Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

It's Road Trip Wednesday on the YA Highway! This week's topic:

What was the best book you read in June?

I read several good books in June. Choices, choices. I suppose the best, best book I read was Looking for Alaska. Did you doubt it? I didn't think so. You can see my review HERE.

My reason for choosing it? I keep telling people about it, trying to convince them to read it. I even pointed it out to a teen in the bookstore the other day. I'm a shameless hand-seller.

What books do I get to add to my mile-high TBR list this week? What's the best book you read in June?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tipsy Tuesday- A Good Critique

A good critique is so much more than reading someone's work and saying, "I love it!" It's more than comma placement and sentence structure. Sure, those elements are involved, but a good critique goes so much further.

Here are a list of a few things I really focus on when giving a critique:

  1. Tone - Does the character "sound" the same through the MS.
  2. Pacing- Do I need more information to make the scene stronger? Do I need less?
  3. Plot Holes- Mention anything that doesn't make sense. A quick "Where did this come from?" or a "I didn't know spaceships existed in ancient Egypt" will help the author see the missing link.
  4. Sentence Structure- Sentences need to flow. If you stumble, note it.
  5. Grammar- Yeah, yeah, we all need grammar help now and then.
  6. Characterization- Do you connect with the character? Or need something more to make them "pop" for you?
  7. Consistency- Suzy can't start the story with mousy brown hair and brown eyes to end it as a blond, blue-eyed goddess...unless there's an explanation for it in the story.
  8. Interest- Hey, it needs to be interesting. If you're snoozing through a chapter the author needs to know! Everything is fixable in draft form.
  9. Positives- Everyone needs encouragement in this business. So when I see something I love, I note it. First, I don't want the author to change it. Second, it helps soften the blow of all the other comments.

Critiquing can be hard. You don't want to make the author feel bad about their work, but you don't want to not mention things you notice are wrong either. So, I follow the sandwich rule. Something nice, something to work on, something else nice.

And you have to remember when you get that critiqued file back not to panic. They don't hate your story, they want to help it be all it can be.

Do you guys approach a critique the same way? What works best for you? As authors, do you appreciate this kind of in-depth evaluation? I know I do!

And what's best in summer time? Lemonade -- with a little vodka!

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 cups ice
  • 4 ounces vanilla-infused vodka, recipe follows*
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, sliced into rings
  • 1 lime, sliced into rings


In a small saucepan, bring water and sugar to a simmer. Cook until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large pitcher, fill with ice. Stir in simple syrup, vodka, juice, lemon and lime slices.

*for kid-friendly version, omit alcohol.

Vanilla-infused Vodka:

  • 1 liter vodka
  • 2 vanilla beans

Split beans lengthwise and add to vodka bottle. Let infuse overnight in a cool dark place. Strain into another sterilized bottle.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Testing to see if this works. Yippie for mobile blogging!

Mommy Monday

Erinn over at Something Else to Distract Me gave me an award! Thanks, Erinn!

I'm supposed to pass it on to other writer moms. So, here's who I'd like to pass it to.

Kate Hart

Jennifer Walkup

Creepy Query Girl

Crazy Writer Girl

I know for sure they're all mom's who write! Anyway, the rule is you must pass it on, because ALL mom's who write are awesome!

Well, I must confess that I do not have a topic today. *gasp* I know, I'm a slacker. We had Super Spawn's birthday party on Saturday and it was a hit. But it left me totally wiped out for the remainder of the weekend.

I didn't have a creative thought all weekend, I swear. It was most annoying. I'm not used to creative lapses. Anyway, I'll leave you with a picture of the millions of cupcakes my sister and I made for the extravaganza. See, Super Spawn's Kryptonite is nuts, so I don't have the luxury of ordering from a bakery.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Fun

Turns out I'm a cupcake!! See! (It's because of my affection for exclamation points, isn't it?)

Holly's Result: Cupcakes
on quiz: What Kind of Writerly Snack Are You?
Who: Industry insiders.
When: To celebrate. To sob. At meetings. Whenever anyone's headed out for an errand - Hey! Grab me a Sprinkles on your way back!

Why: Tender cake and lush frosting? Yes, please. You know what makes the publishing world go 'round.

Fun quiz! Thank you YAHighway for always bringing the awesome! It seems fitting -- we're having cupcakes at Super Spawn's party tomorrow.

On another note...don't you love it when your crit partner is EXACTLY right and you have to go back and change a bajillion things in your MS?

