Monday, January 31, 2011

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander - Interview & ARC Giveaway!

As promised, here's the awesome interview and ARC giveaway that we talked about on Friday.  Everyone, please welcome Chris Rylander to the blog! 

His debut MG novel, The Fourth Stall, will be released from Walden Pond Press (division of Harper Collins) on February 8, 2011.  For those of you not in the know, here's the book's description:

Do you need something? Mac can get it for you. It's what he does—he and his best friend and business manager, Vince. Their methods might sometimes run afoul of the law, or at least the school code of conduct, but if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can pay him, Mac is on your side. His office is located in the East Wing boys' bathroom, fourth stall from the high window. And business is booming.

Or at least it was, until one particular Monday. It starts with a third grader in need of protection. And before this ordeal is over, it's going to involve a legendary high school crime boss named Staples, an intramural gambling ring, a graffiti ninja, the nine most dangerous bullies in school, and the first Chicago Cubs World Series game in almost seventy years. And that's just the beginning. Mac and Vince soon realize that the trouble with solving everyone else's problems is that there's no one left to solve yours.

(I reviewed the book over on my blog, if you want some more details.) 

1.  So tell us, how long did it take you to land an agent and publisher with this book?

Thank you! My full publication story actually takes me close to fourteen or fifteen hours to tell properly, plus usually I need to build a large fire and bring in mimes and elephants and stuff to assist me, so since I don’t want to waste a decade of your time, I'll condense. It took me about a year to get an agent and then another six months or so before I had a signed book contract. So roughly between 18 and 24 months total from when I started writing to when I had a book under contract with a publisher. That’s not long compared to many writers, however, I really feel like I packed ten years worth of stuff into those two short years.

2. Authors find inspiration from so many places. Where did the idea for a godfather-like middle school kid come from?

It came from a number of different places. Part of it was that I just thought it might be kind of cool and fun to put a kid-friendly spin on organized crime, and that it had a lot of potential for action and humor, two things I never could get enough of as a kid. Also, I just thought the structure of those two worlds (organized crime and school) mirrored each other so well, at least the movie/TV version of organized crime, anyway.

3. We know this is your debut novel as far as being published goes, but is it the first book you ever wrote?

No, it’s not, and this is part of the reason I say I packed a lot into that year and a half. I wrote two other books before I finished THE FOURTH STALL, one was a humorous novel for adults about a kidnapped teacher named Abe Lincoln, and the other was a spin-off of that idea aimed more for a YA audience. Also, I once wrote a searing 713-page exposé on the seedy corruption and greed that underlies the bubble gum manufacturing industry, but it never took off for some reason.

4. Your website is hysterical, and frankly, leaves me with a bit of web envy at its sheer coolness. On it, we get to see a few of your sketches. Does this mean we can expect a Chris Ryalnder picture book ones of these days?

Oh, thanks, I really appreciate that! I’m pretty proud that I get to say my website was “hand-crafted.” As for a picture book, I have been playing with the idea of writing one, but it’s definitely a different world than writing novels. I have a ton of respect for picture book writers, because it’s really a difficult thing to do well, there’s a certain art to writing a great picture book. Anyway, I don’t think I’m a good enough artist to illustrate my own picture book; basically all I can draw are sharks eating stick people and stick men who are on fire. And I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get away with writing a picture book in which somebody dies violently on every page. But if there’s a publisher out there reading this who wants to publish such a book and explore this idea further with me, then please do contact my agent!

5. What's something you wished you would have known about the publishing industry before you got started writing?

I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all here, but honestly not much has surprised me. Because when I decide to do something I get kind of obsessive over researching whatever it is I’m working on. Like, creepily obsessive. For that reason, before I had an agent, I used to spend hours and hours a day reading publishing blogs and articles, and therefore when it finally happened for me, I already knew what to expect.

6. What's been your coolest publishing experience so far?

It used to be attending SCBWI conferences and getting to meet a lot of cool people there. There are things that happen there that couldn’t happen anywhere else. But recently I received my first email from a random kid I don’t know who said he loved my book. That moment has been by far the best one – and I know it always will be. Because that’s why I do this. That’s the purpose behind writing books.

7. BONUS QUESTION: You're stranded on a desert Oasis and you can't bring your wife, your pets, your published book, or your unicorn collection. What one other thing would you want to have with you?

