Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thankful Thursday: Taking the bad with the good.

First I want to apologize for getting this out so late.  My mind completely slipped that it was Thursday today.  :D 

Normally we’re thankful here for the good things that have happened, but I decided to change that up a bit.  Today we’re being thankful for something bad that happened.  Because sometimes bad things happen, so good things can.

For most of this it was a hard question to answer.  As it should be.  :D  Who wants to be grateful something bad happened?  But here’s what we were finally able to pick.

Jessie: Tough question, as there's a lot for me.  I'm one of those "everything happens for a reason" sort of person, so even when things seem really horrible, I can usually look back and realize it worked out for the best. For now, I'll go with being passed over for senior counsel at my last law firm.  (Senior counsel is where you've been an associate for a number of years and management gives you the nod that you're on your way to being partner by promoting you to senior counsel.)  At the time I was livid.  But it made me step back and think about whether I really wanted to be a partner there, or if I just trying to prove that I could make partner in a top national firm.  As I thought, I realized I didn't want all the junk that partnership entails and I left for my current, part-time, jeans-wearing job that I love (which is across the street from my daughters' school).  SO MUCH BETTER!

Nikki: I’m not yet in a space where I can be grateful for most of the bad things that have happened in my life (at least the first and major ones that come to mind).  So I guess I’ll go with my second daughter being born and spending her first week in the NICU.  She wasn’t a preemie, in fact she came a day late. But I had an extremely fast labor (she was born in the elevator) and she didn’t expel the amniotic fluid from her lungs and developed pneumonia.

At the time isn’t what great.  We lived 45 minutes from the hospital.  There were major fires going in our city.  But what I’m grateful for is ... It wasn’t my first child.  Had it been my first, I probably would have freaked out!  But I was able to take it all with a grain of salt.  I was able to realize how lucky she was, how fine she was going to be, especially compared to some of the other infants in the NICU.  She was strong. We were strong.  And my oldest went from being this clingy monster to an independent little girl in that week – home with her Bamma while my husband and I tag-teamed spending time with the baby.

AE: Oy! What a difficult one! >_< I'll have to go with the heartbreak dished out in the form of my then-fiancé breaking off our engagement. I was utterly and entirely, head-over-heels stupid in love with him. He was my everything. We'd refinished antique furniture, purchased rings, had half a home's worth of stuff. Then, he suddenly showed up and called it off. Talk about a knife in the heart--I'd never felt such pain. Now, years later, it's the best thing he could have ever done for me. I would have never met my husband, we would never have our kids, I wouldn't have my best friend. I wouldn't be the woman I am now. If I'd stayed with him, I would've never started writing.
I would thank him, now, because I really am better off without him.

As for myself, I guess I'm going to choose my daughter having Systemic JRA, for NUMEROUS reasons, because I get to stay home with both of my kids now, I’ve learned the value of quality time with my family, not necessarily quantity and because it gave me the excuse to start writing again.  With all the stress I was going under with her, I needed a release.  Writing was the perfect solution.  

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Define "Genre"

So, some of the ladies over at #YALitChat were discussing genres and creating an easy-reference list of the various different genres out there.  The illustrious founder, Georgia McBride, advised us to focus more on writing what we want to write and letting the marketing peeps decide what genre label to stick on our work. 
 **Image snatched from DeviantArt**
By and large, I think that's probably good advice.  BUT, when you're sending out those all-important query letters, you've got to know what genre you're pitching to an agent.  If you don't - IMO - it shows a lack of industry knowledge. So, to help you along, here is a list (though I could probably never hope to complete it) of the different FICTION genres commonly found in YA.  (All of these definitions come from Wikipedia, except for Contemporary/Realistic.) And btw - I've heard it on twitter more than once - don't refer to your book as a fictional novel or give it too many genre labels (like, please consider my speculative, science fiction, steampunk romance fictional novel).

Contemporary/Realistic (this definition from the Contemps website) is pretty much what it sounds like: books that feature true-to-life settings, characters, and situations.

Dystopian: Dystopia is defined as a society characterized by poverty, squalor, or oppression.
Dystopias usually extrapolate elements of contemporary society and function as a warning against some modern trend, often the threat of oppressive regimes in one form or another. Many utopias can be seen as dystopias in regard to their treatment of the issues of justice, freedom and happiness.  The main point of a dystopia is to make people think about the world in which they live and to see how the idea of happiness can be perverted providing the members of society know little else.

Fantasy: a genre that uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, and/or setting. Many works within the genre take place in fictional worlds where magic is common. 

Paranormal Romance: focuses on romance and includes elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, blending together themes from the genres of traditional fantasy, science fiction, or horror. Paranormal romance may range from traditional category romances, with a paranormal setting to stories where the main emphasis is on a science fiction or fantasy based plot with a romantic subplot included. Common hallmarks are romantic relationships between humans and vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, and other entities of a fantastic or otherworldly nature.

