Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best Books of 2010

I managed to read 50 books this year, but I wanted to make a top ten list of my favorites. These are not all books that came out this year, they're just books that I happened to read this year. Here they are in no particular order:

Gone by Lisa McMann
The incredible conclusion to Lisa McMann's Wake series. This book was everything I hoped for and more. I roared through it in a single afternoon because there was no way I was putting it down, even for a second.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This is one of my favorite books of all time. It's an incredible book, filled to the brim with beautiful prose. I felt like I was right there with the characters in Nazi Germany. I read it nine months ago and it's still haunting me and I'm not sure if it'll ever stop.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
This book made me laugh, made me cry, gave me goosebumps, and made me open my eyes. The style is unusual but it works perfectly. The writing is so beautiful and lyrical. I haven't been able to look at eating disorders the same way since I read it.

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
This book was made of awesome. I'm going to read it again soon in preparation for City of Fallen Angels and I can't wait. It definitely throws you through a few loops, but this wouldn't be a Clare book if it didn't. City of Glass was a very satisfying conclusion to the Mortal Instruments series.

Paper Towns by John Green
This was my first John Green book and also my favorite (so far). This book really nailed what it's like to be a teenager right down to the excellent dialogue and characters. I didn't sleep the night I read it because I just couldn't stop thinking about it.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
The first book in Clare's new series, Infernal Devices. This series was the perfect combination of Mortal Instruments and something completely new. Once I got into the story, I literally carried it around the house so I wouldn't have to put it down. Tessa is my new favorite Clare character and the love triangle is very well done. I'm officially Team Will, but both Will and Jem are amazing guys. Can't wait for the next installment!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I've heard conflicting opinions about this one, but personally I'm in love with it. I think it was an incredibly powerful and true conclusion to the Hunger Games series. It's been four months since I've read it and I'm still not entirely sure what I think about it, but I think that's just Mockingjay's way.

The Duff by Kody Keplinger
I read this book in a single afternoon without even noticing and the moment I was done, I couldn't wait to read it again. It portrays high school perfectly and shows it exactly how it is. I loved Bianca a lot and I think we need more YA girls like her. As for Wesley...I couldn't help but love him.

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
This is one of those books that you have to read a few times and really think about it to figure out all its secrets. I finally figured out the ending about a month ago. This book was just pure brilliance. And it really made me think about people and my life.

Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
The actual book is just amazing as that incredibly awesome cover. I actually spent an entire class hour reading instead of working because I didn't even notice that time was going by. I'm completely torn between Luc and Gabe in this love triangle, though after this book I'm Team Luc. I can't wait for the sequel!

And those are my top ten books that I read this year. I can't wait to see what next year brings!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Year in Short

Time for my second annual Year in Short post! I can't believe 2010's over already... It seems like just yesterday we were debating on whether to call it Twenty-Ten or Two Thousand and Ten.

News that rocked the publishing world:
Amazon offered Bookscan access to authors
The controversy that is James Frey's book factory
Nathan Bransford left publishing as an agent
Speak Loudly was born when Laurie Halse Anderson's book, Speak, was challenged
Moonrat left Editorial Ass
The first ever WriteOnCon took place

Comparison doesn't work
Writing through the doubt
Understanding the imposter in us all
5 articles on perseverance
Defeating your inner critic part 1 and part 2
So you want to be a riter?
Courage in the face of fell circumstances
When you should quit writing
Don't you dare give up
Going from good to great

Unleash your creative genius through dreams
References and dating your manuscript
It's all about the details
5 strange ways for dealing with writer stress
Skeletal first drafts
The magic of setting

Quick grammar review
All-important first chapter
Cleaning out the cobwebs
Common writing maladies
Laurie Halse Anderson's revisions on Wintergirls
Distracting yourself from a manuscript

Beta Readers:
The importance of having an alpha reader
Tips for both sides
Six ways to provide gracious feedback in critiques

Transformation of Amy Lukavic's query
How to write a query letter
How to revise and resubmit
Other project one-liners in query?

What happens when it is you -- the blinding truth from an on-submission writer Natalie Whipple
On learning, growing, and surviving -- Mandy Hubbard's response to Natalie's post
Talking to agents and editors at conferences
Hannah Moskowitz's agent story part 1, part 2, and part 3
Who decides titles and cover art?
20 tips for attending SCBWI conferences
The process of a book: 16 steps to publication
Writing contests: Always read the fine print

101 form rejection projects for a rainy day
You might be an agent/publisher/writer if...

Real world:
Dystopian and the real world
Need vs love
The other: I'm not it

Violence in children's literature -- particularly Mockingjay
Sexual double standards in literature
One question you should never ask yourself while reading
Good guys or bad guys? How about neither?

Social networking:
Writers guide to Twitter
10 commandments of social networking for writers

Agent Q&As:
Tina Wexler
Natalie Fischer

What you could learn about writing from J.K. Rowling
Learning from the masters

It's time to say goodbye to 2010 and hello to 2011! Everyone stay safe on this wonderful New Year's Eve and I'll see you next year!

RTW -- Best Book of December

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

This Week's Topic:
What is the best book you read in December?

I was a horrible person when it came to reading this month. I actually only finished one book and it's not the one below. I'm still determined to finish this one before the end of the month.
The Lost Hero
by Rick Riordan

So far it's pretty great. It's the first book in Riordan's new Heroes of Olympus series. It contains some of my favorite characters from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series but it's not really a sequel, more like a companion series. You don't have to read Percy Jackson to read these, but I'd suggest it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Resolutions: 2010 and 2011

Today I wanted to look back at my resolutions for 2010 that I posted almost a year ago and set my resolutions for 2011. :)

2010 Resolutions
1. Read 100 books in a year.
This one didn't happen. About halfway through the year I dropped my goal to 75 and then 50. I did end up making my revised goal to read 50 books, however.

