Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Third culture kids and teen grief

I don't devote a post to a book unless I have learned something valuable from it that I want to share with others. Never Gone, by Laurel Garver, is one I immediately knew I wanted - needed  - to share.

I'll post my own thoughts on Never Gone coming up in December (my blog is shutting down during November for NaNoWriMo). In the meantime, here's the word on third culture kids and teen grief straight from Laurel (who by the way is in the thick of it with Hurricane Sandy right now. Many thoughts and prayers going out for all my east coast friends and family).

What is your novel Never Gone about?

A grieving teen believes her dead father has come back as a ghost to help her reconcile with her estranged mother.

That’s my most brief synopsis. My favorite synopsis is the trailer:


Your main character is a New Yorker with an American mother and a British father. How do cross-cultural issues affect the family?

American and British social rules differ more that you might think. When I studied abroad there, I struggled to get anyone to talk to me. The other British students were friendly with one another, but standoffish with us exchange students. There are rules to the game of getting inside the high walls of privacy that aren’t immediately apparent to outsiders. I didn’t get fully clued in to how these rules worked until my third visit to the UK, when the friends my husband and I were visiting pointed me to Kate Fox’s Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour. It became one of my most useful research books.

Because Britain’s large population is crammed into a small space, personal privacy is highly valued. That’s a major component of why my protagonist’s parents’ marriage works. The mother likes to keep her past in the past and her emotions under wraps, so what could be better than a partner who won’t expect American levels of emotiveness? Humor is also a huge component of communication in Britain, and thus the father’s forte. Any hard-hitting or critical remark is likely to be couched in humor. Embarrassingly tender feelings can be, too.

My protagonist Danielle is what is sometimes called a “third-culture kid”—someone who lives in one culture, but whose family comes from a different culture; he or she teeters precariously between cultures, never fully belonging to either one. Thus Dani struggles with expressing her deepest feelings, suppressing and self-managing more than the typical American teen might. Yet she also wants to call others out for doing the very same thing, her mother in particular. Losing her British father requires Dani to reassess how she fits in the world, and how to reconcile with her American half.

What is unique about teen grief?

When you’re young, it’s harder to deal with major losses because you don’t have experience to draw on that puts the pain in perspective. “Time heals all wounds” is not lived experience; it sounds like a stupid platitude adults say to shut you down. Grief feels overwhelming and absolutely impossible to overcome. Add to that the usual stuff of adolescence—hormonal changes and an identity that’s still under construction—and you can understand why grief can be especially difficult, even explosive for teens.

What’s unique about your approach to grief in the story?

I was particularly interested in exploring the immediate grief experience — those turbulent first weeks immediately after a death. My novel begins a few days after the protagonist loses her dad and the story covers approximately three weeks’ time. Danielle spends much of the story cycling through denial, anger, and bargaining. There are moments of depression and glimpses of what acceptance will look like when it fully flowers. Most of the deepest grief work is still to come for Dani, but the events of the novel prepare her to begin to earnestly do that work, rather than deny or flee from it.

Because of her family culture, Dani especially struggles with feelings of anger. It is one of the toughest emotions to keep under wraps or deflect and soften with humor. She also mistakenly believes that anger has no place in a life of faith. I hope this story will encourage kids growing up in a faith tradition that it’s okay to really wrestle with God in places of deep pain. One of Dani’s friends tells her, “I think God can handle it when we’re mad.” He goes on to point out that large chunks of scripture are at root complaints to God. The Psalmist and other saints of old give us models for talking (and hollering and crying) to our Creator honestly about our pain, which at root is an expression of faith that He hears, cares, comforts and makes things new.


Laurel Garver is a magazine editor, professor’s wife and mom to an energetic fourth grader. An indie film enthusiast and incurable Anglophile, she enjoys geeking out about Harry Potter and Dr. Who, playing word games, singing, and mentoring teens at her church. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cunning plan for NaNoWriMo


Actually it's more of a idiotic rebel's plan for NaNoWriMo.

There are only a few rules for National Novel Writing Month. Excerpted from  the official site:

  • Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
  • Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft (though outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people’s works).
  • Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you’re writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!
  • Be the sole author of your novel. Apart from those citations mentioned two bullet-points up
See that "start from scratch" in there?

