Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Liebster Award

I’m so excited. I received a Liebster Award! Thank you, BJ Sheldon, for nominating me. Please check out BJ’s blog, she’s got some great posts to read.

Here’s how it works:

- I list 11 random facts about myself.

- I’ll answer the 11 questions asked of me by the person who nominated me.

- I will then nominate my 11 picks for the award, along with my 11 questions for them to answer when they post a response.

- If you’re nominated, your name/link will appear at the bottom of this post along with the questions I come up with.

- Follow the same format; paste the award badge to your blog, give us 11 random facts about yourself, answer my 11 questions, and choose your nominees…but you cannot nominate the blog who nominated you.

11 Random Facts About Me:

1. I love chocolate, in almost any form. Dark, milk, with or without nuts. You name it, I love it. Love it so much I've had a chocolate themed birthday party- oh, and a Christmas party, too.

2. I've been married to the same guy twice. The first time for just over three years. We celebrated our nineteenth anniversary for the second marriage in December 2012.

3. I've had fibromyalgia since I was twenty-five.

4. I'm five foot, seven inches tall.

5. I'm not the best housekeeper, or the worst. My wretched oven only gets scrubbed about once a year, but I cannot stand a dirty microwave. Not sure why the microwave being nasty bothers me so much, it just does.

6. I sleep wearing a Breath Right nasal strip almost every night, looking hilarious, but able to breathe.

7. I have two daughters. My eldest, Alexandria, was born in North Carolina at Seymour Johnson AFB, in June 1995, after I received an honorable discharge from USAF active duty that same year. Karina, my 'baby', was born in November 1997, in Kemerovo, Russia (we adopted her in November 2005). Fact: I now speak more Russian than Karina does... this isn't saying much, trust me.

8. I have the ability to become so immersed in a good book - or movie- it's difficult for the people around me to get my attention. This is something I think my dear husband would like to change, alas he has yet to accomplish this.

9. I pride myself on being the kind of friend who can be counted on to tell the truth, even when it may not be what my friend wants to hear, because that's the kind of friend I want to have. So if you want to ask someone if your ass looks big in those jeans, unless you want the honest truth, don't ask me.

10. I'm super sensitive to odors... especially bad ones. My daughter, Alex, says it's my super power.

11. My toy poodle, Penny, makes me smile every day. She's not even two years old and I'm already worried about how I'm going to make it when she grows old and passes away... this is sick, I know, but I just love her so much. I've NEVER loved an animal the way I love her, and I LURVE my animals.

BJ's Questions:

1. Who is your favorite author?

Oh, I have so many…can I only pick one? Okay, if I have to choose, right now, today, I have to say Tahere Mafi (Shatter Me series). Her style draws me in unlike any other author I’ve read.

2. What is your favorite classic novel and why?

At the risk of scandal, I admit I’ve not read a lot of ‘the classics.’ I should, I know. Maybe someday I will… But one that I have read and loved was The Great Gatsby, by F.S. Fitzgerald. The reason it’s my favorite may be because as a teen, when I read it, it represented some themes from my life… a longing for escape from reality and disappointment when illusions are lost. (That sounds like a load of bull crap, but it’s true.

3. If there was one person, either dead or alive, you could spend the day with, who would it be and why?

Man, tough question. There are so many famous people I'd love to spend a day with,. However, if I could pick just one person, I'm gonna say my brother, Anthony. He died when he was only seven weeks old from complications of kidney surgery. I'd love to get to know him as an adult, find out what type of person he'd have become, get to know his likes and dislikes, and see what he'd look like.

4. Book or eReader?

I read both, but prefer print books. The feel of them in my hands, turning pages, beautiful covers; they seem so much more real to me than eBooks.

5. If they turned your life into a big screen movie, who would play you?

Julia Roberts, of course… Best compliment I ever received: I was laughing out loud, mouth wide open, and someone said I looked like her. I don’t, but it was nice to be told that I did.

6. What was it that drew you to become a writer?

There have been stories swirling around in my brain since I was in third grade. I guess it was inevitable they’d get antsy and bust loose. Creating a world where all my dreams can come true, a place I can face my fears and overcome them, bringing forth characters I want to hang out with - some of them absolute hotties who’re realistic and yet better than real life, well, there’s the draw.

I have the ability to become so immersed in a good book - or movie- it's difficult for the people around me to get my attention. This is something I think my dear husband would like to change, alas he has yet to accomplish this.

7. What is your idea of the perfect day?

The perfect day involves a warm place, friends, music, good food, and no dishes to wash. It could happen at the beach or in the mountains in front of a fireplace, doesn’t really matter to me, as long as I’m with the people I love, who love me in return.

8. Dogs or cats?

Both. I love all cuddly animals, no matter the species. But, for a pet, I’d say dog, because I abhor changing the litter box. I actually have two dogs and four cats, only one house cat though.

9. What is the name of the person who inspired you the most growing up? How did they inspire you?

That’s hard to say, I can’t really put my finger on one single person. There were a lot of people around me doing things I didn’t want to do. In a way, they drove me the opposite direction. Someday, I’ll write that book, but not today. ;)

10. Who is your hero and why?

Okay, I’m just gonna say it…My hero is Jesus Christ. That may seem hokey, but He loves everyone, even the unlovable. He forgives everything, including the unforgivable. He accepted me, when I couldn’t accept myself. Most of all He chose me and gave up everything to die for me, that’s why He’s my hero.

This may offend some people; others may think I’m crazy. You could decide you don’t want to work with me, because of my beliefs, and that’s all right; I wish you the best. I don’t think my beliefs make me better than anyone else or that I’m righteous, because Heaven knows, I’m not. So, don't judge me and I'll do my best not to judge you. ;)

11. Where do you hope to be as a writer in ten years?

I always say, if you’re gonna dream, dream BIG. So in ten years, I hope to be a New York Times bestselling author, have at least five novels on the market, and one major motion picture released, with another in the works. Too much? Maybe. But, hey, why not? Stephanie Meyer wrote more than five books and had five major motion pictures within ten years of the time she began writing Twilight.

