Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Most-Beloved Challenged/Banned Book

Slaughterhouse-Five Today I'm joining 60 others (at last count) on Tahereh's blog, HERE to post about our most-beloved challenge/censored book.

Mine is:
Slaughterhouse Five- Kurt Vonnegut

This was my favorite book in high school. I wrote a huge paper on it for college comp class.

It ranks 66th on the top hundred list of most challenged/censored books. Yes, it's irreverent, but that's Vonnegut at his best. Yes, the soldiers cuss, but wouldn't it be strange if soldiers didn't cuss? And yes, there are moments that it is sexually explicit. No love scenes, nothing titillating. Just frank talk.

The thing that bothers me most about this is the possibility that some of those trying to ban this book may use the sexual stuff to do so, when what really scares them are the thoughts and ideas a reader of Vonnegut might end up having because of this book. Thoughts that don't fit the "norm." Thoughts that might broaden a student's world view. Might make someone think for themselves. Might make someone want to change the world for the better.

These are the things this book did for me, and I'm so grateful I grew up in a school system and community (in rural Indiana, I would add) that encouraged students to read outside the box.

No one should have the right to take that opportunity away from any whole school system of students or community of people.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Challenged/Banned Books I Love #3

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things     THE EARTH, MY BUTT, AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS, by Carolyn Mackler

Okay, I'm back to the (in censors' opinion) too sexually explicit stuff. This one has personal importance to me because the protag is larger than average sized. You rarely see this in YA or adult genre fiction. I like to complain about the unrealistically high percentage of deaths among YA protags' parents, but the percentage of skinny teens in YA books is even more unrealistic.

But I don't have room to talk. I've fought my weight all my life (my first diet was in fourth grade). They say, write what you know, and yet, I've written four books and am working on a fifth with no larger protags in sight.

So, this is a thank-you to Carolyn Mackler, for all her work, but particularly for this one since she handles the self-esteem issues of an overweight teen in such a realistic, sympathetic and approachable way.

As for my writing diary. (See Patti Nielson's blog HERE)

Yesterday was crazy. I only wrote for a little over an hour (but I relaxed for less than that). I got a little over a page done along with revising/editing both older and the new stuff.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Challenged/Banned Books I love #2

The Perks of Being a Wallflower       Whale Talk      TwistedOkay, I'm going to cheat here and lump a few books together. I'm calling it: Boy's Banned Books day

Whenever someone of my generation gets their panties in a wad about the goth boys or punk boys (or whatever they consider themselves) with their wild hair and piercings everywhere, I say that I try to reserve judgment. Not just because you should always reserve judgment anyway, but because boys have so few choices, fashion wise, to express themselves.

Same is true in YA. Most of the choices are for girls. I know, I know, most of the readers are girls, but (IMO) it's a chicken/egg argument as to why that is.

So, these three books have three very different male protags, all very well done, and all deal with heavy issues in profound and eloquent ways.

So, even if you're not a boy. Read them!

As for my writing diary project, (join us on Patti Nielson's blog, HERE)

Yesterday I wrote:
12:00-2:00pm (I gave myself one hour, and it turned into two)
For fifteen minutes during a dance class (I can't just ignore other moms when they talk to me)

Pages done: 4 and a half, including some revising/editing of those fresh pages.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Challenged/Banned Books I loved #1

Forever...I read FOREVER, by Judy Blume, in eighth or ninth grade (this was the cover it had when I read it). One of my friends got a hold of a copy, and we smuggled it around. This was in the rural Midwest in the early eighties, which shows you that censoring what goes into public libraries doesn't keep material out of teen's hands (see parent disclaimer in my last post...TALK to your kids!)

Of course, I gobbled up every word of the sex scenes (just like with every sexual innuendo in Romeo and Juliet when I read it in ninth grade), but the overall message stuck with me also: You may think you're in love and that it means forever, but after the lust has settled, it may not turn out that way.

An important message. And one that, as Taylor Swift's song, Fifteen, shows, is still relevant today.

BTW, I'm also planning to post this week about how much writing I'm able to squeeze in each day. If you want to join us, the challenge is on Patti Nielson's blog, HERE.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Banned Books Week

See full size image

I kicked off Banned Books Week today by ordering some challenged/ banned YA books from my library.

