Spring YASH! YA Scavenger Hunt

Hi Everyone,

Just getting the word out that I’ll be hosting Kate Elliot for this spring’s YASH! Kate Elliott is the author of numerous science fiction and fantasy novels including BLACK WOLVES, COLD MAGIC, and the YA fantasy COURT OF FIVES. She lives in Hawaii and paddles outrigger canoes in her spare time, as well as walking her now very old schnauzer.  The hunt starts on March 29th. It’s a great chance to see what’s out there in the world of Young Adult fiction and to win books! Who doesn’t want to win books?

Come back here on March 29th to learn more about Kate’s books and take part in the YA Scavenger Hunt for a chance to win books from these authors!

Go team purple!YASH PURPLE TEAM SPRING 2016

The Power of Words

Last week I went to a creative writing open mic night. It was held at a local community college, in a small auditorium with brick walls, a wooden stage, and a bright spotlight to shine down upon all those brave enough to walk up the stairs and stand behind the microphone.

The tension in the intimate setting was literally palpable. I even heard one girl say to another, “Don’t fall off the stage this time.”

Most of the readings were poems, and most dealt with things like homesickness, the daily grind of college life, and about falling in and out of love, and while the poetry may have covered various topics, in reality, each performance was about the same thing – about the power of words to make us stronger.

As I listened to writer after writer speaking in rhythm about love and loss and hopes and dreams, I realized that they were all really saying the same thing, displaying the same thing — the ability to be brave enough to expose themselves to others.

I can’t imagine how difficult it was for the petite girl with short blond hair to get up on the stage after having fallen off it during the last open mic night. I can’t image how difficult it was for the girl who had proclaimed her undying love for a young man with brown eyes, and another girl for an older man, both then telling of how these men (one young and one old) had chosen to love someone else. Corazn Roto

Sure, it’s tough to get up in front of people and say anything — anyone who’s taken public speaking knows that. But for any human being to get up and undress their emotions in front of others, to stand naked in the spotlight, takes incredible courage, and words are what gave them the courage. Their words.

Whether we’re writing prose or poetry, we can never underestimate the power that words have, not only for the reader, but for the writer as well. No armor or bullet proof vest, no weapons of any kind, can give a person the courage or the character that words can.

Who needs X-ray vision or the ability to leap over buildings? Finding the right words to say what we need to say, is the only power we need.

Young blonde woman looking at camera and show biceps.

 

 

 

Why is Literature Important?

A few weeks ago, I gave my literature students the review sheet for their final exam. It had the usual terms over poetry and drama and the list of poems, plays and stories we’d read that they should be familiar with. Then last week, I told them to take out their study guides and tear them up.

I told them that their final would be to answer one question: Why is literature important? At first, they were relieved, but then when I explained that the required essay would involve in depth soul-searching, they started to panic.

So, what happened?

With Star Wars being released, several students touched on the fact that good books mean good movies. Others commented on how they hated literature in high school but found a new appreciation for it in their current college course, (sucking up, I know, but still, I’ll take what I can get).

What I loved the most was when their writing about writing became passionate. When they were able to discuss how amazing it was to read the poetry of Iraq veterans and how seeing war through poetic imagery had not only given them a glimpse into the horrors of war, but had allowed them to peek into the souls of men and women who had experienced things that no person should ever have to experience.

ranger stands with arms and looks forward

They talked about vicariously experiencing freezing to death in the Yukon, about walking in the woods with the devil, stoning a neighbor to death and cutting an old man with a “vulture” eye up and hiding him under the floorboards.

They talked about how disturbing a story about a young man turning into a giant, repulsive bug is, and yet how the story of Gregor Samsa helped them to understand what it must feel like to have people shun you just because you’re different or you’re sick or you’re poor.

They talked about the amazing poetry of Shane Koyczan, and how they’d hated poetry but how he brought it to life for them. They talked out how   it made them feel things from their childhoods that they thought had been swept away but, as it turns out, had only been waiting in some corner of their minds for some light to be shed on the still painful names they were called and the shame of being picked last, or not at all.

