Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Take a leap! Now available for teens AND writers.

February 29th. Today only appears on the calendar every four years. It's kind of special if you think about it. It's special even if you don't.

And I think we should celebrate.

So, dear readers, I'm challenging you today to take a leap. Two, actually. I'm offering two leap-worthy challenges. One for teens and one for writers. Pick one. Or both.

Oh man, I'd love if you picked both. 


To our teen readers, here's the leap I hope you'll take today:

A leap of faith.

In yourself.

Push those doubts aside--take a running leap away from them--and accept yourself. Love your individuality. It's not always easy, I know. Believe me, I know. I spent four years of my teenage life trying to erase anything that made me different. And now? I've spent the last twelve years trying to retrace the imprint of the outline the eraser left. There are parts that disappeared completely, and I grieve for them. Don't make that mistake.

So today? Do those things that scare you. Take a long look in the mirror and love the person staring back at you. Talk to that boy or girl you've been thinking about. Enjoy that hobby your friends don't quite understand. Do what makes you happy. Yes, definitely do that last one.

Believe in yourself.

If you haven't already, try it today. Take that leap. And then push it through the rest of the year.

Through the rest of your life.


And to our readers who write? 

Guess what! You can take your leap without even getting off the couch.  

Here's what I want you to do: Take your leap with your current draft.

Veer away from your outline if you have one. Push your characters into that place you've thought about in the back of your mind but have been afraid to go. We all have those areas. The ones we think could be cool, but that we don't have the skill to write.

To which I say: PSH.

Do it anyway. If you're smart enough to come up with it, you're smart enough to write it. Push yourself. Leap over the easy options--let's be real: we all know how nice and simple those are to write--and find the one that will make your work stand out above the rest.

And then let today be the day that starts the habit of constantly pushing yourself further in your craft. Take this leap and make it a long jump.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Teen Roundtable: Sex, Cheaters, and "Poop"ular Devices

It’s time again for our monthly Teen Roundtable with our Teen Spies! Since it’s February, we decided to focus on YA romance, but with a er, …not-so-clean flair. We chatted sex preferences (as in how much they can withstand in a novel), infidelity, those boys we love, and those we love to hate. Our discussion led to some new wordage. Some memorable quotes. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a roundtable if we didn’t go all tangential on SOMETHING. Here’s how things started out…

On the Midnight Premiere…

Alison: So, anyone else ready for March 23?

Lennon: ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I HAVE MY TICKETS!!! We are making my friend read it. And making him go as Cinna to the midnight showing.

Laura: I'm doing the same. It was my best friend’s birthday two days ago and I told her straight up, "I don't care what you want. I love you and therefore I'm buying The Hunger Games for you."

Lissa: I was so happy when I saw one of my non-reader friends reading it; apparently her mom is a writer and forced her to read it.

Erica: I am probably the only person who wasn't nuts about those books. The Hunger Games itself was almost a did not finish, tho I did love Catching Fire.

Lennon: Is anyone else dressing up?

Laura: YES! Totally dressing as Katniss and embarrassing anyone who is brave enough to go with me.

Alison: Will you wear a flaming cape?

Laura: ...might pass on that one.

Lennon: Haha awesome. I'm still deciding between Katniss, Clove, or a chick from the Capitol.

Alison: CLOVE?!?!!

Lennon: Its the only other tribute I can pull off. Well the only one with a NAME that I can pull off.

Alison: My daughter and all her friends are going with me. They're designing Team Peeta shirts.

Lennon: Team Peeta or Team Gale?

(cue many PEETAs - Agent A: Yessss!)

Lissa: PEETA!!! But I went back and forth between them until Mockingjay

Laura: I want a shirt that says something like, "Peeta Mellark: Bake my buns".

Lennon: No one likes Gale. I kinda feel bad for him. But then I think of Peeta's face I forget why.

Alison: I NEVER felt bad for Gale

Erica: Gale was meh

Lissa: I liked him for the first bit but he always had this weird feel to him I think

Lennon: I didnt HATE him until the last book

Karen: Awww, bunch of Gale haters up in here. *cowers in corner* I like Gale *ducks* but I like Peeta too

Laura: Gale. Blech! Why couldn't one of his snares backfire on him?!

Alison: awww...okay, now I'm starting to feel a little bad for Gale. But only a little.

After a little more Gale bashing (sorry, Special K!), we got on the topic for the night. Romance. Clean vs. Not Clean. We started out clarifying exactly what that meant to us.

Lennon: Sex vs No Sex

Cambria: Clean = no over-the-top sex on the page, not-so-clean = VARIES. Like: Over the shirt vs. Under the shirt...but on the page

Karen: I would guess it means how when romance scenes get to the "brown chicken brown cow" part (that's my G-rated porn music) then the scene fades to black in "clean" romance. No clean means you get all the details

Lennon: Personally, I don't care as long as the writing is classy and I don't end up reading a written version of porn.

Laura: I always thought it was like a peck on the cheek compared to some major tongue hockey.

Lissa: I think it depends on the book. If it's a love story with a happier tone then sweet and simple goes for me. But when the book has a gritty atmosphere and if the characters are the kind that would go with the whole "under the shirt concept" then that works too. But I prefer passionate scenes more than kisses on the cheek or pecks.

Cambria: I think Lissa hit it -- It totally depends on what's authentic for the characters in the book.

Would our teens dismiss a book if there’s sex in it?

Erica: I don't care about the content of books really, I more just read books if it sounds good

Laura: Can I just say that I thought Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen perfectly handled sex scenes. It was detailed without being too much.

Lissa: if sex works in the book, then I don't care. Like, Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick is a good example of where sex works, because it fits the tone of the book

Cambria: I always wonder if authors self-censor sometimes...because if you plan on selling, publishing standards (incl. how likely school libraries will buy it, etc.) are always whispering in the background at least a little

Lennon: It happens in high school and sometimes in middle school too, we can't pretend it doesn't in books if the characters are in high school

Cambria: I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't put blinders on teens just because you think it could be challenged. Teens will read what they want and skip what they don't want...besides, there's plenty of visual sex simulation on TV anyway

Lissa: Some of my older friends who are writers seem to actually struggle with how much detail to include with their sex scenes. I've seen them argue with one another over how far is too far, but a lot of the time, it seems that it's because they're uncomfortable with writing sex scenes themselves

How do they feel about INFIDELITY in YA books?

