Archives for category: Random musings while writing

So I’ve been thinking about this on and off for a little while now, and then I had a conversation a few weeks ago that made it stick in my mind even more.

If you know me, you know that I’m quite the Pinterest frequenter, and of course I pin book things all the time.  Well, one of the things that pops up in my feed is bookcase pictures.  Some are cut into really neat shapes or painted in cool ways, but all too often I get pictures like this:

bookcase 1

Neat, right?  Behind the stuff on your shelf, you can see a map of the world painted.  Well, sure, if you only own a couple dozen books.  But my bookshelves look more like this:

IMG_3904You know what you can see behind my other books?  MORE BOOKS!!!  Yeah, I don’t really have enough space for you to see a cool design back there or a bright splash of color…

(P.S. Click on any of the pictures – that aren’t of my bookcases – to get to the seller or, in the case of the next pic, the blog it comes from!!)

And that brings me to the next picture…

bookcase 2

Again, pretty color, and again, not that many books.  A lot of the pictures that pop up through Pinterest are like this, too.  They show you really cool ways to organize and decorate a book case.  I mean, look at all the cool picture frames and nicknacks and sculpture pieces and organizing baskets that Kate @ Centsational Girl girl did!  She’s got a knack for finding great deals and putting them together in creative ways to make awesome stuff.

And I’ve seen a ton of posts about what shelf should house which nicknacks, which one for picture frames, and which one for books.  Which ONE for books???

Um, here’s my bookcase with nicknacks and picture frames…

IMG_3906They’re all tossed together up there on the top shelf, while everything else is stuffed full of books!  Again, if you look closely, you can see the second row behind the first on each of the shelves, and if you look not too closely you can see the books I don’t have room for stacked on top of the others!

As far as organization?  MOST of the books up front are the ones I haven’t read yet (with maybe 4 or 5 exceptions).  The ones at the back are the ones I’ve already read, but might want to reread or loan out.

Or how about this shelf?

IMG_39091. This used to be a microwave stand

2. The bottom door broke off so I ghetto-rigged it…

3. Organization goes as follows:  Books to the left of Lovecraft are ones that need to be loaned the next time I see the person they’re intended for.  Books from Lovecraft right are ones I haven’t read yet.  All those books you see on top?  Yeah, those are all the ones that other people have loaned me that I need to read and get back to them.  (That stack plus my loaners are missing some because they’re sitting on my table in a bag, waiting to go to Anne tomorrow!  Hi Anne!!!)

Oh, and behind the dark curtain of a door lie the books that I disliked SOOOO much that they’re going back to Half Price.  They stay hidden until I get a big enough stack 🙂

And then there are the bookends.  I LOVE bookends!  They’re so nifty and inventive!  Just check these bad boys out!!!

bookend 1bookends 2

But again, what would I do with those?  Bookends are made for people with a few books siting on a decorative wall shelf.  Not for me.

OR for people that want just a few books sitting in the middle of one shelf of a bookcase.  And I think we’ve established by now that that’s not me either.

IMG_3910Which brings me to my last bookshelf.  Yes, there ARE some DVDs taking up one whole shelf in there, GASP!  And candles, puppy pic, piggy banks, a pen jar…  But this shelf has ABSOLUTELY no organization beyond that!  When I was discussing bookshelves with my friends they were all lamenting that they wouldn’t know what to put on a bookshelf, because they didn’t know what books would be pretty enough to display.   Um…display?  Believe it or not, I did mini-tidyups on all 4 of these bookshelves before snapping pics of them!  To me, a bookshelf should be a display of all the things you love to read (that you didn’t download onto an ereader).  And if you want pretty books, buy hardcovers and take the slipcovers off.  But really, when you read/buy/trade/borrow/write as many books as I do…ain’t nobody got time for that!!

So what do you guys do?  Are your bookcases all nice and pretty?  Do you have just a dozen or so books, sparsely placed among nicknacks and artwork?  Or are you like me, and constantly running out of space on your shelves and begging for more??? (My husband is building me another one, by the way, I just don’t know where to put it!!)

Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below!!

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So turns out, I read a lot of books in 2013.  I mean a LOT.  62 in fact, according to Goodreads.  So what else is there to do but do a Top Ten list of my favorite reads of 2013?

Nothing, that’s what 🙂

So, without further adieu:

My Top 10 Reads of 2013 (in no particular order)

1.Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender

353 pages

Reminded me of: The Uninvited (movie)

6 bad girls don't die

So this is one of those books that I put off reading for a long time.  I picked it up over and over at the book store, but for some reason it just never clicked enough for me to buy it.  But then I saw this:

I know I’ve mentioned this book trailer before, but it really is a piece of greatness, and also pretty effective since it got me convinced to finally give this series a go.

The thing is, I don’t normally do ghost stories.  A lot of time they’re just not that great and they don’t pull off what a good ghost story is supposed to do: scare you!  But this one…man this one pulled it off.  Creepy backstories, possessions, scary freaking dolls…this book is like reading a good scary movie.  Actually gave me chills and I already picked up the next one! 🙂

“I’m a giant pimple on the face of humanity.”

2. By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

225 pages

Reminded me of: Thriteen Reasons Why by James Asher, After by Amy Efaw

6 by the time you read this i'll be deadThis is another one I’ve seen floating around for a while, but I’ve never been able to find it at Half Price (with an addiction like mine, you can’t afford to pay full price for every book you want to read).

