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Monday, December 31, 2012

Resolutions: 2012 and 2013

Another year is coming to a close which means it's time to look back on the year that's ending and to look ahead to the year to come.

My resolutions for 2012:

1. Continue to strive to live without regrets 
I won't say that I didn't have any regrets this year, but it was a good year. I've made some changes in my life and I think I'm better for them.


2. Revise Cardinal Three
Better late than never on this one. Another WIP took priority this year, but I have started working on revisions for CT.


3. Get a 4.0 this winter semester
So close on this one! I'm very happy with my grades this year.


4. Start riding again
Some things just aren't in the cards and this is one of them. Someday...


5. Read 50 books
I made it to 47 this year. 

And now it's time for my resolutions for 2013...

1. Read 100 books

2. Read 10 classics

3. Volunteer more of my time

4. Volunteer to work as a research assistant to gain experience in psychological research

5. Do five things that I've never done before

Do you have any resolutions for 2013? 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Favorite Books of the Year

I managed to read 48 books this year, which was just shy of my goal of 50 books. Though the quantity was low, the quality was not. It took me forever to decide which books were my favorites. Which is why I'm going to cheat and do five books across three categories...

Top Three First Read (in no particular order)

Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
I'm late to the Game of Thrones party, but I'm already a huge fan of the series. The first book has me hooked and I'm on the second right now. Already can't wait to get my hands on the third. This is a long book, but it didn't feel that way when I was reading. Martin made me feel like I knew the characters my whole life after just a few pages. It's a masterpiece.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
If you put my feet in the fire, I would say this is the best book I read this year. It was beautiful and it made me sob harder than anything ever has before. I can't wait to read it again soon.

Every Day by David Levithan
This is another gorgeous book. I loved the originality of the concept and the characters. I loved the different glimpses into people's lives and how we all have our problems and secrets. I loved the romance and the bittersweet ending. 

Favorite Classic

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
This was my first Christie book ever and I have to say it did not disappoint. She had an unusual style that takes some getting used to, but is fascinating. I knew about the twist ending ahead of time and I still couldn't believe it. 

Best Reread

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This is the second time I've read this book and it was even better this time, if that's possible. This a book that I highly recommend to everyone that I meet. It's beautiful and heart-wrenching. I knew everything that would happen and I still curled up into a ball and sobbed.

What was your favorite book that you read this year?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

RTW -- Writing Songs

YA Highway is doing a special extended week of road trips this week! Today's topics are:

- Best Music to Write To/Be Inspired By

The music that I write to is kind of random. I have more Pandora stations than I know what to do with. Generally I just choose the one that I feel like listening to and just write. I don't make playlists because I rarely ever have songs that I associate with my WIPs. When I do have specific songs, it's usually just one or two and not nearly enough to make a playlist out of.

Mostly I listen to my Nickelback station because it's easier for me to tune out rock music than anything else. WTS was mostly written to my Keith Urban station because it takes place on a ranch in Nevada and that felt more appropriate.

Specific songs that I find inspirational:

"Impossible" by Joe Nichols

"Even If It Breaks Your Heart" by Eli Young Band

"Crazy Town" by Jason Aldean (The song itself isn't really the inspirational part, but I relate the lyrics so much to the world of publishing and the writing journey.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

RTW -- Favorite Settings and Characters

YA Highway is doing a special extended week of road trips this week! Today's topics are:

- Best "I Want To Go To There" Setting in a Book
- Favorite YA Characters
 
For settings, I would have to start this off with Hogwarts, of course. All Harry Potter obsessing aside, Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight really made me want to see London. Not that I didn't want to see it before, of course. Seeing London has been on my bucket list for years. Mark of Athena really made me want to see Rome. Twenty Boy Summer makes me want to go to a beach, any beach.

Favorite YA characters...I think I'm going to stick to the ones that I read this year. Otherwise I could be here half of 2013 trying to decide. 
 
First up there's Cassel in White Cat. I have to admit that I'm very late to the series, but I really loved the first book and the second one is already on my stack. I couldn't help but fall in love with Cassel, in spite of -- or maybe because of -- his conman prowess. 
 
Second is A from Every Day. He's such a great character and I love the way he deals with everything. 

Last and best, this wouldn't be a list of favorite YA characters if I didn't bring up Verity and Maddie in Code Name Verity. Their friendship is one of my favorites of all time.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pets: Real Life and Fictional

I thought it might be fun to talk about my pets in real life and those of my character's. There aren't a lot of animals in fiction that aren't central to the plot and that's always kind of bothered me.

My Pets: 
I don't have any pets that I can specifically call my own because I live in a college dorm and we're only allowed to own fish. Last year I had a betta named Rory Williams who, sadly, did not live up to his namesake's ability to survive death. After I get back from break, I want to get a new betta named Bates (after John Bates in Downton Abbey). 

At home we have one dog and six cats. We have a Husky/Chow mix named Loki that's getting up there in years. Then there's Bandit, an orange and white male cat that we've had for as long as I can remember; Diamond, a black and white male that growls at everyone; Lyra, a sweet brown and white female; Talon and Mia, Lyra's two kittens; and Scoot-Scott, a pure black female that is only sweet when she wants to be and attacks the rest of the time.

My Character's Pets: 
Zeus and Athena are Troy's two cats. Zeus is a black male with an imperious attitude who doesn't like to be disturbed. He's based off my cat, Diamond. Athena is a tabby female who loves to play and has a no-nonsense attitude. Troy also has a young female Schnauzer named Brittany.

Skylar cares for and rides a buckskin mustang gelding named Smoke. He's a naturally proud horse, doesn't bond to people easily, but will do anything for the person who gains his trust. Kaye owns an abused gray Quarter Horse named Shiver. She's roughly based off my old Quarter Horse, Lady, who was gray but -- not to my knowledge -- ever abused.

What pets do you have? Do any of your character's have pets?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

RTW -- By Any Other Name...

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

Next week's topic: 
How do you decide on names? Would you ever name a character after a friend/family member/ex?

I have a friend with a really cool name who I've already told I'm going to steal it at some point. As for family members, maybe but only because I have family members with really common names. As for exes...never. I have trouble separating people from their names so when I name a character after someone I know in real life, I have to work to separate their appearance and personality from that character.

As for how I decide on names...that's a complicated question. A lot of my characters come with their own names. If they don't, then generally I just hop on my favorite baby names site and go down the lists of names until one of them strikes my fancy.

I also have a list of cool names that I want to use someday. The names on the list have come from just about everywhere. I like days when the teacher calls roll because it means I get to hear everyone's name and sometimes I jot down a few for the list. 

Here are a few of my MCs and where their names come from. 

Kaye -- Baby name site 
Skylar -- Came with his 
Helena -- Name from an old WIP 
Troy -- Mom suggested this one 
Wren -- I could say she came with hers, but I've just really loved this name ever since I saw Footloose 
Jesse -- Came with his 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mark of Athena Review

***WARNING: This is the third book in the Heroes of Olympus series. There will be spoilers for the previous two books and this one***

The Mark of Athena
by Rick Riordan
Heroes of Olympus #3 
Annabeth is terrified. Just when she's about to be reunited with Percy—after six months of being apart, thanks to Hera—it looks like Camp Jupiter is preparing for war. As Annabeth and her friends Jason, Piper, and Leo fly in on the Argo II, she can’t blame the Roman demigods for thinking the ship is a Greek weapon. With its steaming bronze dragon masthead, Leo's fantastical creation doesn't appear friendly. Annabeth hopes that the sight of their praetor Jason on deck will reassure the Romans that the visitors from Camp Half-Blood are coming in peace.

