Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Teen Scene -- The Older Crowd

So, I know Pam and I usually feature teens who are in high school, but today I've got a new sort of teen for you: The College Student.

The College Student works at my day job part time -- she sits in my office when she's there.  *evil grin*  So, naturally I've pinned her down to talk about books.  Because that's what I do.  To everyone.

Continue Reading...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Keeping My Promise

So, remember a while back when I mentioned that I would be one of a million to get a first look at Pottermore thanks to the Magic Quill challenge?  And remember how I promised to share a little more about it once I did?

Well, on Friday, I got my official welcome letter, and have been playing on Pottermore ever since. 

Guys it is SO FREAKING AWESOME.  The graphics are unparalleled.  Really I've never seen such beautiful graphics before.  Since it's still in beta, there are some bugs, but that'll be fixed by October when the site opens to all.

Since the biggest mystery of all is what it actually entails, here you go. 

Things you can do on Pottermore:

1.  Explore the chapters -  each chapter has 2 or 3 scenes constructed in the most gorgeous artwork ever.  You can zoom in on the images and search to collect things like chocolate frog cards, books, and potion ingredients.  This is also where you'll find the exclusive new content from Rowling.  (As writers, you will most certainly appreciate this new content.  One in particular had this sap in tears.  It's so so so amazing.)

2.  A wand and a sorting -  your first time through you go through a series of questions to determine your wand and then your house.  (RAVENCLAW FTW!)

3.  Earn house points -  there is a house cup (though I'm not quite sure how that works, or when it's awarded) that you earn points for by finding the items hidden through the chapters, and by successfully brewing potions or dueling with other students.

4.  Brewing potions -  yes, you can really for real brew potions.  I'm quite good at it, but it's very hard.  You've got to move fast and get everything just right.  If you don't, your cauldron will explode.  True fact.

5.  Duel -  I haven't gotten to do this yet, dueling has been down since I joined, but I've been practicing my spells.  I'll be ready once it's fixed.

6.  Common Rooms -  each house has its own common room where you can see what fellow house members are talking about.  I don't know about the other houses, but everyone in Ravenclaw is incredibly friendly and helpful!

That's a rundown for now!  I'm sure more will be added as we go -- all the beta testers are working hard at giving feedback and suggestions (and trying to win house points, of course lol).  Overall, Pottermore is addictingly fun.

Are any of you beta testers for Pottermore?  I'd love to hear what you think -- or to add you as my friend on there!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


By which I mean Mom Inspiration, not perspiration.  ;)

It has been a little over a week since Super Spawn started his private violin lessons, and the little guy has impressed me more and more each day.

I'm not talking about technical proficiency or anything here, his bow hold is far from perfect, but I'm talking about dedication.  My four-year-old son practices for 20-30 minutes every night, no complaint.  He listens to the CD of music he'll be learning over the next year for a minimum of an hour a day.

And he never complains.  Quite the opposite, he enjoys it.

Honestly, if I forget to turn his music on as soon as he gets in the car, he reminds me.  I'm just amazed at the level of devotion he is already showing toward his violin, and it's more than a little inspiring.  He enjoys doing it, looks forward to it even, and then follows through and puts forth the effort to learn something new.


Each of his lessons, his teacher has started by asking him, "Super Spawn, do you still want to learn to play violin?"  To which he responds by jumping and yelling, "Yes!"

When I sit back and think about it, I get a little hot in the face.  I mean, I love writing.  I love building stories and crafting characters and everything that comes along with it.  But do I practice every day with excitement for what I'm doing?  No.  And maybe I should be.

I'm making a resolution in front of all of you, my lovely followers.  From now on, I am going to approach my writing like Super Spawn approaches his violin -- with love, excitement, and dedication.  I won't look at it as work, but as an enjoyable time I get to spend doing something that makes me truly happy.

What about you guys?  Want to join in on my pledge?

My name is Holly, and I write for the love of it.  Do you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday -- For the Cure

Well, the cure for Writer's Block anyway.

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic:  How do you defeat writer's block?


