Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What's Up Wednesday


 
 
Warning: This post may be a little negative and somewhat possibly very depressing. Read at your own risk.

What I'm Reading: I just finished this
 
 
And um…I don’t think you want me to review this one. On a writing scale—it gets 4 out of 5 stars. It has just about everything a best-selling, incredible story should—amazing premise, exceptional writing, plot twists I never saw coming… But I don't know if I just read it on the worst weekend ever or if I am truly a cultural swine (everyone else LOVED it) or if it didn't do the one thing for me that I need stories to do—give me a likeability factor. From fifty pages in, I didn't really care for either main character (and not much more for the people around them) and so I really didn't care much about what happened to them.
Anyway—if anything, reading GONE GIRL has validated what I already know
a) why I write YA (more on this in a future post)

b) that reading and writing appreciation is VERY subjective
c) that in order to enjoy a story, this girl needs to like the main characters—no matter how unlikeable they can be.
Also, this is ONE person's opinion. Many other people (including everyone in my book club) LOVE the story. So, happy reading!
Currently I'm beta reading a friend's manuscript which I've been very excited about reading and just started reading and OMG—it's hilarious already and so full of awesome and I'm only on page 10.
*breaks to read more*

correction—page 100.
After that, I've got three amazing books on the literal bedside table: GRASPING AT ETERNITY, JUST ONE DAY, and WONDER. My summer reading list is looking sunny!

What I'm Writing:

Between the Writer's Voice and some rather sucky stuff that happened last week, I've managed to do virtually nothing with my SNI this week. I finally got my synopsis to a place where I don't want to burn my entire manuscript just so I don't have to deal with it, but I'm still not a big fan of it. But, it works. And it's done.

But I do need to be writing. A LOT. Since I'm officially in querying mode, I will need the distraction of something fresh and new. More on that Monday. J 

What Else I've Been Up To:
On a positive note, I received several requests for my manuscript through the Writer's Voice Blogfest.  Which, on Thursday, was awesome and fabulous and all kinds of exciting, but (and sadly there is a but) on Friday I was rather numb to most of it. I thought about not sharing today—didn't want to leave you all depressed and yucky, but well, this is what's up on my Wednesday. Last Thursday night, one of my dear, sweet seniors was caught in a rip current and drowned.  His name was Shak. He quarterbacked our football team to a state championship win in December. He was named Local Player of the Year. Our local newspaper described him as a good guy and a good football player, but for those that knew him, he was an amazing person and an exceptional football player with a beautiful disposition, a compassionate soul, and a huge heart. I was very fortunate to teach him for two years and take stats for his games on Friday nights. Often, he would stop by my room, yell in "Hey, Mrs. Miller!" on his way to his next class. He did that just the other day, and his big smile and happy face are cemented in my mind.
 a compassionate soul, and a HUGE heart.  I was very fortunate to teach him for two years and to take stats for him on Friday nights.  And often he would stop by room, yell in "Hey, Mrs. Miller!" on his way to class. He did that the day he passed away. His big smile and happy face are cemented in my mind.
Shak was a friend to everyone. He had such a bright future ahead of him. I'm still having a very difficult time wrapping my head around WHY.
I'm heartbroken. My students, my colleagues - heck - the entire community, we're beyond devastated. I can't even imagine the pain his family is going through right now.

Pray and think good thoughts for our Stallion family.  

What Inspires Me Right Now:

Okay, so CLEARLY we all need something light and funny after that.



I can't wait for that movie!

Sorry to leave you all depressified. Have a wonderful week, folks! And tune back in Monday. You'll want to. Trust me!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What's Up Wednesday


 
 
What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk are the hosts, and we'd love for you to join in the fun! Just hit up their blogs and sign up on the linky.

What I'm Reading: Recently I read this

Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt--with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…

I really enjoy Miranda Kenneally's stories—they've got great messages, but also light-hearted stories with extremely relatable characters. And they're easy reads (I read this one in the car on Mother's Day) I very much liked CATCHING JORDAN (it's about football—what's not to like?!) and loved STEALING PARKER (which, btw, if you read TICF, you get to spend a lot of time with Parker and Will again!), but I think out of the three—I like this one most of all. And while I was not a big Kate Kelly fan in the beginning, she grew on me—BIG time. Her story (and that of her crush Matt) is HUGE—thought-provoking, swoon-worthy, and well…it hit pretty close to home. I'm certain this one will stick with me for a long time.

Currently I'm reading this

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

I've been wanting to read this novel for a while and when my book club put it up for selection, I was all over that choice. I'm only 30 pages in but WOW. I want to drop everything and finish it tonight!

