Tuesday, August 31, 2010

TUESDAY TUNES: Songs That Make Us Cry

Songs can bring out a wide variety of emotions and feelings - and they can also make us cry. Whether it's tears of joy or tears of sadness, it's interesting to see what makes us shed a few. I asked the Oasis girls what song makes them cry, and if they ever listen to it when writing a particularly sad scene:

I Can't Live if Living is Without You by Harry Nilsson.
"That was Greg's favorite song," my sister said. Her blue eyes started tearing right there, just thinking about our brother who passed some years ago. "How can you listen to it? All I do is think about Greg and cry." I think of that conversation everytime I play the song. I can't listen to it without crying, either. But I want to cry. I want to hurt. I want to miss him. Because Greg was the best and brightest of us--he laughed and loved without equal. I don't ever want him to fade away. Like Nikki, I've never used it as a tool for writing. For the same reason--it's sacred.


I'm going to go with The Absence of Fear by Jewel. Why it makes me cry? On the outside, I had what appeared to be a wholesome upbringing, ushering me into and through my teenage years. I had clothes, food, a roof over my head, and a ton of friends. But so often I felt lonely. No one, excluding two uniquely close friends, knew what happened within the walls of my house. My mother was a manic depressant. Spelled H.E.L.L. for a teenager. When I first heard this song, I completely fell into it. Even though I had already moved out and was newly married, there was so much I wanted and longed for from my hidden past, from the teen years I'd lost. This song seemed to understand that.  

As you may or may not know, my girls are only 13 months apart. Once Samantha was born, my husband & I knew we were "done." I used to sit in the nursery at night, rocking my precious little baby (this was after the colic was over), and listening to Watercolor Ponies by Wayne Watson. It would bring tears to my eyes thinking about how fleeting those moments would be and how quickly time would pass us by. And just look, my oldest went to Kindergarten this week and little Sami is in pre-K4.

There are watercolor ponies
On my refrigerater door
And the shape of something
I don't really recognize
Drawn by careful little fingers
And put proudly on display
A reminder to us all
Of how time flies


But, baby, what will we do
When it comes back to me an you?
They look a little less
Like little boys every day
Oh, the pleasure of watching
The children growing
Is mixed with a bitter cup
Of knowing the watercolor ponies
Will one day ride away


A House Is Not A Home by Luther Vandross. THis song makes me cry every time because a LONG time ago my DH and I were having...issues. In fact we separated, but one day this song played on the radio one night as I pulled into my driveway. My house was completely dark. My son was at my mom's for the weekend. I cried my eyes out in the car in the driveway. But when I opened the door, my husband was sitting at the table with dinner ready and a bunch of lit candles. It was the day we got back together. We've now been married for almost 11 years. A sad story with a happy ending. :D

A chair is still a chair, even when there's no one sittin' there
But a chair is not a house and a house is not a home
When there's no one there to hold you tight
And no one there you can kiss goodnight...

...Pretty little darling, have a heart, don't let one mistake keep us apart
I'm not meant to live alone, turn this house into a home
When I climb the stairs and turn the key
Oh, please be there, sayin' that you're still in love with me


Mine is In the Arms of an Angel, by Sarah McLaughlin. It was the song I chose for the Father/Daughter dance at my wedding (I know it's a random song choice, but there was a part of the lyrics that really reminds me of him). Now whenever I hear it I start crying or turn the channel - because he passed away eight years ago and it immediately brings those memories to the front of my mind. I haven't yet tried to listen to it while writing, probably because I sort of view it as sacred, and would end up thinking of my Dad rather than the scene.

Your turn: What songs make you cry?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday: YIKES!!

So seeing how I completely dropped the ball on posting this morning, I thought I'd talk about why. Normally on Monday's, Oasis for YA focuses on the many ways we can bring tranquility into our writing routines. But in all actuality, we all know that life can toss us a curve ball now and again, diverting even the most organized of writers.
Yeah, that explains it for me. Plain and simple. I know lots of kids have already begun their school year. Some have been back for a few weeks. My kids start tomorrow. Well, two start tomorrow and the other two start on Wednesday. My baby is going to be in 1st grade. Boo-hoo. (There is something wrong with that.)

With a household of four kids ranging from ages seven to seventeen, we are in constant motion. The merry-go-round doesn't stop to let one of us off. You have to jump. Period. We're pretty much used to it, but on occasion we find a break is needed. That's what we did this summer. The kids stayed away from most of their usual activities--excluding ice hockey which is seriously a sickness--and hung out at home with friends. It was a nice relaxing summer. Granted it wasn't all that conducive to me advancing any of my writing projects, but that's okay. They won't be young forever, right?

Fast forward to this morning. I DECIDED to put off all dentist, doctors, etc... appointments until these last two weeks before school started. Um, yeah...not bright on my part. So this morning as I'm speeding on the highway--shh....don't tell--to get three of the four to their pre-scheduled hygiene appointments at the dentist who is one hour away, I realized I hadn't posted anything tranquil for you Oasis Seekers.

I started thinking what can we do as writers when surprises pop up or life elements get in our way? How can we find that calm place and give ourselves permission to miss a writing goal or writing in general for a day?

1) Know who you are. You are not just a writer. Although writing is important to you, I'm sure there are other elements of your life where you are needed or wanted.