And that's only one of her worries. In her pocket Annabeth carries a gift from her mother that came with an unnerving demand:
Follow the Mark of Athena. Avenge me. Annabeth already feels weighed down by the prophecy that will send seven demigods on a quest to find—and close—the Doors of Death. What more does Athena want from her?

Annabeth's biggest fear, though, is that Percy might have changed. What if he's now attached to Roman ways? Does he still need his old friends? As the daughter of the goddess of war and wisdom, Annabeth knows she was born to be a leader, but never again does she want to be without Seaweed Brain by her side.

I made the mistake of starting this book two weeks before finals. It was physically painful for me to have to put it down so that I could study, but it really motivated me to get everything done so I could spend my evenings reading. This is a fantastic third installment to the series. My friends (who watched me while I read most of the ending) would say they feared that I would flail so hard I would fall off the couch where I was reading and hit my head on the coffee table. 

The voice and pacing was great, as always. The story grabbed me and pulled me right along. 

I have to admit, though, the characters kind of upset me in this one. At one point, Jason gets knocked out and all Piper can worry about is him forgetting her again. Even Annabeth seems to spend a lot of time worrying about Percy. Then there were the characters constantly blaming themselves for things outside of their control. Leo spends the entire book blaming himself for attacking New Rome even though an eiodolan made him do it. The whole team seemed to spend a lot of time wandering about even though they were on a quest to save Nico and he had less than six days to live. 

Anyway, I love the use of Roman and Greek mythology. The fact that they actually have to go to Rome is fantastic. There were some great appearances in this one. I absolutely loved Narcissus, Hercules, and Chrysaor. And the fact that the Romans literally stole Athena blew my mind. The way Annabeth saved her was so brilliant, even by Annabeth's standards.

Don't even get me started on the ending. I'm still in shock. Annabeth and Percy stuck in Tartarus? I know that they'll help each other to keep their sanity, but still! Is it October yet?? I need House of Hades and I need it soon!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tips for Querying Multiple Projects

It's best to query one project at a time, but if you just can't help but query two projects simultaneously, then here are a few tips.

1. Best with diverse projects
Querying multiple manuscripts at once is best if they are all very different. Perhaps you have one non-fiction proposal and one YA novel. Or perhaps one is adult and the other is middle grade. This way your agent pool for each project is more likely to be segregated.

2. Write individual queries for each project
There should be one manuscript per query. Don't try to save time by putting summaries for all your projects into the same query.

3. Don't query the same agent with both projects simultaneously 
If you're querying the same agents with both manuscripts, it's best to choose the manuscript that you think would be their best fit. If you have a YA fantasy and a YA contemporary, and the agent is looking for all types of YA and specifically mentions fantasy in their wish list, don't send them the contemporary.

4. Don't ply agents with queries
Don't wait for them to reject one and then immediately send them the other one. The same goes for requested fulls/partials. Unless the agent asks "what else do you have?" don't immediately send them more queries after they reject one.

5. Keep careful records
Make sure to write down which agent has which query and which agents you haven't submitted to yet. You don't want to receive a full request for one project and then send them the other. (This may sound far-fetched, but it almost happened to me!) You also don't want to send the same agent the same query twice.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Random Things I Miss About Home

There are some things that you don't realize you miss about home either A) You're back at home, or B) You're on campus and realize how much you miss it. Friends and family are a given, so here are a few random things that I always miss about home.

1. My pets. The lack of animal companionship is one of the things that I hate most about living in the dorms. I mean, sure, you can have a fish, but you can't snuggle up in bed to a fish.

2. The ability to lock my bathroom door

3. Actual food

4. Being able to retreat into my bedroom and avoid everyone if I want to. I'm a major introvert, so the fact that I have to be around people all the time without any real means of escape can be exhausting, no matter how much I love my friends.

5. Being able to listen to music in the shower

6. Long showers without having to worry about someone walking in

7. Not having to worry about loud or drunk neighbors (Though, I suppose this could be a problem at home depending on where you live.) 

8. The smell of smoke from burning wood and leaf piles. I live in the country, so in autumn this smell tends to be everywhere. I'm not sure why I love it so much, but I do.

9. Video games

10. Having access to all my books all the time

If you're at college, what are some things that you miss about home?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book Recs: Young Adult Part 2

Last week I talked about ten young adult books that I love. This week I'm going to talk about seven more.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he's found his other half until he blows it and realizes he has to get Noah back while everything is falling apart. It's a quick read with amazing voice and beautiful characters.

Divergent by Veronica Roth
In Beatrice's world everyone is divided into five factions, each with their own focus: Amity (peace), Abnegation (selfless), Dauntless (bravery), Erudite (intelligence), and Candor (honesty). When Tris turns sixteen it's time for her to decide where she wants to spend the rest of her life and the choice she makes surprises everyone, including herself. This is the first book in a trilogy and it's absolutely brilliant.

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann
When Kendall's classmates start disappearing she has to push her problems aside and help to find her missing friends, even if it means teaming up with the one boy she shouldn't get close to. This is a beautifully written book with great characters, a real romance, and a huddle-under-the-covers creepy plot.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare 
When Tessa crosses to England to find her brother, she's kidnapped by the Dark Sisters and is thrust into a world of Downwolders and Shadowhunters. Chased by the Magister because of a rare ability -- the power to transform into another person at will -- she takes refuge with Shadowhunters and finds herself torn between Jem and Will. Cassandra Clare is known for rounded characters, sizzling romances, and amazing plot twists. This book is no exception. It's the first in the Infernal Devices trilogy which may be my favorite series by her once Clockwork Princess comes out in March.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This is the heart-wrending story of Lis, a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany. It's one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. 

Wake by Lisa McMann
For Janie, stepping into other people's dreams is a normal occurrence and one she's thoroughly sick of. Until she steps into a dream more terrifying than any she's seen before and she becomes more than an observer; she's a participant. This is the first book in the Dream Catcher trilogy. All three are absolutely brilliant. They're beautifully written books that grab hold and don't let go.

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
When Auden goes to spend the summer with her dad and his new family, she doesn't expect to find the life her overbearing mother has never allowed her to have or a kindred spirit in Eli, a fellow insomniac who lets her into his nighttime world. This is a very sweet book with a great romance and wonderful characters. It's a relatively quick read and a great book to curl up with on a rainy day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

RTW: Measure a Year in Books

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.
 
This week's topic: 
About how many books do you read in a year? Do you want to read more? Or, less?
 
For the past few years, I've been averaging about 50 books a year. It was a lot easier when I was in high school and had more time to read. Now that I'm in college, there isn't a lot of free time for pleasure reading. So far this year I've read 46 books and my goal is 50. 

