Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Writer Wednesday - Books on Editing

Last Wednesday's post was about my favorite writing books. This week I'm going to list some of my favorite books on editing. I've worked as a journalist, an editor, scientific editor, and scientific writer. I've collected a lot of writing books over the years and still visit them pretty often.

The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors - This book is fabulous. It has whether a word should be hyphenated, two words, one word, the spelling, correct usage, etc. It's pretty small and easy to carry around. I use this book constantly.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King - Another fairly small paperback book. This book helps with the craft of writing as well as editing. Your writing will improve and become much stronger if you do the exercises in this book.

The Chicago Manual of Style - I have the 15th edition of this book, but I also have an online subscription. I love this manual. It's a bit heavy, so not a book you'll want to tote around all the time. I use this one mainly at home.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White - This is a really useful, tiny, hardcover book. It's 105 pages of grammatical goodness. This book is a must have for every writer.

What are some of your favorite books on editing?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Things to get Your Writer for Christmas

It's that time of year again. Christmas lights shine at night. Santa figurines guard the mantle. The Christmas tree is decked out with ornaments that your cat will knock down in his effort to climb to the top. Your Writer spends all their free time getting words down, neglecting their personal hygiene, putting the laundry off for "one more day" in order to meet a deadline, word count, or writing goal. You may be asking yourself, "What do I get my Writer for Christmas?" Whether it's the love of your life, a friend, or family member, I have some ideas that will have your Writer laughing, smiling, and squealing this Christmas.

A Mandala Workbook - Mandala means "circle" or "wholeness." I've been coloring mandalas in order to free up the right side of my brain. I plotted an entire novel while coloring mandalas. Needless to say, I am hooked. There are all kinds of different patterns and coloring books. Pick out one you think your Writer will like best. Don't forget to get some Sharpies (any ultra-fine point marker will do) or colored pencils.

Writing Shirts - Your Writer can write in style while wearing a writing t-shirt. Your Writer can walk with comma confidence while wearing the Grammarian, or let the entire world know what you already know...they'd Rather Be Writing. With the Not Now, I'm On Deadline shirt, your Writer won't have to explain why they're sleep-deprived, ornery, or constantly switching from manically happy to crying in a corner--the shirt says it all! Once your Writer has completed that manuscript, sent in those edits, or met that deadline, they can strut their stuff in the Writing Goddess tee.

2012 Calendar - Help your Writer remember what day it is with a 2012 Page-a-Day Calendar. There are several out there to wake your Writer's brain and provide inspiration. Don't leave your Writer defenseless. Prepare them for the unexpected with the 2012 ZombieSmarts Calendar. This calendar is complete with facts, history, and questions (there's even space for your Writer to answer) about the undead. For something a little more lively, give your Writer the 2012 Book Lover's Calendar or the 365 New Words-a-Year Calendar.

Stress Reducer - Writing. Is. Stressful. I know this, and your Writer knows this. Help ease some of their stress with this Doctor Who Adipose Stress Toy. It's adorable! Your Writer can also relax and de-stress with this Anti-Stress Pillow.

Caffeine - It's no secret that writers love caffeine. Whether it be tea or coffee, chances are your Writer will be happy with some sort of gift related to caffeine. Labeled as "one of the most convenient teapots you'll find anywhere" (did I mention that writers LOVE convenience), the Adagio Teas Ingenuitea Teapot is something your Writer will want to cuddle. Is your writer more of a coffee connoisseur? Your Writer will enjoy the Aerobie AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker.

Sleep - Writers love sleep, probably because a writer's brain rarely takes a break long enough for us to get a whole lot of it. Help your Writer make the most of their precious hours with this Dream Essential Kit.

Homemade Cards - Help your Writer out by dedicating your time. Take some cards and write "This card is good for..." it can be anything from laundry, dishes, massages, a movie date, dinner date, etc.

Books - You can't go wrong here. Get your writer some books on writing, editing, reading, or get them a fiction book you know they've been dying to read. If all else fails, get them a gift card to your local bookstore.

Journals - A writer can never have too many journals. Help your Writer find their muse mojo with this Journal of Choices. The Inner Truth Journal, I Can't Sleep journal will give your Writer's brain something to do on sleepless nights. My personal favorite, Inner Truth Journal, My Dysfunctions, is an excellent present for any writer.

Spend some time with your Writer this holiday season. Pry the pen from their hand and hide the notebook. Drink eggnog and eat lots of goodies. Your Writer's eyes will light up when they see one of these gifts underneath the tree. Whether they laugh, smile, or squeeze the Doctor Who stress ball, your Writer will think, "You get me! You really really get me!" And sometimes, that's the best gift of all.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Liebster Nomination

Lieb is love in German.

My dear friend, Tonia Marie Houston nominated me for the Liebster Blog award. This award is given to growing blogs with 200 followers or less. As Tonia says, "We are small, but we are mighty." I agree 100%. Everyone has to start somewhere. The blogs with over a thousand followers were once in our mighty shoes. And I know it's only a matter of time before make that leap from 200 to 2000.

The Three Rules of Lieb
1. Show some gratitude.
2. Share the lieb with five others, let them know they're special.
3. Shine. You've earned it.

1. We Heart YA. This blog is by a group of passionate women sharing the good word on reading and writing.

2. Rebecca Fields. Rebecca is a dear friend and critique partner. We built our friendship around the written word, and I cherish it. Show her blog some love :)

3. Stephanie Mooney. Stephanie is an extremely talented writer and graphic designer. She is responsible for my blog design and my upcoming website.

4. Tonia Marie Houston. Tonia (yes, I'm going back to her even though she nominated me) is an amazing person. She's full of encouragement and talent. Can't wait to work with her more in the future ;)

Thanks again for reading my blog and following me as I follow my dreams.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Writer Wednesday - Favorite Books on Craft

I will never stop learning the craft of writing, and for that, I'm grateful. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books, and many more I want to buy. I wanted to talk about my favorite books--the ones I find myself reading often.

The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler is a tremendously helpful book about storytelling. Vogler takes Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey and modifies it for writing. This book covers the three act structure. From The Writer's Journey: Act One covers: Ordinary World, Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting with the Mentor, and Crossing the First Threshold. Act Two covers: Tests, Allies, Enemies, Approach to the Inmost Cave, Ordeal, and the Reward. Act Three covers: The Road Back, Resurrection, and the Return with the Elixir.

Writing Fiction A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway is a book I used in one of my graduate classes. It's a bit pricey, but I've found this book to be full of valuable information on the craft of fiction writing. Since it is used as a textbook, topics are covered in great detail. There are a lot of writing exercises as well.

The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass is probably my favorite book (and relatively inexpensive). This book is full of exercises, examples, and information. It's a quick read, but the knowledge stays with you.

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass is another fabulous book.

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell is my second favorite. This book covers how to plot your novel and structure it to tell a great story. Another one I highly recommend.

These are a few of my favorites on writing. I'm going to do another blog post on books on editing since I have a ton of those as well.

What are some of your favorite books on the craft of writing?

Friday, November 18, 2011

News and NaNo!

Happy Friday! This month has been nuts (like most months). I've been working on a personal project for awhile, and it's finally up and running. I decided to start offering editing services. I absolutely adore editing and critiquing. For more information, please check out my new website. I have other news coming soon, which I'll post on the blog and on the site.

Are you participating in NaNo? I'm about 33k words in and counting. I had a very detailed outline going in. I'm actually happy with how the story is going, but it will be a long time before this piece sees the light of day. I do look forward to the revision process--my favorite!

I'll be staying at the Stanley Hotel tomorrow night for a write-in. I'm excited! The ghost tour is at four, and the write-in is 6:30pm - 11:30pm. I will take lots of pictures while I'm there!

What's going on in your world? Are you in crazy NaNo mode?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday - Book Review Roundup: Fracture by Megan Miranda

From Goodreads:
Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled front he icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend, Decker Phillips. By then her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine-despite the scans that showed significant brain damage. Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she's far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can't control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?

Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who recently emerged from a coma with similar abilities. At first she's reassured to find someone who understands the strangeness of her new existence, but Delaney soon discovers that Troy's motives aren't quite what she thought. Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature-or something much more frightening?