Lissa: Cheating is bad. Don't do it.

Laura: I say: don't cheat. Don't date. Don't get married. Live with your "Peeta Mellark: Bake my buns" tee and live happily ever after.

Cambria: Laura -- COMMENT OF THE NIGHT

Lissa: Has anyone read Playing Hurt (by Holly Schindler)? About a girl who has a boyfriend who she's "in love with" but still cheats on him with this guy she meets a summer camp. And basically the whole book is about their relationship. I think it tackles cheating from the "cheaters" POV.

Cambria: Did you like the main girl character?

Lissa: I wouldn't say I liked her because I couldn’t agree with what she did. But I kind of understood what she was going through. I just think that, even though she loved this new guy, it was really wrong to cheat. It's not justified even if your feelings are.

Cambria: Do you feel more "sympathy" for cheaters who are girls or cheaters who are boys? Or does it not make any difference?

Lissa: Not really in my opinion

Laura: A cheater is a cheater, no matter their gender. Relationships are messy, but people shouldn't purposefully mess them up.

Lennon: Personally, I can relate to girls better than guys in any situation. However in cheating, I know that there are two sides to all stories since one of my friends "cheated" on her boyfriend.

Erica: I think it depends on the situation, but most of the time, I think that works, because it's something most people can relate to/know someone who that's happened to

Alison: What about characters falling for someone with a bf or gf? I just think of Anna and Etienne (Anna and the French Kiss) and think how much I wanted them together. And then the flip side—Jacob pursuing Bella

Lissa: Anna and Etienne's relationship was awesome, but I think Etienne was really wrong. If I were Anna, I honestly wouldn't be able to forgive him for that, even if it wasn't me he's cheating on. If a cheater cheats once, who says they won't do it again when someone better comes along. So don't date cheaters

Cambria: But most people rooted for Anna and Etienne to get I wonder if it was the circumstance (and us following Anna's narration) or if it was the light-hearted writing. or what?

Lissa: But we saw Etienne's relationship falling apart, right?

Cambria: Right. So that's what I'm wondering...does that make it "ok" if the cheater's in a wretched relationship?

Lissa: Still no because if they're in a relationship...then they're in the relationship

Cambria: Or does the "once a cheater, always a cheater" adage still work? (On a personal note, I loved Anna & the French Kiss, but had a hard time rooting for Etienne after I realized he was still dating his gf)

Lissa: I think we rooted for them because we saw it from Anna's POV and because Etienne's gf wasn't in the picture a lot.

Cambria: It'd be interesting to read Anna & the French Kiss from the perspective of the gf that was cheated on...

Alison: Idk, Cam - I thought she was such a bee - I don't want to read anything about her

Cambria: Alison -- But you thought she was a bitch because we read from Anna's POV...

Alison: Right. Which permanently clouded my judgment

Lissa: The readers thinking she's a bitch is another reason why we rooted for Anna + Etienne. Which if you think about it is sort of biased. Because we wanted Etienne to be happy, right, but we never did see his relationship with Ellie

Cambria: Lissa -- precisely my point...always two sides to a coin

Alison: but I think Anna would have seen her as a bitch regardless

Cambria: Lissa/Alison -- exactly, exactly -- it's totally possibly Anna only saw the bitch part of the situation

Lissa: What I noticed in Lola and the Boy Next Door is that Lola’s boyfriend became "evil" as the book went along. I think authors might, unintentionally, make the person stuck on the bad end of the love triangle a bad person, even though they aren't originally. By like that I mean that, in demonizing the character, the "new guy" looks better. I saw that in Lola but then realized with that David/Dan guy in Anna that the "demonizing" was done too

Alison: but I think the author almost has to do that, Lissa - Idk if it is unintentional - if we are to forgive something like Etienne did

Lissa: Yeah, but the character starts out perfectly fine in the beginning, and as the new relationship takes place, that person is demonized more. Like with that Dave guy, he was rude in the beginning, but then became disgusting when Anna went out with him, just to prove how Etienne is perfect. We shouldn't need that to happen to prove that the "new guy" is better than the other one. The characters, as they are, should stand as they are on their own. I just think there's some character fraud going on, is all

Cambria: Lissa -- but maybe the demonized character isn't really changing...but the main character's perception of him/her is

Lissa: But with Lola, her boyfriend just became grosser and grosser as the book went along, even though he was sweet in the beginning. Like I guess it makes sense that now they have something else to compare to, but it still is pretty fishy for me. I feel like those other characters are there just to make the romantic lead more special-seeming

Rebecca: I get what Lissa is saying. Dave was nice at the beginning but then once Anna started liking Etienne, his character well, not very nice. The author, slowly, slowly made the reader not like him.

Alison: I completely get what you're saying, and I will tell you it is a device. One that works on many people. We do the same thing in the theatre. Use contrast to highlight something you want, er…highlighted

Lissa: It's a poopular device and I'm seeing it a lot now that I've realized it. I think it destroys my perception of the characters and their relationships, but that could be just me

Lissa: *popular, not POOPular

Alison: haha - I don't know if the "poopular" was intentional, but it made me lol

Cambria: *playing Devil's advocate here* Has no one ever dated a douchebag boy before? Because I totally have but if I'd known how douchey he was, I wouldn't have dated him in the first place. yanno?

Karen: I'm a very experienced douche dater.

Alison: I have dated my share of douches and I color them amazing when I first start dating them

Rebecca: Yes, and you’re like why was I colouring them amazing!?!

Cambria: EXACTLY LADIES! (My Devil's advocacy deed is done.) might be a device, but it can also be authentic when we're writing about character dynamics and feelings

Rebecca: Haha, where have all the guys disappered to? *looks around*

Lissa: Would you date someone who's cheated on somebody else?

