Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bookanistas: The Disenchantments

Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev's band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she's abandoning their plans - and Colby - to start college in the fall.

But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie- Colby struggles to deal with Bev's already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what's next?

I absolutely love this cover, and a YA book about music and a road trip is pretty much right up my alley, so I bought this one the day it came out, all the way back in February. And then I never read it. I picked it up a lot, and I even started a time or two, but I never really committed to it, even though I knew I would probably love it. 

Part of my hesitation, I think, came from the various reviews I'd read that said that Bev was a completely awful character and people hated her. I didn't really want to get involved with a book that had an annoying main character, and I was scared that I wasn't going to like it as much as I liked the idea of it. But, luckily, I had nothing to fear because I absolutely loved this book. My instincts were right! It was SUCH a Jess Book. 

And I actually liked Bev a lot! Maybe because I totally GOT her...and I actually respected her for being honest with Colby, even though her timing was bad. But you guys know me, I love those unlikable, complicated characters, even when everyone else hates them. 

The writing here is awesome, and I love this journey that Colby takes with the girls. This is such a perfect story of growing up and self-discovery, with music and travel and tattoos as the backdrop. My favorite things. 

Check out what some of the other Bookanistas are up to:

Katy Upperman  delves into THE ELF ON THE SHELF
Stasia Ward Kehoe fawns over two favorite book blogs

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


These posts are my very favorite ones to write up. Yup, I have another celebration in store for one of my nearest and dearest writing friends! Everyone, toss the confetti and start that happy dance because my amazing pal Kat has just signed with an agent!


Kat has signed with Brittany Howard of Corvisiero Literary Agency, and I couldn't be more excited for her. 

I love celebrating the success of my friends. Leave Kat some love over on her blog, or say congrats to her on Twitter! (@KatLovesBoho)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Some Fun Things And Some Pictures - A General Update

So, 2012 continues to be a challenge. Am I the only one who can't wait for it to make its exit? Don't let the door hit you, crappy year. I've been keeping myself ridiculously busy, but, unfortunately, I haven't had time to blog about any of it because work takes up most or all of my free time. So here's a quick recap from the Land of Jess.

This week I was ridiculously productive with my WIP, IN REAL LIFE. I tried out Write Or Die, which I had always heard about, but never used, and I plowed through the five chapters of my ending I'd been trying to figure out and commit to paper. (Or, er, screen.) It's amazing how motivating those counting down numbers and flashing colors can be.

I'm in that stage of writing where I feel like everything I write is absolute rubbish. I hate that stage. I think it's just because I've spent too much time with these words now...nothing seems original, the jokes are no longer funny, it's all just tired and boring. That's a big, flashing sign that it's time to wrap this book up. I'm still on track to have it DONE done by the end of the year, so hopefully nothing crazy comes along to derail that. *knocks on wood*

One night my good friend Weezermonkey had two extra tickets to see Ben Gibbard play an acoustic show at a small theater in LA, so even though we only had a couple of hours notice, my wbff* Erin and I hopped on the freeway and battled traffic out to the Wilshire Ebell Theater to meet up with WeeMo and Mr. Mo for the show. It was awesome. Ben Gibbard played some of his new solo stuff as well as Postal Service and Death Cab songs...just him, his guitar, and his piano. It was amazing.

Here's a video of him singing my absolute favorite Death Cab song, Cath. It's not my video, and there are lots of videos of other songs on YouTube that are better, but it looks like this is the only one of Cath. This song, you guys. It's so MY song. Live Death Cab always leads me to have some sort of religious experience. Last time it was Transatlantacism, this time it was Cath.

A few nights later, Erin and I were back in LA to see Typhoon, this Portland band I love. And wouldn't you know it, there were WeeMo and Mr. Mo standing right by the door of this tiny club the second we walked in! I felt so lucky to hang out with them twice in one week, and we had such a great time catching up with them and meeting their friends that the guy at the merch booth actually shushed us. At a concert. We get shushed everywhere.

I love Typhoon's music. Their full-length album was on constant rotation when I was finishing AVOIDING DRAMA last year, and their EP is on the playlist for my current WIP. I knew they had a zillion members in their band, but it was downright hilarious seeing twelve people cram on this tiny stage. Two drum kits, two violins, and one guy actually playing a plastic bag...we couldn't stop cracking up.

Here's a video from that show, if you're into that sort of thing. It's not my video, BTW. I love YouTube.

See how many people are crammed on that stage?! You can't even really see all of them here. 

I ventured out on Black Friday for one thing, and it sure wasn't a gift.

I picked up a new phone for myself, the Samsung Galaxy SIII. I still love my HTC Evo, but I couldn't resist the awesome deal Sprint was offering for the Galaxy, so I scooped one up. I'm still learning all of its tricks, but so far I'm in love. And for someone who spends as much time on her phone as I do, that's important.

