Friday, December 30, 2011

Superlative Blog Fest! Best In Show



It's the last day of the Superlative Blog fest *cries*

I've hope you've had as much as fun as Katy, Tracey, and Jessica, and I have. If you're new to the blogfest and want to join in the fun, click here for a recap of the "rules" and hop aboard!

And just so you know, I just finished the amazing, awesome, completely brilliant and fabulous Lola and the Boy Next Door and told Katy, Jessica, and Tracey that we needed to start this blog fest ALL OVER so I could give it proper praise. Coolest nerd, quirkiest character, best parental figures, tie for best contemporary and I must must MUST add Cricket Bell to the boys I would date in high school. Seriously delightful read people. I LOVE this book!!!

And now on to today’s topic:

Best in Show

Favorite Cover:







Cutest Couple: Lola Nolan and Cricket Bell (Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins)

They are both just too adorable and way too perfect for each other. Now, if only they’d realize it. ;)


Most Likely to Succeed (Or, pick a Printz Winner): Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi

For the story. The prose. EVERYTHING.


Most Likely to Make You Miss Your Bedtime (The book you just couldn’t put down!): Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Because it did. It’s been a while since I stayed up past midnight to read a book. I didn’t stop until three in the morning with this one.


Best Repeat Performance (Your favorite sequel or follow-up.): Where She Went by Gayle Forman, Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares, and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

It’s rare and refreshing to read a sequel that outshines its predecessor. These three nailed it.


Romance Most Worthy of an Ice Bath: Mia/Adam (Where She Went by Gayle Forman) and Cara/Dani (Perfect by Ellen Hopkins)

If I say anything, I will spoil the read for you. You will just have to trust me on these choices.


Pair Most Likely to Stay Best Friends Till They’re 80: Zuzana and Karou (Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor) and Emerson/Lillian (Hourglass by Myra McEntire)


Breakout Novel (Favorite Book by a Debut Author): Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi


Best Old-Timer (Your favorite read of the year, published BEFORE 2011.): Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Wins best book I ever read.


Most Likely to Make a Grown Man Cry: Where She Went by Gayle Forman


Most Pleasant Surprise (The best book you didn’t think you’d like, but totally did.): Abandon by Meg Cabot


Most Creative Use of a Love Triangle: The Dark and Hallow Places by Carrie Ryan

Actually a Love Quadrilateral. I’d spoil it if I say more. You’ll just have to read the trilogy!


Sleeper Hit (Book you found so awesome you wish it had been hyped more.): Moonglass by Jessi Kirby


And now it’s your turn! Pick your own superlative category and post it at the end of today’s list. Blog hoppers can drop by and vote for their pick in the comments of your blog!

I couldn’t stop at one, people. Actually my brain would not shut down once I started coming up with new categories, but I left it at three. What would YOUR answers be?!

1) Best LGBT relationship?

Cara and Dani (Perfect by Ellen Hopkins) AND Andy and Nathan (Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins)


2) Character who deserved the biggest hug?

Truman (The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff) Everything seems to go wrong for this poor kid.

AND

Cricket (Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins) I mean, 'cause, who wouldn’t want to hug Cricket?!


3) Favorite pet (or animal/creature):

Total (Angel, a Maximum Ride novel by James Patterson) Talking dog, flies, marries (yes, marries) an Alaskan Malamute. Is the Scottie equivalent of Stanford from Sex and the City. What’s not to love?

AND

Heavens to Betsy (Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins). The name sealed Betsy’s vote with me.

Your turn! What would YOUR choices be? Don't forget to add your name to the linky list if you're participating!




Thursday, December 29, 2011

Superlative Blog Fest! Elements of Fiction



It's Day Three of the Superlative Blog fest! If you want to join in the fun, click here for a recap of the "rules" and hop aboard!

Todays Topic:

Elements of Fiction

Most Envy-Inducing Plot (Or, the plot you wish you’d thought of yourself.): The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler.

The premise: It's 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They've been best friends almost as long - at least, up until last November, when Josh did something that changed everything. Things have been weird between them ever since, but when Josh's family gets a free AOL CD in the mail,his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they're automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn't been invented yet. And they're looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.

By refreshing their pages, they learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they're forced to confront what they're doing right - and wrong - in the present.


Go ahead. Admit it. You wish you thought of it too.


Most Wonderful World-Building: Divergent by Veronica Roth

The story may take place in future dystopian Chicago, but I was totally there. The factions and their inner-workings and intra-connections. The world of the Dauntless. Yep. I was there too.


Most Formidable World (Or, the setting you most definitely would NOT want to travel to.): Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

You couldn’t pay me to live on that island. You could guarantee me an agent and a publisher tomorrow and I still don't know if I'd go live there.

Okay, maybe for that I'd visit.


Wanderlust-Inducing (Or, the setting you’d happily travel to.): Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

The story takes place in Prague. The Charles Bridge, the Poison Kitchen, the maze of streets that seem haunting yet beautiful. And did I mention the story takes place in PRAGUE? My brother’s been to Prague twice and I’ve always been jealous of his Czech travels. After reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I really want to start saving for my own trip.


Loveliest Prose: Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi

My life is four walls of missed opportunities poured in concrete molds.

I always wonder about raindrops.
I wonder how they're always falling down, tripping over their feet, breaking their legs and forgetting their parachutes as they tumble out of the sky toward an uncertain end. It's like someone is emptying their pockets over the earth and doesn't seem to care where the contents fall, doesn't seem to care that the raindrops burst when they hit the ground, that they shatter when they fall to the floor, that people curse the days the drops dare to tap on their doors.
I am a raindrop.


He's paranoid, though with good reason. But then he's patient and impatient with me. Excited and nervous all the time. He's a walking oxymoron.

Killing time isn't as difficult as it sounds.
I can shoot a hundred numbers through the chest and watch them bleed decimal points in the palm of my hand. I can rip the numbers off a clock and watch the hour hands tick tick tick their final tock just before I fall asleep. I can suffocate seconds just by holding my breath. I've been murdering minutes for hours and no one seems to mind.



I wish I had just an ounce of Mafi’s brilliance.


Best First Line: Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

There is nothing more humiliating than being topless in the backseat of your boyfriend’s car when someone decides to throw an egg at the windshield.

Heck yeah, I’m reading on. Here’s just a few more lines.

Wait. Scratch that.
Having your boyfriend jump off of you, climb out of the car, and chase after the guy, completely forgetting that you’re still half-naked—that trumps it.
And there is one thing even worse than that.
Having it happen repeatedly.


LOVE that book.


Most Dynamic Main Character: Emerson (Hourglass by Myra McEntire)

Emerson's biting sarcasm, her ability to take care of herself, her quick wit. She can’t help but blurt the truth (her edit button’s broken). When she learns someone can see her “hallucinations” too, what does she do? Punches him in the stomach. Emerson’s loyal and has no problems putting the needs of others before herself. She can be so loving one minute, and blow up the next. And the girl spouts out words like Shazam. And geez a lou. And describes her new circle of er…friends as “Team Freak. Wonder if we could get jerseys.” Um…did I mention how much I love her? She’s totally adorable. When If I ever grow up, I want to be just like Emerson Cole.