2. Query Destiny and Jump.
Destiny was trunked pending a complete rewrite, but Jump was queried briefly.

3. Clean my room.
I did start on this one, but my room hasn't managed to stay clean. Dang it.

4. Start riding again.
I did take one riding lesson before we found out I have scoliosis and my lessons were put on hold until we don't have to go to the chiropractor as often anymore.

2011 Resolutions
I was going to make resolutions like "Query burning bridges" or "Read 75 books" or "try new things" but instead I'm going to make a continuation of my senior year resolution. Because I think 2010's results stand as evidence that normal resolutions don't really work out for me.

For 2011, I resolve to have no regrets. I will do everything that I've always wanted to do and I won't let fear get in my way. I will live every day so at the end of the year I don't look back and wish I'd done this or wonder what might've been.

How did your 2010 resolutions go and what do you plan to make your resolution for 2011?

Monday, December 27, 2010

New Releases -- Fall for Anything, Virals, Pegasus

I hope everyone had an amazing Christmas! I can't believe this is the last week of 2010. Time travels so fast. I saw the Christmas episode of Doctor Who over the weekend. It. Was. Awesome. I had no idea how much I missed watching new episodes until I saw it.

Fall for Anything
by Courtney Summers

When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on...but are some questions better left unanswered?

Virals by Kathy Reichs
Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage "sci-philes" who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.

As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot—if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer's scent.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends— they're a pack. They are Virals.

by Robin McKinley
Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pagasi, Princess Sylviianel is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own Pegasus, on her twelfth birthday. The two species coexist peacefully, despite the language barriers separating them. Humans and pegasi both rely on specially-trained Speaker magicians as the only means of real communication.
But its different for Sylvi and Ebon. They can understand each other. They quickly grow close-so close that their bond becomes a threat to the status quo-and possibly to the future safety of their two nations.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

You Just Can't Get THAT with a Kindle

This is a revised reprint originally posted on February 19, 2010.

I've been thinking about the e-book revolution a lot lately with Christmas coming up. There's a chance that my future might include a shiny Nook. Last year I was determined not to be taken in by the e-book craze. This year...I'm plotting the ownership of my own e-reader. I love print boks and I don't know how I could live without them, but then there's just something appealing about having a cute little e-book reader with all the things I'm reading on it.

But I'm not going to talk about the advantages of a Kindle over a print book or how Kindles are ruining the publishing industry today. Mostly because I'm not even close to being qualified to do that and there are hundreds of posts out there dealing with those very subjects and more by people that are. No, today I'm going to talk about the things that you just can't get with a Kindle.

1. Think back to the time you were a child. Before you could read. Instead you'd just flip through the books and look at the pictures with joy. Maybe you made up your own story to go along with them. Maybe you begged your parents to read it to you. That's one thing you just can't do with a Kindle.

2. No more donating books to children that can't afford them. Not unless you donate a Kindle too and those things have to either require batteries or a charger.

3. No more libraries. How would there be?

4. No more sharing books with friends. Half the fun of reading books is lending them out to friends to read them too -- especially when you get a particularly awesome one.

5. No more walking into bookstores and libraries when you're broke just to browse the titles and take in that soothing new book smell. No breathing in said smell while you read the book for the first, fifth, or hundredth time. Now if you could find some way to infuse a Kindle with that new book smell, that would be AWESOME.

6. You don't have to worry about a print book running out of battery life when you get to the best part. I know that most e-readers come with a very long battery life (I saw one that lasted for two weeks). To me that means that for two weeks I'm not going to think about needing to charge it. And then when the battery does need to be charged, I'm not going to realize it and the thing's going to die in the middle of a good scene.

7. You don't have to worry about not being able to see through the glare made by the sun.

8. You don't have to turn a print book off when the plane gets ready for take-off.

9. With a print book, you can drop it as many times as you want without having to worry too much about damage. Not so with an e-reader.

10. Half the fun of a print book (besides the smell) is the feel of the pages. That crisp sound they make as you fly through them. The joy of opening up a brand new book and the thrill of opening it again several reads later when the pages are crinkled and there's a spot on page two-hundred that got wet because you were crying so hard.

What else can you just not get on a Kindle?

Monday, December 20, 2010

YA Love Interests

The love interests of the MC are often the favorite character of a female reader. I know I have love interests that I'd love to meet, that I root for every step of the way. But love interests are a tricky thing and there's a couple odd trends for LIs in YA literature lately.

Trend #1: Whole New Level of "Bad Boy"

Stalking is NOT okay. It is not sweet or romantic, it's CREEPY. It's not okay for someone to constantly follow you around. It's not okay for someone to sneak into your house if you're not home and especially when you are. That's called trespassing and it's illegal. We invented restraining orders for that kind of thing.

I don't understand the sudden rush of love interests that have a desire to kill, whether it's the MC or someone she's never met. It's NOT okay to date someone that wants to kill you. So what is it with the sudden rush of LIs that have that murderous urge and yet the MC falls in love with them anyway? That's like taking the whole "bad-boy" idea to a whole other extremely scary level.

It's NOT okay to date someone that abuses you. Or threatens you. Or tries to kill you (see above). [Irony of the day: Face Down just started playing.] It doesn't matter if that abuse is physical or verbal, it's still abuse and it is still very wrong.

It's NOT okay for the MC to depend on their man for everything. If your boyfriend doesn't call, it's not the end of the world. You should not have an emotional breakdown where you waste three months of your life pining for someone that basically exhibited every quality on this list. Your life should NOT revolve around your man. If you find yourself giving up your friends/hobbies/social life for your boyfriend, you might want to rethink your priorities.

