Sunday, July 31, 2011

I Dig reading June/July edition

What did I read in June and July? 

Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams
The Half Life of Planets by Brendan Halpin and Emily Franklin
Jellicoe Road by Melian Marchetta
School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari
Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
On Writing by Stephen King
The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
The Geurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
A Wind at the Door by Madeline L’Engle
Phoenix Rising (Beta) by Alicia Gregoire
No System At All (Beta) by Erinn Manack
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Pederwick’s 1: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy Jeanne Birdsall
Jenna and Jonah’s Fauxmance by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin

Or, seventeen books. 

That will mean a donation to local Gilead Community Services

They do INCREDIBLE work in our community. 





And, have you seen Adventure Time?


It's hilarious. Don't make me ruin it by trying to explain it. 


Fun for the whole family.


Have you seen this?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

RTW: best book of the month




On Road Trip Wednesday the bloggers and readers of YA Highway each answer a prompt on their blogs. Visit them all to see everyone's take on the question. 


The books I read this month are:
Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

The Geurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

A Wind at the Door by Madeline L’Engle

Phoenix Rising (Beta) by Alicia Gregoire

No System At All (Beta) by Erinn Manack

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

For me, I think it's a tie between Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and The Geurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

I realize these are both very different books, but each really transported me and kept me thinking. 

But I enjoyed all the books I read this month, and I'd recommend any of them.


What is the best book YOU read this month?



Visit the Highway to see everyone else's responses.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Update on reading

Just thinking this week about the books I've read so far this year. It has been a good couple of months.


If you're watching (not saying that you should), you may have noticed that I haven't updated my I Dig Reading challenge for June. In the spirit of  a laid back summer, I will post the details on that at the end of July. 


Now, on to what I've read this year: 


January through May
Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Masterpiece by Elise Broach
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Matched by Ally Condie
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
If I Stay by Gayle Foreman
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
In the Dead of Night by John Marsden
Satisfaction Guaranteed by Lucy Monroe
Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
Happily Never After (Beta) by Holly Dodson
What my Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
Wake by Lisa McMann
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
A Killing Frost by John Marsden
Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
The Time Machine by HG Wells
Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart (non fiction). 
Mockingbird by Daisy Whitney
The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade 
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
A Load of Old Ball Crunchers: Women in History by Jo Brand
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
Messenger by Lois Lowry
A Clash of Kings by George R. R.  Martin
No Passengers Beyond this Point by Gennifer Choldenko
Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Divergent by Veronica Roth




June and July

Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams
The Half Life of Planets by Brendan Halpin and Emily Franklin
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari
Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
On Writing by Stephen King
The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
The Geurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
A Wind at the Door by Madeline L’Engle
Phoenix Rising (Beta) by Alicia Gregoire
No System At All (Beta) by Erinn Manack
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

The books I made my husband read as soon as I finished:
Ender's Game
Divergent
Jellicoe Road



Best underrated series:
Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden. I dare you to check it out.

The Middle Grade book I'm still thinking about:
No Passengers Beyond this Point by Gennifer Choldenko

Best classic:
Sorry Agatha, you were just barely beaten by HG Wells' Time Machine. It's tiny and powerful.  

So- what are some of your favorite reads of the year?

Leave me suggestions in the comments!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Fives with Paper Hangover

This week, the good folks of Paper Hangover ask us to share the scoop on five fabulous writing contests.


1. The Real Simple Life's Lessons Essay Contest. Grand Prize is a trip to NYC, a meeting with Real Simple editors, broadway tickets, and $3000.

2. Write On Con's First 500 words of MG/YA contest. Win $1000, an have an agent consider your work, via Writeoncon and The Reading Room.


...and unfortunately these are the only writing contest I've heard about lately.

I'm looking forward to hearing about more through the other participants.

What writing contests have you heard about lately?




Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: Villians

On Road Trip Wednesday the bloggers and readers of YA Highway each answer a prompt on their blogs. Visit them all to see everyone's take on the question.



This week the ladies ask: Who are your favorite Literary antagonists?

I love this topic.  Of course a hero isn't much of a hero without their villian. I'm got two faves, both old school and modern.

First, Old School Style:

Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. She is downright chilling, evil, manipulative, and totally takes advantage of our sweet protagonist. 

While watching Downton Abbey lately I couldn't stop yammering about how fantastically diabolical Siobhan Fenneran (O'Brien, here on the right) would be in the role of Mrs. Danvers. She's already got the costume.



Second, a book written more recently (but set in the past):


Mrs. Holland from The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman. Has there ever been such a mean, hateful, and cruel woman?  She abuses (and possibly kills) children, and tortures ailing men with the misfortune to fall under her care. 

