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January 28, 2010

Wordle and a hurdle

Kate Hart
You've probably seen other writers posting Wordles of their novels. It's a great tool-- just cut and paste your text to see a visual of what words you use the most. Even mid-draft, I was able to see that "eyes" and "looked" are way overused in my WIP, and part of my editing will now involve a search and destroy for those terms. When this draft is finished, I'll post the Wordle for it, but in the meantime, you can also use it to analyze your blog, and I kind of like mine:

I'm wondering if it only does the first page, though. It seems odd that quilt and sewing aren't on here.

Posting here will probably be light for the next few days. We're expecting a massive ice storm and after the last one, we're taking our prep seriously. We have a generator for limited power (i.e. heat and a few lights), but no promises on internet access.

Be sure to check out YA Highway tomorrow-- I already have Field Trip Friday set to post, and I'll be looking for your best publishing-related Chuck Norris jokes!

January 27, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday: Favorite Book Covers

Kate Hart
Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the question on your own blog and leave a link in the comments at YA Highway!

This week we're collecting our favorite book covers. I thought it would be fun to compare picks with my husband, and it turns out our tastes are nothing alike. However, he's red/green color blind, and a bigger history nerd than me. So take his opinion with a grain of salt. :)

His choices:

I have no explanation other than armadillos are funny. Proof:

THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald:
He likes this one more for the story behind it, I think.

MOBY DICK by Herman Melville:
And I quote, "It's a bunch of dudes on a big dead whale! Look at it! It's awesome!"

"A skeleton smoking a cigarette? Come on! That's awesome!"

Obviously we disagree.

My choices seem to break down into categories. I haven't read all of these yet so I can't comment on how cover quality relates to book quality.

Teal and red

WAR DANCES by Sherman Alexie and IF I STAY by Gayle Forman


WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson and MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francisco X. Stork

Scenic and/or orange


Flowers. These two are weirdly alike.

WICKED LOVELY by Melissa Marr and ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy. I especially like the font on the Tolstoy.


THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan-- I'm sad that they changed it for paperback.
TWILIGHT, et al, by STEPHENIE MEYER-- Say what you want, but her covers are awesome. I hate the ones with RPattz and KStew on them.
BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl-- You can't tell from the pic, but it's kind of shimmery, too.

"I will cut a bitch"

WHERE WHITE MEN FEAR TO TREAD by Russell Means and FLIGHT by Sherman Alexie-- I LOVE the combination of modern vector art and traditional Indian imagery on the second.

And a few of my favorite younger book covers... which also tend to be blue, green and/or scenic.

LOST AND FOUND by Oliver Jeffers (I love love love love this book, especially when he hugs the penguin at the end-- cutest illustration EVER); BEAR WANTS MORE by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman (also some of the cutest illustrations ever); TIKKI TIKKI TEMBO by Arlene Mosel and ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS by Scott O'Dell.

Next week we'll be asking: What's the next big thing in YA? 

January 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: Motivation

Kate Hart
I have a stack of books beside my bed. It's roughly as tall as I am, or would be if the beta reads I have lined up could be physically added to the pile. But I'm not reading-- not one word until this draft of Refuge is finished. It's kind of painful, but apparently not painful enough, because I watched basketball instead of writing last night.

So! My genius plan: A Teaser Tuesday in which I tease myself with lines from the books I'm not allowed to read right now. (I'll leave out the beta reads since I don't have permission from their authors.) Votes for what I should read first are welcome!

LIVING DEAD GIRL by Elizabeth Scott
"This is how things look: Shady Pines Apartments, four shabby buildings tucked off the road near the highway."

"The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath."

PAPER TOWNS by John Green
"The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle."

WAR DANCES by Sherman Alexie
"The Limited

I saw a man swerve his car
And try to hit a stray dog
But the quick mutt dodged
Between two stray cars

And made his escape."

(I love this cover, btw.)

"I used to fly to the moon."

"Marcelo, are you ready?"

(I love this cover too.)

THE LOST CONSPIRACY by Frances Hardinge
"It was a burnished, cloudless day with a tug-of-war wind, a fine day for flying."

WELL WITCHED by Frances Hardinge
"For a wonderful moment Ryan thought Josh was going to make it."

ETA: Enter to win a stack of book literally taller than me by donating to Helping Haiti Heal via the HP Alliance! Lots of other cool stuff available too, like a signed John Green collection and a crit from an editor who worked on HP.

