Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Best for Last...

Friends... its almost that time again, the end of the year... woot, woot!! In just a bit, my 2011 book count will be erased and 2012 will begin anew!! YAY!! New books! New books! 

At some point, I have big plans to do a blog post on my absolute favorite reads of 2011, but tonight is not that night. Tonight, I have to give a big heads up and a whoppin' WHOOO RAW!! to my very dear blogging buddy, Barbara Kloss, for her FABULOUS book, Gaia's Secret.

I'm ashamed to say that this took me MUCH longer to read than it should have. Since getting my new job, I've been flying through audio books (ask me how much I love my commute to work)... BUT, my physical reading is put-putting at a sloooooow crawl. Unfortunately, this means that--try as I might--I couldn't read Barb's book as fast as I wanted. 

I decided, though, that I would absolutely NOT let the holidays pass without finishing it... and I DID IT!! 

Pshaw. Not like it was hard. 

I absolutely FLEW through the last half of the book, and finished it tonight!!

Which is, you know, is actually kind of fitting, since its December 30th, and Gaia's Secret will end my 2011 reading in a smashing finish. I saved one of the best for last! (Even if unintentionally!)

Here's the summary that I nabbed from Barb's blog (cause, lets be honest, I suck at writing my own synopsisessss):

Eighteen-year old Daria Jones feels trapped in the cow-strewn suburbs of Fresno, California. And with a dad so overprotective he’s installed video and thermal surveillance down the street, she doesn’t get out much. Until the night he disappears. Following the trail of notes he left, Daria gathers three things: someone’s after her, her dad’s gone to another world on a cryptic mission, and the only one left to trust is her ex-best friend, Alex.

After a heart-wrenching break and three years of silence, Alex is the last person she wants to see. But the more she learns about her dad’s absence, the more she realizes she must go to that other world to find him. Even if it means trusting the guy she hates. She agrees to follow Alex through the nearest of seven portals—the heart of Yosemite National Park. But finding her dad in a strange world isn’t easy with a brigade of dark sorcerers chasing her trail.

Amidst a world of diabolical creatures, ancient magic, and bizarrely intuitive vegetation, Daria discovers the truth of her past. But unless she conquers the dark force that’s hunting her, Daria will never see her dad again. And if the dark force gets its way, the world as she knows it will never be the same.

I absolutely loved everything about this book! Especially dear, feisty Daria! Oh how I adore strong female characters! And the love angst with Alex? Oh yeah, SO lookin' forward to the sequel there! Barbara captured the essence of Gaia's magical world with ease, while her smart, quirky, fun and dashingly handsome (ahemALEXahem!) characters leave you enraptured for more! 

You can buy Gaia's Secret on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. Do yourself a favor... click on one of the links and get 'er read! You won't regret it. And don't forget to check out Barbara's blog too--she's fantastic! WAY TO GO, GIRLY!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Twas the Night before Christmas...


... when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, dear readers!!

So grateful for this time of year to be with friends and family, and to celebrate the birth of our Savior. May you all have lots of holiday cheer celebrating your respective holidays! Eat (pastries), drink (egg nog) and be MERRY during this festive season!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lollipop Rejects

In response to my wo-is-me-ing, in my last Insecure Writer's post, my oh-so-fabulous blogging buddy, Mandi, sent me a fantastic article from Writer's Digest. The article was SO freakin' fantastic, that I decided to post the whole thing, verbatim [please don't get your panties in a bunch about copyright, Writer's Digest! I shall tag the link too!] Hopefully, you other struggling, REJECTED, an yet totally AWESOME writers out there will find the same inspiration from the article's amazing-ness that I did!


