Monday, August 30, 2010

Beta Readers Meets Lord of the Rings and Makes a Duff plug!!!!

I've noticed that "betas" seem to be a hot topic lately in the blogasphere. Actually, it's not beta fish people are talking about. Although I did have one when I was in middle school. His name was Mr. Dude....but that's a story for another day.

Critique Partners are an invaluable part of your writing career. I'm forever in debt to the people who have bravely gone where no man has gone before and read my manuscripts.

One of the first beta readers I ever had on my YAUF is someone you may have heard of. She has a book officially coming out in September, although it has been spotted in the wild! (subliminal message: Go buy the Duff!) Yep, Kody Keplinger was one of my original betas. And guess what? I got to do the same for her on The Duff. She was gracious and awesome enough to include me and some of the other beta readers in the acknowledgements!! :)

Anyway, I digress. Writing is often an isolating hobby. We hunker down in strange locations, clutching our laptops or notebooks as we escape into the uncharted realms of our imagination. In a way, we become Gollum from Lord of the Rings with our own “preshus”. If you've ever had a word count deadline or been in revision hell, you know how feasible it is to actually begin to resemble Gollum physically. And when this happens, you should seriously step away from the computer for a period of time.

So, stay with me here as I continue to use the Lord of the Rings analogy for critique partners. After you've taken that first brave step and had someone, or several people, read your work, it's only natural that you become comfortable with a select few. The bond you form with these people is very much like that of the Fellowship of the Ring. You're out for a common good: making that manuscript the best it can be either for querying, for an agent, or for an editor. The best critique partners are the ones who give a mixture of tough, constructive criticism as well as comments that can talk you down from the ledge or stop you from torching your laptop in rage.

But the greatest gift I've found with my critique partners is the friendship. These are people who will pick me up when the publishing game has left me bloodied and battered on the floor. They are the wind beneath my wings, and the reason I get up, brush myself off, and try to fly once again. Some people say it takes a village to raise a child. I think this is true in the publishing world as well. I know I couldn't have made it this far without my critique manuscripts most CERTAINLY could not have made this far!

So, if you've got your own group of Sam's, Merry's and Pippin's, then hold tight to them. They're what make the journey--the quest up to Mt. Doom feasible.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Flashback Friday: Hunger Games Tribute

Welcome to Week Nineteen of Flashback Fridays where the old and new collide on everything from books to movies to first loves to favorite vacations. This week we're flashing back to Tuesday's release of Mockingjay, the final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy.

I have to admit I'm a late Hunger Games reader. I actually only read the first book two weeks ago. I waited because I wanted to be able to read all three at one time. I have to say it was well worth the wait, and I immediately fell in love with Katniss, Peeta, and the series. I think it's message of love, sacrifice, courage, first love, and determination is truly inspiring for both teens and adults. I'm thrilled they will be making a movie version. So, after the readathon on Tuesday, it was only fitting that we pay a little homage to the series.

Want some Hunger Games attire? You can find t-shirts at Hot Topic & Zazzle

Wanna try your own hand at the Hunger Games? Then you can purchase Training Days: The Hunger Games Board Game. (Peeta not included)

It seems that having "teams", aka a love triangle, is the hip thing in YA literature. I mean, we have Team Edward and Team Jacob. And of course, there's the argument of whether you are Team Peeta or Team Gale. That got me thinking of potential "teams" in classic literature....

Team Darcy

Team Wickham



So tell us your Hunger Games memories....what "team" are you?
*Psst, we'll give you another chance to win an arc of Nighshade by Andrea Cremer.
Remember to leave a comment and tweet the contest, and you're in like flynn!

YA's Far-Reaching Appeal

Admittedly, I'm not exactly ancient.

In fact, I called myself old to a bunch of freshmen in the math class I'm teaching, and they vehemently denied my claim, despite the fact that I've got over a decade on most of them. But, I still love reading YA. It just fits.

That's not all that surprising though.

Here are two things that did rather surprise me this week:

1) My FATHER, upon hearing that I was reading my daughter Harry Potter, wished aloud for another epic YA series to read. This is a grown man, a business owner, non-fiction lover, who spends his free time on golf and home-improvement projects. And he's angsting because Christopher Paolini hasn't gotten the last Eragon book done yet. Though, he's also the man I caught laughing during iCarly, after complaining loudly every time my daughter wanted to watch it.

2) Another teacher at my school totally caught a student trying to get away with something (something I recognized, but figured she wouldn't, since she'd graduated college way before me). Her response? "Please, I invented this."

