Friday, December 23, 2011

Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan

Flash BurnoutFlash Burnout by L.K. Madigan

One of those books from a boy's perspective, which I realize I don't read that often unless it's high fantasy.

Why I checked it out- The back cover intrigued me- a reviewer called it hysterical and it won the William C. Morris award in 2010. Not that I'd heard of that award before, but it must be decent, right?

Anyhow, sometimes "witty" characters just aren't as funny as they're meant to be, so I was curious if Blake would feel authentic. And to my surprise, he did. Blake scores himself everyday on how many times he makes people laugh, especially his girlfriend, Shannon. She's perfect. Totally. Not only does she think he's hysterical, but she's hot and not psycho, and she likes to make out with him. But Blake's photography partner, Marissa, needs a friend, and he's there to help as she tries to get her meth-addicted mother into rehab. Marissa is having a really hard time, and Blake really cares about her, and suddenly Marissa is more than "just a friend." That's when Shan hits the fit.

I really enjoyed this book, much more than I expected to even when I was a few chapters in. It took some time to really connect with Blake, in part I think because he's so funny, so it takes a while to see his soft underbelly. But there's a really sweet kid under there, and this story totally hooked me.

Contentwise, there are mentions of drugs (Marissa's mother is on meth, portrayed negatively), alcohol (Marissa gets drunk a few times, portrayed negatively), sex (Blake thinks about physical intimacy a fair amount. I've never been a guy, but it seemed reasonable. Some characters talk about sex and when the right time is, a parent gives a character "the talk" and shows him where the box of condoms is for whenever he needs one. Some characters have sex and there are consequences. None of this was meant to titillate, instead it was more of a look at how confusing these decisions are and how important it is to make good decisions. No discussion of abstinence, it was a given that teens will have sex.)

Anybody else read this? What did you think?

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Last Minute

Last week, my 4 year old asked me to help him write a note to Santa...for his daddy. He asked how to spell "Daddy's" and "Santa," and then asked me to write "phone, one pair of biking pants and shirt, chocolate candy, new car, and tennis shoes." Which is completely on target. The only thing he missed is the yearly request for Gator fan gear.

I was really impressed because little kids are supposedly only capable of thinking about what they want and assume that other people would want the same things. Their brains aren't wired to understand other people's perspectives yet. So Mommy would want a new DS game, Daddy would want a Lego set, etc.

That's the level I'm still at. I want books for Christmas, so of course that's what everyone else wants, too! This means that Jojo, at 4 years old, is a better gift idea person than me.

This gives me a shopping phobia, which leads me to be a last minute shopper, which in turn makes it even harder to find personal, amazing gifts. It's a vicious cycle, one that it's too late to break this year!

Maybe next year, I'll sit down with Jojo in July and we can start our Christmas gift list. Yep. That's the plan.

Five days til Christmas! Happy shopping, friends!
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Crossed by Ally Condie

Crossed (Matched, #2)

Cassia has risked her citizen status and all the benefits- a long life, perfect health, a good job and a match with her best friend, Xander- to find Ky in the Outer Provinces. But when she finally gets there, he's just escaped into the borderlands and she can only follow the clues he's left behind.

I liked Crossed, and I think readers of Dashner's "The Maze" and Westerfeld's Uglies series will find plenty to keep them happy. However, Crossed didn't blow my socks off, and I've been trying to figure out why. The writing is good and the characters are vibrant, the setting is amazing, and everything is in place to transport the reader.

My best guess is that it's because the author flinched. There were a lot of potential conflicts that were avoided- the traders/farmers were gone when he and Cassia and their friends got there, so there was no problem with them rifling through their valuable papers and taking what they wanted. The closest the Society came to hurting them was dropping poison into the river, which killed a bunch of fish, but didn't actually hurt any people. A side character dies, but Ky and Cassia never seem to be in danger, except from dehydration. On paper, the stakes are high, but it always feels distant, even when the bullets are flying around the characters.

I loved Ky's POV. I love Cassia's determination. I liked the secret we learn about Xander, and I wonder how Cassia will feel when she finds out. Love triangles are hard to pull off without seeming cliche, but Xander and Ky are very different people and I can understand how Cassia could have feelings for either of them. I guess we'll find out who she chooses next year! I'll definitely read the conclusion!

Thanks to Around the World ARC tours for the chance to read Crossed!
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

I've read a few steampunk books- The Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld and Soulless by Gail Carringer- and now one for YA. Very enjoyable book, but as with other reviewers, I found some of the minor characters a bit flat. The number of POV characters didn't bother me so much, but I realized I skimmed over the ones that weren't as important to Nora and her story (there were 5 POVs). The most important parts of the book- the romance and the world building were excellent, though. Lots of fun dialogue as well.

Dearly, Departed (Gone With the Respiration, #1)

Nora Dearly has been in mourning for her father for the last year, and in New Victoria, that means wearing black and staying out of society. When she returns home from her finishing school after the term, she is attacked by the Greys, a zombie army that the government has been keeping out of the holo-news for years. She fights her way to the roof, where she meets another undead army, led by the not-entirely-dapper Captain Bram Griswold. She is rescued, but can't trust her rescuers, though these zombies retain their senses and their intellect, unlike the undead horde. Bram is as charming undead as he was alive, and Nora comes to trust him and to overcome her fear of his medical condition as they work together to stop the horde from destroying her home city and everyone she loves.

Okay, this was a really fun read. I will admit that the zombie thing is kind of confusing to me- isn't necrophilia gross to anyone else in this world?! But when I was reading it, I understood why Nora fell in love with Bram, and vice versa. It's juat when I stop and think about it that it's a problem.

Content-wise, there is some fighting, legs falling off, hands falling off, eyes being removed so they won't get lost during a fight, and all sorts of gross zombie body problems. There is some drinking and smoking, but in the main, the undead are very concerned about taking care of their bodies. A sweet romance, but, um, zombies can't exactly perform, so there's no chance of anything more. I don't want to read bedroom scenes anyway, but it's hard for me to believe that a young woman would settle for a romance where there wasn't some chance for a physical relationship in the future. If vampires couldn't have sex, I have no doubt that Bella would have wished Edward good luck, but goodbye. :)

Anyhow, fun read, I really liked it. I'll read the next one when it comes out. Thanks to Around the World ARC Tours for the chance to preview this book. This book was released on Oct 18th. Happy Reading!

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Friday, November 18, 2011

We Do Not Mourn As Those Without Hope

*written earlier this week*

It's been a strange week, full of many highs and lows. My mom was involved in a very serious car accident last Thursday when she was driving to visit me. I'd stayed up waiting for her until midnight, then felt too tired and went to bed. I was wakened to my cell phone about 1:30, and my mom told me she'd run off the road and hit a tree. She was incredibly blessed to have no serious injuries, only some deep bruises from the airbag and the seatbelt.

We talked for a few minutes, then hung up so she could call the police. Nathan and I got in a discussion, in the straight sense of the word, about what to do. I wanted to hop in the car and race to be with her, about an hour and a half away. He felt it was unsafe to be driving so late after receiving such a shocking phone call, and that there was no way he was going to compound the problem by letting me go, especially on so little sleep. I understood, but said there was no way I was going to send her to a hotel and see her in the morning. I needed to be there, asap.

We prayed together, thanking Heavenly Father for his mercy in answering our earlier prayers for my mom's safety. She'd been much on our minds and hearts, and I think that with family prayer, couple prayer and each of our individual prayers, we'd said 8 prayers for her safe travel. I wished that I'd called her at midnight before I'd gone to bed, like I'd intended to. I wished that I'd insisted that she stop at a hotel instead of just suggesting it. Still, she'd been protected and I was, and am, grateful.

There seemed to be no way that Nathan's concern for my safety and my desire to be there for my mom could both be satisfied. We said another prayer, again thanking God for her safety and asking that somehow this would work out.

I called my mom back, and she told me that a woman had stopped (after the police were already on the scene- how often does that happen?) and asked where she was going. Turns out the woman was driving right through Columbia, and offered to give her a ride. The woman said she'd felt "nudged" to pull over. She also offered to drive Mom back to Tampa on Sunday, which she did.

How crazy is that? Such a huge, tangible blessing. The woman stopped at 2 in the morning and stayed with my mom while they waited for a tow truck, arouns an hour an a half. Who does that?

I have felt this renewed sense of Heavenly Father's quiet presence in our lives, his gentle leading us through trials.

Tonight, we got a call from a close family member that their full-term baby had not had a heartbeat during their prenatal appointment today. Tomorrow morning, they will go to the hospital to deliver their little daughter, and bath her and say good bye. We are shocked and so very sad.

I am struck that the same God who heard and answered our prayers for my mom in such a bold and obvious way manner would answer this prayer in a way that we so little care to receive. It's a hard thing.

