Friday, May 27, 2011

All you need is love... and some other stuff (notes on Sarah M. Eden's epic romance class)

First of all, if you're not already a fan of Sarah M. Eden, run--do not walk--to where you can get to know this charming lady and find out about her regency romances, like The Kiss of a Stranger, and one now firmly on my TBR list: Courting Miss Lancaster.

Her presentation was incredible! Funny, relevant, detailed, and eye-opening. I left with all kinds of ideas for making my contemporary fantasy's romantic plot line more real and intense.

So here are my notes, mostly taken directly from her Powerpoint presentation at LDStorymakers 2011 with a few of my thoughts or interpretations added in (you know how notes are).

Love is a universal human experience and emotion.
Love is a basic human need.
Love adds depth to any story.

In a Romance:

  • the story question is ALWAYS will the couple end up together?
  • the story question answer is ALWAYS YES!
  • the love story is what drives the plot; it's never secondary to any other plot line.
  • the romance is the POINT to the story

Common Romance Pitfalls:
  • Love in a vacuum: no existence outside of the couple OR so much else going on that you lose the romance, like they're never actually together.
  • Romantic tension relies too much (or entirely) on the physical (i.e. too spicy on the Sweet N Spicy Spectrum)
  • Little or no romantic tension: either they're not together enough or they come together too fast, too soon and the rest of the story is saccharine. OR they're unlikable characters and we don't care if they get together. 
  • Weak sources of conflict: what's keeping them apart is something a simple conversation could solve
  • The love has no foundation: it's purely physical or they don't spend enough time getting to know each other.
  • Reader doesn't care: Since romance is character driven, the reader must care about them.

Three Things Every Great Romance (or romantic plot line) Needs:

1. An emotional connection
  • Between your characters: being hot isn't enough. Emotional connections require interaction/time.
  • With the reader: strengths and weaknesses in characters, "realness." We need to feel like the heroine could be us or our best friend. And we need a reason to cheer for the couple (as individuals and together)
  • Pitfalls this resolves: the love in a vacuum problem, readers not caring, cliché plot.
2. Need fulfillment
  • needs can range from shallow to deep: a need to have an equal partner, a need to be loved, a need for companionship, a need for vitality and excitement
  • the needs should complement each other so they aren't dependent but inter-dependent
  • the deeper the need, the deeper the connection. Figure out what your hero and heroine need in a significant other.
  • Pitfalls this resolves: the love in a vacuum problem, weak sources of conflict, cliché plot and characters, plot has no foundation
  • what if their needs are in conflict with each other? Can they ever be together?
3. The couple is something to each other that no one else is (or can be)
  • If their connection is not unique, it will lack impact and will not be satisfying for your reader.
  • this is the reason their connection must go beyond love at first sight, infatuation, or physical pleasure.
  • Pitfalls this resolves: romantic tension relies too much (or entirely) on the physical, cliché plot and characters, love has no foundation
I know these notes are never the same as actually attending the conference and hearing the connections our presenters make between each bullet and number, but I hope you found it at least half as helpful as I did. Next week, I'll bring you my notes from Story Analysis Time, which was a Pride and Prejudice chat at the end of Sarah's class--possibly the highlight of the whole conference for me. I love talking about Darcy and Elizabeth!

Until then, happy romance writing! And have a fabulous weekend!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Disneyland - use life as inspiration

Today I'm going to Disneyland. I haven't been since I was twelve, and a LOT of things have changed. My husband hasn't been EVER, and my two little boys have never seen a place like this. When I tried to explain to my four-year-old where we were going, he said, "Going to the park with a mouse?" Yeah, no. Some things are better to see than hear explained.

Feel free to use our excitement as a plot facelift for you if you're writing and getting stuck in something boring. I know how it is. You're thinking, "How am I going to get from plot point A to plot point B without depressing the heck out of everybody?"

Answer: Disneyland!

Just slip in a scene or two about a funner-than-life theme park and see where it takes your characters. You can direct them back to plot point B so they're still dealing with the issues and problems you originally fathomed. OR... your story can turn into a theme park horror. OR... maybe you'll decide to write a literary novel metaphorically analyzing the other thrill-seekers who have come to the park.

The possibilities here are just endless.

Mostly, don't forget to appreciate the little things today. Because even though we're going to "the happiest place on Earth," we're still going to have cranky children at about noon, diapers to change on the baby, and our own waiting-in-line blues to deal with. The key with every situation--literary or literal--is to celebrate every tiny joy.