Cambria: Lissa -- if I knew about it? No.

Laura: I'm just going to repeat myself: DON'T DATE.

Alison: I think that's a situation that depends on well, the situation

Rebecca: That's a tough one. I suppose only if they had changed since they had last cheated.

Lennon: I think I have actually. I pretty sure my last boyfriend cheated on his ex and me.

Laura: Woah! Also, the timing has never been more perfect - DON'T DATE.

Rebecca: When I think of Laura now, two words will pop into my head: DON'T DATE

Cambria: So...if no one dates anymore, does that mean the world will fill up with a bunch of horny teens? Because if so, I need to bunker down!

Lissa: Speaking of horny teens! I saw something on Facebook the other day about this friends with benefits thing: everybody's doing it

Laura: No way, we've got those not-so clean books. Haha!

Lissa: So the horniness should be tamed as long as people can still sleep with their pals

Cambria: Lissa -- so really? Is friends with benefits a norm in high school?

Karen: I was so born in the wrong era. I love romance

Lissa: From what I've seen, it seems so. I think it's believed that the complications disappear, but I disagree

Cambria: Do girls get labeled sluts/etc. if they engage in casual sex in high school? Or not so much anymore?

Lissa: Yes, oh my gosh yes, Cambria. My school, from what I've picked up in the last 6 months, is that it's a very...less sexual school than the norm. From what I can tell. So the girls who are engaged in anything sexual are automatically labelled sluts, even from people who don't know them

Lennon: I'm labled as a "slut" at my school, even though I've never engaged in sexual activies.

Cambria: Really?!?! Tell them Cutta Mutha's got your back!

Laura: Every second girl I know has been called a slut, even if they DON'T DATE. I know I have, which confuses me.

Karen: people use the word slut to casually. But then again I think people have sex too casually these days. I still believe it should be an act of love

Cambria: I wish people saw the word 'slut' as offensively as other words (which I will not say) that society deems offensive. So many words are totally damaging. and slut is definitely one of those words.

Laura: Really? I never say slut much. I prefer "ninny".

Karen: Ninny! I'm so using that from now on

Laura: Someone sleeps around and they are so totally a freaking nincompoop.

Cambria: nincompoopular

Laura: Ugh, what a nincompooular ninny. I'm so using that!

So, there you have it. Our teens on that not so clean romance, infidelity and those devices that ignite passionate points of view. See what fun we have! *sigh* I love our spies.

What's YOUR take on infidelity in YA romance? On character bias? Or words that hurt? And do YOU have your Hunger Games tickets yet?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Claudia Gray Interview and Giveaway!

Today we've been lucky enough to match up one of our spies, Claudia Gray super-fan Lissa, with the woman herself! Claudia Gray's newest novel Balthazar, comes out March 6th, and she took the time to answer some of Lissa's questions about her writing and her life as a teen.

Haunted by memories from his first days as a vampire, Balthazar has spent hundreds of years alone—without allies, without love. When he emerges from his isolation to help Skye Tierney, a human girl who once attended Evernight Academy, Balthazar has no idea how dangerous it will be. 

Skye’s psychic powers have caught the attention of Redgrave, the cruel master vampire responsible for murdering Balthazar and his family four centuries ago. Having learned of Skye’s powers and the remarkable effect her blood has on vampires, he plans to use her for his own evil purposes. 

As they stand together to fight the evil vampire, Balthazar realizes his lonely world could finally be changed by Skye...just as Redgrave realizes that he can destroy Balthazar once and for all by taking her for his own.

In a story filled with forbidden love and dark suspense, one of the most beloved characters in Claudia Gray’s New York Times bestselling Evernight series will captivate readers with his battle to overcome his past and follow his heart.

Sounds amazing, right? Check out Lissa's review below and comment to receive the chance to win an ARC of Balthazar!

Interview with Claudia Gray

Lissa: Did you write as a teen? If so, what?

I wrote as a teen, but not in a very focused way. There were only two story ideas I remember developing in any depth. One was about a girl who consoled herself after getting dumped by her boyfriend by becoming a champion figure skater. I was only about 13 then, and mostly I concentrated on the figure skating outfits she wore. Which by the way were awesome. 

The other was a little better, and it was about a group of kids in high school -- from disparate cliques/economic levels/backgrounds/etc. -- who all wound up adopting this one old abandoned house as a hangout and becoming friends that way. The rich guy fell for the poor girl, and they all kept their hanging out secret for fear of upsetting the social order or whatever, until one of them was arrested for vandalizing the house (hello, some of us call it renovation) and the rest of them had to defend him. This one was cheesy but not unsalvageable. But I didn't finish that, or really anything else I started at that age. Still, it was good practice and a lot of fun.

Lissa: What's the hardest part about being an author, and what do you wish people understood about it better?

The hardest part -- it's not coming up with ideas, it's figuring out which of your ideas are actually any good. Or, instead of coming up with a single character, coming up with several who are actually interesting when they interact with each other. Also getting up before 6 am to catch a plane for your next tour date, but that's just because I am SO not a morning person.

What I wish people understood about it better: I guess I wish people understood how little is really in my control about anything beyond the content of the actual book. Lots of people email me wanting to know why I didn't tour in their town, for instance; I really go where publishers send me, and I get next to no input on that. Or people ask me why I don't make movies of the books, as though it were as simple as me calling up 20th Century Fox and telling them to get cracking. I wish!

Lissa: I find that you write teen voices really well - I really connect and empathize with Bianca. How do you tap into a realistic teen voice? Is Bianca anything like you?

Thank you so much! The key, in my opinion, is remembering how I felt when I was Bianca's age. Sometimes I get back there by playing music that I listened to then; other times I review my old diaries (still have 'em all!); and sometimes there are just moments from my teen years that have never left me. Bianca's not a whole lot like me, really -- I went through a shy phase, but never so shy as she is at the start, and while we were both bookish, we were into different kinds of books. Otherwise, she's very much her own girl. And believe me, I never got lucky enough to have a Lucas vs. Balthazar dilemma.

