Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Calling all Ladies

Sexism is a social disease. - Author Unknown

I recently read a blog post by one of my absolute favorite authors, Tamora Pierce.  She takes the entertainment industry to task for their take "past" sexism and then points out some pretty immediate and current stuff still going on today. Seriously, check it out.

In reading Ms. Pierce's wise rant, I started thinking about the special responsibility (or maybe not) placed on young adult (YA) writers. Sure, adults read YA. And sure, most of us can look at a YA book with a love-struck heroine... er... damsel in distress, and know the difference between that and "real" life. And who's to say that tweens/teens don't see that? (except for those frequenting several Twilight forums on Goodreads.com)

Now, I'm not advocating for censored writing. But Ms. Pierce can come at this social commentary about sexism being a disease in our society (all the while lecturing the geniuses behind such gems as The Playboy Club) from the pristine perspective of a writer, who has in almost in all cases stood her feminism ground. And proudly. Her characters ooze girl-power. They value self-identity and actualization before falling head over heels. That's not to say that Pierce's characters don't fall in love - they do. But it's after the grand adventure of learning who they are.

Isn't that refreshing? It is for me. But is it as refreshing for young girls reading the stories? Or are they flipping through pages to get to the romance? So often I feel like books from my childhood and young adult years had more heroines like in Ms. Pierce's books. Sure, Anne Shirley became Anne Blythe at the end of her many-books (or middle, if you count the Anne of later series with her as mom), but she was a fierce little thing with a fire in her belly that burned with independence. Anne knew who she was before she married her true love, Gilbert.

How many YA books do that now? It seems like so many are warapped in the romance that girl-power has taken a backseat. There are exceptions, I know. (Thank you Katniss & Suzanne Collins for putting her first) But that style does not seem to be the rule anymore. With so many YA books focusing on the romance aspect, what is the message for young girls?

Is there a larger overarching responsibility we have as YA writers to deliver stronger female leads? What say you?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Dragon Space Battles and Barbarian Bodice Ripping" Not This Fantasy Novel

 Check out my pal Jared's review of Patrick Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear.

(l) The MAN, Patrick Rothfuss, (r) His biggest fan, Jared (Side note: we waited in line to see Rock Star Rothfuss for something like four hours! Totally worth it though.)

For a very long time, fantasy and science fiction has wallowed in cheap paperback mediocrity. Each time I read another rehashing of L.H Stranslibads ‘Return of the Dragolord golems’ or ‘The Magisters of the Thradenfellian  Space Demons’ I feel like the genre is moving towards its demise.  We stand on the precipice of a grim future, where gratuitous dragon space battles and barbarian bodice ripping are all that comprise the smoking turd that has become the fantasy sci-fi genre. The genre itself needs an iconoclastic hero of an author.
Even with the risk of sounding like a dewy-eyed, praise-singing minstrel, Patrick Rothfuss is such a man. I firmly believe that he is the man who will pull the genre out of the pit of masturbatory fantasy and pugnacious but predictably compassionate anti-heroes.

For those of you not familiar with the author, Patrick Rothfuss is a Wisconsin born scholar who spent nine years undeclared in college. After his book was rejected by a series of publishers, he entered a part of it in a short story contest, which he won, attracting the attention of Daw publishing. His first novel, The Name of The Wind was the result. After that, Patrick went into hiding, leaving only his blog as a sort of altar for his worshippers to look briefly upon his genius.

Finally, after nearly five years spent enjoying his fame and occasionally writing, Patrick released ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ to the rabid masses.

While ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ is certainly a masterpiece, it was not what I was expecting.  Rothfuss’s trademark prose and humor is certainly present throughout, the writing style has definitely matured.  Not just the writing style, but the content as well. While Kvothe’s journey in the second book is a great deal more exciting, it is also more philosophical, with long periods of very little dialogue or action. When Kvothe travels to the country of Adem, for instance, he spends a lot of time contemplating their eastern influenced philosophy of life. Such passages are more numerous in the second book than in the first, and Rothfuss uses them to flesh out his character and setting even further.

The second book touches many elements that the first book was missing. Mainly, fighting and women. Part of me was excited to finally see Kvothe in action, but another part was worried that Patrick would fall into the trap of making his character into a god-like action hero. I need not have worried. While Patrick certainly conveys the depths of Kvothe’s badassitude, we don’t constantly read about his rockin’ abs and grizzled but attractive appearance.  And while Kvothe does sleep with quite a few women in the book, bodice ripping and member pulsing are thankfully absent.

One thing that I found upsetting in the beginning was how long it took to finally start learning the answers to the innumerable questions left in the first book. The first few chapters are entertaining and funny, but they are extremely anti-climactic, considering how long I spent dreaming about the book, frothing at the mouth, and making sacrifices to Cthulu so I could only know what happens next! However, the book eventually picks up the pace, and if you somehow restrain yourself from skipping to the first chapter with the words ‘Felurian’ or ‘Chandrian’ it’s very rewarding.

The best part of the book was Rothfuss’s incredible originality. The fantasy genre has become a tired old plot algorithm, despite the fact that it was once the most creative genre in the industry. While Patrick uses some tropes for forms sake, he is constantly innovating with his characters, setting, and writing style. There are moments that will astonish and surprise, but they aren’t there just for the sake of being shocking. Every twist and turn only strengthens the realism of characters and draws the reader further and further into the world. Nothing ever feels stale or over-used.

Rothfuss is not just a fantasy writer. His book is a true literary work of art. While it's easily lovable by fantasy buffs, it doesn't exclude readers of more high-brow tastes. Rothfuss uses the fantasy template to question morality, explore human interaction, and make the reader think, while still keeping all the things that the nerds know and love.