I would really like to be able to read more. My to-read shelf on Goodreads is 457 books and counting. At this rate (assuming that I don't add any more books to the list, which is impossible) it will take me 9 years to read all of them.

I'm thinking next year my goal is going to be 100 books, but I doubt that I'll make it. That was my goal my senior year of high school and I barely hit 50.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

CRUSHED Release Day!

Crushed
by Dawn Rae Miller
For seventeen-year-old serial womanizer Fletch Colson, life is a game and if he plays by the rules, he’ll win it all: his dream college, his parents’ money, and a hot (if a little vapid) girl on his arm. Really, it couldn’t be easier. All he has to do is get good grades, live a privileged boarding school life, and try not to mess up too much.

However, when he accepts the seemingly impossible bet to change his ways and be “just friends” with smart, beautiful, tempting Ellie Jacobs – a girl who seems hell bent on confusing him - Fletch’s whole world is turned upside down.

Suddenly, what seemed simple and clear, no longer feels right and Fletch must decide if winning it all is worth losing a piece of himself.
 

Check out her website for more information and the first four chapters!

Happy book birthday, Crushed!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The "FINALLY" Moment

The "Finally" moment is a major factor in the majority of TV shows, movies, and books with romance as a big element. That's the moment where two characters finally get together after a long period of sexual tension and beating around the bush and readers/viewers screaming "Just kiss already!" 

There's a fine line between dragging it out and building up to just the right moment. There's commonly a lot of "almost there" moments where it almost happens, but it's not quite the right time.

There needs to be tension and it needs to feel right, but there's always the potential that it's going to start dragging on forever.

A couple good examples of "Finally" moments that come to mind right now...

Ross and Rachel in the finale of Friends is the ultimate "Finally" moment. That's actually the scene that inspired this post. We always knew they would be together from the first moment to the last. It was a ten year span and, while it was frustrating, it wasn't over the top. They dated, they had moments together, they had a baby together. But it wasn't completely right until that final moment.

A more modern one is Castle and Beckett in Castle. I'm not going to say anything more because I don't want to spoil anything for anyone, but they've always been brilliant together and waiting for that "Finally" moment makes me want to explode from all the teasing.

In summary, the build-up to that "finally" moment has to have close misses and a lot of teasing. There needs to be moments where you know that they're going to be together and moments where you scream "COME ON KISS" even though you know the characters aren't going to listen. At the same time, it shouldn't be dragged on forever. When it feels right, it's time. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

College: How to Survive Finals

It's that time of the semester again: finals. The time when the library is always packed and free time is in extremely short supply. Here are some tips on how to make the stressful time a little easier.

Start studying early 
Don't wait until the day before the test to read the chapters for the first time. Instead, start early. Make flashcards a week in advance and study them every night up to the test. The same thing works for notes. Every night before you go to bed, read over your notes. Studying often implants the information more deeply into your brain.  

Study the way you do best
Some people learn best by reading the information multiple times and others by listening to the information. Review notes, make flash cards, complete study guides, listen to lectures, review Powerpoints, read chapters again, have a study session with a friend in the class, and anything else that might help. Do whatever works best for you.

Plan your studying
Make a list of everything that you need to do before your finals and ration it out. Plan what classes you're going to study for, how, and when. Different classes require different study techniques. Of my four finals, one of them has a study guide; one of them requires me to make flash cards for theories, dates, and laws; and one of them I need to review all my notes. When you study will also depend on which finals you have when. I have two finals on Monday, so I'll have to study for both of them over the weekend. My last final isn't until Wednesday, so I can take all day Tuesday to study hard for that one.

Find the ideal place to study
There are a lot of different places to study and they all have their pros and cons. Make sure to find the best one for you. I like to study in our designated study room during the normal school year, but during finals week I actually prefer to study in the dining hall. There's total silence in the dorms during finals week and I like a bit of noise when I study. I could listen to music, but that doesn't work depending on what I'm studying. Whether it's the library, the dining hall, or your own dorm, make sure it's somewhere your mind will be on studying.

Set aside a little time to de-stress
Even though your number one priority should be studying finals, don't forget to set aside a little time to relax and let your brain unwind. Take short breaks during long study sessions and give yourself an hour or two every night to just chill. Last year during finals week I managed to make it through two books -- both old favorites -- because I would read when I needed to de-stress.

It's okay to say no to social events
Don't be afraid to say no to things if you really need to study. Even the weekend before finals week has things happening. Know your limits and find the right balance between relaxing and studying.

Check and double-check exam locations and times
Finals are oftentimes during different times and in different classrooms than normal classes. Make sure to check that you've got the right time and location. There's nothing worse than missing your final or ending up at the wrong room.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Book Recs: Young Adult Part 1

Continuing with my series of book recommendations is my young adult recs. Part two will come next week.

Every Day by David Levithan
Every night at midnight, A shifts into a new person's body and has to be them for a day. A is fine with this, until one day he breaks one of his own rules by falling in love with his current body's girlfriend. This book is absolutely beautiful. It has wonderful characters and great writing. It's one of those books that I recommend everyone read. It's a great "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" kind of story.

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
Parker -- cheerleading captain, teacher's pet, and future valedictorian -- starts failing all of her classes and drinking at school in reaction to a traumatic event that just might be her fault. This is another beautifully written book. I love the characters and the plot and the writing. It's all true to high school life as well.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
When Verity -- a spy for the British during WW2 -- is captured by the Gestapo after her plane crashes, she weaves a tale about her past and her best friend, Maddie, as her confession. It's a gorgeous book and I love every bit of it. I just read it recently and I'm already dying to read it again.

Looking for Alaska by John Green
Miles world has been one big "nonevent" until Alaska pulls him into her messed-up and self-destructive world. This is another book that's really true to high school life. I love all of Green's books, but this one is one of my favorites. 

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith 
Hadley expects the day she has to fly to London for her dad's second wedding to be one of the worst days of her life, until she meets Oliver on the plane and it turns out to be one of the best. It's a very sweet and quick read. The whole book takes place over a twenty-four hour period and yet it doesn't at all feel rushed.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
When Jenna awakens from a coma that everyone says she's been in for a year, she doesn't remember anything from the life she has before and she can't help but feel that something is terribly wrong. It's a great story that deals with some issues that are prominent in today's society. There's a sequel, The Fox Inheritance. 

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins 
Anna isn't happy when her senior year plans are disrupted when shipped off to a Paris boarding school, until she meets Etienne St. Clair, perfect in every way except for the fact that he's taken. It's a very sweet read with great characters and an adorable romance.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Melinda is ostracized by her friends and classmates after she calls the cops on an end-of-summer party, but only she knows the truth of why. It's a very real book and I recommend that every high school student -- girls especially -- read it at least once.

White Cat by Holly Black
Cassel is the only one without magic in a family of criminal Curse Workers, but he does have a dangerous secret: three years ago, he killed his best friend. Now Cassel is sleepwalking and having nightmares about a white cat, and starting to wonder if his two brothers are keeping secrets from him. It's a book with an absolutely brilliant plot, great writing, and an interesting cast of characters. It's the first in a series.

