Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas and Doctor Who

Yeah, this Christmas I spent quality time with my family. We hung out, bickered, played games and generally frazzled each other's nerves. And sure, I ate a ton of rich, sweet, nummy food. But my Christmas was truly complete when we arrived back at home yesterday and plunked down on the couch to watch the Doctor Who specials from Season 4.

THEN I caught the Season 5 Christmas special on the telly...which bled into an entire marathon of the Christmas specials from each season. I tell you, the night was magical - snow falling outside my window, fireplace blazing, dogs at my feet - a festive Doctor Whoville- seriously, it was bliss.

So - did you what did you think of The Christmas Carol? I loved the blending of Dickens and Doctor. ;) Indeed, we're half way out of the dark. Now it's back to writing - on to the bright new year...have a happy one!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Last Minute Gifts and Books to Buy with Your Holiday Money

We hope everyone has a fun, safe and happy holidays!

We all have times when we're behind on our holiday shopping and I'm sure this year isn't any different. It is Christmas Eve. Santa is finishing up in the workshop and everyone else is running to the malls and stores for last minute shopping. I thought I would help you out in what to buy book wise. There are so many great books to be gifted, or even something for yourself if you receive gift cards or money from family and friends to spend on something you'll love. Here are a few of my most recent reads that I can't say enough about.


Matched by Ally Condie (from bn.com)-

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.


The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (from BN.com)-

Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement—left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

Edward Scissorhands meets The Catcher in the Rye in this wildly imaginative and frighteningly beautiful horror novel about an unusual boy and his search for a place to belong.


Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (from BN.com)-

Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

Edgy and gripping, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.



The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (from BN.com)-

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get their lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.

In the Maze, life was easy. They had food, and shelter, and safety . . . until Teresa triggered the end. In the world outside the Maze, however, the end was triggered long ago.

Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated—and with it, order—and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim . . . and meal.

The Gladers are far from finished with running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They must cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Thomas can only wonder—does he hold the secret of freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wicked Short Stories

Lately I've been reading collections of paranormal or fantasy-ish short stories - either written by a single author or anthologies. I'm working on a few short works myself and there's nothing better than reading samples within your genre to help your writing. You see what's been done, what is possible and what you may attempt to accomplish with your work.


Anyway, here are a few of the titles I've been digging into, in case you're looking for some short sensational tales. If you have any others to recommend - please comment on this post.


The Eternal Kiss: 13 Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire



- edited by Trisha Telep. Authors include: Libba Bray, Melissa de la Cruz, Kelley Armstrong, Cecil Castellucci (love that there are several Canadians!) and more.






Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link


- this author is wonderfully odd, taking tales down roads I never would have expected. "The Wrong Grave" is my favourite.




Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor


- illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo - amazing real world meets the fantastical tales with gothic/graphic novel-ish illos.




Blood Roses by Francesca Lia Block


- short reads that will haunt you. Seriously.






Love is Hell

- authors include: Melissa Marr, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier and more. There are several other titles in this stories from "Hell" series which is partially a fundraiser: Vacations From Hell, Prom Nights From Hell, Kisses From Hell. "A portion of the proceeds will be donated to College Summit".




Zombies vs. Unicorns

- compiled by Holy Black and Justine Larbalestier. Authors include: Maureen Johnson, Garth Nix, Cassandra Clare, Carrie Ryan and more. After reading about the Zombies vs. Unicorn blog debate started by Black and Larbalestier, I'd heard about this book - however...lol....I thought it was going to be the actual arguments for and against from these two authors and didn't bother to investigate further. When I saw it at a bookstore and flipped through, realizing it was a collection of short stories with authors writing to support their "team" (zombie or unicorn)...I had to read it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Looking Through a New Set of Eyes

For me, December is never a huge month for writing. The holidays get in the way and to be honest, I'm just plain burnt out by NaNoWriMo. This year is no different. The thought of writing right now is exhausting, but I must admit, I miss it. I decided to do the next best thing...the four letter word to some writers...

Edit.

Now, I know that's not very unusual. A lot of people edit their first drafts in the month of December. Their NaNo stories are still fresh in their mind and they can continue the flow and pace they kept up all in the month of November. To finish the draft and begin to make it coherent (because, seriously, how many NaNoWriMo words seriously survive the first edits?). See, this is where I'm doing something different. I have decided to push away the two new stories I've been working on (the one I started about six months ago, and my NaNoWriMo project) and focus on something that I'm not so close to anymore.

I've started editing the story, Lost and Found, that I queried about a year and a half ago. I'd pushed it out of my mind, pushed it far in the depths of my drawers and my computer folders. I realized last month, it may be the time to bring it back into the light. It has been awhile since I've even thought about it, much less read it.

It's funny how different each word looks on the paper now. How foreign the words are to me. I used to know this story by heart, it was a map of my mind. Now, it's just words on a page and that is exactly how I want it to be. I'm able to edit from a distance. See the mistakes that were always there, but I was unable to pluck them out because I always knew which word came next.

I hope I can be objective through the whole process and begin to query again the next few months. I love the story, and I want others to love it as well. Wish me luck!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Second Skin Booktrailer

So thrilled to announce the trailer for Second Skin, sequel to Under My Skin, is now available for viewing. Madison at M2 Productions is a media marvel. She's been doing trailers for authors since she the age of 17 and is now in film school. Go figure. If you're an author looking for someone to whip up a stellar trailer for your work, look no further.

Here's the blurb:

With FIENDS Like Eryn…

Eryn struggles to resist the beast clawing at her soul as darkness settles over her like a second skin. She’s made a deal, and she can’t let a dead man down. Not unless she wants her friends and family to relocate – six feet under.

When Eryn and her crew each face their own demons, loyalties are tested and temptations abound. Can she share a future with the brooding, noble, human Alec – the hunter after her heart? Or will she succumb to her enemy’s son, Wade, a seductive predator as bloodthirsty as she is?

What happens when you’re both the beauty and the beast?


And the trailer:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What a Month!

Sorry we've been so quiet the past week or so of the month, but Tracy and I have been hard at work on our NaNoWriMo projects. Now that December is here, we can all breath a sigh of relief. I know I am. I will be focusing on getting my crochet and knitting projects finished for Christmas, which in some ways is just as stressful as NaNo is!

As you can see here, I won! This is the first time it has taken me all 30 days to complete NaNoWriMo

This year I had a different approach to NaNoWriMo. I was working on a project that I dreamed up (literally, the idea came from a dream). I went into it knowing that it probably wouldn't be a project I would see to the end, but instead would just get me back into the groove of writing every day, or at least most days. It did just that. I had a great time writing it, without the pressures of wanting to take it through the editing stages and beyond. Instead, I wrote where the story and characters took me, not worrying how crazy or silly it was getting. It was great just to write freely and it even sparked a few ideas for other stories.

Another thing this NaNoWriMo project showed me, I'm probably better suited to write contemporary YA, opposed to fantasy/paranormal, etc. Contemporary YA speaks to me, and my writing style is best suited for it. My lovely crit partners have been saying that for awhile, but I think I needed to see it for myself to really understand what they were talking about.

NaNo was just about writing this year for me, not writing the best book, or the book that could maybe lead me to an agent after endless edits, it was about having fun with writing again.

What did you learn this year from NaNoWriMo about your projects and yourself?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

NANO End Approacheth

And so the end of NANO draws near. I know I won't reach 50k, I'll be lucky to get 25k, however the experience has been worthwhile. I've moved faster with this WIP than with previous first drafts and I was inspired to work on a short story as well.

I'm hoping to keep this pace up for December/January and see if I can produce 25k each month - that's a decent first draft and in 3 months. Managable for me, I think.

Many of my NANO buddies, Tami included, are already nearing 50k or have won already. YOU GUYS ROCK! I'm amazed at your commitment. Whoopa! On December 1st I expect you all to have a decent shower, do your laundry and RELAX...you've earned some serious downtime.

