Tuesday, December 2, 2014


 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.

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
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!

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."


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

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

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. :)

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.

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.


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.

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 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.

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.

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.   

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?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Writing Middle Grade

Greetings, fellow Earthlings! I hope you are doing great with life and your writing.

My agent and I developed a better plan for my writing a few weeks ago. Instead of me writing entire novels and then having her decide some weren't marketable (due to being dystopian, not fresh enough, etc.), we decided to have me write sample chapters and run the premises by her FIRST. Seems a no-brainer, but hey. We're on track now.

This strategy also forced me to write a one-sentence pitch line before I started writing the novel—which is very focusing. I have to boil down the essence and ask the crucial question: "What's this story about?" 

My agent also suggested I try my hand at writing a Middle Grade to supplement my usual Young Adult. At first I was like… "Whaaat?" but I was definitely intrigued. She gave me a reading list of MG novels, most of them fantasy, since that's the genre I like to write. I read their first pages on Amazon; that's a great way to do quick research, by the way. I'll read further later.

1. Middle Grade is for kids who are pre-high school. The SCBWI describes MG as a whole as books for 8-12 year olds. My agent suggested I write Upper MG, targeting 7th and 8th graders.
2. MG manuscript lengths are shorter, roughly 30,000-60,000 words—in contrast to 55,000-90,000 for YA. 
3. Chapters for MG novels are also shorter. 5-8 pages vs. 8-12.
4. White space is the MG reader's friend. When some kids open a book, if they see solid blocks of paragraphs instead of friendly white space (around dialogue or shorter paragraphs), they often put the book back down. It's intimidating.
5. Chapters are more often titled in MG. But chapter titles shouldn't give too much away. Be vague but intriguing.  
6. Most MG books are written in third person, past tense. At least for fantasy, because this allows for multiple points of view to reveal everything going on in the story. I checked out 12 novels; 8 were written in third/past. The remaining 4 were first person, with 2 of those past tense and 2 present tense. The choice of which to use depends on what works for each story. I ended up settling on first person, past tense, for mine. It's the minority, but it felt "right."
7. Most MG readers don't like long-winded passages of description. Descriptions need to be spare, or trickled throughout the narrative. Upper MG is more lenient, though.
8. There are more vocabulary restraints with MG. With YA, anything goes (as long as it doesn't sound stilted or overly intellectual). I'm constantly having to weigh my words and decide if it's the right vocabulary for the MG reader as well as for my main character.
9. MG books often start right off with action. This catches a young reader's interest. The pace is also brisk throughout, to keep that interest. Adventure tales work well. 
10. The MG focus is more on friendships rather than romance. If there is romance, it's light, and at the most involve a kiss. No sex; that's a topic reserved for Young Adult.

I'm now 6 chapters (12K words) into my new MG novel. My agent approved my first chapter and pitch line, and said to keep going. I'm having fun! Isn't that what writing is all about?  

Have you ever tried your hand at writing a Middle Grade novel?
Have you read many Middle Grade books, or do your children read them?
Any additional tips or comments you'd like to share about writing MG?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

CLICHÉS in Writing

Clichés work for a reason. They're universal. Familiar. Tested and reader approved. Whether on a sentence level, character level, or a plot level, clichés flourish and abound. Whether we really want to use the same thing that's been used hundreds—if not thousands—of times before is something to ponder in depth.

What are common clichés, and the pros and cons of using them?

COMMON clichés: (MC=main character)
1. MC finds out he has latent powers—which must be used to save the world.
2. MC discovers she is really the long-lost offspring to a king/millionaire/sea king/famous wizard/vampire/faery queen.
3. MC is hot and gorgeous, with great hair, toned body. Usually athletic. Never overweight.
4. In fantasy or paranormal novels, the MC or supporting character has green eyes.
5. The controversial hated/adored love triangle. The MC must choose between two characters he/she is equally drawn to.
6. The nameless character who joins a dangerous group is the first to die.
7. Grandmothers who knit and crochet, and have a parakeet for a pet.
8. Cheerleaders who are mean, bullying, and beautiful. Oh, and blonde.
9. Using the following for stereotypical comedic relief: redheads with freckles, African-Americans or other ethnic groups, short people, overweight people, the elderly, young children, and pets.
10. The butler did it. (Mystery novel Killer Extraordinaire.)

DANGERS of using clichés:
Your reader may guess your plot and potentially become bored or restless with the story. They'll feel like they've read your story a thousand times before, only with different characters. Yaaaawn. Time to go watch TV or play a video game…

People often crave variety, freshness, and the unique. Add zest to your writing by adding a surprising twist, turning a cliché on its head, or thwarting your readers' preconceived expectations. Keep them on their mental toes!

