Monday, November 5, 2012

What I've Been Up To - Part II

Over the past couple of months, as I've been doing less writing and blogging, I've been focusing my creative energy elsewhere. One of the weird things about pregnancy (at least in my case) has been an inability to sleep enough to not be tired anytime, but an inability to be awake enough to do anything which requires a significant amount of my brain (like writing).

So, I turned my attention to crafts which require only that I focus on what I'm doing and follow instructions rather than requiring the invention of new worlds, character motivations, or plots. What came of that was 1 completely finished and one nearly completed Christmas stocking. The completed stocking is for my (as of yet, unborn) daughter. The second, nearly complete one is for my husband and should be done before Christmas. The third one, the not-yet-started one, is mine.

My original plan was to complete all three before baby is born, but due to some complications, she needs to come early. Which means that I probably won't be able to finish (or even start) the last stocking by Christmas. My first thought upon realizing this: "And so this is how it daughter and husband will always have everything, and I will have nothing."

The words sound a bit bleak though if you don't read them with a hint of sarcasm and a smile. And realize that I was actually thinking of my own Mom when I thought this. Because that's exactly how it was growing up - she made sure that my sister and I had everything, then came her husband, and when we were all taken care of, it was finally her turn. Only, there often wasn't time for her. But somehow, she never seemed to mind. She was just so happy (honestly, genuinely happy, people!) to see everyone else taken care of and happy.
This morning I'm headed to the hospital and, if I'm lucky, I'll get to meet my own daughter by the end of the day. I couldn't be more excited!!!

On that note, I'll be taking a break from the blogosphere, email, and Twitter - no internet in the hospital anyways ;) - so please excuse me if I fail to respond to any messages for awhile. But, I'll be back, probably before you know it. Happy writing everyone and I hope all you NaNoWriMo-ers out there win!!!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Blog Make-Over

This summer, I wrote a blog post suggesting a swap of services - my critiquing/beta-reading services for a new, more personalized blog template - and Kat Brendel was one of the very first to respond :)

And now, thanks to the lovely Kat, my blog has a whole new look! Isn't it wonderful? I'd love to hear what you think about it in the comments.

Personally, I couldn't be happier with the end result - not only am I totally in love with my blog's new look, I also have this warm, fuzzy feeling which is a direct result of the amazing writing/blogging community I am lucky to be a part of. It's a rare thing to find a community where everyone is striving for the same general goal and yet gladly shares their own expertise to help each other. I can only imagine how cold and lonely the road to publication would be if writers fought other writers for publishing contracts.

Anyways, yay for collaboration! :D And thank you all for the amazingly supportive comments you left on my last post - it might sound silly, but guilt I hadn't realized I was carrying was lifted from my shoulders when I read your kind words.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What I've Been Up to - Part 1

I've been completely neglecting this blog and now it's time to finally own up to it. Over the past few months, my priorities have shifted, and blogging took a serious hit. I only wish I'd realized what was happening and let my readers know to expect a break. But I didn't. And I'm sorry!

So now that that's out of the way, I thought I'd share a bit with you about the things I have been doing :)

The biggest, most time-consuming, new addition to my activity list has been this - growing a baby girl!

Being pregnant might not seem like an "activity" or something that requires time, but it is. At least for me. It's meant a huge shift where sleeping enough and eating well are prioritized. Gone are the days of drinking a strong cup of coffee to stay up late and finish that extra chapter or blog post or throwing a frozen pizza into the oven rather than preparing something fresh for dinner in order to maximize writing time. These are the days of afternoon naps and caffeine-free tea. And then there are the doctor's appointments, pregnancy exercise classes, nursery preparation, researching and buying the perfect stroller/car seat/etc., and paperwork to do!

Obviously, writing and blogging are things which need to be prioritized, too, otherwise there would always be an excuse getting in the way, preventing them from happening. And I've seen plenty of writers keep on a regular writing/blogging/interacting on social media schedule through a pregnancy and into their baby's first year without a hitch. I'm in honest awe of these ladies!

For me though, that just hasn't been possible. We're not all built the same way, and I haven't had the energy these amazing writers seem to possess. And since I don't have that energy, it's not worth prioritizing writing or blogging just for the sake of it. At this point in my writing career, I don't have any contractual obligations or deadlines, and so I've allowed writing/blogging to step down a rung on the ladder of priorities. I'll only be pregnant with my daughter once, and I won't stress myself out with self-imposed writing/blogging deadlines just because.

P.s. The baby girl is due on November 23rd - I'm almost there!

