Monday, April 29, 2013

Settings!


Every Monday, we post a question for our followers--and at the end of the month, one of the commenters will be selected to choose a title from our Vault! Whatever we have available: ARCs, signed books, awesome books... OR the book of your choice from the Book Depository!

To enter, follow YA Confidential and please make sure that your email address is linked to your comment in some way! (So we can get in touch with you :)

Today's question:
What YA have you read recently that's had the most memorable setting(s)?

Our Answers

Chihuahua Zero: Okay, this is hard, but STARTERS by Lissa Price comes close. It's a YA dystopian novel, which takes place in an America where only the young and the elderly survived a war, and an organization "rents" teenage bodies to the old.

Alison: FRACTURE and HYSTERIA by Megan Miranda—mainly because the settings are full of woods and cold and spookiness that just add an incredibly eerie feel to the books.

Matt: I still think of summer on the lake from Carrie Mesrobian's Sex & Violence, but that's partly because I grew up in Minnesota.

Erica: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau - It is a brilliant dystopian set in a futuristic United States, and a lot of the setting plays very much into the plot that comes out June 4, and the setting was very memorable. 

Leigh: I don't know if this counts, but I critiqued two writer-friends' books (one was Matt!), and they were both set in the Great Plains areas--Wyoming, Idaho, etc., and every time I read books set in those places, I'm fascinated. (Remember "Like Mandarin"?) Love that setting. I should try it. Problem = I've never been. :P

KarenRouge by our very own Leigh Talbert Moore. I could totally picture the entire theater--and everyone in it--as if I were part of the show.

Copil: I know I'm a broken record about this, but Railsea by China Mieville continues to outshine just about everything in terms of shear creative power. The world of the railsea is at once impossible and yet familiar. I love urban landscapes and city spelunking and this is one place I could explore for years and not get bored.

Jaime:  I can’t even believe I’m saying this after the Winter That Would Not End, but I loved snowy Watonka, New York in Sarah Ockler’s BITTERSWEET. Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian, but I loved this chilly setting with its hot cocoa, cupcakes, a Mom & Pop diner, hockey, and skating on a frozen river. I keep thinking about how it feels familiar and cozy despite the cold.

Katy: UNSPOKEN by Sarah Rees Brennan. I especially enjoy stories set overseas and Kami's sleepy, creepy hometown of Sorry-in-the-Vale is so atmospheric. I loved the numerous descriptions of the woods, Kami's family's little cottage, and the Lynburns' spooky manor.   

Jessica: IF YOU FIND ME by Emily Murdoch opened with the two main characters living in a broken down trailer in the woods with no plumbing ro running water. Talk about memorable! I can't even imagine living the way these two girls lived, and just thinking about it gives me the shivers. 

Your turn!



Friday, April 26, 2013

Ask-A-Dude: Is He Interested? Edition



Hello, everyone! Welcome back to another edition of Ask-a-Dude!

Remember, you can ask your own questions using the submission form on the right!


Today's question comes from reader Sky Davis who asks:

  
Q: When a guy asks if you have a boyfriend, does that mean he likes you?

A: Thanks for the question, Sky. If I understand you correctly, you're asking me to fathom the intricate mental process guys go through when talking to women. Do I have that right?

Tell you what, Sky. Why don't I just do this. Why don't I solve world hunger instead? Seriously, it'll take less time, be far more beneficial to everyone involved, and won't require me to divulge Secrets of the Durr-Durr Brotherhood.


No? You really want an answer, huh? What did the hungry ever do to you, Sky?

Fine. Let's take a look at your question.

First, you have to understand that all male behavior is influenced by something scientists call The Derp Factor. Derpiness affects how the male of the species behaves, so in order to understand what a guy means when he says anything, we first have to understand Derpiness.

Derpidity exists on a continuum that extends from Mild Derpiness on one end to Extreme Derpiness on the other. And the extent of derpiness is strongly correlated with the presence of female pheromones.

I think a chart is in order.
Preview of your graph
As you can see, the more woman you are, the more likely you'll experience a high derp factor.

So when a guy says something like, "Did you get a haircut?" you can't simply assume he's asking if you got a haircut. You have to take into account the Derp Factor. A low Derp Factor means he is, indeed, asking if you got a haircut. This is mostly a conversation starter and you can proceed accordingly. A high Derp Factor means he's really saying, "I liked you better with bangs and now I'm going to passively-aggressively channel surf C-SPAN to annoy you."

