IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS

Blackbirds CoverBook Review: IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS

Author: Cat Winters

Genre: YA Historical/Mystery with a Paranormal twist

Rating: Five out of Five stars

Back of book blurb:

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

Review:

This is one of those books that is so beautifully written you want to go back and immediately reread it. Cat Winters did a spectacular job bringing the haunted feeling of walking around during the Spanish influenza to life. I could actually smell the onions people used to keep the flu away, and feel the gauze suffocating me. The details and historical accuracy really elevated this novel into something otherworldly. I don’t want to give too much away for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but hands down this is one of the most breathtaking reads of the year. If you are in the market for something unlike anything else on the shelves this is the book for you.

Mary Shelley Black is a delightful character full of quirks and spunk. She is such a remarkable young woman who deals with everything that’s thrown at her with courage and bravery, and the mystery surrounding the death of her first love kept me turning the pages well into the early morning hours. I’m not a cryer when it comes to novels, I RARELY tear up, but there were two parts in this book that brought on full-blown ugly crying.

MY GOD YOU NEED TO READ THIS. There are so many things I want to chat about so please go buy a copy and make some tea.

Here’s a taste of the first page to whet your appetite:

Portland, Oregon–October 16, 1918

I stepped inside the railroad car, and three dozen pairs of eyes peered my way. Gauze masks concealed the passengers’ mouths and noses. The train smelled of my own mask’s cotton, boiling onions, and a whiff of something clammy and sour I took to be fear.

Keep moving, I told myself.

My legs shook and threatened to buckle, but I managed to clomp down the aisle in the brown Boy Scout boots I wore in case I ever needed to run at a moment’s notice. The heavy tread drew unwanted glances and at least one raised eyebrow, but nobody uttered a word.

Praise for IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS:

“Winters’s masterful debut novel is an impressively researched marriage of the tragedies of wartime, the 1918 flu epidemic, the contemporaneous Spiritualism craze, and a chilling love story and mystery…Deliciously creepy.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Unconventional and unflinching… More than anything, this is a story of the breaking point between sanity and madness, delivered in a straightforward and welcoming teen voice.”—Booklist, starred review

“Winters deftly combines mystery, ghost story, historical fiction, and romance…the story and setting are atmospheric and eerie.”—School Library Journal, starred review

“Winters strikes just the right balance between history and ghost story, neatly capturing the tenor of the times, as growing scientific inquiry collided with heightened spiritualist curiosity.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Cat Winters’s debut novel is creepy good… Mary Shelley, with her Boy Scout boots and penchant for aviatrix goggles, is just plain awesomely odd.” —The Boston Globe

“Words like ‘unputdownable’ and ‘irresistible’ are simply not enough for Cat Winters’s In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Days after finishing this story, it remains the first thought I have in the morning, and the thing that haunts me until I sleep.”—Lauren DeStefano New York Times bestselling author of The Chemical Garden trilogy

Keep up with Cat Winters on the interwebs:

Twitter

Official Website

Facebook

Goodreads

She’s also hosting an international giveaway on her blog RIGHT NOW through July 2nd, so you miiiiiiiight want to check it out.

Special Post: Ask an agent ANYthing and Harper is open to unagented submissions!

A couple of amazing things I had to share with my fellow writing friends…

If you’ve ever wanted an opportunity to ask a literary agent ANY question regarding publishing – now’s your chance! My agent (Barbara Poelle) is doing a monthly column for Writers Digest where she’ll be answering questions from YOU.

No writing/publishing question is off limits. (Unless you’re especially pervy. Then shame on you, Pervy McPervy Pants.)

If you’re uncomfortable with using your real name, Sleepless in Seattle’s are welcome. Or, you know…the more writerly version of that.

If you have something you’d like answered honestly, with good humor and spot on industry info, then direct your questions to:

writersdigest [at] fwmedia [dot] com with “Funny You Should Ask” in the subject line.

I can vouch 1,000% for how awesome Barbara is.

Here’s part of the announcement from Writers Digest itself:

Have you ever wished you could get advice on your writing life, your pursuit of publication, and everything in between, from an expert source would tell it to you straight, with good humor and grace?

So have we! That’s why we’re excited to announce WD’s new advice column, “Funny You Should Ask,” in which popular literary agent Barbara Poelle—known for her knack for spotting debut talent at Irene Goodman Literary Agency as well as for her approachable, refreshingly honest and sometimes irreverent style of instructing writers—will begin tackling your toughest problems and offering up her best advice for writers in the pages of Writer’s Digest magazine.

