Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

It's that time of year again. Have you been naughty...
or nice?

Have a blessed holiday! I'll be taking a short break - see you all in the new year!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Draft vs. Revision

In one of my Q&A posts, I mentioned that I prefer revising to writing a first draft. Many readers shared their preference in their comments, and it was just as I suspected: nearly 2 to 1 prefer writing the first draft to revising (10 to 6, to be precise).

Here are some of your comments:

Old Kitty says: "I'm in full flow and loving the first draft because I don't have to worry too much about grammar and such"

Joanne at Whole Latte Life says: "I prefer revising. To me, that's when the story really gets layered, the revision process giving me an opportunity to add depth to the more rough first draft."

Jai Joshi says: "Nothing ever compares to the magic of the first draft to me, although there is a certain satisfaction in revising and polishing the manuscript to a high shine."

Julie Musil says: "It's not that I don't like the first draft, but I love it once I have something to mold."

Vicki Rochco says: "You've got the magic of the story unfolding with the first draft...but the revisions REALLY pull it together and make it sparkle."

Lisa at Leaving Nadir says: "I like the rawness of the first draft. It can go anywhere your characters want it to go. Revision is also fun in its own way as you can eliminate that which doesn't move the story along."

Myrna Foster says: "I love and hate both first drafting and revising, but revising is probably my favorite because you still get to write shiny new bits to replace those not so shiny parts."

Jennifer Shirk says: "I revise as I write. So I may write a chapter one week then spend another week revising it before moving on. It takes me awhile to write that way but at the end my book is pretty clean and ready for a beta read."

And, as DL Hammons so eloquently puts it: "Rough drafts are way more fun!! WAY!!!!"

For me, I think of first drafting and revising as two completely different processes, and I love them both. I used to prefer first drafts, but lately it seems so difficult to pull those words out of thin air, to create something out of nothing. As Julie Musil said, I really love having something to mold.

On the other hand, it's nice to write without worrying about how it sounds, knowing that I probably won't keep those exact words anyway. When I write a first draft, I give myself permission to write anything down, no matter how awful it may be. I figure I can always go back and edit it out later. The funny thing is, when I go back, I usually find it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was and I end up keeping a lot of it (though I throw a lot of it out, as well!)

Thanks to all my commenters for weighing in on this subject. If you haven't already told me, do you prefer first drafts or revisions, and why? And, even more pressing, have you finished your Christmas shopping???

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Another Book Review: The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

I won this book in Shannon O'Donnell's Party Time contest. I got to choose any new release I wanted (thanks, Shannon!) and I chose The Marbury Lens after reading Carolina Valdez Miller's awesome review.

From the book flap:

Sixteen-year-old Jack gets drunk and is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is kidnapped. He escapes, narrowly. The only person he tells is his best friend, Conner. When they arrive in London as planned for summer break, a stranger hands Jack a pair of glasses. Through the lenses, he sees another world called Marbury.

There is war in Marbury. It is a desolate and murderous place where Jack is responsible for the survival of two younger boys. Conner is there, too. But he’s trying to kill them.
Meanwhile, Jack is falling in love with an English girl, and afraid he’s losing his mind.

Conner tells Jack it’s going to be okay.

But it’s not.

Andrew Smith has written his most beautiful and personal novel yet, as he explores the nightmarish outer limits of what trauma can do to our bodies and our minds.

Why I liked it:

Voice. Jack's voice is so utterly readable, it drew me in from the first sentence and wouldn't let go. His voice is so vivid, I felt like I knew him. And I had to keep turning the pages to find out if he was going to be okay.

Suspense. So many questions arose as I read this book, questions I just had to have answered. And because Jack's been through a recent trauma and he fears he's losing his mind, I didn't even know if I could trust those answers. But Smith wrapped everything up by the end, so I didn't feel compelled to throw the book against the wall when I finished it. :)

Originality. This is unlike any book I've ever read. I loved the unreliable narrator, the fantasy world of Marbury, the sometimes brutal reality of a teenage boy, the relationships between the extremely well-drawn characters, and the list goes on and on. In a word: Bravo!

Warning: This book is YA, but it has more adult themes than other YA I've read.

What new releases are you anxious to read?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Review: Hero by Mike Lupica

I won this ARC on Michelle Hodkin's blog. I had every intention of reviewing it before its November 2 release date. Obviously that didn't happen - sorry! Better late than never, right? And now when you feel like you just gotta have this book, you won't even have to wait to get it. :)


When Billy Harriman's dad dies in a plane accident, Billy finds himself developing new powers -superhuman powers - he cannot explain. A family friend and a mysterious stranger both try to guide Billy, and he doesn't know who to trust. With the help of his best friend, Kate, Billy sets out to solve the mystery of his father's death and discover the source of his strange new powers.

Why I liked it:

The first thing I liked about this book is that its main character is a fourteen-year-old boy. I read to my children (ages 14, 13, and 10) before they go to bed most nights, and this was one book we could all agree on (a difficult feat, I assure you). That's also the reason my review is so late, but that's another story.

Maybe I've just read too much YA, but I found the innocence in this book refreshing. Billy and Kate are likable characters I enjoyed spending time with. The action kept moving and suspense grew throughout the book. A big surprise at the end added to the fun. Overall, it was an enjoyable read that kept my kids begging for "one more chapter."

Have you read any good books lately?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wrap Up

Okay, you've got to be sick of this by now, but good news! Today I'm wrapping up my Q&A series with a final post on writing questions. Thanks to everyone who participated - I loved answering your questions and reading your answers in the comments!


Q - Susan R. Mills asks: How many novels have you written and how long does it take you to knock one out?

A - I'm currently working on my third novel. The first was a mid-grade ghost story which I did submit to agents, but it was my first novel and now I can see that it needs a lot of work I'm not willing to put into it at this point. The second was a YA epic fantasy, In the Seventeenth Year, which I still love. I submitted it to a publisher who kept it for a year before rejecting it (though they did provide a detailed critique which was muuccchh appreciated!) But by the time they rejected it, I was all involved with my current wip, so Seventeenth Year is sitting on the shelf, waiting to be polished up and sent out again. My third novel, a time travel romance called Killing Kessler, is finally nearing the query stage! I'm hoping to have it ready to go shortly after the new year.

I typically spend a month outlining, maybe six months or so on the rough draft, and a good year revising. I'm hoping to tighten that up as I grow as a writer and hopefully my manuscripts won't require so much revision. :)


Q - Myrna Foster asks: What are you writing or revising right now?

A - I'm revising my time travel romance, Killing Kessler. I hope to have it ready to query shortly after the new year. I guess I'll have to wait and see what my lovely CPs have to say before I know how much more work it's going to need.


Q - Robyn Campbell asks: How long do you typically spend on revisions? Which do you like more? First drafts or revisions?

A - I first sent Killing Kessler out to CPs last Christmas, then again at the beginning of the summer, and I'm hoping to send it out one final time this Christmas. So that's about a year of revision. I love both processes, but I definitely prefer revising to writing a first draft.


How about you? Do you prefer rough drafts or revising? How long does it take you to write a novel? How long do you spend on revisions? What are you writing or revising right now?

That's it for me, folks! I think I've answered them all, so if I missed your question please let me know in the comments and I'll answer it in a future post.

Happy Tuesday, Everyone!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Hating Game Websplash

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more. Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at www.talliroland.com.


