Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Dark Divine soundtrack: song #3

Today's song is brought to you by the band Spoon. I love Spoon--especially when I'm running on the elliptical or exercising on my recumbent bike. There's nothing like a good Spoon song to get my heart-rate up. And since I do some of my best plotting while working out, it was only inevitable that a couple of Spoon songs would make it into my play-list.

(Side note: you know how at the end of a yoga class, you're supposed to just lay there on your mat and empty your mind of all thought? Yeah, that SO doesn't work for me. This is usually when I end up writing dialogue for romantic scenes in my head. Yes, I know, I'm weird.)

Anyway, the song for today is Spoon's The Way We Get By. Probably not everyone is going to love this song as much as I do, but I really feel like it reflects Daniel's life--or at least how Grace thinks Daniel feels about his life (at first). Kind of a flippant, "Yeah, my life is messed up. But this is how I get by."

Enjoy (or not) and try running on the elliptical to it

Note: Inserting the music player has been doing funky things with my text (single spacing or that giant quotation mark in yesterday's post) so from now on I'll put the song after its description.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Dark Divine soundtrack: song #2

Song #2 for The Dark Divine play-list/soundtrack just happens to be another by The Notwist. Don't worry. Don't worry. I promise there is more variety in the soundtrack than just sixteen songs by the same band--but let's face it, soundtracks often have multiple songs from the same band throughout. However, this is the last song by The Notwist (I'm just warning you for when we get to the Ben Gibbard portions of the play-list--that man is a genius).

NOTE: If you are scratching your head, thinking, "What the heck is The Dark Divine play-list/soundtrack?"--then you need to go back and read this post.

So anyway, today's song is One with the Freaks by The Notwist. Take a listen and tell me what you think.

In my opinion, not only is this a beautiful song, it just works with my book in so many ways. First, there's the question: "Have you ever been all messed up?" Because, frankly, Daniel is messed up. I also love the line: "Things look much bigger on your knees." I have no idea if I'm interpreting the line right at all, but to me it symbolizes when you sink so low, that getting on your knees is the only way you can even try to figure things out--and from there things look so big, you can't possibly do it on your own. This is Daniel. He needs help--and Grace is the only one who can help him.

But I mostly see this song as a warning to Grace. She is drawn to Daniel, but Jude (knowing a pretty dark secret about their former friend) tries to make Grace stay away from Daniel. But she doesn't--she can't. Grace sees herself as Daniel's "life-line" (or lifeguard as the song says), and her decision to help Daniel behind Jude's back is what propels the action of the story. But can Grace help Daniel find his way, without losing her own?

I love the lines in this song that go:

"Miss the signal
Miss the signpost
Miss the exits to it all
And all of a sudden
you were one with the freaks"

Okay, so future song descriptions probably won't be as detailed as this one. So far
I haven't given more away than you'd learn in the first chapter (or by reading the
back of the book while standing in B&N) but I don't want to spoil anything for
those who haven't read the book yet. . . So for now, enjoy the song and tell me
what you think. The next one will be posted tomorrow.



Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Gift To You

Now that Christmas is over, and the kiddies are content to play with their new toys for a few days (and pretty much ignore me) it is time to turn my mind to other important things . . .my birthday! And this year isn't just any old birthday, it's one of those big-significant-scary-your-life-will-never-quite-be-the-same-milestone birthdays (let's just say there's a big fat number 3 in it). In an effort to count down to this significant day (and to ease the stress of leaving my twenties) I've decided to celebrate by presenting you all with a gift.

16 of them, actually. That's right, for the next 16 days leading up to B-Day, I will leave you a little gift on my blog for your enjoyment. And what is this amazing gift that I've been working on for many days to make for y'all?

Well, I'm glad you asked.


Okay, so many of you are probably thinking, what the heck is The Dark Divine--and how can it have a soundtrack? And why is Bree so darn excited about it?

First off: The Dark Divine is the title of MY BOOK. Second: Yes, books CAN have soundtracks.

I know a lot of authors are posting play-lists of songs that inspired the writing of their novels--yeah, I'm not all that original or anything--but I am proud to say that my song-list is way super awesomer (I know, I know awesomer is not a real word) because not only is it a list of songs that inspired my writing, but I've also arranged them in a way to reflect the mood/characters' thoughts/progression of the novel. In other words: it's a book soundtrack!

