Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WiP Summary/ Title Suggestions

I've finally decided to do a summary-like-thingy for my current work-in-progress Breaking Away, except that it's not called Breaking Away anymore 'cause I don't think the title quite goes with the story. In a way, earlier it used to, but now, after a pretty massive makeover, nada..

Seventeen year old Ronni Gupta might be living under a facade but that's not for others to know. She made a conscious attempt to leave her past when she left her country for an English small town and is now the party-loving, sardonic senior, you'd be lucky to have around. It's all well and good, really, because if the truth cracks out, it could be worse than social suicide.
But when the motley class of Year Twelve is made to come together to put up a production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, sparks fly, jealousy ignites and skeletons come tumbling out of the closet. From an exposé and a hate club to ego wars and unlikely alliances, Ronni's world might just come crashing down all over again.
This time around, picking up the pieces could mean digging deeper into the past than she could ever imagine -and, possibly, giving life another chance.

It's very sketchy, but this is where you come in. I need you to suggest potential titles for me. Outrageous, modest, droll..anything that could come close to summing that up.
Go ahead, shoot!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A tête-à-tête with Wendy Toliver

Guess who's visiting Dreamcatcher's Lair? The absolutely gorgeous  WENDY TOLIVER!

 
Wendy is the author of two YA novels -The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren and Miss Match. Her third novel LIFTED will be coming out in June 2010 (Simon Pulse).


Describe Lifted for us..
Poppy Browne is none too thrilled to be the new girl in Pleasant Acres, Texas--especially after her mother enrolls her in a private Baptist school. But to her delight, Poppy is pulled into the cool clique on her first day at Calvary High, and her new friends, Mary Jane and Whitney, are as genuinely nice as they are gorgeous and rich.
The catch? Her new pals have a nasty shoplifting habit, and before long Poppy is also a theft enthusiast. But when the girls' addictions get out of hand and friendships are threatened, it's up to Poppy to set things right ....
Lifted has received early praises from some fantastic writers**

Tell us something about yourself we won't find on your homepage.
I coach basketball and soccer. I like vampire stories and Vietnamese food. I have a glass collection: wine glasses, martini glasses, champagne flutes, and cordial glasses of all shapes and colors.

How did Poppy come into existence?
With every good character, I needed someone with flaws and personality, and for this particular story, I needed someone who was smart yet vulnerable. I felt the "existence" of Poppy long before I started writing her story. She isn't based on anyone in my life, but I feel as if I know her.

Most authors I know select the name of their protagonist for a reason. I chose Poppy because the wildflower variety grows on the sides of East Texas roads, they're brightly colored, but also because of what poppies symbolize. Because of the opium aspect, poppies symbolize sleep, and if you are familiar with The Wizard of Oz, the poppy field is dangerous because those who cross it fall asleep. Also, according to Greek mythology, poppies (perhaps because of their bright red color) symbolize resurrection after death. I liked not only the beauty of poppies but their interesting meanings, from danger to hope.

Lifted sounds different from your previous books. Was it a conscious divergence?
Yes. I really wanted to challenge myself. I felt like I had a very powerful story within me and wanted to try my hand at writing it. It wasn't easy, and you wouldn't believe how many drafts I wrote to get it to the final stage. But it was worth it for me, and although it is a very different type of book from my first two, which are romantic comedies, I hope my readers come along for the ride.

A song for Lifted would be..
"Got Caught Stealing" by Jane's Addiction. haha, just kidding. How about "What I Am" by Edie Brickell

Why choose YA?
I love teens -- so full of possibilites, excitement, love of life -- and because I was a teenager (many moons ago) I like to go back to that time and explore emotions. When I reach for a book to read, I almost always reach for a YA novel.

What inspires you to keep writing?
a) my love of writing b) hearing from my readers c) my family and friends

From first draft to being published -what was it like?
Lifted was two years in the making. I started writing with 3 charaters (2 girls and a boy) who got caught shoplifting and started that story from the community service they'd been sentenced. After many drafts, evolving the story as well as myself as a writer, taking many chances that never paid off (and having to rewrite) and some that (thankfully) did, I can honestly say there were times I feared this book--which was sold on proposal-- wouldn't live up to its potential. But thankfully I had a publisher and a literary agent who are behind me, and a mom who was sweet enough to fly to Utah to take care of my family while I was sequestered in my office for 20 hours straight, and I can honestly say this is the book of my heart (and blood, sweat and tears), and I am so proud of it.