For fans of bestsellers like Before I Fall and If I Stay, this is a fascinating and heart-rending story about love and friendship and the find line between life and death.

My Review:
I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading FRACTURE, but I was captivated from the start. Delaney is such a believable character--she's smart, logical, practical, and sympathetic. When she dies in the lake that day, she is saved by her best friend, Decker. Decker and Delaney have been friends since they were five--always inseparable. After the accident, their relationship becomes strained by Delaney's new ability to sense death. Delaney starts to think everything in her life is falling apart. She feels this pull, yet everyone thinks she's crazy.

Delaney starts to become self-destructive, and I didn't blame her at all. She endures so much, and I'm not sure how she handled it all in the first place. I loved the characters in this book. The development is believable and real. The relationships are spot-on. Delaney's relationship with her parents, her best friend, friends, and even Troy are emotional, thought provoking, and fantastically written.

I really enjoyed this emotional book that leaves the reader with a sense of hope in all the dark in Delaney's life.

FRACTURE will be available on January 17, 2012 from Walker and Co. Thank you to the publisher for allowing me the chance to read this book before the release.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday - Book Review Roundup: The Poison House by Michael Ford

From Goodreads:
The year is 1856, and orphan Abigail Tamper lives below stairs in Greave Hall, a crumbling manor house in London. Lord Greave is plagued by madness, and with his son Samuel away fighting in the Crimea, the running of Greave Hall is left to Mrs. Cotton, the tyrannical housekeeper. The only solace for the beleaguered staff is to frighten Mrs. Cotton by pretending the house is haunted.

So when a real ghost makes an appearance - that of her beloved mother - no one is more surprised than Abi. But the spirit has a revelation that threatens to destroy Abi's already fragile existence: she was murdered, and by someone under their own roof. With Samuel returned to England badly wounded, it's up to Abi to nurse him back to health, while trying to discover the identity of the killer in their midst. As the chilling truth dawns, Abi's world is turned upside down.

My Review:
I always enjoy a really good historic YA book. THE POISONED HOUSE was a quick read. The book starts off with Abigail Tamper trying desperately to escape Greave Hall and Mrs. Cotton, the evil caretaker. She is dragged back to the house to resume the tortured life of a slave/servant girl. Abi is only fifteen years old, and her mother died when she was very young.

When Mrs. Cotton receives a visitor, the servants grow curious and Abi is sent to spy on their meeting. When a spiritual consultant walks in, Abi learns Mrs. Cotton is afraid a ghost is haunting the house. Abi is even more shocked to find out she's right. Abi's mother desperately tries to get her out of the house before her daughter receives the same fate as her.

Michael Ford created very believable characters. I felt for Abi and struggled with her during her journey to seek out the truth. The creepy factor was definitely there for this piece. The sinister house, the dark staircases, the ouija board, war, Mrs. Cotton--it was all very creepy and sinister. I found myself looking around me when reading it alone at night. It's refreshing when a book does that to me.

The plot was well developed and left you trying to guess what all this family is hiding. The house master is on the brink of insanity, always talking to himself, holing up in his room upstairs. There's a lot of mystery to this book--lots of secrets.

If you're looking for a quick and creepy read, you'll enjoy THE POISON HOUSE.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Monday - I Love Dark YA Blogfest

I have the privilege of being part of the I love Dark YA Blogfest, and I couldn't be more excited! I know the topic has been in the media a lot recently, and it's a subject I love talking about. This week I'll be blogging about my favorite dark YA book(s).

First off, what is considered "dark"? Can it be categorized? Or is it personal preference? Some of my favorite YA books are what some people have labeled as their version of "dark."

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
Shine by Lauren Myracle
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Curse Worker series by Holly Black

I could go on and on! Some of these books may be fantasy, but there's still real issues there. The Hunger Games is about selflessness, love, caring, and survival. Twenty Boy Summer is about a girl trying to cope with loss after love and then figure out who she is. There's a positive message of hope in most YA novels. I can't think of one where there isn't.

What are some of your favorite "dark" YA books?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday - Book Review Roundup: The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff

From Goodreads:
Everything is made of steel, even the flowers. How can you love anything in a place like this?

Daphne is the half-demon, half-fallen angel daughter of Lucifer and Lilith. Life for her is an endless expanse of time, until her brother Obie is kidnapped--and Daphne realizes she may be partially responsible. Determined to find him, Daphne travels from her home in Pandemonium to the vast streets of Earth, where everything is colder and more terrifying. With the help of the human boy she believes was the last person to see her brother alive, Daphne glimpses into his dreams, discovering clues to Obie's whereabouts. As she delves deeper into her demonic powers, she must navigate the jealousies and alliances of the violent archangels who stand in her way. But she also discovers, unexpectedly, what it means to love and be human in a world where human is the hardest thing to be.

This second novel by rising star Brenna Yovanff is a story of identity, discovery, and a troubled love between two people struggling to find their place both in our world and theirs.

My Review:
THE SPACE BETWEEN is probably my favorite book this year. First, just look at that cover. How beautiful is that?? It's stunning. Second, I will probably end up rambling on and on about this book because there is just too much to say. The writing is so real and raw. The emotions are heartbreaking. I cried, cursed, laughed, and cried some more. I struggled with Daphne and Truman like I was there living their problems.

I absolutely fell in love with Brenna's take on angels and demons. I'm not a huge fan of angel books, but Brenna's angels are brilliant. Demons aren't typically good. While most of the demons are tricksy, conniving, and hungry--Daphne and Obie are good. All they want is love. They want to prove to themselves and to their mother, Lilith, that they can resist their innate urges. How heartbreaking is it to have a good demon, like Daphne, fall in love with a troubled boy who is hell bent on destroying his life? It's EXTREMELY heartbreaking!

I highly encourage you to pre-order this book. It comes out November 15. I will be reading this book again very soon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Signings

This month has been quite spectacular in terms of author visits to the Colorado area. I've had the pleasure of seeing Mary Pearson, Jessica Brody, Gabrielle Zevin, and Alyson Noel at the Pen Fatale tour.

Claudia Gray, Kiersten White, Amy Garvey, and Jocelyn Davies at the Dark Days event.

And the fabulous Laini Taylor.

This week Jay Asher will be visiting. I think it's such an inspiration to see these authors and hear them read from their books. I've had a great time!

What authors have you seen recently?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday - Book Review Roundup: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Summary from Goodreads:

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation:  He kills the dead. So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead--keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside the ordinary:  track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rate, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958:  once white, now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and ever person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.

My Review:

Ahhhh!! I loved this book. I read it in one sitting and now I want to read it again just writing about it. I've mentioned I'm a sucker for a male point of view, and Cas is awesome. He has a bad-boy attitude with a side of sweetness. His relationship with his mom shows how he is underneath the ghost-slaying lifestyle he lives. His goal is to kill enough ghosts until he feels he's ready to face the one that killed his father.

When he meets Anna Dressed in Blood, she's every bit as terrifying as the locals say she is. She rips apart anyone who comes into her house...except for Cas. Anna is the most powerful ghost Cas has ever met, and  knows he has to figure out what made her that way before he can kill her. With the help of two unexpected (but welcome) friendships, Cas and crew set out to solve the puzzle. Cas has to come to grips with his feelings for Anna so he can do the job he set out to do.

Again, I loved this book. It's funny, quirky, heart-breaking, and wonderfully written.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Review Roundup - Elemental Reality by Cesya MaRae Cuono

From Goodreads:

When Callie Pierce was ten, her mother disappeared without a trace. On the eve of her disappearance twelve years later, the earth seemingly comes alive. The elements speak to Callie, and that's only the beginning. Everything she has ever known was a twisted fabrication to protect her. Now the truth is set free. Callie and her sister are more powerful than any Faerie ever born. Now they have to use their powers to save their mother and family from the evil hands of fate that threaten to tear them apart. Welcome to her elemental reality.