50 Book Challenge 2009

Kate Hart
I just realized I never posted my completed list. For posterity and my own entertainment, with favorites starred:

56. Rain Is Not My Indian Name-- Cynthia Leitich Smith
55. Candor-- Pam Bachorz
54. Break-- Hannah Moskowitz*
53. Eats, Shoots and Leaves-- Lynne Truss
52. Catalyst-- Holen Matthews (beta read)
51. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You-- Peter Cameron
50. Looking For Alaska-- John Green*
49. How I Live Now-- Meg Rosoff*
48. Cracked Up To Be-- Courtney Summers*
47. Trouble Is A Friend of Mine-- Amanda Collins (beta read)
46. On Writing-- Stephen King
45. Wicked Lovely-- Melissa Marr
44. A Great and Terrible Beauty-- Libba Bray
43. Thirteen Reasons Why-- Jay Asher*
42. A Certain Slant of Light-- Laura Whitcomb
41. Flight-- Sherman Alexie
40. Catching Fire-- Suzanne Collins*
39. The Forest of Hands and Teeth-- Carrie Ryan
38. Wintergirls-- Laurie Halse Anderson*
37. The Perks of Being a Wallflower- - Stephen Chbosky*
36. Speak-- Laurie Halse Anderson*
35. Wings-- Aprilynne Pike
34. The Hunger Games-- Suzanne Collins
33. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian-- Sherman Alexie*
32. Bright Shiny Morning-- James Frey
31. A Northern Light-- Jennifer Donnelly
30. Here's To You Rachel Robinson-- Judy Blume
29: Jellicoe Road-- Melina Marchetta
28: Making Shapely Fiction-- Jerome Stern
27: How Not to Write a Novel-- Howard Mittelmark
26. Just As Long As We're Together-- Judy Blume (rr)
25. Interview with the Vampire-- Anne Rice (rr)
24: Touched-- Cory Jackson (unpublished beta read-- and freaking fantastic)*
23: Wild Mind-- Natalie Goldman (rr)
22: Midnight Sun-- Stephenie Meyer
14-21: The Twilight Saga-- Stephenie Meyer (read each twice)*
13. Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City-- Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen*
12. The Farmers' Market Book: Growing Food, Cultivating Community -- Jennifer Meta Robinson
11. One Hundred Years of Solitude-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez (rr)
10. The Feast of All Saints-- Anne Rice (rr)
9. To The Lighthouse-- Virginia Woolf (rr)
8. Mrs. Dalloway-- Virginia Woolf (rr)
7. A Room of One's Own-- Virginia Woolf (reread)
6. Explorers House- Robert Poole
5. The Lovely Bones- Alice Sebold*
4. Sleeping Through the Night- Jodi Mindell
3. Eat, Pray, Love- Elizabeth Gilbert
2. Last Minute Fabric Gifts- Cynthia Treen and Karen Philippi
1. In Stitches- Amy Butler

January 22, 2010

Back That MS Up

Kate Hart
Among the worst moments in a writer's life is that second of horrifying clarity when you realize: Oh no. I just deleted/saved over/lost a file. (If you are me, this realization is followed with a string of expletives.) Frantically assessing the damage, trying to figure out how many words you've lost while you make contingency plans to throw yourself off a bridge... it's not a good moment.

It's really easy to avoid that moment, though. Here are a few different ways to back up your files that are all relatively painless-- especially compared to the excruciating experience of losing 8,000 words. Not that I've ever done that or anything.

Ridiculously Easy

Email: Just email the file to yourself periodically while you're working. Also a handy method because you can access your file from any computer with internet access.

Jump drive: So inexpensive that companies hand them out like pens now, and so small it fits on your keyring. Just be sure you're saving the file somewhere else too, in case something happens to the jump drive. Like say, losing it in your purse for a year. Not that I'd know anything about that either.

External hard drive: A larger and more expensive version of the jump drive. I have one that holds 1 TB of information and holds all of my enormous Photoshop and Illustrator files for work. We also back up our family photos and music there.

CD/DVD: You can always burn files to a disc, but it's not a good option for multiple back ups per day. Unless you're made of money. I sadly am not.

Slightly More Difficult But Just At First

Dropbox: I love Dropbox. Go to their website, download the program, and run the easy install. Save your work to a file in your Dropbox folder, and when you close the document, it automatically updates the file on their server too. Also very cool for working in tandem with other people.2 GB of storage is free, and additional storage is inexpensive.

