Thursday, December 29, 2011

And... more contests

Okay, so I'll admit it. I don't have the energy to come up with anything interesting to say, so I'm VERY excited when I find a contest I can blog about instead. I have some posts in the works (by "works" I mean "an idea came to me two days ago, which I have subsequently forgotten"), but for now, other people's contests are good enough for me. :)

These TWO contests aren't even for writing--you don't have to have a WIP, a polished first page, or any sort of query. You just have to like free books.

First up is a contest by Kasie West, who is hilarious and sold her debut novel this year--it will be published in January 2013. If you're not following her blog yet, pop on over just for that.

Her contest involves a multiple-choice prize: you can win a free book (of your choice), a 50-page crit, or a query crit. I honestly can't decide which one I want. I keep going back and forth. Free books are awesome. Always. But, really, how often do I get a contracted-to-be-published author to critique any part of my book? And 50 pages? Wow. But, dang it, I need sooo much help on my query! Which one should I pick? (Assuming, of course, that I'm going to win. Because I'm gonna!)

To win Kasie's contest, you just have to comment, with extra points for tweeting and/or blogging. Her contest ends Friday, December 30th.

Next up is a contest by Shannon Messenger, who has a brand-new look to her awesome blog and a debut Middle Grade novel coming out in 2012. Shannon does regular contests to give away middle-grade books, but this one is a recap of her favorites from this year, so you get to choose between the five she lists. They're awesome, so I definitely want to win... though, again, I can't choose which book I want.  I'll probably pick BEYONDERS... though PETER NIMBLE sounds awesome... as does THE UNWANTEDS... and I'm definitely going to have to look up book 1 of NERDS... and, though I'm not a huge cupcake fan (it's a self-taught survival thing), SPRINKLES AND SECRETS sounds very sweet. *sigh*

So you might want to rush over and do your best to save me from having to choose. :) Shannon's contest ends when the ball drops in New York City, and all you have to do is leave her a comment.

So how is everyone doing on their last-minute 2011 goals? Do you have any chance of meeting them? I know at least one of mine that I'm deferring to 2012, but I'll blog about that... um... how about on Saturday? Yeah, I'll do a year recap on the last day of the year, which is perfect since none of you will be online to read it. :D

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Another Contest

This one is a contest I'd love to enter, but since I already won a 30 page crit from Gabriela Lessa and she's currently editing it, I figure winning another would be a tad superfluous. :)

Gabriela is teaming up with independent editor / literary agent intern C.A. "Cassandra" Marshall to host:
Sounds cool, huh?

Here's the basic deets:

  • Review their wishlists and pick one of them to judge your entry
  • Use the form here or here to submit your query and up to 1500 words of your book
  • Gabriela's winner will get a free 40 page edit and 30% off any additional services you want to hire (yes, that's a better prize than the one I won, dang it!) :)
  • Cassandra's winner(s) will get $35 gift cards toward any services you wish to hire
Go to Gabriela's blog or Cassandra's blog for complete details and to enter.

Contest runs from yesterday through January 6th.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Activity Update and Winner of FIRESPELL

UPDATE: just realized I had the title of the book all wrong. Can I use the excuse that it was really late in the year? Yanno, like it was the Friday afternoon of 2011? *sigh*

Boy, I'm late on this award. Sorry. Christmas season does tend to sap all the marrow out of life time out of the evenings, doesn't it?

Here's the short-list of the activities I've engaged in over the last week:

  • Adult Christmas Part-ay for church
  • Authors' Advisory Conference call with Jessica Day George--you totally need to check it out
  • Scout Pack caroling at the local nursing home--I flubbed up and had everyone meet at the church at the time we were supposed to be there, so I took my two scouts on ahead and we were the opening act. Those ladies were so cool!
  • Baking treats for work Christmas Party
  • Put my crabby self to bed and took a nap!
  • Christmas Shopping
  • Christmas Program for the 1st and 3rd grades--how convenient that I have one of each.
  • Lotsa reading to combat the Christmas blues--just finished my 101st book for the year. :) :) Happier now.
Best thing to do when feeling all Bah-Humbug? Give stuff away! Which is why I'm pleased to announce that the winner of CATSPELL FIRESPELL is....

Congrats, Skie! Email me (see my "Stalk Me" tab) and I'll pass your info on to Danyelle's husband. If I don't hear from you by the 23rd, I'm giving your book to someone else. :)

UPDATE: Sorry, Skie, but I don't have your email addy and I haven't heard from you. The new winner is:

David, I know how to contact you, so I'll be getting your info to Danyelle's husband. :) Congrats!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Breakdown: How NOT to Write a Query 2

So my second How NOT to Write a Query was very fun, and I had some great comments, but I don't think we actually covered all the mistakes, so I'm going to try to make a more complete list, as well as explain (in my own, poor, noobie way) what went wrong in mine. See the real blurb for Jessica Day George's awesome book TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE here.

Once again, this is my awful bastardization of her blurb (please don't judge a book by a bad blurb):
Celie's brother is training to be the next king--and the castle she lives in likes him enough to move his rooms right next to the throne room. Her sister is regal and efficient, just like their mother, the queen. The castle likes her, too, and gives her lavish rooms to live in. But the castle likes Celie the best. It gives her ramps to slide down and turrets to hide in. All of which comes in handy when Celie's parents go to pick up her oldest brother from wizard school and don't make it home. As the Counsel moves to set up a regency and control the royal children and as foreign powers close in, the castle will have to help Celie protect her siblings and keep her country safe... until her parents come home.
The comments on Tuesday identified the following mistakes:

  1. No sense of the conflict
  2. Too much backstory and world building
  3. Doesn't seem to be a point

Just for fun, let's compare the parts of the good one and mine, shall we?

Good Conflict:
But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown...
Bad Conflict:
Celie's parents go to pick up her oldest brother from wizard school and don't make it home. As the Counsel moves to set up a regency and control the royal children and as foreign powers close in...
What's the difference? 
In the good one, we know that the king and queen didn't just get lost or decide to stay longer at the wizard school. Also, though my bad one has more details about who the antagonists are (the Counsel and the foreign powers), it doesn't really explain why they're bad. This is a case of less being more: we don't always have to know exactly what the threat it--just that there is one and what the heroine will do about it. Details can sometimes confuse things. For instance, why is a regency so awful? Wouldn't that make sense when the new king is too young to rule? What do the foreign powers want? How do we know they're not just trying to help or express condolences? I'm starting to think that the confusing parts of my own query might be fixed if I don't try to explain quite so much....

Again?

Good Backstory:
Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions.
Bad Backstory:
Celie's brother is training to be the next king--and the castle she lives in likes him enough to move his rooms right next to the throne room. Her sister is regal and efficient, just like their mother, the queen. The castle likes her, too, and gives her lavish rooms to live in. But the castle likes Celie the best. It gives her ramps to slide down and turrets to hide in.
What's the difference?
The good blurb frames the backstory as it helps tell us about Celie, the main character. In this way, the backstory does double-duty. In my blurb's backstory, we learn about more about Celie's brother and sister and the castle than we do about her. While her brother and sister are very cool, Celie is the main character. CELIE. She should be the focus of the query. In mine, all we know about Celie is that she has siblings, the affections of a castle, and occasionally slides down stuff. In the good blurb, we know that she loves her castle enough to actually map it out, even though no one else bothers. Make sure any backstory in your query is also helping your reader learn about your main character.