Historical: In YA, we're typically talking about a "period piece," meaning a work that features historical places, people, or events that may or not be crucial to the story. Because history is merely used as a backdrop, it may be fictionalized to various degrees, but the story itself may be regarded as "outside" history. A traditional piece of historical fiction takes place in the real world, with real world people, but with several fictionalized or dramatized elements.

Science Fiction: a genre of fiction dealing with the impact of imagined innovations in science or technology, often in a futuristic setting. It differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature (though some Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possibilities The settings for science fiction are often contrary to known reality, but the majority of science fiction relies on a considerable degree of suspension of disbelief provided by potential scientific explanations to various fictional elements. elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation). Exploring the consequences of such differences is the traditional purpose of science fiction, making it a "literature of ideas"

Steampunk: Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain—that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne or real technologies like the computer but developed earlier in an alternate history.

Urban Fantasy: a subset of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times or contain supernatural elements. However, this is not the primary definition of urban fantasy. Urban fantasy can be set in historical times, modern times, or futuristic times. The prerequisite is that it must be primarily set in a city, rather than in a suburban or country setting, which have their own genre subsets.

Utopian: The utopia and its offshoot, the dystopia, are genres of literature that explore social and political structures. Utopian fiction is the creation of an ideal world, or utopia, as the setting for a novel. Dystopian fiction is the opposite: creation of a nightmare world, or dystopia. Many novels combine both, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take in its choices, ending up with one of two possible futures. 

What do you write?  What have I left out?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

TUESDAY TUNES: The quirks are showing...

For this addition of Tuesday Tunes, I asked the girls what the quirkiest, most unique song was in their playlist or music files. I figure, we're all writing for teens and seem to favor paranormal or sci-fi/dystopian--but we all have our differences, different voices, different ways to approach telling the stories, and that has to show up somewhere. Plus... I'm nosey. ^_^ Well, the replies rolled in, and I'm sharing them ALL with you.

Pigs in Zen, Jane's Addiction. I usually use this song to motivated me when I'm looking to write a scene with lots of energy or insert crazy humor.

Outside of songs from the Strawberry Shortcake soundtrack and the Wiggles (all on my iPod for the kids) I’d have to say my most unique song in my writing folder is “I Was Broken” by Robert Pattinson, an acoustic version he sang in a club that made the rounds on the Internet. And there you have my secret celebrity crush that’s not really that big of a secret, considering I used to run a fan site for him! I don’t really use it to write any particular scene, it’s just in rotation with tons of other songs.

I'd say that the most unique song on my list is Dance Me to the End of Love by Madeline Peyroux. It's not that the song is particularly odd, but it's the only one with such a smoky, jazzy feel. It's always good to play when writing love scenes.

I'd have to say the oddest song I have in my collection is a song called, "The Only Gay Eskimo." I don't usually have it on when I write, but it's in my playlist, so sometimes it'll pop on when I'm writing. It's just a silly little song that was on SNL. I'm not even sure I know why I have it--LOL--but it's there. I can't think of a scene I'd use it to write, but maybe if it's a silly scene, it would be great inspiration.

I have such a draw to Middle Eastern things, I wouldn't doubt I had at least one past life there. Every one knows I'm a rock-n-roll girl. My teen son and I pass music back and forth all the time. Recently, I've been listening to Papa Roach, but one of the most unique, farthest for rock-n-roll I can think of is Hunger, by Hans Zimmer, in Black Hawk Down.

Monday, September 27, 2010


In thinking about today's post, I decided to look up the definition of sanctuary. Definitions always spark inspiration for me ... I pick the one that is most relevant and run with it.

So today's definition for sanctuary is: refuge: a shelter from danger or hardship (which I have to say, is a lot more applicable than chancel: area around the altar of a church for the clergy and choir; often enclosed by a lattice or railing.) Just sayin'

Anyway, I know we talk a lot about finding a sanctuary for our writing, or in our writing. But, for me, my sanctuary IS the writing.

My life is hectic. I'm the first to admit it, and I'm the first to admit that it will always be that way. I can never turn away from taking on activities - whether it's being on the PTA board, co-authoring a blog, volunteering, taking on a freelance position, etc, etc, etc.

But, no matter how stressed I am, no matter how many deadlines I have to meet, I always find solace in my writing. It is my shelter from the chaos and the noise. It is my chance to shut the door, sit in silence, and set my creativity free. When I am fully engrossed in my writing, anything can happen. I think it's why I rarely have writer's block (but I guess that's a whole other post).

Writing is my time. I revel in the solitude of having me, my computer, and my thoughts.

Do you find refuge in writing?

Friday, September 24, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: The Eternal Ones

I received the ARC of The Eternal Ones, by Kristen Miller, this year at Comic Con and just recently had the chance to read it, so I thought I'd post a review here for all the Oasis fans!

Goodreads Description:

What if love refused to die?