Lissa: What would you do if your sixteen-year-old self was stuck in the Evernight world? How would you deal with a world full of vampires?

I doubt I'd fare well. First of all, I'd want to tell the world. Immediately. I would be that person who started up effyeahvampiresarereal on tumblr and started trying to interview vampires about their undead experiences. Don't you think Mrs. Bethany would, at minimum, deal out some detention for that? But I'd do better as an Evernight student than I would as a Black Cross hunter. Seriously, day one of my time in Black Cross, I'm dead. It wouldn't even be a vampire that finished me off. The sit-ups alone would do it.

Lissa: How would your teen self feel if she found out you were now a successful YA novelist? Is there anything you wish you could tell her?

My teen self would be so COMPLETELY BLOWN AWAY that I get to write novels for a living. In the best possible sense. Seriously, she'd be beside herself with glee. I'd tell her to do more writing earlier, to be a little more ambitious about education and travel, and to buy Apple stock. Lots of it.

Lissa's Review of Balthazar

In the Evernight series, Balthazar was one of my favourite – and one of the hottest – characters around, and this book was just as fantastic as Balthazar himself.

I could not put this book down! With action coming in to play within the very first chapter, and with Gray’s ease in the third person, there wasn’t an unexciting moment. Gray’s writing is crafty, but to-the-point; while she always delivered with careful detailing and creative attention to the setting, the style was tense, and suspenseful as the scene called. Also, AM I EVER appreciative of Gray’s ability to script chemistry and sexual tension, because oh boy did some of the conversations in Balthazar make me flush.

The characters rocked. Skye was totally admirable – her intelligence, emotional strength, and ability to think things through. Many, many times throughout the book I thought, “Wow. Skye is smart and she shows it.” And, “Wow. Skye actually has a brain and cares about something other than her relationship status.” Balthazar, too, made me smile. Not only was he hot (teehee), but he also had a conscience and sense of ethics, this realness something that made him really special. Gray’s never writes characters as only “bad guys” or “good guys”; every character has shades and reasons and lives.

What I particularly think stands out about Balthazar is that the romance never strayed untrue. Gray gave us two strong characters passionate for one another, but never changing their personalities to make them dependent or unrealistic to their reality.

Although I’m disappointed that this is the only (currently-planned) story for Balthazar and Skye, the open ending has let my imagination go wild regarding the futures of the two characters. I am so excited to find out what she has in store for readers next!

Want to win a copy of Balthazar? 
Just leave a comment and let us know!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Comment of the Week

Each Thursday we ask you a question, and on Saturday we pick the author of our favorite answer to win a prize from THE VAULT as a thank you for participating.

This week's winner, who told us which movie she had seen recently and loved, is:


I haven't seen many 'recent' films - I'm waiting for John Carter on March 9th. Of the films I've seen recently though, I think Friday Night Lights stands above the rest. I did this all arse-about-face really. I watched the series first knowing nothing about the book and film the series was based on. I loved the series. I loved the characters and the raw, gritty documentary style. Ok, I loved Tim Riggins. So yesterday I watched the 2004 film and it was almost as good as the series, in that same classic understated style of Peter Berg's that's really just a quiet character study set against the backdrop of small-town football. Loved it. Now, I think I have to read the book by Bissinger...

Also watched Ryan Gosling's Drive the other day and it was delightfully retro and understated too. I really like that style. So different from the razmataz of blockbuster Hollywood. That said, I can't wait to see John Carter and Battleship and Prometheus - all big budget Hollywood romps.

What an AWESOME answer! Your answer was insightful and amazing and . . . okay, you had us at Friday Night Lights. And Tim Riggins. And then Ryan Gosling. But STILL. Awesome answer!

Xaniver, shoot us an e-mail and let us know what Vault prize you want! Congratulations! And thanks to everyone who commented. Come back on Thursday for another question!

Friday, February 24, 2012


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

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

Here's today's question:

Q: How can I get my teen boy to read more?

A: I addressed this question in an earlier post. But apparently we still have a problem because my post didn't get hand-delivered to every teen boy in America like I EXPLICITLY DEMANDED! Honestly, if you want a job done right do it yourself. Alternatively, change the job description until it perfectly matches what you've been doing since you got hired.

In thinking about this question again I decided to attack the problem from a different angle. I looked myself in the mirror and asked the Ryan Gosling look-a-like staring back at me, “Hey guy, what can you tell me about getting people hooked on stuff?” His answer? "Talk to an addiction specialist." Brilliant! Sexy and smart. Dammit, me, you've done it again!

So I went to the only addiction specialist I know, a local meth dealer named One Leg Cletus (on account of his brother, also named Cletus, has two legs and it just cuts down on confusion). Cletus agreed with Mirror Ryan Gosling that reading should be treated like an addiction, one you want your kid to acquire. Then he started ranting about 9/11 being an inside job and how Mel Gibson is so misunderstood. When he asked me if I was a cop I said yes just to get out of there.

But he did give me one bit of advice he'd learned from his line of work: first one's free, tell your friends.

Useful, but not enough. Which got me thinking. I was a teen boy once, I know what they like. How can we get teen guys hooked on books? Here's what I came up with.

