Sunday, May 27, 2012

Happy Memorial Day~ and a contest

Hello YAtopians! I hope you've had a fantastic weekend. I wanted to take a minute to wish everyone a Happy Memorial Day.

I'm having a spontaneous contest where all you have to do is comment and leave your email address for a chance to win. I'll draw two names and the winners will each win an ebook copy of my book, WHAT A BOY WANTS. If you've already read the book, you can still enter. If you win, I'll send Sebastian bookmarks instead.

It's a quickie contest so I'll draw the winner at 12:00 Noon EST on Tuesday May 29th.

Good luck!

Courtesy of watching his mom’s relationships, Sebastian Hawkins knows what girls need to do to get a guy. He has what he considers a PHD in hooking up. When he needs extra cash for a car, Sebastian starts up an online venture as The Hook-up Doctor, to anonymously help girls land the guy of their dreams. Of course, his services don’t offer a happily-ever-after guarantee. He’s seen firsthand getting together never means staying together.

And then he falls in love…

With the last girl he would expect…

Totally not in his game plan.

Suddenly, Sebastian finds himself muddled in the game he’s always prided himself on. He can’t even pick up girls at parties anymore! Why would anyone want to be in love when it turns you into a stuttering, screwed-up, mess with really lame stalker tendencies? Stalking? Totally not his gig.

But the Hook-up Doctor won’t let himself go down easily. He’s always known how to give a girl what she wants and now it’s time to figure out what a boy wants… and he definitely plans on getting it.

For fun, here are a few of my favorite quotes from Sebastian.

“I'll be like your bodyguard or something. Me Tarzan. You Jane.”

“I had to drink my first cup of soy milk with her. People bond over that shit.”

“Only real men can pout without losing their masculinity. I have nothing to worry about there."

“Was this what love was? Thinking a girl looked beautiful in her pajamas and glasses?"

“My skin tingled a little where she touched me. I was totally aware of that one spot more than I'd been aware of anything in my whole life. I didn't know if I wanted the feeling to go away or to feel it forever.”

(The bookmarks aren't open internationally on this one. Sorry!)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Guestopia: Jenny Torres Sanchez

Today is the launch of a brand new monthly feature here at YAtopia:


On the 26th of every of month, we'll feature a guest blogger, who can write about any topic related to books, reading, writing, or teens. Go here for more information.

Author Jenny Torres Sanchez agreed to be our guinea pig for this feature. Jenny is the author of The Downside of Being Charlie, which you can read more about - and enter to win a signed copy - at the bottom of this post. Take it away, Jenny!


On Inspiration:

The other day I went to see a production of The Lion King. If you’ve seen it, you know the opening act is pretty amazing. The thing is, before anything really started, before Mufasa was double crossed by the unsavory Scar, before poor Simba was ridden with guilt and grief, before the hyenas let out their first crazy yelp, I was crying. I know, right? In the first five minutes. And I felt kind of foolish because, well, there wasn’t much to cry about yet. But there I was, watching the parade of animals, listening to the cast sing The Circle of Life, crying. And thinking just a bunch of different thoughts.

First, I thought damn . . . I wish I were a stage actress. Then I wished I could sing. And then (I think The Circle of Life lyrics were getting to me), I was thinking about life and death and good and bad and art and music and our existence in the world.

This same kind of thing happened to me when I watched Wicked. The same thing happens to me when I watch a really good movie, or hear a really great song, or see an amazing painting, or cool photograph.

And man . . . I love that feeling — inspiration. I love being inspired by things around me. I love being moved to tears (though crying in front of people makes me super uncomfortable). I love getting that feeling in my chest that swells and becomes so much it feels like it could crush me and gets my mind thinking and wondering about all kinds of things. I kind of live for these moments because a lot of times I look at the world around me and I think, man, we’re pretty screwed up. I watch the news and see really horrible things, and I feel really, really sad that we as humans are capable of truly horrid acts. I see strangers be rude to each other for wherever reason and it makes me want to ask them why. It’s safe to say that sometimes I can get a little disillusioned by the world around me and humans in general.