BENEFITS of using clichés:
1. Sometimes it's fun and useful to throw in a cliché when we're parodying, poking fun of "the usual." Can be accompanied by the word "proverbial," for example: "I ran around like a proverbial chicken with its head cut off."
2. We might purposely want to introduce a character who speaks in clichés. This Shows he's dull or unimaginative without Telling the reader.
3. Readers may actually like a certain predictable formula—such as in the romance genre. How many romance novels end where the guy and the girl do NOT end up together? In these cases, the skill for a writer is to present the same plot cliché in a fresh, engaging way. This is a unique challenge!
4. Love triangles spark interesting and heated discussions, in which readers take "sides" and choose their favorite character—even if the MC didn't choose that character in the book. Team Edward or Team Jacob, anyone?
5. Reading a more cliché, formulaic book can be more relaxing and less stressful. Sometimes it's enjoyable to read a more mellow book, as opposed to an "edge of your seat" type.

What's your opinion on clichés, and do you ever purposely use them?
Do you enjoy reading about a love triangles, or are you TIRED of seeing them?
What's a book you've read where the author totally broke away from plot or character clichés? 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I'm a Strange Chemistry Orphan

On June 18th, I got a call from my agent, Kelly Sonnack.

Bad news. Strange Chemistry was closing down, effective immediately, and would no longer be my publisher. My debut release for THE BODY INSTITUTE would not be January 2015 as planned. 


That wasn't what I wanted to hear, only a little over 5 months away from being published. Finally, after over 10 years of writing and submitting. Finally, after writing more than 14 novels. At last my book was available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, and Powell's--it was so cool! Not to mention I'd started an author page and a book presence on Goodreads. This was NOT a bump in the road I wanted to experience.

But over the bump I went. Kelly and I devised a game plan. I readjusted my mental expectations (no, I probably won't be published before I'm 55). I changed my online bios, tweaked my website, and adjusted my Facebook and Goodreads author pages. Back to square ONE. Ack.

Twitter blazed with wonderful support and sympathy for the Strange Chemistry orphans. So did my friends on Facebook when I posted the news. We orphans banded together via email, commiserating and encouraging each other. We're certainly not the first to whom this has happened, and we won't be the last. Whether a publishing house is small or large, imprints close down on occasion. Merges happen, editors leave, entire houses shut down.

I'm certainly grateful this happened to me this far out, rather than closer to my release date. How horrible it must be for all those debut writers who were closer to their launches. Hugs, everyone. 

The past 2 weeks, I've pushed myself to keep writing. Revising another manuscript. Because I won't make any progress on my writing journey if I stop in the middle of the road.  


Had you heard the news of Strange Chemistry's closure yet?
Are you unable to write when you're sad or upset, or is it a good distraction?
Do you find it difficult to carry on after major disappointments in your writing journey? (Such as query/manuscript rejections, parting ways with an agent, losing a great critique partner, receiving a brutally honest critique, reading a harsh review.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

DREAM BOY blog tour: What's Your Dream?

Today I'm happy to be part of the What's Your Dream blog tour, in which we help announce the about-to-be-released DREAM BOY by Mary Crockett and Madelyn Rosenberg. This novel comes out July 1, so be sure to preorder it or put it on your to-read lists!

As per the tour, we tell a dream we recently had, or a recurring dream. Here's mine:
Helicopter whirring in the sky, looming. Feeling of dread. Loudspeaker blares from the helicopter. "Carol Pritchett…Carol Pritchett." It's commanding me to show myself. But I hide, ducking behind corners and angles of buildings. If they see me, the dark men aboard will shoot me with their machineguns. I dart from one building to another, fearing they've spotted me. The helicopter chops the air with its blades, flying overhead around the buildings, persistent in their hunt. "Carol Pritchett. Carol Pritchett!" I wake up with a yucky feeling in my mouth and a tight feeling in my chest.

Whew. I must've been feeling stressed to dream that. Pritchett was my maiden name. Go figure why the helicopter dudes shouted that…I haven't been a Pritchett for 31 years!

If dreams can come true…then so can nightmares.

One night Annabelle dreams of the perfect boy: tall and handsome with impossible blue eyes. Then, just as suddenly as he appeared, he’s gone…until he walks into her science class the next day. Perfect and REAL. The boy of her dreams. And when he brushes past her, he whispers “Annabelle.” Suddenly, Annabelle’s got the perfect boyfriend and a date to homecoming. Her life is like a dream come true—until her dreams stop and the nightmares begin.