In answer to your question, disembodied asker, below are ten ways to get your teen boy to read more:
  • Whenever you buy him a book from Amazon, instead of choosing the paperback or Kindle option, always select the “Print to Kate Upton's Bikini” format.
  • Try Madlibs: Hey, [insert his favorite sports team] has a new superstition! To win the next game, fans must read [insert book he might like]. Anyone who doesn't read the book will be held personally responsible for the loss by [insert favorite goalie/quarterback/seeker].
  • Using a firm voice and good eye contact, wave your hand in front of his face and say, “these ARE the books you're looking for!”
  • Invent a previously unknown Uncle Chuck. Uncle Chuck travels extensively as a Navy SEAL and writes frequent, thrill-a-minute letters about his dangerous missions (for added authenticity, black out random sentences to make it look like his letters have been redacted for security reasons). Uncle Chuck also sends pictures of himself standing next to beautiful women in exotic locations (you can use the pictures that come pre-loaded in frames from Bed, Bath & Beyond). One day, Uncle Chuck casually mentions that real men read books. Your work here is done.
  • Learn to cook Turbooken. That's a book, wrapped inside a chicken, wrapped inside a duck, wrapped inside a turkey. Naw, I'm just messin' with ya! Just fry up some paperbacks in hog fat.
  • Stop calling them books. Refer to them only as “mucho sexy bringers.”
  • Tell him Call of Duty will unlock a secret level for every book he reads. (Note: this will only work if he actually gets to unlock a new level. Learn to code.)
  • Ninjas. Just ninjas. Don't say anything more. Option One: he thinks the book is about ninjas, in which case he'll read it in a couple of sittings. Option Two: he fears if he doesn't read the book he'll be marked for death by ninja assassins (in which case he'll read it in one).
  • Mention that studies show girls find well-read guys more attractive. Give him a stack of paperbacks. While he's reading, replace all the mirrors in your house with GQ covers of Ryan Gosling.
  • Forbid reading.
Well, I think that's a good start. Until I can bail Cletus out of jail and get some more of his stellar ideas, tell us your suggestions in the comments or let me know on Twitter (@copil)!

See you next month!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

On the big screen...

Every Thursday, we post a question for our followers--and every Saturday, one of the commenters will be selected to choose a title from our Vault! ARCs, signed books, awesome books... Anything we have--you get to choose.

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 movie have you seen recently and loved--and why?

Cristin: Chronicle. Despite feeling insanely queasy for the last twenty minutes (a bad mix of too much popcorn and a hand-held camera) I was really pleasantly surprised. The characters were 100% pure teen boy, and the found footage gimmick was actually very effective. 

CopilI really liked Tin Tin. It felt like classic (read, pre-crystal skulls) Spielberg. And visually it was amazing! At times it was like watching a dream. A good one. Not one of mine where I'm naked and late for work.

Alexandra: That Thing You Do. I watched it again with Karen a couple days ago. The tale of a 60s one hit wonder. Awesome movie, with a super cute leading guy!

Karen: Crazy Stupid Love. Two words: Ryan Gosling. The Dirty Dancing scene totally would have worked on me too. 

Sara: Yeah. What Karen said. She pretty much gave my answer verbatim. Sigh. Ryan Gosling. Sigh. 

Cambria: I sense a theme because MY pick is also a Ryan Gosling movie -- Blue Valentine. Half of the movie he's beer-gut sexy, rather than normal RyGos sexy...but the movie is hearbreakingly beautiful and totally raw. It's such a wonderful study of two people in and out of love. Plus Ryan Gosling. That is all.

Alison: The Muppets: Gonzo, campy musical numbers. Jason Segel. Enough said.

Your turn!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Today we're getting the undercover scoop on a hot YA book cover, Destiny's Fire, by Trisha Wolfe.
Karen: Quick! First word that comes to mind when you look at your cover?

Trisha: MINE! Ha! No, for reals, I guess I’d be, Yay! I was so amazed that my publisher found a girl that comes so close to how I envision Dez in my mind, I couldn’t believe it. To the look on her face and just everything about her, she is perfect.

K: Okay, now tell us a little about your story.

T: Well, as you know, most authors really don’t get much of a say in their covers. It’s a scary and exciting moment when you get the cover in your inbox. Omnific was great to work with, though. They first sent over four mock covers to get an idea of what I liked. I don’t think too many publishers do this. All the first mocks I didn’t really “feel”. So they sent over three more. You have to understand, Destiny’s Fire is a difficult cover to design, I believe, for anyone. There are so many different elements to the story, and I think the mesh between Paranormal and Steampunk was hard to pin down. When I got the final mock for what the cover was going to be, I’ll be honest here. I cried. I felt it was all wrong, and the first girl wasn’t Dez at all. The guy in the background didn’t have the “YA” guy feel to him, either. But, my publisher had put in countless hours, and so they decided that this would be the final one. After it went live, the response we got back from readers was overwhelming. So much so that my publisher decided that it would hurt the novel’s chances in the YA market, and they sent an email letting me know they would work up one last cover. I was so grateful for this, and to everyone who commented on the cover. It’s amazing how much things have changed over a few short years and the power of the Internet to reach your audience.

K: Tell us about the creation process with your publisher. Did you have any say and input?

T: I did! I didn’t have too much, but like I said before, they sent over mocks to determine which I liked the most. It was just bad luck that during that time, they couldn’t find the right girl, and we were under a tight schedule to get a cover out. Editing had already gone past the deadline for the ARCs, and I think everyone was feeling the pressure. So, before I received the last mock, we still hadn’t come to an agreement on a cover that worked. But in the end, you have to trust your publisher.

K: I know the first cover wasn’t such a big hit with your blog readers either, so give us the lowdown on what went down.

T: Oh, boy LOL Well, Kristi from the Story Siren was asked to do the cover reveal. And she got it up there pretty quick! Like, the day after I sent her the cover. I was literally holding my breath waiting for the comments to come in. I already knew the comments would be negative, not really liking it. But I had no idea the volume or the honesty that would come forth. I remember calling my mom on the phone and crying. Yes. I cried. Big time. It’s every writer’s dream to see their book in print, and that first moment when your book goes before people, you’re a basket case. The cover is SO important. It’s the face of your novel. For DF being my debut novel, I’ll be honest, that day was probably the hardest so far of my writing career. I hid for two days, hunkered down in my bed eating pounds of chocolate before I felt I had to show my face. I knew I had to do a blog post about it, and luckily my publisher contacted me that day letting me know they were going to rework the cover, so I knew I had to suck it up. What doesn’t kill us, right?

K: What’s your favorite part about your cover?