On Saturday I ventured to the mall and picked up a new pair of boots with birthday money I'd been hoarding, and I found a Nordstrom GC in my wallet, so I snagged a great basic top.

I haven't bought anything new that wasn't a book in a long time. It was fun.

Wbff Erin and I have been having lots of dates lately, since we don't see each other on the daily at work anymore. In addition to our two music dates, we also saw two movies.

I won tickets to the 50th anniversary showing of To Kill A Mockingbird from Julie's blog, and taking Erin was a no-brainer, since we've both taught this book for years. We were laughing that we've shown this movie in class so many times, but we always use movie time to get grading or other class work done, so even though we know every line of dialogue and every note of the score, we've never actually watched the whole thing, so this was a nice treat.

We also finally went to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which was just as amazing as we had heard.

Several weeks ago was YA in the Sun, an awesome book event down in San Diego with TONS of YA authors.

It was a really fun day. I got some books signed, I had some treats, win a big prize, and I got to hang out with some of my very favorite writing friends.

Amy, Liz, Rachel, Kat, and me! 
Also, I got a chance to stop by Laini Taylor's singing in Glendale for Days of Blood and Starlight.

I couldn't believe the huge crowd...and how long the signing line was! But it was so awesome to hear about how she created the amazing world of Karou and the chimera.

It may seem like I've had a lot going on, but the thing is, I've been feeling like more of a hermit than ever. This is fine by me, because I have a book to finish, and it doesn't get written when I'm traipsing around town. I'm also feeling more and more old and crotchety, and it's best for everyone when I don't wander any farther than the Starbucks down the street. I am running off to Vegas this coming weekend, so hopefully the break will do me good. (Hopefully it will do my WIP good. We'll see.) And now that Thanksgiving break is over, I have three more weeks of school until I get three glorious weeks off. I can hardly handle it.

*wbff = work bff, even though we don't work together anymore. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dear Teen Jess

In honor of the release of the book Dear Teen Me, Erin L. Schneider asked some of her YA/MG writer friends to come up with a six word memoir-version of a letter to our teen selves. Pop over to her blog to watch the awesome video she put together! (Her giveaway is over, but her post is still awesome.)

I shared a picture of myself from high school along with my message to Teen Jess, and I figured that here on my blog was a great place to explain it all in a little bit more than six words. (You guys know me...brevity has never been my strong suit.)

High School Jess
This picture was taken at the USA Nationals dance team competition in Cypress, CA. (Strangely enough, the hometown of my future husband, who lived down the street from where this photo was taken.) When I sent it to Erin for the video, I told her it was from my junior year, but as I looked at the picture more closely and I noticed my hair, I realized that it was really from sophomore year, and, as happy as I look in this picture, I was actually truly miserable this day. And most days.

I tried out for dance team in high school because all of my friends were doing it. My high school's dance team was amazing. National champs over and over. Traveling to Japan year after year for world finals. Amazing dancers and beautiful girls doing awesome things. We all wanted to be a part of it.

I'm not really much of a dancer. I love to dance, but I'm not that great at it. (What I came to realize a lot later is that I love to perform, to be on stage or be in front of a crowd. That's why I love dancing so much even though I'm not that great.) Especially at fourteen, when I tried out for the team; I was close to six feet tall already, and I was a gangly, awkward mess. All arms and legs and no grace at all. I wasn't really a natural dancer.

But somehow I made the team.

I felt special. And I was thrilled to be doing this with my friends, starting high school already a part of something awesome.

I came to find out a little later that it was a mistake that I made the team. They were calling off the numbers of the people who made it and they accidentally called mine. But by the time they realized the mistake, it was too late. I was on the team. They couldn't kick me off.

But they could make me want to quit. And they did.

I didn't quit, even though the advisor made me feel horrible. Always. She mocked me. She made fun of me in front of the team. She never let me perform. She kept me on the sidelines at football games and competitions. (I realized this picture was from sophomore year because my hair is straight instead of curly...because I didn't perform at this competition because she wouldn't let me, so I didn't have to bother doing my hair like the rest of the team.) She made sure I knew I was never really supposed to be a part of this group.

But I didn't quit, even after all of that. I wanted to be with my friends. I didn't know what to do with myself if I didn't do dance team. So I stayed a part of this group that so obviously didn't want me, that made me miserable almost every day, because I was so worried about losing my friends and about losing myself somehow.

Finally I quit after the end of my junior year. After three years of this treatment. One of my best friends had graduated. Two of my other good friends had already quit the team. My tight group of friends was breaking up. They were moving on without me, even though I had stayed in this situation that made me unhappy just for them.

