Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Read All About It!

Reading Song of the Day: "My Number" by Tegan and Sara

This past weekend, Quita and I attended the CNU Writers' Conference and saw some very cool people speak, such as author Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia), and agents Michelle Wolfson (Wolfson Literary) and Mitchell Waters (Curtis Brown, Ltd).

While there, we heard two very interesting statistics:

1. 70% of readers only read about 30% of books (meaning they stop a third of a way into reading a book), and

2. In a bookstore, you have about 3 seconds to catch a reader's attention.

I have to admit, I've stopped reading a few books that I was forced to read--and by forced, I mean books that were required for school (sorry Great Expectations). But now, if I buy a book, I don't care how annoyed I am with a story--I'm now financially invested! Plus, as a writer myself, I know how much sweat and tears go into those pages--I would be riddled with guilt!

But what do these stats tell you? Well, that we as a society have lesser attention spans. With all the new technology updates, we're used to being rewarded fast. For a book to be successful, you have to draw the readers in quicker and make them care about the characters (which is why we discussed the importance of first lines here).

I got into a great mini-Twitter discussion when I posted the first stat, but we would love to hear all of your thoughts on both of these. Do you stop reading books? If so, why? Also, what draws you attention when you're strolling in a bookstore?

Psst...don't forget to swing by here and ask us questions. We'll answer them on Monday! :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

WIAWAB Acknowledgements Blogfest!

Writing Song of the Day: "Thank You" by Jay Z

Okay, so our sister from another mister, Blue Lipstick Samurai, is throwing a WIAWAB Acknowledgements Blogfest--or "When I Actually Write A Book, You Will Be Acknowledged." Here are the rules:

Write an acknowledgement blurb for 12 people, with 12 reasons. But not just ANY twelve people:
•3 people you know IRL.
•3 people you know online.
•1 person who has died.
•1 person you never met.
•1 person you met once.
•1 couple (so, 2 people).
•1 author.

Pretty tricky, huh? Nevertheless, we wanted to give it a stab. Here we go...

Pam's Choices:

3 People I Know IRL (In Real Life):

1. Quita:
Because she'll hit me if I don't.
2. Trisha:
My cuz and Quita's older sis. She was technically the first writer of the family because she's the oldest, and I used to love copying everything that she did.
3. Tee Tee:
My niece, and favorite cranky teenager. She keeps me "hip."

3 People I Know Online:

1. Racquel: Okay, technically this is cheating because I met her in my MFA program first--but since she lives so far away (*cries*), we mostly communicate online. She's our adopted little sis--not to mention co-founder of Black Fox Literary Magazine.
2. Blue Lipstick Samurai: Hello? She comes up with awesome blogfests like this--not to mention she's the coolest teenager aside from my lovely niece.
3. My Paper Hangover Crew...oh, and Abby...oh, and Erinn...oh, and Jamie...oh, and the lovely ladies from YA Highway...Gah! Far too many to thank...how about just all my awesome followers??

1 Person Who Has Died:
Okay, sentimental moment, but I'd have to thank my uncle, Duke (and Quita's dad).

1 Person You Never Met:
I've technically never met my super agent, Sarah LaPolla, so she'd obviously have to go here. :)

1 Person You Met Once:
Ummm, I have no clue. I hardly remember ANYONE I've met if it was only once. Hmm, well, I did see Kirsten Hubbard for a millisecond at LA SCBWI--and I think she's a pretty fantastic writer. So, there you have it...

1 Couple:
My mom and dad. Well, they aren't actually together anymore, but come on! It's my mom and dad! I'd have to thank them somewhere.

1 Author:
This is so unfair. I have too many favorite authors! Okay, okay, if I had to choose, it'd be the lovely Judy Blume. Hey, she's the one that made me fall in love with words.

Quita's Choices:

3 People I Know In Real Life (IRL):

Okay...sorry but this gonna be slightly repetitious:

1. Pam: cuz she's my cuz...and she makes me write better.
2. Trisha: My older sis who used to write with me and Pam on a daily basis. She was a part of our first critique group and I hope she starts to write again soon.
3. I have to tie all of my nieces and nephews (cheating, I KNOW!) Tee Tee (like Pam said), and the boys b/c they are 5, 4, and 2...so much material there.

3 People I Know Online:

Okay, I'm going to try to not repeat all of Pam's choices (btw- our online friends are interchangeable- meaning ALL of the people in both mine and Pam's choices would be thanked by BOTH of us)

1. Racquel- duh, same reasons Pam said :P
2. Alicia- for providing such dry wit and support whenever necessary. And also for the fact that she is willing to BETA read for me :D
3. Jamie Manning- for being such an awesome support and providing excellent eye candy on Fridays...and also being willing to BETA read for me!

1 Person Who Has Died: My daddy. We lost him almost three years ago (April 24th, 2008) to cancer. He left us way too soon. He won't get to see me get married or sell my first novel, but I know he'll be looking down on me.

