Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday-The Name Game

This week's YA Highway Road Trip topic: The list of top baby names in 2012 had us talking about naming characters. How do you decide on names? Would you ever name a character after a friend/family member/ex?

My character names usually come from the gut. I start writing. Then, when I need a name, I pause, dig deep, and write what comes to mind.
Not that these names always stick. I check my favorite site HERE, to make sure it's something a teenager might actually be named these days. And I sometimes have to switch out names if I have two (or more) starting with the same first letter or that sound too much alike. Most of these changes will be with minor characters since I'm usually too married to the original names of the main characters by the time I check these things.

Generally, I have a harder time coming up with last names. My gut technique doesn't work so well there, and I sometimes have to rely on the phone book for ideas.

Strange enough, I did end up with two appropriate last names for Cheater Beaters, though I didn't do it on purpose. My protag's name, who is sick of cheating guys and is taking a break from dating is Becca Freeman (as in, free of men), and her cheating, playboy ex is named Marc Fetters (as in, won't be fettered). Not on purpose. Really.

As for naming after real people, I have named a few very minor characters after my nieces and nephews. My goal is to publish them all that way someday in hopes they'll get a kick out of it.

What about you? What goes into naming your characters?  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday- The number of books I don't read


This week's YA Highway Road Trip topic: About how many books do you read in a year? Do you want to read more? Or, less?

I read less than ten books a year. Some years less than five. Usually nonfiction writing research and fiction critiquing/beta reading.
But I listen to over a hundred books a year.
YTD for this year: 123
I can listen to books while driving, shopping, doing the laundry and cooking...all things I have to do anyway, so I might as well get some books in while I'm at it.
Do I wish I could read, read more? Sure. My dream for retirement is a recliner and a stack of books at my side. Until then, I'll have to fit in my reading the best way my life allows, by listening.
What about you? Get enough reading in? Ever tried audio?


Monday, December 10, 2012

Second Books in a Series- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Like sequels to movies, it seems like a struggle for second books in the series to maintain the luster of the first. Mostly, the second book often seems to stall some.

Things that don't work (for me):

Slow dancing at arm's length apart syndrome-When the budding relationship from the first book comes to a stand still or divide for some explicable or sometimes inexplicable reason that almost always feels contrived.

Stuck in Depressionville syndrome-When the character is stuck somewhere for a long period of time with little progress made, no new information and/or seemingly no way out.

Back to square one syndrome-When the character loses whatever ground they gained toward their goal in the first novel. This sometimes happens (ugh) at the end of book one.

What does work (for me):

-When the main character ends up in a new kind of worse predicament (like the Hunger Games trilogy).

-Repeating patterns with new challenges plus growing conflict/info gained in an overall arc (like Harry Potter and Ally Carter's Gallagher Girl series)

-New POV characters and/or subplots becoming main plots (Like Maggie Stiefvater's Mercy Falls series).

-A large amount of new world building/backstory in the second book (Like Cassandra Clare's Immortal Instruments series).

-Same world, totally new story and characters (Like Kristin Cashore's Graceling series).

-And, the book I'm listening to right now managed to surprise me with a new strategy. It's Pandemonium, by Lauren Oliver:

The main character is in a worse kind of new predicament, like I've enjoyed in other books, but there is also some needed but potentially boring time spent in Depressionville.

The author, very cleverly, overcomes this predicament by going back and forth between two storylines/times. It caused a little confusion for me in the beginning (mainly because it had been so ling since I'd read/listened to the first book), but once I got into it I looked forward to the switching, and the melding of the two timelines occured seamlessly toward the end. 

What about you? What works and doesn't work about second books in a series?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday- Revising

This week's YA Highway Road Trip topic: For many, December is a post-NaNoWriMo revision haze! How do you approach editing/revising? Any tips or tricks or resources you can share?

Like the writing process, revising and editing are not one size fits all. Given that, here are a few things that work for me.

Revising and editing as I go:

I know this is contrary to the idea of NaNo and the writing advice and style of many others, but I do a little of everything, from big revisions to tiny edits as I go.

Not that it's perfect when I reach the end of the first draft. It's still rough. And I often end up chucking scenes that I've spent a great deal of time on.

I don't do it for efficiency. I do it because it feels organic to how the story is coming out of me. Mulling over a certain scene until it feels just right may give me insights on a character or give me some clue of where to go next with the plot. Even the stuff that gets cut or rewritten later is still part of what gets me through the story and makes it come right in the end.