In lieu of a lengthy conclusion, and at the risk of angering off my English teacher, I will simply say this. If you were a fan of the first book buy the sequel and learn the secrets! It will be well worth the time and money.

Postscript: If Patrick Rothfuss ever reads this; Write FASTER!

Thank you Jared for an awesome review of a fabulous book. Stop by anytime you want to review another book, or just talk about books.

Friday, June 3, 2011

What? What? That's Not the End?


So many times I've gotten to the end of a book and realized there's another one coming and I'm left with an agonizing wait. Other times, I've read books that have a satisfying ending and found out months later (or weeks, depending on how slow I am on the uptake) that there is a second book. I'm left thinking, did I have any questions at the end of the first one? Should I read the second if I was pleased with how the first one ended?

The same sort of goes for movies. In light of movies like The Hangover II, I'm left wondering, did I have questions about what happened to everyone at the end of the first movie? Am I moved or interested enough to care what happens to them in the next? Currently, I'm still undecided and will probably wait for video. (Video!?! Am I dating myself here?)

But back to books. I recently read an excellent adult fiction book by the fabulous debut author, Deborah Harkness called A Discovery of Witches. Okay, she's not debut as in she's never published a book before, but her other books were non-fiction history books so I think she sort of counts as debut fiction author. Anyway, as I got to the third act and realized that for as much as she put in play in the previous two acts, there was no way she was summing everything up in such a paltry amount of remaining pages. Sure enough it's a trilogy. And I'm left waiting and wondering. Did I say waiting?

On the other hand, one of my all time favorite authors, Katherine Neville wrote one of my all time favorite books, The Eight. And to be honest, when I read it, I didn't have any questions at the end. I was satisfied. But a decade later, The Fire, a sequel featuring the daughter of a MC from The Eight was released. I was excited to read it, because well, it was the first book Ms. Neville put out in a long time. It could have been a book about the life of gnats and I would have read it.

As a reader, if I know it's a trilogy I often think more seriously about my purchase because it's not just the investment of that one book, it's the commitment that I will likely buy the next two or three or four.

So what's your take on sequels or trilogies? Does there need to be a cliffhanger at the end to get you to the next book? If you liked the characters and author enough would you read a second or third book even if you were satisfied at the end of the first?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Faith, huh?

What is it about writers that makes us constant self doubters? Is it some deep psychological malfunction? Are self doubt and creativity mutually exclusive or are they somehow wrapped up in the very fibers of what makes us writers?

I don't think I've met a writer yet (and introduce yourself if you're one of them!) that manages to get through an entire MS, or subsequent edits without a little (or in some cases, a lot) of self doubt. I know I've experienced it. In fact I've experienced it more in these last two months than I have since I started writing seriously two years ago.

My current WIP has a lot of death in it. I started it before I started my new job. Which I love, but if I'm being honest, working in a world where life is such a precious commodity has altered my previous somewhat hardened perspective. Most of you, or at least those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, know I work in public health. And that means a lot of different things to a lot of people and, trust me, the field is expansive. But to lay it all out there, I work with cancer patients. More to the point, I work with cancer patients that are in the prime of their lives -- adolescents and young adults.

These people shouldn't have cancer, right? Cancer only happens to kids and the elderly. False. While I'll save you the PSA, I won't skirt around how working with these amazing survivors has softened and humbled me. It's a change I didn't expect (sneaky change!) and one that I would never give back.

This new me looked at my WIP with fresh eyes and had to wonder, should I keep going? Shouldn't I clip the death? My MC is, in a lot of ways, ruthless and I thought maybe I should abandon her and write something with more of a message, more heart, more... something. But regardless of what I needed more of, I felt I needed less death.

So I did what any logical writer might. I stalled. I stopped writing that story, somewhere around the 50,000 word mark. And there it sat. Staring at me from a little white .doc file on my desktop. I doubted my ability to continue with the story because I couldn't reconcile the new me with the old perspective.

And maybe in the end, I wasn't suppose to. I recently went back through and reread every page of my WIP. And somewhere along that journey with my MC, the new, softer me found a connection with the old. I began to have faith that I could take those newly found emotions for the people I serve and weave them into my MC, creating an even deeper and more developed character than before. It wasn't my perspective that needed changing, it was learning to have faith in myself. Faith that I could take what I've learned in the real world and inject life into my fictional one.

I can't say I'll never doubt myself again. And I can't say that some change down the road won't send me into another tailspin. But what I can say, is that no matter what, I will find a way to keep the faith.

How do you learn to push past the doubt and harness the faith?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tending the Muse

It's been a while since I've done an actual blog post. I was driving in to work the other day and listening to NPR when I heard an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. I'm not sure when the interview was from (and I appologize that I can't find the link so you too may hear the story), but she spent some time talking about, well, talking to her Muse. That's right. as if it was a person or a thing that she could have a reasonable discussion with. Like, hey Muse, I need to finish these edits right now but I promise I'll get the project you're pulling me to work on when I'm done. She spoke of the sense of empowerment and authority it brought her over her writing.

As I struggle to find time to write (new job, ya know) and crit and, well, do anything besides work, I think back to this interview and wonder if I could talk to my Muse. Sit her down and have a heart to heart. Like, why do you always want to give me an idea while I'm driving, or in the middle of trying to write for work?

Through this thought process of can I or can't I speak to my Muse, I've realized that what I really need to do is tend it. Like a Muse Garden!

