Thursday, December 23, 2010

Book Reviews by Priscilla the Great!

So my grades in English class are not so good right now.  Apparently, taking the words of Emily Bronte and rapping them to the music of a Black Eyed Peas hit does not make a good poetry project. Who knew? Thankfully, Mrs. Talendy is letting me redeem myself. I have to read ten books over Christmas break and write blogs about them. Yeah, I know, TEN WHOLE BOOKS! And I can’t even count comic books!

Anyway, I decided to go ahead and get started. I need to knock these books out if I want any chance of having some fun this break. I got two books done this weekend so I’ll talk about them now.

I started small with a little book called Bloated Goat by Manley Peterson. Here is a description from Amazon:

When Granny Hammy finds Bloated Goat face down in her front yard's drainage ditch, her grandson Cocky Doodle thinks nothing of it. In fact, he says that’s just another normal day for his best friend. But when they discover that Bloated Goat has little black Xs for eyes and is even more bloated than normal, they realize it is much more serious.

Come join the trio on a humorous adventure filled with jewel thieves, a despondent wolf, an alligator gangster, a kingdom of hungry mushrooms, a shocking skunk wedding, and a mysteriously powerful chameleon known as Crazy Ned.

But don’t take my word for it. Read the following fake quotes for more convincing words:

"This is one the funniest books about bloated goats and talking animals I've ever read." - A random, imaginary kid

"If I was stuck on a deserted island with nothing but this book, I'd probably read it at least once." - An important kid, possibly your best friend or son or daughter

The description alone made me want to read this book. I love the made up quotes.  Bloated Goat was a quirky little kid’s story where the animals talk to you. Literally, they talk to you the reader. It was like Ferris Bueller meets Open Season. I read it to the twins for their bedtime story and they laughed so hard milk squirted out of their noses. Which is odd because they’re both lactose intolerant.

Anyway, the next book I read this weekend was Firefly Island by Daniel Arenson. Here is a summary from Amazon:

King Sinther, his flesh made of stone, tyrannizes the enchanted Firefly Island. Swords and arrows break against him. Armies crash before him. All of Firefly Island, a land of magic and mystery, suffers under his cruelty.

But one girl, a simple slave girl, has magic that can stop him. Whatever Aeolia feels, she can make others feel: joy, sadness, hunger... even pain. If she hurt herself and shared the pain, she could hurt the mad stone king.

Can Aeolia escape King Sinther's assassins, defeat him, and save Firefly Island?

Now I’m not normally too into fantasy. I’m more Star Trek than Lord of the Rings if you know what I mean. But I really liked this book. It transported me to Firefly Island and I felt Aeolia’s pain…which was exactly what her powers were. Good job, girl. Anyway, definitely go pick this up from Amazon as soon as you can.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Success for a New Novelist!

A couple of years ago when I started on TheNextBigWriter, I started reading a story that I fell in love with- Priscilla the Great by Sybil Nelson. It was still in the process of revisions but even then I knew it would eventually be published. During the past year or so, I've been following Sybil's journey to market her book and get it published. Well, it finally happened!

Priscilla the Great was picked up by a publisher, and is now for sale on Amazon! I'm so excited for her! She has put in so much work throughout the entire process, and is truly an inspiration to me.

What's even better is that as part of her marketing plan she is going on a blog tour and will be making a stop here to do a guest blog on December 23rd! While you're waiting you can check out an interview with her here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Plodding Along

As excited as I am with my revisions, I really feel like I've just been plodding along. I finished Nano and even though I had the words to win, I didn't really feel like a winner. Nothing like last year when I finished Songbird. So when I started tackling the revisions to Raven's Mark (Evolution of Janie) I was already in a funk.

So far, I've managed to get to chapter 4 with revisions and I already know I have another round to do, because the feedback I've had from my reviewers on the first three have pointed out things I knew and was dreading. Restructing parts of the first chapter, to establish setting sooner., working on sentence structure to build sentence fluency and decrease the choppy phrasing, which although commonly found in YA is not how I want my work to read. The part that's really killing me though is reducing all of my repetitive words, and ideas.

My first major revision of Raven's Mark was drastic, I pretty much massacred the thing and it came out three hundred percent better. The round I want to know that at the end I've got it solid. That it really will be ready to send to agents. I still have my hopes for the two agents with my original partials, but at this stage I'm moving on. I refuse to just put this piece on the shelf. I will get this story in shape. Even if it takes me forever to do!

On my iPod:

"Just the Way You Are" by Bruno Mars

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Name Change

The Evolution of Janie is no more. Well, at least the title. That itself had been bothering me for a while. It was just too long, and there is, of course, that pesky book titled The Evolution of Jane. This past week I've been stewing over what I want to do with Evolution. I still have two partials out with agents, but I've been stalling over sending out more, because I've had this voice in the back of my mind saying it still needed work. And I've finally admitted it's right.

