Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Join the #NILTribe

So I had the pleasure of reading Lynne Matson's book NIL, coming out this March. It was wonderful! NIL is part swoony romance, part supernatural mystery, part wilderness survival guide, and completely entertaining. Anyone who loved the classic first season of LOST will love NIL. (yes, I just quoted my Goodreads review, but it's late and I'm tired and leave me alone.)

On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days--to escape, or you die.

What a hook! To read the rest of the pitch, check out the book's Goodreads page.

The coolest part about NIL's launch is that Lynne is letting readers and fans in on the excitement. She's starting a street team called #NILtribe where you can win prizes and get any scoops before the public. I'll let Lynne explain:

If you love books, especially thrillers, packed with mysteries, islands, secrets and ALL THE FEELS, then #NILtribe may be for you! All you have to do is tweet . . . or post to Facebook . . . or post on your blog . . . or comment on my blog: “I joined the tribe!” and add the #NILtribe hashtag. And that’s it! You’re in.:)

Over the three months, follow the #NILtribe hashtag on Twitter and Facebook for chances to win galleys of NIL, copies of other YA books I love and sweet NIL swag . . . and to discover NIL sekrits. Each day I’ll tweet using the #NILtribe hashtag. I’ll share cool facts about the characters, island sekrits, author interviews, giveaway links, etc. Each week I'll share new goodies that will be up for grabs by members of the #NILtribe in upcoming giveaways (spoiler: creepy bone cuff bracelet anyone?!) Each month will bring more opportunities to win NIL galleys, NIL swag, and after NIL’s release, signed hardbacks.:) And in the last month before release, all #NILtribe members will get swag-to-be-revealed… just by joining the #NILtribe.:)

And to all those readers-who-love-thrillers-and-islands-and-sekrits-and swoon? Feel free to use the #NILtribe hashtag as often as you like! Post anytime using the hashtag! You can countdown to Nil’s release, repost any of my posts, or post about why you're excited for NIL, Waiting on Wednesdaystyle. Just remember to use the #NILtribe hashtag, and you’re golden. :) Welcome to the tribe.:)

An awesome opportunity for an awesome book! Dig in!

Update: More details are live on Lynne's blog:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

THE BREAK-UP ARTIST cover reveal extravaganza!

I'm going to keep this short + sweet since my brain is fried. It's one of those Tuesdays that feels like a Thursday except, ya know, it's only Tuesday.

THE BREAK-UP ARTIST! Cover reveal extravaganza! Three parts! 

Part I - The Actual Reveal

In which HarlequinTEEN officially reveals the magnificent cover for THE BREAK-UP ARTIST for all the world to see.

Where: the HarlequinTEEN Facebook page --
When: Thursday 10/24 10:30 am

Part II - ICYMI Cover Reveal + ARC Giveaway @ Forever17 Books

In which I show off the cover once for all who missed it. On top of that, I'll reveal the book's official book jacket copy and *some special secret amazing news* that I'm nearly bursting with. Or maybe that's just fiber. But that's not all.

I'm also giving away 2 limited-edition cerlox ARCs of THE BREAK-UP ARTIST and a funpack of some amazing HarlequinTEEN debut contemporaries.

When: Friday 10/25

Part III - Cover Talk at YA @ YAInterrobang

In which I discuss the cool details behind the cover design. The cover is something that you can keep looking at and find something new, like those Magic Eye paintings from the 90s

When: Sunday 10/27

I am so far beyond excited -- like I can't even see excited from my house anymore -- to show you the cover for THE BREAK-UP ARTIST, to take one giant leap closer to bringing the book into the world. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

My first signing!

I better practice my John Hancock (Or rather Herbie Hancock)...because I have my first signing!!!

I will be signing advanced copies of THE BREAK-UP ARTIST at the Heartland Fall Forum, a conference for independent bookstores. I can't wait to meet all the amazing booksellers helping to connect readers with the books.

If you're attending, here's where I'll be:
Crown Plaza O'Hare - Chicago, IL
Regional Authors Booth -- 10-11am
Harlequin booth -- 2:30-3:30 p.m. 3:30-4:30 pm
*NEW* Booksellers Banquet -- 7-9 pm

Feel free to stop by and say hi!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What I've Been Up To This Summer

I can't believe summer is almost over! It flies by every year. This summer was particularly strange because here in Chicago, we only had a handful of true summer days. Otherwise, it was like an extended spring (70s, bipolar mix of rain, clouds, and sun). Today feels like a crisp fall day. Which I'm not complaining about, especially because I don't have central air. But still, as much as I hate the dog days of summer, it's weird not having them. It makes me appreciate the cooldown in September/October.