Comfort comes when I think on the great sacrifice of the Savior, and the resurrection and eternal life that all little children will receive. It is a blessing and a source of peace to know that these beloved children will be in our family for eternity, that they will not suffer or miss out on anything good about this life, though their time here be short. They will have the opportunity to grow up and make the covenant of marriage that will enable them to progress in the next life, and to enjoy the things that my heart most longs for- my husband and children, my parents, and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and nephews. For the friends of my heart and the opportunity to enlarge the circle of those I know and love. How could God be just if these children were denied those things that make heaven heavenly? My heart tells me that He would not deny them these things, and latter-day scripture confirms it.

"The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were considered too pure, too lovely, to live on earth; therefore if it is rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil, and we shall soon have them again....The only difference between the old and the young dying is, one lives longer in heaven and eternal light and glory than the other, and is freed a little sooner from this miserable, wicked world. Notwithstanding all this glory, we for a moment lose sight of it and mourn the loss, but we do not mourn as those without hope." (Joseph Smith, The Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, pgs. 176-177)

We do not mourn as those without hope. Much love to you all.

*Update- My sister-in-law safely delivered, and today is the graveside service.
Glutton for Punishment?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I'm so proud of myself for finally figuring out how to spell her name!

The Scorpio Races
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Not my first book by Ms. Steifvater, but my favorite because of the strong characters and a setting both wild and beautiful. One of my top 3 books this year, one of those rare YA books that doesn't feel trope-y.

Sean has raced - and won- the deadly horse races on the Island of Thisby for four years on the back of his sea horse, Corr. Corr is his heart, his future and his only love, but Corr has killed before, and Sean can never forget it. It's an uneasy truce, to say the least, but Sean hopes that if he wins the race this year, he will be able to buy Corr and gain independence from the horse breeder who seems to regard Sean as a possession right along with the horses.

Puck Connolly, sometimes called Kate, is desperate. Her parents are a year dead and she and her brothers struggle to hang on the their house and fill their bellies. When her older brother announces that he's abandoning them for work on the mainland, she enters the Scorpio races as the first girl to enter, on a pony named Dove, to boot. The islanders are sure she'll be dead on the wave-thrashed beach before the race even begins. For the sea horses, the Capaill Uisce, feed on flesh and will pull a rider under the waves if given the smallest opening.

Sean is a quiet young man, serious and strong-willed. I loved his gentle understanding of the horses and the way he and Puck grew to understand, then to love each other.

I loved the island, the water horses, the religious traditions from pagan to Christianity, the beautifully complex characters. Ms. Stiefvater created a story that I cared deeply about and was sorry to finish. It read like a standalone, but I'd be delighted if their were more to this story.

Content-wise, there is a lot of pub-going, some drunkenness. There are several bloody deaths and some fighting. There are a few kisses. I'd think that 13 and up could handle it.

Many thanks to Around the World ARC tours for giving me the chance to read the ARC:)

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Monday, November 7, 2011

The Future of Us, by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Good morning everbody! Thanks to everyone who left a question for Dave Farland on Friday. I'm going to email him the questions and post his answers later this week, hopefully. I apologize on Dave's behalf, I'm sure he's simply overwhelmed with all that he's bitten off. 

So, moving on, I sign up for these books on Around the World Blog Tours, and some weeks or months later, the book magically appears in my mailbox. This time, I opened the package and was like, "Really? I picked a "Facebook" inspired book?" I chalked it up a rushed moment, a moment of great optimism where everything looked good. But, I said I'd read it, so I did. And I'm glad, because it was actually a good book. 

1996 and Josh and Emma are best friends, or they were until Josh misunderstood Emma's signals (or lack thereof) and tried to kiss her. Now they pass each other in the hall and barely manage to nod. It was a small moment, which shouldn't really matter that much in the grand scheme of things, but it changed everything between them.

But when Emma loads AOL (100 hours free!) and a strange program called Facebook pops up, Emma calls Josh to come look. Emma of the future doesn't sound happy, but Josh is delighted to learn he's happily married to the school hottie. They have children together--which means they must have had sex at some point--how awesome is that? Emma is determined to save her future self from whatever mistakes she's headed toward, but Josh is desperate to make sure nothing at all changes, and that's when things get sticky.

It's a new twist on time machines, and I loved all the 90s references--discmans and nobody having cell phones--but it was the characters that made this book worth the read. I really enjoyed watching Josh and Emma struggle with their relationship to each other and their possible futures. I especially enjoyed how Josh felt as his future family gained and lost children because I think it would take a time machine to get most teens- esp boys- to consider that they will one day be parents.

My oldest just turned 11, and for a few weeks now he's kept coming up to me and telling me how weird it is to be old, because I've been letting him go on bike rides and to the school to play football with his friends. (I'll admit here it makes me nervous, but I know the other kids well, and Isaac isn't a good liar, and I've asked him some pretty direct questions about how everybody behaves without supervision. So far, so good.)

Anyway, the point was, I'm 33, and it's still weird. Anybody else surprised at how OLD they are? Read this book and feel really old, then!

Happy Reading!
Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Interview with Dave Farland and his new release, "Nightingale"

Today we (finally!) welcome Dave Farland to talk about his new book, Nightingale, about a teenaged alien who was abandoned to be raised by humans.

Kelly: I did a little internet research and found out that many birds, including the brown-headed cowbird, will lay eggs in other birds' nests. Did you ever, even once, consider calling the series "Brown-headed Cowbird?"

Dave: Of course that-was the first name that jumped to mind. There are over a hundred types of birds that practice brood parasitism, but when I thought of the title Nightingale, I just knew that it was special. I thought, “Bird lovers everywhere will flock to buy this book!”

Kelly: Hehe. Flock. Could you tell us a little more about Bron and the world he lives in. Who are the Aels and Draghouls?

Dave: Bron is a boy, age 16, abandoned at birth, and raised in foster care. He doesn’t want much out of life, except maybe to learn to play his guitar well and be left alone. But when he’s thrown out of his latest home, he goes to live in a small town in Southern Utah, where his new foster mother recognizes that he’s not even human. He’s what her people, the Ael, call a “nightingale,” a child left to be raised by humans. The question in her mind is, is he an Ael—one of an ancient race that humans once considered to be minor gods, or is he a Draghoul, a descendent of her enemies. As Bron struggles to understand the mystery of his birth, he’s suddenly thrust into the midst of a strange and secret war that has been waged for thousands of years.

Kelly: The opening pages grabbed me because Bron doesn't even know he's an alien, which is so different from the alien invasion I've been waiting for;) Next question: You’re releasing this book in a variety of formats, from hardcover novel to audiobook, electronic book, and enhanced book. What makes an enhanced book, well, enhanced?

Dave: The enhanced novel is something like a movie. It has its own soundtrack, provided by James Guymon, president of the American Composer’s Guild, and I think that’s a real bonus, since it helps the reader capture the mood of the piece. It also has more than a hundred animations and illustrations, rather than just a single picture on the cover, which helps readers visualize the world. Last of all, if you want, you can access notes in the enhanced version, so that you can learn a bit about the genesis of ideas—which makes it sort of like having the writer in the room. Of course, most enhanced novels come as apps that you have to read on an iPad or something similar, but we have an emulator so that anyone with a computer can access it.

Kelly: That's so cool. Or is the word innovative? I think we all dream of seeing our characters come alive- I know I've done a casting call for mine, because it's fun to think about. I think it's fun for readers. Maybe one day we'll have people saying things like, "The enhanced book was way better than the movie!"

Let's talk about what's next for you. You've ranged across the fantasy genre, writing the NYT Best Selling series, "The Runelords," and for the Star Wars and Mummy series, plus some science fiction, as well. Last year your historical fiction "In the Company of Angels" won the Whitney Award for best novel, and now you're launching a series for young adults.

That's an eclectic list. Do you have some chicklit inside your soul, yearning to see light?

Dave: Alas, I don’t feel qualified to write chicklit. I have been accused of being a “rabid feminist” though. I deny being rabid. Feminist, definitely. I want women to be treated with dignity and respect. Men too. And kids. And people of all races and ages and intellectual abilities. And let’s not forget near-humans like the Ael and even the Draghouls!

Kelly: How many ideas do you have in development right now?

Dave: Seriously, I don’t keep count. Right now I’m developing a large world for a MMORPG, and that will lead to a fantasy series. I have a horror novel I’d love to do—first contact with nasty aliens. Then of course there’s the Nightigale series, and I have a YA fantasy series about a young Merlin, and a few others. But I’m focusing on getting the Runelords series finished up, and working on getting the movie made for it. Once that’s in production, I’d like to move Nightingale into production, too. I have a producer who wants to make the movie already. We just have to wait until the time is right.

Kelly: How long ago did the idea for Nightingale come to you and how did you develop it?

Dave: I’ve been thinking about doing something like Nightingale for about fifteen years. When I was teaching Stephenie Meyer at BYU, we once talked about what she’d need to do to become the bestselling YA writer of our time, and I remember wishing that one could sell a contemporary YA fantasy back in 2001, but there just wasn’t a market for it. The publishers weren’t interested. Stephenie caught the writing bug a couple of years later, and really hit just as publishers began to recognize how huge the YA fantasy market could be. It would have been nice to hit just after she did.

