Monday, April 30, 2012

"It's Complicated"

The other day, I sort of flinched a little bit at calling one of the characters from my querying MS another one's "boyfriend." I mean, Elias *is* Merrin's boyfriend, but he's so much more than that. Their relationship is so special, and so unique. Their attraction is so different from anyone else's, you know, on a cellular level. And so he's not just her boyfriend, he's this other thing to her as well, and it's kind of difficult to explain, but it's one of the things that you have to understand to get the premise of the book, and OH HERE YOU MIGHT AS WELL JUST READ IT.

And, of course, being a querying writer, I worried about that.
I mean, shouldn't the relationships between our characters be easily definable?

But then I started thinking about my CPs' work, and the relationships in those manuscripts. The paranormal and sci-fi ones usually do have the same weird element of "they're together, but they're not just together, there's something different and special from anything else ever between them."

But even the contemporary stuff, or the romances, have the "it's complicated" thing going on.

Maybe the characters are in love, but it's because they ALSO have this weird connection that no one else could possibly have, intellectually, emotionally, or experientially.

Or maybe the characters are friends, but really they're in love, but they won't admit it, because one of them confessed last year and got turned down by the other, and now the other has a boyfriend but really loves her best friend. Except now he's dating someone new, who happens to be another one of her friends.

Whenever possible, choose this status for your characters.

See? It's complicated.

The best kinds of relationships are the undefinable ones.

It's not just boyfriends, right?

Parents turn out to be villians, partners-in-crime turn out to be long lost siblings. The new kid at school is the same guy who killed your best friend. The horrible professor is really a secret agent, and he was always on your side, but you never knew it. The MC's baby brother is a genius, and actually holds the key to some of the greater biological mysteries of the universe.

It's complicated.

So the way the characters feel, and act,  is complicated.

Which complicates the plot. (Or sometimes is the plot.)

Which makes the book awesome.

Okay, sweet readers, weigh in - If you're the writerly type, have you ever worried about "it's complicated?" Or do you try to make relationships more complicated? And, everyone - what are your favorite complicated - and uncomplicated - relationships in literature?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Will the Real Writers Please Stand Up?

Writerly types, do you ever feel like frauds? Like calling yourself "a writer" is like one big silly joke?

It happens even when I write it in an email to my CPs. (You know, the people who actually believe in my work?) EVERY SINGLE TIME I write something about any aspect of getting an agent, I scoff at myself.

Anyone else mentally following up their declarations that they dream of getting published with a mental eyeroll and private,  "Yeah. Like that's ever gonna happen?"

It would be awesome if the real writers were actually orange. Then I would know to take up knitting or something.

I have an idea of what would make me feel like A Real Writer - someone whose work has been accepted as "good stuff" by some sort of pro.

But I really can't visualize it. I mean, I know what emails requesting The Call From an Agent say, because I've read about them...I just seriously am not capable of taking the mental leap of imagining one in MY inbox.

Same with a printed book with my name on the cover. Or, heck, even a digital one.
 (In fact, on the cover I mocked up for One, you'll notice my name isn't on there at all. I literally couldn't make my fingers put it on there and post it on this site. It felt...weird. Presumptuous, maybe.)

I don't know what would make me consider myself "A Real Writer."

I do know that some things make me feel more like a writer, sometimes. Like when I read Kathryn Stockett's story, where she reports feeling "truly neurotic" after 45 rejections. The fact that I've had over 160 (granted, on 2 MSs) and have not yet checked into the looney bin makes me feel a bit the game. Or when people express shock that Ms. Stockett worked on her manuscript while in labor. I didn't quite do that, but I did send a submission from my hospital bed about 15 hours after my daughter was born last week. 

So...if one works on her writing while in the hospital, does that make her a real writer? And, if to me??? Kathryn Stockett club? (And where's my movie deal???)

Trouble is, one of a writer's greatest enemies is...feeling like a fraud. A not-a-writer. A poser. This reluctance to say "I'm a writer" with any seriousness deep down inside, or to even say it at all, can poison our knowledge from that other deep-down-inside  spot that our stuff is any good, even our fundamental belief in our work, or in our core story. 

Even though I know that...I still feel like a fraud most of the time. Is it because I don't have an agent? Maybe. Maybe I'll only feel "legit" when I get a book deal, indie or otherwise. It's a curvy, bumpy road, and I don't know what lies around the bend. I have no doubt that writing is something I *need* to do because it's an essential part of what makes me ME...but I'm still WAY more inclined to shrug and say, "yeah, I write things" in a dismissive tone than to smile brightly, look at someone right in the eyes, and say, "I'm a writer." 