I haven't thought too much about the temperature because I've been so BUSY this summer. So busy I kinda neglected you, dear blog. I know what you're thinking --

via quickmeme

Well, here's a rundown of what's been going with me these past two months, kind of like the less-cool version of this epic montage.

* I finished line edits on THE BREAK-UP ARTIST and am in the middle of writing acknowledgements. It's this close to being a real book!

* I taught my first class - Writing the YA Novel - at Trade School Evanston and was paid in cupcakes.

* I'm speaking on my very first panel this Thursday about writing and publishing. Fingers crossed I'm not a rambling mess.

* I've been feverishly writing my new MS and crossed 50k words. I like writing in summer because the sun shining at 6 a.m. makes it much easier to wake up early. It's a struggle to get out of bed when it's pitch black outside. I should have a rough draft done by Labor Day, which is the fastest that I've ever written a book!

* I outlined a new super-secret WIP which I hope I can tell you about in the future.

* I have done some blogging, just not here. Check out my post at Michelle Krys's blog on query contests, and my summer reading reco at the YA Valentines. I have three more guest posts coming up in the next two months. In other words, see you in October possibly.

* I devoured ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK on Netflix. It has some of the best female characters ever written for TV. And what's most impressive is that despite the sprawling cast, every character is fleshed out and has a moment to shine. It's an incredible balancing act. Now I'm enjoying the final season of BREAKING BAD. (catch up on Netflix! There's still time!)

*I've seen a bunch of movies. WORLD WAR Z was hands-down the best one I saw this summer -- which proves that you should never be afraid of a rewrite. (THE TO-DO LIST is runner-up. Unfortunately, it bombed, but it's destined to be a cult classic.)

How has your summer been?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Interview with a SLOB: Mindy McGinnis

Most of you probably know about Mindy McGinnis through her fun, informative blog Writer Writer Pants on Fire or because her awesome-looking debut NOT A DROP TO DRINK hits bookstores this September. (Enter to win a copy on Goodreads here) But when she's not writing or blogging, she's a school librarian aide. Once I sold THE BREAK-UP ARTIST, I realized that the library world is totally foreign to me, even though I use libraries all the time. I spend time thinking about selling books, but getting your book into libraries is also important. People check out library books and get recommendations from their librarians every day. But what happens before that?

OOOhhh...books (via Wikipedia Commons)

So today, Mindy is taking off her writer hat and putting on her librarian fedora to answer some questions about how libraries buy books. And in the tradition of her SAT, SHIT, and CRAP series, I'll call this interview with a SLOB (School Librarian on Books).

How do libraries buy books? 
That really depends on the individual libraries. My own library is a public school in a rural area, and we've recently had to go through some serious funding cuts. When I first started, we had three full time librarian aides (one in each building) and one district librarian. Right now I'm the only full time librarian aide, and the District Librarian is also a part-time English teacher. So, our method of buying books has changed. We used to have the time to browse through School Library Journal, Horn Book, the YALSA site, read reviews, and hit up major book blogs. With our time so restricted now we use a service through Junior Library Guild where they send you an age appropriate selection every month.

How far in advance do they order them? 
In my own library we typically don't pre-order unless it's an anticipated big-demand sequel or series addition. Most of the time we rely on JLG [Junior Library Guild] to stock our shelves and then we do buy single titles through word of mouth or titles that our own browsing have led us to.

How do you decide what to buy? 
Our budget is restricted, so we buy what we know will circulate. Sequels and series additions are easy choices when we know the first title circulated well. Also we pay attention to the trends of what our kids are reading - which may not necessarily be what's trending in the industry. Right when zombies were going hard, all our kids wanted to read were contemporary issues books. So hey - we found them.

What do you think makes kids at your school pick out the books that they do? 
Two answers on that:1) The cover2) UsCovers are HUGE for teens. I can't tell you how many great books with bad covers have totally tanked with my kids because they don't want to be seen carrying them around. Our kids have learned to trust us though, and it's such a great compliment when a kid comes up to me and says, "Pick a book out for me. You know what I like."

