Friday, December 31, 2010

The Final Friday Book Recommendation of 2010!

We wish you all a safe and happy New Year! There were a great many amazing YA reads published in 2010, and we've made a short list (in no particular order) of some of our favorites for this Book Recommendation! 

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan

White Cat by Holly Black

Matched by Ally Condie

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

The Secret Year by Jennifer R Hubbard

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell

Split by Swati Avashti

Freefall by Mindi Scott


What were some of your favorite 2010 reads?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Inspiring Thoughts for the New Year

So we're technically on hiatus this week, but I just read an AWESOME post on writing from the equally AWESOME Courtney Summers (author of Cracked Up To Be and Some Girls Are two of my favorite reads of 2009 and 2010 respectively, and Fall For Anything, new this month!) and I wanted to share.

So go check out what Courtney has to say about How To Deal With Writing For Publication it's got something for everyone, on every part of the publication journey.

And then, if you haven't yet, go check out her books!

Also, don't forget to enter our contest! Last day to enter is December 31st!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation--The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Imagine waking up one day in total darkness, unsure of where you are and unable to remember anything about yourself except your first name. You're in a bizarre place devoid of adults called the Glade. The Glade is an enclosed structure with a jail, a graveyard, a slaughterhouse, living quarters, and gardens. And no way out. Outside the Glade is the Maze, and every day some of the kids -- the Runners -- venture into the labyrinth, trying to map the ever-changing pattern of walls in an attempt to find an exit from this hellish place. So far, no one has figured it out. And not all of the Runners return from their daily exertions, victims of the maniacal Grievers, part animal, part mechanical killing machines.

Thomas is the newest arrival to the Glade in this Truman-meets-Lord of the Flies tale. A motley crew of half a dozen kids is all he has to guide him in this strange world. As soon as he arrives, unusual things begin to happen, and the others grow suspicious of him. Though the Maze seems somehow familiar to Thomas, he's unable to make sense of the place, despite his extraordinary abilities as a Runner. What is this place, and does Thomas hold the key to finding a way out?

Kristi's take: I couldn't put this book down. The maze was intriguing, the characters were compelling, and the Grievers were, well, horrifying. My 12-year-old nephew saw I was reading it and flipped out. He said "everyone" at his school is reading it, and that he's dying to read it too. I'm glad I knew ahead of time that it was the first book of a trilogy, because I wanted to keep reading after the end. The Maze Runner is the autographed book I'm giving away for our December contest, so don't forget to enter here

Has anyone read The Scorch Trials (Book #2) yet? That one is next on my list. 

For those who celebrate Christmas, have a fabulous Christmas Eve and a very merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Contest Monday

The Sisters and I are taking a short break this week to make time for family (and food), but we're still accepting entries to our December Giveaway! And as always, if you have a contest, or you know of any contests on the web, feel free to share with our Mr. Linky. Whatever you put in the NAME box is what will show up.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation!

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316035920
ISBN-13: 978-0316035927

Nastasya has spent the last century living as a spoiled, drugged-out party girl. She feels nothing and cares for no one. But when she witnesses her best friend, a Dark Immortal, torture a human, she realizes something's got to change. She seeks refuge at a rehab for wayward immortals, where she meets the gorgeous, undeniably sexy Reyn, who seems inexplicably linked to her past.
Nastasya finally begins to deal with life, and even feels safe--until the night she learns that someone wants her dead.


This is the first book in a new trilogy by Cate Tiernan. It's the first book I've read by this author. Nastasya relives a lot of her past while coping with the present and it's almost like reading two books perfectly blended in one. There were some parts of the book I felt were a little predictable, but that didn't stop me from loving it!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blast From The Past: Telling When You Think You're Showing

This post was originally posted by Valerie a few months back and it has remained one of my favorites. I've come back to it time and time again when revising and it's always helped me to spot those problem sentences.

Also, happy birthday to our beloved Jane Austen. "The most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress."


You've heard it time and time again, SHOW, DON'T TELL. If you have crit partners you've probably gone cross-eyed from reading it in your ms at one time or another. But you're past that now. You've worked hard on your prose, you're showing all over the place. Or are you?

Using internal physical reactions is a quick way to show a character's emotions. You've seen sentences like these:

My heart raced with fear.
Nervousness twisted her stomach.

These sentences seem, on the surface, that they're showing but in reality, they're telling. Why? Because it tells us what emotion the character is feeling. Fear, in the first sentence, and Nervousness in the second. Chances are, if the physical reaction is appropriate to the scene, that the naming of the emotion is simply excess information. This is sometimes called tagging your emotions and it's usually unnecessary.

In this case, that extra info creates a distance between the reader and the character. In a tense or emotional situation, the reader should be right there with the character, experiencing and connecting to everything the character feels. When something happens that causes your character's heart to pound your reader feels it, when you add in "with fear" you push your reader back a step because they're forced to process an external observation.

Think about it. When you're in the middle of a scary situation, you might notice your heart is pounding but do you actually think - hey my heart is pounding because I'm afraid? No. You just feel afraid.

I work with the rule of thumb that unless a character is experiencing an emotion that is unexpected (like, rather than fear, a character's heart pounds with excitement at being chased by an axe murderer) there's no need to name it. If you've done a good job at creating your character and revealing what makes them them to the reader, they will know what your character is feeling. And even more than that, they will feel a part of that character's experience.

Trust your reader! You don't have to explain everything to them.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blast From The Past: The Seductive Em Dash

We're re-running some of our favorite blog posts this holiday season, and this is one of my all time favorites from Kristi. I've read this several times, but I still can't get over my em dash abuse. Hopefully, you'll have more luck!

