Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Think of Yourself as a Writer

My former cat Cookie, may she RIP
Exciting NOTE! (which has absolutely nothing to do with the post below):
My cover reveal for THE BODY INSTITUTE will be March 24 on YA Bound! If you’d like to be a part of the online reveal, sign up HERE!! Nereyda will send you everything you need.

And now, onto my regularly scheduled post. :)

LABELING YOURSELF
I read a recent online article about working out and thinking of yourself as an athlete. The article stated: “If you want to run more, think of yourself as a runner." And “If you want to swim more, think of yourself as a swimmer.” And so on for whatever sports activity you want to do. It’s apparently part of some new research in sport psychology, the opposite of the usual behavior-first kind of plan—where you would start running every day and then label yourself as a runner. (If you’re curious, the article is HERE.) 

BE A WRITER FIRST
Since I'm a writer, I thought this was a great parallel for writing. The more you cement a certain image of yourself in your mind—making it an integral part of your mindset—the more often that behavior will occur. If you start calling yourself a writer (whether you verbalize it to others or not), you may be more likely to start doing the things a writer does.

WHY THIS WORKS
To apply the findings in the article to writing, the reasons this is successful make sense:
1. You begin identifying yourself with the kind of behaviors you’re targeting. It kickstarts and focuses your mental self-talk, the inner dialogue about who you are as a person and the kinds of activities you choose to engage in.
2. It increases your confidence level because you’ve already labeled yourself—it’s NOT a goal you’re still striving for, or risking failure for not having done enough to earn the label.
3. You’re more likely to plan and schedule the activities needed for being a writer (hint: sitting down with your computer/laptop/pad of paper, and WRITING).
4. You’re more likely to stick to your writing goals despite obstacles and barriers.
5. It preconditions you to success at being a writer and doing writer-related things.
6. You’re more likely to interact with and develop encouraging friendships with other writers.
7. You’re affirming that writing is an important part of your life, and you are choosing to do the activities that go along with the label of being a writer.
8. You’re more likely to work harder at the behaviors/activities of being a writer.

Go ahead. Call yourself a writer.

YOUR TURN
Do you call yourself a writer? Why or why not?
What do you think is the difference between a writer and an author—and if the terms are different to you, which one do you see yourself as?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Middle Grade + Sentence Clarity

2015 releases! I'll be a 15er!
MIDDLE GRADE ENDEAVORS
How's everyone doing? I'm writing gung-ho on my new middle-grade novel, back into the swing of it after abandoning it for 5 months while I moved from California to Oregon in the fall and did some artwork for my website-programmer brother.

I've read MG novels are generally 20,000-55,000 words. For upper MG like I'm writing, I'm aiming for somewhere around 35-55K. So far I have 36K and am nearing writing the final climax scenes. Should be about right! Anyway, I've been doing that writing instead of *coughcough* stuff like blogposts.

At this rate, I've written half my MG novel in 4 weeks, and will finish the book within another 4. (Helps that it's a shorter novel, though.) My usual speed for rough drafts is 3-4 months. I haven't ever tried NaNo, attempting to cram 50K words into one month of writing. That's a bit TOO fast for me, and I like to have a semblance of a life and sanity while I work.

RELEASE DAY NEWS
I was recently excited to find my contracted YA novel, THE BODY INSTITUTE, on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It's available for preorder, and not only that, I discovered it had a release day set for September 1 instead of October 6 like I'd thought! I confirmed that with my editor, and plan to do launch parties and blog tours around September 1, 2015. Woo! I've seen my cover mockup too, people, and I like it!

WRITING CLEAR SENTENCES
I caught myself writing a sentence similar to this a few days ago:

Kara bounced and smiled in her high heels.

Not sure about the clarity of this, so I decided to reword it. Someone can BOUNCE in high heels, but can someone SMILE in high heels? I'm thinking not. The "and" sentence structure implies she's doing both in her high heels.

SNUCK, SNUCK, SNUCK
Is this anyone's pet peeve besides mine? Snuck is NOT the past tense of sneak. Sneaked is. I constantly see this word in printed and published books. I'd definitely be okay using it in dialogue—because people really do talk that way—but…the narrative?? Eeek. (Sorry, Grammar Queen peeve, here. Although if you look it up, I suppose you'd find "snuck" is becoming more widely accepted.)

YOUR TURN
Do you find it difficult to get back into a project after you've been away for a while?
How long does it take YOU to write a rough draft of a novel? (no wrong answer, here)
How do you feel about the word SNUCK? :)


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Order of Written Things

Fishy photo I took in Oregon
Happy New Year 2015! I wish all of you much happiness and productivity in the coming year.