1 Person You Never Met: R. L. Stine for assuring me with his books that I NEEDED to write thriller, mystery, horror-esque novels at some point in my life.

1 Person You Met Once: Michelle Wolfson (cheat alert and Mitchell Waters), for showing me that agents really ARE just people and it's not so bad to go up and introduce yourself.

1 Couple: Can I cheat here and say my mom? Just b/c I would definitely thank her and I didn't get to put her anywhere else, yet. After dad passed though, mom is technically a "couple" on her own. She has always been strong and there for me whenever I needed her. She supports my dreams and because of her pushing me to wake up every morning and go to school, I'm where I am today.

1 Author: Like Pam said, this is a mean one. We luvs our authors! I guess I would have to go with Joyce Carol Oates b/c she writes Young Adult with just as much badassness as her Adult works.

Monday, March 28, 2011

You Win Some...And You Win Some

"Winning" Song of the Day: "Right In Two" by Tool

First of all, sorry for the Charlie Sheen quote--it had to be done. Secondly, are you ready for some winners from our TWO HUNDRED followers contest???

We had TWO prize packs up for grabs for TWO winners.

Two...it's such a nice number. Why don't we take a moment to admire some unique two's:

Wow...the number 2- spelled out!

A snaky two...

Elmo says "hi" from his two...

Two people hanging out on a two...

A balloon filled two...

Have you had enough two's??? Hope not b/c we still have to announce our TWO winners! Without further delay...

The Winner of the Reading Prize Pack is...


The Winner of the Writer's Prize Pack is...


Thanks to EVERYONE who entered. And don't worry, you know we'll have more contests for you later!!! Winners, check your e-mails for further insturctions :D

WAIT! Before you go. We have a favor to ask. We've noticed that a few of our bloggy pals have been requesting questions from their followers. We would like to do the same. Ask us ANYTHING! How do we start writing new WIPs, how do we like to drink our coffee, how do we manage to not kill one another every day...whatever! We'll collect the questions and answer them next Monday, April 4th, 2011! We look forward to your questions!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Debut Author Challenge # 4: The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker

Reading Song of the Day: "Liar" by Henry Rollins Band

As you all know by now we are participating in the 2011 Debut Author Challenge hosted by the wonderful Story Siren. We've already let you know about three awesome 2011 debut novels (check out the debut challenge label to read our thoughts on XVI, Across the Universe, and Like Mandarin), and now we're gonna share another review!

This month, I read The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker. Me and Pam look up to them. Why? Because we are dying to write a book together and they did it so flawlessly!!! Because they are uber friendly and always respond to us whenever we talk to them around the inter-sphere. Also, because, well, they're cool as shiz!

Here is what GoodReads has to say:

Kate Lowry didn't think dead best friends could send e-mails. But when she gets an e-mail from Grace, she’s not so sure.

Sent: Sun 9/14 11:59 PM

Subject: (no subject)

Kate, I'm here… sort of. Find Cameron. He knows. I shouldn't be writing. Don't tell. They'll hurt you.

Now Kate has no choice but to prove once and for all that Grace’s death was more than just a tragic accident. But secrets haunt the halls of her elite private school. Secrets people will do anything to protect. Even if it means getting rid of the girl trying to solve a murder...

Now for the fun stuff...

Top Four Things You Need To Know About The Liar Society:

1. Kate is both believable and likable. The protag. Kate recently lost her best friend, Grace. She could've been whiny, annoying, and too depressed to keep the reader intrigued. But she is strong, intelligent, and willing to do whatever it takes to solve the mystery of what really happened to Grace.

2. Hot guys abound. There's a hot black guy who Kate had a crush on when she started at the "upper school" of her private school. Then there are hot, rich brothers (double the hawtness). Then there's Grace's boyfriend--hot, rock star, druggie type (yes, drugs are bad but he still seemed hot) and finally there's hot, sensitive but dangerous, Liam. He's hiding something, but he looks so good doing it.

3. Secrets, clues, and underground lairs oh my! This has all of the proper makings of a true mystery. If you're longing to get your Nancy Drew on then following along with Kate while she works toward the truth will satisfy that itch.

4. It feels so real. Everything described in the novel seems like it can happen. For instance, Kate has to hop on her bike whenever she can't find a ride, we've ALL been there! There are no unexplained events and the characters are all fleshed out--from the "mean girls" to Kate's nerdy next door neighbor.

If You Like...

Books: Gallagher Girls Series by Ally Carter, The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander, and The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting...then you'll like The Liar Society.

Movies: Brick (We luv you Joseph Gordon Levitt), Just One of the Guys, and The In Crowd...then you'll like The Liar Society.

Have you read the Roecker sisters' masterpiece? What are you thoughts? Have you ever had to solve your own real life mystery?
***BTW- Did ya know??? We're having a contest! There's still time to enter. Click here for the deets :D***

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

RTW: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Reading Song of the Day: "Neighbors Know My Name" by Trey Songz

One more 'gin it's time to road trip with our pals over at YA Highway. This week's prompt:

Which book character would you like most as a next door neighbor?

