Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012 is almost over, and we're all still here! I've been enjoying a relaxing week with my family leading up to Christmas. I've baked. I've written. I've read. A Lord of the Rings movie marathon followed our family reading and trip to see the Hobbit on the big screen. It's been a good week, and it's been a good year.
I am so glad to have spent another year blogging with you all in this fantastic community. Many thanks are due to Brenda Drake for all the work she does for fellow writers, and I am so excited to say that the awesome, startacular, brilliant Deana Barnhart, chose me as her teammate and mentee for Brenda's Pitch Wars, a pitchfest involving 37 teams and 16 agents, continuing to the final round on January 23-24. For more information about Brenda and Pitch Wars, click here. And please check out my mentor Deana here!
In writing, I've sailed my YA fantasy Trespassers through more revisions than I can count, and I've nearly finished the first draft of my NaNoWriMo magical realism project.
In reading, the bookshelves keep overflowing. My TBR list continues to grow, and there are never enough hours in the day to read. I wanted to wrap-up with some of my top reads of the year.
Best New Voice:
The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Best Contemporary:
Counting Backwards by Laura Lascarso
Best Fantasy World Building:
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Best SciFi /Adventure:
Midnight City by J. Baron Mitchell 
Best Adult Read:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Best Conclusion to a Series:
Black Heart by Holly Black
And for my music of the day, I picked my favorite new album of 2012:
Synthetica by Metric
Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year everyone! May your stockings be filled with books, and your homes filled loved ones!


Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: Midnight City

Today I'm reviewing Midnight City by J. Baron Mitchell, another book I read courtesy of the Southern Book Bloggers ARC tours.
The Summary, adapted from Goodreads:

Earth has been conquered by an alien race known as the Assembly. Holt Hawkins is a bounty hunter, and his current target is Mira Toombs, an infamous treasure seeker with a price on her head. It’s not long before Holt bags his prey, but their instant connection isn’t something he bargained for. Neither is the Assembly ship that crash-lands near them shortly after. Venturing inside, Holt finds a young girl who remembers nothing except her name: Zoey.

As the three make their way to the cavernous metropolis of Midnight City, they encounter young freedom fighters, mutants, otherworldly artifacts, pirates, feuding alien armies, and the amazing powers that Zoey is beginning to exhibit. Powers that suggest she may be the key to stopping the Assembly once and for all.

The teaser for this book bills it as War of the Worlds meets Lord of the Flies. I'd take it a step further to say it has the world-building of War of the Worlds meets the theme of Lord of the Flies meets the tone and character development of Joss Whedon's Firefly. Now I'm a big fan of Joss, so that likely went a long way in fueling my love for this book. (If you're a fan, too, let me entice you by saying Holt is undeniably a teen version of Captain Mal.) But that's not the only reason I loved it.

Mitchell has created a post-apocalyptic world so rich and diverse that you'll forget you're tired of dystopian. The characters are intensely likable and flawed, with a building attraction that fits the time and space perfectly. I also really appreciated the pacing, tension, and the style of writing, all of which I think would appeal to both reluctant, young male readers and anyone looking for a quirky but expansive story. (I don't usually recommend my YA reads to my husband, but I'm going to buy this one just so he can read it. That's how much I loved it.) The only negative? Waiting for part two in the series.

5 out of 5 stars.

Music for today: Well, of course, Midnight City by M83.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Book Review: Beta by Rachel Cohn

Happy December! First for a NaNoWriMo update, in case you were curious: I won! (Sort of.) I wrote eighteen chapters and a little over 50,000 words in the month of November on my YA magical realism manuscript codenamed Serenity. (A little Joss Whedon homage, which has nothing to do with the book at all, but it makes me smile to see that title in my file folder.) I can't quite say that I'm finished, though. I've got about five chapters and about 15,000 words to go, with a goal of finishing before Christmas. Anyhoo...

Today I'm reviewing Beta by Rachel Cohn, which I read through an ARC tour by the Southern Book Bloggers.
The Summary, adapted from Goodreads:

Elysia is a Beta, an experimental model of a teenage clone, created in a laboratory and born as a sixteen-year-old girl. Elysia's purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Beneath the island's flawless exterior, an undercurrent of discontent exists among Demesne's worker clones. Elysia knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care--so why are overpowering sensations clouding Elysia's mind?

If anyone discovers that Elysia isn't the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When her one chance at happiness is ripped away, rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her. Elysia must find the will to survive before it's too late. 

Cohn transports the reader to Demesne, a perfect world where clones are slaves and the humans are still not satisfied, even when they have everything. She even does an excellent job of incorporating the outside world and political complications through the supporting characters. Elysia's voice rings true from the opening chapter, and my connection to her kept me turning the pages, even when I questioned some of the plot development.

In the interest of staying spoiler-free, I'll just say that one of the major plot propellants shocked me, and not in a good way. This is definitely an upper-YA book, with sexual situations and a violent turn. I read a wide range in MG, YA, and adult fiction, and these kinds of situations don't bother me when they're an authentic development of the story. In Beta, though, I felt a disconnect when the tone shifted dramatically in the last quarter of the book. I respect Rachel Cohn immensely as a story-teller, but Beta just wasn't my cup of tea.

3 out of 5 stars.
Music for today: Bring on the Night by The Police

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hi everyone! I apologize for my very sporadic posts. I decided to join in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and 1700+ words per day on a shiny new manuscript doesn't leave much time for other writing endeavors. Honestly, I never expected to come close to 50,000 words in one month. I average 1,000 words per day when I'm writing well, and I'm okay with that. But committing to NaNoWriMo for me meant committing  to write as many words as possible each day in this month that is filled with fall festivals and school parties and football and family gatherings.

It's not over yet, but I am on target to finish. (Yay!) And this is me doing the part where I tell the world, so I have that extra incentive to  keep up during this holiday week and make it to the finish line. I could hardly believe it when I crossed the halfway point a few days ago. They may not be the best words. Ninety percent may end up being rewritten. But as a pantser this month of literary abandon is working for me. It's allowing me to try out my main character's voice, and to figure out where the plot is going without worrying about what I'll have to change later, because I can just accept that most of it will have to change. I enjoy all the stages of writing a novel, but to me, this is the fun part.

This may be my last post for November, but I'll be back soon with a review of Rachel Cohn's Beta and the next installment in my Music Lessons series featuring Jack White. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving! I am so thankful for all of my blessings. My savior Jesus. Family and friends. Health and home. Books and beautiful words. I wish you the best this holiday season!

