Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Writing Links, Contests, and Giveaways

I came across so many great links and contests this week and had to share a few.

I know I'm not the only one who was uber-excited to see this. I would pre-order her book today without knowing anything else about it because I know it will be awesome.

The Buffer Twitter Tips blog had an interesting article about how to double your Twitter followers this year. It's worth a read if you're wanting to boost your online presence.

Gretchen McNeil revealed her amazing cover for TEN and you can win an annotated copy of the book over at Me, My Shelf and I. This book is on my must-read list. Seriously, how can you see this cover and not want to read the book?

The Twitterific Lori M. Lee is hosting a 1-year blogiversary giveaway with great prizes including Barnes and Noble gift certificates as well as query critiques. It ends Wed. 2/29 so hurry to enter.

A new Mystery Agent Contest starts this week over at Operation Awesome, and the agent is looking for all kinds of YA (including sci-fi). The winner gets a full manuscript critique so check it out!

The fabulous Angela from The Bookshelf Muse is hosting a huge giveaway to celebrate reaching 3,000 followers. There are so many prizes to win so hop over there to enter before March 12.

If you didn't win a query critique last week, I'm doing the Wednesday Weekly Query Critique over on my blog tomorrow, so polish those queries.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


The world isn't small, by any means. But it is fantastically diverse and often you meet people you certainly wouldn't expect to in your given location.

NYC is like a mini world all it's own so anyone I meet here shouldn't come as a surprise, but still, it does.

I took a trip last Saturday to what was once Brooklyn Harley Davidson (before they lost the license, started selling Victory motorcycles and scooters, and then ultimately went out of business--very sad) to hang out with the owner and some other friends that still linger in the near-empty show room. As I pull into the lot, two other Harley bikes pull in alongside me, both decked out in animal skins and feathers and fringes. One of them, blasting Native American music. AWESOME.

I notice the helmet of the rider playing the music says "Cherokee" written in Cherokee. He's Cherokee, I'm Cherokee, so, naturally, we start talking. Turns out we're both from North Carolina, although he was born and raised on the reservation and I've never set foot on it. When I was young, my mom had wanted to move us to the rez, but because of the blood quantum there was a chance my sister and I wouldn't be totally accepted and at the time it wasn't a risk she'd wanted to take.

So in short, these guys turn out to be two of the nicest, most interesting people I have ever met. Little Hawk and Greywolf, of the North Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, an organization I didn't know existed.

I never expected to run into Cherokee Indians in NYC, who speak fluent Cherokee, and fly the rebel flag. And to form such a connection with them, like we're family, was an awe inspiring moment for me. It reminded me that people are three dimensional, and character inspiration can come from anywhere. Real life connections and real life characters are what enrich the writing process and help us, as writers, to create memorable characters with complex relationships.

Greywolf (left) and LittleHawk (right)
photo courtesy of www.nebci,org

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

When Commas Matter - A Pop Song Example

Before I forget, go check out Kristi's blog where today she's giving away the first of her weekly free query crits!

Thanks to Jackson Pearce I am now officially on the "Call Me Maybe" bandwagon. Which means one of my dirtiest secrets has officially been outed - I have a deep, deep love for perky, upbeat, cheesy, disneyfied, pop music. I may have had this song on repeat for the last day or so... I refuse to be ashamed. It's better than being a serial killer... right? Anyway, onto the grammar lesson, and the importance of the comma.

So this song is called Call Me Maybe. Notice the lack of punctuation there. One could reasonably assume that the singer, Carly Rae Jepsen, would like the object of her affection to call her by the nickname, Maybe. However, a quick listen to the chorus gives us this:

Hey I just met you

And this is crazy

But here’s my number

So call me maybe

(lyrics copied from Carly Rae Jepson's website)

So as you can see, it seems that Carly would in fact, like this boy to call her. Maybe. Now if she had slipped this boy a lyric sheet rather than serenading him, she might have started her relationship off on the wrong foot, or possibly missed connecting with him at all, what with him calling her number and asking for some crazy girl named Maybe. And that would be a shame.

So there you have it. Commas can ruin your love life if you're not careful! And I now present you with a video of the song, featuring of all people, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and many other Disney folks singing along, because once you hear this song, you can't help it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Giving Your Characters A Little Perspective

I consider myself many things: writer, mother, small business owner, wife, dog lover, etc. One unexpected label I earned last week was World Class Laundry Folder (those who follow me on Twitter already know this--and that Carolina Valdez Miller is my long lost laundry twin). My 7-year-old son's teacher had assigned an essay in which they had to write about someone who was special to them and why that person was special. Though honored that my son chose me, I was floored when his teacher told me the reason why was my ability to fold "not one, but two loads of laundry at once." Seriously. She thought it was hilarious. Of all the things he could have picked, it wasn't my ability to whip up a mean man-n-cheese or my willingness to repeatedly lose to him in Wii Olympic Snowboarding (I don't try to lose by the way--I just suck at it). No, it was my folding expertise that awed him. I even asked, "You know mommy's a psychologist right, and that I help people." He responded, "Yeah, but you're really good at folding."

