YA Review: JUST LIKE THE MOVIES by Kelly Fiore

I read Kelly Fiore’s first book, TASTE TEST, and really enjoyed it, but when I saw the description for her second book, it was like she’d decided to write a book just for me :). I mean, have you read the part of my bio where it says I watch too much TV? I should probably clarify that a lot of that TV is actually re-watching my large collection of movies, which consists mainly of romantic comedies. Anyway, here’s the description for the book.

Just Like the Movies by Kelly FiorePretty and popular track star Marijke Monti is confident about almost everything – she’s got good friends, a great family, and she’s on her way to the State Track Championship. In fact, the only thing Marijke isn’t confident about is her relationship with hometown hottie Tommy Lawson. Lily Spencer has spent her entire high school career preparing for the future, but she’s about to graduate and still hasn’t even had a boyfriend. The only thing she has had is a long standing crush on motocross team captain Joe Lombardi, who she is sure doesn’t know she exists.

When both Marijke and Lily end up alone at a late night showing of Titanic at the local revival theater, the girls find themselves admitting their troubles to another person for the first time. “Why can’t things be like the movies?” Marijke complains to Lily. “Why can’t you just hold up a boom box or set up a flash mob to get the guy of your dreams?” Which gives Lily an idea – why can’t life be like a movie? Why can’t they set up their perfect romantic situations, just in time for their senior prom, using inspiration from their favorite flicks?

Marijke and Lily brainstorm movie-inspired ways to attract, attain, and enrapture the boys of their dreams, then they commit themselves to being secret cohorts. But, unlike the movies, life isn’t perfect – sometimes it takes more than a script and a spotlight to find your happily ever after.

And here are the five things I loved most about this book:

1. The premise – You probably already gleaned that from my intro, but it bears repeating. I mean, why hadn’t someone already written this book?

2. The movie scenes – Sure, this goes with the premise, but a novel is more than the premise–it’s also the execution. I loved seeing which movies the girls used to try and win their boys. And yep, I’d seen every one :). I bet there will be a number of girls downloading/renting/whatever some of the movies mentioned in this book to see just how romantic these scenes are.

3. The prom proposals – Is this a thing? Do boys don armor or rent semis to ask girls to prom? If so, I really missed out in high school! In any case, it made for some very fun elements in the story, although I would have liked to read Lily’s exposé rating the prom proposals …

4. Marijke’s growth – Both characters have something to learn in this story, but to me, it seemed that Marijke had the farthest to go, and I was glad to see her take the journey. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t go into it here, but it’s an important one.

5. The friendship – At first glance this story is about love, but the friendship between Lily and Marijke was the true heart of the story. It might sound odd that two high school senior girls don’t already have a best friend, but the reasons each of them needed a friend rang true. I enjoyed the way their friendship developed.

Have you read JUST LIKE THE MOVIES yet? If you were going to recreate a romantic scene from a movie, what scene would you choose?

Posted in Reading, Review, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Adventures in Pitch Wars Hashtag Stalking

Normally at this time of year I would be stalking ninjas, but due to the timing of Pitch Wars and WriteOnCon, I didn’t participate as much in the latter this year. I have become an entirely different kind of stalker–a hashtag stalker. Specifically, this one:


Now, it’s a little overwhelming to watch the whole hashtag. I discovered a handy trick, though. I usually follow Twitter in Tweetdeck on my desktop, but by accident I noticed I could narrow a search on my phone by “People I follow.” And I thought, I wonder if I can do that in the web interface, too? It turns out you can. So I’ve been keeping a tab open in my browser with a search for the hashtag and just the people I follow, which of course includes the mentors I submitted to, along with the organizers and my writing friends. Honestly, watching the full hashtag is just too overwhelming.

But really, this stalking thing can drive you crazy. It’s as bad as stalking agents. I’ve been chatting with some of my writing friends behind the scenes, and here are some of the things we’ve been thinking. Maybe you’ve been thinking these things, too?

“Why isn’t Mentor A tweeting AT ALL? This complete silence is driving me insane!”

“Hints? There are four chosen manuscripts with the word ‘The’ in the title? That’s not mine. Ok, that takes up 4 of the 75 spots, leaving 71. And lots of titles with alliteration. Not mine either. A title longer than 4 words. Also not mine. If at least 3 of those are YA … oh, forget it, I’m not going to try and figure out the math.”


