Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Traditions

My favorite holiday tradition is the advent chain I make for my kids. I cut twenty-four pieces of construction paper, write a holiday activity on each one, and then staple them together into a chain. Each morning the kids take turns tearing off a piece of the chain and that's our activity for the day.

Weekdays are pretty busy around here, so I keep the activities short: do a treasure hunt, read the nativity story together, or put candy canes on the Christmas tree. Weekends we can do more time-consuming activities like making Christmas cookies or having a family game day. We've been doing this since my kids were little. I figured they'd get tired of it eventually, but now they're teenagers and they're still excited to pull off the chain every morning.

What traditions do you share with your family during the holiday season - whichever holiday you celebrate?

I'm going to take the rest of the year off blogging to spend time with my kids over their break from school, so happy holidays to you all! See you in January!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

An Outline is Born

Over the past few weeks, I've been outlining my new idea and shaping it into a story.

I started by identifying the different layers and subplots and then making an outline of each one on my computer. When I was happy with the outlines, I printed them out, cut them into pieces, and arranged each event in chronological order.

Then, when I had them arranged how I wanted them, I made a color-coded chart. I use a different color for each plotline so I can trace each plot and make sure I have a good mix of the different storylines. I just finished this last night and I'm glad to have it done - it was a lot of work getting to this point! This is just a starting point and it will evolve from here, but at least I've got a basic game plan.

Whew! So that's how I develop my outline. How about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser? If you're a plotter, does your outline or your method look anything like mine? And what have you been working on this past week?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Baby Faces Blogfest

Trisha at WORD + STUFF is hosting the Baby Faces blogfest today, where we're supposed to post a picture of ourself as a baby. This was taken right after I started being able to sit up on my own. My mom said I was really proud of myself, hence the big smile.

Someone gave me this picture a few years ago. My sister and I were trying to figure out who it was (our mother was able to identify it, though I was already pretty sure it was me), and my sister at first thought it was my aunt but then said this baby was too "funny looking" to be my aunt. I was highly offended! I think I'm pretty adorable, actually. :)

Do you keep any baby pictures of yourself? Being the youngest of five kids, I'm always pretty excited when I find one of me (especially one where my older siblings aren't making me scream or cry!)

Don't forget to stop by Trisha's for the list of other participants!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook

I hope you all had a great week last week! We had a very nice (and delicious!) Thanksgiving with two of my sisters and their families. Now the last of the pumpkin pie is gone and it's time to get back to work. :)

As I mentioned before, I sent my latest manuscript out to critique partners recently. While I'm waiting to hear back, of course I'm starting the next book. A couple of weeks ago, when I started this project, I had just a glimmer of an idea. It's a mystery, so at that point I knew the murderer's identity and motive, and that was about it. Then I went to one of my all-time favorite books, the Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. I spent the past couple of weeks working through the exercises and ended today with writing the skeleton of my outline using the step-by-step guide in Appendix A.

I'm a compulsive planner, and I still have plenty of prep work left to do before I start the actual writing. But by working through this book, my glimmer of an idea has grown into a full-fledged story with layers and subplots and complications and steadily rising stakes. I've discovered new suspects and symbols and even my theme. I'm sure much of this will change as I continue to play with the storyline, but it's a great start with plenty of substance and details and original ideas I'm sure I wouldn't have thought of had the exercises in the book not forced me to dig deeper than my initial, easy surface ideas.

So, are you starting a new project soon? Or do you have an old project that needs new life? Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook has two thumbs up from me! Have you read it? If so, what did you think?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
And thanks to everyone for your good wishes on my new adventure in studying nursing! I hope those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving have a wonderful holiday week, and for those who don't - I hope you have a just plain wonderful week. :)
I'm going to be celebrating with family and eating lots of turkey and pumpkin pie - see you next week!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Change is in the Air

First of all, I apologize for my unexplained absence. I was trying to get my latest manuscript out to beta readers, and I finally did late last week - hooray! While I'm waiting to hear back, I decided to give my blog a new look that better represents the kind of writing I do - mysteries with a touch of creepy.