By, Sue Fliess


I have the somewhat daunting task of organizing the lollipop fundraiser at my children’s school walkathon this year. You could say I represent the Lollipop Guild. So I call the local candy factory and inquire about how I can get my hands on 300 or so lollipops.
My business mind kicks into gear: Can I buy them wholesale? Do I get a discount if I pick them up? A perky woman on the other end of the phone informs me in a singsong voice that buying wholesale is “still pretty expensive.” But it turns out she’s the owner, having inherited the family business, and she kindly offers some insider advice: “Call me the morning you’re ready to make a trip to the factory, and I’ll set aside the day’s rejects for you.”
Yes, she calls them rejects.
Red flag! Are these lollipops unrecognizable as lollipops? Will I be the laughing stock of the Parent Teacher Association? Worried, I ask her, “What’s wrong with them?  Are they misshapen and damaged?” Clearly, there must be some reason these lollies didn’t make the final cut.
“Not at all,” she assures me. “They’re actually perfectly good lollipops. All of them are very pretty and taste great. We reject them for a variety of reasons.”
My heart skips three beats and my hairline tingles with sweat. I’m having post-traumatic rejection disorder as my mind flings me sideways into my writing world. I’m reliving the opening of letter after letter from editors who gingerly (or not so gingerly) explained why my story didn’t make the cut: “We decline manuscripts for a variety of reasons; we’re sorry, but this one just wasn’t right for us.”
Whatever the reason, rejection is rejection. “REJECTED” may not be stamped on the letter, but that’s the only word I see.
Returning my attention to the call, I realize the woman is telling me that some lollipops are too big, too small, too thin or too thick. Some come off the line with insufficient swirls, lackluster colors or slightly skewed designs. Some are too long while others are too short. The list goes on and on.
Overcome with a magnanimity that surprises even me, I proclaim, “I will save your rejects!” And I vow to take these lollipops and give them a home.
My first book was rejected 24 times. My story may not have been too fat or too long, but I heard other reasons, including, but certainly not limited to: too slight; too sweet, not enough guts; we just bought a book like yours. The colors were skewed. It lacked swirl and sparkle. In essence, my story wasn’t right for their palates.
I’d pored over those letters, some personalized, some form, some not even getting the title of my story correct, as if some kind of manuscript rejection wizard might leap from the paper and tell me what I’d been doing wrong, reveal the key to publication. To vent my frustration, I’d punished the letters—sending them straight to the three-hole puncher without dessert, and burying them in my not-so-thin Manuscript Rejection Binder (for which my spouse nearly had me committed).
But the binder had come to serve a deeper purpose. Eventually, instead of clicking my sequined heels together and wishing for home, I decided to view these rejections as poppies in the field, slowing me down but for a brief moment before waking me up and kicking my sorry behind back onto the path. No wizard appeared, but the rejections spoke to me in a way. They gave me the nerve to keep going. And I believed in my story. Even though I may have thought it was perfect the way it was, I sat down and made it better. I continued to submit that manuscript, determined to reach the Oz of the writing world: publication.
Thinking back to that binder makes me even more curious about the rejected lollies. The next morning, I call the factory and make the drive to the outskirts of San Jose to pick up my first batch of rejects. And are they ever glorious! Too long, too short, too swirly, too plain, too blasted with color, too void of color, too thick, too thin. I devour their random sparkle, their irregularity, their courage. I suck in their bravery. These lollies popped off the assembly line screaming, “I am different, and I am beautiful!”
I pay the young woman from the phone and she helps me carry more than 300 lollipops to my car. From the back of the factory, her mother smiles and waves to me. “Take good care of them,” she says. I nod. The kids at my boys’ school will love them.
The lollipops are amazing, each in its own way. Sweet, full of charm, and waiting to be opened by a child with a squeal of delight. They are all dazzling. And each one has a story to tell—they just needed someone to listen.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I Hate Your Stinkin' Guts

Its that time again.... Insecure Writer's Gang, here I am!

And--oh--am I SO all over the insecure thing or WHAT this month...

What happens when the agent you've just received a full ms request from,  declares after reading, that she does not like anything about your ms?

That was not a rhetorical question. 

I really WOULD like to know.

"Excited Julie" face
See, cause I just got sandblasted by this agent I was REALLY excited about the possibility of working with. Lets not even mention the fact that she was a totally like-minded individual that I'd probably be bosom buddies with in another life, and just go strait to the part where she asked for the whole freakin' thing after a COLD CONTACT EMAIL QUERY, THREE FULL CHAPTERS, AND A MEASLY TWO DAY WAIT!!!! I about died when I got her request. 

With happiness, that is. But then...

PSYCH!

Not really, loser. Shoulda known it NEVER works out that easy. 

After another short wait, she contacts me back and--although VERY polite-- pretty much tells me she doesn't like anything about my book. Not my characters. Not my humor. Not my plot line. And not my third person writing style, which she called an "omnipotent narrator." 

Not that she wasn't nice about it, of course. In fact, I almost didn't even realize that she was telling me off, since she was so sugary-sweet-let-me-down-easy kind of nice. 

But then I got to reading... and reading... and REreading that rejection, and I done found out that she didn't really like ANY of it! 


"Sad Julie" face
Talk about crushed hopes and dreams. 

After drowning my sorrows in Diet Coke, taking my angst out on poor Hubbs, then seriously considering scrapping my ENTIRE ms and starting over from scratch (don't worry, my critique group talked me off the ledge), I started wondering if anything she said had merit. And if so, how do I tell?? When an important someone in the publishing industry tells you that some of your favorite (and major plot line) aspects of your book totally sucked.... what do you do?


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Oh yeah, did I mention?...

I got to meet HIM....

EEEEEEeeeeeek!!! 

