Thursday, August 21, 2014

Inspired: Winner: Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott

Inspired: A Summer of Songs showcases song lyrics written by myself and other bloggers. The lyrics and themes were inspired by books. The author of the books have provided their thoughts on the lyrics and how it fits their books; in the case that an author could not participate, a fellow blogger took up the responsibility. I highly encourage you to comment either on the lyrics, on the books, on the event in general, or on anything of a similar note.

The Song:
Winner
Hiding in the tall trees,
feel the rain washing down.
I don’t know where I am.
I just want to get out.

It’s a test of skill,
of chance, of survival.
It’s a fight to save
someone that I love.

There’s no use crying now.
It won’t get us out any faster.
Don’t know who to trust anymore.
Don’t know what I’m supposed to do.
The more I learn,
the more I realize I don’t know.
I miss everything about home.
Want to get out, but I know that I can’t.
Everyone’s fighting for their lives
and for the lives of the ones they love.
I will win, and I will go home.
Home at last.

Brave the dying wind,
feel the heat seeping in.
I don’t know why I’m here.
I just want to get out.

It’s a test of skill,
of chance, of survival.
It’s a fight to save
someone that I love.

There’s no use crying now.
It won’t get us out any faster.
Don’t know who to trust anymore.
Don’t know what I’m supposed to do.
The more I learn,
the more I realize I don’t know.
I miss everything about home.
Want to get out, but I know that I can’t.
Everyone’s fighting for their lives
and for the lives of the ones they love.
I will win, and I will go home.
Home at last.

We don’t even know
how this started.
We don’t even know
why we’re in this place.
I try to figure it out
while I try to figure you out.
We don’t even know
how this started,
and we don’t know
how it’ll end, but
I’ll fight ‘til the end.

It’s a test of skill,
of chance, of survival.
It’s a fight to save
someone that I love.

There’s no use crying now.
It won’t get us out any faster.
Don’t know who to trust anymore.
Don’t know what I’m supposed to do.
The more I learn,
the more I realize I don’t know.
I miss everything about home.
Want to get out, but I know that I can’t.
Everyone’s fighting for their lives
and for the lives of the ones they love.
I will win, and I will go home.
Home at last.

It’s a test of skill,
of chance, of survival.
It’s a fight to save
someone that I love.
We don’t even know
how this started,
and we don’t know
how it’ll end, but
I’ll fight ‘til the end,
and I will win.

The Reaction:
This is the coolest thing ever! It's always an honor when your art inspires someone else to be creative, and this is no exception. I love the determination woven into this song. And that very last line, "And I will win" sent chills down my spine. It's the exact thought Tella has at the end of Fire & Flood. Well done! I'm printing this out and hanging it in my office. Thank you, thank you.

The Book:
Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: February 25th, 2014
Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

Victoria Scott, The Author:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Inspired: Once We Were: Once We Were by Kat Zhang

Inspired: A Summer of Songs showcases song lyrics written by myself and other bloggers. The lyrics and themes were inspired by books. The author of the books have provided their thoughts on the lyrics and how it fits their books; in the case that an author could not participate, a fellow blogger took up the responsibility. I highly encourage you to comment either on the lyrics, on the books, on the event in general, or on anything of a similar note.

Kat is one of my favorite people ever. She's so incredibly sweet (okay, all the authors involved in the event and beyond are, but anyway!), and she's always so enthusiastic about being involved in my events. I also love her writing and her series, so it works out well. I wrote this song towards the end of this year's FAWM as I was really losing steam and had no idea what to write about anymore. 

This one is more obviously about Once We Were, right down to the title, but I hope it's not too terrible. I think it could be more broad, but let me know what you think!

The Song:

Once We Were
Two minds, 
two hearts, 
stuck together for forever. 
You go, 
I come, 
hoping I will see you again. 

I want to feel whole, 
want to be my own, 
but I can’t let you go. 
We are one, always together. 
Same life, same time, 
never apart.

Once we were afraid. 
Once we were hiding. 
But now we’re here to say, 
to say that we’ll stay. 
And all these echoes of us 
will some day be real. 
You and I, forever together. 
Same life, same time, 
never apart. 

Two souls, 
two thoughts, 
stuck together for forever. 
You say, 
I think, 
hoping I will see you again. 

