Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

This Week's Topic: Give a book character a Christmas present!

I would like to give Calla from NIGHTSHADE some anti-hormone pills so she can quit hooking up with two guys at once.

Nightshade (Nightshade, #1) Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the book, and I'm all for a good love triangle, especially when both boys are worthy of the girl. I also understand the protag having feelings for both boys, but (like Eclipse the movie vs. the book) acting on those feelings with both boys feels different to me.

Maybe I'm just jealous because this debut author got away with some edgy stuff I feel like I can't get away with in my books. Hmm...In that case, maybe I should gift myself with some anti-jealousy pills.

What about you? How much edgy feels too edgy?

I'll be out of town next week visiting family, and my internet access will be sketchy, so I might not get to blog :(

Happy Holidays everyone!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Be Jolly By Golly Blogfest

Holiday traditions. Come read others and share at  Jen and Melissa's festive Blogfest.

Like my waiting for Santa days, Christmas is mostly about the anticipation. Only, as an adult, that anticipation includes shopping, wrapping, baking and packing for our visit with family in Indiana.

I bake scads of things to give away in goodie bags to friends and teachers. I have standard things like Chex party mix and decorated sugar cookies, and each year I try some experimenting too. This year, I'm making Muddy Buddies with store-brand Frosted Mini-Wheats instead of Chex cereal. I found a rum-spiced banana bread recipe to try and a killer fall-spiced caramel corn mix recipe that is as follows:

Caramel Corn Party Mix
Preheat oven, 300 degrees
Put in roasting pan:
-4c. popped popcorn (kernels removed)
-2c. Wheat Chex cereal
-1 1/2c. small pretzels
-1 1/2c. pecans
Mix in sauce pan:
-3/4c.brown sugar
-4T butter
-4T light corn syrup
Heat until boiling. Reduce heat to med/low for five minutes without stirring. 

Remove mixture from heat and add:
-2t. pumpkin pie spice
1t. baking soda
-1t. vanilla
Pour over popcorn mixture and stir. Bake 15 min. Stir. Bake five more minutes. Spread out on foil to cool. 

Yes, we have a tree and other decorations, but I want to continue with the baking theme by sharing pictures of our annual Gingerbread House Decorating Party.

It starts with four batches of gingerbread (7 cups of flour each). Around six hours later, I've rolled out and baked all the pieces for the houses:

Then, another four hours later, the assembly is done:

Add kids, icing and a whole lot of candy and you get:

It's such a mess but so much fun. Last night, some of the girls were even reminiscing about gingerbread parties of the past. Those kinds of traditions, connections and memories are the heart of Christmas for me.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Latest Audiobook Love

Just a quick post today. I have a gingerbread house decorating party to get ready for (more on this Monday).

I finished THE SECRET DIARIES OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE, by Syrie James, last night and have to rave.

It's not YA (the protag is in her thrirties during the telling), but any teens (or adults) who love JANE EYRE will love this. Also, any writers, as this touches on our struggles.

There is enough tragedy to rival any struggling historical artist's life, but the ending is more hopeful love-life wise than the movies, Becoming Jane and Miss Potter.

Has anyone read this or seen Becoming Jane or Miss Potter? What did you think?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

This Week on YA Highway:
You spot Santa at the mall, climb onto his lap, and whisper that you've been a good boy or girl in his ear. What do you want Santa to bring you this year? Go wild! Have fun! After all, you earned it!

See full size image

What I want, you ask? Well Santa, I haven't thought much about that. I'm reminded of the song Grown-Up Christmas List. All my wishes wouldn't be as altruistic as the ones in that song (the lyrics, if you don't know them, are HERE), but they would be just as abstract and seemingly unattainable.

