Monday, January 31, 2011

From Inspiration to Draft

**Don't forget to enter my 100 follower contest!  Today is the last day to get your name in!**


Many of you mentioned in my call for feedback that you wanted to talk more about processes.  So, over the next couple weeks I'm going to splash the blog with my own writing processes from the inspiration through the first draft, revisions, and straight through the query.  It's just the way I do things, and meant to open the floor up for discussion.  :)

Today let's start with the inspiration.

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An idea has fallen from the sky.  It smashed into your head and trickled into all the empty spaces, filling you with excitement.

First: Celebrate.  Run with the idea.  Play it out in your mind.  Maybe this could happen. Or THIS!  OMG THIS IS GOING TO BE EPIC!  I am BRILLIANT!  Best. Idea. Ever.

Ponder the idea for a while.  Allow it to snatch all of your daydreams into its strange and exciting world.  This is a very important step in the process.  If the idea loses its spark, if you find yourself thinking of it less and less...maybe it wasn't such a great idea after all.

Second:  The idea stuck.  You are still sure you've come up with the next blockbuster and this character is screaming in your ear and you must. write. this. story.  Excellent!  But now it's time to work.

Pull out your handy-dandy notebook and take some notes.  What is your basic plot idea?  Who are your main characters?  Who is the bad guy?  What makes this story fun and unique?  Write down all of the big events you dreamed up in Part One of our process.

Third:  Research.  This is especially important if you are writing a story in a historical setting, but it applies to everyone.  You need to know what kind of books are out there in the genre.  Is there anything similar to your amazing shiny new idea?  If it is a historical novel you've got double the work.  Language, dress, customs...everything about your story will be effected by the time period.

Fourth:  Outline.  If you outline.  I've never been an outliner before.  At least not in the traditional sense.  I (as mentioned in step two) take notes on where I see the story going, but I've never done a scene by scene outline.  On my own SNI I am planning to though.  We'll see how it goes.

Fifth:  Write that first draft, baby!  Let loose and allow your mind to run away with you.  Don't be too strict with your outline or you may miss an amazing scene opportunity.  Alternately don't be to lax either or you'll wind up meandering into nothing.  That's no fun.

Now, with your first draft in hand, it's time to really celebrate.  But not for too long, because up next we conquer the dreaded Revision Monster!

What do you think?  Does this sound similar to your own process?

Friday, January 28, 2011

99th Page Blogfest

So, guys today is the day!  Make sure you hop around to all the other bloggers to read all the 99th pages!

File:Virginia 99.svg

Today I give you the 99th page of my first YA novel, EMERALD'S KEEPER, which has been shelved. 

Yeah, I'm a cop out.  I'm not putting my WIP up.  It isn't ready for public scrutiny.  ;)

Page 99 of EMERALD'S KEEPER:

All Class One creatures were part of the challenges. Those were things like the rhests and the spates, which were alligator-like creatures that lived in the trees. It also included squirrels that have been turned. A few Class Two creatures were thrown in for good measure. They were things like the wolves with heat vision and frogs that shot poisonous darts. The only Class Three creature was the phantom, and no Class Fours were allowed.

“What are you over here brooding about?” Chelsea, a junior Earth, plopped down on the couch beside Mandy.

“I’m in the challenge today.”

Chelsea’s freckled face scrunched up. “No fun.”

“Yeah, I’m nervous.”

“You’ll be okay as long as you remember all the spells Mike has drilled us with.” A hint of a smile played at Chelsea’s thin lips when Mandy’s cheeks flushed.

Mandy didn’t know why her cheeks felt the need to betray her like that. She pursed her lips and glanced sideways at Chelsea who burst out laughing.

Anna marched over from the cluster of boys she had been flirting with and raised an eyebrow at Mandy. “What could possibly be so funny?”

Now Mandy started giggling.

Anna obviously didn’t appreciate being left out. “Fine. Be that way.” She flipped her hair and spun around to leave.

“Anna, don’t be like that.” Mandy attempted a serious face, but failed miserably as the giggles continued to escape. “We were just laughing because I’m so hopelessly easy to read.”

Chelsea nodded, her gray eyes wide. “She’s hopelessly in love with Mike is what her problem is.”

“Ah!” Mandy swatted at Chelsea. “I am not!”