Also, in the good backstory, it is much easier to see how special the castle is. My backstory makes you wonder how the castle is doing all that stuff--does it just assign the best rooms to the people it likes? Does it just lead Celie to the already-existing slides and turrets? The magic system is completely muddled. Bad world building.

One more time:

Good Point:
...it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom.
Bad Point: 
...the castle will have to help Celie protect her siblings and keep her country safe... until her parents come home.
What's the Difference?
In the good blurb, Celie saves the day. In the bad blurb, the castle does most of the work. No matter how it actually happens in the book (the castle does help a lot), the query blurb has to show the main character acting. As cool as the castle is, the castle isn't human. We can admire it, think it's gee-wiz-neato, but we can't really relate to it. Human readers will rarely be able to picture themselves in the castle's position--and, perhaps more importantly, the book itself doesn't try to make us relate to the castle. Celie is the main character and we relate to her most of all. We want to root for her, so the query must hint that she will ultimately triumph--not "help" someone else do it for her.

The Devil's in the Details
One main thing that wasn't mentioned in the comments that I intentionally did wrong was the wealth of inconsequential details. The following details aren't mentioned at all in the good blurb:

  • Celie's brother who's training to be king
  • Celie's sister
  • Celie's eldest brother who's at wizard school
  • The Counsel
  • Foreign Powers
  • Moving rooms next to the throne room (a sign of succession)
  • Giving lavish rooms to favored people
  • That Celie's parents went to pick up her brother from wizard school
  • That the Counsel wants to set up a regency and control the royal children
  • That Celie's parents might come home



What did the good blurb mention that I didn't?
  • That the castle adds stuff on Tuesdays
  • That no one knows what the castle will do next
  • That Celie maps the castle
  • That no one else bothers to map the castle
  • That the king and queen are ambushed

What's the difference? My details are inconsequential and we don't miss them in the good blurb. The good details, however give us specific and essential world-building or character-building or plot information. When they're missing, we feel it.

Go look at your query and see what details you've included that could go. What are you leaving out that could help explain things better?

Golly, it sounds so easy, doesn't it? 

What else did I miss? Can you spot any other mistakes? Would you like to suggest a book for my next How NOT to Write a Query?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How NOT to Write a Query 2

I'm still busy trying to fix my own query, so, until I get tired of it, I'm going to continue this feature. Mostly because it was fun last time. :)

Here's how the game is played: I take an excellent book blurb for a book I love that has demonstrably good sales (so it WORKS), and I see how badly I can screw it up. Sort of reverse-engineering it back to the drivel that it might have started out as, if the author had been a noob like me.

Today's book is in honor of my next Authors' Advisory guest: Jessica Day George. (She'll be talking about Retelling Fairy Tales, if you wanna come join us. Wednesday night. 8:45 EST. Just saying.) I love soo many of her books, but her newest is my favorite. Here's the real blurb:
Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic.
Sounds awesome, yes? It is. Magic castles rock.

So, this is how it could all have gone terribly wrong (again--don't do this with your own query):
Celie's brother is training to be the next king--and the castle she lives in likes him enough to move his rooms right next to the throne room. Her sister is regal and efficient, just like their mother, the queen. The castle likes her, too, and gives her lavish rooms to live in. But the castle likes Celie the best. It gives her ramps to slide down and turrets to hide in. All of which comes in handy when Celie's parents go to pick up her oldest brother from wizard school and don't make it home. As the Counsel moves to set up a regency and control the royal children and as foreign powers close in, the castle will have to help Celie protect her siblings and keep her country safe... until her parents come home.
Can you help me spot the flaws? Leave them in the comments: What did I do wrong, here?

In other news, it seems I'm not completely useless when I'm not writing a query, since my first page is a semi-finalist in Brenda Drake's Can We Guess Your Character's Age blogfest/contest! Yay!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Winner! ...but first, some housecleaning


My mom always made me do my chores before I could play, so bear with me for just a sec....

The Guess Your Character's Age Blogfest is ongoing through December 10: see and critique my entry here.

You can still enter to win a copy of FIRESPELL by Danyelle Leafty. I've adjusted the rules to allow you to enter by posting about the contest on any social media site, or by telling a real-life person. Go here to enter.

And, finally, the winner of NIGHTINGALE is... Erin Edwards!
Congrats, Erin! I'll email your code for the enhanced ebook to you right away.

P.S. I was sitting at 199 followers for a long time... and suddenly, I was at 201! Now I'm at 202! But I COMPLETELY MISSED 200! Didn't see it at all! Celebrating now seems anticlimactic, but wow. I'm OVER 200. You guys are the best. :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Another Blogfest: With a Contest!


Brenda Drake has such cool contests. This time, it's this one:

Anyone can play and you can still enter: you post your first 250 words on your blog and general crits as well as guesses as to what the character's age is. Then you polish them up and email them to Brenda before 11:59 PM on October *ahem* December 10 (thanks, Shelly). She'll winnow them out and post them on her blog, where they'll be judged by Gabriela Lessa. Prizes will be awarded. For full details, go here.

If you've been following my blog for a while, you've seen this a lot. It's mildly different, and I'm very open to further changes. There aren't any references to her age, so I didn't have to black anything out.

Brina knew better than to go out in public looking less than her questionable best. But she was late, it was rush hour, and home was thirty minutes away by car… but only ten by air. So she dumped her school bag, gym bag, and purse in her best friend Moira’s closet, threw open the window, and sat on the sill.
She closed her eyes, and, concentrating on the gland behind her heart, started pushing Black pixie dust through her body. When her fingertips started to tingle, she thought small and opened her eyes to see the window frame rising large around her as she shrank down, down, until she was the size of a small mouse, buffeted by the warm fall breeze.
Moira lifted a hand, already headed for her shower. “See you tomorrow,” she said.
Brina grinned, waved, and launched herself into the sweltering air of San Antonio, gliding above the manicured gardens that stretched out under Moira’s window.
The first flash came from her left and, like an idiot, she twisted toward it. Which is how the photographer’s zoom lens caught her: eyes opened wide, long braid slicked back from her face with her own sweat, and limbs sticking out at startled angles from her workout tank and short-shorts. All of it glowing softly brown in the dusk.
As a special bonus, the magazine’s cover photo captured the moment her four bright white wings froze in shock, sending her plummeting a few feet downward. 
So what do you think? How old does Brina seem? Any tips to help me convey her age better?

Note: if you're looking for the winner of NIGHTINGALE, I'll have that up tonight... I hope.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Bomb--win a copy of FIRESPELL

UPDATE: THE CONTEST HAS BEEN EXTENDED--SEE BOTTOM FOR DETAILS

I know Danyelle Leafty from my online writer's group, though she has since moved on to a real-life group. Still, while she was in our group, I had the pleasure of reading one of her books, and I can tell you, she is tal-en-ted! She has an amazing imagination and backs it up with some of the hardest work I've ever seen. She was always out-writing everyone--and this while home-schooling four children! I was constantly amazed by her. The girl is an inspiration.

