October 16, 2014

Band Geek Thursday: Amy Reed's DAMAGED Playlist

Good morning, Misfits! Today on the blog, we have Amy Reed, telling us about her playlist for her new book, DAMAGED. Take it away, Amy!

DAMAGED is the story of Kinsey and Hunter’s road trip from Michigan to California the summer after senior year, and I think of
this playlist as the soundtrack of their journey. The music reflects the landscapes they travel through, but more importantly, I think it also describes their internal struggles and relationships with each other. For me, the best songs tell a story. All the songs I included on Kinsey and Hunter’s playlist say something about who they are, where they’re coming from, or where they’re headed. Plus, they’re just really awesome songs.

Here’s a little about DAMAGED:
After Kinsey’s best friend Camille dies in a car accident during which Kinsey was driving, Kinsey shuts down, deciding that numbness is far better than mourning. All she wants during the last few weeks of high school is to be left alone, but Camille’s mysterious boyfriend, Hunter–who was also in the car that night–has different ideas.
Despite all of Kinsey’s efforts, she can’t outrun Camille, who begins haunting her dreams. Sleep deprived and on the verge of losing it, Kinsey runs away with Hunter to San Francisco. As they drive across the country, trying to escape both the ghost of Camille and their own deep fears, Kinsey questions all she once believed about her friendship with Camille. Hunter, meanwhile, falls into a spiral of alcoholism, anger, and self-loathing. Ultimately, Kinsey and Hunter must come to terms with what they’ve lost and accept that they can’t outrun pain.
(Disclaimer: I am a recovering music nerd in my mid-30’s, and I very much believe that little good music has come out since the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. This playlist reflects that.) 

xoxo
Amy






Michigan Girls—Califone (Unfortunately, this song is not on Spotify, but you can listen to it on YouTube here)
This is best friends Kinsey and Camille’s song. It makes me think of them floating on their backs in Lake Michigan, looking at clouds and dreaming about their futures. It has so much of their sentimentality and yearning.

Michigan—The Milk Carton Kids
Another song about Michigan. I heard this song for the first time on Pandora when I was running, and I had to stop in the middle of a park for about half an hour to text myself the story ideas that popped into my head. “Michigan’s in the rearview now” is the chorus. “What am I supposed to do now, without you?” This is Evie’s song about leaving Michigan, about saying goodbye to Camille.

The Upper Peninsula—Sufjan Stevens
Really, I could use the entire “Michigan” album by Sufjan Stevens, but that would be cheating. This song perfectly captures the desolation and stark beauty of the UP.

The Last Spike—Cowboy Junkies
Kinsey and Hunter come across several ghost towns and empty, abandoned places during their travels. This song is about the death of a town just like those, and it’s one of the saddest and most haunting songs I’ve ever heard.

Between the Bars—Elliott Smith 
Anyone who knows me knows that I couldn’t put together a meaningful playlist without including a song by Elliot Smith, who I was minorly obsessed with in my early-20’s. He was a brilliant songwriter who was haunted by similar demons as Hunter and died way too young, by suicide. This song is about loneliness and the desperation to connect, and it’s one of my favorites by him.

Tundra/Desert—Modest Mouse
Just the title makes me think of Hunter and Kinsey’s road trip and the miles of desolate America they cover. This is Hunter’s song. It mirrors his intensity and extreme poles of emotion.

I Wish I Was the Moon—Neko Case
One of my very favorite Neko Case songs. These lyrics really encapsulate what both Kinsey and Hunter are going through: 

Last night I dreamt I had forgotten my name
'Cause I had sold my soul but awoke just the same
I'm so lonely
I wish I was the moon tonight

God blessed me, I'm a free man
With no place free to go
I'm paralyzed and collared-tight
No pills for what I fear

Tellings—Ida
I love the sweetness of this song, despite the lyrics hinting at loss and disappointment. It makes me think of Kinsey starting to fully understand and accept the love she feels for Camille and Hunter despite the pain they both cause her.