[NOTE: These are not my actual folded towels, because I can fold circles around whoever folded these.]

I realized that from his perspective, he's never seen me "be a psychologist" or interact with clients. He sees me, well, folding. I am going somewhere with this. Every person in your life has a slightly different perspective about you based on their own interactions with you, as well as their own 'personal lens' or way in which they view the world. How we see ourselves doesn't always match up with how other people see us. This can be tricky when writing, especially with first person POV. The writer must be able to convey how each character views the main character (MC) solely based on the dialogue and expressions of those other characters.

Unlike the MC in a first person POV, where we are literally 'inside their head', we don't know the thoughts of the secondary characters--only what they say and do. This isn't always a bad thing. For instance, it's a great way to add in conflict, such as when the MC misunderstands the actions or words of other characters and drama/comedy/murder ensues. However, it also demonstrates the need to understand each of your secondary characters really well before you get them down on virtual paper. The 'lens' of the best friend will be different than that of the potential love interest and the sworn frenemy, etc. You want each character to be three-dimensional and believable to the reader. In my last book, several people told me how much they loved one of the secondary characters--I loved him too, so it made me happy that others found him 'real.'

How do you make sure all of your secondary characters are three-dimensional? How do you give them unique perspective?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some laundry to fold. Check back tomorrow when I'm starting a weekly query critique giveaway over on my personal blog! :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stepping Out of the Genre Box

I read mainly paranormal YA--throw a few good adult series like DEXTER and THE SOUTHERN VAMPIRE MYSTERIES in there. But rarely will I pick up a contemporary and read it, and love it. Nothing against contemp! Not at all! I just prefer beasts and blood.

So lately I'm trying to mix things up a bit and read a few different genres that I would normally not think twice about. I finished CATCHING JORDAN by Miranda Kenneally last night, and I have to say I really loved it! Miranda is awesome, and I've read some of her other stuff, so I had high hopes for this one. But I was worried that I wouldn't connect with her character Jordan, because she's a quarterback on a football team, and my knowledge of football ends with...well I know they run around with the ball and try to get it to the end of the field. But I loved her!

Another contemp that I've loved is Gail Forman's IF I STAY which had a slight paranormal tint to it, I suppose. It took me longer to get into the second book, WHERE SHE WENT, but they're both fantastic reads!

And one of my most favorite contemps would be Jandy Nelson's THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. Such a beautiful story.

Last night I decided to be wild and crazy and pick up an erotic romance--CRASH INTO YOU by Roni Loren. This is very far out of my genre comfort zone, so we'll see how that goes.

What about you all? Any books outside of your norm that you fell in love with?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Are Your Keywords?

In a similar vein to Kristi's post on favorite romances, I thought I'd see what are some of your favorite words? The ones that when you seem them in a title, will always make you to pick up that book?

I've noticed that I have a few that get me every time. They are: water, river, lake, magic, and anything that implies winter, such as snow, frost, and of course, winter. Also, summer, lol.

I'm also attracted to covers that hint at these kind of stories. (I suppose it should be no surprise then, that my first book takes place in a town on a lake just as winter meets spring, so there's both snow, and rain.)

Here are some examples of books that had me drooling just from their titles and/or covers.

(^ I have so much love for this title, I can't even...)

What about you? What kind of titles or covers pique your interest?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Favorite YA Romances

Being that it's V-Day and all, I was thinking about the fact that almost every YA has at least some romance component in it. I don't usually go for the cute and contemporary love stories (though I do want to read DITCHED), but instead lean toward the darker romances involving damaged characters like in Lisa McMann's WAKE or  THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. (BTW, if for some reason you haven't seen THE HUNGER GAMES trailer yet, you must watch it now. Amazing, right?) Anyway, rather than straight romance, I like it when the characters are too busy trying to survive to worry about dating. Most recently, I LOVED the romance between Rhine and Gabriel in WITHER. I know everyone has different tastes though, so in honor of this ridiculous lovely holiday, tell me...

What's your favorite YA romance?  

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Book Recommendation: The Dark and Hollow Places


From CarrieRyan.com

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister's face when she and Elias left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the horde as they found their way to the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.

Annah's world stopped that day and she's been waiting for him to come home ever since. Without him, her life doesn't feel much different from that of the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Then she meets Catcher and everything feels alive again.

Except, Catcher has his own secrets—dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah's longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it's up to Annah—can she continue to live in a world drenched in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return's destruction?


The Dark and Hollow Places is the third and final installment of the Forest of Hands and Teeth series, and this book is truly unforgettable. Each book in the series can be read as a standalone but they have so much more depth if you read them from first to last. Carrie Ryan is one of those authors that others, namely me, aspire to be. Her writing is magic.

Hollywood crush posted a much better review of this book than I possibly could.

Also, sometime in the near future, while my co-writers at Tangled Fiction are off in the mountains for another fabulous writing retreat (that I regrettably can't make *sniffle*) we'll be doing something special for our readers, and I just might have a copy of one of Carrie's books that I am (reluctantly) willing to part with. So stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Exercise Your Voice

Sometimes, when I'm writing or revising, I get so sick of my voice. You know the part where my characters sound like me rather than themselves. Or when they've described something the same way, like, three times in a row. It drives me nuts when I notice that the character is having the experience/thoughts that I would have in any given moment, rather than their own. But sometimes I feel stuck in my own word patterns and can't find the right words.