Trend #2: Pure as Snow Good Boy

This LI is usually extremely sweet and caring and always puts his girlfriend first. I just want to say there are more than two types of guys out there. Most guys aren't full "bad boy" or full "good boy." They're some combination of the two. Every guy has flaws and not every guy has a Adonis body with a six-pack and a flawless smile and a face granted to him by the gods. I'm not sure if I've ever seen someone that fits that bill.

So why do all YA love interests have to be flawless and hot?

Another thing I don't understand is the main characters that meet their LI and immediately believe that that person is their soulmate. All of a sudden they just want to spend the rest of their life with them. I'm not saying all high school sweethearts are destined to break up, but most high school relationships do end. I believe in love at first sight, but you really should get to know the person you think you want to spend the rest of eternity with.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Week in Short

TGIF! Only three more days until Christmas break. Only three...more...days...

Song of the week:
Haunted by Taylor Swift. I think this is my favorite song on Speak Now.

Glee song of the week: Last Christmas. I was so hoping Finn and Rachel would sing that song. It's perfect for them.

Must Read:
Who decides titles and cover art?
When you should quit writing

FIRST TRAILER for Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides is here!!!

Upstart Crow is going on holiday from December 15 to January 23, 2011.

Caroline in Space:
How do you choose between multiple offers?
When an agent offers you representation

Novel Journey:

6 tips for surviving negative reviews

Handling conflicting critiques
Resubmissions and Re-queries

Strangest Situation:
Hold Still: Losing a friend to depression
Small behaviors add up
Psychiatrist or psychologist?

In Movies:

  • Stardust -- Loved this movie!! Loved the fantasy and Tristan's evolution as a character. Though Captain Shakespeare was still my favorite. 9.5/10
  • Dirty Dancing -- Older movie, but definitely a classic. Loved it. I don't know how I've never managed to see it before. 10/10
  • Cutting Edge: Fire and Ice (rewatch) -- I'm not quite sure why I've seen this movie as many times as I have, but it never gets old. 8/10
  • Some Kind of Wonderful (rewatch) -- I love this movie so much. It was made in 1987, but it's definitely a timeless classic. 10/10
In Writing:
Revisions are in progress for Burning Bridges. Currently checking into ways I can get my entire manuscript printed without having to do it at home. Meanwhile, I have a couple of new ideas bouncing around inside my brain.

Everyone have a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

RTW -- Santa's Presents

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

This Week's Topic:
You spot Santa at the mall, climb onto his lap, and whisper that you've been a good boy or girl in his ear. What do you want Santa to bring you this year?

I can't believe I almost missed this one. :D

No more getting up early for school or having to find a ride to the bookstore or being late anywhere. No more trudging around outside in the snow unless I want to. Do I really need to say more? :)

A New Laptop
One with more memory, a better video card so I can procrastinate by playing Sims 3, and doesn't screech like it's being tortured when I turn it on. Also, Scrivener that actually works would be fantastic.

The Cure for Writers' and Editors' Block
I think this one goes without saying too.

Twelve More Hours in the Day
So I'll have more time for homework and sleeping and maybe there'll be time for writing in there too.

What do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kicking Out Your Friends

First: City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare's cover is finally here!! I can't wait to have this book in my hands already.

In the course of BB's revisions, I removed a character. It felt like I was kicking a friend out of my house, but I still did it because it had to be done.

Despite the initial sadness that comes with saying goodbye to one of my characters, I feel a lot better for having Robbie gone now.

Here are 5 ways to tell if you might need to cut a character:

  1. He/she doesn't add anything to the story or anything they do add could just as easily be done by another character
  2. You have a lot of characters in a short space already.
  3. He/she leaves after a short portion of the book without adding anything. (Robbie leaves before the second half of the book. The only thing he really added to the story was helping out Carter and that can easily be done by another character.)
  4. There are lots of hanging plot threads centered around him. With Robbie, his leaving the ranch is a big deal. All the characters get together for a goodbye ride and picnic. The thing is, nothing happens during the celebration. An event that was meant to garner more tension just fell flat and didn't really go anywhere. It was almost too easy to cut the whole scene and character and hopefully bring in some more action later that doesn't slow the pacing down.)
  5. You can easily imagine life without that character.
If you said yes to any of the things above (especially the first or last one), then you might want to consider removing that character. An easy way to do so is do a Find search for the character's name. Then you can just cut out any mention of them and clean up any references with another pass through the story. If the character plays a role anywhere that can't be removed, see if that role could be taken by another character. This can even be a great way to find places to expand tension and character development with that character.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rejection Throughout History: Christopher Columbus

That was the best weekend I've had in a long, long time. But now it's over and today is Monday...

For my English class, I had to write an essay on lessons that can be learned from Christopher Columbus' life. One of the lessons I addressed was:

Don't let rejection stop you.

When Columbus conceived the idea to find a trading route by sailing west from Europe to Asia, he needed funding. So he went first to the king of Portugal, King John II. The king listened to Columbus' proposal and passed it on to a committee. They denied his request, citing that it was too expensive, Columbus was wrong in his estimates on the distances and measurements, and that his plan conflicted with Portugal's desire for a trade route that went around Africa.

Columbus could've given up there. But instead he picked up his young son and moved to Spain. There, the Spanish monarchs were too preoccupied with a war against the Moors to really listen to his proposal. Queen Isabella was fascinated by Columbus and paid him a small salary over his years of following the court, but she alone wasn't enough for him to gain approval for his journey. After two years of waiting, Columbus was able to present his idea to another committee and was rejected for the second time.

Columbus then proceeded to follow the Spanish monarchs around in their wartime travels while he sent his brother to the courts of England and France to present his idea. His brother's attempts were unsuccessful and for awhile, Columbus' seemed to be going the same way. In the final weeks of 1491, Columbus presented his idea to the monarchs for the final time and was once again refused, this time due to his increased demands.

