Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pitch Contest Winners!

Here is the day you've all been waiting for...Well over a hundred of you anyway.

Joan would like to thank everyone who participated and she also said she had great fun reading your entries! I can tell you that the posters of YAtopia also had great fun reading the entries ourselves and we will be doing something soon for you agent searching people. So if you didn't happen to hook Joan this time, hold tight because you might be able to hook someone else ;)

Without further ado...the winners!!! Drumroll please...
Joan picked the winners because, and I quote, 'While very different in content, both of these pitches (and first lines) felt especially sharp and evocative, and put me right into the story. I would be happy to see the first 50 pages of these novels.'

Jar Of Hearts
Tracey Buchanan

Julie Musil

Whoooo!! Congrats ladies!! If you could email me at chanelle(@)chanellegray(dot)com for Joan's email address and then to send along your first 50 pages and query letter, that would be great :D

Joan would also like to note that while she only picked two winners, she will be emailing other people giving them the opportunity to query her personally as she is usually closed to submissions.

Congratulations again, ladies!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

200+ Followers Giveaway

I promised a while back that I would do a giveaway when we reached 200 followers. And I don't know if y'all noticed or not? But we've blown that out of the water! *big grin*

First I want to thank all of our wonderful followers for taking time out of your day to read our blog! We greatly appreciate it and love every comment you leave for us - they feed our souls! Thank you!

Without further ado...

What You Can Win!

1) A SIGNED (hardcover) copy of The Shifter by Janice Hardy. (I went to her release party for Blue Fire, the second in the Healing Wars series and got a few signed copies because I LOVE these books!)

2) In memory of Diana Wynne Jones, I'd like to give away a new paperback copy of Enchanted Glass and Howl's Moving Castle.

3) It's no big secret how big of a Laurie Halse Anderson fan I am. And since a lot of the hoopla from the Speak Loudly thing has died down a bit, I want to rekindle it for one lucky winner. So I'm giving away a new paperback of both Speak and Wintergirls.

4&5) Lastly, two lucky winners will win a pair of (pierced) earrings hand-crafted by yours truly. I want to personalize them, so I haven't made them yet, but they'll probably look similar to the pairs pictured above - except, you know... less blurry :-/ (And don't you worry - if you don't win these, I'll be opening up an Etsy shop soon so you will have the opportunity to buy some of my insomnia-fueled creations) ;-)

How To Win

I don't like contests that require you to jump through 14 hoops to enter so the only thing you HAVE to do is a be a follower (since it IS a contest to celebrate and thank our followers!) and fill out the form below.

+2 Old follower
+1 New follower

On the other hand, I'm a fan of rewarding people for extra work, so there are MANY opportunities for you to win extra points:

+1 Tweeting a link to this post
+3 Blogging about this contest
+2 For each of our individual blogs you follow: Me, Wendy, Chanelle, Kelley Y, Kelley V, DJ, Sharon, Leigh
+1 For each of us you follow on Twitter: Me, Wendy, Chanelle, Kelley Y, Kelley V, DJ, Sharon, Leigh

Winners will be chosen by

This contest will remain open until 2359 EST on April 4th, 2010 and I'll somehow convince Leigh to announce the winners on her April 5th post.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments.

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! Thanks to everyone who entered! Stay tuned for the announcement of the winners.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Diana Wynne Jones / Point of View and Narrators

I'll apologize in advance, because I'm kicking off this post on a sad note.

Diana Wynne Jones, renowned British author of sci-fi and fantasy, passed away on March 26th. While I haven't read all of her books, she is the author of my favorite book that many of you have seen me reference multiple times: HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE.

(Howl and Sophie are characters I hoped to see her bring back time and again, as she did with their appearances in CASTLE IN THE AIR and, as recently as 2008, HOUSE OF MANY WAYS.)

Since the 1970's, Diana has written over 40 books, not to mention the number of collections she's contributed to and the short stories.

My heart and prayers go out to her family. She and her amazing stories will be missed.

For today's post, I also wanted to present a question to all our fantastic readers and my fellow YAtopians. This weekend I finished a book that has been fairly widely talked about. It's told from two first person POVs, male and female.

