Aug 23, 2013

Read the Classics (like they're going out of style)

I picked up my first real classic in the eighth grade. It was a paperback copy of Wuthering Heights. Another girl in class said she'd read Pride and Prejudice, so I was excited to dive into another classic from a popular author. It took a while to get into and every time I didn't understand something I'd rush up to my teacher and ask her to explain. It took even longer to finish the book, but I'm glad I did. It's a story that really stays with you and certainly encourages you to read more classics.



1. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

It caught my eye after being recommended by a number of other bloggers. And I've been meaning to pick it up for ages now. I've read the first few pages on Amazon. What really captured my heart was the impeccable voice. So timeless. 

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Honestly I never paid much attention to it until it was reviewed by another blogger. The excerpt she posted sealed the deal. I rushed onto Amazon and finished the sample. It's another one of those books with a timeless voice. Now if only I could finally put down a newer book and purchase it. I've waked passed it so many times in the bookstore.

3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I first came across The Secret Garden in middle school. I must have picked it up and put it back down. It has a special place in the back of my mind, a place where books I know I should read but walk away from reside. Someday I will take that plunge.


4. The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald 

I bought this one recently during the Gatsby craze. I told myself I'd read it before seeing the movie and I will. I'm looking forward to meeting the main character, who looks quite interesting in the movie, and exploring the 1920s. It'll be a great read.

5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Now I do own a copy, which I started years ago. I stopped reading at the end of Jane's childhood. I caught a glimpse of the movie not too long ago and one of my favorite book vloggers reviewed both the movie and the book. That inspired me to give it another chance. I liked what I saw in the 2011 film a lot.


There is one more book I'd like to own, Anne of Green Gables. I totally forgot about it when I put this list together. You can't write about classics without including Anne. What's your favorite classic?

Aug 22, 2013

That Time I Dated Harry Potter


We met in the fifth grade after my mother told me about this book everyone couldn't put down. I was gleeful the day she handed it to me. I must admit, at ten my friends took up a lot of the space in my head and my journey to Hogwarts took longer than a few days. Up until that point, Harry's story had been the longest I'd ever started. Though once I did Harry became the coolest boy I'd ever met. He was ten. I was ten. It was a match made in heaven. Something happened the moment I put down the book, my English scores went up. And yes, I do credit that to the magic of HP.

Fast forward to the sixth grade, the year I devoured the second and third book and still wanted more. My English teacher happened to be a Harry Potter devotee. The standard school curriculum got thrown out and it's place sat Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban, when read out loud by my teacher, kept my entire sixth grade class in a trance. Even the kids who hated reading were entertained. When the bell rang for our second class we'd groan and beg Ms. C to at least finish the page. I did always look forward to my homeroom class. 

I kept up on my own, borrowing the fourth book from my cousin, and begging my mother to buy me the last two. The movies quenched my thirst between reads. But when it was over. It was over. Years later, on some August day, I decided to reread the entire series. I still have my first paperback copy of the Sorcerer's Stone, though the spine is being held together with tape and pages are falling loose left and right. It is quite different reading it now. While my ten-year-old self read it like someone looking over a thick encyclopedia, I'm breezing through it. Though the writing isn't challenging for me anymore, it isn't hard to see why I loved it so much.

It's whimsical and witty. There are spots in the book my ten-year-old self marked with a blue pen, so I wouldn't forget where I'd left off. And my name is written in red ink on the first pages. Being able to grow up alongside Harry Potter - Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger - made up for all of those horribly mundane moments of my childhood and I bet it will now too.

Look what I found the other day.


J.K. Rowling's drawing of Neville, Ron, Harry, Hermione, and "Gary" ... Apparently Dean's original name. 

Aug 20, 2013

Recapturing the Magic of Childhood


Most days I'd like to believe that I'm still young, hip, and cool. And while it may be true that I've just now become a twenty-something, it always surprises me how "out of tune" I can be at times. I had no idea who Carly Rae Jepsen was until a few months ago and even now I do not get the appeal of a certain popular pop star. I think it's safe to say that I have a few more years left before I become completely clueless. Though I am a bit nervous. How can I possibly write for kids when it seems with every year that passes my childhood fades a little more? I swear the next time I see my younger cousins I'll bring along a series of questions. The most important being, do you still believe in magic?

