"The pen is the tongue of the mind." -Miguel de Cervantes

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thank Goodness for NaNo!

Sooooo i'm finished. I've completed as much of my manuscript as I could without beta readers. I can't really explain the insanity I felt when I finished the last chapter of my 2nd draft. Elation? Fear? An all consuming curiosity of what comes next? They were all there. So here it is, the waiting game. I've found a few great people to beta my story, and now i'm going to busy myself with another project.

Thank Goodness for NaNo! As most of you know next month is National Novel Writing Month where thousands of writers all over the world will try to complete a 50k word first draft in one month. Lucky for me i've had an idea brewing on the back burner for a year. TRAP is an edgy YA about seventeen-year-old Jen whos only wish in life is to become a drag queen. All I can say is this is going to be a blast. Maybe, maybe, maybe this will keep my mind off GRIMACE for a while.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Banned Books Week, Last Look

As long as we have books we will have people to love or hate them. Sometimes that hate goes a little to far. Today marks the last day of Banned Books Week and sad to say I only could finish one book on the 'Challenged' list. But boy what a book it was! The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I plan to do a review but we will save that for next time.

Last night was the first annual Banned Book Swap at Cavalier House Books. It was a small group but I think small makes things more personal. I went with a copy of Tender Morsels and The Perks of Being a Wallflower and each of us in turn told the others about the book we brought. I ended up taking home a copy of NAKED and instead of swaping Tender Morsels for Lolita (I already have a copy just haven't got around to reading it yet) I promised Michelle I would tell her how I liked it in a few weeks. Needless to say I went home feeling all fuzzy inside.

So why do people ban books? Mostly due to misconceptions, religious beliefs, and censorship . Black Beauty was originally banned in South Africa because of the misconception of it being a book about a black woman. Uncle Tom's Cabin was banned in the South during the Civil War because it held anti-slavery content. Steinbeck's East of Eden was banned in American libraries for being "ungodly and obscene". Those are just three examples and sadly many more could be named.

So why have Banned Books Week? Other than examining past incidents I believe it is all about having freedom of speech. To be able to express our ideas and opinions without fear of censorship. If we start taking away some privileges or changing those privileges then what is to keep others from just pulling the whole tablecloth out from under us? Sorry to go so patriotic on you guys but this is a topic that always gets me pumped.

I will end this with a quote from John Mill.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."- John Mill

Monday, September 13, 2010


Lets face it i'm a sucker for music. Most of that music happens to be old so you have been warned. When I have a SNI (shiny new idea) the first thing I do is make a playlist of all the songs that kind of play around that idea and the music pushes me through the first and second draft. This works for some people, others can watch tv, listen to music AND write. Let me just say I envy those people because I have no idea how I would get anything finished if it were more than just music.

So here goes, the playlist.

1. Dancing In the Moonlight- King's Harvest
2. A Day in the Life- The Beatles
3. Wild Child- The Doors
4. I Miss You- Blink 182
5. Abracadabra- Steve Miller Band
6. You Can do Magic- America
7. Into the Night- Benny Mardones (Yep, just wrong but I love this song)
8. Africa- Toto
9. Black is Black- Los Bravos
10. Sealed with a Kiss- Bobby Vinton
11. Sleep Walk- Santo & Johnny
12. Spill the Wine- The Animals
13. Within You- David Bowie
14. Run Through the Jungle- CCR

Like I said. Old music is old but this came up a while back on Absolute Write and it makes a fun blog post. What is your playlist? Post it on your blog and send me a link in the comments to this post. I'm curious to see what other people are into these days.

Review: Paper Towns by John Green

I have to admit, when I read Looking For Alaska it never clicked with me. The writing was great but I didn't get the meaning, or if I did it didn't resonate in a way that made me want to pick up another John Green book.

One year later I buy and read Paper Towns and boy does it blow you away. Start off with a cast of characters so real you feel like you've known them your entire life and add in Q's epic internal journey and bam you get a smash hit.