Anyway, when her husband contacted me, I was happy to volunteer to help out. What follows was written by her better half:

*******

Hi, everyone!
Danyelle Leafty, author of the Fairy Godmother Dilemma series, has gotten really sick, and we'd like to help her out. Here is a message from her husband about what happened: Danyelle had been working very hard to get her series up before Christmas. Then "IT" hit. Some kind of pain was there all day and by 10:45pm, she started experiencing unbearable pain that went until 12:15am when I got home. I got our four kids out of bed and loaded up, then helped Danyelle into the car and drove her to the ER. As soon as we pulled into the hospital parking lot around 1:00am, our six-year-old autistic son flipped out. He hates doctors. He didn't want to be there, and I didn't want to leave my wife. I contacted someone from our church who volunteered to sit with our kids at home so I could stay with Danyelle. Turned out to be a kidney stone. We got Danyelle home around 4:00am. Luckily, during the last two days a great lady has filled in for me at work, so I could wait on Danyelle hand and foot, and tomorrow my mom is coming. Having Danyelle get sick right when she was working on releasing her books has been very stressful. We'd appreciate any assistance anyone has to offer to help us get the word out before Christmas. Three of Danyelle's books are available as eBooks, and she has five total for this series. Here are the three on Kindle: The Fairy Godmother Dilemma: Catspell, The Fairy Godmother Dilemma: Firespell, and The Fairy Godmother Dilemma: Applespell. Her website. Her blog. Her Facebook account. Her Facebook Author Page. Her Twitter Account. Thank you!


*******
Isn't he amazing? Behind every great writer is a great, supportive husband. How can we possibly do it without them?

So we're doing a book bomb for Danyelle today, to try to drive her books up the Amazon charts and get her some well-deserved and timely attention.

This is the blurb for CATSPELL:
Sixteen-year-old Breena never thought anything could be worse than being forced to leave the faerie realm. Then she got stuck with a fairy godmother. But if she has to choose between the two, she’d leave the Faerie Realm over getting bossed about by a faerie with a pointed stick any day. Unfortunately, her attempt to evade her fairy godmother gives her growing pains in the form of fur, whiskers, and a tail.
Turning into a cat is the least of her worries, though. The potion wasn’t meant to bring out her inner feline, it was meant to put her to sleep. Forever. If Breena wants to make it to her Happily Ever After, she’ll have to accept that sometimes a fairy godmother really does come in handy, after all.

Doesn't that sound awesome? Don't you want to go buy it right now? It's only $3.99 and is available immediately. For the book bomb to work, we need lots of purchases done today, so off you go. :)

THEN! (There's always a then.) Then come back here and tell me you bought it (I'll trust you--MY blog followers don't lie) and I'll enter you in a drawing for the second book in the series: FIRESPELL, which is currently on sale for $4.99. Here's the blurb for FIRESPELL:
The fairy godmother dilemma continues in book two: Firespell.
When Alora’s Prince Charming is chosen due to political expediency, she tries to put her best foot forward. But thanks to a magical mishap, her feet are webbed and her body resembles that of an overgrown goose.
Her brother creates a charm that enables her to look human from moonrise until moonset, so she sets out hoping she can convince the prince she is a girl, rather than the main course. Alora soon
learns that she isn’t the only one with secrets after she stumbles upon an ancient plot that would warp the threads of magic holding the land together. When her plan to foil the plot ends up with her Prince-Charming-to-be walking into a trap, Alora finds herself caught between an age old grudge and the most powerful creature in the world: the Firebird.
What she needs is a fairy godmother. What she gets is a frog.
You wanna read that one, too, huh? I do.

But, you say, I already own CATSPELL! Is there another way I can win FIRESPELL? YES! If you have a blog, you can blog about Danyelle, her books, tell people about the book bomb and this contest, and direct people here. Put the link to your blog in the comments and you'll earn an entry.

If you buy the book today AND blog about it, you'll get TWO entries! If you want to buy multiple copies (Christmas presents, anyone?) I'll give you an entry for each copy you buy, PLUS your blog post.

Simple enough? Excellent!

This is a one-day contest, so I'll tally the winners tomorrow and announce them with the winner of David Farland's enhanced ebook, NIGHTINGALE, on Thursday the 8th. (And, yes, there's still time to enter the contest for NIGHTINGALE.)

UPDATE: Since we didn't have any legit winners, I've received permission to extend the contest and relax the rules. (Which, really, I made up all by myself. My blog, my dumb rules.) So, now, all you have to do is mention Danyelle's books on any social networking site, then come back and report. I care nothing for multiple comments from each person, so if you have time to tweet now and Facebook later, feel free to comment more than once. (Do feel free to use the handy-dandy buttons at the bottom of this post.) Also, feel free to mention her to a real-life person. You'll get one entry per social networking site. And up to oneYou'll get 5 entries if you buy one of her books, and 3 entries if you blog about it.


Contest will end next week, on December 14th. I'll announce the winners of this contest sometime on the 15th.

Good luck, everyone!

Also, check out these other blogs featuring Danyelle and her books!
Andrea Pearson BooksNotes From the Writing Chair - Giveaway!Anne Bradshaw's PlaceDiana's Amazing Book Adventures - Giveaway!Christine Fonseca, Author - Giveaway!Roots in Myth - Giveaway!Robin Weeks - Giveaway!An Author Incognito & Janette Rallison's Blog - Giveaway!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I'm Lovely!

Laura Barnes gave me this award yesterday:

Pretty!
I'm extra-thrilled about this one because she's a marketing guru, who blogs about building an online platform as an author. I'm choosing to believe she thinks I'm doing something right. :) Thanks, Laura!

So what's everyone doing on this, the first Saturday after the madness of NaNo? Still diligently writing away, trying to finish that project by the New Year?

Yeah, me neither.

I haven't cleaned my house in a month, I have to do the stats for my writer's group, and I have to make a dessert for a church Christmas Party tonight. Might play some Angry Birds, too. Take a shower, start reading a new book. Make sure the boys don't kill each other (harder than it sounds).

Two words of advice:
One: Head on over to my Thursday post and sign up to win a copy of NIGHTINGALE.
Two: Don't query your NaNo project until it is thoroughly edited. Like, six months worth of editing, alphas, betas, line edits, etc. Unless you're a professional author who's used to writing that fast (and, really most of them edit for months, too), it's probably horrific. You know it's true.

Oh, one more thing. It starts about 5 minutes in, but the lead-up is fun, too.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Guest Post by David Farland: and a Chance to Win NIGHTINGALE!

I'm sure I've mentioned David Farland a time or two. He's an internationally bestselling author who still takes a large part of his time to help educate newbies like me. He speaks at conferences, holds his own writer's workshops which are rumored to be amazing (sadly, I've never been able to afford one), and is the sponsor and most frequent guest on David Farland's Authors' Advisory (you're shocked, I know).

David isn't just good at writing novels, though. In his career, he's written screenplays, video games, and a host of other things. He knows so much about the industry, I'm thrilled to know him and even more thrilled to get to learn from him on a regular basis.

