Wednesday, November 16, 2011

IRL Fairy Tale.

So, I promised you guys my news! And as promised, here it is:


I know some of you may be scratching your heads and asking, "Katie, how old are you again?" Trust me when I say this has been a long time coming, and I couldn't be happier about it.

Le happy family: My older brother Matt, The happy couple, my mom Tracy and James, and me, with my terrible haircut.

James met my mother about 12 years ago now. When he met her, she was a young mother of two, married to my father, and working show homes as a new realtor. He described it to me as, "I knew she was married, but I just thought she was so cute." He would make excuses to come by her show home to talk to her. He had to come up with some pretty good excuses, as her show home was across the city from where he lived. At the time, my mother was in an unhappy relationship, and she felt she needed to get out. That summer, she brought my brother and I to her hometown in BC to think about what she wanted to do with her life. James and my mom fell out of contact.

After the summer, my mother came back to Calgary and filed a divorce with my father. At the same time, James was thinking of moving, and a friend gave him my mother's card. They got back in contact and over the years that followed they became good friends. I remember being about 9-10, and James would come over and play with me. He'd run around in the backyard or wrestle me to the ground or talk to me. They made a strange pair. James was a high school dropout who worked hardwood floors. He had about 9 piercings in his face, and was covered in tattoos. My mom was a single mother of two children living in suburbia.

5 1/2 years ago, James and my mom started dating. Want to know how I found out? I was in Junior High, sitting in the back seat of my mother's car. James at the time had a DUI (Did I mention he went to prison for 30 days for it? No? James is the bad boy all right.) and couldn't drive. My mother was dropping him off at his house. We pulled up, and before James got out, he leaned over and kissed my mom. My jaw dropped, and I squealed something along the lines of "WTF!" and they explained that they had started dating.

James soon moved into our little house in suburbia. My brother and I were more than accepting. We had known James for years and he'd always been more than respectful to both of us. Unfortunately, James moved in during a difficult time for our family. I was a teenager and my brother was dealing with his own issues. There were a lot of bad times. There were good times too. But through it all he was there. He was more of a dad than my real father. Within two years, he was my dad. He was the one who threatened the boys with a rusty shovel when they came over. He was the one who joked, "I have a shotgun and no one's gonna miss you." He was the one who sat with me when I cried, and came to celebrate my successes. More than that, he was always there for my mom. He respected her, he told her everything, and supported her. He never hesitated to show he loved her, which was way more than my own father ever did.

My mom had never really been lucky in love. Her husband had cheated on her, she didn't get the big wedding or a fancy proposal. In fact, she didn't get any proposal. My father turned to her and said, "Hey, your family's going to be in town next month. Why don't we surprise them with a wedding?" My mother was a lot like me in her younger days, and kept quiet and accepted that her husband would never appreciate her with flowers or surprises, never help her with her kids, and would go out and cheat on her. The divorce was probably the best thing she ever did.

For the last few years, James has been studying to get his high school degree so he can get a better job. The hardwood job was hard on his body, but also hard on his relationship. Working late into the evening left my mother lonely, and he wanted to come home to her. Everyone (note: me) said they should get married. James had never believed in marriage, and never wanted to be one of those "sheep" that lives in suburbia, with a white picket fence and mows his lawn every Saturday. It strikes me as such a YA happy ending. The bad boy and the good girl become friends, deal with their trials and fall in love.

The plan was to wait until after James graduated before they got married. But that would have been another three years. This weekend, while my mother was in California for a real estate conferences, James came to a conclusion. He didn't want to wait. He talked it over with me and my brother. I was ecstatic. He bought the ring, prepared his speech, and I helped him with the details. Like the candles and rose petals and the quotes and the pictures and all that. James's plan was to bring her into her room and just propose. *snort* Boys.

So when James brought my mom home from the airport, he led her up the stairs and brought her into their room. Me, my brother, his girlfriend, and my hetro life partner Kirstie were huddled in the dark living room in silence. ("They home! Quick, everybody play Skyrim!") He got down on one knee, and asked her to marry him.

She said yes!!

James and my mom are the perfect fairy tale. It just goes to show that sometimes true love is right in front of you. That real love is worth the wait.

The best part? I GET TO PLAN A WEDDING!!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Privacy and Social Media

So I just read this and it got me thinking. Andy Boyle was recently in a Burger King in which he watched a fight between a married couple. He tweeted the play-by-play of the fight, including pictures of the couple, and even a video of the fight. And I don't know what to think of it.

On the one hand, there is an indignant part of my brain that wants to stamp my foot and exclaim, "THAT'S JUST NOT RIGHT." I want to get all huffy and say it's unfair to broadcast their problems across the internet without their consent. And yet, another part of me is completely indifferent to how THEY feel. After all, if they didn't want their fight to be public, they would have discussed their issues in the car or at home. There is no privacy in public anymore.

In the end, I'm so torn by what to feel that I can only feel saddened for the couple, if only for Andy Boyle's last two tweets. Because whether it was broadcast all over the world or kept absolutely private, their marriage is still ending, their love is lost, and these two people have to decide how they want their marriage to proceed.

But it's a perfect example of how our views of privacy are changing. What is "private", really, when we spend our time on social media sites, telling the world about ourselves? Updating our relationship status, something extremely private (especially when break-ups are concerned), or tweeting about our ups and lows? We pour ourselves into these pages, and because it's the internet, we almost feel anonymous. It's hard to fathom that every time we hit send, enter, or open our browser, we are utterly exposed to the world. Anyone with internet access can find what we've written, read it and know us, without ever meeting face-to-face.

And that can be scary. More so, it can be just as frightening when we realize that we have absolutely no CONTROL over what we post on the internet. The second you hit "send" it exists in the internet, even as some small piece of code, whether or not you choose to delete it. People can take what we've posted and spread it in seconds. Your picture could be half-way around the world, on eighteen different websites, and there is virtually no way to undo it. And that's not counting the content about us, that's not posted by us. Unflattering Facebook pictures, incriminating tweets, maybe even downright rude text messages. Our entire lives exist on the electronic devices we carry and the websites we visit.

We are the tech age. In cyberpunk terms, we've become one with the machines.

Which may not be a bad thing. However, if we continue along this trend, and the world grows even more reliant on the internet and our gadgets, our perception of privacy MUST change with it.

There's a great quote from a recent South Park episode that reflects what I mean here. The clip is here, but since it's highly likely that it will get taken down from youtube, I'll also transcribe a bit from it.

In this episode (called Bass to Mouth, btw) a site called Eavesdropper has appeared in South Park, and is posting up gossip about the kids at school.

KYLE: I'm not looking at that.

STAN: Come on, dude, it's pretty funny.

KYLE: It wouldn't be funny if that website posted something about you.

STAN: I wouldn't care.

CRAIG: (reading) Exclusive, Stan Marsh thinks Elise Thompson has a hot butt crack.

STAN: What?

CRAIG: (reading) In an email sent yesterday to Kenny McCormick, Stan Marsh wrote, "Dude, you should have been in PE today, Elise Thompson's butt crack was totally showing." He went on to call her butt crack "Nice" and that the whole experience was "pretty awesome."

STAN: Kenny! (Runs to Kenny's locker) Kenny, what the f**k?

KENNY: (muffled) What?

STAN: How did Eavesdropper get a hold of my email to you?

KENNY: (muffled) I don't know.

STAN: Do you just leave your emails open for everyone to read?

KENNY: (muffled) No.

STAN: That was a PRIVATE email from ME to YOU.

The scene goes on, but I think you get the picture. We have an assumed privacy that I think stems from the social convention of keeping secrets. If we confide in someone face-to-face, show them a picture, tell them about our day, it's expected that the person will not run around town telling everyone they know. Sometimes it's because it's private, sometimes it's just polite, and sometimes it's not our news to tell. And yet with social media sites, those social conventions of confidence are thrown out the window. Because with a click of a button, we tell EVERYONE, and it's become an easy way to stay completely connected and yet emotionally distant from everyone we know.

I wanted to bring up another aspect of how privacy and accessibility have clashed. Emails are considered a semi-private thing, right? Same with DM's, private messages, and the like. But what about queries?

I never thought of queries as something to be kept private. After all, on the AbsoluteWrite forums, people post their queries all the time to be critted. I still don't believe queries should be private for this simple reason: Your query is a business proposal. This is a matter of business, not personal life. Yes, your book is your baby and wah, wah, you're an artist. And you are. But the second you send your query, you're opening yourself to the world, and presenting yourself as finished, polished, and ready to be critiqued by a professional.