Me? I'll still be plugging away. ;)

I did want to share one of my fav lines from my superhero NANO project. In this scene, Scarlet has just crashed into Jordan with her car. Jordan doesn't want to report the accident she never should have survived.


“So you’re saying you don’t want to involve the cops?” Scarlet rephrases. This is a seriously unexpected twist. Who gets hit by a car and doesn’t want to report it or get checked over?

“That’s right.” Jordan waits and in that waiting is life or death. Jordan’s life. Scarlet’s death. She waits for Scarlet to process her words. To react. And based on that reaction, Jordan will either reach for Elijah’s deathray gun resting in her coat pocket, or she won’t.


Do you have a fav few NANO project lines you want to share?? Let's have them!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

And On We Go...

Hello happy NaNoWriMoers. At least, I hope you're happy. How's the word count going? If you're in the US, are you already dreading the Thanksgiving break, trying to write around time with the family?

This week was big for me. Not only did I totally catch up, I am now ahead. As of Thursday night, I have 32,031 words. I hope to stay ahead so that I don't have to pull out all the stops when I get back from the holiday the last two days. Is it just me, or is Thanksgiving super late this year?

My story is going good, the pacing could be better, but that's not what's important for NaNo. I'm still enjoying the concept and getting to really know my characters so it's fun each and every day. It's the words down on the page, telling the story in a messy first draft. That's what the following months are for, to make it a GOOD manuscript.

If you're a little behind, don't worry. There is still time to catch up. It's possible. Believe me, I've done it. If you're having trouble concentrating, try to get out of the house to write. Whether you have a laptop, an Alphasmart or just the simple pen and paper, you would be shocked how much you can get done away from distractions.

I hope all of the US YAedgers have a great Thanksgiving! Eat lots of turkey, read lots of books and oh yeah, don't forget to write a few words, too!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shifting Gears: From Paranormal to Steampunk

For my NANO project (which is moving slower than I'd hoped), I decided to diversify and skip my usual genre, paranormal fiction. I had intended on this piece to be completely supernatural/magic/fantasy free, alas...the rotten thing had other ideas. A few pages into Rogues Gallery, the story of four looserish teens uniting against a common foe (the town's superhero) I knew my underachieving overachievers wouldn't stay contemporary YA. Nope, all too soon they managed to work in fantastical elements and I could only sit back, type and watch it happen.

However, this is definitely not paranormal fiction, so I feel I've had a measure of success with my effort to branch out. If anything it's more steampunk/supervillain/dark comic - but set in the present day. Sooo, how's that for mashing up genres?And though you may argue that steampunk uses science and gadgets....said gadgets are fantastical, impossible things, not contemporary "real life" YA in any sense.

Steampunk and superheroes/villains conventions complement each other - both have braniac mad scientists to be defeated, there are nifty gadgets that help save the day and strange man-made creatures. A Rogues Gallery of villains with quirky abilities is (are??) always nice, as is a failed romance or unrequited love. Toss in a rival for the true love's affections and possibly the end of the world and whoopa - you've got yourself one hell of a tale.

Really, paranormal fiction isn't too far off. I've just traded gadgets for magicks. Now if I can only get my butt in gear and shift into PLAID....I might be able to get to 50,000 by the end of the month. If not, I can always use my handy cross-over SUV (aka mini-TARDIS - it's much bigger on the inside) to go back in time and fit in more words.

Hmmmm....perhaps I'm watching too much Doctor Who. Ya think? Good luck meeting your word counts, my mad NANO friends!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Week Two Almost to a Close

The weekend is almost here, and that means that week two of NaNoWrimo is almost over. It was a bumpy week for me, but only because of laziness. Last Friday, I was on track, doing so good. Maybe a little too good, because I only wrote a few hundred words on Friday. See, I had an excuse, I was busy making this for my niece as a Christmas gift. Why were you so panicked when you have over a month left before Christmas, you ask? Because, I'm stupid and decided to make everyone's gifts this year. And yes, I am panicked that I won't finish and will have to run to the mall on Christmas Eve with all the other stupid people who wait until the last minute.

Then came Saturday. I felt so accomplished, finishing the bag and sitting pretty with my NaNo word count that I didn't write. Instead, we went to Long Beach for a fun short road trip, visiting a local yarn store and a tiki bar. There was always Sunday. We had no plans, the day would be a writing day, right? Wrong. Sunday came around, and though we didn't necessarily have plans, we still had to do stupid errands like go to the market that take way too long. By the time I got home, that last thing I wanted to do was write.

Flash forward to today (Thursday as I type this, at 6pm). I am caught up to where I should be, sitting at 18,431 words (actually a few words over the end goal for Thursday). Easy, right? Wrong. I've worked my butt of this week, sitting in the same chair each day for 6+ hours. I have felt accomplished as the days come to a close, but I felt as if I was fighting a losing battle. Every morning I would wake up only further behind.

There was no way I could climb back up, I thought on Monday, then Tuesday, and then on Wednesday, but I did. Each day I had to write 2,500+ words (Thursday I wrote 3,037 words) to get there. It wasn't easy, but I did it and you can too.

If you're behind and feel like there is no way you can do it, think of me. Sure, I had to work hard each day, but I got it done. If you focus and put your mind to it, it's possible. Right now, I will say, I learned my lesson. I will be writing 2,000+ Friday. I may not hit my writing goal on Saturday and Sunday, but I plan to get something down, even if it's a few words added to the final count. Every little bit helps, right?

Tami's word count at the end of day 11: 18,431

I hope everyone had a great Veteran's Day in the US and Remembrance Day in Canada yesterday. I wanted to thank all the soldiers for risking their lives to make ours better.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Class of 2k10 Multi-Title Giveaway

Five book clubs across the US can win a prize pack of three to six sets of books written by the authors from the Class of 2K10. Each pack includes TEN copies of each book, and in some packs one of the books will be signed by the author. The contest is open to all book clubs associated with a nonprofit institution, a school, or a library. To enter, just comment on this entry, specifying which of the prize packs you are interested in and which nonprofit you are affiliated with. The giveaway will end on November 11, 2010.

MID_GRADE FANTASY PACK:

The Carnival of Lost Souls by Laura Quimby
Under the Green Hill by Laura L. Sullivan
The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter

MID-GRADE CONTEMPORARY PACK:


Fairview Felines: A Newspaper Mystery by Michele Corriel
Island Sting by Bonnie J. Doerr
Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham
The Reinvention of Edison Thomas by Jacqueline Houtman
Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

YA FANTASY/PARANORMAL PACK

13 To Life by Shannon Delany
Freaksville by Kitty Keswick
Mistwood by Leah Cypess
Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen
Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
Under My Skin by Judith Graves

YA CONTEMPORARY PACK 1

Change of Heart by Shari Maurer
Faithful by Janet Fox
Losing Faith by Denise Jaden
The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride

YA CONTEMPORARY PACK 2

Of All the Stupid Things by Alexandra Diaz
Party by Tom Leveen
Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards
The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard
Split by Swati Avasthi

Rules:
You must be a book club affiliated with a nonprofit, school, or library, and located in the continental United States.

To enter, leave a comment to this entry: (http://community.livejournal.com/classof2k10/27411.html).

Specify which of the prize packs you are interested in – you may choose from only one, to all five, as we will be holding 5 separate drawings. (However, no club will win more than one prize pack.)

Leave an email address where you can be reached should you win.

If the email address is a not an institution address, please specify which nonprofit, school, or library you are affiliated with.

If you are not sure whether you qualify, just leave the relevant information in the comment.
If there are any additional questions, please contact Leah Cypess at LCypess@gmail.com.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Week 1 of NaNoWrimo (or the first 4 days)

Can you believe that the first 4 (or 5 depending what time you're reading this) days have completed for NaNoWrimo 2010? I can't! The time is flying by, and I'm keeping up...barely.

