September 28, 2011

Sharing the Love

Lora from A Writer in Bloom awarded my blog a Liebster Blog Award, and as it turns out, completely made my day by doing so :) Thank you, Lora!

Now it's my turn to share the love with some others :)

The idea of the Liebster Blog Award is to showcase bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. Once the Award has been bestowed upon your blog, pay it forward and recognize five other bloggers. So, here are my five picks:

  1. Jessica Therrien at Imagination to Publication (Jessica's debut novel Oppression comes out in February 2012!)
  2. Caitlin Darrell at Caitlin Darrell's Writerly Rambles
  3. Lauren Elizabeth Morrill (She does roller derby and writes! How cool is that?) 
  4. Stephanie Kuehn at Stephanie S. Kuehn: Read Run Write Repeat
  5. Laurie Dennison at Unavoidable Awkwardness

Road Trip Wednesday: September Fave

Road Trip Wednesday is a 'Blog Carnival', where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: 
What was the best book you read in September?

I haven't gotten as much reading done this month as I would have liked, unless you count blog-lurking, which I'm pretty sure doesn't count. I have managed to finish a few books, and so my 'best book' is actually a tossup between two. I'm not going to choose between them because I like them both for the same reason. I've mentioned before that I love dystopian/post-apocalyptic stuff, and neither of these fits into that category. I think that's why I liked them so much. They were a bit of a breath of fresh air and a lot more fun than the stuff I've been drawn to lately.

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I really enjoyed this one, but I don't want to say a whole lot about it because I still hope to do the review of it for Tracey Neithercott's Fall Book Club (it's September's book). I liked the protagonist a lot, and really enjoyed his sense of humour. The atmosphere was appealing to me, as was the cast of unusual characters whether secondary or even tertiary. And, um, you kinda can't beat the creepy, creepy black and white pictures throughout the book and on the front cover (the unsmiling levitating little girl).

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
This book had me laughing out loud a lot while I was reading it. I've said this before, but I probably wouldn't in a million years have picked it up because of the cover (probably because I'm intimidated by the bikini bod. I don't look like that in a bikini. Close, but not quite.) The characters in this book were quirky and fun, and the things they said and did just kept me laughing all through the book. The little get-to-know the contestant snippets were hilarious, as were the commercials slipped in here and there. I had to laugh because only recently did I realize that what I thought were bullets across the cover girl's chest are actually tubes of lipstick (whoops). My copy is on my e-reader, so it isn't nearly as obvious as on the full-colour book cover. That just makes the book even more hilarious in my mind.

Both of these books have eased me back into reading a wider variety of books, rather than instantly migrating toward dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories (though I do have quite a few on my current TBR list). I needed a good laugh, and both of these in their own entirely different ways provided that for me.

September 26, 2011

RTW Reloaded

So I'm a total tool. On Wednesday during the Road Trip Wednesday 'favourite book cover' thingy, I spent a good deal of time looking for the covers of a particular favourite author: Julia Golding. I found said covers, and even lumped them all together to post here...and then completely forgot about them. Duh! Better late than never, right?

I picked up the first book (The Diamond of Drury Lane) in Julia Golding's Cat Royal series completely for the cover, at least initially. They are historical fiction and totally fun. The last two in the picture below are not part of this series, but they are equally great, and also have really beautiful covers (I love the stained glass effect in the background).

These books are really good, and I believe they fall into the MG range. Since I began reading the Cat Royal series, they have changed these covers and I really don't like their new 'faces'. Not sure why they do that.

Anyway, Happy Monday! I have some final packing to do... (which is why I'm on here, right?)

September 21, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: Favourite Covers

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
What are your all-time favorite book covers?

This topic is difficult and not just because there are too many to choose from (there are), but mostly because nearly all of my books are packed up in the wall of Uhaul boxes three feet away from me (stupid moving). It's that whole out-of-sight-out-of-mind thing. Challenging, but still doable.

Jane Eyre seems to be popping up a lot on other people's blogs for this RTW topic, and I am no exception. I have an alarmingly large number of copies of this book because I love it, but this one is a particular favourite:

The darkness of this cover really seems to capture some
of the gloom and gothic-style creepiness in the book itself.
 I love both of these next covers because of the trees with the falling leaves swirling around them (don't forget: I [heart] Autumn):
Insurgent: The Amity tree symbol is downright gorgeous,
and I'm really excited for this book's release in Spring 2012!