Kelly: How many outlines are you waiting for the time to write?

Dave: I usually don’t outline the novel until I start it. I’d say that there are a dozen novels that I would seriously like to outline right now, but I have several criteria for writing a novel. I have to be driven to write it, but I also have to feel that it’s marketable and a good investment of my time. In the Company of Angels was something of an exception. I just felt compelled to write it despite my better judgment.

Kelly: I loved In the Company of Angels, about the Martin Handcart company. I'd advise anybody to avoid reading the last half of the book in public places and to have a box of tissues handy. No smiley face. That means I just made a serious recommendation, okay?
Lots of my blog readers are writers trying to find an agent and get published, just like me. You advised me back in June to get a contract with a traditional publisher if I could and then think about self-publishing once I had some credibility and, hopefully, a fan base. Does your advice still stand, or have the changes in the market altered your opinions?

Dave: The markets are evolving rapidly. If you’re looking at trying to break into a big genre—thriller, young adult—then I think that it may be worthwhile to sell a novel in that genre and establish some credibility. But you should only do it if the publisher is going to push you big. If they aren’t going to push your work, you don’t want them. After all, you can put out your own novel without any push, and you’d probably do it with more loving care.

Now, here’s my caveat: Electronic sales are growing so rapidly that you should only consider New York for a few more months—maybe until next March. After that, I wouldn’t bother going to New York at all. Sadly, the industry is just too much chaos, with publishers demanding too much from authors, and agents doing things that are shameful.

Kelly: Yep. I'm nervous about the conflict of interest with some agents self-publishing their clients' work. I'm sure there are many well-meaning folks out there, but I'd be surprised if more than a few people don't end up with the short straw. Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts, Dave.

At Dave's workshop in June. I'm kneeling in black and white,
Dave is standing, near the middle in a black t-shirt with wings. I think it's wings, anyway. 

Anybody else ready to read their first enhanced book? I'm curious about the experience, and the illustrations I've seen are topnotch, along with the excellent story and writing.

And now for questions. Nightingale launches today, and Dave is doing an extensive blog tour, so he wasn't able to pinpoint when he'd stop in, but he has graciously agreed to answer some questions in the comments. So, if you get here before Dave does, leave a question and he'll answer it.

Also, if you check out the contest tab on the nightingale website above, you can learn about Dave's contest (with a $1000 prize) to write a short story set in the Nightingale world, and which will be included in the enhanced version of the novel. That could be a really nice jumpstart to someone's career, methinks. I'm brainstorming:) Happy writing!
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Prized" by Caragh M. O'Brien

I reviewed Caragh M. O'Brien's debut "Birthmarked" last year, and the sequel is coming out Nov. 8. There will be spoilers for Birthmarked in here, so for those of you who haven't read it, I'll say now that I really enjoyed "Prized."

Back cover copy- "Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole?"

This book was all about control. Do individuals get to make their own choices or should society be able to dictate partners and the number of children a woman should bear? Does a genetic problem that steadily decreases the number of girls born give society the right to have near-total control over reproduction? Does the need for babies obviate the right (a right according to Gaia's mind, at least) of women to have abortions? And how much attraction doth love make?

Gaia is used to being scorned because of her burns and her outsider status, and that situation is totally flipped in Prized. As a midwife, she's high-status and has two very eligible brothers trying to out-do each other to win her affections, but Gaia can't forget Leon and his brave sacrifice to save her. Or can she? After all, it's not likely that she'll ever see him again.

Prized is well-written and well thought out. I had a few issues-like how are the women in control when there are so few of them? They have archers, but the boys get really rowdy sometimes and there are so many or them in comparison. And if the women are in control, then why is a girl chosen as a prize by the men in their monthly "32 games?" I usually get bored by descriptions of sports in books, (as in real life!) but this game was original and important to the story, so I actually enjoyed it.

Anyway, the society was really interesting and I loved all of the little touches- word usage like matriarch turned into Matrarc, Asylum becoming Sylum and many others. Those kind of details give such a great sense of time passing for a culture and make a story so much richer. Lots of herb-lore and some mid-wifery made it different than other dystopians out there.

Content- very little sexuality- just a few kisses, but be aware that abortion is major issue. I wouldn't say that it stopped me from enjoying the book, because it is carefully treated, with Gaia being very thoughtful about if she should give herbs to a girl that would cause her to miscarry. There's a lot of emphasis placed on the unfairness of society's rules, namely that if the girl chooses to keep the baby, she'll lose all status and bad things will happen to the father, who in the story is a serial jerk, besides. I'll admit that, due to my own very strong feelings against abortion, this was off-putting. I think it would be nearly impossible to place enough emphasis on the long-term consequences of abortion in a novel that only takes place over the course of a few months. It is an action that cannot be undone and cannot be forgotten.

Please forgive me for moralizing a bit, but I can't review this book and let the topic pass by without throwing my 2 cents in. Life is sacred, even if it's not planned or scary or everyone will be disappointed in you. I have too many other friends that are praying and searching for children to adopt to not see that as the best possible outcome in an unplanned pregnancy. Adoption is about love. Abortion is about fear.

You're more than welcome to disagree, but I hope that anybody so inclined will be civil. Thanks to Around the World ARC Tours for giving me the opportunity to preivew this book. Thanks and happy reading!

PS- the interview with David Farland *should* happen on Oct. 28th and he will check in at some point to answer questions. I'll post the interview at 9am EST, so hurry and leave your questions so Dave will see them when he stops in.

Dave is a master of targeted marketing and what elements to include to intrigue what ages. Dave is also self-published, traditionally published, and has started his own publishing company, which has the goal of standing out of the crowd by providing extra content like professional video, art, etc.

Dave has also been the head contest judge for "Writers of the Future" contest for years and a writing teacher at Brigham Young University. Brandon Mull, Brandon Sanderson and Steohenie Meyer have all been his students. Seriously, he's an incredible resource, so ask away. Thanks!
Glutton for Punishment?

Saturday, October 15, 2011


The interview scheduled for today with David Farland is being postponed until later in the week, but I'm hopeful that when it goes live, Dave will hang around in the comments for a few hours to answer questions. Sorry about that, although it's Saturday, so I'm not sure anybody's out there anyway;)

Have a nice weekend!

PS- My "s" key wasn't working earlier today, even when I popped it off and cleaned it. Somehow it's working again. Can I tell you how happy that makes me? We're off to a pumpkin farm for a hayride and to pick out a few pumpkins!
Glutton for Punishment?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

I love this cover!

I'll start you guys out with a quote this time-
"Love doesn't break easily, I've found. But people do."
Wren was totally and completely in love with Danny, but he was killed in a car accident. So now her life consists of visiting the injured boy who was driving the night of the car crash, not talking about anything important AT ALL with her mom, and avoiding her two best friends.

Wren can't let anyone into her life because she's made a terrible mistake. The women in her family have special abilities, making their gardens especially lush, and her mother can make fairie lights dance in the sky. Wren can do more. And now that it's too late, now that Danny, or the half-living version that she called out of the grave, is hiding in a neighbor's garage attic, she doesn't know what to do.

Enter cute boy with a special power of his own, one that helps him to break into Wren's private hell and become her friend.

Wren's character is so great. She's powerful, but she's impetuous and short-sighted and makes a REALLY big mistake. Cold Kiss is how she fixes it, and really makes me sure that I won't attempt to raise anyone from the dead. Not even tempted now;)

I really really enjoyed this book. Thanks to Around the World ARC Tours for giving me the chance to read it a bit early, but the book was just released and is in stores now. Also, I checked out Amy's blog, and she's got a great post about the unusual path to publication for this project.

Also, I've got an interview with David Farland set for Oct. 15th. Dave is launching his new YA book, Nightingale, about an alien abandoned as a baby among humans so he'd be raised as one of us. (It's called Nest Parasitism, I think, and lots of birds do that. Like Nightingales.) It's a really cool story, and I hope you'll check it out. I asked some publishing questions, as well.

Happy Reading!
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Empathy and Characterization

I've been thinking a lot about how emotion is a kind of a dance between two (or more) people. A quick story- My daughter was in a bike accident last week (she was going pretty fast and slid on some wet grass and fell on a driveway.)

She was in a lot of pain, but I had a job to do- get my daughter cleaned up enough that we could go to the critical care center for x-rays. My heart was pounding, and my thoughts were a little jumpy, but I was okay. (You didn't think this was about my daughter, did you? No, this story is all about me! ;) Then I stopped at my friend's house to drop off my 4 year-old so I could concentrate on Emma. When she came to the door, I started to explain what had happened and could she please watch Jojo for me?

I could hardly get through the explanation. I started bawling, and all of the fear that I hadn't wanted to show my daughter came out with my friend. After a  moment I pulled it together, and Emma and I made it to the CCC, where my husband met us. Emma is okay, in fact the last big piece of scab peeled off her face last night, so she doesn't feel like such a freak. (I think I could have said she was mauled by a bear and that would have made sense to people looking at her. Her left hand is still wrapped up, but she can *carefully* hold a pencil again.)

