Monday, April 30, 2012

Robin McKinley – The Writer’s Writer

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Texas Library Association’s Annual Conference in Houston, where I got to spend two glorious days talking about books with librarians, industry folk, and my fellow authors.

And an interesting thing happened – in two completely separate conversations, with two different author friends of mine, a name came up that has long been near and dear to my heart. But it’s not a name I hear very often: Robin McKinley.

One of my author friends remarked that her favorite first line of a book was from Robin McKinley’s THE BLUE SWORD. (The line, in case you’re curious, is: “She scowled at her glass of orange juice.”). 

A second author friend listed McKinley’s THE HERO AND THE CROWN as one of her favorite dragon books of all time.

My experience with Robin McKinley books began when I was in sixth grade, and my teacher assigned us THE BLUE SWORD. I was instantly in love with the book and with its heroine, Harry Crewe. It was one of those rare books where you discover something different every time you read it – and I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I lovingly reread it. It’s still one of those books that I pick up every now and then, just to remind myself that books, and the people who write them, are awesome.

But more than just being awesome, THE BLUE SWORD was one of the books that made me want to be a writer. I had fallen in love with books before then, but I had spent the majority of my time hoping I would grow up to be the book’s heroine. It wasn’t until Robin McKinley came along that I actually fell in love with the way that a book was written, and shyly wondered if I could possibly create something like that one day.  (The other books that inspired my career choice were Tamora Pierce’s THE SONG OF THE LIONESS QUARTET books – they were assigned to me by that same sixth grade teacher. Man, did that woman know her YA lit!).

And judging by the comments by my fellow authors at TLA, I am not the only writer who has been inspired by Robin McKinley.

Why do I bring her up in this blog post? Well, I know how amazing it is to stumble upon a book you love, and then make the glorious discovery that the author has a huge list of books that have somehow escaped you, but which you will now proceed to devour. And just in case Robin McKinley has managed to allude you until now, you may want to pick up THE BLUE SWORD or THE HERO AND THE CROWN or CHALICE or any one of her seventeen amazing creations and give them a shot. Let’s see if the woman I now think of as “the writer’s writer” can inspire you too!

For more on Robin McKinley:
Visit her website 
Check out her list of works
Follow her on Twitter 

About the author of this blog post:
Cory Putman Oakes is the author of the YA fantasy THE VEIL (2011, Octane Press). She grew up in California, where she attended UCLA and graduated with a B.A. in Psychology. She also graduated from Cornell Law School and worked as a lawyer until she decided to become a writer. Cory now lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, Mark, their daughter, Sophia, and a bunch of animals.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Identity Status: Using Psychology in Writing

I'm fascinated by psychology and think my understanding of it helps me with character development. One thing I find intriguing is that many of my favorite writers have a background in this subject.

A few years ago, I took a course in developmental psychology. It introduced me to several theories about how the personality of an adolescent emerges. One I found particularly interesting was that of Canadian psychologist James Marcia, who says that there are four identity statuses. To understand these, you need a couple of definitions:

Crisis: The period of identity development when a person is choosing between various alternatives, trying on different skins.

Commitment: A personal investment made when an individual chooses what to do with his life.

The four identity statuses:

Identity diffusion: The state in which an adolescent has not yet experienced an identity crisis or demonstrated commitment. A sort of blissfully ignorant and unaware position that is the standard before the individual begins to examine his life and values.

Identity foreclosure: The state in which an adolescent has made a commitment without experiencing a crisis. Example: a person adopting his parent's religious beliefs without examining them for himself or questioning them in any way.

Identity moratorium: The state in which an adolescent is in crisis, but has not yet defined his commitment, or has defined it in only a vague way. Example: an individual who bounces from subject to subject in college, never  deciding on a major, or continually changing her major.

Identity achievement: The state in which an adolescent has undergone crisis and made a commitment. Example: a person questioning the beliefs of the church he was raised in, exploring other religions, and deciding that he agrees with the values of his own faith after all.

I think limiting these statuses to teenagers is shortsighted. Many adults never go beyond identity foreclosure, while others are forever mired in identity moratorium. I also think you can have a crisis, make a commitment, then find yourself back in crisis.
In my own life, I cycle between identity moratorium and identity achievement. I think this is why it's so easy for me to channel my 'inner teen.' In fact, I'm not convinced that I ever really grew up. One might consider this a sign of immaturity or lack of commitment, but I think it shows a willingness to explore new ideas, challenge ingrained beliefs, and open one's self to ongoing growth. There's always room to tweak your ethic core as you develop new strengths and are exposed to new ideas. After all, no one so far has achieved perfection.