But then I’ll watch something like this, and I think, we’re not that bad. Actually, we are kind of amazing. And we’re capable of great beauty — of creating truly beautiful things, of feeling remarkable feelings and expressing and conveying what we feel in remarkable ways, of making others feel remarkable. And it makes me feel inspired. It makes me want to write and try to capture what I’m feeling somehow in what I’m writing. It makes me want to move others. It makes me believe we are not as hopeless as we may seem sometimes.

And then I’ll listen to that same song, or look at that same photo or source of inspiration that moved me in the first place, and I’ll use it as I write because I just want to hold on to the high. This doesn’t work so well with The Lion King because I don’t have the cast at my ready, but if I did, you can bet they’d be performing The Circle of Life every night in my living room. But eventually . . . like most things, I’d wear it out. It would get a little old. I always do this, but I can’t help it. It’s okay, though, because luckily we are capable of great beauty. And there’s actually a lot of it out there in the world.


Thanks for stopping by, Jenny!

Charlie is handed a crappy senior year. Despite losing thirty pounds over the summer, he still gets called “Chunks” Grisner. What’s worse, he has to share a locker with the biggest Lord of the Rings freak his school has ever seen. He also can’t figure out whether Charlotte VanderKleaton, the beautiful strawberry lip-glossed new girl, likes him the way he likes her. Oh, and then there’s his mom. She’s disappeared—again—and his dad won’t talk about it.

Somewhere between the madness, Charlie can at least find comfort in his one and only talent that just might get him out of this life-sucking place. But will he be able to hold his head above water in the meantime?

How does that sound? Would you like to win a signed copy from the author? Use the Raflecopter form below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Temper Impatience with Writing Contests

Writing a good book is an incredible thing, but it takes a long time – and then there’s revision. It’s easy to lose focus, to fall victim to the “I just want to be published already” feeling.

When I start getting this itch, one thing that really helps me is writing contents/challenges. I’m not talking about the big ones like the ABNA or Writer’s Digest, but the smaller ones run on blogs and writing websites that have a quick deadline and near-instant gratification through peer cheerleading and fast resolutions. They may not have great prizes – or prizes at all – but they’re fantastic for breaking up the monotony of writing thousands of words in seclusion.

My favorites are the flash fiction ones, because they don’t allow you to obsess over perfection for days, weeks, months. Spending a day or a week on a shorter piece may be just the thing you need to rejuvenate your enthusiasm for your novel. BONUS: Most of the writers who participate in these things are really supportive of each other, so you may end up making new writer friends, too!

Here’s a list of some of the ones I’ve found:
(Note: I haven’t participated in many of these so don’t take this as an endorsement, just a link!)

ALSO, this Friday (tomorrow), Jessa Russo will be hosting a 24-hour Flash Fiction contest with yours truly as your judge. In Jessa’s competition, the winner from the previous week judges the competition. So hop on over to her blog, read my story from last week, find out a little more about the contest, and get ready to write some flash fiction!

And if you know of any other sites that do frequent short fiction challenges, please leave a link in the comments!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A koala with a pet unicorn - and some stuff about querying overseas

I'm feeling very Aussie today. I love being an Australian writer - I really think we bring something very different to the table, apart from our accent. But it can also be a draw back. Most of my stories ideas are set in Australia, cause hey, you write what you know. Here, there are a lot less agents to choose from and the market is smaller, adding it's on set of complications in the hunt for an Aussie author trying to land an agent. There's a couple of really good posts on the Call My Agent blog here and here about life as an Australian agent.

So this results in Aussie authors looking overseas as well. But the thing is, not all agents are willing to take on overseas clients and quite often you can't tell. I had feedback in a WriteOnCon session where the agent told me that my query pitch was great, but she doesn't take on Australian clients because she doesn't have connections in the territory. From her website, there was no way to tell this - and that's the case for a lot of agents. I've also been told that stories set outside of the US and the UK can be a tough sell to publishers internationally. I find that a bit sad as I know that the current generation of teenagers are thinking globally and want to look beyond borders and experience other cultures. But it doesn't mean that Aussie writers don't have reach as plenty of authors from Down Under end up with an international fanbase.

If you're querying and you're looking at overseas agents, you might need to do a little more homework. It's not as clear cut as finding out what genre an agent represents, but there are ways to find out agents who definitely do rep Aussies. Check out some of your favourite local authors and see who is their agent. Look at the local writers' conferences and see if there's any overseas agents attending.