My Nominees:

Eleven. Wow, that's a lot.
Of course, I'm going to nominate all my CPs from TheOffBeats (numbers 1-6) and a few more of my favorite bloggers. This is not to say I don't have other faves, I do, but I could be here for days, so I've kept it at the suggested eleven. Remember, just because I've nominated them doesn't obligate them to participate. If they choose not to it's all right; I still love them all. Click their names to visit their blogs.
9. Summer Heacock

Nominees, here are your 11 questions:

1. Chocolate or vanilla?
2. What inspired your latest WIP?
3. How do you get your creative juices flowing?
4. Any OCD tendencies? If so, what?
5. Would your MC want hang out with you and vice versa? Why?
6. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why or why not?
7. What is one characteristic about yourself that you love?
8. What character quality do you wish you could trade in? What would you trade it for?
9. Is there music or television on while you write?
10. Finish this sentence: If I could live anywhere…
11. Why did you decide to write the genre(s) that you do?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012: On Its Way Out

Ah, Christmas... the year is coming to a close. 2012 has been a magical blur.

I started off my year convalescing from throat surgery. All is well, so don't worry. One magnificent thing about having surgery was it slowed me down enough that I had time to get back to my book. The book I'd abandoned sixteen months before, leaving it in the hard drive of my desktop, gathering all the proverbial dust.

So, as I sat my sickly ass in bed, I decided to see if I could hammer out a few more pages in my novel. Low and behold, here I am in December, ten pounds heavier and a full MS later, querying agents. Fan-freakin'-tastic!

The floors are a little dirty. Closets didn't get cleaned out - at all - this year. Plus, after a full year of neglect, my attic is a virtual hell hole - nothing can be found without large amounts of effort and two burly guys to move crap outta the way. So, even though 2012 was largely spent doing 'nothing' around my house, I am thrilled with how my year has turned out. Well, except those ten pounds... *note to self: get ass off chair long enough to walk a little each day.*

So this coming year I have some resolutions... yes, the dreaded, often abandoned resolutions...

Number One. I will lose the ten pounds I gained. No if, ands, or 'butts' about it.

Number Two. I will find my perfect agent... s/he will LOVE DEVASTATION as much as I do and will be thrilled at the prospect of pitching it to all the editors of all the presses.

I know, I should probably have a number three involving closets and attics, but... well... No. Just. No.

I'll keep you posted on how I'm doing with both of my resolutions as 2013 progresses.

Side Note: Another wonderful thing to come about this year was that I've met an amazing group of people through Twitter (if you're not on it, you should be). A few of us have come together to form a CP (critique partner) group call The Off Beats, not to be confused with The Beat Offs *side eyes at Lizzie*. This group of women authors have become my support group for all things, writing related or not. I'll be doing a post about The Off Beats soon, introducing each awesome member.

So, how was your year? Are you satisfied with the way things are wrapping up? Any resolutions for 2013? Remember, you're more likely to accomplish your goals when you tell people about them. Leave comments, share advice with other on how to reach their objectives, or tell us what your aspirations are (making them real and more attainable). I can't wait to hear from you and cheer you on!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How Writing a Novel is like Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

I originally wrote this post back in the summer... you know, when Thanksgiving is on everyone's mind (oh, wait, I think that might just be me). I'm recycling it in honor of the holiday (see how Earth friendly I am, with my recycling action). Anyway... here it is, bon appetit.

I’m currently editing my first novel. My masterpiece. After taking my critique partner’s notes to heart, I’ve tweaked the hell out of it *weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth*. The word count, originally 175,000, sits at 104,096. Is it still a lard ass? I don’t know. On page 129 of 191 TNR, twelve point, single spaced pages, I'm hoping to trim that sucker down another four thousand words. I'm confident I can. (UPDATE: DEVASTATION is finished and now a svelte 93k- YAY, ME!)

This morning, I was struck with an amazing analogy (it's amazing because I say so, this is my world blog you know). Writing is much like Thanksgiving dinner. How on earth could writing possibly be compared to Thanksgiving dinner, you ask? Okay, we’ll pretend you asked. We'll also pretend each of the steps I describe for dinner are realistic for me. In all honesty, the reality of my Thanksgiving meal is less thought out and a whole lot less formal, but no less delicious, because if a dish doesn't taste good, I've got no problem throwing it out.

For at least a week day or two before Turkey Day, I toss ideas around about what I’ll cook to make the meal special. Shopping lists are made and family members who’ll enjoy the meal with me to get contacted for their input (only those who I know will bring good food, too- don't give a crap what anyone who's not contributing thinks). The same goes for the idea for my novel (except getting others' opinions, here it's important). Somewhere in my wee little brain an idea forms and I stew on it for a while. I jot notes and ask my daughter what she thinks of my fabulous idea. Surprisingly, for my current novel, she loved it. This is huge, because she was fifteen at the time and pretty much everything I did or said was answered with loud rolling of eyes and exasperated sighs.

Hour upon hour is spent slaving away, cooking delectable dishes. I fuss over the main dish, making sure it's well seasoned. Then I add plenty of side dishes to keep the meal interesting. After all, no one wants to show up for turkey dinner and only get turkey. As I write, I make sure my main character is a little sweet and a little spicy. Plus, I create supporting characters to add flavor, some might be salty, others downright sour. Similarly, the main plot captures the attention of the reader, but throwing in a couple of subplots gives the book even more to savor. (Thinking of good food and cooking terminology isn't as easy as I thought it'd be. Just sayin'.)

I set the table, adding little touches of color with the table cloth, the candles and the centerpiece. Place mats, beautiful silverware, china, and crystal help my guests feel special and engaged with the lovely meal I’m serving (at least they should, if they don't that's on them). As I create the environment in which my characters live, I add color, landscaping, and all the small things that bring my character's world to life, smells, textures, background noises. This helps my readers feel more at home in my character’s world (if they don't then, in this case, it's on me).

I artfully arrange the food on the serving space. Some things might get shuffled around to help all the most important dishes fit. Sometimes I have set aside a couple of the less imperative dishes. I hate doing this, as I spent time working on those too. But you gotta do what you gotta do, ensuring all the best things are on the table and easily within reach of the diners. This is where I have to chunk a dish or two, the ones which didn't turn out just right. I may have to remake it or it's got to go altogether. You see where this is going? Scenes must also be rearranged on occasion, in order to make the story flow. Some must even be removed, if they aren’t necessary to the story or they simply didn't turn out just right. This part sucks because I love those scenes. They show off my characters' personalities or are just so pretty. Again, it has to be done.

