Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Need a Keeper

This week I took a trip to a conference. No, not a writer's conference. This one was related to my day-job. It wasn't half as fun, but I do gotta say, I'm more excited about my day-job now than I was before the conference. We do good work. Just sayin'.

The main thing I learned this week, though, is that I'm absolutely hopeless on my own. Thank goodness my new smart phone has a navigation app, or I'd have gotten lost constantly. Also, it's a very good thing my head is firmly attached to my shoulders, because I guarantee, I'd have walked off without it at some point.

The first morning of the conference (Thursday) I woke up in my hotel room (after staying up too late reading), and tidied up. I put my purse in one of the dresser drawers. Ya know, so the maids wouldn't steal it (because everyone knows that dishonest maids never steal anything that isn't in plain view).

That night, I drove out to Chili's to pick up some take-out. Before I left, I checked for all the things I'd need. Room key, check. Sunglasses, check. Wallet, check. Cell phone for navigation, check. Down the stairs I went, feeling virtuous. And realized I couldn't get into my vehicle. Keys? Fail. I took the elevator back upstairs. And down.

The next morning (Friday, after another too-late-night reading), I got all my stuff packed back up and loaded in the vehicle. Went to the lobby to turn in my key and eat breakfast. Realized I didn't know where I'd put the receipt for Chili's. Got the desk to give me my key back. Went through my bag. ('Cause how embarrassing would it be to go all the way back upstairs and find out I had the receipt in my bag the whole time?) Nada. Left my bag with a colleague... returned to my bag to find the room key I'd just been given. Walked up the stairs. (Check me, huh?) Searched my Chili's garbage. Searched the various drawers I might have stuffed a receipt into. Searched the bed. Nothing. (It occurs to me that I don't now remember searching under the bed. Le sigh.) Ended up returning to Chili's after the conference to beg for another receipt.

Left my car keys on the counter at Chili's. Had to go back in.

Drove two hours home (thank you, cell-phone navigation system). Realized, whilst getting out of my vehicle, that I didn't have my purse. Because I'd cleverly hidden it from the maids in the dresser drawer.

Apparently, the maids discovered it soon after I checked out and called my house. My sister-in-law and her husband picked it up for me that night. Until we go back up, I'm without a few keys, a library book, and some various lotions.

The take-away?

  1. Give any hotel I stay in my cell-phone number.
  2. Make a list of what I've brought so I can make sure I take it all away with me.
  3. Never travel without my husband. I obviously need a keeper.
What about you? Should you be allowed to leave the house by yourself?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The "Dreaded" Synopsis

See? Like this!
Have you ever written one of those synopsis thangs? Totally easy, right? I mean, it's not like you've never written a book report--we all had to write hundreds in school. Right? Now just write one on your book. And leave out all the boring parts. And the subplots. And anything that doesn't drive the main story toward the climax and conclusion. Oh, and make sure it's interesting and reflects the tone and voice of the story. And that it doesn't leave out any important parts, 'cause it really needs to make sense, too. And be about two pages long. Or less.

Cake.

Right.

Okay, so synopses are of the devil. Almost everyone agrees.

But not this girl:
Becca "Synopses aren't scary" Stumpf
Becca Stumpf works for The Prospect Agency, which requires one of the most elaborate initial-query packages out there... including a synopsis. Becca is one of the nicest people you could ever meet, and she assures me that synopses aren't scary. That they aren't just an elaborate torture device used by agents to see how much authors will endure as they complete impossible tasks to prove themselves worthy of representation. That they can be useful. And an important part of a complete query package.

And she's going to explain all that (along with giving tips on the rest of the query package) on an Authors' Advisory Conference Call next week, on Wednesday, September 28th, starting at 8:45 PM EST. There's such a wealth of information out there on how to write a good query, but not so much on how to write a good synopsis. Becca's going to help us fix that.

Right now, I'm building my outline of questions to ask her. Wanna help? I have tons of questions, but I'm still new to this synopsis-writing thing, so I'd appreciate some questions from those of you who have done more than me. Or who are new like me and can help add the obvious questions.

What parts of writing a synopsis do you just not get? What do you find the hardest to muddle through? Ever hear advice you thought was questionable? What else do you want to know about synopses?

Then be sure to call in next week and raise your hand to ask Becca questions yourself. Should be a very informative hour.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

100 YA Books Chain


I'm building a chain from Chantelle's blog: Beyond Words. Like all great chains, this one is completely voluntary--you won't get cursed or anything if you don't play.