Most Jaw-Dropping Finale: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Okay, so maybe the ending wasn’t completely jaw-dropping, but I can’t stop thinking about it.


Best Performance in a Supporting Role: Miss Nebraska aka Mary Lou aka Queen Josephine (Beauty Queens by Libba Bray)

A country girl with a feral heart. She was the most authentic and most relatable character and probably grew the most over the course of the story. And, well…I loved how she went from being all innocent and not sure she should go for it to uninhibited Bodacious Pirate Queen.


Best Use of Theme: Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

The story’s basic premise is a sex strike by girls who want to stop the civil war between the soccer and football teams. And without preaching, the book tackles sex stereotypes and overall feelings towards sex. Um…and in case you didn’t get this—it’s about sex. Enough said.


So, what would YOUR choices be? Don't forget to add your name to the linky list if you're participating!



Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Superlative Blog Fest! Popularity Contest

It's Day Two of the Superlative Blog fest and today we're choosing our faves yearbook style. If you want to join in the fun, click here for a recap of the "rules" and hop aboard!


Todays Topic:

Popularity Contest

Choose characters who fit each topic from ANY YA book!

Class Clown: TALULLAH CASEY (Withering Tights by Louise Rennison)—I don’t think she intentionally sets out to be funny girl, but she is. And the Brit humor makes her endearingly hilarious.

Most Likely to Become a Rock Star: ADAM WILDE (Where She Went by Gayle Forman)—he's already a rock star, but I couldn’t envision any other character receiving this designation

Mostly Likely to Start a Riot: MISS TEXAS, TAYLOR RENE KRYSTAL HAWKINS (Beauty Queens by Libba Bray)—although in her case, it might be a quiet riot. Look out.

Biggest Flirt: NIXIE (Tangled Tides by Karen Amanda Hooper) and KAZ(Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor)—Nixie’s a siren—it’s her nature to flirt and she’s um…really good at it. And Kaz? Okay, so maybe he only flirted with Karou in the book, but behind the scenes? Yeah. I’m sure Karou was not the only flirtee.

Fashion King and/or Queen: CLEO (The Ghoul Next Door by Lisi Harrison) and ASHLEY (Moonglass by Jessi Kirby)

Girl You’d Most Want For Your BFF: CHLOE (Shut Out by Kody Keplinger) and ZUZANA (Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor)—these two are completely loyal, call their friends on their screw ups, and encourage them to go for what they really want. I love my friends who are like that.

Boy You Wish You’d Dated in High School: (cue mega listing): ADAM WILDE (Where She Went by Gayle Forman), TYLER (Moonglass by Jessi Kirby), CASH STERLING (Shut Out by Kody Keplinger), MICHAEL WEAVER(Hourglass by Myra McEntire), COLE (Ripple by Mandy Hubbard), FANG (Angel by James Patterson)—just the right combination of bad boy, aloofness, and compassion

Most Likely to Become President: CASH STERLING (Shut Out by Kody Keplinger)—the guy can do no wrong. And EVERYONE loves him. And ADINA (Beauty Queens by Libba Bray)—mainly because I’d like to see her in this role.

Quirkiest Character: EMERSON (Hourglass by Myra McEntire)

Villain You Love to Hate: NEFERET (Destined by PC Cast and Kristin Cast)—she may be High Priestess, but she is also highly evil and malicious. And disturbing. *shudders*

Favorite Parental Figure: BRIMSTONE (Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor)

Coolest Nerd: JOSH (The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler)—add him to the boys I’d date in high school. So awesome.


So, what would YOUR choices be? Don't forget to add your name to the linky list if you're participating!



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Superlative Blog Fest! Head of the Class

Hope you all had a lovely holiday! Santa spoiled my children - the whole family really. I spent a glorious weekend with my family, playing games, eating too much, and building this.




Yep. Hogwarts really can be built in a day.


Anyhoo I'm super excited because today's the first day in the Superlative Blog Fest!



As aspiring YA authors and enthusiastic YA readers, Katy Upperman, Jessica Love, Tracey Neithercott, and I are all about showcasing and sharing exceptional books. What better way to do that than a blogfest featuring the very best of 2011?

The Class of 2011: YA Superlatives Blogfest is a fun and interactive way to highlight and share your favorite YA novels, covers, characters, and story elements. The Class of 2011: YA Superlatives Blogfest will span four days, beginning today and culminating Friday, December 30th.

The rules for participating are simple:

1. Select books/characters that apply to the superlative topics for each day of the blogfest. Feel free to give explanations for your choices. You can go into as much detail as you like!

2. Add a link to your post on Katy's, Jessica’s, Tracey’s or my blog.

3. Take a few moments to hop around and check out the superlatives of other participants each day.


See? Fun AND easy! But wait, there’s more!

Some additional information:

- Unless otherwise indicated by the topic, stick with books published in 2011.

- Of course we want you to participate in all four days of the blogfest, but if you’re only able to commit to a day or two, that’s cool too!

- Don’t have a book or character to fit a particular topic? No biggie—just skip it!

- For the sake of continuity, focus on YA books only.

- Pretty please keep your posts spoiler free!

Just so you know—I read 85 books this year. Out of those, 2 were craft, three were inspirational, a small handful of adult, and about 70 YA. And of those 70 YA, less than 30 were pubbed this year! 30! It made the choices a little challenging, and sometimes I had to stretch the category a bit, but I had so much fun fitting my faves to a category, I didn’t care! So, without further Alison rambles, here are today’s topics . . . and my pics!

Todays Topic:

Head of the Class



Favorite Dystopian: Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi and Divergent by Veronica Roth







Two killer dystopians pub in the same year and I’m expected to choose. Sorry. Couldn’t do it.



Favorite Science Fiction: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

I don’t know that Myra would place her book in this category(it’s really a time slip romance), but her story is AMAZING and it does contain a wowsome sci-fi element.


Favorite Fantasy: The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff

I’m not typically an angel/demon fan, but this book turned me on to it. Masterful prose, characters for whom my heart twisted, page after page, and a page-turning story.






Favorite Contemporary: Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

Click here. You’ll see why.




Favorite Action/Adventure: Angel (a Maximum Ride novel)by James Patterson

I’ll be honest, I was disappointed in this particular installment, but the series overall sealed my vote on this one. One of my favorite YA/MG series EVER.



Favorite Historical Fiction: The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

I know. It’s a stretch, but it is set in 1996. And the book is absolutely fantabulous.





Favorite Comedy: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Read it. Trust me. I read it in the summer and I still LOL just thinking about it.



Favorite Mystery: Ripple by Mandy Hubbard

Really a siren book, but I figured since many novels contain mysteries (and this one has a pretty awesome one), and I loved, loved, loved this book for so many reasons and I wanted to highlight it, so I put it here.


Favorite Romance: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

I cannot, CANNOT gush enough about this book. Adam Wilde stole my heart from page one and never let go. Most powerful male voice, a most scintillating story, and his relationship with Mia - authentic, breath-taking. Titillating.