You must establish the Derp Factor or you'll find yourself in a limbo known as the Point of Quantum Insecurity. This refers to the spooky phenomenon where a guy will be both confident and insecure at the same time, giving rise to a statement that may have two meanings until that statement collapses into one state or another.

Allow me to illustrate:

Sample Question
"Do you have a boyfriend?"

State
Confident

Meaning
"I need a bro to hold my beer while I naked bungee off this cliff."

OR. . .

Sample Question
"Do you have a boyfriend?"

State
Insecure

Meaning
"Erm, well, uh, if you don't have a boyfriend and, um, you're not doing anything next Friday night, uh, I've got an empty seat in my car which happens to be headed to a bar. Maybe. Or a diner. So, you in, or what?"

I know, it's annoying, right? You're probably asking yourself, "Is there any point along the continuum where I don't have to dissect what he says to understand it?" Yes. You'll notice a low derp zone at the start of the graph. This is known as the Gosling Exclusionary Zone, named after the only human male not prone to derpiness in clinical trials. His potent combination of good looks, self-effacing humor and Canadian-ness appears immune to female pheromones. In fact, a double-blind study in Geneva put Mr. Gosling behind a divider and then anonymously presented him with Amy Pohler, Tina Fey and Hillary Clinton in rapid succession. Not only did the subject show no signs of derpiness as recorded on a highly sensitive derp-o-meter, he actually registered NEGATIVE derps! Incredibly, Ryan Gosling actually REMOVES derpiness from the ambient air, thereby making any male caught in his negative derp-field appear up to 38% less douchey.

I think we have a picture of the study in progress.

All fine and good if you're dating Mr. Gosling, not so helpful if you're dating Derpson McDerpderp (of the Scottish McDerpDerps). For most of you, you'll simply have to accept a certain amount of background derpiness.

Okay, so we've established that derpiness varies proportionally with positive readings of femininity. What does this mean for you, Sky?

It means that the more the guy likes you, the more suspect anything he says will be. I realize this creates a which-came-first scenario. If he likes you then you know you're going to have to parse his meaning. But you need to parse his meaning to determine if he likes you.

Yeah, good luck with that.

In the early eighteen hundreds, a group of female lexicographers took up this issue and tried to develop a dictionary that could translate between male-ese and female-ese. These early feminists worked in secret and published under male-sounding names to keep from being discovered.

Their first bilingual dictionary, An Alphabetical, Bi-Defined Language Table by Gunner Dickpunch, was so successful, Noah Webster copied it, removed all the male words (which consisted mostly of phonetically spelled grunts and moans) and republished it as his own. 

Not sure what my point was other than to point out how cutthroat the world of lexicography is. The fact that Webster carried a six-inch drop-point hawkbill knife named Dr. Needlebeak wherever he went (and wasn't afraid to use it on chronic misspellers) is probably the reason he's the only lexicographer you've ever heard of.
Noah Webster, badass.
Oh, right, my point is, trying to understand the true meaning behind a simple question posed by a male, is like trying to understand the nature of dark matter. We know it's out there. We know how it works. But we're damned if we can find any.

Ultimately, there's only one way to determine a guy's meaning. Here's what you do, Sky.

Ask him why he wants to know.

I know, I know, it sounds so simple. But this simple hack for the male brain works because God is a female programmer and, like all good programmers, she set up a back door in case she needed to reset all males Data-style.

Turning the question back on him short circuits the part of the male brain constantly tasked with obfuscating his intentions. Once he knows YOU know there might be more to the question, it collapses his state into either confidence or insecurity and usually leads to a more honest discussion about his intentions.

Also, yeah, he probably likes you.

Thanks for the question, Sky!



You can track Copil's milliderp readings as well as his midichlorian count on Twitter (@Copil).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Comment of the Month Winner!

There've been so many fabulous comments on our From the Vault posts over the last few weeks, but alas... We can only deem one our favorite. As usual, the lucky author of that comment will get to pick a book of his or her choice from Book Depository!

This month's winner is J Larkin, who answered the following question: How do you feel when authors speak out strongly about their political beliefs?