Music for today: Trojans by Atlas Genius

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Beth Revis Is My Hero

I don't think it's a secret that this blog exists because I love books. Sometimes I have to slow down the reading habit, because I could easily spend hundreds every month. My new hero Beth Revis is giving away an entire LIBRARY of SIGNED YA books, and all you have to do to enter is share the news about the giveaway and share the love for YA books.

This is a great time for me to talk about what I love about YA, because I just finished reading my adult book of the month, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Gone Girl is a fantastic book; it lives up to the hype and deserves all the rave reviews. I enjoyed the stark truths about marriage and failed expectations wrapped in the twisted mystery, the hallmarks that make it an adult book. But they also reminded me why I have a heart for YA.

YA books have a unique sort of promise. They have possibility. They have hope for the future.

When I was a teenager, I could not wait to be an adult. (Like many teens, I actually thought I was an old soul, trapped in a young body.) I was so busy rushing to get there that I missed that chance to revel in the potential of what the future could be. And like so many firsts you can't ever get back, the moment when a young adult makes his or her first life-altering decision has a sort of magic. Most YA books, whether contemporary, fantasy, or any other genre, explore this in one way or another. That magic of the first is what I love most about YA.

For your chance to win Beth's AMAZING giveaway, (seriously--  nearly 50 signed books to a single winner) click here for Beth's blog. And if you choose to enter and blog on what you love about YA, leave a link to your post in the comments! Happy NaNoWriMo, everybody!

Music for today: Breathing Underwater by Metric

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween! I hope you are all safe and dry out there. The nature of the blog-o-sphere means we don't always know where our fellow readers and writers live, but I'm praying for everyone in the Northeast as they come through this nasty witch Sandy.

In honor of Halloween today, YA Highway's RTW asks: What is your favorite scary book or movie?

I'm not a big scary movie fan, but I do enjoy a scary read. Up until last  year, I would have listed something from Stephen King as my favorite scary book. I always turn to the master when I'm looking for some bone-chilling. But last October Neil Gaiman pushed his way to the top with The Graveyard Book.
The picture is from Amazon, and if you're looking for some scary pages to read for Halloween, I beg you to click on the link and read the first chapter that Amazon has available. Not convinced yet? Here's the opening line:

There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.

Chills! The Graveyard Book is classified as middle grades, but I would say it's for anyone over the age of 8. Gaiman is a genius with both character and suspense. How about you? What is your favorite scary book?

Music for today: Internet Killed the Video Star by The Limousines (If you dig zombies, check out the video. :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Music Lessons

Last night I saw the fabulous Metric in a surprise, last-minute show in Jacksonville. Front row, on the barricade. Pure awesome. Emily gets most of the press for Metric, but let me just say that guitarist Jimmy Shaw is also phenomenal. To celebrate a fantastic night, I'm starting my Music Lessons blog series.

A novel tells a story using somewhere around 80,000 words. The average song uses around 200 words. I think writers of long fiction can learn about imagery, emotional impact, and economy of words by diving into the music that moves them.

Here are some of my favorite Metric lyrics:

From Black Sheep:
Hello again, friend of a friend, I knew you when
Our common goal was waiting for the world to end
Now that the truth is just a rule for you to bend
You crack the whip, shape shift and trick, the past again

We get such a great picture of these two characters, without knowing their names or what they're wearing or what they had for lunch yesterday. We know that they are having this reunion, because she SHOWS us, and they have a past that you want to know more about. And then we have the metaphors. I can totally relate to seeing someone after a long time and having the encounter transform your memories. We also see how this other person has the upper hand in the relationship, all in less than 50 words.

From Gimme Sympathy:
We're so close to something better left unknown
I can feel it in my bones
Gimme sympathy

After all of this is gone
Who'd you rather be?
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?

Oh, seriously
You're gonna make mistakes, you're young
Come on baby, play me something
Like "Here Comes the Sun"

This song gives a great illustration of voice and word choice. "Something better left unknown" is such a moving combination, with this sense of trepidation as the one character begs the other to "feel" with her, and ultimately to help her move forward. The conversation rings true, and it brings the listener into the connection by having her draw personal connections. Sometimes we have to take risks like this. Maybe the reader won't have the reaction you intend for a reference, but by letting her make it, you deepen the connection to the story.

I'll wrap up for today so I can get to work on my WIP with all this musical inspiration. But stay tuned for future posts in the series, highlighting Death Cab for Cutie and The White Stripes.

Here is a video from the concert, featuring Help I'm Alive. (The audio is really loud, so if you want to give it a listen, be sure to turn it down a little.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

RTW: Best Book of September

Today YA Highway asks, "What was the best book you read in September?"

This gives me the perfect opportunity to review The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke, which I read through a SBB ARC tour. The Assassin's Curse debuts October 2, 2012.
The summary:
When teenage pirate Ananna refuses an arranged marriage, the intended groom's family orders her assassination. Instead of killing the hired assassin Naji when she has the chance, Ananna saves his life, activating a curse that binds them together. Forced into partnership, Ananna and Naji must work together to break the impossible curse and evade enemies coming at them from all sides.
The review:
I really loved The Assassin's Curse, enough to make it my best book of September. (And I read some great books this month -- Throne of Glass, Starters, A Need So Beautiful, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, and Cinder.)
From the opening chapter Clarke displays a powerful voice, complete with slang and dialect that teeters on the line of "over-the-top" without ever crossing it. The intrigue of magical pirates and assassins hooked me, but the characters really captured my heart. Cursing, thieving, and headstrong, Ananna felt more real because of her faults. And Naji was perfect as the brooding, dangerous leading man with a mysterious past. If you like a slow-building romance with plenty of action, The Assassin's Curse is the book for you.
5 out of 5 stars
Sometimes before I write a review, I visit Goodreads to help with the summary or to see what other readers have to say. The Assassin's Curse has many great reviews there, with an average over 4 stars, but I came across one that was truly awful. The reviewer trashed the book, and while I know readers can have vastly different reactions to a book, this one really bothered me. The reviewer felt that the romantic element was completely thrown in at the end, and I couldn't disagree more. Clarke does an excellent job of "showing" Ananna's feelings for Naji without "telling." As a writer, I couldn't help but wonder if the reviewer missed the subtlety, or if she just didn't connect with the characters like I did. Is it just me? Does it bother you when you read a terrible review of a book that you loved?
Music for today: Help I'm Alive by Metric 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

 For Road Trip Wednesday, in honor of this month's Bookmobile book, Marissa Meyer's CINDER, name a fable or story you'd like to see a retelling of. If you're feeling creative, come up with a premise of your own!