My Review:

Odd things start to happen to Callie on her 22 birthday that she can't explain, she's sensitive to heat, electricity, the weather, all of the elements seem to be calling to her. When she goes out to celebrate, she meets Caden, a guy she can't seem to get enough of, but she's unsure why. Her best friends try to warn her that he's bad business, but she brushes it off. Soon after, Callie meets a hot Aussie named Oli. She's instantly attracted to him, but she's still unsure of her feelings for Caden. As things heat up between Oli and Callie, Caden makes an appearance. It turns out he's not such a good guy after all.

Callie is a likable character with an awesome sister named Lola. They are both snarky and have great personalities. I love their relationship; it was very believable and realistic. I think the relationships in this story are well developed and you desperately want Callie and Lola to find their mother. With evil at work, only time will tell if they succeed. Callie and Lola must learn how to use their powers if they stand a chance against the evil holding their mom.

Overall, I enjoyed Elemental Reality. If you're looking for an energetic read, Elemental Reality may provide you with the jolt you're looking for.

To learn more about Oli, check out this character interview I did with him.

Thanks to Revolution Publishing for allowing me to review this book.

Monday - Book Review Roundup: The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

Summary from Goodreads:

It starts with an itch you just can't shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you'll be babbling your secrets and chatting with strainers like they're old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.

And then you're dead.

When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn's community, the government quarantines her island--no one can leave, and no one can come back. Those healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.

Because how will she go on if there isn't?

Megan Crewe crafts a powerful and gripping exploration of self-preservation, first love, and hope. Poignant and dizzying, this heart-wrenching story of one girl's bravery and unbeatable spirit will leave readers fervently awaiting the next book in this standout new series.

My Review:

What can I say? I majored in biology and journalism for my undergrad and have a masters in environmental science...viruses absolutely fascinate me. I think we all wonder, "What would happen in the face of a pandemic?" Megan Crewe gives us a glimpse into one possible scenario.

The Way We Fall started out a little slow, but it wasn't too long before I was pulled into the story. Kaelyn's dad is a doctor on a small island in Canada. When people start coming down with a new virus, the island is shutdown. Kaelyn's mom, dad, and brother do the best they can to survive, but hope starts dwindling pretty fast.

It's hard to give a spoiler-free review because this story constantly broke my heart, but I never cried. I felt Kaelyn's emotions, her self-loathing, and despair, but wanted to feel it a little more. There were times when I asked myself, "How can anyone survive this?" And I'm not talking about just the virus; Kaelyn loses so much.

The story is supposed to be written in a series of letters to her best friend, Leo, but besides the date and an occasional reference to him, it mostly followed novel prose. I know a lot of reviewers had a problem with this, but I was able to look past it.

Overall, I enjoyed The Way We Fall. I think the premise is believable and real. If you like viruses and tales of hope, you'll enjoy this book.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday - Book Review Roundup: Ashfall by Mike Mullin

Summary from Goodreads:

Under the bubbling hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park is a super volcano. Most people don't know it's there. The caldera is so large it can only be seen from a plane or satellite. It just could be overdue for an eruption, which would change the landscape and climate of our planet. Ashfall is the story of Alex, a teenage boy left alone for the weekend while his parents visit relatives. When the Yellowstone super volcano erupts unexpectedly, Alex is determined to reach his parents. He must travel over a hundred miles in a landscape transformed by a foot of ash and the destruction of every modern convenience he has ever known, and through a new world in which disaster has brought both the best and worst in people desperate for food, water, and warmth. With a combination of nonstop action, a little romance, and very real science, this is a story that is difficult to stop reading and even more difficult to forget.

My Review:

Ashfall is an entertaining dystopia/post-apocalyptic book. I'm a sucker for a male point of view and Alex doesn't disappoint as a narrator. He is real, gritty, 16, and has to go through so much in such a short amount of time. It was really interesting to watch his character transformation. Alex starts out as somewhat self-centered. He detaches from his family to play video games or just to be alone. When his parents leave to visit his uncle's farm, Alex finds himself alone in the ash wishing he was with them.

When Alex sets out to find his parents, he has to fight off desperate people, looters, criminals, etc. Alex doesn't get many breaks, but the ones he does get are life-saving. Dara and her mother take Alex in after they find him bleeding to death on their barn doorstep. They stitch him up, feed him, and let him rest there. A sweet romance forms between Dara and Alex, and they start relying on each other to survive.

Overall, Ashfall is a fast-paced, high-risk read. I've seen many documentaries on the super volcano under Yellowstone, so this book was quite terrifying in that it could actually happen.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Recommendations - Conferences (Oh, and I'm Alive!)

This Monday I'm recommending writers' conferences.

First off, I want to apologize for my absence. I've been writing like a crazy woman! The past two months have been insane. I attended the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference and the Rocky Mountain Chapter SCBWI conference (back-to-back weekends). Needless to say, I'm worn out, but it was worth every bit of exhaustion.

Both of the conferences were fantastic. I was immersed in the art of writing for a total of five days and each day filled me with motivation, encouragement, and inspiration. I came home and applied everything I learned to my manuscript (and I'm still applying, hence my absence). I received two requests for pages and after attending Sara Megibow's First 30 Pages workshop, I realized I needed to make my inciting incident stronger, and I'm rewriting the first sixty pages (give or take) based on her workshop before I submit. It's amazing how much stronger my story is now. Don't get me wrong, my novel had been rewritten, critiqued, workshopped, edited, etc., but after hearing Sara Megibow's talk, I knew it could be stronger, and it is.

Then I started thinking, "Does anyone ever think their novel is 'finished'?" Even if several close, trustworthy critique partners tell you, "It's good! Submit already!" You've studied the craft, taken classes, sought advice, etc. At what point do you take the plunge? I often find myself getting in my own way. What about you? How do you know when yours is ready?

Hope everyone is having a fabulous start to the week!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

Ari's long silver hair and teal eyes draw (unwanted) attention everywhere she goes. Ari was raised in foster care and doesn't know much about her past. She desperately wants to know more about her mother and why she is is so different for everyone else. Her search takes her to her birthplace of New 2, the rebuilt city of New Orleans, that is no longer part of the United States. When she arrives in New 2, she notices immediately that she isn't different. In New 2, Ari is seemingly normal. Will she find the answers to her questions? Or will her search leave her asking even more questions?

Darkness Becomes Her was a quick read. I love New Orleans, so it was interesting to read about a new version of the city. Ari is a tough girl who tries to figure things out by herself and not rely on others. She soon realizes that in New 2, she needs all the help she can get from the people she's met. Overall, the book was entertaining and the story was captivating. If you like paranormal fiction, you will enjoy Darkness Becomes Her.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday - Book Review Roundup: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Emerson has never had an easy life. Not only does she see things that aren't there, but her parents died in a terrible accident that left her damaged and broken. After a long stint in a mental hospital, she goes to live with her brother, Thomas, in Tennessee. Thomas knows about Em's ability and wants to help her find some answers. He hires Michael, a consultant from the secret organization called the Hourglass. Michael not only believes everything Emerson tells him about her visions, but wants to help her define her ability to prevent a death that should have never happened.

You know that feeling you get when you really don't want a book to end? Hourglass definitely left me with that feeling. This is a wonderful and refreshing read. I fell in love with Emerson's sarcastic and snarky (yet authentic) voice immediately.

I can't wait to see what else Myra McEntire writes. The concept for Hourglass is unique and original, and probably one of the best books I've read this year.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Monday - Book Review Roundup: EVERY OTHER DAY by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Kali is half human and half demon hunter. Every twenty-four hours she switches from a typical sixteen-year-old girl into a demon hunter. Kali doesn't know what she is, or how she became that way. She lives with her dad who doesn't know about her every other day activities and they barley speak a word to each other. Kali doesn't have many friends until she sees a mark on one of the cheerleaders at her high school. The mark indicates the girl will die in twenty-four hours. Kali decides to help her, and in doing so she lets people in--something she's never done before.

I love Jennifer Lynn Barnes and EVERY OTHER DAY does not disappoint. I was hooked to Kali and her dilemma from the first page. I've read the Trial by Fire series and this is definitely different, but in a good way. EVERY OTHER DAY is chalked full of emotion. I was drawn in to the characters and I was sad when the book was over (always a great feeling!).