This book tells the story of a girl who, after several failed suicide attempts, has found a website for “completers”.  She signs up to follow their plan, giving her less than a month to work through any doubts she might have to finally seal the deal.  Only now, of all times, someone is reaching out to her, trying to find their way inside her severely damaged and well-built shell.  A relatively quick read, I wouldn’t suggest this one if you’re squeamish on bullying issues or, obviously, suicide.  It was definitely blunt and a bit harsh about both issues.  I felt like the story was incredibly well done, and that the potential love-interest was awesome in that he wasn’t a typical book-boyfriend.  He challenges Daelyn in ways that are so perfect and yet completely dorky all at the same time.

“Everything seems to be working.” Except me. I’m broken.”

3. Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

336 pages

Reminded me of: The Hourglass Door Trilogy by Lisa Mangum, The Witches by Roald, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (in a good way!)

6 darker stillOkay, so this one was definitely my guilty pleasure book of the bunch.  One, it’s got a boy trapped in a painting, the idea of which has freaked me out ever since watching the movie adaptation of The Witches when I was a kid.  That, and you have some mystical, passionate romance going on with awesome gowns and a hunky, troubled boy.  I mean, who doesn’t love that??  Really, it’s not THE most amazing book ever, but if you like paranormal romance, the heat in this one will bump it up a while star level on your own personal scale.  Trust me 😉

“I was in love. With a two-dimensional object. A mute in love with a painting. Lovely. Just lovely.”

4. Divergent by Veronica Roth

501 pages

Reminded me of: Twilight and The Hunger Games (This series is the next big thing in YA movie adaptations unless they screw it up!)

6 Divergent_16So yes, I finally broke down and got around to reading this book, and of course I loved it.  Still haven’t made my way into the sequel, mostly because I’ve been reading other things, but a little bit because I’m still scared of how this series will end.  Too many people were NOT happy with it.  That said, the first book was fast-paced, intense, unique, had GREAT sexual tension and adventure.  And I have to say, unlike Harry Potter where you read it and most people immediately lean towards Gryffindor because that’s where your main character lives, this book almost immediately made me say no.  No.  I will NOT be Dauntless.  I like to NOT jump off of buildings and get beat up, thanks! 🙂

“Peter would probably throw a party if I stopped breathing.”

“Well,” he says, ‘I would only go if there was cake.”

5. My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

319 pages

Reminded me of: Prom Dates From Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore, Beastly (movie.  Haven’t read the book yet.)6 my fair godmotherFirst of all, I LOVE stories where a superficial character gets the chance to make something more of themselves.  So many of the YA books (especially paranormal) are about the deep, misunderstood, loner outcast.  I love a good story where someone who’s never had to try that hard in life gets the opportunity to become something more and then takes it.  That is Savannah.  It may not be easy going the whole way, but it’s worth it to ride to the end.

Besides wonderful ways in which the title works as a double entendre (Chrissy isn’t a wonderful fairy godmother, just a fair one.), this book is absolutely hilarious.  Don’t believe me?  Have a couple of quotes:

“Adults are constantly telling teenagers that it’s what’s on the inside that matters. It’s always painful to find out that adults have lied to you.”

or “Aren’t fairy godmothers supposed to be nice and make you feel better about yourself?
She rolled her eyes.  “No, you’re confusing fairy godmothers with sales clerks.”

And finally: “…elves who write the memoirs of teenage girls have the unfortunate habit of returning to the magical realm with atrocious grammar….and for no apparent reason occasionally call out the name Edward Cullen.”

See?  Fun and quirky 🙂

6. Prom Dates from Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore

322 pages

Reminded me of: My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison, Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan

6 prom dates from hellAs I’ve mentioned before, the reason I finally got around to picking up this book is that the author was coming to our Teen Writing group at the library and I wanted to read something of hers before she got there.

And again, I absolutely loved it and should have started this series a long time ago!  Maggie Quinn is one of the most entertaining, sarcastic characters you’ll ever meet.  I seriously don’t think I’ve laughed as much over a fictional character since reading Percy Jackson.  The story moves at just the right pace, and has just the right amount of action.

“My major vice is sarcasm with a side of caffeine addiction.”

7. The Dead by Charlie Higson

484 pages

Reminded me of: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, Everlost by Neal Shusterman

6 the deadSo I love every book in this entire series, but the only reason I’m picking this one over the others is that it was the first one I read (even though it is the 2nd in the series.)  Also, this one is the first book I’ve read in a long time that reminds me of Everlost, which has become perhaps my favorite YA book of all time.

The series follows groups of  kids around London as they fight off a zombie plague that has hit only those 16 and older.  The books also layer in interesting ways, some happening right before or right after the ending of the previous book.  The series is also an example of head-hopping done right, with the audience getting to experience the story for all different sides, which makes the action scenes (which happen a lot!) that much more dramatic, and makes things that much more shocking when one of the kids dies (which also happens a lot).

And if you’re not a big fan of gore in your zombie books, this one is a good choice, because even in the gross parts you can generally skip to the next paragraph and you’ve missed absolutely nothing but the gross stuff 😉

“Even after everything that happens, when the whole world changes forever, when everyone knows that the video wasn’t a hoax but the start of something terrible, people remember the Scared Kid. His poor frightened little face.

It’s like the last thing everyone saw before the lights went out.”

8. The Selection by Kiera Cass

352 pages

Reminded me of: I think the blurb on the book does it best: It’s the Bachelor meets The Hunger Games. (Even though I don’t watch the Bachelor…)

6 the selectionSo I’m a little annoyed at my friend for getting me interested in a series that hasn’t freaking completed yet!  Now I’m sitting around, like thousands of others, waiting for The One to come out so I can finally see how this thing turns out!!

The reality TV aspect of a search for a princess was a neat twist to your classic love triangle story.  Now you’ve got a girl that’s trying to compete for a prince that she’s not even that interested in.  And while you want to hate Prince Maxon for some of the shenanigans going on around the castle, you also have to remember that the poor kid is learning how to date for the first time on national television.  No pressure!

