Friday, October 29, 2010

Flashback Friday: Romeo and Juliet Recap with the Fabulous Claudia Gabel and Romeo and Juliet and Vampires


Welcome to Week Twenty-Four 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 taking a look at Romeo and Juliet adaptations along with an author interview with Claudia Gabel.

Over the years, there have been many adaptations of Romeo and Juliet. Franco Zefferelli's 1968 version was the first to feature actual teenagers playing the roles of Romeo and Juliet. Baz Lurhman's Romeo + Juliet took a nontraditional view by setting the story in modern day Verona Beach California while keeping the traditional text. And who can forget the Jets and Sharks of West Side Story? Or the spin on how Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare in Love?

My first experience with Romeo and Juliet came when I read it 9th grade. I didn't quite have the best teacher that year, and she really didn't bring the text alive for me. The next time I came in contact with R & J was when my HS did the musical West Side Story, which I love until this day! Then R & J came calling again in college when I took a Shakespeare class for my undergrad. This time there was a greater appreciation for the story, the characters, and the figurative language. I also went to see Shakespeare in Love when it first came out. Fast forward about eight years later when I first began teaching 9th grade, and I got the opportunity to teach it.

Speaking of adaptations, did you know about the book Romeo and Juliet and Vampires? If you don't, then you totally need to pick up a copy. I would highly, highly recommend it to anyone who loves the R & J story or would maybe like to have a greater appreciation. And I'd totally recommend it to vampire story lovers!

Today to reflect on Romeo and Juliet adaptations, we have the lovely Claudia Gabel, Senior Editor of Katherine Tegan Books and author of Romeo and Juliet and Vampires, which is a Junior Libary Guild fall book pick!

*What would HS Claudia think of grown up Claudia?

I think HS Claudia would be pretty proud of GU Claudia. I wound up working in a field that pays me to read books and write stories about teen love—a dream come true for the girl often times preferred hanging out with fictional characters than making friends. HS Claudia would also be impressed with some of my celebrity encounters—Harry Connick Jr. once told me I was pretty! (A long but awesome story.) However, Middle School Claudia would probably be very disappointed. My ideal M.A.S.H. fantasy was living in a mansion with Johnny Depp and our four kids and driving a DeLorean (I really loved Back to the Future—and still do!)

*What led you to become a book editor?

I’ve been obsessed with books my entire life. I was an English major in college and got my Master’s degree in American and English Literature. Actually, I’d thought about pursuing a PhD and becoming a college professor, but I realized that although I loved school and books, I wasn’t a true academic at heart. Not too long after I came to this conclusion, I found out a friend of a friend worked in publishing and needed an editorial assistant. It seemed like the best path for me, especially because I loved to write and hoped that being in that environment would not only give me great contacts, but help me strengthen my craft.

*HOW do you manage to find time to write with your day job? (I'm amazed by this one!)

Well, it’s a sacrifice for sure. There was a period where I was working at an office until 5, grabbed something to eat, watched repeats of Scrubs on Comedy Central, and then wrote until almost midnight. It was a sad little life, but I don’t regret it at all because at the end of the day, I was so happy to have the opportunity to cultivate my own writing and other authors at the same time. Right now, I’m just writing on the weekends as much as possible, and on the subway, too, since I have a long commute from Washington Heights to…pretty much anywhere.

*How do you decide which "classics" deserve a good vampire spin?

Good question! I think it you just have to look at core of the story and see if it lends itself to the vampire conundrum, which is—how to I act on my insatiable desire? Honestly, that moral question is at the heart of a lot of classic literature, and that’s probably why these novels are ripe for supernatural reinterpretation.

*Tell us about the In or Out series.

The In or Out books tell the story of Nola and Marnie, two BFFS whose relationship takes a drastic turn when they enter high school. While there are mean girls and impossible crushes threaded throughout the series, the narrative is really about friendship and what it’s like to lose a friend for the first time. It’s such a painful experience and every one of us has gone through it, so I felt that it was important to address the subject and show young girls that you can recover when you lose your best friend. And that sometimes second chances are possible.

*What else do you have up your sleeve?