This is the first year I've sat down in hopes of writing something good. Okay, maybe that's not true, but this year I'm not putting words down just for the word count and thinking I'll edit when I get to it. I'm choosing my words wisely and trying to get something down worthwhile. It will be still be a rough 1st draft, but I hope to have more substance than my last NaNoWrimo years. That's not to say that my last ones were all crap. I did turn my last two NaNoWrimo books into a completed manuscript that I'm proud of and queried with some success (though no agent). The one from last year is still in the works, going through edit after edit and have high hopes for it. I just wish it had been a little cleaner after November 30th.

That is my plan for this year. To have something that is readable without cringing (too much), but to still hit the goal of 50,000. I will say, this is also the year that I'd like to hit the goal, but won't kick myself if I don't. I participated in NaNo this year, not to have 50,000 words of a new book (well, that's partly it), but to get myself out of the editing funk.

The book I spoke of above, the one in edits, has got me down. I stopped working on it consistently and felt like I didn't know where to turn. Instead of fighting through it like I should have, I let other things distract me in my life. I shouldn't have, but I needed something like NaNo to get the juices flowing again. I think I needed to step back and start on something fresh, to get a new perspective on my writing and my creativity. I'm hoping NaNo does that for me, and so far it has. I forgot how fun it is to create a new world and spend time with new friends (err, characters).

Each day, it has taken most of the day (at least 5 hours) to hit my daily word count, and I'm okay with that. I don't need to bang out 1,666 words (or more) in an hour just to say that I can. I want to choose each word, each letter wisely. That being said, I hope I can speed up a little more once I know my word and characters better. I guess we'll find out once I wrap up week one and start on week two.

How are you doing with your word count?

Tami's word count at the end of day 4: 7,287

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's all about NANO, baby!

Well. NANO Eve is behind us. This is the day - the beginning. Let's get'er done. ;) November is going to be a quite month for me, a few author visits, the day job, and NANO. That's it. I'm not going to Twitter/blog/Facebook - I'm NOT! (Well, maybe a bit to promo said author visits. Oh, and my weekly blog post here...but that's all.)

I'm "going dark" - hitting the writer's cave and won't come up for air until December. I think it will be liberating. I've been tied to the Net for most of October due to blog tours, etc - while they've been a blast - they are a major time suck. It will be wonderful to just WRITE.

Lord knows what my house will look like after a month, but who cares, right? This is NANO, baby! If you're participating this year, find me - I'm there as JudithG.

Good luck!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween and Beginning of NaNoWrimo

First off, I wanted to say happy Halloween to everyone who celebrates. It's one of my favorite holidays, though the past few years we haven't done much. This year, we hope to find a party or two and have a little fun. Please be safe if you plan to go out on the town! Some weird crap can happen on Halloween (I was actually in a car accident on Halloween several years ago).

Be sure not to get too crazy come October 31st. The next day is a special one...the first day of NaNoWrimo. What's the best way to get through the first week? Eat the left over Halloween candy, and if you don't have any left, be sure to stop by your local store to buy the crazy discounted candy they have to get rid of!

Speaking of NaNoWrimo, are you ready? Our critique group shared our ideas for plots and decided just last night which to work on. I had two ideas that are very different and wasn't sure which to pick. Both had potential, but with the girls' help, I was able to decide.

Right now, I have a basic idea of my story, and a very very very (did I mentioned very?) rough synopsis. I'm at the point where I wonder if I have enough to write 50,000 words in the 30 days ahead, but each year I go through self-doubt. Don't let it swallow you up, or you will never get past the first 5,000 words, let alone 50,000. I hope I can use my own advice.

I've been in a writing funk lately, so I hope that writing the first draft of a new book snaps me out of it so I can get back to editing my current WIP, Parlor. I'm stuck on the editing part, prodding along but just don't know where to take some of the chapters. By cranking out a lot of crappy words in the month of November, maybe I'll have them out of my system and only the good ones will be left to finish editing my book!

Here's to hoping! Next week, I'll give an update on how my first 5 days of NaNo has gone. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I have around 9,000-10,000 words. I'd love to write most of my week's wordcount during the week so that I have the weekend free to not stress over it and plot/research for the next week.

What do you hope to accomplish the first week of NaNo? Do you have a schedule planned out?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pure Speculation Festival


My hubbie, my 2 crazy labs and I were on one hell of Joy READ this week. We travelled 7 hours to Grimshaw, Alberta for a few author visits to grade 7 and 8 students (well, just me, the rest of my crew hung out at the hotel room). From Grimshaw we drove another 6 hours to Edmonton to attend the 6th Annual Pure Speculation Festival - a small (but growing!) sci-fi / fantasy con where I sat on a few panels.


As we drove around the Radisson Hotel, desperately trying to find a place to park (I swear every nerd worth his/her weight in gold was at Pure Spec), we spied a green-skinned gentleman getting out of his vehicle. "We're in YOUR world now," my hubbie announced. Yes, we were. I was in nerd heaven the entire day. Walking amongst the costumed, the gamers, the keeners taking notes and the Geek Calendar Girls was quite the adventure. I presented a session on the SKINNED Series, gave an overview of the beasties in the SKINNED world and showed a sneak peek of the trailer for SECOND SKIN. But the best part - the cool people I met during my panels.

Tanya Huff (creator of the Blood series of books, turned into Blood Ties - a 2 season TV show) is so damn smart and well read and passionate. She kicked the snot out of any point she made and yet had time to chat with the newbie (that'd be me) and enjoyed hanging with fans.

Dan Brodribb is a nifty guy - a self-professed shy comic - a wrestling referee - and all around fantasy fan. His self-effacing humour is endearing.

Then there's Mike Perschon, an English prof / Steampunk Scholar who makes the classics come alive - ALIVE! Plus, he's up on his YA fiction and even shared some steampunk titles my high school History teacher hubbie could use in class.

As panelists, we engaged in heated discussions - the sparkling vampire debate, paranormal fiction as the modern fairytale, which sci-fi title should "stay on the island", the morphing of paranormal fiction into genres like steampunk and what was next for the genre in general. I left the fest with my inner nerd fully charged.

I hope I'm invited back next year. I'm going to get me a kickass costume. I wish I had taken pictures of the wicked cool costumes, but alas - epic fail on my part. (Many thanks to my brother, Blaise, who kindly took pics of the SKINNED session for me - and my sister, Brenda - who helped me setup!) Until next year, Pure Spec.....

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fighting Distraction

There are so many distractions in life--books, tv, and other hobbies. Mix in family and friends and sometimes it's hard to get anything done and by anything, I mean writing. Times are about to get worse, with the holiday season approaching upon us faster than I can type this. Before we know it, it will be Halloween, Thanksgiving (for our US readers) and then the December holidays (whatever you may celebrate). Not only is it hard to get everything done, it's even harder to make sure you sit down and concentrate on your story. I know for me, when I'm in the zone on one of my books, my mind tends to constantly think about it, working out issues that I'm having or just living in the world I created. During the holidays it's different, I'm thinking about turkeys, vacation, presents and hot chocolate (okay, maybe a buttered rum or two as well. I'm not going to lie). Add in NaNoWrimo, and you've got a mess on your hands.

As I've mentioned here before, I got into crochet about a year ago. It helps me relax, concentrate on something theraputic and fun. I love it because I can take it anywhere, I've met amazing people and it gives me something to do when my husband wants to watch really terrible movies. I even started a crochet blog, Tami's Amis and Other Crochet. It started as a hobby, but now it has crept into my thinking of writing time and even my actual writing time. I hope that NaNo helps me set my priorities back to where they should be. I'm not saying that it has taken over my time writing, but it has slowly moved into that space. It will be a huge test for me come November. I will be working on a new book for NaNoWrimo (I have two stories brewing and I'm not sure which I'd like to write yet), the holidays and on top of all that, I've decided to make many of my gifts this year. I'm excited about that, but to be honest, it's a lot easier to go out to the mall and purchase something. I hope to accomplish so much during November, more than just writing a first draft of a new YA novel.

What do you hope to accomplish with NaNoWrimo, other than 50,000 words?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

NANO Attack!

