The Power of Patience

So, I’m teaching my son to drive.

Yep, sound the Klaxon and get off the road–my 15-year-old is in command of a moving vehicle. As a parent, this is a very odd sensation. On one hand, you spend your entire life teaching them to be independent while secretly standing behind them in case they fall. Teaching a teen to drive is different–you’re there to help, but you are completely out of control. The kid has the wheel, the gas pedal, and over a ton of metal, glass, and rubber at his command…and I don’t. All I have is the door handle to hang onto and my voice to instruct. To quote my husband: “At best you can influence.”

To most people (save those saintly souls known as drivers’ ed instructors), this is a recipe for terror. I’ve had to learn that patience and gentle instruction is a far better tool than lectures about how brakes work. Learning to drive, although nearly everyone over sixteen can and does, isn’t as easy as a new driver thinks it is. It requires patience on the student’s part, too. I clearly remember trying to learn parallel parking with my mom. Let’s just say we both left in a huff. If we’d both had some patience with each other, it would’ve been easier. In fact, after asking my dad, who is probably the most patient man alive–no kidding–to teach me, I learned in an hour.

It’s been good for me to learn to let go. I want my kid to drive–I really do. I remember the freedom of being able to go where I wanted to go when I wanted to go there. (As an embarrassing side note, that was typically the local library–what a luxury to go get books whenever I wanted them! Oh, and McDonald’s. Because…sixteen.) That sense of freedom is part of what gives teens their first taste of adulthood, which is a theme that often carries over to YA literature. Think about how many books wouldn’t have a story if the characters didn’t have a car and the ability to go and do*?

That transition is at the heart of these books: first love, what does the future hold, life-changing decisions, learning you who are. How many people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s remember being a teen? I’d say a great many of us. Raising one can be difficult, but remembering what that time was like, with all it’s stress, can help you empathize (even if the teen in question doesn’t believe you). For YA authors who aren’t a YA (which is nearly all of us), hanging onto those memories can help you create a story that resonates.

In other news, edits on the “Zoey book” (sequel to Finding Perfect) are in the hopper with my editor, and we’re going to edit a new book later this summer (sekrit project). Finally, for my Unstrung fans, I’m starting the draft to book three, with hopes to release it late this year/early next year.

So how about you…did any funny/lightbulb moments happen when you learned to drive?

 

 

*Excludes places with regular, prolific mass transit.

Tick Tock Goes the Clock

Tomorrow, my firstborn turns 15.

15.

How is it that 15 sounds 10 years older than 14? Maybe it’s because he’ll start driver’s ed in April. Maybe it’s because he’s 6’3″ and I can’t tell his clothes apart from his dad’s in the laundry sometimes. Or how grown-up he looks in his ROTC uniform, or how he constantly talks about his “military career” after high school. His whole adult life is right in front of him, and I’m standing behind wondering where that 6 1/2 pound newborn with colic went.

But I won’t say, “It went by so fast!” It did in my perception, but honestly, I was there for every minute and I’ve watched him grow. So yes, it feels like it went by fast, but I’m changed, and that confirms that the time did pass. That old clock’s hands ticked double-time.

Every age of children is interesting, but I have to say these years, where my kids have fully-formed personalities and interests that diverge from my own, have been the most awe-inducing. Is there drama? Some, but not much. Are there still times I shake my head and ask, “Why?” Yes. Most of the time, though, I have the chance to watch them do things I never saw coming–like a self-avowed band-nerd becoming a marching-band parent or listening to them talk about Texas history (which teaches me something since I took Oklahoma history in school). It’s an intense time of life (mountains of homework, broken hearts, extracurriculars) but it’s fun, too.

So when people ask why I write YA, it’s because of the possibilities. Whether you write paranormal or contemporary, historical or dystopian–teens are always on the cusp of something, and that tension, those possibilities, make for great stories.

I’m looking forward to the stories my own kids create. It’s going to be a wild ride.Baby T

And, in honor of the kid’s birthday, here’s a picture of that tiny baby from so long ago. Can you believe a 6’3″ kid came from this bitty creature? <3

 

 

My Favorite Shows (and Movies) of 2015

Howdy all!

There are only a few hours left in 2015–and I just got used to writing the correct year on checks. Alas. In continuation of my series of my 2015 favorite things, this last post is dedicated to movies and TV. I had to combine them because I don’t do much of either, but what I like, I really like. So…here goes:

 

Marvel TV (via Netflix)

      

Okay, Netflix, you got me. You really, really got me. Daredevil and Jessica Jones were two of the smartest, darkest, best written superhero shows in 2015–even more so than Avengers: Age of Ultron (which I liked okay) and Antman (which I thoroughly enjoyed against my initial impression). These two shows, written for Netflix, are made to be binged. Netflix, wisely, released the entire seasons at once, allowing for “just one more” when you’re bleary-eyed at eleven p.m.  In Daredevil, they created a smart, likable, if brutal, hero, two great “sidekicks” (although I’d argue they transcend that label), an excellent cameo in Rosario Dawson, and one of the best Marvel villains ever written for the screen. Yes, I made that claim. Fisk was so complete: loving (yes!), scared, brusque, driven, passionate, merciless, and as broken as our hero.

