We Don’t Have to Hear the Kissing Parts: YA and Romance

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Most people who know me know that I don’t do kissing. I don’t do romance. The genre doesn’t click with me. Not that I don’t enjoy a good love story now and then, but most of the time, I don’t buy into what I’m reading or seeing. It doesn’t feel real.

That’s just me.

However, romance is everywhere. It is unavoidable. Now I don’t read straight romance books, but when the kissing invades (like a bit of peanut butter on my chocolate) my horror or fantasy I accept it, though it doesn’t always add anything to the story for me.

After critiquing the first part of a YA horror manuscript, there were a couple of times where the mc, a girl, went all swoony over a guy. I commented that it didn’t fit with the mc’s character…well, with the ms really. The author was so glad I thought that! He added those in because he had been told that romance was NEEDED in a YA.

Well…let me tell you what I think about that…

Needed?

Let me tell you about a teenage me. Now, YA wasn’t a thing when I was a kid. I was all about high fantasy/sword and sorcery stuff. Fighting and magic. A glorious world in which to escape. If YA was around way back then and every book I read held love stories, held the perfect girl looking for the perfect guy and finding him…I would have felt more broken than I already did.

Broken, Kathy? What do you mean by this?

Teenage me didn’t date. She didn’t talk to people much. She didn’t fit in. I thought something was wrong with me because I wasn’t like my peers. I didn’t have a group of friends. I didn’t have guys talk to me, school dances were pretty much my nightmare. And when a guy did ask me to a dance (after his first pick turned him down)…I said yes, but pretty much panicked and hid from him during the event. So does YA NEED romance? Nope. Teenage me didn’t need anyone showing her how much she didn’t fit. She needed stories of kids who were searching for themselves, not for their first kiss.

Kissing wasn’t important to me. Though I thought it should be. Forming relationships with boys wasn’t important to me…though I thought it should be. No one showed me it was okay to not care about that. No one told me it was fine to be different, to be me.

For teenagers relationships with people outside their families start to become important. They start to connect to people, look to make connections because they begin to understand that soon they will go out and merge with the world. But being a teenager is so much more than that. It’s about taking the first steps towards who you will be. It’s about questioning what you believe. It’s about realizing you will have to find a place in the world where you belong, exciting and gosh diggety darned scary.

When I write a teen character, I can’t help but channel teenage me. The girl who wants to love herself, not some hot boy. The girl who dreams of finding where she belongs in the world, not of touching some guy’s muscular chest. Not that I haven’t had a character have a crush, and it was awkward and horrible just like I remember. Not that I haven’t had a character fall in love, (though I tried to stop her!) with her best friend for heavens sake…and it was scary and exciting and a bit weird, as it should be.

Does YA need romance? Nope. Because not all teenagers need it. I admit that most teens out there probably like to read the kissing, the head-over-heals sensation of first love, the stories of boys and girls and making connections. But not everyone. Not me. So I write for those people like me.

So when someone tells you that a certain category or genre NEEDS something…stop and think. Does it? Is there someone out there making up rules for every style of writing? Nope.

There’s you. There’s the words. There’s your characters and how they feel and what they think. And all of it is relevant. All of it is needed.

#Magicday…Silencing the Shoulds

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Time to add a bit of magic to Monday!

I discovered something about myself. I had a revelation. Every morning, I wake up with a list of things in my head. A list of what I have to do, what I should do, a list of expectations. If I could do this…this…this…and this…I will have succeeded. I will not be a failure. I will be worth something.

Then I don’t…I don’t do one thing on the list…I don’t complete as much of a project as I wanted…I don’t live up to those high expectations.

And I fail.

I go to bed, preparing my list for the next day, I will do all the shoulds. I will do better. Be better.

And fail again.

I began to look at what I did do each day. WHAT I DID DO. Well, that put a new spin on my outlook. Maybe I SHOULD (Haha) stop trying to be some perfect image of me and be me.

I like me. I’m pretty cool.

Spring break was marvelous. I had a great time with my family and the voice in my head constantly telling me to be perfect, to do all the things, went away.

When I got home, the flood of words returned.

AND I WAVED MY MAGIC WAND AND SILENCED THEM.

I don’t need a head full of shoulds hounding me all day. I don’t need to have a mind full of demands to be perfect as I fall asleep. I’m not perfect. I don’t wanna be! Perfect is boring. Perfect is stupid. All the should dos…I magicked them into oblivion.

