Friday, January 26, 2018

Off Book: WHITE RABBIT



"Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian—the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to "talk." Things couldn’t get worse, right? Then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. He and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney. April swears she didn’t kill Fox. Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth, but April has something he needs. Her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to clear his sister’s name . . . or die trying."

Thanks to the generosity of Karen M. McManus I had the opportunity to read an ARC of WHITE RABBIT by Caleb Roehrig, and, well, I read it in one day. That's really all you need to know that this YA thriller is successful at drawing you in, keeping you turning pages. This was a satisfying almost old-school mystery, with a shocking set-up with the bloody sister holding the knife, and the protagonist tracking down and talking to suspects, but the menace of the killer lurking in the mist and shadows through one wild night keeps the suspense brewing. And the relationships take this over the top. I adored the main relationship explored between Rufus and Sebastian, but Rufus' history with and feelings about his sister, father, mother, and classmates were compelling as well. No spoilers here, but lines like describing broken ceramics at a busted-up party as "bloodthirsty confetti" and a suspect like "the daughter of Regina George and Voldemort" made me have to put down the book for a second to grin. Rufus is a truly realized, highly complex main character, and his worst night ever made for a great day of reading (and night, though I was only able to finish as it got dark because my husband came home and kept me company as I stayed up to finish because THIS BOOK IS SPOOKY IN THE BEST WAY). 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Off Book: See All The Stars by Kit Frick


"We Were Liars meets 13 Reasons Why in this thrilling debut novel that sweeps readers away as they try to solve the mystery of what happened then to make Ellory so broken now."

You guys. This book consumed me. I read it in two days and can't stop thinking about it. From the first page I could tell it was masterfully written. Halfway through I wanted to tell teachers how great it would be for students to read. And once it was over I wanted to see it replace in the curriculum a certain ancient tired book that we already hated back in the 90s.

Reading this book is like watching a terrible impact, a ship inevitably hitting an iceberg, and the girls' collision contains all the iciness and destruction of such an event. You want to scream at the characters, each fully realized, to avoid the mistakes they are heading towards, and then you just have to watch, have to turn another page to see it all play out.

It's a powerful book, but it's not all bleak. The puzzle of how Ellory attempts to put her life back together is just as compelling as how these four girls went from a tight orbit to scattered apart. And Kit Frick deserves a standing ovation for pulling it all off.

Friday, December 8, 2017

In Which I MADE IT INTO #AUTHORMENTORMATCH

So NaNo 2017 wasn't a roaring success. 


Now, now, it wasn't that bad.
I did get 13K into my new WIP and I did a LOT of thinking about it, so that's all good. Very good. And I did raise some money for the Malala fund (The Mighty Pens raised thousands and thousands of dollars which is SO AMAZING hats off to Susan and Kat!)



But November overall was a highlight because I found out that I got into Author Mentor Match! I had just survived throwing Rookie's Legend of Zelda birthday party and took the Schwartzkins out for dinner while David went to his hockey game. My phone was dying. The wifi at the cafe was spotty. But I saw Emma Theriault tag me in a tweet to look at the mentee list, which had been posted early but WHICH WOULDN'T LOAD. I couldn't believe it... after all those contests where I got to freak out seeing friends' names called, someone was calling ME? But maybe Emma was just tagging lots of people to look, who knows who my mentor was, it couldn't be the mentor I had nearly not subbed to because she seemed like such a longshot...finally the site came back and I saw not only had I gotten in, but Emma was my mentor! I think I scared all the other parents in the cafe with my squeal.



Author Mentor Match helps match aspiring authors with mentor authors who have an agent/book deal/book out. There's no agent round so really it's like: Congrats, you won--a new writing friend! And then the mentees all got together to share ideas and experiences so really it's like, congrats, here are thirty friends! But I am so incredibly grateful that Emma is willing to share her insights and expertise and time to help me along the writing journey. She'll read the manuscript I submitted, DAUGHTER OF NO TEMPLE (which you can read a little about here and here) and give me feedback to help me revise it in preparation for querying. I have never queried before, because I knew none of my projects were ready, but I am very excited to share Arina and Lukas' story! And I'm ready to dig in over the winter and do whatever's needed to make the book the strongest it can be.
I'm going to miss all the superhero-themed gifs now that SuperNaNo/Mighty Pens is over for the year

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

In Which YOU Help Save the World!

