Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Fives! Favorite First Lines



I decided to tweak today's Paper Hangover prompt and tell you five reasons a book snags me at sentence one.

HUMOR:

When I was little, my dad used to tell me, "Will, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friends nose." John Green and David Levithan, will grayson, will grayson

And by the end of chapter one, Will Grayson is picking his best friend's nose. The whole scene is beyond hilarious. And the rest of the book just. Gets. Funnier.

SUBTLETY THAT SAYS IT ALL:

My mother used to tell me about the ocean. Carrie Ryan, The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Okay, just so you know. When I started reading this book, I thought this was the dumbest first line EVER (okay, maybe not ever), but I thought I was reading a book about forest and teeth and ZOMBIES.

Yeah, the book’s got zombies, but this post-apocalyptic tale isn’t so much about Carrie Ryan’s Unconsecrated as it is about love and hope. And this first line sums up everything the book represents - hope. Hope for a better tomorrow. Hope for a life beyond the main character Mary's village. Hope for an ocean that only exists in stories passed down by her ancestors. It’s an exquisitely written tale of the struggle between contentment and dreams and having faith in what you believe despite rigid society rules and naysayers who seek to diminish desires.

This first line says it all, peeps.

VOICE: Strong voice OFTEN has me at hello.

Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker. P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast, Marked

It was the line that kept me reading, even though I wanted to quit after book one. House of Night is the Grey's Anatomy of the Vampire World. SO freaking dramatic you swear on your box set you'll quit watching at the end of this season, then they throw in the cliffhanger to bring you back for more.

PS - did eventually stop watching Greys. Can't seem to quit HON though.

INTRIGUE:

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. George Orwell, 1984

I have two for this one.

The funny thing about facing imminent death is that it really snaps everything else into perspective. James Patterson Maximum Ride The Angel Experiment

Intrigue...enough said.


CHARACTER INSIGHT:

It's been a long time since I read The Man Who Came to Dinner, but I can't forget Sheridan Whiteside. Or his first line when he graces the stage and scrutinizes his surroundings: I may vomit!

And far be it from me to limit myself to five...

CYLICALITY:

I'm totally not adhering to proper dictionary definition on this term, but I love the rare book where the first sentence is also the last. Here's the first (and last) line from The Outsiders by SE Hinton

When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had just two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.

Yeah...the first page is mucho important for capturing audience interest, but if you can do it in the first line? Bonus. These lines certainly did it for me.

How about YOU?! What's your favorite first line?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

RTW: Summer Lovin' Part II

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 was the best book you read in July?


Here's what's off the July TBR list:

Bossy Pants by Tina Fey

Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Extras by Scott Westerfield

The Outsiders by SE Hinton


Great list, right? My best book of the month winner should be kinda hard to choose, right?

Wrong.

Here's my best read of the month. Best read of the summer. Actually, this novel has successfully navigated its way into my top ten all time faves, even (don't hate me) passing Divergent.






The Good Reads blurb…

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?



Shortly before her parents died in a horrific accident, Emerson began seeing what she believes to be ghosts. And after she explodes on a “hallucination” for taking her seat in the cafeteria, she spends her time at mental institutions and boarding school. But then her scholarship is pulled. And she stops taking her meds. And she’s forced to move back home with her brother and his wife. And she concedes to trying just one more "cure."

So the story begins, but—just FYI—Hourglass is not a ghost story. It’s a time slip novel. And the most unique, most fabulously wonderful take on time travel I’ve ever read. EVER.

More on my thoughts:

There are plot-driven novels. And there are character-driven stories. Even voice-driven. But never have I read a book that succeeds at being ALL THREE.

Well, until I read Hourglass.

Plot? One word: EXPLOSIVE. If the premise isn’t intriguing enough, it just gets exponentially better. The mystery of her abilities and why Michael has really entered into her life, the time travel element. The romance. GAH. The romance. When Beth Revis (Across the Universe) describes the romance as explosively delicious, she is NOT KIDDING. I could not put this book down. This novel, along with Divergent, truly taught me the meaning of making every scene count and propel the story forward.

Characters: I never felt like I knew so many people so intimately after reading a book. From the mysterious Jack to Emerson’s loyal best friend Lily, to the endearing sister-n-law Dru, McEntire’s characters are so multi-dimensional, so real. I fell in love with so many of them, so quickly. And with all her plot twists, she could get me to love someone I hated. And hate someone I loved. And this book has some totally awesome one-liners and innuendos that will make you fall in love with the characters that much more.

Speaking of developing intimate relationships, can I get on the romance kick again? Michael Weaver (go ahead my high school friends - laugh at the irony) is beyond Delicious. He’s gorgeous, charming, infuriating, HOT… swoon much? And Emerson and Michael. Whoa. Their forbidden relationship is at times so explosive, street lamps literally blow, other times so frustrating I wanted to kick both of them in the gut. And Kaleb? Wait until you meet Kaleb! Is it possible to fall so hard for TWO boys in one book? Because I know I did. I won’t spoil anymore for you. Just read the book. Um…NOW.