Right now I’m working on writing a story that hinges on things that happened during the American spiritualist movement. It’s quite a challenging project! But I’m very excited about it, because it’s something I’ve never tried before. My goal was to get a chunk to my agent by Thanksgiving, but I just looked at my manuscript reading schedule for the month and am not as confident anymore. Welcome to the life of a writer/editor!

Claudia does her own very creative Flashback Fridays over at her blog:

Thanks Claudia for stopping by and go out and get your copy of Romeo and Juliet and Vampires.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Story

In lieu of regular posts we've decided to write a Halloween story this week, but we'll need your help. Each day, with the exception of some guest posts, one of us will write around 250 words. We'll read your comments for what you think should come next and the next poster will go off of their favorite comment and continue the story. The story will end on Halloween. So bring on your witches, ghosts and werewolves. Today, I'm giving the first paragraph and will finish it tonight after your comments.

Once upon a time there was a very small girl who could see ghosts. Everywhere she went they followed, even in the bathroom. The good thing about her gift was the ghosts couldn't enter her house. The bad thing was they could surround her everywhere else.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Flashback Friday: Glee GQ Shoot: Naughty or Nice?


Welcome to Week Twenty-Four of Flashback Fridays where the old and new collide on everything from books to movies to first loves to favorite vacations. This week I'm taking a look at the Glee photo controversy.

So the entertainment industry is buzzing with news about the infamous Glee GQ photo spread. One the one side, Glee is a show beloved by teens and tweens and what kind of message does it send to them to see high schoolers so sexualized? On the other, it's the fact that all three actors are twenty-something adults posing for an adult magazine like GQ.

The Parents Television Council, in a statement from president Tim Winter, criticized the cover and spread Wednesday for hypersexualizing actresses who play high-school age students, saying the shoot with a high school backdrop "borders on pedophilia." While Dianna Argon, who plays Quinn Fabres, released a statement apologizing for the racy spread and said "the show's rooting-for-the-underdog sensibility wasn't echoed in the GQ photos and noted that although the concept of the shoot wasn't her favorite idea, she didn't walk away."

As a HS teacher, a lover of Glee, and a feminist, I thought this made a very interesting post for a YA writer.

Here's the cover. Notice how instead of showing off his pecs by going shirtless with a tie, or showing a little leg in a speedo, Cary Monteith is fully clothed--so much so compared to his cast mates he might as well be wearing a parka and scarf. Yeah, yeah, I know GQ is a men's magazine, but still.

Okay, I guess I should hold up for a second and not let my feminist ideals get the better of me. I mean, really, are the photos really that scandalous and "unrepresentative of high school". Let's take a look.

I mean, I'm not sure what the problem here is. Didn't we all pose seductively by our lockers while suggestively licking a lollipop and wearing panties?

And who didn't chillax around the locker room wearing a peek a boo bra and Christian Louboutin heels? The HS I attended was about 30 years old, and we had the nastiest locker room, and I wish our lockers had been that big. Freshman year, I ended up having my PE clothes stolen...who steals sweaty PE clothes? After I graduated, they built a new, state of the art gym.

When I was a cheerleader many years and pounds ago, our skirts were longer than our pom-poms, but this doesn't seem to be the case here. And we usually tried to throw some spirit fingers rather than angsty sex kitten poses. Yeah, and the shoes are totally not regulation, and the basketball coach would've yelled at us for messing up the floor. Plus, they're totally impractical for doing stunts.

Just an average day in class. I mean, when I was in high school, I totally ran around in bra, panties, and high heels while creating mayhem in class. And I could venture to say my classes look like this now. "Let's get CRAZY over Shakespeare!" Seriously, the only thing that resembles high school in this picture is the classroom itself.

*Once again notice how Cary looks like he's straight out of a Leave it to Beaver episode.

So, here's some food for thought. Let's Flashback to the 80's shall we with Pop Princesses Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. Man, what a difference a few decades make. They sold millions of records, sold out arenas, and gave us some pretty good tunes, right? And when I was searching for pics of them, not one appeared with cleavage, bare midriffs, jacked up skirts etc. Okay, yes, it did disappoint me greatly when I learned that both gals took it all off for Playboy in their late 20's and early 30's, but I guess I can give them props that they didn't do it in their teens.