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
Nick and Alan are always on the run from magicians to use demons to work their magic looking for a charm that Nick's mother stole, until Nick begins to suspect that everything Alan has told him -- about their family, past, and the reason they're running -- is a lie. This is the first book in a trilogy. This is one of those books that grabs hold and doesn't let go. This one has it all: great writing, rounded characters, shocking plot twists, and a brilliant premise.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

RTW: Approaching Revisions

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.


This week's topic: 
For many, December is a post-NaNoWriMo revision haze! How do you approach editing/revising? Any tips or tricks or resources you can share?
I'm in the midst of revising right now (a project that is not my NaNo) so this subject is definitely on my mind. Here are three random tips that I like to use: 

1. Break it down
I break my manuscript into chapters and scenes and then, using Scrivener's notecards, I summarize each scene and chapter so that I can see how things progress. even if you don't have Scrivener, you can use a bulleted on a separate document or Post-It notes on a corkboard (this also works well to make a calender to check for timeline issues).

It makes it easier for you to see where information is revealed, any places the pacing slows down, and how the plot progresses. For manuscripts with multiple points of view, I find it helpful to break them down by PoV character so that I can keep track of where everyone is and make sure that nothing gets tangled.

2. Do a preliminary read before starting revisions
Before you make any changes, give the manuscript a complete read-through. Don't make any changes here, just take notes. I keep a "revision letter" on a separate document of all the large things that I need to fix. This might include character motivations, plot changes, pacing problems, removal or addition of characters, new scenes that should be added, worldbuilding issues, things that need to be clarified, and any other enveloping changes. I also take notes on the document of smaller things like typos, awkward sentence structure, grammar issues, unrealistic dialogue, and other line-by-line issues. 

3. Get betas
A fresh pair of eyes will look at your manuscript in a whole new way and catch things that you, as  the writer, might miss. I recommend not sending the manuscript to them until you have made it the shiniest that you possibly can by yourself. Smaller rounds of betas make it easier to manage all the feedback and you can do multiple rounds.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Misuse of Apostrophes

I know I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but I'm going to say it anyway. We need to talk about the correct use of apostrophes.

Recently I've picked up on a lot of misuse of apostrophes. I have a Game of Thrones poster that I've found no less than three mistakes in so far and I also went to a craft show over the weekend where I picked out two things that misused apostrophes.

So, here we go.

Apostrophes have two uses:

1. To indicate possession 
Amy's husband's name is Rory. [There are two apostrophes in this one. The first indicates that the husband is Amy's. The second one indicates that the name "Rory" is the husband's.]

I need to borrow six doctors' white lab coats. [In this case, "doctor" is plural so the apostrophe goes after the "s."]

2. Contractions
Let's = Let us
Can't = Can not
Won't = Will not

Next up, some situations in which apostrophes are NOT appropriate, but somehow get used anyway.

1. Sports teams 
Correct: Lions, Wolverines, Bears, Red Wings, Flyers, Pistons (Can you tell I'm a Detroit girl?)
Incorrect: Lion's, Wolverine's, Bear's, Red Wing's, Flyer's, Piston's

2. To make things plural 
Incorrect: There are twelve car's in the lot.
Correct: There are twelve cars in the lot.

There is one exception in these that should probably be mentioned and that is "it."

It's = It is (Ex: It's a beautiful day.)
Its = the possessive form of it (Ex: "My priority has always been and will always be the welfare of this school and, of course, its students.")

Monday, December 3, 2012

NaNo Wrap-Up

I made it! I'm tired and behind on my homework and sleep-deprived and I'm not sure what to do with this bit of free time that I now have, but I've had it! I hit 50k on Tuesday. For now, Hacker (that's the nickname for my WIP) is going to be trunked. It needs a complete rewrite, but that's okay.

Final word count: 50,520 

First line: I remember the murder very clearly. 

Last line: Everything's not back to normal, but everything is okay.  

I'm really excited about this one and its characters. It's just going to take a lot of time. For now, I get to concentrate on getting caught up on homework and finals that are only a week away. 

Did you do NaNo this year? How did you do?

Friday, November 30, 2012

College: Winter Break Advice

It's that time of year again. Time to start getting ready to go home for winter break. It's an exciting time, the break between semesters. Thanksgiving break isn't nice, but with the homework and stressing about finals, it's not really a break. Here is some advice on how to get ready to go home.

Turn in any necessary paperwork 
If there's anything that you need to turn in about going home or living arrangements for next semester, make sure to get it in on time.

Pack anything and everything you'll need for home 
Make sure you have any clothes, toiletries, personal supplies, electronics, chargers, and everything else that you need at home. If you're planning on bringing up extra stuff after break, you might want to leave a little extra room in your suitcases for it. 

Make travel arrangements and don't forget to budget money for it 
If you're not driving yourself home, make sure to find and settle plans with a ride ahead of time. Don't forget to budget money for gas and food on the trip. Don't wait until the last minute because you might not be able to catch a ride. Everyone leaves at different times and cars can fill up fast.

Do anything required by your dorm
If you live in the dorms, make sure to attend any meetings, talk to your resident adviser, check out properly, and do anything else that's required by your personal dorms. Here we have so sign up for a check-out time a week or so in advance. In addition to the normal check-out right before we leave, we also have to do preliminary check-outs ahead of time. 

Clean the room
It's a lot better to come home to a clean room after break, so make sure to get everything organized. Change the sheets, make the bed, dust everything down, organize your desk, throw out any clutter that has accumulated over the year, and vacuum, sweep, and mop the floors. If you're not planning on taking any laundry home, make sure you get all of it done before you leave.

Defrost the fridge
Clean out all the food out of your fridge. You're probably going to have to unplug it while you're gone and the last thing you want to come back to is a disgusting mess. Put a towel underneath, unplug it, and let all the ice melt inside. Give it a good final clean if required.

Get rid or take home any food
If you have any perishable food, make sure to either throw it out or pack it to take home. You don't want to come home to any rotting or stale food. Nonperishable food is okay to leave, as long as its safely sealed and organized.

Make sure to unplug everything 
Before you leave, unplug everything. Give all the outlets a final glance to make sure that everything is out. This is also a chance to check and make sure that you have all the chargers that you need.

Do a last-minute check to make sure you haven't forgotten anything 
Make sure that you have everything you need before you leave. Here, once you check-out you have to leave the building and you're not supposed to come back in. Make sure that you have any house keys, wallet, identification, luggage, and anything else you might need.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Book Recs: Middle Grade

Christmas is just around the corner and so is that period of trying to figure out what to buy for everyone. Here are some ideas of great middle grade books and why I love them so much.

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce
No list of mine discussing middle grade books would be complete with Tamora Pierce.  I've been reading this one at least once a year since fifth grade and I've never gotten tired of it. WM is the first book in the Immortals quartet. It's a great story with strong female and male characters, wild fantasy creatures, and a touch of romance later in the series.

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
This is the first book in the Song of the Lioness quartet. It's another amazing story with strong female and male characters, surprising twists, and a bit more romance than Immortals.

