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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

WTH is a Meme?

I keep seeing things like, "Teaser Tuesday" is a meme hosted by .... and I thought, "yeah, I could do a Teaser Tuesday. But WTH is a meme?"  Anyone else have this same question?  I went in search of answers and here's what I found.
1.  You might be saying it wrong (I know I was). I was pronouncing it like it "men" with an m at the end, when really the word rhymes with cream.  Strike one.

2.  Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know the word originates from evolutionary theories. "The British scientist Richard Dawkins coined the word "meme" in The Selfish Gene (1976) as a concept for discussion of evolutionary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples of memes given in the book included melodies, catch-phrases, beliefs (notably religious beliefs), clothing fashion, and the technology of building arches."

3.  "Internet meme" is more narrowly described (again, by Wikipedia) as follows: "At its most basic, an Internet meme is simply the propagation of a digital file or hyperlink from one person to others using methods available through the Internet (for example, emailblogssocial networking sitesinstant messaging, etc.). The content often consists of a saying or joke, a rumor, an altered or original image, a complete website, a video clip or animation, or an offbeat news story, among many other possibilities. In simple terms, an Internet meme is an inside joke, that a large number of Internet users are in on."

Turns out, everything I ever needed to know (and more), I can learn from Wikipedia. Now that we all know, maybe next week I'll actually get around to participating in a meme. (Which I will probably always pronounce wrong in my head.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Flashback Friday: Temporary Hopelessness

*Image Snatched from Lifeless-Silence on*

The YA stories I love to read are full of romance, and adventure, and tingly angst.  But I was reminded this week of the darker side of the YA experience: hopelessness.

That gut-wrenching misery where explaining why you're upset does nothing but produce more tears and you cry until your eyes ache.

The feeling like the world may be better off without you and anyone who would miss you would get over it soon enough.

The simultaneous urge to push everyone away and pull them in as tight as you can at the same time, because you need them and don't want them all at once.

And after the tears are gone, and the hopelessness has been washed away by a good cry, the clouds lift and light slowly creeps its way back in.

It's that emotional volatility that reminds me so much of the YA experience.  Maybe it's just me, or maybe I don't read enough contemporary YA, but I don't remember being as strong as the characters I read about these days.  I could break, dissolve, disappear into nothingness, only to reemerge the next day like a Phoenix reborn.

Anyone else have those memories they'd like to share?  Today's catharsis day on The Daily Harrell. :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010


It's a blogFEAST - that's right, a blogfest centering around food.  And who among us doesn't love food?  I know the warm cookie-brownie combination I just downed with a big glass of milk is now on my list of things I love in life.
This blogfest is hosted by Angela McAlister at Jaded Love Junkie.  Simply put, to be part of the blogFEAST, you have to do a post about *food*  It could be a scene, a poem, a gratuitous moldy piece of bread.  Just keep it to 500 words or less.  And check out some of the other good folks who've put themselves out there and shared their own food-loving writing with you.

For me, my scene comes from DESTINED.  This YA novel is a retelling of the Cupid & Psyche myth.  The main character, Sadie (formerly Psyche), has just been married to "man" she's never met because a prophecy foretold that she must.  (Ancient Greeks were suspicious like that.)  It also told her the groom would be a monster.  When Sadie arrives at her husband's palace, she's greeted by invisible servants, one of whom (Alexa), quickly befriends her.  This scene is the wedding feast, after Sadie's had time to clean up and meet Alexa, but before she's met her husband (who, of course, is Cupid, but Sadie's not allowed to know that).
**Image from A Cake a Day Blog**

