Thursday, May 31, 2012

Blog changes and sucking.

First, have you entered my 200 follower giveaway yet? You should!

And yes, I have changed my blog's URL. When I first started the blog, I thought the title of your blog was supposed to be your URL also. Turns out it doesn't have to. And after thinking about it, I wanted my name in my blog URL. Of course, getting anything just plain Jenna Cooper is impossible, despite my childhood belief that NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD IS NAMED JENNA (this was pre-Bush administration, and involves my siblings, a haircut store, and stickers). Anyway. So, voila, I now have There may be other Jenna Coopers, but I am the only writer (maybe).

And I feel like sharing this video right now, because I also need this one. It's from the time when Maureen Johnson stepped in for John Green for the vlogbrother videos when he was on paternity leave. Basically: it's ok to suck.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


This giveaway is now closed!
This weekend I hit and passed the 200 follower mark. Thank you all of my lovely followers for following, reading, and commenting. I've had such a fun time writing this blog, I'm glad others find it worthwhile to follow. :)

I like to do giveaways and such. I've done it once before for when I hit 100 followers. Right now I don't have anything to giveaway. I might in a while, but for now I don't. So, for my 200 follower giveaway, I'm going to...give you an option!

Showcase #1: A 25-page critique of your work (excluding any erotic scene). But other than that, it's fair game.
Showcase #2: This one you'll need to wait for. But it might be what you want. I'll be going to the Fierce Reads Tour leg in San Diego, where several debut authors are coming, including Marissa Meyer, Anna Banks, and others. Head here to see who'll be there. I will also be attending Kiersten White's book launch for Endlessly which means you can get any of the Paranormalcy trilogy signed. Also. I might be able to go to the Dark Days Tour which has Veronica Roth, Dan Wells, Aprilynne Pike, and S.J. Kincaid attending. This is where it gets a little complicated. If you want a book by one of those four authors, I can do my best to get there and get a book signed for you, and if I can't make it, you can take the 25-page critique or a book signed by Kiersten White (the Fierce Reads Tour is before this).
The winner will be chosen and announced next week on June 5, so get your entry in before that!
Got it?
I'll admit, I tried to do the whole rafflecopter thing and I just ended up confused. So it's back to my trusty google doc form!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Book Review: Slide by Jill Hathaway

Title: Slide
Author: Jill Hathaway
Publisher: Balzer and Bray
Genre: YA (paranormal)
Why I read it/how I found it: Read it as part of the 2012 Debut Authors Challenge.

Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body. 

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane. 

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.

Well, let's start off with the good. I think that Vee's voice is spot-on for a teenager. Realistic, yet not over-the-top. It probably helps that Hathaway's a high school teacher, I definitely think she's able to insert herself into the mind of a teenage girl very well. I liked a lot of the characters, mostly Vee, Rollins, and Mattie (who I didn't think I'd like at the start). And this concept of sliding is very interesting, so it was fun to explore that.

Okay, well, the plot doesn't go along so well. I didn't expect who the murderer would be, but that's because the story of why this is happening is way too far-fetched to be believable. I want to have an "aha! So that's it!" moment when the killer is revealed, but instead I got an "oh...that's it?"
Also, there were a lot of cliches in here for me. Vee used to be a popular cheerleader, but now she hangs with the social outcasts and her baby sister's the popular one. Her mom's died from cancer and her dad's a doctor and buries himself in his work so he's not available for his daughters. I guess I just wanted more, you know?

Other information: There's going to be a sequel to Slide titled Imposter. Jill Hathaway's blog is here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What writers do: Kid History style

I just have to share this video that we were shown at LDStorymakers Conference this year. It is hilarious.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Girl says "go." Boy says "no."

I want to start off this post by saying everyone's life choices are theirs and I recognize that and don't expect people to live my standards because they're mine and not everyone's.

Ok. Everyone agree on that? Yes?

I finished reading a book last night. Toward the end of the book, our heroine and hero have no choice but to share a hotel room. The boy decides to sleep on the floor. Our heroine says, "Oh hey. You should come sleep in the bed. Without your clothes on." *eyebrow wiggle* Boy denies. Girl protests. Their arguments goes round in circles, but in the end, our young brave hero does not give in (even though he's probably already slept with a girl) because this girl is different and he loves her, so he won't sleep with her. Our heroine gets all huffy and angsty and wonders if he won't sleep with her because she has small breasts.