A pack of fake mustaches. Definitely.

To learn more about Chris, check out his insanely funny website (his blog is there too) and follow him on twitter. You can purchase your copy of The Fourth Stall at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. OR…

To win an ARC of the book (courtesy of HarperTeen and before you can buy it:

1) Follow Chris on twitter (yeah, we're giving you the link again in case you missed it the first time);

2) Leave a comment here with the twitter name you’re following under AND your email address (so we can contact the winner)

Good luck and happy reading!!  P.S., if you want to meet Chris in person, he will be at the Nebraska State Reading Conference in Kearny, Nebraska on February 24-26th.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I Am NOT Superman


I know, this totally sounds like a Monday Sanctuary post title. And sort of, it is. Because on Monday we are having an AWESOME interview and ARC giveaway that you will NOT want to miss. You hear me? So be sure to stop by Monday for the unveiling of the surprise. Now, on to today's post.

I am NOT Superman. And some of you (particularly my Type-A friends) are going to hate me for saying this, but YOU aren't Superman either.
There's only one man of steel. While he may have been a writer of sorts, he didn't have to worry about being a spouse, a parent, subbing to agents, being on time for carpool, hosting birthday parties, baking for the PTA, and the myriad other things that all of us try to squeeze into a mere 24 hour period.

Now, I realize what I'm about to say won't be a surprise to some of you, but it took me a long time to learn it. So I thought I'd share.

You cannot do it all at the same time.

This applies particularly to women. We've been taught that just like men, we can do anything we want... be anything we want. So we think we can be a high-powered executive, and a made-from-scratch mom, and the perfect wife. Oh yeah, and a debut novelist. All at the same time.

And that's where you're wrong. We can do and be anything. But not all at once. The super-writing me is a lousy wife. She ignores her husband all night, mostly every night, in favor of the computer screen. The high-powered attorney me was a sucky mom, who was tired all the time and raced out the door at night to just barely pick the kids up in time from day care.

Do you see where I'm going with this? There are only so many hours in a day. Now, if you're unlike me, you can maximize your time by doing something insane (think sleeping less than 8 hours a night or not procrasting or writing blog posts). But only Superman can fly fast enough to make Earth spin backwards on its axis. For the rest of us, time marches forward. And if you keep trying to do it all -- and do it to the best of your abilities, you'll burn out. It's that simple.

Okay, I'm off my advice soapbox for now. Have any of you accepted that you cannot be perfect at everything all at once? Was it a hard concept to swallow? Or am I just dead wrong? If so, please share your secret superpowers!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thankful Thursday: GIVING BACK

Part of being Thankful is paying forward, or giving back--use whatever directional mumbo-jumbo you want. ^_^ The Oasis is blessed to have you, our loyal followers, and since the last QUERY CONTEST winner never claimed her prize, I'm giving back today by running an impromptu QUERY CONTEST FOR OASIS FOLLOWERS.

Get your query critiqued by my agent, Gina Panettieri.
Here's Gina's website and her Twitter.

  • You have to be a follower. (Yes, I will be checking)
  • Leave a comment including your name, book title, and an email to contact you at if you win.
  • The winner will be notified and name posted TOMORROW.
Pretty easy, yes? So...Follower. Names. Contact. Giving back.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

WRITER WEDNESDAY: Schedule In Some Writing

I'm in that in-between place right now. Jessie and I finished up some extensive edtis and are now are subbing our manuscript to agents. I have a couple ideas mulling in my brain, but can't seem to get in a groove of writing!

I picked up Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird today for a little inspiration. Her advice?

You sit down, I say. You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively. So you sit down at, say, nine every morning, or ten every night. You put a piece of paper in the typewriter, or you turn on your computer and bring up the right file, and then you stare at it for an hour or so ...

Somehow in the face of all this, you clear a space for the writing voice, hacking away at the others with machetes and you begin to compose sentences. You begin to string words together like beads to tell a story.

If you haven't read Bird by Bird, definitely pick it up! Lamott takes you from beginning to end (with humor and sarcasm included) in writing a novel.