That's the rule I'm breaking. I'm re-writing my book from last year.

Yes, I confess I plan to cut and paste words from the previous version and all the faithful and true followers of NaNoWriMo howl, "that's not fair!" or "that's totally cheating on your word count!"

But it takes me TWICE as long to re-write as it does to first draft. Consistently. I swear. I've been re-writing for months now and it's the slowest, most painful process, like pulling hair and teeth and toenails and brain cells all at the same time.

I would actually much rather be first-drafting my idea for a new novel.

First drafting, you can throw your inner-editor out the door, and that is what makes November Writing Madness so much fun.  Here's a great example of what you normally do to your inner-editor during November:


If I attempt my cunning idiotic plan, this is what my inner-editor will do to me instead:


These animations are from the wonderful Tumblr  Life During NaNo. Go check it out. It will get you psyched for November. Even me got me rarin' to go, even knowing my dread inner editor will be on the loose.

I'd much rather be drafting my new idea but I'm idiotically hoping that I can use the great motivation that is 300,000 crazy writers and creeping word count bars to make at least 50,000 words of last year's novel shinier (Star Tripped) so it can be that much closer to publication.

I just discovered that if I proceed with my plan, I will officially be known as a NaNoWriMo Rebel and they even have their own forum. So there are other disreputable folks like me out there.

And, I have a backup plan. If re-writing for NaNo turns out to be a disaster, I still have my notes on that brand-new idea for a 5th novel...

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Top Ten Too-Hard-to-Rank Authors

The Top Ten Tuesday theme this week is your top ten favorite in authors in the genre of your choice. 

And so I totally cheated and did two genres. Contemporary and Historical Fantasy. Because if ya'll haven't noticed there are a lot of fantasy books that cross the pages of my blog. A LOT. But, really and truly I love many other genres too, I just don't get around to gushing about them as much. 

So this post is compromise. I had to get my fantasy favs in there, but I limited it to just five of a specific fantasy sub-genre, so I could also sneak in my top five fav YA contemporary authors in here too.  

Oh, and also - I couldn't rank these. I tried, I debated, I reshuffled - I finally just deleted the numbers. 

Top Ten Tuesday is  an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish blog with a different top ten list theme (all related to books) every Tuesday (see the full list here). 

My top five favorite YA contemporary authors:

Kirsten Hubbard, author of Like Mandarin and Wanderlove.  Recommended for anyone who has ever befriended a "bad girl" (or maybe was one), and anyone who loves travel (both the good and the bad).

Maureen Johnson, author of Girl At Sea, Suite Scarlett and many others. Recommended for when you need light-hearted laughter and some great sibling or friend interaction. Or friction.

Gail Giles, author of Right Behind You, What Happened to Cass McBride and others. When teenagers go off the deep end; realistic and suspenseful but not creepy. Compelling, compelling, compelling!

Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak, Wintergirls, and others. Serious issues very well done.

Stephanie Perkins, author of Lola and the Boy Next Door and Anna and the French Kiss, and more soon.
Months after reading these I can still remember all the characters so vividly. That's rare.

On the fence: John Green. The Fault in Our Stars, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns. Simply must mention him because he has a character named Margo (grin). Definitely on the edgy/gritty side, but memorable.

My top five favorite Historical Fantasy authors: 

Erin Morgenstern, author of the Night Circus and hopefully more soon! Set in the Victorian time period but really it's all about the circus. I am not even a fan of circuses but I loved this one because it's like a miniature moving fantasy world.

Megan Walen Turner, author of the Queen's Thief series. Set in something close to Ancient Greece and rife with espionage and twists and complexity.

Naomi Novak, author of His Majesty's Dragon and the rest of the Temeraire series. Napoleonic era; think Master and Commander, with dragons. Or even better, Jane Austen on a fantasy rip.

Juliet Marillier, author of the Wildwood and Sevenwaters series, many others. Wildwood Dancing was such an interesting combination of historic setting (Transylvania!) and fairy-tale retelling that I knew instantly I would read anything else by her.

