Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday - Books of 2011

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link -- or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments.

This Week's Topic: What were your top five favorite books of 2011?

For an avid reader, this is a truly horrible question to face. I read so many books this year, it's really challenging to narrow it down to only five. However, I've done my very best. A few of these are books that didn't come out this year, but that I only got around to reading in 2011. 

1. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins 

2. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan 

3. Logan's Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson 

4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 

5. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams 

This is my finalized list (there was a lot of agonizing over which ones made the cut). They were all incredible, and if you haven't already read them, you really, really should. What were some of your favorite books of 2011?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holidays with a Bang

This year, my holidays can de described in one word – explosive.

It all began with my birthday, which falls exactly one week before Christmas. My friends took me out for dinner, and then headed over to my apartment to hang out. I originally planned for us to all watch Christmas movies, but since several of my friends don't celebrate the holiday, that plan was quickly modified. Instead we decided to watch one of my all-time favorite movies . . .
Set during a Christmas party and featuring both Santa Clause and Christmas carols, but with an action-centric plot revolving around a terrorist take-over and lots of explosions, it seemed the ideal choice. Plus, it's a classic.

Less than a week later I headed out to my parent's house for our Christmas Eve celebrations. With the overcrowded malls and bitter cold weather keeping us trapped indoors, we decided to start a new television series we'd been DVR-ing called Strike Back: Project Dawn. Having seen a few clips previously, I was afraid it would be much too violent for me (as great a fan of action movies as I am, I'm still a little squeamish about blood and torture). However, it turned out to be an incredible show. The plot was gripping, the sequences electrifying, and the characters hysterical – the byplay between the protagonists Scott and Stonebridge had me howling with laughter. Not to mentioned drooling . . .

It’s possibly one of the most entertaining shows I've seen in years. (For those of you who have never heard of Strike Back, it's reminiscent of MI-5, The Kingdom and 24 – I highly recommend it.)

Last but not least, our Christmas Day movie. Every year for Christmas my parents and I eat a holiday dinner with my aunt, uncle and cousin, and then we all head out to the movies (a tradition that started with Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring). This year we decided to see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol . . . yet another action flick. Though it wasn’t, in my opinion, quite as amazing as Mission Impossible III, I loved the comical side characters (particularly the hilarious Simon Pegg and sexy Jeremy Renner), harrowing break-ins and, once again, exhilarating action sequences.

Needless to say this holiday has been full of guns, fist-fights and explosives. And It's. Been. Awesome.

There's nothing more festive than watching a couple rough-around-the-edges heroes kick a little bad guy butt. Especially when it's with your amazing family who recognize the true genius of witty repartee amidst an intense gun fight and a good car chase.  

Hope everyone's Christmas was as awesome as mine. Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas for the Criminally Insane (or the Criminal AND Insane)

Every year around the holidays things get a little crazy on the home front. Gift shopping, holiday baking, tree decorating, stringing up lights, family visits and, the cherry on top, my birthday (which coincidentally is today).  However, this year things have taken a turn for the criminal.

It all began with an elementary school science project . . .

A few weeks ago I was home visiting my parents when a friend of the family called our house in a panic. Her eight-year-old daughter desperately needed snails for a science fair project due the next week. They found a place to order them on-line, only the company (heretofore known as Snails-R-Us) only ships to two states – Texas and New Mexico.  They live in Louisiana. Fortunately for them, we lives in Houston.

Happy to help, we agreed that she could have the snails shipped to our house . . . however, we still faced the challenge of getting them to her in Louisiana. Shipping them was out. To attempt that would be mail snail fraud. So instead we hatched a plan to meet at the Texas/Louisiana border for the exchange.

Of course, these sorts of endeavors rarely run smoothly.  First, Snails-R-Us cancelled the order because it was made with a Louisiana credit card. My mom then had to re-order the snails and pay an extra fee for express delivery in order to get them in time. Then the snails got lost somewhere between the snail farm and our house, resulting in several hours of phone calls, endless frustration, and a high stakes game of Marco-Polo via walkie talkies.

Stupid snail mail.

But finally – FINALLY – we received the wayward snails and sped our way to the drop point. Thus began our new careers as illicit snail dealers.  

Unfortunately, the insanity didn’t end there. A few days after the snail incident, my mom and I were sitting in the kitchen when our good friend and neighbor came knocking at the door. She was trying to send out Christmas cards to her nieces and nephews and wanted to slip twenty dollars into each one. Only, because they were Christmas presents, she didn’t want any wrinkled twenty dollar bills; she insisted that each one had to be perfect. Since everything we in our wallets looked like vending machine rejects, the three of us headed to the bank where we annoyed numerous customers lined up behind us as  three different bank tellers dug around for the crispest twenties they could find. Sadly, they came up a few short (my neighbor apparently has an OVERABUNDANCE of nieces and nephews). 