California—Joni Mitchell
I remember listening to this song driving over the Golden Gate Bridge in my early 20’s and thinking there’s no song that more perfectly describes the feeling of being giddy with possibility, and how California as a destination symbolizes hope and change for so many people coming from somewhere else. 

Home—Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

I love the playful back and forth between the male and female singer, and how the song is kind of march-like and triumphant. I think of it as Hunter and Kinsey’s homecoming song, when they finally reach San Francisco, but more importantly, when they have begun to find “home” within themselves.



Amy Reed is the author of the edgy, contemporary YA novels BEAUTIFUL, CLEAN, CRAZY, and OVER YOU. Her new book DAMAGED releases October 14, 2014. Find out more at www.amyreedfiction.com.
Twitter: @amyreedfiction
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October 9, 2014

Band Geek Thursday: OF SCARS AND STARDUST by Andrea Hannah

Happy Band Geek Thursday, Misfiteers! Today on the blog we've got a very special friend of the Misfits, Of Scars and Stardust author Andrea Hannah! She's here with a playlist for her brand-spankin'-new psychological thriller, about sisters and love and oh just read it because it's beautiful and chilling and it's the perfect read as the weather shifts to cold and creepiness is in the air.... And here's Andrea Hannah!


I’ll be completely honest: I don’t listen to music when I write. There’s something about sitting in the dark, in silence, that really helps me to let my thoughts unravel and I haven’t quite figured out how to do that with music humming along in the background. 

That being said, I do a lot of prep work before I sit down for a writing session. I’ll take down notes and snippets of description and dialogue that come to me throughout the day in Evernote. Then, before I sit down, I play a few songs on repeat while I’m busy making dinner or chasing my kids around to kind of train my brain that it’s almost time to write. But once I start, it’s dead silence.

Below is the playlist I put together when writing my debut novel, Of Scars and Stardust. This is not typically the kind of music I listen to (except for City and Colour), but the tone of this novel calls for low-key, thoughtful, kind of morose tunes. And Fever Ray? That artist is brilliant but her music also makes my stomach twist and my heart pound, which is exactly what I needed when I was envisioning the snapping, biting wolves hidden in brittle cornfields. Below is a short excerpt, when Claire and her sister Ella ride through the cornfields and are just starting to notice something strange about them:
       
     Our bike tires whirred as we cut through the dirt road and the cold air. The cornfields on either side of us blurred into a smear of brown and dripped over into the cement sky. The wind made my face sting and my eyes water, and a few tentative snowflakes shuddered free from the clouds. I dug my boots into the pedals.
    I glanced back. Our house was a little red speck in the middle of broken stalks. The cornfield snapped and rustled in front of me. Ella jerked her bike in between the stalks and pedaled furiously through the snow.
            “Ell—wait.” I shoved my bike forward. But the tires just sank.
            “Crap!” she yelled. Her tires kicked up patches of snow as she inched through the stalks. “Forget this.” She hopped off her bike and let it fall to the ground. I swung off my own bike and followed her.
            “This way,” she huffed. “Right over there.”
            We trudged through the field. I shivered under my coat as I stepped over the broken stalks that Rae and I had sat between just two days before. The spot smelled muddy and earthy like spring. No, the whole field smelled like spring. Like the promise of something about to bloom.
            “Ell, does it smell like spring to you?”
            She stopped and wrinkled her nose. “Nope. It smells like rotting dead things.”
            I touched the dried leaves and they snapped off in my glove. Maybe I just really wanted it to smell hopeful like spring, instead of dead like winter. 

Songs: 

"Werewolf" by Cat Power. This is the book in a nutshell (minus the werewolves part. No humans-turned-wolves in this story). It’s dark and soulful and makes me think of winter and scary things.

"We Found Each Other in the Dark" by City and Colour. Lots of dark happenings in this book, and Claire and childhood crush Grant still end up back in each other’s orbit.