But don't forget the home-based agents. They have great contacts in your local publishing industry. Just because they seem to take on fewer new clients, doesn't mean they aren't taking them on at all.

And now, for the fun of it, here's some Aussie LOLs.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What's in a Rating?

Some of us read just to read. Some of us read and put our opinions up on websites, forums, blogs, etc. If you're one of the latter, this blog post is for you.

It strikes me that there is no uniform way of rating. Something that someone says they've really enjoyed, save a few niggly problems could earn a 3 star rating from them, but a 5 star rating from another. Others will mostly not enjoy a book but still give it 3 stars, where others will give it 1. And I know that choosing what stars you think a book deserves can be individual to opinion, but how opposed are we to a uniform way of rating.

For example, maybe we could make it a percentage way?

1 star = 0-15% enjoyment factor
2 stars = 16-30% enjoyment factor
3 stars = 31-55% enjoyment factor
4 stars = 55-75% enjoyment factor
5 stars = 76% and upwards enjoyment factor

Something like that? What decisions factor in to what star you rate something? Isn't the point of a book to keep you entertained (whether it's by screaming in horror, panting with lust, heart racing with thrill or eyes wet with sadness). 

I'll be honest, sometimes when I browse Goodreads or Amazons, I don't understand the ratings given to some books. People who claim to have really enjoyed something, but rated lowly, or vice versa couldn't finish a book but still rated a 3 or 4 star rating?

I'd love to hear what you guys think in the comments!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Teentopia: Jesse

On the 18th of every month, we interview average teen readers about books and reading. To see all of the past Teentopia interviews, click here.

This month for Teentopia we have an interview with that rare wild creature we hardly ever get to hear from in the book/writing blogging world: the very occasional reader! 

Jesse is a sixteen year old high school student who likes to go camping, ride dirt-bikes, and hang out with his friends. His mom also added that he spends his time playing video games, doing homework (though not much time), texting friends (mostly girlfriend), driving (just got his license), snowboarding, watching BBC shows about cars, and building computers.

What are some of your favorite recently-read books?
Hunger games, harry potter, artemis fowl series

How do you find out about and choose books that aren't assigned in school?

friends/ movies

On a related note, do you read reviews before you decide to read a book? Where?

Do you read author's blogs/facebooks/twitters? If yes: before you read their book or after - and what kind of content do you like to see?


What kind of covers draw your attention?

Nice design, not plain, actiony

Do you feel like YA books accurately represent teen culture? How so?

Sometimes, most aren't up to date

Is there anything (themes, character types, genres, time periods, etc) you'd like to see more of in YA books?
future time, present time, more action

Anything you want to see less of?


How do you read books? (paper, e-reader, phone, audio, etc)
phone, paper

What do you think about all the YA books that have recently been made into movies?

hunger games was good, most aren't

What book have you read that you think deserves more attention?

black hawk down

What novel are you most looking forward to in 2012?

Not sure

Do you use any book-specific sites to keep track of what you've read?


What's the most important element to you: characters, plot, writing style?

easy to understand writing style

Have you ever seen a book trailer? If so, did it make you want to read the book? What do you think about them?

Never have

Thanks so much to Jesse for answering our questions!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Attention Harry Potter Fans and YA/MG Writers!

Just a quick post to let y'all know about Ascendio 2012, a Harry Potter Conference this July with an impressive "Quill Track" that's like a mini writer's conference.

You can read the full post from the Quill Track organizer here, but here are the basics:

  • The conference is July 12th-15th, with the Quill track taking place on the 13th and 14th, in Orlando, Florida.
  • Rockstar authors, dream agents, and incredible editors will be there! Including: Veronica Roth! Joanna Volpe! Beth Revis!
  • Pitch sessions!
  • Free to the public book fair on Thursday with readings, signings & Q&As.
  • Oh yeah, and lots of Harry Potter stuff. :-D

 For the next three days, you can get day passes for up to half off through this Google Offer!

If you live in Florida - or feel like taking a trip here - this is a great opportunity to get some great information and facetime with some awesome industry people. Let me know if you plan on going! I'd love to meet some of our blog readers!