Also the awkward moments and misunderstandings in this series are just generally funnier and better written than most that you run into in these YA romances.  Definitely a good read, but I’d understand if you want to wait until the last one comes out.  Heck, maybe things will finally work out with the CW and they stinking pick up the pilot for this series! (They’ve turned two pilots down so far…)

“I hit your thigh!”
“Oh, please. A man doesn’t need that long to recover from a knee to the thigh.”

9. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

242 pages

Reminded me of: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

6 the statistical probability of love at first sightNow, while I may want to kill my special friend for getting me interested in The Selection, I guess I’ll have to thank her for getting me hooked on this lovely little stand-alone.

Honestly I almost never read contemporary YA.  If it’s just a book about how to find a boyfriend or what snarky things the group of mean girls is doing at school, I’m probably not interested. (Honestly, the only thing to get me interested in a Sarah Dessen book was listening to her talk about how the boyfriend in Dreamland starts beating on his girlfriend and I went, “Ooh…I should read that!)  But with this book it’s not just a love story about a boy and girl who meet on a plane, it’s also about both of them coming to grips with incredibly difficult father issues, and learning what it means to make mature decisions about your own life.  I mean, Hadley’s on her way to be a bridesmaid for the woman that was her dad’s mistress and is about to be his wife.  Can you blame her for being grumpy and not wanting to go???

Really touching and poignant.  Good, fast read!

“It’s one thing to run away when someone’s chasing you. It’s entirely another to be running all alone.”

10. Variant by Robison Wells

400 pages

Reminded me of: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Pulse by Patrick Carman

6 variantAh, Variant.  Can you say “Holy freaking plot twist, Batman?!?!?!?!”  Seriously, I can’t even begin to describe to you how awesome this plot twist is and I can’t tell you about it or it will ruin everything.  It’s like when I had to convince my friend to read Catching Fire because the games were the only part of The Hunger Games that she even liked!  I had to just promise her that the plot twist in the middle would make it all worth it.

Trust me, this one’s worth getting to.

So this one’s (initially) about a boy selected to go to a super-cool private school, even though he’s a nobody foster kid.  Except, oh wait, there’s no adults here and everyone’s trapped upon penalty of death.  Oops.  Did we forget to mention that in the brochure?  Now Benson has to navigate your typical high school cliques, with the added bonus that if you make a wrong move you might end up in detention…where you die.  No biggie, right?  Then, and oh my freaking goodness, there’s a huge plot twist and everything gets turned on it’s head!  Ahhhh!  Read it and we’ll discuss! 🙂

” ‘This isn’t one of those scare-you-straight schools, is it?’ I asked Ms. Vaughn, as we passed through the heavy chain-link gate. ”

And of course I can’t JUST do 10 books!  I did reread a few books this year, but my favorite that I reread was:

Everlost by Neal Shusterman

340 pages

Reminded me of: The Dead by Charlie Higson, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

6 everlost-coverOkay, so I won’t go on and on and on and on and on about this book, even though you know I could.  But this year I decided to reread this book and I’m seriously glad I did.  Not only did I get to meet the author of said book in person (EEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!), but it also solidified in my mind a question.

One of the author panels at the Austin Teen Book Festival asked this question:  If you could be any character in YA, who would you be and why?  Of course there was a Hermione in there and a couple more interesting ones, but as I sat there thinking about it I realized, I actually had an answer for that one. I actually had an all-time favorite female character of my very own:

Ally the Outcast.
Seriously.  I love her spunk, I love that she doesn’t take the partyline for an answer, and I love that she knows right off the bat that Mary Queen of Snots is not to be trusted.

This is a clever and fascinating story of children trapped as ghosts, and it offers explanations from every thing to what happened to the Twin Towers when they fell to why you see ghost repeating the same actions all the time.  If I’m lucky, someday I’ll write something as awesome as this 😉

“And next to Allie, the screamer, once more reminded of his job, began to wail in Allie’s ear. Reflexively Allie clapped her hand over his mouth. “That,” she said, “is totally uncalled for. Don’t do that again. Ever.” The screamer looked at her with worried eyes. “Are we clear on this subject?” said Allie. The screamer nodded and she removed her hand.
“Can I scream a little?” he asked.
“No,” said Allie. “Your screaming days are over.”
“Darn.” And he was quiet thereafter.”

And, since all of these so far have been Young Adult books (I know, shocker), here’s my favorite adult book read this year:

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

290 pages

Reminded me of: The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness by Joel ben Izzy, Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

6 brain on fireThis book is the true story of a girl that went from being relatively average and normal, to acting like a schizophrenic, to a practical waking coma all in the course of a month.  And the bizarre thing is that Susannah Cahalan doesn’t remember any of it.  She’s had to piece things together from friends and family, doctors, and tapes of her in the hospital, recording her outbursts and randomness for Susannah to uncover later, like an archeologist discovering bits of someone else’s life.  Really a fascinating read, and a little scary to tell you the truth.  You never know when your health might utterly fail you, and this book definitely makes you think about it.

“Someone once asked, “If you could take it all back, would you?”
At the time I didn’t know. Now I do. I wouldn’t take that terrible experience back for anything in the world. Too much light has come out of my darkness.”

IMG_3893

When my family moved from our home in base housing in Nebraska to a tiny, old town on the edge of the Texas/Oklahoma border, I was not the happiest kid.  Though military family are known for for their constant moves across the country and even across the world, my family had lived in the yellow duplex for over four years, and moving from a place of vibrant seasons and ridiculous snowfalls to a place of pale greens and browns and ice storms was not my ideal.  But over the years, I’ve definitely changed my mind, and I love to call the South my home.yes4

There are any number of reasons I can list for you as to why I love the south.  Southern cooking, warmer winters (usually), Southern hospitality (which can also border on nosiness), and believe it or not, I even love the hot, humid summers! (As long as you have A/C to retreat into!)

