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Veronica Rossi’s UNDER THE NEVER SKY

At the SCBWI FL Mid-year conference, I learned about Veronica Rossi’s debut novel, UNDER THE NEVER SKY. I watched the book trailer, and knew immediately I needed to get this book. Like, now. So I did what any other impatient reader would do: I bought the Kindle edition and, as soon as I could (this past Monday), I started reading it.

It did NOT disappoint! I fell in love with the characters–Aria and Perry are my new fave couple!– the world, and the story. It’s captivating, from start to end, and I couldn’t put it down. The only reason I stopped reading at 2 AM Tuesday morning was because my phone (w/Kindle) only had 2% battery left! I woke up at 7:30 the next morning and kept reading until I was done. It was that good.

This is the book description from Amazon:

“Since she’d been on the outside, she’d survived an Aether storm, she’d had a knife held to her throat, and she’d seen men murdered. This was worse.

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

In her enthralling debut, Veronica Rossi sends readers on an unforgettable adventure set in a world brimming with harshness and beauty.”

Okay, so here’s what I loved.

The characters: They were real. I loved the dual POV as it allowed me to get into both Aria and Perry’s heads. And the love story…swoon!!! The entire time I kept rooting for them, and I still am! But it’s not just Aria and Perry. It’s the entire cast of characters.

The world: what an intriguing world it is, and I love that she gives us just what we need to know and doesn’t bog us down with explanations that slow the story down. There’s no need for it (and I’m taking notes for my own story!) She creates a futuristic/post-apocalyptic world that is not, in some ways, too unlike our current one.  And she describes it vividly.

The story: I care about a good story, with a plot and characters that pull me in and don’t let go of me until the end, and even then, I can’t stop thinking about them. So much so that I have to pick up the book and start reading it, again. THIS is what UNDER THE NEVER SKY does. It’s the story of two unlikely pairs who are thrust upon each other, much to their dismay. It’s the story of fighting to survive. It’s the story of love conquering obstacles. There’s action and suspense and love and betrayal and sacrifice. There are surprise twists that leave you gasping, wondering, how can that be? It’s fast-paced, but it slows down at just the right moments.

One of my favorite lines: “She absorbed the terror and beauty of him and his world. Of every moment over the past days. All of it, filling her up likes the first breath she’d ever taken. And never had she loved life more.”

So now I wait and twiddle my thumbs and peek at any updates about the next book, THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT. My 2013 reading list is growing!

Blog, Photography, Ramblings

Peeking in…

I’ve been quite MIA here, I know. It’s been a whirlwind of a month, but a great one! From my son’s preschool graduation, to an amazing SCBWI conference, to staring an online YA Class with Mandy Hubbard, to getting accepted into Lynn Hightower’s Novel IV class at UCLA Extension, to a week in Orlando. Add to that summer classes ending and prepping for the new term that starts Mon (all during vacation), and you have a recipe for craziness. But I’ll come back soon, and I may just elaborate more on some of the above.

Oh! And I added my Twitter feed on here in case you want to follow me! I update that a little more lately. Something about bite-sized messages I can do from my phone makes it easier to update. 🙂

In the meantime, I’m sharing this pic from our trip. Hubby is getting into photography. He takes the camera everywhere and is always taking pictures of everything, especially nature and architecture (and he’s pretty good!). So for Father’s Day, I signed him up for a Nature Photography class. He was super excited! Anyway, on one of the afternoons after my conference, we took a walk. We were staying at Disney’s Yacht Club and the walk consisted of making the loop through the Boardwalk, where my son begged and begged for a disposable camera. He also loves taking pictures! We got him one and he spent the rest of the walk stopping with hubby to take pictures. In this one, two bunnies were in the grass and it was such a cute shot of them both, father and son, both with cameras in their hands.

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Blog, Health, Ramblings, Writing

Random Monday

1. I received Veronica Roth’s book Insurgent wirelessly into my phone on May 1st. I was going to wait, really, I was, but I couldn’t. I started reading at 5ish in the morning and, by the evening, I had finished the book. I had read the first book in her trilogy, Divergent, last year and was hooked on her story. It is similar to The Hunger Games in several ways, but, as much as I hate to admit it because I loved The Hunger GamesDivergent was better I think. So when I received Insurgent, I was hooked. Much of what I liked in the first book was there (the characters, the plot line, the world, the factions, and of course, the love story), but there was more action, the characters were developed further, and secrets were revealed. Now I have to wait until she finishes book 3, which I think is rumored to come out some time at the end of next year. *gasp* I have to wait a whole year! I’ve never gotten hooked on a book so early on. The HP series was almost all out when I started reading them, and The Hunger Games trilogy was also all out when I first read book 1. This will be very interesting indeed.

