27.9.10

Teaser Tuesday

As of now, this is the beginning of my novel Lost & Found.

I could taste the night on my tongue. The acrid smoke, as fire licked at pieces of wood. The bittersweet scent of beer, as it was passed from mouth to mouth.
This was the usual flavor of Olivia Chang's parties.
She only threw them when her parents weren't around, and lately they have been going on a lot of business trips, so once their cars pull out of the driveway, she dials a few numbers, and in less than an hour, music, booze, and bonfires fill her backyard along with a lot of people from school whose names I don't even really know or care to know.
The dock is the only place where people aren't smoking, drinking, dancing, doing whatever, so I step off of the porch, and make my way over to the lonely wooden slab.
Before all of the drinking and the partying, Liv's place used to be my getaway. Out here, surrounded by the mountains and the open sky, I felt like I was in another world, one that was so much more beautiful, so much unlike my own.
There weren't any plates being launched at my head, no drunken insults, no beer bottles, no cigarette butts, no pervy men who liked to stare at my chest. It was just me and Liv and sometimes Cord, who over the past three years, has traded in his bifocal glasses for contacts and a sex-drive bigger than Texas.
It's colder near the lake. I pull my sweater closed, and stand there looking out into the sky, at the white-gold peaks of the mountain range. They look close enough for me to touch, but you could walk for miles and miles and still not reach them.
Who knew a small town could feel so big?
The legs of the dock wobble, as I sit down, and dangle my legs over the side. I can feel the water licking at my toes. It's cold and wet and for a moment, I wish that it would pull me under, let me sink down to the bottom where kisses were stolen, and childhood trinkets were lost.
What do you think?
18.9.10

Why I think adults should just shut the BLEEP up...


I read a book where the main character had sex with a guy she really really liked, and because this main character had sex, I'm going to go have sex with the guy I really really like.

The word "fuck" was mentioned in said book like a gagillion times, so now I use it, and I even know what it means because of this book.

To tell you the truth, I shouldn't know about these types of things because I'm only sixteen and the only things I should be reading are school books and Bibles.

Young Adult novels, especially ones that drop the f-bomb should be censored and sex should be something so taboo that no one should talk about it, no one should HAVE it, even though we all are the products of SEX.

Yes, that three letter word is the one word one man has a serious problem with.

Before I link you to one of the most absurd articles I have read in a long time, let me tell you a little something about the world.

IT'S NOT THE SAME AS IT WAS YEARS AND YEARS AGO.

Teens have evolved, and even though some of us do drugs, disobey our parents, and have unprotected sex, at least we aren't as CLUELESS as the teenagers back then.

I hate how adults want to criticize today's youth, when they forget where these sex-crazed, devils came from. YES, they came from YOU.

Don't try to point the finger at Young Adult authors just because they are writing about LIFE and what really goes on because YOU as adults are afraid of letting your children know about what's going on around them.

Just because I read a book about a girl having sex with a guy doesn't mean I'm going to go out and do it myself because I know about sex, and I know about all of the dangers of having unprotected sex.

I KNOW.

Parents, teachers, all of you adults out there, let me tell it to you straight.

We aren't going to be teenagers forever.

You're not going to be able to dictate what we know and what we don't know forever.

Now, I wouldn't condone letting a seven year old watch The Clockwork Orange, but know that one day that seven year old is going to watch it (because I watched it when I was fourteen) whether you like it or not.

You can stop them from watching TV, but then when they go to school, they're going to learn about sex and rape and abuse and pick up a few curse words, if not from what they read, then from what the other kids say, because not all parents are uptight and overprotective like you are.

Now, if you're reading this, you might ask what started this whole rant.

I follow Sarah Ockler on twitter, and I happened across her tweet where she posted a link to this absurd article I was talking about: Scroggins: Filthy books demeaning to Republic education

"For example, my review of the eighth-grade sex education curriculum revealed that children at the middle school are being introduced to concepts such as homosexuality, oral sex, anal sex and specific instructions on how to use a condom and have sex. Sex education curriculum in the fourth grade includes topics on reproduction. Is this what parents and taxpayers in this community want their children exposed to in school?"

Why not have kids exposed to sex in a learning environment?

I had Sex Education when I was in eighth grade, when I was in tenth grade, and I'm taking another Sex Ed class now in my junior year of high school.

Just because I know about sex and condoms doesn't mean I'm going out and having sex. But it's nice to know that when I do have sex for the first time I know a little more than my mom told me about, which isn't a bad thing.