So, I wanna hear what you think. Is it much ado about nothing? Is it a growing trend that is sexualizing young women too much, too soon? Is it a woman's body and her prerogative? Or is it teaching young women that the most important thing are looks and sex appeal rather than brains and ambition?

Monday, October 18, 2010

I haz a character type

I have a confession: I'm addicted to blonds in fiction. But I didn't really know how big of a fancy I had for them until I thought about some of the favorite characters I've read in books or seen in their TV shows or movies.

I have a character type-- an almost-without-fail love of blond characters (mainly male). Not just blonds, but shaggy blonds.

Also, they're usually asshats.

Like Draco Malfoy for example.

Since the day I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone nearly twelve years ago, I had a fascination with the character of Draco Malfoy. Maybe it's the badboy in him, maybe it's the mystery. But whatever the case, he got me started on my closet fanfiction real fast.

His thousands of screaming fangirls prove that I'm not alone in that.

And speaking of fangirls, how about that Eric Northman.

For anyone who has read the books or watched the show, it's not hard to see why he also has a mass of followers, including me.

More mystery, more tragic backstory, more bad boy appeal. These character traits tend to suck people in like a blackhole. One of the many unanswered questions of the universe.

However, not every blond I like is a bad boy. Quite the opposite. My favorite character in any book I've ever read happens to be one of the sweetest ones.

No surprise that boy is Peeta Mellark.
And Peter from The Chronicles of Narnia. Both show endearing sides with emotions and devotion.

Not only do I tend to favor guys with certain styles, but some of my favorite female characters tend to fall into similar categories. Smart, outgoing, and loyal brunettes.

Like Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen.

So here's the thinking part. Do you guys tend to favor certain physical aspects of characters? Does it make you biased? Or is your taste in characters completely random?
Can't wait to read everyone's polls. :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Monday Guest Blogging: Writing Meets Field Hockey

Today on our Monday Guest Blogging segment we have the lovely, Sarah Enni.

This is my second year umpiring high school women's field hockey, and my second year seriously pursuing writing. The two activities don't have the most obvious connection but I've found that a surprising amount of principles apply to both.

Do it for the right reasons. For some people, being an umpire is just one big power trip. These umpires are territorial, abrasive, and unbearably self-important. Needless to say, no one likes to work with them. Some writers are only in it to create the next Twilight (should be easy, right?) and rake in the dough. Odds are, their motivation (greed) will shine through, and no one will want to represent them or their work - or talk to them at dinner parties.

Be confident. When you're refereeing, you're the one making the call. It's intimidating, because you WILL make mistakes, but you have to call what you see and stand behind it (even when coaches and players enthusiastically disagree). As a writer, you have to stand behind what you create. It may not be perfect, but it's yours. Own it.

But don't be overconfident. Sometimes you make the wrong call. If you recognize it in time, fix it. Be mature enough to admit when you make a mistake. Writers have to be able to take critique. Though you may feel that Alpha readers, Beta readers, agents and editors are ripping the still-beating heart out of your manuscript, understand that they are trying to help you. Take their advice seriously -- don't blow it off! In the end it will be your name on the book, but those acknowledgment pages are long for a reason.

Every game is different. A huge number of factors -- grass or turf; private school or public; nice weather or bad -- will influence each game. You should never go into a game with any expectations based on prior experience, or else you may inadvertently affect the outcome. Each time you sit down with a new manuscript, it's a blank slate/notebook paper/computer screen. The variables -- genre; setting; point of view; gender of main character; amount of chocolate you've just eaten -- are likely to be completely different. Each new project will present its own set of challenges.

You can always, ALWAYS, get better. Umpires always have the opportunity to improve their skills and move up, from apprentice to veteran, high school to college, U.S. to international hockey. It takes dedication and the willingness to learn from your mistakes. Each time you finish a manuscript you've grown and become a better writer, with new and different skills. Every aspiring writer could get published if they worked hard enough and long enough. I truly believe that.

Sarah Enni

Thank you so much Sarah for guest blogging with us!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Flashback Friday: Great 80's Sitcoms


Welcome to Week Twenty-Four of Flashback Fridays where the old and new collide on everything from books to movies to first loves to favorite vacations. This week I've succumbed to 80's sitcom nostalgia.