I do!! lol Sure, it's work, but it's so worth it. A special shout out and thanks goes to Susan today! She is so right.

Cupcakes for her too!

Okay, before I get distracted by more yummy snack talk. Most helpful post this week came from agent Mary Kole at This post is about tricking yourself for better revisions. A genius idea, really. She says to change the font on your MS and print the pages. It makes you slow down because the words look different, which helps you see errors more easily.

I'm totally trying it, once I finish this round of revisions, for a final polish.

That's all for today! Have a great weekend, my lovelies, and I'll see you on Monday.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Recommendation - From the Query to the Call

From the Query to the Call
By Elana Johnson

"An aspiring author's guide to writing a query letter." You can buy this ebook on Elana's website.

This is a handy dandy little book that, in my opinion, everyone should have. Elana packed it full of helpful advice, worksheets (YES!! I LOVE WORKSHEETS!!), query letter examples, and everything you need.

The book is easy to navigate. If you want to jump to a specific section, just click on the link that's in the left toolbar. There are actual real-life queries that landed agents through the pages, as well as their draft form with comments.

Everything about this book is helpful and informative. I am about to take the plunge and start writing my query letter, and it doesn't look nearly as intimidating now that I'm armed with worksheets!

Did I tell you I love worksheets?

I did? Oh. Good. 'Cause I love 'em.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

What do you guys think of the new layout? Easier to read than the last one? I'm diggin' the pink.

"Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic."

If your favorite fictional characters used FML, what would they write?

Today, I found out the boy I'm in love with wants to kill me. Oh, and he's a vampire. FML ~Bella

I'm cursed to have a baby at seventeen and then go crazy. FML ~Lucy (Impossible)

I have to marry Humperdinck? FML ~Buttercup

You mean I could have gone outside this whole time? FML ~Bree Tanner

I built the house of bricks, so naturally my stupid brothers come running to me for help. FML ~The 3rd pig

I sacrificed myself for my sister, and now I am facing certain death, just so I can fall in love...FML ~Katniss

I'm stuck in a cottage with 7 little men. FML ~Snow White

I fell in love with a big hairy beast. FML ~Belle

My step mother locks me in a room and makes me clean up after her and her two slob kids FML ~Cinderella

Okay, that was really hard! I'm not so great at these it would seem. Fun anyway. Can't wait to read everyone else's!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tipsy Tuesday- Character Development

Here is a simple list of questions I ask of each character to help form them, and their personalities, in my mind.

  1. Name:
  2. Age:
  3. Good, bad, or in-between?
  4. How would you react to a family member's death?
  5. Are you vengeful?
  6. What motivates you?
  7. What is your goal?
  8. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
  9. Do you have any tics or habits?
  10. If you could do anything, what would it be?
Obviously there are many more questions that go into character development, but these are my basics. What I start with when a new character arrives.

What about you guys? What kind of things do you want to know right off the bat about your characters?

And for your tipsy pleasure...

Mai Tai- Myer's Rum, melon liqueur, triple sec, pineapple juice, orange juice, lime juice, and grenadine.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mommy Monday- Guilt

Being a mom is never easy. I went to see Sex and the City 2 with my sister this weekend, and the scene where Charlotte locks herself in the pantry with babies crying at the door had me in tears. I've been there. I'm pretty sure most all moms have been there, and feel guilty for it.

Mommy guilt is a bitch.

The moral of the story for Charlotte was: she needed a break. Everyone needs a break once in a while to recharge their batteries. Whether it's a few minutes locked in a pantry or a weekend getaway, sometimes all you need is quiet.

What's my point? Well, my point is that, as writers, we need breaks too. I know the mantra is to write every day. Push, push, push. Go, go, go. But life happens.

Kids get sick, computers die, an apocalypse is knocking at the door. Well...maybe not the last one.

Then comes the writer's guilt. The -- I'm not doing enough! OMG I'm never going to finish this book/get published/make it through revisions -- thoughts that plague us just because we took a day off.

So, I'm here to say: It's okay to take a day off, as long as you come back.

Taking a day off is not quitting, it is not giving up or admitting defeat. It's giving your mind time to rest, to think, to percolate. Fun word, percolate.

Anyway, don't let writer's guilt (or mommy guilt!) get you down.

Writing may not be easy. You may find a challenge at every turn, but how you handle them is what defines you. Follow your dreams, live your life, and let nothing hold you down.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Fun - Blog Award!

The super awesome Blue Lipstick Samurai gave me a blog award!

The rules:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...)
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.