Happy Disneyland Tuesday! Enjoy your theme park writing exercise!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Endings and Beginnings (in real life)

I just returned from Utah where my Grandma Joyce's funeral services were held.
Joyce Burgoyne
It was a beautiful service filled with music and singing in honor of this musical lady. In life, she earned the equivalent of a PhD in music education (EdD) and was also a concert pianist, despite a rare congenital illness that made her muscles stiffen to the point of paralysis in cold weather. It's because of her that I was raised in warm Arizona instead of Idaho where she grew up. But she didn't move to a warmer climate until after she was married and done with her bachelor's, so she dealt with the Idaho cold stiffening her muscles for two decades. In her personal history, she describes the embarrassment of being asked to play the piano for some event or another where the building wasn't kept warm enough and she wasn't able to move her fingers. Thankfully, my mother did not inherit paramyotonia congenita, so neither did I. But it's just one more reason I admire my grandmother. She also bore six children, survived polio during a pregnancy, and drove a motorcycle for most of my life (hard core, right?). As a teen, I bragged about my cool, tough grandma.

The end was just as difficult for her as the rest of her life. I don't believe anything was ever easy for her. But when she did say goodbye to this world, she did it after a full and incredible life filled with people who wouldn't be here if not for her--people who love her still. I'm grateful for the music she brought into my life, for the piano lessons I didn't always appreciate back then, and for the heart-to-hearts about being yourself and being vulnerable to love.

My own family of origin was way more huggie than hers. I remember one particular moment in my teen years when she pointed this out. I was hugging her hello or goodbye and she stiffened a little, as she usually did. Then she told me she's not used to hugs, but to keep giving them to her. She told me she loved me, also not something her parents said a lot. She was like that, always trying to move beyond habits and tradition to find what was really important. She came from an upper crust family of educated and traditional people, but chose to marry a war veteran and a cowboy who happened to value education and music as much as she did. Tradition went out the window.

In reflecting on Joyce Burgoyne's life, I hope to take from her legacy all the beautiful things: her love of music, her tenacious survivor spirit, her passion for learning, her open spirituality, her sometimes off-beat sense of humor, and her choice to allow herself vulnerability in matters of the heart. And I hope to think of her as this girl pictured above, because I know it's how she always pictured herself, even when her body changed and illness took over. To her bridegroom, so long waiting on the other side, she will always be the Joyce he fell in love with.

And the new beginning I mentioned in the title? That's them dancing together in the clouds.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Look Elsewhere --> Operation Awesome

I'm on Operation Awesome today talking about the elusive character-reader connection and (looks up) Katniss Everdeen. Join the discussion here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What is a Hook (Notes on Jeff Savage and James Dashner)

James Dashner
Jeff Savage

These are my notes on the team taught Jeff Savage and James Dashner class called Hooks that Get You Published:

The hook. The part of your fishing tackle that catches the fish. In your query letter, the hook is the part that--hopefully--catches an agent's attention. James Dashner and Jeff Savage discuss how to create a hook, possibly the most important paragraph (or maybe two) in the process of selling your novel.
First off, if you ever have occasion to see either of these men, I highly recommend it! If they get to present together, all the better! Jeffrey Savage is the author of A TIME TO DIE, and James Dashner is the author of THE MAZE RUNNER. Their presentation was entertaining and informative. I only wish I'd been there for the whole thing! I only have one blog post worth of notes for these guys because I'd just returned from my lovely pitch session. 

Without further ado, What is a hook?

  • Tells enough of your story to "hook" an agent or editor.
  • Doesn't try to tell the whole story.
  • Captures the voice of your story (for instance, in MG, you might say, "Brett's mom isn't even looking for work anymore, which totally sucks.")
  • Shorter is better (typically one or two paragraphs).
  • Don't start with a hypothetical question.
  • Make it clear what is unique about your story.

Parts of a Hook

The Protagonist:
What makes a strong protagonist? Are they likable? Intense? Funny?

The Goal:
Why must they have a goal? It's not the circumstances, but the action. It must be born of need. Main characters can (and often should) have conflicting goals.
(e.g. You've Got Mail: She's trying to save her business; he's trying to put her out of business, yet they fall in love.)

The higher and bigger the obstacles, the better!