If you could choose to be any character from any of your books, who would it be and , why?
I woudn't switch my life for any other life (though I wouldn't mind getting to stay 30 for a while), but I think it would be fun to be Roxy Zimmerman from The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren. Hopefully I woudn't make as many mistakes with my newfound power as she does, though! :)

Alright, now spill a secret.
I am directionally challenged. If you tell me how to get to your house, there's a good chance I can't get there again by myself.

Thank you so much for being here, Wendy! Lifted sounds very interesting.

**“Smart, deftly written, and extremely well-observed, Wendy Toliver’s Lifted is so realistic and moving I felt like I was transported right inside Poppy’s world, watching as she struggled to navigate her way through a school where appearances are deceiving and no one is quite what they seem. A hard to put down, compelling read!” -- Alyson Noël, #1 New York Times Best Selling author of The Immortals series
"Lifted is the story of an imperfect heroine seeking her place not only in school, but in life. Its exploration of the amount of truth behind social and religious stereotypes escalates into a double-dog dare to believe them. A haunting morality tale that will leave you questioning just what it means to be "good." -- Aprilynne Pike, author of the #1 New York Times Best-Selling novel Wings.
"Lifted by Wendy Toliver is an amazing, compelling read, filled with all the realness of being in high school, from humor to love to angst. I haven't met a character so well developed as Poppy since reading Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. At times heartbreaking, at others uplifting, Lifted is a book that I absolutely loved." -- James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner and the13th Reality series

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Interview with Lauren Bjorkman + A Writerly Contest

I have a super-fun guest with me today - LAUREN BJORKMAN

Lauren and I met on Facebook -she liked my status messages and I liked her book- and she's is so much fun to talk to! Get a glimpse of her awesomeness as she talks about her debut book, people watching, agents, fictional crushes and much more.


Your book is about..

My Invented Life is a comedy of errors with mistaken identities, ambiguous sexuality, skate Gods, stage geeks and true love. It’s about two sisters who adore and sabotage each other in ways that only sisters can. It’s also a romp through the theater geek crowd and a loose retelling of Shakespeare’s As You Like It.


What about you?

I grew up on a boat and sailed all over the world with my family. When I became an adult (more or less), I kept on traveling by less watery means. Because I’m afraid of the ocean. Doing things outdoors in cities and in nature makes me happy. I love people watching.


What sparked the idea for My Invented Life? Did you consciously set out to write LGBT fiction?

It took me some time to figure out what to write. First, I tried travel stories with a humorous twist. Think Pico Iyer or Tim Cahill. Later, I wrote a novel set in a middle school based on my personal experiences of re-entering American life after living overseas. Which gave me a taste for writing fiction. I found out that semi-autobiography, though, hampers my creativity.
Events around my high school reunion inspired me include LGBT characters in my novel. The drama of coming out to one’s classmates, even years later, intrigued me. I had to write about it!
After I finished My Invented Life, I suddenly had an insight into why the subject called to me. During my childhood and teen-aged years, my dad had asked me to keep a family secret, a secret about how my mom died. Which made me feel like an outcast—someone who is socially unacceptable. I could identify with teens that kept their sexual orientation a secret.
Also, during the writing process, I told many of my friends and acquaintances about my project. In return, many shared their secrets with me. Some were actually bi, or had a lesbian phase in college, or had a crush on another woman once or twice. This made me want to write about the in-between sexual orientations, and greatly influenced the direction my story took.


How much of yourself do you see in your characters?

I based Roz very loosely on a young woman I noticed while people watching. She gave me the idea for an energetic, slightly clueless, center-of-attention-craving character. While I’m kind of quiet and careful with other people’s feelings. Except for being the annoying little sister! Of course, I share some things with all my characters—a sense of humor, and a way of looking at the world.


I think the cover's pretty cool. Did your input go into it?

My editor asked me for ideas, so I showed her covers I liked, and we brain stormed concepts. In the end, an in-house designer at Holt came up with the cover, though. Luckily, I like it. One blogger commented that it looks like a photo of two friends in a booth at a fair. I agree.


How did you bag your agent?

First, I researched how to query an agent, and then sent five letters to start. One agent bit, and requested a full manuscript. After reading my novel, he passed, but gave me excellent editorial feedback. I wrote him back, and he agreed to look at it again if I revised. These revisions took me almost a year! When he turned me down a second time, it broke my heart. After I recovered, I started on another project. My instructor at a novel writing workshop liked the piece I’d submitted, and referred me to his agent. The rest is history.


Give us a glimpse into the glamorous life of a published author.

