Join The 30 Day Challenge #write30

We all have so many commitments. Life is busy, and we let all these things get in the way. Especially when you’re a writer.

For me, this month and next are really insane. My roommate and I have to find a new apartment, I’m in the middle of a job search and all these BEA preparations/Really Big Things.  In the midst of this, my roommate and I realized we need to get some life things on track. So, today my we are starting two 30 Day Challenges.

1) The 30 Day Ab Challenge (It’s an app!)

2) C25K (Another app that helps you get up from the couch and build endurance to run a 5k.)

We’re doing it together because things work better when we have accountability and community. A support system.  Every day we can make sure the other person did what she had to do in order to reach a goal. I love that.

The same is true in writing. I let life get in the way of me writing. “I’m too tired today.” “I have more time.” “But look at these other 400 things I could do…” “But Game of Thrones is on.” It’s sort of ridiculous how much I let get in the way of writing.

So I’m adding a new challenge — and I’m inviting all of you to join in!

The 30 Day Writing Challenge.

This is by no means an original idea, but right now it’s exactly what I need to do. And I’m sure I’m not alone!

My writing life is nearly as busy as my personal one, and I could use the accountability and community to stay on task.  I’ve just turned in the first pass of Salt 2, and now book 2 in the Boundless trilogy is due in a month! It’s the PERFECT time for me to embrace this challenge, especially because it will end right before BEA. And, since I have these other little goals, I think it’s very doable to give up one hour a day for writing. I’m going on into the challenge with 37k words. You can start something new, something old, or revise.

How to join in:

  • Use the hashtag! #write30
  • Write for an hour a day (if you’re so inclined, you could do 1k instead of hourly, but I like the time chunks.)
  • Tweet at the end of each day (#day1, #day2, etc) how many words you wrote or chapters/pages you edited. (I’d love to keep a running tally)
  • Encourage other writers and reach out while you work toward the goal

That’s it! I’m trying to keep it all simple by doing it on twitter, but you can also keep track however you want.

Are you in??

Leave a comment with your twitter name, and I’ll make sure to follow you and your progress. (I’m on twitter @DanielleEWrites.) It starts today! Pass it on and jump in.

#Write30, #day1 — let’s do it.

It’s Pet Owners’ Independence Day!

April 17 is Pet Owners Independence Day! To celebrate, here’s a look at some of the BookYArd writers’ beloved little pets!

Mary Crockett:

Mr. Smokey Paws (shown here in a babydoll tutu) is a reluctant participant in our many dress-up extravaganzas.

Daisy (in a babushka headscarf and my garden shoes) is all around a better sport.

Our other cat, Sweetie Pie, is far too neurotic to partake in dress-up, or even sit still long enough to have her picture taken.

Stefanie Gaither:

Name: Shakespeare (aka Shakey)
Breed: Shih-Tzu/Lhasa Apso mix
Quirky Trait: He likes to climb things and stretch out along the tops of chairs and couches…. And he likes to snuggle between my husband and me in our bed and lay his head on the pillow because he thinks he’s people.

My faithful writing buddy

He climbs things like a cat.

Must…jump…into…your lap…

Rin Chupeco

Name: Princess
Breed: chow-chow pedigree
Quirky Trait: has no real function other than to exist as an unwanted fur rug. Also fond of sneezing, then rubbing her nose against you like she’s being affectionate instead of using you as her portable napkin.

Name: Cookie
Breed: spitz / golden retriever mix
Quirky Trait: fierce little guard dog when strangers are around, yet has a habit of running away and hiding when the little chihuahua down the block comes a-barking.

OPTIMISM is my muse

I think it’s a smart idea for writers to always be refreshing their list of professional goals, but I also find that it’s important to refresh my list of things I’m looking forward to.

By “things” I mean book releases, movie releases, concerts, trips, basically anything that awakens my inner fangirl. Because that inner fangirl? The eternal optimist of love and joy and all things happy? She is my muse. So I spoil her.

