Monday, January 23, 2012

That Beautiful White Page

The blank page seems to be a popular phobia for lots of people—right up there with public speaking and choking on melted cheese. (Okay, so maybe the latter is just me.) Writers and non-writers alike talk of freezing up in the face of all that emptiness. On the other side there are those who swear that the empty page is full of possibility, the freshness of it symbolizing all of their optimism about what this story will be.
I think beginnings should be approached with neither fear nor too much hope. No fear, because you have a delete key. At any point, you can always erase and start over before committing. Or you can start an alternate version. The point is that you are not carving this thing in stone and even if you were you could probably sand it down. Not too much hope because of course you have the best intentions for your writing, but no need to smother the little darling with your expectations like some helicopter parent before it's even out of your head. In the end your writing is always going to be its own thing, hopefully better, but not quite what you initially imagined, so it seems wiser to save yourself the anguish and not get too attached to that ideal now.
No, the best way to start a new piece of writing is to take it as it comes. Slowly but not tentatively. Focused but not closed off to other creative possibilities. Confident in your own skill, but fully aware that a book is a long-ass journey and there will be some rough spots along the way. Pace yourself. The middle and the end are yet to come.


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My debut young adult novel PRETTY CROOKED (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins) will be released in March. Even though I had to extensively research pickpocketing techniques to write it, I remain a law-abiding citizen. I live in Philadelphia with my husband Jesse and cat Beau a.k.a. Bread. When I'm not writing for teens, I'm cooking and/or writing about food for The Philadelphia Inquirer and other publications.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Jess's Favorite First Lines

This week we're talking about first lines, so I thought I'd take a look at some of my favorites. These are the first three that came to mind, two new favorites and a perennial one:

Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. -- GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell

This tells us straightaway that our heroine knows how to get what she wants. She's not conventionally pretty but she can make men think she is. Scarlett O'Hara is canny, in an era where clever women are not respected or appreciated; she has to manipulate men to get what she wants because she has precious little agency of her own.

I've confessed to everything and I'd like to be hanged.
Now, if you please. -- CHIME by Franny Billingsley

This immediately has the reader asking, Good Lord, what did the narrator do that she thinks is so awful? Why does she feel she deserves to be hanged? People usually have a healthier sense of self-preservation. This sets up Briony's self-hatred but also her impatience. It's a curious and intriguing combination, just like our narrator.

It starts with a crack, a sputter, and a spark. The match hisses to life. -- THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab

Read this one aloud, please. It has a gorgeous sound to it, like the rest of the book -- fitting for a book that explores the power of stories and myths. It's the sort of story you'd like to read out loud in a dark room by candle-light, and that's what the narrator's doing here at the very beginning, isn't she? It's perfect.

What are some of your favorite first lines? Tell me in the comments.

Jessica Spotswood is the author of BORN WICKED, the first book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, coming Feb. 7, 2012 from Putnam. She likes reading stories about independent girls who still get in a fair amount of swoony kissing, so that's what she tries to write. She lives in Washington, DC with her playwright husband and a cuddly cat named Monkey.


Currently on her nightstand: GILT by Katherine Longshore




Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stop Online Piracy Act - Blackout

In support of the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) blackout, I'm giving you only the dry bones ... The SOPA bill, which was introduced in November, gives Internet Service Providers the power to deny us access to sites that host any copyrighted material. To give an idea of how devastating SOPA would be, sites that would be taken down would be: YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, WordPress, CheezBurger, Vimeo ... virtually all online social media would be removed. You would not be able to read this blog because Blogger would also be taken down.  
 
Here's the actual bill:

             
Here's how to write your government officials and let them know what you think:




Monday, January 16, 2012

To Infinity and Beyond

Or, what I think of trends and what I want to see more of.


Before I looked at writing as a business, I was only a reader. YA wasn't what it is now with endless books and beautiful covers. It was this tiny shelf on the library mostly covered with Animorphs, Nancy Drew and The Babysitter's Club. It seemed like overnight Young Adult because this massive life force and one of the biggest sellers in the market. All of a sudden everyone starts thinking of trends. It is a big giant TREND crazy train. Vampires, werewolves, were-unicorns, zombies, witches, bears, monkeys with infectious diseases taking over the planet, mermaids, steampunk.