The entire length of Paper Towns you are made to believe the novel is about this girl named Margo Roth Spigelman but quite honestly (eww I used an adverb) Paper Towns has much more to do with how Q percives Margo.

The planning and imagination that went into the story would put some Urban Fantasy writers to shame. Even though it only weighs in at 82k words you will get much more out of it than that.

The best thing about Paper Towns? Q's friends Radar, Ben, and Lacey. Don't worry I won't give anything away except WORLDS LARGEST COLLECTION OF BLACK SANTAS.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Dedications Page

Some writers can pump out five finished manuscripts a year others like myself do well to finish one. This isn't to put down on either type of writer, not at all. This post is more about the journey. What drove me to write GRIMACE and a little about the person who pushed me to do it.

Last summer I started taking a friend of my fiance's family to chemotherapy. I had met Ms. Dee Dee before and like my mother and mother-in-law she was a third grade teacher. I was unemployed and not attending school so I spent much of my time with Ms. Dee Dee at the clinic and in doctor's offices waiting for good news that never came.

On the third visit or so Ms. Dee Dee who often referred to me as just 'friend' asked me "You know, i'm curious to know why you are always writing down things in that notebook friend." I was embarassed to tell her the notes were ideas for my novel but I fessed up. To my suprise she was delighted and in seconds I was spilling the details about my heart broken character that was either schizophrenic or the reincarnation of Joan of Arc and Grimace the gargoyle that found purpose in protecting her.

Even as the months went on and the cancer presisted Ms. Dee Dee would squeeze my hand as we sat side by side in the cold clinic and ask, "So what is Jillian doing now?"So I would her .

Ms. Dee Dee passed away this year in late July. Now it is September and i'm creeping closer and closer to being query ready. I guess the message of this post is to always remember those who inspired you on your journey. I know that if GRIMACE ever finds a home I will have a small message to my very special friend somewhere between the cover and chapter one.

I like to think of myself as the tortoise in Aesop's fable, inching ever onward to the finish line. He believes in himself , and it dosen't matter if he wins the race just as long as he makes it to the finish line. Just me here, your humble blogger, getting closer and closer to the finish line.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Long Time No Post

So i've been caught up in day to day life over the past two months and I want to say sorry to my readers. Wedding planning and work take up a great big chunk of my time and editing my 2nd draft takes up the rest. So again, i'm sorry for being a bad blogger i'll elaborate more on why i've been gone in my next post.

The good news? I've bought a wedding dress and the second draft of GRIMACE is almost ready to go into the hands of a few beta readers. Man I really need to get over my fear of critique. That sounds like a great post topic for Absolute Write: Over Editors Anonymous.

I just feel blessed that I have so many friends and a wonderful fiance that keep me inspired and in the right direction. Like C. S. Lewis once said, "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

And the Winner is.......

Ok, so here is the moment you have all been waiting for. The winner of the YA Trends contest is Caitlin! Congrats, you have won a hardback copy of Beautiful Creatures and Hush, Hush!

The top secret second place prize goes to.... Bee! You have won a hardback copy of 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher!
To everyone else, thank you so much for entering. This will not be the last contest on Pen Sister. To my winners, give me until Saturday and I promise I will have your prizes on the way.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What's Next For Review

My name is Mara Daniel and I have a problem. Ok, we should have a BBA (book buyers anonymous) for people who have a book hording problem but i'm not sure if i'm ready for the cure. My bedroom floor is covered in stacks of books and we are very ready to have a house to put them in. There was a poll on the Absolute Write forums a few months ago that asked how many books members owned. I listed in the 100-500 range. If I counted just *my* books I think the total would come out to be in the 300's but that is a rough estimate.

As you can imagine I have a stack of unread books and I want to gush about each and every one of them as soon as i'm finished. So here is the list in no particular order.

