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Amy Zhang

Writer’s Block

Hi, guys! So, first of all, I got interviewed by the wonderful Patrice Cadwell this week! Check it out here.
So anyway, I have writer’s block a lot. Like, seriously. A lot. Usually when a) I’m feeling lazier than usual, b) I’m Twitterpated, or c) I don’t understand a character’s emotions. So, like, 58.23% of the time.
Writing is about translating emotions into words. And it’s hard. Sometimes, you just don’t connect with your characters. You don’t understand what they’re going through. You just have a picture of your main character in your head, standing on a cliff and looking out at an endless sea called Mourning. You can see the wind shoving her hair into her eyes, and you can see the way she digs her fingernails into her palms and pretends that she’s okay with being lonely. But the words don’t come. Because seriously, what is she really feeling? What is she thinking? Why is she so afraid to cry?
So, when I have writer’s block, I play piano. More specifically, I write music for my manuscripts. I think I’ve mentioned this briefly in other places, but I’ve always been too lazy/awkward/shy to put anything I’ve written on the wonderfully wondrous web. I wrote the following YouTube clip while I was revising my newest manuscript, tentatively titled BENEATH THE DISQUIET STAR, and honestly, it helped me me fix like, three plot holes.
So, how about you guys? How do you get over writer’s block? 

This Is Why

Writing is hard. It’s harder than math, because there’s no right answer. It’s harder than science, because there are no laws. It’s harder than staying awake during SAT. There are no formulas in writing. There are no foolproof plans. There are no shortcuts.
There is only you, a piece of paper, and a pen.
But writing is also easy. It’s easier than math, because there’s no right answer. It’s easier than science, because there are no laws. There are no boundaries. There are no certainties. There is no such thing as impossible.
Sometimes the words flow. Sometimes the story tells itself, the words fall into place and shift to become your castle walls, your distant, violet mountains, your character’s heartbeat. Sometimes you are so lost in your own head that this world fades into the background, and nothing exists except the endless tapping of your keyboard, the small black symbols appearing in neat rows across your screen, and the world, your world, that breathes between the lines.
Other times, it’s like you’re so insane that even your own insanity won’t talk to you. Sometimes there’s only a blank screen. Sometimes you sit glaring at your laptop until you get a migraine, but no story.
Sometimes, you really wonder why you’re still writing, when you are clearly no good at it.
And then. You get an idea. About a girl raised by spies and a boy who believes that love is a weakness. About a wolf and a sacrifice and a blood-red star. About a party, an impulsive decision, a trip to the emergency room, and the word cancer. About the imaginary friend of a girl who commits suicide.
And you remember.

The First Look Challenge


I know. I haven’t posted anything in forever. THINGS HAVE BEEN HAPPENING. Not good, writing-related-on-sub things. More like teachers-don’t-understand-that-they-can’t-expect-us-to-do-five-hours-of-homework-a-night things. So.

This week, I was tagged by the lovely Patrice Cadwell for the First Look Challenge. Basically, you have to find the word look in your manuscript and share the surrounding scene. The one below is from the manuscript I’m currently revising, tentatively titled BENEATH THE DISQUIET STAR. Y’know, the hot chocolate one?

This is a scene from the beginning-ish, from the POV of the male MC, who disappeared seven years ago and has just returned to the town of his childhood. He’s watching an execution in a place that was meant for sacrifice, and is about to fall in love. And as I mentioned, it’s being revised. So I apologize in advance for general suckiness.


The sun rains dusty light over us, and the haze bends time until I am seated between Million and Holloway again, younger and afraid of smaller things. Before my eyes, only my eyes, it is the Day of Disquiet, and the stadium is only noise and fire. I remember a burning star, a blue-gray fenrisulfr, a terrified dead man, an entire town watching. Million is on his feet with the rest of the crowd, but I have stayed seated, and Holloway’s hand is on my shoulder.

I ask him, why?

And he says that when the star fell and the monster wolf was born, someone had to fight it. Or the wolf would turn on the town and eat everyone. This is the only way.

