Sunday, January 31, 2010

January Recap

So my goals for January were as follows:

1. Write 25K words on any project(s)
(This encourages the 1K/day ideal, but also allows some leeway in case I get busy)

What happened: Fail.
I ended up writing just over 10K.

Excuses: I didn't know I was moving when I set my goals. I found out on the sixth, then I had to pack, purge and move. Kinda cramped my writing style. Not to mention I've been working like crazy to fund said move. Then I got sick. Overall, not a fun start to the year. February will be better, I'm sure.

2. Of the 25K total, write at least 5K on Blood Ties
(Because I really need to finish it, despite all the shiny new ideas calling my name)

What happened: Fail.
I wrote nothing on Blood Ties. BUT-- I figured out why I dropped it. In my outline, and in the first draft I wrote in that the antagonist did something mean to my MC. But once it was all down on paper it just didn't feel right. Then I realized: it wasn't mean enough for my antagonist. He would do something far more wicked. So. I know how it needs to be fixed, I have to delete a couple thousand words, but at least I know how to mend the story.

3. Write 10 blog posts this month
(This totally counts as #1)

What happened: Win.
I blogged more than I wrote. No to keep up the pace for the rest of the year.

4. Read 8 books
(At least one off this list, and at least one off this list)

What happened: Win.
8 books down, 92 to go! Again, just gotta keep the pace for the rest of the year.

* * * * * * * * * *

Books I read in January:

1. Wings by Aprilynne Pike

I liked the faerie lore in this one, and I liked that the main character was *not* a normal teen girl. Sometimes it's nice to read about the flawed, everyday girl that could almost be you, but sometimes it's nice to escape into a completely different world, where the MC is nothing like you at all. This was a good book for that, and I'm looking forward to the sequel.

2. Liar by Justine Larbalestier

What a trip! I went in saying I wouldn't believe any of Micha's lies-- and I didn't, at first. But by the middle of the book I couldn't tell what the lies were. I don't even think Micha knew by the end of it. I didn't believe Micha's "big" secret at first, but as it went along I almost wanted to believe it because it was just so interesting.

(Spoiler-- There's a scene near the end that takes place on the last night Micha was with Zach, and she's trying to muster up the courage to tell him something-- her "big" secret. I read that scene differently. I didn't think she was trying to tell him the "big" secret she told us. I felt like she was trying to tell him that she loved him, but she never got the chance because that's the night he died. In the very end she does reveal to us that she loved him, so maybe that was her big secret all along, and she finally told us the truth afterall.)

3. The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard

Not as amazing as I'd hoped. It was very well written, a nice story, and had realistic main characters, but it just didn't resonate with me. I did like the believability of it all-- the whole thing felt very real. My main problem was that some of the secondary characters and plots were only okay to me, and the whole mountain vs. flats rivalry was a tad over the top.

4. Powerless by Matthew Cody
I don't read too much MG, but this one I liked. The mystery was fun and the characters were great. I do still have some questions, so hopefully there will be a sequel I can pick up!

5. The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

This book lived up to its title-- it was dark and divine. I did not see this one coming, and I loved the surprises. Nice balance of paranormal and religion, without being super preachy. The ending was almost too perfect, but overall I still loved it.

6. Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
Loved this one. Possibly my favorite so far this year, or at least it's up there with Dark Divine and Liar. This is my first book by MJ, though I follow her on twitter and think she's hilarious. Her voice and humor definitely come through, and even though the story isn't in first person, I looooved the voice of it. Just great. (Plus, it was a free e-book. Score! Now I can afford Scarlett Fever which is just coming out!)

7. The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Kind of slow, but I prepared myself and settled in to read it so the pacing didn't bother me at all. Meyer is definitely a storyteller-- she has this way of compelling you to turn the page and you're constantly wondering what's going to happen to the characters. I enjoyed this book, but I don't think it has too much re-readability. I can read Twilight over and over again because it's all about the romance. But with The Host, I'm not sure I'd enjoy it as much or be willing to crawl through the slow parts now that I know how it all ends. I would pick up a sequel for sure, though.

8. Devilish by Maureen Johnson
I like the concept of this one more than I liked the concept of Suite Scarlett (which is why I bought this one months ago but waited till SS was free), but I think the voice of Suite Scarlett was stronger and funnier. Devilish is great, and has plenty of funny bits, but Suite Scarlett was a lot more fun, and I think that's what MJ is better at creating-- cute, fun, hilarious stories.

* * * * * * * * * *

Feburary goals coming tomorrow!

Did you meet your writing/reading goals for the month?

What was the best book you read in Jan?

<3 Kat

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Good Things Happen To Those Who Blog

We interrupt this (slow moving) Writing Process series to present a TRUE STORY from KAT'S REAL LIFE.

I always told myself that one day when I started posting regular book reviews, had enough blog traffic to mean something, and mustered up enough courage, I would write a note to a couple publishers asking for some ARCs to review on my blog.

Of course, after reading on blogs like the Story Siren about how many people ask for ARCs, my courage waned. I mean, ARCs are rare. They're expensive. Sometimes the authors themselves only get a few copies. Publishers want to hand them out to bloggers like Kristi at the Story Siren (with 1400 followers).

