Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Book Club: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and Friday Fives!

Around the beginning of September, Tracey Neithercott suggested a most brilliant idea: a virtual Fall Book Club. A group of writers and readers propose a book to read, return a month later and post a review, and then hop around to all the other fabulous book thoughts.

Awesome idea, right?

It is an awesome idea. It's just that Alison didn't actually finish the book until, well, today.

So, I'm a little tardy on my review. And my Friday Fives. And after my crazy exhaustive day yesterday, I wasn't going to post at all.

But I couldn't not review this book. Because it's AMAZING.

Here's the Good Reads blurb:

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

First, you have to know that I would have never picked this book up on my own. I hadn't heard of it up until a month ago and the title doesn't really do anything for me. But the cover - whoa. That girl (Olive) is levitating - and she's just one of the peculiar children Jacob (and the reader) are introduced to along his incredible journey.

And that picture isn't the only one. In fact, the entire book is filled with beautiful, disturbing, eerie photographs that blend beautifully with Ransom Riggs gorgeous writing. Check these out.

Yes, the girl (Emma) in the last pic really is creating fire in her hands.

And the STORY. Holy ingenious ideas, Batman. I'm not going to spoil it for you by raving about every creative element of this novel, but I will say a few things.

But let me take a step back first.

I'm not going to lie. I had a hard time getting through the first part of this book. It was eventful and it was beautifully written, but it was almost too much description and not enough "eventfulness." But do NOT let that sway you, people. My experience with this story is akin to my journey with Harry Potter. It wasn't until my third attempted read at Harry Potter that I made it to the end of Sorcerer's Stone. It took me until Jacob and his father landed in Wales. And he found the "bridge" to the peculiar children. And then - whoa. Did not. Want. To stop. I actually got very upset when the veritable time suck called life forced me to stop reading. Once Jacob meets the peculiar children and Miss Peregrine herself, I wanted to know EVERYTHING. I wanted to know all about the invisible boy and the girl that can soar through the air. And Enoch. And Bronwyn. And...I could go on. I read the story uber-curious about real-life sideshow circus "freaks" and hmmm...maybe they're peculiar children too.

I had to know what Emma's deal was and who and what are these monsters with three tentacles emanating from their mouths. I had to know about the nomadic orthinologist roaming the island (and what a twist when he was revealed!)And most of all, I wanted to know if Jacob was peculiar too. And what made him so special.

And trust me, how he's able to see the children. How they're still alive. Well, I've already spoiled it enough. You're just going to have read it for yourself.

Finally, the language, the writing - while at times was maybe a bit too descriptive - is still undeniably beautiful. Yeah, okay - so maybe a sixteen year old guy wouldn't describe things the way Jacob does, but I would've felt denied if he didn't. He's consistently poetic and Harry Potter-esque in his descriptions and characterizations. PS - Ransom Riggs really didn't need those pictures. But I'm glad he included them. The writing and the pictures complemented each other to add to this beautiful, fascinating, yet peculiar story.

Go. Buy it. And fall in love with Jacob and Miss Peregrine's children as much as I did. Scream at the pages when they make "bad" choices. Or when bad times befall them.

Be enamored by beautiful writing. Marvel at the haunting vintage photography. Demand the sequel be delivered RIGHT NOW. I'm having trouble tempering my patience for it.

And go check out the other reviews. Tracey's got a linky over at her blog.

Oh, and can't forget the Friday Fives over at Paper Hangover! Today they want to know

Favorite banned books, huh? Prepare to be surprised. Not by my choices. But by the fact that some of these are "banned."

Why is this one on the banned books list?

Sexually Explicit (WTH?!), Unsuited to Age Group, Violence

These both won Printz awards, yet they're on the Banned and Challenged Books List.

Sad. So sad.

We all know how I feel about Ellen.

And Perks - most of my students who've read this list it as their favorite book.

Yeah, what-ev-er. Only one of the most beautifully written and fantastical stories EVER.

So, how about YOU? Have you read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children? What are YOUR thoughts on it?

What's YOUR favorite Banned Book?

PS - today's the last day to enter my Banned Book Giveaway! Click here for details!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

RTW: September Love

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:

What was the best book you read in September?

Off the September TBR list:

Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Ann Peters

Teach Me by R.A. Nelson

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (currently reading)

So, I feel like I've been repeating myself all week, but the best book this month...

I'm giving away a copy of it in support of Banned Books Week (click here!), and I wrote a poem (yeah, I know - WTH?!) about it as part of my Second Campaigner's Challenge that I'm reposting below. I had to use some strange new vocabulary and was only allowed 200 words (jeez), but hopfully it will somewhat sum up it's fabulousness.

Shatter the Imago: Review of Perfect

Four seniors, mirroring parental expectation
Four lives, intertwining, paralleled
but not in synchronicity
Related by events
Raw urges.
Desires to break the mold

Cara—raised in toxic miasma,
parental vapors reeking of unattainable expectation.
She’s with Sean.
But prefers Dani(elle)

Is it better to be dead to yourself
Or alive with someone else?

Kendra—beautiful, thin
Too thin
Size two is not enough
Starvation seems the only road to her perfection

Sean—the pressure
Scholarships, baseball
Be the best
Can steroids bridge the high school-Stanford lacuna?