"A Drop in the Ocean" by Ron Pope. Even though this is supposed to be a romantic song, the line “...praying that you and me might end up together” reminds me of Claire and her longing to finally be with her sister.

"Satellite Heart" by Anya Marina. “I’m a satellite heart, lost in the dark. I’m spun out so far...” Claire’s constant questioning of her own sanity. 

"Cosmic Love" by Florence + The Machine. Once again, relating to the kind of love that seems fateful between Claire and Grant.

"I Didn’t Mean It" by The Belle Brigade and "Keep the Streets Empty For Me" by Fever Ray.  Both of these songs have that eery, ominous vibe that the book carries when Claire becomes the town pariah and her frame of mind switches.

"Never Say Never" by Tristan Prettyman. When Claire first leaves Ohio, she thinks that she’ll never have the chance to go back and make amends, but she even though she said “never,” she finds herself back in her hometown.

"Winter" by Joshua Radin. The whole book is winter incarnated, and this song totally reflects that vibe.



Andrea Hannah lives in the Midwest, where there are plenty of dark nights and creepy cornfields as fodder for her next thriller. She graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. in special education. When she’s not teaching or writing, she spends her time chasing her sweet children and ornery pug, running, and dreaming up her next adventure. You can find her at www.andreahannah.com and on Twitter @andeehannah.

October 8, 2014

Wednesday Book Club: #WeNeedDiverse(Comic)Books recommendations by I.W. Gregorio

On the eve of New York Comic Con, YA Misfits is excited to have a guest post from author I.W. Gregorio, who will on the Geeks of Color Go Pro and #WeNeedDiverse(Comic)Books panels tomorrow at #NYCC. Make sure to check out The Book Smugglers Thursday to see the cover reveal for her debut YA novel, None of the Above

I grew up loving the X-Men for a ton of reasons - the angst! The humor! The human pathos! But looking back, I think I was especially drawn to the X-universe because it did such a good job of reflecting the diversity of our world: They had a disabled headmaster, a black female leader, a host of LGBT characters, and one of the first female Asian-American characters who wasn’t a cliche.


It wasn’t until recently, as I started reading to my daughter, that I dove back into the world of graphic novels. I was amazed and impressed to find some real gems that push comics beyond the superhero sterotype. Below, some incredible graphic novels from stunning and diverse voices that deserve amplifying:

El Deafo by Cece Bell

I’ve got to thank the New York Times whose stellar review prompted me to read this fantastic autobiographical novel about growing up hearing impaired. I actually purchased it from my local indie a couple days before it came out… and my daughter and I finished it the day before it’s actual release date. The little one loved the book so much we read it between meals, in the car, and of course at bedtime. A winner in every possible way, showing that we all have a superhero inside us. Happy to have been an early adopter, as the book is a Junior Library Guild selection, a NYT bestseller, and finalist for the Kirkus Prize.

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang

Gene Luen Yang is no stranger to acclaim, having won the Printz and been a National Book Award finalist for American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints. But in some respects The Shadow Hero is my favorite Gene Yang book yet. It’s funny, it’s moving, it’s so incredibly fast paced that I read it in one sitting. And I love, love, love how it plays on comic tropes while simultaneously making fun of Asian mom stereotypes that ring oh-so-true to me. Check out Gene’s speech on diversity in comics from the National Book Festival (and a picture of him sporting his We Need Diverse Books button!). 

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The first 100 pages of Persepolis taught me more about the thorny politics of the Middle East than years of reading the New York Times and Washington Post. In stark, sometimes chilling images, Satrapi tells of the Islamic Revolution through the eyes of a child. Persepolis was made into a movie, and has received numerous challenges, adding to the tally of diverse books that have been disproportionately banned.
 
Fun House by Alison Bechdel

In this book, newly certified genius Bechdel takes every preconception that I’ve ever had about graphic novels and blows it out of the water. It’s impressive, haunting, and deserves every accolade it’s gotten. I’m somewhat ashamed that I hadn’t read it until recently. In this slim but meticulously illustrated volume, Bechdel touches upon suicide, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and of course sexual identity. I would warn teachers and parents that it has a NC-17 rating due to content, but think that it should be required reading for any college-level graphic novel course.   

