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Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Flashback: The Last Trick-or-Treat

I heard a story on the news the last night about how some small Ohio town is making it "illegal" to trick-or-treat if you're older than 12.  Punishment comes with a $100 fine.  Pretty stiff punishment for a kid trying to score some free candy.  But then again, it's not cool when the older kids push the little ones aside in their race for a sugar high.
(That's me on the right - age 14.)
The story made me think back to my own YA days.  How old was I when I stopped trick-or-treating? I must have been younger than 14, because that year, while my best friend and I dressed up in matching genie costumes that her mom sewed for us, we went to the fairgrounds to celebrate.  It was supposed to be cool with a haunted house and all that, but it was actually pretty lame.  I'm pretty sure we spent a decent amount of time in the bounce-house, trying to hop while making sure you genie tops didn't fall off our non-existent chests.  (Ah... the good old days.)

But, I honestly can't remember the last time I donned a costume and went door-to-door collecting the good stuff.  Sixth grade? I dressed up as a 50s roller-skate waitress and my cousin was a 50s poodle skirt girl.  (Okay, trick or treating with roller skates is awesome, by the way.)  But after that, I just don't recall.  How sad it that?  No wonder I love Halloween so much as an adult.  I'm making up for a wasted youth!

When was the last time y'all went door-to-door (for yourself - not your kids) on Halloween?  Were you YA or MG?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Never-ending Scene Blogfest

Sorry to be posting late!  Here's one of my favorite cliffhanger scenes from DESTINED (in about 415 words).  By way of background, this book is a retelling of the Cupid & Psyche myth and is set in ancient Greece.  At this point in the book, Sadie is either going to have to marry a wretched outcast or Cupid. The worst of the worst or the best of the best, right?  Her father, King Darion, has traveled to Delphi to get the Oracle's prediction (the oracle is also called the Pythia).  This is the moment where we watch Darion get the prophecy to determine which path Sadie's life is about to take.

Oops... and I forgot to mention-- check out Brenda Drake's blog for the rest of the entries!

Darion approached Apollo’s temple slowly, carrying the lyre on outstretched arms before him. He looked as if he expected the god to reach down and personally accept the gift. But as he stood in the shadow of the massive temple, Darion’s fleshy arms began to weaken. He was forced to present his tribute at the base of the temple. Like everyone else.
He led a procession of supplicants around Apollo’s temple to a side entrance. There, Darion crept down a set of stairs that descended into the Sanctuary of the Oracle. The room was dark and damp, the flickering lanterns barely illuminating the cavern. Its silence was punctuated only by trickles from the stream running through channels in the floor.  

Darion approached the screen separating him from the Pythia and placed his hand against the coarse fabric. Cupid shared Darion’s anguish. The girl on the other side of that screen held both their worlds in her hands. Darion’s forehead dipped until it too pressed against the screen. A tear spilled from his eye. Cupid held his breath.

A priest cleared his throat nearby. “Sire, the Pythia is waiting. You need to ask your question.”

Darion raised his head, but didn’t back away from the screen. His voice cracked when he spoke. “Pythia, sacred maiden of Apollo, I come to learn the fate of my daughter, Sadie. What lies in store for her?”

The Pythia sat silently on her tripod, pinching laurel leaves between her soft fingers and gazing into a cauldron of still water. Slowly, deeply, she inhaled the vapors rising from a crevice in the earth. Her low-ceilinged chamber filled with the intoxicating scent of the god, swirling around her, inviting her to taste immortality. The light, tinkling sound of the sacred stream filled the cavern as she waited to receive Apollo’s message.

The Pythia began to sway as she balanced on her tripod. Her arms stretched out to the sides, palms up, letting the leaves fall away. Seconds ticked by and Cupid felt his heart thud its every beat in his chest. Suddenly, the Pythia erupted in a peal of laughter, throwing her head back with such abandon she would have tumbled from her stool if an alert priest hadn’t caught her.

“Get ready,” the priest whispered to Darion. “It’s coming.”

Eyes rolled back in her head and panting, the Pythia breathed out her prophecy. Foretold Sadie’s future.