My name is Kristi and I have an addiction. Technically, I have several if you count chocolate and coffee, but in terms of writer-ly things, I have a small problem with em dashes. One of my critique partners called me out on the em dash addiction, and I went through my manuscript and removed a TON of those puppies. The problem is--they're so much fun. All you have to do is type two hyphens into Microsoft Word and the em dash appears--it's like magic. (Unlike Blogger, which is apparently not magic and won't let me transfer the formatted em dashes into this text)

Here's when it IS acceptable to use the em dash:

1) To indicate an abrupt change in thought. This can also include a parenthetical statement that needs to be set apart. The em dash is used here when you need more 'oomph' than a regular ole comma.
(e.g. One of the best ways to determine which em dashes to remove is--did somebody say chocolate?)
2) To indicate that a sentence is unfinished because the speaker has been interrupted.
(e.g. "If you think I'm just going to stand here, while you point that Taser at me--")

That's pretty much it. Me? My motto has been "Why use a comma when you can have the excitement of an em dash instead?" I haven't deleted all of them, but there was a serious em dash massacre in my house last week.

What about you? Anyone else have em dash love? Any other writing-related addictions you'd care to admit?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blast From The Past: The Art of Pacing

One of the many great sessions I attended at the 2010 Pikes Peak Writers Conference involved the concept of pacing in your novel.  Pacing doesn't need to be consistently fast, but it means there should be an overall smooth flow to your story. This often means that it's faster in some parts, slower in others, but always moving forward, like a river. It never stops.

Kelley Armstrong, the impressive #1 NYT bestselling author of the Darkest Powers YA trilogy, gave  some quick tips for checking the pacing of your story:
  • Active scenes should far outweigh passive scenes, and you shouldn't have too many passive scenes in a row.
  • Even passive scenes should be accomplishing something and moving the story forward (e.g. not going on and on about the 'colorful wildflowers dotting the meadow' because I really don't care--unless an intergalactic ship filled with space monkeys is landing on them. Then I care.)
  • 'Just do it.' In general, don't have your characters plotting to do something or analyzing how they're going to do something (unless there is inherent conflict in their plotting/analyzing). Just have them do it. 
  • 'Go in late, get out early.' If you find you don't have enough tension throughout a scene, it's sometimes because you started the scene too early and let it drag on too long. Start it later; end it earlier.
  • 'Taking care of business' can usually be left out of your manuscript. This often involves a character getting from Point A to Point B. (e.g. 'Bob put his key in the ignition and started the engine, then strapped on his seatbelt, checked his rearview window and pulled out into traffic to head toward the crime scene.' *yawn* You could just say that 'Bob arrived at the crime scene to find it splattered with Jello and spray starch,' and the reader can infer the basic mechanics of how he got there.
  • Dragging dialogue slows down your pacing. As a rule, you shouldn't have more than two pages of dialogue as that can slow down the pacing even more than narrative can -- this is when you end up with 'talking heads.' 
  • Don't re-hash events in your dialogue that the reader just read about.  (e.g., Bob sighed, "Mary Jo, did I tell you about the horrible day I had at school today?" Reader of book: Um, you told me in Chapter Six -- and I really don't want to hear it again.)
  • Be careful with your technical details. You want to ensure that your details are correct but don't overdo it just to show people how much research you did. A little Google goes a long way.
  • Too many flashbacks slow the pacing. Same with backstory, introspection, and narrative description. Use them sparingly.
  • Don't end your chapters after something has already happened; end them when something is about to happen. This makes the reader want to turn the page.
To sum up the gist of all these tips, when Elmore Leonard was asked how he keeps readers turning the pages, he said, "I don't write the parts that people skip." 

Follow that little rule, and your pacing will be golden. Good luck! Any pacing tips that I missed?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Contest Monday

It's Monday--do you have all your holiday gifts wrapped and shipped? I don't. I'm wrapping-challenged, so it takes me forever to do, yet still looks like my children did the wrapping. Therefore, I present this very brief Contest Monday post:
Don't forget to enter our holiday contest here at SIS for your chance to win one of 3 signed books by some uber-awesome authors (James Dashner, Cinda Williams Chima and Lisa McMann)! Good luck...and Happy Monday!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation!

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061985848
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061985843

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.


This book is a fresh take on paranormal. Evie is a fun character and the paranormal characters are unique and interesting, without going too far off the beaten path. I loved the faeries in this book (Reth! *swoon*)! And trying to figure out the mysteries woven in the story was a lot of fun. Definitely a book to read for all the paranormal lovers out there.

And don't forget to enter our December giveaway!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rules to Remember

We're reusing older posts here at SIS this month, and this week I'd like to re-share a few simple tips to remember when writing.

When writing fiction:

  • Every scene needs to move the plot forward, needs to accomplish something
  • Every
    page needs tension
  • Don't be passive! Make things happen to your main character, not through a third party
  • Ask yourself if this could be dramatized
  • "Substitute the word 'damn' every time you are inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and your writing will be as it should." - Mark Twain
  • "The road to hell is paved with adverbs." - Stephen King
  • When writing an action scene, don't slow it down with descriptions
These are just a few things I keep in mind when writing, most of them have been drilled into my head by my lovely Sisters. I'm sure there's more, but these are probably my most important. I try to keep them in mind with every line I write.

Do you have any little rules you try to write by?When writing fiction:
And don't forget to enter our December giveaway for 3 autographed YA books! 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tis the Season break from blogging. Between my fence-jumping new foster dog and the holidays, I'm more overwhelmed than I've been in a long, long time. The dog is much like my 3-yo daughter...sweet and adorable, but highly mischievous.