Anyway, this experience with my friend reminded me that emotions don't occur in a vacuum. Emotions are usually between a person and someone or something else.

Anger- at what?
Love- for whom?
Jealousy- over what?
Happiness- this one is a little harder, but I think that many times when I'm happy, I feel that I've been transported back to an earlier happiness. For instance, whenever I go out on a boat, it reminds me of the times I've gone out on a boat with my family growing up, and I feel a sense of well-being and closeness, to my dad especially, that I don't feel in other situations. Even if he's not there.

As writers, we're told to use relationships and other people's reactions to reveal our main character and make them come alive. I'm just wondering if the reason for that is deeper than a good writing device- is it because that's how we experience the world? Can you really expereince emotions without putting them in the context of a relationship?

Even when I'm alone, my emotions are focused on what I think someone's reaction will be. For instance, say I'm fixing dinner. A script will run through my mind of the last time we had chicken pot pie, how everybody thanked me, those delicious groans as they took their firsts bites. As I predict their gratitude, I happily get to work.

What do you think of my very non-scientific observations? Can emotions exist without a foil?
Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bones by Laini Taylor

A lot of you have read Laini Taylor, so you already know how amazing she is. This post is not for you. You're already hounding the clerks at Barnes and Noble, asking if the shipment has arrived, right? No? You must be checking your mailbox *again*.

I've read all of Laini Taylor's books- "Lips Touch, Three Times, "Blackbringer" and "Silksinger" from the Faeries of Dreamdark Series. I loved them all (though the Faeries of Dreamdark are written for a younger MG crowd) because of the beautiful writing, the creativity of the ideas, the twists and turns in the plot and the revelation after revelation of the characters' histories. Delicious.

In Daughter of Smoke and Bone, you have my perfect book. Except for the cover, which doesn't evoke any of the feeling of the book and is rather bland, I think. The mask is from a scene in the novel, so it's not totally crazy or anything, I just don't think it does justice to the story. Don't be fooled!

Karou is an art student in Prague, who claims with a wry smile that her hair comes out of her head peacock blue, that the half-beast, half-human figures in her drawing notebook are real. She's discovered that the truth, delivered with that teasing smile, will be hidden better than if she'd told a hundred lies. Because nobody hangs out with monsters and devils. They don't even exist, right?

But they do. Brimstone, a devilish creature part ram, human and something reptilian that Karou likes to think of as dragon, is the nearest thing she has to a family. In fact, her earliest memory is of playing with the tuft of his tail. But there's so much Brimstone won't tell her: where Karou came from, what Brimstone uses the teeth Karou gathers for, or what lies behind the locked door in his workroom. When she asks too many questions, she's patted on the head and shown back to the door that leads to the human world, returned there until the next time Brimstone hears of teeth for her to collect.

But one day Karou finds a handprint burned in that door, and the war that she wasn't told about is suddenly all too real when an angel holds a sword, ready to swing it at her neck. She fights and keeps her life, but she can't stop drawing the fearsome angel with the dead, burning-ember eyes. And she can't shake the feeling that she could make him smile.

I love this book.

Content: The characters are not perfect people. Um, most of them aren't actually people, anyway, but you know what I mean. The book opens with Karou regretting the closeness she shared with an exboyfriend. The monsters nor the angels have much use for chastity as an end, but they do believe in being true to their hearts. Brimstone warns Karou against taking inessential things into her body- ink, drugs, alcohol, and especially warns her against "inessential penises." It's not a lewd book, but neither are the characters saints. I'm not sure that I would hand Lips Touch or Daughter of Smoke and Bones to a young teen, but a major theme of the book is to wait for true love, and the power of hope that such love brings. Which message I really liked and appreciated.

I will be buying this book (release date Sept 24, 2011), and thanks to Around the World ARC tours for giving me the chance to preview it.

Happy Reading!
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Self Publishing Guild- Why Not?

I've taken a break from querying over the summer, working on my YA Egyptian-Queen's-Spirit-Possesses-Pregnant-Teen book (it's just as angsty as it sounds!)

In the meantime, I wait for things to fall into perspective, so I can read Ways To Fall as if it weren't the product of three years of love and endless rewrites, the book that I cut my teeth on, and a story that I don't want to let go of.

I've been so disappointed by rejections, so afraid that my judgment is off, that I'm a crap writer, that my ideas are too cerebral, too out there, and just plain boring. I still have a few requests floating, but as I've mentioned before, I think of them as rejections that haven't happened yet, just so I can get on with my life. I really hope they're not--the agents involved are amazing and I would be so delighted to work with such talented and savvy people.

And yet, I'm scared of publishers. See Androssagency How eBook Royalties are Cheating Authors. Kristin Nelson has stated that publishers are undereporting eBook sales (she does say in the comments that she believes it is due to publishers not having systems in place to ensure accuracy). Passive Voice gives details about royalty statements, lots of examples and explanations. It's so ridiculous that it would be laughable, if it weren't cryable.

So, I'm leery.

I'm sketching some cover ideas and learning everything I can about self publishing (Dean Wesley Smith is a great resource, as is Joe Konrath.) Not because I don't think I can find an agent, although some days I do worry that it will never happen. I still think it would be worth 10% of net income to have a brilliant agent, just to be sure that someone is one my side and motivated to be honest and brutal, in a kind way, if neccesary. I DO NOT think publishers are the boogey man, but I have concerns. That's all I'm saying.

I would love to band together with a group of writers, edit the heck out of each others' work, and rise together out of the flood of crappy self-published ebooks out. I'd like to do chaining, where at the end of each ebook, a chapter by another author is included, leading the reader to begin another book within "the guild."

I can see this as a way that authors could easily expand their reach, without having to devote hundreds of additional hours to networking. Within the networks of the guild, each writer would find a much greater audience. We've all seen examples of authors with traditional publishers doing this- ie Class of 2011, League of Extraordinary Writers, etc.

I think about the authors I've traded crits with, and while several of them have had success following the traditional model (stop by The Green Bathtub and congratulate Amy Sonnichsen on signing with Emmaneulle Morgen at Judith Egrlich Literary Mangement!)and it's a matter of time for the rest, what if we could just do it ourselves?

Dean Wesley Smith posted today on the need to have a large backlist to be successful as a self-published author. I don't have that. I have a few short stories (okay, one, and it needs another pass) on my hard drive and one completed novel. Not exactly the 200 titles Smith recommends. But with a group of ten or fifteen other writers, we could work on manuscripts serially, putting up one a month or 6 weeks, or whatever. We could operate as our own imprint. Authors working with the imprint could keep all proceeds minus some money set aside as compensation to the guild to subsidize the next book's cover art, marketing, formatting etc. I think it would be good to have a limited number of hardcopies to give away as ARCs.

I've heard of some people having success serializing novels, and setting the price point lower, but I worry that that would create barriers for consumers and that you'd lose some readers due to the inconvenience of having to wait for the next installment or to download the next chunk. Still, setting the cost of fifty pages at $.49 might pull in some readers who are willing to part with such small change. Then again, making the first chunk of the novel free might do the same thing, better.

I'm not ready to act on this, but now you know what I'm thinking about.

What am I missing? Any ideas on how to step out of the herd?
Glutton for Punishment?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Obstacle or Opportunity?

In theory, there should be more time to write in summer. No lunches to pack, homework to do, activities or practices to drive anyone to. But it's SUMMER. Which means fun family time. In addition to my own kids, I had a niece and my little sister come visit (which we all loved), then an exchange student from Spain (Marcos, we miss you, still). Out of 10 weeks, someone extra was in our house for 7 (Or we were visiting them).

Plus, we're still doing lots of projects around the house (Emma has window treatments and her room is painted, and we FINALLY installed a light kit and no wires are exposed!)

It would be easy-so very very easy- to get frustrated about the distractions of life. I just want to write the scene and be done! Why can't I just have a few hours of quiet???

So, I was given a wake up call.

Last week, I was privileged to become the leader of the Young Women's organization in our ward (or congregation.) In the Mormon church, a person is always given a special blessing to help them be able to fulfill their new responsibilities, called "setting apart." During this blessing, I was promised many things- strength and insight into the girls so that I will be able to support them and love them, and also that the desires of my heart will be realized.

Sometimes my mind feels like it's exploding during blessings, racing to understand, and this was one of those times. What is the desire of my heart? Is it to be published? Is it for my family to be close to the Savior, for all of us to return together to Heavenly Father? I'm a convert, so there are so many beloved family members that I have pined to share my faith with. Do I have to choose between these desires?

I hope not. I'm sure he wouldn't want me to stop loving and supporting my family. Would Heavenly Father want me to give up writing? Writing is about sharing my hopes and optimism for people, it's an expression of love. Right?

And yet, I can't begin to compare how I would feel to fail at the second (family) with how it would feel to fail at the first (publishing).