Do authors ever reach out to you directly to pitch their books? 
In different ways, yes. I do have people approach me as a blogger for help with a signal boost, but also I've had quite a few YA authors (Simone Elkeles, Liz Norris and Lenore Applehans to name a few) donate copies of their books because they know I'm a school librarian. It also never hurts when I pick up a copy of a book and hand it to a kid and breezily say, "Yeah, I know her." ;)

Is there anything content-wise (language, violence, sex) that restricts you from stocking a book in your library? 
Tricky question. I don't enjoy censorship, but I do enjoy having a job. My library currently serves grades 7-12 and next year due to a building closure it will be serving grades 5-12. Obviously there are some content that is perfectly acceptable for seniors that a seventh grader shouldn't be near, let alone a fifth grader. Typically, because it's a small town, we know the kids, and usually we know the parents, too. We know their maturity levels, but we do make sure there's nothing too terribly shocking going home with someone who shouldn't have it. 

I've always said it's possible to have everything from Doctor Seuss to Cory Doctorow to E.L. Doctorow on the same shelf in my library... and that's pretty much the case.

So much great information here. Thank you so much, Mindy! You can find Mindy all across the web like Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and her blog (link above).

And you can also find me there as well: FB. Twitter. GR.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Writing Realistically Unrealistic Dialogue

When I was a young lad kid, Dawson's Creek was the big cheese. (sidenote: I can't believe it's been off the air for a decade!) The main criticism of the show was that teenagers do not talk like these characters in real life. Dawson, Pacey, Joey, and Jen were too eloquent, using vocabulary that had been deep-fried in SAT Prep books. It was unrealistic. It's true that the characters didn't sound like real teens, but the dialogue was still one of my favorite parts of the show.

I love writing dialogue, and I love reading/hearing great dialogue. Snappy banter, witty retorts, juicy monologues. Yes, please, and thank you. The main purposes of dialogue is either to a) get out plot b) reveal character traits c) expose tension. Lots of writers use workmanlike dialogue: it gets the job done without being distracting. And usually the dialogue is enjoyable to read, even sometimes funny. But then there are writers who go the stylized route. Aaron Sorkin, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Williamson, Kevin Smith, Shonda Rhimes. Their dialogue is heightened and no way would ever get confused with realism.

Olivia Pope in SCANDAL, aka the best show you're not watching with amazing dialogue and trench coats.

High school films especially can get away with this. Some of my favorites -- 10 Things I Hate About You, Clueless, Heathers, Easy A, Juno, Bring It On, Brick -- feature characters who sound nothing like real teens. They exchange witty banter, infused with unique vernacular, rapid pop-culture references, and intelligence. Again, I'm salivating here. The dialogue is amazing in these films. When I'm reading a book/watching a movie, I don't want to hear realistic teen talk. I am entering a fictional world filled with fictional characters. How they speak should be just as creative as everything else in their world. That's part of the fun!

10 Things I Hate About You is boss when it comes to this. The dialogue in that movie, especially for Kat, was stuffed with sharp one-liners, delicious back-and-forth, and hyper-articulate characters. The film had the sound of Shakespearean language transplanted into high school. (Seriously, I think my SAT verbal scores improved from everything I watched growing up.)

Some choice quotes:
"Has the fact that you're completely psycho managed to escape your attention?"

"Can we, for two seconds, ignore the fact that you're severely unhinged and discuss my need for a night of teenage normalcy?"

"What is it with this chick? She have beer-flavored nipples?"

"Remove head from sphincter, then drive!" 

"People perceive you as somewhat.."
"'Heinous bitch' is the term used most often."

I could go on and on and on and on but yeah, teenagers (and most adults) do not talk this way. So why does it work? Why is this type of whip-smart chatter so prevalent in teen films without being distracting?

Because even though what they're saying is unrealistic, how they're acting is.  And that's the golden rule. The dialogue may be heightened, the plot may be miles from reality, but what characters are feeling and how they're acting must be relatable or else you'll lose your audience. The teens in Dawson's Creek may talk like Rhodes Scholars, but people watching could relate to them and understand the emotion they felt. If your character is talking in sonnets, sure, we'll go with you on that ride. But if his beloved girlfriend cheats on him with his best friend and he just shrugs it off, then we lose interest. Because that is unrealistic and will confuse/frustrate your reader. (note: unless he has a good reason to react the way he does that makes sense within the story and all that jazz, but this is just a broad example)

I believe that creating realistic, relatable characters with heightened, unrealistic dialogue makes the reader experience much more enjoyable. We read books for escape. Watching a show or movie where characters are like us but with better dialogue lets us live vicariously through them. Who doesn't wish they could have witty banter with friends and crushes?

