Monday, November 22, 2010

Where I've Been

The ten of you who check in regularly may have noticed I'm not posting much lately. A good friend of mine has been going through a rough time and I've been spending a lot of time trying to help in any way I can through this crisis. Her 13 year old son (my son's best friend) was diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma last weekend. This is a very aggressive form of cancer and he is now in the ICU on a ventilator and heavily sedated. On top of everything, she is a single parent, a fifth grade teacher and gave birth to her beautiful daughter two days ago. We knew the baby would have a bilateral cleft lip, and it's amazing that what seemed like such a big deal just a few short weeks ago seems so minor today.

Talk about perspective. I love my career and I love my books, but everything has taken a back seat to helping my friend and her family. Hopefully, things will stabilize in the next week or two and I'll be able to get back to my characters and to my job as an author. They always say go to your strengths in a crisis, so I created a blog so that everyone can keep track of the happenings. It is called Friends of RJ on blogspot if you know Jessica and RJ or just want to follow along, come and pay us a visit.

I hope to be back to normal blogging soon, but in the meantime all of your good wishes are welcome.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The LitChicks - CATALYST by Laurie Halse Anderson

In Portia's defense, she actually emailed me her review yesterday morning - the delay in this week's LitChicks is my fault. So, better late than never, is her pick this week:

CATALYST by Laurie Halse Anderson

Alright, I am highly aware that this is late, and normally I wouldn't really have a great excuse, but today I do! The laptop I usually use to conduct such criminal activities such as sending in book reviews is being a bit strange and hibernating whenever I turn it on. No one ever told me batteries are capable of dying in 2 seconds, or that computers even need to hibernate (maybe it's a winter thing?), but I'm here a bit late!

I'm not sure how many of you know Ms. Turner who teaches English at Bancroft Middle School, but she has such easy access to books and always keeps on top of the latest releases and the popular series. In some ways, I think she's a bit better than the school library because you don't need a card, there's no due dates, no overdue fees, no limit to the number of books you can take, and she always has suggestions based on what you like and what she thinks you might want to try. So, all in all, I'm lucky! One of the books she lent me a couple weeks ago was CATALYST, by Laurie Halse Anderson (who also wrote SPEAK). I really liked SPEAK, and I really like deep books, so I thought I would try it, and it was amazing!

CATALYST follows the story of young Kate Malone--a preacher's daughter, secret night runner, straight-A student (especially in the science and math department), and motherless girl who takes over a mother's job doing laundry, cooking - the works in their slightly dysfunctional family. Kate is an organized person. She does her homework, takes care of her family, is on the cross country team, and operates on minimal sleep. However, there are quite a few things going wrong in Kate's life.

Mainly, she only applied to one college--MIT. And she didn't make early decision. And she's still waiting to get her acceptance........which wouldn't be super painful if she had back up colleges, but Kate only applied to one. Second, Kate's neighbors (who include school loser and Kate's enemy Teri Litch) move in with Kate after they're burned out of their own home. This if, of course, bad enough as it is, but it only gets worse when:

  • Kate is roped into building the Litch's new house--alongside Teri, of course.
  • Teri's little brother, Mikey, gets into a freak accident in the new house and the outcome isn't pretty.
  • She finally hears from MIT, and it's not really what she expected.......or wanted.
  • She has a fight with her dear boyfriend, Mitchell Pangborn (who's going to Harvard, by the way)

Can Kate keep it together? Can she ever be friends with Teri and support her in her hour of need? Can she herself recover from Mikey's accident? Can she make a decision about college and face the future?

These are all questions Kate finds herself facing as her orderly life falls to pieces. A beautiful read. I was sitting there thinking, "A bunkbed with my sister (who I happen to like) is not bad at all!" Kate's problems make you want to comfort her. I think the author did a beautiful job making Kate's life realistic and did a great job reflecting Kate's internal dilemmas and thoughts. I loved getting to know Kate and understanding her. This is a book I would recommend for everyone. I love first-person books, and I love getting to know characters so well and seeing how different people are on the outside and the inside and realizing how much people hide and what they're really going through.