You may have noticed another change if you read my "About Me" section - I'm starting nursing school! I've been accepted to an Accelerated BSN program which means I can get my BSN in one year since I already have a BS in engineering. I'll need a year of prerequisites (mostly biology) before I can start the program, though, so it will actually be two years. I start my prerequisites in January 2013 and, if all goes according to plan, I'll start the BSN in January 2014. I'm still debating whether I'll do that BSN option or get an Associates nursing degree at a school much closer to home, but either way I'll need the year of prerequisites.

So, that may mean more unexplained absences in the future. Since I started my blog I've been a stay-at-home mom and writer, which allowed me a lot of free time. I'm sure going to school will put a serious cramp in that, but I'll do my best to keep a regular blogging schedule, though there will undoubtedly be times when I fall behind. I hope you'll all understand!

So, big changes happening here. Any changes in your life lately?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sensory Details

I'm still working on the revision suggestions I learned in Darcy Pattison's Revision Retreat Weekend last month. I've spent the past several days making sure my manuscript has plenty of sensory details to bring the story to life. My goal is to engage at least three senses in every chapter. I've been going through my manuscript chapter by chapter and recording which senses I've included on the spreadsheet that I talked about in my previous post (another great use for spreadsheet plotting!)

I've learned a lot by doing this. I was pleasantly surprised by how many sensory details I've already included. However, these details were mostly visual and auditory. I really need to pay more attention to taste, smell, and feel. By including three senses in each chapter, I've had to stretch out of my norm and look for these extra details I don't normally think about. It's been a great exercise that I think will benefit all my future writing, hopefully making me pay more attention to these details up front, rather than waiting for the revision stage.

How about you? Does using sensory details come naturally to you, or is it something you have to pay special attention to? Which senses are you most likely to include?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spreadsheet Plotting

As I've said before, I am a diehard outliner. It's not that I like outlining, because usually by the time I'm that close to starting a story, I wish I could just forget the outline and start writing already. But I outline anyway, because I'm a compulsive organizer, and I I know that if I tried to wing it I'd get myself so lost on some tangent I'd never find my way back.

But even for all my outlining, there is one organizational tool I've never tried until now: spreadsheet plotting. We learned about this in Darcy Pattison's Novel Metamorphosis workbook that we used during the revision retreat weekend, and yesterday I applied it to my novel and made a spreadsheet to keep track of who, where, when, and what happens in each chapter. What an great way to see at a glance how often I use different settings, which chapters certain characters appear in, how many pages each chapter has, and so much more - whatever you want to keep track of.

I've been working on revising a subplot involving my main character's best friend. With the spreadsheet, I can quickly see which chapters the best friend appears in, so I know which chapters will need major changes. And, as Darcy pointed out, the spreadsheet program allows you to sort columns, making it even easier to see how often a setting appears, a certain POV character is used, etc.

Have you tried spreadsheet plotting? Are there any areas in particular you like to keep track of with a spreadsheet, or that you think a spreadsheet would be helpful for?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Too Many Characters

Now that a little time has gone by since the revision retreat, I've started working on the revisions suggested by my group. One of the comments was that it was initially difficult to keep all the characters straight because so many are introduced at once, so I counted. In my first chapter (which is very short, about one page) I introduced two characters. In the second chapter, I mention nine new names and one character who at this point is known only as the main character's sister's boyfriend. Whoa - ten new characters in one chapter. No wonder they had a hard time keeping everyone straight!

After I took a serious look at the chapter, I saw that five of the names are mentioned in conversation but those characters never come into the story at all. It was pretty easy to eliminate most of those and cut down on some of the confusion. A few others, like the main character's best friend, is called by name in the second chapter but doesn't actually show up until the third chapter. By holding off mentioning her until she actually appears, I was able to cut out one more new name.