Dancer hiding in parental ambition’s shadow
Fortune 500 is the future
Mom, Dad? Will you ever understand?
To thine own self be true?

Perfect is raw, edgy
Emotion explodes off the page

Choking tears, I oscitate
Yearn to reach through the pages
Save Cara from Sean
Save Andre from his parents
Save Kendra from herself

sexual identity

Ellen covers it all
She gets it
She gets them

Teens pressured
By family, friends
To be “perfect”

Perfect conveys the exhilaration
and the consequences of striving to live up
to imagos formed from birth

And being who you are
instead of who you’re expected to be

Perfect is Impulse #2, but is more of a companion novel than a sequel (so you don't have to read the first to follow the second!). And while Impulse is still my favorite Ellen Hopkins novel, Perfect runs a very close second.

And had I not read Perfect this month, Boy Toy would definitely have ranked #1. The fabulous Katy Upperman recommended it to me and it was mind-blowing. Allow me to share the Good Reads blurb.

A riveting and disturbing novel about a seventh-grade boy who has a very adult relationship with his female teacher. Josh Mendel has a secret. Unfortunately, everyone knows what it is. Five years ago, Josh's life changed. Drastically. And everyone in his school, his town-seems like the world-thinks they understand. But they don't-they can't. And now, about to graduate from high school, Josh is still trying to sort through the pieces. First there's Rachel, the girl he thought he'd lost years ago. She's back, and she's determined to be part of his life, whether he wants her there or not. Then there are college decisions to make, and the toughest baseball game of his life coming up, and a coach who won't stop pushing Josh all the way to the brink. And then there's Eve. Her return brings with it all the memories of Josh's past. It's time for Josh to face the truth about what happened. If only he know what the truth was...

Three words: Intense. Erotic. Genius.

(I had you on erotic, didn't I?)

Seriously an awesome read. I will never understand why the Mary Kay Letourneau's of the world do what they do, but Boy Toy definitely gives insight into the head of the victim and the overwhelming impact the "relationship" can have, even years later.

So, what's the best book YOU read in September?!

And don't forget to enter my Banned Book Giveaway. And...AND we're still giving away ARCs and agent critiques over at YA Confidential! Check it out!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Second Campaign Challenge AND a Terse Review

The Second Campaign Challenge is on!

Write a blog post in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should:

• include the word "imago" in the title
• include the following 4 random
words: "miasma," "lacuna," "oscitate," "synchronicity,"

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional and included in the word count), make reference to a mirror in your post.
For those who want an even greater challenge (optional), make your post 200 words EXACTLY!

So because I'm champion multi-tasker (ha) and I'm supporting Banned Books Week and...AND I wanted to review the fabulousness that is Ellen Hopkins' Perfect, I thought I'd take care of all three with one post! Or at least try.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a poet, and I know it. Try to enjoy anyway. :)

Shatter the Imago: Review of Perfect

Four seniors, mirroring parental expectation
Four lives, intertwining, paralleled
but not in synchronicity
Related by events
Raw urges.
Desires to break the mold

Cara—raised in toxic miasma,
parental vapors reeking of unattainable expectation.
She’s with Sean.
But prefers Dani(elle)

Is it better to be dead to yourself
Or alive with someone else?

Kendra—beautiful, thin
Too thin
Size two is not enough
Starvation seems the only road to her perfection

Sean—the pressure
Scholarships, baseball
Be the best
Can steroids bridge the high school-Stanford lacuna?

Dancer hiding in parental ambition’s shadow
Fortune 500 is the future
Mom, Dad? Will you ever understand?
To thine own self be true?

Perfect is raw, edgy
Emotion explodes off the page

Choking tears, I oscitate
Yearn to reach through the pages
Save Cara from Sean
Save Andre from his parents
Save Kendra from herself

sexual identity

Ellen covers it all
She gets it
She gets them

Teens pressured
By family, friends
To be “perfect”

Perfect conveys the exhilaration
and the consequences of striving to live up
to imagos formed from birth

And being who you are
instead of who you’re expected to be

If you liked my terse 200-word review, head over to Rach Writes and like my entry. (I'm #119!)

And don't forget to enter my Banned Books Giveaway! I'm giving away copies of Perfect and The Perks of Being a Wallflower! Click here for details.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Forbidden Love

It’s Banned Books Week!

What’s that?

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States. American Librarian Association

My take on Banned Books:

I have a twelve-year old daughter who reads just as much if not more than I do. We share books, but there are certain YA books that she will definitely wait to read. Is it because I want them banned? NO. It’s because she’s not ready to handle some of the older YA content. But one day she will be. And I want her to have accessibility to these books. She’ll read them. I’ll encourage her to read them. And hopefully mother/daughter discourse will ensue.

There are so many valuable, wonderful, amazing books out there for teens—ones many should read. Just because of the slight explicit content in Thirteen Reasons Why should a library ban a book that I believe should be a required read for every freshman in high school? Just because teenagers who’ve only known each other for a week have sex, should Twenty Boy Summer be banned reading? Should candid discussions of sex be the reason Shut Out never makes it to a high school’s library shelf?

If you don’t like the content in a book, don’t read it. It’s rare for me not to finish a book, but this past summer, I had to. It was Precious by Sapphire, and the horrid molestation was too much for me to stomach. Life’s all about choices. And parents, if you’re concerned as to what your kid’s reading, then read with them. And while you’re at it, make sure you monitor every movie and television show and YouTube video and Xbox game and Facebook status . But don’t get a book banned from a library that could save another kid’s life. Like Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. Or Ellen Hopkins' Crank.

