Monday, November 25, 2013

From the Vault

Every Monday we post a reading/writing-related question for our followers, and at the end of the month, one lucky commenter is selected to choose a title from our Vault. Whatever we have available: ARCs, signed books, awesome new releases... OR the monthly winner may select any one book to be ordered for him/her from the Book Depository

(To enter, follow YA Confidential and make sure your email address is linked to your comment in some way. We'll need to get in touch with you if you win.)

Today's question...

Jessica - I'm thankful for the amazing friends I've made in the writing community. I have so many generous people in my life who have helped me to become a better writer and have supported me and lifted me up when times were tough and celebrated with me through my successes. I wouldn't be where I am in my writing journey without them! I love my writing friends!
Alexandra - All my friends! My writing friends and my real life friends. I don't know how I managed it, but somehow I've surrounded myself with some really fantastic, warm, caring people.
Karen - We had a lot of semi-recent health scares of loved ones so I'm very thankful that everyone has been healthy lately (knock on wood). And, as always, I'm thankful for coffee and York peppermint patties.
Matthew - I'm always thankful to be alive and healthy. It's truly a blessing.
Alison - Ohmygosh—SO MUCH. I'm thankful for CPs and betas who get me and my writing and give me the most helpful, encouraging, and objective feedback. I'm so fortunate to be a part of wonderful writing communities full of so much love and encouragement. I'm thankful for inspiring books and manuscripts that I'm just so lucky to read. I'm thankful for writing itself, the ability to create characters and worlds and stories that I love to write and read and share. I'm thankful for the fourteen and up category. They're crazy fun to read about, write about, and interact with. And I am extremely thankful for my family—my husband who puts up with my crazy writerly moods and reads my stories and doesn't think I'm a complete neurotic weirdo for said crazy stories and moods (okay—he might think that, but he loves me anyway) and for my children who complete me and inspire me on a daily basis. And God. This writer can't do a whole lot without the Big
Leigh - Oh, man. I'm just thankful for all my readers and their enthusiastic response to my books. I'm thankful we live in the publishing times we're in, and I'm thankful for amazing writer-friends like you guys! <3 Happy Thanksgiving!!! 

Jaime - I guess I'm thankful that I'm getting to a point where I have time for both reading and writing again. And I'm grateful for the encouragement of my writer friends as I try to find my way back to writing.

Copil - Thankful for my family and friends and for the constant flow of positivity from the writing friends I've made over the past few years. The destination is always on the horizon, but the voyage has been so rewarding, I can't even.

Katy – I’m thankful for my husband, my daughter, and all of my extended family, who are supportive and loving and all kinds of fun. I’m thankful for the amazing friends I’ve made in California, friends who have made this duty station one of my all-time favorites. I’m thankful for the incredibly talented and insightful people who make up my little writing community, those who encourage me via email and Twitter, those who help me by offering feedback on my work, and who teach me by allowing me to read their work. And I’m thankful for books – of course!

Sara - I'm beyond thankful for my writing friends and CPs who are patiently waiting while I've been on a looooong writing hiatus while enjoying mommy-hood. :) But the thing I'm most thankful for right now (and forever) is my daughter. And the rest of my family. My life is so much fuller with them all in it. (#cheeseballdontcare) 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Real Teen Answers

Two weeks ago you asked the questions. And there were a LOT of great questions! Here's what our teens had to say in response… 

Do any of you have interesting or quirky hobbies or even jobs? Do you know of anyone who does?

MADISON: Well my friend bakes and makes sandwiches at Apple Bees, which I thought was kind of cool. And I work at a vet clinic. Those aren't really interesting or quirky, but they're unorthodox teenage jobs. 

LISSA: During the summer, I worked as a Games Salesperson at an amusement park, a la Adventureland. It was certainly interesting/quirky and not your average job!

RANDI: I used to volunteer at this awesome old hardware store when I was homeschooled. It sold local art and fancy tea and stuff and we got all kinds of people coming in. I met circus people while working there once (they bought a lot of tea), and it was the single most awesome thing that happened to me all year. They were so cool. 

Is student government a big deal at your school? Have you ever run or held an office?

MADISON: We have a student council, but they don't do much as far as I know. 