So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane
I got into this series in middle school and just recently discovered it again. It hasn't lost any of its magic over the years. This is the first book in the eight-book series. I recommend it for a upper middle grade readers simply because each installment is rather long. It's the story of a girl who discovers a book in a library So You Want to be a Wizard and takes the Oath to become a wizard, expecting nothing of it. The series is one of magic, great characters, and being strong in the face of adversity.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
This is the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. This series is five books long, all of them fantastic. There is also a companion series Heroes of Olympus, also five books long, but only three of them are out so far. The series centers on Percy Jackson who, after many years of bizarre accidents resulting in him getting kicked out of school-after-school, discovers that he's the son of a Greek god and is taken to Camp Half-Blood where demigods are trained to fight.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
I read this book way back in seventh grade and I still look on it fondly. It's one of the few school-assigned classics that I can honestly say I loved when I read it in class.  In Jonas's world everything is assigned: jobs, houses, even spouses. When Jonas receives his occupation, he gets a shock: he has been chosen to be the Giver, the one to hold all the memories of things outside of their world, to see beyond. There are three sequels, one of which just came out very recently.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
This is the first book in the Kane Chronicles trilogy. The story centers on Carter and Sadie whose father, a famed Egyptologist, unleashes the Egyptian god Set and forces them to embark on a dangerous journey. This trilogy, like Percy Jackson, centers on mythology but it's Egyptian instead of Greek.

What are your recommendations for great middle grade books? 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

RTW - Best Book of November

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic. 

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

Last month I hadn't finished any books and I'm happy to say that I fared much better this month reading-wise. I managed to finish two books, both of them amazing. The first was Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie. This was my second of her works that I've read and I loved it. 

My pick for best book, however has to go to... 

Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This book is definitely a classic. I have to admit, it was a little strange but I loved it anyway. The epistolary style is very well-done and all the characters are brilliant. I've been wanting to read this one for years (and now I really regret that I passed it up in high school), but the movie is what really made me settle in to read it. I'm even more psyched for the movie now that I've read the book!

It's just so true to life and high school. This book really spoke to me. I wish I could send it back in time to my high school freshman self because I really think it would have helped.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why I Love NCIS's Characters

Over the last couple months, I've been on an NCIS-watching marathon. I've made it all the way to the end of season three so far. It's one of my all-time favorite shows. One of the reasons for that is its amazing characters. I love all of them and asking me which one is my favorite is like asking me to pick my favorite best friend.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs
No discussion of NCIS characters would be complete without Gibbs. Say whatever you want about him, he's probably one of the greatest characters written today. The backstory behind his character and everything he does is incredible. As I'm watching the show, I keep learning more and more about him. Every time an episode mentions his wife and child, or I see him dealing with a case that includes a child, I burst into tears. I can't help it. You might call him a chauvinist, but is he really? When a naval officer protested when he requested to bring Kate on board a submarine, didn't Gibbs fight until Kate was allowed on board? Gibbs would do anything for his team.

Anthony Dinozzo
I have to admit, I wasn't a fan of Tony at first. He's the real chauvinist of the show, always going after women and bragging about his conquests. He's always goofing around and causing trouble and lording his seniority over the other agents. But at the same time, he's an incredible agent and I know why Gibbs keeps him around. 

Abby Sciuto
If you ask me who my favorite character is, it will end up being a toss-up between Gibbs and Abby. Abby is the forensic scientist of NCIS and she's completely brilliant. She's always hyped up on caffeine, listening to loud rock music, and being a normal goth. She's the sweetest member of the team and she really cares about everyone. Her father-daughter relationship with Gibbs gets me every time.

Ziva David 
Ziva can be quick to jump for the trigger (she was an assassin before joining NCIS as a liason), but she's a great agent. She's the only one who can match Tony. Her inability to grasp American sayings and slang is great comic relief for the show and she does get a lot better at it as the show goes on. She has a complicated story behind her and the way she came to join NCIS that makes her character that much more fascinating.

Doctor Mallard
Ducky is the medical examiner for NCIS. He always has some kind of story that goes with everything and he can monologue for long periods of time, whether or not the story has any kind of relevance to the case or not. The only one who can ever seem to keep him completely on track is Gibbs. He's known Gibbs for a very long time.

Jimmy Palmer 
Jimmy is, as Tony puts it, the "autopsy gremlin" or Ducky's assistant. He makes his mistakes and gets nervous about doing things on his own, but he learns very quickly and will be a fantastic ME someday. I haven't seen a lot of him to where I am in the series, but he's such a sweetheart and he tries his absolute hardest to do his job right.

The main point of this is that every NCIS character, down to the smallest, feels like a real person. They all interact like real people. They have their friendships and their fights and their disagreements. But, at the end of the day, they're all a team. They make mistakes and they break Gibbs' rules and they learn from them.

Monday, November 26, 2012

NaNo Update Week Four

Total Word Count: 40,284
Mon: 0
Tues: 0
Wed: 4,154
Thurs: 0
Fri: 2,981
Sat: 2,152
Sun: 0

It was a very up and down week writing-wise for me. Monday was an extremely stressful day for a lot of reasons. Tuesday I spent most of the day in a car traveling from uni to home (and then spent most of the day Sunday making the same trek in the opposite direction). And Thursday was Thanksgiving so I think that one speaks for itself. Other than that, though, it was a solid writing week. It occurred to me on Friday that all I needed to finish up that last leg of the story is one great writing spree.

How is everyone doing? It's the last week of NaNo! That means it's time to buckle down and blast out those final words.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

RTW - Balancing Writing with the Holidays

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic is:  
With Thanksgiving on the horizon we want to know how you balance hectic times like the holidays with your writing schedule.

I'm probably not the best person to be answering this question because I haven't written in three days (combination of getting everything ready to come home for break and stress). However, I'm hoping to go on a huge writing spree while I'm home so I can get ahead on NaNo (I'm behind right now) because the last week of November is the second-to-last week before finals (YIKES!). 

My biggest advice for writing during hectic times is write in your down-time. Even if you can only write 250 words at a time, those words add up a lot over time. And just a little bit of progress is better than none at all.

Don't make yourself feel guilty if you can't get a writing session in. If you don't write well under pressure, don't tell yourself that you have to write twice as much the next day because you didn't hit your target. Find the right balance between spending time with family and writing. 

Happy Thanksgiving!  

Monday, November 19, 2012

NaNo Week Three Update

Total Word Count: 30,997 words
Mon: 2,605
Tues: 1,192
Wed: 2,744
Thurs: 0
Fri:  2,095
Sat: 3,860
Sun: 0

It was a good weekend in writing. I've been trying to get ahead again so that I don't feel too pressured while I'm getting ready to go home and hanging out with my family over the holidays. This is the first time I'll see them since I got up here in August, so I don't anticipate having too much time for writing this week.

Tip:
Prioritize and give yourself permission if you need a day to catch up on other things. A few of my 0-word days were the result of my attempt to finish most of my homework in one day so that I could concentrate on writing later.

Even if you're normally a pantser, consider trying outlining if you're struggling to decide what to write. I have three points of view, so I outline chapters ahead so I know what's going to happen with each point of view. It helps to eliminate writers' block because I don't have to remember where each character is and what they were doing. 

How is everyone else doing? 

