Saturday, December 31, 2011

From All of Us to All of You ~ Happy New Year!

Facebook comments, images & graphics

I'm not sure we can count all of the great things that happened here on Oasis for YA during 2011. Larissa joined our ranks in September and we've been loving her posts. Nikki, Jessica and I all got to meet in person, which was a rare treat, considering Jess & I live on the east coast and Nikki lives on the west coast. (Yes, that is an iHop in the background. That's just how we roll.)

We've participated in several blog hops or blogfests, and even had the honor of co-hosting a blogfest with Kathy at I am a Reader, Not a Writer.  We've seen our readership grow this year, and been blessed to have loyal Oasis Seekers return week after week.

So, as we leave 2011 behind, we just wanted to say "thank you" to each of you! There'd be no point in anything we do if it weren't for you.  We value your comments and feedback.  We appreciate that you take time out of your busy days to stop by here for a moment of sanctuary.  We wish you nothing but the best in 2012!

Speaking of 2012, we want to announce that we'll be hosting the second annual That's YAmore Blogfest  in February.  You can get all of the details and sign up to participate here.  The synopsis version is this: you post 250 steamy words from your YA WIP; you read others' entries; you could win a prize from us.  Sounds awesome, right?  We had a blast with it in 2011 and we hope to have even more of you join us in 2012.

Until then, whatever your new year's plans, stay safe and happy writing!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Writer's Wednesday: Nailing Your Synopsis

I know we've talked about tips for writing a query, and the outline of a synopsis here at Oasis For YA, but I wanted to delve a little further into my personal tips for nailing a synopsis. Now, by no means am I an expert, but I've done several synopsis critiques ... and of course have written a few myself :)

Writing a synopsis is daunting and overwhelming to most people. How do you possible condense your monstrous project into a page? Or five pages? Hopefully these tips will help.

In no particular order ...

  • Your synopsis should be written in third person, present tense ... irregardless of how you actually wrote your novel.
  • The first time you mention a character, BOLD their name.
  • Begin with your hook!
  • You want to hit all of your major plot points, climax, and reveal the ending in your synopsis.
  • Synopses should be tight. Make every word count.
  • Include active verbs, not passive ones.
  • Stick to the essentials, side plots aren't necessary in the synopsis.
  • Along with the above point, stick with your main characters. Supporting characters aren't necessary to include, and just serve to confuse the synopsis reader.
  • When you're done, reread and revise, and then do it again. Get someone to critique your synopsis. It's an important part of your submission process.
  • If your synopsis is less than a page, it should be single-spaced. More than a page, it should be double-spaced. Yes, I realize there is a gray area where if you double space a single-spaced page - it will bounce to two pages anyway! But, go with your gut on this one.

Of course, this applies mostly to the short synopsis (less than five pages). A longer chapter synopses (usually included as part of a proposal) will include more characters and depth.

Good luck and feel free to share your synopsis tips below!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

TBR Tuesday: The Year in Review and the Year Ahead

Did everyone have a lovely Christmas?  Or do you celebrate something else?  Did you have a lovely that?

Since it's the last Tuesday of 2011, I thought it would be nice to both reflect on our favorite books of 2011, and look ahead to what's exciting for 2012.

Today is the last day to enter the Mid-Winter's Eve Giveaway Hop and win one of OUR favorite books of 2011.

My personal favorite was Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins.

 I also loved Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake,

Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer,

Firelight by Sophie Jordan,

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare,

I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but those were the ones that stuck out.

So, for 2012, clearly, I'm excited for the sequels of all of these (and they all have sequels, YAY!).

But I'm most excited, (and you should be, too) for my good friend, crit partner, and Oasis Sister J.A. Souders's debut, RENEGADE.  Read more about RENEGADE here.  You guys, this book is going to BLOW YOUR MIND.  It is so amazing.  AND, a little bird told me that Jessica is getting ready for a super amazing cover reveal in January! SQUEE! 

So, what books did you LOVE from 2011?  What books are you drooling for in 2012?  *waits with with pen poised over wishlist*

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mid-Winter's Eve Blog Hop

Thank you SO MUCH for coming by our blog for the mid-winter's eve blog hop.  We are so excited to be co-hosting the hop with the amazing Kathy from I am a Reader, Not a Writer
 If you're here, chances are, you're looking to win something reading related. Well, have we got a fabulous prize for you. The winner of our internationally-open blog hop will get to choose from our favorite YA reads of 2011.  You get to pick ONE of the following titles if you win:

A.E. - Divergent or Die for Me
J.A. - Anna Dressed in Blood
Jessie - Where She Went
Larissa - Demonglass
Nikki - Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Sheri - If I Stay

Just make sure you qualify for the rules in the official entry form below.  The only requirement is that you follow the blog through either GFC or Networked Blogs. You can get an optional extra entry for following us on twitter.  Easy-peasy.