Better late than never! I had this post almost ready to go last night, then ended up spending most of the day waiting for my car to be serviced.

I haven't read Cinder yet, but I've heard only wonderful things about it, and it is on my TBR list. Cinderella was my favorite childhood story. I collected different versions, which frustrated my mother to no end. Pretty in Pink is still my second all-time favorite movie. (Fight Club is the first.)

Fairy tale retellings are huge right now, and I've seen so many that I'd love to read lately in query contests. But which story would  I love to see retold, again? Cinderella. But this version would be called Sweep.

No one remembers Sweep's real name, the one he had before his mother died. Raised by his step-father and step-brothers, who use him for free labor in their janitorial business, Sweep can't wait until he has enough money saved to run away and make a new life for himself. When a client begs him to go to charity ball in his place, and offers to pay him a month's salary to do it, Sweep thinks he's finally found a way to escape. At the party Sweep is mesmerized by a millionaire society girl who wouldn't have given him a second glance any other day. Just when Sweep thinks everything is going his way, he's mistaken for his client and kidnapped at midnight. If he can survive his captors long enough for his princess to find him, with only his glove as a clue, Sweep just might get the happy ending he was hoping for.

That's just a little off-the-cuff idea, but you get what I'm going for: A boy who is rescued by a girl in shining Armani.

Which fairy tale would you love to see re-imagined?

Music for today: Love Song by Adele

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy Monday! Congratulations to the winners of my 100 Follower Giveaway:

$25 Amazon Gift Card - Nickie Anderson
Starters, signed by Lissa Price - Katy Upperman
Finn Flanagan and the Fledglings - Sara Biren
Thanks to all of you who follow Unavoidable Awkwardness. The best part about blogging in this YA writing community is meeting so many awesome people who love words and books and young people. Now I start the countdown for my 200 Follower Giveaway!
I'm thrilled to be a part of Deana Barnhart's Gearing Up to Get an Agent (GUTGAA) this week. Please stop by and check out the amazing entries. There are so many titles I wish I could go buy at the book store today!
Coming soon, I'll be reviewing The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke. I'm also planning a blog series on what music can teach us about great writing. Be sure to stop back by over the next month to check it out.
Music for today:  Hold On by Alabama Shakes

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It's time for Road Trip Wednesday! Boy, have I missed you guys! I hope now that summer is over I'll keep a better blogging schedule. Today's question is:

What word processing program do you use to write your manuscript, and can you share one handy trick you've learned in that program that has helped you while you write?

Today I'm mostly looking forward to read everyone else's tricks, and to see if some of you can sway me over to Scrivener once and for all. I write in Microsoft Word. It's not very manuscript friendly, but it's what I have, and what I'm used to. I doubt it counts as a trick, but my favorite function is the search. When I realize I'm using unnecessary words too much, I can search and cut them all out pretty quickly. My main offenders are "so" and "just." I also search when my characters go overboard with their habits. Um, roll your eyes much, MC?

On a side note, I met many of my writer-blogger family members here on YA Highway, and I finally crossed the 100-follower mark last week. I'm having a giveaway to celebrate, and to say thank you to all of you! If you'd like a chance at a $25 Amazon gift card, a signed copy of Starters by Lissa Price, or a copy of Finn Flanagan and the Fledglings by Kip Taylor, please scroll down to Monday's post or click here to enter!

Music for today: Madness by Muse

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hi everyone! To celebrate breaking the 100-follower mark, I'm holding my first Giveaway! The top prize is a $25 Amazon gift card, and I'm also picking winners for a signed copy of Starters by Lissa Price (nabbed at the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles) and a copy of Kip Taylor's Finn Flanagan and the Fledglings.

You must follow the blog to enter, and you'll get extra entries for following me on Twitter and tweeting about the giveaway. The sign-ups begin today, and the winners will be picked on Monday, September 17. Thank you all so much for joining me in the Awkwardness! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 7, 2012

Hello to all of my new followers! Thank you so much for joining in the Awkwardness. I am thrilled to have finally topped the 100 mark. Please stop back by on Monday, when I'll start sign-ups for my first ever give-away to celebrate! The top prize will be a $25 Amazon gift card. I also have a signed copy of Starters by Lissa Price to give away, and my critique partner Kip Taylor's book Finn Flanagan and the Fledglings.

If you're here looking for my GUTGAA post, click here. For my general "about me" page, click here. And now for today's post, my Southern Book Bloggers ARC tour review of Ten by Gretchen McNeil, scheduled to release on September 18th.

The summary, adapted from Goodreads:

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze and fun-filled luxury.

But what they expect is definitely not what they get.

Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, the teens are cut off from the outside world. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

The review:

First, I think the cover for Ten is amazing. How could you walk by that cover and not pick it up? Once I dove in, I got exactly what I expected. I haven't read much teen horror, but this book reminded me of a classic teen scream pic, like I Know What You Did Last Summer.

I accepted the set-up to get the players on the island and cut them off from the outside, and the premise for the mystery unfolded quickly. The supporting cast started dropping like flies just as fast. I enjoyed MC Meg as the quiet, loyal friend, and I cheered for her as she survived the killings and unraveled the clues. But I would have liked to see all of the side characters more thoroughly developed; after the first murder, the shock and emotional connection wore off.

The conclusion was not realistic, but it was still satisfying. If you're looking for something with a Stephen King-for-teens quality, Ten is the book for you.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Music for today:
Time is Running Out by Muse

Monday, September 3, 2012

Today begins the meet-and-greet for Gearing Up to Get an Agent (GUTGAA), a blogfest hosted by Deana Barnhart. Thanks for organizing all of this, Deana!
If this is your first visit, welcome to Unavoidable Awkwardness! I fell hard for middle grades and young adult lit when my sixth-grade students started recommending books to me over ten years ago. I blog about books and writing.  Here are the answers to Deana's meet-and-greet questions:
-Where do you write?
I have a writing desk in my bedroom, but sometimes I take field trips to Panera or Starbucks.

