Thursday, September 20, 2012

#4: New Chapter (In Life, Not a Book)


Hello, all! We meet again. I’m so sorry I haven’t been keeping up with my weekly posting schedule. The last few weeks of my life have been a big transitional period, plus I had to get my wisdom teeth out…etc. Ah, you don’t want to hear about everything I did. So I’ll stop there! 
Anyway, I just wanted to come by the blog and let you all know that I’m moving this weekend (to my new university). This means a few things:
A) I’m taking 2 English classes and 1 language course (that require approximately 17 books total). Ergo, I will have very little time or energy to read YA books. However, there are some titles coming out in the next few months that sound great. I may post reviews from time to time, especially if I get a chance to sift through the rest of my ARCs. 
B) I hope you all keep writing. And I hope I start. (You’ll hear about it, if I do. Promise!) It’s going to be hard, but the change in environment, with tons of new people around, should be quite inspiring. 
C) Summer is gone. Is anyone else as sad as I am? Though I was alone for much of it, I had a lot of fun reading, collecting autographs, etc. 
What are some of YOUR favorite memories from this summer? And where do you see yourself going next in your life (school, work, etc.)? 
Good luck and best wishes to you all.  <3
Until next time,
(See archive for posts #1-3)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Believe in You


I originally posted this on my other blog, Zero at Heart, but I thought I might want to follow my own advice and pass on the word. :] I think you guys could benefit from it as well.

When was the last time you told yourself that you can do something? Or anyone that you believed in them for that matter? Was it a long time ago? Or just yesterday? Did you mean what you said?

I don't really care for writing blog posts, I figured that out today. It scares me. But you know what I do like? I like helping people. I like playing the hero and some people don't like that about me.

I get scared, I mess up a lot, I break promises, I get hurt, and I hurt others. That's me. That's you. That's all of us. We all try to do things, sometimes a lot of things at once, and you know what? Sometimes we fail.

I realize my writing is choppy and sometimes grammatically incorrect, and every once and a while I'll have a spelling error, but I hope you can tell that I actually care through these words. Because I believe in every single one of you. I believe in you in everything you do. I believe that even if I can only tell you three words today, I believe they can change you. I believe that they won't just change you, but they'll change others too.

Why? Because can you think of a time that you needed support? Or that anyone you know needed support for that matter? Was it a long time ago? Or just yesterday? Did it hurt?

Imagine if someone had simply stopped you as you passed by and told you they believe in you. 100% completely, honestly, truly believed in you. Would that change you? Would that affect how hard you fought? I honestly believe it would.

So pass it on I guess is my point. If you believe in someone, tell them, you never know how much they need it. Some days I feel so alone it physically hurts me. That isn't to make you pity me because pity is the last thing I need from you.

Even if that person who needs you is you, because believe it or not but you need someone too. Write it in a letter, text it, say it in person, think it to yourself, it doesn't matter. Someone out there needs you to believe in them, and guess what? Only you will do.

When was the last time you told someone you supported them? I hope you can soon say today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On History and Research

It's been awhile since I've posted anything, I know. School starts up for me on September 4th, and I've 3 summer assignments I've only just started.

Inspired by the American History summer assignment I've begun working on (inspiration in the unlikeliest of places, you know?) I decided to post about history.

I don't mean the history of your epic fantasy novel, or the history of our future in your sci-fi book. I mean real world history, chock-full of war, disease, innovation, great and terrible moments. After all, our history is the greatest of all stories -- it's the basis of all literature. A violent peasant revolt in your novel? The French Revolution. A genius innovation that changes the world? Gunpowder, the wheel, paper, the atomic bomb, etc.

 Photo in the Public Domain, found via Creative Commons
 
History can be turn a boring novel into a rich world. It can be the metaphorical light in the darkness, a spark of inspiration in a dark, meaningless story. Your writing can benefit from the vast resevoir of memory and intelligence afforded by the world around you.
 
A lot of people hate history -- why, I don't know -- but it can change your life. This isn't some weird event that happened to a bunch of dead people. Perhaps you're related to some of them. Perhaps those people were scared of the future, of death, of the unkknown, just like we are. When you think of history as full of people you can connect to, it's exactly like a book. Maybe you're destined to have others connect to these people too.

Now, I've always loved history, almost as much as I love reading. I most especially love ancient, ancient history in far-off places like Egypt or Rome. But I can appreciate American History a little more knowing I'm a descendent of Robert E. Lee, the general who surrendered to the North and ended the Civil War. I'm also related to Patrick Henry, that famous speaker from the Revolutionary War with his "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speech. This makes AP American History next year seem not so boring.

Historical Fiction isn't my style, you say. I'm a fantasy person, a modern romance kind of person, a supernatural fiction fan. What can I learn from the past?

I'm not saying you need to write historical fiction. I'm not saying to limit yourself to this genre, just because I am a history geek. But you can model any character after an ancient, real-life person.

I remember a story about an Egyptian pharaoh who built his capital city out in the desert and tried to do away with all of the old gods and goddesses, instead choosing to force his people to worship just the sun disk, Aten. This caused all sorts of tension with the priests of the old gods and goddesses, who had been at the top of the social pyramid and were now unemployed. This sort of unpopular absolute rule sounds familiar... like perhaps that cliched king in all those fantasy novels?

Think of the creation of the atomic bomb. Such a destructive weapon. We Americans unleashed it on Japan anyways, to end a war. And it caused a whole bunch of other, ethical/medical dilemmas. Was it right? Maybe your novel can benefit from a controversial weapon. Maybe your world can benefit from unlooked for problems due to a political decision.