I will do what I need to do. At the end of the day, I will be happy and proud of my choices.

THIS IS THE MAGIC OF LIFE, OF LIVING. Do what you do and be proud.

 

Spring Break!

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Tomorrow spring break begins!

No school tomorrow and all next week.

As usual, we are headed to visit family, first my parents and sisters, then my in-laws!

I am ready to get away from the everyday routine. I am ready to chat and laugh and let all the things swirling in my head go…let them float away…float…

We all float down here…

Sorry! After seeing the trailer for the movie IT coming in September…I have been slightly obsessed… OMG IT LOOKS SO GOOD!

Okay. Right.

Back to spring break!

Before we leave, I have things to do. Some of the chores have begun. Hello, laundry my old friend…

Most will happen tomorrow…

An ortho appointment…

Grocery store…

Packing…

Dropping the dog off to be boarded…

Cleaning…

I will run about like an idiot wondering what I have forgotten. I will fight the little voice in my head telling me to stay home, home is good. Because I love to visit family, I love our adventures out in the world, but I am always reluctant to leave my house. It’s just me…

Luckily the kids will be home to help me!

When we drive away…all will be well. I will no longer care if I forgot anything. I will no longer care if all the chores were completed. I will be able to focus on the fun waiting.

Today, I want to sit and write. We’ll see if that happens. I tend not to be able to focus right before we go anywhere.

However, if my Weeping Cherry trees bloom while I’m gone…I WILL BE UPSET. They shouldn’t bloom this early, but…*eyes buds*

Have a great week, next week! I’ll be back with more thoughts and words when I return.

 

#Magicday…Friends

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In my life, I have had a couple of really good friends. People who really know me. I was never one to have a lot of friends, but the ones I have are priceless. And thanks to Twitter I have more, though they are far away, and some I haven’t met in person, they mean the world to me.

So, when I had kids, I shared my wisdom…

If you want to have friends, you have to talk to people. Go say hi. Ask them questions. See if you click.

Not everyone will be your friend. Life…people don’t work that way. And that’s okay.

And flip it the other way…You don’t have to be everyone’s friend.

You can have a million friends or one. Choose. Never feel terrible if you only have one friend, because it’s your choice. Choose what makes you happy.

People change. Your interests will change as you age. You might find new friends and not talk to others as much. This is normal. This is okay, but never be upset, never be angry with that friend because you’ll have all the good memories to hold onto…they’ll always be a friend.

My son had a very best friend from kindergarten to about fourth or fifth grade, then they started off on different paths. He talks about a few kids at school, kids he thinks are funny, but I never see them. He doesn’t invite them here. But he’s happy. So I am happy.

My daughter had a best friend from kindergarten to about fourth or fifth grade, then they drifted apart. My daughter went into the band, finding a new set of friends. She surrounds herself with a few people, a close knit group. I know these girls, for my daughter invites them here. They are cool kids. They are all different. They are all happy to be themselves. They are all ready to stand up for the others.

Having people to go through life with is important. Having people who understand you is important. Having people who never expect you to be anything but you is important. If it’s a group or one person, friendship, connections, can make us strong.

It’s magic.

 

#Magicday…Quiet

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Monday, for most, means the unfriendly sound of the alarm clock and back to work or school. For me, Mondays bring a special magic…quiet.

The kids go to school and the hubs goes to work, leaving me and the cats and dog. Seriously…my happy place. Last weekend was a little crazy. My son’s first high school track meet, which we had very little information about, ended up being an all day event. Somehow hubs and I saw him run in two races and managed to run a few errands.

I’m not exactly sure what happened to Sunday…but I don’t feel like I got to sit down.

So…I welcome Monday. Though I cleaned for the first couple of hours (I even flipped couch cushions and vacuumed them!), the house feels better. I have reclaimed my area and will settle back into my routine. My workout. Writing. Reading. Maybe some laundry…because there is always laundry.

In the quiet.

Whether you find a moment of peace on a Monday or not, I wish you quiet time. Maybe that was what you had last weekend. If so, I hope you enjoyed it. I will enjoy today.

Quiet moments are magic.

 

Me and the Words: A Tale of Critique

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I like to critique. If I have something to read and comment on, I will happily set aside my crappy words and do it!

