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?


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


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…

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

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

Rhemalda Bookstore
Barnes & Noble

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


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.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


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:

In high school, teens are made to read the classics - Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Bronte, Dickens - but there are a lot of books out there never taught in schools. So if you had the power to change school curriculums, which books would you be sure high school students were required to read?

Here are five that immediately came to mind.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

When Melinda Sordino's friends discover she called the police to quiet a party, they ostracize her, turning her into an outcast -- even among kids she barely knows. But even worse than the harsh conformity of high-school cliques is a secret that you have to hide.

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and
discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Brilliant dialogue. Amazing voice. Powerful messages. These three novels dive heart-first into the reprecussions of actions, even the little ones you never think will hurt.

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps." Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A stunning debut, it marks John Green's arrival as an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

Why this one? John Green is a literary genius. The book deservingly won the Printz Award. For many of us there is that moment that defines us, the difference between our befores and afters, that moment that shapes our perception of the world and the people and things around us. And, well, I just think every teen should be inspired to pursue their own "Great Perhaps."

And lastly, I think every high school should mandate this series.

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Fighting for what you believe in the ugliest face of adversity? Having a voice? Making the right choice even though the conseuqences look bleak?

Emotional intensity, heart-stopping action, beautiful prose, incredible voice. Yep. Definitely gets my vote for required reading.

How about YOU? What book(s) would you add to the mandated school reading list?

PS - Are you NaNo-ing it? Check out the YA Confidential scoop on NaNo teens, comment, and enter for a chance to win a 10-page critique! Click here for details!

Monday, November 14, 2011


At the beginning of the school year, in one of my fun-filled faculty meetings, my principal threw out this quote: Change what needs changing. Not what’s easy.

Normally I only pay attention to my boss’s Yoda-isms, but this one sparked my heart. I knew he was referring to teaching, but I immediately thought of my writing, my current manuscript, and my imminent revision process.

Change what needs changing. Not what’s easy.

Just so you know, I’ve spent the past three weeks immersed in revisions of the beast Franken-novel my manuscript. Normally I relish revisions. Tightening narrative, tweaking dialogue, finding that one word that says five. I LOVE adding dimensions of richness to my characters and sprinkling in those oh-so-perfect similes, the ones that say three things about my character that normally would take three sentences.

But, for me, those changes are EASY.

And those aren’t the revisions I need to be working on RIGHT NOW.

Change what needs changing. Not what’s easy.

Here's what's been CHANGING for me...

I cut an entire POV. Yep. Forty percent of my story, scenes I crafted for hours—GONE, with one little click. My gut knew it needed to happen, I fought it forever, it was a necessary evil. But in the end I made the cut because it NEEDED TO HAPPEN.

And because of that cut, I have to change SO MUCH MORE. I’m forced to see things completely through one character’s eyes. I have to figure out how to get that crucial back story and information into the script when it would’ve been SO MUCH EASIER to have my other main character do it. I spent the past weekend rewriting and adding in scenes, scenes I know will probably still get hacked on the next round of revisions. I killed off a character, knowing three four six more may die before I finish the first round of revisions.

Change is HARD. It’s frustrating. But it’s also so amazingly exciting. And…AND it’s making my manuscript SO MUCH BETTER.

How about YOU? Had to make any tough decisions or changes lately? Where are you at with YOUR writing?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Fives! Six Eight Tens!

It's Friday Fives over at Paper Hangover! This week they want to know...

1) Allow myself to write crap. Inner editor off, mind spew ON.

2) Hashing out things aloud with critique partners or my husband or sometimes even myself.

3) Exercise—sometimes I just need to break from the screen and get out and get the feet moving. Many times this “break” gets the brain moving too.

4) Mountains of Twizzlers. Pounds of coffee. Often to keep myself wired and awake to write more. I find it hard to fall asleep while chewing a Twizzler. And I force myself not to think about how BIG my butt’s getting.

5) Allowing myself to break and let the subconscious do some work. But I keep myself armed with many post-its, you know, just in case.

And a few other things…

1) Have you heard about JESSICA LOVE’S NEWS?! Stop by her blog, um…NOW. :)

2) Tracey Neithercott’s hosting this wicked cool contest at Words On Paper. You could win books, a gift card, or this

3) I mightpossiblymaybeyeahmorethanlikely am going to midwinter ALA in Dallas. I've never been to an ALA convention before and I would get to see and spend time with some of my super awesome writer friends and get books and meet industry peeps and okay, EXCITED hardly covers this one. Anyone else going?!