So now, I'm just wondering why YA isn't more popular than it is. How many sit-coms seem like an adult version of high school? Yeah...I can name a few.

YA's about screwing up, fixing it, knowing yourself, and changing the world. Sounds pretty universal to me.

Comment time: Who's the oldest person you know that enjoys YA, whether they admit it or not?


And the winner is....





Me! No, just kidding, haha. The real winner is:





Bahnree *

Please e-mail your address so we can get this out to you.

*winner chosen by a random number generator

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Guest Blog: Going to the Movies

Our esteemed guest blogger and Do the Right Thing for Nashville winner, Melissa Hill, has another awesome post for us.

I used to think movie adaptations ruined the book. In fact, if there was a book I really enjoyed, I avoided the movie because I was sure I would hate it. That changed about six years ago. I was flipping through the channels and came across this movie about a boy who found out he was a wizard. It was called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (maybe you’ve heard of it???).

Anyway, I was so impressed with the movie; it inspired me to buy the book. Not only the first book, but all five that were out at the time. Every time another Harry Potter movie comes out, it inspires me to go back and read the book.

When the movie version is done well, it can enhance the experience of the book bringing to life the characters we love. How perfect is Alan Rickman as Severus Snape? Our imaginations can only go so far with setting and scenery. But on the screen, it is taken to another level. The eye of Sauron was truly frightening. And it is nice to have someone pronounce all of the crazy names that Tolkien wrote (which I no doubt butchered while reading The Lord of the Rings).

I think the key to being done well, is remaining true to the story. Don’t cut key scenes or change the ending. This is why The Firm didn’t work for me. The most exciting part of the book was left out and then ending changed. Don’t alter dialog too much. Writers spend time getting the dialog right. Why change it? When key scenes or dialog are not used, it makes the movie feel like a cheap, knock-off of the real thing. Sorry to all of you Twilight fans, but that is how the movie felt to me (New Moon was much better). Bella finds out the truth about Edward by reading a book instead of Jacob telling her the story. And the whole scene where Edward is essentially screaming at Bella to call him a vampire didn’t work for me. I enjoyed the car ride scene in the book much better.

One of the best film adaptations I have seen is the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice (the one with Colin Firth). It is long (300 minutes), but totally worth every minute.

You guys tell me—best/worst movie adaptations?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MOCKINGJAY Day Give-Away!!!!

OMG! It's finally here, everyone---today is Mockingjay Day! With the exception of the Deathly Hallows, we can't remember the last time a book was so eagerly anticiapted. There have been monthly countdowns, tons of casting vlogs, and much nervous squeeing and wild speculation over Suzanne Collins' third and last installment (sob!) of the Hunger Games.

Finally, we'll get all of our questions answered after Catching Fire's huge cliffhanger:

What goes on in District 13?

Can Peeta be saved?

Will anyone die?

And, of course, for the romance junkies like me, who will Katniss end up with: Gale, Peeta, or alone?

We know tons of you, like us, will already be reading today. But for those who haven't run out to pick up your copy of Mockingjay yet, here's your chance. Follow our blog and in the comments section, tell us something key you think might happen in Mockingjay (guessing only--NO SPOILERS, please!). Tonight, we'll draw one lucky winner at random! Simple, right?

Good luck, and happy Mockingjay Day to all!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Flashback Friday: Parodies: Good or Bad? And Another Arc of August!!!

Welcome to Week Eighteen of Flashback Fridays where the old and new collide on everything from books to movies to first loves to favorite vacations. This week we're flashing back on some parodies of beloved, as well as loathed, books.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I'm not sure that statement is 100% accurate. Take the following pictures from a New York cat show where someone paraded a Twilight themed ensemble for their cat. Frankly, I think the ASPCA or PETA should look into this case. Dressing your cat up as Edward complete with bouffant wig is abuse in the highest form. I mean, the cat looks seriously pissed, but who came blame him? Well, actually, the below picture has him looking quite Edwardesque complete with pensive stare.

This week saw the box office opening of Vampires Suck, a parody movie that takes full aim on the Twilight saga. The title is catchy with its cutesy double entondre, and it looks like it will take a bite at all three movies.

It's from the writers and directors of Epic Movie who spoofed the aging Daniel Radcliffe with it's middle aged Harry Potter along with a balding Ron Weasley and knocked up Hermoine, proving that even a beloved series can't escape the parody.