Friday, November 16, 2012

College: Going Home for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is next week (I know, I'm in shock too) which means it's almost time to head home for the holiday! If you're lucky enough to get the whole week off, you might be on your way home already. If you have to wait until Wednesday, I sympathize. Here are some tips on going home for the holidays.

Get homework done
You might think that you'll have plenty of time for homework when you get home, but in my experience the holidays are the worst time to try to get things done. Home is nine hours away from college for me, so going home is a really big deal. My days tend to be packed with visiting people and going out. Therefore, check your syllabi and make a list of all the homework that you should get done. Get as much of it done before you leave as you can.

Make plans with any rides/passengers early
If you're catching a ride home or taking on any passengers, make sure you get all plans set ahead of time. There's nothing more annoying than having to wait for a driver or passenger because plans weren't clear. Things happen but try to stick to a schedule. 

Prepare your dorm room for the time away
Make any arrangements that you need to. Don't forget to clean out the fridge and get rid of any food that will spoil while you're away. If you have fish or other pets, make arrangements for them. Clean up your room and make sure to get rid of any garbage. The last thing you want is to come back to a room filled with fruit flies or smelling like rotten garbage.

Budget gas money
Gas is really expensive so make sure to prepare for that. If you're riding home with someone else, discuss how the costs will be divided and don't forget to bring enough money to cover your portion. If you're driving and taking passengers, make sure to talk to them about dividing the cost of gas and stick to the decided division.

Don't forget to pack
It's the weirdest feeling to pack stuff from your dorm room into a suitcase to go home.  Don't forget to pack ahead of time so you're not rushing to throw things into your suitcase five minutes before you're supposed to leave.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New Releases: Ashes of Twilight, Undeadly, Struck by Lightning

Ashes of Twilight
by Kassy Taylor 
Ashes Trilogy #1
Wren MacAvoy works as a coal miner for a domed city that was constructed in the mid-nineteenth century to protect the royal blood line of England when astronomers spotted a comet on a collision course with Earth.

Humanity would be saved by the most groundbreaking technology of the time.

But after nearly 200 years of life beneath the dome, society has become complacent and the coal is running out. Plus there are those who wonder, is there life outside the dome or is the world still consumed by fire?

When one of Wren's friends escapes the confines of the dome, he is burned alive and put on display as a warning to those seeking to disrupt the dome’s way of life. But Alex’s final words are haunting. “The sky is blue.”

What happens next is a whirlwind of adventure, romance, conspiracy and the struggle to stay alive in a world where nothing is as it seems. Wren unwittingly becomes a catalyst for a revolution that destroys the dome and the only way to survive might be to embrace what the entire society has feared their entire existence.

 Undeadly
by Michele Vail
The Reaper Diaries #1

The day I turned 16, my boyfriend-to-be died. I brought him back to life. Then things got a little weird...

Molly Bartolucci wants to blend in, date hottie Rick and keep her zombie-raising abilities on the down-low. Then the god Anubis chooses her to become a reaper—and she accidentally undoes the work of another reaper, Rath. Within days, she's shipped off to the Nekyia Academy, an elite boarding school that trains the best necromancers in the world. And her personal reaping tutor? Rath.

Life at Nekyia has its plusses. Molly has her own personal ghoul, for one. Rick follows her there out of the blue, for another...except, there's something a little off about him. When students at the academy start to die and Rath disappears, Molly starts to wonder if anything is as it seems. Only one thing is certain—-Molly's got an undeadly knack for finding trouble....

 Struck by Lightning: 
The Carson Phillips Journal
by Chris Colfer

Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal follows the story of outcast high school senior Carson Phillips, who blackmails the most popular students in his school into contributing to his literary journal to bolster his college application; his goal in life is to get into Northwestern and eventually become the editor of The New Yorker.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

RTW -- Bits of Inspiration

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.


This week's topic: 
Share your most inspiring and/or motivational video, book, or quote on writing!

I love quotes and I have a whole collection of them. I started going through them looking for something to do this post and then I ended up not being able to decide which one I liked best. So here are a few of my favorites: 

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might has well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default. ~ J.K. Rowling

I would like to be remembered as someone who did the best she could with the talent she had. ~ J.K. Rowling

“’What’ and ‘if’ are as non-threatening as two words can be. But put them together and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life.” ~ Letters to Juliet

“Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.” ~ Sidonie Gabriel

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” ~ Richard Bach

“Want to know a secret? No one is ever ready. That’s why they call it a ‘leap.’ And if you wait until you’re ready, you’ll wait forever.” ~ My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend

“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic.” ~ Unknown

“Every great wizard in history has started out as nothing more then what we are now: students. If they can do it, why not us?” – Order of the Phoenix

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ambiguous Characters

On Sunday nights, I have a tradition of watching Once Upon a Time. If you've never seen the show, basically the evil queen curses every fairy tale character to a little town in our world. It's a fantastic show on its second season.

But, anyway, my favorite character by far is Rumplestitskin. He only ever acts to his own ends and you can never tell which side he's really on. His agenda with a lot of things is unclear.

That's why I love him. I love the ambiguity of his character. I love his back story and everything that led to him becoming the way he is (no spoilers, I promise).

My favorite characters are often the ones where you can never tell which side they're on. They might do the right things for the wrong reasons or the wrong things for the right reasons. 

We love ambiguous characters because no one is always good or always bad. As Sirius said, "The world isn't divided into good people and Death Eaters. We've all got light and dark inside of us."

If you have characters that are ambiguous or characters that are evil, give them back stories. These are often the most rounded characters in the story. Don't make a character do horrible things because they're "evil." Make them do horrible things for a reason. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

NaNo Week Two Update

Total Word Count: 18,501 words
Mon: 5,017
Tues: 1,777
Wed: 2,036
Thurs: 0
Fri: 2,127
Sat: 0
Sun: 0

I've been in a big slump. I have a rough idea of things that I want to happen, but no idea on how to make them happen. I've been busy with a lot of schoolwork, reading, and friends. Hopefully getting back into a class schedule through this week will help me get over my sparse weekend.

This Week in Tweets:

Starbucks. Gingerbread latte (may be my new favorite). Two hours until my next class. Time to write! #amwriting #NaNo

Just hit 10k! Maybe I should do caffeine-fueled writing sprints in Starbucks more often... #NaNo

Note to self: Telling friends that "my characters aren't talking to me" might make them find me insane.

I'm ahead in #NaNo, but behind on homework. Shows where my priorities are, doesn't it? #muststudy #wanttowrite

Word count for today: 0. I did, however, get quite a bit of homework done.

Tip:

At the end of every writing session, leave yourself a note on where your character was going next. This will give you a starting point at your next session and prevent writers' block that results from trying to decide where your character will go next.

How is everyone else doing? 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Going to College in a Cold Climate

I'm so far north that half of the locals have Canadian-sounding accents. So when it comes to winter, it hits us hard. We got our first snow a week ago so I figured that now might be a good time to talk about how to handle the cold winter months.

