Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mystery Agent TOMORROW!

Operation Awesome is hosting its second Mystery Agent one-line pitch contest!

Details will be on the OA blog tomorrow. In fact, the contest post is already written!

But you still have to wait until tomorrow. Buwahahaha!

It's kind of like how they finished filming all the Harry Potter films forever ago, but still make us wait a year between each one! LOL.

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

I'm not into sé·ances or anything fancy like that, but I do like to look up my ancestors in some of the many family history books I've been given over the years. Let's face it. There's something cool about these old black and white pictures.

Mary Field Garner Picture from Utah State History Digital Collections

Mary Field Garner, the last leaf, as she was the last living person to have personally known the prophet, Joseph Smith. She was about 10 years of age as they began the exodus. She told of her mother not having time to finish the bread she had started, so she put it in a pot, hung it along side the wagon and started on the journey. When they stopped for the night, then she baked the bread.

Mary Field Garner

"[My great-great-great grandmother] was born February 1, 1836 and died July 20, 1943. She lived to be 107 years of age. She was present at the meeting wherein the saints chose their next prophet after Joseph Smith's martyrdom. The baby in her mother's arms had dropped the tin cup she was playing with and as she bent down to retrieve it, she heard the voice of Joseph Smith as Brigham Young spoke. Looking up, she saw not the form of Brother Brigham, but of the former prophet and patriarch, Joseph Smith. Mary's mother was a woman of great faith and perseverance. In the cold winter months in her family's journey back to Nauvoo after the main body of saints had moved on west, she would cross frozen rivers, carrying the two youngest in her arms and bidding all the children to cling to her skirt so that if they should fall, not a one would be left to the torture of mobbers.
Throughout the endeavor to establish residency in the far west, Mary's mother and Mary herself underwent an interesting experience with a certain Indian Chief who took a fancy to Mary's long red hair, which fell in locks down her back. This same Chief followed Mary's camp of saints for days, checking in on Mary. One day Mary's mother hid her under the feather beds and when the Indian came to see her and found her gone, he asked of her whereabouts. Her mother told him that she was lost. He didn't accept this and searched every wagon in the camp including Mary's, but did not find her. At this, he left and they didn't see him for a long time until they had established residency in Utah. Then, this same Chief appeared at her door and asked Mary's mother to give Mary to him to wed. Mary's mother refused and bade him go away. He sat at their door for 3 days, at which time he offered Mary's mother many, many ponies, blankets and beads, saying that Mary would be his white squaw and queen of his tribe, and that all of his other squaws would be her servants. Mary's mother refused again, but it wasn't until Mary herself told him NO and to leave her alone that he left. She married William Garner Jr. in Slaterville, Utah in the year 1856."
And if she hadn't, I wouldn't have been born. There's something for all you sci-fi writers working on time travel books. ;)

Family histories are interesting nuggets, rarely complete, that tell us where we came from and how far we've come, sometimes because of the sacrifices and strength of those who came before us. That's why on the Day of the Dead, I like to think about Mary and other grandparents who lived and died, in another world completely, so that we could live in this one.

Michelle is talking about awesome, spooktacular first lines over at Operation Awesome, so trick-or-treat over there and wish her a Happy Halloween. :)

Also, give Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins a read. Witches, vamps, and demons, oh my! It's a perfect Halloween read for the 16 and over crowd. It had me up all night reading to find out how it ended. It's also about to be followed up with an awesome sequel: Demonglass.

Cover love!

And last but not least, the Operation Awesome orange owl now has a name...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ha! I'm Robert Pattinson!

Which Harry Potter Character are you?


Popular, intelligent, loyal, good looking. Some of the many things that describe you. You know what you want in life and how to achieve your goals. You put on a brave facade, but underneath are scared of the same things many others are. You strive to achieve your best and wont accept anything lower. You are extremely loyal to your friends and wouldn't do anything to hurt another person. Because you are seemingly good at everything, people will dislike you for being so 'perfect'.

Find yours here.

And don't miss all the fun going on at Operation Awesome. Kristal breaks down deadlines for:

1) NAMING THE ORANGE OWL (Perceval and Oliver Awesome are currently tied)



Hurry over to the Operation Awesome blog for deets. And Happy Halloween Weekend, my friends!