2) Don't feel guilty. Writing is a part of your life. A part. Balance is the key. (Yup, let's save that discussion for another day.)

3) Laugh about it. Did you know that laughter is our natural tension breaker? Use it. It was given to us for a reason.

I'm laughing write right now. I just have to.

What about you? Any back to school horror stories? Do you have any add-ons to our list?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Daring Tranquility & Broken Lake WINNER!

I was stalking Facebook the other day and found a great quote a friend posted.

Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light. ~Norman B. Rice

It got me thinking about writing and the techniques each writer uses to ...'pull their characters, scenes, and stories into the light.'

(image borrowed from shokxonestudios.com)

Are you a writer who blows gentle on your characters, highlighting their different facets with easy and discretion? Or are you a whirlwind writer, one who demands abrupt action or intense scenes to describe the attributes your characters or scenes possess?

This line of consciousness then lead me to our Monday Sanctuary idea. Does sanctuary solely have to mean quiet? 

I have some writer friends who thrive surrounded by chaos or rough energy, rather than the quiet and solitude of a library. They enjoy setting up their laptops and computers in the center of their home, their kids running circles around them. Um...yeah, that's not my thing. 

Some others find listening to classical music sooths them, attracts their writing zone, while others find hard rock or jazz music better. Some writers eat while they write; some would never think of it. I'm constantly drinking something. Writing mornings or afternoons, you'll find me all hyped up on good'ole java. Writing evenings, you may just find me sipping on wine. I don't eat while I write. 

It doesn't really matter what dares you, lures you to find that tranquil place in your head to write. It doesn't matter what you avoid. What truly matters is that you know what environment you need and set a time and a place for it. If you've never thought about it, do it now. Make mental notes. Next time your writing seems to have lost its flow, try one of those mental notes. Or even, try changing one. It may lead you to a new and improved tranquil writing place.

Do you have a sacred place you like to write? What elements do you feel you need there?

And now, we'd like to thank all who entered our contest to win a copy of BROKEN LAKE. The winner is Ezmerelda

CONGRATULATIONS!! Enjoy! Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thankful Thursday: An eclectic mix

Nikki and her friends at YAKnow, modeling Mockingjay tattoos at the Midnight release party.

**Don't forget to enter to win a signed copy of Shelena's Short's new novel, The Broken Lake.**

Today we've got an eclectic mix of what we're thankful for.  

Nikki says:  I'm thankful to have my local critique group girls who do crazy things with
me like dress up at the SCBWI conference and go to the midnight party for
the Mockingjay release ... Things I'd never do by myself!

Isn’t that the truth.  If we’d had one by us, I would have dragged my critique group to one as well.  Though, I’m not sure I’d have had to drag them.  :D

Jessie says:  I'm thankful that my five year old got placed with a warm and wonderful teacher - in a class of only 12 - for her Kindergarten year.  Here's hoping this gives her the kind of start she needs on her road to academic success.  I'm also thankful that my four year old has the wonderful teacher that I came to know and love last year and that I get to be her Home Room Mom. Teachers are wonderful people!

I agree. Though I home school my children I have several friends who are teachers and they are worth their weight in gold.  It amazes me how much they work with really the only thing they get in return is knowing their helping the children.

AE says: Being a bookaholic, I'm thankful there are so many awesome looking YA books coming out this Fall. Paranormalcy...here I come! Then, Crescendo, Unraveled, Night Star...

Sheri says:  It's been a quiet summer for my family. With four kids who are normally involved in everything, this was a nice change. Each decided to take a break from their normal activities/sports--except ice hockey (always except ice hockey). The hubs built us an awesome fire pit outback. It's big enough for all to sit around and roast marshmallows. We had our share of smorse, lately. Oh, and I survived the dentist the other day.

And me?  Yep, I’m dittoing AE and I’m adding a second for my family.  MOCKINGJAY came out yesterday and not a single one bothered me until the end.  I have to say that that was pretty cool!  So thank you awesome new authors and my awesome family who knew how important reading MOCKINGJAY was.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Having a Love Affair with Your Own Novel

**Don't forget to enter to win a signed copy of Shelena's Short's new novel, The Broken Lake.**

My mom brought me an article last week and said, "It's by this author, Libbie Bray. Ever heard of her?"
"Um, it's Libba Bray, Mom. And yes, I've heard of her." Duh. Who hasn't heard of Libba Bray? *insert eye roll*
Anyway, it was a super-funny article in which Libba describes the various stages of her love affair with her novels.  It starts with infatuation in the first draft... like how your book is really clever and funny and brings you unexpected metaphors.  As she revises, she begins to think the book is losing its charm, and is maybe even trite or stupid.  Toward the end, she's happy to pass it off to a copy editor who will love it, because she doesn't want the relationship anymore. "It's not working. I'm sorry.  It's not you, it's ... actually, it's you.  You're stupid.  And I sort of hate you." (Libba says it way funnier than I did in just a few summary sentences.  You should read the article here in Delta Sky Magazine, page 144.)

But as I got to thinking harder about the love affair analogy, I realized she was missing an early step that tripped me up pretty badly.  The FEAR OF COMMITMENT and/or FEAR OF RUINING WHAT YOU HAVE and/or FEAR OF GETTING HURT.

