Wednesday, January 27, 2010

RTW: My favorite book covers

I like lots of book covers. I am very easily enticed. But here are a few of the ones that caught my eye the most. I think it'll be pretty obvious that I go for simple, and that I don't like people on covers all that much.
Note: the images were being pains in the butt, so sorry if this post's formatting isn't the most beautiful of all time.

To start with, the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix. The covers that I have actually only have the title, symbols, and then either a white or black background. But when I googled, I found these, and they're all pretty too. This trilogy is also among my favorite books.

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer has a really nice cover. The whole series does, actually. This was by far my least favorite of the series, but my favorite cover. I'm not sure why. It's very glossy and black and white. I like that.

Fade by Lisa McMann. It just looks cool. Obviously, I like covers with a lot of black.

Fire by Kristin Cashore is both one of my favorite books and one of my favorite colors. It's better to see the actual book. It's glossy, and has raised areas. It's just pretty.

Ironside by Holly Black. I really like this cover, because it's incredibly creepy looking.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. The cover is just amazing, because it looks so innocent and it's so not. It reminds me of how haunting the book is, just looking at it.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. I like how the I is dotted with blood. And that the cover has a lot of white. I just like simple.

So there you have it, some of my favorite covers--maybe too many of my favorite covers. Visit YA Highway to see what everyone else said, and share yours too!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Computer failure, panic, and relief.

So this past weekend--well, Friday, to be exact--my computer had a bit of a meltdown. It needed to be restarted after it auto-installed a windows update, which is something that happens every now and then. Except this time, it wouldn't restart.

Cue panic.

With the help of my very patient boyfriend, I tried about everything you can try to get the thing going, but it was having an actual, serious error. So eventually came the inevitable, terrifying conclusion: we were going to have to find the disk that came with the computer and reinstall the whole thing. From scratch.


First things first, I had to think about whether or not all my important writing was saved elsewhere. Which it was. Thankfully. I'm not sure what we would've done otherwise. So I braved it and gnawed at my fingernails, watching intently from the couch, while my boyfriend--who had no qualms about this reinstallation at all--wiped my poor hard drive clean and started it over.

I then had repeated small moments of panic as I installed my graphics, sound, and monitor drivers, Microsoft Office, trillian (because instant messaging is oh-so-important), Google Chrome, adobe, direct x, and all the other little necessities.

My computer was in working order again, but this is when the really terrifying part came. Actually seeing, for sure, whether or not I had all my necessary documents. I started with photobucket, since I'm a chicken, and I knew there was no way photobucket would randomly decide to delete all my pictures of the baby. I was right. They were there.

So then I went into my email, and downloaded Unthawed from an attachment I'd sent. When I opened it in word and it was all there and pretty and final, I literally cried. I didn't cry upon opening any of my other documents, but there was a little burst of relief every time.

Thank God I am a regular user of jump drives, email, and other methods to back up the important stuff on my computer.

Because of that, I can say it all worked out, and my computer is probably better for it.

But it was definitely a lesson for me in yes, your computer CAN have terrible incidents, even when you least expect it.

I'm glad I survived my lesson!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Those strange, strange things you do

I have a lot of random little hobbies. In fact, I blogged about some of them for Roadtrip Wednesday a while ago. Some of my hobbies, I am more willing to share with the world than others. I mean, it's hard to know sometimes, if the things you enjoy are "normal" or if you're being kind of weird.

But then...why do we worry about this so much? I absolutely do have little pixelated petz running around on my computer, and come on: are they not adorable? But none of my friends have any idea what the hell petz is, or why I love the little things.
Or none did, anyway. Until I found other people online who played with these exact same little critters. I had things in common with them, and I felt for them and the best part: they came from all over the world. This was the first time really that I met people online.

And it wasn't the scary, To Catch A Predator type deal people sometimes imagine when they think "meeting people online". I still have yet to meet anyone I know from online in person (soon, though. Soon!) but it doesn't matter. A whole new world opened to me when I discovered how to befriend people I didn't get to see face to face. There was drama and laughter and tears and everything I had with all my offline friends. And I wondered how I'd never discovered it before.

That one little online community propelled me into others,
of course. I would have never discovered any of the wonderful writing community that led me to the YA Highway ladies had it not been for forums about the sims (which I blogged about on YA Highway.) I had a lot of fun with the sims, and with writing for the sims. I liked making ridiculous looking sims and gorgeous sims and having them argue and get along, and I also pretended I had skills at architecture, building them super rockin houses based off floor plans I found online. The little online community I found of people who also played the sims and wrote their stories made the game so much more fun, and made my hobby not feel so dorky.

This led me to forums for writing, my ultimate love. I wouldn't even call writing a hobby so much, because it's kind of so much a part of my life and always has been that it feels like more (and hopefully it will be more! A little extra income maker one day?) It's not one of those things I don't talk about because I think people will find me weird, but more because I think people just won't "get" it. The way I don't get how my boyfriend can sit and look at different cars (or worse--car parts) for hours on end. Writing is fun, it's rewarding, but it's also a lot of work! It makes me feel relaxed and happy, but sometimes tense and angry and sad and ecstatic, too, depending on what I do to my poor characters.