We Sisters are going to be giving you some oldies but goodies in terms of past blog posts for December. Also, don't forget to enter our December giveaway where you can win signed copies of some awesome books! So...Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza and Happy Any Other Holiday You Celebrate. May you have a wonderful, peaceful time with family and friends, and we'll see you all in 2011! 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Contest Monday With a Holiday Giveaway!

It's December. The very best time to snuggle up by the fire with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate. We know this is a busy time of year for most, it's insane for all of us too, but have no fear! We'll be re-posting some of our favorite posts from the past, and in the spirit of giving, we're giving away three signed books to three winners! International, & ends Dec. 31st.

Kristi is giving one winner a signed hard copy of THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner.

THE MAZE RUNNER Trilogy Book #1
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

Valerie is giving one winner a signed hard copy of THE DEMON KING by Cinda Williams Chima.

THE DEMON KING A Seven Realms novel
Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for himself, his mother, and his sister Mari.  Ironically, the only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell.  For as long as Han can remember, he’s worn thick silver cuffs engraved with runes.  They’re clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off.  

While out hunting one day, Han and his Clan friend, Dancer catch three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea.   After a confrontation, Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to ensure the boy won't use it against them.  Han soon learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago.  With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.  

Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, Princess Heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight.  She’s just returned to court after three years of relative freedom with her father’s family at Demonai camp – riding, hunting, and working the famous Clan markets.  Although Raisa will become eligible for marriage after her sixteenth name-day, she isn't looking forward to trading in her common sense and new skills for etiquette tutors and stuffy parties.  

Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But it seems like her mother has other plans for her--plans that include a suitor who goes against everything the Queendom stands for. 

Lacey is giving one winner a signed paperback copy of WAKE by Lisa McMann.

WAKE Wake Series Book 1
Not all dreams are sweet.
For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people's dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody- notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie's seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.

She can't tell anybody about what she does -- they'd never believe her, or worse, they'd think she's a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn't want and can't control.

Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else's twisted psyche. She is a participant....

Deadline for entry is midnight Friday, December 31st 2010! Winners will be announced Monday, January 3rd. Contest is international.

To enter, fill out the embedded form below. You must be a blog follower. For +3 extra entries, subscribe by email (box on the left). +2 more if you leave a comment on any one of our posts. And a +1 for every social networking site you use to spread the word (we'll accept Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and your blog sidebar). Spread the word as many times as you like! But you'll only get one entry for each. If you tweet the contest ten times, we will be happy and give you e-hugs, but it won't count for extra entries.

Specify which book you'd like to win most, then your second and third choices. We'll try to get the right book to you. Please include links in the form where you spread the word or commented so that we can verify winners.

Good luck! Thank you all, and happy holidays from all of us!

Other contests and giveaways from around the web include:

Shannon Messenger is giving away one hard copy of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS at her blog! Ends December 10th.

CA Marshall is giving away a full manuscript crit, up to 100k words, at her blog! Ends midnight, Dec. 10th!

And if you know of any contests or giveaways you'd like to share, feel free to use our Mr. Linky and tell us about it!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation - STOLEN

It's Friday and that means it's time for a book recommendation! My choice this week is:

STOLEN by Lucy Christopher

Gemma, 16, is on layover at Bangkok Airport, en route with her parents to a vacation in Vietnam. She steps away for just a second, to get a cup of coffee. Ty--rugged, tan, too old, oddly familiar--pays for Gemma's drink. And drugs it. They talk. Their hands touch. And before Gemma knows what's happening, Ty takes her. Steals her away. The unknowing object of a long obsession, Gemma has been kidnapped by her stalker and brought to the desolate Australian Outback. STOLEN is her gripping story of survival, of how she has to come to terms with her living nightmare--or die trying to fight it.

WHY I RECOMMEND IT: I read this book a year ago and it quickly became one of my favorite books ever. I still can't get it out of my mind. This book is beautiful, haunting, harrowing, vivid, heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful. Gemma's story will stick with you long after you finish. I've never been to Austrailia but I feel like I know the outback and it's harsh, searing heat. I would love to spend time with Lucy Christopher picking her brain and finding out how she came up with this amazing story. STOLEN is now available in the US and I can't recommend it enough! (Seriously, I've given it away twice on my blog already!)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Books on Writing

I'm knee deep in revisions, so I thought I'd pick up a couple of books on writing this week, and both of them (so far) are excellent. I believe Valerie may have recommended one of them once before, but here they are.

Stephen King's On Writing
Part memoir, part cheerleader. Not so much a how-to book on writing, but more of an empowering and entertaining read from one of America's most beloved writers.

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
This is the first book in this series that I've read. So far I'm really enjoying it. Some of the steps in this book might seem like a no-brainer to you, but some of us need it spelled out. If you're part of the former, it never hurts to have a good reminder.

There are a lot of great examples in here on scene structure, building suspense in dialog, creating a bond with your reader via your main character, character arc, plotting, revising, etc. There are different activities you can try out on your own to see what works and why.

I've been told this is a great series to go with and so far, I'd have to agree.

I'd like to hear your recommendations. Read any great books on writing recently? Something we haven't covered in past posts? Have you read either of these two books?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sometimes Things Just Suck

It's only Tuesday and it's already been a week full of tragic computer meltdowns, hours of stress and fear, and lots of money I'd rather not spend being spent. (Not to mention a week full of writing goals not being met.) So today I present you with yet another chestnut from The Universe, whose perfect timing helped me make it through yesterday.

