Friday, December 31, 2010

Writing Resolutions

I've never been good at keeping my resolutions. Probably because I set ridiculously high goals for myself, which are basically impossible (ie: fly to the moon, marry a prince, become the next JKR). This year, I thought I'd try something new -- Realistic goals!

1. Read more. This should be pretty easy, considering I'm only taking three classes, and I graduate in May. Hellooooo, free time!

2. Complete the 2011 Debut Author Challenge. Also easy. I'm participating, as well as the girls at Let the Words Flow, so you'll have plenty of book recommendations in the coming months.

3. Write more. Not necessarily every day, because sometimes that's just not possible. But no more of those lingering month-long stretches where I don't touch Word.

4. Find an agent. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on this one.

5. Read the newspaper at least three times a week. I'm pathetically behind in non-publishing-related news.

Some other things I'm hoping to accomplish this year:

- Get into the Columbia Publishing Course
- Move to NYC or D.C. this summer
- Get a job in publishing
- Get a pet (that isn't a fish or a mouse)
- Spend more time at the gym. I totally slacked this semester.
- Go to Ikea (No, I've never been. I'm embarrassed to admit it.)

What about you guys? What are your resolutions for 2011?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Recommendation: Anna and the French Kiss

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins
Published December 2nd, 2010 by Dutton Books
372 Pages

I was at B&N the other day, doing some last minute Christmas shopping. My Grandma had sent me some money, so naturally I decided to spend it on books. I had four in my hand, but I had to narrow it down to one. Two were sequels to books I'd already read, one was a new baby name book, and then this one. I'd heard nothing but great things about ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS (I believe Mandy Hubbard and CA Marshall were the ones who first suggested it to me), so I decided to go with their advice.

I'm glad I did. Beyond glad, actually.

Funny how one of the best books of 2010 came out in December. Funny that I should read it now, as the year's about to end. Seems fitting to read such a fantastic book right now. School's out, I'm on vacation in my favorite city, and everything is right with the world. When I turned the last page, I felt as if a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS is a feel good book. I dare you to find me someone who didn't feel happier after reading it. I'm confident you won't find a soul.

Anna and St. Clair really make the story. Anna's voice is fantastic, sarcastic, funny, charming, and exactly how your best friend sounds. St. Clair is that guy you fantasize about, that you wish weren't fictional. He has flaws, makes mistakes, but you can't help but fall in love with him along with Anna. I've read a lot of YA in my time, and I think this is one of the most convincing love stories I've ever come across. I believed every bit of it. Nothing seemed forced or overly dramatic or unrealistic. Sure, there was some drama - its protagonists are teenagers - but it was never too much or over-the-top. It walked that fine line very well, and I actually found myself wanting to give the characters advice on numerous occasions. I think it's rare when you care that much about a fictional character, and I applaud Stephanie Perkins for that. The girl has a gift.

Honestly, I wasn't prepared for how much I would laugh while reading this book. Like I said, Anna's voice is amazing -- she feels like someone I've known all my life. Her comments about people and situations are ones I've made myself, or would expect someone to say, given the opportunity. Her dialogue with St. Clair and her friends is easy and reminiscent of conversations I had as a teenager. Everything about this book is just easy. It just works.

I missed my chance to go to Paris while I was living in Ireland, and I sincerely regret that now. Though my knowledge of Paris is similar to Anna's at the very beginning of the book (literally, the first page), I grew to know it along with her. As a reader, you're gradually taught some of the idiosyncrasies of Paris and its people, how some things are pronounced, and even run across a few important landmarks. It's like going to Paris, but not. Now that I've got this mental picture stuck in my head, I'm even more determined to see the real thing.

Anna's journey was oddly reminiscent of my own. I went to Ireland, not knowing what to expect. I had to learn to navigate a new city, find new friends, adjust to a new culture, and though the people spoke English, they might as well have been speaking Portuguese it was so hard to understand some of them. But I grew comfortable in my surroundings, and I silently cheered Anna on as she made that same transition. I clapped when she finally braved the city on her own, and I felt her pain when she realized things at home weren't as great as she remembered. Living abroad changes you. It's unavoidable. I liked that Stephanie Perkins included that detail in her story because it made Anna's situation even more realistic. The fact that I was in love with my best friend for six years only added to my sympathy for her. This book will ring true for anyone who's ever loved their best friend; for those who haven't, you'll find out what it feels like. The emotional roller coaster is spot-on.

Everything about this story is totally charming, from the title to the very last sentence. I'm happy to report there are two companion novels that will follow, but in the meantime, if you buy one book, buy this one. I promise you won't regret it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

