Thursday, February 26, 2015

Why I'm an Adult Reading Young Adult Novels

I've wanted to write a post about this for some time now, but I was having the hardest time putting into words why I’m an adult reading young adult novels. So I did what everyone else does in 2015 and I posted to Facebook, asking questions like do you read young adult? Why or why not? If you do, what do you enjoy about YA? If you don’t, what is different about adult novels? I read through all the responses, nodding and smiling through most of it. Because of those responses, my own thoughts have been clarified enough for me to attempt to blog about them.

To start, I’ll throw out there that I’m 28 years old and I mostly read young adult novels, with the occasional new adult thrown in and, rarely, an adult novel. This is how it’s been for about six years now, since I rediscovered my love for reading when I picked up Twilight. I know, I know. Twilight?! Yes. It doesn't matter what you think of the series, but it did get me back into passionately reading and devouring books the way I did when I was younger, which is all I need to love and respect the fandom.

So what is the appeal that keeps me hanging out with fictional teenagers? Well, they haven’t got it all figured out. They are still learning about themselves, still growing and discovering the world around them, and they are doing it during one of the most emotionally fluctuating times in their lives. Because I read a lot of YA romance, I’ll also throw out there that they are falling in love for the first time and those are some powerful emotions that I can relate to.

Let’s look at my life a bit. I met my first real boyfriend in high school. First kiss, first love, and all that fluffy stuff. We ended up getting married just after I graduated and we started our lives together. Now, eleven years after we started going out, eight and a half years of marriage, and two kiddos later, it’s a refreshing reminder to get caught up in all those emotions all over again while reading someone else’s story. It’s wonderful, really, to be able to reminisce what it was like to fall in love with my best friend. For me, it takes me back to the same sorts of memories that are unlocked with certain familiar aromas. What is more magical than that?

When I posted about this, I also asked what are some of the most annoying things other people have said to them when they learned they read YA. I was pleasantly surprised to see that none of these people were really given a hard time, unless Twilight was thrown around somewhere in there. But I think this Buzzfeed post is still one of my favorites in addressing the annoying things people can say about young adult. Remember, young adult isn’t a genre or an audience level. It’s an indication of the characters’ age ranges.

The last question I asked was what book recommendation(s) they would offer as an introduction into the wonderful world of YA for an adult who wanted to try it out. With the help of a few of my most trustworthy book friends, here’s a list along with Goodreads links. Thanks to my book twin, Lynn, they are all broken down into categories. I have marked the ones I've actually read with an asterisk (*).

Historical fiction- A Spy In The House by Y.S. Lee. It's the first book of a whole series. 

Fantasy- Harry Potter*, though it is also considered MG 
Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Aerenden* by Kristen Taber

Science Fiction- Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card 

Dystopian- Hunger Games* by Suzanne Collins 
Unwind by Neal Shusterman 

Uglies* by Scott Westerfelf
Divergent* by Veronica Roth

Delirium* by Lauren Oliver

Magical Realism- Bruiser by Neal Shusterman 
Scorpio Races* by Maggie Stiefvater

Paranormal/Supernatural- Pivot Point by Kasie West 

The Mortal Instruments* by Cassandra Clare

Contemporary Fiction/romance- Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas 
The Distance Between Us* by Kasie West 

Book Clubbers wanting to read something with their teen: Something Real by Heather Demetrios
The List by Siobhan Vivian 

Issue books- The Fault In Our Stars* by John Green 

Thirteen Reasons Why* by Jay Asher 
Eleanor & Park* by Rainbow Rowell 
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson 

LGBT- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Do you read young adult? Why or why not? What are some books you would recommend to others interested in getting into YA? 


P.S. I have to do this, even though this post is long enough already ;) One of my writing inspirations, Cindy Thomas, is releasing her first book on April 13th! You can now preorder BECKON ME on Amazon! Don't forget to add it on Goodreads and check out Cindy Thomas on Facebook, Twitter, and her website!  