Here I am months later after professing that I only wanted to write stories for teens and just teens, trying my hand at middle grade once more. And you know what? I'm having a blast. I think even more than I had with my last novel. There are so many possibilities. Unlike with my contemporary stories, I find myself asking what if a lot more often. What if there was a girl who preferred to drink soup through straws, or took her toy ship to the beach one day and sailed off with only the sea to keep her company?

The truth is, there were very few magical moments in my childhood. Not to say that I had a bad childhood. I didn't, but most of my adventures came in the form of a book or Nickelodeon. I do try to go back, as far back as I can, in those moments when I need some real-life inspiration and a ten-year-old isn't at arms reach. I can remember falling in love with musicals after watching Annie, Dr. Dolittle, and The Sound of Music. I remember becoming obsessed with wishes after tossing a quarter into a wishing well on a class trip. I wished for a computer. I remember wishing I could talk to animals like Eliza Thornberry.

I knew how much I loved Matilda, Madeline, and Sara Crewe from A Little Princess. I'd be best friends with any of them given the chance. For a brief moment I wanted to be a member of the C.I.A. after seeing Agent Cody Banks. I loved all things creepy, which is why Rumpelstiltskin has always been my favorite. My first real crush was the kid from Rookie of the Year, though I did always think Casper was cute as a human and a ghost. I daydreamed about Jack from Titanic quite often - innocent daydreams of course. Jurassic Park and Home Alone were movie night favorites. At nine I really fell in love with reading after reading Fudge by Judy Blume. And in middle school, other than Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time became one of the most magical stories I'd ever read.

Okay, so The Thornberrys have been off the air for a few years now and Jurassic Park is practically a classic. Still I can't help but think there's some ten-year-old out there who still wants to talk to animals, or befriend the girl living in the attic. If not, well that's why pen and paper exist. There's a quote that I found and loved. I don't know who wrote it but the very last line is how I feel about writing middle grade.

"Everything, everything's magic."

Aug 19, 2013

School Days - Favorite Teen Underdogs

I've always had a soft spot for underdogs. Whether they're dodging school bullies, walking around with their skirt tucked into their underwear, or just trying to blend into the crowd - they're just so dang-on relatable. As a salute to my high school years, when I was a bit of an underdog myself, these are my top five favorite teens everyone just loves to hate. I can't help but love them.

5. Jerry Mitchell

Three O'Clock High is a classic teen flick. And in my opinion the holy grail of teen movies. The protagonist, Jerry Mitchell, is a not so popular guy who unluckily gets paired up with the not so nice new guy Buddy Revell. Buddy is the classic leather jacket wearing, scowling bad boy who also happens to be a touch freak. What happens after Jerry gives him a friendly slap on the arm is both hilarious and ridiculous.

Buddy Revell: You and me, we're gonna have a fight. Today. After school. Three o'clock. In the parking lot. You try and run, I'm gonna track you down. You go to a teacher, it's only gonna get worse. You sneak home, I'm gonna be under your bed.

Poor Jerry! I guess what I really love about Jerry is that in the beginning he makes a lot of classic mistakes. The same mistakes I would have also made having been in his situation, like cowering in the corner instead of standing up to Buddy. For that I think Jerry is the kind of guy anyone who's ever been bullied can relate to.

4. Tina Belcher


I'm definitely new to the genius of Bob's Burgers. But since discovering it on Hulu, I'm glad to say it has replaced Family Guy as my top favorite adult cartoon. Tina Belcher is my second favorite character on the show after her younger sister Louise. She loves unicorns, writing erotica, and a boy band called Boyz 4 Now. She has stage fright, she's gullible, and of course has a crush on one the most popular guys in school. In a lot of ways, Tina reminds me of my thirteen-year-old self - minus the erotica bit.

One thing that I admire about her is that despite her awkwardness she always seems to get the guy. She's kissed more guys than I did in junior high. Even with her skirt tucked into her underwear, she's pretty cool.

3. Samwell Tarly


I couldn't finish up this list without mentioning at least one character from Game of Thrones. I think Sam won me over with his lack of ninja skills during his Night's Watch training. And then when he admitted he was also afraid of heights I thought he couldn't be any more perfect.

His story is pretty heartbreaking and I guess it's why he and Jon get along so well. They're both underdogs. I love Sam's love for reading, Gilly, and his loyalty to Jon - who is so far is only friend at The Wall. Sam is a nice guy who unfortunately lives in a world where being nice gets you killed. Don't worry, Sam. We're all rooting for you.