How do you tend your Muse? Do you have rituals, or spaces of time sectioned out during your day for spending time with her? How do you fit it all in?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

YAFF Muse: Dance Class

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).  Curve ball for this post - has to be male POV. (gulp) Here I go...
Photo Credit: MirrorMirror by kakisky (morguefile.com)

After shoving Ani’s pink bag under the plastic chair, I sit back and try not to be noticed. It’s not that I’m not social. But there’s nothing worse than being cooed at by less than hot cougars. Okay, there’s one thing that’s worse, and it’s not-hot cougar pity.
Ani’s squeal rises above the other girls at the dance class as she twirls around holding the princess hat. Mrs. Shelton, their teacher, gives out the hat every lesson. It’s a different girl each time, and that girl gets to be the lead dancer that day.
She stops spinning enough to look at me and point at the hat. I give her a thumbs-up and she spins around to face the class again. I shake my head. Sometimes she’s so much like her mom. A flash of Celia’s dark eyes assaults my memory sending a pang of sadness to my heart and I chase it away by concentrating on the magazine in front of me. Some things have to be forgotten, but Ani sure makes that hard.
A shadow crosses my pages, but I refuse to look up, afraid of Celia’s ghost.
I look up to see a redheaded girl, about my age, stands over me. My mouth curves into a smile. Jesus, she’s gorgeous. “Hi.”
“You’re in my seat.”
Not what I was expecting. Of course, staring at her is my response.
“Did you hear me?” She narrows her gaze.
“Oh, um. Sorry. I didn’t know it was assigned seating.”
“It’s not. But I have to sit ten seats from the door.” Her pale freckled arm motions along the line of chairs.
I swallow, then glance around her to see Ani bonking another girl on the head with a ribbon wand. “Hey. Ani.” She doesn’t pay attention. Getting up I take a few steps in her direction. “Ani Flowers, you stop that right now.” I say, bringing out my authoritative voice.
She stops mid smack, allowing the other girl to escape her. But her eyes tell me she’s angry I yelled at her, so I shake my head while Mrs. Shelton makes her way through the sea of little girls to her.
I return to my seat finding the redhead sitting in it, wide smile on her full lips. How long has it been since I kissed lips like that? Too long. Visions of her lips against mine, her freckled hands running down my torso, and the feel of her breasts under my palm cause a momentary and not to mention inappropriate bulge in my pants. I rush to take the chair next to her.
Why did I do that? There are at least five other vacancies. As I glance around willing the swell to go away, the other chairs become more undesirable when I notice the predatory grins from the cougars. That helps.
“Are you all right?” the redhead asks.
Not really. No. I just got a raging boner at a little girl’s dance class, all because you’re so hot and I haven’t been laid in-- God how long has it been? At least since Ani…
“Earth to strange boy,” she says.
“Sorry. Um, yeah. I’m fine.”
 She snorts. “You don’t look it.”
I turn to her. “Who are you?”
“Xena. Who are you?” Her eyebrows shoot up, a smirk plays against those damn lips.
I clear my throat. “Blake.”
“Well, Blake, your sister is a bit of a trouble maker, isn’t she?” Xena points at Ani, who is again thumping another little girl.
“Damn it.” I move to fetch her.
Xena’s hand wraps around my forearm. “Just wait. Mrs. Shelton will deal with it.” She motions to the girls. “See. Everything’s fine.”
“Yeah, guess so.” I settle back. “She wasn’t hitting yours was she?”
“Yeah, whoever you brought here?” I’m used to talking to the cougars who all refer to their children as ‘yours’ or ‘mine’.
Her laugh echoes through the dance hall. “None of them are ‘mine’. I’m a teacher here. Well, teacher in training. It’s my observation day.”
“Then what’s with the ‘my seat’ thing?”
She meets my gaze. “I have O.C.D.”
“Now it all makes sense.” My eyes do the elevator move on her, even though I’m silently willing them not to. She’s got a fine dancer’s body.
Xena shifts in her chair. “Your sister has good balance.”
I drag my attention back to the class. “Yeah, I know. She got that from her mom.”
Ani twirls in place faster than any of the other girls, then stops without even a wobble. I smile at her and can hear her giggle in the middle of all the other giggles.
“Anyway, she’s not my sister.”
“Oh.” She sighs.
What the hell. This girl seems a little crazy. “Ani is my daughter.”
“Cool. Do you want some Junior Mints?”
Cool? Junior Mints? What the?
She shakes the box at me, and I hold out my hand as she pours a few chocolate candies into it.
“Out with it. I know what you want to say." I change my voice to that of the Cougars. "But you look too young? Where’s her mommy?’”
Around a mouthful of mints she says, “Obviously you’re a good dad. You take your daughter to dance class. Who cares how old you are?” She glances around at the moms. "Well, maybe they do." Then says, "Jailbait." under her breath.
“Jesus. I’m eighteen. How old are you?"
We watch the class in silence.
“So you got a girl knocked up at what, fourteen?”
“Yeah.” I shift my gaze back to the class. Back to Ani.
“Heavy.” She pours more candy into my hand. “Listen. I’ve got to go, but do you want to hang out sometime?”
“After what I told you, you want to hang out?”
“I like your story, Blake. You seem like someone I might be able to get along with. Oh.” She frowns. “Unless the mom is still—”
“No. She died.”
“Boy you’ve had a bit of a rough patch.”
I catch Ani twirling with her princess hat on. “Not really.”

(c) 2011, MB
Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

YAFF Muse: The Reaper

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below). 

This week the Muse is inspired by the song "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult. I didn't use that version, instead I listened non-stop to the Alana Davis cover. Now, I just want to preface this video with the fact that while it's the right audio clip, it's COMPLETELY weird video of Disney Princesses spliced into other Disney video of Hades. So pay no attention to the video, only listen to the clip of the wonderful Alana's version of this sorta creepy song.