Which is not to say that I will stop writing, not a chance, but hopefully I won't be so grumpy when the kids interrupt sacred writing time over stupid stuff like somebody bleeding. ("Is your arm broken? No? Is someone going to die unless I come out right now? No? Then go away until my writing time is up. Does that come across as selfish, or is that establishing healthy boundaries? lol)

Anyway, I'm trying to find that balance again. I've decided that Jojo learning letters via Wii internet doesn't count as video game time, and that's made my days a little less guilty with a lonely 4yo at home. He was crying today that Eli (7yo) went to school and can't play with him. Luckily we are starting preschool co-op soon...

More soon. Because school is back in session and the Wii is warmed up and ready to go:)
Glutton for Punishment?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

River of Dreams is Salty

Yesterday I took two of my kids to the doc for their yearly checkups. My youngest, Jojo, is four and it was time to get his vaccines up to date. Which means 5 shots.

"Jojo, you're going to get some shots today, okay?" Which is not really a question. It's an offer he can't refuse.

Jojo stares at me, his eyes wide with his own peculiar expression of stoic fear.

"I'm not sure how many shots, maybe 3 or 4." The doctor had said they might be able to combine some of the shots, so I was banking on that. "They give you shots because kids used to get a lot of diseases that would make them really sick. But now we get shots and people don't get sick and die."

Jojo is sinking back in the chair as I talk, his shoulders scrunching up higher and higher. I don't stop because this child does better with information. He needs to prepare.

"It will hurt for a minute, like a pinch, and then it won't hurt so much."

Then we wait. After another few minutes, about the time that I'm thinking that I told Jojo too soon, and he's just getting more and more anxious, two nurses come in. They explain that he can only get two shots.

"Isn't that great?" I say. "Only two shots! Lucky boy!"

Jojo's shoulders scrunch higher. I can't see his neck anymore.

I put him up on the table, and the nurses stand on each side of him, preparing to do both at once. I hold his little hands in mine and he lays back on the pillow when the nurse asks him to.

"One, two, three." The syringes go into his arms, his eyes are quick and wide with fear. Not a sound escapes him. His little fingers are warm and limp in mine.

The nurses put on his bandaids and leave, and I pick him up. He's been so brave. He didn't even cry.

I sit in the chair and hold him, and pressing his head against my shoulder. I tell him I'm sorry it hurt. I'm sorry we had to do that.

And he cries. Not loud, not a lot, but the tears come.

When I stand up and set him on his feet a minute later, the wounded look is gone. We go to the desk on the way out, and he doesn't want the nurses to talk to him, but by the time I've checked out, he's willing to give a high five to one and let them see his Matchbox car. He's okay.

Can I work in a writing lesson? Why yes, I think I will.

Querying stinks. Most of us get rejection after rejection. I stopped crying about rejections a while ago. Rejection was expected. Rejection was not a surprise.

I send out letters hoping for the best, but wheneever I open an email from an agent now, I am telling myself not to expect too much. It's a rejection, it's a rejection...and then when it is, I'm not as disappointed. And if it's a request, then I'm happily surprised, right?

Kind of.

Last week it hit me how hard this is, how tired I am of being good but not good enough. I cried for all the rejections I'd been so brave about. And the thoughts started churning.

Why am I even putting myself through this? What's the point? Why not just write for myself and forget being published?

I'm trying to find that magical mental state where I'm motivated to work hard, but not stressed about how the end result will be received. Having some beta readers in the wings helps a little, but I'm feeling kind of paralyzed right now. Still working, but it's hard. There's a lot of resistance and fear going on.

But I've realized that if I don't allow myself to hope, then a lot of the joy of writing gets shut down as well. I can't feel deeply about my writing without being open to the pain of rejection also.

It's a price I'm willing to pay.

How do you deal? Any tips? Head games to recommend? ;)
Have a great day and happy writing!

Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

Goliath is book three in the Leviathan Series by Scott Westerfeld, and it's one of the most engaging, widely appealing books I've read, ever. In many ways it rivals Harry Potter, including the wonderful characters and the delightful world creation. I have never wanted to sail on a stinky, bilious whale as dearly as I did at the end of Goliath.

Alek is the heir to the Austrian throne, on the run since the night his parents were murdered and WWI began. Deryn is a girl masquerading as Dylan Sharp, midshipman on the Leviathan, the finest hydrogen-breathing, floating-whale airship in the sky. When Alek helped the ailing airship in book 1, it started a collaboration between two young people determined to do their parts to stop the terrible war, whether by using Clanker technology or Darwinist fabrications. They've fought battle together over land and sea, ice and blasted forest, and by book three, they're something more than best friends.

But Alek still doesn't know that Dylan is Deryn, or that through all of their adventures, Deryn has fallen in love. All Alek sees is the kind of friend he's always wanted- a capable, friendly chap that everyone trusts with their secrets. Together they must try to stop the war and secure Alek's position as heir, but Deryn's secret threatens to destroy their friendship and the future of their world.

At his workshop, David Farland suggested that authors include a broad range of ages and both sexes to appeal to a wider audience, and Westerfeld does this brilliantly. It's hard for me to think of anyone I know who reads fiction that wouldn't enjoy these books and be able to identify with the characters. (His Uglies Series, on the other hand, was targeted almost entirely at teens. Which is okay, but if you're looking for a good book with wide appeal, or want to see how to do it, read these books.) 

The romance element is conveyed through tender feelings of respect and hope, nothing out of place. There is a kissing scene, nicely done, and I wouldn't have any problem letting my 8 yo read it. Some discussions on powerful, city-destroying weapons and the pros and cons of using them as well, making this recommended reading for future world leaders. And there's a war on, so expect some fighting and some death. My 10 yo has read the whole series, and he loved it, but he loves everything, so take that for what it's worth!

Goliath comes out September 20th, so look for it soon. Thanks to Around the World ARC tours for the opportunity to review this book.

Any other Leviathan fans out there? Thoughts? Happy Reading!
Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Favorite Summer Reads, Pt I

#1- The Boneshaker by Kate Milford

Natalie, an exceptionally curious and bright young woman, loves her mother's stories, especially if they feature Old Tom Guyot at the Crossroads getting the better of the devil on his guitar. But the stories turn out to have more than a little truth to them.

When Dr. Jake Limberleg's Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show comes to Natalie's small town in Missouri, Natalie is drawn to find out how Dr. Limberleg's mechanical uncanny automatons work. After all, her dad, a famed (at least to Natalie) bicycle mechanic and tinkerer, has taught her that perpetual motion machines are inconsistent with the laws of nature.

But as Natalie learns more about Dr. Limberleg and his assistants, the Paragons of Science, the more unntural he seems, and the whole town seems not to notice. Worse, her mother has fallen ill, and no one can say exactly what's wrong. Dr. Limberleg promises to effect a cure, but at what cost?

Okay, first thing that drew me in was the cover. Amazing, isn't it? I dream of having a cover this fascinating- the flaming hair and spectacles and Natalie racing away on her bike at the top.

Strangely, the writing didn't disappoint! My husband and 10 yo son read it and loved it also. Which means the library is after us! Gotta go! I'll definitely be watching for Milford's next book! And she has some great literature/sci-fi&fantasy book pairings in her most recent blog post here. Happy reading!
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Review of "A Wise Man's Fear" by Patrick Rothfuss

"A Wise Man's Fear" is book 2 in the Kingkiller Chronicles, which so far involves a middle-aged innkeeper Kvothe retelling the unbelievable story of his youth- his early years as a traveling performer, his studies in the Arcanist University, where he learns how to control sympathy, a type of magic where the bonds between objects are are strong as their similarities and the belief that the arcanist can muster. I keep wondering when he's going to get to the part where he kills a king, but the story moves fast enough that it took a while for me to realize he's got to kill a king somewhere...

The innkeeper, Qvothe, polishes the bar, makes apple pie, and talks about the weather. A lot. He's grown tired of being famous, and of the reputation that he carefully built up. It's all true enough, but I suspect Qvothe has discovered that there is something to be said about anonymity. About being able to live one's life instead of being the vehicle that other people use to experience the lives they wish they could have. That it's not always comfortable to be the hero that they turn to when things go bad...and things are going bad. Strange creatures have strayed from the mountains and the woods, and hapless farmers are dying.

The writing is brilliant, the humor is actually funny, and I enjoyed following Kvothe's adventures, and especially the older Kvothe's commentary on his youthful foibles. This book sucked me in, overriding all common sense and awareness of time. Yes, Nathan found me on the couch at 2 in the morning, wondering how it got so late. I got up at 8 the next morning and finished it.

So, these books are long. They are involved. You are warned. Also, know that Rothfuss published Day 1 in 2007, book 2 in 2011, so be prepared for a bit of a wait for Day 3. They are, in my humble opinion, worth it. See: Quill award, Tor accolades, NYT Bestsellerdom, etc.

Content- Not a series for kids, imo. Day 2 has a rather lengthy encouter with a fae whose purpose in life is to drive men to their deaths with her enthusiastic and mind-blowing sexual encounters. Also he studies martial arts with the Ademe, who view sex as being as natural and expected as breathing, but it was integrated enough into the culture that it didn't seem *too* gratuitous.

