Wednesday, March 27, 2013

RTW - Best Book of March

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 was the best book you read in March?

Books read: 3 (almost) 

I'm going to cheat this month and pick a book that I haven't actually finished yet (but will likely finish today, and will definitely finish before Sunday).

Clockwork Angel
by Cassandra Clare
Infernal Devices #1
This is my second time reading CA. Clockwork Princess arrived in my mailbox on Saturday and I've been working on this one since I came back from break trying to prepare. I meant to reread both this one and CPrince before Princess arrived, but sadly that didn't happen. 

I will say that reading this book knowing what I know from Prince makes it even better (and, dare I say, a little more heart-wrenching). It's a fantastic first installment to the trilogy. This one is my third favorite Clare book (ranked behind City of Glass and Clockwork Prince). I love getting an in-depth look into past Shadowhunter events, and the historical elements. 

Also, Will and Jem. I love Will and Jem.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

New Releases: Escape Theory, Clockwork Princess, Fox Forever

Escape Theory
by Margaux Froley
Sixteen-year-old Devon Mackintosh has always felt like an outsider at Keaton, the prestigious California boarding school perched above the Pacific. As long as she’s not fitting in, Devon figures she might as well pad her application to Stanford’s psych program. So junior year, she decides to become a peer counselor, a de facto therapist for students in crisis. At first, it seems like it will be an easy fly-on-the-wall gig, but her expectations are turned upside down when Jason Hutchins (a.k.a. “Hutch”), one of the Keaton’s most popular students, commits suicide.

Devon dives into her new role providing support for Hutch’s friends, but she’s haunted by her own attachment to him. The two shared an extraordinary night during their first week freshman year; it was the only time at Keaton when she felt like someone else really understood her.  As the secrets and confessions pile up in her sessions, Devon comes to a startling conclusion: Hutch couldn't have taken his own life. Bound by her oath of confidentialityand tortured by her unrequited love—Devon embarks on a solitary mission to get to the bottom of Hutch's death, and the stakes are higher than she ever could have imagined.

 Clockwork Princess
by Cassandra Clare
The Infernal Devices #3
If the only way to save the world was to destroy what you loved most, would you do it?

The clock is ticking. Everyone must choose.

Passion. Power. Secrets. Enchantment.

 Fox Forever
by Mary E. Pearson
Jenna Fox Chronicles #3
Locke Jenkins has some catching up to do. After spending 260 years as a disembodied mind in a little black box, he has a perfect new body. But before he can move on with his unexpected new life, he’ll have to return the Favor he accepted from the shadowy resistance group known as the Network.

Locke must infiltrate the home of a government official by gaining the trust of his daughter, seventeen-year-old Raine, and he soon finds himself pulled deep into the world of the resistance—and into Raine’s life.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Writing Short Stories

My creative writing class is doing short stories right now and we've been workshopping them. A lot of people have made the mistake of trying to take a longer piece and force it into a short story form. Here are some tips that I've thought of critiquing the short stories.

Only add enough world-building detail and back story for everything to make sense and to give an accurate picture of the world. Don't waste paragraphs explaining every detail of your main character's past. Only add what's relevant to the short story.

Keep info dumps to the bare minimum. Stating things in this way can be boring to read and pull the reader out of the story. World-building and back story is best worked throughout the story, rather than all at once.

The story must have a complete plot arc. There has to be conflict. There has to be a beginning, middle, and end. Rising action. Climax. Resolution. It's okay for some things to be left open to interpretation, but the story shouldn't just end.

Monday, March 18, 2013

SECOND VERSE by Jennifer Walkup's Cover Reveal + Epic Giveaway Contest!

Check out the cover for Jennifer Walkup's Second Verse and click below to enter the Epic Cover Reveal Contest over at Me, My Shelf and I - she's giving away signed ARCs, signed bookmarks and an Amazon gift card!

Bad things come in threes. In Shady Springs, that includes murder.
Murder Now
Lange Crawford’s move to Shady Springs, Pennsylvania, lands her a group of awesome friends, a major crush on songwriter Vaughn, and life in a haunted, 200-year-old farmhouse. It also brings The Hunt: an infamous murder mystery festival where students solve a fake, gruesome murder scheme during the week of Halloween. Well, supposedly fake.
Murder Then
Weeks before The Hunt, Lange and her friends hold a séance in the farmhouse’s eerie barn. When a voice rushes through, whispering haunting words that only she and Vaughn can hear, Lange realizes it's begging for help. The mysterious voice leads Lange and Vaughn to uncover letters and photos left behind by a murdered girl, Ginny, and they become obsessed with her story and the horrifying threats that led to her murder.
Murder Yet to Come
But someone doesn’t like their snooping, and Lange and Vaughn begin receiving the same threats that Ginny once did. The mysterious words from the barn become crucial to figuring out Ginny's past and their own, and how closely the two are connected. They must work fast to uncover the truth or risk finding out if history really does repeat itself.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Releases: Finn Finnegan, Trinkets, Panic

Finn Finnegan
by Darby Karchut
Finnegan MacCullen: a thirteen-year-old apprentice with the famous Irish temperament.