We put so much effort in finding the next trend that we forget to write the stories we love. In my unprofessional and nobody-asked-me opinion, trends should kiss my sparkling mermaid ass. For writers who want to get published so bad it keeps them awake at night, this is the best way to make a career. Write what you love and it'll show in your story. Don't keep chasing trends. Make your story new and give it your own personal brand of awesome.

That being said, there are some things I would like to see more in YA in general. Not as a trend, but as an underrepresented group. And I will do it using images and let you all come up with the answers to my twisted brain.





trendless like, 

Zoraida 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

For Love of Fans

So this week's topic is THE FUTURE OF YA. Seriously. All in caps. Very intimidating. It's like when you're in high school and someone asks what you plan to do after graduation.



And I guess the logical thing would be to talk about trends but, honestly, I'm a bit rubbish at them (if I followed trends, I probably wouldn't have written a werewolf book when I did).

Instead, I thought I'd share two of my hopes for the future of YA--not in terms of trends or markets but in terms of fan engagement and appreciation.

More bonus material for fans. I love that authors like Myra McEntire and Cassandra Clare post bonus scenes for fans and I think it's something we'll see more and more of--especially from authors whose work lends itself to fandom. As the popularity of ebooks continues to grow, I think we'll also see an increase in books with bonus content built right in.

More attention to fan art. While not every book will have fans who create art inspired by its story and characters, I think it's great for authors to acknowledge that level of dedication when it does exist. I positively love it when I see authors tweet pics of fan art (Cassandra Clare is amazing at this) and I'm eagerly awaiting the results of fellow Apocalypsie K.M. Walton's CRACKED trailer contest. Seriously, guys, there are readers out there who love certain books so much that they create fanvids for them. How incredible is that? I am continuously awed by how amazing readers are.

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As a teenager,Kathleen wanted to marry George Lucas in order to gain full access to Skywalker Ranch. Her first website was a Sailor Moon shrine. She is one of only ten people who taped the 1997 Doctor Who movie. Her debut, HEMLOCK, will be published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, on May 8, 2012. Visit her website at www.kathleenpeacock.com.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Laura's Crystal Ball: The Future of YA

Our theme this week is 'The Future of YA' and I have to admit, I was dreading writing this post. It's not that I don't have amy opinions on the subject, because I do. It's that too often people ask this question because they are eager to write to the trends, and that, my friend, is the wrong thing to do. Not only because by the time you write to what is hot, it just isn't hot anymore, but  more so because if you aren't writing what you're passionate about, then what you're writing won't be passionate either.

When I was first working on BLIND SPOT, I had a critique with an editor who told me to take all the supernatural elements out of the book because it wasn't working with the plot -- and then she made the comment that "no one really wants to read that stuff anymore". While her instincts were dead on about my plot (it is so much better without the supernatural aspect in it) I often chuckle about her comment because by the time my book finally got picked up for publication, that 'stuff' had actually become hot!

In fact, when I first got serious about getting published and I began attending writing conferences, I was always one of maybe two or three writers writing YA. Everyone else was writing picture books. But I never once thought I should abandon my novels for PBs. Now it seems the oppposite is true -- everyone I meet at conferences writes YA and very few write picture books. I know a lot of picture book writers however and they haven't stopped simply because the market has slowed.

My point is this: write what works for you -- write what you love. Don't write what someone, somewhere has said is the upcoming trend.

Now that I have said that. . . The future of YA? Okay, okay. I 'll dive in -- 

I think there will be a trending towards more contemporary espionage-thriller-mystery-type novels and a slowing of the lycanthropic-type novels that are on the market now -- with the exception of paranormal-esque mysteries. I think gothics may be on the rise.

I also think middle grade is really going to explode soon, so the books that are MG/YA crossovers will be big -- books that have a lot of action and adventure and personality, books with complex plots that the advanced MG reader wants, but with a lot less edge and sexuality.

That's my two cents. Spend it wisely!

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What if a classmate went missing right after you fought with her at a party and she was later found dead? What if you couldn't remember anything after that fight? Not even how you got home? Would you tell the police the truth? Or would you lie about what you remember until you could find out what really happened that night?

