Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dark YA 5

The good people at YATopia are running this fantastic blogfest throughout November. So, every Wednesday (or Thursday if you're on my side of the world) I will be posting something on that topic.

This week's topic is Waiting For Wednesday and we need to talk about dark YA books we're looking forward to. Once again, tough. I read about so many awesome books on the internet, and there are so many titles that sound intriguing. But I guess the one I'm looking forward to the most is Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz. It has a really fascinating premise, and I know from reading her other books that it will be raw, emotional and peopled by characters who are so real they pour off the page.

What dark YA books are you looking forward to? Not that I need anything to add to my TBR list, but you know I'll always add to it.

And that's the end of the Dark YA blogfest. It's been so much fun and I now have so many books to hunt out and read... Thanks to the lovely ladies who organized this blogfest, Kelley York, Heather McCorkle, Christa Desir, and E.R. King.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Things that keep me up at night

I don't sleep much. Between working nights and getting up early to write, I'm lucky if I get 5 hours a night. And yet, so many nights I'm lying awake at 3am, seemingly insurmountable problems spinning through my head. Did I remember to send that report to head office? Did I just do a bad thing by signing that contract? Am I going to get enough time to finish chapter 9 tomorrow? I forgot to wash my son's bathing suit after the beach on Sunday and he has swimming lessons tomorrow.

These are the things that race through my head, making it impossible to sleep. Yet come morning, these problems never seem so huge and overwhelming. But I end up spending the day as a zombie because I lay awake for hours worrying.

Do you have this problem? What do you do to turn off the hyperactivity in your head?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Progress report...

I promised to keep you up to date with my progress as I rewrite The Boyfriend Plague. I'm feeling pretty good about it because in a week, I've managed to get through 8 chapters. I've managed to salvage a lot of the old book too, which has obviously saved me time.

Now I'm into a new chapter, so I imagine my pace may slow a little this week. There's a lot of new material I need to slide in. I'm also losing my Wednesday writing day because I'm going with my son's class on a field trip.

But I hope to get through to at least Chapter 12 by the end of the week. Maybe a little more if I'm really lucky....

How are you progressing with your WIP? NaNo is almost over. How many of you have made it?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Early Rising

Yesterday I had to go away on a work related trip. It wasn't far, to a town about 2.5 hours away, but because I was relying on public transport, and a ride from a colleague, I had to leave very early in the morning. Getting up that early isn't a problem - I do that every day so I can write before the kids get up - but going somewhere that early was interesting.

Who knew so many people left for work before 7am? The bus was crowded. Not as crowded as it would be at 8 or 8:30, but quite crowded, and people got on at almost every stop. At the train station, people swarmed off the train I was going to get on. Standing room only. And this was the train that comes from a town more than an hour away.

So there are large numbers of people who have to be up and ready to leave for work by 6am. Especially those who commute. It made me feel very grateful for my own flexible hours, and the fact I have a very short distance to travel between my house and my work. I can't imagine having to travel an hour each way every day. Sure, it's a good time to read or catch up with editing, but how long does it make your day?

Do you commute long distances? Do you enjoy it? How early do you have to leave in the morning?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dark YA 4

The good people at YATopia are running this fantastic blogfest throughout November. So, every Wednesday (or Thursday if you're on my side of the world) I will be posting something on that topic.

This week's topic is #YAsaves. We have to write about a dark YA book that had a real impact on us.

Once again this is a challenge. There are so many books that have profoundly influenced my life, and many of them were dark YA books. I moved all the time when I was a kid. A new country every two to three years, a new house, a new school, new friends. It was challenging, and books were my one constant. No matter where I was, I could dive into a book and find old friends. Books quite literally saved me.

I'm going back now, and trying to remember the ones I read over and over. The ones I still love and cherish in my bookshelf.

There's Second Star to the Right which showed me I wasn't alone in my screwed up thinking when I was twelve or thirteen. It also showed me I could change those thoughts.

There's Walk Through Cold Fire which showed me love could be both tender and violent- often at the same time.