Fortunately for Columbus and the world, Luis de Santangel, the king's treasurer, was able to convince the monarchs to reverse their decision and a few weeks of negotiations later, Columbus had funding for his historic voyage.

And just like that, the world was changed forever. I sometimes wonder what the world would be like if Columbus had given up after King John or after a couple of years of listening to the Spanish court refuse him. What America would be like.

History books don't really mention the struggle Columbus went through to make his dream a reality and that's a shame. He didn't just walk into the Spanish court, present his idea, and smile as they threw ships and supplies at him.

He worked for eight years before he finally got the funding for his project. he withstood eight years of rejection before he saw any sort of return.

Now think of the kings as editors and the committees as the editorial board. The editors might not be at war with each other, but they might be distracted by their other clients. Or they might be like King John and not feel like your book is right for the times.

So those of you struggling with writing, revising, or querying, think of Columbus and just keep trucking. Because someday it will all pay off. You'll find the monarchs that believe in your story just as much as you do, and then you'll be casting off.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Week in Short

TGIF! I thought this week was never going to end. :) Been waiting for this weekend for a long time.

Song of the week:
Unstoppable by Rascal Flatts

And because I was noticing a trend in the fact that almost every song of the week was a Glee song...
Glee song of the week: Baby, It's Cold Outside (Chris Colfer and Darren Criss). This song and video pretty much made my Christmas.

Must Read:
What happens when it IS you by Natalie Whipple -- a blindingly true blog about the journey to being published
On Learning, Growing, and Surviving by Mandy Hubbard, her response to Natalie's post
Dystopian and the real world by XVI's author, Julia Karr

Vee has a very exciting announcement! AHHHH! :D

New Beastly trailer! I can't wait to see it! I think this is going to be one movie that's better than the book and I don't say that very often.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader came out today!!!!!! I need to see this movie so bad...

Big news this week was Amazon's announcement that authors with an account at Amazon's Author Central can now access their sales information from Bookscan there for free.
LA Times reports on the change
LA Times: Authors respond
Galleycat's report
Mandy Hubbard explains Bookscan's inaccuracy
Rachelle Gardner responds and asks for thoughts

Intrepid Media:
What you can learn from Princess Bride

When to involve a critique group
Do agents remember submissions?

Nathan Bransford:
The importance of exercising for writers

#190: Thriller

Underline or italics

Story Flip:
Eliminating characters

Strangest Situation:
Childhood abuse
Writing YA showing intense emotions
Demystification Monday: Delusional

Writer Beware:
2011 Indie Publishing Contest

In Movies:

  • Nell -- watched for AP Psych class. Awesome movie! 10/10
  • Twelfth Night -- Helena Bonham Carter is incredible. Enough said. I haven't actually seen the ending yet though, so I can't really rate it...
  • Ever After -- I. Love. This. Movie. Believe me, it is not your average "Cinderella story." It's a thousand times better. 10/10
In Writing:
Let's just say...Christmas break needs to hurry up.

Everyone have a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Five W's (and one H) of Beta Readers

Everyone needs beta readers. Here are some tips for why you need beta readers and how to find them.

Beta readers are an incredible tool. I always suggest them to every writer no matter what stage they're at. I even know agented and published writers that still have trusted beta readers for each new WIP. There is never a point at which a fresh eye becomes unnecessary. Beta readers can catch things that the writer -- who may be too close the story to see it clearly -- will miss. This could be something as small as an overused word or a spelling error, or as large as an elephant-sized plot hole, slow pacing, or flat character.

It's best to find someone that you trust and know will do a good job. This could be a real life friend or someone you may never meet. I will say that out of all my beta readers, I have only met one in real life. I don't suggest family or friends you know personally because sometimes it can be difficult to give someone you really know an honest opinion. I know, I've read work for my friends and I find it impossible to give them a real critique.

What your beta readers will read is totally up to you. I've read the first five pages, the first three chapters, the first fifty pages, three-quarters of the book, and full manuscripts. It all depends on what you and your potential beta reader decide. With new beta readers, I'd suggest starting with a few chapters or the first fifty pages just to make sure the two of you will be a good match.

Beta readers are best when there is nothing left in the book that you can see to fix. This will probably mean you'll have to go through several drafts and maybe even a rewrite before it's ready to be seen by others' eyes. And that's okay. There are special readers called alpha readers that read first drafts. If you want to get an opinion on a first draft, make that clear while looking for a beta. Many beta readers will not read first drafts because the mistakes make it impossible for them to properly critique the work. For example, I am a Spelling Nazi. In nine out of ten cases, I will turn down first drafts because I know that I won't be able to pay attention to characters and plot holes and voice when I am distracted by looking for spelling errors.

Some of my biggest regrets come from sending drafts that weren't ready. When I was a green newbie, I rattled off my first draft and quickly mailed it to a friend (who wasn't really qualified to give me a complete critique on my work). To this day, I am eternally sorry for putting her through the crap that was Andra at that time. More recently, I wrote out a first draft called for creative writing class last year and let one of my real life friends -- who is also a writer -- read it as I went. She was in love with it, but it didn't take long before my honeymoon phase ended and I realized Fire was a blatant Hunger Games spin-off and couldn't bring myself to write the ending.

Betas can be anywhere. If you're going with a beta that you don't know personally, it's probably best to email the draft to them as an attachment that will suit their computer. Actually, that's probably best even if you know your beta personally. It's easier to make comments on a computer than it is with a hard copy, but once again this is something you and your beta should discuss ahead of time.

