Wednesday, May 23, 2012

RTW: What Divergent Faction Are You?

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the contributors over at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question. Then readers answer it on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's question: What faction are you?

Oh man. I love this. Can I tell you how much I love this? I love it so much I was working on my INSURGENT review this morning (which I'll share probably next week). Although (like most of us) I'd probably be divergent, I don't like to admit my Erudite leanings. So in the choosing ceremony I'd totally go Dauntless.

Me channeling Dauntless the Friday before release day.
I posted my reasons why here, but here are some of my favorite dauntless quotes:

"We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another."

"Becoming fearless isn't the point. That's impossible. It's learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it."

"A brave man acknowledges the strength of others."

"I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren't all that different."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Killing our characters

Warning -- This post will contain spoilers from the following: Stranger than Fiction, Divergent, Insurgent, Mockingjay, Delerium. While I typically white out the spoilers, the below post contains too many for this to be possible. I will post a small warning before each spoiler.

Last night the Mister and I watched Stranger than Fiction together. Now I’d seen the movie in the past, but that was before I admitted to my dream of becoming an author, before I really let the stories in my head and heart come to life. I’m in the middle of a rewrite of my current WIP right now, and I know that somewhere along the line there are certain characters I’m getting to know, becoming close to, falling in love with, who may die.

For those of you who may not remember the film (SPOILER ALERT - STRANGER THAN FICTION), Harold Crick discovers he is a character in a novel. He must find the author before she kills him. When she discovers that Harold is a real person, she chooses to change the ending rather than killing Harold. This made me wonder which characters’ fates I might change if they were real people. But  beyond this, I wondered about the value of death—what purpose it really serves and what it costs us and our other characters.

Take Divergent (SPOILER ALERT - DIVERGENT) by Veronica Roth, for example. At the end of this novel, Tris is forced to kill Will, one of her new and closest friends. Not only does Will die, but our beloved protagonist becomes his murderer. I think this choice on Roth’s part is invaluable. This moment really defines much of Tris’s growth in the sequel. Without it, I don’t think she’d become the strong person she does in Insurgent. In fact, (SPOILER ALERT - INSURGENT) Tris's choice to kill Will rather than wound him becomes one of the major conflicts Tris has to deal with and overcome in Insurgent.

But unlike this death, in Mockingjay (SPOILER ALERT - MOCKINGJAY) by Suzanne Collins, I felt Prim’s death was wasted. The whole driving force behind Katniss’ choice in The Hunger Games, is to keep her family safe. By killing Prim, this is ripped away from her, making me question if it wouldn’t have been more merciful to kill Katniss in the end rather than let her suffer this fate. Perhaps if Prim’s death had come at some other point in the story—say the end of Catching Fire—it could’ve served as an even stronger force for Katniss’ actions in Mockingjay. To me, that would have done Prim’s life and Katniss' choices more justice. Instead, Prim's death felt forced and wrong.  The timing didn’t line up with Katniss’ character growth. It just seemed like another stab in the wound that had been three books building. Perhaps that was Collins plan all along, and if so then I applaud her for achieving the goal. But as a reader, this left me unsatisfied.  I’m curious as to what your thoughts are on this.

Now with Delirum (SPOILER ALERT - DELERIUM) by Lauren Oliver, I’m not sure what to think. As a note, I’m not actually going to include the spoiler. For those of you who’ve read it, you know what I’m referring to. I finished the book over the weekend and plan to have a review up later this month. But I’m curious as to where the series will go from here.  I think it’s too soon to tell if the death at the end of this book was wasted. I’m guessing it will drive Lena’s growth as a character, but I’m interested to see if it will be the sacrifice Oliver intended or if it will fall short for me the way the previously mentioned death did.

What about you? What do you think about these deaths? Are there others that seemed wasted? Necessary? How do you deal with death in your own stories?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Page 69 Test

Earlier this week, Katy Upperman wrote about the page 69 test. On Katy's blog, she posted an excerpt from page 69 of her manuscript and explained how it revealed something about the passage's characters. I loved this idea and have taken it for my own. I've included an excerpt and explanation below.

"You can't lead with your shoulders," Josh said. "You'll lose all your momentum that way."

"How am I supposed to do it, then?" I crossed my arms over my chest and waited for an answer.

Josh looked at me for a few seconds before responding. "It'll be easier if I help." He moved around behind me. His hands hovered above my waist. "Is it okay if I guide you?" His breath was warm against the back of my neck. It sent tingles down my spine.

"I guess," I said, trying not to sound breathless.

He placed his hands on my hips, and my spine went rigid at his touch. The fabric of my shirt was thinner than I realized. I could almost feel his fingers on my skin. "You have to let go of the tension in your waist if I'm going to be able to move you."

I took a deep breath and relaxed into his grip.

"That's better," he said. I could hear the smile in his voice. If I didn't need his help to learn how to move the right way, I'd never let him touch me like that. Not until he apologized for keeping the dragons a secret.

