Monday, December 30, 2013

DEFY-An Interview with Sara B. Larson

Me 'n' Sara at a Writers' Conference
I'm absolutely delighted to have author Sara B. Larson here on my blog today. Sara is not only a very dear friend of mine, she's also the author of Defy, which debuts on January 7th, though I've learned it's already in the wild at Barnes & Nobles stores. Run!

Defy is a very special book to me. I beta read it over a year ago and fell madly in love with everything about it. Okay, that's a HUGE understatement. I told Sara back then that next to Shadow & Bone (I have to be honest), Defy is my favorite book--and I still stand by that. So I've felt like sort of a "Defy champion" throughout the journey of her querying it, obtaining a fantastic agent because of it, and ultimately selling it--all of which happened very quickly because this book is AMAZING!

Sara showed me an advanced reader copy a few weeks ago, and I was deeply touched to see she'd written a whole paragraph to me in her acknowledgements. WOW. Being in someone's acknowledgements at all is a first for me, so seeing that was totally surreal.

Anyway, Sara was sweet enough to let me interview her. (This even got approved by her publicist. I feel so cool.) I tried to ask Sara questions that would capture the magic of Defy and induce everyone out there that they MUST BUY THIS BOOK NOW! Then we can all swoon and gasp and huzzah (what a great word; I had to throw it in there) together! So here we go...

You’ve been writing for many years and have written many wonderful stories. What sets DEFY apart from the others? Why do you think it’s the book that finally sold?

Sara: I’m not 100% sure, to be honest. I’ve loved all of my books and felt confident in each one. But I did feel like something was special with DEFY. I felt like I’d taken all the feedback I’d received on my other books and tried to apply it to this one as I wrote it. I tried to make sure to keep the pace up, to keep the reader guessing, to amp up the stakes and to be true to my characters. This book came from a place of deep emotion, and hopefully that shined through. Maybe that’s what made the difference. When I wrote the ending, the emotions I felt were nearly overwhelming. Not only from the actual ending (which brought me to tears and had my heart racing with adrenaline), but I also had a very clear impression that this book was different. That was a very powerful moment that I’ll never forget.

Then when I got feedback on it, I started to let myself hope. I had some truly amazing responses to this book (including a certain someone’s who may or may not currently be interviewing me…), and that’s what helped give me the courage to query DEFY (because I was pretty nervous to do it). And I’m SO incredibly grateful I did.

Can you describe your writing process, especially with DEFY?

I usually get an idea and start writing it without an outline or anything, although I usually do know the ending. I will write between 10-20k words with a separate document where I write any notes, thoughts, or ideas that come to me for the rest of the book or series as I go. Once I hit that point, I usually write an “outline” of sorts, using my notes and ideas. Basically, it’s more like an informal synopsis, where I just get the main plot out and make sure it’s going to work.

With DEFY, I didn’t know how it was going to end, because when I started, I didn’t know it was going to be a book. I wrote about 8k words, hit a wall, and put it aside to finish a different book. But the characters wouldn’t leave me alone, so I went back to it eventually. After I figured out that a character was keeping a BIG secret from me, the plot clicked into place and the rest of the book flew out in about two weeks!

The road to publication is often long and difficult. What helped you get through that?

The number one reason I made it through it was my husband. His support and belief in me was unwavering, no matter how low I got, no matter how many rejections I racked up. Having someone like that in your corner was invaluable and truly got me through the worst of it. I also have some amazing family and friends who have been there for me, cheering me on, always believing I’d make it and doing what they could to help—be it critiques, long phone calls, emails, or any number of things. And finally, my own stubbornness. My unwillingness to quit. Once I set goals for myself, I just can’t let myself fail. No matter how much I doubt myself, ultimately, I believed in my dreams and I didn’t give up.

Describe your main character, Alexa, with ten adjectives.

Alexa’s pretty complex, so I’ll do my best to convey that in ten words or less:
Determined, strong-willed, vulnerable, kind, loyal, indomitable, protective, dedicated, and fierce.

Describe Prince Damian (swoon!) with ten adjectives.

Damian is probably even more complex than Alexa, ha! But some of their traits do overlap. Let’s see…I may have to cheat just a tad with this one:
Seemingly arrogant, spoiled, and petty, but he’s also very secretive, surprisingly empathetic and guarded.
That’s all I dare say. There’s much more to Damian than immediately meets the eye….

What do you have in common with these two characters, and what about you is very different from them?

Well, I’m definitely very stubborn and determined, which are traits both Damian and Alexa possess. But Alexa and Damian are both much more guarded about themselves (and their secrets) than I am. I tend to be pretty open about my emotions…usually. And there’s the obvious fact that Alexa could totally kick my butt without even breaking a sweat.

Without spoiling anything, what hints can you drop about your favorite scene/moment in DEFY?

Wow, that’s a tough one. So many moments in DEFY were very emotional for me, and have deep meaning, for different reasons. I’m not sure I can pick just one. My top favorites would be too spoilery, but I can think of one scene that was WAAAAY too much fun to write…it involves a tent and Alexa literally being stuck between two hot guys. The awkwardness and tension that arises from the situation was pretty dang fun to explore.