2. I submitted my writing sample and application for the Novel Writing IV course at UCLA Writer’s Extension Program with Lynn Hightower. I am super excited and psyched about taking that class as I’m hoping it will get me closer to my end goal: completing a polished draft of my novel by the end of the summer. Now I wait (have I mentioned how much I dislike waiting…?) and cross my fingers. I should hear back some time around June 14 whether or not I got in.

3. I also submitted the first chapter of my novel for a manuscript consultation at the SCBWI Florida Summer Workshop 2012 this June. I’m scheduled for the Novel workshops and have requested a manuscript consultation. I’m hoping to take away as much, if not more, as I did this past January at the Miami Conference. I’m nervous and excited about this. I’ve had manuscript consultations before (twice on my memoir and twice with great feedback), but this will be the first YA manuscript consultation.

4. I’m listening to an audio book: Sarah Dessen’s Along for the Ride, a contemporary YA novel. I know audio books aren’t knew, but it’s the first time I’ve ever listened to one! It was weird at first. I didn’t like listening to the book. But after a while, I got into it. I’m in chapter 5, I think. I’ve downloaded it to my iPhone so I can take it with me to waiting rooms and such.

5. Next Monday, I’m having my gallbladder removed. I’m a little nervous but more anxious to start feeling better. I’m tired of the nausea and pain and the inability to freaking eat. It’s gotten to the point where even the bland stuff I don’t tolerate. So while I’m not keen on losing yet another body part (lost my appendix when I was 9), I am looking forward to feeling better. It should be a quick and easy surgery and I hear the recovery time is minimal (barring any complications, of course). I’m also looking forward to some R&R and being pampered.

Blog, Writing

Progress

The winter quarter is coming to an end at UCLA Writer’s Extension, and, in a last assignment, we posted our “final chunk” of material we’d written throughout the course. I was again pleased and surprised at how much I’d gotten done; in the week-to-week writing, I don’t see the end result. It’s just another scene here and there, another exploration of character and motive, another development of the plot and world. But in this “final chunk” I’m able to see a tangible result of my hard work.

I took it a step further, just for my benefit, and I put together work from the last two classes, all on my novel, and I was happy: 24,297 words in 83 pages. Wow! This past summer, I still had only had a rough idea of where I thought I was going and two main characters. Now, I have a story! I have scenes. I know where the story is going and, for the most part, how it’s going to end, though I know at any moment, my characters can throw me a curveball. I have not only started, but I’m making PROGRESS. That’s one cool bean! It keeps me motivated seeing the end to the first draft.

Next week (I think) I might start reading it at my critique group.

On another, writing related note, I submitted two leveled reader manuscripts to an editor (crossing fingers and toes!) and read another one I finished at my critique group tonight. Making some progress there, too.

I am hoping the next month goes by quickly so I can get to May, when I’m only teaching online and when my son’s still in school so I can spend my days writing. Instead of one full day of writing a week, I can get at least four; oh sweet promise!

Blog, Writing

“Dual [writing] Citizenship” and other news

I’m in Chicago this week at the AWP 2012 Conference, and I have to say, I’m loving it (granted, it’s only my first day).

This is the first time I attend  such a conference (most of my conference experiences deal strictly with fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or children’s writing, in mostly workshop form. This, however, is a different experience. For starters, it’s no small event. There are over 10,000 (if I misremember the number, please excuse me) attendees, dozens of lectures/panels happening simultaneously across two hotels, and an impressive celebrity author lineup.

Additionally, though, this conference is great because it encompasses two of my loves: writing and teaching. The lectures/panels that are available broach a wide variety of subjects that pertain to writing and writing programs. The beauty of this combination is that, in one place, I can get tools or listen to conversations about the kids of writing that I do and the classes that I teach. It’s awesome.

The title of this post is in reference to one of the panels I attended today that was titled: “Dual Citizenship: Writing for Both Children and Adults.” It was fabulous and I think it really nailed a problem I’ve been encountering, a sort of snobbery if you will. We’ve been so conditioned to accept a reality of labels that we constantly feel the need to fit into one of those labels, as if writing could be contained in such a way. We don’t have to have just one writing identity (the poet, the fiction writer, the memoirist, the kid lit writer); it’s perfectly okay in embracing this multiple personality effect!