This isn't the first time I've seen alternating 1st person POVs like this. Maggie Stiefvater did it in SHIVER, and I loved it. But this book jumped back and forth even within a chapter, sometimes as often as every few paragraphs, and the transition felt so awkward and jerky to me. (Not to mention while the male narrator was the main love interest, there was another love interest who didn't get his own POV, and I feel there was never any real question about who the girl would end up with. It left the love triangle lacking a bit for me.)

I will say, though: I love multiple points of view in books. So long as the character's POV is necessary, of course. I love seeing everything through multiple sets of eyes, getting into more than one person's head. SHIVER allowed me to do this, and so did this other book I finished (jarring transitions aside).

I've heard from a small handful of agents who don't like more than one POV in a book. And a couple of others who think it's too difficult of a sell. I'll admit, I'm still getting the hang of reading first person. If I'm presented with two books on a shelf I think are interesting and the only difference is what POV they're written from, I'll grab the one in 3rd person without a second thought. On the writing side of it, I love the look of 3rd person, but I've discovered I'm a lot better at 1st.

So while I prefer to read and write in 3rd, it seems I end up reading and writing primarily in 1st.

My question(s) to all of you: do you have a preference in point of view and whether you get one narrator? Two? Ten? And if you're a writer, do you prefer to read one way, but write in another?

(As a side-note... Made it past the halfway mark of my current WIP! 40k!)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tantalizing Titles

Do you judge a book by its title?

Finding the perfect title - that elusive single word or phrase which will encompass the tone of a story while grasping potential readers’ attention… yeah, it doesn’t happen for me as a writer. I’m uber-awful at creating names for my books. Mine always end up changing. I’ll make an entire list of possible titles and show it to my friends, only to discover they ALL pretty much suck. Perhaps I am too long winded to create titles? Maybe I should throw a bunch of alluring words into a hat and just pull one out, then devise a way to insert that word into the book. Because, really, I’m certain that’s what some authors and publishers must do.

Is it just me, or are there a lot of books these days with cool titles that have nothing to do with the story? One-word titles are all the rage. For example, I always wondered how Twilight got its name. It’s a kick-butt title, much better than her original choice of Forks, but it doesn’t relate to the story at all, for me. And does it really matter? Is it enough to have a catchy title to draw readers, even if it doesn’t relay anything about the narrative? Do you get peeved, or could you not care less?

* Reminder: You have five more days to enter Jeyn Roberts’s Query Critique Contest!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Query Critic Competition and Interview with Jeyn Roberts

Jeyn Roberts, author of Dark Inside

Jeyn Roberts is a name you will know well by the end of the year. Her amazing novel, Dark Inside comes out in September in the UK and November in the US and it's going to be BIG! For those of you looking for agents, Jeyn landed her dream agent and has shared a bit of her story below. She is also offering a query critique to help an aspiring author land their dream agent.

With this being your first published novel, how did you find the editing process?

UK cover
It was very exciting. I worked with some fantastic editors with both Macmillan and Simon&Schuster. It does involve some back and forth running around. Just when you think you're finished, here comes another round. I know there are a lot of people who follow the myth that editors will make you change your entire story but it's not true. The advice I got wasn't major and the few small changes I made really made my book that much stronger.

Was the publishing process what you expected?

It was what I expected. I'd really done my research ahead of time and I knew that getting a book published takes a very long time. Now that I'm experiencing it first hand, I'm a lot more understanding of why it takes what feels like forever! haha

Dark Inside seems to be creating a whole new category. It’s more than just post-apocalyptic, as we get to read about the events themselves, not just after the fact. How would you categorize Dark Inside

That's been a toughie. Some are calling it dystopian but it doesn't quite fall under that category either. I like to think of it as dystopian horror but maybe that's not it either. It's a tough one.

You landed your ‘dream agent’, tell us about how you hooked her.

I queried her! It's a bit of a funny story. I was living in Korea at the time so my time zone was very different from Julia's in London. I got the email from her before I went to bed that night and I sent her off the manuscript. Little did I know that she'd spend the next several hours reading the entire thing. I got phone call from her around eight in the morning my time (one a.m. her time) saying she would call me first thing in the morning. I was really panicked because my phone batteries were dying so I had to sneak home during the break to get my charger! She ended up calling me at four in the morning (UK time) because she was so thrilled about the book she couldn't sleep! It was a very exciting time for me and it happened so quickly!