I'm wondering if you can place this book with just this information or if you've seen this often enough in YA books that a few are running through your mind. Granted, it isn't as common as a love triangle, but I can think of quite a few YA books that have this kind of scenario. Did it phase me the first time? No, not really. But for some reason, this past book it did. Because I've read this so many times now, I'm starting to worry about this scene getting repeated so often.

Now, here's the thing. I don't think that reading a situation once will normalize it for a reader. So if one book has a character making a decision that I wouldn't want my younger cousin to make, usually I won't get up-in-arms about it. But the situation above alarms me because I worry it's becoming normalized.

I mean, hey, in this situation, they don't sleep with each other. So why get so alarmed about it? Well, who is this kind of book targeted to? Teenage girls. The heroine of the story wants to get down, and a lot of the time, with a boy who's been "bad" before. I get the authors, in this scenario, are probably trying to show how our bad boy has changed, or how the hero's love for the girl is pure. But for me, it also kind of hints that the man is in control of when the couple takes that step. I can think of one book right now (and maybe my memory's fuzzy and I'm only remembering one right now) in which the girl says "No, it's not the time" to her love interest--the one who she really does love, not the bad boyfriend kind of character. Other than that, it's always been the boy who stops it. Which makes me wonder, will teenage girls think that they can trust their partner? That once they get those urges, it's okay to bring it up and try to get him to sleep with her, expecting the boy to know if they're ready or it's okay for them to go ahead? If so, this is a VERY bad idea. Because the boy they have may not be as idealized as the one in the book. He's just as stupid with hormones as the girl is. And this could be very bad.

Like I said in the opening: people have different standards. That's everyone's choice and I don't mean to waggle my finger at anyone who's making different choices than me. BUT. Every person should make a responsible choice. And in these YA book moments, they're never ready, they've never thought about the consequences, they aren't responsible at all. And ultimately that's what worries me. That authors are so caught up in making it dramatic that it's setting a bad example for the teens who read it.

Tell me if you agree or if I'm being an over-dramatic prude.  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Name of the Star
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Genre: YA (paranormal)
Why I read it/how I found it: John Green said it was his favorite novel of 2011 and I saw it at the library.

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London, it's the start of a new life at a boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

This cover really intrigued me (ghostly nineteenth century dude did it for me). Premise intrigued me. The first three pages intrigued me.
Intrigue stopped.

Rory's from Louisiana and heading off to boarding school in England, and on the day she arrives a murder practically identical to Jack the Ripper's first murder has occurred.
You can thank me for skipping the backstory as to why she's going, how she got there, etc. etc. that Johnson didn't do. The intrigue of the first three pages (not from Rory's POV) gets sucked away as I have this girl prattling on about her life and parents and new boarding school in England and yadda yadda. 
From the get-go we're dragged through "this is how England is different from America" lectures. Oh. My. Goodness. I knew almost all of the differences Johnson felt it was oh-so-important to explain to her readers. And even if I didn't, if she just said "A-level exams" I'd figure hey, those are some exams that teenagers in England take. And please, I know what prefects and head boy/girls are. I read Harry Potter, and even though J.K. Rowling didn't give me a lecture I GOT WHAT IT WAS. At nine years old, I understood. Rather than giving us trivia on England for a Jeopardy episode I'll probably never get in, I'd like to get to the story. 
But really. The must have to cut the crap out of this book for its UK edition. Either that or British readers feel even more infuriated at these sections of the book.
Rory rambled a lot. Gave us information that had no point to the story or the plot, or even to her character. I'd skim pages before the story started again. 
Lots of to be verbs (sometimes filling up entire paragraphs) and sentences I mentally rewrote. I catch myself doing that now, but in this book it's more than it has been lately. The writing was bad to mediocre, depending on the place.
Rory was a boring character, except for when she was crying, and in that case she got annoying. And here's the thing, I love it when MC's go a little mental. Like Katniss in Mockingjay or Tris in Insurgent. Of course, that's after highly traumatic events happened to them and there's a reason behind it. Rory figures out she's a bit different than everyone else, and she loses it. Has a mental breakdown. She's one of the weakest MC's I've ever read. But of course, during the climax, she's forced into bravery or else there's no climax. Pansy Rory will just go walking into her death. Riiiight. 
Jerome, the love interest, is very meh. I mean, I have no reason to dislike him. But I have no reason to like him, and neither does Rory for that matter. He feels very plopped-in to give Rory some good make-out time and give us lectures on Jack the Ripper.
I liked Charlotte's role, the head girl they don't like. She's very realistic, and I can see why a teen would be rubbed the wrong way with her. She's not a stereotypical nemesis for a YA novel, and her role isn't that huge. It's very realistically portrayed (see, I did like some stuff in this book).
I liked a lot of the side characters, actually. Boo, Jo, Alistair, and Callum in particular. But alas, they could not save the show.
The plot was pretty predictable. I guessed most of what would happen, so that didn't exactly entertain me or leave me in suspense.