There you have it!  And....now I remember why I shelved this.  lol



Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book Recommendation - Angelfire

Angelfire
By Courtney Allison Moulton

 Blurb from Goodreads: "When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers - monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell - she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.
A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie's powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her - an assassin who has already killed her once."
Okay, so, at first I wasn't so sure about this book.  You see, I'm a wimp.  Reapers - totally scary.  The first night I picked it up I had nightmares and told myself there was no way I could read the rest of the book.

But I kept thinking about it.  And thinking about it.  I had been hooked.

One thing I really loved was all the action.  Tons of fight scenes, tons of tension.  I flew through page after page just soaking in the fighting.  Obviously, I really liked all the fights.  lol  And WILL!  Oh, Will.  *swoon*  I wish I could pluck him out of the book and keep him all for myself.  Another thing I liked was the religious based undertone of the book.  Nothing preachy, don't worry.  But I studied philosophy and religion in college along with my English, and it fascinates me.  I think that added to my enjoyment.  It was obvious that Moulton put a lot of thought into her premise, and I applaud her for it.

I definitely recommend you grab a copy for yourself when it is released on February 15, 2011.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday

This week's topic on the YAHighway is:




If you could live in the story world of one book, what would it be? (any genre!)


I'm willing to bet this will be a popular answer.  I'm totally going with Harry Potter.  I mean, magic!  Hogwarts!  UNICORNS!!

JK Rowling's world is one that we have all lived in through books for many years, and gosh, to experience in person?!  AFREAKINGMAZING!!

The downside may be if I had to be there during the time of Voldemort.  Let's face it, he kinda sucked all around.  And of course I'd have to jet back to being eleven years old so that I could go to Hogwarts.  Because what's the fun of living in Harry Potter world if you can't experience Hogwarts first hand?! 

Yes, yes.  This is all a great plan.  So, when do we leave?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How do you do it?

Alicia asked last week how I manage a full time job, Super Spawn, and writing.




Okay, seriously.  Here's a daily line-up of my life.  This is how I do all three:

5:30am - alarm goes off
6:30am - wake Super Spawn
7:00am - Leave the house
7:45am - drop Super Spawn off at preschool
8:00am - work
11:30am - 12:30pm - lunch break where I do something writing related.  Write, revise, blog, research, etc.
5:00pm - leave work
5:30pm - leave preschool with Super Spawn
6:30pm - arrive home
6:30pm - 8:30pm - dinner, bath time, play time, and Super Spawn's bed time.
9:00pm until - this is when I do most of my writing.  I blog, write, revise, read...all of it.  Some nights I might be up until midnight or 1am just to get up and do it all again the next day.

Is my schedule easy?  Heck no.  But it works for me.  It's weird, now that I'm not working like crazy on revisions all night long I'm actually more tired every day.  Go figure.

My weekends are packed to overflowing as well.  Saturdays I'm taking Super Spawn to the movies, bouncing at a play place, or to a museum.  Saturdays that Super Spawn is with his dad, I can be found at a coffee shop working away on my WIP.  Sundays are reserved for cleaning every week.  I read, do laundry, grocery shop...that kind of fun stuff.

That's it.  There's no big secret to my balancing act other than unwavering dedication.  Sure, there are days that I fall off the wagon and just can't do anything, but the next day I'm right back in sync.

What about you guys?  How do you maintain balance?

Monday, January 24, 2011

The 100 Follower Contest!

Okay, lovelies.  After much pounding of my head against a wall, I've come up with a contest.

First the prizes!



Prize pack #1 consists of:  A 25 page critique from me, a query and synopsis critique, a pink and green pen (for your revisions), a pack of post-it flags, a lined sticky note pad, and sweettarts!  Plus a lovely journal to take notes in.

XVI



Prize pack #2:  A box of books!  I will include some of my favorite books I've read through the last year, and maybe even a couple ARCs.





Prize pack #3:  Snack pack!  Cookies, chocolates, sweettarts, and jolly ranchers.  Because every writer needs snacks close at hand.




 
AND!

Three people will receive (one each) a framed message meant for inspiration, made by me!



The rules:

You must be a follower to enter.

You must comment with your email address.

Here's where it gets tricky:  In your comment, I want you to tell me who of your fellow writer friends inspires you.  You guys know I'm all about spreading the love, so let's share.  If they blog, leave us a link so we can visit them.

That's it!  I'd appreciate it if you spread the word by tweeting or blogging about the contest, but that's not a condition of entry.