So what resonated in me from this? It's the sitting down part. It's the carving out a schedule. I know to do it. It's how I got my 3 manuscripts written. I sat down every day while the toddler was napping and the girls were at school. I know that if I sit down, my ideas will come. But I think I actually need to schedule it in. During nap time. Because, invariably, if I tell myself that I'll "find time today" - that time will never come. Laundry needs to be done, the kids have homework, I need to hop on Twitter ...

It's the same thing I need to do with hitting the gym!

Do you schedule in your writing?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

TBR or Reading TUESDAY: The Water Wars

Tuesdays bring us Tunes that motivate and influence our writing, book trailers that move us, and stories or upcoming releases aka TBReads that excite us. 

Today I'm bringing you a newly-released read that has world-building, characters with arc, and even a false antagonist. I'm currently mulling over this story for a review for Sourcebooks but thought it would be a great book to share with you now.

Title: The Water Wars
Author: Cameron Stracher
Genre: YA Dystopian
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Released: January 1, 2011
Pages: 240

Synopsis: (as printed on Teenfire, Sourcebooks Fire)

Lost in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, two teenagers race against time to rescue their friend from the corporations that run the world by controlling the limited water supply…

Vera, 15, and her brother Will, 17, live in the shadow of the Great Panic, in a world that has collapsed from environmental catastrophe and war.  In this world, water is hoarded by governments with access to it, rivers are dammed, polar caps are melted, and clouds sucked from the sky.  Their mother is ill from a nameless disease, and their father barely manages on ration tickets and black market goods.  One morning Vera meets and befriends a mysterious boy named Kai, who seems to have limitless access to fresh water and claims to know an untapped river but is sworn to secrecy.

Vera and Kai become friends, and soon something elusive blossoms between them.  But one afternoon Kai doesn’t show up at their usual meeting place… Vera and Will set off on a dangerous journey in search of their friend and his secret source of life-affirming liquid. The siblings are pursued by pirates, a paramilitary group and greedy corporations hell bent on controlling the world’s water supply – all of whom want to get their hands on Kai and his uncanny ability to find fresh water.

You can find the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Bookdepository. I was unable to find a website for the author, but I did locate an interview by one of my fantastic author friends, Dianne Salerni. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Freestyle Friday: Book Review Bad Girls Don't Die

I was hoping to be able to post my interview with one of my favorite authors today, but, as authors tend to be, she's been busy and hasn't had a chance to answer the questions yet, but I should have them for the next time I'm up for Freestyle Friday.  So, instead, I'll post the review I did of her book, Bad Girls Don't Die.

Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender
Publisher: Hyperion (June 22, 2010)
Paperback: 346 pages
Reading Level: Young Adult
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Source: Purchased

When Alexis’s little sister Kasey becomes obsessed with an antique doll, Alexis thinks nothing of it. Kasey is a weird kid. Period. Alexis is considered weird, too, by the kids in her high school, by her parents, even by her own Goth friends. Things get weirder, though, when the old house they live in starts changing. Doors open and close by themselves; water boils on the unlit stove; and an unplugged air conditioner turns the house cold enough to see their breath in. Kasey is changing, too. Her blue eyes go green and she speaks in old-fashioned language, then forgets chunks of time.
Most disturbing of all is the dangerous new chip on Kasey’s shoulder. The formerly gentle, doll-loving child is gone, and the new Kasey is angry. Alexis is the only one who can stop her sister — but what if that green-eyed girl isn’t even Kasey anymore?

REVIEW: I have to admit I bought this book simply because I’m shallow. ☺ A friend of mine picked up this book and showed it to me. It was completely creepy—which apparently I’m into lately—and so I flipped to the back cover to see what it was all about it. And I didn’t read any further than the first sentence. It was about DOLLS! Probably a creepy doll. So, I bought it, set it in my TBR pile and promised myself it would be the first book I read when I finished first round edits on my dystopian.

Which I did!

I started the book the day after Thanksgiving, while I drove around waiting for my husband to do some of his shopping and, to be completely honest, I wasn’t really all that impressed. To me it started off slow, but it quickly picked up pace –within that first chapter—and I couldn’t put it down.

