Wednesday, August 10, 2011

YA Crush Final Round and Giveaways

Well it's here. I posted yesterday about the YA Crush Tournament, about Zach's surprising upset, and about #TeamKilt, pouring their blood, sweat and tears (okay, maybe not blood) into making him win. The reasons are many, but mostly it comes down to his advocates, and today there's a plethora of support pouring out for him and for them all over the place. Bloggers are posting their own takes on the tournament as well as their incentives for milestones across the competition. The link above will take you to one post that collects all of the links to the various giveaways.

Why do I think these girls (and of course, Jeri and Zach) deserve to win? Again, it's their dedication to the cause. Sleepless nights, non-stop and unwavering faith and cheerleading, the video they made, and of course the poem written to advocate Zach's case. Head to the Tournament and check them out. They're well worth it. Then, naturally, vote for Zach.

Today is so important. Jace has started with an early lead, but it's the closest race I've seen him in so far. #TeamKilt (the hashtag used on twitter to discuss the tourney as it relates to Zach's fans) saw this in Zach's last match against Tod. We started out behind and watched as most of the day the lead grew, shrank, then grew again to nearly 1000 votes. We never gave up, but none of us expected he would pull ahead and win in the end. Yet we did. At this point, we all know he can do it. Why? Because he's Zach. Because he has Amy and Jen of Fictitious Delicious advocating for him. But mostly, because he is backed by #TeamKilt.

Even the most diehard and seasoned of warriors need a reason to give and give, then get up and give some more. Those without the love of the character will also need something, some reason to give. So that's what we're here for. I'm going to tell you what you're getting.

If Zach hits 500 votes (okay that's happened, so this prize is already gone), I'll give 1 copy of PS I Love You to a randomly drawn winner.

Keeping with the Scottish theme (Yes I realize that in the above movie, the character was Irish, but the ACTOR is Scottish. And Hot.), if Zach reaches 1000 Votes, one lucky winner will get a copy of one of my favorite Scottish movies, Local Hero.

If Zach gets to 5000 votes, I will give someone a copy of one of my favorite YA Novels, Eyes Like Stars, and it's sequel, Perchance to Dream.

If Zach gets to 10,000 votes, I will gives someone a copy of Shine. No, I don't have an ARC, but I will preorder a copy to be delivered to you. Or we can make alternate arrangements if you'd prefer not to give me your address. I do understand; I don't even let pizza delivery people ring my bell and see inside my apartment... LOL

Finally, if Zach wins (Which we know he will), I will donate a photograph from Scotland from a very talented Scottish photographer, Fraser MacFarlane. The winner will get to pick ONE print from his store and I will purchase it for them.

So get out there and vote. Vote your little fingers off, get your friends and family to all do the same. Comment here to let me know who you are and that you're entering the contest for one of the prizes above. You only have to comment once to be entered for all, but you can only win one prize.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

YA Crush Tourney, Match 4 Incentive Winners

So... There's this thing going on right now. It's called the YA Crush Tournament. Long story short, YA readers around the globe went to a blog and nominated their favorite "crush worthy" characters from any YA books they wanted. The owners of the blog then took the entries and picked the contenders (25 total if I remember correctly), seeded and stacked them, then created a single elimination style face off. Each match was 24 hours long, and the fans voted for who they wanted to move on--either because they loved the character or they didn't want the other to win... Whatever the motivations, the competition was fierce.

As with all competitions, this one had an underdog. He was seeded last, and there were many who didn't expect him to make it to the second match. His name is Zachary Moore, and he is the product of Jeri Smith-Ready's incredibly awesome brain. He's one of the love interests in her YA series, two books of which are already published and the third is eagerly anticipated. In fact, I can't avoid recommending her adult series as well, so here... go. Read. Love. Then... do me a favor, which I'll ask for at the end of the post.

Zach, thanks in great deal to the tireless and ceaseless efforts of his Advocates, Amy and Jen of Fictitious Delicious, not only won his first match, he beat every contender he was up against and is now one of two in the final round. It's somewhat daunting to realize the effort these girls have gone to in order to get him this far. I'm in awe of them.

Throughout the competition, Jeri has been offering incentives to help get voters. One of the big things she's been doing is offering some of her very hard earned money to donate to the Tartan Army Children's Charity. She's had several fans and other writers chip in to help out, including myself. She's offered up quotes from the coveted soon-to-release Shine, teaser scenes ranging from G to PG13, ARCs (a rare and precious thing), and tee shirts. Other fans started chipping in incentives as well. That brings us to the main purpose of this post!

I offered up two incentives in addition to the money I pledged to TACC. The first was a favorite baked good of one random winner. The second was a $25 Amazon Gift Card. I went through the comments section of the Tourney post and collected everyone's name that I could see who voted for Zach and numbered them.