This week, I am a Reader, Not a Writer and I Read Banned Books are hosting the Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop. And I’m giving away two books in honor of it. Two books that give honest portrayals of that awkward, harsh, vibrant, exhilarating period called the teenage years: The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Perfect.

Here’s a little more on each one.

Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie is navigating through the strange worlds of love, drugs, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", and dealing with the loss of a good friend and his favorite aunt.

I read, cried, and then reviewed this one sometime ago. You can check more out on this book here.

And since Ellen Hopkins is one of my favoritest authors, OF COURSE I'm going to give away one of hers!

Everyone has something, someone, somewhere else that they’d rather be. For four high-school seniors, their goals of perfection are just as different as the paths they take to get there.

Cara’s parents’ unrealistic expectations have already sent her twin brother Conner spiraling toward suicide. For her, perfect means rejecting their ideals to take a chance on a new kind of love. Kendra covets the perfect face and body—no matter what surgeries and drugs she needs to get there. To score his perfect home run—on the field and off—Sean will sacrifice more than he can ever win back. And Andre realizes that to follow his heart and achieve his perfect performance, he’ll be living a life his ancestors would never have understood.

Everyone wants to be perfect, but when perfection loses its meaning, how far will you go? What would you give up to be perfect?

A riveting and startling companion to the bestselling Impulse, Ellen Hopkins's Perfect exposes the harsh truths about what it takes to grow up and grow into our own skins, our own selves.

Ellen's seen her share of book banning. She even wrote a manifesto about it.

To you zealots and bigots and false
patriots who live in fear of discourse.
You screamers and banners and burners
who would force books
off shelves in your brand name
of greater good.
You say you're afraid for children,
innocents ripe for corruption
by perversion or sorcery on the page.
But sticks and stones do break
bones, and ignorance is no armor.
You do not speak for me,
and will not deny my kids magic
in favor of miracles.
You say you're afraid for America,
the red, white, and blue corroded
by terrorists, socialists, the sexually
confused. But we are a vast quilt
of patchwork cultures and multi-gendered
identities. You cannot speak for those
whose ancestors braved
different seas.
You say you're afraid for God,
the living word eroded by Muhammed
and Darwin and Magdalene.
But the omnipotent sculptor of heaven
and earth designed intelligence.
Surely you dare not speak
for the father, who opens
his arms to all.
A word to the unwise.
Torch every book.
Char every page.
Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.

I'm giving away one copy of each book! To win, all you have to do is comment on this post. Extra entries can be obtained as follows:

+2 old follower of the blog
+1 new follower of the blog
+2 tweeting about the giveaway (@alisonmiller20)

And for the undying love of your favorite math geek, please tally your entries and mention that in the comments. Contest ends October 1 at 11:59 PM EST

PS - there are soooo many particpants! Check out the list at

I am a Reader Not a Writer or I Read Banned Books!

So, support Banned Books Week and try to win a banned book. And then read it!

I'll be celebrating my forbidden love all week. How about YOU?

Friday Fun! 7x7

Happy Friday, peeps!

The fabulous Alicia Gregoire passed on this award to me and I just had to pay it forward. PS - if you aren't a member of Alicia's Lurkdom, you so need to be. Her posts are informative, fun, and all kinds of awesome. And because of her my TBR list keeps growing. Seriously amazing recommendations for future reads.

Andbutso, the deal with the award is to share 7 past blog articles that fit the superlative given. Then you're supposed to go and read those posts. I'm also to share the award with 7 other people.

Cool, right? And I can't resist sharing. So, without further blog rants, here's mine!

Most Beautiful: Team Peeta - in which I blog about why I fall hard for fictional characters. Sometimes I just reread and sigh.

Most Helpful: Do I help people? Ugh. This was hard. I finally just went with one of my "inspirational" posts. Here's one that helped me? It's Christmas...Miracles Can Happen!

Most Popular: Don't You Forget About Me. Also the one I'm most proud of so I chose another for number seven.

Most Controversial: Got Balls? In which I reveal my creeping habits. And who's the first person to comment on it? One of my former male students. LOL

Most Surprisingly Successful: Um...define success please. I don't know if this one was "successful," but it did receive a lot of lovely comments. And I wrote it completely from the heart - total success for me. H is for Heart

Most Underrated: Dating - Again - LOVED this post. And sad when it didn't get a lot of page views. Or comments. Boo.

Most Pride Worthy: Time Warp, Please. I'll leave it at that.

And now I'm paying the 7x7 award to these super amazing blogs!

Cambria Dillon
Alexandra Shostak
Cristin Terrill
Karen Amanda Hooper
Sara McClung
Jennifer Hoffine
Brigid Gallagher

Go check out those amazing fabulous folks!

Have I said "amazing" enough today?!

PS - I'm sharing Tales from the Locker Room today over at YA Confidential! Check it out here!

Oh! And tomorrow starts Banned Books Week! And I'll be participating in a blogfest giveaway! Come back Saturday to check it out!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

RTW: Cover Love

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic

What are your all-time favorite book covers?