Other information: This is the first of a trilogy. Maureen Johnson's website is here.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Title: Insurgent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegan
Genre: YA (dystopian)
Why I read it/how I found it: Sequel to Divergent

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

Heart-pounding action. Romance. Psychological issues. Dystopia.
I've been so excited for Insurgent to come out, and I finally got a hold of it this week. There's a lot of action in it, and the pacing keeps it up and hardly ever slows down. A lot of psychological difficulties arise from the climax of Divergent, which created a lot more conflict. I think I might just be kinda twisted, because I was riveted with Tris's terrors and issues with the result of hers and other's action.
I enjoyed going out into the different factions and seeing how they live and their senses. I like that no two people (or at least main people) see things in exactly the same way, even if they're from the same faction or family. I think that Roth does a great job creating grey area that not a lot of authors make now.
Also, please give Ms. Roth a big round of applause for not introducing a love triangle!
I have to admit, I was worried. Sometimes book series will add in another love interest in the second book, but this kept its focus on Tris and Four. And guess what? There's still conflict and angst with them! No sacrifice of that for another overdone love triangle. Hooray!
I think the ending was a bit abrupt, though. The key to their world was revealed, but I can't say that I'm quite sure what that is yet. The explanation of it didn't cut it for me, and so why people tried to hide this information (thus the whole action of the book) confused me.
Overall, though, great sequel and great middle book.

Other information: This is the second in a trilogy. Veronica Roth's website is here

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Protected by Cindy M. Hogan: Your Guide to the Witness Protection Program

I'm excited today to be part of the blog tour for Cindy M. Hogan's book Protected. Here's more about the book:
She has the guy. The terrorists have been taken care of. She has a shot at becoming popular.
Life is great!
Until they find her. 
Now she must run and leave behind everything she knows, including herself.

In Protected Christy has to enter the Witness Protection Program and completely transform who she had been before in order to shake off the terrorists after her. She learns new skills, gets a make-over, and becomes a new person. So of course, while reading this, I start to wonder what it would have been like for me as a teenager to go through something like this. Here's my guide to the Witness Protection program, following Christy's journey.

Step one: Get a new name.
I mean, obvious, right? For me, I'd want an ordinary-sounding name, but not too blah. I'd choose the name Caitlyn Brown. Simple, but nice.

Step two: Learn a new skill for your new identity.
My skill? I'd go with becoming an athlete. I played volleyball in high school and soccer growing up, but I've never been super athletic or a gym rat. I'd take up new sports. Probably field hockey, basketball, and softball. Sports I never played outside of P.E. class, but I'd hopefully be able to pick up on.

Step Three: Learn how to beat the bad guys.
Gotta learn how to run, how to fight. Learn how to fire a gun, disarm your enemy. Need to know how to sense danger and where locations of safety are. If I had a pick, I'd learn all this from...
Jack Bauer! Aww yeah! He fights bad guys for a living and can run for 24 hours straight (well, almost). He is fictional (and over-qualified) but let's just forget about that. :)

Step Four: Change your look.
As I have dark hair, this is a challenge for me because other than my natural brown, anything else would just look ridiculous. So it'd have to be about the cut. And of course my clothes would have to change, too. My hair would be inspired by Ginnifer Goodwin.

And my clothes would be geared toward a more athletic girl:

Step Five: Pray that it all goes well, and expect it not to.

You can find Protected here on Smashwords and Cindy's blog here.

