Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review: Lucid





Lucid 
Written By: Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass
Review By: Katie C
2/5 Stars

What if you could dream your way into a different life? What if you could choose to live that life forever?

Sloane and Maggie have never met. Sloane is a straight-A student with a big and loving family. Maggie lives a glamorously independent life as an up-and-coming actress in New York. The two girls couldn't be more different--except for one thing. They share a secret that they can't tell a soul. At night, they dream that they're each other.

The deeper they're pulled into the promise of their own lives, the more their worlds begin to blur dangerously together. Before long, Sloane and Maggie can no longer tell which life is real and which is just a dream. They realize that eventually they will have to choose one life to wake up to, or risk spiraling into insanity. But that means giving up one world, one love, and one self, forever.




Lucid angered me for a variety of reasons. Though the premise was interesting and the writing was smooth enough that I didn't end up putting it down, it never really grabbed my attention enough. The two stories were completely separate for most of the book, and only when the girls' worlds began to overlap did I finally get excited about the story. Unfortunately, it was too little too late.

The characters themselves weren't terrible, but I got the impression that not enough of them  made it onto the page. Sloane was a typical, high school-esque girl with very little defining qualities besides being meek and fawning over the hottest guy in school. Maggie, on the other hand, seemed like a bit of an easier character to sympathize with, although sometimes it felt as if I'd gone from reading a book about a 17-year-old to one about a 30-year-old. This was purposeful and handled pretty well, but it still threw me off in the beginning, when I wondered if Maggie would ever start showing her age.

As for the writing-- simple and easy to read, but unfortunately the writers relied too heavily on telling, rather than showing. Most of the scenes were filtered through the narration. Instead of showing the reader how a character reacts, often the MC will gloss over it and tell the gist of what was said. Due to this, the tension was lacking until the climax, but even then I felt the tension could have been drawn out throughout the entire story, instead of just throwing it all on you at the very end.

As for the overall story, it had its moments. It definitely focused more on the girls' love lives instead of the issue of their dreams. They're definitely passive about their situation, although they both fret over it constantly, neither really takes active steps to try and understand or solve the problem. Also, there was no force that drove the plot. The girls were simply expanding their lives to include boys, and all of a sudden that sends their delicate balance into chaos. It appeared like the writers were purposefully trying to be vague to let the readers draw their own conclusion, but it came across as weak and underdeveloped. The end also reminded me very much of Going Bovine by Libba Bray, only it wasn't handled as well.

All in all, I'd say this book is best for readers looking for a romance story with only a hint of paranormal. Those that enjoyed Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler or The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard might enjoy this. If you want a book that's more on the paranormal side, this one might not be for you.

Cheers,

-Katie

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Writer Anxiety

As writers, I think we all share a tendency for anxiety. After all, if you want to be published, there's a lot of waiting you'll have to do. Waiting on beta readers, waiting on agents, waiting on editors, waiting, waiting, waiting. With waiting comes a lot of time to think, and that is where the anxiety comes in.


Anxiety can affect a person in many different ways. At my child services agency, I get a glimpse of how anxiety can play out. Sometimes it's with physical/verbal assault, withdrawing, screaming, pacing, destroying property, lashing out at people-- it's incredible how many reports I get about the kids doing INSANE things, and the only explanation the report offers is "This client suffers from anxiety issues."

Sure, we may not be jumping people in the street (and yet as I write this, I remember, a writer did this recently...) but anxiety does still affect us, and can cause us to act without thought.

For example, anxiety may cause us to:

--> Respond to an unsavory review (Always a bad idea, even if you're trying to be civil.)

--> Prod a agent/editor for a response (Not always a bad plan, but if you're nudging a week after they got your manuscript, they may think you're not as well-versed in the industry as you should be.)

--> Jump to conclusions. (This is a big one. Anxiety can eat away at your thoughts, until you think, "So-and-so MUST think this, because it's been so long/hasn't been long enough/ect" This can cause us to act impulsively, which may reflect badly on our professionalism.)

--> Vent. (Venting is a good thing, but there is a TIME and PLACE for everything. Venting to friends and family? Go for it. Venting about an agent on a public forum? NOT SMART.)

--> Lash out. (Sometimes we get it in our heads that these gatekeepers in our way just want to crush our dreams. NOT TRUE, but thoughts can worm their way in when we least want them to, and this may cause us to send a hurtful email. Also a major career killer. Industry professionals talk, remember that.)

Even good writers make mistakes, and it's never a bad thing to take care of your own well-being. There's no sense in being miserable, so here are some tips to combat those nasty voices in the back of your head:

--> Do something else. Distracting yourself is the best way to get your mind off publishing issues. Write something else, work on your next project, or spend some time away from the writing world. Go for a walk, build a birdhouse-- do something productive. You get nothing done by worrying.

--> Kill those thoughts. Anxious thoughts can leak in at any time. I've found the best way to handle them is to shut them down immediately. Whenever I start to think, "Why hasn't my agent responded yet?" or the like, I immediately sweep them from my mind and tell myself, "This is something I have no control over." And I change my train of thought. I can drive myself mad if I don't change my thought process.

--> Relaxation techniques. Sometimes that tension worms its way into your muscles. Take some time to de-stress. Enjoy a bath, write in your journal, do something you enjoy that will not add any stress or anxiety.  If you're kinder to your mental health, it's easier to get back into that writing flow later.

--> Process through your worries. If you have some fear you cannot shake, start at the beginning and work through logically. Don't try to catastrophize the worst situation. Work it through and reassure yourself that patience is the best option (or perhaps it is time for a nudge-- just make sure you never send an impulse email.)