It's All In the Name



I feel really horrible for my future children. They’re probably all going to hate me because there is no chance of them having a normal name. Absolutely zero. You won’t see any Sarah’s or Elizabeth’s or Katie’s here. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had this fascination with unique and unusual names. Samantha’s pretty popular and commonplace, so I’ve always wanted my kids (and pets… and electronic devices…) to stand out. I figure they can thank me when they’re adults and can better appreciate the individuality I helped cultivate.
That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.
Writing a novel is kind of like having a baby. One of the first things expecting parents do is pick out names, and you can’t really begin writing without one. As soon as you know whether your MC is male or female, it’s time to start thinking about what you want to call them. If you’re anything like me, you spend hours (and I’m not joking. I mean HOURS.) searching for the perfect name. I’ve got loads of baby name books and websites for just such an occasion. I’ll pull them all out, along with a sheet of paper, and jot down any that catch my eye. Here’s a list of my most used resources:
Baby Names of Ireland (With pronunciations)
COOL NAMES by Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz
BEYOND JENNIFER & JASON, MADISON & MONTANA by Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz
100,000 PLUS BABY NAMES by Bruce Lansky
However, I recently ran into a snag using this method. My current WIP revolves around a girl whose name I ended up making up myself. When I got the idea for the story, I felt as though I already knew her. I understood her personality and motivations, and knew how she’d react in just about any situation. Knowing those key aspects of my character made it easy to come up with an appropriate name. The problem, however, came with her love interest.
Let me explain.
Originally I’d chosen a name for this boy based on the fact that I liked it. That was all. I’d wanted to use it for a while, and this project seemed like as good an excuse as any to whip it out and slap it on someone. So I wrote half the book using it. I loved it, and knew my MC did, too.
And that was fine and dandy until I really started to get to know the character. When I first started writing, I had pictured him one way, but the more I grew to understand him, I realized the name I’d chosen was all wrong. He’s a soft-spoken guy who learns to become more outspoken and challenge authority, and the name I’d given him was a horrible fit. The more I used it, the more cringe-worthy it became. I knew it was time to hit the drawing board.
Two weeks later and I still haven’t found a replacement, but I’m working on it. So, in the meantime, I thought I’d give you a list of things to consider when it comes time for you to name your characters, so you don’t get stuck in the same boat as me!
1. Personality: When I was a kid, I used to hate the name Samantha. I spent years begging my mom to let me switch my first and middle names so everyone would have to call me Nicole instead. Then I grew up and realized my personality didn’t match the name Nicole at all. Think about your best friend – if they wanted to change their name, you’d probably tell them it was a stupid idea. Not necessarily because the name they preferred was lame or weird, but because it didn’t match their personality. When you have a baby, you obviously have no idea what they’re going to be like when they grow up, but with characters it’s entirely different. You’ve already got an idea of how this person is going to behave. That makes your job at least a little bit easier!
2. Sound: Does it sound okay when you say it out loud? How about when you say it in conjunction with your character’s love interest (or companions, if the story isn’t a romance)? For example, Sammy and Benedict doesn’t sound nearly as good as Samantha and Ben. The first sounds kind of clunky, while the second has a pretty good flow. Keep in mind the syllable count and vowel sounds. You probably don’t want to name your main characters Dan and Jan, nor do you want to go with Cleopatra and Elijah. It’s one of those weird balancing acts. Look at some of your favorite fictional characters (books or movies will do) and see how their names have been combined. Most of the time, they’re a pretty good example.
3. Pronunciation vs. Perception: I’ve always had a thing for Irish names. The spellings are a bit strange in comparison to the way they are pronounced (for example, Niamh is pronounced “neev”). When picking an unusual name, you don’t want to pick something a reader is going to stumble over. Science fiction is full of oddball names, but something like Klasdpjklasdj isn’t a good choice. Similarly, the way you pronounce a name may not be the same way your readers are going to. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume Niamh is pronounced “nee-am,” and I’d say that in my head every time I came across it. Case in point: Hermione. When the Harry Potter books first came out, I think every single one of my friends pronounced it differently. Luckily, we had the movies to set us straight. But basically, unless you want your readers spending a lot of time fumbling over your name choices, it’s best to stick to those that are unique, but easy to figure out.
Obviously there will probably be other things to consider, depending on your story and its characters, but those are some pretty basic guidelines that I hope will get you on your way! Godspeed, expecting writers!
Sidenote: I think maybe I'll grace my children with one of these.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fast Forward to 2011

As 2010 comes to a close, I thought it was appropriate to compile a list of the 2011 releases I'm looking forward to! There are quite a few, so bear with me. And if you have any suggestions, leave a comment! I'm going to have way more free time this year, so load me up on books.

And now - Drum roll, please! - The List. In order of release date, because I'm anal retentive sometimes.

THE WATER WARS by Cameron Stracher
January 1st

TRAPPED by Michael Northrop
January 1st

CHOKER by Elizabeth Emma Woods
January 4th

XVI by Julia Karr
January 6th

January 11th

SUBJECT SEVEN by James Moore
January 11th

THROAT by R.A. Nelson
January 25th

DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver
February 1st

SO SHELLY by Ty Roth
February 8th

CRYER'S CROSS by Lisa McMann
February 8th

THE VESPERTINE by Saundra Mitchell
March 7th

EVERCROSSED (KISSED BY AN ANGEL, #4) by Elizabeth Chandler
March 8th

WITHER by Lauren DeStefano
March 22nd
(I loved this one. You can check out my review by clicking on the link.)

March 28th

March 29th

ENTWINED by Heather Dixon
March 29th

BUT I LOVE HIM by Mandy Hubbard (writing as Amanda Grace)
May 8th

ASHES, ASHES by Jo Treggiari
June 1st

THE REVENANT by Sonia Gensler
June 14th

LOST VOICES by Sarah Porter
July 4th

July 12th

SMALL TOWN SINNERS by Melissa C. Walker
July 19th

RIPPLE by Mandy Hubbard 
July 21st
(I've already read this one, and you should all be VERY excited. It's fantastic.)


Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Jane Austin Fight Club

This made its rounds on the internet a while ago, but I don't think I posted it then. And after rewatching it today, was reminded of how awesome it is. Thus, my belated sharing.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Secret Project Update and Editing Things

Since the last time we talked, dear friends, I have completed part one of my Secret Project (side note: who else noticed that I tend to write stories in parts? TANGO was done in three, this one in two. WEIRD.). It's a miracle! My very own Christmas miracle. The past few months have been full of indecision and barely any writing, so to pound out nine chapters in under a week feels really fantastic. I'm hoping to have draft one complete by New Year's, which I think is pretty plausible. Secret Project definitely needs some major editing, but I'm already seeing places that need work, and I've got ideas for a kind of sub-plot, so I'm not too worried. I've got my moleskine ready to go, and plenty of hot cocoa to ward off the chill of my sub-zero bedroom.

That being said, I stumbled across THIS ARTICLE on editing and the YA market today, and wanted to take a moment to reflect on it. There was one point that was cause for particular pause:

Try and give your first draft plenty of flesh. The more the better. In my opinion it is better to include too much at this stage than not enough. In editing, it is much much easier to cut than to add; to sculpt out of a mass than to try and conjure out of thin air; to discover the bones than to try and add on the poundage. It also has the advantage that when you just let yourself go in your first draft, all that pesky stuff that’s desperate to get out but is actually irrelevant will be unburdened by the act of getting it down, and it can then be flicked off that much more easily than if you resist it too much at the beginning. It’s also very liberating when you do get rid of it!
-Writer Unboxed

For the first time, I feel like I've done the exact opposite of this. This first draft is more bare bones than fat, pudgy Santa. As I write, I've been jotting down notes for scenes that need to be beefed up and expanded upon. The romance needs to be fleshed out better, regardless of the fact the chemistry is there. I have an idea for a sub-plot that could be interesting, and while I love my main character, she's a little inconsistent. I know the things I need/want to change, but I'm not allowing myself to do that until I've completely finished writing the first draft. I'm pulling a NaNoWriMo-in-December here, folks. I'm just pounding out the story so I've got something to work with. Because I'd rather revise than write a book from scratch ANY day.

This Secret Project is so strange in that the process of writing it is basically the opposite of what I did when writing TANGO. I outlined it months ago and let the idea fester, rather than winging it. Instead of writing too much, I've probably written too little. With TANGO, I ended up cutting a shitton from the manuscript, whereas Secret Project will look as though it's had a baby. Possibly twins.

But I like babies, so I suppose that isn't a bad thing.

I think the above article makes some very good points, almost all of which I agree with. So it feels strange to be doing exactly the opposite. It's weird to write a chapter, and as soon as I'm done, realize what needs fixing. Over the years I've gotten better about finding inconsistencies and editing them out during the first draft, which has proven itself useful time and again with this book. As my friend Susan advised, I've deleted a lot of filter words as I went along. So I think this first draft is in much better shape than TANGO was at this point, regardless of the fact that it needs a tremendous amount of work.

But you know what? I'm excited about this book. I'm excited to revise it and whip it into shape. Pretty soon my baby will be walking on two feet, and I can stand there and be proud. It's been a while since I've had that experience, and I won't lie when I say I'm looking forward to it again.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2011 Debut Authors Challenge

I am happy to announce that I'm officially signing up for the 2011 Debut Authors Challenge. I found out about this year's a little too late, but 2011 is going to be a good year (aka college will be over with, so I'll have some time to actually read for fun) so I figured why not? I'm busy compiling a list of all the upcoming books I want to get my hands on, so you have that to look forward to. In the meantime, I've added a 2011 Debut Authors Challenge button to the sidebar, and I encourage those of you with a love for YA and some free time to consider joining me as well! You can sign up HERE.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Laying TANGO to Rest and What Comes Next

After a lot of time and consideration, I've decided to shelve THE AGE OF NEVER GROWING OLD. Though I did not exhaust my list of potential agents, the feedback I received from everyone largely amounted to 'it's a good story, but I don't know how to sell it.' Which, when I think about it, isn't that much of a surprise. While dystopian novels are selling really well in the YA market, an adult dystopian/sci-fi/romance blend is a bit of a challenge. And because I don't plan to write any more adult books, it just doesn't make sense for my debut novel to be one meant for a market I don't plan to participate in.

So I'm moving on! Lately I've been unsure as to what my next project should be, but I've finally made a decision. No more waffling between ideas, or questioning what I'm doing. I've been considering this project for a few months now, and decided it was time to run with it.

And run with it I have. Since Friday, I've accumulated nearly 16,000 words and am going strong. If I want to start querying again, I need to have a novel to do so. And to have a novel, I have to write it. I'm hoping to crank out the first draft by the end of the year, and at this rate, it just might happen! Hopefully I'll be querying again by late spring, so keep your fingers crossed, everyone!

Since it's (almost) Teaser Tuesday, but I don't want to jinx myself, I thought I'd share some info about my WIP instead.

- It's a dystopian YA.

- It's set in the very near future. About a hundred years or so.

- The U.S. flag is no longer red, white and blue. It's black and red, and has a latin phrase on it.

- There are some strong parallels to THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, one of my favorite books as a kid.