The Grimm Legacy: There's a lot going on here, but it's all
great: leaves, snowflakes, wind, arms, and so much more. It
really captures the fun underneath the cover on the pages.

 My eye was drawn to this next book's cover a number of times before I actually caved and bought it (oddly, on my e-reader where the cover appearance is less than eye-catching). I thought the book was only so so, but I still love the cover:

It's hard to tell just from this picture, but the scrolly bit at
the top is raised and silver in colour. Also, the scrolling is
carried faintly over the tiger image as well. Very pretty :)

The cover of this next one isn't a favourite because it is pretty (it's not), but more because it really captures the main thrust (ew) of the book:
The total "Commy" look of this cover is fitting and also makes
it look like a Cold War era propaganda poster. Perfect, really.

I haven't read this next book yet, but that hasn't stopped me from absolutely loving the cover. In fact, I love it so much that I followed Michelle Hodkin's link to the artist's (Heather Landis) page where she has a whole line of pictures from this photo shoot. The series is called "The Abyss of the Disheartened", and they are all stunning.
I love the way the fabric of the dress looks like it is floating ever-so-slightly
in the water. I also love that you can't actually see either person's face. It
feels more mysterious that way. Also adding to the mystery and atmosphere
of the cover is the darkness of the photo. I like the way the title of the book
seems to fade in and out in places almost like it ripples with the water, and
that the title is faded out a bit and not super bold. It doesn't detract at all
from the photo's beauty. Plus, you gotta love the "Phantom of the Opera" &
"Last of the Mohicans" style embrace. There's too much to love about this!
I'm sure there are scores of other book covers that I could put here, but I won't. It's not like I could actually remember any more even if I wanted to. Stupid Uhaul boxes [insert scowly face].

September 20, 2011

Procrastination...Key Word Being "Pro"

So I'm moving somewhere in the ballpark of 10 days from now, and I've done a shockingly small amount of packing thus far. Yep, I am a pro at procrastination. This is nothing new though.  It's taken me years of hard word to get to this level of awesomeness at putting things off.

Here are a few completely random - mostly useless, sprinkled with some useful - distractions I've run into this week:

1)  The Arrival of Autumn
I know technically it isn't officially Fall yet (am I the only one who thinks that Sept. 23rd is a completely weird date for Fall to begin?) but it sure looks and feels like it here in Saskatchewan. Though it's nowhere near as pretty as where I grew up in Northern Ontario, the golden leaves outside my window are still quite beautiful. Something about this time of year makes me want to drink pots and pots of tea while scarfing down anything pumpkiny that I can get my hands on.

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." -George Eliot

2)  Creepy Creepy Ventriloquist Dummies

This is probably the randomest of randoms, but unfortunately these abominations keep rearing their ugly heads and it's pretty darn distracting. I don't know why, but lately I can't seem to get away from them. They're showing up in TV programs I'm watching and on websites I'm visiting like they are the next big thing. Maybe that will be the next paranormal craze instead of vampires - the mad hot ventriloquist dummy who actually is a 'real boy'. "And so the dummy fell in love with the..." Argh! That's about all I can take of that! Maybe if he sparkled...? 

3)  Something Actually Useful
I frequently visit the Adventures in Children's Publishing website and am always wowed by the sheer number of useful resources they've managed to compile. One of the links they posted this week was to the Donald Maass Literary Agency site, and their list of Breakout Novel Prompts. Here are a couple of the prompts that I personally found useful for my own WIP:
  • What's the emotion or experience you're most afraid to put your MC through? Go there. Do it. Now.
  • What secret is your MC keeping? Who is keeping one *from* your MC? Spill the truth at the worst possible time.
  • In your current scene, what's a setting detail that delights or disgusts your POV character? Why? Elaborate and add.
  • What's the worst thing your MC does? Whom and how does that hurt? Now work backwards, set it up to hurt even more.
  • ...and many more
Nothing new or shocking there, but I still found these prompts to be useful in that they gave me some ideas to further enrich my current WIP. I printed the list of 40 prompts out and made notes beside a good chunk of them and I fully plan on putting them to good use. The devil is in the details, as they say.

