Exciting News!

Hey everyone! I know things have kind of been dull around here for a bit, but I have some exciting news to share that'll hopefully liven things up!

For those of you who don't know, I'm a huge Lauren Oliver fan. I bet it's pretty obvious from my babbling "reviews" (if you can even call them that) of BEFORE I FALL and DELIRIUM. I follow this Lauren Oliver fan blog, Deliriously Falling. It's run by fans, but Lauren is pretty involved with it herself.

A little over a month ago, the head admin posted that they were looking for some new contributors to the blog. Being the great Lauren Oliver fan that I am, I though 'Why not?' and naturally applied. Then I went back to my own little life, and after awhile, honestly I forgot about it.

So you can imagine my surprise when I get an email from Ella (the founder) telling me that I was picked to be one of three new contributors to Deliriously Falling! Ah!!

Beginning in the near future, I will have a weekly post on Deliriously Falling. And the great thing about this blog is that it's not just limited to Lauren Oliver talk. Of course, that's what it's based on, but we're hoping to expand and add more general YA stuff as well, such as hyped upcoming releases and author interviews and such.

Stay tuned for more information! I'm super excited about this and I think it's going to be so much fun!

Go check out the site!


Waiting On Wednesday (4)

Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles

Luis Fuentes is a good boy who doesn't live with the angst that his big brothers, Alex and Carlos, have always lived with. Luis is smart, funny, and has big dreams of becoming an astronaut. But when he falls for the wrong girl, Luis enters a dark world he's never known, and just when he thinks he's got life all figured out, learns some disturbing news about his family that destroys his positive outlook on life. Will that Fuentes bad boy streak come out with a vengeance and lure Luis to live on the edge like his new girlfriend and his own father?

Continuing all the steamy romance of the first two books, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Simone Elkeles gives fans one more satisfying taste of the irresistible Fuentes boys.

CHAIN REACTION is being released on August 16th 2011.

It feels like I've been waiting for another Fuentes brothers story for forever. PERFECT CHEMISTRY is one of my all time favorite books, and RULES OF ATTRACTION is great as well. The Fuentes brothers just ooze sexiness, and it's going to be interesting to see what Elkeles does with the good boy Fuentes brother.

I love Simone Elkeles writing style, how she's not afraid to say anything. PERFECT CHEMISTRY was one of the first true edgy YA books I read, and I loved how real it felt. Some authors get the whole being a teenager thing wrong a times, but Simone does it perfectly.

I can't wait to fall in love with another Fuentes brother. I'm curious to see if Luis can beat out Alex's top spot...


Reading Influencing Writing

Everyone has their favorite authors. I'll bet your own writing is influenced by these authors more than you think. Of course each writer has their own unique, individual voice. But if you're aiming for a certain target audience, you tend to take a look at what your writing inspirations are doing right and what to shadow that in some way.

Two of my greatest contemporary fiction inspirations are Sarah Dessen and Susane Colasanti. I've been a Sarah Dessen fan for years, devouring all of her books and drawing so much from them. She finds a way to make you relate to every main character, and you fall in love with all of her boys. Susane Colasanti's writing is just so fun and modern. Her style is so unique, her plot lines fun, and her characters real.

Note the top shelf of my book shelf. Half of it is dominated by Dessen/Colasanti. And yes, I have two copies of JUST LISTEN. The one laying on top is signed! :D

My very first rough draft of Dancing Through Life (back then it was called Just Dance) was inspired a lot from THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER and JUST LISTEN. I'd tap into similar events and certain emotions and try to twist them and make them my own. The book is so different now from the original draft, but I really believe Sarah Dessen is one of my primary writing teachers. I've read my favorite books by her at least four times each, studying the characters and writing technique. Her books are truly contemporary fiction at its best.

Two years ago, I read WHEN IT HAPPENS. And I was all, who is this awesome author who says "all that in a bag of munchos." (I LOL'd hard when I read that.) And I loved the idea of multiple girl/boy POV, and actually getting into the boys head. This was the first book I'd ever read like that, and it inspired me enough to take my first finished draft and totally rewrite it into multiple POV, which ended up doing so much for the story! Thank you Susane!