"There are only miracles, and to one degree or another they all soothe, pamper, and enrich. However, to avoid blowing too many minds at once, some are disguised as unpleasant surprises, botched circumstances, and twisted acquaintances that can rarely be seen for who or what they truly are until the pendulum has fully swung."

I hope any of you out there having a bad week find this one helpful too! (Also, can you believe it's December already?!?)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Steps from Completed Manuscript to Published Book

Today I'm going to direct you to a list of steps (25 no less!) that are the process through which your book goes from fledgling manuscript to published book. It's over at the amazing Guide to Literary Agents blog and is provided by literary agent, Regina Brooks, of Serendipity Literary.

The list demonstrates (a little too well) that writing the book is only the first of many steps in becoming a published author. But the remaining 24 steps can't happen without that first big one. I'm on Step #3--my new manuscript is in the hands of my awesome critique partners, and I can't wait to revise it. My question for the day: Which step are you on right now?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Contest Monday - For Writers and Readers!

There are a couple of AWESOME agent contests for writers this week!

Agent Diedre Knight of The Knight Agency is having a speed dating contest to find her next new client! Beginning Tuesday, November 30th, (that's tomorrow!) Deidre will whittle down the first 125 entries to one lucky winner.* The contest opens at 8:00am ET. Get all the details on how to enter HERE.

Agent Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency is doing a NaNoWriMo contest on her client Ashley March's blog! Sara has agreed to read the first 30 pages of one lucky writer's NaNoWriMo project! Deadline is November 30th. Check out the details and enter HERE

And for readers:

Jess at The Cozy Reader is celebrating her 3rd blogoversary with a HUGE giveaway! She's giving away 15 YA books to 5 lucky winners in a fun contest! Hurry! This contest ends at noon ET, TODAY, November 29th! Check out her awesome blog and get the details HERE

If you have a contest you'd like to let us know about, please post the link in our new Mr. Linky! (Which hopefully I've coded correctly and it will work!)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation HEX HALL

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters. 

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.
As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Kristi's take: This was a fun, fast, and furious read by Rachel Hawkins. It reminded me of when I have a rare night alone and have Fritos and Diet Coke for dinner. Fritos + Diet Coke + Hex Hall = pure enjoyment.

Hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving. I'm already looking forward to leftovers, and the rest of my hubby's amazing pumpkin pie, tonight! See you on Monday.  

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

First, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! I hope everyone is enjoying family/friends/loved ones and good food right now, instead of reading this. But in case everyone you love is in a food coma and you're all by your lonesome, here are the top 5 writing related things I am thankful for.

1. My friends and family. My parents and siblings, my husband and my children. Even my in-laws, who are super awesome. I've been blessed with the people in my life. I could gush on about how amazing my husband is and how smart, cute, funny, well-behaved my kids are, but you don't want to hear all that. The people in my life support my writing and I think it's very important to any writer to have that support. And my mom gave me the awesome desk that I write on. :)

2. The ability to write! Like Kristi said, I am very thankful that I can write! It's what I love (read: need) to do, and I am thankful that I am able.

3. Critique partners! Without my Sisters, and writing friends, my writing would be nowhere near the level it is right now. I'm very grateful for all their time, patience, and hard work.

4. The Internet. Not only is it a fantastic marketing tool (you know, for whenever I'll actually have a book to market), but it's basically my only social outlet. Writing is a very solitary endeavor, and although my family and friends are supportive, they don't always get my obsession with pretty book covers, or the relationship I have with the people in my head. You guys do. Right?

5. The YA writing community. Writers both published and non, agented and still treading through the query trenches. You are all so helpful and supportive. Everyone believes in paying it forward. In helping each other. This kind of community is just invaluable. Many of you organize charities and events, like the season of love and hope auction that Valerie mentioned yesterday. There is the YA lit chat community. the Verla Kay blue boards. The countless blogs chock full of information for aspiring writers on everything from what books to read, to how publishing works, to who, how and when to query. You are all fantastic! Thank you all!

What are YOU thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


As Thanksgiving approaches, I'm thinking of all the things I'm grateful for. Since this is a writing blog, I'll share some of the writing related things that fill me with joy and gratitude.

Like Kristi, I'm grateful that I have the time to write and the support of my family who help and encourage me to find and make the time to meet my writing goals.

I'm grateful for the awesome crit partners I've met in the last year and who I'm also fortunate to call my friends. (Lacey, Kristi, Natalie, LOVE you guys!)

And most of all, I'm grateful for the amazing, generous, supportive, open-minded, open-hearted, talented, giving members of the YA writing community. I am constantly overwhelmed and awed by the effort this community puts into helping others whether it's in becoming a better writer, or living a better life. I am so proud to be a part of this group of people and to do my tiny part in helping others and sharing the love of great books to anyone I can.

Since this is a time of being grateful, and the season of giving is just around the corner I wanted to share a link to the Season of Love and Hope Auction benefitting children's writer Bridget Zinn who is battling colon cancer.

TONS of amazing authors and publishing people have donated some seriously awesome things like critiques and ARCs and vacations so check it out if you have the time.

I hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for reading this blog. I'm so grateful for all of you!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My mushy post of gratitude

I love Thanksgiving, and not just for the football and turkey, although I am a borderline obsessive NFL fan.. NOTE: My hubby just told me I should cross out the borderline part, but hey, it's my post. Why I love Thanksgiving is that I'm in favor of any holiday that celebrates gratitude. It's too easy to get caught up in the day to day life hassles and forget how darn lucky we are. Even on the rough days, I try to name one small thing I'm grateful for each day. It keeps things in perspective.