What do you think? Is there anything you other writers have let or would let take priority over the writing time you've carved out for yourself? What about the non-writers out there? Is there any particular activity you've worked to prioritize (blogging, crafting, reading, etc.)? Could you ever imagine shifting that priority back down?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cover Reveal: THE CRIMSON HUNT by Victoria H. Smith

You Guys!!! Today I get to share an amazing new cover with you for a NA novel coming out next month. Seriously, this cover is amazing :) Here's the info:

The Crimson Hunt (Eldaen Light Chronicles, #1) by: Victoria H. Smith
Release Date: November 12, 2012
Genre: New Adult Science Fiction Romance

Book Description:

College junior Ariel Richmond is working on year three of Project Normalcy.

Her house reeks of keggers past and her bestie is just a slight bit vulgar. But the thing is—they both aid in making life refreshingly uneventful.

So much for hard-earned mediocrity when Luca Grinaldi appears on the scene.

Luca’s sudden presence on campus is hard to ignore. Those bright eyes act like a beacon to unsuspecting females, and with features like his, he’s got to be moonlighting for GQ. Luca hopelessly captivates Ariel with his confidence and charisma, but the mysteries surrounding him make him nearly untouchable. And just when Ariel grows close enough to unlock his secrets, a tragic event sends her life in a downward spiral.

That steady life is no longer an option and allies quickly become scarce. The mysterious Luca seems to be the only one willing to help her—but with that trust comes the burden of his secrets. He has a dark mission of otherworldly proportions, and is willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes to see it completed.

Gone are the days of simply maintaining normalcy, and if Ariel isn’t cautious with her trust, so soon may be her future.

About the Author:

Victoria H. Smith has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. She puts it to good use writing romance all day. She resides in the Midwest with her Macbook on her lap and a cornfield to her right. She often draws inspiration for her stories from her own life experiences, and the twenty-something characters she writes give her an earful about it.

In her free time, she enjoys extreme couponing, blogging, reading, and sending off a few tweets on Twitter when she can. She writes new adult fiction romance in the sub-genres of science fiction, urban fantasy, and contemporary, but really, anywhere her pen takes her she goes. 

Victoria H. Smith Links: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Back from Summer Vacation!

I've been back for almost a week now, but I still want to share some of my vacation with you! I spent an amazing week on the Turkish coast, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea beneath a Blue Moon...

...sipping non-alcoholic cocktails at the pool, while writing and Beta reading on my laptop...

and watching evening shows put on by the resort staff (like this one where they put on these pretty awesome light suits and danced - kinda made me want to write some sci-fi)

It was a wonderful vacation :) And I am feeling wonderfully refreshed and ready to write!

Did you go on vacation this summer? Are you as ready to settle into the fall season for some good writing time as I am?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

GUTGAA Meet and Greet

Yesterday was the last day of an amazing Turkish vacation and I was busy flying home so I missed the first GUTGAA blog post - yikes! So this is a day late, but better late than never, right? Here goes :)

1) Where do you write?
Everywhere - at home, that is! I have a great writing nook with a desk and a comfy chair, but just as often, I'll set up shop on my couch, in bed, on the balcony, or at the kitchen table.

2) Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
My writing desk is nestled into a corner and closed in on the left by a bookcase full of some of my favorite paperbacks :) Mostly Robert Jordan, Jacqueline Carey, and Terry Goodkind fill most of the shelves.

3) Favorite time to write?
Depends on what I'm writing. If I've already outlined a scene and know exactly what I want to do with it, then late afternoon/evening is my best time to get those words out. If I'm struggling with a scene though and am not yet sure how it's going to turn out, I need my mind to be absolutely fresh so I'll write in the morning (after a few cups of tea to make sure I'm really awake, haha).

4) Drink of choice while writing?
Tea! Earl Grey or Chai Lattes for me. Although, I'll sometimes drink a mocha for afternoon writing sessions.

5) When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
Almost always, complete silence. Sometimes though, I'll listen to specific music before I start writing to get me into the right mood for the scene. And sometimes, I'll listen to movie scores (only on super low volume though) while writing particular scenes - I find it helps with the pacing.

6) What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
There's a street nearby called "Valkyrie Street" and it got me thinking, wondering about how it got the name. My current WiP has nothing to do with the story behind how a street got its name, but the MC is a valkyrie!

7) What's your most valuable writing tip?
Janice Hardy's Blog - She has compiled the most complete set of tips/explanations/examples on writing a novel and I am forever grateful to her for doing it! There's always something new to learn or be reminded of and her timing seems to somehow perfectly match up with my own writing journey :)

That's it! But this is a blog hop, so don't forget to visit all the other amazing blogs participating and meet some new writer buddies :) Here's the List of Participants

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Should Writers Blog about Writing?

In case any of you writers out there don't know about it, WriteOnCon - a free online conference for writers (focused on YA, MG, and PBs) is going on right now!! It's awesome and full of lots of great opportunities to get feedback on queries/first pages from fellow writers/authors AND from ninja agents.