LOL! I won’t be buying a mansion or hiring a driver any time soon. Actually, though, there are some glamorous parts. Like getting fan mail. And the fact that my dad keeps telling me how proud he is. I don’t mind being on the radio and in the newspaper J. And when a fan sent me a My Invented Life book trailer he’d made, I had a heart attack (the good kind). What an amazing gift.


Outline or wing it?

Outlining ruins the experience for me and wrecks my imagination. I do character sketches and loose plotting in advance, so that I have an idea where the story is going. During the first draft stage, I jot down ideas that come to me—scenes or bits of dialog—on scraps of paper or at the end of the mss if I’m on the computer. I refer to these if I get stuck. I also use them while revising.
This method means writing scenes that get cut later, or extra characters that have to be telescoped into a single character. It also requires a ton of revision. I spend about a quarter of my time writing the first draft, and the rest revising.


Sagely advice for writers..

Write what you care about. If you choose your subject with only publication in mind, your heart won’t be in it.
Have fun with revision—add in interesting character traits, spice up your dialog, add atmosphere to your scenes, and sneak in extra jokes. Revision isn’t all about commas and grammar.
And if you truly love writing, never stop!


Okay, 5 random things about yourself in the next 5 seconds.

I prefer cheap and fun jewelry. I worry about losing expensive things.
I collect nesting dolls. My favorite is a Japanese Daruma
I love popcorn, but my husband doesn’t like how it makes the house smell.
I hate lumps in my food.
I prefer to go around barefoot.


What can we expect from you next?

My next YA novel, Miss Fortune Cookie, is set in SF Chinatown. It’s about an unstable friendship triangle, love-at-first sight, teen pregnancy, and an advice blog gone awry. It will come out in 2011.


Finally, if you could date any fictional character, who would it be and why?

My first literary crushes were on Finny in A Separate Peace and Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. Recently, I’ve fallen for Zack in Waiting to Score, Sammy in Struts and Frets, and Peeta in The Hunger Games. I go for the sensitive, usually talkative, and slightly geeky guys. Vampire boyfriends are out of the question! I enjoy life too much.

Oh man, you had me in splits. Thank you so much for being here, Lauren :)
Thanks for having me, Bidisha!

Now, for the Writerly Contest. Actually, anyone, anywhere can join in provided you can write (or, erm, well, lets pretend that you can). Lauren's giving away a writing journal WITH a My Invented Life book jacket as its cover. How cool is that?
Like I said, anyone, anywhere is eligible to enter. All you have to do is tell me why you want the writing journal in the comments section below (and leave an email link alongside). Go on!
And more importantly, My Invented Life is in stores now!

CONTEST CLOSED

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Review: Shrink To Fit ~Dona Sarkar

Losing weight is the solution to all basketball-star Leah Mandeville's problems, or so she thinks. Getting superthin will:
a) help her jump shot
b) make her look like America's Next Top Model
c) get the attention of the high school hottie who ignores any girl with a little junk in the trunk

And it's working, isn't it? Her boo is now crushing on her. Everyone says how good she looks. But the problem is that Leah doesn't feel good. And her life is taking a huge turn for the worse, despite her new "perfect body."


THE GOOD: The not-so-stereotypical characters. For once the protagonist dealing with body image problems isn't a caucasian cheerleader. Not only is she into sports, she is also the school basketball star, the one on whom hopes are built. Leah's mom is a former supermodel and her so-called friends are the popular asian cheerleaders, so it's understandable where all that peer pressure comes from. I think the best thing about this book is how Dona Sarkar shows the length someone can can go to to look good. Leah tries every possible thing you can think of to get her dream figure from living solely on watermelon juice or laxatives to her growing dependence on pro ANA websites (after I finished this book, I went looking at some of these websites and it's freaking scary!). Very, very credible.

THE BAD: It lacked the intensity that such a topical book perhaps requires. Yes, there is a sense of death-fright, but somewhere along I would have liked to know why exactly Leah goes this way. I mean, yeah, we all know about the peer pressure thing but it was like, one moment she's thinking -'Fuck body image' and the next moment she goes -'Omg, I must get thin!'-which didn't make her a protagonist I liked very much. Shrink To Fit could have done better if it had been written in first person instead of the third person narrative. Also, I had a problem with the potential love interest, Jay, and Leah's mother, Victoria. They both came across as confusing characters. So Victoria was a woman with many layers but Jay? Um, I get the fact that he's super-cute, but hello, he was one of the catalysts to fire off Leah's downward spiral..so not cool!

THE OVERALL: Topical and very informative. I recommend this since it really gives a lot of useful information on what really happens when your body starts behaving abnormally. Shrink To Fit had the potential to be a lot better, but it's not a bad book. Try it.
I'll give this a 3/5.