Here are a few things I'm grateful for and how they relate to writing (don't worry, I'll explain the helmet)::

1) Where I live. Any time I'm outside and spot the snow-capped mountains in the distance, I feel gratitude for living here in Colorado. (I swear there is creativity in the air here, or maybe it's the drinking water.) Either way, my writing and my hubby's music have grown in leaps and bounds since moving here.

2) My kidlets. Whenever I hear my children laugh, I feel so lucky to be the mom of these two amazing little humans. Also, my 6-yo son tells people that I'm a writer. Never mind that I earn my income as a clinical psychologist. Never mind that I'm not published and don't have an agent. My 3-yo thinks I'm a writer solely because that's what my 6-yo tells her. I love that kid!

3) My ability to write. As I mentioned in this post, I'm extremely grateful for my ability to spend my evenings writing, rather than say working triple shifts in a factory somewhere just to keep food on my table. My hubby is the most supportive person on the planet and allows me to be the best person/mother/wife/writer I can be. He's also my first beta reader and gives amazing advice.

4) My critique groups (The Critiquers and my lovely Sisters) are made of total awesome. They're wise, talented, strong women who are a constant source of strength and support. And they give me a kick in the ass when I need it. What more could you ask for? 

5) The Kansas City Chiefs. (hence the helmet picture) If any of you out there have ever loved a team that has surprised you with its ability to disappoint you year after year, then you feel my pain.This year, my team has actually won more games than they've lost. Are they a Super Bowl team? No. Would Mike Vick kick their asses all over the field? Absolutely. But they're better than they were last year--and the year before. It's all about baby steps, just like in writing. I'm a better writer this year than I was a year ago, and I finished my second book last month. I'm taking baby steps toward that Super Bowl.  

What about you? What are you grateful for this week?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Contest Monday

I couldn't find much in the way of contests this week, so I'm guessing people are gearing up for the Thanksgiving holiday. If you know of a contest that I missed, please add it into the comments below. 

Win one of 5 ARC's of DEMONGLASS (Hex Hall #2) by Rachel Hawkins at Goodreads. Contest ends: Nov. 30th.

Young Adult Books Central is giving away 15 copies of THE MOCKINGBIRDS by Daisy Whitney. Fill out the form to enter by Nov. 30th.

Somehow I missed the incredible Kidlit Critterpalooza giveaway and its mission to increase awareness for Saint Jude's Research Hospital for children. Go check it out--the deadline is Nov. 28th. 

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Save Some For Later

Now that we've been doing Tangled Fiction for a couple months now and I've had the chance to write two story starts for Natalie and Lacey to finish, I've made some discoveries about plotting and revealing information.

When you're writing something that someone else has to continue without knowing what's supposed to come next your first instinct is to put in enough details to explain what it is you're doing. But you soon realize that if you do that, the next writer either has nowhere to go because you already gave up all the cool plot twists and info, or is locked into your idea, which is the opposite of collaboration (unless you use James Frey's definition of the word) and what you've written is mostly telling and infodump with perhaps a side of interesting character.

You learn that in order to give the next writer a chance to shine, and to give the story a shot at being all it can be, you have to leave threads dangling and hint at things without explaining them. You have to trust your partners, and your readers to pick up on the subtle cues, and to want to keep reading to find out what they mean.

In a word, you're doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing when you write a book all by yourself!

You know that feeling you get when you're starting a book, (or short story, or introducing a new character) where you feel like you have to get ALL the necessary info out so readers will get what you're doing and LOVE it? Well, that feeling is wrong. Those writing books - the ones that say don't reveal anything until it's absolutely necessary are right.

It took until I had to take an idea, set it up, and then let it go for me to really understand how that works. When I write an opening to one of our shorts, like my most recent one, KISS OF DEATH, I start with an idea:

What if there was a girl so beautiful that every boy who saw her was compelled to kiss her? What if her lips were poisonous?

Then I have to do some world-building, some plotting, and I have to make sure I leave something for the next writer. In the case of KISS OF DEATH I had A LOT of ideas. There was so much I wanted to (and did in the first draft) explain. I knew how Rosemina came to be cursed. I knew what she did all day while she was home alone. I knew what the Queen really thought about her. I knew what happened after my section ended. But I cut all of those things because they would work better if they were revealed later on or in an active way. I trusted that I had an interesting predicament (Everyone wants to kiss her. Everyone that kisses her dies. And because of that, people want her dead.) and that people would want to keep reading to find out what happens next.

This is the key when plotting your story and maintaining your pace. Drop hints. Dangle potential plot twists, make your reader excited and curious to see what happens next. Let them form opinions about why a character says or does something, and then reveal the info when it will be the most active, the most important, the most mindblowing thing that could happen at that moment. Save something for later. (And, as I always say trust your reader It's scary, but you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Holiday Gift Giving--What books are on your wish list?

It's almost that time of year again. In a way it's a relief, because my kids have been begging to put up the tree since July. No matter which holiday you celebrate, most involve gift giving of some kind. Each and every year growing up, one of the gifts in my stocking was a book. This was mostly because one of my younger sisters and I got up around 3am every Christmas to try and 'catch' Santa in the act. We weren't allowed to wake up my parents for present-opening until 6am, so Santa would leave books to give us something to do in the meantime (because I couldn't possibly go back to sleep with all those shiny presents staring at me). Seriously, I was that kid who had the presents sorted into piles (based on the gift tags) by 4am.

