Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Mini-reviews

October isn't over yet, but I thought it best to do the mini-reviews now since November will be filled with WriMo madness! I wish I had read a few more books this month since I don't see myself doing a lot of reading in November. But to be fair, I did Beta Read two novels. That counts, right?

Anyway, here's what I read this month

Feedback by Robison Wells. I went to the launch Party for this book and it was awesome! I don't know if any of you have read Variant, but that book had a major cliffhanger so I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one. It didn't disappoint. The tension was high throughout the entire thing and the end, even though it closed up a little, left me wanting more. I highly recommend it!
Proof I was there, with Shelly Brown, and Marion Jensen.

Nightingale by David Farland. I'm going to be doing a special review for this in a few days, but I will say this - Awesome!

Legion by Brandon Sanderson. Okay so this was a Novella, but still worth talking about. It was so good that when it was over, I was crying. Half becasue the ending was powerful and half because I really did not want it to end. The Mistborn novels are long! How did Sanderson get away with a Novella? I need more, Sanderson, you hear me? I'm going to come knocking on your door!! (okay so I'm a little crazy, but really, it was that good.)

The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson. I couldn't just stop with Mistborn. Too many questions were left unanswered. Although I know there's another book, I hadn't expected to be left with even MORE question. You'd think 600 large pages with small print would quell some of the curiousness. Here's the brilliant thing about Sanderson, he has a way of making you think you know what exactly is going on. But the truth blindsides you every time. Masterful writing. Some of the best twists I have ever read. I could guess J. K. Rowling's pattern after a couple of books, but I have a harder time picking his out. Some of them I can guess, but others really give me goosebumps. If you haven't read this series yet, get on it!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Twitter and NaNoWriMo

NaNo is great! I mean, what author doesn't like an entire month dedicated to Literary Abandon? But it's easy to get burnt out as well.

So how do I keep my Spirits up for NaNo? Twitter of course!

What does Twitter have to do with NaNo, lots of things. It's come to my attention these past few months that lots of writers aren't aware of writing sprints.

A writing sprint is when writers get together, time themselves, and write as much as they can in that time frame. It gets the blood pumping, and the word count soaring.

Before I tell you my favorite Hashtags to sprint in, I'll explain how to use twitter to this end.

You're going to need Tweet Deck, it's a desktop program that looks like this -

See how there are four columns with different content on each? Well, each column is a search I've done for a different Hashtag (anything with a # in front.) I treat each column like a chat room, watching what people say and responding. You can add more columns and make Tweet Deck bigger, or you can just scroll across the bottom to see more of what you've searched.

Alright, moving on to my favorite places to do writing sprints -

1. #wordwars - In #wordwars you get a partner and go head to head for a specified amount of time. The object is to beat your partner in word count by the end of the time limit.

2. #wordmongering - I love this one for it's consistency. Every hour at the top of the hour (8:00, or 9:00 for example) people gather for a 30min sprint and come back to report words counts and cheer each other on. There's no negativity allowed in this hashtag, everyone is a winner.

3. #1k1hr - This one was developed with the idea of writing 1,000 words a day. If you sprint, it shouldn't take you more than an hour. The only problem I have with this one is that you have to find other friends to sprint that 1 hour with you. Sometimes I've gone into this hashtag asking if I can join a sprint and gotten no response (which to me is the same as a 'no thank you') but that's only happened outside of NaNo. During NaNo anyone was willing to sprint with anyone who wanted to join in on the fun.

4. #writeordie - This one isn't really a chat room for sprints like the others. Write or Die is a web app that allows you to pick a time and a word count goal. Depending on the level of difficulty you choose, it can do anything from making annoying sounds and flashing the screen, to deleting your words if you stop typing. It's good for staying off the internet, and when you combine with other twitter hashtags it can be super effective. You don't have to buy the software,  just fill in the box that looks like this -

Lastly, this one has nothing to do with Twitter, but there's always a chat going on at iwrite. If you want to sprint with the fun people there, that works too!

Hope this helps you all achieve those word counts you've been searching for!