All the books by S E Hinton. Her characters spoke to me in a way no other characters ever have again. Those books made me want to write, and since I was thirteen and first read The Outsiders, I have written.

And there are many more too. I could probably go on for days about all the books that have influenced, changed, affected and nurtured me.

What dark YA books have changed your life?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Small changes

This week (or sometime around now - my memory isn't great) marks the two year anniversary of my joining a gym. I never thought I would be a gym person, but when the new gym opening very near our house called with a 2 for 1 offer, my partner and I decided it was probably a good thing to do.

And I've surprised myself. I have enjoyed going to the gym. I started off just pootling around, mainly. Then I started doing Pilates and yoga classes. Of course, just when I started getting the hang of them, the gym changed the timetable and I couldn't make it to those classes anymore. So I started doing other classes. Spin, pump, step and combat. Each one has been challenging.

But when I look in the mirror, or try on the clothes I haven't been able to fit into for years, there isn't a big difference. Stepping on the scale, I don't see smaller numbers. I've been working out for 2 years, up to 5 days a week, and still am not noticeably thinner.

Last night though, I realized the differences are there. I'm much more muscular that I was. I have triceps you can see! When I squat, there are real muscles in my thighs. The changes are small, but they are there.

It's like anything. You get results by keeping at it. If you give up because you feel like you're failing, then you're not giving yourself a chance to get better at it.

What have you given up too soon? What did you stick at long enough to see results?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A new beginning

I have decided not to trunk Boyfriend. I love my character and her transformation too much to give up on her. So I spent yesterday afternoon outlining the new direction the novel will take. I've cut out two characters and given a big part of one to my MC. This ups her stakes and gives her some super-tough decisions to make. I've also changed her relationship to her sister.

Tonight I will start writing. I've never outlined a book so substantially and I'm hoping that by doing it, I'll be better able to stick to the shape I want. I think I'll be able to work in quite large chunks of the original draft too, in places, so I'm not quite starting from scratch (although the first chapter will be quite different).

I'm feeling good about this, and am going to aim to have the new draft completed by Christmas. That may be overconfident, but I like to have a deadline. Even if I don't meet it.

Do you like to set yourself deadlines? Do you meet them?

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Tough Decision

I'm at that point: to trunk or not to trunk?

I've had The Boyfriend Plague read by several people now, and they have confirmed for me that the book just doesn't work.

I kind of knew that.

What I was writing changed as I wrote it and I think I threw too many different ideas in there.

I've been struggling all week to salvage it, but I've come to the conclusion that I need to either start again from the beginning, or just trunk it and move on.

This is a tough decision to make because I've spent almost 6 months on this book. Trunking it feels like a waste. But at the same time, I could work my butt off for another couple of months, rewrite the whole damn thing, and still end up with something that stinks.

So what do I do?

Do I shelve it temporarily and write something else? I kind of know if I do that, I'll never go back to it. I have 4 trunked novels already, and I think it's pretty unlikely I'll go back to any of them.

Do I bite the bullet and dive into the rewrite? I do have a spark of an idea on how to make that work, but the idea of doing it, rewriting 80 000 words feels daunting and not at all fun.

Or do I just admit I wrote a crappy book and move on? That one feels like giving up. And I hate that.

So, I'm asking for your advice. What would you do in this situation? Have you trunked novels that didn't work? Did you go back to them later?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dark YA 3

The good people at YATopia are running this fantastic blogfestthroughout November. So, every Wednesday (or Thursday if you're on my side of the world) I will be posting something on that topic.

This week's challenge? Music and Movie Fun—Take a dark YA book and build a soundtrack for it or cast characters for a movie version.

This one really has me scratching my head. I want to do the movie casting, but I'm having a dilly of a time coming up with actors young enough to play the characters in any YA. The movies I watch tend to be rather obscure and invariably foreign, so the actors I know are not ones my blog readers will necessarily recognize.

But I'll give it a shot. The book I'm casting is Hannah Moskowitz's Break.