So what do you think. Have you truly made it as a phenomenon when your novel is parodied on the silver screen or Youtube, or is it a mockery of not only you as a writer, but the world you created?

*****ARCS OF AUGUST*******

This week we're giving away Andrea Cremer's Nightshade. It goes nicely with our last giveaway, Personal Demons, since Andrea and Lisa were critique partners. Cool huh?

We'll keep the entries simple and pay it forward from last week. Tweet the contest and be a follower, and you're in!!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Funnies

Just because we're easily amused....


Happy Friday from GotYA. Try not to get eaten over the weekend.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Be a Better Beta

I think most seasoned writers agree: our betas are one of our most valuable assets. We count on them to polish our early drafts into something shiny and fit to be seen by the rest of the human population. But for newbies considering beta-ing for the first time, the idea of critiquing someone else’s work can be kind of scary. Are there any rules, you might ask? Well, in my opinion, yes. Yes there are. Read on below for Debra’s Rules for Being a Better Beta.

1. Ask the writer what he or she expects BEFORE you start. Because, OMG, there’s a huge difference between general feedback and line editing. I think there’s some conventional wisdom that says you should read every novel you crit at least twice, once for big picture stuff, and the second time for line edits. I’m convinced whoever said that had 500 hours in a day, all of them allocated to reading. The truth is, if you’re like me, you have beta reads lined up til kingdom come, and hai there, a WIP that needs to be written, revisions to do, etc, etc, etc. Plus there are those little hassles of daily life—work, kids, hubbies, eating—that tend to get in the way. So unless you just really have boatloads of time, I’d suggest doing one or the other, general or line, and working it out with the writer up front. Some writers don’t like line edits in the first place—as in, you touch that prose, you lose a finger.

2. Which brings us to rule number two: if the writer doesn’t want line edits, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, touch even one syllable of that sparkly prose. Wear socks on your hands while reading if you must, or duct tape them, cover your laptop keys with thumb tacks dipped in rattlesnake venom, whatever you need to do. JUST. DON’T. TWEAK.

(okay, so this is a bit extreme, but it's also one of the most creative uses of duct tape I've ever seen. Hmmm, wonder if it's legal....????)

3. Do a trial run. No, seriously. Ask to beta just the first 3 chapters to start. That way you can both a) make sure your commenting style actually helps the writer and b) have a way out if what you thought was contemporary turns into a Martians-taking-over-the-world-by-inhabiting-the-intestines-of-Golden-Retrievers plotline.

4. Make a sandwich. No, not the eating kind, silly—though, you can do that too, because beta work does take a well-fed brain—the comment kind. Personally, I’ve always found the criticism easier to take when it’s surrounded on both sides by the good stuff. Sort of like an Oreo. Only with brussel sprouts instead of cream filling.

5. Use your relationship skillz to approach the negative. You know how therapists always suggest avoiding “you” and “your” statements when addressing problems with your spouse/mother-in-law/crazy neighbor who dresses her Yorkie up as RPatz, complete with glitter and tousled fur?

Well, the same applies to critiquing. Avoid sentences starting with “you” or “your” if at all possible. For example, do NOT say:

“Your prose makes me want to gouge out my eyeballs with a dull spork.”

“You really should delete this entire manuscript and start over. On a new topic. And use a ghostwriter.”

Just like in relationships, “I” statements are often more palatable. As in:

* “In my opinion, this characterization could be stronger."


“I feel like the pacing dropped off a bit here”

Also, note the use of “could” above? Could is your beta-ready friend. Could implies that it’s something the writer might think about—not that they MUST do as you say. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty darn stubborn. I am much more likely to pull a mule if someone tells me I MUST do something to my novel, rather than suggesting I think about it.

*Okay, so I cheated a little, because really, “In my opinion, your prose makes me want to gouge my eyeballs out with a dull spork” still sounds pretty crappy. But you get my point (bad pun intended).

6. Always, always be both respectful AND honest.* In my opinion (see what I did there?) these traits are both key in a good beta. If you’re not respectful, you run the risk of having the writer discard your input, no matter how spot-on it might be. And if you’re not honest? Well, you’re not doing your job. The writer counts on YOU to tell her what’s working and what’s not. If you’re not able to do that, then you shouldn’t be beta-ing. Period.

*If you ARE honest, be prepared for the person you’re critting to hate you for at least ten full minutes, regardless of how kindly you’ve worded your comments. This is normal. If you must crit in person, ignore any tears, ranting and hand waving, or other disturbing behavior that occurs during this time frame.