Ok, some more witty banter for the road, courtesy of Easy A:

Woodchuck Todd: [in Woodchuck costume carrying head] Hey Olive.
Olive Penderghast: Oh my God! The illusion is shattered! This is exactly why they put you in the gas chamber if you take your head off at Disney World.
Woodchuck Todd: Actually I think they just, you know, they fire you. You're thinking of Disneyland. Disney World is much more liberal.
Olive Penderghast: Oh yeah! I always forget Disney World went blue in the last election.

How do you feel about dialogue? Are you delighted or distracted by overly articulate teens? 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Is The Fault in Our Stars Oscarbound?

Shailene Woodley (via

The Fault in Our Stars movie adaptation is quickly becoming a reality. Recently, they cast Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace. With upcoming roles in Spider-Man 2 and Divergent, plus a Golden Globe nomination for 2011's The Descendants, Woodley is making a play at being the next Jennifer Lawrence. The producers of the TFIOS movie aren't messing around. It helps that the role of Hazel Grace is a dream for any young actress, especially in a movie biz where actresses are relegated to the "girlfriend" role. Unlike The Hunger Games and Divergent, the storyline of John Green's bestseller is very awards-friendly: dramedy + romance + cancer.

Historically, teen films have a horrible track record with awards. They usually lack the gravitas to appeal to the stodgy Academy who votes on the Oscars. The average Academy member is a 60-year-old white male, and American teen lingo and themes don't translate to the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press who vote on the Golden Globes. But sometimes, a movie is good enough and lucky enough and have the right people behind it to break through at the Oscars. And the last movie to accomplish this was Juno.

via wikipedia

Will The Fault in Our Stars be Oscarbound like Juno? Tonally, the two properties are similar. Both center around whip-smart teenage girls with a knack for sharp dialogue. Both are equal parts funny, romantic, and heartfelt. And screenplays for both films made the Black List, a highly-regarded list of the best unproduced scripts circulating in Hollywood. Juno was nominated for 4 Oscars (Picture, Director, Actress, Original Screenplay) and won Best Original Screenplay.

Juno is the gold standard for teen movies breaking through at the Oscars. (pun intended) The movie was well-received and a box office smash, but five years later, it's still shocking that it got this far. How did a cute film loaded with quirky dialogue ("Honest to blog") about a teen mom win over the stuffy, old Academy members?

Diablo Cody with her Oscar (via

  • It was marketed as an adult film. Juno was originally positioned as an indie film for movie-loving, upscale adults. It wasn't marketed to teens at first. The film screened at film festivals and started in limited release in December, in the thick of the Oscar race. Sure, it appealed to teens and twentysomethings, naturally. But it wasn't until it received nominations and expanded into wide release that Fox Searchlight began broadening the target audience. Here, TFIOS is at a disadvantage because despite mainstream success, it's perceived first-and-foremost as a YA story. Whether this will lessen the film's quality in the Academy's eyes remains to be seen.

  • It had the right auspices. Juno was always positioned as an auteur's film. Most teen films use hot stars to sell their film, but Juno was sold on the strength of its director and writer. Director Jason Reitman was coming off his debut feature, Thank You for Smoking, which established him as a filmmaker to watch among critics. Juno solidified his position as one of the top emerging talents in Hollywood. Diablo Cody's script transformed her overnight into a star, a rare instance of a movie getting attention because of its screenwriter. Her backstory -- former stripper turned blogger turned screenwriter -- gave the film tons of free publicity and made her a darling of the arthouse crowd. Finally, the studio that released Juno -- Fox Searchlight -- knows how to sell quirky to Oscar voters. The year before, they carried Little Miss Sunshine to two Oscar victories. If any other director, writer, and studio had made this film, it probably wouldn't have made it to the Oscars. TFIOS has a rising star and screenwriters (Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the duo who scripted (500) Days of Summer), but its director Josh Boone is an unknown. His first film Stuck in Love comes out in June, and if it's a hit with critics, then that could put him on the map as a director to watch, which would create nice momentum for TFIOS