As the Chilean miners were being brought to the surface, someone on twitter mentioned how it reminded them of Baby Jessica. If you lived during the 80's, you remember when eighteen month old Jessica McClure fell into an abandoned well in her backyard in Midland Texas, and her rescue captured the nation's attention. I was just a kid and out camping, against my will, with my parents. Since I was missing my favorite show at the time, Rags to Riches, one of my dad's friends had taken pity on me and used his generator to rig up a tv. Just as I settled back in my lawn chair ready to watch my show, NBC broke in to show live footage of the rescue. Yeah, I was totally pissed that I had to miss my show....I was eight, you know!

So all of that got me thinking of Rags to Riches, which I like to think of as a Glee before its time since each episode was like a mini-musical of revamped 50's and 60's songs. The show isn't on DVD, but through the wonder that is the internet, I found where I could buy DVD's of someone's transferred VHS's. I was stoked! Then I started thinking about some of the other favorites from my childhood.
First up, is the aforementioned Rags to Riches. Ah, the innocence of the 80's....a rich CEO adopts 5 orphans to improve his corporate image. Even though the show took place in the early 60's, it wouldn't happen today because of all the pedofile implications of a bachelor raising teenage girls. It had great musical numbers, and it took on serious issues like sex, discrimination, and racism. I remember my mom and dad even watched the Sweet Sixteen episode with me because it dealt with Diane turning 16 at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. My cousin, who was like my sister, and I would tape the episodes on our cassette players and then reenact the musical numbers with cosumes and lip synching....ah, good times!

Can we just say how much I loved this show growing up? Not to mention the megasized crush I had on Michael J. Fox. I loved when they introduced Nick as Mallory's love interest. They were hilarious together!

Loved me some big and beautiful, Nell Carter! I also can remember NBC's Thursday night line up in the early 80's because it had something for both me and my parents. I also remember when tragedy struck the line-up and every show lost a cast member. The dad off Gimme a Break died of a heart attack, Selma died on Night Court, Coach on Cheers, and one of the detectives on Hill Street Blues, my parents all time favorite.

My cousin and I loved this show growing up. I guess that Jo was my favorite. I also loved in the later shows when George Clooney worked at the store Mrs. B owned.


Such a clever and cute show. I remember crushing on a Paul Reiser while my cousin crushed on Greg Evigan. As I've gotten older, I wonder what was I thinking? Greg was way hotter!

And how could I forget two greats from Nickelodeon? You Can't Do That On Television & Hey Dude. My cousin and I used to totally reenact the locker scene with YCDTOT with the linen closet door at my grandparents house! And we may have used a tea pitcher to do the "water" scenes over our heads!

So, did you love some of these shows? Or what are your favorites from the early, mid, or late 80's?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The bumpy road of Writerland

Have you ever felt like you were driving down the smooth highway of Writerland when the road suddenly became rocky? Or maybe a roadblock came up?

When I hit a rough spot in my writing, I procrastinate. I do everything I can to avoid writing, and lately I've been reading suspenseful romance novels. Why romance novels? They are simple to follow and an easy read, the plot is typically not too in depth, plus it takes very few brain cells to be entertained. Added to that, emotions usually don't get involved.

But I don't stop brainstorming in those procrastination moments. My mind works through what is to come in my plot. I'll even make notes about scenes I want to write or nice dialogue that my characters spew into my brain. My characters usually don't shut up and that's perfectly fine with me. But sometimes I feel like this adorable puppy:

I know the non-writing moments will pass very soon and the road will once again be smooth. What about you? What do you do when your writing car hits a rut?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Monday Guest Blogging Post: The Fabulous Janice Hardy

Today on GotYA's Monday Guest Blog segment we have the fabulous Janice Hardy. I had the extreme honor and pleasure of meeting Janice on Saturday at a book signing for Blue Fire. She was approachable and friendly, and I'm so thrilled I got to meet her in person. Truthfully, I'm not really surprised to find her so nice in person since she's been that way since I met her. When I first started out on AbsoluteWrite, Janice was kind enough to review my YAUF query....several times! For the release of The Shifter, Janice held a contest on her blog where you could win an ARC for the best "why did the chicken cross the road" joke. I won with my education inspired "Why did the chicken cross the basketball court? Because the Ref was calling 'fowls'!"