MediaFire, Fileden, Rapidshare, etc.: Also a good free option for storing files online and exchanging with other people. However, most make you wait 20-30 seconds to download a file, and the ads make me crazy.

Slightly More Labor Intensive But Pretty Darn Safe

Freezer: My advisor in college was fond of telling us how he typed his entire dissertation on a typewriter, patiently redoing a page every time he found a typo, and stored the whole thing in his freezer in case of fire. I know most people work electronically now, but you might have some handwritten pages or illustrations you'd like to keep.

Fire safe: Not all that expensive if you only need a small one, and less risk of condensation ruining things than in the freezer.

Mom's house: If you just need to save an extra copy, you can always leave one in the safekeeping of someone else-- parents, friends, work, etc.

Safe deposit box: I know nothing about them except that they exist.

Free and Easy but Not Terribly Effective

Prayer: I mean, I'm not knocking the power of prayer in general, but much like its role as birth control, it's probably a good idea to supplement it with another method.

What did I miss? How do you back up your files?

January 21, 2010

Pavlovian Musical Responses

Kate Hart
For a lot of writers, music is a key element in the process. It helps set the mood, or motivate, or block out other noise so you can think. What I didn't realize until recently was that certain music triggers a Pavlovian response in me to write. Like, I hear the first few notes and think, "Where's my laptop? I need my notebook."

Then I started thinking about what other songs trigger instant reactions. A few results, in no particular order, are listed below.

Songs that make me...

Because they're I'm a total sucker for fantastic lyrics, as most writers I know are. Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos is amazing (but I used Scarlett's Walk here because I like the cover better). The Red Hot Chili Peppers' rhymes always destroy me: "Entertain ya" and "Pennsylvania"? That's genius. The Counting Crows' later albums get old, but August and Everything After had some fabulous writing on it. Maybe the all-time best: Second half of Abbey Road, just for overall kickassitude.

Move my ass:
I swear, it has a mind of its own every time "Hey Ya" by Outkast comes on. Other culprits include "Go Go Gadget Gospel" by Gnarls Barkley, "Dirty Harry" by the Gorillaz and pretty much anything by Ozo Matli.

Not exactly the same as dancing-- think heavy foot tapping, accompanied by head bobbing. The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Mississippi Kid" get me every time.

"Packt Like Sardines In a Crushd Tin Box" from Amnesiac by Radiohead. Just the first few notes make me scramble for a pen. The Eraser by Thom Yorke and several Zero 7 albums also help.

Dream Up Smutty Scenes:
*whispers*: Portishead, Sade and Bjork's album Homogenic.

Sing Loudly and Off Key:
It really doesn't take much, honestly. "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver, "Nonfiction" by The Black Crowes, "Two of Us" by the Beatles, "Hello It's Me" by Todd Rundgren, "St. Teresa" by Joan Osborne... this could go on and on.

Stare Off Into the Ether Like I've Lost My Mind:
"The Wolves" by Bon Iver and "Mercy Street" by Peter Gabriel temporarily rob me of cognizant thought.

Get Lost On Memory Lane:
  • Anything by Parliament, Herbie Hancock or James Brown, the soundtrack to my high school career. 
  • Behind The Front by the Black Eyed Peas, the soundtrack to many a college party. (This was pre-BEP sell out and massive suckage.)  

      • "It Doesn't Matter" by Wyclef Jean: When we studied in Oxford, one of our roommates was a pale, genteel Republican from Missouri who did I wish I could find that kid. Absolutely adored him.
      • "Sweet Thing" by Van Morrison: One of the songs on the very first mix tape my husband made for me in high school. (Awwwww.)
      • "Suite Judy Blue Eyes" by Crosby Stills Nash and Young: Because my sister, mom and I can sing a mean three part harmony when the mood strikes.
      • "Indifference" by Pearl Jam: Versus tour, Barnhill Arena, Little Rock circa 1993. My best friend won tickets and we went in our Keds and JC Penney flannels. It was AWESOME. This song was played completely in the dark, except for some candles and Eddie Vedder clicking his lighter to the rhythm. A completely perfect moment. (I used to have the shirt at right. Wish I could find it, too.)