Look up your ancestors, give the gift of sugary goodness, and pretend to be something out of a novel (or children's cartoon)! That's what I plan on doing! ;)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Stress Barometer about to BUST!

I might die of stress in November, just to warn you all. If I don't blog for seven straight days, call the blog authorities and have them check my apartment. No, don't do that. I'm sure my husband will notice if I die and he can take care of it. Just have the facebook people memorialize my blog. The epithet should read:

Here lies Katrina Lantz.
She overdid it during Nanowrimo.

You think I'm being dramatic, but I just got the hiccups.


This is serious, people. I think I need a stress reliever. 

I'm going to make a list of things that might relieve this barometric pressure:

1. Write from prompts to warm up for Nanowrimo.
2. Do the dishes/laundry/toy-cleanup so my space will be zen.
3. Go to the park with the kids and get some fresh air.
4. Close down the computer and read one of my awesome sidebar books.
5. Yoga, yoga, yoga, yoga, yoga.
6. Dress the kids up in their Halloween costumes and take pictures 
(they'll be Diego and Boots)

Now that I have a list of nice things to do, I feel better already. 

Just to prove I'm going to do it, I'll start right here where you can see. Here's my writing from a prompt:

The Brazilian jungle heat soaked me in sweat, a billboard broadcasting my humanity.

My jaw trembled. “How many of you are there?”

The motherless little girl with dark but icy skin and rust colored eyes circled me. A playful grin made her look almost harmless, but the precise and agile way she moved past fallen logs and grass-thick ferns told another story.

I’d read the legends of her kind, half human and half monster—legends that brought me to her territory in a pre-college voyage of self-discovery. I wanted adventure, so why couldn’t I stop shaking?

“Don’t worry,” she giggled. “My bites aren’t venomous. Can’t vouch for that Jararaca, though.”

Following her tiny, perfect finger to the branch behind me, I barely registered the brown triangle pattern and yellow slit eyes before the snake charged.

In a flash so fast I thought I’d died, rust colored circles replaced the black slits. A deep breath promised I was still alive. There crouched my little girl guide, draining the snake’s cold blood dry.

No book prepared me for the wrenching pain in my stomach at the sight of her feasting. I keeled over, wretching into the bright green leaves of a Yellow Jaboticaba.

Ah. I really do feel SO MUCH BETTER! Hiccups? Gone. I'm not lying.

You can play the Twilight fan fic contest, too. The prizes are gorgeous.

Also, a few quick links: 
Elana's Query Ninja Chat transcripts are available. Awesome advice!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

This Thursday feels like a Friday

That's how happy I am today. It feels like Friday even though it's Thursday, probably because I am so, so, so looking forward to the Operation Awesome chat tonight with special guest Elana Johnson (aka Query Ninja).

And you guys, she's nervous, so she'll need lots of you to show up with nice things to say about her gorgeous new book, POSSESSION.

In preparation for tonight's chat (9pm EST at the Operation Awesome blog), Marieke has posted a perfectly timed and very helpful interview with Elana Johnson ABOUT...

(you guessed it)


I'll go now, so you can skip on over and read that awesome interview.

p.s. any non-fiction writers reading this will find my CP Michelle McLean's non-fiction query advice extremely helpful. She writes both fiction and non-fiction, and her new book Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers releases in January 2011.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Generation Gap and Keeping it Fresh for Young Readers

Kids and teens today don't live in quite the same world today's YA and middle grade authors remember. Case in point:

Conan the Librarian would be lost on them...

from UHF, a Weird Al Yankovic movie

Most, in fact, don't know the Dewey Decimal system or how to use a card catalog. Why should they, when everything is on computers?