Speaking of my WIP, I'm rapidly closing in on my word count goal and am starting to realize how useless the count actually is. I only ever set this goal for motivation, but also to rein myself in. Now I'm finding that I've wasted a lot of words on character ramblings and still have so much story to tell. I plan on tightening it up in the revision process, but it's alarming just how much it has gotten away from me. There is still plenty of hope for it, but it seems I'm only just beginning the really hard work on it.

And on that happy note, I need to stop procrastinating and work on said WIP followed by some intensive packing. Yeehaw.

September 16, 2011

Friday Fives: Top 5 Ideal Writing Locations (OR Places I'd Rather Be)

Don't have a topic to blog about on Fridays? Join us for Paper Hangover's Friday Fives. This week: What are your top FIVE ideal writing locations? (Bonus points: if you include pictures!) 

When I think about ideal writing locations, I think of places where I know I would definitely be inspired. So despite the fact that more than half of my top fives look an awful lot like a list of dream vacation spots, I give you:
1) My Actual Writing Location:
Though hardly what I would call 'ideal', it seems to be working out all right for me. I'm not normally this messy, but with an upcoming move and all the things I need to remember to do with that, it's a little out of hand. Also, since I started my WIP I've managed to bury myself in an avalanche of post-it notes with various tidbits of info pertaining to my story. Over my desk I have pictures and poems that have to do with my story or that just inspire me. I'm sure if anyone were to peek in the window they might confuse it with a stalker wall or something (it's not, in case you're worried).

2) A Really Awesome Library:
This could prove to be a super huge distraction, because who wouldn't be tempted to explore the selection of books in just about any library (unless it was strictly dedicated to tax law or something equally hellish)? Nevertheless, I think being surrounded by the works of incredible authors would be truly inspiring for your own writing.
3) Inside a Castle: (This one's a two-fer)
Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany (yes, I did have to look up the spelling of this place) would be one choice. Remember the movie "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"? This castle was borrowed for that movie. I think I could really feel inspired to write sitting at a desk in one of the opulent bedrooms looking out the window of this beauty. 

Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland - or pretty much anywhere in Scotland, for that matter. It could be some back alley in Glasgow and I would still feel inspired by the history, the beauty, the tartan, the men in kilts...(ha ha couldn't resist) 
4) Somewhere in the Greek Islands:
The colors, the view, the weather - I could definitely feel the creative juices flowing while sitting somewhere this amazing. I think it would be really easy to relax in a place like this, which could only be helpful in the writing process. Not to mention the history... History = Inspiration for me.
5) Wherever the Heck This Is: ---------->
I love autumn, and probably because I've always equated it with back-to-school I automatically feel brainier at this time of year. Like Pavlov's dog, when the leaves change color and begin to fall, I feel motivated to learn and create. I'm not sure where this place is, but if I could be there on a bench staring at this, I'd certainly be inspired.

September 15, 2011

How Writing Is An Awful Lot Like Moving

So for the forty millionth time since we got together my husband and I are moving...again. We have both come to loathe the very sight of packing tape and boxes (we keep the flattened boxes when we're done - we know ourselves all too well). If I could count the times we have moved for work...well let's just say gypsies have nothing on us! This is a pretty big move too because it's to another province. The best part about this move is that my husband and I will finally be living in the same province again (we've spent the last few months in two different provinces).

Anyway, all this staring at boxes and thinking about packing got me considering the similarities between moving and the writing process:
  1. Boxes Don't Pack Themselves: I actually have to get up off my butt and do the work as much as I'd rather sit and think about packing while doing something else far more interesting. Similarly, stories don't write themselves. We have to do the work. Butt in chair and all that. Planning is important, but at some point we just need to get down to it.
  2. Sifting and Sorting Through Crap: Alternately, my favourite and least favourite part of the packing process. I am a bit of a pack rat. Back when I was using Coffee-Mate in my coffee (*gagging*), I decided that keeping the empty containers was a good idea. My thought process went a little something like this: They have to be good for something. Seriously, I carted something like 20-30 of these stupid things with me in our last move (*shaking head*). Deciding what to keep and what to part with is very similar to the revision process. While it's sometimes difficult parting with once-treasured scenes/characters/ items (*cough* Coffee-Mate containers), it is often necessary to recognize them for what they are - useless crap that needs to go. Sure the odd mistake will get swept along with the rest (like that stupid good-for-nothing exercise bike) but for the most part it all gets whittled down to what is most necessary (with a few 'wants' tucked in here and there).
  3. A Worthwhile Gamble: I crave change, but still hate moving with the fieriest of passions. In the end though, I always know that the process is worth all of the hassle. Moving somewhere new is a gamble, but it's worthwhile because with this risk comes possibility. Similarly, we put in all the work with our writing and then have to remind ourselves that no matter the outcome, it was all worth the work and the gamble. It's never a waste of our time. Live and learn...
  4. Trusting Others With Our Treasures: I can slap all the "Fragile" or "Handle With Care" stickers I want on our boxes, but ultimately I have to let go and trust that our stuff is in capable hands (hard to do, especially considering the moving day horror stories I've heard). While I have yet to do this with my writing, I recognize in advance the difficulty of sending it off and hoping for the best. And even should your story get picked up, you still hope to death it isn't demolished in the editing process (I have never heard this kind of horror story, thankfully). It's about trusting that you've done all you can for now and leaving it in the hands of the 'heavy lifters'.
Well that's it for my cheesy (cardboardy?) comparison. Now I might just go and pack something rather than just thinking and writing about it.  Sigh...