T: Well, on the old cover, I have to admit that I liked the “feel” of it. I liked the color and the mood. I don’t think of DF as a dark, dark novel. But there are some dark moments. So I did like that aspect of it. For the current cover, I love Dez! And the purple LOL I believe the girl, her pose, the light Steampunk element…everything about it captures the novel perfectly.

K: Anything you wish you could change?

T: Hmm. Sine I’m all about honesty here, I have to admit I’d probably change the smoke at the bottom. I think with the elements in the book that fire would have worked best, but I understand about using things that work best. But I would probably have tried to use white flame. That makes total sense to me.

K: Are there any meaningful details you’d like to point out?

T: I think in the digital version it’s hard to make out Dez’s eyes. On the cover she has violet eyes, and that’s so important in the story. I love the cover girl, but I wish her eyes could be a little more of the focal point.

K: Anything else you’d like to share about the process?

T: I think, not to sound cliché here, but these types of things happen for a reason, and they do make a person stronger. I know the readers get upset when a cover they don’t agree with hits the market, but only the writer can relate to just how hard getting a tough first cover can be. I learned a lot about people, readers, the market, and myself during this. I don’t think I would change any of the process now, though. I’m grateful for the experience and what it has taught me.

K: We like to spread the cover love here at YA Confidential, so, besides your own, what’s your favorite book cover and why?

T: Wow! That’s a hard one! There’re so many awesome covers…Okay. If I HAVE to pick one, I’m going to go with the Wicked Lovely Series. All of those covers are perfect for the dark feel, the story, and the characters from Marr’s creation. They’re simplistic yet convey the depth of the story beneath. I heart them.

Thanks so much for having me! Peace out.

About the author:

Trisha Wolfe is the author of the YA Steampunk/Paranormal Romance DESTINY'S FIRE. Her published short stories have appeared in YA literary journals and Fantasy magazines. UNVEILED is her first novelette and part of a Dystopian series releasing TBA. She’s written four books in the past two years, and is currently working on the sequel to DF and a new Sci-fi project. She’s represented by Lauren Hammond of ADA Management.






Personally, I love this cover. What do you think YA Con peeps?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

YA Confidential's Cinder Chat!

While perusing the New Release shelf at YA Confidential HQ, three operatives found themselves reaching for the same book: Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Rather than enter The Octagon to determine who got to do the review, Alexandra, Cristin and Copil decided to have a group chat and post some of the highlights!

by Marissa Meyer
Description (from Oblong Books):

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

First up, our general impressions. . .
Cristin: I really enjoyed the story and thought the romance was surprisingly sweet and convincing. 
Copil: I agree. There was a really sweet build to their relationship. 
Alexandra: The romance didn't make me want to vomit. Which is saying something coming from me. 
Cristin/Copil: *laughter* 
Alexandra: I also thought the way it was tied in with Cinderella was clever. 
Cristin: Yeah, I thought she got the whole modern retelling thing totally right, enough of a nod to bring another dimension to the story without overwhelming it. 
Alexandra: I think it was definitely the strongest fairy tale retelling I've read in a long time.

Next we discussed cyborgs. As you can see, the conversation quickly veered off topic. . .
Copil: I loved the cyborg angle. 
Alexandra: Cyborgs are cool. Where do I sign up, I'd get metal wings. I want to fly <3 
Copil: I heart transhumans! I want to be downloaded into a computer. 
Alexandra: Omg I'm picturing that demon in Buffy. The one who woos Willow. Malcolm! Cristin, what would you want? 
Cristin: If I could teleport, that would be FAB. 
Cristin: Why not??? 
Copil: It's just suicide with a fancy name. Every time Kirk beams down to a planet, he's dying and creating a new Kirk on the surface. 
Cristin: You're always trying to ruin my fun, Copil.

We all felt character development was one of the story's biggest strengths and Cinder, in particular, kicked ass. . .
Copil: The SHOE! That was my favorite character. That red patent leather pump. Cinder was a close second. 
Alexandra: I like that Cinder was the one who had to figure things out for herself. Yay, feminist angle! 
Copil: I agree. She was smart and genuine. Plus overalls! Anyone else picture her as Eileen from that Dexys Midnight Runners song? 
Cristin: Little before our time, old man. 
Copil: LOL! My other favorite was Iko. 
Alexandra: Awww Iko! Iko was an awesome touch. 
Cristin: Yeah, I loved her.

If you haven't heard, the sequels all have an interesting hook. . .
Copil: You know the sequels are going to follow other fairy tales? Little Red Riding Hood. Rapunzel. Snow White. 
Alexandra: I can't wait for the sequels. Which fairy tale comes next? 
Copil: Little Red Riding Hood, I think. Then Rapunzel. Then Snow White. 
Alexandra: I wonder if Rapunzel's hair will be mechanized in some way... 
Copil: Extensions. Natch. 
Alexandra: Okay, so Scarlet is Red Riding Hood, obviously, and Winter is Snow White. Where does the name Cress come from? 
Cristin: Watercress, which is how the witch got Rapunzel in the first place. 
Alexandra: OH! 
Copil: Ahhhhhh!

Finally, we thought teen readers would definitely enjoy the book. . .
Alexandra: I think it's the mix of science fiction and romance. And I think teens who aren't big fans of romance will still find a lot of other stuff in the book, like the virus, Cinder the cyborg and the plot with the Lunars. 
Copil: I think the sci-fi is a draw to someone who might not naturally gravitate to something like this. It was for me. 
Cristin: True. And it didn't have any of the insta-love our spies are always complaining about. Or any weakling girls. 
Alexandra: Definitely. 
Copil: So a strong recommend for teen readers? 
Alexandra: I definitely would recommend it. 
Cristin: Me too, big recommend.
There you have it! If you haven't read Cinder, might be time to add it to your TBR. If you have read it, let us know what you thought of it in the comments. On our way out, we leave you with the Cinder book trailer. Enjoy!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Geeks are Dead. Long Live Geeks!