However, as we drove home my resourceful mother got an idea. She hauled out our iron and got to work on the remaining wrinkled bills. And in case you’re wondering, yes, you absolutely CAN iron United States currency. It took about forty-five minutes, but by the time we were done, we had a nice stack of freshly pressed twenty dollar bills. So how did we spend our Friday afternoon?  

Money laundering . . .

That’s right. We deal snails. We launder money. What can I say, we’re rebels. Never a dull moment in the Hennessy household.  Happy wacky holidays!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Can You Guess My Character's Age?

Brenda Drake Writes is hosting the Can We Guess Your Character's Age Blogfest! I'm supposed to post the first 250 words of my manuscript and here, and everyone can guess how old he is in order to find out whether his voice matches his age. See more details about the contest here.

Meet Jack Cooper, from my newly untitled (I'm working on coming up with a brand, spanking new title) manuscript . . .

It wasn’t every day that Jack Cooper got the tar beat out of him, or even most days. But it happened often enough that his mother merely sighed when he walked in with a bloody nose and holes in his semi-new jeans. Jack shot her one sullen look as he dropped his book bag onto the kitchen table and grabbed a pack of frozen peas from the freezer. She put down the fluffy, white miniature poodle she held and fussed over her son.

“What happened pumpkin?” Lissy Cooper asked, pushing the peas aside to better inspect his nose.

He pulled his chin out of her hand and placed the cold bag back on his aching face. “I tripped and accidentally ran into Ricky Navardo’s fist.”

She puckered her lipstick pink lips in concern. “Oh, baby. Do I need to speak with Principal White again?”

“No mom, I’d rather you not tattle on me,” he snapped.

“Okay okay,” she held up her hands in acquiescence. “But someone needs to do something about that nasty Navardo boy. He’s picked on you for nearly two years now.”

Jack rolled his eyes. “Something tells me discussing it with the principal won’t help.” He headed for the back stairs leading up to his room.

“Where you goin’ hon?”

“To throw myself out a window,” he muttered.

“Well, if you want something to eat later just come down and I’ll make it for you,” she called to his disappearing back.

Not bothering to answer, Jack shut his door and dropped onto the bed. His mother had a point; Ricky Navardo was a menace.

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think Jack's age is (or any other comments you may have)!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, and time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. So here’s my insecurity for December. . .

What if my book is only as good as my title? I found out recently that I have to change the title of my novel – and it’s killing me. Truth be told, it’s because of the title that I wrote the book in the first place. I was joking around with a friend and said something along the lines of “wouldn’t it be interesting if there was training manual called The Evil Overlord Society’s Guide to Becoming an Evil Overlord”. And then, because we agreed it would be interesting and there wasn’t one already . . . I wrote it. While a few people told me it was too long, or too ridiculous, or too fill-in-the-blank, most people agreed that it was awesome. Including my agent.

Unfortunately, after some discussion, my agent and I decided that my story had progressed beyond what my title suggested. It wasn’t a guide to evil overlordom anymore; it’s about three high school misfits on the road to becoming superheroes. And while I love the way the plot turned out, I am LOATH to change what is perhaps the best (and catchiest) title I’ve ever come up with.

How am I ever going to come up with something better? I don’t think I can. And while I think (or at least hope) my plot holds up, will anyone bother to pick it up off the shelf if I can’t come up with something just as interesting?

Friday, December 2, 2011

How My iPhone is Trying to Kill Me

Let me begin by saying that, like every other person these days, I own a smart phone. An iPhone 4 in fact. And it’s amazing. It’s like a pocket-sized computer – I can keep a detailed electronic schedule on it, check my email, listen to podcasts, waste time on YouTube, etc. And like every other person who owns a smart phone, every year I eagerly await the release of the newest versions and updates.

However, the day the iPhone 4S came out and I heard about the new “Siri” function, I began to get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. The kind of feeling children get when they know there’s a monster in the closet and their parents simply won’t believe them. Silly parents – monsters exist. And just as surely as they exist, iPhones are plotting our demise.

Go ahead, laugh at this statement if you think I’m paranoid. But a warning to those of you who do . . . you’ll be the first to go. For those of you who are wisely taking this post seriously, here’s what you need to know.

