Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Interactive Story Time: The Raccoon and The Gator

Happy Tuesday, Lurkdom, where today is my Thursday. What's awesome about this is that we're that much closer to summer. I'd like to celebrate this with a lawn ornament.

Now that the weather has decided to rise to a decent late-spring temperature*, I can enjoy all the tacky glory the residents put out. This one is particularly interesting because I can't decide what is on top of the corn cob - corn silk or dog hair.

This is very disturbing. Why are you showing us this?
Because I have questions that only you can answer!
  • How did the raccoon get the corn? 
  • Why is the alligator okay with being a taxi? 
  • Is the raccoon PRAYING to the corn for safe passage through the mulch?
  • Is the alligator vegetarian?

Let's get this started!

* And my revisions are just about done.
Last.fm hit of the day: Judgement by Anathema

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Internet: Distractor Extraordinaire

Oh the internet. It's so shiny. So distracting.

True fact: As of right now*, instead of working on my revisions, I'm drafting this entry. That's a litmus test for distraction. Right?


So, since I am on a deadline, working on minimal sleep, and borrowing my time from revising, this will be short. (But I've included a bonus!)
  1. Facebook. Or rather, Facebook games. Bejeweled Blitz calls to me. It's constant and sometimes it's so bad I envision strategy before I sleep.
  2. Twitter. I <3 Twitter as much as the next person, but I find that whenever I get stuck/bored/agitated I'll just open it up "for a second" to see what's going on. It's never a second. And OMG, the links you people share!
  3. Blogs via Twitter. If 4KidLit, Angela Ackerman, or Laura Pauling happen to be tweeting, there are links. When there are links, there are some damn good articles. I get stuck in a knowledge hole.
  4. Wikipedia. It starts with a simple search for "magic pies" but in six steps you end up reading about hamburger joints in Red Square**.
  5. Last.fm. It's all about the links that send you somewhere else and Last.fm has these with every artist profile. Why do you think I have over 200,000 artists in my Last.fm library?
  6. Damn You Autocorrect. Even if they're doctored, there's something deliciously awesome about the phone thinking "sweaters" is "sister." The best of posts cause tears to form.
With all these time sucks, it's no wonder I'm scrambling toward my deadline. Has anyone used those internet blockers?

Lurkdom, what's your internet time suck?

Don't forget to stop by Paper Hangover to learn about more distractions.

* Thursday evening, 8.15 PM.
** This an exaggerated example. Though, if you happen to find these Wikipedia articles, please do share.
Last.fm hit of the day: Reprogrammed to Hate by Whitechapel

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Inspirational Shortlist

Every Wednesday, YA Highway asks their readership a simple question to answer on your blog. Once you answer, you link your blog in the comments for other readers to hop on board. This is Road Trip Wednesday.

Today's topic: Who in your life has most inspired your writing?

My knee-jerk response to this is "no one" because this isn't something I actually think about. I've explained before how fan girl crush number one reminds me that age is relative blah blah blah and how Stephen King is a great example of maintain faith in the project that refuses to die, but I've never talked about the IRL factor.

Then I realized that maybe I don't really know what the word "inspiration" means.

Definition courtesy of dictionary.com.
Hm... not exceedingly helpful, Internet, but I'll make due.

In real life, the people who have most inspired my writing is my family*. They supply me with a lot of jumping points for both plot and subplot. Without the whole clan, I seriously doubt my creativity would be as high as it is**.

But Alicia, you're being so freaking vague.
That's because it's Wednesday. If I was to drill down to specifics, it would be pretty simple:
  • My parents for never questioning ANY of my life choices. Especially my mom who as I've gotten older has become increasingly hip and savvy***.
  • Hubby for being a constant cheerleader and being completely cool about me leaving my way-too-stressful-job to complete an overhaul of FALLING TO NORMAL.
  • Danielle for countless hours she's spent going over manuscripts, plot points, and brainstorms with me. She understands my thinking sometimes better than me. Everyone should have a Danielle.