- My least favorite month of the year makes an appearance.

- My obsession with collages also makes an appearance.

I suspect you'll get a snippet once I've gone back and done some editing. Stay tuned!


I am officially remaining an intern at Elaine P. English for the spring semester. Happy day!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mugs, Writing and Rain, Oh My!: A Vlog

Basically, I vlog because I'm too lazy to type. And my feet hurt. Which is irrelevant.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Stuck In The Middle With You

I haven't really talked about my writing in a while, but there's a reason for that. And a good one, too.

I'm stuck.

Ever since I finished TANGO, I've been trying to come up with another project to work on. I've started at least five, but none of them have really panned out. THE AGE THAT WAS (the sequel to TANGO) wasn't going anywhere, SCARRED petered out pretty quickly, and DON'T MAKE A SCENE is still, essentially, a cliche high school novel. OBSESSION has potential, but I'm suffering some writer's block and am not sure how to fill in the middle section of the story. And then I wrote the first chapter of SILENCE, outlined the entire thing, then abandoned it.

All of this back-and-forth business was driving me nuts, so I just stopped writing. I decided I needed a plan. A real one, not a 'maybe if this works out, I'll go with it' kind of plan. Easier said than done, sure, but it was better than waisting my time writing something that was going nowhere.

While I've been not writing, I came to an important realization. It all goes back to something Naomi said to me over the summer. Basically, it boiled down to the fact that I should be querying the book I want to see on shelves. Sometimes it's difficult to keep that in mind because part of me just really wants an agent.  I want to join my friends who've got agents, who are on subs, or have book deals. But the logical side of me knows that I need to have a new project to query. TANGO got bites, but it always seemed to boil down to the fact that it would be a hard sell. I had a few agents ask to see my next project, which is why I've been trying to write it.

Which is really what led me to the following realization: I write dystopian. It's just the way I am. I live for all that post-apocolyptic, futuristic sci-fi stuff. I wrote TANGO for a reason. I read dystopian for a reason. There's a reason SILENCE wouldn't leave me alone. I outlined it months ago, and every time I open gdocs, it glares at me, waiting for me to go back to it. I considered rewriting TANGO for the YA market, but after countless hours of trying to figure out how to change the story, I couldn't do it. TANGO was meant to be an adult book, so if I have to shelve it for a while, I will.

In the meantime, I'm going to consult with a friend of mine and see what she says, since she works in the business. Hopefully I'll have some idea of what I'm doing soon. Having writing ADD sucks sometimes.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Writing Quirks

We've all got them. Personally, I think they're really endearing, and it's fun to see what strange things other people do. So here's a list of my very own awkward writing habits! Feel free to poke fun at will.

- I cannot write novels single-spaced. It drives me up a wall. Everything looks so cramped, and it makes my head hurt.

- Times New Roman, size 12. It hasn't failed me yet.

- I must have cheesy popcorn and a caffeine-free carbonated beverage nearby. I don't care what it is, it just has to be fizzy. Lately it's been Mug diet rootbeer.

- 95% of the time, I write in bed. Two pillows.

- I stole one of my dad's plaid shirts a while back, and for some reason it's turned into a writing uniform of sorts. If it isn't in the laundry bin, I'm probably wearing it.

- Hair must be tied back.

- I write out a rough query letter with each project I start.

- Every first draft I finish means a new moleskine purchased. They're for revisions, I promise!

- Even though I'm a music whore, I can't write with music on. Even instrumental. Though I still make a playlist for every book I write, even if I end up abandoning the project.

Now I know you've all got your own quirks, so give 'em up, folks!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Book Recommendation: Wither

To be published March 22nd, 2011 by Simon & Schuster
358 Pages

I came downstairs this morning to find a package from Simon & Schuster on my coffee table. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but when I opened it to find an ARC of WITHER, I very nearly had a heart attack. I've been looking forward to this book ever since I first got wind of it a few months ago, and have been anxiously awaiting its release so that I could go out and purchase a copy. However, now I don't have to! My empty bank account thanks the lovely people at S&S for that.

Before I even try to put into words how much I loved this book, let's just take a moment to admire the cover, shall we? Lizzy Bromley did an INCREDIBLE job. The art nerd in me geeked out over this image. There are so many textures in the photo, the coloring is subdued but pops against the pink geometric patterns (I'm not sure if they're supposed to represent the lines architects use, which would be especially cool), and I, for one, appreciate the symbolism with the bird in the cage. The fashionista in me also just loved the dress the model's wearing. The geometric pattern continues throughout the book, so every time I turned the page, I couldn't help but smile. If you want an aesthetically pleasing book, look no further. WITHER takes the cake, hands down.

But cover aside, the story itself is fantastic. Here's a summary, taken from goodreads:

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.

That description was initially what drew me in. As a dystopian writer/lover myself, this sounded like something right up my alley. Weird age requirements? Check. A mildly effed-up love triangle? Check. Strange, freaky science stuff? Check. Add to that one of the most gorgeous covers I've ever seen, and I knew I had to have it.

A word to the wise: pick up a copy of this book as soon as it comes out (March 22nd, 2011!). Once I started, I couldn't put it down. And that hasn't happened to me in a while.