I do tend to judge a book by its cover—in a good way. Here’s why these eight had me at hello:

OMG Hilarious

Exquisite, beautiful, just GORGEOUS


It Says it ALL

Dark. Mysterious. Intriguing.

How can you not love this one?

There are so many. SO MANY. But these are some recent faves.

How about YOU? What are some of YOUR favorite book covers?

PS—don’t forget to enter YA Confidential’s super fab launch giveaway! And if you’d like a teen to read your first pages, check this out! We’ll be giving away teen critiques once a month!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Word Up

You can catch my Monday Musings over at YA Confidential today! I share results from a teen survey, my fears in publishing, and my baby steps in book promotion.

Check it out here.

Have a great week!

Friday, September 16, 2011

What Would Wonder Woman Do?

We interrupt the normal Friday Fives for Alison's inner pep talk.

The other day, author Talli Roland ( The Hating Game) launched her second book Watching Willow Watts with a celebration and a web splash. Her question: If I could be anyone, I’d be…

Well, that’s easy. I’d be Wonder Woman.

No, really. Who wouldn’t want super strength, super speed, and a super duper jet plane—that’s INVISIBLE? Okay, maybe not everybody, but I strive for Wonder Woman wowsomeness on a daily basis.

And fail repeatedly.

For those of you with frequent bouts of Beat Yourself Up Syndrome and daily attempts at achieving Superhero status, let me tell you a story.

Last week was crazytown and I had at least one eight breakdowns and/or sobfests. Why? I was trying to get ready for a conference in the midst of grading papers and running my kids everywhere and critiquing and getting ready to launch the super fab YA Confidential and answering emails and trying to just keep my head above water.

Then came the Campaigner’s challenge. It called for a 200-word flash fiction. Something I enjoy doing. But also something that takes time. Something I knew I wouldn’t allow on my blog until I’d polished it sixty-four times.

But it would give me the opportunity to write—something I haven’t done a whole lot of since I finished Franken-novel back in August.

And then I thought about my massive, overwhelming to-do list.

And, I snapped.

I felt the demands of my job and had a katrillion and two places to go and be. Then I cursed at my daughter (something I swore I’d NEVER do), and realized I forgot to pack my son’s snack two days in a row. His response to my three hundred apologies didn’t help: “It’s okay, Mommy. I really wasn’t hungry then (at snack time) anyway.”

Cue incessant sobbing.

Ever have days like that (Say yes, I know I’m not the only one). Ever have weeks like that?

I love just about everything I do. Most of it is “fun busy.” I love that my children play soccer. I love that my husband coaches it. I love critiquing other people’s work. I love writers conferences. I love blogging, and I love, love, love working with YA Confidential. I love my students (okay, most of them), and most days I really do enjoy my job.

I don’t set out to be super mom. I’m just terribly selfish and frankly, I want to do it all.

And some days my limited super powers dictate that I can’t.

So I said no to something. That first campainger’s challenge. I didn’t write my 200-word flash fiction.

And I felt like a huge disappointment.

Mostly to myself.

But I had to. It was a decision I wrestled with amidst the millions of other things I was doing. And finally it came down to me asking,

What Would Wonder Woman Do?

Honestly, Wonder Woman would probably have my weekly to-do list done in an hour, but I’d like to think she might do some of these things too:

1) Chill. There are times even Wonder Woman can’t save the day. There are moments when the bad guys win (temporarily). Times where she needs to breathe, refocus, and then kick some Giganta ass.

2) Ask for help. Ever watch The Justice League? Wonder Woman didn’t always battle the baddies solo mundo. This is something I have a lot of trouble with. But I’m working on it.

3) Prioritize, yo. Wonder Woman’s got some super sonic speed, but she can’t save everyone at the same time. So faced with the car dangling off the ravine, the baddie on the other side of town who’s juicing up his laser, and the cat in the tree, she’s gotta figure out who gets saved first, right? Me too.

4) Use her lasso and compel the truth out of people. Okay, I really don’t know how that one would help me—it just sounds cool.

5) Remember what’s most important. Her people on Themyscira. Her friends.

6) And if all else fails, summon the Invisible Airplane (I so want one), fly away, and let the world function without you for a little while. So irresponsible. But sometimes so necessary.

PS—years back, I snatched this book off the shelves because the title so described me. The pages described me. Just about every word described me. Kate Reddy’s my freaking twin.

And the movie premieres today. Check out the trailer. I KNOW some of you can relate.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but the book has the kind of ending I’m aiming for. See the movie or read the book. You’ll understand.

BTW, I didn't write this post for people to feel sorry for me or not want to ask me to do things or whatever. I wrote it because I KNOW that a lot of my blog peeps have days like this. So I'm here to tell you to have a great weekend! Go out and save the world! But don’t forget—you’re only human. Just do the best you can.

If YOU could be anyone, who would YOU be?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

RTW: Déjà vu!

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:

What themes, setting, motifs, scenes, or other elements do you find reoccurring in your work?

Confession: I am the Queen of Redundancy (cue collective sarcastic Noooo) so OF COURSE there’ll be recurring themes, settings,… in my work. Some good, some not so good. Here are a few I’m guilty of

1) Supernatural Abilities: I mostly write Paranormal YA about teens with special skills. Invisibility, mind-reading, superhuman strength. Weird stuff happening when my main character gets all envious. Boys who can get girls to do anything they want. All different, but still supernatural.

