Tuesday, January 31, 2012

now on to the good things.

Last week, I chose the awkward route in joining SA Larsen's weekly YA Teen Tuesday meme:

I kind of bashed YA. Not in a *bad* way {I hope}. But there was some truth I had to get out up front, lest I lie through my teeth later.

Not all YA is my cup of tea.

So, now, the real question remains:

Why on earth do I continue to read and write it?


I believe there are two distinct routes in which YA can go {this is personal conjecture, by the way. I wouldn't go writing papers on it, or anything}.

First we have what I call, "The Twilight Zone." Har har.

Disclaimer: I'm not trying to fart all over Twilight, here. I haven't even read it; I don't have the right. But, let's be honest. After Twilight, a sector of the YA market exploded. Suddenly, focus shifted to the paranormal romances, the love triangles, the star-cross-ed-ness of said love triangles, and the abundance of hot people. After The Hunger Games, that focus expanded to include dystopian societies, their star-crossed-lover-triangles, and also their hot people. THESE ARE NOT INHERENTLY BAD THINGS. They are tried and true in marketing. We eat this stuff up. We have the potential to find great reads, here.

The truth of the matter is, however, that this is not usually my kind of "great read." I don't instinctively gravitate toward romance. I roll my eyes at most supernatural beings. I'm okay with hot people, I guess, but what about the rest of us?

And, frankly, dystopia is hanging on by its over-worked, under-fed fingernails {assuming humans are still allowed fingernails}.

This is what I would consider the popular YA world. Nothing wrong with it. Lots of people love it.

I tend to have a hard time with it.

The second route is, as Misha said in her comment last week,
"YA that doesn't try to be YA."

{Meaning, I think, the fads in YA.}

These are the books that I feel would have existed anyway, without the great big door being opened {I like the door, I promise I do. I just don't spend most of my time... standing in it}. I would place The Hunger Games here, though some might disagree. Harry Potter lives here. I would include recent classics like The Book Thief {seriously, who needs a fictional dystopian society when you could have Nazi Germany?}. Probably anything by John Green. Or Laini Taylor. Or Patrick Ness.

Books that came before the explosion belong here, too, of course. The Giver. I Capture the Castle. Life of Pi. The Goose Girl. Narnia.

{I have to come clean with my affinity for middle-grade. That might be why I have a hard time with the heavy romances. Friendship resonates clearer with me. I like for characters, even characters who end up in love, to have somewhat level heads.

I needed that as a teen, too.}

Obviously, I prefer the second route.

It's funny to say "YA that doesn't try to be YA," because I think these, in essence, end up being more truly YA.

Hear me out.

What is more essentially YA than the timeless coming-of-age story? Any YA book, it stands to reason, will touch on coming-of-age. But, from the books I've read, "The Twilight Zone" seems stuck, NOT coming of age, with characters NOT growing, NOT discovering who they are meant to be, what it is they are able to do. To fall in love and marry THIS PARTICULAR PERSON doesn't count. Not by itself. That is the arc of an adult's romance novel, not a teenager's coming-of-age {even if romance is a factor}. And that's why I don't generally like desperate teen romances. They feel dysfunctional, and they make me sad.

Coming-of-age, though? Whether two characters fall in love or not, I generally can't get enough of it {assuming the book is also well written}.

Makes perfect sense, really. It's the hero's journey.
Or, as I've been learning in The Plot Whisperer, "the universal story."

That transformation is what I love love love about fiction...
 and *especially* YA.

**I don't mean to imply that the two camps are mutually exclusive, of course. I'm just remarking on what I've noticed. I may very well have not been reading the right books. =]

Thursday, January 26, 2012

thoughts from the kitchen sink. or: the best way for me to do dishes?


So, for your edification and entertainment, here's what's going on in my head as I slog though hot, soapy water and partially deconstructed food chunks {yay!}:

1. Preparing coffee in a clear glas = way too much fun.

But I am easily entertained.

