Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Delays the Apocalypse!

The Fall has arrived--though delayed ever so slightly by the storm that battered the East Coast and my favorite indie publisher, Elephant's Bookshelf Press.

Find The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse on Amazon.

The cover is beautiful and the writing spectacular. Some of the stories made me cry. Others chilled me to the bone. Still others had me laughing out loud. Whether you read post-apocalyptic stories out of sheer habit or this is your first foray into the end of the world, I promise, The Fall has a little bit of something for everyone!

It also has a short YA from me title Solar Flare.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Next Big Thing: Week 21

Last week, the lovely and talented Mindy McGinnis posted her Next Big Writing Project on her blog, Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire. Mindy's debut novel, Not a Drop to Drink, is scheduled to release in the fall of 2013. It promises to be an amazing tale--trust me, on this, as I've critiqued Mindy's work in the past and she's a phenomenal writer.

This week, I get to share a few writers whom I've had the pleasure to work with over the past few years. Each of the writers have extraordinary talents, and I won't be surprised if their names grace book covers in the near future. In fact, a few of them have already published short stories in the YA arena and one has published several YA novels. Their Next Big Things will be posted on October 31st.

But first, a few words about mine.

1- What is the working title of your book? Bryn

2- Where did the idea come from for the book? I have a background in psychology and am fascinated by the inner workings of the mind. While teaching my preschool class, I noted that some of my kids were nose pickers, some tippy-toe walkers and others compulsive liars. It made me wonder just how much of our behavior is set in stone and how much of it is molded by our life experiences. More importantly, what is our responsibility in knowing the genetic potential of certain traits?

3- What genre does your book fall under? It's a YA psychological thriller with a twist of steamy romance.

4- Which actor would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? To answer this question implies that I actually watch television/movies and would have a clue who the current actors and actresses are. Seriously, I haven't turned a television on in a half dozen years.

5- What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? If you knew that certain behaviors were genetic, would you allow the scum to be born?

6- Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I'd love agency representation. Better yet, I'd love a publishing contract!

7- How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I plan on thirty days. I'm outlining now and will start writing on November first for NaNoWriMo. Whispering Minds took twenty-six days, so maybe I can reach my goal!

8- What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I think it would be a wonderful shelf-mate to Neil Shusterman's Unwind. They both touch on the ethical issues surrounding the sanctity of life. But if Neil won't have me, I would love to see it placed beside Sarah Darer Littman's Want to Go Private?. She's my writing crush, as I love how unafraid she is to tackle tough issues. She doesn't sugar coat the dirty and writes thought-provoking and relevant novels.

9- Who or what inspired you to write this book? It did. It's such a compelling topic that it hasn't let go of me in over two years. When I read Pat Brown's How to Save Your Daughter's Life, I felt like the timing was right.

10- What else about your book might pique the reader's interest? Sex, love, ethics, abortion and death. Ultimately, it's about balancing the good of all against the life of one.

And now for more awesome writers...
Aaron Bradford Starr
Amy Trueblood
Jennie Bozic (not new to writing, very new to blogging)
Khaula Mazhar
S.Q. Eries
T.K. Richardson

Mindy, thanks for the wonderful invite!

Answer the above ten questions.
Name five(ish) new and amazing authors/writers

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Teen Tuesday Book Plug: SLIDE by Jill Hathaway

I attended a writer's conference this past weekend and had the distinct pleasure of meeting debut novelist, Jill Hathaway. She's smart, funny and cute as a button. And if she teaches English the same way she presented at the conference, her students are some of the luckiest in the world.

Out of professional courtesy, I bought a copy of Slide. After opening to the first page, professional courtesy went out the window. I was hooked by the premise and the voice.

Vee Bell has the unfortunate ability to slide into the body of another person--an uncontrollable and unpredictable quirk that literally puts her behind the eyes of a killer.

When she awakens holding a dripping knife, she can't tear her gaze from the body of her sister's best friend. Nor can she tell anyone the suicide was a murder without revealing her secret.

Yet for Vee, learning secrets is a by-product of her ability, and her suspect list grows as she slides more and more frequently due to sleep deprivation and worry for the cheerleaders who seemingly have been targeted by a cold-blooded murderer.

As the body count piles up, Vee must learn to use her ability to scratch names off her suspect list before her cheerleading sis is scratched off by the killer.

The things I loved most about this novel are the relationships that populated Vee's life. She has a little sister she's raising, a work-aholic father, a distant best friend and a budding romance. In my opinion, these four main relationships were well-fleshed out and realistic. I felt connected to each of them as they grew and changed over the course of the book.

