Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Review of ONE by LeighAnn Kopans

When having two powers makes you a Super and having none makes you a Normal, having only one makes you a sad half-superpowered freak.

It makes you a One.

Sixteen-year-old Merrin Grey would love to be able to fly – too bad all she can do is hover.

If she could just land an internship at the Biotech Hub, she might finally figure out how to fix herself. She busts her butt in AP Chem and salivates over the Hub’s research on the manifestation of superpowers, all in hopes of boosting her chances.

Then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and all her carefully crafted plans fly out the window. Literally. When the two of them touch, their Ones combine to make them fly, and when they’re not soaring over the Nebraska cornfields, they’re busy falling for each other.

Merrin's mad chemistry skills land her a spot on the Hub's internship short list, but as she gets closer to the life she always wanted, she discovers that the Hub’s purpose is more sinister than it has always seemed. Now it’s up to her to decide if it's more important to fly solo, or to save everything - and everyone - she loves.
*summary from

My Review **
From concept to the very first line, ONE grabbed my attention. I immediately sympathized with Merrin Grey, a One caught between having a superpower and having nothing. Merrin wants to fly more than anything, but she can only hover because she has half a superpower. Although her One power was supposed to fade many years ago, she refuses to give up and still practices every morning. Her determination is more than admirable, and it is a strong character trait that plays through the entire book.
Unfortunately because Merrin never developed the second ability that would allow her to fly, she has to transfer to Nelson “Normal” High where she soon meets fellow One, Elias VanDyne. Elias, by the way, is one of the sweetest most genuine guys I have ever read in YA. Merrin’s awkwardness around him is so believable. She has so many thoughts swirling in her head about how she wants to act vs how she thinks she should act, a confusion that often plagues many teenage girls especially really smart, logical, science-minded ones. I saw a lot of my high school self in her, so I immediately latched onto her character and probably would have followed her off a cliff like a lemming. I wanted to know her story and follow her journey.

Admittedly after meeting Elias, the story slowed down for some world building that might have been better spread out a bit more throughout the book. However, by this point I was intrigued by Merrin and Elias and what might be that I sped through to find out what happened next. By chapter five the story really hit its stride. Elias and Merrin had me wrapped around their pinky fingers and I was truly swooning and flipping pages looking forward to what came next.

I found some of the earlier reveals in the story a little predictable but they were cool nonetheless. By the time Merrin and Elias discover that together they can combine their abilities to fly, my heart was melting. The discovery and tension between them is beautiful. This is by far my favorite scene in the entire book. I became so enthralled by how engaging this story is.

As with any great love story there are secrets. Merrin and Elias are no exception. Merrin has her eyes on an internship with Biotech HUB, a facility dedicated to researching Supers and their abilities. Because Merrin is a One, she is not eligible for an internship, but that doesn’t stop her from secretly working with Mr. Hoffman, her science teacher from her old school. Merrin is determined to not only secure one of the coveted internships, but is also convinced that working at the Hub might provide her with some insight to solving her Oneness. She’s hoping to one day finally gain the ability to fly on her own, without Elias. But the more Merrin looks into Biotech Hub, the more she uncovers, and it seems they might be up to some sinister things inside their tightly controlled facility. And Elias seems to have some secrets of his own that might also be entangled with the Hub’s plans. Ultimately, Merrin has to decide if her desire to fly on her own is worth risking her family and friends.

Straight through to the finish this story kept me entertained and speeding through to find out what came next, yet trying to stall and savor every last word of it. I struggled a little bit to understand the details surrounding the big reveal at the climax, but by the end of the book all of my confusion and questions were resolved. The story left me happily satisfied but also wanting to know what happens next with Merrin and Elias. It also left me wanting to flip right back to the start and discover their adventure all over again.

Although I am a complete sucker for superhero stories, and immediately knew this was a book I had to read, I know superpower stories aren't for everyone. That said, don’t let the powers spin deter you. This book is so much more than a superhero story. It bridged the gap between science fiction and literary so seamlessly. As someone who is not always a fan of contemporary and literary stories, I was drawn to ONE because of the premise but I stayed because of the characters and the words on the page. I think ONE would appeal to a wide range of readers and is a good book to inspire science fiction readers to try more literary books and more literary readers to look into more science fiction. It was truly a fun, lighthearted read that often left me swooning and feeling like a teenager again. I highly recommend it, 4.5 stars!

**This review is based off an E-arc generously provided by LeighAnn Kopans

ONE Sneak Peek Comic - Installment #3

Hey all. As a member of #TeamONE I have a very special treat for you. What is #TeamONE you ask? An awesome street team dedicated to helping promote and spread the word about Leigh Ann Kopans' amazing YA book called ONE!