I want to feel whole, 
want to be on my own, 
but I can’t let you go. 
We are one, always together. 
Same life, same time, 
never apart. 

Once we were afraid. 
Once we were hiding. 
But now we’re here to stay, 
to say that we’ll say. 
And all these echoes of us 
will some day be real. 
You and I, forever together. 
Same life, same time, 
never apart. 

They tried to tear us apart, 
tried to make one of us leave. 
But I refused, and I hope you did too. 
Maybe we’ll be stone cold someday, 
but now we will fight. 
This is our life. These are our loves. 
We won’t give up. We will fight! 

I want to feel whole, 
want to be on my own, 
but I can’t let you go. 
We are one, always together. 
Same life, same time, 
never apart. 

Once we were afraid. 
Once we were hiding. 
But now we’re here to say, 
to say that we’ll stay. 
And all these echoes of us 
will some day be real. 
You and I, forever together. 
Same life, same time, 
never apart.

Once we were afraid. 
Once we were hiding. 
But now we’re here to say, 
to say that we’ll stay. 
And all these echoes of us 
will some day be real. 
You and I, forever together. 
Same life, same time, 
never apart. 
We’re here to stay, 
and we won’t give up. We will fight!

The Reaction:

I was really stoked to see lyrics written for ONCE WE WERE, and that they really apply to the series as a whole. As someone who has always had a lot of trouble coming up with playlists for songs or 'match up your book with the perfect song!' requests, it's pretty awesome to have a personally written song ;) I wish I could hear it sung, to know if it's a slow sort of song, or something more fast-paced! Either way, it really reflects Addie and Eva's relationship really well. I'm also rather tickled that the song references two book titles.

The Book:
Once We Were by Kat Zhang
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: September 17th, 2013
"I'm lucky just to be alive"

Eva was never supposed to have survived this long. As the recessive soul, she should have faded away years ago. Instead, she lingers in the body she shares with her sister soul, Addie. When the government discovered the truth, they tried to “cure” the girls, but Eva and Addie escaped before the doctors could strip Eva’s soul away.

Now fugitives, Eva and Addie find shelter with a group of hybrids who run an underground resistance. Surrounded by others like them, the girls learn how to temporarily disappear to give each soul some much-needed privacy. Eva is thrilled at the chance to be alone with Ryan, the boy she’s falling for, but troubled by the growing chasm between her and Addie. Despite clashes over their shared body, both girls are eager to join the rebellion.

Yet as they are drawn deeper into the escalating violence, they start to wonder: How far are they willing to go to fight for hybrid freedom? Faced with uncertainty and incredible danger, their answers may tear them apart forever.

Kat Zhang, The Author:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Inspired: Break the Gold Cage: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Inspired: A Summer of Songs showcases song lyrics written by myself and other bloggers. The lyrics and themes were inspired by books. The author of the books have provided their thoughts on the lyrics and how it fits their books; in the case that an author could not participate, a fellow blogger took up the responsibility. I highly encourage you to comment either on the lyrics, on the books, on the event in general, or on anything of a similar note.

I love, love, love the book, and I really wanted to grasp and write about Vicky's bravery, strength, and journey throughout A Mad, Wicked Folly. I hope I was able to do just that!

The Song:

Break the Gold Cage
They told me to slow down,
to be the lady I’m supposed to be.
But even as they scream those words,
the feel of the pencil surrounds me.
They told me to slow down,
to follow in my mother’s footsteps.
But even as they shut me out,
the feel of a gentle hand that holds me
keeps me on the ground.

Run, run, run away,
run to a place where
you can be free.
Stand, stand, stand your ground,
tell them you won’t just
give up on liberty.
Feel, feel, feel the weight
put upon your shoulders,
but feel, feel, feel the weight of a hand
on your heart and on your shoulder.

Fighting for what’s right,
hoping for a chance some day.
I will not stand down,
even if they try to knock me down.
Hear those words of comfort,
feel the love all around me,
and I know we’ll achieve
something great some day,
and I won’t stop now.
I will keep on fighting.

They told me to slow down,
to be someone I can never be.
And even as I stumble,
I won’t let them get to me.
Stand, stand, stand your ground.
Feel, feel, feel the weight of the burden.
Hear, hear, hear the sound of my heart
as it keeps beating inside this gold cage.

