Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Welcome to the ART OF SECRETS!

One winter Sunday a couple of years back, I got a query from an author named James Klise. Even though this author did NOT follow the query instructions (naughty boy) -- I happened to catch it in spam and opened it immediately because I was already familiar with his work (he won a Stonewall honor for his first book, Love Drugged) . . . and because I was sitting at my computer and kinda bored. (Hey, honesty!) The query I read kinda knocked my socks off:
A fire destroys...
A community unites...
A miracle appears...
A crime unfolds.


When the Chicago apartment of 15-year old Saba Khan is destroyed by fire, her school community comes together to help. Students organize a massive auction, where one of the donated items is revealed to be the work of a local "outsider artist" named Henry Darger (1892-1973). The art is worth a fortune. Who keeps the money? Saba's classmates, who found the art? Saba's school, which is hosting the auction? Or Saba's family, which desperately needed help in the first place? Most important, how long will it take for this community to realize that they are ALL victims now - not of a fire, but of a brilliant, carefully plotted scam? Told in short chapters, multiple voices (adults and teens), and full of surprises, [THE ART OF SECRETS] is a fast-moving and provocative tale of greed, schemes, and the American Dream.
I generally hate questions in queries -- but even WITH them, I was most intrigued. So I requested the material immediately. Jim sent me the manuscript immediately. I read it immediately. And I called and offered representation immediately. (This is . . . abnormal, to say the least!) -- and within 24 hours, I had myself a new client. And soon enough we had an amazing publisher, Algonquin Young Readers, who helped make a good book GREAT, gave us a super-cool title and cover, and who have been angels from heaven to work with.

So, what made me fall so hard for this book in the first place? As I explained to Jim, it was like NOTHING I'd read before. It was the book equivalent of throwing open the windows on that first beautiful spring day and letting in that gorgeous-smelling crisp breeze -- it felt like a deep breath of fresh air.

THE ART OF SECRETS breaks alleged YA "rules" -- and not only does it break the rules, it breaks them knowingly, with a sledgehammer, while wearing only a cheeky grin.  It has ten points of view! Half of them are grown-ass adults! NONE of them are reliable! There's not a romance at center, forget about a love triangle! It asks questions about class and race, greed and generosity, that do not allow for easy answers! Instead of being told in a straightforward narrative, it's a mystery told by way of a series of interviews, emails, journal entries, texts and clippings! I could go on, but you get the idea. It's risky and provocative and refreshing and basically awesome.

But don't take my word for it -- here's an excerpt from the *STARRED* Booklist review: "This art mystery is that rare book that will be passed around by teens as well as teachers in the faculty lounge, discussed and dissected and immediately reread to scour for hidden clues and motivations. The incidents at Highsmith School will stay on readers' minds long after the last page."  TRUTH!

Get in on the secret yourself. THE ART OF SECRETS is available in 
hardcover, ebook, and audio versions wherever fine books are sold. 
Including: Oblong Books, IndieBound, Powells,  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pinkwater Backlist Bonanza!

I'm delighted to announce that a whole bunch of Daniel Pinkwater books that have never before been digitized are now available in DRM-free electron versions for reading on your magical device. No more will you be forced to suffer the indignity of touching paper to get your Pinkwater fix!

In alphabetical order -- choose your favorites (or heck, buy them all for the low-low price of $2.99 each, I mean really, what a bargain):

Young Adults





 

Monday, April 14, 2014

New Release - GAIJIN: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner

"Amazing art and a moving story drew me into this compelling, historically important graphic novel." -- Graham Salisbury, author of Under the Blood-Red Sun, winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction

"Matt Faulkner has crafted a beautifully drawn novel that simmers with rage."  -- Matt Phelan, author/illustrator of The Storm in the Barn, winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction

"Powerful. . . Matt Faulkner tells his tale with fierce graphics and moving delicacy." -- George Takei

Based on an episode of Matt Faulkner's own family history, GAIJIN tells the tale of a half-Japanese boy in the 1940's who, along with his white American mother, is sent to an internment camp in Northern California after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. 