So, without further ado, I present David Farland, who will tell you about how he's using his industry knowledge to move forward with an exciting new project. At the end, because it is the Season of Giving, I'll tell you how you can win your own copy....


Reading in the Future

Imagine that you put on your “reading glasses.”  The glasses are dark, fitted with lasers and high-quality stereo earbuds, so that as you put them on, your entire field of vision is captured.  A laser inside the glasses flashes a novel title on the interior surface of your eye. 

Of course, the book you see is my book (why not, it's my fantasy). The letters start small, off in the distance and they quickly draw closer to you, but they don't stop, they wash right over you and just when it seems they're all around you, they explode in a burst of light, “Nightingale, by David Farland.”  You can hardly imagine what life was like before 3D. As soon as you read the last word, a laser with a computer link that tracks your eye movement cues the background music, and images begin to flash in your eye—a holographic video-clip of the character of Bron, as an infant, being abandoned outside the door of a cheap hotel in the Utah desert.  The camera pans up to the face of his mother, Sommer, bitter and broken, with tears in her eyes.  We flash to the prologue, where Sommer runs through a forest at night, her breathing deep, while dogs snarl and bark as they give pursuit.  Fireflies rise up around her.

Words to the novel appear on screen, as background music continues, and you begin to read.  As Sommer twists her foot and falls, the lasers pace your reading and insert a sound-effect—the thud of a body falling, the hiss of breath knocked from Sommer’s throat.  The dogs bay more excitedly.  A man’s heavy footsteps can be heard tromping through the brush behind the reader, and a startled mewling cry escapes Sommer’s throat. . . .

Welcome to the future of reading, where text, images, sounds and music forge a collage.  That’s the vision I have that led me to become a co-founder of East India Press.

The technology to do this already exists. The use of heads-up displays in fighter jets was pioneered in the 1960s, and that technology has now gone public.  Though readers now are using the iPad2 and the Kindle Fire, I’m looking forward to the devices we’ll have five years from now, or ten years.

How can reading technology be better than with current books?

We don’t want to replace reading. We don’t want to make movies.  Reading often engages the audience’s imagination in ways that movies fail to.  We want to keep it that way.  We want the reader to be a partner with us in bringing a tale to life.  At the same time, we hope to ‘enhance,’ the story, help readers become more fully involved with it, yet keep budgets reasonable.  With film clips, animations, illustrations, background music, and sound effects, we can create something that fuses a lot of storytelling tools.

Creating e-books has become cheap and easy.  This year, it is estimated that three million people will be putting their own e-books up for sale.   That’s a staggering number.  If you spend twelve hours a day just examining those titles, and spend only ten seconds studying each e-book put up this year, you wouldn’t be able to glance at even 1/100th of all the books that will be published—much less read one!

Readers are being deluged, often with books that aren’t any good.  Most of those books, unfortunately, wouldn’t have made it past an editor.  The author just wasn’t ready.  Sure, there will be a few diamonds among all of that coal, but no editor will have time to sort through it.

I've had my share of sorting through manuscripts.  For nearly a decade I was the first judge for one of the world’s largest writing contests.  A funny story, once an editor of a major publisher asked me to help pick a book to give the “big publicity push to” for the next year.  I read through thirty books and selected a book that the marketers thought was “too-long” for its intended audience.  I pointed out that the book was also written several grade levels too high for its intended audience. But it was a great book, so I urged them to push it despite the book’s apparent problems.  It was called Harry Potter.

Even though authors can publish their own works, we’re going to need editors in the future who understand how to green-light a novel, who can recognize what will please an audience.  But once a work is selected, the editor will take the role of a producer—assembling a creative team of composers, musicians, illustrators, animators, directors, sound-effects engineers, and so on.”

Distributing enhanced books won’t be expensive.  After all, it will be done electronically.  There are no copies to print, ship, or store.  But creating them will be expensive and time-consuming.  

Still, it will be a lot less expensive than making a movie.  To create a really great movie with a lot of special effects can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and it will only give the viewer an hour or two of entertainment.  But by meshing technologies, we can create a similar experience with novels, spending perhaps only a hundred thousand or two—and it will give a reading experience that might last for twenty or thirty hours or more!  Novels have a unique ability to let us achieve deep penetration into the minds and emotions of a character, much more so than with a film.  I’m excited about the possibilities.

In fact, I am so excited about the possibilities that I went indie with this next novel. I didn't have to by any means. I'm an award-winning New York Times bestseller. Instead, I decided to start my own publishing company for enhanced novels.  I see potential. Nightingale is the first young adult novel I’ve written, outside of a little work with Star Wars and the Mummy.  I knew it could be a hit, but I wanted to do something . . . unique with it. I've trained dozens of other #1 international bestsellers, people like Brandon Sanderson and Stephenie Meyer, and I've learned to spot “good,” whether it's someone else's work or my own. Nightingale has it.

Now that it’s done, this is a first step toward creating a more-engaging form of novel, the kind that kids who are reluctant readers might devour.  I’m looking forward to see what we can do in ten or twenty years. But Nightingaleis a step toward that future.

Nightingale is the story of a young man, abandoned at birth, rejected from foster home after foster home.  People see that he’s brilliant and talented, but also “strange.”  He’s the ultimate loner until he meets Olivia, a marvelously gifted teacher, who recognizes that Bron is something special, something that her people call a “Nightingale,” a creature not quite human.

I was excited to see how it would be received. I was even more excited when the first reviewer said, “I devoured the novel.  It was absolutely incredible! . . . I struggled to explain just how much I enjoyed it in my review. . . . After reading Nightingale, I don't think I will even be able to go back to reading regular e-books again.  Like it says in my review, reading the enhanced Nightingale felt like an ‘experience.’ It didn't feel quite like a book or a movie. It initiated all of my senses.  . . . enhanced ebooks are actually a real deal.” That's what we were hoping people would see in it. The future of books is beginning now.

Best of all, East India Press has created a new web simulation technology that mimics how the book appears on the iPad, so you can see and hear it for yourself for free at www.nightingalenovel.com.

-----------------

Sounds amazing, yes? You want to read it, don't you? Of course you do! (When you do, check out the acknowledgments page. I helped edit Nightingale and... I'm in there. Squeee!)

To win your own copy of Nightingale, you have to do two simple things: First, watch the trailer:



Second, leave a comment telling me your favorite part of the trailer (don't forget to include your email address if it's not attached to your profile). Do those two things and you'll get one entry into the contest.

Want more entries? That's cool.
1 extra entry each (3 possible) for Tweeting / Facebooking / G+ing about the contest (include links, please)
2 extra entries for doing a blog post about the contest and including the trailer (link, again)

If you do everything (trailer/comment, Tweet, Facebook, G+, blogpost w/ trailer), you can earn a total of 6 entries.

Contest will run through December 7, and I'll announce the winner here on December 8.

Good luck to you all!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I WON!


I gotta say, I have never, ever written that many words on a single story in one month ever. NaNoWriMo rocks. I now know I can write fast, that I love Twitter #wordwars and #1k1hr, and that I can commit to writing every day and Get. It. Done!

Such a good feeling. Now if I can just continue a similar pace for December, I can meet my goal of writing a whole first draft this year.