My point, in this rambling rant about reality, is that researching the past can help any novel. It's not strictly limited to historical fiction. Even modern day romances can include a little old-school history. After all, history is full of relatable characters, interesting settings, and tension/conflict.


 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: Nevermore by James Patterson

Nevermore by James Patterson


One last chance...
for Max, Fang, and Dylan...
before it all ends.


Are you ready for the final chapter? Are you ready for the ultimate flight? Because THIS IS IT. One last incredible, explosive adventure with an astonishing ending that no one could have seen coming. 


(Taken from Amazon.com)



I'm writing this part at 11 o'clock at night because I can't get it out of my head.

First off, let me say that this had potential. Great characters, great motives, great setting, great ideas. But  it needed something more.

For starters, by goodness, LET THEM DIE. It got to a point where I didn't take you seriously because EVERY STINKING CHARACTER CAME BACK TO LIFE EVERY STINKING TIME. So much for suspense because I knew NO ONE EVER DIED. Oh yes, you say that he died? Oh wait, never mind because YOU BROUGHT HIM BACK TO LIFE.

I love that James Patterson tried to teach us something. I love love love one of the last chapters and I was just like yes! That was amazing! I love your morals! I love you! I love your family! I love everyone you have ever passed by on the street!

Then I saw your writing. And "yes, yes, yes" quickly turned to "no, no, NO".

It's not some much the actual writing, Patterson has some skill there, it was more the plot. It needed a lot more build-up and more suspense, which could've been fixed by LETTING SOMEONE DIE.

*ahem*

Anyways, I'm off my ranting soapbox. A lot of things in the series seemed just too convenient for my tastes. Like in one of the first books where they all just suddenly developed these random powers such as breathing underwater and power over technology. You're flipping bird-kids! All this power is too much for you!

Let's talk about something good for a moment, because, despite my long-winded rants, I actually liked this series, dare I say it, at some times I loved it. Characters, Mr. James, you choose wonderful characters. I loved them. I loved Max's stubbornness and Angel's maturity. Fang was lovely. Dylan was charming. I loved Nudge's wish to be normal, against all odds, and I love her statement towards the end of Nevermore about the wings. Because even if it wasn't something necessarily good or even happy, it gave her character. And that's why I love them, their character and their flaws and their human-ness.

Ugh. The love triangle. It had me in the previous book, Angel, but in this one it was just ugh. Random changing of views, random interactions, and random kissing had my mind whirling. With all of the other things I was trying to figure out, it just seemed a little too much. I admit, this could've been used in favor of the book but it didn't happen, at least not for me.

Another thing that was good was the dystopian-aspect. No, it was not a true dystopian, but it achieved the purpose that a dystopian novel does. It gives you a scenario that is all too possible to happen to us and that is what scares you and me. Back to the chapter I loved. That is the kind of thing I want to see more of, because what it tells you is very, very true. If you've read this book, take a guess at which chapter it is that I love so much. :]

Probably at three stars for me, because I love the characters too much to give it a two. Please, a lovely cover, so points from me. Overall, I would've liked to see a little more tension, a little more bang from the tension not gradually diffusing as the book goes on. I was waiting for the big ending but I was a little let down. Still, a great book and may I say it one more time? Lovely characters. I would recommend it to others, but not as heavily as some of my other favorite books.

Anyways, any thoughts on this book I haven't shared? What do you rate this book? Wrote a review on it you want to share? (Send me a link, I'd love to see what you have to think. :]) Any books you've read recently and think I should check out? (I'm in need of a few recommendations.)

Good luck and keep writing everyone!

(Originally posted on Zero at Heart)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Just wondering....

How many of you out there are on their first draft? How is that coming along?


I don't care if you're reading this post today or tomorrow or a year from now, go ahead and comment how your writing is coming. I'd love to hear form you!

To all of you out there, good luck and keep writing!


Thursday, August 2, 2012

#3


Wow, I haven't written one of these in forever! 
(See post #1 here and post #2 here)  

Continuing my personal series, I'll be talking about starting over today. Or going back to square one. Whatever you'd like to call it. 

How do you know if you're ready to give up what you've been working on and begin again, with nothing? I can't answer that of course, as it varies from person to person. But...I've decided to do it and I want to share with you all how I came to that decisions.

For months and months, I wrote in short spurts: different characters, different settings, action scenes, crowd scenes, quiet conversations. But it wasn't one big storyline I was working on it. Heck, I'm not even sure what to call it. Going in circles since 2009 is pretty much the only way to describe my writing life since 2009. There's also the discouragement I felt when I picked up a published book and thought, "Hey this sounds close to something I scribbled about." 

I think if you find yourself stuck like I did, let it all go. I'll be keeping my papers and notebooks but I don't plan on playing around with those words anymore. I've grown so much since I branched away from fan fiction years ago and tried just...fiction. It wouldn't be fair, I believe, to keep chipping at what my awkward block of ideas.

So as of today, August 2nd 2012, I call myself neither a writer nor a scribbler...because I have nothing. But that's not to say I will never have anything written down. I'm going back to the basics: seeking inspiration in music, art, nature, etc. and considering "what if" questions, about things that really matter to me. That's what I'll be focusing on in the near future. 

And hopefully, something good and fiction-y will come from it all. It's August already, more than halfway through the year, and there's just no more time to look back. 

Hope you have an inspired week, no matter where you are in the writing process. <3

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On Beginnings

So, lately I've been reading LoTR, and I came across an inspiring quote (I know, Tolkien is full of them.)

"It's the job that's never started as takes longest to finish."
-The Fellowship of the Ring

So, I'm not going to ramble on just about how to begin your story. I'm going to ramble on about gathering the guts to start writing.

