Saturday, July 31, 2010

Blueberry Lemonade (The Taste of Research)

Beth, one of the main characters in Salvation, the book I am writing now, likes blueberry lemonade. I learned this yesterday. Discovery is one of the things I love the most about writing. Every day, every revision, there are discoveries.

I didn’t know there was such a thing as blueberry lemonade. But here was the problem. Beth said that plain lemonade was too ordinary. She is not ordinary.

And she couldn’t have strawberry lemonade because she was going to have strawberry shortcake. And you don’t want to reuse the word strawberry too many times on a page. Not only would it be repetitive, but it’s a three-syllable word, which can be an issue when writing YA. I mean, you want to make your three-syllable words count.

So at this point, I knew I had to do some research. There were raspberries, but this would be two red berries in the same scene, and Beth and I both felt that that was inadequate. We had already determined that this was a very colorful scene.

So I tried searching “flavored lemonade” on Google images. This resulted in all kinds of weird things. Ginger lemonade. Beth is definitely not stuffy enough for ginger. She is all for vintage, but not uptight old-fashioned. And there was tarragon-flavored lemonade. What the heck is tarragon? Neither Beth nor I have any desire to find out. And pomegranate? We don’t think so. And lavender? That is just a little too soap-like for Beth.

So we returned to the berries. And blueberries are blue. Beth is a fan of bubble-gum ice cream, also blue. And we agreed that while we couldn’t get away with repeating the word strawberry, the repetition of the second half of the word wouldn’ t be bad. After all, once we introduce the lemonade as blueberry, we don’t have to again. Because the reader will know.

Plus, Beth is rather fond of blueberry lemonade.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Well, it is 11:26 p.m., and obviously I don't have time to blog today. But I do have news.

Salva went home! It wasn't pretty. And it required a great deal of help from Beth, as well as a little divine intervention, but he made it.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chocolate Chip Mint Cheesecake Pt. 2 (AKA The List)

While we are at Powell’s, we should make The List.

The List is plausibly the most enjoyable part about book shopping.

It’s a bit like picking Barbies. When I was little, my sister, friends, and I would take all our Barbie stuff—all our Barbie stuff—throw it onto a bed, and pick. One item at a time, from the huge Barbie pool down to the ugliest hand-knitted Barbie sweater. Ostensibly with the idea that the stuff we chose was what we were going to use when we began to play. Picking took at least an hour, and often by the time we were done, we’d decide we would have more fun picking again, rather than actually playing.

The List is like picking Barbies because there’s no commitment. But plenty of inspiration for the future. You just write down all the books that make you think Hey! That would be cool. Next time. Because, of course you can’t afford to buy out the store.

Now it’s no small thing for a book at a bookstore to make my list. I am an author. I spend hours online searching and writing down book titles in my blue notebook. So when I take a trip to a bookstore and find a book that’s not already in the notebook, that’s impressive.

Here we go:

The Fool’s Girl by Celia Rees—I have seen this online, but I had not read the summary before or written it down. And it’s based on Shakespeare! So it goes on the list.

The Education of Bet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted—Another one I’d see online and was absolutely thrilled to a. read the summary and b. find out it’s a skinny book. Which means I might even get through it during the school year.

A Voice of Her Own: Becoming Emily Dickinson by Barbara Dana—This is an honest to goodness find, and I’m pretty excited about it. Because Emily Dickinson is an enigma. And anyone who can write like her deserves a YA novel. So I’m going to dig this up. Eventually. And for now, it’s on the list.

Rogue’s Home, the second book in the Knight and the Rogue Series by Hillari Bell. To be fair, Rogue’s Home was not available at Powell’s, at least not on the day I was there, but I found the title listed on the back of another book so I wrote it down.

Player’s Ruse by Hillari Bell. The third book in the Knight and Rogue series. Isn’t it lovely when there are more books in a series than you had realized?

That Perfect Someone by Johanna Lindsey—because sadly, I am a sucker for the Mallory Novels.

And finally . . .

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick. How is I had not seen this? Not anywhere. But if you have not read Cut by Patricia McCormick, or her second book, Sold, then you are missing out. Her books are memorable. I will definitely be reading this one.

And that’s the list!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chocolate Chip Mint Cheesecake

Let’s take a trip.

If you have never been to Powell’s Bookstore on Burnside in Portland, the best way I can describe it for you is to compare it to chocolate chip mint cheesecake. Absolutely out of this world.

