Friday, December 24, 2010

A Vegetarian at Honeybaked Ham

When I was tasked with getting a Honeybaked Ham for Christmas dinner, I thought, why not? How hard could it be? I'll just go to the store and grab a hunk of meat.

It turns out that getting dropped in the middle of an angry group of warlords and their rhinoceros bodyguards would be less intimidating. Keep in mind that I became a vegetarian at age 5 after a traumatic experience with my babysitter involving a rather vivid visual of Betsy the big brown-eyed cow no longer roaming the grassy fields because she was now on my hamburger bun. When I discovered that Wilbur the pig, Chicken Little, and the cute Thanksgiving turkey were also being killed in the name of dinner, I conducted research via my farm animals pop-up book and gave my parents an itemized list of cute animals I would no longer be eating.

My parents thought this was just a phase, but after a few weeks, they realized what a stubborn little girl they'd birthed, and resorted to guerilla tactics--like hiding meat in my food...which I found. This then forced me to go through a lengthy food inspection at each meal and before long, I'd invoked a hunger strike. Eventually, and with some trepidation, my parents shook their heads and gave up, slightly terrified of my will and worried what that force of nature would turn into during my teenage years.

I still feel the same about little animals, and have been a vegetarian for 25 years. I won't prepare meat or cook it myself, but it doesn't bother me when other people eat it, which is why I agreed to the Honeybaked Ham trip. I arrived at the store, thinking I'd park, grab a ham, and get back to my coffee in the car. As I walked up to the door, I saw a line. And not just any line, this line stretched out the door, and wound its way into a neighboring store, complete with poles and tape as a guide to get people through the maze. This feat of people herding put the airport security line to shame.

I looked around, wondering if there was some sort of Justin Bieber concert--I mean, that would be the only logical explanation for a line long enough to last through Valentine's Day. But Bieber was no where to be found and after sidling up to a few people in the line herd, I surmised that this was, in fact, the ham exodus. I bided my time Twittering and Facebooking about my experience, then decided to play Duck Hunt on my phone. Here's a tip: Turn off the sound if you're playing a game where you shoot guns while in a very crowded ham line.

After 45 minutes, I finally got to the front of the line--which felt a lot like being in a concert mosh pit at a Neil Diamond concert--and it was there that I was confronted with a rather uncomfortable situation: the order. Here's the thing...sending a vegetarian into the Honeybaked Ham store is a lot like telling one of the orcs from the Lord Of the Rings that they are about to be the lead in The Nutcracker Ballet. Like a lumbering dancing orc, I was completely clueless, and out of my comfort zone.

I muddled through the order, not sure what exactly I was buying, or how to prepare it. The nice clerk helping me took the time to unwrap the ham and show me my purchase. When she asked if it looked okay, I noted the pinkness of it and gave a slight nod, then looked at her with a disconcerted expression and said, "I'm a vegetarian," cue the gasps from the people surrounding me. Worried about the angry patrons and not wanting my obituary to read that I was bludgeoned to death by a Honeybaked Ham, I continued in a quieter voice, "I really don't know what it's supposed to look like. Does it look all right to you?"

She nodded and gave me a concerned smile as she glanced behind me, clearly worried about the crowd. Then she handed me the ham with no warning that I needed to prepare my arm for a chunk of meat heavier than Hercules' bowling ball. I made it to the check out stand as I put my shoulder back into its socket, paid for my ham, and sat in my car taking a few cleansing deep breaths. Then I turned the key in the ignition and started to drive away when my car began beeping at me, clearly unhappy with the meat passenger I'd mistakenly plopped in the front seat. Apparently my car's weight sensor thought my ham-child needed to be buckled in.

When I got home, I put the ham in the fridge and breathed a sigh of relief that my Honeybaked adventure was over. Next Christmas, my carnivore husband can go to the store.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Droids and Other Disasters

You know how sometimes your grandma calls and says something interesting like: "My computer is sick and the pictures on the screen keep jumping around like bunnies." So you go to her house only to find an industrial grade magnet the size of your thigh stuck to the motherboard side of her desktop computer. You take the magnet off, explain that magnets are to computers what the iceberg was to the Titanic, and you all have a laugh about technological shenanigans at family gatherings for years to come. (And yes, that really did happen). Well, that's a bit like how I feel about my new Motorola Droid 2 smart phone.

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know the confusion that occurred. Aside from needing (and lacking) an instruction manual the size of an unabridged dictionary, I immediately had technical difficulties. After turning the phone off Wednesday night, I decided I might need to make some calls on Thursday, or be otherwise connected to the rest of the world. In my opinion, that was not an unreasonable request.

Soon after turning the phone on, I started getting text messages from friends saying that 5 days worth of previous text messages had just been resent. The Droid did this all by itself, thus making me question how smart my phone actually was. I decided there was a good possibility it was inhabited by the Prince of Darkness himself. Friends, especially those who were displeased with the duplicate messages, received another message that I may or may not have had something to do with saying something like: "Since you were one of the lucky recipients of a duplicate text message, congratulations, you have been chosen. Hellfire and Brimstone wishes, from the Prince of Darkness. Future owner of your sooouuuul." (And yes, the Prince of Darkness does sound a little like the Dread Pirate Roberts).

My Droid's evil tendencies prompted me to name it Megatron, but then I remembered I've already cristened a car and other complicated things that piss me off with that name. So, I decided on MM (Mini Megatron) instead. I took MM back to the store and exchanged it. So far the new phone isn't showing signs of possession, but with my genetics (see Mom story below, and Grandma story above), I never rule anything out.

Technology related disasters are not an isolated event in my family. My mom (AKA: The Destroyer) manages to crash her hard drive at least once every 3 months. Soon, Best Buy is going to stop allowing her to buy their product protection plans. I can't begin to fathom the amount of money they're losing. Recently, The Destroyer was asked to teach a Computer Basics class to the good Spanish speaking folk of her little Florida town. Problem number 1: She is The Destroyer. Problem number 2: The Destroyer doesn't speak Spanish. I call bad judgment on the part of the class organizers. Really. Bad. Judgment.

