Friday, July 30, 2010

Interview with Brendan Halpin

Remember my blog contest was extended to MONDAY August 2!  There's still time to enter and you can get more point by tweeting about it more than once.  You aslo get 3 points for referring someone to the blog.

One of the MYSTERY Boxes will contain The Half Life of Planets.  As you know by now I loved this books. 

I contacted Brendan Halpin about the book and asked him if I could include use all my geeky questions as an interview for my blog.  He very nicely said yes.

A little background on Brendan, he used to be a teacher and wrote a memoir on teaching.  He left teaching to write full time.  He's written 9 books.

Losing My Faculties: A Teacher's Story   

How Ya Like Me Now

Donorboy: A Novel

Dear Catastrophe Waitress

Forever Changes

It Takes a Worried Man

Long Way Back

I Can See Clearly Now

Two of Us

Please check out his blog. 

ME: My biggest fear is that in my book(s) get published and my school system fires me. Was that a concern of yours?  

BH: I was kind of concerned when the books came out about people reading them and what they might think.  When I did my tell-all book about teaching, I disguised the names of the districts and people, and while people who saw themselves in the book were mightily pissed, the place where I worked didn't care about it at all.  I think, sadly, it takes a lot of effort to get people to read your books, and if you don't tell people about them, they may not even know.  I don't toot my own horn about it too much at work because I don't want people I work with to think I'm all "ooo, I'm a wriiiiiiter!".  Even though I kind of am like that.  But I don't want anybody to think I'm like that.  

ME: How did you finally take that leap of leaving teaching and writing full time?

BH: And I actually did leap back into teaching two years ago. I work in a nonprofit with 18-24 year olds now, so I'm no longer teaching high school, but full time writing is a tough thing to pay your bills with.  Also I got kind of squirrely not seeing people all day.  Also I needed an excuse for not doing as much housework as I should, and being out of the house for 9 hours at a time is a pretty good one.  Whereas being in the house all day and still not cleaning is a bit tough to explain to the spouse. 

ME: How much research did you have to do to create Hank or was he based off of someone in your own life?   

BH: So I do have a close family friend with Aspergers that I've known since birth.  Hank isn't really modeled on him, but I guess inspired by him.

ME:How long does it take you to write a novel, on average?

BH: When I was writing full time, it took me about three months to write a novel. Now it takes significantly longer than that. 

ME:What novel was your personal favorite?

BH: Which novel was my favorite-- you mean of the ones I've written?  I don't know.  I mean, I probably liked the characters in Donorboy the most.  And I like the ending of Long Way Back the most.  And Forever Changes is the only one that doesn't have a single sentence that makes me cringe when I re-read it. 

ME: How was it working with a co writer?  Did you flesh out the plot ahead of time? How did that whole thing work?  Was it as lonely as writing a book, was it nice to have someone to talk to or was there more pressure to "get it right?"  Was it easier because you had only had half of the book to write? 

Working with a co-writer is cool-we kind of sketched out the general plan ahead of time and then just traded chapters.  We have pretty different working styles--Emily is a planner and I'm an improvisor, so I think it was a good stretch for both of us.  Also, with working full-time, owing someone a chapter is a pretty good motivator to get some writing done, so that fit very well with my current life.  It's definitely nice in that it's not as lonely as writing on your own.  And yeah, I guess it's easier to write only half a book.  But then you have to split the paycheck, and that's kind of painful.

I want to thank Brendan Halpin for his time and for being awesome.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Self doubt and cutting meaningless words.

Who wants a mystery box, it's guaranteed to have a VERY awesome book, more awesome books and a secret surprise...  Check out my contest in celebration for 50 followers.

Thursdays: On Writing

self doubt in revision.
So I write.

I won't call myself a writer or an author.  I"m not sure if I'm looking to make writing my career but I do think it was very awesome to get published.

I'm revising.  I'm on the 12 draft.  My process goes a little somehing like this.  I write. I sent it to my betas, Alicia, Danielle, and Cid. I change EVERYTHING they say I should change, or add more detail to or whatever.  Then I send them the next draft and I do it again.

A few days ago I TOTALLY rewrote my first chapter.  I sent it to Cid.  I won't do much more until I get her feedback.


I don't really trust myself at all.  Look I can fix your story no problem, I just can't fix my own. 

Revising is awful, because now I have to look at EVERY WORD in my novel and justify it's existence.

I'm not trying to be a bummer about it.

I AM trying to find something SUPER awesome about it.

My new favorite thing about revising is CUTTING USELESS WORDS.

Oh how I love it.  No self doubt there.

So I compiled a list of WEAK words from various places.  I did a find all, and wrote the number down.  Next I did a find NEXT and looked at EVERY time I used that word.  I decided if the word should stay or go.  Lots of times I cut WHOLE sentences because I didn't say a damn thing in it. 
There were 1299 empty words at the start of this.  I got it down to 600.   In a 74K novel--- not too shabby.  And it's a way to feel INSTANTLY productive. 

That 400 down to 200
Just- 49-- 18
Pretty 12 -6
Then 53- 28
Was…ing--- 205 ---58
Went 69 -- 25
Get 304- 172
Got 209- 139
Would 264
 Have 255
 had 409
make 88-- 50
go 137- 63
could 209
do 214
Felt 33-13
Heard 49
Saw 31 - 9
Looked 98- 27
Appeared 29
 knew 53
As you can see, I haven't done it for every word, nor will I.   But the novel is MUCH stronger for it.

Go, do it.   You'll thank me later.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Contest News:

First off MY CONTEST!  