Hopefully those first two chapters are a lot less confusing now. Even though I know I have a tendency to throw too many characters at the reader all at once, I still have to really work to cut down on the number. How about you? Are there any mistakes that you fall into repeatedly? Do you have a hard time limiting the number of characters you introduce at one time?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Novel Revision Retreat

Wow - what a weekend! I attended a local Novel Revision Retreat with author Darcy Pattison, and my head is bursting with everything I learned and all the ideas I have to strengthen my current wip.

The work for the retreat started a while ago. We read two books, The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman and Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King - both of which are fabulous and I highly recommend. We also read and analyzed the manuscripts of the other people in our groups. This was a real selling point for me: four other novelists who had read my entire 85,000 word manuscript and were prepared to discuss it - what a gift! And it really was. My groupmates gave me some incredible feedback that will be invaluable as I revise my novel.

But the group discussions were just one small part of the retreat. We all bought Darcy's workbook, Novel Metamorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise, beforehand. Darcy gave talks (I would say lectures, but that sounds boring and Darcy's talks were anything but boring!) over the subjects in the workbook. Then we had time to work individually - evaluating our own manuscripts based on what we'd just learned, and then we met with our groups and discussed each other's manuscripts. At the end of each lesson, we listed our priorities for revision. On the last day, we created an overall plan of revision incorporating the areas we'd previously identified as needing work.

There is so much more I could say, but I'll have to save some of it for later. For now, I'll just say that if you ever get the opportunity to go to a retreat with Darcy - grab it! If not, I recommend at least buying her Novel Metamorphosis workbook (available from Amazon or other online booksellers), possibly even putting together a group of fellow writers to read each other's manuscripts and go through the exercises together.  And definitely check out Darcy's website.

How about you? Have you attended any workshops or retreats lately? Have you read Novel Metamorphosis, The First Five Pages, or Self Editing for Fiction Writers?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bigger-Than-A-Shopping Mall Giveaway

Today is that special post I told you about to help a friend celebrate some wonderful news. So I'll get right to it and turn you over to the talented (and newly agented!) Sheri Larsen:

Today, I invite you to celebrate with me!! I've signed with Literary Agent Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary! And because our literary community is so freaking fabulous and generous, I'm having a Bigger-Than-A-Shopping-Mall GIVEAWAY!!

The giveaway consists of: two separate Rafflecopters with multiple giveaways and one grand prize Rafflecopter giveaway - to enter for the grand prize, you must enter either giveaway #1, #2, or both. There's only one mandatory entry. Everything else is up to you!! I know Rafflecopters can be a pain, but it was the only way to organize such a huge giveaway. The giveaway is open until September 27th. WINNERS will be announced on September 28th. (Entrants may win more than one prize!) Thank you so much for entering, spreading the word, and celebrating with me!!

List of Rocking Participants: Lenny Lee, Colene Murphy, LM Preston, Darby Karchut, Joanne Brothwell, Patti Larsen, Christine Fonseca, Catherine Stine, Jessica Bell, Kelly Hashway, Leigh Moore, Christine Danek, Alex Cavanaugh, Katie Mills, Matthew MacNish, Beverly McClure, Marcy Hatch, Jennifer Million, Nicole Zoltack, Christina Lee, Kris Yankee, JL Spelbring, Sharon Mayhew, Candice Granger, Dianne Salerni, Lisa & Laura Roecker, Elana Johnson, Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, Susan Kaye Quinn, Lydia Kang, Julie Musil, Natalie Agurrie, Talli Roland, Medeia Sharif, Kelly Polark, Angela Brown, Sarah Fine, Stina Lindenblatt, Lynda Young, Susan Fields, PK Hrezo, Shannon O'Donnell, Shelli Johannes-Wells, Theresa Brown Milstein.

Giveaway #1
Giveaway #2
Grand Prize Giveaway

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I'm Back! For Real This Time...

Wow, now that was a long break! I've missed everyone and I'm so happy to be back!