---------------------



I. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD at Yale, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired None of the Above, her debut novel (pitched as Middlesex meets Mean Girls). A founding member of We Need Diverse Books™, she serves as its VP of Development. She is a recovering ice hockey player and lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. Follow her on Twitter at @iwgregorio.

October 1, 2014

Wednesday Book Club: Five Awesome October Reads

Happy October, Misfiteers! It's a fantastic month for YA, so I wanted to share five of my favorite reads so far so you know what to look forward to! It's also been a really busy month, so while I share the book info here, I didn't leave my own reviews, but they're all here because I thought they were fantastic reads and highly recommend them! Enjoy! 

Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian (10/1)


Sean Norwhalt can read between the lines.

"You never know where we'll end up. There's so much possibility in life, you know?" Hallie said.

He knows she just dumped him. He was a perfectly good summer boyfriend, but now she's off to college, and he's still got another year to go. Her pep talk about futures and "possibilities" isn't exactly comforting. Sean's pretty sure he's seen his future and its "possibilities" and they all look disposable.

Like the crappy rental his family moved into when his dad left.

Like all the unwanted filthy old clothes he stuffs into the rag baler at his thrift store job.

Like everything good he's ever known.

The only hopeful possibilities in Sean's life are the Marine Corps, where no one expected he'd go, and Neecie Albertson, whom he never expected to care about.

"We're something else. Some other thing. I don't know what you'd call it. Maybe there's a word, though. Maybe I'll think of it tomorrow, when it won't matter," Neecie said.


Bleed Like Me by Christa Desir (10/7)

From the author of Fault Line comes an edgy and heartbreaking novel about two self-destructive teens in a Sid and Nancy-like romance full of passion, chaos, and dyed hair.

Seventeen-year-old Amelia Gannon (just "Gannon" to her friends) is invisible to almost everyone in her life. To her parents, to her teachers-even her best friend, who is more interested in bumming cigarettes than bonding. Some days the only way Gannon knows she is real is by carving bloody lines into the flesh of her stomach.

Then she meets Michael Brooks, and for the first time, she feels like she is being seen to the core of her being. Obnoxious, controlling, damaged, and addictive, he inserts himself into her life until all her scars are exposed. Each moment together is a passionate, painful relief.

But as the relationship deepens, Gannon starts to feel as if she's standing at the foot of a dam about to burst. She's given up everything and everyone in her life for him, but somehow nothing is enough for Brooks-until he poses the ultimate test.

Bleed Like Me is a piercing, intimate portrayal of the danger of a love so obsessive it becomes its own biggest threat.

Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez (10/7)

Valentina Cruz no longer exists.

One moment, she was wrapped in Emilio’s arms, melting into his kiss. The next, she was witnessing the unthinkable: a murder in cold blood, ordered by her father and carried out by her boyfriend. When Emilio pulled the trigger, Valentina disappeared. She made a split-second decision to shed her identity and flee her life of privilege, leaving the glittering parties and sultry nightlife of Miami far behind.

She doesn’t know how to explain to herself what she saw. All she knows now is that nothing she believed about her family, her heart, or Emilio’s love, was real.

She can change her name and deny her past, but Valentina can’t run from the truth. The lines between right and wrong, and trust and betrayal, will be blurred beyond recognition as she untangles the deceptions of the two men she once loved and races to find her own truth.

Of Scars and Stardust by Andrea Hannah

After her little sister mysteriously vanishes, seventeen-year-old Claire Graham has a choice to make: stay snug in her little corner of Manhattan with her dropout boyfriend, or go back to Ohio to face the hometown tragedy she's been dying to leave behind.