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Small Moments

So as I was writing away the other day, this sentence clacked out of my fingertips: But all thoughts of the old me disappear as more lights appear in the gloom below.

And I reread it and thought: 'Disappear' and 'appear' in the same sentence, bad writer-self.

I sat there and thought of words to replace disappear (my brain wasn't being very cooperative). I finally came up w/flee. So the sentence was now: But all thoughts of the old me flee as more lights appear in the gloom below.

I then laughed over rhyming. 'Old me flee'. Yikes.

A bit more of the gears churning in the old brainbox, and I ended up with: But all thoughts of the old me evaporate as more lights appear in the gloom below.

And now, I will tie this up with a revelation that will rock your writer socks off...

*crickets chirping*

Naw, kidding! I just find quiet moments in writing like this so enjoyable. Me and the words, as I tinker w/them, trying to find the best combination. It's super pleasing and makes me feel like a 'real' writer. And while I love those highs when the writing is coming fast and easy and I'm writing a scene I'm in love with, sometimes these small moments are just as good. Or even better.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

My Favorite Inspiration

It goes without saying that when we write, we pull from our own experiences.

My favorite source of inspiration is my internships at NBC. I interned for Late Night with Conan O'Brien in college, and when his show ended I finished my semester with Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Working for Conan taught me a ton about working in television and the art of comedy. Obviously, sketch comedy and comedy in novels are two completely different things. The former is in-your-face and the latter is a LOT more subtle. But I realized the other day that in every MS I write, someone works in television in some way.

So today I thought I'd share some pictures from my time at NBC:

Me and the man himself! I knew there was a possibility we'd be getting our pic with him that day, so I dressed up and tried to straighten my hair, but that morning the power went out when I was using the blow dryer, hence the wonky bangs and half curls. Oh well! Still an amazing moment!


I studied Journalism in college so I know better than to tell you this is a picture of me and the real Brian Williams, because it would be a lie. (too soon??)

One of Conan's most popular bits involved pulling this lever and showing a short, terribly acted, clip of Walker, Texas Ranger. 

Me and Triumph The Insult Comic Dog. It's funny, when I was controlling him he was pretty nice!
At first...

Me hugging Chef Cactus Playing We Didn't Start The Fire on a Flute (minus the flute).


My "desk picture"! All interns got one of these...the camera man would make the backdrop all lit up and twinkly and take a few pics with his professional camera.

Bruce Springsteen's drummer was the show's bandleader, and I had to get a shot at his drums on the last day.


Probably the nicest human being on staff (and in general life), Brian Stack. This was after rehearsal where he was playing "Frankenstein Dressed as Sarah Palin"...I remember asking for this pic and he said in completely serious tones: "Don't you want another after taping when I'm wearing the dress, too?" (side note, I wasn't trying to match the Palin glasses, I just happened to be wearing my own glasses in this shot).

I loved working on the grid! Prob my fav office job.

So that was just a few highlights of my time with Conan!

Oh and with Saturday Night Live's 40th anniversary being in the news so much, I thought I'd share one of my most prized pictures:

Conan's wrap party on Feb 20th, 2009 was held in SNL's Studio 8H (Conan's 6A was too small to contain all the awesomeness) a bunch of us got pics as if we were "hosting." Hosting SNL is a huge dream of mine! I'd probably break every .5 seconds but I'd still love to do it!

What's your favorite inspiration to pull from??

xoxo Beth

Monday, February 16, 2015

Three pieces of writing advice I choose to ignore

                                                                                 (photo credit)

A post by Jonathan 

If you’re anything like me, when it comes to writing you want to know that you’re doing things right. This usually means seeking out as much advice as you possibly can, from anyone you can. In my quest for writing knowledge, I've come across three pieces of advice (dare I say, gospel…) that are either so overdone or so unrealistic I choose to ignore them altogether. You officially have my permission to do the same. 