Each action has consequences. Don't forget to note these in your arc and take every opportunity to ratchet up the tension.

Obviously, their presentation was way better than this, but somehow in my post-pitching euphoria, I forgot to write all the brilliance down. Hopefully this was a nice refresher for those of you about to write query letters or pitches for your own upcoming conference. 

Good luck!!

Afterglow is launching an epic BEGINNING OF SUMMER GIVEAWAY next week with TEN AWESOME PRIZES including a couple ARCs and one personally signed book. Details to follow if you're following Afterglow Book Reviews.

You've probably heard of All 4 Alabama, disaster relief literary auctions. Bidding is going on all week, but ends on a few items tonight. You still have time to bid on my favorite item, Michelle McLean's debut picture book, A Magical World, published under the name Michelle Raynor. There are plenty of other amazing items for bidding, too! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blogiversary Giveaway Winners!

The prizes, as promised, are

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Break by Hannah Moskowitz

   and The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker

And the winners are...

BREAK to Emy Shin

and THE LIAR SOCIETY to Shallee 

Winners, please send your shipping addy to katrina.lantz (at) gmail (dot) com to accept your prize. Thanks again for all your support and awesome encouragement over the past year of blogging!

Afterglow is launching an epic BEGINNING OF SUMMER GIVEAWAY next week with TEN AWESOME PRIZES including a couple ARCs and one personally signed book. Details to follow if you're following Afterglow Book Reviews.

Angie Cothran wrote about great romance in literature, sharing her notes from Sarah Eden's ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE class at Storymakers.

Christine Fonseca has posted her debut review on Afterglow! She's loving on SHINE by Lauren Myracle, and now I'm dying to read it.  

Friday, May 13, 2011

Paperback Writer by the Beatles

My lovely aunt mentioned this song the other day, said it reminded her of me (but not the lyrics, she rushed to clarify). So I looked it up because I hadn't heard it before.

Enjoy. It's totally catchy.

Have a great weekend, everybody! I'm on blogging break till Monday!

Theme and Structure (Part 4 Larry Brooks notes)

You've read 

Part 1: Developing Story Concept
Part 2: Continuity in Story
Part 3: Never Rescue Your Character

Finally, I can give you Part 4 of my Larry Brooks notes, the final part. 

Part 4: Theme and Structure

Ring Lock Scaffolding picture from this site

Theme: How a reader relates the story you've told to their world view

This includes lessons or morals in children's books, and also universal truths in all books. 

Themes naturally appear with the consequences to your characters' choices.

I think that's all that needs to be said about theme. It's something we inherently understand, and the best advice I've heard about it is not to put a spotlight on it. Readers don't want to be hit over the head with the lesson, but if it happens naturally (like Dumbledore asking Harry not to go looking again for the Mirror of Erised, for "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.") well then, that's just perfect. But themes don't need to be stated in witty adages, either. They can be implied by what is not said. 

Story Structure:

(Happy/sad story: I had to leave the 2-hour presentation at this point to go to my pitch session with the phenomenal Kirk Shaw, an editor at Covenant Communications. Larry had been nice enough to help me with my pitch a bit during the snack break so he knew when I stood up to leave that I wasn't ditching his class for fun. He called out, "Good luck!" and told everyone I was going to pitch. I walked out of the room to the applause of my peers. It was a very nice send off and I was appropriately pumped for my pitch session [which went AWESOME, by the way. If you ever have the chance to talk to Kirk Shaw, I highly recommend it]. I tell this story to point out that these are not my notes, but borrowed notes taken by my lovely friends, Angie and Beckie. Here I go...)

Know Your Story's Core Essence

That's the little plan I copied down from their notes and below is a more detailed explanation for what it means. 400 pages/60 scenes is just something to shoot for, to help you break things up. In between the parts are plot points also described below. 

Part I- Set up: introduce your hero, state what's at stake, evoke empathy from your reader. Why should they keep reading?

Plot Point 1: inciting incident, first exposure to the stakes. The true nature of the journey unfolds.

Part II- Response to Plot Point 1: after the inciting incident and first exposure to the stakes, what does the character want or need? This response shouldn't be heroic yet because the character hasn't had a chance to grow past her initial flaws. About midway through this response, add even more conflict. 

Midpoint: changes the context of the story. Reader or hero learns something (maybe makes a decision) that changes the stakes.

Part III- Attack the problem: by implementing whatever decision was made during the midpoint. 