In the past year or two, I've had a hard time suspending my disbelief while reading some YA novels. That wasn't the case with WITHER at all. In fact, I bought the story hook, line, and sinker. Though we're never given a specific date for when the story takes place, we're told it's in the very near future. I'll throw out 2100 as my guess. The world Rhine lives in operates very much the way ours does, with a few exceptions (for starters, the destruction of NYC boroughs, and Gatherers that snatch girls up to sell to the highest bidder). The idea of Gatherers freaked me out so much, in fact, I actually jumped when a gray van drove past me today. Vaughn's basement was especially terrifying. Perhaps because we see so little of it, but are left with Rhine's speculations, or because DeStefano describes it with such haunting detail. You feel trapped inside the house as much as Rhine does, and I applaud  Lauren DeStefano for that. As a reader, you feel totally submerged in this bleak, dreary world, and it leaves you stunned for a while after you're done.

The prose is absolutely phenomenal. The descriptions are spot-on and unique. I found quite a few phrases I wish I'd come up with myself. Things were described in ways you'd never think would be accurate, but were frighteningly astute observations once you actually thought about it. The description of the autumn leaves really stuck with me, and I doubt I'll ever see them the same way again. I'll be looking to experience them the same way Rhine did. The sign of a great writer is when they make you rethink things you take for granted. This book really made me appreciate some of the little things in life I never really considered important.

The characters were just as great as the cover and descriptions. The sister wives (not to be confused with that awful, yet addicting, show on TLC) were girls I constantly wanted to hug. Cecily is endearing, despite being a brat, and Jenna's fiercely loyal beneath a hard exterior. Even minor characters, like the cooks, or the bumbling servant, were charming in their own ways. Vaughn wasn't the stereotypical villain I was expecting because, underneath all the horrible things he was doing, you knew he was doing it because he loved his son. And poor Linden, who was so utterly clueless about the world and how his wives came to him. I wanted to hate him, but I just couldn't. He's almost more of a child than Cecily, and you just want to play mom and tell him everything's going to be okay. Gabriel, though we don't see him with Rhine all that often, is charming in his own way. And when he's in trouble, you understand Rhine's panic and wish you could help him, too.

But above all, I loved Rhine. She's a great heroine for a story like this. In some ways, she reminds me of Katniss from THE HUNGER GAMES. She comes from a place where family members have to constantly look out for each other, and a home without parents (Katniss had a mother, but you know what I mean). Throughout her captivity, all she wants is to get home to her brother. And while we never meet Rowan, I like him, and I like their relationship. Rhine does whatever it takes to fool those around her to get what she wants - to get back home. She's driven, and she knows what she wants, but she has doubts. The fact that she's human, that sometimes she doubts her resolve, really resonated with me. It made her relatable, and it made you want her to succeed even more. She's been forced into this terrible situation, but she manages to find pockets of light amongst the darkness. She makes friends. And when it comes down to it, maybe even love. And despite how much she wants to escape, she still wants to protect those around her. She's strong, but she's flawed, and I think a lot of readers are going to like her once they can get their hands on this book.

So, with that in mind, I hope you guys will run out and snag a copy come March! You won't regret it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Wish List

It's that time of year again! And no, I'm not talking about the holidays (though those are awesome, too). I'm talking about the End Of Semester Woes. Those last 2-3 weeks of the semester where you just have so much to do, you can't make yourself do it. Any of it.

So, in honor of procrastination, here is my holiday wish list, the book version!

YOU WISH by Mandy Hubbard
ROOM by Emma Donoghue
GIRL, STOLEN by April Henry
SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY by Mary Robinette Kowal
MEMORY WALL by Anthony Doerr (who is awesome in person, FYI)
BRIGHTLY WOVEN by Alexandra Bracken
CRESCENDO by Becca Fitzpatrick
FLYAWAY by Lucy Christopher
WHORES ON THE HILL by Colleen Curran
THE LINE by Teri Hall

Also, as a side note, everyone needs to go see Tangled. I took my sister to see it over Thanksgiving weekend, and it was AWESOME. I laughed, I cried, and I have to see it again.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Things I'm Thankful For Thursday

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. A lot. I'd make a longer list, but it would be lengthy and boring, and nobody would read it. So I thought I'd narrow it down and share with you just a few things I'm feeling especially thankful for.

1. I'm thankful for taking chances.
Isn't there a saying about how you never really get anywhere in life if you don't risk going? I'm sure I paraphrased that horribly, but you know what I mean. You have to take risks if you ever want to succeed, is what it boils down to. And I took a lot of risks this year, all of which paid off. You know why? Because I learned something about myself, and the things I'm capable of. I accepted an internship in a new city, in an unfamiliar part of the country. People still tell me I'm crazy for randomly moving in with Ajah without really knowing her; the two of us admit it was an insane move. But you know what? It was the best decision I've ever made. Not only did I get the internship of my dreams, but I made new friends, gained a sister, and now have a second family that is stuck with me for life.

Also, looking back, I can finally say with certainty that I am thankful for my time in Ireland. Regardless of the assault that really has changed the way I look at things, it was an experience I needed to have. I learned that I can be on my own and not flounder. I learned that I am stronger than I thought. And those are important life lessons to have.

