Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Fives: The BEST First Lines

Reading Song of the Day: "Where the Lines Overlap" by Paramore

It's Friday! That means two things:

1.) It's exactly one week until SCBWI in LA! Woo hoo!!!

2.) It's time for Friday Fives with the Paper Hangover gang :)

This week's topic:

What are your FIVE favorite first lines?

We've answered this before for the lovely YA Highway ladies, so some of our answers may seem familiar. Hey, we don't mind showing love to some great opening lines more than once!

Without further delay, here are our favorite first lines:

1.) "When I was little, my dad used to tell me, 'Will, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose.'"-Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Greene and David Levithan

The line sets the tone for the book. You know it'll be a slightly humorous tale about friendship. And this intro just pops with voice.

2.) "Imagine four years. Four years, two suicides, one death, one rape, two pregnancies (one abortion), three overdoses, countless drunken antics, pantsings...But everything you do here counts. High School."-Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

Whoa! The conciseness, the listing...these brief images pretty much paints exactly what kind of school the narrator attends.

3.) "I was born with a light covering of fur. After three days it had all fallen off, but the damage was done."-Liar by Justine Larbalestier

It's a simple first line that doesn't seem to make sense, but once you read the whole book it'll mean so much more.

4.) Daddy said, "Let Mom go first."- Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Go first? For what? When we read the first chapter preview months before the book's release, we just knew we had to know more about this adventure.

5.) "They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that's not how it happened for me."-Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Right away we know what to expect--the narrator has died. BUT, after reading that first line, we were dying to find out exactly how it happened for her.

Bam! There ya have it! So, what are some of your fave first lines???


***Today is the release day for Black Fox Literary Magazine Issue # 1!!! Please support us and check out the mag here (we will go LIVE later on this morning). Also, there are print issue for sale :)!***

AND, don't forget about our contest to win Jo Treggiari's Ashes, Ashes--deets here :)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Debut Author Challenge # 9: Ashes, Ashes...And a GIVEAWAY!!

Reading Song of the Day: "Ashes" by Embrace

This has been such a cr-az-y summer thus far. And it's nice to just be able to love on some books. That's why we're continuing on with the 2011 Debut Author Challenge. This week, I read Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari. Although the book had a lil' bit of a slow start, it is one that I would still recommend...and why do I recommend it, you ask? Read on, loyal follower...read on.

Here is what Goodreads has to say about Ashes, Ashes:

A thrilling tale of adventure, romance, and one girl's unyielding courage through the darkest of nightmares. Epidemics, floods, droughts--for sixteen-year-old Lucy, the end of the world came and went, taking 99% of the population with it. As the weather continues to rage out of control, and Sweepers clean the streets of plague victims, Lucy survives alone in the wilds of Central Park. But when she's rescued from a pack of hunting dogs by a mysterious boy named Aidan, she reluctantly realizes she can't continue on her own. She joins his band of survivors, yet, a new danger awaits her: the Sweepers are looking for her. There's something special about Lucy, and they will stop at nothing to have her.

Deep stuff. But if that ain't enough for ya...

The Top Four Things you should know about Ashes, Ashes:

1. It's written in Third Person: And written WELL in third person. That may not mean much to you, but for me it was like freakin' magic. I struggle with third person, but plan to revise The Blues in 3rd *maybe* so I took a few pointers from this book.

2. Lucy pretty much rawks: I couldn't imagine living on my own as a teenager out in the wild. Lucy does this with skill-- I mean, the chick kills a turtle and makes herself some stew! Also, she holds her own against those evil sweepers.

3. Authentic Relationships: For example, the boy and girl do not love each other from the beginning. We get to see things build... and of course Aidan, the love interest for Lucy is quite swoon worthy :)

4. Aidan has two girls after him!: This is something that me and Pam have discussed wanting to see more of in YA. There are enough love triangles where the girl has two boys fighting for her affections, but Ashes, Ashes is fresh because it has a boy caught between two girls.

If You Like...

Books: Plague by Jean Ure, Z is for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien, and Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer...then you will like Ashes, Ashes.