The wheat stalks scratch at my legs as I trudge through the field toward him. Toward Sam. With the sun sinking behind him, he leans against a weathered fence post. His black hoodie obscures the piercing gaze I know lays beneath.

One foot in front of the next, I pick up the pace. The tip of my ponytail tickles the base of my neck as it sweeps side to side. My eyes narrow as he raises his head, meeting my stare.

“Go away, Sam. It’s not time yet.” I cringe at the rough scratch to my voice.

“Stop,” he says.

“You know I won’t.” I pause at the now familiar frigid air that despite the sweltering heat hangs like a halo around him. It won’t last.

He pushes from the post and stands tall, like a stretched shadow on a wall. “It’s time Frances. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t.”

The scent of funeral lilies cuts he air between us. The saccharine smell stings my eyes and burns my throat. I wince at the pain in my palm where my nails have left crescents in the soft skin. With my jaw clenched, I move forward.

“Please, stop,” he says, so quiet I think it could be the rustle of wheat at my knees.

“Sam.” As I grow closer, the coldness shakes from my skin and the stench of flowers evaporates. I knew it would. Death rages around him, but like the center of a storm he is the quiet center. “You’ve taken everyone I love. Everyone. You can’t have Evie too.”

He hangs his head, the black hood casts dark shadows across his face. “I have to. I’d give anything not to do this to you.” He takes a step back, fists balled.

I’m too close to him. The stale cold caresses my back and shoulders. But it doesn’t stop me as I take another step in his direction, into the warmth again. “How can the Fates take her too?”

“It’s their will, I’m sorry.”

“Why did you come here? You could have crept into the night and taken her without me knowing. Just like you did Mom and Dad. You came to give me a choice, I now you did.”

“I had… I had to see you.”

“So I have a choice?” My heart thuds in my ears. I’d die for Evie.

“No.” His eyes meet mine, anger blurring out their usual blue hue. “I came here when I took Ben, Theda and Morris. You did not have a choice then.”

My pulse quickens. “But she’s the last of my family. That’s why I have a choice now. Sam, please. Take me instead.”

“Never.” His jaw tightens.

“It’s what you want, isn’t it? I’ll stay with you if you leave her.”

“Even if I wanted—” He turns and his fist connects with the fence post, sending it flying across the field.

Startled, I step back, the cold embraces me once more.

He whips around, eyes blazing. “I can’t make that choice. It’s her time. Souls can’t be traded.”

Moving forward, into the circle of his warmth, I say, “I’ve asked to save every soul you’ve taken since we met. You’ve always told me that you’ve got to take a soul. Why not mine?”

In two swift steps Sam is so close his hoodie string brushes my upper arm. He leans down, smelling of musk, not death, his breath cool against my cheek. “I’ve broken every rule to speak to you. The Fates have a plan and I’ve been warned not to interfere.” His breathing is measured but his lips move quickly touching the skin near my ear. “They would tear me apart if I took your soul. I would not be safe, neither would you.”

Without thinking, my fingers close around his hand and I squeeze. “I’m ready to embrace it.” The Fates have never been shy with alluding to my destiny. “I’m not afraid.”

“You should be. A death more permanent than me awaits us both if we’re caught.”

“Will it save my sister?” The wind picks up, mingling the scent of wheatgrass and spice.

He lifts his other hand, brushing a stray hair from my face. “For now. The war here will go on for another year in human time. I can’t make a promise she’ll survive it.”

His face has softened, and I know he’ll give in to me. I shift my gaze to the wheat. The thought of Evie having a chance to run in these fields, to live, even if it would only be for one more day, makes it worth it. “Good enough.”

Sam’s fingers lace through my and his grip tightens. “This will hurt.” His eyes turn black and his lips crease into a thin line.

The panic slides through my veins and the urge to wiggle from his grip is overwhelming. A ball of fire sits in my chest and begins spread until every inch of me is white hot. I shift my focus to my feet, and concentrate on staying still until I darkness claims me.

The distant sound of crickets wake me and as I open my eyes, it is from beneath a black velvet hood. Like Sam, I, am a Reaper.
(c) 2011, MB
Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same song (well sort of):
Vanessa Barger

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Contest & Blog Bling

First, let me tell you about a fab contest that ends on Sunday. Over at Totally4YA they are giving away a copy of FALLEN by Lauren Kate.

Second, I got some blog bling from the wonderful Cambria Dillon. And not just any bling, it's bling for style! Heh heh. That's right broomstick skirts and colorful scarves are back! Er, well maybe it's just for my blog style?
Well either way the rules say I've got to thank and link back to the person who sent it (done), tell you seven things about myself and then pass on the stylish award to ten recently discovered then tell them about the fabulous award they just won!

Okay, so here it goes...
1. I have a (some would say irrational) fear of buffets. You will never, ever catch me eating at one. Or any communal food really. Yes, I do the office potlucks. But I have to be first, and I only eat food made by the people whose houses I've been too and can verify the cleanliness of their kitchens.

2. I eat pizza with a knife and fork. As a kid, I had braces and you pretty much never get to bite into anything. I just sort of stuck with it after that. I still don't bite into apples either. Pretty much all fruit gets cut up first.

3. When I met Neil Gaiman at the premier of Coraline, I just stood there gooey-eyed with my copy of The Graveyard Book clutched to my chest. My friend had to pry it out of my hands and offer it to him saying, "I thinks she wants you to sign this." ((still blushing))

4. I need my coffee in the mornings. My naturopath tried to get me off of it, but my co-workers emailed her (we're all friends - so it's not weird they'd be emailing my doctor) to say that she had to cease and assist.

5. I've always wanted to either shave my head or wear dreads but am pretty sure I could pull off neither and instead continue to admire women who can. Perhaps one of my characters will sometime.