My senior year I used my free elective to sign up for Repertory Theater, the advanced drama class. I got the lead in the fall play at school and then later I got a major part in the spring musical (where I also got to do my fair share of dancing). Finally, my senior year of high school, I left behind this awful group and my awful advisor and this thing that made me so sad, and I actually realized I could have fun doing something I enjoyed. Crazy.

(The first book I finished, AVOIDING DRAMA, is about a girl who is kicked off of her high school dance team and finds herself hanging out with the theater kids. I am nothing at all like my main character, Chelsea, but, obviously, my own situation inspired her situation.)

My second year in college, on a whim, I went down to Disneyland and auditioned for a part in their annual Christmas parade. AND I GOT CAST. Disneyland paid me to dance in their parade. Do you know how satisfying it was, after my horrible experience on dance team, to be able to say I AM A PROFESSIONAL DANCER RIGHT NOW, SUCK IT YOU HORRIBLE ADVISOR WHO MOCKED ME. Oh was satisfying.

So, my advice for Teen Jess is this:

I wish I would have learned to make myself happy right away in high school. To pursue theater, where I was good at it and I loved it. To not worry that it wasn't what all my friends were doing, because I could make new friends. To follow my own passion and my own joy and not spend so much time worrying about other people because they SO. DON'T. MATTER.

What advice do you have for your teen self?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Secretly Starting then Publicly Quitting NaNoWriMo

It happens to me every year. November comes around and everyone starts talking about NaNoWriMo, and I have the itch to participate. It doesn't matter where I am in my own writing process, I try to find an excuse to join in on the fun. There's something about everyone talking about it, and everyone writing all together, that makes me want to be involved.

It's a fault of mine. I can't handle being left out of things.

This year was no exception. It didn't matter that I was in the middle of revising my current book, with a goal to have it ready to send to my agent by the end of the year. All of my friends were talking about NaNo-ing and I was feeling jealous. I wanted in on the NaNo fun! I'd just had a shiny new idea, and November would be the perfect time to bust out a draft.

So, I talked myself into it.

This was my agreement with myself. I can get out 1,700 words a day pretty painlessly. I just need to make sure I do it during a time in the day when I don't normally write, so I don't get in the way of my revision. That way I make NaNo progress, meaning I can still feel like part of the November NaNo party, and I can keep on track with my revision process. Perfect! Everyone wins!

This whole process worked for about five days. I wrote my new words first thing in the morning and during my lunch break at work. They came out quickly, I met my word count, then I moved on to my revision when I got home from work. I was totally on track. But then I had one crazy day at work where I couldn't write at lunch and had to use all of my nightly revision time to catch up. Then I had another one. Then I had a day where everything I wrote was completely terrible. Then another one.

Which led me to a pretty tough realization...I am not a good NaNo drafter.

I'm thinking back to my first NaNoWriMo in 2008. My draft was such a mess that I had to completely rewrite it. Even then I couldn't get it to make any sense, so I shelved it. I did end up pulling it back off the shelf and fixing it, and it eventually got me my agent, but it took three straight years to undo the mess that I made with that first draft.

Then last year's NaNoWriMo. I loved my idea, but my draft was so terrible. I looked at it last December and realized there was nothing I could do with it the way it was, so I let it simmer for the time being. That simmering is still going on (and I've already poached from that draft for a scene in my current ms), and I think it will remain there for quite awhile until I feel like dealing with that trainwreck.

This year was just absolute crap. It was worse than crap. It was hardly readable. I know first drafts don't have to be good, but I thought about the first draft of this project I'm revising and how it wasn't like that at all. Sure, it took me a lot longer than 30 days to get 50,000 words, but the words I got were good words. I didn't have to throw them all away like I'm going to have to with these. If I have to rewrite every word in my draft, what is the point of all of this? Just to say I did it? Who cares?

The thing is, I'm a slow writer, and I need to learn to be okay with it. Own it. Wear it like a badge of honor. Forcing myself to draft during NaNoWriMo just forces me to turn out crap, crap that is crappier than the normal first draft crap, and it takes me more work than it's worth to untangle it. It's dumb to put myself through that.

And, for goodness sake, I have a revision to finish.

So, I'm not continuing with NaNoWriMo this year.

I can't let my compulsive need to be a part of what everyone else is doing get in the way of my personal goals. I need to finish this book, and I want to have it done by the end of the year. How does drafting, or even outlining, a new novel during November help me achieve this? It doesn't.

It kills me, though, to start something and not finish it. I always finish these things. I don't like being a quitter. But these are my issues. I need to deal with them. And I can't let them bug me, because I know it's mostly only about THE FEAR.