It was like being in heaven to discover other people who felt like me, and to get to know some of them on a deeply personal level. Because I was brave enough to branch out of my comfort zone and take a chance on meeting friends in an unconventional way.

I guess there isn't much to take away from this post except I hope you all find your own niches, find your own herd(s) of people who share your hobbies, no matter how odd.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Roadtrip Wednesday: The best book no one's ever heard of

I am really excited about this week's topic, because I can never find people who have read this book, and it's my favorite. So prepare for me to gush.

Well, first of all, because I'm a lame summarizer, here's what the back cover of Shade's Children by Garth Nix says:

In a brutal city of the future, human life is in the hands of the evil Overlords who have decreed that no child shall live a day past his fourteenth birthday. On that Sad Birthday, the child is the object of an obscene harvest--his brain and muscles are used to create machine-like creatures whose sole purpose is to kill.
The mysterious Shade--once a man, but now more like the machines he fights--recruits the few children lucky enough to escape. He gives them food, shelter, and the training they need to fight the Overlords. But Shade's sent many children out on missions--and fewer of them are coming back.
By luck, cunning, and skill, four of Shade's children--Ella, Drum, Ninde, and Gold-Eye--have come closer than any to discovering the source of the Overlords' power--and the key to their downfall. But the closer the children get, the more ruthless Shade seems to become...

It really is as awesome as it sounds. It is constantly exciting, and I love everything about this book. It's kind of older, I think it came out sometime in the 1990's. (I know, the stone age.) But with the popularity of dystopian right now, people need to get on top of reading this.

I have to admit that I'm a huge fan of Garth Nix to begin with. I also love his Abhorsen trilogy, but will read pretty much anything he publishes. But Shade's Children was the first book I read by him, and it was also a little out of the norm for me at the time. I was very into epic fantasy at that point, and didn't branch out a whole lot.

So what, in particular makes Shade's Children awesome? Well, there's a little bit of romance, which is always a plus. The four main characters are all well-developed and easy to sympathize with. And the two girls are both kickass, but in their own ways--Ella because she just is, Ninde because she kind of has to be. Shade is both creepy and helpful, and you seriously have no idea throughout the whole book whether he's going to turn out good or bad. The Overlords and their machine-like creatures are just so creepy. Especially the Overlords, who see humans as this inferior species, meant to be hunted, unable to comprehend anything about the universe. The children (or teens, really. All the main characters are somewhere between 15-19, though none of them really know their exact age) use the sewer system to travel around the city, because it's the only place they're safe from the creatures, and they live in a partially submerged submarine, long abandoned.

It's just so creepy and awesome and tense and well-written, and I think everyone should read it. Especially if you're planning on writing, or currently writing, something dystopian.

Want to share your favorite book no one's ever heard of? Visit YA Highway to share yours, and to see the links to others!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How to treat a beta

This is kind of an advicey post, I guess. I wrote it about a month ago, but finally I've decided to post it.

I think--I hope--my own beta readers know how much I adore and appreciate them. They give me all kinds of advice and encouragement, both critical and uplifting. On little chunks, on big picture problems. They are amazingly dedicated, and I couldn't have asked for better people to help me (try to) succeed.

And this is the way betas are supposed to be. They try, they care, they add a little of their own blood, sweat, and tears to yours. It's hard to remember that sometimes, because your ms is your baby, not theirs! But it always bears remembering that you would probably go nowhere if you tried to do it on your own.

The magic of betas--and later, agents, editors, and the general public--is an ability to see things you just can't. No matter how hard you try, you're not going to notice everything. No one does. In fact, one of my favorite things about discussing books with other people is hearing their varied opinions, the different things they noticed were "right" or "wrong" about the book.

Which brings me to my point. Feedback can be really overwhelming. Sometimes it takes a little time to absorb suggestions and work through them. On a sidenote, Kristin Miller just wrote a super awesome post about working through revisions, and what to do with that feedback.

Sometimes, you get scary advice. Maybe a beta doesn't understand a major plot point, or doesn't understand why your character would ever do what they did, or thinks something is unrealistic or needs fleshing out.

But just because it's scary advice doesn't mean it's wrong advice. You are only hurting yourself if you use the ignore and justify method. Okay, so this piece is the way it is because of your end. Well, if it's not working for readers, then your end doesn't matter, because no one will get that far. Maybe you did thorough character profiles, and maybe your character is so clear and vivid and 3-D in your head. But if they aren't coming off that way, then you have work to do.

Making excuses and justifying your every choice is so easy.

But giving advice ample consideration and making your story the best it can be is so rewarding.

And being kind to your betas ensure they'll come back to read for you again!

Just some food for thought. And not really based on any of my own experience. Not only am I lucky in having fantastic beta readers, but I've gotten to beta read for some pretty awesome people myself.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

If you'd like to help Haiti...

Visit YA Highway for a great post by Michelle and Kirsten, with lots of suggestions for how you can help!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Roadtrip Wednesday: What do people say?

This week's Roadtrip Wednesday asks: What do people say when they learn you're writing a book?