  • It was released in the right year. Most of all, Juno benefited from perfect timing. 2007 had the darkest lineup of Best Picture contenders in recent history. Not standard weepies, but blackhearted, amoral movies: No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton, even Atonement ended on a downer. Other movies in contention that year like 3:10 to Yuma, Gone Baby Gone, and Bourne Ultimatum were ultra serious and violent. Juno was a breath of fresh air, a stark contrast to everything else competing for Oscars, which allowed it to stand out. Had it been released the following year, Slumdog Millionaire would've steamrolled right over it. 
I really like Juno. But frankly, there are other teen films with better, sharper scripts (Clueless, Mean Girls, Heathers). I like to think that the great, ignored teen films of the past were being retroactively recognized with Juno's screenplay Oscar. 

Will TFIOS follow Juno's path? It's very possible. Like with anything in publishing, it's all about quality, luck, and timing. The Oscars are only partially about awarding the best films. "Best" is subjective. So many factors go into who gets nominated and who wins. (marketing, genre, talent, campaigning...wasn't Argo's win last year mostly a "Ben was snubbed" reaction?) It's very possible that Shailene Woodley's role on Secret Life and questionable red carpet choices could've ruined her chances of getting nominated for The Descendants -- you know, nothing having to do with her actual performance. I don't think the people behind the TFIOS movie care about winning awards. I believe they just want to make a film that will please fans and touch general moviegoers. And really, that's the ultimate reward.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Adventures in NY (with no pictures)

Last week, I had a whirlwind 24 hours meeting lots of awesome publishing folk. And of course, I took zero pictures commemorating my experience :( Even after I told readers that they should start taking pictures! Still, I had a great day and will try to fill in with some type of pictures.

It all started last Wednesday night, when writer/blogger/publishing guru Dahlia Adler and I met for Crumbs cupcakes. If you've never had the pleasure of eating a Crumbs cupcake, just think of a regular cupcake on steroids. As it always happens whenever I hang out with Dahlia, there's lots of great chitchat but never enough time. Seriously, we talked for an hour but it felt like 10 minutes. It's like that movie Contact.

Yes, we had the largest one. Are you even surprised? (via the Suntimes blog)
The next morning, I traveled down to the Harlequin Teen offices and met my editor Annie. Her office is located in a gorgeous, old building. The lobby is breathtaking. I openly gawked upon entering. The picture below doesn't even do it justice. It's so nice that they have a sign out forbidding sightseers and picture takers. (so I have an excuse this time!)

They don't make em like they used to (via reuters)

I met Annie and the other two Harlequin Teen editors, and they were all such great people, and so excited about THE BREAK-UP ARTIST! It's a good team over there, and I am even more psyched about getting published with this imprint. We chatted about covers and Chicago and--tip for writers--don't forget to number your pages. Throughout my whole trip, I was pleasantly surprised with how nice everyone in YA publishing is. Oh, and I also went home with some H-Teen books :)

Bam! I'm going to start from the bottom up
 Later, I went to lunch with Annie and my agent Becky. I loved listening to them talk about publishing news. We talked about some marketing stuff, and I learned a few secrets about the NYT Bestseller list. Being in my writing corner in Chicago, I sometimes forget that there's a whole publishing business going on. After lunch, Becky and I got some coffee/tea and talked writing and future goals before I zipped uptown to my next meeting.

With YA author extraordinare Kody Keplinger.

I'm not going to sugarcoat this: she is THE COOLEST. I don't know where the time went, but we talked and talked for like two hours about important issues like Awkward, The View, No Strings Attached vs Friends With Benefits, and a smidgeon about publishing. I was nervous about meeting her, in case she was like that obnoxious old author in The Fault in Our Stars. But she wasn't. She was so friendly and down-to-Earth.

These are her books. Read them. Now. (p.s. Doesn't the Shut Out girl look like Liv Tyler?)
Finally, I rushed up to meet some OneFour authors -- Michelle Shusterman, Lauren Magaziner, and Rebecca Behrens. Yes, I was the token YAer in the group of MGers. And I was terribly late! But it was all good, and we chatted over nachos and waffle cheese fries. Being able to talk about publishing jitters with other debuts was refreshing, knowing that you're in the same boat. And we also discussed quitting Facebook one day. Maybe. Possibly. Probably Not.