In my previous post, I told you I was hoping to get the rough draft of my new manuscript done over the summer. Well, I was actually a lot more productive than I ever dreamed I could be. My goal was to have a draft done by Sept. 1 so I could sign up for a local Revision Retreat Weekend led by author Darcy Pattison the weekend of Sept. 14-16. Not only did I get the rough draft done, but I got through two revisions (just enough so I could let the others in the workshop read my manuscript and not feel like I had to go hide in a hole after). :)

So, in a couple of weeks I'll be taking part in the Revision Retreat Weekend, and I can't wait! I'll be sure to let you know how it goes. But next week, I'll have a special post to help a friend celebrate some awesome news!

How was your summer? Was it productive? Or did you enjoy some time off?

Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I'm Back...But Not For Long

Well, I'm back...but not for long. My kids go on summer break this week, so I'll be taking the summer off blogging. My oldest is going to be a junior in high school next year, and it's really starting to hit me that I don't have that much longer before they start leaving home. I figure I'd better get all the "mom time" in with them that I can while they're off school for the summer.

I did promise to tell you all about the writer's retreat I took a few weeks ago. It was amazing! On Friday night we all had critique sessions with Viking Children's Books editor Kendra Levin. She critiqued our first fifteen pages and our synopses. She had great things to say about my pages, which made me very happy. She made me realize that my plot, on the other hand, needed a lot of work. So over these past few weeks I completely reworked the outline, finishing it up just this morning. I must say, this new version is infinitely better thanks to Kendra's comments and suggestions. I can't wait to get started with the writing!

So, my summer goal is to finish the rough draft. My kids start back to school mid-August, and by that time I hope to be back here on the blog announcing the completion of my draft. That's a very ambitious goal for me, since I'm a slow drafter. Wish me luck!

And have a wonderful summer everyone - I'll see you all in August!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Nose to the Grindstone

I'm going to be taking a short blog break to really concentrate on my wip. I attended my writer's retreat this weekend, and I got some wonderful plot suggestions during my manuscript critique that I can't wait to start applying. Time to put my nose to the grindstone! I'll be back soon to blog about my fantastic retreat experience!

Did you do anything fun/exciting/productive this weekend?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day

Today is:
My oldest daughter's sixteenth birthday! And Earth Day! I'm posting early this week because tomorrow I'm going on my younger daughter's field trip. We're going to the courthouse to watch a trial. I'm excited - I've never seen an actual trial before.

Thought for the Week:
I know we've all heard countless ways to be greener, but  the following tips I found on living.msn.com were new to me and I thought I'd share them in honor of Earth Day...

Foods actually last longer than their "best if used by" expiration dates. To see how long foods typically last, check out StillTasty.com.

Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a computer for three hours - so recycle, recycle, recycle!

Some coffee shops offer a discount when customers use their own reusable coffee mugs rather than paper cups. Starbucks, for example, offers a 10-cent discount when customers use their own reusable mugs or tumblers in company-operated stores in the U.S. and Canada.

Plastic shopping bags are not biodegradable, only about 9 percent of them are recycled, and the ones that aren't leak chemicals into our soil and water supply. You can find resuable grocery bags at RebelGreen.com (and usually in your own grocery store as well.)

EcoTouch.net offers waterless car cleaning and detailing products to get a clean car without using water.

To read the full article, click here.

How About You:
Have you ever watched a trial? What's your favorite "green" tip? Did you do anything to celebrate Earth Day?

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Edgar Awards

I finished The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall yesterday. It was fantastic! I thought the ending was extremely clever and I couldn't put it down until the mystery was solved. Next up: Shelter by Harlan Coben.

As Theresa Milstein pointed out last week, my reading has had a theme lately. I'm reading the 2012 Edgar nominees for Best Young Adult. The nominees are:
Shelter by Harlan Coben
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall
The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines
Kill You Last by Todd Strasser

So far I've read The Silence of Murder and Kill You Last and loved them both. The Edgar Awards will be presented on 4/26/12. I'd love to have read them all by then, but I'm just not that fast of a reader. I'll probably try to bury my head in the sand and not find out who the winner is until I've read the nominees myself.

Do awards and nominations such as the Edgar Awards influence your decision to read a book? Have you read any of this year's Edgar Award nominees? What is your favorite mystery novel (YA or otherwise)?