This couldn't BE any more fun! Pam and I already want to live all up in the books that we read. I can't tell you how many time we turn to each other while reading a book and say, "Man, I wish these people were real!" Sad, but true. And I know that all of you out there agree with us. Okay, without further adieu, here are our answers!

Pam's Choice:

Simon from Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series. Yeah yeah, I know. Jace is the hawt one--the bad boy. And I have to admit that I swoon along with the rest of the world whenever he comes on the page. But his golden locks and witty banter can only get him so far. If he had some cute retort every time I walked to the mailbox, I may want to start pulling my hair out. I'll take Clary's loyal best friend, thank you very much. Why? Didn't I just mention he was loyal? Aside from that, he has the same self-deprecating sense of humor as me, and we could stay up most nights listening to cheesy rock music and coming up with names for his band. Even though most of the world has vampire-fatigue, this is one bloodsucker that I'm not tossing aside. BTW, could City of Fallen Angels come out like, tomorrow please??

Quita's Choice:

This was really hard for me, considering that I read a lot of cryptic books with mean characters...but after some thinking I came up with a good choice. I would want to live next door to Seth from Lisa and Laura Roecker's The Liar Society. Not only b/c this AWESOME book is fresh in my mind, but because Seth is so uber SA-WEET. He always looked out for Kate, even when she was being less than nice to him. We could spend our time looking into conspiracies and doing one of my favorite activities... eating! I can always count on him to bring some snacks while we peruse the web for the latest government cover up.

Tell us, what book character would you want to be your neighbor?

A Few Announcements:

1.) Thanks to EVERYONE who contributed their first lines to our First Lines Critiques (Day 1-click here, Day 2- click here, Day 3- click here) that we held last week. Thanks for being so brave and allowing your fellow writers to share their opinions. A BIG thank you to, all of you who not only contributed lines, but also commented on the other first lines provided. Although the number of comments were not through the roof--there was some good quality critiquing occurring and we hope that the authors got some feedback that they can work with.

2.) Did you see we're having a contest???!!! Well, we are! Click here to enter. You have until Saturday (March 26th, 2011) at midnight EST to enter.

Monday, March 21, 2011

200 Followers? I Smell a Contest!

Celebrating Song of the Day: "It Takes Two" by Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock

We've been very, very busy, dear followers. So busy we didn't take time to stop and smell the flowers--AKA, pause to notice we now have OVER 200 FOLLOWERS!!

Time for a dance break:

Man, we have some sweet, sweet moves.

Anywho...we figured this occasion shouldn't go unnoticed, so we've decided to have a small contest!

Here's the deal: since we're celebrating 200 followers, we'll have 2 winners that'll each win 2 prizes.

First, the Readers Prize Pack:

Second, the Writers Prize Pack:

*Please Note: Moleskin and pens may not look just like the pictures, but they'll be just as awesome!

What do you have to do? Just fill out the form below! You have until Saturday, March 26 at midnight, EST to enter. We'll announce the winners next Monday! Good luck--and thanks for following!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

ALERT: An Agent Wants YOU!

Paying it Forward Song of the Day: "You" by Breaking Benjamin

My lovely cuz/sis found an AWESOME contest this past week 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 a chance for unknown writers to get their work out there!

They are allowing us to enter a pitch to THE Ammi-Joan Paquette who does not accept unsolicited material. Talk about a once in a life time opportunity! 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, title, two sentence pitch, and first line of your manuscript in the comments of their blog.

C.) Hold your breath and wait!

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, March 18, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday #2: Biting the Dust

Writing Song of the Day: "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen (obviously!)

Yay, it's our second official Flash Fiction Friday event over at the Paper Hangover blog.

Here's the deal -- every week a different contributor is going to give you a writing prompt. Something to get the words flowing, get you thinking, and help hone your writing skills. Then, link your post in the comments over on Paper Hangover, and we'll jump around and comment.
It's meant to be fun. You can take the prompt seriously, or have a little fun with it. You're choice. This week:

In 300 words or less, write a story beginning with the cliche, "Another one bites the dust."

Okay, here's my entry:

“Another one bites the dust.”

That’s what Marcus says each time he kills a zombie or alien or whatever supernatural being that’s trying to destroy the world. Of course, he’s playing with my Xbox 360. Marcus would be the first person dead in an ambush. He’s not very good at fighting or running or…anything, really. Been like that since 4th grade. Last one chosen to play kickball, except if I was the captain. But that was over 10 years ago—and I’m tired of being charitable.

I shoot a text to Chloe: Save Me!

“You want next?” His eyes are pasted on the TV screen. We never look at each other anymore. He wouldn’t even be here if my mom hadn’t invited him.

You two used to be so close. You should stay in touch, she told me. He makes the salt and pepper shakers dance with each other at lunch, I wanted to say. But we had a deal—an hour with Marcus, then off to Chloe’s party.