But the other day I was reminded of something else I love about living in Texas: Southern black women.  More specifically, older Southern black women.  Here’s what happened:

We’d made a stop at B&N for Black Friday to pick up The 5th Wave (for less than $10!!) and I had to run and make a bathroom stop.  While taking care of business, I heard the following conversation between and younger woman (whom I never actually saw) and an awesome older black woman (who I did see upon leaving):

Young Woman(sounding very flustered): Oh!  I’m sorry!  So sorry!

Awesome Older Black Woman: That’s all right, sweetie!

YW: I’m sorry, I just needed to come in here to check myself.  I’m really nervous!

AOBW(sympathetically):Why?

YW(sounding terrified): It’s my first date, and I’m really nervous about it!

AOBW: Oh, honey, don’t be nervous!  You look great!

YW(a little more relieved):  Thanks.  It’s just…it’s my first date…ever.  This is the first date I’ve ever been on I’m really scared about it!

AOBW(amazed): Don’t be scared!  You’re gonna do great!

YW(reapeatedly): Thank you, thank you…

AOBW: There ain’t nothing to be worried about honey!  You look good and you’re going to have a great time!  Don’t worry about a thing, baby!

YW(sounding much more confident than when she entered):Thank you so much!  Seriously. Thank you.

By the time I got out to wash my hands, Date Girl was already gone and the AOBW was there, smiling away at me.  I won’t lie, I had a little bit of tears in my eyes.  And yes, I do tear up at the most minute of things sometimes (you do NOT want to see me watching the end of Meet the Robinsons or Lilo & Stitch!), but really this little act of kindness made my Black Friday a little brighter and sweeter, even though this didn’t happen to me.  I left saying a small prayer for that poor nervous girl luck, that her first date ever might go better than most, even if nothing ever comes of it.  I’ll never know her name or what she looked like, but I hope everything went okay for her.

One day, about ten years ago, this AOBW that I worked with at the mall, suggested the radical idea to me that maybe I didn’t have to focus just on Biology as a major, and that since I had an interest in writing, I should probably pursue that, too.  Now at the time, I was thinking more along the lines of Journalism – I didn’t think I had the creative skill or dedication to do fictional writing.  Now here I am, working out the story for my 3rd (unpublished) novel, shopping for agents for the first, and waiting on the 2nd to finish marinating in its first-draftiness so that I can pull it back out and work on the next round.  I volunteer with the local library’s Night Owls Teen Writing Group, helping teenagers to explore the joy of creative writing, and really learning scads from them on how not to put limits on your own creativity, that when you get a “create your own fictional religion” assignment, it’s much more fun to think up an epic, heavenly battle between the Waffle God and the rebellious Pancakes than the idea I came up with.

Whenever I think of that AOBW I worked with, who helped set me on the right path more than she will ever know, I say a little prayer for her, too.  Like so many coworkers of days gone by, I cannot remember her name, but I’m grateful to her and her Southern Hospitality, and that little bit of pushiness to convince me to get over my own insecurities and just enjoys things instead.  So to all the Awesome, Older, Southern Black Women out there, I say you rock, and God bless 🙂

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halloween 2So for those of you who don’t know, Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday! 🙂  You get to have candy, dress in costume, embrace the scary, and you can almost NEVER overdo the decorations!  So, in honor of Halloween this year, I decided to assign my teen writing group a scary prompt last week, to write on something that scared them as a child and turn it into a story that would scare someone now.  So, like always, I accepted their same writing challenge and, like always, I didn’t finish it in the 30 minute time slot so I decided to finish it yesterday instead!  After all, what could be more fitting that writing a scary story on Halloween!

halloweenSo, here, for your reading pleasure, and for all those of you that helped provide name suggestions (Thanks!) I present to you…