For me, it depends less on the politic at hand and more on how the author in question presents their arguments.
My best friend and I have been platonic soul mates for years. Over those years, we have both changed immensely. Political beliefs, thoughts on life and love and all the subtle nuances between, we have both flipped and flopped and altered and grown. More often than not, we have disagreed about SERIOUS ISSUES; the kind of stuff you see people screaming about during election season.
It hasn't mattered. Passionate disagreements can coexist with deep, personal respect. It's simply a matter of separating the person from the argument.
This is much trickier when we're talking about a person typing their stances onto a screen, offering them out to people they will never meet. But it is still possible to offer a piece of yourself, knowing that those invisible others may not like it, without being a huffy, red-faced screamy crybaby about it. The same is true on the receiving end: you don't have to agree with someone to like them.
And as for authors whose works are all ABOUT politics and such...I don't bother with them. I get it crammed up my brain's nose all day every day, I don't need it to take over my entertainment section, too.

Thanks so much for your comment, J Larkin! Shoot us an email (yaconfidential@gmail.com) to let us know which book you'd like from the Book Depository!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Should I be this honest?: Reclaiming my first drafts

I have an affirmation.

I am reclaiming my first drafts.

From here on and for forever, I am writing my first drafts with the door CLOSED.

For those of you who haven't read On Writing by Stephen King (a book I cannot recommend enough), the concept of writing with the door open and the door closed is something King discusses in that book. He says to write your first draft with the door closed: don't share it with anyone but yourself. After you've done some polishing, you then open the door and work on your second draft by getting feedback from others.

The door closed is the time to let imagination run wild, to write without fear of judgment...even to use as many adverbs as you damn well please. It's not the version of the story that goes out into the world; it's the version of the story that transmits from brain to paper, and during that first draft the most important--the only important--thing to do is to concentrate on writing it.

For a long while now I have not been obeying The King, and my writing has suffered. But until I read On Writing a month ago, I didn't realize what was wrong.

I was writing my first drafts with the door open. Not cracked open, not enough to let a breeze through now and then. I had the hinges off. There was a doorway but no handy slab of wood filling it. Instead of concentrating on telling the story and learning about my characters, I couldn't stop wondering if agents would like my story, if it was saleable, if there was something wrong with my prose, was my idea too convoluted, am I nuts for attempting this story at all? And instead of telling my brain to shut up and worry about that during draft 2, I went out and tried to dislodge the answers before I'd typed "THE END." I got more and more frustrated, and asked more questions, and read even more (often contradicting) blog posts and articles about the industry and the craft and this agent's likes and that agent's pet peeves. It went on like a Mobius strip.

I made myself miserable.

And, worse, for a span of about two months, I made myself unable to write fiction.

When I queried my most recent novel (four drafts and almost an entire rewrite later) I'm not surprised that I got ZERO requests, something that hasn't happened to me since early 2009. But it was over before I'd made it two chapters into the first draft, because I'd been hacking away at my closed door for years. The draft was doomed. I sat down to type the first line with too many other people in my head and in my space.

Writing first drafts with the door open may work fine for some people, but I'm not one of them. I'm going with what His Majesty suggests. I'm shutting the damn door. And then I'm duct taping up the cracks.

If anyone asks, I'm writing. That information I'm happy to divulge. But as to the question of what I'm writing...well, maybe I'm writing more novels, or maybe I'm writing short fiction. I could be writing thousands of pages in my journal every day. Perhaps I'm making a cook book or a travel guide. Maybe I'm doing freelance technical work or creating one of those books filled with pictures of kittens and cute quotations to match.

But it's all staying inside until I'm done with my first drafts and ready to open the door again.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Trends We Love


Every Monday, we post a question for our followers--and at the end of the month, one of the commenters will be selected to choose a title from our Vault! Whatever we have available: ARCs, signed books, awesome books... OR the book of your choice from the Book Depository!

To enter, follow YA Confidential and please make sure that your email address is linked to your comment in some way! (So we can get in touch with you :)

Today's question:
What's a YA trend, or theme, or character type that you'll never get sick of?

Our Answers

Jessica: I know some people say they would love to see some YA books with no romance in them, but I AM NOT THAT PERSON. I pretty much always want a romance. That's something I'll never get tired of. Ever.

Alison: I will never get tired of the damaged bad boy. Never.

Matt: I'll never get sick of flawed kids who survive gritty situations with just enough poise to make it through them.

Erica: Kickass heroines - there can never be enough of them in my book, especially if we are talking about fantasy.

Leigh: Hmm... I guess I never get tired of the strong, kick a$$ heroine! I love all the tough-girl role models who at the same time have their own weaknesses, fall in love... But it goes all the way back to Austen and even Shakespeare (King Lear, Tempest), so yaay! Never tire of that.