I shake my head, stab at the keys on my cell phone again.

The blaring music from the game stops and he shifts closer to me. Crap.

“Do you want to talk, Leah?” he asks.

Again, crap. “About what?” I peel my eyes away from my phone and glance at him.

He shrugs, his shoulders touching his earlobes. “Dunno. Anything?” He bites his lip. He does that when he’s nervous. Or he used to. I’m not sure anymore.
I shake my head again. “Are you almost done? I’m heading over to Chloe’s.”

He stares at me and it kind of burns. “Yeah. Sure thing.” He leans back and un-pauses the game. He doesn’t even make a sound when he decapitates one of the walking dead. Another one bites the dust.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

First Lines Critiques: Last Day!

Critiquing Song of the Day: "Between the Lines" by Sara Bareilles

Okay, we're a little sad. We had such a good time helping out our fellow writers this week. In case you've missed it, last week we asked some of you to submit your first few lines of your WIPs, and we offered an open forum to receive some awesome feedback. Click here to check out Day 1's submissions, and here for Day 2.

We know you know the rules, but we're a bit anal (insert 13-year-old boy snicker). Here are some questions to ask yourself when critiquing:

1. Does the opening shock you?
2. Does the opening pull you in and make you want to read more?
3. Is the voice apparent?
4. Do you have an idea of the pending conflict?
5. Do you get a sense of the setting?

Again, you do NOT have to answer all of these questions--they're just to get the ball rolling. By the way, thank you SO MUCH for all of you brave souls who were willing to put your work out there, and thanks TONS to our followers for chiming in with help.

Now, for the last time, here are the submissions:

Title: Freakhouse
Genre: Middle Grade
Author's Name: Lisa-Marie
First Lines: "Of course you know, the place is haunted," the real estate agent said with a big, dorky grin. The tag pinned to his bright blue blazer read George Finkle. A funny sounding name for a funny looking guy: short, not a lot of hair, and has what my dad used to call a “beer belly”.

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Author's Name: Amy Thomas
First Lines: People are selfish. It’s a basic truth, just like the sky is blue or the grass is green. People are selfish, cruel and weak; and I must do everything in my power not give in to the weakness.

Title: Distraction
Genre: Women's Fiction
Author's Name: Anonymous
First Lines: They lay coiled together like two serpents, spent by their passion. Justine’s lashes lowered once, twice, and she shifted to stay awake. Xavier stirred behind her and a hand crept over her hip and covered her breast.

*BTW, are you a fan of flash fiction? Then swing by here and my group blog, Paper Hangover, tomorrow for Flash Fiction Friday. Tomorrow's topic: "In 300 words or less, write a story beginning with the cliche, 'Another One Bites the Dust.'" Just post it on your blog and leave the link on Paper Hangover's comments! :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

RTW: Formula for Mass Destruction (Or Using Real Life Characters)

Writing Song of the Day: "You Make It Real" by James Morrison

Once again, it's Road Trip Tiiiiiiiime! (We luvs us some Jersey shore *fist pump*). We're going on our weekly trip with our YA Highway sistahs and this week they wanna know:

Who (from real life) have you written into a book?

We honestly think that all writers include someone they've met or someone they know in their writing. We do...BUT, neither of us can say that we have written a character based completely on one person. We usually take a lil' bit of one person's appearance, with another's personality, and a dash of another person's dialogue or catchphrases and roll that all into one character. Need a formula for that? No problem!

1/3 Mystery Person's Appearance + 1/3 New MP's personality + 1/3 New MP's dialogue = an obscure enough character so we won't have to explain to someone why we made them such a bee-yatch in our writing.

Yes, this is a creepy "real life" version of Charlie Brown.
The purpose of this picture?...

The formula above makes it harder for people we know (who might read it some day) to KNOW we're writing them into a story/novel. This keeps the peace.

To answer the MAIN question (since we can't really say WHO), this is what we've done in terms of writing people we know in a manuscript:

*Used a lot of our niece's mannerisms/phrases and general hate for life to shape our YA characters.

*Used names of students/co-workers that seem interesting.

*Used the likeness (i.e. appearance) of co-workers/students/family members/bums on the street.

*Used some character traits (crazy hair; obnoxiously loud voices) based on family & co-workers.

*Used something about students/co-workers that stuck out and based the entire character around it (i.e. an eccentric accent; bright green shoes; skinny jeans etc.).

What about you? How often do the people you meet show up in your writing? And how do you do this smoothly w/out worrying about hurting someone's feelings?

***BTW- Don't forget about our critiquing madness this weeks. We're helping writers with their first lines, click here for Day 1, and here for Day 2. Thanks in advance!***

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

First Lines Critiques: Day 2!

Critiquing Song of the Day: "Straight Lines" by Silverchair

It's time to take another look at your awesome first lines! Last week, we requested and you all came through big time! Please Note: You can STILL critique for Day 1--I'm sure the authors would love more feedback. :)

Brief overview: we're posting some first lines entries from a few of our brave followers, and you all help them out by giving them feedback (which you guys rock at, by the way).