So when I wrote a post earlier this month about the top 10 books I was looking forward to in 2010, I didn't think too much of it. I knew most of my blog followers would read it, I hoped a couple of the authors might stop by (some did! Gotta love Google Alerts), but I never expected that one little blog post would draw one big publisher my blog.

The senior publicist of HarperCollins found my blog post by searching for Before I Fall. She noticed that the book was on my top 10 anticipated book list. And then-- get this-- she wrote me a lovely little email message me asking if I would like an ARC of Before I Fall.

I thought it would be unprofessional to say "HELL YES", so instead I wrote back saying I would love that, and she replied that she'd send it along. No obligations, no strings-- all she asked is that if I do choose to review it, to please forward her the link.

Needless to say, I'm thrilled. This is like a book blogger fairy tale or something, eh? Right up there with the dream that a rock star agent will be cruising unknown aspiring author blogs (because they always do that), read an excerpt they love, and send an email out of the blue requesting a full or something.

Anyway, that's my Awesome Occurrence of the week.

My advice for you: If you like something, let it be known. You never know who's out there listening.

<3 Kat

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Writing Process III: The First Draft

The first draft is my least favorite part of writing. Maybe because I outline the crap out of it, and the story holds no surprises (which I'll admit is a bit dull at times).

Maybe it's because the beautiful shiny idea in my head doesn't match what my fingers are putting on the page.

Or maybe it's because I can't seem to turn off my editor and just let the words flow, no matter how hard I try.

Most likely it's a combination of the three. Either way, the first draft is also the hardest part of the writing process for me.

I've come to peace with the fact that I can't turn off my inner editor, so I allow myself to edit and revise as I go along. Before I start writing I re-read the whole last chapter and whatever I've written thus far in the current chapter. I line edit as I go, checking for spelling errors, grammar errors, and sentence structure.

But I don't stop there. I edit the thing as if I were preparing to send it off immediately-- I make sure the dialogue flows, I pay close attention to repeated words, I cut unnecessary words, I deal with dialogue tags, I make sure I'm not using a passive voice, I make sure I don't have run-on sentences (like this one) or use 'I' too much (ditto). Basically I try to make it perfect. Even if it's chapter two, and that's as far as I've written.

Since I've already outlined nearly every detail, it's easy to keep some things in mind as I write. I ask myself: Does this add to the overall story? Is this essential? Is this necessary description, or does it move a character or plot forward? If the answer is 'no' I ditch it right then and there.

Does this take a long time? Yes. A hella long time. My first drafts are painfully slow-- I mean, I read and line edit for at least 20 minutes before I even get to the part that moves the story forward.

Is it worth it? I think so. When I finish, my manuscript will be very clean. I usually don't have to deal with a lot of rewriting/revising. After another read through or two I can send it off to betas, and then they can let me know what works/doesn't work and I take it from there.

In the end, I'd like to think that my "first" drafts are very polished, well thought out, and don't need a lot of work. But I guess you'd have to ask one of my betas to be sure :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Writing Process II: Outline & Idea Refinement

Hello everyone! I'm back for step 2 in my writing process! I strongly recommend you read Writing Process I before jumping into this because the examples will make more sense, but it's not necessary.

Since I already wrote a long post on how I outline HERE, this post is going to be about another side of this step in my writing process, something I call idea refinement.

Idea refinement takes everything I learned by asking questions in the previous step and clarifies it so it makes sense to the plot. Idea refinement also involves coming up with main and secondary characters, names, voices, and what part each character plays in the novel. I also need to figure out the ending: who is the bad guy? how does she catch him? what is the climax? the resolution? It also involves working out any little plot problems that arise as I outline (sometimes I have to write up several outlines, deleting/adding scenes, moving chapters around, that kinda thing).

For example, in the comments last post Eric asked:

If she has such a harsh reaction to emotions of neighbors, how is she going to be able to function enough to make it to a crime scene?

Um. Ha. See how it works? I hadn't exactly thought about or questioned that before, and in the outlining process it would come up (or maybe it might even sneak by me and I'd end up writing it in! Ugh!)

So now I have to think about how to fix this problem. I can downplay the effect the neighbors' emotions had on her by rewriting that scene, I can think of something she can do at the crime scene to mute those emotions (maybe she drinks, or does some other drug-- though I don't want to go down this route, so this idea gets scratched immediately) or I can try to explain WHY it works the way I made it. I end up going with this last option by deciding/refining the "laws and limits" of her ability like so:

The reason the neighbors' emotions seemed so strong is because she was not prepared. She was not expecting it. Had she been expecting it, it would be easier to manage. She could mentally prepare herself. Also, it's not that the emotions were crippling or anything, she just really did not like feeling the jealousy and suspicion of the wife, or the lust for the teenage babysitter coming from the husband. (Really, can you blame her?) So when these emotions started flooding her, she booked it down to the basement where the stone walls better mute emotion.

She would be able to prepare herself for the crime scene, though it would still be an issue. But I imagine that at a crime scene most people aren't feeling strong emotions of jealousy or lust, it would be things like: disgust at the murder, drive to capture the killer, and mostly people trying to figure out what happened-- all things she would probably be feeling anyway, therefore easier to manage than lust for a teenage girl. Does that make sense? I mean, if the MC were a teen boy instead, then the desire for a teen girl might not be so bad, but if the MC were a teen boy feeling the emotions of a teen girl crushing on an older man? Yeah, that would probably be awkward.