On the biography front, Janice is a long-time fantasy reader. She always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.

Are these FANTASTIC covers or what? Just GORGEOUS!

Unrequited Writing Love
I’m a fantasy writer, with a little science fiction thrown in. All the stories that come to me have some kind of speculative element. As much as I love these kinds of tales (I wouldn’t write them if I didn’t), I also love stories set in the real world with real problems. Dark problems really, tragic ones that I hope no one I care about ever has to go through, but I love reading about them. I’ve tried to write stories like those, and failed miserably.

We’ve all heard it. “Write what you love.” But what do you do when what you love doesn’t love you back?

Identify what you love about those stories
It isn’t the real world aspect that keeps me up late reading about a dying boy. It’s how he deals with his inevitable death and what he does with the time he has left. I realized I like stories about people facing horrific problems and handling them best they could. So when I plan a story, I think about the things I can do that tap into that idea. In my fantasy novel, The Shifter, I used the idea of losing your family and being forced to do terrible things to save the only family member you had left. In the sequel, Blue Fire, it was having to work with the people who killed that family. Survival in the face of tragedy and rising above that. I may have done it differently than my favorite real world writers, but I tried to create that same feeling I get when I read those stories.

Steal ideas. After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?
Naturally you don’t steal real ideas (that would be wrong), but if you love a concept, think about ways to apply that concept to your genre. If you’re drawn to tales of forbidden love, but you write techno-thrillers, looks at ways that forbidden love can affect the terrorist plot you’re working on. Make it more than just a subplot between the hunky hero and the sexy scientist he goes to for help. Make it thematic and let it influence the entire story.

Think outside the book
Every genre has its own tropes (common themes and ideas), but don’t be afraid to think outside of those. All fantasy must have magic? What if it didn’t? What if your fantasy story captured the feel of a historical novel? Westerns need to take place in the Old West? That didn’t stop Star Trek or Firefly. Both TV shows used the “trek into the wild frontier” idea and applied it to science fiction. Just because a genre usually has certain elements doesn’t mean you have to use them all. Maintain the essence of that genre (you can’t have a murder mystery with no murder, for example) and you can do pretty much anything you want. I did this with magic in my books. Instead of traditional fireballs and lightning spells, I made healing something dangerous, something that could kill.

Be true to your story
No matter how much you love one type of story, if it doesn’t work with the idea you have brewing, don’t force it. But that doesn’t mean you have to give it up entirely. If that forbidden romance will feel contrived, see if a forbidden friendship would work better. If there are no terminal illnesses in your sci fi world, then look at things that come to an inevitable end. The “death” doesn’t have to be literal. Concepts can be applied to anything, so find the concept that inspires you and see how that can enhance your story.

A little creative thinking can help you take the themes and ideas you love to read, and apply them to the stories you love to write.

Blue Fire Blurb
Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.

Link to Blue Fire Online Retailers


The Other Side of the Story Blog

Thank you so much, Janice, for guest blogging with us. I can't wait to snuggle up my coveted autographed copy of Blue Fire!!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Flashback Friday: Why Fall is My Favorite


Welcome to Week Twenty-Three of Flashback Fridays where the old and new collide on everything from books to movies to first loves to favorite vacations. This week I'm looking back on my favorite time of year: Fall

Whenever the air gets crisp and the leaves start to fall, I'm instantly transported back to Fall's Past. I love Fall because of the weather, the beauty of the changing leaves, the promise of holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and my most favorite of all, Christmas. I love that Fall brings the smell of burning wood in neighbors fireplaces and bums me out because I have gas logs, lol. Sure, Fall is symbolic of death and decay as it moves towards the hardening winter, but for me, it's all about love with its promise of family get togethers and friends hanging out. It's also a blossoming of pumpkins and gourds.

