Friday, July 29, 2011

What's on Your Nightstand? #6

Laura Ellen: I finished SLIDE by our own Jill Hathaway and - OMG - was it good! Lots of twists and suspense as Vee - who can 'slide' into others and see what they are seeing at that moment - tries to solve a string of supposed suicides. I just started another by one of our own, PRETTY CROOKED by Elisa Ludwig. This has been such a fun read so far. Willa the main character is a riot and I absolutely love the voice! More next week after I've finished :)

A.C. Gaughen: I have my mind in two different books at the moment; THE BETRAYAL OF NATALIE HARGROVE by Lauren Kate and WILDEFIRE by Karsten Knight. TBONH is wonderfully bitchy and melodramatic, though I'm kinda bummed because the love interest I wanted to win just died....and I'm only like 50 pages in maybe. Can't tell with the Kindle. Oh, it turns out I'm 27% in. WILDEFIRE starts off with a catfight, which certainly has me hooked. I love a girl that throws a punch. Let you know next week how everything ends up...

Nicole Maggi: I'm still reading FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater. I have this really bad habit of reading the last page first of a lot of books I read. I know, I know, it's bad. But this is harder to do with a Nook, which is what I'm reading FOREVER on. And I'm dying to know how it ends! My fingers are itching to scroll that last page. Must resist.... Also, on my actual nightstand is the ARC of THE FUTURE OF US and I'm very excited to crack that open!

Danny Marks: After a week spent savoring Jennifer Egan's lush and totally original A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD, I'm back in the YA realm reading TEXAS GOTHIC by Rosemary Clement Moore. I have no idea what it's about but the idea of a southern gothic horror tale with a hint of romance really clicked for me when I snatched it off the shelf. Beautiful cover, too!

Gina Rosati: After reading FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater last week, I decided I had to read the entire trilogy over again, so I read SHIVER and LINGER over the weekend, and I'm rereading FOREVER now. The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy has it all ... constant tension, compelling characters, lyrical prose, just the right amount of setting, and so much wisdom you'll wonder if Maggie has her degree in psychology and philosophy. There are books to buy and there are books to borrow ... buy these in hardcover. You'll want them on your keeper shelf.

Jessica Spotswood: I've just started FOREVER too. I admire the way Maggie creates suh lovely images that stay with me: the bookshop in Mercy Falls, the candy shop Sam and Grace visit, the golden woods, the roomful of paper cranes. I can't wait to find out what happens with Cole and Isabel. They're so sarcastic and damaged and brilliant--and ultimately, I think, most interesting to me.

What are YOU reading this week? Tell us about it!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Villains - The Great Divide

Buffy: Does it ever get easy?
Giles: You mean life?
Buffy: Yeah, does it get easy?
Giles: What do you want me to say?
Buffy: Lie to me.
Giles: Yes. It's terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true. The bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies and... everybody lives happily ever after.
Buffy: Liar.

- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Lie to Me”

When I watch a movie, I want the villains to be easily identifiable with long, luscious hair and a killer wardrobe. I want them to be vaguely sexy in a Lucius Malfoy kind of way. I want them to be evil and delicious and full of snark. I want them to be bad, but the kind of bad that makes you want to sneak off to dark corners for seven minutes of lip-locked bliss.

In short, I want my movie villains to be a faerie tale: easily identifiable and more sexy than actually threatening. Patrick Bateman and Hannibal Lecter need not apply.

But while those types of villains are fun to watch on screen, I don’t really have a lot of fun writing them. The villains I most like to write are the ones who exist in shades of grey rather than in stark black and white. The ones whose actions sometimes seem understandable—if not justifiable—in those moments you glimpse the big picture from their point of view.

The above Buffy quote is from the season two episode, “Lie to Me” (stop reading if you don’t want spoilers). In the episode, an old friend of Buffy’s turns up in Sunnydale. Unbeknownst to her, he’s dying of cancer and has struck a deal with the local big bad to turn Buffy (and a club full of victims) over in exchange for immortality.

At one point, just after Buffy threatens to kill him, a pained expression crosses his face and he tells her that he really has missed her. The character isn’t having second thoughts about his dastardly plan—the moment isn’t about that—but Joss Whedon was, I think, trying give the audience a glimpse of the boy this character used to be, a glimpse that would lead them to think about how fear could have twisted him so much.

Sometimes, I think it’s scarier when you can almost understand how a villain became twisted and why they act the way they do, when you can almost picture yourself in their shoes and wonder what it is that separates you from them. If I can give a reader that moment
if I can send shivers of "what if" down their spinesI'll be happy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

In the wake of an overwhelmingly tragic weekend in Norway, my thoughts are with the victims, their families and friends, and all the people affected by this senseless tragedy.

Because I’m scheduled to write a blog about villains today, I’m also thinking about the bad guy who committed these atrocities.

There are bad guys, there are Bad Guys and then there are BAD GUYS. I am here to talk about the latter today . . . the unredeemable epitome of evil. Not every author can pull off the ultimate BAD GUY, and J.K. Rowling is amazing because she is one of the few who can. Being bad for the sake of being bad just doesn’t cut it in literature these days. How one dimensional is the witch in Hansel and Gretel who had an entire chalet made of gingerbread but chooses to eat children instead? (And btw, Gretel wins the Badass Bavarian Babe Award for shoving said witch into the oven and saving her brother, which, intentional or not, was an epic display of girl-power for the male chauvinistic early 1800’s when the Brothers Grimm wrote Hansel and Gretel. Yeah!)

A literary villain must at least have motive --- Voldemort was driven by the hatred of his father and a fear of death, but also a desire to rid the world of those he deemed unworthy. Genocide --- that’s a red flag for me that someone is the ultimate BAD GUY. The killer in Norway is reported to have said his attacks were necessary in order to launch a revolution to “save” Europe from Muslims. Really? Would someone please hand me a black Sharpie so I can scribble a pair of devil horns on this guy’s head?