That's what I told myself, anyway.

This passage reveals the tension between these two characters: Vic and Josh. A bit of  background: Vic and Josh used to date. Then they broke up (it was messy and had to do with this culty religious thing--long story, really). Vic's reaction to Josh serves to remind both herself and the reader that she isn't over this boy, and that she wants him back. But Josh hurt her, so she has her reservations. Still, he's a temptation for her. The way Josh moves with Vic, his hesitation to touch her, speaks to his awareness of the tension and his fear of pushing Vic too far before she's ready. The smile in Josh's voice reveals how much he still cares about her, how he wants her to be comfortable around him again.

Have you done the page 69 test? Leave a link in the comments or an example from your own WIP!

Me in 26 Letters

I've seen  this floating around, and so I thought I'd pick it up myself! Have you done the A-Z? If so, post a link in the comments!

A is for age: Twenty-three, but my birthday is this month!

B is for breakfast today: Oatmeal from Trader Joe's. I hated oatmeal most of my life. When I turned 21, I LOVED it. I guess it's true what they say about your taste buds--whatever it is they actually say.

C is for currently craving: I want one of those Hershey's Cookies and Cream bars. This is a pretty frequent craving and, unfortunately (fortunately?), a fairly frequent indulgence.

D is for dinner tonight: I was going to pick up a salad from Chipotle, but my husband's sick. So I may change plans!

E is for favorite type of exercise: I just tried body pump for the first time last night, and I LOVED IT. I like Pilates a lot too. And cycling.

F is for an irrational fear: Elevators. I hate hate hate elevators. I'll ride them, sure, but the entire time I'm afraid it's going to get stuck, the lights are going to go out, and then--of course because it's the only logical next step--I will die.

Photo from here.

G is for gross food: The only foods I really don't like (not because I've tried them--I assure you I have not) involve bugs: chocolate-covered ants, grasshopper lollipops, fried grub (like the kind you find in Botswana...where I absolutely refused to eat one).

H is for hometown: Born in Elko, Nevada. Raised in Brentwood, Tenn.

I is for something important: Truth. I think it's more important to tell the truth than it is to be comfortable.

J is for current favorite jam: Two songs--"Gray or Blue" by Jaymay and "Comes and Goes" by Greg Laswell. Enjoy:

K is for kids: None. And probably not any for at least another four years. Or more. The thought of being a parent terrifies me--but I'd also like to be a grandparent someday. So I guess that means I need to be a parent at some point.

L is for current location: Nashville, Tenn.

M is for the most recent way you spent money: Buying cold medicine and orange juice for the sick husband I mentioned earlier.

N is for something you need: Patience and a little bit of grace for other people. Also, more kindness--that's the opposite of envy, right?

O is for occupation: Public relations assistant account executive/writer (I do this blog.)

P is for pet peeve: People who want to get ahead and will do whatever it takes to get there. Also, I dislike lists that leave out the Oxford comma. This can be rather frustrating since we use the AP Stylebook in PR.

Q is for a quote: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” Madeleine L'Engle

Also from her: "Maybe you have to know darkness before you can appreciate the light."

R is for random fact about you: I used to write for an online gaming website called It went down a while ago, but it was a whole lot of fun.

S is for favorite healthy snack: Does hummus count?

T is for favorite treat: Frozen peanut butter pie.

U is for something that makes you unique: The only sleeping bag in my house is in the shape of a Tauntaun.
You can get one here!

V is for favorite vegetable: Avocado. Or is that a fruit? If it's a fruit then I'll go with potatoes. Or I guess that's a root. Are roots vegetables? Fine, broccoli.

W is for today’s workout: I'm hoping for a spin class tonight!

X is for X-rays you’ve had: Teeth and spine. I have slight scoliosis.

Y is for yesterday’s highlight: Learning how to get more likes on Facebook.

Z is for your time zone: Central.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Moments of brilliance

I have a confession: I, Liz Parker (The English Bad Ass), am a pantser.

"Did you say pants? Can I nom them?"

Now maybe I'm not a total pantser. I do a small outline. And by small I mean that I write out a one-sentence summary of probably the eight most pivotal scenes of my stories--for plot purposes (climax, etc.) as well as character development. But from there, I just write.

And then I revise. And then I rewrite. And then I revise some more.

During this whole process, I'll know that I have scenes I'm missing, usually transition scenes. These scenes will then come to me in some moment of insanity too much tequila brilliance. Most often this happens at a time where my mind is free of distractions (like phone calls, social media, etc.) and when I can't write it down. Key places of brilliance include: in the car (I admit other cars should be distractions. Also, I strongly encourage driving without music. This forces you to think.), in the shower, while washing dishes, while walking my dog.

Don't judge my brilliance!

I keep a notebook with me mostly wherever I am (except on a dog walk), so that when these moments are over, I can write things down. Usually I'll do a paragraph description of what played out in my head, unless of course there was this awesome dialog that came down from me like fire from heaven. In which case I lock myself up in a room and write.