When I got on the bus back to NJ, I was beyond worn out, but also couldn't sit still. I had a wonderful day, and like I said before, YA publishing is filled with the nicest, friendliest, my-kind-of people.

And next time, I'll promise I'll take lots of annoying selfies.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Trunked Novels

It was recently announced that actor Jason Segel is going to be the latest celebrity to write a YA novel. What's interesting is that he's basing it on an unproduced screenplay he wrote when he was 21. I wonder how many authors, once they get published, return to trunked novels and ideas and try to make them shine.

From one Siegel/Segel to another, good luck! (photo via

I'm sure authors have been tempted. Your publisher is asking for a second novel in half the time you wrote the first one. And oh, look. Here's this completed novel that was subpar when I first wrote it, but that was before someone considered my work publishable. A little read-through and some spackle, and tada -- shiny new manuscript. Right?

Should trunked novels stay trunked?

There's a reason why a novel was trunked, and it wasn't because you had to get published first. Nobody wins by you trying to prove that everything you've ever written is worthy of getting published. I have two trunked novels. The first one is near and dear to my heart, and I gave up on it after four drafts. I always loved the writing in it, but something wasn't clicking storywise. I'll admit, though, once THE BREAK-UP ARTIST sold, I seriously considered polishing it up and sending it off to my agent. I even had a writer friend read it and give me notes -- notes that were nearly identical to the feedback I'd received years ago.

That's when I realized that this novel wasn't a failure. It was a moment in time, a point on my journey as a writer. The problems I saw in this novel I've since overcome on my next books. When I look back on my two trunked novels, I don't see failure. I see progress. I pinpointed where those books floundered and applied that moving forward. Trying to fix them up and make them publishable would diminish their value. You don't need to validate your trunked novels, your aborted attempts, your former SNI's. If you can learn and grow from those experiences, then they are all successes.

Don't go backward. Keep moving forward. If you want to have a career as a writer, you'll need to develop new ideas. If you are *seriously* attached to an old story, don't salvage the old manuscript. Use the idea and redraft from scratch. Make it your own, for the improved, wiser you.

Do you try to rework trunked novels? Have you recycled old ideas?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Five Things I like about Quentin Tarantino Films

If there are books or movies or shows that I really love, why NOT tell the world the few people who stop by this blog about them? Instead of giving a whole drawn-out review, though, I'm just going to list 5 Things I liked. It's more interesting for me to learn why somebody liked someone rather then that they just liked it.

So last time, it was a book. Now, I'm going to share my love for one of my favorite screenwriters, Quentin Tarantino, who recently won his second Oscar for best original screenplay for awesome, rollicking Django Unchained. I love movies that have a distinct voice, ones that only could've been made by this one person. It's crazy to think that Pulp Fiction is almost twenty years old. But since then, Tarantino has continued to turn out great work. There are endless articles about his style and work why it changed cinema. Google it. For now, I'll talk about five things I personally love about this writing, and how it helped me:

(from Wikipedia)

1) Dialogue serves a purpose: His dialogue is pop poetry. Characters speak in this articulate, cooler-than-cool fashion where long stretches of witty banter bounces between them like balls in a pinball machine. Most movies try to have as little dialogue as possible -- more action -- but Tarantino breaks the rules, and yet his films still work. The long conversation Vincent and Jules have in Pulp Fiction isn't just about the Royale with Cheese; it reveals all you need to know about the characters -- Vincent plays by the rules (which will be his downfall), while Jules is starting to question them. There've been SO many imitators (basically 80% of all indie films in the 90s, e.g. this one or this one), but nobody can come close to matching his way with words. And that's because...

2) The simmering tension: What makes QT's long, dialogue-filled scenes so watchable isn't just the dialogue. There's always tension bubbling just under the surface. Characters speak calmly, eloquently, while crap is waiting to hit the fan at any moment. Think of the opening scene in Inglorious Basterds where Nazi Hans Linda is chatting with a farmer. It's a long scene of two men talking at a dinner table, but what makes it so watchable and suspenseful is knowing that just under the floorboards are Jews hiding. What's important is that his scenes are never just two people talking; there's always subtext. 

3) The Images: In such talky films, QT still manages to present images that stick with you. Think the final shot of Basterds or the needle scene in Pulp Fiction or even the costumes worn by Django, the Bride, and Vincent Vega. It's images and moments that stay with you.