Who inspires you to do the things you do?

* This includes the besties too.
** Not that I'm not a creative person, but there's something to say about DNA.
*** If Middle School or High School Alicia read that, she'd gag.
Last.fm hit of the day: Inner Silence by Anathema

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cue the Q & A!

So yesterday was all about The Lurkdom asking questions. So, thanks for that. We got some great ones. Miranda answered most in the comments section, but for simplicity, I've included them here.

Holly Dodson asked What's your favorite kind of pie?
Miranda: Miranda says, "The kind that has blog mixed in!" Okay, really though... I LOVE blackberry pie. It is more difficult to find in the store, so I do also love a good peach pie.

Alicia: For desserts, I'm more of a cake gal, but I've been known to narf pudding pie like you wouldn't believe. The best by far (not for dessert) is pork pie. (Note to family: please send me samples.)

Kikyo_Cat had three questions.
1. Miranda, what was your favorite part of ACen?: (For more information on ACen, go here.)
Miranda: I only went for 12 hours, so I didn't really do much during the day other than spend three and a half hours in line, and then spent three hours wandering the vendor halls with Mary. The latter was very enjoyable! But I have to say I had a really great time being snuck into the Soap Bubble thing, thus avoiding another three hour line, and hanging out with my friend and former Graverobber, Ian!
2. Alicia, how many full stories/books have you written?
Alicia: From what I can remember, 15. This includes flash fiction and some extremely awful "short stories" from high school.
3. What type of animal was your first pet and what was his/her name?
Miranda: My first pet was a Pekinese name Winnie or Winny... I'm not sure how we spelled it.

Alicia: The first non-imaginary pet was a blue and red beta fish named Norbert. Whenever I put a mirror up to his tank, he'd threaten himself.
Pam Harris asked What one book would you both recommend that every writer should read?
Miranda: I don't know about which book every writer should read. I don't really classify myself as a "writer," per se. I guess I'm sort of the non-fiction writing half of this team! But as far as what book should everyone read, I'm completely biased and I'm just going to say my favorite novel of all time. The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. As a caveat to that, though, I suppose I should point out that probably not everyone will enjoy this book's story or content. But as far as imagery and the way Barker writes... it's amazing. Hellbound Heart is most definitely rated R, if not NC-17... so for a more friendly read by him (because all of his writing is wonderful), I recommend the Abarat series, which is a young adult series, and obviously is less likely to offend readers. Be warned, it still has a lot of dark imagery, so may require some explanations to younger readers. Also, another more "kid friendly" Barker novel is The Thief of Always! You'll find Abarat in the kid's section, but Thief is usually in the adult horror section... not sure why, as it is considered a young adult story.

Alicia: For a book on craft, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers definitely. It's something we all need to get published. You shouldn't be surprised I'm going to say The Dark Tower as a fiction component. It has world building, character development, amazing story arcs, and is a lesson in writerly determination.

Marquita Hockaday asked two questions.
1. Alicia - how did you get such unique/sophisticated taste in music? Have you ever gotten a story idea from a song?
Alicia: I get bored with my music every so often and go on a new music search. Between Hubby and one of my drooling fanatic friends, they keep me with a lot of options. Also, Last.fm has helped a lot in that department. Since November 2009, I've heard over 2,000 bands through this app.

I do have a couple of story ideas based off songs and albums on the backburner. These are my "one day" projects.

2. What made you two want to have a blog together?
Miranda: Slice of the Blog Pie has always really been Alicia's! I'm sort of just a squatter. My 'Zombie Thursday' entries actually began as a joke. Alicia posted an entry that was a letter to her blog saying she though they should reserve one subject to talk about every week, like on a Thursday. Being the cheeky gal that I am, I made an anonymous comment with the name 'Blog' and suggested that every Thursday she should talk about zombies! And you can guess the rest... I have my own blog, but never write in it because I don't really have anything interesting to say. Fortunately, Alicia seems to trust me enough to hijack every Thursday or any other day I see fit! Over the last year and half we've had contests, and joint entry blog fest things, a spooky-themed month of October, and who knows what else in the future.