How awesomer is that?! And it totally wasn't easy, either. I mean, some real painstaking work went into selecting these songs and arranging and rearranging them just right. Good thing I've got all this time and anxiety to kill . . . too bad for hubby I didn't channel any of it into doing the dishes . . .

Anyway, I was going to just post the whole thing at once, but then I realized that most people (other than myself) don't have the time to sit and listen to 16 songs in a row. So I decided that since there are 16 days until my birthday, I'll present one song a day for your listening pleasure. I'll also include a little description of the song and why it is part of the play-list. And then on the 17th day (January 13th--my B-Day) I'll post the entire play-list as a permanent resident on my blog so you can listen to any of the songs, anytime you want. (Because I'm hoping you'll all like the songs as much as I do--and it will put you in the mood to read my novel. :-))

To kick off our 16 Days of The Dark Divine Music Extravaganza, I present to you:

Pick up the Phone by The Notwist

I chose this song not only because it is a freaking great song and totally reflects the mood of my book, but also because of the line "Today, I will step out of your past"--which is exactly what happens in the first few pages of my novel when Daniel Kalbi (Grace's first love and Jude's former best friend) shows up out of the blue after a 3 year disappearance . . .

Oh, and don't forget to keep this image in your head while you listen to any of the songs:

Daniel Kalbi (aka Taylor Kitsch)

Because even though Grace is the main character, I found that most of the songs are from Daniel's point of view. Go figure . . .

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My husband is a freakin' genius . . .

Christmas brings out a lot of different emotions in many of us: joy, gratitude, charity, stress, depression, revelry, and reflection. And as most parents can attest to, the holiday season also brings out a lot in our children. They can be down right adorable while hanging ornaments on the tree, or hand-crafting Christmas presents for their grandparents out of Mommy's card-stock collection. They can seem angelic while acting out the nativity scene, and there's nothing more delightful than watching their eyes light up when they get the perfect gift from Santa . . .

But it is more than inevitable that the "dark side" of your child's personality will rear its ugly head during the holiday season, and your adorable, angelic, delightful child will transform into a spoiled, rotten, brat. After a good week of buildup, KidZ officially reached this point at 12:05 pm, yesterday. I was fit to be tied, but my genius husband set to work in order to remedy the problem. After a co-worker suggested that he send a "notice letter" to KidZ, informing him that he had been put on Santa's naughty list, my husband employed the creative services department at his work to help him create this:

Here's the text in case you don't have Clark Kent's eyesight.:

Dear KidZ,

My Christmas helpers just told me that you were recently put on the naughty list. I am very sad about this, because you are a special boy, who is very smart and very kind.

My elves and I have been working hard to make you the presents you wanted this year. It would be really sad if I had to throw those toys away.

But there is hope! You can still make the nice list in time for Christmas since you’ve been a good boy most of the year. This is what I need you to do so I can still give you the presents we made for you:

  1. Be Grateful. Tell your mom and dad thank you when they do nice things for you. Tell them thank you for giving you a place to sleep that is warm. Tell them thank you for making sure you have food to eat. Tell them thank you for all the nice toys you have already.

  1. Be Happy. Make the choice to be happy. Don’t get mad or upset when something doesn’t go your way, but choose to be happy that you have a family that loves you and wants to help you.

  1. Be Kind. I know it’s hard to be nice all the time. Sometimes other people aren’t nice to you and it hurts your feelings. But if you are always nice back, you will feel happy and help others learn that being nice is much better than being mean or selfish.

  1. Be Smart. Sometimes it’s hard to make good choices. When you get really sad or upset, it’s hard to think about what you should do. But, you are a smart boy and I know you are really good at making good choices when you try. Don’t scream and yell when you don’t get what you want, but think about it and try to find a good way to fix it. Ask your mom and dad if you need help. I know they will want to help you if you ask nicely.

Remember KidZ, you are very blessed and you have a family that loves you very much. If you can remember to be grateful, happy, kind, and smart, you’ll make it back on my nice list before Christmas.

Good luck!


Santa Claus

Zealand received this letter in the "mail" last night, and I dare say that he has never been so well-behaved in his life. . .Sigh, I just wish it would last all year round. I've got Santa envy.