Betas are fairly easy to find. There are many opportunities to find beta readers in writing communities and perhaps offer to read something of someone else's in exchange. I met most of my beta readers on AbsoluteWrite and I wouldn't trade any of them for anything.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Week in Short

Hope everyone had a great week and is surviving the Snowpocalypse.

Song of the week:
Up by Shania Twain

Hannah Moskowitz's Gone, Gone, Gone cover has been revealed!

The Hunger Games movie has a release date!

Something about voice
More on author-agent relationship

Querying the cliche

Rachelle Gardner:
Dilemma of a prolific writer

The Strangest Situation:
Before I Die: Coming to terms with dying

Post for procrastinators

In Movies:

  • Beauty & the Briefcase -- One of those made-for-TV movies that's kinda stupid but you watch it anyway. The ending was pretty great, though.
  • Latter Days -- Directing could've been better, but this is still a fantastic story
  • Miss Congeniality -- This is the second time I've seen it, but it's still a good movie
In Writing:
BB's revisions continued and I'm getting more and more excited about how it's coming along. I've also come to the conclusion that CT (Cardinal Three) is going to be my next WIP. I wrote the first 500 words on it this week, though it's technically still in the outlining stages.

Everyone have a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday!

New Releases -- After, Anna and the French Kiss, Rosebush

by Amy Efaw

Who could do such a thing? Certainly not someone like Devon Davenport: a straight-A student-athlete with everything going for her. But in a moment of denial, desperation, and sheer panic, she did something that most people couldn't even imagine. And now Devon is being charged with attempted murder.
Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins

[I've heard so many great things about this book since it's recent release.]
Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets Etienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Etienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend. But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

by Michele Jaffe
Instead of celebrating Memorial Day weekend on the Jersey Shore, Jane is in the hospital surrounded by teddy bears, trying to piece together what happened last night. One minute she was at a party, wearing fairy wings and cuddling with her boyfriend. The next, she was lying near-dead in a rosebush after a hit-and-run.
Everyone believes it was an accident, despite the phone threats Jane swears were real. But the truth is a thorny thing. As Jane's boyfriend, friends, and admirers come to visit, more memories surface, not just from the party, but from deeper in her past . . . including the night her best friend Bonnie died.
With nearly everyone in her life a suspect now, Jane must unravel the mystery before her killer attacks again.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Everwood Season One Review

Everwood could, quite possibly, be my favorite show of all time. It started it 2004 and only ran for four seasons, but it's an incredible show.

The characters could be real people. If you don't watch it for any other reason, watch a couple episodes to study round, original characters.

For those of you who have never heard of the show, here's a quick summary:
When Manhattan neurosurgeon Andy Brown's wife dies in a tragic accident, he uproots his two children, 15-year-old Ephram and 9-year-old Delia, and moves to the small town of Everwood, Colorado for a less hectic pace.

It's a lot better than it sounds, believe me. For characters we have:

  • Ephram, a teenage boy with a gift for playing piano, a rocky relationship with his father, and who wants nothing more than to return to his old life in New York.
  • Andy, a neurosurgeon prodigy who gives up his professional altogether to become a country doctor because of a promise he made years before to his wife.
  • Delia, Ephram's tomboy sister.
  • Dr. Abbott, a cynical doctor who hates Andy on his arrival.
  • Amy, Dr. Abbott's daughter who's trying to deal with the fact that her boyfriend has been in a coma for four months.
  • Brighton, Amy's sister and her boyfriend's best friend.
  • Colin, Amy's boyfriend who's life has been changed forever by one terrible mistake
Everwood can also teach an amazing lesson in dealing with tough subjects. Everwood takes tough subjects and shows them in an entirely new way. I almost quit watching over one such subject, but in the end I felt they portrayed it better than any other show I've ever seen.

The season finale had me in tears from the first five minutes until...I'll let you know when I stop crying. I haven't cried this hard since Doctor Who's Doomsday.

I can't wait to see what season two brings.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Week in Short

Well...this week was crazy. It was also the beginning of our school play in which I got a small part. I expect the time I spend online is going to have to go down a lot over the next three months.

Song of the week:
Realize by Colbie Caillat

Must Read:
There's no use comparing
Natalie Fischer's open forum questions answered
What you can learn from J.K. Rowling's writing style

Jill Corcoran:
What to do when your agent doesn't like your WIP

Johnson Literary:
What to do with your NaNoWriMo manuscript

Putting feelers out before leaving an agent
Conference checklist

Sharing credit with co-authors

Literary Rambles:
Outlining by subplot

Rachelle Gardner:
Royalty rates
Reversion of rights

Strangest Situation:
[One of my favorite new blogs to read.]
Does Maggie Stiefvater's Sam have PTSD?
Writing YA characters with emotional and mental disorders
Psychotic vs. Psychopath

Weronika Janczuk:
Tip for formatting partial and full manuscript submissions

Writer Beware:
"Writing jobs" Twitter spam

How to choose an agent

In Movies:

  • The Princess and the Frog -- this movie was way better than my mom and I thought it would be. 9/10
  • Men Who Stare at Goats -- my mom and I both expected this movie to be ROFL-funny, but it wasn't anything like we thought it would be. 6.5/10
In Writing:
Revisions are continuing for Burning Bridges.

Everyone have a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

2011 Debut Novels Observations

So last weekend I was going through all the YA and MG debut novels that are going to be released in 2011 adding them to my Goodreads for the challenge and I decided to take notes on things that I observed. However, I am not qualified to study trends or predict them.