With NANO a few weeks away, participants like Tami and I are busy jotting plot notes, character traits, researching settings or time periods and seeing inspiration shining around every corner of life. I call it the hunter / gatherer stage, we're like bears getting ready to den for the winter - gorging ourselves for the ordeal ahead. Prepping for the inevitable dry spell (which should strike at about Day 19, just beyond the half way mark) when NANO seems like a freakish experiment in self-mutilation and the next word is the equivalent of the next drop on your forehead a la water torture.

Let's revisit that bear analogy. It resonates with me at the moment, since my yard was recently invaded. I took the dogs out early one morning, it was pitch black and they FREAKED out, barking, snarling - and frankly, scaring the crap out of me. I managed to get them inside the house, though they fought against their leashes the whole way. When the sun came up, I found out why. A bear had busted down a section of our fence to access our overripe crab apples and ripped down several branches for easy munching. Here's a pic of the damage:



The bear came back a few nights later, so we eliminated the problem - shook all the apples down and got rid of them. We've since fixed the fence and all's well. But, being a paranormal fiction author, I had to question - since we never really saw the bear - what if this incident didn't have an easy, natural explanation? What if something paranormal was at work? What if, instead of a bear, our house (which backs onto miles of woods) was encroaching on the territory of some other creature? Something old, something evil? A starving thing, desperate and hungry?


Like I said, me and that bear have a lot in common. We're both hoarding up all the nutrients we can - only in my situation - it's writerly goodness. And from the bear came the the geniuses of my NANO project. A busted fence, branches down from a tree - with huge claw marks carving up the trunk - black oozy liquid on the frosted lawn, leaving a trail to the woods, and a frazled single parent who poopoos her imaginative teen-aged daughter's foreboding feeling away.

Then things get worse....much, much worse.

Good luck to all NANO participants - here's to hunting down a wicked plot and characters to DIE for!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Preparing for NaNoWrimo Part1- The Idea

As I mentioned in last week's post, NaNoWrimo is right around the corner. Despite saying that I wasn't going to participate, I changed my mind. Why did I change it so quickly? Sunday I was laying in bed being lazy, reading my Twitter feed, when someone tweeted something totally innocent. It had nothing to do with books, writing, stories or anything you would think it would, but just a random life observation. Those 140 characters (actually, it was less), gave me a whole book idea. It just wasn't any old book idea, it was something that I instantly needed to write...like right now. What perfect timing right?

I quickly sat up, grabbed my Moleskine (that is always by my bedside) and began to write the idea down before it slipped away into the abyss of great ideas (and trust me, I have a LOT of those floating around, lost). After i wrote down the basic idea, my mind still raced, trying to put it all together. My husband was in the next room, so I ran (yes I literally ran) to him and told him all about it. I wanted to make sure I wasn't nuts, that this could really work. The great part? He agreed!

Now comes the hard part, building a world, characters and plot around this basic idea, all before November 1st. That's what I'll be working on in the days to come, trying to get enough of a platform, so to speak, to know where I'm taking the story. The first few years I wrote for NaNo, as I mentioned before, I just ran with it. I didn't know what I was writing until I sat down for the first time in November. The last few I had a plan. It worked out so much better and my first draft was much improved because of it.

Be sure to get as much down about your story, even if it's something as simple as your main character being allergic to strawberries. You won't regret it!

If you want to be my writing buddy for NaNoWrimo this year, my user name is Seeker4.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Crossroads Blog Tour: Press Release

If you love paranormal YA, you won't want to miss this tour:


This Halloween meet 16 YA Paranormal Authors at THE CROSSROADS! From October 16-31st, bloggers and authors will meet at a virtual crossroads, sharing their love of the paranormal and things that go bump in the night with readers.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


PRLog (Press Release) – Oct 12, 2010 – Canada, United States, Worldwide:

What’s dark, delicious and READ all over? Young adult paranormal fiction, my FIENDS, and what better way to celebrate debut and established authors in the genre than a blog tour frenzy? Over sixteen days this October (October 16-31) bloggers and authors will meet at a virtual crossroads, sharing their love of the paranormal and things that go bump in the night with readers.


Judith Graves, an Alberta based YA author, (Under My Skin. Leap Books, 2010) has organized the event, the first multi-author blog tours of its kind. She’s wrangled in New York Times bestselling authors (Tonya Hurley. Ghostgirl series. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) and newbies alike for the sixteen day promotional GOREfest. Participating bloggers will giveaway generous amounts of SWAG donated by the authors, as well as signed copies of Crossroad author titles.


Paranormal authors deal with the fantastical and the yearnings of their readers. “It’s a once a year opportunity to be anything and anyone you want to be. Anyone can be a princess, a superhero or a villain- all in one night.” Says Jordan Deen (The Crescent. Black Rose Writing, 2010). Joy Preble (Haunted. Sourcebooks Fire, 2011) agrees, “Halloween is a time for unloosening – of spirits and self.” Why not indulge in the spirit of reading? “[Halloween] is a time where the veil between the real and the unreal, the living and the dead, thins until you think you see strange shadows following you under the pumpkin-orange moon…” adds Karen Kincy (Other. Flux, 2010)


Besides the usual deal with the devil lore, crossroads symbolize so much more, as Angie Frazier (Everlasting. Scholastic Press, 2010) shares, “Literally or figuratively, a crossroads is place where a single decision will change everything. For me, a crossroads symbolizes choice and loss, and sometimes even bravery—when you choose one path, countless others are left behind, unexplored.” Amy Brecount White (Forget-Her-Nots. Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2010) expands, “A crossroads symbolizes new possibilities. We can’t see what’s going to happen in either direction, but a choice is unavoidable. We are our choices, which is both exciting and scary.”


This Halloween, choose to explore new stories, new voices. “It’s the only holiday that encompasses imagination to the fullest. A night to be whom ever you want to be, try someone’s shoes on for size…experience magic.” Encourages, Kitty Keswick (Freaksville. Leap Books, 2010).


How the tour works:


From October 16-31st, readers, under the thrall of Wade Gervais, a dark-side vampire from Judith Graves’ Under My Skin, hunt for answers to a new paranormal trivia question each day. The answers are hidden within a different blog post daily, encouraging readers to visit each blog, each day of the tour. Bloggers will be giving away a bevy of tricks and treats donated by Crossroads Tour authors. At the end of the tour, on October 31st compiled answers are sent to Graves and a grand prize winner is randomly selected from those with correct and complete entries. There will also be two live chats on October 31st and November 1st, bringing readers, authors and bloggers together for a final celebration on Halloween and the Day of the Dead.
For the full list of participating authors, bloggers and giveaways, check out The Crossroads event page: http://judithgraves.com/events/the-crossroads-tour/


-30-


To book an interview contact:Rachel Sentes/PublicistRachel@gal-fridaypublicity.com/604-366-7846
# # #


gal-friday is a publicist, and freelance writer She works with authors, agents, publishers, businesses and cool arts causes. She is partnered with Brian Wood- a non-fiction literary agent in Vancouver to maximize publicity exposure


— end —

Friday, October 8, 2010

NaNoWrimo is on its Way!

I know that we're only a week into October, but don't forget, NaNoWrimo is right around the corner. Despite not taking part in it this year, YAedge is always a huge supporter. I've done five out of the last six, and each year that I don't, it makes me a little sad.

To me, NaNoWrimo is more than 1,667 words a day or 50,000 in a month. It's a lesson that every word doesn't need to be right, the first draft doesn't need to be perfect. It's a community of writers, online and in my hometown that I may not have met otherwise. It's motivation to prove to myself that I can work every day, and still have time for other things in my life that I love to do.

This next month, I won't be focusing on a new story, but continuing my work on Parlor, my NaNoWrimo book from last year. As I did the last 1k-a-day, I will be focusing on editing. This time, I'm not going to give myself a daily word or edit count, but a challenge to myself to work hard each day. It's easy to get distracted, even when I have the whole day to write, by other things.

For those of you participating in NaNoWrimo this year, be sure to start thinking about your story, plotting it out and developing your characters. I usually fly by the seat of my pants to some extent during NaNo, but you will thank yourself for any pre-NaNo work you can get done. On the days where you don't have much time, or are having a tough writing day, having a plan and really knowing your characters will take you far.