Here, in chronological order, are some things that I am looking forward to:

1. June 6, 2014: The Fault In Our Stars THE MOVIE.

Say what you will about book to movie adaptations. But I think that lately they’ve been getting it RIGHT.  Besides amazing John Green source material, they have actress Shailene Woodly. She smashed it in Spectacular Now (based on the sublime book by Tim Tharp. Really smashed it. (Killed me). TFIOS is first and foremost about a girl and a boy and love . . . who both have a history with cancer. Don’t worry. I’ll hold your hand.

2. August 14th, 2014: The release of Isla and The Happlily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

This is a must for your list, for my list, for any reader’s list. Stephanie Perkins is the reigning queen of YA Romance. Don’t question this. I will fight you! If you somehow have missed Stephanie Perkins and the greatness of Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and The Boy Next Door . . .  I’m actually a little jealous, because while I foresee re-reads just prior to the release of Isla, it will never be the same as reading them for the first time. My brain on Stephanie Perkins: Why is she in my head? Does she know me? Why does she kill me like this? Why do I love this book, but also want to set myself on fire?

“And, suddenly, I want to touch him. Not a push, or a shove, or even a friendly hug. I wan tot feel the creases of his skin, connect his freckles with invisible lines, brush my fingers across the inside of his wrist.”

—Stephanie Perkins ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS

“And if I am the stars, Cricket Bell is entire galaxies,”

—Stephanie Perkins LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR

 

3. August 30, 2014: One Direction, in concert

This is all your fault really. In the process of writing my blog post ( http://bookyardwriters.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/everything-you-need-to-know-to-be-a-successful-writer-you-can-learn-from-one-direction/ )  I fell down the rabbit whole and was swallowed whole by this fandom. I really enjoy their youthful pop sound, but also just can’t get over how they are still, after three years, are still just these silly, lovely boys, living their dreams out with their best friends. I can’t get enough of this fandom or these boys.

 

What are YOU looking forward to? What feeds your inner fangirl/optimist?

The Power of Words + WORDLESS ARC Giveaway!

Today I’m giving away one of my few signed ARCs of WORDLESS, my debut book, so pardon me while I wax arm-chair-philosophical. (Or you can just scroll down and enter the giveaway.)

Since I’m writing books about the (super-) power of words—people with the ability to speak and have their words literally manifest in real life—and since I’m, you know, a writer, it’s always fun to think about words and why they fascinate me.

I think it boils down to this: words are powerful. From a simple sentence, a whole world of ideas can be born. And they can be used for good or evil: inspiration, lies, love, hate.

I’ll be frank with you—I started out on the evil sides of things, back when I was five years old. I was a habitual liar. It was a revelation that I could open my mouth, say something, and have people believe it was true when it was anything but. As a generally powerless kid (like most) who was told when to go to bed, take a bath or eat my vegetables, I suddenly discovered I had immense influence. Did I eat all of the candy in the cupboard? No. Was I sick and needing to stay home from school? Yes. Did I draw a treasure map on the couch in permanent marker? No sir-ee. Did I live on a farm populated with a ridiculous menagerie of animals? Why, yes I did.

I felt like a god. Of course, some people didn’t believe me, but they just exchanged knowing looks with a nearby adult. When you’re a kid, people let you get away with this stuff.

Except for my grandma, who, after she asked if I was trying to thieve a stuffed-animal from her house and I said no, called me out on it, made me take it out from under my shirt and put it back where I’d gotten it. Yes, yes, I tried to steal from my grandma. Evil five-year-old, remember? Still, I’ve never been so ashamed.

And good for her for humiliating the heck out of me and sending my little power trip crashing to the ground. Because lying might be somewhat funny when you’re five and can only inflict minor damage on gullible friends and siblings. Adults are mostly impervious and accept such childish behavior with an, “Oh, is that so, dear?” (…Unless you’ve been drawing on the couch in permanent marker. Then your mother gets PISSED.) But what happens when you’re in school later, and you tell someone they’re ugly? Stupid? Worthless? What happens when you’re an adult and you tell someone that you love them…and you don’t? What happens when you claim “she wanted it”? What happens when you tell an entire country that a certain race of people is lesser than yours?