4) The over-the-top, humorous violence: QT's movies are violent, but it's all over-the-top and comical. He finds the humor in the bloody, which can be hard to do. Movie violence is a touchy subject currently, but his violence doesn't try to be realistic; it just acknowledges cinema's brutal lineage. He takes what should be serious scenes, and finds a way to turn them on their head. Think of poor Marvin getting shot accidentally in Pulp Fiction, the ear-cutting scene in Reservoir Dogs, or the blood-soaked final acts of Kill Bill 1 and Django.

5) How he changed movies: Yes, I did state above that there are plenty of article on this, but I'll join the chorus. Pulp Fiction made indie cinema mainstream, started the trend of movie stars going indie for awards cred, helped usher in irony to the 90s. And if you like your Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games films being split into 2 parts, then thank Kill Bill for that.

What are your thoughts on QT's films?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

I'm it!

I've been tagged by the amazing SJ Kincaid to participate in the Next Big Thing Blog Hop and answer a few Q's about my book. Check out the answers below:

1. What is the working title of your book?

2. Where did the idea come from?
So much of YA contains intense, all-encompassing romances, and I wanted to write something that turns those relationships on their head.

On a personal level, the further I got into my 20s, the more I saw friends and acquaintances jump into relationships for all the wrong reasons and refuse to see the red flags. I usually kept my mouth shut. That's what you do in those situations, because most people won't listen to you; they would just get offended. I wanted to create a character who was surrounded by that but on a magnified level and see how she would react.

3. What genre does your book fall under?
YA contemporary comedy (is anti-rom-com a genre?)

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I would have Tilda Swinton play every role. 

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A girl who runs a secret business breaking up couples at her school is tasked with splitting up the seemingly perfect homecoming couple, while also fighting back feelings for her best friend's boyfriend.

6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
It will be published May 2014 by Harlequin Teen books.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About four months of actual writing. But before that, I got to know my characters and crafted a plot outline.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Tonally, it's very much line with contemporary comedies like ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS and SPANKING SHAKESPEARE -- books that aren't just "light," but can make you actually laugh.

I consider the book most akin to THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger. Jaded-but-complex protagonist, no swooning romance, lots of witty banter.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
See question 1. Also, I was inspired by one of my favorite movies - MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING. The main character is anti-romance until she falls for her best friend on the eve of his wedding and schemes to win him back. I've seen that movie about 100 times, and Julianne Potter is one of the best rom-com heroines hands down.

*cough* It's on Netflix streaming *cough*

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It's the perfect palate cleanser if you've been binging on dystopian thriller romances. THE BREAK-UP ARTIST is funny, chock full of great one-liners. (Not Dowager Countess or HAPPY ENDINGS great, but close) I promise. Sorta.

As the final part of the bloghop, I'm tagging two other fabulous writers with books releasing in 2014. Check out their posts next Wednesday!

A. Lynden Rolland - author of OF BREAKABLE THINGS
Kristi Helvig - author of BURN OUT

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Five Things I Liked About Anna and the French Kiss

I want to try something new on the blog: a recurring series. I've considered them in the past, but I kinda figured I'd never keep up with them. Until now! I've resisted posting reviews on my blog because a) I hated doing book reports in school. Why start again now? and b) I would never give a negative review in public. (disclaimer: yes, I did review one movie on the blog eons ago. It's a great movie, and you should see it.) However, if there are books or movies or shows that I really love, why NOT tell the world the few people who stop by this blog about them? Instead of giving a whole drawn-out review, though, I'm just going to list 5 Things I liked. It's more interesting for me to learn why somebody liked someone rather then that they just liked it.

I'll start this series with a recent favorite: Anna and the French Kiss. Lots of people have read it and loved it. And for a great take on this book, check out Real Man Read YA's review. I was hesitant to read Anna because I'm not a romance fan, and because I assumed it was about an impossibly beautiful girl who frolics around in Paris with an impossibly beautiful boy and they lived impossibly happily ever after.

But I. Was. Wrong. 

As soon as I began reading it, I realized why so many had fallen in love with the book. Here are 5 Things I liked about Anna:

1) Etienne was short: He was not impossibly beautiful. Have you ever read books where the male love interest has no personality except for being hot? That's what I was expecting here. So it was such a pleasant surprise when Etienne turned out to be short and pasty. He was still good looking, but in a normal, earthbound way. He had flaws. He was a mere mortal real person with a real personality. The most attractive part of him was his charm.