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Winner and MORE Contests!

Since the previous winner never claimed her prize, I have a new winner for the Valentine's Day contest. Henceforth,  a fresh copy of Trisha Ashley's Chocolate Wishes will make it's way to -
                                       BOOKAHOLIC
Congratulations!

Meanwhile, I've been snooping around blogosphere and since there are lots of lovely books out there I so want to read, yet haven't been able to (oh, I'm a poor college student, did you know that?), I've been going the giveaway way. Some lovely bloggers are holding some fantastic contests:


--> Liz from Cleverly Inked is giving away a copy of Before I Fall and signed swag, which is just so tempting you'd be insane not to enter.

--> Marjolein from MarjoleinBookBlog is giving away a copy of Brooke Taylor's Undone. I read the first chapter on agent Kristin Nelson's blog and it had me at go!

--> Teen writer Steph Bowe of Hey!Teenager of the Year is holding a giveaway of epic proportions as part of her blog's first birthday. What are you waiting for?

So..well *rushes off to enter contests*

Friday, March 19, 2010

Authors who KICK-ASS..

....AND made my life ten times better. A tip of the hat to these demi-gods as part of Author Appreciation Week.

ENID BLYTON

I was 7 and bored and the only thing I used to do was watch T.V. or scribble nonsensical verses, when a copy of the Secret Seven fell into my lap. Yes, I devoured it and yes, I moved on to the Famous Five, Five Find-Outers and Dog and the Adventure series and the Naughiest Girl series, St. Clair's, Malory Towers and every other book she wrote that I could find. With over 600 million copies of her books sold, this woman was my idol. When I was 9, my life's aim was to meet her (before I got to know that she had died 22 years before I was born). She made me keep reading and continue writing. My first ever attempt at a book was 'The Fantastic Five' (a Famous Five rip-off, as you can see). My friends and I got together to form such a group, too. Unfortunately, we never came across smugglers or suspicious incidents in and around our neighbourhood.
I've moved on from Blyton's writings. My writing, too, is very different from her's but she still is very, very important. She remains my personal God.

J.K.ROWLING

I really have nothing new to say about this fantastic woman. She inspired an entire generation. Yes, I belonged to the Harry Potter generation (okay, so I wasn't 11 when the first book came out, but I was 17 when the last one came out). She brought back Children's books into the forefront, she threw new light upon the fantasy genre. She didn't need a magic wand. Magic flowed from her pen. I often wondered what Rowling fed on to come up with something as magnificent as the Harry Potter series, I still don't know the answer to that...it just happens that she is an extraordinary person.
She made me wait for my Hogwart's invitation at 11.
She made me buy tons of books on magic so Hogwarts would see that I really was a witch and send me a belated invitation.
She made me hope.
Well, I'm still hoping.

ANNE CASSIDY

While everyone went mad about Meg Cabot (no offense meant, I like you too, Mrs. Cabot), Anne Cassidy stood out as the 'Queen of Teen' for me. When I was 14, I came across Missing Judy and my, it totally blew me away. I don't know what it was. Maybe it was 'cause I'd never read a book about a girl with a missing sister before or maybe 'cause this was one book around that time where boys/potential crushes didn't take the centre-stage.
I was driven by an urge to find and read all her books. While I haven't read them all yet, I've read the ones I've found.
Anne Cassidy showed me a different kind of YA. One that I didn't just want to read, but I wanted to write, as well.
She rocked my world.

ANGELA MORRISON

Last September, a YA reading group on Facebook held a giveaway. I joined in (the first time I entered a giveaway contest) 'cause I liked the sound of the book and guess what, I won!
That book was Taken By Storm and yes, it took my world by storm. The writing, the characters, the whirlwind of emotions..I was swept away. I loved that book so much, I wanted others to read it. That's why I started this blog. My first (okay, second) post was a review of the book. If not for Taken By Storm, Dreamcatcher's Lair wouldn't have come into existence. Angela Morrison's made a remarkable debut and followed it up with the equally wonderful, Sing Me To Sleep.
She has played an important part in inspiring my writing.
And changing my world with this blog.
And I thank her for that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reworked Beginning Teaser

The first draft of Breaking Away is in hell; I'm starting from scratch. Here's the reworked beginning.