You know that hesitancy you get when you've been writing and rewriting a story forever, and now you think that it would be better to just start a new story altogether? Chances are, if you can't get this story right, it's a good idea to set it on the back burner awhile. This is not just following the Shiny New Idea: this is moving on to new things when the old isn't improving.

I came to this problem in my own writing. I've been working on the first draft - the first few chapters of the first draft - since middle school. That's about 5 years. Now, I think pure stubborn imagination is what keeps me at the keyboard, and that I really should try and see if I can write a full story out of a different idea. But there's this fear that it'll go nowhere, just like the first idea did.

This isn't one of those fears that go away. Don't we all fear that our ideas will fail, and our story become a useless, unfinished mushpile taking up space on our computer, never to see the proverbial light of day? I think the key to starting something special is to both use this fear and prepare yourself against it.

What I mean is, prepare to fortify yourself. When the voice whispers, "you don't even know how to start," then look at the first sentence/chapter of every book within reach, and figure out for yourself how to puzzle the first few sentences together. When it begins to whisper, "this is beyond salvageable, you'd be better off starting anew," remember that nothing is perfect. There is plenty of time to do major revamping when you're done. If the idea truly isn't going anywhere, after months (or years) of trying, then move on and don't forget.

When I say to use this fear, I mean think of your characters. Perhaps you don't benefit from the little nagging voice in your head, but will your characters? Incorporate your fear of starting or failing into your character. What character wants to immediately walk to their death? Hesitation is a normal part of life, and when you draw on your own fear, your characters are more believable.   

My mind works better with lists, so let me summarize:

1. Read the beginnings of other books. Don't copy them, but puzzle together the first few sentences and scenes of your own novel based on what you think works. Want your character to be established before your action? Want the action and the character-building to be intertwined in those first few pages? See how your favorite novels do it. How much is too much, how much is too little?

2. Actually sitting down to write is a major point. Take the gut-wrenching plunge and open a new document. Schedule a little time to get the beginning down. DON'T PROCRASTINATE.

3. Incorporate your fear into the characters. Perhaps your character is on the brink of a decision in the first scene - make sure the fear of starting, failing, or of the consequences is made known. You know how this feels! Your character feels real when their fear is based directly off real fear.

That summarizes my point pretty well. I was going to put a fourth bullet point down, but I don't have one. This post from QueryTracker sums up adversity, and goes along pretty well with this here post on getting over fear.

Have a blessed day and keep writing!

 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Plot Pieces

So welcome back readers. Here summer is drawing to a close, the temperatures are still very high, I'm falling behind on the stuff I have to do, and most likely, there's a few of you out there who are working on their plot like me.

I was searching the internet a while ago for a list of plot pieces for the writer not the reader when I came across this: http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/plot-outline.html It's a plot exercise with all the good stuff you need.

It has eight steps: story goal, consequences, requirements, forewarnings, costs, dividends, prerequisites, and preconditions. All are very important parts of a plot that don't get very much attention.

Just go click the link above and give it a try, it will give you a new perspective on your plot and maybe, if you're like me, help you get over a rough spot in your plot. I would love to hear what you've done with it, so comment away! Good luck and keep writing!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Motivation and the Inner Editor

Because I know we all need a little motivation and again. I understand, I need it, you need it, J.K. Rowling needed it, and probably still does. It's natural to feel little down about your story.

We've all reached that point in our stories where you feel like quitting. You're inner editor is screaming bad things about your plot, that you'll never published, and all the other things your inner editor likes to go about. Give up. Quit. Walk away now. You're not cut out for this kind of work.

My inner editor particularly likes to rant about the plot, or rather the lack of one. Sometimes I listen, tie up a few loose ends, do a little house-keeping, but the thing is it just keeps talking. And if I keep listening, it will eventually drown out my character's voices and then comes a whole new wave of horrible.

You are the writer, the goddess/high spirit/dictator of your story and you make the decisions. Don't ever forget that. Yes, sometimes the inner editor is helpful, sometimes that little bit of niggling doubt in the back of your mind is helpful, but (and it's a big shocker here) sometimes it's not. You have to know when to stop listening and you know what? Go ahead and say it. Shut up, inner editor.

You'd be surprised how well that can work. Some people imagine it being locked away or vacationing to Canada, whatever works, but you have to realize that you are the boss, it's you who decides what happens in the end. Do not quit just because someone tells you to, in your head or in real life, but it doesn't matter what they think. The only opinion that counts is yours.

If it means anything to you, I think you can do it. Actually, I know you can do it. You are a writer, you can do anything.

So the point is, yes, you are going to feel doubtful. Yes, you are going to feel down. Yes, your inner editor is going to rant and rave, but no matter what, never, ever give up.





Thursday, July 12, 2012

Currently Reading

Hi all. I haven’t had much time to think about writing (or actually write, boo!). So I’m doing a brief post about the books I’ve been reading! This summer is my last chance to read whatever I want (which means digging into my huge YA pile) before I move for school. Anyway, I promise that the next one or two posts from me will be more writing-oriented.  =)


1) Skylark by Meaghan Spooner

 Summary:For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley waited for the day when her Resource would be harvested and she would finally be an adult. After the harvest she expected a small role in the regular, orderly operation of the City within the Wall. She expected to do her part to maintain the refuge for the last survivors of the Wars. She expected to be a tiny cog in the larger clockwork of the city. Lark did not expect to become the City’s power supply. For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley believed in a lie. Now she must escape the only world she’s ever known…or face a fate more unimaginable than death.”  **

This was one of the two titles I actually bought ALA. It is a finished hardcover. The book jacket is gorgeous and shiny! I totally love it. I’m just past part I and am liking it so far. It’s got a futuristic Alice in Wonderland sort of feel (to me anyway): the main character is alone and disoriented, and there are some odd and fantastical elements that she faces. Not really sure where it’s going plot-wise, but I’m curious to see. I believe the official release date is August 1, 2012 and will be available through various online retailers.