7 Things About Me:

  1. I CANNOT WAIT to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. It is, conveniently, only 4 hours away.
  2. Super Spawn is turning 3 TOMORROW! OMG how did that happen?!
  3. I'm a habitual email checker, even when I'm not expecting anything.
  4. Oh, I cannot stand Thomas the train. I've seen every. single. episode. five. hundred. times.
  5. I prefer Pepsi over coke.
  6. My favorite food - hot wings!!
  7. Annnnd Super Spawn just spit in his bowl of popcorn -- gross. (Well, while I'm writing this he is even though it won't post until tomorrow.)

15 bloggers I think are full of awesome:

  1. Pam and Marquita
  2. Sarah Enni
  3. KO
  4. Erinn
  5. Creepy Query Girl
  6. Kate Hart
  7. Abby Stevens
  8. Susan Dennard
  9. The Alliterative Allomorph
  10. Renae
  11. Leila Austin
  12. Jen
  13. Michelle Schusterman
  14. Emilia Plater
  15. Elana Johnson

And a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my big guy who turns 3 tomorrow!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Book Recommendation - Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska
By John Green

Blurb from Goodreads: "Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave "the Great Perhaps" even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then . . . After. Nothing is ever the same."

I have heard so many great things about John Green, and I've had this book on my to-be-read list for a long time. Well, I finally got around to reading it and -- amazing.

I was hooked from the start by the voice of our narrator, Pudge. Instantly he was important to me, and I really cared about what he had to say. The story of Culver Creek Boarding School is so real and raw it is impossible not to be sucked into it. I laughed out loud at several spots through the book, squirmed uncomfortably at several more.

John Green immerses you right back into that teenage mindset with flawless skill. These were kids I'd have known in school, would have loved, and never once did I feel they faltered from the true essence of teenagers.

If you haven't read this book, you need to. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll finish with every expectation fulfilled.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

When and why did you start writing?

Well, it depends I guess. I've always kept a journal where I write my thoughts, poems, and even short stories. So in that respect I've been writing since, well, since I could write.

As far as novel-length fiction -- I started writing in August of 2009.
It all started as a fanfic, believe it or not. I belong to a community called Babycenter, and there was a forum for parents that are Harry Potter fans. Yes, it's quite obvious that we love Harry Potter in this house isn't it? (I'm even wearing my DA t-shirt today!)

Anyway, I made a couple of really great friends in that forum, and one of them started writing a Harry Potter fanfic. I had never experienced fanfic before then, and found it quite fun. So, I got to thinking. What could I write about?

I realized quickly that I'm not the type of person who can write stories about other people's characters. Instead of writing a story about Harry and the crew I decided to take it a step farther. What would the wizarding world be like in America? What schools would exist? What if it was a girl main character from a small town in a small school in a world that was totally different than the Harry Potter world, but still had magic?

That's pretty much how it went. I thought it'd be a short story, maybe a couple chapters worth. Then I got to know Mandy (my MC) and she had a very cool story. I couldn't let her go after just a few chapters, and I knew I was finishing a novel.

Here I am, nearly a year later, finishing off final revisions before seeking an agent. Working on three, yes three, more novels, and feeling like I have finally found my calling. Finally found what I was meant to do, and I cannot wait to write even more. It's a passion and a need. I need to write these stories, I really do. There is no more holding them in.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tipsy Tuesday- Writing Space

It's important to have a space, no matter how small, designated to writing. Mine isn't much -- a desk in my bedroom -- but it is my space that nobody else touches. Everyone's needs are different, but these are the basic essentials I keep at hand when I write.

  1. Pictures- I like pictures, I have them everywhere, so naturally they're on my desk too.
  2. Caffeine- We all know caffeine, in whatever form, is a writer's lifeblood.
  3. Books- When I'm feeling blocked, I read. It helps grease the wheels and get me back on track.
  4. Kiddo Cup- Well, obviously if you don't have kiddo's you wouldn't need this. But it keeps him outta my hair.
  5. Computer- Duh.
  6. Kiddo Stuff- Again, keeps him out of my hair.
  7. Baby Monitor- So you can kick the kids OUT. :)
  8. Note Pads- For scribbling ideas, outlines, whatever.
  9. Conference Funds- Like my pretty jar? I'm a visual saver. With it staring at me every day, I feed it much more frequently to make it stop yelling at me. Plus it's a little additional motivation to work harder and longer to be ready for the next conference.
  10. Calendar- You can't see mine here, but it's hanging on the wall. Write firm deadlines on your calendar to keep you motivated!