I will be extending my contest until MONDAY August 2.

Why? Because I still need to buy the stuff for the boxes and the amazon gift cards haven't arrived at my house yet.  LAME. So I still need to order some stuff.   I don't want the prize winners to wait for a long time to get their boxes.  But needless to say,  there's going to be some very cool stuff in there.

PLUS a crit of your first three chapters.  Lots of awesome.  Promise.

AND instead of points per comment you've posted on MY  blog-- because yes, that is annoying.  You can get points PER TWEET.  So if you really want a mystery box, tweet the crap out of it.   Or SHAMELESS promote it on your blog.  (every time you mention it I'll give you another two points)
But you MUST include the link.

  • You get 2 points if your are a current follower
  • You get 1 point if you are a new follower (please say who referred you)
  • You get 1 point following me on Twitter. (I''ll follow you too!)   My Twitter Button has been FIXED!
  • You get 3 points for referring someone to the blog.
  • You get 1 point for posting this contest on your blog (you get 1 point for EVERY Mention too)
  • You get 1 point for tweeting about the contest. (you get 1 Point for every tweet.)
  • You get 1 point for adding it up and doing the right math too. 
If you already posted your score, that's cool, you can go back and add more points to it.  

Also there is a BUTT Load of AWESOME contests happening RIGHT NOW!  Why Twitter isn't flooded and crashing with blog contest I don't know.

Other Blogs

1) Rose Cooper - a new follower to this blog, has just about the most amazing layout design for her blog and is doing an art give away.  Now what you might not know about me is I'm a comic book geek.  Her art reminds me a lot of Jhonen Vasquez.  Very cool.  
So go check out her super awesome give away.

2) Larissa World just hit 100 followers Yay Her!  One day I'll be there too.  There's a bunch of ARC up for grabs.  yay.  BTW in case anyone is a HUGE dork like me and DOESN'T know what an ARC is, it's the Advanced Reader Copy, yep it took me WAY too long to figure that out.

3) Sarah Enni is doing a summer giveaway!!! But it ends TONIGHT!  Go check it out.  She has one of the nicest blogs I've ever seen.

4) Blue Lipstick Samurai hit 50 followers too.  YAY her.  She also racked them up MUCH faster than I did.  Not that I'm jealous or anything.  She also has a pretty cool blog and it's one of my faves.   Signed copies of good stuff and CANDY!

Other shameless promotion, my very good friend Meg has a blog.  Instead of posting her tales of writing, she posts her writing.  She's writing a book a Claire, God's klutzy prophet who doesn't like her job because let's face it, being a prophet is a HUGE pain in the ass.   

For every 10 followers she gets, Meg will donate money to cancer research.  Seriously 1 click will make a HUGE difference.  Please go check that out!

Road Trip Wednesday- Best book of July

This week's question is, what was the best book you've read in the month of July.

Oh that's the easiest question EVER.

 I LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED this book.  I wrote a review on it here.  

Long review short I gave it 11 out of 10--- for the record I gave The HUNGER GAMES a 7.  So yeah.
It's about a girl who has a reputation for kissing boys and gives up kissing boys as a science experiment.  Then she meets Hank, she thinks he's cool and mysterious like an artist but really he has aspbergurs. 

I loved this book SO much Friday I'm posting an interview with the author. 

I loved this book so much, one of the MYSTERY boxes will be containing it!

What's a MYSTERY BOX?  Well, it's a cool prize you could WIN if you enter my contest in celebration for my 50 followers.  (55 now!) 
Go enter!  

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

YouTube- it's not cute animals anymore

click over to see my contest! You could win a MYSTERY BOX.

Pop Culture Tuesday

So there's this website called YouTube.  Have you heard of it?  Yeah you've seen cute videos of cats falling off of things or a skateboarding dog.  Whatever, it's not like it a legit form of entertainment, right?

My dears you are SO very wrong.  
Here's the thing, if you're reading this blog chances are you either, A know me personally, (Hi Mom) or B want to write something, most likely YA lit. 

Many people who write YA do not have the profound pleasure of hanging around teenagers 10 months out of the year... sucks to be you.  

No most YA author's have their own kids or are in their mid 20's and are trying to recall that horrific time in their lives when everything sucked and your friends betrayed you and your skin exploded and no one want to date you because you didn't have boobs.  Or that could have been my teenage experaince. 

Anyway for most people teenagers out of their social group (and they should be, it fraking creepy to be 31 with a moragage and a kid hanging out at pharm party or a texting party.) 

So how can you get to know what a teenager is really like?  There's the internet and YouTube.  

Here's what you need to know, there's LOTS of videos out there on YouTube but I'm going to talk about four YouTubers.  

Shane Dawson, he's young, funny, dresses up in a lot of his videos, isn't censored, wears too much red lipstick and has over  1.7 MILLION SUBSCRIBERS!   Subscribers aren't people who watch 1 video and are done with you, they watch TONS of videos.
Most of them are, yep you guessed it TEENAGERS.  Watching his a video and you'll see why. 
Are you writing a wacky male lead?  Shane Dawson is a great reference.

Next person I want to talk about it IJustine.  First off, she's beauitful, her lips are shiny and her hair is perfect and she must be every geek fanasity girl.  She does these cute wacky videos and here's the thing, SHE DOES THEM.  She's clever and funny and TECHIE!  She also has over a Million subscribers.  She's a LIFECASTER which means she vlogs constantly.  I subscribed to her yesterday and she's already posted 4 vidoes. 

Shane and Ijustine are doing with the cameras what network TV can't do.  Maintain Viewership.  