Thanks for having me here today! You were an integral part of my journey with DEFY, and I’ll forever be grateful to you for that!

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Wasn't that great?! I need to do interviews more often. Fun, fun, fun. Want to learn more about Defy? Read on!

Gorgeous cover, right?
A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and heart-racing romance.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Out of Tune

Out of Tune is a fabulous new adult novel written by Michelle Argyle, a very talented author and a dear friend of mine. This book holds a special place in my heart. Michelle told me the story idea before she ever set pen to paper (or hands to keys), and I was lucky enough to read an early draft.

Michelle always writes cleanly and beautifully, but this book blew me away. It's my absolute favorite piece of her writing. I was so drawn in to this story of Maggie, a young woman trying to find her place in the world--whether that's in or out of the shadow of her famous country star parents, whether it's singing with her own out-of-tune voice or writing lyrics for others, or whether it's in the arms of her best friend (and of-and-on-again boyfriend) or her new voice teacher.

I play guitar and sing, and I was amazed at how authentically Michelle captured the feel and art and detailed intricacy of these things. And I'm a huge fan of romance, and this book definitely had me swooning. I'm so proud of Michelle and this story and can't wait for it to be released on December 3rd so everyone else can join in the fun of reading it, too!

On a very cool and special note, Michelle surprised me with copy of the book the other day, and she dedicated it to me! It was a totally surreal moment that made me cry. Thank you, Michelle!

So, without further gushing (because I could do that forever), here's more about Out of Tune, including an awesome book trailer below.


Twenty-year-old Maggie Roads’ parents are legendary in the country music world. She wants nothing more than to follow in their footsteps, but the limelight isn’t reserved for singers who can’t carry a tune, let alone keep a rhythm.

When her parents tell her they’re getting divorced, Maggie decides it’s time to leave home and take her future into her own hands. Moving in with Cole, her best friend and sometimes boyfriend, might not be the best of ideas, but she’s got to start somewhere. Their off-and-on romance gets even more complicated when Maggie crushes on her new voice teacher, Nathan, who unlocks her stunning potential. A sensational music career of her own is finally within reach, but Maggie might need more than perfect pitch to find what she’s really looking for.


Official Release Date: December 3, 2013
Available Formats: all eBook formats and Print
Available Where: Everywhere online books are sold, as well as ordering from bookstores
Publisher: MDA Books
Official Book Page with Links: http://michelledargyle.com/books-2/out-of-tune/

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Steven Moffat on Writing

Sherlock, Steven, & the Doctor
My current obsession is Steven Moffat. He's the screenwriter behind the best mind-blowing episodes of Doctor Who and Sherlock on BBC. His plots are crazy creative, with plenty of twist and turns that you never see coming, but are planted so perfectly. I know without looking at the credits every time that it's a Steven Moffat episode. They're that amazing.

So naturally I had to see what this guy had to say about his writing process. I scoured the Internet for anything I could find. (You're welcome.) Steven doesn't like to delve much (you can tell he's tired of getting asked about advice), and I think he's written for so long, the process is simply intuitive to him. But it is still fun to learn what I can from such a genius. Most of all, I was comforted to learn that behind his master mind, he's an insecure writer like 99% of the rest of us.

General Writing Advice: 

“Write. Write lots. Don’t ask for advice, just write. And read the kind of stuff you want to write, because that’s the only advice that matters. If it’s screenplays, read William Goldman’s - he know EVERYTHING.

“Every writer writes about what they’ve personally been through, just because that’s what’s to hand. I don’t know if it’s an important rule of thumb – you should tell the story that most animates you.”


“Just write. The big break is easy if you’re good enough. I hear people saying, ‘I’m desperate to write – I’ve written this script.’ And I want to say: ‘Why haven’t you written 50 scripts?’... You have to write all the time and not worry so much about going to the right parties or the contacts you have in the business – they’re completely irrelevant. And stop badgering people for advice because there almost is none – If you write a truly brilliant script, it will get on the telly.”

On the Controlled Release of Information:

The controlled release of information – which is more or less what storytelling is – is really, really hard. Especially on Doctor Who, where you do need quite a lot going on, because everything is new. It’s not like you’ve got a big regular cast, or one set that you’re going to see every week. In Doctor Who, you’re lucky if there’s one you see every week! So you need to release quite a lot of information. It’s a whole new world and you have to know what a normal day is like there, so you can twist it.”

“I know that, in the past, Russell has given notes to writers, saying, ‘Tell everyone everything that’s going on, all of the time.’ Broadly speaking, I wouldn’t agree with that to the last heartbeat, but I think that comes from the right place.”

“I think that, right up until the last minute, you’re constantly changing your mind about the release of information in a story. There’s a fine line between mysterious and confusing. And I’ve often drifted over it!”
 