The Reaction: 

First off, thank you so much, Jessica, for writing these beautiful, inspiring lyrics! I would love to hear them put to music one day, so maybe that could be your next step (hint, hint).

One thing that really impressed me about your song was the reference to the golden cage. I think about the theme of my stories a lot when I’m writing my drafts. The title should always reflect the theme, and although a mad, wicked folly is a quote from Queen Victoria, who was trying to get people to join her in stopping the “mad, wicked folly of women’s rights,” I chose the line as the title because the words encapsulated the theme perfectly: giving up your dreams and desires to have a more comfortable life is a trap. It’s a golden cage, and it’s never worth it. It’s a mad, wicked folly to even try. Holding on to what you believe in is important, whatever that may be. For Vicky it was art, the right to love who she wanted to, and to express herself as she desired. But she came to understand that fighting for rights in the wider sense was important because doing so would pave the way for others. I think this stanza sums up my story perfectly:

Fighting for what’s right,
hoping for a chance some day.
I will not stand down,
even if they try to knock me down.
Hear those words of comfort,
feel the love all around me,
and I know we’ll achieve
something great some day,
and I won’t stop now.
I will keep on fighting.

Thanks again, Jessica, for understanding Vicky and her world so wonderfully. I will keep your song forever.

The Book:
A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Release Date: January 23rd, 2014
Source: Library
Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

Sharon Biggs Waller, The Author:

Friday, August 15, 2014

Inspired: The Definition of Us: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Inspired: A Summer of Songs showcases song lyrics written by myself and other bloggers. The lyrics and themes were inspired by books. The author of the books have provided their thoughts on the lyrics and how it fits their books; in the case that an author could not participate, a fellow blogger took up the responsibility. I highly encourage you to comment either on the lyrics, on the books, on the event in general, or on anything of a similar note.

I love this book SO much, and Matt is a singer/songwriter, so of course I HAD to write a song for the book. I'm really proud of the song, so I hope you like it!

The Song:

The Definition of Us
You shut the world out,
Telling yourself that people
Will only hurt you anyway.
I see the way you’re falling apart,
Even as you try to scream
To the world that you’re okay.

Don’t know if you’re trying
To convince them or to convince yourself more.
All I know is

I want to reach out,
Grab your hand, and
Hold it near my heart.
I want to cover up both our wounds
Until they can’t hurt us anymore
I want for us to fight,
To fight for one another and
To fight against the world
That tries to tell us who to be.

You try to shut me out,
Putting on that tough girl attitude
You taught yourself so you could hide.
I hope you see the way I’m trying.
I’m fighting my own self,
Knowing I can’t let
Someone so close go again.

Don’t know if you’re trying
To convince them or to convince yourself more.
All I know is

I want to reach out,
Grab your hand, and
Hold it near my heart.
I want to cover up both our wounds
Until they can’t hurt us anymore
I want for us to fight,
To fight for one another and
To fight against the world
That tries to tell us who to be.

And before we know it
We’re free-falling,
Sky-smashing,
Trying to figure out who we are.
But before I know it,
I’m falling, falling so fast.
I see the person you are inside,
The one you try so desperately to hide.

I want to reach out,
Grab your hand, and
Hold it near my heart.
I want to cover up both our wounds
Until they can’t hurt us anymore
I want for us to fight,
To fight for one another and
To fight against the world
That tries to tell us who to be.

Free-falling,
Sky-smashing,
Heart racing,
I reach my hand out to you.
Fall into me as I
Fold into you.
In this warm embrace,
All I know is that
I finally have all I need
And all I could ever want. 

The Reaction:

Ahhh! Jessica! This song is AMAZING. And SO Reagan and Matt.

I think the thing I love most is that there are quite a few parts that could actually work about Matt or Reagan. Reagan's a really hurt girl who hides behind bitchiness. But Matt's a really hurt guy who hides behind charm and charisma. There are definitely times when it's not clear if Matt's trying "to convince them or to convince yourself more." And I think sometimes, as writers, we wind up realizing things about ourselves we didn't even see before putting pen to paper. So it's perfect how many of the lyrics are applicable to both of them.

My other favorite part is the word choice in the hook! Free-falling is a term often associated with falling in love, but I absolutely love that it's followed up with sky-smashing. That's so dramatic and unexpected and visual. Perfect!