As I wrote DESTINED, I worked pretty steadily on that first draft... until the very end.  I had like 90,000 words, knew how it was going to end, and only had two chapters left until the first draft was finished.  Completing those two chapters took me months.  Absolutely, I realized I was suffering from a psychological hang-up... but that didn't help me finish.

I was so in love with the story, and yet I couldn't bring around its resolution for months.  In the whole love affair analogy, it's sort of like holding off on having sex.  To this day, I don't know whether it was a fear of commitment: Yes, you're a wonderful book and I love you, but this is just too big of a step for me right now.  Or whether it was a fear of ruining what I had going on: What if you don't want me anymore once it's over?
Or maybe it was just my own fear of failure.  Everything's been wonderful, but I'm afraid I have to dump you before I get hurt.  I'd been telling everyone who would listen that I was writing this book.  I'd spent countless months learning the trade, attending conferences, slaving away at night.  What if I finished the book, and it sucked?  Could I live with that?

Eventually, I did finish and I fell back in love with my story. By the time I wrote it, the epilogue was basically composed inside my head and it's (I hope) romantic, and tender, and just what I wanted it to be.  So maybe my brain was holding off, making me wait for the perfect moment to take that last step in the relationship.  You know, a waves crashing on the beach, stars twinkling overhead, with the perfect song playing in the background like a movie, kind of moment.  All I can say is, I'm glad that stage of the relationship is behind me.  Here's hoping it doesn't rear its ugly head in book 2!

I hope I'm alone in this book-relationship hang-up, but has anyone else suffered from the affliction?  How did you get past it?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday Tunes: A two-fer

**Don't forget to enter to win a signed copy of Shelena's Short's new novel, The Broken Lake.**

I'm flying solo today, but seeing as I'm kinda writerly schizophrenic lately, I figured I'm not totally alone. *snort* Hubby always said I was a split personality, now, I'm proving him right. I've been working on two totally different projects and listening to such completely different playlists, I figured I'd share a few of each list with y'all today and give the girls the day off. *grin*

First, my agent will be sending out proposals for my new YA WIP titled RESONANCE. Current tagline is One love. Two dimensions. Only one choice. Take HUSH, HUSH, strip out the angels, add the show Heroes with a dash of Fringe, and you're getting close. There's a hot, mysterious guy to fall in love with, a girl who doesn't know how deep her family secrets go, and threats on her life and the teens around her unless she embraces the truth of who she is.

So Close, Jon Mclaughlin
If You Could Only See, Tonic
Beautiful Soul, Jesse McCartney
Falling Slowly, Lee Dewyze and Crystal Bowersox
Savin' Me, Nickelback
Light On, David Cook
Somebody Like You, Pop Evil

Second, I'm revising my dark, gritty urban fantasy werewolf novel that recently sold to Samhain Publishing under my penname. It's definitely an adult story, and has a few steamy scenes, hence the penname, and not giving y'all the title here. Basically, it's Underworld, minus the prissy vampires and add MMA cage fighters. This is the story of revenge and the lengths these characters will go to, to get it. Tagline? Revenge is a bitch.

Lose Control, Evanescence
If I Was Your Vampire, Marilyn Manson
Head Like a Hole, Nine Inch Nails
Life Is Beautiful, Sixx AM
Cryin Like a Bitch, Godsmack
The Undertaker, Puscifer
Somebody Like You, Pop Evil

Okay, so there is one song in common... Somebody Like You, by our friend's band Pop Evil. Hubby taught their bassist karate for years. For me, it's the chorus of this song that makes it an all purpose song. Regardless of which genre I write in, there's always a strong romantic theme. These lyrics say so much:
How can I live without somebody like you?
Somebody like you, Please tell me...
How can I live without somebody like you?
Just tell me, It's over...
It's almost over...

Please remember the ladies of The Oasis for YA encourage you to download responsibly. Please purchase song from the appropriate venues. Nobody likes a pirate. Okay...everybody likes pirates like Jack Sparrow, nobody likes a modern thief.

Gratuituous linkage:
Pop Evil's website

Monday, August 23, 2010

Interview with Kiersten White, Author of Paranormalcy!

I am super excited to present my interview with Kiersten White, author of Paranormalcy - which is coming out NEXT WEEK!! And I'm lucky enough to go to her book launch party since she lives in San Diego. Kiersten is a total sweetheart and in person she is exactly like she sounds on her blog. What, you aren't a follower? Go check it out.

Here's the synopsis for Paranormalcy:
Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

Where did the idea for Paranormalcy come from?
I had been wanting to write something with more of a fantastical aspect than I'd previously been working with. I started thinking, if you had a vampire and you wanted to neutralize it without killing it, what would you do? That led me to the idea for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, which led me to wonder why they would have a sixteen-year-old girl working for them, which led me to Evie and her glamour-piercing eyes. Once I got her voice in my head, the rest of the story spun itself out from there!

How long have you been writing? Was it always a passion or a craft you slowly grew to love?
I've been writing seriously for about six years now. It's definitely always been an interest of mine, but only in the last three years when I started writing YA did I get really serious about the craft--learning and improving and actually pursuing publication. I started out trying to write middle grade. And I was really good at it, too, if you like incredibly boring books! Which, oddly enough, few people do...

My writing has certainly evolved, with less obsessive first drafting and more careful writing, but I want to do it for the rest of my life. I can't imagine writing anything other than young adult novels, though. I love the category and I love the audience!

