Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions:

It's almost that time again, folks. This year has gone by so quickly, way quicker than last year did--probably because I had more fun! My first year and a half of college, already over with. I honestly can't believe that. And so many cool things happened this year: I got to meet Meg Cabot and Maggie Stiefvater and Libba Bray, I finished The Shape that Breaks, I got on the Dean's list, I got (and quit/lost) two jobs, and I wrote almost 3 full novels. I didn't read quite as much this year, but that's okay. I'll get back on the bandwagon in 2012.

Anyway, I wanted to share some of my New Year's Resolutions! Not all of them have to do with writing or reading, but just things I want to get done this year.

  • Finish editing TSTB and get an agent! 
  • Read 100 books.
  • Write a fantasy novel (and finish it).
  • Don't eat any fried food. (This one is gonna be the toughest. It's a challenge!)
  • Run a whole heck of a lot, swim a whole heck of a lot, and basically be a super in-shape person.
  • Get straight A's both semesters.
  • Figure out if I'm going to NY this summer and if I am, make all the necessary arrangements for that.
  • Get a job! 
I think that's about it! Pretty lofty goals, but I can do it. I believe in myself. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Finishing a Novel

I'm gonna tell you all a little story.

When I was fourteen, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea that my first love would be my only and that he would come save me from my mundane life and take me on some epic adventure. I wrote because that was the only way I could get close to it while I waited. Until I really fell in love, that is. And it was beautiful and awesome and invigorating, but an adventure it was not.

During this period, I started working on a novel that I called 'Golden Eyes' about a girl who's abusive ex dumps her and she falls in love with a boy with golden eyes. The first incarnation of The Shape that Breaks is nothing like it ended up being and though I've finished drafts before this one, none of them were really where I wanted to take the story. The last draft I finished before my break-up with my ex and it didn't feel quite right, the ending. It wasn't what I'd been aiming at.

And then, last year, my ex and I broke up and I threw all of my energy into the newest incarnation of The Shape that Breaks, the one where the ending reflects every single action that happens in the book. And here I am, a year and a month later, done with this draft. The last written draft, I'm confident. I can feel it in me: this book is done. I need to edit and edit and edit, but all the tough stuff, the whole slog, is done.

When I finished, I felt so strange. I kept stopping myself and thinking that I should be writing and then realizing that I was DONE. Then I'd start to cry or hyperventilate a little bit. I've given this book five years of my life and it is such a part of me that being done feels like a betrayal. Like I'm leaving behind one of my friends.

What's really going to hit me is tomorrow, when I go pick up the bound draft at OfficeMax. I've never seen the entire novel printed out, words on a physical page. I'm probably going to cry in the middle of OfficeMax, like some kind of weirdo.

This was total word vomit. But I wanted to let the world know: I've finished The Shape that Breaks.

And as soon as I'm done editing, I'm going to start the querying process again. This is so exciting. I'm really confident in this draft.

Wish me luck, guys!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review: The One that I Want by Jennifer Echols

It kind of bugs me that the guy doesn't look Japanese.
Title: The One That I Want
Author: Jennifer Echols
Page Count: 256 pages
Release Date: Dec. 6th, 2011
SummaryGemma can’t believe her luck when the star football player starts flirting with her. Max is totally swoon-worthy, and even gets her quirky sense of humor. So when he asks out her so-called best friend Addison, Gemma’s heartbroken. Then Addison pressures Gemma to join the date with one of Max’s friends. But the more time they all spend together, the harder Gemma falls for Max. She can’t help thinking that Max likes her back—it’s just too bad he’s already dating Addison. How can Gemma get the guy she wants without going after her best friend’s boyfriend?

My Thoughts: First things first, I may be a little biased because I have not read a Jennifer Echols book that I didn't like. There's something about the way she writes sexual tension that makes you feel that goosebumps and the butterflies. Any book of hers is a good escape from singledom, especially if you like your fictional men to be stubborn and domineering, but in the sexiest way possible.

When I read the summary for this book, though, I have to admit that I was hesitant. It felt kind of shallow and I wasn't sure if I would live it, especially the whole 'mix-up' plot that I hate so much in most books and movies. But once I started it, I kind of fell in love with the main characters, as is usually the case with Echols' books. Gemma is flawed and kind of a bitch to her 'best' friend, but she's also so determined and smart and witty--she is most definitely NOT a weak character at all. And her attraction to Max is so relatable it kind of hurts your heart to read about it.

Max: I was about in love with this guy. I need to meet a Max in real life, stat.

The kissing scenes were, as always, swoonworthy. And the resolution to the plot was awesomeawesomeawesome--everything happened just the way I wanted it to, plus there were a ton of moments where I had to book down to squeal.

I read this book in two sittings over two days (during finals week, when I should've been studying), and I absolutely loved it. I would recommend it to anyone else who has liked Jennifer Echols' books.

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Lazy Life of a College Student on Winter Break

10pm: Fall asleep watching Psych on Netflix.
6am: Wake up confused and disoriented and realize you fell asleep at ten last night and that's why you're waking up when it's still dark out, like some crazy person who is motivated or something. Try to convince yourself to get out of bed and exercise or something, but instead go on your computer and find out that Kim Jong-Il is dead and browse Reddit reading about it.
6:45am: Decide that being awake this early is a lot lamer than you expected. Go back to sleep.
11:47am: Wake up again and finally get up to get coffee and cereal. Decide that the most productive thing you will do today is go to the pool.
2pm: Go to the pool. It's windy and in the 70s outside because you live in Florida, but it's still just warm enough to where swimming is nice. Do breaststroke for one lap and pretend that's a workout, then go into the hot tub and read a Jennifer Echols book on your Nook.
3pm: Go home. Go on Tumblr.
5pm: Realize how little you've gotten done. Decide to write for the rest of the night.
5:30pm: Write a blog post instead.

My first day of freedom and I feel as if I've botched it. I meant to wake up at a decent time and write, then maybe go running. I wrote one sentence of TSTB today. It's been super productive.

How's everyone else's break going so far?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Finals Week

College is awesome. It's the time when people are finding themselves and are constantly evolving, beginning to resemble their more mature, adult selves. And while I may go to a school known more for its parties than its programs, it was still super easy for me to find people that I connected with, even if I'm not into the whole 'party every single day of my life, you only live once, time to get black-out drunk' scene.

But there comes a time, at the end of the semester, where everyone starts to get a little crazy. People at the library are either on such a high dosage of Adderall that nothing but the apocalypse could tear them from their studying or they are browsing Facebook with their study guide open in the background, hoping to absorb the knowledge through some kind of Internet osmosis. Last year during this time, when it was cold and windy and gray and most of campus was running on less than three hours of sleep from a combination of papers and projects and finals, I got really sick. I got a scalp infection that did something to my brain, so I had a debilitating migraine for a week straight. I went to the emergency room three times, where they put me on higher and higher doses of painkillers, and still it didn't go away. My mom was so worried about me she demanded I come home, so I took the bus back for the entire 10 hour drive, sitting next to a newly-released prison inmate with his only belongings in a tiny mesh bag and snores so loud I couldn't fall asleep, even with all of the painkillers.

Because of that, I have not had to endure the Winter Final Fever until this year. And for once in my life, I'm actually on top of things. I've been studying for my Nutrition final since Friday morning (it's on Thursday at 7:30am, urgh), and I think I know most of the material. I have (unfortunately) completely stopped reading/writing until this is over, but I'm done on Thursday, so hurrah!

In the meantime, I'm kind of going insane from the amount of caffeine I've consumed today. My roommates and I stopped at Panera on the way home from this organic food store called New Leaf Market, so I'm halfway through my second cup of coffee. But I've studied a bunch, yay!

Other college students: how are you coping with finals/finals week? 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

NaNoWriMo = Failure

I called it, folks. I failed NaNo before the halfway point because life got the best of me. Hanging out with friends and doing delinquent college things overtook my life last month, plus all the preparation for finals with papers and projects. I'm glad I opted out of it before my life got too hectic, because I had a buttload of projects due last month.