Rothfuss masks details behind names of poses, much like yoga or martial arts do. Day 1 had him yearning to have close encounters with women, and in Day 2, nearly all those yearnings are accomplished. I found the scenes vague enough that I wasn't offended- I don't like books to intrude into the bedroom, I can do that in real life, thank you very much. Other content- Kvothe and his buddies drink a lot. Sometimes they even regret drinking so much;) There is fighting and people die. That's about it.

Let me know if you read it!
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Review of Ripple by Mandy Hubbard

I'd never read a mermaid (excuse me, siren, not mermaid!) book before, so I can't say much about how this book stands out from the others, but I really enjoyed it. Fun book, very entertaining and well-written.

Lexi used to have it all: a million friends, a boyfriend, and a life. But since an accident that claimed her boyfriend's life, her ex-best friend leads the anti-Lexi brigade, and Lexi retreats into a shell to protect herself and the people who used to be her friends. Since the night of her birthday party, she has to swim each night and sings an irresistable song, drawing all who hear it into the water with her. She couldn't bear it if she killed again.

The only one who seems to care about her is Cole, the best friend of Lexi's dead boyfriend. He's sweet and persistent as he tries to draw Lexi back into the life she used to have. And it's starting to work. Maybe she can be careful enough to reclaim part of her life. Cole is definately worth trying to be normal for.

Enter Erik, hot new guy at school who has answers to the questions Lexi's been asking about her, um, condition. And he has a curse of his own. He's sure that together they can break both their curses. All Lexi has to do is drop Cole and try to love him. Easy, right? Um, not so much.

I really liked this book. The ending was very fulfilling and I recommend it to folks who like YA paranormal. The cover didn't quite do it for me, something about the model's shoulders, but the book was great.

Content-wise, there are parties where teens are drinking and an insinuation of sex, though that is a matter of interpretation and reading between the lines.

Thanks to Around the World ARC tours for letting me read it!
Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Teresa Frohock, An Expose`

So, some history. Teresa and I met on the Online Writer's Workshop for Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror way back on March of 2009, or thereabouts. She was working on this really cool story that featured a kind of medieval fantasy world, yet also contained cell phones. And it worked. Teresa really took me under her wing as I learned to critique, even sticking with me when I overused the word "gel" as in "that scene where the horse lives doesn't gel for me," or "Wow, when the cross flips upside down in that exorcism scene, it really gels." Ad nauseum. Here we go!

Teresa and I at StellarCon. Good times:)
Kelly- Your characters range across gender and age lines- who was your hardest character to write and why? What helped you to break through? (answer- awesome crit partner, right?)

I've answered Lindsay (teenage girl from earth) on several blogs and she was very difficult to write. And it was my super awesome crit partners who finally helped me get her personality down (I knew it! I just knew it!) , but the one I'd like to talk about here is Catarina.

Catarina was incredibly difficult to write, believe it or not. I didn't want to give her an excuse for being evil, but I didn't want her so murky that the reader couldn't connect to her. I probably went over her scenes more in the beginning than any other character.

I needed her darkness to contrast Lucian's better nature. In the end, I finally managed to achieve that subtle twist to her nature that I wanted, but getting her there was a lot of hard work.

Catarina is sooo evil! I kept wanting her to be more like Lucian, to feel bad about what she was doing. Truly wicked!

You mention learning so much about religions and Christianity in particular while writing Miserere. How many books did you read? Was there anything that you read that blew you away?

I lost count of the number of books. I would guess around eight to ten that I read cover to cover and that's not including many that I skimmed for background information. I've got three Latin dictionaries and phrase books, one of which is specifically about Church Latin. I read numerous journal articles too.

The one book that absolutely blew me away was Armando Maggi's Satan's Rhetoric: A Study of Renaissance Demonology. Maggi's analyses of Renaissance treatises on demonology and his correlation between language and possession astounded me. He writes that in a possession, the "'virus' assaulting the mind is the mind itself. In a demonic possession, the mind listens to its own annihilation."

From that point forward, I changed the way I thought about Rachael's possession. I didn't want spinning heads and weird behavior. I wanted my Fallen to be more seductive; they would approach their goals through devious rhetoric, not head-banging violence.

So, yes, Satan's Rhetoric just knocked me for a loop. I'm still studying Maggi's theories. Fabulous work.

Sometimes writers fear losing control of their books when agents and editors get involved. Any words of wisdom regarding your experience?

I had a very positive experience with editors and that includes my agent Weronika Janczuk, who is absolutely marvelous at editing. Before we started submitting Miserere, Weronika made several suggestions to the manuscript. We talked about two or three approaches to Miserere's story, and when I explained the bastions and how they worked, she told me to make it clearer in the manuscript and beef up my world-building.

I added another 10,000 words based on her recommendations and Jeremy Lassen (at Night Shade) recommended that I add more words and clearly explain how Woerld worked. He made some very specific suggestions in some places, and not once did I feel like I was losing control over my story. No one ever asked me to change the main premise; they all wanted more detail in some areas.

No one ever made any unreasonable demands, and both Weronika and Jeremy wanted to see the book sell. So I trusted their judgment and I sincerely believe that their guidance made Miserere stronger.

Talk to me about marketing. I haven't seen you dressed up as your characters or getting your fans to wear chain mail and cuirasses. Did you put any thought into this or what?

Fans?!? There are fans!?! WHERE? *looks around wildly*

Sorry, Kelly. I've had some very positive reviews and some kind words from people, but no fans yet, so we don't have to worry about them dressing up as anything but themselves. I don't do dress up either, I'm afraid.

Meanwhile, good old-fashioned marketing is going on. I am working through the blog tour and that has taken an amazing amount of time, but I really believe it has been worth the effort. And I do want to stop here and thank everyone again for letting me a part of your various blogs for a day. Every stop has brought Miserere before new people and it's been a blast to meet all the gracious hosts out there.

What I do have are bookmarks and some swag in the form of some awesome oversized postcards, which are available when I travel. I'm working on setting up some book signings in my home state; I've got an interview and a review for Miserere coming up in the next issue of Bull Spec magazine; and I've got other nefarious plans boiling beneath the surface.

I hang out on Goodreads and Twitter and Facebook; although, I am going to be pulling back some soon so I work more on my next novel, The Garden. So far, people really seem to be enjoying Miserere, so I’m going forward with the next book in the series, Dolorosa.

I think the thing that surprises me is the amount of work involved in getting my name out there online and in person. It's taken an incredible amount of time to set up blogs and web sites and work all these things into an already hectic schedule.

Every ounce of work has been worth it, though, and I’m looking forward to meeting more people. Maybe someday, I’ll even have some fans.

Oh, you already do! And it's not just me. Jen McFadden has a question for you: Do you have a word count you try to hit every day?

No. I don't stress myself like that. I do try to write something, even if I do nothing more than edit the previous night's work.

Alright, that's it! Thanks For taking the time to come see us, Teresa. You can catch up with Teresa on her blog, on Twitter, and her author page on Facebook.

Click here to read the first four chapters of Miserere for FREE! I loved this story from the first chapter. Let me know if you enjoy it too!

Glutton for Punishment?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ask Teresa and Additional Nuggets from Dave Farland

I'm having a chat with my very good friend and crit partner Teresa Frohock on for an interview late next week. Teresa is the author of "Miserere" by Nightshade Books, which was released July 1st. You may have seen a review of Miserere on Tor!I'll be happy to ask her your questions if there's anything you'd like to know. She's a smart lady and so is her agent, Weronika Janczuk of Lynn Franklin Associates, so ask away.

Now, a few more nuggets from Dave Farland, as promised. You guys are all getting his Daily Kick, right? And you know about, where Dave hosts author interviews via conference call (Elana Johnson, Gail Carringer and Lisa Mangum, an editor at Deseret Books, are recent guests. The archived calls are available as MP3s)

And at, you can join a writer's group based on genre and experience.

Dave looks at things a little differently. He really didn't talk much about the mechanics of writing, instead focusing on how the story incites emotion and audience analysis. Good stuff.

From my notes-

• Think about story as an exercise in stress induction/reduction. Put the reader thru hell then pull them back out safely. Writer is the sadist, reader is masochist. Reader has to feel it’s safe stress. You can’t touch the reader too deeply. (ie- He had a friend who read a book about a broken romance, but woman had real life situation, and couldn’t finish reading it.)

• All of us have some things that we can’t handle/too close to home. Conflict too big.

• Some conflicts are too small. Ie- poor little rich kid doesn’t interest him.

• Female writers will sometimes have hero get in an argument and feel bad. Not enough conflict for him. "Feelings hurt" may not be enough conflict.

• You can’t write a story that everyone will like.

• You HAVE TO take your story to a successful conclusion. Slice of life isn’t satisfying. No ambiguous ending! Ie- Inception. He hated it!

• Writing about evil is not the same thing as being a proponent of evil.