So, what about you? Do any of you actually feel like A Real Writer? Does it have anything to do with what you tell people, or do you say you're a writer but do an inner eye roll?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Do You Have a Meta-theme?

As a reader, I delight in finding the theme of a work. Especially for a story I love, the Theme reaches me at about 80% of the way through - a beautiful, sweeping, unexpected crescendo of Big Meaning that hits me in the chest and takes my breath away. And, once in a blue moon, makes me weep with its truth and beauty.

As a writer, I write a story. I write from my heart, and I write from my gut. I see characters, and I hear them, and I try to capture who they are with words in black and white.

I don't intentionally write to communicate a theme - mostly because I don't believe that books should be in the business of constructing and sending messages to readers.  More than that, because I have a deep, unwavering trust that any story that comes from my heart is going to communicate a theme that resonates as true to me, and hopefully lots of other people, too.

So. I've always written the book first, and then thought about the themes later. This third book, though, is a story that is thousands of years old. As I find myself in the role of retelling the story, as opposed to discovering its basic plot, I'm finding myself in a different relationship with the characters than I ever had been before.

You see, to write about characters, you have to invite them to speak to you. When I ask the main character of this story what motivates her, what confuses her, what makes her hurt, she always comes back with the same answer:

She doesn't know where she belongs. 
Maybe she doesn't belong anywhere.

When I hear that, I nod my head, sit back, and try to communicate that into every one of her thoughts, words, actions and reactions. And then I realize - that's been a problem, maybe THE problem for all of my MCs so far. How does one find out where she belongs? Does it already exist, or must she make a place of her own? Is belonging a place, an ideology, a mission, a group of people, a single person?

These questions choke me up, and they tear my heart out. And I think, sweet readers, that this theme of searching for belonging, is a theme that speaks to me on such a deep level that not only is it present in all of my books, but also that books that carry the same theme get a special kind of love from me. you have a meta-theme? One that chokes you up again and again, so much so that you write about it all time, or latch on to books that hit it extra hard? I'd love to hear.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Literary Crushes - Guest Post by Alexa Hirsch

Sweet readers: Following is a guest post from Alexa, who is all kinds of amazing. You'll see.
Hello fellow readers!

While the lovely Leigh Ann takes a slight maternity leave I’m going to be doing a bit of guest blogging. I am one of Leigh Ann’s students at The Ohio State University and an extremely ridiculously voracious reader. Now being a “teenage girl” I obviously tend to have multiple crushes on a ridiculous amount of people, so I won’t go into all of them, but there are a choice few I’m going to share with you.

Peeta: I understand that every other sane person on this planet has this exact same crush, but besides Leigh Ann, I love him the most. I have never felt so much toward one fictional character, and it wasn’t about his looks!Whenever I think about Peeta I seriously swoon. His personality and just the things he says…. sigh, I’m head over heels. 

"Real or not real," you ask? Definitely real.

Elias: Oh Elias, those of you who follow this blog regularly, or randomly know that Leigh Ann wrote an incredible book called ONE with Elias in it. Elias is probably one of my all time dream guys; I just freak out thinking about him. His amazing music skills, his unbelievable fleck filled eyes and just him….. Woah I’m losing it here, but basically if you haven’t read ONE, you’ll get the pleasure soon enough I hope because Elias is worth reading about over and over again.

Jace: Now some people may not be as familiar with this but Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series honestly has one of the sexiest characters EVER. Jace Herondale, the mysterious moody shadow hunter is the epitome of yummy in these tales that go through self-discovery and some badass training scenes.

David: Gina, one of Leigh Ann’s incredible CP’s wrote the heart-wrenching Last Year’s Mistake, which included the Best Friend that everyone is rooting for you to be with because he is honestly perfect. At this point in my gushing I really just want to say that David is perfect in every way no matter what, and you should just love him for that.

Miles: Okay one of Leigh Ann’s other FABULOUS CP’s, Chessie, wrote Alexithymia and I honestly cannot tell you how much I loved this book. There are more than a million reasons, but one of the best ones is Miles, the sarcastic, yet amazing man candy. Miles is the world’s best guy and he deserves the world, and I basically feel like he’s in love with me…err Alex….anyways this book is a NECESSARY read.