Getting some perspective:

Putting some distance between me and my rough draft is a necessity for me, though it can take different forms:

-Sometimes, though rarely, a complete break from the work.
-Sometimes reading a book about writing, maybe in what I feel might be a weak area for that book.   
-Sometimes reading comp books to make sure my slant is different enough.
-Sometimes more research to beef up the book with during revisions.
-Sometimes, most often, getting critique partners and/or beta readers to read the book (though this often happens while I'm writing the first draft)

For big revisions, tug on the string to see what unravels:

I can't remember where I read this idea, but it's my favorite revising advice.

Changes have a domino effect in a story. Making revisions means seeing all those changes, both the obvious and the subtle.

So, I tug on the string and make a list of the changes. Then I go through and do them. I still miss things, but read throughs will take care of that. Meanwhile, I don't feel as disjointed as I make major changes.

I also have an overall list of changes needed, which gets added to along the way. I generally do the biggest changes first then work my way to the smallest.

Out Loud Read Throughs:

As the story begins to solidify, I start to do read throughs. Reading out loud. Again, I try to tap into the organic part of the process. If I get hung up on a part, it might mean that scene just needs tweaking, or it might be a sign of bigger problems. After four or five read throughs, I'm often to the point where I can do it in one sitting (most of the time not literally one sitting, but in a few hunks of time, whatever my schedule will allow). This is when I get a sense of the whole and start to feel like its done.

What about You? What is your revision process? Best nugget of revision wisdom?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday

This week's YA Highway Road Trip Topic:
Best Book of November

I had yet another incredible listening month (more on that next week). Lots of great books, but my personal favorite was GRAVE MERCY by, Robin LaFevers.

Saved from a potentially brutal marriage by a convent.
Taught the skills to serve god.
The god of death, that is.

As I've said many times before, I love Historical, so it didn't surprise me that I loved this book.

What did surprise me was how much I loved it. Ismae (the protag) is kickass strong and empowered. And she doesn't become a simpering fool just because she starts to have feelings for a man.

It reminded me of The Mist of Avalon series (the King Arthur tale told from the womens' perspective) in that it's about the blending of old religions of Britain with Christianity, but with added themes of justice and atonement.

What about you? Read this one? What was your favorite this month?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Debut Author Challenge #12

I'm finished but not done with this challenge.

I've hit and will exceed the twelve book challenge, and I plan to write about all of them.

Number Twelve is INCARNATE by, Jodi Meadows. I got this one from Audible.

In a world where one million souls have been reborn for thousands of years, one girl is new. And she wants to know why.

This had a strong traditional Fantasy feel to it, which surprised me (in a good way) as I was expecting more of a futuristic Fantasy. As I said, it was a good surprise, and the book also left enough unanswered questions and new possibilities to have me looking forward to the next one.

What about you? Read this one? Any other debuts to recommend?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday

This Week's YA Highway Road Trip Topic:
With Thanksgiving on the horizon we want to know how you balance hectic times like the holidays with your writing schedule.

The honest answer for this one is that I don't...not very well, anyway.

This year, I'm working hard (today, as a matter of fact) to be at a stopping point before the chaos hits.

In the past, I've set my laptop up with a semi-permanent home at the kitchen table, always on, with a stack of Christmas CDs beside it so I can plop down in my spare moments and get some writing done.

The results aren't necessarily sub par in quality, but they definitely lack in quantity.

What about you? Holiday madness or just gladness?

Happy Turkey Day, Everyone!!!!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Debut Author Challenge #11-Dystopian and Women's Rights

My Debut Author Challenge #11 came from the library.

It's ARTICLE 5 by, Kristen Simmons

In a country fallen apart, the Bill of Rights has been revoked. Instead there are Moral Statutes.

Ember's mother has been arrested for the crime of having a daughter out of wedlock, and those who are arrested are never seen again. Ember has become a ward of the government. Can she escape and find her mom?


This is one of a handful of Dystopians I've read lately where loss of Human Rights, especially women's rights, is the focus.

As a mom of a daughter, especially, this possibility is daunting. Women have come a long way in the last one hundred years. We still have a way to go...women still don't receive equal pay (overall or w/in fields), are all too often victims of rape and domestic violence, and still do almost all of the housework and child caretaking even in households where they earn more money than the man...but I hate to think of any turmoil we could face in the future that would take away what hard-earned progress we have made.