1. Dress in layers
There are times up here when it'll be negative outside and then about seventy in the classrooms. (I wish I was kidding. I'm not.) The best thing to do is dress in layers. When I'm going to class, I generally wear a T-shirt or light long-sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, and a thick winter coat. There will also become a point when I'll start wearing Under Armour pants underneath my jeans. To keep your feet warm, get a couple pairs of fuzzy socks. When I'm going to spending a lot of time outside in the cold, I wear an Under Armour shirt, a warm long-sleeve shirt, a hoodie, and my winter coat.

2. Scarves are wonderful 
I have a thick woolen Gryffindor scarf that I wrap around my neck in the winter. It's also very nice if you do it in such a way that you can pull it up over your nose and mouth. Especially when the wind has decided to blow in such a way that ice crystals are flying into your face. 

3. Get a nice pair of boots with good traction
Boots are an essential in winter, especially once it really starts snowing. There are a lot of stylish and warm boots out there, though, that get terrible traction. That's the last thing you want when the sidewalks are covered in a slippery layer of ice and snow.

4. There's nothing better on a cold day than a hot shower
This one pretty much speaks for itself.

5. Be careful on slick roads
This one is particular to students who drive to classes. Check the road conditions before you leave and if it's not safe, don't go. Most professors will understand if you miss class because road conditions aren't safe, though try not to make a habit of it. Just make sure to let them know ahead of time that you won't be there. I had a professor tell us last week that he would be prefer us to email him and say that we can't make it to class safely than try to get there and crash.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Releases: Black City, Renegade, Meant to Be

Black City
by Elizabeth Richards
Black City #1
In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable—they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash’s long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught, they’ll be executed—but their feelings are too strong.

When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.

 Renegade
by J.A. Soulders
The Elysium Chronicles #1
Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has been trained to be Daughter of the People in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s thought that everything was perfect; her world. Her people. The Law.

But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into their secluded little world, she’s forced to come to a startling realization: everything she knows is a lie.

Her memories have been altered.

Her mind and body aren’t under her own control.

And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.

Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb... and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all. 

 Meant to Be 
by Lauren Morill
Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question.

It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be").

But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.

Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.
 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

RTW: Best Book of October

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic. 

 This week's topic: 
What's the best book you read in October?

I thought about just skipping RTW, but I'm kind of hoping that this confession encourages me to actually start reading. 

I have a confession to make: I didn't finish a single book for fun in October. It's been a very crazy month all around and reading just hasn't been in the cards. Instead, I think I'll talk about the books that I started reading but haven't yet finished...

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
This looks to be promising a very epic second installment to the series (yes, I am very behind) and I'm really excited about it. I only stopped reading because of the arrival of:  

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling 
I've been trying to read this book since it arrived at the beginning of the month. I am honestly enjoying it but it's a book that takes a lot of thought and concentration to read. It's not a very good pick for when I'm trying to read for a few minutes between classes. I'm thinking about putting it down until Christmas break when I have more time to devote towards it. 
I'm really hoping this month is better. How did everyone else fare when it came to reading in October?

Monday, November 5, 2012

NaNo Week One Update

Word Count Total: 7,492 words
Day 1: 4,180 words
Day 2: 1,304 words
Day 3: 2,008 words
Day 4:       0 words

Tweets from This Week: 
Wrote almost 500 words at breakfast! I was planning to write at lunch but then I remembered I have a lab report due tomorrow...

I need to get one of those screensavers like #Castle has that says "You should be writing" scrolling across the screen…

It's really frustrating when my killer can't decide who to target next. #NaNo #murdermystery

Time to watch the end of Avengers and write. Word count today is 0 and that needs to change.

I'm to the point in my #NaNo where I'm staring at the screen asking "What happens next?"

Tips: 

1. Write whenever you can, wherever you can. Even if it's just for a few minutes, just get the words down.

2. If your target word count for the day is too daunting, write in short sprints. My target for each day is 2,000 words so when I'm struggling I do sprints of 250 words. Breaking the larger goal into smaller ones makes it more manageable.

3. Join in word wars with friends. Mutual support can really help motivation.

4. Give yourself permission to have an "off day." It's okay not to hit your target once in awhile. Don't beat yourself up over it and don't tell pressure yourself to "make up for it" the next day. Just write as much as you can and keep on trucking.

If you're participating, how are things going?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New Releases: The Lost Prince, Venom

Sidenote: Happy first day of NaNo everyone! If you're participating, I hope you have a very productive first day of writing.
The Lost Prince
by Julie Kagawa 
The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten #1
Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them.

That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’d dare to fall for.

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myth and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.

Venom
by Fiona Paul
Secrets of the Eternal Rose #1

Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancĂ©, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.

When Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman—practically in her own backyard—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of courtesans, killers, and secret societies. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin... and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancĂ©, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

RTW -- Scary Books and Movies

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.
 
This week's topic: 
Halloween! What's your favorite scary book or movie?
 
I'm not a big one for scary movies. I can count on one hand the number of scary movies that I've seen in my lifetime. Until a few years ago my answer to the question "What's the scariest movie you've ever seen?" was "Taken." 

That being said, my favorite scary book is Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann. I hid under my blankets and read it in a single afternoon. I also wasn't a big fan of sleeping that night. Coming from a small town myself, this one really hit close to home. I'm kind of glad I waited until after I graduated high school to read it...

Kendall loves her life in small town Cryer's Cross, Montana, but she also longs for something more. She knows the chances of going to school in New York are small, but she's not the type to give up easily. Even though it will mean leaving Nico, the world's sweetest boyfriend, behind.

But when Cryer's Cross is rocked by unspeakable tragedy, Kendall shoves her dreams aside and focuses on just one goal: help find her missing friends. Even if it means spending time with the one boy she shouldn't get close to... the one boy who makes her question everything she feels for Nico.

Determined to help and to stay true to the boy she's always loved, Kendall keeps up the search--and stumbles upon some frightening local history. She knows she can't stop digging, but Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried....

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Writers/Publishing on the Big Screen

Last week I talked about myths about writing in the media so today I figured that I would talk about some examples of writers or publishers in movies and television.

Ruby Sparks
Trailer
I haven't seen this one yet, but it looks really cute. It's a story of a young novelist who writes about his perfect girl and is shocked when she comes to life.

The Words
Trailer
The trailer gives me goosebumps every time. I've been dying to see this movie for months now, but I still haven't. It's about a struggling novelist who finds an old manuscript and gets it published.

My Girlfriend's Boyfriend
Trailer
This is my favorite romantic movie. It's about a girl that falls in love with two amazing guys: a struggling writer and a successful ad executive. It's guilty of multiple myths that I discussed (in particular, the "there is only one publisher in the world" and "having a day job equals giving up your writing dream" myths).

The Decoy Bride
Trailer
In order to avoid the relentless eyes of the press, celebrity couple Lara (a famous actress) and James (bestselling author) decide to have it on a remote Scottish island where James's book was set. When the press finds out and Lara disappears, a "fake" wedding is staged to a local girl, Katie, but things get complicated when the wedding turns out to be real and Lara is still missing. It's a funny and adorable movie and David Tennant stars as James.

The Proposal
Trailer
Margaret Tate, an editor for a publishing company, coerces her assistant, Andrew, to marry her so that she can keep from being deported. In my opinion, this movie is one of the more accurate portrayals of the publishing industry.