Check out this list of things that are different for this fall's incoming class of college freshman, the class of 2014. A few I picked out from their collection:

1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.
12. Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry. 
19. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone. 
46. Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.
55. Rock bands have always played at presidential inaugural parties. 
64. The U.S, Canada, and Mexico have always agreed to trade freely.
71. The nation has never approved of the job Congress is doing.
74. They've always been able to blast off with the Sci-Fi (SYFY) Channel. 
Just something to keep in mind when you're writing something you think is hilarious that references Dirty Harry or tangling phone cards or [insert your favorite childhood TV show here]--your readers might not get the joke. And if teen readers won't get it, savvy literary agents reading your pages will catch it, too. Yet another great reason to...

a) do your research
   1) google everything
   2) subscribe to a teen mag
   3) watch kiddie or teen-targeted TV shows (and then google those shows to find out what teens think about them)
   4) spy on teenagers (but don't be creepy) I just mean to do what few adults seem to do, which is listen to what teenagers have to say

b) run your work through beta readers or critique partners

I'm not extremely old (okay, I'm 27), but my high school experience was very different from today's high school experience. Schools were only just beginning to have bomb drills and lock-down drills to manage the risk of high school bombings/shootings (part of my decision to homeschool, actually--in Columbine's aftermath, those drills were terrifying). Twitter and facebook weren't mega-- myspace was. Ebay was still new and shiny. Craigslist wasn't around, that I know of.

Things change, and if your audience is the rising generation, it will pay to pay attention.

Okay, memory lane time. What's changed since you were in high school?

p.s. I miss Weird Al.

Why You Need a Stellar Query

Lindsay's post on Operation Awesome today is all about the publication process, with a few funny videos to illustrate her points about querying--how we think it ought to work and how it makes us feel when it doesn't quite work that way.

She says:
We set aside time in our day, our lives, to spend time with the people in our imaginations. We nurture them, love them and then want to set them free to make their own way in the world of agents and publishers. 

One day we hope readers fall in love with them like we have. Maybe our words will even inspire them to write as well. 

So to help get our words out there we have the awesome query chat with Elana Johnson tomorrow. So join us at 9pm EST on the 28th of October.
I'm very excited about this chat and you should be, too. Take a second to visit Elana's blog and you'll see why. Her fun/real/quirky way of writing makes complicated/scary things like query writing and query sending feel a lot less scary and complicated.

The author of FROM THE QUERY TO THE CALL, Elana's spent more time than the average writer analyzing what works and what doesn't in query letters. Her amazingly beautiful book, POSSESSION, is coming out next year from Simon & Schuster. She's been through this process herself and understands how difficult it can be to condense your 300-page novel into a one-page sales pitch that will get those first few pages read.

As someone who is currently querying a finished novel, I'm especially interested in picking Elana's brain (but not in the zombie way--eww). Honestly, most of my rejections have come before agents even read a partial sample of my book, and I'm guessing that's the way it is for most writers (judging by how many rejections agents estimate they send out weekly). Ultimately, you are responsible for selling your book, from querying agents to telling your neighbors where they can get a copy, and everything in between. An agent can help a lot, but the query is where you start.

Elana Johnson will help you with that. Tomorrow. 9pm EST.

Be there or eat squares (that's how that saying goes, right?)

If you'd like a reminder, sign up for that nifty little service here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Emy Shin's ARC Giveaway (MATCHED by Ally Condie)

Gorgeous, isn't it?
Emy Shin is giving away an ARC of this awesome YA dystopian novel, and I'm  hoping to win. But you should enter, too! If you win, I'll be totally excited for you. I also might turn the color of that bubble. 

Even if you already have this one, you ought to head over to check out Emy's new blog. She used to blog as Sandy Shin, so be sure to follow her to her new online residence. :)

One Week Until NaNoWriMo!

It's about time I wrote my post about Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month).

Yep, I'm planning to do it. Can I finish my current WIP in a week? No, probably not, but I'm still going to work on writing 50,000 words during November because I just can't pass up an opportunity like this! Not when people are going to be holding me to my promise. You can't BUY that kind of pressure.

Well, I guess you wouldn't want to buy pressure in the first place, but you get what I mean, right? The idea that somebody somewhere might come across the status bar and find me at 3,000 words at the end of November is kind of horror-fying. Thus, I will prevail. I will conquer. I will rule the Nanowrimo!

So add me as a buddy and watch me win.

Buddy Me

I want to watch one hundred writers complete a book in the month of November. To me, that would be the best manifestation of writerly awesome ever. Join us in committing to write 50,000 words in thirty days! It's going to ROCK the Hizzouse! <--I will try not to be this lame once Nano starts. I promise.

[No promises.]

Stop that, keyboard. You can trust me. I will not be lame.

[E for Effort.]