The deadline to enter is January 31st at 11:59pm.  I will announce the winners on Friday, February 4th.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Who's The Ninja?

 
 
 
 
Today the ninja brings us a query and synopsis critique for you, my lovelies!

First follower to comment with their email address wins! 
 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Guys!!! LOOK!!!

I've hit 100 followers!!!  EEEE!!!!  I feel like jumping up and down and hugging EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU!!

Super special shout-out to my 100th follower - Kate!  Woot!

Okay, the ninja is going to bring forth some SUPER awesome prizes for next week!  Hold onto your hats!

Thank you all SO much for being such amazing followers!  I appreciate every one of you!!

*spins around with arms outstretched to be all dramatic*

An Award, An Interview, and Feedback!


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

 
I love this quote.  Love, love, love it.  It completely conveys the way I feel about writing.  It's a passion, a compulsion.  I write because I need to.  I want to.  I have to.

Why do you write?  Do you feel the same cord drawing you into the world of words?

If you interested in learning more about me, my WIP, and the like there's an interview with me going up today over at the lovely Kim's blog.  Hop on over and see what I've got to say.

Thanks, Kim, for having me!

I feel incredibly loved.  Here's why:  Not only did Kim ask to interview me, but three of my lovely blogging friends have passed me the Stylish Blogger Award!  You guys are so sweet!  Many thanks to Jessica, Sarah, and Carrie!  I'm going to let my interview count as my seven things about me.  ;)  You'll have to go read it now.  (Note: I'm totally breaking the "rules" for this award.  I don't do rules well. lol)


Here's who I'll pass this to:    All of my lovely followers.  I don't like to choose favorites.


On another note, I'm interested to hear:  Is there anything specific you would like me to cover on the blog?

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Would you like interviews?  More of the technical side of writing?  Critiques?  Perhaps some techy stuff like the analytics post?

Ask and you shall receive!  Otherwise I'll continue with my random thought patterns and incoherent babblings.  ;)  Have a nice weekend, lovelies!

(P.S.  The Ninja is going to show up sometime tomorrow, so keep an eye out!)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Recommendation - XVI

XVI
By Julia Karr


XVI


Blurb from Goodreads: "Nina Oberon's life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she'll receive a Governing Council-ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world—even the most predatory of men—that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a "sex-teen" is Nina's worst fear. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina's mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past—one that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother's killer."

 This was a fantastic book.  Fast paced, always learning something new about the society and world, a little romance, and a young girl standing up for her rights.  Wow.


Nina is an easy character to identify with.  She's clever and tough, but still has a soft heart.  She would, and does, do anything to protect her little sister.  The world is a lot to get used to at once.  Karr wastes no time with introductions, you just dive right into the world of PAV's, blasting media campaigns, and teens being portrayed as nothing more than a sex toy.  That's right.  I said it out loud.  But Nina is different, she doesn't believe in the propaganda, and longs for a life at a slower pace.

On top of their social caste system, her mother's death, and her growing infatuation with a boy to deal with, Nina is running from a murderer and searching for the truth.


This is a page turner that you won't want to put down unfinished.  Karr's writing and world gripped me from the beginning.  One thing I really liked was that she doesn't waste too much time on descriptions of the world.  Something is introduced, used, and we're done.  I like that.  I tend to, uh, skim long detailed passages, so it suited my style.  It definitely gets a high recommendation from me. 


Has anyone else read it yet?  What did you think?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday

Today YAHighway says: Blurb it!  In which we blurb our favorite books or our own work.



So, I give you:

Delirium by Lauren Oliver:  An edge of your seat race for the right to love that will leave you drooling for more.

XVI by Julia Karr:  A shockingly beautiful coming of age story that will keep you up at night.

Meh, okay, I'm no good at this.  lol  (By they way, my review of XVI is coming tomorrow.)

And...wait..what was THAT?  Did you see it?  I think it was a NINJA!!


The first follower who comments (with their email address) today will win:


A collection of Bath and Body Works products!  Twilight woods lotion, body spray, hand sanitizer and the holder thing.  ;)
GO!

BLOGFEST!!

The 99th Page Blogfest 

 

So, what's more fun than a blogfest hosted by your very own blogger buddies?  Nothing!  That's what.


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On January 28th, Alicia, ErinnPam, Quita, and I will host the first ever 99th page blogfest. This was inspired by page99test.com.