4) Since I hail from Pennsylvania, I’ve always rooted for Penn State and Papa Joe and well, let’s say the incidents of the past few days have left me disheartened and disappointed. One of my dear friends from high school posted this, and I couldn’t resist sharing with the world.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. (Edmund Burke)

Gives you a lot to think about, doesn’t it?

5) And finally…

A huge THANK YOU to all veterans, past and present, who risk their lives and make sacrifices to defend our freedom. My husband's a former Marine, served in the Gulf War, and well, I'm super proud of and very thankful for him. Do make sure you thank a veteran today.

So, what's YOUR secret for getting to the end of your WIP? Got any news to share? Have YOU thanked a veteran today?!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

RTW: What's YOUR Superpower?

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 are your writing and publishing superpowers (drafting? beta-reading? writing queries? plotting? character creation? etc.) -- and what's your kryptonite?

When I first sat down to think about this, two superpowers popped into my head right away, and then a WHOLE LOT of kryptonite. No, for reals. Like my kryptonite list is STILL writing itself. But I think that's the nature of the writer. We are our own worst critic, so I decided that I'd only list five. And then I forced myself to come up with five superpowers too.

My superpowers!

1) Authentic dialogue – I attribute it to my theater background and being around teenagers all day. And my ninja wall-creeping skills.

2) First chapters/premises—I can write an intriguing, explosive, hooking first chapter. And I have these KILLER premises. Now if I could just figure out how to back that up in the rest of my story. Hmm.

3) Funny (or maybe I’m just kidding myself—get it, kidding myself? Ha). Seriously though, I am like the most boring person in real life with no witty comebacks EVER, but I can write funny. Not LOL like John Green or anything, but well, I can make myself laugh.

4) Critiquing—I’m far from a grammar Nazi, but I am thorough. And I like to think I hope I offer good advice.

5) My passion—for my stories. For my characters. For writing and books in general. That passion transfers to my stories and I can definitely tell my eh scenes from my WOW-some ones, the ones I wrote with heart.

And when you’re passionate about something, you tend to sell other people on it too.

As for my kryptonite?

1) Plots and subplots and sub-sub plots and sub-sub-sub plots and… Yeah, my stories can get wicked complicated.

2) Back story—when I first started writing, I was all about some info dump. Then, I veered the other extreme and didn’t provide the reader enough information. I’m still trying to find the balance.

3) Em-dash and her evil twin ellipsis. I’ve calmed down—a little…or not.

4) Overwriting—or what I now refer to as my love of writing crappy first drafts.

5) Self-imposed deadlines—I drive myself nuts with these, like I set the bar TOO high sometimes.

Okay, could seriously go on, but I'll stop.

YOUR turn! What's YOUR writing superpower? And what's YOUR kryptonite? And don't forget to hop on over to YA Highway to check out everyone else's powers!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Follow Your Bliss

A few weeks ago I had the most fortunate pleasure of attending the South Carolina Writers Workshop Conference in Myrtle Beach. New friends, amazing fun, and super fabulous sessions on writing, publishing,…EVERYTHING.

I sat through some pretty amazing and informative workshops, but one of the more "inspirational" ones was with James Frenkel, editor with Tom Doherty Associates. The title...NARRATIVE STRATEGY: HOW IMPORTANT IS THE OPENING OF A MANUSCIPT?

I've already been to SO many first page workshops, but I didn’t see anything else that really sparked my interest on the schedule so…eh, why not?

SO glad I went. Mr. Frenkel did talk about the first page, how you have to grab the reader’s attention and create intrigue, but he also said you must continue this throughout the story, you have to KEEP the reader's attention, and he gave general tips for doing just that.

Here are just a few things Mr. Frenkel had to say:

• Creating a good story is making a reader want to know what comes next.

• There must be something about the main character that the reader cares about. He/she needs to be vulnerable. Complex. NOT one-note.

• “You don’t want the reader to wake up.” Leave them in a tranced state. Don’t do anything that will confuse the reader or take the reader out of the story.

• You are the god of the book. You make the decisions. You are in charge and you have to stay in charge.

• You can be manipulative, but you don’t want the reader to know you’re pulling these strings.

• If you’re writing third person with multiple POVs, “love the one you’re with.” In other words, only one point of view per scene, please.