Very bad things, that’s what happens. Evil, if you will. But words are like SCIENCE (cue darkly dramatic music). There’s not always a mad scientist cackling in the background over chemical weapons and atomic bombs. Cures for diseases are discovered, computers invented, washing machines gifted to the people of earth. (Seriously, have you ever had to wash all of your clothes by hand? It royally sucks and takes half of the day.)

Words are like that. So much potential. We can create worlds… or destroy someone else’s, all with words. And that kind of power is still fascinating to me. These days, I like creating worlds in the form of novels, which is essentially a glorified but a mostly harmless form of lying for other people’s entertainment—the difference is that I now call it fiction from the get-go. (Thanks Grandma, for not putting up with my sh*t.)

And so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that my first published book is about living Words: god-like people saying, “Flame,” and making things burn; people saying, “Die,” and watching someone topple over; people saying, “Live,” and letting them stand up again. And even less surprising is that there’s a kid without words at the heart of it all, feeling powerless and wondering how much better life would be if he only he had such power.

How, indeed? Because, while words are powerful, it’s all about how they’re used.

Now you can enter the giveaway!

-Adri out
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Wordless - small

“The Gods made their Words into flesh, giving privileged individuals the powers of creation…”

In Eden City, a member of the illiterate wordless class would never dream of meeting the all-powerful Words … much less of running away with one. So when a gorgeous girl literally falls into his lap during a routine trash run, seventeen-year-old Tavin Barnes isn’t sure if it’s the luckiest or worst day of his life. That girl is Khaya, the Word of Life, who can heal a wound or command an ivy bush to devour a city block with ease. And yet she needs Tavin’s help.

By aiding Khaya’s escape from the seemingly idyllic confines of Eden City, Tavin unwittingly throws himself into the heart of a conflict that is threatening to tear the world apart. Eden City’s elite will stop at nothing to protect the shocking secret Khaya hides, and they enlist the other Words, each with their own frightening powers, to bring her back.

adriannestricklandAdriAnne shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, but has spent two cumulative years living abroad in Africa, Asia, and Europe. While writing occupies most of her time, she commercial fishes every summer in Bristol Bay, because she can’t seem to stop. Her debut YA sci-fi/fantasy, WORDLESS, is coming August 8th, 2014 from Flux Books. You can follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook.

A Celebration of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy

Hooray! The lovely and funny Kate Hattemer is releasing her debut novel, The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy out into the world tomorrow!

Anchorman

We here at the BookYArd are thrilled to sound its barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world! (Yep, this book has gotten me so excited that I’m quoting Whitman.)

Yelling

We’re yawping, Steve, not yelling… and here’s why:

vigilantepoets

Witty, sarcastic Ethan and his three friends decide to take down the reality TV show, For Art’s Sake, that is being filmed at their high school, the esteemed Selwyn Arts Academy, where each student is more talented than the next. While studying Ezra Pound in English class, the friends are inspired to write a vigilante long poem and distribute it to the student body, detailing the evils of For Art’s Sake. But then Luke—the creative force behind the poem and leader of the anti-show movement—becomes a contestant on the nefarious show. It’s up to Ethan, his two remaining best friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save their school. Along the way, they’ll discover a web of secrets and corruption involving the principal, vice principal, and even their favorite teacher.

I bet now you want your very own copy of The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy. Well, you’re in luck, here’s where you can get it:

Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

And as if that’s not enough, check out what KIRKUS REVIEW had to say about it:

Blending Ezra Pound, rhetoric and reality TV, this hilarious, subversive debut about a cadre of friends at an arts high school is a treat from cover to cover.

In seventh grade, popular, good-looking Luke rescued Ethan, Jackson and Elizabeth from misfit nerd-dom. Four years later, Luke still leads while Narrator Ethan is cheerfully resigned to a spot in the “Untalented caste” at Selwyn Academy. Disturbing the status quo, the school’s chosen to host a new reality TV show, a student talent competition with a $100,000 scholarship prize and a familiar format: interviews, clichéd romances and rivalries, and two smarmy hosts. The obsequious vice principal and most students are thrilled, but For Art’s Sake feels like an insult to Ethan and friends. Luke, the most offended, leads a counterattack, writing guerilla poetry inspired by Pound’s Cantos that ridicules the enterprise, which the conspirators secretly print at school. However, the masterminds behind reality TV are several steps ahead of them—money and fame are powerful currency, and they know how to use them. Maura, the beautiful, talented ballerina Ethan fancies, has been accepted at Juilliard, but without the scholarship, she can’t attend—participating is a no-brainer. Ethan struggles with ethical conundrums (Does Pound’s anti-Semitism invalidate his work? Are compromises the price of an arts career?) as he works out his own place in this world and among his friends, especially Elizabeth.