Haven Moore can’t control her visions of a past with a boy called Ethan, and a life in New York that ended in fiery tragedy. In our present, she designs beautiful dresses for her classmates with her best friend Beau. Dressmaking keeps her sane, since she lives with her widowed and heartbroken mother in her tyrannical grandmother’s house in Snope City, a tiny town in Tennessee. Then an impossible group of coincidences conspire to force her to flee to New York, to discover who she is, and who she was.

In New York, Haven meets Iain Morrow and is swept into an epic love affair that feels both deeply fated and terribly dangerous. Iain is suspected of murdering a rock star and Haven wonders, could he have murdered her in a past life? She visits the Ouroboros Society and discovers a murky world of reincarnation that stretches across millennia. Haven must discover the secrets hidden in her past lives, and loves¸ before all is lost and the cycle begins again.

My Review:

I really enjoyed this book. The beginning action was a tad bit slow, but the characters and the setting were so interesting, that it didn't really matter! And then when Haven and Iain met, wowsers. I won't spoil it, but I absolutely adored their interaction and you could tell that they loved each other in a past life! The dream sequences and the details throughout the novel are amazing and beautiful.

The mystery was very well until the end. I kept wondering if there was going to be some twist like the movie Dead Again, but it was something different altogether!

I'm normally a sucker for first-person novels, but this was one was third-person omniscient and it worked well because there were some scenes that needed to be told outside of Haven's head.

I also thought the ending wrapped up very well. Even though a sequel is in the works, you weren't left with a cliff-hanger or loose ends.

I give this book 5 Palm Trees.

Outside of the book, I think Kristen did an amazing job with her social media and promotion! There's a website for the Ouroboros Society, complete with interviews and a questionnaire to join!

The Eternal Ones Book Trailer:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Elements of teen Pride

Some of us had Welcome Back Cotter or Good Times, while others of us had 90210 (the original), Saved By The Bell, and the Breakfast club. Today there's Gossip Girls, Degrassi, and Pretty Little Liars. As I was thinking of a post to write for Thankful Thursday, a commercial of That 70's Show happened to come on the TV. Hah. What better show or script encompasses the plight of the teenage years?
Issues of dating, teen employment laziness, school work, and life-after-graduation (not to mention a few of those awkward teen unmentionables) are covered. Yeah, and the whole way-uncool-parents thang. *shiver*

So I thought it'd be fun to explore what aspects of the teenage years we, as YA writers, should be thankful for.

Fashion: What more could we want as writers to dress up a scene than a group of characters in totally contrasting colors and styles? Talk about your arena for conflict. Prom scenes, a night party on the beach, or the notorious school uniforms (& the choice of attire while out of those uniforms) can add interest and intrigue to a scene, chapter, or novel as a whole.

Teen slang: Let’s assume a writer has studied the lingo of a diverse group of teens. Used properly, this element can take an average manuscript to new heights. It can explore ethnic and financial backgrounds, and even character insecurities. The youthful spirit can literally breathe off the pages.  

Those AWKWARD moments: Um, yeah. This is when it's good to already be out of the teenage years. Although major Hotheads to those successful teen authors out there, I can't imagine writing about those years while living through them. Phew... But as difficult as some of those moments may be, as writers they are our pot of gold. The awkward kissing scene or the dark argument between a teen and a parent. Then there are the embarrassing moments where the girl discovers in front of the entire student body that her boyfriend cheated on her with her best friend. And what about when the mean kids set up the poor girl and spill pig's blood all over her? (Poor Carrie...)

Friendships: So much information about a character can be exposed through the teenage friendships we create. These relationships can be used for both inner and outer growth. Sometimes they can make us laugh, while other times they make us cry and even explore our own pasts. I believe this is one of the most powerful aspects of writing YA and what makes it unique.

So today, let’s just be thankful for the diversity during those teenage years and what it gives us as writers. Can you add to our list? 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Characterizations

As I just finished the VERY rough draft of my latest WIP and I’ve noticed my characterizations need some work, I’ve decided to write a short post on…you guessed it.  Characterizations.

There’s so many different ideas about what works and what doesn’t so obviously take all advice with a grain of salt and only use what works for you.

Here’s what I do.  First I write backstories for each of my main characters.  And important secondary characters.  Most if not all of this will never make it into my story, but it helps me flesh out my characters.