Karen:  The swoon-worthy guy with magical powers.

Copil: Robots, androids, cyborgs, clockwork men and woman. Humans are booooring.

Jaime:  Again, I have to agree with Jessica: I will NEVER tire of YA books with romance in them. In fact, I like some degree of romance in pretty well all the YA books I read. Another thing I don’t see myself tiring of is retelling of a classics or fairy tales. Love them!

Katy: I'm totally with Jess and Jaime on this one. Give me romance, in all its forms! I love a good boy-next-door set-up, or a unique love triangle, or a best-friends-become-more story. If a book is heavy on romance, I'll most likely enjoy it.  

Sara: Definitely romance! And kickass heroines :)

Your turn!



Friday, April 19, 2013

Tales from the Locker Room (and Other Stalk-Worthy Places)


Okay, so I really don’t stalk the locker room, but I do pick up on some interesting things in my classroom and in the hallways. I've bribed a few former students into doing my dirty lurking. And I have some classes willing to answer some questions.


Since I haven't done one of these posts in a few way too many months forever, I thought I'd do a little end of the school year round-up of what's in with my teens. And I asked some of our spies and analysts to chime in on what's hot too. Here's… 

what they’re watching

Most popular: Awkward, Teen Wolf, Pretty Little Liars, Spongebob, Duck Dynasty

Bates Motel—the weird chemistry between Norman and Norma is really interesting

Other favorites: SportsNation, Tosh. O, The Vampire Diaries, Black Ink Crew, ESPN, Weeds, Game of Thrones, Adventure Time, Victorious, Breaking Bad, Four Weddings, What Not to Wear, Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS, CSI, 2 Broke Girls, Big Bang Theory, Dance Moms, Doctor Who, Community, Sherlock, Supernatural, The Good Wife, Chicago Fire, New Girl 

what movies they’re excited about 

Most popular: Evil Dead, Hangover 3, Oz, Catching Fire, The Great Gatsby

oh, and  

The Purge, The Purge, and more of The Purge.

Other favorites: Scary Movie 5, The Croods, Grown Ups 2, Percy Jackson: The Sea of Monsters, The City of Bones, Iron Man 3, Guardians of the Galaxy, Despicable 2, Finding Dory, This is the End, The Bling Ring, Now You See Me, Carrie, Monsters University, Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Mortal Instruments, The Wolverine, Oblivion, The Man of Steel

And Veronica Mars—of course!

what they’re listening to

Drake, Taylor Swift, Macklemore, J. Cole, Lil Wayne, George Strait, Josh Turner, Jason Aldean, Luke Brian, Mac Miller, 2 Chainz, Usher, Snoop Dog, Foxy Shazam, Flight of the Chonchords, Fishbone, Queen, Carrie Underwood, One Direction, Lana Del Ray, Marina and the Diamonds, Florence and the Machine, A Fine Frenzy, Awolnation, The Cab, Fun., He is We, Imagine Dragons, Thenewno2, and Two Door Cinema Club, Mumford and Sons, 30 Seconds to Mars, Maroon Five, Ed Sheeran, Rihanna

Unorthodox Jukebox by Bruno Mars. It's true to its name, dipping into other genres besides pop, along with alternating between different tones. One moment, he's like "I should've been a better boyfriend, and I wish you luck with your current boyfriend" to "SHE TOOK MAH MONEY AND SHE'S GONNA DIE!".
 
their favorite Social Media (and why!) 

Twitter—able to keep up with favorite people and stars

Instagram—I love taking pictures

Facebook—it has games and I can keep in touch with friends

Twitter—it’s more interesting and more social

TUMBLR—lets you connect with a community of people who have the same views you do

Twitter—it’s quick

tumblr—it’s fangirl on and no one knows me. Facebook is annoying me because people on there are too young and stupid and Twitter is too fast for me to function.

Twitter—all my friends are on it

Twitter, Instagram—fast way to keep up with other people

Tumblr—I should not be on Tumblr as much as I am. I am in a love hate relationship with tumblr. Someone save me from Tumblr.

None—too much drama!
 
Are they (wait for it) reading non-required books?

They are! And their favorite genre… 

Most Popular: Fantasy and Contemporary 

Other favorites:  Paranormal, Dystopian, Mystery, Drama, Sci-fi, Historical 

what they’re saying
 
Turn Up:  getting wild or excessively crazy; sign of excitement

You got a beach house for Prom night? Turn up.
 