September 14, 2011

Road Trip Pit Stop With My Pals Milli & Vanilli

So since today is Wednesday, I would normally be taking part in YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday 'blog carnival'. Since I don't have my own stack of WIPs or craptastic former attempts at writing, I don't really have anything to contribute to that conversation. I feel like a total novice, and entirely inexperienced at this. I only have my current WIP, which incidently finally has a title ('bout time!).

Anyhoo...speaking of things that make me feel a little like Milli Vanilli...(AKA an imposter*).

For a while now I have been thinking about all of the major works of fiction that I have never actually read. We're talking books that any academic (not that I'd give myself this label) worth his/her salt has read at some point.  Books that a former English teacher (read: me) should probably have encountered in her schooling. Works so collectively revered that I am even ashamed to mention them here.

Blame it on the rain, blame it on the teachers I had, blame it on whatever... The following is a list of books - many of which I actually own (!) - but have never gotten around to reading, or started reading but never finished:
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Catcher In the Rye
  • 1984
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Brave New World
  • The Giver
  • Romeo & Juliet (I know! Crazy, right?)
  • Wuthering Heights (I'll never read it because I already know the story and hate it - I'd take Charlotte any day over Emily)
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • Moby Dick
  • Alice In Wonderland
  • Tom Sawyer
  • The Wind In the Willows
  • Return of the King
  • Utopia
  • The Iliad & The Odyssey
  • Beowulf
  • ...and a whole slew of others of varying importance and/or renown
I do plan on remedying this at some point in the future (well, most of it anyway - still won't touch Wuthering Heights). I keep planning on slipping in a classic every so often between the YA books I'm so addicted to. We'll see how that goes... Having thoroughly laid bare my ignorance of such popular books, I should also mention that for every one of the above mentioned works, I have read at least 2 or 3 others of arguably equal importance or influence. For me, one of my greatest reading accomplishments was getting all the way through The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe (if you've ever read or even attempted to read this book, you'll understand what I mean by 'accomplishment' - I feel like I should get an award for slogging through all of the Romantic ramblings and swooning in its pages). I've also read Shakespeare plays not commonly on the syllabus of many courses (like Titus Andronicus - pure crap, but worth the read just for a laugh). I've read Bronte (Charlotte), Austen, Dickens, Alcott, Conrad, Gaskell, Tolkien, Lewis, Nietzsche, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Marlowe, and many others whose works I'd consider fairly influential. 

Why do I mention this? I don't bring it up because I feel I'm owed a pat on the back or something. I mention this because even though I often get down on myself for not being as well-read as some, or not being as experienced at writing as others, I still have something to offer. I have a unique set of experiences, whether gleaned through reading or just life in general, all of which I can bring to the table and hopefully share with others in my own writing.

"Our moments of inspiration are not lost though we have no particular poem to show for them; for those experiences have left an indelible impression, and we are ever and anon reminded of them."
- Henry David Thoreau

*Rebecca Behrens has a good post about self-doubt  and Milli Vanilli AKA Imposter Syndrome

September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

For a few brief moments when I woke up today I forgot what day it was. Two seconds on Facebook and I was reminded.

To all my new American friends,

We, your Northern neigbours and most of the world, are thinking about you today and what this anniversary means to each and every one of you.

We will never forget...