Finally, voice. Emerson Cole—LOVE HER. Her 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). She learns Michael can see her “hallucinations” too, and 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.

Can I gush about the cover? GAH! That’s delicious. If I ever publish a book, my book jacket needs to be that flavor of awesomesauce.

Oh—and in case I haven’t sold you enough on it’s super-duperness, here’s my last sell. I don’t get much sleep, but I can’t read beyond midnight. I don’t know. Twelve dongs and the eyes grow heavy? That’s me. I fall asleep on many a good book. I tried to finish Mockingjay, but just couldn’t. Keep. Reading past 1:30 in the morning. Um…Hourglass? On a pizza and beer-filled belly, I read Hourglass until I finished. At three in the morning. KNOWING I had to wake up at six to pack up and leave from my beach house. 3 AM, peeps. And my restless personality doesn’t typically withstand one-sitting reads. Not the case with this book.

PS—I’ve been to Ashville, North Carolina three times in the past four months (previous record = once in my lifetime), and I’m mucho tempted to make the six hour trip back in two weeks. Why? Myra McEntire, Beth Revis, and Victoria Schwab (The Near Witch) are hosting an eight-stop book tour from Ashville to Nashville. They’ll conduct panels and Q&As. They’ll sign books. AND they’ll be joined by other fabulousnesses (Stephanie Perkins, Rachel Hawkins, and others!) at various stops on their journey. You can check out the tour of awesomeness schedule here. I WANT to go. Anyone want to drive me?!

So, how about you? What’s the best book you’ve read in July?

Monday, July 25, 2011

You Call it Coincidence; I Call it Divine Inspiration


Ever feel like giving up on your WIP? Silly question, right? I know we all have days where it’s a struggle to push through. I’ve had many with the current WIP. I’ve doubted it’s authenticity. I’ve wanted to scrap it (again) and do a total rewrite. I’ve wanted to toss it under the bed and feed it to the dust bunnies.

But someone just won’t let me. Not just me. Somebody else. AKA The Big Guy. I believe He's the mastermind behind certain "coincidences" that just won't let me quit my WIP.




Ten reasons why He keeps me going:

1) I am plagued with continual doubt about the marketability of my WIP. And back in May, while I struggled to press on with the WIP, one of my super awesome CPs sent me an article detailing a book that’s been published on the very same concept.

2) I hardly ever NEVER look at my google reader, but one day I did. And stumbled upon a PK Hrezo post entitled May I Have this Dance? In it she compares honing your writer’s craft to the perseverance of an aspiring ballerina. Two of my favorite quotes:

the aspiring ballerina works diligently to become the best dancer she can

Does the aspiring ballerina stop dancing because she doesn't make the cut? Possibly. But not if she ever DOES want to make it.

The post flowed with dancer grace and re-inspired me at a time I was feeling utterly JADED with writing. Like, I was on the verge of quittsies from the current WIP. I think I’ve written about 30K since then.


3) Perfect Chemistry: I’d been drooling over this book for a while, but for some inane reason thought I had to read Rules of Attraction first. But I seemed to forget this when I saw Simone Elkeles book at the library and grabbed it off the shelf like it was the last Wal-mart Blue Ray on Black Friday. I read it. And LOVED it. Not just because the book was beyond amazing, but because I was having some serious doubts about the plausibility of my WIP’s ending. Not anymore. And, bonus, Perfect Chemistry helped me with some dual POV questions.

4) My WIP is a paranormal and I was having issues with the origins of my protag’s “skill.” And then I read Jinx—first Meg Cabot read ever (PS—loved it!) And while my paranormal element is slightly different than the one in Jinx—it has similar origins, which alleviated some serious doubts about how to “pull that one off.”

5) At the beach a few weeks back, my in-laws wanted to journey an hour and a half to the aquarium. My mind fought the idea, especially knowing we’d only have an hour to tour the aquarium, but I played good family member, went, and HOLY RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES! Let’s just say I have a few sharks in my story. And let’s just say, I’m mucho thankful I went to the aquarium that day.

6) Easy A: I’ve watched it so much I can recite the John Hughes speech verbatim, but an epiphany during view 48 was helpful. Plot and plausibility questions answered, thank you very much.

7) And speaking of movies, Varsity Blues was on the other night. And it’s NEVER on. Granted my WIP is not completely like this movie, but I do have a quarterback with some pretty outrageous friends. Watching it made me fall in love with my boys all over again.

8) Random run-in much? Yep. Just had one of those. In the most unexpected, completely random places, I run into students who’ve inspired characters in my WIP. Um, yeah…the WIP runs crazy haywire in my head after those encounters.

9) Totally implausible run-ins. I’ve been toying with that WIP insertion, but questioned the believability factor until my husband and I, on a random whim, traveled into Black Mountain, North Carolina on Friday. For whatever reason we went into that one store for the third time and on our way out, run into his family—who last time we taked to them (um…four years ago) lived in Virginia.