--> Educate yourself. The more you know about the publishing process, the less stress you'll face. Learn about wait times, etiquette, and the things agents/editors expect from you. That way, when you face a tough situation, you know how to handle it and you'll deal with less stress and anxiety in the long run.

What are your ways of dealing with writer anxiety?

Happy writing!

Peace,

-Katie

Book Review: A Midsummer's Nightmare


Book Review: A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger

Review by: Katie C 

Whitley is looking forward to spending the summer before college at her dad's condo-- drinking, barbecuing  and some quality time with the father she only sees once a year. But when Whitley arrives, she meets the new fiance and her two perfect children-- one of whom she slept with the night of their graduation party. When she doesn't fit in with her father's new family, Whitley parties, and hard. She escapes through alcohol, but there's only so long she can run before reality catches up with her.

So, as you've probably seen on this blog once or twice, I LOVE Kody Keplinger's books, and this one does not disappoint. As usual, her characters are right on the ball. Whitley's loneliness bleeds through the pages, and every other character has something about them that brings out their humanity. From Bailey's incident at the party and Nathan's history, I come to love each of Keplinger's characters in a way I didn't think possible in a single book.

Speaking of characters, if you're a fan of Keplinger's THE DUFF, you'll notice some crossover characters (Wesley, Bianca and Harrison) as well as some crossover settings, (such as the Nest.) Not only did this make it so much more satisfying as a reader, but they were subtle connections that were not necessary to understand the main story.

The emotions in this book do run strong. There are scenes that include rape scenarios, the consequences of partying, cyber-bullying, rumors, boys-- Keplinger has perfectly summed up that feeling of intense loneliness many teenage girls face. It's hard not to connect with Whitley, because who hasn't felt as though everyone has failed them and the world is against them? The emotions and tension are timed just right in this book, and the subject matter (such as the rape incident and the cyber-bullying) were handled well, without slipping into melodramatic territory. We want reality, not a soap opera!

All in all, this book was spectacular  It was not a book I powered through, but something I put down (with my finger marking the page!) and had to take moments to just think. I love books like that, and its rare that I find one that hits the subject matter so on the head. If you're a fan of contemporary, or are searching out books for girl readers, A Midsummer's Nightmare could not be a better choice.

Overall: 4.5/5 Stars

Peace,

-Katie

Monday, September 24, 2012

So You Want to Write a Novel: Part One -- The Idea

So you want to write a novel: Part 1 – the Idea

I’ve come across dozens of people who, after I tell them I’m a writer, say to me, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

Why don’t you?
If you’ve somehow stumbled onto my blog, then you’ve made the conscious decision to start reading up on this marathon that you want to undertake. Because writing a book is a marathon that lasts a few weeks for some, and a few years for others. But how do you get started? I’m about to start writing a new book myself, so I thought I’d catalogue the step-by-step process, from idea to agent, to give some of you a glimpse into how the process works.

Disclaimer: This is my process. It’s different for every person. Do NOT feel pressured to conform to one way of writing. We all have to find our groove, this is only one option.

What do you need when you get that brilliant idea? How do you go from inspiration to chapter one? Honestly, this is the craziest part of the process for me. For several weeks beforehand, I go through a “musings” phase. This is when I absorb as much inspiration as possible, stretch my creative muscles and let my ideas take form in my subconscious. Often I need some time to sit back and think about everything before I even get started.
Once I’ve got all the Thinking done, I move onto writing some of this down in note form. Before I start a novel, there are some things I NEED to know. I’ve learned it’s far easier to plan, plan, plan than to go back and try and fix major plot issues later down the road. Some writers don’t like to do as much notes as I do—often they take an idea and just run with it. I do this too in some ways, but in order for me, personally, to take writing from a hobby to a profession, I need to stop saying to myself, “Ah, I’ll figure it out later” and start with, “Let’s deal with this now.”

Many things change from beginning to end, but before anything happens, I need to know The Bare Bones:

Characters:

 Main Character

è Who are they when they’re alone? Are they quiet? Easily bored? Extroverted? Introverted? Do they prefer a loud party or a quiet walk through the park?

è Who are they with people? How do they act around those they like? Those they hate?

è What motivates them? What do they want more than anything in the world?

è What makes them angry? What gets them depressed? What makes them want to give up?

è What is their biggest dream? Their biggest fear?

Once I’ve answered all these questions, I move on to secondary characters, a love interest, and antagonists. Planning out things like appearance, nationality, sexuality, ect., are just as important, but I find those very easy to plan out, so I try to focus on the things that aren’t always so obvious to me.

Note: Antagonists don’t necessarily have to be characters, but they must be well-thought out. Your antagonist is just as important as your protagonists, and must have wants and desires that are as believable as your MC’s.
Plot:

 Main Plot:

è What is the major problem at hand?

è Who/what stands against the MC? Why?

è How does your MC plan to fight back to achieve his/her goals?

Subplots:

Subplots can be a great thing, so long as they don’t overcrowd your story. I always tend to overdo it, so I try and plan out which subplots will play an active role.

à Decide on what kind of subplot you want. Is it a romance subplot? One of self-discovery? One related to the MC’s family/home life?

è Why is it in your book? Is it really necessary, or is it simply a darling you don’t want to kill?

è What does it add to your story?


Setting:

Your setting is, in a sense, its own character. It should receive just as much attention as the other components of your novel.

Basic:

è Where are you setting your story? Why?

è Does this setting have a connection to your characters/plot?

è How does your atmosphere reflect your story?

Worldbuilding:

è How does your world function? Even if you’re writing a contemporary novel, the town/city you set it in should have its own unique characteristics.

è Where do people get their food/water/medical supplies, ect?

è How does the landscape affect how the people live?

è What is unique to the world you’ve created?

è What beliefs/prejudice/myths are prominent in your culture?