My TBR pile now includes:

VAMPIRE ACADEMY (already have on my MP3)
AND TANGO MAKES THREE (picture book. Okay, not YA, but I was curious to see it.)
THE CHOCOLATE WAR (actually can't believe I've never read this classic)

And Mon-Thur this week, I'll be writing about a challenged or banned book that I've already read (or listened to) and loved, ending with my most-loved choice on Thursday. If you want to join me on Thurday, sign up on Tahereh's blog here

I'll throw in the disclaimer (probably every day) that I do believe every parent should know what their child is reading and watching and playing (video games). Parents should also be talking to their kids about how all these things do and don't match with their beliefs and values. Sheltering young adults may seem preferable, but with the way media and pop culture is today that's not always possible. Talking to them is always possible.

Any Thoughts? What are you doing for Banned Books Week?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Writing Compelling Characters (The great blogging experiment)

Sorry I'm a little late to the party today, but it's also not too late for others to join The Great Blogging Experiment, HERE, along with the other 182 of us so far.

We're all blogging about how to write compelling characters to see how many different perspectives we can squeeze out of one topic. In an effort to maintain scientific integrity, I haven't read any other posts yet, but I look forward to doing so!

Now, for my contribution:

Method Characterization

There are many concrete things you can do to improve character development, not the least of which is to throw your protag into an amazing story and make her/him face lots of challenges. What I’d like to get at (or try to, at least) is the magic part of characterization…that elusive thing, like a wonderful writing voice, that you know when you read it but you can’t quite explain it.

Here are a few ways I try to capture the magic:

1.             1. Acting 101. Even if you never took this class in college (Everyone should, BTW. It’s a blast.), you’ve probably heard an actor say, “What is my motivation here?” You, as the author, should know what’s driving each character, even if other characters and the readers never find out what’s really up with them. Because if you know, then each character will say and do things that are true to them, and it will come across as authentic.
      2. Also Acting 101. And similar to the last point. Know each character’s backstory even if they never come out in the book. Think of each character as an iceberg where only small portions come out of the water. Only, unlike a real iceberg, sometimes the tiny portion that shows can give us glimpses or even full views of what hides under the water.
           3. Again, from Acting 101. Live in the moment with your characters. Gestures, clothes and facial expressions that personify the character can come out when visualizing the scene as you write. It can also make IM and dialogue more authentic.
      4. Fall in love with your characters. I have one character who wears hemp-style bracelets. Every time I would see someone wearing them in public I’d get the warm fuzzies, thinking about Riley. That love will come through on the page.
      5. Finally, let your characters take the lead when they want to. A guy character in my WIP (who I haven’t written yet), keeps showing up at the door (in my mind) holding a video game controller. I kept fighting it at first, saying to myself, he’s an alien from a non-violent planet. He cannot be playing shoot-em-up video games. But he kept insisting, so I followed his lead, and now I know why he plays video games. Those moments, though few and far between for me, are when the real magic happens.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Debut Author Challenge #3 Audiobook Review + INFINITE DAYS Givaway

PARANORMALCY- Kiersten White 

Paranormalcy (Paranormalcy, #1) Evie thought her biggest challenges were resisting the allure of her fairy ex-boyfriend and getting home after tagging a vampire in time to see her favorite TV show. But Evie's paranormal world is about to get turned upside down.

As a Reader:

Ally Carter tone meets the paranormal last. I loved the voice of this book, edgy and humorous, and the protag is so relatable. My only problem is that, even though I saw the cover ahead of time and think it's gorgeous, I still can't see Evie as a blonde with high-maintenance hair.

As a Writer:

One of the biggest challenges of writing an invincible villain is making him/her vincible in the end. Even Stephen King has problems with this in some of his books (IMO). So, I was left a little confused about the status of the villain and even Evie at the end of this book, but maybe that was on purpose for the series.

If You Like This, You might Also Like: 

Gallager Girl series and The Heist Society- Ally Carter
Wicked Lovely series- Melissa Marr
Valiant- Holly Black
The Summoning series- Kelley Armstrong
Mortal Instruments series- Cassandra Clare

For Audiobook listeners, I had to get this one through Audible since my library hasn't acquired it yet.

As for the giveaway, I have an ARC of INFINITE DAYS, also a debut paranormal novel, for someone who comments on Which paranormal read has been your favorite this year?  