Isn't she the GREATEST??? Leave Alexa your love and adoration in the comments, please, and guarantee she'll do more awesome guest posts!!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Do YA Writers Have a Responsibility to Readers Who Are Young Adults?

Happy Monday, sweet readers!
(Just a reminder, I won't be replying to comments for a week or so at least. Check out my housekeeping note for more, if you want. I still love your comments, and especially YOU!)

Being a writer for Young Adults is an incredible privilege. The teen years are a time when many people fall in love with reading, and to write books that they might pick up and that might have a really big impact on them is SUCH an exciting endeavor.

 I love teenagers. Half the people I work with are teenagers. I think they're awesome. I love talking with them. I love watching them learn to navigate new phases in life. I love that they're some of the most passionate people on the planet. I love their enthusiasm and the way they're sucking up learning like super-advanced sponges and thinking of new ways to use information.

In short: I think teenagers have a lot to teach us.

Just because "adults" have lived more years doesn't mean that we approach the world in a better way.
Problem is, a lot of conversation I see floating around the writers' community is what we need to teach them.

More accurately, the question of "Do we have a responsibility to write - or not write - a certain way for teenagers?"

Some examples:

Do we have a responsibility to only present healthy relationships as desirable?
Isn't it most responsible to be realistic about what balancing life in the real world is like?
Is it okay to write about sexual assault (or other potential triggers) in YA? If we do, must we write about it a certain way?
Shouldn't we put a warning on books containing homosexual content?
Is it okay write about teenagers having sex?
          If it is, is there a certain way we should write about it?
          Is that 'certain way' only if we're using it as an opportunity to educate about sex?
          Don't we want to "protect" teenagers from "overt sexual references?"
Overall, is YA literature "too dark?" Shouldn't we try to curb that?

Now. Some of these posts open up great conversations, and others make me want to scream and throw things. (I'm sure you can guess which are which.)

But here's my answer to the question:
Do we as YA writers have a responsibility to write YA fiction in a certain way to communicate certain messages?

Absolutely not.

And here's why: Teenagers are people. They have brains. 

They can use those brains to read stories and think about them critically.
They can talk about them with their friends, or their siblings, or their teachers, or maybe even their parents.

They have an inherent sense about what's okay and what's not okay FOR THEM.

We need to remember that writing is powerful, and it's a privilege, but it's not mind-control. You might think you're sending one message with your story, but anyone reading it might get something completely different from it.

You can't control that. You just can't.

(Now, whether or not your story will get you signed, or will get published, or whether people will like it or despise it is a completely different topic.)

But I will say this. No kid ever picked up recreational masturbation just because they read Catcher in the Rye.

Honestly, if I hear "teenagers are impressionable," "teenagers are emotional," "teenagers are self-centered," "teenagers are super-susceptible to peer pressure," "teenagers are flaky," or "teenagers are very body-conscious" one more time, I'm going to throw up. Because, yeah, they are. Except for the ones that aren't. Same goes for grownups. Same goes for EVERYONE, okay?

Enough with the generalizations.
Just write the story. Make it a great story, and write it beautifully.
Make no assumptions.

Teenagers can decide whether a book's for them, or whether they like the messages it sends, all on their own. Being above 20, or 25, or 30, does not imbue someone with some magical power that makes them capable of pontificating on what is or is not "okay."

Teenagers are people.
They have brains, and they can think for themselves.

If you can't accept that, and if you can't write books that acknowledge that, don't write YA.
Because the one way we should never, ever write Young Adult Fiction is disrespectfully.

What do you think, sweet readers of the writerly type? Do we have responsibilities to our Young Adult readers? And reader-types...what's your take?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Some Housekeeping and Some Awesomeness

Hey, sweet readers!

Just wanted to pop in on the rare Sunday to post a little housekeeping note and share some awesomeness.

Housekeeping first, because that's boring.

I expect New Baby to arrive pretty soon. I'm not taking a blog hiatus, but I don't know how wireless is in the hospital/how I'll be feeling. So, even though I'll be posting, I probably won't be responding to comments for at least a week.

I would love love love it if you all would respond to any comments you find interesting. Talk to each other! Because one of the best parts of a blog is the discussion in the comments, yes? YES.

Okay. Now, Awesomeness!