        The banquet hall would have been large enough to hold forty tables and couches, but only one grouping stood in the center. Chandeliers of hammered brass dangled from the ceiling and their thousands of candles danced light across every inch of the room. I paused before crossing the threshold, as if the enormity of it all might suck me in. Alexa nudged me forward to the dining couch.
The room pulsed with life even though I couldn’t see anybody. Tentatively, I reclined across the pillows. I wasn’t used to eating on a couch, since at my home, they were reserved for men. But that’s where Alexa had guided me, so that’s where I sat. 
As I settled in, musicians began playing lyres and flutes. The songs were so much happier than the ones that’d been played during my procession up the hill that morning. Had that really only been a few hours ago?
Plates of food and a goblet of wine floated down and landed on the square table in front of me. I recognized the traditional wedding foods: slices of pomegranate, baskets of bread, honey and sesame seeds. But there was so much more. My invisible servants brought plate after plate of delicacies, each better than the next. As I ate, invisible tumblers swirled ribbons around the room in a hypnotic dance of color.   
When I thought I was too stuffed to continue eating, a miniature cake danced toward me on invisible hands. “Oh, I can’t eat another bite,” I protested.
“You’ve got to try this,” Alexa piped up right behind me. I’d been so engrossed in the food, music and dancing that I’d forgotten Alexa was still with me. “This cake is truly divine.”
Who was I to refuse dessert? “If you insist,” I sighed, forking a huge bite into my mouth. The cake seemed to melt in my mouth. It was sweeter than honeysuckle and dripped with liquid caramel. I rolled my eyes as I indulged.  
When only one bite of the tiny cake was left, I pushed it away. “I can’t eat anymore. I’m about to burst out of this dress,” I said, patting at my full belly.
But my fork rose from the silver plate and stabbed the one remaining bite. “I insist,” Alexa said, pushing the soft dessert between my lips. 
As she set the fork back on the plate, Alexa said, “There now. How’s that for an easy wedding?”

Thanks for dropping by!  Don't forget to check out the other foodies on the blogFEAST.

Monday, September 20, 2010

OMG! Read this book!

Seriously, I can't even wait for Tuesday to do my usual post, because this book was just that freaking awesome and I wanted you all to put it on your TBR piles NOW!

What book am I raving about?
FIRELIGHT by Sophie Jordan
Here's the Good Reads description:

With her rare ability to breathe fire, Jacinda is special even among the draki—the descendants of dragons who can shift between human and dragon forms. But when Jacinda’s rebelliousness leads her family to flee into the human world, she struggles to adapt, even as her draki spirit fades. The one thing that revives it is Will, whose family hunts her kind. Jacinda can’t resist getting closer to him, even though she knows she’s risking not only her life but the draki’s most closely guarded secret. 

First off, total cover lust, right? I can't say I've ever been a big fan of dragons (very high fantasy, IMO), but this cover just screamed: Read me now, gosh darn it!  So I did.

The first thing that grabbed me was the writing.  It's present tense & it works.  That takes talent right there.  Plus, the writing is descriptive and lyrical.  I had no trouble imagining the world Jordan built or what Jacinda felt as she unfurled her wings in flight.  As I reader, I was right there with Jacinda every step of the way.  It was immediate and painful and heartachingly romantic.

I stayed up reading until midnight or later three nights in a row.  IN A ROW, people!  I'm a person who closely guards my sleep.  This book intruded on it & I would've given up even more time if my eyelids would have cooperated in staying open.

Now, some folks on Goodreads complain because it has a main character, who's a paranormal creature, and a really hot guy is inexplicably drawn to her.  First, we know by the end why the characters are drawn to each other.  But more importantly, that's the general story line of all paranormal romance.  If you don't like that plot, then don't read in the genre.  But if you do like your men attractive and your characters supernatural, then I don't think this book will disappoint.

Also, the plot.  Hunted falling for the hunter... yeah, that's sort of Twilight. (So the lion fell in love with the lamb.)  But there were so many twists in there and Jacinda really was a strong character.  She had to really battle to be who her mom and twin sister needed her to be while still staying true to herself.  When it came down to it, Jacinda had backbone and roasted some cheerleaders in the bathroom.  And the end was completely unexpected for me.  I don't want to spoil anything for you, so you'll just have to read it yourself.

My only gripe about it is that it ended too soon!  I wanted more, more, more.  And like I complained about with 13 to Life, it really wasn't a stand alone novel.  I mean, if there was never any more books in this series, readers would go NUTS.  (Oh, and I don't really like the name Jacinda.  Does anyone care?  No, probably not.)
Overall, this book gets my first-ever HFAC (Holy Flipping Animal Crackers) designation - a whopping 5 out of 4 Greek coins.  In my opinion, it's the best book I've read this year.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fiction Friday: What Makes Great Fiction?

Stamp from Caat at DeviantArt
What makes great fiction?

The answer's probably different for each of you.

I know some people are incredibly character driven.  They want a character that arcs and grows; who morphs from something imperfect to something well, slightly better.  I think of books like Living Dead Girl and The Adoration of Jenna Fox as being character-driven stories.  There's not a whole lot that happens plot-wise, but the character development is what draws you in.