The Night Monster

    The girls opened the backdoor and raced into the night.  Squeals of laughter and delight rang out through the warm July air as they scrambled onto the trampoline and began to bounce.  Syd’s mother stuck her head out the door, reminding them to keep the noise level down.  At two o’clock in the morning, the neighbors wouldn’t care that it was Sydney’s birthday.  The girls all echoed their consent and Syd’s mother headed to bed.
They chatted away in exuberant whispers, gossiping about boys, clothes, and pop stars as the sound of squeaking springs drowned out the nighttime country noises.
Syd felt like she lived on the borderline between small-town Southern families and backwoods hillbillies like the weird old man that lived across the street.  A swath of trees divided her backyard from the neighbors behind, and a full-on forest ran up to the back of weird, old Mr. Crawley’s place.  Three neighbors on the left, and a half-a-bock of blacktop before you hit the nearest neighbor on the right.  It was the perfect balance of connected and alone to allow for amazing summer adventures.
After a while, the girls grew tired of jumping and breathless they flopped down onto the bouncy black mat, staring up at a million stars overhead.
“Who wants to hear a scary story?” asked Syd, wiggling her fingers manically.
“Nooooo,” groaned Tammy, covering her face.  “I’ll have nightmares for weeks!”
“Meh,” said Emma.  “You’ll get over it.”  The other girls laughed, egging Syd on to spin her spooky tale.
“It was a dark and stormy night,” Syd intoned, making everyone but Tammy giggle.  “Sam was out driving with his girlfriend…Tammy.”  Tammy hit Syd in the arm.  “Just kidding.  Her name was Anna.  And her and Sam were listening to the radio when the announcer came on, warning everyone about a mysterious killer.”
“And he has a hook for a hand.  We’ve heard that one before,” whined Alana.
“Shut up, jerk face, this one is different,” Syd rebuked.  “Now, where was I?”
“Scary radio killer,” offered Emma.
“Right!  So, the guy on the radio said to be on the look out for this escaped criminal guy, Three-Fingered Woolley.”
Alana snorted.  “That’s a dumb name.”
“So’s Alana.  Anyway, Anna started getting all scared and freaked out because the killer was supposed to be in the area they were driving through.  Sam told her not to worry, but Anna kept freaking out.”
“What was that?” Tammy exclaimed.  Syd laughed.
“Yeah, like that.”
“No,” Tammy said, “I’m serious!  I heard something!”
Clara gave an evil laugh.  “It’s a vampire out to suck your blood!”
Syd felt a little bad.  Tammy had a notorious skittish streak that you couldn’t help but take advantage of.  Though at times she did wonder if they went too far.  Emma urged her to keep going, so she shook off the feeling and continued with the story.  “So, there they were, driving down the road with Anna going on and on bugging Sam to change directions, but Sam wouldn’t listen.  There was a little diner overlooking the city where he had plans to propose that night, and he couldn’t very well leave them with his engagement ring baked into the croissant, now could he?”
“Aw, how romantic,” Emma gushed.
Alana rolled her eyes.     “It’s a scary story, Em.  I don’t think they’re going to be living happily ever after.”
“Anyway,” said Syd, “Sam wouldn’t turn the car around and Anna kept getting madder and madder the further they drove into the woods.  She stared out the window, watching the trees race by, when all of a sudden—”
“Did you see that?” Tammy exclaimed, sitting up.
Syd sighed and tried not to lose her patience.  “Tammy, if you want to tell the story, be my guest.”
Tammy turned.  “What?  No, I really did see something.”
“It was probably a raccoon or something,” Emma said, waving her off.  “Don’t worry about it.”
“It was red,” Tammy insisted, but none of the other girls listened.  She glanced around at them and then lay back down.  Syd felt a twinge of guilt for getting her so worked up, but continued with the story anyway.
“So Anna was all terrified, convinced she’d seen something out in the woods.  Sam told her not to worry about it and kept on driving until they reached the rickety old bridge that led to the diner.  Sam had to slow the car way down in order to cross over the bridge without making it collapse.  The car started over, the boards underneath creaking and moaning as he went.  It made Anna nervous to watch the bridge, so instead she looked out the back window.”
“Guys.  What.  Is.  That?”  Emma sat up on her knees and pointed out into the darkness.
“See?  I told you I saw something!” Tammy said, scrambling up for a look.  Syd sighed and closed her eyes.  These people had no respect for the narrative flow.
“What are we looking at?” she asked, taking a spot with Alana beside the other girls.  Emma pointed out to where the end of the chain-link fence met the back corner of the house.
“Right there.  Do you see it?”  Emma asked.  Tammy whimpered and clutched on to Syd.
Syd squinted into the darkness.  “It’s probably just a branch or a rake or something,” she said, prying Tammy off of her.  Alana shook her head.
“I don’t know, it does kind of look like a person from here,” she whispered.
“What?”  Syd squinted and tilted her head.  “How do you get that?”
“I think it is somebody.  Look, he looks like he’s wearing a baseball cap and keeping his head down,” Emma said, pointing out the details like a cloud-watcher trying to pick out fluffy shapes in the sky.  Only in this case the sky was dark and the fluffy clouds were possibly a creepy figure in a baseball cap.
“What if it’s your creepy neighbor that likes walking outside in his underwear?” Tammy pleaded.  The thought had crossed Syd’s mind, but she didn’t say so out loud.
Alana shook her head.  “This is ridiculous.”  She cupped her hands to her mouth.  “Hey!  If you’re a creepy old creeper you might as well go back home!  Weirdo!”  Emma giggled and Syd punched Alana in the arm.
“Be quiet!  You’ll wake up my mom!” she laughed.  The girls all turned to the door, waiting for Mrs. Guindon to appear and chastise them, but the door remained shut.
“Look,” said Alana, “whatever that thing is hasn’t moved yet, so it’s obviously not alive.  Let’s just leave it alone and get back to Sam’s tragic death.”
“Thank you,” Syd said, flopping back down and making them all bounce.  She had just opened her mouth when the sound of something skittering through the grass made the girls all shriek and jump up.
“What was that?” Emma screeched, ignoring all semblance of whispering.
“I don’t know,” Syd said as she scanned the area, looking for movement.
“Could it be a cat?” Alana asked, looking scared for the first time.
Syd shook her head.  “The cats stay out of our yard.  They’re still afraid Lola’s gonna come out and get them.”  Syd’s big mutt of a dog had vanished two months ago.  It still made her sad to think about, but right now it made her nervous.  What if Lola hadn’t just run away?
Another scrambling noise made the girls jump and scream, sending the trampoline bouncing.  Syd caught her breath and looked around.  She might not be able to tell her scary story, but she could still have fun.
“Seriously, guys, I think that thing might be weirdo Mr. Crawley,” she said, looking back towards the house.  The others followed her gaze.  “What if he’s just standing there, waiting on us to go back inside?”
Tammy’s breath came fast and quick.  “But what was that in the grass, then?  The thing by the house hasn’t moved and there was definitely something out here,” she said, motioning around them.
“Well maybe we just didn’t see it,” Alana suggested.  Despite themselves, the girls all looked around, straining their eyes in the moonlight.
“What if it went underneath us?” Syd suggested, grinning to herself has all eyes dropped, down to their feet, as if they could see through the trampoline mat in the darkness.
“Nobody move,” Emma said, watching her own feet.  “If something’s under there I don’t want to land on it.”
No one dared to breathe.  Watching the others’ face, Syd gave her knees a good jerk, sending everyone bouncing.  She couldn’t control her laughter as they all shrieked and panicked.
“That was not funny!” Tammy yelled, her eyes wide with fear.
Syd threw her hands in the air.  “I couldn’t resist,” she said with a huge grin.  Alana rolled her eyes.
“Okay, but that still doesn’t explain the thing by the fence!” Emma insisted, moving next to Tammy.
“It’s probably just a tree or something,” Syd insisted.  “No big deal.”
“Sydney,” Alana said, “do you even have a tree over there?”  Everyone froze as they all waited for Syd to respond.
“Well…not that I can remember,” she said after a minute.  Tammy paled and grabbed onto Emma for support.  Emma hugged her while Alana just folded her arms.
“Well I think that since it’s your house you should be the one to go out there and check on it.  Find out what it is.”
“What?”  Syd looked to the other for some backup, but after her last scare maneuver, she could see that she wouldn’t get any.
Alana motioned towards the house.  “We’re waiting Miss Guindon.”
Syd sighed and headed for the edge of the trampoline.  Gripping the edge, she stuck one foot over the side.  “OW!” she screamed, falling flat to the mat.
“What’s wrong?” Alana yelled as the other girls gasped and jumped back.  Syd turned her head.
“Nothing,” she said, smiling from ear-to-ear.  “But it’s nice to know you guys are so ready to help me if some big monster was trying to eat my leg,” she said, indicating Alana’s outstretched hand two feet away.
“Hey, I would have helped you!” she protested as the other two grumbled.
“From all the way over there?” Syd laughed, jumping off the trampoline.
“You’re a horrible monster, Sydney Guindon!” Alana yelled after her.
“Back at cha!” Syd called as she jogged towards the fence.  The closer she got, though, the slower her steps became.  She’d never have admitted this back on the trampoline, but the thought of Mr. Crawley or anyone else hanging out in this corner sent shivers down her spine.  Besides, didn’t the person that went to investigate the strange things in scary movies always die?
“What’s wrong?  Scared?” Emma mocked from across the yard.  Syd almost turned around to stick her tongue out, but knew if she turned back now she’d run straight to the trampoline and wuss out and never hear the end of it.  Besides, no way would she turn her back on the potential serial killer lurking by her house.  People died that way in scary movies, too.
A light breeze blew through the trees and the shape in front of her moved.  Syd’s feet locked in place and refused to go any further.  Her heartbeat sounded in her ears and her mouth tasted like copper.  She took a shaky breath.
Syd leaned forward and squinted.  The wind moved again, ruffling the figure and changing its shape.  Syd smiled and relaxed her shoulders.  She’d gotten so scared over nothing.
“I told you it was just a tree!” she shouted over her shoulder, the now-familiar leaves dancing before her in the breeze.  “A squirrel just buried a nut here that he forgot to dig up.  Probably got hit by a car or something!”  She turned around, grinning once again as the girls on the trampoline all relaxed and returned her smile.  She shook her head and started back when a flicker caught her eye.  She stopped and squinted at the trampoline.
“Come on, Syd!” her friends called.  “Get back up here!”
Before Syd could make a sound, she saw a pair of giant, glowing red eyes opening up beneath the trampoline’s thin black mat.  A black tail the size of her arm flicked in the shadows, and as the creature yawned and stretched, rows of razor-sharp teeth glinted in the moonlight.
“What are you waiting for?”  Alana yelled from across the yard.  “Let’s get our bounce on!” she said, motioning for Syd to join her.
The girls all leapt into the air, and as Syd watched in horror, the creature waiting beneath them turned its eyes upwards and smiled.