2. I cannot get enough of:

Seriously, my husband is likely rolling his eyes for all the times he's heard this video, emanating from somewhere in the house in the past week.

He could also be wondering, "I thought she was going to do the dishes?"

Lucky for me, he is, in fact, asleep.

Still... *sigh*

{not to be confused with its infinitely more awesome cousin,
*dance break*}

half-a-sink later:


Major news, you guys:

3. I met John and Hank Green in Phoenix last night!!





Vicariously, that is.

Thank you, Jess. Friends in high places, seriously.

{It gets even better.}
{Special shout out to Jeigh, as well.}

4. I've been reading The Plot Whisperer like a fiend, lately. A little, uh... new age-y, in some places, but  I can still {very much} dig it. 

new iphone case {via etsy}! whee!
In fact, I'm heading to The Necessary Evil* right now to get supplies for my shiny-new PLOT PLANNER! {I don't know if I need much I don't already have, but the ritual of "going to the store to get stuff" is immensely helpful to me. So here I go.}

*also known as Walmart.

That's all for now, friends.
Here's to a lovely and relaxing Thursday evening!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

i didn't know i was writing YA... and i'm still not totally sure.

Today, I'm participating in this:

more info here.
Hosted by SA Larsen at Writer's Ally. Want to join the team? It's as easy as blogging on Tuesdays about anything YA-related. ;) We'll see how well I can hold up.

So, confession time:

I did not know YA was a thing until I started reading blogs. In all honesty, I stumbled upon the microcosm quite by accident. Good thing, too, because my writing life has grown exponentially since then {about two years ago}.

And lo, the lightbulb shone. You know, that lightbulb. I had been fiddling around with the backbone of my story {which has changed so much in two years, I hardly recognize it... in a good way}, eye-deep in identity crisis, when it occurred to me.

My main character is 16.
Not 10.
Not 23.
Of course he's 16.
{maybe 14?}
{no, 16.}
No wonder I like those blogs.
I'm writing YA, too.

Commence euphoria.
Chase with more identity crisis.

Because, you see, here's my second confession, one I realized after a year and a half of total YA immersion:

I'm really not the biggest fan of a lot of YA books I've read.
Like, to the point where I had to call it quits.
For a while.

Is it because I'm no longer an actual teenager? I don't know. The few that I've absolutely loved are the books my teen friends like best, too.

Does it have something to do with the seemingly rapid pace of the market? Am I just a stinky geezer with unrealistic standards for what I read?

Whom is YA really for?

Recently, after finishing yet another book that was supposed to be OMGAMAZING, but was actually omgnotasgoodasitcouldandshouldhavebeen, I realized,

Maybe YA isn't for me?


Okay. Time to stop being dramatic. YA is not the problem.

The real issue is that I've been pigeonholing myself. Having a 16-year-old MC doesn't mean I have to write dystopian. My duty is to write the story that wants to be told, as someone other than me probably once said. I'll worry about the marketing later {if I ever even need to}. 

I can't deny that a ton of the YA books I've read truly are OMGAMAZING. Human beings carry different opinions and live different lives. I'm never going to love some books, and that's okay. I can learn from every single one I read. And, no matter how unenjoyable a book is for me, I will ALWAYS respect the person who wrote it.
How could I not, now that I know?

That being said... I have to admit, it's kind of nice to be reading adult fiction, right now.

You know. Just for a while. 


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

unemployed and it feels so... awkward.

I quit my retail job in May.
I spent the summer volunteering at Loucon.
Husband and I moved to Chattanooga.
Husband and I went on a cross-country adventure.
I participated in the Writer's Platform-Building Campaign.
My best friend was diagnosed with a grade II astrocytoma* in her left frontal lobe.
Husband and I went to New York.
I won NaNoWriMo.
I was in a play.
Christmas happened.
New Year's happened.
Several friends have come to visit.

My mom turned 61 {I'm not afraid to share, because she owns it}.
Katie's surgery didn't go exactly as planned, but she's okay.
She starts chemo and radiation in about a month.