Click here to donate now!



It's time! It's November, and that means National Novel Writing Month. And THIS year it means a chance for us to help save the world. That's right, The Mighty Pens are raising money for The Malala Fund and YOU can help promote girls' education, which has a HUGE impact on fighting so many villains like the cycle of poverty, climate change, AIDS, and war.


Ka-POW!
Everyone who donates (publicly, to my personal fundraising page) will be entered to win from an assortment of prizes, some of which--including naming a character--will be offered as special drawings for eager beaver donors (earliest/biggest donations, etc) (all US48 only):

Wonder pen! EIGHT will be won!

Super pens!

Mucha Hermione shirt (size small, great for smol adults/your daughter? Plus ghost notes!




And EVERYONE who donates will get special early access to my book's opening chapter, novel aesthetic, and writing playlist. (You'll need to provide your email address so I can send them. Some superheros prefer to remain invisible, so if you donate anonymously and still want this, just email me!)


Invisible but still incredible!


You can choose to donate by pledging a penny or two per 100 words I write (remember, my goal is 50,000 and I've sometimes reached 60-80K in a month), or just a set amount. Feel free to comment here if you intend to pledge/donate or already have, and I'll add you right away to my blog's list (at the end of this post) of Super-Amazing-Marvelous Donors! And I'll keep updating you on my writing and how much we've raised together!

So please click here to go to my Malala Fund page and donate


Let's go!

The Mighty Pens

**** SUPER AMAZING MARVELOUS DONORS! ****
The Flash (first donor): Leslie 
Wonder Woman (because she dressed up as WW as a kid so it's only fair): Melissa
Thank you so much to all donors!~Your name coming soon here!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

In Which I Write a Novel in a Month: I Joined The Mighty Pens to Raise Money for The Malala Fund

It's time to be superheroes!

I'm excited and scared.

After half a dozen or so attempts, I'm starting to feel like I actually know what I'm doing, JUST A BIT, when it comes to writing an actual book. So why not make it all the more terrifying/challenging by setting a goal to raise $200 for girls' education and letting everyone know my word count progress as I dive into my next draft?

So excited. Not nervous, no.
I *am* excited because a chance to give more to The Malala Fund is so important. This is the organization we picked when my daughter Owl (I think 7 or 8 at the time) wanted to make the world a better place, after overhearing some sexist talk. She read the young people's edition of Malala's book and I helped her set up a lemonade stand and matched her earnings, which ended up being around $60. That's a lot of lemonade!


Educating girls is how we save the world. The more girls and women have access to education, the more the myriad problems the world faces improve. And improving the lives of girls and women is essential in itself.


So, National Novel Writing Month is coming up (with a superhero theme this year). And authors Susan Dennard and Kat Brauer are organizing a fundraising team called The Mighty Pens. I'm going to seek sponsors who will give a set amount or pledge per word I write, and I will write a novel (or at least most of a draft, 50,000 words) in November.

Fighting for words and women's rights!
NaNoWriMo is a ridiculous activity, one that I've participated in several times. And you know what? It showed me I could write a book. I've learned a lot (including from NaNo mentors, friends, and authors like Sooz who generously share their expertise). I'm hoping pairing NaNo with fundraising for the Malala Fund will result in a similar magic. We can have a big impact!


I'll post updates of pledged sponsors and how my novel prep and drafting is coming in the next two months. I'm thinking up some extra fun incentives for donating, like naming a character, early access to reading chapters, viewing novel aesthetics, and blog posts dedicated to donors. I've set up a donations page, https://give.classy.org/LeanneSchwartz, which you can check out, but please DON'T donate until November 1st--it's part of the fun of trying to accomplish great things within one month! If you can donate even $5, you can be a hero to girls across the world.
Look, it's you!