I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good paranormal read. EVERY OTHER DAY has action, friendship, doubt, despair, and hope. I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to read more of Barnes' work.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

And the Winner of the Personalized Signed Copy of TWENTY BOY SUMMER is....

Ashley G! I'll be emailing you tonight :) I want to give a special thanks to Sarah Ockler for being so awesome and personalizing the book for you! 

Thank you all for participating. I have several other giveaways lined up, so be sure to check back! 

I really enjoyed all of your answers to why you love reading. There is a special place in my heart dedicated to reading and it sounds like we all have that in common. 

I look forward to getting to know all of the new followers. Thank you all for making this giveaway such a success!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday - Blog Recommendations and the Appreciated Follower Award

Last week I received the Appreciated Follower Award from the lovely Kelly Hashway. *Smiles* Thank you Kelly! I truly look forward to Kelly's blogs. They are insightful, informative, and tons of fun to read. I hope you hop over and check out her blog.

So, here are the rules for the award:

  • Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
  • Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Copy and paste the award on your blog.
  • Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
  • And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun.

Here are my five followers that I truly appreciate and look forward to their comments.

Wow, I'm at five already? Thank you all for following. I appreciate each and every one of you :) What are some of your favorite book/author/writing blogs you follow?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Guest Post - Oli from Elemental Reality by Cesya MaRae Cuono

Courtney:  Tell us a little about yourself.

Oli:  My name is Oliver Drayke. Oli for short. I'm a true blue from Tasmania. I'm 22. My birthday is September 9. My heart is taken by the most beautiful girl in the world.

Courtney:  Tell us a little about your author.

Oli:  Author? What author? Kidding. She's a great shelia and an even greater listener. It was heaps of fun sitting down and talking with her about everything that happened. I know Callie enjoyed talking about it with someone else. Cesya is the sweetest shelia you'd ever meet.

Courtney:  Is there anything you wish your author would have made easier for/on you?

Oli:  Getting my Kitten to myself. Cayden was a challenge for me. It was hard getting close enough to Callie when he was controlling her.

Courtney:  What was it like to feel the pull toward Callie?

Oli:  For me it was heartache. Not being in the same place was hard. You feel empty. It's like being clean or sober for years and then one day that addiction starts up again and you're consumed by it. It was an awful feeling because we were so far apart. I thought my heart was going to shatter until I found her. The addiction calmed and I felt whole once more.

Courtney:  Are you a helpless romantic, or did Callie turn you into one?

Oli:  I'd like to consider myself one. I never dated anyone because I was afraid I'd feel the pull to my soul mate and I didn't want to hurt the shelia I was with when it happened.

Courtney:  What do you think of Lola? I love her. She's so spunky and full of personality. Wait I asked *you* what *you* think of Lola.....sooooo, I'll be quiet now.

Olie:  (chuckles at you) Lola is troppo. I mean that in a good way. She's heaps of fun to be around. Totally keeps you on your toes with her sense of humor and wit.

Courtney:  Have you ever accidentally caught anything on fire? Tell us a little about it if you have.

Oli:  Our couch. It was the first time using my fire because that element scared me when I was younger. I decided to play around with it when my oldies were out. I was actually doing good until I heard the door open and got scared. The fireball flew out of my hands and landed on the couch. I was up shit creek without a paddle once they saw it.

Courtney:  What's your favorite part in Elemental Reality?

Oli:  Kissing Callie for the first time. Though seeing her for the first time was just as amazing.

Courtney:  What's your least favorite part?

Oli:  Having to deal with that bloody mongrel, Cayden. I would have been much happier if he weren't involved in Callie's life at all.

Courtney:  Do you have any parting words of wisdom?

Oli:  We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love...and then we return home.

Thank you, Oli for the wonderful interview. Thank you to Cesya MaRae Cuono for creating such a swoon-worthy guy in Elemental Reality, out now from Revolution Publishing.

Cesya MaRae Cuono hails from a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Alvernia University where she majored in Business Administration and she's also received her certificate of Multi-Media & Production Makeup from Cosmix School of Makeup Artistry. You can find any updates from Cesya on her website.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Book Giveaway-Win a PERSONALIZED autographed copy of Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer

So, I'm hosting a giveaway. The giveaway runs from Friday, August 26 (NOW) at 12:00pm ET, until Tuesday, August 30, at 7:00pm ET.

The winner will receive a PERSONALIZED autographed copy of Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer. This book is fabulous, Sarah is fabulous, and you will *squee* from all the fabulous!!

All you have to do to win is follow this blog and leave a comment saying what you love most about reading. Does it take you to your happy place? Offer you a chance to escape reality? Whatever reading does for you, just tell me in the comments section. Only one comment per entry, please, and the winner will be chosen by

I'd appreciate it if everyone would help spread the word. I hope everyone is having a fabulous day!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Guest Post - Patti Larsen, Author of Run

Welcome, Patti! Thank you for joining us today. How about you tell us a little about yourself to get this party started.

Patti:  I know you don't want the shiny, polished version, right? I'm a writer by choice and passion, a cat lover extraordinaire. I adore summer above all other seasons if only we could get rid of the bugs. I'm a blonde and always will be no matter what Mother Nature thinks. I work far too much and love every second of it. And I'm addicted to the voices in my head. I joke about wishing they would leave me alone, but I really love having them around.

Courtney:  Now tell us a little about Run.

Patti:  Oh dear. Poor Reid is the main character. I'm so mean to the lovely boy. He thinks life is finally going back to normal, you know? He's spent the last year in foster care, waiting for his sister to rescue him. And when she finally does? He gets kidnapped and dumped in a forest, with no idea why he is there. He quickly learns to run from the hunters who chase down kids like him. And kill them.

Courtney:  What inspired this story?

Patti:  I love this question. I receive my inspiration from any number of places--sometimes a title comes to me first, or a face. In this case, it was Reid. Running down a path, panting, breathing coming in hoarse gasps. He froze, looked around (it's a movie already in my head, can't you tell?). And out of the darkness something howled.

I mentioned the voices, right? Yup. Crackpot. But that's how I roll.

Courtney:  Can you give us a brief description of your writing process?

Patti:  I'm super organized because if I leave it to chance nothing gets done. I have a day planner where I keep my plan at least six months in advance. I have to schedule everything. So, an idea comes, I jot it down on a onepage, or an outline sheet. From there I work with index cards, developing conflicts and connecting them until I have a giant stack from beginning to end. I transfer those into a Word document, giving me a full outline. Then I break the outline up into individual docs as chapters and voila! I typically write between three and six chapters a day, depending on how hard I'm pushing myself. When I'm writing the book, I do so straight through until it's done, usually between six to eight days.

Courtney:  What's your writing fuel? Chocolate? Cake? Cookies?

Patti:  Diet Pepsi, Sea Salt and Pepper chips and Hershey's drops. OMG. I'm drooling. And I'm out of stock. I've tried to break this habit but I just can't seem to.

Courtney:  What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Any useful websites or tools you'd like to share?

Patti:  Two bits only.
One:  Never stop writing, no matter what. If the passion is in you, the skills can be learned. Don't quit. Ever. And if you do quit and it keeps at you, the tickle remains and won't leave you alone, go get some help polishing your skills. That need is the important part. Everything else is trainable.

Two:  Don't be sheep. Educate yourselves on all aspects of the industry. Don't fall into the DREAM of big publishing before you examine each and every option. There is so much false information out there, contradictory views, it will take some time for you to form your own opinion. But be open to everything and be as objective as you can before you make a choice. It's your career and your work. You are the only one who is allowed to choose for you.

As far as helpful sites:  If you're using Google Chrome, StayFocused is wicked. I use the nuclear option that blocks me from the web for an hour at a time. I get so much done!

Courtney:  Who are your influences?

Patti:  Stephen King, definitely. Anne MacCaffery. Isaac Asimov. David Eddings. I grew up  in a family of hard core fantasy and science fiction readers. My father read me The Lord of the Rings when I was six a and even got us hooked on Dungeons and Dragons when I was only nine. So I grew up in a world of make believe. I never expected to be writing YA, but I'm thrilled I found it. In this genre, J.K. Rowling because she got the ball rolling for me when my niece insisted I read the first book of Harry Potter. And Suzanne Collins who showed me with the Hunger Games that no, my work isn't too dark, thanks.