For the full article and extra details CLICK HERE.

On to the second bit of writerly awesome! Harper Voyager is going to be open to unagented submissions for the first time in a decade!!! The window to submit your work is only going to be from October 1st-14th.

(That’s starting THIS Monday, kids.)

For submission guidelines check out the link HERE.

 

Lastly, I finally joined tumblr last week. And guys, I’m kinda addicted. If you’re there and want to hang out and share things or ask me questions about writing, or publishing, or kittens, or of I’m team X,Y or Z…here’s where you can find me: http://kerrimaniscalco.tumblr.com/

 

Top Ten Books of 2011

Hey 2012, you look all fancy-like and wonderful – I don’t care what the doomsday-ers say, I see nothing but good things in your future. Seriously, I hope you guys had a great holiday week/weekend! To ease into the shiny new year, I’ve decided to share a top ten list.

Here are my FAVORITE books of 2011 and OMG I’m salivating for MORE, MORE, MORE in 2012. The books are listed in no particular order, because they’re ALL SUPER AWESOME.

1. DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

2. WITHER by Lauren DeStefano

3. HOURGLASS by Myra McEntire

4. THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin

5. ALL THESE THINGS I’VE DONE by Gabrielle Zevin

6. ASHES by Ilsa J. Bick

7. AWAKEN by Katie Kacvinsky

8. LEGEND by Marie Lu

9. MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs

10. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis

Aside from the sequels to the books mentioned above, here are some debuts I’m SUPER EXCITED for in 2012: Apocalypsies FTW!

SPLINTERED by A.G. Howard

STARTERS by Lissa Price

THE VINDICO by Wesley King

FALSE MEMORY by Dan Krokos

INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows

WHAT’S LEFT OF ME by Kat Zhang

What was YOUR favorite book of 2011?

Publishing trends may come and go, but honesty always prevails.

Publishing trends may come and go, but honesty always prevails. Here’s why. (In my opinion.)

Every writer published, or unpublished fears the dreaded T word. TREND. Just mentioning t-who-should-not-be-named makes my stomach twist in a knot. Advice is dispensed by everyone and their mother on the subject, but what happens when the story that’s itching to be told happens to be in a hot genre du-jour?

Write it anyway. (Waits for tomatoes to be thrown at screen.)

Write it, and make it the best freaking [insert genre here] novel it can be. Will it be harder to get an agent, or a publishing contract? Probably. But isn’t that already super difficult? Put your original spin on it and don’t hold back. Maybe it won’t sell now, but fear not–publishing is a cyclical industry. Your time will eventually come. In the meantime, keep writing! (And revising;))

Personally, I write YA light science fiction, speculative fiction, and dark fantasy. I’m not writing to a trend. Actually — if I’m being honest — I’ve been trying to write a contemporary young adult novel, but it never works out. Something always goes all fantastical in my brain. I. Can’t. Help. It.

Believe me, if I could write about lofty romances set in Europe, I so would. I think those stories are amaze balls, and I adore reading them. Deep down I’m a closet romantic. I’m also totally jealous of writers who can capture true-to-life contemporary novels. Holy crap, I WISH I could do that.

But I’ve never been that girl, fictional or not.

Don’t get me wrong, I seriously respect people who can write epic love stories historical, contemporary, or what-have-you. My early attempts at writing things like that were often met with furrowed brows. And comments like, “This is your happy story? But you’re talking about things that are…writhing around on top of burning embers…”

Sigh.

The hardest part about being an author, is finding your authentic voice and honoring it. No matter what.

That being said, I have to believe that what I’m writing passionately about will find its way into others hearts, as well (eventually). Trend, or not.

If I am a science fiction/fantasy writer by nature, wouldn’t I be doing everyone a disservice by trying to genre jump — just because the next [not-yet-hot-genre] might be an easier sale?

I’m not sure what the right answer is. But I am sure of one thing: the best things I’ve ever written have come from that unabashedly honest writing place within me. Blood, guts, and all. It’s where my voice truly comes alive.

With my latest project, agents are noticing that honesty. I credit not holding back (for fear of how it may, or may not be received) for my current request rate. (Just thinking about it is sending my heart into crazy palpitations. Inhale. Exhale.)

I think the best writing and publishing advice is this: be one-hundred percent honest with your writing. Write from your heart, people will notice. I think no matter the trend, if you stay true to yourself, eventually your time will come.