Also, the author is hosting a giveaway right now. You can check it out on her website: http://www.meaganspooner.com/the-skys-the-limit-contest-for-skylark/

** [photo & text credit to author and publisher Carolrhoda Lab]

2) Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Summary: “Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair… .Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell. Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.”  **

Well, I received a surprise ARC of this in the mail from HarperTeen. It was nice of them to send it without me requesting it! I’m not very far into it, but it sounds good. Although, I’ve never read her previous work, so the writing style and narration are a bit difficult for me to adjust to.

You can visit her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/jodilynnandersonbooks) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/jodilynna).

** [photo & text credit to author and publisher HarperTeen. Taken from Goodreads]

What are you reading this week? <3

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Oh goodness, It's Wednesday again!

I completely forgot I had a post today. I would say sorry, but this happens often (my posts are generally written between the hours of 9:00 and 11:00 pm). But today, I have nothing planned. So I will give you a few quotes and a picture, and try to post something special next week.

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
~Benjamin Franklin

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."
~Aldous Huxley

"Rewards and punishments are the lowest form of education."
~Chuang-Tzu

"We despise all reverences and objects of reverence which are outside the pale of our list of sacred things. And yet, with strange inconsistency, we are shocked when other people despise and defile the things which are holy to us."
~Mark Twain



I love these quotes, but now I feel bad that I've neglected to think of my blogging duties. In fairness, though, I was reading The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien - you know, the prequel to the Lord of the Rings? Can you blame me for forgetting to blog?

Anyways, here is your picture, courtesy of Tumblr. Have a blessed week and keep writing!


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Distractions...

Happy Independance Day, fellow US citizens!


And for any non-US citizens, happy Wednesday! I have a special picture for y'all, too.



This is late - like, 11:00 pm late. I'm sorry.

It's so hard to focus on stuff. In this fast-paced, technological world, it is easy to be distracted by the simplest things. I planned on writing 2,000 words today, and I ended up watching TV and staring at the ceiling. Now I'm rushing through 1,000 words, and I'll fall asleep after. Yet here I am, distracted by blogging.

When you don't have something to focus on (and oftentimes when you DO have more important things to do), your mind will distract itself. Without school, my mind is a blur of "I've got to do this, but really, I never noticed how interesting the ceiling looks. I think I'll google how to paint a ceiling instead." Here are some tips to keep on task with your writing:

1. Never, under any circumstance, tell yourself that "you'll do it later". Because you know you won't.

2. Time your breaks. Obviously, you can't write from the moment you wake up till the moment you fall asleep. Maybe take an hour after you wake up for breakfast/coffee/reading before you go to write. Maybe take twenty minutes for lunch instead of however long you want it to take. Your mind is easier to keep focused if you have a nice, clear schedule.

3. Don't let your cat sleep on your computer while you're away from it. Or any pets, for that matter. You'll be distracted by the long "sajkhrfeulrgtuigtgdgfskjhjrkejjkkk" and any possible damage to your keyboard. 

4. Don't tempt yourself. Work away from distractions like the TV, or cut off internet access.

This is my meager list of tips. I have a big issue on this particular topic, and while some of these tips may not work for you, it is how I keep my sanity when it comes to writing.

I don't really have much to add on. So have a blessed week!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Character Action

Lately, I picked up a book and knew within a few pages that wasn't going to like it. Usually, it's the storyline or the character has different priorities than I think they should, but this book wasn't the sort. I mean, it had a decent premise and it actually seemed like my kind of book. Action, adventure, a little romance on the side, but I couldn't quite place what I didn't like. And then it hit me.

The character doesn't do anything. 

I mean, yes, tons of these random opportunities fly by them and the characters take them, but they're not deciding for themselves. They aren't going out and searching for these opportunities, fighting to keep them. They're a passive bystander in their own story. 

My problem with this is that you can't just wait around for things to happen, because they won't. How many times do you sit on your couch, waiting for someone to show up and clean your house? I'm not saying your characters are going to be in this situation, but they're going to have to do the things they need to too.

A common problem that writers run into is giving their secondary characters action, but letting their MCs fall short. Maybe because they want their main characters to seem heroic or godly by making them calm. Or maybe they feel more free with the emotions in their minor characters. Whatever it is, secondary characters get more freedom than the story's star, and given its their story after all, it's something we need to change. 

Just remember, your MCs are not perfect. Let them get angry sometimes, or cry, or pull a joke. Go through all of your chapter and make sure they are doing something at least every five paragraphs, and doing something they choose doing, not because it happened and they're just going along. You'll know the difference, if you have to convince yourself its actin, then its not. Measure out the big decsiions. Are they active or passive decisions? You should have a healthy balance of each.

I cannot tell you how far a little character development can go. It should help you with the kinds of decisions that each character would make. For some great stuff on character development, Annie at The Epic, The Awesome, and The Random has some great posts. 

I hope you're stories are better for this post. Have a nice day and keep writing!


Thursday, June 28, 2012

ALA Annual '12 Recap + Swag Giveaway (over)


Hello! I had a fun, exhausting, crazy weekend at the ALA Annual in Anaheim, California. In this post, I’ll be sharing a few photos as well as my overall impression of the exhibit hall.

Sign outside convention center (taken from car):

Marissa Meyer signing copies of Cinder and ARCs of Scarlet (book 2) !!! This was actually a surprise. I was waiting for another author, but it went fast. So I hopped over to the Macmillan booth right after and saw this huge line, which luckily my friend was already in. Marissa seemed excited to be there and I snagged a Cinder mirror as well as Scarlet. No picture with her though.