On Writing Villains:

“[V]illains aren’t necessarily evil. But I do think that straightforward evil is actually meaningless. All the evil acts in the history of the world have been committed with a pretty exact and precise agenda: people do what they think is right. You fly a plane into the World Trade Centre because you think it’s a necessary thing to do – not because you think it’s going to improve your day. It’s an insane and evil act – of course it is, it’s appalling – but it’s done to an end. Real evil is just an agenda we don’t understand, and frequently we have to work out what it is.”

Doctor Who stories work particularly well if there’s a good mystery: how does it all fit together? That’s good, because it puts the Doctor at the centre of the story. He’s going to be the man who decodes it, figures it out and pieces it together. If you just have villains who are evil and want to conquer the universe, what does that actually mean? Think what a lot of admin that would be! But if you have villains with complex ideas of their own, then the Doctor is again at the story’s centre. He works out what they want, and what it is that they’re trying to do. And stops it. But it allows him to have a big dramatic moment where he says, ‘This is what’s been going on,’ and looks clever. Him looking clever is important. Whereas a straightforward military threat brings out the least interesting parts of the Doctor. He becomes a bit superfluous.”

“[Y]ou can have the moral debate. But it’s slightly pointless because it then comes down to, ‘I’m better than you. I’m a good man and you’re a bad one!’ It sort of works with the Daleks, but a lot of the time I’m not really sure I care about that. I care about the cleverness of the hero. So the more mystery there is in the story, the more there is for the Doctor to do. He is a kind of Sherlock Holmes character, who makes quick intuitive leaps and is absolutely brilliant.”

On the Importance of Keeping Secrets as a Writer:

“It changes the experience of writing it if I give too much away. Right now, I’ve got an idea for the ending which I’m extremely excited about, but I don’t wanna say it out loud. Not because it would matter if anyone knew about it, but just because saying it out loud might spoil the magic. You might look disappointed. So I need to cling to this idea. In fact, that’s a relevant thing to say about writing. Before, I’ve told people things and they seem underwhelmed, so I’ve lost faith in it from that point on!”

“The most truthful thing I have said in this interview about writing is the importance of these secrets. The magic of Not Telling Anyone Yet. I know Russell thinks that way too – he won’t tell anybody what he’s doing. Because it turns to ashes in your mouth. It almost becomes ordinary.”

On Beginning a New Draft:

“When you have a lot of things to do, sometimes it’s good to write a few pages so you then think, ‘Yes, I can do it.’”

“You think of an idea, then think of all the things you’d like to do with it. ‘Ooh, it’d be creepy if that happened.’... ‘[S]uppose the cliffhanger was like that!’ You can’t fit all these ideas into the story, but you have a lovely period - a golden honeymoon period - where you think you’ll be able to fit all of those in easily. Then you realise you can’t, and you start prioritising to all the cool bits.”

On the Writing Process:

“There isn’t one single script when I’m not, at some point, sick-makingly terrified of my inability to write it. I mean, it’s just hard! I asked Russell, ‘Do you ever wanna stick your head out the window and shout, I don’t know what I’m doing!?’... [E]very time I make a script work, it feels like luck. I don’t think that feeling ever goes away. It really is that hard, and that’s what it’s supposed to be like. The sheer amount of thinking you have to do, to make this work! When I read scripts that are bad, it’s often because they’re just lazy. The writer hasn’t thought things through in the way that I would. There was a quote from John Cleese, around the time he was ruling the world with Fawlty Towers: ‘If I’m any good at writing comedy, it’s because I know how hard it’s supposed to be.’ And that’s it. It’s shockingly difficult and emotionally upsetting!

No one is that self-assured when they’re writing, or that assured about their writing. There’s no experience worse than handing your script in, and waiting.”

“You can go into an empty room with just a desk and a computer without internet, and you’d still lose focus. Because sometimes you’re not ready to write it. You’re not comfortable with what you’re doing and you have to get there.”

No writer truly stays focused, all day, every day.... Two or three hours will pass and I’ll have done nothing: not even had a useful thought!”

“People talk grandly about range, but the truth is that you’re just writing.”


Sources:
http://jasonarnopp.blogspot.com/p/doctor-who.html
http://sherlockology.tumblr.com/post/23501865686/steven-moffat-live-chat
http://guru.bafta.org/steven-moffat-special-award-interview




Monday, November 11, 2013

Another Story Is Written

On Friday, November 8th, I wrote from morning until night. The stars aligned. My children weren't needy. My husband got off work early. He picked up Wendy's for dinner and took care of our kids for the rest of the night. I wove the final 6000 words together of a big tangled web: my young adult time travel murder mystery romance. (If there wasn't such a thing before, there is now.) And I finished my draft!

Up until now, I've written retellings. They always splinter the original myth into something I can call my own, but now I've written something completely original. Consequently, it's stranger than ever--and I absolutely love it!

This story began as a dream. Cliche, I know, but true. Last fall an abandoned carousel in a misty forest slipped into my unconsciousness. That image haunted me. I couldn't put a finger on why it was so disturbing and why I woke up so scared. My writer brain took over and crafted a story around the carousel. Why was it in a forest? What was the mist? Two characters formed almost immediately, as well as the element of time travel. The plot took much longer. (Time travel is a beast.)