Thanks so much for this; it's seriously so good! Can't get over it!

The Book:
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Publisher: Walker (Bloomsbury)
Release Date: April 15th, 2014
After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.

Emery Lord, The Author:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fiction Friction (#14): The Stigma Against Graphic Novels

These posts are meant to bring about some conversation, discussion, and perhaps even a debate. These discussion posts can occur at varying days of the week, mostly depending upon what's scheduled on the blog and what I feel like discussing.

I don't know if you've noticed recently, either on my blog or on Twitter, but I've been starting to read graphic novels. When I was younger, I read some manga but rarely any graphic novels. But I went to a signing at Books of Wonder that Gene Luen Yang was at, and that's really what started my plunge into graphic novels. I read American Born Chinese*, and I decided to look into some of the other books First Second Books released. I requested This One Summer and Gene's newest book, The Shadow Hero (highly recommended). I started part of Boxers and Saints, which I had picked up at the signing. 

And I started to fall in love with the ease of reading graphic novels. They're quick and fun to read. I also started to form a really great relationship with the publicist at First Second books. Since then, I've also received review copies of other books I requested. I recently fell in love with the Zita and the Spacegirl series (highly recommended).

But I also started to notice something. I guess I always knew about or had an inkling of the knowledge that it was occurring. When I received the last book of the Zita series, I needed to read the first two books first, obviously. So I got them through my library's interloan system. When I went to pick up the books at the library, however, I got a lot of puzzled faces and weird looks. It's like people think that graphic novels are just for young kids. After all, for the most part, the reading level needed to be able to comprehend and enjoy a graphic novel isn't as great as for a regular novel. And there are pictures, like children's books. As I was picking one of the books up (they came at separate times), a friend of mine was with me, and condescendingly asked why the heck I was taking out the book. First of all, there's nothing wrong with enjoying a children's/picture book. I think there's a lot to learn from them, and most of them are actually very entertaining. It's the same with middle grade books. People look at you weirdly if you're obviously older than the age of most middle grade readers. I'm sure adult readers of YA get the same reaction towards them reading YA. 

There's just something about graphic novels that people just can't seem to accept (if you're a teen or older). First Second Books and their team have actually written a couple of similar posts, and I think it was Shannon Hale that recently tweeted about how great graphic novels are for readers at every level. There's a depth to graphic novels that most people can't see from the surface. I especially learned that when reading Zita and The Shadow Hero. Yeah, I enjoy them because they're quick and easy to read, but I also get something out of these books. The Shadow Hero impacted me in so many ways that I wasn't expecting, and Gene's other works do the same for me. As an Asian American, I can't tell you how grateful I am that Gene's work is out there and that I've been able to have the pleasure of reading them. 

People will look at you funny for reading books at any level other than the one you're supposed to fit in. But it's even greater for graphic novels because they're not quite any other type of genre; they fit in their own genre, yet they also work within other genres (if that makes any sense). I encourage all of you to try out a graphic novel sometime. It reads differently from a book for both obvious and obscure reasons. It reminds you of how well writing and images go together, as well as how many aspects of a story you can glean from a picture. I think that's partially why there are always aspects of a book adapted movie that you'll likely enjoy more than you did in the book. In fact, there are rare movies where I enjoyed the movie more than the book because the movie and images helped me to better understand the story. Images are important too. Just as important as words. I'm in no way dissing traditional novels or saying they are worse for their lack of images. There's just something about a well-done graphic novel that makes it so different from a novel--but not in a bad way.

I'm actually very glad that this year's Banned Books Week is celebrating graphic novels. Because there are readers of every age that enjoy graphic novels. There are so many people that read graphic novels that wouldn't be reading anything otherwise. So why is there such a stigma against older people (as in not children) reading these books? They're so valuable to the literary world, yet non-children are almost shamed, humiliated, and/or made fun of for reading graphic novels. We need to change this, whether we read graphic novels ourselves or not. Because nobody should feel bad about reading what they enjoy. No one.

*All links from book titles in this post link to my review of the book(s).