Here she is, played by none other than Molly Weasley (Julie Walters), though I can say that she was even scarier on the page than in this BBC film. 



 


Don’t forget to stop by YAHighway to see how everyone else answers today’s prompt!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Fives with Paper Hangover

Is it Friday again already?

This week has flown.

The lovely peeps of Paper Hangover ask: What are your Five Favorite Writing Communities?


This is a fun topic, and I can't wait to see all the responses.

My go-to's would have to include:

1. My Weekend of Awesome ladies-- Pam, Quita, Erinn, Alicia, [and Holly and Mo in spirit...] the first REAL, LIVE writing community I connected with.

2. Paper Hangover, naturally. Not only is the Friday five fun, but I love their segments talking with REAL TEENS. Hello!? Smartest. Idea. Ever.

3. Write On Con. I think it's beyond generous to try to include everyone worldwide in the experience of a conference. The instigators are downright brilliant.

4. The Absolute Write message boards. Where else can you find out the scoop on all manner of insider secrets? I am but a lurker there, but I love to search around!

 5. YA Highway. The Road Trips are always a fun way to meet new writers and hear their take on a variety of topics.

What about you? What are you favorite writing communities? Visit the Hangover to read all about it!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Character, Part Three: Power

The final segment in this series of posts focuses on power, and how it can influence character.

Power is really my favorite, because it's so fascinating to think about it:, who has it, who wants it, and what they will do to get it.

This is a pretty big theme in fiction (and life).

When thinking about power, I break it into two broad categories: Control and Resources.

Control is the kind of thing we usually consider when we consider power: who controls who. Who is the puppet master, and who is the marionette? That being said, even within this category, there is a differentiation between formal and informal channels of power.

Resources are the tools at our disposal, maybe even less tangible things like the skills we have. In my work, resources for organizations often come down to time and money, but in fiction it isn't always this way.

So, how does it all work in concert?

Formal power is more the puppet master element, but (to me) informal power is the more interesting/exciting/gratifying kind.

To use The Hunger Games (first book) as an example, there are many elements of formal power (and lack of) over Katniss.

Lack of formal power (control)
  • An expected element of control, Katniss' parents, doesn't take place in reality- -Katniss' mother seems to have little formal control over her daughter.
  • The local government turns a blind eye to people breaking small laws (highlighted especially later, when this changes). Katniss and Gale can slip under the fence and hunt, then sell it on the black market. 

Formal power (control) 

  • Effie Trinket and her team control Katniss' look, what she can do, wear, while Haymitch tries to control her strategy.
  • The Game folks control Katniss, of course, and they are in turn controlled by President Snow, so there is this kind of formal power "chain of command" leading through the structure of the Games and Society.


But it's the informal power (control) that's fascinating, to me. Katniss (and all of the contestants) are in many ways powerless. They can use resources such as actual items (weapons, food, etc inside the game) and skills (bow hunting, knowledge of plants, climbing, etc) to try to shift that power.

But think about how Katniss uses informal power (control). She uses kindness and friendship (Pru), and love (maybe one sided, from Peeta, but still)  to turn the power equation around.

In contrast, the other contestants ignore these informal sources of power, and try only to match their resources against others, hoping the strongest will win.

So, how do you think about power in your writing?
What other sources of power from The Hunger Games am I overlooking?

See the earlier posts on Motivation and Information.

For information on the Contextual Interaction Theory:

Bressers, J T.A. (2004). Implementing sustainable development: how to know what
            works, where, when and how. In W. M. Lafferty (Ed.), Governance for
sustainable development: The challenge of adapting form to function (pp. 284-
318). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 
Owens, K. A. (2008). Understanding how actors influence policy implementation: a
comparative study of wetland restorations in New Jersey, Oregon, the Netherlands,
and Finland. Enschede, the Netherlands: Twente University Press. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Fives with Paper Hangover



I've had my head dunked so deeply in my MS for the last few weeks that I have been selfish about doing anything else but work, family, and writing. 


Not a bad thing, but because of this, I've been spacing out on participating in the Friday Fives!



It's time to get back with it. 


This week's Friday Fives with Paper Hangover! 

What are your FIVE favorite research tools or resources?



1. The interwebs, of course, tops the list. I remember doing research back in the day when it required a trip to the library, and PICKING UP ACTUAL BOOKS or [HORROR!] using a microfiche machine. 


It's not like walking uphill to school both ways in the snow, but it still makes me feel old to realize how things have changed. 


The internet makes research amazingly easy and FUN. For example, in research this week I watched videos on weaving using handmade looms, which was freaking awesome. 


2. The Dangerous Book for Boys* is on my shelf, and I love to thumb through it for information on the night sky, codes, strategies used in famous battles, killing and cleaning prey, and any number of cool stuff. I pretended to buy this for my sons, but it was really for me. 