Have a great week!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Second Drafts

I just finished Kill You Last by Todd Strasser and loved it! It's a 2012 Edgar Award nominee for best Young Adult. Today I'll start reading The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall, another nominee.

I am so excited to be writing the second draft of my new ms. Things are flowing so much more smoothly than they did in the first draft. Now if I could just disable the internet on my laptop until 6pm everyday, I could get some serious writing done! :)

Now that I'm writing my second draft, I feel like I have a much better idea where I'm going and what needs to happen in each scene. And since I revised the first fifteen pages pretty heavily for the writer's retreat I'm going to later this month, I feel like I've got those down pretty well. So now I'm tempted to revise just as heavily with each new scene I write, which is something I've never done. Normally I zip through the draft as quickly as I can and then revise at the end. I've always thought what's the point of taking too much time revising when I'm probably going to still be making major changes anyway? But now that I feel like I have a good idea where I'm going with this draft, and I have the beginning in pretty good shape, I find myself wanting to keep the rest of it in just as good of shape so I'm not left with my usual mess at the end.

Do you revise as you go along, or do you zip through quickly and figure you'll clean it all up later?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tagged Part Two

WHAT I'M READING: The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford. This was a 2010 Edgar Award nominee for Best Young Adult. The main character is so funny and likable, I was hooked on it right away.

HOW MY WRITING'S GOING: Slow! But I'm getting there. My rough draft is done, so now I'm revising the outline and getting ready to start again. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I read where Cynthia Leitich Smith said she used to write a "discovery draft" and then throw it away. I don't think I'm quite brave enough to throw my first draft away, but I did make major changes to my outline and plan to start from scratch with the second draft, though I'm sure I'll be doing a lot of "borrowing" from the first draft.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: Heather Murphy at Random Interruptions tagged me with the ten questions below. I'm supposed to answer and then tag seven more people. Here we go...

1. What is your dream vacation?
I'd love to visit Greece. Second choice would probably be Switzerland.

2. Are you spontaneous or do you like to plan ahead?
I'm a total planner. Though with three kids, things rarely go as planned. :)

3. Tell us one thing you want to do but don't dare do it.
Scuba dive

4. What's your biggest phobia?
Creepy crawly bugs - I don't mind anything that flies, but crawlers freak me out.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island-what three things would you want with you? (Not including your family or laptop.)
Lots of growing foods because I don't think I could kill anything
Drinking water

6. Name three blessings in your life.
My family
My friends
My writing

7. What was your nickname in High School?
I don't think I had one. Yes I know - how boring!

8. If you could meet the President of the United States, what would you say to him?
Good luck! (and that would be for any president, not just the current one - what a tough job)

9. If you could be any literary character, who would you be?
Katniss - I just love her!

10. What is your favorite quote?
“Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”  - Martin Luther King Jr.

I've been doing a lot of tagging lately, so with this one I'd like to tag anyone who wants to answer these questions, either in the comments or in your own post. I always have fun learning more about you guys, so I hope you'll play along!

Have a great week!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sevens Meme

Jo Schaffer and Lara Schiffbauer tagged me for this Sevens meme:

The rules are as follows:
1. Go to page 77 of your current ms
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines - sentences or paragraphs - and post them as they're written. No cheating
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know

I'll admit right off: I did cheat a little bit. I wanted to use the manuscript I'm currently working on, but page 77 is a mess. Only the first 15 pages have had any sort of revision at all, so I took this from page 7. Sorry! But at least I'm honest. :)

Okay, here goes...

My arm moves without consulting my brain, and the next thing I know my fist is connecting with Phoebe’s nose. She shrieks so loud I can almost feel the hearing damage.

"Hey!" Claudia screams. “You’re going to regret that.”

My mouth opens. I don’t know what I’m going to say but I know it’s going to be good, but then Mr. Fletcher runs out of his classroom and shoves himself between us. “What’s going on here?” he asks.