Then I ask myself these questions (with special thanks to Suite101): 

·  What do you know about this character now that s/he doesn’t yet know?
·  What is this character’s greatest flaw?
·  What do you know about this character that s/he would never admit?
·  What is this character’s greatest asset?
·  If this character could choose a different identity, who would s/he be?
·  What music does this character sing to when no one else is around?
·  In what or whom does this character have the greatest faith?
·  What is this character’s favorite movie?
·  Does this character have a favorite article of clothing? Favorite shoes?
·  Does this character have a vice? Name it.
·  Name this character’s favorite person (living or dead).
·  What is this character’s secret wish?
·  What is this character’s proudest achievement?
·  Describe this character’s most embarrassing moment.
·  What is this character’s deepest regret?
·  What is this character’s greatest fear?
·  Describe this character’s most devastating moment.
·  What is this character’s greatest achievement?
·  What is this character’s greatest hope?
·  Does this character have an obsession? Name it.
·  What is this character’s greatest disappointment?
·  What is this character’s worst nightmare?
·  Whom does this character most wish to please? Why?
·  Describe this character’s mother.
·  Describe this character’s father.
·  If s/he had to choose, with whom would this character prefer to live?
·  Where does this character fall in birth order? What effect does this have?
·  Describe this character’s siblings or other close relatives.
·  Describe this character’s bedroom. Include three cherished items.
·  What is this character’s birth date? How does this character manifest traits of his/her astrological sign?
·  If this character had to live in seclusion for six months, what six items would s/he bring?
·  Why is this character angry?
·  What calms this character?
·  Describe a recurring dream or nightmare this character might have.
·  List the choices (not circumstances) that led this character to his/her current predicament.
·  List the circumstances over which this character has no control.
·  What wakes this character in the middle of the night?
·  How would a stranger describe this character?
·  What does this character resolve to do differently every morning?
·  Who depends on this character? Why?
·  If this character knew s/he had exactly one month to live, what would s/he do?
·  How would a dear friend or relative describe this character?
·  What is this character’s most noticeable physical attribute?
·  What is this character hiding from him/herself?
·  Write one additional thing about your character.

There are also TONS of character worksheets that you can use.  I personally don’t find them all that useful, but you may so I link to a place that will link you to all the rest of them.  

Just click here to be taken to Adventure's In Children's Publishing's blog.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday Tunes Inspires a "Break Up" Post

I get a little obsessed with songs. Like, when I hear one I love, I need to dissect the lyrics and understand them completely.  My current obsession is with "The Truth" by Kris Allen.
   If you watch the video, you'll see it's a super-awesome acoustic version. The lyrics that have me all wrapped up go like this:

Stop ignoring that our hearts are mourning
And let the rain come in
Stop pretending that it's not ending
And let the end begin, oh yeah...

Trying to be perfect

Trying not to let you down
Honesty is honestly
The hardest thing for me right now, yeah

And it made me think about how hard it is to admit that something is over. No matter how bad it may have been, letting go is always hard.  Sometimes devastatingly hard.

Breaking up with your WIP is no exception.  But does there come a time when you just have to part ways? Admit that you had some good times, you learned how to be a better writer, but in the end, it just wasn't meant to be?

And if so, how do you know when that time has come?

I'm currently pondering this question because I'm so "in love" with my current co-written story line, that I've considered walking away from my first baby.  The one I swore I wouldn't leave behind because I was not going to be one of those authors who couldn't hack it the first time out. (I know, insert major eye roll, right?)

But at the same time, I worry that I'd be giving up on my first love too easily.  We had something really special.  And even though no agent has felt it's right for her yet, I've gotten some really nice compliments about it.  Plus, Maggie Stiefvater posted this on her blog last week, about having perseverance and never giving up. As she said, "You have to choose courage." So where does that leave me?

That's right, marital counseling. Just kidding.

But seriously, how do we "stop pretending that it's not ending" and be honest with ourselves about our work? Does that time ever come or is there always room for growth?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Sanctuary: Falling leaves.

This time of year puts a big old smile on my face, brings out the impish side of me.

School is in full swing. The sweet strands of the marching band practice drifts through the air. Friday nights are punctuated the with the whoops of the football crowd. Is there any better time of the year?

Why do they call this season Fall? When the temperature drops my spirits soar. When green trickles from the leaves, the trees flood in rich waves of earthy russets, oranges and gold. Ovens fire up and pies, cakes, cookies are baked. Garden harvests are canned and stored. Fall is not the season of dying away, it is the season of renewed life and productivity, of sounds carrying, of kitchen bustling.

So, in your busy life of school and work and trying like mad to fit writing in, remember what Fall brings. Take time to smell the wonderful pies your character might be baking. Take time to describe the rich earthy colors your hero sees when he's invited in to meet her parents for the first time. Take time to listen and share with your readers the sounds brought so clear through the crisp Autumn air. Take time to start new projects, pack them into files and store them for later.

Fall is my kind of sanctuary.

The winner of Miriam Gershow's The Local News is... *drum roll*
JUSTINA IRELAND! Ms Awesomesauce herself.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Like Jane says in Mr and Mrs Smith, "Just a quickie." I posed my agent Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch with three questions about YA and her agent's view points, so, without further ado (or chatter, because damn it's early and I'm uncaffeinated at current moment...)