But the memories of that night still haunt her in the city, and as hard as she tries to forget what her psychiatrist calls her "delusions," Claire can't seem to escape the wolf's eyes or the blood-speckled snow. Delusion or reality, Claire knows she has to hold true to the most important promise she's ever made: to keep Ella safe. She must return to her sleepy hometown in order to find Ella and keep her hallucinations at bay before they strike again. But time is quickly running out, and as Ella's trail grows fainter, the wolves are becoming startlingly real.

Now Claire must deal with her attraction to Grant, the soft-spoken boy from her past that may hold the secret to solving her sister's disappearance, while following the clues that Ella left for only her to find. Through a series of cryptic diary entries, Claire must unlock the keys to Ella's past—and her own—in order to stop another tragedy in the making, while realizing that not all things that are lost are meant to be found.

Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

It's an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp -- the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn't return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed.

Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp's done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance -- and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her.

This debut novel is full of atmosphere, twists and turns, and a swoon-worthy romance

September 29, 2014

Monday Pep Rally: Confessions of A Bad YA Fan



Since we've all gotten so used to getting our thoughts down in 140 characters - and it's fun to keep the conversation flowing - we've take the Pep Rally to twitter! Every Monday, we host a twitter chat and we'd love you to join in. Just keep an eye out for the #MisfitPepRally hashtag! 

Whoa. It's been a long time since I've been on the blog. I missed my Misfits! At long last, summer is over and I can return to my regularly scheduled life. But first, I have to confess something: I don't remember the last book I read. It's been that long. How horrible is that? I love books. I love reading. My best writing happens when I'm reading.

I could make excuses about how busy this summer was or how I've used my spare time for writing, but really, I've just been tired. Books have an amazing ability to transport us into the heads of other people and with my own introverted mind stretched to the breaking point by real life human interaction, I haven't wanted to invite anything more in, be it books or TV or movies. With one last big event next weekend, I'm anxious to pick up my TBR pile again - before it topples and buries me in unread treasures.

In all truth, that's probably not my worst crime as a YA fan. I could confess that I totally related to Bella or I disliked Harry Potter (the character) or that I've never read anything by John Green. And I don't love Taylor Swift. Are you all ready to disown me yet? (Please don't!)

Make me feel better: what is your worst confession as a bad YA fan? Head to the comments or twitter and get it all out. Confession is good for the soul!

September 22, 2014

Which Movie Adaptations of YA Novels Are On Your Must-See List?

Since we've all gotten so used to getting our thoughts down in 140 characters - and it's fun to keep the conversation flowing - we've take the Pep Rally to twitter! Every Monday, we host a twitter chat and we'd love you to join in. Just keep an eye out for the #MisfitPepRally hashtag!

Hey, Misfit-y types!

So last night, I did something I haven't done in a looong time - I finished a book. Reading one, not writing one. Unfortunately, free time is not something I have in spades these days, so it felt pretty momentous to sit down and read something cover to cover.

It helps when the book is as good as this one:


This, of course, is the sequel to IF I STAY, which I read a few months ago and loved. I finished it right before the movie came out, and I'm dyyyyying to see it. I mean, have you seen the trailer?


It's heartwrenching, sweet, and sexy, all rolled into one. I don't know how I've stayed away this long. Oh wait - yes I do. It's called not having a babysitter.

*Sigh*

One day....

So, Misfits - what movie adaptations of YA novels are you chomping at the bit to see? Or HAVE seen? What did you think of them? Let us know on Twitter using the hashtag #MisfitPepRally!

September 12, 2014

Casual Friday: Not Your Dad's Comic Con

Comic Cons have long been the refuge of the geek. Mecca, for all things nerd. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend my first, and I have to say, it both was and was not what I expected. Sure, the geekdom was there. And it was fabulous. I cosplayed. Got my photo taken with John Barrowman, and in the TARDIS. Stood in line for hours, and wandered the many, many booths on the exhibition floor.

What I didn't expect were all the writing panels.