Do I have a problem with Sara Megibow's #10queriesin10tweets on Twitter? No. Because the moment those authors hit send, their work is no longer private. More so, Sara makes sure the queries cannot be identified, and does not ridicule, but uses the mistakes some writers have made to help others better their craft. If this is a violation of privacy, it's certainly a much kinder violation than Andy Boyle's public broadcast of a deteriorating marriage.

Our perceptions of privacy will change, inevitably. It probably won't be spoken of. Like most social codes, our ideas of privacy will shift and change without much conscious thought, until one day we look back and realize that what we're doing now would have seemed ridiculous 20 years ago. Perhaps in the future, in 20, 30 or even 50 years, we'll stop hiding behind this false anonymity the internet provides. Maybe our social contracts will shift so much that keeping secrets is nullified, and we speak the truth, no matter how blunt or mean or incriminating.

Maybe that won't be such a bad thing.



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

4 Ways To Get The Ideas Flowing

As writers we are often bombarded by ideas for books. Sometimes we have so many shiny WIP ideas we can't get a handle on the book we're writing. And that's great. But sometimes there aren't that many ideas. Sometimes there are NO ideas.

Sometimes it's writer's block. Sometimes there are family or emotional issues that keep you from coming up with anything. And sometimes you're just stuck.

Unfortunately, we can't wait around for inspiration. This doesn't just apply to writing, this applies to coming up with ideas, plotting, creating characters, all that jazz. Sometimes we have the luxury to wait around for another idea, but if you're a professional writer, people may be waiting for your next book. You may be under contract. The world won't wait for you to come up with an idea.

Here's a short list on ways to inspire inspiration. 4 easy ways to kick your butt in gear.

1) Compile a list of the things you want to write. Go through your favorite books and write a list of everything you've always WANTED to write. Have you toyed with the idea of a western romance? Have you had a character lingering in the back of your mind you wanted to try writing? Write it down. Once you have a list, try and match some together. Pair the sci-fi with Chinese culture and add an OCD main character whose petrified of space ships. How many aspects can you weave together? Can you create a story from that?

2) Write from prompts. Tried and true, but it works. You can find prompt generators online, or even just ask the people around you for objects, situations, and locations for story ideas. Go to three separate people, ask one for a location, as one for a profession, ask the last for an object. Taking those three ideas, can you weave a story out of that? For a different approach, you can take word prompts and write short blurbs to timed sessions. Let the words unravel without planning anything out. If the ideas come, run with it.

3) People Watch. This is my favorite, and the easiest. It's best done in public with strangers. Pick someone from the crowd and watch them. Study their clothes, their behavior, the way they talk or stand or walk. Then create a story for them. Create a name, create their family, create a backstory. Figure out why they're there, and be creative. Your character profiles can be mundane, or fantastical. That woman may be a spy from a British Academy waiting on orders from the US division. That man could be meeting with his wife to tell her the results of the chemo treatments. Create them as characters in your mind and build your story from there.

4) Bounce ideas. This one's difficult for me, but every time I do it, I'm always amazed and delighted at the results. Talking to other people, especially writers or heavy readers, is a great way to generate ideas. Even if the other person doesn't give you ideas, sometimes they ask questions that can get you thinking, and lead you to your own epiphany. This is definitely the most fun, as it works wonderfully. Whenever I'm stuck, just a few hours with my beta and there's nothing we can't solve.

Happy Writing,


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Looking for a Beta!

Hello bloggers of the world! I come with great news. ZAP is done. Done done. Not done done done, but done done. Which essentially means, ladies and gents, that I'm looking for a beta reader.


If you've been hanging around my blog, you probably know that ZAP is a steampunk YA with dragons. My pitch is below:

The art of dragon Breeding is dying, but it's the only life Charlotte's ever known. After her mother's death, Charlotte takes over the family farm, but business is bad--really bad. When Cynthia Ross shows up, claiming to be her aunt, Charlotte thinks all her problems have been solved. Aunt Cyn wants to enter her into the Steel Talon Tournament, where the world's best Breeders pit their dragons against mechanical walkers for a chance for fame, money, and immortality. For Charlotte, winning means more than saving her family farm-- Aunt Cyn has promised to tell her about her mother's shady past, as well as where her father has been hiding for so many years.

As the competition heats up, Charlotte finds herself in a world of political mind games between Draconites-- dragon sympathizers and Breeders-- and the Cogs-- business men and technology enthusiasts. With the help of her sponsor Gaspar Laroche and his mysterious and tantalizing son Vern, Charlotte navigates deadly battlefields and even deadlier social events. When Breeders start dying, all clues point to betrayal by a fellow Breeder. Charlotte isn't sure who she can trust anymore. Certainly not the other Breeders. Certainly not the Cogs. And certainly not the infuriating Vern Laroche.

Sound interesting? Want to get your hands on this baby?

--> The wordcount if 114K. Yes, I know about half of you just winced. I understand it's on the long side, and I hope it won't deter too many of you.

--> My deadline for this is January 15th 2012. If you don't think you can make it by this time, just let me know, and we can figure things out.

--> Are you looking to trade manuscripts? Great, I'd be happy to look at your ms! Just know that my specialty is YA and I have the right to say no if I don't think I can handle the project (Which never happens.)

--> Whatever editing style you prefer is up to you. If, because it's longer, you would rather do an overview, that's fine. I prefer line edits, but whatever you're willing to contribute would be great.

--> Uhhhhh.... as you can probably tell, it has no title. ZAP is a WIP title that stuck. So if you have any title ideas while reading, PLEASE pitch them to me, as I haven't a clue what this beast should be called.

--> If something comes up and you have to back out, just let me know. That's no issue at all. I understand that life gets in the way sometimes, just don't leave me hanging.

Want to help me out? You will be rewarded with (internet) cake and icecream. Just shoot me an email at katiecarson at hotmail dot com.



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Between-Book Blues

Every writer has faced it. That moment when you finish one book before beginning another. For some, the wait period is only a few hours before they begin on a new project. Sometimes it's months before they sit down and write another book.

For me? Well, I usually edit the book during the wait period, which kinda feels like writing, if you squint and turn your head to the side. But after that? It's usually about 1 & 1/2 to 2 months of planning for my next book. In which I write... nothing.

Frightening, really. And it does disrupt my life. When I'm working on a project, I'm constantly thinking about it, tweaking it, working on it in my free time. When I'm between projects, suddenly there is a big, gaping hole where most of my life used to fit.

I spend a lot of time out of the house during these months. I spend a lot of time on twitter, facebook and my email, waiting for SOMETHING to happen to capture my attention for the next few minutes.

Being between projects drives me nuts, and after a few months, if I don't start on something, I usually look something like this:

Some people write short stories. (WHAT? Write something SHORTER than 100K?) Some people read. (Can't complain there.) Some people spend time with family. (What family?) Some even have different projects that they juggle. (You lot are never really BETWEEN projects, are you?)

So I wanna know: how do you handle the between-book blues?

Me? I just go bat-crap crazy.



Sunday, October 16, 2011

10 Things Hollywood Has Taught Me

Based only on movies produced by Hollywood, what have I learned about life? Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but I'm only speaking in general terms for fun.

1) Beautiful People Always Find Love.
--> From Jennifer Aniston to Angelina Jolie, all the beautiful people eventually find love. Usually through quirky or comedic circumstances, or through heartfelt emotional situations, or even high-tension, dangerous situations, the beautiful people prevail. They find love, and it's real, true love that will last an eternity. Or, at the very least, they're a really good lay.

2)The Less-Than Beautiful People Find Love. Probably.
---> You don't have to be beautiful to find love! You just may not have the quirky or romantic situations as some of the beautiful people. Sometimes you're a side character, introduced to The One by a major character. Sometimes you're rejected by the main girl and find love elsewhere. But that doesn't mean you won't find someone who's smokin'! Seth Rogen stole Katherine Hegal's heart in Knocked Up, after all. But even if it's a possibility, you also have a good chance of winding up alone.

3) Anything Is Possible.
---> From explosions to dramatic romantic displays, anything is possible in the world. The laws of physics bend to create the biggest explosions, and the most dramatic displays. And everyone knows the exact right thing to say at the right moment, in whatever way, to pull out the perfect response from you. Also, if shit goes down, you'll probably end up smack in the middle of it.

4) 99% Of The World Is White.
---> Everyone is white, and no one questions it! Even the black people are white! Even the Mexicans speak really good English! The best shit happens in America, too. If there are people from other countries/other nationalities/speak other languages, they tend to be side characters, people who are a part of our lives, like a friend or coworker. They tend to tag along with our plans, except for the odd time they stand up for themselves. At least, usually.