I had really only one expectation going into it and that was it needed to be creepy. I was not disappointed. Almost from the beginning we’re treated to a scene where the heroine—Alexis, or Lexi as she’s sometimes called--is outside her house in the middle of the night and taking pictures of her house, when a strange light appears out of nowhere. She takes a few photographs of it, then walks into her house, so as not to spook her kid sister. The light follows and ends up finding her room by “sitting” outside her window in a tree.
Then is a bit of a boring part, but it really couldn’t be helped and really helped develop Alexis to the reader. We’re shown that she’s a loner and that she hates the cheerleaders, especially a girl named Pepper (but really who wouldn’t hate a girl named Pepper. LOL. Except Pepper Pots from Iron Man, that is. Can’t hate her. :D) who was instrumental in forcing her best friend to leave the state because she was teased so much because of her weight.

We’re also introduced to the “hero,” Carter when he smacks Lexi in the head with a door—accidentally, of course.

After all the introductions to the secondary characters (Pepper, Kasey, Carter, and another cheerleader named Megan) and some whining about her parents, the story really takes off and it was almost impossible to put down.

From creepy dreams, to doors that open for themselves, and even a possession or two it was perfectly hair-raising and sinister. And for the most part kept me on the edge of my seat asking, “What the heck is going on here?!”

Even the ending—which I will NOT spoil for you here—was superb. I usually find myself slightly disappointed with how an author chooses to end a book, but this time I was only disappointed it was over!

Characters: Alexis is the perfect teenage girl. Riddled with angst, but not in a way that makes you groan because it’s clichéd. She has a love/hate relationship with her parents and sister, as is normal for girls that age, and something any teenager—or young in heart—can relate to. She’s tough and doesn’t let anyone boss her around, and while she’s a rule breaker, she does so on her own terms. Not to fit in. In fact, she could care less about fitting in. She just wants to be left alone by everybody. Carter on the other hand, is practically perfect in every way, and completely the opposite of Alexis. It makes for some great conflict. And while this book wasn’t a romance, the romantic elements were awesome because of the chemistry between these two characters. Kasey is also really well developed. I found myself vacillating between feeling sorry and worried for her and angry at her. Not a comfortable spot to be in, considering, but one of the elements that really drove this story forward.

Cover: As I mentioned before this was the main reason I purchased this book. It was exceptionally creepy, yet beautiful at the same time. Honestly I’d love to have the picture blown up and framed, so I can place this in my home, I love it that much.

If you’re looking for a creepy thriller that will make you sleep with the lights on and the covers over your head, this is the book for you. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading this book and look forward to the next two books.

Find Katie Alender
Katie Alender   /   Blog   /   Twitter  /  Facebook

Purchase Bad Girls Don't Die
Amazon    /   Barnes & Noble   /   The Book Depository

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Metaphorically Speaking

Is a picture worth a 1,000 words?
When you look at this picture, what do you think? What do you feel?

My first reaction is that the heart symbolizes the fragility of human nature, and how like dried leaves our experiences can either pile together until we almost overflow, or they can leave us brittle and broken.

But that has nothing to do with gratitude, now does it?

The artist here, BidWiya, had in mind an old proverb: who does not thank for little, will not thank for much.  According to the artist's page on DeviantArt, he says that the leaves symbolize that ‘the days will pass, the leaves will dry and I have still not given you enough to say thank you’.

Which is beautiful, really.

Have you let those closest to you know how much you appreciate them? Or are the leaves of your life crackling, drying and slipping away?  Maybe it's time to turn the computer off (I know - *gasp* - put your writing away) and spend some time with the person you most appreciate.  I'm off to do just that.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Writer Wednesday: Feeling inadequate

(I credit Heather Howland for setting me off on this thought process)

Ever read a really good book, closed it and thought, "I'm not worthy! I can't do that!"

Of course you can't. That was their book, not yours.

A writer friend of mine was struggling with this issue last night. I know I've dealt with it. I'm thinking other reader/writers have to have felt it too. So what do you do when you want to drop on your knees and howl you're not worthy? Learn from it.

What made that book so great? Was it the world-building or depth of plot? Maybe it was the twists in the plot itself, or setting? Maybe it was just that you had that idea too and they got there first. Learn from it.

Take your current WIP and make it better. Sure it will take work. Do you think that author didn't? If the book that had you up late and in love with it was amazing in it's word-building, then take your WIP back to the mattresses and deepen and broaden the word it's set in. Of course it's more time--your book is worth it. Was the author a genius of plot twists, then take a look at your WIP. Does your plot need twisting? Maybe not. But, if so, think about where you can add a wrinkle or divert the readers attention with a red herring. I'm not saying copy. I'm not saying to plagiarize. I'm saying to LEARN FROM IT.

