Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

To the best blogging buddies 
in the whole wide blogosphere
I say,  
Thank you and Happy New Year!

Photo Source (

May 2011 bring us 
agents and  
publishers and  
book contracts galore!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book Review: Dark Parties

Dark Parties
by Sara Grant

Goodreads Blurb:
Dark Parties is a dystopian novel about a country that generations ago closed its borders to people and ideas. No one knows what exists outside their protected society. Neva and her best friend secretly plot to force the government to open its borders. Anyone who threatens the government seems to disappear mysteriously. Neva receives a message from her grandma who vanished without a trace 10 years ago, inviting her to escape to the outside. Now she has a choice–stay and save her country or leave and save herself.
Expected publication: August 3rd 2011 by Little, Brown 
I loved this book. I'm so sad it doesn't come out until August, because it is  awesome! It's unlike anything I've ever read, and believe me when I tell you that the blurb DOES NOT do it justice. And the sexy boy in this one...oh, so hot! Mark this one as "to read" on your Goodreads page so you don't forget about it. Is it bad that I'm DYING for the sequel and the first one isn't even out yet?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Book Review: The Genius Files

I know I said I wasn't going to post anymore, but I've been saving a few book reviews and thought I might as well post them this week. Enjoy!
The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable
by Dan Gutman

Goodreads Blurb:
In eight days, Coke and Pepsi McDonald are going to turn thirteen. 

Before then, they'll jump off a cliff, get trapped in the locked basement of their burning school, chased cross-country by murderous lunatics, left for dead in the pit of a sand dune, forced to decipher mysterious coded messages, thrown into a giant vat of SPAM, and visit the world's largest . . . ball of twine! 

There's more, but if we told you here, we'd have to kill you. 

Megapopular author Dan Gutman brings on the excitement with an action-packed new series that's nothing short of dynamite. Join Coke and Pep on their quest to uncover just what it means to be part of The Genius Files . . . if you dare! 
Expected publication: February 1st 2011 by HarperCollins  

My eight-year-old son took one look at this book and snatched it up. He read it hungrily, laughing out loud and periodically announcing, "Man, I love this book!" In my opinion, there is no greater reward for an author than that.

This book is a winner, a sure-fire hit, a joy to read. I enjoyed it myself, but I absolutely loved watching my son devour it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

See You Soon

Whatever you celebrate at this time of year,
may it be wonderful and joyful!

I won't be posting again until after Christmas, but I will still be visiting and commenting on blogs.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Be Jolly By Golly Blogfest

Be Jolly By Golly Blogfest

hosted by Jen @ Unedited 

 We are supposed to share photos of our holiday lights and decorations and a favorite drink or recipe.

Okay, here goes:

This is our Christmas tree in the corner of our front room. 
Stockings hang to the left, cozy gas fireplace to the right.

This is a close-up of the front porch decorations.

This is a fuzzy shot of the front of our house. 
It doesn't do it justice, though. Sorry.

And now, my favorite holiday recipe!

Peppermint Bark

16 ounces of vanilla flavored almond bark
24 peppermint candies (I use mini candy canes)
1. Cover cookie sheet with waxed paper or aluminum foil. Place bark in microwavable dish. Cook uncovered on high for 2-3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until almost melted. Stir until smooth.

2. Crush candies and sift through strainer. Shake strainer over melted coating until all of the tiniest peices fall into the coating. Save larger pieces. Stir to mix evenly, then spread coating evenly on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with remaining candy pieces.
You can substitute chocolate candy coating to make chocolate peppermint bark, or you can do a layer of chocolate covered by a layer of white for a double flavored bark.

Visit Jen's for a list of other blogfest participants!

Happy Monday!
(Marvelous Middle Grade Monday will be here tomorrow - see you then)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dolly Parton Without Cleavage

"A plot without action is like pasta without garlic, like Dolly Parton without cleavage, and like a writer without his similes." 
~ Dean Koontz

Poster may be purchased HERE 
I could not resist this quote. It's too perfect. 
Yesterday's post dealt with specificity of details--creating visual images. Similes are a brilliant and fun way to do that.  Just ask Dean Koontz!