By the way.... "HIM"=Brandon Sanderson... only one of my FAVORITE writers EVER!! If you've never heard of HIM, do yourself a favor, drive to the library pronto and check something out. 

Better yet? 

Save yourself the trouble and hit up Barnes and Noble.... cause you're probably going to want to own his books anyway ( :

As a side note, I should point out my smile in that picture. I think I did a remarkably good job at it (smiling, that is), considering I just finished a nine hour work day PLUS a 4 hour wait in line to get our book signed (without breaks, mind you). I feel I should receive kudos for that ( : Haha. 

And here's the thing about Brandon... I like fantasy... but I'm not like a HUGE fantasy buff... know what I'm saying? I don't own season passes to the local renascence festival, and I won't be crushed if the epic-never-ending-I-didn't-know-where-to-stop-or-how-to-edit-my-plot-line Robert Jordan books never get made into movies. I just won't. 

But Brandon Sanderson takes fantasy to a whole new level. 

Example? Ever notice how most fantasy books bear a striking resemblance to Lord of the Rings

Yeah. I love ya Tolkien, but really guys? Lets let Tolkien be Tolkien. Which is EXACTLY what my man B-dawg does! Not a lick of Tolkien ANYWHERE! He is SO creative! The worlds and magic systems he creates are truly unique. And his strong female characters? Love 'em. 

Plus he ALWAYS gets me on who the bad guy is. 

Seriously. EVERY time. 

Needless to say, meeting him was FAN-FREAKIN'-TASTIC! Emphasis on the FAN... because--I'll be honest--despite all my attempts to come across as a calm, cool, collected admirer, I'm quite sure that in all my giddiness, I probably sounded like an excited groupie on steroids. Haha. 

(But so NOT funny when I think about it!!) 

Luckily, Brandon was very kind and looked past all my groupie faults. [relief!] He even spent a handful of minutes discussing agents and book writing techniques with me when I asked.

Now if that isn't a writer dedicated to his fans, I don't know what is!!

Oh... AND we got a signed copy of his new book!

[Bounces up and down in chair!]

Which, of course, I haven't started yet... but I have big plans for Thanksgiving weekend.

Whew! Now you know what I've been doing instead of my own writing: goo-ing and fawning over OTHER writers' work. Bahahahaha! No one said this job was easy ( ;

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Bloopers

And THIS, friends, is why we have critique groups...


To edit out our stupid, stupid, STUPID mistakes!! Bahahahahahahaha!! 

By the way, if you don't get why this is bad, THAT's GOOD!... It prolly just means you're out of the loop with middle school locker room humor.

You are very mature. Go ahead... pat yourself on the back.

Heehee. 

So tell me... what stupid, oh-my-gosh-I'm-gunna-die-of-embarrassment writing mistakes have YOU made?! Spill it, peeps. I know I'm not the only one!! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More Delicious Dark YA!

I fear I've fallen hopelessly behind on my blog life again. [sighs]. So much work. So little time to write. And blog. Booooo! 

On the bright side, it IS nice to be making the $$ again now that I'm out of school! [happy dance!]

Luckily, I have totally rock awesome blog fests to draw me back into the fray again! This week's Dark YA Blogfest topic is to cast a dark YA book, OR create a soundtrack. 

I chose to cast. 

Why?

I don't know. Perhaps because it seemed like it would require LESS brain power than creating a soundtrack. Bahahahaha! 

ANY-way! The book I chose to cast is: The Power of Six, by Pittacus Lore. 

Now before you get your panties all bunched in a knot, LET ME ASSURE YOU, I'm well aware that the first book (I Am Number Four, for those of you living under large rocks) has--in fact--been cast and made its way onto the big screen. HOWEVER, I'm not even sure if The Power of Six has even been optioned yet, let alone cast. (Someone please tell me I'm wrong!) And if it hasn't, some producer is missing out on some serious dough. In my oh-so-humble opinion, The Power of Six rocked the socks off I Am Number Four



And as far as casting goes, don't worry... I won't be messin' with the likes of John/Number Four (Mr. Pettyfer), who is, lets be honest, totally swoon worthy... 







OR Six (Teresa Palmer), who is so I'm-gunna-kick-your-freakin'-Mogadorian-trash kind of cool that--I'm not gunna lie--I kind of want to be her. Just sayin'.



But luckily, there are LOTS of other freakin' awesome to faces to cast for this much-anticipated sequel....



Seven/Marina: Odette Yustman (a newer actress, but she TOTALLY has the face for it, I think!)
















Ten/Ella: Savanna Lewis (would prolly have to darken those pretty blonde locks to make her look Hispanic, but this girl is a kick butt actress!)