I didn't attend the class since The Destroyer and Grandma were already there, and two generations of catastrophe-causing family members in one location with a bunch of computers seemed like enough of a recipe for the apocolypse. But I hear The Destroyer taught the Spanish people several words they weren't even aware existed. Most of these words ended in the letter "o" (ie. mouseo, keyboardo, Windowso). Next, they'll have her teaching a class on the Droid. Hijinks, hilarity and the possibility of the homeland security threat level sprinting to red will ensue.

For me, I've figured out the basics. Turning the phone on and off is a breeze, and after a brief breakdown and screaming that might have resulted in the neighbors calling animal control, I was able to figure out how to unlock the phone to answer my phone call. And don't even get me started on all the apps! This is information overload I tell you! I can't help but question why one might need Twitter access while, say, taking a bathroom break. I find myself wondering if I really want to be this connected.

My extremely intelligent software architect husband doesn't have this problem. In fact, he's in love. In the last three days, it has become blindingly clear that if he could take his Droid Incredible as a second wife, he would. Perhaps there's even a succubus living inside his phone planting these thoughts in his head. Considering the possession abilities already demonstrated in my Droid, one should definitely not rule this possibility out. Husband spent 6 hours with his phone on Wednesday, another 7 hours last night, and tonight he asked me to use the Droid to map the closest Post Office even though we've lived in this neighborhood and used its Post Office for 5 years.

Despite the possession, my husband's obsession, and a family with anti-technological genetics capable of taking down a small country, I really do think the Droid is handy. Everything is so much more convenient now and I can keep in touch and get my work done without sitting in front of a computer 24 hours a day. If I can pass the learning curve and the Prince of Darkness doesn't make a reappearance, I see a bright future for MM and me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween!!!!

I woke up today to three inches of snow outside. After some colorful language, I felt better and decided it was okay since this is Utah where there are days you have to use both your heater and your air conditioner. I'm so not ready for summer to be over, but I am excited because...

It's Halloween!!! My favorite month, my favorite season (Autumn is BEAUTIFUL in Utah when it doesn't snow!!) And my favorite holiday! I usually spend the whole month watching scary movies, reading scary books, and trying to scare the pants off myself.

I live in the Utah suburbs which means I'm surrounded by children. There are over 70 kids on my street alone...and my street only has 18 houses. As you can imagine, Halloween is C-R-A-Z-Y here!!! We usually get between 200-500 trick-or-treaters, though numbers have been dwindling lately since my Dad started visiting on Halloween to terrorize the children. He dresses up as a scary monster wearing stilts. I imagine he resembles what a ringwraith from The Lord of the Rings would look like if they took their hoods off.

He's about 9 feet tall with the stilts on and usually leans against the house looking like a decoration until the older kids come by and then he slowly moves away and starts following them. They try to run, but with the stilts, he can cover about 4 feet per step. Being chased by a 9 foot tall ringwraith and the embodiment of nightmares has to be pretty traumatizing. My dad's been using this tactic since I was about 8 years old and once threatened to greet all my dates that way. Luckily he didn't follow through.

The candy is ready to go, the DVR is set to record Ghost Hunters Live, Dad is sanding his stilts, and the pumpkins are carved (see pics below). It's going to be a great!

So...what are you doing for Halloween?

This is our dog, Pippin's, pumpkin.


This is Pippin.


My 30 year old husband's pumpkin. I think he loves Nintendo more now than he did in 1990.


And I'm obsessed with the Mercy Thompson novels by Patricia Briggs. Mercy can shift into a coyote, hence the coyote paw. :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Want A Prize?

Heather, one of my amazing writer friends, is having a giveaway on her blog! There are a lot of cool prizes like books, bookmarks, original artwork and a $30 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card.

Check it out if you like awesome prizes. And sign up to follow Heather's blog because she's such an awesome, talented gal! :)

Heather's Blog, Lost in the View

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blind in the Friendly Skies

When two legally blind kids are left alone in an international airport with a train that looks a lot like a ride at Disney World, will they make their flight, or wander around Atlanta International surviving on Cinnabon?

No, no, it's not a story I made up, it's my life.

My younger brother and sister were both born with Peter's Anomaly Plus Syndrome. It's so rare that my brother was one of the first in the world to be diagnosed with it. People with Peter's Anomaly are born blind, without pupils. There are a host of other problems that often go along with it including dwarfism, hearing problems, and speech problems. As babies, my bro and sis's doctors were able to figure out a way to give them pupils, and eyesight; they now have limited vision, though they're legally blind. When their eyesight started getting worse because of the dry Utah weather, their doctors said they had to move to humid Florida.

They've been in Florida for two years now, but because Peter's Anomaly Plus is so rare, the only doctor who can treat them is the doctor who pioneered the sight saving surgeries for them...and he's in Utah. What this means is that two or three times a year, my mostly blind bro and sis have to get on a plane and fly all the way across the country on their own. My family learned a long time ago that having my bro and sis around would be the catalyst for many interesting situations, but we were never, NEVER I tell you, prepared for the adventure that is Delta's round-trip airline flight with connections.

The good people at Delta have a handy feature that allows me, the reservation maker, to note on the ticket that the person flying is visually impaired. Great! I thought, as I clicked the "Visually Impaired" button. Someone will help my bro and sis get to the plane so they don't accidentally wind up in a bathroom stall waiting for the toilet to take off. Unfortunately, the visually impaired check box comes with a catch...you have to ride in a wheelchair in order for a Delta representative to help you...something my bro and sis--who are perfectly capable of walking--kind of resent.

When presented with the option of wheelchair or no help at all, they took no help and wandered around the airport like a modern-day Moses, trying to find the way to their gate, which they couldn't see because the gate signs were too small for them to read. After searching forever (okay, it was really only an hour but felt like more to me, their angst ridden sister who was awaiting a text that they were safely on the plane) they found their gate and the nice flight attendants helped them to their seats--apparently wheelchairs aren't required for seat assistance.

One hurdle down, one iceberg-sized hurdle to go...the connection in Atlanta (only one of the biggest airports in the U.S.). Before Delta decided to marry Northwest and adopt a fleet of smaller airline babies, getting my bro and sis on their connection wasn't nearly as difficult because their connecting flight was usually in the same terminal as the flight they just deplaned. No more my friends.