Sitting in the movie theatre at the moment Harry killed Voldemort, what struck me the most was that everyone cheered! It reminded me of how the internet lit up when Osama bin Laden was announced dead. A tiny, naïve part of me felt guilty, like I had a little bad guy in me too for celebrating the death of another, no matter how heinous his crimes were.
But as an author, is there any other way to satisfy a reader when you are dealing with the ultimate BAD GUY? Imagine sitting in the dark movie theater with your nearly empty bag of popcorn clutched in your hand and watching Harry point his wand at Voldemort and shout, “I SENTENCE YOU TO 21 YEARS IN A NORWEGIAN PRISON!”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bad vs. Evil

Okay, I admit it, this IS the title of that new Eminem hybrid CD that I totally love.

But it also describes a lot of my writing process.

So let's break it down, shall we? There's the good, the bad, and the evil. Possibly the ugly. Whatever you want to call it. Now let's take the good. This is the happy people, the warm and fuzzies, the simple things in life, the sunny days and the fluffy puppies and the giddy pop songs.

Throw that out the window.

Well, keep the puppies.

Now we have what I like to write about. Because frankly, redeeming qualities are boring. Happy endings are lame. It is so much more interesting to look at our deepest flaws--whatever it is that makes us bad. And, of course, to search for the thing that makes those flaws, those bits of bad, okay, accepted, and maybe even recognize them as the best things about ourselves.

Maybe I have a pretty crazy view of love, but isn't that kind of the coolest idea? To find someone with equally miserable flaws, equally painful secrets, equal emotional damage? I think that's what love's all about--not finding that perfect person, but the person who is your perfect match. And to do that, you have to own up to the bad stuff. You kind of have to love the bad stuff.

But, of course, "bad" can't be "bad" all by itself.
Unless you're this lady.

But if we're not playing with "good" in the mix, the only counterpart for bad is, well, evil.

Now this distinction is minute, but that's what makes it fun. What separates the hero from the villian? What do they have in common? In short, what makes evil so much worse than bad?

Now, let it just be put out there, I think evil has its own allure. There's a passion and dedication in being totally evil. It's self-righteous and totally blinded and almost pure. I will put it out there; Guy of Gisbourne, in my retelling of Robin Hood, is a legitimate psychopath.

And I think he's AWESOME.

In a crazy sort of way, but yeah, he's awesome.

(Side note--this is why I shouldn't be allowed to date. I apparently think totally damaged and/or psychopathic men are oohh so dreamy...)

Maybe I like evil the way most people like horror flicks--for the catharsis, for that one moment when, against all odds, we triumph. Even if we are bad, irredeemable souls. Even if awful things have happened. Evil still gives us the chance to win.

So who wins out in the battle of Bad vs Evil?

I'll be honest, I hope I don't find out for a while. I kind of like it when they duke it out. ;-)


AC Gaughen is the author of Scarlet, a retelling of the Robin Hood legend that reimagines Will Scarlet as a butt-kicking girl. Check it out February 14th, 2012 from Bloomsbury|Walker. Or just come visit her website. Either way.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Finding Jim

No. My agent has not gone missing, though that would certainly make for interesting vlogging. I could take a camera with and go all Scooby Doo in NYC. In this scenario, I'm Daphne.

So, periodically, on Monday's we're talking about how we lassoed our agents and made them do our bidding. As I'm prone to do, I've complied with massacring Jim McCarthy's (Dystel and Goderich Literary Management) good name by association. Here it goes...

Leave a comment, or something...preferably gifts.


Daniel Marks is a smart ass and a liar. He lives with his wife and three furry monsters who have no regard for quality carpeting in the soggy Northwest. His debut YA novel, VELVETEEN, slips through the publishing cracks in the fall of 2012 from Delacorte/Random House Childrens. Read it if you love ghosts terrorizing serial killers, souls in limbo doing karaoke, and other weird junk.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bad Girls, Bad Girls. Whatcha Gonna Do?

This past week we’ve looked at villains, and I have to ask: Are bad girls scarier than bad boys?

Ever since junior high, bad girls have scared the bejeezus out of me. I can’t be the only one. Raise your hand if you’d rather run into Voldemort than Bellatrix in Knockturn Alley. Raise your hand if you had to leave the room during the Peanuts Christmas Special when Lucy yelled at Charlie Brown. Don’t even get me started on Elmira Gulch.

But there’s one bad girl who illustrates my point better than anyone else. Interestingly, she is not a fictional character at all--but almost feels like one. I mean how many of us get our own nursery rhyme?

In my humble opinion, the scariest woman of all time was Lizzie Borden, and she captures everything a good fictional villain must have:

  1. An Unpredictable Nature. To me, there’s nothing scarier than an unpredictable person. When the exterior appearance and the interior mind are at polar extremes, watch out. Scary clowns fit into this category. So does Chuckie. But consider Lizzie Borden: a well-dressed, mild-mannered, upper/middle class, Sunday School-teaching daughter with a severely damaged psyche that allowed her to bludgeon her family and then sit down to a good book. (Allegedly.) In fact, a big part of her acquittal was the jury’s inability to match the murderous activities with the face of the person sitting before them.
  2. A Sad or Creepy Past. A villain without a reason for world destruction is too two-dimensional to be scary. No one knows for sure, but growing up with embalmed bodies in her basement couldn’t have been good for Lizzie. Scholars think the sexual abuse didn’t help either.
  3. An Arsenal. Every good villain has to have weapons at her disposal. Wands are good. Bombs are good. Lizzie Borden had a dull axe and a strong arm. Making weapons of mass destruction out of household items: scary shit.
  4. Speed. I was never good in gym class. Anyone who moves fast is, by my definition, scary. Lizzie Borden was fast. She was accused of chopping up her mother and father and then taking a bath in less time than it took the maid to wash the windows on the back of the house. Another reason for Lizzie’s acquittal: the jurors' belief that a woman couldn’t move that fast in heels.
  5. Not Afraid of Getting Caught. Remember that maid looking through the windows? Lizzie didn’t care. If the villain isn’t afraid of getting caught, she can be reckless and bold in her evil doings. In other words, if you’re writing a villain, there can be no pussy footing around. Prison be damned.
So happy writing, and here's hoping your villain gets her own nursery rhyme someday!