It used to be easy to hunt nerds in the wild. Just put a juicy steak (and by “steak” I mean “Dungeons & Dragons campaign”) into a hair-triggered spring-snare trap outside the gifted & talented classroom and wait. Within a few minutes, you had fresh nerd ready to marinate and slap on the barbi or put in a freezer bag to fry up later. Nerds will keep fresh for up to a year.

But those days are over. Now your trap is just as likely to capture a teenage Internet billionaire or Mickey Mouse Club superstar. You thought you were going to spend a fun day stuffing nerds into lockers, snapping pictures and racking up hits on Flickr. Instead, your prey lawyered up and you landed in police custody where you sold your new Nikes for “protection” and spent an hour trying to convince your parents to use your college fund as bail money.

And it's not just nerds that are off limits these days. Freaks. Geeks. Dorks. Outcasts. They all have powerful lobbying groups, PACs and Japanese fan clubs ready to defend them at the first slight. You can't even hock a loogie into someone's hair without getting chewed out by school administrators!

It's getting so that dickheads and douchebags have to find real hobbies. How could this have happened?!

There's plenty of blame to go around. Below are five groups I hold personally responsible for turning nerds into heroes.

Mark Zuckerberg
The ancients tell of a time you could walk from one riverbank to the other on the backs of spawning nerds. But then Google started offering free lattes and on-site laundry service and the rivers ran dry. People like Xeni Jardin (Boing Boing), Sergey Brin (Google) and Jack Dorsey (Twitter) made being smart sexy. Almost as importantly, they made it lucrative. In an earlier time, all those nights spent working on monitor tans and trolling the more disreputable corners of the Interweb typically resulted in wedgies, swirlies or kancho (seriously, don't even look it up – I WARNED YOU!). Today, those same, seemingly anti-social behaviors, are just as likely to result in a pre-market allocation on a hot IPO. Being a nerd can make you rich! Stupid nerds.  

Justin Bieber
Picture it: you're young. You've got acne. You're a goody-two-shoes momma's boy with a bowl cut that looks like it was styled by your blind dog. And, oh-my-god-can-it-get-any-worse, you like to sing! And we're not talking about edgy Nirvana covers. No, you like to sing sugary diabetic-bait pop tunes! I mean, c'mon! This kid should be hanging by duct-tape on a flag pole somewhere! Instead, he parties with Selena Gomez and makes more waiting for a burger at the drive-thru than I have in all of the 21st Century! Are there no easy pickings anymore?!

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (better known as DSM-IV) classifies mental disorders and provides doctors, clinicians and pharmacists (plus people who are paranoid that their digestion-related pizza dreams are totally schizophrenia) with common criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. As our understanding of the human brain progresses, conditions that used to have no diagnosis, no treatment and no public awareness were easy to ignore or, worse, exploit. Go back a few years and you can see how a kid with Asperger syndrome or autism might find him or herself on the receiving end of ugly social rejection. But now, if you treat an autistic classmate with disrespect, it makes you the asshole! Slippery slope, people! Next it'll be wrong to mock paraplegics!

Brad Pitt
Sports used to be the exclusive domain of bullies and dickwads. Not all jocks were idiots nor all idiots jocks. But there was a time when you knew that the team locker room was a safe haven. You could belittle the eggheads and the brainiacs without interruptions for grammar correction. Then along comes sabermetrics and all hell breaks loose. This is the mathematical science of applying logic and reason to decisions that used to be governed by gut feelings and tabacco spit. RBI got replaced by something called VORP (Jesus, people, it even sounds like a ridge-headed Star Trek alien!). And Brad Pitt, that traitor, made a movie called Moneyball about how cool these geeks are. Brad Pitt! BRAD F@%#!ING PITT! Fight Club, THAT Brad Pitt! I don't even. . .I can't. . .I just. . .wow.

YA Writers
Ugh, these guys. Where do I start? YA writers have taken it upon themselves to delve into the fringes of teen society, tease out the parts of the human experience that are common to all of us and, in so doing, UPEND A VERY WELL-ORDERED HIERARCHY! Geeks get the girl! Freaks save the world! Nerds find happiness! Dorks discover they are worth something! Don't you see where this is all going?! It's gotta stop!

Mark my words, people. If this trend continues, eventually it will be impossible to figure out who the freaks are. You'll sit down at lunch, look around, and not be able to figure out who should be de-pantsed! Is that the world you want to live in?

It is? Oh.

I'll just let myself out, then. Good day!

This way?

Nope. Broom closet.

Ah, over here is the--no, that's a toilet.

Here we go.

I said GOOD DAY!

Friday, February 17, 2012

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. This month, in the spirit of February 14th, I asked my kids about all things romance—what they look for in a guy/girl, their ideal date, and how they really feel about VD.

You know I meant Valentine’s Day, right?

So, how do they feel about Valentine’s Day? Love it? Hate it? Couldn’t care less?

The shocking results: Most of the girls love it, most of the guys don’t really care too much about it. And their feelings towards Valentine’s Day depended greatly on whether or not they were in a relationship. Some thoughts…

Love it. Makes you feel special and loved all day.

I find it kind of fun. I like to see what my friends get.

I don’t really care for it, but I guess it’s nice for people to spend time with the people they love. (frankly people need to do that more often)

I really could care less about it. Because I have to spend money.

It’s cool. I feel bad (though) when I see people without a Valentine.

I don’t think it’s a holiday. Why wait one day to show love?

I love it. It makes me feel excited and hopeful.

I couldn’t care less. It’s great for chocolate eating excuses.

I love Valentine’s Day. I love to dress up and look cute.

I really like it! It’s my mom and step-dad’s anniversary and they’ve been through a lot.

Couldn’t care less. It’s made up by the card company to make money.

Dances? Special dates? Hang out? What do teens do for Valentine’s Day?

Pass out Valentines, hang out with bf/gf and/or friends, go out to eat with family, dinner, movies, work—again these answers depended on if there was a girlfriend or boyfriend in the picture.

I usually hang out with friends and we try to make Valentine’s Day as fun as possible for everyone who doesn’t have a “valentine.”

I give my parents a gift for their many years of marriage.

I ride my horse (on nearby trails).