Then I need to figure out what happens in the middle: how are the people killed? why are they killed? what crime scenes does she go to? is there going to be a romance aspect? (probably-- that will be fun to write: are her emotions her own, or the love interest's?)

The most important question I need to answer is WHY. Why is she feeling these murders? Does she have a connection to the killer? All the victims?

I've had ideas: maybe the killer is a relative, so she is already connected to him. Maybe the killer is another empath, like her. Maybe all the victims are other empaths, and she has to find the killer because she's next? But that doesn't really explain why she is feeling these murders so strongly even though they take place all over town. Maybe it's just an aspect of her power so that she can use her power for good, instead of only seeing it as a curse. I would outline the whole story and decide on whatever ending I thought fit best. I would also brainstorm for other options.

Now, I've talked a bit about my outlining process, but I can still give you some more details. First off, before I outline I think about how much story I have and make a guess at the word count, and I outline by chapter. So, I have a YA fantasy story (The Temper) for the younger YA set (13-15) and I estimate that the word count will be about 60K. I decide how long I want each chapter to be (mine are usually long-- 4-5K) then I decide how many chapters I will have. For The Temper I decided the chapters will be about 4K, which puts me at 15 chapters.

In my notebook I number lines 1-15, then in each line I write a sentence about what happens in that chapter-- enough action/dialogue/stuff happening to fill about 4K worth. (Again, I go into more detail and give examples in this post.)

When I outline I make sure I have quiet and plenty of time to think and brainstorm. Sometimes I bounce ideas off my boyfriend to see what works, etc. I like to play the story in my mind like a movie as I outline, making it up as I go along.

Sometimes I have to brainstorm a lot to answer questions. In The Temper, the MC is a teen sidekick with a fairly unique though unimpressive power-- he can heat or cool non-living objects (melt ice, warm up coffee, that sort of thing). So it really was quite fun to brainstorm how he could use his power to save the day-- how can he fight off robbers brandishing guns? How can he rescue a woman from a burning building? How can he stop a bomb from going off and destroying the town? I had to think about it a lot, but I am very pleased with the answers I came up with! It's a fun story :)

Outlining is probably my favorite part of the writing process. Outlining and revising/editing (I can just hear all you guys crying out: "You LIKE to outline? You LIKE to edit? What is WRONG with you?) But I love figuring out the story, discovering the story and working out all the little details. I like knowing the story inside and out before I begin, because then as I go along I can add in more details. If I know a character is going to make a big revelation in the climax, I can put in well placed clues throughout, and that makes my first draft tighter and more coherent. I usually don't have to go through huge rewrites before sending it off to the betas.

All right, that wraps up this post! Next time I'll tackle Writing Process III: The First Draft.

How do you come up with your characters?
Do you outline the whole story before you start?
If you're a jump-right-in writer, how much of the story do you know before you begin?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Writing Process I: The Idea

So about a month ago I promised a series on my writing process. I figure I've procrastinated enough (which is actually step one, by the way) so let's get going!

I start with a flicker of an idea. My stories do not come fully formed. My characters do not pop into my head and refuse to shut up (that comes later). At first, all I have is an idea.

A character. (A boy with a lame superpower)

An outlook on life. (A bizarrely moral intergalactic bounty hunter)

A basic conflict. (A grim reaper falls in love with the man she was sent to kill)

A world. (Half blood mages and humans are being hunted and killed before they can further pollute the magic blood lines)

I take this idea and I start asking questions. (Imagine me taking Idea and strapping it to a chair in an interrogation room.) I ask: What makes this idea go from shaky concept to outline-able story.

A grim reaper falls in love with the man she was sent to kill.

How did the girl become a grim reaper?
Why does she fall in love with this boy?
Why was she sent to kill this boy?
Does the boy return her feelings?
What happens if the girl refuses to take his life?

But of course, with every answer, more questions arise.

How did the girl become a grim reaper?

She was dying and was offered a rare opportunity: act as a grim reaper and after X amount of lives, she will be granted life again.

Okay, so...
How was she dying?
Why was she offered this opportunity?
How many lives must she take?
How does being a grim reaper work?

Etc, etc.

To demonstrate how I really flush out an idea, I'm going to repost something I wrote up about a year ago. I was actually brainstorming and making this up as I went along, so you guys can see how my ideas connect.

* * * * * * *

I recently thought of a young female who was an empath. She feels other people's emotions so strongly she can barely live a normal life. So, how does she live?

She would have to live in solitude, or at least a very secluded life. But she would probably need a roommate to go shopping, buy groceries, etc.

What kind of roommate could she have? Somebody happy and perky- a cheerleader type maybe. Or maybe the roommate takes Prozac, and is always numbly happy so the MC isn't tormented by her emotions. Maybe she's a cheerleader on Prozac.

Now, what do these girls do to support themselves? The Prozac cheerleader comes from a rich family- she only has a job at a fashion boutique for the employee discounts. Her parents pay her way because she's going to college.

But what does the MC do? Well, she's turned the basement into her room/office. Sometimes when she goes upstairs she can feel the neighbors' emotions and it's not always numb or happy. Jealously, envy, hatred, sadness; she feels the pain of the world and at times it's utterly unbearable. So she stays underground where she feels nothing but loneliness, for that feeling is unavoidable. She takes college classes, online of course, and she manages web sites for an income.