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £200,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Good luck, Talli!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dream Agents and Authors

Today was going to be my last post to answer reader questions, but it ended up so long I've decided to split it into two. Today's questions are about (what else?) - writing!


Q - Brian asks: If you could get personal writing advice from any author (living or dead), who would that be...and why?

A - This may not be very original, but I'd have to go with Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games books are my all-time favorites, and she's an amazing author. How I would love someday to create a character as memorable as Katniss!


Q - Candyland asks: If you had to choose, would you rather have a fantastic book no one sees or crap that has been published?

A - I dream of getting published, but not if it's something I can't hold my head up and be proud about. So I'd have to go with the fantastic - if unread - book.


Q - Jennifer Shirk asks: How long have you been writing? Are you agented? If not, who is your dream agent?

A - I've been writing longer than I'd like to admit. Off and on since about the second grade, though I got serious about getting a book published maybe five years ago. I'm not agented, and I don't have a dream agent, though I have been known to look longingly at the Writer's House website from time to time. :)


Q - Lotusgirl asks: Are you a naturally good speller or do you rely on spell check?

A - I don't use spell check at all. I guess I'm a pretty good speller naturally, though when I run into a question about spelling, I'll check it on dictionary.com. And I've certainly been known to let the occasional typo slip by.


How about you? Which author would you most like to get personal writing advice from? Do you have a dream agent? Do you use spell check?

Tomorrow is a big day - Talli Roland's Blogsplash! In honor of the occasion, I'll be posting on Wednesday instead of Thursday. Then next Tuesday I'll wrap up my Q&A series with some more questions on writing.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kangaroos and Aloha

Happy Tuesday! This week I start my new Tuesday/Thursday blogging schedule. But since Thursday is Thanksgiving, this will be my only post for the week. Today I'll answer the remaining personal questions that you were all so kind to ask in celebration of my blogoversary.


Q - Creepy Query Girl asks: What could you eat every day and never ever get sick of?

A - I had to really think about this one. My favorite food is shrimp, but I do think I'd get sick of it eventually. Finally I decided to go with vanilla pudding - especially the cook-n-serve variety while it's still warm - yum!


Q - Lynda Young asks: "milk chocolate, white chocolate, or dark chocolate? ;) "

A - All of the above! If I had pick just one, though, I'd go with dark chocolate.


Q - Lydia Kang asks: "What is your favorite season and why?"

A - Fall, because of the beautiful colors, cooler temperatures, start of the holiday season, apple picking, etc. There are so many reasons to love fall! The only bad thing about it is that it means winter's coming - brrr!


Q - Lisa Maliga asks: What country would you like to live in for 1 year?

A - I think I'd go with Australia. Not only is it beautiful and English-speaking, but you gotta love those accents!


Q - Emy Shin asks: "If you have to live in one place for the rest of your life, where would you choose?"

A - Hawaii, please!


Q - Terry Lynn Johnson asks: "If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill or talent, what would you like it to be?"

A - I'd like to have a beautiful singing voice. I love to sing, I just feel sorry for the people who sit next to me in church!


What about you? Where would you like to live for 1 year? For the rest of your life? What's your favorite season? And is there a new skill or talent you'd most like to have?

Thanks for stopping by, everyone! And to those who celebrate it, Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010


Thanks for coming back for more Q&A with Susan. :) Today we're going to talk about one of my favorite things...coffee!


Q - Jeanette Levellie asks: "What is your favorite coffee?"

A - Black, the darker roast the better. My favorite brand is Starbucks, but I'll drink about anything as long as it's good and strong.


Q - Alex J. Cavanaugh asks: "Explain the significance of the smiley face coffee mug."

A - That's one of my favorite coffee mugs (I have many coffee mugs!) because it was given to me by a group of fifth graders that belonged to a Destination Imagination team I managed several years ago. Plus, it's just really happy. :)


Q - Les Edgerton asks: "(1) If someone didn't 'step away from your coffee cup' did you take them down? and (2) If you took them down, did you draw blood?"

A -My blog's first post (363 days ago!) dealt with this very subject. My husband does actually steal a cup of coffee on weekend mornings. I guess I'm an old softie, because I let him get away with it. And I don't even draw blood. :)


Q - Old Kitty asks: "Erm...coffee!! Cappuccino? Latte? Half caff...? Chai...??"

A - Since I drink so much coffee (I make 5 cups every morning, some days I drink it all, some days I don't), I drink half caff. Otherwise I'd be too hyper to write anything, let alone take my nap. :)


How about you? Are you a coffee drinker? If so, what's your favorite type of coffee? If not, do you have some other favorite treat that gets you into writing mode?
Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Blog is Born

I'm back with more answers to your fabulous questions! Today let's talk blogging. :)


Q - Jai Joshi asks: "I'd like to know what got you into blogging in the first place. We all have a story about it. What's yours?"

A - A couple of years ago, I attended the Highlights Writer's Workshop at Chautauqua, NY. There I met a wonderful group of friends, aka The Wad. You may know a few of them: Tess Hilmo, Amy Allgeyer Cook, and Sharon Mayhew all write their own amazing blogs. While the workshop itself was wonderful, I really think it was meeting these fantastic women that brought me infinitely closer to my goal of becoming a published author. One of the ways they did this was by encouraging me to start my blog.


Q - Velva asks: "What was the point in which you said, I am seriously going to do a blog?"

A - It took many months after I got back from Chautauqua before I was ready for such a huge step. The Wad started a group blog, but we rarely updated it and it fell by the wayside. Then Tess, Amy, and Sharon started their blogs. I spent time reading their blogs and learning the ropes before I was ready to start my own. Then when I did, only a handful of good friends (or extremely supportive friends of friends - like you, Velva!) visited my blog. Not until Jackee at Winded Words happened onto my blog one day and became a follower did I begin to branch out and meet new people through blogging. And what a fantastic experience it's been!


Q - Theresa Milstein asks: "What have you gained from blogging that you didn't have before?"

A - A sense of community, of not being alone in this writing thing. Writing is so solitary, but blogging gives me an invaluable connection to others who really "get it."


Q - L. Diane Wolfe asks: "How often do you update your blogroll?"

A - Not nearly often enough. It's due for an update right now, as I've got some new blogs I've been meaning to add. If I had to guess, I'd say about once a month.


Q - Clarissa Draper asks: "Do you follow a blogging schedule and memes?"

I've never done much with memes, but I do follow a Monday, Wednesday, Friday blogging schedule. However, as nothing is set in stone on my blog (as those of you who are paying attention to my color schemes can attest), I was thinking just today of switching to a Tuesday, Thursday schedule to try to free up a little more writing time and maybe finally fight my way through this latest round of revisions. At the moment, my plan is to finish out this week with a Friday post, and then switch to Tuesday, Thursday next week.

How about you guys? What have you gained from blogging? How did you get started? Do you follow a schedule?

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monty Python and an Angsty Fairy

I just love you guys! You answered the call and provided me with some really fantastic questions to celebrate my blogiversary - thank you! I've divided the questions into three categories: Personal, Blogging, and Writing. Today I'll start with the personal questions (which I divided into two posts because there were so many). Here goes:

Q - Sheri Larsen asks: "Favorite character crush?"

A - Roiben from Holly Black's books, Tithe and Ironside. Sure he's a fairy, but he's a really good looking, powerful, angsty fairy, and I love the way he talks. Case in point: "I have had a surfeit of killing, Kaye." Love that line!