• Trust yourself. Trust your reader. Less is more. Don’t tell the reader everything. Don’t take away the reader’s imagination.

• You have to include the reader when you’re writing. Make the reader feel like he/she is part of the story. And the moment you forget your reader is the moment they forget you.

• “Follow your bliss.” Write what you would love to read.

Follow your bliss.

Not write what you know. Not write what you love. Write what YOU WOULD WANT TO READ. Your love, your readers love all boiled into one book.

Follow your bliss.

New motto, yo. Love. It. I’m applying it to like, EVERYTHING.

SO, how about YOU? Get any good writer-ly advice lately that YOU want to share?

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Interview with Derek Molata! And Friday Fives!

Happy Friday! I had the amazing pleasure of interviewing Derek Molata for the Write Brained Network, an online writing community connecting writers at every stage of development. The interview posted earlier this week for members of the WB, but I wanted all my faithful blog followers to get to know him too.

Without further blahg rants, here’s the interview!

This month, meet Derek Molata, writer of adult and YA Science Fiction and Fantasy. Today, he shares his thoughts on writing, revising, and querying, as well as his “mild” obsession with Blade Runner.

AM: How did you get into writing?

DM: Starting this off nice and easy, I see. :)

Well—like most writers, I would think—I started out with an unquenchable thirst for reading at a young age. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a voracious reader. Even though I was quite entrenched with videogames during middle school and high school, I’ve always read. I dabbled in poetry during high school, and actually had a poem accepted into a national poetry publication when I was sixteen, but that was it. Besides running a lot of Dungeons & Dragons sessions with my gaming group, I never really thought about writing—even though, unbeknownst to me at the time, that was exactly what I was doing whilst running D&D campaigns, albeit abstractly.

Later in life, after getting married and a home and career, I was reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula on my couch one day after work, a nice big glass of Shiraz sitting beside me, and it hit me: I could do this!

Then I hit myself with the naivety-hammer. Little did I realize, then, of the long, arduous process ahead as I cut my teeth on craft and spewed out my million words of shit.

But that’s how I got into writing, and I haven’t looked back since.

AM: Wow! That’s incredible back story!

I understand you write both adult and YA sci-fi and fantasy. What drew you to these genres? Do you see yourself branching off into other YA genres? And which came first? The adult or the YA?

DM: Is this the token chicken and egg question?

I’ve always read genre. Always. I clearly remember back in grades 3, 4, and 5, how our school librarian, Mr. Flatt, would read to us weekly. And he’d read the most fantastic stories, from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, to Alice in Wonderland, to The Hobbit. These stories were mesmerizing in how they could transport me to different worlds. I fell in love with genre then.

I’ve dabbled with contemporary before, but I’m not sure I’ll pursue it seriously anytime soon. My mind always wants to bend contemporary storytelling into the fantastical. It seems that’s where I’m most comfortable—outside the walls of reality.

And as for which came first? My adult projects came first. It’s only been within the last few years that I’ve started writing YA, and I’m having a lot of fun with it. I’ve even been flirting with writing a MG, but we’ll see how my project schedule goes in the next while before I commit to that.

AM: From where do you draw inspiration for your writing—the settings, the characters, etc…?

DM: I’m definitely a worldbuilding whore. I love it. So I guess you could say I draw a lot of inspiration for my work from creating fantastical landscapes to populate with equally fantastical characters… but the stories wouldn’t be what they are without strong, solid characters that you want to read about.

At the heart of every good story is character, and without that, you’ve got a lot of window dressing without the window.

AM: LOVE that analogy. And worldbuilding whore? Awesome.

Do you have a method to your writing? A plotter or pantser? A certain time of day you need to write? Or are you more whimsical about the whole process?

DM: Pantser. Although I prefer the term organic. As an idea for a story or novel percolates, I always have a clear vision of Point A (the opening, including the catalyst), and Point C (the conclusion and how things wrap). Part B—the murky middle—is just that, a big convoluted network of options in my head, and although I have a clear direction of where I want to go, and what I need my characters to do in each chapter, it’s really the act of writing and putting words down that I organically drive the unlimited maze of possibilities in my head into a story. And to me, that’s one of the most exciting things about writing.

