Monday, September 29, 2008

Getting Back on the Horse!

And it is Monday again! Where is the world did my last week go??

Actually, I know where it went . . . but I'll get to that in a minute.:)

Okay, so I have the most beautiful family pictures EVER! My friend Kali Jones took these at my sister's wedding two weeks ago and I am so thoroughly pleased with them, that I wanted to post them so you could not only see my beautiful family, but also my friend's beautiful photography! Thank you, Kali!!!

So, I rarely post anything even remotely political here, but I have to say that this has tickled me immensely (and it's really not that political, just news-ish.:)). An apt punishment for prejudices hidden behind a mask of religion. Ahem. Anyway.:)

In other news, my cover is getting it's final tweaks and will hopefully be ready to share soon, but let me tell you; it is beautiful! I'll share when I can.;)

Okay, so where has my week gone? Well, I have heard a lot of writers say something along the lines of, Writers Write! or Writers Write Every Day!

Um . . . I need breaks.:D

However, I've had a very nice break since finishing my sequel several weeks back, and this last week I have jumped back on the old writing horse and started writing every day again. And it's FUN! It particularly fun because it is the book I totally figured out in Maui; so not only am I writing, I'm writing with a clear purpose! (Which for me is always better than aimlessly wandering . . .)

However, I cannot write while my one-year-old son is hanging onto my ankles, so I write while he is napping. Nap time, is Mommy's work time!

Which, as my husband pointed out, leaves me trying to keep the house clean and do dishes while said child hangs onto my ankles.

But hey, you gotta have priorities, right?

That's what I thought.:)

In other news, I have a three-year-old son who is afraid of buzzers and will barely sit still for a five minute haircut using only scissors.

Guess who has the worst haircut in the neighborhood now. :D


Monday, September 22, 2008

Winners, More Free Stuff, and Book Reviews

Okay, it's Monday blog day again (I was trying to come up with a nice hybrid, but Mogday and Blonday just don't have much of ring to them . . . go figure.:))

Okay, first off, winners! It was so fun to see my Google alerts go off this week and I really appreciate you guys mentioning me! So without further ado, the winners are . . . Pink Ink and Amy!! Please e-mail me with your shipping info (Amy, I'll send yours to school with Kenny:)) at the email address you'll find up in my profile. Also, SpeedReader? When I get ARCs I will see if I can get you one for review. At this point I don't know, though. Thanks for the offer!!

And now . . . more free stuff!! In order to get a few more people watching our blog at before we start our big giveaways (The Twelve Months of Debsmas, oh yeah! It's gonna be huge!!) we are doing a couple of smaller giveaways in the next couple of months. The first one started this morning and it's super easy. All you have to do is go and comment on the thread. Super easy, and again, that's at

Okay, I have been reading a ton of books lately and I have a ton more on my TBR list. Here's a few I've really enjoyed.

This is a book I picked up in Hawaii because I was intrigued by the jacket-description and the reviews. But I didn't actually flip through it until I was on the plane. I was rather surprised to see that it was a book in verse. Free-verse rather than rhymed verse. I have opinions both ways about that. In general I didn't see the point for it to be in verse (though there were a few funny visual poems!) and what it did is turned a fifty page very-well-written short story into a very-well-written 250 page novel. But regardless of how I really felt about the format, this was a fun story! It is about the least popular guy in the entire school landing a really popular girl as his girlfriend. But he gets very concerned when being with this girl makes HER unpopular as well. He desperately doesn't want her to have to live his life. I don't want to spoil too much, but this book is full of really lovely verse that manages to capture the teenage boy's voice, observations on art, self-confidence, and loyalty, and you just can't help but cheer for this underdog of underdogs and the girl who has seen through that to who he really is. A really really great book!