I'd love to hear how many of you plan to participate this November, and what you've done so far to prepare.

On an off topic note, for those of you keeping track, I've started reading Frankenstein for my One Classic a Month Challenge. So far, it's not what I was expecting, but I'm enjoying it. I plan to continue to read modern YA while enjoying the classics, so it will be a little slower than my normal pace. As long as I finish in October, I'll be set!

Did anyone decide to join us in reading a classic a month?

Monday, October 4, 2010

JOY READ: Author visits from the author's POV

As a library technician, I've booked many author visits and am used to the drama. Contacting the author or the booking agency, arranging transport / hotel / meals, following up with the author, getting students and staff pumped for their visit, setting up, the big day and ongoing promos long after the author has left.


But now I'm getting to experience the beasts known as author visits, from the author's POV. Suddenly I'm dealing with taking time off, arranging transport, confirming meals/hotel and because I'm one lucky lady - having my hubbie and my two crazy labs along for the ride.

As we reached our hotel yesterday (after a 6 hour drive), I flipped through the room service menu and found this bookmark tucked inside. How appropriate. Yes, folks, we are on a JOY READ. ;)


Packing for two adults and two crazy labs involves a ton of creative thinking - but not the writer kind. My husband managed to cram all my gear in (books, books, books, laptop, camera, not to mention hair product!), along with his stuff and dog supples: crate, "blankets", food dishes, toys, bones, leashes, etc. (We're worse than new parents, I swear.)



We have a nifty system for traveling with the dogs - we've made several long trips with them before (Salt Spring Island in BC was the best trip EVER). Higgins, our chocolate lab has the back of our SUV, and Willow, our yellow lab, is tucked in her crate. No fighting while we're on the road or playing - you have the window I want to look out of / do you want to look out this window? TOUGH!

Amidst the potty breaks and walks around road-side turnouts, I worked on my presentations, polishing documents on my laptop and getting my husband's (and high school teacher) opinion on what writing process themes would best keep grade 7-12 kids interested.

I had a great time presenting a session this morning: Author Visits to DIE for: Virtual Author Visits - talking about all things writers currently do to promote their books (booktrailers, playlists, SWAG and social media) and how library staff can tap into those readily available resources. Plus I talked up Skype author visits and the Skype An Author Network. Highly recommened for public and school libraries wanting to connect readers and authors on a budget. I hope my session sparked some ideas and would love to hear success stories...hint, hint.

From the Parkland Regional Library conference in Lacombe, Alberta, we travelled through a touristy, but tres cool town, Sylvan Lake. Talk about beautiful pseudo-sea side homes!


I could so move there in a heartbeat. Lots of funky shops along the marina, pubs and restaurants, mini-golf, waterslides, go-carts and more. Nice. Making this a true, JOY READ, we stopped in a larger city, Red Deer, and checked out the Chapters. Low and behold, Under My Skin was on their shelves! I signed the copies and left some UMS swag. A very cool moment and I snagged a Chai latte too. ;)





One stop at a farmer's field later and the dogs were in their element. Yes, they might have crushed some grass as they tromped through a section of field, but man, did they have energy to kill.





















Tomorrow, I'll be presenting to students from Rocky Mountain House. A teacher has read all (or most of) UMS aloud to her grade 10 English class. I can't wait to see what kind of questions they ask....yikes! So that's it in a nutshell, lots of travel, fast food, dog walks, planning a la car, promoting reading and writing, and exploring the country. Author visits ROCK. Everyone should get to do at least one JOY READ. Right, Willow? Woof! ;)






Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy Bday YAedge!! And the Winner of Beautiful Darkness

Before I announce the winner of Beautiful Darkness, I wanted to say a few words about what YAedge means to me.

First off, I can't believe Tracy and I have been blogging for 2 years today. I wanted to thank her for sticking with me. I know some weeks it's hard to find something to blog about and after 2 years coming up with something insightful or original to say. For me, the posts that are the hardest to write sometimes are the best. We've been through ups and downs with our writing since we've started this blog, but we've come a long way. I wanted to publicly say I'm proud of you and the success you've found so far with Under My Skin.

Now onto what you've all be waiting for. Just to remind you, I decided to give away a signed ARC of Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl as a token of our love to our readers for the past 2 years.

For those of you who didn't win, thank you for entering and also for reading our blog! We really appreciate it and I wish I had a book for everyone. We do giveaways from time to time, so be sure to stick with us for a chance to win another great book.

I picked the winner by randomly generating a number--that being my husband choosing a number between 1 and 31 (we had 31 total comments). At the time, he had no clue why I asked him to pick a number, so it was completely random.

Drum roll please.....And the winner is:

The Brain Lair (KB)

CONGRATS!!!! Please email me your name and address at YAedge (at) yahoo (dot) com and I will send the book to you on Tuesday (if you send me your info in time)!

If the winner doesn't email by Friday, October 8th, a new winner will be randomly chosen.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gearing up for Frankenstein

Tami and I will both be re-reading Frankenstein this October, and I must confess, I'm doing so because I'm speaking on a very cool panel at the Edmonton Pure Speculation Sci-fi/Fantasy Lit Fest at the end of the month. Each member of the panel has to choose one classic sci-fi text published before 1980 and defend why it should still be read today. I chose Frankenstein for many reasons:

- it's one of the (or perhaps THE) original sci-fi novels
- it's part gothic novel, the foundation of the paranormal genre today
- I first read it when I was a teen and found parts confusing. The whole "telling a story through letters" convention was a struggle (I also found this with Dracula, but Frankenstein's language is super lofty and if you don't focus, you'll get lost in the prose.). This time around, I want to really soak it in.
- I've seen many films based on the book and in my experience, the book is ALWAYS better because no film budget can match the movie in my mind.

The mention of film brings me to the point of my post. Being October, there are numerous classic horror film collections on sale in the stores and I picked one up with a version of Franky I'd never heard of Frankenstein 80 from 1972. I've seen the original 1932 film with Boris Karloff, but my favourite version would have to be Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a film that sticks closely to the book. For a romantic version, there's Sting as Frankenstein in the 1985 film, The Bride. From a comedic perspecitve, nothing beats 1974's Young Frankenstein. There are a ton of Franky films out there, some sound super cheesy, like: Frankenhooker, Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster, etc. And then there are films loosely based on the themes in Frankenstein, like Re-Animator (1985) and the 2009 Canadian film, Splice.

It is those enduring themes that perpetuates our fascination with Shelley's monster. Nature vs science. Man's arrogance. Abandonment. Self-awareness. Abuse. Corruption. Ambition. The eternal "why am I here?". And more...all speaking to our day, our time, as if written just for us. Genetically modified food (often called "Frankenfood"), cloning, human genetic engineering, flu shots and super bugs, stem cell research, animal testing, etc, etc...

Why not revisit such a cautionary tale? We might learn something.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Beautiful Darkness Signed ARC Giveaway

Next Friday is YAedge's 2nd birthday. I knew I wanted to do something special for our readers, but wasn't quite sure what. Then, in July I was able to pick up an extra copy of Beautiful Darkness, the sequel to an amazing book by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia, Beautiful Creatures. Luckily, I had my husband in line at Comic Con when they were signing and giving them away, so he grabbed it for one lucky winner on our blog!


At first, I wasn't sure what would be the special occasion. It's not every day we give away a signed copy of an ARC before the release of the book! Then I remembered, October 1st is YAedge's 2 year birthday! There is no better way to celebrate such a huge date then to say thank you to one of our readers. I wish I could give each of you a book, but unfortunately, that is impossible.



Starting today, leave a comment on this post for a chance to win. The contest will close at noon PT on Thursday, September 30th so that I can choose the winner on our blog birthday, October 1st. The contest is open to all residents in North America (US, Canada, Mexico). Sorry to International readers, but I just don't have the cash to ship overseas at this time. I will be shipping the book to the winner that following Tuesday so that it will arrive before the book is in stores.