Movies: 12 Monkeys, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012...then you will like Ashes, Ashes.

Since we've been gone for so long, why not celebrate this week of our return with a giveaway? If you'd like to own a gently used copy of Ashes, Ashes, leave a comment on this post with your e-mail address by Midnight August 2nd, 2011. We keeps it simple! As always, we love to hear your book recommendations, too! Do you have any debut authors to tell us about???

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

RTW: Best Book of July

Reading Song of the Day: "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath

After a two-week hiatus, we are THRILLED to join the lovely ladies at YA Highway for another Road Trip Wednesday. This week they want to know:

What was the best book you read in July?

To which our response is: Gulp.

You see, we had to take that hiatus for a reason: to move, to work on our thesis presentations, and to help out our sis and co-editor, Racquel Henry, launch the first issue of Black Fox Literary Magazine (more info on that on the bottom of this post). Needless to say, we didn't get to read as much as we wanted, but the ONE book I read was actually pretty awesome:

After reading so much hype about the Iron Fey series online, as well as wanting to read it for research for my own fairy WIP, I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Here's what Goodreads has to say:

Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined.
Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home.
When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.
But she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

I say this quite a few times, but this book truly led me on a roller coaster of emotions. I swooned over Ash, felt bad for Meghan's best friend, Puck, feared for Meghan's safety, and literally cried from laughing at one of Meghan's first encounters with some nasty fairies (just ask Quita--she thought I was dying). I truly would recommend this book for anyone who loves fantasy, adventure, and romance. I can't wait to read the rest of the series now!

Side note: the very first issue of Black Fox Literary Magazine will be released THIS FRIDAY!!! If you can't tell, we're just a tad bit excited. To honor our launch, we have extended the Black Fox Twitter contest--more details to come on that. Just swing by our blog on Friday to celebrate with us!

And now--any book recommendations for us? We have A LOT of catching up to do.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Baby WIPs: Pam's Edition!

Reminiscing Song of the Day: "For the First Time" by The Script

We're baaaaaack!! And seriously, we've missed you guys. Never fear, though--over the next few weeks, we plan on giving you book reviews, recaps of our trip to this year's LA SCBWI conference, and maybe even a giveaway or two.

But first...as some of you may know, Quita and I were in the middle of moving. And in the middle of moving, we came across a few hidden gems. For me, it was this:

This just happens to be one of my very 1st notebooks. At 7 years old, I already knew I wanted to be a writer. I thought it would be cute to type up one of my early stories for our lovely followers (Quita will dig up something from her archives next week). So, without further ado, here is:

Never Say Never by Pamela Harris (typos purposely left in so that you can tease me)

One Spring morning there lived a boy named Tootie. He was 6 years old. He lived with his big sister Mary, his mother Suzie and his daddy Niko. His sister always picks on him because she thinks he gots a girl name.

Why are you always picking on me, said Tootie.

Because you got a girl name, said Mary.

I never want to see you again! said Tootie.

Suits me! said Mary.

He told his friend Erica how mean his sister is. Well, said Erica, Sounds like you got a real bad sister.

Erica told her friend Sesly who told her friend Nick who told his friend Johnathan who told his friend Jenifer who told Marys boyfriend Mike.

I wish I could move in here and never see you again, Tootie! said Mary.

Then get out! said Tootie.

Shut up! said Niko. Your mother got an headache from yall and she had to take an aspirin!

Thats OK said Suzie. It's gone now.

You just made all my friends think I'm not shiek! said Mary.

Humph, said Tootie. I don't care!

Grrr! said Mary.

I want you to tell all of her friends that your sister is not bad at all! said Suzie.

So Tootie told all her friends that Marys not bad at all.

Thanks said Mary. Now I won't tease on you any more.

Sure, said Tootie.

The End!

Such tension! Such conflict! Oh, and to cap it off, here is my drawing of the happy family:

I really must love you guys to share that "masterpiece." What about you all? Come across any early stories that were as epic as "Never Say Never" (by the way--why in the world did I call it that?)?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Let Us Be Your Motivation!