6. When my sister and I were kids, our dad hated to fly so we took nearly every summer vacation in a motorhome. To this day we both have an affinity for this method of travel, yet neither of us have been able to convince our husbands the four of us in a small space would be fun.

7. I believe in ghosts, because as freaky or weird as it seems, I've seen a lot of them. (but then agian, I have a writer's mind, so who knows what I've been seeing!)

NOW on to the fun part... The awards!
1. The Xanax Diary
2. Read Now Sleep Later
3. Jennifer Fischetto
4. On Beyond Words & Pictures
5. Joey Nichols
6. Totally4YA
7. Rebekah Purdy
8. Kit Forbes
9. Kelbian Noel
10. The First Cut

Congrats to all the wonderful blog bling winners! LOL And thanks again to the lovely Cambria!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday #3

It's Six Sentence Sunday! Go and visit the other participants!

This SSS is an excerpt from another YAFF Muse short called THE JOURNEY. It's another magical realism this week, but not for YA. The dialogue is between a couple standing at a train depot on the verge of a major change in the relationship as well as their last journey together. You can see the full short story here.

“When we laugh, the train will go faster though we wish it wouldn’t. When we cry, it will slow though we wish it speed. We will scale mountains and plummet down the other side, but we will be together.”

“What if it breaks down?” I asked, tears cresting the corners of my eyes.

“Ah, and it might, but what’s a journey without a few breakdowns?”

Thanks for stopping by & I hope you enjoyed it!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Win a Book!!!

I have to give a huge shout out to my friend and fellow YAFF'er Vanessa Barger!  Her new book INTO THE ETHER comes out tomorrow and you can win a copy on her blog.
I've had the pleasure of reading INTO THE ETHER and have to say it is an extremely enjoyable read. So what are you waiting for? Go on over there (yes, I'm giving you permission to leave my blog) and win your loot!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - #2

Six Sentence Sunday is a blog ring (no, not a chain letter - remember those?) founded and kept up by the Six Sentence Sunday blogger. Check it out, and visit the other participants!

This is the first paragraph of my YA magical realism short story from a YAFF Muse called ANOTHER TURN. You can see the full post here.

I thought I tucked the insult safe inside my mouth. Still, on exhale the words escaped, the last slipping past my lips before I could catch my breath. Three syllables hung in the air, they snapped and crackled with all the anger and pain that had propelled them forward. I hate you. I wanted to take it back, but pride isn’t pretty. Instead I allowed them to gain substance in the silence and walked away.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - First Go Around

Six Sentence Sunday is a blog ring (no, not a chain letter - remember those?) founded and kept up by the Six Sentence Sunday blogger. Check it out, and visit the other participants!

My first post will be from my work in progress, YA dystopian/teenage assassin manuscript, LACED.

Images of the boy on the platform, of Andy, and the man in the tweed jacket play against my eyelids and I’m forced to open them again. By now the man is slouched over on a train to New-New York. No one will notice he’s dead until they stop, and round up the passengers up like cattle to force them through the security check point. By tomorrow the reports will say Chancellor Adkins died of a massive heart attack. No one will question the media, no one will think of me bumping into him, no one will wonder how a man of thirty-five died so young. It’s the beauty of the job, I guess.

That's it. Hope you enjoyed it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Huge Congrats!

I have to give out big a round of applause, scream of congratulations, throwing of hats, releasing of balloons, and some Tom Cruise jumping up and down to my friend and fellow writer, Cambria Dillon.  Cam's amazing manuscript, LIFE AFTER SEND, has landed her an agent!  (As we all knew it would)  Also, it wouldn't be a proper congrats without a shirtless guy, right? So here ya go, lady!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Finally, I can have chocolate cake - Happy Birthday Never as the Crow Flies!

Okay, okay. So I'm a few days late on wishing my blog a happy birthday.  One year and four days ago, I sent my first thoughts out into the great wide web. I started with one lovely follower, who happened to also be my mother, and now I've got 26 of you! Thank you all so much for following me on this crazy, yet completely wonderful journey.

So, what have I learned from blogging in this last year? Number one is, I should probably blog more often and that, even the limited amount takes a lot of time. You can't just put any 'ol thing out there... well, you can, but not without making an ass of yourself.  Which is fine and dandy, but if you've got a goal with your blog, maybe you shouldn't. At least not on purpose. Here are my lessons learned through one year of blogging:

Read other blogs first, decide what works.
No, I'm not advocating for you to go out and copy other's blogs. What I am advocating is finding blogs you love (Fiction Groupie, Totally4YA, Pat Rothfuss, Read Now Sleep Later) and really think about why you love them. What do they do that makes you want to tune in each week? Are they professional? Are their blogs a tool, or do they have a goal (such as getting published, promoting their books) or are they help oriented (such as Guide to Literary Agents)? Which do you want your blog to reflect? Do you have lots of information to share with your community? Do you want to show off your voice and promote yourself as a writer/photographer/artist?

Reading other blogs can help you define what you'd like to put out into the world. I wished I had paid more attention to other blogs before starting my own.  Not that mine went all scary or anything, or I made really horrible mistake of venting about the industry, but I didn't have a direction.  I struggled with what to write, feeling nothing really was interesting enough.

Find a theme and stick with it.
Okay, I'm not saying you can't change your background... every once in a while. But know that as you get more readers, the background and theme of your blog becomes a comfort. Weekly readers become used to the look of your blog and there is something to be said for consistency.

When I go to goodreads I know where everything is. I know what to expect when I click on a button. And as a user, I like that.  The same goes for a blog.  When I visit one of my favorite blogs, I know where the comment buttons are. I know that if I pull up my email and my browser is behind that, I can see the edges of the blog I was reading/exploring and am quicker about getting back to it.