Not nice, keyboard. Not. Nice.

p.s. The WriteOnCon chat with Sara Megibow of Nelson Lit Agency was really, really fun and informative. You can still read the whole thing on the WriteOnCon blog, and I recommend you do.

p.p.s. Mark your calendars for the query chat this Thursday with THE Query Ninja herself, Elana Johnson!

How Big is Yours? (to-be-read pile, that is)

I'm fessing up about mine.

I don't know why, but these To-Be-Read posts are making me inexplicably giddy. The sight of so many books in one place! It's just breathtaking. Okay, I might have a serious problem.

But I'm not willing to seek help.

Lindsay's and Renae's piles put me to shame. Alas, my TBR pile is scattered around the house--some I read to my son at bedtime (he's three, so he doesn't care if I read him MG fantasy instead of easy readers), some are on the bookcase beside my bed, and some are stacked (not prettily) on top of other books in our living room cases. I'm afraid my husband is going to sign us up for that hoarders show b/c there really isn't enough shelf space to support (pun intended) my habit.

Le sigh. I have two more books coming this week. *adjusts halo* I'm building my library... for the kids.

Here's the picture. Note that one of them is my leather bound Nook, so that represents at least fifty more. :)

How big is your to-be-read pile? Pictures, please! Link to your blog in the comments so I can feel better about my own addiction.

Oh and don't forget all the Operation Awesome fun going on today. 

Like, speaking of TBR piles, someone's is about to get a lot bigger! Michelle's Pleased To Meet You contest has a winner: Kristi!! She won 7 books!! Jackpot! 

And THIS THURSDAY October 28th @ 9pm is our Awesome Query Chat with the fabulous Elana Johnson!!!

Last but not least, Amparo posted one of my favorite Amparoisms: 

My Writing Stages a la Robert Pattinson's Hair

It's illustrated. 

Also (and this will totally warm your heart and maybe make you cry), Lenny says thank you to everybody for the special birthday he had last week. We're all so happy to make you smile, Lenny! I hope this joy lasts you all year!

Friday, October 22, 2010

My New Writing-Related Addiction: Polyvore

It's all Christina's fault, or Amparo's, if you want to trace it back to the source. :)

You see, Amparo linked to Christina's post about changing her main character's personality, and Christina had this cool clothing collage she'd put together to help define her character.

I clicked on the link and discovered I could do the same thing on Cool.

Check out my MC, Azalea:

Azalea set1
Azalea set1 by katrinangel featuring high heel shoes
My initial concept of Azalea's wardrobe.

Of course, money is no object for Azalea, and she never has to walk further than one hundred feet, so it doesn't matter what her feet sport. I'm sure if I did this again, I'd come up with slightly different choices. Azalea's wardrobe is MUCH more complex than this sampling, but man, was it fun!

Okay, your turn. Go to and try your character's wardrobe on for size. Post me links in the comments. I'd love to meet your characters the high-school way: through their clothing choices. ;)

Update: Okay, I'm seriously addicted. I did my middle grade MC, too. Here's Robert:

Robert Gilbrinkle

Robert Gilbrinkle by katrinangel featuring stone jewelry

I couldn't seem to get Whitebolt (Robert's weapon) right. It's a spectrum white opal stone and looks like there's a spirit captive within it. Okay, that's enough polyvore for today. *shuffles off to, like, take care of kids and stuff*

How Nancy Herman Got Her Agent

Nancy Herman signed with Mandy Hubbard of D4EO Literary Agency for an incredible project called Letters to Mary.

She's guest blogging about how it happened over at Operation Awesome today.

Her advice to aspiring authors? Be ready.

And polish those one-sentence pitches. You may need one sooner than you think. :)

Don't forget Thursday, October 28th is the awesomesauce query chat with Elana Johnson and all us OA gals. 

You also won't want to miss Monday, October 25th, 2010 at 9:00 pm EST:
WriteOnCon's very special Live-Chat with the fabulous Sara Megibow of  Nelson Literary Agency, LLC.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


This morning I woke from a nightmare. No, that's not a metaphor. I really had a nightmare--an ordinary, run-of-the-mill bad dream. And it was just as horrible as I remembered.