We mentioned this yesterday, but we're known for repeating ourselves. Here are some questions to ask yourself when critiquing:

1. Does the opening shock you?
2. Does the opening pull you in and make you want to read more?
3. Is the voice apparent?
4. Do you have an idea of the pending conflict?
5. Do you get a sense of the setting?

Anything else that you can help them out with would be great. Remember, you don't HAVE to answer all of these questions. Heck, you don't even have to comment on each of the entries, but it sure would be nice. :) Here's our next 4 submissions:

Title: Untitled
Genre: New Adult
Author's Name: Alicia Gregoire
First Lines: I was late for the first day of freshman orientation, but as far as I was concerned, it was justified. My best friend, my confidant, the sole person who understood the betrayal I had felt when I discovered my ex with someone else, had left me that morning for the army. The understatement of the year would be to say that I handled his departure poorly.

Title: Cursed
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Author's Name: Amie Kaufman
First Lines: Samuel was already running when the miller's shed exploded. The wind whistled behind him and he closed his eyes as it overtook him, lifting him off his feet. For a brief moment, he soared.

Title: The Way Things Fall Apart
Genre: YA Contemporary
Author's Name: Danielle Bunner
First Lines: It all started when the cold came. Fast, brittle, unexpected. That first morning in late October when it snowed on the way to school and I stopped walking to watch it all fall around me.

Title: Untitled
Genre: Fantasy
Author's Name: Alex Mullarky
First Lines: Even in the dark I could tell it was there. It is the black shape in the sky that blots out the stars.

Monday, March 14, 2011

First Lines Critiques: Day 1!

Critiquing Song of the Day: "I Walk the Line" by Johnny Cash

It's here, you guys! Last week, we put out a call for you all to submit the first few lines of your WIPs, and we have quite a few brave followers. So brave, in fact, that we're able to spread out the critiques throughout this week--woo hoo!

Here's the deal: we're posting 3-4 submissions each day, and in the comments section, please provide constructive feedback (click here if you want to know exactly what NOT to do!).

Here are some questions to ask yourself when critiquing:

1. Does the opening shock you?
2. Does the opening pull you in and make you want to read more?
3. Is the voice apparent?
4. Do you have an idea of the pending conflict?
5. Do you get a sense of the setting?

Include any other kind of feedback that may be helpful. Remember, we're all here to help. Without further ado, here's the first 4 submissions:

Title: Generation Z
Genre: N/A
Author's Name: Jamie Manning
First Three Lines: I want to brand the cow’s hide so bad it hurts. I want to push the glowing red “G” into the heifer’s large black-and-white rump and hear it sizzle and watch it smoke and hear the cow yell in protest. I want to see my Dad smile and be proud of me for once.

Title: Safe
Genre: YA Fantasy
Author's Name: Glenna
First Three Lines: Life began at the Source, and life will return to it in time. That is the truth that none can dispute. That is the law that birthed all others.

Title: No System At All
Genre: YA
Author's Name: Erinn
First Three Lines: There was a rumor floating about the suburbs of Princeton, New Jersey that the McCaffrey brothers destroyed lives. If you were a douche of unspeakable proportions they paid you a visit. The McCaffrey brothers’ punishments were so swift and fitting the douches either changes their ways, moved, or went to jail. It wasn’t just a rumor.

Title: Alive
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Author's Name: TN
First Three Lines: The alcohol was always cold. Henry swabbed my arm, raising goosebumps with each swipe. My teeth chattered.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Paper Hangover Flash Fiction Fridays: Attempt # 1

Writing Song of the Day: "Black Cat" by Janet Jackson

Happy Friday!

So, we don't usually blog on Fridays... but that just might change because of Pam's new excellent venture. She and her blog partners at Paper Hangover are challenging writers to come up with a Flash Fiction piece each week based on a given prompt.

How does it work?

1.) You get the prompt early in the week, write it, and then post it on your blog.
2.) Next, you link your FF piece to the Paper Hangover blog.
3.) From there, you visit others and leave comments on their fiction.

Simple enough, right?

This week's prompt was to write a FF piece (no longer than 300 words) that starts with the line "That darn cat..."

So... here goes my 1st attempt at Flash Fiction. *fingers crossed*

FF Attempt # 1:

That darn cat.

I hated him from the moment Dad brought him home. To make me forget about Rick. This darn lazy cat, Chemo is supposed to take away my ache for Rick.

Darn cat. I can’t curse. Not even in my head. Dad will know. He said so. “Don’t even THINK about cursing. I’ll know, Alexis. I’ll know.”

So I don’t.

