Thursday, June 30, 2011

Win An ARC of Wildfire

Breaking my usual Thursday silence to spread the word about Carolina Valdez Miller's contest.  Click here for your chance to win an ARC of Wildfire by Karsten Knight!

And while you're at it, feel free to weigh in on my post from yesterday about intimacy in YA novels.

See you Monday!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

YA Intimacy: Is it Realistic?

kisses... More importantly, do we want it to be?

While I have my opinions on the matter, what I really want is yours.  It didn't occur to me until I read the very realistic "first time" sex scene in Desires of the Dead that the physical scenes in other novels sometimes seem a little too fluid (and NO that is not a bodily functions joke!) by comparison.

As a teenager, you have no idea what you're doing.  Everything is brand new.  It would be nice if everyone's firsts could be magical and perfectly choreographed, but aren't they usually more... awkward?

For example, take this kissing scene from Nightshade by the amazing Andrea Cremer:

I lifted my chin and his lips were on mine.  The light touch speared my body and exploded deep within me.  I shuddered and took his lower lip between my teeth, biting gently.

As hot as this kiss is, when I read it, I couldn't help but think, Really?  It's her very first kiss and she's already going for the lip bite?

Now, compare to the first kiss scene in Kiersten White's Paranormalcy:

I closed my eyes, melting in.  His lips - oh bleep, his lips - just when I thought  his skin was the softest thing ever.  And warm like you wouldn't believe.... After a few seconds I wondered if I was supposed to be doing anything else.  I'd never done this before.  [He] must have been wondering the same thing, because he slowly moved his lips.  I answered with mine, and we stood there in his room, figuring out how to kiss.

I like that Evie has to figure out what to do, as opposed to Calla busting out the moves of a seasoned kisser her first time out of the gate.  If the moment is too perfect, it isn't necessarily realistic.

Like in Breaking Dawn, when Bella and Edward finally do the deed.  She says they "fit like two puzzle pieces," and after that, she's pretty much insatiable.  But I kept thinking, Wouldn't it be like getting it on with a freezing cold slab of stone?  And how can either of them get lost in the moment when Bella could wind up seriously injured at any given second?  What if he accidentally splits her in half?

It made me think about some of the novels I've read where sex is just taken into stride: The Secret Year, Beastly, The Eternal Ones, Shiver.  There's minimal trepidation (none in the Secret Year, though Colt is no virgin), lots of lust, and very little awkwardness.

Sure the characters know it's right, but it is really that easy?  Are kisses like Calla's idealized?  Or can a first time really be a perfect 10? 

Confession time: I don't remember my first kiss.  I know who it was with, I know how old I was.  But don't ask me where I was when it happened, or even what I thought of it.  I have no idea.  Guess it didn't spear my body and explode deep within me, or the impression might have been a bit more lasting.

But I'd love to know- was your first kiss more Calla, or more Evie?  Which do you prefer to read?  To write?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Amazing Book Alert: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

I am not normally a huge fan of dystopian novels, but this one had me at the dedication.  Yes, seriously.

As you know from my last post, this was my vacation read, and I soaked it up as eagerly as I did the sun.  In fact, I originally intended to use it as a giveaway, but that was before I couldn't keep my greasy, sunblock-and-pool-water-coated hands off it.  Now I'd feel guilty sending it away with warped pages and a sheen of Coppertone.

Anyhow, here is the summary from Goodreads:

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

The very first time we meet Beatrice she's sitting in front of the mirror, something her faction (Abnegation) only allows once every third month, when she's having her hair cut by her mother.  It's such a simple image, but it stuck in my mind after I read the dedication: To my mother, who gave me the moment when Beatrice realizes how strong her mother is and wonders how she missed it for so long.

Considering my own mother narrowly avoided being admitted to the hospital right before I left, and how close I am to her, those words struck a nerve.  And by the end of the book when I was still thinking about them... well, let's just say it wasn't pool water running down my face.

Yes, there is a lot of violence in this book, but it wouldn't be dystopian if it were about rainbows and butterflies.  The violence is a necessary part of Beatrice's self-discovery as she moves further into the initiation of the Dauntless faction. 

Her choice is one I would never have made for myself - jumping off moving trains?  Entering simulations that force you to face your worst fears? - no thank you.  But the way she handles herself made me root for her when she's victorious and feel for her when she's fallable.  I may not identify with Beatrice, but I definitely respect her. 

And of course, I have to give props for the romantic aspect of the story.  It builds up slowly, almost torturously, and it's totally delicious when it finally happens.  More, please!

As far as plot and pacing, this is pretty much a masterpiece.  It's almost 500 pages, yet never felt too long.  Even with a lot of characters to keep track of, I didn't find myself confused.  And that's saying a lot, because too many characters is a huge pet peeve of mine.  My only real beef is that sometimes Beatrice seems a little TOO invincible, i.e., still jumping on and off moving trains after serious injuries.  I know being Dauntless is about pushing your limits, but I'm not sure the body of a short, skinny 16-year old could really have handled all that.  At least not without some major internal bleeding.