Courtney:  Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Patti:  I hate mornings. HATE. I'm usually up around eight and writing before lunch. I tend to stay up until at least eleven or so, often awake between 2:30 and 3AM writing down ideas or something the voices told me to write. They are relentless.

Courtney:  If you could have one superpower from any book you've read; what would it be and why?

Patti:  I always loved Storm from the X-Men. I adore the idea of controlling the weather. I'd make it summer ALL the time. With the odd fun lightening show thrown in.

Courtney:  Chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry?

Patti:  Chocolate. There is no other flavor.

Courtney:  How do you plan on celebrating the release of Run?

Patti:  Honestly, I haven't thought about it. I'm planning a release party of this book along with another series I have coming out in September. So I guess maybe my husband and I will go out to dinner. But really, every single day I get to write as my job is a celebration. I don't need much more.

Courtney:  Where can we find out more about Run?

Patti:  For now, go here for more information. You can score a copy here or here.

Courtney:  Where can we find out more about you and your other writing?

Patti:  I'm all over the Internet. At least it feels that way!
My main page
My writing blog
My book blog
My fan page
Author page on Amazon

Courtney:  Zombies are attacking. What three possessions do you take on the run with you?

Patti:  A zombie-proof tank full of anti-zombie shells. I drive it to my zombie-proof wharf and onto my zombie-proof yacht. I then sail to my zombie-proof island where I have my loyal servants to toil for me and bring me mangoes while I tsk-tsk over the state of the world. That's four things. But the servants come with the island, so...

No joke, I hate zombies. They give me the absolute creepies.

Courtney:  Can you share some parting words of wisdom for the readers?

Patti:  The Universe made you a writer for a reason. So write. Get your stuff out there. Don't ever let fear stop you. Trust you're doing the right thing. Because you are.

Thank you Patti for a wonderful and fun interview! I can't wait to read Run and see the world you've built for Reid. Stop by anytime!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday: Review Roundup--The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Sixteen year old Lucero-Elisa de Riquereza (Elisa), is the Princess of Orovalle. She is a self-conscious girl who thinks she is fat and finds solace in food. She is also a very important girl. She is one of the few Chosen humans to bear a Godstone; a jewel buried deep inside her naval that responds to prayer and alerts her to danger. Being a Bearer of the Godstone means Elisa will one day have to fulfill her Service to God and do his will.

In a marriage arranged by Elisa's father, she is set to marry King Alejandro de Vega of Joya d' Arena. She will leave her home directly after the wedding and travel to the King's land to assume the role of Queen. It isn't until Elisa reachers her destination that she realizes how many people are looking for the Bearer of the Godstone. Some are looking to her for help while others look for her to destroy her.

I really enjoyed The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Rae Carson takes the reader into a world of war, prophecy, and sorcery. In a time of political unrest, Elisa questions her faith while dealing with secrecy and finding a little romance in someone she least expects. Elisa goes from a self-conscious girl into a mature young woman willing to take on the enemy and save her people. She learns to trust her instincts and believe in herself. She gains confidence through her journey and becomes a respected Queen to her people.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns will appeal to fans of Kristin Cashore (FIRE and GRACELING), and Melina Marchetta (FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

World of Writing Wednesday - WriteOnCon

This week is WriteOnCon - a free online conference for writers in children's literature. It is a fantastic source of information for published and unpublished writers.

The conference hosts different live events such as:
  • Query critiques by agents, editors and authors
  • A first 250 word critique of your manuscript
  • Vlogs of authors sharing valuable information about writing and the publishing industry
  • Posts from agents about what they are looking for, submission guidelines, how they know the right piece when they read it, etc. 
  • Live Q&A with different agents
If you haven't checked out WriteOnCon, you should. Even if you miss the conference you can view the archives. This conference is so unique and professional and FREE. You can donate to help support next year's WriteOnCon. A minimum donation of just $5 you could win a query critique from literary agent Jim McCarthy, a query critique from literary agent Sara Crowe, or a ten page critique from literary agent Roseanne Wells.  Here is the link to donate

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday: Book Review Roundup--POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil-Guest Post by Rebecca Fields

Review of POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil--Guest post by Rebecca Fields

Rule Number One:  Do not show fear.
Fifteen year old Bridgett Liu is sitting in Latin class at her Catholic high school. It's the last class of the day and she's counting down the minutes. She watches as Monsignor Renault comes into the room and speaks with the teacher--he has a note and it's for Bridgett--it's time for her first exorcism.

Rule Number Two:  Do not show pity.
Bridgett is a natural born exorcist--a very rare trait, but one she'd gladly give up. As if that weren't the only bad thing in her life, her father was murdered less than a year ago and her mother is already dating. The hottest boy Bridgett's ever seen wants to take her out, and being an outcast at school, his interest is the last thing she wants, or so she tells herself. The one bright spot in Bridgett's life is her little brother, Sammy.

Rule Number Three:  Do not engage.
There's been an influx of demonic possessions in Bridgett's hometown of San Francisco. No one knows why, and as a specialist, Father Santos from the Vatican, is sent to help Monsignor. He's also there to learn about Bridgett's skill. Bridgett doesn't trust him and she knows Monsignor doesn't either. A game of cat and mouse begins with very dangerous consequences for the loser. It would quite literally be hell.

Rule Number Four:  Do not let your guard down.
Only two people know about Bridgett's "gift":  Monsignor and Father Santos. Not even her mom is allowed to know, which makes the after school exorcisms difficult to explain. Bridgett's two best friends know something is going on, but she can't say a word, knowing they'd think she's even more of a freak.

Rule Number Five:  They lie.
During one particularly creepy exorcism (think a roomful of possessed dolls), she receives a message from the demons. They tell her not to trust him, but who is "him"?

Bridgett's life and those she cares about most are on the line. Along the way, Bridgett must take a leap of trust and learn who she really is. POSSESS is a debut novel by Gretchen McNeil, and what a debut! The pace is fast with a lot happening in a short amount of time. The characters are clearly defined and likable. While there's a lot that could be said regarding exorcisms and the history behind them, McNeil does a great job of giving enough information to keep the reader informed and the story flowing without bogging the reader down with too much detail. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. In fact, I could't put it down. Very few books have literally given me chills, and the one succeeded....twice.

About Rebecca Fields:
Rebecca Fields is a modern day gypsy, roaming from place to place in search of--well, she'll let you know when she finds it. When she's not planning her next move, she's busy writing--and of course, reading her favorite genre--YA. Learn more about Rebecca and her writing by visiting her blog at: 
Or follow her on Twitter: @beckflds

Sunday, August 14, 2011

New Blog Design, Means New Blog Schedule

I am in love with my new blog design! I hope everyone loves it. I am also starting a new blog schedule that goes into effect tomorrow.

I will be blogging on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Mondays:        Book Reviews, Recommendations, or Releases
Wednesdays:   World of Writing (writing related posts)
Fridays:           Flash Fiction Fridays

I hope everyone has had a fantastic weekend. Mine definitely wasn't long enough. My husband surprised me with a new MacBook Pro for my anniversary present and getting everything set up has taken some time, but I finally feel like I'm up and rolling!

What did you do this weekend? Did you get a lot of writing done? Did you read a good book?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Review of Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Alex is in the mountains to spread her parent's ashes when she meets Ellie and her grandfather. They are chatting one minute when suddenly Alex and Ellie start bleeding and Ellie's grandfather dies. Alex and Ellie have no idea what is going on, but when they see a bunch of kids eating another human, they know it can't be good. They find an army soldier named Tom who worked as a bomb specialist in the military. He says all signs indicate a huge electromagnetic pulse has wiped out all common electronics and triggered something in the young and the old--the old die, while the young become cannibals. Alex, Ellie, and Tom do everything they can to stay together and stay alive.