Red Sisters
Dirty Little Secrets
Paper Towns
Infinity: Chronicles of Nick
Tender Morsels (need to finish)
The Graveyard Book (need to finish)
Claire de Lune (finished need to review)

These plus the half a million books I want to buy when I get a chance. Stay tuned.

White Cat By Holly Black

On a recent trip to B&N this book came as a wonderful suprise. Having recently become a fan of Holly Black's Tithe series I was hungry for more, and didn't have to wait long.
White Cat is the first of Black's new Curse Worker's series, about boy named Cassel who belongs to a family of magical mobsters. Props for 1) Having a male protagonist, 2) That protaganist not having a girl next door love interest 3) haveing another cast of super engaging chararacters that has become Black's hallmark and 4) Trying a first person pov. At first this threw me because Holly Black is known for 3rd person but I was very happy with the change and I think she pulls it off better than 3rd even.
Cassel is the black sheep of the family, he can't work curses like his two brothers, and being the youngest he often feels left out. His past is marred by a terrible truth. He murdered his best friend Lila four years ago. As the story goes on the reader is easily sucked into Black's world. Cassel's character is such a nice change of scenery for the same old goody two-shoe main character we are so use to seeing.
This book is filled with twists and turns and keeps your head spinning. When you think you have figured it out you are mistaken and the book goes into a different direction. I'm not sure if this would be Paranormal YA or Dystopian because it is set in our world and society is based around the world Black has created. Either way, make sure you pick this one up. It is sure to be one of summer's bests!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Trends In YA: What Comes Next?

What is the next big thing? Is the question on every YA writer, agent, and editor’s mind. In recent years Paranormal Romance has been BIG with the emergence of Twilight. But this in itself has had a string of trends from vampires to fairies to werewolves to angels. The word is angels are on the way out so what is riding in on high tide?

Dystopian. (Hah! I got ya’) With the emergence of books like The Hunger Games, Unwind, and The Forest of Hands and Teeth agents are receiving more and more queries pitching Dystopian YA. Is Pen Sister excited? Well freaking yeah! I admire these people because I don’t think I could ever pull off that much world building myself.

What is coming up this year? Werewolves. We will see a ton of werewolf novels this year. One that recently made it to the shelf is Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson. A quick but fun read about a girl that finds out she is a werewolf.

What do I want to see? Well, I will leave that for another blog post. Make sure you take a look at my Trends in YA contest if you haven’t yet, and as always happy writing.

Trends In YA Contest!

Trends in YA Contest!

Because everyone likes to win free books! The contest will run from Monday June 14 and end Thursday June 24. The contest is simple.

1. Follow Pen Sister (Does not apply to local entries)

2. Write a paragraph (or two, or three..) on what you would like to see more of in Young

Adult literature. Minimum of 50 words and maximum of 300.

One lucky winner will receive a hard back copy of Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick and a hard back copy Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl!

E-mail your entries to PenSister @ Gmail (dot) Com . Participants under the age of 18 make sure you get your parent’s permission before entering. Check your e-mail on the date the contest ends, this is how I will contact the winner.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Graphic Novels: A Solution for Art Lovers

Growing up as a kid in the 90's I never had a big opprotunity to get interested in American comic book companies like Mavel, DC, or Dark Horse. In fact when I think about comics I either picture the 50's or the 80's.

Until I met my fiance in 2007 I had all but forgotten them. I can remember the first time we ate dinner at his house. After dinner and a movie it was almost time to head back home but curiousity had me in it's nasty clutches and I stole a peek into his room.

The walls were lined with bookcases and on them without a space for more were hundreds of graphic novels. "Uh, I thought you said you had books?" "These are books." he said giving me a blank stare. I have to say until then I thought Graphic Novels were for people that hadn't outgrown those old lower Middle Grade picture books.

Upon better inspection I realized that he was drawn more so to the art than the story line. These books that he had collected since the 80's were what fueled his inspiration. I realized that a lot of my friends from High School had the same thing going on with Anime and Manga and most of them were some type of artist.