Hector: Armand Assante (I TOTALLY thought of this guy EVERY time Hector came up in the book! For those of you who are Chuck fans, he plays President Alejando Goya in a couple episodes with Captain Awesome and Elle. Woot, woot! Love me some Chuck!)



Nine: Matthew Lawrence (honestly, I don't even know if this kid can act, but I saw this pic and went--YES! Thats who I picture! Someone with kind of a long, oval shaped face with brown hair and a cocky look [sorry Matt]... and I don't even know if that's REALLY what Nine looks like in the book, but its what I see in my head, so we're gunna go for it!)




So there ya have it, that's my casting for the day! There are a few more characters that I probably could (and should) have cast, but this girl is getting sleepy... a long day + a long commute = grumpy Julie. Its prolly best to let me and my snuggly teddy and memory foam mattress be. (Haha) Consider my contribution to the Dark YA Blogfest done!! Yay! 

Not that the fest is over. Just that I actually did it. Yeah.

And seriously, if you haven't read The Power of Six... DO IT! I'm not kidding, it knocked the pants (or socks?) off I Am Number Four... which was also good, of course.... but still... the sequel totally rocked. And look... would this face lie to you? [Insert awesome Julie face] No!

HAPPY READING!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Insecure Writer's Group: Moral Dilemmas

Wow... I must seriously be on a roll here. Two posts in two days? Hell is probably freezing over. Just so you know.

Haha. I'm a joker. 

Anyway, as the first Wed-nes-day of the month, it's time for the wonderful Insecure Writer's Group post! [Horray!] Although, unlike most of my posts, I have something to talk about this time that's a little less jovial than my normal oh-so-sarcastic self. This is because I really wanted to find something that I am truly, TRULY deep down and insecure about, rather than something I'm just kind of insecure about. I think this group can do a lot of good, but I don't want to be talking about superfical insecurities when the issues we SHOULD be hashing out are the hard ones! 

So as I was thinking about something I could talk about that just makes my skin crawl with insecurity, I came up with this:

I worry a lot when my writing isn't exactly in line with the "standards" "morals" "social norms"--whatever you want to call them--that I grew up with. Mostly because I worry about offending people who are close to me.

See, here's the thing, when I create my characters, I try to be true to that character. If my character is a no-good-dirty-rotten scum bag, well then, he's a dirty rotten scum bag and I'm gunna write him that way! Would I personally torture and murder a guy out of political motivations? Absolutely not. But would my bad guy? You better believe it! The problem is that some people find this aggression offensive, even when its purely fiction and does not reflect on my own personal views whatsoever. 

I guess you could say that I'm insecure about offending people close to me [I don't care about you strangers... haha! Jk!] But the bad guys have to be bad... know what I'm saying? 

How do you balance this issue? Trying not to be overly offensive but still getting your point across? I know the easy answer is to just say: "Poo on you! I don't care if you're offended or not!" But really? That's actually NOT the easy answer. Because then, you know, you're like the talk of the family reunion. And not in a good way. Familia exile for life. That kind of thing. 

Okay, so I'm being a bit extreme. But you get the idea. 

My point is, that this is a tough act for me to balance. And since I know some of you don't even worry about it, or have your solutions down to a science, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dark YA Blogfest!

Hellooooo, peeps! Its me again, and lookie, LOOKIE!! It hasn't been that long since my last post! Whew! I hope I didn't lose any stragglers there... 

So November marks the month of the oh-so-fabulous Dark YA blogfest, hosted by: Kelley York, Heather McCorkleChrista Desir, and E.R. King.Woot, woot! Three cheers for blogfests! Cause lets be honest... for those of us with crazy busy jobs, blogfests give us a reason to give some blog love every now and again ( : Its like having a deadline... I always work better with deadlines. So with no more gilding the Lilly... 

THE RULES:

1. Put the I LOVE DARK YA badge on your sidebar or at the top of each of the posts you do for the fest. Make sure you link it back to the YAtopia linky sign-up.

2. Visit blogs of your hosts and other participants if you can. Interact. Make some friends. It’ll be more fun!
3. Your blog post needs to be up on Wednesday. You can post early if you want, but people will be hopping on Wednesdays.

The themes for this blogfest:



WEEK ONE...
November 2nd: Blog about your favorite dark YA book(s). 



WEEK TWO...
November 9th: Write a 500-word or less flash fiction piece inspired by this picture—





WEEK THREE...

November 16th: Music and Movie Fun—Take a dark YA book and build a soundtrack for it or cast characters for a movie version.



WEEK FOUR...
November 23rd: #YASAVES—Blog about how a dark YA book made an impact in your life.



WEEK FIVE...
November 30th: Waiting on Wednesday—What dark YA book are you most looking forward to? 