Annasophia Robb

Anna Sophia Robb as Charlotte

Callan McAuliffe

Callan McAuliff as Jesse

Ezra Miller

Ezra Miller as Jonah

Nicola Peltz

Nicola Peltz as Naomi

So that's your core cast. There's a baby in there, but babies can be played by anyone. Plus parents, but really, are the parents the main focus of the book?

Do these actors look like the characters as you pictured them?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Warm Fuzzies 4

The blogfest continues over at Juliana's blog.

"This week, post what makes writing worth it for you and most importantly, post one of your Warm Fuzzy moments. It can be a scene from a WIP, short story, poem, anything that strikes your fancy. Visit one another’s posts and enjoy the writing you find there."

There are so many days I feel like I'm beating my head against a wall, and that writing isn't worth it. But I keep dong it. Why? Because I have to. Characters and stories live in my head and if I didn't write them down, I'd probably go crazy. Writing clarifies my thoughts, gives me the ability to explore ideas I might not be able to discuss rationally with people and lets me try out different perspectives.

I love diving into a character's head and finding out how another person might see a situation. Especially when that person is someone very different to me. I love language and finding new and different ways to describe things we might see every day. Writing is about all these things for me, and I can't imagine not doing it. Even though it hurts sometimes, is frustrating, maddening and infuriating, I wouldn't be able to live without it.

And here's a warm fuzzy moment from an older novel, Assignment 9. It's one of my favorite scenes in the whole book.

The two blocks Rick and I had to walk to get home from the bus stop were the longest two blocks I’ve ever walked. Rick leaned so heavily on my shoulder I ached right down to my hips. I glanced up at him once and saw his face was the color of cheese and slick with sweat. His eyes were dull with pain.

“Almost there,” he muttered through gritted teeth and I don’t think he was talking to me. We turned into our street and I could see the lights on at our house. I was so glad to see the place, I could have cried. I wanted to run the rest of the way, but Rick couldn’t move any faster. We made it to the door. For a moment we stood on the doorstep, Rick gulping air and wiping sweat from his face.

“Ready?” He glanced down at me and tried to smile. I nodded and pushed open the door.

Alan sat in one of the armchairs reading the newspaper and turned when he heard the door open. He froze for a moment, staring at us, then dropped the paper on the floor and got up.

“You’re here!” Alan leaped toward us. “Thank God!” He was not surprised to see us and that seemed strange to me. Thinking about it now though, it shouldn’t have been. Will would have told him that we’d disappeared, and where else would Rick and I go? Where else did we have to go? The only thing Alan would have been surprised by was how long it had taken us to get there.

He stopped just in front of us and took in our appearance. I wonder what he saw. I knew we were filthy and scrawny from not having had enough to eat. He saw the way Rick leaned on me, and the stick, and came around behind us, slipping an arm around him and helping him to the couch. I shrugged my stiff shoulders several times, trying to work out the pain that had settled there from carrying much of Rick’s weight along with the two backpacks.

“What is it?” Alan asked, crouching down on the floor next to the couch. “Where are you hurt?”

“My ankle,” Rick said. Alan pulled the coffee table closer and very carefully lifted Rick’s injured foot so it rested on the edge.

“Can I take a look?” Alan was already pushing the wet, muddy leg of Rick’s jeans up.

Rick nodded. “Sure.” In the light he looked worse that he had outside on the street. His face was almost bloodless and the circles around his eyes were so dark that it appeared his eyes had receded into his head. He cried out once as Alan unwound the filthy bandages from around his ankle. The sticks I’d used to splint it fell to the floor. Rick’s foot sat at an awkward angle, the flesh around it black and swollen.

“Oh Rick!” Alan exclaimed. “That’s terrible. When did you do it?”

“Three or four days ago.” Rick’s voice was small.

“My God! Are you in agony?”

Rick started to shake his head, started to give Alan the same wry smile he’d been giving me for the past couple of days, but then stopped and nodded.

“It hurts,” he admitted. “It hurts a lot!” And then he was crying and it was a terrible thing to see. Rick had been so strong, so brave. It seemed wrong for him to be crying now. Alan got up and sat by him, putting his arms around him. Rick wrapped his own arms around Alan’s neck and sobbed into his shoulder.

