So, over on our new group blog GotYA, we’re starting an end-of-the-week tradition: Flashback Fridays. It gives us a chance to reminisce about things we loved during our formative years (and for the super young uns, those are occurring RIGHT NOW! This very minute! Yes, some of you are FORMING as we speak! Um….) and then blog about it! Please, we’d love to have you join us! We’ll be blabbing about everything from music to fashion to books to prom (plus, YAY—no more scratching your head for topics on Fridays if you don’t want to, because we’ll provide them for you! We’re cool like that.)

And the first ever Flashback Friday topic is…drum roll, please… books we grew up with. I could bore you for months with my love affair with the entire Black Stallion series by Walter Farley, or the plethora of dog stories that used to steal all the space in my room (like Big Red and Lion Hound—hey, how ironic is that? Have you SEEN the giant lion hounds that take up the bed in my room nowadays? They put the books to shame in space-hogging ability!)

?

Wait, that's not an Irish Setter.

Wait, that's not an Irish Setter.

Um, wait. That’s not the Big Red I remember.

Anyway, if it had an animal, I read it in grade school. I also read my sister’s Wrinkle in Time series ad nauseam. That giant thing with eyes and feathers was kind of like an animal, right?

Do you think I can leash walk it?

Do you think I can leash walk it?

By high school, I’d moved on to beasts of the two-legged variety. I gobbled down the romances I stole from my mom’s closet—the more sordid the cover, the better—but honestly, all of the bodice-ripping, alpha males kind of ran together in my mind. Plus, I think the sex scenes traumatized me. I mean, reading Skye O’ Malley at age fourteen? MEEP!

The two books that really stand out from my high school years are: Fletch by Gregory MacDonald, and Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews. One is an adult mystery, about a fast-talking investigative reporter with a string of ex-wives and several alimony lawyers hot on his trail while he tries to solve a murder before it happens and bring down a drug ring (and, OMG, NO! The movie is NOTHING compared to the book! Nothing, I tell you! Chevy Chase is NOT Fletch!) and the other? About a brother and sister who get it on after being locked in an attic for years with their other siblings by their evil grandmother. Or aunt. Or the creepy nanny who wanted to steal them for her very own. No wait, that was a movie. I can’t exactly remember who anymore, but trust me when I say someone locked them in the attic. Because if they just stayed in there of their own free will to have kinky brother-sister sex, well, that’s just kinda lame. A later book in that series has the dubious honor of introducing me to the word corprophagia. You know, in case you were wondering.

creeeppppyyyyy

creeeppppyyyyy

Hmmm. Maybe I should have stuck with my dog stories, after all. At least when they eat poop, it’s kinda normal. Seriously, though, I love, love, loved Fletch, and ended up reading every book in the series (cuz I’m neurotic that way). I’ve loaned it to just about everyone I know and hubs and I still have a battered copy lying around somewhere. I’m not sure what I’d think about Flowers in the Attic nowadays, because I haven’t read it in forever, but this post has given me a hankering to go check it out. But not a hankering for poop. Because, ew.

I think his sign says it all.

I think his sign says it all.

So, your turn. Which books did you grow up with?

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GotYa: Say Bye-Bye to Old People Writing for Teens

Posted by houndrat on Thursday Apr 15, 2010 Under writing, Young Adult

Pssst, guess what?? You know that OTHER blog I blog for, Old People Writing for Teens? Well, we decided we were sick of being old. We wanted a name that was new. Fresh. Short enough to put on a koozie.

So, we changed it. Just like that. ‘Cuz we can.

To go with our new name, we got a new blog and everything, and even, just for the occasion, a VLOG! Go, check us out at our new home, in all of our ice-cream eating, silly dancing, YA-loving and general nutty glory:

GotYa

Oh, and did I mention the CONTESTS? Yep, that’s right. We’re giving away free stuff for the next few weeks to celebrate our new, non-geezerlike name.

Wait, are you still here? Because, really, you should be

HERE!

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Teaser Tuesday: She Bangs, and an added note about bullying

Posted by houndrat on Tuesday Apr 13, 2010 Under writing, Young Adult

Added note: Sadly, it’s kind of ironic that my teaser is about bullying, given the nature of some of the tweets going on today. I hope it’s a trend that won’t be repeated. So many of us write/represent/edit YA, and it’s such an awful epidemic in our schools. And cyber-bullying is perhaps the worst kind, since it reaches such large numbers of people so quickly. Please, let’s set a good example by saying NO to public bullying of any kind, and keep it confined to the pages of our novels. Thanks for listening.

SNIPPED!

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The need for strong female characters in YA fiction

Posted by houndrat on Friday Apr 2, 2010 Under writing, Young Adult

Who’s sick of strong female characters? Not me, that’s for sure. And hopefully, not you either.

Here’s the deal. I think people tend to equate strength with physical power. And in that context, well, I can see how ass-kicking females of the literal variety might get old after awhile. (Although, hmmm…Buffy, and Rose from Vampire Academy? I can’t ever get enough of them). But strength comes in many forms, most of them way more important than the purely physical type.