Still, I love novels that get you thinking, and this one definitely does.  I found myself wondering which qualities really are the best for leadership?  Is it more important to be honest or fearless?  Can power ever really be shared equally, or will one side always harbor a hidden agenda?

I may not have the answers, but I can't wait to get Veronica Roth's take on it in book 2, Insurgent.  In the mean time, I'd love to get your take on it.  What did you love about Divergent?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

I'm back!  Hope you missed me, because I missed you.  Let me tell you, there's nothing like a week at a beautiful resort to beat all your problems into submission.  WHIPPP-SSHH!

Sure it's an illusion, but it gave me the frame of mind to at least figure out how to approach the various courses of crap on my plate.  Getting up the guts to polish and query my ms is one of them.  As far as that goes, this trip was absolutely inspirational, but more on that in a minute.

First, I'd like to thank those of you who recommended Divergent (review to follow, most definitely qualifies for Amazing Book Alert) as one of my beach reads.  Divergent and I had a helluva time together in Mexico.   Here we are, chillin' by the pool:

I am soaked, smeared with sunscreen, and not wearing makeup.
But doesn't Divergent look fabulous?

Between the hot Mexican sun and that burning fireball on the cover, Divergent needed a little chill time.  No problema, when there's a nice, shady swing on the balcony of your hotel room:

 *Snickers* Yeah, I'm crazy, I know.  But did you also know that YA isn't just the bomb of all book genres?  It also happens to be...
A seriously potent mosquito repellent!  And it's a darn good thing, because it spared me from being eaten alive when I took the video I'm about to post.

The very first scene in my novel describes moonlight shimmering off the ocean, and seeing it in person, I couldn't take my eyes off it.  It made me fall in love with the beach, and my story, all over again (which I needed, because the doubt demon has been flying over my head like a rabid bat lately). 

A picture wouldn't have done it justice, so I took this to share with all of you:

Um, try to ignore the part where I nearly drop the camera

Seriously, how can you not find inspiration in THAT?

Or, for that matter, this...

Or this, especially when you've described your male mc's eyes as "blue as a cloudless sky"...
Imagine that sky with pupils and long, dark eyelashes.  Yeah, I'm swooning too.  Which made me think of the kiss my characters share on the beach, which made me con my husband into this reinactment of it:

Um, except Michael isn't shirtless in my novel (though THERE'S a thought), and my husband will KILL ME if he finds out I posted this.  So don't tell him, 'kay?

In the mean time, I'll be using my rested relaxedness to stop being such a chicken, saddle up, and write like the wind! 

Have you ever had a moment (or a week) that made you fall in love with something you'd written all over again?  Whether the answer is yes or no- have an inspired Monday, all!

** And BTW, my Monday just got even better!  I placed 2nd in Gabriela Lessa's Love All Year Long Contest!  WOOOHOOO! **

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Love All Year Long Contest!

Gabriela Lessa is hosting this fantastic contest, and I just had to enter.  Especially since we have the chance to win a critique from agent Weronika Janczuk!

First, please accept my apology if I'm unable to hop over to your blog and leave feedback.  I'm going to have very limited internet access for the next week or so, but please feel free to leave comments on mine and I'll drop in as soon as I can.  And thank you, Gabriela, for letting me enter despite my absence!

This is a scene from my paranormal romance, LIFE BEFORE DEATH.  I would love to call it YA, however, the characters are in college so I'm told the correct term is "new adult," not "young adult." *grumbles*

In this scene, Michael and Alexis are walking on the beach, eating ice cream. I think it speaks for itself, so without further ado, here goes.  Hope you enjoy!

It was the second time Michael had mentioned being a different person since I’d met him, and I was just about to ask what he meant by it when the wind kicked up, just as I had been afraid it might. It was even stronger coming off the water, and I stood in place squeezing my eyes shut and holding my hands (shoes, ice cream and all) in front of me, as if that would actually help.

Bits of sand flew up and attacked like angry bees, stinging my cheeks. I shrieked, turning toward Michael’s arm to shield my face. He pulled me to him, hugging me protectively against his chest. The direction of the wind changed just then, blowing my hair against his shirt and sending fat, airborne droplets of cold ocean water smashing against his arm and the side of my head. Then, as suddenly as it had come on, the gusty outburst was over.

I felt Michael’s chest shaking with laughter as I peeled my face from his shirt and opened one eye, the one that didn’t have wet hair plastered over it.

“This is starting to become a habit,” I said through my own laughter, recalling the way I’d wound up doused in water the night I met him.

He smiled down at me. “Guess you were right.” His hands were on my shoulders, but before I could reach up to peel the sodden hair from my cheek, his fingers were gently brushing it away for me.

I wanted to answer with some witty reply, but the air evaporated from my lungs when his fingers touched my face. They traced the lines of my cheek, then moved back to stroke my hair, though none of it stuck to me anymore. Even if I had been able to speak, there was only one coherent thought flashing through my head: he’s going to kiss me.

And he did. His lips pressed gently against mine, cool and soft and electrifying all at once. I closed my eyes, afraid I might wake up if I moved any other part of my body. My eyelids fluttered open when he pulled away suddenly, and I saw him look at me as if to ask if this was okay. My reaction surprised even me.