And that, my lovelies, is my writing space! Is there anything I don't have in my space that you have in yours?

And an essential for my writing space on any Tipsy Tuesday would be a glass of Moscato wine, my favorite. It's light, sweet, and only slightly bubbly. Mmmm. Make sure it is nice and cold before you pop the cork. A delightful treat.

But, make sure it's Italian. Domestic Moscato just isn't the same.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mommy Monday- Tantrum Hell

It was one of those mornings. Super Spawn was acting like the spawn of Arch Nemesis instead of his sweet-as-pie self. Screaming, crying, throwing himself in the was full-on tantrum time. I wanted to scream and rip my hair out as I rushed around the house struggling to get ready for work.

I begged. I pleaded. I threatened. I promised toys and cookies.

Nothing worked.

We drive up to the sitter's house and then it is total melt-down: I-cannot-live-without-mommy-so-I-must-scream-and-make-her-feel-as-guilty-as-possible.

I was forced to leave him, hysterical, in the sitter's arms and dash out the door.

Boy do I feel like slime.

Then the wheels started turning in my head. Don't manuscripts do exactly the same thing? I think they do. I've seen them referred to as "teenagers" before. In my humble opinion, I must disagree. They're more like rotten three-year-olds who don't want you to ever leave them alone so you can work or sleep or eat.

Your characters bug you in the shower, in the car, at the table -- taunting you. Then they won't just behave and have all these wild ideas about where a scene should go.

Eventually you get so fed up you don't know what to do with them. So you thrust them into the hands of a trusted Beta and drive away to the sounds of their cries, with tears stinging your eyelids.

But when you go back to get them, that manuscript is all smiles and cheer. It runs to greet you and characters fling their arms around you with reckless abandon.

And you remember again why you do it all.

So, in a way, my manuscript is like having another toddler in the house. Now that's a scary thought.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Fun - Writing Style

It was really interesting to see everyone's comments on Wednesday. I love learning how other people work through their stories.

I seem to be in a lonely camp. I write start to finish, even when I know the ending and major plot points. Why? Well, you've got me! No clue. It's just how I do it.

For me, the lure of the major scenes is what drives me. My mind is in "gotta get there" mode and spills out whatever it takes to get to the next big deal in a hurry. Dangling carrot idea I suppose.

Now I begin to wonder what would happen if I wrote the scene that has my enthusiasm spiked. Would it kill that urge to fill in everything else? Or make it easier? Hmm.

And how do you keep up with everything you've written? Do you go scene by scene and, say, number them? Or...write it all in one file still? Doesn't it get confusing?

I'm so full of questions.

I'm very impulsive by nature, but I'm also very meticulous. I need all the answers before I let my impulsiveness out...unless it comes to my hair. I really like being impulsive with my hair. But when considering trying a different writing style on for size?

It looks all shiny and new and sparkly and beautiful...until you're lost in the trenches and can't see for the thick layer of...*insert description here*. I'm getting carried away with myself.

So, my questions for you are...

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

I try very hard to be a pantser, but it doesn't work for me. I'm anal and need an outline to follow. :)

Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time?

I'm totally a short bursts writer. My mind turns to goo if I try to write too much at once. Sometimes I wonder if I have ADD.

What about you guys? Plotting? Hours at the computer? I wanna know!!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book Recommendation - Impossible

By Nancy Werlin

Blurb from Goodreads: "When seventeen-year-old Lucy discovers her family is under an ancient curse by an evil Elfin Knight, she realizes to break the curse she must perform three impossible tasks before her daughter is born in order to save them both."

I could barely put it down. The three tasks that Lucy is set to perform are seriously impossible. Or they seem impossible. The story brings a fairy tale curse right into main stream life without making it feel cheesy. Which I think is awesome.
Elfin Knight -- it's a totally different take than I've seen before. It was quite cool and quite creepy.

And did you see the cover? *gushes* I love the cover...I kept eyeballing it on the shelf and finally just grabbed it. A book's cover really does matter! This one totally sold me.

A very good read.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

It's that time again on the YAHighway! This week's question:

How and/or when do you know an idea isn't working?

That's a tough question, really. I usually have ideas, write them down, mull over them. Sometimes I'll start an outline, or maybe write a couple pages of notes on what the story is about. When that process doesn't work...if I lose interest before the first pages are written, I know I can't write that story.

Another test of durability is making it past the fifty page mark. That seems to be where I always clam up and grind to a hault. If I can outline, brainstorm, or just push my way through I know it'll go the distance. Otherwise? has yet to happen yet. But I suppose it'd go to the junk yard.

