Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Get Organized and Win a Free Copy of DLS

In one of those happy Twitter meet-ups, I've been 'talking' to Geralin Thomas, one of the on-air organizers on Hoarders on A&E. She's super nice and understanding on the show and in real life, and she's invited me to guest-blog on her site. Head over to Metrozing, leave a comment before Monday, May 3 and you can win a copy of DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS signed by moi.

On this date: In 1994, South Africa held first multi-racial elections.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We Need Books That Aren't "ABOUT"

Okay, that is a pretty random title. What I mean is, books that are about being gay without being "coming out" books. Books that have Black/Asian/Hispanic main characters, but aren't ABOUT being Black/Asian/Hispanic. There have been a bunch of books lately that have non-stereotypical characters which is great, but I think we need more that have that aspect within the story itself. Malinda Lo did this really well in ASH- a beautiful, romantic story where the love interests just happen to both be female.

I just finished the new YA book WILL GRAYSON/WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan. I love both of the authors and I loved the book. It is about two guys named Will Grayson, and each author writes from one of the character's point of view. One WG is gay and one WG is straight but has a gay, football-playing best friend. The writing is excellent and intelligent, the characters are fun and the plot is wacky. You should go and get a copy. I mean like now. We'll wait.

Except for a small "coming out" thread, the gay characters are treated normally and even celebrated. What other book would include a musical called "Hold Me Closer" written by and starring a ginormous football player named Tiny Cooper? It was this "coming out" thread that got me thinking about gay characters in YA books.

Now, I'm not gay, so maybe I shouldn't be talking about this at all. Maybe we do need more books about the moment that the gay character comes out to parents and friends. But I've been thinking that maybe we also need more books where the characters just ARE gay rather than having the plot be ABOUT being gay. Does that make sense?

I think this also carries over to books about minority characters. I adore books where the love interests are of different races but it's barely mentioned and not an issue. Or the main character isn't white, but it has no bearing on the story itself. Justin Larbalestier did this in LIAR where the main character is black just 'cause. So did Jackie Dolamore in MAGIC UNDER GLASS (no, we're not going to talk covers in this post).

I think the more kids (and adults) see these kinds of characters in normal situations, the less of an issue it will become. I was just thinking about how nice it would be if there were no such thing as "coming out". Everyone would just be.

If you're a writer, you should go out and write books like this. If you're a reader, you should go buy them. Feel free to disagree in the comments. Feel free to think I'm an idiot. Feel free to name other books that have gay/minority characters as a normal part of the plot. I'd love to hear what other people think .

On this date: In 1973, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree" tops the charts.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Good Characters/Bad Choices

When DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS first came out way back in February, I read every little scrap of information I could find. These days, I don't read as many reviews if only to keep my confidence up for the book that I'm working on. Occasionally though, people send me links to reviews and then I can't help myself. It's like being handed a plain brown envelope and having someone say - this may or may not say that you are awesome. Open it if you want. Against my better judgment, I usually want.

In the reviews lately, I've noticed an interesting trend. Several readers have said that they didn't like the book because Lucy makes bad choices. Um, yeah. That's kind of the point. One reader said recently that I didn't convince her that Lucy's choices were the best. As an author, I'm not trying to.

Most good books are about bad choices. If books were about good choices I can give you a one word review: boring. If DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS were about good choices, lets see how it would go:

Lucy comes home to find her mother dead in their hoarded home. She gasps and cries and then calls 911. She's not afraid to let anyone in, because she reached out for help years ago from her friends and teachers who all know about the problem and support her thoroughly. The paramedics and the police arrive, dig her mother's body out and take her away. Then Lucy calls her therapist and goes to live with her father.

Just taking a look at the bookshelf behind me, I can see so many other examples of bad choices making for good reading.

*Stephanie Meyer's TWILIGHT has Bella falling hard for a sparkly vampire that is clearly dangerous to her and everyone around her, yet she keeps him a secret from her parents. Bad choice.

*In Maggie Steifvater's SHIVER, Grace finds a naked, wounded boy on her back porch. Instead of calling the authorities, she moves the werewolf into her bedroom and falls in love. Bad choice.

*In 13 REASON'S WHY by Jay Asher, Hannah internalizes the wrongs that have been done to her and commits suicide after recording tapes so that people will understand why she is so upset. Yet another bad choice.

I could go on. Think about books that you love. I'll bet that there is at least one bad choice in every one of them.

The interesting thing is that teens seem to get that it is only by exploring the bad choices we can see what might have been. It seems to be mostly adults who are having issues with Lucy's bad choices. I am an adult, so I actually get this reaction. While I was writing the book there were so many times that I groaned out loud because of what Lucy was doing. Her entire life is built on a foundation of bad choices by so many people. I wanted to tell her to stop, to reach out to someone, that it wouldn't be as bad as she thought. But that's not my job. My job is to sit back and let my characters make bad choices, and hopefully write a good story.

On this date: In 1861, the Civil War began.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Waiting Game

*Fingers drumming*
*Heavy sighing*
*Refreshing email*
*Refreshing Twitter*
*Doing laundry*
*Rearranging kitchen cabinets*
*Washing the dog*
*Washing the cat*
*Applying band-aids to forearms*
*Folding laundry*
*Fixing sprinkler system*

This is the part of writing that is actually known as waiting. It is often the most important part. One thing that writers never talk about is that you hurry, write obsessively, stay up late to get the story finished and then triumphantly submit it to your agent/editor/crit partners. And then you wait.

While you wait, you usually don't work on anything. Whatever you do, don't go over the manuscript in question, because you will find things you want to change, and nothing screams newbie louder than re-submitting a book you already submitted because you thought about it for awhile and now it's better.

If your book is part of a series, don't work on the second book because the first one might be crap. If you know the waiting is going to be awhile, then you can try to work on something completely different, just know that when you get the original manuscript back, your characters might be pissed off at you because you cheated on them with another book. It is often best to busy yourself with things from the above list and learn the zen art of patience.

This week, I went to visit a high school creative writing class and a fourth grade class. The funny thing is that both groups asked a lot of great questions, and a lot of them were the same. One that came up was if I listen to music when I write. The answer is no. I need it completely quiet when I write, or I get distracted from the movie in my head. I do listen to music when I'm getting in the mood to write though, and I thought it would be fun to show you a couple of the songs that I listened to over and over again while I was writing this last book.

On this date: In 1805, Hans Christian Anderson was born.