I think appreciating where we've come from as females is part of why I love reading Historical Fiction so much. I see that the oppression of women in a possible future is realistic, and that it would be a beneficial theme for young readers, but it's hard for me...I find it hugely depressing and scary.

What about you? Read this one? Noticed this loss of women's rights trend in Dystopian? Any other debuts to recommend?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday- If you're going through hell, keep going.

This week's YA Highway Road Trip topic: Tons of writers are in the midst of NaNoWriMo, trying to stay inspired as we reach the dreaded middle. Share your most inspiring and/or motivational video, book, or quote on writing!

Congrats to those doing are all braver than I.

If my post title quote (from Winstin Churchill) fits where you are right now then let it inspire.

For specific writing inspiration, I'm going to turn to one of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury.

First, a perfect quote for NaNo:

Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things.
Ray Bradbury

Then, what I believe promotes writing productivity most for me:

Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.
Ray Bradbury

Finally, for all of us, during NaNo and year round, the following will always fit:

You fail only if you stop writing.
Ray Bradbury

What about you? What inspires you most as a writer?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Debut Author Challenge #9 and #10

First off, I'm so excited because this year I'm actually going over twelve books for the Debut Author Challenge. Woo! Woo! My library system, sparse at the beginning of the year, came through with four debut audiobooks here toward the end, and I plan to post about all of them.

Next, I'm putting off my How Many Have You Read contest until December. Things have just been so crazy this last month, and I need a little time to catch up. The good news is, I'll combine all my fabulous October and November listens/reads, so I'm sure everyone will have read something to enter the contest with.

For Debut Author Challenge #9 and #10, I have two Merpeople books:
OF POSEIDON, by Anna Banks
LIES BENEATH, by Anne Greenwood Brown.

I got both from Audible.

Of Poseidon, about a girl who can communicate with sea life but has no fins, goes into the mythical history more.

Lies Beneath, with an interesting male protagonist, focuses more on the dark side, merpeople as predators.

Both very different. Both worth reading.

What about you? Read either of these? Like merpeople books? Any other debuts to recommend?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Are You a Doer or a Talker?

I worked for many years in Early Childhood. As a mother, I will still sometimes ask parents of young children, "Is he/she a talker or a doer?" (aka: a charmer or one who would rather beg forgiveness than ask permission)

While shopping yesterday, I lost my concentration several times while listening to an action-packed story. This is when it dawned on me that when it comes to reading and writing, I'm a talker not a doer. I'd rather read/write dialogue than action scenes.

Like most children, I can do both, but I lean toward talking.

What about you? Are you a doer or a talker? As a writer? In life?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday- Best of October

This Week's YA Highway Road Trip Topic is: What was the best book you read in October?

I had a wonderful listening month in October (more on that next Monday for my How Many Have You Read/Heard contest).

My favorite, hands down, was EVERY DAY, by my writing hero, David Levithan.

The problem is, I already posted about my undying love for this book (and David Levithan) HERE.

Next favorite? Already posted about it (WHAT'S LEFT OF ME, by Kat Zhang) HERE.

My third favorite this month was PERFECTED BY GIRLS, by Alfred C. Martino. I think he's a local New Jersey author, so I'm not sure how available this book is, especially in audio.

It's a girl-doing-a-guy-sport book. Specifically, Wrestling. I loved that the author dealt with the issues of girls participating in this sport, competing with guys, in a realistic way, and that he gave voice to both sides of the issue (for and against female participation) while still ending up supporting the girls.

What about you? Read any of these? What was your October fav?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday- Best of Horror

If this post comes out before YA Highway's post it means Sandy has taken my power out...I set it on a schedule just in case. Sorry for any confusion this might cause.

This week's YA Highway Road Trip topic: Halloween! What's your favorite scary book or movie?

First off, I love Supernatural Thrillers and have read a lot of wonderful YA ones, but they don't really scare me.

Scary (for me) is when any character, including the main one, can die at any time.

I don't watch or read a lot of that kind of scary, so for my favorites, I have to go old school:

Favorite Movie: Aliens II

Don't get me wrong, the first Alien movie was amazing. And soooo scary. But the second one, with the child involved, scared me even more.

Favorite Book: Dreamcatcher

I've listened to a lot of Stephen King (they were some of the first books done unabridged in audio). I like his group-of-friends ones the most: The Body, IT and Dreamcatcher. Of those, Dreamcatcher scared me the most. The movie didn't do it justice.
What About You? Which books and movies scared you the most?    
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!           