Now, what could occur that would be a story worth telling?

She starts feeling murders. They're happening all around town, but somehow they effect her as strongly as they would if it happened in the same room as her. She can't escape the emotions- the terror and fear of the victims, the fury and blood lust of the killer. In fact, the emotions are so strong they pull her out of the comfort of her house.

She feels the killer's drive to murder as though it were her own, and she inadvertently ends up at the scene of a crime, where she meets a detective who's drive to capture the murderer is so intense it feels like her own. She's torn between the motivation to kill and the desire to capture the killer. While she would prefer to hide in her room and continue her detached existence, she knows she can't while the killer is still roaming free. As long as he is killing, her emotions will not be left alone.

She has no choice but to try to track him down. She feels as though she wants to kill the victims as much as the murderer does, and because of that, she knows where to find them. And she just might be able to catch the murderer- if she can control her foreign rage long enough to not go on a killing spree of her own.

* * * * *

So there's my basic brainstorm of the main character, a couple secondary characters, and the basic plot. It's enough information so I can outline, which I'll tackle next.

Until then, I'll leave you with a snippet of this (still untitled, still un-outlined) empath story. I wrote this not long after I did the live blog brainstorm. This is all I ever wrote on the story, though I do like the idea, so maybe I'll flesh it out someday and actually do something with it.

* * * * *

Slowly and quietly, I walked up the steps from the basement to the kitchen. It was nearly eleven o'clock at night, and with any luck none of my neighbors would be feeling... well, anything, really.

The florescent lights in the kitchen were dim compared to the bright lights of my room-slash-office. I may live in a basement, but that didn't mean I loathed the light and the sun. Quite the opposite. It's just hard to keep my mind straight and my emotions in check when there are too many people around.

I started rummaging through the fridge, searching for the perfect pre-midnight snack. But the refrigerator was almost barren; my roommate hadn't gone shopping for a week or so. Eventually, I found a container of lasagna hidden behind a case of diet energy drinks. Score.

I popped off the lid and flipped the container upside down onto a plate. I was walking to the microwave when I stumbled to a stop, my breath caught in the back of my throat. I looked out the window and saw the neighbors there, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, enjoying a late dinner together.

Oh. God. No.

Immediately I felt the wave of emotion crash over me. Suspicion, anger, jealousy- and on the opposite side of the spectrum guilt, nervousness... and excitement.

As if Mrs. Johnson knew I was there, she lifted her head and turned toward my house. With a barely audible squeal I ducked behind the window and felt my face flush. But this wasn't my shame I was feeling.

Looks like Mr. Johnson actually felt a shred of guilt over what he was doing behind his wife's back. In the bed they shared. With their daughter's teenage babysitter. And now Mrs. Johnson's wrath over the suspicion of her husband's infidelity was echoing through my body. My knuckles were turning white as I gripped the edge of the plate and tried to think calming thoughts.

I managed to breathe, and fight away the rage that was not my own. Fortunately, the guilt was fleeting as well. Mr. Johnson was already planning an afternoon tryst for the very next day. I could feel his anticipation as he imagined sneaking away from the office on his lunch break, the excitement of driving home and throwing open the door, the desire when he thought about ripping off the mistress' shirt and...

I dropped the plate. It shattered and the cold heap of lasagna splattered across the white linoleum. I turned away, ignoring the mess I had made. I couldn't sprint back to my basement fast enough.

I didn't breathe until my feet touched the cool cement floor. I took in several deep breaths, concentrating on my thoughts and my emotions. All I felt was relief, which was my own, and loneliness, which was also my own. The relief would pass, but the loneliness was inescapable.

I looked around the basement, surveying the windowless room that I spent at least twenty-three hours in on any given twenty-four hour day.

I was always lonely.

* * * * *

All right! There's my brainstorming demonstration.

Up next is Writing Process II: The Outline


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Random Bits And Pieces

Still in the process of moving, of course. Good news though-- internet will be up and running on the 12th, so I won't be deprived for all that long. I really really really hate moving. You never notice just how much crap you have until you have to sift through every single piece and decide: take or toss? It's exhausting. I hope I won't be doing it again for a long time!

That being said, it's kind of refreshing. It's like shedding your skin or something. You get to start anew, all fresh and clean.

In writing news, I'm getting excited about working on The Temper. It went up for critique this week on Critique Circle (you can find a link to my profile in the sidebar, if you'd like to read whole first chapters of some of my projects!) and so far the results have been so good! I've only gotten two critiques thus far, but both were raves. One even said he felt bad about critiquing/getting a credit because he was basically just reading and enjoying. I have no problems with that, the good critiques put a huge grin on my face!

I've been reading a lot lately too, chipping away at my gigantic TBR pile. I read Wings (it was good, definitely an interesting take on faerie mythology), Liar (Really good, though rather confusing. I didn't want to believe any of Micah's lies, but by the end, I didn't know what the lies were! I do have some theories which I'll write up at some point), and The Secret Year (which was good, but some of the secondary characters and secondary plots were kind of meh. It only took me 2 hours to read at 192 pages, but it felt like the story could have been cut down even more).

Speaking of books, here's a picture of my (organization-in-progress) bookshelf!