To be honest,  I don't believe in writer's block.  (Maybe that's a trick in itself!)  I have days where I can't focus or can't get the words flowing, sure.  Everyone does.  But it's not some mythical block that I have to break through.  That's not how I see it anyway.  To me, it is a sign that something isn't working.  Maybe I'm stressed or having a hard time with a plot point.  Could be that I need to get out of the house and, you know, have a life for a while to get some inspiration.

No matter what it is that's got me off kilter, I always see it as something that can be fixed.

What about you?  Do you believe in writer's block?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Taking the Plunge


I've decided to take part in Rachael Harrie's Platform Building Campaign this time around!  Several friends have participated before, and it looks like a lot of fun, so I figure why not.  :)  I look forward to meeting some new friends, and discovering some new blogs.

Who else is joining in?

The details are over on Rachael's blog.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Non-Fiction Inspiration


Lots of times life throws riddles at me and sends me running to the nearest bookshelf.  Does it do that to you?  The latest riddle I've been working through has to do with parenting.  I won't get into it here, as it has nothing to do with writing, and it's also a really personal decision.  So lets suffice it to say I feel like I'm being faced with a rather huge decision that will affect the rest of both mine and Super Spawn's life.

Whoa, right?  That's big stuff.

For the last week or so I've been throwing around terms like "Parenting Philosophy" a lot, and I've been reading non stop on the subject.  (Thus no book recs for you guys, sorry.  Non-Fiction has had my attention lately.)  The point here is learning about these different parenting approaches has really given me a depth of knowledge for crafting parents in my writing.

Parenting styles are so diverse, and they each create their own "right" version of their children.  And when you sit down to write as the teenage daughter of a Tiger Mom, well, you've got to know what that household dynamic would be like in real life.  If there's anything I've learned in my reading, it's that the outside actions of both parents and kids don't always tell the whole story.  And I think knowing what kind of parent the teen you're writing comes from can give you a real sense of them as a person.  

This is just another reminder that to write well, you need to read well.  ;)  I'd have never thought a bunch of non-fiction books on parenting would give me greater insight to my writing.  But, well, they did!  Do you ever get surprised by what inspires your stories?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

It has been a busy week in the world of Holly.  We're gearing up for moving into the big 4-K class on Monday with Super Spawn, starting violin lessons (along with daily practice sessions), Write On Con, end of year party cupcake baking and, you know, sleep.

Thanks to Erinn, I didn't miss this amazing video, hosted by Write On Con, done by Beth Revis.

Then last night Super Spawn had his first official violin lesson -- complete with a mile-long list of things to practice for next week -- and between the two, my mind started churning.  While I was coming up with ways to encourage practice for Super Spawn, and keep it from turning into a battle, I realized something about writing.


When you're in the middle of drafting with no end in sight, your last book didn't work out quite like you hoped... Sometimes the grass on the couch in front of the TV looks a whooooole lot greener than the stuff on the computer screen.  Which is kinda the same battle I'm gearing up for with Super Spawn, at least to start with.  There's tons of stuff you'd rather do than sit and practice something that feels endless, right?  I mean, I've been there.

We've talked before about rewarding ourselves for hitting milestones.  Completing a draft, finishing revisions, whatever.  I think that's great -- and it's something I do for myself.  But I also think it's important to celebrate the small victories.  I practiced (wrote) for 30 minutes tonight, I deserve ice cream.

Even then, the real reward for our devoted writing is improvement.  Just like Super Spawn's bow hold will get better and better each day, so will our prose, and that's the best reward of all.  Because one day when the Spawn is standing on stage for a recital, playing his Twinkle variations, he'll be glad he spent that time with his violin instead of the TV, even if it takes him years to get to that point.

And one day when you're holding a shiny book in your hands, you'll be glad you did the same.

Happy writing, guys.  Don't give up.  :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Teen Scene Back to School

I don't know about the rest of the country, but here in Florida we're gearing up to head back to school next week.  There's a buzz in the air, an anticipation to return to those gossip-filled halls so thick you can almost taste it.  While parents run frenzied through the big box stores with mile-long supply lists to fill, the teens are hitting the malls in search of that perfect back to school wardrobe.  Continue reading...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Character Q&A

We somehow survived the zombie virus that infected our house last week.  It was a close call though.  ;)  I suppose that means Super Spawn and I will be among the last standing survivors for the new world?  Yes?

