Contest! Book Review! Writing Groove!

How do you guys like the new look? Pretty cool, huh? Shout-out to Bret for putting it together. (Does my hair really look like that? Maybe I should get bangs?)
It's a busy Thursday here at the Muses. Here's what's in store:
· Contest news!

· A Bookanista review of WILDEFIRE by Karsten Knight!
· Best of the archives!

Ready? Here we go...

YA MUSES Blogoversary Contest

I'm sitting here at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles reminiscing. Tomorrow, the rest of the Muses arrive for the fun and craziness of the SCBWI Annual Conference. But for now it's easy to recall last year's memories.
In August of 2010, none of the Muses had book deals. We were all in various stages of the hunt, from preparing to query agents to being on submission to editors. None of us had any assurance that our manuscripts would ever be published. Now, a year later, we will have eleven books published over the coming years between the four original Muses. And we haven't even added our newest Muse's tally to the total yet. Bret will undoubtedly bring us a few more chips soon.
In celebration of the YA Muses Blogoversary and of a truly stellar year together, we will be holding a contest. The prize? A signed ARC of UNDER THE NEVER SKY.
UTNS won't be available until February 7th of next year, so it's a very early look at my debut novel, a post-apocalyptic-adventure-romance. (An apocomance, if you will.)
Contest Rules
To enter, receive one ticket for the following:
· a blog follow
· tweet with a @yamuses
· a blog comment
Limited to one ticket per action, each day until contest ends. Current followers are automatically entered once. This contest is open internationally.
Contest Dates: August 4 to August 21
Winner will be announced on August 22nd! Good luck!
Bookanista Review
WILDEFIRE by Karsten Knight
Recently, I read Karsten Knight's debut novel WILDEFIRE. What a ride! Here's a brief description, followed by my thoughts.
Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned.
Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own.
With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.
My thoughts:
WILDEFIRE is a great combination of a fast-moving plot, action and humor. I loved watching Ash find her friends and discover her abilities. She's a strong female lead who more than holds her own in just about any situation. When I say she kicks butt, I mean it literally.
This novel reminded me of John Green's LOOKING FOR ALASKA in its humorous and authentic portrayal of life in a private boarding school. Blackwood felt utterly real to me. Ash's supporting cast were also a treat; I especially looked forward to scenes that featured Rolfe. This one gets better and better as you turn the pages, until you're blazing a trail through it.
action + gods/goddesses + badass protagonist + romance + snap-crackling dialogue = WILDEFIRE
Check out what the rest of the Bookanistas are reading this week:
Elana Johnson and Scott Tracey find wonder in The Near Witch
LiLa Roecker sing out about Where She Went
Christine Fonseca adores A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie
Corrine Jackson delights in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Stasia Ward Kehoe marvels at My Life, the Theater & Other Tragedies