Disney-Hyperion ticketed signing: (from left to right) Alexandra Bracken, Rachel Cohn, Dan Krokos and Tamara Ireland Stone. I kept joking that this was cafeteria style - a little chat and sign with each of the authors.

Other authors I met throughout the weekend: Rae Carson, Ally Condie, Tahereh Mafi (3rd time in 7 months…she’s that awesome), Libba Bray, Gary Ross (director/writer of The Hunger Games), Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo (been Twitter friends for a while, it was so nice to see her), Jessica Khoury and Gennifer Albin. They were all very lovely and eager to chat.

5 books I'm most excited to read: Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi, Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, Outpost by Ann Aguirre, Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes and Black City by Elizabeth Richards.

I ended up with around 30 books from Friday night to Monday afternoon and hope to give many of them away after I read them. Indeed, very grateful to all the publishers, authors,  librarians, teachers, bloggers and readers I met or was given books by (whew, is that everyone?) and of course my friend Rachael whom I interviewed last week. It was a great weekend overall and gave me a new perspective on the publishing industry.
…..

..
.

Wait. You thought I was going to tell you all that, then leave you with nothing? No way. I have some very cool YA swag from my personal closet stash (pictured below) to give away!!!

HOW TO ENTER: Just leave a comment below with an email address! I’ll pick two winners* this Monday 7/2. US and Canada only please. Winners have been notified by email.
1340925793

* One pile of swag per winner will be sent via USPS after email confirmation. Winners will be chosen randomly using a number generator. In the event that only one person enters this contest, the remaining prize will be kept and used at a later date. If no one enters, both swag prizes may be donated. *

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Quick Interview: The Book Muncher


1) Hi, Rachael! Welcome to Cherry Tree Notes. It’s been pretty quiet around here, but we love to have people stop by. Please tell us a bit about yourself and your blog.


Hi all! As Kristi said, my name is Rachael, and I’ve been blogging at The Book Muncher for over four years. When I’m not reading YA, I go to school at Barnard College of Columbia University, where I’m majoring in Comparative Literature, and work at a small literary agency called Fox Literary.

2) What genres of young adult literature do you enjoy most? And which recently published (or soon to be) titles are you excited about?


I have rather eclectic taste when it comes to books, so I read a little bit of everything from contemporary and historical fiction to paranormal and high fantasy—it really just depends on my mood! I do find, though, that I’m generally a little more particular to certain themes or concepts within genres; for example, I’ve been really into stories with time travel and parallel universes of late, so I’ve been drooling over a fair amount of sci-fi: False Memory by Dan Krokos, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill (which doesn’t come out until Fall 2013), and Eve and Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate.

In other genres, I’m greatly looking forward to Diviners by Libba Bray, Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes, Speechless by Hannah Harrington, and Burn for Burn by Jenn Han and Siobhan Vivian.

3) I know you are currently based in a big city and gaining work experience as a publishing intern. What is it that you do and how do you hope your role within the industry will evolve within the next few years?

As an assistant at a literary agency, I do a little bit of everything. Mostly, I do a lot of reading—in sorting through queries, of manuscripts in the “slush pile,” and of my boss’s clients’ projects. I’m also starting to do a fair amount of writing as well, by drafting rejection and revision letters. Since I aspire to be a young adult book editor, it is my hope that I’ll be hired as an editorial assistant at a publishing house soon after I graduate from college next year! When (not if!) that happens, I’ll likely be doing a lot of the stuff that I get to do now at the literary agency—but all the time!

4) Any advice for those who want to work in publishing, write, or something in between?

The best advice that I can give is very general but I’d like to think it’s very relevant to all aspects of the publishing industry, whether from the writer’s side or the publisher’s side: Don’t give up. Publishing is extremely competitive, because everybody wants to write a book and all those English majors out there want to get paid. Perseverance and patience can really make a huge difference; no matter how disheartening the present state of the publishing industry looks at any given time, your ability to stick things through while someone else couldn’t makes you that much closer to your end goal, whatever it may be!

Thanks so much for having me on the blog!

You can find out more about The Book Muncher and her reviews on her blog: http://thebookmuncher.blogspot.com/ or on Twitter: @thebookmuncher.


*SIDE NOTE* : I will be attending the American Library Association's annual conference Friday through Sunday (or Monday, not sure yet) and will post a recap with photos next week!  :) 


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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On Quotes

It's been a long time since I've posted anything. It's June, and I can relax, so here I am! Yay.

To be a good writer, you have to look at other people's writing. You have to read. You have to learn how to put together a good sentence, a good metaphor, a poetic line. Or, you can read them for inspiration, for truth, for the pure poetry of the words. So, I'm sharing some of my favorite quotes from other writers (and others).

"Spiteful words can hurt your feelings, but silence breaks your heart."
~C. S. Lewis

"In learning the art of storytelling by animation, I have discovered that language has an anatomy."
~Walt Disney

"If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?"
~George Carlin

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."
~Maya Angelou

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
~Albert Einstein

I love these quotes. They're so true, and they're stated in a simple way. It's just... staggering how true they can be.

So, how about you? What are your favorite quotes?


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Camp Nano

June 1st started the June Camp Nano. It's just like the November Nanowrimo, but aimed at people who have more free time in June. If you happen to join, you get a shiny badge looking like this one...


Anyways, this is just a quick post to wish good luck to those who are participating and to encourage those of you who aren't to check it out. 