The thing that surprised me most about this novel was that I had figured out the who-dunnit long before the big reveal. That said, I cut my teeth on mysteries and I rarely get surprised by the end "Aha!" in most novels, so take this comment as you will.

Over all, I think it would have been a bit more satisfying to have fewer issues introduced in one novel. While Jill Hathaway hits nearly all the major issues teens face today, there isn't enough time in a single novel to really tackle them at a deeply relevant level.

The pace was great, the writing was clean and easy to read, and the premise intriguing. Slide was a quick, fun read that I enjoyed immensely for the break it provided me from reality.

I give Slide by Jill Hathaway a smidgen shy of four onion blooms.

*As an aside, I would have loved more info on sliding. Specifically, how/why does one come back from a slide?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Spreading Literacy One Book at a Time with Lili

Did you know that Texas predicts the number of prison beds it will need in the future by the reading abilities of its third graders? Did you know that poverty and crime are directly related to reading ability? Did you know that over 80% of youth in trouble with the law have a learning disability--of which typically translates into a reading disability?

Did you know there are still illiterate adults residing in America today? And with them, their children who will never get homework help or hear a bed time story from their parents? Children who will likely end up functionally illiterate and impoverished simply because they are denied the pleasure of being read to as a child or because they literally cannot afford to make reading a priority in their homes?

If you could, would you do something about these frightening statistics and help change the course of someone's life?

One teen is.

I was lucky enough to stumble across a post by Lili. This amazing teen is doing her share to spread literacy and the love of reading throughout her community, one book at a time.

 *According to Lili's website, this beautiful banner is credited to Stephanie.

If you have new or gently used books for readers aged 0 months to 18-years-old you wouldn't mind parting with, please stop by Lili's Reflections now and see what you can do to help with her Books Change Lives charity.

Kudos to Lili and any teen who walks in her footsteps and tackles tough social issues with grace, passion and respect.


Alexandra Tys

Friday, October 12, 2012

Great (and creepy) Things In YA Lit

They say good things come in threes. Those same peeps say bad things do as well. And since Halloween is right around the corner, I give you three awesomely bad things shakin' up the YA lit world.





Watch it, order it and read it. You won't be disappointed! I promise. And if I'm wrong, may the gods of All Hallows Eve smite me with a rotten pumpkin.


Release date October 29, 2012
It's not all about zombies--though they're in here, too. Rather, this exciting collection of stories is all encompassing when it comes to the end of the world. Scenarios include the living dead, God's mistakes and our own human follies. Disastrous, yes, but also filled with hope for this life and beyond.
Lest you're waffling after seeing the incredibly disturbing cover, YA authors Mindy McGinnis, R.C. Lewis and Ryan Graudin penned short stories for The Fall. (Me, too, and a handful of other dedicated YA writers.)
There, as promised, I gave you three books to chew on and wish for. Now hop on Amazon and preorder Splintered and CREWEL, join the giveaway craze with SPLINTERED and settle in with THE FALL to prepare for the end of the world.
Alexandra Tys~ 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Teen Tuesday: Perfection is Crazy

I've been editing my heart out on Whispering Minds for the past couple days, and I'm here to tell you that striving for perfection is totally, absolutely, fundamentally crah-zay-zee.

Fun as heck to try, but darn frustrating when you realize you fall short of it.

Back to the grindstone.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Feel-Good Friday: A Few Pom-Pom Shakes for Writerly Me

 I'm not inherently a zombie fan, but I did fall in love with Carrie Ryan's zombies. And even while her living-dead made me look over my shoulder a time or two, zombies are not what I worry about when I think End of the World. Rather, I wanted something different than flesh eating mutants for the upcoming anthology, THE FALL: tales from the apocalypse.

Ironically, National Geographic Magazine provided me with the perfect End of the World scenario, and Solar Flare was born.

I just finished the final edit of this short story, and I can't tell you enough how good it feels to be done. Don't get my wrong, I love editing. Nearly as much as I love writing. However, there's something about teasing out the lesser-developed threads that turns a good piece of writing into something great. (Thank you, Jean Oram, Uber Editor of the Century!) More info will come, as the release date nears.

In other joyous news today, I finished putting together a registration package for a writer's conference in which I'll get a professional critique of (and a professional peek at) WHISPERING MINDS.

Fingers crossed that things go my way!

Now to get the next 327 pages in tip-top shape.

Have a safe weekend filled with good, clean fun.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Teen Tuesday: Instant Gratification

Instant. Gratification.