2) Sports: Can’t seem to detach myself from that love. My main characters always seem to have some tie to football, soccer, or basketball. Whether it’s as the statistician, the quarterback, or the supportive BFF, athletics finds its way into my stories. I love it. And it makes for a lot of fun research.

3) Beach: not always a predominant setting, but it’s there.

4) Fitting in and self-discovery. My MCs grow up a bit throughout my stories, realizing how they affect and impact people and the world around them. It’s cool.

5) Introverted and/or introspective protagonists—I think I just defined myself.

6) Snarkasm: my female MCs are rather snarktastic, IMHO, but deep down nice and harmless.

7) My villains are usually of the male persuasion. I just realized this. Hmm.

8) Ellipses and em-dashes: I’m working on toning it down.

9) Ugh: My females tend to say this a lot. I don’t have this issue with my latest WIP.

10) And romance. *sigh* Usually heart-warming, happy-ending ones.

There are definitely others, but I'll stop there.

HUGE PS! My new blog, YA Confidential, launched Monday and we’re celebrating with a huge giveaway! ARCs, critiques, and prize packs! Check it out, yo.

ANY recurring “stuff” in YOUR stories?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Check Out the Awesome

I'm starting a group blog today with the fabulous Alexandra Shostak, Cambria Dillon, Cristin Terrill, Karen Hooper, and Sara McClung, and I am so excited! We are YA Confidential (cool, right?!), and our mission is to help YA writers understand teens and their lives better so that we can write more authentic books. And...AND we've got the most awesome group of teens on board to help us out with that! Every month we'll be posting about writing YA, giving away ARCs and critiques, celebrating the amazing YA books hitting the shelves, and most importantly, getting input from our teens on what's really going on in their lives. Can. Not. WAIT! Wer're doing a HUGE launch giveaway this week,, why are you still here? Check it out! NOW!

PS - went to the Write Brained Network conference in Virginia this weekend. (fab-u-lous!) I'll post with more in-depth deets about it later, but here's a little snapshot of the wow-some workshop!

Don't forget! Head over to YA Confidential now to check out the awesome!

Any secrets YOU'RE unveiling?! Do YOU keep secrets well? Or do they just roll off your tongue?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Don't You Forget About Me

Poster's Note: This is a post I did last year on 9-11. My thoughts and feelings haven't changed so I thought I'd share this post with you today.

The other day as my Geometry students packed their bags and anxiously awaited the bell that would herald them off to a fun-filled weekend, a Channel One production popped onto my TV screen. The subject—remembering 9-11.

The bustle in my room subsided for ten minutes as we listened to heart-wrenching stories about families struggling to move on nine years later, people wanting to forget that such a gruesome event ever happened but unable to shake a memory that’s left them with the loss of a father or a spouse. Or a child.

And as my students left my room, I wondered how much they’d remember from the silent homage in my classroom. And then I asked myself the same question. Normally, the events of 9-11 rip my gut out for a day, maybe two. I pay it a profound yet fleeting thought and then I move on.

Well, no more.

Here’s how I’m going to honor and remember those who lost their lives on a fateful day nine years ago. EVERY DAY.

Here’s what you can do too.

LOVE—love your family. Your friends. Give them ginormous hugs and squeeze them like you’ll never see them again. Because you might not.

One particular story from the Channel One episode particularly touched my heart: a girl, now sixteen, lost her father. Their life had been perfect. Her parents never fought. She couldn’t understand why her father was taken away in such a shameless tragedy. For a long time she was bitter. Angry. But she knows her father wouldn’t want her to live her life like that.

Show the love, people. Love your neighbors, even when their music won’t let your kids go to sleep. Love the kid that irks the crap out of you on a daily basis. Love your enemies.

Love is just such a warm-fuzzy feeling anyway. It takes too much energy for me to hate somebody.

LIVE—live like you’re not going to see tomorrow. BE IN THE PRESENT. Focus on the here and now. Cause it could be gone. Like that.

KILL ‘EM WITH KINDNESS—there are enough haters in the world, why add to that? Instead, when some kid cusses me out because I “gave” him a forty on his test, I’ll smile politely before I send him to the principal’s office. And then give him a clean slate the next day. Perform random acts of niceties and when someone’s nice to you, PAY IT FORWARD—like, twenty times. Even a small act of kindness can make a difference in someone’s life.

HELP—help someone even if it means sacrificing your time or your money. Or your life.

I became a teacher because I have an incurable case of Change the World syndrome. Now I’m a writer for the same reason. I fell guilty for ignoring someone's plight in the past, but I’m going to correct that. NOW. I won’t make a difference every day in big wow-some ways, but I’ll drop what I’m doing and help my daughter with her homework or that friend who just hit a deer. Or that student who needs to talk after school because her life is messed up in the worst freaking way. BE THERE for someone. Today. You might not be able to help them tomorrow.

PRAY—pray incessantly. Pray for those who’ve lost loved ones. Pray for the victims of 9-11. Pray for your neighbor’s lost dog or your student’s ACL surgery. Pray about loss. Pray about success. And if you’re not a “prayer” person, I’m not going to shove my Christianity down your throat… just throw a positive thought someone’s way. Or just do whatever it is you do.