How would you recreate yourself if you were put in the Witness Protection Program? 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My crazy goals and how I'll finish them

ICYMI: I'm writing a book for my honors thesis (just got the e-mail that my proposal was approved. Whew!). What this means? DEADLINES. My book will have to be shiny and perfect and ready to defend by next January. Maybe to some this isn't a big deal, but for me...yeah, this is going to push me.

As part of the proposal I had to set deadlines for myself. Deadline for my first draft? A month from now. That's about 2,000 words a day, six days of the week. I started up yesterday.

So now, I'm getting serious. Last week in a late-night youtube marathon, I came across this video from Charlie McDonnell (charlieissocoollike) where he talks about how he keeps up his goals. I learned from him, who learned from the internet, who learned from Jerry Seinfeld, about don't break the chain.
Have a calendar, and every time you meet your daily goal (of exercise or for people like us, writing) cross off the day. Keep crossing off days and don't break the chain. It seems to be working for Charlie, and I mean, if Jerry Seinfeld endorses it, who am I to argue?

Here's hopes of 2,000 words a day, six days a week for the next month.

Do you have any goals? What are you doing to meet them?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Why I'm no longer ashamed to admit I write love

I like to write love. Sometimes my stories have a heavy romance in them, sometimes it's lighter. But I find in whatever I write, I want some kind of romance, whether the characters are younger and it's hinted that they'll date in the future, or if I'm writing in a fantasy world where seventeen-year-olds get married.

One of my WIPs, FORGET ME NOT, has a very strong base in love, probably the strongest I've ever written. So when people would ask me what it's about, I'd say, "Oh, it's a fantasy." And for some reason, you know who would ask me if there was romance in it? Guys. Maybe to see if they'd be interested in it, or to judge me or something, I don't know. But I'd suddenly get very self-conscious. I'd say, "There's some" and try to change the subject.

Then, last weekend I went to the wedding of two of my friends. She glowed at him and everyone there. He smiled with pride at his bride. They were both so happy. I've been there from the beginning with these two, from their first dates to their first kiss to engagement and wedding plans. They're absolutely the best for each other.

Her siblings sang a rendition of "All About Us" by He is We and they danced together. And it was then, looking at the two of them so blissful with each other, that I didn't feel ashamed that I have love in my stories. Yes, it's fun to write it, and yes, everyone craves to have that kind of relationship. But what I realized why writing love is important is because there's a lot of people out there who don't know what the right kind of love is. Especially writing for teens in YA, many have a wonky idea of love or don't know how it should be yet. There are books who don't portray love in a healthy way. What I want to write is healthy love, or show how some love isn't good rather than glorify that kind of obsessive love. And it can be about the smallest crush or the greatest love. Either way, it's important. It can help lead to the beautiful, healthy kind of love my friends have, rather than the ones you try to steer your friends away from.

And for a little something, here's the song my friends danced to:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What I learned this semester

I want to start off this post saying that I'm going to my first writer's conference this Friday and Saturday! I'm kind of nervous, since in person I'm rather shy and don't usually approach people, but also really excited to hopefully meet new writers and learn more on how to better my writing. Anyone going to LDStorymaker's Conference this weekend, let me know in the comments! Hopefully I'll see you there. Now for the meat of my post.

This past semester I was lucky enough to get in a class of Writing for Children and Adolescents taught by Carol Lynch Williams (The Chosen One, Miles from Ordinary, Glimpse). We focused on writing the beginning of a MG or YA novel. And from this semester, I've seen my writing skyrocket with improvement. These are a few things I've learned or discovered in this class:

  • Sense of place. Looking back on my writing, I'll mention characters are at a baseball field, and make no reference to that baseball field again. Carol really helped me with learning to create a sense of place through descriptions and reminding readers as my characters are talking, that they're at a baseball field.
  • Write outside of your comfort zone. I generally write fantasy/sci-fi with a female narrator, and for this class I wrote a contemporary with a male first-person narrator. It was really hard and challenging for me, but I think that seeing how to work within a genre and narrator I wasn't as comfortable with made me learn more and then help me apply it to my preferred way of writing.
  • Voice. This is always tricky and sometimes alusive for most writers. Voice is hard. But in the class, I've found the importance of my own character's voice, and what makes it different from my own and any other character I've written.
  • The middle sucks for pretty much everyone, which is just comforting to me to know I'm not alone.
Anything interesting you've learned  lately? Have you had the opportunity to take a formal class in creative writing?