These two also sometimes play to the lowest common demomnater.

Charlie does not.  He's smart, young, completely lost and British.  He has a brain in his head and isn't sure exactly how to use it.  

Lastly it's emlfiy. She's geeky, she's smart, she's quirky.  She's also highly entertaining.  She's me in high school.  She also has the least amount of videos and the least followers.  

You Tube is Legit.  Kids/teenagers are creating interesting and entertaining content out there.  You're future readers are watching it.  

Time to face it, the internet isn't going away.  Fraking awesome!

Monday, July 26, 2010

50 Followers Celebration!!

50 followers celebrations!  Woot! 

Time for a contest

Prizes to be won

Top three people will receiving MYSTERY BOXES but it will contain at least ONE of the following books, Half Life of Planets, Will Grayson Will Grayson and The Graveyard Book.  My top three favorite books of 2010. Then you will also receive a bunch of other SURPRISE books.  Ooohhhh aaahhhhh.  Maybe a writing journal and maybe a gift card to Starbucks.   Not every box will contain all the prizes.  But still pretty cool, right?

Plus a critique of the first 3 chapters of whatever your working on.  Please note I will obviously NOT be checking for spelling or grammar, because if you've been reading this blog, you'll see I suck at both.
How do I win such kick ass stuff?

Point system 
But you MUST include the link.

  • You get 2 points if your are a current follower
  • You get 1 point if you are a new follower (please say who referred you)
  • You get 1 point following me on Twitter. (I''ll follow you too!)   My Twitter Button has been FIXED!
  • You get 3 points for referring someone to the blog.
  • You get 1 point for posting this contest on your blog (you get 1 point for EVERY Mention too)
  • You get 1 point for tweeting about the contest. (you get 1 Point for every tweet.)
  • You get 1 point for adding it up and doing the right math too. 
If you already posted your score, that's cool, you can go back and add more points to it.
Leave your score in the comment section below.  You can post your score more than once but only your top score will be accepted.

CONTEST ENDS Monday August 2 @ 5 PM EST. 

plastic and heat two things that don't play well together

Welcome to the new version of my blog.  See nothing really changed at all.


Today's post was going to be about Silly Bandz, but that will wait for next week.

Because tonight I nearly had a "melt" down. <--- it's a funny joke and you'll see why.

I was cooking dinner, I had everything shockingly well planned out.   I say shockingly because I never have plan.  I was going to cook the fancy potato chip thingies for 15 minutes in 450 degrees and flip them over and put the chicken in.

Then my daughter peed on the floor. We're potty training and it's not going well.

So while hubby was upstairs dealing with her, I'm in the kitchen. I have my favorite tongs (black plastic and OXO)  ready to flip my chips.  I use tongs because I'm not successful with any other product.

I open the oven, the heat punches me in the face.  And the tongs fall out of my hands and slid perfectly under the racks.  Impossible to reach. And I can't find the metal tongs.  I scream and grab yep a BIG Spoon.

My hubby comes down, because I'm panicking and screaming.  He then yells in my face (btw my hubby is the calmest man on the planet) to stop panicking.  I got back and this time I find the metal tongs I hand it to him and poof he pulls out the melty gooey tongs.

Our oven has two blobs and one long line  of plastic.  Insert expletives here.

I stare at it.  He walks away to deal with our daughter.  I have no idea what to do.  I go to the internet.  Surely I can't be the only one who has done this.

On a side note:  Look at the third option and wonder under what circumstances this would EVER happen.

Google said to use heat.  HEAT really?  That's what got me into this mess.

Heat does work, your oven needs to be 200 degrees.  You need to leave the door open.  You need a brillo pad (and a hubby who's willing to go out and buy you brillo pads).  You need a metal spatial and you need to scrub, cry and pray.  You will inhale a crap load of toxic fumes and you're mouth will taste funny for a few hours.

Oh and the biodegradable good for the environment oven clearer Eff- up my oven more than the plastic did.   Damn hippies.

Here's where I win Mom of the year.  Still fed my family (cooked the chicken on the grill, and the chips were a little cold) and played with my daughter.

Yay I just got my 50 followers!!! The contest will start sometime later on today!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

New Plan for the blog. I'm sure you all care.

In an effort to avoid writing/revising I've opted to blog. 
I' ve decided right now to change up how I blog and I've put ZERO thought into it, so it should be good.

Mondays will be about Mom and life stuff. 
Tuesdays will be Pop Culture
Wendesdays will be whatever YA Highway decides
Thursday will be either about writing or mid week links
Friday will be either cool or funny, depending on what I feel like writing. 

BTW I totally love the new Blogger Beta,  it's so purrrty.  Down fall, you can not load pictures directly from your hard drive-- lame.  Blogger you fail for making me do extra steps. 

Although I predict the Stats feature will make me feel insecure  and borderline insane as I obsessively check it every ten minutes.  

Since there's not much to this post, I figured I would put a few pictures I took on vacation.

Hubby, daughter and I went to Longwood Gardens on the last day of vacation.  There was a children's water garden and it's pretty much the most whimsical thing I've ever seen.  

The attention to detail was incredible and if I was a fantasy writer I would be inspired by this.

Look it's a bird fighting a snake, on a gate.  The gate protects a tiny door.  What's behind the door?  A tiny world of gnome or is that where TV shows that get canceled go?  Who knows?  Maybe the snake and the bird do, but they're not being very fore coming with the information.

Ok remember when I said a few paragraphs ago that this was a children's garden?  Check out the center piece.

That's the scariest thing in the world!  It's Falcore on crack and he's coming to eat you.  Luck Dragon my ass.

