Friday, January 28, 2011

Flashback Fridays: The Challenger Disaster and Teachers Who Inspired You


Welcome to 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 a dark day in American history: The Challenger Explosion.

Today marks the 25th Anniversary of the Challenger Explosion. Even though I was only six, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing that day. The main reason is because chicken pox had struck my 1st grade class, and I was one of its last victims. That cold January morning I was home lounging on the couch in our den. The television was on to the shuttle launch. I was particularly interested since one of the astronauts, C
hrista Mcauliff, shared my name...just a different spelling. Just as my mom went to grab me a Popsicle, history was forever altered.

In later years, Christa and I would share more than just a name--we would share a profession. For many years, Christa had been an 8th grade History teacher in New Hampshire. When President Reagan announced the Teacher in Space Program, Christa applied and won out over 11,000 applicants. She was going to keep a journal of her experience as well as teaching a live class. On that fateful morning, her students sat in an auditorium anxiously watching a live feed of the launch. I can only imagine the horror and shock that morning as they watched their teacher's life come to a fiery end. Not only did she leave behind grieving students, but she also left a nine year old son and six year old daughter.

Christa's influence is still felt in the space program. There are countless awards and scholarships given in her name as well as monuments honoring her sacrifice.

Here are some great quotes from Christa McAuliffe that transcend the space program into the writing game.

"Reach for it. Push yourself as far as you can."

"What are we doing here? We're reaching for the stars."

"May your future be limited only by your dreams!

The question posed today is:

Who is a memorable teacher that influenced your life and/or your writing?

For me, it would be my 8th grade language arts teacher, Mrs. Gwen Lancaster. She was the first person to really read and enjoy my creative writing outside my family, and she greatly encouraged me to write. I won the Young Author's Fair while I was in her class, and I'll never forget the way that shiny blue ribbon felt in my hands.

As far as my teaching, I was greatly influenced by 5th and 6th grade Science and Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Pat Lemeska. When I think about teacher's who taught outside the box, she is one of the only ones who comes to mind. Who else would have dressed up at Halloween to read The Raven while also giving us a "spook house" of peeled grapes for eyes and cold spaghetti for intestines. Seriously, Mrs. Lemeska was like Mr. Keating in Dead Poet's Society. She found new and exciting ways to learn. She also went to a summer internship at NASA between my 5th and 6th grade years.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

5 things About Building A Blog Platform

You see the word "Platform" everywhere in the writing community. It's everywhere you turn. And let's face it, you're curious about it or else you wouldn't be reading this right now. Here are five things I've learned about building a platform since I started the journey to become published.

1. There are mixed thoughts about the absolute need for a platform by an unknown writer. Many agents only look at the platform (in most cases a blog) when they are genuinely interested in the story that was submitted to them. So, first things first. Perfect the writing and story before spending oodles of time building a blog, because the writing will speak for itself regardless if you have a blog or not.

2. It's really hard to gain followers on your blog if you are only talking about yourself and your unpublished work. So until you are a published author (or even an agented writer) hold off on filling your blog with JUST your own work. Do some book reviews in the genre you read. This will allow you to get to know others, and gain blog followers with common goals and tastes as yourself, thus creating that "built-in" audience publishers like to see when thinking about buying your book.

3. It won't hurt to tie in a well written blog at the bottom of your queries to agents, as long as your blog focuses on writing. I once heard an agent say (yes this was from a conference) she checks out all blogs on the queries she's even remotely interested in. She also went on state that if the writing is dark, or high fantasy, she gets turned off if the blog has a ton of kitties or babies on it. So the lesson there is to match your blog with your writing style. I'm not saying turn your blog into a goth dream or anything, but maybe just limit the cutesy pictures if it doesn't match your writing style.

4. Should you pay someone to overhaul your blog and buy a domain name? No. At least, I don't think it's necessary. But if you want to do it just for the fun of it, then I say go for it, because having a blog that you can be proud of is pretty fun. I just made the leap myself to a professional blog makeover (second one on the link). I was hovering around 430 followers so I thought why not. I'm on there a ton doing posts and just wanted something pretty to look at. Lame, I know. But my old blog design didn't stop publishers from sending me advanced reader copies (ARCs), so don't feel like it's a necessary step.