7. Finally, have fun, and enjoy the experience. Beta-ing can be a great way to improve your own craft by analyzing the highs and lows in your peers’ work--and make you feel good for helping someone else out. Really, it's a win-win situation.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Erica O’Rourke Has A GOLDEN HEART!

Tap.  Tap.  Tap.  Is this mic on?  Testing.  Testing.  Ahem!  Please welcome a fabulous guest post by Erica O'Rourke, award winning author of UNCHOSEN. (Women who wear crowns know what they're talking about, so pay attention!)

So, Jamie kindly invited me to guest-blog today on why RWA is a valuable resource for YA writers. I am, admittedly, biased. In July, I won RWA’s Golden Heart® Award for Best Young Adult Romance Manuscript for my novel, UNCHOSEN. That alone would make me a cheerleader, because what girl doesn’t feel a certain gratitude towards an organization that would say such nice things about her work and give her a pretty gold necklace?

But here’s the thing: winning the Golden Heart, while lovely, was just the cherry on top. The truth is, joining RWA was the single best move I ever made in my career, even before I won.

Still, a lot of YA authors aren’t sure RWA is a great investment of their time or money. “I’m just not sure what I’d get out of it,” I often hear. “I write young adult, not romance.”

Maybe you don’t. Perhaps you don’t write happily ever after endings, or perhaps the romance is a minor subplot. Calling a book a romance implies some pretty specific genre elements – it’s why they have their own section at the bookstore. But I’m hard-pressed to think of a recent YA book that doesn’t, in some way, touch on romantic relationships. Not always happy ones, of course. Lauren Strasnick’s RITA-nominated NOTHING LIKE YOU is brutally, painfully honest, and at its core, about a girl coming to grips with her mother’s death. But it’s also a story about love and sex and how difficult it can be to differentiate the two. And it is BRILLIANT.

If you’ve written a YA book that has kissing, or people thinking about kissing, or people trying very hard NOT to think about kissing someone who is both 1) bad news and 2) irresistible, you should join RWA. Not “in spite of” writing YA, but specifically BECAUSE you do. I tell you this for two reasons:


Period. Full stop. People who suggest teens don’t deserve compelling, meaningful books solely because of their age should be kneecapped. When I wrote UNCHOSEN, I didn’t try to make it sound “teen” or dumb down the language. I didn’t simplify the characters or the conflicts. I didn’t try to teach anyone a Very Important Lesson About Growing Up. I wrote the story I wanted to read, and it happened to be about a seventeen-year-old. Suggesting YA is easier to write or that the standards are lower is crap, frankly, and insulting to teenagers and authors alike.

But it’s for this very reason that you’ve got to bring your A game. You need to hone your craft just as much as authors writing for adult audience, and you need to learn about the business side, too. That’s what a good author does, regardless of genre.

RWA does a fantastic job of educating its membership: on craft, on the publishing industry, on how to conduct oneself professionally. It provides opportunities to meet agents and editors at conferences. It runs contests – both the Golden Heart and chapter contests – to get feedback on your writing and bypass the slush pile. It shows you take your work seriously, and the publishing industry should too.


Of course, YA authors still have specialized issues. The market and conventions are different, as they are for other subgenres. The industry professionals are (sometimes) different. What you need is a group of people in your field, collected in one place, with wisdom and experience and a willingness to share. You need YARWA, the online Young Adult chapter of RWA. It’s an incredibly vibrant, intelligent, giving community, comprised of authors at every stage in their career, from newbie to bestsellers, in every genre from steampunk to contemporary. Their dues are minuscule compared to the amount of information and support they provide. And while you might not put names with faces until Nationals, they are most assuredly your tribe.

I said RWA was the best thing I did for my career, and I wasn’t being glib. Every good thing that has happened to me in my journey as an author is directly linked to RWA, and particularly my local chapter, Chicago-North. They taught me about craft as I was writing UNCHOSEN, and they held my feet to the fire as I revised it. They pushed me to enter the Golden Heart. They organized the Spring Fling conference and invited Joanna Volpe, who became my agent and who does wondrous, amazing things for my career on a near-daily basis. When I won the Golden Heart, the cheers from my chaptermates were deafening. A tribe, I tell you. Get one.

(By the way, this year’s RITA winner for Young Adult? NYT Bestseller, Simone Elkeles – another C-N member. Coincidence, or proof my chapter is made of awesome? You decide.)