Favorite Paranormal Romance: Destined by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

It’s House of Night - my brand of book crack. How can I not choose it?



Favorite Family Drama: Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

Great read with an authentic male protagonist. And gives new meaning to the phrase sibling rivalry



Favorite Genre Bender: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Um…can you tell I love this book? It’s time travel, paranormal, ghost, science fiction, mystery. Oh, and there’s this AMAZING main character (Emerson), two…TWO very swoon worthy guys (Michael and Kaleb), and one electrifying romance.

Want to join in the fun?! Add your link below!


Friday, December 23, 2011

My Christmas Wish for You

Christmas is such a magical time around my house. Shopping, gingerbread houses, singing (or trying to sing) Christmas songs. We spend time watching movies and playing games around our lighted tree. And we watch a lot of Elf. As in Buddy the Elf. And while a lot of other people call Miracle on 34th Street a timeless classic, Elf will always serve as mine.




When I watch Elf, I’m filled with the magic of Christmas. I want to make gingerbread houses and go ice skating. And eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookie Dough as fast as I can. And snuggle. With my family. The movie restores my belief that miracles can happen. And that they do. All. The. Time.

And they don’t have to be the break-through impossible barriers miracles like the Bad News Bears or Jaime Escalante’s uncanny batch of AP Calculus students.




Or the penalty kick saves that sent the UNCC Forty-Niners to their first National Championship ever.




But miracles can happen in the most unexpected places. Like in a tiny stable outside a very full inn in a who's heard of that place town like Bethlehem.



Sometimes they happen and we don’t even know it. Like in the love of two sixteen year olds when one's battling ALS. Or in the heart of high school football players, when they seemed doomed to lose, yet they never give up.

Sometimes miracles can happen in an unexpected letter. Or a soul-mending embrace. Or a smile when you've had the worst day ever.


Last week I wrote about what I’d give one of my favorite characters for Christmas. Well, today, I wanted to let you know the miracles I wish for you.

For my writer friends - I wish you endurance to finish that current project. Or experience the epiphany that leads to a new one. Or that you find an agent. Or a publisher. And more importantly, that you continue to write because you love to write, that writing still fuels a fire burning within you.

For my reader friends - I wish you a gihugic pile of really awesome books to read and review. Or even that AMAZING one that keeps your head spinning for days. And time. Time to read. There are just TOO MANY fabulous books out there that don't get enough eye time.

For my students - past and present - For years you were all my success and happiness – and I wish the same to you – a million, katrillion times over.

For my colleagues – a chance to catch your breath, to ride the waves instead of treading a fathomless ocean. To be appreciated. And to feel confident you’re making a difference. Because you are.

For my friends who have lost a special someone - I wish you comfort. A warm embrace. A plethora of fond memories to fog any despair.

For my friends with children – time. A baby’s birth jets your fast-forward button into hyperdrive and before you know it – your kids are in kindergarten. Or driving. Or going to college. Relish the daily miracles a child brings into your life. Mine has been chock-full of them.

For my friends – I wish you more of them. I don’t know what I’d do without the Ambers and Alexandras in my life. Or Rickis. Or Pollys. Or...okay, there are a lot of you! I hope the rest of you are as richly blessed with beautiful friends like I am.

For my single friends - I wish you a magical partnership and bond with a future spouse. Someone who will love you despite your shortcomings, someone you can share all your hopes and dreams with. Someone who is your best friend and so much more. I hope you all can get as lucky as I did.

For my family – I wish you more of me. Not because I’m clone-worthy, but because I want to be with you whenever you need me. Or when I want to be with you.

And my wish for all of you...

Relish the miracles all around you. Your sick toddler's dream-induced smile or your teenager actually saying she loves you. Savor coming home to clean dishes. Or just being able to have dishes. Or food on them. Appreciate the aha moment after a mind-boggling math problem. Or discovering that one nuance in your novel that explains EVERYTHING.

Relish your passions… about anything. A chance for two seconds of fame. Or an hour of uninterrupted quiet.

Enjoy that home-cooked meal. A home to go home to.

Permission to leave work five minutes early when you have a katrillion places to go. A job you enjoy. Or just having a job.

Sooo if you’re feeling like George Bailey or Doris Walker. When it seems everything’s going wrong and the world’s conspiring against you. When you want to scream, “Can I please just throw a big pity party for myself because life freaking SUCKS?!” Or it seems there can't possibly be a Santa Claus. Know. Know that miracles do happen. Sometimes you just have to open your eyes to them.

Okay – I’m done now. Merry Christmas, my friends. I treasure each and every one of you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

RTW: My Money Pit(s)

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.


This Week's Topic:

Where do you buy most of your books? No one is judging!


I should be banned from book stores. No, really. SO many places get my book business. I can't walk into any book store without leaving with SOMETHING for either myself or for my children to read. But, I usually only buy when the book's a DEAL. Very rarely have I ever paid full price for a book. So, I shall share my seven money pitfalls and WHY they're so irresistable.


1) Sams Club - they don't carry every book I drool over, but they sell the big ones: Shatter Me, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, my House of Night addictions. And at prices WAY cheaper than any other book seller. I went to buy chicken the other day, almost* left with a five dollar copy of Paranormalcy.

2) Books A Million - for their bargain tables. I've paid no more than $4 for some awesome hard covers like Paper Towns, Jinx, The Sky is Everywhere. $2 for children's books. $1 for Mad Libs. How can my wallet resist?

But *sigh* the doors of my second home closed recently. And reopened as a second hand book store called...

3) Second and Charles - gently used books at over 50% off the cover price?! On my first visit, I picked up hard cover Before I Fall and Jellicoe Road for unbelievable prices. And BOY TOY - a book I checked out at the library and cannot gush enough about - four dollars for a barely touched paper back. And...AND you can sell the store your gently used toss aways. I LOVE this place!

4) Barnes and Noble - this one's a little further of a drive for me, but I enjoy going to this store for the atmosphere, the children's section, the occasional bargain, and the coffee. They're running a buy two get the third free sale on some books I'm dying to add to my can't read fast enough collection (Incarceron, Will Grayson) and I always discover the best treasures in plannners. And their children's section is like whoa.

5) The Book Warehouse - I visit this little slice of book heaven when I shop in Myrtle Beach. Sometimes I don't find much of anything, but in October I snatched a $3 copy of Speak off the shelf. And just the other day I found hard cover copies of Wintergirls and Audrey Wait! AND a signed Lauren Myracle book. Four hard covers for fifteen dollars? LOVE.

6) Half.com - best online place to buy books. It's a subdivision of e-bay with books, movies, and more for at least half the price. The hubs and I used to shop here all the time for textbooks, pleasure books, audiobooks. Great deals.

7) Amazon - I love the ease and convenience of Amazon - especially when I host contests on my blog. They always have what I want, the prices are pretty fabulous, and the shipping is a stress reliever. And I love their email gift cards.

SO, that's where my monthly wages go. How about YOU? Where do you buy your books?