Sounds amazing, right?

Instantly you're happy and satisfied and filled with warm fuzzies. Instantly your itch is scratched, and you get what you want RIGHT NOW. Without a moment's hesitation, your wishes and desires are fulfilled.

Want a soda? Great, here's two. Want a piece of triple chocolate cheesecake with truffles on top? Why not the whole thing? Chubby butt? No problem, we've got diet pills. Think Top Choice Grade A Boy is cute? No prob. Just make yourself available.

No prob. Really, it's not. Because if you want something, why shouldn't you have it?

Actually, there are two problems with this mindset:
  1. It feels so dang good to be instantly satisfied. The high from it is nearly addictive and does nothing to train our bodies and our brains to work for results. Instead, we simply go in for another high.
  2. Secondly, the consequences. And Lord, can they pile up.
At sixteen, my daughter already has a handful of friends adventuring into parenthood. Sure that one night of creating the baby was heavenly, but the long term effects are catastrophic. I don't think I need to mention diapers, midnight feedings, two-year-old temper tantrums, teething, potty training, back-talking, learning to read, homework, rule-breaking, groundings and teenage drama for you to get that one night of pleasure can equal an insurmountable amount of time, effort and money. None of which teens have a whole lot of.

But let's not forget about that friend of my friend who shared a romantic evening with Top Choice Grade A boy and brought home a life-long case of genital warts? Life-long. As in she had to tell her fiance before they got married that she would be bringing ugly little friends to bed with them--'til death do they part.

Or that classmate of mine who indulged in a few drinks too many and has been in a wheelchair for the past twenty years? I'm sure his euphoria died the minute his truck struck an electrical pole.

Oh, the pitfalls of instant gratification are many, and trying to avoid them all sounds like a dull and boring life. But, I'm here to testify that it's not. Really. Because if you play it safe--not stupid--you can find those warm fuzzies you crave so much.

"How?" you might ask.

By knowing what you're craving.

Do you want the cute boy to like you, or do you just want everyone to think the cute boy likes you? Because if Cute Boy actually liked you, he'd respect you and wouldn't want you to do something to make yourself look sleazy and skanky. Sure he might want his own instant gratification, but if the long-term craving is different than a quick romp, he'll settle for a cold shower and time spent with you.

If you simply want to feel popular by adding another notch on Cute Boy's bed post then expect some of those unpleasant consequences we talked about earlier. And one we didn't--nobody respects a promiscuous girl. Not even the promiscuous girl herself.

Do you want to drink yourself stupid, or do you want to feel comfortable and cool at the party? Like you actually fit in? Because these are two completely different cravings, and each should be handled differently.

Just an FYI, drinking yourself stupid will only feel good for about 35 minutes. After that, you're just stupid. You'll trip over carpet fuzz and probably puke on the cute boy you're trying to impress. And at the end of the night you'll reek, look like a raccoon from h#ll with your eyeliner dripping down your cheeks and will miss out on all the good things happening around you. Namely the other sober people who just want to hang out and have fun. They do exist.

If you want to feel comfortable hanging with a large group of kids, find the right group of kids. Find the kids who like the things you like. I guarantee you'll be surprised at the number of teens who don't actually want to drink or smoke or act like morons. They're out there. Probably debating if they should drink to fit in, just like you are doing right now.

So, do yourself a favor and take that first step. Reach out to someone you have something in common with. Forge a friendship where instant gratification comes from being with a true friend and all the goofy inside secrets you share. My oldest son and his friends hung out in our living room playing piano, strumming guitar and singing. Sounds quirky, I know, but that's what made them happy. Smart happy, not stupid happy.

If you can do that, you'll have more warm fuzzies than you know what to do with--and no icky surprises that may haunt your life forever.

What kinds of things do you like to do? What quirks or passions do you love about yourself and would like to share with others? Name at least one person (in your mind) you admire for NOT doing all the dumb stuff to fit in.

Just once this week, think before you act. And next week, do it twice!

Alexandra Tys~

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Stripped Down Sunday: Photo Shopping Your Face

A writer friend of mine admitted that she had her head-shot photo shopped to get rid of the wispy hairs on her forehead. I, too, have photo shopped my face, but only once. I erased the crow's feet from around my eyes for our Christmas card.

It's not a proud moment, as I firmly believe in being who we are--in all our perfections and imperfections for the world to see.

And yet, every day, we get up, shower, do our hair, add some make up, dress in certain styles and spend inordinate amounts of time trying to improve our image. Why?