The Random Number Generator did all the work and now we arrive at the winners. The first winner, for their favorite baked good is:

And the second winner, the Amazon Gift Card is:

Congrats to you both! Brooke, email me your address and what kind of treat you'd like! Holly, email me so I can send you the Amazon Gift Card!

And now for the favor. Zach isn't just seeded last tomorrow. Jace is the TOUGHEST competitor to date. With one exception, Jace has always held more than 2/3 the votes of each match he's been in. His last match was still a landslide victory, so don't mistake that statement. We need to muster everyone we possibly can a 9am EST/8am CST tomorrow and get the word spread. Get the voting in. We need to show Jeri and Zach the love, but more than that, we need to show Jen and Amy that all their hard work has not been for nothing. They deserve this win, and I am to give it to them. Please, log on and vote. Spread the word to all of your friends, family, coworkers, cats, dogs, even the uncle that smells vaguely. Get them all to log in and vote for Zach. Jeri has some fantabulous incentives lined up, and this competition promises to be the fiercest one yet. You don't want to miss out!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

YA Books: Too Dark or Hitting Too Close To Home?

Aghast. Astounded. Flabbergasted. Shocked. Disheartened. Dismayed. Utterly mind-frelled.

HOW is this considered accurate, let alone responsible?

For those of you who are part of--or at least tangentially aware of--the writing community, you'll understand what I'm talking about. Even if you disagree with my very obvious opinion on the matter. And I acknowledge that it really is just that: my opinion. It is shared by many MANY people, but I won't go so far as to say that makes it FACT.

For those of you who are unaware of why my outrage is about, allow me to enlighten you.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal posted an article blasting the YA (Young Adult) genre of books. We're all aware, thanks to Twilight and The Vampire Diaries, that the current trend in Teen interests isn't that far off of the adult ones. Vampires, and Werewolves, and supernaturals (Oh my!) abound. The Wall Street Journal has not only criticized but admonished teens, parents, publishers and authors for the existence and participation in this current trend.

Frankly I find it disgusting. When I wasn't a teenager, I was an avid reader. What did I read? In school, I read things like Island of the Blue Dolphins, which made me cry because the ending was so sad. Out of school I read the Sweet Valley Twins series. People might think that's a great, light and fluffy series, but I remember it differently. Sure there was some of that. But I also remember the books that dealt with child cruelty: children were being abused by their parents and didn't know how to speak out and get help; twins had been separated at birth, and the book dealing with their eventual coming together was a very dark themed book, full of suspense and mystery; the traditional April Fool's prank where the leading twin girls dressed as each other each year to fool everyone--but in that book they chose to dress as themselves and all manner of bad things happened which had the best friend sisters very angry with each other--and let's not forget about the book where the circle of friends decided that it would be great fun to have the twins pretend to actually be triplets with the new girl in school. They played other pranks on this girl, too, all because she was new and they thought being mean would be funny. It made me terrifed to move and go to a new school--which turned out to be a valid fear, as I went to 4 different high schools.

As a preteen, my mother handed me The Hobbit. What could be darker than a wizard forcing a hobbit to go on an adventure with 13 dwarves he'd never met and had no desire to accompany across a land frought with danger in order to recover their treasure? Anyone who's read The Hobbit knows it's not a light and fluffy book. It's incredibly dark, filled with things like battle, death, capture, escape, terrifying monsters that will torment you and play with you before finally eating you (those spiders are enough to make the most stout-hearted warrior take pause). My own mother admitted to me at that age when I asked her if she had read the book that she hadn't and never would because as a child she read one of Tolkein's books and it gave her nightmares.

Read that last sentence again and then read the first one of the same paragraph. That's right. My own MOTHER gave me a book by an author who gave her nightmares as a child--before I was 12 years old, by the way--all because she thought >I< might like it. Does this mean my mother was a bad mother, an irresponsible parent? No. It really doesn't. What this means is my mother knew me well enough to know that:

1. I wouldn't have nightmares from it
2. I wouldn't turn around and start acting out the things I found written in its pages
and probably most importantly of all
3. I would enjoy it.

Guess what else I read? The Red Badge of Courage, a story about a guy who enlists in the Army during the civil war. His "red badge of courage" was a wound to the head he suffered while RUNNING AWAY FROM THE BATTLE AND LEAVING HIS FRIENDS AND COMMRADES TO DIE. First off, how is a book about war aimed at children not dark? Second, cowardice! Hello! how is this an acceptable book, but vampires--widely acknowledged to be works of fiction and the imagination--not? When people expressed outrage about the military and "our children fighting an unjust war" (there's another post about my feelings on this; go find it), why wasn't this book held up for condemnation?