*note the almost. See - I do have a little restraint. Just a little.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Déjà Vu Blogfest! Why Teens Inspire Me

DL Hammons, Katie Mills, Lydia Kang, and Nicole Ducleroir are hosting the Déjà vu Blog fest today! How does it work? All of those taking part will re-post their favorite blog offering, or one that never received the exposure it should have. Then as the day unfolds and everyone hops from one blog to another, what they will be reading is the best of the best (as determined by you).

It was definitely a challenge to narrow my choices, but I decided to go with a post I wrote just a few weeks ago over at YA Confidential. If you’ve not yet discovered this tiny heaven of fabulosity, I suggest you go there NOW. Seven of us blog six days a week about everything teen, all the time. Teen interviews, teen issues, teen book giveaways...we even have our own teen SPIES. Check it all out here.

Oh, and the post I chose for today - totally true, totally an inner pep talk. And definitely written from the heart. Enjoy.


Why Teens Inspire Me


I’ve been battling the self-doubt bug lately. I hit a massive wall with my writing, wonder if I’m ever going to get through this round of revisions, wonder if my stories will ever even be good enough to see a bookshelf other than my own. That feeling can be rather overwhelming, a sickness that festers, that perpetuates until it fogs your mind, affects your decisions, eats away at your soul.

It’s easy to let the self-doubt bug become a parasite. And last week, I was kind of there with it.

But then I was at my husband’s soccer game this past Tuesday. It was the Eastern finals, one game away from State Championship, and you could tell both sides wanted the win BAD. Our team goes up 1-0. Then, they come back and tie it up. Then right before the end of the first half, they take the lead 2-1. They have momentum, they have the edge, but my husband’s boys never stopped fighting. Even when a freakish call in the box ejects our goalie for two seconds, and one penalty kick later, we're down two goals. Even when the clock went to fifteen, then ten, then five minutes left. Even when some of the fans gave up and left the stadium, my husband’s boys never relented. They fought until the last second.

They lost, and yeah, I cried for like, two days. But reflecting back on it, I just thought about those boys and was just in utter AWE of their unbridled passion, their heart, their unwillingness to give up without a fight.

And I see this teen tenacity A LOT. And it inspires ME to keep going.

Let me tell you about the teens who inspire me.




I’m inspired by my football players, my soccer players, all of my athletes, who play with SO MUCH HEART and win games they probably shouldn’t.



I’m inspired by teens who set out to right wrongs. At my school, just over ten years ago, a group of teens was bothered by the second-hand smoke at athletic events. In fact, one girl’s asthma was so bad that she couldn’t even attend games and support her classmates. Andbutso, they did something about it. Several petitions, speeches, and presentations to school board members later, smoking was banned on school campuses across the county.

I’m inspired by that student in my classroom, the one who always struggles with math, but perseveres despite that. The one who, when I say, “You guys ready to go over this problem,” shouts, “NO!” And begs for one more minute so she can finish it herself.

I’m inspired by all these teens doing NaNo. I know of one teen who’s already finished her NaNo novel. That’s 50K in less than a month!

I’m inspired by my teens in the musicals, the ones who have to sing but contract laryngitis two days before opening night. They continue to rehearse what they can. And suck lemons and drink insane quantities of tea and honey so that the show can go on.

I’m inspired by the Jeanines of So You Think You Can Dance and the Scotty McHottys McCreerys of American Idol. Pursuing dreams AND achieving them as teens. Whoa.


I’m inspired by that student who DOES NOT want to take exams, who comes to school pale and sweating off a (probably contagious) flu bug so he doesn’t have to miss days. (Of course, I strap on the white mask and stick him in a corner so my students and I can keep our distance.)

I’m inspired by that student with the worst home life, who could easily be sucked into dealing drugs or a life of crime, but doesn’t. And instead, sticks out high school for a diploma. For something BETTER.

I love it when teens stand up for what they believe in, when they fight injustice, when they feel they have a voice because THEY DO. When it’s something they care about, something that’s important to them, something they BELIEVE in, a passion that extends beyond thirty seconds, there are some teens, many teens who will go for the win, or die trying.

Now you might be wondering, are ALL teens like this? No. But it’s like I’ve always done in any aspect of teaching. I can choose to focus on that one student who cusses like an upset coach and rolls her eyes twenty times in twenty minutes, or I can focus on the thirty other students who say thank you and are nice to each other and who are truly genuine caring human beings.

Likewise, I can choose to focus on student apathy or I can choose to focus on their passions. I teach a lot of students who are apathetic to math, but they are typically passionate about something. Skateboarding, body art, sports, books, dance, their jobs, their pets, their family. I love to hear what gets them going, what lights their fire. What they’re passionate about. Why?

Because their passion ignites my own.




It’s why I read so much YA. AND why I write it. And some of my favorite stories are those with the most tenacious characters. The ones who, when all is really, really lost, look adversity in the eye—and spit in it. Even when things are their WORST, these characters do not. Give. Up.

EVER.


It’s these same characters that don’t leave me for a long, long time. Adam Wilde (Where She Went), Katniss and Peeta(Hunger Games) Lexi (Ripple), Tris and Four (Divergent), Max (Maximum Ride),... For me, this list goes on and on.


And as for my teens, those students who are the most passionate, the most tenacious, the most “heart-minded,” those are the students I typically remember long after they graduate.



Believe

Believe in yourself, believe in each other. Believe in your dreams.




It’s been my husband’s team’s motto for several years. It plasters their walls, their clothes. My husband even has Believe tattooed on his arm (He has a mermaid on the other one that Special K would LOVE) Not a game, not a practice goes by where they don’t finish a huddle with “Believe.” And all their friends get into it too, chanting “Believe” songs to pump up the crowd at games.

Believe in yourself, believe in each other. Believe in your dreams.

At some point, just about everyone contracts the virus of self-doubt. Sometimes we beast the sickness as quickly as it arrives, sometimes the self-doubt lingers for weeks. And I know we all have our own ways of battling bouts with self-doubt.

Me? I look to my teens.

And I’ll tell you what I believe. I believe my teens impact me as much as I do them, if not more so.

They inspire me to persevere in the ugliest face of adversity, to fight for what I believe in (or die trying), to never lose that unrelenting, unwavering, unmitigated passion.

Teen tenacity. It’s what keeps me going. And inspires me to persevere with dreams of my own.

So, how about YOU? What helps you battle the self-doubt bug? What inspires you to keep going?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

RTW: Presents for My Fave


Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:

What would be the ideal holiday present for your main character (or favorite character)?


One of my favorite characters in my current WIP is the protagonist’s best friend, his blindside on and off the football field, and a guy who, er…pretty much wears his manhood on his sleeve.

But he’s genuinely good-hearted, he says the corniest (and I think most hilarious) lines, and well…I just LOVE him.

And the ideal present(s) for my hero’s sidekick would include

1) Body glue (do they make this?!) or Velcro—to keep his clothes on. If he had any say in the school dress code, “birthday suit” would be an option.

2) A copy of World’s Best Pick-up Lines. Of course his charm outweighs his need for them at all.