Sunday, September 19, 2010

SPEAK (And listen)

Anyone looking for my Elle Straus 250 word blogfest, please click HERE

Sorry, I'm still pretty computer illiterate, so I put in the wrong link.


I, like many other bloggers, have been outraged and sickened and prompted into action by the threat to ban SPEAK in Missouri.

Nothing expresses the need to keep this book available to all teens more than the poem Laurie Halse Anderson wrote using the responses she's received about her book over the last ten years. It's here, on her blog, along with links to the editorial that prompted all of this, and ideas about what we can do to help.


I'd also like to speak up for one of my favorite authors when I was in high school and still today, Kurt Vonnegut. His book, SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, was attacked in the article and has already (to my understanding) been successfully banned because of it. Kurt Vonnegut may use a certain amount of irreverence to get his point across, but his anti-war message is clear and powerful, especially in this book. We're severely underestimating our youth if we assume they won't understand that message, and it is sad that the adults in that community don't value the message enough to fight for it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dystopian Anyone? Audiobook Review and FREE ARCS

I have these ARCS:

Sapphique (Incarceron, #2)
The Gift


It seems like Dystopian stories can be split into some sub-categories:

Strong Fantasy feel with or without magic (like Incarceron)
Strong sci-fi feel (like Uglies)
Victim(s) of the society turned hero(es)- (Witch and Wizard, Unwind, Maze Runner, Hunger Games, Incarceron)
Product of a supposedly Utopian society having second thoughts/learning truths- (Uglies, The Adoration of Jenna Fox)

Tell me which kind of dystopian story you like best and why. I'll try to match the right ARC to the right comment and draw names if I get more than one match.

As for my audiobook review, the two things I find most unique about the Life As We Knew It series are that we’re there (as readers) from the day everything changes, and the protags are normal teens with no special gifts or role in the overall future of their new world other than personal survival.

This World We Live In-Susan Beth Pfeffer 
This World We Live In (Last Survivors, #3)

This third book in the series (Life As We Knew It and The Dead And Gone) brings together the characters from the first two books as they continue to survive after an asteroid has changed the orbit of the moon, bringing it closer to us.

As a Reader:

I enjoyed the first two books, especially how they occurred in the same timeline, only with different settings and characters. I also liked how this book brought the two sets of characters together and added new. I thought the book dealt well with the issues of survivor guilt and adding new members of a group when individual survival is so precarious.

As a Writer:

The author has the protag, Miranda, make a questionable choice toward the end. Though I see how keeping that choice a secret moves things forward nicely into the next book, I still have problems with the character motivation. It seems like the author could have easily built in stronger reasons for Miranda to do what she did that would keep readers more firmly in sympathy with her. But maybe the author was aiming for the shades of gray.

If you like this, you might also like:
Uglies series- Scott Westerfeld
Incarceron- Catherine Fisher
Witch and Wizard- James Patterson
Unwind- Neal Shusterman 
Hunger Games series- Suzanne Collins
Maze Runner-James Dashner
The Adoration of Jenna Fox-Mary E. Pearson

Remember. Tell me what kind of Dystopian you like, and you might get one of the FREE ARCs shown above.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

The Y.A. Highway topic this week gives me the perfect chance to post about what everyone else has been posting about:

Mockingjay (Hunger Games, #3)

Yes, MOCKINGJAY, has been my favorite book this month also. I've never been so eager to read the next installment of any series as I have THE HUNGER GAMES. And the conclusion did not disappoint. 

There has been some talk about it having too much violence for YA, but not since I read Slaughterhouse Five have I come across something with such an eloquent and powerful non-violence message. *Warning Rant* If we could get half the teens who play shoot-em-up video games to put down their controllers and read these books, I'd feel a lot more hopeful about our future. *Rant Over*

The other thing this book did for me is get me hooked on Audible
I've always counted on the library for my audiobooks, but this meant a long wait between the release date of a book and it being available to me. Now, between me blogging and library budget cuts making my waits even longer, the idea of buying audiobooks has become more appealing.

So, with Mockingjay, I finally joined Audible. I've already got PARANORMALCY and THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE to listen to also. Those are two my library has no plans to buy at this time.

Thanks, BTW, for the recommendations on my Debut Author's Challenge. I'll be getting a hold of people about the ARCS.