The basic idea is that you post the 99th page of your manuscript on your blog and we blog hop and comment on whether or not we would continue reading.  They say that the quality of page 99 will tell the true quality of the whole work.  Here's an article on the idea if you'd like to read it.  Neat concept, right?

Right.

So, to join in on the fun all you need to do is sign up using the linky below. Please spread the word!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Did It!

You may or may not have seen my confetti throwing excitement over finishing my revisions on Twitter this weekend.

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There was lots of squeeing and sillyness on my part.  It feels SO good.  I worked really hard on this revision and I feel really really good about it.  I'm so excited about this story I can barely contain myself.  So, while it's in the hands of my trusty betas I'm going to try and focus on that Shiny New Idea I keep mentioning.  It'll give me something to do while I chew my fingernails waiting for their feedback.

Also, go check out Erinn's awesome first lines contest she is hosting this week.  Pam and Marquita are hosting a 100 followers contest too!  The contests are everywhere!  Don't forget to keep an eye out for our Ninja...he's bound to pop up sometime this week.

Tell me, what do you do to celebrate finishing a particularly brutal round of revisions?  Anything?  And what do you do to keep your mind off of that project once it's out for final feedback?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Using Analytics - An Overview

Okay, at the request of a few lovely followers, here is how I track my site's analytic details.  Let's get all technical up in here!  Woot!

Whaaaaat?  I'm a writer, not a techie!

Yeah, well, I'm not a techie either.  But if we're serious about the business side of our writing, it's something we've got to learn to do.  :)

Isn't it hard though?

Ummmm, no.  Really, it's simple.  It seems daunting at first if you have no idea what you're looking at, but it's actually pretty self-explanatory.  Here we go.

I use Google Analytics.

When you sign in, this is what you see...  Whatever websites you have set up to track will be listed with their reports.


When you click on view report it takes you to the dashboard, which looks like this:

 

Lots of interesting information, right?  When you start clicking on the different reports, you can learn things like: search terms used to find your site, the popularity ranking of your posts, how people are finding your blog, who's linking to your blog, etc.  Awesome.

This is the Traffic Sources page where you'll see what websites have lead people to yours, and what search terms people found you with:


Your Content Overview pages looks like this:  It shows page hits and post popularity.



You can also use the Stats function on blogger (if you use blogger that is):


The blogger Stats page looks like this:

Not too hard, right?  I love checking my analytical data out.  It's so cool to see how people find me!

Anyway, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sweet, Sweet Revisions

Revising isn't easy.  It's a lot of hard work extended over many, many hours.  But, if you're doing it right and paying attention, you'll find the things you really need to fix.  For example...

You know you've found a problem when you start making comments like these:







Now, part of the problem could be that my favorite green pen ran out of ink.  AND the office supply store DOESN'T CARRY THEM ANY MORE!!!  I'm distraught.  *glares at office supply store*  But, uhm, it's probably not the pen's fault.

So, it would appear I've found my final problem area.  (Seeing as I'm at the end of the novel, it better be the final problem area. lol)  Now to fix it.

Have a great weekend, lovelies!  I'll be off in revision land.  My goal is to finish by Monday.  That's a LOT of work, but I work better under pressure.  ;)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Freaking NINJAS!!

I am really never going to get tired of this game.  lol


 
 
First follower to comment (with their email address) is going to win:
A FIFTEEN PAGE CRITIQUE from me!

Ready?  GO!

Analytics and Speaking Up

I was pursuing my Google Analytics page the other day when I came across a search term that someone found my blog by.  It was:

"Finding Your Voice"

Naturally my mind jumped into Super Writer Mode and went to town with details of why someone would run a search like that through Google.

Perhaps that someone needed a little encouragement.  Maybe they needed to speak out against someone or something, but were scared to do it.  Struggling with identity.  Struggling with self-doubt.  In an abusive relationship...you get the idea.  There are a million possibilities.  Either way --



I've been that someone before, and it both saddens me and brings me joy that they would find my blog with such a term.  It makes me sad to think of all the people out there (especially teens) who haven't found their voice, but it makes me SO happy that they would find my blog -- and maybe a little encouragement.  One of my long-standing life goals is to make a difference in the lives I touch, and I hope this is another way I can do so.

Whoever you are out there in internet land, I hope you get this message:

Speak up.  Don't be scared, and don't discount yourself.  You have something valuable to say and you should say it.  I support you.  Most of all, I believe in you.