"I believe that man will not merely endure. He will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance."
William Faulkner

September 9, 2011

Friday Fives: Best Summer Reads

Well, since I am an unabashed dystopian/post-apocalyptic junkie right now, most of the books I've read this summer fall under that heading. Since I've already mentioned Matched by Allie Condie a few times now, and since it was a re-read, I'm omitting it from this list (though I really loved it). Now at least one of my top 5 will be non-dystopian/post-apocalyptic. Here are my Five Best Books listed in order from most favorite on down:

1) Divergent by Veronica Roth

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.
2) Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That’s fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother, Lugh, is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives bearing four cloaked horsemen, Saba’s world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on a quest to get him back.
Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba discovers she is a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent—and she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, intense action, and an epic love story—making Moira Young one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.

3) Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

4) Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone - one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship - tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

5) Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier  

Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.
Like I said, these all fall mostly under the same category of YA fiction, but I am branching out again these days. I am currently reading Beauty Queens by Libba Bray after my interest was piqued by Alison Miller's hilarious blog blurb about it (both the blurb and the book itself are pretty darn funny). Will be moving on to Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs right away here as part of Tracey Neithercott's Fall Book Club. Looking forward to it!

September 8, 2011

Back To the Drawing Board...Again

I've been plugging away at my current WIP for a little bit now and as far as quantity goes, it's coming along nicely. But as for quality...not so much. Not that it's terrible, because I don't think it is. There are just a handful of things that need more tweaking or further fleshing out. Like my characters, for instance:
  • The Villain:  This creepy fella is one mwah ha ha away from Scooby Doo grade ridiculosity. Seriously, the more my story progresses the more he has started to flatten out into a two-dimensional stereotypical pancake of villainy. I've had to go back and flesh out this guy a little more, making him more believable and trying to better understand his motivations. He's still a jerk, but at least I feel a bit more like he's a believable jerk.

  • The Love Interest: This cardboard cutout loverboy is rapidly approaching Gary Stu territory with a set of faulty breaks. In fact, he's becoming more "Gary" than this guy:

Animated Gifs
Creepy Creepy Gary Busey
 Or almost as bad (but not quite as creepy), a whole family of Garys:

"We are family. I've got all my Garys with me..."
Good gravy! I can't believe I just compared my story's love interest to Gary Busey (*shakes head violently like Etch A Sketch*) Must. Erase. Image. From. Head. But in all seriousness, my characters are quickly becoming caricatures which is disheartening to say the least. The planning is all there, but so far I'm kind of failing in the execution. I have to keep reminding myself that this is the roughest of rough drafts, and that there will be plenty of opportunity to add more depth to the story in general and to my characters in particular.

How about you? Run into any pitfalls or backed yourself into any corners lately with your own WIP? Any suggestions on how to make characters more believable and less like the freakazoids above?

September 7, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: I'm Clive ... Clive Bixby

Welcome to our 94th Road Trip Wednesday!

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
What non-YA character would you love to see star in a YA book as themselves?

Oh the choices, the choices... There are just too many to choose from! This is definitely a fun question. When I saw the topic a few characters popped into my head, but then this male college cheerleader flew right to
the top of the pyramid:

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr. Phil Dunphy AKA Clive Bixby AKA "Cool Dad".  There is no end to the hilariousness that is this 'ridiculicious' (his words, not mine) fellow. In fact, I'm laughing pretty hard right now even looking at this picture. The funny thing about Phil is that we could plop him down intact in a YA story as the MC and he would fit perfectly. The writers would barely have to switch up his dialogue or anything else about him. Why? Because he seems like he never actually grew up. That's what makes him so AWESOME! His own wife, Claire, refers to him as the "kid [she's] married to".

This coulrophobic former college cheerleader knows all the dance moves to High School Musical and is a Family Camp Dirty Dancing competition champion. What's not to love about that?

Phil Dunphy has the best quotes. Here are a couple winners:
"I love Westerns, the bloodier the better, that's my favorite type of movie - that and anything set against the backdrop of competitive cheerleading."
"A Realtor's just a ninja in a blazer. The average burglar breaks in and leaves clues everywhere. But not me. I'm completely clueless."
"Give a kid a bird and he becomes one of those weird dudes who walks around with a bird on his shoulder. But give him a pair of wings, he can fly...unless he has absolutely no hand-eye coordination."

