Thursday, March 31, 2011

Book Review - Angel Burn

Angel BurnBook Review - Angel Burn
by L.A. Weatherly


Some books have great characters, some are defined by their amazing plots, and others are hailed for their writing. Angel Burn has a little of each of those things sprinkled on its pages. It was an enjoyable read that I couldn't put down. The pacing was right on, and I found myself wanting to get back to the story over and over again.

Strengths:
1. Spot on descriptions of the environment & physical descriptions of the characters without overdoing it. The descriptions were concise and helped me easily see the world the characters lived in and the characters themselves.
2. Likable characters, natural dialogue
3. Great story pacing and just enough story to come full circle while still leaving an opening to continue the story into another book. I hope there's a part two coming!

Other notes:
1. I had to get used to the transitioning of 1st person point of view in the Willow chapters and 3rd person point of view for the Alex chapters, but once I saw the pattern, I expected it and it worked. I felt more drawn to the Willow chapters than the Alex chapters, but that could be because of the point of view used and my relatability to Willow as a character.

2. Once in a while, I felt like the explanations of how the angels affected the world were a bit too convenient, and would have liked to see this explored a bit more.

This is a recommended read for Young Adult fans of paranormal and romance.

Angel Burn will officially be released on May 24, 2011.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Brainstorming Techniques

Brainstorming is essential throughout the writing process. Its where the purest ideas often come from because it allows you to explore without the editing. It's the raw information, ideas, and concepts.

I use brainstorming when I'm fleshing out the main structure of my first draft. I also use it to develop my character sketches and explore character decisions, which leads to an understanding of how a character might think or react in a situation. I've even used brainstorming to explore storyline revisions, which I blogged about previously in this post: Brainstorming.

So what is brainstorming?
Here's how Dictionary.com explains it:
brain·storm·ing   /ˈbreɪnˌstɔrmɪŋ/ Show Spelled
[breyn-stawr-ming] Show IPA
–noun
a conference technique of solving specific problems, amassing information, stimulating creative thinking, developing new ideas, etc., by unrestrained and spontaneous participation in discussion.
There are are a multitude of brainstorming techniques, more than we could cover in one blog post, but here are a few methods to consider.

The first one is a basic Listing method. My son came home the other day with a brainstorm sheet for a writing project he was working on in school. It serves as a good example of this type of brainstorm. Here he was brainstorming two different story topics, trying to decide which topic he wanted to write about.


And here's a Mind Map brainstorming technique from Gilman Performance System. The original use is for plotting an employee's responsibilities but this can be used to brainstorm story plots or even character development as well. This example is similiar to the bubble technique, which is what I use quite often. The main idea or item you're brainstorming about is in the middle, and then you can branch off with subs and it can just keep going to as many levels as you need.



I also use the Freewriting technique, which is jotting down as many ideas as you can, continuous writing without any editing - it's a free flow of ideas and you write them all down no matter how off-topic or silly.

You can also brainstorm from different Perspectives. Take your topic, or the element you're looking to brainstorm about, and look at it from different perspectives. It could be character perspectives, it could be reader/audience perspectives, or it could even be emotional perspectives. It's another way of exploring ideas.

And some helpful tips when brainstorming:
  • Don't prejudge the ideas, but instead write them all down. You never know when a silly idea could link to the perfect fit to your problem.
  • Keep your brainstorms. You may refer to it throughout the writing process. It can be a tremendous tool it exploring a scene with elements you brainstormed about earlier.  You can also reference it for additional ideas of where to take your story if the first solution you used turns out to be a dud. 
  • Brainstorming can be done by you alone, or you can brainstorm in groups. If you have a trusted critique group or writing group that you work with you can utilize their ideas into your brainstorm sessions as well.
There are so many, many more methods of brainstorming out there. Do you have a favorite technique?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Gym Reading

Angel BurnReading at the gym is awesome! Who knew? Yesterday I got more done on the treadmill, with my kindle perched in front of me, than I've ever done in one

session before. Maybe it's because the book I'm reading is sooooo good (Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly). Or maybe because it allows me a solid hour of uninterrupted reading. Either way, I'm loving it (the book, and the fact that I'm getting great exercise at the same time). Like I said, who knew?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spam Spam Spam

Where does all the Spam come from? Fellow bloggers, do you get as much spam as I seemed to get flowing into the comment box? Just curious.

Anyway, that is the only reason why I keep my comments moderated, just so you all know. You'd be amazed at the amount of spam that comes in. Just sayin'.