Gideon Lir: a legendary Celtic warrior with a bit of a temper of his own.

Secretly, these blue-collar warriors battle the hobgoblins infesting their suburban neighborhood...when they are not battling each other.

Finn (not bleedin' Finnegan) MacCullen is eager to begin his apprenticeship. He soon discovers the ups and downs of hunting monsters in a suburban neighborhood under the demanding tutelage of the Knight, Gideon Lir. Both master and apprentice are descendents of the Tuatha De Danaan, a magical race of warriors from Ireland. Scattered long ago to the four corners of the world, the De Danaan wage a two thousand year old clandestine battle with their ancient enemy, the Amandán, a breed of goblin-like creatures.

Now with the beasts concentrating their attacks on Finn, he and his master must race to locate the lost Spear of the Tuatha De Danaan, the only weapon that can destroy the Amandán, all the while hiding his true identity from his new friends, Rafe and Savannah, twins whose South African roots may hold a key to Finn's survival.

Armed with a bronze dagger, some ancient Celtic magic, and a hair-trigger temper, Finn is about to show his enemies the true meaning of "fighting Irish."

by Kirsten Smith
Sixteen-year-old Moe's Shoplifters Anonymous meetings are usually punctuated by the snores of an old man and the whining of the world's unhappiest housewife. Until the day that Tabitha Foster and Elodie Shaw walk in. Tabitha has just about everything she wants: money, friends, popularity, a hot boyfriend who worships her...and clearly a yen for stealing. So does Elodie, who, despite her goodie-two-shoes attitude pretty much has "klepto" written across her forehead in indelible marker. But both of them are nothing compared to Moe, a bad girl with an even worse reputation.

Tabitha, Elodie, and Moe: a beauty queen, a wallflower, and a burnout-a more unlikely trio high school has rarely seen. And yet, when Tabitha challenges them to a steal-off, so begins a strange alliance linked by the thrill of stealing and the reasons that spawn it.

by Sharon M. Draper
Diamond knows not to get into a car with a stranger.

But what if the stranger is well-dressed and handsome? On his way to meet his wife and daughter? And casting a movie that very night—a movie in need of a star dancer? What then?

Then Diamond might make the wrong decision.

It’s a nightmare come true: Diamond Landers has been kidnapped. She was at the mall with a friend, alone for only a few brief minutes—and now she’s being held captive, forced to endure horrors beyond what she ever could have dreamed, while her family and friends experience their own torments and wait desperately for any bit of news.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

RTW: Spring Cleaning Writing-Style

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: 
Spring cleaning! What do you hope to "clean out" from your writing? What habits/tropes/words, etc do you want to eliminate?

There are a lot of things I hope to clean out from my writing. Writing-wise, I need to be more careful of cliches and using the same sentence structure repeatedly. Character-wise I need more diverse hair and eye colors for my main characters. I tend to favor characters with brown hair and brown eyes. Sometimes redheads and a few blonds. I've found websites listing different hair and eye colors that I like to use for reference if I'm struggling to diversify. 

When it comes to writing habits, I need to stop rushing through essential scenes in order to get to scenes I'm more excited to write. Sometimes I just skip ahead, but if I'm not inspired with details, I'm just excited to get to that scene, I'll rush through everything in between. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

MILA 2.0 Release Day!

MILA 2.0 
by Debra Driza
MILA 2.0 #1
Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past —that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life.

Happy book birthday, MILA 2.0! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

College: Giving Presentations

Presentations are stressful things at the best of times. It's not easy to get in front of class room of people, especially alone, and talk. But presentations are a necessary part of college. I've lost count of the number I've had to do over the last three semesters and there are more to come this semester. Here are some tips on how to make giving a presentation easier.

Make notecards
Get a stack of notecards and list out all of your main points. I make these for almost every presentation, but I rarely ever use them. It's a good stress-reliever, knowing that I have them. If I ever get off-track, I know I can just glance down and check to see where I am. Make sure to number them, though, in case they get dropped.

Breathe and read slowly
This is very important. Don't forget to breathe. It will also help to slow you down. Take your time and speak clearly. Don't rush.

Keep distracting behavior to a minimum
It's easy to fall into repetitive behaviors when doing a presentation to calm yourself down. Try to keep it a minimum. Don't mess with your hair, shift your weight a lot, bounce your foot, or anything else that can distract from your presentation. Stand comfortably and relaxed, and keep your hands down or balanced on a flat surface (try not to hold anything that might not shake).

Look around the room
Make eye contact with the audience. Don't just stare at your laptop, notecards, or paper. Look up often.

Allow time for questions
If there's a set time limit to presentations, make sure that yours will be short enough to allow a few minutes for questions at the end. Don't run away when you finish. Stop, smile, and ask if anyone has any questions.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Prompt Friday: Spring Break

This is a new series inspired by my Intro to Creative Writing class. We start out every class period with fifteen minutes to write a piece based on a prompt given to us by the professor.