And to what lengths will we go to show the world on the outside what we feel like on the inside? What are we willing to do to show everyone that we are beautiful and worthy in some way. Even if our unruly hair or wrinkles get in the way.

Isn't it enough to be who we are?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Feel-Good Friday: Two Truths and a Lie

Right about now, I bet you're wondering who the heck I am. And you should. After all, hanging with strangers can be as unsafe as diving head-first into quicksand. To help you along, I'm going to tell you two truths and one lie. You can decide for yourself which one you think is the fib and why.

Even though each question has a bit more info added to it, the entire question is either a truth or a lie. No tricks going on here, just a tiny fib.

  1. I've swam in four of the World's "Seven Seas". (Here are the Seven Seas for your quick reference: Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.)
  2. I've eaten rabbit, snake, alligator, squid, chocolate covered ant and bear before. The worst meal I had was when a waiter brought out what looked to be a sandcastle of baby octopi. So sad...
  3. All my family pets have been named dumb things: Spot, Fluffy, Muffin, Cookie, Blackie, Tiger, Bear...yeah, I wasn't very original back in the day!
So, there you go. That's me in two truths and one lie!

How about you, what quirky truth do you want to share? Have you figured out my lie?

Alexandra Tys~

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Teen Tuesday: Hope versus Motivation

In my college psychology class we discussed an experiment on hope. It's a gruesome story and one I don't like repeating. However, it illustrates my point perfectly. In short, rats were left to drown in a bucket of freezing water. At the moment they gave up, they were dipped out, dried off and fed snacks. After this miraculous rescue, they were plunged back into the water and left to their own devices.

Now, a normal rat will swim about thirteen to fourteen minutes before fatigue sets in. Not so with the previously-saved rats who were still swimming nearly three days later.


That's what the scientists called it. That's what many inspirational speakers call it when they recount this horror story of an experiment.

Others call it motivation.

What's the difference? And how does that difference affect you and your upcoming years of highschool survival?

I believe hope is something that comes from outside yourself. It's something you cannot achieve on your own. It's merely a thought you can hold on to that influences what you do. (I hope someone saves me soon!)

Motivation, on the other hand, speaks of action. It's making a conscious choice to work toward a goal. (Swim. If I stop, I'll drown. If I swim, I'll reach safety. Swim!)

Hope puts the outcome in someone else's hands, while motivation leaves it firmly in yours.

As teens, you need to take control of your lives. You need to start making choices that will affect the outcome of your future. Don't chug a six-pack and hope you make it home after the party. That's ridiculous and dangerous. Not to mention stupid on many levels.

Instead, let your desire to make it home happy, healthy and safe motivate you to choose
  • not to drink
  • not to ride with someone who's been drinking, or
  • to seek a sober ride home.
You alone are in charge of your actions. Don't just sit back and hope things will work out in your favor. Rather, think about what you want in life and use that goal as motivation to succeed.

What things can you control as a teen? Think about all the paths your future can take--teacher or burger flipper, business CEO or bar fly, muscian or teen mother. Now, what choices can you make that will help you reach your goals? Which ones will inhibit your ability to reach them?

Sink or swim? The choice is yours.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Stripped Down Sunday:The Boy Next Door Syndrome

You know the routine. There's a girl and right next door lives this boy. He's all the things the girl wants, but she doesn't know it yet. Instead, she spends all her time sneaking under the fence to graze on the greener grass. She breaks a bridge--or twenty--takes him for granted and pushes him completely out of her life. Until one day he's gone. And that's exactly when she wants him.

Cliches, I know, but cliches packed with truth. In life, we so often fail to realize the good things we have, and we always seem to want more.

We live it, we read it, and we cry about it. Time and time again. But, we never, ever learn from it.

I married my high school sweetheart. This summer we celebrated our twentieth anniversary. About ten years into my marriage, an acquaintance expressed the feeling of awed disgust. "I don't know how you did it. I never could have married INSERT HER GUY NEXT DOOR'S NAME HERE."

Me: "Why not?"

Her: "Because, what if there's somebody better out there?"

Me: "There is."

Unequivocally there is a higher paying job, a more attractive dude, a faster car, smarter kids, better football players, cuter cheerleaders, skinnier gals, buffer boys, cuter hair, bigger houses, better co-workers--but there is only one guy next door. And if we are afraid to be happy with what we have then we won't be happy at all.

I'm not asking you to settle. I'm just asking you to assess what you have against what you need, then take good look at why you want more.

At the very least, learn from that acquaintance of mine. Fast forward ten years since the above conversation and she's still unmarried. Unmarried at 35 with no prospects, because every time she crawls under the fence, there's another green pasture, another fence, and another boy next door watching it all.

