Monday, October 31, 2011

The Week of Fabulous...

1. My CP Lucy sent me cookies this week...
You should see some of the other ones!

2. Nova Ren Suma will be here tomorrow doing Inside the Author's Studio with me and I'm giving away her fabulous IMAGINARY GIRLS. 
3. The I LOVE DARK YA Blogfest starts on Wednesday. There's still time to sign up. It should be tons of fun. 
4. It's Halloween. What are you all going as? I was thinking of going as Poison Ivy but then Kim Kardashian took my idea and I don't think I could pull it off as well.
So I've opted to steal my husband's idea from two years ago and go as a Nudist On Strike. What are you all going to be?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Questions for My Teen Beta...October Edition

1. Glee: in or out?

Yes, Glee! Definitely in.

(Christa Note: I broke up with Glee in Season 2, but it was amicable so I bear Aliya no ill will for continuing a relationship with this show) 

2. Vampires or werewolves?

Tricky... I love them both, but most of my favorite series have vampires.

3. Vanilla or chocolate?


4. Boy POV and girl POV favorite books?

All my favorite books are girl POV, but I think that's because there are so few boy POV books. I enjoy them both.

(Christa Note: She, of course, is not including TRAIN WRECK because it hasn't been published yet:))

5. New York or LA?

New York!

(Christa Note: Obvskis)

6. Eyebrow or belly ring---which is sexier?

Definitely belly button ring.

7. Best new show of the season?

New show? I don't watch new tv. I started watching Doctor Who! If we're talking about new shows, my sisters like the new show Awkward, and my friends like New Girl.

8. Best new YA book?

This is the hardest question yet. I love a lot of them... I'll have to go with Love Story by Jennifer Echols.

Thank you, Aliya! As usual, you are a font of YA knowledge and opinions. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Building An Army Of Awesome...

So I believe I've pointed out my neediness when it comes to writing. And I've shamelessly asked everyone and their brothers to read my books and give me feedback. But when it comes to good critique partners, I've managed to find some really incredible ones. 

People are constantly lamenting how difficult it is to find good CPs. Well, let me tell you the need to ask. I have found people through blogging, tweeting, my internship, etc. and I think the reason I found them is because I asked. And offered to read for them in return. 

My critique partners have changed based on things people are doing, the state of their lives, etc. but in the end, my army of Awesome needs to have some essential players:

1. The One Who Gets You: This is the person who you email 57 times a day. The one you ask all the inane questions to. The one who thinks so much like you and has such similar sensibilities in books that you know exactly what they are going to say about what you wrote. And yes, mine happens to be a BDSM erotic romance author, but she's got a great brain for YA. 

Example Feedback: "Reading about Brooks and Gannon's relationship is, like them, addictive. You have to know what kind of shit they're going to pull next. There's something very authentic about them and the story feels voyeuristic. All in all--yes. Awesome :)"

2. The Funny One: If you don't have a critique partner who can make you laugh, you are absolutely sunk. There are times when I make my funny CP Carrie just tell me the stories of her life. Carrie has no idea what to do about all the dark stuff I write, but she has such a hilarious sensibility that she is a great reminder of who will be reading my books. She's also a heck of a writer and an amazing plotter. 


Me to Carrie: I've written half a book. The part you have is the honeymoon. In part 2, I will tear the two of them apart. This will not end well for Brooks. But I think our Gannon will walk away from toxic boy in the end. Happy?

Carrie to Me: The part I have is the honeymoon?

3. The Teenagers: If you are going to write for teens, you need teens to read your book. They are honest (well, the girls are; the boys, as we've already discussed, say nothing). They have no idea how exactly to give criticism. They love almost everything. It's awesome. 

Example: "I feel inclined to give you more feedback than "Wow, it's great!", but I never really know what I should pick at and most of the time if there's anything slightly off I think "Oh, well it just depends, some people might actually say this/do that and I don't know if it's something I should take note of to point out.""

4. The Yin to your Yang: You know you have a weakness. Every time you write something, you do the same thing. Mine, of course, is a general ennui around descriptive language. When you have a weakness (and who doesn't), you absolutely MUST have CPs who are the exact opposite. For me, this is finding people who write descriptive language well. I frequently refer to these people as the MFAs because they have some serious expertise. Cling to these people, they will save your writing life.