Voice:

è What POV will you use? Is it 3rd person, 1st, or 2nd? Do you have an omniscient narrator? How many narrators will you use? Is this in present or past tense? (Or perhaps future tense?) And of course—WHY?

è What tone will you use? How does your narrator affect your word choice, diction, style, ect?

è How will these decisions affect the story you’re trying to tell?

Research:

è What don’t I know that will better my story in some way or another?

è What things could I incorporate into my story? What is something I’ve been interested in that might work well with what I’ve already chosen to write about?

Anything else?

è Is there anything I want to plan out before I start writing? (Certain deaths, character traits, plot twists, ect?)
 
Once I've answered all these questions, and I feel I have a decent grasp on my idea, the characters and the world, I move onto the opening pages.
 
Oh joy. Those damn opening pages.
 
TBC...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Meet Heather: Literacy and Child Services

Intro

I work in a social services facility. Our agency helps children and their families who have been affected by poverty, mental illnesses, behavioral problems, family conflict, abuse, assault, prostitution, drug abuse, ect, ect. We have many different programs for a variety of issues, some are residential, some are community-based. I work on campus, so most of the kids I see are residential.  I love my job, and hope soon to volunteer in some of the programs to get a better look at how the agency works.
The Library
On Monday, I had the opportunity to tour through the library on campus. It’s within our little school, where most of our residential children go. It was fascinating to sit down and talk to our librarian, Heather, who was kind enough to answer all my questions about literacy within our programs, as well as books and writing.
I wish I could’ve snapped a picture of the library for you guys. It’s beautiful, with art of creatures from Where the Wild Things Are (love that book!), as well as lots of comfy places for kids to sit down with a good book. My first impression was amazement. My high school library looked like crap compared to this one! And it made me really happy, too, because Heather is clearly a dedicated librarian, and is always searching for new ways to get the kids reading.

Literacy in the School
Many of the children who wind up in our school/programs come from homes where there are no books, where their parents do not read, and often times, they have not gone to enough school to properly learn to read. For many students, the library offers a one-to-one literacy program, in which the student sits down with one of the library staff to get some stress-free tutoring for reading. Many children in our programs (though not all!) have a below average reading level. Heather told me the main priority for these kids is to either a) get them up to their reading level, or, if this is not possible (many teenagers who have been out of school for so long simply can’t catch up) b) get them up to a passable reading level (grades 4-5.)
Every day, before lunch, the school has a 20 minute NATURE session. That stands for Need At least Twenty minutes of Uninterrupted Reading Every day. What I especially love about this, is ALL STAFF must be reading as well. It doesn’t matter if it’s a comic book, magazine, novel—so long as the adults are reading. It’s great for the kids, because it gives them a positive reading role model. As Heather put it, “If the kids see a staff they admire reading, they’re more likely to get excited about it.”
Every day after lunch, for 40 minutes, each class participates in a literacy block. This is where, like most classrooms, kids join together for different literacy exercises, depending on their ability level. Some classrooms read through smaller chapter books and answer questions in a booklet. More advanced classes (not necessarily older kids) do things such as novel studies.
For children who do well in NATURE and their literacy block, the school offers them a chance to purchase books for the library. Each year, one student from every class is chosen. They select five books, four of which will be placed in the library with a bookplate in the front cover, stating “so-and-so selected this book for the library.” As well, they are allowed to purchase one book for themselves. I absolutely adore this system. What better way to encourage kids than rewarding them with BOOKS?

Where does Heather find her books?
Most of the library’s funding comes from the Board of Education, but Heather also purchases books through Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, and United Library Services. Her library is filled with new books, which made me happy to see. I spotted the Mortal Instruments series, Divergent (which she mentioned she and the kids loved!) as well as things like Speak, Go Ask Alice, and the House of the Scorpion. Heather is a librarian that does her research. She knows exactly which books she’s ordering. She finds most of her books through reviews, suggestions from students and teachers, as well as what reflects the curriculum.
Hear that, reviewers? Your job is SO IMPORTANT for helping librarians like Heather find books for their students.
Big Hits
The books that struck big, according to Heather, are horror. (Hm, wonder why that is?) Darren Shan books are popular, as well as graphic novels, Amulet (Heather spoke highly of this one), Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Conspiracy 365, and the Simpsons comics. (She rolled her eyes when she told me this. Hee!)
For girls, issue books are a big hit. Anything by Ellen Thompson, books on cutting, books on runaways and the like. The girls (and boys) in our programs can really relate to these books, because at times, it feels like these issues are the only things in their lives that make sense. 



Issue Books and Triggering
Heather’s take on issue books really intrigued me. I’m a writer who loves to tackle the dirty and controversial subjects, and although Heather had a bit of hesitation about them, she is a full supporter of issue books. According to her, these books are very important for making the kids feel as though they’re not alone with the problems they face. (Abuse, poverty, cutting, suicide, ect.) For Heather, the issue books have never been a problem, because YA doesn’t glorify these subjects. Though sometimes they can get graphic, in the end, usually the characters have found a way to solve or deal with their problems, which shows these kids that there is an end to the darkness they face.
Issue books are a bit of a touchy subject with some of the clinicians and counselors, because they can trigger the kids. Books that deal with self-harm can act as triggers, and the last thing anyone wants to do is deal with an escalation. At first, Heather told me that the clinicians asked to have the books removed, but after persuading some of them to read a few, apparently they’ve seen the light. There are still some books that need to be approved through clinicians before the kids can sign them out, but most of the time, it’s not an issue. 


