Monday, August 31, 2015

I Wish question - are there diverse characters in the I WISH series?

Yes. Several of the main characters across this series are diverse in race, ethnicity, or ability.

Eli Harper: Eli's mother is a black English professor at fictional Piedmont University. His father is a white civil engineer. Although Eli is biracial, it's incidental to the story. He's been raised in an affluent family. He's always lived in college towns. While his race is not ignored, it's not a plot point either.

Kimberley Rey: Kimberley's father is a Colombian-American, so she is half-Latina. Like Eli, her ethnicity is mentioned but not a plot point. (I chose Colombia because I was visiting there while I was writing the book, and the people and country are beautiful and friendly.)

Kimberley has permanent brain damage from the chemotherapy she received to treat childhood leukemia. Her resulting short-term memory loss is a disability, and that is a major subplot in Wishing for You

Grant and Camarin: Because they are not human, our Benevolent Supernatural Beings do not have an earthly race. Their descriptions are deliberately vague; I only mention their dark hair and unnaturally green eyes. The humans they serve (as well as readers) are welcome to imagine the appearance and ethnicity of the Beings however they wish.

Secondary characters: In I Wish, you meet Lacey's mother, Crystal, who struggles with depression. The family's financial problems make it difficult for Crystal to afford the mental health care (and medications) she needs. Readers will see glimpses of her in books 2 and 3. The impact of Crystal's battle with mental illness continues to affect Lacey and her brother. Just like in real life, Crystal has good days and bad.

In Wishing for You, readers will meet Scott and Paul Fuentes. They are Latino. Paul, an immigrant from El Salvador, is dating Kimberley's mother. Readers will see much more of his son Scott in book 3. Kimberley's dad has a partner, too. Nour is Lebanese-American. I chose Latino and Lebanese in honor of two of my friends.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I Wish question - Does I WISH have a cliffhanger?

I don't like cliffhangers and will never write one. So, no, I Wish does not end in a cliffhanger.

At least, that was not my intent.

[The rest of this answer hints at the ending to I Wish. It might be a spoiler if you haven't read book 1, so read on with caution.]

Some readers have assumed this story has a cliffhanger. I think that must be because they don't want the book to end the way it does. Lacey makes a big decision with an unexpected twist near the end of the first book, and she does not take it back.

In I Wish's final chapter, readers discover something that might happen next for Lacey and something that will happen next for Grant. Both of those plot points are confirmed in the first two chapters of book 2, Wishing for You. Grant continues to be a main character in Wishing for You. You'll see plenty of Lacey in books 2 and 3, but after book 1, she becomes a secondary character.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The making of a makeover

The Raleigh News & Observer has had a Refresh Your Style column for the past 7 years. The column will end in August, and I am its final makeover.

I'd volunteered over a year ago, but a lot of other people had put their names on the list too. When the stylist/columnist, Sheon Wilson, contacted me in July, I was thrilled to hear that I'd been selected for a makeover. To be the last one? That was bittersweet. It's wonderful to be the final person for this experience, but I'm sorry for all the others who won't.
at booksigning

One of Sheon's first questions was: why do you need your style refreshed?

My answer is all about my second career. I've worked in the software industry since college (and still do, part-time). I wear yoga pants and T-shirts to the office. As an author, I love meeting with my readers at author events. Whether I'm at a school, library, or bookstore, I want to be approachable, look good, and feel comfortable (because some of those events can last awhile.)

So here we go. A few photos to document my makeover from Geek to YA Author in August 2015.

Makeover Day 1: The first day started out with a Before shoot by staff photographer Juli Leonard at the newspaper's office in downtown Raleigh. Later that afternoon, Sheon and I hit 2 stores to pick out new clothes-- Lane Bryant in Durham and Dina Porter in Chapel Hill.(And yay, the lovely ladies at Dina Porter's gave me 3 tops as a gift!)

hair before new style

Makeover Day 2: I am at the Samuel Cole Salon in North Raleigh for a new style. My hair stylist is Katie Manselle. She was amazing, listening to my ideas before suggesting some of her own. Within minutes, I was ready to trust her to do the right thing with my hair.
hair coated in gooey conditioners

My hair is silver on top, and I wanted it to stay that way. So Katie put on a glaze to brighten the silver and give it a shine.
hair, sideview, after new style

After the cut, my hairstyle has wispy bangs, a contoured back, and these gorgeous sides that can be fluffed out for a fun look or tucked behind the ears for something a little more serious.

author with makeup artist

Makeover Day 3: I returned to the Samuel Cole Salon on the day of the After photo shoot. Here's a selfie with the makeup artist, Jenny.

author with hair stylist

Katie restyled my hair so that it would be fun-and-flirty for the photo shoot.
outside salon after makeover

The image you see here (to the right)? This almost never happens! I do not like to have my photo taken (which made the 2 photo shoots way outside my comfort zone.) To take a photo of myself, especially of me alone? Virtually unheard of. But I really needed to capture how I looked after walking out of the salon. I loved what the salon team did for me!

author with Sheon
And here is she--Sheon Wilson, my miracle worker. She helped me select several outfits that I wouldn't have tried on my own. She found the perfect jewelry and shoes to complement those outfits. And she helped me grow to understand that a person can be beautiful at any age or size!

after photo shoot, husband takes full body shot

Once the After shoot was over, I drove back to my day job office and found Hubs (who works there too). He took a couple of not-so-candid shots of me--because I was completely rocking that denim jacket and skinny (ahem) jeans.
after photo shoot, husband takes head shot

Check out the before and after!