I'm not a nightmare person. I rarely have them, probably because I'm a sunshine and posies person who doesn't often read or watch things that inspire nightmares, the simple reason being that I hate being scared.

Shows I stopped watching because they were too scary:


Books I Couldn't Read:

John Grisham's THE CLIENT (about young boys witnessing a suicide and being chased by the mob)
Dan Brown's THE DA VINCI CODE (yep, the self-flogging was too much for me)

just about anything depicting rape or serial killers (same category)

This doesn't mean anything for people who do like to be scared, or who can handle the emotional trauma of vicariously surviving through heinous crimes. But these things always give me nightmares.

In the spirit of writing research, I watched an old episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent last night. I was up late watching it because night is the only time I can really focus on writing and reading without the kids or the hubz distracting me. (I do love my distractions!) It was hard to watch, but it was even worse when it seeped into what seemed like an ordinary dream.

I was going to a movie premiere with someone I didn't know, and random weird stuff happened there, like me wearing a micromini leather skirt (I may be channeling my latest character, Azalea, there). Other weird things included me trying to sneak a slinky into the theatre, my companion standing up to get everyone's attention and us getting shushed by the management. A group of kids off to the side had pink  hair and an obvious love triangle going on.

Normal. Weird. Dream.

Until the end, when I returned home to find my toddler choking on a square puzzle piece I couldn't dislodge and then my weird theatre buddy turned out to be a sociopath with one of the theatre managers in his closet...dead, of course.


And this is why I don't watch Law and Order or regularly research drug cartels.

Fortunately, I really don't know the stranger sociopath, so I don't have any cognitive dissonance toward anybody I have to see on a regular basis (that would be awkward), and YES, this morning I ran to my baby's room to listen at the door. When I didn't hear anything, I risked waking him just to check his breathing. He is perfectly fine, and was already awake babbling in his crib when I got there. *HUGE irrational sigh of relief*

What gives you nightmares?

Also, check out my post on Breaking Through the Wall: Writer's Block over at The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog. Me likes comments.

To sum up, nightmares=bad, comments=good.

If you need some cheering up after this nightmarish post, go visit Kelly who just typed THE END on her latest WIP! Or Lindsay, who's sharing some booklove, or Michelle, who has a cute picture of a dog digging up asphalt. My CP's will take good care of you. :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Birthday Wishes for Lenny!

Happy Birthday to amazing writer/blogger, Lenny Lee! May Hagrid show up at your door with a letter from Hogwarts! Eleven is an awesome age!

In honor of your birthday, here are some birthday quotes:

"Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You." 
 Dr. Seuss (Happy Birthday to You!)

"Seventeen, eh!" said Hagrid as he accepted a bucket-sized glass of wine from Fred. 
"Six years to the day we met, Harry, d’yeh remember it?" 
"Vaguely," said Harry, grinning up at him. "Didn’t you smash down the front door, give Dudley a pig’s tail, and tell me I was a wizard?" 
"I forge’ the details," Hagrid chortled." 
 J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) 

"I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter, scraped over too much bread. 
- Bilbo Baggins on the occasion of his 111st Birthday" 
— J.R.R. Tolkien

"Wish on everything. Pink cars are good, especially old ones. And stars of course, first stars and shooting stars. Planes will do if they are the first light in the sky and look like stars. Wish in tunnels, holding your breath and lifting your feet off the ground. Birthday candles. Baby teeth." 
 Francesca Lia Block

"What they don't understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you're eleven, you're also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don't. You open your eyes and everything's just like yesterday, only it's today. And you are--underneath the year that make you eleven. 
Like some days you might say something stupid, and that's the part of you that's still ten. Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama's lap because you're scared, and that's the part of you that's five. And maybe one day when you're all grown up maybe you will need to cry like if you're three, and that's okay. That's what I tell Mama when she's sad and needs to cry. Maybe she's feeling three. 
Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree truck or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That's how being eleven years old is." 
 Sandra Cisneros (Woman Hollering Creek: And Other Stories) 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tell Me Why I Should Care

Who IS this guy?

I'm seeing some awesome posts all over the blogosphere today about writing: how to write beginnings, how to make people care, how not to P.O. literary agents when you're querying... Okay, that last one isn't exactly about writing. But it's definitely relevant to a writer's career. Check out the link for info on a very common newbie mistake.