Alicia: See above. Miranda's pretty awesome about the zombie feature. It's actually the most frequented topic on The Pie.
Pete gave a word problem.
So, two trains are traveling toward each other. one leaves from new york at 7am averaging 50mph, the other from chicago at 9am averaging 45mph. what is the difference between llamas and alpacas? 
Miranda: Ooo! I know this one! Besides the obvious (Llamas have two L's in their name, and alpacas do not), llamas are bigger than alpacas and have been bred to be pack animals. Alpacas on the other hand are bred mainly for their fleece which makes fantastically soft yarn! However, both animals will spit at you when frightened or upset, so best to keep your distance.

Alicia: It's a known fact llamas can open doors. I'm not sure if this can be said about their alpaca cousin.
D also had a word problem.
You want to hire a temporary employee for one month. You offer him reasonable wages, but the employee suggests an alternative. For the first day of work, he will be paid a penny. For the second day, two pennies. For the third day, four pennies. The salary for each subsequent day will be double the previous day's, until the one month term is over. Ignoring the legalities of such a situation, would it be a good idea to accept the potential employee's proposal?
Miranda: Only if the potential employee is me! After one month I'd be set for like three years :D Fun math problem!! After day 22, I'd already have more than I make in a year. Holla!

Alicia: This is a fantastic idea. For me as the employee. I'm going to see if I can get this to work at the day job.

Keep asking us questions either in today's comment thread or yesterday's!
Last.fm hit of the day: Paralyzed by Rock Kills Kid

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ask Us Anything!

It's a hectic week over at The Pie, this might have everything to do with revision deadlines and convention recoveries*. This in mind, we're turning the blog over to you!

Say wha?
For reals. Ask Miranda or Alicia any question that comes to mind. We'll answer.

More complicated questions will take longer for us to answer, but we still will. You can ask as many as you want as well. One caveat: since this is an all ages blog, please don't ask anything intended for readers over the age of 18. Little Phantasma lurks here too, you know.

* And nothing with the failed rapture.
Last.fm hit of the dayRevenge is a Vulture by 3 Inches of Blood

Friday, May 20, 2011

Writing Crutches I Can't Live Without

What writer doesn't have some sort of ritual to get into the groove of things? I know, I know. The robot kind. Guess what? We're not talking about robots today. It's all about me answering Paper Hangover's Friday Five.

I'm forgoing the obvious things here like laptop, notes, and manuscript since it's kinda hard to write or revise without these. Instead, I'll drive down to the more specific items. Part habit, part ritual, there are certain things that can never be far from me.
  1. Scented candle. There's something soothing about the flicker of a flame combined with the fragrance of whatever Yankee Candle is sitting on my table/desk/bureau*.
  2. Comfy pants. The looser, the better. It's relaxing not to be confined by buttons and zippers.
  3. Music. Whether it's to set the mood or to filter out the noise of Hubby yelling obscenities at Call of Duty, music always plays a part of my writing and revision process. If it's not playing, you know I'm having severe concentration issues.
  4. Beverage. Diet Coke, iced coffee, water, tea, or Focus Vitamin Water. I need to have one of these with me at all times.
  5. Lap Desk. Lately I've been doing a lot of work on the bed and while my lap is useful, the desk is more stable. Besides, it comes with a super-convenient cup and pen holder. Not to mention a mini-lamp.

What is a must have for you when you're working on a project?

* This is all dependent on where exactly I decide my desk is for the moment. Of course, this is non-applicable when I'm not in the house.
Last.fm hit of the day: Summernight Horizon by Anathema

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The CDC Wants You to be Prepared!!