It’s not like I’m na├»ve, I mean, I’m freaking fifteen…but Dad is scary as sh—I mean, hell, I mean…he’s scary. He knew about Rick—even when I was trying to be sneaky. Once Dad knew, I never saw Rick again. It’s not like I didn’t try. I did. Rick is just gone. In his place I have the fat orange and white cat, Chemo. Dad named him. Said he would cure the cancer that Rick put in me.
I didn’t know I could fall so hard. My friends were mad, saying I chose him over them. Who wouldn’t? Rick was tall, muscular and majorly cute. He had a chiseled face just like the late, great Heath Ledger. Only thing missing was the accent.

And now I have no clue where he went. He could be in a detention home, in jail, or just locked away in his bedroom. I try not to think the worst. But after three weeks of no new texts or e-mails…I can only think that Dad’s done it again.

Just like when I really liked Jamal in eighth grade. He disappeared and Dad brought home one of those rescue dogs. He named her Penny, short for penicillin. She died in her sleep.

I coax Chemo until he brings his fat body to me. I stroke his fur.

Dad might have missed my message with Penny, but he’ll get it for sure this time.

There you have it...my demented take on the prompt: That darn cat... What do you think? Are you participating this week? If not, you MUST next week! Have a good weekend :D

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Constructive Criticism My A@#!

Critiquing Song of the Day: "Everybody Hurts" by REM

I'm not a perfect writer.

There. I admitted it. I mean, that's why I went back to school to receive my MFA in creative writing. I still have a ton to learn about my craft, and I've enjoyed my workshops and professors and recommended reading (okay, that may be a lie). Simply put, my MFA program has been very helpful...

Until I decided to make my creative thesis a contemporary YA novel.

You see, I didn't apply to one of those graduate programs that focuses on children's writing. Why? Because I didn't know that writing YA was my calling until after a month or two after I started classes.

Don't get me wrong. Despite not being familiar with YA writing, both my professors and classmates have given me lots of substantive feedback. They taught me how to build characterization, how to avoid cliches--to push myself to be a better writer.

But recently (like last week), one of my "older" classmates read a chapter in which one of my teen protagonists used curse words and had sex. She went on to not offer constructive criticism--only to tell me that not all teens do these sort of things and I'd be ostracizing my readers who were actually "good boys and girls." Oh, and she went on to tell me that her teenagers never engaged in these activities, so why was I so obsessed with making my characters unlikeable?

How did I react? I laughed. Then I got pissed. Then I tweeted about it. Then my tweeps made me laugh again (you guys rock, by the way).

And now? I'd like to thank my lovely classmate. You see, once my novels hit bookshelves (notice how I didn't say "if"--I'm feeling bold today), this is the type of feedback that I'll probably get from many parents. Why are my teens engaging in these wreckless behaviors? Furthermore, why am I promoting sex and drug use?

No matter what we all decide to write, it will never be universally liked--but that's what makes reading so great, right? We have choices, so if we don't want to read about teens cursing or having sex, we can always grab another book.

So kudos to you, dear classmate, for making my skin even tougher and preparing me for the real world. Have any of you experienced criticism for your writing yet? How have you handled it?

*BTW, don't forget you still have time to submit your first few lines in our First Lines Critique next Monday!! :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

RTW: Like Mike...Not Really

Revising Song of the Day: "Only Girl (in the World)" by Rihanna

It's time for Road Trip Wednesday again--woot woot! The lovely ladies at YA Highway are asking this week: I would have given anything to be like...

When I first read this question, I thought this:

And this:

And maybe a little of this:

Okay, maybe that last one was a little indigestion from dinner, but still--I was confused. But then I thought about it. Really thought about it. And I realized, I think I always kind of wanted to be someone else in school. Why else would I create all of these characters that had everything I wanted or said things I wanted to say?

As far as "real life" people--or people that I actually knew in the flesh--I think I wanted to be a Polk sister. The Polks were these fraternal twins that had everything: good grades, athletic skills, mad friends, and the good hair. I had them in a few of my advanced placement classes, and despite being uber popular, they were never bitchy (one did beat me in a class debate about Hamlet, although my rebuttals were both witty AND accurate, but that's besides the point).

I always wished I had the confidence of a Polk sister, and I think I'm slowly but surely walking down the street with my head held high (and have you seen the size of my head? That's a feat!).

As far as a famous person, I've always had a girl-crush on Chili from TLC (Left Eye was Quita's fave). I loved her so much, that when I was in middle school, two of my friends and I dressed up as them for Halloween. We even safety pinned lollipop heads to our clothes to use as condoms. Yes, Chili did have "the good hair" that I always envied, but I liked the whole girl power vibe that both she and and the rest of TLC always embodied. They were proud to be women, and that made me proud to be almost fully developed at age 11. Okay, not really--but I understood the changes my body was going through because of TLC, as strange as that sounds.

Quita says she's completely clueless about this topic (besides wanting to be ANYONE but herself...hey teens are like that!), so you tell us--was there anyone you wanted to be like growing up?

Monday, March 7, 2011

The First Line is the Deepest...

Writing Song of the Day: "The First Taste" by Fiona Apple

While traveling the blogiverse lately, we've noticed that a lot of our fellow writers are offering up their blogs as a forum for critiquing and helping out our writing brethren. We would like to join in this fun and open up our blog as yet another place to give and receive feedback.

