Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Trip Wednesday! Every Wednesday YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. This week's topic:

What was the best book you read in February?

February has been a slow reading month for me. It’s so much easier to browse for books in a book store than it is on an e-reader, and I scored a hardback copy of John Green’s Paper Towns on the discount rack. I grabbed it so I could enjoy Green’s writing without crying for a week afterward like I did with The Fault in Our Stars. I’m about halfway through, but I’d say it’s the best book of the month for me.

Earlier this month I put down a book without finishing it. It was a sad thing, because I’ve only done that two other times in my life. I won’t tell you the title, because I am all about only showing love in book reviews, but I’ve really been pondering why I put the book down and how that understanding can help my own writing.

The story was interesting and well written, but it just didn’t click with me. It was missing that magic spark. That may be a starting point, but what were the concrete reasons?

  • Too many characters. There were no less than twenty named characters introduced in the first two chapters. Stephen King is about the only writer I know of who can pull off that many characters, and he doesn’t introduce that many that fast. (George R. R. Martin is maybe the only other one.)

  • Strange pacing. One scene could span either a few hours or a few minutes in time, and then the next would jump ahead several months without any warning. Pacing is one of John Green’s greatest strengths, so having read two of his books in the same month really made this stand out.

  • Too little explanation of the “rules.” As writers we constantly hear ‘show not tell.’ Usually I would say that the best fantasy and paranormals thrust the reader into a world and show the rules without explanation. Holly Black is one of the best at this. But if the fantastical elements aren’t clear, you lose the reader very quickly. I could have kept reading this book with just the first two issues, but when you put all three together, it was just too much work to keep reading.

What about you? If these were the issues that caused me to abandon a book this month, what were the strengths that made your choice for the best book so great?

Music for today: Get Burned by Sleeper Agent

Sleeper Agent ‘Get Burned’

Monday, February 27, 2012

If you asked my kids, they would tell you they aren't allowed to see anything related to Harry Potter. Most people get the wrong idea and assume I have a problem with the books.

This couldn't be further from the truth.

I love Harry Potter. Since my boys were toddlers I've waited for the day when they would be old enough to read The Sorcerer's Stone. And the key word is read. I didn't want the magic ruined for them by watching the movies first, or worse, playing the video games.

Last night was the night; we read "The Boy Who Lived" together. I'm not sure how the boys felt about it; it may not be insta-love just yet. But I couldn't help giggling at the cat on Privet Drive and the use of the word muggle, which at the moment seemed more strange to them than the Dursleys.

I hope I can keep from reading ahead when they're at school.

Music for today:
Hedwig's Theme

Friday, February 24, 2012

It’s book club day! YA Book Club is sponsored by the lovely Tracey Neithercott at Words on Paper. This month we are discussing:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I’m not writing a book review today. The Fault in Our Stars is a beautifully crafted story. Green’s characters are full and real and heartbreaking, his long passages of dialogue flow seamlessly, and he examines the meaning of life with a feather-light touch. I love how he can move the story through time and space in a single paragraph.

But I never would have read this book on my own. I am grateful that TFIOS exists; I respect and understand how necessary it is. But I kept my distance from Hazel and Gus. I'm guilty to say I treated them like "emotional grenades," because I’d rather not lose another loved-one, fictional or not.

I am intimately acquainted with the evil that is Cancer. Cancer took my mother from me. It also took my grandmother, my uncle, and one of my young cousins. I have a close family member who is currently battling this nasty disease, and another who fights in the trenches every day as his caregiver. Reading this book stirred up epic windstorms of emotion for me, and I've only had to witness the cancer war from the outside.

I actually think it speaks to the amazingness of TFIOS that I’m writing more about my personal connection than the book itself; as teachers we strive to foster higher-order thinking by having students connect literature to their real lives. The Fault in Our Stars provides the perfect vehicle for that goal, and if any book can be an “instant classic,” TFIOS is one. I’m interested to see how many other book club members discuss how this book relates to their personal lives; I expect it will be many.

On a final note, I try to pick companion songs for each of the books I discuss here on the blog. I knew which song I would choose today before I finished reading the first chapter. The first time I heard a Jack’s Mannequin song, I felt it. Andrew pours his soul into every song he writes. I found out later that the album The Glass Passenger was written after Andrew’s own battle with cancer. Today’s song is Caves, by Jack’s Mannequin.

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's time for the first campaign challenge! Here are the requirements:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “Shadows crept across the wall”. These five words will be included in the word count.
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), do one or more of these:

· end the story with the words: "everything faded." (also included in the word count)
· include the word "orange" in the story
· write in the same genre you normally write
· make your story 200 words exactly!