Anywho, other things going on in my life:

  • Tara from Hobbitsies was in my American Lit. class that just ended a few days ago, so we bonded over books and blogging and BEA and probably other b-things. She gave me a copy of Blood Red Road by Moira Young, so look for a review of that as soon as I finish, probably near the end of this month.
  • I finished a short story that I'd been working on for a couple of weeks last night, called A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, although the title is subject to change because I hate that title. I'm pretty proud of my use of prose in it, so I think I might submit it to a couple of literary magazines and see if it get's accepted. After revising it a bit more, I think. It could be a bit tighter/more coherent.
  • It's finals week. I've mostly been fine about my classes, aside from Nutrition, which I'm studying like a mad person for. That has been stressing me out.
Otherwise, my life is pretty unexciting. I may post from retrospective reviews of books I really liked and maybe another vlog when I go home for break, because I'm way too self-conscious to record myself acting like a fool while my roommates are in the room. If not the full return of me, at least it's a partial return.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Blogging NaNoWriMo: Day Six

Current Word Count: 8,641

I am not writing right now. I am playing Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 and trying to beat Icy Adventures. I'm pretty much a professional writer. I'll be published pretty soon at this rate, I think. Maybe I can write my own guide on how to beat this game (that's probably about ten years old now) and then sell it online and make millions.

Well. Anyways.

Somehow, last night, I managed to get ahead, even with watching The Fellowship of the Ring and Batman Begins and Nichijou and Le Chevalier D'Eon. My characters are much different than I expected them to be, acting different than I'd planned out in my head. Indy is supremely messed up when it comes to caring about people and Luke is a humongous jerk. I was thinking a lot about plot last night because, well, I don't really have one, and I'm pretty sure I know where this is going. I just can't make Indy and Luke care about each other for a long time into the narrative. They hate each other. It has to be so subtle that you don't even notice when they stop hating each other.

It's kind of nice to be blogging again. I missed this whole community as well as constantly being on Twitter and talking to people. So, after this month, I'll try to be more regular about blogging. I've missed all you guys!

Blogging NaNoWriMo: Day Five

Current Word Count: 8,370

I was behind all day and it was freaking me out. Last night, I stayed over my friends' house and watched The Blair Witch Project and wrote way too little, so I made myself drink coffee and write when I got up from my four-hour nap today. Now it is almost two am and I am still awake, sitting at the same friends' dining room table, listening to them watch Batman Begins while I realized that I am finally ahead on my word counter. Even though it is technically not Day Five any longer.

I feel like I can finally breathe a sigh of relief. I was so stressed about being behind, but today was a thankfully productive Saturday. I'm not sure how tomorrow is going to be, but we shall see!

On a completely different note, I made cupcakes for my best friend, Lauren's, birthday. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting. They were absolutely delicious and by delicious I mean I ate five. Five is apparently an auspicious number for me: day five of NaNo and I am finally ahead and five cupcakes.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Blogging NaNoWriMo: Days Three and Four

Current Word Count: 5,112

Welp, Day Four and I am stuck.

I don't know how I didn't expect it. I had no plot. I had two character who hated each other and a zombie apocalypse. I have an ending and two or three scenes in between. But now I don't know how to connect any of those things into something that makes sense.

Here's the thing: I love it when two characters start out hating each other. But it's never done well enough for me. In most books, they become love interests, but I think that, if you really dislike someone, even if you can come to accept them as a person eventually, I don't feel like you can ever REALLY fall in love with them. And nemesis relationships are never raw enough. When they start out becoming friends, it can't be some pitiful insults hurled--there needs to be tangible dislike. It's never tangible enough for me.

That's why I wanted to work with Indy and Luke. They hate each other with a passion. But that's making them a tad unpalatable to me. Indy just seems like a bitch because we don't know why she hates Luke so much and Luke just seems like the innocent bystander who gets punched in the face. That's why I'm stuck. That's why I got stuck last night, along with sleeping over my best friends' house and watching Disney songs on Youtube, plus the stress of having to turn in a project today that I'd barely started last night. I have the rest of today to catch up, though, until I go back over to hang with my friends. I need to get to 6666. I will. I will.

Or I'll just read House of Leaves and dick around.

To paraphrase Mindy Kaling: Writing is 90% dicking around and 10% getting things done.

Current Mood: Blah.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Blogging NaNoWriMo: Day Two

Current Word Count: 3,887

I finished  Her Fearful Symmetry last night, during the time I should've been writing. (I had a massive headache, so that was my excuse not to write. But I can still read. Even though it makes my head hurt worse.)

I was not a happy camper.

Lemme give you all a one-sentence summary of this book: Twins are weird and ghosts are evil. There we go. I've spared you from having to read this book that was a disappointing follow-up to The Time-Traveler's Wife, which was awesome and great and made me cry. This book did not. This book made me want to throw things across the room. I can't rant sufficiently without spoilers, so I won't rant here, other than to say: skip this if you want to be satisfied. If you really loved TTW, give it a try, perhaps. But it just wasn't for me.

Whoa, way to be a Debbie Downer. As far as writing goes, today has not been productive. I've written about 800 words, but I'm still fairly ahead. I'm already wanting to give up. I think that's a sign that things are going well, when I want to give up.

This is the first year I am going by the seat of my pants. And it's kind of awful and awesome, at the same time.

Tomorrow: I'll introduce you guys to my characters.

Mood, thus far: Annoyed at everything.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Blogging NaNoWriMo: Day One

Word Count: 2,878

I am breaking my radio silence to bring you this, my dear neglected readers: I am not writing YA for NaNoWriMo this year. I know, I know. It's a shock to your delicate systems, already hurt by my lack of posts for months and months. However: The Symmetry of Grace still contains a teenage protagonist. It also contains zombies. And it is literary fiction. We'll see how this goes.

I went to a meet-up last night with people at my university and ate a bunch of Warheads while I tried to bang out my daily quota before going to bed. We sat in the breezeway of the dorm I lived in last year and I was disappointed by the lack of coffee. So now I'm in the library, where I've been for two hours, dawdling and drinking a delicious (though now-cold) coffee.

Anywho, here was the announcement I promised: I am going to try to blog every day of November, even on dear Thanksgiving and the days before and after I will be traveling home and back to school. It is going to be rambly. I may do a book review or two, but they'll most likely be on the classics we're reading in my Lit. class or the weird books I'm reading for leisure (right now, it's Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenaksdjasegger. Next up, House of Leaves!)

Outlook for the Day: Promising. This may or may not be fueled by coffee and the really cute guy sitting next to me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I'm not dead.

I am just... hibernating.

And by hibernating, I mean: watching Doctor Who, trying to convince myself to write, drinking too much coffee, reading far too little, and eating far, far, far too much frozen yogurt.

The life of a college student is pretty much all about frozen yogurt. At least if you're me and my roommate, who eat it about 5 times a week. Draining my Starbucks budget, you are! 

Anywho: expect some kind of revival of this blog sometime soon. If you're impatient and want to read about writing, head on over to my tumblr: (If you're also into Doctor Who and other nerdy pursuits, feel free to follow my personal tumblr:

Happy trails!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sorry for the silence!

I've been moving for the past week-ish, so I haven't had much time to blog, since I'm doing Camp NaNo.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Oh! Oh! I have an idea!

I've been vlogging a lot this past week, so you may have heard me mention in one of them that I've decided to write a fantasy novel. I've been busy plotting it out, getting all excited for it, since it definitely seems like it'll need more than one book to be complete. I've never even tried to write a series before!

However, there's one small problem: I'm currently in the middle of another project. Several other projects, as a matter of fact. There's the more-than-half-finished TSTB rewrite, which is coming along pretty well. (Kissing scene was written the other days, lots of swoons to be had.) There's what I planned to write for NaNo, another YA romance called I KILLED FIONA WASHBURN, whose characters I am in love with. There is the not-finished rewrite of THE UNLIKELIHOOD OF NOSTALGIA. Finally, there is the disaster that is THE REAPING OF JONAH SALT, a 12k word monstrosity that was more of a fun exercise than it was ever a real, viable idea.