I wish someone had said the same thing to me when I was younger.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday

This week, YA Highway wants to hear your favorite lines whether they were written by you, read recently, or both.

Well, seeing as it's late this morning, and my brain is consumed with a Shiny New Idea, I'll give you something from my WIP, BECAUSE SHE SAYS SO.

It is from the very beginning of the story (though not the first line) and it sets the stage for everything that follows:

           "Little girls around the world make wishes every day.  On stars, on crossed fingers – whatever they believe may work.  So, little did I realize when I wished on my favorite book that my wish would come true.

            Wishes never come true.

            But this one did.

            And I wish it hadn’t."


There you have it -- my premise in fifty words.  :)

Another of my favorites, from the same WIP, is this which shows Kate's sarcasm nicely I think:

"Prince Charming isn’t so charming when he’s trying to kill you."

And perhaps I'll give you the line I spouted off yesterday that has sparked a Shiny New Idea that I am completely obsessed with now:

"Hi, my name is Liza, and I'm your resident dream crusher.  Welcome to reality."

What are your favorite lines?  I hope you enjoyed mine!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I thought I saw a NINJA!

SURPRISE!!!


Ninja attack!  Hiiiiiyah!!

First TWO followers to comment (with their email) on this post will win (1 set each):



A super cute mini notebook (Perfect size for your purse.)
Two matching mini pens (Perfect size for your notebook and purse.)
And two magnetic bookmarks (Which are really useful for revisions too.  Just sayin')

Have I ever mentioned how much I love things with punctuation on them?  LOVE IT.

I don't know about you guys, but I never go anywhere without a notebook and pen!  Ideas creep up on me at the strangest times, so I've always got to be ready.  Like a ninja, right?

Chicken Noodle Soup

Why yes, I do realize that is a totally random title.

Yes, I also realize it has nothing to do with writing.  Or does it?

So you want to write a no-- er, make a pot of chicken noodle soup.  First things first, you need a kick butt broth.  Obviously now you are going to need some chicken, but not too much.  Noodles added with a careful hand... don't crowd them or they'll turn to mush!  You could throw in some green peas for a subtle burst of sweet to go with the savory, or maybe you prefer carrots and celery.  Finally comes the seasoning.  Pepper to spice things up?  Or maybe you like rosemary.

What's the point, Holly?  We know how to make chicken soup!

I'm getting there.  Gah.  You've got no more patience than Super Spawn.  hehe

The broth of your soup is your plot.  It needs to be strong enough to hold the whole pot together.  It acts as unifier and common thread for the whole meal -- novel.

Your chicken is the main character in this show -- it even gets headline in the title.  Be careful though, chickens can run amok easily, getting stringy and tough.

Noodles are delicious and filling, but not when they're mushy.  Your noodles are your conflict.  Too much and you've got a pot of sludge with no real consistency.  Not enough and you won't feel satisfied when you finish the bowl.

The addition of your peas or carrots adds depth and flavor to an otherwise bland pot.

Seasonings are tricky though.  Too much pepper and you'll get burnt. Too many subplots and you'll confuse your readers.  Balance your flavors carefully.

When everything comes together you have your seasons working with your broth, your noodles add just the right texture, and the chicken is easily identified.  At the end you feel warm and satisfied.

Bet you can't guess what I had for dinner last night.  lol

Monday, January 10, 2011

Revisions -- Oh what fun.

As I've mentioned a few times both here and on Twitter, I'm doing some major revisions on the WIP right now.



Look at all the notes!

Frightening, huh?  (And look at the cool new flags I found at B&N!  *is in love*)

Since I mentioned on Friday my method for revising, I thought I'd expand on it today.  We've all got our own methods and processes.  Some of them work swimmingly, and some of them make us shudder.  I've done a LOT of revising over the last year and a half -- I mean, a LOT lot.

Finding what works for me hasn't been easy.  In fact, I thought revising on paper was ridiculous until I realized what I wanted (and needed) to change  in this WIP was going to take more than just a line or two here and there.  I needed to be able to *see* the whole picture at one time in front of me.  Not only a page at a time in a word doc.  /enter paper MS, stage left/

I've talked about the usefulness of printing your MS for editing (in a different font), but as you can tell from the pic above -- this is far more than editing going on.  I've got a whole color system at work.

Green pen -- revision notes.
Pink pen -- notes on things to carry forward, either in this book or the sequel.
Yellow flags -- where I left off last.
Green flags -- things to carry forward in this book.
Red flags -- things for the sequel.