RWA has been an incredible resource for me, and the other YA authors I know. It’s given me knowledge, a sense of community, amazing friends and incredible opportunities. I’ve never felt marginalized or looked down on by the greater membership, and the chapters I belong feel like home. It’s one of those rare situations where there is no downside – take advantage of it. You’d be crazy not to.

Erica O’Rourke writes dark urban fantasy about girls who learn to use their loud voices, and make their own fate. Her first novel, UNCHOSEN, was the 2010 Golden Heart Winner for Best Young Adult Manuscript. You can read more about Erica at her website, or follow her on Twitter at

Thanks for guest posting, Erica!  You're welcome to stop back any time. 
Leave Erica questions/comments gang!  She'll be by to answer. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Friday, August 13, 2010

Flashback Friday: Giving Some Inspiration :)

Welcome to Week Seventeen of Flashback Fridays where the old and new collide on everything from books to movies to first loves to favorite vacations.


Sarah N Fisk!!!!

You can email me at with your details. Thanks to everyone who entered the contest and to all of our new followers. We appreciate your support!!!
If you didn't win, make sure you still pick up a copy of Personal Demons because I highly recommend it! It certainly delivers!!!
And thanks to Randomlinepicker for helping us find a winner!

This week on Flashback Friday is a hodge podge of sorts. I hate to start off another Flashback Friday being harried and stressed, but most writers understand that feeling on some level. Most of us have families and full-time jobs on top of squeezing in that coveted writing time.
Anyway, my life took an interesting turn this week. I had planned on not teaching this year to pursue Freelance Writing opportunities. I was all gung-ho until school started back(my county starts August 1...yes, it is heinous!), and I missed my students and my teacher buddies. And then I got a call to interview in a county an hour away from home. The principal, the department head, and the teachers all made me feel so welcome and appreciated that I just had to take the job. Bright and early on Monday morning I will begin a new step in my life teaching 12th grade British Literature!

So, that brings me to the real point of the post. It's like a flashbackapoolooza when unpacking my room. I see little notes and gifts students have given me over the years or treasured knick-knacks, posters, and photos. I'm one of those teachers whose room looks like a home away from home complete with curtains and lamps! Another factor is this will be my 10th year teaching, so I've acquired quite a bit of stuff over the years.

Anyway, I came across some mini-posters while going through things. I say mini-posters when they're actually pages that I tore out of an inspirational book and laminated. I wanted to share a few of them because they truly relate to writing as well as life in general. The publishing biz can be dream-crushing, soul-stomping, scream like a banshee frustrating, alienating of friends, family, and pets. And frankly, it doesn't matter what stretch of the writing journey you're in be it unagented, agented, or on submission. Here are some inspiring quotes to get us through.

"Hope is the thing with feathers--
That perches in the soul--
And sings the tune without the words--
And never stops--at all--
Emily Dickinson

"Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter.
Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom,
but we hope it, we know it."
Johann Wolfgang Goethe

"Sometimes when we've run out of hope,
what we've really run out of is patience"
Emilie Barnes

"Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark,
in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not quite-yet, the not-at-all.
Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach.
Check your road and the nature of your battle.
The world you desired can be won.
It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours."
Ayn Rand

"Expect to have hope rekindled.
Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways.
The dry seasons in life do not last.
The spring rains will come again."
Sarah Ban Breathnach

Next week on the Arcs of August, we'll be giving away Nightshade by Andrea Cremer!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Hear Voices (Well Actually, I Listen For Them)

(Image courtesy of mdanys)

Every time I think about writing about voice, I ask myself, what are you, crazy? Don’t DO that! The reason is that you really can’t have a definitive post on voice, because it’s just not that easy to define. (Elana Roth talked about this yesterday at WriteOnCon, actually, and her post is definitely worth reading.)

When I was at SCBWI, though, Rachel Vail gave one of the simplest and clearest definitions of voice I’ve ever heard. She said, “If you read something and it can only be that character talking, that’s voice.”

A mistake I sometimes make is trying to figure out the voice of a project before I figure out the character I’m dealing with. I do that because I know how important a unique and memorable (memorably good, that is) voice is. But what that definition of voice suggests is that I’m approaching the whole thing backwards. I need to know my characters before I will know how they sound; it’s just common sense.

Rachel Vail also talked about voice as a process of discovery-- finding the voice instead of making it. Maybe you won’t get the voice right in the first page, or the first fifty pages, but eventually, if you are paying attention, your character will say something and it will be so them that you stop and say “AHA! THAT is the voice I was waiting for.”