Inspiring Song of the Day: "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey

Hey, all. We hope you had a great weekend. Us? We've been revising, revising, getting prepared to move, more revising, preparing to work on our thesis presentation, and revising some more. And, well...we're overwhelmed. Like, totally. Because we're feeling so down w/ the load of all of the aforementioned, we motivated ourselves by watching one of our favorite videos. Then we thought: Why not show it to our loyal and lovely followers?

Take a minute to watch this vid, and then try and tell us it doesn't put a smile on your face...

Are you smiling, yet? We KNEW it!

Okay, now for the somewhat sad part of this post. Once again, we haz to go on a blogging hiatus, peeps. Why, you ask?? Well, let us illustrate:

Working on our thesis presentation (due in August *pulling our collars*).
Revising In Limbo and Faking It, AKA Project J (like scrapping major parts, line editing, re-working kinda revising).
Compiling our FIRST issue of Black Fox Literary Magazine with our co-editor and lil' sis, Racquel.
Oh, yeah--and moving into a house in TWO WEEKS!

We're deeply sad to say that something had to go, unfortunately that something is blogging. But, fear not we shall return July 25th, 2011. And we should be able to give you all our full attention :)

So, make sure you come back and see us then! In the mean time, what are you guys up to??

Love ya all!!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Contest Alert: Elevator Pitch Agent Bree Ogden!!!

Paying it Forward Song of the Day: "Love In An Elevator" by Aerosmith

My lovely cuz/sis found another AWESOME contest today and brought it to my attention. Since I remain on the hunt for an agent she directed it my way. The awesome peeps at YAtopia are offering ANOTHER chance for unknown writers to get their work out there!

They are allowing us to enter a pitch to THE Bree Ogden from Martin Literary Management!

The last time I entered, I got a request to query from the agent (Ammi Joan Paquette--who does not accept unsolicited queries), so entering this time could lead to more!

All you have to do is:

A.) Creat a blog post, Tweet, or update status your status on Facebook about this fantabulous contest!

B.) Leave your name, e-mail address, manuscript title and word count, genre, and elevator pitch.
C.) Hold your breath and wait!

You have until July 13th, so click here to enter and learn more about this contest. DON'T MISS IT--or do miss it. Hell, that gives me a better chance ;)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Fives: Look It Up!

Researching Song of the Day: "Look Into My Eyes" by Bone Thugs N Harmony

We've reached the end of another week...this summer is going by a lil' too fast for our tastes, actually. But, alas the end of the week brings good things, too. It means Friday Fives fun with the Paper Hangover gang!

This week, they wanna know: What are your Five Favorite Research Tools or Resources?

1.) Writing Magazines: Writer's Digest & The Writer Magazine: If you don't subscribe to either one of these mags...go do so, now. They both provide tips, writing exercises, and interviews with authors that are beyond helpful. Both of our recent issues give revisions tips, which is awesome, considering that we're both revising right now!

2.) Publisher's Marketplace: Pam has discussed this site at length numerous times, like here. This is a site that she visits daily (you have to have a subscription) to see what types of books editors are buying these days.

3.) Fill In The Blank Plotting by Linda George: This book was introduced to us by our buddy, Alicia. We like it so much that we even gave away a copy recently. The book will definitely be put to may-jah use once we start plotting our NaNo projects.

4.) Guide to Literary Agents Blog: C'mon...what can't you learn on this blog? Not only do you learn about shiny new agents (I like that part a lot), but you also get tips on query letters, announcements for conferences and agent/editor appearances and seminars, and various articles like advice on how to promote your book or why you should keep your day job.

5.) QueryTracker: Yes, I am still quite addicted to this site. I stalk my favorite agents. My favorite part is looking at the percentages of queries/submissions accepted and rejected. I also like reading other writers' comments.

And that's it! What are some of your fave research or resource tools?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Teach Me How to Beta!