RANDI:  Ahahaha, nope. I literally have no idea what our student council even does, and neither do they, by the looks of it.

LISSA: Maybe for other grades, but my grade is the least school-spirited EVER. But in general, not really. The advertising/campaigning is always extremely creative, but not many people are really vying for a school government position. And no, I haven't run in high school.

OPERATIVE NOTE: My daughter serves on the Student Senate (J). They are responsible for Homecoming and other spirit activities, host a senior citizens prom, and participate in various community service projects such as Christmas Cheer.

Are there any clubs or sports you wish your school would add? Have you ever started a new club at your school?

MADISON: I really wish we had a creative writing club. Writing can definitely get lonely, so having a group of other people who enjoy it like I do would be really fantastic. 

RANDI: I really want us to have like a movie club or something along those lines, but my school's guidelines about media are so strict that we'd probably never watch anything good. Also quidditch, but that's never going to happen because where I live, most people still think Harry Potter is satanic.

LISSA:  No, we have potentially every possible club - including ping pong and bubblegum popping competitions.

Are there any topics or stories you'd like to see more of in your favorite genre(s)? Do you like the current offerings in your favorite genre(s), or do you feel there's room for more diversity in subject matter/storylines? For example, would you like to see more contemporaries set outside of a high school and revolving around a romance, or more fantasies featuring gnomes or golems?

LISSA:  I would honestly just like to see less tropes and cliches. Sure, I get that you can't make a story in a certain genre without specific storylines, but I would just like to read something a little more fresh.

RIV: Anything that deviates from the norm is going to excite me. There are so many books with similar concepts already on the market. In particular, I'm always looking for books were the romance is more insignificant and for YA political fantasies. I've also been hoping to find more feminine characters. (There's too much of a stereotype that only tough "non-girly" characters constitute as good ones. I have yet to see a girl stab someone with her stiletto.)

RANDI: I need a golem story more than I need lunch. I'm sure there are topics that need addressing or would be neat to address in YA right now, but nothing immediately comes to mind.

Do you have any favorite character names? Are there any character names you really haven't liked? Do you prefer character names that are common/popular/trendy, or lesser-used names?

RIV: I'm not partial to any types of names in particular, but I dislike "speshul" names that no one has ever heard of and even fewer people can pronounce. I do love names with meanings, though.

RANDI: Eh, it depends on the character. Although I will say this, as someone who is required to review a lot of sea creature literature, I am so fracking tired of people using the name Miranda for their bewildered human teenage girl love interest, not just because it's my name, but because it seems to be the only name people ever use, because of it's relation to The Tempest.

MADISON: Well I like different names depending on the genre- my favorite name I've ever used was for a dystopian novel I started. Her name was Iris, and it was interesting because you can't really use that name as often in regular ya. I especially like names like Kennedy or Reagan.  

LISSA: I LOVED Isaboe from Finnikin of the Rock and Karou from DOSAB - two of my favourite fantastical names ever. And I like semi-popular names, but roll my eyes every time I read about a popular girl named Tiffany or Brittany. Also, when a romantic interest has this PERFECT last name - like Johnny Sugar, or something that. JUST GIVE ME A BREAK.

What makes a book a DNF for you? At what point do you stop reading, or do you force yourself to finish even a book you hate or find boring?

RIV: Going through my dnf list on Goodreads, most of the books never even tickled my interest, or they didn't live up to my expectations. Some of them just didn't do what they said on the tin, and the blurb was much more exciting than the book itself. I finish most books that I start, but sometimes they're just dead boring, and are more pain than pleasure to read, so I put them down.

MADISON: The only book I never finished was The Host by Stephanie Meyer because the first quarter of it was incredibly boring (come to think of it, that's how most of the twilight series was.) I can usually struggle through, but that book would literally put me to sleep. If I can't relate to the characters, it doesn't how amazing the plot is. I'm out. 

LISSA: Honestly, the moment I lose interest, or the characters annoy me too much. Usually I wait until I am about 100 pages in before giving up - never do I give up later than that, because I feel as if I'm already too invested in the story to give up. Unlike many other people, I don't feel too bad giving up on a book, unless I've bought it and have been looking forward to it forever. I will not waste my life reading something I would rather not be reading.