2. Tate Langdon


Who's the worlds most lovable psychopath? If you're thinking Tate Langdon from American Horror Story season one then you're right. I could go down the list of horrible things Tate has done - one of them being setting his mother's boyfriend on fire - yet still after all of that I can't help but like him.

He didn't have an easy childhood. He was pretty much neglected by his mother and to fill that void befriended the ghost of a woman who'd lost her baby. In retrospect, Tate shouldn't be attractive at all to anyone. He's toxic. He is the darkness. Though one thing we can't argue with is his love for the teenage girl who's family moved into the house he's haunting.

Tate always puzzled me. How can someone be so evil and have any room left for love? I guess he's just one of those guys you'd hate to fall in love with.

1. Simon Bellamy


I've bet you've heard of that cool UK show called Misfits. If you haven't, let me at least introduce you to the best underdog in the history of underdogs - who also happens to be a superhero - Simon Bellamy. Oh, Simon! They just don't know what they're missing.

Remember that kid no one wanted to sit with at lunch? The kid who had cooties or the cheese touch? Well Simon is that kid. He's soft-spoken, likes going on the internet, and making videos. He's a pretty friendly guy, yet everyone gives him crap. Simon is me in elementary school, middle school, high school, and dare I say even now. He's pretty misunderstood. All he wants is to be loved.

I guess the fact that he can turn invincible whenever he chooses makes up for all of that, and he also happens to be a pretty wicked dancer in my opinion. His best asset, a part from those big doleful eyes and his keen fashion sense, is that if you do give him a chance he'll be a very loyal companion. 

I'm not sure how old Simon is, but he's a great way to end the list.


Who's your favorite teen underdog?

Aug 16, 2013

Blog Tour: When the World Was Flat (and we were in love)


I was super excited when Ingrid asked me to be a participant in her blog tour. Not too long ago I'd blogged about her book after catching sight of it on Goodreads. Intrigued only partly defines how I felt. Who doesn't love a time travel romance? Today she's here with a lovely blog post about her writing process and a giveaway. So sit back, relax, and be prepared to fall in love.

Guest Post by Ingrid Jonach: How I Write

Stephen King said, “When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.” (Yes, I am quoting the supreme On Writing.)
Of course, when you do step back you might realize that you need to take an axe to half of the forest and then replant some saplings. You might even need to kill your darlings. The writing process is naught if not long and repetitive (but, oh, so exhilarating!).
Below I share my process for writing a story from go to whoa (with whoa being a book deal).

1. Inspiration.
I will not lift a pen (or open my laptop) to start a new story without a spark of inspiration (if it is an existing story I will push ahead with or without inspiration). Inspiration can come from anywhere at anytime. I have tried to keep an ideas journal, but end up scribbling notes on scraps of paper or typing them into the notes app on my iPhone. I will usually dwell on an idea for at least a couple of days or weeks so that I can work through the narrative in my mind, which brings me to…

2. Plotting.
I am a mix of a pantser (write by the seat of your pants) and a planner. I like to at least know where the story is headed so that I can guide my characters down that path. Of course, by the time we get to the end of the path I have taken them around the block a few times and on a couple of wrong turns.

3. Writing.
I try to bang out a first draft as fast as my fingers will fly, but nearly always get bogged down in editing before I am finished. This is an area I am trying to be stricter with myself on – not getting too caught up with editing before I get the story onto paper (or screen).

4. Researching.
I research as I write, but I generally do the most research between the first and second drafts. This means I can write the first draft without getting too bogged down in the details. I tend to undertake my research through a combination of the internet, non-fiction books and documentaries.

5. Rewriting.
This is when I rewrite the first draft based on my research. This can result in significant changes, including adding or deleting scenes or even changing the ending. I also tend to undertake some of the next stage at this point… editing.

6. Editing
This is both my most and least favorite part of the process! I spend a lot of time on this step, adding layers to the story like an artist layering paint on a canvas. This is usually the time when I get a bright spark and decide to take the story in another direction, requiring me to go back to Step 3.

7. Beta Reader
At this stage I get a friend or friends whose opinions I trust to read the manuscript. I find it is important to have a combination of cheerleaders and critics. If you end up with too many critics then you will sit on the story for another year, convinced it is destined for the recycle bin. But if you only have cheerleaders then you will never know why it is rejected over and over again by agents or publishers. Feedback from beta readers can mean going back to Steps 3 to 6 again (these are what I call the Rinse and Repeat Steps!).