Some of my favorite memories of childhood revolve around Fall. At the small elementary school I went to, we had a Halloween Carnival for many years until the political correctness got it changed to a "Fall Festival" instead. There were cake walks, a "haunted boiler room", bingo, grab bags full of cheap plastic fun, goodies for sale--it was wonderful. Since it was a small community, you could pretty much bet on hanging out with your best buds all day since our parents all took turns helping out. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the fresh popcorn from the concession stand and see myself running from booth to booth with my friends under a clear, cloudless sky.

One of my favorite books from childhood that dealt with Fall and Halloween was Popcorn by Frank Asch. I read this every time I went to my family doctor--he seemed to never get too many new books for kids, lol. The plot is Sam, the bear, is left alone when his parents go to a costume party. Sam then decides to throw a party of his own, and he dresses up in a costume and invites all of his bear friends over. Each friend has individually come up with the idea to bring a package of popcorn, and after having some fun at the party, someone gets the idea to pop all of the popcorn together in a big black kettle. The popcorn soon fills the house up to the ceiling, out the windows, etc, and the young bears spend the rest of the night eating popcorn in order to fix the problem. After Sam cleans up, his parents return home with a gift of....wait for for it....POPCORN! The final picture is awesome of Sam, with his distended little belly from eating too much popcorn, looking at the gift like, "I'm going to puke!"

My absolute favorite Baby-Sitters Club book deals with Fall. Sure, #2 Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls was tre cool with it's October setting just before the Halloween Hop with Claudia being pranked with heavy breathing phone calls at baby-sitting jobs(I'm getting a When a Stranger Calls flashback here), but my favorite, favorite is #17 Mary Anne's Bad Luck Mystery. The plot centers around Mary Anne, who was my favorite BSC character by the way, receiving a chain letter, which she ignores. Shortly after, she receives a bad luck charm in the mail with scary as shit cut out lettering that reads, "Wear this bad luck charm or ELSE!" Then, things start getting batshit crazy not just for Mary Anne, but for all the BSC. Claudia gets a hella lot of millage out of her catch phrase "Oh Lord!" on some epically horrifying babysitting jobs. The girls head to the library to find ancient books to help ward off the evil of the Bad Luck Charm. And once again, the Halloween Hop makes an appearance. Of course, this year Mary Anne has her hunka hunka burning Kentucky love, Logan Bruno to take her. In the true fashion that Logan can only be a boyfriend formed in fiction, he and Mary Anne don black spandex costumes with furry headdresses to go as cats from the musical Cats. I have a feeling if Logan had really showed up like that, his buddies would have kindly handed him his balls back. The best comes at the end when Mary Anne realizes that Cokie Mason, who has a hella crush on Logan, mentioned her "bad luck" charm at the dance, and that no one outside the BSC knows about it. The BSC unite forces to come up with a way to get back at Cokie, Grace, and their other Mean Girl friends by turning the tables on them when Mary Anne receives a final note to meet at the cemetery at midnight on Halloween. Gah, it's awesome.

So what are some of your favorite Fall memories or Fall inspired books?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

5-MInute book club - The Duff

This month we've chosen The Duff by a fellow Absolute writer.

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

What we thought:


I'm honored to have been one of the three first beta readers of the Duff, and I was equally honored and stoked for Kody to mention me in the acknowledgements. I loved Bianca and Wesley when I first read it, and I loved it just as much after the revisions and edits. It was so
cool reading the final copy and seeing most of the original book was still in tact. I love the snark of Bianca, and I love Wesley's "manwhore with a heart" mentality.

Bianca holds nothing back with her sarcasm and wit, and I always liked how she was not intimidated by Wesley, nor did she ever give him any breaks. It's very cool to watch their relationship grow and change over the course of the book. The humor is spot on as well, and there's many lol moments.


The Duff was a fun read with witty dialogue and sexy scenes. It proves there's more to people than meets the eye, and if you get past the persona they project into the world, you'll find the vulnerability and honesty.


Bianca is a strong female protagonist, who I feel, is very honest character and has an authentic feel. The author, Kody Keplinger, was only seventeen when she wrote this novel, which only validates the organic nature of this novel. A lot of people will think, why would a hot guy have a fling with the Duff (Designated, Ugly, Fat, Friend), the answer is simple. All girls feel like the Duff sometimes, even though they really aren't, which, I think, is truly the lesson in this story. The relationship between Wesley and Bianca feels so real, and the dialog you can practically hear in your head, which always makes for a great read.