I love to read what other people have imagined.

After critiquing so many queries and first pages for Son of a Pitch, after going to my writers’ group and commenting, after sending numerous manuscripts back to their authors…I can’t help but wonder why people come to me. If what I say is helpful. Though I have been told it is.

I’m no expert on writing. I don’t really know if anyone is.

My hubs told me that I should be an editor…and I laughed. I know he was thinking of a way I could be paid for the work I put in, BUT I AM NOT AN EDITOR. I critique.

So what does that mean?

Critiquing for me is an immersive experience…especially if I have the words…listening at writers’ group is another thing, I’m not as good at the listening. I critique because I am an author and it is part of the job, a give and take kinda thing.

As I read, I make tons of comments. I ask all sorts of questions. I will point out where the words don’t make sense to me…where I get lost in the choreography…where a certain word doesn’t quite fit for me…basically any time my brain skips a beat and says…

But I also highlight the moments I love. The words that flow in a perfect wave…the moments in the story where I have a serious reaction (I will write what my exact reaction is, I have been told those can be humorous)…the moments I have thoughts about the characters or story…

So, basically…everything I think, I write down. I’m not telling anyone what to do. I’m not giving orders as to what must be done for the manuscript to be “good”. I’m giving my perspective, so the author can see one person’s interpretation of their work. We write with a single idea in mind, but writing is art and that is always seen in a million different ways. It’s always good to know how others envision it.

I ask questions for a very simple reason. Not because I think they all need to be answered in that paragraph, but to kick the author’s creative brain into gear, get the imagination flowing outside of the stream…to spark any ideas that the author never knew they wanted.

I write down my reactions so the author will know as a reader, what I am reacting to…what I am interested in. Of course, not everyone will react to the same things. I will react with a lot of flailing and all caps reactions to demon fights or creepy ghosts than kissing or falling in love.

That’s just me.

I expect authors to read my comments, to digest them, then to ignore all the questions that don’t spark any ideas, to ignore all the things that don’t matter. I expect the author to do what is right for their story. The author is the only one who can be certain their manuscript is finished (though I’m pretty sure no one knows when this thing called “finished” is).

I saw a tweet yesterday of an author who wanted to know about finding critique partners…about how one faces social anxiety and talking to people about their work. I have a group of trusted individuals who will read my crappy whatever drafts. They haven’t always been the same group. It takes time to find people. It takes guts to swap chapters to see if you will work well as CPs. It takes being open to what others have to say, but knowing what you need to hear and how you need to hear it to help push you to be the best writer you can be.

It takes time to find people to trust with your words.

But critiques are important. Getting that view from someone outside the story is important. Growing as a writer is the objective.

 

#Magicday…Community

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I live in a small town. Our area school isn’t very big, but we are mighty Warriors. My daughter is in eighth grade and, as you may know from previous posts, joined the Spirit of Woodlan marching band last fall. AND THEY FINISHED FIFTH AT THE STATE COMPETITION! Making them the best HS marching band in the northern part of the state, the winners are south of Indy.

And they did it wearing uniforms that have been around for 16 years. I watched a volunteer hand sew tiny holes shut on gloves every competition day. I watched parents carefully tuck jackets into bags hoping they wouldn’t fall apart. I heard stories of pants ripping, and not down a seam, and the frantic search for ones that would work.

Time for new uniforms?

Well, when our fabulously talented Spirit of Woodlan marchers were nominated and then invited to play in the Fourth of July parade in Washington D.C. this summer, new uniforms were added to the list.

But these things aren’t cheap. Goodness no. So we have been asking for donations. And TONIGHT the community will come together to help raise the last little bit they need.

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We have volunteers manning the concessions, selling food donated by the parents of the band members. We have Woodlan alumni coming to play a basketball game against the K-105 Hoopsters. Should be a good time! All for our little town’s school. All to help our incredible marching band look their best for our country’s birthday parade in our nation’s capital. And send them into next competition season looking snazzy.

My daughter is super excited to be one of the first to wear the new uniforms. And we are buying her one of the old hats with a plume to remember her first year in the Spirit of Woodlan…that money also going to the uniform fund.

These kids work so hard. It’s so great to see the community come together to support them.