In anticipation of the release of this awesome book, here is the third installment of the comic based off the book. This panel includes one of my favorite scenes from the book :) Check it out because it is absolutely gorgeous! Be sure to also stop by and check out my review of ONE!

Find a full list with links to the other installments of this series on the author’s blog:
Or follow the author on Twitter @LeighAnnKopans for daily updates!

About ONE (a novel by Leigh Ann Kopans:)
Release date: June 11, 2013

When having two powers makes you a Super and having none makes you a Normal, having only one makes you a sad half-superpowered freak.

It makes you a One.

Sixteen-year-old Merrin Grey would love to be able to fly – too bad all she can do is hover.

If she could just land an internship at the Biotech Hub, she might finally figure out how to fix herself. She busts her butt in AP Chem and salivates over the Hub’s research on the manifestation of superpowers, all in hopes of boosting her chances.

Then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and all her carefully crafted plans fly out the window. Literally. When the two of them touch, their Ones combine to make them fly, and when they’re not soaring over the Nebraska cornfields, they’re busy falling for each other.

Merrin's mad chemistry skills land her a spot on the Hub's internship short list, but as she gets closer to the life she always wanted, she discovers that the Hub’s purpose is more sinister than it has always seemed. Now it’s up to her to decide if it's more important to fly solo, or to save everything - and everyone - she loves

Add ONE to your Goodreads and learn more about the author here:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Got Voice?

Voice is something that a lot of writers struggle with. I know I did, and still do sometimes. No, I'm not talking about those voices inside your head that won't shut up until you put them on paper. Although, they can be helpful, when they aren't driving you to insanity. But how do you really understand voice? In the past I spent a lot of time searching the web for a clear and concise definition of voice. Sadly, I always came up empty. I could never find a good description that made sense to me. And that's because voice is so tricky. Voice is one of the most subjective parts of writing, because the definition of voice is different for every reader.

So how do you know if your writing has voice? The short and blunt answer to that question is, if you are still asking, you probably haven't found your voice yet. When you find it you know. It's not just a feeling in your gut but everything starts falling into place. It makes sense and everything feels right. But if you aren't sure yet that's okay. There are things you can do to draw out your voice.

1.) Start with someone else's writing
When you read something and it's dripping with voice, you just know it. But what is it about that piece that makes you notice? Sometimes it's the language used, the dialogue of the characters, or just some quirkiness or distinct feature to the writing. But voice really goes deeper than that. It's the essence of everything you write. Your voice can come down to the very words you choose and the manner in which you string them together on the page.

2.) Listen to those voices
Remember those voices I mentioned at the start of this post? The ones that make you feel like a crazy person? Yeah those! Listen to them. Let them speak through you. Allowing those crazy voices to take over helps form your voice. Pay attention when that happens and try to apply it throughout your writing.

3.) Search your manuscript
So how do you find your voice when you aren't sure? This can be tricky. But after finding mine, I'm a firm believer that it's hiding in your manuscript somewhere just waiting to be discovered. Yes somewhere in your manuscript is a scene just oozing with your author voice. You just have to find it. Odds are it's not your first page or even in your second, third or tenth, but it's in there. So where do you look?

Think about your main character, what's important to them, and what defines them as a character. Then find a scene in your manuscript where they are doing one of the following:
  • Engaging with a close friend
  • Engaging in an activity that is really inside their comfort zone
  • Engaging in an activity that induces stress or tension
  • Engaging in a scene far outside their comfort zone
  • Engaging with the enemy/antagonist
In the first two bullets your character is in their element. The main character is comfortable to act like his or her true self. In situations like this their voice is likely to speak loud and clear, sometimes it even screams. If you can find a scene like that, it shows your character in their natural environment and how they respond in day to day situations.

On the flip side, the last three bullets take the character in the complete opposite direction. It's a situation or event where your character doesn't have time to think and their true colors can really show, meaning their voice is likely to be louder then as well. Taking a character out of their element allows them to really shine or fall flat on their face. Either way they will usually do it in a very distinct way with specific words that define them completely.

4.) Read it and read some more
Once you find that magical place where your character is screaming loud and clear in his or her natural voice then you need to read that scene. Then read it again and again and again. Get a good feel for the voice in the scene, why it's coming out so clearly, and why it works. Hold onto that scene tight, you'll need it in the future.

5.) Apply
Now that you've identified your voice and have a good understanding of it, go back to the beginning of your book and rewrite the scene using the newly discovered voice. Often times it doesn't require large rewrites but small changes that pull the character's voice to the surface. Use the language the main character would use and let their thoughts and feelings seep onto the page.