As for time of day, or being whimsical? I’ve dropped words at all hours of the day, from getting up at 4:30 am and writing into the day, to brewing a pot of coffee at midnight and writing until exhaustion. Really, it’s a matter of ‘ass in chair’ for me. My life schedule is hectic, so I take what I can get. Sometimes the words come, and sometimes they don’t. You just have to roll with the creativity punches and accept that it won’t happen when you want, all the time. And that’s okay. You can use that time to revise. :)

AM: Do you have a writing hero? An author or mentor who helped shape who you are as a writer? If so, how did that person have that effect on you?

DM: I definitely have my writing heroes, and I guess you could say they’ve mentored me by their works. I’m a slow reader, so I don’t just take in story as I go, but I read at a detailed level, taking in sentence structure, mechanics of plot and character, and how my favorite storytellers use subtle tricks to reveal information so subtlety you take it in without knowing until the aha moment.

A few of my favorite writers include Haruki Murakami, William Gibson, David Eddings, Lewis Carroll, Neil Gaiman, and China Mieville.

AM: What does an average day look like for you?

DM: Alarm. Coffee. Chaos. More coffee. More chaos. Crash into bed. Sometimes I write within the chaos. Sometimes there is chaos within the chaos.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

AM: Sounds super familiar. Any advice regarding revisions and submissions?

DM: Revision is hard. But no matter what you think, or how much you may want to throw your laptop against a brick wall, or move into a padded room for your own safety, it’s a necessary evil. Do it. The rewards of revising and polishing your manuscript are countless. You—and your manuscript—will be in a better place because of it.

As for submissions? Fasten your seatbelt. Surround yourself with comfort food and your favorite alcoholic beverage. And hold on tight.

AM: What was querying like for you? Is there something you wish someone would have told you before you queried?

DM: I may lose some friends with this answer, but the querying process for me was rather painless and—dare I say it?—fun. I sent out a few queries to a few choice agents, most of which returned with full requests. I had one agent refer me to another agent who was closed to submissions at the time. Said agent read my manuscript overnight and offered the next morning. *waves goodbye to friends*

The biggest piece of advice I can give about querying is to know the agents, know their guidelines, and know the market. A lot of people waste agents’ time by not knowing any of the above. Do yourself a favor, and be knowledgeable about your target. There are numerous online resources to assist in your agent research, and most agents blog or tweet. Follow them and play nice.

AM: Excellent advice! And congratulations on the expeditious agent find!

I also understand you’ve been published in Hub Magazine. Awesome! Can you tell us more about the short fiction that made the page?

DM: I wrote "Fragments of an Alternating Current" as an experiment. I’m a huge cyberpunk fan, always dabbling with it here and there, and that story is the product of me playing around in the cyberpunk sandbox. I’ve been asked if I’m going to return to that world, in which I usually answer with an “I’d love to.” So we’ll see. It all depends on the above mentioned chaos and how my current projects shake out.

AM: Any workshops or conferences on the horizon?

DM: Funny you should ask. I’m typing out this interview on a plane to San Diego for the World Fantasy Convention. :)

AM: Sounds like a fantastic time! What do you do when you’re not writing?

DM: I have a very busy family life, with 3 daughters who dance competitively, as well as a hectic day job that keeps me red-lined. One of my other interests is videogames. I’ve been gaming since the early Atari, and have owned almost every console since then. Right now I sink a lot of hours into my beloved Xbox 360. I’m also a huge fan of cinema, and watch as many movies as I can, both genre and non-genre. And yes, my favorite movie is, and will forever be, Blade Runner.

AM: Yes! Blade Runner! Although I’m sure I love that movie for different reasons than yours. ( *cough* Harrison Ford)

And finally (for fun): If the reincarnation wizard allowed you a choice in the afterlife, who would you come back as? Magnum P.I. or Sonny Crockett?

DM: Wow! This could very well be my favorite question of all time! It’s also the hardest question for me to answer of all time!

I could write a pro/pro list a mile long on whether I’d rather sport the awesome Magnum moustache and Hawaiian shirt, or the baby blue sport coat and deck shoes of Sonny Crockett.

So I will answer with this:

Rick Deckard.

(Interviewer’s Note: For our non-Blade Runner junkies, Rick Deckard = Harrison Ford’s role.)

AM: Awesome! Thanks, Derek for an incredible interview! So glad we could get to know you!

If you’d like to connect with Derek, visit him at or follow him on Twitter.

And I haven't done a Friday Fives in a while! PS--it's sponsored by Paper Hangover -fabulous blog! Awesome writerly advice and insight into the writing and publishing world. You should check it out!

This week they want to know

Just five?