10) Okay, this one’s a stretch, but I DID need a format for today’s post. And wouldn’t you know? A copy of Writers’ Digest was waiting in the mail for me when I got home from my vacation last weekend. And in case you don’t subscribe, this month’s format is all about the “Top Ten.”

I know a lot of people would call these events coinky-dinky. Or fate. Maybe some karma involved. Or maybe I just read into stuff way too much. But I tend to live under a God umbrella and am one of those people who believe everything happens for a reason. The Big Guy always seems to know when I need a lift (or a humbling), and even when I forget to pray, He seems to have answers I’ve been looking for. So call it want you want peeps, but I’ve always called my writing divinely inspired.

And thank God for that muse in my life.

So, anything keeping YOU from giving up on YOUR WIP? What's YOUR source of inspiration?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Fives: CONTESTS!!!

It's Friday Fives Day over at Paper Hangover, and today they want to know




YES! I love contests so I'm super excited to see everyone else's list. Here are a few I'm pimping:

1) Do you have a completed MG/YA manuscript? Writeoncon and The Reading Room have teamed up to give you a chance to win $1000 and a chance for representation from literary agent Catherine Drayton. Submissions close August 18th. Click here for more details!

2)Carolina Valdez Miller and Sara McClung are giving away some amazing ARCs on their blogs, including Lola and the Boy Next Door, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and more! Carolina's ends 7/28 and Sara's is open until 8/5. Hurry, hurry!!!

3) Eliza Tilton is hosting a giveaway for The Sky is Everywhere as part of Casey McCormick's original Spread the Love Contest. Check it out here, but HURRY! Contest ends today.

4) And these guys don't have anything going on today, but they are known for hosting some pretty epic contests. You should bookmark them, like, NOW.

Shelley Watters

Monica B.W.

Miss Snark's First Victim

Operation Awesome

Guide to Liteary Agents

Okay, so that's really nine sites for awesome contests. I'm HORRIBLE at limiting myself, but more goodies for you, right?!

And I'm sure there are SO MANY OTHERS. You should check out what other participants at Paper Hangover have to say.

How about YOU? Know any cool contests a-happenin'?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dastards!





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:

Who are your favorite literary villains/antagonists, and why?

Gosh. Wow. There are SO many dastardly despicables out there to choose from. I mean, there's this guy





and this one



(PS - Donald Sutherland as President Snow = BRILLIANT!!!)



or how about this one?





Look at these guys! They're bad. Really BAD, dripping with pure innate evil. They make GREAT antagonists. (And they're always dressed in black...hmm) Let's be honest, some of the best villains are those we Love to Hate. (And man, I HATE these guys)

And ever since I saw the RTW prompt last night on Twitter, my mind's drifted to various novels with a plethora of villains, searching for a fave. Wow. There are so many despicable ones!

But as many as there are, my mind always reverts to





and





Every. Time.

I'll be honest, I always liked Snape. From hello, I just didn't fully believe he was against Harry and his friends. I defended him (yes, I did) even AFTER I read Half Blood Prince. I just couldn't shake the fact that there was something good about him.

Similar story for Vader. I won't lie. I HATED him in the first (er...fourth) movie. After the Death Star exploded, I was ticked he got away. But his first moment of vulnerability with Captain Piett (yes, I am a Star Wars nerd) changed my opinion of him. Because I saw the good in him too.

Call it my inner goodie-two-shoes, make a difference personality, but I LIKE to believe that there's good in everyone. I want to believe that even the most dastardly demonic diehards can overcome the forces of darkness. Even the baddest of the baddies. And as EVIL a pretense as Darth and Snape put up, my heart knew there was good in them. I like my antagonists to be redeeming. And multi-dimensional. A loveable side, perhaps. Someone I sympathize with and believe that he/she really does have a heart.

I mean, come on. Look at this guy




How can you not love that baddie?

So. Who's YOUR favorite villain? And why?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Auntie B's Book Club Blog Fest!

Brenda Drake is hosting a super amazing first page/pitch blog fest!

Why so amazing?



1) The judges are from her teen book club. Yep. That's right. Teens. As in MY prospective audience. I have a few trusted students who read my stuff, and they give me incredibly awesome feedback, but WOW - what an opportunity for complete objectivity!

Side ramble: Hosting a teen book club? Totally cool. Will definitely be trying this with my daugher and her friends.


2) It's also a contest! The winner will receive a 10 page plus a synopsis critique, and two runners up will receive either a 10 page or a synopsis critique from the fabulous Cassandra Marshall agent intern/editor/cover art designer/writer extraordinaire. Mucho exciting!

Andbutso, I'm posting my pitch and the first 250 words from my manuscript. Then, I'll edit based on feedback and enter on Brenda's blog on July 20. Cool! I'll also be providing feedback to others. A list of all the entrants can be found here. (Psst - you should check them out too!)

Some of you helped me out BIG TIME when I entered my first 250 for Shelley Watters Contest of Awesome, sooo I was, uh...hoping you'd help me again. Please.

*grovels*

ANY feedback is fabulous, so feel free to be constructively brutal! Thanks!

Without further ramblings, my pitch and excerpt from Envious...