I find it ironic that the most oft-asked questions of authors is, "Where do you get your ideas?" The question should be, "Where don't we get ideas?" It's constant, this influx of ideas. From movies, to television shows, to other books, to real life, to stories on the news--that where our ideas come from. And it can get really annoying when you're in the middle of one thing and another catches your eye, like you're a bird who is trying to build her nest with as many shiny (half-baked) ideas as you can.

My advice, however: don't switch horses in the middle of the stream.

If you are in the thick of one manuscript and you want to start another one, WAIT. Wait until you've come out of the other side in the darkness that is the middle, boring part of writing, and then see how you want to do your next idea. It's so tempting to stop what you're doing for a shiny new plot and set of characters who don't have the problems of your current manuscript, but it's really hard to finish one thing if you have ADD of the brain and can't stop jumping back and forth.

How do you deal with errant plot bunnies? Do you ignore them, wait, or jump right into a new story, no matter where you are in another?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Have Hope, All Ye Weirdos

Perhaps one day you will be as awesome as me! Then, the world will thank you for being strange when you were younger.

In other news: I have consumed so much coffee and consumed so little sunlight in the past few days that I am almost sure that is the reason I still have a tan. I'm turning coffee-colored.

Also, I got to 30,000 words yesterday! Woohoo!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

You Are Probably Insane

This video is the product of too many cups of coffee, an Avatar marathon, and writing until my head starts to bleed.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

This is Teen Event!

Last night was amazing! I met Maggie Stiefvater, Meg Cabot, and Libba Bray, as well as another aspiring author while standing in line to get my books signed. It was such a great night.

Maggie was so nice! She asked if I was done with Forever yet and I was like, No, I'm near the end though! 

I got a little fangirl-y when I went up to Meg Cabot and I completely forget everything I was gonna ask her!

Libba Bray! Ah! I bought Beauty Queens and I can't wait to read it!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review: A Dance with Dragons

Title: A Dance with Dragons
Author: George R. R. Martin
Date Published: July 12th, 2011
Page Count: 959, if you don't include the 100 pages of appendices.
Summary: BASICALLY, all your favorite characters who were not in AFfC are back! Dany, Tyrion, Jon, Bran, Arya (barely), Davos, along with some new and newly-not-dead ones! Dany putzes around in Mereen, trying to bring peace. Tyrion, who recently murdered his father and ex-whore-lover, travels around Essos, sometimes a slave, sometimes a mummer, always a dwarf, asking, "Where do the whores go?" incessantly. Jon is actually a good leader and saves tons of wildlings and is basically awesome, until the end, when the Night's Watch ruin everything. Bran travels way up into the North with Coldhands. Arya learns more about becoming a Faceless Man and is all-around awesome. Davos continues to be honorable. Theon somehow manages to make you like him. Jaime shows up once, with a really annoying cliffhanger ending to a chapter. Asha gets kidnapped. Victarion is a dick to everyone who ever lived and laughs at pain whilst traveling towards Dany.

Just read it. It's hard to summarize.

Review: WARNING, this review will be semi-spoiler-y! I know most of you probably don't read ASOIAF and that's fine, but I don't want to spoil any future readers! So if you haven't gotten to ADwD yet or you plain haven't read any of the books, that's fine. Just don't continue to read this review. You have been duly warned.

Anywho, first reaction: WHY THE HELL WAS THIS BOOK SO LONG? 

I had the feeling that this one would be packed with action, unlike its predecessor, the rambling and boring A Feast for Crows. It came on the heels of A Storm of Swords, easily my favorite book in the series, but I was not prepared for its length, where absolutely nothing happens. I expected more from ADwD, especially since it took so long to write. But nope. In the vein of AFfC, it was all set-up. Which is fine, but someone needs to get GRRM a better editor, because we do not need nearly 2,000 pages of set-up. I understand it's an epic story. But really, GRRM, you're just drowning yourself and your readers.

Second of all, I have a problem with all of the cliffhangers. I feel like cliffhangers that resolve NOTHING are super cheap to the reader, because we have to wait such a long time to find out what happens. It's like in TV shows where the MC dies at the end of the season and you have to wait months to find out, oh, they weren't really dead. It's cheap. A good cliffhanger should resolve most of the plot while still leaving some juicy threads. GRRM's cliffhangers are all threads. Nothing was resolved. Dany continued to be annoying in Mereen, where she hooked up with Daario only AFTER getting engaged. Jon became a good leader but then was 'killed' at the end. (Quotations because I know he is not dead. I hate that GRRM brings so many people back from the dead. I thought that, after Ned and Robb, we knew people could die. But now they either don't die or are resurrected. It's annoying.) Tyrion's chapters at least contained some character development. There were only two Arya chapters, only ONE Jaime chapter in which he was kidnapped by an obviously-alive Brienne, and a small number of Bran chapters. For so many pages, we could've gotten more of their stories and he could've cut out some of the food description.

The only thing that I really loved about this book was Theon's character arc. I HATED Theon in ACoK, but I felt so bad for him as Reek and I was immensely satisfied at his final words in ADwD. Say what I will about GRRM, but he is awesome at characterization. He made me love Jaime and he made me love Theon.

If only because this is an ASOIAF book, I'll give it:

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

There's a reason for my now and future silence:

Got this yesterday and I've been reading non-stop, as well as drinking coffee and somehow managing to write a few thousand words to the rewrite of TSTB. I also have to finish up reading an excerpt from a possible CP and write my commentary on that, so no posts or vlogs for the next week or so!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I Love My Laptop and Lies

Today's post is going to be in two parts, just because both of these things are on my brain and I'm also procrastinating from writing TSTB. (I'm up to 18k on the rewrite--more than a quarter done! Hoping this one will top at 60k-ish.)

Anywho, part one: I really, really, really love my laptop.

Last night, I was without my beloved HP and when I got back to it an hour ago, I realized just how much I love my computer. It doesn't usually complain or freeze on me, even when I've been on it for hours at a time, and though it isn't awesome enough to play The Sims 2 for longer than ten minutes at a time, it can still handle my excessive tweets and the fourteen new documents I open when I'm trying to figure out a problem within my writing that cannot be solved. I love Google Chrome and Tumblr and Reddit and LiveJournal and Twitter and Tweetdeck and Window Media Player (not so much with Windows Movie Maker, that thing sucks). I love Microsoft Word and Q10 and my fast Internet connection (that, at the end of the month, basically stops working). I love free Wifi at Starbucks and at Panera (where I now work). I love my keyboard, even though the R and the shift key have both been sticking lately. I love the worn parts of the space bar, exactly where I always touch it.

I am incredibly grateful for my laptop.

Part Deux:

I have a problem reading books where the main conflict hinges on a huge lie by the protag. I have some social anxiety and just the thought of lying and keeping the charade up for so long gives me a really bad stomachache, so when I read books where I know the entire time that the main character is lying, I usually have to put them down. They make my anxiety meter go off the charts.

The reason I mention this is because I recently picked up Bumped by Megan McCafferty at the library and I stoked (I can't believe I just used that word) to start it because I'd been looking for it for awhile. I got about 100 pages in and then I stopped reading. Not because it was bad; on the contrary, I loved all the slang and the characters and everything about it was great. I just really couldn't handle the huge lie and the inevitable scene where everyone finds out about it.

I guess I just don't lie, in general. I'm bad at it because I never do it. It just freaks me out.

Does this kind of thing both anyone else?

And, an added bonus:

On July 23rd, I'm going to see Maggie Stiefvater, Libba Bray, and MEG FREAKIN' CABOT in Miami! I am beyond excited because I never get to go to these things; when Sarah Dessen came down here a few years ago, I almost went, but then I couldn't find a ride. My mom is being awesome enough to drive me and I am freaking out because a) I love all of them and b) MEG CABOT. THE MEG CABOT.

That is all for today. I'm done procrastinating.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An Homage to Writers (now in list form!)


Sorry for the radio silence, dudes and dudettes! I've been reading ravenously and writing just a little less hungrily, but my online presence has been severely lacking. I was going to do this blog post as a vlog, but I'm so awkward on camera that every time I tried to record it, I played with my hair a lot and talked in a very low voice so no one else in my house would know I was talking to the man in the computer. So, this is a text post to spare all of you from second-hand embarrassment!


My name is Sam Ripley, and I am a chronic rewriter.