Those quiet hours of Christmas morning were a magical time for me. I'd curl up under a blanket on the couch and read Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, or Little House on the Prairie. When I was older, the stocking books morphed into Stephen King and Dean Koontz (try reading Four Past Midnight at that literal time--creepy). Books have always been entwined with holiday memories for me. I'm sure it's part of why I love giving books as gifts--to pass along the magic to others. It's also a fabulous way to support bookstores and authors. So along with all the sparkly things on display at the mall or online, please consider giving a book to someone you love.

Okay, this concludes my public service announcement. I want to know about your gift-giving. Any books that you've given or received that stand out in your holiday memories? What books are on your wish list for this year?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Contest Monday with Demons

Great book giveaways happening this week:

The lovely Lisa Desrochers is giving away a signed copy of her book Personal Demons AND a signed copy of Matched by Ally Condie. Contest ends: Nov. 26th.

The Story Siren is giving away the entire Immortals Series by Alyson Noel. All 5 books go to one lucky winner so fill out the form today. Contest ends: Nov. 19th.

Happy Monday!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation - BEFORE I FALL

Before I Fall

by Lauren Oliver (Goodreads Author)
What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined. (less)
Hardcover, 470 pages
Published March 2nd 2010 by HarperCollins 
Kristi's Take:  (No Spoilers)
I reluctantly picked this book up two days ago. Don't get me wrong--I'd heard great things about the book and Ms.Oliver's immense talent. But I knew it was about a girl dying, over and over and over again. One thing about me: I have to gear myself up for intense books and they tend to sit longer on my TBR pile than others. They also take me longer to read, as I have to ingest them in small doses. Not so with BEFORE I FALL. This book was flat-out amazing and I could not put it down (and it's not a short book). Those who know me know sleep is my all-time favorite thing and there's not much that I allow to interfere with those precious hours. I could not go to sleep last night until I found out what happened to Samantha Kingston. 
The characters literally leap off the page in this beautiful, funny, real, and heart-breaking novel. I won't give away the ending except to say it's something you'll think about long after you stop reading. I highly recommend moving this book to the top of your TBR pile. You'll be glad you did. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Organization. Or Not.

I am very unorganized. I keep a neat house (unless you open my closets--Valerie!), and my books are (usually) alphabetized on the shelf, but when it comes to writing, finding my notes is like a scavenger hunt.

I write whatever idea I have on whatever is closest. I have notes from one WIP in about 5 different notebooks. It makes it very difficult to find what I want when I need it. I end up finding notes from 6 months ago that are obsolete now, but I can't remember where I wrote the one I want to work out. Zombies finding a way to turn a doorknob would be easier than me finding the right notes.

I could have a notebook for each project I work on, and I could carry that notebook everywhere, or transfer scattered notes into that notebook at the end of the day, but that doesn't always work for me. I've tried to find better ways to manage my time and organization would probably really help. Probably. But maybe not.

I've never been organized. Even in high school. I didn't study. I didn't set aside time to work on homework. But I always got it done on time and I did it my way. My very scattered, disorganized, probably difficult way. But my way, none the less.

Every writer has a different way of doing things. Plotters and pansters. Scheduled writing time, and writing whenever you get the chance. I've tried to change my ways, and I always end up loosing something. I *want* to be organized. I *want* to be scheduled. But it's not me. It's not my way. And I'm finding that forcing myself into those habits is hurting my writing. There is no one way to do things.

In the immortal (because I have imortalized her) words of Libba Bray, "We are not one size fits all." And now I'm saying to myself "Have it your way" and wanting a croissanwich.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When Uncertainty Gets Annoying

I'm at a loss for what to post this week so I'm re-posting something from last December. It's an issue that has come up for me lately in my writing so I thought it might be a good time to re-read it!

Recently I read a really good book. Really good! It was full of action, adventure, drama, suspense, and emotion, and it was also full of one of my pet peeves. The dreaded uncertainty that is seemed like, appeared as if, almost.

You know what I'm talking about. One character says to the MC, "I hate you!" and the MC's inner monologue says "He punched the wall, as if he was angry." Really? It was like he was angry, but you're not sure if that was it? Maybe he just likes punching walls? Maybe wall-punching means happiness?

This occasionally drives me insane.

I notice this happens most often in books written in close third person. I think it's because when writing in first person it's easier to slip into the character's distinct point of view and feel what they're feeling.

Think about it. In your own life, if someone shouts at you "I hate you!" and then punches a wall, you have a strong instant reaction. You don't think to yourself, "I wonder if he's angry?" You think, "Whoa, this dude is pissed!" Even if you're wrong, and he does just like to punch walls for no reason, you have interpreted his words and actions and made a decision on what they mean.

Characters are like this too. They jump to conclusions. They reason out why things are happening. I know that, especially in third person, there's a fine line between staying in one character's close POV and crossing into another's. This is where the trouble starts. Writers worry that if they say too much about what is happening, or how someone is feeling that they are switching POVs or crossing over into omniscience. I say, HOGWASH!

While it's true that unless your main character is a mind reader, he can't know what others are thinking. He can definitely take an educated guess or decide for himself how to interpret what he sees. When I see a lot of this in a manuscript I'm critiquing, I always write "Be authoritative!" and "Either it happened or it didn't. Which is it?"

Don't tell me "It seemed like the door opened all by itself." When I see this type of sentence structure, I expect a "but". As in "It seemed like the door opened all by itself, but it was just the cat leaning against it." When you leave the sentence as "It seemed like the door opened all by itself." and the character doesn't do any exploring to find out how it actually did open, I'm left wondering, did the door open by itself or not? You know whether it did or not, why not share? Your character, having witnessed this event, should have come to a decision about whether or not the door opened on it's own - even if it's the wrong answer. And if your character really can't tell if it opened by itself or not, then he needs to try and find out why (or run away in terror, whichever he's more prone to do).