When I opened my own blog draft, the topic that stood out to me was CONFLICT in writing. And how CONFLICT = CONTEXT.

Last month at Barnes and Noble, I picked up a book that started in the middle of a war. I read about character names, twitching faces, armies advancing in unison, flags of various colors--all great descriptions of the external conflict (and the face-twitching could even represent an internal conflict in a different context). But I couldn't get into the book.

I didn't care about the people.

*Enter flashbacks to U.S. History class*

My teacher stands at the front of the classroom beside a chalkboard laden with chicken scratches that resemble letters. I heft the giant History tome from my backpack's open zipper with a sigh. There's Mr. Helsel, looking all history-teacher-ish with his pastel polo shirt and khaki trousers. He's got his chalk-stained hands at the ready, but there's something else... a twinkle in his eye.

While he goes off on what seems like a wild tangent about the purported hygiene of people during the Great Depression, or the religion of one of the key figures in women's suffrage, I realize something:

He's teaching me history, and I'm learning it. Not just learning, but enjoying it. And I'd always hated history before.

*Flash forward to the end of the year*

I got a 3 on the AP History exam, but it really should have been a 1 or a 2. The reason I got a 3 (out of 5, the equivalent of a C average) has sandy hair and a twinkle in his eye when he talks about history.

He made me care enough to absorb what other teachers had rendered boring. He gave me meaningful and emotional connections to key figures or peoples so that when someone asked me to describe the movement or the revolution or the war, actual people came to mind, rather than disembodied numbers, settings, and names.

That's the way to write good fiction, too. Tell me why I the reader should care about the bomb going off on your first page. Why do I want the train to stop before it reaches Lake Titicaca? Why do I want the vampire coven to take their sweet time reaching a verdict?

Readers don't have to care about external conflict (wars and battles, and even covert operations). What makes it matter is the internal conflict of individuals (hopes, fears, desperate desires, lives hanging in the balance, faces that give it all away).

It's the internal conflict more than anything that gives the reader CONTEXT. It's the emotion that drives the story, and places the reader irrevocably in your MC's head.  

Start with action, by all means. But show by that action who your warriors are. Who is holding the gun? Is it a small girl with trembling hands or a cold and steady killer? Who slipped the folded note into the narrator's pocket? A sweaty, bald guy wearing a professor vest? Or a handsome teenager who whistles Beatles tunes when he walks? And how did it make your narrator feel to be touched by a perfect stranger? To have a gun pointed at his stomach?

Make me care, and you'll have me hooked for the whole book.  

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Celebrate Michelle, Operation Awesome's Newest Member!

Michelle McLean recently joined our ranks at Operation Awesome as critique partner & fellow bloggista, and, as if her bio tab doesn't already clinch it, she's proving further just how AWESOME she is!


She's giving away a book for every five followers who follow her from her lovely blog to the group blog. And if OA goes over fifty new followers, one lucky winner will win a gift certificate for $20. It is an international contest and deets are on the contest page.

Come get to know Michelle and welcome her to Operation Awesome!

Thanks, guys!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Arm Floaties: No Substitute for Learning to Swim

Okay, so arm floaties are no substitute for learning to swim. BUT, they can keep you buoyant enough to save your life...

Keep you afloat when you'd otherwise sink, which is very nice of them.

No, I'm not actually writing about floaties today. You got me. *hands in surrender above my head* It's another writing metaphor.

Learning to swim is the writer's long journey toward publication. 

It takes time. You can't just jump into the water and know how to do it (unless you're a five-month-old baby, but that's a different set of reflexes). It takes practice (writing chapter after chapter and book after book), technique refining (beta readers, critique partners, in-depth revision, editing), and patience (sometimes the agent pool is closed for the whole month of August). 

But luckily nobody expects you to jump into the pool and win an Olympic medal in the 100m Butterfly.

You get to start with floaties. And later on, when you're exhausted, you can put them back on for a bit, too.

My writing floaties are compliments. 

They don't save me the trouble of learning to swim, no way! I'd be eaten alive if I tried to swim away from sharks in a set of floaties. I still need to learn my craft, and learn it well. Bobbing along in the kiddie pool for a few hours doesn't mean I'm ready for the ocean-- and just because my mom says I'm an amazing writer, doesn't mean I'm ready for publication (she does say that, by the way!) but it definitely helps me to stay above water.