3) Anger Management classes. He’s a little explosive. Just a little.

4) A new jersey number: 115. To represent the percent he puts out on the field, in his friendships. The size of his heart.

So, how about YOU? What’s your ideal present (or presents) for one of your characters?

PS – YA Highway is hosting this super awesome Winter Giveaway. Books, critiques from authors and agents. SO MUCH!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Idea Theft

Ever have that super cool idea that you think no one else will EVER come up with?

December 2008, I started writing my second full-length novel. In January I wrote a scene set in a math teacher’s classroom (imagine that) and, being huge on detail, I wrote this...

For the next few minutes, Alexa fiddled with her Blackberry while Brent fascinated himself with the bobblehead Albert Einstein on Mr. Traverso’s desk.

Bobblehead Albert Einstein? I didn’t even know if such a thing existed. It just made sense for this math teacher to have an Einstein bobble head on his desk. And as I finished up my manuscript in April, my naïve brain dreamt not only of Barbie dolls created for each of my characters but also little Einstein bobbles.

In May the fam and I ventured out to see Night at the Museum 2 and saw this





Yep. Einstein bobble heads in the Air and Space Museum. And they come to life. And spout out secret codes based on several digits of pi. Cue mass production of Einstein bobble heads ( I have two on my desk) and Smithsonian exhibits based on the character.

*cries*

Okay, so OBVIOUSLY the folks from 20th Century Fox did not steal my idea. Obviously the screen writers wrote in Al way before I mentally conceived my manuscript. Obviously I make way too many mountains out of molehills.

But still. It was frustrating. I LIKE to be original. I enjoy the thrill that comes from generating quirky ideas. I didn’t want to come off as the idea stealer, but that’s what I would’ve felt like if my book did get picked up.

This has happened to me one too many times. My brain will produce what I think is a super original, insanely clever idea or I'll come up with some super awesome line or term to describe my characters. And then I’ll find it in a movie, or on a Facebook status. Or in a someone else’s story.

A while back I posted about queries and teased you with the first line of mine. I was afraid it would be a little on the offensive side, but decided to keep it, because while it might turn some people off, it might turn a few other people on.

And I didn’t share said first line because it is a little on the risqué side and to be honest, I’m a little averse to posting any of my work. It’s not that I think any of my faithful super awesome blog followers would “steal” or even that anything I post would be theft-worthy. Bu-ut, since the world, ya know, revolves around me and there SO MANY people that will stop by my blog and ohmygosh what if someone takes my first line of my query and uses it before I have a chance to use it—

I don’t have neurotic tendencies. Nope. Not me.

Anyhoo, many of you voiced hopes that I’d share my query's first line by year’s end. It may not even be that stupendous and worry worthy, but I’ll share now.


Senior JD Marshall has a power most guys would trade their left nut for.


Just so you know—this line came out of NOWHERE. I wrote it and deleted it probably twenty times. I struggled with it. I was all like Would guys really give up their left nut for ANYTHING? I mean, that’s a pretty valuable part of the male anatomy. I confirmed this with my husband—yes, there are some things that are nut-sacrifice worthy. So, I kept it. And I love it. And I can’t see the inside jacket of my book without it.

And then, just over a week ago, I read the awesomeness that is The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. The premise, the story, everything about it is AMAZING. I flew through it.

Yet there was one line that gave me pause.


Shana Roy raises her hand. Any guy in this room would give his left nut to be asked out by her.



Just in case you missed the comparison.


The first line of my query: Senior JD Marshall has a power most guys would trade their left nut for.

line from The Future of Us: Shana Roy raises her hand. Any guy in this room would give his left nut to be asked out by her.



Well, so much for being original.


Am I making a gihugic deal out of nothing? Probably. But I will tell you this. While it is a little frustrating to see something I wrote or slaved over or just plain MINE in a movie or on someone’s Facebook status or in a book, this feeling like I’m stealing other people’s ideas can be validating. Apparently bobble head Einsteins are not a super far-fetched notion. And apparently there are things guys would be willing to swap a piece of their manhood with.


So, am I the only peculiar one here? Did YOU ever come up with this super awesome idea only to find someone else said/did it first? Got a story to share? Or the first line of your query?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Fun!

Happy Friday!

I'm feeling in the sharing mood, so I'll highlight some cool things that are going on in the blogosphere as well as in my life! Enjoy!

On Blogfests


DL Hammons, Katie Mills, Lydia Kang, and Nicole Ducleroir are hosting the Deja Vu Blogfest Friday December 16. A chance for you to showcase a favorite blog post or one that never received the exposure it should have. I'm in. So are over a hundred other people. You should totally sign up too! Click here for details.



And I'd be remiss if I didn't remind you about the super awesome blogfest I'm co-hosting with Tracey Neithercott, Jessica Love, and Katy Upperman! The Class of 2011 Superlatives blogfest is a chance to highlight your faves from the year with categories ranging from Best Dystopian to Biggest Flirt to Romance Most Worthy of an Ice Bath. It's going to be so much FUN!!! You can find out all the details here.


On Reading

Have you read The Future of Us yet?

It's 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They've been best friends almost as long - at least, up until last November, when Josh did something that changed everything. Things have been weird between them ever since, but when Josh's family gets a free AOL CD in the mail,his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they're automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn't been invented yet. And they're looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.
By refreshing their pages, they learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they're forced to confront what they're doing right - and wrong - in the present.



DOES THAT NOT SOUND AMAZING?!?!?

Gosh, I want to GUSH about its awesomeness. The premise, the story,...EVERYTHING. If I didn't have life to contend with, I would have easily read it in one sitting. SO, so good. If I could give it twenty stars on good reads, I would. There's only one eensy-teensy issue I had with it - but I know it's just with me. More on that Monday.


On Writing and Revising


". . ."


Nope, nothing to report. I keep banging my brain against the same wall and feel this inane need to resolve certain plot elements before moving on. Hopefully after my Christmas break I'll have shattered said wall and post a more uplifting update.


On ME

Speaking of Christmas break...it's a week away. Seriously. Five school days stand between me and two weeks of quality family and writing time. So excited!





The Miller fam had Christmas pics taken the other night. Here are my babies (who are no longer babies *sniff*)







And...AND my super fabulous husband was FINALLY named Coach of the Year for our area. Personally, I think he should get this honor EVERY year, and no - I don't think I'm a bit biased. I am very proud of him and his boys. They lost a heartbreaker in the Eastern Finals, but had such a fantastic season!


And yes - that's the hubs with a red mohawk - LOVE.

Hope you have an AMAZING weekend!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

RTW: For the Sake of Publication

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.




This Week's Topic:

How far would you go to get published?


Explanation: We writers can form quite an attachment to our characters and stories. But we also know publishing is a business, and sometimes to make it in said business--to really build a career from it--we have to bend a bit. How far would you go to break into the publishing world?


Things I would do to get published:

1) Major revisions—based on gut feeling, critique partner feedback, or future agent and/or editor request

2) Change my title. Change character names. There are some I WILL fight for though.