3. Field Guides. Depending on the book (more so with THE INSECT COLLECTOR and SWAMPED than THIRST) I use a lot of field guides. My shelf is crammed with National Audubon's Southeastern States, Trees, and Insects and Spiders, National Geographic's Birds of North America, and Peterson's Reptiles and Amphibians and Mammals


Though I've spent time collecting all of these things due to various jobs, I still need to check out range, seasonality, and get specifics on length and markings. 

4. Fiction. I try to use every reading opportunity to revel in the wonder, craft, and magic of other writers. 


When else does something so satisfying count as "homework"?


5. BETA reading. It never ceases to amaze me how much I learn with every BETA read. I think it's "officially" putting on one's editorial cap that gives insight (that and being a little more removed from the story than we are from our own precious angels). 


What resources and tools do you use? Visit Paper Hangover and join in the fun!


*I remain unhappy that they classify this as "for boys". What is this, 1875? Girls like dangerous too, authors, don't pretend to know what that is. The "sister" book {i know} is called the Daring book for Girls. To be honest, I have not read it, because it seems to be about jump rope games etc. In their defense, I sent it to my nieces and they liked it, but I am still {obviously} stewing over this. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Winner and Check out my newest query!

The winner of a signed copy of the Half Life of Planets, signed by estimable co-author Brendan Halpin is


Samantha Sotto-Yambao

Samantha, send an email to insectwriter(at)gmail(dot)com with your address, and I will get this great book out to you.

And, after being selected for a super-awesome-query-honing-marathon-session by Susan Dennard, the polished query for my new manuscript is up on her blog.

Visit the link here, and let me know what you think!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Character, Part Two: Information

How can the concept of Information help you as you think about your writing?

And why is the Insect Collector talking about it?

Good questions.

This short series of blog posts stems from when I mentioned the theory I use in my work (Contextual Interaction Theory) and folks asked about the interview questions I use to gauge motivation, information, and power.

With these posts, I am trying to transfer those ideas to understanding character in writing.

I have only a few questions to share on information- this was more difficult to transfer than motivation.

This is a fascinating idea to think about in terms of a novel, though, because in the world you create, it really is all about the information.

Is there information our main character has but doesn't want?, Or wants but can't get? What will she do to rectify this situation?

Here are some questions that might prove a springboard for thinking about information as you write.

It's not meant as a formal questionnaire. Instead, these might be things you think about already, in a more organic way.

Think about the core issue/critical point for your book and focus on this issue. It could be a big-picture issue, or a focused personal issue.

1. Who does (and does not) have basic awareness of the issue?
-----Is your MC the only one who knows, or is everyone and their Uncle in on the big mystery?

2. Is your MC aware of the benefits she will receive if X happens.  (not that she should be, necessarily)
-----What would she gain if she gets this thing she's yearning for? fame? fortune? peace?

3. The converse of this question: Is the MC aware of the risks if X happens.
-----What's at stake? Could she also lose something if she accomplishes her goal?

4. Does your MC have a clear picture of who else is participating-- and what their roles are? Why or why not?
-----Is it all a big gray area? Or are all the players readily known?

5. Does your MC know what it will take to accomplish X? Can she find this out? If not, what's standing in the way?
-----What does she need to do to accomplish her goal?

6. How complex is X? Does she have the tools to sort it out?
-----Is this way beyond a solo operation? Does she need a team of crack specialists? Is she the only one, uniquely placed, to solve it? Was he chosen/created/named as the only person who can do this? (I'm lookin' at you, Frodo).

7. What is the role of uncertainties here? Must she figure everything out to get to X, or will there be unknowns that remain?
-----What must be answered to give the story closure? If a series, some new questions may be posed at the end, or some big-picture questions may run through a number of books.

8. How simple or difficult is it for your MC to find out things? To gather new information?
-----Is she a teen who has to subvert adults or sneak around? Is she a lawyer, with easy access to the files she needs? Is someone feeding her info? Who? and Why?

Is information something you think about as you write, as a distinct element, or is it bundled up into other characteristics/elements of plot?

What other big questions on information could be included here?

If you missed Part One on Motivation, find it here.

For further reference:

Bressers, J T.A. (2004). Implementing sustainable development: how to know what
            works, where, when and how. In W. M. Lafferty (Ed.), Governance for
sustainable development: The challenge of adapting form to function (pp. 284-
318). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 
Owens, K. A. (2008). Understanding how actors influence policy implementation: a
comparative study of wetland restorations in New Jersey, Oregon, the Netherlands,
and Finland. Enschede, the Netherlands: Twente University Press.