Yesterday, the below vlog on using social media was posted as part of the conference.

And one piece of advice for writers was to blog (yay! doing that already), but to blog about something other than writing (oh...crap). Meredith advised writers to blog about something else they are passionate about.

This advice is something I heard a week or two ago from an agent on Twitter, too and hearing it reconfirmed made me panic a bit. And then, I started to feel a bit upset, overwhelmed even.

I mean, I understand the idea behind the advice - a blog on writing is going to speak to other writers and other writers aren't necessarily going to be a novel's/author's fan base - and I totally appreciate industry professionals actually taking the time to share their knowledge and tips with aspiring authors and writers out there.

It's just, this time, it felt personal - I suppose that's because it pokes a hot iron right into an insecurity of mine. What if I don't have what it takes to be the super writer/blogger/promoter/human being the publishing world seems to expect me to be?

Blog about one of my other passions?! Am I suppose to have time for other things that I'm as passionate about as I am about writing/reading/critiquing/Beta-ing? Because honestly, I would have to give up my day job, my family, my friends, this blog, and all the side hobbies I wouldn't blog about, but which I still enjoy (ex. reading other people's blogs, interacting on Twitter, going to the movies, watching Breaking Bad, snuggling with my cat, baking the occasional pie) to make room for another serious passion. And that is not something I am willing to do.

As soon as I finished freaking out on that level and came to terms with the idea that I am not going to quit blogging about writing, I thought about what this blog means to me and why I feel so strongly about it being a good choice for me.

Being an active part of the writing community already takes up more of my life than I had intended it to - not that I'm upset about that :) And I really can't imagine what this journey would be like without all the writing friends I've made along the way - which I probably wouldn't have been able to do without this blog. So, for me, the benefit of blogging about writing has been so HUGE, I just can't imagine advising fledgling writers to forego the experience. I've learned and grown so much as a writer through blogging about writing - I wonder  where I'd be, and how long it would take to get to where I am now, without it.

So, for me, at this point in my writing journey, I don't feel the need to stop blogging about writing and start blogging about something else. I'm comfortable with my choice, though it may go against current advice from people who know this industry better than I do. And that's because I know ME better than they do - and without all the amazing support of the writing community this blog makes me a part of, who knows if I'd still be writing with the intent to be published one day?

So what about you? What do you think about Meredith's advice? Do you have a writing blog? Or more than one blog?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

To Re-Read or not to Re-Read?

Lately, I've been giving some thought to the idea of re-reading. You see, I just don't have the same amount of free time that I used to have and so I've been having to make more conscious choices about how to use it. I know a lot of people out there don't re-read novels, but I've always been one to do it, and here's why:

1) Pure Entertainment Value - There's always something new to discover in a re-read:
It's not that I don't pay close attention the first time through, it's just that I'm more focused on the big picture. The tension is usually killing me and I'm worried about my favorite characters so I tend to miss the more subtle elements which can really come through in a re-read. If I LOVED a novel, then I'll want to re-read it to catch all the things I might have missed in the initial read.

2) Learning to be a Better Writer:
During the first read-through, if the story is really great, I find myself completely wrapped up in it and unable to focus on the craft. At the end of the read, I'll have an impression of what the author did right - great pacing, high tension, relatable characters - but I won't know specifically how this was achieved. In a read through, I can focus on the craft to really dissect the how and then apply it to my own writing.

3) Getting a new Perspective:
There are books that I've re-read in different stages of life. Maybe there were 2 years between reads, maybe 10, but either way, I understood the story in a whole new way based on the changes that had occurred in my personal life (new experiences, personal growth, etc.). And this, to me, is amazing. I mean, I can't think of any other situation which gives me the opportunity to really see how I've changed or grown over time based on my perspective and understanding of the emotions and actions involved in a story.

4) Language Skills:
I like to re-read books I've read in English in German. Not only does this help me to improve my German and expand my vocabulary, but it also sometimes reveals new insight into the story. Word choice can be so influential in terms of how a scene is understood and a translation choice may add or detract from the story. I find it fascinating to see how my interpretation of a story changes based on the language I read it in.

So, with all these great benefits of re-reading, why wouldn't I re-read? Well, my (virtual) TBR pile is ginormous, and one of the books in there could be the start of something - the one the sparks a great idea, leads me to a new friend, changes my perspective, or teaches me something new about writing! It's the great unknown, and one of those books could end up being a huge waste of time (making me wish I'd gone with a safe re-read), but it could also be something I couldn't imagine living without (after the fact). So, I've got some decisions to make.