I ask, but why do they cheer?

Then his face is grim, and he answers, “Because they want to live, lad. They are cheering for mortality, because it means they will not die this year.”

The stadium was built to be a place of sacrifice, but it contains more than the fire of the Disquiet Star now. It’s become a place of blood, because this town takes Finigal and makes it ugly. Men were meant to die here. But not like this.

I look around at the blur of faces, a sea of open mouths and words. I wonder what they cheer for now, when no one has to die.

Million has waited for this event for months and I had no wish to stay in Holloway’s store alone. But here I can feel a thousand pairs of eyes on me, and it makes my heart quiet and uneven. There are so many sounds echoing within this circle of stone, breaths and coughs, whispered words and shouted ones, and I am unused it. I left Finigal’s monsters for Finigal’s men by returning, but in this stadium of sacrifice, my eyes have yet to adjust to the difference between them.


Oh, and:

Mark O’Brien Writes

Olivia’s Opinions

The Incessant Droning of A Bored Author

A Fuzzy Mango With Wings

Crazy Red Pen

Y’all have been tagged!

Be Inspired Blogshop Meme!

Hiya, everyone! This week, the lovely Silent Pages at Pro(B)logue tagged me for the Be Inspired Blogshop Meme! *cue confetti* Yay! So, I was trying to figure out which project to do this about, but then school started and I got distracted by the fact that 5 x 5 = 30 in Chemistry and my schedule was screwed up and I didn’t have pre-calc first semester, and I totally forgot about this until last night. So. I think I’m going to do this one about the MS on subs right now. Because. I can’t stop thinking about subs. So.

1. What is the name of your book?


2. Where did the idea for your book come from?

Hmm. Let’s see. I was on a mission trip when I first got the idea for WILDFLOWER. It was in the mountains of Arizona, and it was dry and hot and my nose was constantly bleeding and I was dehydrated and there was only one toilet between twenty-five girls and it’s highly possible that I was hallucinating slightly. I was lying awake in the middle of the night and someone was snoring across the room, and I was trying really, really hard to fall asleep because we had to wake up at four. See, when I need to fall asleep, I do this thing were I imagine things. By then, I’d already written one (very terrible) manuscript, and I think I’d been considering a revision when suddenly, this boy with a scar appeared in my head and told me that he had a story.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much that night.

3. In what genre would you classify your book?

Definitely YA Fantasy.

4. If you had to pick actors to play your characters in a movie rendition, who would you choose?

Erm…I…dunno…I think maybe Ian Somerhalder for my MMC, Aro, because he has that arrogant, secretive look. Only, his jaw is too extreme. As for my FMC, Faye, I really don’t know. Hmm. I’ll have to think about that one.

5. Give us a one-sentence synopsis of your book.

In a world where everyone carries knives, Faye knows she should never be surprised to be stabbed in the back–until she’s captured by Aro, a quiet, enigmatic soldier from the enemy kingdom who makes her realize that keeping her heart locked away won’t be enough to save her life.
6. Is your book already published?

Sigh. It’s still on subs. You guys will know if anything happens. I promise.

7. How long did it take you to write your book?

Well, it took me just about three months to write the first draft. I rewrote and revised thirteen times, though. So, all in all, about a year and a half.
8. What other books within your genre would you compare it to? Or, readers of which books would enjoy yours?
Well…hrmmm…I think it could be compared to Kristin Cashore’s Graceling and Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief, because it’s set in a similar world. Like, epic-ish fantasy without the dragons and elves, y’know? Make sense? No?
9. Which authors inspired you to write this book?
E.B. White, who wrote the first book that ever made me cry. J.K. Rowling, who made me fall in love with words. Lemony Snicket, who taught me that letters, when they are arranged correctly, have the power to break your heart. Frances Hodges Burnett, who taught me to see the beauty between the lines. L. M. Montgomery, who made me laugh when I was alone. And then there are the authors who made me want to keep writing…I could go on forever.