"Hits the chick-lit and romance buttons, adding suspense and an intriguing idea as well for nicely rounded entertainment." --Kirkus Review

Not "just" a chick-lit story, which some people equate with a light, shallow read. This novel has depth, with lots to think about regarding our dreams (nighttime as well as daytime types), the subconscious, and the often blurry line between our desires and our realities. The dialogue and characters were intriguing as well as amusing; I cackled and laughed out loud OFTEN while reading this book! Delightful—5 stars!

Madelyn is on the left, Mary is on the right!
Mary Crockett likes turtles, licorice, and the Yankees. Madelyn Rosenberg likes cats, avocados, and the Red Sox. Luckily they both like the weirdness of dreams (and each other) enough to write novels together. The friendship has survived three moves, six kids and countless manuscript revisions. Madelyn lives just outside of Washington, D.C. Mary remains in the mountains near their hometowns in southwestern Virginia. You can find them on Twitter @marylovesbooks and @madrosenberg. Or visit their blogs at  www.marycrockett.com  and  www.madelynrosenberg.com


Do you have a recurring dream, or have you had a particularly vivid dream lately?
Do you like magical realism/contemporary fantasy type stories? If so, this book is for you!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Where Do Writers Get New Ideas?

I'm at a strange point in my writing life. Since I wrote THE BODY INSTITUTE, which became my debut for January 2015, I've written three other novels. Eventually (um, hopefully) I'll be working on at least one of these with my agent, but what about brand new shiny ideas? I confess at this point I don't have any sparks or plans for new books. Now there's a totally ungrounded, unsettled feeling.

Where do we as writers get new ideas? How do we get out of that state of mind where we think of possible ideas but just as fast, we discard them as boring, cliché, too convoluted, or shallow? Well, I guess we keep jotting them down until one of them grabs us by the lapels and doesn't let go. Here are some ways I can think of to generate initial story ideas.

1. Read newspaper or online articles. I'm talking NON-fiction, here. What about that article you read about the girl everyone thought was missing for 15 years—what really happened to her? What about that fascinating new scientific or technological discovery? You could spin a plot from intriguing things like auras, telekinesis, time travel, alternate histories, or synesthesia (a mixing of the senses, for instance perceiving numbers as certain colors). Do a random online search or wander your local library, and see what you come up with!

2. Read other books, and "research." No, I don't mean ripping off other writers' ideas or being derivative. Reading can make you aware of what's already out there, so you can make sure your book is different and unique. Reading can also often send you off on a tangent toward fresh and innovative ideas. It can inspire you.

3. Read something you don't normally read. Switch it up. If you usually read sci-fi and fantasy, try reading a contemporary novel. If you usually stick to YA or MG, try reading an adult novel. You can even thumb through picture books in the children's section of a bookstore or a library. Some random gem of an idea might just catch your eye, something you can develop into a full-blown short story or novel.

4. Refresh an old idea with a new twist. Rummage through that file or folder that holds all your "failed" or shelved storylines—you know the one. Check to see if you can't breathe new life into these stories by changing the plot, adding a spicy character, writing it from a different character's point of view, or making that unsellable dystopian into a sci-fi novel. Warp those genres. Mix and match plotlines. Try quirky new settings.

5. Try your hand at a retelling. Don't slavishly copy a folk tale or an existing children's book. Make it your own. Toss it into a totally different time period, such as the 1996 movie Romeo & Juliet, which takes place in a modern, urban setting. Or like Marissa Meyer's CINDER, which tells the tale of Cinderella as a sci-fi tale involving a cyborg as the main character.

6. Find new WAYS of telling a story. THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak involves Death as the narrator. Very unique. Jay Asher's 13 REASONS WHY involves tapes sent to 13 people to reveal the reasons why a girl committed suicide. Experiment with points of view. Do something in a way that's never been done before. Be creative!

7. Mine your dreams. Write down half-remembered dreams. Develop that recurring nightmare. Explore that mysterious place between your waking and non-waking worlds. Use your subconscious snippets, form them into a plotline, and have fun populating these worlds with intriguing characters.

Have you ever found yourself in this position, without a clue as to what you'll write next?
Which of these methods catches your attention the most, the one you'd like to try?
Where do you find YOUR story ideas?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

MILESTONE: Author R. Mac Wheeler

I'd like to acknowledge a fellow writer and blogger-friend for reaching a monumental milestone: publishing his 24th novel! I hope you'll visit his blog where he posts his photography, and give him a congratulations…or visit his home page and peruse his titles…read an excerpt...and help him celebrate.

Mac has written novels across several genres, including 2 contemporary, 6 speculative, 5 paranormal, 4 science fiction, and 7 fantasy.