RANDI: I'm usually really good about finishing books no matter how bad it is, but there are a few things that I will stop for, and those things are 1. Unbelievably stupid main character, triggering situations, and (this is mostly a paranormal romance problem) abusive relationships that aren't viewed as abusive. But I usually finish my books.

What's the best advice you can give on query letters? 

MADISON: Don't put excerpts from your novel in your letter. Agents hate that for some reason from what I've experienced. And don't tell the your age. They care about the fact that you wrote a book, not that you wrote said book when you're sixteen- in fact, they may skim over you because they feel that you're not mature enough to have mastered your craft. So no age. But then again, everyone is different so what doesn't work for some may end up working for others. These are just the rules I've picked up while querying.   

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Having a bad writing day? Don't worry, you're not as bad as this guy.

I wish I could find the journal I kept when I was 13 years old. It was FILLED with completely awful poems, like a lot of journals by a lot of angsty teenagers. I would like to think, perhaps pretentiously, that my poetry was especially bad. I mean, I wrote a poem about the sun dying. And a murder mystery poem. And I'm pretty sure I once used the extremely original metaphor of comparing my teenage anger and angst to a volcano.

I have since given up on writing poems. In college I even turned in a poem (in my FINAL portfolio for poetry workshop) about how I can't freaking write poems.

The good news is, a lot of people actually can write poems. (Click on the words to see some of my favorites.

But the BETTER news is, there are a couple authors floating around history famous for the fact that they could absolutely not write poems.

Lest you think I simply enjoy  mocking others, believe me, I love the rush of inspiration that comes from reading something brilliant.

But...sometimes what you need isn't brilliance. Sometimes on a particularly terrible writing day, reading brilliance only makes us more aware of all our shortcomings, and we fall into a really wonderful cycle of self-loathing and self-pity. So...sometimes what you need is proof that someone did it FAR worse than you and still got published. If you can laugh heartily while you seek out that proof, so much the better.

My favorite cure for an "I suck worse than anyone else in the world" attitude is a guy named Theophilus Marzials, because he wrote an absolutely awful(ly hilarious) poem called "A Tragedy."

An excerpt, in case you don't believe me:

My thought is running out of my head;
My love is running out of my heart,
My soul runs after, and leaves me as dead,
For my life runs after to catch them -- and fled
They all are every one! -- and I stand, and start,
At the water that oozes up, plop and plop,
On the barges that flop
                              And dizzy me dead.
I might reel and drop.

And the shrill wind whines in the thin tree-top
                           Flop, plop.

(Also, later on in the poem, is proof that the word "ugh" existed in 1874. Who knew?)

Okay, maybe not everyone finds bad Victorian poetry as funny as I do (English majors have a weird sense of humor) but seriously, what the heck was he thinking when he wrote this? And what was he thinking when he published it?

Anyway,  if anyone else has ever read any particularly bad poems (bonus points if the poems are from the first half of the 20th century or earlier) and cares to share with me, that would be fantastic.

Flop, plop, y'all.

Monday, November 18, 2013

From the Vault, CATCHING FIRE Edition

Every Monday we post a reading/writing-related question for our followers, and at the end of the month, one lucky commenter is selected to choose a title from our Vault. Whatever we have available: ARCs, signed books, awesome new releases... OR the monthly winner may select any one book to be ordered for him/her from the Book Depository

(To enter, follow YA Confidential and make sure your email address is linked to your comment in some way. We'll need to get in touch with you if you win.)

Today's Question: Catching Fire! It’s almost here! Tell us about your plans for one of the year’s biggest movie releases.