P.S. Feel free to copy the letter for use with one of your own children. It works wonders!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Good Day

Today is a good day for many, many reasons. But most of all it is a good day to be alive. December 18th, 2002 (6 years ago TODAY) was the day I almost died in a terrible car accident. In honor of this, I would just like to take a moment to sigh and think, "Today I am alive. Today I have my family. Today I can walk. Today I can write. Today is the day when nothing else matters."

This post will also tell you why today is so important to me--and why I feel like my life is coming full circle.

Merry December 18th everybody! Hug someone you love. Say a prayer of thanks for the simple gift of being alive. And think about this, "If you died today, what would you regret the most not having done?"

Now go do it!

I love you all,


Monday, December 15, 2008

I found my leading man . . .ehem, for my novel, that is

I come from a theatre/acting background. Because of this, when I'm writing, I like to picture my scenes as actual "scenes" from a play or movie. I think about the dialogue, blocking, body language, etc as if the characters were right in front of me acting out the scene, and I'm the director. (Or better yet, like I'm the lead actress.) I've always hoped that this gives me a bit of an edge when it comes to writing dynamic dialogue and action. But at the same time, it also means I have my whole novel mapped out in my mind as a movie . . .and I'm dying to see it on the big screen.

I know, I know, I'm getting way ahead of myself--after all, I haven't even sold the manuscript yet--but it's perfectly normal for a girl to cast a fictitious movie based on her unsold novel in her head, right? RIGHT?!

So for a while now, I've been on the lookout for actors to play my main characters should the day ever come that The Dark Divine be made into a movie. The only problem is that it's hard to find real people who resemble the made-up characters that exist only in my brain--and on 270+ pages of manuscript paper. Especially since most of my characters are "mix" of different people.
Take Jude (my main character's brother) for instance. He's kind of a Tom Welling (guy from Smallville) meets a young Tom Cruise (pre-crazy-couch-jumping-phase) sort of guy:

And then there's Daniel (Jude's ex-best-friend and the guy Grace has always been in love with). He's always been a kind-of, sort-of, almost but not quite, teen-age version of Spike (as played by James Marsters in Buffy) but with long, dark hair. (Oh, and Daniel's not a vampire. . .but he his a paranormal creature . . .I'm just not telling you what kind.)

So you can see my casting dilemma, right? Tom W+Tom C doesn't actually exist, so calling him in for an audition probably wouldn't go over all that well. And since James Marsters is now in his late 40s, and I really don't have the energy to invent a time machine (what with being so overwhelmed by the shopping trips with the hopped up monkeys) he's really not the right guy to play the part of my 18-year-old male lead. Plus, I have no idea what he even looked like as a teenager--so the time machine might be a total waist of time and money anyway.

So alas, the parts for my male leads were still un-cast . . .or at least they were until I was watching Friday Night Lights with hubby the other night and Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) looked out at me from the tv screen with his soulful yet troubled eyes, and I sat up and and shouted, "Holy Crap! It's him! He's Daniel!" Even hubby looked at him and said, "Whoa, I think you're right."

So what's the verdict, friends? I mean, what teen-aged girl wouldn't want to try to save this boy's soul?

I may even have to cast his co-star, Scott Porter in my movie.

He makes a pretty good replacement for "the Toms" don't you think?

Okay, so somebody had better make my book into a movie fast. I mean, these "teen" actors are probably already in their late twenties. Tick tock, tick tock. Perhaps I'll have to contact Ted with my brilliant casting choices so he can start putting out some feelers in the biz.

Ha ha.

Just Kidding.

Not really.

Okay, seriously, I'm just joking.

Hey does anyone have Taylor Kitsch's phone number?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Why not have yourself a merry little bookmas?

So I've been feeling a little under the weather the last few days. (That's my excuse for not blogging for a bit.) Kind of a weird case of the flu or something--with all the aches and sinus headache and devoid of energy, but without all the mucus and hacking that usually accompany such ailments. It's preferable to being a ball of snot, but still not pleasant at the same time.