I had never thought of this before, so I went back to the first draft of my manuscript to see if that had happened to me. And it had. On the fifth page of my first draft, my character says, “It is a foolish practice. It must be stopped.”

Those lines didn’t make it into the final draft. They barely made it into the in-between drafts. But they were useful because they so obviously belonged to my main character. They were stern. They were formal. They were Beatrice. And I didn’t struggle with voice anymore.

I don’t think you can bank on this AHA! moment with voice, but it helps to pay attention.

So, a list of tips. Because I’m methodical like that.

1. Get to know your character. This mostly involves a lot of thinking, and asking a lot of questions. Questions like, as Rachel said in one of the sessions, “what would your character hide in his or her underwear drawer?” And I think it also involves writing. And letting the first draft be a process of uncovering and discovering who it is you’re writing about.

2. Pay attention to how the character sounds. You might not see the line or section that sounds exactly like them if you aren’t looking for it. And if you do find it, think about it. Figure out why it sounds exactly like your character. And keep it in mind as you continue. Which leads me to tip 3…

3. Trust yourself. Maybe you aren’t sure that the voice you think you’ve found is right, or that it will be any good, but second-guessing yourself isn’t going to help. So, trust yourself. If it’s wrong, you can fix it later. But you have to commit sometime.

Voice is tricky. It’s pretty much always tricky. But our characters are speaking. We just have to listen.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Showing Love to Your Fellow Writers

All the fine ladies here at GOT YA are writers and we've all been on the publishing roller coaster. Some, like Veronica Roth and Kathleen Peacock, have their sparkly new book deals and are just a few months from taking the Young Adult world by storm, and others are still searching for that perfect agent/writer magical bond to happen. So all of us here can sympathize with the ups and downs of this whole publishing thing and know how hard it is to get that precious manuscript turned into a book sitting on a Barnes&Noble book shelf. Writing becomes an obsession, and don't just think once you've got your deal it'll go away, because it won't. When your book gets to the point where the marketing department at the publishing house decides to send out those coveted shiny UNCORRECTED ADVANCED COPIES (ARCs) out to reviewers, you'll be setting your Google alert buttons. I promise you that.

How do I know that? Simple. I'm a book blogger and you wouldn't believe how many authors contact me after I post a review of their work. Yes, I'm one of those people who read ARCs and post for the world to see exactly what I thought about your book. Just yesterday, my Google alerts brought to my attention one author posted my review and a link back to me on her website. So you never know who's reading your blog.

Now, I know you are probably wondering: Okay, yeah, so what, Annie. How does this apply to a beginning writer like me? Well, my friend let me tell you. Everywhere you look, there is a blog post, article or something posted about "Building a Platform" for writers at every level in their writing career. Book blogging is an excellent way to keep the posts coming on your personal blog and reach other people in the writing community who share your taste in genres and writing styles. The only thing is, when you are a writer blogging about books, you have to not only make sure you post a truthful opinion, but make sure you do it in a respectful way. Am I saying RAVE about every single book you read? No, not at all. What I am saying is you never know about the future. Someone's book you are simply SLAMMING on your blog today may be in the same publishing house/literary agency as you some day, and what do you think they'll say about your book when they are approached to write a blurb/recommendation? Awkward, right? LOL Yeah, I think so too.

So here's my advice: Blog a lot, read a lot, write a lot and you can't go wrong. Try to find not only negatives in a book, but positives too. Remember, every book you read is somebody's baby. Do you want somebody to call your baby ugly? Nope, me neither, so don't forget to show some love to your fellow writers while making your splash in the publishing world.

What's Your Definition of Fair Use?

I may have been a little lax about copyrights back when I was in high school. Sure, we all knew not to plagarize, but that was about as far as copyright education went. Reading and hearing about the Napster lawsuits opened my eyes though, and I have to say, that's all it took for me to see copyrights as something that also protected artists' (and authors') paychecks.

However, I read this article on the measures one newspaper is taking to protect it's copyrights, and I cringed. Sure, these people who are sued for infringement can defend themselves by claiming Fair Use, but I really dislike companies using lawyers like battle axes.

