Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The London Olympics: My Thoughts

The 2012 London Olympics have been underway since Friday night, and I gotta say: I have some pretty mixed feelings about the opening ceremony and the subsequent sporting events. My thoughts kind of arranged themselves in my head like this, and I thought I would share them with you in chronological order. 
Like so:  

  • What was up with that freaky glowing baby? Am I the only one who was weirded out by that eerie looking baby during the Opening Ceremony? It kind of looked like a ghostly glowstick that was heavily influenced by Paranormal Activity. 
  • Gilderoy Lockheart. Tell me SOMEBODY besides me and my brother noticed that the narrator was the fumbling, vain and hilarious Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher from Harry Potter. Furthermore, is it sad that HP is the only reason I recognized him? No. Not really. 
  • Chariots of Fire. Mr. Bean. Chariots of Fire. Nuff' said. 
  • Michael Phelps. Despite being insanely tall and famous, the most decorated Olympian in history couldn't quite catch up to Ryan Lochte. Ya know. The guy who wears a layer of rhinestones on his teeth? Because obviously teeth aren't good enough when you can just have bling. Anyway, I still love Michael Phelps. He's a cool dude. 
  • Nightmare Sequence at the OC. Um...I was expecting Captain Hook and Peter Pan, but instead I got a bunch of dudes in costumes that looked to me like a cross between a Jawa and a Dementor. What was that supposed to mean? Also, why did they jump from World War I to National Health Care? What about the Second World War and Winston Churchill and Princess Diana and all of Britain's monumental maritime achievements? Seriously. There's more to Britain's heritage than socialized medicine, people! The Queen should have broken out into Kung Fu with James Bond or something instead. 
  • Women's Gymnastics. You people have GOT to watch the 'Fab 5,' which is the USA team of girls competing for the gold in this year's Olympics. I just had to mention that. 
  • In conclusion. Lastly, why do some of the Olympians bite their gold medals? Maybe they're afraid that they're fake. Also, why do the swimmers pour bottles of water all over themselves before they get into the pool? Maybe they think they'll save time by getting wet before they jump in? 

I'm just kidding. 
Or am I? 

Have a great day, peeps! 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sweet Evil: Sweet or Sour?

Anna Whitt has a heritage a lot more complicated than anyone else at her local High School: she's half angel, half demon. This officially makes her the only one of her kind: Nephilim. Most are half human, half supernatural. In her quest to find out more about her lineage and her powers, she takes a cross-country road trip with the sun of a demon. He's hot, he's bad and his name is Kaidan. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is pretty much where the plot stops. Right there. 

Anna spends the whole book pining away for Kaidan Rowe. Awesome, you're thinking, but let me be candid: Kaidan Rowe is a jerk. He is the son of a demon, and his Sin, or "job" is Lust, so he makes girls fall in love with him and then abandons them after a one-night stand. He is not cute. He is not kind. He's basically a male prostitute and why the HECK Anna fell for him I have no idea. That was the biggest problem of the book for me; that is, creating a male love interest who was so unloveable that the reader couldn't see past his flaws and fall in love with him, too. The second problem I had is that the focus of the book was on the demonic, and how all of the half-demons on earth had different "jobs," such as "creating envy," "fabricating adultery," and "murdering people." The author somehow expected me to show sympathy for all of the main characters because they had so-called "good sides," but guess what? A demon is a demon. Hate to break it to ya. I'll be completely honest when I thought that this novel was going to be something like Angelfire or The Mortal Instruments. In those books, there's a clear definition between the bad guys and the good guys - not in Sweet Evil. In addition, Anna was a weak main character. All she did was cry, cry, cry and then wonder why Kaidan didn't want to date her...for eight solid months. No way! I like my heroines strong, humorous, and independent. The final problem that I had was that the biggest plot wrinkle that the main character had to smooth out was to 'learn how to drink liquor and make other people intoxicated." Why? Her designated sin was "substance abuse." (I'm sorry, but that was way too corny for my tastes.)  Who wants to read about an MC who bows to the temptations of the devil and completely shrugs off her angel side? 
Not me. 
I never want to give a bad review for a book, but this, unfortunately, is one of those times. 
Conclusion: A lukewarm read a best, a plotless, confusing mess at worst. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Glass Elevator of Character Stereotyping

Breaking the Glass Elevator of Character Stereotyping

Let’s talk about character stereotypes. Over the years you have come to recognize the different types of characters: the protagonist, the antagonist, the supporting character, the love interest, and so forth. In most YA and NA novels, the main female character has a best friend who is usually one of two things: the girly girl or the tomboy. They must present a contrast to the main character but at the same time, many characters fall into a little canyon I like to call the character stereotype.