As many of you know, I've been working on The Shape that Breaks (heretofore referred to as TSTB for brevity), since I was fourteen. I started it the winter break of my first year of high school and while the story has changed quite a bit, the characters have mostly stayed the same. (Aside from Alex, that is. First he was an abusive boyfriend, then he was a really good guy, and now he's kind of a jerk again.) At first, it went by the lame name of GOLDEN EYES, back when Aiden had golden eyes because I thought that was SOSPECIAL!1!!oneone. But now, it is just TSTB.

And I am working on my fourth rewrite of the damn thing.

Don't get me wrong. I love the story. I love the characters. I love everything about it. But it has overtaken my life for the past five years and as soon as I think the draft I finished a few months ago was all polished and ready for querying, I realize that my writing has improved a lot over the course of this draft. And I started a rewrite for NaNo last year, so I started to read that one, and I'm like, WELL THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER, WHY DID I STOP WRITING IT?

So I'm 16k into another rewrite.

I want to bash my head on the table. (I'm at Starbucks or else I would do this. You guys can have a .gif of John Green doing the giant squid of anger, though.)

Eff yeah, Nerdfighteria!

Anyways, I think a lot of writers get to that stage in their manuscript where they just want the story to be DONE, already. If TSTB never gets published, I don't think I'll care as much as I would if I never finished this draft. But I believe in this story so much. It has been my life for so long that I think I'll feel empty when I finally finish it.

Is anyone else a chronic rewriter? 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

WHAT COMES AFTER Author Interview!

Sorry the radio silence, y'all. I got a job here at home and that's literally eaten up all of my time. That, and Veronica Mars on Netflix and baking cookies and generally not doing anything productive.

Anyways, today I have a very awesome interview with the author of WHAT COMES AFTER, Steve Watkins! Not only is he awesome, but he also attended FSU, just like I do.

After her veterinarian dad dies, sixteen-year-old Iris Wight must leave her beloved Maine to live on a North Carolina farm with her hardbitten aunt and a cousin she barely knows. Iris, a vegetarian and animal lover, immediately clashes with Aunt Sue, who mistreats the livestock, spends Iris’s small inheritance, and thinks nothing of striking Iris for the smallest offense. Things come to a head when Iris sets two young goats free to save them from slaughter, and an enraged Aunt Sue orders her brutish son, Book, to beat Iris senseless - a horrific act that lands Book and his mother in jail. Sent to live with an offbeat foster family and their "dooking" ferrets, Iris must find a way to take care of the animals back at the farm, even if it means confronting Aunt Sue. Powerful and deeply moving, this compelling novel affirms the redemptive power of animals and the resilience of the human spirit.

Obviously WHAT COMES AFTER deals a lot with animal abuse - are you a big advocate of animal rights?

Well, yes and no. I don’t believe, as some animal rightists do, that animals are people too. That is, I don’t believe they have the same level of sentience, of consciousness, of self-awareness as we do. That said, I believe we humans have a collective responsibility to treat animals—to treat everything on Earth—responsibly and ethically and in a kind and loving manner. We’re the stewards here. We don’t own it. We’re just responsible for taking care of the place, and everything that lives here.

When did you first start writing?

Probably about the time I read my first book. But the first thing I remember actually writing was a story called “The Glisening Sword” (and yes, I did leave off the silent “t” in glistening throughout the book, which I not only wrote, but illustrated as well). I was probably in second grade. It’s about a boy named Tommy who brings his dog to this place called Death Drop Off (which I misspelled as “Death Drop Of,” also throughout) to investigate a mysterious, malevolent sword that has been terrorizing the neighborhood. While they’re camping next to Death Drop Of (or Off), the sword, which has tentacles on the handle, shimmies up the side of the thousand foot hole, comes out, and impales the poor dog, killing it instantly. The sword then knocks Tommy knocked down into Death Drop Off (or Of). Fortunately it’s a soft, mucky bottom and he survives the fall. The place turns out to be a diamond mine, which oddly, also has cabbage-size rubies, one of which Tommy grabs and bashes the Glisening Sword into submission. He escapes. The end.

How did you come up with the idea for WHAT COMES AFTER?

From an article I read in our local newspaper. The article at the beginning of WHAT COMES AFTER is actually a lightly fictionalized version of the actual article from the newspaper. I was recently contacted by the detective who investigated the case in real life, asking if it was the same case he had worked on. He said he was proud of his work on that case because he was able to solve what happened, and help out someone who desperately needed it. I intentionally didn’t find out what happened to the girl in the actual case, though my friends in social services and the organization CASA—Court Appointed Special Advocates—did know her and her circumstances. I’m sure she’s aged out of the foster care system by now. The detective thought she might be back in New England. I’ve worked on a number of abuse and neglect cases as a child advocate and investigator, and know that there’s always so much more to anyone’s story than the minimal explanation you often see in the paper about the victim, and so I wanted to imagine this girl’s story, and so I did.

You also have a book of short stories published. Which would you say you find easier, short stories or novels?

Short stories are much more difficult in some ways. It’s such a compressed form, you have to develop your characters, your situation, your conflict, your plot, and find your thematic resonance all in such a short amount of time and space. I’ll spend easily ten times the amount of time writing a short story as I will a novel chapter of comparable length. Very different challenges, those two genres. I love both, but probably haven’t written a new short story in five years. (Though I have written three novels in that time—one a work in progress, my next book with Candlewick Press, called JUVIE.)

Who's your favorite author?

I’m going to quote myself here—from another blog post I did for someone else, who asked if I ever had a fanboy moment. I said yeah, all the time, and then I listed a bunch of writers and works, all of whom and which I’d have to include in my list of favorites, because nobody, and I mean nobody, has just one favorite author: Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Dante’s Inferno, Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains, E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, Tobias Woolf’s This Boy’s Life, Louis Sacher’s Milkweed, Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Jean Merrill’s The Pushcart War, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, James Joyce’s Dubliners and especially “The Dead,” Peter Matthiessen’s At Play in the Fields of the Lord, Thom Jones’ “The Pugilist at Rest,” William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Ecclesiastes, Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd’s Runaway Bunny, so many others and so many works that have left me stunned into stillness and silence and awe.

What are your biggest writing inspirations?

I don’t know if you could call it an inspiration or not, but when I was little I used to get scared a lot at night and I would beg my older brother to let me crawl into bed with him. He was on the bottom bunk; I was on the top. He had two conditions for letting me in: one, I had to bring my own pillow and lie with my head at his feet, and two, I had to tell him stories. So I would be lying awake deep into the night, spinning these wild stories, caught up in my own narratives, long after he started snoring. I wrote a fictionalized version of that in a scene in my YA novel DOWN SAND MOUNTAIN. I don’t think my brain has ever stopped making up stories since then, and now it’s not so much a case of needing inspiration to write as it is that I write because I can’t not write.

Why do you write for young adults?

I didn’t mean to at first, but my agent thought DOWN SAND MOUNTAIN would make a good YA novel, and Candlewick agreed. They were very generous with their offer to buy DSM, which I hadn’t consciously written for a younger audience, and they were so wonderful to work with, especially my editor, Kaylan Addair, that I decided I wanted to write another for them. That next book was WHAT COMES AFTER, and now I’m working on a third for Candlewick, JUVIE, which I mentioned above. What truly has drawn me back to writing YA novels is that it’s such a hopeful genre. Younger readers—and that includes many readers all the way up to retirement age and beyond—want challenging and compelling characters and stories and themes. They don’t want to be patronized—they understand that life can be hard, can be VERY hard, and painful at times. But they haven’t given up hope—for finding meaning even in the hardest of circumstances, for truth, and for grace--and they want a literature that reflects that.

Awesome, very insightful answers, Steve! I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of WHAT COMES AFTER, which was published April 12th!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New WIP?

"Like I said, I'm good at being alone. But being alone when no one's around and being alone in a school full of judgemental teenagers are two completely different things. One is solitude. The other is loneliness."

I love you, new WIP.