*shrugs*  Is it overly simplistic?  Is it way too much to keep up with?  Who cares, it works for me.  (And that's the important part.)

Plus, then it is two steps to get everything incorporated.  Which, at first I thought, "That sucks.  Why would I do an extra step?"  But wait!  The second step is yet another refining point.  I revise (on paper) one or two chapters at the time and then go back to incorporate everything in the word doc.  This way all of my revisions are getting a second look...a revision step of their own.

When I go back and read the things I've revised this way I can tell the difference.

What do you do?  Do you have methods like this when you're doing hard core revisions?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sly like a NINJA!

Huzzah!  The Ninja Games attack!  *Make sure to read the comments, us Ninjas are tricky*

 
The first follower who comments (with their email address!!!) will win: 

A pack of revision essentials!  Well, the things I find essential when it comes revision time anyway:

Colored pens!                                                                                                  Sweettarts!
American Wonka SweetTarts Candy: 
170g, (6oz), Box
Uni-ball
 Jetstream Ballpoint Pen - 0.7 mm - Color Body Series - Pink Body

 

Post-it flags!
3M Post-It Colored Arrow Flags (684-ARR1)

And...AND...a 10 page critique from me to get you going!

I'm in the middle of some super serious revisions myself.  The best method I've found (for me anyway) is to get a pink and green pen, some post-it flags, and my favorite candy (yes, sweettarts are really my favorite) and go to town.  I use green to revise, pink to note things to carry forward, yellow flags show where I left off last, red flags mark the pink notes, and the other colors mark things to use in the sequel.

It's a whole system!  It works!  I love it!  So, I'm gonna share it.  Who will be ninja enough to win today?!?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Book Recommendation - Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss
By Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss


 
Blurb from Goodreads: "Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets √Čtienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.  As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?"

A breath of fresh air.  That's what this book was for me.  It's light, witty, fun, and romantic.  It makes you squirm in your chair, laugh out loud, and want to jump for joy with every passing page.

I've been reading a lot of O-M-G-THE-WORLD-IS-ENDING type books lately, and this was the perfect respite.  Falling in love, betrayal, making new friends, being thrown into a new culture -- all fascinating events, and all incredibly relatable.

Anna struck a chord with me from the beginning.  She's a little bit shy and reserved -- would rather stay in reading than go out partying with the other kids.  Yep, me.  She's not one to cause confrontation, but when it comes time to defend her friends, she does so without thought.

There were a few moments when I wanted to reach in the story and smack her for beating herself up for no reason.  But then, isn't that what we all do?  I can't fault her when I'm the same darn way.

And St. Claire?  Afreakingmazing.

Overall, this is one of my new favorite books of all time.  I absolutely adored it.

A must read.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday

It's that time again...Road Trip Wednesday time that is.  Head on over to the YAHighway to see what everyone has to say this week!








This week's topic:  Sum up your 2010 in a book title.


That seemed like the easier option over the top 5 books of 2010.  Until I got to thinking about it anyway.

Here's what I came up with.  My 2010 in a book title:

Living Voice With a Cup Half Full

 I learned a lot in 2010.  A lot about myself, about writing, about the industry, and even more about life.  I learned how to stay positive in the face of rejection, how to take an okay piece of writing and make it something amazing.  I learned that the YA writers online are some of the best and most supportive people you'll ever meet anywhere.

Above all, I learned to live my voice and keep a positive outlook. There were a lot of challenges in 2010, and a lot of tragedy, but it was also a year that I grew more than ever before.  And 2011 promises to be even better.

What would your 2010 book title be?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Harry Potter and Close Calls

So, we conquered the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this past weekend with about 50 million other people!  The park was so freaking busy, it was nuts.  Apparently Saturday was the slowest day they had seen in a month -- I asked -- and it was insanity.  Sunday was worse.



Either way, we had a blast.  Super Spawn was in three-year-old heaven with all the rides and exciting things to do and see.  He even rode Flight of the Hippogriff (a roller coaster)!  He came home bedecked in every bit of Gryffindor paraphernalia we could find, Ron Weasley's wand, Scabbers, and a flying car.

I've got my own little Weasley.  :) 



We drank butterbeer (YUM), ate in the Three Broomsticks (YUM), had Rock Cake (DOUBLE YUM), and even adopted a Pygme Puff named Hermione.

Yes, we had a blast.