Thanks for entering and we hope to see you back here each week on the Oasis. If you read or write YA, this is the sanctuary for you.  And don't forget to check out the rest of the hop stops, now through December 27th (see linky list after the entry form)!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Do I Want 2 Read???

Well that's an easy question to answer, although it could take a while.

Nope. I won't do it to you. If you're anything like me, you still have too many errands to run before the big present-unwrapping-morning. I am so far behind this year. Can I hear an AMEN??

I decided to give you two reads that I've been wanting to read. And guess what? I just WON both books on the author's blog!! Too cool and just in time to say "Merry Christmas to me!"

I'm talking about Hilary Wagner's awesome tale about rats. Yup, and both are some awesome storytelling. Although these are MG in nature, I believe most YAers will love this tale.

Deep beneath a modern metropolis lies the Catacombs, the kingdom of remarkable rats of superior intellect. Juniper and his maverick band of rebel rats have been plotting ever since the Bloody Coup turned the Catacombs, a once-peaceful democracy, into a brutal dictatorship ruled by decadent High Minister Killdeer and his vicious henchman, Billycan, a former lab rat with a fondness for butchery. When three young orphan rats--brothers Vincent and Victor and a clever female named Clover--flee the Catacombs in mortal peril and join forces with the rebels, it proves to be the spark that ignites the long-awaited battle to overthrow their oppressors and create a new city--Nightshade City. View the trailer on the Nightshade City website!

Book II of the Nightshade Chronicles begins three years after Juniper and his rebel band liberated the Catacombs from Billycan's vicious control and established the democratic Nightshade City. A sense of peace has settled over Nightshade, but it is a false one. Billycan, the White Assassin, has been found deep in the southern swamps, where he now rules a horde of savage swamp rats eager to overrun Nightshade City. With the help of an ancient colony of bats and an uneasy alliance with the swamp snakes, Juniper and his council set out to thwart Billycan's plans. When a shocking secret is revealed everything changes. The fate of Nightshade City and the life of Juniper's only son depend on Juniper's decision: should he help his mortal enemy? The past resurfaces with devastating impact in this sequel to Nightshade City, a dark tale of intrigue, deception, and betrayal.

Do they not speak for themselves?? 

You still have time to pick up both before the holidays arrive. Amazon & Amazon, or visit Hilary's website to find out more.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Whoseywhatsit Thursday: Writing Prompt!

It's time for another Whoseywhatsit writing prompt, from yours truly. This week's topic (no surprise) ...


That's it. Just something to do with the holidays. Whether it's a tradition you celebrate, a shopping trip gone wrong, or something else together.

You have up to 250 words to get your character traveling - develop a flashback, write a poem, try something new, whatever you want. Post those words below and then comment on at least one other person's writing. (You don't need to necessarily critique it, this isn't polished writing people!)

Ready. Set. Go!

(And here's mine ...)

Rayne stomped her feet on the mat outside their Manhattan high rise. She'd hardly had a chance to step in dirty snow between the cab and the swinging glass doors, but the doorman would pitch a fit if she didn't at least make a show of cleaning off her boots.

He held the door open and she tossed him a grin. One that would never reach her dimple, much less her eyes.

The lobby looked like a Christmas tree lot gone wrong. White and green trees made a half-assed attempt at a pattern throughout the room. Twinkling lights blinked at her from every direction and were bound to give a senior citizen a stroke. Each tree had some sort of unique decorative theme, probably an attempt at an employee contest.

Rayne hitched her backpack further up her shoulder and clip-clopped her way across the marble lobby.

She nudged the button for the elevator and listened to instrumental carols as they filtered into the small, mirrored box.

It was almost a relief to step into the barren penthouse suite, devoid of any holiday ornamentation. Devoid of her mother, who was off in Europe on a ski vacation. Or something.

It was almost a relief.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writer's Wednesday: The First 250

This post has been brewing in my mind for awhile.  There are so many contests and critiques and blog posts about the first 250 words.  So much EMPHASIS on them.

I'm going to be totally honest.