~ Lisa

In addition to being a YA author, Lisa Nowak is a retired amateur stock car racer, an accomplished cat whisperer, and a professional smartass. She writes coming-of-age books about kids in hard luck situations who learn to appreciate their own value after finding mentors who love them for who they are. You can connect with her though her blog, The Tao or Webfoot, or buy her books Running Wide Open and Getting Sideways at any major online retailer. Her third book, Driven, comes out May 10th.

Monday, April 23, 2012

An Indie Year in Review

Hello all! 

It's Addison Moore, here! I'm thrilled to be posting today and would love to share my thoughts on a year in retrospect. 

Has it been one year already? Well, OK, a year and a month since I jumped into the indie pool with the CELESTRA series (my YA paranormal romance). Its been a whirlwind for sure and I wanted share a few things I've learned along the way;

1. Indie publishing can consume you. The writing, the edits--looking for the next cover, it all has the ability to suck you into a time warp, and if you dare peek your head out, an entire year might have passed. Remember to breathe and hang out with friends and family. It's OK to have a life. 

2. Writers and readers are the nicest people on the planet! Engage with them on every level possible. I honestly feel like my readers are family.

3. Bloggers are made of PURE GOLD. Bloggers are the most supportive, friendly, encouraging people. Get to know them and their readers!

4. Tweet not for yourself what you can have others tweet for you, but DO THEM FIRST. It’s never nice to follow someone who turns into a one-person titter based infomercial but spreading the love can combat that and enable you to share other great indie books with your followers as well.

5. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Break a few rules, test new water, push your characters and scenes further than you would ever be comfortable. If it makes for a more exciting read, the reader will want to turn the page.

6. Take into consideration what reviewers are saying but don’t rise or fall with every review. If reviews tend to knock you down and ruin the mojo of your word count don’t read them until your writing for the day is done.

7. Write the best book you can. And when you upload it to the world--start another one and try do better. Always strive to top yourself.

Well there’s the shortlist of things I’ve discovered this year. I really do strive to write each book tighter and stronger (apparently longer, too, but that’s a different story.)

Anything you would like to know about indie publishing? Ask away!

If you would like to enter to win a free e-copy of ETHEREAL (Celestra Series Book 1) please leave your email addy in the comments section. 

Addison Moore is the mom of four wonderful children and a graduate of the University of Southern California. Upon graduation she worked as a therapist on a locked psychiatric unit for over seven years. Her late night writing jags are often fueled by Dr. Pepper. The film rights to the CELESTRA series were recently sold to 20th Century Fox. To learn more please visit Addison’s blog. 

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Celebrating Earth Day Reads

As many of you may know, animal and nature conservation is important to me.

It was part of the reason I wrote Untraceable and The Nature of Grace Series. It is also the reason my Heaven (Cirrus) in my tween book, On The Bright Side, is so environmentally-conscious. It is an underlying theme in all my books.

So here some books (old and new) that celebrates the Earth in various ways:

Untraceable (Book 1, The Nature of Grace series)

This book shows the true beauty of the Smoky Mountains and allows you to feel as if you are experiencing it yourself. Untraceable also touches on the illegal poaching issues we have, black bear parts trafficking, and overall animal conservation. It also talks about wilderness survival.

Gone Wild by James Patterson

This adult thriller book inspired by writing and the Nature of Grace series. I am a huge fan of James Hall and this is one of my favorite books. I loved how he took his popular Thorn series, made it from a woman's perspective all while informing the reader about the plight of the orangutan.

If you are looking for a series that talks about conservation while keeping you on the edge of your seat, try the Thorn books by James Hall. This is my goal for the Grace series.

Flush by Carl Hiaasen  
(along with his other conservation themed books Hoot, Chomp, and Scat)

Carl Hiassen runs an environmental theme through his books. Whether it is illegal sewage dumping, exotic animals or eco-avengers, his books teach kids about some of the issues our environment faces today, yet keep them interested.

Hatchet by Gary Paulson

Even though this book is about a boy trapped in the wilderness, it celebrates a boy getting back to nature and finding his own way. It shows how we underestimate nature and how we can still survive if we get back to the basics.

Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby

This book is set in the Everglades (secret: so is my third Nature of Grace series :) It is about two teenagers who get lost in the Everglades and have to find their way back. Alive.

