Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Writing on Wednesdays: Switching Up the POV

So, I've been working on this Chapter Book. I love it. It's fun, and the heroine is quirky and a bit sassy and super-smart, and I'm really enjoying spending time in her head.

Even better is that my crit partners like it. They like her, they like the premise, and they've been giving me awesome feedback that's helping me make it even stronger. The best feedback wasn't really feedback at all. It was a question.

If you are a CP for someone, I hope you aren't just telling them how to rewrite sections. I hope you're asking them questions about their manuscript. Because the biggest question that my CPs asked me - why does the MC want what she wants - led to the biggest change. I'm rewriting my entire manuscript in third person, instead of in first person the way it started.

Making this shift in mindset actually taught me a lot about my character: it taught me how her mind works, what her fears are, how she operates. And it also taught me a lot about her family and friends, and how they operate. I've thrown out the entire first half of my book and replaced it with something different, something closer to my vision of what I want this book to be. I think it's a stronger book now, and even if I go back and rewrite it again in first person, I'll still have this new knowledge and these new scenes.

So, when in doubt, try switching up your POV a little. You never know where it might lead you.

Also: go HERE  and HERE for a chance to win free books, from me to you.

Monday, August 29, 2011


FIRST: Have you entered to win a signed copy of FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater? Go HERE to do that.

So, for those of you who don't know, Marvelous Middle Grade Monday ( aka MMGM) was started by Shannon Whitney Messenger, writer and blogger and WriteOnCon organizer extraordinaire, because she thought that middle grade books deserved a little more attention on the interwebz. And I agree!

So this week, I'm spotlighting a book that I really liked, and that my 8-year-old son (who reads up, so don't go thinking that this is a chapter book) LOVED.

JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, by Nathan Bransford, is a tale of three kids who trade a corn dog for a spaceship and accidentally break the universe. Here's the jacket copy: "Jacob Wonderbar has had a weird day. First there was that incident with the substitute teacher and the sprinklers. (Okay, maybe that wasn't so unusual for Jacob.) Then he and his best friends, Sarah and Dexter, discovered a silver man and a spaceship in the woods near their houses. Weirdest of all? The man offered to trade his ship for a corn dog! It sounded like a pretty good deal to Jacob, until he and his friends took their new ship for a test ride...and accidentally broke the universe. Now they must fend off space pirates, escape a planet that smells like burp breath - and find a way back home, before it's too late for them and their friendship.

The first book in debut author Nathan Bransford's hilarious planet-hopping series proves that all good adventures really do start with a corn dog."

I really liked this book. The action moves along at a good pace and the characters are well-done. I loved that Sarah Daisy's desire to appear as strong as the guys is actually as much of a flaw as a strength, and Jacob and Dexter both proved to be less caricature and more character, which was a real plus. The adventures they found themselves on were hilarious, as were many of the side characters, including but not limited to the villainous mischief-maker Mick Cracken. Additionally, this book shows that Bransford has honed an almost impeccable sense of comedic timing, which pops up throughout the book to great effect (as my son's giggling and guffawing proved). Finally, I really, really liked the way Bransford handled the best-friend-crush issues between two of the characters. Twelve years old is a time when kids start to feel extra-fond of their BFF but don't really know why, and I think Bransford navigated that murky territory extremely well here. He didn't ignore it, but he didn't make a huge deal out of it either, and I think he did a great job with that aspect of the storytelling.

Basically, if you have a kid between the ages of 8 and 12, this book is a really good bet.

And I'm giving away a copy to one lucky follower in the US or Canada!

To win, here's what you have to do:

  • Follow this blog. (Old followers +2, New followers +1)
  • Comment on this post. (+1)
  • OPTIONAL FOR EXTRA ENTRIES: MyFacePlusSpace, with links in the comments, for +3 per link; Tweet it, with links in the comments, for +1 per tweet (up to +5); dedicate a blog post to it, with link in the comments, for +3; Put it in your blog sidebar, with link in the comments, for +5
That's it! Contest will close on FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, AT 11:59pm PST (that's 2:59AM on Saturday for East-Coasters).

This book rocks, guys, so spread the word!

And for more Marvelous Middle Grade, check out Shannon's blog HERE for her post and links to other MMGM bloggers!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater - AND A GIVEAWAY!

I promised you on Monday that I'd do this post on Wednesday.