What I'm Writing: Tweaking my synopsis (they are pure evil) and editing the front pages of my unnamed SNI. Yes, I did say UNNAMED. Which is okay—I know this—BUT I have nine other projects on the backburner and they all have names. They may not have formulated plot lines or even strong premises right now, but they have titles. This is just a little weird for me, that's all.

Regardless, I get wicked excited about this little no-named WIP every time I work on pages or think about parts of the plot. I comment to myself when I edit or reread. There are a few a lot of these: LOVE! And YES. But don't worry. The story's not all peaches and roses. I also have a lot (seriously…a LOT) of these comments: FIX ME PLEASE!

Also—just so you know—I am not a funny person. Seriously. Comedian would be the LAST choice on my personality profile, but I can do funny in stories. Last week, while sitting in the doctor's office with my daughter (boo ear infections) I edited pages and couldn't stop snickering. I'd share one of said funny passages, but um…Alison's a little afraid you won't think it's funny. But I at least make myself laugh. 

*sigh*

Don’t you love the giddiness of new WIP relationships!

What Inspires Me Right Now:




Why? Um, well the entire soundtrack constitutes the SNI playlist.

I've performed in the stage version twice, helped choreograph the show for my high school, and my daughter's musical theatre group is currently performing songs from GREASE this year. About a week ago, we went to Myrtle Beach for a dance competition and her troupe performed it. They were absolutely incredible! And my writing heart was all allegro while watching, just thinking about elements of my story.

Am I making you want to gag with my SNI gush yet? Yeah, probably. I'll be quiet now. ;)

This has served inspirational purposes too


Yep. NINE more school days until I give my last exams. The rumor that I'm leaving the hallowed halls of teaching has taken off exponentially and my kids are all mad at/disappointed with/happy for me. But they get it. And they really are happy for me. Actually, most of my students this semester are seniors and we're all ready to GO!

But if there's one thing about the job I will truly miss—it's them. June 10 will be rather bittersweet.

What Else I've Been Up To

Um, so you know that little Writer's Voice contest I entered?

CUPID PICKED ME FOR TEAMCUPIDLC13!!!!

*ahem*

Last week was exciting and awesome and all kinds of exhausting, but it was such an honor and a pleasure to work with some other amazing writers as we tightened up queries and first pages and man, do they have some killer stories! Our polished entries are up on Cupid's blog this week (here's mine if you want to check it out) and agents will vote on them Thursday and Friday. I'm just a little a lot nervous and I'm REALLY going to have to restrain myself from refreshing Cupid's page every five seconds. But again—I'm flattered and honored to be a part of this competition.

And I just totally sounded like a legit VOICE contestant. But it's all true.

Sorry if I sounded all gaggy and gushy. It's been a whirlwindy two weeks.

So…what are YOU up to? Let me know in the comments!!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What's Up Wednesday


 
What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk are the hosts, and we'd love for you to join in the fun! Just hit up their blogs and sign up on the linky. :)

What I'm Reading: This past weekend, I tore through two pretty amazing stories.
 
Will

Maybe I'm too late. Maybe Zoe's dad stole all her fifteen years and taught her to be scared. I'll undo it. Help her learn to be strong again, and brave. Not that I'm any kind of example, but we can learn together.
When the whole world is after you, sometimes it seems like you can't run fast enough.

Zoe

Maybe it'll take Will years to come to terms with being abandoned. Maybe it'll take forever. I'll stay with him no matter how long it takes to prove that people don't always leave, don't always give up on you.

 
I just knew this story would be good from the first page, and I was as caught up in Will and Zoe's unpredictable adventure as they were. Zoe had me at hello. I completely bought her, felt for her, and in some ways could very much relate to her. Will was a harder sell—his background, rough hard edges, and anger flare ups –well, it took a bit for him to grow on me. But it was completely obvious that he loved Zoe and that he was trying so hard to make good choices. And pretty soon in, I rooted for both of them. All the time. And you will too.
 If you're looking for fast-paced contemporary romance that will wrench your heart and challenge your thinking, READ THIS STORY. NOW.

I also pretty much devoured this book in one sitting

When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.

My dear friend Katy Upperman recommended this book to me because a) it's pretty freaking awesome and b) Travis sounds a lot like the main character of my story. She was right on both counts. I loved everything about Travis—his voice, his story, even his bad choices. LOVE him. :)
 
If you're looking for a AMAZING contemporary read - this is it.
 