Short & sweet today. Just had to do a shout-out to spam!

And I had to share this article & picture about spam on CrunchGear - Analyst: Spam is a real life arms race

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review - Radiance

Book ReviewRadiance by Alyson Noel
RadianceThis was an impulse buy, I'll admit it. I actually hadn't heard of this book before seeing it on the shelves at I my son's school book fair, but I'm so glad I got it. It's a short book, only 178 pages, a far cry from some of the mammoth novels I've read in the past. But still the story was all there, even in just those 178 pages. It reminds me of the tv show "Dead Like Me", but for kids. The main character, Riley, is twelve years old, and she is dead. She resides in the afterlife but soon realizes that she must take on a job, and her job ends up being as a Soul Catcher.

I guess the biggest thing that struck me about this book was how tight the storyline was in these pages. Things that could have been left unexplained were adeptly included. Alyson Noel is so skilled in her style and language that she guides readers effortlessly, leaving nothing to question.

Great story, well-defined characters, and I'm itching to read the sequel!

Recommended read for middle-grade readers and higher.

Here's a link to a trailer for the book posted on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/mpd/permalink/m33IWIUF197FI5/ref=ent_fb_link

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Routines, Habits and Keeping Them Fresh

Routines build habits. Habits can be very important to building foundations. Good habits anyway. But, and this is a big but, for me anyway, sometimes routines and habits need to be changed or adjusted to keep things fresh.

I've started going to the gym. This is my fourth week now that I've been going consistantly. And it feels GREAT! But, even in those four weeks, I've needed to mix-it-up a bit in the routine to keep things interesting. Like I create little challenges for myself in the number of calories I'll burn in a session, or I'll change my equipment routine or the time that I go. Keeping it interesting is just as important for results as the actual routine.

I bring this up, because I've found this also holds true for my writing. Routines are important to leading to good writing habits, BUT I've found that I need to mix-it-up sometimes to spark my creativity. Examples of how I do that? Instead of writing at night, maybe I'll get up early and write in the morning  OR instead of writing at my desk, I'll take my laptop and write in the car outside a park on my lunch break. Sometimes I'll revise on the laptop, and others I'll print out a few pages and revise on paper. I'll write in silence, and sometimes I'll add some background music or a nature CD.

Keeping the routine interesting and fresh is the best way to ensure that you'll maintain the routine. At least, it has been for me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review - Mockingbird

Book Review - Mockingbird - by Kathryn Erskine

Mockingbird
Wow - what an AMAZING book, definitely on the top of my list. What makes this story so amazing is its honest, simple approach. We see the world through the eyes of Caitlin, a young girl struggling with Asperger's syndrome, and also coping with a tragedy that has struck her family, her school, and the whole community. And the author, Kathryn Erskine, does it in such a way that there's real insight into how someone with Asperger's syndrome perceives the world. There's understanding, and appreciation for not just the struggle that one goes through, but also the talent and intelligence behind what we see.

I don't know how Kathryn Erskine was able to connect with the inner monologue of Caitlin so precisely, but she does, and the result is absolutely amazing. .

Mockingbird is a National Book Award, and well-deserved. I highly recommend this book for all ages middle-grade and up.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

School Reading - Reading Is Fundamental Program

Just got back from reading my children's story, Petunia Wiggles, Giggles & Hops to a group of 2nd graders...who loved it! Is there anything better than seeing the enjoyment on kids faces after hearing a story? Nope, nothing better.

I was at the school as part of the Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) program. The vision & mission of the program is this:
OUR VISION:

Our vision is a literate America in which all children have access to books and discover the joys and value of reading.

OUR MISSION:
To motivate young children to read by working with them, their parents, and community members to make reading a fun and beneficial part of everyday life. RIF's highest priority is reaching underserved children from birth to age 8.
So as a volunteer today, I helped distribute free books to the kids and was able to read to them as well.

Great program. Great kids. And I was glad to be a part of it today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Winner! Winner! Winner!

Drum roll, please...And the winner is...Cedric! Send me an email: mtr(at)MichelleReynoso.com with the address you'd like your prizes sent to.

Here is Cedric's winning entry:
Tommy stared at the oversized watched locked onto his wrist... The reflection on it, distorted his face making it look normal. The clock face had taken on a deeper, more mystical meaning to him; a reflection of the face that would never come back; a reminder that it only takes a split second to take a drastic turn in life. The twitch in his face called him back to reality.