A Happy Ending
One of the last questions I asked Heather was if she’d ever had any issues with kids holding onto books longer than necessary. She laughed and said, “I have many stories like that.” She told me about one boy who was a voracious reader, and had been hoarding library books in his room at his program. They found a stack hidden under his bed. He’d ripped out all the sign-out cards, scratched out the agency’s name and wrote his own in the cover. After the books were returned, Heather sat down with him and talked about how they could arrange for him to get some books of his own. Needless to say, the kid was certainly excited about that idea.
So there you have it! My trip to the school library. I may snap some pictures of it sooner or later, because it is a beautiful library. Heather is the kind of librarian that makes me proud to be a children’s writer.

Would you like to donate a book?
If anyone would like to donate to the school’s library, or to Heather, PLEASE, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at katiecarson at Hotmail dot com. When I mentioned I might be able to get some people to donate her books, Heather got really excited. Any old books kicking around that you don’t want? I know some kids would really love a chance to read them. 

Thanks for reading!

Peace,
-Katie

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tips for New Writers

Are you a teenager aspiring to be a published author? Or perhaps you're someone who wants to pursue publishing, but don't have much experience in the writing department. I was where you were once, and after five years of actively pursuing publishing, I've learned some tricks of the trade.

Publishing is a big, daunting business, and if you want to become a published author of anything-- fiction, nonfiction, children's books, genre, whatever-- you need to know a) how publishing works and b) your market.

After five years, I'm still learning. Learning is good, and if you really want this, you need to do a LOT of research.

So where do you start?



1) General questions/Query writing. One of the best websites for learning about writing, publishing, and how the business works is www.absolutewrite.com/forums Set up an account, and check it out. It is a massive website filled with writers, both published and aspiring. There are often agents and editors on that forum to answer your questions. They also have a Share Your Work forum which is password protected. There other writers, and sometimes agents, will help you craft your queries. They have step-by-step breakdowns of how to construct queries and synopsis's, as well as examples of those that have succeeded. (Also: Use google to find other writers forums. Find people who know what they're talking about, and ask them questions. Remember: there are no such things as stupid questions.)

2) Research agents. My best advice for researching agents (how to contact them, dos and don'ts, what they like, ect.) is to go to www.agentquery.com You can filter agents based on what they represent. Find agents who sell books similar to what you write, and look for any blogs they might have. Not every agent has a blog, but many do, and they have a lot of seriously valuable information. Reading blog posts will help keep you from making simple (but embarrassing!) mistakes.

3) Bookstores are your friend. Read, read, read books from the market you intend to sell in. Before you start sending out query letters, try to read 50-100 books in the same category you want to write. Get a feel for what others are putting out there, and what editors are buying.

4) How-to books. How-to write books are great. I'd highly suggest On Writing by Stephen King, The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, and if you're interested in indie publishing, the book How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead by Ariel Gore is WONDERFUL. Unfortunately I gave away my copy, but she has a lot of great ideas about self-promotion, and the voice all the way through is really wonderful.

5) Write, write, write. Constantly teach yourself about the English language. Learn how to properly use things like punctuation, increase your vocabulary (this can be achieved by reading more) and always try to invent new and better ways to phrase your sentences. This may seem like really elementary stuff, but you should always try to improve your basic skills. I've been writing novel-length stories since I was 12-13 years old, and I'm still searching for new ways to describe things, or find words that sound well together and invoke the senses. Words are the building blocks of stories. They are your tools, my author friends, so learn how to use them properly.

If you follow these steps (and be polite to people!) then I assure you, you'll have agents and editors knocking at your door in no time. :)

So get to it!



Peace,

-Katie

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dear Teen Me

16-year-old Katie, and the certain someone at my side.
Dear Teen Me:

This is not the end.

Life does not end at 18. I wish I could convey to you how magical life has gotten in the years since high school, but I know you won’t believe me. You think you’re worth nothing, that you’re less than dirt, that soon you’ll be swept out with the rest of the garbage. You’ll try to kill yourself many times, and thank God each attempt will fail.

High school will be a nightmare for you. Every day in those halls only tightens the anxiety’s grip on you. By the time your senior year comes around, you’ll be a spiraling mess, but somehow you’ll hold it together. Because not only do you live to see graduation, but you’ll do it with honors, proving you are as smart as you hope you are. All your insecurities are products of your anxiety, which is not your fault. You’d find some way to blame yourself if the sun went out, and honey, it just ain’t worth it. Let go of the guilt and fear and uncertainty. No, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Yes, you can do it.

High school may seem like a new opportunity for you. After all, as you step into your new school, you’ve left behind your old enemies and the pain of your last suicide attempt. It’s a fresh start, and I wish I could tell you it’ll be that simple. But the fact is, the worst is just beginning.

You’ll learn that demons wear friendly faces, that abuse isn’t just fists and screaming. The boy you’re about to befriend will completely absorb your life. You won’t realize it at first. You’re lonely, you’re depressed, and you want to make a fresh start, but this boy will only drag you back into everything you want to escape. He will pull you back down into depression. He will undermine your confidence. He will convince you that you are worthless, that you need him, that the two of you are soul mates. You won’t realize what he’s done until it’s too late.

After the first few months, you will become his prisoner. You won’t realize it, of course—after all, if he keeps telling you how much he cares for you, it’s difficult to see the negative side of things. But he will eventually hit you. And strangle you until you black out. And leap across the room to attack you. He may not leave bruises, you may think you deserve it, but it’s still wrong.
 Don’t be fooled by his crocodile tears. He will say anything to convince you to forgive him. He will lie and cheat and steal from you. He will publicly humiliate you. He will turn your friends against you. Don’t ignore that anger you feel. It’s justified. Give into it, and start fighting back. It will be difficult, but slowly you will wedge a distance between you two. Don’t feel guilty for it; you’re doing what you need to for your emotional and mental well-being. Your other friends will understand, and they will support you, once they too realize what’s been happening.