UPDATE
As you may know, Entangled Teen is my new publisher, and my YA sci-fi novel, THE BODY INSTITUTE releases October of this year. (Woo!) I'm currently eyeball-deep working on the first round of revisions with my editor, Stacy Abrams. She made some really great suggestions, and I've been busy making changes since December 11. I've even written about 4 new scenes, which has been really fun. My cover is also being designed—cue nervous excitement!!

CART BEFORE THE HORSE
When writing or revising, I keep finding myself putting certain actions ahead of other ones, and to the reader, these aren't in the best order. It's a subtle thing sometimes, but it's worth fixing because it can puzzle someone or throw someone out of your story for a moment.

Example 1
"Oh, how thoughtful!" Tara said, grinning at Michael as he sauntered into the restaurant with a bouquet of gorgeous red roses.

Here, we see Tara's reaction, but it's not until the end of the sentence that we know to what she's referring. In a normal progression of time, Michael and the roses would happen first, then Tara's exclamation. It's usually less confusing to the reader—avoiding that momentary "huh?"—if events are described in the actual order they happen.

This is even more important in present tense, where things are unfolding in REAL TIME, as it's happening:

Example 2
Oh. My. Gosh. She's doing it again. Frowning, I watch Mom stir her ice tea and dip the spoon back into the sugar bowl for another dose of sweetener. I so despise lumps in the sugar bowl.

Again, the thoughts and reactions occur before the actions, before the reader knows what the character has seen. It makes more logical sense time-wise to show Mom creating the sugar lumps, then the main character having her internal reaction to it. Even the frown in this case comes before the reader knows what is worth frowning about.

YOUR TURN
Do you ever find yourself doing this "cart before the horse" kind of sentence structure?
What do you hope to accomplish in 2015—what are your goals?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

New Release: THE ATTIC OF SAND AND SECRETS

 Today I'm announcing a new book release by my blogger friend, Medeia Sharif! This novel is a Middle Grade historical and fantasy, and sounds very intriguing. It's about Lily, a learning disabled girl, who attempts to unravel the mystery of her abducted mother using supernatural clues from an ancient stranger—even when it means posing a danger to herself.

THE ATTIC OF SAND AND SECRETS
Learning-disabled Lily desires to prove herself, although her mind freezes when presented with big problems - such as her mother's abduction. With a French father and Egyptian mother, Lily worries that her mother hid her ethnicity from her French in-laws. However, there's something deeper going on. Lily finds a way into an attic that's normally locked and encounters a mysterious, moonlit Egyptian night world. There she finds Khadijah, an ancient stranger who guides her to finding clues about her mother's whereabouts. Lily becomes a sleuth in both the real world and a magical desert, endangering herself as she gets closer to the kidnapper.

The book takes place in 1976. Every host for this book blast is going to post one fun fact for that year. For some of you, this will bring back memories. For younger blog readers, you’ll learn something new.

This blog's FUN FACT: The main character, Lily, loves detective and crime shows like Baretta, Charlie’s Angels, and Kojak.

Find Medeia online– Multi-published YA and MG Author:
Blog   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads   |   Instagram   |   Amazon Author Page


The lovely Medeia herself
Purchase THE ATTIC OF SAND AND SECRETS:
Amazon  OmniLit  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  Featherweight Press   


I really HAVE to read this, especially since my latest WIP is Middle Grade. Combining research and enjoyable reading at the same time, oh boy!

YOUR TURN
Do you read much Middle Grade, or have kids who read it? (ages 8-12)
Do you have a difficult time writing around the holidays?! Any words of advice?







Tuesday, November 18, 2014

COMPULSON: now released!

The beautiful Martina Boone
Hi all, I've transformed from a California resident to an Oregon one the past few weeks, and I'm pretty much settled in my new home. But boy, am I behind on all things writing-related!

My blogger/writer friend Martina Boone has written a YA Southern Gothic novel that I can't wait to read. It was released October 28, and it's called COMPULSION. As Martina describes it: "Like everything else I write, COMPULSION combines the slightly twisted ordinary with the extraordinary and fantastic. Beneath the veneer of even the happiest of families, there's often something very dangerous. Throw in a curse, a little magic, some jealousy, and centuries of tradition, and it all comes to a boiling point."

COMPULSION

Three plantations. Two gifts. One ancient curse.

All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead–a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who somehow seems to know what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family’s twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Darkly romantic and steeped in Southern Gothic charm, you’ll be compelled to get lost in the Heirs of Watson Island series.”
                          — #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Jennifer L. Armentrout

Some order links:
IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Walmart | Target | Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

Add COMPULSION to your Goodreads reading list by visiting THIS LINK.

Martina is also the founder of the very popular writing blog: Adventures in YA Publishing. Writing insights galore are featured on this blog, as well as fantastic and frequent book giveaways.