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
I have a printed copy of chapters on top of a piece of cardboard wrapped in aluminum foil and covered in clear tape. (A trial run for my son's school book covers.)

-Favorite time to write?
When the creative juices hit me. Usually I write in the morning, though.

-Drink of choice while writing?
Coffee. Or Tea. Or anything with caffeine.

-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
I need music! Sometimes I'll be writing, and I'll just stop without realizing why. It will take me a few minutes to realize that Pandora wants to know if I'm still listening. I'm an alt rock fan, and my Muse, Death Cab, and White Stripes stations are all sound the same these days.

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
It always starts with the characters for me. But this concept came from me thinking about alternative histories, and how people are basically the same, despite how different their cultural influences are.

-What's your most valuable writing tip?
Don't give up! Keep Writing!

Thank you so much for stopping by! I can't wait to meet you.

Music for today: I Can Tell That We Are Going to be Friends by The White Stripes

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Happy Launch Day to Finn Flanagan and the Fledglings, the first book in The HALO Series by Kip Taylor! I am thrilled to be reviewing it today. Kip is my critique partner, and she has given me so much support this past year. She is truly an awesome person, and I am honored to call her my friend. I am so excited to see Finn finally sitting on my bookshelf.

The summary:
When fifteen-year-old Finn Flanagan is murdered by a mugger, it may be the end of his life, but it's just the beginning of his existence. Finn arrives at HALO school, joining six other teens as fledgling angels-in-training. Reunited with his best friend and falling for a beautiful former model, Finn can get used to the perks at HALO. But not all of the fledglings are ready to give up life on earth. When one fledgling tries to go back, he's captured by a demon. To unite the group and fulfill their destiny, Finn must lead the remaining fledglings to demon territory before their training is complete.  If they fail, it's not only their futures, but all of humanity that's at stake.

The review:
Finn Flanagan has fantastic, immersive world-building, a wide cast of lovable characters, and a fresh, present voice that I loved from the moment I read the first chapter. Even with all the angel stories in YA, Kip brings a unique twist to the trope in the middle grades / lower-YA category.

I connected with the Finn immediately, but I also really enjoyed the group dynamic. Nash, the reluctant fledgling, was another favorite. Taylor balances the large cast well, and leaves the reader hungry to find out more about them in the following books.

I would recommend The HALO Series to fans of Harry Potter and the Percy Jackson series.

5 out of 5 stars!

Check out learn more about the awesome Kip Taylor and the series.
Finn Flanagan and the Fledglings is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and for Kindle.

Friday, August 24, 2012

You've spent months writing a novel. You've revised it, cherished it, dreamed about it, hated it, formatted it, and fallen in love all over again. You're ready to send it out to your first readers. And it's like cutting out a little piece of your soul, knowing it will come back chopped to little bits. Like Andy in Pretty in Pink, you know you'll have to sew it back together again using bits of old and new versions, until you have something shiny and beautiful and unique.

But what do you do when your betas and critique partners disagree?

My current manuscript has been through many revisions. I felt that it was close to being really, truly done. Recently, though, I won several critiques through contests. Each comment has been different, but some have been specifically the opposite advice. In an earlier draft, I had this line. I really liked it. It felt like it summed up what the book was about in the first page, without being too obvious. One of my first readers took the time to say, "I love this line!" Another one said cut it. I decided to leave it in, and it has survived through a few revisions. In my sit down with an editor at the SCBWI conference, she said cut it. Two more contest critiques came in last night, and guess what? They both took the time to compliment that line. (Though they both had plenty of other suggestions for things to ax!)

And that was just one line. I've had the exact same thing happen with entire scenes. This month I've learned how subjective personal taste can be. Ultimately, I just have to go with my gut about what advice I want to take. I also have to keep my head up and stay confident (or at least pretend to be) that this story is on the verge of being that shiny, beautiful, unique thing, and that it will one day find a home.

Music for today: Bandages by Hot Hot Heat

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Happy Book Birthday to Counting Backwards by Laura Lascarso! I was lucky enough to read Counting Backwards this weekend through a Southern Book Bloggers ARC tour.

The summary, adapted from Ms. Lascarso's site:

When sixteen-year-old Taylor Truwell is caught with a stolen car and lands in court for resisting arrest, her father convinces the judge to issue an alternative punishment: treatment in a juvenile psychiatric correctional facility. At Sunny Meadows, Taylor has to fight hard just to cling to her sanity as she battles her parents, her therapist, and a group of nasty fellow patients. But even as Taylor struggles to hold on to her stubborn former self, she finds herself relenting as she lets in two unlikely friends–Margo, a former child star and arsonist, and AJ, a mysterious boy who doesn’t speak.

Sunny Meadows goes against everything Taylor stands for. But is it the only place that can save her?

The review:
When I returned from the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, I had two SBB ARCs waiting for me. I read Ten by Gretchen McNeil first, because it had a great hook and an intriguing cover. (I'll review it next week.) Counting Backwards had a more quiet, beautiful cover, but once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. I am so glad that I finished in time to review it on its release day.

I absolutely loved this book. The pacing moves surprisingly fast for a reflective story, and the raw, honest voice gives familiar themes a fresh spin. Taylor's journey focuses on learning to love herself, which thankfully overshadows the thread of a romantic relationship with AJ. This is such an important story for young women to read.

The difference between a good book and a great book for me is an emotional truth that makes me feel something. Counting Backwards is a great book. Of all the wonderful books I've read in YA over the past few years, this is the first one that I would say unquestionably deserves to be in the race for a Printz or a Newbery Award. I would recommend it to any teen or adult reader.

5 out of 5 stars.

Music for today: Easy Way Out by Gotye

Monday, July 30, 2012

I can't believe I'll be at the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles by the end of this week. This has been one of my busiest summers ever, with ups and downs more powerful than the Atlantic waves my kids love to ride. I feel excited, nervous, and under-prepared. I can't wait to learn and grow as a writer, to pick up a suitcase full of new books to read, and to meet the smiling faces of this generous writing community in person.

A dear friend of mine came to visit this weekend. She loves to read as much as I do, and she's also one of my beta readers for my current manuscript. As we talked about great books, I gave her a list of the YA titles that she should definitely read when she gets the chance. So many amazing books wait on the bookshelves, ripe and ready to be devoured, and you never know who has found the same treasures as you. Here is my list of gems that my friend hadn't yet discovered:

Bitterblue (Kristin Cashore)
Divergent (Veronica Roth)
Shadow and Bone (Leigh Bardugo)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Laini Taylor)
White Cat (Holly Black)
Matched (Ally Condie)

How about you? When you think back over the last year or so, what books would you say are absolutely must reads? And if you happen to be going to SCBWI, let me know so we can chat about it in person!

