Monday, February 28, 2011

Read Across America Week - fun, prizes, & interviews

I'm declaring this Read Across America week on the blog in honor of NEA's Read Across America Day on Wednesday. Which also happens to be Dr. Seuss' birthday. So stay tuned for a week full of reading fun, author interviews, and a contest with signed copies of Across The Universe & Matched.

So hold on to your reading light, and away we go...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Depth of Character by Donald Maass

Donald Maass offered his opinions about what makes depth of characters in a story at the Writer Unboxed site earlier in the month. I just happened to see it today and thought I'd pass on the link, just in case I wasn't the only one who  missed it when it first came out. Here's the link: Depth of Character.

Monday, February 21, 2011

School Library Day

One of the joys of having a 2nd grader at home is the big book reveal each Tuesday. Tuesday is school library day, and my son likes the fact that he can now choose his own books. Sometimes, all he has to do is show me the cover, and I can guess why he chose it. Other times, he has a whole elaborate process as to why he picked that particular book. This week's pick is Behold...the Dragons! Can you guess he loves dragons?
Behold...the Dragons!

I like when he brings home the books with the crinkly clear protective covers. When we open these books, it brings me back to my days at school, as the librarian sat perched in front of the class, opening a book to read to us each week. Each book was an adventure. Each book was a chance to escape to a place all our own.

There's something magical in seeing the excitement of a child when talking about books. And I hope my son will appreciate books as he grows-up. Hopefully, one day, he too will share books with his kids.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More Books For The Reading Pile

Another trip to the bookstore, and I walked out with more books to add to my reading pile. I couldn't resist! Here's what I bought:

Demon King, The (A Seven Realms Novel)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Interview on the Kindle Author Blog

Thanks to David Wisehart for giving me the opportunity to talk about my book Do You? over on the Kindle Author blog today. Here's the link to check-out the interview: Kindle Author blog

Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Review - Precious and Fragile Things

Precious and Fragile ThingsBook Review 
Precious and Fragile Things
by Megan Hart

If you remember, this was the book I had stumbled on simply because I received an advertisement for it in my inbox. Here's the post where I described the process from ad to purchase. And now I've finished the book, and it was an awesome read. Wow!

If you are a women with a  family, you'll really get the main character Gilly. Megan Hart does an amazing job of capturing Gilly's torment, the constant tug o'war that mothers often go through when raising kids and being married. But what happens to Gilly early on in the story changes everything, and her world is turned upside down. The characters are well crafted, flawed, and likable. It's one of those books that is a fast read, and the characters stick with you days after the story is finished.

Some of the notes I wrote for myself while reading this book:
  • 1. The first chapter sets up Gillys frustrations very well...its palpable. I feel her need to escape. And the transition into the carjacking is flawless.
  • 2. The title of the book takes on several meanings throughout the story. Excellent title!
  • 3. The descriptions are just right in this book, just enough for the reader to get a real sense of the surroundings but not too much too detract from the flow of the story. I loved this excerpt as it is a perfect example of this, "This morning she'd stood in her closet, picking out clothes without holes or too many stains, jeans with a button and zipper instead of soft lounge pants with an elastic waist..."

This is a highly recommended read!

Friday, February 11, 2011

One Chance To Shine

On American Idol last night the recurring message was (and I'm paraphrasing): You only get 1 chance, 1 chance to shine, 1 chance to leave it all on the stage.  And it struck me that writers should be living this motto too.

A query is our one shot, our one chance to stand out from everyone else that ends up in the slush pile. So how do we do it? What makes us shine above all others?

Here are a few tips in helping writers stand out from the crowd.
1. The writing, the writing, the writing. Just like American Idol is all about the singing, for us it's all about the writing, so we have to make sure that the manuscript is ready for submissions. It should be polished. The words should flow just as easily as any other book on the bookshelves across the world. When you read it out loud, does your writing sound ready to be read to an audience? And for sure, be certain there aren't any grammatical errors or typos. No longer can a writer get by with a fabulous idea alone.

2. Query ONLY when the manuscript is ready. It doesn't matter if it's one page, the first two chapters, or the whole manuscript that is being sent..the whole manuscript needs to be ready through and through. And if it's not, then when an agent requests more of your manuscript, you will have set yourself up for failure because the rest of your work isn't as polished.

3. Don't ruin your chances before the agent even gets to your manuscript. Make sure the query letter is addressed properly. Don't mass mail your query letters, and only include a generic greeting like "dear agent"; make sure each query letter is personalized (and don't put the wrong agent's name on the letter).