On this date: In 1954, Ellis Island closed.

Monday, November 8, 2010

So What's It About?

Publication announcements are a little like Twitter - short and sweet. Many people have sent me emails and asked in person to expand on the description of DESTINED that appeared in Publisher's Weekly. After tweaking it to make it spoiler-free, here is the longer version of DESTINED's synopsis:


Book One of the Keepers Series

She’s always done what’s expected of her, but sixteen year old cello prodigy Cole Ryan often feels like her destiny is just a straightjacket. Having spent her entire life working toward something she’s no longer sure she wants, Cole starts questioning everything, especially the feelings of déjà vu that have gotten stronger and more frequent in recent months. She afraid she’s losing her mind as visions of other lifetimes in other places begin interrupting her days. A visit to the Tower of London brings on an overwhelmingly real vision of a beheading that took place on that very spot centuries before, leaving her weak and disoriented. A seemingly chance meeting with intriguing and slightly mysterious Griffon Hall begins to shed light on all she’s been experiencing.

Although she can’t bring herself to believe him at first, Griffon immediately senses that Cole is becoming like him —a Keeper. People who can remember all of their past lives. Keepers like Cole and Griffon hold onto their memories of past experiences in order to use them in this life. With kept memories come enhanced mental and physical abilities that must be put to use for the good of the world at large. Many Keepers work behind the scenes advising the leaders of major countries on everything from human rights to environmental issues.

But not all Keepers want to improve the world. Rogue Keepers like Cole’s cello student Veronique are out to avenge the wrongs that were done to them in the past, and Griffon knows that Cole isn’t safe with her. As Cole struggles to believe what Griffon says, their relationship deepens despite a nagging sense that he isn’t telling her the complete truth about their connection. As they become physically closer, defenses are lowered and Cole finally recognizes the essence in Griffon’s eyes – and he is not who she expected him to be.

In her panic and confusion, Cole’s sense of loyalty is shaken. Is it truly Veronique she should be afraid of, or has Griffon been hiding something even more dangerous? As she wrestles with the questions of who she should believe, her own enhanced abilities of connection are awakened. Despite her doubts, she must use these abilities to save both of them from mortal danger even as she struggles to find her true destiny in this ever-expanding world.

Some of my friends are reminding me that I swore that I'd never write paranormal romance. Yeah. Just goes to show that you should never say never. I'm not ashamed to say that I LOVE this book, the characters and the story. DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS was a bit heavy to write (to say the least) and while DESTINED does have some larger themes like the purpose of life and questions of destiny, there is a lot in it that made it a blast to write. At the same time, I'm also working on another contemporary YA about race and identity and another one lined up in the queue after that, so I haven't gone completely over to the dark side.

I'm a big believer in things in the universe falling into place as they will. As we were finalizing the deal for DESTINED, I took myself on a two-day writer's retreat (also known as the hubby is home for three weeks, so this is my opportunity to get the heck out of here). On the way out of town, I stopped at a coffee shop. As I was waiting, I perused the rack of sale stuff, and there, on the clearance shelf, I found this:

Spooky, no?

On this date: In 1960, John F. Kennedy is elected President.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wonderful Book News!

It's out in the trade papers today, so I can finally share the news that caused me to go into a complete Reeses coma a couple of weeks ago:

DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS author C.J. Omololu's DESTINED, in which cello prodigy Cole begins to experience flashes of past lives just as the mysterious Griffon enters her world, bringing attraction, suspicion and an unsettling knowledge of reincarnation, as well as sequel FATED, in a pre-empt, in a very nice deal, to Mary Kate Castellani of Walker Children's, by Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency (World English). Bloomsbury UK Children's will publish simultaneously starting in summer 2012. (Translation rights: Rights People.)

Now I know what I'll be doing for the next two years! One of the best things about the deal is that it's going to come out simultaneously in the UK, which was a thrilling first for me. I'm so glad to be working with Walker and Mary Kate once again after the success of DLS! They've been totally behind this project from the very first word.