On the final day of the blogfest, the hosts will each be doing a giveaway on their blogs. Any of the I LOVE DARK YA blogfest participants may enter. Sign-ups will remain open for the entire month of October. Thanks for joining in the fun! 


So this week, I'm to post my fav. Dark YA book. Aaaaaaand, I'll be honest... this is where I chew my fingernails, stare blankly into the audience and go "Errrrrr?" 

Cause I'm not sure what qualifies as Dark YA. 

I get dark. And I get YA. But it kind of seems to me like MOST YA is dark these days.... doesn't it? Hopefully I'm not missing any specific parameters on what does and does not qualify as dark YA. If I am, just nod and smile. Its what Hubbs does every time I say something blonde-ish ( :

ANY-whooo... moving on! Like many of you, its impossible for me to pick out an all time fav book. Even when you narrow the categories down to genre or a category--like, say "dark YA"--it's still tough. I like books. What can I say? 

In dire, life threatening situations (or during blogfests), I CAN, however, come up with a handful of favs. So, plucked among my handful of Dark YA favs (with no discrimination against my other favs whatsoever), this is the Dark YA book I've chosen to represent me:

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting. 

For me, this book took creepy to a whole new level. Hubbs will tell you (because we often argue the merits of sword-and-dragon fantasy vs. real life fantasy), that I L.O.V.E. books that are MOSTLY real, with just bits of paranormalcy and fantasy thrown in. I like being able to imagine that crazy fantastic things can happen in our world of normalcy. And this book? Is just that: Realistically Creepy.... with a bit of paranormal love.

Did I mention creepy? Oh yeah. I'm talking serial-killer-stalking-and-killing-teenage-girls-in-small-rural-town kind of creepy. The bit of paranormal spice thrown in, is that the main character, Violet, can sense the dead. The killer and the body have identical "echos" that get stronger whenever she is close to either. 

Serial Killer? Girl who can sense dead bodies? You see where this is going. 

Creeptastic. 

This book gave me chills. Probably because I watch too much Criminal Minds, but that's a problem for another day. 

I also adored the romance aspect of the book! (Notice the italics for emphasis? Haha!) What I loved was that Violet and Jay started out as besties. Their relationship was so real. And not that I don't adore the love-at-first-sight stories too... cause I do. But there is something so sweet and honest about two best friends discovering that they love each other.

[cue sappy music]

Plus, Jay is such a stinkin' sweetheart! Their relationship seriously melted me. 

What more can I say? Read it. Love it. I know you will ( :


P.s. Did I mention there is a sequel? [OH YEAHHHHH!]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Neglected

Yes, unfortunately, my dearest blog and bloggers and bloggees, I am sad to announce (because CLEARLY, you haven't figured it out already), you have ALL been neglected. I have neither posted nor commented on posts in QUITE an embarrassing amount of time. Its true. I'm a blip bloggity failure.

[hangs head in shame]

This is all cause I'm so dag blasted busy! And prolly cause I have such a dag blasted long commute everyday. And I HAD hoped that my weekend vacay to Utah with Hubbs would give me such much-needed R&R and possibly even a little blog time... BUT...

instead I just feel even more haggard than when I left.

Go figure.

Which goes to say why I don't have any fabulous writing thoughts at the moment. I'm plum out of good ideas... or rather... I'm plum out of the energy to execute said good ideas.

But on the bright side, its autumn in Utah [happy dance!] and I DID manage to get some oh-so-fabuloso fall photos... did I mention I love photography? I love photography!





Oh yeah, AND I got to see my sissies... YAY!


Aren't we cute?! I think so.

ANY-whooo... consider this my lazy-update blog post wherein I merely indulge my photography addiction. I cross-my-heart-hope-to-die to put more writing-ness into my next go.... Until next time, dear bloggos and bloggetts! I hope that it won't be such a long separation this time!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Payin' it Forward!

So FIIIIIIIIINALLY! The workday has ended (woot, woot!!) and I am able to sit down at this here lap top and write a much needed Pay it Forward blog post! Truthfully, I've been feelin' guilty all day, since my phone has been buzzing with comments from so many oh-so-awesome blogging peeps visiting my blog for the first time!


And what do you know? Even with all these awesome visitors, I had no new posts to show for it.

LAME-O!!!

This is me trying to remedy that! I figured since y'all (haha... look at me, I'm turnin' all Texas on you!) are giving me so much blog love, I really need to get my lazy little rear in gear and do my own paying!


The purpose of the Pay it Forward Blogfest, is to introduce us poor struggling wanna-be writers (and, okay, the lucky ones who are already published too!) to 3 new AWESOME bloggers! If you're new to the blogging scene, this blogfest is really quite inspired. I have personally been blown away by the amount of writing support I've found via my blogging buddies, so I think a blog hop specifically designed to meet more cool writing peeps is pure genius!