1. First! The winner of the Classy Author Giveaway is Sana!!!!!!!

*happy dancing*

I hope I know we'll both enjoy the heck out of it.
Send me a note telling me whether you want paper or digital and the best way to get it to you!!!


2. Second (and last!) It was my birthday yesterday.

That's my sister - her birthday's 6 days before mine. Awesome.

You know what happens when your writer besties know it's your birthday? They send you stuff. 

EVERYONE sent me the sweetest birthday wishes via tweet and FB. LOVE YOU ALL!!!

Gina sent me a salon's worth of manicure and pedicure supplies (and CHOCOLATE,) because she is my longest-time writing bestie and she knows that I need to pamper myself almost as much as I need my characters to start talking to me. My nails are beautiful now. So they should write beautiful things. Right? RIGHT???

Jenny sent me a Scene. Enough said.

Chessie (and this one MAY be of interest to you regular blog readers, which is why I'm even posting about my birthday presents like an annoying gloaty gloater) drew me a picture of the main characters from One. 

I still haven't figured out if it's because she gets a kick out of emotionally torturing me and making me weep or because she genuinely loves me, but I think it's a mixture of the two.  90% gleeful torture and 10% love, I'd wager. But still. Check out the amazingness and swoon along with me.


That's all, folks! Send me healthy baby and healthy mama vibes, continue to be sweet and polite in the comments, and I'll be eternally grateful!  Love you all!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Obsessions: CPs' stuff, Ridiculously Photogenic Guy, and Parisian Macaroons

Hey, sweet readers. It's been an interesting week. I'm mostly laying low, because the new little one is due tomorrow (tomorrow!) and giving me a run for my money physically. Eh.

As for the query trenches, I think this is the first and only week that I'll be able to classify as straight-up WEIRD. Not BAD-weird, just WEIRD-weird. So it goes, I guess. Also a shoutout to a couple of my CPs, in the trench next door, who might be seeing the beginnings of some springtime flowers down there. I'll be fangirling at your signings before you know it. Proud of you girls. *tear*

Before the obsessions - Please enter my giveaway for Hannah Moskowitz's Gone, Gone, Gone, because the book kicks butt and she is classy and it would make me smile.

Okay. Let's get on with it.

Everything I was obsessed with this week. 
Because I know you want to know.

1. Reading for CPs.
I'm having kind of a tough time with the WiP because one of the MCs is stubborn, silent, pain in the ass I'm still having trouble hearing voice (which Amanda suggests is because I don't really have a handle on their motivations, and I think she's right.) Rather than frustrate myself any more, for the last week or so I've given myself permission to stop obsessing over the WiP and start reading more for my CPs, which I've been woefully delinquent in. I've got two books to read this weekend, and one to finish up, and I can't wait. Planning to live-Tweet them, and I'm psyched.

2. The Ridiculously Photogenic Guy
So, there was this guy running a race, and someone took a picture of him, and he is RIDICULOUSLY PHOTOGENIC. So of course he turned into a meme. Here's one you HP fans will giggle at:

Here's the thing about Ridiculously Photogenic Guy. I'm kind of thinking that he's a character type. He can either be gracious about it or cocky about it, but either way, he's beautiful, he knows it, and EVERYONE knows it. And no one argues. And somehow, no one's jealous. *sigh*

(My number two literary crush of all time, Prince Rory, is this character type. The kind who knows it, and it's ADORABLE.)

Illustration by the incredible Chessie Zappia
With profuse thanks from me for CREATING RORY. <3
I think I'd better put one of these guys in Chrome, or maybe Two. Hmmmm.

3. Parisian Macaroons
So, after this little one is born, I'm pretty much swearing off sugar and anything but Super Wholesome Foods in an effort to get back into fighting shape (I used to be seriously hot, you guys. Seriously.)

I figure if she's going to refuse to cut me a little slack and come a bit early, I'm gonna go ahead and eat these gorgeous macaroons from a little bakery that is mercifully close by my office. (Seeing as how they're made of nut flour, egg whites, sugar, and air, they're Kosher for Passover by ingredient, making me one happy lady.)

Dessert by Pistacia Vera

That's about it for me this week! Now it's your turn.
What were you obsessed with this week? 
I'd love to know.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Classy Author Giveaway - Hannah Moskowitz's GONE, GONE, GONE

Well, friends? It's time for another


This giveaway starring: Hannah Moskowitz! 

Hannah Moskowitz
Ahhh purple and blue streaks in the hair!
Jealous that she can pull that off. Just saying.