If you haven't read Beautiful Creatures yet, now is the perfect time. It was just released in paperback! Here is the description from bn.com:

There were no surprises in GatlinCounty.
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.

At least, that's what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.


And of course, the desciption for Beautiful Darkness from amazon.com (which officially releases October 12):

Ethan Wate used to think of Gatlin, the small Southern town he had always called home, as a place where nothing ever changed. Then he met mysterious newcomer Lena Duchannes, who revealed a secret world that had been hidden in plain sight all along. A Gatlin that harbored ancient secrets beneath its moss-covered oaks and cracked sidewalks. A Gatlin where a curse has marked Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals for generations. A Gatlin where impossible, magical, life-altering events happen.

Sometimes life-ending.


Together they can face anything Gatlin throws at them, but after suffering a tragic loss, Lena starts to pull away, keeping secrets that test their relationship. And now that Ethan's eyes have been opened to the darker side of Gatlin, there's no going back. Haunted by strange visions only he can see, Ethan is pulled deeper into his town's tangled history and finds himself caught up in the dangerous network of underground passageways endlessly crisscrossing the South, where nothing is as it seems.


If you visit the official Beautiful Darkness webpage, you can read the first 200 pages of Beautiful Creatures and the prologue to Beautiful Darkness right now for free!

Good luck everyone!

Monday, September 20, 2010

More Classics to Dig Into

I loved Tami's post challenging herself to read some of the classics. I've always enjoyed classical lit and have read my share, although I likely missed half of the "heavy" themes...lol... Still, I soak up the language, the stories and the characters.



My favs (I'm not sure if they're technically classics, but I consider them to be so):



Wuthering Heights

Jane Erye

The Odyssey

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

A Christmas Carol

Persuasion

The Scarlett Letter

The Portrait of a Lady

Crime and Punishment



And because I write pararnormal fiction, I'm drawn to classics with a sci-fi / fantasy bent. Some are a bit more modern examples:



Frankenstein

Dracula

The Island of Dr. Moreau

Gulliver's Travels

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

A Clockwork Orange

The Chrysalids, Chocky, and The Day of the Triffides - John Wyndham ROCKS!

A Wizard of Earthsea

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Tell-Tale Heart and other Poe stories

Around the World in 80 Days

The Birds



Between Tami's list and mine, we have a few bleedovers, however, I'm keen to dig into the titles we've listed and either revisit or discover new favourites. Tami - I recommend we both start with Frankenstein. ;)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Reading the Classics- A Challenge

I don't know if it's just me, but I tend to read more when it's cold and rainy (or in some case for others, snowy). There is nothing like curling up on the couch with a warm blanket, cup of coffee or hot chocolate and a good book. Now that summer is drawing to a close, I can feel the leaves turning around me (or as much as they do in Southern California) and it makes me crave those days.

I have plenty of books on my TBR pile that will keep me busy all winter, and even through the next year, but that doesn't keep me from buying new ones. How can you resist the great books that are on the horizon in YA/Teen literature? I know I can't.

Too many books are already calling my name on my shelves, and each time I finish one, I can't decide what to read next. That is why I'm going to help myself and add a change to my reading...at least once a month.

Recently Barnes and Noble gave away a group of classics each week in ebook format. I think I've mentioned on this blog, I'm not a huge lover of classics but I hope to change that in the coming months. I downloaded many of the books they offered, excited to get a free ebook, no matter what it was! Of course, now that ebooks are everywhere, the classics are easy to come by for free. You only need to look as far as Google Books or Project Gutenberg to download most of them. You don't even need an Ereader (though if you have one, you can easily get these ebooks on your device), only a computer and in some cases Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) which is a free program. Because the classics are old enough for the copyright to expire, it is not stealing, but considered public domain now. The reason I was so excited about Barnes and Noble's offer, their books are formatted properly, fixing all of the errors that occur in the scanning process. Sites like the ones I listed above, do not--but here's a tip. Project Gutenberg is a little cleaner usually--but that shouldn't stop you from reading books that have shaped the literary world for decades, if not centuries.

So I give you my challenge. I will be reading one classic a month and then posting a review of each one. Hopefully I'm able to get through each in a timely manner (I seem to read classics a little slower than modern books).

Anyone interested in playing along?

Here is a list of the books I downloaded in the past few weeks that I will choose from each month. Looking at this list, it really is amazing how many of these books have been made into moves (some several times) and how many by Disney.

Journey to the Center of the Earth- Jules Verne
Oliver Twist- Charles Dickens
Christmas Carol- Charles Dickens
Tale of Two Cities- Charles Dickens
Man in the Iron Mask- Alexandre Dumas
The Complete Sherlock Holmes Volume I & II- Arthur Conan Doyle
Gulliver's Travels- Jonathan Swift
King Soloman's Mines- H. Rider Haggard
Canterbury Tales- Geoffey Chaucer
Cannecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court- Mark Twain
Fairy Tales- Hans Christian Andersen
The Jungle Books- Rudyard Kipling
Prince and the Pauper- Mark Twain
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde- Robert Louis Stevenson
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea- Jules Verne
Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Writings- Washington Irving
Time Machine and The Invisible Man- H.G. Wells
Picture of Dorian Gray- Oscar Wilde
Frankenstein- Mary Shelley
Woman in White- Wilkie Collins
Main Street- Sinclair Lewis
Portrait of a Lady- Henry James
Wings of the Dove- Henry James
This Side of Paradise- F. Scott Fitzgerald
Beautiful and Damned- F. Scott Fitzgerald
Metamorphosis and Other Stories- Franz Kafka
Uncle Tom's Cabin- Harriet Beecher Stowe
The Scarlet Letter- Nathaniel Hawthorne
Persuasion- Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey- Jane Austen
Room with a View- E.M. Foster
Wuthering Heights- Emily Bonte
Mansfield Park- Jane Austen
War of the Worlds- H. G. Wells
Great Expectations- Charles Dickens
Emma- Jane Austen
Peter Pan- J.M. Barrie (this one isn't very fair to have on the list. I adore this book)
Secret Garden- Frances Hodgson Burnett
Wind in the Willows- Kenneth Grahame
Treasure Island- Robert Louis Stevenson
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz- L. Frank Baum
Tarzan of the Apes- Edgar Rice Burroughs
Adventures of Tom Sawyer- Mark Twain
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass- Lewis Caroll

So, let me know what I should read as the first book of the challenge starting in October. Should I go for something that fits along with Halloween like the Legend of Sleepy Hallow or Frankenstein?

What are some of your favorites from this list?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Character Development Via Birthday

We have a company that arrives at our school once a month with books and gadgets to put on display in our staffroom, and staff can purchase these items if they wish. It's a very effective "impulse" buy strategy. There you are in the staff room, nothing to do but eat leftovers, so you flip through the cookbooks or spot a cute Labrador retriever calendar you suddenly can't do without.

Anyway, one day last year I walked into the staff room and found one such gem, a ginormous book called: The Element Encyclopedia of Birthdays (EEB) by Theresa Cheung. I was familiar with the Element series as I have many of their folklore/mythology titles and being that I already thought of the series as research material might have put me in the right mindset. After a few page flips I understood just what I was holding.

The EEB is the motherload of character development tools. Looking to add depth to a shallow character? Need a few extra plot conflicts? Get them through personality clashes! Each birthday/day of the year is broken down into easy to read chunks of info: traits, challenges, good luck charms, how this person acts when feeling "dark side" or when they're at their best, their health and career interests. See? The motherload.

I'm not suggesting you pick a day of the year and base a character on the info you find, though I guess you could. I think it's better to take bits and pieces from different days and create your own dynamic personality. This resource works wonders if you're adding to an existing character, incorporating traits that you might otherwise not have thought of, or ones that make a flat character come to life.

So grab a copy, flip through the pages and get inspired!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Sounds of Revision

Revisions are hard work. Anyone who doesn't agree may need to get their head checked! I'm in the middle of revising my book, Parlor, and it's slow going. I've gotten to the point in about half of the chapters, where I've revised the stuff that just doesn't work out. That's the easy part! Now comes the hard, trying to make the words that remain better. I have trouble getting it to the sparkly point, but maybe I'm not alone.