Friday, August 14, 2015

GR giveaway ends today for I WISH

The second book in the I Wish series releases in 2 months.

I'll be giving away ARCs of Wishing For You soon, posting excerpts, and looking for other ways to celebrate.

The first opportunity to get a free book ends today, August 14!
There are 2 signed copies of I Wish up for grabs on on Goodreads. (US only this time, but keep watching, international readers! I'll include you next time.)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

I Wish by Elizabeth Langston

I Wish

by Elizabeth Langston

Giveaway ends August 14, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Advanced courses - Lies your high school may not know they told you

If you've created a short list of universities that you'd like to attend, then you may already know how rigorous the courses must be on your transcript to make you competitive.

There are several levels of rigor for high school courses: regular/standard, honors, advanced/college-prep, and dual enrollment. This post will primarily discuss advanced/college-prep high school courses and compare them to dual enrollment**.

Before you select the intensity of the courses you take, ensure that you know the admission rate for freshmen applicants at your target institutions. For instance, in North Carolina, freshmen admission rates are:
Duke - 14%
UNC Chapel Hill - 27%
NCSU - 47%
Meredith College - 61%
UNC Asheville - 70%

image of protractors
The tougher it is to get into a college, the more rigor you will need to show on your transcript.

My older daughter took three advanced courses (Calculus, Statistics, World History) in her sophomore year of high school.  My younger daughter never took an advanced course. Both daughters were admitted to their first-choice colleges (UNC Asheville and Meredith, respectively.)

Here are some things I learned as the parent of a student taking advanced courses.

Volume of work: Although it probably varies by teacher, the volume of work for advanced courses is crazy. They are fast-paced and intense. They require more effort than actual college courses. If you can handle most advanced high school classes, you can handle most 100- and 200-level classes in college.

Frankly, I thought advanced courses were too hard. As an example, in her HS senior year, Older Daughter took a dual enrollment class in economics. A friend of hers took economics as an advanced HS class. This table compares their workload.

Course typeDual enrollmentAdvanced course
Taken from community college high school
Length of course
14 weeks

30 weeks
Time spent 5 hours per week 7 hours per week
Projects 2 10+
Quizzes 1230
Exams 2 4
standardized exam
0 1

They both walked away with 3 hours of college credit.

Stress: The stress of advanced courses was horrible for my daughter. In her sophomore year, she started out with 4 of them, and I made her drop one, just because the stress was worsening her health. She wasn't allowed to take any her junior or senior years.

Transferring into college: To transfer the advanced class into college, the student must take a national standardized exam. Colleges are allowed to set which score they accept. A student can get a decent score--and the college they attend can still reject it. My daughter's college accepted 2 of her scores and rejected the third.

Even if the college accepts the score, they can also decide whether to call it an elective or a replacement for the same subject. For example, my daughter's dual enrollment English class transferred into college as an English class. Her friend's advanced HS English class transferred in as an elective. Just something to think about.

Starting college as a sophomore: If a student takes a lot of advanced courses and gets good scores on the standardized exams, they can potentially start their first semester of college as a sophomore. This is a hugely-valuable reason for taking them. First, it's (potentially) a way to complete college faster. Also, freshmen are the last students to signup for classes; starting as a sophomore can get a student earlier access to the classes/sessions they want.

Older Daughter started college with 18 hours of dual enrollment and 6 hours of advanced HS courses. She was a sophomore by her second semester.

We did not permit Younger Daughter to take advanced classes; their stress level trumped everything. The lack of advanced classes didn't hurt her admission to college. It hasn't hurt her progress in college either.

Bottom line: There are good reasons to take advanced classes. They (over)prepare you for college. They can make it possible for you to begin college as a sophomore. And top-tier colleges expect to see them on your transcript.

There are good reasons to skip advanced classes (and, perhaps, take dual enrollment instead.) They are often harder than normal college courses and are, consequently, incredibly stressful. You must take a high-stakes standardized exam and, if you don't do well, have all of your effort make no difference on your college transcript. And even when you do well, they could take up your precious elective slots.

Other posts in this series:
Online school 

Work Experience 
Career or money

** Dual enrollment: a program where a high school student can take a freshman college course and have it count on both her/his high school and college transcripts