Example: "One way it could be improved is grounding each scene in its location. We jump right into each scene, which I think is great because it keeps the story moving... However, we have to have something to build off of first. Even if it's just a minute reference to the room they're in, the color of the paint on the walls, the music being piped in from a speaker near the ceiling--we need something early in the scene to establish place. In some scenes, we don't get any location description on the first page, which means in my head the characters are just standing in a white room. I got disoriented a couple of times."

5. The Experts: These are the people who get what you're writing about or have sensibilities that are critical to your book's authenticity. Sometimes, these people may just have a stronger connection to YAs. Sometimes, they may be experts in a field you are writing about. I put all my books in front of "the feminists" to make sure I'm not perpetuating stereotypes or unknowingly promoting a rape culture. And because I write very dark stuff, I have social workers read my books too (although more often than not, they are fascinated about the reason I write them). 

Example: "I want more about the way to handle rape victims from interactions and dialogues from other people versus only from Maggie. I like her parts, but feel like someone else needs to be providing some of this." 

6. The Editors: These are the people who point out all the novice writer habits you have. They know about form/structure and they call you on a too long denouement, repetitive language, character inconsistencies, and general overuse of the word "just." 

Example: "This was cute the first time. You've now used it six times and it's annoying. Also, the word 'just' is in this document 237 times."

So you see, you are never writing a book ALONE. An army of Awesome is critical if you want your book to be the best it can be. And yes, one person can wear many of these hats, but I don't think they can wear all of them. Do you all have an army? Did I miss any key players? 

Monday, October 24, 2011

3 Truths and 1 Lie: New York

I'm behind on this. I'm behind on blogging. I'm behind on reading blogs. I'm behind on life. So it goes. Somehow, I think it will all work out and I'll get my act together, but then something new flies in the path and I am right back to scrambling. Ah well.

So here's the week.

1. My trip to New York was fabulous. I got to see my best friend perform at the Lincoln Center. I got to eat out at unbelievable restaurants. I went shopping in Times Square.

2. I have managed not to email my agent in almost 5 days.

3. I started writing my NY best friend a smexy novella about a cabaret singer and her piano player.

4. I got to work today and found a cockroach scurrying across my desk. I decided to leave early.

Which one is the lie? Also, it's the end of October which means that my teen beta Aliya will be answering questions here on Friday. If you have anything you are curious about, then feel free to leave your question in the comment as well.

And finally, please spread the word and join us for the I Love Dark YA blogfest. (Click sidebar on the right). It's going to be fabulous.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Books I'm Reading

I'm going to New York this weekend. For work. I will be with my dear friend Bergl so will likely come up with a "3 Truths and 1 Lie of Awesome" upon my return. But in the meantime, I would like to share with you the gorgeous books I've just finished or am currently reading (click on them to take you to Goodreads blurb):

If you haven't read these, go. Right now. Immediately. Each one is truly spectacular.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A post in which it becomes clear I'm high maintenance...and I love my agent

With all my shenanigans and ball dropping, some of you may not even have guessed that I'm high maintenance. You may even think I'm low key and easygoing. Please let me disabuse you of this notion right now. The best thing I have going for me is that I admit I'm high maintenance. I tell most people who meet me. I tell me kids' teachers from the very start, "I'm sort of a difficult mom, but I will do everything in my power to help you so that my difficult-ness will be worth it."

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not a diva. I don't have to have only green M&M's or the sheets ironed (!) or any of that. I take feedback well. I am willing to change things. But, I can be, er, needy? opinionated?...well, high maintenance.

This week I've been particularly high maintenance because I have a new job and I am struggling with an ending for my book.

And in case you don't believe me (or you want to feel better about your own neediness), here are my high maintenance stats for the week:

Number of times I've emailed my CP Lucy for advice: 347 (give or take)
Number of times my husband has noted the vacant expression on my face and asked about it: 11
Number of times I've re-written the last two pages of my book: 6
Number of emails I've sent to beta readers about the last two pages of my book: 3 (x4 beta readers for a total of 12 emails)
Number of books I've read because I can't sleep: 6
Number of questions I've asked my agent about this book (which she has no idea about because I haven't actually sent it to her yet): 24 (give or take)

Which brings me to why I NEED AND LOVE MY AGENT. I know some people have done fine without them. They've self-pubbed, they've indie-pubbed, they've hired freelance editors, etc. These people must be without the high maintenance gene. Me, I sort of need my hand held, by lots of people, but particularly by my agent. And she holds it. ALL THE TIME. I am so incredibly lucky she does. I don't understand how she possibly has the time to do everything she does. I speculate that agents might have superpowers.

