Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Guest Post with Kate Avelynn + giveaway!

I can't tell you how excited I am to host Kate and help her spread the word about her FANTASTIC book, FLAWED. There are not enough words to describe my love for this book. Yes, it's dark. Yes, it's a touch taboo. And yes, it's incredible. It'll make you feel ALL THE FEELINGS. And that's exactly what Kate is here to talk about today. Writing about taboo/tough topics and making it likable.

And before the post, I'd like to thank Kate for taking the time to write this post and Heather Ricco for allowing me to be part of the blog tour. Now...KATE!

So glad to be here, Mandie! Thank you for having me on your blog today, and for giving me the opportunity to answer one of the questions I hear most: How do you write about tough, often taboo topics, and make them compelling enough to draw readers? The answer is deceptively simple: Focus on the characters in these tough, taboo situations. Let what motivates them drive the story, and make sure your readers see that motivation.
There’s nothing I like better than deeply-flawed characters and complex villains. I want to get under these characters’ skins, find out what makes them tick, explore what it means when I find that I identify with something inside of them. If I understand what makes them tick—what they believe in, what motivates them, what drives every action they take—I understand them, and maybe even a little more about myself in the process. There’s no greater equalizer than understanding. Even when what the person’s choices are wrong.
So why did I say letting your characters’ motivation drive the story is deceptively simple? Because to be able to write a character with more layers than an onion, you—as the writer—have to be able to put yourself inside that character completely. Feel what they’re feeling, think what they’re thinking—even the really ugly stuff. If you can’t put yourself in that place, chances are your character won’t be there, either. And if the character isn’t there, the reader won’t see what you want them to see.
There’s one scene from FLAWED that I think sums up James’s motivation for everything. He’s about to make a horrible mistake, and having to put myself in his mind for this was ugly, but his reasoning and his desperation to be enough for Sarah is clearer because I did.

James’s fury shifts to despair and he drops to his knees. “God, Sarah, do you hate me so much you had to fuck him in our room?”In the faint moonlight, I can see the misshapen lines of his face. The fight. “I don’t hate you. And I’d never purposely hurt you. I love you.”He shakes his head, his big shoulders trembling. “No, I love you. You’ve never loved me, even though it’s supposed to be me and you, forever.” He reaches for my waist and buries his sticky face in my stomach. “Why can’t I be enough? I want to be enough so fucking bad.”“You are enough!”
“I’ll never be enough and you know it.”This is horrible. More horrible than I imagined. I close my eyes and stroke his crusty hair, very quietly singing our lullaby.
His shoulders stop trembling halfway through the verse and by the end I think he’s humming along with me. I hope so. I scoot farther down on my bed so I can reach him better and because his lumpy face pressed into the bruises on my lower stomach hurts.
“I’m sorry about Leslie,” he mumbles into my shirt, which is bunching up around his face as I wriggle lower. “She doesn’t mean anything to me. Promise.”I couldn’t care less about Leslie and I am about to tell him so, but then he turns his head, moving my thin t-shirt out of the way with his big hands, and I realize how bad an idea it was to scoot lower. He nuzzles into my bare chest instead of coming higher into my arms, breathing me in and pressing his lips to my skin. I gasp and shove at his shoulders. “Damn it!” he roars. My hands fly to my ears because he’s right there in my face, tiny drops of spit flying. “Don’t you understand? Do you understand anything?

Was it tough to write? Yeah. Is it tough to read, even now? For sure. But does my heart break for him because of his honesty and desperate need to be this person for the girl he thinks he loves? Absolutely. I’m a firm believer that anything can be compelling if—and only if—the person who picks up the book can feel for the characters, even the villains. This speaks to a much larger topic of tolerance and compassion for individuals we don’t understand, but that’s a topic for another day!

And now for the prizes! Kate is giving a $15 gift card to either Amazon or B&N—your choice. All you have to do is leave a comment about taboo and tough subjects you’d like to see more of in YA fiction, along with your email address and which gift card you’d prefer. Today’s giveaway is open to International readers.

 Kate is also running an Ultimate FLAWED Fan Pack contest via the Rafflecopter listing below. Enter daily for a chance to win some really cool stuff!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I'm BaAAAaaackkkkkk and What's In A Name?'s been a while. Like..a really long while. I've had a few posts here and there over the past year but nothing about writing or what I've been up to or anything like that. And I don't like that. I'm going to try my best to blog more often. At least once a week. Today (tonight?) I want to talk about names.

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet. So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title."

To authors, names, or book titles, are a big deal. They have to be JUST right. But, what makes them right? It would be so easy if there was a rhyme or reason to things like this, but there isn't. It's all about imagination and luck. Coming up with the perfect name and then hoping that no one else is using right then or that it's not over used.

With Dream Maker (my YA spec fic) I went through a slew of names for my MCs (not to mention two previous titles...Dream Weaver and one of which I can't even remember right now...though I had it the other day). My female MC went from Madison to Meagan to Frankie to finally Avery. The male MC was originally named Lee but quickly became Mason and has been ever since. There is no changing his name, it suits him.

I have a few other book ideas jotted down and non have proper titles. The working titles are things like "High School Novel" (because it's an idea I got when I was in HS), "Another World" (about other planets), "Fairies Do Exist", and "How to Stop an Exploding Girl" (that's my two CPs favorite title). I suck at book titles.

Until it came time for my current WIP--"One More Summer". Last year No Doubt released a new album (FINALLY!!!!!!!!) called Settle Down. On it is a track titled One More Summer (gorgeous song...check the bottom of the post to hear it). I listened to it and this tiny idea I had in my head burst into something so much bigger. I had a clear view of a female MC and a love interest right away. All they needed were names. It didn't take long before I came up with Tyler (for the boy). It was a bit longer trying to find the right girls name. In the end I picked Devyn (can you tell I like boy names for girls?). And I'm not sure I'd be willing to change them (okay...push and book deal come to shove I may...but you get the idea).

So how do you brain storm for character names? Are they first and personalities later? Or are book titles easier (if so, we need to talk)?

One More Summer - No Doubt

And the acoustic version because I can't help it. It's un-freaking-believable!!!