Everything is devoured, most of it delicious. Of course, there's always the lumpy gravy or parts of the bird which are a little dry. I receive compliments, pat myself on the back for a meal well cooked, and get ready to sleep off the turkey stupor, while the guys watch the game. When I finish the first draft of my novel, I serve up my MS to my wonderful early readers. They congratulate me, giving me mostly positive, but some negative, feedback. I thank them, pat myself on the back for a novel well written, and pry my ass out of my desk chair before nerve damage occurs and it becomes permanently misshapen.

Now it’s time to clean up. Yuk. Who wants to do that? It’s a necessary evil. I can’t very well leave all those dirty dishes languishing in the sink and on the table. They’ll stink. For my MS this is editing. It’s the least fun portion of the process (I would compare it to jamming toothpicks under my fingernails). Yet, like those crusty dishes, it must be done. Otherwise, my novel will stink like three day old dirty dishes. I can’t have that, and neither should you.

What would you compare your writing process to? Make some comments and let me know.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The W.I.T. Program

The other day I blogged about my first rejection letter. I commented at the end of the post that I was going to make a badge for the W.I.T. Program. *Drum roll* The first badge is ready!

What is the W.I.T. program?

Long, long ago, in a land far away (OK, not too far away, and only about nineteen years ago - *gasps* Lordy, do I feel old now!), I was a young woman, newly divorced, trying to put myself through college. Broke, without so much as two dimes to rub together, whatever is a girl to do?

I was a Navy wife before the divorce, so the obvious answer was the military. Hey, at least I'd have a roof over my head and medical coverage, right? Besides, my dad and both my grandfathers had served, it was a no brainer.
My TI (training instructor) told our flight (a group of airmen in the USAF) we had to get on the W.I.T. program, the Whatever It Takes program. Meaning no matter our objective, we had to find it within ourselves to do whatever it took to meet that goal. Even if it hurt, physically or emotionally, made us uncomfortable in our own skin, or required more from us than we thought we had to give, we had to dig deep to find the courage to 'suck it up and press on' as my other TI used to yell constantly.

I had to make it through 'boot', if I didn't I was sunk. No money. No way to make it in this big, cruel world. Going into boot with a terrible case of bronchitis didn't make it easy  (yes, the docs at MEPS actually let me go in with bronchitis). The infirmary saw me three times during those first three weeks for dehydration. FYI, dehydration can make you vomit - I HATE vomiting, I'll do almost anything NOT to vomit. Sorry, I digress...back to the point of this post...

My TIs pushed and prodded until those of us who made the cut were ready to serve our nation. I made it through boot camp, earning the moniker 'Puker'. Sucking it up and pressing on, I pushed through the hurt, illness, and discouragement, running for the grass when it all came back up - litterally. It was a valuable lesson  I've carried with me into every experience of my life... when I want something, I have to get on The Program to make it happen.

So, when that first rejection letter came, I made the decision I'd be on the W.I.T. program, committing to do whatever it takes to become a published author. One of my twitter friends suggested I look at rejections as badges of honor for putting myself 'out there'. We joked about making badges and selling them.

Well, I've made the first W.I.T. program badge and want all my writerly friends to take it - for free. Add it to your blog, website, whatever.... wear it proudly. Show the world you're on the Whatever It Takes program to becoming a published author. I think, just to make it our own, we'll call it The WRITEver It Takes Program. Check back soon, I'll have several more, with lots of different styles to choose from.

No matter how hard it is to sit butt in chair, pound away on that keyboard, brainstorm awesome pitches and queries, figure out how to take an eighty-thousand word novel and condense it to a two page synopsis, you can do WRITEver It Takes to get it done. I have faith in you, now have faith in yourself!

In the comments, tell us some of the things you do to hang in there through the difficulties and disappointments of authorship? Share with others so they can employ these tactics. I encourage all of you to find a mentor and be a mentor. Without my mentors, I don't know what I'd do. They help me everyday to do WRITEver It Takes to get published.

Want your own badge? Click here and grab one of your choice!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The First Rejection


"Not right for me..."

"Thank you for your submission, but..."

No response means 'no'.

My first book is finished. I've had beta readers, of the friend variety, and CPs, of the brutally honest variety, read my manuscript and give me valuable feedback. Taking said feedback to heart, I've implemented numerous changes to my MS. Large portions of my book have been completely re-written, some even deleted. In other words, editing has been the nightmare I didn't expect.

When all of that was said and done, I was ready to query. Ah, the Q-word, the second most dreaded word for the unrepresented author ('synopsis' being the most dreaded).

Months of research, entering contests, attending online forums, and then more research brought me to the conclusion that my query was ready to be sent into the wide world of potential agents. Spending hours agonizing over the first email submission, I finally hit 'send'. That was five or so weeks ago.

During those five weeks I've paced, wrung my hands, gone back over my MS, and entered more contests. I've gotten my first request for a full manuscript (not as a result of querying - a contest, which I did not win, led a small press publisher's editor to request *smiles* *jumps up and down*). Still waiting, I've written another query from scratch - again - and re-written that one multiple times.

Many experienced eyes have perused the new query, given me advice, helping me perfect it - again. I've watched online videos of agents giving advice on how and when to query. Researching even more about queries, I have done everything in my power to make sure my query will be the one that twinkles in the light, drawing the attention of an agent digging through their slush pile.

Then it happened.

I woke up Thursday morning, bleary eyed. After I woke the children for school, I grabbed a 'cuppa Joe'. Then cranking up the old laptop, I sucked down Joe and all that wonderful caffeine, steeling myself to open my email.

There it was.

My first response from an agent.

I waited for my heart to stop flip-flopping in my chest. Opening the email, with one eye closed, the other squinting so tight I could barely see, my lungs were a paralyzed mixture of fear and excitement.

It was a very polite form rejection. I read it, and then re-read it.