Okay, I'm cheating a bit with this one, because it's not out until February. But, hey! It's up on Amazon, so that makes it free game, right? Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell is, hands down, the best book I've read this summer. (And yes, my lovely Debs, there are some very VERY close seconds, but truth is truth.:)) I am looking to this book to be an award winner and nominee next year. I didn't think I would like this book because I am SO not into ghost stories. But this is so much more than a ghost story. Iris and her friend have always pretended to do magic, but the magic turns scarily real when a ghost answers Iris one day. He doesn't say much and haunting is the least of what he does to her. This is not a book about a ghost and a girl who make friends, nor is it about a scary ghost who will make you have nightmares. This is a tormented soul looking for peace. The amazing thing about this book is that, yes, there is a ghost in it, but it is about relationships. The relationship between best friends, between girls and boys, between a widower father and his only child. It is a beautiful, creepy, amazing book. Look for it in February. This is a book you will not regret buying!

Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale came out just over a year ago, but I only managed to read it this summer. This is a hard book to describe because while it is technically a retold fairy tale, it doesn't read that way at all. It reads like a rich, historic journal that surprises you with the fantastical elements at the end. The basic premise is that a sixteen year old rich man's daughter has been locked in a tower alone with only her maid, Dashti (the POV character) for company. They are condemned to stay there for seven years or until the young Lady agrees to marry the man her father has chosen for her. Although the reasons for being in the tower are all about the Lady Saren, this is really Dashti's story. A story of growth and will and rebellion and love. A really, really beautiful, if unexpected story. (Also, Shannon is one of the most friendly, funny people I've ever met!) If you haven't managed to read this one yet, you should. imagine most libraries will have it.

I have this terrible habit of getting so excited about books that I have to start reading them right away . . . because of that, I find myself reading many books at the same time as I flip-flop between them getting excited about one, then needing to read a little more of the other, then the other, etc. So here are some books I am bouncing between, but really enjoying!

Ophelia By Lisa Klein. Aside from having such a stunningly beautiful cover, this is--so far--an incredible book. It is a retelling of Hamlet from Ophelia's point of view starting from when she is a very young girl. It is meticulously researched and shows a lot about how courtly life was lived back during this time. This isn't a spoiler because it is in the first two pages of the book, but the prologue tells you right away that Hamlet dies at the end, just like in the play, but Ophelia discovers this in a letter from Hamlet's friend . . . so she must be alive . . . I am just under half-way through with this book and am looking forward to the big twist that the reviews refer to. A really beautiful book that manages to have lovely, artful prose that is none-the-less very accessible. Did I mention the gorgeous cover??

Rumors, by Anna Godbersen. So, here is my other bad habit. Reading the first twenty pages and the last twenty pages first. That's what I've done with this one.:) The thing I love about the Luxe books is that they are very beautifully and richly historical . . . without taking themselves too seriously. I have heard people comment that this character or that would never actually do that or that the times would not allow. And they are right. And I don't care.:) I enjoy the story too much to let alterations to history that enhance that story get in the way. This is not a serious historical novel. It is a historic romp meant solely to entertain. Many (most even) of the historic detail are well-researched and accurate, so don't think this is an unresearched bit of fluff, it's not. It is, however, a thoroughly enjoyable series with rich, lovely historical details . . . that sometimes strays. I just sped through the first one and can't wait to finish the second one and find out how in the world Anna got to the ending she did!! (I know, bad me.:))

Okay, last but not least, Sovay by Celia Rees. I am roughly half-way through this book and have reached just a bit of a lull. I need to get back to it and give it fifty more pages because I really enjoyed the first half. This is a Robin Hood retelling with a female protagonist set in the . . . 1700's I think? It's a fun and quite rollicking tale of adventure and love, and at this point there are three guys who could be the love interest and I'm not sure which one she is leaning toward! (Love square, anyone??) One thing to be on the lookout for, this book insists on using one quotation marks instead of two for all the dialog. I don't know who made that decision and it drives me nuts, but luckily, it has nothing to do with the actual story. This is a fun one that I really do need to get back too. It has a very interesting poem (also named Sovay) as is basis along-side the Robin Hood legends that is very interesting!

Okay, so there are some recommendations from me! If there are some books you've been reading this summer that you just adored, I'd love to here about them.

Oh and I am buying Hunger Games today. SO looking forward to that one!!!