A sparkling, timely tour of the complicated intersection where life meets art. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Or, to translate for Andy Samberg fans:

CoolBeans

So, just who is the woman who wrote this amazing book?  Here’s the nutshell version:

The oldest of eight siblings, Kate grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. She attended Yale and taught high-school Latin in Virginia before returning to Cincinnati, where she now works at an independent bookstore. The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, out in April 2014 from Knopf, is a contemporary YA novel about reality TV, an arts school, Ezra Pound, and a heroic gerbil. In spring 2015, Knopf will publish her second novel, The Land of Ten Thousand Madonnas.

For more about Kate, check out her website where she talks books, obscure grammatical rules, and life on a pogo-stick.

Finally, here are a few words from members of the BookYArd about why we’re so ding-dang excited to get this book in our hands.

“What an awesome, unique concept! Love the idea of getting a truly behind-the-scenes look at some of the people caught up in one of those crazy reality T.V. shows. And a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise? If I hadn’t already been sold on this book’s premise, that line would have clenched the deal.” — Stefanie Gaither, Falls the Shadow

“Who doesn’t want to read about vigilante poetry in action? This is like Victor Hugo and Maya Angelou’s artsy lovechild with a hamster sidekick. This is looking to be a great commentary on friendship, on standing up to one’s own principles at the cost of fame and money and, of course, on poking fun at the unrealness and strange dichotomy of reality shows!” — Rin Chupeco, The Girl from the Well

“Vigilante poets?! How could I not be looking forward to this? I love academy-type settings where students make clever mischief. I might be totally off, but this strikes me as a modernized cross between The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys and Dead Poets Society, with a lot of humor thrown into the mix. I can’t wait!” — AdriAnne Strickland, Wordless

“This book has Ezra Pound poetry, reality television, and a heroic gerbil. ‘Nuff said. If that hasn’t convinced you, did I mention the gerbil is named Baconnaise? Yes, I *will* join you in your dance of delighted glee.” — Skylar Dorset, The Girl from the Well

“I don’t have to read past the title to know I want to eat this book whole. The fact that Kirkus calls it ‘hilarious’ and ‘subversive’ just makes me want to drink it too.” — Mary Crockett, coauthor Dream Boy

What I Really Mean…!

In the Elton John song “Your Song,” the composer of the romantic song admits that he’s forgotten if his lover’s eyes are green or blue, but anyway, what he really means is that they’re the most beautiful eyes he’s ever seen.

I was thinking about this song the other day as I read this really fascinating article about the “hidden messages” in children’s literature. 

Because, you see, at a certain point, our words are no longer entirely our words, and we can no longer control the messages that other people read into them. It’s entirely possible that the author of “The Little Engine That Could” didn’t intend it to be read as a feminist text, but does that really matter anymore? We can’t tell you what to think about the words we put on paper, because we can’t control your thoughts.

And, the more that I think about it, the more I don’t really want to. I want you to read my words and come up with your own spin, your own interpretation. I want my book to be about something personal for you. I don’t know you, but I want you to feel like I do, like I’m writing something completely and entirely for you. And, in all honesty, it might not be something I was even conscious of while I was writing it, but I don’t think that makes your reading of it any less valid. Books are a joint venture in the end: I give you words from my heart, and you take them into your heart, and on whatever level we have connected, we create our joint conversation: Our Unique Book. Because everyone reads a book differently, and that is the joy of books. They’re not black or white, they’re prisms

That said, what I do hope is that we do connect, somehow, someway. That is my greatest dream and fondest wish. We might disagree on whether the eyes I was writing about were green or blue. But I hope that what we do agree about is that what I meant was that they’re pretty gorgeous. :-)

skylardorset

Skylar is a native Rhode Islander who fully believes that the best type of ice cream shake is called a cabinet (and she prefers a chocolate one). Boston gave her a degree in English (from Boston College), a degree in law (from Harvard), and the setting for her first novel, THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS, about a teenager who finds out she’s half-faerie-princess and half-ogre. Skylar loves tea (hot and iced), breakfast for dinner, and the Red Sox. You can find her wasting time on Twitter and Tumblr.