No one is safe. in Ilsa Bick's world of Ashes (releasing September 6, 2011, Egmont USA). My adrenaline was pumping the entire time I read this book and I even had to take a few breaks because Ashes was stressing me out! It is an intense read that will leave you turning the pages to see what happens to Alex, Ellie, and Tom. The pace is quick and the writing is fantastic. Ashes is a longer YA novel at 480 pages, but it's not long enough. Ashes is unique in that it is spread out over a longer period of time. The reader is there pre-apocalypse, apocalypse, and post-apocalypse.

Ashes has one of those endings that definitely leaves you begging for more. If you enjoy fast pace plotting with high intensity action, Ashes will be a perfect read for you. I highly recommend this book.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dear Lynn - A Short Story

Last night I read a writing prompt to write a letter to someone you've lost. I tried writing it to my grandmother, but it was too painful. I channeled the emotion and wrote a short story. It's not polished, but I wanted to share.

Dear Lynn,

The police hesitated when they told me you died under "questionable circumstances." I know you were murdered. They held me in a small room, gave me lukewarm coffee, and asked me if you were suicidal. I told them, "No." They kept asking. I snapped on the twenty-eighth time and told them to get off their fat lazy asses and find the person that did it to you. I guess I lost it after that because Dad had to carry me out of there.

You would never commit suicide, would you Lynn? You were happy. Weren't you?

I slept in your bed last night so I could feel closer to you. So I could try to absorb your thoughts and maybe hear your secrets. I guess you took all of them with you when he killed you because there was nothing there. And I know because I listened all night.

Maybe it was the guy at the grocery store who always tried to talk to you, or maybe it was that jerk, Todd, who spread those stupid rumors about you. Please Lynn, tell me. I have to know.

You know how sometimes I'm afraid of the dark? Or how I won't go down to the basement without you? It's amazing how all of that fear evaporated when your spirit left. Amazing because when you're in this much pain it's hard to feel fear, it's hard to care if something terrible happens to me because nothing can hurt as bad as this.


I hate Mom and Dad right now. They believe the bullshit the cops told them. How could they, Lynn? How could they fall for that? You were happy. You were my best friend.

The funeral is tomorrow. I'm trying to put myself together, but what's the point? I'm just going to fall apart. How many times can someone be put together again? I have a feeling I'm going to find out.

You would have hated your funeral. Everyone whispered about how tragic your death was. In between looks of pity they whispered things like, "Why didn't she get any help?" I hid in the bathroom for over an hour before mom came and got me. She held me in a hug and said, "I understand you need time." I told her she was wrong. I don't need time. I need to find the bastard who killed you.

It's been almost two weeks and the cops haven't even been by. I still won't go to school. What's the point? Everything there reminds me of you. How can I face that? Why are you doing this to me, Lynn? I don't know how much longer I can take the burning in my chest.

The pain you left me with is like a living thing. I feel it growing inside me with each passing day. With each breath I take, it blooms. I just want it to bust out.

Almost four weeks now. I went back to school but skipped all my classes. I stayed in the bathroom and no one bothered me. I guess the school knew because Mom asked me about it when I got home. I told her she didn't care what happened to you, so why did she care what happened to me? She slapped me across the face. I didn't even feel it.

How could you? How could you do this to me? How could you leave me? Mom was right. Dad was right. Even the stupid police were right. Mom felt it was time she showed me your note. Why didn't you talk to me? I told you everything! EVERYTHING! and you held onto your pain until it killed you! Why? I won't ever know. You will never be able to heal my broken heart.

It feels like someone threw me into a pit of rattlesnakes and the venom is coursing its way through my body. The pain is unbearable, Lynn. I want it out of me! Do you know what you did to me? To Mom and Dad? No, you don't. You were being a selfish bitch and took the easy way out.

I'm so sorry, Lynn! I didn't mean it. I swear! I'm trying so hard to understand, but I can't. I don't. I feel like I failed you. I did fail you.

It rained today. The water fell from the sky like tears, only tears full of pollution. Acid rain. I guess that's what happens when you piss God off. I hope you're up there.

I can't keep writing this. I don't want to be mad at you, but I need time. You understand, don't you? You know how much I love you. Maybe one day you'll show up, maybe in a dream, or at the foot of my bed. Maybe you'll tell me why you did it. Maybe I'll understand. I don't know what was so bad that you couldn't talk to me, your sister. I failed you, Lynn. I failed you and I'm sorry.


This is an original work of fiction -Courtney Koschel

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What My Writing Has Taught Me About Me (So Far)

A few things my current novel has taught me about myself.
In no particular order:

  • I work best with a one page outline that I can add/change as I go. I guess I am an outliner/pantser hybrid.
  • I promised myself I would not edit as I go so I could actually finish writing the draft. This also causes extreme stress and anxiety.
  • I think my writing is better if I don't edit as I go.
  • I am a very impatient person, and this novel has forced taught me to be patient.
  • No one will ever be as hard on me as I am on myself (I'm almost positive this is true for every writer).
  • I cannot edit with a red pen; I must use green.
  • My green pen has its own hashtag on Twitter #greenpenofcarnage
  • #1k1hr on Twitter is my best friend and I've made awesome friends there.
  • My husband is the best ever because he loves me no matter how neurotic I am, or how many times we eat cereal for dinner because I'm too busy writing.
  • It is possible to work 10 hour days and then come home to write.
  • Writing is the one thing I can do with sarcoidosis.
  • Papa Johns knows our order by heart.
  • My animals love when I write because they get extra snuggle time with me on the couch.
  • I have amazing support from friends, family and the writing community.
  • Writing is extremely difficult and sometimes I want to cry because I'm so stressed out and have no idea how I will accomplish everything I want to, but despite all that, I am in love with writing and wouldn't change anything for the world.
  • There is nothing I would rather do than write (even when it's driving me nuts).
Keep in mind these are just a few things. This list could go on and on and I'm sure I will edit it to add more. What about you? What is something your writing has taught you about yourself?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Review of Imaginary Girls, by Nova Ren Suma

Chloe's mom is a drunk and her sister Ruby is her idol. Ruby has taken care of Chloe since she was a baby and has always looked after her. One night when they are at the town reservoir, Ruby tells everyone that of course Chloe can swim across the reservoir and back. Everyone always believes what Ruby says, it's as if she has a spell cast over the entire town. Chloe says that she not only can swim across the reservoir, she will. Only something goes wrong. Chloe comes across a boat in the reservoir that has a dead body in it. That night changes things. Chloe leaves Ruby to go stay with her dad and Ruby desperately wants her sister back.

Imaginary Girls is full of hypnotic prose that captivates you from the first line. Nova Ren Suma grasps your attention and refuses to let you go. Ruby is such a mysterious character that you will keep turning the pages to figure out her secret. 

This book shows love, death, despair, family troubles, and so much more. I was frustrated at times because you have no idea what is going on with Ruby, but it wasn't to the point where I wanted to quit reading it. It really is a beautiful story.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Review of Angel Burn, by L.A. Weatherly

Willow and her mom live with her aunt in a small town in New York. Willow knows she's different, but she embraces her psychic abilities and tries to make a little money to placate her resentful aunt. Little does When the most popular girl at school asks Willow for a reading, she has no idea her life is about to take an extreme turn for the extraordinary. When she searches for answers, she finds Alex. Alex is a beautiful boy who knows about Willow and her power. Their attraction to each other is immediate, but Alex refuses to acknowledge her until he can't resist. Together they have a lot to figure out about the world, good and evil, and about themselves.

I really enjoyed this read. Angel Burn is not your typical angel book. The book is written from two point's of view. Willow's POV is written in first person, and Alex's POV is written in third. I was a little confused by this at first (because it wasn't expected), but soon I found I enjoyed it. It gives the reader two perspectives, and I thought the way L.A. Weatherly wrote it was clever.

I can't wait for the second book to come out. I want to know more about Willow, Alex, and their journey.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Weekend Recap

It's Saturday and this past week was really busy! Sorry I've been MIA, my family came to visit me from Alabama, and I had to show them the glorious Rocky Mountains. It was my vacation, so I actually took some time off to do some much needed reading. Tomorrow it's back to the editing cave with a printed out manuscript and red pen (I will post pics of the red pen carnage).