Authors like these two are the reason I write. And ALWAYS after I tear through one of their books, I'm inspired to get on my computer and write a ton. They embody the kind of writer I want to be someday. Because while I like experimenting and having fun with dystopia and scifi, I know my heart is with the contemporary fiction. There are fads and trends such as vampires and dystopia (the HUGE one now), but a good love story with real people and real problems NEVER goes out of style.

Which brings me to what inspired me to write this blog. Another way I go looking for inspiration to write is by reading up on old inkpop comments I've received. I found this one that I got on Perfection is my Enemy, over the summer:

"I don't know if this will be a compliment or not to you but I mean it as a compliment: I can see your inspirations and influences in your writing. Like I'll just stop suddenly and think, am I reading a Sarah Dessen book? Or, that sounds like something Susane Colasanti would put in a book. It's not that you copy anything from them or even mention anything remotely similar to their books. It's something intangible in your writing style and character development."

Needless to say, I just about died when I read that. It's the biggest confidence boost EVER when a complete stranger tells you that when they read your writing, they think of your two favorite authors.

Who are your favorite authors? Is there anyone/anything in particular that influences your writing?


WIP Wednesdays (3): Expiration Date

Today I'm posting an excerpt from my newest project, Expiration Date. It's my first real attempt at dystopia, and I'm having a lot of fun with it so far. I'm roughly at the 11k mark with it. It's coming to InkPop June 6th, when I'll be doing a quadruple posting bonanza with Nella, Sharon, and Laura. So Inkies, watch out for that!

Here's a rough pitch:
They would’ve killed me already, but they said that death didn’t deserve me…
In The Community, your entire life is based upon your death. Everyone above the age of seventeen knows when and how they’ll die. Everyone is marked, their expiration dates tattooed on the back of their neck. Where you live and work is all determined by the Date. Prestige comes to those who will die young. People will do anything to get to The After, the supposed Eternal Salvation that death takes you to.
I, Scarlett Delacroix, was supposed to be the youngest person to die in over fifty year. I became a public figure. Everyone wanted to know the lucky girl who was set to Expire before she was eighteen.
But it all went wrong. I lived beyond my Expiration Date. Let me tell you, the government didn’t like me too much after that. They called me tainted, and exiled me from The Community. I was supposed to feel devastated for not being able to relish in The After. I was at first.
But then, just when I was so close to achieving death, Nate found me, and exposed me to a world completely different to The Community. No Expiration Dates. No talk about The After. Just a world focused on living, filled with people who are working everyday to expose the corrupted Community.

That's the general idea. Here's the excerpt from chapter one:

I’m supposed to be dead. Why aren’t I dead?

Disbelief and shock course through me. I’m alive. I’m still alive. I look at my reflection in the mirror, twisting around so I can see the black ink on the back of my neck. It dates June eighteenth of this year. The cause: car accident. A typical death, nothing extraordinary about it. The unusual part is how soon it was supposed to be. It’s only been six months since my seventeenth birthday. Six months since I got my Date.

My mother was ecstatic after I got mine. It’s considered an honor for your Date to be marked before your eighteenth birthday. A chance to visit The After while still youthful is something most people wish for. So though my cause isn’t noteworthy—the date I had is something most people dream of getting.

Except today is June nineteenth. And I’m still alive. To my horror and embarrassment—I can’t help but feel relieved. Sure, I want nothing more to relish in The After, like everybody else in the Community. I just wished that my Date wasn’t so soon. I accepted the honor with great pride, and knew how privileged I was to be granted the opportunity. To have a young soul live on in eternal salvation is the greatest honor of all. My name would live on the Community forever. I would be a legend.

I’m grateful for that—don’t get me wrong. It’s just… well, I want to spend more time in this world. I want graduate from Secondary School. I want to experience life on my own, away from my mother. I want to be in love.

Now, as I look in the mirror, I realize I might have these chances. My Expiration Date has passed, and I’m still alive.

What does this mean? Well, it means that The Sights can be wrong. Everything they say isn’t set-in-stone, like everyone believes. Or you could’ve done something wrong.

