Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Five: giveaway WINNER and some links

1. The winner of a shiny new hardcover copy of L.K. Madigan's The Mermaid's Mirror AND an ARC of Jennifer Donnelly's forthcoming Revolution is:


(Brian, if you email me at sonia (at) soniagensler (dot) com, we can iron out the details.)

Thanks to EVERYONE who participated on livejournal and blogspot -- I appreciate you ever so much, and I hope you'll stay tuned for future giveaways.

2. Book banning makes me LIVID. If you haven't already, please read Laurie Halse Anderson's blog post about a mind-boggling challenge to her beautiful book, Speak: This guy thinks SPEAK is pornography. ALSO, go here to win a copy of Twenty Boy Summer, another book thoughtlessly maligned by Scroggins. And consider reading a banned book this week, won't you?

3. This brilliant blog post from Maureen Johnson almost pushes that Scroggins dude out of my head: Sell the Girls.

4. I saw this short little video linked on Facebook. It may have been around for a while, but was new to me. CRACKED ME UP. Perhaps I should advise . . . oh, I'm not even going to warn you. A commercial for Channel Bee.

5. These two film trailers make me giddy:

Happy weekend, everyone!

[cross-posted from Livejournal]

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

MERMAID'S MIRROR interview and giveaway!

[NOTE: if you prefer Livejournal, please read the interview and enter the contest here.]

Today I am absolutely tickled to share my interview with the fabulous L.K. Madigan, author of the William C. Morris Award-winning Flash Burnout. Her latest novel, The Mermaid's Mirror, features "highly imagistic descriptions and savvy dialogue" and "offers a rewarding and credible story that uses fantasy elements to bare truths about family ties" (this according to a starred review from Booklist!).  And guess what? Lucky YOU will have a chance to win a copy of Mermaid's Mirror at the end of this interview!

So without further ado, my questions for L.K.:

I know you’ve told this story before, but it delights me so. Please tell us about your very first mermaid book and explain how/if it influenced MERMAID’S MIRROR.

My very first mermaid book was an epic tale penned when I was in third grade … so it’s more accurate to say it was penciled. I took on the role of illustrator, too, which meant my characters sometimes had to suffer the indignity of noselessness. (The art world breathed a sigh of relief when I narrowed my focus to words instead of pictures.)

I’m not sure my early juvenilia influenced my current novel, but my desire to create a compelling world beneath the waves was as strong in childhood as it is now. My eight-year-old self and my current self both love to tell stories.

[Interviewer note: For more details on L.K.'s early love for mermaid stories, please see Jaclyn Dolamore's captivating interview. Simply magical!]

MM combines contemporary realism with fantasy. You’ve written an award-winning contemporary novel already, so we’ll assume you’re comfortable with that genre. At what point on the comfort scale (let’s say “liberated to terrified”) did you fall when writing the fantasy components of MM?

I wrote an early draft of MM years before I switched to contemporary realism. In fact, it was my first serious attempt at writing for children. Back then I simply wrote … forging blithely ahead, creating my underwater fantasy world, free of any crippling fears about what constitutes authentic world-building. A few years later, when I decided to rewrite MM from a middle grade novel to YA, the fears found me … but they didn’t cripple me. I forged ahead with the writing, a little less blithely now, a lot more aware of all the things I might get wrong.

I went ahead and told my tale, anyway. If we writers become too paralyzed to tell our stories, then who will? I loved creating my fictional world, and I hope the book will find readers who love it, too. My goal was to describe beach scenes so vivid that a reader who’s never been out of her landlocked state will feel as if she can smell the salt air and feel the ocean’s power … and maybe even imagine a world beneath the waves.

Thank you for mentioning my “award-winning” novel, but I still feel like an apprentice in this profession, and I probably always will.

You write boys so well. (I ADORE Blake from Flash Burnout). However, your protagonist in MM is an equally complex and lovable girl. Was it a challenge or a relief to shift to a female perspective? Details, please!