Here is my entry, "Green with Envy."

Shadows crept across the wall, a black echo in the orange glow. Hundreds of avocado green leaves peeled from the vines like foil off of kisses. Minnie’s plants were growing too fast, but they weren’t beyond her control. Yet. Tendrils slithered across her desk, engulfing her laptop. Her fingers hovered above the light switch; darkness would stop the stalks in an instant.

Minnie gulped down the sweet, thick air. Her toes curled with the strength of it. The scent almost overpowered the apartment’s metallic bite.

“Minerva!” Mother called. “Come, tell me what you think.”

Minnie’s hand paused on the doorknob. She swallowed and walked downstairs, leaving the light on and the door open. Mother had installed her latest babies, an updated processor and another flatscreen.

“Delicious, Mother. Truly.”

“The world at our fingertips.” Mother smiled. Her fingers danced across the keyboard. She didn’t waste a glance on her daughter.

Mother was right. Minnie had ordered the porthos and roridula seedlings and learned how to cross-pollinate the species online. Adding bits of electronics to their food had been her only creative touch. Minnie couldn’t wait to see the look on Mother’s face when her vines invaded the room, before everything faded.

This was so much fun! I can't wait to read the other entries! Click here to check them out.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

11 More Questions...

Jenna Cooper at Finding the Write Way and Amber Clites at amberafterglow also tagged me in 11 questions. Thanks, girls! It's been so much fun getting to know everyone! Here are the answers to some of their questions.

1. Pantser or Planner?
Pantser. I tried planning my current WIP, and it just doesn’t work for me.
2. Would you rather have free Starbucks for five years or free iTunes for life?
iTunes for life.
3. The question for the ages, Edward or Jacob?
4. Would you rather be able to talk to animals or to be able to speak and understand any language?
I would love to speak other languages.
5. Would you rather be kidnapped by terrorists or abducted by aliens?
Aliens, for sure.
6. What is the genre(s) that you write for?
My current MS is YA fantasy.
7. Did you cry in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part two? Was one of the times when Dumbledore asked Severus, "After all this time?" and Severus responded, "Always.” And if not, are you sure you have a soul?
I refused to watch part 1 until part 2 was showing, and not only did I sit sobbing on my couch at the end of part 1, I also cried several times during part 2.
8. With your iPod/MP3 on shuffle, what's the first song that comes up?
Hysteria by Muse.
9. You're the producer for turning any one book into a movie, which do you choose to do?
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
10. What's your least favorite book you ever had to read for school?
Gargantua and Pantagruel
11. What's one thing you believe in with all your heart?
It doesn’t matter what you feel, it matters what you do.

Music for today: Friend Crush by Friends

Friday, February 17, 2012

11 Questions

Thanks to Daisy Carter at Fresh as a Daisy for tagging me in 11 Questions! I have to answer Daisy's 11 questions, come up with my own list, and then tag 11 more bloggers.

First, my answers:

1. Favorite villain and why?
The Lannisters from Game of Thrones. Tyrion is really my favorite, but I’m not sure if he counts as a villain. The whole family is twisted and nasty and complex, not unlike an episode of Hoarders. You just can’t fight the fascination.
2. What's the last book you read?
I just finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene yesterday. *still wiping tears away*
3. If you could travel back in time, where would you go and why?
I’m cheating on this one. For sheer fantasy fulfillment, I would go to England in the early 1900s. For personal, selfish reasons, I would go back and have a chat with my middle school self, though I doubt tween me would listen. (Be bold! Be brave! Buy stock in Apple!)
4. Would you rather have an unlimited gift card to your favorite bookstore OR a publishing contract but never be allowed to read any other books?
No question, I would take the unlimited gift card. I would go crazy if I couldn’t read another book.
5. If you were an animal, what would you be?
I would be a cat.
6. What's your very first memory?
My parents had one of those toddler seats on the back of a bike. It was bright yellow. I remember riding down a hill on the back of that bike on a trip to the store; I was around two years old.
7. Suzanne Collins, JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Neil Gaiman, Judy Blume and John Green call. They all want you to come to their house for dinner, but all on the same night. Whose dinner invitation do you accept?
Tough one! I’d love to meet all of them, but I’d have to pick JK Rowling. The ‘at her house’ part seals that deal.
8. You discover a planet. What do you name it?
Oren. I have no idea where that came from.
9. What world/nation/city/place from a book would you most like to visit?
I would have to go to Hogwarts. There are tons of amazing fictional worlds, but most of them are too dangerous for my blood.
10. Here's a million dollars. How would you spend it? *note, I said spend. It's a fantasy! No saving!*
After paying off my house and splurging on an Aston Martin, I would travel around the world. The itinerary would bounce all over Europe, Africa, Australia, China, and Japan.
11. On which reality TV contest or gameshow would you be a contestant?
I may be dating myself with this one, but I would be on The Mole. This was a reality show hosted by the silver fox Anderson Cooper, in which the contestants traveled around the world and completed tasks to add money to the collective pot. One of the players was really a ‘mole,’ who was trying to sabotage the missions. To win the game, you had to figure out who the saboteur was. It was the only purely awesome reality show, and I have no idea why it was canceled.