When you finally free yourself from his control, it will be difficult to get back on your feet. You will try to hurt yourself in serious ways. You will face a crippling depression and anxiety. You may doubt your capability to do anything right. You will hit the lowest of lows, but you will climb back up afterwards.

I may only be a few years older than you, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s this: Nothing is forever. Not the good, and not the bad.

Someday, this pain will be useful to you. You’ll use it to help kids who are in similar situations. You’ll learn how to handle your worries and insecurities (Mostly.)  You’ll gain back confidence. You will be happy again.

But please, don’t give up hope. It does get better. Trust me.

Love,

Me.
20-year-old Katie.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review: Anna Dressed In Blood


Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood

Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story...

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.


So when I sat down to read Anna Dressed in Blood, I was expecting an easy romance with some ghost killing on the side. What I got was an easy romance with some kick-ass ghosts on the side, some voodoo hoodoo, and secrets hidden under the surface of the plot, something I absolutely adore.

On the character side, Cas is an easy, likeable MC, with a decent voice. I was rooting for him from page one, because although he has the task of killing the dead, he does show some sympathy for these spirits (who were often wrongfully killed). What struck me about Cas was his growth over the course of the story-- how he went from certain in his convictions to questioning himself, his knife and his father. Along the same lines, Anna was a wonderfully constructed character. I adored that she could go from a gentle, sympathetic girl one moment to a raging monster the next.

Blake uses a very easy writing style, but as I mentioned, there's much more going on beneath the surface. Tying in the backstory with Cas's dad, the creature who killed him and the knife bound to their blood-tie, Blake brought everything together at the end, proving a great twist that made my stomach clench a few times. That's something to be said for Blake-- though nothing was too grotesquely described, there were still a couple of points where my heart did that little fearful flip-flop. (Especially for Tybalt. Oh, Tybalt!)

And it's set in Canada! Woot! *waves Canadian flag*

All in  all, the book was an easy read, with likeable characters and a very interesting backstory. She only gave the reader enough information to get them through the story, leaving many questions unanswered. I don't want to give too much away, because trust me, the second half of this book totally flips itself onto its head.

If you're a fan of Holly Black's BLACK CAT series, or enjoy watching shows such as Supernatural, or Secret Circle, then I highly suggest picking up ANNA. You won't be disappointed.

Overall rating: 4/5.

Peace,

-Katie

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's Not Rocket Science

So, I know I mostly blog about writing, but I have a lot of FEELS and they won't fit on twitter.

So, I've been at my job in social services for about 9 months now. It's been like coming home, and there's nothing I love more than going to work. Seeing the kids is the best part of my day, especially because a lot of them are only a few years younger than me.

It's been a great learning experience, and it's put a lot of things into perspective.

When I was 15, I met one of my best friends. She came from the North end of the city (The only people who get that reference will probably be my fellow Calgarians, sadly...) She was raised in an abusive home, with two younger half-siblings, her step-father and her mother. She suffered from numerous forms of abuse, including verbal, emotional, and physical. By the time I met her, she'd been through the child care system,  had been to foster care for periods of time, and her life was starting to settle back to normal. She had a bright future, excelled in school, spoke two languages-- and this girl could sing.

And now? Well, let's just say she still sings. Sometimes.

I love her to death, but over the years I've watched the toll the abuse has taken on her. Because that's just it-- when you abuse a child, it sets the tone for their life. Can they break out of it? Yes, but it is extremely difficult. These children only know violence, abuse, and neglect. That is their way of life. Does that make them bad people? No. But their decision making skills are sometimes questionable. For example, a wife continually returning to her abusive husband is sometimes known as Battered Wives Syndrome, and indeed, her decision making skills are impaired. The wife continues to place herself in a dangerous situation, despite so many opportunities to escape pain. This holds true with children who've grown up in an abusive home. When you've never been taught something, how can you know to do, or not to do it?

That's what gets me so angry about this whole situation. It's not fair. As a person, as a human being, what gives you the right to warp a child's life like that? What difference is this from brainwashing, really?

Maybe I'm too optimistic for this world. But if you as me, we live in a first world country. We're educated, have access to health care, and have the freedom to go to school, go to work, and believe whatever we want. So WHY is it so hard for people NOT TO BEAT THEIR KIDS. Honestly, people, this isn't rocket science.

Peace,

-Katie

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Nest


So recently I undertook PHASE TWO of my editing process. This is where I translate paper edits like "Rework this sentence" and "add more tension here" to actually inputting those changes. It is a LONG and TEDIOUS process, and so to make it a little easier on me (and lower my chances of procrastinating) I have constructed The Nest!


The Nest, day one.

Why does The Nest work? Why does this little setup of my hard drive on my coffee table, with the basket from a chair, work so well? Over the years, my muse and I have come to an understanding. She doesn't like me, I don't like her, but we need to work together. All's well during the first draft, but edits for me are a little different.

When I write, I can write anywhere, anytime, so long as I have a computer and can focus. But when I edit, I create things like The Nest to help boost my productivity. Because let's face it, edits suck, especially PHASE TWO edits. They make the book so much more awesome and I love them for that, but in the end it's a lot of trudging through badly constructed sentences.


The Nest, two chapters in.

The Nest works for me for some very simple reasons:

--> Right in front of the TV. I can switch channels, mute, put in DVDs-- whatever, and I don't have to crane my neck, like I do at my computer desk. (This is purposeful. TV = not helpful for writing.)

--> Sitting low to the floor is not only comfortable, but INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT TO GET OUT OF. Trust me, when my butt is in that chair, getting out is the last thing I want to do. This cuts down on my wandering.

--> Internet and music are within arm's reach, along with things like cell phone, which I ignore for the duration of my edits.