About Book #24
This volume of the NEW ORDER APOCALYPSE series continues thirty-three years after an engineered plague shredded Earth's population.

Chloe and Ginna Lee must decide whether to continue Jason's dream to unite survivors, or concentrate on surviving. Chloe hasn't the tact to play ambassador, and Ginna Lee is more likely to take heads than spread goodwill. Promises little hope they can build an alliance, especially if peace hinges on a cure for Jihad. Meanwhile, the landscape they must cross still writhes with roamers and desperate clans.

Mac spins tales around rich, gritty characters with a lot of baggage, and puts them through a bit more grief than they can handle. His tone leans toward the sarcastic, passive aggressive.

Please visit Mac at:

How many genres have YOU written in? (I've done 3 or 4)
How many novels total have you written—published and/or unpublished?
Have you visited Mac's blog before, and checked out his southern-style scenic photos?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Release Party! Michelle Merrill's CHANGING FATE

Today I'm excited to be a part of Michelle Merrill's release party for her latest novel, CHANGING FATE. The book aims to raise an awareness of cystic fibrosis; half the proceeds will go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation!!! Not only that, this book will be featured for just $2.99 for all of May to celebrate CF Awareness Month. 

All Kate wants is to live. Battling cystic fibrosis is hard enough; dying from it is even harder. When her mom moves them closer to the hospital in the middle of her senior year, Kate’s determined to isolate herself—saving everyone the trouble of befriending a dying girl. It’s a difficult task when cheerful optimist Giana insists on being Kate’s friend.

Kate’s resolve falters even more when curly-haired Kyler captivates her with his sweet melodies. As her emotional walls collapse, Kate realizes the people she’s been pushing away may be the ones giving her a reason to live. But it might be too late.

Want to win a free copy? Visit each participating blog and find all 16 key phrases—2 located in each fun fact section about the author (words are in bold print). Put them together and answer the question in the giveaway on Michelle’s blog for extra points! The giveaway is open to everyone no matter where you live!

Michelle Merrill (1 & 2)      
Carol Riggs (3 & 4)          
Shallee McArthur (5 & 6)  
Kelley Hicken (7 & 8)            
Annette Larsen (9 & 10)              
Rachel Pudelek (11 & 12)                  
Melanie Stanford (13 & 14)            
Chantele Sedgwick (15 & 16)

Michelle Merrill loves kissing her hubby, snuggling her kids, eating candy, reading books, and writing first drafts. She names her computers after favorite fictional characters and fictional characters after favorite names. To learn more about her, visit her website HERE.  

View the CHANGING FATE trailer on youtube HERE!  

2 FUN FACTS about Michelle!
#3. This book is the 6th out of my total 7 written. First one published and nothing like I’ve ever written before. I’m a bit of a hypochondriac and avoid anything medical. That word alone makes me cringe. Also, I don’t like sad stories. Yes, spoiler…this one is a bit sad. If I shed one tear, I get the absolute worst headache. But I was inspired to write this story and I feel lucky to be involved in something so great!

#4. I played softball for 8 years. You’d never know that now, but it’s true. Slow pitch. My favorite position was second base. I still go back to the batting cages every once in a while just for fun…as much fun as it is to get schooled by a machine.


--Do you know much about cystic fibrosis? (I hadn't, before I read the book.)
--How much of your reading involves contemporary novels, as opposed to fantasy, historical, mystery, sci-fi, etc? (I'd say mine is about 10%, one in 10 books that I read.)
--Isn't Michelle's author photo lovely?!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Showing for More Engaging Prose

First, a note of shameless promo: My debut book, THE BODY INSTITUTE, is already showing up on Goodreads, if you'd like to add it to your "to-read" list HERE. Woo!

I've seen it. I've done it. It's so much easier (er, lazier?) to Tell your readers what they need to know instead of Showing them. But when we take the time and effort to Show, our writing can be so much more vivid and engaging.

Her heart pounding, Gemma slowly dialed the combination to her locker, wishing she could be invisible. She didn't want to turn around too soon, because ever-popular Lilliana and her preppy friends were strolling the halls. She could hear their high-pitched chatter. Ever since school had started, Lilliana and her friends had been making Gemma's life miserable. They taunted her in the classroom, shunned her in the cafeteria, and tormented her in the halls. It wasn't her fault she couldn't afford stylish clothes or the latest high-tech phone. She worked hard at the Coville Pharmacy every day after school to help Mom pay the rent. She babysat on weekends. Honestly, she didn't know what else they wanted from her.