2. I'm thankful for being a writer.
And not just the writing part of it. The last year or so I've really dug my fingers into the publishing world and connected with writers and agents and publishers. My knowledge has grown exponentially, and I still learn something new every day. When things in this industry go awry, like the SPEAK debacle I mentioned a few entries back, I was humbled and honored to be amongst such a tight-knit community. Writing has introduced me to some of my closest friends, and I will always be thankful for them. To everyone at Plagiarism Haven and LTWF, you mean the world to me. I couldn't have grown as a writer, or a person, without you.

3. I am thankful for the friends I still have, and the new ones I've gained.
I didn't realize this until recently, but some of my closest friends I've known for a decade or more. And while that makes me feel old, it's also really awesome to think that I've found the people who will remain in my life until I'm old and saggy. My very best friend lives in NYC now, and I've only gotten to see her once a year (twice, if I'm lucky) since we started college. But every time I talk to her, it reminds me how thankful I am to have her in my life. And in a few short months I'll be living in the same city, and the distance we've had to deal with for so long won't be a problem anymore!

Similarly, Michael and I are still friends. We've weathered just about everything the universe could throw at us, but today our relationship is good. It's solid. And I am proud of that.

But this year I really tried to reach out and make new friends, while also strengthening the ones I already had. PH and LTWF have both helped with that, yet another reason why I will forever be eternally grateful. The Madison Review has been a part of my life since I transferred to Madison in 2008, but I didn't really hang out with the staff outside of events until this year. And what did I gain from that? A whole new set of friends that are even more awesome than I could've imagined.

4. I can't have an 'I'm Thankful' list without mentioning my family.
My parents are the most supportive people I know. Even when they disagree with me, they stand behind my decisions. They trust me to do the right thing, and that is a gift I treasure. Someday, when I have my first book deal, I will dedicate that book to them, and everything they've done for me. They are my rock, and I'd be lost without them.

As for my siblings, I think I really have a lot to be grateful for this year when it comes to them. My sister and I have always had a rocky relationship, and the last few years have been spent rebuilding it. This year, for the first time, I really felt like I had a sister I could talk to. Our relationship is finally the one I'd always hoped for, and that means more to me than you'll ever know. And my brother was a real surprise this year. He called me this summer with all these great plans he had for the rest of his time in college, and what he wanted to do afterward, but what really got me was when he said it was because he wanted to be like me. He wanted to follow his dreams and be excited about something. He gave me the gift of feeling like I'd really accomplished my goal in life - to be a good rolemodel for my siblings. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.

So while there are many more things I'm thankful for, these are the most important. These things mean something. And I won't soon forget it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Don't Make a Scene: An Excerpt

If you've been following me on Twitter, you'll know I've decided to take a break from OBSESSION to work on something a little more light-hearted. This semester's been insane, and I really needed a story that was more uplifting than a high school shooting.

Enter DON'T MAKE A SCENE. I wrote this one back in high school/freshman year of college. The first draft is just over 82,000 words, so it's a decent length, and as it was the first YA novel I ever completed, it has a special place in my heart. There are a few plot points that definitely need to go, and some characters that need fleshing out, so I've decided to rewrite/revise this one over the next month or two. I'm hoping to have it ready to query by early next year, and if I keep up with it, that shouldn't be a problem. As you can see by the sidebar, I'm doing pretty well! So, in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, here's a snippet from chapter one! Enjoy!


New Girl Encounters Demon Child

“You can do this,” I muttered under my breath, nervously hiking up my tank top as some guy walking past let out a low whistle. “Piece of cake.”

Staring up at Adams Morgan High School, a brick prison bordered by an endless wasteland of black tar, I couldn’t help but wonder what my mother had been smoking when she’d uprooted us from our happy home in Wisconsin and registered me for the upcoming school year in our nation’s capitol. Kids of every size, shape and color hurried past, forcing me closer and closer to the building looming before me. I had absolutely no desire to walk up those steps and give in to the yearly torture session commonly known as The First Day of School. I hadn’t even made it past the parking lot and people were already trying to kill me.

“Get out of the way,” I heard someone yell, and leapt onto the sidewalk just as a large blue van screamed to a halt where I’d been standing only a second ago. A middle-aged woman was behind the wheel, glaring at me as I swallowed back a scream.

She rolled down the window and called out a warning. “Watch it. People don’t always look where they’re going.”
Clearly, considering the fact Soccer Mom had just nearly turned me into a pancake. Which reminded me that I hadn’t bothered to eat breakfast, and would be paying the price soon enough. Somehow, I always ended up as That Kid. You know, the one whose stomach rumbles all through class and annoys everyone until someone hands over a granola bar, and no matter how much you try to stifle the noise with your hands or a backpack, the growling just gets louder.

“Great,” I muttered, scowling as Soccer Mom pulled away after depositing a blue-haired boy in tattered jeans on the sidewalk. No wonder she seemed so miserable.