So without further ado, here is me "paying it forward," as a part of Matthew MacNish and Alex Cavanaugh's Pay it Forward Blogfest!

(1) S.L. Hennessey--this girl, in a word, ROCKS. I met Lauren at the Houston Writer's Guild earlier this year, and we hit it off right away! If you like comic books, nerdy movies, strong female characters and an incredibly supportive friend who's always got-yer-back, this is your girl! Plus, she just signed with her new agent last month (OH YEAH!!) so she'll be on her way to the big leagues soon!

(2) Barbara Kloss--Remember how I was talking about how I was blown away by all the incredible amount of support I found in the online blogging community? Barb is the PERFECT example of this! Her blog is awesome... great writing insights, lots of funny stories, posts and pics, and the best part? She LOVES to comment back! (Admit it, we all love that!) Barb just published her fab novel--Gaia's Secret--and has gotten quite the popular ratings back for it! Go Barb!

(3) M.S. Tucker--Mandy's blog is so insightful. I remember being one of the first followers on her blog, but it was crazy because I remember thinking she had such a confident writing voice... like she'd been bloggin' for years! She is seriously stinkin' hilarious, and if you aren't following her posts, you're totally missing out! Plus, just like Lauren and Barb, Mandy is an incredible source of support for the struggling author. Check her out!

Any-whoooo... those are my peeps this time! Let me tell ya.... it was ridiculously hard to pick JUST three when there are SO many amazing bloggers and writers out there who are both fun to read and an incredible support to me. I'm thinkin' maybe we can do this fest again sometime?

[hint, hint, wink, wink, Alex and Matt!]

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Insecure Writers Club

Today is Wednesday, the FIRST Wednesday of October [hooray for fall!] and I have--dear readers--decided to join the Insecure Writers Support Group.

Hi. My name is Julie. And I'm an insecure writer.

Haha! I crack myself up.

ANY-whooo... this fabulous group, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh, is designed to share and encourage the fears we've had (and overcome!) as writers, as well as offer assistance and guidance to others who may be struggling. And... lets face it. We're ALL struggling, insecure writers!

Which is why I think this group is SO FREAKIN' COOL!!

Not that we're all struggling. I wish we weren't. I wish we were all best sellers. But what IS so freakin' cool that there are SO many of us out there, and therefore SO many peeps with good advice to share! Rock on. Without a doubt, the best thing about being a writer is having writer friends. Hence, I'm super duper excited about this group and hope to meet lots of awesome writers with lots of AWESOME advice! Hopefully I'll be able to share a little brilliance of my own too [fingers crossed].

So without further ado... my insecurity, which was fought. And overcome.

The Audience Scare. [cue scary music].

Just a week or so ago, I ran across a writing contest called Can You Hook a Teen? If this sounds familiar to you, its probably because you entered the contest. Or read about it. Or thought about entering. Or considered how scary it would be to have your work read by ACTUAL teens [gasp], and ran for your freakin' lives!! This last group of people were the smart ones. Haha.

I, however, was NOT in the smartie pants group. I entered.

Now, to be honest, I did not expect to win. It never even crossed my mind. I submitted the 250 words of my ms [which is still posted below, for your viewing pleasure, if you're interested], JUST because it seemed like a fun thing to do! [Hardy, har. Fun. Riiiiiight] I was clearly delusional. A few days went by. I didn't really think about it. Then the winners were announced, and ...[surprise, surprise]... Keepers was not listed as one of the "hooker" manuscripts of the day.

And I felt... disappointment. What?!

"Self," I thought, "how can you possibly be disappointed when you NEVER expected to win in the first place?"

Self, unfortunately, did not have an answer for this odd turn of emotions. But Self DID, however, expound on my random feelings of disappointment. My next thought (after being pummeled by a round of water balloons from the pity band wagon) was:

"Holy crap!! I can't hook a teen! They hated it! I'm DOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED!"

In the next few hours of pure panic, I went through every element of my book. Every chapter, every character, every plot twist, and every cliff hanger, trying to figure out WHAT DID I DO WRONG?! 

See, in my delirium, I thought that because these two random teen judges (TWO, mind you, just two) did not find my first 250 words particularly catching, that clearly... CLEARLY... my book was actually NOT a YA novel. Or worse, that my book was a load of horse poo and wouldn't catch an agent OR make it to the publishers whether it was YA, Adult, Mid Grade or anything in between.  

This, was crazy talk.

Now I'm not saying that my book doesn't need improvements (cause it does). Or that I deserve an agent RIGHT NOW (though I want one). Or even that my first 250 words really are totally rock star awesome (even though, I think they're pretty good).