If you’re in the area, come to Woodlan HS. $5 at the door. Yummy food. Great fun! Game starts at 7! I’ll be there in my Spirit of Woodlan shirt!

Magical.

The Season of Lent

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Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. I was raised Catholic, so this time of year was always a big deal. As Catholics have many rules, the season of Lent seems to have more. Lent is a time of self-sacrifice, to look inward. To fast. To pray. All to get ready for the miracle of Easter.

The church is pretty good at telling us how to live. Pretty good at throwing the word sin around. Pretty good at reminding us how our eternal reward is waiting…if we do what we’re supposed to do. Pretty good at judging those who don’t live according to their teachings. I’ve learned that the church can be pretty closed-minded. And yet preach peace on Earth.

Well, I believe that no one group of people get to tell the world what is the “right” way to live. I believe that peace comes from acceptance.

As a goodie-two-shoes ruler follower and as a kid, so for years I did what was expected. Yet as I got older, I began to question. Why am I doing this? Why am I following these rules? What exactly does it mean to me? If I am doing these things only because the church tells me to…what am I gaining? How is this bettering me, how is this bringing me closer to God, to my faith?

That’s what all this should do. Grow our faith. In whatever it is we believe.

What we choose to do should make us stronger.

However, when I didn’t follow the rules, I felt a lot of guilt. So Lent became this terrible season where I either did what I was told and ended up with a head full of questions or played the rebel and ended up with a heart full of guilt.

As Lent approached this year, I wanted it to be different. I’m tired of feeling guilty. There’s no reason to live up to other’s expectations. Only my own. God did give me my own mind for a reason…I should use it.

Easter is a time of hope, of renewal. So I am focused on that.

I will use these 40 days to grow my faith in me, to make myself the best version of me I can be. Even though I won’t be following the church’s rules, by listening to my heart I think God (or whoever is up there) will be proud of me.

My energy will be directed to creating better, healthier habits. And not eating right and exercising, but mental health. By carving time for all the things that will help me be a stronger person, I will push away all the things that hold me down.

By the time Easter arrives with all its glory, I will be on my way to the best me I can be.

One set of rules for everyone doesn’t work. We’re all different. Whether you celebrate Easter and Lent or not. Take time to grow your faith, to believe in yourself, to allow yourself to be the person you were meant to be. Drive out the darkness and open yourself to the light.

That’s what Lent is to me. That’s what Easter is to me. I’m finally ready to allow myself to live it.

 

#Magicday…Breaks

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I’m not talking broken dishes…or bones here. But time for yourself.

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After last weeks crazy Son of a Pitch schedule, I took time off from words, form thinking about them, from writing them…everything. I kinda zoned on the TV and watched the shows I love…I was a bit behind.

I am good at taking breaks. I am good at doing nothing. I excel at relaxing.

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But not everyone does.

My husband works two jobs, Monday through Friday he is gone at 7am and gets home around midnight. He finally got a job where he has weekends off! Yea! Except he takes the weekends to do all the things! We have a big old house that we have been remodeling for 15 years, and though most of the huge projects are done, there are still little things here and there…moulding mostly. He’s building a magnificent wall shelving unit for our bedroom! It’s fabulous. So he’s always doing something. Last weekend he couldn’t seem to focus on anything so he ended up sitting in front of the TV, napping, and playing video games.

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He kept looking at me and saying, “It’s just a lazy weekend.”

And I would smile and say, “YEA!”

Except, he wasn’t saying it because he was happy about it. He started referring to himself as a lazy bum. He felt bad for not finishing one project or the other.

Me: What do you HAVE to get done?

Hubs: Well, the moulding in the upstairs bathroom…

Me: And if it doesn’t get done today?

Hubs: Then it will never get done!

Me: Just because you don’t do it today doesn’t mean it will never get done. It’s okay to sit.

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Look at me being the voice of reason! Or perhaps the voice of laziness? Whichever…it’s all good.

Last night, he turned to me and said, “Well, I truly did nothing all weekend.”

I straightened my shoulders in pride and replied, “You work so hard for us…for all that we have. You should sit sometimes and enjoy the life you have built. Sitting in the house without running around working on it. Playing video games with your son instead of watching him play as you pass. Laughing with all of us instead of being too busy.”

Living doesn’t mean working, well not all the time.