Pitch: Seventeen-year old Becky’s best friend kills himself without leaving a single clue. Yet as memories of that fateful night emerge from her subconscious, she suspects she may have had something to do with his death.

And now the first 250...

Mookie’s suicide hit like a sledgehammer to my chest.

He didn’t leave a note. No call. Not even a farewell text. Not a single clue as to why he jumped off the top of our bleachers—over fifty feet up.

They found his body early Sunday morning. They being Mr. Graham, my tenth grade Geometry teacher with a pug nose and a body to match. He arrived at school for a pre-dawn run and spotted Mookie’s sneaker sticking out of the new fallen snow. Then a frostbitten hand nearby it. A frozen pool of blood.

A police car arrived shortly after, then an ambulance. Even a fire engine although I wasn’t sure what that was for. A fire had already been put out—a burning heat that used to fuel my existence was gone.

Mookie lay on his stomach at the bottom of the bleachers, a short rusty stake the claim to his demise. The police concluded he hurdled the protective back, and the stake gouged his heart when he fell on it. Tox reports would take a week, but I knew Mookie’s system contained a combination of weed and booze—how much remained the question. Enough to delude my carefree best friend into thinking he should jump, ending what had seemed to be a great life with a bright future.

Yep. Mookie was my best friend. Most of the time—my only friend. And on January 3 he took his life.

This is where his story ends.

And mine begins.


Thanks everyone! Looking forward to your feedback!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

WINNERS!

Today's the big day - you know - where I announce the winners of my blog-o-versary celebration! Gihugic thank yous to all who blogged, tweeted, particpated . . . GAH! I heart you all. I'm so glad to know all of you!

*ahem*

Okay - so now for the WINNERS of my superfabulistic blog-o-versary contest!

The winner of a $15 Amazon Gift Card...

Ishta Mercurio

Congrats, Ishta! Please email me at alisonmiller20 (at) gmail (dot) com, and I'll have Amazon email you your gift card!

And the winners of these fab-o books...



















Meredith McCardle

Jessica Love

Catherine Johnson

Lisa Potts

Alicia Gregoire

Sophia Richardson

Alicia Caldwell

JE Fritz

YAY! Congrats to the winners!

*throws confetti*

Book winners - please email me at alisonmiller20 (at) gmail (dot) com with your address and top three choices on books - first come, first choice!

Thank you again to all who participated and for all the well wishes. I truly feel very loved.

And now, in conclusion of my blog-o-versary fest (sniff), my last oldie, but goodie.

PS - one of my Calculus students discovered this one and proceeded to read it to my entire class. He's now a loyal fan, but geez. I'm surprised I haven't been fired yet.


Smashed
(Published January, 2011)





One of my critique partners, Margo, published this amazeballs post the other day entitled Drunk On Writing. I was inspired and am, uh... creatively stealing from her.






In her post she described her excitement of jumping out of bed knowing that she’d be able to write and how she didn’t want to crawl out from under the covers when she knew her to-do list wouldn’t warrant efficient writing time. And she offered up this Ray Bradbury quote:


You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.

Drunk on writing.

Hmmmm.

How I wish I were thoroughly inebriated.

Oh how I long for the good ol' days when I was drunk on writing. Days when I’d force myself to shut down my computer at midnight and would spring out of bed at four A.M. to write some more. When my mind would be deliriously dizzy and I couldn’t spit out my words fast enough. Stories spun in my head. It was like a movie playing in my mind. And my to-do list was a hazy fog I’d later sober up to. Writing stories was a high I never wanted to come down from. And when I did, a fabulously wonderful hangover lingered until I could jump off the reality wagon again.

But I haven’t gotten hammered like that for well over a year.

And that sucks.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve had a little buzz going here and there, but nothing, NOTHING like the welcomed delirium when I wrote my first two projects.

Why? Well it has a little something to do with that veritable time suck called life. I mean, I’ve always been a busy bee before, but the past year I've found myself with less quality chunks of time to write.

Frankly, reality's been destroying me. And I need some writing intoxication. Bad.

And sadly, I’ve not been in the zone lately. Ideas are there, but I’m not cultivating them. Sometimes I'm afraid that as soon as I start writing, I’ll have to stop. Sometimes I’m afraid I won’t be able to start.

But just the other day, I had one of those two A.M. epiphanies—one that set my brain mixer to whirl. Five days later, my head’s still spinning with characters and plot lines.

And bonus—this weekend I have been afforded an opportunity to write… hours and hours—just me and my netbook. I can just feel the words surfacing at the tips of my fingers, awaiting the chance to be vomited onto the page. You say ew? I say HEAVEN!

So I’m crazy excited about my weekend. Because I plan to get rip-roaring smashed. Not with alcohol, peeps. But with writing. And I hope I have legendary stories worth telling and a massive hangover that lasts for days.



How about YOU? You going to get drunk this weekend . . . on writing?

PS - thanks again for all the love this week!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Last Day of the Contest!