Plot Point 2: final piece of the puzzle falls into place. Your hero has learned everything she needs to know. Don't introduce new characters past this point. Internal conflict may be resolved around this time.

Part IV- Resolution: External conflict is conquered or resolved. Wrap up loose ends.

Scene Execution

Every scene must be mission driven, must move along the story in at least three ways (i.e. move plot, character development, reveal something, conflict or resolution).

Enter a scene at the last possible moment and leave as early as you can. No going to the bathroom, picking up the floss play-by-play.

That's it for Part 4 of my notes! If the little chart I made doesn't do it for you, you can always go straight to the source and check out Larry Brooks' blog, I highly recommend it. 

He also has a new book out called Story Engineering which I'm told is story plotting GOLD.

Funny and delightful interview with Lindsey Leavitt on Operation Awesome today. It's a group interview, which are my favorites because we each got a chance to ask her our itching questions about Princess for Hire and Sean Griswold's Head. She's a phenomenal author who writes in a voice teens understand about topics of import, like how to have an impact on your world. Check out that interview here.

Anne Riley reviews Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini! I love the idea of a girl getting the bizarre urge to kill someone she's just met only to find out they're children of feuding gods. Awesome!

Afterglow contributors Angie Cothran and Beckie Caverhill have a new writing blog with their critique group called Live to Write... Edit When Necessary! They're brand new and already we've got some riveting conversation about adverbs and -ing verbs going on. :) Come join.

Blogger has been haywire, as I'm sure you've noticed. I hope being able to publish this blog is a good sign and that things that appear to be lost will return someday. :) 

If you're able to comment, let me know: what did Blogger eat at your place?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Never Rescue Your Character (notes on Larry Brooks)

This is Part Three of Three... so far. Let's see if I can wind up this spectacular two-hour conference presentation in three posts. :)

Part One: Developing Story Concept
Part Two: Continuity in Story
and now...

Pic from this healthy website

Part Three: Never Rescue Your Character

Do not rescue your hero. He must save himself and the day through his own character growth.

He faces two demons:

  • external
  • internal

The internal demon blocks him from making the best decisions in a given moment. It must be conquered in order for the external demon to be beatable.

(For instance, Harry Potter has to know and embrace that he is the chosen one, that he's special, in order to face Voldemort in the climax scene of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Remember that Harry doesn't even believe he's a wizard in Book 1 when Hagrid comes to retrieve him. "I can't be a wizard. I'm just Harry." There are many other internal demons, but this is the one he starts with, and one that must be conquered before he can face his external demon, Voldemort.)

Character ARC: hero conquering or putting aside an inner demon so he can do what must be done to conquer the external demon. 

What does your hero fear? What mask does he wear? How does he present himself to the world and why? And who is he really? You can answer this by putting him in a crisis and watching him act. Who will he save first, or will he turn tail and run? 

Don't over-quirk your hero. Readers are the ultimate BS detectors when it comes to characterization. Actually, Larry Brooks is talking specifically about characterization on his storyfix blog today! Perfect, right? Check that out here. Your hero should be unique, but not contrived.

Okay, it looks like we've got one more blog post worth of notes, so tomorrow I'll continue with Theme and Story Structure and we'll have a total of FOUR Larry Brooks posts. 

I hope my notes above are as mind-expanding for you as they were for me. It's been fun sitting down with a paper and pen and plotting when to conquer that internal demon and how to conquer the external ones. 

Happy Writing!

Matthew Rush posted his debut review of STICK by Andrew Smith on Afterglow this morning.

Operation Awesome's Michelle McLean ruminates on the decision all writers face at some point, to shelve or not to shelve that tricky novel. 

There's still a week to win Hex Hall, Break, or The Liar Society in my Blogiversary Giveaway, so stop by with a comment and follow if you're not already. Thanks guys!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Shape of Stories (video of Kurt Vonnegut)

Quick post having nothing to do with the conference from which I just got back!

Found this video on the shape of stories and had to share it:

It's so simple! LOL! Hope you enjoyed it. Which story are you writing? I'd say I'm writing Man in a Hole.

Continuity in Story (more Larry Brooks notes)

Core Competencies

Yesterday I introduced my notes from Larry Brooks' 2-hour presentation on Storytelling and Concept. Today I've got a brush-through of what he's coined as the Six Core Competencies of Storytelling and more about story continuity. 