Then my dad arrived from out of town.

And I forgot.


Sorry guys! In an attempt to sort-of honor my promise, I'll include the 5 people who commented on yesterday's post in the list of entries for this prize. Which is awesome, by the way!

So, I went to Indigo Yorkdale (that's in Toronto) to meet Maggie Stiefvater, and it was amazing. I made new friends, I got to chat with some pretty cool people, and we all gazed with wonder at the sharpied guitar, which was covered with Maggie's incredible artwork.

The Sharpied Guitar

And then, of course, there was Maggie. She was incredibly nice and very funny. And she had some awesome wolf stories!

Maggie = Awesome

And then, of course, there was Tessa Gratton, Maggie's best friend and partner in critiquing amazingness, who I had a lovely chat with about her own book and who told me that I have princess hair, which made me feel all happy inside.

Tessa and Me. With Princess Hair.

And, of course, there was the signing. DID I MENTION THE SIGNING? By Maggie? Of books?


I also have swag for one lucky runner-up. (bookmarks, keyring, etc.)

In case you don't know anything about FOREVER, here's the blurbie from Amazon: "In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. In Linger, they fought to be together. Now, in Forever, the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.

The thrilling conclusion to #1 bestselling Shiver trilogy from Maggie Stievater."

I really loved this book. I love Maggie's lyrical storytelling style, and I found the characterization to be even stronger than in the previous two novels. Each character felt very real to me, and I am so impressed when an author manages to do that across the board with all of her characters.

I also loved the ending - which i can't tell you about, except to say that it wraps things up while still leaving the story open at the same time. It feels like a very satisfactory ending, but it's also clear that life for these people is going to continue, and not everything is certain, and that is okay. These are my favorite types of endings - this part of the story is over, but there will be more to come, and we will never know about it, and this is okay! Because this is the way life really is. Awesomeness.

It's an amazing book. I still want to move into it; just pack up my clothes and go live in the bookstore in Mercy Falls with Sam and Grace and everyone else. I loved it.

SO, you want to win this, right?

Here's what you have to do:
  • Follow THIS BLOG. (+2 for old followers, +1 for new)
  • Leave a comment on THIS HERE POST RIGHT HERE. (+1)
  • FOR EXTRA ENTRIES: MyFaceSpacePlusThingamy this post for +3 points, if you leave a link in the comments; Tweet it for +1 per tweet, up to 5 tweets, if you leave me the links in the comments; Put it in your blog sidebar for +5, if you leave me a link to your blog in the comments.

Happy entering, guys, and good luck to everyone!

*Edited to add PICTURES!!! Thanks to my friend Michele for sending them to me! You rock, Michele!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

To Jot, or Not to Jot?

When I started writing for publication, I decided to keep an idea notebook. I didn't have any real reason for this, other than that I had heard that it was a good idea and was something that "serious writers" did, and I was going to be a "serious writer," so I obviously needed one.

The cool thing is that once I started carrying around a notebook for my thoughts and ideas, I found it to be really helpful. I lost so many flashes of insight in the past, because by the time I got around to writing them down, the minutiae of life had shoved them aside. But I know not everyone does this, and I'm curious about you guys.

I have a small booklet in my purse that I jot things down on, and a journal that I keep next to my bed for recording my dreams or any other thoughts that occur to me while I'm at home.

How about you? Do you jot, or not?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Feel the Fear and Write It Anyway

First, I owe you guys a winner announcement for a copy of Jay Asher's THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. I wish I had a copy for everyone, because this is such a fabulous book, but sadly, I don't. So, by random drawing, the winner is:


*throws cyber-streamers*

So, check your email, Antje! I'll get your book to you as soon as you get me your address.

And now I want to open up to you guys a little bit. 

It took me a really long time to decide to write for publication. I always enjoyed writing, and I always enjoyed telling stories, and you all know how much I love books. But whenever I thought of someone else reading what I had written, my words sounded hokey and stupid to my own ears, and I got so self-conscious about it that I'd scratch it all out or erase it or throw it away. Even now, I don't always feel as if what I'm writing is "me" - I follow the rules, and I work on my craft, and I've definitely been improving, and these are all good things.

BUT: I've been using the "rules" as a way of hiding my own true style, not because there's anything wrong with my style necessarily, but because when I write the way that comes naturally to me, I feel pretentious and stupid and I worry that everyone will hate it. And that's not good at all.