1. What are the trends you see in YA: coming into vogue, falling from favor?
It's exciting to see how sharp, witty and intelligent YA fiction has become. More and more books easily find a cross-over adult readership. Continuing trends remain the popularity of urban fantasy and paranormal, combinations of the supernatural and teen romance, with a rise in dystopian fantasy and very dark fantasy. Male readers are enjoying horror with a sharp humor to it. There's room for growth in new subgenres, like unusual settings and time periods, where editors are looking for a fresh approach. Angels, ghosts, and their various kith and kin are all still popular choices. You hear from editors that the fantasy shelves are crowded, but that hasn't stopped them from acquiring more. None of these recent trends have shown any real signs of dying off, more just being open to morphing in new directions and expanding.

High fantasy, though, has been a tough sell for a while. I'm still queried on it a great deal, but it's just not moving that well.

Thankfully, we're not seeing much of the snarky, city elite teen soap operas.

2. What do you look for in YA submissions to Talcott Notch?

I look for a book that has really memorable characters that feel real, fresh and three-dimensional. I don't want to see a character who is obviously based on another writer's character or is a generic persona (dumb jock, stuck-up cheerleader, geeky nerd, loser outcast). Everyone should have surprising layers and elements that break them out of being ordinary and expected. Even secondary characters can have a real presence and add to a book.

Surprise me with the plot, but don't have the twists be gratuitous or based on coincidence. Show real character change and growth through your story. A plot is more than a series of events.

I'm not afraid of complex, gritty, realistic stories that tackle real world problems, like eating disorders, sexual abuse, cutting, and encounters with the youth criminal justice system.

3. What keeps you reading a submission? What makes you stop, or throws you out of the story?

The voice has to be convincing and not feel forced. It's very obvious when an adult is attempting to sound like a teen by mimicking exaggerated teen speech patterns.

A brisk pace is important. If the book starts out by 'frontloading the backstory', that can be a major problem.

The story has to hook me right away. Why should I care about this character? Or why would I want to keep reading? A funny story about a charmingly insecure boy who goes along with a ridiculous rumor about himself to break out of his anonymity can be just as compelling as a scary, action-packed dark fantasy, so caring doesn't equate to worry, fear, or tension.

Skipping around from one point-of-view to another is one of my big pet peeves. Don't do it unless you need to, don't throw in the viewpoints of minor characters to make points you could make some other way, and don't do it in the course of a single scene.

Dramatic shifts in the voice will throw me off. If you're writing as a team, make sure the style is a single unified voice. If I can tell one person wrote one scene and someone else wrote another, that's a problem. If you find your style changing as you work through your book, whether because you're growing in the process of writing or you've been influenced by new experiences, go back when you're finished and prepare a new draft to smooth out the entire manuscript.

So, there you have it. Three questions about our YA market answered by my agent. Though these are Gina's viewpoints, I believe that most agents are looking for the same things: supernatural fiction is still the big thing, give agents unique plots, fully dimensional characters, a clean manuscript, and keep with keeping it simple--don't head hop within scenes, etc. Where some agents shy away from some of the darker issues, Gina welcomes them and has recently successfully placed a story about sexual abuse.

Gratuitous linkage:
Gina's website
Gina on Twitter

Thursday, September 16, 2010


For this Thankful Thursday I asked the girls to please send over something you’re thankful for - specific to your writing, your novel, or your characters. Is writing a stress outlet? Is it getting over that break-up because your characters do it differently? Here's what we all had to say:

I'm thankful for my writing because it allows me to escape to a world of my own creation. It's a great stress reliever. I've always daydreamed when I wanted an escape from reality and writing allows me to relive that one daydream over and over if I wish. And of course, get that smokin' hot guy I never had the courage to talk to in high school. ;)

Despite my need/drive to complete RESONANCE, which my agent is preparing the proposal for, I'm really thankful for the character who butted her way into my RESONANCE writing zone and insisted I write down a blurb for a dystopian. It might've opened up Pandora's Box of writing evils, like compulsion/obsession for me, but OMG the tone and tense and atmosphere of the book is addicting. I've been calling it the cracktopian because it's THAT addicting for me.

I'm grateful for those sentences where you go back and read it and you're like - OMG! I wrote that? (Cause it's that good.) It's those sentences that make me know I'm supposed to be writing.

I'm grateful that writing forces me to view people, their ways of life, and attitudes through alternative eyes. If I'm going to be true to my writing and my readers, then I must be willing to create multi-faceted characters and push them beyond my personal experience. 


I'm thankful for the opportunity to have an outlet for my creativity - one that I can share with others. There's nothing better than having someone read your work and love the story you've crafted. And if I can make them cry, all the better!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Drafting in Writing

Although I'm not a NASCAR fan, there are members of my extended family who are. They use phrases like dirty air, back marker, banking, and aero push. 
Dirty Air is the air used and discarded by the lead car.

Back Marker is a car running off the pace near the rear of the field.

Banking is the sloping of a racetrack, particularly at a curve or a corner, from the apron to the outside wall. Degree of banking refers to the height of a racetrack's slope at the outside edge.