Visit Martina's website and see the trailer for COMPULSION by clicking HERE!
Follow her on Twitter here: @MartinaABoone

YOUR TURN
Have you heard of Martina's book, or have you purchased it already?
Do you enjoy reading—or writing—books with magical, eerie twists in them?
Three plantations. Two gifts. One ancient curse. Isn't that a great tagline?

Hey. Blogger won't let me shift my images/photos to anywhere lower in my post. Anyone else having this specific technical problem? It's most annoying...

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

ARC Winners + Blog Award

WINNERS! WINNERS!
It's time to announce the book winners from the last post! (drumroll please)

The winners of my celebratory "I-Have-A-Book-Contract" giveaway:

1. BLYTHEWOOD: Crystal Collier!
2. CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS: Marcy Hatch! (mshatch)
3. A SPARK UNSEEN: Sheri Larsen! (SA Larsen)
4. CROWN OF EMBERS: Amanda Mouras! (amouras)

Congratulations! I'll be contacting the winners and sending out their books, pronto.

NOTE: I won't be posting the first Wednesday of November as per my usual blogging schedule, since I'm moving to Oregon and who knows when I'll get my Internet hooked up. I'll see you on the Other Side, sometime after Oct. 29th. :)

AWARD
Last month Elizabeth Varaden gave me the Inspiring Blogger Award! Visit her own inspiring blog HERE. Among other things, she posts intriguing posts of her travels abroad, accompanied by fascinating photos. In one of her recent posts, she described eating a spicy octopus dish—fun!

 As per the award, I'm revealing 7 things about myself:

1. I have a degree in Studio Arts from Pacific University, Oregon. I used to do pencil or colored pencil portraits from photographs. Then I got tired of being a "camera," and now I prefer more creative endeavors. I really enjoy doing miniature fabric art, combining bright scraps into pleasing combinations. I've also been designing some graphics for a website my brother is programming.

2. THE BODY INSTITUTE was the 14th book I wrote, after over 350 rejections and 11 years of writing. At least as far as MY journey into the publishing world, persistence (and improving my craft) is the name of the game. I've since written 3-4 more books.

3. I had thyroid cancer when I was 18. Nope, I didn't do chemo or radiation. That was back in 1978 and they just did surgery. No recurrences since, so the only thing that changed is I've been taking thyroid medication for the last few decades.

4. I met Dennis, my current husband, through a Christian dating site. No kidding! Like any online dealings, you definitely have to be careful, but Dennis is definitely a "keeper." 

5. I don't drink coffee, and don't even like the taste. Ew. I also don't like soda/soft drinks—all those irritating little bubbles! So hard to swallow. Give me a nice glass of fruit juice any day. Herbal tea is great in the winter, too.

6. I have two daughters who are almost 26 and 28. Time flies. When they were young, we had fun reading library books, making blanket forts, and making "jewelry people" on the carpet. (The latter being draping necklaces for hair and mouths, using clip-on earrings for eyes, etc.)

7. My eleven-months-older brother and I went to the same university. It was nice having him right across the campus in the guy's dorm, but he was a bit overprotective. One time after visiting him, I remember wandering across the hall with one of his friends into his friend's room, and big brother Lyle came right after us. Maybe he trusted his friend less than I did? Ha.

YOUR TURN
Do you prefer coffee, or tea? Or do you prefer something entirely different?
Do soft drink bubbles tickle your fancy, or do they perturb you?
How many novels have you written, or is poetry or short stories more your thing?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I Have a (New) Publisher! + Giveaway

I can announce it at last, since the final T's are crossed and the I's dotted—I've signed a contract with Entangled Teen to publish my science fiction debut, THE BODY INSTITUTE. Woo!

My release date will be fall of 2015, so I can still be a part of the Fearless Fifteeners, a group of authors with books releasing next year. Check out the awesome MG and YA books and their writers on this site, HERE

To celebrate—as well as helping downsize for my upcoming move from California back to Oregon next month—I'm giving away the following ARC books! (advanced reader copies, which means they are uncorrected proofs and may have a few typos)

To enter:
1. Comment below, and mention that you'd like to be entered.
2. If you have a preference which book you want to win, tell me!
3. Enter before midnight PST on October 6, 2014.
4. The winners will be chosen in a random drawing.
5. Winners will be contacted and announced here on October 8, 2014.

THE BOOKS:


BLYTHEWOOD by Carol Goodman
At seventeen, Avaline Hall has already buried her mother, survived a horrific factory fire, and escaped from an insane asylum. Now she’s on her way to Blythewood Academy, the elite boarding school in New York’s mist-shrouded Hudson Valley that her mother attended—and was expelled from. Though she’s afraid her high society classmates won’t accept a factory girl in their midst, Ava is desperate to unravel her family’s murky past, discover the identity of the father she’s never known, and perhaps finally understand her mother’s abrupt suicide. She’s also on the hunt for the identity of the mysterious boy who rescued her from the fire. And she suspects the answers she seeks lie at Blythewood.