After asking for help finding their connecting flight, they were pointed down a hall and told to take the escalators and turn left, which they did, and it took them to a train. Keep in mind that my bro and sis grew up in Utah. The only trains my bro and sis have experience with were once fueled by coal.

So my bro and sis shrug as they're pushed on the train and then take a moment to wonder if they're on their way to Hogwarts. Bro is a little concerned when he can't find Harry Potter and starts looking around for help when he spots them! No, not Hermione and Harry, it's even better! An airline employee pushing a guy in a wheelchair. Bro grabs my sis, a plan clear in his mind. Obviously that guy wasn't upset about being hauled around in a wheelchair and since he's in a wheelchair, he's probably going to the same place as them! Finding their gate is as simple as following wheelchair guy!

The train stops, flight attendant and wheelchair guy get off, and bro and sis follow like tiny stalkers, though I imagine most stalkers have better sight and can keep a longer distance. By some miracle, wheelchair guy happens to be in the same terminal as bro and sis, and not only the same terminal, but on the same flight!!! That's right, out of all the flights in Atlanta, the guy my bro and sis followed to find their flight was actually on their flight. If that's not evidence of guardian angels, or at least fairies, I'm not sure what is.

Of course, I didn't get this whole story until by some miracle, they managed to land in Salt Lake.

*shakes head*

I can't wait to see what happens next week when they have to fly back. At least my life is never boring.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review: The Broken Lake by Shelena Shorts

From the Publisher

In the aftermath of Sophie's ordeal, Weston will make some uncharacteristic decisions to distance himself from the past in an attempt to change the future.

But, while venturing into the improbable, the present sneaks up in a chilling way that will lead to Wes' unexpected submission. Suddenly, Sophie will find herself watching as both his immortal secret and his own existence are threatened.

Continuously intriguing, The Broken Lake takes readers to a place where eternal bonds confront a division that is sure to leave everyone wondering whom they can trust.


My Review

5 out of 5 stars!

I'm usually wary of second books in a series, but I liked The Broken Lake almost as much as The Pace. The Broken Lake begins where The Pace left off and Wes is quickly forced to confront the aftermath of Sophie's abduction and Andy's death (which took place at the end of The Pace). Because of Andy's death, the research being done at Wes's laboratories is now putting Wes in the public eye, which is the last thing Wes or Sophie want. Too much attention could be a threat to Wes and the secrets he hides.

Because of the media attention and the history of Sophie's lifespan, Wes and Sophie take advantage of every moment they have together. And The Broken Lake spends a lot of time exploring Wes and Sophie's relationship. I enjoyed learning more about the two characters, and bits and pieces about their past. It was also nice to see their relationship grow as they tried to change what seems like an inevitable future. This book also gives an interesting explanation for why Sophie's lifespan is so short and I'm curious to see where that aspect of the story goes in future books. This book is definitely focused on the love story as opposed to Wes and Sophie's history and the science behind it, but at its heart, I feel like love is what The Pace Series is all about.

My one complaint is that The Broken Lake ends in a cliffhanger, which always leaves me feeling like I didn't get the whole story. Overall though, I really enjoyed the book and was happy to have another chance to live in Wes and Sophie's world. I'm excited for the third book in the series, The Iron Quill.

Thanks so much to Michelle at Windowpanes Memoirs Book Tours for including me in The Broken Lake ARC tour.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton


I first met Courtney Allison Moulton through YAlitchat.ning.com (a networking & informational site for YA writers). If you aren't on the site and you're a YA writer, you need to be. Courtney gave me some tips for making a book trailer and in the process, I saw the trailer for her book, Angelfire--I couldn't wait to read it! I love books with a kick-ass heroine (which YA seems to lack more often than not) and was so excited about Courtney's book!

Now Courtney has Angelfire ARCs and she's giving one away! So go to her blog to enter the contest! Angelfire is the first book in an urban fantasy trilogy with a great story, awesome characters, and some romance too. I think it's going to be the next big YA series, so go to her blog and check it out right away!!!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Slush Pile Hell

I've been super busy revising Branson Falls. The most important thing I've learned from Eternal Starling, and my successful author friends, is that you must revise, revise, revise and when you think you're done revising, do it again. I feel so good about Branson Falls and want to make sure it's the best it can be before I start to query.

But, that's not to say I don't need a break sometimes and this link on an agent's Twitter account today made me giggle. So for your enjoyment, check out slush pile hell.

http://slushpilehell.tumblr.com/

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Your Mission Is...

I know, you were expecting me to explain your mission right away, don't worry, I'll get to that.

I just started another round of revisions on Branson Falls. I'm almost to the point where I use the FIND feature in Word to locate all the words in my manuscript that end with "ly." Why in the world would I take the time to do that you ask? Because as Stephen King says, "The road to hell is paved with adverbs," and most words that end in "ly" are adverbs.

*Cue the "Mission Impossible" theme music now*

When I get to the point that I feel a manuscript is close to querying, I always go through it to see if the adverbs I've used add to the sentence and if they don't, I try to get rid of them. There's no way to take all of the adverbs out of a manuscript, and they're not all bad. The adverbs I'm talking about are the ones that stick out like a sore thumb...the ones that make a reader want to scream because the constant use of adverbs in place of descriptions makes it hard for the reader to connect to the story. The ones I notice the most when I read are adverbs used as part of dialogue tags.

I'm not sure why, but adverb overload seems to be common in the YA genre. Before Amazing Ashley got her red pen out to edit Eternal Starling, I had a lot of lines of dialogue ending with things like, 'she said, obviously,' and 'he said, frantically.' For me, the adverb dialogue tags were a result of my inexperience as a novelist and I was able to learn from that mistake and improve my writing skills.

Ashley gave me some good advice for how to fix the problem in later drafts and other WIPs. She told me I need to write how a character's emotions are reflected in their actions and show how the character is feeling instead of telling it. The show, don't tell line is one I've heard a lot, but no one has ever been able to explain to me as well as Ashley did when she suggested I watch the TV show "Lie To Me." I couldn't believe how much it helped to watch the show and see how facial expressions and body language were analyzed to figure out how a person was feeling. Now I'm a lot better at descriptions and as I write, I can see how the character's body is reacting in my mind. Here's an example...

Instead of saying:

"Who do you think you are?" she asked, angrily."