What about you? What other books have you read that would be great for Earth Day?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Online Writer's Workshops

This week on the weekly Twitter chat that I host on Monday’s (#WritersRoad) we discussed online writer’s workshops. For those of us who don’t have the time to travel, or are strapped for the funds in this tough economy, an online workshop can be the answer to improving our writing skills. However, one must choose carefully. Here are a few good ones that I’ve found:

WriteOnCon (a free workshop/conference for MG & YA) Occurring in August. I can personally vouch for this one, it’s fantastic!
San Francisco Writer’s University (all genres) Has a solid reputation.
Writer’s Digest Workshops (all genres) Has a solid reputation.

Before you choose, decide exactly what it is you want to learn or improve on, work out your budget, then start researching. Unless you know the company or people putting on the workshop, don’t invest in it until you have recommendations from people you trust who have attended. There are a lot of people out there more than willing to take advantage of writers who are ready to invest in their future.  If you know of any great workshops leave us a link in the comments!

Heather is the author of the YA paranormal Channeler series which includes; The Secret Of Spruce Knoll, Born Of Fire, Channeler's Choice, and coming in May of 2012, To Ride A Puca. A short story of Heather's is also available in the free In His Eyes eBook anthology. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

The legality of Lyricalness in writing

Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love ya tomorrow. You're always a day away!
-Tomorrow from the musical Annie

Impossible things are happening every day. It's possible!
-Impossible from Rodgesr and Hammerstein's Cinderella

Both of these lyrics appear in published works. One of these authors had to get permission and pay for the use of their lyrics and the other did not. Can you guess which paid?

If you guessed the author who used the lyrics from Annie, you are right!

Author Laurie Larsen talks about getting permission and using the lyrics for her YA novel The Chronicles of Casey V in an interview over at Savvy Authors. Since I actually know Laurie she sent a link out to all of us in her RWA group to this interview. As soon as I read it I kind of did a *headdesk* and mumbled 'Oh crap.'

You may have read my books or you may have not, but if you have you will realize that Alex Bianchi has a thing for Shakespeare and musicals. That is when the *headdesk* started. Could I get sued for using lines from Romeo and Juliet? What about Alex singing Cinderella in book 2?

The answer:  It's all about what is public domain and what is not. Quickly I pulled up my internet explorer and started googling, trying to figure out if I needed to contact whoever owned the rights to Shakespeare's works and Rodgers and Hammerstein. I looked up everything I could when I noticed something interesting. Both the works of Shakespeare and Rodgers and Hammerstein are public domain. This means that their intelectual property rights have either expired, been forfeited, or are innaplicable. Which basically means that you can use all the Shakespeare that you want in your writing to your heart's desire! (Okay, maybe not word for word, but you get my point).

There is also work that was created before public domain or copyrights existed that are automatically public domain (i.e. The Bible). If you want to quote the bible in your work then go for it! No need to worry about being sued by the Bible's writers. (If you don't understand that part then we need to have a talk...)

But WAIT, you are thinking, "That's all fine and dandy, but what about Alex's obsession with Dustin Hoffman?"

Ah, yes, Alex does like The Graduate. Am I going to get sued for referencing that? No. I did research on this one as well. As long as I don't act like this is my own work and reference the movie then I'm not claiming to own it, nor would I ever take that joy away from Dustin Hoffman. And...well...I never use the entire quote or I paraphrase it. "Are you trying to seduce me, Miss Bianchi?" And most of these are filed under the "fair use" act.

Do you use movie quotes or lyrics in your writing? Have you ever looked to see if they were public domain? Do you wonder why Alex is singing from musicals in book 2?

Magan is a self-proclaimed geek-to-glam poster child who channels her inner geek by writing science fiction for teens, even though she slept with a night light until she was in middle school for fear of alien attacks. She now lives with her husband, daughter, and dog in central Illinois where she still sleeps with a night light...just in case.  Her debut novel HOW TO DATE AN ALIEN is available now through Amazon and Barnes and Noble in Ebook and Paperback. If you have nothing better to do you can follow her online through her website, blogFacebook, and Twitter.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Writing Outside the Box

I am 100% young adult contemporary romance. I am swoon-worthy boys and family/friend problems and love stories that make me wanna go *squee*.

I'm wrapping up the final book of an urban fantasy trilogy that is nothing like what I typically write. The characters are a bit harder around the edges, there are angels and demons, things are being chased, heartbeats are always kicking up a notch, and characters are forever brandishing knives and guns and . . . 