Along the same lines, some readers are all about voice.  If you can't relate to the character's voice, you can't relate to the story, plain and simple.  For example, if your character is a total beotch, snot, uber-dork, or some other over-the-top cliche, the book's probably dead on arrival.

Stephanie Meyer caught a lot of crap because her writing wasn't "beautiful" or technically perfect, but the woman can tell a story.  Flowery prose does nothing for me.  And while I do notice passages that are beautifully written (such as in Firelight), as long as the writing isn't crappy, I'm happy.

Then there's plot.  And if you can't tell by now, I'm a plot girl.  I need a relatable main character and decent writing, but the story line has got to get my blood flowing.  If I don't need to turn the page to find out what happens next, I'm not as immersed in the fictional world as I want to be.  And truly, it's only at that point that fiction becomes better than Prozac.  Because reading through a book that you know should be good, but frankly you just wish it was over (Linger) is the antithesis of therapeutic.

What is it for you?  What's the thing that will reel you in every time?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

13 to Life by Shannon Delaney - A Review

13 to Life by Shannon Delaney came out in May (St. Martin's Press) and I heard a lot of tweets about it on Twitter.  Now, I'm normally not a werewolf fan, but I am hugely susceptible to peer pressure, so I decided to pick up a copy.  I'm glad I broke out of my mold.

Here's the blurb:
When junior Jess Gillmansen gets called out of class by Guidance, she can only presume it’s for one of two reasons. Either they’ve finally figured out who wrote the scathing anti-jock editorial in the school newspaper or they’re hosting yet another intervention for her about her mom. Although far from expecting it, she’s relieved to discover Guidance just wants her to show a new student around—but he comes with issues of his own including a police escort.
The newest member of Junction High, Pietr Rusakova has secrets to hide--secrets that will bring big trouble to the small town of Junction—secrets including dramatic changes he’s undergoing that will surely end his life early. 
Sounds intriguing, right?  Cover's not hard on the eyes either...

So right off the bat, I like the book because the MC is named Jessie. 'Nuf said.

The book pulled me in because there are all these little trails, but information is only fed to you in small snippets.  You know from the blurb that "something" happened to Jessie's mom.  But what?  As the details come out slowly, her life looks more and more like an imminent train wreck.

Then you throw Pietr into the picture - Pietr, who Jessie has convinced to date her best friend, Sarah, but whom Jessie ends up kissing (a lot) behind closed doors.  Yeah - that could be a problem.  And there's the fact that he somehow skipped school all last year to prowl around Russia while the Russian mafia is committing random crimes in a neighboring town.  Also sounds like it could be a problem.

I also liked that you got to meet Jessie and Pietr's families and they all seemed to have distinct personalities.  Jessie's dad was there enough to be believable but not enough to keep her out of trouble.  And that's a fine line you walk as an author too -- so I can appreciate that artistry there.

Finally, there was enough realistic tension in the pages that I stayed up too late reading on more than 1 night.  And I love my sleep, so that tells you something.

BUT -- and here's my main complaint -- I didn't feel like this was a stand alone novel.  Now, I know Delaney wrote it to be a series.  I get that.  But there are far too many loose ends for this book to make it on its own.  And I feel like that's a cardinal sin somehow.  Like even though you've left me hanging and wanting to read the next book, I should still feel like this one is complete.  And I don't feel that way about this one...

Someone else also mentioned that the Russian mafia and wolves in a neighboring town plot lines felt underdeveloped, and I'd have to agree with that as well.  Of course, it leaves Delaney lots of room in her series to work, but I felt like I had no idea why Jessie was following these stories when her own tragic story was still so close.  If it was a distraction, I would've liked a better picture of that.

But it's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback right?  It's a lot harder to actually write a book that catches my attention so completely.

Overall, I give 13 to Life 3.5 out of 4 Greek coins - a better than URA* rating (just not quite OMG!)  And I'll be awaiting the sequel, Secrets and Shadows, coming out in February.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Elizabeth Kolodziej Blog Tour Stop

Today, we're lucky to welcome Elizabeth Kolodziej as her blog tour makes a stop at The Daily Harrell.  Elizabeth's debut novel, Vampyre Kisses, came out in May.

