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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: MIDNIGHT IN AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale

I would definitely call myself a Shannon Hale fan. BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS is probably my favorite of hers, and unlike so many, GOOSE GIRL (and the Bayern series) is actually lower on my list. I read AUSTENLAND a few years ago and burst out laughing on the dedication page. Good sign. So, when I heard a companion for AUSTENLAND was coming out, I was giddy. Just a few short weeks after it came out (or maybe it was months? I don't know; I often lose track of time ...) Shannon Hale's e-books all went on sale. I snatched up MIDNIGHT IN AUSTENLAND with no qualms.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Different Sort of Review: Why I Stopped Reading

So, I know about half of you drop by here for the book reviews and about half of you show up for the writing stuff. And I know that a lot more of my posts connect to the writers out there. This is probably another one, though it's a jumble of what I put out there for readers -- book reviews -- and writer tips. "Why I Stopped Reading" will be book reviews without naming the books.


Let me explain a bit. Many of you know I'm also a freelance editor and do contract editing work for a small press. That means that sometimes when I read, my editor brain bullies my reader brain. Sometimes I can override it, but sometimes I just can't. So when I stop reading a book, it's usually because my editor brain insists on it. I hope that by doing these reviews, I can give writers an insight into perhaps why an agent or editor doesn't continue reading.

So on to the show.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Excerpt from DARK DAYS OF PROMISE by Shaunna Gonzales

It seems like SO long ago that I helped edit DARK DAYS for Shaunna, but I am SO excited for her that it has been published this week by Desert Breeze Publishing!

Thirty-four year old Vicki Laramie must learn to trust before she can love, but she might die trying.
While Vicki’s children grapple with the death of their father -- a man whom she’s successfully fabricated as loving, a lie her rebellious teenager recognizes -- she must find a way to support her family and find a role model for her boys. She never intends to fall for Staff Sergeant Chase, her best friend’s son, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She’d much rather choose a safer man to love, but her children have a voice in the decision she makes. With two deaths to deal with, a suitor after her money, a rebellious son, and Sergeant Chase’s repeated attacks, she can only hope to survive the danger she faces. If she doesn’t, her children will be left without either parent. 

Cover art provided by Shaunna Gonzales
Don't you just LOVE the cover. I do. I really really love it.

In celebration of DARK DAYS' release, I get to share an excerpt with you!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Three-Hundred Thursday #3

Another first pages participant. I love that you guys are so willing on this. Way to get out there! Way to be brave.


Some secrets shouldn’t be shared. (My opinion on this opening is just that, my opinion. I'm not sure I like it. It seems more like it belongs on a query letter or back cover.)
To keep secrets, lying was necessary. Lucy James knew this better than most people. Her whole life had been a series of deliberate misinformation (This phrase is tripping me up for some reason. I'm not sure if it's because we have "series" -- plural -- up against "misinformation" -- not plural, or if it's because series leads me to think of events and "deliberate misinformation" aren't events. Hmmm.)—not out of a fundamental dishonesty or a disregard for civility, but out of self-protection. Some would say a cheater’s glimpse into the future was a gift. To Lucy it was a curse she had to protect through constant deception.
Lying was also one of her job requirements as a CIA courier.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Query Letter

Actually, just the last two paragraphs. I've participated in a bunch of stuff to polish up my query of late and it has, seriously, been critiqued to the bone. I've learned something. Queries are much like manuscripts. You will not please everyone, no matter how hard you try. I've gotten so many conflicting opinions -- (Things like, "How did Finna become guardian? We need to know so we understand why she's not very powerful." VS. "How Finna became the guardian is unnecessary. Cut it. Just let us know what her responsibility is. *Ranee` runs screaming from the computer, vowing to NEVER WRITE ANOTHER QUERY AGAIN.*)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: THE GRAND SOPHY by Georgette Heyer

Let me just start with this:
"Sir!" said Lord Bromford, with as much dignity as could be expected of a man with both feet in a mustard-bath. "You shall answer to me for those words!"
THAT ladies and gentleman is the genius of Georgette Heyer. I love her.
I love her.
And now I will review.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

In Honor of GUTGAA: Query Critique #2

Another brave participant sends their query out into the world to be torn to pieces. Way to go!

60,000 WORDS


In a world ravaged by a nuclear holocaust, Vika Cannon When I first read this, for some reason I thought it was a boy. Don't ask me why. Didn't realize until later that it's a woman. This thought could be of absolutely NO importance, but I thought I'd throw it in there. Ha! (Just FYI, it didn't throw me or distract me when I realized it was a girl.) knows there are no guarantees: no guarantees of safety, no guarantees that your neighbor is not actually a spy for the government, and no guarantees you’ll be allowed to emigrate to Asia, which is a person’s only chance for survival.
Great hook. My only, little-tiny-nit-picky-thing is, can it be shortened?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Query Critique: In Honor of GUTGAA

So I'm participating in GUTGAA (check out the badge in the right hand sidebar for more information!) It's totally cool, a ton of help, and agents around to boot. In honor of it, I'm picking out query critiques from those of you who've submitted for Three Hundred Thursday and posting one a day for the rest of the week.