If you DO play along, leave a link in the comments so we can check out which books you've read. Also in the comments, tell me if which books you don't think should be on this list, which books you'd replace them with, and especially which ones I should add to my TBR list.

Bold = I've Read It
Italics = I Own It
Underline = Started, didn't finish

1. Alex Finn – Beastly
2. Alice Sebold – The Lovely Bones
3. Ally Carter – Gallagher Girls (1, 2, 3, 4)
4. Ally Condie – Matched
5. Alyson Noel – The Immortals (1, 2, 3
, 4, 5, 6)
6. Anastasia Hopcus – Shadow Hills

7. Angie Sage – Septimus Heap (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
8. Ann Brashares – The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (1, 2, 3, 4)
9. Anna Godbersen – Luxe (1, 2, 3, 4)
10. Anthony Horowitz – Alex Rider (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
11. Aprilynne Pike – Wings (1, 2, 3)
12. Becca Fitzpatrick – Hush, Hush (1
, 2)
13. Brandon Mull – Fablehaven (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
14. Brian Selznick – The Invention of Hugo Cabret
15. Cassandra Clare – The Mortal Instruments (1, 2, 3, 4)
16. Carrie Jones – Need (1, 2, 3)
17. Carrie Ryan – The Forest of Hands and Teeth (1, 2, 3)
18. Christopher Paolini - Inheritance (1, 2, 3, 4)
19. Cinda Williams Chima – The Heir Chronicles (1, 2, 3)
20. Colleen Houck – Tigers Saga (1, 2)
21. Cornelia Funke – Inkheart (1, 2, 3)
22. Ellen Hopkins – Impulse
23. Eoin Colfer – Artemis Fowl (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
24. Faraaz Kazi – Truly, Madly, Deeply
25. Frank Beddor – The Looking Glass Wars (1, 2, 3)
26. Gabrielle Zevin – Elsewhere
27. Gail Carson Levine – Fairest
[Updated--oops!]
28. Holly Black – Tithe (1, 2, 3)
29. J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
30. James Dashner – The Maze Runner (1, 2)
31. James Patterson – Maximum Ride (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
32. Jay Asher – Thirteen Reasons Why
33. Jeanne DuPrau – Books of Ember (1, 2, 3, 4)
34. Jeff Kinney – Diary of a Wimpy Kid (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
35. John Boyne – The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
36. John Green – An Abundance of Katherines
37. John Green – Looking for Alaska
38. John Green – Paper Towns
39. Jonathan Stroud – Bartimaeus (1, 2, 3, 4)
40. Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl – Caster Chronicles (1, 2)
41. Kelley Armstrong – Darkest Powers (1, 2, 3)
 
42. Kristin Cashore – The Seven Kingdoms (1, 2) [Updated: I hate when series are called something other than the title of the book. GRACELING, folks! GRACELING!!]
43. Lauren Kate – Fallen (1, 2, 3)
44. Lemony Snicket - Series of Unfortunate Events (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)
45. Libba Bray – Gemma Doyle (1, 2, 3)
46. Lisa McMann – Dream Catcher (1, 2, 3)
47. Louise Rennison – Confessions of Georgia Nicolson (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
48. M.T. Anderson – Feed
49. Maggie Stiefvater – The Wolves of Mercy Falls (1, 2, 3)
50. Margaret Peterson Haddix – Shadow Children (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
51. Maria V. Snyder – Study (1, 2, 3)
52. Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
53. Markus Zusak – I am the Messenger
54. Mark Haddon – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
55. Mary Ting – Crossroads
56. Maureen Johnson – Little Blue Envelope (1, 2)
57. Meg Cabot – All-American Girl (1, 2)
58. Meg Cabot – The Mediator (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
59. Meg Cabot – The Princess Diaries (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
60. Meg Rosoff – How I live now
61. Megan McCafferty – Jessica Darling (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
62. Megan Whalen Turner – The Queen’s Thief (1, 2, 3, 4)
63. Melina Marchetta – On the Jellicoe Road
64. Melissa de la Cruz – Blue Bloods (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
65. Melissa Marr – Wicked Lovely (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
66. Michael Grant – Gone (1, 2, 3, 4)
67. Nancy Farmer – The House of the Scorpion
68. Neal Shusterman – Unwind
69. Neil Gaiman – Coraline
70. Neil Gaiman – Stardust
71. Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
72. P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast – House of Night (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
, 8 )
73. Philip Pullman – His Dark Materials (1, 2, 3)
74. Rachel Caine – The Morganville Vampires (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
75. Rachel Cohn & David Levithan – Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist
76. Richelle Mead – Vampire Academy (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
77. Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson and the Olympians (1
, 2, 3, 4, 5)
78. Rom LcO’Feer – Somewhere carnal over 40 winks
79. S.L. Naeole – Grace (1, 2, 3, 4)
80. Sabrina Bryan & Julia DeVillers – Princess of Gossip
81. Sarah Dessen – Along for the Ride
82. Sarah Dessen – Lock and Key
83. Sarah Dessen – The Truth about Forever
84. Sara Shepard – Pretty Little Liars (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
85. Scott Westerfeld - Leviathan (1, 2)
86. Scott Westerfeld - Uglies (1, 2, 3 
[Updated to add:] 4)
87. Shannon Hale – Books of a Thousand Days
88. Shannon Hale – Princess Academy
89. Shannon Hale – The Books of Bayern (1, 2, 3, 4)
90. Sherman Alexie & Ellen Forney – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
91. Simone Elkeles – Perfect Chemistry (1, 2, 3)
92. Stephanie Meyer – The Host
[This, of course, is not YA—not sure why it’s on the list]
93. Stephanie Meyer – Twilight Saga (1, 2, 3, 4)
94. Sue Monk Kidd – The Secret Life of Bees
95. Susan Beth Pfeffer – Last Survivors (1, 2, 3)
96. Suzanne Collins – Hunger Games (1, 2, 3)
97. Suzanne Collins – Underland Chronicles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
98. Terry Pratchett – Tiffany Aching (1, 2, 3, 4)
99. Tonya Hurley – Ghost Girl (1, 2, 3)
100. Wendelin Van Draanen – Flipped