And last night at small group, a friend asked how my job search was going.

What job search?

Ah, crap, I haven't worked in eight months. What a loser.

Well, okay. I've worked, but I haven't had a job. I haven't been paid for anything. And if this is what full-time writing looks like? It's a wonder anyone gets anything done {I am not a very productive being}.

I wouldn't mind getting a job. I really wouldn't {it might happen soon, actually}. But I'm not exactly chomping at the bit for one. It's a blessing, for sure, that I don't need to have a job right now. A luxury that makes me blush to admit. My husband works his tail off doing something he half-loves so that I can do what I full-love. If only I didn't fail at it, or dance around it, or gape at it, drooling and terrified.

It's true that I've accomplished far less, writing-wise, than I'd hoped to by now {and, no, I'm not counting NaNo}. Life, of course, has been crazy. But I'm not blaming life. I'm actually... thanking life? Or, to be more accurate, thanking the Lord for giving me this life. As jumbly and hectic and painful as it's been, there have also been great moments. Especially during the play. Things I wouldn't trade for the world, let alone a paycheck.

And so today?
I will clean the kitchen.
I will disconnect myself from the internet.
I will write.
I will inquire about a nannying job.
I *might* even go on a walk in the woods behind our house {oh yes, this one first, please}.

And I will practice telling people that I do have a job. One I love so much, I don't need to be compensated to justify it.

It's called being a stay-at-home writer wife. And if I can really do that with intent {hey-oh, there's my word}, won't it be so much better than throwing in the towel and jumping back into retail?


*I didn't link to any information about this because Katie has asked/trained me not look up stuff about her condition on the internet {or at least, not to tell her about it}. She wants her info to come from doctors, and I wholly respect that. Feel free to google it if you want, but you never know what you might find.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

my first roadtrip wednesday. or, hopping on the bandwagon.

In case you're a stranger to the concept, Road Trip Wednesday is a weekly bloghopthing hosted by YA Highway wherein, uh, they ask a question, and you answer it.


*This Week's Topic* If you couldn't use your own name, what would your pseudonym or penname be?

found here.
Well, YA Highway, I'm glad you asked.
Now, I'm worlds away from querying, let alone having an agent/selling a novel/actually having to worry about stuff like this, but it is something that continually picks at my brain.

Because, you see, my new last name?
Is a doozy.
Seriously, let's play a game. If any of you {who don't already know the answer} can pronounce Maughon correctly, using your best phonetic spelling in the comments, I will give you some sort of prize.

And my maiden name? I love it, truly I do, but when you Google "Julie Palmer," this is what you get:

I'm not even kidding, and that is one of the less-disgusting photos. I mean, I'm all for girl power, but body-building? Kind of looks bad on EVERYONE.

(Amusingly, on page 2 of the Julie Palmer image results, there was my own blogger profile photo. Haha! Things are already looking up.)

So, as you can see, the pseudonym/penname situation is one I mull over a lot. One idea I always go back to: nicknames.

I have a lot of them, and I generally love them. JP Maughon would be a wicked penname, if I wanted to go the initials/gender-ambiguous route. I've also always loved Jules and Jules P, but what would I match either of those with? Other than the enigmatic Maughon, I mean {which, don't get me wrong, would be ideal, just... difficult}. Another nickname I've had since birth is Dodie, but I'm not so attached to this one as a penname. Dodie Smith owns it, and I'll never be as brilliant as she was.

And, of course, my fondest nickname is Julie Bird, which is where Juliemybird comes from {I added the "my" because twitter already had a juliebird, and because of Mine That Bird and Calvin Borel* [hey-oh, Kentuckian here]}. I really, really wouldn't mind being published as Julie Bird... something. Palmer, I guess. Easy to pronounce, easy to remember. Fewer body-building connotations. I would miss the Maughon, though. Worth the confusion? Of course, it didn't stop Maugham... which Maughon doesn't even rhyme with {hey hey, I just gave you a hint}.