I think of the character and envision how they would really react in the situation, then I try to write that.

She folded her arms across her chest, her fingers digging into her skin like she was trying to hold back a punch. The muscles in her shoulders tensed as she pulled her brows into a dark glare and asked, "Who do you think you are?"

See the difference? Unlike the vague first example, the second example offers a physical description to explain how the character is feeling instead of just telling the reader the character is angry. You can go into a lot more detail than I did but to me, the second example is much more interesting and gives the reader a better idea of the character, her actions, and her feelings. The detail in the second example creates an image in the mind of the reader, and helps them identify with the character. It also makes the character more believable.

So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go through your manuscript and get rid of the adverbs that aren't needed.

Speaking of characters...I better get back to my revisions. Drop me a line in the comments and tell me what you think about adverbs. :)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sex and the City 2


When the first Sex and the City movie came out, I forced my husband to come with me to see it (this was my version of punishment for him wanting a BIG wedding and making me plan the whole blasted thing with no help). This time he hadn't done anything worthy of making him sit through a 2 1/2 hour chick-flick, so I went to Sex and the City 2 with some girlfriends instead.

Let me first say that Liza Minnelli dancing and singing to Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies" was worth the ticket price all by itself. The movie had a lot of funny moments and I enjoyed the interaction between Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte. The reappearance of Carrie's Dior newspaper dress made me fall in love with the dress, and show, all over again. I liked the woman-empowering theme of the movie and despite having to suspend belief a bit (especially about some of the situations in Abu Dhabi), the movie was a lot of fun and perfect for a girls night out.

However, as my husband and several other people pointed out, the movie got horrible reviews. And I have to say, the critics had some good points. The dialogue was silly in spots and there was no real plot to speak of. I definitely see the complaint that the movie seemed to focus on fashion and shoes (but when hasn't Sex and the City been about those things).

Usually bad dialogue and lack of a plot turn me off regardless of the medium (TV, movies, books)--but Sex and the City is different. I've been trying to figure out why that's the case and I think it's because I'm much more forgiving of characters I've already spent time getting to know and falling in love with. I think the same is true for anything in a series, whether it's a TV show, movie, or a book. I don't always like every book in a series, but just because I think some parts of a story fall through the cracks, it doesn't mean I want to give up on the characters. I've already developed a love for them and committed my time to becoming a part of their world. I want to know what's going to happen to them and continue watching them grow...even if there are stumbles along the way.

I'm sure another Sex and the City movie will come out and regardless of whether critics think it's good or bad, I'll be there on opening night because I love the characters, the stories, and I enjoy seeing what will happen to them next...even if they do end up on a camel in the middle of the Arabian desert wearing $500 shoes.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Preface / Prologue Part 2

Now that you know whether you have a preface or a prologue, you have to decide if you really need it.


If you read ANY agent blogs or follow agents on Twitter, you will see that a good majority of them HATE prologues and prefaces. A lot of them even say it turns them off of the manuscript completely. Many of the agents I follow say they can't gauge your writing, your voice, or the tone of the book based on a preface or prologue. Also, think about one of the cardinal rules of writing. You never dump backstory into your first chapters. You always want to craft the backstory into the plot throughout the book. But, by using a preface or a prologue, you're essentially dumping backstory on the agent in the first few pages.

My personal opinion is that I don't mind prologues, but I despise prefaces. A prologue serves a purpose for the story. You need the information from the prologue to understand the rest of the book. But a preface is just a retelling of something (usually part of the climax) that happens later in the story. I've had so many authors tell me they included a preface because they felt like they wouldn't be able to pull a reader in with their first chapter. If you can't grab a reader with the first few pages of your first chapter, you're certainly not going to be able to get an agent's attention. I've even read that some agents completely disregard prologues/prefaces sent to them. Agents are trying to get a feel for your writing style, voice, and the plot. They can't do that from a prologue/preface. If you're worried that your first chapter, or even your first few paragraphs won't keep a reader's attention, you need to rewrite.

Now I know you're thinking that if prologues and prefaces are so unpopular with agents, why do so many books have them? I've wondered that myself and this is my theory...I think a lot of editors like what a prologue or preface can do for a book. Most people buying a book like to scan the first few pages of the book before they buy it. If there's something interesting in those first few pages, a reader is much more likely to buy the book so they can find out what happens. My day job is in marketing/advertising/PR and from a marketing perspective, the preface prologue strategy makes a lot of sense. I’m sure there are other reasons as well--like maybe to help the audience understand an important part of the book or something intense or emotional the character is going through--but like I said, from a marketing perspective, it’s a very good idea. So while agents may not like prologues and prefaces, it's smart marketing on the side of the editor and publishing house.

So where does this leave you? Well, if you already have a prologue or preface, take a serious, unbiased look at it and ask yourself if it's really important enough to your book to risk the possibility of turning an agent off by sending it with your query. If you choose not to include your preface or prologue, it doesn't mean you have to give it up. Keep it around because an editor might want it someday. :)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Is it a Preface or a Prologue??? Part 1

Whew!!! I finished my Branson Falls revisions!!! *Happy Dance*

I started this post about prologues and prefaces a while ago and as I've been working on it, it just keeps getting longer. I decided to split it into two posts, so for the first, I offer you a definition.

Prologues and prefaces seem to be all the rage lately--especially in YA books. Since Eternal Starling was YA, I seriously debated whether I should put one in. I mean, lots of other YA writers were doing it, should I do it too? The problem is that I'm not a preface or prologue fan. And I found out most agents aren't preface or prologue fans either (more on that in post #2). I had to decide what I wanted to do with Eternal Starling, but first, I needed to find out what the difference between a preface and prologue actually was!

There are SO many conflicting ideas out there about this--everywhere from mywriterscircle.com to absolutewrite.com. I finally found an answer that made sense to me and then found the same answer over and over again as I researched. Though, like I said, the opinions are conflicting, so feel free to do your own research and decide for yourself. You can also check this link from writersandeditors.com for a more detailed prologue and preface definition summary.

If you're confused like I was, read on for a definition and example.

A prologue is used to give the reader critical information that happens before the story starts. The reader will need that information later to understand what's happening in the book. A good example of this is the prologue in Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick. The prologue happens in a completely different century than when the book takes place, but the information in the prologue is important to the plot of the book.