If you want to find out more, check out out the website here. Good luck to all your Nano-ers and to the rest of you, have a nice day!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Interview: Ruta Sepetys


Today I have a special treat for you: an interview with the author of Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys! 


This book has earned a honorable place in my heart, not just because of her writing (which is phenomenal) but because she has made the world a better place by telling a story that next to no one actually knows. 

My grandparents were persecuted by Stalin and barely escaped with their lives. I grew up knowing the story of the genocide hidden right before the Holocaust. I couldn't believe the masses that didn't share my knowledge. For giving these shadowed figures a voice, Ruta has earned a great deal of my respect. 


Let's jump right in to the questions! 


--

Can you tell us about yourself?

RS – I was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. For nearly twenty years I worked in the music industry, managing the careers of recording artists, musicians and songwriters. One day, one of my clients said, “Ruta, you’ve spent years helping musicians tell their stories, but what’s your story?” That question sparked a career transition. I started writing.

What was the first thing you wrote, the one that decided for you that you were going to be a writer?

RS – Well, the first thing I wrote was a middle-grade mystery. Fortunately, a literary agent encouraged me to put that book aside and write “Between Shades of Gray” instead. I’m so grateful for that early advice!

Can you tell us about your book? Without giving it away, of course. 

RS – The book is set in 1941 and deals with a piece of WWII history that’s not often talked about – the crimes of Stalin. The story follows fifteen-year-old artist, Lina Vilkas, who is arrested with her mother and younger brother and deported from Lithuania to Siberia. The story chronicles not only their fight to survive, but their struggle to retain faith in mankind.

If you could go into one scene in your book and stand by your character's side instead of in heir head, which scene would it be? If not in your book, it could be from a story you read. 

RS – Wow, what a fantastic question! I would go into “Between Shades of Gray” and stand by Lina during the scene where she has to draw a portrait of the Soviet commander. It was such an awful scary scene to write.

What inspired Shades of Gray? 

RS – When I was in Lithuania meeting with relatives I learned that some of my grandfather’s extended family had been deported to Siberia. I was shocked and ashamed that I knew so little about Lithuania’s history. I decided to write the book to give voice to the hundreds of thousands of people who will never have a chance to tell their story.

Can you give one piece of advice to the writers out there?

RS – My one piece of advice would be to read. Good writers are good readers!


--


If you want to learn more about Ruta and her book, Between Shades of Gray, you can visit her website or at BetweenShadesofGray.com


If you haven't read her book, you should. You never know, you might really like it. I know I did. You can buy it on Amazon, Kindle, or just check it out from your local library!


From her website:
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.
Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive.
It is a long and harrowing journey, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?
Between Shades of Gray is a riveting novel that steals your breath, captures your heart, and reveals the miraculous nature of the human spirit.




Thank you all for reading, good luck, and keep writing!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Regional Dialect

Regional dialect is basically writing what people speak. And, of course, people speak differently in different places. They have different customs and accents and idioms.

For example, I bring up the classic debate of "soda vs. pop". Where I'm from, it's soda. The idea of calling it "pop" makes me giggle. But in some other place in America, probably up North, calling it "soda" would make them giggle.

This doesn't just extend to vocabulary - think of the Southern tendency to drop the "g" off of some verbs: runnin', or hoppin', or jumpin'. Grammar and sayings are a large part of this. In America, we say we're just kidding, or we're messing with you. In Australia, they say they're just stirring with you. Also, don't forget brands - where we have Lays and Nestle, Australians have Shapes and Tim Tams. (I know this because my dad's family lives in Australia; my mother loves it when they send over Tim Tams.)

It's a bit much to comprehend, when you think about it. All those cultures out there... not to mention they change over time, so if your story takes place in the 1800s, you'll have to look up the dialect from that time period as well.

When making up your own regional dialect, for your Killonia or New Narnia, make sure it flows nicely. You don't explain it to your readers: just make it somewhat easy for them to follow. Like in American slang, "swag" is referred to when you're arrogant and cool and swaggering about the place like an idiot. *ahem* At least, that's what I've picked up on. No offense to any swaggers out there. (By which I mean, no offense to the swagger-type people who I might actually like.)

When you need for your world to be a personal, special, or realistic world, you have to write what the people say, how they say it. And you have to write it in a way that readers understand. When you do it right, your world becomes a better place for the readers glimpsing it.

So, that concludes my pretty short post. This isn't a terribly difficult topic to explain. It's only difficult when you're writing about a place you've never been, and as a writer of mysterious things, you should relish the challenge.

Enjoy the weekend, make good choices, and y'all have a blessed day!  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Interview: Annie from The Epic, the Awesome, and the Random

Today I have a special treat for you all. Meet Annie, a fellow blogger, avid reader, and fantastic writer. She's here (metaphorically) from her blog, The Epic, the Awesome, and the Random. Everyone give a warm welcome!


--


Tell me a little about yourself. What's your current project? Favorite book? The name of your blog? 


I'm Annie, a teenage girl, aspiring author, introvert, certified band geek, dreamer, and general lover of books.  I have a blog titled The Epic, the Awesome, and the Random, where I review books, give writing advice, and other assorted things.  It's so hard to name just one book as a favorite, so I'll mention several.  I've always been a huge fan of Christopher Paolini's Inheritence series, as well as D. J. MacHale's Pendragon series, Alison Goodman's Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races, Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, and Patrick Carman's Thirteen Days to Midnight.  I've loved books and stories from a very young age, so I suppose that naturally led me to writing.  My current project is a young adult high fantasy novel titled Secrets of the Legend Chaser.  It's about a boy who steals dragon eggs while running from his past life, a lonely king, and an orphan whom everyone thinks is the king's missing son.  I'm currently in the revision stages, and as soon as it's polished and revised I plan to begin querying agents and pursuing publication, which has always been a dream of mine.