Never be afraid to keep improving your craft, though. Know that you’re an amazing writer, but there’s ALWAYS room to grow. (Myself, very much included!! :)) When all else fails, start your next project. Every new book is a stepping stone. Trust me all those stones will lead to good things. Each new project will teach you precious writing techniques. Also, don’t forget to READ!! Devour everything you can, you’ll be amazed by how much you’ll gain from reading in your genre (and beyond).

No matter what subject you choose to write about, be brave. Be bold. And revise the hell out of your manuscripts. Have a fantastic day loves. XO

What are your thoughts on writing trends? Are you finding that (even writing in your authentic genre) it’s harder to break into the publishing industry, now more than ever? 

Or… has the only thing that’s really changed is our ability to openly commiserate communicate (via social networking) about the whole publishing process?

Book Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Book Review: Catching Fire

Author: Suzanne Collins

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Press Photo

Back of book blurb: Sparks are igniting. Flames are spreading. And the Capitol wants revenge. Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol — a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel victory tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

Review: I might have come to the Hunger Games party fashionably late, but this book sealed the deal for me. After reading book one, I couldn’t wait to run out and grab my copy to see what would become of the star-crossed lovers in the much anticipated sequel. Would the Capitol kill them? Would Katniss finally fall for Peeta? And what about Gale? So much drama, so expertly crafted. So worth reading. Collins was able to pull off a fantastic continuation of Katniss Everdeen’s story. Dare I say, flawless even?

Collins masterfully combines suspense and science fiction with a touch of romance that leaves you wanting for more. I had doubts as to whether I’d be disappointed with the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy, but was pleasantly surprised with how it played out. It kept me up, turning the pages all night. In fact, I went ahead and bought book three, Mockingjay. Guess what? I loved that book too.

QOTD: So what do you think about the casting choices for Peeta & Katniss? Feel free to weigh in in the comments, or @reply me (@ScribeQuotes for any blog newbies). #thehungergames

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Top Ten: Quotes for Writers and Word Nerds

Unfortunately, I don’t have time for a super long post today because I’m spending the weekend putting the final (okay the sixth, or seventh FINAL) touches on my latest project. I started it at the end of December, shelved it in early January – wrote another book in between – and brought it back out a few weeks ago, to really edit it into perfection. I really like it, and I even made a video trailer for it. (Visual aides are my weakness, you should try it sometime!) But that’s staying underground for a bit, I’ll put it up on Youtube eventually.

The first round of query letters are going out SOON(ish), so I’m super excited. That’ll bring my submission count up to three novels circulating at once. Two projects are still under consideration by some mighty fine agencies, so we’ll see how this lil’ guy does. Soooo, since I’m editing and doing all that fun writerly stuff, here are some quotes for all you writers out there doing the same thing this weekend. Happy Friday! XOXOXOXOXO

Top Ten Quotes for Writers and Word Nerds

1.) “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” — Ernest Hemingway

2.) “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” — Toni Morrison

3.) “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” — Robert Frost

4.) “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” — Kurt Vonnegut

5.) “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” — Stephen King

6.) “Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.” — Virginia Woolf

7.) “Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.” — Neil Gaiman

8.) “Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.” — Meg Cabot

9.) “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” — Neil Gaiman

10.) “So what? All writers are lunatics!” — Cornelia Funk

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Photo The Hunger Games Cover Shot (Press)

Back of book blurb: in the ruins of a place once known as North America lies a nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before–and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Review: Everyone I run across keeps GUSHING about this book, and by everyone I’m talking about EVERYONE. So I picked up a copy to see what the buzz is about, and I’ve got to say, in the beginning I wasn’t feeling it. Honestly, I didn’t like it at all, but the important thing is, I kept reading.

I didn’t keep reading because of the agents, or publishers, or anyone else that’s talked about the novel. I kept reading because the author sucked me in with the characters, I HAD to find out what happened to Katniss & Peeta next. Would they survive? Would they die? I couldn’t put the damn book down.

I didn’t like Katniss. I didn’t like Panem. The whole idea of it repulsed me, but I kept reading, and pulling for her to win. By the time I hit page thirty I was completely hooked. During the rest of the novel, I felt my heart pounding along with Katniss, felt the love she had for her sister, and the anger she felt towards her mother, her confusion towards Peeta and her desire to survive. The resentment and rebellion they both felt towards a government that could kill innocent kids for the sake of instilling fear against rebel Districts was palpable.

Suzanne Collins created a world, likable or not, that was not only believable, but probably more real than we’d like to admit. The suspense was genuine, as were all the emotions Collins filled the characters with.

The author told a great freaking story. In fact, I’m going to stop writing a little earlier today so I can go to the bookstore and pick up the next book in the series, Catching Fire.