Music for today: Jigsaw Falling into Place by Radiohead

Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Review: Something Strange and Deadly

Today I'm reviewing Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard, as a part of an ARC tour hosted by the Southern Book Bloggers.

In Philadelphia in 1876, Eleanor Fitt must partner with the supernatural-fighting Spirit Hunters to find her missing brother, dodge her mother's desperate attempts to find her a husband, and avoid the strange and deadly zombies plaguing the city.

The first blurb I read for this book said if you liked Clockwork Angel, you'll love Something Strange and Deadly. That line alone hooked me, and it truly is a great comparison. Also like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dennard's debut blends a romantic historical flair with a wide cast of characters and a fresh twist on a zombie invasion.

I really enjoyed Eleanor's journey from unassuming society girl to fearless, ninja detective. The pace moved well, and though there weren't any major surprises, the conclusion was ultimately well planned and satisfying. I loved that the zombies were under the villain's control and not too gory, unlike any other walking dead I've read. I'd recommend this book fans of supernatural and paranormal YA, even if walkers aren't your usual cup of tea.

Something Strange and Deadly is available tomorrow, July 24, 2012.

4 out of 5 stars.

Music for today:  Crawl by Kings of Leon

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Lately I’ve purchased most of my books online. I almost couldn’t remember the last time I’d been in a book store before I read about Lisa Burstein’s giveaway to celebrate the release of her book Pretty Amy. The summary intrigued me, and I knew I wanted to read it. But one of the entry tasks was to take a picture of Pretty Amy in a bookstore. The next time I had a chance, I headed to Barnes & Noble.  And then I went to Books-A-Million. I wised up and started looking online, and I called the local independent stores, which mostly sell used books. Not one store carried Pretty Amy.

I am so glad that I went on the hunt, though. All the books on my Nook look so much more important and substantial sitting on the shelf. Bitterblue is longer than I realized, and the cover is brilliant. Other covers grabbed me enough to pick them up and read the blurb, and I never just browse like that on my e-reader.  

I ultimately bought Pretty Amy at Books-A-Million online, and when it arrived, I took it on a little field trip. (I was too chicken to smuggle it inside for a picture.)

I finished reading it a few days ago, and here is my short review: I really enjoyed it. Burstein captures the heart of what it means to want to belong. She explores choices and responsibility and consequences without being preachy. I’d recommend it not only to readers of contemporary YA, but also to parents wondering what makes their teenage daughters tick. To find out more about Pretty Amy, click here. And the giveaway is still open until midnight Saturday, July 21.

Thanks for stopping by!

Music for today: Youth Without Youth by Metric

Monday, July 9, 2012

My grandfather passed away last week.

His passing was not entirely unexpected, but still, losing a family member always comes as a blow. I had so much respect for my grandfather. He was married to my grandmother for 71 years. He was a preacher, and honestly, my expectations for preachers were set unrealistically high because of him. If he believed in something, he lived it in his every day life. He always told the truth, even when it was difficult. I value resolve, determination, and honesty so highly because of him.

He was also a doctor of psychology, and he spent his career counseling patients throughout the southeast.  I can't imagine the number of people he helped in his lifetime. And he combined his first two passions with a third, writing.

My grandfather published three nonfiction books, in which he combined his clinical expertise with his faith and Biblical teaching. My mother always wanted me to be a writer, or rather, always said that I WAS a writer, whether I realized it or not. But my grandfather was the practical application of possibility, the larger than life family man, minister, intellectual, and author, my example of how to live a full, passionate, and steadfast life.

I just wanted to take a day to honor him here on the blog.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It's Road Trip Wednesday again, and YA Highway asked, "What was the best book you read in June?"

June has been so busy that I've fallen behind on my reading and blogging. But the best book I read this month was so good that I had to jump in and rave about it. My best book in June was Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.

Adapted from Goodreads:

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters. When Alina Starkov's regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

I picked up Shadow and Bone not because of the blurb, but because of the online buzz. Several agents, authors, and bloggers I respect had mentioned how amazing it was, and they were all right.

Shadow and Bone has everything I look for in a book. The writing flows effortlessly. The world is unique and captivating. The pace and plot are well balanced, even though the story takes place over many months. I also loved that it felt complete as a novel by itself, even though it's the first in a series. But the characters are what make Shadow and Bone great.

I connected with Alina immediately, and I felt her struggles and insecurities. I might normally say that I'm tired of love triangles, but this one kept me emotionally invested all the way through, with the perfect payoff in the end.

I highly recommend Shadow and Bone, and I know I'm not alone.

Music for today:  The Pit by Silversun Pickups

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

YA Highway RTW: The Best Book in May

May is always a huge month for new releases, and this year all the titles I'd been waiting for lived up to the hype. I read the 5 YA titles above and a few adult books as well. You can check out my reviews of Bitterblue, Insurgent, and Reunited for more info. I'd have to pick Insurgent as the best book of the month, which is really saying something for the middle child of a trilogy. City of Lost Souls was every bit as steamy as I'd expected, though I'll be glad to get a more finite conclusion in book 6. And The Serpent's Shadow was an excellent end to the series. I highly recommend The Kane Chronicles if you're looking for a good MG adventure.

In other news, I'm tacking on a belated response to last week's RTW. Thanks to skymiles and a very supportive husband, I am going to SCBWI in LA! I am equal parts excited and nervous, and I'd love some suggestions on how to make the most of it. I've been to smaller state conferences over the past few years, but nothing like SCBWI. Are any of you blogger-type-people going? I'd love to chat about plans for the conference, and it would be awesome to meet you in person!

Music for today: Not a song, but a very cool trailer for Muse's upcoming album.  

Thursday, May 31, 2012

YA Book Club is hosted by Tracey Neithercott at Words on Paper. Thanks for bring us all together, Tracey!

This month we're discussing Insurgent by Veronica Roth.

Insurgent is the second book in the Divergent trilogy. It's difficult to discuss a sequel without giving away the secrets of the first book, but I'm going to try. Here is an adapted Goodreads summary that avoids major spoilers:

War looms as conflict between the factions grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence to survive, no matter what the cost.