“My title has ‘The’ in it! And alliteration! And it’s longer than 4 words! I’m in!” :)

“Oooh, a chat!” *views chat while eating lunch* “Hmm. Mentor B set some aside because she likes them but doesn’t know how to help them. Will she tell me if I’m one of those? Ugh. What if I picked the totally wrong mentor and they don’t think they can help at all? Oh! How cool would it be to have mentors fighting over my manuscript? Do they have virtual light sabers? What a roller-coaster!” *closes chat*

Mentor C just tweeted that he’s requested from some people but doesn’t need to see more from others to make a decision. Is he TRYING to torture me?” I actually heard one mentor say she was! Evil mentor! :)

“Is there a way to hack into this behind-the-scenes place where the mentors talk? Because I really want to know what entries they’re fighting over and what’s already been picked! Not just mine but writer friend A and writer friend B and …”

Mentor D says, ‘I love this sample but I’m not sure I can help it. It’s probably ready to query.’ Is that me? If she didn’t read the whole thing, how does she know it’s ready?” Although, still awesome that she loves the first chapter that much.

On the other hand:

Mentor A says, ‘I rejected this manuscript because I can’t find anything to critique. It’s ready to query.’ Forget Pitch Wars. I’m not waiting until November to send this to agents!” Ha! Kudos to that writer!

Mentor B made all of his requests and I didn’t get one. Bummer.” Let me just say that if this happened to you, shake it off! (Hey, is that a new song or something?) Everyone says this, but it is so true: taste is sooo subjective. No matter how careful you were selecting your mentors, unless you’re, say, Suzanne Collins, you probably wouldn’t appeal to all of them. Or look on the bright side: maybe they think you are Suzanne Collins and you don’t need a mentor!

Mentor C just tweeted that she’s loving all the entries in [genre X]. Argh! Mine’s [genre Y]! She’s not going to pick me!”

Mentor D said a ton of people are mislabeling their submissions. Did I get mine wrong? Am I completely off-base with this manuscript?”

Mentor A is completely in love with this manuscript. Is it mine???”

Mentor B said this first page made her laugh out loud. My CP put an LOL note on my first page. Maybe it’s mine!”

Mentor C is only tweeting about his favorite candy. Who cares about candy? I need to know what he’s reading!”

And the ultimate question:

Mentor D has made her pick! Is it me?”

Well, I guess we’ll find out next week.

Others have said it, but let me repeat it. Agent-judged contests are a great opportunity, and this one in particular has an extra mentoring layer that gives it even more weight, but don’t be discouraged if you aren’t selected. There are a lot of factors that go into being chosen. And some of them might even be positive–like maybe the mentors think you don’t need that mentoring layer. I used it as an example above because I’ve seen mentors tweeting it. I’m hopeful that if that is the reason the mentors will let applicants know. And if it’s another reason–like you need more help than they can give you in the time period necessary–don’t be discouraged by that either. The journey to publication is a long one. I’ve certainly learned that, and I’m not giving up.

Good luck, everyone! I hope the wait over the weekend isn’t too unbearable. I’ll still be hashtag stalking, but I also have a lot going on, so it won’t be all-consuming. Happy Labor Day to those celebrating on Monday!



Posted in Contests | Tagged , | 4 Comments

MMGM Interview & Giveaway: AT YOUR SERVICE by Jen Malone

I’m back! I know it’s been forever since I had an MMGM, but this is a good one because it’s for a book that comes out tomorrow–AT YOUR SERVICE by Jen Malone. I won an annotated e-ARC of this book a couple of months ago, and I loved reading it this way so much Ms. Malone is offering another one to a lucky reader. Yay! Details are at the bottom of the post. Ms. Malone also agreed to answer some questions about the five things I loved most. But first, here’s a description of the book.

At Your Service by Jen Malone

Chloe Turner has pretty much the BEST life. She gets to live in the super fancy Hotel St. Michele, New York City is her home town and her dad Mitchell Turner, concierge extraordinaire, is teaching her all the secrets of the business so she can follow in his footsteps. After helping him out with a particularly difficult kid client, Chloe is appointed the official junior concierge tending to the hotel’s smallest, though sometimes most demanding, guests.

Her new position comes with tons of perks like cupcake parties, backstage passes to concerts, and even private fittings with the hippest clothing designers. But Chloe hasn’t faced her toughest challenge yet. When three young royals, (including a real-life PRINCE!) come to stay, Chloe’s determined to prove once and for all just how good she is at her job. But the trip is a disaster, especially when the youngest disappears. Now it’s up to Chloe to save the day. Can she find the missing princess before it becomes international news?