Today is the last day of my blog-o-versary contest. I know. I'm sad too. But all good things have to come to an end. (Will not . . . will not bring up *sniff* HP)

Anyway, today is the last day to enter. You have until 11:59 EST tonight! I'll announce winners Saturday! Here's the deets recap on

THE CONTEST

I've read some pretty cool books lately, and I wanted to share some of them with you. Here's what could be on YOUR TBR plate:



















Or . . .OR you could just pick out your own book with a $15 Amazon gift certificate.

So yep - that's what's up for grabs! You could win one of eight books or an Amazon gift card. What do you have to do?

Comment.

Yep - that's it. Leave a comment. Every day you leave a comment this week (Sunday July 10 through Friday July 15), you get an entry in my contest. OOOH! And while you don't have to follow my blog, or tweet, or blog about my fab-o contest, I will give you extra entries if you do!

So here's the recap on the entry thing:

+1 for every day you comment

+2 if you're an old faithful (follower, that is) PS - let me know this. I AM forty and mucho forgetful.

+1 if you're a new follower

+3 if you tweet about the contest (leave a link in the comment one day please)

+5 if you blog about it or attach the contest news to your sidebar! (leave that linkage too!)

So enter away, peeps! Contest will run until Friday July 15 11:59 EST. I'll tally up entries and announce winners on Saturday.

Yay!

PS - GIHUGIC thank yous to all of you who blogged, tweeted, commented! I heart you. Thanks!

Oh - and as part of my blog-o-versary celebration, I'm posting some of my oldies, but goodies all week. In honor of my Team Ron-ness, here's a fave from January. Enjoy!



Team Peeta
(published January, 2011)

Ever read The Hunger Games? I’m a Survivor girl so the notion of twenty-four teens exiled to who-knows-where to form alliances and eventually compete against one another for an ultimate prize resonated with me. And while The Hunger Games tended to be a little more, er… um… gruesome than my fave reality TV series, I found myself immersed in the drama, the conflict. And I found myself pulling for my favorite contestant.

Peeta Mellark.

Yes - I rooted for him to win the hunger games. But more importantly, I wanted him to win the heart of Katniss Everdeen.

Because he’d already won mine.

From the moment Katniss details how Peeta, the baker’s son, purposefully burnt bread so she would have something to eat, I swooned. But not Katniss. She led him on. She wrestled with feelings for him and another. And I read through the series, the whole time screaming, “The choice is easy! Peeta’s the nice guy! Pick Peeta!”

But why? Why not her best friend Gale? Why should she pick Peeta?

Why did I?

Yeah—WHY do I fall hopelessly in love with the Peetas? Why do I whole-heartedly support Team Edward? Why do I suffer through yet another over-dramatized
House of Night for Heath? Or stand by Fang when all Max does is give him reason to fly away? I mean, gosh. They’re just book characters, right? How can I fall head over heels for a fictional character?

And then I realized… it’s what they represent. It’s what they provide.

Unconditional love.

Yep. They’re the Bruno Mars of fiction. The guys that would love their girl no matter what. No matter how many times they face rejection, hatred, other love interests. Their love is irrevocable. Peeta would die for Katniss. Would rather see her live and be happy. Heath Luck left any possibility of an eternity with Zoey so she could restore her shattered soul. Fang left so Maximum Ride could fulfill her destiny. And Edward always wanted Bella to be content. It’s an unwavering love. It’s not manipulative (ahem… Jacob). It’s not selfish. These guys would catch a grenade for the women they love. Would do anything so that they can be happy.

How can you NOT fall in love with THAT?

It's probably why unconditional love weaves a thread through my novels. And it is, without a doubt, why I am still hopelessly devoted to my husband whom I've been married to for sixteen years.

So yeah… nice guys may not finish first. Heck, they might not even finish second or third. But I stand by my conviction that they WILL be there at The End.



SO who are YOU? Team Edward? Team Peeta? Team Ron? Let me know in the comments and secure yourself an entry!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Take on Querying and the CONTEST Continues!

Sunday was my blog-o-versary and I've decided to make it last a WHOLE WEEK. Yep. A week. A week of old posts and a superfantabulous contest. Just for you.

And before I talk about my contest and share an old fave, the fabulous wonderfuls at YAtopia are hosting a pitch contest with Agent Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst & Associates Literary Management. Check it out here.


Okay, time for my craziness! Here's the deets recap on

THE CONTEST

I've read some pretty cool books lately, and I wanted to share some of them with you. Here's what could be on YOUR TBR plate:




















Or . . .OR you could just pick out your own book with a $15 Amazon gift certificate.

So yep - that's what's up for grabs! You could win one of eight books or an Amazon gift card. What do you have to do?

Comment.

Yep - that's it. Leave a comment. Every day you leave a comment this week (Sunday July 10 through Friday July 15), you get an entry in my contest. OOOH! And while you don't have to follow my blog, or tweet, or blog about my fab-o contest, I will give you extra entries if you do!

So here's the recap on the entry thing:

+1 for every day you comment

+2 if you're an old faithful (follower, that is) PS - let me know this. I AM forty and mucho forgetful.