Don't Tempt Me

Don't Tempt Me

There’s the strength to get out of an abusive relationship (Caitlin in Dreamland by Sarah Dessen), the strength to change something you don’t like about yourself (Sam in Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver), the strength to use your brains to stay alive (Katniss in Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins). There’s the strength to not bow to peer pressure, to support your family if someone is ill, to reject stereotypes. The strength to drag yourself up from the brink of despair and survive (Melinda in Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson).

Why do I think strength is so important to female characters, especially in YA?

First off—I don’t want to read about ANY characters that are complete wimps, male or female. I mean, what’s the point? And I’m not saying I want to read about Superwoman either. The only thing as bad as an utterly wimpy MC is one that is perfect–*yawn*. Yes, characters should have flaws and weaknesses, but good story-telling shows us how a character changes, and learns from her mistakes. Or, if your character doesn’t change, then shows us the negative impact this failure to change has on her life.

What’s guaranteed to get fellow YA writers up in arms? To NOT show us the repercussions of the MC failing to become strong, and instead saying by default–hey, it’s okay to be a victim and a wimp. Especially if you get the hot guy at the end. That’s more than a tad unsettling.

Which brings me to the second reason why I think it’s so key to write strong female characters. Unfortunately, despite the fact that it’s 2010, women are still battling a lot of power imbalances and extremely disturbing gender stereotypes. Don’t believe me? Then ask yourself the question Tracey asks in her post—would anyone be saying they’re sick of strong MALE characters? I rest my case.

I mean, we still live in a society where many young girls—and women—define their self-worth in terms of who their boyfriends are or how many guys think they’re pretty. I don’t buy into that, and I certainly don’t want my MC to, either. And if she does at the beginning of the novel? She sure as hell better not by the end.

Wait, whoa, what? How did I get from writing strong MCs to gender roles to self-esteem in girls? You know what? I think I’m going to let you figure that one out.

Check out my awesome writer friends who blogged on the same subject, probably a billion times more eloquently than I did:

Tracey

Shveta

Gretchen

Christa

Jennifer

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Teaser Tuesday–A bad trade

Posted by houndrat on Tuesday Mar 9, 2010 Under writing

So, this comes just a short bit after the last Teaser, after Kaylin spends spends a little time in the room with Jones, the guy with the goods. Rough draft alert!

I float out of the room a short while later—minutes? Hours? I have no clue. I’m glowing, glowing. My fingers skim the walls, graze the nubby texture, the air. I laugh and the sound floats around me, hovers. I’ve got more energy than I can fucking stand. I feel like I could explode out of my own skin, race a few hundred laps around the neighborhood, and not even have to stop for air. But most of all, I feel like I’m going to burst if I don’t find someone to talk to. I need people around me.

I take another step and stumble. Underneath my buzz, something slinks into my consciousness, something dark and dirty.

I brush my fingers against my lips, brush away the taste. Then shake my head. My hair whips at warp speed and I see black dots and lights. I welcome the distraction and do it again. And again.
Then I stumble out toward the comforting chaos of the party.

The laughter, the voices—they cover me like warm fog, fill every corner of my brain. I shove my way into the first group of people I see, just craving that feeling of connection. Shane’s telling some story about a practical joke they played on their coach, and I start laughing hysterically. The sound roars around me. Musical. Free.

Shane grins and ruffles my hair. “Gee, I wonder what you’ve been doing? I can’t believe anyone ever thought you were such a goody-goody. Slacker.”

The feel of his fingers in my hair reminds me of the room. Of other fingers gripping my hair tightly. Thankfully, though, the thought evaporates almost before it registers. I launch into babble-mode, bouncing on my heels all the while. Loving the feel of the overhead lights dancing across my skin. Life is so full of cracking energy, amazing. It can’t get any better than this.

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Teaser Tuesday–I’m Not an Addict

Posted by houndrat on Tuesday Mar 2, 2010 Under writing

So this is yet ANOTHER WIP, in first person present (who said FPP was addicting? Who? Who? Curse you, whoever you are–you were so RIGHT! :) I’m going to have to pick one and stick with it soon because I’m afraid the voices are starting to sound too similar.

It’s fairly rough, so bear with me. This story is about a girl who used to have everything together, a girl who was totally under her parents’ control. And then one day she exploded. This isn’t from the beginning, but somewhere in first third.

“Where’s Jake?” I stumble into the table and hit my hip, almost drop my beer. No pain. No pain, no gain. I giggle, even though I have no idea why that’s funny. The laughter freezes in my throat a second later, though. My hip might not hurt, but inside, I’m dying for a fix. Just a little something to boost me back up. No big deal. Anything will do, anything at all. I’m not picky these days.

Sarah laughs and tries to bounce a quarter into a cup. “You’re so obvious. Jake had to bail for awhile. Jones is here, though—in the bedroom. He can hook you up for a price.”