Every Friday I'll post a short prompt. Write for ten minutes on a piece based on that prompt. It can be a short story, a poem, creative non-fiction, anything. Then post a few of your favorite lines in the comments.

This week's prompt:

Spring Break

Thursday, March 7, 2013

New Releases: Let The Sky Fall, Flowers in the Sky, Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets

Let The Sky Fall
by Shannon Messenger
Let the Sky Fall #1
Seventeen-year-old Vane Weston has no idea how he survived the category five tornado that killed his parents. And he has no idea if the beautiful, dark-haired girl who’s swept through his dreams every night since the storm is real. But he hopes she is.

Seventeen-year-old Audra is a sylph, an air elemental. She walks on the wind, can translate its alluring songs, and can even coax it into a weapon with a simple string of commands. She’s also a guardian—Vane’s guardian—and has sworn an oath to protect Vane at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing her own life.

When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both of their families, Audra’s forced to help Vane remember who he is. He has a power to claim—the secret language of the West Wind, which only he can understand. But unlocking his heritage will also unlock the memory Audra needs him to forget. And their greatest danger is not the warriors coming to destroy them—but the forbidden romance that’s grown between them.

Flowers in the Sky
by Lynn Joseph
Fifteen-year-old Nina Perez is faced with a future she never expected. She must leave her Garden of Eden, her lush home in the Dominican Republic, when she's sent by her mother to seek out a better life with her brother in New York. As Nina searches for some glimpse of familiarity amid the jarring world of Washington Heights, she must uncover her own strength. She learns to uncover roots within foreign soil and finds a way to grow, just like the orchids that blossom on her fire escape. And when she is confronted by ugly secrets about her brother's business, she comes to understand the realities of life in this new place. But then she meets him-that green-eyed boy- who she can't erase from her thoughts, the one who just might help her learn to see beauty in spite of tragedy.  

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets
by Evan Roskos
“I hate myself but I love Walt Whitman, the kook. Always positive. I need to be more positive, so I wake myself up every morning with a song of myself.”

Sixteen-year-old James Whitman has been yawping (à la Whitman) at his abusive father ever since he kicked his beloved older sister, Jorie, out of the house. James’s painful struggle with anxiety and depression—along with his ongoing quest to understand what led to his self-destructive sister’s exile—make for a heart-rending read, but his wild, exuberant Whitmanization of the world and keen sense of humor keep this emotionally charged debut novel buoyant.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

RTW: First Quarter Check-In

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: 
Quarterly check-ins! We're already 1/4 of the way through the year--where are you on your reading and writing goals?

Where did the time go?? 

Goal: 100 books 
Where I should be: About 16
Where I am: 5 

Clearly it is not going very well. In my defense, I did finish up A Clash of Kings in January and read A Storm of Swords in February. I'm hoping to do some catch up reading over spring break and then really get trucking when summer rolls around. I'm probably getting A Feast for Crows this week, though, so we'll see how long that lasts. 

I didn't set any writing goals for this year, other than just to keep writing. My writing kind of dropped off last semester so I'd really just like to focus on getting back into a groove. I have started working on my WIP again, which I'm really excited about. I'm also doing a lot of flash fiction pieces based on biweekly prompts in my Creative Writing class and those are a lot of fun. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

He Said, She Said: Dialogue Writing Tips

Dialogue is a tricky thing to get right, but it often takes up a good-sized portion of every book. Dialogue can bring two characters closer together, drive them further apart, reveal important information, and display any number of things.

Use double quotation marks to open and close each line of dialogue. If there's a dialogue tag (said, asked, responded, quipped), use a comma, unless the dialogue requires an exclamation or question mark. If there isn't a dialogue tag, then there should be a period, unless it needs an exclamation or question mark. Beware of using an excessive amount of exclamation marks. If there's a lot of tension in a scene, the dialogue and actions of the characters should exhibit that.

Also, there should be a new paragraph for each new speaker.

When writing dialogue, keep the character in mind. Take their age, schooling, background, and who they are talking to into consideration. People talk differently to their friends than they do to their parents. They might also talk differently to one friend over another. Incorrect grammar is okay, as long as it makes sense and that's the way that the character would speak. However, be careful when using slang. It tends to evolve quickly and constantly, and can also be regional.

Reading dialogue out loud can help with testing the authenticity. If it doesn't sound right out loud, chances are it's not authentic. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Prompt Friday

This is a new series inspired by my Intro to Creative Writing class. On Tuesday, I posted about getting outside of your writing comfort zone and mentioned using prompts to help. In Intro to CW, we start out every class period with fifteen minutes to write a piece based on a prompt given to us by a professor.

I thought it might be fun to give it a try on the blog. So, here's my suggestion. Every Friday I'll post a short prompt. Write for ten minutes on a piece based on that prompt. It can be a short story, a poem, anything. Then post a few of your favorite lines in the comments.

This week's prompt:

It's a snow day!