P. S. My NaNo username is J. A. Bennett if you want to buddy up :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Way Back When

All of us bloggers had a 'back in the day' time when we ventured out with our naive little posts praying that someone would read them. We'll, I'm going to be adventurous and post one of those long forgotten articles, ready for a re-hashing with my new followers. So here's a post from my first month of blogging almost a year and a half ago. Enjoy!

The Infernal Book List

I'm sure you've all seen it, it has plagued the walls of Facebook for sometime now. It has brought on bragging airs and dismal looks. It has made your heart glow and made you want to rip it up in the same moment. It is the top 100 book list.

They lure you in by saying most have only read six (a complete and utter lie for any high school graduate) so that you think if you've read twenty-four of the books you've done pretty well. That is, until you see that one friend who has supposedly read eighty of them. Then you feel like, even though you are an avid reader, you have somehow failed yourself.

It's as if only these 100 books will ever matter, and if you dare read anything else your doomed. Well I have news, and maybe I'm the first one to say it (but probably not) I don't want to read every book on that list!

A few years back I had several people tell me to read Wuthering Heights. "You've read Jane Eyre," they said, "this was by her sister." "You're a hopeless romantic," they said, "this will tear at your heart strings." So I read it, and I hated every minute of it. Why did I torture myself and read to the end? Well because I felt as if I didn't I was failing in the reading world somehow.

"It's a classic!" those people shouted. "You're not allowed to hate the classics!" Well guess what, I don't care! Why am I going to torture myself by dragging through a hundred classics that I don't even enjoy?

Granted, there a few I would truly like to read, little women  for example (amendment, I read it and loved it). But I must ask, what is so wrong with simply reading books I enjoy? There is a treasure trove of brilliant unknown books out there--and if I like it, I'm going to read it.

So what if I never read The Republic of Plato? Am I really ruined as a writer or a person if I don't?

Maybe I'm just ranting. Maybe I should at least attempt Plato. But if I'm not enjoying it I'm going to stop.

For today, I'm going to continue reading the latest James Patterson novel. I'm going to eat some more Easter candy and I'm going to read every last indulgent line. And I'm not going to feel guilty, not even one little bit.

What are you're thoughts? Should a book be read just because it's a classic? Or should we broaden our horizons?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pushing Forward

Rejection. If you've ever put yourself out there, you've dealt with it. No one gets a free pass in this industry. Whether it's just a critique or the actual query process rejection is hard.

Most agents these days simply don't respond to your query if they're not interested. While that stings, it doesn't hurt as much as getting a request then getting rejected.

The other day I had a rejection that really upset me. I like to pretend that I'm strong all of the time, but really it's hard even though I know that the industry is subjective and it's not a personal attack on me.

Sometimes you just want something so bad and it's hard to see past that when the rejection comes. While I was moping, I heard this song on the radio -

The lyrics spoke to me in a way they hadn't before, and I found a new sense of strength. I once watched a special on Katy Perry that told of how she had two recording contracts that both fell through before she hit it big. I can't help but think that some of that emotion was put into this song.

We all have times when we fall after a high, but that doesn't mean we don't pick ourselves up and keep going.

Sometimes we need a wake up call to become better. While rejection hurts, the best and only solution is to keep working and keep reaching for the stars. Even if you fall a few times along the way.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

National Novel Writing Month

Gah! It's just around the corner and there is loads of advice out there on how to win. But I'm not going to talk about that. Well not JUST about that.

The thing I don't think those of us intimate with the writing world see is the opportunity before us - not to write a book, we're already doing that. But to get other people writing. Therefore, this post is directed to my readers who have thought about writing at one time or another, but never started.

November is national novel writing month! (NaNoWriMo) What a better time to start the book you've always been dreaming of? I know some of my friends have awesome ideas that they've told me about and asked me to write. Here's the thing, if it's not my idea I'm not going to have the vision that you do to write it.

I couldn't pull off your ideas half as well as you can. So get writing! The challenge of NaNo is to write 50,000 words in one month. That's only 1,666 words a day for the month of November. Even if you don't 'win' and write 50,000 words. At least take the chance to start writing. There's no time like the present :)

As far as winning goes, here's my tip (and you'll hear this over and over): Have a plan, and write any chance you can get!