Suddenly I feel very tired.

Anyway, as promised, this is my graph. If you look closely, you can see all the days I slacked, the weekends I caught up with a tremendous burst of words, and, most importantly, the overall consistent effort to moving forward.
I am so proud of myself right now. :)

How is everyone else doing on NaNo? Didja win? Get close? Write anything? Congrats to you all! :)

Come back Thursday for a chance to win David Farland's new e-book, Nightingale. And find out how cool I really am. :)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NaNo Home Stretch

As of yesterday, I have 42,264 words. In 15 minutes, I'm going to start a few marathon #WordWar rounds on twitter (come play!) and try to get at least 4000 words today.

This is my first NaNo and I fully expect to win. I'm not like many of my buddies who finished weeks ago, but I've written almost every day, and used the weekends to catch up (and occasionally get a tad ahead). I'll show you my whole chart next week when it's over, but I'm happy to say I've stayed close to the goal line all month.

In other news, my NaNo project is taking me in fun directions. I didn't have time to plot the thing before November 1 (I just found out on Nov1 that I had time for NaNo), so I'm discovery writing with a 4-point benchmark outline. I was shooting for an 80k word book, but I'm thinking it might run long. Good thing there's a lot to cut, right?

Okay, I've got to figure out what happens next in the next 5 minutes before WordWarIII starts. (Have I mentioned how much I love Twitter? You people are SOOO motivational!)

How's your NaNo going?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Turkey Day, everyone!

A short list of the things I'm thankful for:

  1. My husband, who lets me write, read, ignore the chilins, and leave him for writer's conferences. I couldn't accomplish half of what I do without him.
  2. My three sons, who take it as a given that my book will be sold someday, catapulting us to vast riches.
  3. My extended family, biological, in-law, and adopted, who don't gripe (much) when I'm antisocial at family functions, with my nose in a book or my fingers on a keyboard--but who make me feel welcome when I can tear myself away to play games with them.
  4. My wonderful blog followers, twitter friends, online writer's groupies, and other scores of people, most of whom I've never met in real life, who have encouraged my writing, critiqued my book, corrected my mistakes, motivated my NaNo, and generally been downright awesome. You guys are the best!
  5. My real-life friends (few of whom read my blog... that I know of), who keep me grounded, remind me that there is life outside the computer, and who ask about how my book is coming.
  6. Authors, libraries, book stores, publishers, agents, and everyone else involved in feeding my addiction to stories. My life would be so much poorer without you.
  7. My day-job, which proves every day that real-life conflict is stranger and more compelling than anything found in a book. And which occasionally proves that happy endings are still possible.
I hope everyone's Thanksgiving is going well, and that you are surrounded by family, friends, and great food. And good books. :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How NOT to Write a Query

One of the lessons that stuck with me most strongly from my college years was from my History of Civilizations class, where I learned that, in order to give a complete definition to something, you must also define what it is NOT. For example, an apple is a fruit, but it is NOT an orange.

I've found that this works for all sorts of things in life, and I want to try it with queries.

Now, there are lots and lots of bad query examples on the internet. Stop by Query Shark for just one small sampling. I'm not here to reiterate the many, many common mistakes newbie queriers will make. Instead, I want to explore some of the deeper mistakes. The ones that don't seem like mistakes at the time. Like describing your story wrong.

Take, for example, a little international bestseller like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

I have no way of knowing how JK Rowling queried Harry Potter, but she was rejected, so we can assume that, like all of us, she didn't immediately hook every single agent she queried. Even if she used the blurb below, we can assume she would have faced rejection, but let's pretend that the blurb drawn up by the Scholastic marketing team is the blurb she used in her query, huh?

This is the front flap blurb in my copy:
Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.
All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley--a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years.
But all of that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry--and anyone who reads about him--will find unforgettable.
For it's there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him... if Harry can survive the encounter.
Can you think what this might have been like in the hands of someone who hasn't been trained in marketing? Have you thought about how you would write a bad blurb for Harry Potter?

Consider if you knew nothing about the book except this:
Twelve-year-old Harry Potter is the Boy Who Lived... but he doesn't know it. Oh, he knows he's alive, of course, but he has no idea that he is the only survivor of a terrible evil. He thinks his parents were killed by a car accident, a fiction his horrible "muggle" relatives are eager to promote. They hate all things dealing with the magical world to which Harry truly belongs.
Then one day a mysterious letter arrives, and his uncle panics, going to extreme lengths to prevent Harry from reading it--or any of the hundreds that follow. Harry does his best, but can never read more than the strange green address on the front. He doesn't know that his life is about to change. That he is about to discover a powerful heritage... at a magical school called Hogwarts.
That's awful, yes? Still mildly interesting, but confusing (what's a muggle?), and utterly fails to convey the magical wonder of the actual flap blurb.

If you've been around the writer blog-o-sphere or following this blog for a while, you've probably stumbled upon many variations of my own query... and you know I know how to write confusing query blurbs. I'm still working on it, and I'm getting closer with every wonderfully helpful comment, but man, this has been a long journey.

So I'm challenging myself and all of you: write a really, really awful query. Either for one of your favorite books or for your own. Make it sound like something that someone might actually write, but remove all the most important concrete details. Use terminology the reader will know... once they read the whole book. Make it mysterious (read: confusing) and hint at all your twistiest secrets without explaining any of them.

Maybe, once we can really see what goes into a bad query, we can learn how to write a good one?

Leave your bad queries in the comments, please. I can use all the negative definition I can get.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Swear Words

Do you swear? Hang out with people who swear? Read books where characters swear? Does it bother you? If so, why?

I'm torn on this subject.

On the one hand, I was taught by a wise playwrighting professor at BYU that all words are morally neutral. There are no "bad" words, just bad context. Even the dreaded F-word can be used effectively in a way that teaches a moral message.

But if you use those words,will anyone notice your message?

The main problem with the traditional "curse words," in my opinion, is not that each word is bad, in and of itself, but that society has attached so much subtext to each one, they have become rather unwieldy to use.

Let's examine, shall we?

As I see it, swear words fall into four basic categories: crude, gender-hating, religious, and sexual.

Crude words are those that refer to the more unsavory bodily functions or the regions from which they come, such as (I'll use asterisks to avoid offending your eyes and attracting google searches I might not want) sh**, pi**, and a** It seems to me that we look down on those who use them in non-medical conversations mainly because they're impolite. We don't want to talk about bathroom functions at the office. This doesn't explain why euphemisms of these words are more accepted. Crud, or poo, for example: how, exactly, are those different from sh**? And how is butt or even bottom different from a**? Anyone?

It's not semantics: it's subtext.We think differently about someone who says butt than we think of someone who says a**. There's no reason that I can see, but there it is.

Gender-Hating words seem to be more plentiful in female varieties than male, but, as I see it, they're offensive because they cast one gender in a negative light or serve to basely objectify an individual. The word bastard seems to have fallen out of disfavor lately, but it used to be a horrible insult to suggest someone's parents weren't married. Now, it is used mainly to refer to an insensitive male, though it still seems to suggest that the one so labeled is (or should be) of a lower caste of society. Similarly, b**ch isn't quite so bad as it used to be, though it still suggests that the woman is animalistic and short-tempered. Worse, and still quite offensive to most of society, are those words that refer directly (and negatively) to female anatomy, such as c**t. (It is interesting that dick can actually be a man's first name.) Though the actual definition of this base insult doesn't even make sense ("You are such a vagina." "Huh?"), it is universally understood to be negative. And insulting.