pumpkin

So there it is!  Hoped you enjoyed it!  Only 364 more days until next Halloween!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So in my writing group a few weeks ago we discussed how you go about choosing and then writing the ethnicity of your characters.  I was a little late to the group, but jumped right in with the conversation.  I felt like I had somewhat of a handle on the topic – I’d faced it when writing this first book.

Race can be very important in certain characters, and in this book certain characters’ ethnicities  play a very important role in defining who they are.  Others could be mentally recast by the reader and it wouldn’t make a difference.  Though sometimes being a Caucasian writer, it can be hard (at least for me) to figure out just how to let on that a character is “non-white”.  Just look at the foolishness that happened when The Hunger Games movie released.  With Rue described as having dark skin and brown hair, people still seemed floored when she wasn’t white.  Without having to go through all that drama all over again, I will say this: not everyone who believed she wasn’t white thought she was black.   I had one friend who thought that making her black and from the agricultural District was meant to symbolize that the Capitol had reinstituted slavery.  Then I had another that though that it was a reference to migrant workers and that Rue had been Hispanic.  Both valid answers.  But only one turned out to be correct as to the author’s intent.

So what else is there to do, then?  Never mention race?  Dance around it until I’m halfway through reading a 500 pg book before I realize that one of the two main characters is black??? Because I tell you what, that is super distracting.  We all cast the movies of the books we read in our own heads, and it’s really jarring to realize after 250 pages that you’ve been wrong the whole time.   Though I do understand the problem.  I had a minor character in this book who was black, with an African accent, and an African-themed name.  I think she’s awesome and strong and beautiful, but there is that fear that I’ll somehow been seen as racist unless I danced around the issue and implied rather than told you what she looked like.  Then, during about the one millionth rewrite I realized: just tell your audience what she looks like and move on.  She’s a black girl.  Deal with it.  I also have characters with Gypsy, Irish, Hispanic, Elvish, animal, and all kinds of other origins.  It helps define who they are, though admittedly to varying degrees.