Darion dropped to his knees as the Pythia collapsed into the priest’s waiting arms.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Flashback Friday: Flashes of Homecoming

This picture triggers so many memories for me.  Little flashes, each like a light bulb, sparking to mind a piece of high school tradition.  Now, I wasn't the most popular girl. Not a whole lot of school spirit particularly.  But in my senior year, when I had some real leadership roles on campus, my interest in homecoming rose significantly.
* I remember making "fluffies" in French class; then spending hours at the fairgrounds overseeing the construction and painting of the float I'd designed (it was a pirate hanging by a noose from under the Arc du Triumph with a Tiger-turned-Peter Pan standing in front).  The theme was Disney and our rivals that year were the pirates.  It worked out pretty well.
* I remember buying my dress while on a debate trip to Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.  That's one way to assure no one else has the same dress as you...
(GRAINY! This is what happens when you take a picture with your iPhone while pic is still in the old-timey photo album with plastic covering it. You get the idea.)

* I remember riding down the parade route in my step-dad's red convertible representing S.A.A.V.E. (Students Against the Aids Virus Everywhere).  I was the President that year and chosen to represent the club in the parade.
* I remember decorating the S.A.A.V.E. car (we weren't big enough to make a float) with a Sleeping Beauty theme that included drawings of a hypodermic needle and the phrase "block that prick."
Here's what I don't remember:
* the game
* being announced at the game and walking across the field (I only even know I did this because I just saw a picture.  Hump.)
* the dance
Which suggests to me as an author, that for teens, it's details and real slices of life that matter.  Things that seem so huge at the time are often lost in the blur, but activities to which you contributed and played a meaningful role stay prominent in our memories.
What say you??  Do the bigger events stand out, or particular little details?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Co-Authoring: Getting Down to Business

So, now you know how Nikki and I started our co-authoring process: meeting, doing character profiles, and outlining.  This week, we're going to tell you how we shared our writing responsibilities.

Rather than assigning chapters, we took days. Or parts of days.  Since we had a detailed outline, it was easy to say, "ok, you write day 4 and I'll take day 5."  We didn't just assign days since some days have a lot more happen then others.  It was more of an "I'm done with day 4, and I'm feeling inspired to tackle night 6 because I had a great idea for the date."  As we wrote, we'd pass our chapters back and forth.

I think I can speak for Nikki when I say we tried to go in to our own chapters and make them gel with the chapters around them as the manuscript went back and forth.  And Nikki created an ingenious way of labeling the files. It was: Beneath1-[last chapter #][NVK or JLH][date].  That way you can tell from looking at the saved title of the doc that you're working with your latest version or the latest version of your writing partner.

Being cross-coastal from each other actually helped, I think.  Since I'm three hours ahead and we both write at night, I was able to do my writing and pass it to Nikki before she started her writing for the evening. And when I woke up the next morning, Nikki's chapters were waiting for me.  (Although the outline made the chapters blend together pretty well, admittedly it was easier to write the next chapter when I knew exactly what happened just before that.)

Of course, if either of us needed to ease up on the writing schedule, or one of us had a burning desire to tackle a particular chapter, we went with the flow.  In my mind, being flexible and understanding was just as important as being like-minded.

Got any questions?  Any tips to share with us as we dive further into revisions? 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

DESTINED: the first 250

Since I had so much fun on my last blogfest -- and since I just revamped the first chapter of DESTINED -- Elle Strauss's First 250 Words Blogfest arrived at the perfect time for me.  With pounding heart and sweaty palms, I present the *new* first 239 words of DESTINED.  I'd love to know what you think (and it doesn't have to be nice.  I'll understand.)

       My forehead rested against the wooden shutters in my room as I searched for the courage to push them open. I knew what was waiting for me outside -- and gods -- I didn’t want to go through this again. But I had no choice.  
My admirers were waiting.  
         “It’s time, Sadie.” Maia gave my shoulder a squeeze with her weathered hand. “Might as well get it over with.”
She received my weakest smile in return. Only because she’d practically raised me did I refrain from ordering her out. None of our other servants would dare rush me.  
I stalled by returning to my mirror and fidgeting with the tendril of hair dangling by my cheek. Not that I could’ve improved upon the style. Maia’d put the chestnut curls up in my favorite silver headband herself, which meant they were arranged perfectly. Same for the make-up I noted, rubbing my glossed lips together; flawless as always. I nodded and smoothed out a fold in my tunic. “Fine.”
Maia backed away from the window, inching closer to the mahogany door. Preparing me to face the horde was one thing, but I didn’t allow anyone in my room when I was pandering to the crowd. Not Maia, not my parents, and certainly not my sisters.
      Flinging the shutters apart, I was blasted with sunlight and deafening cheers. I flinched before forcing myself to smile, repulsed by the sound of my own name.