Genres and Subjects:

  • Fantasy appeared to still be very big
  • A few paranormal romances, but not as many as I expected.
  • Quite a few dystopian and apocalyptic novels
  • A few mermaid novels
  • A few faerie novels
  • Tale retellings -- particularly the lesser known tales
  • I was surprised to see how many books there were about girls that want to be popular and then discover the pitfalls of becoming so
  • Still a few books featuring female characters that discover they have special abilities and are sent to schools for people with those abilities that end up falling in love with a guy that has a "dark secret"
  • Did not see a lot of vampires, though there were a couple of funnier takes on vampires
  • Didn't see a lot of werewolves
  • Less of a focus on creatures and more of a focus on ghosts and psychic abilities
Male Love Interests
  • Mysterious, sexy, and dark male love interests are still prevalent.
  • Dark secret that threatens to destroy him/the girl/life as the know it may or may not be included.
  • Mysterious love interest may also be "beautiful" or "brooding".
  • In novels with something threatening to destroy everything the girl loves, it's usually hinted that the dark, mysterious, sexy, beautiful, brooding love interest is involved.
I'm looking forward to the mermaids. What are you most looking forward to seeing next year?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

RTW -- Movie Turned Book

I just saw the new Glee (it was okay, not nearly as great as last week's episode) and my brain's a little frazzled over the ending so I apologize in advance if this doesn't make a lot of sense.

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

This Week's Topic:
What movie do you wish had been a book first?
This was a really, really tough one. I know there was a movie a couple weeks back that I wished was a book, but I can't remember what it was. I go the other way all the time, but almost never have I watched a movie and wished it was a book at all.

I'm not sure if I can count this one because it's kind of complicated reasoning, but The Last Airbender. Now, I have never seen the movie and I probably never will because I am an insanely dedicated fan of the show. So, I wish this movie HAD been a book, but I also wish the book followed the show rather than the movie.

I'm not entirely sure why on this next one, but I wish Eight Below had been a book. It's a fantastically beautiful movie and I think it would be a great book as well.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Liar Review

by Justine Larbalestier

Micah will freely admit she's a compulsive liar, but that may be the one honest thing she'll ever tell you. Over the years she's fooled everyone: her classmates, her teachers, even her parents. And she's always managed to stay one step ahead of her lies. That is, until her boyfriend dies under brutal circumstances and her dishonesty begins to catch up with her. But it is possible to tell the truth when lying comes as easily as breathing?

If you're looking for a light-hearted read for a rainy day, this is not it. I honestly think his was the strangest book I have ever read in my life, and I mean that in a good way. The writing style might be jarring for some people, but personally I thought it fit perfectly with Micah and her story. LIAR is the kind of book that makes you think and sticks in your head long after you've closed it.

This book hooked me from the start. I felt like part two dragged on a little more than it should, but part three was perfect. I read the last half within a few hours because I couldn't stop reading until I saw her lies through to the end.

It was so weird having a compulsive liar as a narrator, but I liked it. It made me think more than I usually do while reading and kept stringing me along hoping to finally get the truth. As for the characters, I thought they were all excellent, but I especially liked Pete. Micah's relationship with Zach, Tayshawn, and Sara was perfect. Weird, but perfect.

Overall: 9/10 I can see that this one is going to stick in my head for quite awhile.


The fact that I still don't know if she was telling the truth or not is going to drive me crazy for awhile. It's making me want to read the book again, to see if there are any clues that she might have been lying about it all.

What happened to Jordan? She said it was an accident, but what was the accident? And was it one?

I can't believe her parents threw her out of the house like that. I also can't believe they still celebrated Jordan's birthday and death-day too. I mean, I can believe it,

I also can't believe Micah wanted to kill Yayeko and her family. Does that mean when she said that wolves don't kill humans she was lying? She wanted to, just like Pete killed Zach. She would have.

Yeah, I'll be thinking about LIAR for a very, very long time.

Monday, November 29, 2010

2011 Debut Author Challenge

The 2011 Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren is almost here! For more information and to sign-up check out the link above. The objective is to to read a least twelve debut Young Adult or Middle Grade novels released in 2011 over the course of the year.

This year, I'm taking the challenge.

Here are some of the books that I hope to read next year:

  1. A TOUCH MORTAL by Leah Clifford
  2. LIKE MANDARIN by Kirsten Hubbard
  3. WILDEFIRE by Karsten Knight
  4. WHERE I BELONG by Gwendolyn Heasley
  5. ANGELFIRE by Courtney Allison Moulton
  6. THE WATER WARS by Cameron Stracher
  7. THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab
  8. POSSESSION by Elana Johnson
  9. DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth
  10. WITHER by Lauren DeStefano
  11. TIMELESS by Alexandra Monir
  12. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis
  13. XVI by Julia Karr
  14. DARKNESS BECOMES HER by Kelly Keaton
  16. I AM J by Cris Beam
  17. ENTWINED by Heather Dixon
  18. THOSE THAT WAKE by Jesse Karp
  19. LIAR SOCIETY by Lisa and Laura Roecker
  20. BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys
  21. END OF THE LINE by Angela Cerrito
  22. ENCLAVE by Ann Aguirre
  23. TEMPEST RISING by Tracy Deebs
  24. AWAKEN by Katie Kacvinsky
  25. PAPER COVERS ROCK by Jenny Hubbard
  26. LOST VOICES by Sarah Porter
  27. HALF-BLOOD by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  28. NEVER EIGHTEEN by Megan Bostic
I probably won't get to all of them, but I will try to get to as many as I possible can. I can't wait to begin! There are so many amazing titles being released next year.

So, who's in?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Week in Short

I hope everyone had a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving! For those of you who live outside the U.S., I hope you had a wonderful Thursday. :) Hope everyone is staying safe and having a fun time shopping on this Black Friday.

Song of the week: Just The Way You Are -- Glee cast. This week's episode of Glee = MADE. OF. WIN. I haven't stopped listening to this song since Wednesday. I didn't think I'd ever find a song that topped Teenage Dream or an episode that topped Never Been Kissed...but they did it this week.