Zombie Thursdays is a weekly feature with guest blogger, Miranda. You can read more about her here.

With the Rapture fast approaching (remember, it is this Saturday, May 21st) and the possibility of the dead rising from their graves to create a zombie apocalypse, the CDC has posted a blog about being prepared for a widespread zombie attack.

YES. You read that correctly. The CDC, as in the officially government sanctioned Center for Disease Control. This is NOT a joke.

Well... sort of.

A few days ago, the CDC did, in fact, post an entry to their blog called Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse. In it, it describes the steps a family or individual should take to be prepared for a zombie uprising... or more importantly (and realistically) a true natural disaster. I have to give the CDC credit for this amazing tongue-in-cheek blog! If you had any doubts as to the popularity and influence that zombies have on our culture and society, I'm pretty sure those can all be permanently laid to rest (with a bullet to the head) when you consider just how significant it is that a *government agency* is using the hype of zombies to attract Americans to their site to learn how to really prepare for an emergency situation. Of course, the CDC humorously uses brain eating zombies as an example, but they also throw in more serious emergency examples, such as floods, fires, hurricanes, or other disasters that really do affect Americans.

And, if you still have doubts about if this marketing ploy actually worked... after the CDC posted the blog link to their Twitter account, the amount of people trying to read the zombie information crashed the blogs servers. As of now, it is dead. But hopefully the type of dead that's only "dead-ish" and gets back up again. Unfortunately, I cannot post a link to the actual blog (it really is crashed), but someone was smart enough to make a Google-Cache of the blog, which can be viewed and read HERE.

Although the blog is missing pertinent information about how to kill zombies, it does give great information about creating emergency kits and an emergency plan decising what to do in a life altering situation. Make sure you are prepared and that your family knows where to go and who to contact in such an emergency!

And this Saturday, I'll be spending my day in quiet solitude and prayer. Okay, that's a lie! In reality, I will be spending the day at Chicago's Anime Central convention, the largest anime and manga convention in the midwest. I was lucky enough to be able to perform there last year for a crowd of 700 people! This year, I'm just going as a regular old con-goer. If the world doesn't end, I promise to report back to all about my convention weekend!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ring that Bell

Every Wednesday, YA Highway asks their readership a simple question to answer on your blog. Once you answer, you link your blog in the comments for other readers to hop on board. This is Road Trip Wednesday.

Today's Topic: How do you reward yourself when you meet your writing goals?

That YA Highway is asking me this and that tons of people do reward themselves is maybe an indicator that I forgot something important along the way. I promised myself a second tattoo once I sign with an agent, but I have nothing in place for short term goals. It's almost too Pavlovian for me*.

In fact, I have no idea what kind of reward would be good for me.

Good thing you guys are here to help me with the problem. My goal is to complete my second draft of Phoenix Rising by May 31st**. Because there's only 13 days left to do this in and with at least 4 of those taken over by life, my reward needs to be wicked enticing. And cheap. And not food***.

I can think of three things:
  • Use a salon gift certificate and get a massage.
  • Get new sneakers.****
  • Catch up on the last six months of comics.
Yeah. Please help me find something that will make my lack of sleep more worthwhile.

* This may or may not have something to do with the nickname "Leesh."
** That I'm nowhere near the halfway point hasn't escaped my notice.
*** This waist line needs to shrink, not expand.
**** Not cheap, but a much needed item so I can work off said waist line.
Last.fm hit of the day: Nowhere by Murderdolls

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

NESCBWI Conference Recap, Part II

It's kind of hard not to get good advice when you're at a conference for three days. Even at the crappiest of conferences, you should be able to take back one nugget of information. Since I'm an avid note-taker, I have pages of information. Unfortunately, I can't share everything with you.

But I can share a few thoughts.

After reviewing my notes* from the weekend, I found some of the most memorable bits of information could be broken down into three main groups.