1. More time...or, at least, the feeling every once in a while that I have everything done and can truly relax.
2. A match between everything I want to do with my WIP and what's coming out on the page.
3. Some assurance that the choices I'm making all the time as a parent will turn out for the best in the end.
Phew. It seems I'm a little heavy to sit on Santa's lap more ways than one.
What about you? Any wishes for Santa's ear?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Crazy Holiday Blogfest

Christine Danek is hosting a holiday blogfest. 250 words, any holiday. Go
Here if you want to join up or read other entries.

As for mine, the third book I wrote, Social Disorder, doesn't have a strong enough hook or villain to be sellable right now, but it does have my favorite love story (of mine) in it. It also, for some reason, hits on all the major school-year holidays (plus homecoming and prom). The Christmas and Valentine's stuff fall when the protag and her love interest (Hailey and Nick) are in the thick of their relationship, which just reads too gushy out of context, so I'm going to rewind the year a bit and go to Halloween:

We walked along with my brother and his friends, keeping a proper cool-factor distance. “I love Halloween,” Nick said, putting his face up to meet the fall wind.
“Horrific costumes. Scary decorations. And candy as a reward for all the mayhem. What’s not to like?" I said. "For a guy.”
He put a hand over his heart as if I’d shot him. “I was going to say it’s good we still have a tradition where strangers open their doors and give to others.”
“You were not,” I said.
“Okay.” He shoved his hands in his over-sized jeans. “You were right the first time.”
“Men.” I shook my head.
“Careful. We’d make a pretty strange-tasting candy bar if you tried to lump us all together like that.”
I hid my smile in the collar of my jacket, which had blown against my face.
“Where’s your dad?” he asked.
“What dad?” We stepped in silence. Five steps. “Tom,” I yelled out. “Wait for us to cross the road.” I received a scowl for my safety efforts, but Tom and his friends did slow down.
“My dad is in California trying to strike gold in the software business,” Nick said. “Mom didn’t want to move, so now we get a monthly check and I get a matching phone call. We talk about grades and computers for thirty minutes, and then he’s done being a dad.”
“Until the next month,” I said, and Nick nodded. We made it to Tom and his buddies who stopped checking out their loot and crossed the road.
Not many trick-or-treaters here in the old suburbs, I thought, but houses still had their lights on. In hopes of giving? Later that night, they would eat their leftover candy, and lament—like Gram did—that they didn’t get as many kids as they used to. Maybe Nick had hit closer to the truth than he even realized.

Like Nick, I love Halloween, but Christmas is still my favorite.
Which holiday do you like best and why?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

This week's topic? A six word memoir.

A SIX WORD MEMOIR. I had to squint at my computer screen and reread the tweet on YA Highway last night, as I was sure it said sixty, not six. I even...for the first time ever...went to other RTW posts this morning  to get ideas for how to write mine.

Hemingway was asked to write a six-word story, and he came up with:
  "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

I'm not a huge Hemingway fan, mostly because of the negative stereotypes he represents (in my mind) as a male of our species, but I do admire his minimalist approach to writing.

So, I tried it, starting with the, just-the-facts approach. You know, wife, nomad, teacher, mother, writer, but it felt more like an epitaph than a life. So, I dug a little deeper and found:

STRUGGLING, HOPEFUL     See full size image    

Okay, so now it sounds like a personal ad...but what I'm searching for is a better world, not a man:)

Friday, December 3, 2010

My November "Reads"

As I mentioned last month, I tend to go through 2-4 audiobooks a week, and keeping a log of them for the last few months has confirmed that.

This month I had a total of 16 (9 YA and 7 adult books)

Here are my YA:

The Absolutely True Diary of a...Curse of the Blue Tattoo: Bein...A Countess Below StairsA Company of SwansEighth Grade BitesDeadlineMiss Spitfire: Reaching Helen...The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #1)Willow

My favorite non-fiction research books this month were:

  The Evolution of God A well-balanced and researched book on the roots of religion in general and (more specifically) the Abraham-God religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This one kept me company while shopping on Black Friday (from 4 am to 1 pm).