So, if you read the linked article, tell me what you think: Were the lawsuits fair? And also, what, in your mind, constitutes Fair Use, as it relates to books, the internet, music, movies, etc?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Flashback Friday: Great Teenage Dramas of the Past: My So Called Life


Welcome to Week Sixteen of Flashback Fridays where the old and new collide on everything from books to movies to first loves to favorite vacations. This week on Flashback Friday we're looking at one of the best teen dramas from back in the day. The early 90's was a time before Gossip Girl, Secret Life of the American Teen and Vampire Diaries. Sure there was Beverly Hills 90210, but for those who longed for a more realistic view of teenage life, a show finally came around to fill the void.

My So Called Life
It would be hard to put into mere words how groundbreaking this show was. First of all, it wasn't a show about pretty people with pretty problems. These were your everyday run of the mill teens dealing with serious issues. While most shows of the time period dealt with tough issues through a one time "special episode", My So Called Life barreled on through on a weekly basis with teenage alcoholism and drug use, homophobia, physical abuse, and school violence. You couldn't get any more realistic than how the main character, Angela Chase, perceived herself and the world around her. Angela forever felt like a social outcast, but she found solace in her friendship with wild and rebellious, Rayann Graff, and sweet, openly gay, Rickie Vasquez. Angela's love life was always throwing her curve balls. While nerdy but kind, Brian, crushed on her, she pined for the school heartthrob, Jordan Catalano. Finally, Angela and Jordan became a couple, and she had to deal with the ups and downs of the relationship. With Angela's voice over narration, the audience truly connected with her. Claire Danes was just sixteen herself when she was playing sixteen year old Angela. Even though critics and audiences praised the show, it was canceled after one season.

Even though a decade has passed, the angst and the issues are still the same. I would highly recommend this show to anyone writing Contemporary YA.

I leave you with one of the most popular scenes in the show. This is when Jordan finally makes it known the world, or the Liberty High School population, that he and Angela are an item.

And here's a tribute video of the show

****************ARCS OF AUGUST CONTEST TIME**************

Did you guess what ARC was up for grabs this week? Yep, that's right it's Personal Demons by the very fabulous Lisa Desrochers. I loved, loved, the book, and I know you will too! There's three things you need to do to win.

(1). Be a follower

(2). Tweet the contest

(3). Leave a comment

Pretty easy huh? And don't forget Leah's Awesome Mad Libs Contest or Sarah's Mockingjay Preorder Contest. It's a contestapalooza up in here!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

5-Minute Book Club

Our book pick this month is Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers. You seriously have to click on her name to go to her site just to see the cow. I love it!

This is what it's about:

Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard–falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High… until vicious rumors about her and her best friend’s boyfriend start going around. Now Regina’s been “frozen out” and her ex-best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn’t come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend… if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don’t break them both first…

This is what we have to say:


At first, I was very disappointed. I made it to page 152 before realizing that there would be no werewolves in this book. Total bummer. Everyone knows that werewolves are the cherries on top of the ice cream.

Despite the disturbing lack of werewolves, Courtney Summers again manages to prove that she’s one of the most exciting contemporary YA writers in, well, ever. I loved her use of present tense, I loved her voice, I loved page 111 which had just a single sentence. And I especially loved Michael. There are three writers who make me desperately wish I wrote contemp. Courtney Summers is one of them.


SGA had me turning the pages at light speed, hands glued to the cover, unable to put it down until the very last word. Inside my head I kept chanting, oh no, oh no, OMG, no way! Just when I thought the last twist had come, I ran right into another one. Raw. Real. This one stays with you. You want to start all over from page one when you finish.


Some Girls Are was a major wow. I don't like the perfect- pampered-rich girls and bullies and complete high school angst that has become a cliché, so I was skeptical. But this was surprisingly refreshing and not a cliché. Regina gave as good as she got. I actually found myself sympathizing with almost all of the characters. I was drawn in by the voice. And my weakness, the boy love interest, was refreshing. Michael was the absolute best. I would read this again, it was that engrossing.

PS: Werewolves make hot love interests :P

Our super-de-dooper guest blogger, Melissa Hill:

This is Mean Girls, except meaner. The story examines how girls can be so cruel to each other in a way that makes me glad I’m no longer in high school. Despite having cruel intentions, I liked Regina and wanted her to get the guy in the end. I think the biggest strength of the story was the depth of the characters and the way you were never really sure how everything was going to work out.


This book is seriously one of my Favorite. YA Contemps. Evah. I bow to Summers' brilliance at taking a thoroughly unlikable character--Regina--and making me weep for her not once, not twice, but THREE times in the course of the novel. Genius, despite the absence of werewolves (Kath made me say that.) The first person present prose was strong, powerful, and at times, gut wrenching, and the love interest was convincing. Even given the sort of ambiguous ending with the lead Mean Girl character, I really can't recommend this book highly enough. Go. Read. And be very, very jealous that YOU didn't write it.