So when somebody hands you the floaties, thank them graciously, but try swimming without them. In no time at all, you'll be a real swimmer.   

Thank you to my regular floaties-distributors: Angie, Lindsay, Amparo, Kristal, Kelly, Michelle, and MOM!

And a special thank you to the mystery "publishing pro" on who gave my first five pages a high rating on PageToFame today. It seriously made my day. Now I'm off to swim laps in an Olympic size pool (but not because I have anything to prove or anything).

Aww! I like you, too! Blog Awards

My awesome CP, Amparo Ortiz passed along a really cute award. Thank you, Amparo! 

The question I must answer is this: 

If I had the chance to go back and change one thing in my life, would I, and what would it be?
That's easy. I would be kinder. Yep, even to those nasty girls in seventh and eighth grade who made fun of the jeans I wore everyday and my worn-out shoes. It would be hard, but I think if I'd learned to be kind earlier in life, *I* wouldn't have been as prone to despair and depression, which is what caused most of my problems during my teen years. Yeah. I would definitely be kinder if I could go back and do it all over again. (But plz don't make me go back there. Nobody should have to do that twice!)
My next task is to pass this along to six people:

Lisa and Laura Roecker (who I interviewed over at Operation Awesome today!)

Shannon Messenger (talking about Time Goblins today with an AWESOME pic of one in action)

Beth Revis (for the shiny new design of her blog and her UH-MAY-ZING book coming out soon)

Elana Johnson (who's opening up about sobfests today and letting go of our past selves)

Jamie Harrington (who "trained 22 five-year-olds to accomplish tasks with a dog clicker")

Matthew Rush (who's talking about The Trickster on his blog today)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Best Demon Character Interview since The Screwtape Letters

You guys, Lindsay (aka Isabella) has an INTERVIEW up with the naughty hottie from Personal Demons, Luc Cain--an actual demon. I mean, just see for yourself in the photograph below. ;)

If any of you are fans of the classic devil POV in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, you'll enjoy this demon's musings on humanity, heaven and hell, and the seven deadly sins. 
It certainly made ME want to buy the book

Character Interview with Luc Cain of PERSONAL DEMONS by Lisa Desrochers

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Live Query Chat!

Ever play telephone? (phone pictured is from 1896--everything looked cooler in 1896) 

They're talking about it all over the web.

Operation Awesome is all about it!

Elana Johnson's spreading the word, too!

Amparo Ortiz is jumping up and down in excitement!

and Lindsay (a.k.a. Isabella) is making twice as many virtual cookies as usual, all in honor of...


Elana Johnson, the Query Ninja herself, has agreed to be our honored guest. Click on ANY of the above links for dates and times and more squeeing than you can shake a stick at. (What does that expression mean? I'm imagining a crotchety old woman shaking a stick at a bunch of squeeing girls. Weird.)

Okay, other news: a WRITEONCON live chat with Sara Megibow!!!! (click Elana's link above for the deets)

p.s. I just cracked open HEX HALL last night, and am LOVING the voice! Rachel Hawkins, you are a creative genius!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Importance of Being Detailed

Details make a story BLOOM

Through my querying history, I've learned a few things about writing from friendly agents who really do want to see new writers improve, and who took the time to offer suggestions and explanations for what they really wanted to see.

Most of the tips I've received relate to detail.

  • I'm not feeling a connection to the main character.
  • The setting isn't unique or vivid enough.
  • It's too much like something else I've read or seen.
Though these seem like vastly different complaints about the same book, and might lead aspiring authors to throw up their hands and give up, I was lucky enough to have awesome critique partners who saw the connecting thread:


I can hear you sighing from all the way over here, because you know that an amateur mistake most writers make in the beginning is adding too much useless detail, flowery prose, and tidbits that don't further the all-important story. But there's another side of the coin, too. In an effort to further the plot and avoid over-writing, I'd gotten into the habit of under-writing (and not in that legal, get paid for it definition).