The  picture below is to give you a sense of scale. The girl in the yellow bathing suit is my 2 and half year old daughter who's freakishly tall for her age.


Ok enough stalling on my part, I'm off to edit. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Funniest thing you have ever written

So here are the funniest bits from my novels.

Funniest things I've written No System At All

Set up: Colin is talking to his idol, the bass player of NEO, Evan Porter.

Evan lifted the lid off of his cup and frowned. With one smooth motion, he threw it into a nearby trashcan, scattering a swarm of bees. “You want to be professional musician, don’t you?”


“I’ve heard this story a thousand times, the precise moment that inspires a kid to take the leap from screwing around to turning pro. Hmm. Word to the wise: the competitions is heartless, the hours suck, the money’s worse, and there comes a time in every touring musician’s life where he has to shit in a bag.”


“You’ll shit in a bag and hopefully it’s a plastic one.”

The boys of No System at All are on their first tour, in New England, in January. Sleeping in their van got old, so they started asking their fans if they can sleep on their floor.

At day ten, Bryce snapped and in between song begged the audience if they could crash on their floor. “Any takers please see me at the merch booth.” Bryce ignored all the glares from his bandmates, he was cold, tried and hungry and mostly sick of sleeping in the damn van. Much to his surprised, a college chick home on winter break, took them up on the offer. Even better, she was hot, she wore a little too much eye make-up but had a cute curvy body. Her house was the same size as Bryce’s. Their benefactor let the rest of the band sleep in the living room, Bryce spent the night in her bedroom. In the morning she made them breakfast.

Bryce tried his luck again a second night, this time Colin was the winner of night stay in a cute girl’s bed. They got breakfast again. They came to the conclusion, “if you do a good job, the girls will cook you breakfast.”

Dave pointed out a flaw in their plan, “What if we stay at some dude’s house?”

Bryce and Colin caught each other’s eye. The lead singer said, “we’ll hit up a Dunkin Donuts on the way to the next venue.

New York Karma:

Stephanie and Spencer are talking about the important things.

Before I fell into another trap, I changed the subject. “What superhero had the most unbelievable origin story?"

"The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Their entire origin was based off of gross incompetence by New York City's Public Works. First off, how does a rat learn karate? Then what pet shop pours its unsold turtles down a drainage pipe? It makes you wonder what happened to the unsold puppies. Then who the hell drops radioactive ooze and doesn't report it? The CDC should have been swarming that place. Besides, 'ooze' is a verb not a noun. Most annoying, how do you get a California surfer accent in the sewers of New York?"

Her outrage was damn near the cutest thing about her. "So you didn't like them?"

"No, I loved them. Come on. Stupidity aside, they were Teenage. Mutant. Ninja. Turtles. What's not to love? I own all the movies on DVD and watch them once a year. On TMNT Day. It’s a holiday in my house, I don't go to work, I eat pizza and hit people with a Bo Staff."

I didn't think it was possible for her to get cooler then she already was.

“If it wasn’t for those turtles, most Americans might not have heard of the great Renaissance painters. It’s sort of sad if you think about it too much.”

Penny and Hank--- I wrote this a month ago and I've completely forgotten everything in this story. I'm sure there are funnier parts in the book somewhere.
Hank is talking a Ashley, a popular girl he doesn't like or trust.

She wrapped her arm around mine. She was touching me. How alarming and very violently. I yanked and side stepped out of her grip. She glared at the space I created. Her ice face melted into wet sugar. “I know a little secret.”

Was I supposed to care? I’m sure she knew lots of things I didn’t know, like the warning signs of herpes out break. But I kept that thought to myself.

So dear readers, what is your funniest bit?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

midweek links- stronger writing

Ok I'm trapped in revision hell, something I'll write about more next week.

Be better today than you were yesterday. Every draft should be stronger, every novel should be better than the last.

But how, it's so hhhhhhaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrdddddd(that's what she said)

Here's a few down and dirty ways to be a stronger writer and write that break out novel.
I'm stealing most of these from Amparo Ortiz.

Sarah Davies on her blog posted 6 elements to have in your break out book.

An Inspired Concept

Larger than life characters

High Stakes

A deeply felt out theme

Vivid Setting

The mystery ingredient

Good stuff over there.

Here's some great stuff about the drafting process, here's a hint, if you ever on the fence about cutting something and you think, "But wait!" CUT IT. It's fluff.

Veronica Roth did a great post on this, go check it out.

Grammar girl has a useful article about writing clear sentences. Because remember you aren't writing a story, you're writing sentences.

Lots of times I do a seek and destroy... I mean a find and replace for useless and empty words. But I don't replace them, I go through every example and chose if each word stays. Its tedious and time consuming and boring as all hell, but I've been doing this for four days and I've cut at least 1000 unless, meaningless words.

here is the best MS word trick I've learned. You know how writing a sentence like, "he was walking to the store" makes you the worse writer in the world, because the sentence should be he WALKED to the store. Was and a ing verb is apparently horrible writing and MUST BE CUT.
In all seriousness why use two words when one will do. So here's a KICK ASS way of using MS Word and the find and replace feature.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

YA highway Road Trip wedensday: biggest hits

This Week's Topic:
Give us a link to the best blog post you've ever written!

This is my personal favorite, I think it's funny and tragic. It's called How To Lose an Agent in 30 Seconds.
Part 1
Part 2

I posted this back when I had a layout that wouldn't allow comments.

Also I wondered what it would be like to be an extra on The FreshBeat Band.