Comic books have drawn kids and teens to read for close to a hundred years and with the explosion of dozens of major motion pictures like Iorn Man, Watchmen, and Fantastic 4 we can be promised that comic book characters will be part of the main stream for quite some time. Not so much into endless words on the page? Pick up a Manga book or a graphic novel. Some of my favorites are Japanese: Hana-Kimi, Petshop of Horrors, Bleach, and Inu Yasha. American: Green Lantern, Dark Avengers, The Mighty Thor, and Batman.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mom and Pop Bookstores

(Above Cavalier House Bookstore)
So I was hanging out in Denham Springs this past week and decided to drop by the Antique Village. What can I say? I have an affinity for junk and dusty books. When I rounded the corner I didn’t get a chance to go further than the first store. To my left were books in a large picture window and I have to say I was shocked because Southern Louisiana isn’t a place where people read.

The bell on the door made a jingle-jangle when I stepped in the door and I looked around half expecting an ancient man or woman to be behind a counter with a book in hand. The place wasn’t dusty it was very clean and I was met with the smile from another young woman perhaps a year or two my senior.

We had a nice chat and the best part of it was? They had a Young Adult section! No, it wasn’t as big as the one at B&N but it did have a nice selection. She even informed me that they could order any book I wanted and hey, that saves gas money, so I ordered Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu. (Yes, I will post a review when I’m finished, promise.)

So about the title, what is a Mom and Pop bookstore you ask? Mom and Pop is a term coined to mean a personal business, generally the locally owned stores in your city or town that often fall prey to chain outlets (Walmart, Home Depot, in this case Books-A-Million and other book store giants). When you support a Mom and Pop bookstore you help the economy and hey, that benefits everyone.

First blog contest presented Monday, make sure you check back so you can have a chance at winning a few shiny YA books to add to your shelf!

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

When most people think of Paranormal YA, they think of Twilight, I think of The Summoning published in 2008 by Harper Collins.

In her debut YA novel, Kelley Armstrong (Authors of the popular Women of the Otherworld series) brings not only the fun and excitement related to Paranormal Fiction but realistic characters that pop from the page.

One day at school, fifteen-year-old Chloe Saunders starts to see ghosts. Her reaction sets off a chain of events that land her in ‘Lyle House’ a place for “troubled teens”.

At Lyle House Chloe runs into a slew of suspicious administrators and kids very much like herself. It is there she finds that she is not the only one with paranormal problems.

I don’t want to spoil this great trilogy for you. Readers of Armstrong’s adult novels will be plesantly surprised that her Young Adult trilogy resides in the same ‘universe’ as her adult novels.

The second book The Awakening is out as of last year, and the third and final book of The Darkest Powers trilogy The Reconing is due out April 2010. So don’t worry, you still have time to catch up with the fans of this fab series.

Tithe by Holly Black

I passed by this trilogy numerous times over the years and I never gave it a good look over. Now I’m sorry it took so long to realize that Tithe is another amazing feat by Holly Black, author of the popular Middle Grade Spiderwick Chronicles.
If you want a cute and cuddly fairy tale then leave Tithe on the shelf. On the other hand if you want an edgy, gripping read then this is your best bet.
Sixteen-year-old Kaye is about as real-world as it gets, following her band junkie mom from dive to dive. When she returns to her child hood town on the Jersey shore she finds that her imaginary friends from child hood weren’t so imaginary. In fact they are back and begging her to help win their freedom with a risky plan.
What really had me hooked were Black’s characters. I was sucked into Corny and Kaye’s POV from the first few chapters. It is really hard not to gush about them. Not to mention you have the smooth, mysterious knight Roiben.
The faeries Black has created are true to legend and as far from Fern Gully as you can imagine. I suppose I will leave the rest up fine patrons. But seriously, next time you visit the library think about picking up Tithe.