And here is what Cedric has won:
*signed copy of Matched by Ally Condie
*signed copy of Across The Universe by Beth Revis

*Matched bookmark

*Across The Universe bookmark*Breathless Reads book tour poster signed by Ally Condie, Beth Revis, Andrea Cremer, Brenna Yovanoff, & Kirsten Miller

CONGRATULATIONS! And Thanks to those who participated!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Review - Across The Universe

Book Review - Across The Universe by Beth Revis

Across the UniverseThis book started out with a POW in the first chapter, and carried that intensity throughout the whole story. In this debut novel by Beth Revis, Across The Universe is a just-right mix of sci-fi adventure, murder mystery, and romance.

The story is told in first person from two different perspectives: Amy and Elder, which gives us real insight into these two main characters. Both are well defined, as are the supporting characters.

I particularly enjoyed how Beth built up the world on the ship, Godspeed. The descriptions throughout the book helped put me, as the reader, in the middle of this self-contained world. Here's a perfect example:
"I peel off the clothes the doctor gave me earlier. They are shades of brown, a pale taupe tunic and chocolate pants. I think they are homemade. Although the stitches are even and clean, they're not machine made. The cloth is smooth and not itchy, but there are tiny pricks and flaws in the fabric that imply craftsmanship, not manufacturing."
Although the primary storyline, mainly the murder mystery, is solved in this book, there are still a lot of unanswered questions and unresolved plotlines at the end, but do not fear, as another book is in the works. I'm anticipating the unanswered elements will get explored and resolved there.

I'm anxiously awaiting book two to see what happens next!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Contest! Contest! Contest!

Who wants to win free books! Me! Me! Me! Except I can't win these books because I'm giving them away.

So let's start with the goodies first, the prizes...
*signed copy of Matched by Ally Condie
*signed copy of Across The Universe by Beth Revis
*Matched bookmark
*Across The Universe bookmark*Breathless Reads book tour poster signed by Ally Condie, Beth  Revis, Andrea Cremer, Brenna Yovanoff, & Kirsten Miller


And now the fun part...

To enter, simply complete the writing prompt below in 5 sentences or fewer. The most creative response, wins! Entries will be accepted in the comment section of this blog post, or on the discussions tab on my facebook page. Contest ends Saturday (3-12-11 at midnight EST).

Writing Prompt:
Tommy stared at the oversized watched locked onto his wrist...

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Author Interview - Kelly Creagh

I absolutely LOVED reading Nevermore, the debut novel by Kelly Creagh. So, can you imagine my excitement when Kelly agreed to an interview for the blog. (swoon) Well, here it is folks, my interview with the awesome...Kelly Creagh.


Kelly CreaghWhere did the initial seed for the story for Nevermore come from?
I was in my first semester at Spalding University’s MFA in writing program. I was working on a separate project for middle grade readers (one which I hope to return to in the future) and I started the first chapter of Nevermore. I was just doing some free writing and thought it might be fun to pair a goth and a cheerleader together for an English project. This was back in 2005 and, actually, the first chapter of Nevermore has not drastically changed from what I first wrote even though the novel went through several drafts. I didn’t start out with Poe as a major element of the story. I just let the characters tell me what they wanted to do and so Varen picked Poe. Then I started doing a little research on Poe and that’s when the weirdness set it. I found out about his mysterious death and started reading his stories and poetry. I found a common thread of dreams and, soon, everything began to read like riddles and clues, as though Poe left breadcrumb trails in his works as to what really happened to him.

What draws you to write young adult literature?
NevermorePartly because I think I never really left the stage of adolescence. Also because the characters who come to me asking for their stories to be told are nearly always teens.

Some authors write in offices surrounded by things that inspire them, while others write in coffee shops and bookstores inspired by new people and places. Where do you write and why?
I used to spend a lot of time writing in bookstore coffee shops. When I needed a break, I could go browse the Teen section which never ever gets old. I could also order a latte and just sit in my little corner and type away! Recently, however, I’ve spend most of my writing time at my kitchen table. It’s not really a kitchen table, I guess, because I live in a small place and it’s in the same area as my living room. I don’t know why, but I do my best writing there. I always have to do some moving around when I sit down to eat, however. My table is covered in notebooks, papers and biographies on Poe!

What is one thing that fans don’t know about you, but should?
That I hide many many subtle clues in my writing. Also, I’m Batman.