Oh, and I have a question. More of a general wondering. I was thinking about naming the breakfast cereal in my superhero story Heerios. Is that funny? Do you even get it? Is it just too ridiculous? I thought it up at 3 AM, so it's very possible it's not witty nor funny at all. My boyfriend says it's not funny, though that may be because I woke him up at 3 AM to tell him. If the context makes any difference, here's the paragraph:

When Connor woke Monday morning he already felt drained, despite going to bed at the very modest hour of nine o'clock the night before. He stared at the ceiling for a moment, then with a sigh that quickly turned into a groan, he dragged himself from bed. After inhaling two bowls of Heerios (the breakfast of heroes), washing last night's dishes, flipping through the newspaper for any interesting stories (there were none), and even making his bed, he couldn't put it off any longer-- he had to get ready for his first day as a sidekick.


Also, I have a whole pile of books I want to get rid of-- mostly really crap books like Buffy the Vampire Slayer fiction (yes, really), and trashy romance novels (not really re-readable), and just books I don't want anymore. I couldn't bear to throw them away, and the library wouldn't want them-- would anyone be interested in a Box Of Embarrassing Books Giveaway? Let me know!

Later gators,

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Involuntary Unplug Week

I'm moving!

Got the keys today!

Haven't packed even a little!

Sorta freaking out!


So, yes. I moving from my little one bedroom apartment to a beautiful three bedroom townhouse! The new place is great-- huge living room, awesome kitchen, covered balcony-- plus I get to use one of the extra bedrooms as my office. You guys, I'm gonna have an office! How cool is that?

But all good things are usually accompanied by a little bit of bad...

I will not have Internet. No blogs. No twitter. No Facebook. No procrastinate-y fun game sites. Nothin'.

This is very distressing, considering my addiction to the internet (no, that's not a joke.) I'll be on and off as much as I can, but I'm gonna try to schedule some blog posts ahead of time. Such topics may include but are not limited to: Fun Stuff I Found Whilst Moving; Embarrassing Books I Own; Wounds I Have Obtained Whilst Moving; I Can't Find My Crap In This Dark Abyss Of Boxes; Hey, Didn't I Used To Own A _____?, and more!!!!!

Now I leave you with some fun pictures of my new apartment! Yay!

My new big kitchen!

The cleanest the living room will ever be from here on out!

Living room and kitchen

You guys, I've never had a dish washer before! Plus, the apartment was just renovated, so I get a BRAND NEW dish washer...

... a brand new stove...

...and a brand new fridge! Woot!

Be back soon! (Hopefully!)


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Team Peeta

As you guys should know by now, I have some serious love for The Hunger Games trilogy by the brilliant Suzanne Collins. And as you may have guessed, I am Team Peeta. Very much so. Now, don't get me wrong, Gale is an interesting character and he plays a very important role in Katniss' life, but of the two I think Peeta is the better match for her. Let's dissect why I believe that, shall we?





Ahem. Now that that's out of the way...

Let's start with how our two leading men are introduced. Before Katniss' world changes drastically, we have Gale.

There's never been anything romantic between Gale and me... It took a long time for us to even become friends, to stop haggling over every trade and begin helping each other out.

Besides, if he wants kids, Gale won't have any trouble finding a wife... You can tell by the way the girls whisper about him when he walks by in school that they want him. It makes me jealous but not for the reason people would think. Good hunting partners are hard to find. (Both excerpts from Hunger Games, p. 18)

These passages tell me that Katniss depends on Gale and cares for him, but I don't get even a hint of romantic feelings from Katniss. However, I think it's clear that Gale loves Katniss, and I think on some level she knows this, even before he kisses her in book 2.

I believe that a great deal of Katniss' internal conflict choosing between Peeta and Gale is because she knows Gale loves her, and while she may not feel the same way, she cares for Gale a great deal and does not want to see him in any pain. Gale is also very close to her and very close to her family. Their relationship would be a "smart" match, as they compromise and get along well with each other for survival. But what if they didn't live in a world where people married so they could better survive?

Then Peeta is introduced as his name is pulled from the jar. And Katniss initially freaks out.

Oh, no, I think. Not him.

Why him? Then I try to convince myself it doesn't matter. (Both from Hunger Games, p.26)

But clearly it does matter. A little bit later, we have Peeta and Katniss being set on fire for the parade. They make a deal to rip off each other's capes before they burn to death, they laugh about Haymitch not being near open flames, and they hold hands as their chariot takes them around the loop. And at the end, Peeta compliments her.

"I'm sure they didn't notice anything but you. You should wear flames more often," he says. "They suit you." And then he gives me a smile that seems so genuinely sweet with just the right touch of shyness that unexpected warmth rushes through me. (Hunger Games, p. 72)

After this passage Katniss reminds herself that Peeta is planning to kill her, and that they are enemies. But isn't it odd that she has to remind herself? It seems to me that she's already warming up to him.

When Katniss first meets Gale, they act like enemies, they act like they are in competition, though there's enough wildlife to go around. When she meets Gale she is not in a situation where it is certain that only ONE of them will survive. It's not a competition. And still, they have a hard time learning to work together.

But with Peeta, it IS certain that only one will survive. It is a competition. But before they even get to the arena, Katniss and Peeta are becoming friends.