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday- Lost in Translation

This week's YA Highway Road Trip topic: It isn't surprising that this month's Bookmobile selection, Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone, has sold film rights; the darkly magical world of the Shadow Fold begs for an on-screen translation! But that got us wondering. We'd like to know, in your opinion, what is it that makes some books seem ideal for a film translation?

I'm definitely a the book is better kind of girl...but I appreciate this week's Road Trip because it has made me think about why I feel this way.

Both movies and books have different kinds of restraints in telling a story. They also have different kinds of magic...often, I believe, the way these things mesh and don't mesh in the different medias will  determine the quality of the translation.

Time Constraints:

Most film adaptations suffer, not from what's there but from what's left out. Visually, the Kira Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice is amazing. The acting, equally so. But there are so many glossed over details (ones many Austen virgins would miss) that I still lean toward the six hour A & E version as my favorite.

Some left out elements are sad but understandable, like leaving out Hermione's fight for house slave rights in was one of the longer books in the series.

But I'm still bothered that Katniss didn't get the bread from District Eleven after giving Ru her respectful final send off. That is my favorite moment in the whole book, maybe even in the whole series.

Inner Thoughts:

Which brings us to the next issue. The significance of some moments are in the character's inner thoughts. Katniss considering how much that bread would have cost the people of District Eleven is what makes that moment so significant, but who would have conveyed that info on film? Katniss couldn't mutter it to herself without sounding awkward and/or putting her safety at risk. Maybe they could have flashed to Haymitch finding out about the gift, but even then, who would he share his observations with? Either way, the moment loses its umph without that inner thought (so easily utilized in a novel) to convey the info.

Comedies, I've noticed, get around this inner thought issue by creating characters who tend to say their inner thoughts out loud.

Bridget Jones's Diary is such a wonderful film adaptation because it has the outspoken main character plus her diary entries to convey her inner thoughts.

I don't remember the film version of Princess Diaries using the diary entries as much, and (I think) you lose some of the quirky/outrageous tone of those books because of it.

Scene setting:

I remember vividly my first glimpse of the inside of Hogwarts on film(the moving staircases and the portraits). I felt as if the world Rowling had so brilliantly painted in my head had come to life before me.

Given that example, it would be easy to say that the better the world building, the better the movie result can be. But this theory doesn't work entirely.

The Twilight movies suffer, not from author world building so much as the special effects translation of that world building...sparkling vampires may look good on paper, but on film? It sort of loses its luster (for me, anyway).

Then (also related to inner thoughts), an author's world building is sometimes dependent on character narration.

Rick Riordan's engaging world of demi-gods, monsters and gods turns into a plain old action film (one with major time constraint issues too) without the main character's witty descriptions of his encounters.

What about you? What do you think makes film adaptations work/not work?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Debut Author Challenge #8- What's Left Of Me

WHAT'S LEFT OF ME, by Kat Zhang, courtesy of Audible.

Two souls in one body. Not unusual to be born this way, but Eva and Addie should have settled by age seven...letting the dominant soul take over, letting the other one die.

Only Eva has stayed, silent but there. How long can they keep her a secret?

Being a fan of The Host, by Stephanie Meyer, I love the two perspectives in one body. The sister relationship in this one, rather than two adversaries in The Host, added emotional depth to the story for me.

Definitely worth checking out. 

What about you? Read this one? The Host? Any other debuts to recommend?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday- To Write or NaNo to Write

This week's YA Highway Road Trip topic:
Are you doing NaNoWriMo, or have you ever? Does having a deadline inspire you?

Every year, I consider NaNo...for about two seconds. Then reality sets in, and I know I'll be a jealous spectator yet again.

First off, November? Who picked this month? Obviously not someone who might have out-of-town Thanksgiving guests. I vote for NaNo in major holidays, and the weather is sketchy enough to keep us inside.

Then, though I have written rough drafts in six weeks, that was with some editing along the way...I'm not sure I could let go of that and just write. It would be interesting to find out.

Finally, as much as I wish it weren't so, stories inspire me more than deadlines. I can and have met deadlines before, but it's losing myself in the story that gets me there, not dates on the calender or word count goals.

What about you? Doing NaNo? Tried it before? Do deadlines inspire you?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Winners and Debut Author Challenge #7

The good news is, I still have so many ARCs that everyone who entered my How Many Have You Read/Heard Contest will have a chance to pick one.

The top three picks will go to: Elana, Laura and Carrie.