How about you?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th

I wasn't near lower Manhattan that day, like Meg Cabot was. I didn't lose anyone I knew. Like everyone else around the world, however, I was still effected. This is my quite ordinary story.

When Flights 11, 77, and 93 took off, around 8:14 AM EDT, I was probably sleeping, safe in the mountain time zone. My husband headed off to work at about that time, and my 5-month old son may or may not have woken me up early. I can't remember.

I probably woke up sometime around 8:46 AM EDT, when Flight 11 hit Tower 1. I was a first year law student and had a class to get to that morning. At 8:59 AM EDT, while passengers on Flight 175 made final calls to loved ones on their way to their 9:03 appointment with Tower 2, I was probably feeding and cooing at my son. What with dressing myself and getting the baby ready for the sitter, I didn't have time for the morning news.

At around 9:37 AM EDT, when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, I would have left my apartment and crossed the quad of the married student housing to drop my son off at the babysitter's apartment. My husband had totaled my car just a few days prior, so I had to walk to school, about ten minutes away.

My babysitter had been watching the news, and told me what had happened. Though I certainly didn't doubt her, it still wasn't real. I didn't know anyone who might have been in danger. The immediate impact on my life was abstract enough that I spent the walk to school being grateful that my worst problem was the lack of a vehicle--and wondering what they'd call the tragedy. "September 11th" was the obvious choice.

Class was scheduled to start at about 8:00 am MDT, as Tower 2 was collapsing. I remember standing in the hallway with other law students, watching one of the monitors in the corner of the ceiling, as professors rushed around. I don't remember being aware of the towers falling in real-time, so perhaps class started later, or it took me a while to wander  through the building to see the monitor. About that same time, Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, though we didn't know about that for a while.

Eventually, the professors told us that they'd decided to cancel class. Mainly in the interests of national solidarity, since it seemed unconscionable to go on with our normal lives, pretending everything was fine, just because no one had destroyed one of OUR buildings.

Tower 1 fell at 10:28 AM EST, so by the time I picked up my baby and got home, most of the tragedy was over. I spent the day holding my son, staring at the television, and counting my blessings.

A few years later, I learned that a surgeon I knew had been in New York for a conference that day. As might be expected, they went to area hospitals to help out with what they expected to be a huge influx of wounded. He says that there were no wounded to help. They waited and waited, but no one came needing their skills.

In the patriotic furor that followed that day, my husband and I put a fast-food restaurant window cling in the back window of our new-to-us vehicle. Above the image of the American flag, it says "God Bless America" and underneath it says "September 11, 2001". It's still there today--we've never found an appropriate time to remove it.