A preface is a retelling of something that happens later in the book and is often used as a way to hook a reader. A good example of this is the preface for Twilight. A lot of YA books use this tool as a way to get the audience immediately interested in the book and make them want to keep reading.

Now you know the difference, you can check your own preface or prologue and figure out what it actually is! In the next few days I'll post my take on why so many agents seem to hate prefaces and prologues, but editors seem to love them.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Editing Cave

I know my posts have been sparse lately. Some of you probably thought I accidentally mud and taped myself to the basement wall. While I have no doubt that could, and probably will happen, we are still hanging drywall and haven't gotten to the mud and tape stage yet. (FYI, did you know they have self-adhesive mesh tape now instead of the paper tape that attacks you as you try to put in on the drywall? The mesh tape might just save my life!).

The real reason for my lack of posts is that I'm in my editing cave. I'm about half way through my revisions on Branson Falls and hope to finish them in the next couple of days! Then I'll send the ms. off to my crit-partners for comments and more revisions. Ah, it seems like it never ends. At least the query is done though, and I'm still planning to start sending out queries at the end of May.

I'm actually pretty excited to finish, not only because I love having a shiny new manuscript to query, but also because I have many topics I want to blog about including a question that many writers seem confused on: the difference between a preface and a prologue. And because I'm a little bit opinionated (my husband literally laughed out loud when he read that), I'll give my take on prefaces and prologues, as well as why agents hate them, but editors seem to love them.

So, keep checking back because I'll be out of my cave soon! Thanks for reading!!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Vacation and Revisions

I just got back from visiting my brother and sister and my grandparents in beautiful Florida! And we were there at the perfect time...it wasn't even humid! We were gone for a week and as soon as we got home my dad picked us up from the airport and we started working on the basement...again.

It's been a great learning experience but I think we'll make sure the basement in our next house is finished before we move in. We started hanging drywall today and I don't think I've ever been so excited in my life!!! I also rolled my ankle while I was trying to hook up our trailer so I could take it to Lowe's and exchange a door. Here's a tip: don't try and hook up a trailer by yourself when the trailer is sitting on a slope. I can still hobble along though, so I don't think I broke anything. I should probably go to the doctor and find out, but I have an irrational fear of hospitals and usually won't frequent them unless I think I'm dying.

Since I'm not much help in the basement with my maybe-broken ankle, I decided to read through the Branson Falls edits I got in the mail from Amazing Ashley while I was in Florida. I seriously don't know what I'd do without her. If you don't have someone in your life who will point out all the crap and inconsistencies in your manuscript, you HAVE to find that person. Amazing Ashley reads my manuscripts like an editor or agent and her help is invaluable. I've already told her I'm in debt to her for at least one Corvette, but she's worth A LOT more than that!

I haven't started revisions yet because Amazing Ashley wants to go through her comments with me page-by-page before I start rewriting. Yes, that's right, page-by-page because that's how fantastic Amazing Ashley is. Revisions always kick my butt and I know I have a lot of work still to do on Branson Falls, but for now, I'm hoping I can start to query in a month. I feel really good about the book though and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that an agent will like it as much as my beta-readers do!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Thirty!!!

First, let me say that there's no real reason for the Brandon Routh picture except that I wanted to post a little eye candy to celebrate my 30th birthday! And let's be honest, eye candy is never a bad thing.

Since it's now after midnight, I'm officially 30!!! And unlike many of my 30-year-old friends, I'm so excited! I'm not sure why, but I've always felt like good things would happen the year I turned 30. And...as a testament to that, I got the best early birthday present ever a couple of days ago and I'll post more about it soon!

In other news, it seems like I've been in my basement-finishing cave with my dad and husband every spare moment for the past month, but occasionally I poke my head out and work on edits for Branson Heights (which I've recently re-titled Branson Falls). Incidentally, Brandon Routh looks so much like one of the characters in Branson Falls that it makes me wonder if my subconscious had a hand in writing the character. Amazing Ashley finished editing for me a few days ago. She said she was harder on me this time...which makes me a little concerned since I told her to be brutal with Eternal Starling. But, it will just make the book better so I'm excited to get her edits back and start improving the manuscript before I give it to readers and send out queries.

Since it's late, I think I'm going to end this post and continue celebrating 30 by reading a good book before I go to bed. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and I'll post more soon!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Basement and Edits

I know it's been a while since I posted but I promise, I haven't forgotten about my blog! My dad has been in town for the past few weeks and my husband and I have been busy helping him finish the basement in our house! I'm very excited to get it done and start shopping! Speaking of that, if anyone knows of great places to get carpet and tile deals in Utah, please let me know!!!

In addition to the basement, Amazing Ashley has been editing my current book, Branson Heights, for the last week and she's almost done! Yes, she took time out of her busy schedule and several precious days from her spring break to help me out...because she is just that amazing. I'm hoping to get it edited in the next couple of weeks, but for now, I'm off to do more work on the basement! I'll post pictures soon!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fire Petal Books...Check Out The Auction!

For all my children's and YA writer friends, I must introduce you to Fire Petal Books. It's a new bookstore opening in Centerville, Utah, that sells books specifically for kids and teens. It's run by the fabulous Michelle Witte who has worked in the publishing business for several years and decided to follow her passion and open a store for kids who love books. I have no doubt this endeavor will be a huge success. She's already getting press in PW and she has
agent/editor/author friends spreading the word.

I LOVE the idea of the store and want to help her out and maybe help my blog followers too.

Right now Michelle is trying to raise money to get the bookstore off the ground and has decided to hold an auction on her site to do it. She has some fabulous things in her auction including signed copies of books, query critiques, and a manuscript critique by Molly O'Neill, a children's editor at Harper Collins!!! Are you kidding me??? A manuscript critique by a Harper Collins editor??? That is an AH-MAZING item. And there's more where that came from!

Get over there and check out the auction, Michelle's story, and help her with her dream to open Fire Petal Books!!!

http://www.firepetalbooks.com/

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Do You Believe It?

The other night my husband and I popped in the movie 2012. In case you haven't heard about it, or seen it, the movie is supposed to chronicle the events leading up to the end of the world (predicted by the Mayan calender). I cuddled up next to my husband and dog, popcorn in hand, to watch what I'd heard was a special effects masterpiece. For the first thirty minutes or so, I enjoyed the story.