Sure you might feel inadequate, but remember that was the other author's book, not yours. Remember, too, it had also been through revisions, edits, etc. Take your project, learn from the ones that awed you and make yours better.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

TBR TUESDAY: Like Mandarin

Tuesdays we're now talking about books we want to add to our To Be Read pile. This week I'm doing Like Mandarin. I've actually already read the ARC (it's AMAZING) but I can't wait to get my hands on a hardbound cover that I'm going to rush out and have signed by Kirsten.

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 8, 2011)
Goodreads synopsis:

It's hard finding beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming, but 14-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it's not her mother's pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: 17, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin. When they're united for a project, they form an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town's animal-head trophies, and searching for someplace magic. Grace plays along when Mandarin suggests they run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds plaguing their Badlands town. Because all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin's unique beauty hides a girl who's troubled, broken, and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, no friendship can withstand betrayal.

Make sure to pick up this book when it comes out, and in the meantime you can follow Kirsten on her blog.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Perfect COVER

Ever been glad to see a Monday?? Well, I'm welcoming this Monday here on Oasis with open arms. Maybe it's because I'm at a crossroads, or simply because it feels like that. It's weird. I thought that when my manuscript started seeing some real interest, real nods and movement from agents/publishers I'd be brimming with excitement and more energy then ever.

But the total opposite has happened.

I can hardly move.

Not sure if it's fear of success--can't be failure, seeing how we're intimately acquainted--lost in a sea of unknowns, my perfectionism, or simply unsure of my next step. Don't get me wrong. This really is exciting, but something is paralyzingly me. I need to find that Writer's Oasis we talk about here on Monday Morning Sanctuary.

I decided to come clean about this, not to simply vent or unload my skittishness on you. It was to let you know you're not alone, and hopefully give you comfort in my confusion, doubt, nagging fears but my ornery persistence to plunge ahead despite the unknown.

Have you ever experienced what I've described? Are you now? Share.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Writing a Book Review

You're a writer.
You have a blog.
You have an outside life, paying job and other's who depend on you.

All eat up chucks of your time.

You want to hone your writing skills, be a better storyteller.

So you read. Lots. In your genre and even spread your wings to gnaw on other works outside your writing realm. But that takes up time, too.

Combine the two: Write a Book Review. But how?

There's no right or wrong way, no tell-all process for writing a good book review. But there are areas one should stay true to and probably avoid.

Now, I'm no expert but I've been reviewing books for about six months. My main purpose for getting into reviewing was simple. Condense my actions with my limited time, equaling productivity. I did, however, decide on my goals for reviewing: to give my readers a view into a book they may have not read, yet, to offer my well-educated opinion, and remain as unbiased as possible.

That can work both ways. When you love a genre, sometimes it's hard to read with unclouded judgment, and when you're not as fond of a genre, it's easier to find flaws.

Stay neutral. 

1. When you begin to read the book have note cards available. I usually insert a few between the pages, so I can jot down elements of the book that jump out at me.

2. I pay attention to word choice, flow and pace, character development, structure of scenes, plot and sub-plot plausibility, and overall storytelling. These are what I note on my note cards.

3. Find a sentence that moves you or gives the overall feel of the book. I highlight that as my favorite line.

4. Set yourself in the story, either as a character or simply yourself. Does the story stimulate you? How? I'm always sensitive to how a story/character moves me internally, makes me look at myself. You can ask yourself a million questions. (I'll fiddle with those in another post.) 

Writing Up the Official Review
(Like I said, these are not set in stone. Just the way I do it.)

~ Include the book cover/artwork. I list title, author name, genre, publisher & date released, and number of pages. Some folks include the ISBN, too. I don't.

~ State official description of the story. I use the blurb on the back cover.

~ Give your HONEST opinion. That can include positives and negatives. Be fair, but kind. Some reviewers include spoilers. I don't. But if you do, please make your readers aware in advance of the review.

I always try to offer a helpful opinion. Meaning, I don't go into great detail but explain why I enjoyed the read or why I didn't. I list strong points and what I felt was weak.