1) James Patterson - will always be my writing hero, and his Maximum Ride series kindled my interest in writing. He pens AMAZING stories and OWNS the title, King of the Page Turners. I may never be Queen of the Page Turners, but I would definitely settle for Little Miss Princess Page Turner. That'd be cool.

2) Jandy Nelson - if you've not read The Sky is Everywhere, all I can say is WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Just kidding. But seriously, the woman is writing brilliance defined. Her prose is inspiring. I totally want to be Jandy Nelson when I grow up.

3) John Green - literary genius, Nerd Fighter. And his stories are hilarious and touching and all kinds of awesome.

4) My super awesome writer-ly friends. Their support is inspiring. Their writing is inspiring. THEY are inspiring.

5) God - stories from the Bible, His whispered support, His creation...He feeds my hungry soul with daily inspiration.

So, how about YOU? What writers inspire YOU?! And don't forget to check out Derek's website! He's awesome and you should totally follow him.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

RTW: Sock it to Me! (With Lots of Padding)

Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival, where YA Highway’s contributors and readers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s take on the topic.

This week’s topic:

What kind of writing coach do you need? When you have to coach friends, what kind of coach are you?

Back in August, Sarah Enni posted about types of writing coaches and mentors—ranging from Always Positive Mr. Rogers to Boot Camp Tiger Mom. And she discussed the pros and cons of each type of coach. Here’s a quick recap:

1) The Positive Feedback Coach—Soothing and focused on a 'glass half full' feedback message. Always re-enforcing your strengths with the idea that positive feedback motivates (and it does!). But probably won’t tell you what’s not working with your story.

2) The Gentle Honesty Coach—still approaches critiquing with the Positive Feedback Coach mindset, but will share reactions and hesitations. This person may ask lots of open-ended questions that encourage the writer to explore the depths of his or her story.

3) The Brutal Honesty Coach—“this coach won't hesitate to push someone past their comfort zone with a mix of brutal critique and emotional honesty.” And while tough, this coach fully believes in you and gives you brutal honesty because he or she cares.

4) The Tear-You-Down-to-Build-You-Up Coach—no warm fuzzies here. This mentor “gives it to you straight” with no attempt to cushion.

While I do tend to be my own worst critic, I DO NOT need a Mr. Rogers coach in my writing life. Don’t get me wrong—positive reinforcement is something I need (ohmygosh yes!), but I need honest, tactful feedback when it comes to my writing. Not sugar-coating. Or somebody that will find the silver lining in everything. I can get that beta read from my mother. Or my daughter. (LOVE YOU BOTH!!!) And I do seek that from them at times because it’s nice to just have someone read my story and love it because I wrote it.

That being said, I am definitely in need of a mix of the Gentle Honesty Coach and the Brutal Honesty Coach. Someone who’ll point out the things that WORKED, things that made them laugh or cry. Things that show and don’t tell. Things that they LOVED.

But I also need to know what’s not working. I enjoy the reactive, thought-provoking questions that force me to dig deeper. But sometimes I need straight-up answers. And I need my critique partners to tell me when something just does not work.

And I need my Grammar Nazi Coach—someone to call me on my mis-comma use and to tell me to chill with all the ellipses and em-dashes.

As for Tiger Mom (the break-you-down coach)—sorry, I’ve got some thick skin and can tolerate a lot of punches, but all the time? No thank you. I’d probably shed way too many tears with that coach.

And I definitely don’t want this guy as my mentor.

I’m extremely fortunate to have found CPs and beta readers who are a strong mix of positive and brutal. They coach me through tough revisions and give me AMAZING feedback. And bonus—I know they all care about me, they want my story to be the best that it can be, and they want to see my stories and I succeed. THAT’s what I need most from a writing coach.

As for my writing coach style?

You know that saying, “Do unto others…” I am a complete combination of what I want in a writing mentor. Gentle and Brutal Honesty (or at least I think so). “Constructively brutal” I call it. I guess I give that kind of feedback because that’s the kind I’d like in return.

PS - GOOD LUCK to all my writer friends doing NaNo!!! I wish you ginormous word counts, superfantastical worlds and settings, characters the world will fall in love with, and stories that keep readers up way beyond bedtimes! I'm not participating this year (super busy revising), but I'll be YOUR NaNo cheerleader!!! Write, write, write!

So, how about YOU? What mentor-coaching style works best for you? Are you doing NaNo this year?!