I've just finished reading Maggie Stiefvater's SHIVER trilogy. I re-read SHIVER and LINGER and read FOREVER all in one weekend. (Hubbles had to do a bit more of the housework than usual. It made him a little crazy. This is understandable.) And the biggest takeaway for me as a writer was that her writing is so lyrical and poetic and UN-self-conscious, and that is the way I want my writing to be. Not lyrical in the same way or poetic in the same way, but un-self-conscious and simply "me".

So, I'm working on incorporating that principle into my work. I'm practicing the act of writing without judgement, beyond the question of "Does this tell the story the way that it needs to be told?" It's scary, but I'm trying it anyway.

And come back Wednesday for my review of FOREVER, the third and final installment of the SHIVER trilogy, where I'll be giving away a brand new SIGNED copy! (Are you excited? Because I am SUPER excited.)

Are you self-conscious about your voice in your written work? What book or books have you read that seemed utterly UN-self-conscious?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tidbits From WriteOnCon: On Being a Happy Writer

FIRST: Go HERE to enter a copy of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher! And spread the word, 'cuz this is an amazing, amazing book. I'd give it to everybody if I could.

The WriteOnCon! It was fabuloso! With editors! And agents! And authors! And prizes! And armadillos!

One of my favorite posts was by Viking editor Kendra Levin, who posted on the writing/life balance. She talked about how, as writers, we need to do three things:

ONE: Set goals. Not just grand career goals, but smaller, achievable, weekly goals, as well.

TWO: Make sacrifices. In order to achieve our weekly goal, we must sacrifice something. You all know this by now.

THREE: Give ourselves a weekly gift. One that will feed us as people, and that will also make our writing life easier.

So, my three things for this week (before bedtime on Saturday) are:

ONE: Rewrite the first chapter of my chapter book. I thought it was done, but there was a problem that was nagging at me, and Tuesday morning I figured out how to fix it - unfortunately, the way to fix it is to throw out the first four chapters and do them over in a new way, with new scenes and a different beginning. I want to have the first chapter done by Saturday.

TWO: No internet. This post, a tweet to spread the word about this post, and that's it until I achieve my goal.

THREE: I initially chose a frap for my gift, but now I think a walk through the park would be a better idea. I can take my kids, and I always get good writing-thinking done on walks through the park.

How about you? What will your three things be this week? How about next week?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Best O' Fluck

I'm not the greatest typist. I've never taken a class, and I just kind of get faster and better the more often I do it, which these days is pretty often. I'm still no speed demon, but I'm well past the one-finger-typist stage. However, I'm not immune to typos.

One typo that I seem to make over and over again happens at the end of my critique emails, when, instead of typing "Best of Luck," I keep accidentally typing "Best o fluck." And the more I do it, the MORE I DO IT. It's like the typo that won't die.

So, I finally decided to look up "fluck." And you know what?

It's a new word!* How awesome is that?

In light of this discovery, I am going to embrace my persistently typo-ridden signature. I'm going to define "fluck" as that wonderful type of luck that is part fluke, part luck, and part hard work. It is the awesome of luck: freaking luck. Freaking lucky people will be called "flucky."

Fluck: it's like luck, but better. And Irish sounding.

And to all you writers and actors and creative people out there,

I wish you the best o' fluck.

*At least, according to the Oxford English Dictionary,, and, it is. And that's good enough for me.

P.S. Hey! Have you read Jay Asher's THIRTEEN REASONS WHY yet? GO HERE to win a copy!

P.P.S. DUDE! It's WriteOnCon week! So I'm going to be busy being not-here, okay? Come find me at WOC! See you there!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Favorites: Book Trailers!

I have an admission, and it's one that might offend a lot of you, so please try not to hate me, but...

I'm not really fond of book trailers. I find most of them to be klunky and amateurish and full of bad acting or weird lighting or generally non-professional-looking stuff.

(I majored in film and theatre. I'm a little snobbish about total amateurs basically making an ad. It's a character flaw. Try to forgive me, okay?)


Thanks to Cat Gerlach, whose blog can be found HERE, I have found a winner!

This is suspenseful. It is professionally done, in every way: acting, script, lighting, editing, music, etc. And I AM DYING TO READ THE BOOK NOW.

This is the standard to which we should hold ourselves when creating book trailers, people. Behold: the trailer for MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN.