Then there was the punk in my neighborhood who stole the batteries out of my light up wreath at Christmas time.

These blogs are my favorites because they make me laugh and they were the most fun to write.

NEWS: did you see I have 48 followers?
When I hit 50, it's contest time....
Prizes include, books, books and more books, oh and critique of your first 3 chapters or 50 pages.

So who am I to give away a critique? Well, I'm an extra set of eyes, I've been critiquing for three years now and it's something I really like to do.

Thanks guys!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How not to play hide and seek

My daughter is 2 and half. It's very normal to look down on your child and think, 'you are the coolest' person on the planet. It's easy to only see the good.

I teach middle school and I'm immune to cute.

There are a few career options I'm going to go ahead and cross of the list of possibilities for my daughter.

Here's why.

She loves to play Hide and Seek.

98% of the time she hides on a blanket.

97% of the time she hides with me.

97% I ask her, "um, if I'm in here with you, who's supposed to come find us.
She answers back, "uuuuummmmmmm Subby." You know Subby, the dog who's scared of his own farts. Not exactly the smartest dog, he NEVER knows that we're playing hide and seek.
Now I'm in a dilemma. Do I shout out for the dog and hope he hears us and comes to find us? If I yell, I've defeated the whole purpose of hiding in the first place.
What to do, what to do?

Most of the time, we sit under the blanket until I get bored and change the game to something else.
Yep My daughter has a better attention span than I do.

The other 3% of the time, my daughter hides under MY shirt, the shirt I am wearing at that moment, and yells for me to find her.

I've scratched off Ninja as a possible career for her. I just don't think it's going to work out.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Books verse the happy meal

Funny week, has a bonus entry.

I should officially say, I personally know Brad Meltzer, he's a very cool and sweet man.

Dog farts

This week I wanted to focus on FUNNY.

Mostly cute and funny stories about my life and family.

Today's story:

Dog farts.

My dog's name is Subwoofer. Long story short one of my students named him. We had the name picked out long before we had the dog.

Subby (that's his nickname) is the biggest chickenshit I've ever seen. He's got a mighty bark and looks sort of terrifying but in reality if a fly buzzes by his ear, he runs to me for cover.

He's not really a gassy dog. He has stunk himself out of the room before.
Last week he farted. I heard little squeek and it like he was porpelled forward by some mysterious force coming out of his ass. He jumped up on the couch next to me and buried his head under my arm.

He needed protection from his own ass.

Your ass is the one thing you can never escape.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Book Review Half-life of Planets

One sentence review: THE BEST BOOK I'VE READ ALL SUMMER.

The Half-life of Planets <--- go buy it!

Why did I read it: Real reason, I loved the cover. That's it.

Plot: Lianna is a rep for kissing boys and running away, she's also doing a summer program about stars. Unlike most of the female protags, out there, Lianna is science smart. Hank has Asperger’s syndrome and his hyper obsessed with music. (BTW stars and music are my two interests so they should have renamed this book, Erinn here is the perfect book for you). Lianna and Hank meet in the woman's room of a hospital. He's freaking out because he has a huge stain on the front of his pants. Lianna helps him, (not in a dirty way, get your mind out of the gutter) later on they meet back up at a vending machine and chat some more. They form a friendship and it starts to morph into something more. But Lianna doesn't know he has Asperger’s syndrome, she thinks he's a moody artist. She's also sworn off kissing for the summer as well. How will she react when she learns the truth about Hank? How will Hank react when he hears the first girl he's ever liked and likes him back won't kiss him. What I loved about it: Hank! Asperger’s syndrome has a very special place in my heart. Nearly every year I have one student with Asperger’s syndrome and they are my FAVORITE kids to teach. Kids with Asperger’s syndrome make a lot of sense if you spent 30 seconds and put yourself in their shoes. Brendan Halpin nailed it perfectly.
I also loved that Lianna and Hank were both smart and thought about everything they did and said. They felt real to me.
During the scene where Hank is trying to figure out his "masturbation problem" I laughed so hard I woke my daughter up.
Its real and painful and wonderful.

What I would change:
nothing. I thought it was perfect. I found myself stopping to mentally write more to the scenes, which is what I do only with a book I love.

Final Review: This is the first book I've read all summer that I want to go back and reread. I'm off to buy multiple copies off the book, one for me, one for my classroom, and one for whoever wins my blog contest.

Rating 11 out of 10 <-- Guys I gave the Hunger Games a 7, that has to mean something. Ok, I'll pull out the big guns for this book. I liked it more than I liked Will Grayson Will Grayson... A JOHN GREEN Book and by now you should all know how much I love John Green.

I wrote an AMAZON review for this book.

I sent Brendan Halpin an e-mail with interview questions which I'll be posting soon. That's how much I loved the book. I E-MAILED THE AUTHOR TO TELL HIM!!!!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

No midweek links

So this week I didn't do a midweek Link entry.

Did you guys miss it? Did you cry?

DO you find them useful at all?

Let me know, please!

Tomorrow is the review for the BEST book I've read all summer.

Next week's theme... Bring on the funny.... Or at least stuff I think is funny.

Book Review: How to Say Goodbye In Robot

reposting this again. Curse you BLOGGER. Now you all know my shameful secret, I blog ahead of time. NOOOOOOO!

How to Say Goodbye in Robot

One line review: Cute, the Robot angle didn't really work for me, but cute and satisfying none the less.

Why did I read it?
Ok, I've basically only read books this summer that came recommended on some list somewhere. This was another book that had a lot of buzz over the winter and I just got around to reading it.