Must Read:
10 commandments of social networking for writers

Overheard at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America party

Michelle Brower: 10 tips for attending writers' conferences
Kimberly Shumate: How to create a professional submission

Jennifer Laughran:
The best time to query

Marieke's Musings:
How to write YA sci-fi with Beth Revis

Nathan Bransford:
Nine circles of writing hell

#188: YA urban fantasy

Agents requesting material
On beta readers

In Movies:
  • The Holiday -- Beginning was a little slow but the rest of the movie was AWESOME. I might have to buy this one. 9.5/10
In Writing:
On the to do list for my four-day weekend: finish the second pass on Burning Bridges. This could be the last major revision before I start tweaking.

Everyone have a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday!

P.S. GO BLUE! (Michigan's playing Ohio State this weekend.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

RTW -- Best Book of November

It was no contest this month with a reread of one of my favorite books of all time...

By J.K. Rowling
It seems like just yesterday that I was joking about trying to read it and walk out of the store at the same time (I wanted to, but I managed to hold off until we got into the car). Just yesterday that I curled up in my room, scorning human contact for twelve straight hours in favor of my favorite characters as I raced through the pages. Instead it's been two crazy years and part one is now in theaters.

This was my third time reading Deathly Hallows and it never gets old. It's still the same amazing story that it was the first time. I still cry my heart out over the end. I still grin as I turn the final page and feel the bittersweet pang of sadness that this wonderful series is over.

Overall: 10/10. Deathly Hallows gets an O for Outstanding. :) Well done, J.K. Rowling. An incredible end to what has been an incredible ride.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Outside References and Dating

A lot of people worry about adding real life references to their books in fear of dating them. Others don't have that fear at all.

I'm somewhere in the middle.

I like references to the real world in novels. It makes the characters and the plot more relatable. This is especially true for contemporary novels where creating a story that is relatable for teens is one of the most important things.

The problem for me is where the references become so prevalent that they actually draw me out of the story. For example, I read a novel last year where the main character literally lists off every song she listens to during certain parts of the story. There is no plot reason for her to list off all the songs, she just does. I had no idea what any of the songs were, or their artists, and I didn't love the book enough to have the interest in looking them up. A year later and that's the main thing I remember about that book.

Occasional song references are good things. They give the story depth and if I like the character or the story well enough, I might even take the time to look them up and gain a new favorite song. The same goes for book, TV show, and movie mentions. Just make sure that the reference doesn't have to be understood for the reader to enjoy your book.

Also, don't be so worried about dating a story that you make all your character's favorite books classics. Unless your character is actually the kind of person to read 1984 or War and Peace or *cough* Wuthering Heights. *cough*

Lately I've seen several contemporary releases dealing with Twitter as a main plot point. I want to pick them up, but I worry about them for two reasons.

One, Twitter will eventually be obsolete. All technology has its time and no one can tell when the next big thing will come along and sweep everything else aside.

Two, when I see a book that deals directly with something in modern teenagers's lives, I wonder if the author was trying too hard to be modern. I read a book a couple months ago that had so many references to Youtube and Google that it hurt my perception of the story. It felt like the writer had been trying too hard to "get" teenagers.

The same thing goes for teenage slang. It is possible to try too hard to capture that elusive teen voice. Especially considering teenage slang not only changes constantly, it's also regional. Two of our favorite words around here are "epic" and "legit." A school in, say, California might not even know what "legit" means the way we use it. Even abbreviations like FTW can mean different things to different people. To me it means For The Win. To one of my guy friends it means F The World.

My favorite references are the ones that only people that are "in the know" will understand. For example, in Rick Riordan's The Red Pyramid he mentions that "Manhattan has different gods" as a reference to his other series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Now if you'd never read Percy Jackson, you wouldn't understand the reference but you'd still be able to enjoy the book. If you had read Percy Jackson, you'd catch it and laugh. Apparently Despicable Me is full of references. I missed...all of them, but I still loved the movie.

In short, IMHO:

  1. References are good, but in moderation.
  2. Don't try so hard to have your teenagers be like normal teenagers that you risk alienating readers.
  3. Be careful with plots that revolve around something that could be obsolete before the book is published.
  4. Hidden references are the best kind.
  5. Try not to worry too much about dating a book.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Movie Review

First the non-spoilery review.

Part one was AWESOME. End of story. Good-bye. The end. (Virtual cookie to anyone who can tell me what that's from.) It didn't meet my insanely high expectations, but that's mostly because it was build-up for what's coming in part two. It'll be a lot better when the two parts come together. It was still worth stayed up until three in the morning and being exhausted in school the next day. SO. FREAKING. COOL. I'm hoping to go see it again Wednesday night. Eight months until part two!