Understanding Insta-Love: Tips and Tricks

It’s a dreaded aspect for many readers of many YA novels , I’m sure.  Some like it,  some are indifferent – and a heckuva lot of people hate it.  Insta-love has been around long before the term “Young Adult fiction” ever came to be, from doomed Arthurian romances like Guinevere and Lancelot; to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; to the Wagner opera, Tristan and Isolde (although a love potion was a decided catalyst here).

I can’t say I’m someone who likes reading about insta-love. I don’t doubt that insta-love does exist, but the term I would much rather use (and, I think, explains this phenomenon better) is insta-attraction, or even insta-lust, which I do like reading about. I have known people who have fallen in love at first sight and make a successful relationship of it – but I’ve also seen people crash and burn because they didn’t know how to make it work past the physical attraction. But my problem with insta-love is not so much the fact that it’s used at all, but rather that it is used far too often as a shortcut to tell readers that a couple is in love, rather than as a segue to further character development.

Now, most authors tend to argue in favor of insta-love for a lot of good reasons, so allow me to play the devil’s advocate for this article.

The best five minute love story I know.

This is an attempt to analyze insta-love down to its bare basics, particularly on why people might dislike it, and what else might be needed to build it into a more believable romance – and WHY we as authors need to make that additional effort to.

How Insta-Love Can Fail

1. Let’s frame this in a perspective more people might understand: you’ve just met this amazing person. And s/he’s gorgeous. Physically, s/he’s exactly your type, and you already know you’ll make beautiful babies together.  Knowing only this about them, do you:

- give up your family / close friends if they ask you to?

- take a bullet / knife / anything that may potentially result in your painful death for them?

- risk your career / job / schooling for them?

The problem with characters who say “yes” to all or most of the above, is that this shows symptoms of what could lead to a very unhealthy relationship / obsession, and most readers realize this. Is this really the type of character you want to read more about? Even more alarming – if you’re rooting for a character to do exactly this because you yourself think the love interest is hot, then what might this say about you?

Insta-attraction is more easily understood. And there’s a big difference between thinking about the person all the time, and doing things like jumping off buildings for each other or covering up each other’s murders, or something. For love.

And all because s/he’s hot.

(A note: while a lot of authors who write about insta-love do not immediately put their characters in these kinds of situations, it’s reasonable enough to argue that enough writers do this to make this an issue.)

2. One can argue that writing about teens means that teenagers should be written like teenagers, in that they can at times be naive and idiotic when it comes to making certain life decisions. But protagonists are, by default, special - not because their writer-creators say they are, but because they should be by default. Because that suggests there is something about these teenagers that makes them rise beyond the stereotype – there has to be something there that makes them worth reading about.

Let’s face it – we have known friends or teenagers who have acted this way. I, for one, was that friend who constantly groaned and rolled her eyes whenever one of my friends started waxing about that cute guy she just met in History class like it was going to be the greatest romance I was ever going to hear, and I’m  can you just shut up already so we can eat at Burger King cause I need something in my stomach besides all this swill? (I’m not always a considerate friend.)  A lot of times, people who think insta-love is the best thing ever are often  the ones in the throes of it, who have experienced or are experiencing it for themselves.  Most readers are going to be people like me, rolling their eyes at them and groaning because they would much rather eat a Whopper.

I love my friend, but I definitely do not want to read a book about a character like her when she is in this phase. (Her irl romance fizzled out about two weeks after they started dating.)

And this is where the bulk of the complaints about insta-love comes in. Many readers won’t understand the effects of insta-love because they’re not the ones living in that bubble of happiness and rainbows. Readers who do buy into it are usually those who also find themselves attracted to the MC/s in question.