Bea has to move from New York to Baltimore (BTW that's where I live) and since she's relativaly emotionally unaffected by this move, her mother calls her a Robot. Bea dubs herself Robot Girl. Once she's in school, she sits next to Ghost Boy, who's real name is Jonas. (start singing the Weezer song here) Jonas has been bullied and tormented most of his educational career. Now a senior in high school, he never speaks to anyone but for some reason volunteered to be in charge of the year book. Jonas had a twin brother who died in a car accident along with his mother. However one day he gets a phone call stating his brother is not dead but in hospital. Ghost Boy and Robot Girl go on a quest to find him.

What I liked:
The characters felt real and while it takes place in my home town, I don't think it added or hindered to the story at all. It was kinda cool to know all the locations the author was talking about. I really liked the character development of Ghost Boy. I liked the ending a lot. It was sad but completely satisfying.

What I didn't like:
I wasn't to into the subplot with Bea's mother. I thought it was going some place else and was disappointed when the truth was revealed. The idea of being a robot seemed more like a gimmick than a plot device. I'm not a fan of something being labeled at quirky either. But that's not fault of the author as much as the marketing.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Overall it was a solid plot, with a few short comings. I enjoyed it but it wasn't the best book I've read all summer.

The best book is coming TOMORROW!!!! No, the BEST book will be coming on Friday... PRomise... it's called The Half Life of Planets and it's AMAZING


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday- Favorite memory of reading

Welcome to our 37th Road Trip Wednesday!

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs.

This Week's Topic:
What's your favorite reading memory?

I've read a lot of books. When I was in middle school all I did was read. There were lots of reasons for this. One of which was because I started to collect comic books, a hobby my father was opposed to. He thought it was childish and I should grow up. I was 12. He didn't want me only reading comics all the time, so for one summer he gave me a set of rules, for every 150 pages I read, I could by 1 comic.

I sat down and wrote out all the comics I wanted, and when they were scheduled to come out. Next to the name of the comics, I would write the novel I read and how many pages it was. I had it down to a science.

I read a lot that summer.

We were also going on a vacation to California. I had a stack of books with me, mostly Christopher Pike. I loved me some Christopher Pike when I was in middle school.
This was also the summer we were doing a family vacation. We didn't do a lot of long family vacations growing up, I'm not sure why. As an adult my husband and I, and daughter too, go on at least 1-2 vacations a year. But I digress.

As a family we were driving up the Coast and going to Yosemite National Park. We were going to see trees. I have a profound love for nature, I spent at least two weeks a summer, roughing it at camp. I like trees. But a tree is a tree is a tree. I couldn't then, and still can't today, tell the difference between them.

I was sitting in the back seat of the car, reading Chain Letter 2. for the second time as we were driving through one of the prettiest national parks in America. My dad started to yell at me, "you're missing it."
"They're tree's Dad. I've seen trees before."
Beside it was the good part of the book, someone had to hand over a gun to her friend, because she got a chain letter or something... I don't remember the exact details but the character ended up loading the gun with blanks or something.... sorry for the spoiler but I don't think any one was going to read Chain Letter 2.
Anyway I remember being mad at my dad, who was mad at me, because he was the one who was making me read in the first place.

The next summer, I was still reading comics and he dropped the whole summer reading program. It was costing him more in novels then it was costing me in comics.

I sort of wish he went back to the policy as a kid. I read more during that summer than I had my entire life. I had learned more about plot structure and characters in that summer too. Looking back, that was also the summer I wanted to become a writer.

Thanks Dad! Seriously, thank you.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Review Fire in Fiction

Fire In Fiction
One sentence review: I really liked the writing exercises but it didn't feel like it was right for my book.

Donald Maass wrote Fire in Fiction, and the cover to me looks like Australia.
The book is a way to improve your writing from your characters to the pitfalls of the middle of a book.
For every topic he talks about he gives you a very modern example of exactly what's he's talking about. He uses a large variety of books. genres and authors to support his topics.

The best part is at the end of the chapter he gives you writing exercises to support everything he's talking about.

He also has a whole chapter dedicated to monsters and paranormal writing. I thought that was pretty relevant to the current trends in writing.

There were two major down sides for me
1) I felt like he didn't address my genres that much and very little could I use in my own book.
2) I didn't most of the books he was talking about. I'm a pretty well read person and I felt stupid. Not a nice feeling.

Overall it was pretty useful for someone else but not myself. But that didn't stop me from buying How to write a Break out Novel, Donald Maass' first book. (Which I will be reading soon)

Rating 7 out of 10

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book review:The Secret Year


The Secret Year by Jennifer R Hubbard
One sentence review: AWESOME until the end.

Why did I read it:
This was another book I had read a lot of buzz about and since Nathan Bradford represented it, I thought I'd give it a try.

The plot:
Colton meets a rich girl named Julia. The beginning of the book he learns about her death and spends a year trying to deal with it. Julia and Colton had a secret relationship. Julia had a very public relationship with her boyfriend, who was everything Colton was not.

What I liked about it:
I loved LOVED LOVED the first 140 pages. The characters were rich, the writing was crisp, I felt completely satifiated with everything. Colton felt real, it was like I wasn't even reading, but he was hanging out with me. While he's very causal about his sexual relationship with Julia, it's never described and it never creeps me out. It's very matter of fact.

What I didn't like about:
The ending. The last 30 pages where a complete let down. The big reveal wasn't that big because we already assumed it in the beginning. Colton was disappointing. The climax didn't feel like it fit in with the rest of the book. It really made me wonder what the other drafts were like. Did the publisher make her change anything?