3) Persevere. There are times when the “Just give up” bug nips at my mind, but I try really hard to force away those self-doubt thoughts. Instead, I reread my stories or plant my butt in a chair and revise or write something that's totally fresh. And remind myself why I LOVE to write.

4) Lose sleep. Oh wait—I already do that. Correction. Lose more sleep.

5) Compromise my good Christian nature for the sake of a story. Okay, I know that just sounded HORRIBLE so let me give you an example: For three stories, I tried to write effectively without swearing. Okay, maybe an occasional h-e-double hockey sticks, but I can’t do that with my current story and be real to my characters. Or the story itself. Soooo - my WIP has a few (haha) choice words in it. Just a few.


Things I won’t do or will TRY not to do:


1) Totally ignore my family and friends. I know that Mommy time, wife time, friend time has suffered. And I know that if I do land a book deal some day, there will be deadlines I can’t ignore. So, IF I do have to sacrifice some family time, I vow to make up for it—times twenty. (You heard it right here on the blog, people)

2) Give in to trends—mainly because what is hot now may not be so hot two years from now. And I just don't think I can ever write about vampires. Or zombies. Or creatures in general. (But I do like reading about them!)

3) Give up writing YA. I think when you find your niche, you stick with it. And maybe I’m fooling myself, but I’m pretty sure YA is where I belong. (Big kid at heart here!)

4) Compromise for the sake of trends. I write some controversial shiz, people. But there’s just some stuff I won’t write about.

And I'm sure I could make my list longer (especially once I start blog-hopping!), but this is what came to mind.

So, how about YOU? How far would YOU go to get published?

PS - I'm blogging over at YA Confidential today on my preferred Book Drug. Check it out here!

OH!!!!! And don't forget to sign up for the YA Superlatives Blogfest hosted by Katy Upperman, Jessica Love, Tracey Neithercott, and ME! Click here for details!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Class of 2011: Superlatives Blogfest!



As aspiring YA authors and enthusiastic YA readers, Katy Upperman, Jessica Love, Tracey Neithercott, and I are all about showcasing and sharing exceptional books. What better way to do that than a blogfest featuring the very best of 2011?

The Class of 2011: YA Superlatives Blogfest is a fun and interactive way to highlight and share your favorite YA novels, covers, characters, and story elements. The Class of 2011: YA Superlatives Blogfest will span four days, beginning Tuesday, December 27th and culminating Friday, December 30th.

The rules for participating are simple:

1. Add your name to the Google form below.

2. Select books/characters that apply to the superlative topics for each day of the blogfest. Feel free to give explanations for your choices. You can go into as much detail as you like!

3. Schedule your posts to go live on the days indicated.

4. Add a link to your post on Katy's, Jessica’s, Tracey’s or my blog.

5. Take a few moments to hop around and check out the superlatives of other participants each day.


See? Fun AND easy! But wait, there’s more!

Some additional information:


- Unless otherwise indicated by the topic, stick with books published in 2011.

- Of course we want you to participate in all four days of the blogfest, but if you’re only able to commit to a day or two, that’s cool too!

- Don’t have a book or character to fit a particular topic? No biggie—just skip it!

- For the sake of continuity, focus on YA books only.

- Pretty please keep your posts spoiler free!


Are you curious about the topics yet?

Tuesday, December 27th: Head of the Class

Favorite Dystopian
Favorite Science Fiction
Favorite Fantasy
Favorite Contemporary
Favorite Action/Adventure
Favorite Historical Fiction
Favorite Comedy
Favorite Mystery
Favorite Romance
Favorite Paranormal Romance
Favorite Family Drama
Favorite Genre Bender

Wednesday, December 28th: Popularity Contest

Choose characters who fit each topic from ANY YA book!

Class Clown
Most Likely to Become a Rock Star
Mostly Likely to Start a Riot
Biggest Flirt
Fashion King and/or Queen
Girl You’d Most Want For Your BFF
Boy You Wish You’d Dated in High School
Most Likely to Become President
Quirkiest Character
Villain You Love to Hate
Favorite Parental Figure
Coolest Nerd

Thursday, December 29th: Elements of Fiction

Most Envy-Inducing Plot (Or, the plot you wish you’d thought of yourself.)
Most Wonderful World-Building
Most Formidable World (Or, the setting you most definitely would NOT want to travel to.)
Wanderlust-Inducing (Or, the setting you'd happily travel to.)
Loveliest Prose
Best First Line
Most Dynamic Main Character
Most Jaw-Dropping Finale
Best Performance in a Supporting Role
Best Use of Theme

Friday, December 30th: Best in Show

Favorite Cover
Cutest Couple
Most Likely to Succeed (Or, pick a Printz Winner)
Most Likely to Make You Miss Your Bedtime (The book you just couldn't put down!)
Best Repeat Performance (Your favorite sequel or follow-up.)
Romance Most Worthy of an Ice Bath
Pair Most Likely to Stay Best Friends Till They’re 80
Breakout Novel (Favorite Book by a Debut Author)
Best Old-Timer (Your favorite read of the year, published BEFORE 2011.)
Most Likely to Make a Grown Man Cry
Most Pleasant Surprise (The best book you didn’t think you’d like, but totally did.)
Most Creative Use of a Love Triangle
Sleeper Hit (Book you found so awesome you wish it had been hyped more.)
And now it’s your turn! Pick your own superlative category and post it at the end of today’s list. Blog hoppers can drop by and vote for their pick in the comments of your blog!

See?! Fun! And you’ve still got a few weeks to read the last of the 2011 novels in your pile, pick your favorites, and assign answers to each topic--plenty of time to join in on the excitement!

A few more things:

- Please include the Class of 2011: YA Superlatives Blogfest banner at the top of your posts.

- Feel free to spread the word! We’d love to have lots of participants, so tweets and posts promoting the Class of 2011: YA Superlatives Blogfest are welcome and encouraged!

- Don’t forget to fill out the Google Form below. Since this is a busy time of year, we’ll be sending out a reminder email or two over the next few weeks, and we want to be able to reach you! (Don’t worry—we won’t share your information!)

Spread the word! Pick up our button! Hope to see you all back on the 27th!





Wednesday, November 30, 2011

RTW: November Reads

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.


This week's topic:

What's the best book you read in November?



Well....

I only managed three books this month *hangs head in shame* November is usually not a crazy busy month for me, but between my daughter's insane soccer schedule, my husband's playoff journey, the day job, critiquing, my own revisions,...sometimes I had to make a choice with my few spare hours minutes. And many times, revisions won out. Not making excuses. Just reality, peeps. You all know how it goes.


Anyway, since the three books I did read were incredibly AWESOME, I'm going to highlight all three.



Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.
By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.


I've had this one on my TBR for a year, and FINALLY found it at the library. It was so worth the wait. I fell in love with the characters (even the seemingly evil ones), very much enjoyed the story and was surprised (okay SHOCKED) by the many twists and turns. And now I can't wait to read Demonglass (the next installment).



Yara Jones doesn’t believe in sea monsters—until she becomes one.