“It hurts,” Rick choked, “I was so scared….”

Alan rubbed at the back of his head. “Shush. Don’t cry. It’s okay, Ricky. You’re home now. You’re home and I’m going to take care of you.”

“I missed you so much.”

“I missed you too.” Alan kept petting Rick. “You have no idea how much I missed you.”

I realized I was crying too. I still stood by the door, the two backpacks clutched in my arms. I dropped them to the floor and shuffled across to the couch. Before I’d even gotten all the way, Alan had one of his arms around me and pulled me down to sit on his other side, holding me tightly.

“Are you okay, little girl?” Alan’s voice was husky. I couldn’t speak, so I nodded and pressed my face into his chest. For several minutes Alan held the two of us, not speaking, just rubbing at our hair and the back of our necks. Rick stopped crying first and Alan turned back to him, face grim as he let go of me.

“We’d better go and get that ankle fixed up before we do anything else,” he said in a low voice. “It doesn’t look good. Do you think you can get up, Ricky?” Rick slid forward and started to get up, but fell back a moment later, whimpering. Alan didn’t say anything, just scooped Rick up in his arms as if he were a child, as if he were me.

“I’m too big!” Rick protested.

“No you’re not,” Alan said. He had no problem carrying Rick. “You’ve lost a lot of weight. You don’t weigh a thing. Casey, can you grab my car keys off the table?”

I think my points are 6 for this week. Total for the blogfest: 22

Sunday, November 13, 2011

When to get critiques?

Anyone who has been writing for a while knows that getting feedback on your work is an essential part of the process. It can also be a painful part, but no less essential. But at what point do you ask for feedback?

I have one critique partner who asks for feedback as she goes. Every chapter she writes gets put up for critique as she writes it, and she polishes to critiques as she goes.

Personally, I prefer to blast through a first draft quickly without any feedback. I then go back and revise the first draft before anyone sees it. So, no one sees my work until it's at least a second draft.

My reasons? I believe a lot in the power of the subconscious when it comes to story telling. When I write, I'm often not thinking about structure and beats and character arcs. I'm just trying to get the story onto the page before my tenuous grasp on it loosens. After I've done that initial purge, I can go back and make it work as a satisfying, well paced story.

If I asked for critiques as I wrote, a lot of my instinctive storytelling ability might get chopped out. I often write something that at the time means nothing, only to find it becomes very important as I move through the story. If I got critiques on individual chapters, my reviewers would see those little nothings and suggest I cut them, not knowing that the scene or piece of information might be crucial later on.

When do you get your critiques? As you write? After a few drafts? I'm interested....

Friday, November 11, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

It's an old saying: practice makes perfect. But is it true?

Sure, practicing does make you better at something, but perfect? Perfection is a pretty huge thing to try and attain. I played the flute when I was younger, and I practiced a lot. But I don't think I could say I was ever perfect. I did ballet too, and competitive swimming, and despite practicing both until my muscles ached and I was dropping off to sleep over my dinner plate, I don't think I could say I was perfect.

The same thing can apply to writing. That first book I wrote? Honestly? It stinks. It was a practice book. The next one is better. Marginally. The third? Better still. Now I'm getting ready to start my 7th book. Seven? Wow! I've written six whole novels, and at this stage, I'd have to say they were all practice.

But I'm getting better. Not perfect, but improving. The first book I queried (the 3rd I wrote) got no bites, and quite justifiably. It wasn't good enough. The third book I've been querying (book #5) has had a much better response. Whether it's because I've gotten better at writing queries, or if it's because the book is better is moot. Either way, practicing has helped.

So, how many more before I'm perfect? Well, I don't believe in perfect. I just believe in improving.

What about you? Can you see how much your writing is improving with each book you write?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Love Dark YA 2

The good people at YATopia are running this fantastic blogfest throughout November. So, every Wednesday (or Thursday if you're on my side of the world) I will be posting something on that topic.

Today's challenge is to write a dark YA story of 500 words or less with this picture as a prompt.