Overall: It's a good read. It's a fantastic read if you don't finish it. Seriously. Around page 140 you can stop and feel completely content.

Pages 1-140 10
Pages 140- to the end--- 3

Total rating: 6.5

Friday, July 09, 2010

Twilight For Guys

Finally Twilight for Guys.

The movie sort of sucks but the guys' reaction is perfect.

Not work safe or kid safe.

Warning girls making out.

Future of America

So while I was on vacation I heard the following conversations:

While whale watching, the family behind us had a teenage daughter who wanted to be a marine biologist. She was in high school and she asked the tour guide a few questions. One of them being, "Where are all the sea lions?"
The tour guide said, "Sea lions live on the West Coast, this is the East Coast."
The tour guide went on her way and the girl turned to her parents and said, "I don't understand this oil spill. I just hope it does effect the California coast line."

She followed it up with saying, "Texas doesn't have any beaches."

I never feared for the future of America. I often thought that rumors of our education system being broken was grossly overstated. Nope. I was wrong.

This girl has never seen a MAP of the United States.

Later on we were talking to a Grad student. She was approached by a tourist who wanted to know where they should watch the fireworks. The Tourist started the conversation like this.
Tourist: Are you local?
Grad student: I was a grad student here, but I left and now I'm back on a vacation.
Tourist: We're from West Virginia, you know it's a state, right.
Grad Student: I know.

UGH! He thought he needed to explain that West Virginia was a state to a GRAD STUDENT.

Please tell me what sort of fun conversations have you over heard in the last few weeks that made you groan.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Midweek links- characters

Characters are the people animals or objects that stuff happens to in your book. Yep sorry I just stated the obvious.

(Note this mid week links might be pretty short since I'm doing it while I'm on vacation and because as soon as I get back I have a two day long meeting I need to do)

Donald Maas in Fire in your Fiction has the first section of his book dedicated to characters, a protagonist verses a hero. A hero has MUCH higher stakes. And he has great chapter on secondary characters, go check it out.

YA highway has a few good links about characters.
The bad boy-- why we love them oh so much
Parents in YA-- why can't anyone have a happy family?
5 protags in YA- The 5 big ones.
Character description---- THIS ONE IS AWESOME and exactly what I needed, who cares about anyone else.

Mary Kole asks What Makes a Character? Blog gives a GREAT character interview sheet. If you don't know what these are, it helps the writer dive in deeper in the character's mind and get to know them better. It also gets it all out on paper which you can use as a resource later. This is on my to do list before I start my next set of revisions.

Another interview sheet comes here, from writer's digest.

Here's a great one that Lynda uses (I got it from her blog yesterday)

Oh Mr Bradford, what wisdom do you have for us this week? Do you control your characters or do they control you... A great question when it comes to writing.

Words of wisdom from me-- well there's really words from Meghan but stolen by me.
Be kind to your characters, they are people too, imaginary people, but people none the less. You've created a world in your novel and you've got to populate it with SOMETHING. Don't just kill off a character because you're in a bad mood. It's not fair to you, the characters or your readers.

I'm sort of running low on ideas. What would you like next weeks midweek links to be about?
Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday- My prefect writing place

Sorry it's late, I had to go to a 6 hour meeting-- SUPER LAME, then feed my family, then the power went out, then I had to read for writers group. Anyway it's been a rough night.
Welcome to our 36th Road Trip Wednesday!

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.
We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link in the comments - or, since this week's topic is a short one, you can include your answer in the comments.

This Week's Topic:
What would your ideal writing desk look like? Right down to the perfect pen or laptop.

Ok because I'm a geek. My desk would be something like this:

Yep that's Han Solo in Carbonite...

Or something like this because I LOVE things that look regal and it's got LOTS of storage space and I'm a sucker for storage.

My Desk Lamp would be AWESOME, artsy but cool and funtional.

My laptop would be gold and awesome:

My Pens would be the only pen that ever works for me.

Yep, a bic pen.

My chair would be a love sac... I own one and I love it. Mostly I like saying Love Sac... it makes me giggle.

My Poster

My USB Hub

My mug

There you have it, the tackiest, geekiest and most awesome desk ever.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Write your own Metaphor

Okay I hate gardening. I hate weeding, I hate getting dirty. But I do like that feeling visual acomplishment gardening gives me. Where there was once no plant, now there is a thing of beauty.

When I was planting back in May, one of my flowers lost half of its roots when I tried to take it out of that plastic black container thingy
I thought it was a goner. It didn't die. But it didn't grow either.
It's the one in the middle.

Here's another view. Also please note the green plant thingy on the right.

The green plant thingy I didn't plant this year. In fact, it's a zombie plant. I planted those last year, they are supposed to be annuals (which means it doesn't come back from year to year) but poof there you have it. It did the impossible it grew back.

I have more of these impossible plants.

So writers, I ask you this, write your own metaphor for this little gardening story. I'm sort of a snarky writer so I don't do well with inspirational stuff, but I can see where something inspirational should come out.

I'm still on vacation, but when I get back I'll respond to comments and stuff.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Music and Writing

I love music. I hate silence. Serious, it freaks me out. As a teacher I get panicky when I hear NO noise, it means something BAD is about to go down. I need sound, music or the screams of a child to make me feel at ease.

When it comes to writing NEW material I found I can not listen to music I love. I can't do it. I start off writing about the character's mother and her relationship with the mailman and the next thing I know I've got Green Day Lyrics filtered through out. Or worst of all, I start to sing. No one needs THAT in their lives.