All three of my sons have grown up knowing about 9/11. We haven't shielded them from it. Today, while exploring the 9/11 interactive timeline available through the National 9/11 Memorial, I had to remind my 8-year-old that what happened that day is not good fodder for jokes. They understand most of what happened, but not why or what it means for them. They have no nightmares.

Over the last few weeks, my husband and I have been watching the series "Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero" on the Discovery Channel. I highly recommend it--and not just because it turns out it was directed by Steven Spielberg. The series doesn't focus on the tragedy, but on the hopeful future. On the way America is rising from the ashes of tragedy to come back bigger and better than we were before.

The saying goes that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I heard a woman with terminal brain cancer joke once that even things that DO kill you can make you stronger. I pray that the deaths--of people, of ideals, and of some measure of hope--of September 11, 2001, can indeed continue to strengthen us as a nation. We need to get beyond sorrow, hate, and revenge and focus instead on the future, on the triumph of the human spirit. On using our hard-earned strength for good. That's what the heroes of that day did. We can do no less.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tech-Savvy

Hey, hey, hey! I have new About Me and Stalk Me pages! Please feel free to check them out and let me know what info I should include. :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

First Campaign Challenge: Flash Fiction


The first challenge of the Platform Building Campaign is upon us and hundreds are playing. Seriously, we have until Friday and there's already over a 120 entries.

Here's the specifics: Write a short story / flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: "the door swung shut." (also included in the word count)

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!


Naturally, I'm doing it all. 200 words exactly (not counting the title), starts and ends with the right phrase. Boo-yah.

So here it is:

SUSPECT
The door swung open a crack, and a dozen conversations buzzed into the room. I could only make out a few.
“Is Jack done with the house yet?”
“Are you kidding? With that mess, he’ll be there half the night.”
“I’m headed out for food—anyone hungry?”
“Just bring back some pizzas for everyone.”
“Suzanne is on the phone, wants to talk to our gal, here.”
“Is that the sister? Tell her to wait in line.”
A strong hand grabbed the door and held it steady, fingers curling through the gap and around to my side. Stubby fingernails gleaming in the fluorescent lights.
I rubbed my red-speckled hands together, longing for soap and water. And a nail brush. One that wouldn’t go straight into evidence.
A fascinating inch of dirty brown carpet crept out of the room and down the hallway toward freedom. If I were a mouse, I could flatten myself and squeeze through that crack.
If I were a mouse, I wouldn’t be able to hold a knife. Or be angry enough to use it.
The crack widened. Officers Milton and Hoff stalked in. Faces grave.
I yanked on my handcuffs below the table.
The door swung shut.

Read the rest of the entries by visiting the challenge post. Also, you can vote for your favorite by clicking the "Like" button under my entry, #125. (For instance.) :)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tag: 10 Random Facts About Me

In the Platform Builders Campaign, I'm in Group 30: Urban Fantasy(1), where we're having fun with our first group challenge: twitter-tagging each other on our blogs. I was tagged by Megan Nafke (@Megan Nafke).

I don't know many of my group members well yet, but I'm tagging the following four fabulous females:

Lori M. Lee (@LoriMLee)--I've been seeing Lori around the web for months now, since we always seem to join the same contests. Her entries are always amazing, dang it.

Shannon Lawrence (aka The Warrior Muse) (@thewarriormuse)--I just love her moniker... and her blog ain't bad, either.

Miss Cole-Burke: (@MissColeBurke)--she's English (I'm half English), and she likes YA-UF for all the same reasons I do. :)

Amanda Leigh Cowley (@millymoomandy)--she writes adult UF (which is also good), has an ebook available, and posts a new Magic Eye picture every Friday! My eyes are having trouble focusing right now....

Okay, so now here's the 10 Random Facts about Me. I've done lots of About Me lists, so I'm getting my three sons to help me with this one:

So, boys, what are some random things about me?

  1. D: You like books
  2. C: You read books a lot
  3. B: You're writing a book right now
  4. D: You have three boys
  5. C: You like House
  6. B: You want a girl 
  7. D: (channeling daddy) Which is not happening
  8. C: (also channeling daddy) We won't have any more children
  9. B: (vying for favorite) You love us!
  10. C: (claiming the last spot) You go to work.
Also, in high school, I had the coolest Magic Eye poster on the back of my bedroom door: it was a knight with a sword protecting a damsel in distress from a flying dragon. Castle included. So. Awesome.

What posters did you have on your teenage walls?

Added: Oh, and my dragon obsession is explained by my birth year: The Year of the Dragon.
What's yours?