Some oldies but goodies

Hype: very excited for something

Bet: okay

Are they excited for the end of school? Summer plans? 

YES OH YES. This has been the roughest school year ever (I'm told nobody enjoys freshmen year), so it's gonna be a miracle when I finally get out of there. Summer plans? Go see movies. A lot of movies. I just love movies. A lot. 

Yes! I’ll be 16 and I can get a job. 

No—I’m not ready to be a senior or the senior project! 

Yes—I want to sleep and go to the beach. 

I'm ready for the end of school, so I can focus on my writing a little more. For summer plans, I'll be taking art-related camps and classes, and maybe a short vacation or two. 

Super excited. I’m not so sure how much more work I can handle before cracking. I need a hugemongous break with tons of sun

Yes—I hate school

No—can’t see friends 

Yes! I’m really excited! I’m a night owl, so summer gives me the opportunity to stay up until 5 a.m. without repercussions. I got into this young writer’s camp in South Carolina and I’m going to this church retreat with my friend in Florida, so I have that to look forward to as well. 

Many are traveling. Others are working, going to the beach. Sleeping in.

 
I can’t wait to do some of that myself.

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Social Media, the Old Guard, and the New Order

Good morning. I'm Chihuahua Zero, one of the two new teen operatives, and I'll like to thank the whole YA Confidential team for inviting me.

Now on to the post.

This school year, no less than two social media incidents happened in my district. Both at the middle school. Both made local news, and let’s say that one of them resulted in parents, like mine, keeping their children home for a day.

Ten years ago, neither of these incidents would have even occurred. Back in 2003, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube didn't exist. The Internet was a much smaller place. Not everyone had a cell phone or an electronic tablet, and 4G seemed decades away.

Yet, in less than ten years, the electronic landscape has changed faster than anyone could've predicted. Internet culture has helped society, but at the same time, it introduces new problems: cyberbullying, cybervigilantism, illegal cybering, e-piracy, and politicians who probably don't know all of these terms.

Without the doubt, we teenagers have a large role when it comes to these benefits and problems.

Recklessness and Savvy 

In general, we teenagers have a smaller sense of judgement and yet a larger sense of technology savvy. Combine these two skills, and we’re opening more doors than adults can close.

For the most part, adults are doing their best to keep everything Internet-related under control. Even before the incidents, my school made a big deal educating us about the dangers of cyberbulling. They did it through announcements, assemblies, and anything else. Besides, cyberbullying hasn't been a common phenomenon until recently, and there’s ample reason to be concerned.

I mean, the school district sent in cyber detectives to investigate who might’ve been responsible for the second incident. That’s a term even I was unfamiliar with until recently.

Innovation and Caution 

Throughout history, there’s been two major sides with every major change: the new order and the old guard.

The new order’s job is to advance its cause and establish it as the status quo. The old guard’s job is to make sure the new order doesn't go too far and screw up.

While we like to think that the new order is always right, even the most rightful causes had its radical fringes (I've done the research), and some change sometimes turns out to be wrong all along, so without some resistance, we would be whiplashing back and forth all the time and get little done.

With social media, the new order’s mostly full of those under 25 years old, and the old guard are full of those over 25.

It’s too late for the old guard to revert social media to what it was ten or fifteen years ago. It will take a scenario out of a dystopian novel, and then something that wouldn't pass as fiction. So the old guard’s job now is to keep it in check, without passing something like SOPA again.

Cooperation and Hope

Okay, allow me to be a little dramatic.

We teens of the new order and the adults of the old order must cooperate together to solve the problems social media and the Internet created.

We must be on the same level. We must compromise between chaos and order, since either extreme will set us back. Many movements have harmed society in the past, and we don't want the Internet Age becoming a full-circle revolution.

For the old guard, it’s listening to the new older and using its authority when suitable. For the new order, it’s to keep caution in mind, reporting the more malicious members, and consider the old guard’s concerns, both valid and invalid.

Ideally, no more social media incidents will happen in my school district for the rest of the year. We don't want it escalating to blood and tears.

Unfortunately, chances are that something will happen again, but that’s a side effect of change; change that has already benefited humankind, and will continue to.

YOUR TURN! What's your position on how we should handle social media?

Also, what's your general philosophical stance when it comes to change? Fan of the old guard, the new order, or a mix of both?

Chihuahua Zero's computerized signature.


Afternote:

I pray for the people and families hurt because of the Boston marathon bombings, and I hope that justice will be reached.

 
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