Here's a description of Vampyre Kisses, which I'm sure you'll want to get:

Vampyre Kisses is an enthralling story about a young woman named Faith, who was content with her life, but deep down craved more excitement. Then a mysterious man named Trent enters her life and everything changes. Surprising to Faith, Trent is a green-eyed vampire from Ireland. She is even more surprised to find out that she is a witch, and the last of her kind.
Faith finds out that she is destined to restore her witch line and becomes more powerful as she gains confidence and knowledge, but danger lurks everywhere. Especially when unknown assailants steal the most important gems from the vampire master and werewolf royalty..
Now surrounded by a world full of mystifying vampires and werewolves, can Faith gain enough power to help her friends and rescue the stolen gems?

I’m fascinated that you were able to weave lore from witches, vampires and werewolves together.  Where did your inspiration come from?

My inspiration comes from everything around me. A lot coming from books I read, especially those on folklore which is one way I do my research. When I read old folklore it gives me ideas of what I might want to include in my own book with my own twist.
Also, the people around me, my friends, movies, music they all inspire ideas in my mind.

We know you spent a TON of time researching for this novel.  How much do you think that helped your writing?

I think it is what made my writing so unique. Without doing the research I would not have been able to come up with the ideas that I did. It really does help to inspire my writing and make it unique.

We read on an earlier stop in your blog tour that Greek mythology with a twist plays a big role in Vampyre Kisses.  I’m hooked.  Please tell us more about that – what myth(s) you used and how you twisted them.

I have always been interested in Greek Mythology. I have been reading those stories for ages. I guess I got to understand the gods and by doing so I was able to make my own kind of mythological story about how vampires were first created and why. I also wanted to make sure I included the gods and goddess in my story so they are actual characters and play a role in what happens.

Right now I am taking an old Greek/Roman myth from the first werewolf story and mixing it into the second book to explain their history and how they came to be.
When it comes to witches I have studied a lot of books on magic and decided to incorporate some spells and empowering spells to help Faith come more to life in the book.

I applaud you for being brave enough to self-publish your novel.  How did you make that decision?

I spent a couple years trying to get an agent. But I don’t think my query letter was that great though I worked on it and got people to help me with it. I tried revamping it a dozen times but it never got people really interested.

Finally I said that’s enough and decided to see what I could do on my own. Plus with the economy being the way it is not many agents were taking authors on unless they were sure it was a sure thing. Finally my dad said lets try it this way and the adventurous part of me took over and I said ok lets do it and see what happens.

Are there any tips you’d offer for novelists like yourself who are considering the self-publishing route?

My advice would be to let them know that it is VERY difficult. You are going to have to do everything yourself and make mistakes along the way. I am just hoping I can get on enough blogs and get enough people interested in at least picking it up and giving it a good read.

Where to buy the book:
Publisher’s Website:
Barns and Noble:

Thank you, Elizabeth.  We wish you loads of luck with this book and your upcoming werewolf-heavy sequel.  All - I recommend checking out the trailer - it's really good!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Flashback Friday: ME - only younger

I'm feeling a little dry tonight for Flashback Friday.  My most recent inspiration was a trip to Disney with the family, but any flashbacks I get from that go back to pre-middle school years; definitely not YA.  I didn't do Grad Night (mistake?) because I had no interest in paying $100 to schlep around Disney in a dress and less-than-comfortable shoes. *yes, me dork*
Image snatched from DeviantArt

So, looking back, I've created a list of some of my 10 most memorable high school moments:
1.  Meeting my life-long best friend as a new freshman on the practice field for marching band.
2.  Quitting band in 10th grade after trying to switch from flute to oboe and ending up sucking at both.
3.  Riding a bus all night long to get from south Florida to Wake Forest University for the Early Bird speech and debate competition - and the coach only allowing us to eat at Cracker Barrel. Crazy but so much fun!
4.  Getting invited to prom as a freshman.
5.  Learning my dad had a heart attack the night before my sophomore prom, finding out the hard way I'm allergic to escargot at prom dinner, and having to visit my dad in the hospital the next day.*
6.  Giving up my acting elective because (a) I couldn't sing and (b) my grandmother told me I'd never be pretty enough to be an actress.
7.  Riding in the homecoming parade and getting my 15 minutes of fame, even though I wasn't part of the "official" court.
8.  Struggling with my own self worth as a poor kid amongst a bunch of rich kids.
9.  Figuring out that I was smarter than I'd given myself credit for; I just had to want it.
10. Falling head over in heels in love and staying there for a long time.