Think about a fictional character you love absolutely. Then think about a friend of yours who’s not into that fandom. Think about their reactions when you gush about how much you love this character.

Now think about the reverse: your friend being in love with a fictional character you care nothing for, but won’t shut up about.

Yup.  It’s a lot like that.

3. Another issue with insta-love is that it happens almost all the time in a lot of YA novels, especially those with romantic elements. In real life, some insta-loves succeed, and some insta-loves fail – but when present in YA, they almost always triumph. Reading one book where insta-love happens is fine. Reading two is alright. Reading two dozen in a row no longer feels quite as believable.

One of my role models, Esme Weatherwax, head witch of Bad Ass village and current Discworld resident, defines it best:

[In stories] million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.

You might not want to hear this, but you will eventually get  sick of chocolate if you eat too much of it. Likewise, if you read a succession of novels with insta-love screaming through their pages, you will  eventually get sick of it. The whole purpose of writing a book is to have it stand out, and using the same trope so many other writers have done without adding a very unique spin to it will not make it so.

But, hark! All is not lost. Here are some few suggestions that (I think) works, to ensure characters can still have their “insta-attraction”, and still bring some level of credibility to their romance:

1. Ensuring Believability

When it comes to writing romance, I always like to reference this formula:

Length of time knowing love interest should be directly proportional to the protagonist’s willingness to die for him/her.

Exception #1: If the protagonists are heroic by nature, then saving  potential love interests from a speeding car / a villain they happen to be fighting would still be keeping in character – not because they would die without him/her, but because it’s already in their character to be heroic, and would still do the same thing even if the rescuee was a pot-bellied man in a sailor outfit.

Contrary to how he looks, he’s actually a pretty nice guy. (image from asianpopaddict.com)

Exception #2: This is some sort of satire, and you’re writing this deliberately.

Exception #3: Anything involving Tom Hiddleston does not apply here. It’s worth noting though, that many people also love him for his personality, and not just from his obvious attractiveness.

Shake that personality, Tom!

2. Build character

Throw your couple in some life-threatening situations / major obstacles BEFORE having them declare their undying love for one another. (Having them cuddle up / make out beforehand is fine, though. That’s what insta-attraction is all about.) One purpose for this is to show readers that there is something about the characters that makes them worthy of each other’s love beyond just their beauty. Robert Downey, Jr. is gorgeous, but who do you really love – him, or your significant other? (I don’t know about RDJ, but he’s never tried to be an awkward human raincoat for me during a particularly bad Category 4 typhoon, the way my husband did once.)

3. There is a difference between a romance that happens immediately but genuinely, and a romance that happens in a rather superficial way. It’s up to the author to determine how to place their romances into the former category without falling into the latter, and it’s up to them to convince the readers of the realness of that romance. It takes more than just “because he’s hot” to sell the relationship, and “show, not tell” always works for me.

There’s a difference between being easily attracted early on, and then falling into a deeper and more profound love at a later date. Romances can have both, but the second is more difficult to write about than the first – but it’s always something writers should learn to do. Train yourself to avoid shortcuts.

This is one of the few things writers can’t write about based on experience. Everyone has a different perspective on how love is supposed to feel, and experiences will vary. To argue that insta-love is justified because you’ve felt it yourself or have  seen it in others will not sway readers’ minds to your side of the debate if readers can’t find a worthy quality past the character’s aesthetics.

And that’s where knowing how to portray this realistically comes in. Even people who fell violently in insta-love with each other would never have stayed together if none of them had more redeemable traits to their character.

4. I’ve done everything!

You did your homework, added in all your nuances, and readers / critics are still calling you out? No worries. Relax.

You owe it to your readers – and even more importantly, yourself – to write your book in the best way that you possibly can. Unfortunately, literature is subjective, and sometimes context can be unintentionally (and even deliberately) misunderstood. This is never going to be your fault. Do the best you can, but don’t take it to heart – it doesn’t just happen to the best or the worst of writers; it happens, and will always happen, to every one of us. And that is okay.

To summarize:

Insta-attraction = (physical attraction x 2)

(physical attraction x2) + (redeeming character traits / character-defining flaws) + time = love

umbrella

Love AND character development.

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