This is where good critique partners come in. Each person reads a story a little different, offering small tidbits of amazing advice to push you to see your work in another way. I know both of my crit partners do an awesome job! Once they've read and given their notes, I go back to each chapter and revise again.

A few weeks ago, after my crit partners took their turn, I followed my usual steps. Read their notes, revised, read over the chapter and then fixed anything odd that didn't flow. I still felt like the chapter wasn't quite there, so I was a little down. I didn't know what it needed, but it was definitely not up to my standards for how much work I had put into it.

Normally, my husband doesn't read what I write until it's practically finished. I don't know why, but that's how it worked with my last book. I didn't let him see any of it until it was time for me to query. I had an idea recently and I can't even explain how helpful it was. I sent him the first chapter, asking him to just look over it and give his initial thoughts. I'm always nervous when he's reading something I've written, and this wasn't an exception. In fact, it was worse. I knew it wasn't very good, and like I said, he was used to reading my work in a pretty polished state.

I thought he would just tell me quickly what worked and what didn't, but he went above and beyond. We sat for three hours, breaking down each sentence. After about twenty minutes time, I was having trouble typing as quickly as he was talking, trying to get each little note down. Then we got the idea to record it! That's right, we audio taped the whole thing. It was amazing because I didn't miss a single thing we said and I was able to wait until Monday (we did this on a Saturday) to make changes based on our discussion. I could edit at my own speed and could just rewind when I needed to hear something a few times.

It was great because he reads enough YA to know what works, but also has a different viewpoint than myself or my crit partners. I would totally recommend talking through your work with someone and recording it for playback later. At least, if you can stomach having to listen to yourself talk for hours on end. Now THAT was harder than the revisions.

Monday, September 6, 2010

SWEET Giveaway Contest: The Great YA Bake Sale


YA author, Christine Johnson, (Claire de Lune) has organized one hell of a sweet tooth appeasing giveaway contest. Here's Christine with the details:


It’s here, it’s here - The Great YA Bake Sale of 2010!

It all started when I realized that YA authors seem to have one big thing in common - an obsession with sweets and baking.

That gave me an idea. I started calling (well - okay, emailing) around and ended up with more than a dozen kind, sugar-loving authors on board to bring you one amazing contest.

Here’s the deal:

To enter, simply leave a thoughtful comment on an author’s Bake Sale blog post, or tweet about the contest with the hashtag #YABakeSale10. Voila! You’re entered.

When you enter, you become eligible to win any one of the Personal Prize Packs (i.e. a comment on Saundra Mitchell’s blog may net you the Cyn Balog prize pack. You’re entering the whole contest, not just that particular author’s part of it.) You also become eligible to win the humongonormous Grand Prize Basket.

What’s in the Grand Prize Basket?

Each author has hand-written two copies of a favorite sweet-treat recipe. One copy has gone into a beautiful recipe book that is part of the Grand Prize Basket. In addition to the (hand-written! Did I mention that?) recipe collection, the Grand Prize winner will receive:

A signed copy of Cyn Balog’s SLEEPLESS
Bookmarks for KAT, INCORRIGIBLE by Stephanie Burgis
Signed bookmarks for THE CRESCENT and HALF MOON, pencils, and a crescent moon and crystal-studded star necklace from Jordan Deen
A (signed?) copy of THE BODY FINDER, a THE BODY FINDER tote bag, sticker and bookmarks from Kimberley Derting
An EVERLASTING-themed notebook, bookmark and pin from Angela Frazier
A signed copy of CLAIRE DE LUNE, signed stickers and a silver, moon-themed bookmark from Christine Johnson
A signed copy of SHADOWED SUMMER, matching chocolate candies, Twilight-themed heart candies, bookmarks and THE VESPERTINE dance card from Saundra Mitchell
A signed copy of THE PACE, by Shelena Shorts, along with bookmarks and THE PACE pencils
A signed hard-cover of SHADE and a Keeley Brothers pin from Jeri-Smith Ready
A signed copy of PERSONAL DEMONS, a PERSONAL DEMONS tank top, temporary tattoos, and bookmarks from Lisa Desrochers
. . . AND MORE!!! All for ONE LUCKY WINNER!


But that’s not all!

Each author has one other handwritten recipe that will be part of each author’s own Personal Prize Pack.

The prize packs include:

Cyn Balog - Signed copy of SLEEPLESS and a handwritten recipe for Coconut Bread.
Stephanie Burgis - UK paperback copy of A MOST IMPROPER MAGICK and a hand written recipe for Apple Muffins
Kay Cassidy - Hand-written recipe and giveaways
Megan Crewe - Hand-written recipe and giveaways
Shannon Delaney - Hand-written recipe and giveaways
Jordan Deen - Basket with Pampered Chef baking gear and a recipe for Orange Pineapple Cake
Kimberley Derting - Signed copy of The Body Finder, stickers, a totebag, bookmarks and a recipe for Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
Lisa Desrochers - A copy of PERSONAL DEMONS and a recipe for Sunday Coffee Cupcakes
Angie Frazier - A signed hard-cover copy of EVERLASTING, bookmark, and a recipe for Butter Rum Cupcakes with Coconut Buttercream Frosting
Judith Graves - Copy of UNDER MY SKIN, a character card, and a recipe for Dead Lady Fingers
Christine Johnson - A signed hard-cover copy of CLAIRE DE LUNE, stickers, a silver moon-themed bookmark and a recipe for Chocolate-Chip Butterscotch Blondies
Saundra Mitchell - Recipe and giveaways
Jennifer Murgia - ANGEL STAR swag, Octogram earrings, and a hand-written recipe
Shelena Shorts - Signed copy of THE BROKEN LAKE and bookmarks and a hand-written recipe
Jeri Smith-Ready - SHADE UK paperback edition and a recipe for Scottish Oat Scones


Fine print:
The contest entries must be posted by midnight eastern time on September 20th. This contest is open to the U.S., U.K. and Canada. Questions? Leave them in the comments or email me - christine(at)christinejohnsonbooks.com

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Future of Libraries and Why I Care

I don't know if it's the same way where you live, but California has but cutting back the hours and days that the library system is open. There's even talk of closing a few down, shifting the books to bigger branches and not purchasing many new ones. It's very sad to see and I don't think people understand what the library means to the community. I know I didn't until just recently when I started to use mine.

Not long ago, I didn't even see the library as an option for me. I bought all the books I wanted to read and always had a huge stack to get through at home. It was a luxury, something that I chose to spend my hard earned money on. Since writing full time, I've had to watch my spending a little more, not buying every book I want the day it comes out (of course, Mockingjay the exception). There was something about going out on Tuesday and buying them right away, even if I wasn't going to read it until months later. It was thrilling to look on my bookshelf (and I must add, still is!) and see so many unread books to choose from. It was like having my own library at home, but I was able to read them at my pace and not worry about a return policy or late fee. Another thing, and this may make me a little weird, I always thought about where the book had been. I'm no germaphobe (is that a word?), but the thought of hundreds, if not thousands of people bringing these books into their house kind of gave me the chills and not in a good way.

My mind changed a little when I got my Nook. My library system has ebooks that you can check out. I went to my local library (that's seriously less than a mile away from my house) and got a library card. I couldn't believe how easy it was. I was looking through their ebooks instantly. It's so convenient, it's ridiculous. You browse the ebook catalog at home, get on the wait list (if there is one) and when it's available they send an email. All you have to do is click on the link and download the book, loading it into your nook from the USB cord. You have the book for 21 days and once the time is up, it's returned to the library's system. No need to worry about late fees, the ebook does it for you! No need to worry about the germy hands that touched the book before you! I've read several books this way, and I have to say, it's magical. It feels as if I own the ebook and the time allotted is a lot longer than I would ever need to read a book.