Figuring the chance of being run over would be significantly reduced if I went inside, I turned to face the school, taking a tentative step forward.
And ran straight into something very solid. And wet. A boy had been raising his coffee cup to his mouth when we collided, and now something hot was seeping into my clothing. He managed to get off scot-free, but he didn’t look happy about being deprived of his caffeine.
“Thanks a lot, kid,” he snarled, tossing his now empty cup into the trash before storming off. His hoodie covered most of his face, but it was impossible to miss that Roman nose and jutting cheekbones. I wasn’t sure what color his hair was, but I knew it was dark. Unlike most of the other guys I’d seen so far, the coffee spiller had definitely been hot.
Then I remembered my skin was burning. Glancing down, I couldn’t hold back a groan. A large, awkwardly shaped brown splotch had soaked through my thin white t-shirt, and plenty of the boy’s drink had managed to dribble down my leg as well. The August heat wasn’t helping the situation and, bemoaning my coffee-stained clothes that were now suctioned to my body, I figured it was about time I caved and went inside. At least I could see if the office had a spare shirt I could borrow.
Trying to look inconspicuous, despite the poop-colored stains, I made my way up the steps and shoved open the front door. Straight ahead was a set of stairs, and I knew from the map I’d been given that my locker was somewhere on the lower level. I made a beeline through the crowd forming just inside the doors, relaxing when no one else bumped into me or spilled coffee down my shirt.
But my relief was short-lived. Just as I’d put my foot on the first stair, a booming voice cut across the lobby. “You! White t-shirt girl! Get back here.”
As if my day couldn’t get any worse at the moment, when I turned around, a burly security guard was waving me over with a scowl on his face. Everyone was staring, a few shooting confused looks at the coffee stains. I heard someone ask their friend if I was new, but missed the response as the guard, whose faded nametag read ‘Robert Bukowski,’ turned a severe eye to me. “New this year?” he asked in a bored tone, arms crossed over a paunchy stomach. I glanced at his waistband; he didn’t even have a gun. Just a battered old nightstick that looked as though it had been manufactured in 1700.
“Is it that obvious?”
He held out his hand and I stared at it, wondering if he intended for me to shake it. When he just continued to frown, I tentatively placed my hand in his and pumped it twice. Behind me, someone snickered.
“Bag, please,” Robert ordered. It wasn’t hard to miss the annoyance creeping into his voice. There were two other security guards, but I was clearly holding up the line. I handed over my backpack and watched as he made a cursory glance though my belongings. Secretly I wondered if this could be considered an invasion of privacy. Then I had to ask myself why there were security guards going through our things in the first place. The school’s brochure hadn’t mentioned any recent school shootings or bomb threats, but I suppose that’s not the kind of thing you’d want advertised. Maybe Mom was secretly hoping someone would knife me so we could sue the school, win a bunch of money, and move out of my grandparents’ house. It was conniving, but I wouldn’t put it past her.
Eventually Robert handed me back my things, satisfied that I wasn’t trying to smuggle in a pipe bomb or an AK47. I moved off to the side to dig out the scrap of paper with my locker number on it, and when I looked up, realized I hadn’t actually taken in my surroundings yet. I guess it was probably a good thing, though, since what I saw made me want to vomit.
I’m not sure what I’d expected from Adams Morgan High School, but coming from a small town high school that was pretty old, I’d figured this place would be a step up or two. Boy, was I wrong. AMHS made my old school look like a palace. Everything just screamed “tacky.” The floors were covered in black laminate, a few squares coming up at the edges. The walls were tiled in some kind of puce green, decorated with colorful posters I could only assume had been printed to cover the obvious monstrosity. The lockers were probably the worst of all, though, alternating between salmon and forest green, all of them sporting a fair amount of rust and dings.

Afraid of what else I might find should I allow myself to linger, I headed back toward the stairs and spent the next ten minutes tracking down my locker, which was tucked in the corner of a random hallway, next to the boy’s bathroom. It wasn’t even 7:30, and already it smelled. Awesome.

It took a few tries, but eventually I managed to get the thing open. The puke-green metal was rusted, and the door had a massive dent in it, but at least I had one small space in this school I could call my own. I dug out a few photos from my backpack, along with the tape I’d stolen from my mom’s office, and got to work. As I hung pictures of me and my mom, my grandparents, and my old house, kids ran back and forth down the hallway, rushing to beat the bell. Since I had a meeting with Principal Webber first thing, I didn’t really care if I was late; I’d just tell him I’d gotten lost.

After I finished with my locker, I headed back to the main level. The lobby was blessedly quiet, the hallways empty. Robert the security guard was nowhere to be seen, but neither was anyone else. I looked around for a sign that might point me in the right direction, but AMHS apparently had no desire to help their students in times of crisis.

With a dejected sigh, I leaned back against a pillar, blowing brown fringe out of my eyes. I’d pulled my hair back into a ponytail, but already pieces were falling out of the elastic, tickling my shoulders. I tucked them behind my ear, but after a few failed attempts, gave up. I’d tried to change my look before moving to D.C., but I still wasn’t sure I liked it. This morning, nothing was going my way, and even if I’d still had long hair, I doubt it would’ve been cooperative.

Knock it off, I told myself, squaring my shoulders as I looked around the lobby. Enough with the pity party. I had a meeting to get to, and I was already late; at this point, I wouldn’t even be lying when I told Principal Webber I’d gotten lost. The walls were all void of helpful signage, but there was a hideous two-story mural and an outdated bulletin board. I could just make out a poster advertising last year’s prom, and what looked like a sign-up sheet for volunteering at the local soup kitchen. From what I could tell, it was empty.

Deciding I’d never get to the office if I didn’t even try to find it, I eeny-meeny-miny-moed it and ended up taking the hallway to my left. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to find the main office. In fact, other than the cafeteria and the gym, there was only one other door on this side of the school. Lucky for me, it was the one I was looking for.