Monday, September 15, 2008

Who Doesn't Like Free Stuff??

It a free stuff entry today! Yay!

Okay, first off, I mentioned my debut author community the 2009 Debutantes at, well, if you have a LiveJournal account and would like to become a watcher of our community, you will be eligible for our awesome giveaways that are starting in January of 2009. Plus we're fun to watch. :) So come over and check us out and maybe become a watcher. Cuz we are going to make next year super-exciting!

Second, we have our next contest! Last month my editor sent me a copy of Michael Grant's book Gone and oh my goodness! I could barely put it down to do essential things like, um . . . eat. Seriously, it was that good!

It's a pretty big hunk of a book, (over 500 pages!) and worth every one of them. Basically it's Lord of the Flies meets X-Men. The basic story is that suddenly, every person in a small California town who is above the age of fourteen disappears. I don't mean they pack up and leave, I mean in the blink of an eye, they're just . . . Gone. Not only that, but the town is surrounded by some kind of impenetrable barrier, so the kids are alone and trapped. As a rough martial government is formed, terrible things start happening. Bullying, starvation, murder, and something else. Something that might be worse or better. Some of the kids are developing powers. Supernatural abilities.

This is one creepy book. Not only do you have the Lord of the Flies theme that makes all of us question what we would do if our leadership was suddenly gone, but there are a couple of supernatural elements that weave themselves tightly around the story although they are themselves a completely different story altogether. Although this book is obviously the first of a series, there is a very nice resolution at the end that made me feel satisfied . . . while still hungering for the next book. I raced through this novel with absolute rapt fascination and the second I closed the book I went, "Man, I gotta give this one away next!"

(Also, this is the British cover which I really think captures the supernatural side of this story.)

The requirements are pretty easy. Just mention my upcoming book, Wings in your blog with a link to either my blog, or my website. ( :) That's it! Well, almost it. Leave the link to your blog entry in the comments and once I verify that you mentioned me in your blog, you are entered!

Also, because you are doing me a favor by entering this contest, I'm offering up two copies of Gone. (And because the book is just so freakin' cool!!) So double chances here!

Entries must be in the comments section by Friday, September 19th, 2008, Midnight, MST. You got five days. Go! ;)

Next time, I will be doing a grab-bag of mini reviews on the zillion books I've been reading lately. And there are some really great ones in there!


Monday, September 08, 2008

What I Learned

Okay, so you all saw the pics of what I DID in Hawaii, but it's kind of hard to take a picture of what I learned. The whole point of going to Hawaii was to attend the Maui Writers Retreat (and no, it wasn't at Maui, it was at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. It was on the road this year. I am not sure where it will be next year.) The way that it worked is that we had whole group seminars in the mornings and afternoons, but for four hours a day, six days in a row, we met in small groups of 6-9 and had individual workshops with well-established authors. My instructor was the illustrious William (Bill) Bernhardt, thriller-writer extraordinaire!

Now, going into this retreat, I knew I wanted to work on my ghost story that I have been kicking around for a long time. I know at this point most of you are whining, "Oh man! That story again? Aren't you finished with that? We've been hearing about this book for two years!" Well yes, yes you have. And you want to know why? Because this book has a lot of voice and almost no structure. I have a great beginning, a wisp of an idea for the middle, and only a slightly more solid idea for the end. Basically I was wandering all over the place! Not good.

One of the main things that we focused on in Bill's class was structure. *heavenly choirs!! Laaaaa!!* We spent time talking about the Inciting Incident. The inciting incident is something big that happens very early in the book that leads directly, even inevitably to the Climax . . . but we'll get to that later. Ever read a book where you wander around for forty, fifty, even one hundred pages before you get the sense that the story has begun? That's because the inciting incident has been placed far, far too late in the story. So what exactly is an inciting incident? It not just action at the beginning of the story; the inciting incident must point the reader toward whatever is going to happen at the end of the book. If you have a romance where the heroine gets mugged . . . but the rest of the story is about how she's a dentist and meets a mouth fetishist and it's love forever and ever, well, the mugging scene at the beginning may have been big and exciting, but it's not the inciting incident because it has nothing to do with the rest of the story. However, if the beginning of this romance is the woman getting mugged and saved by a ruggedly handsome cop who's passion in life is catching this serial mugger and the two fall madly in love while sleuthing out the criminal, well! There you have an inciting incident! Do you see the difference there?