  The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World  A scenic, multicultural tour exploring the findings of positive psychology in action. It seeks the answer to that not-so-age-old question, what makes individuals and groups of people happy.

What about you? Read any of these YA or interesting non-fiction? Any writers doing research (interesting or uninteresting)?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

Back to back Road Trips? I'm so ashamed!

Hope everyone had a wonderful and productive long holiday weekend!

Interesting topic this week on YA Highway:

What movie do you wish had been a book first?(And if it WERE a book, who should have written it?)

I'm going with my all-time favorite movie, Dead Poet Society...If there's anyone who hasn't seen this one, run, don't walk to your movie rental place. RIGHT NOW! You won't regret it!

As to who should have written a novel version was originally written as a screenplay by Tom Schulman, so he, by rights, should have been the one to write a novel version, especially before the was his idea.

Now, what I'd like to read is a YA a contemporary setting...maybe a military school, or one of those last-resort places they send troubled kids. And I think Cris Crutcher is the perfect person for the job since he writes about at-risk youth, positive adult influences on youth and different philosophical approaches to life.

Whale TalkDeadline

This screenplay/novel thing does bring up an interesting question...are you more interested in how the original author would expand on a familiar story and characters, or will any author's imaginings do?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

Best book in November? As usual, I cannot pick just one.

I've already blogged about:

A Countess Below Stairs and   Deadline

I would also add:

A Company of Swans and Curse of the Blue Tattoo: Being an Account of the Misadventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman and Fine Lady (Bloody Jack, #2)
Can't decided which of the Eva Ibbotson books I liked better. They were both wonderful.

Love the Bloody Jack series (Curse of the Blue Tattoo is #2). It is, literally, LOL funny at times.

Well, I'm off to make pies and try to squeeze in some writing...


Monday, November 22, 2010

Latest Audiobook Love

Deadline Senior, Ben Wolf, has a terminal disease and less than twelve months to live, but getting treatment isn't part of his future, and telling his loved ones isn't part of his immediate plans.

As a Reader:

Yes, I'll be the first to comment on (and complain about) the inordinate amount of death and dying in YA fiction...but then another great book like this comes into my life and I have to eat my words. I mean, who cares that (SPOILER ALERT) two seniors die in unrelated deaths in a hundred student school (what are the odds of that anyway?)...this book is still amazing.

As a Writer:

We're told not to write "issue" books, so I'm jealous when a writer figures out a way to do it that feels organic to the story and doesn't sacrifice character development. This book, IMO, accomplishes that. Or maybe I was just so busy agreeing with and caring about the issues that I ignored the potential problems other readers might have with it.

Other death/dying books I loved:

Thirteen Reasons Why    Going Bovine       Elsewhere             

What about you? Where do you stand on the Death/Dying genre?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why Audio? (and current read)

Because I hate housework.
See full size image

I started listening to audiobooks because I had a data entry job right after college where I could listen to a walkman (personal cassette player, for you young-uns) while working. Then I continued because I had a forty-five minute commute to my first professional job.

Now I do it because being a wife and mother, working outside the home or not (I've done both), requires that I do a lot of things I'd rather not do (dishes and laundry), and I do them endlessly (dishes and laundry, dishes and laundry, dishes and laundry...). Audiobooks keep me from going insane when every time I turn around the sink is full of dishes again.

I do get that sitting and reading a book is relaxing, but for those of us with no time to relax, audio can be a lifesaver.

Current thing saving my sanity:

Deadline This one might turn out as good as Whale Talk, also by Chris Crutcher.

What about you? How do you find time to read? Have you tried audio and it did/didn't work for you?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday


This week's YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday is also a contest:

"The winds in Washokey make people go crazy."

That's the first line of Kirsten Hubbard's LIKE MANDARIN, and you can read the rest a few months early if you win our ARC giveaway! Post on your own blog about
a time you did something completely crazy
and be sure you marked "yes" on the entry form for an extra chance to win!