Q - Bish Denham asks: "What was the first novel you can remember reading? How old were you?"

A - Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume. I was probably in about third grade. I was a HUGE Judy Blume fan as a kid, and Sheila was one of my favorites.


Q - Kelly Polark asks: "Of course I want to know what your favorite song or band is!"

A - I'll admit up front, I'm not up on the latest music. My favorite band is Matchbox Twenty. I have a lot of favorite songs, but if I had to pick just one, I'd probably go with Melt With You by Modern English. Please don't hate me because I'm living in the past. :)


Q - Jemi Fraser asks: "What book really hooked you as a kid?"

A - I remember absolutely loving The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. I read everything I could find by her after that, like The Changeling and Black and Blue Magic. Thus began my love of fantasy.


Q - Clara asks: "If you had to choose between a baby monkey in diapers or a cute puppy dog, which would you take home?"

A - I've had enough diapers to last a lifetime (or at least until I'm a grandmother). I'll take the puppy, please.


Q - Lenny Lee asks: "i could want to know how could do so much good posts and get around to all those blogs and do comments and do comments back to commenters and still get time for reading and for being a writer and being a wife and mom and not getting any sleep. yikes! that was a pretty long question. ha ha"

A - You're so sweet to ask, Lenny! The answer is, I'm very, very lucky because I get to be a stay-at-home mom. Now that all my kids are in school, it leaves me a lot of time to write, blog, and nap during the day. Yes, I nap everyday, usually for two hours. But since I don't sleep much at night so I can get up early and write, I figure it all works out.


Q - Stephen Tremp asks: "What is the flight of a swallow?"

A - Is that an African or European swallow?


Q - Sharon Mayhew asks: "When are you going to come and visit me???"

A - Nice try, Sharon! :)


How about you guys: What was your favorite book as a kid? What's your favorite band/song? Puppy or Monkey? Care to weigh in on the swallow question?

Have a great Monday!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Countdown Begins

Wow - I just realized I'll be having my one year blogiversary (why does that word look so wrong when I spell it, but so right when anyone else does?) in ten short days. I was such a complete rookie when I started, but you guys stuck with me, welcomed me into the community, and now I'm no expert, but I do feel like I've established some roots, made some great friends, and gotten a little better at this whole blogging thing. Thanks everyone!

In honor of the occasion, I'd like to try a little feature that I've seen done on some other blogs and have really enjoyed. We spend a lot of time out here together in the blogosphere, reading each other words, sharing victories, and offering encouragement when needed. I, for one, really appreciate the opportunity to get to know my fellow bloggers on a more personal level. So, if you leave me a question in the comments, I'd love to answer them as the blogiversary approaches.

So...what would you like to know?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And Now, a Word from our Commenters

First of all, a huge thanks to Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming for pre-ordering The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith for me after I won her Party Time contest. I heard about The Marbury Lens when I read Carolina Valdez Miller's awesome review, and I knew I had to read it. My book arrived on Monday, and it's moving straight to the top of my TBR pile.

Second of all, the winners of my Back From Hiatus contest have selected their prizes:
How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy will be going out to L. Diane Wolfe at Spunk on a Stick.
Hooked will be going out to Jeannette Levellie at Audience of One.
Either Hooked or Manuscript Makeover will be going out to Julie Musil. I'm not going to say which because Julie said either one would be fine, and I want to surprise her.

And third of all, several commenters were kind enough to tell me which are their favorite non-fiction writing books, and I thought I'd share those with you. It sounds like there are some great books in here, and I'll be sure to check them out. I hope you will, too!
Characters, Emotion, & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress
Barnes & Noble - book of writers quotation
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (2 mentions)
On Writing by Stephen King (2 mentions)
Chapter by Chapter
Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
Discovering the Writer Within by Barry Lane and Bruce Ballenger
The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
Writers on Writing edited by James N. Watkins
You Can Write a Mystery by Gillian Roberts
Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass
The Thinker's Thesaurus

What book (fiction or non-fiction) is at the top of your TBR pile?

Have an wonderful Wednesday, Everyone!

Monday, November 8, 2010

And the Winners Are...

Congratulations to the winners of my Back From Hiatus Contest! Random.org has selected:

Julie Musil
Jeanette Levellie at Audience of One
L. Diane Wolfe at Spunk on a Stick

I'll be emailing you to see which prize you would like. Choose from my five fave non-fiction writing books (click on the titles to see my reviews):

1. Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon

2. Hooked by Les Edgerton

3. The Baby Name Survey Book by Bruce Lansky

4. The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman

5. How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card


6. A $15 Amazon.com gift card.

Thanks to everyone who entered! It was so nice to see so many familiar faces and to meet some new ones, too!

Have a great Monday, Everyone!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Two More Great Books

This is my last post before the three winners are announced in my Back From Hiatus Contest. If you haven't entered yet, click here now!!!

Today's post is about two books that didn't make my top five list, but which are still awesome and deserve a mention.

#1 - Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer
Amazon.com price: $18.00
The Flip Dictionary is a thesaurus, but better. It doesn't just give synonyms, it also gives related words. For example, if you look up "minerals," you'll find synonyms listed for "mineral deposit," "to search for mineral deposit," "divination to find mineral ores," "mineral spring," "mineral water," "nonmetallic mineral," soft mineral," "to place minerals in a mine to deceive," as well as a list of 225 minerals.

To be honest, I used to use this book all the time, but nowadays I keep dictionary.com open on my laptop and usually use that. But there are times when, like the cover says, "you know what you want to say but can't think of the word." Or I need a list of music terms or types of bread or 81 shades of brown. That's when this book is a life saver.

#2 - First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Wiesner

Amazon.com price: $13.59

I consider this the ultimate guide for plotters. I've used this book to outline my past two novels, and I plan to keep using it for future novels. I don't actually have a first draft after thirty days, but I do have an exceptionally thorough outline that makes the actual draft much easier to write, because I have a "formatted outline capsule" for each scene, telling me who, when, where, relevant research, and a draft of the scene. It also walks you through your timeline, story evolution, plot sketch, and more.

Have you switched to using more online resources, like dictionary.com?
Do you outline before you write? If so, how long do you usually spend making your outline?
Happy Friday, Everyone!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Manuscript Makeover

Welcome to Day Five of my Back from Hiatus Contest. Today's favorite non-fiction writing book is:

Manuscript Makeover.

Author: Elizabeth Lyon, editor, teacher, writing mentor, and contributor to The Writer and Writer's Digest.

Amazon.com Price: Right now Amazon has nine copies offered as bargain price paperbacks at $5.98

Why I Like It: I like this book for many of the same reasons I like Hooked: readable style, concrete examples that really drive the point home, and - most of all - practical advice that will help you make your novel the best it can be. Reading this book inspired me to rewrite the first third of my wip. I can actually see where Lyon's advice has resulted in (significant) improvements to my manuscript.

I bought Manuscript Makeover to learn revision techniques, but I got much more than I'd hoped for. Thorough discussions and helpful tips on style, characterization, prose, beginnings, endings, pace, structure, grammar, and so much more, take this book to the top of my list of favorites.

Don't forget to enter my Back From Hiatus Contest by commenting on this original post.

Happy Wednesday, Everyone!