I think it's kinda ridiculous.

Yes, agents and editors are SUPER busy and make snap judgments based on very little sample.  Sometimes the first 250, sometimes less.  Sometimes more.

And, yes, SOME readers will look at the opening pages of a novel in the store to decide whether or not to buy it.  But not all.  (I personally have never done this. I decide whether to buy a novel based on the jacket copy and/or recommendations from friends.)  And I'm not aware of anyone who reads the first 250 words utterly blind.  An agent will have read your query; a reader will have seen the cover and title at the very least, and likely read the jacket copy.

I'm not saying the first 250 words aren't important.  They are.  But I think a little too much emphasis is put on them sometimes, and I DEFINITELY think people have wrong ideas about what should or shouldn't be in them.

If you weren't on vacation or hiding last week, you are aware of the Miss Snarks First Victim Bakers Dozen Agent Auction.  In the critique portion of the auction, I saw lots of comments about starting in the middle of the action, or having paranormal or fantastical elements if it was a paranormal or fantasy entry. 

Look at the first 250 words of THE HUNGER GAMES.  I'm not sure how much I can post, so you can do the Look Inside thing at Amazon if you don't have it (why don't you HAVE IT?!).  Did ya look? action.  Waking up (which we are all told is a no-no).  Only one sentence, that, in my opinion, raises interest: "This is the day of the reaping."  And while that's intriguing, it could be completely mundane.  "Reaping" could refer to actual reaping of crops.  The reader probably knows it means something ominous because they've read the jacket copy.

Look at the first 250 words of HEX HALL (and let me just say, I kind of worship Rachel Hawkins, and DEMONGLASS is my favorite book of 2011).  Again, nothing earth-shattering going on, and no hint of the paranormal element. (And it's a prologue, which we're also told is a no-no.)

My point is, there is no one way to do the first 250 words.  There's no formula.  There's only THIS WORKS and THIS DOESN'T WORK.  Get some good, trustworthy critique partners and let them help you figure it out.

And don't try to apply weird arbitrary "rules" to the first 250 words of your project or anyone else's.

(In typical weird hive-mind fashion, both Agent Jill Corcoran and Authoress herself have recently blogged about this as well.  Their posts are definitely worth reading, so check them out.)

What do you think about the first 250 words?  What do you like to see or not see in them?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trailer Tuesday: Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse

On January 3rd, be on the lookout for Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse by debut author, Lucas Klauss. This book will be here before you know it.  And while the cover doesn't necessarily grab me, the title and trailer certainly do.  If you haven't seen the trailed yet, it's definitely worth a watch.

A male perspective on sorting love from loss, faith from fear—brimming with humor and romance. Phillip’s sophomore year is off to a rough start. One of his best friends ditches him. His track coach singles him out for personalized, torturous training sessions. And his dad decides to clean out all of the emergency supplies from the basement, even though the world could end in disaster at any moment...and even though those supplies are all Phillip has left of his dead mom. Not that he wants to talk about that.

But then Phillip meets Rebekah. Not only is she unconventionally hot and smart, but she might like him back. As Phillip gets closer to Rebekah, he tries harder and harder to turn himself into the kind of person he thinks she wants him to be. But the question is, can he become that person? And does he really want to? 

So --- what do you think? Will you be adding it to your TBR pile?

Thursday, December 08, 2011


No, I'm not talking about the way we're all feeling between Thanksgiving and New Years. Cookies and pies, candy, turkeys and hams, partypartyparty. I know I always get to feeling a pinch in the waistband... This isn't about food-induced pants spreading, though. This is about the Squishy Middle Syndrome.

Some writers fall prey to it in their books, others in their series. I know I've read some right awful stinker sequels lately.  Like "never going to read another book in that series" AWFUL. As far as I'm concerned, publishers really have no excuse for foisting off squishy-middle books on their buying public. Sequels should be as good as the predecessors. Yes, dammit. I did just rattle that saber. They expect way more of our writing when reading submissions.

So how do we avoid becoming victims of Squishy Middle Syndrome?