I haven't gotten any supremely unusual reactions, to be honest. Mostly, I don't talk about it with people because the conversation gets too confusing and complicated, once they start asking about "when I will be published" and things of that nature. So the most common response has been that people are proud of me for writing a book. Which is nice! I like when people are enthusiastic about it, or display a genuine interest in talking to me about how it's going and all of that.

My least favorite of the questions I've been asked has to be, "Will you make me a character" or the similar, "Will you name a character after me?" you want that flaws and all? 'Cause I don't think you'll really like it as much as you think.

I've had a few people tell me they want to write a book one day, and I get a lot of questions about "how you do it" or "writing sounds boring". Or, "omg will you be rich like Stephenie Meyer/JK Rowling? And will you still talk to me when you are?"

My dear sweet sister, who isn't really an avid reader, asked how long after a book comes out they make a movie of it, usually.

I'm glad she has so much faith in me...

Join us with your own blog post, at YA Highway!

ETA: I had to edit this, because I just remembered another gem from my sister (which will be better if you've read my lovely post from last week's Roadtrip Wednesday). When she first found out I wanted to be published, she said, "it's not about cows, is it?" She was very relieved when I said no. I don't think she felt I'd have much luck that way!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Thanks for the comments everyone!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Roadtrip Wednesday: In the beginning... writing was not good. I mean, no one's was! If I had it here, I would share the story that started my writing obsession, but it's tucked away somewhere at my parents' house. It's called Flutter the Fly, and I wrote it when I was seven. For fun, not for school. It's about a fly (named Flutter!) who goes in her little fly cage (something like this, minus the accessories) to the fair, where she gets shown and wins a blue ribbon.

I was cool enough to bring it to school one day and show it to my teacher, who thought it was so good that she asked if it was okay if she read it aloud to the rest of the class.

I was so proud/embarrassed.

And of course, I never looked back.

But since I don't have that here, you get my first "serious" (I use this term way loosely) attempt at writing a novel. It was pretty long, but all handwritten so I have no idea of the exact length, and it was actually well thought out, if strange. I was eleven, I think, or maybe twelve when I wrote the majority of this. I stopped working on it when I was about thirteen or fourteen.

The plot: Genetically modified kangaroos have taken over Earth. They killed all the humans except a few smart ones who they keep imprisoned on an island in case they need them for anything. And they've started culling farm animals who don't live up to their standards of beauty, in rounds. Later, they intend to do pets and wild animals as well, but they've started with farm animals. The main character is a cow named Frosti. (Um, this was also my putting an "i" at the end of names instead of a "y" phase). There's more, but that's the gist. So enjoy some thoroughly embarrassing little snippets of my lovely old writing. Be warned, it gets really purple in places. And I avoided any pieces with dialog, because it's too embarrassing to even show to others.

The first two paragraphs of chapter one.
Cattle Creek Farm was a majestic place. It was nestled in a pretty little valley that also encompassed a quaint town called Summerville. The town was a farming community, and all of the farms were rich and luxurious. But none compared to Cattle Creek Farm.

The farm had three large barns to house the one thousand or so cattle who lived there. Each barn was equipped with the latest comfort technology, including heated floors, soft cushions in the free stalls, and soothing massage stalls on the ends. Nearby these was another structure, a towering hay barn that stood out against the early morning sky with its lofty roof throwing eerie shadows across the ground. The magnificent and far-reaching fields were filled with cows, their velvety brown coats gleaming as they grazed and chewed their cud peacefully.

A piece of the chapter I was most proud of (my MC has been taken to a slaughterhouse, along with a younger calf named Socks.)*
Before night had fallen their hearts were permanently scarred with the suffering they had witnessed. They saw calves fall under the feet of the cattle, screaming as they died painfully. They watched as time and again the two brute-like kangaroos flung calves over the fence. Occasionally the calf didn't make it over, and the small fragile skulls would crack on the bulging boards that barely held in the mass of cows in the pen. Blood would splatter everywhere, and the contents of the calf's head dripped onto the ground. The kangaroos would then simply laugh and say, "Damn! Bad throw."

There were also those bovines who found bad footing on top of the others and slid horrified through a crack. Frosti would then hear the crack of a rib, the grinding of bone against cement and bone, or the grotesque snap of a limb breaking off. The agonized moans of the dying beast would then follow.

The sickening sights and sounds were enough to make some do horrible things. One mother screamed as her baby fell down, its last word a pitiful heart-wrenching, "Mommy!" The cow flung herself after, and Frosti flinched at the sound of her bones crunching.

"Socks," she said firmly. "We will escape."

[end of chapter]

In case anyone fears for poor Frosti, she did escape (and so did Socks). They started a revolution with some wild animals in the forest. I honestly don't know where this idea came from, but I think I might have just learned about the Holocaust for the first time around when I got this idea.

*It's important to me that I point out: this in no way reflects my view (past or present) on what actual slaughterhouses are like. They are not like this. No matter how you feel on the subject, I hope you all know that too.

Hope you enjoyed my lameness! Feel free to tease...nicely.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

This no kissing teaser business...

Thanks for the comments, everyone!