Monday, November 1, 2010


Welcome to Day Four of my Back from Hiatus Contest. We're down to the last two days, and I've saved my two favorites for last. Today's favorite writing book is:


Author: Les Edgerton, accomplished author of short stories, articles, essays, novels, and screenplays.

Amazom.com price: $10.19

Why I Like It: I think the back of the book says it best: "Agents and editors agree: Improper story beginnings are the single biggest barrier to publication. Why? If a novel or short story has a bad beginning, then no one will keep reading." A strong beginning is an absolute must, and Edgerton explains how in an extremely readable style. This is one book I'll be reading again and again.

My Favorite Section: Chapter Eight is entitled Great Opening Lines. It gives a wide variety of opening lines along with an explanation of what makes them great. I learn best by example, and I found this section an amazing learning experience.

You can visit Les's blog by clicking here. And don't forget to enter my Back from Hiatus Contest by commenting on this original post.

Happy Monday, Everyone!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Baby Name Survey Book

Welcome to Day Three of my Back from Hiatus Contest. Today's favorite non-fiction book isn't actually a writing book, but it's one of my favorite writing resources. I did a post about this book in the past, but since we're talking favorite non-fiction books, I thought it was worth another mention. Today's book is:

The Baby Name Survey Book

Author: Bruce Lansky, writer of poetry and songbooks. Lansky co-authored The Baby Name Survey Book: What People Think About Your Baby's Name (this is the older version of the book and the one that I own) with Bruce Sinrod. He collaborated with Megan McGinnis on a new edition, The New Baby Name Survey Book: How to Pick a Name That Makes a Favorable Impression for Your Child.

Amazon.com price: $9.95

Why I Like It: This book goes beyond meanings and origins found in typical baby name books. The authors surveyed over 100,000 parents to find out what associations people have with certain names. For example, Susan is Hebrew, means "lily", and "is described as an average woman who is wholesome, pleasant, and down-to-earth. Some people, though, think Susan is whiny and fussy." Ouch!

My Favorite Section: The front of the book lists categories (i.e. confident, friendly, wimp) and names that are perceived as fitting that image. For example, do you have a male character who is artistic? Try Axel, Luis, or Vincent. A female character who is well-educated? Try Amy, Cassie, Hillary, or Monica.

Note: The version of the book I have was pubished in 1997 and is somewhat outdated. The newer version of the book was published in 2007. I'm not sure how different the two books are.

Don't forget to enter my Back from Hiatus Contest by commenting on this original post.

Have a great weekend, Everyone!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The First Five Pages

Welcome to Day Two of my Back From Hiatus Contest. Today's favorite non-fiction book is:

The First Five Pages.

Author: Noah Lukeman, literary agent whose clients include Pulitzer Prize nominees, New York Times bestselling authors, Pushcart Prize recipients and American Book Award winners.

Amazon.com Price: $10.04

Why I Like It: I've been reading how-to writing books for many years now. I've read so many that it's hard to find one that tells me something new. This book did. I decided soon after I started reading it to highlight sections of the really important stuff. Flipping through it now, it's hard to find a page without highlights. It's that full of good stuff.

Each section starts off with a thorough discussion of the topic, then includes Solutions to common problems, then Examples, and then End-of-Chapter Exercises. It's hard not to understand his instruction after seeing it shown so many different ways.

From the back cover, here's a list of some of the problems Lukeman covers:
A weak opening hook
Overuse of adjectives and adverbs
Flat or forced metaphors or similes
Melodramatic, commonplace or confusing dialogue
Undeveloped characterizations and lifeless settings
Uneven pacing and lack of progression.

This book isn't just for novices. Even experienced authors can benefit from Lukeman's advice on staying out of the rejection pile. I don't know about you, but staying out of the rejection pile sounds pretty good to me. :)

Don't forget to enter my Back from Hiatus Contest by commenting on this original post.

Happy Wednesday, Everyone!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy

Welcome to Day 1 of my Back from Hiatus Contest. I'm going to save my top two favorite books for last, the other three are in random order. So today's favorite non-fiction writing book is:

How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy.

Author: Orson Scott Card, Hugo and Nebula award-winning author of Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, etc.

Amazon.com price: $10.19

My favorite section:
In Chapter 4, Writing Well, the first section covers Exposition, which Card describes as "the orderly revelation of necessary information to the reader." Exposition is especially tricky in sci fi and fantasy, since the reader needs to learn the rules of the story world as well as the story background. Card uses Octavia Butler's novel Wild Seed as an example, breaking the first few paragraphs down in a way that really shows how to convery information to the reader without stopping the story to give lengthy explanations. I'd say this section alone is worth the price of the book, though the entire book is amazing. The section on Making Rules for Your World is also a must-read.

Don't forget to enter my Back from Hiatus Contest by commenting on the original contest post.

Happy Monday, Everyone!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Back From Hiatus Contest

I missed you all so much while I was on my hiatus that I decided to throw a contest when I got back. So here are the specs (sorry, that's the engineer in me coming out):

Start Date: Today - Friday, October 22
End Date: midnight, Sunday November 7
Prizes: Your choice of one of my favorite non-fiction books on writing that I'll be highlighting over my next five posts. You'll just have to wait and see which books they are, but I promise you - they're all awesome! For any non-writers, you can choose a $15 Amazon gift card instead of a book.
Who's Eligible: Any of my Fantastic Friends (new or existing followers), inside the U.S. or out

How to Earn Points: (1 point each)
Be a follower of my blog - new or existing (required)
Leave a comment on THIS post telling me how many points you have and your email address (required)
Be my Facebook friend - new or existing - see sidebar for my Facebook link
Be my Networked Blogs follower - new or existing - see sidebar for my Networked Blogs link
Mention my contest in a blog post
Mention my contest on your sidebar
Facebook post about my contest
Tweet about my contest

That's it - easy as pie! Everything's worth one point, so just count up how many you've done and put it in your comment. On November 8, I'll announce the three winners, email asking which book they prefer, and order the books from Amazon to be delivered directly to the winners.

I really did miss you guys while I was away - thanks for being such a wonderful community of bloggers!

What's your favorite non-fiction writing book?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Birthday Boy and Using Cushion Monies to Change the World

By now many of you already know Lenny Lee, the little blogger with a huge heart. Lenny's turning eleven today. I hope you'll pop over to Lenny's World and wish him a happy birthday, like I'm going to do right now:

Happy birthday, Lenny! I hope your day is as awesome as you!

You've probably also heard that our fellow blogger Candace Ganger at The Misadventures of Candyland is working hard to change the lives of women, children, and families in Ghana, Africa. She's supporting Joy2theWorld in their efforts to empower African businesswomen. Her goal is to reach donations of just $355 - a reasonable goal to be sure if we all join together and help her out. $1 is all it takes! We have a great blogging community here, and we can make a difference in the world! You can read all about Candace's latest efforts here. I hope you'll stop by for a visit!

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

Sunday, October 17, 2010


So, my break went on much longer than I intended. I didn't finish my current revision of Killing Kessler, but I did make some good progress. And I missed you all too much to stay away any longer, so here I am! I can't wait to catch up on your blogs and find out what's been going on while I've been away.

Here's what I've been up to:

First of all, I loved Mockingjay! I know this is old news, so I won't say too much, but I had high expectations and was not disappointed.

I won a Big Box of Paranormal on Medeia Sharif's blog and received this awesome box of books. Thanks so much, Medeia!