We do too! But tell us, is there anything special you do to motivate yourself to write or conquer that infamous writer’s block?
When I'm in the middle of a story, just writing is enough of a motivator for me. It's a very nice break from reality. I don't have to make myself write because I have so very little time to do it that when I get a chance it's kind of like a reward in and of itself.

As far as writer's block, I find being able to talk about the plot with my husband or critique partners is usually enough to get the wheels turning and help things click into place. Except my husband always suggests I kill Evie, the main character. Fortunately I haven't taken him up on that suggestion yet.

That's great you have a built in critique partner, but no killing off major characters :) Can you tell us a little about your writing process and how long it takes you to write your novels?
I'm not very big on outlines. I usually have an idea of The End, and then what needs to happen in the next chapter or two from where I am, but if I have a story entirely plotted I get bored and don't want to write it!

I used to be a very, very fast first drafter. Paranormalcy took me just three weeks from when I got the idea to when I typed the last sentence. (Don't hate me--I edited it for four solid months, with at least eight or nine drafts before it ever went on submission. Promise.) However, with all of the new pressures and obligations that come with writing books under contract, I've slowed way down. Now it takes me a few months to have a working first draft, although I'm a faster editor than I used to be.

Wow. That's fast. I'll try not to hate you, but wow! That's amazing. We'd love to know, what’s your impression of the publishing world so far?
I've had such a great experience. I'm very fortunate in that my editor is very warm and friendly and brilliant; she's a joy to work with. The whole team at HarperTeen is incredible and savvy, and my agent, Michelle Wolfson, is the best possible partner for the business end of things.
It's also been really fun connecting with other authors. The young adult community is amazing--so many fun, dynamic, and incredibly generous people, united by a passion for creating stories for teens. Plus, I get to say "awesome" and "dude" as much as I want.

Speaking of Michelle, how did your relationship begin (traditional query, conference, referral) and what value has she added to your publishing experience?
It was a traditional query--no connections at all. I absolutely credit Michelle with my success. She gave me the confidence to write Paranormalcy while another book was on submission, and when that first book didn't sell, she was just as supportive and enthusiastic about going out with Paranormalcy. I have no doubt whatsoever that I got the best deal possible because of her incredible efforts. I consider her my partner and friend, and don't know what I'd do without her!

What a great relationship. Now for our last Oasis question. If you were stranded on a desert oasis, what book/author would you want to be stranded with and why?
Neil Gaiman. Who wouldn't want to listen to him tell stories for months and months?

Friday, August 20, 2010


Today we're doing a Query Critique for Sheri's manuscript, Marked Beauty. First we'll show the original query and then our critiques/edits. Hopefully this will help in your quest for the perfect query, and feel free to share your thoughts and edits in the comments below!

Original Query:

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for MARKED BEAUTY, a paranormal romance for young adults complete at 85,000 words. I see from your website that you are interested in fresh, new authors with a strong work ethic and hook. I feel the unique world-building in this story will interest you.

16 Year Old Ana Tate is a tenacious tomboy, yet her harrowing blue eyes hold pain and isolating secrets. She’s a strong empath, forced to feel the emotions of others…all emotions except her own. And with living in the shadow of her mother’s abandonment and her firefighter father’s depression, keeping her feelings buried is fine with her.

That is until the yuppie Viktor Castle enters her world. His haughty stares taunt her, hinting he knows about her hidden talent. He ignites her personal pain, and yet he’s nothing but a blank emotional canvas. And worse, she develops an odd attraction to him that she can’t fend off. The closer they become, the more distant he seems, and the stronger her empath grows pushing her to look at herself. But all is not as it seems.

When Viktor’s freakish, self-proclaimed girlfriend takes a creepy interest in Ana, and he disappears, Ana finds herself the center of a hidden world where lycans and countless immortal species roam as she’s entwined in an ancient curse that hungers for her gift, her life…and her sanity. Ana must embrace her abilities, let herself feel for the first time admitting she cares for Viktor, and uncover the truth of why they need each other before he sacrifices himself to the curse in her place.

Spiced with the allure of Pride and Prejudice, and Phantom of the Opera, this story should appeal to fans of Ellen Schreiber and Annette Curtis Klause as love washes away stubborn pride and fears beyond the realms of an invisible world and a feisty girl who swore she’d never fall in love.

I am a member of SCBWI, the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, and YAlitchat.

I have included my first five pages as requested. The manuscript is available upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.


The Oasis For YA Critiques...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Positive Thinking

Here on Oasis for YA, we like to pay special attention to the good in writing--whether correct or wrong--the positive. Always the positive. That's what I'm here to talk to you about today.

Have you heard of the site, Positively Positive? Checked them out on Twitter? Well, you should. 
Wow! What a powerful statement. 

STOP now. 

Reread it again. Think about it. Let in seep into your mind. What if...yeah...what if all that hinged on your success as a writer, as a human being was positive thoughts? Ever heard of the book THE MAGIC OF THINKING BIG or THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING?

Being thankful is a from of positive thinking. It can do wonders when your stuck in a slump of endless ideas that have no anchor. Or when you receive edits back from your editor--I'm speaking from the experience of my Oasis colleges as I have yet to be gifted an editor. But I will.

See. The moment I thought that I had a ting, a spark igniting down deep in my soul, pulling me closer to my goal of a published novelist. It will happen. Whatever goals you have set for yourself, say them out loud everyday, be thankful for those goals, and you will see yourself flourish like never before. Not to mention how it will help those around you. 