Two big bully kids

 

All semester, I’d tried to teach with passion. To share my love of words and the fact that words CAN change hearts, and if words can change hearts, they can change the world.

At the beginning of the semester, many students said they hated reading, especially academic reading, and I can’t say that I blame them. (To this day I have to read “The Metamorphosis” in bits or I’ll literally need anti-nausea medicine).

Bedbug Concept

For a teacher, spreading passion is what it’s all about. The words that form in our minds, the words we speak and the ones we wish we could take back, are what make us who we are, and when we read someone else’s words, it’s almost like cannibalism. We’re not tasting a person’s body, we’re tasting their mind, their soul, their experiences. We’re growing exponentially by reading the words of those who have lived before us and of those who lived before them.

Some would say that these are dark and difficult times in which we’re living. But the truth is that every era has its own shades of hope and despair. The key to dispelling the dark is to find the passion that was born out of each generation. To learn from it. To feel it.

Why is literature important?

Because we are meant to feel the emotions of many lifetimes, but we are only given one.

 

 

 

To Nano or Not to Nano

October is almost over which means the buzz of NaNoWriMo is in the air.

As a professor, I’ve always wished that the month writers are supposed to dive in and dedicate themselves to the purpose of writing, wasn’t November. Let’s see, there’re the holidays, the whole finals coming up and the last minute grading to get done. Not to mention hosting relatives and doing that cleaning that only gets done when relatives are coming (yes, I am one of those “spring cleaning be damned” kind of people).

Writers are drawn to the wonderful possibilities of dedicating an entire month to the magic of writing. Usually it takes nine months to create a baby, and even if the novel that’s been pulsing in your soul doesn’t emerge fully in tact by the end of the month, at least you’ll have something tangible, something so close to complete that the urge to continue the frenzied writing will continue long into the dark, cold months of winter.

To be honest, I’ve never participated in Nano month. Not because I don’t absolutely love the idea of it, but because I’ve always been in the midst of working on something that I didn’t want to put aside. But I’ve considered it this year. I have a new project I’m wanting to start, something very challenging and the idea of getting a running start at it takes away at least some of the anxiety. But I’ve noticed something about writing lately,

It has to do with pacing, or should I say, my pacing. To use the old fable, I love writing like the hare, racing through the story, getting it on paper as quickly as I can and perfection be damned — that’s what rewriting is for. We’ve all heard the advice, and good advice it is, to get the story out. Once you’ve created your world and characters, you can go back and fix and polish and tweak all you’d like.

little baby rabbit

Enter the frail ego of a writer faced with the shaky first draft of a manuscript, and well, lets just say the hare curls into the fetal position and sucks his paw while questioning what made him think he could write in the first place.

We’ve all had those moments when we’re reading something and we stop, mesmerized by the beauty of the words or the image they’ve created. It’s magic. It’s eating a sandwich or a bowl of soup and suddenly finding a flavor that’s new and exquisite, and it makes you appreciate being alive just a little bit more.

My race towards the end of a first draft is slowing down. When I go back and read what I’ve written, I find myself not caring how many words are on the page, but whether or not they are the right words.

But there must be a balance. If a writer becomes too critical during that initial stage of getting the story out, it’s like taking their muse and breaking its fragile spine over your knee. The next thing you know, it’s curled up next to the rabbit who’s still sucking its paw. Tell the story, first and foremost, but keep an eye out for those moments of possible greatness.

If writing is a journey, you have to find the pace that works best for you. I’ve found that of late, I want to look around more, explore more and worry less about how quickly I reach my destination. In other words, the process matters. Spending thirty minutes staring at the computer screen hacking at the block of marble in your brain to release the right combination of words is worth it sometimes, because as wonderful as it is to stop and inhale the beautiful words of another writer, it’s even nicer when you realize they’re your own.