• Don’t critique the author, crit the work.

• Ask yourself- How am I different from the other writers in my genre, how am I similar?

• Often a reader will find experiences read in a book more important than real life. Stories are that important.
Okay, that's a cut and paste from my notes, all things Dave talked about in a half hour or so of class.The last point there really made me think- Dave said there were many times in his life that he ONLY remembers in relation to what book he was reading. True for me- I remember reading "Fire" and "Dragonfly" last year at the beach, but not what we ate or if the kids got sunburnt. Is it true for you?  Don't forget to leave a question for Teresa. Let's make her work!
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, June 20, 2011

David Farland's Professional Writer's Conference

Or, How Dave Ruined Movies as Entertainment, Too.

Last week, my sister and watched "Second-hand Lions," a coming-of-age story about a young man,Walter's, attempts to find a place in this world after his mother drops him off with his wacko uncles (Best line in the movie is when Walter and his mom first arrive and Uncle Hutch asks the other brother "Did you call for a hooker?") Great movie.

I couldn't help pointing out Walter's first try-fail cycle as he begs his mom not to leave him and she drives off anyway. Later I pointed out how Uncle Hutch is a classic hero- impetuous, brave to the point of foolishness, loves only one woman his whole life, and brings a sword for his enemy to fight him with, because as we all know, a real hero would never take advantage.

At which point she told me to go away. I held my tongue after that, but oh, the plot points I dissected and the tropes I picked out. I can see how it might get really annoying. Dave suggested that we study movies when studying plot because it's so much faster than reading a book. Interesting, right? But it works.

Our class. Dave is standing behind Kevin (guy with gray hair), wearing a black shirt. I'm in the black and white shirt. 
 I can't cram a whole week's worth of classes into a blog post, even a week's worth of posts, but here are a few nuggets:

1. Editing isn't about subraction. It's about making what you've written better so that it works. Not that you'll never have to cut anything, but if you cut the things that aren't working and forget to replace them with something better, you get an over-edited story with no life.

2. If you ever get a chance to seel rights to Hollywood, don't fall for taking money on the back end. Movies NEVER make money, the money just changes pockets.

3. It's fun to laugh. I've never really gotten to know a group of writers in person before, and everybody was so funny and quick. It was awesome to be around people who can zing your funny bone with a one-liner. We seriously laughed more than we did anything else.

If you have a chance to go to an intensive workshop like this, I highly recommend it. The instant feedback from the group was great. I was a little nervous (haha- shaking in my boots is more like it), but everybody had positive and helpful things to say. Not that you can listen to everybody's advice about how to improve your story, but it's really good to get a range of reactions so you can understand how your story is hitting people.

I made some new friends, some of whom I expect to be around a long time. Dave himself was amazingly generous with his time, and I could feel how much he wants his students to succeed.

And he's hysterical. For instance, early in the week he talked about what twisted advice Hemingway gave, like telling a woman that he always writes standing up. Painters do that, but you can't write like that for long.

Dave gave his opinion that Hemingway said that to thin out the writers that were dumb enough to believe it. Dave said that Hemingway learned to write in the trenches as a war reporter, and possibly felt that if someone couldn't learn to write in the comfort of their nice safe home, then they had no business writing.

On the last day, Dave opened the floor for questions, and expressed disappointment that none of us had asked him what sort of desk he wrote at. His eyes twinkled, and he said that the real secret was to write standing on your head because all of the blood rushing to your brain would really improve the writing. Good times. 

On our two movie nights, we watched "Avatar" and the new "Star Trek" and Dave gave commentary on the movies, explaining the hero's journey and plot elements- like the reveals in Star Trek- "Surprise! It's Captain Kirk! Surprise! It's Spock! Surprise! It's Bones!" Tons of fun.

Dave isn't doing any classes for the next few years, but if he starts them up again, I highly recommend heading out to St. George. Plan for an extra few days so you can see Zion National Park and the dinosaur run.

There were writers from all over- North and South Carolina, Alaska, Idaho, Texas, California, Connecticut, Utah, Montana. I could be missing some, but you get the point. Ages ranged from 19 to about 60 years. Almost everybody was fantasy or sci-fi, and there were people literally from all walks of life. Several people who'd worked in Hollywood as writers or producing plays, some teachers, some stay-at-home moms and even a S-A-H dad. Some were already involved in self-publishing online. Some dreamt of holding their books in their hands and nothing else was even tempting.

I'm going to post a few of the "wowsers" comments that Dave made on Wednesday. I hope Summer is going well for you guys! Happy Writing!
Glutton for Punishment?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pitch with Katherine Fausset of Curtis Brown

I drove over to the Atlanta Writer's Conference on Sat and pitched "Ways to Fall" to Katherine Fausset. She's as beautiful in person as on her twitter page, and one of those lovely women who glows during pregnancy. I was her last pitch of the day, so I watched person after person come out of the room smiling and gushing about how nice she is. Then it was my turn. The good news is I wasn't nearly as nervous as I'd been the previous year. Bad news is Katherine Fausset doesn't rep my genre. Ouch.

I'd googled "represented by Katherine Fausset" and found Cynthia Hand, who wrote "Unearthly," which I thought was a decent comparison to my book (although I haven't read it yet, and I realize now it's YA. I requested it from the library, but it came in too late for me to read it pre-pitch. It sounds awesome, though, and I love Cynthia's blog.) I wish I'd had my wits about me and mentioned the book, but I was having trouble thinking of the title, so I didn't. Anyway, if she says she doesn't rep paranormal romance, then she doesn't, and it would be silly to argue with her, right? She did say that the genre is hot right now, stronger than either paranormal or romance alone. 

Regardless, Ms. Fausset was very nice and listened to my pitch. I hate talking about my book because of all the world building and no matter how long I practice, the 3 minute version comes out jumbled and long, and people invariably ask "why" questions, and then I have to go back to some worldbuilding that I'd tried to gloss over. Sigh.

Whatever the shortcomings of my spiel, Ms. Fausset seemed to follow it okay and said it sounded very original. Then she suggested that I contact another agent at Curtis Brown, which she said she hardly ever does (Thanks for that encouragement, Ms.Fausset!) and that she would tell her to expect my query, then paused, and I assured her that I had been waiting to query anyone else at CB until after my pitch. At least I did something right!

I was joking with another writer before my pitch that it would be funny to come out of the pitch sobbing just to freak out the people after me, but as I said, I was last in line. Maybe next year:)

Any tips for how I can do this better? I made up some talking points to help me get through the pitch, but I can't seem to stay on track, even after talking to myself in the car for hours.

Happy Writing!
Glutton for Punishment?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Last night, I told my six year old to hold both sides of his plate.
"Wouldn't it be cool," he asked, "if our plates could float? And then we would have to hold them?"
That's a cool idea, isn't it? There's not a huge lesson here, but it was a nice reminder to me to look beyond what is, to what could be.

In "Character and Viewpoint," Orson Scott Card shares a writing exercise that he's done when visiting schools to show how easy it is to develop an idea by asking questions.

Do you want the story to be about a boy or a girl?
-A boy! No, a girl!

Ok, then, we won't decide yet. How old is this person?'
-Ten! No, Twelve!

Twelve? Why Twelve? What happens when you're twelve?
-You can stay up later.

Oh? And what do you do when you stay up later?
-Watch TV!
-The good shows!
-Scary shows!

What else can you do?
-Stay up late!

He continues with this exercise until they have a kid who is babysititng and the baby won't stop crying (What can go wrong when you're babysitting?) and he ends up calling an ambulance, which gets there right as the parents get home. Pretty good for fourth graders!

The point is, you keep asking questions. Even ten drafts in, writers should be asking questions. How can these characters have more tension between them? What's the craziest thing that could happen?

How do you develop your ideas? Is it different in rough draft vs. polishing? Do you have a favorite question you ask your story?
Glutton for Punishment?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Craft Time

27 days until I go to Dave Farland's professional (that's me! lol) writer's camp. I'm hoping we do some macrame, or take some popsicle sticks and cast off yarn, and voila! We'll have "gods' eyes." (You guys are familiar w that craft project, right? Here's a picture for those of you who never went to summer camp, poor souls.)

Perhaps that's not what is meant by "honing your craft?"

Anyhow, I'm starting to get nervous. Camp runs the 6-11th of June, but because of differences in air fare and a little side trip to see my sister, I'll be gone the 4-14th. Ten days away from my kids and husband. I'm really looking forward to all that writing, but I wonder if I'm capable of standing alone anymore, ya know? Maybe capable isn't the right word, maybe comfortable?