What influenced you in your choice of agents?

I was pretty biased. I wanted Julia from the beginning. She had requested and rejected one of my earlier works but that had stuck with me. I knew the Greenhouse was a newer agency but that both agents had a long history in the field. It's really about finding the perfect match. You want someone who is just as excited about your work as you are.

Would you like to share with us your actual query letter (pretty please with sugar on top)

US cover
In the moments before a worldwide disaster—the Baggers are awakened.
On the first day Mason’s mother dies. Then the earthquakes shatter the West Coast. The Baggers stir and the killings begin. In just three weeks, mankind is on the edge of extinction and the last remaining survivors are still being hunted.

Mason learns quickly there are no friends in this new world. In an attempt to escape his guilt, he travels across the country where he meets Aries, Clementine, and Michael. He knows he shouldn’t trust them but he’s drawn into their circle. Together in an abandoned tenement they will do whatever it takes to stay alive. But someone will betray them, a friend who doesn’t want to kill but can’t ignore the darkness inside.

I have just finished my MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. My publications include a story for a middle grade anthology called ‘Let me Tell You’ that was released by a small Canadian publisher called International Thompson Publishing.
I would love the opportunity to send you my novel, Dark Inside, which is approximately 85,000 words. Please feel free to call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX if you have further questions or would like to request chapters or the full manuscript. You can also contact me by email at (insert email here).
You've landed a movie agent as well, how did that come about? (instead of other movie Q)
I've signed with Jason Dravis of Monteiro Rose Dravis, the same agent who is responsible for putting the Hunger Games on the big screen. This was pretty much set up through the Greenhouse. I must admit I was very nervous when I had my first phone call with him. We're still in the beginner stages but things should pick up closer to the release date!

So now for the competition! Jeyn will read and provide feedback for one lucky random commenter. You must be a follower of the blog to enter, but can get additional entries from the following:

+1 Follow YAtopia on twitter yatopia_blog
+1 Follow Jeyn Roberts on twitter @JeynRoberts
+1 Blog about the contest
+1 Facebook the contest
+1 Tweet about the contest
+2 Add Dark Inside to Goodreads bookshelf as 'To Read'
+50 Preorder Dark Inside (currently available on Amazon for preorder).

The competition closes on 31st March - please provide links for additional entries.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Writers' Quirks

Let's face it: Writers aren't normal. We're simply not built like other people, for better AND for worse. Every writer I've ever known has their share of quirks and I'm no exception. (In fact, I have mild OCPD so I'm probably worse.)

Some of these quirks are actually useful/helpful. But some are just plain crazy. I'm going to let my freak flag fly for a few and tell you about some of my quirks.

Major Zone-Out

I'm usually a very good listener and I love talking to people. But sometimes, something a person says will trigger a thought about my WIP and no power in the ' verse can bring me back to Earth. I'm talking a full-scale near-comatose zone-out. This often ends with me running away in the middle of a conversation to scribble my thoughts down before they escape. I know it has to be obnoxious for the people around me, but it's like I'm possessed and I can't stop it.

Usefulness: ★★★☆☆ 
Craziness:  ★★★☆☆

No Place Like (anything but) Home

I can't write at home. Messiness and disorder bother me so much that it causes actual physical symptoms. When I lived by myself and could control the state of my apartment this wasn't an issue, but now that I have three roommates who don't understand the concept of clean-as-you-go, it's impossible. I can literally feel my blood pressure rising if I sit down in our living or dining room. (I should point out that my roommates aren't that messy. I'm just that crazy.)

Usefulness: ☆☆☆☆☆
Craziness: ★★★★☆


When working on a novel, I like to have a trinket or something that reminds me of it. For example, when I was writing Brigid's Cross (my first, now-trunked novel) I ordered a silver Brigid's Cross necklace. I play with my necklace constantly so every time I touched it, it reminded me what I should be doing (WRITING!) instead of what was distracting me (TV!).

I recently told my writers group about this little quirk and my friend Mike brought this to the last meeting for me:
He received it as a gift from his sister so he's letting me borrow it until I finish Dragons Are People Too. I know it will help because every time I see it, my fingers itch to be at the keyboard! (I'd really like to find a cool dragon bracelet though, so let me know if you see any!)
Usefulness: ★★★★☆
Craziness: ★★☆☆☆

I'm a Creeper

I constantly watch people in public and listen to their conversations. And it's not passive like most people. I consciously take the seat in the mall food court closest to as many people as possible. I write down things I overhear. I stay longer at a place if people near me are interesting. Every time I leave the house I get caught staring at a random stranger.