September 6, 2011

The Absent or Crappy Parent

My sister and I were talking this weekend about the TV show "The Nine Lives of Chloe King" (yes, my obsession with all things YA carries over into TV as well as books), and its blatant display of bad parenting. We were both shocked by how the MC's mom barely blinks when her 16-year old daughter tells her that she was out clubbing until all hours. Mom is more interested in the guy that her daughter met there.  Seriously? Raise your hand if your parents would have grounded your ass six ways to Sunday for this. This same daughter is out walking the streets of San Francisco at night on several occasions as well. Realistic? I sincerely hope not.

The fact is, TV is riddled with examples of crappy parenting (or complete absence of parents): 
(*Warning: slight spoilerage to follow, if you care)
  • Gossip Girl: Minors are frequently served alcohol in reputable establishments without having to produce any kind of ID. Parents never question where their kids are at and what they are up to--like underage drinking, for instance.
  • Vampire Diaries: Elana's aunt (AKA her guardian because Mom & Dad are dead) gets killed and then Elana moves in with her boyfriend and his older brother. Nobody even balks at this, even though she is still a minor. And as for her younger brother? Who the heck knows who's looking after him. 
  • 90210: I don't even know where to start with this one...
I'm sure you can think of plenty examples yourself--assuming any of you share the same embarassing tendancy to watch lame teen TV shows.

I've been reading a lot lately on various blogs and sites about the absent parent in YA fiction, a topic I hadn't really given much thought before. Nearly every story has parents/guardians who are either a) dead, b) mostly absent, or c) totally permissive. Most often it is either a) or b), I find. This is not a new thing (look at fairy tales) and serves a necessary function, as we all know. Helicopter parenting would never allow for the adventures or mishaps that take place in YA novels. Go ahead, take a look at your bookshelf. I bet most or all of your YA books have absent (for whatever reason) or crappy parents. Some examples:
*(Again, beware of possible spoilerage)
  • Twilight: Bella goes to live with her mostly estranged father so her newly remarried mother can take off with her new husband. Bella's father, Charlie, has little control over his teen daughter and is mostly out of the picture, leaving her free to romp with vampires and werewolves.
  • Hunger Games: Dead father, and grief-crippled mother, leaving Katniss to provide for the family.
  • Harry Potter: (in 9-12 category, but still) Dead parents and lousy relatives. He at least has a parade of role-models in the adults who surround him.
  • Blood Red Road: Parents out of the picture pretty well right from the start.
  • Divergent: Tris' parents are decent (especially her mom, who was great), but Tris is removed from them for the majority of the story.
  • and the list goes on...
This got me thinking about whether or not it is possible to write good, stable, loving, and present parents in YA fiction, and whether this could ever be appealing to the target audience. Immediately, a recently and fairly popular book popped into my head where, for the most part, the parents are all of the above. Cassia in Ally Condie's Matched (here I go again with this book...) has two loving and stable parents who she sees every day. The bulk of Cassia's story takes place during the day while her parents are at work, but Condie has seen no need to write them out of the picture as a plot convenience. Now, from what I understand, the second book in the series takes Cassia away from parental supervision, so this starts to break down a little. Even so, it's refreshing to read this kind of departure from stereotype. I come from a home that had two loving and present parents, so I can relate to this. But then I am also not an angsty teen who wishes Mom & Dad would go away and leave her alone...

How about you? Do you think it's possible to write loving and still living parents into YA fiction while still appealing to teens? Can you think of other examples of these kinds of parents in books you've read?