But then I got annoyed.
Really annoyed.
The reason, you ask?

Cell phones. Yes, cell phones. Granted, I understand the whole movie is a stretch of the imagination. And I love getting lost in worlds like that. But I was so annoyed at how unbelievable the cell phone service was, that it took me right out of the story. Seriously, the world is ending. *Mild Spoiler Alert Here* Everything from Seattle to Los Angeles has just fallen into the Pacific Ocean. Every natural disaster you can think of is happening. BUT, the main characters still have cell phone service. Even at the end of the movie...STILL CELL PHONE SERVICE. Honestly Columbia Pictures, who is the cell service provider for these characters??? It got to the point that I was so bothered by how unbelievable that one story line was that I stopped paying attention to everything else going on in the movie and spent the rest of the time playing Mystery Science Theater 3000 with my husband while our dog, Pippin, scavenged for dropped popcorn pieces.

The amazing cell phones got me thinking about stories and my own writing. Yeah, I've read books with characters or story lines that have thrown me right out of the world the author has created. And it's frustrating, just like the cell phones in the movie. When I read, I want at least one of several things to happen: entertain me, force me to think in a way I haven't before, help me learn something new, or make me ask myself questions I haven't thought of before. I read as an escape and the last thing I want is to be pulled out of a book because of something about the story that seems too unreal. As writers, we have to be careful to make our stories believable. And it doesn't matter what you write: romance, mystery, historical, sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, etc. The concept applies to every book, every character, and every reaction. All aspects of your story need to be believable in the world you've created. If they're not, you run the risk of losing your reader because the story isn't true to the characters/world you've made.

So, I have to thank 2012 and its super cell phone service for...
1. Letting me know that a cell phone tower is the safest place to be when the world ends.
2. Reminding me that I always need to read through my manuscripts and see them as my audience does.
3. Helping me remember to make sure readers can truly believe all aspects of my books.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Query Me This...

I just finished my read-through and edit of the first draft of Branson Heights! Now my fabulous 2 first readers are going through it before I give the book to Amazing Ashley--who will no doubt tell me all the things I've done wrong. From there, I'll have a few more beta readers go through it for me, do a final edit, and start to query. Really though, I feel great about this manuscript because of how much I learned from writing and editing Eternal Starling.

I decided to start drafting my query letter, thinking the experience would be as long and painful as writing my last query letter was. So I was shocked when my Branson Heights query seemed to just flow onto the page. The query for Eternal Starling took me about twenty drafts, several phone conversations with Amazing Ashley, as well as advice from an author friend before I got it right. It was truly harder to write than the whole book! I'm not sure what the difference is this time around. Maybe it's because I know what I'm doing now and what agents want, or it might be because Branson Heights came together better and that made it easier to summarize the book in 250 words? But it's nice to know that I learned something and that the more practice I have, the easier it gets.

What about you guys? If you've written more than one novel, do you feel like the whole process from writing to querying is easier with each additional project?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Write Another Book

Several months ago, I had just finished final edits on Eternal Starling and had started sending out queries. I wrote Eternal Starling as the first book in a trilogy and couldn't wait to finish the next two books. I'd gotten about 40K words into the second book and 10K into the third when I went to dinner with a bestselling author friend of mine.

I asked her the question that every writer dreads . . . what if no one wants my novel?

She said, "You write another book." In fact, her advice was to write another book regardless. She said as soon as you start querying, you write something else.

Okay, I thought, that's what I'm doing. I'm already working on the second and third books in the Eternal Starling trilogy. But, then I really considered the second and third book. And here's the thing . . . what's the point of working on two sequels that probably won't sell if no one is interested in the first book in the trilogy? (I know, I know. You can almost hear the sound of the light bulb clicking in my head).

My friend said she had to write three novels before she finally got an agent and then she got one of the most amazing agents in the business. Seriously. One of the best. And even with the agent equivalent of Superman, the book she wrote didn't sell. Her agent tipped her off to a new subject that was gaining in popularity and my friend wrote her debut novel, the same novel that made her a bestselling author.

I just sent my last round of queries for Eternal Starling and I'm still waiting to hear from agents who have partials on the book, but I realized I don't want to put all my eggs in the Eternal Starling basket. I decided to take the advice of my friend and leave the Eternal Starling world behind for a while and write something else. A month ago, I started my contemporary YA, and the chick-lit mystery I just finished.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I got an email from an agent. This particular agent asked for a partial with the query letter. She read my partial and emailed me to say Eternal Starling wasn't for her, but she thought I had a good voice for YA and chick-lit and she'd like to read any other projects I was working on.

First, I was completely elated! A personal response from an agent! An agent who liked my writing enough to tell me she wanted to read other things I'm working on! I mean, a real agent who brokers six-figure deals thinks I have a good voice and thinks I can write. Maybe I'm not insane after all and I do have a tiny bit of talent.

Second, I breathed a huge sigh of relief that I had followed the advice from my friend and written another book. I was able to email the agent back and say, actually, I am working on other books. I'm almost finished with a chick-lit mystery and I just started a contemporary YA. I told her I'd send her the manuscripts as soon as I finished them and she responded with an enthusiastic thank you and that she looked forward to reading them.

Taking a step back from the book I put so much time into wasn't easy. I was so involved in the Eternal Starling world that it was hard to let it go and come up with other ideas I wanted to work on. But because I did, I have an agent who knows who I am and wants to read my other manuscripts. Because I wrote something else instead of continuing my trilogy, I am a step closer to finding an agent.

Only you can decided when you're ready to write something new. For me, it took a while to find another idea I was as passionate about as Eternal Starling, but now I'm really glad I did. And I'll be forever grateful to my author friend who gave me the good advice to write another book.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

First Drafts and Outlining

Can I just say how much I LOVE writing a first draft! For me, there's such a sense of freedom at starting a new story. Maybe it's because I've been writing/editing/revising Eternal Starling for the last two years, but I'm in love with the two new books I'm working on! There's just something about getting to create a new world and meet new characters.

About two weeks ago, I started working on a contemporary YA and a chick-lit romance/mystery. The mystery has been moving at a really good pace so I've decided to finish it first. I'm 100 pages into it and I should be able to reach my goal of finishing the first draft by the end of February.