I'd hoped to be done with my rough draft of Book of Breathings before I leave, but that's not going to happen. Well, it might if I get up every morning at 5, but that hasn't been going so well. And I'm okay with that. Because sleep is my friend that helps me not to yell at my kids, who I love dearly:)

Re: querying, I've decided to wait until I get back from camp to send out any more queries. A round of rejections right before I leave would be a bit of a downer. (Not that I've become a pessimist.) I've still got about fifteen queries out there, and one full request. After a few rejections on requests, I've learned not to hold my breath. (Well, maybe I'm a little pessimistic. But not defeated! Never defeated!) And the Atlanta Writer's Conference is next weekend, and I have a pitch with Katherine Fausset of Curtis Brown. I'll let you know how it goes--hopefully not as awkward as last year's pitch:)

Oh, and guess what one of the required reading books prior to camp is? "Story" by Robert McKee.

Done. I told you it was an amazing book that everybody should read;) (The other book is the one on characterization by Orson Scott Card.)

Any happy summer camp memories to share? Tips for making the most of a writing retreat? Whatever!
Happy Writing!
Glutton for Punishment?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Crazy Town, Query Stats, The Plan

Kids are home from school. Yesterday I banned them from videogames of any kind for the rest of spring break. It's like the DSIs turn them into banshees, and I can't have that. Not when I'm this hyped up on queries.

Last night the hook on my bathroom wall that holds my hairdryer fell, so I woke up to a loud crash, in a panic. With all that adrenalin, I still might have been okay if I hadn't thought about the queries I've sent this week. Some agent, on the night after Passover, might have sent an email to me at three o'clock in the morning. The thought was killing me.

I fought and fought against getting up, and then my head got really involved in possible fixes in my WIP, Breathings, which project I am excited about again after writing a blurb (per an agent's request about other projects I'm working on!) that makes it sound really... exciting. To me, anyway. It seems like I laid there for hours, just thinking. I finally started counting. Not sheep, or anything, really. Just counting. It worked.

And speaking of counting...
Query stats on WAYS TO FALL-
42 queries sent
15 rejections
7 partial/full requests
2 partials and 1 full out there, possibly being read RIGHT THIS MINUTE

I've gotten one request (for a full!) off of my new query, which I put into circulation last week. I'm starting to query widely and hope to have 70-80 queries out there by the end of the month, and then I'm shifting focus back to finishing the first draft of Breathings. That's the plan anyway. My query finally has that special something it was missing, my first few chapters have been seen by an editor and declared worthy, so I'm not holding back anymore.

I also realized I'd made a few email address mistakes last round. I was going to close out some queries as no response, but I checked the comments on Query Tracker, and it looked like people were getting auto-responder emails that their query had been received. As a result, I checked my sent emails and found that for one query, I'd recorded it but apparently not sent, plus one I'd sent to the wrong address. Point being: it doesn't hurt to doublecheck before marking someone as a no response.

And the partial I've had out there to Ms. Big-time for six months? She just got a new assistant, so I emailed the new assistant, explained I've done revisions and that I'd never heard back, and could I resend my partial? No response yet, but I'm sure that with the pacing problems I've since fixed, it would have been a rejection if they'd gotten to it. *shrugs* We'll see if anything comes of it.

And I'm critting a friend's manuscript, and it's really good. I love that.
Thanks for the support, guys!

What are you up to? Are your kids home from school, too? Pull up a chair and tell me all about it.
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Enclave (Razorland #1) by Ann Aguirre

I loved this book- a great YA dystopian that fans of the Hunger Games will love, plus it didn't feel as hopeless as THG.

Deuce lives in the Enclave, an underground community divided into three groups- Builders, Breeders, and Hunters. And Deuce has always wanted to be a Huntress and go out into the tunnels, fight the zombie-like Freaks (think of the zombies in "The Day After Tomorrow") and hunt food (not described precisely, but I think their main meat source was rats!) Her hunting partner is Fade, a hunter whose always been on the edge of the group because he was born topside and doesn't conform perfectly to the community's group think.

The community leaders set up one of Deuce's friends as a warning to her to stay in line, but Deuce claims responsibility for his supposed crime and is exiled in his place. She thinks she's been given a death sentence, what with the Freaks out to eat her toes, but Fade pleads guilty too, and they are exiled together. Fade leads them topside, where they have to deal with gangs, ever-learning freaks and a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Good thing they're both so handy with their knives.

I LOVED this book. Thanks to "Around the World Blog Tours" for the chance to read the ARC. It's being published in June, so definately check it out.

PS- I also enjoyed comparing how Ann Aguirre wrote Deuce's perceptions of the strange new world topside to a similar situation in my book. Very interesting how familiar it felt.
Glutton for Punishment?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

LDS Writer Blogfest: The Atonement Covers all Pain

Welcome to the second annual LDS Writers Blogfest!

This year, I and other LDS writers are sharing our favorite talk (think sermon) from our recent General Conference, a semiannual meeting where members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather either in Salt Lake City in person (or in front of their computers/TVs) to listen to inspired words.

Watching Conference at Granna's house with our kids plus some cousins.

I chose Kent L. Richards' talk "The Atonement Covers All Pain", and I'd like to share my impressions on this talk and how the atonement has operated in my life.

Regarding his experiences as a surgeon, Elder Richards said:

I have pondered about the purpose of pain. None of us is immune from experiencing pain. I have seen people cope with it very differently. Some turn away from God in anger, and others allow their suffering to bring them closer to God.
Can suffering really bring us closer to God? Doesn't that sound a little perverse? Why can't He just be close to us without pain?

I think it's because we are prone to get stuck in the day-to-day, to focus on all of the things we have to do, instead of who we want to become. We get busy.

I'm not saying that God causes pain, but that He uses all the circumstances of our lives, good and bad, to reach out to us.

Our oldest son, Isaac, broke his leg when he was almost two--a spiral fracture of his femur that was extremely painful (When I write about the sound of bones grinding, I know what I'm talking about!) As I write this, eight years later, the memory of picking him up and laying him on the couch, calling my husband to come home from work, driving to the hospital while Nathan held our crying child in his arms still brings me to tears. There was nothing I could say to a two year old that would make him understand that this would end, that eventually he would heal. We cried with him. It passed. 

I don't say that that was an enjoyable experience, or one I want to repeat, but it has brought me to a deeper understanding of the Savior's love for us, because for the first time, I really got how deeply the Savior loves us to take our suffering upon himself.

Isaac has grown into a boy with a kind heart, one with enormous empathy for other's feelings, and I believe much of that empathy is a result of this and other experiences in his young childhood.

(Did I mention he was accident prone as a toddler? He broke his arm 5 days after getting the body cast off. Leg muscles had atrophied, so that wasn't entirely his fault. And there was the time he broke his collar bone by rolling off the bed to escape the Tickle Monster. He sure showed Daddy how fast he was.)

Would I ever wish for similar situations? No. But would I give back these traumas if it meant losing these sweet blessings, the tender heart that my son has developed, and my deeper understanding of the Atonement? No. I wouldn't.

Keep in mind, there are many sources of pain. Elder Richards said:
Much of our suffering is not necessarily our fault. Unexpected events, contradicting or disappointing circumstances, interrupting illness, and even death surround us and penetrate our mortal experience. Additionally, we may suffer afflictions because of the actions of others.
And if you're like me, and miss beloved relatives who have died, this account may be one of the most comforting parts of the Elder Richards' talk:

Thirteen-year-old Sherrie underwent a 14-hour operation for a tumor on her spinal cord. As she regained consciousness in the intensive care unit, she said: “Daddy, Aunt Cheryl is here, … and … Grandpa Norman … and Grandma Brown … are here. And Daddy, who is that standing beside you? … He looks like you, only taller. … He says he’s your brother, Jimmy.” Her uncle Jimmy had died at age 13 of cystic fibrosis.

“For nearly an hour, Sherrie … described her visitors, all deceased family members. Exhausted, she then fell asleep.”

Later she told her father, “Daddy, all of the children here in the intensive care unit have angels helping them.”
Perhaps some of you have had similar experiences. Death is not a one way street, it's more like stepping to the other side of a one-way mirror.

I am so grateful to the Savior for fulfilling Heavenly Father's beautiful plan of salvation and peace. Thank you for reading, and you're welcome to ask questions, etc. I'll do my best to answer. Please check out the other posts:
Annette Lyon: “Desire”
Annie Cechini: “The Spirit of Revelation”
Ben Spendlove: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Chantele Sedgwick: “LDS Women Are Incredible!”
Charity Bradford: “LDS Women Are Incredible!”
Jackee Alston: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Jenilyn Tolley: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Jennifer McFadden: “Establishing a Christ-Centered Home”
Jessie Oliveros: “Establishing a Christ-Centered Home”
Jolene Perry: “It’s Conference Once Again”
Jordan McCollum: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Kasey Tross: “Guided by the Holy Spirit”
Kayeleen Hamblin: “Become as a Little Child”
Kelly Bryson: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Krista Van Dolzer: “Opportunities to Do Good”
Melanie Stanford: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Michelle Merrill: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Myrna Foster: “Opportunities to Do Good”
Nisa Swineford: “Desire”
Sallee Mathews: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Sierra Gardner: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Tamara Hart Heiner: “Waiting on the Road to Damascus”
The Writing Lair: “Waiting on the Road to Damascus”

Glutton for Punishment?