Is it a cop-out if I say I truly love writing from the perspective of both genders?

In some ways, there’s a greater sense of freedom in writing from the male perspective. I didn’t feel the need to censor Blake’s salty language or his frank admiration of his girlfriend’s physical attributes. Even in our enlightened 21st century, some people will still judge a girl harshly for behavior that boys are permitted.

More and more, YA novels are slowly breaking down that double standard. I’ve read some terrific books with female protagonists who occasionally utter a swear word, and who explore the boundaries of love and lust.

I’ve never even touched a surfboard, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the surfing scenes in MM. Did you draw from personal experience in writing them?

I spent eighteen years in southern California, yet I never learned to surf. I guess it’s because we lived “inland,” so I wasn’t close to surf culture. I body-surfed and swam in the ocean, and I have happy memories of my university days, in which I would finish classes and head for the beach alone. I would go for a swim, then lay on my towel and read. I sometimes rode a boogie-board, but I never took the time to learn to surf. I wish I had!

My parents and sister moved to a beach town in northern California when I was in college, so she was close to surf culture, and became a surfer herself. I drew inspiration from her adventures. I also asked surfboard-maker Robbie Dick – who has over five decades of surfing experience under his belt – to read the book and make sure I got the surf scenes right.

Hawaii is one of my favorite vacation spots, because I can swim and snorkel in the warm sea, listening to the underwater music of shifting sands.

I know you created a lovely playlist for MERMAID’S MIRROR because I’ve had a chance to listen to it! Can you share two of your favorite songs from that list and explain how they helped put you in the mood for writing/revising?

Oooh, I love my Mermaid playlist, but I admit two of my favorites are “In the Deep,” by Bird York, and “Bright Glittering Gifts,”by Laura Veirs.

“In the Deep” is so dreamy and drifting and hypnotic, like floating in the sea. “Bright Glittering Gifts” is more upbeat; it opens with images of sand and sea and earth, then ends with a beautiful, repetitive refrain that rolls over and over, like waves.

[Interviewer note: You can watch a video of "In the Deep" here. Both it and "Bright Glittering Gifts" (from the Saltbreakers CD) are available from iTunes!]

Thanks so much, Lisa, for your eloquent answers to my questions!

NOW! I want to offer you, dear blog reader, the opportunity to win The Mermaid's Mirror. PLUS, I am sweetening the pot with an ARC of Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution (due to be released October 12). Like Mermaid's Mirror, Donnelly's latest novel weaves a compelling fantastical element into a realistic contemporary story. So they pair nicely, right?

Comment below to enter. International entrants welcome! You may gain more entries by tweeting or facebooking this contest, but please tell me below under what name you've tweeted/FBed. The winner will be announced FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 24.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Five

1. WriteOnCon. This amazing online writing conference needs your help! Browse the various offerings and comment on those you'd like to win. Comment here to win a critique from me and an ARC of The Revenant when it becomes available. Multiply your entries by making a small donation.You have until Sunday, September 26, at noon (EST) to comment/donate! (Remember, you don't HAVE to donate, but doing so will increase your chances of winning AND will help a great online resource continue its fabulous work! Oh, and don't worry -- they are suggesting small donations.)

2. My home office. We've been working on this room for four years, adding a few pieces here and there when we could scrounge up the money. Our final two pieces -- a 5th bookcase (!!!) and a hutch -- arrived Wednesday. After lots of heavy lifting, sorting, and cleaning, here's the result:


I am so happy with how it all turned out. But a word of warning -- black bookcases collect dust like crazy. Yeah, you probably already knew that. Well, imagine what it's like when you add a white cat into the mix! My Swiffer duster just can't keep up.

3. A relic of my past. Look what I found when cleaning out the office closet: an old-timey photo of me in my late-teens with Steve (who looks 12). My hair is just sad, but at least I had a tan back then!

