More information to come. Watch for a March email seeking critique group hosts in locations across the two states.

FALL CONFERENCE Nov. 4-5: Overland Park. Manuscript critiques Friday night, conference all day Saturday. (I always love this conference!)

SCBWI Oklahoma Spring 2016 Conference (One day event)

April 16, 2016 Spring Conference Registration Now Open

SPEAKERS: Sara Sargent–Executive Editor with HarperCollins, Carter Hasegawa–Associate Editor at Candlewick, Karl Jones–Assistant Editor at Grosset & Dunlap, Jodell Sadler–Agent at Sadler Children’s Literary, Vicki Selvaggio–Associate Agent at Jennifer De Chiara Literary, Jason Henry, Senior Designer and illustrator at Dial Books For Young Readers

SCBWI Illinois 2016 Wild, Wild Midwest Conference

Wild Wild MidwestDate(s) – 04/29/2016 – 05/01/2016

Location: Chicago Marriott, 1801 N Naper Blvd – Naperville, Illinois 60563

• February 1: Member Early Bird Registration: $295 ( rate available through March 25th)
• February 8: Non-Member Early Bird Registration: $335 (rate available through March 25th)
• March 26: Regular Registration begins (Members $310; Non-Members $350.00)
• April 24: Registration ends

Member only add-ons, if selected, are: manuscript critiques ($45), manuscript contest ($12), 3 hour intensives ($40), portfolio reviews ($45)

Program & Faculty:

40 faculty members! Click here to view the current list.
8 different intensives
35-40 different sessions on topics related to Picture Books, Novels, Nonfiction, All-Genres, Business, Illustration, and Publishing Independently
First Pages Panels, First Looks Panels, and onsite Art Show included in registration
Written critiques; Onsite portfolio reviews; a manuscript contest (with four categories):prize–full manuscript submission!
Autograph party and Costume Party and Prize for best costume!
Bookstore:  Sponsored by Anderson’s Books. Registered attendees who are either traditionally or independently published will be able to sell one title. Faculty books will be available, too.

Midwest Writers’ Workshop (#MWW)

MWWJuly 21-23, 2016
L.A. Pittenger Student Center, 2000 W. University Avenue
Ball State University, Muncie, IN

Registration is now open. There are three options for different price packages.

The mission of MWW is to give all writers the opportunity to improve their craft, to associate with highly credentialed professionals, and to network with other writers.

We have 45+ different instructional sessions with top quality faculty during our three-day program on everything from fiction to nonfiction, marketing, and ways to get your creative juices flowing. Thursday focuses on genre-specific intensive sessions. Friday and Saturday are packed with sessions on the craft of writing and the business of writing.

Those were just a few . . .

For a more comprehensive list of conferences and workshops around the country, a great resource is the Conference and Residencies page under Tools for Writers from the amazing Poets & Writers publication.

I hope you can attend a couple conferences this year!

Thank You, Brenda Drake!

Most of the writing community is supportive, helpful, ready with advice, but few give more to our industry than Brenda Drake.  I’ve watched her help so many writers find agents, help with revising their manuscripts, and get requests for submissions. Over and over she spends her own precious time giving to the rest of us.

It is my honor to be her assistant!

If you want to improve your writing, visit her blog here and see what information you can glean from rejections, mentors, and advice.

Brenda is the author of two novels: Touching Fate and Thief of Lies. Not only is she an amazing mentor and all-around superhero, she’s a great author. Click on the link above to buy one of her books. They’re great reads!


I Just Read . . . The 100 by Kass Morgan

What a great premise! I love the idea that humanity would return to earth, actually become the alien to our descendants by our own devices. Brilliant!

Kirkus Review Says:

THE 100 Cover ArtOne hundred teen convicts may be the only hope of the human race.

Three hundred years after the Cataclysm made Earth uninhabitable, the remnant of humanity lives in an aging space station. Strict population-control laws help conserve the dwindling resources, and adults convicted of crimes are summarily executed. Criminal teens held in Confinement are given a retrial at 18, and some go free. Fearing the colony has few years left, the Chancellor decides to send 100 of these teens to Earth with monitoring bracelets to see if the planet’s surface is survivable. The story concentrates on four of them. Wells commits a crime in order to accompany his girlfriend; Bellamy breaks into the dropship to go with his sister; in hopes of reuniting with her boyfriend, Glass escapes the dropship to return to her privileged mother. And Clarke, the object of Wells’ affection, struggles with demons and hormones. Will they survive? Morgan’s debut, which has already been optioned for a CW series, has a promising premise as long as readers don’t apply too many brain cells. (Why convicts? Why not give them communication devices? Isn’t there birth control in the future?) However, it slowly devolves into a thrill-free teen romance. Lengthy flashbacks flatten the action in nearly every chapter. The characters do little to distinguish themselves from their run-of-the-mill dystopian brethren. Steer teens in search of science fiction to Beth Revis, Robison Wells and Veronica Roth.

Perhaps the television incarnation will have some life. (Dystopian adventure. 15 & up)

My thoughts . . .

The premise carries this novel. It has so many possibilities. I am going to read the second one.

This is supposed to be set in the future, but even in our own age, there is a great deal of current technology lacking in this book which added to the unrealistic feel. I did enjoy it but often found myself thinking, “But if they had a phone or watch-communicator this would never have happened.”

I also thought it felt unrealistic for every single main character to be in some kind of romantic slump. None of them had healthy relationships. Maybe that’s the point? I don’t think every person in the world has an ongoing relationship or wants one. This one felt overloaded with the swoon.

It’s easy to be the critic. I enjoyed this book and think Miss Morgan must’ve had a really fun time writing it. It’s worth the read.

From Kass Morgan’s Alloy Entertainment Bio:

Kass-Morgan_300pxKass Morgan has an unhealthy obsession with books that first manifested in third grade when she brought a copy of Mallory and the Dream Horse to her own birthday party. When she was ten, she moved from Brooklyn to Santa Monica, where kids thought she was strange for wearing so much black. Then she went back to the east coast for college, where kids thought she was strange for wearing so much pink.

Kass studied English and History at Brown University, reading gothic novels in the library where Edgar Allan Poe conducted secret love affairs, auditioning unsuccessfully for a number of plays, and learning important truths about walking on ice in high heels.

After college, Kass crossed the pond to pursue a Master’s degree in 19th century literature at Oxford, which was like attending Hogwarts, but with more costume parties. She returned to the states with a deep appreciation for clotted cream, a suitcase full of cocktail dresses, and a thesis on George Eliot that she has since misplaced.  

Kass settled in New York to work in publishing. When she’s not editing novels for young bookworms to sneak into their own birthday parties, you can find her jostling for table space at Brooklyn coffee shops, asking strangers if she can pet their dogs, and e-mailing her middle school crush to thank him for introducing her to science fiction, which turns out to be very fun to write.  The 100 is her first book for teens. Kass is currently working the sequel, which she’ll finish as soon as she can find a coffee shop that allows laptops on the weekend.

Follow @kassmorganbooks to connect with the author on Twitter.