5) Everybody deals with crap.
---> It doesn't matter what nationality, what age, how much you make, whether you're beautiful, single, married, gay, we all have crap to deal with. We all have bad days. No one can escape the general shittiness of the world sometimes, even if sometimes we wonder if beautiful people EVER have issues EVER. But Hollywood has taught us they do. We all do. Except for maybe that blonde barista who keeps screwing up my orders. She seems too bloody perfect.

6) High school is segmented.
---> Popularity is important. The beautiful people are jocks and cheerleaders. Everyone loves them, and hates them. Nerds are bullied and mocked. Everyone has their place, bullying is usually rampant, and everyone knows each other in their grade. Any other high school is experience is just plain odd.

7) EVERYONE is NEATER than me.
---> EVERYONE is neater than me. Houses look quite comfortable. Furniture matches. It's always clean, and if not, someone's usually complaining about it or cleaning it. Most people keep their rooms, offices, and cars clean. If they don't, someone mentions it, or makes an effort to clean it up. There is quite frequently a transformation where the messy person learns to clean up their crap.

8) Everyone is straight.
---> The world is filled with straight people! If the beautiful girl spies a beautiful boy, there is an assumption of his sexuality as straight. It's called into question if he is not attracted to girls, is feminine or sensitive, or is too interested in his appearance. Gay people exist, but they are not usually seen and are separate from the straight world. Going into a gay bar or a gay-friendly section of town is foreign and uncomfortable.

9) You WILL triumph.
---> You are the hero of your own story, and the world CAN'T deny you. If you go for the girl, for the job, to save the world, you WILL WIN. Even if you face shit along the way, if you overcome it, you cannot possibly lose. How could you? Everyone gets a happy ending eventually.

10) If it's good, there will be sequels.
---> If anything is good in life, if anything is worth it to you, if it is so wonderful you never let it go, there will be ripoffs, sequels, and all around crappy people trying to make you feel bad. If you find success in this world, there will be those who try to drag you down to their level. The more success you find, the more sequels there will be, the more people will try and bring you down. But if it's really worth it, then we rise above the crappy sequels, and love the original film despite what anyone says.



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"I'm Just Trying To Protect You."

So, my blog pals, the other day I was in the bookstore with the beloved beta. We did our usual thing, we had lunch, I gave her my new ms, we slayed a dragon, rode on a pirate ship, talked about books we liked, she gave me books to read, and we saved Starbucks from a terrorist plot. All in a day's work. But she handed me Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick. Now, I'll admit I read Hush Hush. It was a guilty pleasure for a while. But I grew out of it. I bought Crescendo, but haven't been able to read it.

Why did the beta hand me this book? Because of the back blurb. It's a bit of text from inside the novel, not uncommon. What stopped me dead is that I saw the dreaded phrase, used in the context that makes me cringe:

"I was just trying to protect you."

Just typing out those words makes me cringe. Really, there's nothing wrong with that phrase, and many successful and excellent books use it. But I use it because it's an excellent example of how writers are justifying bad behavior.

I blogged on abuse in YA here, but I really wanted a chance to explain what about this phrase really grinds my gears.

I'm going to pick on the fantasy writers today, because I see it here most often.

When we write urban fantasy, straight fantasy, or any of its sub genres, we immediately have to adjust ourselves to the idea that, though we may be painting an image of our world, it's distorted somehow. If we create a world in which magic exists, we have to let go of the logic that says "that's not possible" and make it believable as well as interesting. This detachment from reality is fantasy's greatest strength, and it's greatest flaw.

If we write fantasy, we have to continually draw back to reality. We have to make the magic seem real. The beasts seem believable. The world building flawless. Because we detach that logical part of our brain, it's easy to drift off into cliches and stereotypes, because that's what's easy.

And this is what I believe is the problem with most UF/F relationships in young adult. Say we have a girl and a boy. The boy is a creature of some sort and the girl is being hunted by other creatures. The boy needs to protect her. There's nothing wrong with this, and this is the basic story line of many successful books. But somewhere along the line, I think many let the extravagance take them too far, and they drift too much into cliches. The action and danger of the plot bleeds into the romance to keep the tension up. Soon we have a situation where our creature boy is protecting our main character a little too much, and suddenly we're bordering on abusive behavior.

The main reason I hate this phrase so much, is as soon as one person NEEDS to protect another, you've created an unbalanced relationship, which is unhealthy. You have set a precedent and you have to work backwards to get out of that. Just because you're writing in a world that's distorted from out own, and your MC doesn't have all these SUPER SPECIAL AWESOME POWERS doesn't mean you NEED an unbalanced relationship.

Many writers use the excuse of the circumstances of the plot, the details of the fantasy realm, or the repercussions from whatever creature-problem the love interest has to justify their abusive situations. We tolerate a vampire physically abusing his girlfriend because he "needs to feed" or the werewolf boy being super jealous because werewolves by nature are "protective of their loved ones." The use of fantasy has detached the logical part of our brain, until suddenly we're tolerating something in fiction that we would normally be horrified at.

But as fantasy writers, we NEED to bring that bit of reality back in, especially within relationships. There's nothing wrong with having a twisted or abusive relationship, but be honest about it. Don't hide behind phrases like "I wanted to protect you." Just think about your main characters for a minute. If you were in their situation, would you tolerate what the love interest did to you?

Just because your MC is a human in a field of creatures doesn't mean she should be roped into an abusive relationship any normal girl would run from. If you want to create a twisted relationship-- great! Go do it! But if you want to create a relationship readers will sigh at, will tell their friends about, will dream about, then put effort in. Make it real. Make the characters want to be together, and connect on another level other than "OMG, we're gunna die." Just because he has fangs and hides a pair of wings under his jacket doesn't mean they can't have a normal, functioning relationship.



Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Epilogues: Yay or Nay?

Prologues are a common topic about writer and agent blogs. You can probably find a bazillion agent blog posts on prologues, what they want to see, what they don't want to see, ect. A the baseline, really, is that if you want to write a prologue, it should a) Have a purpose in the plot b) Not just be a cleverly disguised Chapter One c) be outside the realm of the characters that we will know at the beginning of the story.

Simple, right? Well, epilogues have similar guidelines.

Prologues and epilogues are not just the first and last chapter with fancy names to make us appear fancy. Like every other literary tool, it has to aid the story, and if it doesn't, it should be cut.

How do you use epilogues? I think I could flip this blog post on its head and use "prologues" in the place of "epilogues" because I believe the point is the same. There are two kinds of epilogues, what I will call the Chapter Thirty-Nine and Out of the Box.

What is a Chapter Thirty-Nine epilogue? It's an epilogue that shouldn't be there. It's an epilogue that begins after the climax and ties everything together. This shouldn't be called an epilogue, as it's the natural denouement for the book. There is nothing outside our realm of what we know of the world or the characters. The Chapter Thirty-Nine epilogue can also take the form of a "bow tie ending" where the author can go into detail about the character's life after the conflict is finished, and essentially gives them a "Happily ever after." JK Rowling did this at the end of Deathly Hallows, and I feel it really cheapens the book.

The point of an epilogue is to give us a GLIMPSE. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, just a glimpse. If we tell our readers everything that happens after the climax, how Billy became a carpenter and how Jane really did become a showgirl but Sally eventually married Tom and had kids. WE DON'T NEED TO KNOW THAT. Seriously, we don't. Ignore the fact that Chapter Thirty-Nine and "bow tie" epilogues can be found in published books. That doesn't make them right. Unanswered questions will leave your readers thinking about your story long after the book is finished. Did Billy ever make it out of that fire? Will Sally leave town after college? Will Jane ever fulfill her dreams?

Giving an "out of the box" epilogue can give readers a glimpse of the future and still leave them asking questions.

I've used the phrase "Out of the realm of understanding" when referring to prologues and epilogues. What I mean is that something in the world or the characters changes dramatically from the main bulk of the story and whatever time the epilogue takes place in.

This can mean, we get a glimpse of the villain (if this isn't a common occurrence in your book) we get a glimpse of the MC six months, two years, ten years later, perhaps we glimpse a new character from years before or years later. We get a small look outside the confines of your main character, their primary conflict, and their worldview.

What makes a really good book is staying power. You want your readers to think about your book long after they've put it down. You want them to keep thinking about it, you want it to keep them up at night, you want them to tell their friends about your book. To have that staying power, you cannot give away everything.

Show the ending, but don't tell them what happens next. Let the reader figure out what happens after THE END. After all, by the time the reader gets to the epilogue, it's not your book anymore. It's theirs.



Sunday, October 2, 2011

Word Count Experiment

So, SO, my lovelies. I finished a book.