I enjoyed the grittiness of this story and how Kody wasn't afraid to write sex scenes in a YA novel that might make people's jaw drop.


The voice was great. Bianca was a character that was so imperfect that she was perfect. And there is a moral mixed into this story, amid the hot love scenes. The Duff is gritty, real and a fantastic read.

Read The Duff? Let us know your thoughts. Haven't read it - then what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What Makes a Love Interest Swoon Worthy?

What makes a love interest swoon worthy? Is it the way he looks? Maybe his swagger? Or maybe it’s the relationship with the main character. Every person interprets what is sexy in different ways, which is why some people go gah-gah over a fictional love interest while others are like, meh, what’s the point?

For me, a love interest becomes smexy when he does something that makes you sigh. Take Peeta, for example from, THE HUNGER GAMES. He had me from the bread story. Or how about Balthazar from the EVERNIGHT series? He totally self sacrifices for Bianca, a girl he knows loves another but loves her anyway. *Sigh* Both of those guys were my favorite with their unrequited love.

So my question is, what makes YOU, as a writer, decide to make a love interest a certain way. Do you make him have characteristics you find appealing, or do you do research, find out what the majority of people find attractive? For me, I do a little of both. I seem to find the cocky, jerks most appealing. Most people tend to be a fifty-fifty split on those types of guys, so it’s a fine line when you try to create one for your own novel. A good love interest totally pushes your novel to the next level.

Love to hear your thoughts on this topic!! Shout out!!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Frankfurt Book Fair!

If you're on Twitter, you've probably come across talk of Frankfurt recently.  What is everybody talking about?  What's in Frankfurt?  Only the biggest book fair evah!

From the website:

The Frankfurt Book Fair is a meeting place for the industry’s experts. Be they publishers, booksellers, agents, film producers or authors - each year in October, they all come together and create something new.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the most important marketplace for books, media, rights and licences worldwide. More than 7,300 exhibitors from 100 countries, 299,000 visitors and over 10,000 journalists.

Grow your business, expand your network, build bridges into the future and make new discoveries: digital content, the vibrant publishing landscape of the Guest of Honour and interesting information about the most important markets worldwide. One thing is certain: at the Frankfurt Book Fair you will have more access to current trends than anywhere else.

But what about YA?  Are YA book rights sold? (again from the website:)

Children´s and teen books - national and international "I have become convinced that children are the best and cleverest audience you can wish for as a storyteller. Children are rigorous, unerring critics."

Otfried Preussler The proportion of international children´s and juvenile book publishers in hall 3.0 has increased in 2010. Last year we had 36% international exhibitors here, this year the number has already reached 42%. Hall 3.0 thus clearly shows that it is an ideal platform for the sale of rights and licences for international publishing houses of children´s and juvenile books.

What does all of this mean?  Well, for one thing, those of us querying or on submission might be waiting a little longer to hear from agents and editors as this week many of them will be in Germany, but for those of you with rights to sell, this week could bring good news your way!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Search for a Critique Partner

Guest post by Margie Gelbwasser, author of INCONVENIENT, Flux November 2010.

I had a writing group while working on Inconvenient. However, by the time I finished the first draft, we disbanded. Lucky for me, one member of that group—Vinessa—and I became close friends, and she continued to read each subsequent Inconvenient revision. When I was ready to throw up from boredom or was convinced a scene or even the entire manuscript was garbage, she encouraged and read again and again and again, giving me valuable feedback. I was super happy and thankful, but I was greedy too. One crit partner was not enough for me. I wanted another. Maybe even—gasp—a whole writing group!

For a while, I was convinced a critique group was the way to go. A group screamed cozy. We'd get together, read each other's pages, do lunch, have inside jokes. Never mind that my first writing group, while very helpful, was not this romantic. But I was determined.