Plot and Subplot
"When plotting, list all possible assets, obstacles, allies, and rivals as they relate to your protagonist--you never know what can be used." --J.L.Bell

"Subplots come from your primary characters' secondary wants or your secondary characters' primary wants." --Sarah Aronson

Critiquing, Rejection, and Distance
"Listen with 'elephant ears' when being critiqued. This helps you be more open-minded." --Lin Oliver

"It's important to remember, they're rejecting your book, not you." --Jane Yolen

"Once I've finished a book, it's no longer my book, but 'the product.'" --Marissa Doyle

General Inspiration & Thoughts
"The hardest thing to do is keep butt-in-chair." --Tomie DePaola

"Have fun doing the work." --Lin Oliver

Hopefully I didn't step on anyone's toes by sharing a sentence or two. If I did, please let me know.

What's the best piece of information you've received from a conference?

* And my brain.
Last.fm hit of the day: Judge the Blood by God Forbid

Monday, May 16, 2011

NESCBWI Conference Recap, Part I

It's Monday, Lurkdom, and after my truncated week last week, the day job exploded all over itself.* You know what that means...

I'm still thinking about the 25th Annual NESCBWI Regional Conference I attended this weekend. I hung out with some fantastic people (Kris Asselin, Laura Pauling, and Heather Kelly specifically) and learned a bunch of stuff.

I come here to learn stuff. Care to share?
  1. It's nice to have a room to yourself. After the constant go, go, go of the conference, there was nothing better than heading back up to my hotel room and sitting in silence.
  2. Kidlit writers are some of the friendliest people on the planet.
  3. Networking doesn't have to be anxiety-ridden. When I checked in on Friday, I asked the lady at the registration desk what I needed to know. She said "say hello to at least five new people a day." What a great low-stress idea.
  4. We rarely look like our avatar. I had problems recognizing both Laura and Heather (neither of whom I met in real life before). Laura pointed out I don't look like my avatar either.
  5. The silver KISS-esque boots are still winners. The meet and greet on Friday night was a silver-themed** and I rediscovered my knee-high silver boots. I've never gotten so many compliments on a pair of shoes in my life.
I learned some craft tips and such as well. My goal is to share those with you tomorrow***.

* Eew.
** For 25th anniversary, duh.
*** Please note that, as always, Alicia's goals are subject to change due to life and whim.
Last.fm hit of the day: Burning Times by Iced Earth

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Flutter by Erin E. Moulton debuts today!

Hey, everyone! While it is Thursday and this is Miranda writing, I'm sorry to inform you all that today I will not be blogging about zombies. But the good news is that since most of our readers are writers and enjoy the Young Adult genre, today's entry is still for you!

When I was in college in Boston, I didn't really have any friends at my school. While I thought college would be a place where I'd meet people like me and finally find a group of people who understood me and "got" me, unfortunately I did not. But before you get a mental image of me as an emo loser sitting alone in her dorm room... okay, that actually would be a fairly accurate portrayal of how I spent four years in school. However! There was one person whom I did click with-- my friend and now author, Erin Moulton!

Erin was in my major and department for lighting design at Emerson College. I'm not lying when I say she was pretty much the only other lighting major that I liked! Fortunately for Erin, she abandoned lighting for writing. And a very good thing, because today her debut young adult novel, Flutter, hits shelves at a bookstore near you!

I remember sitting up in the top floor of the beautiful brownstone where Erin lived in our Beacon Hill neighborhood. While we should have been working on light plots and paperwork, we mostly spent time drinking tea while I listened to her character ideas and stories. I knew back then she was going to be an amazing storyteller, so it comes as no surprise to me that she is now a published author. Here is a description of Flutter--

"Big things are about the happen at Maple's house. Mama's going to have a baby, which means now there will be four Rittle sisters instead of just three. But when baby Lily is born too early and can't come home from the hospital, Maple knows it's up to her to save her sister. So she and Dawn, armed with a map and some leftover dinner, head off down a river and up a mountain to find the Wise Woman who can grant miracles. Now it's not only Lily's survival that they have to worry about, but also their own. The dangers that Maple and Dawn encounter on their journey makes them realize a thing or two about miracles-and about each other."