I'm so happy ZAP is finished. I love this story and can't wait to start sharing it with other people. So, as I finished it yesterday, there has been much:


and of course:

But the point of having a blog post about it is I tried an experiment with this WIP. When I began, I wrote like most authors did-- with a sharp eye on my word count. But as I neared 60K and the end was nowhere in sight, I grew really nervous. I started entertaining horrible ideas of it turning out at 140K or 160K. I feared I'd have to cut my book in half. I was watching every thousand words go up, until I grew tired of it.

So I turned off my word count, and decided to write the rest of my first draft without looking at the word count.

For the first 10K, it was easy. I loved it. I wasn't worried about it anymore. But as I began explaining what I was doing to other writers, I got a similar shocked response: "Wow." and "I couldn't do that."

I started to understand what they were talking about. It was driving me mad, and I wanted badly to peak. I didn't, because I wanted to see what this effect would have on the length of my WIP. I began dreaming about my WIP coming out as 140K or 160K, and I was kinda back where I started.

I finished without peaking since 60K. My WIP turned out to be 119K words. Would it have been shorter if I'd been keeping a close eye on it? Probably not. I cut plot points that were in my notes because I didn't think they'd help. If I had written them in, it certainly would have been longer.

But what I did learn from all this was that writers are addicted to their word count. With good reason. It's how we communicate progress, it's used in publishing all the time, and there are restrictions. But with first drafts, I think its important if writers take time away from their word count. I admit, I did have the same fears, peaking or no, but there were times where I was finally able to let go. I didn't miss watching the numbers roll up one bit.

Try it. On your next book, turn off your word count. See how long your first draft comes out to be and compare it to your drafts you've had in the past.

Did you miss it?



Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fuck Off, I'm Writing

Have you ever had a really good book, a really awesomely good book, and you're at the climax and just want to read through, but life keeps GETTING IN THE WAY??

It's infuriating. All you can think about is finding out what happens but you're trapped getting milk or picking up the kids or making dinner or going to work or paying attention to your friends. LIFE is so intrusive to the writing process that sometimes I just want to throttle it.

It's bad being in the middle of a climax of a book you're reading, but I find when I'm working on the climax of MY OWN BOOK, it's SO MUCH WORSE OH GOD. Because it takes ten times longer to write a climax than to read one, and life just loves to butt its way in when it's not needed. It's like being stuck in a perpetual state of frustration, where everything is tense and you just DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TIME, and you want to scream and your relationships become strained at best.

(Friend: Hey, Katie, what's up?


Friend: uuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhh....


Friend: I'm good.

Me: Nom. *eats paper*

Friend: It was nice seeing you.

Me: IT'S A BOOK. *pedo stare* O_______________O** )

As writers, I think we put up with a lot. Our work is often placed in the background so we can tend to our day jobs or family and friends. And that's a good thing, we don't want to become hermits. We don't want to lose reality for a fantasy.

But sometimes, SOMETIMES, BLOG PEOPLE. sigh. Sometimes I want to shut myself up in my basement, lock my doors and not emerge until I see THE END. Of course, that's not possible, but it's a lovely fantasy, isn't it?

Just because you're not getting paid for it doesn't mean it doesn't have value in your life. Just because writing is a solitary thing that, at some points, may not see a profit doesn't mean it is any less important to those things that do. It's hard to justify taking time out of a day overstuffed with obligations to take an hour or two to write, but we have to. It's what we do. We're writers.

But remember: your writing does matter, whether you're published or searching for an agent. No matter what stage you're at, writers write! It's the only way we improve, and it's the only way we'll get any closer to our goals. And sometimes that means shutting yourself up in an office or a bedroom and ignoring everything else. Yes, ignore. As a writer, if you keep putting your craft in the back of your mind, and you don't take time out every day to work on it, how are you ever going to accomplish being published? Under deadline?

So, I've devised a clever little sign that should help writers everywhere. We need to stand up for ourselves! We need to ignore the rest of the world for once, because sometimes reality needs to come after fantasy. Sometimes we need to GET STUFF DONE.
So I made a sign that will help writers! Print it off, stick it on your door, tape it to the back of your head, leave it on your desk-- whatever. Just block out the world for a few hours and do what you love-- and do it in style!


And one for the family lovers among you.

Oh, my paint skillz know no bounds. Spread the love, my lovelies.

I'm going to go write now. ;)




Wednesday, September 21, 2011

WIP Wednesday

I don't often do these, mostly because I'm convinced all my snippets of writing are MUCH better in context, but today I figured, what the hell.

Right now, my current project is a steampunk with dragons. (Yes, that is how I pitch it to everyone, why do you ask?) I pumped out three chapters today, and am debating whether I'm up for a fourth.

Here's the end to a scene. Charlotte has just won another round of the Steel Talon Tournament, where dragons face off against walkers.

Charlotte closed her eyes, and let victory wash over her.

There wasn’t any joy in it, she found. There was elation, a thrill, even pleasure in knowing that she made it one step closer to her goal.

But there was no joy in this.

Beatrice screamed over the cries of the crowd. “No! No! Let me go! I can put it out! I can put out the fire!”

A hand touched her arm and Charlotte turned, finding Riley at her side. His brow was creased in concern.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

Charlotte’s lips quivered, and she feared the answer would never again be ‘yes.’

She wrapped her arms around his middle and held him, tightly, as all around her the world burned.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Labeling Characters

Not long ago I was on Twitter, and the topic of conversation during a #GayYA chat was on labels. Are they good, are they bad, and whether you or your characters chose to use them. And it got me thinking. Labels affect more than just gay teens, so I wanted to open this up to discussion.

What are labels in fiction? Labels in fiction reflect labels in real life. Things that may not necessarily be negative, but define you in a very specific way. There is a difference between descriptors and labels. A descriptor is a very general way of describing someone. A label has a little different connotation. It usually comes with background stigmas or expectations from society.

To explain it a little better, a descriptor could be referring to another as a "redhead." This is general, and there's not much hidden meaning beneath the surface. But change that for a label such as "ginger" and you've got a different story. Calling someone a ginger is not necessarily a negative thing, but in the last 5-10 years there has been a growing stigma for people with red hair and freckles. Calling someone a ginger could have negative connotations depending on context. Though most uses of the word "ginger" to teens are used in jest, there's still a shift in the meaning of that word. Being called a redhead is not necessarily the same as being called a ginger.

All descriptors can be labels, but labels have a bit more specificity and background connotations to them, so we’ll focus on those for now.

What does it mean for an author or character to use labels? When an author uses labels in fiction, we see it used in narration, as opposed to if a character used it in dialogue. Both have subtle differences, but both do one thing: they set the reader's expectations. Not necessarily a bad thing, right? After all, sometimes it’s better not to beat around the book (Heh, keeping that typo.) about a character's ethnicity or gender identity or sexuality. Sometimes it's better to come out and say, "I'm Kenyan" or "He's Asian" or she's "Gayer than a fruitcake." It's a quick and easy way to establish a part of your character in the reader's mind.

Besides, sometimes there's no point to ignoring labels. Sometimes instead of saying "She had mocha skin and black hair" try "She's black." After all, how many ways can you describe a person's skin color before it gets dull? No, really, let's find out...

Using labels is often a good way of reclaiming them too. Instead of ignoring a label that most people may not understand, use it. Show them what it really means. For example, when you have a transgender character, it can work well to use labels. Show who your character is, show them that this is a transgendered person, and there's no reason they shouldn't understand this person.

When we have characters using labels in dialogue, we tend to get a lot of reclaiming. I remember one flamingly gay character who often called himself "Queer" or a "fairy" ect, ect. He used derogatory labels to reclaim them, because that was the kind of character he was. How characters use the labels, why they use the labels, even their avoidance to some labels really gives an insight into how the character views himself and those around him.

There's nothing wrong with using labels in dialogue and narrative. Sometimes, by using a label other people avoid, you can make a bold statement with only one word. But this is not always the case. Labels are not always sunshine and joy. To be honest, I don't use labels unless absolutely necessary. In Shell, I only openly mentioned that one of my characters was gay once, and it was only to gauge the reaction of another character to that word. (This was actually edited out during agent revisions.) I find labels very limiting. On the one hand, yes, great, you have an instant picture in the reader's mind. Unfortunately, people's definitions and ideas of labels are always different. I'm going to bet that many who read my point of redhead vs gingers didn't know that ginger could be a negative label. This is partly due to the evolution of language in different areas, slang, and of course, different age/wealth demographics.

In real life and in fiction, sometimes people have a hard time seeing past the label. Introducing a character who is schizophrenic, for example, could change a reader's entire perception on them. For many, schizophrenic is synonymous with crazy. Yes, in one way we can change or "reclaim" the meaning of that word in the reader's mind. But sometimes, I find that authors stray from simply reclaiming a word to making a point about people with schizophrenia or mental health in general. And trying to have a point or moral to the story will definitely turn readers off.