4. Book squee. As soon as I finish The Children's Book (which is good, but so LONG), I will dive into Y.S. Ling's The Body at the Tower. (Victorian girl spies RULE!) And after that, I simply must get my hands on Lucy Christopher's Stolen, which apparently is beyond spectacular.

5. TV squee. Six days until the Fringe Season 3 premiere!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sonia does her best to be late for 1st conference gig

This past Saturday, I was the first speaker at the SCBWI OK Fall Conference. The presentation went just fine, but getting there was a comedy of errors.

First of all, I didn't sleep well the night before -- partly because I was nervous about speaking, but mostly because I continued to obsess about the disturbing bits in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which we'd just watched, and which I'm starting to think was better than the book) long into the wee hours.

So I woke puffy-eyed and exhausted, dragging around until I was fifteen minutes late leaving, but I still had plenty of time to make it to Chandler, Oklahoma. Except -- my gas tank was nearly empty! So I lost more time filling it. Then I remembered that I didn't have a cent on me for the turnpike. So I got cash. But a twenty dollar bill was no good, so I had to break it at Starbucks. Finally, I'm on the road again and, now that the sun has crossed the horizon, it occurs to me that I don't have my sunglasses. ARGH! (My photosensitivity has reached nearly vampiric levels, so I've GOTTA have sunglasses. Even when it's cloudy.) Fortunately, I had a spare pair in the glove box, but they were crappy and uncomfortable. Still, I'm finally on the interstate and moving in the right direction.

My GPS is telling me what to do, because I don't even trust myself with Mapquest anymore. I'm driving along, la la la, and all of a sudden I realize I'm passing the turnpike. The GPS forgot to tell me to take it! But I keep driving, thinking maybe it knows a better way to access the turnpike. Instead, it takes me to Route 66 -- yes, that famous TWO-lane highway -- and tells me to take that to Chandler. DOUBLE ARGH! (It occurred to me later that I'd adjusted the GPS settings to avoid toll roads. Well done, Sonia.)

As it turned out, Route 66 was pretty cool. And because I didn't get stuck behind a grandpa on a tractor, I still made it with 15 minutes to spare.

And then my computer would not cooperate with the LCD projector. *sigh*

But we got that sorted (thanks to Tammi Sauer's thumbdrive and Darlene Bailey Beard's netbook), and I was able to start my presentation on time. Everyone was wonderfully polite and cooperative, and I had a great time. My thanks go out once again to the Elevensies who offered their successful queries for my presentation. *hugs*

The rest of the conference was brilliant. Pati Hailey led us through some relaxation exercises before asking us to do some writing. I ended up brainstorming character motivation details that I'd been ignoring for too long. And then Joni Sensel's fabulous Fantasy intensive helped me to write two scenes and brainstorm a different character's motivations. Such a productive day. Thank you Anna Myers, Pati Hailey and all the staff and speakers at Oklahoma SCBWI for a great day!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Five of Fun and Magic

1. In case you didn't see me EXCLAIMING ABOUT IT all over the place yesterday (like a crazy fool), I finally got permission to share my cover for THE REVENANT. Here it is. Thanks for celebrating with me!

2. Tomorrow I will be sharing tips on getting an agent at the Oklahoma SCBWI Fall conference. If you're reading this and you attended my "Schmooze" talk on the same topic a few months ago, I will have new material. Oh, and big thanks go out to the Elevensies who donated their queries for my presentation. *smooch*

3. I needed a little extra magic for my presentation, so yesterday I went on the hunt for a new pair of shoes to jazz up my look. So many ladies have been working the red shoes lately that I had to get my own pair. Here they are. And here's an an action shot, so to speak. They're slightly old-ladyish, but also foxy. Silver-foxy?

4. Speaking of magic, I am listening to Sara Bareilles' new CD Kaleidoscope Heart. She is my #1 girl-crush! Would love to see her in concert again, but I'm afraid Steve would stow away on her tour bus and I'd never see him again.