Things I love about Insurgent:

1. It picks up right where Divergent leaves off.
This works so much better that picking up a few weeks or months later. When an author skips ahead, she inevitably uses flashbacks to the time that was missed. Roth doesn't do that, keeping the writing and flow clean. Instead of easing readers back into the story, Roth sucks us back in with the snap of a finger.

2. The break-neck pace refuses to be put down.
I read so many tweets about people forcing themselves to slow down, to savor Insurgent for as long as possible. Not me. I love being so absorbed in a story that everything else falls away, and Roth maintains the same intensity all the way through. The only downside is waiting over a year for Book 3, which until further notice shall be known as Detergent.

3. Tris and Tobias have a real relationship.
One of Insurgent's major themes is the role of secrets and trust in relationships. I dig a great love story just as much as the next girl, but I'm tired of the old standby that THIS ONE SPECIAL LOVE can withstand anything, and can never be undone. Real people have problems. Real people have insecurities. Real people make mistakes that are hard to forgive. These things don't weaken the power of love; they prove how amazing it is, that it survives anyway. Tris and Tobias react to their situation and keep secrets in a way that feels authentic to me. It's the same quality that attracts readers to Katniss in The Hunger Games, only Tris is more relatable. She carries the burden of guilt and expectations the same way that I might, in her situation.

I loved Insurgent. I realized flipping through Goodreads the other day that my ratings tend to skew high, which isn't really fair to the true 5 star books. A second book in a trilogy is a difficult monster, but I truly feel that Roth knocked it out of the park.

Insurgent is everything I hoped it would be.

Music for today: Hysteria by Muse

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Today I'm reviewing Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, as a part of an ARC tour with the Southern Book Bloggers. Reunited will be released on June 12th, 2012.

The Summary:

In middle school, Alice, Summer, and Tiernan were best friends and the world's biggest fans of the rock band Level3. But everything changed when they started high school. The band broke up, and the girls went their separate ways. Four years later, Level3 announces a one-time reunion show in Texas. Alice buys three tickets, the trio sets off on a 2000 mile road trip, and the girls learn if their former friendship has what it takes to survive being Reunited.

The Review:

Reunited is a fun summer read, told from the alternating points of view of Alice, Summer, and Teirnan. Graham explores how and why friendships change with the catchy, common thread of the girls' love for a rock band, complete with lyrics from Level3. The three girls are all unique and well drawn.

I enjoyed how the characters tested the boundaries of new adulthood through both their physical and emotional journeys. Graham excels at layering dimensions into the plot. The biggest drawback for me was a failing in my suspension of disbelief. When I read contemporary YA, I like to have a strong sense of reality. Many of the scenarios just pushed my limits of what could be plausibly real. I kept asking myself where the girls were getting the money to do things, when none of their parents seemed to be wealthy. But I know many readers want a level of fantasy in their contemps, so I don't think this would be a problem for every reader.

Reunited would be a great beach read, and I would recommend it to someone looking for a contemporary YA without a strong romantic element. 3 1/2  out of 5 stars.  

Music for today: Eyes Wide Open by Gotye

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Summer is breathing down my neck like a three-headed dog named Fluffy. Responsibilities keep piling up, and every time I cross one thing off the to-do list, three more items magically appear. And my kids only have 10 days of school left. Needless to say, I've fallen behind on my blogging.

Having ALL the boys home ALL the time severely gnaws away at my writing time, but I'm hoping our family will share a summer filled with loads of books. (Reading counts as research, right?) Next week I'll be reviewing Insurgent by Veronica Roth for YA Book Club and Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham for the Southern Book Bloggers. If you have any suggestions for summer reads, let me know in the comments!

Today on Twitter I'll be throwing my hat in the ring for The Writer's Voice Twitter Pitch Party. For more information about The Writer's Voice, and to read some amazing queries, check out these blogs: Love YA, Cupid's Literary ConnectionMother. Write. (Repeat.), and Brenda Drake Writes. If you have a finished manuscript ready to pitch to agents, come and join us on the hashtag #WVTP.

Also, welcome and thank you to my new followers! I'm only 16 away from my 100 Follower Give-Away. When I reach 90, I'll start revealing the prizes!

Happy Thursday, Everyone!

Music for today: Brains by Lower Dens

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This week's Road Trip Wednesday question is:

What book brings back memories?

Books and memories go hand-in-hand for me, but I'll never forget when I discovered Anita Shreve. I had run out of books at home and didn't have time to go to the book store, so I picked up the first cover that grabbed me in the grocery store: The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve. She was well-known for The Pilot's Wife, thanks to Oprah's Book Club, but I didn't know that at the time.

I remember that trip to the grocery store so clearly now, because it just always felt like a twist of fate. (I'd never before and haven't since bought a book at a Kroger.) I was absolutely floored by The Last Time They Met. The beautiful prose. The unique story structure, unlike anything I'd ever read. And of course, the characters and their heart-breaking love story.

Of course I went out immediately and bought all of her other novels, and I've read all of the new releases since then. I have loved most of them, and even the ones I didn't love are still excellent books. But here's the kicker: The Pilot's Wife was my least favorite. If I had picked up that one first, the highly-promoted one with the big "O" sticker, I wouldn't have fallen in love with Shreve's writing, and I may have missed out on all those other amazing stories.

Shreve writes adult fiction, but the common theme that attracts me to her work is the same thing that attracts me to YA. Many of her characters have that knock-you-in-the-gut, life-changing love as teenagers, and they struggle for the rest of their lives to move past it.

In all of the recent discussion of New Adult, I've actually thought of Anita Shreve. Her book Testimony is certainly adult in nature, but it is about a scandal at a high school, and in addition to a teacher and one of the parents, most of the main characters are teenagers. If  her books are an indicator, and with the lines constantly blurring, a book that the writer considers NA is probably more marketable as general adult fiction.

How about you? What books get you thinking about times gone by?

** As a post script today, Angelica Jackson is holding a writing community auction to raise funds for the animal rescue Fat Kitty City. She has tons of amazing items up for auction. Please stop by Pens for Paws to check it out!

Music for today: Helicopter by Bloc Party

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 1st marked two amazing book birthdays. Veronica Roth's follow-up Insurgent, and Kristin Cashore's Bitterblue, the long-awaited sequel to Graceling.

