Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

And now for something completely different. Here’s a teaser for a short story that appeared in the 2010 FenCon program book. Right now that’s the only place you can read it. I picked up extra copies, which I’ll be giving away here on the blog when I get back from Seattle and my train trip of awesome.

--
Dixie Donovan, ace reporter, caught herself on the wall as her platform pumps skidded on the linoleum. That would teach her to defy rationing with two-inch heels.


The cinderblock skinned her palms and snagged her hair, as if the building itself tried to stop her escape. The echoing clang of footsteps spurred her to pick a corridor, any corridor, and try not to picture a rat in a maze.


She turned right. Fifty/fifty chance this was the way to the lobby. The odds were significantly less that would live to contemplate what would have happened if Al Menken hadn’t gotten food poisoning at his sister’s wedding, or how the fate of the free world hung on a plate of bad oysters.
--

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dangerous Ideas

It’s Banned Books Week, wherein the American Library Association encourages readers to think for themselves, and read a challenged book. I am, as you can imagine, against censorship. (Not every book is appropriate for every age, but I think there’s a difference between, say, putting a book on higher shelf in the library and removing it so no one can read it.)

I have firm convictions about how I live my life (or at least how I try to), but tend to be broad-minded when it comes to the whole universe. Both those things come from being an avid reader. I was lucky. My parents always encouraged me to read everything, think for myself, and find my own truths by reading a wide spectrum of ideas in literature.

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Books are full of ideas, but ideas are only dangerous when they are limited. Reading across the spectrum of ideas and ideologies helps us to form our own. I’m baffled by the idea that one book is going to convince someone (even a young someone) of a point of view completely opposite from how they’ve been raised. People don’t read one book and convert to that idea, then read another and convert to THAT way of thinking. We spend our formative years gathering a whole lot of idea--from books, movies, tv, our friends, teachers and parents--and forming our own philosophies out of that. I have to wonder, if parents are talking to their kids about these things in the home, why are they so worried their going to be swayed by a story in a book?

When we read a lot, and maybe some things that are way far out from our experience, our personal philosophies, our notions of right and wrong (because that’s really what people are worried about when they censor books) become stronger, not weaker, because they’ve been built on a broad foundation.

Books don’t break down beliefs, they temper them. The weak and groundless ideas are broken by the notion that there’s another side to an issue. The worthy metal is hardened by the challenge. When I read something that runs counter to my faith or philosophy, and it makes me question why I think the way I do, it makes that conviction stronger, and able to stand up to a real life challenge. This is why it’s so important to read books outside of our comfort zone. Books make us questions what’s bad, what’s good, and what we’d do in a given situation. We live bad decisions vicariously so we don’t have to make them.

Are there some books that some kids aren’t ready to read? Sure. Are there some books that need to be discussed with a parent, to help a younger reader answer the questions raised? Oh, definitely.

Ideas ARE dangerous, but instead of worrying that a kid is going to read an Dangerous Idea in a book, maybe parents should arm themselves by reading a few Dangerous Ideas, too. The way to counter something you disagree with isn’t to lock it in a box, but to diffuse it with discussion, to mix it up with other ideas until what emerges is someone able to make their own decisions because they’ve got an armament of information to draw upon.

So, go fight the good fight against group-think. Arm yourself with a few Dangerous Ideas. Read some Dangerous literature.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Adventures in Amtrak

It’s been a little quiet in the RCM world lately. With two book releases last year (Highway to Hell and The Splendor Falls), I had a lot of travel and signings, where this year has been more about non-fun stuff like family emergencies and health issues. But I’ve got a totally fun trip coming up, and y’all are going to hear all about it because I’m so excited.

So, I’m going to the Emerald City Writer’s Conference. (If you’re going, be sure and catch Tera Lynn Childs, Caridad Ferrer and I talking about writing YA in: Over the Threshold: Three RITA winning YA authors tell all.) Funny story: I got this confused with the Emerald Coast Writer’s Conference, and thought I was going to the Florida panhandle, so I wouldn’t have to fly. But it turns out it’s Emerald City, which is Seattle (Bellvue, actually), which is awesome, because I’ve been to Seattle once and can’t wait to go back.