When people use these words, we generally label them as insensitive and boorish. We see them as unrefined and mean. These words carry a bite to them that the more medical terminology does not, mainly because they've been thrown around by angry people for so long that they seem to retain some of that anger, even when used more neutrally.

Religious words are those that are found in the Bible--and are perfectly fine when found there. In church, it is rarely offensive to talk about Jesus Christ, God, and all the people who were damned to hell. The difference comes when these words are used out of context, in casual or offensive ways their originators never intended. I met a man once who seemed gleeful that he would mention Jesus Christ whenever he dropped something, thereby proving that he thought of Him a lot. This was a little offensive to me.

It seems to me that these words became curse words in an act of defiance against authority, and remain offensive because some of us hold them sacred and dislike to have them used in non-religious ways. (For me, this prohibition does not extend to the words damn and hell. They are my most frequent curse-word indulgence.) Those who use these words out of a religious context are often seen as sacrilegious and rebellious. It can send the message that you are not a "good" or holy person.

Sexual words like the omnipresent f*** are essentially like the crude, potty words. They refer to a natural process in a crass way. Not because stringing four letters together makes something good turn bad, but because society has decided that, for whatever reason, good people don't say that word. It becomes impossible to use it, even in the appropriate context, without dragging the societal subtext along with it.

So what's a writer to do? What, specifically, is a YA writer to do? It is ridiculous to suggest that putting these words in our books will expose otherwise innocent minds to awful letter combinations that will scar them for life. It is possible that excessive repetition will encourage young mouths to parrot these words, thus drawing the associated sub-textual judgments upon themselves... but, really, can a single book hope to reach the numbers of repetition that our young people hear at school on a typical day? Will seeing it in black and white really make that much of a difference?

I think, when it comes right down to it, we need to be careful with these words not because they're "bad," and not because people might judge our characters (bad words might actually help our characterizations) but because we need to be aware of our audience.

You've probably all had at least one "conversation" with someone determined to prove how bad-a** s/he is. This type of person will sprinkle expletives throughout his speech until you can hardly discern what he's talking about. It's very frustrating. In this sort of speech, the bleepity-bleep words have as much meaning as, well bleepity-bleeps. If he would cut them out, the meaning would be much clearer. But these sorts of people often use "bad" words without regard to context. They could be talking about going to the store or *shudder* playing with a baby. They use them as filler words the way the rest of us might use "um" or "ah" or "you know." After a lengthy conversation with one of these, I stop noticing the swear words. My brain has to filter them completely out or I'll never figure out what they're saying. So all those words become a complete waste of breath. No more shock value. No more convincing me he's a bad-a**. Just meaningless bleepity-bleeps.

So be hyper-aware of your use of swear words in your writing (and in your speech, by the way). Not because you're going to go to hell for using them or because you're going to send someone else there because they hear/read them. Because when you use one, you drag along the subtext. The small zing of shock value. All of society's judgments on your characters' heads. But when you use lots... you're wasting ink.

What do you think? Do you use swear words in your writing?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why I Love My Husband

You know those silly childhood "premonitions" about what your future spouse will be like? What kind of career, what kind of family, what kind of car? That sort of thing?

I didn't set a whole lot of goals for my future husband. Didn't care where he was from or where we'd live. Didn't care what sort of car he'd drive, or what his career might be. I have, at certain times, actually vowed never to marry a cowboy. I certainly never dreamed of marrying a hunter, who would hang deer antlers on my wall. I would have preferred to be closer to my family.

One premonition has stuck with me, though. I can't remember now if it was a dream or just a very vivid wish, but I remember the vision. I was standing in an auditorium (all my dreams revolved around the theatre in those days) and someone was standing behind me, with his arms around me. I couldn't see his face, and I didn't know his name, but there were two things I knew without question.

One, he loved me. Utterly. Unconditionally.

Two, he supported me. In all my dreams, in all my worries, in all my crazy delusions.

And he does.

And he does.

Happy Birthday, Jerry, my love. Someday I hope I can deserve you.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Agent Inbox Contest

I've resolved recently to try to keep my blog followers more up-to-date on the cool contests I stumble upon. Not that I need more competition, but because I'm so grateful for everyone who hosts those contests, I want to give back as much as I can. Please help me out by showing your love and following these great hosts.

So there's one starting on Monday (at 10 am EST) that I'm going to try my hardest to get in on: Krista V. over at Mother. Write. (Repeat.) has a regular monthly feature on her blog called "An Agent's Inbox." She accepts a certain number of queries, posts them on her blog, and lets blog readers critique them--along with an actual agent, who gives her honest opinion about the query and selects winners to request additional material from.

This month's contest features agent Taylor Martindale of Full Circle Literary. Taylor represents a variety of genres in YA, women's fiction, and select children's picture books. Her profile on the agency site says that "More than anything, Taylor is looking for character-driven stories that bring the world vividly to life (whether it's fantasy or not), and voices that refuse to be ignored." You can read a great compilation of her preferences and interviews (which may or may not be outdated) at Literary Rambles.

If you have a completed manuscript and you're not sure your query is all it can be, this is the contest for you. Polish your query and first 250 words, and pack your thick skin--could be a bumpy ride. Yippeee!

Go here for full details.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Book Bomb! Today!

I'm an obedient soul. I generally do what I'm told, unless there's a good reason why not. When there's an excellent reason to do it, well, of COURSE!

So when Larry Correia calls for a book bomb, and that book is VARIANT by Robison Wells, I'm a-gonna help out.

I mean, it's Larry Correia, who was on Authors' Advisory this summer to teach us about The Mechanics of Writing Action and Pacing. And it's Rob Wells, who was on Authors' Advisory just last month to teach us about Book Launching.

And, well, VARIANT rocks!

First, I'll let Larry tell you what a book bomb is:

What is a book bomb? Well, Amazon has its own bestseller list. It is calculated hourly and you are given a sales rank based up on how you stack up against the other six million books on there. It is some sort of strange rolling average algorhythm, but what it comes down to is, the more books that are purchased during that particular time frame, the higher you rank. The higher you rank, the more of their top 50 or top 10 lists you show up on. The more of those you show up on, the higher you go, the more attention you get, the more books you sell.
By getting as many people as possible to purchase the book on a single day, it really kicks a book up the rankings.

Sounds cool, right?

Larry also goes into detail about why he thinks Rob is deserving of this bomb, mostly because his recent struggles with panic disorder have now cost him his day-job, which is bad timing. No matter what everyone thinks of writers, publishing a single book does NOT make you a millionaire. (Sorry if I've crushed your dreams.)

As much as I love Rob, though, I wouldn't recommend VARIANT if it wasn't amazing. Fortunately, it is. The ONLY thing about the book that I found at all irksome was that it ends on a cliffhanger. But that's okay, because I'm going to read the next book (and the next, and the next) anyway.