After tons of research and months of brainstorming, I finally had a story outlined. In July, I began drafting. And as all my stories go, my characters had to have their say. They threw in wrenches, added subplots, and even made me delete scenes that didn't ring true to them. But, together, we did it.

I've been writing for a few years now. There are so many ups and downs in the process of creating something and the pursuit of publication. But I'll tell you what, nothing beats the feeling of finishing a draft. In that moment, I've defeated so much doubt, I've also traveled the long journey with the characters, and after so many hours, days, weeks, months, we've finally reached the summit and planted our flag. Every new book is another fingerprint I've left on this earth to say I was here, I had something to say, and I did something about it.

Now I can dig into revisions. I'm the weird kind of writer that actually loves this stage. It's my reward!

Last the best of all the game, here's a super excited squeezy hug for my critique partner, Ilima Todd. She birthed her book baby on November 8th, as well. We have twins!

How do you feel when you finish a draft--or complete a marathon or accomplish some other kind of lofty goal? What drives you to keep going?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Becoming Desperate

Me and My Younger Kids in Capital Reef
I just got back from a trip to southern Utah and Capital Reef National Park (thank you, Utah, for reopening your national parks during the government shutdown!). I drove down with my brother, a film student, and we had a long chat about artists striving for big breaks in their careers and how they often lose who they are in a desperate attempt to reach their dreams. I've seen it happen with actors, as well as with writers, and my brother's seen it happen with those trying to break into the film industry.

Making a living as an artist is HARD. I know this. My husband's an actor, and my dad is also a writer. (Speaking of actor husbands and writer wives, check out my friend Michelle Argyle's post about that today.) And trying to become published, get an amazing paid acting role, or a directing gig means HARD WORK and sometimes long hours, days, months, and years without getting a nickel. You do feel desperate at times, but I think it's important not to become desperate. Because desperate people become blinded by that one thing they want, no matter the cost.

They conform to trends, rather than writing the stories their hearts dictate, the stories they wanted to write in the beginning. Their most important relationships fall apart as they work to climb social ladders that will lead them to "better places." Their lives become completely out of balance until it's all or nothing. If they don't get X and X, they are failures.

Desperation is an easy trap to fall into, and for me, the best way to battle against it is to remind myself that there isn't one formula for success. I should have dreams, I should fight for them, but there are other options and back-up plans. If the most amazing editor reads my story and rejects it, the road doesn't dead end there. Other stories are waiting to be written or reworked, other editors can be a better fit. We do have to be open-minded, flexible, willing to revise, revamp, and reimagine. But I like to remember that girl who set out on this journey a few years ago and remind myself of what she wanted, what stories she set out to tell, and why she wanted to tell them. I'm determined not to become anyone else to make a break in this business. I want to be myself and pave my own way, even if it's the road less traveled, or a road no one has traveled at all. My dreams shouldn't be achieved at the cost of selling myself.

This is one blog post I hesitated to write because I don't want to sound self-righteous or condescending. I do have strong opinions on the matter, though, and if anything I write this as a warning to myself, to not lose sight of what's most important in my life. And as much as I love writing and my stories, what I hold most dear is so much bigger and more precious than that. They're standing with me in the picture above. They are my best dream.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

And the Winner of Relic Is...

...Discord, who wants a relic to teleport. I can't help with that, but I can send the best relic of all--the book!

Congrats, Discord! (I've sent you an email.) And thanks to everyone who entered. I loved reading about all your dream relics.

For more information about RELIC or to order a copy for yourself, click here.

And now I'm going to use a relic to get my kids ready and out the door on time to catch the bus. :-)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Would You Like a Relic?

That's right. I'm giving away a Relic! *laughs at my little joke* I found it so funny when I was at The King's English last week and walked up to the counter where stacks of Renee Collin's beautiful new book were waiting for customers in preparation for her signing. My friends and I took turns ordering. "I'd like a Relic." "I'd like two Relics." Maybe I was the only one giggling about this, I don't know.

Anyway, as luck would have it, I won an extra Relic! It's a rare ARC. Let me hear those ooohs and aaahs. And I have a Griffin card to go along with it. You should know that Griffin is a type of magical relic in Renee's awesome alternate western YA fantasy. Griffin relics allow the wielder to manipulate the air around an object so they can move it. Want to more? Win my raffle. Or better yet, buy the book and read it for yourself. (But you should still enter my raffle.)

How do you enter this raffle, you ask? You leave a comment. That's it. I'm easy. If you're feeling extra cool, you can tell me what kind of relic you'd want, if any kind of relic were possible. To spark some ideas, I can tell you some of the relics in Renee's book allow you to breathe underwater or become invisible. EDIT: Please leave your email address in your comment so I know how to reach you. You can write it all cryptic-like so the evil minions of the Internet don't exploit your information (i.e., johnsmith AT gmail DOT com, or whatever).