So creepy!

Don't you all want to run out and get it now?!? I know I do!

SO, you tell me, since I typically don't seek out book trailers: what good ones have you seen lately? What else have I missed?

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Hey there! Do you write funny? Have you got a funny scene of 350 words or less in your WIP? Can you whip one up in a matter of minutes (or even hours)?


You're in luck, because Uber-blogger and MG-Writer Extraordinaire Nathan Bransford is hosting a JACOB WONDERBAR Funny Writing Contest Spectacular Happening Event over on his blog, which you can find HERE. HURRY! It closes at 6PM PST today! And if you scroll down to the 186th comment, you can read my entry! Or, you can just read it below:

Bartholomew Ophelia Treebottom IV was bored. He swung his legs, heels banging in time with the bonging of the clock tower. Bored...Bored...Bored...

Tuesday was always a boring day. It was the day his parents reserved for their weekly trip to the taxidermist’s shop. His father was a world-renowned specialist in stuffed dead tarantulas, and was always on the lookout for a new specimen. His mother accompanied him, because the taxidermist’s wife made excellent omelettes. Bartholomew never went; dead tarantulas were boring.

Just then his neighbor Mandy tripped by, her eyes gleaming. “I’m breaking into the haunted Whaley House.” She cocked her head. “Want to come?”

Bartholomew considered. Haunted houses never really were. They were always just full of old junk. And dust. Dust made him sneeze. Bartholomew hopped down. “Alright, then.”

The door was locked, but the window opened easily, so they clambered in. It reeked of rot, and Bartholomew gagged. The room was covered in an inch-thick layer of dust, and stringy cobwebs stretched from corner to corner. His father would have loved to see the spider that had woven those webs. Bartholomew reached out to touch one, when a loud moan rolled down from upstairs.

Surprised, he fell forward, grabbing at the web - which was much more rope-like than he had expected - and bringing it, and a nearby lamp, crashing down. The lamp snagged on the curtains, which tore from their rod and landed with a whump upon Bartholomew, setting off a sneezing fit as he flailed about in a frantic attempt to free himself. Mandy screamed. Bartholomew jerked his head free just in time to see Mandy, covered in fake cobwebs and stuffed tarantulas, careening backwards into and over the side of an overstuffed armchair, upsetting a basket of something that, Bartholomew belatedly realized, looked like eggs. Peals of cackling laughter drifted in from the hallway.

As he sat, rumpled curtains hanging from his shoulders, rotten egg dripping down his forehead and off his chin, it occurred to Bartholomew that his parents, and Tuesdays, were not as boring as he had thought.

Also, don't forget to enter to win a copy of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, by Jay Asher, HERE.

Happy Thursday!

Monday, August 8, 2011


I'm going to take a break from the usual blogging schedule this month. It's summer, my kids need attention, my WiP needs attention, and I figured we'd all benefit from switching things up a bit. Besides, half of you are going to be on vacation some time this month anyway, right?

SO - contests today!

First up is Gabriella Lessa's contest, in which entrants post their 30-word pitch and first paragraph in order to win critiques from one of four editors at Sourcebooks, who will also be judging the contest. Yeah, that's right - your pitch and first paragraph read and judged by an editor at a closed house. This is a golden opportunity, guys, so go HERE to enter.

And now, I'm hosting a giveaway of my own, for a very special book.

A while back, I won a copy of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, by Jay Asher, from Shannon Whitney Mesenger. It took me a while to get down to it, because I'd heard that it was pretty much a read-it-in-one-sitting thing, and I wanted to make sure I had enough time to at least get thoroughly into it, rather than sneak a page in here and there.

I had heard right.

Even though I ended up not being able to read this in one sitting because of demands from my kids and needing to sleep and write and things like that, I read it pretty much constantly until I had finished it - I snuck in pages while I was cooking, I read it curled up on the sofa when I should have been critiquing or revising, I read it on the bus... I could not put this book down, and when I absolutely had to put it down, I could not stop thinking about it.

And when I finished reading it, I could not stop thinking about its implications for me and my own life.

THIRTEEN REASONS WHY goes beyond the descriptions of it as original and fresh. This is an incredible, moving, thought-provoking, life-changing book. It will make you re-evaluate how you behave, how you speak to and about others, and how you go about living your life. And it might even change the way you think. This is a really, really important book.