In its second year, Salt Lake Comic Con is already rivaling SDCC as one of the biggest conventions in the nation. And if you saw the guest list, you'd believe it. But beyond the hype and the celebs and the cosplay were some hard-core writing panels. Honestly, I came out of the weekend feeling like I'd been at a writer's conference, not a comic con. And it was amazing. I talked to authors, connected, listened, live-tweeted...and it was beautiful. So here, my lovely Misfiteers, is the summary of my weekend, and all the writing advice I could glean from many, many professionals.

Thursday was a light day, only a half day, which was good, since I spent 2.5hrs waiting in line just to get in (despite the early entry). I ended up late to my first panel, with notable guests Brandon Sanderson, David Farland, and Larry Correia. Which was a shame, because they were talking rising action & plot, and I missed most of it. Oops. Next I caught 2 women-centric panels - Keeping the Feminine But Adding The -ism (geared more to film, but there was a lot of character creation discussion) and Women of Sci-Fi and Fantasy: More Than Just Strong. These were both amazing panels on characterization, and the basic message was this - write people first, gender/race/orientation/etc second. Don't fall into tropes, just write real people.

My last panel of the night was on Writing Suspense, with Larry Correia & Bree Despain (among others). They talked a lot about the generation of suspense with and without threat - using promise, surprise, anticipation all leading to a payoff, and that in its most basic form, suspense is found everywhere from picture books to thrillers. Good suspense, however, requires the reader to care about the characters, to feel invested. Your story should ask questions, or make the reader ask questions. Keep them partly in the dark, all while leading them forward. Drop hints, but hide the larger picture.

Friday was awesome. I cosplayed for the first time (yeah, FemShep, baby!), met up with a whole other group of Mass Effect cosplayers, and attended a ton more panels. Started out the morning with Fight Choreography, which was a lot of fun to watch. Next I headed into a panel questioning Is Epic Fantasy Still Relevant to the Genre? The answer, as I'm sure none of you are surprised to hear, is a resounding yes. Besides Brandon Sanderson (an undisputed king in this genre), we also got to hear from literary agent Michelle Witte. Sanderson broke down the 4 main types of high fantasy:
  1. Heroic Fantasy - the 1 vs. many, with low magic and big heroism, lots of fights. These kinds trace their lineage back to stories like Beowulf.
  2. Doorway-to-Fantasy - stories like the Narnia books, where the hero steps through a door & enters a magical world.
  3. Urban Fantasy - the more modern type, which has apparently grown to encompass horror as well. Tends to the darker, more gritty stories.
  4. Epic Fantasy - these are the Tolkein-esk stories, big quests in big worlds, often with groups of heroes, large character casts, lots of magic, and a big evil that must be defeated.
There was a lot of talk that honestly, went too fast for my notes, but touched on the differences in YA & Adult fantasy, prologues (the ever present prologue question!), etc. The answer to prologues, since this is the genre they're most found in, is that if the information is elsewhere in the book, you don't need it. If it doesn't move the plot forward, you don't need it. But if it presents information that you can't find anywhere else in the story, keep it. (There was also some discussion on how to hide your prologue as a first chapter, or a stage setting.) Sanderson also pointed out that good fantasy needs 2 things - an element of the strange, and of the familiar. Wordcounts: large word counts need to be extraordinary stories. If you can tell a more concise story, do it. Trilogies are still overdone. Series less so, but the phrase you want is Stand-Alone with Series Potential. In other words, have a complete story arc in bk1.

In the same vein, Magic, Myths, Legends, Archetypes and the Supernatural (also with Michelle Witte, and Jill Williamson of GoTeenWriters) also played with the spec fic wheelhouse. As far as market goes, PNR, Fairytale Retellings, and Dystopian are way over-saturated right now (and don't even mention vampires. Really). There are a lot of tropes and archetypes out there - put a new twist on an old version, or go back to the root. Myths and legends evolve, and what we know them as today is usually vastly different from where they started. Also, explore the lesser-known ones. The example of Red from Once Upon A Time was mentioned - Red Riding Hood, who is also the wolf.