So let's do this! Have your comment entries in by Tuesday, September 24th, and I'll announce the random winner the next morning. This contest is limited to people in the U.S. Sorry, international folks. I'm poor. Here's a pretty pic of what you will win, followed by more info on Renee's book (she read the first chapter aloud at her party, and WOW), and fun pics from her signing.


After a raging fire consumes her town and kills her parents, Maggie Davis is on her own to protect her younger sister and survive the best she can in the Colorado town of Burning Mesa. In Maggie’s world, the bones of long-extinct magical creatures such as dragons and sirens are mined and traded for their residual magical elements, and harnessing these relics’ powers allows the user to wield fire, turn invisible, or heal even the worst of injuries.

When she proves to have a particular skill at harnessing the relics’ powers, Maggie is whisked away to be trained in the world of relic magic. But when mysterious fires reappear in neighboring towns, Maggie finds she must use her powers to discover who is channeling relic magic for evil before it's too late.


We all have Relics!
Pretty and hilarious Renee
Me 'n' Renee 'n' Relic
Don't ask about the frog puppets.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fangirl Frenzy: Shadow and Bone

It's no secret my favorite book is SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo, so when the paperback was released a while back, I double-back-flipped over a little homage to the fans--an awesome "word drawing" of some of the blogs who reviewed the book. And Purdie Writing was on there! Check it out...

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Coolest fangirl moment of the universe!

So...if you haven't read SHADOW AND BONE, do it! (Here's my spoiler-free review.) The sequel, SIEGE AND STORM, is also awesomesauce. And Leigh Bardugo is one ultra cool and gracious lady.

If you want the latest on all things S&B, check out and like its official Facebook Fan Page.

What is your biggest fangirl (or fanboy) moment?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Signs I'm a YA Writer

At my first writers' conference, my teacher asked us why we wrote for the age of our audience. Many people gave interesting answers that week. My favorite was from another seasoned, published author. She usually writes about 12 to 13-year-olds and for an audience of the same age because, in a way, it's like her looking back and trying to take care of herself then. I wonder if that's why I also write about and for teens. It's definitely got something to do with it. That girl back then needed some taking care of, too. What I do know is I've been observant these past few weeks and found signs that also support why I'm a YA writer. Here are a few.

  1. My wardrobe. I've grown up in some ways, but I still own and wear my leather beret from high school, as well as my U2 Rattle and Hum t-shirt. I finally gave my "Slinky" t-shirt to my teenage daughter. Don't get me wrong; I would've kept it if it still fit.
  2. How I speak. I use "like" more than all my children combined, as well as "lame," "whatever," and even, "hey, girlfriend!" when I speak to my older daughter.
  3. I still love to be spontaneous and sometimes immature. For example, purposefully embarrassing my children. Nothing brings me more pleasure than hearing, "Ughh, Mom!" (But my kids are usually smiling when they do this. A good sign, yes?) Yesterday, my daughter dared me to bop my head around and jam like an idiot while driving with her. She did the same. We were laughing so hard, I was crying.
  4. Music. My tastes have developed a lot, but I still feel that teenager-y deep connection to music, like it defines me, or I seek to find the songs that do. I continue to play the guitar and sing the same folk ballads I did when I was around a campfire with my friends.
  5. My imagination. In high school, I devoted my time to acting on stage, becoming the characters and delving into their backstories and what made them tick. Now I do the same thing, but I create my characters on the page. I bring them to life from scratch. It's still just as exhilarating--even more so!
  6. Discovery of Self. No matter how old I get (I'm 36 now), I still feel that yearning to to know who exactly I am and why I fit or don't fit into this world and why I'm here. It keeps me constantly exploring for more.
  7. Feeling Deeply. I'm pretty sure I'm moodier and more sensitive now than I was as a teen. I cry easier, laugh harder, and feel keenly the pain of others.
I met an almost ninety-year-old woman a couple years ago. She randomly sat next to me at a large event and started chatting away about wanting to read the book I had on my lap. She confessed she loved Twilight and other popular YA books.

When I'm ninety, I want to be that woman.

If you write, what age do you usually write for and why? If you don't write, what age do you think the "inner you" is?

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars

Yes, people, I finally read this lovely book. And it was a wonderful and draining experience for me. This book is about two kids with cancer who fall in love...and so much more. I may have had an emotional breakdown midway through--not while reading it, but in the moments in between. It stirred up some powerful stuff for me.

I've never had cancer or dealt intimately with it, but my husband has Crohn's disease, and for the first seven years of our marriage he was very, very ill. I honestly thought he might die a few times. Once he came very close. He was disabled, in chronic pain, and basically miserable. So I know a bit about disease and being in love with someone so sick. We've had some great years, lately, health-wise, so not to worry. This blog post is not to garner your sympathy. I just found it interesting that I had an emotional relapse of all the pain that is past while reading this book.

I've had lots of thoughts these past few days along the lines of "Wow, my husband and I have been through some Hard Stuff" and "It's not fair we had to go through such Hard Stuff" and "It's a miracle we got through that Hard Stuff" and "When will the repercussions (financial crap) end from this Hard Stuff?" It's like I was going through it all over again. Ah, the power of good books. It's one thing if you feel for the characters and their worlds and their dilemmas; it's quite another when those things transcend into your own life.