Beta'ing Song of the Day: "I Bet it Stung" by Tegan and Sara

By the time this posts, I will have finished beta reading two different manuscripts: one from my worrisome, yet talented, cousin Quita, and one from the brilliant Alex Mullarky. During this time, I had a lot of time to find out how to give the best feedback possible for writers that entrust their WIPs to me.

Enough yapping--here are my 3 Easy Steps to Being the Best Beta Reader:

1. Make Like a Step Team and Break it Down!

Both Quita and I have diagnosed ourselves with Adult ADHD. Needless to say, the older I get, the more my attention span recedes. It wouldn't be fair to the writers if I was thinking about what I'm going to eat for dinner while I'm supposed to be reading their prized possessions. So I give myself a daily page/chapter quota when I sit down to read. This way, for about 2 hours or so, the WIP has my full, undivided attention. Once I close their document, then I can ponder what's going into my belly.

2. Listen to Blink 182: Focus on All the Small Things

So, while I'm reading, I'll notice small things--like if the writer uses a clever line more than once, or if they slip in and out of the character's POV. Sure, this isn't the most pressing work that needs to be done, but the writer is so used to reading the material that he/she may not see these minor errors. I wouldn't want a tiny slip up like this to halt their path toward publication.

3. Throw on Your 3D Glasses and Look at the Big Picture!

And here's where I get down the to nitty gritty: issues with pacing, plotting, character arcs, and anything else pretty major. I usually take a notebook or open up a separate document and start jotting down questions I have about the story. I treat the manuscripts like a book I'd pick up in a bookstore. Which questions would I love to ask the author? What areas left me wanting more--and what areas had me glossing over the paragraphs? I make sure to address these moments and any other questions I had at the end of the manuscript. What I try NOT to do? Make suggestions--though I break this rule for Quita. She has to love me, no matter how obnoxious my critiques are.

So, those are the basics for me. Have you offered to be a beta reader for someone before? What do you feel works best for you AND the writer?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

RTW: Share the Inspiration...and a Winner!!

Inspiring Song of the Day: "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper

Yay! It's Wednesday again, which means we're joining the amazing chicas at YA Highway for Road Trip Wednesday! Here's what's on tap this week:

Share some images that inspire your WIP(s). We've done this topic before, but it's been quite a while, and pictures are always fun.

I don't think we shared pictures last time, so we decided to finally take a stab at it.

Pam's Pic:

During my last revision round of Wants, I decided to give one of my protagonists, Savannah, a dance icon since dance is so important to her. I researched a few famous dancers, and I decided to use Broadway choreographer, Twyla Tharp:

This is the picture that Savannah keeps on her bedroom mirror. She sometimes talks to Ms. Tharp when she's upset. Okay, I know that sounds crazy but...never mind, I think Savannah is a bit crazy. :)

Quita's Pic:

During my second round of revisions for In Limbo, Pam suggested that I look up pictures of the early 1900s so that I could get a better feel for the time period. Since the novel is based around the Spanish Influenza, I looked for pictures that showed the impact of the disease on society:

This pic demonstrates the severity of the disease and how many people were affected. It still sends shivers up my spine.

So, those are the pictures that inspire us. Do you all use pictures for inspiration?

But wait...there's more! The winner of How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend is.....


Okay, so she's our Weekend of Awesome bud, but we promise you this wasn't rigged! Erinn, we'll be emailing you shortly. :)

Monday, July 4, 2011

WIP Snapshot: The Blues

Writing Song of the Day: "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash

First off, Happy Fourth of July all!!! We're glad that you took a moment to stop by the blog! As Pam mentioned last week, we took this idea from Caroline Tung Richmond (remember follow her blog !), who has admitted that she stole this idea from super author Kiersten White. Basically, they both gave details on their current works-in-progress. Just like Pam did here last week, I'm going to attempt to break down one of my two current WIPs.

Ready?? Here goes!

Title: The Blues--I hate titles. Like, loathe them. But there's a place of significance in the novel called The Blues, plus it pretty much conveys the mood.

Genre: Contemporary YA (with some mystery elements)

Pages: 256 (double spaced, 12 point Times New Roman Font)

Chapters: 22--some are as long as seventeen pages, others as short as five. I might need to fix that...