INSPIRE AND BE INSPIRED—I’m inspired by the passengers aboard flight 93 who fought and sacrificed their lives so that the crazies on board couldn’t launch their plane into the heart of DC. I’m inspired by my friend’s simple yet poignant blog post or the story of a fatherless child. I draw inspiration from my kid who tussles with a problem and finally has her "aha" moment. Shoot. Tree frogs inspire me.

And be inspiring. Be a positive role model. SMILE a lot. Do good deeds. You never know what little act will inspire someone else.

APPRECIATE—embrace what you have. There are days when I am not particularly crazy about my job, especially when I don’t have time for my family or time to write or time to sleep. But you know what? I work for a fabulous principal and I work with some of the most amazing people and I teach some of the most wonderful kids. And I have a JOB. Sadly, not everyone can say that.

SO I’m going to appreciate my job. I’m going to embrace my family and friends. I’m going to appreciate where I am with my writing. I’m going to savor the gifts and opportunities God gives me. You should too. Cause it could disintegrate in the blink of an eye.

DREAM—dream for a better tomorrow. Dream for a life without tower-busting terrorists. Dream you can change the world. And then get out there and freaking do it.

I’m not going to forget 9-11 so easily. I’m not going to forget them. The people who gave up their lives so others could have one. The people who suffer daily because they lost the person that meant everything to them. 9-11 will find its way into one of my books. More than likely—the one I’m writing now.

And when I do forget—I’m going to come back to this blog post. And remind myself why we should always remember the sung and unsung heroes of 9-11.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Fabulosities

Happy Friday! I'm taking off for the Write Brained Conference in Virginia where I'll reconnect with writer friends and attend fabulous sessions on writing! Super excited! And I'm certain I'll have lots to share, so definitely come back for those posts in the coming weeks!

Oh - and PS - you will DEFINITELY want to pop in on Monday. Exciting things happenin' and you'll want to know all about it. So stop back. Trust me.

And it's Friday Fives over at Paper Hangover! This week they want to know

I feel like I've been answering this question all summer, but just in case you missed my other posts about my favorite summer reads, I'll share again!

Here they are with their Good Reads blurbs...

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program--or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan--or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.

Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place in mortal danger. Veronica Roth's young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances.

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.

It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future - and each other.

Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

Super, awesome, fabulous reads. I reviewed three of them here, here, and here.

Finally, I leave you with tales from Annoying Orange. I hope you spend your entire weekend yelling, "Hey Plumpkin!"

Yes, it's annoying. And no, it's not Halloween yet. But it still makes me smile.

What are YOUR big plans for the weekend?!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

RTW: Back in Time

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:

What non-YA character would you love to see star in a YA book as themselves?

Don't ask (because I'm really not sure why), but the first adult character that popped into my mind was this guy

THAT would be hilarious!

But since this question probably wants to know what book character I would like to see star as themselves in a YA novel, and since the Carrie Diaries already has a home on shelves (STILL haven't read, PS), I would LOVE to see a book solely devoted to this fabulous lady

Insight into Molly Weasley as a teen Gryffindor? Here's what I picture: same hair, Hermione feistiness, George and Fred cunning, Ron wit, Ginny beauty...a definite force to be reckoned with. And I'd LOVE to read the Molly/Arthur romance! I can only imagine it would parallel the Ron and Hermione one.

How about YOU? What adult character would YOU like to glimpse back in time?

Monday, September 5, 2011


So here’s the dealz…I started writing this story, and about two-thirds of the way through, I decided I hated it. It's direction bored me. It was way too PG for my tastes. I didn’t like the choices my main characters were making…it just felt WRONG. So I trashed it and started all over. I replotted, started writing again, and I fell back in love with my story, my characters…EVERYTHING.

Good move, right?

Then, I got stuck. And I reread the old version (bad, bad, BAD!). And there were parts of the old version I re-fell in love with and just couldn’t let hit the cutting room floor. I had to keep that part about this guy and that girl and this thing and if I did X, Y, and Z in my new version, I might be able to salvage those scenes that made my heart sing and swoon. So, I stuck them in.

Then, I skipped around. I wrote the climax before I even arrived at the midpoint. I found myself piecing together scenes, trying to make my story go in directions it didn’t really want to go, all because I couldn’t bear to part with this scene or that character or this subplot. And when I sliced and diced and reattached scenes, I found myself sewing my manuscript together with football-sized seams. My novel looks like something out of a horror movie. A beast. A monster.


I don’t write stories like this! Even my fly by the seat of my pants methodology for my other three projects didn’t explode into this debacle. I actually plotted this one! But that’s the nature of this beast. It has too many characters and too many plot lines and too many things I just don’t want to cut and well, frankly…it’s one hot mess.

And as I tried to keep practically everything fantastic from both versions, the thing that suffered the most?


Something I usually DON’T have a problem with.

Flow is the ability of a writer to create a seamless document. The story undulates from one page to the next. Words connect, sentences make sense, the transitions are strong. Everything just well, flows.

In a recent issue of Writer’s Digest, author David Morell (First Blood) said The flow of words from our mind to the page is impeded in two main ways—if we try to make the story do something that it doesn’t want to do, or if something in us isn’t ready to face the full implications of the work’s theme and emotions.

My relationship with my WIP—definitely the former. I had a gazillion awesome ideas and I wanted to incorporate ALL of them.