Write What You Know

Really? Sure this might fly when it comes to non-fiction, memoirs, and some other genres, but for most of us –we Sci-Fi/Fantasy writers for instance— this is a little hard to do. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never piloted a spaceship, visited an alien planet, fought a Minotaur, or cast a spell. If we stuck to this rule, the only people who would be writing Sci-Fi would be astronauts, and something tells me they have more important things to do. And Fantasy would be reserved for psych ward residents and perhaps a flower child or two who went on a few too many LSD benders back in the 60's. Sure, if you have some expertise, by all means leverage it. But don’t feel like you can’t write about a certain topic or in a particular genre if you don’t have credentials in that area. That’s just impossible for some of us. I prefer to say, “Write what you can imagine,” and leave it at that. You can figure the rest out later.

Write Every Day

Okay, how realistic is that? Apart from sleeping and breathing – and perhaps taking a shower – I don’t think it’s fair to ask anyone to do something e-v-e-r-y d-a-y. I mean, what if you get in a car accident or your dog dies? Are you seriously going to want to sit down at the keyboard and bang out 1,000 words? I blame this one on Stephen King. He made the mistake of saying “write every day” in his writing advice novel/memoir, On Writing,  and authors have been going crazy over it ever since. I think his point was, if you want to be a serious writer then take your writing seriously. But there are some days, weeks, even months that you won’t be able to write. AND I FOR ONE AM NOT GOING TO FEEL GUILTY ANYMORE, MR. KING! All right, mini-tirade over. Just ignore this gem. If you’re a writer you will write. If you’re not, you won’t. Simple as that.

Show Don’t Tell

We’ve all heard this one before. And it’s not so bad, the first 300 times you hear it… But after that it gets a little old. Make that a lot old. I wish writers, bloggers and other advice-givers would start providing a “Show Don’t Tell Alert” like people do with spoiler alerts when reviewing movies or TV shows. That way those of us who have heard it 300 times before could skip to the more advanced parts of the article, piece, what-have-you. I’m not saying ignore it altogether, because it is good advice. But after a while, it’s like the friggin' Chinese water torture of advice! Drip, drip, drip. Everyone has their own take on what it means too, so in the end it’s up to you to interpret. If you’ve done your fair share of reading good books, you should be able to pick up on the difference. If not, I'm sure someone will "tell" you about it sometime, if they haven't already. 

So, remember, if you come across any of this advice on the internet, in your critique group, or at a writers conference, feel free to ignore it. And while you're at it, feel free to ignore that advice too. In fact, that might be the best piece of writing advice anyone can give you: give yourself permission to ignore writing advice. Or don't. Totally up to you. That is all!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Conferences and Cons: A Few Tips and Tricks

I love networking. A lot of people are scared of the word, but I’m convinced they’re thinking about it the wrong way. Networking’s not about schmoozing and talking people up: it’s about making friends, forming connections and long-term relationships, the same sort of things we do in our daily lives.

A lot of this networking I do happens at conferences and conventions. I don’t go just to network. I also go to relax, socialize and have fun. Some people go to the theatre or ball games - I go to cons. But conventions and conferences are great places to be among fellow creatives and learn about the industry. If you’re thinking about attending a convention or conference soon, it helps to be prepared. Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of the experience.

1. Want to attend your very first conference ever? Try looking for one close to home first.

 Travel can be expensive. Gas, plane or train tickets, plus lodging? It adds up quickly, and can add unnecessary stress on a brand new experience. These days, there are plenty of conventions, conferences and festivals all over the country. You might be far away from higher profile events, but chances are there’s something close to home to get your feet wet. Take a look around, do a bit of research, see if there’s anything nearby that suits your needs. 