My family and I spent a week in Destin, Florida. We had a week of perfect weather and fun in the sun. Here's the view from our window:

My good friend Amy Allgeyer Cook's novel The Iron Bodkin was released! It's a wonderful novel and I'm so excited to see it in print. Here's my review from Amazon.com:

When eleven-year-old Lux St. Clare accidentally turns his little sister invisible, his problems are only just beginning. As he works to reverse the spell, he learns the truth of his father’s disappearance, deals with problems at school, challenges government Inquisitors, and uncovers family secrets, perhaps even his own destiny. Told with the perfect balance of humor and suspense, The Iron Bodkin features an irresistible cast of characters, edge-of-your-seat adventure, and a whole lot of fun.

You can visit Amy and learn more about The Iron Bodkin on her blog, The Iron Bodkin. I hope you'll stop by and say "hi'!

Happy Monday, Everyone!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mockingjay and a Break

Mockingjay comes out tomorrow! I cannot wait to find out how the trilogy ends. For me, it's all about the romance. Any guesses as to who Katniss will end up with? The suspense is killing me!

I've mentioned before that I've received some incredible critiques of Killing Kessler from my wonderful beta readers. Let's just say, there's still a lot of work to be done! So I'm going to be taking some time off to really concentrate on getting through this (hopefully!) last round of revisions. Just a couple of things before I go...

For those of you who read my Guess That Character Blogfest entry, I should have mentioned in my reveal that that actor is Ed Speleers, who played Eragon. Here he is again, in case you forgot what he looks like.

And don't worry if you didn't win an ARC in Carolina Valdez Miller's 7 ARC Contest, because now she's giving away ARCs Galore. Seriously, there's a whole lot of ARCs up for grabs here, so don't miss out - contest ends September 6.

Also, if you've followed me and I haven't followed you back, please let me know so I can pay you a visit and keep up with all my bloggy friends.

That's it for me folks. See you soon!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Guess That Character Blogfest - The Big Reveal

Thanks to everyone who guessed what Keenan looks like yesterday (if you missed that post, you can read it here.) Here's my vision of Keenan:

This is Keenan's description taken from the book, In the Seventeenth Year:

Keenan ran a rough hand through his untidy hair and looked at the men with intense green eyes. The sun had bleached flaxen streaks into Keenan’s golden hair and baked his skin to a deep bronze. Years of working the farm single-handedly had given him heavily muscled arms and a broad chest that made him appear older than his seventeen years.

As far as his personality, he's definitely got anger issues. He's had a hard life with his abusive adoptive father, and he blames his mother and, by extension, the rest of the people accompanying him on his journey. He gradually befriends Brady, the other character in this scene, and eventually even falls for a certain young, beautiful, and dangerous elf (also mentioned in this snippet.)

Wow, you guys! Many of your answers were right on target. It was really hard to decide, but I'd have to give first place to Lenny, who said:
The first thing I saw in my head was a guy dressed like in the days of Robin Hood. I think he's kind of scruffy cause of fighting. He's got scruffy whiskers cause of not being where he could shave. He's got long blond hair that's messy and hazel color eyes. He's maybe 18 or in his 20s and a sorta rebel.

Excellent description, Lenny! And thanks so much to everyone for playing and to Jen for hosting! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Guess That Character Blogfest

The day of the Guess that Character Blogfest has arrived! Thanks so much for hosting this event, Jen!

Here's how it works: today I'll post a snippet of one of my characters, Keenan, with no physical description. You try to guess what he looks like, based solely on voice, action, and personality. Tomorrow I'll post a picture of him with a short description, and you can see how close your guess was. I'll also post whose description I thought was closest to correct. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? This snippet is from my epic fantasy, In the Seventeenth Year.

Keenan stormed away from the battlefield, heading north. He didn’t know where he was going, just that he had to get away…away from Nolan, from the elf, from all of them. He followed the river to Lake Dooley and kept going until the trees grew thick enough to offer privacy. He took off his wretched worn-out boot and soaked his bloody foot in the cool water. How can Nolan be so blind? he thought. He thinks because she is young and beautiful she can’t be dangerous. And why are we following him like blind sheep anyway? I didn't sign up for a dictatorship. I could turn around right now and go home. Not to the farm, but I could find work in Clifton…

"You're bleeding."

Keenan looked up. Brady stood over him, bow in hand. "What of it?" Keenan asked.

"Nothing. Just an observation."

"Brilliant," Keenan said. "Now you've made your observation and you can be on your way."

Brady held out Keenan's bow. "My father wants us to hunt."

Keenan gave a humorless chuckle as he accepted the bow. "Is he hoping I'll finish you off this time?"

Brady's eyes became solemn. "Perhaps."

"Do you do everything your father tells you?" Keenan asked.

"And you do not?"

"What is that supposed to mean?"

Brady shrugged. "You're still here, aren't you?"

"Maybe I won't be much longer."

* * *

Thanks for playing! You can check out the other entries out by clicking here.

And a sidenote: For those of you that read my last post, hubby did end up reading my blog. I got in trouble, but he passed the test! :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Daniel the Pest

Last week I started plotting my next wip. I'm a total plotter, so this stage will last a while. One of the first things I do is character sketches, and part of that is finding pictures of people (usually actors or actresses) that my mc's look like. This is one of my favorite types of research. I mean, look at that picture. Can you blame me? :)

So I have a villain in my new wip, and as we all know, a villain shouldn't be evil just for the sake of being evil. He's usually got some backstory that's turned him into the person he is, some sympathetic reason behind the evil things he's doing. So I searched and searched for an actor to represent my villain, and I came up with Daniel Craig. I took the above picture and put it at the top of my villain's character sketch. All is well and good.

So as I'm thinking about my villain's backstory, and I'm staring at the picture of Daniel, he just keeps getting more and more sympathetic. Pretty soon he's got enough past trauma, family secrets, lies, blackmail, etc. for a story of his own, all of which had no part in the original idea. Darn it! Why did I have to pick Daniel to be my villain? So I ended up giving him his own significant story line. Hopefully that will keep him in his place, and he'll stop being such a pest.

Have you ever had a secondary character take over? Did you ever give a secondary character their own story or viewpoint because they just wouldn't leave you alone?

Incidentally, earlier this summer my husband was attending my son's baseball game, and a random woman and her teenage daughter came up to him and told him he looks like Daniel Craig. Hmmph. When's the last time some stranger told me I look like Eva Green? Let's see, maybe...never?

BTW, my husband would kill me if he knew I blogged about that. This will be a good test to see if he reads my blog. If so, hi honey! :)

NOTE: I'll be skipping my Wednesday post this week to prepare for Jen's Guess That Character blogfest on Thursday and Friday. If you haven't signed up yet, hop on over to Jen's to take part in the fun! And I hope you'll stop by Thursday and give me your best guess!

Friday, August 13, 2010


One of the things that I feel makes truly memorable writing is the author's use of imagery. This is one of the things I'm really trying to improve on in my own writing.

Here are a few examples from some of my favorite authors:

From Tithe, by Holly Black:
"Waves tossed themselves against the shore, dragging grit and sand between their nails as they were slowly pulled back out to sea."

Also from Tithe:
"She laughed at that, silvery cold laughter that rose up out of her throat like crows going to wing."