Lizzie Borden took an axe
Gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Good is Dumb

"Now you see that that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb." -- Dark Helmet, Spaceballs
Villains are the best. Not only do they get the coolest outfits, the pointiest beards, and the raised-iest eyebrows, but they add that little hint of blinding rage to any good story, the kind that makes the reader/viewer want to tear his or her own hair out until there's nothing left but a bloody mess and a sincere regret that he or she ever decided to enter the magical world of fiction in the first place.
So here are my top three favorite villains that I could muster after five minutes of thought:
Dolores Umbridge, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

If just the mere mention of that name makes you want to vomit in fury, then you're not alone. I hate, hate, HATE this woman. Sure, Voldemort gets all the attention (due mostly to that botched nose job, he really should sue), but Umbridge is evil incarnate. The sickly sweet voice, the infuriating smile, those GODAWFUL KITTENS. I just - agh, I can't even write about her. I'm sorry. Excuse me while I go punch something.
Mayor Prentiss, Chaos Walking Series
If you haven't read these books yet, go do so now. Seriously, I'll wait.
Weren't they awesome? Patrick Ness's series about a boy and a girl racing for their lives across another planet (ugh, what a terrible summary - there's so much more to it than that) is so riveting, they almost don't need a villain. But oh man, do they have one in Mayor Prentiss. I think it's the calmness that gets to me. This guy asserts himself with such confidence, such overwhelming coolness (and again with that brazen smile) that whenever I came across him on the page, I wanted to hurl the book to the floor and then smash it repeatedly with a hammer. You know when someone makes you so mad you want to cry? That's Mayor Prentiss.
Benjamin Linus, Lost

Yes, I'm a Lost fan. Point and throw things if you must, but hot damn I love that show. I say love in the present tense, because for my birthday I got the entire series on DVD (it comes in a little fortress which is unbearably adorable) and as soon as a gaping, 100+ hour hole opens up in my schedule, I'm going to watch them all. Again. For like the fourth time.

Anyway, Ben. I won't give away too much for those who haven't seen it, but Ben is the friggin' bomb. Is he telling the truth? Is he lying his scrawny little rat face off? Is he planning a surprise romantic dinner for me and him on the beach, complete with time-traveling bunnies? You just never know with Ben!

If I seem a little vague on these descriptions, there's probably a reason: I apparently am not so good with the villains. Oh, the ones in my writing are fine and all, but it always seems to take me just a little bit longer to establish their motivations, create a good backstory, and give them some damn good reasons to blow up the Hoover Dam. (Okay, that doesn't actually happen in my book...but maybe it should! *furiously calls up editor*)

But I have found that more than anything, motivation is key. One of my all-time favorite television shows is Friday Night Lights, and what I constantly marveled at was the writers' ability to give every inherently good character a healthy dose of flaws, and every inherently "evil" character at least one solid redeeming characteristic. So there would be this one kid you'd just want to reach through the television screen and strangle, but then he'd get a faraway look in his eye and give away something about why he is the way that he is, and it would break your heart and cause you to burst into tears because, as any fan will tell you, sobbing heartily is a huge part of FNL, if not the main part. It's a wonder it wasn't sponsored by Kleenex.

So clearly, there are many types of villains, but the really good ones are the three-dimensional assholes that make you pause and say "Well, I guess I can see why he might have thought that stealing an entire planet's atmosphere was a good thing after all...

...but he's still a douche."

What's on Your Nightstand? #5

Gina Damico: I'm 7% in (according to the Kindle) to A DANCE WITH DRAGONS by George R.R. Martin, the long-awaited fifth book in the A Song of Fire and Ice saga. So...I guess I'm That Nerd.
Laura Ellen: I am halfway through PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ by A.S. King and am loving it. The voice of Vera is so spot on and the mystery behind Charlie's death has me turning the page, wanting more!
Suzanne Lazear: I'm re-reading TUCK EVERLASTING by Natalie Babbitt. I lovethis book. The descriptions are just incredible.
Elisa Ludwig: I'm reading MOONGLASS by Jessi Kirby, about a girl whose father moves them back to the beach town where he and her late mother first met. It's an emotionally intense story, with an evocative setting and compelling characters.
Nicole Maggi: I just downloaded FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater onto my Nook and I can't wait to start reading it! Very excited to see how this trilogy ends.
Danny Marks: I'm about halfway through THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner and completely enthralled in a way I haven't been with recent dystopian efforts. So glad I picked this up. Additionally, I joined the Goodreads Book Club Challenge to read Jennifer Egan's A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD, so that's queued up on my Nook. THE KEEP, her previous book is one of my favorites. Period.
Eve Marie Mont: I'm about 50 pages into Amy Garvey's COLD KISS on NetGalley, and man, can this woman write! The book is a paranormal--a girl with mystical powers brings her boyfriend back from the dead but finds he isn't the same--but Garvey has the ability to infuse the paranormal elements with such realism that you hardly recognize events as being out of the
ordinary. Restrained and haunting. Can't wait to finish.
Gina Rosati: Just finished FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater, the finale to the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. Beautifully written, emotional, and a satisfying ending that ties it altogether. I'm happy to hear FOREVER is on the NYT Bestseller's List ... so well deserved!
Jessica Spotswood: I just finished DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE, which was OMG amazing. I don’t always like higher fantasy but this was so fresh and original and engrossing, and the wordsmithing is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I want to be Laini Taylor when I grow up, basically.

Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul ARC Giveaway!

Hello friends!

Leanna Renee Hieber here, author of the Strangely Beautiful series and the forthcoming Magic Most Foul series from Sourcebooks Fire, beginning with DARKER STILL: A Novel of Magic Most Foul

I write Gothic novels. That means books containing high drama, major spook-factor, passion, danger- and in my Gothic novels it means ghostly, magical goings-on starring ladies in pretty dresses surrounded by dashing gentlemen, all of them dealing with some sort of paranormal emergency threatening their lives and the city they love. My books are all set somewhere in the 1880s because that's the decade I've been obsessed with since I was a teenager. My debut novel, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker (basically Victorian Ghostbusters blended with some Greek Mythology) won some awards last year and is currently being adapted into a musical theatre production with a Broadway-based team here in New York (which is the most delightful and unexpected thing to have ever happened to me as an author, and it's thrilling to see how the show is unfolding in its early stages of development).

I am really excited now to debut in YA fiction with my same spooky, Victorian flair. I have always wanted to write a haunted painting tale in honour of one of my favourite novels; The Picture of Dorian Gray. I've also always wanted to write an epistolary novel (a novel written in letters, and/or diary entries, newspaper articles, etc) and so DARKER STILL and the Magic Most Foul series is a dream come true for me to write.

