Sunday, December 25, 2011
The following scene takes place on the night of the annual Morgan County High School Christmas party, at the home of fraternal twins, Stacy and Marcus Addleberry. After years of getting the boot from his much cooler hostess sister, Marcus has finally managed to stay inside on party night. What’s more, he’s staked out a spot in the basement, sitting on the legendary SOMTKWPGOSGL—Sofa Of Much Tongue Kissing With Popular Girls Of Supreme Good Lookingness. Alas, his sister has no intentions of letting him stay.
Consider the eggnog, it neither toils nor spins. Unless I give it a swirl, then it spins in a really cool liquid pudding kind of way. Shame it doesn’t grow like the lilies. That would be nice—a never ending holiday beverage, a permanent Christmas break. I chug the glass, lean back on the sofa, and stare up into a scowl.
“Marcus,” Stacy growls down at me, “you’re under my mistletoe.”
I peer past her blistering face, see a weed nailed to the ceiling. “Somebody has high hopes for tonight.”
“Hopes that do not involve you.”
“I think we should leave that up to the impending party hotties.”
“They will not be interested in you. Besides, any hotties will be here because I invited them. And I haven’t invited you, so why are you here?”
“Well, it all started seventeen years ago when Mom and Dad did something I’ll explain to you when you’re older.”
“We are the same age, dweeb.”
“And I look back on our time in the womb with fondness.”
“This is my party.”
“Which was your attitude even in utero. Who’s the unfortunate boy for whom you’ve topiaried the ceiling?”
“There’s only one boy.”
“Ah.” My least favorite person in the entire world. “Him.”
“Go away, Marcus.”
“Why would I leave my own basement?”
“I didn’t invite you.”
“An oversight on your part. Happily, I’m not easily offended.”
“Marcus, I don’t ask for much.”
“Bit early for making resolutions you won’t keep. New Years is two weeks away.”
“All I ask is that you be gone.”
“I could take that the wrong way, you know.”
“As long as you take it somewhere else. Even you must have someplace to be on Christmas.”
She stares at me until I return to my eggnog, and because it isn’t bottomless, I can’t sip my way through the awkwardness that is the rest of my life with no place to be.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
If this is a romance—which it totally isn’t—I’ll be introduced at the post-game party as an A-1 loser goof. You know, camera pans a living room full of rowdy juniors and seniors, zooms in on the Zit Kid sporting miss-matched threads. As if stripes aren’t just half a plaid, and plaid isn’t just extra stripes. Think about it.
But not for too long, because the camera’s still moving, frames the door—music swells—and this totally hot chick like the new girl who just walked in, walks in. Pow, I fall for her, but she thinks she’s too good for me and I believe her. Not that I do.
Flash forward to Act II. Her snooty friends pull a prank on us and we end up on a road trip through Death Valley, where our perfectly good car dies of measles. It happened to Freddy Thompson’s mom’s car. Swear.
We bake in the sun, hot chick and me, ’til she snaps, says something honest but mean and I snap back, say something honest but worse. I can be like that. Stone cold. I just need a little time to think up a comeback.
You know, now that I think about it, Mrs. Thompson’s car might not have had measles. It could have had bad injectors, because I’d bet Freddy that a diesel could run on alcohol, but the only stash we could find was my brother’s pot and I figured one high was pretty much the same as the next and we spiked the tank with weed.
Anyway, chickie has insulted me and I’m all, “Snap, insult you back!” She cries and runs into the frickin’ desert and I have to chase after her. Then I save her from a rattlesnake—no a brown recluse, I don’t like snakes. She says she’s sorry, I say I’m sorry, and buckets of rain fall where it hasn’t rained in like, forever. Figure that out Mr. Weatherman.
We roll in the mud because we were so happy to be alive, then night falls and we steal new clothes from a broken-down Halloween costume van. All she can find is a Wanda the Wench dress, and I’m sharper than sharp in a Dracula tux. She sees my total dapperness in the moonlight—even though the moon doesn’t always come out at night, sometimes it comes out in the day, because that’s how orbits work—and ten seconds later we’re doing it in the back seat of her dad’s Lexus, ’cause I don’t even own a car.
Plus, and this is how I know this story’s not a romance, I’d have spent the whole introduction doing a babbly voice-over.
There’d better be a ninjas in the next scene, or I’m ditching this story.
If this is an action adventure—and let’s be clear on the subject, verb, and object, it is not—then… Sorry, backup. By “it” I meant the story. Implied subject. Mrs. Jackson, my old English teacher, would totally rap my knuckles with a ninjato for that, and for using a “to be” verb in a topic sentence. But cut a girl some slack, it’s her first night in town.