What about you? Do scenes come to you like this? Do they sneak up on you and make certain pieces finally fall together? If, so where are your creative places? Or are you one of those lucky individuals who knows all the scenes before you start writing (damn you! I'm terribly jealous.)?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Kreativ Blogger Award

Dana over at The Daily Dose has passed the Kreativ Blogger Award my way. While I'm not a huge fan of switching C's and K's, I love this idea, so thanks Dana! Now I'm supposed to share 10 little-known facts about myself and pass the award along to six bloggers. I'll start by sharing the love. Go check them out! I'd like to give this award to:

1. M.J. Field at My Pet Blog, who likes all things awesome, including, but not limited to, Joss Whedon.
2. Carissa Taylor, my newest follower who I met through YA Highway RTW!
3. Katy Upperman, who read an commented on almost all of my April National Poetry Month posts, and who has some really interesting posts of her own!
4. Jaime Morrow, who was one of the first people in the YA Writer community to open her arms to me. She has some great reading suggestions.
5. Mary Hunton at the Journeyman Author who is not a YA writer but is still the best crit partner I could ever ask for.
6. Tara Dunn who has one of the pretties blog backgrounds I've seen.

No hard feelings if you're not up for it. But if you do pass it on, please let me know in the comments so I can check out your answers! I am following all of your blogs, but my google reader has been having some hiccups lately.

Now onto the facts!

1. My current favorite song to listen to while writing my WIP is "Comes and Goes" by Greg Laswell.
2. I have a border-line unhealthy obsession with sharpies.
3. I graduated from college in three years but often wished I had the resources to stay another year.
4. The music video for Nine Crimes by Damien Rice creeped me out and sort of ruined the song for me.
5. I absolutely hate writing titles and headlines. Any suggestions here would be MUCH appreciated!
6. Two of my very favorite books--books that first inspired me to love fiction and made me want to write fiction--are A WRINKLE IN TIME and THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH.
7. When my husband and I have the means to buy/build our own house, we plan to have a room decorated entirely with Star Wars paraphernalia. We already have a Tauntaun sleeping bag and Wampa rug waiting for that day.
8. I have serious anxiety attacks every time I book a flight. I really hate airports.
9. I think tea can cure just about anything and drink probably 4-5 cups of different types of tea every day.
10. I'm a re-reader. The first time I read a book that I love, I tend to devour it. I read so fast, that much of it doesn't stay with me. I generally will re-read that book within the next six months.

Since you made it all the way through the list, I'm going to share one more fact. Today is my chiweenie's first birthday! His name is Frankie Chewbacca. :)

Friday, May 4, 2012

This Party's Over...

Wrong! It just started. As a lover of all things Star Wars, I'm thrilled (overjoyed, ecstatic, beside myself, doing my best not to turn into an Ewok) to wish you a happy Star Wars Day. May the 4th be with you!

From here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thank you and a confession

When I finished INSURGENT last night (review to come, so damn good), it occurred to me that reading is a community affair. Sure, for the most part we read alone, at our own pace, seeing the world the author has created from our own perspective. But the community is what makes books thrive. I have so many friends who may have never found DIVERGENT and consequently INSURGENT if I hadn't told them. Likewise, there are so many books (CINDER, INCARNATE, HUNGER GAMES, to name a few) that I would never have picked up if a friend or one of you hadn't mentioned them at some point in time.

This then reminded me how much those of us who write YA (and hope to be published someday or are already published) make up that YA reader community. Though we're technically writing for teens, we're also writing for each other. And we're writing with each other. I think that's so beautiful.

I stumbled into the YA writing community a few months ago, and so many of you have welcomed me with open arms--reading and (what!) commenting on my blog posts. I'm still wading these waters, trying to get to know many of you, but it's been great so far. Thank you for inviting me in, no questions asked.

Which leads me to my confession. This year, I've fallen in love with more books and authors than I have in a long time. College didn't give me much time to read for the sheer joy of it. Finding a job in a down economy had the same sort of effect. Now I finally have time to read. I've been devouring books. I've been following the authors of those books on Twitter. I've been reading their blogs. And it hit me: they've been here--this place where I am now, piecing together a rewrite of my current WIP, wishing and longing for it to flow the way I want it to, for people to fall in love with my characters the way I have. And I love those authors for it. I love them for posting about their struggles.

But I think there's a tiny part of me that wants to be a published YA author not only because I want people to read my stories, but because I'd love the opportunity to be friends with those who've already made it there.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On National Poetry Month, and also INSURGENT Day!

Thanks to everyone who read the poems I posted last month. I love having people to share them with. As a reminder, I will be taking down the text of the poems themselves this week. If you have any questions about any of the poets, let me know. Also, I strongly recommend you purchase the complete collection of E. E. Cummings.

On a completely unrelated note, it's INSURGENT Day! Unfortunately, I didn't have the self control to wait to start the book until tonight and read the first three chapters this morning before work--then some more at lunch.

Check it out here!

Guys. I love it.