If you liked MAZERUNNER, this book will fascinate you. It's an amazing blend of sci-fi and dystopia and plain old mystery. Rob's writing is clean and crisp and builds the tension perfectly. You want to read this book.

So today, November 10, 2011, please head on over to Amazon and buy the book. Also, don't you have Christmas shopping to do? Any readers on your list? Especially of the 12-18 male variety? Of course you do. Buy it for them, too. :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why I Love Miss Snark's First Victim

**Correction: Authoress is actually Miss Snark's First Victim. My mistake. :) **

I'm supposed to be pounding out thousands of words so I can catch up (or at least not fall farther behind) on NaNoWriMo... so, of course, this is the perfect time to blog.

But I'll make it fast. Really. Maybe.

I've been very, VERY impressed lately by the blog Miss Snark's First Victim, run by the anonymous Authoress.
Isn't she lovely?

I've been following her for many months, and the wonders she is doing for aspiring writers continues to inspire me. She has regular critique sessions, where her loyal fans submit various sections of their work for general critique. She has regular "Secret Agent" contests, where actual anonymous agents come by to peruse a certain capped number of entries, comment, and request material from the winners. (The agents are announced at the end.)

Lately, though, she's been running [around like a headless chicken to run] her second (?) annual Baker's Dozen Auction. Over the last couple weeks, she's been logging entries for this massive undertaking--capped at, I believe, 350 for YA/MG and somewhere around 250 (total guess) for adult books (because there weren't enough adult entries, they gave the extras to the YA/MG category).

Once the entries were received, she and author Jodi Meadows started reading slush. The goal is to whittle each category down to 25 entrants.

Those 25 entrants will then get to participate in a massive auction where, if I understand it right, lots of agents will look over the entries and place bids (Gimme 5 pages!, 50 pages!, Full!) on the ones they like and want to see more of. That's 50 potential wanna-be authors who will have an excellent chance of finding an agent during this contest.

Miss Snark's blog has already logged 30 success stories--and she admits she hasn't even covered them all.

All this while striving to become a professional author herself. She announced several months back that she has an agent and may someday unveil herself and start marketing, but for now, few know who she really is.

I can't think of the most impressive thing about all this, because I'm thoroughly impressed by everything I've seen. Though she finally broke down and charged ($8!!!) to participate in the Baker's Dozen contest this year, everything else on her blog is completely free. That's thousands of hours she's just giving away to help others. She even has a portion of the entry fees earmarked to donate YA books to her local library.

And on top of everything, she's amazingly humble. It would be so easy for her to feel entitled, and to demand payback from karma, or worship from her growing legion of fans. Not so.

On November 1st, when hundreds of Baker's Dozen wanna-be entrants visited her web form to submit their entries, the payment link hadn't been set up. She had to cancel scores of entries and start all over again. The response from her fans was very positive. No one yelled, griped, or swore. Even those who wouldn't make the next window were gracious. Miss Snark still agonized over her mistake and, the next day, lovingly expressed her gratitude for grace.

How can we not love her?

**Note: I actually made it into the YA/MG Baker's Dozen slush pile. (Twice.) I'm waiting on tenterhooks to see if I'll make the cut for the actual auction. Still--should Miss Snark stumble by (and, yes, I'm tweeting about this post, and mentioning her) I want it to be clear that I do NOT expect special treatment. If I don't make the cut, I will still adore her blog. Adoration would be a fickle thing indeed if it were so easily killed.

So head on over and check her out. You'll thank me later... or you would if you weren't going to be too busy thanking Authoress. :)

Have you been impressed by any other blogs that help aspiring authors?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Blog-Day Winners and NaNo

Should I talk about NaNo first? Or winners?

Okay, okay. NaNo it is.

Today is day four and I haven't written yet today (darn day-job,anyway), but I have high hopes of breaking the 4000 word mark today. Which isn't as far as I should be, but there's the whole weekend ahead of me to catch up, right?

I was actually going to travel to visit family this weekend, but 1) my husband has a migraine and can't travel and 2) snow's a-comin' and I don't want to be alone with my boys, driving in a blizzard, and 3) I'd planned to write during the drive so I could keep up with NaNo... but that's hard to do if I'm the one driving.

I have friends (Donna Weaver and Owasm) who are burning it up for NaNo. They're quite intimidating. Over 10,000 words already. It's DAY 4, PEOPLE! That's like 2500 words a day--except they had that yesterday, after 3 days of writing, so it's more like 3000 words a day. How am I supposed to compete with that?

Oh, right. It's not a competition. Except against that 50,000 word mark. Can we all say "grueling?" Good job.

For those of you skipping ahead, you can start reading now.

The $10 gift card winners are....




Random.org always amazes me with its seeming un-randomness. Chantele was the first commenter, and Eric was the last (save Susan, who'd commented earlier). Who'd have predicted that? :)

I'm off to email you both. Thanks to everyone who commented and tweeted, etc. You guys are the best.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNo!

Until this morning, I didn't think I'd get to play. Then I got a very exciting phone call and suddenly my November is a LOT less cluttered than it was. (It's a day-job thing. Moving on.)

What to do with all my extra time?

NaNoWriMo, of course! I'm all registered and everything!

I've never played before, but figured this was the perfect way to finally jump-start my next book.

So who's with me? I need more buddies who will mock me and throw ripe fruit when I slack off.




In other news, my Blog-Day give-away is still ongoing through November 4th.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Blog-Day to Me!

Cake for everyone! Um, where'd it go?
One year ago, on October 28, 2010, I broke down and started a blog. Everybody was doing it, and I was close enough to the end of my very first WIP that I figured it was a good time to establish an online presence.

My awesome sister-in-law, Paula Weeks, took my pictures and made me look better than I thought I could.

My friend Devoney needed a website design project for school, and graced me with her talent.

Then I just had to think of some stuff to say.

Turns out, blogging can be fun--and not just because I get to display my mental vomit for the world to see. It's so much easier to get to know friends when you have a home to invite them to! It helps me feel like a real online person, rather than just a ghost, flitting around, looking at everyone else's stuff. Mostly, it helps me join contests, blogfests, blog chains, and other awesome community activities that just aren't possible for the blog-less.

Also, so much fun to collect followers. Just sayin.

So, as a present to my awesome followers, I'm giving away TWO $10 gift cards to either Barnes & Noble or Amazon by random drawing.

Easy requirements to earn one entry:

  1. Comment on this post (Hi!)
  2. Leave your ee-mail address (you can't win if I can't find you)
  3. Total your points for me (dammit, Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a mathematician)

You can win up to 3 extra entries (total of 4 possible):

  1. 1 entry for following my blog (new followers welcome!)
  2. 1 entry for tweeting/facebooking/G+ing and/or blogging about the contest
  3. 1 entry for answering one or more of the following questions:
    1. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
    2. What is your favorite thing about MY blog?
    3. What would you like to see more of on my blog?
    4. What is the best book you've read this year?
    5. Which book are you looking forward to reading as soon as it comes out?
Contest will run through November 4th at 5:00 PM MDT.