What about you? How do you know when an idea won't work?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tipsy Tuesday- The Full Moon Edition

How NOT to become a werewolf under the full moon:

  1. Do not, under any circumstances, hang out with sparkly vampires.
  2. Avoid all contact with anyone named Bella.
  3. Don't work out. Muscles = Werewolf
  4. If you're suddenly struck with a 105 degree fever, go to the hospital. It is NOT mono.
  5. Don't get mad, get glad!
And if you're a Twilight fan, you can read The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner online for free right now! Just click the link!

And why not have a Bloody Mary while you read?

1 oz Smirnoff® No. 21 Vodka
3 oz tomato juice
2 red hot sauce
2 green hot sauce
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
0.5 oz lemon juice
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
1 stalk celery

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mommy Monday- Sleeping In

So, obviously, I've got a young child at home who often finds ways to hinder my writing time. He also finds ways to inspire me.

I was sitting there last night, watching him sleep, holding my notebook and pen. I don't know why, but when I'm having a problem getting the words out -- or my plot has backed me into a corner -- all that helps is a notebook and pen.

There I was, staring at his peaceful face, when it came to me. The perfect beginning for my next project. I wrote several pages, getting all the starting details out of this story that continues to whisper to me. Try as I might to put off writing so I can finish my revisions, I just can't seem to do it.

Do any of you have that issue? When you try and focus on one story, you get bombarded by new ideas? I've come up with three novel ideas since I told myself I wouldn't write more until I finished my revisions. lol One of them is already over 30k words.

The point, Holly! Get to the point!

Okay, I went way off topic there. Sorry, this is how my brain works...and it does this while I'm writing especially. One idea leads to another to another to another. Before I know it I'm 60 miles from where I started, in a whole different book!

My question today is this: Where do you think best? Where do your best ideas come from?

Mine come quietly, once Super Spawn is asleep and my eyelids threaten to close.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Fun

Hello, my lovelies! I hope you are all having a wonderful Friday!

So, I was tripping along the internet this morning to my usual haunts, and came across a most excellent article (at the YAHighway, thanks girls!). It is about invisible tension and was written by Donald Maass.


Now, I don't know if you have ever read his book Writing the Breakout Novel, but you should. Also, he's super nice in person. And funny. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a conference this year. Definitely check the article out.

Also, agent Mary Kole had an excellent blog post this week about Newer vs. Established agents. Anyone considering finding an agent in the future should read it.

Another? Yes, yes, I have another. The GotYA ladies had an excellent post this week on Titles, Queries, and Pages everyone should check out.

In other news -- I've made it half way through revisions now with super critique partner Susan! It's all fun and stuff, but I can't wait to be done! lol But then, when I'm done -- well, then what will I do? Oh, yeah, maybe finish that other WIP sitting on my hard drive. It glares at me once in a while and I'll placate it with a few words. That won't work for much longer though. And the query -- I'll have to write the dreaded query. Dun, dun, DUN! ;)

Have a great weekend everyone, and I'll catch you on Monday!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

Well, lovelies, it's Road Trip Wednesday again over on the YA Highway! This week's topic is:

What's the best book you read in May?

That's easy. If I Stay by Gayle Foreman, hands down. My recommendation for that is HERE.

The blurb: "In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...
A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make—and the ultimate choice Mia commands."

Basically - I said it is one of the best books I've ever read. It is something I will read over and over and never get tired of.

I can't wait to see everyone's TBR list is about to explode, I just know it! So, tell me, what's the best book YOU read in May?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tipsy Tuesday- Computer Woes

Well, seeing as I experienced the writer's worst nightmare this weekend, I thought I'd share some resources to help make it not so nightmareish.

There are a couple places I've found that will store up to 2GB of files for FREE:



They also both offer upgrades for larger storage space at pretty low rates. I use Dropbox...I didn't know about Mozy until I started compiling this list, but it looks just as good.

Carbonite was recommended by a commenter on Saturday. It offers unlimited backup capacity for $50 a year. That's probably a better deal than both Dropbox and Mozy if you have a lot of files to save.

Geek Squad also offers online backup- 25G for $50 a year. Again, Carbonite is the better option if you have more than 25G.

So, even if you only back up your novel files and the most important pictures -- please, please, please do. You just never know when Mr. Murphy will visit you for a day!

Are there any other good places out there to back things up that I missed? Grated, this isn't an all-inclusive list.