Friday, April 22, 2011

"Writer's Block"

So, I'm listening to NPR and doing nothing instead of studying for my exams and writing, like I should be. And the thought occurs to me, a thought that has probably stabbed you in the arm a few million times if you're a writer like myself or something that has never occurred to you, as you are a reader, absorbing the fruits of whoever you're reading being stabbed a few million times.

Is there such a thing as writer's block? 

I'm inclined to say yes. I'm inclined to say, of course there is! Then I have a reason to not write for two weeks straight and not plot enough and not fall asleep thinking about all the different possible outcomes of my current WIP. Then I have an excuse to everyone who asks, "Hows the writing going?"

I'll just frown and say, "Writer's block." They'll nod, like they completely understand. Which most probably don't, aside from my few friends who do write. And that's fine! Keeping those out of the know makes it seem more legitimate.

But when I open up a new Word document or peruse an old one, kind of whispering to myself all of things I've written down before, I have to concede that I don't really believe in writer's block. I believe in my inner editor, who wants everything figured out before I put the words down on the page, who wants every plot point tucked neatly into that corner of my brain labeled 'Writing', who would rather not write anything at all if it's not going to be perfect. I believe in my lust for words, in loving them so much that when I read a good, wordy book (and not even anything ridiculously literary - Deb Caletti satisfies this for me!), I gobble those finely-structured sentences up and then pick them apart in my brain. I believe in not having ideas, which is not writer's block, not at all. Because the absence of ideas is when you break out your Moleskine and do freewrites or when you write poetry about how the summer sun looks outside, while you sit, dipping your feet inside of a fountain.

But writer's block? No. Writer's block is writer-slang for being afraid or for being lazy or for beating yourself up for not writing everything perfectly. Writer's block is an excuse, and I refuse to make excuses.

What do you think? Am I just talking out of my butt?

Monday, April 18, 2011

WIW: April 11-17th, 2011

Total Words Written: 12, 419
Total Cups of Coffee Drank: 9
Total Number of Headdesks: 43,000

This week was pretty awesome. Last Monday, I had a burst of inspiration fueled by too much caffeine and too much sleep and I wrote 10k words within two days. But I have finals next week, so this week is not going to be a very productive one in terms of writing. (In terms of everything else, probably not either. I will probably just watch Weeds and finish Season 5 and listen to Manchester Orchestra.) I did, however, get another story idea this morning that my mom really helped me with, so I'm going to file that away in the idea bank for a later time.

Just wanna bang out this scene that's been in my head for the past few days, so hopefully my word count will shoot up a little bit more.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


As some of you who follow me on Twitter may know, I've been working on a new WIP these past couple of days. On Monday, I wrote 7,000 words, and 3,000 the following day, which excites me to no end. I am not a fast writer by any means, but the voice of this character and the idea for this story was just bursting out of me. That stream has already slowed to a trickle, but I'm not going to give up hope!

Anyways, in light of that, I've had a lot of time in front of my computer lately, listening to indie music (I've made the observation that most of my favorite bands have two-word names: Snow Patrol, Say Anything, Vampire Weekend, Manchester Orchestra), and therefore, a lot of time to think. About maturity and loneliness and death and, after listening to a live show with John Green today, the experience of being someone else. I don't indulge in these types of thoughts enough; it's easy to get so caught up in life's shallow ideas that you forget to wonder about just being human. Not that being caught up is a bad thing, but for my writing, it hasn't been necessarily helpful.

When I first started this blog, it was because I loved YA and because I wanted to share that with the world and maybe talk about my writing a little bit. But as things have happened in my personal life, I've definitely matured a lot in the past year and realized that the most important thing of all to me is writing. The absolute most important thing in my life.

Thus, I've decided that Read Sam, Read! is going to become less and less about my adventures with reading and reviewing YA and more about my adventures in writing and what that's made me think about. My current WIP has made me realize how little significance can be given, in novels, anyway, to violence towards other people, especially death. It's also made me wonder how I would feel if both of my parents suddenly died or if I had to be uprooted and live with a bunch of supernatural creatures to get away from the supernatural police.

And I like thinking about that type of thing! I like sharing it with the world and see how other people view those things. It's interesting how in my own head I am, and how often I have really groundbreaking thoughts that I never share with anyone but myself. It's a trope of being a writer, I think, that I converse with myself inside of my head daily. In any other passion, that might be looked at a little strangely.

This is not to say that I will not review any more YA novels -- on the contrary, I will definitely still being reviewing them! But that is no longer the central focus of this blog. I may even --gasp!-- change the name to something more appropriate.

If you've gotten this far in this post, I commend you. Thank you for reading half of a novel worth of my thoughts.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Title: Enclave
Author: Ann Aguirre
Pub. Date: April 12th, 2011 (Yesterday!)
Page Count: 259 pages
Summary: New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20's. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters—or Freaks—who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade’s long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they’ve ever known.

Review: I'm not gonna lie - I'm not a huge fan of the cover. But I love post-apocalyptic novels, especially those that are really well-done (like my absolute fave, THE ROAD, by Cormac McCarthy, or Garth Nix's SHADE'S CHILDREN), so I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one.

Aguirre's writing style is very direct, which I love. There weren't any flowery passages that I had to get through, just pure, simple description. It fit the tone of the book well, because Deuce, the main character, is more concerned with being a Huntress than admiring the beauty of anything. The mysterious Fade is assigned her partner and, I'm not gonna lie, he made me a little swoony. But I thought their relationship fell a little too flat and the ending, which I will not reveal here, didn't wrap things up the way that I'd like it to. It didn't wrap much up at all, actually. I hate it when books do that because even though I know there's going to be a sequel, I want there to at least be SOME closure. But there really wasn't.

Another thing that I didn't enjoy about ENCLAVE was the main character, Deuce. As I said before, the tone of the the novel suits her, but she comes off as a little too cold and too into combat for my tastes, and I couldn't relate. Not that you need to relate to the MC to make a novel good, but in most YA, it helps makes the character more believable, I guess.

Overall, there were aspects of ENCLAVE that I really loved - mostly, the writing and Fade's swooniness - and while there were others that I didn't, my opinion about it is most definitely positive. I will be reading the sequel, I assure you! And I encourage you to pick up a copy as well - it just came out yesterday!

Overall: 3.7/5 stars

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Journey of Awesome

The other day, I was sitting in my Fiction Technique class, scribbling in my moleskin, trying to come up with a new story idea while my professor droned on and on about how she is now a DOCTOR and we should call her DOCTOR and she has an AGENT and she's publishing her NOVEL and none of us students could possibly ever write the way that SHE does.

So I started to freewrite, and what came out of that little freewrite is what is now my new WIP that I'm super excited about. It's been so long (probably two years?) since I've come up with an idea this big and inspirational and I really need something to work on while I'm querying TSTB, or else I'll drown myself in edits until TSTB is polished within an inch of its life. I love that novel so much, but goddamn. It had consumed my life for three years.

I've spent the past four days just turning this idea over and over in my head, picking out plot points and figuring out the love interest and trying to wrap my head around writing something that is completely outside of the contemporary realm within which I usually write. I won't give a huge summary right here because it's still in the planning stages (ish, I've written like 4 pages), but I will reveal to you the AWESOME name that I came up with while trying to fall asleep the other night:


Expect to hear more soon! (This might account for my spastic amount of posts last week and the absolute dearth of them this week.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Enclave Author Interview!

"New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20's. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters—or Freaks—who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade’s long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they’ve ever known."

1. Tell us how you came up with the idea for Enclave.
Recently, in an interview, I was asked why I chose a post-apocalyptic world for my YA debut. The answer is actually two-fold. First, I wasn't sure I had the voice to write a beautiful contemporary in the vein of Jennifer Echols, but I wanted, quite desperately, to write a YA. So I decided if I couldn't do a compelling young protagonist in this world, I'd invent one.

I'm a child of the eighties, and we saw filmstrips about what would happen if the bomb dropped. Sometimes we had nuclear drills in addition to fire and tornado. When I think about twenty small children huddled under their desks in case the Russians let one fly, well, it's rather absurd, isn't it? But that sort of fear shaped my psyche, so that's definitely a contributing factor. The other reason? Well, I'll just quote the interview I did with Karen from For What It's Worth: "I think it's because they're uplifting. No, seriously. You take a world in utter disarray. Things are incredibly bleak. Then a hero arises, someone who has the desire and drive to succeed, no matter what. And this person changes his or her world in some fashion. How can that message not be incredibly valuable to young adults? I think it lends hope that there can always be brightness, no matter how dark it seems."