*snipped*

Friday, March 12, 2010

Why DREAM GIRL Made Me Feel Good

Claire Voyante has been having strange visions ever since she can remember. But the similarity between her name and her talents is purely coincidental. The name is French, and unlike the psychics on TV, she can’t solve crimes or talk to the dead. Whenever Claire follows her hunches, she comes up empty—or ends up in pretty awkward situations.
But that all changes on Claire’s 15th birthday, when her grandmother, Kiki—former socialite, fashion icon, and permanent fixture at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel—gives her something a little more extraordinary than one of her old cocktail dresses: a strange black-and-white onyx cameo on a gold chain. It’s not long before Claire’s world becomes a whole lot clearer. And a whole lot more dangerous. 

When I started reading Dream Girl, all I knew was that it involved a girl ominously named Claire Voyante. When I finished this book, I took back with me some of the most unforgettable characters I've come across recently. Dream Girl scores with its motley crew of characters. They are lively, quirky and so unique, they jump right off the page. Mechling makes a conscious attempt at breaking down the high school stereotypes which is why we have a mean girl with a secret dorky side and a best friend far removed from the stereotype sidekick.
Claire reminded me of a Nancy Drew with oodles of charm. Girl detectives have been missing from the YA sphere and I'm really glad Lauren Mechling's brought them back. Coming from an off beat family consisting of a French dad who's a professor and a mom who writes horoscope columns in spite of not being an astrologer, Claire is well fleshed out in all her cheerful idiosyncrasies.
When I interviewed Lauren Mechling she said that Dream Girl started out as a love letter to New York. I have never been to New York, so I can't comment on its authenticity. What I can say for certain is that, Mechling's Manhattan stands out as a character in itself. The setting had an old world charm fused with modern mysticism, that lent it a sort of personality. I felt like I walking with Claire up the stairs of the Waldorf-Astoria or cycling alongside Seventh Avenue.
The plot, I thought, turned out to be predictable but I'm guessing this was because it's geared towards the young-er adult reader and I'm past that age. Having said that, the characters and their dynamics with each other, the abundance of their appeal and the charm radiating off every page more than made up for it.
In the end, I felt good. I felt really, really good.

I'll give Dream Girl a 3.5/5. Pick this up when you need some cheering up. You'll disappear into Claire's world.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Wish Fulfillment

Now that you've all made your wishes, your gift is wrapped, packed and on its way.

While every entry was delicious, there can be only one winner.
Since I'm terrible with choosing, I let the immensely talented Trisha Ashley pick the winner. Here's what she had to say...

"Thank you to everyone who entered and gave me a chance to read your funny, poignant, witty and creative answers!  It was so hard to choose a winner that in the end I put all my favourites into a hat and drew out -                                Tara! 
Congratulations, Tara."

Thank you so much for joining in. And a huge thanks to Trisha for offering to give away Chocolate Wishes. For those who love a good dose of down-to-earth humour and wit, here's a summary of the book:

Life is sweet for chocolate maker Chloe Lyon! Business is booming at her artisan chocolate-makers 'Chocolate Wishes' in the picture-perfect Lancashire village of Sticklepond - not least because all of Chloe's sweet treats contain an inspirational prediction for each customer. If only her own life was as easy to read in the cards, perhaps Chloe could have foreseen being jilted at the altar! But Chloe has long put thoughts of love behind her - after all, life is busy enough, especially as she tries to sort out her friends' tangled love lives and the village welcomes its new vicar, Raffy Sinclair. However, the village rumour mill goes into overdrive when it is revealed that Raffy is the distinctly unorthodox ex-front man of rock band 'Mortal Ruin' - and also happens to be Chloe's first love, who left her broken-hearted! Whilst Chloe tries to ignore this blast from her past, will she discover that wishes can come true when you least expect it!?

Chocolate Wishes came out yesterday, 4th of March, so it's available in bookstores/online- bookstores everywhere.
Chocaholics, bookaholics, funaholics - go snag it!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Taking A Trip Down Procrastination Lane

Processing....



Thought: Alright, I'm getting down to work.
Action: *ping* Just a sec...email

Thought: So, where exactly is this scene going?
Action: *peeks into AW* Hey, Twin! *at Race*

Thought: MUST. FINISH. THIS. SCENE.
Action: *looks into refridgerator* Where's the food?

Thought: Ack, I haven't got a word in!
Action: Oh my, it's Gossip Girl time!

Thought: Work. Work. Work.
Action: Yay, another giveaway! Must. Enter.

Thought: Okay, Muse, enough! Inspire me.
Action: .."caught in a bad romance.."

Thought: I'm NOT going to bed till I finish this scene.
Action: Yawn. I'll just a snatch a li'l...

...zzzzz

*~next day~*
 
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