So thank you Sarah, and thank you everyone who has had to deal with me this week. I will crack the code on this book and all will be right with the world again.

In the meantime, feel free to make me feel better and tell me how you are high maintenance.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Fitness for Lunatics

So some of you know that I am co-head of the PTA with my friend Bruce and this fall, I got co-opted into being in charge of a Fitness and Run Club for students in 1st-6th grade. This came about because last year, I helped a woman start a Girls Run Club in school and it was quite sweet. There were 5 girls in it. They made journals, they logged their miles, they trained for a little race. Then the leader got pregnant and could no longer run so it became mine.

This year, the teachers convinced me to include boys because "they felt left out last spring." So we now have 26 kids participating. We meet in an auditorium where I lead warm-up stretches (while most kids sit on their blue mats eating their snack, watching me or trading Pokemon cards). Then we jog to a nearby park to "run laps." On a good week, 6 of them run. The rest of them walk within fifty feet of exiting the front door of school. But it's better than that.

I shall now demonstrate the highlights of Run Club through a series of sound bites from me and Bruce.

Me: "Hey Boy X, you can't swing from the stage curtain. Get off of it. I'm not kidding, the whole thing is going to come down. Stop swinging on the curtain." (Thump)

Me: "Okay everyone, get yourself a snack or drink and then go to the bathroom. I don't want a flurry of bathroom visits at the last minute. (Ten minutes pass). Okay, let's line up and get ready to go out. Did anyone not get a chance to go to the bathroom yet?" (24 hands raise)

Bruce: "Kids, it's not the time to hold a funeral for a butterfly. Get back on the path and start running." (Funeral continues). "Uh, is this mike on?"

Me: "It doesn't count as a lap if you cut through the middle every time."

Bruce: "Boys. Boys. Leave that guy alone."
Boy 1: "What's he doing? Maybe he's dead."
Bruce: "He's not dead. He's taking a nap and he doesn't want you throwing leaves on him."

Bruce: "This isn't Run Club, this is Afternoon Girls Gossip Club."
Me: "No, this is Afternoon 'Christa and Bruce provide childcare during the worst two hours of the day while the smart parents stay home drinking and laughing at our expense' Club."

Me: "For the love of cheese, that box of donuts doesn't belong to you. Leave it alone."
Kid Y: "Whose is it then?"
Me: "Probably the dead guy's. Now start running."

Me: "No, I will not play Lady Gaga on my phone on the run back to school."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why a frazzled mom isn't that different from a 17 year old boy

So I was reading this hilarious article by Copil Yanez at YA Confidential about "How To Write Like A Man" and it got me thinking about why I find it so much easier to write guys than girls. As some of you know, TRAIN WRECK is told from a boy's POV and one of the best things people have told me about it is that the voice is really authentic.

And you know when someone says something nice, the first thing you (women) do is to try to dismiss it and excuse it like it's a fluke and you'll never be able to do it again. But, the thing is, I actually think I could do it again. I even toyed with making my WIP from the boy's POV or from alternating POVs. In the end, I landed on the girl because her story arc needed to dominate, but I can easily see some of my critique partners suggesting a dual POV.

As a seventeen year old girl, I would never have been able to write from a guy's POV. It is only after living with a man and having three children (two of them boys) that I understand the 17 year old boy brain. And the reason I understand is because my brain works EXACTLY THE SAME WAY.

Mom Example 1: Get frantic message from teacher that field trip permission slip has not been turned in and my child will not be able to go.

Frazzled Mom Reaction: Okay. Who's gonna watch him then?

Teen Boy Example 1: Teacher tells him because of poor grades, he will not be allowed to go on the Physics field trip to the amusement park.

Teen Boy Reaction: Okay. Do I have to go to school that day then?

Mom Example 2: Daughter comes home upset because she is the only one in the class without glitter shoes.

Frazzled Mom Reaction: Those shoes are ridiculous and leave glitter all over the house. Until you know how to sweep, you aren't getting them.

Teen Boy Example 2: Girlfriend laments that hike through muddy field has ruined her new UGGS.

Teen Boy Reaction: Those shoes are dumb.

Mom Example 3: Have somehow been put in charge of all-school bowling event and the owner of the bowling alley would like to know what's the plan for overseeing all these parentless children.