So on to courageous Victim #3

Dear Agent/Editor,

As you have successfully represented/published Awesome Author and her novel, "Really Cool Book," Or books by other authors can be in small caps: really cool book. I think you would be interested in my young adult science fiction novel EXISTENCE.
Good opening. In his post on query letters, guru Nathan Bransford expounds on how important researching and personalizing is.

Seventeen-year-old Chrissie Fox can't imagine a life which that doesn't include Time Curving. She and her father have been working against Time Flyers, a group intent on changing the past to destroy the future. She's put off any thoughts of friendship or romance in order to keep her trips to the past a secret. Great hook. Small, minor, opinion on construction here. I'm totally interested in "Time Curving." I'd suggest using this opening paragraph to give me at least a hint of what it is and saving the explanation about the Time Flyers for the meat of the query. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Three-Hundred Thursday #2

This week's brave gladiator is coming into the ring with a query letter. Personally, I hate those pesky things, so I'm glad to cause pain to it. :D


Senior Max Sanchez has it all. He’s the star pitcher for Port Fare High’s baseball team. He’s dating the head cheerleader, hottie Emma McKay, and he has a great group of friends. Here I'm concerned with this lead in. Typically the first line or two of a query is the hook -- something that grabs the agent/publisher and says "You MUST read more about this book." This is somewhat generic. A main character who has it all. One line I heard over and over during the query and pitch events at WriteOnCon from the agents and editors was "What makes your story stand out? Focus on that." Having read the first pages of this story (cheater in the house!), this doesn't do justice to the uniqueness.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Words to Write By: WriteOnCon Tidbits, Characters by Donna Cooner

Did I ever mention how much I learned at WriteOnCon? A TON. I like my query (for now) and I learned some revision techniques that are changing my life. So. Serious.

Today, I impart another small tidbit of wisdom.

On Characters, from Donna Cooner's post, which you can read in its entirety, here.

QBCD. It meant Quick Brief Character Description (QBCD) and it was one of the most important lessons learned from the years I studied with Professor Kulkarni. Every time a character entered a scene it was an opportunity to make him/her memorable to the reader. Not just the main character, but everyone—the checkout woman, the pilot, the teacher, the policeman—everyone.
I am SO terrible at this. At descriptions in general. I figure everyone can read my mind, not just my husband. (Oh. Wait.)

I saw a quote one twitter or somewhere the other day that said no matter how memorable the plot is, it won't matter if a reader can't care about the characters. Get in there and make them matter.

Monday, September 3, 2012

GUTGAA Meet & Greet Post

Hey, all!

Some of you might be new here. If you are you'll want to know who I am. Really, the three words in my header say it all.

Mom. Wife. Writer. Never sure what comes first. (Although writer is usually last and that's absolutely great with me. I like the other two a lot, so it all works out.)

I live with my superhero husband and two-point-five supervillains-in-training in Wyoming and love it. Except for winter. Which lasts about eight months here. That I don't love. But I make do because the husband loves it here and will never leave. And in case you were wondering, I grew up in Wyoming and could only love it more if the climate resembled something more like San Diego.

I write mostly YA fiction, fantasy and that kind of stuff, but dabble in a few other things. Like my major WIP right now is a contemporary romance for the LDS market, and I'm editing at Regency novella because I adore that time period and wanted to see if I could do it. I'll let you know how that works out.

And here's some more stuff about me

-Where do you write? 
In the middle of my living room. Remember that mom part of who I am? I write sometimes in 10 minute (or much, much less) intervals if I can and then during naptime. Having my desk in the middle of the living room works for me because I'm still available for my kids when they need me and I feel like that's important. But so is my writing; hence, desk in the living room.

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
The first thing I see is a couch. 'Cause I'm in the living room. And I sort of want to go lay on that couch and read Georgette Heyer (remember the point-five part -- that is thankfully, actually more like point-seven-five -- of my two-point-five-boys?). 

-Favorite time to write?
Naptime. I'm not tired (usually ... most days. Except today. And some other days.) and while my oldest is in school it's so quiet and easy to concentrate.

-Drink of choice while writing?
Water. Or milk if I have heartburn. Which happens way too frequently of late.

-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
Depends on the day actually. Usually music and usually just the soundtrack station of Pandora or Spotify. Sometimes I listen to teen music, since, you know, I write YA. Yeah. That's why.

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
The WIP that I actually haven't written on in a week or so was inspired by Jimmer Ferdette. (BYU basketball player, wildly popular, if you didn't know.) I wondered, what if there was a girl who knew everything about a Jimmer-Ferdette-like character and used that to make him fall in love with her?

-What's your most valuable writing tip?
Love to write. When you're not loving to write, get up and read, or walk, or cook, or eat a lot of ice cream. (Lately, I would recommend adding raspberries and making a shake. You WON'T regret it.) But then come back and write so more; write through writer's block, write through crappy scenes until you get back to where you love it.


About Me!

I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.


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