So, if you're looking for me, I won't be NaNo-ing anymore. I put that idea away for a later time when I can devote 100% of my energy to it. Right now I'll be battling through The Fear to the other side of a finished book.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Getting #SipSawp Started!

Kelsey and I are so excited that so many of you are as stoked about #SipSwap as we are! We had close to FIFTY people sign up to trade a mug with a fellow writer.

This weekend our little elves matched everyone up with someone to gift with a mug and sent out all of the emails with contact information. Did you get your email? If anyone didn't get an email with your pick, please let me or Kels know ASAP so we can get all of that figured out for you.

Next steps?

Pick out a mug for your special someone and send it along in the mail on or before Saturday, November 24th.

(PLEASE, if something changes and you are unable to fulfill your mug-mailing commitment, CONTACT us. Nothing sucks more than waiting on a package that isn't actually coming.) 

When you get your mug, blog, tweet, or Instagram it. Share your awesome gift with the world!

Then check back here on December 5th. We'll have a linky up and running so everyone can share their loot.

Until then, grab the banner or the button to use on your post or link on your blog:

And, if you don't already, follow me (@_JessicaLove) and Kelsey (@KelsNotChels) on Twitter so you can keep up on all the #SipSwap latest. We can't wait to see what you all pick out for each other!

So...did everyone get an email with your pick? Has anyone gone shopping yet?

Monday, November 5, 2012

2012 YA Superlatives Dates and Categories

Okay, everyone. Katy UppermanTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and I have nailed down all the dates, we have figured out all the categories, and the ridiculously talented Tracey has designed a beautiful banner for us. The Class of 2012: YA Superlatives Blogfest is all ready to go!

So, mark your calendars! We're going to be sharing our favorite 2012 releases from Monday, December 17th to Thursday, December 20th. And there's something extra special going on this year...we're hosting a giveaway of some of the best books of the year for participants in The Class of 2012: YA Superlatives Blogfest!

What do you have to do right now?

--> Grab this button and stick it on your blog to let everyone know you're planning on participating in The Class of 2012: YA Superlatives Blogfest!

2012 YA Superlatives

--> Finish up all of those 2012 releases sitting on your shelf, or use this list to find more 2012 releases to read between now and the end of the year.

--> Check out our awesome list of categories below and start planning out your choices! (I know I already have some books and characters in mind for some of these...but I also still have a lot of 2012 releases to get through!)

Monday, December 17th: Head of the Class 

Favorite Dystopian
Favorite Science Fiction
Favorite Fantasy
Favorite Contemporary
Favorite Action/Adventure 
Favorite Historical Fiction
Favorite Comedy
Favorite Mystery
Favorite Romance
Favorite Paranormal 
Favorite Family Drama
Favorite Genre Bender

Tuesday, December 18th: Popularity Contest
Choose characters who fit each topic from ANY YA book!
Class Clown
Most Likely to Become a Rock Star
Mostly Likely to Start a Riot
Biggest Flirt
Fashion King and/or Queen
Girl You’d Most Want For Your BFF
Boy You Wish You’d Dated in High School
Most Likely to Become President
Quirkiest Character
Villain You Love to Hate
Favorite Parental Figure
Coolest Nerd

Wednesday, December 19th: Elements of Fiction
Most Envy-Inducting Plot (Or, the plot you wish you'd thought of yourself.)
Most Formidable World (Or, the setting you most definitely would NOT want to travel to.)
Wanderlust-Inducting (Or, the setting you'd happily travel to.)
Loveliest Prose
Most Dynamic Main Character
Most Jaw-Dropping Ending
Best Performance in a Supporting Role
Best use of Theme

Thursday, December 20: Best In Show
Favorite Cover
Cutest Couple
Most Likely to Succeed (Or, pick a Printz Winner)
Most Likely to Make You Miss Your Bedtime (The book you just couldn't put down!)
Best Repeat Performance (Your favorite sequel or follow-up)
Favorite Finale or End of Series Novel
Romance Most Worthy of an Ice Bath
Breakout Novel (Your favorite book by a debut author)
Best Old-Timer (Your favorite read of the year, published BEFORE 2012)
Most Likely To Make a Grown Man Cry
Most Pleasant Surprise (The book you didn't think you'd like, but totally did)
Most Creative Use of a Love Triangle
Sleeper Hit (Book you found so awesome you wish it had been hyped more)
Favorite Outlier (Your favorite MG or adult 2012 book)

And, because it was so much fun last year, we're going to have everyone pick their own superlative category for the end of Thursday's list. (You can check out my lists and choices from last year right here if you need some inspiration.)

Katy, Alison, Tracey, and I are so excited about The Class of 2012: YA Superlatives Blogfest this year, you guys! And we hope you are just as excited as we are to share all of your favorite 2012 reads with everyone. Now, what are you waiting for? Get reading!