Waiting for defeat to overwhelm me, I tweeted my lovely tweeps about getting my first rejection. Those same lovely tweeps tweeted back with much encouragement. Still I waited for the crushing blow to fall on my head.

It didn't happen. Surprisingly enough, thanks to all that research, reading other author's stories of how they 'made it', and the tons of blog posts, by agents and authors alike, on how to look at a rejection, the experience as a whole wasn't as painful as I'd expected.

No, I'm not complaining. I'm 'sharing' so other authors, like myself, can see that hitting 'send', with all the excitement and terror it brings, doesn't have to lead to defeat when they receive the first rejection letter.

It's just one agent.

She was very nice and I'm certain she's a fantastic agent who knows what she wants, it just so happens, my book didn't fit her taste of the moment. Turns out, I'm okay with that. The agent who 'lurves' my book will be the agent I want anyway. The other agents out there who have yet to reply either positively or negatively, well, they will eventually get around to my query. If they don't get excited about it that's all right by me. There are other agents to send my queries to.

As a matter of fact, I did just that. I sent out another query (sort of that whole 'get back on the horse' thing - hey, I'm from Texas, there's a horse metaphor for almost any situation). Plus, I began researching yet another agent to send a query to later today. No matter how many times I have to climb back on that horse, I will.

I will send a query to every single literary agent in the English speaking world, if I have to, in my quest to fulfill my dream and get this damn book published. Rejections will not stop me, by golly! I'm committed (not in the men-in-the-little-white-jackets way of being committed, although someday that could be a possibility) to the W.I.T. program for publishing. Whatever. It. Takes!

I encourage you to get on the W.I.T. program, too.

I'm going to create a badge for my blog and website, the W.I.T. program for author's badge. Check back soon to pick it up for yourself! While you're here, share your experience about your first rejection, how it made you feel and what you decided to do with that. If you haven't gotten that far, tell us how you expect it to affect you and how you hope to handle it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Next Big Thing Meme

Robin Hall of Robin Writes tagged me for The Next Big Thing and I'm just so excited absolutely thrilled to participate. Fun, fun, fun.

What is the working title of your book? DEVASTATION

Where did the idea come from for the book? During the summer of 2010, Alex, my then 15 y/o daughter, and I took a road trip. I drummed on the steering wheel to Pour Some Sugar on Me, embarrassing her (just one more service I provide),  and she doodled away in her sketchbook. One of her amazing creations was a girl angel wearing a determined expression and battle gear, including breast plate and weapons, the whole nine yards.

The image of that angel with her wings, armor and sword wouldn't leave me alone. It badgered me, tap-tapping on my shoulder until I paid it some attention. I wondered what life would be like for her if she were a regular girl who woke up one morning with wings. (BTW, DEVASTATION isn't about angels) I talked it over with Alex and we thought it'd make a great book. I started DEVASTATION the next day.

What genre does your book fall under? I've grappled with that one quite a lot actually. However, after many consultations (stalking #askagent on Twitter and other such activities), I've decided it's best described as YA Romantic (Soft) Sci-Fi.
The problem was the science in my 'sci-fi 'is almost non-existent. But, everyone keeps saying 'if your book has aliens then it's science fiction.' Someone suggested I check Wikipedia (yeah, I know) to see what sub-genres Sci-Fi encompassed. I found 'Soft Sci-Fi' and it's the closest I've come to really capturing the feel of my novel.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in the movie rendition? Oh, what a fun question! OK, I admit, I have thought about it - a lot. More than I should, considering I don't even have an agent yet, much less a book deal with a publisher... But, if you're gonna dream big...
(You know, I think this is my favorite question to answer -gives me a reason to go look at all those fabulous guys.)

I so wish Zac Efron was still in his late teens or early twenties, because he'd be PERFECT for Gabe... icy blue eyes, dark hair. He's an absolute YUMster. But, since he's now a little older... bummer... I'm not sure who would be best for the part, maybe someone similar to Robbie Amell or Matt Lanter. Whoever plays Gabe's role needs to be nuclear hot and built (I mean really built).

For Lexa... hmmm.... Emma Stone or someone with those clear eyes (which would be perfect if they were sage green - but there's always contacts). She needs to be beautiful, sassy, but still  have that sweet side.

And then there's Nathaniel...  I'd say whoever takes on Nathaniel's character has to fall somewhere between Grey Damon and Jeremy Sumpter type looks. Blond is important (but there's always hair dye), the golden eyes can be taken care of with contacts. But the smokin' hot body (like call-the-fire-department-smokin'-hot) and attitude will have to be all natural.
FYI: My talented daughter, Alex, drew these depictions of Gabe, Lexa, and Nathaniel.

What is a one sentence synopsis of your book? Oh, man! This is probably the hardest question.

At sixteen, Lexa, who’s terrified of heights, learns she’s half alien, sprouts giant-ass wings, and is abducted by genocidal aliens; she'll have to overcome her phobia and fly to freedom or end up light years from home.

Okay, I know... I cheated... but really? One sentence? It's a 95k word novel for Pete's sake!

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I really want an agent. Nothing wrong with self-pubbing, but I like the idea of an agent and all they bring to the party,  experience, foreign rights, contract negotiations, all that jazz.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? All in all, I'd say I worked a total of about nine months on the first draft.

May we see the intro? Sure! I'd love it if you wanted to read some of DEVASTATION. You can read the first chapter here on this blog. If you'd like to read more, check out the first several chapters on

What other book(s) would you compare it to within your genre? Now that's a toughie. I've struggled with this almost as much as I did the genre question. I've been told it's similar to James Patterson's Angel Experiment books, although I admit, I've not read them. I started to read the first one and got sidetracked after the first few pages and never made it back (not sure what that says).

I've said, if I could throw in some song references along with movies, then DEVASTATION is Katy Perry's E.T. melded with Van Halen's Love Walks In, woven through the book I AM NUMBER FOUR blended with a handful of the movie ALIEN and a tiny bit of SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL(movie).

Who or What inspired you to write this book? As I said in an earlier question, my daughter's drawing inspired me.