The internment of Japanese-Americans is one of those things we don't really learn enough about in school. . . and it wasn't that long ago. Despite the fact that many of the people affected by the internment had been in America for generations, were home-owners, had businesses and were upstanding members of society, they were thrown into makeshift "camps" with very little warning, their homes and rights stripped from them, and they had no recourse. Could such a nightmare scenario happen TODAY? Spoiler alert: Yeah, absolutely. 

GAIJIN is a beautiful graphic novel, and an important one. If you (or the kid in your life) are at all intrigued by history, this is a must-add to the library. Ages 9+

Buy the book at your local independent bookstore, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or wherever fine books are sold.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Happy Book Birthday to The Grudge Keeper by Mara Rockliff

Ahoy! I've been a bit off the grid for a couple of weeks because I was traveling for the Bologna Book Fair and a mini-Vacay (followed immediately by being ridiculously ill - Boo!) -- but I'm pretty much back at my desk, at least MOST of my brain present now. And so I can bring you the latest from the New Release files:

THE GRUDGE KEEPER by Mara Rockliff, illustrations by Eliza Wheeler, new from Peachtree!

Cornelius the Grudge Keeper is a little old man who collects all the peeves, snits, huffs and imbroglios the people of his village stir up against one another. He stores them all in the nooks and crannies of his crooked cottage, until one day . . . . well, I'll let you read about it yourself. Suffice to say, this picture book is funny, whimsical, and has the look and feel of a modern classic. The heightened language makes it a total delight to read aloud and the beautiful images are worth taking the time to pore over.

I call the GRUDGE KEEPER "The Little Picture Book that Could." It had a long, long path to publication. How long? Let's put it this way, it was originally submitted to publishers before I was even an agent. It sold in Summer of 2010, which I remember distinctly because I negotiated the contract in the passenger seat of my car, driving through Nebraska on a road-trip move from SF to NY. We finally got lucky enough to get the PERFECT illustrator in another ABLA client, Eliza Wheeler, in 2012 (which was JUST before her picture book MISS MAPLE'S SEEDS debut'ed on the NYT bestseller list and she rocketed to fame with the illustrations to Holly Black's Newbery Honor book DOLL BONES -- so great timing, Peachtree!) -- and now, here we are, at long last, I can brag about it to the world!

You can get your own copy at your local independent bookstore, at MY local independent bookstore, at Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, Amazon, or wherever fine picture books are sold. :-)

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Happy Book Birthday to THE VIOLET HOUR

So apparently I am a dum-dum who didn't realize that yesterday was not only a Tuesday, but THE Tuesday -- the day my author Whitney Miller's debut novel THE VIOLET HOUR officially hit shelves!
THE VIOLET HOUR is an intense horror-psycho-thrillride that oh wait also has snarky dialogue and great friendship and, yanno, kissing. It's about a girl named Harlow Wintergreen whose dad just happens to be the charismatic leader of a huge cult called VisionCrest.

Harlow is excited that her father is letting her come along with the other children of the ministry elite on a PR junket to Asia; even more so since her best friend and the boy she has crushed on forever will be with her. 

As the "first daughter" of VisionCrest, all eyes are on her, and she is expected to be perfect... but Harlow has a secret. She hears a voice in her head. A voice that tells her awful things, and shows her visions of a dizzying, blood-soaked alternate reality. From the moment they land in Tokyo, the voice seems to get louder and more insistent. The meds the doctors gave her don't seem to do any good, and the more desperately Harlow struggles to keep her mind and behavior under control, the more completely she is overwhelmed by the terrifying voice. It whispers to her. Shows her the deadly possibilities. Almost as if it has a will of its own.

Harlow is increasingly afraid of what the voice is showing her -- and more than that, what it might might make her do. When the fantasies bleed into reality and people begin to turn up dead, Harlow must expose her secret to the boy she loves and face the monster within, or else be consumed by it. But will it be too late?

Clickity for a fun interview with Miss Whitney (plus a giveaway). Or go peek at Whitney's rad website.

Or just buy the book by tree or e: Indiebound, B+N, Book Depository, Kobo, or Amazon. 

And, if you're near SF, you should totally attend Whitney's launch party at Books Inc Opera Plaza on 3/14. I'm told it is going to be spectacular. Wish I could be there, if you go, you'll have to give her creepy hugs from me!  Xo!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

MG Webinar!