Is labeling necessary? After all, as writers, aren't we taught to show, rather than tell? Isn't telling readers that a character is gay or African or bipolar less effective than showing them? If you can easily show your readers who your character is rather than telling them, that will make for a more enjoyable read.

Can't figure out how to do it? Well, if you have a gay character, show the relationship. Show them with a member of the same sex. Show your readers an ethnic background. Perhaps your MC is Mexican and his mother is traditional? Mental illnesses, I'm half-and-half on. Is it necessary that your MC know that he has this illness? If not, keep the behavior, but drop the label. See if your readers catch that something's amiss. It could lead to interesting discussions of your character's psyche, instead of having readers write off the issues since it’s been “established.”

Whether you're for labels or against them, write how you want to. No editor or agent is going to tell you to add or take out labels unless it's absolutely necessary. Whether you choose to use them or not is dependent on your writing style and the type of story you're telling.

Of course, these are just my thoughts on labels used in everyday life. But what about not-so-nice terms? How would your character facing a derogatory label change your story? How about if your character used the derogatory label?

Leave me your thoughts to devour. Tasty, tasty thoughts.



Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Review: Shut Out

I had been eagerly awaiting this book for several months, since about the time that I read The DUFF. So when I found an early copy at Chapters, you know I didn't hesitate to grab it and crack it open ASAP.

As usual, what immediately drew me into the story was the main character's voice, Lissa. Lissa is a little more reserved, a little more "virginal" than I expected, and honestly I was glad for the surprise. It made her sometimes seem younger than some of the guys, but it also brought a real sense of sincerity to everything she did. Another aspect that immediately drew me in and held on tight were the cast of characters and the way they interacted. Every character in Shut Out was fully developed, with their own quips and quirks, wants and needs. Because of the way this book is oriented, we stay mostly on the female POV of some of the issues addressed, but Keplinger doesn't hesitate to let her boys shine at the right moments.

The book was a fast-paced, absorbing read. Keplinger has a real gift for voice and characters who are so genuine they might as well be real people. This book also addresses a lot of issues with teen sex, especially when it comes to girls and sex. What's expected of them, what's not expected of them, invisible guidelines that society puts up. Nobody talks about them, but for some reason they're there.

I enjoyed the points that Keplinger made in Shut Out, and for the most part I thought they were well integrated with the story. But I could definitely understand if some readers saw it as a bit preachy at times.

Another thing I wish we saw more of was Cash. I wish Cash and Lissa had been able to have more conversations, a deeper meaning to a lot of their interactions. Because of plot details, this would have been impossible. I still wish it could have happened, because Cash is a sweet, understanding boy who is the type of love interest that makes me melt, and I wish we saw more of them as opposed to the "bad boy" that treats the heroine like shit. The lack of Cash was more my own desire as a fan than as a fault in the book.

What can I say? A book with a battle of the sexes? A book with issues involving sex, including hypocrisies and using sex as a weapon? A fabulous story with evolving characters, a moving storyline, and an awesomely wicked message?

What more reasons could you need to read this book?

This one's getting 5/5 stars from me. You don't want to miss it.



Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Writers Write.... Every Day?

"You have to write every day."

I've heard this gem around writer's forms, said by agents and editors and authors themselves. And for the most part, I agree with it. If you want to be a professional writer, you have to write pretty much every day. You can't write just when the inspiration strikes, or you'll never produce anything fast enough.

If you don't want to be a professional writer, then hell, take as much time as you need. Write only when the inspiration hits. Wear crappy berets and sit in coffee shops telling strangers about YOUR PROCESS.

But if you want to be a professional writer, do you really have to write every day?

I didn't write today. I realized this on the way home from work. Partly, this was due to me buying the long awaited Shut Out by Kody Keplinger (which was fabulous, of course.) but it was partly due to errands and doing this necessary to, you know, live.

But I could be writing. As I work on this blog post now, I could be writing. I could have dinner, and then for an hour or two sit at my desk and write before bed.

But I'm not going to.

I don't have family demands (actually, my house is quite empty at the precise moment) I don't have other obligations to fulfill. I have no viable excuse not to write. Instead, I'm going to make myself dinner, park myself in front of the TV, and watch cartoons while surfing the 'net for things I find amusing.

Does this make me a bad writer?

There are many writers out there who have a hard time forcing themselves to write. It takes effort for them to focus and plow through hard parts when they'd rather be out doing other things or giving up on the project entirely. Honestly, if you're this type of writer, you HAVE to sit down and write EVERY DAY. Because up until this point, your life has been structured without putting in the time it takes to write. Learning to write is a lot like being on a diet-- it's a change of lifestyle, a change of habits you have to get used to.

But once your used to it, is the strict schedule really necessary? Do we fear that, after spending so much time learning this discipline, that a night or a week or a month away will ruin it?


Those questions can be summed up in that simple answer, in my opinion.

Discipline is discipline. Something that takes that long to build and work for doesn't disappear the second we take our eyes off of it. It can be easy to fall off the bandwagon and spiral back into those bad cycles of not wanting to work on the novel. But that takes weeks, even months to do. If you've been writing seriously for years, then it can take YEARS to lose that discipline. Give or take some time depending on personality types. But that's not what I'm talking about.

Writing every day isn't necessary. It's healthy, and it certainly helps build up your craft, but will you fail as a writer if you don't? No. The average publisher expects an author to pump out one novel a year, and if you write more than that, great! But this doesn't mean you should force yourself into a situation where you feel you HAVE to write, to the point where the fun is sucked out of it. Writing is supposed to be fun, even if it is a job. And like every job, we all need a little time away from it to breathe.

Here's my take on it:

I also think my flowchart skills could use some work. Oh well.



Saturday, August 20, 2011

Contest Winner!!

First of all, I want to apologize to everyone for the delay of getting this up. I'd hoped to get this up before I left, but things got in the way and I couldn't get to it in time. Long story short, I'm sitting on the floor of my hotel room in San Jose typing this. It's hot. And there are palm trees. I thought those only existed in movie-land.


We had 14 people enter this contest, which to me is like, huge. I want to thank everyone who entered, retweeted, blogged, or whatevered this contest. It may not seem like much, but I would giggle insanely whenever a notification popped up. YOU'RE ALL WINNERS IN MY BOOK.

Before we get to the winner, check out these links.

We have a review of Bumped here and here. They're worth checking out.

Also, check out this review of The DUFF.

And then check out this awesome post on teen sexuality.

We kinda got a conversation going, which is awesome. Let's keep it up.

Now, for the moment you've all be waiting for. Your champion, chosen by a randomizer is.....


WHEEEEEEEEEEE. Go you. Everyone else hates you now, but in a good way.

I will shortly be sending you an email asking for your address so I can come to your home and GIVE YOU THE BOOKS IN PERSON. Kidding, but you get the idea.

SCRATCH THAT. Sera, please email me your address at katiecarson (at) hotmail (dot) com. If I don't receive an email by Monday the 22nd, then I will draw a new winner.

Thanks everyone for entering. I promise I will be doing more giveaways soon. (If I survive this holiday) So stay tuned. ;)


Thursday, August 18, 2011

PublishAmerica is a Scam.

Can I rant? Can I whine and complain and bitch to you guys? Well, ready or not, here goes.

Very few things can make me angry, like really angry, especially in this business. Really bad query letters? They make me laugh. Rude authors? They're a dime a dozen. Receiving no reply for MONTHS at a time? Frustrating, but not the end of the world.

PublishAmerica, on the other hand, makes me MAD. These guys are not just crooks, they're assholes. They're scam artists, they're dirt bags, and just all around horrible people. They have no problem crushing the dreams of writers, taking their money, locking them into contracts. And then, if you dare ruffle a feather or demand your rights back, BAM, they'll sue you for every penny you're worth.

There is NOTHING redeemable about this company and the people in it.

PA's slogan is "We treat authors the old fashion way-- we pay them" and nothing could be further from the truth. The number ONE rule of publishing is, if you are taking the traditional publishing route, you should pay ABSOLUTELY NOTHING OVER THE COURSE OF YOUR JOURNEY. Your agent's pay will be taken out of your advance/royalties. They don't see a penny before your book is sold. Publishers shouldn't be taking any money from you, either. Quite the opposite-- they're buying your book from you. Their job is to back you up, and help promote the book. The amount the publishing house puts into promoting your book is THEIR choice. They chose that amount based on their prediction of book sales. You giving them money will not make that promotion budget go up.

PublishAmerica's website alone makes me mad. It's poorly done, for one. For another, head to the online bookstore.