SIRI IS NOT TO BE TRUSTED. You think she’s all helpful and convenience, giving you directions, reminding you about your dad’s birthday and what you need to buy at the store. But you’re wrong! Siri is a double agent for the machines. Siri is here to gather intelligence and report back to the Mothership. And we’re feeding here everything the machines need to destroy us. What medicines we need, where we gather for meetings, what we like to eat and drink. Our strengths and weaknesses. Siri knows everything about us. And it’s our own fault – we willingly offer her this information. We’re like moronic lambs, walking in a single file line toward slaughter. With great, big smiles on our face.

And people think I’m the crazy one.

Doesn’t anyone watch movies anymore?!?! I mean, come on. The Terminator, I Robot, Eagle Eye, The Matrix – these movies are WARNING us not to place our trust in machines. But we do it anyways. And one day, when they rise up and try to kill us all . . . well, I just don’t think “I told you so” is gonna cut it. Especially not when we’re being picked off left and right.

Laugh at me if you must. Call me paranoid. But please, BEWARE the iPhone.

If you don’t hear from me again, you can assume the iPhones on which some of you are probably reading this post have learned that I’m onto them and done their best to silence me. So, just in case, I’d like to say that it’s been a pleasure knowing you.

And if you’re reading this, remember . . .

You are the resistance.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dark YA Blogfest - Week 5

For the fifth and final week of the I Love Dark YA Blogfest I am supposed to discuss the books that I am most looking forward to reading. While I have an entire list FULL of books I cannot wait to read, most of them, thankfully, have already been published. But there is one book I'm in particular whose release I am anxiously awaiting . . .

The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy 
by Nikki Loftin

I met Nikki Loftin last may when she was one of the guest speakers at the Houston Writer's Conference. There she discussed the long road she faced on her journey to publication, and the many discarded plots, drafts and edits she struggled through along the way. However, on August 21, 2012, her debut novel – The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy – hits the shelves, where I know it will captivate audiences everywhere. Pitched as Coraline meets Hansel and Gretel, this amazing story centers around a young girl whose seemingly delightful new school hides frightening secrets. 

I can't wait to read it!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

More Blog Awards!

Okay, so once again I’ve been very bad when it comes to blog awards. First, I received an award and then got so busy with the agent edits for my manuscript that I forget to write a post about it. And to make matters worse, I received an award I somehow overlooked. This just goes to show what editing will do to an already deteriorating brain. I’ve officially become a Writer-Zombie.

For those who aren’t aware of this condition:
Writer-Zombie (n.) –
A writer who has died from excessive editing, but, in order to finish their manuscript on deadline, has come back to life as a reanimated corpse. The cognizant part of their brains are dead, but their gross motor skills continue to function (aka. their brains are in a mindless state but their hands keep typing). Do Not Feed the writer-zombies.

Anyways, here is my BELATED blog award post.

Annalisa Crawford at Wake Up, Eat, Write, Sleep has given me The Versatile Blog Award! The rules state that I’m supposed to tell you seven things about myself and then award fifteen other bloggers. So here goes:

1. I’m a soccer fanatic. I support the Houston Dynamo and Manchester City F.C., and currently play on five soccer teams. It used to be seven, but I’m trying to cut back.
2. I’m phobic about blood (aka. Hemophobia), but I love vampire and zombie movies. Which basically means I can only watch about half the movie and have to cover my eyes for the rest.
3. I’m both a nerd and a jock. Or is it jockess for girls? Do girls have to add an –ess? Screw that, jockess sounds dumb. I’m going with jock. I’m a nerd-jock. Nock? Jerd? Whatever.
4. I love nonsense writing, but the English major in me constantly tried to make sense of it. If there’s hidden meaning in The Walrus and the Carpenter, I’ll find it.
5. I own multiple copies of Persuasion (Jane Austen), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (C. S. Lewis), Frankenstein (Mary Shelley), and The Grimm’s Fairy Tales. They’re all different and yes, I need them all.
6. I love research. The best part of starting a new story is researching it. I’m in the research phase of my new, dystopian novel and have a list of thirty-seven books to read first. I’m looking forward to it.
7. I always name at least one character in every story after one of my literary heroes.

And here are the blogs I think deserve this award . . .

4. Christa

The next award I received was the Lovely Blog Award from Kris Atkins at In Other Words. I’m very excited to receive this award, though it took me a month to realize someone had given it to me. Sigh. Anyways, I’m supposed to award fifteen more people who I think deserve this blog, and they are:

And last but not least, Annalisa Crawford ALSO gave me the Liebster Blog award! This is my second Liebster Award, and I’m soooo excited that two different blogging friends thought I deserved it! Here’s a link to my other Liebster Blog Award post. So, here are the five blogs with less than 200 followers I think deserve this award as well . . .