Jessica - My friends and I got tickets to the 21+ theater, where they will deliver beers to you in your reclining leather seat during the movie. I can't wait! No screaming teens... but don't worry, WE'LL be the screaming teens.
Karen - I made a dress that bursts into flames and I'm totally wearing it to the movie theater. My boyfriend is dressing as Gale (because he's my choice for a happy ending. TWSS) and he's bringing a fire extinguisher because so far all of our test runs for my flaming dress haven't gone so well. 
Matthew - Um, I don't do premieres. Not even for The Hobbit. But I will see it eventually.
Alison - I (along with seven other moms) took 17 teenagers to the midnight premiere of The Hunger Games. We had so much fun, we're doing it again, but this time for an eight o'clock showing the night before. Much more congruous with this old lady's bedtime. Oh, and for The Hunger Games I braided my hair Katniss-style; this go-round, I'm thinking Effie Trinkett, but my fourteen-year-old might disown me. We'll see. Can't wait though!
Leigh - Can't wait to see it! Even though I'm Team Gale, I loved Catching Fire (hated Mockingjay -- grrr...). But since I've got young children, I'm hoping I get a chance to sneak away and see it when we're visiting relatives during Thanksgiving. OK, rephrase... I WILL sneak away and see it -- LOL!
Copil - I'm going to dress as Katniss and head out to my local cinema where I'll probably be arrested and/or deported. Will report back. But, yes, super excited to see the movie.
Sara - My big plans are to go with my mom, ha! But she loves the series almost as much as I do. My poor husband gets to stay home and babysit ;) 
Jaime - I will most likely see it with my hubby and probably a day or so after it comes out to avoid the crowds. Oh, and I have a pretty cool geek tee with Katniss in one of her Cinna-designed dresses, so I'll be wearing that for sure. My plans are pretty tame as you can see.
Katy - Date Night! We have a cool XD theater in town, and my husband and I are going to splurge for a baby-sitter and see the movie opening night. Can't wait! 
Your turn! What are your Catching Fire plans?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ask-A-Dude: Facial Hair 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 is:

Q: What started out as a sexy two-day scruff on my boyfriend's face has turned into a Unabomber beard he won't shave off. What's the deal with guys and their facial hair?

A: You've heard of Samson, right? Dude was playing poker with God one day, and he was all:
Samson:  Hey, God, what's the difference between prayer in church and prayer in a casino? 
God: I don't know. 
Samson: In a casino, you really mean it! 
God: Ahahahahahahahahaha! Good one, Samson. 
Samson: I know, right? Where's your ante, God, c'mon, you're holding up the game. 
God (antes up): Listen, Samson, I was thinking those Philistines need to learn a lesson. 
Samson: Sounds like it's time for a come-to-Jesus talk. 
God: Ahahahahaha, you crack me up, Samson. No, I was thinking more along the lines of opening a can of whup-ass. 
Samson: That's what I'm talking about. I'm your Huckelberry, God, just give me a weapon, like, oh, I dunno, a rock or a sword or something. Ooh, no, wait, how about the jawbone of an ass? 
God: Whut? 
Samson: Yeah, cuz, like, who fights with the jawbone of an ass, know what I mean? Like, it would be terrifying, like, who's this nutjob? 
God: Yeah, um, okay, let me think about that one. In the meantime, I was thinking I could make you superhuman. 
Samson: Do I get a cape? 
God: No. But you'd be able to pull down temples and rip lions apart with your bare hands. 
Samson: But no cape? 
God: No cape, Samson. 
Samson: Yeah, okay, that sounds cool. 
God: One thing, though. 
Samson: Oh, here we go. 
God: What? 
Samson: Look, no offense, your deity-ship, but every time you make a covenant with someone, you impose these completely arbitrary conditions. It gets kinda weird with you sometimes. 
God: What? Who says that? 
Samson: Oh, I dunno, Noah? 
God: I saved him and his family. 
Samson: Do you have any idea what it's like cleaning elephant poo for forty days? 
God: Do you want the job or not? 
Samson: Don't be mad, bro. I'm just saying. 
God: Look, all you have to do is never cut your hair. Ever. 
Samson: See what I mean? Weird. 
God: Oh, please, like you've ever even seen the inside of a barbershop. Trust me, you're getting off easy, here. 
Samson: What about the jawbone thing? 
God: Oh, for my sake. Fine, you can have the jawbone of an ass. 
Samson: Yiss! 
God (mumbling) 
Samson: What was that? I didn't quite hear you. 
God: I'm also going to make it so you're attracted to untrustworthy women. 
Samson: Whut? 
God: You got any more of this seven-layer bean dip?