REMEMBER YOUR PURPOSE. You're giving your readers another book to ponder, another book they may choose or pass on reading.

Lastly, I usually offer links where to purchase the book. If I was asked to review by an author or publisher, sometimes I can offer a book giveaway as well.

I could go into greater detail, but I think I've made this post long enough. So instead, let me ask you: Do you review books? Can you add insight into this discussion? Love to hear it.

Happy Weekend, Everyone!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stylish Blog Award

Thanks to JJ from Writer's Block NZ for this award!

The rules if you are awarded:
1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers.
4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award.
We've said this before, but we'll say them all again.  :D  There are 5 of us, so you get one fact from each of us and 2 group facts.

1. Group: We met at YALitChat and are group moderators there. If you live, breathe & write YA, you should check it out.
2. Group: We all like (er.. LOVE!) chocolate.
3. Sheri: I was a speaker at my high school baccalaureate and made everyone cry--in a good way.
4. A.E.: I've given speeches to Career Day students at the local college about being a writer, and I wore my Grinch head slippers. Kids loved them!
5. J.A.:  I'm extremely shy.  I mean to the point that people think I'm rude because I'm too nervous to say anything, but I have no problems getting up in front of a group of people I don't know and giving a speech or acting in a play.  :D
6. Nikki: I was extremely active in theater during high school and contemplated majoring in theater in college (a far cry from my actual major!)
7. Jessie: I fidget constantly if I have to sit for long periods of time (which includes car rides, work, seminars, and even just TV watching).

And now, the 15 blogs that we recommend. In an effort to pass on the love to other collaborative bloggers out there, we've selected the following (in no particular order):

1. Mundie Moms
2. Merry Sisters of Fate
3. YA Highway
4. YA Know
5. The YA 5
6. League of Extraordinary Writers
7. YA Fresh
8. Got YA!
9. Supernatural Underground
10. YA Authors Cafe
11. Page Turners
12. Reading Teen
13. YAY! Reads (not collaborative, but a teen reviewing YA - how cool is that?)
14. YA Book Central
15. And in tribute to the amazing woman who brought us together and the founder of YALitChat, check out Georgia McBride's personal blog.

There you have it. We hope you like these blogs as much as we do.  As always, thank you for reading!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Writer's Wednesday: Juxtaposition

I keep hearing this interview snippet on Sirius radio from the lead singer of Maroon Five.  He's talking about their new song, Misery, and how he loves the juxtaposition between the upbeat tempo and depressing lyrics.  If you haven't heard the song, you can check it out below...

As writers, we don't have the luxury of juxtaposing words with music. And we certainly don't have the luxury of powerful images -- like the ancient buildings against the modern high rise.  Our only medium is words.  How we create tension and conflict in our novels is in large part dependent on how we juxtapose ideas.  Take these examples from Shakespeare:
  • youth and old age;
  • servants and nobles;
  • love-sick Romeo and fiery Tybalt;
  • the noisy public feast and the private whispers of the lovers;
  • Romeo's infatuation and Juliet's wit;
  • the old nurse and young Juliet; and so on.
It's these opposing ideas or forces that give our stories a sense of balance.  Think about the action movie where every scene is intense and loud and the action is non-stop. No one scene is any more important than the others, and by the end, you're pretty much worn out.  As authors, we don't want to do that to our readers.

By juxtaposing ideas in unique ways, we can emphasize things that we want to highlight, give our readers rest, or simply add layers of detail.  Commonly juxtaposed ideas we see in YA literature include everything from the grand scale down to little details:  angel and demon; light and darkness; pretty and ugly; what characters do and what they say.  Just remember, by showing two dissimilar objects or characteristics next to each other, you'll inherently highlight the differences.

P.S. Some definitions of juxtaposition include: placing two ideas, words or images side by side so that their closeness creates an original, ironic or insightful meaning; side by side placement of sentences or ideas to bring about a desired effect.

What's your favorite juxtaposition in literature?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

TBR TUESDAY: Across The Universe

Tuesdays were talking about the books coming that we want to add to our To Be Read pile. I'm going to admit I've been dying to get my hands on this book! And no, it's not just because of the huge buzz and amount of press it's already gotten. I'm a fantasy and sc-fi geek from back in the day (1980s and before). I devoured the first chapter when it was made available, and if I didn't hate mornings so badly, I would have been banging on the doors of the bookstore to buy Beth Revis's Across The Universe as it released today, 1/11/11. (what an auspicious date!!)