Friday, October 15, 2010

City of Bones: Yeah, I Just Read It

So, if you're an Oasis Seeker, then you know that I finally crawled out from under my rock and read City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.  I've been following Mundie Moms for months, and all I hear about on hero-worship chats is "Jace-this, Jace-that," so it seemed like it was about time I read it.

I must say, I'm glad I did. (Yes, that's me holding a real book. As much as I love my Kindle, I just had to buy something "paper" at Target one day.  Head over to the Oasis for YA if you'd like a chance to win it.)

Here's the synopsis from Barnes & Noble:

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?
This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . .
Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare’s ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

Overall, here are my thoughts:
*  The plot and storyline are unique, interesting, complex, and logical.  These are angels without God; demons without Hell.  It's a fascinating take on the supernatural.
*  I would have liked it a lot more in first person.  This is clearly Clary's story, and it's told in close third person, but the book would have felt more immediate told from her first person perspective.  The book kept me interested, but not staying up too late to read.
*  The plot twist is totally unexpected and you won't want to believe that it's true.  At this point, the book became a total page turner.  Too bad it was almost completely over.
*  I liked all the characters.  I liked their adventures.  Ultimately, I liked the way it ended.  But all I can say is that I "liked" it.  Not "loved" it.  I'm sure I'll eventually read the next in the series, but I'm not salivating to pick it up.
In the end, I give it a 3 out of 4 Greek coins -- a URA* rating.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Co-authoring: Getting Started

As promised, I'll be sharing some of the techniques that Nikki and I used to co-author Beneath the Surface. (Nikki's also sharing her tips, so be sure to check out her blog too.)  Our experience is particularly unique because we've never met in person. Nikki lives in California; I live in Florida. We're separated by thousands of miles and three time zones. But we still made it work. Here's how.
Myspace Quotes
Myspace Quotes, Teamwork Quotes at

1. I asked Nikki to work with me because I had read her first novel, Shoreline, and felt our writing styles were compatible. My first book is a retelling of a Greek myth; hers draws heavily on mythology, although it's set in present day. So for me, step one was finding someone with similar interests and a comparable writing style. I can thank #YALitChat for allowing us to meet.

2. We researched how other sucessful co-authors (notably Kami Garcia & Margie Stohl) have made the process work for them. The main goal is to have seamless writing- it's imperative that the voice remain the same from chapter to chapter. So our first & most important rule of co-authoring is that either of us can change the other's words, no questions asked. We don't red line and ask the other for permission. That was the primary ground rule we established before we started writing.

3. Our last step before we started writing was to create very detailed character skeches and a pretty thorough outline. When I say detailed, I mean we went online shopping for all of our characters. We picked out outfits & shoes typical of them all. We nailed down their personality quirks, favorite everything, all biographical information. In conjunction, we created a fairly detailed outline. Our characters are working on a set timeline (2 weeks), so we laid out all 14 days and made sure we had a general idea of what needed to happen each day & night. (And yes, we did go back & revamp the outline when we were about 1/2 way through.)

Sheri asked specifically last week: How do you collaborate ideas at the very beginning?
I had the primary idea for BTS when we got started, but I had stalled and didn't know where to go with it. Nikki and I wrote back and forth, exchanging ideas.  Then, we started the outline, again passing it back and forth.  I'd fill in some ideas and e-mail it to Nikki.  She'd add to it and send it back.  We passed in back and forth until we'd created a story line and characters we were happy with.  Along the way, we'd ask each other questions.  How would this work, etc.? And it helped us solidify the mythology in our minds before we started writing.

So that was our getting started process. Next week I'll talk about how we divided work and did the writing. Got any questions? Leave us a comment and we'll be sure to answer.