5. Be yourself. I know this is something you've heard since you were a baby still in diapers, but it's true. People will like you. Let your personality come through, whether it be in your novel, blog post, or a simple comment. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Flashback Friday


Welcome to 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 *cues the clip from White Christmas*


So it's been an interesting week of what I like to call Snowpacalpse 2011! It's certainly not one I would have foreseen when I packed up my two dogs and went to stay with my grandmother. Sure, they were predicting snow and ice. I'd made the trusty grocery run, not to mention the school system I teach in(think extreme mountain roads, curves, etc) had already called off school for Monday and Tuesday.

But what no one really could foresee would be how the temperatures would not get above freezing all week, and we'd be STUCK! *flails hands and runs around the room* Yep, that's right. I've been snowbound since Sunday night until I chipped out of the ice today.

Yeah, the South just doesn't quite do snow well. I think this picture sums it up pretty well!!

And they're really not joking about us having so few plows!

Or this guy who made an ice rink out of one end of Peachtree Street in Atlanta

But I digress.

This week on Flashback Friday we want to hear about your Snow Day memories. Can you remember as a child what it felt like when you would hear your county had called off school for the day? Oh, I fact, I still feel that way! I just wonder if my teachers hoped, prayed and did snow dances quite like I do....

What about the Blizzard of 93'? Oh yeah, I have not so fond memories of it. Try a massive oak tree falling over a power line and knocking out the power. At the time, we didn't have a fireplace, so we were forced to refugee to local National Guard Armory. Desert Storm vehicles came to pick us up, and we spent the night on cots in a mass room of people. It really made you feel homeless. But the epic of embarrassment to my uptight 8th grade self occurred when we made it to the armory and stepped out of the Desert Storm vehicles. That's when a local news crew shoved a camera and a mic in our faces. Let's just say I was NOT camera best in my two layers of clothes, no makeup, and unwashed air. Not how you want to be caught at that age!! When the snow finally melted and we went back to school, some people in homeroom were like, "Hey, didn't I see you on television?" I played dumb and said, "I have no idea what your talking about!!

So tell us your favorite snow day memories, or tell us how you've been surviving Snowpacalypse 2011!!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Manuscript Blues

Do you have the manuscript blues? If you have any of the symptoms below, our product may be right for you. If not, let us know what we can add to our questionnaire.

Have you ever felt like destroying your manuscript? Revisions kicking your butt? One agent wants this changed, another wants that changed before you can resubmit? Perhaps an editor is interested, but needs you to add more romance and tone down the language before they make a decision? A beta told you it sucks and your character is too egotistical? Or maybe it's something you've unsuccessfully queried for a year, and you look at that thing and think, "What the hell do I do with it?" Or perhaps, like me, you decide to take that YA with a romantic arc and turn it into a MG without the romantic tension and can't. find. the. voice?

If you've ever felt like this, there is a solution:






FIRE. Yes, you heard right, fire. I'm talking about a revolution. Think back to the bra burnings in the sixties. I'm sure you've read about it in history books. It changed things. So take that manuscript outside, clear a spot, get something to burn it in, lots of water for safety and light it up. And watch it burn, baby, burn. Bar-be-que that sucker. It will feel really good. Liberating.

Do not burn anything that is not your own writing, it's rude to burn something someone else has written. Burning manuscripts may pollute the environment and cause global warming. Make sure you have a copy of that manuscript saved in several places before burning the hard copy. Keep all body parts and clothing away from the fire at all times. Keep out of the reach of children. Be sure to vlog and take pictures for history's sake. And at all times, have fun. Burning may not be for everyone. There is an inherent risk every time you are around fire.If you experience smoke inhalation see your doctor. Remember this is just a suggestion for fun and is in no way intended to diagnose or treat any writer's block. Children under the age of eighteen must burn with a parent's supervision. If there is anything else this disclaimer missed, well, you can't sue me if you screw up, after all, that's what those disclaimers are for anyway, avoiding responsibility :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cover love!

I can stare at covers for hours and I'm guilty of buying books just because I couldn't resist the beautiful cover. I love to spend hours on the internet looking for the different covers of a book. It's fascinating to see how different covers of the same book look in different countries.

The Hunger Games covers. (Left to right: US, German, Russian).
I really like the German cover, especially the blood drops on the leaves. The Russian cover looks like it belongs to a romance novel, so I don't think it's a good fit for the book.

13 Reasons Why covers. (Left to right: US, UK, German, Hungarian)
I don't really have a favorite, but I'm not very fond of the German cover. The title can be translated as "Dead Girls don't lie".

Shiver covers. (Left to right: US, UK, German, French).

I've got the UK cover on my shelf. I'm not 100% sure which of the covers is my favorite. I think I prefer the German cover. The title means "After the summer" and I really love the little howing wolf on the cover.