What was the first thing you ever wrote? If you can't remember a specific thing, what sorts of things did you start out with? (Poems, short story, start right out with a novel, etc.)


I wrote my first story when I was about five.  It was a short "book" about a dinosaur that gets captured and taken to a zoo (yeah, even my five-year-old self knew what a plot was, apparently), complete with marker illustrations and sequels.  All throughout elementary school and I wrote various short stories.  In middle school, I started writing poems (and I tried my hand at song lyrics) as well as stories.  I wrote in just about every genre--historical, fantasy, realistic, sci-fi, dystopian, paranormal, and more.  I've accumulated quite a collection of writing--I love to look back and see how much I've progressed.  During seventh and eighth grade I wrote two novellas (like novels, but not quite as long) featuring a four friends and their horses.  At the beginning of my freshman year of high school, I looked at one of the short stories I'd written, titled Emerald Spark.  I realized that the main character's story went far beyond what was in those four pages.  And so Secrets of the Legend Chaser came to be.  It's my first full-length novel, and the first very large piece of writing I've had to revise.  


You're farther along than most of us in our current novels, do you have any advice for those finishing up their stories and starting to revise?


The first step is actually finishing the project.  I cannot stress enough how utterly important this is.  It may sound completely obvious, but this is a huge step that many writers can't get past.  It's so easy to not finish a project, to get distracted by a shinier idea and abandon your current work in progress.  If you ever want to be a sucessful published author, people are going to expect you to finish books.  Once a writer gets to the point where they can finish a full-length book, they have taken a very important leap.  Once they get there, though, they also need to learn to revise.  Revision is the key to producing publishable novels.  It makes the jumbled plot a smooth ride, it makes the awkward prose into a work of art, and it makes the cardboard-cutout character into a living, breathing person.  Before revising, though, you have to let the work sit for a few weeks.  It's hard to revise something that's still so fresh in your mind.  By distancing yourself from the novel, you enable yourself to look at it with fresh eyes.  And before you start revising, you need a plan.  Don't just dive in--figure out what needs to be changed, and how you'll change it.  A plan of action will go a long way towards making your revision sucessful.


What got you started on a blog? 


 I used to scan the writing help forum on Inkpop quite frequently, and I noticed that I was able to answer many of the writing-related questions that people had.  I also realized that I enjoyed this.  At that time I was getting more and more into following writing and book review blogs, so I thought I had nothing to lose by starting one myself.  And so The Epic, the Awesome, and the Random was born.  I figured that instead of just helping a few people at a time, I could type up an article on writing and let all my followers, and anyone else who stumbled across the blog, see it.  My blog also has another aspect to it--I also write book reviews.  This came about because I was already noting things I liked or disliked as I read books, and it really wasn't much more work to type these thoughts up after I finished the book.  In all honesty, the blog has been far more sucessful than I thought it would be.  It can be very rewarding at times, like when a reader leaves a comment saying how much an article of mine helped them out.  That makes me smile every time.   




Do you have any quick advice to share with the bloggers out there? 



Don't expect huge amounts of followers right away.  You don't gain followers without effort.  The way you get people to read your blog is to write posts that have content worthy of reading.  This seems obvious, but it really is the truth.  If you regularly churn out articles that are informative/entertaining/whatever the purpose of your blog is, there's a good chance you'll eventually gain a following.  Also, if you want lots of readers, get your name out there.  Guest blogging on someone else's blog, commenting on other blogs, and generally interacting with other bloggers are all ways to make people aware of your presence.  Don't worry so much about your blog's design--it doesn't have to be fancy as long as you have good content.  Also, use spellcheck, and read through your posts at least once before you hit "publish".  Please, please, please.  It doesn't take much effort, and it'll save you from embarrassing and unprofessional errors.  Write about things that have meaning for you, things you care about.  Just like with all forms of writing, if you don't care about what you're writing about, then your readers won't, either.



Why do you write? Or why do you keep writing? 



I write because that's who I am.  Writing, for me, is not a hobby, nor a pastime.  I need to put words on paper, just like a musician needs to have sound coming out of their instrument, or a painter needs to put paint on a canvas.  It's a part of who I am.  I love creating stories, and writing is the way I get them out of my head and into the world.  There are definitely things I don't like about writing, but for every aspect I don't enjoy, there are ten that I love.  I write for the exhilaration of typing those first few words, and the bittersweet satisfaction of "the end".  I write to walk that thin line between reality and imagination.  I write for the moments when my characters feel such emotion that I'm crying, too.  I write to create something out of nothing.  I write for that moment when someone reads what I wrote, looks up at me, and says "Wow."  I keep writing because of my passion for stories and imagination, and my tendency to daydream, and night-dream, and any dream in between.  I keep writing because my stories keep bouncing around in my head, and my characters keep nudging me to get their stories into the world.  Any writer can relate to the utter magic of writing, and in the end, I think we all write for the same reason--because if we didn't write, we couldn't go on. 


--


Thank you Annie for visiting and we wish you luck with your blog and writing! You can talk to Annie at her blog, The Epic, the Awesome, and the Random


Have a happy Friday and keep writing, because if we didn't write, we couldn't go on. I couldn't have said it better myself, Annie!



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

6 Questions to Befuddle the Writing Mind #3

Yeah, there is no hope of ever fitting this into the blogging schedule, but rest assured I'll (most likely) write more. Anyways, back to World Building.


World Building Part Two

Yes, yes we know you're characters are ever so important, but have you ever given thought to the world they live in? Hopefully, because without a world to live on, most characters would not exist. Welcome back to 6 Questions on World Building. 