1. I loved reading the annotated version, but I also loved the footnotes. I got a glimpse inside your mind, as well as an extra glimpse inside Chloe’s mind. (Sophie Kinsella also used this in I’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER. Have you read that book?) What made you decide to use footnotes? And how much fun was it to do the notes? Yes, I’m sneaking in multiple questions :).

I haven’t read that one yet, but I love her books – going on my list! Because the novel is written in first person, it would have sounded a little unnatural (“You know, Bob…” ) for Chloe to have been giving all these NYC facts as asides; however, I really wrote this book as a love letter to New York and I so wanted to include the factoids. Footnotes seemed like the perfect solution. Also, as you might realize by the end of this interview, I tend to be a tiny (HUGE) bit wordy and this was a way to get even more words in there. Don’t tell my editor!

2. I loved the New York details, and yet you live in Boston. Are you originally from New York or just a fan? If the latter, how did you research the city?

I’m originally from Baltimore, and now live in Boston. My NYC connection is a weird one; my husband and kids are ginormous New York Yankees fans in the middle of Red Sox Nation. In fact, my twin boys’ room is like a shrine to them and we once had a cable serviceman walk upstairs, spot their room, and immediately refuse to stay to do the work. As for me, I adore the city and, for this book especially, I think it really helped to be able to write from a happy tourist’s perspective. I’m not the least bit jaded, as I might be if I was jostled on the subway platforms day after day. Chloe is a native – and very proudly so – but she’s also enamored of her hometown and adores showing it off to visitors (conversely she gets a wee bit annoyed when anyone has less than a glowing review of The Big Apple). We’re lucky that my husband goes to NYC for business several times a year and, whenever possible, we tag along. Most of the tourist spots featured in the book were ones we’d visited in the past few years, though I did have to have my hubby spend half a business trip circling the city to take pictures of every penny machine for me. I also relied on my NYC-living editor and some Brooklyn friends to make sure I got the details right.

3. I love the premise of a junior concierge, with the glamor and the grunt work that come along with it. What other scenarios might Chloe have found herself in if you’d had the space? I’m thinking deleted scenes here …

Well, I can’t give away too much because I’m hopeful Chloe will get to have more concierge adventures. In this book, I wanted to make sure the royal disappearance was introduced before we got too far into the story, so we’re only inside the hotel for the first third of the book or so and that leaves me sooo many fun options to explore going forward. For example, at the Copley Hotel in Boston, they have a dog available for guests to “borrow” from the concierge. You can sign up to walk her or even reserve her to hang in your room with you for a scheduled time. At night she goes home with the concierge. So I think if there’s a sequel, Chloe will definitely be campaigning for a puppy and, when her dad repeatedly says no, she’ll brainstorm this creative solution as a way to get her pet :).

4. I have a serious weakness for royalty. If there are princes and princesses in a story, I’m probably going to love it. Do you have a similar weakness, or was it just a given that royalty would be the ultimate challenge for a junior concierge?

I definitely have a weakness for royalty, but I have to give full credit to my amazing editor, Annie Berger, for this one – it was her idea. It works perfectly though because everyone instantly understands it would be terrible to lose a guest but So. Much. Worse to lose a royal guest! The whole world would pay attention to that news story … which isn’t good for a Junior Concierge who is trying to make a reputation for herself.

5. In line with that last question, I have to say that the penny presses were a brilliant complication. I could just see a kid wanting to collect all those pennies. Do you collect coins? Or something else? Maybe your readers will start sending you pennies!

Thank you! It took me a while to hit on that solution, but it allowed me to give the kids a concrete list of clues to follow and sooo many kids love cranking these machines (all three of my kids have full collector’s books of these pennies). And (I’m SOO thrilled) I just ordered custom At Your Service pressed pennies to give away at the launch party and at school visits – I can’t wait to see them! I’m also crazy excited for a Girl Scout bus trip from Boston to NYC next spring where a whole slew of girls and their moms are going to race through the city to collect as many of the pennies from the book as they can. I personally collect heart-shaped rocks I’ve found (or my kids have found) on the beach, but I do have a collection of coins – one from each of the 47 countries I’ve visited (so far).

Thanks so much for reading At Your Service and for inviting me to hang on your blog!!