Thanks for a great year, everyone!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Everlovin' EVERNEATH

Let's start with the FTC disclaimer, shall we? Wouldn't want you thinking that my review here was completely unbiased. Oh, no. For all you know I rave about my friends' books all the time, and you can't trust my review to actually reflect reality. [If you care nothing for the FTC, skip to the picture.]

So first I'll mention that I fell in love with Brodi Ashton's blog long before I fell in love with EVERNEATH. By a few months. I started following in early 2010, and still stop by three times a week. She's hilarious. She never fails to entertain. She has a quirky sense of humor and an understandably loyal following. Her blog posts are all over the place, about everything from tennis star wedgies to her dad's cancer. She gives topics their proper weight, but you never feel depressed when you leave. Love. Brodi's. Blog.

I also love Brodi. I met her in 2010 when her writer's group let me and my friend hang out with them at a writer's conference. I've interviewed her (and her group) on Authors' Advisory. I've emailed her when exciting things happened to me, and she's given me excellent advice about starting out in this crazy industry. She lets me call her a friend, and I'm proud to do so.

As long as we're being thorough, I've been determined to love EVERNEATH since mid-April, 2010. That's when Brodi posted the first page or so on her blog. I was hooked but good! Obsessed, rather. I must have read that poor thing more than 20 times. It fairly drips emotion. I couldn't wait to read more and, by January 28, 2011, was so convinced it was a future bestseller, I predicted it on my blog. By the end of February, 2011, I'd seen the cover and knew I was right.

So was I biased when I read it? Um, yes, counselor. You could say that. Did I really, really, really WANT to be right about it? Yes, again. Did I ignore glaring flaws in my single-minded quest to have my own pre-fabricated opinions justified? Who's to say? I don' think so, but I can understand if you're a bit skeptical.

Which is why you'll have to read it for yourself. And OHHH YOU WANT TO!!

At long last, the (non-spoiler-y) review:

Seriously. Who can resist this cover?
This is the blurb on Brodi's site. You might as well read it, since I'm not going to add much to the facts:
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...
I read EVERNEATH at the end of July, 2011. I'm participating in an ARC tour, but Brodi was so sympathetic to my desperation to read it, she put other friends and family on hold to send me one of her own loaner ARCs. (Good thing, because the touring ARC still hasn't reached me.) If you want my first reaction, go here.

Perhaps one of the most surprising things about EVERNEATH is the absence of Brodi's trademark quirky humor. This is not a laugh-out-loud book. If you're making loud noises while reading it, you're more likely to have a tissue in your hand than a grin on your face. There's not a lot to laugh about in Nikki's world, frankly. She effectively died six months ago, surrendering the rest of her life to someone else. Now she's back, but without any hope of redemption. With only the knowledge that she's going to hurt everyone so much worse when she leaves again in six months. With only a small window to do as much good as she can for her friends and family.

For anyone who has ever felt helpless, who has watched as a loved one hurtles toward pain and been powerless to stop it, who has caused a loved one pain and who knows you'll just do it again... this is a powerful book. Nikki is stuck. She can't fix it. She can't really say goodbye this time. She can't explain where she's been or why she left. She can't reconnect... but she can't push everyone away, either.

Quite the premise, yes? The execution is better.

EVERNEATH's narrative skips between time lines, showing what happened before she left, what happened since she got back, and what happened while she was gone. I thought it was amazingly effective. If it bothers you at all, wait. By the end, you'll love it as much as I do.

Brodi's language is heartbreaking, but, achingly, also filled with hope. Each sentence is a pleasure to read--even if you have to wipe your eyes so you can see first. The mystery is intricate and the looming deadline enough to induce hyperventilation.

I loved it. Not just because I was right, and it's gonna be a bestseller. It made me weep. It broke my heart. And, ultimately, it taught me that hope can hide in the darkest of corners.

It has also made me pathetically eager for the sequel.

You can find EVERNEATH here: 
GOODREADS
Pre-order at Indiebound
Pre-order on Amazon
Pre-order on Barnes and Noble

Go pre-order it now. You'll thank me later.

So have YOU read EVERNEATH? You want to, right?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sickly, Sickly Me

One of my favorite authors took an unflattering pic of herself and posted it on her site, calling it an entry in a contest for worst author photo. Now I have my own. It doesn't show up all that well in the photo, but I now have a shiny red dot on the end of my nose. Can you see it? That is NOT normal.

I have strep. That's not one of those gee-wizz, guess I have to lie in bed and read kind of owies. It hurts to talk and it hurts to swallow. It hurts standing, sitting, and lying down. I'd get more sleep if I didn't have to wake up every 2 hours to take more fever/pain meds. Even taking them that much, I haven't dropped below 99 in days. I'm either shaking from the cold or burning up.

I got a shot, I'm taking the rest of my antibiotics like a good girl, but I guess strep is something you just have to ride out.
So, sorry for the blog silence. I've been too busy whimpering.
So how are all of you? What's your least favorite sickness? Does the threat of catching it inspire you to, like, exercise, eat right, and get plenty of sleep?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Had enough pitch contests? Me, neither.

No, not that kind
Just today I was listening to Writing Excuses talk about pitching (and excellent advice it was, too) and thinking I really ought to try to rewrite my pitch. Again. To simplify it. Or something. But how to tell if my new pitch was doing the job?

Then my awesome blog friend Nancy Thompson posted (on her blog) about Lisa L. Regan's pitch contest. Which starts today, and runs through next Monday, October 17, 2011. Kismet, right?

So check it out--this is what Lisa says about the contest:
To Enter:
You must be a follower of [Lisa's] blog and provide a link to either a tweet or a blog post spreading the word about this contest.
You must have a completed novel. Your novel MUST be finished to enter this contest.
Write a 50 word paragraph that is the hook for your book. Basically pitch your book in fifty words.

Post your 50 word pitch in the comments section of my blog with a TITLE and your contact info before the closing date of the contest.

...

Jeanie [Pantelakis of Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency, Lisa's agent] will choose three finalists. The finalists will send her a synopsis of their book as well as their full manuscript. From those three finalists, Jeanie will choose one manuscript and that manuscript will get a full read and a possible contract with Sullivan Maxx.

Pretty cool, huh?

So here's my new 50 word pitch for the contest. I've cut out a lot of stuff that I used to have in my pitches, in the hopes that 1) it won't be quite as confusing, and 2) lack of confusion will lead to more "tell me more" reactions. According to the Writing Excuses team, the elevator pitch (which, depending on how fast you talk, might actually be longer than 50 words), is only supposed to catch their interest and make them say "tell me more." Like most authors, I've struggled (and wrestled, and boxed, and played high-stakes strip poker) with this concept. How can I possibly condense the complex wonder that is my very long novel to one-or-two interesting core concepts? I've tried before, and I'll likely try again. This is my most recent effort:

Brina, like all pixies, can make her own drugs – er, dust. Which the humans appreciate, even if no one can quite get used to Brina’s brown skin, courtesy of her Hispanic human mother. But there’s dust and dust, and a hybrid shouldn’t be suddenly able to make all eight kinds.

So what do you think? Do you want to hear more or are you going "meh" right now? I'm going to enter this in the contest in a couple minutes, but please feel free to suggest improvements. There bound to be another contest sometime! :)