4. Do your research. If you are sending query letters to agents that don't represent the genre you have written for, then you will just be spinning your wheels. An agent represents a specific genre for a reason. Just because you've sent them your awesome manuscript, doesn't mean they will suddenly add your genre to their list. Probably won't happen.

5. Understand what should be in a query letter. There are lot's of agent blogs, how-to books, and even writing workshops that cover the do's and don'ts of queries. Some of the informaton is conflicting, and some agent's have very specific likes and dislikes when it comes to queries, but find what works for you. And incorporate what works with the specific guidelines requested by the agent you are submitting to.

6. If you don't get results, re-evaluate. Try to determine where you might need to tweak what you're sending. Have you received feedback from agents? Are you getting partial requests but not full requests? Are you sending, sending, sending and not getting any results at all? Don't just stop at the first format and throw your hands up in the air. Even for contestants on American Idol, sometimes they have to audition a couple years in a row before they get a yes to continue on.

The most important part of the process is to be willing to try different approaches. And never give up.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Signing Fun - Breathless Reads Book Tour

Last night I was at the Breathless Reads Book Tour in NYC and I got to meet five of the most amazing authors...Kirsten Miller (The Eternal Ones), Brenna Yovanoff (The Replacement), Andrea Cremer (Nightshade), Ally Condie (Matched) and Beth Revis (Across The Universe) ... swoon! As an author trying to get where they are at, it was inspirational to listen to these ladies speak. They were gracious and honest in their answers to questions from the crowd.

And I wasn't the only one there; the room was packed! People spilled out into the bookstore, standing room only. Now that's how you fill an event. And the energy in the room was amazing! There was an eclectic mix of fans, book bloggers, and agents, ranging from teenagers to adults.

I had planned on taking pictures of the event, but I couldn't see over the sea of fans that were ahead of me (and I'm short so it's not hard to tower over me). Plus my arms were full of books and swag. So instead, I opted for pictures of the stuff I brought home...and here it is...                                                                        

And the tour continues. If you live in any of these areas, I recommend you take the trip to visit these ladies. Here's the rest of The Breathless Reads Tour schedule:

Minneapolis, MN – Thursday, February 10
Hennepin County Public Library (Ridgedale Branch), 7 pm

Denver, CO – Friday, February 11
Tattered Cover (Highlands Ranch), 7 pm

Salt Lake City, UT – Saturday, February 12
King’s English Bookshop, 2 pm

Raleigh, NC – Friday, February 25
Quail Ridge Books and Music, 7 pm

Monday, February 07, 2011

Great Week Ahead

It's so funny because earlier today I came up with a perfect topic for today's post and then (poof!) the idea was gone. I didn't write it down. I promised myself that I'd remember it later. And now when I sit down to write about it, the perfect idea is gone. Granted I was driving when the idea came to me, so it was hard for me to record it. But I guess I'll just use this as a reminder to ALWAYS write down my ideas right away. Otherwise, (poof) like magic, they tend to disappear.

Anyway, on the revision front, I'm happy to report I've had a stellar revision session this evening and the words are cranking out like crazy. Woop! Woop! Every day I get one step closer to finishing the story, and one step closer to submission.

AND I'm looking forward to attending the Breathless Reads National Book Tour on Wednesday night in NYC. I'm am so super excited to see Beth Revis and Ally Condie (along with Andrea Cremer, Kirsten Miller, and Brenna Yovanoff). Look for pictures later in the week.

Have a super fantastic week everyone!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Book Review - The Unsuspecting Mage

The Unsuspecting Mage: Book One of The Morcyth SagaI think you'll remember me talking about downloading The Unsuspecting Mage to my kindle a few blog posts back. Here's the link for a refresher. I am fascinated by how Brian S. Pratt has carved a business for himself in publishing through selling his book via Smashwords &; more than just a rinky-dink business because he's poised to earn over $100,000 in 2011. So, I had to find out what he's all about. And now it's review time...

Let's start with what works. The book is imaginative, easy to read, and filled with magic & adventure. I like the way the main character, James, learns how to use magic - it's done in a very realistic, believable way.  I also like the easy flow in the language of the book. But on the same token, there are some issues.
The book ends with no real resolution. The Unsuspecting Mage is book one of a series, but it should stand on its own, and I kept thinking as I was reading toward the end that there didn't seem to be any resolution to the problems in the story. In addition, the novel meandered along seemingly on one level. There were a few parts that elevated in intensity but not by much. I would have liked the story to arch a bit more, to climb the mountain of the plot until the height of the adventure, and then leave us with a hook to continue into the next book.

But then again, that's just my opinion.