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Inspired: 100 Colors: Solving for Ex by Leigh Ann Kopans

Inspired: A Summer of Songs showcases song lyrics written by myself and other bloggers. The lyrics and themes were inspired by books. The author of the books have provided their thoughts on the lyrics and how it fits their books; in the case that an author could not participate, a fellow blogger took up the responsibility. I highly encourage you to comment either on the lyrics, on the books, on the event in general, or on anything of a similar note.

As I mentioned in my intro post to this event, Solving for Ex and the song inspired by the book, as well as Leigh Ann Kopans' excitement over the lyrics, were my inspiration for the event. So of course, I needed to include this song first! I can't tell you how supportive Leigh Ann has been, and I'm excited to be (hopefully) writing another song based on one of her books--First World Problems, a companion novel to Solving for Ex

(Before we get to the song, I just want to note that for some of the songs, I didn't include punctuation. This is for a variety of reasons. I apologize if it bothers you or in any way hinders your reading of the lyrics.)

The Song:

100 Colors
Teardrops falling from the sky 
Rainbow colors every where 
Soft wind blowing through your hair 
Going nowhere, going nowhere 

Blissful silence in my ear 
Voices fading through thick air 
Powerful patterns running light 
Telling me to bring you near 

There are a hundred colors 
Bleeding through my fingertips 
There are a thousand lights 
Shining above me 
There are a million places 
I could be, but I’d rather be here 

A ten dollar picture frame 
Is hanging here above me 
Every time I look up 
I feel you here, feel you here 

Fractals of light in my eyes 
Morse code language won’t work here 
Blinking lights through the night 
Won’t bring you near 

There are a hundred colors 
Bleeding through my fingertips 
There are a thousand lights 
Shining above me 
There are a million places 
I could be, but I’d rather be here 

Oooo Oooo And you’re behind me 
I can almost feel you reaching out 
And you’re beside me 
I can almost feel your breath on my face 
I’ve missed you, I’ve missed you 

There are a hundred colors 
Bleeding through my fingertips 
There are a thousand lights 
Shining above me 
There are a million places 
I could be, but I’d rather be here 

There are a hundred colors 
Bleeding through my fingertips 
There are a thousand lights 
Shining above me 
There a million places 
I could be, but I’d rather be here 

There are a hundred colors 
Bleeding through my fingertips 
But they won’t bring you 
Any closer to me

The Reaction:

I’m a big sucker for a strong theme in my books, almost to the point of obsession. It’s one reason that Iloved Mansfield Park, the Austen classic on which SOLVING FOR EX is based.

Relationships are hard, and in high school, they’re even harder. There are so many things you “should” be looking for in a guy, so many acceptable reasons to want to be with someone. Ashley, the main character of Solving for Ex, certainly has her reasons for wanting to be with Brendan, but even she knows they’re only surface reasons – there’s just something about him that fits her perfectly, so much so that even the guy who does the “right” things to catch her attention simply...doesn’t.

The message of Solving for Ex is this: Listen to your gut. Always. Even if you can’t name the details of why or how you know something is true, trust your knowledge anyway. It’s a concept that’s kind of tough to put into words, because our intuition is always moving and changing, but always something we can point to, something that’s part of us.

I never thought I could have captured that concept in less than a novel-length format. In this song, Jessica has done it BRILLIANTLY.

Here’s the stanza that really grabbed me, the one that fully articulates looking right through everything everyone else around you is telling you to value, and only having eyes for the person you absolutely KNOW is the right one for you:

There are a hundred colors
Bleeding through my fingertips
There are a thousand lights
Shining above me
There are a million places
I could be, but I’d rather be here

So it’s even worse when that person who’s so absolutely right for you is your best friend, so involved in your life every single day – and apparently doesn’t feel the same way. Just tell me each and every word of this stanza isn’t perfect:

And you’re behind me
I can almost feel you reaching out
And you’re beside me
I can almost feel your breath on my face
I’ve missed you, I’ve missed you

I knew that Jessica wrote this song while reading Solving for Ex, but even if I didn’t, I would have sworn she was talking about my book – Ashley, and Brendan, and this exquisite tension that keeps them dancing around each other. I’m so flattered that [Jessica] asked for my opinion on it – it’s TRULY perfect.

The Book:
Solving for Ex by Leigh Ann Kopans
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: February 11th, 2014
1 crush on your best friend +

1 gorgeous, scheming new girl +

1 Mathletics competition =

1 big mess

SIMPLIFY.