“Ivy broke Phoebe’s nose,” Claudia says. Phoebe’s screaming and clutching her nose and blood is gushing everywhere – splattering her Clorox-white Manchester East hoodie and dripping into her brassy red hair. While it does give me a certain satisfaction, it also sort of proves Claudia's point.

And I'd like to tag the following seven people:
Sharon Mayhew at Random Thoughts
Lenny Lee at Lenny's World
Robyn Campbell at Putting Pen to Paper
Kelly Polark
Jackee Alston at Winded Words
Lynda Young
Old Kitty at Ten Lives and Second Chances

I missed you all last week, but I had a fantastic spring break! My husband took the two younger kids skiing in Colorado while I stayed home with my oldest daughter who plays high school sports and couldn't miss a week of practices. We had a terrific time together and I had plenty of quiet time to do my favorite thing: write! Are you going anywhere for spring break? Or are you a homebody like me?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Break

I'll be taking a short blog break this week while my kids are off school for spring break. I'll see you next week!

Happy spring, everyone!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Last week was Revision Week at DearEditor.com. Different authors each day discussed their revision process. If you missed any of the posts, click here. I finished the first draft of my wip a couple of weeks ago, so the timing was perfect for me.

I was excited to finish my draft, but also disappointed. It seemed like there was more I didn't like about the draft than what I did like. I almost had to wonder if I should scrap the whole idea and move on to something else. But that's where Revision Week came at just the right time for me. I was amazed to learn how many drafts some of these established authors go through with a new project.

Robin LaFevers said she'll typically go through seven to ten drafts before she shows a project to her editor. Nathan Bransford said a novel is done for him after the third or fourth major overhaul. And here's what really got me: Cynthia Leitich Smith said she used to write a "discovery draft" to get to know her story first. Then she would read it and throw it away. Throw it away?! That's when I realized it's okay if my first draft isn't all I'd hoped it would be - it's just a jumping-off point. But now I know so much more about my characters and my story than when I started that draft. I know which parts dragged the story down and which parts really work. It's possible (probable) the first draft might actually end up in the trash, but that's okay, because it's served its purpose. I've already started working on the overhaul, and it seems like it's all coming together so much more easily this time. I'm sure this won't be the last draft either, but it will be a major step towards it.

Did you catch the Revision Week posts? How many drafts do you typically go through before the final draft?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I've been tagged a few times in the past few weeks. Since these tags involve answering the tagger's questions and asking questions of the people I tag, I've decided to take one post each to answer the different questions I've been asked, and then a final post to pass the tag around and ask my new questions.

This first round of questions comes from C. Lee McKenzie at The Write Game.

1. What's the best part of reading a book you love?
I know I'm seriously in love with a book when I find myself brushing my teeth with one hand and reading the book with the other. The best part is feeling so desperate to know what comes next that I can't even stop reading to brush my teeth.

2. What book(s) have stayed in your head?
Thinking back to my childhood, I still remember Zilpha Keatley Snyder's books, like THE HEADLESS CUPID and THE CHANGELING, and also Judy Blume's books.

3. If you could write one book only, what would the main character be like?
Sassy and tough. I don't know why I like those characters so much, probably because that's the exact opposite of how I really am.

4. What book(s) do you love to read to your kids?
Right now we're reading THE RANGER'S APPRENTICE series by John Flanagan together. This is a long series, but we're all always ready to dive into the next one. When they were younger, I loved reading Marc Brown's Arthur picture books as well as Jamie Lee Curtis's picture books.

5. Do you ever read books aloud to others?
I read aloud to my kids most weekday nights. My oldest is almost 16, but she still enjoys it (at least she shows up when I call everyone upstairs to read, so I hope that means she enjoys it!)

6. Do you like discussing books with others?
I love it! I used to belong to a book club and really enjoyed it, but life ended up getting in the way.

7. If you hate a book, do you keep reading anyway or put it away?
I definitely put it down. Life's too short, and my TBR list is too long.

8. What kind of books do you like best? Sci-fi, Realistic, Historical Fiction, Biography, other.
Fantasy is probably my number one, though I enjoy sci fi, mystery, thriller, etc. And if I'm going to truly love a book, it needs to have some romance.