For the funniest thing EV-AH, go to Sara's blog and die. I just made the biggest fool out of myself in front of my high school students because I had laugh-tears pouring down my face! 
WARNING: Don't read in public unless prepared to be stared at!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


"Tape the word 'SPECIFIC' to the top of your computer.
Specific details make the story become alive."
~ Dori Chaconas

While I was world building in my current MS, I thought, Yeah, that works. I can see it. The problem was, that I could see it because it was in my head. Others couldn't see it quite so clearly. I have spent draft after draft after draft working to beef up the visual details--specificity is key (and so is a good CP!).

Lynn Quitman Troyka developed the RENNS model to help keep writing more specific.  
RENNS stands for: 
  • Reasons 
  • Examples 
  • Names 
  • Numbers 
  • Senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch).
If we remember to include these items of specificity more often, our writing becomes more visual.

What technique do you use to help create stronger and more visual details in your writing?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


by Lauren Oliver

Expected Publication Date: February 2011

Good reads Blurb:
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.
I couldn't wait to read this book. I enjoyed Before I Fall and its unique storyline, so I wondered what Lauren would come up with next. Delirium is even better. The premise is amazing. The characters are amazing. The writing is amazing. I loved it. I also hated it, but I can't tell you why.

When the book is released, and you have all devoured it, I can't wait to see what kind of discussions we'll have. Lauren has once again proven herself to be a master storyteller, but there is one similarity between this book and Before I Fall that I could have done without. We can talk about in February!

Has anyone else read this yet?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Three P's of MS Submission

Author Charline Profiri has a wonderful website full of writing tips and resources. To explore it, click here! She is the author of the adorable picture book, Counting Little Geckos, and on her site you'll find a wonderful, FREE teaching guide with 50 activities.

I discovered this fun writing poem on her site and had to share it with you!
The Three P's of Submission:
Practice, Patience, Persistence
 by Charline Profiri

Write, read aloud, rewrite.
Stash away for a month.
Reread, revise, read aloud.
Send to your critique group.
Revise and read aloud.

Study publishers.
List possibilities.
Choose one.
Write cover letter.
Address envelope.
Include SASE.
Wait, hope, wait. Wait, hope wait.

Nine months later,
A form rejection arrives.
Reread, revise, read aloud, resubmit.
Wait, hope, wait. Wait, hope, wait.

Six months later,
Good news arrives.
A personal rejection!
Remember, even Seuss
Was rejected twenty-seven times
Before his first book sold.
Reread, revise, read aloud, resubmit.
Wait, hope, wait. Wait, hope, wait.

Repeat, repeat, repeat,
As often as necessary
To get an acceptance
And sign a contract.

Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!
Then the real wait begins...
For your book's grand debut!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Steampunk Alert

The Steampunk Writers and Artists Guild

Matt Delman @ Free the Princess did a post yesterday introducing the new Steampunk Writers Guild, of which he is an admin. member.  It's meant to be a gathering place for both writers and artists of Steampunk and is described on the site as:
"the aethernet home for writers, publishers, illustrators, readers and bloggers of Steampunk fiction, founded November 5th, 2010. It's a collaborative party, so don't hold back. Roll up your sleeves and create the groups, forum discussions and community that best suits your needs! This is not a critique group."
It includes areas like:
THE EMPORIUM: for self-promotion
FORUMS: for in depth discussions
GROUPS: for relaxed networking
CHAT: for tea and cake
Hop over and take a look for yourself. It's pretty darn cool!

 Steamnocchio by Fabricio Moraes, CGS Image Master Award winner

And as an added bonus, here is a link to an article of the top 20 Essential Works of Utopian Fiction 

Have a great weekend! 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The 12 1/2 Rules

"People create their own success by learning what they need to learn and then by practicing it until they become proficient at it."
~ Brian tracy

I used this poster in a blog post over a year ago, but I think it's worth sharing again now - especially since I have so many new followers. I love, love, love it.

Is there anything you would add to this list?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Coincidence or Closure?

"Number one rule for fiction: Coincidence can be used to worsen a character's predicament, but never to solve his problems."
~ Vivian Vande Velde

Coincidences can be fun things to play with in writing. I don't think it's an easy device to master, but it can lead to some interesting outcomes. Like Vivian says, though, we can't use it to end our stories.  If we have created effective conflicts and planned for effective resolutions, coincidence gets in the way at the end.
Above all, we must  leave our readers feeling satisfied, with some sense of closure - if it's a series, then at least enough to carry us to the next book. Our MCs must make choices and experience conflicts and create their own outcomes. Using a coincidence to bring resolution to your MC leaves readers feeling cheated. And that is not what we want.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Which Side Are You On?