Things I Liked
  • The part at the beginning where Hermione wipes her parent's memories. I'm really glad they added that part.
  • Ron. I think Rupert was my favorite actor in this movie. He was SO GOOD.
  • Fred and George. Enough said.
  • Ginny. She's better in this movie than the last one, trust me.
  • The part where Ginny and Harry are kissing and George walks in behind him. So cute!
  • Ron destroying the locket. EPIC. Except for the one part which I will address in a minute.
  • I seriously thought I was going to die during the torture scene with Hermione. A part of me wishes that Bellatrix had just used Crucio, but another part says it was a nice touch.
  • Dobby. OMG DOBBY. There wasn't a dry eye in my theater when he died. The girl sitting behind me was literally bawling. I didn't think it was possible, but I loved him even more after his scenes in the movie. Especially when he helped Kreacher catch Mundungus and when he unscrewed the chandelier and his BEAUTIFUL speech before he saves everyone...
  • The little Decoys in the Ministry were adorable.
  • The silver doe scene was perfect.
  • Ron and Hermione together were SO CUTE.
  • The scene where Harry and Hermione dance. Harry was so sweet. :D
  • The part where Cattermole's wife kisses when when he's still under the Polyjuice potion. Brilliance.
  • The place they chose to end it was perfect. It's so dramatic, but DANG CLIFFHANGERS
Things I Didn't Like
  • The part where the locket opens and the smoke Harry and Hermione make out. It was awkward.
  • That Wormtail didn't kill himself with the silver hand. This. Is. Important.
  • They cut the part with Dudley thanking Harry for saving his life.
  • No Harry being nice to Kreacher and giving him the locket.
  • Kreacher also never tells the full story of what happened in the cave with Regulus.
  • There's still a gaping plot hole of how Harry is supposed to know what the other Horcruxes ARE. They better fix that soon.
  • They never explain that the reason Bellatrix flips out so much over the sword is because it's supposed to be in her vault.
  • No Potterwatch. That part in the book is SO important to me and it was what kept Harry fighting.
  • The Lovegood house scene. It was cool, but the book scene was way cooler.
  • Taboo on Voldemort's name is used but never explained.
  • Harry never stole the eye off Umbridge's door.
  • Harry still hasn't realized how much his Cloak is like the one in the tale.
  • Harry never uses his Cloak. Including when they just walk into Godric's Hollow. I understand why they wouldn't want to have the use the Polyjuice potion again, but why no Cloak?
  • No sign or monument in Godric's Hollow. Another morale booster for Harry in the book.
  • Lupin never came to Grimmauld Place and it still hasn't been announced that Tonks is pregnant.
  • I don't know how they're going to explain Snape finding them in the Forest of Dean without Phineas.
  • Harry never made a gravestone for Dobby.
  • They left out the HUGE internal conflict with Harry getting obsessed with Hallows and then deciding not to race Voldemort towards the Wand.
  • Ron just hid from the Snatchers instead of going home.
  • No breaking free the Muggleborns. I loved that part SO MUCH in the book and they just left it out.
Despite the fact that there are more things I didn't like than things I did, I still LOVED the movie.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Week in Short

This week was AMAZING. Best week I've had in a long time. :)

Song of the week:
Glee's rendition of Teenage Dream. I am so addicted to this song.

Must Read:
Writing through doubt
References and dating your manuscript

Jessica Faust updates on submissions and is closing to them from November 25 to January 5

James Frey's Book Factory Mess:
Basically: James Frey is running a young adult book factory. He recruits writers and then asks them to sign their lives away. Almost literally. A few of the worst terms even continue after the contract has been terminated.

This is the essence of the terms being offered by Frey’s company Full Fathom Five: In exchange for delivering a finished book within a set number of months, the writer would receive $250 (some contracts allowed for another $250 upon completion), along with a percentage of all revenue generated by the project, including television, film, and merchandise rights—30 percent if the idea was originally Frey’s, 40 percent if it was originally the writer’s. The writer would be financially responsible for any legal action brought against the book but would not own its copyright. Full Fathom Five could use the writer’s name or a pseudonym without his or her permission, even if the writer was no longer involved with the series, and the company could substitute the writer’s full name for a pseudonym at any point in the future. The writer was forbidden from signing contracts that would “conflict” with the project; what that might be wasn’t specified. The writer would not have approval over his or her publicity, pictures, or biographical materials. There was a $50,000 penalty if the writer publicly admitted to working with Full Fathom Five without permission.
New York Magazine: Inside Full Fathom Five
Read the full contract
Writer Beware cautions writers
The Man in the Frey Flannel Suit by John Scalzi
The James Frey Problem by Maureen Johnson
What is a book packager? at BookEnds
Book Packagers at kt literary
Positive personal experience with a book packager at Teen Writers Bloc

BookEnds:Right to first refusal

Caroline in Space:
What I've learned from NaNoWriMo

How I got my agent: B.A. Binns

Nathan Bransford:

The importance of being yourself

Pimp My Novel:
Dealing with procrastination

Pub Rants:Top 3 culprits of errors in royalty statements and what happens when they're found

#187 -- commercial (literary?) fiction

The wicked truths of edgy young adult

Rachelle Gardner:
Answering questions on contracts part 1 and part 2

iPhone Apps for NaNoWriMo
Interview with Neoagents

In Movies:
  • According to Greta -- This movie reminded me of Wintergirls and Cracked Up to Be. The main character was rather annoying, but I had to hear her story anyway. 8/10
  • Unhitched -- relatively cute movie. 7/10
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- AWESOME! Formal review to come tomorrow. 10/10
In Writing:
Started BB's second pass of revisions this week. It's coming along quite well.

Everyone have a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Releases -- Matched, Firelight, Grace

Deathly Hallows is almost here! As an advance warning tomorrow I'm going to do a review of Deathly Hallows. I'm not sure if I'm going to do one that's half without spoilers and half with, or if I'll just do a spoiler-filled review. I'll put spoiler warnings all over it if they're going to be included. Though if you haven't read the book yet, I don't know why spoilers matter. :D

Matched by Ally Condie
Release date November 30
[I've heard so many wonderful things about this book. I can't wait to read it!!]
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.
Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki—a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.
Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away—if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.
Mythical powers and breathtaking romance ignite in this story of a girl who defies all expectations and whose love crosses an ancient divide.
Grace by Elizabeth Scott
Grace was raised to be an Angel, a herald of death by suicide bomb. But she refuses to die for the cause, and now Grace is on the run, daring to dream of freedom. In search of a border she may never reach, she travels among malevolent soldiers on a decrepit train crawling through the desert. Accompanied by the mysterious Kerr, Grace struggles to be invisible, but the fear of discovery looms large as she recalls the history and events that delivered her uncertain fate.