In recent literature, many topics that people stayed mum on for centuries are now frequently talked about. What do I mean? The traditional gender roles or societal pedestals are being flipped around a little bit. For example, a novel I recently read pegged the best friend as being the tomboyish type, and made a point of highlighting this fact in such a way that the character was portrayed to make her seem stereotypical: metal studded, leather-dressed, kind of terrifying, etc. It wasn't that I didn't believe that there are people like this - of course there are! - but the exaggerations were so great that it took away from the authenticity, in addition to insisting that the character was gay because of the way she dressed. That’s a stereotype. Characters shouldn’t be written to fit into a certain mold – the mold should fit around the characters. Each character should begin as completely unique, with bits and pieces of realistic, real-life personality in them.

Sometimes an author will be pressured into adding a character into their story to include another group or minority. What do you do when this happens? Let’s take a slice of popular literature: Stephenie Meyer includes the Quileute Indians in her Twilight novels, a little-known ethnic minority that resides in the United States. But notice that she doesn’t just have them be Quileute for the sake of being Quileute. They serve a huge purpose in the novels, tying their mythology and ancient legends into the world of vampires, without which Twilight would not be where it is today. So what am I saying? Don’t have a character be gay or tomboyish or girly-girl just in the hopes of pleasing everybody. You can’t! Just write a good story, with believable, authentic characters – whoever they may be – and the characters will become who they need to be - whoever they are! You don't have to worry about peeps not reading your work.  Good characters resound with all people all over the world, and there is no need for stereotyping when you have that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dark & Hollow Places

Poor Annah. Life in the post-apocolyptic environment of planet earth is a seriously suckish experience. Especially since every corner of the world is overrun by horrible, flesh-eating zombies. Major bummer. For Annah, she has been to hell and back again in the Dark City, waiting for her lame boyfriend Elias to return to her from military duty with the Recruiters. Trouble is, Elias comes back a year late, and when he does, it turns out that he does so with a new woman. If you're thinking that this guy is a total rat, you're thinking right. My love for Elias immediately went down the proverbial drain when I found out he cheated on Annah.
(Note: Not the best way to get on my good side.)

Okay, so Annah, Elias and a main character from the previous novel, Catcher (who happens to be a zombie-slaying dreamboat), flee the Dark City because a billion zombies overrun it. They take up shelter on an island controlled by gross, abusive and controlling recruiters, who want to use Catcher and Annah for their own ends. Oh...and did I mention that there's a lot of zombies around? Yup. Tons of zombies and guy/girl drama and some spontaneous kissing in the snow and over stew and sometimes in the middle of a puddle of blood. 
No, this is not a 'When Harry Met Sally,' kind of romance, in case you haven't figured that out yet.

So let me say this: I like Annah. She rocks. She kicks you-know-what and she's not afraid to fight for what's right. When Elias ends up being the jerk of century, she doesn't even punch him in the nose (I would have. Just saying.), but instead she becomes friends with the OTHER WOMAN (not giving away her identity yet!) and helps them survive. Pshaw. How many cheating ex-boyfriends would you help to survive?
Exactly my point. This girl was made to be a diplomat.
Well, a diplomat with a machete.
I loved Catcher. I always have, to be honest. I never did care for the OTHER WOMAN, although I did like her at one time.....but I won't toss up any spoilers. The only reason I didn't give it a full 5 stars is because the book could be so incredibly depressing that you were exhausted reading about it. There was no light to balance the dark...not even a splash of humor. 
 Anyway, it was a good book. Great zombies (be sure to lock your doors and windows after you read....!). Catcher's cute. Elias is a player. Annah kicks butt.
And I just lost my bookmark. Pardon me while I go hunt for it.