1. Does this feel a bit distant to you? It's acceptable as a paragraph, but we're not seeing or feeling all the interaction firsthand as we should. 
2. "Filter" phrases like "She could hear" contribute to a sense of distance. Watch out for distancing phrases like: he felt, she saw, I realized, etc. 
3. In general, adverbs (like slowly) are Telling; they relay how something is done without showing it.

Her heart thumping, Gemma dialed the combination to her locker. If only she could be invisible. She didn't want to turn around too soon, because Miss-I-Have-It-All and her preppy minions were strolling the halls. Their high-pitched chatter prickled over her like a mess of spiders. Ever since school had started, Miss IHIA and her human accessories had taunted Gemma in the classroom, shunned her in the cafeteria, and tormented her in the halls. It wasn't her fault she couldn't afford stylish clothes or the latest high-tech phone. She worked hard at the Coville Pharmacy every day after school to help Mom pay the rent. She babysat on weekends. What more did they expect from her?

1. This paragraph adds some details as well as some voice, with words like Miss-I-Have-It-All, minions, and human accessories
2. Notice the difference between "wishing she could be invisible" versus "If only she could be invisible." The latter is closer to her direct thoughts, which shows more rather than tells about her wishes. Ditto for the question at the end of this second example.
3. Questions can feel more immediate and like you're in the character's head—but be careful not to overdo them. (I've been guilty of that, ahem.)
4. There's no need to say "making her life miserable" and then give (redundant) examples of how that was accomplished, as in the first example. 

Her fingers shaking, Gemma dialed the combination to her locker. She didn't want to turn around, because Miss-I-Have-It-All and her preppy minions strolled the halls. They were nearly at her back, judging by the volume of their high-pitched chatter.

"Gemma-bear, what a shame!" Miss IHIA's saccharine voice held a note of false concern. "Did you not get the memo? We canceled the thrift-store dress-up day ages ago."

The minions erupted into throaty giggles. Gemma tugged on the corner of her frayed sweatshirt, her face burning. It wasn't her fault she had to help Mom pay the rent. She slaved away at the Coville Pharmacy every day after school, and babysat on weekends. Not everyone could afford stylish clothes and high-tech phones like Lilliana and her human accessories. What more did they want from her?

1. Instead of relaying secondhand what happened in the past (yaaawn), show something happening in the present, and imply or indicate it's an ongoing occurrence. 
2. Dialogue often enlivens and shows a scene much more interestingly than narration. Readers can see firsthand what a character is like. Whether you expand into dialogue depends on how important the info is to your character development or plot.

Isn't it fascinating how we can use nearly THE SAME WORDS (as shown here) and yet come up with different results, depending on how we arrange them on a page?
Do you write your initial rough drafts more Explaining and Telling, then insert more Showing details when you go to revise?

Monday, March 24, 2014


(I'm posting now instead of my usual 3rd Wednesday posting for the month, to wait for this…)

My new author photo!
I can't believe it! After 11 years of writing/revising, more than 14 novels, and over 350 total rejection slips, I'm thrilled to announce I've landed a book contract for my light sci-fi novel, THE BODY INSTITUTE (formerly SHAPERS).



My publisher will be Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint of Angry Robot Books. Check out their awesome-sounding books HERE.

I'm really excited to be a part of this publishing house. As they describe themselves: "Strange Chemistry is a global imprint dedicated to the best in modern Young Adult science fiction, fantasy, supernatural and everything in between." They're based in the UK and release books worldwide in the UK, Canada, the US, Australia, and New Zealand.

Here's the Publisher's Weekly news release:
Riggs Checks ‘Body’ for Angry Robot
Sold in what agent Kelly Sonnack at Andrea Brown called a “competitive bidding situation,” Angry Robot’s Amanda Rutter bought world English rights to Carol Riggs’s debut YA novel, The Body Institute. The book follows a 17-year-old recruited by a weight-loss company to train its clients by having her brain waves downloaded into their bodies so she can exercise for them. Sonnack said the novel “explores the meaning of self in a brave new world.” Rutter bought the book for Angry Robot’s YA imprint, Strange Chemistry.

My THE BODY INSTITUTE book summary: 
When trim, health-conscious Morgan Dey accepts a job at an innovative weight-loss program that involves downloading her brainwaves into her overweight client's body, she soon realizes she stands much more to lose than the 100 pounds she signed up for.

Title Change
My novel used to be called SHAPERS, if anyone remembers me mentioning that title in the last couple of years. There is apparently a ladies' gym and/or some diet products in the UK called Shapers, so I needed to change the title for copyright reasons. I thought SHAPERS fit the book well, but THE BODY INSTITUTE is a great substitute title, I think.