+1 if you're a new follower

+3 if you tweet about the contest (leave a link in the comment one day please)

+5 if you blog about it or attach the contest news to your sidebar! (leave that linkage too!)

So enter away, peeps! Contest will run until Friday July 15 11:59 EST. I'll tally up entries and announce winners on Saturday.

Yay!


And as part of my blog-o-versary celebration, I'm posting some of my oldies, but goodies all week. Here's one from November of last year.


Dating - Again
(Posted November, 2010)


I was hanging with one of my besties the other night, listening to her recant—for the fiftieth time—the story of her first date with this guy she’s been seeing for a little over a month. Not a single detail was missed. The dreamy sparkle was still in her eyes. Yeah... she's pretty much smitten.

And while I practically have that story memorized and you’d think I hate hearing it by now… I don’t. In fact, I love seeing my friend bubble with anticipation of the next date or text. I help her overanalyze every conversation. I’m happy for her dating highs and cry with her during the loser lows.

Yes - I live vicariously through the dating lives of my twenty-something friends.

You'd think I want to experience it myself.

Yeaaaaahhhh... no.

I was mucho happy when I met my husband and knew I would never have to play the whole dating game ever again.

Or so I thought.

When I started the whole query process over a year ago, I at once felt like I was back in the dating world. The butterflies nested in my stomach every time I sent off another query. I checked my email, like, a hundred times a day for responses. When I first exposed my heart and asked someone to represent my novel, the rejection stung. That first full request - I read and re-read the email so many times I could repeat it verbatim. And when the rejection came from that request, it was like losing my first love. I sucked down a bottle of wine and cried for two days.

After thirty rejections and a new batch of thick skin, I fixed my novel and queried again, doing a little more research into the agents I targeted. And boy, was that ever like
The Dating Game

Contestant Agent 1 is a new agent at Super Wonderful Agency, represents YA fiction, and loves working with debut authors. Originally from Chapel Hill….

Wait. I’m a debut author. I write YA. I have UNC in my book. Maybe, maybe…

Rejection

Contestant Agent 2 represents YA and middle-grade fiction and leans towards strong female protagonists with a quirky voice.

Oooh! I have that. Pick me! Pick me!

Rejection

Contestant Agent 3 is one of my dream agents. And she remembers me from a conference! She wants to see my first fifty pages. She…

Rejection

Ugh. Freaking hate this.

Just like dating, querying has been exhilarating and heart-wrenching. At times I want to give up and think there’s no agent out there who’ll want me. Other times I wonder how they can possibly not love me. So I keep putting myself out there, cracking open my ribs and exposing my vulnerable little heart.

Dating. What fun.

But I also know that true love comes when you least expect it. I was not expecting to meet the man of my dreams at a Kinston Indians baseball game, but sixteen years and two fabulous children later, I’m still with the love of my life (where’s that collective “awwww”?)

And when I went to a writer’s conference a month ago, I expected for agents I pitched to request pages (fairly standard), but I wasn’t expecting someone to request the whole thing after reading two pages and I certainly didn’t anticipate anyone telling me “I totally want this book.”

PS – still tingly from that squee story.

And whether or not that potential agent relationship works out or not, I’ve also learned this through my years of failed relationships and broken hearts:

Mr. or Mrs. Right is out there… somewhere.

I attended a query workshop with the fabulous Roseanne Wells of Marianne Strong Literary Agency. She discussed the process of querying, what to include, what not to say—very informative. She advised checking out agency websites to see what particular agents are looking for and what they represent and how different agents want different things. Again-informative.

But what was most informative (and memorable)—the audacious writer lady from row four who had the nerve to ask

“Why can’t you guys just agree on what you (insert choice expletive) want so we can know what we have to do to get our #*@# books on the shelves?”

Aside from wanting to crawl under the table(PS—agent lady handled the situation and the response fabulously), I just really wanted to scream

“NOOOOOOO!”

I mean really. What if the only thing that would seal the deal in a relationship was a sense of humor? Or what if every guy’s number one-priority was ginormo ta-tas (okay—it might be)? Well, then the not so witty, A-cup Alisons of the world would be screwed.

What if the answer to that perfect woman is a girl who can cook. Yep—screwed again.

Or what if every girl's dream man looked, acted, and spoke like Han Solo?

Can you imagine if the only thing that turned agents on was poetry? Or horror novels? What if every book-reader only preferred gushy romances?

My point (yes—I do have one): I don’t want all agents to want the same thing. I don’t want all readers to want the same thing.

The writing biz is mucho subjective (thank God). What one person balks at, another might love, love, love. And with every failed relationship I grow thicker skin and learn all about the kind of agent I want and the kind I don't.

Yeah, I want an agent. But I want the one that’s going to love my books as much as I do. The one that’s going to support and nurture me in my growth as a published author. The one that will be with me in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer... till death do us part. Hee.

I do enjoy reliving the dating game through the hearts of my friends, but I will be totally okie-dokie when my agent-courting days come to an end.

You know - when I say “Do you want to represent me?”

And Mr. or Mrs. Right responds, “I do.”