I know that when I get asked the pivotal question,”What do you write?” I stumble sometimes because, well, I like writing it all (though not necessarily all with the same strength)! I don’t want to be known just as a fiction writer or a memoirist or a YA or PB author. I want to write it all. I want to strive to be, like one of the panelists said, Julia Alvarez. Why settle for just one writing identity when you can have several (and be good at several)? It makes perfect sense. Still, whenever I do say I write more than one genre or for more than one age group, I tend to get an “Oh” with a glazed look, as if saying I just haven’t made up my mind what I want to write, that I have to find one niche and stay there.

Well, I refuse.

I enjoy writing. Period. So I will write whatever it is that turns me upside down, inside out. Whatever fills me with excitement. Whatever decides to be what I must write right now. Then, when I’m done with that, I’ll move onto the next project that again commands my attention. Because I think that’s what writers should do. Write what they just absolutely have to write and not what they think they should write. That, I think, should be one of the main writing commandments.

Blog, Writing

SCBWI Conference: Love

The thing I love about writing conferences is they provide opportunity–opportunity to improve skills, to network, to meet new people, and to showcase your writing. We’re a group of like-minded individuals, at different points in this writing and publishing game, coming together to talk about the craft and the business.  It’s wonderful! I usually leave these conferences inspired, ready to re-immerse myself into my project at hand.

This has been true in all the writing conferences I’ve attended, but it’s felt even stronger this time at the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) Miami 2012 Conference. Perhaps it’s because I have specific projects in mind, projects to which I’m totally and completely devoted and about which I’m totally and completely obsessed. Or maybe it’s because, like a fellow conference-goer said, anyone who’s writing for kids has to have a more nurturing composition. Or maybe it was because of the fabulous and inspiring line up of authors, editors, and agents. But it was fabulous. The intensive for Leveled/Early Readers, led by Bonnie Bader and Natalie Lescroart, was informative and it cemented my resolution in finishing/polishing my leveled reader MS. I also got some ideas for new stories, so I’m eagerly sketching outlines and notes. To all those who think writing early/leveled readers (especially the first level) is easy: it’s not!

I also loved Jill Corcoran. I came to her blog this past summer thanks to Catherine Ipcizade (who, I might add, is fabulous. She’s the reason why I’m now in children’s writing!) during a children’s writing workshop I took through UCLA Extension Writers’ Program (which, I might add, was also fabulous. Another post for another time.) Anyway, back to Jill Corcoran–her workshop was great and it reiterated concepts I’ve heard before while giving me new “food for thought.” It actually helped to take a look at my current beginning (for my YA project) and realize, I’m not beginning in the right place! I wasn’t brave enough to read aloud today (or rather, by the time I worked up the courage, it was too late), but hearing her lecture and comments was enlightening.

We also got inspirational talks from authors, agents and editors, and I made some new contacts and met some charming new people.

I plan on going to as many of these conferences as I can–it was that good.

Blog, Writing

Eye-candy or… a snack?

The project I’m working on now is YA which, I’ve come to find out as I trudge through writing the scenes, feels quite natural. I think the teenager in me (I’m 32 now) was yearning to be released and is ecstatic at this chance to shine. For my “research” in getting the voice just right, I’ve been tapping into the journals I kept back then, talking to my students, talking to family who is roughly the same age as my characters, and I’ve found that, for the most part, I’m pretty dead on (let’s see if that holds up!)

Every once in a while, though, I get caught up in terminology or phrases that I’m not sure sixteen- or seventeen-year-olds would say today.

Like eye-candy.

One of my characters is a total flirt. She loves boys and loves flirting and, in one of my scenes calls the guys she’s watching “eye-candy.”

In my Novel Writing workshop through UCLA Writers Extension Program (side note: UCLA Writers Extension classes rock! I’ve been so blessed and lucky to have had wonderful instructors who’ve provided much-needed guidance and structure in my otherwise crazy world), one of my classmates commented that “eye-candy” seemed a bit old for sixteen, which baffled me a little since I was almost positive I’d heard that phrase from students and my neighbor’s fourteen-year-old daughter. But for the sake of research, I asked some of my female students what terms they used when talking about cute/hot guys.

I got… a snack. This, according to my students, is what they’re now using to refer to cute boys. A snack. As in, he’s such a snack. What a snack.

Really? Somehow, that seems just as demeaning as…. I don’t know, calling a cute/hot girl something edible. Edible and cuteness factor just don’t seem to mix. Maybe I’m not such a teen after all! (Though, I have NEVER heard the teenagers on the Disney Channel’s shows call cute guys a snack!)

I wonder what other terms exist today that I’m not used to. Please share them if you know of any!