I threw my ice cream in the sand, wrapping my arms around his neck and pressing my lips against his with complete abandon. His arms wrapped around me and I reveled in the way he felt and smelled and tasted. All my defenses had been carried away with the wind. I wasn’t doing this for Becca. I wasn’t doing it for my mother. This was entirely for me, and it felt like something I had waited for my whole life.

Michael lifted me right off the ground and I felt his lips curl into a smile.

“Not bad for just friends,” he said huskily.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Down with the Dumps!

I've been a little low on positivity lately, so I decided to dedicate this post to happy thoughts.  Prepare to get your cute fix here at Writer's Blog today, because the thing(s) that puts the biggest smile on my face is my nephews and niece. 

For example, this beyond adorable photo of my 3-month old nephew Luke discovering his feet:

And this one of my 2-year old nephew Evan smiling for my husband, right after giving me one of his super-duper hugs:

And of course, this one of my niece Tessa smiling at me just hours after she was born:

Product Details

And the very close runners up are:

- Cookies-n-cream ice cream.  Extra cookies, please! 
- Rocking out to my Ipod.  In my mind, I'm a freaking awesome dancer.  And nowhere else.
- An awesome kissing scene in a book I'm devouring.  I love books, and I love love! A total win-win.
- Looking over edits and revisions to my story and thinking, I really like the way this turned out!
- Random hugs and kisses and "I love you's" from my husband.  It's always nice to hear :)
- Aaaaaand.... Knowing I'll be on the beach soon! 

So what brings a smile to your face when you've been down in the dumps?  Happy Friday, all!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Help Me Pick My Beach Reads!

So I had a mini-meltdown early last week, thanks to a slow but steady pile-up of personal stresses.  My husband recognized I was in a bad way, and came to my rescue by booking a much-needed and long overdue vacation.

I'm beyond excited to do nothing but sit on the beach and read a book, but I was hoping y'all could make some recommendations as to which book(s) it should be.  Here's my TBR pile:

Choices are:
- Divergent by Veronica Roth
- The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan
- Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
- Delirium by Lauren Oliver
- Personal Demons by Lisa DesRochers
- Willow by Julia Hoban
- The Vampire Diaries by L.L. Smith

There SHOULD be three more in the pile, books I won a while ago, but never received.  Grrrrr.

So which ones are worth the extra weight in my carry-on bag?  I'd love to hear your opinions!
(and then I'll think about you while I'm here!)  Iberostar Grand Hotel ParaĆ­so view

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Amazing Book Alert: Desires of the Dead (Body Finder #2) by Kimberly Derting

Desires of the Dead (Body Finder)Holy crap, I could not put this book down.

Kimberly Derting has one hell of a way of creating suspense, all the while interweaving sweetness and romance and even some laugh-out-loud funny moments into the mix.  My favorite line came from Violet's friend Chelsea, in reference to Violet's boyfriend, Jay: "I swear, every time I see him, I'm halfway afraid he's gonna start crying like a girl or ask to borrow a tampon or something." 

It was the perfect read.

Yes, there were still some (though FAR fewer) annoying passive verbs, and gratuitous use of italics.  No, we still don't have a clue what Jay really looks like.  But I forgave all of the above long before the book arrived in the mail - and I know this because when it did, I stopped in the middle of reading another book so I could pick up where The Body Finder left off.  Always a good sign.

Here is the synopsis: 

Violet can sense the echoes of those who've been murdered—and the matching imprint that clings to their killers. Only those closest to her know what she is capable of, but when she discovers the body of a young boy she also draws the attention of the FBI, threatening her entire way of life.

As Violet works to keep her morbid ability a secret, she unwittingly becomes the object of a dangerous obsession. Normally she'd turn to her best friend, Jay, except now that they are officially a couple, the rules of their relationship seem to have changed. And with Jay spending more and more time with his new friend Mike, Violet is left with too much time on her hands as she wonders where things went wrong. But when she fills the void by digging into Mike's tragic family history, she stumbles upon a dark truth that could put everyone in danger.

This time, I was as drawn into the mystery portion of the story as I was the romance.  Though, not gonna lie, the romance was still my favorite part.  I love the way Jay touches Violet's fingers to his lips while they're talking.  I love the way she can barely remember what day it is when he kisses her.  And - *Spoiler alert* - I loved their first "time" scene.  It was so sweet and realistic, with just the right amount of physical and emotional intensity. 

Although I did find it kind of strange that they went right from making out to sex, and seemed to skip the bases in between.  Then again, it's not a romance novel.  Maybe the other stuff was supposed to be implied.

Either way, these two are one of my favorite literary couples, and I'm totally rooting for them.

Like The Body Finder, the mystery portion of the story isn't terribly inventive when all is said and done, but I definitely started to second guess myself when I thought I had it all figured out.  And I HAD TO KNOW, not only because the suspense was killing me, but because I've really grown quite fond of these characters, third person POV and all.

You've got me, Kimberly Derting.  I am officially a fan.  And for those of you who missed Kim's oh-so-encouraging post on her road to publication, please click here.

So yes, peeps, I wholeheartedly recommend this series!