Sure, sure, you think, but why is that important? Because above all, understanding the inciting incident helps you start your story in the right place. I frequently hear from editors, agents, and other authors about how they read a book or manuscript where the story actually started on page twenty, forty, etc. If authors understood that in their first chapter--two at the most--they needed to have this inciting incident, that MUST point to the end of the book, then a lot more books would start in the right place.

Inciting Incident--very important. Got it? Next!

Now, the storyline that Bill taught us may not be right for every book, but I was amazed how well it worked for mine. Basically, the middle of the book should include two plot points. One 25% into the book, and one 75% into the book. Plot Point One should be a big event that changes the course of the book. Plot Point Two should be another big event that changes the course of the book. Let's go back to our mugger book. Plot Point One could be when the hunky cop realizes that this is not a random mugging--this is the serial mugger who the cop has been chasing for five years who always comes back to kill his victims! That changes everything. The cop cannot look at the woman the same way, he can't look at the case the same way, and the stakes are suddenly higher. So they sleuth around and fall in love throughout the next half of the book. Then we come to Plot Point Two. Beautiful but resourceful heroine is looking through the files and she and hunky cop have been making in-between shag-fests and she suddenly realizes that the mugger/murderer is the cop's partner who he is on a stakeout with! Again, everything changes. The friend is now the enemy, instead of everyone fearing for the heroine's life, now she is fearing for the cop's life, the untrained has to go save the trained, and again, the stakes go up. Got it?

Plot Points. Important. Keeps your readers on their toes which is right where you want them.

Then we come to the aforementioned Climax. This the the highest, most exciting part of the book. Heroine confronts the mugger and there is a huge shootout in which the men go back and forth using her as a body shield!! (Bad boyfriend!) Bullets are fired! Biceps are grazed! (Why is it always the biceps, thus forcing the hero to take off their shirt? . . . Oh, I guess I've answered my own question . . .:)) Bullets rain from the sky killing the bad guy and merely wounding the good guy! The climax. The part where the stakes are the highest and we know as readers that at this point the main character will either achieve their goal, or fail. We all live for the climax. (It's also one of the funnest parts to write!)

If you don't have a climax, you need a major revision. I don't think I know a single exception to this. Don't be fooled into thinking that climax means action though. Some of the most emotional books I've ever read have heart-wrenching climaxes that happen in a deceptively calm conversation. But there Must. Be. A. Climax.

After the climax comes the Denouement and as my college fiction instructor Claire Davis said, "Yes, you must say it with a French accent." :) This is the part that can range from a single word to maybe, MAYBE twenty pages that follows the climax and give the reader their resolution. In our fake book the hero could get out of the hospital and the heroine could toss him roughly into bed and say, "I will kill you if you ever use me for a body shield again." The Hero smiles and says, "Deal." They kiss, the end. Denouement. The main point of the denouement is to provide resolution. If that takes fifteen pages, fine. if you can do it in three words, fine again. This is not the same thing as wrapping everything up in a cute little box, but at the end of the book, your reader should feel satisfied!

So there are all the basic parts of a storyline. on top of that, Bill had us make a sixty-scene outline. And every scene had to be important. It couldn't just be a rundown of a bunch of stuff happening. Every scene should provide some kind of change that continues propelling the plot toward that inevitable climax. So now, guess what!!! I have a sixty-scene outline for my story!! I totally know where it is going and I have sixty little signposts to guide me along!!

It is SO awesome!

Plus I had a major epiphany as I was slaving away at my outline.

There was more to the retreat than structure. We spent two days learning how to pitch and query agents, and I admit I did not pay as much attention those days--I was busy refining my lovely outline.:D But it was a great experience and was particularly helpful to me with THIS book at THIS point in my career, and I love that the stars were so kind as to align so nicely for me.