Peeta takes off his jacket and wraps it around my shoulders. I start to take a step back, but then I let him, deciding for a moment to accept both his jacket and his kindness. A friend would do that, right? (HG p.83)

Once in the arena, Katniss and Peeta risk their lives over and over again to save one another. Peeta teams up with the Careers to keep Katniss safe. Katniss goes to the "feast" to get Peeta medicine. When Katniss and Peeta are away from one another collecting food and Peeta does not return Katniss' signal right away, she freaks out. She's upset and yelling-- she's scared. She thought she lost Peeta, and that terrified her more than Cato does.

At the end of Hunger Games, Katniss refuses to leave the arena without Peeta. If her and Peeta don't leave together, then neither wants to. So they eat the berries, hoping the gamemakers will save them both, but if they don't, they both would rather have no victor than be the lone victor of District 12.

I think a lot of what Katniss feels for Peeta in the first book confuses her more than anything. She shouldn't be feeling for this boy-- this boy she barely knows, this boy she has been pitted against in a battle to the death. I think Katniss convinces herself that the romance is not real, that her feelings aren't real because she doesn't know how to deal with her feelings if they are real.

How can she manage loving someone so much when they could be killed at any moment? It's the same reason she doesn't want to have children. She doesn't want to love anyone because then they can be taken away from her. Loving someone opens her up to possibility of pain and heartbreak.

I want to tell him that he's not being fair. That we were strangers. That I did what it took to stay alive, to keep us both alive in the arena. That I can't explain how things are with Gale because I don't know myself. That it's no good loving me because I'm never going to get married anyway and he'd just end up hating me later instead of sooner. That if I do have feelings for him, it doesn't matter because I'll never be able to afford the kind of love that leads to a family, to children. And how can he? How can he after what we've just been through?

I also want to tell him how much I already miss him. But that wouldn't be fair on my part. (HG p. 373)


Out of the corner of my eye, I see Peeta extend his hand. I look at him, unsure. "One more time? For the audience?" he says. His voice isn't angry. It's hollow, which is worse. Already the boy with the bread is slipping away from me.

I take his hand, holding on tightly, preparing for the cameras, and dreading the moment when I will finally have to let go. (HG p.373-374)

Now let's get to why I don't think Gale is good for Katniss. Someone on Team Gale argued that Gale is a man, whereas Peeta is a boy. Gale hunts and works himself half to death to support his family. He's super protective of Katniss. But he's also possessive over her. Gale is a very strong character, I will say that much, but just because he assumes responsibilities like an adult, doesn't mean he is one.

In book 2, when Katniss suggests running away from District 12 to Gale, he is all for it. Laughing, hugging Katniss, telling her he loves her. Until he finds out Katniss wants to bring Peeta along as well. Gale gets all scowly and snappy at Katniss. His mood changes in an instant.

Then, when Katniss is thrown back into the arena with Peeta, we have someone showing true love for her. Peeta plans to protect Katniss no matter what. He plans to die for her so that she can go home. To Gale, if he is what makes her happy.

I realize only one person will be damaged beyond repair if Peeta dies. Me. (CF p. 352)

Peeta truly loves Katniss, and wants what is best for her, what makes her happy. Even if that's not him. Gale cares for Katniss too, but his love is selfish. He wants Katniss for himself, he doesn't want to share.

This is getting rather long, so I'll present my final argument:

In book 1, Katniss is brainstorming how to act as though she is in love with Peeta.

Never having been in love, this is going to be a real trick. I think of my parents. The way my father never failed to bring her gifts from the woods. The way my mother's face would light up at the sound of his boots at the door. The way she almost stopped living when he died. (HG p. 261)

And then at the end of Catching Fire, something horrible happens. President Snow has captured Peeta, and Katniss is feeling helpless because there's no way she can rescue him. So what does she do?

I give up. Stop speaking, responding, refuse food and water. They can pump whatever they want into my arm, but it takes more than that to keep a person going once she's lost the will to live. I even have a funny notion that if I do die, maybe Peeta will be allowed to live. (CF p. 389)

Hmm, isn't that how her mother reacted when her father died? Seems like Katniss fell in love after all.

Of course, I have a great deal more to say on the topic, so feel free to carry on the discussion in the comments.

Are you Team Peeta, or Team Gale? Why?

I'm especially interested to hear from those who favor Gale. Give me your best argument. Show me your reasoning. You probably won't convert me, but I'd love to hear your take on it all!


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Books, Books, Books!

I read so many good books in 2009, but my favorite, hands down, was Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

I was late to the game. When it came out last year, I only had enough money to buy one book, and it was between Graceling and The Hunger Games. I chose Graceling, and I loved it (I bought Fire right when it came out in 2009). But I didn't give Hunger Games a second thought-- until Catching Fire came out in the following September.

Everyone was raving. People were offering limbs in exchange for the new book. So I purchased Hunger Games and Catching Fire in my monthly book load, then put both into my TBR pile and forgot about them. Again.

One boring evening in October, I decided to crack open the first book and take a look. The first chapter was all right, I'd read it on before I bought it so I knew what to expect there. In the second chapter things started to get good... and by the end of the first section (you know the part, when the tributes are giving their interviews and Peeta drops that bombshell) ...just, WOW! I was totally hooked. I was seriously turning the page as fast as possible so I could read more. Seriously-- to the point that I was practically ripping out pages in my hurry. I finished the book in one sitting, at about two in the morning.