Back to the scene. If this story is a macho fist-fest, the Big Muscle Dudes will be too busy grunting to notice that my eyes are puffy from crying. Instead, Big Muscle Dude Number One hits on me. When all I want is chocolate. Then Big Muscle Dude Number Two hits on me. Seriously, how about a little conversation to take the edge off a foreign town? And maybe an ibuprofen. But BMDs don’t do talking, so they hit on each other, instead. The other kind of hit on, I mean. Unless they’re cute and will let me watch.
But no, by Act II we’re in a car chase. I’m strapped into the passenger seat next to Dude One, who shaves with a machete and thinks it’s spelled with a Y. We race across the desert, scaring the crap out of me and some lonely kid looting a broken down Halloween costume van, while Dude Two blasts us with heat-seeking, laser-guided missiles that somehow miss us—but blow open the door to his secret desert lair.
Yeah, Dude Two is a super villain with a catch phrase like, “Mr. Evil, because it’s all about M. E.” Bullets fly, and just when you think it—the story I mean—can’t possibly get any more testosterone stupid, they fight it out in CGI animated super suits. Seriously.
Plus, and this is the real action-adventure giveaway, I’d be holding back more than lonely tears right now. I’d be holding back the truth about being a secret government agent on a last-chance mission to find the Chosen One—the boy who can save our country from the forces of darkness. And I’d have throwing stars appliquéd to my underwear.
If I don’t get chocolate and a little hand-holding in the next scene, somebody’s getting stainless steel perforations. I nominate the plaid fashion disaster who’s about to trip over the wrestling team’s beer keg.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
I have and that book is Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Here is a description of the story from the official book website:
Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother was worth a pocket watch.
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.
Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive.
It is a long and harrowing journey, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?
Today I have the honor of interviewing New York Times Bestselling and multiple award winning author, Ruta Sepetys. Thank you so much for joining us Ruta!
RS - Thank you! It was difficult at times to find that balance. I was trying to address the search for self in the face of death, which can be pretty dark and depressing. My editor, Tamra Tuller, continually pushed me to focus on the hopeful elements. Many of her revision suggestions centered around amplifying the sense of hope. I enjoy bleak stories so my first drafts tend to be pretty depressing. Tamra's suggestions added incredible dimension to the story but allowed me to retain the dark atmosphere I felt was critical for historical authenticity.
Lina is a wonderful character and I remember thinking several times while reading the novel that you had picked a perfect age for her. What made you decide to make Lina fifteen turning sixteen in the book versus a younger or older protagonist?
RS - Many of the survivors I met with were teenagers when they were in Siberia. Their stories were incredibly compelling and they were all so full of fire and bravery. I thought it might add an interesting dimension to the story if it were told from the point of view of a teenage girl. Also, since this is such a little known piece of history, I was hoping that it might be discovered by teachers and librarians. There are so many wonderful librarians who support the YA genre.
When writing a historical, do you plot then research or do you research then plot?
RS - When I started "Between Shades of Gray" I decided to write the book as I was researching. I hoped writing amidst the research process would create a sense of immediacy in the narrative. I'm not sure I'd do that again! I ended up revising quite a bit. I think next time I will research, plot, then draft.
4. Your cover perfectly captures the a ray of hope in a barren wasteland. Can you tell us anything about the journey of your cover and title?
RS - Thank you! I love the cover. I can't take any credit for it though. I wasn't involved in the process at all. Penguin sent me an email saying, "Here's your cover!" and I fell in love with it. They are now designing a new cover for the paperback version which will be released next spring. I can't wait to see it. In terms of the title, "Between Shades of Gray" was my original title for the book. In meeting with survivors I learned that their situation was complicated and choices were difficult. I think we tend to categorize things in extremes (good/evil, love/hate, etc.) But things aren't always black or white. More often, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. And sometimes, when we peel back the layers, the extremes fall away and we can find love and tolerance there, between shades of gray. Not all the Soviets were cruel. Some showed compassion. So the Lithuanians couldn't hate all of the Soviets. Hope and truth lived between endless layers of gray. That was the inspiration for the title.
5. Can you tell us what you are working on now and when it might be available?
RS - I just finished a novel that's set in New Orleans in 1950. It tells the story of a very gifted girl who is the daughter of a French Quarter prostitute. Despite her background and society's opinion of her, she applies to a prestigious college. It's a story of the courage and fortitude it takes to fly when you're born with broken wings. And since it's in New Orleans there's a mystery and a cast of eccentric characters! Philomel/Penguin Young Readers Group is publishing the book in Spring of 2013.
RS - Ooh, there are so many! I love anything by Toni Morrison, Truman Capote, or Ellen Gilchrist. Beth Kephart has a new YA coming out called "Small Damages" that's fantastic. Beth is one of the most beautiful writers. Even her blog posts are poetic. I recently read "Letters From Home" by Kristina McMorris and adored it. I also love Laura Kasischke, a writer from Michigan. Her YA novels are published by HarperTeen and her adult books are through Harper Perennial. If you're looking for a fun, compelling read you must pick up "Dead Rules" by Randy Russell. If I had to choose an all-time favorite book it would be "How I Live Now" by Meg Rosoff.