Signed HUSHED ARC, + 25-page Crit!

Up for bid starting today is one of the LAST physical ARCs of HUSHED, signed by me, plus a query-crit and 25-page critique!

And Happy Mother's Day to all you lovely moms out there. :)

Friday, May 11, 2012

And the winner is...

And the winner of the Two and Twenty Dark Tales swag is...

Hannah Lorraine!  

Congratulations, Hannah. You can thank the good people of Twitter who selected your entry by way of random number picking. You've got to love twitter.  Please send your address to Leigh*at*leighfallon*dot*com.  I'll be intouch.

Thanks to everyone for entering. As always, you've been awesome, and let's do it again sometime.

All the best and talk soon.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Art of Commenting

I'm guilty of it. You're probably guilty of it. We all are, at least sometimes.

We're reading a blog post on someone's page. Maybe it's a really, really good blog post! And you think, "By golly, this is a dang good post!"*

You read it. You finish it. You mentally commend the author for writing such a well-worded post.

Then you close the page and move on.

The only evidence you were ever there is a page hit on the blogger's site stats.

On a commenter's side of things, we're busy, we don't know what to say off the top of our heads. But from a blogger's perspective, it can be a little disheartening. We see we're getting the hits. We see people are reading what we write. But when no one ever comments, it can feel like we're throwing our thoughts out into a void.

I'm horribly guilty of this. I've gotten better, but I still don't comment on every post I read and enjoy. Instead, I try to comment on ten blog posts a week. That isn't much, considering how many I read. Also, when someone comments on my blog, I visit theirs and return the favor as thanks. Give and take, right? I try to mention books I've read and loved, try to spark some sort of conversation. Writing (and reading, to a point) can be very, very lonely endeavors, so it's good for us to connect with each other.

The point of this being, let's make a resolution to reach out a little more. Hell, start with this post! Visit some of the commenters' blogs and engage them. Make some new friends.

ALSO. As an added FYI: A friend of mine (and someone who is very good at commenting on posts!) Angelica R Jackson has been hosting a fundraiser for a local no-kill animal shelter here in California. Auctions are being posted in a staggered order all week, and include some great writing stuff, like agent critiques, swag, ARCs, signed books, and some other non-writing-related stuff. It would mean a lot if you'd check it out!

*I hope you don't actually talk like this.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Two and Twenty Dark Tales & Giveaway

Hi guys!

I don't know if you heard, but I've an anthology coming out in October! It's called Two and Twenty Dark Tales. A fantastic group of YA authors got together to do dark retellings of the Mother Goose nursery rhymes in aid of various charities, and what we came up with was twenty two tales of creeptastic fun. Here's a list of the contributors.
    Nina Berry
    Sarwat Chadda
    Shannon Delany
    Max Scialdone
    Leigh Fallon
    Angie Frazier
    Jessie Harrell
    Nancy Holder
    Heidi R. Kling
    Suzanne Lazear
    Karen Mahoney
    Lisa Mantchev
    Georgia McBride
    C. Lee McKenzie
    Gretchen McNeil
    Francisco X. Stork
    Pamela van Hylckama Vlieg
    K.M. Walton
    Suzanne Young
    Michelle Zink
    Edited by Georgia McBride & Michelle Zink.

Two and Twenty Dark Tales is being published by Month 9 Books and will be out on the 16th October. 
I've got some beautiful bookmark and postcard swag to giveaway.  If you'd like to get your hands on the signed swag, just leave a comment with some contact info, and follow the YAtopia blog. If you'd rather not leave contact info that's no problem, just watch out for the winner announcement on Friday and if you win, you can email me. Good luck!
All the best and talk soon.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Agentopia: Pam van Hylckama Vlieg


Pam van Hylckama Vlieg is the newest Associate Agent at Larsen Pomada Literary Agents in San Francisco. She is also the assistant to Laurie McLean, Senior Agent at Larsen Pomada.

She writes at (where you can see her submissions policy),, Ambush Books, Guys Lit Wire, and the San Francisco Book Review as well as recording podcast reviews for Brain Burps. She partners her blog with her local independent bookstore Hicklebee's in San Jose.