What I'm saying--and what I had to remind myself of, after I had calmed somewhat--is that not EVERYONE is going to like my book. So two teenie bopers didn't like my first 250? Big deal! [Lets be honest, it's probably because I didn't have a sparkly vampire or a freakin' hot underage werewolf ripping off his shirt.]

I had to remind myself that it is humanly impossible to please every single audience member. Even Stephenie Meyer and J-freain'-K Rowling have hater clubs. Bad reviews will come. We will, at times, wish to drown ourselves in Ben and Jerry's or host the world's biggest pity party, just cause we can.

AND THAT's OKAY!

Just so long as we remember to take the GOOD reviews with the bad. We can't just focus on the bad, peeps. The bad comes with the good... but the GOOD comes with the bad too! Separate the good critique from the nasty comments or pointless self pity, and move forward with confidence!

Anyway. That's my pick-me up advice for the day. After re-evaluation and panic mode have subsided, I've realized, that yes, my book is still YA. And no, it does not completely suck. And yes, I will try not to focus on the review that two random teenage girls gave me (or rather, DIDN'T give me).

What are YOUR thoughts on this? Anyone have similar experience to share?


Monday, September 26, 2011

Banned Books Week Giveaways

Hey peeps!

Ever noticed how some of the BEST books you've ever read have ended up on the "banned" list at one point or another?

Yeah. Lame.

One of these days we'll figure out that the value of literature cannot be measured by what challenges societal norms, morals, thinking and beliefs.

Or... maybe we CAN...

After all, if your book ends on the banned list, perhaps its destined for greatness? Think about it.

Anyway, in honor of Banned Books Week, my rock awesome blogging buddy, Heather McCorkle, is doing a banned books giveaway. Check out her blog and show support for her own newly released YA masterpiece!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Can You Hook a Teen?

Woot, woot! An exciting bloghop contest for ALL YA writers... peeps, its time for us to test our skillzzzz agains those who really count:

The teens.

[Gulp]

Here's the rules: enter the first 250 words of your YA ms here (finish the sentence if 250 falls in the middle somewhere!) by Midnight (MST) on September 23. Then hop around and critique everyone else's entries! 

Sorry this is kinda late notice, as it is already 8:32 MST.... but as I'm sitting here pulling my hair out over COLLEGE FOOTBALL STRESS this Friday night (seriously, Jake-freakin'-Heaps?? Enough with the turnovers!!), I thought I'd do a little blog surfing (coughSTALKINGcough) and found this. If you have time before midnight tonight, go ahead and add your entry! If not, enjoy reading the other enteries here!

My Entry:

Title: Keepers of the Flame
Genre: YA Pre-Dystopian Political Thriller

Essie stopped.

Through the clamor of escalating chaos, something screamed at her, demanding her attention.

But there was no time. The seconds continued their reckless march towards the cataclysmic event she knew was coming and was powerless to stop.

She shouldn’t stop. She needed to keep running.

It pulled harder.

One glance couldn’t hurt . . . right?

With a shiver, she turned.

That moment, the earth halted in orbit and time froze. Essie felt the catch slip, closing her old life forever. A new door opened, a wide expanse stretching out in front of her, full of pain.

“No,” she whispered.

Too late.

Essie screamed and recoiled at the flash of brilliant orange light. The earth quivered under her feet and the deafening explosion cracked through the night like a gunshot. In an instant, the monumental stone dome caved, sending a column of black smoke into the atmosphere.

It wasn’t a minute. It wasn’t even a second. But it felt like eternity.

Essie watched the figure on the stairs throw his hands protectively over his head. For a brief moment, their eyes met. Essie sobbed. She reached out as if to touch him one final time. His kind eyes held hers, lips parting to whisper a last, silent message.

I love you.

The inferno consumed him.

The explosion hit Essie like a wrecking ball. She gasped, her body blown backwards by the sheer strength of the blast. Essie wasn’t sure how far she flew. She didn’t care.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Page Turner Panic

[sighs dreamily]

Soooo... I just finished another fantastic page turner, peeps! And I am going to tell you what it is. Why? Because I am a good friend, and want you to partake in the goodness also... did I mention that I'm such a good friend? I am.

[pats self on back]

Hehe. Just kidding. About the self glorified friend part. Not about telling you the book. Which I will....now:

Ally Condie's Matched.

Eeeeeeek!! SUCH a good book!

Today, as I was preparing to post about this awesome book (aka: while I was retrieving an suitable image off of Google), I read on a (coughTOTALLYLAMEcough) website, someone comparing this to book Twilight. Not that I don't like Twilight [TEAM EDWARD!!], but I actually had to stop and think about what this person was saying when they were comparing it to our beloved sparkly vampire/werewolf fantasy.