Hanging moss somehow reminds me of zombies.
Don't ask why.
It just does. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Indie Monday: Souled Out! (Paranormal YA)

Greetings, people of earth! I can't believe how fast the summer weeks are going by. In just a couple of weeks I'll be off to the mountains in an internet-free zone (which means no blogging, no twitter, and no facebook...OMG!), but until then, I have lots of stuff to feature. Today our Indie Author of the week is Blakely Chorpenning. She has written a YA novel called Souled Out, and it's the embodiment of all the paranormal goodness everybody loves to read about. Here's the pitch: 

Ell Clyne is lost living someone else’s life. But reading souls to save the fate of a loved one seemed like a fair trade. At first. 
The lie has cost Ell her family, her future, her very soul. Now the secret is out and the vampires want answers....This is the story of a girl who isn’t a superhero or a badass, but manages to fight for her place in a cold-blooded world regardless of the pain caused by that empty space where her soul should be. (Read More on GoodReads

Here's what Blakely had to say about her book! 

Hello, Blakely. Thanks for stopping in. Introduce yourself to everyone!

Oh, I hate introductions. I’m horrible at them.  I enjoy bonfires, green tea, and faux celebrity sightings. I think about writing more than I actually get time to write, and sometimes my socks don’t match.

Give us a rundown on the plotline of Souled Out. 

When readers are first introduced to Ell Clyne, her emotions are wide open. She’s given away her soul and accepted someone else’s fate as the Cypher -a soul reader- for the vampire underworld. By doing so, she’s alienated herself from her family and can’t seem to live half-way normal due to all of the pesky vampires in her life.

But when her mother of a secret is discovered by her vampiric employers, Ell realizes just how much her sacrifice is worth. It’s shocking, but not as much as the truth of being souled out.

What inspired you to write a book about the supernatural? 

I have always loved anything supernatural, paranormal, and macabre. As a child I aspired to be a live-at-home vampire -seriously, I even told my parents that I would just need to install a large branch in my bedroom to hang from while sleeping. Yeah… And when I was in middle school, I thought people who had near-death experiences were lucky buggers (not because they almost died, but because they experienced something extraordinary). So is it any shocker that I watched The Lost Boys more than two-hundred times before graduating high school and found nothing wrong with decorating my first car with deer bones?

But the real attraction to this genre of writing is possibility. My characters don’t have to play by “our” rules. Everything can happen. Anything can be dangerous.     

You're self-published in an industry where being independently published is becoming the thing to do. What advice can you give to aspiring authors? 

Oh my gosh, most days feel like the complete opposite of “the thing to do.” There are still so many road blocks set up to detour self-publishers. This is not a decision I made lightly. I actually studied it for about two years, weighing my options.

I made my final decision when an agent was very interested in Souled Out, but decided against it because the large publishing houses were throwing up stop signs to vampire manuscripts. I don’t blame her. The odds were crazy bad. But I also had faith that there was an audience for Souled Out, for all of my supernatural characters and plots.

And after I wrote Frayed, my urban fantasy shapeshifter novella, I discovered just what a pariah a novella is in the “big six” world unless you’re already a well-known author with an established readership. However, by no means do I think of myself as a poor little indie girl. I’m rather lucky to have the chance to do something that I love.

So who should self-publish?

Anyone who is completely serious about a writing career and still loves the crap out of it even after you realize that you probably won’t make enough money from it to buy a round of bagels. I love it even while I’m cursing like a pirate some evenings. In the future, I may try to work with some small publishing houses, but for now I’m good. I’m happy.

The most important advice I can offer is to research the shiznit out of everything so you can empower yourself with knowledge to make an informed decision.    

Fun question: what is your favorite reading snack? 

Soy beans with salt. And maybe a little chocolate right before I turn in if I’m taking a handsome book with me to bed.

Thank you so much for chatting with us, Blakely. Have a wonderful day!

And thank you so, so much for this opportunity, Summer.  

Visit Blakely at her blog right here. 
Visit Blakely on Twitter right here.
You can also check out her author website by clicking this link. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

300 Follower Giveaway!

I passed the 300 follower mark a long time ago, and since then I've had the fun of playing host to ARC giveaways, movie  ticket giveaways and the like. But every time I gain a hundred readers, I like to go all out and host my own giveaway! So I want to give you the chance to win some of the hottest summer YA reads on the shelves. 