Some plotting tools for anyone interested in starting:

Get prepared now because the month of November will fly by! 


Monday, October 15, 2012

Words Mean Something

I know, the title to this post seems like a total no brainer. But I don't think we think about it enough.

The other day one of my kids was pressing a button on a toy that played "row, row, row, your boat" over and over. It reminded me of a time when my uncle taught me the 'big words' version that goes something like this:

Propel, propel, propel, your craft
Placidly down the liquid solution
Ecstatically,  ecstatically, ecstatically, existence is but an illusion.

As I mulled over those words I realized that although the basic concept of the song is still in tact, the words have altered the meaning.

Go ahead and look up merrily in a thesaurus, ecstatically will be one of the alternate choices, but to me ecstatically means more of a feverish excitement. Merrily intones more contentment than excitement.

Not to mention the last phrase - 'life is but a dream' brings to mind a floating kind of peace, whereas "existence is but an illusion" brings to mind a deeper question and meaning to what life is. 

It made me think about the words I choose as I write. Yes, I could replace some of my words with others that sound 'smarter' but does that really convey how my character thinks and acts? Is it a word they would really use, and does it fit the tone of the book?

Words do matter, and we should be careful which choices to make for our book.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Healthy Writers Club: Week One

Thanks to the lovely Shallee (pronounced Sha-lee) McArthur. Each Friday is a celebration of writing and living healthy!

I've never been a runner. Let me tell you, time and again I've tried to be a runner. You'd think having a dad who was a runner (he once ran the Wasatch 100 a 100 mile race, I'm not kidding!) I would have no problem.

I've always wanted to be a runner, not just becasue of my dad but becasue runners have amazing bodies, but I've always gone back to dance instead which is hard to keep up when you aren't taking regular classes.

This time I'm determined. I've decided to look at running in the same way I've come to look at writing. At first I had no clue what I was doing, but I just wrote. Then I started to research writing to become better. Then I found other writers to help me out and cheer me along.

With running I'm on step two of that process. I've decided to follow this running schedule until I can improve enough to run for longer amounts of time. I just completed week one this morning.

This blog post is my first official step into looking for support to keep my running going. I think of much more motivation than being accountable to my blog followers.

Weekly stats: 3/4 days of 30 min runs
Coolest moment: Losing two pounds, wahoo!
Hardest moment: Pushing myself beyond what I think I'm capable of.

Do you believe writing and running go hand and hand? Do tell!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A License to Read

My husband and I where having a conversation the other day about getting our first Library Cards. My husband made the comment "I thought I was so cool, it was like I'd been given a license to read." Once I finished laughing I couldn't help but agree.

It's funny, but I still see my library card as a precious possession. I mean, I can read a lot more becasue I don't have to buy every book on my wishlist (though I sometimes dream about being able to do so, it just isn't possible in a stay-at-home mom's budget.)

The great thing about living in a small town is that I can often reserve very popular books online. Since not many people in my town know how to use that system, I can get the book as soon as whoever has it decides to turn it in. I only wait about three days to get the newest books that other library's have hundreds of holds on.

The downside to living in a little town is that they don't always have the books that I want. And I'm pretty sure the ladies at the front desk are sick of me requesting books. Still, I'm grateful for what I can get.

Sometimes I feel like my neighbors don't even know how great our library is. Maybe I should run a campaign to get more people reading. (but then would I get my books as fast?)

I guess the point is, too many people think they don't have the money to read, or the time to visit a library. But with the internet that's just not true. If my little town has an online holding system, I guarantee other towns have similar things. My state also has on an online audiobook library which I totally love.

Reading doesn't have to take a hit becasue of feeble excuses. As an author it worries me how little people use libraries. It's like that high of getting your first license to read has totally worn off, when it shouldn't.

So here's the challenge to my author friends. Go to your library and look for a book you'd like to read. If they don't have it, request it so more authors can get onto the shelves.

Here's the challenge for those who aren't authors, get a library card and read!

It's pretty simple, our libraries need us and we need them. Plus it you never know what gems you'll find sitting on the shelf that you might have missed otherwise. Reading is good for the soul.