The funnest crazy thing I've done was participate in a huge scavenger hunt with around twenty of my friends in high school. I wasn't part of the group that stole a goat from the town's petting zoo, or in one of the two groups who caught each other taking magnetic stickers from different sides of the same student driver car, but my group did steal a road sign, post and all, driving down the road with it sticking out both sides until we made it to a group member's house and proper tools. I found out later that all our groups had the cops after us that night. That was, thankfully, the only time that's happened in my life.

Oh, and another fun crazy thing I did was wear a toga into a department store (we were heading for a pep-rally dress-themed basketball game). I couldn't believe all the looks we got, but the best part was when one of my guy friends hit another on the shoulder and said, "I told you not to wear that hat." 

But the craziest thing I've done is send out my first five queries to agents. In hindsight (many rejections and two agents later), this wasn't that big a deal, but I broke out in hives for the first and only time in my life the week I did this crazy (some might say, insane) thing.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Why Audio?

Top five books/series I probably wouldn't have made it through if they hadn't been on audio.

Listening to audiobooks has broadened my reading horizons. Sure, I have an English degree and read many books in college I loved, loathed and everything in between. I don't regret reading any of them, but I also probably wouldn't have chosen many of them. As an adult, I taught and worked in social services. As a reader, I might still be happily gobbling up one Historical Romance a week without any notion that I might want to be a writer...if it weren't for audiobooks.

So, here are the top five, monster-sized books I wouldn't have made it through if they weren't on audio:

The Vampire Lestat (The Vampire Chronicles, #2) Sure, I might have read Interview With A Vampire, but the story doesn't really get going until this book. A wonderfully descriptive series, as all Anne Rice's work is, that might have proved too much for me, either from fright or sleepiness, if I'd tried to read it in bed.

The Clan of the Cave Bear, the Valley of Horses, the Mammoth Hunters, the Plains of Passage (Earth's Children, #1-4) Even though it is Historical (Prehistorical) Fiction/Romance, I would have never picked up this wonderful series, averaging three inches thick per book, if my library hadn't had it in audio.

The Stand I know, I know. Can I even call myself a real book lover if I admit I wouldn't have read, read this one? I'll take my chances. Admit my faults.

The Host I've heard people complain there were some slow parts in this one, but I didn't feel them as I was busy doing dishes or laundry or driving as I "read" it.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America And finally, this is probably the number one book everyone should read but they're scared off by the thickness. I have a much better handle on the dire state of our environment and the politics that make the situation even more dire because of this book. If I won the lottery, I'd send an audio version of this one to every household in the world.

Maybe next week I'll admit to all the thick YA I might not have made it through...would I loose all my followers if I mentioned J.K.Rowling? (Love, love, love you Harry, but your books are long.) Luckily, I've never had to make those tough choices as the audio was always there for me:)

How about you? Any books you gave up on or didn't pick up but you might have made it through on audio?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

It's Wednesday again. Already?

Over at YA Highway, today's topic is: What's your favorite literary cliché?

This is such a tough one for me. Growing up, I loved reading Historical Romances with the worldly alpha male hero and strong-minded yet naive heroine...See full size imageYeah, the whole bodice-ripper thing.                           
But as soon as someone pointed out what a cliche that is (and how it perpetuates sexist notions about love) it was totally ruined for me. Now I cringe when a book I'm listening too starts to lean in that direction.

Then there's Star Trek (another love of mine growing up) where every new guy or gal on the away mission is bound to be the one killed.                                     
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I suppose there are many wonderfully written things (including Historical Romances and Star Trek) that still have elements of the cliche in them...put in either consciously or unconsciously by the writer. There is some comfort in the familiar. The thing the reader can automatically latch onto. And some humorous stories even depend on the cliche.

So maybe I'm oversensitive because I read more as a writer now than a reader. To me, recognizing something as cliche is like figuring out (or being told) how the magic trick soon as that happens, the magic is gone.

I know some people feel tolerant of or even like cliche's. Where do you stand?