Monday, October 29, 2012

NaNo: Pre-November Preparations

November is only a few days away and that means it's almost NaNoWriMo time! I might be insane but I'm going to really go for it this year. My name on the site is Horserider if anyone would like to add me. I'll also be blogging my progress and NaNo tips every Monday from now until the end of November.

To kick off the posts, here are some tips on things to get done before November 1st rolls around.

1. Figure out the idea 
There's nothing worse than scrambling for an idea on November 1st. Figure out what you're going to write about and get a rough plot worked out in your head at least. Last year I started with a sweet contemporary love story that morphed into urban fantasy 5k in because I decided that it "wasn't exciting enough." This is the same NaNo when I didn't even hit 5k. That's why this year I have the basic plot already worked out.

2. Prepare the documents
Open a document on your computer and do any preparations required so you won't have to wait a second when it's time to start writing.

3. Do any outlining/character bios/playlists/picture hunts/etc 
Do anything that you need to do to prepare to write. Write up character bios for all your major characters. Write a rough outline to keep yourself on track. Make playlists to listen to while you write. Find pictures to represent your characters to help with description. Whatever works best for you, do it. This is also the time to do any research that might get in the way of your writing.

4. Get caught up on homework/housework/etc
This is a big one for me. I have a lot going on over the next month, so my goal is to get all caught up on my homework and make sure my room is clean before NaNo starts. Get all caught up and you won't have to worry about it while you're trying to focus on writing.

5. Look into write-ins
One of the best parts of NaNo is the awesome community feeling and what better way to experience that than to go to a local write-in? You can (hopefully) get a lot of writing done and meet people who are writers just like you. I didn't go to any last year so I'm really hoping to get to one this year. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Myths About Writing in the Media

I watch a large number of movies. A ridiculous percentage of those are romantic comedies. And every once in awhile, I find a movie that includes writers and/or the publishing industry. Here are some of the many myths that I've found these movies commonly entail.

You have to go to publishers to submit to them
So many movies have the aspiring writer going straight to the publisher and being rejected in person. In reality, this is extremely frowned upon.

Writers cannot have a day job and if they do, they're "giving up on their dream" 
The truth of this business is that most writers will not make enough money to support themselves solely on their writing. It's perfectly okay to have another job that pays the bills, especially in the beginning. Added financial pressure can even affect your writing negatively.  

You can only submit to one publisher
I'm always confused by movies that make it seem like there is only one publisher in the world. One of my favorite romantic movies of all time, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, includes a writer that repeatedly goes back to the same publisher (in person) and gets rejected. He doesn't try to revise the manuscripts that are rejected or take them to anyone else. 

Writers are isolated
A favorite media interpretation of writers is to portray them as hermits typing away at their keyboards (or writing away in their notebooks) in seclusion. I know a lot of writers are introverted, but life is where the best ideas come from. So many of my SNIs have come when I'm out doing something or talking to people.

Writers don't have to revise their own work
So many movies show writers dashing off a first draft and then sending it directly to a publisher. I wish that the world worked this way, but sadly it doesn't.

Bestselling authordom results in the high life
Think Richard Castle from the TV show Castle. If you've never seen the show, Castle is a best-selling mystery novelist who has a house in the Hamptons, another place in New York City, a Ferrari, and a friendship with the mayor. For the very, very select few, this might be true. However, it's extremely unlikely. 

What are some other common myths about writers from TV or movies?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New Releases: Dark Star, Conjure, and Ask the Passengers

Dark Star
by Bethany Frenette
Audrey Whitticomb has nothing to fear. Her mother is the superhero Morning Star, the most deadly crime-fighter in the Twin Cities, so it's hard for Audrey not to feel safe. That is, until she's lured into the sweet night air by something human and not human--something with talons and teeth, and a wide, scarlet smile. 

Now Audrey knows the truth: her mom doesn't fight crime at night. She fights Harrowers--livid, merciless beings who were trapped Beneath eons ago. Yet some have managed to escape. And they want Audrey dead, just because of who she is: one of the Kin. 

To survive, Audrey will need to sharpen the powers she has always had. When she gets close to someone, dark corners of the person's memories become her own, and she sometimes even glimpses the future. If Audrey could only get close to Patrick Tigue, a powerful Harrower masquerading as human, she could use her Knowing to discover the Harrowers' next move. But Leon, her mother's bossy, infuriatingly attractive sidekick, has other ideas. Lately, he won't let Audrey out of his sight.
When an unthinkable betrayal puts Minneapolis in terrible danger, Audrey discovers a wild, untamed power within herself. It may be the key to saving her herself, her family, and her city. Or it may be the force that destroys everything--and everyone--she loves.

Conjure
by Lea Nolan
The Hoodoo Apprentice #1
Be careful what you search for...

Emma Guthrie expects this summer to be like any other in the South Carolina Lowcountry--hot and steamy with plenty of beach time alongside her best friend and secret crush, Cooper Beaumont, and Emma’s ever-present twin brother, Jack. But then a mysterious eighteenth-century message in a bottle surfaces, revealing a hidden pirate bounty. Lured by the adventure, the trio discovers the treasure and unwittingly unleashes an ancient Gullah curse that attacks Jack with the wicked flesh-eating Creep and promises to steal Cooper’s soul on his approaching sixteenth birthday.

When a strange girl appears, bent on revenge; demon dogs become a threat; and Jack turns into a walking skeleton; Emma has no choice but to learn hoodoo magic to undo the hex, all before summer—and her friends--are lost forever.

Ask the Passengers
by A.S. King
Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother's pushiness and her father's lack of interest tell her they're the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn't know the passengers inside, but they're the only people who won't judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she's falling in love with a girl.

As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can't share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don't even know she's there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers' lives--and her own--for the better.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

RTW -- Ideal Books for Adaptations

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
What is it that makes some books seem ideal for a film translation?

I think the biggest factor in a film translation of a book is an established fan base. Books that are extremely popular (think: Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Twilight, Percy Jackson) are all but guaranteed a good showing in the box office simply because people will go see them because they love the books.

There's a recent trend towards making YA books into movies for this reason. A few series do very well in the box office and they start looking for other great series that might be the next "hit."

This trend also reflects the preference for "series" books over stand-alones because there's more money to be made for each movie. The same reason the final book in a series is being divided into two parts. Harry Potter did it and did it well, so now everyone else is trying to get in on a piece of that.

Another factor that contributes to a book's film translation potential might be a plot filled with action. Movies with a lot of conflict are always popular and it's a big draw for audiences outside of the book's fanbase. Another thing is an original premise or something that fits in well with established movies. Percy Jackson was around the time of other adaptations of myths and legends (300, The Immortals, Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans, etc).

Good Examples:
Hunger Games -- This book translated really well to film, in my opinion. I felt that the internal focus of the book and the external focus of the movie complemented each other in a surprising way.  

Harry Potter -- This is debatable in later movies, but I really liked the entire series. The movies are beautifully done and cinematic. The scene with Snape's memories breaks my heart every time.

Bad Examples: 
Eragon - This book had quite a bit of potential to be cinematic, but unfortunately that potential wasn't pursued. Entire parts and plot points were changed.