--> COKE! POSSIBLY THE MOST IMPORTANT INGREDIANT. I NEED MY CAFFIENE.




The Nest, ten chapters in.

Do I HAVE to construct my massive nest to do my edits? No, but it makes them a hell of a lot easier. I appease the procrastination demons in my head while still getting my work done, and this way is much more fun. Not only do I have fun constructing it, but I get a sense of accomplishment every time another piece of paper hits the floor. Is it a bitch to clean up? Oh yeah. But it's fun, and if I can't enjoy what I do, why the hell do I even bother doing it?


I think a certain someone likes having the couch all to herself.

So there you have it! A whole bunch of crazy! Do you guys have any editing/writing habits? Not that we need these things to get the job done, but they're fun habits (sometimes.) How do you guys like to get down to work? Do you have your own work space? Send me pics!

Peace,

-Katie


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New Adult: A Call to Arms

Allright, blogsphere. I've got a problem. I don't normally rant, so you'll have to forgive me. And by forgive me, I mean sit your tushies down, because you're damn well going to listen to me. This post is for YA and MG writers, authors, agents, editors, and anyone interested in the new adult market.

Recently, I've seen a few agents on twitter commenting on the 'new adult  trend.' And though I agree somewhat-- writers, don't try to pitch new adult, as that's going to be a hard sell in the industry right now. However, the aforementioned agents had been remarking about how "new adult was never going to happen." And that, my dear friends, is where they're terribly, terribly wrong.

Before we start, I think you need a little background. I'm 20. I'm still living with my parents (In their basement, ha!) and I have a full time job. I graduated high school two years ago with honors. (To give you some perspective, I spent my three years in high school ruthlessly pursuing publication. Ask anyone in the English department.) I won my agent just before my 19th birthday. He was quite surprised to hear how young I was, as I didn't think to tell him until 2 months after we'd signed the contract.

 I went to university right after graduating, quickly learned that was the wrong place to be, and dropped out after my first semester. Afterwards, I spent a long time floundering, trying to figure out what the heck I was supposed to do with my life. Long story short, I ended up at a temp agency that placed me in a child and family services agency, where I'm very, very happy.

But it was a hard journey to go from a high school graduate to "Hey, I know what I want to do with the rest of my life." And in that time, and still, I'm encountering other kids who are, what I like to call "floundering." Right out of high school, I heard about those kids who immediately shot out of the nest to success, whether it be some school far away, or a round the world tour. Of course we heard about those kids. We never STOPPED hearing about those kids. And for those kids, like me, who ended up floundering, there was a lot of conflict, and a lot of drama, and a lot of questions. Suddenly, the pressures of high school are gone, and the pressures of life replaced them. It's very strange to adjust to, and I found I wasn't the only kid having trouble.

And yet, there are no books. Sure, if I search in the right places, I can find books that have similar "newly adult" issues. For example, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE takes place in Prague, in university-esque arts school. Moreso, the MC is 19. I was able to relate on that when I was in university for that brief span of time. But I have to look hard for these books, and some of my friends, who are readers but not OMG I HAVE TO READ EVERYTHING readers, wont be able to find them.

There is rife conflict in these ages, and people who could benefit reading about some characters who are going through similar issues. I don't just mean contemporary fiction, either. Sometimes they want to read about fantasy through the eyes of someone 21 and who just moved into their new apartment. I would love to write something like that, but alas, the market is a difficult place. Is it YA? Is it Adult? Right now, the market reflects reality. There's no place for these new adults, and so often they're left floundering.

Let's take a look then to the market we want to model after. The YA market. We have a huge market, which has proven to eat up fiction at insatiable rates. Don't you think these kids would love to read about getting a new apartment, or going to university? Yes, yes, editors, agents, I can hear you now. "But they can't relate to those issues." In a lot of cases, no. But so many teens fantasize about moving out on their own, having serious relationships, though a lot of the time, they can't imagine what that's like. Why don't we show them? It's been proven that people read up, so isn't it safe to assume our 16/17/18 year old readers would love to read about 20/21/22 year olds? It's the next stage of their lives, of course they're thinking about it!

Alrighty. We've got a solid market. And let's look at this realistically. The kids my age now grew up with MG fiction, then YA fiction, of COURSE they want their own market. And why shouldn't they get it, if so many writers like myself, would love to write about it?

YA (the trend) blew up about, hmm, 15 years ago? 20? Before that, yes, there were people writing YA fiction, Ender's Game, to name one, and The Catcher in the Rye, to name another. But the trend blew up when we worked together to build a market for this. Once major publishing houses started publishing it, that led the way for editors to buy it, which means agents requested it, which means us writers could crack out some good YA fiction with the hope that one day it may be published. Even movie studios have recognized the market with films like Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and the soon to be made Mortal Instruments movie (yay!) We've created something amazing, along with the writers and editors and agents of this business before us (some of which are still in the biz!) and we should be proud of that.

So let's seize the opportunity. Let's take advantage of this huge success. Let's open the doors for New Adult already. I don't expect agents and editors to turn around overnight and say "Give me New Adult!" (though that'd be nice.) What I'm asking for is just a little open-mindedness. There are those who still say "the YA trend will die out soon." Well, it's not. And it never will, because baby, we're timeless. Well, this new market won't die out either, because it's got the timeless appeal from all angles. It's an opportunity to grow, and everyone loves growth, even if business is a little afraid of it, sometimes.

Will New Adult sell? Yes. There will be lines of teens and young adults who want to look towards the future/relate, and just like YA, we'll have a crowd of adults wanting to relive their early 20s.  Don't dismiss those who are looking for an opportunity to sell it. In 15, 20 years, it could be the next biggest market, and it would be totally amazing to watch it happen from the front lines, in my opinion.