I may be in the minority here, but I think it's best for your character to see things through his own world view and save the uncertainty for when he really doesn't know what's going on. If you stay focused and true to your character's personality and voice, it should be clear, even in third person, that what he sees happening is what he thinks is happening, and not absolute fact. To me this is one of the best things about telling a story through one person's eyes. Each character has a unique way of seeing things. What one character thinks is evil spirits haunting his house, another thinks is just the wind. Find out what it really is is what storytelling is all about!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Interview with Awesomesauce YA Author Carrie Harris

I've never interviewed an author on the blog before. The main reason I started today is that I adore Carrie Harris and am so excited for her upcoming book. Hence, the first installment of author interviews by moi. In case you're not familiar with young adult novelists and are wondering "Who is Carrie Harris?" This is Carrie:

Carrie is the hilarious, smart, and zombie-obsessed author of the upcoming YA novel, BAD TASTE IN BOYS. Did I mention hilarious? She has the coolest website ever, which you should definitely check out (after reading this interview of course). Her book cover is also my favorite of the year--and it's not just because it reminds me of margaritas. Check it out:

I know, right? It's a cover made of awesome. BAD TASTE IN BOYS is available NOW for pre-order (shameless plug by me, not Carrie), and I ordered mine weeks ago. Have you? The official release date is July 12, 2011.

Without further ado, here are Carrie's musings on writing, books, and publishing...and, of course, The Hoff.

1) I'm so excited for the release of this book as I love me some zombies. Where did you get the idea for BAD TASTE IN BOYS (I'm assuming it's not based on true events)?
Zombies FTW!
Ahem. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.
Anyway, I like to play this game called Monster Math, which I talk about on my website. The whole idea of Monster Math is to put together ideas in new and interesting ways. I knew I wanted to write a zombie book, and a book about the dead football players from the movie Beetlejuice, and a book about weird science. So I mashed the ideas all together and divided them by high school geekery.
And I thought I’d never use algebra after high school.
But seriously. For me, the key is not finding ideas, because I have more than I could possibly use. It’s putting the ideas together in a way that’s hopefully never been done before.

2) Was this the first book you wrote? Tell us aspiring writers a little about your path to finding an agent.
Hahahahahaha! Hah! That’s funny. No, my first book was a NaNoWriMo novel that started off as a fantasy satire and somehow turned into a political satire halfway through. And then I wrote a series of really depressing books and hung out in coffee shops and wore a beret. (You think I’m kidding, but sadly? Not. [The worst part is that the beret was PLAID.]) Eventually I ditched the beret and quit trying to be a “serious” writer and wrote something just for fun. That was my first YA novel, which got the attention of my superawesome agent, Kate Schafer Testerman, and went to editorial acquisitions more times than I could count. But ultimately, it wasn’t the right first book for me. BAD TASTE IN BOYS, however, sold in about a month, because zombies are irresistible.

3) I'm trying to picture you in a plaid beret, but I keep laughing. I agree that zombies are irresistible...when you first found out your book sold, what was your initial reaction?

When The Email finally came, I ran around the house screaming and then left a voice mail for my husband that said: “OhmygodcallmecallmeCALLMERIGHTNOW!” And then I put Thriller on and did the dance, because that’s obviously the best way to celebrate selling a zombie book.
About an hour later, I realized I should probably email my agent back. I went to my computer and found another email from her asking if the shock had killed me and did she need to call an ambulance.

4) I know authors don't typically have much, if any, control over things like the title and cover of the book. You have one of the coolest covers I've seen. Did you have any input on it?

I know; isn’t it frawesome? I feel so lucky cover-wise. The people at Random House awe me.
I’m super lucky to have a fabulous editor who asked me for my opinion on what kind of cover would best fit BTIB. It was so fun to look around at everything out there and send her covers that I liked. Of course, what I came up with wasn’t half as cool as the cover they gave me. I can’t explain how my designer heard the words “zombie football players” and came up with sugar lips, but it’s really a stroke of brilliance!

5) This may be a super-secret question you can't answer, but I'll try anyway. What's next for you? Will there be a sequel to BAD TASTE IN BOYS or are you doing something totally different?

Well, I’ve got a sequel that’s currently under review, with new and interesting monsters for Kate to hunt. Please keep your fingers crossed for me! Unless you’re a zombie, because I wouldn’t want to be responsible for the loss of your fingers due to torsion. I’m nice that way.
I’m also working on a new series, because I’m an overachiever. And some middle grade stuff, and an epic poem about merpires…
Okay, that last bit is a joke, although I have to admit that it’s tempting. The reality is that I’m ALWAYS working on something new. It helps keep me from getting into a rut or losing all my momentum.

6) My fingers are definitely crossed for you. Okay, as a mom, I have to ask this question. Many aspiring writers have little ones at home...and I don't even have twins like you do! How on earth do you manage to do it all and balance motherhood and writing?

Doing it all? Impossible unless you are a cyborg, alien, or alien cyborg. I am sadly none of those things. My house is in a terminal state of messiness. My three-year-olds are the only preschoolers in the neighborhood who play zombie tag and know without question how to dispatch the undead hordes. I constantly sport burn marks on my arms and hands from either reading or writing while cooking dinner. I won't lie and say it isn't hard work or that I'm not frequently exhausted, but I'm happy. And that is a good thing for my kids to see. It's just a question of what you're willing to sacrifice for. I, apparently, am willing to sacrifice a lot for zombies that puke up black gunk.
I never said I was sane.