"I have found that a story leaves a deeper impression when it is impossible to tell which side the author is on."
 ~ Leo Tolstoy

I remember  worrying as I read the last few Harry Potters, wondering who Rowling was going to kill.  No one felt safe. After Dumbledore's death, I believed Rowling was capable of killing anyone - even Harry.  I fretted about Hagrid, about Ron and Hermione, about Luna and Neville and Lupin...I was both eager to know what would happen next and terrified of what it might be. 

THAT is powerful storytelling.

We need to remember to allow ourselves to be unpredictable as authors - to do the unexpected. What could you do in your story that would be so unexpected the reader no longer trusts you to keep your MCs safe?  To let your MCs be happy or healthy or loved?  Bold writing, risk taking, makes for a more emotional read..

As you write today, do something unpredictable.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Quiet Courage

"A big man is one who makes us feel bigger when we are with him."
~ John C. Maxwell 

This week, Natalie Whipple wrote a post--an amazingly powerful and deeply honest post--that sparked a chain reaction across the blogosphere. It was painful to read. It was real and beautiful and courageous and all kinds of admirable.  It was also terrifying.

Beth Revis wrote a post, too, also full of naked truth and courage.  So did Candyland, in a post about "What If???" And Elana Johnson in a post about the subjectivity of the publishing industry. And Susan Quinn about failing the right way.

And what did I learn from all of these posts?  That I love each of these ladies even more than I thought I did!  We ALL feel what each of them expressed.  We ALL share the same feelings of insecurity and doubt, of jealousy and fear and sometimes hopelessness.  But we don't all own it, share it, use it to help others feel stronger.

I felt less alone when I read these posts. I felt sympathetic--and for Natalie, heartbroken--but I also felt inspired and strengthened and emboldened. And I felt tremendous awe and respect for their willingness to share personal fears with us.

They are big writers, and they made me feel bigger for having visited them and shared in their posts.

Thank you, ladies!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Roof and Four Walls

"When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story's voice makes everything its own."
~ John Berger

Photo source (

What book are you currently inhabiting?


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Anything Can Be

"Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be."
-Shel Silverstein

Photo source: (

This is as true for adults as it is for children. In fact, I think we can learn even more from it.
We need to learn how to listen to the "negative".  Sometimes things that feel disappointing or discouraging can be just the light that was needed to move you forward into new possibilities. To accept and embrace our areas of weakness as writers is the only way to conquer them. 

The mustn'ts and the don'ts, the shouldnt's and the impossibles and the wont's, can all be used to motivate us - to drive us to work harder, to learn more, to be better, to succeed.
LISTEN. Really listen, with an open heart, to the negative.  And then learn from it.  Beat it.  "Anything can happen, child. Anything can be."
Have you turned what felt like a negative 
into something positive with your writing?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christine'sThankful Tuesdays #4

Christine Fonseca's Thankful Tuesdays #4

Christine Fonseca had the brilliant idea of dedicating each Tuesday in November to writerly things we are thankful for. She invites anyone to play along, and she even set up a schedule for us. Here is the remaining schedule:

11/23 – Giving Thanks to Writing (in general)

Today's focus is on Writing

On this Tuesday before Thanksgiving, there is much to be thankful for.  I am thankful for my wonderful husband and my three precious kiddos.  I'm thankful for a job I love in a town I never want to leave.  And I am thankful for writing.

Writing has always been a major part of my life.  I majored in English because of my love for words and literature.  I became a teacher so I could live in that world every day.  Now, I teach mostly composition and can't wait for the day when I get to teach creative writing, too.  But the best writing thing that has EVER happened to me was the day I began blogging.

Today, I am thankful for all of you.  This blogging community keeps me motivated and energized and encouraged and supported.  I no longer feel like I'm on an impossible journey - one that no one else understands.  I have all of you to commiserate with, to celebrate with, to learn and grow with.  And I am thankful.

My writing gratitude goes to all of you.
Thank you for being here with me.

I am taking the rest of the week off for the holiday.  My sister is coming from Seattle to visit - Yay!  I'll see you all on Monday.  
Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's an Epidemic

In honor of shedding our funks and doubts, of trading them for courage and confidence, I am infecting you all with a new plague.  Enter the weekend happy!

Happiness Epidemic

Without any warning, the disease
sweeps across the country
like a traveling circus.