It felt like dating again—minus the fun parts. I asked writing friends if they knew others who were looking for crit partners. Preferably those who wrote YA too. Contemp YA, to narrow it down further. I posted inquiries on message boards. I even tried to shimmy my way into existing writing groups (just FYI, doing this is as acceptable as trying to break up a married couple). Just like the dating scene, it was getting depressing and tiring.

Then, when I had given up on the group idea, there was Shaun ( He wanted crit partners. I wanted a crit partner. We swapped pages. And, cue fab '80s music, I found my new writing partner!

Turns out, individual writing relationships are more my speed these days. We send pages to each other when we can. We're only responsible for reading one other's person's pages (a godsend when on deadline), and we e-mail ideas back and forth, without worrying that we're hogging the group's time. Shaun and I became good friends too, AND I still have Vinessa. I'm a lucky girl!

Right now, I'm finishing up the first draft of YA #2, currently titled Chicken Carcasses and Other Things That Kill the Mood. That thud you hear is my editor banging his head on the wall. Good thing I have two great crit partners to help me think of a new title.

Find Margie Gelbwasser on Twitter @MargieGelb, and become an Inconvenient Facebook Fan!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Flashback Friday: Lessons on Writing From Ron Burgundy


Welcome to Week Twenty-Two of Flashback Fridays where the old and new collide on everything from books to movies to first loves to favorite vacations. This week we get advice on the writing biz from Ron Burgundy from Anchorman.

1). Egos....

I think the biggest turn off for both fans and fellow writers is when an author cops a tude'. Either they go off on a negative review someone has left, they only follow certain published writers on twitter, rather than all writers, they don't do anything but talk on their twitter or blog about their awesomeness aka their deal, their mega-agent, whatever, or they abandon you to go sit at the Cooler Kids table. I've seen inflated egos in everyone from the unpublished to the published. Believing in yourself is a good thing, and every once in awhile a little self-tooting of your horn is more than acceptable. But when you're constantly raving about the mastery that is you and your book, it's kinda a turn off. The Internet is a great and horrible thing because sometimes you come off different than you intended. I find myself drawn to approachable authors who come off as humble and caring on twitter and blogs. The latest one to catch my eye is Kiersten White of Paranormalcy. She totally handled a difficult subject about her Mormon faith in a hilarious and understanding way. She also took the time to respond to each and every person who commented or asked a question.

Even if an author/writer should pull the ego card, you should try to refrain from name-calling, dissing, etc.

(2). Sometimes ideas, scenes, characters....well, they, er, STINK!

There's a scene in

Anchorman where Ron's friend, Brian Fontana, decides to use Sex Panther cologne to bag a lady. Unfortunately, the cologne is HIDEOUS and makes people swoon from the stench, rather than his hotness. This can happen sometimes in writing too. You have to keep an open mind when beta readers or your agent or your editor comes back with constructive criticism. Sure, you may think the idea or the scene is the best thing since sliced bread, but you have to remember that sometimes you're just too close to the material to see it objectively. So, you may need to step away and try to find a better way to approach the character, the scene, or the story idea.

(3). Bask in the Unconditional Love the "Baxter's" of our lives bring

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I'm apt to mentioning my dogs....probably way too much, lol. When I first started writing in the summer of 09', my dog, Chance, became conditioned, just like Pavlov's dogs, to the sound of my computer shutting off. He might be comatose on the couch with me in my writing chair, but if he heard the "dum, dum, da" of the laptop shutting off, he was up like a racehorse through the Kentucky Derby Gates. If you're the owner of cats like am I as well, you know that cats often take a message and get back to you when you call them. But dogs, they're there for the long haul.

During the 7th Ring of Hell that was the query search, Chance was there to give his unconditional love and support. I added Duke, the pupster, to the mix in January. He was on board to help cheer me up and keep me laughing during the next hellish crusade that the submission process is/was(gearing up to go back out this month.....KILL MEEEEE!).

That's the awesome part about our pets. They love us no matter if we're agented, sold, or if we get our word counts. They just want a pat on the head or scratch behind the ears when we disembark from our imaginary worlds.

So, what about you? Worried about stinky ideas? Got pets that get you through? Share your thoughts!

Can't get enough of Ron Burgundy? Want to style yourself, your baby, or your dog? Then you're just a click away from it.