My favorite thing about The Fault in Our Stars is that it's not overly sentimental. And it's really not that  depressing. It's actually light and humorous much of the time, which made a book devoted to the subject of cancer and life and death stomachable. I loved Hazel and Augustus's cynicism and frank acceptance of death. I loved the realistic progression of Hazel's falling for Augustus. John Green nailed it.

What books have transcended past the pages for you?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Pics & Advice from LDStorymakers

I'm still recovering from the awesomeness that was LDStorymakers a few days ago. Does one need to recover from awesomeness? Why yes they do. Storymakers is a three-day (if you do the bootcamp on Thursday) writers' conference that is packed from morning till evening with workshops, classes, a keynote speaker, and designated times for mingling (meals, signings, etc.). It's a concentrated splurge of education and networking with other writers. There were about 450 in attendance this year, including top-notch agents and editors from around the country. This conference was important in catapulting my writing career to the next level last year, and it continues to be worthwhile to me. Plus, I got to hang out with so many writer friends! Below are some highlights (writing advice and photos) from the conference.

With my CPs--Robin Hall, Ilima Todd and Emily Prusso

Writing advice from agent Hannah Bowman: Look for the relationship between the internal and external conflict in every scene. If there is no relationship, can you create one?

Adams Lit Agency sisters:
Me, Kimberley Griffiths Little and Sara B. Larson

Writing advice from editor Victoria Curran: What does your character risk in loving someone else? The secret to building romantic tension is why two characters shouldn't be together.

Sara B. Larson, Jacqui Scott, Erin Summerill,
me and Renee Collins

 Writing advice from author Traci Abramson: Make sure the middle book in a trilogy is necessary. Some resolution is critical for a satisfying read and for readers to want more.

Lending our freakish support to Jenn Johannson (top R)
for her soon-to-be released novel, INSOMNIA

Writing advice from author Janette Rallison: A character's goal becomes the story problem (Can Harry defeat Voldemort?). If you don't have a defined goal, it's very hard to have a great climactic moment.

With one of my lovely CPs, Emily R. King

Writing advice from author Anne Perry: A person usually spends two weeks reading a book. Do you want to spend your own time with a character who whines and mopes? A main character needs to have redeeming qualities. They need to show compassion to other people. A little bit of humor also helps a lot. We want to root for characters to overcome and to have hope at the end of a story because we want hope in our own lives.

Me with the phenomenal
and inspirational Anne Perry

More thoughts from author Anne Perry: A book is your letter to mankind. What is the most beautiful image to you? Share those things with people. Share your love, your faith, your doubt. Put your heart on the page, what gives you hope, what hurts you. What lies in your heart is precious. What is priceless to you?

Me with my super cute and fun friend, Jessie Humphries

Writing advice from agent Hannah Bowman: The point of a first chapter is to draw you into a premise. It's like a short story. At the end the conflict is worked out, but a complication is introduced to propel the rest of the story.

Love my friend, Kate Coursey.
We've decided this is our year!

Writing advice from editor Victoria Curran: In 99% of submissions she sees, authors motivate their characters, but don't let them act. Her advice is to let them make mistakes, and then fight to redeem themselves. Your reader will enjoy your story more if the motivations and actions are true--even if your character makes mistakes.

After-conference dinner with a ton of writer friends (L to R):
Nichole Giles, Elana Johnson, Jenn Johannson, Renee Collins,
Sara Raasch, Kate Coursey, Ilima Todd, Jenilyn Collins,
Shalee McArthur, Jennifer Jenkins, Jacqui Scott, David West,
and (not-pictured) Sara B. Larson, who had to leave early.


Writing advice from author Janette Rallison: Conflict is not the same as arguing or random bad things happening. The problem needs to be larger than that. Any conflict that can be cleared up with a two-minute frank conversation between two characters is not real conflict.

This is the face of pure joy.
My CP Emily Prusso joked that she
would quit writing if she didn't win
a door prize. Luckily on the last day
of the conference, she did. A sign! ;-)

Last bit of writing advice from author Anne Perry: We are seeking truth. We want to know who we are. We want to understand. This is why we have always told stories. Good writing is communication. Great writing is relatively simple. We are here [in this life] to learn to empathize with as many people as possible. Reading allows us more of this. Make sure your stories carry the power and passion you want them to. Simplify, cut, expound your stories until they do.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Make Me Believe


Here's a song I wrote back around Christmastime. It's from Isidora's point of view (my main character from The Lovely Invisible). I finished the lyrics a few weeks ago and finally got around to recording it today. And, my, oh, my, did it end up being quite the project! I recorded several versions while my daughter was in preschool, only to discover my camera was making annoying clicking sounds as it recorded (lame, as I just got it a few months ago). So I tried a different camera, but the battery died and I couldn't find the charger. I resorted to using my iPhone, even though the video quality isn't the best. I also bribed my four-year-old with a trip to the dollar store if she promised to keep quiet in the other room while I attempted one more recording. So this isn't perfect, but I'm calling it good enough after the crazy day I've had!