So, here goes...


By Kate Larkindale

Bare branches arced overhead, reaching for scuttling clouds like a nest of anorexic limbs. Gone was the lush summer foliage, the only reminder a single yellowed leaf clinging to the end of a branch, battered this way and that by bitter wind. She couldn’t see the water from where she knelt, but could hear its chuckle as it chattered across the loose stones.

She shivered, drawing her cardigan close in an attempt to keep out the chill wind. Her bare legs prickled with gooseflesh. She hugged the cardigan tighter, over the layers of t-shirts she wore, layers that protected her, layers of memories. Removing even one would render her bare, vulnerable.

At the bottom was his shirt, the one she’d pulled off him, soaking wet. That one never came off.

Over his shirt she layered others. The t-shirts from the many concerts they’d attended, obscure, loud bands with names that made her father wince when he read them: Smut, Corpse Jerk, Hellions, Slut Culture. T-shirts he bought for her online – vintage shirts, their slogans antiquated pop culture sayings that made them giggle.

Tears filled her eyes, running down her cheeks to pool in her ears. The wind dried the streaks, but she still felt them, raw runnels. Her legs were stiff as she hauled herself to her feet. She had no idea how long she had been there. Time held no meaning now. An instant could last days, and days could fly past without her even noticing.

She drifted to the water, watching ripples dance over the three boulders beneath the surface. From here she could not stop her eyes from searching out and finding the scarred branch, bark worn by years of friction. Already the scar was fading, nature erasing evidence of the rope that had swung there for as long as she could remember. She ached to gouge out the scar, make it fresh and new again. Next time she’d bring a knife.

The sun sat low now, traces of pink and orange rinsing the horizon. She stood at the base of the tree and looked upward, through the clamoring branches to the pastel clouds above. Keeping her face toward the sky, she began climbing, feet scrabbling against the rough bark as she searched for branches on which to stand. Her hands grabbed at twigs that broke off in her palms, yet she kept ascending.

When she could climb no higher, she stopped, standing on a thick beam that overhung the creek. She could see the scored branch below, the rope’s mark more defined from above. In the golden glow of dusk, the water seemed alive, dancing merrily along its course. She could still hear its gentle voice, the soft rattle of stones chinking against one another in their endless communion.

As the sun sank behind the hill, leaving behind a carnival of colored light, she leaned on the trunk, bark rough against the knobs of her spine. The boulders gleamed, golden in the twilight.

She breathed.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Warm Fuzzies 3

The blogfest continues over at Juliana's blog. This week's challenge is all about character arc.

"There’s something spectacular about the trauma main characters go through and the way they manage to come out on the other side healed. Sometimes, I wish I could experience a complete character arch like that, but in reality, being an MC would be awful.

This week, take a moment to look at the trouble you get your MC into. How do you kick them while they’re down? Without revealing too many secrets about your WIP- take us through your MC’s arch.

The challenge for this week is to visit as many blogs as you can and based on their exerpt/summary, come up with a title for their WIP. Your title can be funny or serious, whatever you’d like."

So, here goes....

My MC starts off the book shy and kind of blending into the background. She tries to stay under the radar, letting her more outgoing brother and sister take the limelight at home, and her vivacious friends everywhere else.

Here are a few lines to demonstrate her arc...

The telephone on the table beside me rang, making me jump. I reached out to pick it up. My hand sank into the leaping orange flames that shot up with each electronic bray. The color was so intense I could taste the heat and for a moment the sensory overload was so great, I couldn’t even move to pick up the receiver. Hannah did, and handed it to me. It was a surprise when it wasn’t hot.

On Monday, I stepped into the lunchroom with caution, eyes scanning the crowd. There. Hannah sat at our usual table, Sam’s head bent toward hers. I started in that direction, stopping when I realized Mel was at the same table, across from Hannah, her hand nestled into Eddie’s. As I watched, Eddie raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. I guessed the weekend went well for both of them. I headed toward them, stopping when I realized there wasn’t a seat saved for me. A sick feeling punched my gut and I turned, my backpack twisting with momentum behind me. The swinging doors whapped open and shut as I hurried out.