I used to change my background to match the pictures for the YAFF Muse series.  Each week I had a new one.  Sure, my buttons stayed in the same locations, but after a while, I realized that it wasn't staying with my central theme of the blog.  The changes didn't fit with the blog identity. 

Of course every once in a while it's okay to change something about your blog, make it better. For instance, I changed my blog and website so that the background color was white with dark letters. Having worked in PR and spent time designing pamphlets, websites, etc, I should have known better anyway - anything else is too hard to read.  Nevertheless, I had a black background and white letters.

Comment & connect with other bloggers.
One thing I was very slow about was connecting with other bloggers.  (hence the very first suggestion) But I found once I started commenting and engaging with other bloggers, it helped direct traffic to mine. (okay, I know 26 doesn't seem like a ton of traffic, but I love each and every one of you, and for my first year, seems pretty darn good)

Overall, you'll thank yourself for getting involved and talking to others.

Blog about something important/interesting or skate by on your funny.
Yeah, yeah, I know I don't always adhere to this sentiment either.  But, I'm working on it (see... hints/tips on what I learned right now!). If you can engage your readers, you'll gain more traffic. People will talk/type, refer to your blog. It's either that, or be super, super funny.  The best blogs, have both of course.

What doesn't work is random ramblings (yikes!) that have no clear direction or purpose. When I read these types of blogs, I tune out and turn the "channel" never getting halfway through.  You've got to hold your reader's attention (um, are you guys still with me? hope so or this would be pretty embarrassing... er... you're not here so I guess it's not - see!?! who wants to read that?).

Do something that gets you to blog at least once a week.
Try to post at least once a week.  I know, sometimes it might feel like you're blogging for/to no one. But that doesn't matter. Keep doing it. If you blog it, they will come. LOL sorry!  For me, that's the YAFF Muse series. Sure, I post last minute on Wednesdays (which especially seems like the case because I'm west coast compared to almost all of my east coast/middle partners) but it's worth it. Plus, for you writer types it's a fun way to exercise your short story muscles and step outside your comfort zone.  Though, I think there's a lot of debate among the industry-set that maybe you shouldn't post your work online because, agents/editors will go and check out your blog and you wouldn't want to embarrass yourself, right? Well, that might be. But it's still your blog and if posting a short story now and then gets you to post something during the week, then so be it.  Just make sure you do spell check, 'kay?

If you aren't into short stories, then post something you learned recently.  Been to a conference lately? Read something in the news or on another blog that made you think? Pose a question to your audience, engage them. And make sure to refer back to whatever your inspiration is too (especially if it's another blog).

Maybe you didn't learn anything this week (that's sad), but you did just finish a book.  Write a review. Or maybe you're not too much of a reader (though if you're a writer, you should be) and you watch more T.V. Why don't you write a review on the latest episode of your favorite show? Crushing on Castle? Great title, huh? You can use it.  Provided you watch Castle.

And the most important lesson ever? Have fun!
That's right. We all know that writing, editing, cutting, writing, and editing some more can be both fun and difficult. But we love it anyway.  Look at your blog the same way.  You might have to give some thought to what you want to blog about this week, and it might cause some sweat and or tears, but do it anyway. After a while it gets easier.  Or at least it has in my case.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to me, my lovely followers and Never as the Crow Flies!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Book by My Fellow YAFF'er!

My good friend and fellow critique group partner (YA Fiction Fanatics) has a new book out today!  I haven't gotten to read this one yet, but I can tell you, from having read her other work, I CAN'T wait!!  So go and check out this awesome debut book here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


 YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).  
His steel-toed work boots thud against the hallway. She turns her face toward the window, the waning moon casts a sliver of light onto the floor. The stale scent of cigarettes and Jack Daniels hangs in the air.
My throat constricts against the residual smell of him.

“Sade, are you okay?” Detective Brown asks.

I nod and unscrew the top of my water bottle. The cool liquid sooths my choking.

“What did you see?” The girl’s mom sits opposite me, clinging to the red t-shirt. Her hair hangs loose, silver veins catching the light of the meditation room.

My gaze flicks to the detective, his dark eyes focus on mine. The twitch of his jaw tells me I shouldn’t say. I look back at the mom.

“Please.” Her knuckles are white as she strangles the shirt.

“It’s been a long time, Ms. Sanfrey. Sade can’t always get a read,” he says to her.

“Thanks Zach.” I turn to her once more. “What Detective Brown is saying is sometimes I’m not able to get enough of an impression when so much time has passed.”

Tears make muddy lines in her heavy make-up. “Please, you’re my last hope.”

“It’s been fifteen years.” Zach covers her fisted hands, and she relaxes her grip.

She shakes her head. “I know she’s not alive, that’s not what I’m asking for.”

The truth is, I don’t want to see the horrors that befell this girl. I don’t want to be in her head. The people, like Ms. Sanfrey, don’t know the cost of seeing such things. But when I look at this crumpled woman, perhaps I don’t know the cost of what she’s lost.

“Okay.” I sniff. “I’ll try again.”

“Sade, you don’t—"

“I know, Zach. But she deserves to know what happened. And if you can catch the asshole in the process, it’s worth it. Right?” My hand slides across the table; she wastes no time in giving me the shirt.


The girl’s heart falls in time with his footfalls, beating slower, disengaging. I try to open her eyes, see the room and the man that is most certainly coming this way, but she blocks me. Her spirit is strong and I feel her hand slip down between the covers. The rough cotton string of sweatpants burns against her, my, stomach as she cinches them.

I pray my body isn’t acting this out in front of Zach and Ms. Sanfrey.