Jessica Jones did something we haven’t seen from Marvel on the screen (yet): they let a woman lead. Besides Agent Carter and until Captain Marvel, we haven’t had much in the way of female characters being central to the story from Marvel, until now. And, oh, what a character Jessica is. She’s an anti-hero extraordinaire. A victim, a liar, a voyeur, an unrepentant alcoholic. She’s a terrible friend, but grows into a great one. She’s a terrible lover, but atones for her sin. And she doesn’t let the damage done to her stop her from seeking out and destroying the man who destroyed her first. Dark, twisted, raw–it’s definitely rated M for mature, but it works despite the shock and awe. And maybe because of it. Oh, and David Tennant is terrifying as the villain. His superpower is so simple, but so awful at the same time.

 

The Big Bang Theory, CBS

A lot of people think TBBT is on its last legs. Many complain that “it’s not as nerdy, therefore not as fun.” As a writer, I have to ask: if the show and the characters stayed exactly the same for nine seasons, would you still enjoy it? Probably not. I think the reason I’m still so invested (and I’ll admit, season 8 was soft) is because the characters are evolving–especially Sheldon. It’s nice to see these guys mature, while still enjoying all things Comic Con. And the women on the show add some much needed texture. I love Amy. Mayim Bialik has done a great job with the character. You can tell she’s finally in a place where she feels validated and belongs.

 

The Blacklist, NBC

 

I started watching the blacklist early in 2015–I watched a few minutes of the episode after the Superbowl and decided I should give it a try. After that, I picked up season one on Netflix, and I’ve been devouring episodes since. I talked a little about my obsession with Liz and Tom’s twisted relationship before, but I’m still ‘shipping them. He’s willing to do anything for her–and I mean anything. She’s gone from black and white FBI agent to someone in the margins, which is why they work so well. And James Spader…I’ve been a fan of his for years, from Brat Pack, to Stargate, to Boston Legal to Red Reddington. You can just tell he’s having a blast on this show. And he can basically outact just about everyone, even guest stars like Isabella Rossellini and Peter Fonda. Jury’s out on David Strathairn, though–depending on what they let his character do. Oh, and did I mention they get kickass guest stars? The FBI is writing to look a little slow, but there’s enough to make up for it to keep the show interesting.

 

Ant-Man, Marvel

The movie started slow. Let’s admit it. BUT–when it got going, it was a darn fun popcorn flick. Ultron was big and loud and (JAMES SPADER!) and amazing to look at, but Antman was just fun. Michael Douglas was part badass, part nerd, and part grumpy (funny) old man. Evangeline Lilly proved she can kick ass without Tolkein at her back. And Paul Rudd was hilarious. The scene with Thomas the Tank engine never gets old to me. I laugh every single time–it’s ingenious film making to use perspective to be awe and entertain. Oh, and Michael Pena was so funny, too.

 

And finally (you knew this was coming):

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Disney/Lucasfilms

There’s so much I want to say about this movie, and I just can’t. It’s too soon for spoilers (tomorrow is 2 weeks, and I think the “imaginary ban” is lifted, but I won’t post yet), but…BUT. Daisy Ridley’s Rey is an amazing, empowered, spunky, stubborn, compassionate heroine. She’s the Star Wars heroine I’ve been waiting for (nothing against Leia–but Rey literally kicks ass). Finn has a big heart–for fear, pride, and for friends. Poe is fearless, funny, and loyal. And our old favorites don’t disappoint. I know a lot of people were disappointed. I know a lot of people thought it was too much like A New Hope. While that may be, peel back the layers and you’ll see it’s different enough, and going in a different direction. This was the setup. VIII is going to be the launch. I saw it twice in the theater. It’s been years since I’ve paid for a theater ticket to see something twice. Usually I wait for the DVD and watch at home. That says a lot about how much I enjoyed it. Part of that was nostalgia, sure. But a lot of that second time was to devour all the details I missed. To immerse myself in the experience. For me, it’s the Star Wars movie I’ve been waiting for since Jedi.

 

So that’s my list. Any great movies or shows I’m missing? Let me know in the comments. And here’s to 2016!  Suicide Squad! Civil War! X-Men: Apocalypse! Should be entertaining.

My Favorite Songs of 2015

Since I did a post about my favorite books of the year, I thought, why not keep on going? TV, Movies, Music–I’ll post about them all before December 31!

Today we’ll focus on my favorite songs from 2015.  Now, some of these *might* have been released before 2015, but I didn’t come across them (anywhere) before then. All righty–let’s get started:

 

“I Started a Joke” from the Suicide Squad Trailer

Sidney Chase (Feat. Becky Hanson)

From what I can see, you can’t get this version on iTunes (I bought two covers that were close though), so you can bet I’ll buy the soundtrack as soon as it releases. This song is so eerie, so beautiful, so haunting, that it MADE the trailer. To me, it sounds, and feels, like Harley Quinn’s theme song. Check out the lyrics, combine that with her complicated love-story with the Joker, and you’ll see why.