Or maybe I live in books too much.  lol

Anyway, while I was nursing poor Super Spawn, before I became infected, I was working on something new for me: a character worksheet.  I know, this whole planning things is going to my head.  But I found it kind of fun.

It felt more like I was sitting down interviewing my characters one by one and getting to know them before we get into the thick of our adventure together.  NEWS FLASH: this is good.  (Well, it's good for me.)

I asked them things like what their favorite past-time was, who they hated the most at school.  Then, since this is a group of friends that have known each other forever, I asked them to give one word descriptions of each other.  That was a very telling experience and I got a good feel for their mannerisms and how they interacted with that exercise. 


And I sound super NUTS like I'm sitting in a circle chatting with these invisible teens.  I SWEAR I'M NOT CRAZY.  Er, not that crazy.  I was really just filling out a spreadsheet, I promise.

What about you guys, do you spend quality time with your characters before you ever start writing, half-way through, or do you get to know them as you go?  And most importantly, do you feel it helps or hinders you?

I've always been a get to know them as I go girl, but again with this whole outline take on things -- I'm feeling like getting to know them better early on is going to help with voice and such, which means less revisions later.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Distracted Writer

I don't know about you guys, but this is generally what happens when I sit down to write:

Yes!  Finally time to write!  Okay, open the document.

Hmm, maybe I need a drink.  Coffee sounds good.

Now, to write!  Woo!

tap tap tap

Ooh, email.  Refresh.  Let me check my other email.  Oh, I may as well check Twitter while I'm here.


Right, writing.  Here we go!

tap tap ta...


Okay, I'm really going to write now.  For real.

But maybe I need a snack.  Food will help me focus.

*munches* tap tap tap *munches* tap

Oh, I should check Query Tracker.  Look, someone is on IM I can talk to!

I swear, sometimes I think it's a miracle I get any writing done.  ;)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Oh, hi there, blog buddy

Super Spawn is sick again...and unfortunately I've been up since midnight with him, so I'm less than coherent.  ;)  No post today, guys.  I'll be back tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fear of an Idea

Nothing about this whole writing for publication process is easy.  Sure, parts of it are fun, and it brings joy, but that doesn't mean it's easy.

This has come about because of the WIP I'm writing currently.  It's a story I'm enjoying writing, the characters have great chemistry, and it has a nice unexpected twist.  I've also got another idea I've been making notes for -- one that's making my fingers ache to get started writing it.

But when I sit down in front of that page, I clam up.  I can force out a couple hundred words, but then I sneer at it and close the program so I don't have to see it anymore.  And I know why -- fear.


Here's the thing I've realized just in the last week: I'm scared that I've written (or am writing) the wrong thing.  The wrong story at the wrong time that won't have a snowball's chance in hell of landing an agent, let alone getting in front of an editor.

I know, I know...write what you love, don't worry about trends, blah, blah, blah.  And that's easy advice to give someone, and it's sound advice.  I'm not knocking it.  But truth is, the fear is still there.  The, "Am I shooting myself in the foot before I even get started?" 

I'm not the only one out there feeling this way, I happen to know for fact.  But I think it's important for me to say it out in the open.  I'm facing my fear head on.  I'm writing the stories that I love and just hoping for the best.  There's nothing else to do, is there?

And hey, the underlying fear will push us to make our writing stronger, which is what matters the most anyway.  Right?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Motivation for Monday

Mondays always seem to be my slowest moving day of the week.  My brain wants to remain in relaxed weekend mode, and my day job (er, and my MS) wants me to get off my butt and get to work!

So, I thought for this most unmotivated day of the week, I'd share some things I use to kick my motivation (and my writing) into high gear.



Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved. ~ Winston Churchill


I write for the same reason I breathe - because if I didn't, I would die.  ~ Isaac Asimov

What gets you motivated to dive into work?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Fives (17) - Imagining

*Was told the pics weren't working, so lets give this another go.*  This week, my buddies over at Paper Hangover are talking about:

So, here are my five (in no particular order):

This one inspired me to completely rewrite the beginning of my WIP (and it's much better for it!):

Whenever I need a kick in the inspiration to write some romance, this is the image I turn to:

This is my desktop background, and never fails to help me focus on the big picture.

My brother.  He's my constant inspiration to go for my dreams because life is too short to waste.

And last, but not least, the lady who gave me the courage to try: Jo Rowling.

What images inspire your writing?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Motivation by Word Wars

*cough*  Pardon the dust around here.  I'm trying on some new layouts for the blog.  Things were feeling very cluttered.  

I am a very competitive person.  Not much can get me motivated quite like a challenge can.  Or, heaven forbid, someone telling me I can't do something.

Turns out, writing brings out my competitive side as well -- in a good way.

Ever played Word Wars with a friend?  It's awesome.  The idea is that you set a certain amount of time, say 15 minutes, that you're going to sit down and write as many words as you can punch out.  Then at the end of the allotted time you compare numbers.  It doesn't have to be a competition, I just work better if I've got a goal to surpass.  Either way though, it forces you to focus on writing and writing only.  BICHOK as Susan would say.  (Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard)


Similarly you can use a program like Write Or Die by Dr. Wicked to war with the clock.  And that works for me if I'm having focus issues, but Word Wars really ups my game.

I find that when I write faster, I write better.  Is that weird?  Probably.  The faster I write though, the less my brain over-analyzes every little tiny part of every word I put on the page.  Which is good, because my internal editor is a MONSTER.

Plus, having someone there working with you is a great motivator.

Do you guys ever Word War?  What other motivating tricks do you have up your sleeve?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday -- What's that smell?

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
The Five Senses. How you use them in your writing, how you are inspired by them, pictorial essays, that character with smelly socks, books that have used them well, the ones that are currently missing from your work, etc.

The senses are usually something I have to go back and add to my writing.  I'm not naturally very descriptive, so when I'm first-drafting, my character may just be laying on forest floor when really the experience is more like this:


When I revise I make a full pass through the story just to pay attention to the five senses to make sure I'm building enough description in without running on forever.
As for someone who got it right?  Well, I think we all know who I'll pick.  The master herself, J. K. Rowling.  I read the Harry Potter books and just marvel at the way she layered everything with detail without bogging the story down.

What about you?  Do you use all the senses in your writing, or does it take some extra work?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Teen Scene on Paper Hangover

Today I'm posting over at Paper Hangover:

Teen Scene -- The Mom Factor

If you've ever visited my blog or caught my tweets, you probably know I'm a mom.

I just recently finished a round of revisions on my manuscript, and some things my main character says and does to her mom made me pause and cringe.  The thought of my own child saying or doing those things to me some day in the future almost made me hit the delete key.

But I didn't.  Because that's a part of life. Continue Reading...

Monday, August 1, 2011


My blood is magical.

Er, at least that's what the site said when I made the cut for Pottermore early registration Sunday morning.  :)  <-- that's an understated smiley.  I feel more like this:


 If you're clueless, go to the Pottermore Insider and read.  The site is an online reading experience for the Harry Potter books.  You've heard of it, right?  It opens to the public in October, but they're having a string of contests for a week to allow a million (I think) people in for early beta testing.

Being over the top excited to get in on this early is one thing, but to think about the implications this could hold for all books is another. 

Think of it this way -- it's turning the whole book, the whole reading experience, into an interactive experience.  A game almost.  From where I'm sitting, this looks like a whole new realm to be opened up and explored, most especially for those reluctant readers.

I know there have been things like interactive book apps for kids and such, but Pottermore is taking it to a much higher level.  You don't just read the book, you live it.  Sometimes I think we all wish we could live inside some of our favorite stories, and now we get to go one step closer to that.

What do you guys think?  Excited about Pottermore?  Interested to see where you think it could take the future of books.  This is not meant as a doomsday for books post.  I think anything that draws more people in to reading is great.  :)