From Wicked Lovely, by Melissa Marr:
"The Summer Girls were like plants needing the nutrients of the sun to thrive; they couldn't be away from the Summer King for long, or they'd fade."

From Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull:
"The demon sprang forward with a roar like a thousand cannons firing together. A black wall of shadow flowed from Bahumat like a wave of tar."

Can't you just see that wave of tar or hear the silvery cold laughter rising up like crows going to wing?

Do you try to include imagery in your own writing? Do you have any favorite authors whose imagery you admire?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Blog and the Beautiful

Writing news:
I'm working on the synopsis for Killing Kessler (thanks to everyone who contributed synopsis advice - it's very much appreciated!) and starting to plot out three new ideas to see which one I'm most in love with. Hopefully once I get Kessler ready to query, I can start a new first draft!

Conference news:
I'm sure you've all heard about WriteOnCon by now. Click here for the schedule.

Contest news:
Theresa Milstein at Substitute Teacher's Saga is hosting a platform contest - a contest for a cause. Check it out here.

Carolina Valdez Miller has extended the deadline on her 7 ARC contest to August 15. If you've already entered, you can earn additional entries. Click here for details.

Medeia Sharif is giving away a Big Box of Paranormal. Deadline is August 27.

Marcia Hoehne is giving away a copy of Star in the Forest. Deadline is August 15.

An award:
Today I'd like to give away the Bloom of an Idea Award to Jen at unedited. Jen is so creative, she's always come up with new and fun things to do on her blog. If you haven't signed up for her Guess That Character Blogfest on August 19 and 20, I suggest you get over there and sign up right away!

And a question:
If you could meet one fictional character come to life, who would it be?

This is so, so hard, but I guess I'd choose Max from Maximum Ride. She's hilarious, tough, smart, and she's got wings for crying out loud! Who wouldn't want to see that? :)

Have a great Wednesday, Everyone!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Synopsis Strategies

With the latest revision of Killing Kessler out to betas, I'm hoping it will be ready to query soon, so it's probably time to write the synopsis. Okay, it's probably well past time but getting to the point where I can't put it off any longer.

I've been looking through my writing books for synopsis tips. Here are a few of the tips I found most valuable:

Always follow the publisher's or agent's guidelines on synopsis length, but generally synopses should be one single-spaced page, or up to five double-spaced pages. Shorter is better, though some novels, like thrillers or mysteries, might require more.

Establish a hook at the beginning. Think of your synopsis as a sales pitch.

Introduce your most important character first.

Main characters should be well developed. What are their goals, motivations, obstacles? The reader needs to care about them.

Don't leave the editor/agent in suspense; tie everything up and reveal the ending.

P.S. I thought I remembered seeing something about this on Elana Johnson's blog before, and I just took a look and found it. If you're writing your own synopsis, check out her advice here.

P.P.S. Also, Catherine Winn has posted a great idea on writing synopses that I'll definitely try. Click here to read her post.

I think I remember seeing someone mention on their blog that they had taken an online seminar on writing a synopsis. Does anyone know of any good seminars, courses, books, etc. that you would recommend?

What's your best synopsis advice?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Picture Cheat

I'm having so much fun with Sharon I forgot to write a blog post last night, so I figured I'd cheat a little and just show some follow-up pictures from my last post.

Here's Sharon's daughter (the beautiful smiling girl) and my daughter (the head ducked behind the Balderdash box). On Sharon's last night in St. Louis, we all played Balderdash together and laughed harder than I can remember laughing in a long time. My daughter's answer about it being against the law in North Carolina to make a pinata of a striped elephant because they revere elephants has us laughing for a good five minutes.

Here's Sharon showing all the world how much she loves Balderdash. Sharon's answer about a movie with English children drinking fizzy soda and floating to the moon was also a highlight of the evening.

And this is my youngest daughter and the (delicious!) cake she baked for my birthday.

Thanks so much for all the wonderful birthday wishes, Everyone! Seriously, they kept me smiling all day long.

What plans do you have for the weekend? Have a great one!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Unfortunately, I'm not celebrating anything huge like a book deal or finding an agent or anything, but I am celebrating in my own small way today, so I thought I'd share. :)

#1 - Today's my birthday. (Okay, maybe not really cause for celebration, but my 10-year-old daughter made me a cake that I haven't been allowed to look at yet, so that should be fun, anyway.)

#2 - I finished the latest round of revisions on Killing Kessler! I wish I could say it's the last round, but I'm pretty sure I'd be lying.

#3 - My good friend Sharon from Random Thoughts and her daughter are coming to visit today. Sharon used to be my neighbor (sort of) here in St. Charles before she moved to Iowa. Welcome home, Sharon!

What are you celebrating today?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Book Review - Messenger in the Mist by Aubrie Dionne

Two factions on the verge of war… A countryside overrun with beasts… A love tested against duty…

Star, a messenger for the Elite Riders of Evenspark, races through the misted countryside delivering correspondence to the bordering Fortress of Ravencliff. The route is haunted by the mysterious beasts that lurk in the moors. Star risks her life for the hope of relocating her parents, for the glory of her illustrious career, and for an unrequited love.

On one such mission, Star discovers she carries plans for the assassination of Prince Valen of Ravencliff—the man who has captured her heart. Weighing love against livelihood, she must decide what’s more important…the safety of her country or her love for the Prince, who is betrothed to Princess Vespa of Evenspark.

With the mist rising, enabling the Elyndra to gather and threaten the borders of both kingdoms, Star must unravel the mystery of their existence and forestall a war.

I've enjoyed reading Aubrie Dionne's blog, Flutey Words, for quite a while, so I jumped at the chance to read her latest eBook, Messenger in the Mist. Since it's a romance and fantasy, two of my favorite things, I went in with high hopes. Aubrie delivered an action-packed adventure that did not disappoint.

I immediately liked Star, the resourceful young woman who dreams of buying her parents a home in a part of town where they'll be safe from the Elyndra, flying beasts who terrorize the countryside but have not yet crossed the boundaries into Star's homeland, Evenspark, or the neighboring land of Ravencliff. The setting is an integral part of the plot, and Aubrie describes it beautifully, bringing it to life with skillful description and vivid imagery.

Star's love for Prince Valen of Ravencliff threatens to bring both kingdoms to war. When the mist which sustains the Elyndra begins to rise, Evenspark and Ravencliff are both at risk of the Elyndra breaching their borders. When Star is forced to team with the delightfully dangerous Fallon Leer to stop the beasts, her loyalty to Valen is tested. In the end, she must choose only one man to give her heart.

Aubrie's well-drawn characters, suspenseful plot, and masterful storytelling make Messenger in the Mist pure pleasure to read. I hope you'll check it out!

Sidenote: You can read Aubrie's short story, Rainbow's End, posted at A Fly in Amber, by clicking here. Make sure you vote after you read her story by clicking on the stars beside the title.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


One of my favorite games ever is Balderdash. This game was made for writers. You play by making up definitions for the odd words they give you and trying to fool your opponents into thinking your definition is the real one.

Let's give it a try. I'll give you a word and four possible definitions, and you try to guess which is the correct one. I'll post the answers at the bottom (under the picture) so don't peek!