All men are like Samson. Our strength lies in our ability to grow thick, luxurious hair. Some evolutionary biologists argue that this is because facial hair broadens the jawline, signaling sexual maturity and dominance. Of course, if that were true, my Aunt Gertrude and her 70's porn 'stache would be the most dominant person in the room.

Maybe we think facial hair is so important because it's kinda like alcohol, a mysterious thing we don't have access to until some threshold is crossed. In high school, we mocked the first kid in class to start growing a beard. In the midst of smooth-faced teens, the Chewbacca-looking dude just seemed out of place. But secretly, we all went back home and "shaved" our peach fuzz in hopes it would stimulate follicle growth. Every year was going to be the year we'd go to school with a five-o'clock shadow (that took weeks to grow).

Anecdotal evidence suggests women like a little facial hair. And that can be a very potent elixir to men. Unfortunately, in our pursuit of the perfect amount of hair to make our SOs swoon, we can spiral out of control very quickly.

Allow me to show you the typical progression of a male trying to appear more attractive to a girl.

Stage 1: A clean shave, a new start. This guy is safe, you can bring him home to the parents.

Stage 2: Just a bit of scruff. Nothing dangerous, just the merest flirty hint of a good time. You can bring him home to the parents but expect a proper grilling from mom and dad asking if he's The One.

Stage 3: Now we're getting serious. This look says, "I donate excess testosterone to charity." Think twice about bringing him home. He might be the nicest guy in the world, but your dad will run a background check and your mother will shake her head and purse her lips, but when you ask her what's wrong she'll just say, "Oh, nothing."

Stage 4: Things are getting weird. Sure, he's got pretty eyes and the thing on his chin is well-groomed. But you can tell from the way he smiles he's starting to think more about his beard pomade than about your relationship. DO NOT BRING HIM HOME UNLESS YOU'RE MARRIED. Dad will shoot him on sight and mom will burst into tears and pound her chest as she screams, "Where did we go wrong?"

Stage 5: Also known as the Zach Galifianakis, this is where the spiral really takes hold. Facial hair has become an end unto itself. It no longer enhances his identity, it IS his identity. All men pass through this phase, during which we experiment with facial hair as artistic expression. Many hipsters get stuck here and never see the light of day again. Oddly enough, you CAN bring men in this stage home to visit your folks. Your parents will immediately recognize that his hair is the central focus of his existence and that he will dump you when you point out that he spent more money on his gold-plated, multi-attachment beard trimmer than he did on your anniversary present. Eventually, either the beard will go or you will. Pray it's you.

Stage 6: Horrific, isn't it? There is no return from Stage 6. This is what happens when men don't have a good support group, friends, a job outside the home, or any human contact whatsoever. Here, the roots of each hair have grown so deep, they've wrapped themselves around the brain, choking it of vital nutrients and causing hallucinations that include hearing the voice of Rasputin say, "Just one more day, dude, you can shave tomorrow." Men who spiral down to Stage 6 must either be committed to a mental institution or made to look at themselves in a mirror for seven days straight. I don't really need to warn you about what happens if you talk to men in Stage 6, much less bring them home, do I? I thought not.

Guys need to have clear external cues to guide them through the different stages and keep from ending up with bat signals on their chins. That's where you come in. Explain that a little goes a long way. Sure, a little scruff is sexy now and then. But the real appeal of facial hair is in the variety it offers. Today he's wearing a nice George Clooney cheek carpet that will look badass in a suit as he takes you out to a nice dinner. Tomorrow he's looking like a mountain man who can chop enough wood to keep both of you warm for the winter. At any given time, he's only a shave away from meeting the parents.

Facial hair can be very seductive, to both sexes. But setting proper boundaries allows men to look and feel masculine without scaring little children (Shel Silverstein, I'm looking in your general direction).

We have to remember, the story of Samson was allegorical, its purpose was to steer men away from untrustworthy women. Or barbers. Or who the hell knows, seriously, that is one effed up Bible story.

Only one man in the history of the world has been able to unlock the secret to perfect facial hair, strike the perfect balance between manliness and being on an FBI watch list. But that man isn't Samson, it's Swanson. Ron Swanson.

Be more like him.

WWRSD? What Would Ron Swanson Do?

Copil's facial hair runs a pub called Beerd. Check for daily Happy Hour specials via Twitter (@Copil).

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