Yeah, I'm a creeper. But - short of getting arrested - I'm not going to stop my clandestine ways. It's a great way to get story ideas, study speech patterns, pick up new phrasing and so much more!

Usefulness: ★★★★★
Craziness: ★★★★★

What writing quirks do you have? Does their usefulness make up for their craziness?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Contemporary LOVE

I am and have always been a contemporary girl at heart. Yes, I read a lot of paranormal. Yep, I love paranormal, but contemporary will always be my first love. And funny I should use the word love, because I'm also a huge romance addict (as if everyone doesn't know that already).

But I digress, that's not the whole point of this post. What I want to talk about is contemporary YA. Real people, real world, real issues. It does something to me, affects me in a way not all genres can. There are so many special, special contemporaries out there. Stories that break your heart and put it together again. Make you laugh, smile, cry, sigh and the difference is, I think it feels more real to me because...well, it is real. It could happen to me, you, the girl down the street. In fact, it IS probably happening somewhere to someone. Or has, or will. How special to give that situation a voice?

Again, not bashing paranormal because a large majority of the books in my bookshelf are paranormal, but for today, I'd like us to promote some of our favorite contemporary reads out there. I'll share some of my favorites that I've read lately.

SPLIT by Swati Avasthi. This is one of the most powerful books I've ever read. I was glued to it until the last page. It ripped my heart out, but by the end, I felt so much HOPE. More than hope, I KNEW things would be okay. That despite the past, the future would be different. It was an incredible journey to take, and I felt honored to take it. Jace will always hold a special place in my heart.

FREEFALL by Mindy Scott. I'm seeing a boy POV theme here, but this book was just incredible too. She nails boys POV so well and tells a breathtaking story about a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, dealing with the death of a best friend and trying to better his life. Made of awesome. Sweet romance in it too :)

TWENTY BOY SUMMER and FIXING DELILAH by Sarah Ockler. I can't talk contemporary without thinking Sarah. In my opinion, no one puts words together as beautifully as she does. There are so many passages in these two books that live inside me. I can read those passages now, not even reading the whole book again and get shivers, tear up, and feel like I'm living inside the characters' skin. She is my hero.

The Summer series by Jenny Han. Also, beautiful, beautiful writing. I feel so much when I read these books. One of my favorite things about it is the relationships. Even though its a YA series and about the teens, the relationship between Belly's mom and Susanna is incredible. We all want friends like that. Oh, and hello? Conrad. Love a good, tortured boy.

HARMONIC FEEDBACK by Tara Kelly. *sigh* I love Justin. I do. One of my all time favorite book boys, but you know what? This book is about SO much more than just him. It's about a girl, a girl who sees the world a little differently than others. People think she sees it the wrong way, but does she? I'm not so sure. I loved getting inside Drea's head. Seeing things through her eyes and seeing that there is no "right" way to see the world.

These are a few off the top of my head. Now you tell me, what are some of your favorite contemporary YA's? What is it about them that you love so much?

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Hi, guys. I hope you're all enjoying the pitch contest! I wish you all nothing but the best of luck! :-)

So, as you may have already seen, the cover for my debut YA novel, Hunted, was released recently. I think it's quite lovely and I can't get over how wonderful Lani Woodland's blurb at the top is. As writers, we are constantly doubting ourselves, so reading/hearing comments like Lani's really boosts my confidence.

Today I'm just going to talk a little bit about Hunted and hopefully bring awareness to those who haven't heard of it yet. I started writing the first draft in Feburary 2010 and finished it sometime that June. I had written a couple other novel-length pieces before this, but Hunted was the first one I actually thought had a shot at becoming something other than a Word document. Have any of you felt that feeling? It's a truly wonderful feeling of accomplishment, pride and excitement. I still can't believe it's being published! When I opened my email and saw the cover, it hit me just how real this all is. I'm extremely nervous, but even more excited. This is a story I'm proud of, one that I want people to like (preferably love, but I don't want to get ahead of myself haha) and share with others. It's been amazing seeing the story change and grow, and yet it's still the same one I finished in June. I don't think it'll ever truly be "finished", but the story, and its characters, are in a good place--and so am I. Thank you all for your support thus far and as terrified as I am for people to read it, I truly can't wait until my little book is out in the world. :-)

So, fellow writers, have you written your "Perfect Story" yet? If so, what was the writing process like? If not, are you working on something that could potentially be the perfect one?