By this point your gut should be churning because everything should start falling into place. If you are still struggling don't despair. It happens to a lot of us. See if you can get a trusted critique partner to take a look at your manuscript and identify some scenes that have great voice. Then use those as a guide to rework the rest of your book.

Your voice is there, now go find it!

How would you define voice? Are you struggling to find yours? Do you have any good tips on voice or blog posts to share? Let me know! I'm always curious to learn more.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

5 Tips for Stress Free Pitching

Last month I attended the Missouri Writer’s Guild Conference and pitched to agents in person for the first time. I was terrified. We aren’t talking a little stage fright here, I mean full on knees shaking, I think I’m going to puke, terrified. I ran around for weeks prior to the conference freaking out about my upcoming encounters with the agents. The funny thing was I’d been to a conference before, I’d met agents, and it wasn’t a big deal. But this time felt different. I was going to be putting my manuscript out there in the world. What if I didn’t do it justice? What if the agents hated it?

As the conference approached I nearly talked myself out of pitching. Nearly. But there were a few things that helped make the pitch process less painful.

1.) Practice Makes Perfect
Practice Practice Practice. When you are going to give a speech or a presentation what’s the one thing you almost always do? Unless you're the kind of person that likes to “wing it,” and that’s not me at all, you practice. When you're going to pitch an agent you should do the same thing. Spend some time constructing a pitch and then practice it like you are having a conversation with someone. I practiced in the shower, in the car, in front of the mirror, to my dog, and even pitched to fellow writers. So help remove the nerves from the equation and know what you are going to say ahead of time. The more you say it the more naturally it will roll off the tongue, and the more excited you can sound about your work.

2.) Meet the agent first
As a shy introvert I hate meeting new people. I never know what to say and I always feel like I’m an awkward, bumbling idiot. All of those feelings stem from the fact that I fear the unknown. I’m a giant control freak and when I can’t control a situation I start to panic. When you meet someone for the first time there are so many unknowns, which is why I feel so awkward around new people. So for me, taking the unknown out of the picture is key.

In this case, the unknown is the agent that you may have followed on Twitter forever but have never met in person. While you may have some idea of their personality from online interactions (or stalking – don’t lie I know we all do it!) that isn’t always a guarantee of how they will act in person. So if you can, find a good time (yes the “a good time” is important) to introduce yourself to the agent. If you can sit at their table at lunch, catch them after a seminar they gave, or volunteer to shepherd them, those are all good ways to take five minutes to say “Hi I’m so and so, it’s very nice to meet you, I’m glad you’re here.” You can even mention that you liked their seminar or possibly say I’ll be pitching to you later or tomorrow but keep the exchange brief.

Keep in mind, this is not the time to talk about your book or even mention your writing (unless they ask), just meet them. You don’t walk up to random people and start pitching your book, so don’t do this to an agent. From this brief encounter you should be able to tell that the agent is probably pretty nice and not some crazed, axe-murdering psycho setting out to ruin your writing career. See agents are people too!

3.) Don’t worry about being perfect
Now that you’ve practiced your pitch and met the agent, you’re hopefully a little less frazzled and ready to pitch. It’s going to be perfect! But what if it’s not? What if you mess up? What if you forget something? What if… Yeah stop right there. You can what if yourself to death and drive yourself crazy. I know I did. The good news is you don’t have to be perfect and shouldn’t try to be. You know why? The agent doesn’t know your book, they don’t know what you‘re going to say, and they don’t know what you practiced. So if you mess up, the only person who will know is you. Unless you have a really bad poker face like I do. So take a deep breath, calm down, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Give yourself permission to pitch well but not perfect.

4.) Treat it like a conversation with a stranger
Stranger or friend, when people find out that you write, what is usually the first thing that comes out of their mouth?

The encounter usually goes something like this:

Stranger: So what do you do in your free time?

Writer: Free time? What’s that? I spend most of my time writing.

Stranger: Really? That’s so cool! What do you write?

Writer: Middle Grade and Young Adult science fiction mostly.

Stranger: Wow that’s neat what’s your book about?

I’m going to stop the fun, little scenario there because the next thing out of your mouth should be a quick concise couple sentence description of your book. I know writers love to talk about their books, I do as well, but if you go on much longer than a few sentences you risk boring the stranger to death or losing their attention in some crazy long description that they won’t follow. But if you choose your words wisely, the next thing that will come from the stranger after your description is some kind of comparison or question about your book. Something like ohh that’s cool so kind of like X book or movie, or cool, so what happens next?

Now go back to the little scenario and replace the word stranger with agent. Congratulations you’ve just pitched an agent. I just let you in on a little secret that saved me at the conference—the realization that pitching to an agent is no different than talking to a stranger about your book. You’re hoping that they want to know more and one day want to read some of it. If you can keep the agent engaged and get them asking questions you are on the right track. If they ask to read some, you are in. The goal of the pitch is to get the agent to request pages. Plain and simple. So if you can grab their attention and keep them interested, you’ve pitched well.