PS - still in the "dating/query" game, and I STILL feel this way. Mr. or Mrs. Right will come along . . . some day.

How about YOU? Have any good "dating" stories to share? Feel free to comment for an entry in the contest!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Big Snafu And Still More Contest For YOU!

Since I'm using this week for my contest and old posts, I wasn't going to do my weekly roadtrip over at YA Highway. But Kate Hart's prompt was too tempting to pass up.


This Week's Topic:

What's the biggest writing / querying / publishing mistake you've made?


Haha. ONE? You are talking to the person who has made so many mistakes in every aspect of writing, she now deletes sentences five times in a draft before allowing herself to temporarily keep it and takes twenty minutes to hit SEND when emailing a query letter. My inner editor is in Nazi mode. All. The. Time.

Sometimes good, sometimes not so good.

I think my biggest snafu occurred with my baby, my very first project. I'll let you read all about it in a post I did last summer.


Cuts Like A Chainsaw


My absolute arch nemesis—bangs. I hate them and swear on my favorite Eeyore slippers I will never cut them again. Bangs and I have had a love-hate relationship from my middle-school days on. I’d get them, grow them out. Cut them again. Grow them out again. And one time, as a naïve, broke, and impatient college student—I decided to cut them myself.


Cue
Pyscho music...








One jagged cut later, I felt the need to trim the left side, then the right. The left side again. Then the right again. Then the left… Okay—you get it. That big “oops” caused me to sport a baseball cap for the next month, trying to hide the indubitable travesty—yep—my bang job had become a botch job.





Heh heh. Good thing I don’t have my own pics of
that one.

My not so bangin’ experience is analogous to where I’m at with what I like to call “my baby,” my first official novel with characters I heart to pieces and want the whole world to fall in love with too. The story that consumed my thoughts from the first word to the last. And the one that ended up being—gasp—175,000 words.

And after I finished it, I discovered—“my baby” was too long.

Too long? Seriously? I mean, what did I know? I read
Harry Potter. My eleven year old brings home books rivaling the length of Twilight. 175,000 words? I was just happy to complete the bugger. Now you’re telling me I have to cut it? What?

Just to clue you in (because apparently I was
not)—a typical debut YA novel contains between 50 to 75 thousand words. One agent informed me she couldn’t send anything off to a publisher over 80,000. And my story that I threw my heart and soul into for four months contained 175,000.

Shoot. Me. Now.

Soooo—instead of shoving my precious baby under the bed, I started cutting. And cutting some more. I got it down to 160 and thought
I can’t possibly cut one more thing. Then my editor got a hold of it and a slash job ensued. Whole chapters gone, subsidiary characters killed off, frou-frou adverbs and adjectives—out the computer screen.

140,000. The “that” count went from 20,000 to 200. A little trim here, a snip-snip there. My novel dwindled to 120,000 then 112,000.

Painful much?

Sometimes. And sometimes not.

The other day, I changed the entire beginning—and lost my absolute favorite line of my novel. Scenes I crafted for ours—gone with one little click. Some parts – I felt like I cut my right arm off and others pierced my heart.

That little ditty about the “first cut is the deepest?” Ha.

Bu-ut, I do love re-reading my stories and falling in love with my characters all over again. I enjoy tightening, finding that magical dialogue that tells so much yet says so little. It’s an exciting challenge to make one word say five. And I re-read my manuscript now and beat myself over the head with my son’s lightsaber thinking
How could I have sent it off looking like that?

Currently my novel sits at 102… and I’m still chopping. Yet while I mentally pat myself on the back every time I see the thousands digit change, I can’t help but feel like I did when I cut my bangs. I slash away, trim, trying to make my story perfect, when maybe all I’m doing is hacking it to unattractive stubs.

And that’s where the betas come in (PS—have lots of them). People to read my story, to critique it. Not only help me with the cuts, but also now assist me with the holes. The pieces I cut off and need to grow back.

Just FYI—the hair re-grew. And maybe I can be like Stephen King and
The Stand. Sell it short. Come back years later and publish the “un-cut” version. Hmmm.



PS - I wrote that post last summer. My "baby" now sits at 99K under the bed. And while I do claim this to be my biggest mistake, it's one I'm glad I made and would redo all over again. Because that project was completely written from the heart. Not that my others aren't, but sometimes my mind tries to take over too much these days.

Okay - so there's the old post detailing my big snafu.

Now onto my Blog-o-versary celebration CONTEST!

In case you didn't know, Sunday was my blog-o-versary and I've decided to make it last a WHOLE WEEK. Yep. A week. A week of old posts (see above) and a superfantabulous contest. Just for you.

Here's the deets recap on

THE CONTEST

I've read some pretty cool books lately, and I wanted to share some of them with you. Here's what could be on YOUR TBR plate:



















Or . . .OR you could just pick out your own book with a $15 Amazon gift certificate.

So yep - that's what's up for grabs! You could win one of eight books or an Amazon gift card. What do you have to do?

Comment.