I was shocked this week when I went to the library to write. I decided to give the books a chance, and went to check out the crochet books they have available. There was a book I saw they had in their catalog that I'd been wanting to get, but didn't want to spend the $20 on. I couldn't believe it when I saw it sitting on the shelf, waiting for me to check it out. While I walked the shelves, I was shocked at how busy the library was. Who said no one uses the library system anymore? There were people there of all ages, most of them ready to check items out. In fact, I couldn't find a empty seat near a table, and ended up writing with my laptop on my lap. Everyone seemed happy to be there, among so many books that they could check out for free. There were several people with huge stacks of books, the look on their faces was like they had hit the lotto jackpot.

I understand that with a state that is as poor as California is right now, there needs to be cuts somewhere, but how can you take away something that makes so many people happy? I bet most people there don't have the extra income to buy all of the books they were checking out. Books are expensive, and like I said earlier, are a luxury.

I was completely converted to a library user as I walked about with my two crochet books (one not even in print anymore!) Hey, next time I may even check out a YA book or two.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook

This week I purchased a title I've read a lot of buzz about online and I'm happy to report it's as well organized and targeted to youth as they say. Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook was written by children's authors, Anne Mazer (the Amazing Days of Abby Hayes series, Sister Magic series, etc.) and Ellen Potter (the Olivia Kidney series, Pish Posh, etc.), illustrated by Matt Phelan. Working in an elementary school, I know just how popular these authors have become. I love their quirky, endearing characters.

If you work with kids and need a resource to help you, help them, to write, or if you know a child with an interest in writing - heck, writers of any age will benefit from the information - get a copy. 23 chapters (or sections) cover everything from Ugly First Drafts, Suspense, Writers Are Strange Creatures. Thank Heavens!, Criticism and ends with a great question and answer session. The writing within the book is entertaining and age appropriate. There's nothing dull about learning to write here. The exercises, aptly titled, I Dare You, offer opportunities for readers to try their hand at the concepts being discussed.

I'll be using Spilling Ink as a resource for my own presentations with students during school visits - hauling my copy around Alberta (along with my other wonderful writing texts!) and encouraging writers of all ages, as well as educators to check it out.

Side Note of Irony: A friend pointed this out to me as she skimmed the book while I raved on and on about it....but on my copy of Spilling Ink, the back cover has a typo in the praise quote from Bruce Coville. "...have craftedsuch a wonderful" - did you catch it? Should be "crafted [space] such". The lack of a space between these two words doesn't diminish the quality of the information in Spilling Ink. I intend to draw attention to this oopsy and use it as an example of how, even big publishers, aka books with lots of "eyes" on them, can still have errors. Again, Spilling Ink teaches right to the last page, and then some. ;)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Research When You Least Expect It

This past weekend, we went to a fun annual convention/concert here in San Diego called Tiki Oasis. It's the third year we've gone and we have a great time each one. It's basically what it sounds, a tiki themed convention with surf/tiki bands, symposiums, vendors and of course, tiki drinks (because what is a tiki convention without Mai Tais?)

This isn't Tiki Oasis, but it is our kitchen, displaying a few of my husband's tiki mugs from his collection.

Despite writing a book based in Hawaii and Hawaiian mythology, I didn't really think that I would be buying anything at Tiki Oasis for research purposes. Last year, I didn't see anything that would even inspire me, so this year was a surprise. Don't you love when that happens?
Since starting my current WIP, I've been collecting books on Hawaii and Hawaiian mythology. You never know which book will come in handy, so why not buy the ones that are out there just in case? To my shock, and elated surprise, I found a book that I had yet to see or even hear about that is perfect research for my story.


The Hawaiian Mythology book I bought at Tiki Oasis

After reading a little of the book, I can't believe that I missed it for so long. It will really help me as it gives first hand encounters with Hawaiian spirits/gods from the natives. Very awesome.

I also bought these little tikis below. Aren't they awesome??? Hey crit partners, doesn't the one on the left remind you of a certain mortician? I will glance at these statues for inspiration, but hopefully won't look too long, or they will curse me!


Don't look into their eyes!

You just never know when research will fall in your lap. Of course, I was at a Hawaiian tiki convention, so I guess it's not too far fetched!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Writer Tresses to DIE for

Unruly. Longwinded. Twisted. Gnarled. Short. Blunt. Straight. Kinky. Cropped. Flowing. Untamed.

Are these words that describe my current WIP? Probably. But I’m referring to my love / hate relationship with…my hair. I grow it. Colour it. Perm it (okay – only once and NEVER again). Curl it. Straighten it. Crimp it. Pin it. Updo it and let it all hang down. I’ve even propped it up with pencils and decorated it with little hair bling jewellery things.

But my biggest offence is that I cut my hair myself. Yup, I do. With dull kitchen scissors that saw jagged chunks instead of clean lines, I somehow manage to pull off the shaggy bob style I’ve had for years (in various lengths depending on how much I let it grow out before grabbing those scissors again).

I liken my self-induced hair cutting adventures to writing a first draft of a novel. Sure some pieces may stick out funny, there might be gaps, sections may be longer than they should be, but if you look at the overall beast from a distance – it almost works.

This is where your critique partners and eventually a good editor come in – like a salon stylist brandishing their sharpy sharp, Edward Scissorhands high – saving the day (and the do) with keen eyes and mad reading skills. In no time they’ll hack and slash your unruly writer’s locks into tresses to die for.

Why the hair analogy? Well, yesterday was one of those times where I had to slink off to the salon for a back-to-school fixerupper. I love the finished product. I’m quite put together. But I know I’ll get a creative spark and reach for the kitchen shears in the future, just as I have many more stories to tell. Thank goodness I have my crit partners, a stoic editor and of course, a salon on speed dial.

Friday, August 20, 2010

What I've Been Reading: The Iron Fey Series

I've been doing a lot of reading lately, especially since I've been sick for the past few days. I just completed the second book in the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa, and thought I would share my thoughts on the first two books.

The Iron King: (sysnopsis from bn.com) Meghan Chase has a secret destiny—one she could never have imagined…

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth—that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

Until recently, I didn't read a lot of fantasy, but for some reason I seem to be on a solid run of them. I've picked up several in a row including this series and the Graceling books (Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore) and it gives me a perspective when reading a lot of them so close together. I have to be honest, the cover of The Iron King intrigued me, one reason I picked it up. I started the book and was instantly pulled in. I have to admit, the concept and even the world the concept is built in isn't the most original, but I loved it anyway. I loved the characters. Meghan is a strong woman (girl?) who makes her own decisions and follows her own path. You can sympathize with her. Despite the book being based around Midsummer Night's Dream with characters and the Summer and Winter Courts, it still felt original in the little details that Kagawa weaved in. As soon as I finished, I knew that I would have to pick up The Iron Daughter.

The Iron Daughter: (synopsis from bn.com) Half Summer faery princess, half human, Meghan has never fit in anywhere. Deserted by the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron fey—ironbound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her.

Worse, Meghan's own fey powers have been cut off. She's stuck in Faery with only her wits for help. Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly. But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can't help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart.

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of The Iron Daughter from Netgalley about a week before the book came out. I started it as soon as I finished The Iron King, which was really refreshing because normally you have to wait so long between books that it takes awhile to get back into the story. I didn't have any trouble at all, and The Iron Daughter picks up right where The Iron King ends. I thought this was the perfect sequel, building off the world that Kagawa took the time to really develop in The Iron King, yet she was able to expand on it and open the readers onto new things. I don't want to give too much away about the sequel if you haven't read the first one, but the romantic triangle that starts in the first book, only grows stronger. Meghan has to decide which guy is best for her, even if the answer is neither. We learn more about each court and the fey that live within the world of NeverNever. There is a great pace to The Iron Daughter that will keep you reading late into the night.

I would highly recommend both books in the series. The writing is beautiful and the characters are endearing, even when they are not always up for the challenge. Meghan is a strong main character who you will laugh and cry with, as if she were a good friend you're watching take the tough journey she is on. I can't wait for the third book to the series, The Iron Queen.