10. Tell us anything that might pique our interest in your book.
I drew a map for it once! Wanna see? I posted it once a long time ago, but I’ll paste it again. It’s not the most recent version, but…hey, this is the land where the story takes place. 🙂

11. Tag five people!

Mark O’Brien, my fantabulous critique partner, who’s writing this new story that is so beautiful and emotional and GAHHHH-inducing I just. Can’t. Even.
John Hansen, who’s writing a new sci-fi that sounds absolutely wonderful.
Ari Susu-Mago, because she rocks AWL TEH SOCKS OFF.

And…I don’t know who else to tag. Everyone I was going to tag was already tagged earlier this week : So…have some cumin. Love y’all!

Summer Highlights

Guys. GUYS. You know what today is? It’s the last Saturday before school starts on Tuesday. LAST. SATURDAY. Sad story, ain’t it? So that’s why I’ve been mysteriously absent for the last few weeks. I WAS blogging, just for AP English instead of here.

ERGH. Teachers don’t let you sit in a closet all day and write. Can you imagine? Sooooo not looking forward to it…so, let’s relive summer a bit, shall we? Here, in no particular order, are the highlights of my summer, to prove to the world that I accomplished a few things (I know, weird, right?).

A Short Story by Yours Truly

Evidently I was not thinking straight when I agreed to participate in Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain this month. Because this month’s prompt is, “Write a retelling of your favorite fairytale, myth, or legend,” and it means that you will all be subjected to my writing. Apologies. Bumblebee.
So, I chose to retell the story of Icarus from Greek mythology. This story has some meaning to me because it was the first Greek myth I ever heard (and so started my small obsession with different mythologies), and I’ve actually spent a lot of time thinking about it. See, the original is one of those kids-you-better-listen-to-your-parents-or-there-will-be-extreme-consequences-like-you-will-DIE stories. So Daedalus and his son, Icarus, get put in jail by King Minos and y’know, since Daedalus is such a genius, he builds them each a pair of wings to escape. But his less-genius son doesn’t listen when his dad tells him not to fly too close to the water or the sun, or the wings will melt. So…he dies. Supposedly, he gets caught up in his own awesome flyingness. I never really liked this. And so…my take on it is pasted below. Don’t come after me with pitchforks, kay? Kay.
Footsteps. They are my greatest fear.
Footsteps mean pain. Humiliation. Anger. Footsteps mean that someone is coming, and that is never good for us.
My mouth tastes like metal, from the cell and my blood. It tastes like darkness, because that is all I’ve been for so, so long.
Footsteps. My heart.
I hear nothing else.
The door opens wide and then the guards are standing above me, and the air around me is stale with their breaths and ale and sweat. They take my arms and drag me in a thousand directions. I hear my father crying out my name, and he is answered with only footsteps and laughter and their echoes, because my voice was among the first pieces of me to die. I can make out my father’s vague shadow, held back by another guard as the rest pull me beyond his reach. Fingers beneath rough gloves grasp my chin and shove it in his direction, so he can watch my face as they beat me.
There is a whisper of old words above me, a taunt or warning from the king—I cannot be bothered to care. I hear my father say my name again.
Everything tastes of metal.
I dream of the sun, but I can only conjure up a weak, watery thing. I have lost track of the days since I saw it last; I have lost the memory of warmth. I remember only that I used to close my eyes and lift my face to the sky, and I would see red, red, red.
Red. Even this color is faint. I am a shadow that bleeds black blood, hidden in a darkness made of invisible shapes.
Sun. Red. Dreams. Sea. Sky. Wind.
I remember the words.
I only remember the words.
I flinch at his touch, and stagnant air rushes into my mouth as I gasp a plea that no one can hear. The floor of the cell is cold, damp against my cheek, and I am not alone. The latter is what I fear.
Please. I consider the shape of the word on my lips, because my pride broke when my mind did. It sits on my tongue, patient, but my throat can’t gather the sound.
The fingers stay on my face, almost tentative, stroking back my matted hair and circling the bruises. Not the leather touch of guards. But the calloused, dry touch of my father, roughened by dreams and failures.
He says my name. He says it again, again, again.
I say nothing. I close my eyes and do not allow myself this moment, because it is passing.