For me, that's the absolute crux of the matter. People need to believe they can make a difference--that one person standing strong can turn the tide. It's easier to demonstrate that in the Razorland world, but that example of internal fortitude will serve readers (of all ages) well.

2. When did you first start writing?
When I was eight, I wrote a story for a school writing competition called THE MYSTERY OF THE GOLDEN DOUBLOON. This seminal, self-illustrated work was about two best friends who went to Florida on vacation and busted an illegal treasure hunting ring. I won the contest. I went to the state finals and met Shel Silverstein, who read to a bunch of us from WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS. In that moment, sitting on my square of carpet, I thought, they pay him for his words. this is what I want to do. Later that same year, my teacher told me writing wasn't a real job and I should pick something else. As it turns out, I am stubborn beyond the point of common sense, as I never did choose another career.

3. What are your favorite YA dystopian reads?
I don't read in the genre I'm writing, so the only YA that even comes close to that description that I've read is THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO. Loved that one. My favorite dystopian novels are LORD OF THE FLIES, A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ and THE HANDMAID'S TALE.

4. I know that you usually write for adults - what made you decide to write a book with a teen protagonist?
The age of the protagonist fit the world.

5. Who are your biggest writing influences?
I love many authors' work, but consciously, nobody, because I strive to write my own books and not emulate anyone else.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Moleskins Ahoy!

I was at the art store with my friend Lauren a couple of weeks ago, right after I got back from spring break, and I had some money that my mom had given me for my birthday. (Which was on Friday, woohoo!) They had this whole display of Moleskins set up and most of them were for art, but there was a tiny section of softcovers that had lines in them. They were so overpriced, but I still bought one. I've never had one.

So, here is my confession: I own way too many notebooks. I buy them and I buy them and I buy them, hoping that one day, I will finally finish one (I've only done that once). I like the new, blank pages and the stories waiting to be written down. I like it when they are crisp with writing and when I can feel the pen marks through the pages. But most of all I like opening them up when I've written a few pages and seeing all of the words covering the blank space. Which is why I took the above picture.

I used to do most of my writing longhand, usually under my desk in Geometry class or in English, when I was pretending to take notes and I was actually writing stories. I don't that much anymore, just because my laptop is so accessible, but I still love the feeling of notebooks and I'm still addicted to buying them. In the above picture there's a zombie story, featuring a dead father who believes that the liberals caused the zombie apocalypse.

Oh, and also, for your viewing pleasure, here's a zombie music video that I participated in. I'm at the very end, in the black v-neck, dancing like an idiot.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (2)

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back. 
So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past. 
Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened? 
Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.
Doesn't this sound amazing? Someone recommended it to me on Goodreads and I'm absolutely foaming waiting for it to come out! May 24th, you cannot come fast enough! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: Opposite of Amber by Gillian Philip

Title: The Opposite of Amber
Author: Gillian Philip
Pub. Date: April 4th, 2011
Page Count: 320 pages
Summary: Ruby and her older sister, Jinn, are on their own, just about making ends meet. Jinn is beautiful, with glittering blonde hair, and makes it her business to look after Ruby. They are horrified by, but try to ignore, the local newspaper stories of prostitutes who are murdered, their bodies eventually discovered underwater. Then the no-good Nathan Baird turns up on the scene – again – and Jinn starts to change and no longer has time to look after Ruby. And it seems to Ruby that Jinn herself needs looking after. Her beautiful glittering hair starts to lose its shine. And then Jinn disappears.

A deeply moving, chilling, and incredibly powerful thriller that celebrates the love two sisters have for each other and mourns the events beyond their control that will conspire to drive them apart.

Review: First of all, don't you just love the cover? My ARC copy didn't have this cover, so when I looked up TOA on Goodreads, I was absolutely in love with the cover. And it totally meshes with some of the prevailing images of the entire book.

Let's start with the things that I loved. Philip's prose was delicious; she can really string words together. And while sometimes it can get a bit dense, when you delve deep inside of it, it's even more rich than you realized at first. One literary device I like a lot of is the use of motif, and the title of the book is one of them. Another thing I really liked about this book was the light that it shed on getting with the 'bad boy'. In a lot of YA books, the romantic interest is a bad boy, but in this, Ruby's older sister is the one who gets with him. And boy, does he ruin her life. Her love for him becomes the only thing that matters to her, to the point where she basically abandons her sister. He was a very seedy character and not in a good way.

Onto the things I didn't like - this book seemed to drag, a lot. I thought it could've been more tightly-plotted because it was really hard for me to try to read it, knowing that most of the things I was going to read about were very pretty but didn't add much to the story. The timeline became confusing as well; it jumped around a lot and sometimes I'd think we were still in the past, but we were back in the present. I wish I'd enjoyed this book more, if only because Philip is such an awesome writer, but it didn't seem much like a 'thriller' to me at all until about the last 50 or so pages. Even then, there didn't seem to be much urgency, and by that time, I was just reading to get to the end and didn't really care what happened.

Overall, I was not crazy about The Opposite of Amber. The prose was gorgeous but the plot dragged. I think this just wasn't my kind of book - I've seen some really good reviews for it! It's coming out soon, so go pick it up yourself!

Overall: 2.5/5 stars

Monday, March 28, 2011

Opposite of Amber Character Interview: Jinn

Ruby and her older sister Jinn live together on their own, just about making ends meet. Jinn is beautiful, with glittering blonde hair, and makes it her business to look after Ruby. They are horrified by, but try to ignore, the local newspaper stories of prostitutes who are murdered, their bodies eventually discovered underwater. Then the no-good Nathan Baird turns up on the scene - again - and Jinn starts to change. First Nathan moves in with Jinn and Ruby, making Ruby feel an outsider, and then Jinn and Nathan move out, leaving Ruby alone. Jinn no longer has time to look after Ruby. And it seems to Ruby that Jinn herself needs looking after. Her beautiful glittering hair starts to lose its shine. And then Jinn disappears. A deeply moving, chilling, and incredibly powerful thriller that celebrates the love two sisters have for each other and mourns the events beyond their control that will conspire to drive them apart.

  1. Did you ever resent your mother for leaving you to take care of Ruby?
It was kind of hard to resent Lara for anything, mostly because she was such a flake. I mean, she couldn’t be relied on for anything, really, so we soon learned not to try. Don’t get me wrong – I did love Lara a lot. But I think I always knew I was better at looking after Ruby than she was. Better at looking after myself, too. I suppose in some ways I like being in charge, being responsible. There are times when I think Lara was pretty selfish and stupid to get herself run over like that... well, OK. Yes, sometimes I do resent her. But I try not to.

  1. It is definitely natural to be attracted to a bad boy - and Nathan is pretty much the quintessential bad boy. Did that every stop you from wanting to be with him?
No. This sounds awful, but it never did. You’re right, bad boys are such a temptation. He was always just so different to everyone else, and I know it wasn’t usually in a good way, but he always seemed so lively and funny and... charming. When Nathan talks to you, it’s like you’re the only person in the universe.  When he ignores you, the whole world seems off-kilter. Well, maybe I’m only describing my reactions there – but I know it isn’t just me. You ask me, Ruby kind of fancied him too. Nobody hates anybody as much as she hated Nathan without there being a spark of attraction, too.
  1. It seems like everyone in OoA (aside from Ruby, of course) goes by a nickname, the most prominent one being you. How did you go about choosing that as a nickname?
I didn’t really choose it – or only partly.  It was what Ruby used to call me when she was tiny and couldn’t get her tongue round ‘Jacintha’. I think she’s forgotten that, but since I always liked it much better than my real name, I decided to use it all the time.

  1. How did you feel about the conflict between Alex Jerrold and Ruby? How much did she tell you?
She didn’t tell me much... but then she never tells anyone much, does she? I admit, I didn’t realise just how fond she was of him. But neither did she: that’s my theory. Looking back, I think they’d have made a good couple. I guess it’s too late for that, though. Maybe if Ruby had been able to say what she was thinking, it would all have gone differently.