To add Hunted on GoodReads, please click HERE and to "like" the Facebook page, click HERE.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Agent Pitch Contest!!

Okay, here is the post you've all been waiting for! (or maybe not, but you should be excited!!).

Super agent Ammi-Joan Paquette has so kindly offered to host a pitch contest - our first, but definitely not last - on YAtopia. And seeing as she's currently closed to submissions, this is an opportunity you simply CANNOT miss out on.

It's really quite simple what you have to do. Ready?

1) Be a follower of the blog. Nice and easy.

2) Blog about this contest and include a link with your entry. If you don't have a blog, you may tweet or make a facebook status. But we prefer blog.

3) Create a TWO SENTENCE pitch. And not a massively long run-on sentence either. Two concise sentences that will hook Joan to your book and have her desperate to read more.

4) Include the opening line of your manuscript.

5) Manuscripts that you submit should be completed. I leave it up to you whether you decide to submit a half finished manuscript. You'll have to deal with it SHOULD Joan request you send her the full.

6) This contest will be capped at either 150 entries OR will end midnight on the 24th March.

7) Winners to be announced (along with prizes) on 31st March.

8) Only childrens and young adult categories will be accepted. Sorry!

Good luck! Contest is open NOW. Use the form below and I wish you all luck. Oh, and feel free to ask me ANY questions :D Entries to be posted in the comments of this post.

Story Name:
Blog/Twitter/Facebook link:
2 Sentence Pitch:
Opening sentence:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Dreaded Deadline

Guest Contributor Morgan Shamy
 Alert! Alert! Someone has hacked the YAtopia blog. I repeat, there has been a breach. Code red! Code red!

Are you all running around screaming, diving for your secret stash of weapons ready to defend your favorite blog to the death? What? You don’t keep a knife under your pillow for such occasions? Er … I mean, I don’t either …

As you all know, the great Leigh Fallon fell and suffered a concussion on Sunday night. So, as it states in her will, I, Morgan Shamy am to take over all her writing responsibilities until the said party is fully recovered and well. Which includes, (in fine print) finishing all of her final proofs for The Carrier of the Mark, writing future sequels, and showing up for all signings/movie premiers. So, of course, I’ve been sneaking daily doses of cyanide into her morning coffee—just enough to keep her down so I can bask in the high and mighty life of an established author. I’M KIDDING! Laughing yet, Leigh?

Okay, okay … let’s get down to business. We’re talking DEADLINES. The dreaded ‘D’ word, right?

No, I’m not officially cool enough yet to have a ‘real’ deadline, but I had an author friend of mine who challenged me to get my WIP done by March 17. I took this challenge VERY seriously. For the past two months, I’ve been waking up at 3:00 am, 6 days a week in order to have some silent writing time. Because let’s face it, when the demon spawn wake up, it’s all downhill from there.

And man! It’s AMAZING how much I’ve accomplished in these past months! Roll with me here for a minute: Do you know the part in movies where the MC gets all motivated to change their life and the inspirational/jammin’ music is playing and there’s a whole lot of sweating, pushing, and fighting to attain that one single goal? Are you following me here? Think Rocky.

That’s me. Without the facial bruising and slurred speech. I will have a complete MS this Thursday. I have pushed, forced, squeezed, prodded and cried in order to get these words out. But yes, I will. Be. Done. Because that’s what my goal was. Yes! I’ve made my deadline.

Or have I?

And here’s my biggest fear: Have I forced the story out? Have I tampered with the creative juices that flow naturally only when those inspirational moments hit? Has the right story not come out? Could it have been better? (and I’m not talking editing/polishing here, I’m talking right down to the heart and structure of the story itself)

Would it have been better not to set a personal deadline? But if I hadn’t, would I have come as far as I have?

See my predicament?