See what we have there? $69 dollars and YOUR BOOK "will be submitted to our print and distribution partners for Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Spain. Your book will also be prominently displayed at the Guadalajara Book Fair which will be attended by our partners as well."

Not good enough for you? Try this one on for size: For $29 dollars, "We'll let the president, John Boehner, Harry Reid and your local Congressman, AND your local TV, know."

WOW. You're going to get MY BOOK to the PRESIDENT? And all I have to do is pay $29?

$89 for "Your book will be displayed and promoted in our booth, immediately visible for all visitors. We will send you a photo, live from Germany, that will show your book at the Fair, for your home hall of fame."

OH BUT IT GETS BETTER. Because under all these "promotions" we get this baby: "This is an introductory offer. Prices will go up after this week."


PublishAmerica is a SCAM. All they do is force you to hawk over your cash so they can bind your manuscript and sell it back to you. Yet they deny, deny, deny that they are vanity publisher. They SAY they put books in bookstores, yet the only place we can actually find these books (except on rare occaions) is the PA online bookstore. The worst part is these guys have no restraint. They aren't a quiet publishing scam, they go in for the BIG ONES.

Recently, PA stated that for only $49 they would get your manuscript to JK Rowling.


These guys are batshit CRAZY, I tell you. Of course, Rowling's lawyer's retaliated with a silent cease and desist notice. PA shot back with a cease and desist of their own.

PA stated this in their return cease and desist: "First, PA has done nothing to harass your client or invade her privacy. The simple fact is that your client’s Edinburgh residence is public knowledge; she even publicizes this fact on her own website!!! Accordingly, PA did nothing wrong by repeating that fact in its promotion. If she wants to keep her residence private, perhaps she should not publicize that fact."

So it's all right to lie and say you can get a manuscript to JK Rowling because her address is public knowledge? Did PA intend to walk up to her doorstep, ring the bell and demand she read the manuscripts? They say they used the address because it is "public knowledge" and "By revealing only well known information about your client that is generally available to the public, PA specifically contradicted the impression that it has some direct line of access to your client."

So what they're saying, is DESPITE the fact that their promotion stated that they would get the book to Rowling ("bring your book to the attention of Harry Potter’s author next week while our delegation is in her hometown, and ask her to read it and to tell us and you what she thinks.”) they then double back and say the wording contradicts itself, saying only that they would be in the same town as Rowling. Therefore, if the author's book didn't make it to Rowling, they can simply put it down as unfortunate "happenstance."

The promotion has since been taken off their website, but the promotion to get your book to the president still stands.

WHY can PublishAmerica get away with this? Because their lawyers are good, their contracts are airtight, and they're not afraid to be bold and fight to destroy writer's dreams.

I really hope, hope, HOPE that one day, they fuck up. Hear that, PA? I hope you keep pushing the boundaries, keep pissing off authors like Rowling. Because someone needs to sue the pants off them and win. This company needs to COME DOWN.

But until that time, writers have to learn to protect themselves. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do your research. It is of VITAL IMPORTANCE that you know what you're getting into when you query agents or publishers. There are scam artists out there, like PublishAmerica, but there are also just plain bad agents. You wouldn't buy a house or a car or go to Hawaii without knowing what you're getting into. UNDERSTAND the business, at least for what stage you're at.

There are many great resources for writers out there. Predators and Editors is one, which lists agents, agencies and publishers alike, telling you who has sold, who's recieved bad reviews, and who are really the star players. More great ones are Query Tracker and Agent Query. I used Agent Query RELIGIOUSLY when I was querying. Great resource. We also have Absolute Write, which is just an all around amazing place to be. If you're unsure about an agent, check our if they're part of AAR or AAA(UK).

If you want to see more personal horror stories from authors who have been screwed over by PublishAmerica, then look here.

Otherwise, I think I've spammed all of you with links enough for today.

Remember Writers: The most important thing is for you to be informed. This is YOUR career, so you'd better know what you're doing.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011


My contest to win Bumped by Megan McCafferty and The Duff by Kody Keplinger is still going strong. Enter now, before time runs out!

Anyway, onto the topic I've been thinking about for the past few hours.



Of course, this post isn't about using caps like I do. But for words or parts of sentences, especially dialogue, that you really want to emphasize, is capslock acceptable?

Still don't know what I'm talking about? That's okay, I'm not making much sense today anyway! Sometimes, we need to emphasize things in our writing, either for clarity, for voice, or sometimes because you want to add that extra little umph to your tension.

There are several different ways to emphasize in writing. Some traditionalist writers go for the underline approach which was used most commonly when typewriters were the bee's knees, because it was easier for an editor to see the underline as opposed to the italics.

But now that we've moved to these fancy-dancy computers and internets, the common standard is to use italics for emphasis. I still hear some debate about this between underliners and italic-ers, but the general consensus seems to be that italics are in, for the time being.

So where does that leave the outrageously obnoxious CAPSLOCK PEOPLE? I'm so guilty of emphasis alone, and I love capslock. I think in SHELL, literally half the book was emphasized. My beta readers made me cut out 3/4 of it, and a lot is still in there.

I've seen capslock used in books and in other cases I've seen it ignored. Some writers claim that it does have a place in fiction, but so long as it's kept only in dialogue. The Child Thief by Brom, I remember, had great use of capslock in dialogue. And boy, was it effective.

There are others, though, who I've heard say that capslock has no place in fiction. The standard for emphasis is italics, right, so why waste page space by blaring your message across the page? It strains the eyes after a while, and there are subtler ways to get your message across.

Of course, then there are those (LIKE MYSELF) who believe that capslock does have a place in fiction, either narrative or dialogue. It's a whole different package than italics. Italics do emphasize, but capslock emphasize in a bolder, brighter way.

I'll use an example to show how I think italics and capslock can coexist, doing the same thing in subltly different ways. If we take the following sentence:

"I can't believe you'd pick him over me," she cried.

Right now it's fine, but using italics, you get get a different meaning across.

"I can't believe you'd pick him over me," she cried.

With the emphasis there, we see get more of a bitterness to her tone. Change the emphasis, change the tone.

"I can't believe you'd pick him over me," she cried.

Placing the emphasis in a different part of the sentence completely changes the tone of this. Instead of coming across as bitter, the speaker suddenly comes across as whiny and/or needier than before.

And, of course:


Also effective, but watch how this changes the tone. Also, it's best to be careful with capslock, especially when emphasizing a full sentence like this. For best results, use capslock while the speaker is swinging a giant ax, lightning shooting out of her eyes and looking as though she might have crawled from the darkest recesses of the netherworld.

So I want to know your thoughts. What do you think of capslock in writing? Does it pull you out of the story? Does it bring a boldness and sharpness to the narrative? Does it feel grittier? Is it more effective? Does it make your eyes bleed?



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Must-FUCKING-Reads + a Giveaway

(If you're just here for the contest and don't want to hear my ramblings, scroll down until you see a giant sparkly "CONTEST." )

So, SO, people of internet land. Some of you may know that I've been on vacation, which means a whole hell lot of READING. Which is awesome, because sometimes in my life I forget to sit down with a good book. Things can get crazy.

So I read this mofo:

Bumped by Megan McCafferty. I'd picked it up a few weeks ago, mostly because I was interested in this dystopian that had a very contemporary feel.

I read it in two days. Whoa, WHOA, this thing is... well, it's a BOOK. A FABULOUS book. A supercalifragilisticexpialidocious book. It's the kind of AMAZING, BREATHTAKING, absolutely MIND-BLOWING book that makes me incapable of leaving a review, because the review would only consist of me screaming "BUY THIS BOOK. BOOK GOOD. BOOK MAKE KATIE HAPPY. BUY MANY BOOK."

And as I reached the climax, my heart thumping, sitting literally on the edge of my seat, reading into wee hours into the night, trying to sit close enough to the fire for light but careful not to CATCH FIRE OR ANYTHING, I realized something. This book reminded me of another book. Another book that I read in two days. Another book that was so MIND-BLOWING, BREATHTAKINGLY AWESOME that I still pick it up and re-read it, which ladies and gentlemen VERY RARELY EVER IN A MILLION YEARS HAPPENS.

It happened to be this book:

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger. Again, another book I am incapable of writing a review for because I am unable to take my biases out of the picture.

So what do these books have in common? Yes, they both have fabulous plots and wicked tension that keep readers turning the pages long into the night. They have FABULOUS CHARACTERS! (Oh GOD, Wesley makes me want to MELT, and Jondoe is absolutely adorable! And can we talk about how perfect and real Zen is? Or how about how Bianca totally stole my heart with her no-nonsense attitude? Or the emotional growth and change that Melody goes through? Or how sweet and naive and innocent Harmony is, and her tumble through an alien world?) They have smooth writing which makes them an easy read. Flawless transitions. Fabulous voices that are easily discernible from each other.