Then I immediately picked up Catching Fire and jumped right in. I finished that one, too. I don't remember what time it was, but the sun was rising. I promptly passed out. The next morning I couldn't get the books off my mind. So I read Hunger Games again. Yeah. That's how much I liked it.

I can't wait for the third book. I want it NOW and it's driving me absolutely insane! It is definitely at the very top of my list of books I'm looking forward to in 2010. And of course, there are others. Books are just... amazing. I love a good book. It's one of my favorite things in the world.

So without further stalling, I give you (in no particular order):

Kat's 10 Most Anticipated Books For 2010!

1. The third Hunger Games book, unofficially known as The Victors. The final book of the trilogy. It could go so wrong-- but I have faith in Suzanne Collins. I'm sure it will be a-ma-zing!

2. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. Shiver was another one of my favorites in 2009. One of those few books that was so strong and emotional, I cried real actual tears at the end of it. I think that puts the number of books that have made me cry at three. Really.

3. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. I love John Green (haven't read Levithan) and the premise sounds great. Can't wait to read this one.

4. Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. Love the wolf concept, love the take on the fairy tale, love Jackson Pearce's hilarious blog/vlogs, and love the gorgeous cover.

5. Zombies versus Unicorns anthology edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black. First, I'm totally Team Zombie. Second, a few days ago Justine gave away some of the zombie-writer initials on her blog-- LB, CC, AJ, MJ, SW, & CR. I have some guesses (which may or may not be correct) along the lines of Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Scott Westerfeld, Carrie Ryan. Hey, the initials fit! It could be them! And I'm certainly hoping I'm right!

Then, of course, there are some awesome 2010 debuts I'm looking forward to!

6. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. I love her hilarious blog and the concept is right up my alley! Plus HarperTeen has some of the best covers around-- I'm really looking forward to the big reveal!

7. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. Okay, this book isn't even out yet and already it's getting raved about everywhere in the blogosphere. I've even seen a couple bloggers list it as one of their favorite books in 2009-- and it's not even released until Spring 2010!!! (Those lucky readers got ARCs! Yes, I'm jealous.) But the concept is just so awesome. Can't wait!

8. The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell. I was already sold on YA superhero story with a male protag. But then throw in that the MC wants to be a villain (like his mom) then finds out his dad is really a goody two shoes hero? Yes, please.

9. Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken. YA (non-contemporary) fantasy is one of my favorite genres, and we just don't have enough these days! This book is already getting rave reviews (Again, lucky people with ARCs). Can't wait to get a hold of this one!

10. Anna and the Boy Masterpiece by Stephanie Perkins. Another author with a blog I love to read! It's a kissing book. It has an HBM. It takes place mostly at a boarding school in Paris. There are macarons! Le sigh.

What was your favorite book in 2009?

What book are you most looking forward to in 2010?

Soon (maybe tomorrow) I'll write up a post detailing what exactly I loved about Hunger Games and what I think is going to happen in the third book!


Saturday, January 2, 2010


Yay! It's No Kiss Blogfest day! Woo hoo!

Here is my excerpt. This is one of my favorite scenes from Blood Ties, and I planned to post in on the blog when I finished BT as sort of a celebration, but let's face it, that could be months from now. And I really do love this scene. It's a bit long, but I hope you'll like it all the same.

The setup: Elle, a sixteen-year-old mage, is learning a new spell with her friend-maybe-more Tristan, who is more practiced in magic than she is. Before long, things start to heat up. Literally.

* * * * *

Twenty minutes later, everything is set up in the classroom. The room is dim in the low torchlight, and we're trying to be quiet because everyone else is in bed. The most scorched mannequin of Abby's collection stands at the front of the room. Possibly it is about to become a charcoal briquette. I mean, we have jars of water, a heavy hide blanket to smother the flames, and a snuffing potion on hand. But I'm learning this spell for the first time, and more likely than not something will go wrong. I'll get too excited and blow the thing up. I'll set my hair on fire. I'll miss and hit the wall. Good thing the building is made of stone.

Tristan tells me the word for the spell-- Fivereo-- and I whisper it under my breath a couple times to make sure I'm saying it right. He shows me the proper wand movement-- a circular swish then a jab-- and I practice the motion with an empty hand.

“All right,” he says after a few minutes of practice. “I think you're ready to give it a go.” He hands me my wand. And then he takes several large steps back.

I shake out my shoulders and try to clear my mind. You need to be both calm and focused to do magic. Sure, yelling out the proper word when you're hysterical will work sometimes, but often spells backfire. Or don't produce the desired results. Or are so overpowered they obliterate the target instead of stun. This is why magic battles are always messy. It's unpredictable. Personally, I've never had a spell backfire. I will not do magic if my thoughts are too jumbled. And I've pounded that attitude into the kids as well. No focus, no magic. It's an easy mantra.

Now I point my wand at the blackened mannequin, take a deep breath, then do the swish-and-jab motion. “Fivereo,” I say in a quiet voice.

A meager little fireball no larger than my fist emerges from the tip of my wand and hits the mannequin square in the chest. The leather vest draped around it smolders for a few moments, then the flames die out and it smokes a bit before stopping completely.