Bianca bent her head and her lips settled upon mine. They were warm and soft, slippery with lipstick. I shivered and pressed my own lips more firmly agains hers. Her mouth opened a little, and I followed, admitting her inquisitive tongue. It tickled mine, darting in and out, waltzing across my tastebuds. The flavor of wine, exotic and sour at the same time, flooded my mouth.

“Oh! There….” A voice speared into my consciousness. A familiar voice. Hannah’s voice. It made no sense for a second, and I thought I must be imagining it. Bianca’s weight jerked away from me. I opened my eyes and found Hannah in the doorway, staring at me.

Bianca peered at the tickets, reached over and fingered one, then looked at me with questions in her eyes. “I thought you…”

“I know.” I cut her off. “I know what I said. But I walked past the table, and I just really wanted to go with you. So I bought them. I wanted to surprise you. Ummmm…Surprise?”

The music changed. The anthemic rhythm grew softer, the notes melodious as they drifted around me. Pastel colors threaded their way between Bianca and me. I drew her closer, my arms around her waist as we swayed with the rhythm. My head rested on her chest and I could hear the slow heavy beat of her heart. My own heart soared. This was heaven. Nothing had prepared me for the perfection of this moment.

Now, can you think of a title for this story??? Pretend like you don't already know what it's called if you're a regular follower...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pure Awesomeness

This weekend I had the amazing experience of seeing one of my all time favorite silent films accompanied by the symphony orchestra. I have probably seen Metropolis at least five or six times before, in several different versions, but it never fails to awe me. This version is the most complete one I've ever seen. A 16mm print was discovered in Brazil a few years back, and it has been used to try and reconstruct the original film. There are still some big chunks missing, but at 150 minutes, it's pretty comprehensive.

The orchestra played the original score, and it was beautiful. There is something so incredibly powerful about an orchestra. Each individual instrument has its own part to play to make up the whole. It was difficult sometimes to decide whether to watch the screen or the players. Especially in the dramatic scenes where the percussionists were darting from instrument to instrument to make the various sounds. Who knew how a xylophone could carry over all those other instruments?

It was an incredible experience and one I will never forget. Have you ever seen a silent film with a full orchestra?

Friday, November 4, 2011

My NaNo Post

NaNo started this week, and I admit to feeling a small pang because I'm not doing it. A small pang. I loved it the last two times I dove in, and think I came out with pretty good books at the end. Well, okay. One pretty good book. That first NaNo book (Prayer and Prey) hasn't amounted to anything. But that's my own fault. I lost interest in it, and haven't properly revised it.

But no matter how much I loved doing it, this year I'm not. I just finished Boyfriend and need more time to revise and tweak and polish it up. My new idea is still germinating and while I'm thinking about it, another character has been poking at me. I'm realizing the two ideas might be able to be one book, so am shifting my thinking to see if that might work.

So while I am missing the thrill and rush of NaNo, I'm please I decided not to do it. I'm not ready to write a new book. I'm not finished with the last one yet. I got notes from one of my betas this week and am looking forward to diving back into revisions with her notes in hand.

Are you doing NaNo? How is it going?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I Love Dark YA

The good people at YATopia are running this fantastic blogfest throughout November. So, every Wednesday (or Thursday if you're on my side of the world) I will be posting something on that topic.

Today we're discussing our favorite dark YA books. That's a tough one. Almost all the YA books I read could be called dark. The YA books I write are dark too. That's just kind of where my mind goes...

So first up, anything by Laurie Halse Anderson. Her books deal with dark subject matter with a style and grace I can only aspire to.

Hate List by Jennifer Brown. A fantastic exploration of the aftermath of a school shooting from the POV of the shooter's girlfriend. It doesn't get much darker than that.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I wasn't sure I was going to like this one, but I totally fell in love with the idea of a world where love was considered a disease to be cured and that there are people who fight against it in order to feel.

And those are just a few that pop to mind... I'm sure there are others I've forgotten that I like just as much. What are your favorite dark YA Books?