Monday, September 01, 2008


Alrighty, I am back. And to celebrate my longest lapse between post ever, I think we should have . . . . the longest entry ever!!!

Okay, not really, but maybe the most pictures ever.:)

But first, some news I have just been bursting to tell and I've been given the green light. Harper has invited me to go on not one, but two tours for my upcoming series! I will be going on a pre-publication tour in January that will focus on meeting bookseller, librarians, and teachers who will be buying, stocking, selling and/or telling students about my book (hopefully!). Then in May I will be going on a traditional tour where I will be visiting bookstores and doing signings and maybe if I am very lucky, some readers will show up. :) I have been bouncing off the walls with this news for a month and am so excited to be able to finally officially announce. The cities are still tentative, so I will share those just as soon as I can. *squee!!*

Okay, back to Hawaii. It. Was. So. Incredible! Seriously! One of the most wonderful trips of my life. I had such a great time.

First, the people. I finally got to meet my incredible friend Pat Wood who I have been friends with for about two years. Before either of us was agented or contracted and before her incredible book Lottery was published and critically acclaimed and short listed for the Orange prize and . . . am I getting carried away? Anyway, she was incredible and the camera just doesn't do justice to her dark brown eyes. In real life, they just sparkle! Totally beautiful!

I also good to meet my bestest author bud, Sarah Rees Brennan who I talked into coming to Hawaii from Ireland. Why yes, I am incredibly convincing.;) She was crazy! Crazy in a lovely sort of way. We had such a blast all week!!

And then I mixed Pat with Sarah and, I tell you what, the good times rolled!! Here is all of us at dinner.

By the way I should confess that I shamelessly stole this picture from Pat because it's a great picture of me.

Yes, totally shameless.:)

Oh, and at this restaurant we have this incredible view:

And they set our strawberries on fire. It was AWESOME!!

One of the interesting things about this trip is that I brought my one year old son.

Which meant that I also had to bring my 28 year-old sister to watch him.:) (She was devastated, let me tell you.;))

But as well as being a great babysitter, she is also a great organizer, which means that while Sarah and I were trying to figure out how to put a little structure in our novels (I now have a sixty plot point outline thank-you very much!) she arranged a trip out to the Polynesian Cultural Center, Hawaii's number one paid attraction. And it was gorgeous and awesome!! Here are a few photo highlights!

There were dancers on a canoe parade.

Huge statues of gods. (I think this one is sleeping . . . .)

This is a hut of a spiritual leader and traditionally, the higher the roof, the closer you could get to God. The picture doesn't do it justice. It was very cool!

They hosted a luau that included one very, very whole pig cooked in a pit covered with banana leaves.

There were sexy guys on drums . . . er . . . I mean, studious college students in traditional dress playing drums.

And the show they put on that night was INCREDIBLE!! Traditional dancing from eight different Polynesian islands!

And there was lovely vegetation everywhere!

We took a quick trip before the show to the Hawaii Temple and, religious or not, it's a beautiful building. Plus we were all wearing our leis and found flowers to put in our hair. Yay!!:)

We also took a really incredible sail on the hotel's catamaran at sunset that was both gorgeous and fun! The sunset was beautiful. Lots of clouds out that night to turn bright pink and orange!

And the catamaran went way fast. Lots of wind and getting sprayed by the waves! (That's Sarah, BTW.:))

Other highlights included our very cute waiter, Tai (who was also a really great waiter. I'm totally not biased!!;))

And the teen spread at the Borders Express that was less than a block from our hotel.

Seriously, all. I came to Hawaii with four books and left with 23. I think I have a problem . . . .

In my defense, six of them were ones that Sarah was returning to me. I did not buy them . . . at least not during this trip!! . . .that only leaves thirteen unaccounted for. *whistles and walks away.*

Anyway, I had a really fabulous time but was so happy to get home to my hubby and other two kidlettes.

And my blog readers. *mwah!mwah!*