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!