Frazzled Mom Reaction: I don't know. They're not my kids.

Teen Boy Example 3: Have been asked to help lead the 5th grade Sunday School class's study of the Ten Commandments. The class leader would like to know the lesson plan for teaching the commandments.

Teen Boy Reaction:  I had a soccer game this week and didn't have time to think about it. I figured they could just write them out.

BOTTOM LINE: I understand 17 year old boy brains because I think fundamentally, neither of us have time or patience for drama. The frazzled mom and the 17 year old boy are just trying to get by without calling too much attention to ourselves.

Am I right?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Does it count as "cheating" if the guy isn't real?

I haven't been blogging. (Have you noticed?). I haven't been watching TV. I haven't been reading manuscripts. I haven't been watching football with my husband.

I'm a bit smitten with something else right now. Someone else.

He's eighteen. He has blue hair, a nipple ring, a record in juvie for arson, and an addiction to Indian Spirit rolled cigarettes. I started writing him a few weeks ago. I fell in love with him a few days ago. He's horribly broken and my dark teen self can't get enough of him.

This has NEVER happened to me before. Even when I wrote my dear, sweet loyal Ben (TRAIN WRECK), I didn't fall like this. And the irony of this character crush is that I got a letter from my wonderful CP Carrie this morning calling him a "creepy, controlling a**hole." 

What??? Oh wait, she's right. Yes, yes, he is. Isn't it sweet in a really messed up way? *Sigh*

I sometimes wonder if people read books and think, "What must this writer's life be like that s/he came up with this crazy stuff?" I know my friend Ally has asked me this question more than once. She's a therapist, her brain goes to the source of things. So what does it say about me that I've fallen for this hot horrible mess?

I think the reason I can fall for him so easily is because it is nothing like my real life. I have the anti-mess of a husband who is everything that my broken boy character is not. And it is the security of my deep love for my husband and the safety of this life of mine that allows me to put everything else into these two very damaged characters of mine.

The trick for me in writing this book is being able to create characters who are complicated and not 'good' and still engaging. I have no interest in girls swooning over this boy and turning him into a romantic hero. I'm not sure why I swoon over him except I feel like I "know" him enough to see how suffering drives him into being who he is.

So what about you all? Have any of you ever fallen for characters in books who other people think are awful/damaged/broken?

Friday, October 7, 2011

3 truths and 1 lie plus HOURGLASS giveaway winner

First, for all those holding their breaths in anticipation, has designated the HOURGLASS poster and book giveaway winner to be: Deana. Congratulations! Email me with your snail mail address and I will ship this off to you as soon as possible.

And now, on to the 3 truths and 1 lie from the week. Remember to leave your guess in the comments. For those following last week, the lie was about doing a writing challenge at 5am with Twitter friends. Yes, we all are doing the writing challenge, but I never agreed to 5am (and you can see by my Tweets that I only actually pulled off early morning writing 3 of the 5 days this week).

1. This week has been all about continuing to draft my new WIP. I hope to complete the draft within two weeks so I'm geared up for to write another book in November for NaNoWriMo. Afterwards, I'll choose which one I like the best and revise that.

2. Research for this WIP has now involved:
a. A trip to the skate park
b. Quite a bit of time on
c. Texts and tweets inquiring as to whether you could feel a nipple ring through a guy's shirt while you were making out with him.
d. Elaborate discussion with a certain friend of mine about her trip to a crack house.
e. Googling tattoo designs. This, btw, is the one I decided on:

Yeah, this isn't a dark book at all. LOL. 
3. The WIP is now almost 18,000 words. I was really trying to hold off on showing anyone until it was finished, but then I wrote this sexy utility knife scene and I just had to send it to my CP Lucy.

Here was her response: "Oh wow. If you succeed in getting this published, I will dance for days. The thought of your agent ringing editors and plugging an exacto knife sex scene fills me with both glee and amusement, lol."

4. I saw this lovely author photo shoot that involved head shots of her eating cupcakes. I told Lucy I didn't think I could ever pull off an author picture with cupcakes. She answered, "You're far too street for cupcakes." Being called 'street' has delighted me for days. I'm thinking of taking up smoking filtered menthols just to add to my 'street' mystique. When I told my husband and brother-in-law what Lucy said, they laughed in my face and mumbled something about me being about as street as Holly Hobby. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Inside the Author's Studio with Myra McEntire

Hooray! Inside the Author's Studio today features the incredibly cool, very adorable Myra McEntire. Remember, one lucky commenter will receive a free copy of her awesome book HOURGLASS.