The administration’s inner sanctum was a step up from Adams Morgan’s grimy halls, but not by much. Walls that I assumed had once been white were adorned with cheap imitations of famous paintings, and an ancient chalkboard listed this week’s goals for both students and staff. The office smelled of coffee and stale donuts, a plate of which was sitting out, undisturbed. There was a row of orange plastic chairs along one wall, so I dropped into one, tapping my foot nervously in time with the oldies coming from the radio on the receptionist’s abandoned desk.

The office was completely empty, and I spent a good fifteen minutes watching the hands on the tiny clock tick away the time. At one point I decided that the room smelled more like cat lady than stale donuts, and when the receptionist finally returned and took down my name, I knew why. She flashed me a warm, albeit toothy grin, then disappeared down a narrow hallway that led away from my seat. Doors lined either side, and all but one of them was open. The closed door labeled ‘M. Webber’ was closest to me, and I could hear muted voices arguing behind it. Being a girl, and thus inherently nosey, I scooted the chair over a few inches, hoping to make out part of the argument. I wasn’t much for gossip, but I knew absolutely nothing about this school, and I needed some kind of assurance that the kids here weren’t all blue-haired hooligans, drug addicts, or sweatshirt-wearing douche bags.

Nobody had come in since I’d taken a seat nearly twenty minutes ago, so I wasn’t worried about looking weird as I leaned to my left, my anxiety rising as the voices behind the door grew progressively louder. Still unable to make out more than a few words, I scooted the chair even closer, unaware that I was leaning so far that the only thing supporting me was the chair’s two left legs. Just as I’d made out a few curse words and someone beginning a Hail Mary, the door flew open and I toppled over.

“Out of the way,” someone snapped, and I glanced up to see the guy whose coffee had ruined my outfit. I’m not sure if he recognized me or not, but this time I made sure to get a better look at him. It wasn’t hard, considering he had to stop and find a way around me. I gave myself props for guessing correctly this morning; definitely brown hair. In fact, it was probably closer to black than brown. His hood was down, and though it looked like had hadn’t taken the time to brush his hair this morning, the disheveled look worked for him. I’m sure a smile would do wonders for his face, if the kid even knew how. Right now he was glaring at me like I was the antichrist.

Eventually he just decided to step over me, and I watched in bewilderment as he stormed out of the office, a stack of papers falling to the ground as he whizzed past.

“Lacey Radner?” a disgruntled voice called out.

Glancing up from where I sat sprawled on the orange shag carpet, I spotted a weathered old man poking his head out of the door Demon Child had just exited. He looked confused to see me on the floor, rather than in a chair, but made no comment.

“That’s me,” I squeaked, gathering up my things and scrambling to right myself and the chair I’d been sitting on.

“I’m Principal Webber,” the man said, extending a hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you.” And though he didn’t say it, I heard the double meaning in his words: Please don’t let this be a repeat of my last meeting. I couldn’t blame him.

“Nice to meet you, too,” I replied, thankful that at least this man wanted to shake hands; my earlier encounter with Robert had made me wary.

The office I stepped into was missing the shag carpet of the outer office, and the chair Principal Webber offered me was new and made of leather. I breathed a sigh of relief, plopping down onto it and dropping my bag to the floor. The wall behind me was decorated with plaques and photos of the school’s sports teams. Someone must have painted recently, because the dingy eggshell I’d seen earlier had been replaced with a fresh coat of white, and the bay window let in plenty of light. Though most of what I’d seen of AMHS so far had not been pleasant, I was happy to see that at least one person took care of their space.

“So,” the older man said, taking a seat behind his desk and placing his hands on his paunch belly. “What brings you to Adams Morgan? Needed a better education?” His eyes twinkled in amusement. I spotted an open file on the desk that contained my transcripts. Even from where I sat, I could see the straight line of A’s down the page.

“Something like that,” I said, smiling politely. I saw his eyes drop to the stain on my shirt, and quickly pulled my backpack into my lap to try to cover it.

“I have your schedule here somewhere,” Principal Webber muttered, shuffling papers across his desk. “Give me a minute.” When he finally extracted it from beneath a large book entitled Administration 101: How to Make Your Students Like You While Still Remaining an Authoritative Figure, there was a large tear down the middle. “Nothing a little tape won’t fix,” he proclaimed with a smile, handing it over.

“No worries,” I replied, taking the battered piece of paper from him. Despite the man’s obvious lack of organizational skills, I found that I liked him immensely. Maybe because he reminded me a bit of my grandpa, or maybe because he was the only person this morning who’d even bothered to smile at me. Either way, he seemed perfectly harmless.

“I see that you’re taking nearly all AP classes. Very impressive, Miss Radner.”

“Lacey,” I corrected. “And thanks. I think.” Skimming over the courses listed, I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me as I spotted a rather unexpected, nasty surprise. “Um, Mr. Webber?” I pointed at the undesired class. “I never signed up for P.E.”

He chuckled, ignoring my horrified expression. “Everyone here has to take four years of P.E. You’ll be fine.”

I was pretty sure P.E. would be a nightmare, knowing how uncoordinated I was, but I didn’t want to make a fuss. There was no way I’d be able to get out of taking it, especially considering the fact that I’d never had to take a gym class in my life.

This day was just getting better and better.