Reading these two books back-to-back illustrated how sequels can be very different but equally fantastic. I'll be reviewing Insurgent for YA Book Club later this month, but I can't help comparing and contrasting a little for my review of Bitterblue today.

Bitterblue is about a young queen struggling to rule after her sadistic father, King Leck. It can be read as a stand-alone novel, but it is both a sequel to Graceling and a companion book to Fire. I strongly recommend reading Graceling and Fire first, in that order, to fully appreciate Bitterblue. With that in mind, I'm using a format to keep the review as spoiler-free as possible. For me, the two strongest qualities of Bitterblue are the characters and pacing.

In Cashore's world, a graceling is someone with a special 'grace,' or talent, marked by eyes of two colors. Both her graceling characters and the non-graced are all complex and realistic, with both endearing qualities and weaknesses. As in many fantasies, the sheer number of characters could overwhelm the reader, but Cashore paints even her minor players so completely that they enhance the story rather than distract from it.  And then there's the villain. Her villain is one of the most atrocious, chilling characters I've ever read. And I've read more than my fair share of Stephen King. On that front, Bitterblue is not for the faint of heart.

I read Insurgent in less than 48 hours, in the midst of multiple family sicknesses. It's that kind of book, with a break-neck pace that I couldn't put down for long without running back to it. But I took a solid six days to read Bitterblue. I was equally invested in unravelling the mystery, but each time I sat down to read it, I wanted to be fully immersed. Sometimes I put it down for a few hours to let the events stew before moving on. I'm accustomed to reading faster-paced YA, and I would normally say that I prefer it. But Bitterblue is an example of a perfectly executed, slower, building pace, and of the two books, Bitterblue is still sticking with me more, days after finishing.

If you enjoy fantasy of any type, I highly recommend Bitterblue. 5 out of 5 stars.

Music for today: Bandages by Hot Hot Heat

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

For this Road Trip Wednesday, the Highwayers asked:

What's your favorite use for a book besides reading it?

We have so many books in our house that they inevitably end up as decorations. We have some scattered around, but most reside in my husband's office. (We generally keep his books on the most visible shelves, since so many of mine are YA.)

I've also pressed a few flowers with books in my day. But as a child, my brother and I loved to do this:
I'm sure a more artistic person could do a much better job, but this is actually what most of our little scenes looked like back then.

How about you? Do you do anything with books besides reading them?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Happy Friday! Due to some family things, including sick kids and a trip to the ER, my blog posting has been sporadic lately. Everyone is fine, and I'm hoping life will get back to normal soon. I thought I'd catch up by sharing a few odds and ends to wrap up the week.

  • I want to send out a special thanks to Cynthia at Read is the New Black. Last month she had a giveaway to celebrate her 100th follower, and I won the children's book I Feel Better with a Frog in my Throat: History's Strangest Cures by Carlyn Beccia. My boys absolutely loved it, and I did, too.
  • On that note, I will also have a giveaway celebration when I reach 100 followers. More details will come when I get closer. Welcome to my new followers! I'm only 20 lovely people away from reaching that goal, and if you're just stopping by, I'd love to add you to the list!
  • Another special thanks goes to Jenn Baker-Henry, who sent me an ARC of Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron for my recognition in the Second Campaigner Challenge.
  • Last weekend I read The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. I haven't had time for a proper review, but I really loved it. It's my favorite contemporary YA I've read this year.
  • Finally, if you're here looking for my entry in The Writer's Voice, you can find it using the tab under my banner.
I hope you have a wonderful, healthy weekend!

Music for today: Love Song by Adele

Monday, April 30, 2012

Hosted by the ladies at Escape in a Book, Memorable Monday asks us to share quotes we've collected.

I could have chosen a memorable quote from either of the books I read this week, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (YA) and A Clash of Kings (Not YA). But the quote that stuck with me was from an interview.

Bloggers love the Dinner Party Question. You know the one. If you could have any ten (fill in the blank... writers, characters, artists, etc.) over for a dinner party, who would you pick?  The interview I read this weekend was between two of my top ten Dinner Party writers. I doubt I'll ever have the chance to mingle with them in real life, but the interview gave a little glimpse of what it might be like if I did.

Neil Gaiman interviewed Stephen King for an article in the UK Sunday Times Magazine, and on Saturday he posted the full interview on his blog.  If you've read On Writing, you already know many of the biographical 'facts' they discuss. But the beauty of the interview is in Gaiman's easy style and King's voice, as rich and gruff and real as a character from his books. If you are a fan of either, I highly suggest reading it.

Here is my favorite quote, part of the response to a question about money:

King: “They pay me absurd amounts of money,” he observes, “For something that I would do for free.”

That idea dwells in my 'writer's heart.' Before the dream of being paid to write, or even having others read my words, comes the need.   The need strong enough to give writing priority over other things.

Music for today: Undisclosed Desires by Muse

Monday, April 23, 2012

I love collecting quotes, and the ladies over at Escape in a Book created Memorable Monday to share memorable quotes from books. I've read a little lately about the future of New Adult as a genre, and I couldn't help thinking of one of my favorite books. The Secret History by Donna Tartt is certainly literary, but it could easily fit into the New Adult category. Here are two quotes that stuck with me from The Secret History.

“Beauty is rarely soft or consolatory. Quite the contrary. Genuine beauty is always quite alarming.”

“If I had grown up in that house I couldn't have loved it more, couldn't have been more familiar with the creak of the swing, or the pattern of the clematis vines on the trellis, or the velvety swell of land as it faded to gray on the horizon . . . . The very colors of the place had seeped into my blood.” 

Music for today: Valerie, covered by Ra Ra Riot

Friday, April 20, 2012

Today I'm reviewing The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks.

This ARC came to me through a tour with the Southern Book Bloggers. Please check out their site here!

When prep-school student Wendy Geller is found dead in Central Park, classmate and former best friend Rain struggles to reconcile the girl she once knew with the party girl portrayed in the headlines. Rain faces her grief and digs through her school's secrets to uncover what really happened to Wendy.

The Girl in the Park is a contemporary YA mystery. I am generally not a big fan of mysteries, but I think the YA landscape needs more of them. Fredericks does an excellent job of using familiar elements to tell a fresh story, and The Girl in the Park has a well-woven plot with a satisfying conclusion. I suspected who the killer was very early on, but the hints are subtle, with acceptable red herrings along the way.