Every writer must find their pace, the method of writing that works best for them. In Kansas, the wind blows cold in November.

Long summer dry grass against a sunset.

But I love the idea of winds being created by words, by stories racing from the minds of writers and onto the page. Write. Write like your life depends on it. Write like some crazed maniac is coming to nibble your fingers off so it’s now or never. But no matter how you chose to write, enjoy the journey, and remember that sometime along the way, your job is to create magic.

Thanks so much to all the YASH participants!

Thanks so much to everyone who was involved in YASH. It was so exciting to see all the involvement, especially from so many different countries. I hope it was a great experience for everyone.

Escritura  How about a few inspiring writing quotes?

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” Gloria Steinem

“It is a delicious thing to write, whether well or badly…” Gustave Flaubert

“When I say ‘work’ I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.” Margaret Laurence

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” E.L. Doctorow

Cheers to more great stories being told and wonderful books being discovered!

Welcome to YASH! Good luck!

Amy Christin Parker Author of Gated, Ashtray and Smash & Grab

Amy Christin Parker
Author of Gated, Ashtray and Smash & Grab

Hi Everyone. I’m so excited to be hosting Amy Christine Parker on my website! Amy is the author of three Young Adult novels but rumor has it that there are at least 5 more buzzing around in her head right now!
Hope you enjoy the excerpt from her new novel, Smash & Grab, due out May, 2016.
The book cover for Ashtray, Keep an eye out for Smash & Grab, out May 2016.

The book cover for Ashtray,
Keep an eye out for Smash & Grab, out May 2016

Chapter One

Lexi

I’m breathless by the time we reach the helipad at the top of the US Bank Tower—exactly 1,018.01 feet up above LA, the city spread out beneath us in all directions, a wide carpet of neon and white lights that dazzles me after the relative dark of the stairwell. It is heady stuff, seeing the world from this high, dizzying and exactly what I need right now.

I laugh a little, the sound loud in my ears, trapped beneath my helmet. My bank vice president father gets arrested this morning for some kind of mortgage fraud scheme I still don’t completely understand and I’m the one preparing to jump off a building. I look over at my brother Quinn and he’s laughing too—probably having the same thought I am—that this is a crazy, but strangely appropriate way to cheer ourselves up.

Our tight band of friends, sometime partners in crime, and fellow adrenaline junkies are gathered around us—Noah, Oliver, Leo, and Elena. Six of us altogether. Elena’s sister, Whitney is missing, but only because someone had to distract the night guard while we snuck into the stairwell and then drive the car to pick us up after we’ve gone over the edge. She drew the short straw. All in all, though, the vibe is right. Our number feels decidedly lucky. Everyone’s eyes are bright, their cheeks flushed. The impending free fall has them revved, has me revved. I can feel my whole body humming with a high that only comes from doing something outrageous, a high that most of the ground dwellers below us never experience. Alcohol and drugs can’t touch it. It’s one hundred percent pure adrenaline and it’s amazing.  Addictive. No matter what maneuver we have planned—this jump or the motorcycle race we pulled off in the spillway riding in near pitch darkness, or any number of others—the thrill never weakens. These moments we plan for together are the only times I ever feel truly alive. I know it’s the same for Quinn and the others. It’s probably the main reason why we’re all friends in the first place.

Noah shuts the stairwell door so we are stuck out here. The only way out of this building now is down the side of it. The sound of the door closing, the slight slam as it hits the door frame makes me wince, reminds me of this morning and the way our front door connected with the foyer wall as the FBI invaded our house, agent after agent rushing in, hands on their guns, eyes scanning every inch of our house like our whole lives were suspect and not just my father. My heart was thundering in my chest then, too—especially as they dragged my father out into the yard, morning stubble shadowing his chin, his skin an ashen, guilty shade—but I didn’t like the way it felt in that moment, like my heart might start contracting—charlie-horsing—and never stop.