I greatly enjoyed reading Nevermore and I can’t wait to see what happens to Varen & Isobel. Is there an estimate on when the sequel will be released? What’s next for Kelly Creagh?
The release date for the sequel is to be announced. Our tentative date is Spring 2012. After that, I’ll be jumping straight in to the third book. Then, after that, I have another project I’d like to finish. It’s nearly complete but I haven’t been able to get back to it since Nevermore sold. I can say that it’s incredibly different from Nevermore. In fact, it’s the *polar* opposite. ;)

Kelly Creagh is a 2008 graduate of Spalding University's MFA in Creative Writing program. When not writing, haunting bookstore coffee shops, or obsessively studying Poe, Kelly's passions include the ancient art of bellydance. She lives with her squirrely, attitude-infused terrier, Annabel, in the heart of Old Louisville, Kentucky's largest and spookiest Victorian neighborhood. Visit her at KellyCreagh.com.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Favorite Reading Places

It is Read Across America Day...so where is your favorite place to read?

I have so many favorite reading places like cuddled in a comforter on the couch, at Starbucks with a Chai Tea Latte, in the park on a warm day, but my new favorite place to read is actually at the gym. It passes the time, and I get to have a solid block of uninterrupted reading AND exercise - it's a win-win!

So how about you, where is your favorite place to read?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Author Interview – Megan Hart









I am excited to welcome Megan Hart to the My Writing Life blog. Her 2010 release of Precious and Fragile Things made it to the top of my list of top reads for the year. Welcome Megan!

Most of your books fall into the category of romance fiction, but Precious and Fragile Things is a departure from that. Did your approach to this novel differ from your other books? What was the hardest part about writing this novel? What was the easiest?
The hardest part about writing Precious and Fragile Things was finding the time to do it, because I was writing around nap times and preschool. See, I actually wrote this book long before I wrote most of the others anyone who's read my work would recognize! So it's not as much a departure as it seems. However, when I actually sold it and began to rewrite and expand it, I didn't approach it differently than I did my romances or erotic novels. It's still a book about a relationship. It's just not a romantic or sexual one, so the pacing of it was a little different.

Precious and Fragile ThingsHow did you get started writing romance fiction?
I always loved reading romances. I started off writing horror, science fiction and fantasy short stories, but when I decided to go for longer works, the ideas I had were for romances. I like writing about relationships.

How much do you plan your novels before you start writing? Do you know how they will end before you begin to write?
I don't plan very much at all, maybe no more than a chapter or two in advance. I know the beginning, I usually know the end. The middle...not so much. How the characters get from one place to another in the story...that's a surprise. On the other hand, sometimes I have an idea about where it will end and something happens along the way that changes it so I finish in a very different spot than I'd imagined. I just started using Scrivener, which is a writing program that has a lot of bells and whistles for plotters, though. I might like to try some of them out.


Selfish is the Heart (Order of Solace)What is your writing schedule - do you write every day?
I write Monday - Friday while my kids are in school. This means that I have from about 8:30 am - 3:30 pm. I spend too much time fooling around on the internet (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) but I'm basically "at work" all day. I try not to work too much on the weekends but it just depends on what I've accomplished during the week. I also might write in the evenings if I feel I need to push through on something. So, basically, I work all the time, in between long breaks in which I just stare at the computer and wonder why I'm bothering with this career.


How aware are your kids of what you do? How do juggle responsibilities of being a mother, wife, and writer?
My kids have always known me as a writer. I've been writing and publishing for mostly their whole lives - though I didn't start getting bigger contracts until they were in elementary school. As for juggling...I'm not very good at it. I drop a lot of stuff. I don't bake cookies for the bake sale, I sometimes chaperone trips, but I hardly ever volunteer at school. My house is often pretty messy though I try hard to clean it at least once a week. Hey, we all have food and clean clothes and the bills are paid. Beyond that, I think my family can certainly make a peanut butter sandwich and put away laundry when the need arises. I do try to finish up when they get home from school, at least long enough to ask them about their days. Have dinner. Spend some time in the evening watching tv or something.

What books are you reading right now?
Right this very moment in time I just finished The Walking Dead: Volume 6 and I'm about to start whichever issue came after that. I also have Jon Stewart's EARTH and David Wong's John Dies at the End going.

Is there a book that you’ve read that you wished you had written? Hmmm. No, because if I loved it that much, I'm glad to have the chance to read it and love it instead of having created it.

 
What authors inspire you?
The ones who write good books and aren't morons on the internet. ;)

If you had a young writing protégé, what one piece of advice would you offer?
Don't talk about writing, sit down and write. Write some more. Get better. Learn that not every word you write is gold. Don't be a jerk. Pay attention. Pay your dues. Don't pay to be published. Know your place on the ladder, we all start somewhere far from the top.