The lyrics are below. :-)

MAKE ME BELIEVE

The darkness is closing in and
I don’t know a foe from a friend
Why can’t they see me for me?

My life was meant for chances
Not caught on false romances
My heart wants so much space to grow

I turn to you
To dreams
To face what I can’t see
To love
To peace
To hope
in you and me
Make me believe

So many look to me and
I don’t know what they see
Is what I have enough to give?

The ones I love are fading
Nothing I do is saving
My fear is ending up alone

I turn to you
To dreams
To face what I can’t see
To love
To peace
To hope
in you and me
Make me believe

The fragile earth is shaking
My marble strength is breaking
No choice is right, but I must choose
The dark night makes me falter
I lie across an altar
Give me one reason left to dream
Make me believe, believe, believe in you and me
Make me believe

Monday, March 11, 2013

Catching Up--In Pictures

We got a new camera for Christmas (a Bloggie, so I can start vlogging--stay tuned!), and I've finally figured out how to upload the photos to my computer (baby steps). So I thought it fitting that I catch the blogiverse up on the big writerly events I've attended in the past few months, along with some addititional bonus pics (yes, I'm including last Halloween because those pics were just too awesome). Thanks to my writer friends for snapping many of these photos. Just because I bring my camera to events, doesn't mean I always use it!

Halloween 2012. Getting attacked by my zombie husband!

Purdies + Halloween = zombie doll, zombie father and son, and a witch

With my friend Michelle Davidson Argyle at her launch party for BONDED in November 2012

Emily R. King's after-Christmas party. Back row L to R: Jennie Bennett, Morgan Shamy, Elana Johnson, Donna Weaver, Peggy Eddleman, Katie Dodge, me, Emily R. King. Front row L to R: Leigh Covington, Erin Summerill, David Powers King

New author pic taken by my friend, Erin Summerill, in December 2012. Still working to redesign my blog w/this.

January 2013: Book club night for BONDED (written by Michelle Davidson Argyle--pictured on the right) at my friend Ilima's house. Our friend, Emily Prusso, was so sad she couldn't make it, hence the paper cutout.

January 2013: Watching the FRINGE finale with my husband and brother and eating Red Vines (in honor of Walter)

January 2013: At a book launch for Brodi Ashton and Cynthia Hand. Hanging here with (back row L to R) Natalie Whipple, me (I hang with myself!), Sara B. Larson, Ilima Todd, Dialma Jensen, and Stacey Ann Ratliff

January 2013: With Brodi Ashton at her launch for EVERBOUND

January 2013: With Cynthia Hand at her launch for BOUNDLESS

February 2013: With Michelle Davidson Argyle and Kasie West at Kasie's launch for PIVOT POINT

February 2013 at Kasie's launch (L to R): Sara B. Larson, me, Michelle Davidson Argyle, and Kate Coursey

February 2013 at LTUE: me, Sara Raasch, Jenn Johannson, Kasie West, Shelly Brown, Sara B. Larson, Peggy Eddleman, and Renee Collins

February 2013: At LTUE with Sara B. Larson (celebrating new agent sisterhood together!)

Blurry, but worth it! Lunch at LTUE (clockwise): Marion Jensen, Chad Morris, Erin Summerill, Jessie Humphries, Tyler Whitesides, Sara B. Larson, Peggy Eddleman, me, Shelly Brown, Jacqui Scott, and Jennifer Eldredge Jenkins

With my CP and friend, Ilima Todd, at Michelle Davidson Argyle's library author visit

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Two Amazing Stories

I always hesitate to talk on my blog about difficulties in my own life (beyond writing), but in light of two recent and incredible examples in the publishing industry, I'm feeling extra brave and extra humble today. Yesterday, I got served foreclosure papers the home my husband and I own in Florida. Through many severe financial struggles over the years, my husband and I have always been able to hold onto one last source of pride: our perfect credit. It hasn't been perfect for a few months now as we've pursued selling our home through a short sale (an option we didn't like, but had to face). And now we're confronted with the very real possibility that our home will go into foreclosure. By the way, a foreclosure on your credit report is even worse than bankruptcy. So, as you can imagine, this morning I've fought feelings of doom and gloom and self-pity. And then I read this uplifting post by my friend, Peggy Eddleman, and I was reminded that ruined credit isn't the end of the world. Not even close. I may be living in my in-laws' basement, but I have my family, and we have our health and strength (something my husband and son haven't always had). Some amazing writers in our community (and their families) don't have that.

Today is the book birthday for Chad Morris's, The Inventor's Secret. Chad isn't able to promote his book right now. He's where he should be, helping his daughter, Maddie, recover from a surgery to remove a brain tumor. Maddie has to wear a packing beneath her nose that looks like a mustache, and Chad's writer friends have started a campaign, "Mustaches for Maddie," to support this sweet girl, her family, and her dad's book launch all at the same time. Every time I see one of those mustaches on Twitter or Facebook, my heart is warmed by the love we writers can extend when our lives and concerns move beyond ourselves.