A price? Shit. I drain the beer in my cup, but it’s doing nothing for me, not anymore. I might as well be drinking Evian. “I’m broke. Will he take an IOU?”

Sarah’s laughter explodes like a bullhorn this time, forceful and way too loud. I wince as the sound splinters in my ears. “You’re shitting me, right?” she says.

Am I? I don’t think so. Maybe I’m missing something here, but I’m too restless to figure it out. I jiggle the cup on the table, jiggle my leg. I can’t stop moving.

Sarah sighs. “Just go back there. I’m sure you can work something out.”

Joy blooms in my chest. Work it out, that’s it. I’ll work it out. As I turn to leave, Delissa collars my wrist with her hand, throws an angry look at Sarah. “Hey, that’s not cool—the girl is wasted. Look, Kaylin, I think you should just wait here for Jake. He’ll be back soon.”

Yeah, but that’s the thing—I’m not wasted. Not wasted enough. I jerk free and stumble away in search of Jones.

Past the group of guys smoking in the family room. Past the couple making out in the hall. The closer I get to the bedroom, the faster my heart beats. Anticipation curls my fingers, writhes likes frantic worms in my gut. I’m almost there. It takes three or four grabs for the doorknob before I finally manage to turn it.

And I’m in.

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Demon Guard Teaser: When a Kiss Goes Wrong

Posted by houndrat on Tuesday Jan 12, 2010 Under writing

Another Teaser from Demon Guard, because, hey–what else to I work on these days? But I finally have a FINISHED ROUGH DRAFT—WOOT!

Anyway–this scene comes in pretty close to the story’s climax. Shade just found Summer talking to Cody in a deserted hallway during the school dance. The boy clearly isn’t in good shape, not at all, and he’s wanting to know if there’s something going on between our heroine and another guy. Here goes:

SNIPPED!

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Demon Guard Teaser!

Posted by houndrat on Tuesday Jan 5, 2010 Under writing

In case anyone is wondering what DG is about, a fellow crit group member (the amazing Amy Bai) summed it up as Mean Girls meet Harry Potter. That totally works for me–although, I could also go with Veronica Mars meet Something-Vampire-Academy-esque-But-Without-the-Vampires. Um, yeah. Maybe I should stick with my crit partner’s version.

At any rate, this Teaser follows shortly after the one a few weeks ago, where the MC Summer discovers that a lewd photo of her and Billy, a guy she despises, was photo-shopped and sent around the school. This is Billy catching up with her afterwards. Oh, and, if this is your first time–the MC has been hearing voices for a few days now. As usual, all comments welcomed and appreciated!

SNIPPED!

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Teaser Tuesday for the Magically Challenged

Posted by houndrat on Tuesday Dec 15, 2009 Under writing

Okay, so here’s another scene from The Demon Guard I worked on recently with my fellow AWers in FNW. (*shout out to my FNW peeps*).

The set-up: The MC Summer is in Magics class, where she and Shade are both in the magically-challenged group. She’s a little skeptical of Professor Taggert’s teaching methods. (Oops–should also add–she’s been hearing voices for the past few days.)

Taggert noticed Shade at the same time I did. “Mr. Freemont—that is no way to help yourself tap into your innate abilities. Please, set the pen down and close your eyes.”

Shade capped his pen with a huge flourish and closed his eyes. An instant later, he started humming under his breath. I tried not to snort when I recognized the tune: an old Police song called Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.

“Ms.Chance? The same goes for you.”

I hastily squeezed my own eyes shut.

Taggert’s raspy baritone suddenly turned soft and soothing. “Now, try to envision yourself in the most relaxing place you can imagine. For many it’s water, but some of you with an affinity for other elements might feel drawn to them. Just let your brain take you where it wants to go. Let your muscles relax. Your feet and toes, then your legs—release them. Let them drift away.”

His voiced continued in its mellow pitch, and surprisingly, my body followed his commands. My muscles relaxed and softened into liquid mush at his prompting, like I was lying in the backyard of our old house, soaking up the heat of the sun. A few moments later, and I felt Mom’s presence there, smiling down at me. Relief and happiness crashed over me in tranquil waves. So warm. So peaceful.

“Don’t chase the Magic—let it come to you. Let it slip softly into your mind, filling you up completely. Do you feel it?”

I felt—something. A distant humming, but soothing this time. Warmer.

“Good. Now, gently try to touch the Magic with your mind. Let it lead you to where it wants you to go.”

The humming grew louder. I was still in the backyard, but suddenly, I heard voices. Lots of voices. Some happy, some sad. More and more chimed in, until they filled my brain, expanded it. Too many voices. All shrieking, talking at the same time, commanding me to listen.

The voices intensified even more. They shoved against the inside of my skull, swooping with a crazed frenzy down into the rest of my body, until every inch of me thrummed with electric pain. The pressure—God. It was killing me. It was too loud. Too much.

A gut-wrenching scream stabbed into my head, drowning out the voices entirely. I ricocheted out of my chair and jerked my eyes open. Only to find my hands plastered over my ears, and the entire classroom staring. At me.

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