From the Archives - Finding the Writing Groove
This post was originally shared November 9th of last year when I found myself in the midst of an extraordinarily busy time. Well I'm busier than ever, so these tips for making the most out of your writing time are still valuable to me. I hope they are to you, too. Enjoy!
Finding the Writing Groove
For the past two weeks, I've been revising my manuscript for Barbara Lalicki, my wonderful editor at HarperCollins. One thing became abundantly clear when I received her notes: Barbara is a total, top-notch, scary-good pro. She's taken my story and put it under a microscope, weighing character, plot, setting, word choice, etc. I can't tell you what a relief it was to see such a close eye on my pages. It really made me feel like I've got a partner - and I do in Barbara. I know she wants to see UNDER THE NEVER SKY rise to its greatest potential, just as I do.
What does that have to do with finding the writing groove? Well, the revisions I'm doing now have jumped to a whole new level. Much of the time it's difficult work. Yes, I said work. Important work. My husband tells me that the last 10% of any undertaking is always the hardest part and I'd say that's true here (although I can't be sure I only have 10% to go... Might be closer to 15%) The point is that lately as I begin my writing days I feel a bit as I'm going into battle. It's something of a new phenomenon for me. Usually, I'm slavering to get to writing. (Yes, I did just use the word slavering. That's another side effect of revision brain. Random word choices.)
So I've developed a few habits that help get me going. I'm sharing them with you in case you find yourself in a slow groove, when getting started is tough.
1) Leave home - In general, at my house these days, there's more laundry in the hamper and less food in the refrigerator. One day, I didn't even make the beds. (This is unheard of for me.) I am a stay at home mother, but what's happened in becoming a professional writer (OMG I can't believe I just said that) is that, well, I have to be a pro. Just like my editor. This is my priority now. It's always been up there. But now, I'm a writer first and foremost. The laundry and groceries will get done. But until the revision is complete and returned, the writing needs to take precedent. By leaving home and going to my parent's house or a coffee shop, I don't see all the tasks that could suck me away from important time on my manuscript. (Side note: I used to work full time, as I am now on this revision, but I've never done it before as a mother. And I have to say, I want to give all you working mothers out there a giant hug and then a day at the spa. You're all amazing. Oh, and p.s. any tips on juggling home and work are greatly appreciated.)
2) Music - Quite simply, it puts my head in the right place. For this story, I've been gorging on Kings of Leon, Bach's cello concertos, and opera. Yes, opera. It's a long story... about 365 pages or so. You can read it sometime in early 2012.
3) Walks - When I'm struggling, a walk around the block does wonders to shake things loose. Reminds you there's a big world out there, with lots of other things happening, and you know. Don't take yourself so seriously! You're going to sit down to WRITE, for goodness sakes! How lucky are YOU???
4) Freedom - This is a downloadable program that lets you set a timer in which your computer is taken off line. No facebook or twitter = productivity. I think a simple google search will pull it up. Or you can just turn off your wi-fi.
5) Photos - I have a file for all my research photos for UNDER THE NEVER SKY. There are pictures of people who remind me of characters, places that look like the settings I'm trying to create, etc. Browsing through these can help me get in the zone.
6) Reading - Sometimes, picking up a research book will get me excited or spur a fresh idea. Also, I have what I like to call an author-trainer. He has no idea he's my trainer. But he is. His name is Justin Cronin and he wrote THE PASSAGE, which was out this summer (along with several other award-winning books.) I love Justin's third person voice. Something about it really resonates with me. When I read a few pages, I get inspired. It's like Justin is going, "Come on. You know you want to write like this. Get moving, V. You got this. Blood, sweat and tears, V! Get off your lazy---" OK, actually I'm sure Justin is much nicer than this. But that's the feeling I get when I read a bit of his writing. So thank you, Justin.
7) Indulge in a little self congratulation - When it's really tough, I go digging for all the positive comments I've received on my writing. It's like the opposite of a pity party. I look for my editor's praising comments. I'm so fortunate to find these readily in my emails and notes with Barbara. Those comments can give me a real shot of confidence to get back to work. I might throw out an email to good friends or the Muses, looking for a little validation (Muses & dear writer friends - you rock). And I might, just maybe, make a little comment on the phone with my super-agent, Josh Adams, who's always ready and willing to dispense with some encouragement. Folks, we all need a little dose of the positive here and there. Don't be afraid to remind yourselves of the progress you've made. Feeling good never hurt anyone.
8) Read something that's yours but fresh - This one I just remembered, but I'm going to try it this morning. When I dig up old projects that are forgotten and dusty (virtually dusty) with age, I see that, yes, I can in fact write something decent. I know that sounds silly, but when you get as close to a manuscript as I am now with UTNS, you're looking for all the mistakes and weaknesses. You get so close that these are the only things you see. Reading old writing can remind you of the point, which is to tell a good story. To string together words in such a way that some kind of magic happens, and they aren't words anymore. They become a person with a particular kind of personality. A person with a problem, or a need. They exist in a place that you can see and smell and even feel with your hands. That's good stuff, knowing you can do that. And if you've managed it once, well, you can do it again.
All right. Those are my tricks. I meant to wrap this post up nicely, but honestly, just writing about getting inspired has gotten me inspired. It's time to get to work.
Go forth and write!


I would love to win a copy of Under The Never Sky!

1) I really like that you reposted these writing tips. I'm not a writer, but so many of them were equally applicable to me as a graduate student. (#8 really sticks with me) Thanks for sharing!

2) I LOVED Wildefire. She really was a kick butt protag.

3) I would adore the opportunity to read Under the Never Sky. ADORE. :-)

Love this post, in particular: "To string together words in such a way that some kind of magic happens, and they aren't words anymore. They become a person with a particular kind of personality. A person with a problem, or a need. They exist in a place that you can see and smell and even feel with your hands. That's good stuff, knowing you can do that. And if you've managed it once, well, you can do it again."

Congratulations on UTNS. Can't wait to read it.

Congrats on all the success with your books!