Rain is a complex, believable main character, and both her determination and insecurities ring true. The social hierarchy of the school and the parental relationships are also well played. My only real issue was with the opening chapter; the story begins with a dream sequence, then flip-flops between the present and flash backs to set up the plot. Once the action moved forward, the pace picked up and the flashbacks flowed more logically.

I would recommend this book fans of contemporary YA or mysteries. 4 out of 5 stars.

Music for this book: Midnight City by M83

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

For this week's Road Trip Wednesday, the topic is:


Oh, it's so funny to think back to that time. My school had plenty of semi-formal dances for underclassmen. I'd gone to most of those, sometimes with a boy I was dating and sometimes with friends. During my junior year, I hadn't really thought much about prom, until spring break.

When you grow up in Florida, the spring break tradition begins early. I had been spending spring break in Panama City since middle school (with parental supervision, of course). The only difference about junior year was that my friends and I could all DRIVE. This meant hours of cruising up and down the strip. On our last night there, we met up with some friends from a neighboring city. I'd known most of these guys for a year or so, except one. I distinctly remember asking one of my best friends, "Who is That?" She answered, "Oh, you know him. Everybody knows Charles."

But I'd never met him before. We hit it off immediately, and we talked for the rest of the night as the cruising continued. When it was time to leave, he promised he'd get my phone number from a friend and call me. After a few weeks back home, and a tiny bit of drama, he finally did.

On the night of our first date, I asked him to go to prom with me. (Trust me, for quiet, shy seventeen-year-old Laurie, this was a huge step out there.) He said yes. Then he asked me to go to prom with him. (We lived about 30 minutes away from each other, so we didn't go to the same school.)

Remember in Pretty in Pink, when Blaine says he asked someone else to prom, but forgot when he asked Andi? Well, that happened with my date. He already had a date to his prom when I asked him, and I felt awful later that he broke it off to go with me. We went to his prom with a group of his friends, and we ate at a lovely French restaurant, where I had a salad because I was a vegetarian. We went to mine with a group of my friends, and we ate at the Olive Garden. It was nice to get dressed up, and we had fun, but I don't really remember staying at prom for very long.

Of course I'm glad that we went. We went to my senior prom, too, after he graduated, which was a much smaller affair. But our first prom together is a really nice memory, because my date ended up becoming my husband. This year will be our 14th wedding anniversary.

Music for today: If You Leave, by OMD (In case you couldn't tell by my pink prom dress, I had a serious thing for Pretty in Pink back in the day.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It's Road Trip Wednesday again! Every Wednesday, YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question. This Week's Topic:

What images inspire/ represent your WIP or favorite book?

I love to have inspirational images open on the desktop while I'm writing. Here are a few of my favorites from my current manuscript.


I am very excited to see everyone else's inspiration!
Posting these images has given me the courage to finally embrace the Lucky 7 Meme. I was tagged by Traci Kenworth on her blog and Sara at Crow River Writer.
The Rules:
1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP.
2. Go to line 7.
3. Copy down the next 7 lines - sentences or paragraphs - and post them as they're written. No cheating.
4. Tag 7 authors.
5. Let them know.

Now that you have a mental image of the setting, here are my seven lines:

One by one, the men and boys dunked their faces into the water, rubbing their masks clean. Each called out a prayer when he emerged. They asked for favor in the new fall cycle. They asked for food and prosperity. They asked to be fearless. It was the first time he’d seen a religious ceremony end without spilling blood.

The cold stung like a thousand needles when he dipped his face into the tank, and he wished he could have seen the mask before washing it away.

A strange little scene out of context, and you don't even learn my main character's name! Instead of tagging seven writers, I'd like to open up the Lucky 7 Meme. If any of you would like to participate, please grab the button and let me know in the comments!

Music for today: Anna Sun by Walk the Moon

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It's Road Trip Wednesday, and I'm glad to be back! Every Wednesday YA Highway's contributors post a writing- or reading-related question.

This Week's Topic: Who has helped you on your reading/writing/publishing journey?

The one person who has helped me the most on my reading/writing journey is my husband.

Never once has my husband questioned the amount of money I spend on books. He's not really a fan of YA, so chances are slim that he's planning to read much from our bursting-at-the-seams bookshelves. He did jump on the Hunger Games bandwagon, (Yay!) but unfortunately now he's insisting that I read A Clash of Kings before I can watch Season 2 of Game of Thrones with him. I think he knew he was getting a reader when he married me, but I don't think he was prepared for this whole writing business.

He never complains when I'm absorbed in a scene and the laundry piles up or dinner isn't ready. He rarely gives me grief over the amount of time I spend at the keyboard, and he always stops what he's doing when I ask him to read something for me. He didn't even complain when I made him read three books in the same genre before he read my first manuscript. While I've fretted over the costs of writing conferences, he has encouraged me keep going and do whatever it takes to pursue my dream.

So for all those reasons, thank you Mr. Dennison!

Music for today: Santa Fe by Beirut

Friday, March 30, 2012

Hi blog-o-sphere friends! I've missed you these last few weeks. Last spring I stepped away from the keyboard because of medical issues, but I'm happy to say that this little vacation was all positive. Several lucky puzzle pieces all clicked into place a few weeks ago, and my family was blessed to be able to take a short-notice trip to the United Kingdom.

I love England. Maybe it's a whimsical culmination of living through the eyes of Shakespeare and Rowling and Austen and the Brontes, but my heart just feels happy there. I have to admit, too, that on our train rides through the country side, the theme from Downton Abbey played in my mind on a continuous loop. Sharing these memories with my husband and my boys only makes it more special.

As I missed a few Road Trip Wednesdays, I'll sneak in that the best book I read in March was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. It had been over ten years since I first read it, and it truly is phenomenal. My boys loved it as much as I did, and I'm glad we were able to finish in time for our trip.

We spent some time in London, took a side trip to Bath, and ended in Edinburgh, Scotland. I'll be back to blogging on great books and writing soon, and until then, here are a few highlights from our trip.
Son #1 at Stonehenge
Sons 1 and 2 at the Tower of London
The White Tower
Tower Bridge
View of Parliament from the Eye

Sons 1 and 2 on top of Arthur's Seat at Holyrood Park
The Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh
What is a phone booth?
Edinburgh Castle
Views in Edinburgh

Music for today: You guessed it! The theme from Downton Abbey