And then there's Bridget Zinn. I didn't know her story until I read Peggy's blog. Bridget won't be celebrating her book birthday for Poison on March 12th because she passed away from cancer in 2011. But her family and writer friends celebrate for her and her vision to bring laughter and joy into teens' lives through her words.

And to think I felt sorry for myself this morning. I have so much. A wonderful husband. Three beautiful children. Devoted friends. I have the happiness I feel when I write new stories and breathe life into new characters. I also have a loving family who has taken my little family in when we needed help. I'm grateful for what I have, and I'm feeling even more grateful today for the example of Chad Morris (and his writer wife, Shelly Brown) and their more important dream of helping their daughter, Maddie. I'm grateful for Bridget Zinn and the legacy she left. I want to be like her and Chad and Shelly. I've seriously cried my way through writing this blog post. I don't know how to express my gratitude to these writers, except by doing what I can to share my thoughts about them and help them keep paying it forward to writers and people everywhere.

Please celebrate and support these authors, spread the word about them, and buy their books (they look AMAZING)!


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I Have an Agent!


Although I never posted anything on my blog, my friends know I lost my agent last year when she quit the business for personal reasons. I had enough respect for her to trust she was making the right decision for herself, but I'm not going to lie, it was rough. My novel was still on submission with our first round of editors, and the feedback we'd received so far was positive. I felt certain we were close to selling. So when my agent quit without warning, it seemed like all the hard work and momentum I'd been building came to a screeching halt. After a couple days of bleary-eyed staring at the wall, I decided to get over myself and get back to work. My mom reminded me it's those who don't give up who succeed. I dove back into the last stretch of drafting my new novel and started querying my previously agented novel.

I'm going to back up and tell you I got my first agent without querying. When my first novel was polished and ready, I pitched it to her at a writers' conference, and she requested my full manuscript. Within a few days, she enthusiastically offered. I never queried anyone else. So when I queried for the first time after I'd lost my agent, and the interest in my novel wasn't dynamic, I worried. Was I really as talented as I thought? Was it a total fluke that I got an agent in the first place? In the meantime, my husband was still searching for adequate work after being laid off his job at the beginning of summer, and our perfect credit went down the drain as we could no longer afford renting out our home in Florida for less than the mortgage payment. We tried to sell it for what we owed, but no bites; pursuing a short sale was the next best option. My husband, our three children, and I were living in my in-laws' basement for what we'd originally thought would be a few short months, but now it seemed a never-ending prospect.

It took a lot of willpower, perseverance and courage to believe everything would turn out all right. It took a lot of faith to push through finishing my story, to let go of my own reality long enough to get lost in a world of my own imagining--but where my heroine also wrestled with loss of control over many aspects of her life, and where she worked to find creative ways to move forward and not be a victim to circumstance.

Sometimes my strength would crumble. I had my share of sob fests and moments of despair. But I refused to linger in that state of mind. Again and again, I'd pick myself up and get busy writing. At the end of January, I was ready to query my new novel. I took a deep breath and sent it out into the world. And this time I did see dynamic interest. Within a week, my full manuscript was out with several respectable agents. I tried not to get too excited, but I did allow myself to hope. I often hear people say, "Don't have any expectations." I see the logic behind that, but shouldn't we have faith? Shouldn't we believe in ourselves and our work? It's the more painful route when things don't work out, but I still believe we should dream. Sometimes it takes all the bravery in the world to cling to that hope. It often takes every last ounce of faith. It's hard, but I find it--that belief in me and my stories.

Josh Adams
My good friend Sara B. Larson read my manuscript and fell head-over-heels in love with it--so much so that she volunteered to recommend it to her agent, Josh Adams. He was sick with chickenpox (poor guy!), so she waited until he was better to mention me and THE LOVELY INVISIBLE, my YA fantasy, a retelling of the Greek myth, "Cupid & Psyche." Within a few short days, I got an email from him saying he wanted to call about a "possible offer of representation." Cue butterflies of anticipation and random fits of giggling. And then, as luck would have it, I caught a terrible cold and lost my voice. I emailed Josh a picture of myself, asking him to envision what I really looked like when we spoke, and not an 80-year-old smoker. He later told me when he got that email, he busted up laughing and knew right then and there he'd love working with me. He thought it was so "cute" (aww) that I was worried enough about my voice to feel compelled to do that. And telling me that endeared me to him. (He likes my weird personality! I can be myself with him! We're going to get on great!) That's how I felt during our entire phone conversation--so at ease, but also like I was in the hands of a pro, a business-savvy, personable power agent--WHO LOVES MY NOVEL. Does it get any better? Nope.

So, yes, this story has a happy ending. I am ECSTATIC, OVER THE MOON, WISH-I-COULD-SCREAM-IF-I-HAD-A-VOICE HAPPY to announce I'm now represented by the fantastic, one-of-a-kind Josh Adams of Adams Literary. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world and am beyond grateful for the opportunity to partner with someone so amazing for my publishing career.

I believe in good things to come.