Peace, my friends,

-Katie 

Monday, July 30, 2012

"Oh My God, They Killed Kenny!"



Character death. For some writers, the best part of the job. For others, one they dread the most. Personally, killing off characters holds a very special place in my heart. Not to say I get warm fuzzies whenever I hack someone to pieces, but I do get a profound sense of, "This is a very important moment." (If I wasn't a writer, I might have some explaining to do for that sentence. lol!)

I'm a combination of a pantser and a outliner. I outline to a degree, let my imagination fill in the rest, and deviate from my plan if my characters feel so inclined. However, the one thing that I have never gone off-track with in my writing is when I kill off characters. When I sit down to write chapter one, I know exactly who will die, when, and why.

My philosophy on character death is very simple. I love it when a great character gets a wonderful death scene, because it can really give that character one final hurrah before they leave the story. However, if a character death feels contrived or put in simply for dramatic effect, I get really angry.

Whenever you decide to kill off a character, at whatever stage you are in your story, you have to ask yourself a few important questions.

1) Why am I killing this character off? You need to know this answer. This should be the FIRST question you ask yourself when character death pops into your head. WHY are you doing this? Will their death progress the plot? Give your MC more motivation? Give them heartache? You can have a dozen reasons for this, so long as you have one. Using character death to eliminate someone whose become unnecessary to the story is NEVER okay. Find some way to work them out of your story, or back in, or get rid of that character all together.

2) What effect will this have on the story? This is a little different than why. Think of a ripple effect. Everything a character does in a story has consequences, and so should this. If this character is important to the MCs, or villians, or just a primary player, their death will change the dynamic of the story. This is also how the reader will get hit with that solid emotional punch. It's not just that the character's gone, but in their absence, everything has changed, either for the better or worse.

For example, in Shell, one of my main characters is killed off, and the dynamic of the group of friends vastly changes. They went from being very close friends to each drifting away and falling apart on their own. It was more than just killing someone off. It was how that affected those left behind.

3) What do I want the readers to feel? This is my favorite question, and the one I have the most fun with. When this character dies in the story, how do you want your reader to feel about it? If this is a traitor's death, you may want your reader to be happy that this evil person is gone. How do you do that? Set up the character as sympathetic, and then take away all the sympathy during the betrayal. When we get to the death scene, watch your dialogue, watch every detail. Think of how your character is feeling as they die. What are their regrets? Their wishes? Their last thoughts? Now combine that with what you want your readers to feel. If you want them to feel remorse for your traitor, highlight sympathetic traits as he's dying, or shortly beforehand. Maybe show regret, so that even when they're gone, your reader feels some pity for them. Or, you can elimate all symathy during the death scene, and have him go down snarling and screaming, which will leave a very different last impression for your reader.

This is a question you must ask yourself as you write all the way through. Every time this character comes into play, consider that they are going to die. Their screen time is limited, so you have to make the best of it. Amp up the sympathy, but don't make them into a whiny baby. Craft them into a hero, so their death has that extra punch.

If you need to think of a good example of this, Rue from the Hunger Games is a perfect example. Her character is extremely sympathic, and coupled with her gruesome death, it leaves a heartbreaking last impression on your reader that resonates with them.

Always remenber: Someday, somebody reading your book will fall in love with this character, and when they die, you need to make sure their death is justified, so that reader will put down the book and admit the story is so much better for it.

Peace,

-Katie

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Let me Tell you a Story.

Gather round, kiddies. I know I've been flitting in and out of the internet world for the past like, what? Four? Six months? I think you all deserve a reason why.

Let me paint you a little picture. This last December I was not in a good place. I have crippling anxiety, but I had yet to realize it at the time. I'd just dropped out of university, was feeling horribly depressed and agoraphobic, and I had no job. Life was miserable. Finally, I managed to snag a job with a temp agency. After a few jobs serving plated dinners at big Christmas parties, I decided I needed something more stable. So I talked to my temp agency and they hooked me up with a seven month job at a child and family services agency.

I had no idea what I was getting into.

The first day I missed, because I was too terrified of the prospect of a new job with people I didn't know. The next day, I made it. I stepped into the tiny waiting room at quarter after eight, but there was no one to be found. I sat on the couch, incredibly nervous, when a lady stepped out of a door down the hallway. I watched her walk towards me, wearing her long skirt, glasses, her hair a pile of dark curls. She said to me, "Are you the new receptionist?"

"Yes," I said.

"Good, come on in. My name's Rinah."

"I'm Katie."

Within the next ten minutes, I would come to meet my other coworkers. In the weeks that followed, I would grow to get to know and love each of them. Mary, the lovable admin assistant who helped with the aboriginal department and was always willing to listen. Deb, the snarky second-in command with a die-hard love of penguins. And Stephen, the nerdy little gamer boss.

I'm kind of embarrassed to admit I had no idea what kind of place I was actually working at, but I found out fast. That first day, I read reports of what some of the kids were doing-- apparently, the previous day, when I'd been too anxious to come to work, one of the kids nearly jumped off a cottage roof. This was a residential treatment facility for children and teenagers who'd suffered through abuse, sexual exploitation, poverty, drugs, neglect, and a million other problems that would turn your stomach just thinking about it.

After that first week, I was in love. Everyone in this agency treated me with such love and care, compared to the horrible abuse I suffered at my last job (Before the temp agency) More than that, I was fascinated by these kids. I wanted to know more about them. I wanted to find out how they were being treated. I wanted to help them. I felt an extreme kinship to a lot of the kids. Each report I got was a new piece of a story unfolding before me. Every day I glimpsed into the lives of these troubled kids, most of which I've never met.