Wonderful tips and so valuable for this mother. Leaving the house. What a concept! Why haven't I done it before??? Doh. Borders is closing, but even in the vast, dusty, heat saturated San Fernando Valley, cafes exist--with A/C. I will find one. Have a great time at the conference! Love the story of the Muses. Always inspiring.

Thank you for reposting your writing tips. I also have a folder with pictures that remind me of my characters and settings in my story. I've never tried leaving the house to write, though. There's no local coffee shop where I live!

I'd love a chance to read Under the Never Sky! It sounds amazing:)

Ooh, I want this book! The title is fabulous!

I've also heard so much praise for Wildefire, and the author's blog is filled with hilarious vlogs. It's def on my list!

Great advice on what to do when writing feels like work. My favorite of these is #6, reading. I love to get lost in someone else's world for a while. There's nothing like it to make me want to write again, to take another try at spinning words as beautiful as the ones I just read. Art inspires art.

Great idea to do an anti-pity party, too! :)

Thank you for the great writing and I would love to win a copy of Under the Never Sky! I follow on GFC and I Tweeted the giveaway:!/TrulyBookish/status/99136281409368064
Truly Bookish

Oh, wow! I JUST listed this as my Waiting on Wednesday pick yesterday (!

I'm following your blog ( and I tweeted the giveaway (@YABookHaven).

"Wildefire" was a really great read! And I love your writing advice, it's perfect. I'm currently rewriting my first manuscript and at times it feels like work, so it's nice to see someone else's advice on finding your 'groove'.


Wow -- so happy I found you! New follower. And I can't wait to read UNDER THE NEVER SKY!

These are two books I'm dying to read! I'm so excited for Veronica. I'd love to win it but if I don't I'll be buying it. :)

Love the new look by the way ladies!

Great tips. I also save a ton of photos and pictures from the internet as inspiration.

I would love to win Under the Never Sky!

Love the new look! And have so much fun at the conference! WIsh I could be there. I'll tweet about your awesome contest! :)

Eleven book deals since last year?! That gives me so much hope! Thanks for the tips, too! There's an Apple program similar to Freedom called SelfControl. And I love the idea of digging out some old writing I'm proud of. I don't do that nearly often enough.

Great tips! I just wish I had the determination to sit down and put them to good use.

I am so excited to read Under The Never Sky...and that cover is gorgeous!

I'm a new follower, and I tweeted:!/starryeyedjen/status/99181407770902528

Thanks for the opportunity to win an ARC, and congratulations on all of your successes!

Love the cover of Under the Never Sky - great use of light and amazing shades of blue! Thanks very much for the giveaway :)

I'm now following and tweeted here:


Happy blogoversary & thanks for the giveaway! Can't wait to read Under the Never Sky!

GFC follower dani_nguyen



So glad Ellen Hopkins retweeted about your contest and blog! This will be a valuable resource for sure! I would love to win a copy of Under the Never Sky for my classroom!

I also want to read Wildefire. I read so many great reviews about it - I MUST have it!

I would like to win this ARC :)

I followed you with GFC and my nickname is "Pia". I also tweeted about this:

Whoops, wrong link:!/Herzensbuecher/status/99194576446824448

I can't wait for this book! There is so much hype though, and I hope when I read it, it lives up to it!

Great review and thank you for the chance to win Under the Never Sky.

I'm following and I tweeted:

Thanks for the contest - I'd love to read Under the Never Sky!

Very Happy for the success of the Muses. A great year for you!!!! Hope Bret will soon add to your book tally...

Wanna see you all in the big screen too!

Great tips, V! I just saw your profile article in the SCBWI bulletin - very cool!

OMG. Love this contest. :) I so want to read UNDER THE NEVER SKY!!!

Thanks for the review of Wildefire, the post and contest! Can't wait to read Under the Never Sky.

GFC Follower


thank you for a chance to win under the never sky. so excited for it!!

I'm a follower: chelleyreads

I tweeted:!/chelleyreads/status/99271158561636352

chelleyreads AT gmail DOT com

Ooh, I so want to read it. It looks so interesting.

Guys - wonderful to see so many familiar names, and so many new! Thanks so much for entering the contest, and coming by the blog! -V

Nice giveaway (thank you so much)!

OMG. I have waited forever to hear "ARC" and "Under the Never Sky" in the same sentence. Finally that day has come *swoons* I've been lusting for this since I first read the publishing deal announcement. And then good grief, look at that gorgeous cover *lusts even more*

I tweeted -!/peacelovevegan/status/99458082903572480

Thank you for this AMAZING giveaway!! And fantastic post!