8. Synopsis
I am no good at writing synopses (which I understand is a common problem with authors) and prefer to write blurbs or pitches instead (unfortunately this is not always an option). Usually, a synopsis will clarify a few things about the story for me and lead me to go back to Steps 3 to 6 (Rinse and Repeat). I think the trick with writing synopses is to keep them short (no more than two pages). This is not really an issue for me, as I tend to write very tightly.

9. Submission to Agent
This is the stage where I would start submitting to agents if I was unagented. But, now, it is the stage where I send the manuscript to my agent for her feedback (Rinse and Repeat). You might think I would be sick of the sight of the manuscript at this stage, but this is actually one of the most exciting (and nerve wracking) stages, because it is all about getting it ready for the next step…

10. Submission to Publisher
This is where my agent takes the reins and I move onto my next manuscript (which means going back to Step 1!). Of course, if the book is sold then I know I will be spending more time Rinsing and Repeating!

Book Details
When the World was Flat (and we were in love)
Author: Ingrid Jonach
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Release Date: 3 September 2013 in the US and Canada, and 5 September 2013 in the UK, as well as worldwide as ebook and audio.










Blurb
Looking back, I wonder if I had an inkling that my life was about to go from ordinary to extraordinary.
When sixteen-year-old Lillie Hart meets the gorgeous and mysterious Tom Windsor-Smith for the first time, it’s like fireworks — for her, anyway. Tom looks as if he would be more interested in watching paint dry; as if he is bored by her and by her small Nebraskan town in general.
But as Lillie begins to break down the walls of his seemingly impenetrable exterior, she starts to suspect that he holds the answers to her reoccurring nightmares and to the impossible memories which keep bubbling to the surface of her mind — memories of the two of them, together and in love.
When she at last learns the truth about their connection, Lillie discovers that Tom has been hiding an earth-shattering secret; a secret that is bigger — and much more terrifying and beautiful — than the both of them. She also discovers that once you finally understand that the world is round, there is no way to make it flat again. 
An epic and deeply original sci-fi romance, taking inspiration from Albert Einstein’s theories and the world-bending wonder of true love itself.

Author Bio
Ingrid Jonach writes books for children and young adults, including the chapter books The Frank Frankie and Frankie goes to France published by Pan Macmillan, and When the World was Flat (and we were in love) published by Strange Chemistry.
Since graduating from university with a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing (Hons) in 2005, Ingrid has worked as a journalist and in public relations, as well as for the Australian Government.
Ingrid loves to promote reading and writing, and has been a guest speaker at a number of schools and literary festivals across Australia, where she lives with her husband Craig and their pug dog Mooshi.
Despite her best efforts, neither Craig nor Mooshi read fiction.
Find out more at www.ingridjonach.com


Giveaway Details

Enter below for your chance to win one of two awesome prize packages as part of the Around the World in 80 Days Blog Tour for When the World was Flat (and we were in love) by Ingrid Jonach. 
There will be two winners worldwide. Each prize package includes:
  • a signed copy of When the World was Flat (and we were in love)
  • a pair of silver plated key-shaped earrings in a When the World was Flat (and we were in love) gift box
  • a When the World was Flat (and we were in love) bookmark.

The competition will run until 21 October 2013 and the winners will be announced on this page and via www.ingridjonach.com

Aug 15, 2013

Time for Cake & Books

September has always been my favorite month. It kicks off the beginning of a new school year and as a kid I always looked forward to picking out new school supplies. Labor Day was almost like New Years for me. It was the day I'd put out my back to school outfit, make sure my notebooks and pencils were organized accordingly, and daydream about how perfect the new school year would be.

Though my days of free schooling are over, I always look forward to a slice of birthday cake come September. This year I'm thinking vanilla icing and rainbow sprinkles. I'm also thinking that I could use a few more books among other things.


MIDDLE GRADE


Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

I've been in the mood for fairytales lately and these two have been on my wishlist for some time. 

YOUNG ADULT


The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

&

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Need I say more? 

ADULT


The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I've made it a point to read more adult fiction. Why not start with a Neil Gaiman book.


Of course there are others. I started rereading Harry Potter this week and since I don't own all of the books I would love a box set. Thanks for reading and be sure to tune in at 9 am tomorrow for a special post by Ingrid Jonach author of When the World was Flat (and we were in love). It's another on my wishlist.