Friday, October 8, 2010

We're Outing Ourselves

Doo, du, du, doo! (*those were trumpets blaring*)  I'm excited to finally be able to tell you about the WIP I've been working on.  Only I haven't been working alone... the lovely and talented Nikki Katz, has been co-authoring with me.  [If you don't know Nikki yet, be sure to check out her blog.]  I feel so blessed to have met Nikki on YALitChat, worked with her on Oasis for YA, and now can say we've co-written a book together.  SQUEE!!

We finished our
first draft this week (after about two months worth of writing) and figured we could finally "out ourselves" and share the details with you.  We're about to roll up our sleeves and get to work on the edits, but plan on blogging about co-authoring process. It's gone remarkably well for us (we think) and we'd like to share our tips in case co-authoring is something you've ever considered yourself. Next week, I'll tell you the process we used to get started.  Do you have any questions about co-authoring?  Leave a comment here or on Nikki's blog and we'll make sure to answer them!

For now, I'll leave you with my top 3 reasons to consider co-authoring a novel (I could write more, but then you might get bored):
1.  It's motivating - when someone else is waiting on your chapter, you get it written
2.  It's fun - like reading a great book you just picked up, only you get to be an editor and breathe life into too
3.  You have a built-in brainstorming & critique partner - it's harder to miss logical inconsistencies or date blunders when two sets of eyes are looking at it. Plus, ideas really start flowing when you're bouncing them off each other.
And without further ado... our description for Beneath the Surface.  Tell us what you think!
The chase is on....
Seventeen-year old Wren Lassiter planned on a relaxing summer break on an exclusive, remote island in Lake Huron. But when island newcomer, Chase Regas, nearly plows her over in his speed boat, he winds up tearing apart more than just her shoulder.  From Chase, Wren learns that she's descended from an ancient Greek monster, she pays a role in fulfilling an ancient curse, and she's about to rekindle a romance that spans past lives.  Turns out, whether it's dealing with herself, Chase, or the curse, Wren finds there's way more than she expected Beneath the Surface

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: City of Bones

I'm doing it. I'm doing a meme. *woo-hoo*
Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Miz B of Should Be Reading and asks you to:
1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share 2 "teaser"sentences also citing the title of the book and the author and in that way people can have great recommendations if they like the "teaser"
4. Please avoid spoilers
I'm reading City of Bones by Cassandra Clare presently, and feel like I'm the last person on the planet to pick it up.  But, if you -- like me -- haven't read this book yet, you ought to consider picking it up.  It's very entertaining so far.

Here's my two-line (oops, I mean four-line, I couldn't help myself) teaser from the novel - page 94:

With the tip of the stele, he traced a line connecting the two arms of the star. When he lowered his hand, the mark was shining as if it had been etched with phosphorescent ink.  As Clary watched, it sank into his skin, like a weighted object sinking into water. It left behind a ghostly reminder: a pale, thin scar, almost invisible.

Beautiful imagery, huh?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Flashback Friday: Powder Puff

Fall is undoubtedly in the air (even here in Florida), and there are few fall activities I look forward to more than college football. (Ok, pumpkin patches and Halloween costumes are better, but that's it. Oh, and pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks.)  Anyway, all the football fever going around my house made me think back to Powder Puff football.
You remember! When the girls donned jerseys and cotton shorts with paw prints on their butts and the guys dressed up as cheerleaders and put on a pep rally in the gym. Isn't that how it happens in all high schools?

My powder puff memories are actually pretty pathetic. I got the uniform my junior year, but wasn't brave enough to practice, let alone play.  Let's just say I've never been known for my athletic prowess or my pain threshold.  I'm sure I went to the game, but I honestly don't remember it.

I do remember a sleepover the night before Powder Puff where all the un-athletic chicks (yep - that's me) stayed up too late and woke up early to don blue tiger paws on our cheeks before heading off to class.

Then, I didn't even get the uniform my senior year. But learned later that a girl in my class suffered a broken collar bone during the game. SEE?? I wasn't crazy about the little game of girlie flag football being dangerous. Girls are mean!

But now, as my little four year old daughter screams at the television, encouraging players to "get him" or announcing a "touch down" (she's not particularly accurate in her calls yet), I can't help but think that I have the makings of a future powder puff player on my hands. (That, and she prefers to play with boys and roll in the grass over "cooking" in housekeeping.)

Okay ladies -- did you play? Why or why not?