Friday, August 4, 2017

In Which I Feature DAUGHTER OF NO TEMPLE (AKA I SUBBED TO PITCH WARS!!!)

I've just submitted to #PitchWars, a mentoring contest run by Brenda Drake and supported by many amazing authors in the writing community. I'm in the lovely "waiting to hear" phase (actually very short for the publishing industry, so it's not so bad!) and since I couldn't put *everything* I love about my book into my query, I decided to share here. 




The book I submitted (mentioned in my #PimpMyBio post) is called DAUGHTER OF NO TEMPLE. When I sat in the movie theater watching Wonder Woman I was excited (okay yes because it was freaking WONDER WOMAN but also) because these were the kinds of fights I was writing about (I watched so many hours of fight expert videos on YouTube!), with a woman kicking ass. And the costumes were very Guerran/Volieran. I had been worried some of my fights were too over the top (okay no one jumps as high as in WW) but everyone loved WW, SO. Confidence! BUT THEN I realized an even better comp for DONT might be She-Ra. For reasons. That I won't go into so I don't spoil the book. (Don't worry, she's not like secretly Lukas' sister, like He-Man. Or Star Wars. Not that they look anything alike.)

But I *can* share Random Facts About DAUGHTER OF NO TEMPLE:

~The working title (just so I could keep files easily searchable and refer to it when speaking with my family) was CLEAVE. Hahahahahayeah. It was this whole swords/cutting away/clinging to/falling in love idea. Contronyms are fun! But it was never going to be the real title.

~There are Easter eggs, some of which allude to Pride and Prejudice, Florence and the Machine, and Hilary Clinton.

~My critique partner asked if the male main character, Lukas, was intended to be autistic, because of things like how he hyperfocuses and fidgets (and he's brilliant). Honestly a lot of him came from myself (haha, not the brilliant part, the socially awkward part). I did shape it the way my CP wondered. I hope he is indeed the kind, positive rep my CP noted him to be.


Two words: Awkward Darcy <3

~Arina is plus size. So is Cal, the secondary female character. I left their descriptions somewhat vague so that readers can picture them how they want, but I picture Arina as a stout, curvy softball player or weight lifter, basically, with thighs that can break a man's neck. Arina is a warrior, Cal hikes through forests and climbs mountains, and both save the world.


~Arina was also partly inspired by this Chilean protester: 


YES.

~Petra was partly inspired by Natalie Dormer:

Those eyes.

~Lukas I figured out after getting a good sense for Arina--what his skills were, what he looked like, and what had wounded him, and how that informed who he had become. That in turn revealed to me why he feels how he does about Arina.

~Aja was inspired by two students of mine from years ago, down to looks and mannerisms. They didn't get into physical fights, but were passionate like Aja.

~Markos was inspired by a few different actors and ideas in my head, but one was Edward James Olmos. THAT VOICE.

~Cal took the longest to develop. I had ideas for her for throughout the book, but I only figured her out as I made my way through the whole draft. Even after revisions and CP input I might still be figuring her out, TBH. But I adore her. Everyone loves Cal!

That's all for now! You can also read more about my background in last year's #PimpMyBio. I'm going to try to dive back into planning my next book, which is still a secret but I'm super-excited about. You know how they say when you're terrified to write a book, when you think you can't handle it, that means it's the right book to write and will be amazing? Well, this book is apparently going to be really amazing. 
Maybe also how I'm feeling about the Pitch Wars wait.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

In Which I Present My #PitchWars #PimpMyBio



Welcome! I'm Leanne Schwartz (@LifeBreakingIn), a YA fantasy writer and #PitchWars hopeful. Much gratitude to Lana for putting on this blog hop. Thanks for reading mine, and have fun checking out the others! I love reading as many bios as possible each year, because finding others in the writing community is the best part of PitchWars.

Especially when we get exhausted and loopy.