R.L. LaFevers, author of Grave Mercy (YA) more to follow in the His Fair Assassin series. Grave Mercy is set in medieval Brittany and uses real historical characters, with a touch of dark fantastical elements - a girl who can see whom Death has marked, and is trained to assassinate help them along in their fate. Dark and brilliant at the same time.

Also this isn't quite historical fantasy but I simply had to mention it because it is SO YUMMY, Gail Carriger's Soulless series which is a strange brew of historical paranormal and steampunk. Werewolves and vampires in Victorian times - and nothing like any wolvies and vammies you've ever encountered before.

Who are your favorite genre author(s)?

This shall be my last Top Ten for quite a while -- It's NaNoWriMo season! Next week you shall be smothered in plans to recruit you into this wonderful madness. You've been warned.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Saved by the Urban Dictionary

Gandalf is in this post!
and Jane Eyre!
Weird combo, right?
I might be getting too old to write YA.

This doubt insinuated itself after reading a review about Across the Universe (by Beth Revis, great book by the way) in which the (near)teen reviewer remarked:

"Because I like shipping characters and investing myself in relationships as much as the next girl."

Huh? I like shipping characters? Um, yes the characters were together on a space ship, is that what she means? But I thought maybe I was wrong.

So the Urban Dictionary saved me. I typed in "ship" and discovered it's short for "romantic relationSHIP".

But of course.

I love discovering tidbits like this. I'm also prone to reading my teenage stepdaughter's texts, not because I want to police her, but just because I love to soak up the slang of the teenage world. But I still sometimes wonder if having a teenager in the house and enjoyment of said unique species is enough qualification to write from a teenager's perspective.

What thinks you?

So my purpose in this Friday's post is to ponder deep questions about getting too old, but on the brighter side, to also let y'all know about two neat things I discovered on the internet yesterday.

1) Have you read Elana Johnson's books, either Possession or Surrender? If you haven't, here's a great motivation to read them (besides the fact they are great mindbenders), and if you already have, bonus: she is having an amazing giveaway open to anyone willing to post a review either of her books. She has a dozen (maybe more) newly released YA books and ARCs. Like Shadow and Bone, which is AMAZING, seriously, you want to win this book.

2) Jess Keating has the coolest way to get unstuck from writer's block. She gets together with J.K Rowling,  Neil Gaiman, Gandalf, and Jane Eyre (as a wild card) and gets their feedback on what to do about a certain scene or plot situation or what the perfect mix of conflict might be to totally mess up a main character's life. It's such a brilliant idea. Brillig! I am so trying this; check out her guest post at Janice Hardy's blog for more detail.

If you just skimmed over that to get to the bottom of the page, STOP. Let those beautiful names - Gandalf! Jane Eyre! catch your attention and drag you off to that link.

After entering to win delicious books and seeing how Gandalf and Jane Eyre end up together on a discussion panel, let me know if I'm totally too old (as the parent of teenager) to be writing YA. I can take it. I might still write it anyway (it's sort of an addiction) but I will acknowledge the truth if needed.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Top Ten Favorite Fictional Friends

I might have cheated with that title. Because you'll see from my list that I had a specific kind of friend in mind...mostly of the four-legged kind. Are you an animal lover? I highly recommend these books.

Top Ten Tuesday is  an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish blog with a different top ten list theme (all related to books) every Tuesday (see the full list here) This week's theme is "rewind" where we get to pick a past topic that we missed - favorite BFFs. 

10. Pantalaimon, from the Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

In this series, animals are the embodiment of a person's soul, and Pan caught my heart from the very beginning. He is able to change forms, so he appears sometimes as an ermine, a moth, a wildcat or a mouse.

9. Narknon, from the Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
I couldn't even find any fan-art for this noble hunting cat who befriends Harry Crewe after she's been kidnapped by a band of desert horsemen.