When a hurricane hits her island home and she wakes up with fins, Yara finds herself tangled up in an underwater world of mysterious merfolk and secretive selkies. Both sides believe Yara can save them by fulfilling a broken promise and opening the sealed gateway to their realm, but they are battling over how it should be done. The selkies want to take her life. The merfolk want something far more precious.

Treygan, the stormy-eyed merman who turned Yara mer, will stop at nothing and sacrifice everything to protect his people—until he falls for Yara. The tides turn as Yara fights to save herself, hundreds of sea creatures, and the merman who has her heart. She could lose her soul in the process—or she might open the gateway to a love that’s deeper than the oceans.


This was a MUST read for me - not just because Karen is a wonderful dear friend, but honestly, I would've read it regardless because of that COVER. It's beauty is BLINDING!!! And Karen's book is AMAZING. I’ve never been a super huge fan of mermaids, but thanks to Tangled Tides, I've officially become a merfolk fan. The story is brilliant, so many intricate nuances that add so many layers of richness to the story, and Treygan? Hoo boy. I won’t spoil it for you, but I am a big sucker for unconditional love and I FELL HARD for one super sexy merman.

If you want gorgeous prose, hot mermen, an incredible love story, and steamy romance, read Tangled Tides, um...NOW.



The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.


This was probably one of the best books I've read all year. The story is riveting, unique, action-packed - it's been a long time since I tore through a book as quickly as this one. The characters? DYNAMIC. My heart broke for Juliette the minute I met her and I never stopped rooting. Adam? Hoo boy. Loved him the moment he entered Juliette's cell and NEVER doubted his motivations...EVER. And super insane creepy evil Warner? Despite Jessica Love's persistent insuation that Warner is SEXY, I was completely repulsed by his nefariousness. (okay...maybe he is a little sexy-I wasjust too blinded by Adam)

And the writing? I can only wish I ever achieve a tenth of Mafi's brilliance. Here's just a sample of her genius.

My life is four walls of missed opportunities poured in concrete molds.


I always wonder about raindrops.

I wonder how they're always falling down, tripping over their feet, breaking their legs and forgetting their parachutes as they tumble out of the sky toward an uncertain end. It's like someone is emptying their pockets over the earth and doesn't seem to care where the contents fall, doesn't seem to care that the raindrops burst when they hit the ground, that they shatter when they fall to the floor, that people curse the days the drops dare to tap on their doors.

I am a raindrop.



Killing time isn't as difficult as it sounds.

I can shoot a hundred numbers through the chest and watch them bleed decimal points in the palm of my hand. I can rip the numbers off a clock and watch the hour hands tick tick tick their final tock just before I fall asleep. I can suffocate seconds just by holding my breath. I've been murdering minutes for hours and no one seems to mind.


I flew through the book SO fast. I want to read it again and again if only to savor Mafi's prose.

So, that was my November. Not a long reading list, but a pretty fabulous one.

PS - I just went to the library last night to help the tween find books for her science project (I think she really just wanted to check out the entire Gregor series by Suzanne Collins). I was just going to renew a book I checked out three weeks ago and STILL hadn't read when I stumbled upon these...

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

and...

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler (btw, started it this morning - ohmygosh AMAZING)

That last one was all I needed to jump-start a reading frenzy.

SO, how about YOU? Any fantastic November Reads?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Life Lessons from Despicable Me

Reposting an oldie, but a goodie. Enjoy!




1) Everyone needs minions - not just to carry out your evil bidding (muahahahaha) - but because a yellow pint of hilarity each day can chase all the blues away

2) Margo optimism is underrated

3) Holding your breath till you pass out CAN get you whatever you want

4) A vector has both direction and magnitude - okay, probably not a life lesson, but this math nerd liked it









5) Even the biggest baddies have a heart







6) Dance recitals and fluffy unicorns are waaaaayyyy more important than any work-related issue - like shrinking the moon


7) And dude, if Gru can publish a book?




Well gosh darn it - so can I.


So, did YOU learn any life lessons lately? Have you seen Despicable Me? How was your holiday?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tangled Tides Celebration!

Let me tell you about this amazing book I just read.




Yara Jones doesn’t believe in sea monsters—until she becomes one.

When a hurricane hits her island home and she wakes up with fins, Yara finds herself tangled up in an underwater world of mysterious merfolk and secretive selkies. Both sides believe Yara can save them by fulfilling a broken promise and opening the sealed gateway to their realm, but they are battling over how it should be done. The selkies want to take her life. The merfolk want something far more precious.

Treygan, the stormy-eyed merman who turned Yara mer, will stop at nothing and sacrifice everything to protect his people—until he falls for Yara. The tides turn as Yara fights to save herself, hundreds of sea creatures, and the merman who has her heart. She could lose her soul in the process—or she might open the gateway to a love that’s deeper than the oceans.



I’ll be honest. I’ve never been a super huge fan of mermaids. I’d choose Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin than dive under the sea with Ariel, but Tangled Tides? Dude. I've officially become a merfolk fan. And I never learned SO MUCH about merpeople and sirens and gorgons and selkies and...GAH! The story is brilliant, so many intricate nuances that add so many layers of richness to the story, and Treygan? Hoo boy. I won’t spoil it for you, but I am a big sucker for unconditional love and I FELL HARD for one super sexy merman.

If you want gorgeous prose, hot mermen, an incredible love story, and steamy romance, read Tangled Tides, um...NOW.

And today’s Karen’s release day! I am soooo happy for her and want to wish her a super gihugic HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY! And I’m joining the celebration by fighting in the war--the underwater web war between the sea creatures!

Karen’s story contains battling merfolk, selkies, sirens and gorgons. She says she loves all of them, but she wants everyone else to choose a side, so…
I CHOOSE MERFOLK!




Wanna learn more or join in on the fun? Go check out the details at Karen’s blog: KarenAmandaHooper.com

Karen is giving away a signed copy of her book and some other sea creature themed prizes. To enter, join the underwater web war on Twitter. Tweet which sea creatures you’re rooting for and why. Include the hashtag #TangledTides and you could win.

Karen will be on Twitter all day celebrating and answering questions, so stop by and say hello. @Karen_Hooper

And definitely read this book. Trust me. You will never look at sea creatures the same way again. Heck. You might just fall in love with one!

Hope you have a super fabulous Black Friday! I'm off for a little shopping. You can shop too! Online. For Karen's amazing book. You can find Tangled Tides at


Amazon: http://amzn.com/1936850435
Rhemalda Bookstore http://tiny.cc/BuyTangledTides
Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/tangled-tides-karen-amanda-hooper/1035791101?ean=9781936850433&itm=1&usri=tangled%252btides

You can also find Karen on Goodreads!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

RTW: Giving Thanks, um...Again :)



Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.



This week's topic:

What writing or publishing-related thing(s) are you most thankful for?


Since I already blogged about what I'm thankful for on Monday, I almost skipped this week's roadtrip, but I liked the specificity of the prompt, I can remind myself again of how blessed I really truly am (despite life's little heartaches), and well, I HATE missing a Road Trip Wednesday!