What else about this book might pique your readers interest? DEVASTATION'S characters are human-alien hybrids with feathered wings; unique characters. As for interest, everyone deals with self-doubt, wanting what we think we can’t have, and handling life’s curve balls. Add to that love, danger, and loss. DEVASTATION has been read by readers ranging in age from their teens through retirement age - the retiree is a sixty-seven-year-old gentleman and he loved it - who knew? (the teens loved it too :))

So that's my NEXT BIG THING MEME entry. Now I'm gonna tag... hmmmm.... let's see.... :
Fiona McLaren
Jessica Salyer 
Kelley Lynn
Lizzy Froehle

Your turn ladies.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Allie Jean: Author Interview

 Last week, I reviewed Allie Jean's LEGACY OF A DREAMER. This week, I bring you a little closer to author Allie Jean with my very first Author Interview. Don't forget to go get signed up to win a copy of her book LEGACY OF A DREAMER (click here and go to the bottom of the page).

KH: Where is your favorite place to write?

Allie Jean: During the summer I like to take my laptop out on the patio and write while my kids swim. If I want some sun, I’ll take a note pad out to a lounge chair and sip on some wine while I brain storm. During the winter, I love sitting by the fireplace with some slippers, a cozy blanket, and my laptop to write.

KH: Did you have nightmares as a teen?

Allie Jean: Not so much as a teen, no. I did when I was younger, say in the 6-10 range. They were very vivid and dark, with exquisite details that made them seem very realistic. They felt more like a story than a jumbled mess of images that don’t make sense. Most of the nightmares Chantal has in the books are based on ones I had myself.

KH: Finish this sentence: If I could live anywhere…

Allie Jean: This is a tough one. If I could live anywhere, I’d have to say that I’d like to live by the beach somewhere. I love the beauty of the Northern California beaches, so perhaps there. Maybe near Carmel.

KH: What inspired Legacy of a Dreamer?

Allie Jean: Legacy was inspired by an imaginary friend I had when I was younger. It was a shadow in the shape of a man with a tall hat on. He’d be there every night and I would talk to him when I was scared. Later, when my kids asked if I’d had an imaginary friend, I remembered this shadow. I thought how cool it would’ve been if that shadow had been real, and my imagination took off from there.

KH: Is there music or television on while you write?

Allie Jean: I listen to a great variety of music while I write, and I’m currently putting together a play list for the Dreamer Series. It will be posted to the website once it’s done. The most common background noise I write to, however, are my kids playing.

KH: Outside of your own, what's your favorite book?

Allie Jean: Another tough one. I’m a huge supernatural fan, so I love the Twilight series, of course. I think the biggest series that inspired my writing would have to be the Mortal Instrument Series by Cassandra Clare. I also love the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Hunger Games, and Harry Potter.

KH: As an author, are you a planner (outline) or a pantser (by the seat of)?

Allie Jean: It’s funny because I’m both. Some things I write just come to me. Others I plan. As for as the Dreamer Series, I currently have about seven books vaguely outlined. I know where I want the story to go and how it will end. Some of the specifics are still a mystery, but I like that in my writing. Sometimes if I plan too much, my characters take me in a different direction. It’s funny how that happens. Sometimes I’m just as surprised as the readers. I love it when I can say, “well…I didn’t see that one coming.”

KH: Chocolate or vanilla?

Allie Jean: Definitely chocolate

KH: Would Chantel (the MC of LEGACY) want to hang out with you and vice versa? Why?

Allie Jean: I would say yes. Chantal is a good mixture of a few very important people in my life. She also has some of my characteristics, so I’d say we’d get along great. LOL. I would have to say that I’d love the chance to go all “Buffy” on some monsters from the Shade, too.

KH: Phobias? Do your phobias ever work their way into your writing?

Allie Jean: I’d have to go with yes on this one. I don’t think I have a strict phobia of anything, although I detest spiders with a passion. That being said, the nightmares in my youth were based on fears I had of ridiculous things. For example, I had one reoccurring nightmare of a man dressed like an ice cream man who’d come around the neighborhood and tickle the kids to death. I remember waking up panting and crying because the man was tickling me until I couldn’t breathe. And before you ask, no, I did not have a traumatic childhood. I hated it when I was tickled, though. I guess that fear played out in my dreams.

KH: What do you do to get your creative juices flowing?

Allie Jean: Sometimes I’ll lie down on my bed and just close my eyes. I’ll think about a scene I want to write and just let my mind wander. Other times, I’ll put on a movie that has the same feel to the scene I’m writing. For example, if I’m writing a fight scene, I’ll put on a Buffy episode or Suckerpunch.

KH: Which authors inspired you as a young adult?

Allie Jean: I didn’t really have much time to read when I was in my early 20’s. I had four kids by the age of 25, so most of my time was spent chasing after them. When I did start reading again, I read whatever I could get my hands on. Some of it was great, some not so great. It was around this time that I started writing stories of my own. So to say one specific author inspired me would not be true. But if I had to choose one, I say JK Rowling. I think the world she created was vast and original, and that is exactly what I inspire to do with the world of the Fallen and the Shade. Although the Fallen concept isn’t original by any means, the Shade is and the concept of the Oracles. There seems to be a ton of repetition these days and originality is few and far between. That’s what I strive for, and JK Rowling achieved that with the Harry Potter series. That motivates me and should prove to other writers that originality is possible and inspiring.

KH: Best advice you’ve ever received about writing/publishing?

Allie Jean: Don’t get discouraged. Promoting is a HUGE part of this industry, and at first, it was a little daunting. But after a few weeks of self-deprecation, I realized I’m not in this business for the money. I don’t depend on the money. I’m here to tell a story, and as long as I entertain one person, I’ll be happy. After that great advice, my mojo came back. LOL.

KH: Looking back, what’s the one thing you wish you knew before starting your first novel?

Allie Jean: How to write one! I majored in human biology in college, so the art of grammar and punctuation did not come easy to me. The structure of a novel, too, I didn’t realize until after Legacy was completed. Luckily, the story seemed to fit the basic outline of a novel, so I wasn’t too upset.