Ashley Price doesn’t have much in life after being bullied so hard she had to leave her old school to live with her aunt and uncle in Pittsburgh. But the camera she borrowed from her best friend and secret crush Brendan, and her off the charts math abilities, make things a lot more bearable. Plus, since Brendan is the captain, making the school Mathletes team should be easy.

But when gorgeous new girl Sofia rolls in and steals Brendan, Ashley's place on the team, and her fragile foothold on the Mansfield Park Prep social totem pole, it’s on. Sofia is everything Ashley left her old school to escape. The only thing Ashley didn’t count on is Sofia’s sexy twin brother Vincent.

Vincent is not only the hottest boy in school, he’s charming, sweet, and he’s got his eye on Ashley. He’s also not taking no for an answer. There's no real reason Ashley shouldn't like Vincent, but with the battle lines being drawn between her and Sofia, Ashley’s not sure which side he’s on. Or which side she wants him to be on.

She does know Sofia is trouble with a capital T, and she’s determined to make Brendan see it.
Solving for Ex: Goodreads | Author's Website

Leigh Ann Kopans, The Author:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Challenge: Clear Your TBR Pile Challenge Conclusion

Hey everyone! So today marks the end of the Clear Your TBR Pile Challenge. While I suppose it goes until the end of the day today, I know I won't be finishing another book today, so! For those of you who participated, thank you, and I hope you got a bunch of reading done!

As for myself, I'm a tad disappointed, but at the same time, I was expecting just as much, so it wasn't too upsetting.

Here are the books I finished!

(3.5 stars)

(4 stars)

(4.5 stars)

(4 stars)

If you participated, be sure to comment with links to your posts in the comments so I can check them out and comment back! 

What have y'all been reading lately?

Inspired: A Summer of Songs Introduction

I'm so excited for all of you to see the event I've been working on for months! I really hope you'll all enjoy it, but even if no one reads these posts, I'm glad to know that some people were able to try their hand at something I love (lyric writing) and that authors got to see and respond to them.

Basically, the seeds of the idea came to me while I was participating in FAWM. After feeling at a loss in terms of song inspiration and ideas, I decided to use a book I had just finished reading, Solving for Ex, to help me finish the song I was then working on. And I told the author, Leigh Ann Kopans, about how I had written a song based on her book. Of course, she was excited, and I shared it with her (they're all posted publicly on my FAWM profile page). And I continued with a similar trend whenever I couldn't think of anything to write a song about--I'd write songs based on and inspired by books I loved and was reading. Some of them are more obviously fitting of the book than others, which was more based on the themes or such from the book.

And seeing how gracious and excited the authors were about the songs, I knew I wanted to be able to write and share more, getting bloggers and other authors involved. However, as you can imagine, very few people felt qualified and/or wanted to try their hand at lyric writing, so most of the songs are written by me. Of course, I will be giving credit to the respective writers though. And basically, I have most of the authors participating (if the author of the book written about couldn't participate, I asked a fellow blogger to write the post), providing their thoughts, feedback, and maybe a bit of fangirling on the lyrics. Many of the songs I wrote during FAWM are being showcased here, mostly due to a lack of more time to write and the small number of bloggers participating.

Anyway, I hope you find this as cool and *ahem* inspiring as I do. I may even turn this into a blog feature if I get a large amount of positive thoughts regarding this event. Please do try to read through the lyrics (particularly those written by other bloggers because they put in so much work), as well as the author's/other blogger's response. I think both sides would greatly appreciate it. And PLEASE let me know what you think of the event! (I hope I'm not the only one that thinks this is really awesome (if I do say so myself).)

Anyway, without further ado, here's the schedule, starting with, of course, a song inspired by Leigh Ann Kopans' Solving for Ex on Wednesday (8/13).