Then this man had the nerve, the audacity, to mention Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I read that book in ninth grade. It was apart of the curriculum in English, and I'll admit that at first I didn't like it, because who likes assigned reading? But later on in the year, I read it on my own, and I began to like the book, and feel for the main character who was RAPED.

Rape happens in today's world, unfortunately. It's not going STOP happening just because Speak and other books like it are banned from English classes or school libraries.

Many people could relate to Anderson's novel, and that's one of the things I love about Young Adult novels. People, no matter who they are, can relate to them.

"The cheer squad also gets their group-rate abortions at prom time. As the main character in the book is alone with a boy who is touching her female parts..."

OH FOR THE LOVE OF PETE.

FEMALE PARTS?

WTF?

It's called a "vagina". Seriously, I should know, I actually have one and if this guy can't even use the word "vagina" then he seriously has problems.

HUGE problems.

Maybe he never had a girlfriend or maybe he never had sex. He's probably just some lonely lonely man who is afraid of girls and their "female parts".

PUH-LEASE.

"In this book, drunken teens also end up on the beach, where they use their condoms to have sex."

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THEM USING CONDOMS?

Twenty Boy Summer and Speak are excellent novels and I don't think this man read either of them. He probably just skimmed because Twenty Boy Summer isn't about sex and condoms. It's about a girl and her best friend grieving over a boy they both loved, in different ways.

And if he has a problem with that, then you know what, forget him.

He and all the other people like him need to shut the BLEEP up because I'm a teenager and I'm going to read whatever the BLEEP I want.

You can BLEEP out all of the "inappropriate" stuff but it only goes to show that YOU'RE uncomfortable, and not me.

Step into the 21st century.
16.9.10

Battle of the Betas

Hey guys! Today on the blog I am beta reading Alicia Gregoire's first page of her urban fantasy, Phoenix Rising for Battle of the Betas an event where eight readers, me included, read one page of someone's WIP and give an honest critique.

This is only the second round, but I'm really excited to apart of this, and I hope my critique is helpful to Alicia.

Here is the original page:

20 Years Ago

Ianos studied the chimera pride that roamed the foothills outside Timmons for months in search of the runt. With a pair of large males and several females, it took him longer than he wanted, but once discovered, he kept his eye on it. In a final attempt of self-preservation, they abandoned it weeks ago. Each day it grew weaker, languishing without the companionship of the pride. On the fourteenth day, Ianos executed his oh so easy plan.
Armed with nothing other than his knowledge of spells, he made his final trek to the foothills. He was much closer than he’d been in his previous visits to the chimera grounds and never seen anything like the beast before. It lay in the sun, with only one head awake, but not alert. The lion head mewled, mourning its fate. Its paper lantern thin wings stretched on the ground while the dragon and goat heads slept.
It was awing.
The lion head despondently watched Ianos’ approach but roared to awaken the other two heads when Ianos crossed some unknown border. The beast rose to its full height, stretched its wings wide, and bellowed—all three heads created a cacophony of rage.
Ianos snarled and crouched, ready to strike. Electricity spurted from his palms towards the chimera. It dodged at the last second and ran head-on towards the sorcerer. He ran into a cave to his right; he’d have better luck surviving the fight if he was able to corner the animal. The beast skidded, turned, and charged again. Ianos leapt onto its back. He held tightly onto the lion’s neck scruff and struggled to pull a lasso out of his jeans.

My notes are in purple:

Ianos studied the chimera pride that roamed the foothills outside Timmons for months in search of the runt.

To be honest, this first sentence didn't really reel me in. For one, it was too wordy. This was one of the sentences in your excerpt that had my tongue tied. So, I would suggest breaking this up into two sentences just so that it flows a little better, and the reader doesn't get confused.

I'll admit that I didn't know what a chimera was, until I Googled it. A chimera is, according to Wikipedia a "monstrous fire-breathing creature", which is really cool because this comes from Gerek mythology and I can already sense that your urban fantasy will be different from all of the others out there.

With a pair of large males and several females, it took him longer than he wanted, but once discovered, he kept his eye on it.

This sentence could be a bit more clear. I don't like that you're using "it" because I'm assuming that you're talking about this "runt" but I'm not really sure. So far, I can't see the scene in my head, and I don't know anything about Ianos, except that he's been studying in Timmons for months.

I have read a lot of books, and I have found that most novels written in first person rely on voice to hook the reader, whereas books written in third person rely on setting and style to hook the reader. But I haven't gotten a taste of the setting yet. I know that Ianos is in Timmons, but I want to see this place. What's it like?