The "no energy" part has been the real kicker--especially since the thought of dragging two hyper-active little boys to the grocery store was enough to make me crawl back into bed, fully clothed, Monday morning. The boys didn't mind much (it meant they got to have fruit loops for lunch) until their supply of Transformers fruit snacks and pretzel fish ran dry. I even resorted to eating the gluten free/dairy free cheeze pizza (notice the "z" in cheeze) that has been lurking in the back of the freezer for the last couple of months after I bought it on a "I'm so desperate I'll buy anything I'm not allergic to" kick. (And how was the cheeZe pizza, you ask? Um, let the fact that I only ate four bites of it answer your question.) By late evening, the boys were begging me to go shopping, so I left them with hubby and went to the grocery store for a little peace and quiet . . .oh, and a new supply of fish-shaped crackers and cereal bars made out of chickpeas (yeah, that's right, I did say chickpeas).

Little known fact about me: I love the grocery store. Ever since I was a little kid. It is my sanctuary.

At least it was before I ever had to take my two boys with me. Which is pretty much equivalent to hopping up a couple of Capuchin monkeys on meth and then shoving them into a car-shaped cart that isn't big enough to actually hold both of them in the cab (much scratching and biting and monkey fighting ensues), and then dashing through the store at top speed, trying to fill the cart with "nutritious" snacks without actually bringing the cart to full stop (because all parents know that if the car-cart stops for more than 1.5 seconds, the monkeys WILL get out--and then all hell breaks loose).

So anyway, I love the grocery store--sans children. It is a great place to wander up and down the aisles, contemplating one's future, or plotting the next great paranormal romance in one's head.

Okay, enough with the digression. I'm pretty sure this post had a point . . .which is . . .oh yeah . . .

I haven't been feeling well lately, and, let's face it, neither has the economy. In fact, it's in the toilet. Unfortunately that also includes the book industry. Things are not looking good for both big and small publishers. As a result, some publishing houses are either implementing or considering book buying freezes, and others have gone the layoff route (right before Christmas too! Seriously-- ouch).

In short, publishers have less money to spend on acquiring and producing books, and are even less anxious to spend it on new authors such as myself. You can read more about the problem here. Or here (scroll down to the November 10th post). Or here.

So how do we solve this disturbing dilemma? Simple: buy more books.

Lucky for us, tis the season for spending cash! I know you are sitting there right now with a large number of people on your list, and you have no idea what to get them for Christmas. Well, now you know.

We all can't run out and buy a Ford to bolster the economy (and would we want to?), but almost everyone can buy a book. If everyone bought just one book, that would be great--but why not knock several names off your Christmas list with one fun-filled trip to B&N (or even better yet, The King's English--or your local indie bookstore wherever you are). So go ahead and have yourself a merry little bookmas--and while you're at it, support your favorite author, save an editor's job, and help out your friend who has wild aspirations of selling her manuscript :-)

Need a little help picking titles?

The School Library Journal put out this list today of "Books that Make the Best Presents" for teens and children

Moonrat compiled this list of "Best-Ever Suggestions for Books as Gifts." (Mostly suggestions for adults.)

My sister-author Brodi is compiling her own lists. Here and here.

And here are a few more recommendations from myself. (A * indicates a local Utah author.)

Picture Books and Easy Readers:

My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann

Bertie was a Watchdog or basically anything else by Rick Walton* (especially great for boys.)

On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman (My friend Nicole gave this to KidA and my boys can't get enough of it.)

On the go with Pirate Pete and Pirate Joe
by Ann Edwards Cannon* (easy reader series about a couple of quirky pirate brothers who are afraid of the water)

Middlegrade: 8-12

Raymond and Graham Rule the School
by Mike Knudson* and Steve Wilkinson

The 13th Reality
by James Dashner* (I haven't read this one but my nephew loves it)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan (the first book is called The Lightning Thief)

The Goose Girl
or Princess Academy by Shannon Hale*

Young Adult: 12-40+ (we just talked about how this is for everyone)
In addition to the titles I listed in this post, I would also like to add these other titles:

The Losers Guide to Life and Love by A. E. Cannon*

Avalon High by Meg Cabot

Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To Do List
How to Take the Ex out of Ex-Boyfriend by Janette Rallison

Adult: everyone else

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Um . . .look at those other lists because I don't really ever read adult fiction.

Care to share your suggestions so we can all have a Merry Bookmas? Fire away!

(Note: please buy books at your own discretion--I tried to only suggest books that I felt are "appropriate" for the intended age group, but we all have differing opinions on this matter. So do your research to find out if the book is suitable for the person you are buying for.)