#1 - A hairball
#2 - A trained female elephant used to attract wild male elephants
#3 - The reproductive arm of an octopus
#4 - Wild boar droppings

#1 - The upper lip of a camel
#2 - A worthless weed known as the nipple nightshade
#3 - A fruit grown in the West Indies
#4 - A high collar worn by Italian noblemen during the 17th century

#1 - A group of two or more monkeys
#2 - A mosquito's tongue
#3 - A fine paid by people who didn't join the army during medieval times
#4 - An antelope with very wide hooves

Ready for the answers? Don't peek unless you're ready!
Koomkie - #2 - A trained female elephant used to attract wild male elephants
Golilla - #4 - A high collar worn by Italian noblemen during the 17th century
Schemozzle - #1 - A group of two or more monkeys.

So...how'd you do?

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Guiding Blog

Wednesday again already? Sheesh...they sneak up quick.

Writing News:
I'm chugging right along on the wip, trying to maintain my 1 chapter/day revision pace, though some chapters need a lot more work than others. Thanks for all the encouraging words last week about the seemingly never-ending revision process!

Reading News:
I'm reading Messenger in the Mist by Aubrie over at Flutey Words and loving it! I'm hoping to post my review on Monday, but since I've never written a review before, that may be overly optmistic, so stay tuned.

Contest News:
These are repeats from last week, but I added them to that post late, so I'm putting them in again in case any of you missed them.

Carolina Valdez Miller at Carol's Prints and Sara McClung at Babbling Flow are both giving away ARCs.

Ann at Inkpots n' Quills is giving away signed copies of The Lacuna and The Poisonwood Bible.

Blogfest News:
I just signed up for the Guess That Character Blogfest hosted by Jen at unedited. This one looks like a lot of fun, and I don't have to write anything new for it (that's key!) It runs August 19 and 20. Why two days, you ask? I can't explain it all here, you'll just have to stop by Jen's and check it out.

DL Hammons at Cruising Altitude hosts the High Drama Blogfest/Giveaway on Saturday, August 7.

Lilah Pierce at Thoughts by Lilah Pierce hosts The Funniest Blogfest Ever on Wednesday, September 1.

An Award:
Today I'd like to pass on the Oh My Blog Award (given to me by the wonderful Shelley Sly at Stories in the Ordinary - thank you, Shelley!) to Bossy Betty. Betty's blog is one of the funniest I've encountered. I love hearing stories about Betty and HOB (Husband-of-Betty). If you haven't met Betty yet, hop on over and introduce yourself. You'll be glad you did!

And a Question Just for Fun:
What's your favorite type of candy? I recently rediscovered Blow Pops. They were my favorite when I was a kid and I still love 'em! The gum flavor lasts for approximately ten seconds, but it's still two candies in one. :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010


My 12-year-old son came home from a week at a sleepover YMCA camp yesterday. The first thing he did after coming in the house was hug his older sister. This suprised me slightly. The second thing he did was chase down his younger sister and hug her, too. This suprised me a lot! Those two can barely exchange a civil word. To see them hug (well, my son was hugging, my daughter was trying to get away) was a golden mommy moment.

One thing I love in books is the relationships between people, and one of my favorite types of relationships is the sibling relationship. I enjoyed the relationships between the reclusive Cullen siblings in the Twilight series. In Bridge to Terabithia, it's Jess's relationship with his little sister, May Belle, that left me thinking he was going to be okay despite the tragedy he'd endured. Of course, some sibling (or quasi-sibling) relationships are as bad as others are good - just ask Harry Potter.

In my current wip, my mc lives with her brother, sister, and a friend who's like part of their family. Creating these relationships was one of my favorite parts of writing the book. They tease, they fight, they get angry, they love and protect each other. Being from a family of five siblings, I know what it's like to be arguing one minute, laughing the next.

Can you think of any books with sibling relationships that you particularly enjoyed? Have you ever written about siblings?

Her name's Prim, she's just twelve, and I love her more than anything.
- Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A New Challenge

I've decided to tackle a new challenge - something I've been thinking about doing for many months but haven't had the gumption to try. I'm going to...drumroll please...write a book review!

Yesterday the wonderful Aubrie at Flutey Words sent me the pdf of her new Ebook (just released on July 19): Messenger in the Mist. When Aubrie asked for reviewers, I couldn't wait to volunteer. Messenger in the Mist is a Fantasy Romance. My two favorite things! I can't wait to read it and yes, when I'm done I promised to review it. Eek!

I also won an ARC of Hero by Mike Lupica from Michelle Hodkin's blog a while back. This was about the time I was starting to read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, and once I got started on those, I couldn't even fathom reading anything else. But after I finish Messenger in the Mist and review it, I'm looking forward to reading Hero and reviewing it as well.

Writing a book review seems very foreign to me, though I've read plenty of them on other blogs and always enjoy them. Have you ever written a book review? Do you have any advice on writing one? What do you like or not like to see in a book review?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Blog Hills, 90210

It's Wednesday again! Time for my update:

Writing News:
I'm still knee deep in revisions for Killing Kessler. This seems like a never-ending process. How can something that seemed so perfect two months ago now seem to need so much more revising? Will it ever be ready? I truly don't know.

Contest News:
Carolina Valdez Miller at Carol's Prints and Sara McClung at Babbling Flow are both giving away ARCs!

Ann at Inkpots n' Quills is giving away signed copies of The Lacuna and The Poisonwood Bible!

Since I just found out about these today, and this post is already a day old, I'll be sure to mention these contests again next week.

Blogfest News:
DL Hammons at Cruising Altitude hosts the High Drama Blogfest/Giveaway on Saturday, August 7.

Lilah Pierce at Thoughts by Lilah Pierce hosts The Funniest Blogfest Ever on Wednesday, September 1.

And an Award:
Today I'll be bestowing the Blogger BFF Award which was given to me by Lynn at Place to Create and Jen at unedited. Thanks, Lynn and Jen! I'd like to pass this award to Old Kitty at Ten Lives and Second Chances and Anne at Piedmont Writer.

I love Old Kitty's take on the world, and her wonderful Charlie pictures! Her comments always make me smile, they're like getting a great big hug!

Anne is a talented writer who shares her work generously on her blog. I always look forward to Anne's Something-Something posts for my chance to catch up with Genna and Tony.

That's it for me. Happy Wednesday, All!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hard to Say Goodbye

Last week I finished The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, and now I'm counting the days until my pre-ordered copy of Mockingjay arrives. While there are many reasons I'm anxious to continue with Suzanne Collins's wonderful Hunger Games trilogy, mostly I just can't wait to get caught up with the characters again. They're people I want to spend time with, people I wish I knew. That, to me, is the number one reason I love certain books.

My sister tells about how, when she was much younger, she actually searched for doorways into Narnia. She wanted to go there with Edmund, Lucy, Peter, and Susan, to be part of their adventures. Now her son cries when he finishes each Maximum Ride book because he so wants to be part of the flock and fly away with Max and her family of mutant bird kids. I know how he feels. I feel the same way about Katniss and Peeta and Gale. Okay, so I didn't actually cry when I finished Catching Fire, but I have been thinking about it ever since.

I know I've already asked about favorite characters, but do any come to mind that felt like old friends, that it actually hurt to say goodbye to? What is your favorite quality in a character?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Write Like James Joyce

I heard about this website over at Christi Goddard's Torch in the Tempest blog today, and I've been playing with it ever since. You paste in a sample of your writing, and it analyzes the sample and tells you which famous author you write like. Christi suggested plugging in just one chapter at a time (to avoid crashing the internet), so I analyzed the first thirty chapters of Killing Kessler, my YA paranormal romance, and the first thirty chapters of In the Seventeenth Year, my epic fantasy.