  1. Did you ever see yourself being in the situation that you were by the second half of the book?
God, no. Never. I don’t think anyone does. I’d like to say I regretted it, but that would mean I regretted Nathan. And I don’t. Not for a minute.

THE OPPOSITE OF AMBER comes out on April 4th, 2011.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Title: Warm Bodies
Author: Isaac Marion
Pub. Date: April 26th, 2011
Page Count: 239 pages
Summary: "R" is an existentially tormented zombie shuffling through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, or the plague of the Dead—he isn't sure which. He remembers nothing from before, and although he has a deep inner life full of wonder and longing, his ability to connect with the outside world is limited to a few grunted syllables. After experiencing a young man’s memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice to rescue the boy’s girlfriend, beginning a tense, awkward, and strangely sweet relationship that will transform R, his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world.

Review: Alright, let me start this review off by saying: I LOVE ZOMBIES, Y'ALL.

I don't know what it is about them. The idea of a zombie apocalypse has always intrigued me and although I'm sure I'd feel differently if it actually happened, zombies are just awesome. Especially the zombies in WARM BODIES. I love the title, by the way--totally works for the novel. It's not often that I find books like that.

Anyways, from the start, I loved R. He was always a little different from his fellow zombies--a little more aware, his mind always churning. And Marion's prose is absolutely beautiful, which made me love R even more. Here's a little excerpt:
I watch them disappear into the pale daylight at the end of the hall. Deep inside me, in some dark and cobwebbed chamber, I feel something twitch.
It's just kind of incredible how well-handled R's ascent back to humanity is. Zombies in this novel can talk, if only a few syllables at a time; they play at life by getting 'married' and having weird zombie sex that isn't really sex. They have 'kids', who are children who have been stunted in their zombie state, and they watch over them. Another awesome key to this world--when zombies eat brains, it's kind of like a drug to them. They relive the memories in someone's head and are them for a fraction of a second. Which is what happens when R eats Perry's brain and basically sets off a spark that transforms all the zombies forever.

(SPOILERS AHEAD, MATEYS!) I think the most awesome thing about this book is that it is not only a work of fiction, but it has a big fat metaphor wrapped around the narrative. Big fat metaphors and me usually do not mix, because I like my fiction to be all fiction-y, and when I first finished WARM BODIES, I was a tiny bit disappointed. There wasn't some simple explanation, or even a big scientific explanation, of why all the zombies transformed. It was basically the power of love. Yuck, I thought, when I was done. Really? That's all I get?

But the more I stewed in it, the more it made sense. I'll let you figure out the message of the metaphor for yourself, when you buy this awesome book, but FOR REAL. YOU MUST BUY IT. I COMMAND YOU.

Overall: I love zombies. That is all.

Overall: 4.3/5 stars

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Title: Ship Breaker
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Publication Date: May 1st, 2010
Page Count: 326 pages
Summary: Set initially in a future shanty town in America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being dissembled for parts by a rag tag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father, to his hand to mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present day third world. 

When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she'll lead him to a better life. This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss. Yet amidst the shadows of degradation, hope lies ahead.

Review: Although I never got to see this cover in-person (I bought this on my Nook!), I've heard it is absolutely beautiful, mostly from Maggie Stiefvater's review. (It's weird, the past two books I've read, she's reviewed them!)

Anyway, this book is absolutely amazing. The world-building is awesome as well as super realistic--sometimes in scary ways. The life that Nailer and his group of friends lead are not glamorous to say the least and they're lucky if they have enough food to eat, let alone any luxury. Nailer's life is even worse, if only because of his SCARY abusive father. (Let me tell you, that man scared the crap out of me. Whenever he came into a scene, I was literally afraid.) But then, Nailer finds Nita, who he deems Lucky Girl, and it seems like his life will be turned around, for the better, if only he could get her back to her parents. He'll be what everyone calls a Lucky Strike, after a man who owns a salvaging company that basically bought his own freedom.

I'm always a fan of sci-fi that creates its own slang. I thought it was done especially well in Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series and it was done well in Ship Breaker also. It just makes the society, which was already pretty realistic, even more so.

The characters themselves are as amazing as the story. Nailer wanted to be bad-ass and show no mercy, kind of like his father (but not quite as addicted to drugs), but that just wasn't in his personality. At one point, he has a chance to kill Nita and steal all of her jewels, which are worth more than anything he's ever seen before, but he decides not to, and that defines his character throughout the rest of the book. At the end, there is a final showdown with his father, who is pretty much the antagonist of the book, and it does not disappoint. Nailer's friends were equally well-developed--I especially like the half-man (I forget his name!), who helps he and Nita out near the middle of the book. I hope his character comes back!

Overall, this is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It was brutal, but I think it could also appeal to younger YA readers, especially boys, because there is tons of action and not too much romance (although the amount of it was definitely satisfying). I would definitely recommend it!

Overall: 4.5/5 stars

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sam's Ramblings

Sorry for the silence lately! I haven't been reading much, mostly from lack of time, so I haven't had a lot to review. I did manage to buy a couple of books, only one of which being YA, that I recently finished, and another ARC that was sent to me to review, so look for those soon!

I've actually been trying to get through the epic that is A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. I LOVE long books, but it takes me a while to get through them, even if I'm really into the story (which I am, in this case! If you haven't started this series, please do so!). I've also been writing a lot - I'm working on a revamp of The Unlikelihood of Nostalgia without the whole amnesia bit, so it's a completely different story, tentatively titled THE ESSENCE OF FLIGHT. Still involves running and Zack Morris being a complete dick (although, somehow I still love him), but Zoey is not an amnesiac. Whenever I tried to write up a sample query for TUON, everyone jumped on me for using the soap-opera trope in it and it bothered me that FORGET YOU, an amazing book by Jennifer Echols, had a protag with the same name and a problem similar to my own protagonist. Hence the revamp. I'm about 3k in so far and while it's a little bleak, I like having something new to work on.

The last couple of months I've sent out a few queries for TSTB and I've received some interest, which I'm happy about. I'm really looking for CPs, so if anyone wants to partner up with me, I'd love it! I like any kind of YA, but I'm pretty partial to contemporary, so just shoot me an email if you're interested.

Those are about all the updates I have for now! How's everyone else been doing lately?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Review: Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler

Title: Playing Hurt
Author: Holly Schindler
Page Count: 308 pages
Summary: Star basketball player Chelsea "Nitro" Keyes had a full ride to college—and everyone's admiration back home. Then she took a horrible fall during senior year. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.

That summer, Chelsea's dad hires Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player and "boot camp" trainer, to work with her at a northern Minnesota lake resort. As they grow close, Chelsea finds that Clint's haunted by his own tragedy. Will their romance end up hurting them all over again—or finally heal their heartbreak?

Review: I really wanted to like this book. I really did.

But I didn't. That's not to say I disliked it.

To start, there's something about Schindler's writing style that gets kind of bulky to me. I found that some sentences and paragraphs were so overloaded that I had to go over them a couple of times to figure out their meaning. And it got really cheesy at some points, kind of like an adult romance novel that features Fabio on the cover would, as if the chemistry between the main characters was really forced and had to resort to cliches to make it sound real.

I thought Chelsea was absolutely selfish, though. I mean, I understood her motives and why she didn't break it off with her boyfriend, but from the standpoint of someone who's been broken-hearted in that kind of situation, it just seemed really immature. I think I couldn't get into her character as much because of that - I didn't agree with what she did.

That being said, I did enjoy Schlinder's writing style when it wasn't terrible bogged down with details and I really did like the idea of the setting; it sounded absolutely beautiful. And, as an athlete who was sidelined because of an injury, I know how crappy it feels when the thing that you love is suddenly taken away from you.

Overall, I'm not sure I'd recommend this one. I didn't enjoy it very much and it seemed like a chore to get through. Some of the writing was very good, but other than that, everything else seemed forced. Also, the cover? I'm not a fan.