Pretty sure when I’m facing whatever comes after this life, I won’t be wishing I had cleaned more, worked more, or made more money. Sometimes living is about being in the moment, really seeing what you have and enjoying it. We all get back to work. We all have a purpose, meaning things to do…bills to pay…ways to leave our mark on the world. But what is it worth if we never sit and take all the magic in?

You might miss something fantastical…

 

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#SonofaPitch…Thoughts and My Votes

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As the second round of Son of a Pitch wraps up, I sit here smiling…tired and my mind a bit frazzled, but very happy.

I read 51 entries, which included a query and the first 250 words of the manuscript. I hosted eleven of them on this little blog! It was an honor. I read some once, others…after revisions were posted…twice, and some more than that. I gave all my opinions. I squeed at some of the words. I smiled at others. I gasped. I laughed. I sighed. From horror, to fantasy, to sci-fi, to romance, to women’s fiction, to literary…YA, NA, and adult…everyone brought something different to this event. Everyone came to learn. Everyone united to help.

Son of a Pitch is my favorite writing competition. Everyone gets feedback. Everyone participates. Everyone is involved. #sonofapitch has been my favorite hangout these last few days.

I am so proud of how hard the critiquers worked! I am so proud of how hard the participants worked to listen, to absorb, and then took the comments and revised! Seriously, some of these queries went from confusing or vague to clear, concise, and unforgettable. How many first 250 passages went from pretty good to HOLY WOW GIVE ME MORE PAGES NOW!

Today is the day we, the critiquer/judges vote. I will post my vote in the comments of my chosen five. Yes, five. And I get to pick two alternates, which will remain secret for tie breaking purposes. I am going to post my winners and links to them here. In a second…

For as I write this I still haven’t quite decided. This isn’t a whose query is better, who used the best words kinda thing. There’s no formula. This is all subjective. And I, being me, am drawn to certain things. The weird. The magical. The creepy. So even though plenty of words were pretty darn shiny, though so many queries made me want to read the manuscript, I will choose what I am drawn to. Everyone will. That’s how art works, an untamable beast.

Okay…I might have figured this out. Let’s not be shocked that my chosen are YA in the horror, suspense, and fantasy genres.

In no specific order…

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From #TeamDarkSide…

ASHES, ASHES… Go read it here.

I chose this one, because I COULD NOT STOP THINKING OF IT. The premise just stuck in my head. The first 250 had me…AH, PEOPLE, THE WORDS. The revised query…really good! Chills. Baby. Chills.

 

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From #TeamDarkSide…

LUCID… Go read it here.

Yes, another one from my team…I might be prejudice, so shoot me. But again, the premise! The query might still need help, but it’ll get done. The first 250 had me. I was so sad when I came to the end. The character Marlowe is super intriguing. She could be one of my favorite evil characters!

 

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From #TeamRebels…

THE BOOKSHOP… Go read it here.

Dude. I am a sucker for a unique fantasy. And if you know me and what I have written, a sucker for ways into other universes. Again, the concept made me bounce in my little chair…or large sofa. The first 250 was intriguing and mysterious. I want the whole story.

 

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From #TeamDarkSide…

NEFFERS… Go read it here.

Really, Kathy. ANOTHER from your blog? YESSIREE! I like horror. The idea of these Neffers, made my creepy, dark soul shiver. After the first line of the query…I WAS READY TO GO! The query has evolved, and is much clearer. The first 250 had so much weird! How could I not love this.

 

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From #TeamRebels…

SILVER AND ICE… Go read it here.

The query was good when I read it, but the author has improved it. The idea of silvertongues…those who can control minds with their voices…YES PLEASE. The first 250 set up the mc, promised me a cool world and HELLO QUEEN WHO IS SO COLD ICE CRYSTALS FORM ON THE FLOOR. Dude.

I went back and forth on quite a few. Reread many queries and first words. But had to go with the ones that had left the biggest impression on me. Now we wait to see who makes it into round three and will get their chance in front of the publishers participating. *bites fingernails*

Just because the entry isn’t in my top five, doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. I liked a lot of them. We have done a lot of work over the past few days. Everyone should feel proud. I am proud.

It has been an honor to be involved, thanks to Katie for inviting me! I hope all my new friends keep in touch and tell me how all the words are going.

That is the end of my crazy Son of a Pitch week…or few days…or whatever. I have no idea what day it is. I had a great time.