Here's the blurb from Beth's site:

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.

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

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

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

The Video:

And go to Beth's site for other ATU related info.

Monday, January 10, 2011


It's very easy for me to get lost in a good book - to the point where I can't quite turn off the light to sleep at night, or I tell my children to go play in the street for a bit, or dinner gets made an hour late! Reading is a sanctuary to me, it's a place where anything can happen, and where I can be anyone.

Reading is the reason I write!

This weekend at the ALA Midwinter Conference I got several dozen ARCs for YA and Middle Grade (some of them are pictured below). I'll be doing reviews here and on a couple of other blogs (which means giveaways too!) But it's definitely a little daunting to look at the stack and try to figure out what to read first. I have a feeling my family won't be seeing much of me for the next few weeks (or months)!

Is reading a writing sanctuary for you?

Friday, January 07, 2011

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss

This week I'm writing a review on Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. There was a lot of good buzz surrounding this book, and I devoured it in a couple days! It was a fresh break from all the paranormal YA I read in 2010 (and, no, I'm not knocking paranormal. It's what I write too!)

Goodreads Description:

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

My Review:

What's not to love?!? The book is a sweet coming-of-age story that takes place in Paris with a love interest who has an adorable accent. I really need to get the audio version of this book!

Anna is the girl you've always wanted to be - funny, talented, witty, and she has a crush on amazing guy. It just so happens that the object of her affections already has a girlfriend. And her new best friend also has hots for the guy. How's that for immediate tension?

The book has amazing pacing as we follow Anna while she struggles with learning a new language, making new friends, and exploring the city of Love. The characters are well-developed, each with their own quirks and character flaws.

And the best part? The swoon-factor. I remember reading Twilight for the first time ... the reason I couldn't put it down was because it actually made me feel like I was falling in love for the first time (again). Anna and the French Kiss does the same thing! It's all about catching those glances, feeling someone's leg against yours in the movie theater ... all the wondering about what the other person is thinking.

For all these reasons, I give Anna and the French Kiss 5 Palm Trees.

Have you read the book? What are your thoughts?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Writing Elements

When we think about the act of writing, the initial creak of the laptop opening and tapping of keys are the first sounds that come to my mine. Then there's sitting down to write that first line, that first sentence that's going to set the tone for the entire story. Of course, we can't leave out the thought process: outlining, jotting ideas on note cards or scraps of paper while waiting at a stop light or in line for our cup of coffee.

credit for photo
There's so much to be thankful for, so many elements of writing to cherish, even the ones that challenge us.

When I set my mind on writing about two 1/2 years ago, I was a much different person, writer. I had no idea what this whole writing a story entailed. I just knew the multitude of ideas in my head needed to be shared. My first hurdle was realizing that I needed to learn to write. I mean, I could write but not well enough to convince an agent/publisher that I was the next Who-That? and invest in me and my work.

So I began studying the art of writing, reading and tearing apart some of the most popular authors of today's YA realm. I asked myself What makes them so That? Slowly, the fog began to lift off my horrid writing (yeah, I wrote a first YA novel of 160,000 words). But I needed more than to just study others' work. I needed to discuss it.

Despite being egregiously skittish, I began sharing my work with others. Their fresh eyes washed the dirt from my work, exposing what needed to be improved. Their advice and encouragement began to sink in--molding the new writer I am today.

When I asked my amazing Oasis Sisters what element of writing they were most thankful for, the answer was a collective one ~ each other, the YA writing community as a whole, and critique partners. It was as easy as that.

I know there's no way on this planet I would be where I am right now without those wonderful, patient writers who've taken the time to read my work and give observations on how to make my novel shine.

We're pretty private here on Oasis. When we fired up this blog, we'd decided we wanted it to be for you ~ to support you. But over the months since we've been working together, trying to support you, something happened. We've been supporting each other. Each time one of us got an email requesting material, we'd all scurry and read, helping to make that sister's work shine. Or when one finally leaped over that hurdle of outlining or finishing a manuscript, we've been there to cheer and say hooray!