I expected the results to be vastly different, since the two are written in completely different styles. I was surprised to find that James Joyce came up most frequently in both books: 6 out of 30 chapters in Killing Kessler and 15 out of 30 chapters in In the Seventeenth Year. Okay, this knowledge probably isn't going to make or break my career, but it was fun to play around with.

So who do you write like? Find out here, and I'd love to hear your results!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Young and the Blogless

It's Wednesday again, time for news and an award, so let's get right to it:

Writing news:
I'm about halfway through yet another revision of Killing Kessler. I've been reading Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon and trying to apply what I've been learning (especially the section on imagery - great stuff!) I'm also trying to incorporate what I've learned from KarenG's and Marcia Hoehne's wonderful critiques - thanks so much, ladies!

Reading news:
I'm not typically a fast reader, but I raced right through The Hunger Games and am now thoroughly engrossed in Catching Fire. I don't know how I'll last until August 24 to read Mockingjay. If you haven't read this series yet, I highly recommend you run out and buy it right now! And no, no money was exchanged for this endorsement. :)

Contest news:
KarenG from Coming Down the Mountain will buy, read, and review one lucky winner's book. This contest is open to authors with at least one book for sale. Karen will be offering more giveaways in her Let-tuce Be Writers Contest Countdown.

Al from Publish or Perish is celebrating his one-year blogiversary by giving away three 8"x10" prints of photographs from his blog. Al lives in Australia and posts the most amazing photographs. Whether you're a contest enterer or not, Al's blog is well worth a visit!

Two of my dearest blogging friends, Sharon Mayhew at Random Thoughts and Jackee Alston at Winded Words, will be giving away prizes throughout the month of July, including a grand finale prize of a group of gift cards. Good luck to all!

Marcia Hoehne gives away two 1000 word critiques each month. Marcia is an author, freelance editor, and teacher for The Institute of Children's Literature. Her contests begin on the third Thursday of each month, so that's tomorrow! I won this critique last month and it was so helpful!

Award news:

Today I'd like to give away the Blogger Buddie Award given to me by the lovely E. Elle at The Writer's Funhouse. I'd like to pass this award on to:

Aubrie at Flutey Words. Aubrie is not only a prolific author and amazing flutist (check out the link Aubrie left in her comment below to see for yourself - truly amazing!), but she also created the Fantasy/Sci Fi Blogger Award and passed it out to bloggers whose blogs promote the genres of Fantasy and Science Fiction. When I first saw this award, I knew I had to have it, and Aubrie was kind enough to pass it my way. If any other fantasy/sci fi writers out there don't have the Fantasy/Sci Fi Blogger Award but would like to, just visit Aubrie and let her know.

How cool that she created her own award to support those in the fantasy/sci fi genre! Thanks, Aubrie!

That's it for me. Have a great Wednesday Everyone!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Back to Reality

Now that was a whirlwind three weeks! I can't even believe my break is over. My youngest starts school this week, so I guess it's time to get back into the routine. But I had an awesome time with my family, made some serious progress on yet another revision of Killing Kessler, and I think I'm ready to get back to reality.

Even when I was on break, I had some great news over these three weeks - I received prizes from three blog contests!

First, Marcia Hoehne critiqued the first one thousand words of Killing Kessler. Her suggestions were right on and her encouraging words came at a time when I really needed to hear them. Thanks so much, Marcia! And don't forget to enter her next contest. Marcia gives away two critiques every month.

I won an earring and bracelet set made by the talented Jo Schaffer from Shoveling in a Jo Storm. I told Jo I'd like blue and brown beads with silver, and she took it from there. Isn't it gorgeous? Thanks so much, Jo!

I also won an ARC of Hero on Michelle Hodkin's blog. I am completely wrapped up in Catching Fire from The Hunger Games trilogy right now (love it! love it! love it!), but I can't wait to dive into Hero as soon as I'm finished! Thank you, Michelle!

One thing I've really missed while on break is reading everyone else's blogs. I'll be stopping by to visit in the next few days. Happy Monday Everyone!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Yes, I'm on a Break, but You Gotta See This!

My hiatus hasn't even begun, but I'm breaking it already. Told you I couldn't do it! But I've found some links out there in the blogosphere that I just had to share. There's some great stuff going on right now. Check it out:

Agent Sara Megibow has posted a letter on Natalie Bahm's blog to romance writers. If you write romance, you'll want to get over there ASAP.

DL Hammons over at Cruising Altitude is on a quest to find blogging buddies across the globe. He's still got a ways to go, so let's help him out! In the U.S., he still needs buddies in Hawaii, Maryland, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, and West Virginia. If you know of any bloggers in these states, please help spread the word!

Karsten Knight has posted an awesome instructional dance video for men to celebrate 100 followers. You DO NOT want to miss this, unless you've got something against laughing. Seriously, you need to check this out.

I shouldn't even be telling you this (because I want to win!), but Marcia Hoehne is giving away critiques of the first 1000 words of your manuscript. She's an author and a writing instructor. The deadline is June 22 at 6am. LATE BREAKING NEWS: I won this critique! Thanks so much, Marcia, and don't worry guys, she's giving away two more critiques next month!

I'll miss you guys, but I'll check in when I can (and hopefully be a little more disciplined about actually staying on break!)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Digging Deeper

One comment that came up often in the Next Top Title Blogfest (with my titles and others) was that a title was "generic." Special thanks to Margo Berendsen at Writing at High Altitude, who suggested I could dig deeper and make one of my titles, The Reluctant Prince, more evocative. She asked what else is striking about my character besides being a prince? What other trait does he have that's more active, with more attitude.

I gave it some thought. When I have a question about my writing, I challenge myself to come up with ten answers. I allow crazy, dumb, out-there answers, as long as I get ten. That way I get past the obvious surface answers, and hopefully find something more creative.

Here goes. What's striking about my mc? He's
1 - a prince
2- an eldest son
3- the heir to the throne of his country
4 - a brother (this is a story about three brothers)
5 - a murderer
6 - lives as a peasant (unaware of his true ancestry)
7 - an abuse victim
8 - a loner
9 - a hero
10 - a survivor

What traits does he have? He's
1 - reluctant
2 - forgotten (by his parents - not really, but he feels that way)
3 - noble
4 - heroic
5 - defiant
6 - brave
7 - royal/aristocrat/blueblood/regal
8 - isolated
9 - abandoned
10 - independent

Keep in mind, the purpose of this post is not to find the perfect title for my book (though that would be nice...), but rather to elaborate on Margo's suggestion of digging deeper, finding a more evocative title.

So here are some variations on The Reluctant Prince:

The Forgotten Prince

The Abandoned Heir

The Peasant Hero

The Reluctant Son

The Peasant Prince

I'm actually not sure how good of a job I did of finding a more evocative title - this was hard! But it was a good exercise and I definitely have some more options here. The important thing is, I went a little further, past the obvious traits that first jumped to my mind, and found some titles with a little more depth.

I mentioned before that I have a lot of family obligations coming up this summer. With that in mind, I'll be taking a blogging break for the next three weeks. Honestly, I don't know if I'll last, I may have to sneak in a post here or there, and I'll definitely try to visit some blogs whenever I can. I'll see you in July!