2) Anna's a movie buff: And she has great taste in movies! She mentions Rushmore, one of my favorite movies, and Lost in Translation, which is a gem. I wish I could go to those old movie houses she frequented in Paris. When I studied abroad, I'd go to the movies out of homesickness, but the theater by me was a multiplex (which did make me feel at home).

3) Anna's circle of friends: The fivesome had a great group dynamic. They all had chemistry with each other and read like a genuine group of friends, with their teasing and banter. Perkins writes authentic, funny dialogue.

4) Nobody kissed at the Eiffel Tower: In a book that takes place in Paris, I was waiting for it - and waiting to roll my eyes. The Eiffel Tower is the most overused landmark in stories. But nobody kissed here. In fact, Anna only went to the Eiffel Tower once, and very briefly. We got to see other landmarks, which was refreshing.

5) The kiss: Yeah, it was pretty hot.

What say you, readers? Have you read this book? What did you like most (or hate)?

Monday, February 4, 2013

My First Author Interview

Check out this in-depth interview I did on Kristin Lynn Thetford's blog, where I discuss:
-Gossip Girl
-How I came to write YA
-and I even threw in a Clueless quote, too!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Changing My Weekend Routine

First off: I am now a member of the OneFour KidLit blog for 2014 YA/MG debuts. Come check us out here.

I can't believe it's Monday again. It's not that this weekend went by so fast. They usually do. But lately, I feel like I can never get what I want accomplished. Friday night, I make my to-do list, and once I get all my usual weekend errands done, I'm either too exhausted to write or I just don't have time for it. I used to be annoyed that I wasn't writing enough, but I think the problem goes deeper than that.

I once blogged about how my writing suffered from the SIFS, the Save It For Sundays. I've learned to set manageable writing expectations for the weekend. (I'm no Taryn Albright, unfortunately.) Yet even those aren't being met. After this weekend, I realized that my non-writing life has been infected with the SIFS. I make big to-do lists, and it's usually the same culprits: grocery shop (I shop at multiple stores), gym, clean the apartment, call my family, make my lunches for the week. I work full-time, and so I always feel too tired on weeknights to do anything. I know I'll have more energy to do EVERYTHING come Saturday. Every Friday, I never believe those regular errands will take long, and that I'll have loads of time to write. And every Sunday, I am proven wrong.

So new goal! From now on, I will try to check off some items of my weekly to-do list during the week. I can push myself to do a little when I get off work. A little grocery shopping, a little cleaning, a little phone time, and other items that need to be done. That way, I'll have more time -- and more importantly, more energy -- on the weekend to write.

Any routines you're looking to switch up?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Big news! THE BREAK-UP ARTIST sold in a two book deal to Harlequin Teen!! Here's the Publishers Marketplace announcement:

Philip Siegel's THE BREAK-UP ARTIST, pitched as Mean Girls meets My Best Friend's Wedding, in which one girl's mission to even the dating playing field will turn her whole high school upside down, to Annie Stone at Harlequin Teen, in a two-book deal, by Becky Vinter at FinePrint Literary Management. 

If I knew how to use gif's, I'd put one here. So I'll share my feelings old school style with jpegs, Oscars edition.

I've read so many posts like this from my years of stalking following authors in the kidlit world. It was five years ago that I turned to writing YA, and I feel truly lucky and grateful that I got this far. I can't believe that in 2014, people will be able to get into their flying cars, teleport to a bookstore (or click onto Amazon), and be able to buy my book. And then trash it on Goodreads

I am so pumped to work with my editor Annie Stone, who has been nothing but super excited about BUA. It's still weird to think people actually like what I write. I have to give a huge thank you to my agent Becky Vinter. She fractured her spine and she still looks like a rock star. She worked on this deal while she was technically on vacation. Talk about dedication! And Michelle Krys and Ruth Lauren Steven, who dug my query letter out from the slush for their Xmas in July contest. Yes, contests and slush work! And the L.A. city bus driver, for taking a chance on an unknown kid. Without which, I might never be tardy. 

I'll be back with more details as they come. (And I promise not to be one of those authors who only tweets about their book!) Thanks for reading!