I'll email them today. Everyone else will hear from me after I know their picks:)

Now, for my Debut Author Challenge book #7

UNDER THE NEVER SKY, by Veronica Rossi

In a future where the sky is electric, Aria was raised in a bubble, enjoying many virtual worlds but no real one. When she loses contact with her mom, a scientist working in a different bubble, curiosity gets her thrown out of her safe world.

The world building in this is great. I also enjoyed the dynamic between Aria and Perry, the male protag. It's antagonistic. They both have prejudices to work through and much to learn about each others' worlds.

What about you? Read this one? Any other debut author books to recommend?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Latest Audiobook Love- Every Day

Disney World? Forget it. I want to move to David Levithan World. And live there forever!

I've felt this way ever since I read Boy Meets Boy.
I wrote it in a post after listening to Will Grayson, Will Grayson.
But now I want to shout it from the cyber rooftops after reading Every Day.

A, a non-gendered protag, lives in a different body every day.

Here is a taste of what the protag says when he/she wakes up in a biologically female/male gender body:

If you want to live within the definition of your own truth, you have to choose to go through the initially painful and ultimately comforting process of finding it.

His protag also lands in the bodies of the drug addicted, depressed, suicidal, overweight, bullied, the poor, minorities, a mean girl, and a home-schooled kid...among many others.

As a writer, I'm so jealous. He's figured out a way to write a story from an amazingly unique perspective:

To walk in others' shoes, for just one day. And, most importantly, in the shoes of a person who does it all the time.

Is there anything more powerful?

Every person is a possibility. The hopeless romantics feel it most acutely, but even for others, the only way to keep going is to see every person as a possibility.

What about you? Read this one yet? Any David Levithan? Are you a hopeless romantic like me?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday- Where do you see yourself...

This week's YA Highway Road Trip topic: What do you hope to be writing in one year? Three? Five?

One year?

I hope to be writing more stories for my Cheater Beaters series. And finding time for my sci-fi WIP...the book I've been struggling with periodically for years and still don't have a total grip on.

Three Years?

Still more of my Cheater Beaters series? Could be, but I'll also hope to be done with my sci-fi and struggling with some new project that I'm obsessed with but feels beyond me.

Five years?

A YA historical. I love, love, love historical, but the dialogue especially feels so far beyond me as a writer right now. Maybe in five years I'll feel ready to dedicate the time I'll need to do it up right.

What about you? Where do you see yourself as a writer in the future?

Monday, October 8, 2012

How Many Have you Read/Heard Contest- My September Listens

I had an AMAZING listening month in Sepetember.

I also have lots of ARCs from Book Expo to give away.

Let me know which of my September listens you've read/heard, and you could win an ARC. You get one entry for every one of my Sep listens you've read/heard.

The ARCs I'm Giving away:

Here are My September Listens:

One of my Debut Author Challenge books. I already posted about it HERE.

If you liked this, you might like: Long, Long Sleep, by Anna Sheehan

Okay, I'm usually not a ghost love story fan, but this ended up my surprise fav of the month.

If you liked this, you might like: Shadowland, by Meg Cabot
Goblins and faeries and cat folk, oh my. Loved the puck-like hero in this one.

If you liked this one, you might like, Tithe, by Holly Black


Two different girls from two different worlds. Amazing dual POV.

If you liked this, you might like: Burned, by Ellen Hopkins

 Another Debut Author challenge book I posted about HERE.

If you like this, you should try Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale
 The fascinating dystopian world of Divergent is upended, causing turmoil and split loyalties.

If you liked this one, you might like Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld.

I think, last in his Egyptian God series...I will miss the girl protag, Sadie.

If you liked this, try: Starcrossed, by Josephine Angelino

This second in the series starts some fifteen years after the first one ended...interesting way to construct a series.

If you liked this, try: Rot & Ruin, by Jonathon Maberry

A Debut Author Challenge book I haven't posted about yet.

In this world, you either live in a virtual bubble or under an electrical storm sky.

If you liked this one, you might like: Blood Red Road, by Moira Young
 She knows when people are going to die.

I got a deal on three of this series through Audible. Glad I finally got a chance to hear it.

If you liked this one, you might like: Fury, by Elizabeth Miles
Another Debut Author Challenge book I did post about HERE.

If you liked this, you might like Tempest, by Julie Cross.

What about you? Read any of these? Let me know which ones. Each book counts as an entry to win an ARC.