 

“Up and Up” by Coldplay

Coldplay’s last album was all about heartbreak–and why not. Chris Martin had just split with Gwenyth Paltrow. A Head Full of Dreams could not be more different. There’s joy in every single song on this album. I’ll feature a second song shortly (which happens to be CM’s favorite song ever), but this is my favorite from the new album.

 

“The Fall” by Imagine Dragons

This song is so beautiful. To me, it feels like discovery, awakening. It also got me through the Sekrit Project. There’s another song (which I won’t post here, to keep a mystery) that sparked that project, but this one captured the heart of my heroine. She’s had her heart broken, then remended in an unexpected way. She’s been waiting for something to change, and it does. Plus the end chorus really sums up her feelings.

Renegades by X Ambassadors

Yes, it’s been played nearly to death by the radio stations, but I LOVE this song. It celebrates the unique weirdness inside us all. Plus it just has a great sound. This is a song my kids and I will always listen to when it comes on. It’s a great song for YA writers, too, because it captures that moment when a teen realizes being different is actually awesome. And the video? The man climbing Kilimanjaro, whose arms and legs end before the first joint, was a speaker at a conference I attended. He’s amazing. Oh, and X Ambassdaors’s keyboardist, Casey? He’s blind. So when you think you can’t do something because it’s too hard, think again.

 

“A Head Full of Dreams” by Coldplay

So this is Chris Martin’s favorite song–his favorite out of Coldplay’s entire discography. It’s a wonderful, bouyant piece of music. The main theme is that your dreams can be the change you want it to be. This is classic Coldplay, ethereal, vibrant. They are one of the most musical bands you’re going to hear (yes, haters, they are)–if you’ve seen them live, you’ll agree. I can’t help but smile and bounce a little every time I hear this song.

And last, but so not least…

“Time” by Mikky Ekko

This song hit me right in the soul the first time I heard it. And I knew, immediately, that this was Quinn and Lexa’s song. To me, I hear the struggle for two people to finally be together. That time isn’t on their side, but they’re still hoping, waiting, fighting for that chance. There’s such longing in the music and Ekko’s voice is raw with it. It’s the perfect song for star-crossed lovers, and reunited couples.

So that’s my list! How about you? Any songs burst onto your radar this year?

My Favorite Books of 2015

Greetings all!

I’ve been wracking my brain, thinking about a post for the end of the year…2015 has been a long year for me (while still being really quick), but one thing I had plenty of time to do was read. Being laid up after surgery is a great time to work down that TBR pile, and boy, did I. I’ve read some amazing fiction this year, and thought I’d share my faves.

In no particular order:

 

The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearon

The second book in the Remnant Chronicles was even better than the first. Both books are great, but this one added depth, danger, and passion. It’s a lovely epic-fantasy style YA perfect for people who enjoyed The Girl of Fire and Thorns series. YA 13+

 

 

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Fans of the Grisha trilogy know Bardugo can craft a great yarn. This book, set in the same universe, is one of the most fun caper tales I’ve read. A ragtag group of criminals/malcontents are charged with completing a dangerous heist in return for a big reward. Nothing ever turns out as it seems, making it very hard to put down. YA 14+

 

   An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

If you’re a fan of The Hunger Games, unusual world-building, or unlikely love stories, this book is for you. Gorgeously written, it takes an old plot and gives it a hard shake into something new. It’s a little similar to Red Rising, but only in that one protagonist comes from an oppressed people, and the other from the oppressors. I read it in two days while on vacation–just devoured it. Lovely work.

 

Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Speaking of Red Rising,  you knew this one would be in here. It seems like forever since it came out–but it was January 2015, so it qualifies. With the final book in the trilogy, Morning Star, coming out in early 2016, you really should take some time to pick up this series. Part Roman society oppression tale, part dystopian, part space opera, this book has everything. Epic space battles, beautiful nuanced character moments, and some bloodydamn good writing. Howlers, let’s rock. Adult due to violence (but suitable for ages 15+)

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Anybody who’s read Girl of Fire and Thorns knows Rae Carson can write. She creates intimate portraits of her characters, and protagonist Lee/Leah is no exception. On the run from her parents murderer, Leah has to pose as a man to join a wagon train on its way west to the California gold rush. I’ve never read a YA in this time period, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a planned trilogy, so this book is all about the journey.  The details are spot-on, and the drama, fear, and hope is real. YA 13+

There are so many more books I enjoyed this year, but these were some of my very favorites. Next year, I’m looking forward to series follow ups from all these authors plus (be still my heart) the conclusion to the The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, and the conclusion to The 5th Wave series. I’m always looking for new reads, though–care to share some of your faves in the comments to send me off to my next book obsession?

1 2 3 17