(Points Finger: Bang! Bang!)

There are authors who dabble in a variety of genres, but, for the rest of us, I think it's easy to fall into the trap of familiarity. We're comfortable, so we stick around. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that—writing a novel is difficult, anyway. Why make it any harder than it already is?

Still, after six or seven (or eight—no idea, I've lost count) contemporary YA manuscripts, this urban fantasy forced me to step outside my comfort zone. It affected my plotting, my pacing, my climaxes. . . .  From the moment I typed the first words onto the page it has been one wild ride—mostly a roller coaster of doubt. Am I doing this right? Could I have done this better? Should this really happen?

Trying to piece together a trilogy has been a huge challenge for me—I envy those of you who make it look easy. I've had hits, and misses, and I still haven't quite figured it all out yet, but I know that, at the end of the day, my writing will be better for stepping off that ledge and seeing this project through to completion.

So . . . if you're in a rut, or between projects, or are just looking to spice up your writing routine, try picking a new genre from the proverbial hat: Romance! Mystery! Thriller! Fantasy! Science Fiction! Historical! Post-Apocalyptic Time Travel Space Opera! Either way, write something you wouldn't normally write—a short story, a novella, or even a trilogy—and stick with it, even when it gets hard.

Anything that stretches those boundaries and helps us grow as writers is a good thing. And you never know where it might lead. :)


Katie Klein's YA Contemporary Romance, Cross My Heart, spent more than 140 days on the Amazon Teen Top 100 bestseller list and was a 2011 Goodreads Reader's Choice Awards Finalist for Best YA Fiction. Lately, she's spent most of her time wondering why the heck she ever tried to write an urban fantasy trilogy. If you're supposed to be writing but would rather procrastinate, feel free to follow her on twitter: @katiekleinbooks and/or check out her blog.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Writing Monster

There are some people who write every day. As a full-time teacher and a mom of one, I don't always have the luxury of time available to do that.

I do, however, have ideas all the time. Stories are always floating just under the surface, just waiting to be developed while I drive to and from work, or daydream at lunch. I carry around two black Moleskine notebooks, one for Into the Shadows Trilogy notes and one for notes for other projects.

When I actually sit down to write, look out. Writing for me is a super intense process. Once I dive in, I'm totally stuck there until it's over. It almost becomes an obsession. I can understand why they say writers must suffer from a certain amount of madness because all I want to do is work on what I'm writing. I don't want to work or go out with friends, I just want to write. I get crabby when the phone rings or someone interrupts me because I'm so in the moment, I don't want to get pulled out of it. That's probably why I did okay with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It's a rush!

I'm almost done with my latest novel, Darkness Rising. In fact, hopefully by the time you read this post, it will be done. I've been writing like a crazy person over the last week and a half to make a final push to get the book finished. The good thing is that I can write anywhere, provided I have headphones. I need the music to block out all the distractions. My album choices on Spotify for this book have been Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Mumford and Sons, and Ellie Goulding. Without them, there would be no book!!!

So what kind of writer are you? Do you write every day? Or do you have bursts of writing madness?

Karly Kirkpatrick loves reading and writing YA lit. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, daughter, and two dogs and teaches high school German and French. She is probably one of the world's biggest Harry Potter fans. Her current books include Into the Shadows (Book 1 of the Into the Shadows Trilogy) , Bloody Little Secrets, The Green, and EIGHT. Coming Summer 2012 - Darkness Rising (Book 2 of the Into the Shadows Trilogy).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Follower Giveaway!!!

Okay, so I was supposed to have a post prepared for today, however the weekend kind of got away from me. This works out well for you, lovely followers, because it means I'm going to act like I'm on top of things and do a giveaway.

I recently came into possession of a duplicate ARC of Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin (4/24) and I also received a finished copy of Black Dawn by Rachel Caine (5/1) which is #12 in the Morganville Vampire Series.

Black Dawn (The Morganville Vampires, #12)Masque of the Red Death

So, since I already have a copy of Masque of the Red Death and I've never read the other Morganville Vampire books, I am giving one lucky winner the chance to choose between the two.

All I ask is that since I received these books free of charge from the publishers, you review it. I don't care where. It can be on your blog, amazon, B&N, goodreads. Just post something somewhere. That's it. No hoops to jump through. Just be a follower and fill out the rafflecopter below. If you want to tweet about the giveaway, you will receive extra entries.

- Lots of Love, Melanie