Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday- February Favorite

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

I had an incredible listening month (tune in later to find out more), but if I have to pick one favorite it would have to be:

Okay, so I sometimes complain about the statistical improbability of all the death in YA (of protags and their parents/siblings), but then someone else does it so right that I tell myself to stop complaining and just let the masters have at it.

This book does it amazing.

I do have a few tiny bones to pick with how he fictionalized Indianapolis, a city I've lived in. I understand why it has to be that way...maybe he couldn't use the real names of places...but just to set the record straight:

Indy's children's hospital is called Riley's (not Childrens, as in the book). They have red wagons to cart the young children around and people from all over the state make and donate quilts to the patients who have to go there (none of that was in the book). Also, their playground (also mentioned in the book) was funded by one of my favorite famous Hoosiers (second only to Kurt Vonnegut), David Letterman.

The other big hospital is called Methodist, not Memorial as in the book (my Aunt had two heart transplants there).

Finally, the characters complain that there are no mom and pop restaurants in Indy...I know this is part teen angst, ragging on your home town...but it's just plain not true.

Like getting off the main strip of Time Square to find the good restaurants in NYC, you have to get away from the main mall areas in Indy to find the homegrown restaurants:

Arnis, which serves the best pizza and chef salad known to man (or, at least, to me), started in my home town of Lafayette, IN and is now in Indy too.

Also, one of the things I miss most here in NJ are the lack of mom and pop Mexican Indy they have one in almost every strip mall.

But, let me repeat...none of this takes away from the amazing-ness of this book.

What about you? Read this? What was your Feb favorite?  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Feb Break and Debut Author Challenge #1

Were did last week go? We had a winter stay-cation...well, except for basketball. No break from basketball season. We also fit in some outside softball practice during our warm winter break.

Out of curiousity, does anyone else live in a state/school system where you have a week off in February? Winter break? We still have a full week of in April for spring break too. Of course, the kids have to pay for these nice breaks by going to school through the third week of June.

I grew up off school in June, back to school the end of August, with spring break as the only long break after the holidays, so even after years of being here in NJ I find this winter break disconcerting. And still in school most of June? That's summer, for cripe's sake. I can't get used to that. At all. Anyone else thrown by changing school schedules? And now there are whispers of year-round school everywhere.

Anyway, on to my first Debut Author challenge. Finally.

I chose, thanks to Audible, Tempest, by my agent-mate Julie Cross.

Forget everything you ever thought about time travel...the main character, Jackson, says this...or something like the story, and I agreee. I loved how this book rethinks the time travel concept and thrusts you into a world of possibilities beyond Jackson's much-needed redo to save his girlfriend's life.

What about you? Read this one? Any other 2012 Debuts to recommend?

And winter break? Had it? Need it?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

For the Love of- A V-Day Post

YA Highway is having a Valentines Blog Lovefest today, Road Trip style only not on Wednesday. It can be a declaration of love to anyone/thing.

For the love of gerunds and active verbs.
For the love of idioms and twisting them about.
For the love of strong female protags who don't always play by the rules.
For the love of creating love interests who deserve the protag's attention.
For the love of cutting and slashing, saying more with less.
For the love of all the worlds and stories that live inside my head.
For the love of YA Bloggers and fans who I share this love with.
For the love of the words that make it all possible.

This is why I write.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day Short Story

What's longer than a blog post but much, much shorter than a novel? (only 1,500 words)

My Valentine's retelling of A Christmas Carol.

I'm reposting it from last year. Think I'll make it a V-day tradition.

Happy Hearts Day!!!

A Cupid’s Carol

I held the phone against my ear with my shoulder so I could talk and type at the same time.

“Bethany. Are you still there?”

“Yeah, Todd.” My neck killed me already. How did we get by before headsets? I’d thrown mine against the wall earlier that week, so I only had myself to blame.

“It’s Valentines, Bethy. Remember, our annual meeting of Singles United Against Valentines.”

“I know. SUAV, right?”

“I made plans,” Todd said.

I looked over the last line of gibberish then pounded the backspace key. “I can’t tonight, Todd. I’m on major deadline.” I typed again. “This weekend? I could use a Twinkie, Bacardi and action-movie vedge-fest.”

“Come over late tonight?”

I tried to read the next line of gibberish. “I can’t.”

“Well. Then I can’t either.”

I sat up at the coldness in his tone. “Can’t what?”

“Wait for you.” Then he hung up.

My best friend had hung up on me. Could this week get any worse?

“Miss Lathrop?” My assistant’s voice shot out of the intercom. “Could I go home now?”

I hit the speaker button. “Home? You can’t go home. I need you tonight.”