I don’t have the answer yet. But what I do know is that yes, there are times when the magic is flowing so hard it’s like a dam has burst. My fingers can’t type fast enough. But, it’s also in the rocky moments when I have to force myself to write, that I learn something new.

So let’s kick it to you peeps. Who writes better under pressure? Is it better to set a personal deadline and push yourself to get results? Can you force brilliance? Or does brilliance come and go whenever inspiration hits?

Crap! What time is it? I was supposed to have Leigh’s coffee to her an hour ago …

(Our lovely friend Morgan, pictured above, is a 29-year-old aspiring author currently living in Eagle Mountain, Utah. She caught the writing bug while her three-year-old battled cancer, and hasn't been able to stop since.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Activating the Action

I think it's safe to say every writer has one (or multiple, maybe) things they can't stand writing. Specific things that may or may not be necessary to any given storyline, things you want to avoid if at all possible. If you're like me, and your writing pet-peeve happens to be action scenes. These are the scenes that, were they in a movie, would likely be carefully choreographed by a professional, maybe a few stunt-doubles.

Seeing as I'm not a professional choreographer, I spend half the time writing the scene, and the other half slamming my face into the keyboard trying to figure out how to write it.

Having slaved over these scenes time and again, I can offer at least some suggestions for anyone else in the same boat. (And maybe some of you might have suggestions for me. Please? Pretty please?)

I plot out every action scene, be it a fight or a chase of some kind, and replay it over and over again in my head. Envisioning it as if it were a movie to ensure the motions my characters are going through make sense and can be visualized. I don't want something so unrealistic the reader has to pause and think "how did that knife/leg/face/fist/foot/giraffe get there?!"

Sometimes I'll draw out a sketch of the scene, say, a bedroom. I sketch out the furniture, windows and doors, and use the visual to write. If so-and-so moves this way, what might there be for them to interact with? Often, I see action scenes that don't incorporate the characters' surroundings, as though they're moving about in a big, empty room in clumsy and uncoordinated gestures.

In other words, keep in mind where your characters are at all times; utilize their environment to enhance the scene.

Regarding fights, study such scenes in some kind of visual medium, be it movies, comic books/manga, or cartoons. Write down the scene to get a feel for the wording you might use. You're likely to pick up details from this study that you otherwise might have missed. The way a body moves, the way a person swings a punch and leaves themselves wide open to a hit.

Also, short, clipped sentences often work best in faster-paced scenes as opposed to long and drawn-out ones. They help promote a sense of urgency. (I always recall one exception to this rule being SHUTTER ISLAND, whose fast scenes involve a lot of very long sentences, few commas, and a lot of "and"s. This is more a stylistic thing of the author and it worked for him, but it's way too easy to do wrong.)

Don't get me started on things like sword-fights and magical abilities, because I still want to cry when faced with those. Maybe that's something one of you can give me hints on.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Share the Love

I have to be honest. After watching footage from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan yesterday, I couldn’t bring myself to write a serious blog. All I want to do today is embrace life and share the love. In keeping with our passion for reading, I thought we could share the books we love. Thankfully there are lovely sites like, which allow us to recommend stories to one another (I’m always looking for new goodreads friends, nudge, nudge). But nothing beats a good, old-fashioned conversation about books – even if it’s an online conversation. :) Let the sharing begin!

It was hard to narrow down, but here are some books whose characters came alive, pulling me into their worlds:

YA Adventure/Dystopian: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
YA Para/Fantasy Romance: Twilight by Stephenie Meyers & Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead
YA Contemp Romance: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
YA High Fantasy: Graceling by Kristin Cashore
YA Contemp: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Bradshares
YA Contemp Suspense: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
MG Fantasy: entire Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (I know this turns some people off because it's wildly popular and geared towards kids, but if you haven't read it, please do! It's magical in more ways than one.)
Adult Fantasy Romance: the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning (starts with Dreamfever)
Adult Contemp: Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (has YA m.c. but considered adult lit)

What are some reads YOU have loved? Thanks for sharing!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sneak a peek - YA Heaven

Have you ever caught someone looking at you, and it's an attractive someone who sets your heart aflutter? The sneaking sideways glance, the blush when you catch them, or they catch you. The stomach-churning thought of talking to them. It was the height of my day as a teenager.