What about you? How do you decide what to read next? Do you ever re-read?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday

This Week's Topic:
When you need creative inspiration, where do you go?

Road Trip Song of the Week: "Where'd You Go?- The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Hmm, where would I go would result in a much different answer that where do I got, but I'll stick to topic :)

Usually, it's not necessarily a matter of needing inspiration, but a matter of clearing my mind and allowing seedling thoughts to break through the surface. And the place I most often go to kick-start this process is not that exciting: my bathroom. There's really nothing like a steamy bath or shower to get the creative juices flowing!

The second most common place for inspiration to strike is on my commute to and from work! Every weekday, I find a good window seat and stare out the window for a good, solid hour. And like magic, my most gnarled of plots untangle themselves as I ride. It's fantastic :)

Should both those options fail, then it's time for a writing break - That's when I get back out into the world and experience something: go for a walk, meet up with friends, go to a movie, visit a museum, soak up some sun at an outdoor bar or cafe (especially if it's on the river) - you get the idea :)

So, what about you? Where do you go to get inspired?

Sunday, July 8, 2012


I know I've been totally MIA lately, but there are reasons! And I promise to update you all soon :) In the meantime, I thought I'd share my thoughts on two books (well, one is technically a Novelette) I recently finished reading.

Guardian (Creepy Hollow, #1)Guardian by Rachel Morgan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I downloaded this for free and read it without knowing exactly what to expect. I follow Rachel Morgan's blog so I knew she was a talented writer, but didn't know much about Creepy Hollow. And I have to say - I loved it!

The writing was clean, the plot was fun and engaging, the dialogue witty and real, and I completely connected to her characters. The world-building was seamlessly natural and a unique take on the land of fairies. The only negative thing that can be said about this was that it was too short and I was sorry I didn't already have the next installment downloaded when I came to the end of GUARDIAN - I'll definitely be continuing on with this series and can only recommend it.

Starcrossed (Starcrossed, #1)Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a tough review to write because there was a point in the book where I nearly stopped reading and had to push my way through. The entire middle really dragged for me and felt drawn out - it was obvious where things were going and it felt like the author was delaying to up the word count, imo. I also had a hard time connecting to the style of writing and was bothered by the narrative distance and telling going on. I think this is probably a direct result of not being drawn into the story because if I had been, I wouldn't have been noticing all the smaller, nit-picky things I did notice.

After I pulled through that rocky middle though, the story really took off! The plot had me completely engaged and I either stopped noticing the aspects of the writing style which had previously bothered me, or they disappeared as the author found her groove - I'd have to re-read to be sure. And now, I have a dilemma. You see, I read a version with extended material, and the excerpt from the second book really hooked me. BUT, if I had known about the huge middle portion of the first book, I wouldn't have chosen to read it. I actually wish I'd just read the end of the first book and started right into the second.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Moa Blog Tour and Excerpt

I'm participating in the blog tour for Moa, a paranormal YA with a literary bent, and get to share an excerpt with you! :)

First, a little about the book, its sequel, and the author:

About Moa: Eighteen-year-old, Hillary, anticipates adventure as she embarks for trip to Honolulu, but gets more than she bargained for when Moa, an ancient Hawaiian spirit, pays her an unexpected visit. Get it on Amazon.
About Statue of Ku:  The second book in the Moa Book Series, “The Statue of Ku” follows Hillary and Moa as they jet to Egypt on the Prince’s private plane to reclaim Moa’s family heirloom, the inimitable statue of Ku. Get it on Amazon.
About the author: Tricia Stewart Shiu combines her addiction to the written word with her avid interest in the healing arts and all things metaphysical in her novels Moa and Statue of Ku and looks forward to finding new ways to unite her two loves. Visit Tricia on her websiteTwitterFacebook, or GoodReads.

And now, the excerpt (let me know what you think in the comments - are you hooked?):

Eighteen-year-old, Hillary Hause’s left thumb searches frantically to turn on the “I’m Okay to Fly” hypnotherapy recording. Her nerves on edge, fuchsia fingernails press into the blue pleather armrests of her airplane seat.
“No spells can help you now,” she whispers to herself under her breath—then checks to see if anyone notices. Nope, they don’t.
The plane lifts through the early morning, gray fog of California, “June Gloom” giving way to the azure sky, and Hillary covers her curly brown head and retreats beneath the questionably clean plane blanket cranking the volume to drown out the drone of the engines.
“Outer shell close to breaking.” This time she doesn’t care if anyone hears.
I hover just beyond her “outer shell”—a movement in the periphery, a faintly familiar scent, a fond memory just beyond recognition, a non-human observer. Before the week is up, Hillary will save my life, as I will hers. But, for now, more about Hillary.
The drink cart rolls past the blanket, which has, by now become a moist steamy cave.