Let me just say, Eternal Starling did not get written nearly as fast as this book and I think it's because of the different ways I outlined the two books.

With Eternal Starling, I did a skeletal outline of the story. I knew the basics, but I kind of let the characters take me where they wanted to go. If you've read my past posts you know I wrote Eternal Starling in 3 months, then I ended up spending a year doing revision after revision (I think I had about 10 different drafts) because I didn't know my story well enough when I first wrote it. This time around, I decided that since the book was a mystery novel, I needed a more detailed outline. I can't believe the difference it has made. Knowing where the story is going makes it much easier to just fill in the blanks. I know not everyone likes to write that way, and I didn't think I'd like it either, but it worked for this book. I'll have to wait and see if it works for other books I write.

How do you guys feel about first drafts? Do you love them or hate them and just want to get the ideas on paper so you can revise? And what about outlining? Do you write with a detailed outline, or just a basic idea of where the story is going?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Learning from Mistakes

I've been busy the last week working on two new novels. One is a YA, the other is an adult mystery. Writing these two new books has made me realize all the mistakes I made with the first drafts of Eternal Starling. Eternal Starling was my first book and I was learning as I wrote. I feel like my writing has improved dramatically because of my mistakes and what I learned from them, so I thought it might help my other writer friends to post about some of those issues.

1. Contractions!!! Who knew these silly things can be the difference between your dialogue sounding authentic, or forced. Throughout college and for the past eight years, I've worked in the professional writing world where contractions are a sign of poor writing. But in fiction, if you don't use contractions, your dialogue sounds crazy. I'd know, mine was almost contractionless when my beta editor Amazing Ashley got a hold of it. Which leads me to another point...

2. Read out loud! There are so many things you catch by actually hearing what you wrote. Awkward pauses, phrases that don't fit, contractions that aren't being used. I'm not saying break out your manuscript and force your dog and significant other to listen to a 325 page reading, but if you have a section that doesn't seem to be working, read it out loud and more often than not, it will help you fix the problem.

3. Awhile. This is a tricky little word and honestly, until Amazing Ashley pointed it out, I thought it was always one word. It's not. The rule I've read about it says that it's one word if you mean a short period of time, and two words if you mean a longer period of time (usually defined as more than an hour). A good rule of thumb for it is whether the word 'for' precedes awhile. If you say for a while, then it's always two words. If there's not a for in front of awhile, it's up to you whether you decide to use it as one word or two.

4. Painless Grammar. When Amazing Ashley finished editing Eternal Starling she gave me a copy of a reference book that looks like it should be given to a third grader. I take comfort in the fact that Amazing Ashley also recommends said third grader book to her college English students. Painless Grammar was so helpful to me while I tried to remember grammar rules, especially because I've been using AP Stylebook rules for so long in my career. For fiction and even non-fiction writing, it seems like most editors tend to follow the guidelines in the Chicago Manual of Style. And if you pick up the Chicago Manual of Style to look for rules, I wish you well. Trying to find information in that massive reference manual is harder than finding the Fountain of Youth.

5. Italics. Should you use them? And if you do should you underline them? I know some agents abhor italics, others don't mind them. Some agents say that if they ask for a submission they want italic words underlined instead of italicized, others don't. This is one of those rules that you just have to research to find out what the agent wants. In all the submissions I've sent, I've left the italic words italicized because the agents haven't stipulated one way or another. But like I said, it differs depending on the agent.

Those are all things I can think of for now. I'll add more as I remember them though. What about you wordsmiths? What did you realize you needed to fix as you were writing/revising your manuscripts?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Happy Award!

Cute Courtney Reese was nice enough to give me a Happy Award for my blog. She's a writer with excellent taste in books and a really cool blog layout. Since I've been busy beta reading for one of my critique partners, I've neglected posting much this past week. So the Happy Award gives me an excuse to take time and post ten things that make me happy.

1. My hyper Pomeranian, Pippin, who makes me feel like a star every time I walk into a room.

2. Laughing so hard my stomach hurts.

3. Modern Family, Arrested Development, Glee, and especially Lost!!! I can't wait for Season 6!!!

4. Cupcakes. If it wasn't for my relationship with the cupcake shop, I doubt I'd get any writing or revisions done at all.

5. A good book with characters I fall in love with and want to read again and again.

6. The kiss between Aragorn and Arwen at the end of The Lord of The Rings, Return of The King. Every man on earth should have to take kissing lessons from that scene.

7. The gnocchi at Cucina Toscana in Salt Lake City.

8. The sound of a V8 muscle car.

9. The smell of rain.

10. Hearing a great song that I haven't heard in awhile and remembering how much I love it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Honest Scrap Blog Award

The lovely Kristin Rae was nice enough to give me my first blog award! As part of accepting the Honest Scrap Award, I'm supposed to post 10 things about myself. So, here are some things you might not know about me.

1. I've been a vegetarian since I was 5. My parents weren't thrilled about my choice and tried to change my mind, but I was a stubborn little kid.

2. I seem to meet famous people at restaurants. Ben Affleck at Hard Rock in Salt Lake City, Michael Jordan at Ghidotti's in Park City.

3. I plan on getting a tattoo for my 80th birthday.

4. Since childhood, I've been terrified of the TV show Dr. Who because of an evil red-eyed monster I saw on the show. To this day if I hear the theme music, I still get chills and cover my ears.

5. I'm a germ freak. I always carry anti-bacterial spray and clorox wipes.

6. In high school, I spent a good deal of time in fields hunting for the hubcaps that had flown off my 1966 Mustang and taken little adventures on their own.

7. I'm terrified of spiders but I can't kill them. Instead I just trap them under a cup. If my husband sees an upside down cup on the floor, he knows there is a spider waiting and he should dispose of it.

8. The first concert I ever went to was Neil Diamond when I was 11 years old. It took me 8 years of dating my husband before I could admit to him that I'm a Neil fan.