Positive energy breeds positive results.

"I'm thankful that I was able to see my grandparents this past week and the rest of my family that I haven't seen in 5 years."   Jessica

"My mom gets a HUGE shout out this week. She drove 4 hours to come get my girls, kept them for a week, and is bringing them back home so my hubby and I could grab a quick vacation. I'd be grateful enough if that were all, but my four year old has apparently been a little terror. Sorry about that, Mom. Thank You!"   Jessie

"I am singing the praises of the Samhain Publishing staff and my editor Bethany Morgan. After having my manuscript for a few months, Bethany decided to take it, and contracts were signed last weekend!! I'm putting this one under my penname, so I can't tell you everything, but this is what I can share: It's a single title, very VERY dark and gritty adult paranormal with a pack of male werewolves, a werecat cage fighter and a were-hybrid who will stop at nothing to get what she wants."   AE 

"I’m thankful to have critique partners and beta readers who are quick to review my edits, give feedback, brainstorm ... and then review it all again the next day when I change my mind!

"I'm grateful for having entered a contest to support a great cause and in return received an opportunity to submit my query and first five pages to an amazing agent. And then, meet with her via webinar. Her devoted time is a blessing to me." Sheri

Are you able to push all the negative stimuli whirling throughout this world away from you and find the positive? How do you do it?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Writer's Wednesday-What is YA fiction exactly?

In my trip up north, the number one question I was asked was “What is YA, exactly?”  And even though I thought the answer was simple, it really wasn’t.  Is YA based on the age of the protagonist?  The age of the readers it’s geared toward?  The issues it deals with?  Or a combination of all three?

So, I went digging. 

Young Adult fiction is defined as “fiction written for, published for, or marketed to adolescents and young adults, roughly ages 14 to 21.”

So that means that the protagonist is usually between the same ages.  It’s rarely from the prospective of an adult—though it has happened.  And deals with situations that are presented to young adults.  Unless, of course, you’re picking up a science fiction, fantasy, or paranormal.  As much as I’d have loved to run into a vampire as a teenager, it never happened. 

Writing styles vary widely, from the literary to the commercial and even some books are written in free verse.

However, because of it’s uniqueness.  You can do almost anything with it.  You don’t really have boundaries.  And whatever boundaries there are, are constantly  being tested.  Boundaries such as drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, illness, divorce, gangs, crime, violence, suicide, and let’s not forget sexuality. 

This seems to be the big one people like to push.  Sexuality can include, but is not limited to having/not having sex, homosexuality, incest, rape, teen pregnancy, oral sex and promiscuity. The list is endless. 

Some people view these topics as immoral and destructive behavior and think they should be banned from the books teens read, but let’s face it, these are the topics teens are all dealing with in one way, shape or form. I agree with the others who argue  that “the fictional portrayal of teens successfully addressing difficult situations and confronting social issues helps readers deal with real-life challenges.”

Unfortunately the debate relating to the amount and nature of violence, sex, and profanity appropriate in young adult fiction will continue until the end of time, I expect. No one will be able to agree on what’s appropriate or not.  Not even the teens reading it.

But despite all that, YA fiction has the same characteristics as other stories: character, plot, setting, theme, and style.

So the question still remains,  “What is YA fiction, exactly?” 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Teens on Tunes

Funny how things can turn out so different from what we imagined... take this blog post for example. I posed what I thought was a simple question to a variety of teens, figuring I’d get some precious insight into their teen psyches in return.* The question: what’s your favorite song and why do the lyrics speak to you?

As usual, the teens surprised me. I didn’t get back a slew of girls who were fawning over the Jonas brothers. And I didn’t find a bunch of angry young men looking to take out vengeance through lyrics.

What the answers reminded me is that we CANNOT stereotype teens or the teen characters we write. Teens are deep and multi-layered. Teens are paying attention to the world around them and care about more than just a date to prom. What's more, the girls aren't swooning over mushy lyrics as much as they just want to dance. And the boys, well, they like heavy beats too apparently, but the world seems to weigh pretty heavy on their shoulders.

* I naively also thought this question would not require much time and/or effort on their parts, but that didn't seem to make them any more eager to answer me. >_< Turns out, teens on summer break also seem to be lacking in the motivation department.

The Ladies...
Brandi, 18
"Maybe" by Sick Puppies.  It talks about how it's never too late to change your dreams; and you're never too young to change your lifestyle.
Riley, 17
One of my favorite songs is "Funny the Way It Is" by the Dave Matthews Band. The lyrics are beautiful, but bittersweet. They paint a realistic image of the world and the dichotomies that exist, and about how we take so many things for granted and tend to overlook what we don’t want to see. 
Nyia, 13
My favorite song is "California Gurls." [Katy Perry] I only like the first verse lyrics because they fun and the beat goes well with them.
Abby, 12
I just like the beat of songs.

Bethany, 18
"I'm Not Who I Was" by Brandon Heath.  I like the song 'cause it's about how you go through hard times, and you always change, you're never who you used to me.

The Gentlemen...
Brock, 19
"History in the Making" by Darius Rucker.  This song explains how even though you're going through rough times, things will turn out positive.