  • Get a good group of trusted peers to critique your work. I know my CPs and beta readers amaze me with their brilliance. You could join a writer community like YALITCHAT where there are many peer critique groups.
  • Know what your story is about, not just who. Yes, there really is a difference. Sure, a girl with a sad life meets a boy with strange powers that makes her heart race is nice, but what happens after, and what is the story really telling us? Where's the Hook? Having a hook makes avoiding SMS that much easier.
  • Plot. Don't groan and grumble at me. I know lots of people are 'discovery writers' but if you put some thought into figuring out points A, B, and C you're one step closer to avoiding SMS. I used to be a serious Pantser with only minor Plotitudinal tendencies. But the more points in the loose outline I filled in the fewer corners I wrote myself into, and the less middles I had to revise within an inch of what they were.
  • Read. Read books that work, that the industry loves (even if you don't), so you know what works in a plot. Then read your own work. Put it aside for a little while, then read it like a reader would.
That's about all I've got for ideas. If you have tricks for escaping the dreaded SMS that will push readers like me away, please share!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Depth in Streets, Avenues, & Alleyways

Characters can be so much fun to work with. That's my favorite part of writing. I tend to get a flash of an idea for a plot, and where that comes from no one knows. Do-do-do... Usually, immediately after that, an image pops into my head. Sometimes it's detailed, while other times it's not.

I may see hair color or a simple crook at the corner of said character's grin. A scarf may suddenly appear around the character's neck, or I may get the sense of shyness or even a tendency to back away as if he/she is hiding something. Maybe running or avoiding.

There are many ways in which a writer can add depth to a character. I'm going to focus on dressing the character as if he/she is a blank mannequin. We'll leave story, plot and other elements for another post.

  1. Physical Features: this is an avenue that can take all sorts of directions and usually is one of the first to direct a reader as to who the character is. There is so much fun to have here. Take chances with these. We never know the links we can create throughout the story by adding a simple nose ring or maybe blue eyes.
  2. Chosen Physical Appears: basically I'm referring to a character's fashion sense. Each of us has individuality when it comes to our choice of attire. Think carefully about putting those combat boots on the debutante girl and why she'd wear them. Is she trying to tick off her parents. Or maybe she's involved in some secret society. Either way, risk it but have a reason.
  3. Background: this is the simple one, yet hard all in the same thought. We can do anything with our character's pasts as long as it leads the reader to the beginning of THIS story, the one you're writing right now. Some information you dream up might be the most fantastical and interesting elements to a character, yet it does not fit or add to the story. It does not move the story forward. Leave it out, but make sure you save it for another story. You never know when it might come in handy.
  4. Likes and Dislikes: just like each of us, our characters need to enjoy and/or avoid aspects of their world, whether you've created a new world or not. Give them a dislike that's challenging and bounces of their world, making it harder for them to move forward. 
  5. Emotional Baggage: I HEART this part of deepening a character and could write a series about it! You can take the psyche of a character and intertwine it within the plot, subplots, interactions with secondary characters, their world, and all four of the above elements. The choices you make here to deepen the character will have a profound affect on the entire story. Emotions move, motivate, and inspire plot.
How do you imagine your characters? Does it come in a flash? Do you outline their characteristics or do a character interview?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

TBR Tuesday: Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up was one of those books that sat on my ARC pile for quite a while. The cover seemed cute enough, but the premise was not one that sucked me in. A character whining about why she broke up? Really?

But I was sooo glad I picked it up and read it. Min has an amazing voice and I adored all the references to old films. I've seen some people complain about the run-on sentences (and they can sometimes go for a page) but I actually enjoyed them and felt they fit the character. I could easily picture this girl, her heart broken, sitting in the car writing a letter to her ex. THIS is how I would write it.

So go add Why We Broke Up to your Goodreads account and pick it up when it comes out!!
And while you're waiting, head over to the Why We Broke Up project and share your stories. Or head over to Daniel Handler's alter-ego, Lemony Snicket :)

Goodreads Synopsis:
I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Whoseywhatsit Thursday: Crit Style

It's the first Thursday of the month (actually, the first DAY of the month--OMG can you believe it's DECEMBER?!) which means it's time for another critique sign-up!

This month, I thought we'd explore EMOTION.  Have you ever had your heart speed up while writing a scene?  Start bawling to the point where you had to stop writing because you couldn't see the screen?  Feel sick to your stomach when your character got into a sticky situation?

Have you ever then sent those scenes to beta readers or critique partners and gotten a response like, "Eh, I'm not feeling this."  "I don't understand why she's crying here."  "I'm confused."

If you have an emotionally heavy scene (could be anything: romantic, scary, embarrassing, whatever), here's your opportunity to see if it works.

If you are interested in a critique of up to 500 words of an emotional scene from your YA novel, please comment with your email address.  We will draw a name after noon on Sunday, email the winner, and post our comments next Thursday.

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