I can listen to the music I LOVE when I'm revising and doing line edits or doing a Seek and Destroy... that's what I call going through the entire document and cutting all the adverbs, that, just, pretty, all the empty words. I normally do a find and replace sort of thing in Word.

When I write, I need music I've never heard before. Normally I bust out my i-Tunes and start listening to my recently added list.

I won't lie, music is my biggest expense. I buy a lot of music. Why? Because the music is hurting more than the publishing industry. I know the band only makes 10% of the CD sales, but the band has a lot more people they have to employ.

Sometimes I use music I don't even like very much, artisy folk music where the musician isn't singing about sex and drugs, but about real life. I sort of hate that crap. Sorry if I offended anyone.

When finishing Penny and Hank I listened to Arcade Fire and the first Manchester Orchestra EP.

So what do you listen to when you write?

BTW- I've been away in BOSTON since Thursday. I've been writing the blogs ahead of time. I'm not snubbing you and I promise to get back on track when I get home.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Book review: The Hunger Games

Note: What I'm about to say many people won't like... I'm sorry. Don't throw stuff at me.

One line review: I liked the Japanese version better.
Why did I read this book?:
I read this book for a couple reasons.
1) it's been on EVERYONE'S Must Read list.
2) about 75% of my students read it and loved it
3) A lady at the scbwi yelled at me, literaly I was sitting next to Mary Kole and this lady started to yell at me because I hadn't read it yet, it was like I didn't belong at the writers conference because I didn't read it.
4) One of my students said, "out of a rating from 1-10 I'd give it an 11."

The book:
Girl has to fight against 24 other kids to food for her home town.
Here's the thing, it's not a new concept... in fact it was a book, a comic and a movie back in Japan, and it was call Battle Royale. But the kids weren't strangers they were classmates, they had a long and deep rooted history with each other, which made the events that more horrifying.
The main character wasn't highly likable. What I did like about her was she was a girl who kicked ass, and she was smart, but everything else about her was sort of meh.

What I did like about it:
  • Fast read
  • I liked the reality TV aspect and that she was hyper aware that everything she did was going to be broadcasted. I thought it was a nice statement for how we are currently living out lives in a hyper media word. Even now I'm blogging, sharing my thoughts with whoever will read it.
  • I liked how well thought out the world was, I could tell Suzanne Collins spent of time playing around in this world in her head.
  • She wrote great action scenes.
  • The biggest one for me was, not once did I read it and think, "Damn I WISH I could write like this." Possibly the problem was I had literally finished On Writing ten minutes earlier and I LOVED that book. When ever I read something by John Green nearly ever page makes me want to beg the Writing Gods to make me a sliver as talented as he is.
  • It was a little too "telly" and not enough "showy".
  • Did we really need 2 pages about the back story of her sister's goat?<-yes I know character development, time needed to pass so the characters could heal, but still 2 pages?
  • The "rule change" half way through the game was BS. It was a cheep plot device used to get to characters together, but it didn't cause any tension, in fact, released any tension that was there in the story. Lame.
  • I know the book is called The Hunger Games but there was WAY too much description about food.
Overall Review:
Was it entertaining? yes. I finished it in a few hours. But in all honesty I felt that Twilight was more entertaining.
Maybe it was because I had such HIGH expectations for it. And there's a frenzy around the book that I thought it would be better. Maybe it was me and not the book.

Note: I can't imagine the unreal pressure that must be on Collins right now, with the final book coming out. While I didn't love the book, I know millions of people do, and I hope she can live up the pressure and hype and I wish her all the best.

Rating 7 out of 10

Thursday, July 01, 2010

OH NO!!!!

I started reading The Secret Year today (awesome by the way--- or at least the first 130 pages are) and I had a terrifying realization.

I've written a YA book (two of them, in fact) where the main characters are NOT supernatural creatures and NO ONE DIES in the books.

Death toll= 0


Can my books even BE YA?

Maybe I should kill off a character just for the hell of it, after all, I want to be published and there's a certain mold I need to fit...

I'm kidding.

sort of.

No I'm totally kidding.


Midweek links- description

Hello, my name is Erinn and I SUCK AT DESCRIPTION.
I would say besides spelling, grammar and telling a good story, description is my weakest area of writing.

This week's Midweek Links will be about Description.

Here's what I know about it. Describe what's important, the shoe laces of the MC isn't important when he or she is running away from a bear bee hybrid. (I just scared the crap out of myself with this one)

Don't spend lots of time describing clothes... why? Because it's useless and BORING!!!! It's safe to assume the character is wearing clothes. Walk down any high school, every kid is wearing the same basic thing, a shirt and pants... maybe a girl will wear a skirt, but she's only doing that to impress one specific boy.

Books to read about description:
On Writing, by Stephen King, Section On Writing, Chapter 6.

Blogs who write about description.
My go to blog for this little segment is Mary Kole's blog Kidlit.
Every writer's guide says "Show don't tell." Sometimes it's important to tell, and Mary talks about when it's good to tell. But she also talks about "showing and telling" here.

More on showing not telling here by Blood Red Pen. Do you know what fills up a lot of books? People. Here's how to describe them.
Here's one I know I personally struggle with, describing and showing emotion. blog
Wanna describe a character, try the dramatic approach.
Top ten mistakes writers make...

Writer's Digest:
Writer's tip of the day- exposition--- too much. How to enrich your descriptions.

ok it took me an hour to find these few links, that's it, I'm googling now. So much easier---
All kinds of writing: Three parts of writing
Six quick Tips to writing description- POEWAR
How to write a character description. Ehow

You would think there would be a lot more information about this, but after an hour and 15 minutes this is all I've found.