8/13: 
100 Colors (written by Jessica aka me)
Solving for Ex, Leigh Ann Kopans

8/15:
The Definition of Us (written by Jessica)
Open Road Summer, Emery Lord

8/17: 
Break the Gold Cage (written by Jessica)
A Mad, Wicked Folly, Sharon Biggs Waller

8/19:
Once We Were (written by Jessica)
Once We Were, Kat Zhang

8/21:
Winner (written by Jessica)
Fire & Flood, Victoria Scott

8/23:
Stronger and Closer (written by Jessica), Anymore (More Than A Misfit) (written by Jessica)
Something Strange and Deadly (series), Susan Dennard

8/25:
The Flaw (written by Nova @ Out of Time)
The Program, Suzanne Young

8/27:
Come Home (written by Isabel @ Tween 2 Teen Book Reviews)
Pushing the Limits, Katie McGarry

8/29:
Of Dreams (written by Jessica)
The Last Flock, Sonia Fuderer (*sort of)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Keepin' It Real Event: Interview: Paula Stokes

I'm so excited to be a part of this event, which is hosted by Eli and Kaitlin, who are among my favorite bloggers and people (Eli and I were co-hosting the #BBFandomWars event before we had to cancel it until next year, if you recall). I knew as soon as Kaitlin told me about the event that I wanted to be a part of it because I love contemporary YA.

Anyhow, I'm excited to be hosting Paula Stokes, author of The Art of Lainey, which I loved! Note: This is basically the first author interview I've ever really done, so my questions are a bit lame. Sorry! ;P

~~~
J: We’ll start off simply and with a question I’m 99% sure you’ve been asked before. For people that don’t know about The Art of Lainey, tell us a little bit about it.

P: It's the story of Lainey, a popular soccer star whose perfect life comes crashing down when her not-so-perfect boyfriend dumps her with no explanation. Never one to accept defeat, Lainey decides to win back her boyfriend with the help of her friend Bianca and some age-old strategies from Sun Tzu's The Art of War. The closer Lainey gets to achieving her goal, the more she realizes that victory might not be the best thing for her. But how do you give up the perfect life to embrace the unknown, especially if you're scared of change?

What inspired you to write Lainey/what sparked the idea?

The book was sparked by one of my own breakups, but everything about the story is fictionalized, i.e. I am not Lainey is not me. Basically I was living this charmed existence with a great job and a fancy book deal (for Venom) and a guy I was crazy about. And then he just split without warning or reason. Like Lainey, I wanted him back. Like Lainey, I eventually realized there were other things that mattered a lot more to me. The book is also a love story to the city of St. Louis and to the alternative music that keeps me sane.

Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to use/incorporate The Art of War or was it something that came after the spark/inspiration?

It came later after I had to change the plot of the book to keep it from being too much like Easy A. The idea of fake dating and using sneaky strategies to manipulate exes was there from the beginning, but I incorporated The Art of War after the story was partially written.

How was writing Lainey different from writing Venom in terms of writing under your own name rather than under a pseudonym?

I wrote LAINEY and VENOM at the same time, the main difference being that VENOM was a collaborative project with Paper Lantern Lit so much of the original idea was theirs and they retain the copyright. Working with PLL was a fantastic way to strengthen my craft and learn about the publishing industry. I also think I gained the confidence to write my own twisty mysteries (LIARS, INC.; VICARIOUS) after doing the VENOM trilogy. Before I worked to plot out a mystery with PLL, the whole idea of clues and foreshadowing and red herrings, etc. all seemed really intimidating.

If you were to use a book to guide you toward a goal of yours, which book would it be?

Um...I'm not sure what you mean. I've got some military survival guide manuals that guide me toward my goal of not being killed first in the zombie apocalypse :D

What’s the most extreme thing you’ve done to try to win back an ex (if anything)?

Nothing major comes to mind. Probably stupid stuff like writing long letters about why I missed them or convincing them to hang out as "just friends" afterward because I was "totally cool" with everything that went down. I think it's worth noting that of the three guys who totally broke my heart, two of them eventually came back around on their own and wanted to get back together. Sadly for them, I was over them before they realized their mistakes >:)

I know you’re a huge proponent of reader reviews, whether positive or not. Do you ever read the more negative reviews? If so, how do you deal with the criticism? How great has the impact of reader reviews been on your books, both Lainey and the books in the Venom series?

It depends on my mood honestly. I read all the reviews at first but the one-star ones are often someone who hates my premise or hates my writing style and so not going to prove very helpful since all of my premises are different and I'm not changing a writing style that has sold 9 books to major publishers. There were negative reviews of VENOM that really came down hard on the anachronisms, and because of them I did spend more editing each book, checking word derivations and historical facts. I even had one of the critics of VENOM read STARLING for historical accuracy.

Occasionally I'll hop onto Goodreads and read all the reviews, but for the most part it doesn't affect how I work, aside from making me more aware of off-the-cuff remarks I write without thinking. I essentially wrote LAINEY to be super sex-positive and not at all slut shaming, but some reviewers were offended by some of the language between the coffee shop workers, which was meant jokingly but might have been read as serious insults.

I did weigh a lot of comments in LIARS, INC like "Oh, is someone going to take this the wrong way?" during final edits, but then I kept what I had for the most part because you can't please everyone. Reviewers, collectively, hate everything. People who come to your book with an agenda are always going to find something to hold up as "evidence" even if it's totally not what you meant. The best plan is to write what *I* am proud of and that's always going to be what best serves the story, offensive or not.

Besides Liars, Inc, what are your current projects (if you can tell us about them)? I know you have a couple of books coming out soon, all of which I’m excited for!

After the LAINEY novella INFINITE REPEAT and LIARS, INC. comes VICARIOUS, which is the book that scares me in a good way. It was so challenging to write because main character Winter is Korean and suffers from PTSD, two things where I can't draw from my personal experience. Winter is fluent in English after several years of study and living in the US, but she's still an EFL speaker so the prose is more formal on purpose, which was hard for me since my own voice is so slang-heavy. I also have a sequel to VICARIOUS for Tor Teen and two more romantic contemporaries sold to Harper. Everything is higher concept than The Art of Lainey so I'm hopeful some of the projects will sell well, as the main complaint with LAINEY was that it's too predictable or just not special enough to stand out.

In my downtime I'm toying with an NA book, an adult book, a paranormal YA I might self-pub, and a non-fiction proposal. I'd love to feel like I can do the full-time writing thing and the way to have a shot at that is to always keep moving forward.

Speed Round!

Tea, coffee, or water?
Coffee! (What is this water you speak of?)

Ice cream or cupcakes?
Cupcakes!

Morning or night?
Morning, as long as we're talking one in the morning, which is when I'm usually finishing up my writing work. So yeah, night :D

Stand alones or series?
Stand alones where I fall madly in love with the characters and dream up companion novels that might or might not ever get published. *cough The Tao of Micah* *cough Killers, Inc.*

Bookmarks or buttons (in terms of swag)?
Bookmarks, because they're much cheaper to send internationally. Also I'm always afraid TSA is going to steal my backpack buttons when I go through airport security.

Writing by hand or typing?
Typing, though (shameless confession) I never learned how to type so I do what the Koreans call "eagle typing." I just use my talon fingers :)
~~~
Thank you so much to Paula for the awesome answers! I do hope you'll check out The Art of Lainey, Venom, Infinite Repeat, and Paula's upcoming books (I'm especially excited for Vicarious). 