Aero Push is when following another vehicle closely, the airflow off the lead vehicle does not travel across the following one(s) in a normal manner. Therefore, downforce on the front of the trailing vehicle(s) is decreased and it does not turn in the corners as well, resulting in an "aero push." This condition is more apparent on the exit of the turns.
 (These official definitions were taken from 

So what does this have to do with writing? 


How do you add suspense or drag out a scene without boring or traumatizing a reader? Just the other day, Shannon Whitney Messenger had a great post about the subject of lingering. 

I think sometimes we get so caught up in the plot and subplots we forget to take each scene on an individual basis. 

  • what can I do here, in this moment, to make the reader take a deep breath? Pause? Wonder? Linger?
  • should I add an element? Remove one?
  • should I use sarcasm or maybe toss in a reaction that is so unlike this character but calls to a deeper message of inner growth?
  • would repeating an emotion using alternate words be appropriate here?
It's our job to create a Drafting Effect. 

The list of possibles is endless.

Let's quickly take Dirty Air. ~ Maybe your MC has some inner baggage they hadn't thought about in years. It really doesn't apply to the story but could cast the inner workings of this character in an alternate light. Make the reader think, ponder, and question.

We could look at Aero Push as a way to complicate the scene. An example would be your MC needs to get to the bank before the robbers leave because he knows they have his girlfriend. He's running on the sidewalk, desperate to get there, and then a letter carrier on a bike wipes out in front of him and takes out an elderly lady. You could play with this all day.

Just yesterday I was working with a scene that seemed to flow fine. All the elements were there: the MC was in a game, the plot was moving forward, and there was even a little humor and insight into the overall plot line. But somehow, the scene still felt parched.

Then I turned toward the inner workings of my MC and tucked in a little drafting. I added a few nuisances, glitches that would provoke the reader to pause and think, to want more. I teased and taunted a tad. Suddenly, the scene was quenched, and the emotions of my MC leaped off the page.

How do you taunt and tease a scene to get more out of it? What's your method for drafting?

Monday, September 13, 2010

I was searching for something to inspire this post on sanctuary, and I came across this image-inspired poem, called Waterfall, by Silvia Hartmann.  And it spoke to me.

Hold on tight now, my sweet.
Perhaps you can place rocks into the stream
and slow it's progress?
Ah well of course, there's little hope of that.
You can break it up a little or a lot
(and I'm sure that salty scientists with
counters and machines would tell me that
the water round the rocks is slower than the
water that was not obstructed in this way)
but you know,
if I was the sea,
I really would not be concerned
at all.

Which made me think, in a metaphorical way, we are all the sea.  Sure, there will be rocks in the stream  - like a recent flat tire that made me miss my weekly writing time, or the dream agent who doesn't appreciate anachronism - but the water keeps moving forward.  Sometimes it rushes and rages; other times it slows to barely more than a trickle.

But the water -- our stories -- keep moving forward.  And eventually, if we keep at this long enough, hone our skills enough, persist, and never give up the dream, our stories will meet us at the ocean.

So on days when you're stressing (as I often do), that things aren't moving quickly enough - queries aren't be answered, chapters aren't be written, ideas aren't flowing or betas aren't returning pages at lightening pace - take a deep breath and slow down.  Let the moments float around you like a gentle river and know that what you're doing is worthwhile.  Because sooner or later, the river meets the ocean, and all will work out as it was meant to.

Friday, September 10, 2010

THE LOCAL NEWS: Is a Rose by Any Other Name Still YA? (Miriam Gershow interview & giveaway)

Today on the Oasis, we have the pleasure of hosting debut novelist Miriam Gershow, whose literary novel, THE LOCAL NEWS, has been hailed as a “sad, bravely written story that...demonstrates that not all tragedies have heroes. Heartily recommended,” by Library Journal.

Here’s the flap copy of the book (it had me at the first line):
"Going missing was the only interesting thing my brother had ever done."
Even a decade later, the memories of the year Lydia Pasternak turned sixteen continue to haunt her. As a teenager, Lydia lived in her older brother's shadow. While Danny's athletic skills and good looks established his place with the popular set at school, Lydia's smarts relegated her to the sidelines, where she rolled her eyes at her brother and his meathead friends and suffered his casual cruelty with resigned bewilderment. Though a part of her secretly wished for a return of the easy friendship she and Danny shared as children, another part of her wished Danny would just vanish. And then, one night, he did.
In the year following Danny Pasternak's disappearance, his parents go off the rails, his town buzzes with self-indulgent mourning, and his little sister Lydia finds herself thrust into unwanted celebrity, forced to negotiate her ambivalent--often grudging--grief ffuor a brother she did not particularly like. Suddenly embraced by Danny's old crowd, forgotten by her parents, and drawn into the missing person investigation by her family's intriguing private eye, Lydia both blossoms and struggles to find herself during Danny's absence. But when a trail of clues leads to a shocking outcome in her brother's case, the teenaged Lydia and the adult she will become are irrevocably changed, even now as she reluctantly prepares to return to her hometown.
Relentlessly gripping, often funny, and profoundly moving, The Local News is a powerful exploration of the fraught relationship between a brother and sister and how our siblings define who we are.
Here’s the catch, THE LOCAL NEWS is not traditionally YA, because although the overwhelming majority of the story takes place in high school, it’s narrated by an adult looking back at that time in her life.  So Miriam, what inspired you to write about high school from an adult point of view?