And so it was when my writing group then asked, “If you changed the race of your main character, would it change your story,” I answered “Absolutely!”  My characters are half-Hispanic, half-Caucasian.  Take a couple of black kids, or Korean kids, European kids…whatever, and throw them in the same situation, they’d all react differently.  Because even if they were raised in the exact same location their entire lives, the way people perceive us changes how we view ourselves, for good or for bad.  ESPECIALLY in our teen years.

That said, I think I just hit a breakthrough in my next book.  I need my anti-girl-next-door character to be strong, sexy, NOT BLONDE, and vicious, but in a calm, understated sort of way.  I kept picturing this gorgeous Hispanic girl filling the role, but somehow could just not wrap my head around her without a lot of outward fire in her personality.  Then, while searching for clothing inspiration online, I figured it out: I needed to make her Japanese.  Same strong, sexy, viscous non-blonde I imagined, but now with a self-control that comes from centuries of culture and tradition.  She just fits better now.

In the moments I allow myself to think about the days when I might actually get published, I do worry sometimes how people will take things like what I’ve just said here and if I’ll end up getting boycotted because I’m so offensive.  And the answer is…probably.  Authors get boycotted all the time for all different kinds of things.  So if the worse thing I did was diversify my cast of characters and use their backgrounds to enrich and enhance them and make them more real to both me and my readers, then so be it.  We need more diversity in YA anyway.

 

P.S. There was a really cool YouTube video I wanted to include that was about The Hunger Games and racial diversity in YA, but I couldn’t find it.  It’s 3 minutes long, and discusses things like the racebending.com study that discovered that in 775 YA novels surveyed, only 2% had African Americans on the cover.  Check out the artical (fascinating!) and let me know if you happen to find that video!

Oh my gosh!  So this Saturday was so freaking awesome!!!  If you guys live in Texas and ever have a chance to go to the Austin Teen Book Festival, you should totally go!  Totally worth the gas and effort to get there!  (Even with the rainstorms that delayed us in 3 separate spots in the middle of nowhere….)

So we got up to leave DFW around 5 am, and made it to Austin a little after 9, which meant that we did miss the first speaker.  But that’s okay, because we  were able to hit up one of the volunteer tables and start picking up some swag!

 

 

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Okay, first off we’ve got a card for Shannon Hale’s Dangerous coming out next year in 2014.  She wasn’t there, but I have read a couple of her books, so I’m intrigued to check out this one later.

To the right we have a sample book for No Safety In Numbers by Dayna Lorentz.  Story of a ton of people all trapped in a mall during a quarantine.  I haven’t read any of the sample yet, but I’ve always thought trapping people in a mall would be a great story.  I mean, you’ve got food, toys, clothes…you could keep a moderate number of people occupied for a little while at least (especially if there’s a book store in there!).  But that mall Subway can only make so much fresh bread until they just run out of supplies.  What then?

Okay, then there’s the bookmarks from Mari Mancusi’s Scorched (think Friday Night Lights but with Dragons!) and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (a girl writing Harry Potter-esque fanfic that can’t quite let fictional life go).  I also got one for Leila Sales’s This Song Will Save Your Life (full of 90s music, yeah!) and Mindy McGinnis’s Not a Drop to Drink (post-apocalyptic with a teen sniper and no water), but both of those are already in use in my books, so oh well 😛

The top square thingy is Mindy’s business card with a quote from the book on it: “Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.”

Beneath that is a magnet for Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings with a quote: “A true scholar must not close her mind on any topic, no matter how certain she may feel.”  –Jasnah.   Now, I have to say, I’m not familiar with any of Brandon Sanderson’s books, but he had BY FAR one of the longest signing lines in the whole place, longer even than Sarah Dessen.  So maybe I’m missing out.  Anybody read his stuff?

Then at the bottom we have a big box and a tiny box, both for Sherry Thomas’s The Burning Sky.  In her words, “Harry Potter with cross-dressing”.  So the little box is hand balm, and the big box is bath tea.  Didn’t know that bath tea was a thing?  Well, guess what, neither did I.  But how cool is it to get super awesome swag that you can use in the tub???

IMG_3731Okay, so for this next free sample book, I am super duper excited!!!  It’s The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.  Alien invasions, and people seem to just be going nuts over this book.  If you haven’t seen the trailer for it, I’ll include it at the end of this post…

Next a card with some upcoming books from Penguin Teen, including Man Made Boy which looks pretty interesting (teen Frankenstein living in a theater).

Then there’s a postcard for Sara Beth Durst’s Conjured.  Now, she wasn’t there so I don’t know much about this one except it has a “dangerous magic-wielding serial killer”, which is about all I need 🙂

Okay, then we’re on to a sticker for The Infects (zombies!) by Sean Beaudoin.  Underneath that there’s the free sampler for Landry Park by Bethany Hagen.  Comes out next year, and it involves futuristic nuclear power heiress discovering that her family’s company is destroying the common man.

Last in this set we have Teen Seer Magazine which is based on Tessa Gratton’s The Lost Sun, which involves Loki , Odin Alfather, and Asgard.  Score!

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And last but not least we have my free (if slightly squished) poster for Vampire Academy.  Again, I’ll admit I haven’t ready any of these yet, but I’m a sucker for a YA book with an upcoming movie.  You know I’ll be reading it soon!