Overall: 2.5/5 stars

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Review: A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell

Title: A Map of the Known World
Author: Lisa Ann Sandell
Publish Date: April 2009
Page Count: 272 pages
Summary: Cora Bradley dreams of escape. Ever since her reckless older brother, Nate, died in a car crash, Cora has felt suffocated by her small town and high school. She seeks solace in drawing beautiful maps, envisioning herself in exotic locales. When Cora begins to fall for Damian, the handsome, brooding boy who was in the car with Nate the night he died, she uncovers her brother's secret artistic life and realizes she had more in common with him than she ever imagined. With stunning lyricism, Sandell weaves a tale of one girl's journey through the redemptive powers of art, friendship, and love.

Review: I think the only reason I picked this book up was because I loved the cover. I thought the title was AWESOME and I thought that it would have a lot to do with maps, kind of like North of Beautiful, which tied them in really well. And while I wouldn't say I was disappointed, I wasn't exactly satisfied.

First off, the characters - they were very well-developed and definitely believable, especially Cora's new friend Helena. I was not satisfied by how her relationship with her best friend Rachel panned out and I thought her romance with Damian was a little too easy. At the end, everything was wrapped up a little too tightly, leaving no room for questions, which I like at the end of novels, even if there is a happy ending. I think Cora was a little young for my tastes - just starting high school - and so I didn't relate to her as much.

The narration was bogged down by over-description, which made me skim a little too much for my liking. While some people may think that Sandell's prose is lyrical, I have to disagree. I don't think that it added much to the narration to describe feeling to nth degree. In fact, I think it made the prose weaker, since it relied on - sometimes cliched - descriptions.

Also, Nate. (This may be a little spoiler-y.) I thought it was kind of a HUGE coincidence that both he and Cora were into art. He even had his own studio with Damian in an old barn? It was just easy. And he thought he was so messed up because he loved art and hated school, but he never even told anyone he liked art; he just assumed that he and Damian were screwed up because of it. I could see if both of them did lots of drugs or something, but they didn't. They just skipped school and made art and were kind of assholes, but they're teenage boys. That is not strange at all.

Overall, I thought this book was okay. I wasn't blown away by it or anything, but I didn't love it or anything. I guess I'll just say I had no strong feelings about it.

Overall: 3/5 stars

Friday, March 4, 2011

Playing Hurt Book Trailer + A GIVEAWAY

Recently, I had the pleasure of receiving an ARC of Holly Schindler's newest book, Playing Hurt! Playing Hurt is a contemporary YA romance about a former basketball player sidelined by an injury who goes on vacation to northern Minnesota. Even though she has a boyfriend who has been there for her throughout the mental anguish of having to give up basketball, she finds herself drawn to her "boot camp" trainer there, Clint. What proceeds is wildly romantic and gave me shivers! It takes a lot for a book to do that.

Anyway, I am offering a giveaway to one lucky person of a copy of this ARC! Please enter by leaving your name and email in the comments below - the giveaway will end March 14th, so be sure to get your entries in by then!

Without further ado, here is the book trailer for Playing Hurt, as well as a little blurb that Holly wrote about book trailers! Enjoy!


Trailers, I think, are a tricky ground for a writer to tread on.  It’s different for a movie or a TV show: those trailers are just spliced together from existing footage.  A montage of some of the best points, meant to entice a potential audience.  When I go to the movie or tune in to the TV show, I’ll see those scenes or snippets…But a book trailer can involve hiring actors specifically for the trailer, or including illustrations that are not featured within the book.

I think that writers can almost do themselves a disservice with ultra-slick trailers…They always run the danger of creating something that actually overshadows the book.

My own favorite official book trailer is for Laurie Halse Anderson’s WINTERGIRLS—it incorporates a section of cover art, and the same three words, “must. not. eat.” flashing faster and faster.  That trailer tells readers that the book is about anorexia, and by giving us a section of that cover, it allows readers to instantly recognize—and hopefully gravitate to—that icy turquoise cover in a bookstore.  Great advertisement.  And in no way does it threaten to overshadow Anderson’s writing (which would be pretty tough, as incredible as her work is).

I really did want to do something visual leading up to the release of PLAYING HURT…Especially since I’ve recently become really intrigued by vlogging.  It’s incredible, as an author, to be able to let readers into my world as well as into my work. 

I knew that I wanted to put together something that would allow readers to “see” or interact with my books in a visual way…And I definitely didn’t want to overshadow my work…So…

What I came up with is a kind of extended trailer / virtual tour of Southwest Missouri—which is the setting for A BLUE SO DARK and much of PLAYING HURT.          

My trailer is in no way super-slick or flashy…But I really like that, too.  I’m the kind of gal who prefers antique instruments, handwritten notes…I love to see a creator’s “hand” in their projects.  In that respect, my trailer has my signature on it…

EDIT: Sorry, I forgot to mention before that the giveaway is ONLY in the US/Canada - sorry, you international folks!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Like Mandarin Author Interview!

I'm so excited because I've had the pleasure of interviewing Kirsten Hubbard, author of the upcoming novel LIKE MANDARIN!

Tell us about the process of getting Like Mandarin published.

The history of Like Mandarin is a long one, but I'll keep it brief! It actually began as a short story for the final project of a fiction class during my freshman year at UCSD. In the years after, I couldn't get the characters out of my head. I expanded the story into a screenplay for a later class, then into a novel when I was 22. The Like Mandarin you'll read today is a second version I overhauled at age 25 -- infinite times better, though the heart of it is the same.

When I queried this version of Like Mandarin, my agent, Michelle Andelman, requested a full within half an hour and offered representation after the weekend. Following a few weeks of revision, it went to auction and sold to Delacorte in a two-book deal. It was a crazy whirlwind! Or a wildwind, I should say.

Who is your favorite character in Like Mandarin?

I adore Taffeta (Grace's little sister), empathize with Momma, and totally heart Davey Miller – a side character readers tend to fall for. What I feel for Grace is a very real love, part sister and part daughter and part what you feel for younger versions of yourself, even though I wasn't much like Grace. But I'd have to say my favorite character is Mandarin Ramey. I knew my readers wouldn't believe Grace's fascination with her if I weren't fascinated with her myself, and that feeling has never left me. I wonder about her often.

I love the cover! What was your reaction when you first saw it?

Thank you! I first saw it hanging on a bookshelf in my editor's office, during an NYC trip where I met both my agent and editor for the first time. It was completely unexpected – both being confronted with it, and the cover itself. I'd expected Mandarin, with her black hair in the wind, or a panorama of badlands. But my cover is so much better – almost movie poster iconic, with the white space, and intensity, and simplicity. I am a very lucky author.

Do you think that travelling so much has helped you as a writer?

Like nothing else. (Well, other than reading!)

Here's why. Writing is a solitary pursuit that takes a lot of repetition, and a lot of alone time. It's introverted by nature, and it's easy to fall into a stay-at-home rut, where nearly all of what you "take in" is media – movies, books, television, the internet. While all that's rich and varied and necessary, none of it beats real-life experiences as idea fodder for novels. And nothing creates experience like venturing outside your comfort zone – especially somewhere stunning, culturally and visually. Travel puts you in situations you could never imagine. It forces interaction with all kinds of people, and inspires in completely unforeseen ways. I'm also obsessed with compelling settings, and though authors are master imaginers, visiting a place always results in more vibrant writing. As a result of my trips (both deliberate for research purposes and accidental), many of my favorite scenes were written in evocative places.

For example, there's a scene in Like Mandarin where Grace is walking through the Wyoming badlands. In part:

"I followed one of the water-trails tapering into the hills. The only sounds were the crunching of my shoes, the occasional low-pitched buzz of an insect, and a gentle wind—not the slightest bit wild—ruffling the dry grasses and shrubs. As I stopped at the top of a crest, gazing out at the gradients of blue hills, brown hills, gray hills, I thought: Mandarin would have loved it out here."

I took notes for that scene on a walk through the actual Wyoming badlands. Now, when I reread it, I'm there.

What is your favorite YA book of 2010?

Can't name just one! Recently, I loved The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. I think I read Finnikin of the Rock in 2009, but it's a 2010 book – Melina Marchetta is a genius.

Thanks so much, Kirsten! LIKE MANDARIN comes out March 8th. :)