The Replacement (left to right: US, UK, German)

The US cover is one of the best covers of 2010. It's creepy and dark in a perfect way. I love it. The UK cover stands no chance against it. I think it was a good choice of the German publisher to use a variation of the US cover.

Hex Hall covers. (Left to right. US, UK, German, Bulgarian)

My absolute favorite is the US cover. The Bulgarian cover? Umm, what happened there? It doesn't really look like a cover for a YA book, rather like the cover for a X-rated movie...

What do you think? What are your favorite covers?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Guest Blogging Post: Helene Boudreau of Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings

Today on GotYA's Monday Guest Blogging segment, we have the lovely and talented, Helene Boudreau. She penned the ultra cool Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings!!

Cake and Books!

Probably two of my favourite things!

So it’s no wonder I was such a happy camper when one of my best pallies, Kathi of Sugar Honey Tea Cakes, offered to make a cake for my recent book launch of Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings.

Cake and books all in one place! Heaven…

Kathi had made me a cupcake bouquet for my birthday once, which is just the tip of the icing of her immense talent so I was REALLY looking forward to seeing what she’d come up with for my book launch.

The cake was to be a surprise (and what a sweet surprise it was) but afterward, Kathi shared her Cakerator secrets with me and guess what? I’ve come to realise that cake and books, and the creation of both, actually have a lot in common.

Her process for developing and executing her cake ideas are very similar to the way I write novels.


Kathi begins her cakes with a list of ideas:

Kathi’s ideas are well organized and coherent.

I begin my books with a list of ideas:

My ideas are rambly, incoherent and written on the back of grocery lists. Apparently we needed hotdogs and a zebra shirt that day.

Kathi outlines her idea in a beautifully detailed sketch:

I also outline my book idea, but in a 9-step process, which I describe HERE.

And I get my 8 year-old to draw me a beautifully detailed sketch (of the setting of the book in this case).

Finally, Kathi applies her keen Cakerator skills:

And she works her magic to transform her initial idea into a work of art.

I look at my initial notes:

And can’t read my own handwriting, then I stare at my outline and wonder what the heck was I thinking. Then I start writing, and writing, and writing…

And, unlike Kathi, I’m not above using child labour to meet my deadlines.

(Okay. I guess this is where our cake-making and novel-writing paths diverge a bit…)

Kathi adds amazingly nuanced details, bringing the cake to life:

While I complete my 912th revision, hopefully adding amazingly nuanced details, bringing my book to life. (Well…that’s the plan anyway…)

So, there you have it!

Cake and books. Books and cake. It’s like they were made for one another.
Hélène Boudreau is the author of Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings. She’s never spotted a real mermaid in the wild but the writer in her thinks they are just as plausible as seahorses, flying fish and electric eels.

In a fun promotion, Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky is offering signed Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings bookplates with proof of purchase. More info HERE.

*You can find Hélène on Twitter, Facebook and on her Website.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Book Review: Fall For Anything by Courtney Summers

When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on… but are some questions better left unanswered?

Are you longing for a good mystery wrapped up in heart wrenching emotion with a main character you want to reach out and hug and a couple of hot guys? 

Of course you are!

You need to read Fall For Anything, Courtney Summer's new release as soon as possible!

After Some Girls Are, I was itching for another Courtney Summer's book.  Fall For Anything proves once again that Summers is a shining star in the contemporary YA genre.  It's gripping, emotional and just like Courtney's past two books, Cracked Up To Be and Some Girls Are, it sticks with you after the last page. 

I will admit, the back cover blurb did me no favors because it made me distrust of one of the characters before he was ever introduced.  BUT, it didn't take away from the plot, the fabulous writing that is trademark Summer's style, and how I felt about the story in the end. 

Eddie is different from Parker and Regina, Summer's past two main characters.  She's broken, vulnerable and desperate for answers to why her dad committed suicide.  But don't let her vulnerability fool you, she's no weak character hiding under her covers crying.  Eddie searches doggedly for the reason her dad would take his life, to the point of putting her trust and faith into someone she shouldn't. 

Milo is more than a best friend, and he's as dedicated to putting her back together as she is to figuring out what happened the night her father died.  Every girl needs a Milo in her life. 

Possibly my favorite book of Summer's three - but that's a difficult distinction to make because Some Girls Are has been on my overall YA favorites list since the week it released... we'll call it a tie! 

More than worth the read!  Highly suggested by this GotYA member.