KH: What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Allie Jean: Don’t give up! Don’t get discouraged. Remember the reason you want to write: to tell your story! If you think you’ll become the next JK Rowling, the chances are that won’t happen. Even if you have the best written book and the most original idea, there’s a lot of competition out there. But that’s not the point, right??? You are a storyteller, a dreamer, a visionary…and you want your story to be told. So tell it! Put the rest aside and entertain. Dream. Be inspired and keep true to yourself. The rest will come in time.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Writer Therapy

The lovely folks over at Writer Therapy are hosting a blog hop and have asked participants to write a blog about their 'writer therapy'. So here I am, one more contest, writing my blog - which is supposed to be posted this morning. I still need to get showered and dressed for the day, take my daughter to school, and head to my mammogram appointment, where I will be tortured examined sometime around nine-thirty this morning. I only tell you about the mammogram because it's Breast Cancer Awareness month and I want to do my part to remind all of you to take care of your bodies.

Needless to say, this post will probably be short, since I failed to do it over the weekend, as I should have, but instead was reading (yep, that reading thing got me again).

My manuscript is finished, so lately I've been working on edits and sending out queries.  However, when I was still in the thick of plotting and coming up with scenes, there were many times I'd get stuck or was too tired to trudge on toward my goal of a finished book.

Each time that happened I found it helpful to immerse myself in a movie with a theme similar to whatever scene I wanted to write. If I wanted to write a romantic scene, I'd watch Twilight - again - or some other romantic movie. The emotions from the movie would energize me to move forward with my manuscript. For battle scenes, if I didn't know where to go next or found myself lacking the excitement needed to get it done, I'd watch a movie with some action to get my blood pumping.

I also love to listen to music while I write (at this very moment, Madonna is crooning Lucky Star). Music can be so vibrant and inspiring. Creativity flows from the speakers like ribbons of rainbows wrapping me in their warmth, whispering inspiration into my soul.

It's not really the 'done thing', I know, but I wish I could use songs as comps in my query letters. It'd be so easy. Finding comp titles for my book has been my impossible task - and I really mean impossible, harder than query or synopsis writing. The few books I'd hoped to use just didn't work for me for one reason or another.

Songs, however, would make it so much easier. If I could only give them the title of movies crossed with songs, then they'd get a real feel for my story.

It'd go something like this:

DEVASTATION is Katy Perry's E.T. melded with Van Halen's Love Walks In, woven through the book I AM NUMBER FOUR blended with a handful of the movie ALIEN and a tiny bit of SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL(movie).

See how nicely that all came together? Do you get the sense of the teen love story between best friends that are aliens (mine are human-alien hybrids), who have special powers,  mixed with a scary-ass monster on a spaceship they're trying to escape? Let me know what you think. Perhaps we can get agents to accept songs as comps... it could be a fabulous new trend.

So those are my therapies, movies and music. I'll be hopping around the blogs later this afternoon to see what your therapies are  when I get back from the torture chamber doctor's office. See you soon!

Here are the links to the other blogs signed up for this blog-hop. So hop on over to some of them.

PLEASE NOTE: I made it back from having my mammogram... I want to say it wasn't nearly as bad as I had expected and certainly not bad enough that I won't go every year, as I should, to be screened. I went to the new Baylor Women's Imaging Center in McKinney, Texas. They got me in and out quickly. The Corporate Director, Ethel, who did my mammogram, was the perfect mix of compassionate medical caregiver and professionalism. Overall a great experience.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Review of LEGACY OF A DREAMER Allie Jean

 I recently connected with Allie Jean online at World Literary Cafe, at their Author-Blogger Connection. One email led to another and now I'm reviewing her novel, LEGACY OF A DREAMER. She's graciously sent me two SIGNED copies of the book, one I will give away, the other will be donated to my local library.

Come on back next week to check out my interview with Allie Jean.

LEGACY of a DREAMER is the story of eighteen-year-old Chantel Breelan, a foster kid, newly aged out of 'the system'. Suffering from vivid nightmares most of her life, Chantel has had her 'shadow man', Nick, to confide in since she was a little girl. The nonchalant shadow man is always there in the muted shadows of the night watching over her. He brings her comfort in a world offering little of the precious commodity, even though Chantel knows he's not a 'real person'. Or is he?

When Chantel moves out of her foster home, she finds her nightmares have materialized in her waking world and she's haunted by mysterious monsters from the shadows. She has no idea who they are or what they want, but she'll soon find out. I'm not going to go into a play-by-play of the book, that would ruin it for you and we wouldn't want that.

However, I will tell you that Allie Jean has created the fantastic world of the Shade, where evil lurks and warriors who fight the evil travel undetected by the 'real world'. 'A creature in the Shade was nothing but shadow, immortal, deadly and impenetrable.' And there is 'a countless horde of them' to be fought. Ms. Jean's monsters are plucked from your worst nightmares.

Allie's characters are realistic and relatable, which is so important to enable readers to really sink into the story. Chantel has the hardened shell of a foster kid who's been abandoned and hurt, with the soft insides of a girl who wants to be understood and loved. Nick/Mathias, a warrior dedicated to keeping Chantel safe even if at the cost of his own life, finds himself breaking the rules and falling for his charge. These two characters vacillate between attraction and irritation as they try to avoid death at the hands of the Evil One's minions, keeping the reader enthralled to the very end.

Okay, if you know me, you know I pride myself on being truthful. You can always count on me to shoot straight and be bluntly honest, often to a fault. That said, there are a couple of things about LEGACY OF A DREAMER I was slightly disappointed with. I'm reluctant to share these with you, because I really enjoyed this book and think you will too. So read this knowing I'm probably pickier than most and, because I've been editing my own manuscript for the last two months, I'm most likely more sensitive about these things than other people.

First, although the characters were engaging, the plot well developed, and the world building fantastic, the editing could have been much better. There were a few spelling errors and missed quotation marks. Secondly, in my opinion, the writing could have been tighter, more succinct with less filters and wordiness. Please don't let these nit-picky things keep you from enjoying this wonderful story, you most likely won't even notice them.