Readers of the blog will remember that I wanted to show how a book evolves from beginning to end, starting almost a year ago:

Last November (I always seem to start books in November - not NaNoWriMo, just accidentally) I wrote a post with the title What I'm Working On Now.
On the 18th, I gave a progress report in New Book, Day 2.
A few days later, I wrote about Changing Names of the characters when the originals just weren't working (the importance of the character names is another post altogether).
On December 7th, I wrote about the magic that happens when writing a book in Not Just Smoke and Mirrors.
On December 16th, I celebrated hitting 20k.
And then on January 6th, I hit 30k.
In the meantime, a book called DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS came out so I was a little busy until February 26th when I posted about Sequels and New Books.
And then on March 18th, I wrote about The End (which as we all know, isn't really the end).
On June 21st, I wrote about my title struggles in Titles Titles Everywhere (interestingly, none of these ended up as the final title).

It's been a great ride so far and I love love love this story. I'm so thankful to everyone who is helping to make it a reality.

Look for Cole and Griffon on store shelves on or about June, 2012.

On this date: In 1922, the entrance to King Tut's tomb was discovered.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The LitChicks: LA CANDY by Lauren Conrad

This week it's Liesl's turn to tell us about one of her favorite books. Her recommendation is:

LA CANDY by Lauren Conrad

Oh boy! High school is a lot crazier than Iexpected but...I'm back!!!!

I read this book when it first came out and was on the new book shelf at the library. I honestly wasn't expecting much from a celebrity author (sorry celebrities!) but was pleasantly surprised. This was my kinda book! I love girly fun books.

This book is about two girls named Jane and Scarlett. They move to LA together and are roommates. Jane has an internship with a prestigious event planer named Fiona Chen. Scarlett however, is in LA to attend U.S.C. They are spotted at a club and offered a part in a new reality T.V show L.A. Candy, but they realize along the way that being a T.V. star is not what it's cracked up to be and that they don’t necessarily like it.

This book was a mix of a lot of genres. It was girly, but was fun, it had a little romance (every book has to have a little(:) and it had drama... it's based on life in L.A. I really liked the character of Jane. She had high priorities and didn't - you know - find a random guy in the club and a hotel room and go at it. She had a good job and knew what she wanted to do with her life. She didn't let the other people influence her. She was cautious and I think that Jane and Scarlett were a good personality match. Scarlett was very outgoing whereas Jane was reserved and kind of shy. Scarlett was willing to try new things and Jane stuck to the tried and true. This was a good book. Congrats Lauren! Can't wait to read the second book.

On this date: In 1976, the movie version of Steven King's Carrie debuts.

Happy Book Birthday - THE MOCKINGBIRDS!

Today is the day that the world gets to read a great new book:

Promise not to tell Daisy, and I'll let you in on a secret. We'd met several times at different author events here in the Bay Area but we didn't really connect. She is fancy and well put-together and I am...not. As Taylor Swift says, she wears high heels, I wear sneakers. She's cheer captain and I'm on the bleachers. Daisy knows everything about new media and marketing, is pretty, smart and vivacious and generally the kind of person I try to stay away from.

We were at an author event in San Francisco last spring, and she had an ARC of THE MOCKINGBIRDS in her bag that she let me see. I opened it casually and thumbed through the first few pages, and was riveted after the first chapter. It is one of the best opening scenes I've read in a novel in a long time. Heartfelt, poignant and just perfect - I had to read more. I looked up at Daisy with newfound respect and a little shame at how judgmental I'd been. Yes, she was still fancy, but damn the girl could write a book. By the end of the evening, I'd wheedled the ARC out of her hands and added her as one of my best friends.

The rest of the book is as good as the opening - you'll have to pick up your own copy to see what I mean. From the publisher:

Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it.

This is a book that is not just important for girls to read - boys will get a lot out of the story as well. Pick up your copy today, and congratulations to Daisy!

On this date: In 1947, Howard Hughes Spruce Goose took it's one and only flight.