People who were once blue,
who slouched from carrying
a bag of misery over one shoulder

are now clinically cheerful.
Symptoms include kind gestures,
a bouncy stride, a smile

bigger than a slice of cantaloupe.
You pray that you will be infected,
hope a happy germ invades your body

and multiplies, spreading merriment
to all your major organs
like door-to-door Christmas carolers

until the virus finally reaches your heart:
that red house at the end of the block
where your deepest wishes reside,

where a dog howls behind a gate
every time that sorrow
pulls his hearse up the driveway.
~David Hernandez

Have a wonderful and funk-free weekend, bloggy buddies!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Believe With Me

“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” 
~ Mahatma Gandhi

Yesterday Elana J. did a post to encourage us the we CAN do this writing thing.  In that post she said, "I've noticed I've been in a bit of a funk, and that quite a few other people have been as well. Doubts are high. Confidence is low." She was right.

I have been in that funk--along with so many others--doubting myself and letting insecurity nibble away at me.  Elana encouraged me.  Shannon M. encouraged me.  My world class CP Valerie encouraged me. And then yesterday, Elena encouraged me again.  Today, I am making the choice to BELIEVE.

I am owning my own encouragement (but don't stop, ladies. I love you!).  I am choosing to believe that query wars will not defeat me; Scott and the Naughty Boy Factory will find a home; the agent I've been too terrified to query will love it.  I believe.  

Valerie tells me there are two rules of writing: to write and to be brave.  I choose to be brave.  I choose to believe.

Believe in YOU today!

“Believe in Yourself and there will come a day when others will have no choice but to believe with you.”
 ~ Cynthia Kersey Author 

P.S. Forgive my absence on your blogs this week.  I'm in a writing frenzy right now.  I'm reading your blogs.  I'm just not commenting.  I swear.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I'm a Bag Lady...And So Are You

"A writer is like a bag lady going through life with a sack and a pointed stick collecting stuff."
~ Tony Hillerman

photo source (

Okay everyone, on three...

Grab bags!
Ready sticks!

What creative and playful simile can you come up with today?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christine Fonseca's Thankful Tuesdays #3


Christine Fonseca had the brilliant idea of dedicating each Tuesday in November to writerly things we are thankful for. She invites anyone to play along, and she even set up a schedule for us. Here is the remaining schedule:

16 – Giving Thanks to Editors
11/23 – Giving Thanks to Writing (in general)

Today's focus is on Editors

Editors are the buffer between our work and the world.  They are there to ensure that our stories enter Readerville at their best.  They not only improve our manuscripts, but they also make us better writers.

James Matthewson, an editor for IBM says:
Anyone who has ever written anything for publication can cite chapter and verse about how they have been saved by a good editor. Even if editors don’t make changes, having a second set of eyes with a different perspective on the audience allows writers to relax and create better work.

I have read post after post written by blogging friends about their experiences with editors.  Without fail, they feel like they have a much stronger story once they've finished.  

Today, take time to appreciate the countless hours spent by editors so that our writing and our stories can truly shine! 

To editors everywhere,

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thank You + A Winner

"You have to write a lot. And you have to rewrite what you wrote a lot more."
~ Holly Black

A Thank You

Many thanks to those of you who helped with my query woes yesterday. The feedback was wonderful, and I think we accomplished a lot together. THANK YOU!


A Winner

The winner of
Monday's Marvelous Middle Grade Giveaway
and a new paperback copy of

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

True Random Number Generator 52 5 Powered by RANDOM.ORG

And lucky #5 is...


Thank you to everyone who entered. I'll be doing another Marvelous Middle Grade Monday next week! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Is this better?

Is this one better?

Version Three (posted after feedback)

Eight-year old Scott may be a bit lazy and messy and like to pick on his sister, but when he ruins her birthday party with a well-aimed cup of worms, his fed-up parents ship him off to The Naughty Boy Factory—a place he’d always believed was about as real as Bigfoot or the Bermuda Triangle.

At The Factory—where naughty boys are transformed into perfect gentlemen—the evil director and her scary robot guards alarm Scott enough to do as he’s told. But when he discovers two of the factory’s biggest bullies have been brainwashed into perfect angels, Scott decides things have gone too far. It’s all or nothing—escape or end up re-programmed into polite, spineless, mama's boys.


Versions one and two are still below. I decided to play with some of the feedback and see what I could come up with. Keep those hatchets sharp and hack away, people - I love it!!

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