Through our writing friendships, each of us has taken steps closer to fulfilling our dreams and growing in our writing careers.

The successes we've each had since working together are sure to bleed into this new year, and I'm excited for each of us and for you. We are thankful for our CPs and for you.

Do you have critique partners or other writers willing to read your work? How have they helped you become a better writer?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Enjoying the Journey (repost)

Since my family has decided that the new year is the perfect time to break down and get sick, I'm reposting one of my favorite posts from last year.  I hope you still enjoy it.

I’ve been scratching my head for over a week as I tried to come up with a topic for today’s post. On top of that I’ve been rushing to finish my latest WIP so I can get to another that’s been pulling at me.  In fact, I’m writing this at almost midnight because the inspiration didn’t come until I watched GLEE. ( Yes, I’m a Gleek and I’m proud of it. :) )  Anyway, to make a long story short, in last night’s episode, the lesson was to enjoy the journey.  It didn’t matter if they won or lost their competition—though a lot was riding on their winning their regional competition.  All that mattered was the fact they were doing something they enjoyed.

It got me thinking.  Here I was stressing over the fact I haven’t gotten a publishing offer yet, when I should have been happy with how far I’d come.

I think that the lesson the kids learned not only applies to the show, but in real life too.  And especially for us writers.  Almost every writer’s goal is to be published.  More than likely we want to make the best seller’s list.  We focus so much on what’s at the end of that road, we never stop and smell the proverbial roses.

We rush to get through our WIPs and then hope our beta readers and critique partners will get our MSs back to us quickly so we can edit as quick as we can to send off to agents and editors. 

We critique other writers’s work and read already published books, digesting and dissecting them bit-by-bit to see what we can do to improve our own writing, but we never just enjoy them anymore. 

But why did we start writing?  For most of us it wasn’t because we wanted fame and fortune.  Maybe it was there in the back of our mind, but it wasn’t the sole reason and it wasn’t the biggest. 

It was because we enjoyed it.

We wrote to relieve stress or boredom.  To breath life into the characters we saw in our heads, and having people read and enjoy it was just icing on the cake. 

So no matter where you are along the publishing voyage, whether you’re writing your first word or your millionth, relax.  Slow down.  Take a deep breath.  It’s not a race to get to the next step.  Or the next.  Or the one after that. 

It’s simply a matter of enjoying the journey.  

The Climb by Miley Cyrus courtesy of Hollywood Records and  As always we ask that you respect the artists and download their music on approved sites.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Tuesday Trailer - Timeless by Alexandra Monir

You asked, we answered.

Instead of having Tuesday Tunes every week, we're going to also bring you trailers or books we think should be in your TBR (to be read) pile.  This week, I'll share a book trailer for debut author Alexandra Monir's January 11th release: Timeless.

Oh, squee!  Sounds and looks so good, and it's only a few days away from release.

And now that I'm all ready to sink my teeth into something romantic, let me tell you about our first annual That's YAmore Blogfest.  Leading up to Valentine's Day, next month we'll be hosting a blogfest featuring romantic snippets from your WIP.  For more details, check out our That's YAmore Blogfest Page and sign up.  We can't wait to read your first kisses and tender moments as can only be told by brilliant YA authors like yourselves.
Be sure to grab our badge and spread the word.  The more, the merrier!

Monday, January 03, 2011


Mondays are Sanctuary days here at the Oasis, and after a two-week hiatus from the kids going to school and the hubby schlepping off to work, you'd think I'd have a lot to talk about. I really wish I did. I'm sitting here after a crappy night's sleep, with a horrid headache, arthritis flaring in my shoulder, and feel like I'm spiraling down some flight to nowhere. I should be opening files, brewing coffee instead of wondering where I'm going to find some sanctuary.

I could read, but gut instincts tell me to write.
I could write, but the headache tells me to nap.
I could try to nap, but that never works out for me.

Right now, when I'm normally still sleeping, I'm spiraling through the Internet. Thanks to following Anica Rissi on Twitter, I did follow a link to a good blog post on Elana Johnson's blog about editing/revising and that OMG I can't do that! moment. Thank you, Twitter! Maybe there's an ascent coming today, and I'll find sanctuary after all.

So, my friends, on a conflicted day like I'm having today, what do YOU do to find sanctuary?
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