Then it clicked. [Light bulb!]

Ohhhhh.... riiiiight. The love triangle.

I get it. Any boy/girl/boy love triangle from now until the end of time will probably be compared to Twilight. But honestly? I didn't think Matched was that similar. A) Because this girl is much more assertive than Bella. And B) because there was no wishy-washy Bella-can't-make-up-her-mind-which-man-she-wants nonsense...

...wait... those are kind of both the same thing... ANY-whooo!

Although there were (admittedly) two guys forming a love triangle with said girl in this book, I didn't feel like this book was at all like Twilight. The girl [Casia] never wavered on which boy she wanted (despite there being another one in the picture). Needless to say, I didn't make the "this-is-like-Twilight" connection until that website-er pointed it out.

But then again, maybe I'm just dense.

At any rate, it is my oh-so-humble opinion that Matched falls more along the dystopian Hunger Games line that are filling the shelves these days. Some would say "saturating" the shelves... but you know what? I kinda like 'em.

And I LOVED this book! As a happy bit of news, the saga continues on November 1st with Condie's release of Crossed, the sequel to Matched [hooray!] Is there anything better than a much anticipated sequel? I think not.

However, I now have a problem: I've run out of page turners to read.

THIS is the one thing I hate about reading good books! Every time I finish one, I get that break-out-in-cold-sweat panicked feeling of knowing that the next book I pick up cannot possibly be as good as the one I just finished! I'm feelin' it right now. I'm feelin' it BAD!  

So help me out here, dear reader friends. Page turner recommendations? I'm in desperate need of a rebound book!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bumper Sticker Bogus

I swear, hubbs is going for mucho hubby brownie points or something tonight. After dinner, he nuzzles up to me and says:

"Hey babe, you haven't written a blog post in like two weeks. Why don't you go do that while I do dishes."

Como say wha?! (That's Spanglish for "Huh?!)

Not one to turn down a skip-to-GO-and-collect-two-hundred-dollars-for-free card, I gladly accepted! Consider your mucho hubby brownie points awarded, babe!

So... now what to talk about on my golden monopoly card night? (Which is, of course, the skip-to-GO card and Wonka-golden-ticket combo package)...

Email tag lines. Why? Because I had a bad experience with one the other day. And yeah... I gotta admit, I'm just not a fan.

Look, I get that adding "Smile, life is beautiful!" to every email you send is supposed to add the warm, happy fuzzy feeling of inspiration to a person's day. And you know what? Who am I to judge, maybe some people ARE inspired by such email tags.

But not me. Why?

They're kind of like the posters plastering the walls of every dentist office in the continental US. YOU know the ones. Since I'm quite certain they aren't up for their asthetically pleasing nature, there can be only one reason for their decorative presence. And I'm sorry, Doc, but the cute kitten-hanging-from-a-tree-branch poster with the "Hang in there!" tag line does NOT make me feel better about the whole needle-and-drill routine.  

[Shrugs]. Sorry. 

Bumper stickers. Dentist office posters. Email tag lines. They're all kind of fake. Know what I mean? A superficial method of inspiration. Call me a cynic, I know.

ANY-who, so I'm sittin' there at work the other day, minding my own business, and I get this email with one of the most ridiculous email tags in the history of email tags. Okay, so maybe not THE most ridiculous, but it was pretty darn close:

"We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails."

Now, I kind of sorta maybe DON'T get what is so inspiring about this "inspirational" quote. This was my translation:

"If the situation isn't taking you where you want to go, reevaluate your destination!"

Meh?? That kind of stupidity ranks up there with Lady Gaga wearing her meat dress to a dog fight.

[Hardy, har. Lame joke alert!]

Now granted, I'm not a sailor. It is, perhaps, possible that if you wanna go north but the winds are blowin' south, that you can adjust the sails to take you north AGAINST the winds. But somehow, I just don't think it works that way. At least--as a non sailor personnel--I don't see how that could physically work. Hence, my translation of said tag. Which I maintain: is ridiculous.

Most of you, dear readers, are writers. Most of you are not published. But most of you are also working your little rear ends off to GET published. And just in case you haven't realized it yet, the wind ain't NEVER gunna be blowin' you to publication my friends! We have to sweat blood and tears to MAKE it happen. Does that mean we reevaluate our goals?

I think not.

Here's what I propose that email sender change her tag line to:

"If you can't change the wind... cannon ball, belly flop or dive outta that freakin' boat and start swimming the direction YOU want to go!"

But that's just my opinion.

What lame tag, bumper sticker or dentist office poster lines have YOU come across?!

Musica