Thank You, Thank You Very Much
Special thanks to my agent, Kelly Sonnack, for believing in this book—wading through multiple revisions and hacking away at the manuscript with me until it finally resembled something an editor wanted to acquire.

Signing the contract was SURREAL.

The release is set for January 2015!
Let the deadlines and final revisions begin!

FACEBOOK: if you'd like to keep up with my current writerly and book info, please sign in and Like my author page HERE (if you haven't Liked my page already). Thank you!!

Have you heard of Angry Robot Books or Strange Chemistry (cool names, huh)?
How would you react if you had to change your book's title—would it be easy or difficult for you to re-envision another one?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Nicole Zoltack's NA release

Hi everyone! Nicole Zoltack has recently released her new adult epic fantasy romance, called BLOODLUST. This story takes place in a Barbarian society. According to Nicole: "Bloodlust is a state barbarians enter into when they can't control themselves and kill everyone they come across." Yet there is a romance involved therein! Read on and check out the summary, below.

Here is the cover, which is very well-done and seems appropriate for the storyline.

In a world torn by prejudice and hatred, six races struggled for supremacy.


Barbarian-Princess Ivy is unwilling to allow her father to provoke the other races into war and forms an unlikely alliance with Lukor the goliath to save her people from utter destruction.


Unbeknownst to her, Lukor blames the barbarians for murdering his sister and plans on sabotaging her goal.


Almost despite each other, they grow to respect each other on their journey to decode secret messages from the trolls. But nothing Ivy can do will prevent the war as her father is blinded by Bloodlust and incites it himself. Not even killing him and becoming Barbaroness can stop the tide. And when Bloodlust claims Ivy, forcing her to kill everyone in her path, she must make a choice to destroy even Lukor, who she may have started to fall for and him in return.


Add it to your reading list on Goodreads, HERE!

Nicole Zoltack loves to write in many genres, especially fantasy romance. When she's not writing about knights, superheroes, or zombies, she loves to spend time with her loving husband and three energetic boys. She enjoys riding horses (pretending they're unicorns!) and going to the PA Renaissance Faire, dress in garb. She'll also read anything she can get her hands on. To learn more about Nicole and her writing, visit her blog HERE.

What do you think of the cover of Nicole's book, and the summary?
Does this novel sound like something you'd like to read?
Have you read many New Adult titles, one with characters aged 18-25?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Writing Sequences of Events

Congratulations to Elizabeth Varadan, the winner of last week's ebook giveaway! Elizabeth has won an ebook of Julie Musil's new release, THE BOY WHO LOVED FIRE


Today I'm pondering sequence problems, things I've noticed in others' writing, as well things my eagle-eyed critique partners have caught me doing. (Guilty!)

As I hurried along the sidewalk, I saw Mr. Bagley and stopped to talk to him for a few minutes.

Not possible. Everything in the sentence has to happen in the timeframe of the introductory phrase, "as I hurried along the sidewalk." There is no way the character can hurry along the sidewalk and stop to talk to Mr. Bagley at the same time. You could fix this easily:

As I hurried along the sidewalk, I saw Mr. Bagley. I smiled and stopped to talk to him for a few minutes.

Gina couldn't believe it. Her heart slammed against her ribcage as she strolled into the kitchen and saw Dean clutched in a passionate lip-lock with Rosalinda

Here, the reader is puzzled for an entire sentence and a half before the writer reveals what the main/POV character is reacting to. It's better to let the reader see what the character sees, WHEN the character sees it. Even the verbs don't match: her heart is slamming (already reacting) and she's strolling, which is a casual/carefree walk. You could rewrite the scene like this:

Gina strolled into the kitchen. There stood Dean, clutched in a passionate lip-lock with Rosalinda. Gina couldn't believe it. Her heart slammed against her ribcage and left her struggling for breath.

Especially when using present tense, where things happen in real, immediate time, it's often awkward and inaccurate when you put the "cart before the horse":

Dahlia's voice lowers, sounding husky and vulnerable. "Please. Do this for me."

This structure poses a problem. How would the main character who's listening to Dahlia know if her voice was low, husky, and vulnerable if Dahlia hasn't even spoken her line yet? You'd need the dialogue line first:

"Please. Do this for me." Dahlia's voice is lower now, husky and vulnerable.

Intro phrases are usually set off by commas at the beginning of a sentence, and often present an action in gerund form (running, glancing, frowning, etc.):

Racing down the stairs, Kent's heart pounded into his throat as he whipped around the corner.

Multiple problems, here! First of all, "racing down the stairs" is similar to the example above, with "As I hurried down the sidewalk"—everything after that has to occur in time WHILE Kent is racing down the stairs. Can his heart pound during this time? Sure. Can he whip around the corner? Um…no. He's still on the stairs.