My father’s in jail. Right now. Somewhere down there in a cell. If he’s convicted of the charges he’s facing he’ll be in there until I’m his age, maybe longer.

I shake my head. I don’t want to think about that anymore. That’s why I’m up here. Quinn too.

Keep moving, distracting yourself and the hurt you feel will fade. I tell myself.

“This wind is ridiculous,” Leo, my best friend shouts, his eyes squinted against it and steadily tearing up. “We need to get on one of the outcroppings over there to make sure we clear the building.” He brings the camera he’s carrying up to his face and looks through the lens, adjusts it then looks again and starts snapping pictures of all of us, first Quinn looking like the teenaged version of Jason Bourne in his all black clothes and then Oliver, Elena, and Noah butted right up to the edge of the helipad platform with their arms around each other. “Your turn,” he says as he turns his camera on me.

I put my helmet under one arm and strike a pose, the rhinestones on my fingernails catching the light from the flash and looking like twinkling stars for a second. I decided a while ago to embrace my inner bling monster—the Jimmy Choo wearing, Prada bag carrying creature my mother raised me to be. As much as rebelling against anything that makes her happy appeals to me, I actually love all that stuff. Shallow or not I don’t care. The girlie glamour is too enticing, the dress up fun of it. When I was little I was obsessed with the girls in James Bond movies—sexy and beautiful, but tough, too. Doing things like this jump make me feel like one of them.

“You’re beautiful,” Leo says, not a trace of lust evident in his voice which makes the compliment that much more flattering because there’s no agenda attached to it.

“Good,” I say, beaming.

“Alright, enough pictures, let’s go!” As usual Noah is amped, ready.

“Chill out. Rushing means mistakes,” I say. I haven’t poured over building plans, weather conditions, and city maps just to leap off the instant Noah decides he’s ready. “We do it as planned, and that means climbing down there. Then flying.” Tonight’s maneuver is my baby, my contribution to the BAM (short for bad ass maneuvers)  book we keep, an adrenaline soaked alternative to a slam book, where we record all the almost and sometimes downright illegal adventures we have. We started it right after Oliver’s parents divorced to cheer him up, a sort of joke that over the years became something bigger until now we have more than twenty pages of adventures, most of them directly related to crappy moments in one or all of our lives. Like my dad’s arrest. Or Leo’s mom’s breakdown.

I put my helmet on and motion for everyone to follow me, toward the far corner of the pad. We get on our stomachs and one by one, lower ourselves down to the narrow shelf below that borders the whole building, coming to points every so often so that from the sky it must look a bit like a starburst.  The point nearest us is the one we need to use—far from the stairway flanking the opposite side of the building and the other obstructions that would make landing on them deadly.

Together we climb onto the lip that separates the shelf from the open sky, arms out like tight rope walker poles, the wind prodding at our backs, threatening to unbalance us. The streets below us are mostly quiet this late at night, but there are still cars here and there, slowly making their way towards the freeway, the drivers totally unaware that we are up here watching them. Seeing the rest of the world from this high is freeing because it’s too far away to feel real.

“Say Kamikaze,” Leo says as he snaps another picture. The flash is blinding and I sway a bit.

“Hey, cut it out, man,” Noah grumbles as Elena latches onto his arm to keep her balance. He looks down at her and his expression immediately softens. “How about a kiss. Lanie. For luck.” He pulls her closer, leans in to nuzzle her neck. This thing developing between them is new—sort of surprising and intimate enough that watching them feels odd, wrong.

She rolls her eyes. “Okay, fine. I guess if it’s in the name of luck…” She tilts her head up and presses her lips to his as Leo takes another picture that I can already tell will turn out beautifully with the city as a backdrop and both of them bathed in the crisp white glow of the tower’s lights.

I look from Quinn to Leo to Oliver to Noah to Elena.

It’s time.

When the moment is right I can always feel it. I look over the edge, hold a hand into the air and judge the wind. Yep. Perfect.