Andbutso, here are the writing and publishing-related things I am most thankful for

1) Critique partners, betas...okay ANYONE willing to read my work and help me grow as a writer. I am blessed with so many wonderful people who have taken so much time to give my manuscripts thorough and thoughtful feedback. And to them, I say THANK YOU!

2) My fellow operatives, our Spies, EVERYTHING about the YA Confidential experience! It’s been a fantastic ride with some truly AMAZING people. I look forward to every Google plus hangout and chat and phone conversation and email and ohmygosh ALAMW…*sigh* I hope this thrill coaster never ends.

3) My blogging and writer friends. The insight I gain, the new books I would've never heard of, the friendships I hope will span a lifetime. You all have added to my life in some special, unique way, and I am truly grateful.

4) BOOKS - ohmygosh, there are so many I am thankful for, so many that have helped me grow as a writer, that have inspired me, that have sucked me in for enjoyable hours of unadulterated pleasure. Tomorrow at YA Confidential, you all can see the book I'm most grateful for, but here's just a small sample that have changed me for the BETTER: Hunger Games, Maximum Ride, Harry Potter, The Sky is Everywhere, Looking for Alaska, The Great Gatsby, Perks of Being a Wallflower, anything Ellen Hopkins,...this list seriously could go on and on.

5) Writers conferences - I have met the most amazing people, learned SO much, gained invaluable advice, friendships, and critique partners. If you've never been to a conference, GO. The rewards far outweigh the expense of them.

6)YA Highway, YAtopia, Paper Hangover,...SO many group blogs with killer writerly advice, insightful topics, publishing info, and amazing contests. I have grown so much as a writer and had opportunities with agents and well, I just have tons of FUN.

7) WRITING - for reals. I am so thankful writing stories found its way into my life. Seriously my gravity in a world that keeps me spinning.

8) And I know I told you this Monday, but I am so thankful for YOU, my faithful blog readers. I hope you all have a super wonderful holiday and that your tomorrow is filled with lots of turkey!!!

Speaking of turkey, my children and I made these guys the other night



For the person whose cooking abilities do not extend beyond eggs, spaghetti, and popping nuggets into the oven, um...I think we made some pretty cute turkeys. Of course, all we needed were Fudge Stripes, chocolate icing, Hershey Kisses, candy corn, and red Skittles (or red hots - for the waddle). Kind of hard to mess that up.

So, how about YOU?! What writing-publishing related things are YOU thankful for? Do you make any festive snacks this time of year?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thankful

It’s been a long week.

You know, the kind of week where it seems everything goes wrong, where disappointment rears its ugly head, where it’s hard to keep my own head above water, where all I want to do is shut down, crawl into a hole and throw myself a major self-pity party and scream WHY?! until my voice gives out.

And it’s really, really hard to stay positive. It’s hard not to wallow in a swamp of self-pity. And when all I can think is WOE IS ME, it’s even harder to be thankful.

But I am.

In a week where I spent hours critiquing someone’s manuscript only to lose over four hundred comments or when I couldn’t figure out this computer thing and I tried everything and I really wanted to do this thing and why, why, why do I have to be so…OLD, I remind myself that at least I have a computer. Three actually. And that was DEFINITELY put in perspective when my poor husband had both his laptops and thumb drives* with all his soccer stuff stolen** from his classroom last week.

Or when my husband’s boys soccer team lost in a heart-breaking game, one step away from the State Championship, and in that same night, my school’s boys lose in sudden death overtime, I have to remind myself that they had a great season and were still playing soccer way into November, when most other schools were not.

Or when I feel overwhelmed with papers to grade and senior portfolios to score and I have to complete this survey and create this activity and load my lesson plans to this site and do a million and three things for every new program that my school system wants to adopt, I have to remind myself that I have a JOB. A lot of people (sadly) don’t.

Or when I my mom walks into my house one morning and tries to help me with my breakfast when all she really did was make things worse, I remind myself that my mother is HERE, that she is around to help get my children off to school, that because of her I can do so many other things.

Or when—ugh—there’s that one kid who just couldn’t keep her freaking mouth shut and had to have some snarky comment to EVERYTHING I had to say, I remind myself that there are SO many students who learn from me, tell me they love me, or well, care about me and what I’m trying to teach them.

Or when my daughter rolls her eyes at me for the fiftieth time and says stuff to guilt me into feeling like the WORST MOTHER EVER (it worked), I remind myself that I have a daughter. One who is healthy and active and usually a genuinely nice person. And pretty much took care of my seven-year old when, after I lost said hours worth of work, I mentally shut down for the day.



I have SO MUCH to be thankful for. And so when the self-pity monster tries to bully his way into my head, I will try to remain grateful. Grateful for all that I can do, for all that God has blessed me with. Cause it’s a lot, yo. The following list does not even do my thanks and praises justice.

PS—I wrote this list last year, but honestly, it’s not changed much. Here’s what I am and continue to be thankful for…


1) GOD – for the gifts He’s given me. Seriously could do nuh-thing without the Big Guy.

2) My husband – who reads EVERYTHING I write – even the crap. And lets me steal off for hours to write and revise even though he is as busy as I am. He must really love me.

3) My kids – who deal with Mommy disappearing for a few hours (to write). And they’re really great kids who do well in school and can READ and are healthy and so stinkin’ adorable. I really am blessed.

4) My “day job” and my on-the-side tutoring—so that I can somewhat afford to go to writers conferences. And the "job" perpetually feeds me goodies for my novels.

5) My friends and family – I have never experienced such incredible support - especially from the most unexpected places.

6) My critique partners and beta readers – seriously don’t know what I’d do without the Alexandras, Rickis, and Margos of the world. And the Pollys. And Tevins. And Annies. And… okay there’s a LOT of you.

7) My students – the good, the bad, the indifferent. The athletes, the brains, the princesses, the criminals, the basket cases – YOU are my muse – it is my personal goal to write stories based on every single one of you - all 2000-some of you. Oy.

8) Vacation time – so I can write (duh).

9) The ability to only need five hours of sleep a night (thank you, coffee).

10) YA Confidential—my fellow operatives, our spies—it’s been a fantastic ride with some truly AMAZING people. I look forward to every Google plus hangout and chat and phone conversation and email and ohmygosh ALA…*sigh* I hope this thrill coaster never ends.

11) The opportunities I’ve had since I started writing. The critique partners I’ve found, the people I’ve met, the books I’ve read as a result of reading someone else’s blog.

12) My blogging friends—Katy, Jessica, Tracey, Jennifer, Rebecca…okay, there are SO many of you that I’ve met virtually and can’t wait to meet in person. My writing, my life is SO MUCH better because I know you.

13) And my faithful blog readers—thanks for reading my rants, for sticking with me and supporting my crazy ramblings. I heart all of you.

So yeah, despite times of disheartenment, I AM thankful. And I have A LOT to be thankful for.

How about YOU? Ever have one of those weeks? What are you thankful for?


PS—I’m blogging over at YA Confidential today on why teens inspire me. Check it out here!

* has since been recovered :)

** Can you even imagine this happening to you?!?!?! I cry just thinking about it.