Now, as my contract came to a close, I knew I couldn't leave this agency. I'd grown to love everyone and everything about it, so I asked for a job as a relief staff in one of the Independent Living Programs, which is sort of like a group home. On my first day, I bonded with one of the boys there, who was incredibly smart, though he had some tics in which he blinked a lot and snapped his fingers. I was amazed by how easily he opened up to me. I've always been terrified of people, and yet this boy, who'd suffered through many traumas in his life, accepted me without a second thought.

In the weeks that followed, I eventually made it to shift leader, and spent two shifts by myself in the home. I was really honored to be trusted that much, as I have no certification, and little to no training. But it was incredible. Just like before, the kids accepted me. Maybe not always fully, but they watched movies with me, played games with me, and I managed to navigate the not-so-good times without losing my cool.

On one of my shifts in which I was working alone, a girl in the home was having a rough time, as she'd just broken up with her boyfriend. I went down and talked to her for a long time. All I had to do was show her I was willing to listen, and out poured all her secrets. She's been in the system for a number of years now, as she'd been taken away from her parents by the courts.

She showed me pictures of her family. "My brother and I are pack rats," she told me. "We store food everywhere. Sometimes, we'd find pizza behind the couch that my brother had left there and forgot about."

"Haha. Ew, that's nasty."

"Yeah, but we'd never know when we'd eat next, sometimes."

She told me about her experience with the cops, how she'd lost it and pulled a knife on them when they'd tried to apprehend her. "I was walking to my grandmother's house. I had a plan. I thought, if I could just get there, then everything would be okay. We'd live happily ever after."

She showed me all her art, but one piece in particular caught my eye. It was a photography poster with a bunch of different shots. They were all accompanied by short paragraphs of prose, explaining it. One picture was a phrase that had been carved into the door of one of the confinement rooms back on campus.

It read, "Show some compassion for the suffering soul."

It struck me hard, especially when the girl told me who had carved the message. It was a client I knew. A client still on campus. A client I had read so much about. Guys, the client who scratched those words, has literally been through HELL.

In that moment, I felt so connected to that client. She doesn't know it, but I love her, and so do a lot of other people. The world can be a cruel place. Sometimes people will hate you for no reason, but it works just the opposite, too. People can love you, without ever having met you.

So that's my story. These people changed my life. And you want to hear the best part? Once my contract expired, they offered me a permanent job at the front desk, where I've been working this whole time.

So kiddies, that's where I've been. I promise to be around more often now, and I may post more about my real life stuff now, as well as mental health. :) Learning about mental health is the best way to write better characters, anyway. Am I right? ;)

Peace,

-Katie

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Holy Giveaway, Batman!

Howdy howdy everybody!  This post is LONG overdue, and I apologize for the delay. Real life kicked me in the teeth, but things are finally starting to settle down. So I've decided to do a MASSIVE GIVEAWAY!!

Glitter Words
[Glitterfy.com - *Glitter Words*]

Some of you may remember, back in May I did a walk for Kids Help Phone to raise money for at-risk kids and youth. Our single walk raised over $100 000! But I'm not stopping there. Today I want to switch my focus to an organization a little closer to home for a lot of my blog readers.

Hopeline is a non-profit group focused on suicide prevention, awareness and education. Too many people suffer through depression, anxiety and mental illness, and too often they feel as though they can't reach out. Show them there's a way out. Show them there's an end to the darkness. For these organizations, every penny counts. I work in a non-profit treatment facility for at-risk youth, and trust me when I say, EVERY donation is important. That couple minutes to fill out the form, even if you're only donating a dollar, or five, is worth it. That little bit of money means they might be able to afford one more counselor, one more phone line, and maybe, it means they can save just one more life.

Suicide is 100% preventable. So let's stand together so no more families suffer the pain of losing a loved one like this.

For this contest, we have so many prizes, it's ridiculious.

First place prize!



See that? SEE THAT? Do you know what that is? First Prize is a signed copy of Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton, Fat Kid Rules the world by K.L. Going, Bumped and Thumped by Megan McCafferty, as well as some Blood Magic postcards.

Second Prize!


Second prize is a copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lani Taylor and Immortal City by Scott Speer, as well as some Blood Magic postcards.

There will be a few runner up prizes, where a few people will receive some Blood Magic postcards. These are all AMAZING books. Trust me, you want these suckers. And all for free? C'mon people, get in on this while you can!


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN ENTER, KIDS.

1) Go to www.hopeline.com and click on the Donation button. Fill out the form and donate however much you want. The amount you donate will NOT affect this contest. If you donate $1000 or $1, you will be entered.

2) When you get to the confirmation page, hit print screen. Email me the screenshot at katiecarson@hotmail.com, and I will enter you into my list of contestants. (Note: Hopeline will also give out wristbands for donating $10, and playing cards for donating $50. That's double the prizes, man!)

3) One you've emailed me your screenshot, you will be entered into the contest ONCE. Once you've donated, you may also get more entries in the following ways:

-- Tweet this contest. Just make sure to mention me in the tweet @katieEcarson This will get you one entry for every tweet. Tweet it 50 times? Get entered 50 times.

-- Follow me on Twitter. (@katieEcarson) This will give you an extra entry.

-- Blog about this contest, mental illness, or suicide. Share a personal experience, and get the conversation going. For one blog post, I'll give you 5 entries. But please leave the link to the post in the comments, because I would love to read them!

-- Follow this blog, and you will receive another entry.

-- Anything that spreads the word will get you another entry. Tumblr post, facebook post, goodreads-- I don't care. Spread the word about this conest, mental illness or suicide, leave the link in the comments, and you'll receive another entry.

The contest will end on July 31st.



Seriously, what do you have to lose? Donate a dollar, win a million books, help out a great organization. YOU CAN'T LOSE. GET TO IT, PEEPS!

Peace,

-Katie