And thank you, Ms. Malone, for visiting! Now on to the giveaway! You may enter via the Rafflecopter below. It’s an electronic book, so international is fine!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in Giveaways, Interviews, Middle Grade, MMGM, Reading, Review | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

WriteOnCon! With Advice If You’re Posting in the Forums

It’s WriteOnCon time! WriteOnCon is a free, online conference for picture book, middle grade, young adult, and (this year) new adult writers. If you fit into any (or all!) of these categories, you should definitely check it out! The information I’ve gleaned from this conference over the past few years is beyond measurement.

One of the most popular features of the conference is the forums, which allow you to post your query, first page, and first five pages in separate forums. As an added bonus, Ninja Agents–so called because although a list of agents is given they have code names–slink through the forums and leave feedback on the posts. Sometimes they even request additional pages or full manuscripts through private messages. If you want to receive one of these coveted requests, it is in your best interest to post in all three areas (query, first page, first five pages) as an individual Ninja Agent may only stay in a single forum. One of my most popular posts last year was on How to Stalk WriteOnCon Ninja Agents. It gives detailed instructions on how to find them, so if you want to be sneaky …

If you are posting in the forums, I would like to give some unsolicited advice. Maybe you already know this, and maybe you read my Thoughts on Revising from Public Critiques Post, but here it is anyway:

  1. Don’t try to explain everything, especially with a query. If someone asks you a straight clarification question, by all means, answer it, but if you try to get into too many details, you’re likely to end up making your query even more confusing or adding more details than you need. Often it’s easier to just revise and say, “Does that clear things up?”
  2. Remember your intended audience. If critiquers don’t recognize a reference to something–whether it’s a comp title or something the character is watching or technology they’re using in your first pages–maybe that’s ok. Will an agent know the comp title? Will the 11-year-old know that show? Will the 16-year-old know that gadget? Possibly you have to explain it, but possibly you don’t. Trust your instincts.
  3. When it comes to the first page, if a commenter is questioning something that will be answered later, don’t move it up just to answer his/her question. If that information shouldn’t be revealed until page three–or page fifty, for that matter–save it for the right moment. If an agent is intrigued enough by your writing and voice, they’ll stick with the story to get those answers when the time is right.
  4. Unless a comment automatically resonates with you, wait until you have several to revise. That’s the value of this kind of event. You’re going to receive feedback from multiple writers, so wait to hear from more than one before you jump on that gut reaction. They might not all agree. If they do, it’s easy to know what to fix. If they don’t, that’s when you have to sit back and figure out what’s not working. Because if everyone’s commenting on the same section but not agreeing on the solution, probably something needs to happen there.

I think that’s it. So go forth and post in the forums! If you do, let me know where you are and I’ll stop by. I haven’t posted my own yet, but I will soon!

Posted in Agents, Conferences, Critiquing, Querying, Writing | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Pick Me for Pitch Wars!

If you follow me for reviews or to see what’s happening in my writing journey, the title of this post may confuse you. Well, it’s time to send my contemporary young adult manuscript, A BOY COULD, out into the world, and I’m starting with a contest called Pitch Wars. As part of that, I’ve created a video to give potential mentors an extra incentive to choose my manuscript, which means you get to see me talking! I kind of talk the way I blog. Well, you’ll see …

Whew! Majorly going outside my comfort zone here. Hopefully it works! I’ll let you all know. In the meantime, I’ll be back next Monday with an MMGM review and a giveaway!

Oh, and for the mentors, here are a few of those posts I mentioned:

Revision: Killing Those Darlings

Thoughts on Revising from Public Critiques

What I’ve Learned in Three Years of Querying

Revision: Snip, Snip, Snipping the Dangling Threads

Only You Can Fix Your Manuscript

There are more, but hopefully these posts give you a taste of my approach to revision and ability to take feedback and run with it. Thanks for considering!