Recently, I wrote a character who has nothing in common with me or how I talk, and it was a challenge, but a really fun challenge, to come up with things that only he would say. And when I finished, I had a bit of an epiphany.

What if I turned that into an exercise?

And so here is a way to freshen up your voice:

Take a scene you're feeling is particularly lackluster. Where the voice is blah, or sounds like you, or is just not true to your character, and rewrite it with the voice of someone who's so distinct they're almost a cliche. Like, a southern belle, or a non-native English speaker, or Cookie Monster, or a Victorian era detective, or even a favorite character from someone else's book ... you get my point. Something where you're forced to stop and think of character voice specific ways this person would describe their thoughts and feelings and the events happening around them. Be over the top. Be cliche. Have fun with it.

For example:

Your character says: "I'm hungry."

Cookie Monster says: "Me want cookie!"

A very cliche southern belle might say: "Good Lord in heaven if I don't eat something soon, I'll be standing right up there with him at those pearly gates myself."

A Victorian lady might say: "I feel as though I might faint, I'm so weak with hunger." (and um, honestly I have no idea if this is even close, but that's okay because it's just an exercise!)

These are ridiculous examples, but you see how each one made me think past the bare facts of the statement, and into what that experience is like for each particular character. And they were fun. I wasn't agonizing over the exact right word, I was just getting out of my own head and seeing what happened.

At the end of the exercise you will have cleared your own voice from your head, and you'll be better able to see where the character-specific bits need to be. They will stand out in the scene as those over the top bits. Then use what you've discovered to re-write that scene the way your character would see it, in their voice.

So the next time you're feeling stuck, give this a try, and let me know how it works for you! Do you have any fun exercises or tips you use for freshening things up? Please share!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Query Tips Part Deux

As of last night, I have finally finished all of the query critiques! I may or may not have had a glass of wine to celebrate (okay, I totally did). If you sent me a query during the open submission time and haven't received a critique, please let me know. I read some wonderful queries and had a blast. Since people told me they found it so helpful, I think I'll add in some on-going query critique opportunities. Last week, I discussed a few query tips and after finishing the critiques, I thought of a few more to add. Again, these examples are my own, so no actual query excerpts are contained here.

1) Keep it simple. You want to include the hook and main characters (generally 2 or 3 characters) in your query. Of course your book will have subplots and numerous side characters, but adding these elements into a query can make it confusing and overwhelming. The same goes for fantasy lingo if it's an alternate world with made-up vocabulary. Keep it to a few, relevant terms and save the rest of it for the book. Your goal is to give just enough info to make the agent want more.

2) Get someone who hasn't read your book to read your query. Don't get me wrong, I think your beta readers/critique partners can give great feedback on your query (my crit partners gave fabulous advice), but it's also helpful to have a fresh pair of eyes look at it. Someone who has read your book might miss something in your query because they already "know the entire story." Someone who does a cold query read without having read your book can easily detect if something is confusing or needs more emphasis.

3) Don't lose your voice. Several people told me that multiple people had critiqued their query and they'd taken it apart so many times that they weren't sure if the query even made sense anymore. One of the drawbacks of multiple beta readers is that everyone has their own suggestions and opinions. It's wonderful to have helpful writer friends, but make sure to keep your own stamp on the query. You want the voice of your novel to shine through, not a mish-mash of other voices. Just like with your manuscript, if more than one person gives you the same feedback, then you should pay attention to it. If not, see what resonates with you and let the rest of it go. One "voice" tip that I've heard is helpful is to write your query in first person, then change it to third person, present.

That's it for now. To those who sent their queries, best of luck with querying and don't give up!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


I'm back, more or less, from my semi-extended blog hiatus! You missed me, yes?

I've had a major lack of motivation lately, with holidays, birthdays, and school getting in the way, but then I met my agent. For the first time, I was able to see her for dinner, along with three other clients, here in NYC and it was fantastic! She's a real, tangible person, not a figment of my writerly imagination. I can't even tell you how awesome it feels to know I have such an amazing person in my corner. Her confidence is truly contagious.

I suppose the point of me telling you this, is that you can do it. Whether you are still trying to craft the perfect story, or you already have an agent, a publishing contract, a physical book with your name on it, you are a writer. I forget who said it, but there is a quote floating around the web that says something like, "Writing isn't something you do. It's who you are." Nobody understands that like a writer.

I know how daunting rewriting and revising can be, but don't you feel better when you do it? No matter how many bags of twizzlers, cups of coffee, or bowls of ice cream that it takes to get it done, you've done it, and that's an amazing accomplishment. So pat yourself on the back, because you are a writer.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Just Because

So, this post is not writing related, but it made my day, which is otherwise gloomy and wet, and so I thought I would share it with you. Veronica Mars had pretty much cemented my love for Kristen Bell, but I think even if I hated the show, I would still love her after seeing this:

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Hope you're having a great hump day!
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