Now it’s my turn! Here are my questions.
1. What kind of music (if any) do you listen to while writing?
2. Do you rush right out to see the movies adapted from books you love, or do you avoid them?
3. Pick five fictional characters you’d love to have over to your house for dinner.
4. Do you have any pets?
5. What foods would you pick for your last meal?
6. Name the number one person who would make you faint if he/she commented on your blog or tweeted you on Twitter. (Can be a celebrity, author, or anyone else, but it has to be a real, living person.)
7. What’s the last song you listened to?
8. If you could pick one book that all teenagers would have to read in high school, what would it be?
9. Which fictional character is most like ‘real-life’ you?
10. Do you believe in love at first sight?
11. You can only pick one book to read over and over for the rest of your life. What would it be?

I tag:
The Golden Eagle at The Eagle's Aerial Perspective
The Literary Mom at
Traci Kenworth at
Carolin Seidenkranz at
Erin at Seventh Story Studio
Journey in Writing

Elizabeth at Elizabeth Creith's Scriptorium
Rhiannon Morgan at
Anstice Potts at Creative Therapy
Regina at Unsettled
Callie Kingston at

If you decide to participate, please leave a comment so I can check out your answers! And don't forget to pass on your own questions to fellow bloggers!

Music for today: Where is My Mind by the Pixies

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's Road Trip Wednesday again! Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question. This Week's Topic:

What words do you absolutely hate? Which ones do you adore?

I don't despise all curse words. Just a few, and mostly the ones that demean women. I actually don't even like calling them curse words, or swear words, and yet profanity just feels too formal. I cringe at any word describing bodily functions. I can't even bring myself to type them, and yet, in a house full of boys, I hear them all the time. My mom was a nurse, and she used words like void, empty, and vacate relating to bowels and bladders, and somehow even those words gross me out.

I love so many words, some for the way they sound and some for their many meanings. Here are just a few of my favorites.

Music for today: Your Song (Of course this is an Elton John song, but I was thinking of the version from Moulin Rouge.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ah, serendipity.

In all the time I’ve been blogging, I’ve never posted a bio page. I wanted to welcome my new followers (Hello!) and help you to know me better, so this morning I wrote a little about myself. While writing, I received a message from the thoughtful and talented Colin Smith, awarding me the Kreativ Blogger Award. Thank you so much, Colin!

As a Kreativ Blogger, I need to link back to the award giver, share ten random facts about me, then pass on the award to six people.

Colin is truly a Kreativ Blogger. His posts are filled with insight and humor, and he has excellent taste in books. You can find Colin’s blog at:

And now for a few things about me.

I’m a Florida girl.

You will find me somewhere by the sea, either cozy at home, or in a French café or coffee shop, or cheering for the Gators, or at the midnight showing of a YA book-turned-movie, a habit begun before Twi-moms were a thing.

I’ll likely be wearing these, my favorite pair of sparkly shoes.

Wherever you find me, I will be reading, or writing, or looking after my husband, or shouting after Son 1 and Son 2. Alternative music will be playing in the background. I will not be talking on the phone, exercising, or eating any meat of the red variety.

I’m passing this award on to some bloggers I’ve followed for a while, and some who I’ve just recently met through the Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign. All are delightful and well worth following.

Kate Coursey at
Juliana Haygert at
Kate Scott at
Jillian at Writing on a Limb
Anna Weggener at
Jenna Cooper at

Music for today: Trojans by Atlas Genius

Friday, February 10, 2012

This has been an exciting week.

In the book-blogging world, I am so excited to have found the Southern Book Bloggers through the magic of twitter. This site connects book bloggers who live in the south, keeps track of regional book signings and events, and sends ARCs of fabulous YA books on tours from state to state. I am thrilled to take part in my first ARC tour with Black Heart, Holly Black's third book in The Curse Workers series. Be sure to check back in March for my review!