      Drive Too Fast With My Windows Down and the Music Blaring:
      Not that I would ever break the law in such a way. "One Way Out" by the Allman Brothers, "I Might Be Wrong" by Radiohead, "Be Somebody" by Kings of Leon and the entire Guero album by Beck.

      Scream and Cover My Ears in Pain and Horror:
      So horrible I can barely stand to type them. "Locomotion" by Kylie Minogue and "Kokomo" by The Beach Boys. I literally writhe in pain until these songs are over.

      I want to see your lists! Leave me link spam! People who list "Kokomo" are dead to me!

      January 20, 2010

      Road Trip Wednesday: The Best Book You've Never Heard Of

      Kate Hart
      At YA Highway this week, we want to hear about the books you adore-- but no one else has heard of.


      Like a moron, I asked this question without having an answer of my own. I just started reading YA over the summer, and most of my other favorite books were AP Lit or college assignments.

      But then I was reading to my boys at nap time and realized: I have a ton of little gems on my shelves, they're just on shelves a little lower to the ground. None of these are from the vault, exactly, but they're all books I either a) thought I had discovered all by myself as a kid, or b) didn't read until adulthood, when my husband said "How did you get to be a grown up without reading this book?!?"

      CHICKEN SOUP WITH RICE by Maurice Sendak

      Exhibit A in the books my husband couldn't believe I hadn't read. Chicken Soup with Rice comes in a tiny four pack Nutshell Library with Alligators All Around, Pierre and One Was Johnny. All four are delightful. We bought the set for my niece and nephew this Christmas, prompting my oldest son to beg for us to read his copies every day for a week.


      Apparently this book has been re-illustrated since I was a kid and has a new cover, but it's purple (boo) so I found a picture of the original. My mom has our copy of this book, and I make my four year old read it every time we're over there at bedtime. The drawings are all silhouettes, showing the doctor pulling crazier and crazier things out of the boy's stomach. My husband finds it somewhat alarming.

      HAUNTED HOUSE by Jan Pienkowski

      This book is the coolest of the cool pop ups. I'm pretty sure there's an octopus in the fridge and a cat in the toilet, and I know the eyes in the portrait move. My husband also finds it somewhat alarming.


      I don't know about the stories, but this book had the scariest damn illustrations of almost anything I've ever read, kid, adult or otherwise. I would definitely hide this from my kids (and my husband) if I still owned a copy.

      GREGORY THE TERRIBLE EATER by Mitchel Sharmat

      Gregory is an average goat, except that he's a terrible eater. He won't eat his waxed paper and shoelaces because he would rather have orange juice and scrambled eggs. Eventually he learns to like everything, including, according to my son, "old tires and barbeque sauce machines." (Translation: Barber pole.)

      by Harry Allard and James Marshall

      If you did not like this book as a kid, you are at the wrong blog.


      I could never get any of my friends in elementary school to read these. Never! I still have copies of Fabulous Creature and Libby on Wednesday, both of which I accidentally stole from the St. Peters, Missouri library as a kid. (Sorry St. Peters.) I know I have detailed elsewhere how my best friend and I bonded over Libby and our mutual thievery.

      A few slightly older selections...

      A GIFT UPON THE SHORE by M.K. Wren

      I picked this book off the shelf at Walmart sometime in late elementary. I read it about twenty times, but not since, I don't know, puberty probably. So I have very detailed and fond memories of it, but no sense of whether or not it is actually decent. Same goes for PEOPLE OF THE WOLF by husband and wife team Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear. I picked it off of my grandmother's shelf because it sounded similar to perennial favorite CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR; I chose the other because Jean M. Auel blurbed the cover. Because when other little girls were playing Barbie, I was pretending to be Ayla, in my cave under our deck, making arrowheads with gravel.

      So I was going to beg for y'alls' help tracking down this book I adored as a kid, but in typing out the description, I suddenly remembered pancakes, which proved to be the right Google combo to produce:  OLD BLACK WITCH by Wende and Harry Devlin. Which I guess is funny, considering my current WIP deals in part with-- you guessed it-- witches.Who live in Oklahoma and are very outdoorsy... like Ayla... and the main character is having trouble adjusting to school... like Libby... and there are some connections to the local Native American tribes and their house creeps everyone out and there's some supernatural mysteries to be solved, like....
      yeah. I think you get it. I never really grew up. :)

      Head over to YA Highway and leave us a link to your own favorite unknown books!

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