The most important advice I will give you is to set the stage right off the bat, using a lot of imagery, and a mixture of short and long sentences, otherwise you'll lose your reader.

In a final attempt of self-preservation, they abandoned it weeks ago. Each day it grew weaker, languishing without the companionship of the pride.

Again with the word "it".

On the fourteenth day, Ianos executed his oh so easy plan.

I'm not sure what his "oh so easy plan" is, so I'm going to read on to find out.

Armed with nothing other than his knowledge of spells, he made his final trek to the foothills.

My first impression of Ianos was that he was some sort of scientist or adventurer, but then I read "other than his knowledge of spells" and started to wonder what and who exactly is Ianos. You don't really establish that in the beginning, and I think that it's really important that you do, because I assume Ianos is an important character.

He was much closer than he’d been in his previous visits to the chimera grounds and never seen anything like the beast before. It lay in the sun, with only one head awake, but not alert. The lion head mewled, mourning its fate. Its paper lantern thin wings stretched on the ground while the dragon and goat heads slept.

This is your cue. Describe the beasts a little more, I get that they have three heads, and that their wings are "paper lantern thin" but is there anything else you can tell us about them. What color are they? Is one of them breathing fire? If so, describe the fire. Like I said, third person relies on the setting and the descriptions. You have a lot of opportunities to weave in imagery and make it a little more "colorful".

It was awing.

Hmm. Maybe you can reword this sentence. I would say something like "The sight of the chimeras made their mouths fall open in awe." Or something to that effect, because I don't see how something can be "awing" it can be "awe-inspiring" but not awing.

The lion head despondently watched Ianos’ approach but roared to awaken the other two heads when Ianos crossed some unknown border. The beast rose to its full height, stretched its wings wide, and bellowed—all three heads created a cacophony of rage.
Ianos snarled and crouched, ready to strike. Electricity spurted from his palms towards the chimera. It dodged at the last second and ran head-on towards the sorcerer. He ran into a cave to his right; he’d have better luck surviving the fight if he was able to corner the animal. The beast skidded, turned, and charged again. Ianos leapt onto its back. He held tightly onto the lion’s neck scruff and struggled to pull a lasso out of his jeans.

WOW... so a lot is going on here. Let's break this down:

The lion head despondently watched Ianos’ approach but roared to awaken the other two heads when Ianos crossed some unknown border.

Again, you have so many opportunities to use imagery to your advantage. This is urban fantasy, imagery is a great asset to this genre, so instead of telling us that the "lion head despondently watched Ianos approach..." show us.

The beast rose to its full height, stretched its wings wide, and bellowed—all three heads created a cacophony of rage.

I'm not sure a "cacophony of rage" is the right choice of words. This is a creature with three heads, we're talking about. What exactly does a "cacophony of rage" coming from them sound like?

Ianos snarled and crouched, ready to strike. Electricity spurted from his palms towards the chimera.

Okay, who in the world is this Ianos guy? He really does have a lot of surprises up his sleeves. I mean, he has a "knowledge of spells" and now he's getting ready to take on a creature who is possibly bigger than him with ELECTRICITY SPURTING FROM HIS PALMS?

Again, who is Ianos?

It dodged at the last second and ran head-on towards the sorcerer.

OKAY...so Ianos is a sorcerer.

He ran into a cave to his right; he’d have better luck surviving the fight if he was able to corner the animal.

It feels like this cave just magically appeared. Where are they exactly? I mean, I know that this is Timmons, but what's it like? I know it's in the mountains, but there are caves....hmm. I can't really picture it in my head.

The beast skidded, turned, and charged again. Ianos leapt onto its back. He held tightly onto the lion’s neck scruff and struggled to pull a lasso out of his jeans.

Okay, Ianos is wearing jeans and he has a lasso. I know that this is urban fantasy, so I am assuming that this story takes place in the modern times, but in the beginning it had this other-worldly feel to it. Like, I thought this took place back in Ancient Greek, and I would honestly be surprised if this actually takes place in, let's say, present-day New York.

I know I already rambled on for a long time, but I just want to give you a quick overview of all of my notes.

1. Use a mixture of short and long sentences. When writing in third person, one thing you want to focus on, is the flow of your sentences. You don't want them to be too wordy, or too vague.

2. Imagery. It's vital. Make sure you weave enough of it into the story to keep your reader intrigued and to hold their attention.

3. Establish your main character. I didn't really know who Ianos was ( I still don't) but it wasn't until later on that I discovered that he was a sorcerer. I would mention that a little earlier, and then work from there.