My mom makes heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast. (This one totally inspired Agent A to get her children heart-shaped doughnuts - and up her ranking for Mom of the Year)


Chocolate, stuffed animals, jewelry, cards, homemade valentines, brownies, hugs and kisses (not the candy either), dinner, balloons, roses, flowers, carefully picked out cards, and time.

Traditions at school?

They can pre-buy candy grams and carnations to be delivered to their friends or special someone. Some schools do a dance. Sending someone a Crush can is becoming a new tradition.

What’s the first thing teens notice about a guy/girl they might be interested in? Physical appearance? Or personality traits?

Definite even split on this one—for both the guys and the ladies.

My girls tend to notice EYES (particularly blue), smile, muscles, eyelashes, clothing, height, mouth, shoes, the way they smell, hair, and clothing. Several of my female students (yes, several) said they first notice a guy’s teeth. (If they take care of their mouth, they take care of themselves). Did I mention several females mentioned this?

As for personality traits? My girls like their guys funny. They first notice confidence (not cockiness), the way they carry themselves, respectfulness to friends and others, compassion, intelligence, and taste in music.

The guys? I heard this a lot

They also notice hair, eyes, SMILE, face, body, hygiene, and clothing. They notice girls who are athletic and adventurous, but also sweet and shy, if they have a sense of humor, how they carry themselves, and how they act towards other people.

Ideal dates?

If they have a long term gf or bf, this is what they said their ideal Valentine’s Day date would be.

Doing anything together, any activity where we could actually communicate.

Getting dressed up and going out to dinner.

Going to the park at night.

Staying in, making dinner, and just hanging out.


Going to dinner, a movie—just spending time with him.

And if they could have a first date with a long time crush on Valentine’s Day?

We'd probably eat dinner and then go to an arcade. I've never been to an arcade with a boy - that's definitely something I'm going to try out on my next date.

Dinner at the beach.

Watching scary movies, laughing at love struck people, and making out in bookstores.

Spending a day or even a couple of hours getting to know them.

Dinner where we can talk and goof off, movies so we can hold hands and be close.

Some kind of fun activity like bowling. (or whatever she likes to do)

On the beach at sunset.

Finally, what’s the one Valentine’s gift or gesture that happened to someone else that made them jealous?

Balloons and a dozen roses. I was like, wow. Why doesn’t someone think that highly of me?

Whenever someone gets something as simple as a teddy bear, but complains it wasn’t good enough. That irritates me.

Somebody got a new pair of shoes from their bf and I did not.

One of my friends got a big bear that was so cute. (several mentioned big teddy bears as the envy-inducing gift)

Seeing people out walking the beach.

And the one that broke my heart

Watching the person you want with someone else.

That's the scoop on Valentine's Day in my neck of the teendom. Tell us about YOUR Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Share the Love: Operatives' Turn

So we have a kind of awesome contest going on right now. In case you weren't aware: seven ARCs are up for grabs. Yes, seven. You read that correctly.

To enter all you have to do is answer a question for us*. But to make things fair, today we are answering the same question! 

The question: Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make sure someone who needs it knows that they are loved. Or at least liked. Or at least not alone in the world. Tell us, how will you complete the mission?

Cristin: I can't divulge too many details about my mission, because my intended recipient sometimes reads this blog. But there's someone who's been doing a lot for me lately and will be finding a box of cupcakes on her desk soon.

CambriaFor Valentine's Day, I enlisted my daughter's help to send a special Valentine to my brother in Chicago, who's gone through some recent heartache and who we don't get to see nearly enough. We made a homemade card--complete with sparkly Tinkerbell stickers and heart-shaped doilies!--and put it in an envelope filled with heart confetti I'd cut out from construction paper. I know it'll totally make his day when he opens this envelope and sees all the love and fun that went into making it!

Alexandra: My parents were recently away on a 12 day trip. I bought flowers and made a pie, and left them waiting on their dining room table the day they got back.

Karen: A friend of mine recently lost her dad and wasnt up for taking calls after it first happened. I understood and gave her some time, then I called her and opened the conversation with "I wish we still lived close to each other so we could eat Ben and Jerry's, jam out to music, and pretend sad stuff never happened." She said that is exactly what she needed. She knows I love her and that she's not alone but I reminded her several times just to be sure. 

Copil: A good friend went through a rough divorce recently. I hadn't talked to him in a while so I called him and told him we were going to talk once a week whether he wanted to or not. He could just sit there and breath if he wanted to. He thanked me for thinking of him and I realized I got just as much out of reconnecting as he did. I only regret not doing it sooner.

Alison: Mission Accepted. 

Mission Target: My Mom

Reason for Selection: Because she’s super awesomely fantastic and, without her, my children wouldn’t get to school or half their activities and my house would be condemned from cringe-worthy uncleanliness.
Strategy My mother is a saint (she volunteers EVERYWHERE and just went on a mission trip to Honduras) and she just loves for people to listen to her stories and that’s the greatest gift I could give her—to revel in her stories and gush over her pictures from her trips and attend church functions with her. Time is her present and she’s going to get it. This month I will ask her to share stories from her day (no matter how many times she wants to tell them to me) and take time to look at the pictures she wants to share. I will try to attend a function at her church and if I can’t, I will treat her to lunch. Or coffee. Or tea. I will give her more than the five minutes I see her in the morning. Because she’s my mother and she deserves to know how wonderfully special she is.

Sara: Mine... is kind of super personal. So, I'll just say this:  I'm working very hard to get the message out to someone who feels very alone right now that they don't have to feel very alone right now. I'm not exactly sure how to get through--traditional methods wouldn't really fix this yet--but I'm working on it.  

So that's it for today! Next week we'll be back to regular From the Vault Thursdays. But for now, have you entered our giveaway yet? If not, CLICK HERE

(Up for grabs: Pandemonium, Gilt, Lucky Fools, 172 Hours on the Moon, The Book of Blood and Shadow, Wanderlove, The Selection...)

*okay, there are a few more steps involved. But they're GOOD steps. 

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