At this moment I don’t worry what the Community will think, or the things they’ll say. All I can think about is the fact that my Expiration date has passed, and I’m alive. I really shouldn’t be alive…


My head whips around. My mother is standing in the doorway, her mouth agape.

“Hi, Mama.” She works night shifts at the Medical Center, so she’s been completely unaware of my whereabouts. She was probably expecting to get a call at work last night. The call that was supposed to tell her that her daughter had been in a fatal accident.

I’m scared of what she’ll think. I’m scared of what I think. Because I think that I’m supposed to be alive. And that’s a dangerous thought to have around here.

“Why are you still alive?” she asks slowly.

“I don’t know. The Sights must’ve given me the wrong Date. Funny, right?” I say, forcing a light chuckle. I play it light more for my own benefit than for hers.

“This is anything but funny, Scarlett! Impossible is more like it. The Sights never make an error.” She’s nervous. Her only daughter is still alive, and she’s afraid. It makes me feel afraid as well. What will the Authorities do to me once they know? Do they know already? Of course they do.

They’re probably already on their way.

“I don’t know what to say. Maybe The After doesn’t believe it’s my time yet. Maybe they want me to have more time here.” I shrug.

The slap across the face I receive from the comment stings.

My mother grips my shoulders. “What have you done? You must’ve done something wrong! The Sights are never wrong! They weren’t wrong about my mother’s Date. They weren’t wrong about your father’s Date. They—” she stops mid sentence, choking out a sob. I know she’s thinking about my father. He Expired when I was five. Pancreatic cancer at age thirty. I don’t remember him much.

My mother’s Date isn’t for another twenty years. She’s said to Expire of heart disease at the age of sixty-two. An undesirable Expiration Date, in the Community’s opinion. That’s why she got stuck working the night shift. I know she misses my father. In the past she’s warned me that once I got my Date, I should be smart and fall for someone who will Expire around the same time as me. It’s less painful that way.

But I learned that you can’t help who you fall in love with.

“I’m so sorry, Scarlett,” my mother says, seeing the tears forming in my eyes. “I just don’t understand. You’re not supposed to be here. You’re supposed to be in The After.”

“But I’m not,” I snap. “And the only explanation is that The Sights messed up. I did everything right!” On your Expiration Date, Authorities stress the importance of just going about a normal day. Whatever you do, you’re not supposed to try to rush the Expiration from happening. It always does.

Well, except for mine.

That’s what I don’t understand. Yesterday was just an ordinary day. I did everything right. I went to school. Classes went by normally, apart from the Congratulatory Party that was thrown on my behalf. It’s been years since a student had an Expiration Date, and the faculty thought it was an accomplishment worth celebrating. Everyone had congratulated me, wishing me the best of luck in The After.

I thanked them all, portraying exuberance and acting grateful.

After school I went over my best friend Mia’s house, like I always did. Mia is still sixteen and hasn’t yet received her date. She can’t wait. Talking to her yesterday, I truly believe that she was jealous that I got to go to The After so soon. Then again, a lot of people were. And they should be is what should be my attitude.

I hugged Mia goodbye. She told me she’d miss me, but I promised her that one day we’d see each other again in The After.

Then I went to go meet Aidan at the lily garden in the park. It’s always been my favorite spot that time of year because that’s when the lilies are in full bloom. The beauty of the garden always strikes me, the swirl of vivid colors both beautiful and relaxing.

Seeing Aidan for what I knew would be the last time in this life was the worst part. I was handling everything else fine. But one look at his light brown hair that looked almost golden in the sun and the green eyes that sparkled whenever he got excited made me lose it. He wouldn’t Expire until he was forty. Forty. That’s so old.

He threw his arms around me and I melted into them. We didn’t talk much, just a few whispers of promises that were meant to be broken. I was anxious for The After, but at the same time I wanted to remember that moment forever. That was my biggest fear, forgetting. When I moved on, would I forget Aidan?

Maybe, that wasn’t the last time I’ll see him, I think.

When I tried to say goodbye, he wouldn’t let me. Instead, we parted with a “see you soon.” I don’t think even of us could’ve stood the finality that came with goodbye.

On my ride home, I did drive more carefully than usual, expecting that if the accident were to happen, it would’ve been then. I knew that my careful driving wouldn’t have been able to stop the inevitable.