Pam grew up in a sleepy little Virginia town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She, however, was too vivacious to thrive and left for bigger cities. Since them Pam has lived in the UK, and now in California. She is married to a Dutchman, the mother of two, and is owned by her Jack Russell Terrier, English Bulldog, and guinea pig Bella.


Middle Grade- I would like to see some epic/high fantasy. Funny science fiction. Laugh out loud contemporary fiction.

YA - I want a Game of Thrones for teens. I really want a dark contemporary that will blow my mind, and a softer one too a la Jennifer Echols. I want a hard science fiction, a space opera or something like it.


Paste your query, synopsis, and first ten pages (no prologues) into the body of an email and send it to

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Little Bit of Everything Round-Up

Hello, lovely readers! Today's post is going to have a little bit of everything--just some random tidbits that I think you might find interesting.

1. Fellow YATopia contributor, Wendy Higgins, had her debut YA released on Tuesday. It's called Sweet Evil and is one sexy and exciting book! Check out my review if you feel like it! HERE.

2. "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." ~ Albert Einstein

3. According to Publisher's Weekly, there are still some spaces left for the Children's Institute at BEA. They've extended the registration period. For more information, click HERE to read the article.

4. Speaking of Publisher's Weekly, there are some new job listings on their Job Zone page. HERE.

5. My cat really wants to help me write my next book. He likes to sit in my lap and try to type. Cute.

6. If you haven't joined SCBWI, you should! I'll be attending the Michigan's regional event next weekend where Laini Taylor will be a featured author! SCWBI's official website.

7. Add this picture book to your HAVE TO READ RIGHT NOW list. It doesn't come out until August, but it's amazing, so the wait will be worth it. Little Sweet Potato by Amy Beth Bloom.

8. LGBT literature is as special to me as Young Adult literature and I've been fortunate enough to be put in charge of our LGBT (adult) fiction section at work and have seen a small, but impactful increase in sales! A lot of us booknerds know how important it is to have publishers accept/publish LGBT works, so please show your support by purchasing some titles. Some of my favorite YA titles are:
9. I had the chance to hear Melissa Marr speak at the RT Convention, and one of the tips she shared for clearing your mind is to take a snorkle, fill your bath tub, and just go underwater for a bit. If you have a pool, more power to you! :-)

10. I don't have a tenth item, but I hope you all are having wonderful days!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

This Day: All Sweet...Hardly Any Evil

My normal day to blog is the 1st. Today also happens to be the day that my debut novel, Sweet Evil, goes on sale from HarperTeen. For the past month I've been strangely calm, almost nonchalant, because after two years of waiting for this day to come I've already run through the gamut of emotions so many times. Now the idea of getting published, while still amazing, has become my "norm," so I *thought* I'd be playing it WAY cool for my release.

And then yesterday arrived. The day before publication. And all that blase just flew right the heck out the window.

Have you ever seen the clip of actress Kristen Bell on Ellen? She describes it so perfectly when she's talking about her emotions. I get it, because I'm the same way...a crier.  I cry when any strong emotion hits me: joy, sadness, frustration, surprise, you name it. Well, her dream of interacting with a sloth came true, and she had a mega-meltdown. It's really rather adorable and I love her for it.  Have a looksee for yourself.  :)

I've cried so many tears on this journey to publication. Tears of rejection, disappointment, disbelief when an editor showed interest, that holy-crap-I'm-getting-published moment, then... sadness when readers don't love it, but joy when they do. 

Well, between yesterday and today, my eyes have worked overtime because it ALL hit me ALL OVER AGAIN! And I don't want to take a moment of it for granted. Yesterday morning I started getting messages from lifelong friends and family members on facebook, then excited readers on Twitter saying "One more day!" and next thing I knew my whole body was buzzing with a crazy adrenaline rush.

And then just as quickly I was getting weepy and waxing poetic in tweets to friends about releasing my "baby" to fly. I hugged each of my children in turn, holding them tight and telling them how they were both dream-come-trues. This was followed by sending "I love you, man" emails to my editor, as if I'd had one too many celebratory drinks, thanking her for believing in me and my story. I wanted to hug everyone in sight who said anything nice to me. *hugs*

And between it all, I just cried. Overwhelmed. Loved. Humbled. Thank you.

To learn more about my journey, please visit my blog.

I love you, man.