I've admired Hannah for her classiness and her outstanding work for quite awhile.

The class:
The majority of the evidence of Hannah's classiness can be observed in two places: Twitter and her blog.
She's friends with a ton of people. She's very sweet to EVERYONE, no matter their age or pub status, even when they don't match hers. She's honest, up-front, and open about pretty much everything going on with her, mostly publishing-related, but sometimes not.

Even when she blogs about her fears and anxieties, she's not whiny. She's humble, she recognizes how lucky she is, and she never, never makes it sound like she's better than anyone else.

And she gets ultra-super-extra points for doing a mass apology for YA authors and agents who were acting like douchebags on Goodreads.*

*Warning: She does use some language that some people might consider less than, um, classy. Though I think even her use of the F-word is classy.

The work:
Oh, this woman's books. She can write like a motherf---ker.

Her characters grab you by the heart from the first page and never let it go.
When they talk? It's SO REAL.
Their relationships? Oh, you'd better believe you're invested. Even if you don't love the love interest. Or the main character, so much.

When you read one of Hannah's books, you can't put it down. It's not because you're marveling about how great the writing is, or how inventive the story is (even though both of those things are true)

It's because you forget that you're reading a book at all. You're just so absorbed in the story, and the world, and you CARE SO MUCH, that it's just your reality at that moment.

Anyway. You all know how much I love Hannah's work. I've gushed about BREAK and ZOMBIE TAG on this blog before. But now I'm super-psyched because her newest book, GONE, GONE, GONE, releases this week.

Gone, Gone, Gone

Here's the blurb from Goodreads:

It's a year after 9/11. Sniper shootings throughout the D.C. area have everyone on edge and trying to make sense of these random acts of violence. Meanwhile, Craig and Lio are just trying to make sense of their lives. Craig’s crushing on quiet, distant Lio, and preoccupied with what it meant when Lio kissed him...and if he’ll do it again...and if kissing Lio will help him finally get over his ex-boyfriend, Cody.Lio feels most alive when he's with Craig. He forgets about his broken family, his dead brother, and the messed up world. But being with Craig means being vulnerable...and Lio will have to decide whether love is worth the risk. 

Guuuuuuh. Okay. Yeah. It's been preordered for months from my account. I want to hook you all up with the same awesomeness. 

Leave a comment here to enter. 
Tweet and/or FB about the giveaway for one and/or two extra entries.  
If you blog about it, I will love you forever and give you two more.  

I'm leaving the contest open till 9 AM Friday, so that I can pre-order the book for you and it will arrive at your door on release day (I think? I hope?) And, yeah, I'll do international, because awesome books shouldn't have boundaries, right?

Everyone needs to read this book. And one (or maybe two? Haven't decided yet...) of you need to read it, courtesy of me. Because Hannah is so classy, and her books are so astounding, that she deserves the love. 

Okay! So! To enter, leave a comment and say you want the book. Extra entries if:

- You follow my blog (new or existing)
- You tweet about the giveaway (tag @LeighAnnKopans so I know you did, AND so I can follow you.) 
- You do anything else to spread the news (Facebook, blog, whatever. You don't have to leave a link. I trust you.)

Good luck, my sweeties! And THANK YOU!!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Faking the Audience - Space Duck Pops and Your Writing

So. This week is Passover.

In this internet age, with all the viral-ness of everything, we get treated to everything amusing under the sun about observance of Jewish holidays.  This little treat that one of my sweetie students posted on my Facebook wall takes the cake (har har) of hilarity this Passover - and it also made me think about writing (fancy that!)

(The background - every year for one week, Jews who observe Passover don't eat anything containing wheat, spelt, barley, oats, or rye. Some Jews also avoid corn, rice, and beans. Pretty much all processed food in the US of A contains corn syrup, so things like kosher-for-Passover candy are tough to find. When we find candy marked "Kosher for Passover," we tend to get a little....enthusiastic.)

This young lady, while shopping in a New York candy store this Spring, was delighted to stumble across some epically cool-looking candy that was also - miracle of miracles! - marked "Kosher for Passover."

"Mild Mannered Duck by Day,
Intergalactic SuperHero by Night." 
If that's not awesome/hilarious/the best thing ever, I don't know what is.

I mean, come on! Chocolate lollipops in the form of SPACE DUCKS? for PASSOVER? It combines random enough things and makes little enough sense to be completely awesome. 