The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: May 20th, 2014
Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they’re sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few “dates”, it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.

What’s a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you’re meant to be with, if you’re still figuring out the person you’re meant to be?

OUT NOW:

Infinite Repeat by Paula Stokes
Publisher: HarperTeen Impulse
Release Date: August 5th, 2014
Seventeen-year-old Micah Foster is looking forward to the return of his girlfriend, Amber, who's been away in Los Angeles recording an EP with her band. But when Amber returns home on the anniversary of Micah's dad's death, something feels different and Micah pushes her away.

Over the next week, as Micah tries to repair his relationship with Amber, he relives the events of the past few years and recognizes a pattern. His friends and family are right--he self-destructs every April, right around the time his dad died, hurting people he cares about in the process. Will Amber be this year's casualty? Or can Micah escape his past in time to fix his present?

And be sure to check out the rest of this event!

Jaye Robin Brown

Jennifer Mathieu

Kim Culbertson

Bethany Crandell

Huntley Fitzpatrick

Lauren Oliver

Kate Hattemer

Kevin Emerson

Lauren Morrill

Janet Gurtler

Philip Siegel

Jennifer Echols

Amy Zhang

Paula Stokes

Courtney C. Stevens

Nikki Godwin

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Challenge: "Real" Book Challenge July Wrap Up


Book Goal: 25

January: 0
February: 4
March: 5
April: 4
May: 3
June: 7
July: 3



Yay! I've now hit my goal and gone beyond. Let's keep this going. ;)
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