4. The uses of "they" and "it" made everything impossibly confusing. You want to make sure that you're clear, and be more specific, especially since you're writing in third person.
Thanks for contributing your first page Alicia! I really hope that this wasn't a bunch of nonsense, and that I actually did help out. This is a good skeleton, and I think that with a little more skin and flesh, this could be an amazing first page.

Here is the list of the other betas:

Kate Hart
Meredith Primeau
Windy Aphayrath
Sarah Enni
Corrine Jackson
8.9.10

Lost & Found - book trailer

I was playing around on this website called Animoto, and I found out that they're giving away free codes to make full-length videos, that you usually have to pay for. So I decided to use my code to make a book trailer for my novel, Lost & Found.

I still have to tweak a few things, but how is it for my first trailer?

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

What's in your Duff kit?


Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival hosted by the lovely ladies over at YA Highway.

This week's question: What's in your DUFF kit?

Super amazing author Kody Keplinger's book The Duff was released yesterday and if you haven't got your copy yet, I suggest you leave my blog now and go to your nearest book store, because it's definitely worth reading.

To celebrate the release of such a fab novel, for today's Road Trip Wednesday we're going to put together our own Duff kits.

I LOVE Emilia's definition.

DUFF Kit n. A collection of fun, comfy items to be used during a relaxing night alone or with friends; this collection entails zero pressure to be the prettiest, smartest or funniest person in the room. I was feeling like a disgrace to Earth, but then I broke out my DUFF kit, and it was AWESOME. (Yay!)

Okay, so here's mine:


1.
OMG. Who doesn't like a nice vanilla bean frappucino with a shot of mocha on a nice hot day or any day....

I want to live in Starbuck's. That is seriously like a writer's paradise. I don't care how many carbs are in a frappucino. They're good, and I love them so that is that.

2. Shoes? Those are so overrated.

I am seriously not a fan of shoes. Not that I don't wear them because duh I have to, but I'll have to say that socks by themselves are way more comfortable than any shoe. Especially when it's like super hot outside. But, I do love a nice pair of bunny slippers.
(See, that dog knows what I'm talking about.)



3. Johnny Depp is just...there are no words

I used to dream of marrying this man. I know he's like thirty years older than me, but I LOVE him. He's an amazing actor, possibly one of the best male actors out there, hands down. Who cares about Taylor Lautner and Zac Efron? Hmm...I can't possibly pick a favorite out of the many JD movies I've seen, but I have to say that I really really like the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Chocolat, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Sleepy Hollow, and Edward Scissorhands.



4. Entenmann's Devils Food Donuts

These are the kind of donuts you would sell your soul for, seriously. When I have an unbelievably horrible day, I just eat two of these and all my worries are washed away with every sweet, chocolatey bite. I don't even care that it's ridiculously high in calories. Chocolate = A girl's best friend. Unless, you're the kind of girl who freaks out if you eat any carbs.

5. Pajama pants & T-Shirt

This is my ideal comfortable outfit. Even though I like to wear jewelry and fitted tees and fashionable outfits, I really veg out in pajama pants and a T-shirt when I get home.

So that's my Duff kit. What's yours?
7.9.10

Two For Tuesday

What is it? Post two of anything: book reviews, pictures, quotes, poems, songs, videos, rants, shout outs, whatever floats your boat. Just connect them somehow. That's it. (via Kate)

Today: I decided that I am going to participate in NaNoWriMo. This will be my third year doing it, which is pretty exciting. Lost & Found started off as a nano-project, and so I hope that this one will turn into something more because I really like the idea.

It's going to be a YA retelling of Hansel and Gretel. I'm thinking of calling it BREAD CRUMBS for now. So...the two things I'm going to share with you today have to do with this new project, that I am going to start outlining very soon.



I am slowly falling in love with Death Cab For Cutie, and once I heard this song I knew that it had to be on the BREAD CRUMBS soundtrack.



Don't you just love love LOVE this picture? I *squealed* when I happened across it. This will definitely be a scene in the book.
2.9.10

There are no words...

Today was my first day back to school.

I walked out of the house with a smile on my face, even though I missed lazing about at home, I was eager to see my friends, and eager to start off my junior year. Because, guys, I'm OFFICIALLY A JUNIOR.

But, to give you guys a little background, I go to an inner-city school. Which, if you're not familiar with the term, means that I go to a school where there are security guards and metal detectors and drugs and fights and because of this, it's not really an ideal school, but it is a school nonetheless.