But nothing could have prepared her for the dark secret of what Blythewood is, and what its students are being trained to do. Haunted by dreams of a winged boy and pursued by visions of a sinister man who breathes smoke, Ava isn’t sure if she’s losing her mind or getting closer to the truth. And the more rigorously Ava digs into the past, the more dangerous her present becomes.

CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS by Miriam Forster
The girl with no past, and no future, may be the only one who can save their lives.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a little girl. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. She makes her way as Matron's errand girl, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city's handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls' deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but also her life.



A SPARK UNSEEN by Sharon Cameron
The thrilling sequel to Sharon Cameron's blockbuster gothic steampunk romance, THE DARK UNWINDING, will captivate readers anew.

When Katharine Tulman wakes in the middle of the night and accidentally foils a kidnapping attempt on her uncle, she realizes Stranwyne Keep is no longer safe for Uncle Tully and his genius inventions. She flees to Paris, where she hopes to remain undetected and also find the mysterious and handsome Lane, who is suspected to be dead.

But the search for Lane is not easy, and Katharine soon finds herself embroiled in a labyrinth of political intrigue. And with unexpected enemies and allies at every turn, Katharine will have to figure out whom she can trust—if anyone—to protect her uncle from danger once and for all.

THE CROWN OF EMBERS by Rae Carson
The second book in Rae Carson's award-winning fantasy trilogy, perfect for fans of Game of Thrones and Kristin Cashore. A seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

In THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, Elisa won the war. She saved her kingdom. But no one prepared her for how hard it is to recover from a battle, or to rule a people who still don't trust her. She's still fighting—against assassination attempts and more—and her enemies lie both outside her court and within it. So Elisa will cross the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. With her go a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with.

YOUR TURN
Have you heard of the Fearless Fifteeners? Check them out on Facebook HERE!
Have you read the steampunk novel, THE DARK UNWINDING?  (the giveaway book is the second in this series)
Have you read the fantasy novel, THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS?  (the giveaway book is the second in this series)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ADDING TENSION to your writing

On Monday, I met with local writers to hear a mini-workshop given by Erin Lindsay McCabe, author of the historical novel I SHALL BE NEAR TO YOU. Her website is HERE, and her book is described as:

An extraordinary novel about a strong-willed woman who disguises herself as a man in order to fight beside her husband, inspired by the letters of a remarkable female soldier who fought in the Civil War.

In her talk, Erin listed ways to increase tension in our writing—some surprising, as I'd never thought about how some of these things relate to tension.

ERIN'S 7 WAYS TO INCREASE TENSION
1. Make a likeable character, one readers will care about. If readers are invested and feel close to a character, every obstacle the character faces will be sensed more keenly, with the interest in their welfare heightened.
2. Make a likeable character, which doesn't mean a wholly "good" character. A wholly good (or evil) character can be flat or stereotypical. Erin described the "good-bad character" and the "bad-good character," one who performs acts of both evil and kindness. These more complex characters amp up tension because they aren't as predictable, and often have conflicting inner desires.
3. The character needs to WANT something. A dream, a goal separate from the action of the story. What's important to the main character? If he/she wants something badly, the roadblocks along the way create more conflict and thus more tension.
4. Make life difficult with confrontation. Don't be too easy on your characters; take them to their limits, their darkest places. Make them experience the worst day of their life. Stretch them and have them make active choices that put them in yet more complex places, full of more difficult choices. Don't give characters what they want!
5. In dialogue, find ways to make characters say No to each other. This wise nugget Erin found in WRITING FICTION by Janet Burroway. If characters are in conflict and at odds with each other, tension is increased. People often don't think the exact same way about issues; show those differences. Make your interchange complicated. Also, make sure the characters aren't saying No to the exact same conflict throughout; explore different angles of that conflict.
6. Pay attention to pacing. When editing, cut scenes that don't further the plot; wandering or slow passages dilute tension. Look for places where your characters aren't talking for a half-page or more. Do you have too much sitting around and thinking? Often you can transform that into dialogue with another character, but be sure to further plot or relationships rather than writing needless talk. Don't have your characters dole out exposition or info dumps: show with actions and blend the details. Also, often tension can be increased by slowing action down. Don't rush important scenes. Explore the emotions and actions (by describing, not Telling) to make the reader FEEL what the character does.
7. Remove filters, phrases such as "she looked" or "I heard" or "he saw." Those words add distance and dilute tension because the writer is reminding the readers they're in someone's head. Just BE in that person's head, and describe the noise or sight without the filter words. Filters also slow scenes down, which again relates to the pacing issue.   

YOUR TURN
Have you ever thought about how character plays a part in tension?
Do you have any other ways you like to add tension to a scene or story?
Do you enjoy historical fiction, such as Erin McCabe's 19th-century Civil War novel?