 

 

 

 

 

Seriously, I feel like I made out like a biblio-bandit!  Now, I would love to give you the rundown of the entire day, but that would make this post just the most ridiculously long thing every!  So, swag first, details of the day later.  Here’s a couple of the trailers for the books that were being promoted there, as well as one for the Vampire Academy movie!  (P.S. some of these are better than others…)

THE 5TH WAVE

NOT A DROP TO DRINK

THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE

CINDER

ASYLUM

VAMPIRE ACADEMY

Writing distraction…This little girl is so freaking cute!  She’s convinced she’s missing fireworks outside (which out make me want to stay awake, too!) and so her dad busts out a pink ukelele to keep her distracted for a while…

So, despite having the flu for half of last week, I’ve finally finished the first draft of my synopsis and…it’s terrible.  I know that without even looking back over it yet.  But it’s done, so that’s something, right?

I know I needed to do one for a couple of the agents I want to submit to, but I just really didn’t want to do it.   Which always makes writing that much harder – especially when writing about my own writing.

So now it’s 5 pages instead of the requested 2, has no quotes in it, and sucks.  BUT, that’s a starting place!  Especially considering I was out of commission for so much of last week!  (Seriously, I think I ate about 12 bananas in 3 days…)

So, now it’s on to tweaking the query letter and then back to fixing the synopsis.  The goal is to have this thing sent out by the end of the week.  Wish me luck!

P.S. Lizzie is 33 lbs!  Also, Dyson still doesn’t like her…

So…what’s new?  On the puppy front, Lizzie got her umbilical hernia repaired, and it’s finally starting to look better…

IMAG1978Trust me, it used to look way worse than that…

Also, she’s beginning to hit another Terrible…whatever stage.  Seriously, she’s gone to the kennel like 4 times today because she CANNOT QUIT BITING THINGS!  And by things, I mean everything.  Including me.  Hence the kennel to calm her down.

Also, remember when my little girl looked like this:

IMAG1894Well now she looks like this…

IMAG1985 IMAG2085And yes, that is her trying to stop me from doing my morning workout because she thinks the yoga mat is hers.  Seriously.  She freaks out if she’s in the kennel and I pull it out without her.  Little weirdo…

Also, she’s now 28 pounds.  That’s right, 28 LBS!!!!!  I don’t know how she keeps growing so freaking fast!  She’s only 4 1/2 mo old!  At this rate she’ll be bigger than Dyson!  Maybe we should stop feeding her….

Although speaking of Lizzie, I better go make sure she isn’t digging holes in the back yard right now….

 

So I’ve finally finished my novel.  It came in at right around 106k, which yes, is big, but hopefully not so big that it’ll scare the right kind of agents away.  I really am willing to cut things down, but at this point I need someone professional to tell me what those things are.  I’ve cut over 100k words from this stinking thing.  I’m so tired of it I can’t see straight.  But now I have to write up a query letter (yeah) and start sending it out…. yeah?

It’s not that I don’t want to send this thing out.  Believe me, I do.  But each new step in this process can be daunting, and while I feel I have the synopsis section of my query letter done, I’ve still got to throw in a bio and where I met these agents (I’m starting with the ones I met at DFWCON).   At least I feel like I have something to put in the bio, especially since I’ve been volunteering with the library kids for most of the year now.

Oh that reminds me, wanna see some pics?

Here’s the theater kids…

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Aren’t they adorable?  The first batch are from last semester with the homeschool kids.  The second batch is from the summer musical, Gold Dust or Bust.  The kids had a blast!

Oh, and I don’t have lots of pics of my writing kids, but here they are getting drunk of jumbo Pixie Stix and Push Pops…

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I have to say, I love all my kids.  Sure, there’s the occasional one that starts to wear on your nerves, but the great part is that with most of those kids, being an adult lets you see them differently and realize that a lot of the “annoying” ones actually have other issues they’re managing.  Like the one of the kids in the homeschool group who could not seem to let things go!!!  We finally talked to his mom, and it turns out he has epilepsy.  She’s pretty sure that it affects him being able to move on from certain subjects that interest him, and she gave us some great tips in managing him.  Huge difference.

Have to say, I feel very fortunate for the chance to work with these guys.  They’re awesome!

So that’s about it for the day.  About to go start some dinner.  Maybe seeing Percy Jackson tomorrow.  Fingers crossed it doesn’t suck as much as the first one!!

 

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So I’ve realized something recently:

I like sleep.

Not like I didn’t know this before, but I’ve realized that I like sleep more than other people.  At least more than other fictional people.

Think about it.  How often do you read a book where someone stays up all night long because of…whatever, and then it doesn’t really seem to affect them at all the next day?  Or they wake up at like 2 in the morning, and decide, “Screw it.  I’m just going to get up.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t care how bad of a dream I’ve had, whatever guilty feelings I’m dealing with, or…whatever, but I like my sleep.  If I wake up from a terrifying nightmare at 2 am, believe me, I’m going to stay in bed and try to get back to sleep.  I don’t care if it never happens all the way, and I’m lying in bed awake 2 hrs later – I’m staying in bed gosh dang it!

Heck, when Lizzie B wakes me up 10 minutes before my alarm is supposed to go off, I get ticked!  I NEED those last 10 minutes of sleep!  They’re mine and you’re not taking them away from me!  If you try, I’m just going to hit snooze a couple extra times to make up for it!

Now, I understand the convenience factor of having it sound like “life is so terrible, might as well be awake”, but I’ll tell you what, life is usually better when you’re sleeping.  Heck, in my own book one of my characters has 3 back to back nightmares and decides to get up, but even though I don’t state the time, she’s getting up more around 6 or 6:30.  You know, just before the sun gets up.  THAT feels reasonable to me.  THAT is something I would do.  And I get that everyone is different, and there are probably those of you out there who would have no problem getting up at 3 or 4 in the morning, just because you can’t sleep, but I am not one of you.  I like my sleep!

And only vampires go shopping at 4am!  (Well, vampires and college students…)