Reminder that tomorrow, Thursday, Feb 20, 1pm E, I'll be revisiting my Writers Digest class Writing and Selling Middle Grade Fiction. This webinar was very popular last year, but I know a lot of people who wanted to attend didn't know about it in time -- so I'm delighted to have the opportunity to teach this again.

Important to note:

---- > If you are signed up, you do NOT need to attend live -- you'll have access to the course materials for a year.

---- > Every participant will get their choice of either a critique of 500 words of their MG novel (complete or work-in-progress) OR a query critique.

---- > ALL questions asked during the webinar will be answered! (If you can't make it during the event, you can email the questions you have to the moderator and we'll get them answered for you)

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about the webinar - and I hope to see you there!

xo JL

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hoppy Valentine's Day!

Every year I send a bookish Valentine created by one of my phenomenal artists. (The tradition started because, frankly, I could never get it together to send Christmas cards on time - but hey, I love pink and red and LOVE, so, it stuck.) The 2014 card is by the amazing Cynthia von Buhler.

To my friends and colleagues, on the internet and off -- and to the lovely readers of this blog -- You're awesome. Have a wonderful rest-of-your-winter, and may spring arrive soon!





Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Three Book Birthdays

Three new YA client releases today! WOW WOW WOW! I'm not going to get into a whole long ramble about them because, frankly, I think these hot covers and titles do more to speak for the books than I ever could. Click the jackets for more info or to buy.

WHITE SPACE by Ilsa J Bick is mind-bending creeptastic horror in the vein of Inception. Click for more...

THE GLASS CASKET by McCormick Templeman is a dark and chilling fairy tale-esque story in which something wicked stalks a forest village. Click for more...

THE TINKER KING by Tiffany Trent is the awesome followup to THE UNNATURALISTS - full of magical steampunky goodness. Yum yum! Click for more...

http://www.oblongbooks.com/book/9781442457591http://www.oblongbooks.com/book/9781606844199http://www.oblongbooks.com/book/9780385743457

Enjoy these reads, and stay tuned, this is just the beginning of 2014's bounty! ;-)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

ALA and MARTY McGUIRE x 3!

So this past weekend I spent at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia which, despite freezing slushy weather, was absolutely splendid (of course! BECAUSE LIBRARIANS ARE THE BEST!) -- and which culminated, Monday morning, in the ALA Youth Media Award announcement. The ALAYMA are better known as the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz and other shiny medals given to excellent children's books every year. Ever since I was a kid I've been OBSESSED with these awards -- ever since there has been internet capability, I've watched the live stream of the announcement -- and finally, for the first time, I got to actually BE IN THE ROOM!??!

Not gonna lie, I freaked out a bit. Really. I mean, I pretty much started crying the first time one of my friend's books got an award (which was the first award given!) and didn't stop til the end. Happy tears obviously! Just, you know. A lot of emotions floating around the room, that's all. FEELINGS! CATHARSIS! CAPS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS!

Now I'm  home again and settling back into the routine. And I realized, even though it feels like a Monday, that in fact today is TUESDAY. Which means it is NEW BOOK RELEASE DAY. Which means it is time to present to you a brand-new book from Kate Messner. Welcome to the  third installment of the Marty McGuire series, MARTY McGUIRE HAS TOO MANY PETS!

The astonishingly talented illustrator of the Marty series, Brian Floca, wrote about Marty here. . . and Brian also just happened to win the Caldecott Medal yesterday for his newest solo picture book (which means, yes, he was one of the folks I was screaming/crying about.) NICE! Here's Kate's blog post on the topic.

You can buy the book from Oblong, Barnes and Noble, or wherever fine books are sold!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

My Year of Reading Romances

Whenever I read a ridiculous op-ed about the state of YA literature or some such, where the author has clearly read five YA books total, I want to sit them down, give them a stern talking-to and a book list. Whenever I meet a person who "really wants to write for kids because it is so easy," I want to box their ears and force them to read a mighty stack of picture books.

Here's what I think: If you want to consider yourself an authority on any category or genre of book, you have to read at least 100 books in it. 