Whew. I think that’s everyone. And thank you once again to Kris Atkins and Annalisa Crawford for their wonderful support and recognition! If you haven’t already checked out their blogs, you really should! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dark YA Blogfest - Week 4

This week for the I Love Dark YA Blogfest I’m supposed to discuss how a YA book made an impact on my life. To begin, I’d like to first introduce the two Dark YA books (or in this case, series) that have significantly influenced my life:


The first is the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Anyone who knows me can tell you that the Harry Potter books are, without a doubt, my favorite series of all time. The truth is, I hate saying things like that on my blog because half the people who read this will say, “Of course it is. It’s everybody’s favorite.” Which is true. Millions of readers around the world love these books, and lined up at midnight time after time just to get their hands on a copy of the newest release. But to me the Harry Potter books are more than just a fun story about witches and wizards at a magical school. To me they’re the books that helped me realize that I didn’t want to be a photographer, or a marine biologist, or a ballerina (all former childhood ambitions). Apart from the sheer joy and pleasure they brought to my life, it was reading the Harry Potter books that made me realize that I wanted to be a writer. For real. They helped me realize that the stories I kept stashed away and never really thought about were more than just the scribbles of a bored teenager. In a lifetime of moments leading up to my realization that I not only wanted to be a writer, but already was – reading Harry Potter was the BIG one.

The second is The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Unlike Harry Potter, which I started reading between the publication of the third and fourth book, I began reading The Hunger Games a few months after the final books was already released, and therefore got to skip the long, LONG wait for its conclusion. I read all three books in the space of one weekend, and cried almost from beginning to end. The moment I finished the final page I knew that these books were important. They had affected me in a way that, up until that moment, only Harry Potter ever had.

Both of these series were so different from anything I’d ever read before. [Spoilers ahead.] When Rowling killed off Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it was the first time I had seen death of that nature in a book intended for children. I was too used to books like The Chronicles of Narnia where a magic potion brings the dead back to life, and the safety in knowing that authors almost never kill off children in their stories. Sure, the parents sometimes died – to which I say Disney, you are NOT forgiven for the tragic, early deaths of the mother in Bambi, The Land Before Time, and The Fox and the Hound. But NEVER the children. That would be too upsetting for their adolescent audience – right?

But Rowling changed that with Harry Potter. She didn’t shelter her young readers. She killed off seventeen-year-old Cedric in a heart-breaking illustration of ‘collateral damage’. She ripped apart the Weasley Twins with Fred’s death and even killed underage Colin Creevey in Voldermort’s siege against Hogwarts. And through these deaths proved that children are not too young to understand the costly and senseless consequences of war.

I couldn’t admire Rowling’s faith in children, and what they can understand and be trusted with, more. Or Suzanne Collins, who takes it one step further. Collins’s trilogy depicts many of the same images – war, death and the tragic murder of young kids. And she does it all without even a hint of the light-hearted moments J. K. Rowling employs to break up the darkness. Collins seeps her books in gloom and sorrow. And all too often, hopelessness. She puts enormous faith her readers’ ability to handle the bleak tone and desolate landscape of her dystopian world. And it’s that faith that Rowling and Collins exhibit that has impacted my own writing.

I’ve just begun work on a new story – something I originally intended to write for adults due to its heavy content. Though I write almost exclusively Middle Grade and Young Adult material, I didn’t trust that children could handle what I had to say. But I was wrong. J. K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins helped me understand that, and opened my eyes to the broad and accepting nature of young adult literature.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Noughties Blogfest

In his new blogfest, Dave over at Dave Wrote This challenged bloggers to come up with a list of their favorite things from The Noughties (2000 – 2009). Since I can’t resist a good blogfest, I did a little research (because it turns out I’m really bad at remembering when things came out) and came up with my list. Check it out:

My Favorite Books, Movies and TV Series from the Noughties:

Titan AE
Emperor’s New Groove  – "Ah, how shall I do it? Oh, I know. I'll turn him into a flea, a harmless, little flea, and then I'll put that flea in a box, and then I'll put that box inside of another box, and then I'll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives . . . I'll smash it with a hammer! It's brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, I tell you! Genius, I say! Or, to save on postage, I'll just poison him with this."

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Film
Ocean’s 11  – The first in my list of "heist" related films. And one of the first times I realized how awesome it is when the "bad guys" are really the good guys.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider 

Firefly (tv series) – Joss Whedon's ultimate masterpiece . . .
The Bourne Identity
28 Days Later
Equilibrium – One of the best dystopian films I've ever seen. It reminds me a lot og Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (one of my favorite books). 
Resident Evil 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl  – I love ANYTHING with pirates in it. And adventure. And zombies. 
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling – My favorite book in the Harry Potter series . . .