What are some of your most memorable moments?

* this is probably one of my worst memories ever.  speaking of which, you should hope over to the Oasis and leave your worst HS memory in the comments for a chance to win a copy of the critically acclaimed The Local News.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Middle Books (and why they sometimes annoy me)

Last week I reviewed Linger - the second in The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy.  Several months ago I reviewed Captivate - the sequel to Need.  And late last week I finished reading The Broken Lake, second in The Pace series.  All of these seconds followed first books that I loved.  LOVED!!  And all of these sequels let me down.
But I don't think it was because my expectations were too high.  You saw me rave about The Soul Screamers series, and not a one of those books suffered from "middle book syndrome" - I think I just made that term up.  (Ok, quick google search reveals I am not the first to recognize this problem.)

Which got me thinking, what really is my problem with these books?  Why did I keep flipping the pages waiting for something to freaking happen already?

The answer: Because nothing happens in them until the very end.  I loved Need, and Shiver, and The Pace because in each of them, you have this fierce, forbidden, impossible love and insurmountable odds.  Then you top it all off with a crisis.  But in book two, the author gives us all the gushy lovey-dovey stuff we hoped for for the characters in book one, but it just doesn't make for very interesting reading.  When everyone's happy, it's kind of boring actually.  Now, in all of them, you the reader are waiting for the hammer to drop, which is a little suspenseful, but not enough.  At least not enough for me.

So that realization made me think some more: as an author, how can I be sure I don't write a book that suffers from middle book syndrome (if, praise Jesus, I ever have a first book)? IMO, there are two ways to do this, but only one way to do it well - anymore.

The first way is to have the romance fall apart as soon as it gets started.  That's what made New Moon so damn agonizing, right?  (I confess, I almost burst into tears in the grocery store when I took a break from this book to pick up some food. How could Edward do that to Bella??) But I now exclude this as a way to inject action into middle books because everyone will say it's an obvious Twilight comparison.  Don't do that to yourself.

Which brings us to method two: actually write some action.  I know, it's a shocking idea.  That Boy and Girl have overcome impossible odds to be together and now something else crappy happens.  But it's going to happen in book 3, right?  Crappy is coming.  Crappy is what makes us turn the page to see how the problem gets resolved. Don't write a whole freakin' book of perpetual love scenes.  It's like book two is nothing but an overly-long (and largely unnecessary) bridge to book three.  Great - your characters are happy and in love and they're singing from the rooftops.  I'm snoring.

Well, this turned out to be more of a rant than I perhaps intended.  And of course, I'm certainly not the guru of publishing (seeing as how I've yet to catch the view from the published side of the industry).  But come on, there's got to be someone else who feels this way, right?

Oh, and any other tips I missed for overcoming the dreaded MBS (it's a syndrome now, so it should get a medical-like abbreviation)?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Flashback Friday: cookie dough & other food choices

Hubby & I were baking cookies tonight ('cause that's what sick people do, right?) and it brought back a total flashback moment.
When I was 17 and a senior, my mom went out of town and left my BFF (who was 19 and a freshman in community college) in charge.  Yeah, good idea, right?  She even left us with money to do our own grocery shopping.  What'd we buy?

A tube of cookie dough.

I'm sure we got other things too, but I remember eating the raw dough right out of the tube with spoons for dinner.  And not feeling so great afterwards...

I also remember that was the year I gave up potato chips, because deep down I knew that polishing off a bag of Ruffles Cheddar Cheese & Sour Cream potato chips -- my favorite!-- followed up with half a bag of Chips Ahoy cookies probably wasn't in the best interest of my waist line.  And if one of them had to go, let's just say it wasn't going to be the cookies.  To this day (and we're talking 15+ years later), I still don't eat potato chips (tortilla chips are my escape clause though).

Lest I seem like a total junk food freak, there was this one tuba player in band who ate 2 packages of Reese peanut butter cups and a Mountain Dew for lunch every day.  Public schools.  What're you gonna do?

So I'm curious, do teens still eat the same junk food today?  Are chips and cookies high on the food pyramid, or have the schools finally gotten through to them about healthy eating?