Also, what comes right after "racing down the stairs" needs to be the object doing the racing. Here in this sentence, it's Kent's heart. Kent's heart is NOT racing down the stairs—Kent is. This is a detached or "renegade body part." This sentence needs to be restructured. Maybe something like this:

Racing down the stairs, Kent felt his heart pound into his throat. He whipped around the corner.

Although as a note, it's not good to have too many "feel" or "felt" words diluting the strength of your sentences.

I used "as" in most of my examples, but any kind of time/sequence words may pose these problems in your writing. These simultaneous-action words may include: WHEN, WHILE, DURING, etc.  A common place this might snag you is during action scenes.

Do you have trouble with sequences of events in your sentences, using AS?
Can you think of any other examples, or tweak the ones I have here for better flow?
If you use present tense, have you ever thought about the order of what's happening in your scenes?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

ARSONIST and SCROOGE? Julie Musil Interview

Congrats to Julie Musil, who just released her YA ebook, THE BOY WHO LOVED FIRE.

Comment below on this post to be entered in a random drawing for a FREE copy of this book! (if you already have a copy or don't wish one, please specify not to be entered) Deadline: February 16. Winner will be announced on my February 19, 2014, post. 

Genre:  Contemporary with a splash of ghosts. 

Manny O’Donnell revels in his status at the top of his high school food chain. He and his friends party in the mountains on a blustery night, sharing liquor and lame ghost stories around a campfire. The next morning, as a wild fire rages in those same mountains, Manny experiences doubt. He was the last of the drunken crew to leave the cave, and he’s uncertain if he extinguished the flames. Within hours, he becomes the number one arson suspect.

Santa Ana winds + matches = disaster. You’d think he would've learned that the first time he started a fire.

As he evades a determined arson investigator, Manny, a modern-day Scrooge, is visited by ghosts of the past, present, and future. He’s forced to witness the fate of his inadvertent victims, including Abigail, the scarred beauty who softens his heart. Manny must choose between turning around his callous, self-centered attitude, or protecting his own skin at the expense of anyone who gets in his way.

  1. What was the inspiration for this book? Real life. We almost lost our home to a California wildfire a few years ago. I wondered, who started the fire? If it was a child, would they ever know the damage they’d done? Once I had the “spark” for this story, I looked to real life when creating characters. My husband is half Mexican and 1/4 Cuban, so that’s what inspired the latin influences with Manny’s family. One of my sons was a burn victim. I drew on those experiences when it came to Abigail, the burn victim who captures Manny’s heart.
  2. What is your favorite thing about this book? Definitely the love story. Manny and Abigail are both scarred, but in different ways. Abby’s scars are on the outside, visible to everyone. Manny’s scars are buried deep, beneath a confident exterior. Abby should hate Manny; Manny should fear Abby. Together they create something special.
  3. Who is your favorite author? What are your favorite books? So many greats to choose from, but here are some of my absolute faves: “Just Listen” by Sarah Dessen, “19 Minutes” by Jodi Picoult, “Firefly Lane” by Kristin Hannah, and “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks. I gravitate toward books about family, friends, and love, with a strong emotional pull.
  4. You decided to self publish your book. What made you come to that decision? How did you know you were ready? Passion. Not only my own passion for this story, but my agent’s passion. She believed strongly in this manuscript. Also, the passion of a certain editor who came “this close” to nabbing the book. That’s when I knew I’d take matters into my own hands and get this story out there. I hired a freelance editor and cover designer, and never looked back.
  5. Any advice you can offer other writers? Take your time. Write from your heart. Believe in your work. Edit like crazy. Choose your own path. Enjoy the ride.

Julie Musil writes Young Adult novels from her rural home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and three sons. She’s an obsessive reader who loves stories that grab the heart and won’t let go. Her novel THE BOY WHO LOVED FIRE is available now. For more information, or to stop by and say Hi, please visit Julie on her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Click to visit Julie's website HERE, her Goodreads book page HERE, her Goodreads author profile HERE, and her Pinterest page HERE.

Amazon ebook ~ Amazon paperback ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Apple ~ Kobo ~ Smashwords

Thank you, Julie! It's great to get to know you better, here on my blog.

Do you know Julie and follow her blog?
What are YOUR favorite authors and books these days?
Have you considered self-publishing a book, or have you already done it?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ordering Your Words

I've been noticing something lately. It makes a difference in clarity, sound, and rhythm—depending on what order you put your words when you have a list of things or a pair of items.