Since I know we'll all be writing in different types of places (reality or fantasy) just adapt the question to fit your story's needs. Have fun and happy writing!

1. Where does your character live? What planet, land, nation, country, city, address, room, house, etc.? Be as specific as you can. 

2. Let's talk about politics. (Our favorite subject, I know.) Who is in control in your world? And don't just say that everyone does as they please. No, it doesn't work that way. What governing power is in charge? How does the government work? 

3. What sorts of religions or faiths are in your world? Do they believe in spirits, gods, goddesses, etc.? 

4. Name three superstitions that people in the area of your MC have. How did each come about? Are these superstitions reasonable? If not, what can be done to stop people from believing in them? 

5. How are the young treated? How are the old? How are the teenagers? Is different work assigned to each? Are the young raised by only their parents or the entire community? Are the elders thrown out at some point?

6. Are the people living in your MC's area happy about where an how they live? Name three things they generally want changed. (I know there will be one or two people who are exceptions, but we're just going with the general views at the moment.) Please do not tell me they are completely happy with it, nothing is perfect, even in fantasy. They will want something changed.

Thank you again for reading and keep writing!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

6 Questions to Befuddle the Writing Mind #2

Hey, did you guys know there is a little button reading "Publish" that you have to press in order for a post to be published? Well, I apparently don't. I had this post typed up for Monday and I quit out before posting. Whoops. Well, I hope you can forgive me....

Anyways.

Here are the next six questions to help you develop your story and characters and whatever else we are targeting on that day. Answer them, blog them, comment your answers, save them in a word doc, whatever you deem worthy to do!



World Building Part 1

I know last week was some character building but this week we'll start at the beginning. World-building. We've had posts on why this is important before, but the bottom line is that you have to know where your story is happening. A story in Antarctica is not going to turn out the same way as a story in the Sahara. 

Since I know we'll all be writing in different types of places (reality or fantasy) just adapt the question to fit your story's needs. Have fun and happy writing!

1. Opening Scene. Where is these place? What does it look like? In the very first paragraph of your story, what is the setting? Describe it. Names of places, of plants surrounding them, what sorts of things do they see? 

2. Quick, make a list of all of the different places that are visited in your book. And I mean all of them. You can be as vague (New York City) or as specific (the bed in Camille's bedroom) as you want, but make sure you get all of them.

3. Using the list from the previous question, attach a word or phrase to each setting that best describes it. It can be something about the way it looks, the way it feels, what happened there, or whatever else you want. It just needs to be what you feel is the most important thing to remember about that place. 

4. What is the most meaningful setting in your story? Why is it the most meaningful? What happens there that makes it so? Write a quick description of it. 

5. Explain four ways that your setting has affected your story. Notice I started with "explain". 

6. Why is your story happening where it is? Why not the Alps or Dreamland? What makes this place so important that you are basing your story there? 




Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Keep Pushing Through

I'm on Spring Break with nothing to do, so I'm posting on a random writing topic.

How To Keep Pushing Through:

I know, it's hard to keep writing. You've passed the happy, new-idea phase and you're into the oh-my-goodness-where-am-I-taking-this? phase. If you're anything like me, you've got the very basic plot down, but you're unsure of the actual details and problems that fit in between. I've hit this problem in my own writing, so I figured I'd improvise this and then follow my own advice.

To start off, DON'T LEAVE YOUR WRITING BECAUSE YOU'RE FRUSTRATED. Even after just a few days, you'll look at what you wrote and think, "what the freak was I thinking? This is rubbish." Then you'll put it in the recycle bin and start over. You'll get to the same point, do the same thing, and you'll think all over again that your writing isn't worth the brain cells you put into it. This is a very nasty circle-spiral of useless writing time. Stay true to your writing and improvise a temporary scene to get you through the rough patch, and change it to suit your needs during editing. Of course, your temporary scene has to be similar to what you want there, because your story is delicate. If you put that Mary Sue wants to fight an evil king, and you've hit a rough patch when she's meeting him the 1st time, you cannot make this meeting end with King Evil giving her a bunny and her promising a rainbow. Don't forget your action-reaction idea.

Another point is DON'T GO BACK AND EDIT. If you go back and edit what you've already written, then you'll end up finding so many mistakes, you'll be tempted to trash it. And you know where that'll end up. So just push through that stubborn scene and resist the temptation to edit. You have plenty of time for editing when it's all said and done.

Third point: SEEK INSPIRATION. Grab it by its bunny-rabbit ears and don't let go. Listen to new music, convince your parents to take you to the park (or drive there, if you have your license. I don't happen to have mine yet, so I have to find other transportation). Do some research on topics you enjoy: look up religion on Google, go to your library and find books on ancient civilizations. Just pick something and read up on it. Or watch documentaries, which I personally love to do. I once watched a very informative show on the history of playing cards. Just... do something worth doing.

Try a RANDOM GENERATOR. Like http://nine.frenchboys.net/housing.php or tp://seventhsanctum.com/. These are fun and can spark an idea. You won't use all of the suggestions they give you - some are so blatantly against your story that you'll have to find something else. But they're pretty reliable.

Ummm... ADD SOMETHING NEW. If you don't consider this part of inspiration. Write a dragon into your scene! Have your MC join a pirate gang! Let your MC's sister get kidnapped! Just add something worthwhile or odd into your scene and change your plot to accomadate it. If you hate it, you can come back to it in editing.

That's all I've got. I'm sorry, I feel this kind of advice has been parroted out to writers by pretty much everyone. "Don't give up!" "Find inspiration!" It is good advice, though. And all the labrynth of my mind can come up with at the moment. 

Have a blessed day and keep writing! <3
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