...And on this lovely Monday (actually kinda cold and dreary Monday here in VA) we want to tackle the first step in the WIP and usually one of the parts that gets the BIGGEST makeover. The first lines. These lines are like your first boyfriend/girlfriend...you want to love him/her because they're your first, but you also want to change them constantly. Okay, maybe that was a bad analogy, but you get the point. The first lines need to pull in your reader, yet they also need to be subtle enough that it doesn't feel like the writer is trying too hard. For examples of really awesome first lines from some of our fave published YA novels, check out this post.

So, how do you write engaging first lines?

There are several theories out there about this. Some think you should shock your readers to make them read more. I hope the shock value works b/c in my WIP, The Blues (working title) this is how the novel starts:

Henry Knight was found bludgeoned to death early this morning.

Others think you should write a declarative sentence to start off the pacing of your novel: He was an old and cranky man.

OR you can give some description to let the reader know exactly where they are: It was a dark and stormy night with gray skies and tortured leaves whirling around the red brick two story house. (Yes, this sentence is awful)

One of the other effective methods is to ask a question: How do you get over your first true love?

Check out this article for more on the topic of first lines. Here is another one to help you out. Also, our buddy Erinn at Something Else to Distract Me had a cool first lines contest a while back that offered some good info on this topic. Check it out here. Lindsay N. Currie also offers up some info on the topic of first lines here. There's a pic of Tom Cruise in his undies--just a lil' more inspiration for you to go and read it :D

Which of these does your WIP have if any???

Now for the real reason behind this post...we want to have a critiquing day! We would love for you all (our devoted stalkers, er...followers) to participate by sending us your first lines. We will post the lines (it can be anonymously if you'd like) NEXT MONDAY, March 14th, 2011 and in the comments your fellow writers (who are quite nice and supportive) will leave critiques stating whether the first lines are effective or not and what you can do to revise them.

SOOO...if you want in (and we really hope you do!) send your firt THREE lines (can be less than three but no more than three) to cuzwewrite@gmail.com by Saturday, March 12th, 2011 at 12PM ET. In the e-mail put the title of your writing, your genre (YA/MG/Adult--historical, contemp. etc.), your name that you want posted on the blog (if you want anonymous, say so), and the first THREE lines of your piece of writing.

We hope you guys participate--it will be fun and helpful!

WAIT! Before you leave...share some of your own fave first lines OR tell us what you think makes a good first line.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Gone But Not Forgotten Blogfest!!!

Blog Hopping Song of the Day: "Gone" by N SYNC

It's FRIDAY!!! Not only the end of the work week for us, but also the day we get to share our favorite shows that are no longer making new episodes.

We had MAY-JAH fun with Alicia, Holly, and Erinn when we did the Page 99 Blogfest a while back, so we teamed up with them again to bring you the Gone But Not Forgotten Blogfest. Click here to see who else is hopping in this fest!

We luvs us some TV. It's an escape (and sometimes a distraction) but we can't tell you how many ideas we got from some of our faves like Prison Break and Friends. As writers, TV shows are very helpful to our craft. As a matter of fact, our # 1 fave show taught us a lot about pacing, voice, and awesometastic dialogue!

Here are our TOP 5 Gone But Not Forgotten TV Shows:

Eastwick: This show starred Rebecca Romijn, Lindsay Price, and Jamie Ray Newman. It aired from 2009-2010 and only had about 13 episodes. But they were GOOD! The show put a spotlight on three women in a small town who were beginning to come into their powers as witches. There were hi-jinks, deaths, omens, and love triangles. Who can ask for anything more??

Joey/Freddie: This was a tie b/c we couldn't get enough of both comedies. Joey starred Matt LeBlanc as his character from Friends (another one of our faves- could we BE loving any more shows?--please excuse the grammar for the sake of a good Chandler Bing impersonation). The comedy followed Joey and his sister played by Drea de Matteo when he moves to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career. It aired from 2004-2006 and had 46 hilarious episodes. Freddie starred the man himself, Freddi Prinze Jr., as a Chicago chef living with three generations of female family members. His best friend was played by a very funny Brian Austin Green. This one aired from 2005-2006 and had ONLY 22 episodes. We heard some of the funniest lines ever from this show and couldn't believe it was canceled!

Fastlane: Fastlane starred Dr. Carlisle Cullen himself, Peter Faccinelli (looking sexy as evah!) and Bill Bellamy as two smooth, sarcastic, and hilarious cops forced to work together by their siren of a police lieutenant played by Tiffani Amber Thiessan. Most of the charm of the show came from the interactions between Bellamy and Faccinelli. They had contrasting personalities, but you could tell they would kill for one another--and it was awesome seeing Thiessan in a position of power over these two boys.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: This show starred Lena Headey as the show's namesake and Thomas Dekker (cutie!) as her son. Their relationship was touching and realistic and one of the things that made this show work so well. Oh, and there was a kick ass machine. Summer Glau played the bot sent to protect Sarah and John Connor. Brian Austin Green also cameoed as John's uncle (are you seeing a pattern here?) Between the relationships, the technology, and the bad guys, Terminator kept us entertained, guessing, and intrigued. This was a show that was clearly too advanced and smart for the American public (no offense to any of our blog readers/friends--you are all very intelligent). The SC Chronicles aired from 2008-2009 with 31 episodes.