He whispers things, escape, leave this place, back home. Wonderful dreams, wonderful failures.
But then he is pulling me upright, and there is so much pain, a thousand small agonies and a thousand greater ones. I am too tired to scream. I let him drag me to my feet, and I am too tired to ask why.
He straps things to my arms, leather that makes my heart twist and clench and listen for footsteps. My breath breaks and I know nothing but fear, fear, fear. The leather tightens, and gently, my father’s hand turns my face around, saying incomprehensible words. My eyes blur and my vision shifts, and I know, suddenly, that I am dreaming.
For when I turn, I see that my father has given me wings.
And through my fractured vision, I see that he has sprouted them, too. Light, lovely things made of metal and a thousand feathers and countless other things that the guards have left unwanted. This is why the king fears my father. This is why we are here—not for my father’s genius, nor his deceit, but because he knows how to take broken things and make them beautiful.
He says my name again and tells me to look at him, his lips moving in shapes that finally, I recognize. Stay out of the sun, stay above the water, or the wings will give way. He does not let me look away until I nod, and then he takes me to the door. It takes only a single moment for my father to open it, and a strange thing rises inside me, a dark sadness twisted around a distant, bitter smile, because my father made this cage, and all of its secrets are his. The king didn’t chain him. I did.
He takes me out into the hallway and my heart fights inside me, my blood cold as everything I am stills, listening for footsteps. But my father is standing by a window in the tower, and behind him is the wide, wide sea, calling. The light is blinding and piercing and wonderful, and I breathe as though I could capture the sunshine in my chest.
My father swings his arm back and the glass shatters into a thousand stars, and I lean forward and fall.
My stomach clenches and my heart is lost. The rocks and the ocean spell out my beautiful death, and I have never been more alive.
And then I spread my wings. I soar. The wind lifts me and sends me spiraling upwards, and the sky cries my name. The air smells of salt and sunshine and a boundless world, and my name comes from a thousand and one directions.
So alive. I am so alive.
I lift my face upwards, drinking the sun. It stretches its fingers towards me and lures my sweat from my skin. My wings are wide, bending as the sky does, and I stretch higher, higher. The blue is endless, above me and below me and around me, and I have forgotten which is the sky and which is the sea, for there are suns on either side of me.
The wings.
My father’s words come back too late, after I have renounced sanity and given up sense. I am flying down and falling up, and the sea and sky are open to me. There are a thousand feathers swirling, catching the sun on their melting tips, and I am falling surrounded in so, so much light.
My father cries my name.
Then a flurry of color, and a passing, and then nothing. There is no pain.
There are no footsteps.

August 4 – – Musings From Neville’s Navel
August 5 – – Crazy Red Pen
August 6 – – Lily’s Notes in the Margins
August 7 –– Olivia’s Opinions
August 8 – –Snippets, Slices, and Scenes
August 9 – – Mark O’Brien Writes
August 10 – – One Life Glory
August 11 – – A Story of a Dreamer
August 12 – – Life, Among Other Things
August 13 – – Blog of a (Maybe) Teen Author
August 14 – – The Teenage Writer
August 15 – – Scribbling Beyond the Margins
August 16 – – Dragons, Unicorns, and Other Random Things
August 17 – – Kirsten Writes!
August 18 – –The Zebra Clan
August 19 – – Miriam Joy Writes
August 20– – All I Need Is A Keyboard
August 21 ––The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer
August 22 – Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for next month’s chain)

In Which I Brag About My CP

So, y’all know how Mark O’Brien is my critique partner, right? Yes? No? He’s probably tired of me singing his praises now, but he’s going to have to deal with it. So, backstory. I wrote a short story for the TCWT blog chain (which will be posted on Saturday, so…stay tuned), and asked him to look it over before I posted it on the interwebz and made an utter fool of myself, and his critique was so brilliant that I decided I absolutely couldn’t let it fade away in my inbox.  YAY!!! (Oh, and if you guess the spoofed song, the singer, and the big Hollywood production that used it as background music for its trailer a few months ago, leave your answer in the comments and you’ll get a virtual cookie). 