Here's a list of what's up for grabs: 

  • The Kill List by James Dashner 
  • Cinder by Marissa Myer 
  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare 
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 
  • The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead
  • Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi 
  • Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout 
  • Tiger's Destiny by Colleen Houck 
  • Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry 
  • Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins 

I seriously could read all of these right now!! This giveaway will be my big blog splurge of the summer, so have fun with this. Here are the rules: 

1. I can only ship to USA entrants. I'm sorry. But postage outside of the States costs more than the cost of one book! 
2. If you win, you get to choose whichever one book you wish (from the selection)! 
Enter right below my signature, and have a great day!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

ARC Giveaway for YA Romance!

I love giveaways, don't you? Granted, I never win any, but it's always fun to give out stuff to other people to compensate for my personal lack of winnings. 
Summer Day, the author of Pride and Princesses and the gothic romance Wuthering Nights, will soon be releasing her most recent novel, Anne Eyre. As you may have guessed by now, Summer's speciality is retelling our favorite classic novels in a modern way. And if you know me at all, you know that my favorite novel of all time is Jane Eyre. So I'm excited to see what's going to happen in Summer's retelling. 

Here's the pitch:

When 18 year-old Anne Eyre accepts a summer job at majestic Thornfield Hall, she meets the handsome Nathaniel Rochester - a man with a devastating secret. From the writer of Pride and Princesses and Wuthering Nights, Anne Eyre is inspired by the classic, gothic romance, Jane Eyre.

You can win an Advanced Reader's Copy of this modern retelling of one of the best books of all time right below. Good luck! 

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Indie Monday: NA Author Shawn Keenan

Hello, Monday! Today I'm featuring Shawn Keenan here on my blog and on NA Alley. He is an NA/YA author, and his 2 books, The Buried Covenant & The Intern's Tale are exciting and creative reads that will keep you gripped from beginning to end. Read on to learn more about Shawn and his writing!

Hello, Shawn! Thanks a million for joining us. Introduce yourself to the world!

Thanks for the chance to be featured on your site!  I’ve been writing for a few years now and have two completed novels.  THE BURIED COVENANT is about a teenager who is tied into an ancient covenant and learns he has certain physical gifts to enable him to fulfill his responsibilities, should he chose to do so.  THE INTERN’S TALE has been described as Camelot steampunk, which I thought was cool.  It’s set in the future after a devastating war has forced the country to embrace a new feudalistic order.  I live in Florida with my beautiful wife, two kids, and two ungrateful rescue dogs that surely wouldn’t destroy so much of my house if they understood how indebted to me they are.

You've said that your books are NA. Although the characters are younger than most NA characters, they are not in high school and they deal with edgier issues. Can you elaborate? 

While THE BURIED COVENANT fits the traditional YA mold, THE INTERN’S TALE fits more comfortably in the phantom genre of New Adult.  The protagonists, Kip and Abbey, are not in school but working in lowly positions at Vassalcorp, one of the all-powerful corporations whose knight-executives lord over The Incorporated Realms of America.  While Abbey is looking to buck the restraints of a male dominated society and avoid an arranged marriage, much of the story deals with Kip’s decision to abandon his childhood dreams of knighthood.  YA typically deals with problems of the moment, crushes, and peer-pressure issues.  I think NA is a place to see characters decide who they want to be, fall in love for a lifetime, and make sacrifices for a greater good.

What is The Intern's Tale about? 

In a nutshell (which is a strange place to put anything other than a nut) THE INTERN’S TALE is an adventure with unlikely heroes fighting a system that no one dared question for a hundred years.  In The Incorporated Realms, power is held by a few at the expense of the many.  Kip starts off inside the system (albeit at the bottom) and discovers, with Abbey’s help, that he’s on the wrong path in life.  Just like in real life, there’s time for love, humor, and fast friends along the journey.   

What inspired you to write a book like this? 

I love the aesthetic of the middle ages and the concept of chivalry.  I wondered what life might be like if in the future something cataclysmic happened that caused us to go backward, to embrace norms and standards from that time in a futuristic setting.  So in the story, there are mechanical horses that ride like motorcycles, a tumbler that looks like a dragon, and swords that retract and extend with the push of a button.

Last question: what are some words of advice that you would offer to aspiring authors who are writing in the NA category? 