Saturday was insane. Biggest day of the Con, with so many people you could hardly move. Started off the day with another female character-centric panel, discussing the different types of strong. Again, the point is to create a person, with assets and flaws. The rest is secondary. Flaws are necessary in every character, but at the same time, don't make them all flaw. Give them a strength to balance the weak. Redeeming qualities & redeeming circumstances. Character arcs are vastly important. Growth, conflict, failing, persevering, overcoming... We read for the emotional connection of the arc. What are you going to do to let your character earn the reader's trust? Don't wait until the end to do this. Characters need objectives. They can't just be there. Don't write characters that just sit there looking pretty. Also, remember that your villains have a backstory, too. Strong characters (female or otherwise) don't have to be the hero. Strong villains, strong secondaries. Write characters you respect.

Building A Move-In Ready World was all about worldbuilding. This panel again featured Jill Williamson, and also debut author Shallee McArthur (her novel The Unhappening of Genesis Lee releases in November). First major point was Don't info-dump your worldbuilding. Let it come out with the story. Your world isn't just about the facts. It's about the people, how they react & interact with their surroundings. Rituals, heroes, history, symbols, etc can all be part of a well thought out world. Consistency is key. Find a balance between your world & your story. Don't info-dump. Focus on what's important to the character, and remember that the little details make all the difference. Your world can & should be a character all its own, but remember not to overwhelm your readers. The world, like everything else, should always be in service to the story. (I met David Farland after this panel. He's a really nice guy.)

The Teen Hero was a fabulous panel on YA, with Jacob Gowans, Renee Collins, Michelle Witte, and Courtney Alameda (who recently guested here, and whose debut Shutter comes out in February. I got to meet her after, and she's fabulous). The question of why teens are so great to write, and why we find them so relatable, is huge. It's a fast-paced, frenetic, awkward time of life. We've all been there, a time where change is constant, everything is extreme, everything is emotional & bigger. But the best thing is how it's full of possibility. Teens aren't who they'll end up yet, everything is fluid, and anything can happen. When writing teens, remember that they screw up. We all did. They're anti-heroes, reactionary, immature - but they're also deep, sometimes older than their years, talented, and essentially walking contradictions. As capable as they are, there's also insecurity & hubris. Teen stories are all about change, firsts. They are flawed & complex - but not stupid. (No more than any of us are, anyway!)

My last panel was on the Whedonverse, and why we love Joss. Basically, it's his talent for story, for character, for making us care. But we all knew that.

And there you have it! My virgin Comic Con experience, boiled down into a not-so-short blog post. I had a ton of fun, met a lot of great writers, and came away with new friends and a new appreciation for my geekhood. So if you have a chance to go to a con, I highly recommend it, not just to geek out, but because you never know what you'll find.

Happy Friday!

September 8, 2014

Monday Pep Rally: Where Do You Discover New Books?


Since we've all gotten so used to getting our thoughts down in 140 characters - and it's fun to keep the conversation flowing - we've take the Pep Rally to twitter! Every Monday, we host a twitter chat and we'd love you to join in. Just keep an eye out for the #MisfitPepRally hashtag!

Morning, all! There's something that has long puzzled and intrigued me as both a writer and a reader, so today, I want to turn it to you. Where do you discover new books? 

Specifically, where do you find them online, besides from direct recommendations? I mean, I'll read anything Misfit Dahlia recommends, but I'll also see a pretty cover on a Goodreads list that leads me to check out a book, or I might run across people chatting on twitter about a book and look for it next time I'm in a bookstore, or if a blog I follow has an author interview and the book seems intriguing, I'll seek it out. But really, I'm not sure I could tell you what my number one source of new books it. So I'm wondering...besides personal recs, do you have a source that's always reliable?

Where online do you discover new books?