Seriously, I've yet to get in, but participating in the PW community has changed me as a writer. I've found my amazing CPs (Sierra and Sarah) and soaked up tons of writing advice. This past year I've improved my writing, working on plotting, pacing, tension, and character arcs. I read recommended writing books and tons of YA fantasy, studied the chapters shared with me for feedback during PW (especially from those writers who were selected as mentees), and applied what I learned in my latest WIP.


My book, DAUGHTER OF NO TEMPLE, is WONDER WOMAN meets GRACELING. I've drawn on my partial Italian Catholic heritage and smashed it against my fierce feminism. We've got city-states patronized by different gods, female friendships, and hate-to-love. Also, an "unlikable" protagonist (though I hope people love her like I do), magical baptism, and young people figuring out who they really are versus the communities where they've been raised. Oh, and non-skinny heroines, insulting/endearing nicknames, and bickering. So much bickering. All in a word count that hits the sweet spot for YA fantasy.

Yup, I cried.

What kind of mentee would I be? Well, this year I taught an entirely new course load full-time, homeschooled two kids part-time, outlined, wrote, and revised a book, blogged for an educational tech group, CPed, directed a Shakespeare performance with 6th and 7th graders, and called my reps on the reg. I know how to get it done.

And I'll only be substitute teaching this upcoming school year, so I'll have, like, OODLES of time now. I am an English teacher, so while of course I have typos and occasional mistakes (I'm a terrible speller!), my writing doesn't suffer from an overload of grammatical issues, I hope. But I know how much work a stellar book takes. I'd love a mentor's critique to guide me in making my book as powerful as possible. I am ready to take feedback, ready to work hard, ready to rewrite as much as needed.

I really wanted to use this GIF, because AMY! But the "alot" bugs me. A lot.

As a teacher I talk to my students a lot about having a growth mindset, and the importance of revision. The day the draft for our first major writing assignment is due, I ask the kids, "Did anyone write theirs in blood? No? Carve it in stone? Ok, good. Time to REVISE." And the first thing we do is peer-read, to develop our critical eye but also to get a fresh perspective and input on our writing.

Instead of resorting to this.

So, want to get to know me a little better? Here are some faves and facts:


Selections from my writing playlist for this book: Florence and the Machine (Kiss With a Fist, Howl, Rabbit Heart, pretty much everything really), Sarah Bareilles (In Your Eyes cover, Brave, Hercules), Thea Gilmore (Even Gods Do), Natalie Merchant (the Ophelia album, Wonder), Kelly Clarkson (whom I hadn't really listened to, but I needed some power songs: Stronger, Beautiful Disaster)

Some books I've enjoyed recently: As I Darken, The Hate U Give, The Star-Touched Queen, Stalking Jack the Ripper, The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You, The Ship Beyond Time, Caraval

Fun fact: I met Tom Stoppard when I was nineteen and baby-me FANGIRLED SO HARD. I was writing my thesis on his Arcadia and I have a few Regency YA fantasy plots brewing thanks to all that Neoclassical/Romantic research.

Fact #2: Students and other teachers tell me how organized I am. It's allll a coping mechanism. It does not come naturally. Same with handling scary situations: I once drove to an teaching demo interview belting along with "I Have Confidence" to make my voice stop shaking. (I got the job.)

Fact #3: I can never remember exactly the difference between apricots, peaches, and nectarines.

Some parts I've played (because theatre was My Thing growing up): Rosalind, Lady Macbeth, Lady Capulet, Clytemnestra, the Blue Fairy, the Evil Fairy, a Spoon, Mrs. Beaver, and Kili (yes, from The Hobbit. The Musical.)


And finally, if you've made it this far, I want to share something special a few of my students made for me as school ended. It's a book cover, with room to write in the title of my book when it gets published someday.

We're still working on spelling.
YOU GUYS. My scholars are the sweetest (well, they've mostly nagged me to finish; it's only fair considering how I hound them for their homework). A few are writing novels of their own, and we commiserate over our progress and plot holes. Several have asked to read my book this summer, which makes me happy, because writing YA is all about the kids. I hope you get a chance to read it, too.