I found it very weird to cry in frustration from a book. I don't think it's ever happened before. But there I was, seriously shedding tears because I felt so much pity for mean girl Regina. Not only does Some Girls Are keep you flipping pages violently until the end, but it puts things in perspective, shining light on the brutality of high school drama and gossip. Summers pushes the limits while avoiding a soap opera slope. And although I saw Regina's flaws throughout every scene, I still rooted for her until the very last page.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Brave New World...

He catches me staring. Again.

You think he’d be flattered; he’s at least ten years older than I am. As it is, he looks puzzled and a wee bit uncomfortable. I want to say something to set his mind at ease—something along the lines of, “Sorry, sir, I’m not ogling you. I’m just leching on your iPad.”

I'm not sure that would help.

I shift my attention back to my paper book, vowing that I absolutely will not stare again. But, after a few minutes, I’m back to the covert ogling. I may be in danger of becoming the first person to ever be booted from Starbucks for techual harassment.

It’s just that eReaders have been on my mind a lot over the past week. For the first time, I’m seriously considering getting one—if only because it depresses me that my mother is more technologically advanced than I am.

Once I opened myself up to the idea, I definitely saw some advantages: I buy a lot of books; I have a two bedroom apartment; I do not like the feeling that piles of books are going to collapse and bury me as I try to navigate my way to the kitchen for a 2:00AM snack. This means I go through massive book purges several times a year (as I work on this blog post I’m actually on Skype, trying to get my sister to adopt books I think she might like). An eReader would cut down on the hassle and guilt of buying more books than I can comfortably house without someone calling in the crew from Hoarders.

It would also make packing for trips much easier (since I wouldn’t have to guess which books to bring or allocate suitcase space to them) and it might be very good for the gym (assuming I ever start using that membership I’m paying for every month).

But there are also cons. No new book smell. No second-hand book smell. No flashing a cover in public like a badge proclaiming I’m in some special club. No indulging in the fantasy that a cute guy will spy me reading one of his favorite books and we’ll bond in the ultimate, bookish meet-cute.

The solution, obviously, is a mix. Buy paper books that I know I’ll want to add to the shelves in my living room and loan out to friends and buy eBooks for travel, the gym, research, or when I’m iffy on whether or not I’ll totally love something.

Will I buy an eReader? I’m honestly not sure. If I do, it will likely be a Kobo or a Kindle and it will probably be purchased in a moment of reckless consumer abandon. If I do, I promise you’ll all hear about it at great length (whether you want to or not).

In the meantime, though, I’d love to hear from you guys. What do you think of eReaders? Do you have one? What kind? If not, what’s been holding you back?

How Mad-Libs Save Sanity

Recently, I've come to the crazy realization that as September rolls around, it'll have be three and a half years since I decided to become an English major and devote my time to make writing less of a hobby and more of a lifestyle. We'll ignore the fact that I haven't completed another novel since my first God-awful one because of the mass of shiny new ideas surging my brain.

Still, I can't help but reflect on how far I've come. Of course, there have been the occasional writing hiatus here and there, but there isn't a moment that passes where I'm not thinking about my characters and what plot twists would go with which book, etc...

And sometimes, that constant buzzing in my head drives me up a wall.

So here's how I soothe it: I play Mad-Libs. You know, that game where you have to fill in the blanks with adjectives, adverbs, names, nouns. Make it the most random, twisted, and/or creepy kids story possible.
I know it doesn't sound like much, but for some reason, it helps. I'd create my own short, messy stories and play along with friends. It's almost always hysterical.'s the deal: Leah is throwing her first contest! Woo! *throws confetti*

Here's how it works. Search for a Mad-Libs of your choice (as I love reading them all). In the comment section, copy and paste the story you chose with your own words filling in the blanks and asterisks or italics around the words to let me know which ones they are.
Make it funny, sweet, twisted, random--whichever you want! There will be a first and second place winner for the two I enjoyed the most.

The Prizes: Funny and witty teen/MG books

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

First place winner: two books of their choice and a book of Ad-Libs. Just for fun!

Second place winner: A book of their choice

Only open to U.S residents this time (sorry!!).

The contest will close August 11th and winners will be chosen August 14th.

Good luck to everyone. Can't wait to read :)