“But Miss Lathrop. It’s Valentine’s Day. My husband—”

“I don’t care if it’s the Second Coming. The Lansing proposal due tomorrow at three.”

“But Miss Lathrop. I’ve been here since eight.”

I thought of the long-stem roses delivered to her desk and imagined smashing all the petals with my bare hands. Not that I had anything against her husband or the flowers, just the holiday. I breathed in deep, calling up my calm manager voice. “Claire. You’re the one who wanted to go on salary with the hope of a promotion.”

“I know, but—”

“Well, salary means we work according to deadlines. Not clocks. Or holidays.”

My office door opened, and a man with a body almost as round as his head walked in. No. He sort of floated in a way that seemed detached from the stark surroundings—like a mediocre CGI effect. Odd.

“Claire. Who is this—” Crackling came through. I let go and pressed the speaker button again. Only crackling.

“Can I help you?” I sat but didn’t lean back. I needed to appear professional. The man wore a suit. He could be some big wig I’d never met.

“I’m Que Pidello.” He reached a rounded hand over the desk, and I shook it. Pleasant warmth spread though me. I relaxed into my seat after he let go. As if on command.

Que angled a chair to face me. He sat with surprising ease for his short stature and large girth.

He’s mirroring me, I thought, sitting forward to break the spell. You couldn’t con a PR person. “Can I help you?”

“Beth.” He met my eyes. “Bethy.”

Only Todd called me Bethy. “I’m Bethany here at work. Or Miss Lathrop.”

“Of course. But Beth to those who knew you growing up, and Bethy to Todd.”

Despite his reassuring smile, a few tendrils of panic hit me. I jabbed at the speaker button again. Crackling. Then the security button. Only crackle. I stood, motioning toward the door. “I’m sorry, Mr.—”

“Que.” He dragged that out. “Pidello” Then he swung into his last name as if putting the two words together.

“Listen, Mr. Pidello.” I switched to my manger voice. “I don’t have time for personal matters tonight, so if you could please make an appointment.”

He shook his head, making soft, “Tsk, tsk,” sounds. “Sorry Beth. I’m not going anywhere. We have unfinished business.”

Unfinished business? I perused my desk with its imminent-avalanche of papers. He had no idea about unfinished business.

Que laced his fingers over his girth. “I tried. You wanted college. You wanted all the wrong guys. Then you wanted your career.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Ah Beth.” He turned his head to contemplate some unknown spot on the floor. His hair stood out silver at his temples and he’d combed it straight back so it tapered like a wing. “You’ve been my one failure. I’ve always followed the rules, but you dodged me every time.”

My manager voice disappeared, replaced by barely restrained fury. “What. Are you talking about?”

“I have to retire now. You’re my last open case. My longest open case ever.”

I half stood again. “I think you should leave.”

He motioned with both palms for me to sit, and for some inexplicable reason I did. “I have the lowest divorce rate of any cupid. Only point two percent,” he said, returning his hands to his belly.


“These young upstarts.” Que went on. “We’ve added so many novices, with the population boom and all. They’ll shoot at anything, thinking a little attraction is all you need to build the rest. They don’t take the time to get to know their targets.”

I tried to formulate a response.

He waved his hand. “Never mind all that. I’ve tried to change things, but no one will listen. It’s time for me to get out. Abandon the sinking ship, if you will.” He patted his stomach. “So, for the first time in my illustrious five-hundred year career I’m going to break the rules.”

My computer monitor flickered. Two kids ran through a park. Fifth graders. Todd and me. I touched the screen. “How?”

“Just watch,” he said in a pleasant command I couldn’t ignore.

We sat under a tree—popping heads off daisies to see how far they could fly. One fell on my shoulder, and Todd brushed it off. We stopped for a moment, staring at each other.

“This is where it happens” Que stood beside me, his stubby fingers leaning on the desk. I hadn’t heard him move.

On screen, I could see Que, almost invisible, floating behind a tree. “I got the first shot off fine.”

An arrow flew into Todd’s shoulder. The next arrow flew so fast I didn’t even see Que reload.

“But I missed the second,” he said as my fifth-grade self lean against the tree, causing the arrow to zoom right past me.

“Oh,” I said, feeling the lost moment like a tangible thing.

The next scene flashed. Senior prom. Todd and I had gone as each other’s pity dates. Dancing with our friends. Such freedom. The kind of confidence only the insular world of adolescence can give, or take away just as easily.

“Here,” Que said. The music slowed, and I could see Que beside a pillar. Todd closed the distance between us. I stood with an out-of-breath smile and a question in my eyes. Then Rod Hartly came between us, and the arrow, intended for me, slammed into the back of his arm.

“It took me a year to get rid of that guy.”

“I know. I had to shoot five other girls. Then countless guys for the girls to get over him.” Que shook his head. “Such a waste of arrows.”