As a member of the Apocalypsies debut YA team, I'm one of the first in the group to go up for publication, with DARKER STILL releasing in November of this year. I'm very flattered that the Advanced Reader Copies have been in high demand, though it hasn't left me many to raffle off. However, I managed to squirrel one away for one of you, dear readers, so we're holding a contest here at The Nightstand where I am thrilled to hold court with my talented fellow authors in this genre!

More about DARKER STILL: A Novel of Magic Most Foul

From the back cover:

The year is 1880, New York City...

“I was obsessed. It was as if he called to me, demanding I reach out and touch the brushstrokes of color swirled onto the canvas. It was the most exquisite portrait I’d ever seen. Everything about Lord Denbury was unbelievable utterly breathtaking and eerily lifelike. There was a reason for that. Because despite what everyone said, Denbury never had committed suicide.

He was alive. Trapped within his golden frame.

I’ve crossed over into his world within the painting and I’ve seen what dreams haunt him. They haunt me too. He and I are inextricably linked- bound together to watch the darkness seeping through the gas-lit cobblestone streets of Manhattan. And unless I can free him soon, things will only get darker still..."


If you'd like to read more, The first 30 pages of DARKER STILL are available on my website...

I'll also soon be introducing you to my companion on my book tour, "Lil' Wilde" who may appear to be a mere finger puppet version of Oscar Wilde but to me he's so much more...

Now! Contest time!

Leave a comment to enter and please state any +1 entries in your comment:

You get +1 entry for the following:
+1 if you follow Leanna on Twitter @LeannaRenee
+1 if you join Leanna's FB page
+1 if you follow The Apocalypsies on Twitter @Apocalypsies
+1 if you join The Apocalypsies on FB

Entries will be compiled and winner will be drawn via on Wednesday, July 27th.

Cheers, best wishes and happy haunting!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Putting the 'creep' in creepy

Photo by Brenda Mihalko
In his vlog post 'Who's This Guy? Why Does He Write Weird Junk?' Daniel Marks mentioned how the king of horror, Stephen King, uses kids to put the 'creep' in creepy in his classic Salem's Lot. King knows that when readers pick up a book with children in it, they often expect the children to be innocent and good and in need of protection from the evil that is afoot - they don't expect the children to be the evil that is afoot! That twist on the ordinary is what makes Salem's Lot so creepy good.

Writers like to do that.We either look for things that scare people and we amplify it, or we look for things that seem innocent and safe, and we flip them upside down and inside-out to make them CREEPY. With that in mind, I thought it'd be fun to share a few things that creep us out:

Laura Ellen - Maybe its because I was raised Catholic, but anything about demons and devils and religious lore really creeps me out. Like John Carpenter's Prince Of Darkness. Alice Cooper's character alone was enough to creep me out, but after watching it, I couldn't sleep or look in a mirror for weeks! Oh and sewer grates - those creep me out too. Forget walking over one; I have to walk around it, and I can't even do that until I've peered down inside to make sure nothing's lurking below . . . (thanks to It by, yup, Stephen King.)

Gina Rosati A dead blackbird on my front walk with its little feet stuck up in the air and its yellow eyes still open.
Photo by Antonio Jiménez Alonso
Lenore Appelhans - I am creeped out by potato eyes.  We can't keep potatoes in our pantry for this very reason.  It dates back to childhood when I used to have nightmares that the eyes grew rapidly and strangled me.  I'm weird, I know.

Suzanne Lazear - Ants totally creep me out.

Photo by Lee Adcock
Daniel Marks - Um...clowns. Happy ones. Sad ones. Dead ones. I don't care. They creep me out and haunt my dreams and every dark shadow I pass. Seriously. Keep them away from children's birthday parties, your fast food restaurants, and most of all, me.

Zoraida Córdova - Rats...Gerbils....guinea pigs. Just gives me the wiggins. Eep!

Jodi Meadows - Gummy worms. Just . . . why? WHY??? (Also hand/feet/eye injuries, fungus, bones sticking through skin, and other people's blood.) I'm going to have to think about unicorns or something for a while to overcome the trauma of writing this list.

Elisa Ludwig - Vomit! Anyone's, really.

Kathleen Peacock - Shoes on the side of the road. Where did they come from? Where are their owners?! I used to think I was alone in being creeped out by this, but an art teacher I had in college once did a whole piece on it. And silverfish because nothing on land should move like that.

Photo by Irum Sha
Cole Gibson - Antique porcelain dolls. *shudder*  And OMiGosh. I go to craft fairs all the time and someone is always selling an old window with a hand painted snowman looking through it - as if a snowman was outside your house looking in. Who would want that?!? CREEP-CITY.

Jessica Spotswood Totally creeped out by vines. I'm pretty sure they're going to grow and wrap all around me and *shudders*.

Photo by Falk Schaaf
AC Gaughen - Anything that crawls and yet also seems to move faster than I'm capable of.  Included in this category: centi-, mille- or any other -pede, spiders, earwigs, ticks.... Did you know that wolf spiders bury themselves in the ground so they can JUMP OUT and BITE YOU.  WHAT IS THAT ABOUT??!?!?!  Okay my skin is getting itchy with phantom crawly things....EW

Veronica Rossi - OK... this one is weird...I'm sure I'm the only human on the planet who is creeped out by ... PACKING PEANUTS. gahhhh!!!! *shiver*

J.A. Souders - Okay, this is really stupid, but anything dealing with aliens.  I can't watch movies with them in it (Even ones like ET.)  I will literally have nightmares for weeks afterward.  I think it started with the show SIGHTINGS.  I watched one episode where a guy swore up and down he was being visited by aliens and "recorded" one of the "events."  Ever since then I can't even think about it without getting creeped out.   *shudder* Also, clowns, spiders, and centipedes (I really, really hate centipedes).

Eve Marie Mont - This is probably pretty common, but my fear of needles has reached phobia proportions; I haven't had blood taken in seven years. Also, rocking chairs with no one in them, unexplained shivers while walking up my basement stairs, and when my dog stares at nothing on the wall. But the worst are those "Time-Out Kids" lawn ornaments of children in overalls leaning against trees covering their eyes--so creepy. *shudders*

Jennifer Bosworth - You know the David Lynch movie Wild at Heart? The scene where the crazy mother is putting on lipstick, and she starts smearing it all over her face. That got to me. So, people drawing outside the lines with their lipstick . . . freaky.