And yet I made it home. This was what was so surprising. I was certain that when I’d left my house that morning, it’d be the last time I’d ever see it. Yet there I was, in the driveway of the small two-bedroom house that I called home, with its beige shingles and black shutters.

I should’ve been scared. I should’ve been disappointed. I was worried, but mostly about the shame. That was when I knew for sure that there was something seriously wrong with me.

Maybe they got the cause wrong, I’d thought to myself. So I proceeded to go through a normal night. I scrounged up a dinner with what little food we had. I ate it alone. I spent some time doing schoolwork. At nine o’clock I began getting ready for bed, and by ten I was asleep.

Goodbye, Community. Goodbye, world, I’d thought, certain I’d Expire in my sleep that night, and ready to embrace death with open arms.

And then I woke up.


I hope you liked it! Any thoughts would be so appreciated! :)


I am a hypocrite

Are you a plotter or a panster? One of the rather infamous questions in the writing world. Are you the kind of person who can just start of with an idea and a few characters and completely run with it, having no clue where your characters are going or how the stories end? Or do you have to sit down and meticulously plan out each and every plot point of the book before you can even attempt write?

I considered myself to be the ultimate pantser. Dancing Through Life was written completely on a whim, and I just let my characters form on their own. When I was writing a scene, I was totally in the now. I had no clue how the book would end, never mind what was happening two chapters from now. And it worked for that story, because I felt like the characters were writing it. Of course when I started it, I was thirteen and barely knew the first thing about writing.

I did the same "pantsing" process for Perfection is my Enemy. Even as I was writing the last few chapters, I never knew exactly how I wanted it to end. Because of this, I had a long period of writers block, because I had no clue where I was going.

Still, I preached the pantsing through and through. I tried REALLY HARD to plot at one point, and it just didn't work out at all. The most I think I've ever done, plotting wise, is character development charts. Whenever I tried to outline, I was left staring at a blank word doc.

Then I started Expiration Date, which is of the dystopia/thriller-esque, and discovered that plotting can indeed be your friend. Usually, when I get started on something, I go with a vengeance, and then the trouble begins around the 10k mark. That's exactly what happened with this story, and I realized that I need to figure out what's going on in this story's case.

So I opened a fresh word document with determination, and low and behold, I have the first eight chapters outlined. It's nothing intense, just about five or six bullets for each chapter, hitting the major points. It's really helping out with the pacing, and I'm finding that an outline may be just what this story needed.

You don't need to define yourself as a panster or a plotter.

In fact, I truly believe that it all depends on the story and the genre.

For me, contemporary fiction is easier to wing, because it's supposed to be real, and therefore the characters should drive and define the story, not the plot. With the dystopia, I need to have a sense of what's coming up and what's going on. I'm still leaving plenty of wiggle room, but this general skeleton is necessary.

Of course, there will be people who will always plot no matter what, and there will be people who will never plot.

And it is possible for the devout pantser to morph into a plotter.

Speaking of Expiration Date, stay tuned for an excerpt coming up in this week's WIP Wednesday!


Book Review: Water for Elephants

Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.

Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive 'ship of fools'. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

What got me about this book right from the start was the writing. It was incredible, and I was completely drawn into the story within the first twenty pages. The prose was wonderful. So touching, witty, sad, and smart, all at the same time.

The story starts off with ninety (or is it ninety-three?) year old Jacob in an assisted living home. It displays a man who while he may be failing physically, but he's holding on strong mentally. This 90 something year old Jacob is what drew me in the most right from the beginning, and I love how we continued to get these flash forwards throughout the entire book. These scenes resonated with me a lot, because it reminded me a lot of my grandmother, who passed away two years ago at the age of 91.

The majority of the book takes place when Jacob is twenty two, after fate threw him on the train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. And from there we are thrust into the world of a traveling circus during the early 1930s. The setting and time era were one of my favorite aspects of the novel. I love stories that were written during the Depression, and it was so authentic and just incredibly well done.

And, wow the characterization! Jacob is someone who you sympathize with and love right from the start. August is the perfect antagonist. I wished that Marlena was a stronger female, but being that it was set in the 1930s, I understand why she would have to be "weaker." Every character was so three-dimensional.