In the writer-blogging world, I discovered Rachael Harrie's blog Rach Writes. Rachel is embarking on her fourth Writers' Platform-Building Campaign. My favorite part of blogging is meeting other readers and writers. I'm looking forward to joining the campaign and embracing more members of this ever-growing family. Sign-ups for the campaign are open until Wednesday, February 15. Click here for more information!

I sometimes find that my Internet self and my real-life self are a tad disconnected. Coinciding with an enjoyable week in my reading-writing-online life, in my personal life, we had some disturbing news in our extended family. I'd rather not discuss the details, but I wanted to share the lesson I learned from this news. When you have a bad feeling about a person or a situation, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. So many times in life we sense that something is not as it should be, but we dismiss that twisty feeling in the pit of our stomachs. Don't. Do It. Speak up. Ask questions. Show concern.

Stepping off of my soap box now.
Happy Friday, everyone!

Music for today: Cath by Death Cab for Cutie

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Welcome to Road Trip Wednesday! Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question. This Week's Topic:

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

A few years ago, I wrote a short story titled Regeneration. It earned some recognition in a contest, and I had always planned to revisit my feisty main character one day. I wasn't ever sure if it was more dystopian or just speculative; in the world of the story, the government mandated all citizens to take "supplements," which were meant to keep them healthy. The story unfolds when Tabitha loses her supply, and discovers the world without supplement-filtered lenses.

Flash-forward to fall 2011. I finally picked up Ally Condie's Matched, which had been released the year before. First of all, I absolutely loved Matched. The world Condie created still exists in my mind today, all the scarier because it feels so possible. Cassia is both relatable and consistent in the confines of her dilemma. But two thoughts came to me when I put it down:

1. Wow, that was an amazing book.

2. Thank goodness I didn't spend a year of my life turning Regeneration into a novel.

Of course my story was different from Matched, but it wasn't different enough to be successful in the wake of such a blockbuster series. I think writers should tell the stories in their hearts, however similar they may be to others, and I'm glad I got to spend a little time with my Tabitha. But novels require blood, sweat, tears, and time. I haven't done it myself, but should a writer Google his or her super-cool new ideas, or search them on Goodreads, before putting fingers to keyboard?

Music for today, in honor of Matched: Resistance by Muse

Friday, February 3, 2012

Welcome to the new look of Unavoidable Awkwardness!

I think of myself as an 'artsy' person, but I'm not an artist. A few years ago, one of my favorite bands held contests for VIP tickets to their concerts. Each one involved art in some way, either designing posters or t-shirts for the band. Even though I'd never done anything like it before, I decided to give it a try, because, are you kidding, a chance to meet the band?

I had no idea what I was doing. I only finished one of the projects, and I didn't win the contest. I had decent ideas, but not the skill to execute them. Still, I enjoyed working with the graphics. Couple that with my obsession with Bravo's reality show Work of Art, and I finally decided to scratch the surface of the vast world of graphic design.

I spent yesterday playing around with a new program, and I thought I'd dress up the blog while I was at it. I hope you like it!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Welcome to Road Trip Wednesday!

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. This Week's Topic:

What was the best book you read in January?

I read several great books in January. A few of my favorites were:

But my top book for January has to be The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.

This book had been on my to-be-read list for a while. When it kept showing up on bloggers' lists of best books of 2011, I finally picked it up.

Instead of summarizing, which would give too much away, I'll just sing its praises. Mara is equal parts spooky and suspenseful. Hodkin's prose is spot on, clean and lyrical, with snappy dialogue and the magical quality to give you goosebumps. I was really fascinated by the way she let the reader experience Mara's madness. I felt Mara losing it, in a very different way from Juliette's state of mind at the beginning of Shatter Me. (Another good book, with amazing voice.)

Shifting gears, but on a related note, I've been reminded recently that I sometimes forget the audience for my blog. I expect most of my readers to come from the YA world, since I mostly read and review YA books, and because I am writing a YA novel. But I don't usually talk to people in the 'real' world about that. When I run into someone locally and they mention my blog, or that they bought a book based on my recommendation, I am floored. (Thanks for reading, by the way!)

How does this relate to Mara Dyer? This book is dark and violent. Some reviewers compare it to early Stephen King. (I wouldn't go quite that far.) Not out of the ordinary for the books I read, but I thought it deserved a mention.

How about you? What was your favorite book in January?

Music for today: Sweet Sour by Band of Skulls