9. Much to my dad's chagrin and wonder at where he went wrong, I am a liberal democrat...one of the few in Utah.

10. My husband has started a numbering system for my fictional boyfriends. Ranger Manoso, Peeta, Jace, and Patch. *sigh*

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Book Trailers

Book trailers are becoming more and more popular so I decided to make one for Eternal Starling. It was surprisingly easy and if I can do it, anyone can! A bunch of my great YA writer friends on YAlitchat.ning.com gave me suggestions on how to make a trailer. I had no idea there were so many options out there. If you're interested in making one of your own, I used a program that came with my laptop, Windows Movie Maker. I used a sample song that also came with my laptop and the pictures are my own. If you're looking for a good place to get photos, you can buy them at istockphoto.com for $1 per image.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Are You Writing A Book? Do This...NOW!!!

Are you working on a book, finished a book, have a outline for book you think you might write in 50 years? You might think this is strange, but here's a suggestion:

Email yourself!

I'm not kidding. As soon as you finish reading this post, do it ASAP and here's why:

Right before I started querying Eternal Starling I stopped by the bookstore and happened to see a display for a YA Fantasy book. I try to read a lot of YA Fantasy since it's one of the genres I write in and I was especially interested in this book because a local author wrote it. I took it home and started reading, then immediately wanted to bang my head against the wall. As I kept reading, I kept wanting to go to the wall for more head banging. The reason? The book had several plot points that were eerily similar to things in my book. I'd never heard of this author or their book before I saw it in the bookstore, and even then, I just picked the book up on a whim.

I frantically spent weeks rewriting many aspects of the plot and cursing the writing gods for giving the other author and myself similar ideas. Eternal Starling is better now because of the revisions, but if I'd just done something as simple as emailing myself, I wouldn't have had to worry...or at least, not as much. This experience taught me what I need to do to protect myself as an author.

Here's the thing: all ideas are essentially ideas other people have had before, they're just packaged in an original way when you write your novel. There's a good chance some other writer out there has an idea comparable to yours. When it comes to getting sued for plagiarism, you only need to be able to prove that the idea in your book was original to you. One of the best ways to do this is to attach the draft you're working on to an email, then send it to yourself and save the email in one of your account folders. How often you do it is up to you, but if I'm working on a writing project, I email an updated draft to myself about once a month. Having these emails with a time stamp on the email/attachment can help protect you if you're ever sued for plagiarism.

I decided to start emailing my drafts after my software engineer husband suggested it as a way to safeguard my work. I also got some information from a patent/copyright attorney. I later found out that even bestselling authors email their drafts to themselves as a way to protect their ideas.

So start emailing yourself my dear writers! Trust me, your head and your wall will thank you. :) If you have other suggestions for protecting your work, I'd love to hear them! Please post in the comments below.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Eternal Starling Story...So Far

Recently I've had some other aspiring authors ask about my experience writing and querying for my novel, Eternal Starling. I thought I should post the answer here so everyone can read it.

My book is a Young Adult Paranormal Romance, though technically, since my main character is starting college, it could be considered Adult. I started writing Eternal Starling in the summer of 2008. I was working on a couple other book projects when I got the idea for E.S. and then I just couldn't get the story out of my head. I wrote Eternal Starling in three months, then gave it to some family members to read (more about that later). I took the input from my family members and edited it myself a few more times before I gave to a friend who is an English Literature Professor (Amazing Ashley). Giving it to her was the best thing I could have done. She ripped it apart. She told me where all the plot holes were, what parts of the book just weren't working, things she liked and didn't like about the characters, and how to improve the manuscript. I spent about 6 weeks working with Amazing Ashley and editing the book before I started sending out query letters. While I was first sending out queries, I kept giving the book to other readers (friends, other writers, people in my target audience) and got feedback from them and continued to make changes to the book based on what they told me. My total number of beta readers was 15 and I had two editors: Amazing Ashley and a journalist friend (Extraordinary Emily).

I decided to send my query letters in rounds so I could learn from each agent response and improve the letter for the next round of queries. You should plan to query between 80-120 agents. Rejection letters are just part of the process so don't get discouraged. I know that's easy to say and it's a lot harder to deal with, but you get immune to it eventually and the rejection is just part of the process. I just repeat the "It's SO subjective" mantra over and over again. It really is about finding the right agent and the agent has to click with your work. And honestly, that's what you want! I know when you start querying you think: An agent! Any agent! The agent could be an ostrich, I don't care, I just want an agent! No, you want the *right* agent. You're hopefully going to spend the rest of your career with this person and they will help shape your writing career. You want to make sure you have the best agent for you and your work. Once you start sending queries and getting rejections, use the rejections to improve your query and your manuscript. If you do that and you have a good query letter, you will get partial and full requests.

My day job is in marketing, advertising and PR so I decided to start marketing my book as soon as I began sending query letters out. I posted a few chapters on my website and Goodreads.com and now I have an audience around the world--which certainly doesn't hurt when it comes time to try and sell the book. I also began networking with agents, editors, editorial assistants, and other authors on Twitter. That's been a huge help because agents/editors/editorial assistants recognize me as someone they tweet with when they see my query. I also read agent blogs every day. The blogs taught me about the publishing industry, what agents were looking for, and how to write a query letter. Nathan Bransford, Kristin Nelson, Janet Reid, and Query Shark, were all really helpful to me while I was trying to learn more about the publishing industry and I still read those blogs now.

The biggest mistake I see other writers make is that they finish their rough draft, read it over a few times, maybe let a couple family members read it, spell check it, and then send it out to agents. Trying to get an agent to read your manuscript can feel daunting, especially now. A few years ago, agents were getting around 50-100 query letters each week, now they're getting between 200-500 a week. So, making sure your query letter is fantastic and your manuscript is pristine is important if you want to get the attention of an agent. While family is great for boosting your confidence and giving you general suggestions, a good editor will be able to find things most readers don't think about (ie. misplaced modifiers, faulty parallelism problems, and general plot issues that most regular readers won't see). Some agents are "editing agents" and they want to help you improve the book before they send it out on submission to publishing houses. Other agents want the book ready to go to publishing houses and won't take you on as a client unless the book is very close to being ready to submit. In any event, make sure you wait to query until your work is as close to perfect as you think you can get it.

The whole process can feel overwhelming and that's why it's important to have other writer friends who understand what you're going through. I don't know what I would do without my writing mentors and a network of people to ask for advice.

That's my story so far. Hope it helps!