2. Get familiar with the schedule beforehand.

 Most cons have a ton of sessions and panels for you to choose from, and it’s good to go in with a game plan. Cons and conferences typically post the schedule online so you can get a sense of what they have to offer. These days, many also provide apps that you can download to your phone and keep track of your own personal schedule. Pack a bottle of water and a few snacks. Hopefully you’ll be able to get away and have a real meal, but if not, or if you get peckish during a session, a few light snacks can be a lifesaver. And also a money saver--hotel food often comes with high markups. Why spend $5 on a bottle of water when you can bring your own?

3. Business cards! HAVE THEM.

I recommend business cards for writers and artists both. You never know who you’re going to meet and fall in love with at a conference and desperately want to get in touch with afterward! Sure, you could write their info down in a notebook, but business cards are just so handy. They’re not hard to design (some printers provide easy-to-use templates) and they don’t have to cost a lot. My favorite vendors are GotPrint and Overnight Prints - both are cheap and produce decent quality cards.

A few thoughts:
  • Make the back matte (not glossy) so that people can write on it if they need to.
  • When you receive cards, jot down a little note of when and where you got it. Makes it easier to remember the person who gave it to you!
  • KEEP THEM WITH YOU ALWAYS. I’m a networking veteran and I still make the mistake of leaving my business cards as I head to the restroom or to grab a quick bite to eat, because I’m on a mission, of course I’m not planning on talking to anybody! But inevitably I do (especially at writing confs, writers are chatty!) and I mentally kick myself for underestimating my social prowess. Don’t be like me, just keep your business cards with you! Keep them in your purse, your pocket, your badge holder, wherever’s convenient, but keep them close at all times!
4. Artist? Yes, you should take your portfolio.

 I mean, it’s not a requirement, but it’s not a bad idea, either. Like with business cards, you never know who you’re going to run into. You never know who’s going to be curious and ask to see your work.

Now, I wouldn’t carry your portfolio with the intent of shoving it under the nose of every person you’d see--go with your own comfort level on this one. But hey, maybe someone will want to see it. Maybe someone would be willing to give you feedback. Now, portfolios can be heavy to carry around. Keep them small: 8.5”x11” is a good, portable size. It’s cool to go smaller too. I found little 5”x7” portfolios once and bought a few as leave-behinds (to give to recruiters at a conference). I thought they’d be put off by the size, but everyone I showed them to thought they were really cute!

5. If not a portfolio, then a postcard!

Postcards are a standard promotional item for illustrators, so a lot of us take them with us to conferences. They’re just like business cards, only bigger - great for showing off artwork! 4”x6” or 5”x7” are standard sizes.

6. You don't have to take notes.

I actually got this tip from author Jennifer Bosworth. I was a champion note-taker until I saw her advise against it in a blog post. Keeping your head up and eyes on the speaker shows them that you're paying attention, and sometimes that can be reassuring for a nervous speaker. I still take notes at panels, but not with the same frequency. As it happens, an author recently commented to me after his talk that he appreciated looking out at the audience and seeing attentive faces looking back at him, so it does help!

7. Most importantly, have fun! 

Conventions, especially the larger ones, can be overwhelming. Keep a reasonable schedule for yourself, take breaks when you need, and socialize at your own pace and comfort level.

Now go forth my intrepid friends!

Monday, February 9, 2015


Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
You guys!  I'm all aghast!  I came home tonight to find that someone had vandalized all the covers of my sophomore novel, THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO!  Who would do such a thing?  And why?  They're all so it some kind of criminal argot?  Or the ravings of a madman?  Or some kind of...apocalypse cult?

I thought I'd share it with you smart folks to see if you can pick up on any clues.  If you learn anything of value, please contact the Patusan Police Department immediately or leave it in the comments below.  In a surprise show of solidarity, the President of Costaguana has promised a substantial reward for anyone who can provide any information that leads to the arrest of these malcontents.

And to add insult to injury, this all had to happen on a week when it was on sale for only $0.99!  Some people just have no decency.

This is the worst one of all.  Why would they say that?