Anne Greenwood Brown - Fish and birds--really, any animal that clings to its prehistoric appearance. Also, eyeball surgery and ripped out toenails.

Nicole Maggi
- Okay, I know this is totally girly and cliched, but bugs. Spiders, silverfish, cockroaches...ugh. Remember that scene in Peter Jackson's King Kong where the giant bugs attack and eat half the group? Yeah. That still gives me nightmares.

So . . . 
What puts the 'creep' in your creepy?


Laura Ellen is the author of BLIND SPOT coming out in Fall of 2012 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's Good to be Bad

At the end of the day, most stories - especially in paranormal YA - boil down to that eternal struggle.  Good versus Evil.

In my opinion, it's easier to write the Good.  After all, we all like to think that if we were in an epic battle between Good and Evil, we'd all be on the side of Good.  Right?  And since we write what we know, and we write from the heart, writing the Good is easy.

And writing the Evil

Well, it's fun, but it's hard.  It's really easy to slap a nameless evil entity onto the page and have it wreak all sorts of havoc.  But it's hard to give that evil a name, a backstory, a motivation, a purpose...a soul. 

The very best villains have all of those things.

Take a look at one of the best villains in recent years, one that's become a household name: Lord Voldemort.  He's as evil as they come.  And at first you think that he's evil just to be evil.  But little by little, we learn things about Voldemort's past.  He was an orphan, just like Harry.  Hogwarts was his only home...just like Harry.  Rowling weaves a backstory for Voldemort that is so rich and so emotional that we start to relate to him.  We start to see that, given a different set of circumstances, Voldemort could have turned out like Harry - good, honorable, brave.  And likewise, given a different set of circumstances, Harry could have gone down the same dark path as Voldemort.  Some of the best villains are twisted mirror images of heroes.  As the series goes on, Voldemort's story gets more and more specific, and he becomes a better and better villain.

This was something I had to learn in my own writing.  In the original version of SHIFT, one of my major antagonists was a fire-and-brimstone, holy-roller preacher.  Then it went to the editorial board at HarperTeen and they asked me to revise.  They wanted me to take out all the religion.

When I got that note, I have to say I wasn't surprised.  When I was writing SHIFT, in the back of my head I always had the thought that someone was going to get offended and make me change it.  And I wasn't too attached to the religious aspect of it - that wasn't a focal point of the story.  So I started to think about what to replace it with, and I came up with a shadowy, nefarious corporation called the Guild.

My preacher turned into a slick corporate honcho, with a weaselly assistant trailing him everywhere.  Neither of them are as they seem.  As I started to flesh out these characters, and weave the Guild into the mythology of my story, the good versus evil arc really started to take shape.  Now my main character had much more powerful enemy than just a small-town preacher.  She had an entire corporation to take on.  After all, the most dangerous thing a villain can have is money.  And who doesn't love to hate an evil corporation?

By forcing me to take out the nebulous religious aspect, my editor gifted me the opportunity to create a more specific, dangerous, far-reaching, and scary villain.

It was a lot of hard work - it was a complete and total overhaul of the story! - but the story is so much better for it.  And now when I sit down to write those villainous scenes, it's fun.  Because after all, although we know we would fight for the Good side, it's also fun to be a little Bad sometimes, too.

Friday, July 15, 2011

What's on Your Nightstand? #4

Here's what we're reading this week:
Zoraida Cordova: I just finished SILVER PHOENIX by Cindy Pon. It was such a quick read. Now I have to find the sequel!
Laura Ellen: I just finished reading an ARC of Megan Miranda's FRACTURE. Oh it was so good! It kept me on my seat and guessing the whole time. I just started reading an ARC of CATCHING JORDAN by Miranda Kenneally.
A.C. Gaughen: I just finished THE A CIRCUIT by Georgina Bloomberg--on one hand it was totally fluffy summer reading (think GOSSIP GIRL with horses) but on the other it seemed to be an almost-over-my-head ode to horse riding. Some of the terminology (Hunter hair? Ammy? Flatwork?) lost me, but I really enjoyed it! Plus it made being filthy rich look complex, which is always a feat.
Elisa Ludwig: Embarrassingly I am, like, the last person ever to read THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN. I don't know what took me so long to get to this one, but it's really wonderful—I am thoroughly pulled into Junior's world through Alexie's pitch-perfect voice.
Nicole Maggi: I'm reading ONCE UPON A RIVER by Bonnie Jo Campbell. Although the heroine is 17, I'm not sure I'd classify it as YA. It's intense and melancholy, about a very damaged and broken soul, but beautifully written. It's a true journey story and I'm enjoying the ride.
Danny Marks: I just finished Lauren Oliver's BEFORE I FALL and found it engaging, heartbreaking and genuinely funny. She has a very natural grasp of the teenage voice that hooked me from the first chapter. I'm currently reading an ARC of THE POISONED HOUSE by Michael Ford, a historical ghost story set in 1855. Very UPSTAIRS/DOWNSTAIRS meets THE CHANGELING! I'm digging it, but looking forward to James Dashner's THE MAZE RUNNER which is staring me down as we speak!
Gina Rosati: I just finished PASSION by Lauren Kate - it's the 3rd book in the FALLEN series, and there will be one more, RAPTURE, due out in the Spring of 2012. I'm seriously wowed by how well Lauren Kate tackles the complicated themes of good/bad, love/infatuation, and in this particular book, she also masters the complexities of historical fiction as her characters are now on a quest which takes them to several different places/eras. So impressed!!
Jessica Spotswood: I'm in the midst of DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor, and I'm awed by the lovely way she puts words together. It's nothing short of wordsmithing. I'd love to hang out with Karou in the fantastical, boho Prague of her imagination!
What's on your nightstand? Tell us about it!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Power of Three

Since the reasons I write UF/PR are a bit dull (and basically boil down to "that seems to be the way my brain works"), I thought I'd share some thoughts on love triangles. And yes, I know that I'm making a majorly weird face in the video preview.

Recommended Reading:

Carrie Ryan's blog post "But when are you going to write something happy? Also, what's up with the love triangles?"