Powell’s is a block. A complete city block. And on top of that, it has at least three stories. Filled with new and used books.

Within this incredible structure lies The Rose Room. This is heaven on earth for fans of young adult literature. At least 7 rows. Seven high, long rows of young adult books. And that does not count the ones on sale. Or the ones in the Pacific Northwest section. Or the ones in the educational section. Or—you get the point.

The problem with going to bookstores as an author is that you feel like you ought to work. So on my most recent trip, I went to Powell’s with three goals in mind. The first two were utter failures. You don’t want to hear about them. The third goal was to find absolutely wonderful books. TO READ.

Ding, ding, ding! Success!

So here’s what I bought:

Catching Fire--because I am weak and cannot wait until it is out in paperback.

Hunger Games--because I checked it out of the library and, of course, now I need to own it.

The Letter Writer--because a. It is by Ann Rinaldi, b. I can’t get it from the library, and c. I read the first page and was hooked. Her characters have wonderful voice.

Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman--because it is about India, and I love books set in other cultures. And it has romance. And it is in paperback. I am really looking forward to this one.

And finally—dum da dum dum dummm.

Because it’s based on a fairy tale. And the heroine doesn’t want the prince (Aurelia and I have a special fondness for princesses who don’t want to marry the prince). And someone on Goodreads recommended it to me. And the cover is absolutely gorgeous. And Mercedes Lackey wrote The Changeling Sea. I bought The Sleeping Beauty.

Ah, now that is definitely as good as cheesecake.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Disobedient Characters

Salva does not want to go home. Salva (aka Salvador) is the main character in the book I am working on now, Salvation, and he does not want to go home. Which is where I need him to go. For various reasons. But . . . did I mention he does not want to go?

Apparently this is not a unique phenomenon. When I had the opportunity of hearing Tamora Pierce speak at the Sirens: Women in Fantasy Literature Conference last fall, she talked about how Evy refused to go to the palace. Somewhere about thirteen chapters later, Evy finally went.

So what do authors do when a character refuses to go where we need them to go?

There are several approaches.

First, there is listening. Nine times out of ten, I would say that listening is successful. Once you find out why your character has issues, you can usually find your way around them.

This did not work with Salva.

Next there is detouring. Detouring usually involves more effort. It requires an extra scene or an extra chapter or two in order to help the character get whatever issues he or she has out of the way.

This also has not worked with Salva. He needs to go home. So he can be yelled at. And he doesn’t want to.

Sometimes there is bowing to your characters’ wishes. “OK,” you say to them. “We won’t go there. We’ll go here instead.” And they cheer up and follow blithely along and you zip them back into your plotline via a circuitous route.

This also will not work with Salva. It is imperative that he go home.

Which brings me to the last option. You tell the character to suck it up and just go where you want them to go.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, this will not work. I’m not sure it would ever work with Aurelia. But Salva is being a coward, and Beth and I agree that he should just go home.

So we’re sending him.

Monday, July 26, 2010

To Blog or Not to Blog

Aurelia thinks I need to begin a blog. A real one. If you aren’t acquainted with Aurelia, you should know she is the main character in two of my books, thus far. She was raised to be a crown princess, and no doubt, this is partly responsible for the fact that she is A. stubborn, B. opinionated, and C. very LOUD. I find her rather difficult to ignore. This is how our conversation went.

Aurelia: You need to begin a blog.
Me: What?
Aurelia: Don’t be obtuse. My next book is coming out in April, and you want it to be successful, don’t you?
Me: Of course. But I don’t have time to blog. Why don’t you do it?
Aurelia: I’m busy rescuing a country. You are NOT that busy.
Me: I teach school. I had 29 students last year. I wake up at 4:50 a.m. and don’t get home until around six. Every day I have off from teaching, I write. You know that.
Aurelia: You’re whining.
Me: Aerin and Dane did not insist I blog.
Aurelia: They want you to write one too.
Me: Great. And exactly what am I supposed to blog about? I can’t blog about what I’m writing today. That would give away the story. And I can’t blog about school. That would infringe on my students’ privacy.
Aurelia: Duh. You’re an author. Blog about books.
Me: OK, well, I admit I could talk forever about books.
Aurelia: That’s what I thought. And you can blog about writing. Just don’t give anything away.
Me: You say this because I’m not writing one of your stories right now.
Aurelia: Salva and Beth want you to blog too.
Me: OK, OK, I will try to blog.
Aurelia: Good. Glad that’s settled. Moving on . . .