Posted in Contests | 2 Comments

YA Series Recommendation: The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

Like many others, I decided to read The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare when the previews for the movie came out. Now, I know die-hard fans of the books have mixed feelings about the movie–I blogged about that here–but I’m glad I waited to read this series until almost all of the books were out because, man, can Ms. Clare write some major cliffhangers! As a result, I read the first three books, then waited to read the last three until the final book came out. However, I didn’t realize that her other series–The Infernal Devices–was connected until something very interesting happened in CITY OF HEAVENLY FIRE that was clearly a reference to something I should have known. It was done cleverly, in such a way as to be sort of spoilerly but not completely spoilerly, but even so, I went into the series 90 percent sure of the outcome, and I turned out to be right. I still loved it, but I’m putting it out there to warn you to read The Infernal Devices series before CITY OF HEAVENLY FIRE. Okay, on to the recommendation, starting with the description for the first book in the series.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra ClareWhen sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa’s power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm’s length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

And here are the five things I loved most about this series:

1. The mix of genres – It’s steampunk and urban fantasy and historical all rolled into one. I guess steampunk is already historical, but you get my drift. While the demons and supernatural were still prevalent, this series was much more about invention and intrigue. I found it kind of amazing how it all worked together.

2. The literary references – I was an English major, so I loved the parallels the characters drew to A TALE OF TWO CITIES and the conversations about other literary works. I even enjoyed the poetry at the beginning of the chapters, and I’m not usually a poetry person.

3. The supporting characters – Ms. Clare’s books always have a large cast of characters. Sometimes I wish we wouldn’t jump to another character when I want to stay with a particular one, but she draws them all so well, even the minor characters. One of my favorites in this series shows up in the second book–Bridget, the cook, who sings the most inappropriate songs at the most appropriate times. Or is it the other way around?

4. The heartbreaking twists – Cassandra Clare has a unique flare for throwing a wrench in a story and then twisting and twisting. These books made me cry more than once, and that’s not usually something I’d say I love about a book, but for some reason I do with these. They earned my tears.

5. The romance – Part of what I loved about the romance in this particular series was how it fit into the courting rituals of the time. I do love my historical romance novels. And I have to say, this might be one of the most well written love triangles I’ve ever read. Back to point No. 4 …

As much as I loved these, I wouldn’t recommend them for younger YA readers. There is some older content.

Are you a Cassandra Clare fan? What’s your favorite twist? If you haven’t read her books yet, don’t read the comments, just in case someone spills!

Posted in Reading, Review, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Revision: Killing Those Darlings

If you’ve been following my journey through revisions for my work-in-progress, you may remember that in my last round of revisions I was still getting rid of a number of dangling threads from an early plot thread I’d eliminated. When I received comments back from this round of readers, I was pleased to discover that–finally!–I didn’t have any of those. I had other issues, but only one small thing that could really be connected to that lingering thread. Whew! *wipes forehead*

But as I read through the comments, I came to the conclusion that I had to cut a couple of early chapters, and one of them really hurt. For years I’ve heard writers talk about “killing their darlings.” I sort of understood what they were talking about. There were lines I really liked that I’d had to take out of manuscripts, even some scenes I’d cut that I hated to see go. But it really rang true to me this time. You see, I didn’t just like this scene–I loved it. It was fun, it had a number of great lines in it that readers had commented “LOL,” and there were parts of it that I had a personal connection to.

However, even while I had some comments within the scene about the funny bits, I also received overall comments during this chapter and couple of chapters surrounding it, saying, “I’m starting to skim,” or, “we need to get to point x sooner.” And I have to confess that my current readers weren’t the only ones to say this. While no one said I had to cut this scene in particular, as I stepped back from the story as a whole, I realized that I was stubbornly holding onto that scene for the wrong reasons. The things I loved about it–the funny lines, the interaction between the main character and her best friend, the pop culture references–were the same things that were slowing down the pacing and tension. This scene had become a darling for me, and I would have to kill it.

Oh, it hurt to move that scene from the Manuscript folder to my Deleted Scenes folder in Scrivener. But then, an interesting thing happened. I opened the scene up in a QuickReference panel (if you don’t use Scrivener, this is like a pop-up window) to scan for any information that was referenced later in the story so I could drop it in where appropriate. And you know what? Out of a 2,000-word scene, I could sum up the necessary information in maybe 200 words scattered throughout a few subsequent scenes without causing any confusion.

And that is why we must be prepared to kill our darlings. If they’re only there for us–not to serve the story–they shouldn’t be there at all.

And once again, I am reminded of the importance of patience. It’s the most important lesson I’ve learned in three years of querying, and it’s served me well with this manuscript. A year ago, I have a feeling I would have started querying this MS too early–like I did the others–and figured out I needed to make this change after I’d already burned through half of my agent list. Thankfully I’ve killed this darling before she caused unnecessary grief :).

What darlings have you had to kill? Did you immediately see the benefits?


Posted in Revising, Writing | Tagged , | 1 Comment