He’s closer, his labored breathing is familiar to her and sends whirls of nausea through her gut. The creak of the door echoes through the room.

Open your eyes, let me see him.

He stands beside her bed, but she keeps her eyes sealed tight. Hope rises in her chest, maybe he’s too wasted. Maybe the string will hold.

His boots thump one by one as they come off. The chill of night air touches her skin as he throws off the quilt.

Come on, Sal. Open your eyes!

The springs of the bed echo her inner hate and shame as they wail against the weight of him.

The string does not hold.


I wake in the meditation room, face wet from tears and gasping for air.

“You saw. Where is she?” Ms. Sanfrey snags the shirt, though I gladly relinquish it.

My heart beats out a wild rhythm against my rib cage.

“Sade, did you?”

“No. I… She wouldn’t open her eyes.” There’s no sense in telling anyone. Like all the horrors I’ve seen and felt in the last year, they’re scars I bear alone. Well, almost. Somewhere, Ms. Sanfrey’s daughter bore it.

She shoves the shirt back at me. “Try again.”

“I can’t control where I go. I’m sorry.”

Zach leans in. “Sometimes, with this much time and an item that is less personal—”

“No! She saw something, I know you did.” Her nails scratch the table. “Look again.”

Tension is thick in the small space and I glance at Zach. He shakes his head. So many cases we’ve worked together, so many late nights, he knows better than any that what I see can’t be taken back. Sometimes I think he’s like a father to me, but he’s too young for that.

“Do it,” she screams as Zach begins to pull her to her feet.

“Come on Ms. Sanfrey, she tried. I’m sorry. Very sorry.”

Before I have a chance to say my apology, she throws a yellow bouncy ball at me. The moment I catch it, I’m pulled back. Back into Sal.


It’s cold. Oh God, so cold. I’m, she’s wet, hands tied behind her.

Look Sal. Look.

Her eyes pop open and for the first time I can see. It’s green. Green trees through the window, green car. It’s stopped, and as soon as his shadow darkens her view, she shuts him out.

No. Look. Open them. Please open them.

He mumbles something and the sound of the door opening has her holding her breath.

 The pressure of his weight constricts her lungs even more, but nothing dulls out the sting of the rope pressed against her throat. She kicks but doesn’t fight much, he’s kept her weak.

Her spirit lets go. Slipping out of her, me along with it.

Open your eyes, damn it.

When she does, I’m, we’re standing behind him and he pushes himself onto her further. He doesn’t know she’s gone.

The sound of ripping splits the air and I’m not with her anymore. I look around the car and the woods. She’s not here.

Two hard knots, or fists maybe, thrust me forward and I fall through the man and back into Sal.

I can’t feel her pain, but at last, I open her eyes.
(c) 2011, MB
Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:
Vanessa Barger
Rebekah Purdy
Traci Kenworth

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Literary Assistant, Two Debut Authors, and One Hell of a Contest

Writing the dreaded query? Do you look like this:
If you're an author who has already, or is about to shop your MS to agents, there are seven (read again SEVEN) chances to win a critique of your query over at Fiction Groupie.  Seirously, awesomeness happess on that blog. And even if you don't win, you should be reading it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Getting Real

All my hard work, sweat and tears has gone into a blog over at Totally4YA today.  Check out my candid interview with Jared, a fourteen-year-old high school freshman who is both an old soul and a spirited teen.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

YAFF MUSE: The Trouble with Poetry

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).

Photo credit: earl35 from Morguefile.com

Sitting at my desk, I grip my head. The kickback of a stolen bottle of liquid courage pounds around like an angry upstairs neighbor as I remember last night. The beat of my heart quickens and I open my laptop. Please say I didn’t do what I think I did. Please.

Stasha groans, her perfect manicured toes poking out from beneath the covers. Too bad she’s got vomit in her hair.

“Stash. Hey. Wake up.”

She rubs her eyes then opens one. “It’s too early. Back to sleep.”

The lazy laptop flickers. “It’s after… Oh my God.”

She bounds out of bed and runs up, her grip on the chair shaking me. “Holy shit, Jayne.”

In the blinding light of the screen is the proof. I, Jayne Arbor, posted a poem on Rhys – Prince of Stampfer High – Adler’s Facebook page. And it’s not even good poetry.

Stasha giggles. “Jay, you are such a turbo-nerd.”

“I’m deleting it. Besides, no one saw it, right?”

“There’s like two-hundred comments already.”

The arrow hovers over the “x” in the corner.


I let the music drown Mom’s voice out. It’s only five, dinner can wait. But soon, her heavy footfalls stop outside my door. “Jayne. I’ve been calling you. There’s a Mr. Adler on the phone for you.”

I knew I should’ve deleted it. Wasn’t it bad enough that for the past week the entire school chanted, ‘In a hot air balloon, I’ll have you undressed soon’? Now, Mr. Adler, Rhys’ dad wants to talk to me.

Mom’s brows rise into near perfect arrows above her eyes. “Dinner soon, Jayne. Don’t be too long.”

I grab the phone from her. “Thanks Mom.”

She lingers, but I shut the door.


The line is dead.


Still nothing.

“I’m hanging up.”


My heart jumps into my throat. It’s not Rhys’ dad. “If you’re calling to harass me, don’t waist your breath.”

“I’m not, I swear.”

“Then what?” Acid creeps into my tone.

“I was wondering if you’d like to have lunch with me on Saturday.”

No freakin’ way.

“Come off it. I’ve seen the movies. This is a trick.”

“It’s not.”


He’s late.

I sit at my desk, forced into a skirt and make-up by Stasha. With a sigh I flick on my laptop. If he’s going to stand me up, I’m gonna post something real nasty on his page. We’ll see who laughs then.