If you want your knowledge to be about the CURRENT state of the genre, then a handful of "classics" are fine, but the majority should be published in the last 5 or so years. Seriously. Spend a year reading your face off in any one category or genre, and I assure you, you'll end up with favorite authors, pet peeves, a working understanding of tropes, a strong grasp on what is actually being published, and most of all, opinions that are based on something besides conjecture. You'll be, if not a real expert, at least an avid amateur who speaks the language.

So, okay, about Romances. When I was twelve or so, my good friend Pamela and I would raid her mom's romance book library. Pam's mom read a TON of mass market paperback romances (mostly featuring Broad-Shouldered and Smouldering Highlanders), and she made frequent trips to the local paperback exchange to refresh her collection, so we always had something new to read. Then Pam and her folks moved out of state, and I went away to high school, then college -- and while I always read a lot, Romance Novels were utterly forgotten.

Until late 2012, when I bought a romance e-book on somebody's recommendation. I don't know what the title was -- just that it was a good choice because it was nothing related to work, just pure pleasure reading, and relaxing fun during a stressful time of year. And as soon as I finished, I bought another. And another. And my whole Christmas break I devoured them. And somehow, January happened, and I was still reading.

ANYway, I decided to start keeping track of what I read starting Jan 1, 2013. I read about 150 romance novels in 2013. (Of course I also read kids and YA books, and some regular fiction and nonfiction, and books and manuscripts for work -- I'm not counting those.) The vast majority of those (130 or so) were Historical Romances, and probably 100 of those were published in the last five years. So yeah. I'm caught up. I may not be an expert, but I really do know this genre quite well. And while my obsession may have run its course, I'd still be open to repping something of this nature if I found one I loved.

In the meantime, I'll be a fan from the sidelines. Here's what I tend to like: a bit of adventure, a ton of witty banter, preferably a cool brainy heroine who does something besides simper, and if there is cross-dressing or an unusual setting, all the better! In no particular order, these were some of the books that stuck with me during the Great Romance Read of 2013 -- Maybe you'll read some of these and love them too?

Courtney Milan - HEIRESS EFFECT: All of Milan's books are terrific, but I really love this Brothers Sinister series. In this one, an extremely rich girl who is not marriage-minded does everything possible (short of contracting a contagious disease) to get potential suitors to stay the hell away from her. Witty and fun and oh also I totally ugly-cried at a certain point.

Elizabeth Essex - ALMOST A SCANDAL: Ugh I love this book. A girl dresses as her brother and takes over for him in the Navy. She acquits herself well and nobody figures out her ruse. . . well, nobody except the Captain, that is. Too bad they are off at sea and he can't expose her for a fraud OR deposit her back in London . . . she'll just have to keep dressing as a boy and, well . . .  *rowr*

Tessa Dare - ANY DUCHESS WILL DO: All of Dare's books are delightful - most set in the little village of "Spindle Cove" (aka Spinster Cove), a beach community full of ladies who are pretty much off the marriage mart for one reason or another. In this one, a Duke is charged by his mother to get married. She declares she can make any lady into an appropriate Duchess, so he just needs to choose. NOW. So he picks the most inappropriate wench he can find, determined to foil his mother's plan. (Bonus: has a bookselling subplot!)

Meredith Duran - A LADY'S LESSON IN SCANDAL: A girl from the slums breaks into the home of a nobleman and holds him up at gunpoint, determined to right a wrong done to her mother years before. But she finds the little old man she expects is in fact long gone - and her captive is young, hotblooded, naked as a jaybird, and convinced that she is a secret heiress.

Cecilia Grant - A LADY AWAKENED: A widow's estate is about to go to a real jerk. Sooo she conceives of a cunning plan... if she can prove she's with child, she'll get to keep the estate and the people who depend on her will not be harmed. But she only has 30 days... *cue sexytimes*

Sherry Thomas - NOT QUITE A HUSBAND: Actually I've liked all Sherry Thomas's books, but I chose this one because it is set largely in India and Pakistan, and features a tough woman doctor. It wasn't my favorite while I was reading it,  but I've thought a lot about it in retrospect. Pretty much I just think Thomas is a swell writer, who tends to deal in outrageous plots (Another one, BEGUILING THE BEAUTY, is about a transatlantic ocean voyage, a widow disguised as a Baroness, and revenge!)

What have been some of YOUR favorites?