Josh, 17
"9 am in Dallas" by Drake.  This song talks about taking on a task and the fear of failure.  It talks to me about being the leader of a team and responsibility.

Scared for the first time everything has clicked
What if I don't really do the numbers they predict
Considerin' the fact that I'm the one that they just picked
To write a chapter in history this sh-t has got me sick

Jake, 13
"Talkin' 2 Myself" by Eminem.  This song talks about how most kids my age feel lost sometimes, like no one out there understands.
Is anybody out there? It feels like I'm talkin to myself
No one seems to know my struggle, and everything I come from
Can anybody hear me? Yeah, I geuss I keep talkin' to myself
It feels like I'm goin' insane, am I the one who's crazy? 

Are these the type of answers you would have expected? What sort of insights can you glean from these answers?

Monday, August 16, 2010


**Picture taken at a private cottage beside Polly Falls in Wisconsin. I named it Stick Henge. This spot gave me such a sense of peace that I wanted to share.**

Where do I go for Writer's Sanctuary? Right now, my answer is probably not what y'all are expecting.

My agent is putting together a proposal for my current WIP and I have sooo much to do. Write. Write. WRITE!! My nerves tingle, breaths come quick, my mind seems to expand to take on the entire book at once. When I hit that word-churning mode where I disconnect from the real world, where I sleep, eat and breathe the story and finish a book in four months, I seek the sanctuary of what I've called "spankings."

Hey now, don't go thinking naughty. I'm talking about EDITS. Or better...the end result of edits.

I have a few books out with indie publishers, and I've learned so much from the edit spankings. Words I use too much (my editor calls them "slippers"): but, as, that. She once called me a but-head *_* Like Jessie's post mentioned a few days ago...passive writing. I've always described it as "something somethinged something else," where the action happens to the subject of the sentence, rather than the subject acting. And Yoda Speak. OMG Much trouble with this have I had in my years of writing. *snort* Being unique doesn't mean messing with the system that has worked for years.

Being "spanked" by my editors eventually sunk in. It helped cut the fat from my sentences, cull the weak words from my vocabulary, and burn the chaff of silly arrangements. Now, I can settle into the groove, and a little alarm will ring in my head if I reach for those "slippers", or allow something to something something else. Yoda is now in Star Wars, where he belongs.

I know many of you Oasis Seekers haven't been published, or been through edits. If you want the sanctuary, the comfort of knowing you're doing it right, please seek out a writer's group, or a few betas you trust. There are groups on YAlitchat.org to help you spiff up your first pages, spiff up your query, your synopsis, there is even a group for finding critique partners. While friends will read for you, you need someone who is going to be honest, and tell you what does and doesn't work. I warn people that I edit with the gloves off. It's not to be mean, because I try to compliment as much as I can. I edit with a firm hand because I want those writers to be improve, so they can find the sanctuary of confidence and comfort in just knowing...

So what about you Oasis Seekers? Do you have any helpful hints to make the writing smoother?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Author Shelena Shorts Visits & Gives Away a Copy of The Broken Lake

Shelena, thank you so much for joining us at the Oasis. I’ve never met anyone named Shelena before. It’s a beautiful name. Does it have a story behind it?

My mom liked the name Selena, and thought about making it a little different, so she added the H and liked how it sounded. :)

I guess I've sort of stuck with that "little different" mentality my whole life, because I'm always thinking of ways I can make something different, hence Weston! LOL.
Your first book, THE PACE, was one of my absolute favorite books last year. The sequel, THE BROKEN LAKE, comes out August 19th. I’m sorry, but I have to pause for a minute and **SQUEE** because I’m so excited. For those of our readers who haven’t read THE PACE yet, and really guys - if you haven’t, you MUST - here’s the description:

Weston Wilson is not immortal and he is of this world. But, aging is not part of his existence, and eighteen-year-old Sophie Slone is determined to find out why. In doing so, she could also uncover something about her own life expectancy that she may not want to know. Suddenly, immortality will mean everything and nothing all at the same time.
Intensely fascinating and rich with determination, The Pace brings together romance, mystery, and suspense in a compelling bond that is sure to have readers asking for more.

Where did your ideas for THE PACE come from? Did your characters just start talking to you one day?

Well, I’m a love story junkie in every way. I LOVE reading a story, or even watching a movie, where I can root for two people to be together. It just so happened that I was in a reading slump for a very short time, where I couldn’t find what I was looking for. Next thing I know, I started imagining what I wanted, and Wes’ and Sophie’s story unfolded so clearly in my head.

Outline or no?

Sometimes, but when I do, it’s very brief, quick notes, in bullet form. Just so I don’t forget what I see in my head.

Now, we don’t want to give anything away, but the ending of THE PACE was a bit of a cliffhanger. Do you enjoy torturing your readers? Just kidding. ((HUGS))

No! Believe it or not, I DON’T :) HUGS BACK! Seriously, I feel the same way everyone else does at the end. And actually, the end of my books are where the visions stop. After both The Pace and The Broken Lake, I didn’t even know what happened next. I had an idea of the long term, but the getting there was blank. So I feel like the books end where the characters stop knowing what happens next. And when the next phase of their story is ready…it comes.
Book two in the series, THE BROKEN LAKE, is described like this:

In the aftermath of Sophie's ordeal, Weston will make some uncharacteristic decisions to distance himself from the past in an attempt to change the future.
But, while venturing into the improbable, the present sneaks up in a chilling way that will lead to Wes' unexpected submission. Suddenly, Sophie will find herself watching as both his immortal secret and his own existence are threatened.