Thank you so much for visiting with us Ruta!
YA Fusion is excited to give away a signed copy of Between Shades of Gray. To enter, leave a comment below. A drawing will be held the week of December 18th. Tell us about the post, about Between Shades of Gray, or about a book that changed your life.
Please leave your e-mail in the comment so I can contact you if you win. Also, the contest is limited to entries in the U.S. and Canada.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
***WRITING YOUNG ADULT FICTION FOR DUMMIES GIVEAWAY UPDATE***
We have a winner in our drawing for a copy of WRITING YOUNG ADULT FICTION FOR DUMMIES. (Another drum roll, please!) Janet from Ripley, West Virginia is our lucky winner. Thank you to all who posted comments. And once again, thanks to Deborah Halverson for a fabulous interview!
Monday, November 28, 2011
I’ll admit it. I used to be delusional. I had this idea in my head that writers were solitary creatures that only crawled out from under their rock once or twice a day to forage for food and scope things out. This worked for me as I’ve always been incredibly shy. I know, I know—but it’s true. Unless I know you, getting more than three words from me face to face is life trying to yank a pineapple through a pin hole. So the whole works in solitude thing? I was in love.
And I did it for a while. Holed up under my nifty little rock and wrote like there was no tomorrow. But I knew my stuff was lacking. It needed polishing and objective opinions and I wasn’t going to get that by letting my family and friends read it. If I heard one more, Oh it was great. I loved it, and it’s perfect just the way it is, I was going to yak. So I clawed my way out of the hole and joined my first writers group. I kept up with it for a little while, but that particular one just wasn’t a good fit. I never really meshed with any of the members—and trust me. It’s all about meshing.
Finally ready to take another stab at it, I joined RWA for the sole purpose of joining FF&P. That went better. It was less cliquey and had fewer time restrictions on posting to their critique forum, and because it was such a specific kind of group, there were more people that wrote and read what I did. Through FF&P I found my first CPs (who I will chase to the ends of the earth should they ever try to leave me) and then, finally, Savvy Authors.
These people—these communities—are my life support. Without them, I’d still be the person who didn’t know pitches from prologues. The right community will encourage you, give honest feedback (no matter how hard it might be to hear), and supply a shoulder to cry on when rejections and the occasional bad review hit—because they will hit. It’s a part of the process. You’ll learn with each other and from each other.
Your turn! Tell us about how you found your first writing community or critique partner. Do you have one, or are you part of a group? I’m interested to know what people think of online groups versus face to face ones!
Sunday, November 20, 2011
I first discovered my difficulty with that foreign word when trying to market my second completed manuscript. (Yes, the first is serving duty as a dust collector - doing a great job!)What did she mean, "What genre?" I squirmed in front of the agent as I murmured, "Romance." What did she think? This was RWA's national conference. What else would it be?
Then came the flurry of questions: Contemporary or Historical? Category or Single Title? Mystery? Women's Fiction? Sweet? Spicy? I started sweating. Erotic? Paranormal?
I left that pitch session determined to educate myself. But what I found made me think it would be easier to pull all my hair out, one strand at a time, than to split the often razor thin differences between the romance genres and their sub-genres.
Then I started writing YA. Simple, right? YA is YA. Or so I thought as I wrote that new manuscript. But when I started hanging in YA circles and heard rumblings of MG vs. YA my eyes crossed. I held my newly completed baby and wondered yet again, "What have I written?"
Well, thanks to a great break-out session at SCBWI's MidSouth Regional Conference in September, led by editor Alexandra Cooper, I realize I've birthed a full-blooded YA. Ms. Cooper clearly defined MG vs. YA, and given her position, I'm inclined to believe she knows whereof she speaks.
According to Ms. Cooper, it's all about . . . number of pages.
Bet you thought I was going to say the protagonist's age. Yes, that's part of it. But, surprisingly, so is the number of pages. The average MG has 150-200 pages. YA has more.
The biggest difference, however, is plot trajectory. With a MG, the plot runs the course of Home - Away - Home. Here, Home represents the ordinary world of family/friends. Away represents the challenge or opportunity that spurs growth. (Think cliques vs. individualization.) The character grows up a little, but in MG he/she always winds up back at Home. Wiser? Yes. More sure of self? Absolutely. But still at home.
In YA, the plot trajectory is Home - Away. Period. The protagonist starts at Home, but his/her challenge/opportunity pushes them toward independence. He/she may, in the end, still live with Mom and Dad, but it's obvious that those days are numbered. The YA protagonist is clearly ready to stand on her/his own. There is no real going back.
I hope these distinctions help you recognize your baby's family. But either way, keep writing. There are always hybrids! :0