“Um, well. At least your aim is spot on,” Tristan says from the back of the room. He's trying to sound encouraging. Though he would sound more encouraging if I couldn't detect the laughter in his voice. I grind my teeth together but don't respond. He takes a couple steps toward me. “Why don't you try again?” he suggests.

I tilt my head from side to side, wishing I could crack my neck so I'd appear intimidating and confident. My hair just swishes along my back, my ponytail sweeping from shoulder to shoulder. Very non-threatening.

“All right.” I lift my wand again. Repeat the swish-and-jab with a little more attitude. This time I raise my voice to a near shout. Put more power behind my thoughts. “Fivereo!”

A fire ball large enough to swallow me whole ruptures from my wand. The fire planet (because it's way past ball at this point) hits the mannequin and engulfs it at once. But the orb of fire is too big, and on impact it splits into a several smaller balls, which ricochet off the walls and bounce in different directions. As it turns out, it's not a good thing the walls are made of stone. Tristan and I duck and follow the flaming orbs with our eyes as they fly around the room.

A few of the fire balls bounce from wall, to ceiling, to floor and eventually die out. One flies to the back and sets the wall of maps aflame. One hits the bookshelf and the history section catches on fire. Secretly, this pleases me. I've been itching to burn those books from the beginning.

But then the last fire ball-- a wicked looking orange thing-- slams against the stone wall and rebounds, hurtling through the air directly at Tristan. It hits him in the stomach with enough velocity to send him flying back onto the ground. His shirt explodes in flames, and he scuttles backward, yelling at me for help. Yelling at me to do something.

“Do what?” I scream. My feet shuffle in place, not knowing if I should go to the jars of water, or grab a potion that will extinguish the flames.

“Put it out! Put it out!” he keeps shouting, batting at his chest with both hands.

Then I see the hide blanket draped over a desk. I grab it and run, blanket spread out in front of me. I dive on top of him, covering his whole body under the heavy leather. The weight of the blanket, the weight of my body pressed to his, it's enough to put out the flames.

He stops trashing about. Starts to breathe again, though smoky air probably isn't the best cure for a person on fire. I gasp and try to catch my own breath. Our chests are pushed together, rising and falling in sync, only the layer of leather between us. Our noses almost touching. Loose strands of hair fall in front of my face and sway back and forth in the wind of our gasps.

His lips part, and for a moment I think he's about to lean in and kiss me. But then he just moans softly and closes his eyes.

“Is it out?” I breathe.

He opens his eyes and bites his lower lip. “I-I think so.”

“That's good.” I say, but I'm still frozen in place. Still laying on top of him. Pinning him down. “Are you okay?”

“I think so,” he says again.

“Are you burned at all?”

“I don't know. You're kind of on top of me.”

“Oh! Right. Sorry.” I push myself off. Probably he won't notice my blush in the dim lighting. While he sits up and peels the blanket from his chest I busy myself by looking around the room and surveying the damage. The bookshelf fire has gone out, and the book covers are only slightly burnt. The maps are useless, nothing left but torn pieces of blackened paper that hang from the wall. The mannequin-- which, as I guessed, is now charcoal briquette-- smolders in the front of the room, glowing black and hot red. It's not so bad...

I turn my attention back to Tristan. The charred pieces of his shirt fall to dust as he moves his hands down his front, the sleeves the only part still intact. Lifting my hand slowly toward him, I brush my fingers through the tatters of his shirt and trace along the line of his chest. His skin is only slightly pink, no serious burns, and for that I am thankful.

“You're okay,” I say with a little sigh of relief.

“I am. Are you?”

“Oh, yes,” I say dismissively. “Tristan, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to put so much power behind the spell! I just can't get it right. First too weak, then too strong.”

“At least your aim is spot on,” he says with a little laugh.

I glare at him, but it's hard to be upset when really I'm just happy Tristan is still in one non-cooked piece. I'm trying to think of a comeback when the mannequin falls over and bursts into a cloud of ash. I hope Abby wasn't particularly fond of that one.

* * * * *

Reading this kinda makes me want to jump back into BT. Unfortunately, the bit I'm at now is not all magic and romance. Now I'm getting to the gritty parts, and I do hate being mean to my characters. Does Elle have to save the world? Can't she just make out with Tristan all the time? No? Drat.

See you soon!

Friday, January 1, 2010

January Goalsies

Welcome to the new year! I'm actually typing this up ahead of time (something I rarely do!) so technically I'm broadcasting from the past! OooOOoohhh creepy.

Anyway, onto the good stuff. My monthly goals for January.

1. Write 25K words on any project(s)
(This encourages the 1K/day ideal, but also allows some leeway in case I get busy)

2. Of the 25K total, write at least 5K on Blood Ties
(Because I really need to finish it, despite all the shiny new ideas calling my name)

3. Write 10 blog posts this month
(This totally counts as #1)

4. Read 8 books
(At least one off this list, and at least one off this list)

Current projects and starting word counts:
Blood Ties @ 61,295
Temper @ 10,601

That was easy. Nice, short list, but still plenty to keep me busy! Of course, later on this year I'll have much longer goal lists. Once I start juggling several other projects-- one to write on, one to revise, one to query, etc. So this month I'm taking it pretty easy. See, I kinda want to succeed, and I figured pushing myself like crazy right away wouldn't help that much.

What are your writing/reading goals this month?