And then, there's Rosie. Adorable, hilarious Rosie. My friends have all read the book, and when we talked about it, we were all "I want a Rosie." The elephant easily made the book.

The book is full of twists and turns, passion and heartbreak, and the power of undying love.

Five out of Five Stars for Water for Elephants!

The Movie:
While I'm here, I just thought I'd briefly touch upon the movie, since I have seen it. It was one of the better done book-to-movie attempts. The acting was solid throughout, Pattinson giving a great performance in my opinion. Reece Witherspoon looked stunning... though whenever she spoke all I thought of was Elle Woods, haha! The set and the outfits were awesome, and all the animals were a joy to see. Love Rosie! It stayed pretty true to the book, and all the changes that were made did make sense. It's definitely worth checking out!

Waiting On Wednesday (3)

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Another town. Another school. Another Mclean. Ever since her parents' bitter divorce, Mclean and her father have been fleeing their unhappy past. And Mclean's become a pro at reinventing herself with each move. But in Lakeview, Mclean finds herself putting down roots and making friends—in part, thanks to Dave, the most real person Mclean's ever met. Dave just may be falling in love with her, but can he see the person she really is? Does Mclean herself know?

Luckily, I won't have to wait to long for this book, because it's being released May 10th! Wooo! I've been waiting nearly two years for a new Dessen book to sink my teeth into. And I love the concept of this book so much!

Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite contemporary authors ever. The first book I ever read by her was Someone Like You, and the story just grabbed me so much that I had to read more. And that wasn't even her best book, in my opinion. Soon enough, I had all nine of her books.

Sarah has a way of making you relate to the main character of each book in someway, even if you're nothing like them at all. And her guys... well you just fall in love with them. Wes from The Truth About Forever and Owen from Just Listen (I want to go on and keep naming more guys) are some of my biggest literary crushes ever. Ah, I love them!

I can just tell that Dessen's latest book is going to be another win, and I can't tell you how excited I am to read it!


It's May Already?

Whoa, dudettes... April is over. Why this is just occurring to me now... I have no idea. I feel like so much has happened this month... and with break in the middle, it just flew right by!

I have 35 days of school left. Just seven weeks... and then I'm not a freshman anymore. Woo! It's kind of scary though, because this year in general is seriously flying by. But I'm so stoked for summer. Anywoo, here are some April Stats:

Reading: I read nine books in April. Kind of on the low side... but the amount of writing I've done this month makes up for it. My top three favorite reads this month were Where She Went by Gayle Forman, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, and The Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon.

For May, I plan on reading The Awakening and The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong. I just finished The Summoning today and I really enjoyed it! Hopefully the rest of the series will be just as good! Other books on my radar are What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, So Much Closer by Susane Colasanti, She's so Dead to Us by Kieran Scott, and the Ruined trilogy by Simone Elkeles.

Writing: I seriously caught the writing bug this month, racking up a total word count of nearly 30k. 8k of it was for DTL. Initially, that was supposed to be my entire focus this month, but then I got inspired to work on Perfection, and ended up finishing that during my spring break, writing a total of about 22,500 in just that one week!

I'm going to keep working on DTL through May, and hopefully get it to the 25k spot by the end of the month. I really want to try to get back into Expiration Date as well, so we'll see how that goes. For now, I'm going to sit on Perfection for a bit, and will most likely begin a read through after school gets out.

Dancing: Dance is going really well! We had our first competition at the beginning of the month. My jazz class got Gold, a special award, best choreography, and High Point! So exciting! My hip hop class also did well with a Gold.

At this point, most of my dances are almost complete. My Advanced Intermediate Jazz and Tap dances are done, and we're almost done with ballet. We're nearly done with our competition tap dance, and it's possibly my favorite dance out of all of them. It's to I Saw Her Standing There by the Beatles, and it's just so fast and fun! My other hip hop dance is almost done too. So many dances! Ah, I love it!

This month I've began to notice a lot more traffic around the blog in general. More page views, more comments, more followers (2 away from 60.Woo)! Thanks to all my followers, you guys rock! :D