All around, these books ROCK. But why are they so special that I feel I need to talk about them? What about these books throws me off my feet and then slaps me with my own socks?

Simple. Kody Keplinger and Megan McCafferty have BALLS.

That's right, you heard me. These ladies talk the talk and walk the walk. They are not afraid to jump on the controversial train. Hell, these ladies are fucking BULLETPROOF. Bring it, psycho parents who think their kids are darling little angels and this kind of literature RUINS CHILDREN AND OMG YOU'RE DESTROYING SOCIETY AND HOW COULD YOU???? Nah, Keplinger and McCafferty take it head on. They talk about teen sex, virginity, teen pregnancy, condoms, the whole shebang.



Yes, that's right. McCafferty's Bumped is a fabulous satire on modern society. In a world where teenage girls are getting pregnant and selling their babies off, the idea of teens having sex for pleasure, because they're in love, is scandalous. Condoms are illegal. The mere mention of teens having sex for something other than reproduction is a horrifying thought. Girls are crying when they find out they're not pregnant after a wild tumble at MasSEX parties.

And in Keplinger's The DUFF, we're faced with a girl who uses sex (with a boy she thinks has more in his pants than in his head) to try and escape the troubles of her home life. These are not virgins bumping uglies for the first time. Both Bianca and Wesley have had sex before. They know what they're doing, and they enjoy it. And boy, do they get at it a lot. But she paints such a real and fresh image of teen sexuality. Yes, we do have the virgin first times. But what happens to the teens who are passed that point? Do they just... stop having sex?

A lot of writers are talking about teen sexuality lately. It's a hot topic. But these ladies don't just talk about teen sexuality (and they do. Kody's blog is a great place for talking about sexuality in literature and in everyday life) they WRITE about it.

YA comes under fire every once in a while. Most recently the Wall Street Journal published the article "Darkness Too Visible" (which I think everyone and their GRANDMA has seen by now) Not exactly about teen sexuality, but along the same lines. This prompted a huge response from the community in the form of the #YASaves hastag on Twitter, which is still ongoing. When they pushed, we pushed back, and it really makes me proud to be part of the young adult community.

That's why these women rock my socks. Because they're talking about teeen sexuality. They're getting their books out there. I'm sure they face their own bit of guff, but they keep going. People are always going to oppose change. We will always have parents or other misguided people who don't understand what we're about trying to shove their ideals down our throats. But we can't back down, because as writers for teens, we speak for teens. We give a voice to a lot of people who don't have one. We tell stories that are gritty, sexy, cute, simple, complex, dark, light, whatever. When we talk about sex, we show teens that it's okay to talk about sex. We show them that it's not taboo, and if they have a problem, or a question, or a concern, they can ask about it.

A world where kids aren't ashamed of themselves and the feelings and changes they can't control is a brighter world. It's one less thing they have to deal with while they're riding the uncomfortable roller coaster of adolescence.

I would chew off my left foot to write a contemporary. I suck at it. I would chew off both my feet to be able to write something half as amazing as The DUFF or Bumped. But, sadly, I'm not there yet, and until I find a magical fairy who will trade feet for contemporary-writing abilities, I'm SOL.

But, I can't stand idly by when I find writers like this. Who are TRUE heroes who are also AMAZING STORYTELLERS. I have to help these writers. I have to spread the MOTHERFUCKING WORD, YO.

So I'm having a CONTEST.

Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]

Here's the lo-down, peeps. I'm giving away a copy of BOTH Bumped and The DUFF. That's right, you guys are LUCKING OUT TODAY LET ME TELL YOU.

The contest is international, because I love you guys. It will be open until midnight (mountain time) on August 18th. If I receive over 25 entries before MONDAY, AUGUST 15TH, then I'm going to extend the contest until the 31st. (Because I'm going on holidays AGAIN and I might as well leave it open for many people to enter)

If I get over 50 entries, then I will add ANOTHER prize pack. That's right, a second person will receive a copy of Bumped and The Duff. HOW COOL IS THAT?

And if I get over 75 enteries (I know, I can dream, right?) then I will do something SUPER SPECIAL AWESOMESAUCE. I'm not going to tell you what it is, but it's going to be HUGE, like, PRIZES FOR EVERYONE huge.

Here's how you enter:

--> Comment on this blog (with your email address for contact) in the comment section of this post

--> RETWEET this contest. RETWEET THIS LIKE CRAZY. Every time you tweet this contest, I will enter you again. DO YOU HEAR THAT? YOU COULD TWEET THIS FOREVER AND GET A BAZILLION ENTRIES. (Just make sure for every tweet, you post a comment with the link.)

--> Blog about this topic. Blog about teen sexuality, and you get another entry. You can also post a link for an old blog post that you did (because, you know, you're such hipsters that you guys blogged about this BEFORE IT WAS COOL.)
----> If you mention me, this post, or this contest in your post about teen sexuality, you will get YET ANOTHER ENTRY.

--> If you follow this blog or if you follow me on twitter, I will add another entry. BECAUSE I'M THAT AWESOME.

Also, when I announce the winners I will also post up all the blog posts about teen sexuality, so we can all have a chance to read more about the topic and talk about it more. Because the more we talk about it, the more we'll know.


So go, my minions. Spread the word!



Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Boys in Young Adult

So, normally I don't post about movie adaptations, not because I don't like them but because I'm pretty passive about them. When The Last Airbender came out many fans complained that the characters lacked the cultural diversity that gave the cartoon its flavor. To this, I shrugged and said, "So long as they can play the part." I get upset when Hollywood white-washes, but honestly, as long as they play the part and play it well, usually I'm okay with it.


However, this made me pause. This is the first image of Gale and Peeta for the Hunger Games movie:

Is there anything there that makes you pause? Take another look if you don't see it.

I get really sad when Hollywood casts adult actors to play teenagers. For the most part, women who are cast to play teenage girls can usually pull it off. Of course they look mature, but the costuming and make-up departments work to make them look younger, and they do a good job In fact, I thought Katniss looked rather cute. But the boys? They don't look like teenagers. Rather, several aspects have been accented that actually make them look older, but were done because it also makes them look "sexier."

Notice the lovely arm hair and bulging muscles. Gotta love Peeta's nice, firm chest.

News flash: teenage boys don't look like that. Even those that play sports and go to the gym every day don't look like that. Being a teenager means coming with a bit of awkwardness and scrawniness from the childhood they're leaving behind. Also: can I add that both Peeta and Gale come from District 13? A very poor district? And though Gale had some training and went out into the woods, part of Peeta's charm was that he was an underfed baker's son. He was the underdog. That was why it was so much more awesome that he won.

But I'm not here to complain about the Hunger Games movie. I'm excited about it, and will definitely see it, despite my reservations about casting. I'm here to talk about body image with boys.

When we hear body image, we first think of girls. After all, they are a huge target for media. But do we ever stop to think about the damage that images above do for boys?

First of all, what does this image say to boys? This says that underfed, starving TEENAGE boys should look this hot. That to be considered attractive by girls, guys need to have the tight muscles and unruly hair. Oh, and of course, they can never smile. ;)

Both in movies and in some young adult fiction, boys have become nothing more than a prop for the main girl. Their feelings are disregarded, their body is buff and unrealistic, and their role revolves around the girl. They seem to have no personality outside of their feelings for the girl.

Normally I ignore movie posters with the buff boys. Living in North America, you grow accustomed to the way the media portrays certain things, even if you don't agree. But I worry for the Hunger Games movie, because it has a direct tie back to writers in the young adult section. This movie poster props Gale and Peeta up as eye candy, pieces of meat to be ogled. I read and enjoyed the Hunger Games, and Peeta and Gale were so much more than that. Their roles in the story have since been reduced to "Team Gale" and "Team Peeta" as if their characters have no other worth than who Katniss would choose to be with.

Writers, editors, readers, agents, we all want to see more boys reading young adult. Not just to appeal to more readers but so boys can have a chance to enjoy fiction that they can relate to as teenagers. But how can they relate to propped up card-board cut outs who's only value comes from their role in the romance?

Yes, the media is heavy to blame here, and I can't blame Suzanne Collins or her agent or her editor for the way Gale and Peeta are going to be portrayed. They have no control over it. But the problem with boys stretches into the books as well. (I'm not saying Hunger Games does this.) Often we see boys in young adult fiction who have been reduced to the lowest common denominator. The nerd. The best friend. The bad boy. The token gay guy. More and more boys are being shoved into categories while at the same time writers are taking girls out of those categories and making them more unique and rounded.