Alright! Let's crack that box open and see some SPACE DUCKS! Made out of CHOCOLATE!


Oh. Wait. That''s pretty clearly an Easter duck. I mean, the duck is wearing an Easter bonnet, right? I mean, I know I'm a Jew, but I'm American, and...yeah. A bonnet with a bow and flowers? I'm not sure what says "Intergalactic," "Space," or even, "not related to Easter" about that.

Not that there's anything wrong with Easter. It's a great holiday! Tons of fun! Theological climax of the whole Christian religion! Bunnies! Jelly beans! But...

I didn't want Easter. I didn't buy Easter. I bought an INTERGALACTIC SPACE DUCK.

So this got me thinking about the publishing industry. One of the most common exhortations we read is to "know what genre our book is in." This is important to being marketable - how will a bookstore sell our masterpieces if they don't know what bookshelf to put them on?

Problem is, some of the most popular books out there don't fit into one genre. Just off the top of my head, SHATTER ME, a huge release from this fall, was marketed as dystopian (I think?) and it was. But I would have also called it sci-fi and a romance.

I've been querying One as Science Fiction, and it is. But it's pretty light science fiction (near future, no spaceships, robots, aliens, or crazy pervasive tech) and it's pretty heavy on the romance. So....Sci-Fi Romance Lite?

Well, that's not a genre. The problem with that is that agents and publishers want to put books in a genre. The problem with THAT is that when readers pick up a book marked as one genre and feel that they've had the experience of another genre while reading it, they tend to be kind of miffed.

Which you can see if you just read some Amazon reviews. I've been coming across a lot of "This book should have gone in x direction..." or "I expected the MC to do x, and was sorely disappointed...."

Now, this is probably equally a problem with the necessity of classifying books for sales and readers feeling a little too entitled to read Exactly What They Wanted. Still, I want to know -

Have you ever picked up a book that you expected to be an intergalactic space duck, and gotten an Easter-bonneted farm animal instead? Do you worry about that happening to your book?

(Also: Stay tuned for a Classy Author Giveaway on Wednesday! Wheeeeee!)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Obsessions Special Edition: Cute Boys of YouTube

Hey, sweet readers! Passover starts tonight, and I'm due in 8 days. Or 2. Depending on which date you go by. So, you can imagine.

This week, my obsessions are all Cute Boys on YouTube. So, obviously, that's a  win. Here we go.

Everything I was obsessed with this week.
Because I know you want to know.

1. Johnny Stimson and "Penny"
Yeah, I know, this was already one of my obsessions from way back. But chances are, you weren't reading back then, or maybe you would just like a little extra sunshine added to your morning. Check out this cute boy with a uke and all his buddies getting together to serenade Penny. Just love it.

2. David Tennant reciting Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

It's the Doctor! Reciting SHAKESPEARE! It's not a video of him, per se, but you fellow Lovers of Ten will agree with me - the voice is enough.

3. Cameron Mitchell
Just...all of him. And everything he does.
I don't know how I stumbled across this kid on YouTube, but guys?  It's Elias. IT'S ELIAS. *deep breaths*

Yes, Cameron. We will enjoy your song, and your haircut. Very, very much.

Annnnd an excerpt. Because I managed to find something I wrote this week that somehow doesn't suck.

In this scene: Mother (Queen of Chrome City, rawr) breaks the news to Havah that she's actually going to have to do something useful.  0_o

Mother sighed. “You will accompany Princess Laila and a bionguard detail to the Underground.”
Havah gasped, “The Iver?”
“Yes, Havah,” Mother said. “You need to see what happens down there. You need to understand them to rule them. To keep this City running.”
“But Mother!” A strangled whine escaped Havah’s throat. This was all too much. Too unbearable. It was enough that Jarrod had been matched with Laila. It was enough that Havah had basically lost her sister - how could she talk to her? Hold her hand? Ever share a secret with her again? 
Now she also had to subject herself to the Iver Underground?
Rumors said that it was hot, grimy. Dirty. That the Iver smelled of dirt, that you could see it on their skin. That they sweat continually.
Havah clenched her jaw, and spoke to the carpet. Disrespectful to say the least. “I cannot. I will not.”
“You will.” The hint of a snarl underlaid Mother’s voice, grinding their conversation to a halt. 
Havah jerked her head up, opened her mouth to say something, but no words would escape.
“The bionguards will come by this afternoon to retrieve you for your first visit.”
Havah turned on her heel and stalked toward the door. She couldn’t look Mother in the eye. Couldn’t say a word.
“My star,” Mother called.
Havah stopped.
“I love you.”
Havah took a deep breath, then kept walking.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Guest Post at AG's Place!