September 3, 2014

Writing Club Wednesday: Some Advice from Neil Gaiman

So, I have a Tumblr. Right before I sleep after a crazy day, just mindlessly scrolling through Tumblr is the perfect way to de-stress and unwind.*

Usually, all I find are funny gif-sets or cute dog photos. But recently, with awesome writers** like Maggie Stiefvater, Beth Revis, Lauren DeStefano, Melissa Marr, Sarah Rees Brennan, Tamora Pierce, and Neil Gaiman  all joining Tumblr, I also occasionally stumble upon really good writing advice that gets me all pumped up and inspired to write again.

And so this morning, I wanted to share with you a list of really good advice that I found on Neil Gaiman's Tumblr, which I recently discovered in this cool graphic form.

He says a lot of really wise things in the ten pieces of advice (which you should definitely check out if you haven't done so already) but I think what struck me the most were the first three things on his list: "Write," "Put one word after another," and "Finish what you're writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it."

This advice was critical for me since--especially when I first started writing--I sometimes had writer's block because I was afraid to suck/fail/write crap/etc and was stressing myself out too much about how to "write properly." I'd feel too overwhelmed because of my desire to make things (the plot, the character, the prose, what have you) "perfect" or sometimes because I had too many things I wanted to write about and couldn't commit myself to one project (and I didn't want to make the "mistake" of choosing the "wrong" one.)

Somehow, it totally escaped me that in the end, none of this mattered. Or at least, not as much as I thought it did, as long as I actually wrote things down. Even though things probably sucked now, they could always be improved on later, and if I didn't know which project to commit to, it was better to have two (or more) separate, unfinished projects than to have absolutely nothing.***

I especially love the simplicity in his #1 piece of writing advice, which is just the word "write."Of course, not everybody will find this advice helpful (it is a bit obvious, I know) but for over-thinkers like me, a reminder to just "write" and "put one word after another [and do] whatever you have to do to finish it" can go a long way.

I wish you a happy Wednesday and hope this was as helpful to you as it was to me.

Remember: WRITE.

* I tried writing/reading during this time but after spending the entire day writing/reading hundreds of pages for work-related things, my vision blurs when I see black text on white paper & my writing becomes something like: "and then he walked into the room...to get cake???" so I save these activities for the morning.

**And literary agents...like the New Leaf Literary Agency, Emily Keyes, Maria Vicente, and 
Pam van Hylckama Vlieg to name a few!

***After all, it's much easier to go back and fix (or add to) what's already there than to try to work with nothing at all.




August 27, 2014

Writing Club Wednesday: Writer's Block and Inspiration (or, Finding Balance)

Good morning, Misfiteers!

It's Wednesday, and I don't know about any of the rest of you, but here the weather has made that detour into autumn. School started last week, the air is crisper, and we've even had snow dust the higher peaks around us.

None of which has anything to do with my topic today. Or does it? I've talked about pushing past the block and getting yourself writing before, but I wanted to hit up the flip-side today, because I realized something recently. Sometimes you don't have writer's block because the words won't come. Sometimes, you get it because there are just too many words. Yeah, that's right. Too many ideas. It's not something I thought was possible, but it is. I've been struggling with it all summer.

I have too many stories in my head, and they're all fighting over who gets to come out. Which, for a pantser like me, is really not helpful. Really.

The trouble is inspiration. It's everywhere. People. Dreams. Shows. Books. Music. Everyday, inanimate objects. Family. Work. Oh, the inspiration I get from work. The ideas are out there, everywhere. So I'm learning new tricks. My notebooks have become invaluable. I have scenes scribbled that I have no idea what story they belong to. I've learned that even when I'm swamped with work, I have to make myself stop and write. Just for an hour. A half hour. Five minutes. Sketch out a scene. Do something. Otherwise, all those ideas will just keep piling up.

And it's tricky. Growing as a writer sometimes means that more than just our writing grows. Balancing life and words is never easy, but it seems the further we progress in our writing careers, sometimes the less time we have. Take the moments. Write every day. I know, some days it just isn't possible to sit down and write. Too much going on, too little energy. I know. So pull open that notepad, Evernote, phone app, napkin, whatever. Write a sentence. Write a word. Anything.

Your inspiration will thank you.

 
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