9. Are you transitioning into the digital age with a Kindle or a Nook or an I-Pad? Or are you sticking with those hard copies? Do you mix it up?
My hubby just got me a Kindle for Valentine's Day. I haven't actually bought an e-book yet because I still have so many books waiting to be read, but I have a couple in mind that I'll probably be buying soon.

10. How much do covers influence your buying a book?
Probably not at all. I love a good cover, but it's not really a factor in whether or not I buy the book.

11. Any new books you'd recommend?
Well, I'll share my two favorite 2011 releases - that's fairly new, right? I loved DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth and THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin. It's slightly older, but I also loved PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ by A.S. King. King has a new book, EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS, which I haven't read yet, but it's one of those I was thinking of buying to christen my Kindle.

How about you? Do you have any new books you'd recommend? What books have stayed in your head?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My New Kindle

I'm working on the first fifteen pages of my new wip for a local SCBWI Advanced Writers Retreat in April. The first fifteen pages will be critiqued by Viking Children's Books editor Kendra Levin at the retreat. I can't wait to hear what she has to say!

My hubby got me a Kindle for Valentine's Day. It was quite a surprise - I hadn't even asked for one. I haven't bought any books for it yet because I have such a stack of previously purchased books already waiting for me. I did put my own manuscript on it, though, and it was so cool to read my book on my Kindle! Which brings me to...

A VERY HELPFUL POST: I found this post on agent Vickie Motter's Navigating the Slushpile blog about formatting your manuscript for an e-reader. The changes are so easy to make, and make such a difference on an e-reader. I downloaded both my original manuscript and my manuscript after making the changes, and it was so much easier to read after following Vickie's instructions. If you aren't reading Vickie's blog, you really should! It's packed with practical and easy-to-follow querying advice.

Are there any extra-super-helpful blogs you'd like to give a shout-out to?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lotsa Links

I recently won a signed arc of May B by Caroline Starr Rose on Terry Lynn Johnson's blog and a copy of Sh*t My Dad Says on Medeia Sharif's blog. I can't wait to get started on both of them!

Right now I'm reading TickTock by Dean Koontz. Sometimes I'm just in the mood for horror, and you can't go wrong with Koontz.

I'm sorry I didn't post last week - I ended up taking an unexpected break to finish up a project. I promised I'd tell you how I did finishing the rough draft of my wip the week before, and I did it. I didn't even have to totally neglect the treadmill - bonus!

I was honored to receive the Great Comments Award from Cynthia Chapman Willis. I'm to pass this on to 20 great commenters. I'm so thankful to all who regularly (and even not-so-regularly) visit and comment that I really would love to share this with all of you, but I'll go ahead and follow the rules and just pick 20:

Sharon Mayhew
Jackee Alston
Old Kitty
Talli Roland
Amy Sonnichsen
The Happy Whisk
D.L. Hammons
Golden Eagle
Kelly Polark
Lenny Lee
Lydia Kang
Sheri Larsen
Stina Lindenblatt
Robyn Campbell
Lynda Young
Theresa Milstein
Medeia Sharif
Joanne DeMaio

How is your writing going? Have you won any blog contests recently? Any other horror fans out there? If so, who is your favorite horror author?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tumble For Ya Blogfest

Do you recognize the guy in the poster? He was the very first love of my life - John Taylor of Duran Duran. Man, I loved him! I mean, look at that poster - it's larger than life size! That, by the way, is my sister standing in front of it, not me. You think I'd put a picture of myself in the 80s on my blog? I'm not that brave!

I never got to see Duran Duran in concert (it's a good thing, I probably would have had a heart attack), but I watched their videos practically round the clock. My BFF and I used to spend hours and hours in front of MTV, back when all they showed were videos. At the top of the hour, they'd show teasers of three videos they were going to show that hour, and Bestie and I would squeal like, well, preteen girls whenever they showed a clip of Duran Duran. That's one of my favorite 80s memories!