This afternoon when I was driving my kids to footy training I saw just such a moment when stopped at the traffic lights. I promise I'm a people watcher, not a creepy peeper. I was drawn to their interaction, taking me back to when I was 15.

On opposites sides of the road waiting to cross was a girl from private school, in one of the dorkiest uniforms I had ever seen. But she had beautiful long wavy brown hair spilling out from underneath her hat. Across from her was a tall dark-haired teen, minus a shirt. He obviously played a lot of sport.

He spotted her checking him out, and smirked to himself. She blushed and tried to look coy. I could see both their postures shift. She tried to look like she wasn't that into him, and failed badly. He kept moving around in poses to show off his shirtless physic.

They kept sneaking looks at each other and as the green light came on for them to cross they locked eyes, turning their heads to look eye-to-eye as they passed. She blushed again and he looked decidedly pleased at her reaction (as did she at his).

I wanted to yell at him "Don't be an idiot - go get her number" but there can be something romantic about that elusive person who is an unknown quantity. Those moments can mean so much.

I remember one time at a train station I was in a rush to get where I needed to be, and felt anything but attractive. A guy walked by and looked straight at me and said "Beautiful, just beautiful." Then he disappeared into the crowd. Boy did I smile for the rest of the day.

But it's moments like these that is why I love reading and writing YA. That innocence, those daydreams, the whole notion of what could be and is to come.

So - got any memories to share? Tell us about why you love YA so much.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How Do You Choose?

If you're like me or the other YAtopians, you have multiple story ideas bouncing around, vying for attention like a couple of teenage girls in the front row of a Bieber concert. Not only that, but many of them are good ideas. And when you write novels? Your choice is probably going to define the next year or so of your life.

So how do you choose?

Until recently, I never had to make this decision. But in December I decided the story I was working on wasn't going to work (heartbreaking decision, btw) and I needed to start another. It was then I realized I had no less than SEVEN viable ideas I wanted to use.

Honestly? At first, I panicked. I did anything to avoid thinking about it. One night in January, I finally wrote down a short synopsis of all of them, hoping one would jump out at me.

But it didn't.

So I avoided it again. I even considered going back and editing my very first (trunked) book. I finally decided to take a systematic approach (hey, I'm an engineer after all): I would do short character sketches and write the first chapter for each idea. If I was somebody who did that sort of thing, I probably would have outlined each story too.

But before I had the time for any of that, something odd happened. I had an idea based solely on a title my roommate threw into conversation one night and it started to gain momentum. I sought out books about dragons at the library. My ears perked up every time a dragon was mentioned on TV. Then, the real Crazy began. I dreamt about dragons. I talked to my dog about dragons. (He's the best listener I know)

So, two weeks ago, I started writing the first draft of Dragons Are People Too, relieved my subconscious had picked my next project for me. And I'm loving it so far.

I have a question for you so that I'm prepared next time: When you're wrestling with more than one idea, how do you decide which to focus on first?

Oh, and don't forget: I'll be doing a giveaway when we reach 200 followers!

Monday, March 7, 2011


You're reading a book. It's a really good book. The closer you get to the end, the more exciting it becomes. Your eyes are flying through the words because you just HAVE to know what's going to happen! Is someone going to die? Will they be caught? Will he pull her into his arms for one last kiss? Who's going to win the big fight? All these questions whisper in the background of your mind while you read because it's KILLING you to know what's going to happen next.

And then it ends.

You look for another page because this can't be the end.

Only it is.

The book has just left you on the biggest cliffhanger EVER.


I get leaving off in a spot where the reader needs to know what will happen next. Something big that makes you mark off days on the calender for most likely A WHOLE YEAR until the next book will come out, but I'm curious how YOU, the readers feel about major cliffhangers at the end of a book.

Do they just rock your socks because it gives you something to think about until you get your hands on the next book? OR, do they make you want to throw the book across the room, muttering a few four letter words and vowing never to read the series again, even though you KNOW you will because HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN? LOL. Or do you fall somewhere in between?

It feels like I'm reading more and more cliffhangers. As a writer, I'm really curious how readers feel about them. How they affect you and your book buying/reading.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dear Journal...

Ah, and I'm late in posting again. So sorry for the delay and forgetfulness. It's been a pretty "off" week again.