“Let’s do this. Quinn, you’re going first, okay?” I put a hand on his shoulder and squeeze. “See you on the ground big brother.” He leans his head to one side and rests it on my shoulder for a second and suddenly my throat feels thick, strangled, and I want to cry. He’s the only person I depend on. Today proved that, especially when my mother locked herself in her room after the FBI took our father and didn’t come out all day, not to explain what was happening or to try to comfort us like mothers are supposed to do.

“See you then,” Quinn says. He knocks his fist against mine and winks.

“Oh man, you got this!” Oliver hollers over a loud gust of wind. He’s all riled up, jazzed like he’s tempted to try and chest bump the sky.

As nervous as I am for BASE jumps—and I am always nervous—waiting for Quinn to land is always the worst part, that moment when I have an image of him falling fast, his chute not opening, then him hitting the ground—the picture in my mind so sharp that I almost hear the heavy thud of his body impacting. I have to fight the urge to tell him to sit this one out even though he needs it as badly as I do, that high, the few sweet seconds when there is only the wind, the fall, and the landing to think about. Everything else just falls away. I say a silent prayer and then listen to him count down.

“Three, two, one.” He looks back at me long enough to wink and then he dives straight out, arms spread out wide, embracing the night. He cheers and then his chute fans out and he disappears beneath it.

“Later losers,” Noah says and he jumps without a countdown, saluting us with one hand as he steps out into the air, his body already tilting forward into a stomach down position.

Quinn’s almost down now, arcing his way towards the street and our planned landing spot. I breathe for the first time since he jumped.

Oliver goes next, quietly, the way he always does with no warning at all, just dropping ninja like into the dark.

“Beautiful up here,” Leo says, taking it all in one last time. He grins at me, his helmet cam on now and pointing directly at my face, the red light a staring eye. He blows me a kiss and swan dives, looking like one of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys or something, flying without pixie dust.

“Here goes,” Elena squeals and then she’s gone too, screaming madly all the way down. I stand on the ledge a moment more. Alone. I close my eyes and listen to the wind whistling around the building, to the distant screech of car tires on asphalt, to the faint echo of my friends calling to one another below. I want to savor the high coursing through my blood for a moment or two longer, the pure pride of knowing I got them all up here and then safely to the ground.

They could’ve died. I might right now. The risk is there, real otherwise this wouldn’t be illegal. One wrong pull on my lines and I crash into this building or another one beside it. If the shoot gets twisted coming out, there won’t be time to right it. Less than a minute from here to the ground and any mistakes mean that minute could be my last. Standing here right now is like looking straight into the face of death, deciding to jump towards its gaping black mouth with the intention of steering away at the last minute.

I let out a long, slow breath. Then I close my eyes and step out into the air.

AMY CHRISTINE PARKER is the author of the critically acclaimed young adult novel, GATED, an Amazon Best Teen Book of the Month Spotlight Pick for July 2013, a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, and a nominee for the 2016 Sequoyah Award as well as its sequel, ASTRAY, which was released in August 2014. Currently Amy is working on her third book for Penguin Random House Children’s Books, SMASH and GRAB, which is scheduled to release in May 2016 and ORPHAN CITY for Adaptive Studios releasing late 2016. She writes full-time from her home near Tampa, Florida, where she lives with her husband, their two daughters, and one ridiculously fat cat. Visit her at amychristineparker.com and follow her on Twitter @amychristinepar.

Amy Christine Parker
GATED, August 6, 2013
ASTRAY, August 26, 2014
SMASH and GRAB, May 24, 2016
Random House Children’s Books
Orphan City, Fall 2016
Adaptive Studios
Website:
http://www.amychristineparker.com

Thanks so much for visiting and for being a part of the Young Adult Scavenger Hunt! How did you like the first chapter of Smash & Grab? (I’m so excited for Amy)! How is the hunt going? Let us know. Comment below. 