Whose initials are SDM?
This is some kind of religious one.  Does
anybody know what it means?

There's that name again.  Is he really just
some art salesman?

I don't know!  It's not the same person
whose initials are SDM, is it?

I guess that's the real question, isn't it?
Here's another Bible verse.  Was it a cult?

Is this a warning?  Or a threat?
Is this a quote?  Does anybody recognize
it? And who's SF? Any relation to SDM?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Time & Place: The Basics

Caerlaverock Castle, Scotland. Photo by Amy Jarecki
Obviously, every part of a novel unfolds within a concrete/physical environment of some kind—whether it’s under the sea, the supply room in an office building, or a World War II battlefield.

The way you bring your time period and setting to life—even if the time period and setting are more domestic and contemporary—informs so much of the novel. It helps the reader truly FEEL as though they’ve landed somewhere and are experiencing a world around the characters, one whose details have significance and are placed meaningfully on the page.

Often, though, writers take either a too bare bones or too lavish approach to setting. They either give us a quick inventory of what’s in a room (“A table sat in the center, on top of which was a crystal vase holding daffodils.”) or a too lavish travelogue of every detail from the clouds overhead, to the paint flaking on the columns, to the ants scurrying beneath the feet of the main character.

Often, too, they don’t challenge themselves to set their scenes in the most evocative environments, settling on those domestic arenas that are comfortable to them—the bedroom, the kitchen, the car, and so on.

That said, here are some questions to take you deeper:
·     Is this the most compelling time and/or location in which the scene can unfold?
·     What is unusual/special about this time and place?
·     What about time/place weighs on or buoys the scene’s viewpoint  character? (How does it either empower her or rob her of psychic strength?)
·      How does the viewpoint character’s interactions with the environment speak to her emotional state?
·     What concrete, singular/idiosyncratic details emerge via the viewpoint character’s perspective? In other words, what would only s/he notice?
·     If this setting is revisited several times throughout the novel, how is it viewed differently each time by the viewpoint character? How does her progression through the novel CHANGE her relationship with this place?

I know writers who think of setting as another character in their book. It's that important!

Write on Friends!

~Amy Jarecki
Author of Scottish Historical Romance
Most Recent Release: Knight in Highland Armor

Monday, February 2, 2015

A writer's Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day! Hopefully, a NYC mayor won't drop you on your head, but I make no promises.

I'm so glad it's February. It's just one day closer to March, April and 60 degree temps. I have a 12-inch snow pack outside my door and more snow is on its way.  Needless to say, the KGG household has been crunky lately. My kids don't like the cold (they opt not to go outside and play in the snow) and we miss school. Anyhoo... what was I saying?

Oh! Groundhog Day. Yeah. So I bet many of you love the Bill Murray movie of the same name, where Bill Murray's character relives the same day over and over again. But each day, he makes better decisions until it's the perfect day (or something like that; it's been awhile since I've seen the movie). As an author, I feel like everyday is Groundhog Day. I sit at my computer, look at the same manuscript, try to make headway, and feel like I'm never moving forward. But that's not entirely true. In time, my word count increases. My plot strengthens. My characters materialize. Even if most days, I feel like I'm just trudging through the same headaches.

I'm still working on my novella. Why a 30K word manuscript is giving me such a headache, I do not know. Maybe because it's set in 1955 and I'm not as confident in the 50s setting as I was with 1996. I wrote a 19K word draft that is terrible and the rewrite is proving to be an equal struggle. But, I know that I'm a better editor than writer. Once the plot is solidified, the tweaks to language and characterization will improve. I bet my author friends feel like it's Groundhog Day because I keep bemoaning the project every-damn-day to them. "Enough, Kim. We get it."

So chin up, fair writers. This winter shall pass. This day shall pass. This manuscript will get done.  One bite of elephant at a time.

Happy Groundhog Day! Don't let this dreadful winter and your manuscript cast a shadow over your ambitions.


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