5. Even more magic: I love this interview of L.K. Madigan by Jaclyn Dolamore. Lots of Mermaid-y goodness AND a giveaway. Please do go check it out -- you might win something fabulous. And don't forget that L.K.'s The Mermaid's Mirror will be released on October 4th!

Happy weekend, everyone!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Thursday, September 9, 2010



Click here for larger version.

Learn more about the book here.

This Photobucket version looks a tad fuzzy. And keep in mind that it will be tweaked -- at the very least they still need to add the tagline -- but this is the "approved" design!

My pub date is June 14, 2011. Please write this on your calendar 'cause we are going to PARTY! ;)

Anyway . . . watcha think?

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Five -- Writing

In an effort to be less random on Fridays, this week's five are all somewhat related to writing. (I haven't used my "writing" tag in over two months. Eeek!)

1. Earlier this week, Nova Ren Suma tweeted about this amazing month-long writing retreat in a Scottish castle! Pictures like these bring to mind one of my favorite books, The Keep, and make me think of spooky things that might happen during a writing retreat at a remote location (à la The Ghost Orchid). I have to admit that, even though the idea of this retreat is so seductive, the reality is that I'd probably be too spooked to get anything written! (I LOVE ghostly books and movies. But a real-life haunted castle -- and I'm already imagining Hawthornden to be downright filthy with ghosts -- might drive me straight to Looneyville. (Not that I would ever be selected for this retreat.)

2. Good thing there are plenty of other retreats that are closer and considerably less gothic. Kindling Words, for instance. Doesn't that look cozy? Kate Messner recommended it, and I do believe I'll be putting my name in for the lottery. Any other retreats to recommend?

3. Speaking of Kate, I met her on Wednesday! She was in town on a special research mission (oooh!) and fortunately had time for a chat at Starbucks. I had such a great time talking books and writing with Kate, and I was so inspired by her positive attitude, boundless creativity, and amazing work ethic. Yay!

4. As far as my own writing progess, I'm pleased to report that I've finally reached the 50k mark with the latest ms (the one I was supposed to have drafted before I left for Oxford. *sigh*). The sagging middle was determined to suck me into its vortex, but I finally realized that if I just relaxed my white-knuckled grip on the outline and kept writing, I would eventually escape the sag's gravitational pull. (Which may sound counterintuitive, because you'd think a sagging middle would require more structure, but I think I just needed a slightly different structure.)

5. And on that note, I give you an updated progress bar. (Haven't posted one of these since May 19th. Oh, the shame!) I plan to turn this sucker into a straight blue line by the end of the month. Hold me to it!

50073 / 70000 words. 72% done!

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Wednesday, September 1, 2010



I've been seeing this poster all over the place lately. And everytime I look at it, my eyes prickle with tears. I couldn't even explain to Steve without choking up.

You see, Secretariat was my first love.

I was wee, but I still have very vivid memories of jumping up and down and screaming with my mom as Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths, becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. (We weren't actually there, however. We watched on TV in California. Here's the film of the race -- it never fails to give me chills.)

I begged my mom to take me to Claiborne Farm so I could meet Secretariat. I just assumed the grooms would be happy to let me ride him. Unfortunately, Claiborne was closed to the public at that time, but I did visit Spendthrift Farm. (I did see Nashua, who was quite old. Unlike Secretariat, he lived to the ripe old age of 30.)

I obsessively followed Secretariat's children as they tried to repeat his success -- Lady's Secret, Risen Star, General Assembly, etc. He turned out to be much better at siring broodmares than stakeswinning racehorses, however. (I like to think of him as a doting grandpa!)

And when he died? I was so shocked I couldn't even cry.

The film may be more about Penny Chenery than Secretariat, but that's okay. Her story is amazing, too. See the trailer here.

Any other Secretariat fans out there? Other equine/non-human first loves? Do share!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]