A few things: First of all, I’m an adult who still is obsessed with the idea of high school 20+ years later.  It is such a formative and fundamental experience, in terms of developing our ideas about ourselves.  I was a huge dork, and I still find myself wincing and squirming when I think back on those days.  It feels like a time in life no one entirely gets over.  And as a writer, it’s just a very ripe environment to try to capture–so much drama, such a rich cast of characters trapped together for four years.  
In terms of this particular story, Lydia goes through a great trauma as a teenager with her brother’s disappearance.  I knew that with an experience that profound, true resolution would not begin until years later.  So I always conceived the story would be told from the perspective of the adult Lydia looking back.  
Is there any of yourself in Lydia?
Well, Lydia’s much smarter than I am.  She knows geopolitics far better than I do.  And I never went to an Ivy League college ;). But I never felt like I fit in, just like her.  And I had the same mix of scorn and envy of the “popular crowd.”  I also went through adolescence feeling like my parents were far away, though certainly not as far away as Lydia’s.  I do, however, have an older sister whom I love dearly.  She’s never disappeared, nor have I wanted her to.  In fact, we still live seven minutes from each other.
Your novel has been out since February 2009. I assume you’ve received feedback from readers who actually are in high school.  What sort of response have you gotten from them?
I’ve been delighted by the response from younger readers.  I always wrote the book as literary fiction, imagining an adult readership.  I thought it might be too interior or dense for the YA audience. But teenagers I know who’ve read it have related to Lydia and been immersed in the story. When I see their responses, it occurs to me that I read “adult” fiction when I was a teenager too.  I’ve come to see the differentiation between YA and literary fiction to be a lot hazier than it’s made out to be.
I know you’ve taught high school student in the past and presently teach to college kids.  Do you think being exposed to teens so much has given you more insight into their perspectives, even as an adult?
Absolutely.  But like I said, a lot of my sense of being a teenager still comes from inside of me.  Certainly, though, being surrounded by young people helps keep that sensibility alive. 

I see in an article you wrote that you see book bloggers as an important marketing tool, particularly for debut authors.  For our readers who are newly published or soon-to-be published, can you give us your insights on this subject?
Book bloggers are a great way to get the word out about your work, especially now that traditional newspaper and magazine book reviews are rapidly shrinking and/or disappearing.  There are a lot of books out there – a lot of good, worthy books – fighting for very little traditional review space.  Luckily book bloggers keep growing and growing.  
To new writers: If your publishers aren’t already doing it, I think it’s important to research book blogs to find good fits with your books.  There are blogs that focus exclusively on YA or others that focus on different genres, including YA.  Find those that seem to best match your book best and then look at their submission guidelines.  I’ve had great success hearing back from bloggers. If you’re looking for a place to start, take a look  at the bottom of this page. You’ll see many of the thoughtful bloggers who have reviewed THE LOCAL NEWS.
You said your publisher helped a lot with initial publicity. Was it what you expected?  Anything you would have done differently?
Oh goodness, I’m not sure what I expected.  I was intentionally in the dark about so much of publishing because forced myself to only focus on the writing for years and years.  That’s the only way I could get the work done. 
I think I expected that my book would be lavished with tons of attention and instantly be a best seller.  I was very naïve. I’m really happy with the initial push of attention my book received – a tour, several prominent reviews, some newspaper and radio coverage.  If I ran the universe, though, I would have continued that publicity push for months and months.  But that’s not, I learned very quickly, how traditional publishing works.  
I also would have loved to see THE LOCAL NEWS cross-marketed to a YA audience.  Like I’ve said, I’ve always seen it as literary fiction.  However, I don’t see any reason younger audiences can’t read literary fiction, especially if the subject matter interests them.  And because so much of THE LOCAL NEWS concerns high school and Lydia’s coming of age, I know it holds unique appeal to teens. 
You’re a big player in the short story market. How different was writing your novel from writing short stories?
The idea of me as a “big player” makes me giggle. I was a pretty tiny player, to be honest, though I did spend years writing stories.  Short stories are based so much on economy.  You have to very carefully choose each word and moments.  It’s often about one big – or small – event.  I found with a novel, especially with the big fat middle of a novel, there was much more room to play around, explore characters, explore secondary stories.  There was a freedom in novels that I hadn’t found in stories.