I believe in many things, but I strongly believe in education. Sure I may whine about having a butt-load of homework. Sure I may whine about how I hate getting up in the morning, but that doesn't mean that I hate school in general.

I love school and because I believe in education, I also believe that even the worst of schools deserve a chance.

High school is your last chance. After that, it's time to face the music. That's what everyone is always telling me, other young people my age. It's a universal law: knowledge is power, and then I think about the many countries out there whose kids don't have a chance at receiving an education, I think about how blessed I am for being born in one of the greatest nation's in the world. Even though we have had our ups and downs, America is supposed to be the land of the free. It's supposed to be the land of opportunities and possibilities and then there is the American Dream:

The meaning of the "American Dream" has changed over the course of history. While historically traced to the New World mystique — especially the availability of low-cost land for farm ownership — the ethos today simply indicates the ability, through participation in the society and economy, for everyone to achieve prosperity. According to the dream, this includes the opportunity for one's children to grow up and receive a good education and career without artificial barriers. (Wikipedia)


So, yeah, even the American Dream requires for every child to receive a good education and a career, but let's face it, you can't land a good job, if you don't make those four years in high school count, and get accepted into a good college.

You must be thinking "What's the point of all this?" Well, let me finish telling you about my day.

I was so happy to finally be rid of my 10th grade status that I literally skipped to school, but once I actually stepped inside, my smile turned into a frown, and then from there, I started to get angrier and angrier.

Why?

Half of my school is off limits. This is not essentially why I was angry, but it's part of it. There are walls and padlocked doors to keep us from getting to the other side, and once I saw them, reality set in.

They are closing my school, guys.

I have sent letters to the superintendent, a lot of people in my school did. I have spoken to the local paper, but the article was never written. I have ranted and raved and parents of my fellow students have been in the news, talking about how this is not right.

Because it isn't right. There are a lot of people who disagree with me, but a lot of these people are American and they claim to believe in education and this so called American Dream, that clearly states that every child is eligible to receive a GOOD education.

But, how are children supposed to learn when they are closing schools down?

In my hometown, the city is divided up into four categories: the West End, the East End, the Northside and the Southside. I live in the East End, and you want to know something?

After they close down my school, there is going to be only one high school in my area.

Do you want to know what they want to do to my school once they close it? Well, they want to put another school in there, one that I couldn't even get into even if I wanted to, because there's a waiting list that started years ago, and these kids who will roam of the halls of my school, the one I have been at for almost three years, have parents who are rich, and they are not inner-city kids.

And do you know what else sucks? We don't even get a choose what school we want to go too.

It's either the one school that's left on the East End or another, which is on the other side of town. They say they will pay for transportation but...do you know what's so freaking funny about this whole thing?

The reason why they are using our school for this new school, is because the drop-out rate is high in my school and they think the building should be used for people who want to learn.

There are about 300-400 students attending my school, which is the norm for a lot of the schools in my area, or was, I should say, because they recently sold another high school building to a hospital, because the hospital needed more office space.

I SWEAR TO GOODNESS. It's like...this town doesn't even care about education. They are spending money building new hotels, and new gyms and new this, and new that when they can't put a penny into our education...which really pisses me off, and I don't want to just sit here and take it.

I won't, but what the hell can I do? I've tried to talk to the Superintendent but he doesn't give two shits about anything, nor does he know anything about anything. He's making these blind decisions, when he doesn't really know why the kids in my school are doing poorly, and it's not everyone...it's just a chunk of the student body, and that holds true in any school, no matter who attends it, inner-city or rich kids.

I'm a straight A student. I was one way before I went to middle school, and there are lot of kids at me at my school, but the school board doesn't want to see that, they just want to kick us out of our school...and it hurts so much, because I've come to like my school. I love the teachers, even though the students get on my nerves some times, I've had some great memories there, and to know that they're going to be washed away....I just...

And I'm not even going to have a prom. They're closing the school after the end of next year, and I graduate in 2012, which means I have ONE more year of high school left...but I don't even get to spend it with my friends, I have to go to a new school, one that is located in a bad area and bad is seriously an understatement.

People get shot just by walking down the street, in that neighborhood and they want to send us there?

And you know what the funny thing about that is? The school board knows that. That is why they wouldn't dare send those rich, non inner-city kids to that school. It's a bad neighborhood and they wouldn't want any of them getting shot up...but when it comes to us....who cares?

I'm sorry if this was just a whole bunch of ranting, but I had to let off some steam.