On my five star scale, I'd award this book three and half stars. So use the Rafflecopter below to enter to win your very own copy of LEGACY OF A DREAMER.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Okay, this was my second give away and I had two copies of LEGACY OF A DREAMER, so I decided to give them both away. Congratualtions to Nerissa Depperschmidt and Monica Calangian!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hottie Hero Crushes




Ever had a crush on a hero in a novel? Oh, come on, tell the truth. Okay, if you can't admit it, I will. I often find myself crushing on the heroes in the books I read. How can I not, they're usually nuclear hot and either really good at being bad or just the 'sweetest thangs' (Yes, I meant 'thangs'; I'm from Texas, sometimes when I get excited, my accent gets outta hand).

This morning I was driving my daughter to school and found myself thinking of one of my critique partner's heroes. Ultra hot hottie that he is, he's still sweet and thoughtful. The kind of guy I wish I could force my own daughters to marry (yeah, like that's gonna happen).

Sorry, I digress.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun for us to share our ultimate hero crushes. To make this even more fun, we'll have a little contest. You could win a HARDCOVER copy of SHATTER ME by Tarhereh Mafi, which features not one, but two hotties. One you'll love to love, the other you'll love to hate. See my review of SHATTER ME on this blog. TRUST ME, you want this book, it's frickin' awesome!

So, in your own words, describe your hottest hero crush. You can tell us about his looks, his attitude, whatever you want, but make it good. I don't mind if he's from your own book, or someone else's, or even if he's just from your imagination.

I'll start us off with a description of Gabe, the hero in my book DEVASTATION.

At six-foot-four, his blacker than black hair shines in the hot sun, throwing off rainbows of purple, blue, and green. His frayed blue jeans and old t-shirt with the sleeves cut out, showing off tanned, muscular arms, have seen better days. Broke down, worn out boots complete his ultra hot cowboy look. Dusty all over, with smatterings of dried dirt caked here and there, he looks up from under impossibly thick, ink black lashes, piercing you with glacier blue eyes. A five o'clock shadow has taken up residence on his strong jaw. The lopsided smile hovering over the cleft of his chin makes him poster-boy perfect.
Here are the important details:
Okay, now it's your turn. TO ENTER, use the comments section below. IF YOUR HERO is from a book already in print DO NOT TELL US, that might skew voting, and he'll be disqualified. You must describe the hero in your own words, not with a quote from an already pubbed book.
Whoever gets the most votes, from different folks, will win (please don't be one of those people who creates a bunch of identities just to win a book). You can enter as many different heroes as you choose.

TO VOTE, please reply directly to the post you like - not just a general reply, but by clicking the reply link for that particular entry. You can vote for as many heroes as you like. FOR A VOTE TO COUNT, it must say I VOTE FOR YOU at the top of the reply in all caps (this will make it easy to see which ones are votes and which ones which are just comments about the hotness of the heroes). Any votes not cast properly will be discarded.

Voting will be open through 11 PM CDT, October 30, 2012. Get your hottie hero posted soon, so you have lots of time for votes to be cast for him. I'll tally the votes and post the winner no later than the following Friday, November 2nd, at 11 PM CDT.

Here's all the other fun stuff:

Please don't post your entry as 'anonymous', it will make it hard to find you. If there's a tie, we'll have a run off time period of one week (ending 11 PM CDT, November 6th, w/ the winner posted Friday, November 9th by 11 PM CDT) to allow for voting between the top candidates. If for some reason, we get stuck and can't get to a conclusion within that week, I'll enlist three of my CP's to cast votes (anonymously) and choose for us.

Once the winner is chosen, I'll make a reasonable amount of attempts to contact the winner so they can get me their address. If I don't hear back from the winner by November 13th, (or in case of run-off, November 20th), I'll send the book to the runner-up (same contact rules apply). Sorry, but I'll only ship to the contiguous United States.

Don't have a hero to tell us about, not to worry, you can win your own copy of SHATTER ME in paperback by doing a few simple things, using Rafflecopter below. This contest will go through November 6th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 21, 2012


Oh, man! There is nothing like a first kiss. Reading about it is wonderful, writing about it even better. Why? If it's not quite hot enough you can always turn up the heat. I've been tweaking my MS for the hundredth time, and just reworked my MC's first kiss.

Call me crazy, but I wanted to share it. I won't tell you where it happens in the story, because eventually you'll be able to read it once I manage to get this baby pubbed, so I don't want to ruin the story for anyone. I did remove a couple of lines which would have given away which scene it follows.

But, I just love this so much, I want to share. Rate LEXA'S FIRST KISS  from 1 to 5 (1 low-5 high) in the comments below. If you want to share your own first kiss or first kiss scene, feel free! Then there will be several for all of us romantics to enjoy.

Told from LEXA's POV.

I’d embarrassed myself enough for one evening, so I spun on my heel to go. As I stepped away, his hand touched my arm. When I turned back, Gabe stood only inches from me. I tried to step back, but he held just tight enough to stop me.

He whispered, “Wait.”

My tongue was thick, stopping me from saying a word. The speed of my pulse and the waves of adrenaline washing over me were confusing. His eyes said he was uncertain as they focused on me. I managed to get my brain in gear and tried to pull back again. He snaked his other arm around my waist, pulling me up so we were chest to chest, hip to hip.

“I-I.” Something pressed into my belly. Reality set in and my eyes went wide. Shit. He’s gonna kiss me. I trembled, sure he knew it.

He lowered his head to mine, running his hand up my arm to the back of my head, cupping it gently. Closing his eyes,  he ever so gently brushed his lips across mine. The world tilted and my heart stopped. I was plunged into darkness, when his mouth brushed back the other direction.

There were a million butterflies. No. Birds. Huge frickin’ birds, trying to escape the pit of my stomach. My heart gave a beat, then one more, struggling to life again. I stood statue still. I couldn’t have moved if I’d wanted to. A gentle bit of pressure as he took my bottom lip between his, nibbling tenderly. His tongue traced the seam of my mouth. Soft. Excruciating.

I sighed. When my lips parted he darted in, then back out. Chocolate. Every thought in my head jumped ship, leaving only his lips on mine, his tongue exploring gently, my insides liquefying, while tingles danced up my back.

He nipped my bottom lip again, and a thought presented itself. Do something to participate in your first kiss, idiot. Just then he pulled back and set me away from him. My surprise that the kiss ended so quickly was almost as great as my shock that he’d kissed me in the first place.