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But the really cool thing about this conference? I’m using it as an excuse to do something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m taking the train home from Seattle to Texas. Specifically, I’m going on the historic Empire Builder route from Seattle to Chicago. It goes by Glacier National Park and through the Cascades mountain range, through parts of the country I’ve never seen. Plus, I’ve only been on commuter trains, so I’m excited for the experience of taking a train vacation.

This is how much I want to take this train vacation, y’all. I have issues with small spaces, bridges, and motion sickness. So it makes perfect sense to cram myself into a little room on a little train car going through the mountains were there will be tons of bridges and tunnels. And rocking back and forth. But it’s so cool! There’s a dining car! And a scenic viewing car. And I get a little bunk to sleep in, just like in North by Northwest. Sadly, without Cary Grant, but also without people trying to track me down and kill me. So, you know. It works out about even.

So anyway, the train goes to Chicago and then I’m overnighting there, then taking the Texas Eagle from Chicago back home. Hopefully I’ll get to see a little bit of Chicago even if it’s only for a few hours in the daylight.

So, it’s my first train trip. Other than calling my doc for a motion sickness patch (which I’ve done already), anyone got any hints? I’m also open to suggestions of Things to See in Chicago if You’ve Only Got 20 Hours There.


ETA: Also, I need a cool tag for this trip. RCM's Trip of Awesome Awesomeness is a little long.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Since someone reminded me we haven't had a Teaser Tuesday in a while, here are a couple of paragraphs from Texas Gothic: 


I stared at the spot on the highway were I would swear--where I would bet four tires, or possibly my whole car if I hadn't managed to control her swerve--that someone had been standing just an instant before.

Nothing.

Fear crept up my neck with sharp, cold feet. When I say nothing, I mean, nothing. There was no man, there were no other cars, not even a distant house or barn light. I was completely alone.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Eeek!

Have I really not updated this blog in a week??  Want to know why?  Um, there's a clue in my Genreality post today: Altered State of Consciousness. (It's not quite what you think.)

Last week I was good about at least posted something. I actually turned in my rewrites on Tuesday, but then I ran around all day Wednesday doing all the things I'd put off while finishing rewrites, and then Thursday I got hit with a Headache From Hell.  You know one of those where you can't even watch TV or read because it hurts your eyes?  And the dogs insist on having Puppy Wars XI on your bed? And your family wants to talk to you because they haven't seen you for two weeks while you've been finishing your work, but you can't really hear them through the roar in your ears?

One of those.

But I'm better now, and  headed to FenCon for the weekend. Here's my schedule, if you're going and want to see me. I'm talking YA books, I'm on the Liar's Panel (always a fun time), I'm talking books into TV shows and I'm doing a reading. Not sure WHAT I'm reading, but I'm doing one. :-)

Hmmm... What SHOULD I read from?  Dramatic reading from The Splendor Falls which comes out in paperback in January? Or from Texas Gothic, which you can't get until next summer?  Or something completely new and off the wall. (*Goes to hard drive to see what's ready for public consumption.*)

ANYhoo. Happy weekend, everyone.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Gandalf Goes to the World Cup

The World Cup is long over, and it's been months since I've had a cause to use the Vuvuzela app on my iPhone. Maybe it's not current anymore, since the pain of listening to the constant buzz has faded from memory...

But just to bring it all back:



Maybe it's just me, but it's the expression on Gandalf's face that does it for me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

TribbleKat

Crazy week included a sick puppy, 6 inches of rain yesterday, power outages, flash floods and tornado in downtown Dallas... And lots and lots of rewriting, revising, and hair pulling.

And so in lieu of an iLesson, today I offer a LOLcat:

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Peace out, TribbleKat.

Fresh Takes

Did you know I’m a columnist, as well as an amazing novelist? Every month on FreshFiction.com ‘s Fresh Takes From The Teen Shelves” highlights upcoming YA books that have caught my attention. It’s an eclectic list (because my tastes are eclectic) but usually there’s something for everyone: paranormal, contemporary, literary, and so on.