I highly encourage you to go pick up a copy of her book! I have mine on reserve at my local Borders, so you can expect a review soon and (if she agrees) hopefully an interview with the author! Flutter has been getting great advanced reviews, but I don't need other websites to tell me it is going to be a fantastic read!

And for a nice laugh, check out a blog Erin wrote a few days ago about the Stages in Taking Criticism and How to Deal!

Miranda and Erin in Emerson's Majestic Theatre, 2005

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Voice Behind the Curtain

Every Wednesday, YA Highway asks their readership a simple question to answer on your blog. Once you answer, you link your blog in the comments for other readers to hop on board. This is Road Trip Wednesday. 

Today's topic: If you got to choose a celebrity narrator for the audio book of your WIP or your favorite novel, who would it be and why?

I don't know much about audio books. Like, how one goes about picking the perfect voice. To be honest, I never give audio books much thought*, so it shouldn't shock you that I have no idea about any of my WIPs.

What I do know is that I like the sound of a badass. Like that scene in the Dukes of Hazzard movie** where Bo Duke is listening to AL UNSER JUNIOR: NO QUESTIONS, ONLY UNSERS as told by Laurence Fishburne. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the clip on YouTube, so to get Fishburne's voice, let's watch Sesame Street.

I'm not sure what I'd want him to read, but I'm sure it would be awesome.

One book I'm sure about was the topic of yesterday's post. John Cleese would be the perfect fit to the entire Sir Cumference series. This has everything to do with Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Do you read audio books? Who would you like to hear on an audio book?

* Sorry, audio books.
** I know, I know. It's sacrilege to like the movie after growing up on the show. However, the movie is great for what it is.
Last.fm hit of the day: Letting Go by Godhead

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When The Blog and The Day Job Collide: Sir Cumference and the First Round Table

If you follow me on Twitter, you might know I blog about math as part of the day job*. Every week I struggle to find a math topic that excites me enough to write three complete paragraphs on it. Thank goodness for the internet. If it wasn't for that, I'd never realize that there's a whole subset of math fiction.

So with the help of the Boston Public Library, I had a copy of Sir Cumference and the First Round Table in my hot little hands when I should've been revising**.

Image from Charlesbridge Publishing.
Sir Cumference and the Round Table is a cute story that takes place in Arthurian England. King Arthur and his knights have a meeting to discuss potential invaders to Camelot but have problems talking with a rectangular table in the way. Through a series of trial and error, they try different shaped tables but each shape poses their own problems.

What I liked about it: The character names and how they relate to circles. The naming conventions do remind you what the terms circumference, radius, and diameter mean. It's part of series, so you can follow Sir Cumference throughout Angleland*** and become math savvy while you're at it.

Also, there's tons of educational resources that tie into the book (and series). This is great for both homeschoolers and teachers alike. Below you can find some links to different lessons plans for this title.
Something you should know: If you're even the slightest nerdy about your Arthurian lore, you'll have to suspend disbelief. We know the origins of the table differently, plus we also know how many knights Arthur had.

Sir Cumference and the First Round Table does align with NCTM standards. For more information that, you can click here.

* Fortunately, all math topics mustn't exceed Grade 9, which works out fantastic since I stopped after Algebra II.
** That it's taken my three weeks to start round two revisions on Phoenix Rising is pretty pathetic.
*** There's a reason for the misspell. Trust me.
Last.fm hit of the day: Mourning Palace by Dimmu Borgir

Monday, May 9, 2011

Shiny Things

The Pie received another award*! This time KO dropped us the Blog on Fire award. It's shiny and reddish. There's no meme attached to it, so I'll acknowledge it and give you a few facts about fire before this goes onto the sidebar with the other shinies.