“Now, you don’t have to worry ‘bout that first kiss. It’s done.”

So that's it. Lexa's very first kiss.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Notes To My CP About Her MS

It's been a few days since I've posted anything, mostly because I've been busy working on two of my CP's MSs and trying to get my own MS's synopsis nailed down. Well, I finished one of my CP's MS today and sent it off. She came back and asked me for my general thoughts on her MS.

Okay, here's the thing. I LIKE my new CP, she's really nice and there's just no way in hell I'd ever want to hurt her feelings. But... yes, there is always a 'but'... I pride myself on being the kind of person who can be counted on to tell the truth, even when the truth isn't what someone wants to hear. So if you don't really want to know if that dress makes your ass look big, for Heaven's sake, don't ask me; ask someone who you can count on to lie to you!

Since this particular CP just so happens to be crit'ing my MS right about now, I certainly don't want her to think I was being overly critical or anything about hers, because I don't want that to color the way she sees my own work. However, I DO want her to be honest with me, because if she's not, then what the hell's the point anyway? I mean, she could be really sweet and blow smoke up my ass and tell me how awesome my MS is and I'd feel fantastic.

That is, I'd feel fantastic until I start getting rejection letters out the wazoo (not for my query, but for my MS). If she's just really nice to me, it won't help me make my MS the best it can be before I send it out to agents who will  *x-ing fingers* be requesting fulls, once they read my soon to be perfect query *again, x-ing fingers*.

So, even though my notes to my CP may seem nitpicky at first blush, I find I hope she's just as 'nitpicky' with my MS. Because it's through that process I'll be able to hone my MS to a sharpness which will spear the attention and interest of agents around the world *grand applause*, or at least get someone's attention somewhere.

After tap-tap-tapping out my email to her, I had the brilliant thought (okay, maybe I'm the only one who thinks it's brilliant) 'others may benefit from my notes to her.' Because I know for a fact many of the things I noted about her MS are things one of my other CPs noted to me about my own MS and surely there are others out there who might also have some of these issues with their MSs.

So, since you've read this far, you may as well read on. The following is the redacted version of the email I sent my CP just a few minutes ago. I redacted it because it's not my place to blab details of her novel.

Keep in mind, this was the answer to her request for "any general thoughts? Did you like it? think it was so so? Parts to elaborate on? Characters?"

Hey CP,

Overall I like your plot. I like your characters too.

I think you could probably cut the conversations with CHARACTER WHO REALLY ISN'T CENTRAL TO THE PLOT, I think they slow things down and aren't really necessary to the plot, I know you added them to give us another demension to YOUR MC, but I don't think they help anything. If they hammered out some details about what was happening that would be different, but that's just  my opinion.

And even having read the end of the story, I still think you should remove the lecture by the biology teacher, just say YOUR MC remembers what she learned about IMPORTANT DETAILS ABOUT HUMAN ANATOMY in class, for teens this WILL suffice, I think I can safely guarantee it. I asked my 17 y/o and she agrees with me.

General thoughts: Hmmm... I told you I'd be really honest, but sometimes that's hard to do without sounding harsh, but I'll just be honest and hope you take it as I mean it and not as me being mean... especially since I'm really looking forward to hearing  your thoughts on my MS.... *smiles shyly*

I do think the MS could be tightened up. Here's why:

There are lots of filters ( )and a lot of telling not showing ( ). Filters take your reader away from being in the moment; you want them to feel they are right there in the action.

I think there are a lot of words you don't need, in other words, your MS has some flab which could be trimmed. I did some of this with my edits, but there are probably still more. (  & ) Keep in mind, at the end of my first draft my MS word count was 175k, I trimmed it down to 94k... that was A WHOLE LOTTA FAT!

Something I did with my MS was do a search through the MS on some of the words you may want to remove, 'weasel words' (  & ). Words like:
check the links listed above for others.

Some other things I tried to do with my MS, even though I'm sure I didn't do it completely, was to remove weak verbs ( ) and tried to keep from using too many passive verbs ( ).

You have a lot of dialogue tags, which I think could and should be changed to either simply use 'asked' and 'said', or 'ask' and 'say' in your case, the rest I think could be changed to action tags and eliminate all, or at least most of, the 'other words for said and asked' ( & ).

Some of the MS seemed a little stiff or formal for the story to be told from a teen's view. Something that may help with that is to read it aloud to yourself, if it seems awkward when you say it out loud, it probably seems that way to the reader as well. I did this ALLOOTTT with mine, and yet, still may have some places where it doesn't flow as well as I'd like it to.

I tried to make notes on some of the areas where I saw these things.

I did notice, after the first half it moved a lot quicker and was easier to be pulled in. Probably because you worked on that a little more before I got to it, so it was tighter already.

The pacing seemed all right overall. But you may want to check this out, and see for yourself if it's what you were going for ( ).

Okay, I know... that's a ton (but if you look at it, most of the text above is comprised of the links I added) :)

I know I told you this early on, but the reason I added the links was because I want you to go check them out, take time to read them over and look at your MS with these ideas in mind. Plus, this way you know WHY I'm saying what I'm saying... it certainly isn't because I'm the be all end all on wisdom in writing, in fact, the opposite is true. I found these really helpful and hopefully you will, too.

Now that I've given you my utterly unpolished honest opinions, please keep in mind: they are just that... my opinions. You can choose to use or discard any or all of them, and that's perfectly all right!
I think you've got the start of an amazing novel; it just needs a little more polish and shine.

Please don't hate me... I hope we're still friends and CPs.

You are awesome, don't forget that, and I really DO like your book,  even though with all the comments above you may think I'm overly critical, which is not at all what I'm trying to be.

I hope this helps you and doesn't discourage you. I DON'T WANT you to be discouraged. I want to ENCOURAGE you and EMPOWER you to make your novel the best it can be.

Take care, my friend,

So that's it folks, my notes to my CP on my general thoughts about her MS. I know there are a butt load of links, but if you can find the time to visit those links, I know you and your writing will be better for it.

Leave comments below and let me know what you think. Is there anything you find yourself saying or hearing from your own CPs which might benefit others to hear? Just as little FYI, I did let her know I was going to post these notes :). Have a fantastic week.