September 2, 2011

Friday Fives: Catchy Titles

Hmm...this is kind of a toughie, but I'll give it a whirl. I wasn't sure whether I should include pictures of the covers to go along with my title picks, but since many of them were a title/cover package deal, I figured I would. What can I say? I tend to judge a book by both its cover and its title (guilty as charged). This is a compilation of my books from my 'Already Read' and 'To Be Read' lists:
  1. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - This title had me asking questions right away ( like: How does someone 'unbecome' herself?) and that coupled with the beautiful cover...ahh! I find myself wondering how this girl ended up in the water (is she drowning or are they just chillin'?), who the dude is behind her (is he trying to save her?), and does she die and that's how she 'unbecomes' Mara Dyer? I am really excited to check this book out when it is released at the end of this month.
  2. The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross - Aside from how painful said corset sounds, I was intriqued by the prospect that the girl in the title could be either a) a warrior of some kind, or b) a robot or something equally bizarro, or c) seriously restrained (you know, beyond the normal restraints of the average corset). The fact that this book is actually kind of a combination of all three, makes it all the more appealing.  Steampunk story? Um, yes please! On my Kobo e-reader waiting to be read...
  3. The Maze Runner by James Dashner - Mazes have always held a strange fascination for me, and I confess I find them a little creepy (umm...who wouldn't after reading Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire?). So the thought of somebody running--possibly being chased--through a maze piqued my interest for sure. Read it, loved it, waiting impatiently for The Death Cure which is due out in October. I. Cannot. Wait. 
  4. Blood Red Road by Moira Young - The imagery created by this title alone was enough to grab my attention (is it actual blood, or is that just the color of the road, or is this road more figurative than literal?), but I was definitely reeled in by the whole Mad Max-style world it was set in. This book didn't disappoint--I loved pretty well everything about it (especially the way Saba speaks) and am waiting for news of Book 2. 
  5. Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - This is kind of a 2-for-1 deal because the title and the picture together were what drew me in. While the title is certainly intriguing, it's the creepy ass black and white photo of an unsmiling kid levitating that really seals the deal. I still have yet to read this one and am particularly psyched about the equally creepy pictures that this book has all throughout.
So those are my Fives, but there are certainly a whole pile more that I could add to the list (like Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - interest definitely piqued by the title AND the description!). I've shown you mine, now you show me yours!

September 1, 2011

Random Thought Thursday

"Come on people now, smile on your brother.  Everybody get together try to love one another right now." --Chet Powers
This 1960s hippy anthem wrapped up the state funeral of the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in Canada just the other day. I won't bore you with the finer points of Canadian government (based off of Great Britain's), or the fact that I almost cried during the televised funeral of a guy I didn't even vote for (too 'out there' politically). But I will tell you that this song and this funeral got me to thinking about something:  RESPECT. While I didn't agree with this gentleman's politics, I definitely respected and even liked him as a person.

This same sentiment can be applied to authors whose works I don't particularly love, but whose hard work and determination I can't help but respect and even admire.  Beth Revis, whose book I really liked posted on her blog recently about secretly relishing really harsh and snarky book reviews (of other people's books). Her point was not to suggest that slamming other authors is okay, but that these critiques serve as reminders that readers' opinions are subjective. Not everyone will like what you write. You don't have to agree with their criticism but you should still care about quality. There is definitely value in criticism, but can it be taken too far?

Schadenfreude: [shahd-n-froi-duh] German n.  the malicious enjoyment of another's misfortunes. [German, from Schaden 'harm' + Freude 'joy']--from The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Ninth Edition
I read somewhere recently that collectively we have become a nation(s) of bullies, gleefully tearing down those we work so hard to build up. This is a generalization, sure--not all of us are bullies--but I think there is still truth in it. Whether it's the girlish pop sensation whose voice grates on our nerves (Justin Bieber), the spoiled rotten trust fund princess (Paris Hilton), or the vampire novel-writing sensation (Stephenie Meyer)--we secretly relish the ripping to shreds of these people or others like them. There is something wrong with people who love to shoot down kids like the Biebs and Rebecca Black for the fame they've garnered doing what they do. Is it jealousy? Probably, but I can't really say.  All I know is that I am as guilty as the next person for laughing at and cutting down people like this. I confess, I laugh hysterically at the odd Twilight slam thrown randomly into TV shows and nearly peed myself watching Vampires Suck (even though I own all of Stephenie Meyer's books, and the movies made of them, and will be going to see Breaking Dawn in the theatre). While I am guilty of this, I realize that it's not exactly an admirable quality. It's one of the main reasons I bluntly refuse to watch reality TV or buy tabloid style magazines.

If I should ever be fortunate enough to have something published, I would hope that people will be kind enough not to rip me or my work to shreds (dare to dream, right?). The world is full of 'haters' and always will be, but that doesn't mean I need to join in. I'm not saying that we should avoid criticism altogether, but we need to be sure to temper it with fairness and compassion. And even though sometimes people make themselves a target, it doesn't mean that we should take the shot. On that happy note, I'll leave you with a little something...

...because a) it's Leonard Friggin' Nimoy! (no idea he actually recorded music) and b)...there is no 'b', cuz seriously, 'a' should be more than enough :)  Have a great day, everyone!