Fire Facts
  • In the US, there are 5 classes of fires that are based off what is actually causing the fire.
  • Boston is the home of the oldest continuously operating fire department in the US.
  • There are 1,080,000 hits about the flammability of vampires and only 323,000 about zombies.

In other news, I'm about a month away from my first ever writing retreat. The first ever Weekend of Awesome is taking place in South Carolina the first weekend of June. After the craptastic April, I definitely need a getaway to focus on writing.

Erinn and I have been working hard on the scheduling and Erinn has definitely kicked some major ass on the retreat bags. Even though we had a lot of initial interest, life and finances got in the way for most people leaving us with an intimate group of six**.

In addition to WOA, I also signed up for the New England SCBWI conference. Last year I had gone to the New Jersey one with Erinn and had a good experience, so I figured it would work to try out the one in my backyard. I signed up for a critique and tons of other stuff so keep your fingers crossed that something awesome comes out of the weekend long conference***.

What shiny things are on the horizon for you?

* I know, I'm shocked too.
** Which might be a blessing in disguise since it's our first one. Easier to work with.
*** As a general spaz, the crossing of the fingers is a huge necessity.
Last.fm hit of the day: Wait 'Til the Night by Truly

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Fives: Advice Link Up

Go to Paper Hangover. Go!
When I saw this topic last week, I huffed and sighed. There's no way I received five pieces of advice as an aspiring writer. I normally don't talk about my craft with people*. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I've blogged about this not once but twice in the past year.
  1. Read a lot of everything. Believe it or not, I got this advice from Madeleine L'Engle**.
  2. First and foremost, write for yourself. I've heard this a lot, but couldn't remember who said it recently until I saw Erinn's post today. Thanks Scott Treimel.
  3. Never give up. This I got straight from Jack Ketchum*** along with some other jewels.
  4. There ain't no road too long.
  5. There is nothing chocolate can't fix.

Okay, so I might have just made up that final one, but it does hold true. Right?

Also, if you're about to start querying, wouldn't it be awesome to have seven people crit your package AND manuscript?

Of course it would!

Go to Help Write Now and bid on the Super Crit package that me, Erinn, Holly, Pam, Quita, KO, and Susan have joined forces on.

* Except you of course.
** In the form of A Ring of Endless Light, but in my nonprofessional opinion, it still counts.
*** Finding Nemo also gives similar advice.
Last.fm hit of the day: A Crack in the Spine of The Gallant by Postmortem Promises

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Zombies-- Are They "Fun Guys?"

Zombie Thursdays is a weekly feature with guest blogger, Miranda. You can read more about her here.

I'm starting off the evening with a bad pun... "fun guys" versus "fungi?" Har har har! Although my titling skills may not be the greatest, the basis for my bad joke is actually pretty awesome!

Last week, I focused on how a zombie apocalypse might begin on May 21 of this year. Although unlikely, I suppose it could be a possibility. Well, this week (and probably next week) I am focusing on other *real* zombie cases that while they remain at a small level now, they may grow, mutate, and expand to infect humans someday. And then we should all panic.

I was straightening up my house today and noticed a sure sign of spring/summer-- an ant was crawling around! Ants are super annoying because you never have to deal with just one. There are always about five thousand more following behind the one or two you kill. In fact, certain types of ants can have colonies that number in the millions and are impossible to eradicate because they have multiple queens. Disturbing, right? The little ant I spotted today reminded me of an article someone shared with me awhile back (it may have even been Alicia!).

The article was first covered by National Geographic and reposted and re-reported by other various "news" outlets. In fact, some one you may have read it! But for those who have not, the basic discovery is this-- there are several species of fungus growing in Brazil that infect host ants and turn them into zombies!! The fungus controls the ants' brains and forces them to move to a location where the fungus has a better chance of growing. Eventually, the fungus takes over the body completely, killing the ant and sprouts out of the corpse. Before death, the ant will show outward signs of the fungus growth and can infect other ants that pass by. CREEPY. But so very true.