8. Mogget, from Sabriel by Garth Nix

I used the Portuguese cover of this book because it was the only one with a picture of Mogget (though Sabriel's outfit doesn't do justice to her bells. The bells are VERY important, much more than the sword. Though the sword is cool, too. Sorry, I digress). Up until this weekend when I finished reading Sabriel, my favorite fictional cat would have been Grimalkin, the smug faery cat from the Iron King and its sequels. But then Mogget came along with all his attitude, plus the fact that he's not just a cat - he's something a little darker, too. But mostly a cat, fastidious and know-it-all and opinionated. And whatever you do, don't take his bell collar off!

7.  Gilbert from the Familiars, by Adam Jay Epstein
A tree frog who can see the future by looking into a puddle - except he sometimes gets his "puddle-viewings" wrong. Part of the wonderful trio of magical misfits in this story.

6. Talat from the Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

See that white horse that isn't afraid of a blast of dragon-fire? That's Talat. Aerin and Talat make this book just about the best girl/horse story I've ever read, and I've read A LOT of them (they don't come much horse-crazier than me). Talat doesn't use words but he has such personality!

5. Einstein, from Watchers by Dean Koontz

So hard to pick a favorite dog! There are so many classics, and I love them all. Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune was a close second, but the golden retriever with a special gift in Watchers is always the first to pop into my mind.

4. Bree, from the Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

As the only Talking Horse among regular horses, Bree developed quite the attitude, not to mention vanity. But you can't help but love his bossy nature and his secret fear of lions.

3. The Phoenix, from David and the Phoenix by David Ormondroyd

After living 500 years, this fussy bird knows a thing or two:  the difference between a gryffin, gryffon and a gryffen;  where sea monsters like to sleep and how to out-race a witch on a new broomstick.  I re-read this book every few years just because I love the Phoenix so much.

2. Ebon, from Pegasus by Robin McKinley

I think it's every girl's secret or undiscovered dream to bond with a creature - a dog, a horse, in a pinch anything furry might do; even a human, if that human doesn't turn out fickle. It's a deep longing for a best friend who just looks at you and understands you. No explanation necessary. No needing to be someone or something you're not; you are loved exactly as you are - more than just loved, but admired, sought out, inseperable; someone who stands at your side when dangers and bullies arise and you know they'll stand with you to the end. Of course this fantasy is all the better if it's a magical creature that introduces you to fantasic places or whisks you off on a magical adventure. And add wings to that? Someone who can take you flying? That's the heady deliciousness of this book. 

1. Toothless, from How to Train Your Dragon

So in the book, Toothless is a female dragon, very small (much too small to ride on) and very much toothless. And very, VERY disobedient. I loved her, and was quite offended when they totally changed the character in the movie version. But when I saw the movie, I fell in love with the other version of Toothless too. My absolute favorite scene is when Toothless and Hiccup kidnap Astrid and terrify her with all kinds of crazy flying stunts.

Who is your favorite fictional friend, four-legged or otherwise?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Top Ten things that make me go "oooo la la!"

Did you know that top ten lists can help your writer's voice?

Holly Lisle has an excellent, I mean seriously Exxxxxxcellent  article on 10 ways to find your voice, and  the advice in #4 says:


Make endless lists — one-word lists of the things that excite you, the things that scare you, the things that you dream and fantasize about and hope for, the things you dread and fight to avoid. It is absolutely essential that these words have some special meaning to you. Great topics for lists are: childhood memories; dreams and nightmares; ten gifts I’d give myself with magic; if I could spend a million dollars, I’d buy...; what I want most in the world; what I’d do anything to avoid; things that are creepy; things that are s*xy.

I love sharing top ten lists of things I love, and now I come to find out that it can help me find my voice! Check out the article for more details on how this works. But as for me, I'm jumping right into this game with one of those lists she suggests up above. Hmmn, guess which one???

10. When a swimmer flexes his back

9. A man wearing an old-fashioned hat

8. A guy recounting a story and really getting into it

7. A nerd pretending to be a hero. 

6. A guy holding flowers behind his back.

5. A man in kilts

4. A man riding a horse 



3. A man that likes both classical music and Led Zeppelin

2. A man that kisses your hand


1. A guy that that loves to read and talk about books

Just in case you're wondering, my husband qualifies very well on at least five things from this list (grin).

What makes you go ooooo la la??? (keep it G rated please!)



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