Continuously intriguing, The Broken Lake takes readers to a place where eternal bonds confront a division that is sure to leave everyone wondering whom they can trust.

Let me just say, OMG!, can I have it now?? But seriously, how hard was it to write a sequel to THE PACE? Did you feel any pressure to make the second book better or different?

The pressure was definitely there. I’m fully aware that sequels have a hard time living up. All I can say is that I kept it authentic to their story and who they are. If people care about Sophie and Wes, they will like The Broken Lake…I hope! Can we do hugs again :)?

Can you give us a hint about what’s next for Wes and Sophie?

You’ll see them making the most of what time they have in case it’s not very much, while also trying to figure out the solution and fulfill Wes’ “purpose”.

We’re curious about how the writing process changes (or doesn’t) when you go from an unpublished author to a published author. Did you learn anything along the way you’d like to share to other aspiring writers?

I learned to have thick skin! When you write unpublished, you sort of have expectations that the only people who read your work are the ones who will like it. Once you’re published, you can get 100 people who love it and see one who doesn’t. It can make you second guess yourself, your story, and the characters you brought to life. After a while, you learn to find that alone place where you started writing to begin with, just so you can focus on what’s important which is writing a story for you, your characters, and the people who care about them as much as you do.

We know you teach high school, so we’re curious how your students have reacted to the books. Do you use them as Beta readers? Have the books made the approved curriculum list where you teach?

The guys are like whatever! LOL, but the girls love it. They think it’s very cool, but they’re always asking for sneak peeks. I can’t blame them! The books are not on any approved lists that I know of, but they are in the library!! That’s cool.

We see from the playlists on your website that you’re a Secondhand Serenade fan. *awesome* Do your students’ musical tastes influence you at all?

Not really. LOL! We have a lot in common regarding books, but music doesn’t really get brought up in class.

Like many of us, you have a job and little ones running around the house. How have you managed to balance it all? Do you recommend writing on a schedule or when inspiration strikes?

It’s very hard, and I can officially say I watch nearly zero T.V. I write mostly at night and in spurts. I’ll go several weeks without having a single sentence to write, but I don’t force it. I just read a book or think, and when it comes, I’ll write every night until 2 or 3 in the morning.

BONUS QUESTION: You’re stranded on a desert Oasis, but a magic butler offers you one dessert that you can eat for the rest of your life. What do you pick?

That’s easy! Costco’s Five Layer Chocolate Cake! (Hugs for the magic butler too:D!)

Shelena, thank you SO much for joining us. Folks, please, JOIN Shelena's mailing list and share the news about Shelena’s awesome books. It wasn’t so long ago that she was one of us: waiting to have that amazing first novel published. To buy her books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, click the links.

Thank you guys so much for having me. I wish you the best!!

And NOW, you can enter below for a chance to win a **SIGNED** copy of The Broken Lake from Shelena's personal stash. Contest closes at 9 p.m. EST on August 26th.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


As authors we're always told to establish our character's voice, find a unique way of having our character say things. So today, instead of saying "Thank You" or listing the things that we're thankful for, I thought I'd show you 67 new ways to express thanks!

Perhaps you can use this in your writing or in your own life :)

Image Source

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Trends in YA

Yeah, so Trends in YA. I didn't say Trends in YA writing. I'm here to toss around some of the real world elements that paint our young adult fantasy canvases into believable settings. How often do you Google what's hot in teen fashion today? OR check out the makeup they wear or how they apply it?

For those of us who remember using Bic lighters to soften the end of our goth black eyeliner, not to mention capture the essence of a ballad at a rock concert...um, they don't do either anymore. They sharpen their eyeliners--or most are self-sharpening, anyway--and they use their lighted cell phones to pay tribute to a melody at a concert.

The fashion and material they prefer also differs from girls to guys. I'm fortunate to have four kids ranging from age 6 to 16. My two oldest are boys (13 & 16). Their main attire is a graphic tee, torn pair of jeans, and most probably and depending on the weather a pair of ratty flip-flops. Sneakers when they're roughhousing. Then, of course, we have all the athletic gear. Herein too, do the research. All my kids play hockey and you'd think all hockey sticks are alike. Wrong. And let me tell you, the kids know the difference with their eyes closed. Drives me nuts.

Most boys between 14 and 19 aren't all that interested in fashion. You may find a few, which would make for an interesting character. Do your research first, though. Make sure it's accurate. I could list sites for you to view, but really there are a million.

Girls within those ages are much different, running the fashion gamut from tomboy to prom queen to executive. The only daughter I have is 11, and she is by no means a fashion queen. Give her a holey pair of jeans, a tank top and over-sized sneakers, and she's happy. Oh, don't forget the hair elastic. Geez...wouldn't want her to go off on me, now. But I find her friends opinions about clothes so diverse.

Note: when writing YA match your female character's personality with the proper teen fashion. I know that sounds like common sense, but when it comes to girls, isn't it always more complicated?

Then you have accessories.

What really is a BKE Studded Purse? Or the matching System Lizard Shoes? Seems as if these are hot items, for those teens who can afford them. But then we have knock-offs. Right?