1) Concept: an evolution of your initial book idea. Concept is richer than an idea and interwoven with theme.

2) Character(ization): this refers to the character arc, the development of the hero through the story. Your character should evoke empathy in the reader.

3) Theme: what in your story points to the human experience, some universal, philosophical truth?

4) Story Structure: the linear, expository unfolding of story. Screen writers are awesome at this because the structure is rigid: 3 acts of story.

5) Scene Execution: is each scene written in context to the big vision of the whole story? Do you know the ending so you can allude all along to it with tight character and plot arcs?

6) Voice: this is the elegant writing we love to read and write. It is poignancy and metaphor and art, even if it's snarky and blunt. Voice usually determines your audience.

You know those books I was talking about yesterday with beautiful writing that made up for the loosely woven plot? They lacked story continuity. In other words, it's obvious when you read them that the authors didn't know the ending for the first half of the book. The ending suddenly came to them and they made it work, usually going back to add in foreshadowing and depth later. 

Writing this way can be difficult because Number 5, Scene Execution, requires a total vision. Otherwise you get scenes where the hero is wandering around looking for some way to solve his problem, or some side character stepping in and wasting the reader's time with something that has zero ramifications for the climax. 

Make the whole novel work with the ending so the reader doesn't get to the end and feel like she's just read two different books. Everything should point to the end: foreshadowing, character fears, symbolism, even the setting. Write every page in context to where the story is going and what it's really about (concept).

One more note about CONCEPT for those of you who read yesterday and felt my notes didn't really tell you how to do this:

Concept begs a question that people are dying to have answered. 
Frame your concept with a question that begins with "What if?"

I played around with this one-line-pitch style and had a heck of a time of it. It takes you a little bit out of plot (all the things that happen) and puts you squarely in the main conflict. 

What if a futuristic society split between a flourishing Capitol and thirteen emaciated Districts conscripts poor children to fight to the death gladiator-style for the entertainment of Capitol residents? What if your little sister was chosen to compete?

More on this two-hour class tomorrow. There was just SO MUCH good stuff! If you haven't already, follow his website,

On Operation Awesome, Lindsay talks about too many great options in e-readers and compares it to the agent hunt with helpful links for agent research.

Afterglow contributor Kristine Asselin wrote her first review! You've heard of the movie Beastly, but have you read the book yet? Kristine makes a convincing case for why you should read BEASTLY by Alex Flinn.

And a tribute to the SHORT STORY on The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog called Why Write Short Stories?

Sarah M. Eden was one of the most golden finds at the LDStorymakers conference. I have notes from her class (All you need is love... and some other stuff) to be posted sometime in the next few weeks. But for now, I wholeheartedly recommend her website: She's posted the hilariously adorable videos she shared of her kids when she was MC-ing the conference. And Afterglow's Angie Cothran raved about Sarah's most recent book (The Kiss of a Stranger) on Monday. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Developing Story Concept (notes from Larry Brooks' presentation)

As promised, I've got some fun notes from the LDStorymakers Writers Conference I attended this past weekend! 

I'm starting with the storytelling presentation by Larry Brooks of the Storyfix blog because he lays out some important building blocks for story. As the keynote speaker, he spoke about the difficulty of standing out in this market, and the importance of story, even over a beautiful narrative. 

I consider my writing an art, so I like to think it's all about the language. In fact, there are a few examples I can think of where the story wasn't quite crisp but the writing was so enthralling I couldn't put the book down. BUT. But I realize those novels suffered from soggy story and could have been even better had the author been given the tools of story, implemented with a master's stroke. 

So here's how Larry Brooks got us started:
He asked a series of thinking question, beginning with, "What's the most important word in storytelling?" 

I scribbled down "meaning," and he acknowledged there are several that could be considered the most important words. But the word he eventually seemed to settle on was "concept." This he differentiated from "idea," which is like the toddler years of Concept.

Then he asked, "What's the most important moment in any story?" 

I wrote in my notebook, "the moment of enlightenment right after or before the climax." But clearly, he was moving toward a point, so I waited.

He asked, "What is the one thing about your book that makes it the best book at this conference, different from all others? What makes your book special?"

My pen went, "uh..." 

The best book at this conference? That's a seriously tough one. The truth is I didn't think my book was the best book at the conference. And even as much as I loved my story, I didn't think I could put into words what made it special. A one-line pitch, sure. I've crafted dozens. But when asked in an elevator by a literary agent to say in one minute what made my story the best story out there, I would draw a complete blank.