Happy Blogoversary YA Muses!

This is great! :)



Thanks for the awesome giveaway.

And great review for Wildfire. If you say it reminds you of Looking For Alaska than it must be good.

+1 follower
+1 comment
+1 tweeted!/NicIrresistible/status/99613796745752576


Great tips! I'll definietly have to remember them when writing and finding inspiration get tough. And I've heard so many good things about Wildfire; the authors vlogs are hilarious :)

Oh, so glad to have found this blog - I'm going to have to read it all it looks like!

+1 comment
+1 follower

book.splot AT gmail DOT com

+1 I tweeted about it, too :)!/thebookspot/status/100241759845621762

book.splot AT gmail DOT com

Awesome review and thank you for the chance to win Under the Never Sky!

I'm following and I tweeted:!/SarleneS/status/100257371577782272

I'm going to be reading Wildefire this week, so thanks for the review!

Thank you for the giveaway too. :)

I tweeted:!/mermaidvisions/status/100358815890944000

This book sounds fantastic! I'd love to enter the contest! I tweeted about it here:!/yoursinfallibly/status/100459851020386304

Make sure you enter me for your contest, i would DIE to win a copy of Under The Never Sky.
I'm a GFC follower and i am commenting right now, so i should definitely get a chance, right?
Awesome post, btw, especially for someone trying (key word there is TRYING) to write a book. Congrats on making it yourselves!
Have an awesome week, fingers crossed fate likes me at the moment :D

Would adore to win!

Thank you for entering, all! So exciting!

The sound card on my desktop (where I love to work) is not functional, and I NEED music, so I am going to buy myself a mini-boombox with Ipod capacity. The tips are great.

Janis Seminara

Under the Never Sky looks great. Thanks for the giveaway!

The writing tips are very helpful too!

I'm a new follower (Lucy)
Tweeted here:!/readingdate/status/101038441512452096

Corrected twitter link here:!/readingdate/status/101040412759818240

Thanks for the writing tips - I need something to get me out of my writing rut like mad, so these really help out. <3

Entering for "Never Sky":

+1 following via RSS
+1 following @yamuses on twitter: @usagiko
+1 tweet: (retweeted)!/YAmuses/statuses/99120004380901377

Woo hoo! Wildefire's been in my ARC-TBR pile. I should probably get to it, huh? <3

Thanks for the giveaway of Under the Never Sky!
I can't wait to read it when it comes out!

~GFC follower : Shirley Ge

This comment has been removed by the author.

Thanks for the contest! I'm so excited to read this book :)

I'm a blog follower: magan bagan

And I tweeted about the contest:!/maganbagan/status/101405777729830913

Those are some great writing tips - I think I'll have to reread them over time (when I forget different ones!) . . .

I tweeted - well retweeted - this!/YAmuses/status/102010364220280832
follow the blog with GFC & am commenting

I think I can do them again since it's a different day?

book.splot AT gmail DOT com

You ABSOLUTELY can enter more than once. Any comment or tweet on any of the posts dated between Aug 4 and Aug 21 (the end of contest) earns a ticket for the day.

So besides the one ticket for following, you can get 2 tickets total per day.

I really want to read Under the never sky, I'm in love with the beautiful cover!!!

I twitted it (@CeReSu08), too!!!

I hope I could win Under the Never Sky. I'm a book blogger, blogging at and it would be a great addition, I'm certain, to the books that I've read and reviewed before.

I tweeted it --!/trumplefarts/status/102023919694921729

And I followed the blog. :)

Thanks! I retweeted:!/YAmuses/status/102403943199547393

and followed.

I am in love with the cover. I need this one ASAP! Thanks for the chance to win.
-I followed
-I tweeted:!/IceyBooks/status/103877370016043008

brainytex@gmail com

I really want Under the Never Sky, but your review has made me yearn for Wildefire.

I love reading your writing/publishing tips!

I follow as Jadey!
I tweeted here:!/jade_jmbtf/status/103880370050707456

Thanks for the chance to win Under the Never Sky and the writing advice! Reading about published authors who are still making their way to the finish line really inspires me to keep going :)

Followed on GFC as Kaye M.


Awesome giveaway! This book sounds so awesome!

GFC: cyc

jadedlittlegirlx [at] gmail [dot] com

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