How do you let the Boy Next Door Syndrome rule your life? How do we break away from this mindset and start appreciating the things we have?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Feel-Good Friday: Of Clothes Lines and Shooting Stars

Every romantic relationship has a first kiss, and each one should feel magical. My favorite first kiss occurred on a dark night that can only happen in the country with few lights to wash away the stars. I was in my room on the second floor of our old farmhouse when I heard a thunk against my window. And another.

I snuck down the stairs so as not to wake my dad and opened the front door to the slightly intoxicated and very hot high school boy I'd been flirting with for years. After much coaxing on his behalf, we settled in under the clothes line on the side of the house. As our conversation meandered to whatever high school kids talk about, he leaned into me, until his arm pressed against my shoulder.

An electric jolt shot through my body, but all I could think about was his hands. We'd driven to basketball games together, and always, I'd watched his hands on the steering wheel. They were strong hands even back then. Capable of shifting gears without so much as a hitch in his sports car. Perpetually tan to match his naturally dark complexion. Drumming on his dashboard in perfect time to the music. Any music, but mostly The Cars.

He grabbed my leg and pointed into the night withhis other hand. "Did you see that?"

I hadn't. The only thing I saw was him. The only thing I felt was the burn of my bare thigh under his fingers.

"It was a shooting star. I've never seen one before." His husky voice filled the summer evening with awe. It filled me with something else all together.

No sooner had I told him it was lucky to wish on a shooting star than another light streaked across the sky. With experienced ease, his lips found mine. He tasted of cheap beer--something I can't drink, or even smell, to this day without thinking of him.

As we broke apart, his friends--who I didn't know had tagged along--burst around the side of the house and caught the clothesline right across their necks. The force of it threw them backwards onto the ground. In an instant, our new-found passion erupted into rolling laughter.

While my last first kiss wasn't filled with fireworks, it was a moment never before experienced and one never to be duplicated. That's the magic of the first kiss. No matter how many times you smooch after that, you'll never, ever be able to replicate the experience.

Thank, God. Because if those yahoos were still hanging around our house at night, I'd be a little worried!

Do you remember your first-first kiss, or was there another one far more important along the way? If you could do it all over again, what would you change about the most important kiss your of your life? And if you've yet to experience this magical moment, what do you envision to be the perfect setting, the perfect guy, the perfect kiss?

Spill it all on First Kiss Friday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Teen Tuesday: Want to Go Private? Book Review

This world is a scary place. So many of you are innocent and trusting, and at the age where you're seeking your indepenence from your parents and/or experimenting with personal relationships on a whole new level. Those are all good qualities as long as you temper them with a healthy dose of caution.

My sixteen-year-old-daughter is pocket-sized. A physical trait that makes her a greater target for sexual predators, simply by virtue of being easier to drag off or carry away. So says Pat Brown, America's top criminal profiler in her book, How To Save Your Daughter's Life. I read it, and I'm sold. Sold on the idea that so many teens and young adults needlessly put themselves at risk every single day.

Sold on the idea that caution is a good thing. Sold on the idea that you need to understand the nuances of relationships before you can ever protect yourself from the hidden dangers they may carry.

But, don't trust me. Trust an author who read through real-life transcripts of a cyber-victim's chat and wrote about them just for you. If you've not heard of Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman, I suggest you track down a copy now.

What's it about? When Abby meets Luke, she's feeling pretty punky about her life. Her best friend seems to be slipping away and her parents are more concerned about her grades than her social life. Online, Luke recognizes her need for friendship and cultivates a dangerous level of trust within Abby. He gets her. He cares about her. He wants to make her happy.


He wants to make himself happy.

Told in three parts, Want to Go Private? follows Abby's terrifying journey of trusting the wrong guy for all the wrong reasons, and the consequences of her misplaced trust.

This is a gut-wrenching story of a sexual predator stalking his victims online. It's a wake-up call to teens and young adults to understand the yearning within themselves and how easy it really is to fall victim to an experienced predator. Like Abby, I'm sure you're shaking your head and saying, "Not me. I know better. I would never."

Well, guess what? She said all those things, too. She was a good kid who got manipulated. And so can you.

It was a hard book to read. At times I wanted to vomit. I wanted to reach through the pages and smack Abby upside the head for being so stupid. I wanted to shake her and hug her and tell her she'd be okay. Just please, please, please stop making mistakes.

And I ask of you, teen readers, please, please, please read this novel. It just may save your life.

Alexandra Tys~