“Hey, freak. I hope your plane crashes.” The memory reverberates through her brain despite her attempts to distract herself with the hypnotherapy recording. She increases the volume, but the ugly conversation, which occurred just before school ended, still haunts her mind.
“I guess the only people they check on those flights are the suspicious ones,” Krystal Sykes, a bully from her home room, leans in as Hillary hastens to grab books for her next class. Krystal, also a senior, has hounded Hillary since the first day of freshman year and this is the final day during the final hour at this tiny high school of 376 students —where everyone knows everyone else’s business.
“Look, Krystal.” Hillary turns her eyes toward the sneering blonde. “It’s the last day of school, we’ll never see each other again. Can you give it a rest?” These are the most words the two young women have exchanged in the entire four years of high school.
A look of shock replaces Krystal’s smug snick, “Oh, so now you talk.” She leans in, so close that her spray tan becomes a patchy Impressionist painting. Her pores are blotched with cakey, two shades too dark powder, her unblended cream eyeshadow creases across the center of her lid and her tropical breeze flavored breath threatens to strangle the words right out of Hillary.
“I know all about your witchcraft practices and have made a few spells of my own. Trust me. You’ll never make it to your sister’s house in Hawaii.” Krystal’s backpack jingles and Hillary watches her spin around and skip down the hall.

Hillary is not a witch. She has, however, carefully crafted a “shell” to protect herself from bullies like Krystal—who, as far as Hillary can tell—is not a witch either. She has watched Krystal throughout elementary, middle and high school and has not been able to discern whether or not she practices witchcraft. No matter what Krystal’s background, her intent is to harm. And there is nothing worse than a spell with an aim to hurt. Hillary has had no choice but to remain in a constant state of defensiveness.
The twenty-minute recording ends and Hillary falls into a troubled sleep—feeling every bump and hearing every creak of the plane.
With about an hour left in the flight, Hillary awakens with a “turtle headache.” Hillary’s older sister Molly taught her this term which means a headache caused by sleeping too long underneath the covers of one’s bed.
Sadly, Molly lost her husband, Steve, last year in an unfortunate surfing accident. The throbbing pain in Hillary’s left temple could be the result of remaining submerged beneath an airplane blanket and wedged between the window and armrest, or it could be from worry about how Molly and her niece, Heidi are dealing with their devastating loss.
Disoriented, Hillary pokes her head out just in time to glimpse puffy clouds and sparkling sea below. A flood of excitement and sheer wonder flows through Hillary in the form of a tingle from her head to her toes. And then, a lovely thought:  “…And for an Everlasting Roof, The Gambrels of the Sky…” She will enjoy this plane ride, thanks in part to Emily Dickinson.

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Moa and Statue of Ku eBook editions have both been dropped to just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing either of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of each book.
All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!
To win the prizes:
  1. Purchase your copies of Moa and Statue of Ku for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blog Design Swap for Beta or Critique?

We all have various strengths, and since we're friends now, I thought it would make sense to pool those strengths and all come out better for it! So, I'd like to make a proposal:

As you might have noticed, I'm not in the least graphic design savvy and have used a relatively standard bog template here. It's really not a good fit though, and I'd love to have something more personal. Unfortunately, my knowledge in this particular area is somewhere around zero and it would probably take me a really long time to come up with something that, in the end, will be sub par. So, this is where you come in, my lovely readers :) I happen to know that some of you excel in this area and I'd like to propose a swap of services!

Personally, I'm a pretty good critter (or so I've been told), and I'd like to swap a blog and banner design for either a full Beta read of your finished manuscript, or a 100 page critique, to be redeemed at the time of your choice. Any takers?

And, in case anyone else out there is in need of something writing/reading related which they could use a little help with, propose a swap of your own in the comments :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Choose Your Own Adventure

I'm participating in a fun writing contest to support the DINOSAUR JAZZ by Michael Panush blog tour. The below text is a story starter provided by Ink in the Book and the text in blue is my personal addition to the story. Each participating blogger has added their own ending, so be sure to check out the final list of links to each post over at Ink in the Book.

Hope you like it :)

What Jack loved the most about his new mechanical night vision glasses was how well they matched his hat. Really, they would go with anything in his wardrobe and he was glad they did.

One night as he sat reading his favorite book a strange noise came from the attic. Jack wanted to go find out who was up there, but he needed his hat and goggles.
Walking into the closet, Jack noticed something was terribly wrong. His steam-carriage idled quietly, yet Jack did not remember cranking the engine. He tried cutting the engine off but it still hummed softly in the darkness. It was time. Jack's mouth went dry and his fingers trembled with excitement.