“So your misfiring causes all heartbreak?”

“No. We rarely miss. Most of the time it’s either some newer cupid who’s too quick on the draw, or humans who think it’s love when it’s not.”

At his words different images flashed. My exes. Only not my exes. Each time—from my punk phase in college to sitting in my tight skirt in the bathroom at work—showed me on the phone with Todd, crying out my heartbreak.

I ached with each image. Not for me, but for Todd.

Que patted my shoulder. “It’s not your fault. It’s mine.”

The images faded into another full-screen view. Todd, at his apartment, blowing out candles on a dinner table set for two. “Is this now? Is this tonight?”

Que nodded, his worldly-wise smile in place.

“So he planned to tell me? Tonight?”

Que continued to nod.

“I have to call him. To apologize. To—” I hurt so much for Todd. I hadn’t stopped to think, how did I feel about him?

“Maybe this will help.” Images flashed. Two weddings where Todd and I stood up for but not with each other. A divorce for me. A kid for him. Another wedding for me. Then our three kids playing together.

“Don’t.” I splayed both hands on the screen. “No more. Especially the kids.” I squeezed my eyes shut, unable to deny their innocent potential. “Is there a chance we could get together, after we have our families?”

“No.” Que’s voice gentled. “Once Todd marries, he’ll stay married for life. That has nothing to do with my arrows. It’s just the way he is.”

“So he’ll get over me?”

“No.” Que’s voice gentled even more. “As long as you’re in his life the arrow will still be there. Dulled and hidden, but there.”

My eyes stung with tears. “Please say it doesn’t have to be this way. Please say it’s not too late.”

Que touched me, light as a breeze, as he faded. “Go to him,” he whispered. “Just look at him. And for all that is holy on Heaven and Earth. This time, stand still.”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday- Oops, I Did It Again

 This week's YA Highway Road Trip Topic:

What SNI were you psyched to work on, but discovered it was too close to something already done?


I remember working on my first novel. I'd done some word play off the phrase for a hot guy as a "tall drink of water." ...but after all my parched years I now had two tall drinks of water on my hands. Whatever else happened, I didn’t plan to end up thirsty. my writerly naivete...thought it was so clever and unique. The next night, I'm watching Desperate Housewives and there is almost the exact play on words...bummer.

I complained to my crit partner at the time. She told me that in the writing/creative world similar ideas do tend to pop up independently but at around the same time.

Think of these two movies:

Almost carbon copies of each other, and they came out within a few months of each other. I know more stealing of ideas happens in the screenwriting industry, but these were shot at the same time by different studios...I'd love to know how that came about.

Okay, so sometimes it's just that our SNI is only new in our own brains, but still, if there's room in the entertainment world for two teen angst movies about a president's daughter then there might be room for a tweaked version of your SNI (that's not so new) too.

What about you? Ever had this happen?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Contest winners and Indelibles Anthology

First off, the winners of my How Many Have You Read/Heard Contest are: Chicklitgirl and Alicia. I'll be sending out emails later today.

Next, if you haven't checked out Indelibles, this great blog by a group of Indie-published/publishing authors, you should click on the button :)

But, even better, they've figured out a super clever way to get over that  hump some buyers might feel when they're not sure what kind of writing they get when they buy a self-pub work. They're releasing an anthology of short stories...sixteen of them...all from each of their favorite male character's POV. It's called IN HIS EYES. Isn't it a cool cover? The official release date is Valentine's Day, but it's available now. For FREE (see link below).

Go HERE to find out how to download this for FREE.

What about you? Read any of this yet? What do you think of the opportunities epublishing and social medias give to self-pub authors? 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

How Many Have You Read/Heard Contest (My January Listens)

This month, I'm giving away this book and ARC:

To win, let me know how many of my January listens you've read or listened to. Each book is worth one entry.

I had a sparse listening month again this month...I'm writing on a deadline and my house shows it, mostly in very large piles of laundry and only six books listened to this month.

My January Listens:

A very satisfying conclusion to this steampunk series.

I thought this was a conclusion, but then it wasn't... a little frustrating. Just wish I'd known ahead of time.

Just found out this one's a prequel. Looks like I have a new steampunk series to delve into.

Second book in the Greek meets Roman gods series. Percy's back, and there's a lost Roman Legion eagle involved.

I was a little slow to warm to this book about the bonds of sisterhood, but it was well worth sticking with, and the writing is as beautiful as the cover.

This long-awaited conclusion to the Eragon series was worth waiting for. And it should count as two books on my tally since it's so long...I'll count it as two entries for anyone who's read it.

What about you? Have you read any? What did you think? Let me know and you could win the book or ARC.