(Additional Note: I've been informed that Graceling--suggested in my YA post from the other day--may have "racy" scene in it. I just started reading it, so I cannot substantiate this information, but so far I am enjoying the book. I also just started reading I'd Tell You I love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You . . .and so far, I LOVE IT!)

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's good to be YA

When I tell people (who are not involved in the children's writing world) that I write YA, I usually get one of these three reactions . . .

Reaction #1:

Person: Blank stare

Me: "You know. Books for teenagers."

Person: "Oh. Like Harry Potter?"

Me: "Um. Kind of. Though the first Harry Potter books are more for younger kids than YA."

Person: "So when are you going to be a millionaire?"

Me: "Um. Probably never.

Person: Blank stare

Reaction #2:

Person: Blank stare

Me: "You know. Books for teenagers."

Person: "Oooh. Like Twilight?"

Me: "Kind of. Same genre, but there are no vampires in my book."

Person: Blank stare

Me: "It does have paranormal elements in it."

Person: "Oh. So when are you going to be a millionaire?"

Me: "Ha ha. Um . . .probably never."

Person: Blank stare

Reaction #3:

Person: Blank stare

Me: "You know. Books for teenagers"

Person: Blank stare

Me: "You know. . .like. . . Harry Potter . . .or. . . Twilight"

Person: Blank stare shifts into a look like I just said that I make fruit loop necklaces all day long . . . and then try to sell them on ebay.

Me (Shouting after person as they walk away): "Hey, I might be a millionaire someday!"

All joking aside (oh wait, I wasn't joking) a lot of people don't understand WHY I write young adult fiction. Even within the adult writing field, there is a stigma against young adult writing. Kind of like, "Well wouldn't you rather write a REAL book?"

In my opinion, writing for young adults is just as REAL as writing for adults, and is arguably more difficult. As Sherman Alexie (National Book Award winner for his YA novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian) puts it, "Writing for teens involves a stripped-down technique. You tend to write more like Hemingway than Faulkner. More like Emily Dickinson than T.S. Eliot. It’s not a matter of more complex thoughts, but the number of adverbs and adjectives. In the adult world, the number of adverbs and adjectives can be confused with great writing.” NYC young adult librarian Jack Martin says it even better, "Teen books are like adult books, without all the bull%*$#.”

Writing YA can also be more rewarding than writing for adults because (as Sherman Alexia says) "there's a lot more at stake for teen readers." They are forming who they are and their view of the world. Sherman Alexie loves that teens show up to his readings to ask him about how to deal with bullies and other issues in their lives. He says that readers of his adult books never ask questions like that. Author Margo Rabb was disappointed at first when she found out her book Cures for Heartbreak was going to be published as a YA rather than an adult title like she had intended. But when she got a letter from a 15 year old reader saying that the book had helped her deal with her mother's cancer diagnosis, Margo decided she was just fine with being a YA author.

I've been writing YA for 9 years. It's what I love to write, and what I love to read. I write YA because that is where my "voice" belongs. I once heard another author (I believe it was Carol Lynch Williams) say that you have to write the age that you are "stuck" at. I guess that means I'm "stuck" at 17 because I find that the easiest year of my life to tap into for my stories. No wonder--that was the year I toured Europe without parents and figured out who I really was, finally got my drivers license, made some of the best friends I've ever had, finally got the courage to start auditioning for plays, and started falling in love with the guy who many years later became my husband. I have had many (more than a decade's worth) of even better years since 17, but I often do have to remind myself that I am no longer a teenager (nor do I have the pants size of one--put those low-rider jeans down, Bree. Just put them down and nobody will get hurt.)

YA writing is not for everyone. But for now, it's exactly right for me.

Here are some of my most recent YA favs in case you feel like delving into the genre.

For a more "literary" read, check out:

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolfe
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
The Way He Lived by Emily Wing Smith
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

For "fun" reading:

Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot
All American Girl by Meg Cabot (I'm not a huge fan of the sequel though)
Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe (this is one of my big favs, but it is definitely not for everyone)

My own personal to-read list:

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
The Hunger Games by Suzzane Collins

Just waiting for the UPS guy to get here so I can start reading.

Do you have any YA favorites I should put on the list?

(Btw, the quotes I used in this post were from "Think Future Panel Debates What Makes a YA a YA" By Diane Roback -- Publishers Weekly, 4/30/2008)