He knew that once he entered the steam-carriage he might never return. But unfortunately for him, the Society left him no choice. At least they had given him the option to take Lucy, if she would go. Jack hoped she would. He knew she had some kind of strange power. Every time she was around, the air stilled and went absolutely quiet, as if the entire world was holding its breath.

With his goggles in place and properly adjusted, he swept his hat onto his head and crept into Lucy's room. The Society has sent for us, he said, nudging her awake. Will you accompany me to Never Never Land and stay forever young?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday

This Week's Topic: 
If you could go on a writing retreat anywhere, where would you go & who would you bring?

If time and money were no object, where would you shut yourself away to write the great American novel? And what friends, crit partners, or inspiring authors (living or dead!) would you bring along?

Road Trip Song of the Week: "Somewhere Only We Know" by Keane

I have a few different ideas for the perfect writing retreat, The first involves a cabin in the woods somewhere on Maine coast or in the Pacific Northwest. Something along the lines of this picture. Preferably, my writing friends would each have their own one of these bad boys and we'd be spread out within walking distance of each other - just far enough away for each of us to feel alone in our part of the forest, but close enough to gather in the afternoons for crit groups and discussions. And if we were in walking distance of the ocean, well that would just be amazing! Nothing is as relaxing as the sound of the ocean. 

And who would I bring along? Well, a whole group of crit partners from Scribophile and just about any YA urban fantasy/paranormal author/agent/editor who'd be willing to come along!

Here's another equally wonderful option for my perfect writer's retreat: The Gatehouse at Thornbury Castle. It has everything I'd need that I might not get in a hotel (kitchen, extra rooms, peace and quiet) and yet it's close enough to the hotel (which just happens to be a castle) that I would be able to come over for afternoon tea or order room service. Plus, I'd have the castle gardens to walk whenever I would need a break. 

What do you think about my picks? Do you dream of a writer's retreat in a cabin or a castle? Where would your perfect retreat take you to?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Weekend Progress Report

I've been super busy lately, but in a good, very productive way :) Unfortunately, that productivity hasn't spilled over to my blog, but the wave of writing/personal/work deadlines has passed (for now) and I'm looking forward to focusing on the blog again - I've missed you guys!

So, what have I been up to (in the writing world, anyways - the rest is just boring)? Well, I polished up my pitch and first chapter for DAUGHTER OF THE MOON and entered it into three contests. And guess what?! I won two of them - and the results for the third still aren't in. When I first realized I'd actually won, I was floored, and then giddy. And then panic set in. You see, both wins ended in full requests. Which is AMAZING...but, what if they don't like it? The full manuscript has only ever been read by CPs and Betas in our safe, fluffy, little writing world. Yes, some critiques can be hard, but I can't even imagine what an editor or agent might have to say. So, the waiting has begun and I'm equal parts terrified and over-the-moon, out-of-my-mind excited. It's actually kind of exhausting. How do you deal with the wait? Any tips? ;)

To keep my mind off of my email inbox, I've been keeping busy catching up on all of the critiques I didn't have time for the past couple of weeks on Scribophile. Seriously, if you guys aren't on that website, check it out. I can't say enough good things about the Scrib community :)

And finally....

Theresa Paolo - YA writer and blogger - surprised me with the Booker Award! So here's how this one works:

This award is for book bloggers only. To receive this award the blog must be at least 50% about books (reading or writing is okay)
Along with receiving this award, you must also share your top five favorite books you have ever read. (More than five is okay) You must give this award to 5-10 other lucky book blogs you adore.

It might be bending the rules of the award a bit, but I'm going to choose my top 5 favorite stories, rather than books, so I can include some series too. It's just too hard for me to separate a series into individual books once I've read the whole story. 

So here goes:

1) The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind
2) The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (with a little help from Brandon Sanderson)
3) The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
4) Lord of the Rings trilogy by Tolkein
5a) The Axis trilogy by Sara Douglass
5b) Kushiel's Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey

Ok, so I cheated again and the fifth choice was a tie. It was really hard narrowing it down that far though, really! So what about you? Have you read the books on my list? Did you love any of these as much as I do? And, you might have noticed that I only chose adult books. This wasn't on purpose, but I think the reason behind it is that these are the books I was reading in my young adult years. I skipped the whole YA genre until I was an adult for some odd reason and so when I think about my favorite stories, the ones which shaped me as a reader are the first to come to mind. What about you? Would your list be made up of mostly adult? Mostly YA? A healthy mix?

So now I need to pass on the Booker Award. I choose:

Clare Dugmore
Melissa Buell
Leigh Ann Kopans
McKenzie McCann
Dorothy Dreyer

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday

This Week's Topic: 
What was the best book you read in May?