If you have ever taken a creative writing class, you most likely have had to journal every day about a specific topic given by your instructor or about anything you want. As a writer, I loved having to journal because it turned the wheels in my head and generated ideas, ones I may never have thought of under "normal" circumstances. My teacher would always put a quote on the white board and we had the option of journaling about the quote. I always tried relating my entries to the given quote because, like most writers, I'm always thinking along the lines of, "What if this happens because of that", and I like taking a given scenario and turning it into something entirely my own.

Besides helping me get the creative juices flowing, journaling taught me that I should never be without a notebook and pen. Ideas come out of nowhere most of the time and those are the ones that I end up loving. By keeping a journal on me at all times, I never have to worry about that Great Idea slipping from my mind. I keep a notebook in my backpack, a journal by my bed and that same journal acts as my non-school travel journal. I also have three unused ones in case I ever run out of pages in the ones I'm already using. :-) I like to prepared obviously, haha.

So, fellow writers, do you keep a journal on you at all times to jot down ideas? What is the funniest/oddest thing you've written an idea down on?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Is Paranormal Done?

With so many books out in the paranormal market, has the genre become so saturated it is no longer hot to buy?
I'm going to tell you why I think the answer is no to that. And bare in mind, I am an unpublished author (hopefully that'll change at some point in my life) and have no real experience in the publishing world or an editor house.

The great thing about the paranormal genre and even urban fantasy, depending on how in depth you want to go, is how much you can bend reality to fit your story. How much you can take one aspect, switch it around, and create something original. Okay, you might decide a vampire is what you really want to have as your main paranormal focus. But what you do with that vampire is completely up to you.

I hear a lot of negative feedback regarding a few 'done' paranormal aspects. Vampires, werewolves, fairies, ghosts, demons, angels... You name it, it'll get a bad rap at some point. Right now I'm seeing a lot of Greek retellings. However, the paranormal aspect might be the same, but the plot should definitely not be.

Just because there are a lot of vampire books, doesn't mean you can't write one and make it your own. You migh want to do something with them that hasn't been done before. You could do the same with fairies and angels etc. And the best thing about the paranormal is that we KNOW it doesn't exsist, and while my next point may be met with some argument, you don't have to stick to the rules in paranormal books. You could switch up your werewolves a bit. You could have an angel who doesn't actually have physical wings. Or, like a book I recently read, the angels could actually be the bad guys.

See, the possibilities are endless. Paranormal/fantasy gives readers a chance to be in a world they can never be in otherwise. We all want to get away from bills, or husbands, or kids for maybe half an hour a day, and what better than into a world so unlike our own? I think a lot of appeal lies behind that. Which is why I don't think we'll have anything to worry about when it comes to the paranormal genre. There's always going to be a demand for it because there always has.

What do you guys think? Is anything so 'overdone' it's taboo?? And why? How can we change this?

Oh, and don't forget to check out my twitter pitch contest going on over at my personal blog, Beyond Words. Hope you join in!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Tuesday Twaddle - Dr Scholls V Louboutins

Beautiful cover
Another beauty
Do you judge a book by its cover?  I know you’re not supposed to, but I totally do.  In fact, a beautiful cover will entice me to buy a book even if I know it’s going to be four hundred pages of complete crap.  But I just can’t help myself.  Let’s just call it a weakness.  I like to buy books and put them on my shelves.  I don’t even have to read them.  I just like to know that they’re there, like pieces of art that I pop in and admire every now and again.
I can draw a parallel with shoes (stay with me here, I swear… I have a point).  I love shoes.  Six inch heal Christian Louboutins make me drool.  Do I buy them? Hell yeah! Do I wear them? Gah! No.  They are sooo uncomfortable, hell to walk in, and you’d completely wreck the beautiful red soles on them.  My point being, it’s okay to buy a book for its cover, like a shoe for its sole, or a painting for its colors.  We do what makes us happy. 



But if you put an amazing book in a horrendous cover, I'm not really going to be tempted, that would be like telling me to buy a pair of Dr. Scholls shoes because they're comfy, it's just not happening.  Finding an amazing book with an brilliant cover is like finding that illusive pair of six inch sparkly heals that are as comfortable to walk in as slippers.

While I've found books that meet both requirements, the perfect shoe still evades me.  Now, name a book that you bought purely for the cover! Did you read it? Was it any good? Be honest.