Other than getting your MFA, what have you done to really hone your writing skills?
Great question, as I spent years honing my skills, which is what I think every aspiring writer should do.  A decade before the MFA progam, I was writing in all my spare time.  I paid for week-long non-credit writing workshops through local colleges.  I joined community writing groups–some casual, some quite serious and structured.  As I got better and better at listening to feedback, I got better and better at the writing.  Even after my MFA program, I spent a few years in more writing groups. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve taken a more solitary approach to writing, though I do still have trusted readers who I send early book drafts to for feedback.
After all the teaching and writing, what do you do to find sanctuary and relax?
Another giggle. I have a 1-year-old, so all the ways I used to find sanctuary and relax (a long, hot bath, a night out with friends, a quiet time with a book) are temporarily on hold.  There is a joy in sinking into the couch right after my son goes to sleep for the night.
BONUS QUESTION: You’re stranded on a desert oasis.  Assuming you had a never-ending battery, would you rather have a computer with you to write or a book reader (like Kindle) so you can read?  
Goodness, goodness, goodness.  This is the kind of question that could give me nightmares. It’s like asking, “Do you want your arms or your legs?”  I’m going to have to go with a book reader, since most have a keyboard with which I could also write stories. I know I just cheated, but without the ability to do both, I’m quite certain I’d go mad. 

Thank you, Miriam, for sharing your story and your book with us on the Oasis.  We'll forgive you for cheating just this once!

For those of you who are now dying to get your hands on THE LOCAL NEWS (whether you consider it YA or not), here's your chance to WIN a copy.  In the spirit of Lydia's horrific high school experience, leave us your worst high school memory (plus your name and e-mail address) in the comments below.  Miriam will pick a winner after the contest closes next Friday, September 17 at midnight EST.

And for those of you who don't win a copy, be sure to pick up THE LOCAL NEWS at your local book store, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  Also, be sure to stalk Miriam at her website, on Facebook or twitter (she's a self-proclaimed twitter addict, and I know there's more than one of you reading this in the same boat)!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

THANKFUL THURSDAY: Unanswered prayers.

OOPS! Have you ever been so damn wrapped up in a project you forget what day it is? Yeah. That's me. *hangs head in shame* But, it's still vaguely morningish, right?

Well, with all of our talk about being Thankful here on the Oasis, it got me thinking about the things we want so badly, some of those things we pined for, prayed for and for whatever divine reason, never received. We might have cried, wrung our hands or just wondered why things didn't go as we so desperately wanted.

Well, I think Garth says it best.

Jessie said:
Something I DIDN"T get that I'm grateful for is a husband at too early of an age (for me). Like the YAs we write about, I was pretty convinced I knew everything, felt love as intensely as any adult, and was way more mature than I actually was. My first and only boyfriend at the time proposed when I was 18 (yes, the same one who cheated on my with 7 different people) and I accepted. After a summer abroad in Greece, I came back and broke it off. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do - and the best. I never would have met my soul mate, and actual husband, if I'd gotten what I thought I wanted more than anything for the four years leading up to our breakup.

Nikki said:
There are several things I’m thankful for never having gotten – an incurable disease, a horrible upbringing, miserable kids. And there are several things I wanted and didn’t get, but I’m not thankful for it! Getting into Princeton, becoming an astronaut, having a third daughter (just kidding, I love my son). It’s much tougher to come up with something I wanted and didn’t get, but am thankful for not having received it. I guess I’ll go with a total adult answer and say I’m ultimately glad that everything wasn’t handed to me when I was a teenager. I may have wanted the best clothes, a nicer car, but never got them. I learned the value of money, of saving, of waiting to buy something until you could pay for it ... And ultimately really making sure it was something you wanted in the first place!

Sheri said:
As heartbroken as I was at age seventeen when life kicked me in the face and took my dream of dancing on Broadway away, I'm thankful for it. That disappointment taught me that I could express myself creatively through more ways than just dance. I could write. Although I put it off for years to take care of others, I'm now dancing with my fingertips and still feeling the world. Without that unanswered prayer, I'd never have returned home, met a great guy--former rebel from high school who I'd never have dated back then--married him, and had four amazing children with him.

Oh, and I'm thankful that my prayer to turn into a boy never happened. Hee...I was a late bloomer, and in junior high that was awful. *grins* My dad was also an ice hockey and baseball coach. He was always busy with the boys, never having time for me. But we have the best relationship now...and I'm still a girl. Go figure.

Jessica's email either hates me, or the girl just missed the message when I sent it. *sigh*

ME? I'm going to put this in YA literature industry terms... I'm thankful I never places my first story, DRENCHED, because it prompted me to write more, and write better. I wouldn't have made the connections I did, and wouldn't be writing the kinds of stories I am now. In NOT getting what I wanted, I got something better.

What about you Oasis Seekers? Ever wanted something so desperately, never reviewed it and found you were better for it?
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