Road Trip Song of the Week: "Paradise City" by Guns N' Roses

I only read two books in May, Insurgent and Evermore, and I gave them both 4 out of 5 stars. And since they were both so different but equally enjoyable, I'm  going to cheat and pick them both! Here are the reviews I wrote for Goodreads:

Insurgent (Divergent, #2)Insurgent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book and it was a quick read! The writing was smooth and polished and not a word was wasted, allowing me to completely immerse myself in the story and never reminding me that I was actually reading. Veronica Roth is a very talented writer!

But...maybe that also means that I hold her stories to higher standards than I would hold other stories. And I have to say, there were some things about Insurgent that I didn't like. The pacing was too intense, imo. I felt slammed with plot point after plot point and didn't have a moment to catch my breath and really think about what had just happened and what it meant before the next bit of action was thrown at me. This might actually be a point of praise for other readers, but for me, Divergent set up this amazing world full of possibilities and I was looking forward to really digging deeper into the world in Insurgent. We did get a look at the other factions in Insurgent, but the surface was just scratched before moving on to the next faction of society and the depth we got with Dauntless in Divergent was missing.

That being said, I still honestly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next in the series!

Evermore (The Immortals, #1)Evermore by Alyson Noel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. At first, I wasn't sure where exactly things were heading and was worried that this was going to be a Twilight rehash - but it wasn't! And I was so relieved (don't get me wrong, I love Twilight. But it can never be redone, imo). The unique take on the immortal + mortal love story was a lot of fun, the pacing was perfect (nice and quick), and the writing was smooth and never pulled me out of the story. Still though, the overall story structure and plot seemed familiar and that held be back from giving this all 5 stars.

View all my reviews

What about you? What was the best book(s) you read in May?

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Wilde's Fire Editor-Judged Contest

The Wilde's Fire Editor-Judged Contest Begins....NOW!

Wilde's Fire, by Krystal Wade - Cover

“There is no pain in this death, only peace, knowing I am going to die with the one I love the most.”—Katriona Wilde.

It's time for another contest! I know, I know, I've been a little contest happy lately but I promise this will be the last one posted for awhile. 

Anyways, there's still time to sign up (it's also a blog hop) so if you are interested, just sign up on the linky at the bottom of this post. Then, you'll need to post your first 500 words and query on your own blog and leave constructive criticism on the entries for as many of the other participating blogs as you can before the 28th. At that point, all submissions will be sent in and a winner will be chosen. The prize is a full request from Curiosity Quills Press.

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Seventeen-year-old Selina Kane always knew she was different, but never imagined she was last-living-necromancer different. Not until she starts speaking the language of the Underworld and visiting Acherusian Lake in her dreams. And then Blake storms into her life, claiming to be her bonded protector and making her blush and stumble over her words. Blake warns Selina about Ciara, queen of the undead. Ciara has gained ground in the world of the living, and it isn’t a secret that she feels threatened by Selina’s return.

Before long, the undead attack and Selina watches helplessly through the only spell she can conjure – a protective shield – as Blake is dragged away in her place. Selina assumes the undead have murdered him and she turns to the necromantic powers she hardly knows how to use, risking her life to search for Blake in the Underworld. But Selina doesn’t find his soul resting peacefully in Acherusian Lake. Blake’s been transformed into one of the undead, and the guards of the Underworld expect her to find and destroy him.

Selina doesn’t care what the guards’ idea of her duty as a necromancer is; she’s determined to get Blake back in one piece. There is one spell, one that would save Blake’s soul, but she’d have to kill him to use it, and worse, transform him into a ferryman for the Underworld. There may be other ways to save him though, if she's willing to make dark alliances with the undead. Selina knows she shouldn’t, but with Blake’s life in jeopardy, the line between good and evil starts to blur.