To maintain flow, Morell suggests literally asking your WIP questions, “What do you want to do? Where do you want me to go with you? Why are you stalling?” This almost always creates an imagined response along the lines of, “This scene is boring. “ Or, “This section is full of gimmicks. Why aren’t you being true to the subject?”

And that was it. I wrote boring scenes. I got all gimmick-y and cute and blah.

An author needs flow so that the writing reads and sounds perfect.

And my story needs flow so that it will seem, er…seamless.

Part of me wants to give up on Franken-novel, leave this monstrous horrid beast in solitude so that no one will ever have to look at him. Bu-ut I LOVE my characters and I want the world to know them too. Some scenes do flow so naturally, I read them again and again just to ensure myself that this novel is worth saving, that it’s not just a piece of put-to-gether junk. But I also know I have a lot of work to do. And the story? It’s so beautiful and full of feelings and I know it’s in there somewhere. I just have to de-beastify my ms and find it.

And I will. I’ll find the beauty in the beast. And to help me replot and find my flow, I invested in this

First Draft in 30 Days provides you with a sure-fire system to reduce time-intensive rewrites and avoid writing detours. Award-winning author Karen S. Wiesner's 30-day method shows you how to create an outline so detailed and complete that it actually doubles as your first draft. Flexible and customizable, this revolutionary system can be modified to fit any writer's approach and style. Plus, comprehensive and interactive worksheets make the process seem less like work and more like a game.

I was going to use it for the shiny new ms dancing around in my head, but I’ll try it out on Frankie first. I know I’ve already got my first draft, but maybe it will help me solidify things on round two. Make it seamless and properly fastened and bolted together.

And maybe one day my Franken-novel will morph into a real (seamless) story.

*The real Frankenstein is actually the scientist, not the created monster. But for the purpose of this blog post, please assume the misconception: Franken-novel is the monster.

What's YOUR WIP issue? Have YOU ever created a monster? Have YOU seen any good horror or sci-fi flicks lately?

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Interview with Carolina Valdez Miller! And Friday Fives!

Happy Friday! I had the amazing pleasure of interviewing Carolina Valdez Miller for the Write Brained Network, an online writing community connecting writers at every stage of development. The interview posted yesterday for members of the WB, but I wanted all my faithful blog followers to get to know her too.

Without further blahg rants, here’s the interview!

This month, meet the fabulous Carolina Valdez Miller, YA writer represented by Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst and Associates Literary Management. She’s also married with children, a Bookanista, and blogs regularly about her adventures in writing. Today, she shares her thoughts on writing, revising, submissions, and how to achieve perfect balance. Or at least enjoy trying.

AM: How did you get into writing?

CVM: I used to lie a lot when I was little. Then I started writing stories really young, about 7 or 8 (or 9?), after I learned English and how to write. I remember even writing sermons like what I used to hear at church (I was never very good at that). The first full book I wrote was a picture book at age 11, which won me my first writing award. I wrote plays and short stories and one hideous screenplay in high school, and then my freshman year in college, I started writing my first novel. Oddly, it didn’t occur to me to be an author until later. I always knew I’d write books, but “author” seemed like a career for other people, despite my double major in English and Creative Writing. I wanted to be an actress, and then eventually I set out to be a literature professor. I didn’t even consider publishing until I got all old and stuff. I do things randomly, I guess.

AM: Wow! That’s an amazing backstory! I understand you write YA Paranormal. What drew you to this genre? Do you see yourself branching off into other YA genres? Or into adult fiction?

CVM: I started out writing contemporary, mostly really literary stuff, probably because of my education. But my characters over the years kept getting younger. Then my husband read LOTR to me when I got sick, and for the first time I saw the appeal of fantasy. Harry Potter made me realize there was nothing lesser or inferior about commercial novels with young characters for young people. I know, but try not to judge me. Academia trained me to be a literary snob (judge them). Until LOTR and Harry, I erroneously thought only people who couldn’t cut it as literary fic writers wrote other stuff. Obviously, I know better now. Writing is hard, period. So I abandoned my dreams of being in Oprah’s book club and just wrote the stories I truly wanted to write—lately they’ve been paranormal, almost always with a love story. I have contemp stories in me, too—one in particular I intend to work on after my current WIP which is a paranormal thrillerish near-futurish series-like thing.

AM: Oooh. Paranormal with a romance. My favorite. From where do you draw inspiration for your writing—the settings, the characters, etc…?

CVM: From everything. Right now I’m inspired to write a story about a writer who, in the middle of answering questions to an interview, finds out her 8-book series just sold for millions of dollars.

AM: Haha! That would be awesome. Do you have a method to your writing? A plotter or pantser? A certain time of day you need to write? Or are you more whimsical about the whole process?

CVM: I can write any time, but generally I write at night because that’s when my house gets quiet. It’s next to impossible for me to write with noise. I used to be a pantser, but I decided that results in crap for me and endless amounts of editing. So now I do some plotting in advance. It’s a gift from me to me. I also have to have Coke Zero and something to snack on or I forget to eat altogether.

AM: Do you have a writing hero? An author or mentor who helped shape who you are as a writer? If so, how did that person have that effect on you?

CVM: Eh. Not really. Aside from my mom who’s a brilliant writer. But mostly I learned from her to never give up and that I’m loved. Also, most food is better with walnuts and raisins and for crying out loud I wasn’t born in a barn.