Word Count: 56,838--I always have the issue of adding more to my work. In Limbo started at 52,000 and after revisions is at 60,334. Hope I can do the same with The Blues.

Draft Time: I started writing the very first version of this September 2010 and got serious about it in December, right after NaNoWriMo. I wrote about thirty pages in third person, and played around with two POVs, then I gave up and worked on In Limbo. THEN, I came back to it in February 2011 and completed the first draft right around March 2011, the second draft at the end of April and I'm working on the third now.

Origin: It all started because I wanted to write a contemporary YA after being in historical mode. Then I went to a conference (Hampton Road Writers Conference in September 2011) and set in on a session about writing an effective mystery. I already had a main character in mind and an idea of a relationship with him and a girl...then I added in the mystery element and started writing from there.

Random Facts:

  • In the beginning of the novel, Blake's (the MC) history teacher always shows videos. This came from hearing about teachers that do this...and we've even enountered teachers who show TV episodes for no apparent reason.

  • Margo's name (Blake's love interest) was Millie at first...yeah, Margo's not that much better--but Millie, really?

  • After reading Ellen Hopkin's Crank (per Pam's recommendation) I decided to make crystal meth the central drug in The Blues.

  • Blake and his Ma are Italian mainly because I was trying to teach myself Italian and I wanted to throw in phrases every now and then :)

  • Blake is somewhat of a low class computer genius because I like to think I'm pretty handy with electronics, even though I'm not--at all.

  • Blake drives a two door light blue Chevy Cavalier POS (remember this means piece of sh*t)...because I drive a two door white Chevy Cavalier POS.
Okay, there it is. I have The Blues out with two betas right now and can't wait to delve back into revising it. Just as Pam asked last week, we'd love to hear about your writing. So, how goes it?

***BTW-- That smashing new header on our blog? Yeah, that comes from the lovely Jess at Jest Kept Secret. Thanks, girlie--we LOVE it!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Fives: You're So Cliched...

Writing Song of the Day: "Same Song and Dance" by Eminem

It's Friday so we know what that means--it's time to once again join the Paper Hangover gang for the Friday Fives. This week they want to know:

What are your five favorite cliches?

Um...gulp. Let's see what we can come up with...

1. The Love Triangle. Come on, what girl doesn't want two hot guys fighting over her? However, Quita and I just had a conversation about this, and we both agreed that we'd love to see more spins of this where 2 girls go after the same guy. Guys deserve love, too. Speaking of which...

2. The Bad Boy. Yes, this is coming from the girl who rolls her eyes whenever someone swoons over Damon from The Vampire Diaries or Eric from True Blood. Granted, I've never read the book versions of these TV shows--so maybe I'd like them more on paper. But, when done right--such as Jordan Catalano from My So-Called Life or Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights--I can't help but empathize with the "bad boy." I love when we get a chance to see why their guards are up.

3. The Meek Girl Becomes a BAMF. There are so many times when we see the female protagonist break out of her cocoon and start kicking some serious ass. Do we get tired of it? Umm, NO! I think it's because we're both very introverted, so we get to live out our fantasies through the likes of Clary from The Mortal Instrument series and Tris from Divergent.

4. You Are the Chosen One. Call it the Harry Potter Syndrome. You take your normal, everyday Joe or Jill Schmoe and--voila--they find out they're destined for greatness. We're still waiting for our calling. Yep, still waiting...

5. But Wait...There's More! Yeah, this may not count, but we're both becoming HUGE fans of trilogies. And by the YA deals on Publishers Marketplace, it seems like we're not alone. We love to see what kind of conflicts and character arcs can build over the course of three novels. Quita can't wait to read Forever by Maggie Stiefvater (the final installment in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series), and I can't wait to see what Beth Revis has in store next after Across the Universe.

Yay--we did it! Now you tell us--what's your FAVE cliche??

*Oh, and don't forget to enter our giveaway to win a copy of How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend. Contest ends July 5th! :)