There I was again tonight
Forcing laughter, faking smiles
Same old tired, lonely booooks
Walls of insincerity
Shifting eyes and vacancy
Vanished when I saw your SS
All I can say is it was
Enchanting to read you

Your email whispered “Have you read?”
Tripping up the stairs, your short story
Starts to make its way to meee
The playful blurb-reading starts
Counter all your quick remarks like
Passing SSs in secrecy

And it was enchanting to read you
All I can say is I was enchanted to read you

This story is sparkling
Don’t you let it go
I’m wonderstruck
Reading all the way home
I’ll spend forever
Wondering if you knew
I was enchanted to read youuuu

The lingering question kept me up
Two A.M., why you so good?
I wonder ’til I’m wide awake
Now I’m pacing back and forth
Wishing your story was on my lap
I’d open it up and it would say
It was enchanting to read you
All I know is I was enchanted to read youuuuu!

This story is sparkling
Don’t you let it go
I’m wonderstruck
Reading all the way home
I’ll spend forever
Wondering if you knew
That this story is flawless
Don’t you let it go
I’m wonderstruck
Reading around all alone
I’ll spend forever wondering if you knew
I was enchanted to read you

And this is me praying that
This was the very first page
Not where the storyline ends
My thoughts will echo Icarus’s name
Until Daedalus sees him again
These are the words I held back
As I was done reading too soon
I was enchanted to read you

Please don’t be in love with some other story
Please don’t not expand this one (I’m waiting on you)
Please don’t be in love with some other story
Please don’t not expand this one (I’m waiting on you)
Please don’t be in love with some other story
Please don’t not expand this one (I’m waiting on you)

This story is sparkling
Don’t you let it go
I’m wonderstruck
Reading all the way home
I’ll spend forever
Wondering if you knew
This story is flawless
Don’t you let it go
I’m wonderstruck
Reading around all alone
I’ll spend forever wondering if you knew

(Please don’t be in love with some other story)
(Please don’t not expand this one (I’m waiting on you))

*bawls* Is he not brilliant? IS HE NOT??? Gah. I was smiling so hard when this appeared in my inbox.

Tag! I’m it!

So, Mark O’Brien the Fabtastic tagged me for this! Now you get to listen to me rant! Yay!

1. What are your 5 favorite movies?

Ugh. I’m too fickle to pick favorites. I’ll go by genre.

Fantasy: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Comic Relief: Get Smart
Sappy Romantic: Roman Holiday
Book-to-Movie Adaptation: Pride and Prejudice (the one with Lawrence Olivier and Greer Garson)
Miserable Monday Night Go-To: The Little Mermaid (don’t judge)

2. Would you rather go without makeup for a year, or without shaving your legs for a year?

Makeup. Not shaving legs for a year? Ew. Wait, but I’m still allowed to wear makeup for prom and stuff, right? Does bronzer count? Because I have awful razorback tanlines from tennis. And I can still use my eyelash curler, right? As long as I don’t use mascara? I don’t ever wear mascara because I always end up stabbing myself in the eye. But I curl my eyelashes. Is that weird? Have I made it weird?

3. What book have you read recently that you really love?

Recently. Recently…oh! I read Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein, and it was fabulous. Not just because she has an excellent taste in names. See my review of it here.

4. What book have you read recently that you really hated?

The Official SAT Study Guide. But my AP English textbook comes in close second.

5. If you had to eat one food for one meal every day of the year, which would you choose?

Oh! Right now, I’m craving the pomodorie e gorgonzola salad from my favorite Italian restaurant. It’s to die for. Seriously. Like, I’m not usually a salad person when I go out to eat. But that stuff. Food of the gods of food.