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE

Direction: Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the Green Team, and then add them up. The next author on the list is https://christinenorris.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/ya-scavenger-hunt-go-team-green/

Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, though anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 5, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will NOT be considered.

YASH!

Hi Everyone,

Just getting the word out that I’ll be hosting Amy Christine Parker, author of Gated, Astray, and coming spring of 2016, Smash & Grab, on October 1st, for the Young Adult Scavenger Hunt. It’s a great chance to see what’s out there in the world of Young Adult fiction and to win books! Who doesn’t want to win books?

Check out a sneak peek of her new novel, Smash & Grab, right here next week and Go Team Green!

Florida Book Signings

Hi Follow Book-lovers,

If you happen to be in Florida the first week of June, I’d love to see you at one of the following locations to discuss Deadly Design and sign some books.

Tuesday, June 2nd – Tampa, FL
Inkwood Books @ 7pm
216 S Armenia Ave, Tampa, FL 33609
Friday, June 5th – Ft. Myers, FL
B&N #2711 @ 12 pm
13751 Tamiami Trail, Fort Myers, FL 33912
Saturday, June 6th – Miami, FL (Coral Gables)
Books & Books @ 7 pm
265 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134

Two Dirty Words — “No Time”

Okay, I’m going to say it and hate me all you want, but sometimes it’s just true. Some days there is no time to write!

It’s a horrible reality, like death and taxes and waiting for replies to queries.

Writers are told that nothing is more important than the craft. Like Stephen King says, if you want to be a writer, you have to read and you have to write. In the make-believe realm of Writer’s World, there would always be magical moments when the clock stops, the children take naps, and the dryer hums quietly making sure nothing wrinkles until the spell breaks and it’s time to get back to reality. In today’s world, writers are often Cinderellas stuck mopping floors, just waiting for our godmother to send us — not to the ball- but to some quiet sanctuary where we can WRITE!

Non-writers don’t get it. They don’t understand that not writing is like not getting the drug we’re addicted to. It’s literally like all the characters in our brains start running their fingernails (and some of them have very long fingernails indeed) across some chalkboard in our brains. To put it mildly, we get a little…irritable when we don’t get to write. But it happens.

Life gets in the way. Things like the need to pay bills and eat and avoiding ending up as guests on Dr. Phil because we’ve neglected our children and spouses and we remember our characters’ birthdays but not theirs.

So what do we do?

What can we do?

First and foremost, we have to not beat ourselves up. We may create superheroes on the page, but sadly, we can’t turn ourselves into them. We can’t go without sleep or food or somehow add hours to the clock. We can however remember that tomorrow is a new day. Sure, it will come with challenges, like every day does, but it’s new. It’s fresh. It’s a blank page.

Even if you can’t get a word physically on that page because the one hour you’d carefully set aside is taken up by an emergency trip to the vet because the dog ate a roach hotel, you can still think about writing. You can turn the radio off and visit with your characters at stop signs and traffic lights. You can jot an idea down in the little notebook you carry or on a fast-food napkin. You can fan the flames of your creativity until things settle down a bit.

They’ll never settle down completely. Writer’s World doesn’t exist. But we can remember that tomorrow is a new day, and with it comes a new night and new minutes and new moments. New opportunities to push the laundry and the grading and the dishes aside, and do what keeps us sane.

Write when and what you can. Fifteen minutes at lunch is better than nothing at all. And amazingly, if we give ourselves small goals, they have a way of growing bigger. Fifteen minutes at lunch turns to thirty. Maybe we wake up thirty minutes before the alarm goes off and instead of going back to sleep, we get to work.

Stephen King is right in that to be a writer you have to read a lot and you have to write a lot. But when life becomes our own personal antagonists, we have to remember that ‘life’ is what it’s all about. Enjoy the cuddles when the kids are sick, don’t forget to listen to the birds when you take the dog for a walk. After all, if we get too out of touch with our own lives, how will we be able to write about the lives of our characters?