16-year-old Roswell Hart finds herself in this very predicament in Laura Ellen's YA thriller, BLIND SPOT (October 23, 2012, Harcourt Children's Books)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Books I'm Eagerly Anticipating in 2012

There are SO many great books coming out this year that I'm a little worried that I might just permanently have my Nook stuck to my face. Aside from all of The Apocs' books, here are a few I'm excited to read.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
(January, Dutton)

Well, who isn't anticipating this book, really? I kind of feel like it goes without saying.





Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator by Josh Berk
(March, Knopf)

I loved The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin—it was hilariously funny, the characters were super memorable and the mystery was quite compelling—so I'm really looking forward to seeing what Josh Berk has done with his second release.



The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
(January, Disney-Hyperion)

The premise for this dystopian—a mysterious virus sweeps an island and the protagonist must figure out how to stop it—sounds amazing and dark in exactly the way I like.



Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
(February, Knopf)

I've read a lot of buzz about this book, about a girl who goes chasing after a mysterious graffiti artist. Now that it's finally getting published in the U.S., I will definitely be delving into it.






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My debut young adult novel PRETTY CROOKED (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins) will be released in March. Even though I had to extensively research pickpocketing techniques to write it, I remain a law-abiding citizen. I live in Philadelphia with my husband Jesse and cat Beau a.k.a. Bread. When I'm not writing for teens, I'm cooking and/or writing about food for The Philadelphia Inquirer and other publications. I'm a proud member of The Apocalypsies.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Jess's Most Anticipated for 2012

I can't choose between all of the amazing Apocalypsies debuting in 2012, but here are 10 of my most-anticipated books from established authors coming out this year. Mark your calendars!

1. FEVER by Lauren DeStefano, sequel to WITHER (Feb 21)
2. PERCEPTION by Kim Harrington, sequel to CLARITY (March 1)
3. THE SPRINGSWEET by Saundra Mitchell, companion to THE VESPERTINE (April 17)
4. MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH by Bethany Griffin (April 24)
5. BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore, companion to GRACELING & FIRE (May 1)
6. FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS by Diana Peterfreund (June 12) (I've already read this and it is crazy-amazing-awesome!)
7. THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers (June 19)
8. the sequel to DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE by Laini Taylor (fall)
9. the sequel to THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin (fall)
10. DEARLY, BELOVED by Lia Habel, sequel to DEARLY, DEPARTED (fall)

And, just for fun:

Most-anticipated album: FALLEN EMPIRES by Snow Patrol (January 10!)
Most-anticipated movie: THE HUNGER GAMES (March 23)

What about you? What are you looking forward to in 2012?

Jessica Spotswood is the author of BORN WICKED, the first book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, coming Feb. 7, 2012 from Putnam. She likes reading stories about independent girls who still get in a fair amount of swoony kissing, so that's what she tries to write. She lives in Washington, DC with her playwright husband and a cuddly cat named Monkey.


Currently on her nightstand: HARBINGER by Sara Wilson Etienne




Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Most Anticipated...Blank

Happy New Year, peoples!

We're talking about junk we anticipate in 2012...like so...



Comment, or the puppy gets it!

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Danny Marks (that's him over there and up there) is the author of the upcoming YA debut, Velveteen (not pictured because it doesn't have a cover, though he's seen one and it's driving him to the mental ward that he can't show it to you yet) which comes out in the fall of 2012.

He's currently reading THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME by Donald Ray Pollock, and listening to CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Welcome 2012!


Oh, hello 2012 … I’ve been waiting for you! Not just sitting-waiting, but busy-waiting - writing, writing and then …

2010 was the year Auracle sold.

2011 was the year to revise Auracle and meet my amazing and talented fellow 2012 debut authors in the Apocalypsies and Class of 2k12 debut author groups. 2011 was also the year to start meeting all of the wonderful readers, book bloggers, librarians and booksellers who have been showering so much love on us fledgling authors and our books.

But now you’re here, 2012, and even though there are still places to go, people to meet, things to do with Auracle, it’s time to flesh out that outline I’ve been working on, so here’s one of my resolutions for 2012 ~




Yes, this is my actual mousepad although it’s white, not pink - I custom ordered it at a kiosk at the Sanrio store at the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua, NH because I love all things Kuromi and that’s the first thing that popped into my head when I made it. And it’s not that I spend hours on Facebook, but still, that’s time I should be writing.