5.) Realize you have nothing to lose
This one is big. When you walk up to the agent to pitch where are you at? They know nothing about your book, they haven’t read it, and don’t know you exist.  Harsh but true. So if you pitch to the agent and they say no, where are you at then? Well they know who you are, what you write, what your book is about, and that it’s not right for them. So what did you lose? Nothing, in fact if nothing else you met a nice person in the industry. So even if they say no, you are ahead of where you were when you started. And if they say they want to see part of your manuscript even better you’re one step closer!

There you have it, nothing to be so nervous about. Agents are people too, they are nice, and they want to hear about your book, because guess what? They love books! So don’t sweat it! 

So do any of you have upcoming conferences where you will be pitching in person? What scares you the most? Have you pitched in person before? What tips do you have?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

On Boycotts...

Boycotts are often a popular way for a large group of people to get a message across that they don't support another individual's or business' point of view. They can be very effective. They can also be a bit controversial. The most recent boycott pursuit is a campaign to boycott the Ender's Game movie because of the author's views on gays and gay marriage.

Now let me say this first, I personally don't agree with Card's views on the issue however, the man is entitled to his opinion. Many may not like it, but we all live in a country where we are free to voice our own opinions. I'm all for healthy debate of opinions and lobbying on your side of the fence. I'll even support some boycotts, however I will say before you boycott something because of one person's views, stop and think about who else you might be affecting.


In the case of the Ender's Game movie, if you are boycotting because of Card's views, you aren't only punishing the author of the series. There are so many thousands of others that put a lot of time and hard work into creating the movie - actors, directors, special effects people, sound people, and on and on and on. So stop for one minute and think about how this not only affects the author (who has already hugely profited on the series), but also the many, many others involved in the project. Just think.

So am I saying don't see the movie, no. Am I saying see it, no. So what is my point here? I'm saying THINK! Everyone's actions has an affect on others and the world around them. So take one minute and think about who and what your actions may affect before you boycott something. Whatever you decide, at least you understand the consequences.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Writer's Voice Entry

I was one of the lucky 150 to be selected to try for a spot in the agent round of The Writer's Voice. Below is my entry.

Dear Awesome Coaches,
When an alien race known as the Adviera abducts thirteen-year-old Gary Jones, they give him the power of telekinesis. Unfortunately this cool new ability comes with a price. The aliens insist Gary complete dangerous retrieval missions for them, alongside other Earth kids with abilities.

The Adviera believes Gary could be the key to saving their race and are secretly grooming him to lead their war effort. Too bad Gary just wants to complete his service to the aliens quickly, so he can use his power to exact revenge on the school bully. But if Gary fails them, it’s not just the Adviera who will suffer—the fate of humanity could also be at risk.

Although Gary works closely with his alien trainer, Esther, so he can learn to control his ability, he’s unprepared for the missions and simulated battles the Adviera force him into. If the alien council would stop changing their ridiculous demands, Gary might have a chance to perfect his ability before they thrust him into a situation he may not be able to survive.

THE ADVIERA ABDUCTIONS, complete at 60,000 words, is an Upper Middle Grade Science Fiction novel with series potential that blends Sky High and Ender’s Game, with butt-kicking aliens. I am a member of SCBWI and the St. Louis Writer’s Guild.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Jamie Krakover

First 250: 
No matter how far Gary ventured from home, he couldn’t escape his mother’s radar. She had scolded him countless times because he went looking for trouble. Gary, however, thought it was the opposite—trouble always found him. Although, exactly how he might step into some kind of mess while walking the dog, he had no clue.

Gary ran his hand through his shaggy, brown hair and risked a glance back at the living room window. His mother’s gaze pierced him just long enough to send a shudder rippling through his spine before she turned from the window and disappeared. She looks like an angry gargoyle.

He grabbed for his earbuds and shoved them into his ears. Bobbing his head to the thundering drums and crashing guitars, he stepped in synch with the music. Buster, his Golden Retriever, had other ideas and dragged Gary down the street as if on a mission. The dog stopped at a dimly lit street lamp near the end of the block, barked, and pulled hard on the leash. In an effort to hold him back, Gary grabbed Buster’s collar with his free hand.

“What is it, boy? What are you barking at?”

Gary looked around the darkening street. Despite the parked cars, no one was outside. Following Buster’s gaze, he found the cause of the disturbance—white lights floating across the sky.

“It’s just a plane. Come on.” He tried to yank the dog back toward the house. Buster planted his butt on the ground and whined.