I'd become stingy with the details. It turns out that this is a fabulous way to write a first draft, because the story just plows onward through conflict and climax and resolution without getting hung up on unimportant details like the color of somebody's hair or eyes, or the way the wind caressed somebody's face with her falling locks. In the first draft, you may not need to know that the flying buttresses reminded your MC of Cogsworth's tour in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and that she expected at any moment to come upon a ransacked West Wing where a caged rose wilted eternally.

But those are just the sort of details that can imply hidden emotion, conflict, and desires that help a reader connect to the main character. They're just the sort of details that establish a setting unique from other [insert saturated genre here] novels. They're just the sort of details that make the story yours and no one else's.

Details matter.

So while you're working so hard to avoid over-writing during a first draft, don't forget to reread with all five senses wide open to the world you see/hear/smell/taste/touch in your imagination. Because even if you're seeing it vividly, your readers might be missing out on something important--a connection.

Thank you to Angela and Lindsay, my CPs who so often make me open my senses to my own fictional world.

THE DUFF: Amparo's Interview with her Favorite Character

Who are you? The Casanova or the Wing Man? The Beauty or the Designated Ugly Fat Friend?

If you're the latter--or even if you're not, but just think you might have been at one point--you should read... THE DUFF.

But before you do, you can get to know Bianca, the girl who made DUFF cool, over at Amparo's blog. Author Kody Keplinger answered six of our questions as her awesome character, and some of it gets pretty deep/profound/life-changing. Suffice it to say, you don't want to miss it.

And later this week, Lindsay (aka Isabella) will have a character interview with Luc from Personal Demons (by Lisa Desrocher). Stay tuned for that swoon-worthiness!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My Greatest (blog-appropriate) Adventure

I'm writing this to win an ARC of Beth Revis' epic new book, Across the Universe.

Read the first chapter. You'll want one, too!

Okay, so my greatest adventure is actually the planned home birth of my second son. It was incredible and beautiful, but it was also full of words (like pushing and dilation) which might make my blog buddies queasy, so I'm going to tell about a different adventure.

The Ragnar Relay

It's this really great, crazy foot race that you run with a team of twelve people, and it goes on night and day for...ah, I'll let them tell you:

Think of it as a 188-mile party with 12 best friends. Teams of 12 will rock out to live bands, enjoy the wacky participant costumes, and make life-long friends with teammates and competitors. Teams will party along the backside of the beautiful Wasatch Mountains from Logan (85 miles north of Salt Lake City) to Park City, Utah (15 miles east of Salt Lake City).
I was a member of the Runamok Divas team in June 2008. We didn't all fit in one van, so there were two, but I only really got to know Van 1, these awesome girls:
I'm the little blonde one second to last on the right.
The pigtails are a high school cross country tradition.

The beast that followed us along the trail.

My Dad and me.
He was on an all-guy team, but I got to see him a few times between my relay legs.
He just ran his (counts on fingers) sixth? post-cancer marathon, in St. George.
(He's even run Boston!)

This guy was our driver and support.
He gave us water and encouragement, which was really nice.
This pic was taken on my last leg and I was pooped!
You totally can't tell, but this is all uphill. I promise.

My brother, me, my dad before it really began. They were on the same team.

I'm the short, sunburned one third from the left on the back row.
Finally done!

"After" pic. I am allergic to the sun.

My three relay legs were probably the easiest on the whole team of twelve women. 3 miles, 5 miles, 3 miles. I ran the five mile leg in the pitch dark of night, and I swear I saw nocturnal predators moving in the high grass beside the road. It may have been my glo-sticks distorting things, but it was still kinda freaky. I am not a nighttime runner (my sun allergy notwithstanding).

We slept for a few hours in sleeping bags on the grass outside a school while the other van took its turn running the 188-mile relay. Running three distance races in what felt like one day was really intense, and helped prepare me for my first marathon a few months later. It also made me feel like the old me for a little while, which was pretty amazing, since I'd just had my first baby a year and a half earlier. It was fun meeting other girls who love to run as much as I do, and to talk about something other than babies, which was my whole life at the time. 

When I got home, I was a walking beet...really more like a waddling beet since my legs were so sore! But it's an experience I'll always cherish, even when the memories of peeing my pants mid-race fade into the years. (Right! Like I'm ever gonna forget that!) 

So there's my adventure. Do I win? :)

What's your second-greatest adventure?