It’s geared for readers who may not be as familiar with what’s on the teens shelves (i.e., adults who haven’t discovered the wonders of YA books, or think it’s all Sweet Valley High and Twilight. Not that there’s anything wrong with those.)

Anyway! This months selections include Firelight (and an interview with author Sophie Jordan), Personal Demons, The DUFF, Fallout and more. Check it out here.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Jane Austen's Fight Club

This is SO AWESOME. (Oh, but PG-13 for one F-bomb.)



"The first rule of fight club is one never mentions fight club. No corsets, no hatpins, and no crying."

Read more: http://jezebel.com/5595473/welcome-to-jane-austens-fight-club#ixzz0yVJObJPC

(The comments on Jezebel are worth checking out.)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

iLesson: Tension (the good kind)

Every books has scenes in it where "nothing happens." No explosions, no dead bodies, no break-ups, no make-up, no make-out... no ninjas dropping from the ceiling.

Sometimes you need a scene just to get information across to the reader. This may be:

1) Clues to the mystery that don't seem important at the time, but will be vital later.
2) Character development.
3) Establishing the value of a place, situation, or relationship so that the reader knows how important it is before you, the author,  either destroy it mercilessly, or put it in jeopardy.

The problem is, those are YOUR goals as the author. The reader doesn't care what YOU are trying to accomplish in the scene. He or she only cares what the character is trying to accomplish in the scene.

Even in ninja-less scenes, something *does* have to be at stake for your character. It doesn't have to be a BIG something, but it has to be A something.

Say your (author) goal is to have your knight in shining armor chat with the princess a bit so that when the princess is later kidnapped by the Evil Sorcerer, we will care that the knight gets her back.

He (Sir Dauntless) still needs a goal to give the chit chat tension. Does he like her and want to impress her? Does he want to NOT like her because she's off limits? Or maybe his goal has nothing to do with her: Does he just want to get through dinner without humiliating himself?

I wrote a scene recently where the heroine's only goal was to get from one side of the room to the other, but people kept interrupting her to tell her or ask her things--about her sister, about her mother, about a rumor going around town (that would, coincidentally, be extremely important in the next chapter).

My heroine wasn't trying to learn these things. She was just trying to get to the bathroom. But giving her a goal, ANY goal, gave the scene much needed tension.

Ideally, the reader didn't (wouldn't) notice what I did there. Half of what we do as writers is subliminal. She probably wouldn't notice if I just had my heroine wander around the room with people randomly stopping her to chat and drop nuggets of useful exposition in her lap. But side by side, one scene has energy, and one is obviously an excuse for me to exposition.

So add a little tension to your scenes by giving your character something to accomplish (or try to accomplish) in every scene. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Following/Friend policy

This seems like as good a place as any to park this policy while I'm thinking about it.  I mean, I know I need to start a FAQ page, and about eleventy other things. (Which doesn't even count the personal stuff, like take my dogs to the groomer and do something about my hair.)

Following and Friending: Okay, this isn't so much a policy as the way it seems to be shaking out due to my general distraction. (I'm not an absent minded person, I just have a LOT to try and keep track of.)

Twitter:  I don't automatically follow back, but I do generally answer mentions (with an @ so I'll see it). And if you reply to or mention me, the chances go up I'll follow you.  I usually follow readers, other writers, book bloggers/reviewers, librarians and other book people. And also @russellcrowe and @nathanfillion.

But let's face it, if you compliment my books and don't try and sell me something or get me to visit your site to see your sexxxy pictures, chances are, I'll follow you back. I'm easy that way. (But not any other way.)


Facebook: If I'm pretty sure you are a reader (or a book person as mentioned above), I'll friend people on my FB page until I run out of spots. If you're not obviously my audience (i.e., young adult and generally female) it helps if you drop me a message along with the friend request telling me you're a reader, or that we met at a writer's conference, or we're in YARWA together. But make sure you "like" my writer page, too. One, because I need people to like me to bolster my self image. And two, that's where I (try to) post updates about signings, appearances, new book news, etc.


Now I have to think about what else to put on a FAQ page. Other than: "Will there be a Splendo(u)r Falls sequel?"