We've got a double standard here. When we see a boy who is juggling two girls, do we side on "teams" and root for the girl we want him to pick? No. He's just called a "cheater" or a "player." And yet when we have a girl who is in the same situation, juggling two guys and being COMPLETELY UNFAIR ABOUT IT, we expect the boys to wait patiently while the girl sorts out her feelings. How is this fair? More so, how do we expect to lure boys into young adult if the male characters' happiness is solely dependent on whether or not he's chosen as the girl's boyfriend?

Where are the boys like Etienne St. Clair, who has a life and problems outside of Anna? Where are the boys like Christian, who doesn't even notice Clara despite how much she threw herself at him? Where are the boys like Tucker, who won't put up with waiting around until Clara figures her things out?

Romance is great, but if your male characters are only around to prop up your female ones, you have some serious work to do. Boy readers will appreciate if you put the effort in, and so will girls. They want to know what's going inside their heads. Yes, girls enjoy seeing the cliched bad boy or best friend waiting in the wings for them, patient, nothing more than cardboard cut outs, but those are just guilty pleasures. If you move past that, your characters will be richer and your story will be so much better.



Monday, July 25, 2011

I Wanna Hear Yours: How Do You Plan Characters?

So right now I'm in the planning stage for my next WIP. It involves a lot of plotting, a lot of research, and a lot of character development.

For me, characters are probably the best and worst part of writing any story. Without lively and sympathetic characters, a beautifully written plot, world building and conflict has no meaning. If your characters are flat and uninteresting, who's going to want to spend any time getting to know them?

Unfortunately, characters are my worst subject. Developing characters, figuring out who they are, making them likeable... it's always been a challenge for me. And along my writing career I've developed a few tricks that I use whenever I have to start a book.

First, usually, I have to figure out where the character fits into the story. I'll use examples from my current planning stage. Most of them are pretty easy. Charlotte? Simple. She's my main character. Vern? Well, I know he'll end up as my love interest. Gaspar slides into the spot of her sponsor, and we have Aunt Cyn sliding in as a guardian.

Most of the time this is very easy, but every so often I'll get an image of a character, and have no idea how they'll fit into the story, only that they will play some part. Right now, that character for my untitled WIP is Dusty Dayton. Dusty is a very mysterious character. I have no idea how he's going to play out in the story, but I do know that he's necessary. I am a bit of an outliner, but not enough that I can see how his part will play out. So I don't know how he's going to fit in, but it will be interesting to see.

Now, I have my characters (And usually in this part I would name them.) And then I move onto developing them. How do I do this? Simple. Fill out this bad boy:

Ethnic Background:
Religion/Religious Background:
Health/Physical Condition/Disabilities:
Educational Background:
Ambitions, Aspirations, Desires:
Major Traits:
Minor Traits:
Character Flaws/Weaknesses:
Character Strengths:
Habitual/Favorite Expressions:
Habitual Mannerisms:
Fears, Anxieties, Hangups:
Attitude Toward Life:
Attitude Toward Death:.
Most Cherished Beliefs/Values:
Worst Habit:
Highest Hope:
Preoccupations, Worries:
Biggest Source Of Pride:
Biggest Source Of Shame Or Defeat:
How They Talk/Speech Patterns (Diction, Tone, Speed, Pitch):
Body Language/Posture:
Perception Of Others:
Reactions To Others:
Involvement With Objects:
Attitude Toward Opposite Sex:
How They Handle Crisis:
Memories, Dreams:
How They Protect Themselves--Fight/Flight/Freeze:
Public Persona:
Daily Habits:
Motivational Patterns/What Gets Them Going:
How They'd Describe Themselves:
Do They See Themselves As Happy/Satisfied?:
Do They See Themselves As A Hero?:
Sense Of Humor:
Feelings Toward Family:
Feelings Toward Friends:
Feelings Toward Enemies:
Philosophy Of Life (In A Phrase):

I LOVE this thing. I wouldn't know where I'd be without it. I didn't create it, I found it on a website, but it helps exponentially. This really helps me get into the characters's heads. I also do a little extra sketch work on the side, like their motivations, add in a bit of internal conflict, and how I think they should change over the course of the book.

It's a long process to go through it, but without it I know my characters come out flat, unchanging, and really unsympathetic.

So you've heard my process, now I wanna hear yours: How do you develop your characters? Do you have a process or do you just see how things go? Maybe your tips can help me find better ways to plan out my characters. ;)



Saturday, July 23, 2011

Writers and Negativity

So, recently I had a few friends ask me for a copy of my book, Shell. I have no problem of giving away copies of my book, but this time I chose to say no, because the book is currently on submission and I thought it would be best to wait and see if the book was published or not.

Naturally, people get huffy when you say no. They don't understand why I wouldn't want to. Suddenly, they think I'm in it for the money.

This baffles me every time I hear it. I guarantee no writer will ever say this. If I was in life for the money, I would have gotten into business. Or marketing. Or tried my hand at driftwood sculpting. Writers DON'T make that much money. Most writers don't make enough to live on. Not, "Oh, I'm not paid enough." More like, "I HAVE $12 DOLLARS AND I HAVE TO PAY MY ELECTRICITY BILL AND RENT."

Yes, there are writers who make it big. And honestly? NOBODY REALLY KNOWS WHY. People pretend to know why Harry Potter was so big or how the Twilight phenomenon came about. They nod their heads and smoke their pipes and say, "Mm, yes, we expected that to come along. Precisely as anticipated."

The truth? Nobody knows what makes a bestseller besides: write a good story. So, those writers that do enter into this world to make money? You have a better chance of winning the lottery. And odds are it won't leave you cursing out your laptop when it breaks down and you're under deadline.

So, writers? Honestly, not in it for the money. Even YA writers, even though there seems to be a strange misconception going around the YA writers are "trend writers" and are "trying to chase the popularity of YA right now."

Uh, no.


*clears throat* No.

Are you a writer? Yes? Are there types or writers you don't have respect for? Maybe they're YA or MG authors. Maybe they're mystery or romance writers. Maybe they're nonfiction writers. If there's a certain *type* of writer that you look down on, then I'm sorry for you.

As writers, we have a great community. And that community should be supportive. We are NOT in competition with each other. Even if you think we are, we're not. Someone who picks up a YA fantasy book but ignore yours? They like YA fantasy, and odds are they may pick up your book too. Between genres? We're not at war with each other, and we need to stop acting like it.

No matter what you write, you work hard at it, and we can't compare writing a MG fantasy to an adult contemporary. There is no comparison. They both have pros and cons and they're both not easy. If you compare genres or "difficulty level" of types of writing, then you are no different from children holding up their picture and saying they did better to a parent who really doesn't care.

It may seem like writing romance or a children's book or a contemporary is easy, but that's because it's our job to make it look easy. Writers get good at what they do so it seems effortless. But it's not. And as fellow writers, we should understand each other's pain.

Which leads me to another point. Writers who dehumanize agents and editors, saying they only want what's hot, who are only interested in money, who are plain "rude" for rejecting them, come on. I shouldn't have to say this. There are plenty of agent/editor blog posts where they say WE ARE HUMAN. WE LOVE THIS JOB. WE DO WANT YOU TO SUCCEED. Agents and editors are people too, people who LOVE this business, otherwise they wouldn't be in it. Like writers, agents and editors are usually sensitive people, because many of them are writers themselves.

This business is tough, and sometimes you need to rant. It's hard to deal with rejection and waiting and the struggle. But it's absolutely intolerable if you decide to take out your frustrations on agents, editors, or fellow writers.

We are not in high school. We are not dealing with office politics. We are all grown-ups here, and sometimes certain writers need to get their heads out of their asses and realize they are not the only people who love this business. Realize that writers write what they are called towards, even if you don't enjoy their genre. Agents and editors are doing the best they can, and they don't want to be rude. They don't like sending out rejection letters, but they cannot feasibly represent every author who emails them.

And I think this brings me to my point of this post:

If you are a writer that brews negativity, that just can't get over their spite and jealousy for fellow writers, that thinks agents and editors only care about money, this is your warning.

Get over yourself, or get out of this business.

The road to publication is long and frustrating, and if you're negative about the business, it will only drag you down. It WILL alienate you from your fellow writers. It WILL make editors less inclined to work with you. It WILL put off your agent. You will drown in this business. The thing about writing (and art in general) is there is a lot of put downs, and a lot of roadblocks. And if you can't pick yourself up and move on, you will never get anywhere.

So if you're a negative writer, look at yourself and ask: is this where I should be? Is the joy I get out of this worth dealing with all the bad things?

Can I put aside my anger and frustration and jealousy and love what I do?

I want you to succeed. But if you're just going to drag everyone else down into your pool of negativity, then you can go succeed elsewhere, because we don't want you here.