7) Thank you for validating my house's messiness. You knew I was going to save the best question for last. Who would win in a zombie ninja dance-off: Richard Simmons or The Hoff?

Ooooh. That’s a toughie. But I have to say that neither of them would win, because I would find out where the dance-off was being held and get dressed up in my sparkly merpire princess costume, and I’d crash the contest.
*I* would win. And *I* am really modest. Just ask me.

Thanks so much for interviewing me!!!

Thank you, Carrie, for visiting our blog and for sharing your insights with us. I can't wait to read this book and best of luck with your next one!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Contest Monday

Ellz Readz is giving away ARC's of some amazing books including MATCHED by Ally Condie (awesome book) and THE MOCKINGBIRDS by Daisy Whitney, among others. You only have to comment to enter. Deadline: Nov. 12.

Steph Su at Steph Su Reads is having a cool November giveaway on her blog (I can't believe it's already November!) Enter to win the ARC's of FIXING DELILAH by Sarah Ockler, VIRALS by Kathy Reichs, and FALL FOR ANYTHING by Courtney Summers. Deadline: Nov. 24.

Don't forget to visit us here tomorrow for an amazing interview with Carrie Harris, the amazing author of this:


Friday, November 5, 2010

Guest Post: K.M. Weiland!

Please welcome our special guest on the blog, author, mentor, editor, K.M. Weiland!

K.M. Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sandhills of western Nebraska. She enjoys mentoring other authors through her writing tips, editing services, workshops, and her recently released instructional CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration.

Multi-Media Inspiration

We live in a world that is saturated with artistic creativity (some more artistic and creative than others, admittedly). If you’re a writer, this is a very good thing. It means that inspiration is all over the place. All we have to do is open a magazine, read a book, turn on the television, or switch to a new radio station. In my recently released CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration (, I specifically touch upon how to use music to up our creative output. But we can tap into all kinds of media for an extra-inspiration boost. Following are some ideas:

Create story-specific playlists. Every time you hear a song that fits your story or inspires some new aspect, save it on a playlist on your computer. You’re creating your own personalized story soundtrack! Whenever you need a dab of inspiration, give it a listen. Plus, it’s great fun for sharing with your readers, when the book is published. (You can listen to the soundtrack for my medieval novel Behold the Dawn here (

· As an addendum to the above, don’t forget to give each character a theme song. Not only is it fun, but it can help distill the character’s personality and inner goals.

· Cast your characters. We all dream of getting our NYT bestselling book made into a blockbuster movie. So why wait on the all-important decision of choosing which actors should play your characters? Putting a face, voice, and gestures to your characters (particularly minor characters) can work wonders for bringing them to vivid three-dimensional life.

· Visualize your story as a movie. Whenever I’m approaching a tricky scene, I stop, close my eyes, and try to visualize what the scene would look like in a movie. I visualize everything: angles, lighting, stage directions. I even try to conjure up a soundtrack sometimes. And the results are pretty interesting.

· Keep a photo album. Thanks to the Internet, tracking down specific photos and bookmarking them or saving them to your computer is the easiest thing in the world. For every novel I write, I keep folders within folders of inspiring pix, everything from the characters themselves to settings to costumes to vehicles to pets. Not only are the pictures an endless well of inspiration, but they also come in handy for maintaining consistency in details.

· Create props. Sometimes a handful of props can come in very handy for inspiring or choreographing a scene. For my upcoming fantasy Dreamers (, I used a sword-shaped letter opener in planning battle scenes. If your character receives an important letter, write the letter out for yourself and play around with the crinkle of the envelope. If a stolen necklace features prominently, buy a cheap replica and wear it while writing.

Who says writing has to be confined to words on paper? If we branch out from our notebooks and pens or our keyboards and word processors, we may find that a whole interactive world of inspiration is waiting for us to discover and play with.

Thank you, K.m.! *applauds* It's nice to know my fantasy casting can be seen as inspiration, rather than procrastination!

You can also find K.M. Weiland blogging at
On twitter and on facebook.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Writer's Block

Tomorrow we have special guest author/editor/mentor K.M. Weiland stopping by the blog. She has a new CD out titled Conquering Writer's Block and Summoning Inspiration, so I kind of wanted to get everyone thinking about writer's block today. What is it? Does it exist at all? How do you get past it?

I've read, and I agree, that writer's block usually means you've taken a wrong turn somewhere. For me, getting myself past the block means setting the manuscript aside until I figure out what isn't working. And that's a lot harder than it sounds. Just putting it aside is difficult. It nags at me telling me I have to finish it immediately. But eventually, I peel my eyes away from it and take a step back to look at what I have objectively. This goes back to Valerie's post on killing your darling. Usually, the place where I went wrong was a scene I thought was epic, but it didn't fit with my plot and it ended up throwing everything else out of whack.

My wonderful cp's are great at spotting those out of place scenes, but I can't have them watching over my shoulder and checking every sentence, so Valerie suggested I try note cards. I bought colored cards and I wrote out every scene I had on those cards. Red for romantic scenes, puke-green for gore and supernatural stuff, yellow for action and the main plot thread, and a sea-blue for scenes with the secondary characters that fed the smaller plot threads.

Laying these out helped me see where I had to many slow scenes or too many fast paced action scenes too close together. Looking at that didn't solve all my problems, but it helped point me in the right direction. It made me realize where the problems originated. Now I have to go back to the beginning and rewrite a lot of the book, but at least now I'm past that block and I have some direction.

What does writer's block mean to you? What are some productive ways you've found to help you get past the block?
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