Scott Tracey's blog post "The Triangle Is Not Acute"

Question for you: Do you have a favorite YA love triangle?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Editing - Pain with a Purpose

The 2012 debut authors group, Apocalypsies, is now 100 members strong, and we are all in different stages of the publishing process. Since we launch at different times during the year, some Apocalypsies are just getting their editorial letters now. I blogged last week about how I found my agent, so I decided to blog this week about my experience with editing and copyedits.

From the time I queried AURACLE to now that I’m in the final stages of copyedits, not a single scene remains unchanged from the original story I wrote. Dozens of scenes have been cut and replaced with others. Characters have been eliminated. New characters have been created. A lot of people have asked me how it feels to have ‘my baby’ so thoroughly critiqued by others, and I tell them it feels wonderful. To know someone cares enough about my book and my characters that they will invest so much of their time and resources to help me make it the best it can be is a great feeling. And considering I already have two children, I find it easy to distinguish between 'book' and 'baby'. Even with my own kids, there is no way I would want them to grow up with me as their only influence ... that would just be scary! My kids have teachers, friends, books and other media influencing them, and I’m grateful for others’ insight, even if I don’t agree with it, because it gives me an opportunity to talk with my kids about choices. I feel the same about my book – AURACLE has benefitted from the insight of early readers, my agent, my editor and now, there are two copyeditors who have gone through and made suggestions.

For anyone who cringes at the idea of cutting 100+ pages from their story, I offer this perspective: Years ago, my step-father owned an ice cream shop and I was trained to decorate the ice cream cakes. Since then, I’ve made three wedding cakes to give as wedding gifts to friends. After spending 60+ hours making sugar swans, royal icing lilies and wrestling with floppy 16 inch cake layers, I’ve built up a tolerance to watching my creations get literally cut apart. I find this useful in the editing process.

(My BFF since Jr. High, Marcia and her husband Brian 'revising' a wedding cake I made.)

My Roaring Brook editor, Katherine Jacobs, is incredibly insightful, organized and complimentary, which makes the editorial process so much easier. I realize every editor has her/his own process, but here's my experience: I received (electronically) a detailed editorial letter broken down into separate discussions about each main character, plot, the mechanics of the main concept of the book (astral projection) and themes. When I was finished reading Kate’s letter, I was impressed by how well she ‘got’ the book, in fact, Kate found themes I hadn’t even realized were in there. Attached to this editorial letter was the full manuscript, in MS-Word, and Kate had gone through using the very useful tool, Track Changes, and added 300+ comments, many of which were just to compliment something she liked. This was huge for me … to know what was working well was very helpful to me, and I definitely work better when my self-confidence is in a happy place. Once I had a chance to digest all of Kate’s comments (I did nothing more than reread her letter every day for about a week to let everything sink in), we clarified a few things over the phone, and Kate gave me a generous amount of time to complete what needed to be done. It was extensive, but I clearly understood the direction we were heading. Nothing was forced, everything was my choice, but I agreed with most of the changes because there was logic driving the requests. There were a few things I felt strongly about keeping, and once we discussed, we agreed how these could be tweaked to improve the story.

Once Kate had a chance to look over my completed revisions, we went another round, which included a shorter editorial letter and another shorter round of Track Changes before Kate sent the manuscript off to Copyedit. Here, two copyeditors went through line by line and added their own Track Changes to correct any punctuation/grammar/spelling errors MS-Word’s autocorrect didn’t catch, plus they looked for inconsistencies. It was reassuring to know I had three people to catch little mistakes, like when I had a character tell someone on a Saturday night that they’d pick them up for school the next morning. Yes, they are that brilliant!

Is editing a lot of work? Sure. It’s work for the editor and it’s work for the writer, but it’s time well spent because we all want the same thing … the very best version of our book on the shelf.

Less Men, More Merry

This is not your English teacher's Robin Hood.

Okay, yes, so that's what's written on the jacket of my book, but it's so TRUE. This is not the Robin Hood story you know and love. Robin Hood is a subject of cultural fascination for decades--check out this list of pop culture references of Robin Hood--and going into this story and mucking everything up was both kind of risky, but also kind of super fun.

SCARLET's big difference from other Robin Hood stories? Where popular culture had Will Scarlet as Robin's best friend, my story alleges that Will Scarlet was always a girl, named Scarlet, and history just rewrote her into being a boy. So SCARLET tells the story history never really got right.

So yeah, if you can call Robin Hood stories a genre, this was a pretty significant departure from them. But by the same token, it allowed me to play in this totally preexisting world of Medieval England, replete with King Richard the Lionheart, medieval fashion, nobility, swords, and the occasional Arabic influence from the mythic Holy Land. And it allowed me to approach it through the eyes of a really tough girl, a perspective the Robin Hood story has really lacked.

As a kid, I always loved the Robin Hood stories and every iteration of them, but I had a hard time imagining myself into them. I wanted to be Robin, but I was a girl. I think Scarlet is the rare character I would have loved to dream myself into as a kid, and that's, ultimately, what prompted me to write it from that perspective.

The tough thing about writing in a genre or niche that already exists like this is that I just really hope I did it justice and can engage -- and not piss off -- those people who already feel really passionate about Robin Hood and his band. And hopefully they can make a little room for SCARLET!

(And, because this is news within the past couple days, I just HAVE to post my cover on here!!)

There's a trailer, too, but you can check that out over here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Lyrical Long and Short of How I Found My Agent

I am represented by the awesomely brilliant agent-extraordinaire, Jill Corcoran of Herman Agency. My friend and fellow critique group member, author Jacqui Robbins, introduced me to Jill at the SCBWI LA conference in August 2009. At the time, BLIND SPOT was a chaotic mess; I was rewriting it in first person and destroying plot lines (see my post 'Oh The Places I had To Go') and it was nowhere near ready for submission. So I tucked Jill's name away in a list of agents I'd like to query and continued working.

Eight months later, when I felt BLIND SPOT was ready to be seen again by people other than my critique group, I queried two agents who had read all or part of my previous version and had asked to see it again. The first was no longer taking new clients. Bummer. The second, who I'd had a manuscript consultation with at the 2009 SCBWI LA conference, not only requested the full - she asked for an exclusive.

I was oober excited. I'd never been asked for an exclusive and thought this was  a sign that I was on the right track. I tried to focus on a new project while I waited to hear from her. Six weeks later, she sent me a short and sweet email that basically said she loved my writing, enjoyed my novel, but just didn't feel 'connected' enough to the manuscript.