I've read some really powerful books lately that have stuck with me--Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson--both are really touching reads. Wintergirls is about a girl dealing with one of her best friend's death, a dysfunctional family dynamic, and an eating disorder. I adored this book. The prose was elegant and beautiful and when I slept that night (read in one sitting), my dreams were in words instead of pictures. I love when that happens.

I finished The Sky is Everywhere this morning. I am still digesting it, so I won't touch much on it other than I really enjoyed the book. Over my vacation I read Hourglass, by Myra McIntyre, Angel Burn, by L.A. Weatherly, and Imaginary Girls, by Nova Ren Suma. I plan on doing one blog post to review all of these books next week.

Sorry this post is a bit random, I just wanted to let everyone know I'm alive and what I've been up to. I hope everyone is having a fabulous summer so far!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Writer With a Day Job

I know most writers dream of writing full time and I am no exception. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my day job and I am very grateful to have it, but I long to pay my bills with my writing. Ever since I was in kindergarten if someone asked me, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I would say, "An author." Some things don't change.

I have made money as writer (I've worked as a journalist, an editor, a technical writer and a technical editor), but never a novelist. I now work as an environmental scientist. Sometimes I kick myself for not sticking with writing, but everything happens for a reason. Right?

Balancing work, life, and writing can be tricky. I have the option of working a flexible schedule, so I choose to work ten hour days and have Friday-Sunday off. I get most of my writing done on these three days, but I also write for two hours every week night. It took awhile to find this discipline, but now that I have it, I will never let it go.

Some days my pesky auto immune disease demands that I rest. On those days I just do as much as I can. Then there is life. I have a husband, a house, and three animals. Luckily, I am an early bird. I'm up by 7am (at the latest) on weekends, and my husband doesn't wake up until much later. I utilize the time to write. My schedule can be hard and exhausting, but I love it. I've made many sacrifices for my writing, but I'm happy to do it. It will all be worth it in the end.

Whether you work full time, part time, or are a stay at home mom; how do you balance life with your writing schedule? Do you have a fixed schedule like me? What sacrifices have you made for your writing career?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Reading and Writing (But Definitely NO Arithmetic)

Last year I read 132 books. This year I set a goal to read 200; sadly, I will not reach it. So far I'm sitting at 42 books read for the year. It is a sacrifice, but one I am happy to make because I have been pouring my heart into my writing since last October. Thankfully, I have a lot to show for it.

I miss reading several books a week, but I always make sure I have some time to read. I find I am not only more motivated to write more after reading, but I also write better. I know we as writers learn a lot through osmosis. I study one of my favorite author's voice, another's use of dialogue or sentence structure, and maybe another one's prose. 

It took awhile, but I can finally study an author's writing while reading. It may take me a bit longer, but I always learn something, even if the story wasn't one I particularly enjoyed. I explore the things I liked and didn't like about the story, and more importantly why I did/didn't like it.

Sometimes if I'm stuck and the words just aren't flowing, I will use reading as a warm up for my writing session. Beautiful words always seem to rouse the muse. How about you? Do you find you write better after you read? What warm up methods do you use?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Possession, by Elana Johnson

Violet lives in the Goodlands where she is a rebellious teenager who can't seem to stay out of trouble and despises the Thinkers who control the city with their minds.

Her father went missing seven years ago and her sister, Tyson, disappeard over three years ago. Vi has been left alone with a mother who despises her ever since. The one bright spot in Vi's life is her match, Zenn. One night Vi sneaks out to visit him, risking another violation on her record. That is the night Vi's life changes forever. 

In prison, she meets a Baddie named Jag who seems to understand Vi in a way no one ever has before. From this point on, Vi gets caught up in a whirlwind of lies, corruption, and conspiracy. She has to a lot of choices to make, important choices; choices that could cost her either her life, or the lives of those she loves.

Possession captivated me from the very beginning. I fell in love with the authenticity of the characters. And oh the plot twists! There are so many plot twists, my head was reeling, but nothing left me confused. I especially loved the relationship between Vi and Jag. It felt true to the characters and I could feel their struggle as they tried to overcome the obstacles placed before them. 

Elana Johnson did a beautiful job of constructing a very believable world full of surprises for the reader. I was glued to this book and could not put it down.

Overall, I give Possession five stars. I can't wait for the sequel.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lighthouse Writers Workshop 2011 Lit Fest Publishing Panel

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the Lighthouse Writers Workshop 2011 Lit Fest Publishing Panel at the Tattered Cover bookstore.

The Panelists:
Terra Chalberg - Literary agent, starting her own literary agency in September
Alex Glass - Trident Media Group
Sara Megibow - Nelson Literary Agency
Chris Parris-Lamb - The Gernert Company
Renee Zuckerbrot - Literary agent

I took detailed notes that I will share with all of you. These are not direct quotes, but summarized notes of what was said. You can Google the agents to find out more information about them and their agency.

Question:  What are some of the changes you have noticed in the industry?

Sara:  Represents genre fiction. Something she has noticed recently is when she goes to offer representation, typically the author already has three or four other offers. She has an interest in young adult science fiction and fantasy, romance (all genres except category or inspiration), women's fiction (including chick lit) and high concept literary fiction.

Terra:  Terra has noticed that e-books are thriving and the business in general is growing. Publishers are a little scared because they can't make up the money lost to e-books. There are lots of new ideas and business models coming out to try and figure out how to make up the money that was lost along the way.

Chris:  One of his authors is trying to bundle the e-book and the hard cover. It is an experiment. If the customer buys the hard cover, then they have a month long window to download the e-book. This shows that experimentation in this area is being conducted. We have an industry evolved to ship weighted books to book stores, and in a matter of 18 months, 50 percent of new books are being sold digital. The publishing industry is not set up for a 50/50 world. But writers should not worry. The novel has been around for a very long time. These are just business issues. Writers should not change what they are doing.

Renee:  Storytelling is not going away, but the way we tell the story is changing. In her opinion, e-books will resuscitate the industry. Publishers are trying to change the business model, but it will be slow.

Alex:  This week Abrams announced a new Wimpy Kid novel. They printed six million copies, which is a lot of printed books. This shows that a lot of people are still buying new books.

Question:  From an authors perspective, do you still fall in love/not fall in love with a story first? Or consider the market?

Renee:  She considers things like, 'Can I sell this? Can I sell this well?' Book review coverage is not what is used to be. If she loves something and believes in it, she will try to sell it even if she thinks it will be a difficult sell.

Sara: Says her answer is somewhat controversial. Number one, she has to LOVE the project. If she is reading and gets about 20 pages in and knows it is something she is interested in, she will put down the manuscript and start "Google Stalking." She would like to see some sort of an author platform (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc.).

Chris: Takes social media into consideration when considering non-fiction work; when he is reading for expertise or authority on a subject. Is there a reason to listen to what the author has to say? What are their credentials?

Alex:  When he receives a literary novel, he wants to know if the author has an online presence. Have they been published in literary magazines? Do they have any reviews? Something to validate their credentials.

Terra:  Writing is the most important thing. Writing is not just about selling your work, but also about selling yourself.

Question: How do you suggest writers balance the need for an online presence with their writing?

Alex:  Doesn't want to feel the author has been sitting and writing by themselves without showing it to anyone. He needs to know the author has talent.

Chris: Follow-up to Alex's response. Unless the time spent not social networking is poured into writing a really great novel. He would hate to feel there are writers who don't reach their full potential, or give the novel enough time to reach its full potential. He would hate to see social networking happen at the novels expense.

Renee:  Magic happens in the revision stage. You need to let it sit and then revise. Share with writers groups or a mentor. While you are not under contractual obligations, take your time. Once you get a contract, it is very hard to get a contract extension.

Alex: Networking with other writers, meeting other writers, get a mentor who is terrific. Meet and greet. Anything you can do to get yourself out there helps.

Renee:  If you are on Facebook, post relevant things. Don't waste time on there.

Question: Do you have to have an online presence?

Sara: She represents debut clients. For sub-genres, she would prefer you to have an online presence.