We'll save that for another post.
What about this for the guys? G-Shock X Surfrider. Um...yeah. A watch.

Regardless of what your writing in YA check the current trends. Check out what they like, wear, and listen too. For a future post we'll talk about 'slang' and how to properly incorporate that into today's YA.

Do you do research? Found any interesting new trends in the YA realm, lately?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday Tunes: What does this song mean to you?

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Sanctuary of Friendship

**Art acquired from www.DeviantArt.com **

We talk quite a bit on Monday Sanctuary about taking time to be with your children and spouses, and making time for yourself.  And all of those things are über important.  But there's another important sanctuary for writers out there: friendships with other writers.

I can't imagine taking this leap into the publishing world without others who are just as crazy as I am, holding my hand and encouraging me along.  From my first SCBWI conference, to the daily support I get from the Oasis Ladies, I've learned that fellow YA writers are hands-down some of the best support you can get.

For example: Who else are you going to complain to that Agent Awesome hasn't answered your query yet?  Your spouse? Not if you're me. The typical reaction I get from my husband is: which one is that?

Or: Who's going to understand that you had an amazing stroke of genius and just had to stay up writing till 2 am?  Your boss as you drag your tired carcass in the next morning?  Not hardly.  

But your writing friends know.  They get it; they get you.  They're the ones who will help you sort through polar opposite critiques and talk you down off the ledge when your characters  stop communicating with you.  They're also the ones who see the plot holes, the logical fallacies, and the sheer beauty of your writing.  Without writing friends, this might truly be the loneliest business around.  But it doesn't have to be.

If you're following this blog, then chances are, you already recognize the value of connecting with like-minded crazies.  But if you want some other places to go to meet writer friends, try these ideas:
*  Join a group like YALitChat -- we've gotta pimp it & spread the love, 'cause after all, we all met there
*  Join some chats on twitter (like #yalitchat or #kidlitchat); along those same lines, start engaging with other aspiring YA authors on twitter
*  Start really engaging with other bloggers who share you writing passion
*  Perhaps most importantly: find a critique partner/group whom you trust and respect

If you find the right people to write with, then your sanctuary need not be solitary.  Whose friendship has brought you sanctuary lately?

Friday, August 06, 2010

Friday Freestyle has a Blog Carnival

Sense-ational Blog Carnival

We're borrowing the concept of a Blog Carnival from the talented ladies over at YA Highway, but ours is more in the nature of a writing prompt. The assignment: You've just graduated from high school and your awesome parents have taken you and your boy/girl-friend on the trip of a lifetime to the Seychelles Islands off the coast of Africa.  This (picture above) is the view from your hotel window.  You have ONE paragraph to describe the setting, and you can use only ONE of your senses. GO!

Join the carnival tour to see how we Oasis Ladies flexed our creative writing muscles.
Sight - by A.E.
Sound - by Nikki
Taste - by Jessie
Touch - by Sheri
Smell - by J.A.
And we hope you'll join us.  Post your own description on your blog and link to it in the comments.  We'd love to see what inspiration you find from our prompt.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Thankful Thursday

(I choose this picture because of the soothing tones and title: Sanctuary, because in a way that's what I'm thankful for)

I'm not sure, but I think I've been at this writing thing longer than the rest of the Oasis girls. January of 2000 I signed my first contract with a teeny weeny literary agency in Mississippi. Since then, I have a few books with Samhain and a couple other indie publishers, and will hopefully be able to post some good news along those lines soon. *runs to check email box for the 100th time*

I fully understand how solitary the business of writing can be...unless you count all the people talking in your head. *snort* While I have connected with a few other writer-types in the adult world of Romancelandia, I never felt the depth of support and encouragement that I found when I turned to writing YA and joined Georgia McBride's then-budding YAlitchat Ning community. For the first time, I felt on the same level with people, I felt that people were honestly interested in each other as peers, and in helping each other grow in this business. I felt like I'd found a home, a sanctuary of sorts.

On this Thankful Thursday, I asked the girls who, or what, in this publishing business are they thankful for. Me? I'm going with Georgia McBride and the YAlitchat community for providing me sanctuary, and the Oasis gals and Heather Howland for the invaluable feedback on RESONANCE. You. Girls. ROCK.

Nikki said:
I’m thankful for beta readers and critique partners who keep me on track and make huge red slashes on my manuscript to help me improve my writing. I’m thankful for my agent, who believes in me and my writing as a career. I’m thankful for the editors who are reading, or have read, my manuscript. Even if they pass, at least they thought the idea was worthy of exploring further, and their comments are invaluable in the journey to getting published.

And someday ... I hope to be able to thank my readers and fans :)

Jessie said: I'm thankful for my awesome co-author who has made writing less
solitary, more creative and more fun. You know who you are!

Sheri said: I'm thankful for any success my Oasis ladies have experienced this past week. Gives me hope. And I'm also thankful for vacations, which I'll be taking next week. Fully unplugged for the first time in two years. Hubby and kids' ordered.

Jessica said: I'm grateful to my new friends Cate Hart, Alice Gilmartin and Kaelee Morgan for rooming with me at Nationals. We were all newbies and it was wonderful to have such a fantastic group of woman to talk with, follow around, and just generally be lost together with. I love you guys and I hope we'll be able to do it again next year!

So, dear Oasis Reader. What about this wild world of YA publishing are you Thankful for today? Please share!
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