We did have a couple near misses on our trip though.  As we left Islands of Adventure on Saturday evening we noted smoke billowing into the sky from the park.  We wondered what it was coming from, but shrugged it off and went to the hotel.  Later we learned that a ride in the Toon Town portion of the park had caught fire.  A ride we were looking for the entrance to, but gave up when Super Spawn decided he was ready to go.  *phew*  Thank you, Super Spawn.  (This ride has it out for me, I think.  On my Senior trip it broke down while I was on it and we had to evacuate.  Weird.)

The biggest, and scariest, near miss happened on the way home.

The interstates were packed full of cars, people trying to zoom in and out of bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Scary.  I don't like interstates, and I definitely don't like them full of bad drivers.  Lucky for us, we had my sister's GPS, which we set to take us home by back roads.

Out in the middle of nowhere, on a four lane road with a 65mph speed limit, we had our second near miss.

We were riding along in the left lane, a gray truck in the right about six or eight car-lengths in front of us.  A white truck pulled across the road, and I saw it coming. 

I said, "Oh no," and slammed my foot onto the brake.  The gray truck hit the white truck -- full speed, there was no reaction time -- and I swerved off into the median as they went flying off the right side of the road.  I screamed, "Call 911!"

My brother-in-law is a first responder, law enforcement.  He bolted out of the car and across the street as my sister called for ambulances.  It was terrifying.  I've never seen such a bad accident in person, and I've certainly never come so close to being involved in one.

My brother-in-law was able to resuscitate the driver of the white truck, and she was taken by life-flight as the seven others involved were taken away by ambulance. 

We have no idea of the outcome.

All any of us could say to one another the rest of the drive home was, "Thank goodness Holly was driving."  I have the fastest reaction time, and well, I drive the slowest.  It's doubly strange because just minutes before this happened my sister and I were talking about how differently we drive.  How I prefer the left lane, and she prefers the right.  How I am more of a defensive driver, and she is more aggressive.  We switched seats, so I could drive, not thirty minutes before this happened.

Not only is this a lesson in safe driving (PAY ATTENTION AND SLOW DOWN, PEOPLE!  There were two very small kids involved in this accident, and I shudder to think of the outcome had they not been belted properly in carseats.), it's also a lesson in chance and character.

It was chance that I was driving.  Chance that we chose to leave the interstate.  Chance that the GPS chose this route for us.  But it was character that had me in the left lane.  Character that I reacted the way I did.  Character kept us from being involved.

As you're writing and delving into who your characters are, consider this.  Which lane would they have been in?  Would their outcome have been the same?  Would they fly across the street to save a life, be the one on the phone for the ambulance, or be the one still gripping the steering wheel, shaking from head to toe as they calm the baby down in the back?

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Ninja Games

So, I thought I'd liven things up around here.  With contests.  Enter: The Ninja Games.  Holidays tend to make things draggy on the internet, and people need a little prodding to get back on the work wagon.

Consider this your prod. 

The Ninja Game
 

Periodically through the month of January I'm going to include contests in my posts.  Flash contests.  None of this waiting for answers stuff, we get enough of that from our writing pursuits. We're doing this Ninja style.

Here's how it'll work:

I'll say something to the effect of:  The first person to comment on this post wins a free five page critique from me!  You must be a follower to win!  Ready....GO!

And that's it.  The first follower to comment with their email address...well, they win!  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

YOU MUST PUT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS IN YOUR COMMENT TO WIN EACH TIME.  Every time you enter, put your email address.  Seriously.  My game, my rules.  Putteth the emaileth.

What do you think?  Super spectacular?!  I know.  I'm cool like that.  The prizes may vary...different lengths of critiques, could be books, could be something completely random.  You'll have to stick around to find out!  I'm going to be tricky.  I'll post things when you least expect it.  (I like being tricky, it makes me feel all ninja.  lol)

So...today!  Let The Ninja Games begin!

The first person to comment on this post wins a free five page critique from me!  You must be a follower to win! 

Ready....GO!


Fine print stuff:

The winner will receive a content critique -- not grammar, I'm no editor -- for up to five double spaced, TNR 12pt font, pages.  And you should know that I write YA, I read YA, and I crit YA.  I may not be the best crit choice for an adult or non-fic. piece.  (Unless it's on food allergies, I read lots of those books.)

For prizes that must be shipped -- I'll even send it internationally, so everyone can enter.