This is where Concept comes in. It's richer than just the idea. It's the evolution of that idea into story.

He then spoke about the Four Arenas of Storytelling Physics (meaning it's practically a physical law for stories to include these):

1) Dramatic tension: conflict and choices

2) Pacing: move the story forward, and not just by the days on a calendar

3) Vicarious Empathy: make the reader understand, relate, and possibly like your characters.

4) Concept: the inherent, compelling nature of the SOUL of the story. 

I really liked that. I'd never thought of the concept as being the story's SOUL before. But it makes sense that a story must have a soul and that that soul would be the thing that makes my book different from all other books. That's what we've got to capture in a short pitch in order to share that soul with other people, to get them excited about our story before they choose to sit down for hours with the whole thing.

Okay, this is getting long, so I'll share a little more of my notes from Larry Brooks tomorrow. Meanwhile, you can check out for more of his confident literary awesomeness. His blog was voted into the 101 Best Blogs of 2010 by Writers Digest.

GREAT NEWS!! Matthew Rush just joined Afterglow Book Reviews as a contributor. We now have a male reviewer who is not my husband. I'm very stoked about this (no offense to my honey). Read Matt's other announcements today.  

We've added a couple new and stellar writer/readers to Afterglow's Reviewers page

Angie Cothran, Shallee McArthur, and Kris Asselin are now on board. So be sure to stop by, read the new reviews, and welcome the newbies with your comments.

For a laugh, check this out! Afterglow contributor Angie Cothran posted one of my favorite moments at the LDStorymakers Conference: the MC's seven-year-old defining literary genres. (e.g. Romance - "That ones easy. If there is kissing it's romance, if there is more kissing than talking it's gross romance.")

Also, did you know you can now read Elana Johnson's first two chapters of POSSESSION?!! Yeah! Here they are. 

Kristal Shaff of Operation Awesome is passing along some fabulous opportunities for writers, including a chance to win a Kindle from publisher Angry Robot

Enter to win Break, Hex Hall, or The Liar Society here!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Random Conference Road Trip Thoughts...

pic from this site
Sorry for the silence. I've been on a trip without my laptop (major DOH because it was a writing conference!) so I've been out of the loop for a few days. But never fear, my Blogiversary giveaway is still going on for another week. Three winners will win either Break, Hex Hall, or The Liar Society. Skip on over there to enter with a comment.

Now for your entertainment/rumination, here are the random thoughts that beleaguer a writer when she's on the road for 22 hours in one long weekend:

  • Writing a novel is exactly like a road trip. It's easy to watch other writers fly past or rumble slowly along and wonder if there's something wrong with your own pace. It's also all too easy to see someone else's car and wish you could trade. And last part of this simile: road trips and novels both involve a long, obstacle-ridden journey. If you don't set small goals for yourself (get through this valley, or drive an hour before stopping again), you'll likely find the sheer mileage impossible. It's good to be driven, but it's even better to enjoy the ride. 
  • If you are driving and a queen size mattress falls off your truck, don't leave it in the fast lane. Seriously. I almost died.
  • If you are a truck driver, please take note: the truck Do-Si-Do--wherein two trucks going approximately the same speed take up both lanes in order to switch places--is seriously annoying to everyone else on the road. 
  • Driving through SLC made me realize how much I miss Utah as I passed billboards for Bridal Shows, Scrapbooking Fairs, the Tulip Festival, and Gun Shows. Somewhere in there is a joke about the ease of arranging a shotgun wedding. Somewhere...
  • In northern Utah, you must drive 15 mph over the speed limit or be left behind. In southern Utah, be prepared to drive 5 mph below (see truck Do-Si-Do above).
  • Just when you decide it's a good time for cruise control, somebody going slower than you will pull out in front of you. This is a law of physics, er something. 
  • And note to myself (because I am as guilty as anybody of psychologically justifiable yet ridiculously irrational driving habits): It's not a 'fast lane,' it's the 'passing lane.' Stop living in it. Also, it's not a race, even if their car is shinier than yours. I really hope I listen to myself this time.
  • And when you almost run out of gas 45 minutes from home, prayer works. :)

For the next week or so, I'll be posting notes and epiphanies from the LDStorymakers writing conference I just attended (and trust me, there were a LOT of notes and epiphanies!)- so get excited! (You can follow everyone's thoughts with twitter hash tag #Storymaker11.)