And this phenomenon doesn't just affect ants. Other insects can become hosts to the zombie fungus, including crickets and flies! In fact, scientists have only just begun to discover the various species of these fungi and what creatures they affect. One researcher claims this is "just the tip of the iceberg." It isn't so unreasonable to believe that there could, in fact, be a fungus out there that could infect a human and addle the brain so much as to create a zombie-like being. After all, you may recall that the voodoo zombie is "created" from a mixture of poisonous plants that grow naturally, so zombie fungus... not a huge stretch.

All the more incentive to get rid of the pesky little guys during these upcoming months! No one (besides me) wants to go to a zombie picnic... Hide your potato salad!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Random Notes and Books

Before I talk about books, let me redirect you to Help Write Now. This writing auction goes live today to help the South after Mother Nature kicked the shit out of it. If you want a more in-depth explanation, YA Highway explains it better. Myself along with a few blogging friends will be part of the auction in the form of a kick-ass crit package, so look out for that.

Onto the daily deal...

It turns out I haven't talked about a best of the month since February. This is in part because the series Sandman ruled my life for a month and a half, so I figured a quarterly review was in order*.

After devouring books 1-3 of The Mortal Instruments series in the last few days of December, I had hit a literary wall. Almost nothing I picked up resonated with me. I got bored easily. It's amazing I read as many books as I did**.

My top three books for the first quarter of the year are:

3. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, which I talked about here.
2. Dream Country, Sandman #3 by Neil Gaiman. As I said on Goodreads, this contains my favorite story from the series and totally reminds me why Gaiman is a genius.
1. Divergent by Veronica Roth, which I talked about here.

Okay, so what should I read?
Diveregent, of course. Seriously. Go forth and pick up a copy. It was by far the best book I read this winter***. Divergent hit bookstores yesterday. And as always, you can buy it online.

Next week I'll talk about my favorite book and album of April. Right now I'll share another Shoester disaster with you.

Not sure which critter is more disturbing. Thoughts?

What's the best book you've read recently?

* We'll overlook the fact I couldn't muster enough brain power for a thought out post.
** 23 if you're counting.
*** By winter, I mean January - March.
Last.fm hit of the day: Dreaming the Romance by Anathema

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review: Don't You Forget About Me

The Breakfast Club. Sixteen Candles. Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Weird Science. Pretty in Pink.

Who hasn't watched any of these movies and go "damn, that's me"?

Image courtesy of 123nonstop.
Don't You Forget About Me is a documentary about John Hughes' impact on teens worldwide. The documentary follows four directors as they road trip in search of John Hughes.

Throughout we get bits of interviews with people who Hughes' influence has touched. This includes the actors he had worked with during the making of these films plus directors of today.

What I liked best was the interviews they did with kids who were currently in school. Every one interviewed spoke to how the "teen films" that Hughes wrote spoke to them more than the current teen films today. This is because movies like the ones I mentioned on top tackle things we all went through without glamorizing it. (How many teen flicks have the perfect boy and/or girl driving the latest model car? Exactly.)

As a YA writer, this documentary was important. John Hughes was a pro at getting the teen dynamic down in a way that rang true for everyone. This is something we should all strive for. Remember: the key to a great YA story is to get the important details right.

I'd totally recommend this to anyone who has a love for John Hughes, pop culture, or great teen fiction.

Last.fm hit of the day: Wrath Within by Children of Bodom

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Cupcake To Wear

Today's post has been interrupted by life and not-quite-shiny things. Because of this, it's time for something random.

Image courtesy of Woot.
This is the print on one of my favorite Woot shirts. I think it's appropriate to wear when thinking about cupcakes.

Last.fm hit of the day: That's My Mom by The Graveyard Boulevard
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