So there you have it, I've confessed my 80s crush. Who was yours? And if you weren't the right age to be crushing on celebrities in the 80s, which 80s celeb would you have crushed on?

Be sure to visit the other blogfest participants here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Home Stretch

I just started Paranormalcy by Kiersten White, and I'm really enjoying it so far. This one has been on my TBR list for a while - I'm so glad it finally made it to the top of the list!

The Tumble 4 Ya Blogfest on Friday! I'll be doing a special Friday post this week, and I can't wait to show off my 80's crush!

I WILL finish the first draft of my wip this week, even if it means letting my treadmill collect a little dust. I'm in the home stretch now - time for some marathon writing sessions! Okay, now that I've made my goal public, I have to do it, right? I'll let you know next week how it goes.

Are you signed up for any blogfests? How's your writing coming?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Blogfest, a Buddy, and a New Blog

Carol Riggs of Artzicarol Ramblings. Carol took me under her wing this week and helped me get started on Twitter. I've had an account for months but never understood enough to use it. Thanks so much, Carol! If you haven't met Carol yet, be sure to check out her amazing blog - she offers writing tips and critiques.

The I'll Tumble 4 Ya Blogfest! On February 10, post a picture, video, or whatever of your favorite 80s crush. I don't sign up for a lot of blogfests, but this one I couldn't resist. Hope to see you there!

I took my daughter to Barnes & Noble last weekend. We bought Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Deadly Little Voices by Laurie Faria Stolarz, and The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson. I also bought several books of comic strip collections for my 14-year-old son. Those are all he'll read at the moment, but at least he's reading.

Be sure to check out the new Cupid's Literary Connection blog. In Cupid's own words: "Where an undercover cupid brings writers and agents together to form magical literary connections..."

Last month Cupid hosted the Love Triangle Contest, where two fantastic agents selected from 25 entries (query and first 250 words) and awarded a total of thirteen partial and full manuscript requests (my manusript KILLING KESSLER was one of them - yahoo!) In February, Cupid's going to host Blind Speed Dating. You do NOT want to miss this...

Have you ever had a fellow blogger go out of his/her way to lend you a helping hand? Care to give them a shout-out?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Finding Your Voice

I'm still working on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's a long book, and I'm not nearly as fast a reader as I would like. I just watched The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest on DVD. Lisbeth is such a fascinating character! I'm sure I'll end up reading those books as well.

I recently finished reading Finding Your Voice by Les Edgerton. I loved Edgerton's book Hooked, so I decided to give Finding Your Voice a try. I'm so glad I did! It seems I've read so many writing how-to books that rarely do I find one that's really different. This one is. It addresses a topic that's very difficult to explain or teach, but it does so beautifully. I highly recommend it.

Have you read any good writing how-to books lately?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Martin Luther King Day

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I've seen both versions of the movie, so I decided it was about time I read the book. I'm enjoying it so far, but it's much longer than the YA I'm used to.


I hope you all had a wonderful holiday yesterday. In honor of the occasion, here are some quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.:

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

“Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
“No person has the right to rain on your dreams.”
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”

What an amazing man! Have a great week, everyone!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Hi Everyone! It's great to be back after my long Christmas break! I can't wait to visit your blogs and catch up on everything I've been missing while I was away. Here's what's going on with me:

Finding Your Voice by Les Edgerton
The Icebound Land (Book 3 in the Ranger's Apprentice series) by John Flanagan - I'm reading this one with my kids.

I'm still working on the rough draft of my latest wip, a YA mystery (working title is The Cottage, though that will change). It's slow going, but I'm making progress.

Goals. I'm a big believer in goals, though I'm usually not very formal about them. With the new year, though, I've been thinking this would be a good time to take stock and see what I want to accomplish with my writing this year, so here goes:
This year, I'd like to
1 - Be more organized about the books I read. I want to keep better track of what I've read, and post (short) reviews on Goodreads and my blog.
2 - Finish the rough draft of The Cottage by March 1.
3 - Have at least one thorough revision of The Cottage done by August 1.

How about you? Do you set formal goals for yourself? What are your goals this year?