*if you have ten minutes to spare, and you don't absolutely hate horse racing, check out that video. The most amazing thing to me is that the commentators don't even see him coming.

So, there you have it. Lots of variations of my name, some easy, some mystifying. It would be fun to teach the world how to pronounce Maughon.

Then again, I could always go all-out pseudonym.


In which case, Ariadne Skunkwater. Definitely.

The end!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

new year, new thoughts, and news in general.


Ack, I never know how to start a blog post.
I mean, it comes around eventually, but it tends to take me a while.
Honestly. How does one START a blog post, without constantly alluding to starting a blog post?

Like, hey, it's January. Hello, January. You're looking rather... blustery. I'm glad for that, though. You are January, after all, and not... June.

Oh my gosh, I'm talking to the months.

Moving on.

So, I guess this is my proverbial, hey-it's-a-new-year post, wherein I talk about goals and resolutions and such. There's really no way around it.

{Hm. I could have just started there. Holy pants, I need to blog more. Then maybe I won't get stuck with the start quite so much. Because, you know, I will already be going. Smart.}

I have too many things to say, in general. Shall we continue in list form?

a} My new favorite writerly thing: 750 words! I wasn't going to make any cut and dry resolutions this year, but this is SO fun. Handy how I found it at this time of year, no? It's like a NaNo, but instead of shooting for 50k words in a month, it's just--you know--750 words a day. And if I write {at least} 750 words a day all year, that's almost 300k words written in 2012. If I limit those words to fiction, that's a LOT of raw material. Plus, when you hit 750, you get points and a breakdown of what you wrote, from mood to theme to most-often-used words. How could this not be awesome?

b} Shameless confession that you either already knew or probably saw coming: I watch a lot of anime. I just... had to make that known, again. For some reason.

c} It is high time to find a clearer direction for this blog. I'm thinking, like, planned, weekly posts, and everything. But not across the board. Because that would be very much against my floofy-headed nature. We'll start small, yeah? And, hey, if there's something you want to see more of, please let me know. Like, more pictures of my cats. I could probably swing that.*

*Please don't actually want this, because then I will have to comply, thus becoming
that girl who blogs about her cats and talks to the months.

d} In 2011, I read 50 books. Success! It was going to be a hundred, for, like, a second, and then it was 60, then I trimmed it to 50 in September when I saw how maddening the rest of the year was going to be, and then... I did it! So, kind of a success. And I thought, maybe this year I'll do the backwards of that and start with a laughably attainable goal, like... 17. I will undoubtedly read at least 17 books in 2012. But hopefully more. We'll find out when I get there. So far, I'm still chomping on the first one. Not because I don't love it, because I do, I'm just... worn out from cramming in the last two or three of last year. Ha.

e} Have you all heard of this One Little Word thing? I am intrigued. And thinking very much about a word to shape my year. Well, really, I'm fairly torn between two. I may just have to use both.

GRACE. As in, gracefulness, elegance, dignity. Because I tend to be sour when few others are looking, and it's time to change that.

INTENT. As in, with purpose, determination {but not in a competitive way} and focus. To go along with my sourness, I have a major lazy streak in me. After NaNo, when I realized that I had blanked on how to write with intent, the phrase really glued itself to my brain. As fun as that 30-day spree was, I don't want my whole life to become a blitz of unusable, sub-par days, no matter how many I accrue.

So, GRACEFUL INTENT, INTENTIONAL GRACE, or, just GRACE and INTENT. I think I need both. Is that cheating? Meh. No one's gonna lock me up for it. Yay for Two Little Words!

*end of the list*

Well, that was fun. OH! Some might remember a NaNo myth I once bragged to have unraveled. It wasn't that awesome. I had heard people talking about how they wouldn't be able to read at all that month, but I read a ton, and it helped my writing more than hindered it.


Kind of like real life, NaNo.

Kind of like real life.