First 500
As far as she knew, Selina was the only seventeen-year-old with her own burial plot. And once a year, she looked forward to nothing so much as to visiting her grave.
“I can give you a ride to school today, if you want. Since it’s your birthday,” Jess said, jingling the keys to the old Chrysler she’d inherited from Grandpa last summer.
“Thanks, Sis, but actually, I want to visit my mother on the way so I’ll just ride my bike.”
“We can stop at the cemetery on the way home,” Jess offered.
“I’d rather go now.” She would have already been at the cemetery a minute past midnight, if she’d dared.
“Yeah, sure. No problem. See you tonight,” Jess said. Her eyes were full of understanding and Selina turned away to hide the shame creeping into her face.
Selina and Jess, like all of their brothers and sisters, had been adopted. But Selina had only a few fragmented memories of the mother she’d lost.
Soft, brown hair twined around her chubby, toddler fingers.
The  smell of soap.
A hummed tune.
Reaching out to accept the urn of her mother’s ashes.
Jess had been thirteen when her parents died. Using the loss of a mother she barely even remembered with someone like Jess was wrong, and Selina knew it. But she had to get to the cemetery before the wild roses covering her grave bloomed.
Her hands shook with excitement as she pulled her bike out of the side yard and closed the gate behind her. She jumped onto the saddle and pedaled down the driveway as fast as she could. Every moment spent on the road was one moment in which her roses might bloom without her. One moment in which the message they were meant to bring her might be forever lost.
Selina hunched down and lost herself in the sound of wheels on pavement and the rhythm of her breathing. Before long, she was skidding to a stop before the black, wrought-iron gates of the cemetery. She leaned her bike against the fence without bothering to lock it up and raced onto the field of graves. The grass was slippery with morning dew and it squeaked beneath her shoes. Although she was only ever here once a year, she expertly wove her way between headstones in a near beeline to the oak tree which shaded her grave.
Please, don’t let me be too late.
A vine of wild rosebuds emerged from the grass in the center of her plot. A sigh of relief whooshed out of Selina’s lungs even as she tried to catch her breath from the sprint over; she’d made it. She leaned against the oak tree with her hands on her knees and her eyes glued to the rosebuds. In the morning shade of the oak tree, the rosebuds were black. Four years of experience told her though that they were actually a deep purple.
There are so many. More than ever before.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday

This Week's Topic: 
What Faction Are You?

In honor of our Bookmobile Book of the Month, Veronica Roth's INSURGENT, we want to know which of the five factions in the DIVERGENT series would you choose? Here's a great breakdown of the five factions, and if you're on the fence, you can even take the quiz for a hint!

And don't forget that Veronica Roth will be answering your questions in a live chat on YA Highway next Tuesday, May 29!

Road Trip Song of the Week: "My Kind of People" by Cee-Lo Green
  Next week’s topic: What writing conference(s) would you love to go to?

This week's topic is just perfect since I'm in the middle of Insurgent right now! After finishing Divergent, I actually took the faction quiz and came up with Erudite. Since this topic is about which faction I would choose though, I'm going to have to say none.

I'd choose to be divergent. In my opinion, allowing any one personality trait or perspective to totally dominate the person you are isn't really natural and isn't beneficial to anyone. There are times to be selfless, but there are also times to put yourself first just as there are times to look at a problem scientifically and times to allow empathy and emotion to influence the way the problem is dealt with. Sometimes, keeping the truth to yourself to spare someone's feelings can be the right thing to do too. And I certainly don't feel brave or particularly peaceful all the time.

In my opinion, it all depends on the circumstance, and behaving in a certain way all the time, despite the circumstance, just doesn't make sense.

What do you think? Do you think a person really can be defined by a single faction? Do you think it makes sense to strive to be selfless (or intelligent, brave, peaceful, honest) all the time? Or is there a time and place for even the more peaceful person to protest and take up arms (for example)?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

You are What you Read

In last week's Field Trip Friday blog post over at YA Highway, there was a link to a study which revealed, you are what you read. Here's a quote from the article:

"Readers who identify with fictional characters are prone to subconsciously adopt their behaviour, new data shows."

On Monday of last week, I shared 10 random facts about myself. One of those random facts was this:

"I didn't realize it at first, but looking back, I seem to have learned more about how to deal with tough situations in my life from characters in books than I have from anywhere else."

It's so weird how sometimes, certain topics in the news, on the blogs I read, or anywhere I might happen to look, really seem to correlate with exactly what I'm thinking about at the moment. I'm sure it's really more about me noticing those topics more than usual since they're on my mind, but still. It's weird.

Kahlan Amnell (Sword of Truth)
So this article got me thinking about the books I choose to read. And the way my personality has developed over my lifetime. And how we're all so different, even from the people who are the closest to us. I'll spare you the details, but this article really  made me think about myself from a whole new perspective. And even though I knew that books have influenced my life and the person I am, I never really thought of that in the way the research presents it - that I basically experienced the emotions and feelings of fictional characters as if they were my own.

Now I'm thinking, I should probably diversify my reading a bit before the only place I'll ever fit in is a medieval, alternate reality where I'll use my rare magic abilities to embark upon an epic journey to save the last living dragons from enslavement by a mad king who wants to use them to rule the world. Or something like that. I also don't know if I want to start reading anything told from the perspective of an unlikable narrator. I sure wouldn't want to find that I relate to him or her on some level and then start adopting their behavior.

I probably also need to re-think my obsession with Dexter. Just in case this research extends to TV too.

So, what about you? Do you think that the books you've read have affected your behavior? Has it gone further than that and affected your morals (I can certainly see where certain fantasy series have affected the way I see right and wrong and my own personal idea of honor)?