1.     What is your favorite word? Serendipity.

2.     What is your least favorite word? Turgid. Don’t ask.

3.     What turns your current MC on? I plead the fifth.

4.     What turns your current MC off? Garlic breath.

5.     What sound do you love? My kids’ “evil” laughs.

6.     What sound do you hate? Crying. The soul crushing kind.

7.     What is your favorite YA quirk? (i.e. The Colonel’s desire to give everyone nicknames) My MC’s tendency to punch people. I wish I could get away with that.

8.     What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Photography. Or some kind of visual art.

9.     What profession would you rather bathe in a vat of urine than attempting? SALES. I WILL DRINK URINE BEFORE I EVER TRY TO SELL ANOTHER THING.

10. If John Green exists and sits at your table at a SCBWI conference, what would you like him to say to you? Oh, no, your awkwardness doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I LIKE IT. 

Yes, Myra is as AWESOME as I suspected. Thank you for joining us today! Don't forget to comment in order to win HOURGLASS. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Banned Books Giveaway Winner & 3 truths and 1 lie

First, for those of you waiting, the winner of the Banned Books Giveaway according to is Ashley Prince. Ashley, congratulations!

Now, for those following the three truths and one lie meme, last week's lie was about the Sunday School high schooler who wanted to read my book. Yes, he wanted to read my book, but no, he didn't stand next to me until I sent it to him. He's a 17yo boy. They don't wait for anything. :D

On to this week...

1. Here was this morning's conversation with the above mentioned 17yo boy:

17yo: So I finished your book.
Me: Already?
17yo: Yeah, I finished it by the next day.
Me: Wow. That's incredible. Thanks for reading it.
(very long awkward pause in which I wait for some sort of feedback)
17yo: You're welcome.

That's it. I'm going to have to take the fact that he read and finished it so quickly as a compliment. 17yo boys are not exactly forthcoming with the compliments.

2. I spent Friday with my NY bestie. She called it her suburban mom day and posted pictures of me holding my #69 carpool number on Twitter. Then she told me that she was considering kidnapping one of the curly-haired blondie 4yo's in gymnastics. She might have been partially serious.

3. I have set up an early morning writing challenge with 3 women writers on Twitter wherein we wake up at 5am every day and write 1500 words. I give this three days before it crashes and burns.

4. I am in charge of the All School Bowling Event this afternoon. By in charge, I mean that I collected money for it. I am $45.35 short of the funds I'm supposed to have. Please remind me that this is the reason I should never volunteer to run All School Events again. Reimbursement for said $45.35 will take at least four months.

So which do you think is the lie??? Also, if you haven't already, go to YAtopia and check out the I LOVE DARK YA blogfest that I am co-hosting. I think it will be lots of fun.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The I Love Dark YA Blogfest

At long last, it is time to sign-up for the I LOVE DARK YA Blogfest at YAtopia!!!

Meet the other hosts: Kelley York, Heather McCorkle and E.R. King

We are so excited to be hosting this month-long blogfest in November for lovers of dark YA books.  The rules are fairly simple. You only need to post on Wednesday of each week. We ask that you try to participate in each week’s activity, but you don’t have to if it doesn’t work for your schedule.


1.     Put the I LOVE DARK YA badge on your sidebar or at the top of each of the posts you do for the fest. Make sure you link it back to the YAtopia linky sign-up.
2.     Visit blogs of your hosts and other participants if you can. It’ll be more fun!
3.     Your blog post needs to be up on Wednesday. You can post early if you want, but people will be hopping on Wednesdays.
4.     Blog themes are as follows----

November 2nd---Blog about your favorite dark YA book(s).
November 9th—Write a 500 word or less flash fiction piece inspired by this picture. 

November 16th---Music and Movie Fun: Take a dark YA book and build a soundtrack for it or cast characters for a movie version.
November 23rd---#YASAVES—Blog about how a dark YA book made an impact in your life.
November 30th---Waiting on Wednesday---What dark YA book are you most looking forward to?

On the final day of the blogfest, your hosts will each being doing a giveaway on their blogs. Any of the I LOVE DARK YA blogfest participants may enter. Thanks for joining in the fun!