Yep - that's it. Leave a comment. Every day you leave a comment this week (Sunday July 10 through Friday July 15), you get an entry in my contest. OOOH! And while you don't have to follow my blog, or tweet, or blog about my fab-o contest, I will give you extra entries if you do!

So here's the recap on the entry thing:

+1 for every day you comment

+2 if you're an old faithful (follower, that is) PS - let me know this. I AM forty and mucho forgetful.

+1 if you're a new follower

+3 if you tweet about the contest (leave a link in the comment one day please)

+5 if you blog about it or attach the contest news to your sidebar! (leave that linkage too!)

So enter away, peeps! Contest will run until Friday July 15 11:59 EST. I'll tally up entries and announce winners on Saturday.

Yay!

Oh - and don't forget to stop by YA Highway to see what everyone else has to say about their biggest publishing/writing/querying mistake!

BTW, do YOU have one? Comment and consider yourself entered in my contest!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Exciting Blog-o-versary Giveaway Continues!!!

Sunday was my blog-o-versary and I've decided to make it last a WHOLE WEEK. Yep. A week. A week of old posts and a superfantabulous contest. Just for you.

And before I talk about my contest and share an old fave, Monica B.W. is hosting a pitch contest with Kristin Miller on her blog! Check it out here!

Okay, now for my craziness! Here's the deets recap on

THE CONTEST

I've read some pretty cool books lately, and I wanted to share some of them with you. Here's what could be on YOUR TBR plate:



















Or . . .OR you could just pick out your own book with a $15 Amazon gift certificate.

So yep - that's what's up for grabs! You could win one of eight books or an Amazon gift card. What do you have to do?

Comment.

Yep - that's it. Leave a comment. Every day you leave a comment this week (Sunday July 10 through Friday July 15), you get an entry in my contest. OOOH! And while you don't have to follow my blog, or tweet, or blog about my fab-o contest, I will give you extra entries if you do!

So here's the recap on the entry thing:

+1 for every day you comment

+2 if you're an old faithful (follower, that is) PS - let me know this. I AM forty and mucho forgetful.

+1 if you're a new follower

+3 if you tweet about the contest (leave a link in the comment one day please)

+5 if you blog about it or attach the contest news to your sidebar! (leave that linkage too!)

So enter away, peeps! Contest will run until Friday July 15 11:59 EST. I'll tally up entries and announce winners on Saturday.

Yay!

And as part of my blog-o-versary celebration, I'm posting some of my oldies, but goodies all week. Here's a rather infamous one from November of last year.

Got Balls?

Thanks to my friend Tabitha, I have new adds to my daily speech like amazeballs and crazeballs. And while the new wordage is definitely faboo, those “balls” are not the balls I’m blogging about today.

Nope. Today my writing journey takes me to a man’s world. Today I’m talking about cajones, testes, nads, huevos,…

And how I need to strap some on to write my latest novel.

The starring role in my most recent WIP belongs to an eighteen-year-old high school football player who is pretty much your typical, eighteen-year-old football player with some, er… special talents. He’s into sports, beer, and his friends. And he’s definitely into the opposite sex.

And writing from his POV has been quite the exhilarating challenge. After all, I’m a woman and I definitely don’t want my manly man to come off sounding all girl-i-fied.

So just how do I get inside a guy’s head (no pun intended)?

Well, for starters, I watch a lot of
Friday Night Lights and Remember the Titans. I put on The Program for entertaining insight. I read books with male protags and analyze characters similar to the ones I’ve created.

I’ve got guys who read my stuff. My fabulous husband (who PS – coaches boys soccer), my editor (also of the male persuasion), and a couple other token males inform me whether or not I nailed it in terms of dialogue.

I run up and down the sidelines at football games (and they thought I was just taking stats). And I let Facebook statuses be my muse. Or my former students’ walls. You can call it creepin’. I call it research, baby.

But what really helps validate whether or not I’m spot on with my voice: one of my math classes.

Yep. My testosterone-injected math class.

While they’re pouncing into my room and boasting about the latest score (football, right?) or when they’re conjuring up every conversation except the “math” one they should be having over the homework they should be doing, I slip into observation mode. They might think I’m merely helping someone with that one problem (whatever) or catching up on grades, but dude—I’m all ears.

And while sometimes it's a little TMI, often their convos prove rather insightful. And validating.

I’ve had a few writing moments in the past three months in which I’ve crafted scenes between my MC and his three burly football buddies and I second guess the realism of that scene. And then I laugh a week later as my football players pretty much re-enact the same scenario.

And anytime I feel my “dude,” “bro,” or “man” count gets too high, I just listen to the daily speech of my “boys” and realize I could probably triple that count.

Yeah—it’s not easy talking with balls, but it can be very fun. And the things I learn from my observations and from my own writing…

Hoo boy.

Definitely makes me appreciate my feminine side.


Hehe.

PS - that's the WIP I'm STILL working on. (and probably will be for-ev-er) And if you really want to know what teenage boys are really thinking, read Swim The Fly (oh wait - you could WIN that from me!). American Pie at swim school. Hi-larious.

Sooo...what are YOU working on lately?