You know how you'll be reading some contest entries, and thinking, "ooh, that sounds interesting," or maybe, "Yeah, I could read that?"

Well, the first time I read AG's logline and 250 in the Miss Snark's First Victim Baker's Dozen contest back in December, I had two thoughts: "Holy fuhgeez, this woman is hilarious," and "I'm gonna fight tooth and nail to wrangle myself an ARC when that gets published."

Anyhow, I started stalking following AG on Twitter so I'd be one of the first to know when she got an agent/a book deal/became rich and famous.  And guess what? Last week? She asked to interview me on her blog.


So, go check that out riiiiiight here. I'm talking about my active projects, the query trenches, and how I found my CPs. AG is absolutely lovely, and it was tons of fun.

I'll be back with you guys right back here on Friday for a special edition of Friday Obsessions: Cute Boys in YouTube Videos edition! Yeah, you're not gonna want to miss that.

Monday, April 2, 2012

That's SO Cliched.

Writers, and especially YA writers (since it's such an exploding genre right now) are being cautioned left and right about cliches. All the way from the opening scene to the query letter, it's like a screeching alarm.


Here are some cliches I've been reading/hearing that YA writers should never never never use.
Just for funsies, let's all stand up, and then sit back down if we have used any in the list:

Opening with: Waking up, looking in the mirror, a funeral, a bad dream, starting at a new school, a description of weather, a car crash, a high school hallway.

A heroine: with red hair, who loves to read, with blue eyes, with purple eyes, with blond hair, who is smart and proud of it, who is smart but hides it, who is physically petite, who has low self-confidence, who is trying to keep her presence low-key, who wears Chucks, who is a great runner, who is looking for a boyfriend, who isn't looking for a boyfriend thankyouverymuch (but probably really is,) or who is snarky.

A character list that includes: the trusty best friend, the annoying sibling, the bitchy cheerleader, the nerd, the straight-A student, the mysterious boy, the jerkfaced jock, the clueless teacher, the absent/dead parent, the too-perfect guy, the bad boy, the antagonist trying to use the MC as a weapon.

A plot that involves: A love triangle, insta-love, insta-friends, secret powers, arranged marriage (particular to dystopian,) the bad boy getting the good girl.

A climax that centers around: Prom, the big football game, the MC finding out one of her parents isn't who/what she thought they were, the drinking party gone wrong.

Anyone still standing?

Here's the thing. A cliche is a cliche for a reason. It's because - IT HAPPENS. You know, in life.

Bitchy cheerleaders are real. Common, even (oh yes they are.)  Mysterious boys (especially the hot ones) are interesting. There are girls with red hair and green eyes (I'm one of them) and super petite girls, too (no, I'm not one of those.) I was friends with a lot of kids who got straight As, and who were nerds. Sometimes, insta-friends happen. Heck, sometimes insta-love happens. Even love triangles happen. And they can make for some tense emotional conflict.

Kids move to new schools and get in car wrecks and go to prom and drink too much and have bad dreams. Those are all real things that happen. They happen a lot, and they can be written really interestingly.

And yeah, I could sit here and blog about how I hate stories with bitchy cheerleaders or dead moms. I could harp on how the best-friend-secretly-in-love-with-the-MC makes me roll my eyes. I could rant about the flaws that obviously must exist in a story so carelessly written as to start with a main character looking in a mirror.

Or I could accept that a story well-told might employ some "cliches," or even lots of them, because they are something that readers are familiar with, and sometimes that's a good thing.  Or because, hell, maybe they're actually part of the story that writer dreamed up in her head.

And maybe that story is damn good.
And to get rid of them just because they're cliches is not being true to the plot, or the characters, or the world that writer has created would change the story so much that it's no longer really the writer's story any more. That might suck.

And if we as YA writers try to write a story that avoids cliches instead of trying our best to write a well-paced, engaging story with clearly depicted characters and a unique concept, then we're going to end up with a lot of YA novels with brown-haired, brown-eyed, not-too-petite heroines with boyfriends that aren't too mean and aren't too nice, with no love triangles and fully supportive, present, and honest parents.

Now, that would be annoying.