Terra:  If you do not want a Facebook page, then don't create one for yourself, but create one for your book. There are creative ways to have an online presence that you do not have to be a slave to.

Renee:  Has an author that does not have any sort of online presence. She is a best seller and wants to focus on her writing. Renee says "good for her."

Question: How do you deal with the growth of manuscripts that come across your desk?

Terra: Has never met an agent who can get back to every person.

Chris:  If you do not receive a response within four to six weeks, it is an automatic no. The author has to write a good first page and a query letter. It has to be immediately apparent in the first page that the writer can write well.

Renee:  Gets rid of the ones that are not addressed to her. The writing needs to hold her attention immediately. Spend lots of time revising and rewriting your work. A smart query letter, plus credentials equals a read from Renee. If you have not heard back within four to six weeks it is considered an automatic no. You must follow the guidelines which are very specific on her website. She needs to know the writer is talented and can work well with a publisher. The writer also needs to be professional. It is a business.

Chris: The publishing industry does not assign value to a book, but tries to sell the book. Professionalism is key. Publishing is an industry and a business. The cover letter must be professional.

Question: What is the author's responsibility for promotions after publication?

Chris: Do what the publishers tell you to do. Be proactive.

Alex:  Publishers will put money toward few books, so you should not sit back and do nothing. Hire an outside publicist if you can afford it. An outside publicist will be selling you and get you media.

Sara: Nelson Literary Agency has a publisher in house, but you need to make the effort on your own to sell your work.

Question: How long do you stick with a project?

Renee:  It really depends on the author, no one size fits all.

Alex: This is definitely a question you need to ask your potential agent early in the process. What is the agent's strategy? How much does the agent believe in your book? Who will they send it out to? How long will the agent stick with you? You need to go with the agent who is best for you and your book and wants to help your career the most.

Chris: He likes to send things to all five major houses. He wants to know who likes it. The agent should always be thinking about who may buy the work and then tries to get the best deal possible.

Question: Tell us about what you rep.

Sara: Accepts novels via query letter. The absolute number one step is to find an agent who represents your genre. Then look at their sales. Have they sold anything in your genre? Start Google-Stalking the agency. Does the agency seem like a good fit? Does the agency seem moderately sane? Currently accepting completed romance, completed science fiction and fantasy, and completed young adult.

Renee: Don't send out your manuscript to thirty different agents at one time. Send it out to ten to twelve. If you receive all rejections, revisit the query letter. Be straight forward. If you send your query to six agents and one offers representation, let the other five know that you've received an offer and need to hear back from them within a week or so. If you have a number one agent in mind, consider sending the query on exclusive for a short period of time. You need to find who works best for you. Renee currently has a 70/30 ratio of fiction to non-fiction. She is looking for more horror novels and non-fiction books.

Terra:  Not looking for much right now, but always keeps herself open. She reps literary fiction and memoir. She likes a good story.

Alex: Accepts 80% fiction, debut literary fiction, mystery and crime, and platform driven non-fiction.

Chris:  Accepts 75% non-fiction, but would like to change it to 50/50 non-fiction to literary fiction.

There you have it! An hour and a half conversation in a really long blog post =) Hope this has been helpful, I know it was for me.

Check out my good friend Lindsey Edward's very timely blog post on how to be a literary agent's dream client. It fits well with this post. Happy writing!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

YA Truly Does SAVE - My Story

This is lengthy and personal, but after reading this article last night from the Wall Street Journal, it just needed to be written.

I grew up in a small town in Alabama, population less than 3,000. My graduating class had less than 130 students. My mom worked as an accountant for the church we attended (southern baptist) and I was there Sunday morning and night, and every Wednesday. My dad had a great job, but he traveled a lot, so after both of my sisters moved away to college it was mostly me and my mom. Being anything less than cookie-cutter perfect in this town meant isolation. But being different also meant having a chance to be real. 

My life wasn't complicated until eighth grade. Call it the creative side of me, but makeup, hair color, funky clothes; I loved it all (still do)! I have green eyes, so I always wore dark makeup to make them pop. People started calling me a goth and a druggie...all because I wore dark makeup? Isolation begins...

Things didn't get much better when a guy who also dressed differently asked me out. I was happy. He was my first real boyfriend. The rumors started to fly and my youth pastor told my mom I was on drugs....I wasn't. Thankfully she believed me, but the damage was done. Word got out I was a druggie. I remember walking down the street with a friend and I was supposed to babysit for a lady later that night and the woman pulled up beside us as we were walking and said, "You will never babysit my kids!" and drove off. I was speechless and embarrassed.

I poured my heart into notebooks and poorly written poetry, but the notebook always listened and never judged. The town's public library was right next to the school and I would go there at the end of the day and wait for my mom to get off work. I would read and write for hours.

When 9th grade started I moved on to high school. People were scared of me because they thought I was dangerous. I guess dark makeup and baggy pants are terrifying. *shudders* The people who accepted me were people like me, different, but also smart. We had conversations about things that actually mattered. We talked politics, philosophy, books, music and life. I talked two friends out of committing suicide. It was a big deal. One friend was on a bridge. His sister called me. Me and my friend went to get him. He was standing there crying. A broken soul, taunted for not fitting the mold. It was horrible. The police came and instead of getting him help they ARRESTED him. My other friend also suffered. My small circle of broken friends helped him that time, but three years ago I got a call that he shot himself through the chest with a shotgun. His seven year old nephew found him. He was still living in that town.

I had no one to go to and no one to talk to. My parents were unhappy about me spending time with my friends and eventually they forbade me to hang out with them. That's when my life really changed and I started to be everything everyone already said I was. I started lying to my parents, telling them I was going places I wasn't, making all sorts of excuses for why I was late or smelled of certain things. My mom started checking up on me to see if I was really where I said I was going. I wasn't. "Tough love" bloomed out of that. I was grounded for months. I won't go into a ton of gory details, but I did cut and burn myself. I did get all the pills from the medicine cabinet, lay them all out and stare at them. That is when reading truly saved my life.

I started to spend my free time at the library, absorbing as many books as I possibly could. We didn't have a huge section of YA, but I read anything I could get my hands on:  George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Nevil Shute, Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams, Tolkein, etc. By the end of the year I received the Accelerated Reader award for reading the most books in the school, it was presented to me at awards night.

Prom night of my junior year. I was dared to go through a car wash with just car. I did it. Why not? It was a stupid dare. I stood there for like three seconds and then ran out; everyone laughed. The following Monday the guidance counselor called me into her office. She heard about the incident and called my parents. "Why?" I asked her. "Because it is clear you were trying to hurt yourself. Didn't you go through the hot wax?" I stared at her; dumbfounded. I clearly was not injured, but what credibility did I have? She chose to believe what other students told her instead of opening her eyes.

I wish I could say things got better, but they didn't. There are still too many things that happened that I'm not ready to talk about. Things I'm sure people thought I deserved, but things no one deserves. I moved to a college 60 miles north of my hometown and pursued a degree in journalism. I was damn good at it. I finished college and only stayed in Alabama another year before I moved away with my now husband. My relationship with my parents is good. I think we all learned a lot from me. Every single day my mom tells me how proud she is of me. She says I taught her not to be judgmental and that she has learned so much from me. 

I have the most amazing supportive husband, recently finished my Master's degree, have a good job, and still read and write daily. I am revising/editing my YA novel and hope one day it will be published. 

YA has given people a voice when they feel theirs cannot be heard. I was on Twitter last night when Maureen Johnson posted the WSJ article about YA literature being too dark. I read it twice and still couldn't believe what it said. The uproar from the YA community on Twitter has been epic. Maureen and Libba Bray started #YASaves and encouraged everyone to share their story of how YA has helped them. Within twenty minutes #YASaves was the third trending topic on Twitter in the NATION (and still is this morning). The responses brought me to tears. There are so many books that have helped so many people--people of all ages. #YASaves has  inspired many (including myself) to talk about their life experiences, which is therapy in itself. In essence, this article made the YA community stronger. I am full of emotion, strength, empowerment, and pride.

The article may be published, but the damage done is not to the YA community, but to the WSJ. I don't think they were prepared for the aftermath.