AM: You’re also a Bookanista! Wow! Can you tell us a little about your role and how you got involved? Are there any books you reviewed that stand out? Tell us about them.

CVM: I was actually on vacation when Lisa and Laura Roecker e-mailed me asking me to join a new group that they were starting up with a few others (at the time I had no idea it was the brainchild of Elana Johnson). I didn’t know who was going to be in it, but I didn’t care. The thought of being in a group that focused on reviewing well-loved books seemed awesome to me. Also, I’d do anything for Lisa and Laura. So I said yes and scrambled to write my first review as the group launched while I was still on vacation. And then I found out who was in it (which at the time was a much smaller number). I’ve loved all the books I’ve reviewed, but Ruta Sepetys’ BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY stands out as being the most haunting. It really stuck with me.

(Biased interviewer’s note: Carolina’s reviews are incredibly thorough and passionate. She recently reviewed Gretchen McNeil’s POSSESS in a vlog. Reminded me of The Blair Witch Project. Eerie and hilarious. Click here to check it out.)

AM: I know you are a dedicated work horse when it comes to writing, blogging, etc., sometimes you’re working into the early morning hours. How do you balance it all? What does an average day look like for you?

CVM: At the moment, it’s summer, so my kids are home from school. It’s tougher right now. I wake up, check on the kids, make sure everyone eats. If we don’t have plans to go out, I try to sit with them while they watch TV or whatever and catch up on social networking stuff and e-mails, etc. That actually can take hours sometimes. Eventually I’ll shower (usually). Then run errands—post office, shopping, hanging with my kids, dinner, whatever. After dinner, I might spend an hour with the family, and then I work (reading, reviewing, blogging, writing), usually the rest of the night. Lately, I’ve been working until 3 or 4 AM, and then I wake about 9 AM when the kids are up. Some days I don’t do any of that, though. Some days I just hang with my family. Recently, I’ve been landscaping my garden. I really love lilies, the orangey-salmon ones.

AM: And yes! You are represented by Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst and Associates Literary Management! *throws confetti* Can you tell us a little bit about THE CALL? What has the after-signing life been like for you? Any advice regarding revisions and submissions?

CVM: Thank you! Okay, so, anyone that knows me knows I really suck on the phone. I get anxious and stop censoring myself. Seriously, I can sound really stupid and sometimes a few marbles short. I posted about the call, actually, here.

As for advice?

Revisions: Don’t assume that just because someone sees the potential in your manuscript that it doesn’t need serious work (or that if no one sees the potential right away that there isn’t any). Revision is where your manuscript becomes a book. It’s where the magic happens. Don’t be afraid of it, and don’t get disheartened by revision notes. It’s not criticism. It’s a gift. Few people can write perfect books without some help. Make it the best you can. And then make it better.

Submissions: Learn how to freaking knit or something. Clean out your closets. Devote yourself to a new manuscript. Lock the liquor cabinet. Submissions are harder on your psyche than querying. No joke. But you have a hand to hold, which is nice.

AM: What was querying like for you? Is there something you wish someone would have told you before you queried?

CVM: I wish someone would have told me to let the ms sit a hellavu long time after I finished drafting—work on something else, revise, get it critiqued, revise, let it sit, revise, get it critiqued, and revise and revise it one more time. (I wouldn’t have listened, but I’m annoyingly stubborn). Publishing is nothing but one long freaking wait. It’s easy to close a door on yourself if you try to circumvent that general rule. A few get lucky jumping the gun. But assume it won’t be you and you’ll save yourself some heartache.

AM: Excellent advice for writers at any stage. Any workshops or conferences on the horizon?

CVM: My next major con is the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego. Haven’t lined up next year’s cons yet. Any suggestions?

AM: The fabulous WB conference on September 10!

What do you do when you’re not writing? Can you tell us a little bit about your family? Work? What are some of your hobbies? Community service activities? Pets?

CVM: Married. Two kids. No pets. I like sugar. I write full time, volunteer at a soup kitchen, go to church fairly regularly, travel a lot, go to the drive-in cinema, stalk Jared Leto, et cetera.

AM: Mmmm. Jared Leto. *swoons*

Ahem…Wow! You do so much! Awesome.

Finally, if you were stranded on that cliché desert island with only one form of sustenance—what would it be? Coke Zero? Or Twizzlers?

CVM: I would tell you Coke Zero and then sneak Twizzlers in my hat.

Thanks for a great interview, Alison! That was fun!

AM: And thank you, Carolina! I’m so glad we could all get to know you.

If you’d like to connect with Carolina, visit her at or follow her on Twitter.

And it wouldn’t be a Friday if I didn’t enlighten you with my response to Paper Hangover’s Friday Fives. PS—what a fabulous blog! Awesome writerly advice and insight into the writing and publishing world! You should check it out!

This week they want to know FIVE book titles that got my attention.

Five? Yeah, right?

Here are four of A LOT that had me at hello.

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Swim the Fly by Don Calame

Love, Lust, and Faking It (You’re intrigued too...go on, admit it) by Jenny McCarthy

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

And one at the top of the TBR list

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

What titles grabbed YOUR attention? And don’t forget to visit the super fabulous Carolina Valdez Miller! Have a wonderful weekend!