I won't lie. I was disappointed, but I knew from the bizillion agent talks I'd attended over the years, that not feeling a connection didn't mean she thought it was crap. She just wasn't in love with it. I pulled out my agent list and picked the three I wanted to query the most, one of which was Jill. As I prepared my queries, however, I hesitated with Jill's. In her 'what I look for' description she said she liked lyrical writing and I was afraid that wasn't me. Ellen Hopkins and Tracie Vaughn Zimmer - they were lyrical. Me? Not so much. So . . . I shelved Jill's query.

I queried three other agents instead. All three requested partials. All three responded back, again with the 'you are a talented writer but I am just not compelled enough to offer representation.'

That nay-sayer who sits on my shoulder began whispering that maybe my novel sucked, maybe it wasn't ready after all. I had sent in the first chapter for a manuscript consultation at the 2010 SCBWI LA conference - so I told myself I wouldn't query anyone else until after my consultation. I also decided that if I saw Jill again while in LA, I would talk to her, kind of do a mini-pitch, to see if BLIND SPOT might interest her despite its non-lyrical-ness.

I didn't see Jill. However, I did have an awesome consultation. The agent I met with only talked about the positives in BLIND SPOT; she asked me about its history, who had seen it, etc. She asked me what else I wrote; she basically interviewed me, and then asked me to send her the full. I was ecstatic. THIS WAS IT! Woo-hoo! I went home, frantically went over my novel one last time, and then, pressed send.

A few weeks later, I got the very long, very disappointing rejection. She and her assistant had read it, and although there was a lot they loved about it, there were things they just didn't feel worked (which she went into detail about) and, therefore, it was a no. Not a 'fix this and send it back'. Just a no.

I was devastated. I had been so sure that this was it. I felt crushed and deflated. I popped off an email to my critique buds. They all responded with sympathy and support - then helped me wade through what I thought were all negatives, to discover the truth in that long rejection. They helped me see what I needed to fix.

Then Jacqui said, "have you queried Jill yet? I really think she would like this."
 No, I hadn't, I thought. But . .  what the heck? Forget lyrical! I was going to query Jill right now! Well, as soon as I fixed the manuscript.

I powered through the stuff that the other agent had questioned, pulled up the query I had written Jill before but had shelved, and sent it off with my first ten pages. It was September 16th, 2010 at 2:00 pm.
27 minutes later I received an email from Jill requesting the full.

Woo-hoo, I said. Then stopped. I wasn't getting my hopes up this time. And even though she said she didn't want an exclusive because the industry is tough enough for writers these days, I gave her one. Because, who was I kidding? She was going to hate it anyway and then I'd know this novel was just drivel.

October 25th, I found an email from Jill in my inbox, sent at 3:04 am (she's west coast, so that was only midnight for her!): "I am loving BLIND SPOT. 100 pages to go . . ."

Again, I said "woo-hoo!" And again I stopped myself; I'd heard that before.

Same day, 3:21 pm, Jill emailed me: "It is a bit long.....hopefully, you haven't read it for awhile. perhaps you can see if there are any places to cut. I'll be back to you soon."
3:31 pm, she added:  "Man, I'm loving this!"

Hmmm. What was going on here? Did I dare allow myself to hope? I thought about what she said and wanted her to know that I was willing to work at it.
4:07 pm, I responded, saying I had no problem cutting.

4:11 pm, she emailed back: "but there is so much I love, I can't find a thing i want out." Then she listed specifics on a few things maybe I could change . . .

I admit it. I was over-the-top excited now.
4:44 pm: I told her I was going over the specific pages she mentioned, looking at what she had pointed out, seeing what I could cut . . .

4:46 pm she responded: "do that thru the whole ms....and by the way, I MUST REP THIS! Okay, 24 more   pages to go...."

LOVE the way she just slipped that "I must rep this" between 'go through your novel' and  'I am still reading it', don't you?  :)

I signed with her the beginning of November, and did two revisions for her before she started submitting BLIND SPOT in mid-January. By mid-March she'd found the right editor for me - the equally brilliant and awesome editor-extraordinaire, Karen Grove of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Oh and that whole thing about lyrical writing? Turns out, I am a lyrical writer. Jill was referring to writing with rhythm and assonance, simile and metaphor; writing that is poetic but not necessarily poetry. :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Yeah. Why DO I Write YA Paranormal?

Anne here. So I guess we’re taking a look at the question: Why do we write what we write?

My debut (currently titled LIES BENEATH) is not the first novel I ever wrote. I venture that’s true for most of us. The first novel I attempted was adult, historical fiction about the textile workers' strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts. I researched it for years. It took me two years to write. I thought it was so unbelievably awesome!

It wasn’t.

My second novel was adult, commercial fiction. It was better. It got the attention of a few agents, but in the end no one signed me. Then my son, who was 11 at the time, whined that there was “nothing good to read.” So I wrote a MG novel for him, called FOR WEASEL. Something just felt right about writing for a younger audience. My voice clicked. Nothing felt forced like it had before. That “rightness” showed in the writing, and that novel got me my agent (more on that later, August 29!).

My debut, however, is my fourth novel. By the time I got down to writing it, I already knew I was most comfortable in the MG/YA world--not to mention, those were the books I was reading and enjoying myself. So the answer to the first question: Why do I write YA? Because that’s what I read!

Now. Why Paranormal? With LIES BENEATH, it was the setting--not the paranormal element--that came first. Growing up, I spent my summers on Lake Superior. I was always spooked by the saying, “Lake Superior doesn’t give up its dead.” I was also curious about the ancient history of the lake, its enormity, the cliffs, islands, and caves,

its freezing temperatures, and its sudden and surprising storms. It was a no-brainer that my characters would surface from that lake.

So when Calder White, a merman and the only brother in a dysfunctional family of mermaid assassins, stepped up to tell his story, it felt natural and normal--not paranormal at all, actually. The issues he tackles (betrayal, loyalty, insecurity, the need to conform) are issues most teens face. Which, I guess, is why he feels like a guy you might meet on the street, or at the beach, or behind the counter at your local coffee shop. Okay, okay, so maybe he's not your typical guy. He does morph from fin to legs. And admittedly, I didn't know any guys in high school who plotted murders and wrestled with sea creatures, but--c'mon-- aren’t we all just a little paranormal at heart? last thing...why write paranormal? Because it’s super fun to make stuff up!