Example 1 
A. Lanai went shopping and brought home boxes of cereal, lettuce, and red radishes.
The main problem with this sentence is CLARITY. If you're not careful with constructions like this, it'll sound like Lanai brought home boxes of all three things: cereal, lettuce, and red radishes. Watch out when you use prepositional phrase structures like this (of cereal, in his hair, on the fence, etc). It's best to put those phrases at the END of a sentence:
B. Lanai went shopping and brought home lettuce, red radishes, and boxes of cereal.
Notice I didn't put the red radishes first—because that might cause the same problem as above. The adjective "red" might be erroneously applied to the lettuce and the boxes of cereal (red radishes, red lettuce, and red boxes of cereal).

The second version is also better, in my opinion, for RHYTHM. I've been noticing lately that things in series often sound better when the items are ordered from simple to complex, and also fewer syllables to more syllables. Even when clarity is not an issue:

Example 2
A. The last time I hung out at the club, I danced with Bertoldo, John, and Marty.
B. The last time I hung out at the club, I danced with John, Marty, and Bertoldo.

--Is it just me, or does the B sentence flow better here? That line starts with the shorter name and progresses to the multi-syllable one. Simple to complex, a natural build-up. Although it might make a difference what the consonants are in each word; things may not flow as well. Another good reason to read your manuscript ALOUD

Example 3
A. She stretched out her arms, twirling madly and closing her eyes and laughing.
B. She stretched out her arms, laughing and closing her eyes and twirling madly.
C. She stretched out her arms, laughing and twirling madly and closing her eyes.

--What about these lines? To me, the A and B ones sound okay, but not as flowing. 
--The C line seems to flow the best to me, which meshes with the simple-to-complex theory I've been experimenting with.

Example 4
A. I couldn't figure out which sweater to wear, the burgundy or the purple.
B. I couldn't figure out which sweater to wear, the purple or the burgundy.

Example 5
A. With the dye, he turned his hair frizzy and black.
B. With the dye, he turned his hair black and frizzy.
C. With the dye, he turned his hair ink-black and frizzy.

Example 6
A. The only things he forgot to bring were xylophones, grapes, and scissors.
B. The only things he forgot to bring were grapes, scissors, and xylophones.

--In Example 4, the B sentence flows better to me (unless I read them over too many times in a row and they ALL start sounding weird/fine, ha!)
--Example 5 flies in the face of my simple-to-complex theory, because I actually think I prefer the A or C sentences. Perhaps it's the consonants, the overall sound of the words?
--I can't decide on Example 6. The B line sounds smooth, but I have to admit A has a certain rhythmic charm all its own. 

I'm sure there are other exceptions to my general theories here.

At any rate, the point is to consider what you're writing—don't just plop those words down in a series or list of things and be done with them. When you're done with your first draft and wearing your editing hat, contemplate your words. Listen to the sounds! Practice your "poetic" ear. Tweaking the order might improve the flow of your sentences.

And at the very least, check for CLARITY in your series or lists of things.

Have you ever thought about the order of your words in a list or series?
Do you agree with my "ear," or do other lines sound better to you in these examples?
Which line sounds better to you in Example 6, A or B?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Fresh Goals for 2014

Whether you make specific New Year's resolutions or not, it's good to have goals for life and writing. For one thing, it can make you feel really productive at the end of the year! Reading counts too, because it's important for writers to expose themselves to what's current and what else is out there in Published Land.

My 2013 Re-Cap
1. Substantially re-edited my agented novel SHAPERS. It's growing stronger!
2. Finished a light fantasy novel and got critique partner feedback on it.
3. Critiqued others' manuscripts with detailed feedback.
4. Started a new light fantasy novel, and am 2/3 done with it.
5. Attended the North-California SCBWI holiday event and met new writer friends.
6. Read more YA books than I ever have in years past. Goodreads said I read 20, but those were just the ones I actually remembered to write down.  
7. Actually did some artwork: Etch-a-Sketch drawings, sketches, a painting.

My 2014 Goals
1. To find a publisher home for SHAPERS (somewhat out of my control, but still).
2. Finish the last 100 pages of my WIP, probably before March.
3. Attend the Big Sur Writing Workshop March 7-9: intensive event with critique groups led by editors and agents! Spendy, but may take my writing to the next level. Link: HERE.
4. Attend the April North-California SCBWI conference in Sacramento.
5. Exercise, stretch, and move around in between writing sessions!
6. Don't neglect relationships in my life because I'm writing.
7. Keep reading YA books, especially in my genres (fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian).

What are your writing or life goals for 2014?
Have you heard of the Big Sur Writing Workshop before?
If you're a picture book to young adult writer, are you a member of SCBWI?

Happy New Year 2014!
I value your friendship, and wish great things for you and your writing this coming year.