Do you use your library? Have you given your children a license to read?

Monday, October 8, 2012

September Mini-reviews

My goal this year has been to read a book a week for the entire year (52 books total) so far, I've either met or exceeded that goal. Which is good becasue this month wasn't as great as months past. (Having a baby is a good excuse, right?)

But I still made myself read whenever I could get the chance. So even though I've fallen short I'm still on track to read 52 books this year. Anyway, here's what I read --

Witch Song by Amber Argyle. Amber, I'm sorry it took me so long to read your book! I've had it on my kindle for like 50 years (okay maybe just a year, but still.) Let me start by saying I wish I gotten to it a lot sooner. The magic system is inventive and delightful. The character arc is well done, and the love story is to die for. I sometimes have a hard time with old world fantasy, but not if it's done right and this was done beautifully. I'd recommend it to anyone who's interested in age old witch story. Really excellent.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Yet another book that I'm late to the party on, but one that shouldn't be missed. Before this, the best book I had read all year was probably Enders Game (which was really, really excellent, by the way). This one tipped the scale to my new favorite of the year. Over and over I was hearing people at writing conferences talk about the cool magic system of this book. Until I read it I wouldn't have believed how awesome it is.

I was little apprehensive when I saw how thick it was (with big pages and fine print) but the writing is so on par I was hoping that the book would last even longer (thank goodness there are three more books in the series!) Seriously, if you haven't had a taste of Brandon Sanderson, don't wait another day. I had a feeling this book was going to surprise me, but it did more than that, it blew me out of the water. I can only hope to become half the author Brandon is. So good!

Princess Academy: Palace of Stone. I'm a huge Shannon Hale fan, and Princess Academy was one of the best becasue of (once again) the awesome magic system. I wasn't sure how she was going to keep this story going but she did an excellent job. There wasn't as much of the magic in this book, but solid characters and an edge-of-your seat plot kept it moving forward quite well. If you've read Princess Academy, pick this one up for sure. You won't be let down.

What was your favorite read last month?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

IWSG: Polished

It's that time again. The first Wednesday of every month is dedicated to Captain Ninja Alex's Insecure Writers Support Group. To join in on the support, sign up here.

This month I want to talk about getting that MS all shiny and ready to send out into the world. Three months ago I was working with some beta readers and proof-reading my MS. I had a few people look over the first half, I read it about ten times, then I printed some copies and had a few people proof the whole thing.

I thought it was ready to send out into the world, so I sent it. I actually got an offer with a small press which I turned down. But I'm having a harder time getting an agent to take notice of my little novel which has lead me to one conclusion, it needs more polishing.

I wish there was a magic time when a book is really done, but I feel like I'll be editing this book for the rest of my life and it still won't get published. So here's my questions:

How much polishing do you do before you consider your MS done? And how much polishing do you do before you've decide it isn't worth it and put it away forever?

P. S. - A story I co-authored is being featured by Jolly Fish Press. It's entitled The Wheresquirrel: Hold onto Your Nuts. It's horror meets comedy in the best possible way. Come vote for me and you can win a $25 gift card!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Evie's Knight Book Bomb!

Today is a special day for my friend Kimberly Krey. In honor of her book bomb day, I'm giving Evie's Knight a bit of a spotlight. Here's the cover and blurb if you're interested :)

In Evie's Knight, love doesn't simply hurt ... it kills.

EVIE always thought college life would be magical, but so far it's not what she hoped for. Her best friend has gone wild, her love life is void, and she misses her mom more than ever. But life for Evie is about to change. CALVIN KNIGHT, the very object of her fascination, is about to fall madly in love with her. Just one problem: Their love conjures a murderous woman from beyond the grave who wants Evie dead. The same demon who has haunted the Knight men for over four generations.
Soon Calvin is forced to choose: Set Evie free and hope to evade the wrath of The Raven-haired Ghost, or use his newly gifted strengths to fight against her. If he chooses to fight and wins, Calvin will free the Knight men of this demonic witch. If he loses, Evie will  become her next victim.

Should you consider buying it, here's the link on Amazon:

Enjoy reading!