I've seen a lot of outrage and anger about this article, and I feel it's well deserved. One of the major poins the article expresses is that this kind of stuf... well here, I'll give you a direct quote:

How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.
Pathologies that went undescribed in print 40 years ago, that were still only sparingly outlined a generation ago, are now spelled out in stomach-clenching detail. Profanity that would get a song or movie branded with a parental warning is, in young-adult novels, so commonplace that most reviewers do not even remark upon it.

Maybe the reason that they went undescribed 40 years ago was due to the same mentality that makes people afraid to ask someone if they're thinking of hurting themselves or *gasps* commiting suicide. I'm subject to annual training on Suicide prevention and awareness. More often than not, I get "looks" because I dare to raise my hand and speak out. I contradict trainers who are only following a prepared set of slides with old data. I answer questions that no one else has the answer to, or simply doesn't believe the answer because "it doesn't make sense". Most people would just rather get through it. I'd rather get the right information out to people who just might need it some day. It's long since been discovered that asking someone if they are thinking of hurting or killing themselves doesn't "plant the idea" in their heads. What it does is show them that someone pays attention to them. Someone cares and wants to help. It gives them a chance, a way, to get help.

Let's also remember that Pathologies described today are done so in a very real way. Not over exaggerating for the sake of shock and sensationalism. Not underplayed to get the credit for touching on it, but doing so in an unreal manner. People who have suffered the same atrocities and traumas in those books can see that they aren't alone. They can turn to friends, family, other people for help or advice. It gives them hope. It gives them the strength to fight on. Some of these books even give teens considering killing themselves JUST TO ESCAPE THEIR REALITIES the courage and fortitude to stick through it, to grow up and pass on the message that what happened to them was not okay. How many of our outreach programs were started by, are currently populated by, people who went through things portrayed in these novels?

Ignoring these topics won't make them go away. Does cancer go away because you refuse to acknowledge or treat it? Did HIV miraculously fade from the planet because people refused to acknowledge it in the 80's? No. Today awareness about HIV is in the forefront of everyone's minds. Prevention and education are talked about. It's become common place. Is that wrong? Should we go back to the says when it was called GRIDS? Of course not. So why is YA wrong?

Ultimately it comes down to parental responsibility. If you don't like what your kid is reading, talk to them about it. Find out why they're reading it. Maybe you've got a great kid who is of the mentality that in order to adequately discuss why they don't like something they feel they have to have read it first. Like politics. The best way to unravel an opponents arguments is to be armed with facts and knowledge about the issues. Maybe your kid feels peer pressure to read it... in which case the conversation shouldn't be so much about why they're reading it but about the acceptability of saying "no" to their friends. Maybe they find it funny that people would actually believe in vampires, werewolves and faeries. If you think the books might be too dark or too violent or too something for your kid, read it first. TALK to your kids, and maybe then you'll understand.

In all fairness, here's the link to the entire WSJ article:

And here's the link to a very good rebutal:

If you're on Twitter, check out the conversation about this topic: #YAsaves.

I read a lot of dark books as a kid, and I didn't feel the need to start doing all the things I found in those books. I was reading sexually explicit books before I was 16 years old. Guess what? I was in college before I had sex for the first time. I was legally an adult and had already voted in my first election. I had already agreed to serve in the military. The books I read didn't make me feel as though I had to run out and have sex, that I was missing out on something. They showed me the complexity of the act itself, the emotions that accompanied it--and often the consquences that I knew I just was not ready to deal with. They reinforced my decision to wait. My friends started having sex at 12.

Yeah, you read that right. 12. I was a hold out, and very nearly bowed to peer pressure a few times just so I could fit in with my friends. And every time, I just couldn't do it. I've never regretted that, and my friends didn't abandon me. They might have made fun of me when i wasn't around, but none of them told me about it. I didn't feel any less loved by them because of it.

Reading about drinking blood, getting violent, hurting yourself--killing yourself--isn't going to put the idea in a kid's head. If the idea is there, it's already there. What it will do is help them to feel less alone, less afraid. And if you've talked to your kids, if you've shown them that you trust their judgement and are willing to talk to them about anything they find questionable or they don't understand--or most importantly, if they need your support and help because one of these books has shown them it's okay to come forward about something they might be going through--guess what? Your kid will feel more comfortable coming to you to frankly and openly discuss what they're reading. You'll probably find that you were right to place your faith and trust in your kids, either because they were free to be mature about it or because it gave them the courage they needed to talk about a very important thing. Would you really want to find out your kid was being hurt in some way (like abused) because they felt they couldn't come to you, and as a result something far worse happened and brought it to light?

Trust your kids. Talk to them. Read with them. Read before them if you feel you have to. Don't criticize an entire genre just because they're exposing reality for what it is through artistry and fiction.

And mom, thank you for trusting me with my reading.