Some of my other 2012 resolutions:

-          My goal this year is to read as many of our Apocalypsies’ books as I can, so - Never, ever leave the house without a book! That’s the time the car will break down and I’ll spend an hour waiting for AAA to show up … time I could have been reading!

-          The internet is a black hole of wasted time. Save myself.

-          Do the laundry before I run out of clean fuzzy socks.

-          As my son pointed out, it doesn’t hurt to have a contingency plan in the event of an Apocalypse, Zombie or otherwise.

-          It’s perfectly acceptable to leave the computer for a ten minute walking break twice a day. In fact, it’s encouraged.

-          Put. Down. The Cupcake. And the cookie. And that candy bar too.

-          There must be over 1,000 pens in my house … find one that works and leave it on my desk.

-          Find that balance between writer, author, wife, mom, housekeeper, cook, friend, human.

-          Breathe.

 I wish you all a happy, healthy 2012.  


Gina Rosati is the author of the YA paranormal romance AURACLE (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan - August 7, 2012). She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, two teenagers and two hyper guinea pigs, Lily and Fiona. Come visit her at www.ginarosati.com

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Writer's Resolutions to Stay Sane in 2012


The new year always brings to mind ambitious resolutions like exercising every day, eating healthier, quitting smoking/drinking, losing weight, etc. And while these are all noble goals, they are the kinds of resolutions that usually fail within the first month. Why? Because we’re HUMAN. We like food and drink, and exercise is boring! Seriously, though, this year I want to make some resolutions that I’ll actually keep, particularly resolutions that have to do with the writing life, as I find that writing can breed behavior that is compulsive, neurotic, self-absorbed, perfectionistic, and at times, even destructive.

So in an effort to be a healthier person and a saner writer this year, here are my top writing resolutions for 2012:

  1. Waste less time on the internet. There are certain internet tasks that are necessary and productive for a writer—building a fan base, supporting colleagues’ blogs, studying craft and industry news. But there comes a point at which it all seems too much. I find that after an hour or so, my eyes start to glaze, my shoulders begin to ache, and I become anxious and twitchy for no reason at all. There is the temptation to think if you’re not checking in multiple times a day that you’re going to miss something vital or that if you’re not blogging or tweeting daily no one is going to read your book. Reality check: you are not a tweeter or blogger or sales person; you are a writer. Note to self: stop obsessing.
  2. And on that note, stop checking Goodreads and Amazon reviews too. I read somewhere that a writer shouldn’t read any reviews, good or bad. The good ones leave you feeling complacent OR so eager to please your fan base that you might pander to them in your next book. And we all know the havoc bad reviews can wreak. So, how to stop reading them? It takes tremendous will power, but let’s face it: when you read reviews, are you hoping to find constructive criticism that will make you a better writer? No, you’re hoping to find some validation that what you wrote is good, that your story connected with someone. But didn’t you already get this validation from your publishing house? Your family and friends? Readers who took the time to email you personally? The main thing to remember about reviews is they are subjective and can be motivated by a host of factors that have nothing to do with you or the quality your book. As my husband keeps reminding me, there is no accounting for taste. I know I won’t always follow through on this resolution, but I’m going to keep reminding myself that reviews are meant for other readers, not for writers. Reading the good ones is self-indulgent and reading the bad ones, masochistic. Just walk away.
  3. Get out of the house. When I’m in the thick of drafting or even in an intense round of editing, I have a tendency to spend hours on end in front of my laptop drinking coffee, barely even breaking for meals or to say hi to my husband. What I’ve found these past few months is that this cannot go on forever without some repercussions to your relationships, health, sanity, or the size of your butt. My goal is not to start running five miles a day or to do yoga daily (although this might help my stress level), but just to rejoin the living by taking a walk, meeting a friend for coffee, or taking a weekend trip with my husband EVEN IF it means I’ll finish copyedits two days later. I’ll bet no one says on her deathbed, “I wish I had met more deadlines.”

What are your most practical resolutions for 2012?
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Eve Marie Mont is the author of A Breath of Eyre (Kensington/KTeen, March 2012), the first in a trilogy about a girl who gets lost, literally, in her favorite books. Please stop by her website for more info, news, and updates.