Veronica Mars: Oh yeah, V Mars, yeah! This was the ultimate of teen dramadies during its time. Veronica Mars aired from 2004-2007 and had 64 episodes. This was not NEARLY enough! The show starred the cute and sneakily funny Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars--the teenage detective, solving murders, thefts and the like for her high school (and sometimes adult) friends. The show focused on Mars and her crafty detective skills, yes, but it also highlighted teen and parent/child relationships. Mars was so realistic; she seemed like a girl you could meet by your locker in the high school hallways. And the crimes that she had to solve were always so unique and clever--just like V Mars herself. The show was smart with pacing and never went into the cliched realm of plots. They even managed to transition Veronica to college smoothly and still keep viewers intrigued--people are STILL fighting for V Mars to come back to us in some shape or form. As we mentioned above, this show helped us to understand sarcasm and wit and encouraged us to try it with our writing. We could go on and on about Veronica Mars, but we will end with this statement:

BEST TV SHOW EVER!!! Hands down.

Okay...so we cheated by making a "tie" but we couldn't decide! What about you, what show (s) do you wish you could see new episodes of?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What Agents Want: Steampunk!

Querying Song of the Day: "A-Punk" by Vampire Weekend

What Agents Want is a new series in which we will research what trends/topics agents are looking for right now. We'll give you information on the trend/topic and the agent that is looking for this specific type of project. The better to query with, my dears.

This week, we are gonna discuss a topic in YA that is picking up steam...pun intended. Yes, we're delving into steampunk. A few of our bloggy pals have already discussed this topic, helping me and Pam to better understand it. Holly broke down exactly what the steampunk genre is all about here. She explains that steampunk is generally novels that are set around the nineteenth century and Victorian-era Britain where technology and fictional or magical elements are incorporated. And Alicia took us inside a steampunk museum here. She got to see a steampunk pinball machine AND she gives some good steampunk music suggestions.

There are several agents that are looking for steampunk novels. Amongst them is Kathleen Ortiz of Lowenstein Associates. It even says on their website that steampunk is one of the genres that Kathleen is desperately seeking.

So, what the heck is steampunk? (Info taken from Wikipedia.org)

  • It meshes science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction
  • It involves an era where steam is still used (as a source of energy)
  • Usually set in the 19th century and Victorian era Britain
  • Science fiction and fantasy are prominent features
  • It is influenced by Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Mark Twain, and Mary Shelly
  • Usually features technology and innovations in the style that Victorians would have seen them
What Books Can I Read for Research? (Books that fall in the steampunk category)

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century # 1) by Cherie Priest

Leviathan (Leviathan # 1) by Scott Westerfield
Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare

Finally, tell me about the agent who wants steampunk novels!

Kathleen Ortiz was an editorial assistant and interactive media designer for the young adult section at Ballinger Publishing before becoming a literary agent with Lowenstein Associates. At Lowenstein, Kathleen represents Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA), and adult novels as well as being the Foreign Rights Manager. Some of Kathleen's clients (according to QueryTracker.net and Kathleen's blog) include: Jamie Reed (Kathleen just sold her YA Paranormal Soul Impulse!!!), Dawn Rae Miller, Jennifer Walkup, and Sarah Fine.

Good news for you? She is definitely looking for more clients!

So...if you have already written and polished your steampunk novel, OR if you are planning to write one (and you swear to polish, polish, polish it) then query Ms. Ortiz. How? Send an e-query to: assistant@bookhaven.com . Include the word QUERY and the title of your novel in the subject line. Address the query to Ms. Ortiz and paste the first ten pages into the body of the e-mail. DO NOT ATTACH your pages. The agency responds to all queries and usually does so in two to four weeks. For more detailed information on submissions, go here.

To find out more info on Kathleen Ortiz, check out the links below:

Neverending Page Turner
Interview: The Punching Bag Fights Back
Agent Wish list: Kathleen Ortiz

**DISCLAIMER** We are BY NO MEANS telling anyone to follow trends or try to hurry and write novels based on these features. This is for people who have written, or have been thinking about writing, on the topic presented.

Did you know about steampunk before reading this post? Or better yet, have you already started a WIP in this genre???

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New Blog!!

This post will be short and sweet, but I have an announcement! I'm part of an AWESOME new blogging group called Paper Hangover! We'll be bringing you interviews, writing tips, and news from inside the publishing world!

Oh, and we may be kicking off our grand opening this week with a few giveaways (wink, wink).

So what are you waiting for? Head on over and check it out! :)