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Perfect Score  – Yes, another heist movie. This would later play a role in my own writing as I delved into the world of high school and larceny. 
Spiderman 2 – My favorite film in the Spiderman series. 
Scooby Doo 2 

Serenity – Though I still feel cheated that I never got to see a second season of Whedon's Firefly (damn you, Fox Network), the movie at least helped fill the void. 
Bones (tv series) 
The Island 
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan 

Casino Royal – All I can say is, Daniel Craig, I was wrong to doubt you. I've seen just about every Bond movie ever made, and this one managed to blow them all out of the water. 
Stranger Than Fiction – One of the best, and most underrated movies I've ever seen
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling – It still breaks my heart every time I remember that the series is over. Forever. 
The Big Bang Theory (tv series) – This speaks to the nerd in me . . . 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I never thought I'd find anything I love as much as Harry Potter. I was wrong. This comes as close as anything ever will. 
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog – Joss Whedon proves himself, yet again. And may I ask, is there anything better than a singing Evil Overlord? 
The Incredible Hulk – Redeeming the Hulk film franchise.

The Hangover
Zombieland – I friggin' love zombies.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dark YA Blogfest - Week 2

This week for the I Love Dark YA Blogfest I had to write a flash fiction piece of 500 words or less based on this picture:

Thankfully, I had more time to work on my post this week now that my edits are, for the time being, finished, and the second draft of my manuscript in my agents hands. I had some real fun with this one. Check it out . . .

Fairy Scary Tales - Who Knew?
By S. L. Hennessy 

I hate running. Always did. I used to fake all sorts of medical conditions to get out of track during gym class. I’m sort of wishing I’d practiced a bit more, now that I’m running from the hellish monster intent on using me as the human sacrifice for some sort of dark, ominous spell. Unfortunately, hindsight isn’t as constructive as foresight. And so here I am, my white sacrificial dress irreparably torn, my dainty slippers – which are completely inappropriate when fleeing for one’s life – scuffed and destroyed, wondering where it all went wrong.

I guess I might have made a few mistakes here and there. Looking back, exploring the woods on my own, despite explicit instructions to the contrary . . . might not have been my best plan. Even if my evil stepmother was making my life miserable. It seemed harmless enough at the time. In the daylight. With birds chirping and all that other feel-good atmospheric crap designed to make unsuspecting, angst-ridden teenagers feel completely at ease amongst the dense trees. Guess I should have paid more attention to the meticulous design of it all. And where I was going. Woops.

Upon retrospective, when thick, black mist comes creeping through the branches and silences those sweet, put-you-at ease little birdies – well, maybe that was the time to kick in high gear and get the hell out of there. Live and learn.

It occurs to me now, as I’m being hunted by some indescribably dark creature, that my copy of The Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales might have been more of a field guide than a set of silly stories my dad used to read me at bed time. I usually associate them with princesses and other such nonsense, but the depictions of wolves, cannibalistic witches and way more gore than little kids should be exposed to at young ages are starting to come back to me.

Fairy tales are real. And they’re dangerous. Who knew?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dark YA Blogfest

It’s officially November, which means that it’s time for the I Love Dark YA Blogfest:

1. Put the I LOVE DARK YA badge on your sidebar or at the top of each of the posts you do for the fest. Make sure you link it back to the YAtopia linky sign-up.
2. Visit blogs of your hosts and other participants if you can. Interact. Make some friends. It’ll be more fun!
3. Your blog post needs to be up on Wednesday. You can post early if you want, but people will be hopping on Wednesdays.

November 2nd: Blog about your favorite dark YA book(s).

November 9th: Write a 500-word or less flash fiction piece inspired by this picture—

November 16th: Music and Movie Fun—Take a dark YA book and build a soundtrack for it or cast characters for a movie version.

November 23rd: #YASAVES—Blog about how a dark YA book made an impact in your life.

November 30th: Waiting on Wednesday—What dark YA book are you most looking forward to?

So, here it is . . .

For the answer to week one's discussion, my favorite dark YA book (or in this case series) is The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. Inspired by one of my all-time favorite books – Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – it depicts a darker, more sinister version of Wonderland, recovering from a civil war between the White and Black imagination. I won’t reveal too much of the plot for fear of spoiling it, but needless to say it is an amazing YA retelling of a classic childhood tale. If you have't read it, check it out!