I go right to Facebook and to my surprise, there is a post from Rhys.

I’ve had a crush on you
Since we’ve been in grade schoo’

I know I’m late

For our important date

But grab your keys
And I’ll show you something no one else sees

Drive out to Millers’ Field
Because your interest is what I hope to yield

And I thought my poetry was bad.

“Dad? Can I have the car keys?” I ask, out of breath, as I bolt downstairs.

“Sure sugar-pie. I thought you had a date?”

“I did, er, I do. I’m going to meet him instead.” Please don’t be a hoax.

I grab the keys from the basket and head outside and into the car. The Subaru purrs, beneath the calming sounds of The Decemberists, as I head out to Millers’ Field.

A brightly colored hot air balloon sits at the center of a sea of green. Rhys stands by the basket, waiting.

I rush to his side. “I thought you were tricking me.”

He laughs, his blue eyes sparkle in the afternoon light. “I thought you wouldn’t come.”

“I almost didn’t.”

The wind kicks up his black hair whipping it around his face. He grabs my hand as the pilot opens the basket. We step on and he turns to me, “Thanks for the poem.”

“If you think I’m undressing you here or anywhere, you’re mistaken.”

His lips curve into a wicked smile. “Enjoy the view, Jayne.” He wraps his arms around me and I turn, pressing my back against his chest as we watch the town slip away beneath us.

(c) 2011, MB
Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:
Joey Nichols

Traci Kenworth

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

YAFF MUSE: The Escape

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).  

Photo Credit: Raygun by Wintersixfour

“Madness runs in the family. Erin, you know that,” Aunt Celia says.

Mom wipes her eyes, stained red with hours of tears. Her gray cardigan hangs loose around a too-thin frame. “I know.” She looks and me and tries the ‘I’m going to buck up’ smile, but it’s not reassuring.

The woman behind the desk gives a very unconvincing turn as a bored secretary. She hasn’t turned the page of her magazine in the last thirty minutes we’ve been here.  The guard at my back grunts then shifts his weight.

Aunt Celia continues to coo at Mom, giving nervous glances in my direction. Like because Angus and I are twins, we share the crazy gene.

The door flies open and a guard escorts my brother from the shrink’s office, shackled, and sporting a garish shade of orange jumper.

“Iggy, they know.” His words aren’t said aloud, but through our psychic connection.

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” My heart races and I catch his wild stare.

“Run!” he shouts and my ears ring from the inside out.

“Ingrid? What’s going on?” Mom asks her gaze slides between Angus and I.

The shrink stands behind Angus. “Ms. Templeton, could I see you a moment?”

“It’s a trap,” Angus says. “Disappear, Iggy. Don’t ever come back.”

“What about you?”

“Ms. Templeton. A word, please.” The shrink waves a hand and the guards drag Angus out of the way.

“Ingrid, go with the doctor,” Aunt Celia says.

“Disappear, Iggy. The Others are almost here.”

Fear coils in my stomach and I look at mom through watery eyes then glance at the shrink. Swallowing hard, I begin to fade.

Mom’s screams are distant as my atoms separate and flit out of the room. Away from my family, away from the shrink, away from The Others with their mind seizing guns, and away from my brother.

When I materialize I send a message to him. “I’m home A. Tell mom I love her.”

“No matter what you hear, don't come back,” he says. “And remember, never stop running, Iggy.”

Cold shock fills my system and for the first time in my life I feel alone. Really, alone. “Angus?”


I grab my escape bag, and bolt into Angus’ room and grab his. “I’ll get your mind back, brother.”

(c) 2011, MB

Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:
Rachel Marie Pratt
Rebekah L. Purdy
Traci Kenworth
Vanessa Barger

Monday, January 3, 2011

Five Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2011

I have to admit that this last year I was kinda lax on reading. Mostly because I was writing and it's harder for me to read when I'm head-full into writing. Oh, and I had grad school reading to do to boot. Which is always extra fun. I've decided to list the five books I'm most looking forward to reading this year. Also, this is for paper-published books, look for a post coming soon all about the eBooks I'm looking forward to (several from my crit group!).

#1 The Wise Man' Fear by Patrick Rothfuss - Expected Release Date: March 1, 2011
This is the sequel to The Name of the Wind (a book that blew my fantasy-lovin' mind in 2009) and I've been waiting for it for a long time. (Side note - if you get a chance to Check out Patrick Rothfuss' blog, do. It's awesome.)

# 2 Wither by Lauren DeStefano - Expected Release Date: March 22, 2011
With a logline like "What if you knew exactly when you would die?" how can this not be one of the most anticipated books of the year? Not to mention the gorgeous cover.

#3 City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare - Expected Release Date: April 3, 2011
I admit it. I've been sucked in to Clary & Jace's world. Even if I didn't especially care for The Clockwork Angel. But I'm almost vibrating with excitement to see Clary's story continue.

#4 The Republic of Theives by Scott Lynch - Expected Release Date: February 22, 2011
This is the third book in the Gentleman Bastard Series. (In order, The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies) The only way I can describe Lynch's genius is an even better and more brilliant version of Ocean's 11 meets the Renaissance. They are long books, but more than worth the read (if you're like my friend Jared, you'll read it 15 times or more!).

#5 Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore - Expected Release Date: April 1, 2011 (maybe??)
I loved Graceling, but was disappointed with Fire. However, I'm really looking forward to Bitterblue, as I liked the glimse into her character in Graceling. Not to mention I'm looking forward to more Katsa and Po.
Sadly there is no picture yet... which leads me to believe the release date may not be correct, but we will see! I'll be looking forward to it, no matter when it comes out.

Which books are you looking forward to in the New Year?