 What I'm Writing: Um...this blog post. ;)
 
Just kidding. Since I did a final run on my MS, I've been tweaking my synopsis and cleaning up the seventy pages I wrote on my SNI back in November. Guys—this project. I. AM. DYING. Like in a good way dying. Every time I reread passages, I laugh out loud and fall in love with my new characters all over again. My plan is to clean up the current pages in May and write the rest of it this summer. We'll see if Alison can actually stick to that plan, but I. AM. EXCITED.
 
  What Inspires Me Right Now: 
 

I haven't been picked for The Writer's Voice Contest, but the blogosphere has been throwing some major love my way. It's incredibly wonderful and all kinds of inspiring. Thank you writing community!!!
What Else I've Been Up To: I'm still recovering from sleep deprivation from chaperoning a senior trip to Florida two weeks ago. But ya know—I did go to Universal and Disney. And the seniors were a pretty awesome group. And…AND I had a butterbeer with these two lovelies

Alexandra, Karen, and me!
And I've been watching A LOT of soccer lately. The husband recently earned his 300th win with his girls. They beat cross-town rivals last week, won their first playoff game last night. And my daughter's team brought home the gold in their soccer tournament this past weekend in Charleston!
Things are crazy—but good crazy. And a welcome distraction from the Writer's Voice. From the querying I'll be doing. Soon. My nails are already brittle and edgy and all but non-existent. Jeez.
So…what are YOU up to?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Writer's Voice Entry

 
I've been randomly selected to participate in Cupid's Literary Connection's Writer's Voice Contest! Can you guess how I'm feeling about that?

a) EXCITED
b) CraZeD
c) Nervous
d) All of the above
Uh-huh. You guessed it. That last one.

But seriously, I am really excited and a huge thank you to Cupid, Brenda Drake, Monica B.W., and Krista Van Dolzer for hosting! If you're curious to see how the contest works, click here.

As part of the contest, I'm sharing my query and the first 250 of my YA Magical Realism CHICK MAGNET. Enjoy!

THE QUERY:
Dear Writer's Voice Coaches:
JD Marshall has a power most guys would trade their left nut for. With one hypnotizing look, he can get a girl to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. And for three years he’s racked up more scores than Brett Favre. But his power’s not a blessing. It’s just a curse.

And it is a curse. One he’s got three months to break or lose any chance of ever having a real relationship. The only way to break the curse—learn to love and be loved. Like that’s going to happen. JD needs to focus on quarterbacking his team to the state finals. He needs to pass freaking math. And he needs to quit thinking about Susan Milton. She’s taken. She’s forbidden. Worse—she seems to be the only one immune to his power.

But JD can’t get away from her. The principal (aka Mom) arranges tutoring with Susan to save a shaky English grade. But when math and football botch the after-school sessions, the “tutoring” with Susan continues over late night phone calls. JD discovers that he’s going to have to do a little more than just look at a girl to charm the skirt off her. And he finds that underneath that tight little body lies a pretty screwed up past, one that parallels his own.
What blooms is a relationship JD can’t tell anyone about—not even his best friend. Because Susan—the one he wants, the one he can’t avoid, the one who could break the curse—just happens to be his hot new English teacher.

At 98,000 words, my young adult fiction CHICK MAGNET is a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a Paradise Lost twist. It explores second chances, defying odds, and the bonds of friendship.
I am a member of SCBWI, the South Carolina Writers Workshop, and the Write Brained Network. I am also a founding member of the group blog YA Confidential, a resource for YA writers devoted to all things teen, all the time.
Thank you for your time and consideration.

THE FIRST 250
Getting with Susan Milton should be the last thing on my mind.
I should be thinking Northeast and their defensive line, the one that racks up eight QB sacks a game. I should be running through Coach’s five new plays—the ones the Panthers won’t see on the scouting tapes. I should think about how David and I are going to get a keg for the beach after the game. Or how if I don’t play the game of my life, we won’t even need one.
Maybe I should focus on my senior project.
Or the Pre-Calc test I have in thirty minutes.
            But I just can’t get my mind off her.
            Ever since she glided into English on the first day of school, I haven’t been able to focus on much else. And not just because Susan Milton’s the hottest chick I’ve ever seen. I mean, she is: tight little body, sexy smile, shiny blond hair that smells like the jasmine growing in my backyard. She has a habit of wearing these low cut tops, and if she bends over just right, I almost get a free show. And God, her voice. The way she recites poetry, it’s like she’s singing—just to me. I used to hate English. Now I hate the wait until third period for my new favorite class.
            But Susan Milton is forbidden. Off limits. I can’t have her.
            And unfortunately I can get practically anybody.

 
I hope you enjoyed my query and excerpt. Thank you again Writer's Voice hosts and coaches!