So, I'm going to give away an unopened, unread, hardcover copy to one lucky blog reader.


  • Follow this blog. Not my Twitter account, not my Google+ account (although those are good, too). This blog. All followers get +1 for this.
  • Comment on this post. Another +1.
That's it! Simple giveaway, simple rules. If you spread the word this time, there won't be any extra entries, but there will be virtual pie and hearts forever from me. :-) And since it's only the one book, this one is OPEN INTERNATIONALLY! Woo-hoo!

The giveaway closes NEXT FRIDAY, AUGUST 19th, at MIDNIGHT WEST-COAST (that's PST) TIME, to give my followers over there a chance to get their last-minute comments in.

And... Begin.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Favorites: The Dixie Chicks

I've been listening to a lot of music lately, and one of the songs that's been in my head a lot, and thus in my CD player a lot, is "Not Ready To Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks.

I like a wide range of music, from crooners like Frank Sinatra and Matt Dusk and Michael Buble to Folksy singers like Paul Simon and James Taylor to country singers like Willie Nelson and Garth Brooks to classical, like Mozart, and Baroque, like Vivaldi, to 80's pop like WHAM! I listen to David Bowie and Culture Club and Peggy Lee and Bad Religion all in one shot. I like music.

But I LOVE music that says something, that isn't afraid to stand up and say, "This is how I am, and this is what I believe, and I won't apologize for that."

What music have you been listening to lately?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wisdom on Wednesdays: Read Up

We writers hear a lot about reading widely. We're supposed to read a lot of our genre, but also a lot of everything else. We're supposed to read great stuff, mediocre stuff, and not-so-mediocre stuff. We're supposed to read literary and commercial.

Read, read, read.

Well, I'm not arguing with that.

But I'm here today to make the case for reading up more often than anything else. And by that, I mean read the books that are so well-written, they leave your ego in tatters. Read books that are so amazing, they make you want to slip inside them and live among their post-apocalyptic pages. Read books that, in one way or another, are so far beyond what you are writing that you have to stop yourself from actually screaming with the knowledge of it.

Because if you're like me, noting forces you to up your game more than the realization that you haven't broken through the ceiling of what is possible yet. Read books that show you where the ceiling really is.

Read up.

I've been reading books by John Green and Tahereh Mafi. What have you been reading?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Writing Craft: Voice, and WINNER!

FIRST: I was up late into the night counting and adding and clicking and compiling the entries for my 200 Follower Lauren Oliver Giveaway, and wow, guys! The entries! You blew me away with your enthusiasm. You guys are awesome, and I really wish I could have given something to all of you. But, there can only be one winner, and according to RANDOM .ORG, that winner is:


Yay! *tosses confetti and streamers*

So, Ari, check your email, okay? I want to get these books to you!

NOW: Writing craft. I've been reading a lot lately, and one thing that's been jumping out at me in a make-or-break sort of way is VOICE. We keep hearing that having a distinct voice is essential, but what does that mean? And more importantly, how do we do it?

Well, I think the most important thing we can do is make sure our character is well-thought out and fully realized. What personality type does this character have? Is she tough-as-nails, or sweet as cotton candy? Does he hold the door for his mother, or stride on through without looking back? Is he the quintessential nerd? Is she in love with her guy, or in love with love? Who are these people?

What is the framework within which their thoughts are built? (AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by John Green is an excellent example of having a well-developed mental framework for each character.) And how will they react emotionally to this situation that they're in? The answers to these questions, more than anything, will dictate their voice, and getting that right can really make your book sing.

And of course, having a distinct way of writing, a distinct cadence, is part of it, too. Garrison Keillor's work is the perfect example of this. Other examples are Roald Dahl (you know a Roald Dahl book by the end of the first page), Dr. Seuss, and Bill Bryson, travel writer extraordinaire.

But then there's the "break" part. I've come across a handful of books in the past couple of months that just haven't resonated with me. The voice was distinct, the background was there... But it just didn't feel right. Most of the time, the character was being snarky in a moment that didn't seem to call for it. I'm not against snarky teens, but there doesn't need to be a comment on every page or at the end of every scene for a reader to get it. Over a whole book, it gets to be too much, and it loses impact.

I wish I had a formula, but I don't. These are just some things to think about. How about you? What book have you read lately that had an outstanding voice? What made it so amazing?