6. What was the best part of your senior year of high school?

I dunno. I’ll tell you when I get there.

7. What piece of electronic equipment do you think you could easily live without?

An alarm clock.

8. Do you prefer your beverages from a straw, a bottle, or another container?

Um. In the can it came from? Is that an answer? It is now!

9. Would you rather have glow-in-the-dark skin or squishy teeth?

Glow-in-the-dark skin. No competition.

10. Who would win in a fight between Gandalf and Dumbledore?

Oh. Um. I guess…Gandal–wait, no, Dumbled–but then…um, pass? Am I allowed to pass? I JUST DON’T KNOW, OKAY?!

11. Do you consider pushup bras to be a form of dishonesty?

Oh. Definitely. Sternface *runs to closet to hide the one bought during an eighth-grade identity crisis* Stop judging. Puberty makes you do stupid things, okay?!

ARC Giveaway! (but not here)

Guys! Ari Susu-Mago the Wonderful is giving away her ARCs from BEA!!!

There are sixteen wonderful books up for grabs, so go check them out! Or don’t. *cough* I REALLY want to win this, guys. 😀

The Booker Award!

Hi, everyone! Sorry I’ve been quiet lately. Life has been, you know…life.

So, this week, I was tagged for the Booker Award. Of course, being my typical clueless self, I had no idea what this was. But Google is my best friend.
Yay! So, the rules:
  1. This award is for book bloggers only. To receive this award the blog must be at least 50% about books (reading or writing is okay).
  2. Along with receiving this award, you must also share your top five favorite books you have ever read (more than five is okay).
  3. You must give this award to 5-10 other lucky book blogs you adore
 Alright, then. Simple enough, right? Here I go! Being me, though, I might have the overwhelming urge to explain everything, so bear with me.
Top 5 Favorite Books (in no particular order):
  1. The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater: Because the writing is gorgeous, the voices of the two POVs are distinct, and the ending was heartbreaking. A lot of books now are raw and gritty, but this one was simple and beautiful and gripping without being dark. I was in love from the first page.
  2. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins: A lot of people didn’t like this one as much as the first two in the Hunger Games Trilogy. I loved it. I bawled. So hard. Mostly, I loved that Collins wasn’t afraid to make sacrifices, and that made it believable. She tore my heart out, and I loved her for it.
  3. The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak: If I were ever asked to recommend one book to every teenager in the world, it’d probably be this one. The voice is witty and dry and a tad wistful, and writing…THE WRITING. I loved the little snippets from Death, the “Here’s a small fact…” sections. Also, one of my favorite things about this book was that the reader knows the end from the very beginning. Everything is flatly stated, and the realities of WWII are gritty and immediate, but the ending still tragic because we couldn’t keep ourselves for hoping for something else.
  4. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. This is a book I would have read just for the title. I have no way to describe it except: READ IT. Please. Keep a pillow handy, because you will sob into it uncontrollably. 
  5. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card: I’m being so repetitive now, but I seriously love this book so, so, so much. It doesn’t fit at all with my usual tastes, and I expected to hate it. The premise is just…so…sad. Children-stripped-of-childhood gets me every time.
Then there’s Harry Potter, which first made me fall in love with reading, classics like Pride and Prejudice and To Kill A Mockingbird and A Little Princess (don’t judge me…I fell in love with that book in third grade and never stopped), contemporaries like Before I Fall and dystopians like Divergent. I like the old books my library sells for a quarter each and I like the new ones on the display cases and the not-so-old-but-not-really-new-ones sandwiched on shelves…telling me to pick five really isn’t fair.
And…5 other amazing blogs:
  1. Mark O’Brien Writes
  2. Write or Die Trying
  3. Truth, Justice, And Other Stuff
  4. Wonderland’s Reader
  5. Olivia’s Opinions
So that’s it! Hope ya’ll enjoyed!