I think I’m the one who needs advice!  I love writing in the genre.  I think it’s extremely freeing.  You lose some of the restrictions on you in the YA market, but you don’t have to make everything heavy and deep to feel all adulty (new word).  I think people with a passion for writing about this time period in people’s lives between childish naivety and adult cynicism should write these books and the market will follow.  I think the genre will take off when readers see what it offers and inspiring books are in print that people start talking about.  

Connect with Shawn on Twitter or check out his blog to connect even more! 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Become a Celebrity Interviewee

Are you an author trying to promote yourself on the worldwide web? There are a few basic rules to taking part in an interview. I have found that the general masses miss these basics, and being the impatient human being that I am, this bothers me immensely.
Moving on.
After having conducted so many interviews myself, I have noticed constant, recurring mistakes that authors make when participating in an interview. No, I will not name names. But there is a marked difference between the people who I love to read in an interview…and the people who might as well have their words on the nutrition box of a milk carton.

Here are a few ways to make your interview pop.
First, answer questions as concisely as possible. I don’t mean that you should go around answering every inquiry on planet earth with a singular ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Answering yes to a question like, ‘are you inspired by other writers?’ would be a flat answer. No, you just need to keep things short and entertaining. People want to read an interview that is fun to read, not similar to a college essay.
Because let’s face it. Who wants to read a college essay, let alone write one?

Answers shouldn’t be longer than one paragraph – and that doesn’t mean that you should make that paragraph unbelievably elongated. Cut to the chase. Don’t bore your readers. You may love to talk about yourself, but there is nothing in it for the readers if they are not being entertained. Period. You are not a celebrity. What you do with your hair in the morning isn’t interesting unless you’re Ellen DeGeneres. Focus on what matters.

Second, do the world a favor and be able to sum up your novel quickly and efficiently. My biggest pet peeve is when I literally have to read 3 to 4 paragraphs to find out what the synopsis of a book is. Come on, people. You should be able to tell me in one sentence. Furthermore, a flat and monotonous synopsis practically yells, ‘this book is as equally boring as this summary!’ You should showcase every writing skill you have in your synopsis.

Third, don’t forget for a second that an interview on a blog is a showcase of your writing abilities. Don’t think that just because you’re answering questions you can slack off. No way! A brilliant book can lose its sparkle because of a sloppy interview. Don’t go there. When I read an interview by an author that is boring, full of misspellings and the like, I think, “How did this person become an author? Why would I want to read their book if they can’t even handle an interview?”

Fourth, remember that an interview may be all about you, but the last thing people want to hear is your life story from birth to high school graduation to your second divorce to your recent trip to the dentist’s office. You must make it entertaining, or I can and will guarantee you that you will lose the reader’s attention. Big no-no.

Lastly, I may sound like a drill sergeant, but all I’m really trying to do is steer you in the right direction. I’ve conducted a lot of author interviews. I’ve read thousands more. I can tell you exactly which interviews held my attention and which ones fell by the wayside and into the obscurity of the dustbin of history.
You get my point.
Make. It. Entertaining.
It’s not about you: it’s about your writing.
Be a professional. I don’t care where you go or what you do, conduct yourself as a professional and positive things will come from it.
That means you shouldn’t be mentioning playing beer pong on Friday nights with your friends (yes, I’ve come across that too). You may be doing that, but it is absolutely imperative that you keep the playful and the professional separate. Exercise discretion. And please, please, please…
Make it snappy. 

You can find more advice like this in the book I wrote, Snappy Social Networking, right here. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The AMAZING Spiderman Movie Giveaway!!

Movie Giveaway! 

I don't know about you, but I love Spiderman. Ever since I was 5 years old I've been somewhat obsessed. So is it really shocking that our friendly neighborhood bug boy inspired this giveaway? 
There will be one winner, and that lucky duck, er, spider, will get to choose one of the following prizes to cherish forever.  

Just remember to leave the bug poison at home. 

Here are the prizes: 

1. $10 Fandango Movie Giftcard.                       
2. $10 Amazon Giftcard for Spidey swag.        
3. $10 Spiderman book from Barnes and         Noble (worth no more than $10 dollars).           

This giveaway is International - unless I have to ship a book to your house, in which case it is strictly USA-bound. Sorry, but paying International postage costs as much as 3 movie tickets and...well, who knows? I might go see Spiderman again. 
Ya never know.   
Good luck. 

Your Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman, er, Blogger. ;)


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