Another point of excitement, Amparo has listed the winners of Invincible Summer swag (signed swag!) over at Operation Awesome, so if you entered, be sure to stop by to check those names.

Afterglow's Jen Daiker posted her lovefest review of Sophie Jordan's VANISH, book 2 in the FIRELIGHT series. Stay tuned for details on a giveaway of Jen's Vanish ARC!! Afterglow is the blog to follow for that.

And I just received Lindsey Leavitt's interview answers, so check out Operation Awesome this Friday the 13th for a hilarious and moving glimpse at this Disney author's mind. Lindsey Leavitt is the author of Princess for Hire, The Royal Treatment, and Sean Griswold's Head.

SO much fun stuff going on. Happy Monday, everybody! And please, please, please enter my Blogiversary giveaway! I want to share these books with you!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Happy Blogiversary to me! And you and you and you! (Three book prizes)

You guys are the reason I blog, and I'm so grateful for those of you who consistently visit me even though I'm still learning how to manage my blog time so I can visit all the people I desperately want to! You inspire me to connect and give back.

Last May 3rd, I picked up this dusty old blog, gave it a makeover and started writing about writing. A lot. I've slowed down in recent months, but you guys keep me in the loop. I've learned a TON from you this past year. Through blogfests, twitter hash tags, and the interblog consciousness, I've become a slightly better writer :) and absorbed the nuances of an entire industry: the publishing industry.

My goal this coming year is to pay it forward. 

My year at a glance: Last summer, I became a contributor at The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog, which is an eclectic source of writing tips and publishing news. A few months later, my critique partners and I started Operation Awesome, home of the Mystery Agent contest. We've had the joy of seeing multiple success stories, including two agent-author signings who found each other via the M.A. contests (finalists on the blog today, btw). Beginning in April, several bloggers, authors, and readers have banded together to start Afterglow Book Reviews, to share the books that stunned and satisfied us with an incredible afterglow.

We've had book reviews, agent-led contests, giveaways of new and previously released books in all genres, and interviews with some of the most exciting literary rock stars, including authors and agents. But in paying it forward, we can always do more.

So my question to you guys on this day of anniversary is:

What can I do better? 

On that note, I have a book giveaway. There will be three winners, and you can tell me what you prefer to win in the comments. 

1) Follow and 2) comment with an answer to the above question to win one of these three prizes:

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Break by Hannah Moskowitz

   and The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker

Thanks again for being fabulous blog buddies!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Writing Conference THIS WEEKEND!!

My first writing conference (well, in-person writing conference; August's WriteOnCon was my first) is this weekend! I'll be driving an insane number of miles and spending an exorbitant amount of money (to me). But I'm SOOO excited! I'll have the chance to meet (this is not a comprehensive list) Elana Johnson, Sara Megibow, Sara Crowe, and Larry Brooks!! And I'm going to live pitch an editor for the first time ever. So lots to be excited about!

There are plenty of things going on across the web if you're looking for some excitement this lovely Monday! I'll post several for your browsing enjoyment:

May's Mystery Agent contest (as of this moment) has 1 spot left, if you've got a completed novel ready to pitch in 25 words or fewer! Hurry! It'll go fast. But don't assume we're full. When we are, we'll close comments. Update: All 50 spots have been filled! Great work, guys! Thanks to all who entered!!

Nathan Bransford's got a very insightful How I Write post today that covers everything from frequency of writing to how he goes from high concept idea to full manuscript. As a former hotshot agent and current hotshot author, his take on this is invaluable!

Looking for an adorable picture book about imagination and magic? A Magic World is now available, ebook and print editions. I've ordered mine in print and can't wait to read it with my little guys.

Afterglow Book Reviews contributor Christine Fonesca is on blog tour for her new book 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids! I've read a preview and it's amazing! Your gifted child will so benefit.

Speaking of Afterglow Book Reviews, Anne Riley posted her raving afterglow review of DIE FOR ME by Amy Plum. While there, be sure to follow because we're going to have an ARC giveaway in the next few weeks that you won't want to miss. And if you're feeling the heartbreak, head over to Anne's blog to show your support after tornadoes hit everywhere around her home.

My love and prayers for all of you whose lives have been touched by recent catastrophes all over the globe.