Friday, July 8, 2011

What's on Your Nightstand? #3

Anne Greenwood Brown:'s technically leaving the nightstand for the bookshelf because I just finished it, but Dawn Metcalf's YA debut, LUMINOUS, was a wonderfully bizarre read.
Gina Damico: I am currently reading MACHINE OF DEATH, edited by Matthew Bennardo, David Malki, and Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics!), which is a collection of short stories based around a single premise: a machine has been invented that is able to accurately predict, with a simple blood sample, the cause of any given person's death. So far it's been sad, hilarious, harrowing, ironic, scary, and above all, thought-provoking. Maybe a little too thought-provoking. I've caught myself staring at a lot of inanimate objects and wondering how they might possibly end up killing me.
Cole Gibsen: I’m reading FALLING UNDER by Gwen Hayes. It’s a deliciously dark look at the dangers of falling in love with a half-demon.
Elisa Ludwig: I'm finally reading THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson—so far it's living up to its hype with memorable characters, a strong voice and lots of vivid detail.
Nicole Maggi: I'm reading RUNAWAY, the 3rd book in Meg Cabot's Airhead series on my Nook and am about to start Sarah Dessen's JUST LISTEN. I'm embarrassed to say I've never read any of Sarah Dessen's books! So I'm excited to start this one!
Danny Marks: A big reading week for me, I finished Veronica Roth's wonderful dystopian, DIVERGENT, but not before sneaking in a quick read of Josh Bazell's BEAT THE REAPER, which was both disturbing and hilarious. I couldn't get enough of it, and read it in a single day (a first for me). I'm currently finagling a little tandem adult/YA action with Gillian Flynn's DARK PLACES (sick) and the incredibly engrossing MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN. I can't tell you how absorbed I am by its weirdness. Or maybe I could. But then I'd have to capture your soul in a photograph and hide it away in a cigar box.
Kathleen Peacock: I was lucky enough to score an ARC of Tera Lynn Child's SWEET VENOM which was awesome and fun. Also, I read THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH and am kicking myself for not having read it sooner because it was flat out amazing.
Gina Rosati: I just finished MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN... such a cool concept to write a story around these very bizarre vintage photos. Told from the POV of 15 year old Jacob Portman, this book would appeal to both girls and boys, ages 10 - adult. It's a little bit of everything, including both contemporary and historical, thriller, fantasy and horror with a tad of romance tossed in for good measure. The ending leaves plenty of room for a sequel, and I predict a movie before too long, too.
Jessica Spotswood: I’m in the middle of Ally Carter’s UNCOMMON CRIMINALS. It’s fast-paced and glam, like a teenage Ocean’s 11. I can’t wait to see how Kat and her friends get themselves out of their current jam.

What about you? What's on your nightstand this week?

Parastormal Activity

Yesterday my friend Brittany and I elected to blow off work/deadlines/common sense and go to a waterpark. Everything went great until a friggin' MONSOON decided to roll in, trapping us like drowned rats in the locker area under a flimsy aluminum tent with dozens of screaming children and their equally panicked parents. We huddled there for a good half hour as the storm passed through, taking tree branches and cabanas with it, while we watched, helpless and shivering, until the rain ended and the employees emerged from their safehouses to calmly inform us battered parkgoers that "The park is closed for the night. Go home."

Anyway, my point is that on the drive back, we got to talking about this here blog and the post that I was to write for today. I told her that it had to do with why I picked the paranormal genre, and when she asked why did I pick it, my answer was that it was more like the genre picked me. "Well, there's your blog post right there," she said. "Now where the hell is the nearest Red Lobster?"

"No no, go back to the blog thing. Fascinating, that."

Several Cheddar Bay Biscuits and crab legs later, I decided that she was right. See, my novel CROAK is about a girl named Lex who turns so delinquent that that she gets sent off to live with her uncle in the Adirondacks for the summer, only to find out that he is a Grim (as in reaper), and that he's going to make her one, too. And he's not the only one - Croak, the town, is full of other Grims, including a group of teenagers just like her who are training in a sort of internship. Instead of fetching coffee, though, they're reaping mortal souls.

Now, I don't know where any of this came from. I was working in a bread store one slow Sunday afternoon and it all just sort of popped into my head. There's nothing remotely morbid or paranormal or deathly about bread (unless you're allergic to gluten, I guess?), but there I was, jotting down Afterlife scenarios amidst a pile of sourdough crumbs.

So as I said, the genre chose me. The more I wrote, the more I liked being able to play around with an invented world that is as real as anything to Lex and her friends. One that lies in secret, invisible enough to the rest of us that it can continue to hum on just underneath the surface and keep the world running as it always has.

My mother sometimes has a problem with all this. "I thought we gave you a very happy childhood, sweetie, with a swingset and pink play house with matching kitchen and everything, and this is what you write about? Death and violence?" She'll then narrow her eyes. "Did something happen to you that you never told me about?" Before she can whip out a doll and instruct me to point at the bad places I shouldn't have been touched, I quickly reassure her that no, nothing happened, Mommm. I just randomly came up with this little nugget of an idea and the entire world mushroomed out of it, almost beyond my control.

Because, seriously, paranormal is fun. It's a blast to imagine what's possible outside the realm of the laws of physics, outside our own experience. We don't know what happens after death, so why not make something up and run with it? Throw some teenagers into the mix? Make it a bit of a dark comedy, because in my opinion you can't write a book about death without a healthy dose of humor? The possibilities are so endless that it's almost a crime not to explore them. I'm still finding new ways to manipulate the world, come up with new devices that will further the plot, and play around with the fundamental laws of our universe. Where else can you get away with all that without either being committed to an insane asylum or getting into a quantum throwdown with Stephen Hawking?

"I'ma rip a black hole in the universe and fling you into it, bitchaz."

So if I may end with something as lame as a metaphor, think of the paranormal genre for me as being kind of like that typhoon that ended my day at the waterpark - I barely saw it coming, had no idea it would be as powerful as it was, and ended up using it to tell a cool story. And, also like my book, I got a raincheck/sequel to use at a later date! Take that, screaming children!