The plot was too complicated, too many holes needed to be closed, and there's those dreaded Twilight comparisons still coming. My last revision was focused on characters and pacing. Characters, fixed. Pacing, partially fixed. Well, it's time to bring on the revisions.

Not only is the Title gone, but I've altered the originals of the myth that the story is dependent on. I'm still using the Raven shape shifting element, but focusing on Norse and Scandinavian myths, as well as a bit of Germanic legends. Everett will no longer be in Montana. I'm going for Western Colorado, think Telluride area. 

With taking out the Native American myth, I've had to adjust some of my character's physical attributes and their names. The names are what's driving me crazy so far. I keep thinking Janie, but she's not anymore. She is Anya. Marcus is Davin and Beth is Elin. Thank God for the Find and Replace function in word, otherwise I'd end up confusing everyone reading it!

So the new title?

The Raven's Mark (subject to change when something better appears!)

On my iPod:

Breaking My Own Heart by Duffy 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nano Burn Out

Didn't think this would happen. Twelve days in and I'm ready to burn my Nano novel. I hate to not complete the contest, but I just can't do it. At least, not with this piece. I was really excited to start. The character of Maddie had been in my head for a while, and I had this great idea for what was going to happen to her, but the more I write, the less I like how it's developing.

It's just not flowing the way I wanted. It's a complex idea and I guess I've learned my lesson after the massive rewrites I had to do to  The Evolution of Janie. I need to do a lot more planning before I'm ready to work on this. 

At this point I'm not ready to give up on Nano. I'm simply done trying to force this novel out. Instead, I'm going to work on The Reconstruction of Janie. Not a bad plan as far as I can see. Career wise it probably makes a lot more sense. If I find an agent for Evolution then I'm going to need to get my ass in gear with the sequel.

Now I just need to find a way to get back into motion!

On my iPod:

mmm Papi by Britney Spears

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Nano Express 2011

NaNoWriMo is 6 days in! Last year I hesitated to enter, waiting until the last minute to sign up. I just wasn't sure I could give it the right amount of commitment it needed. I was rewriting The Evolution of Janie and had no idea what I would work on. Then on the first, Songbird started. This year entering was an easy choice. It was the question of what I would work on. I have the sequel to  Evolution started and I'm more than 30% done Liar.

But the purpose of NaNo is to start a new piece. I know that not everyone does this and I don't have a problem with others using a WIP but for me I just felt that it would get me moving on a new idea I had.

The piece I'm working on is The Pass (a very tentative title). It's centered on Maddie, a young girl who even after two years is struggling to understand all of the changes since a car accident which should have killed her. When she woke from her coma, nothing and no one was the same. People she thought were her friends didn't even acknowledge her, but urged by her father, she pretends things are normal and two years later those false memories have faded. Then getting struck by lightning, she wakes up to find everything different again. The only person who can explain it is Lucas and he's not exactly full of answers himself. Finding herself in an alternate universe is scary enough but having to trust Lucas is terrifying, especially after she learns he was the last person to see the alternate Maddie alive.

My NaNo pace has been right on target and I'm pretty much writing a chapter a day. I'm feeling good about where the story is going. I have a basic idea of where it's going and how it will end, but the in between stuff reminds me of last year when each day I sat down with absolutely no clue what I was going to write. Although, I'm hoping this year I don't lose steam after November 30th.

On my iPod:

Breaking My Own Heart by Duffy

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Stone Angel Review

Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence was another of the re-reads on my list of books to read. When I read it in high school, Stone Angel was my independent study novel. I chose it by default - my sister already had a copy. I read through it in a day (yes, I did the same the first time I read Who Has Seen the Wind as well - I admit I was a bit of a procrastinator!)  and gave my presentation the next day. That I earned an A was amazing, that my class voted my presentation as the best in class was even better!

Stone Angel is the story of Hagar Shipley an elderly yet stubborn and acrimonious woman. The novel gives insight into the early days of Hagar's life as seen through her eyes in her last days. Laurence manages to give the reader a perfect anti-hero. Hagar is in no way a sympathetic character. She's prejudiced and unfriendly to everyone, starting as a child. But by the end of the book, you feel sorry for her, because as much as she and the reader realize that she's lost so much because of her actions and words, it's too late and she knows it. Even in her dying days she can't find a way to tell those around her, those who care for her the most that she loves them.

The book starts out slow and I wondered where the plot was going, but about halfway through I figured out that this was not a story but a character study. Everything we see is through Hagar and until our eyes open and see like her we can't understand what the Laurence wants us to.

I'm not giving Stone Angel a rating, since I this time around i read it as a writer, and for that purpose Laurence succeeded. Character's hold a book together. They don't always have to be likable, or be saved in the end, or even changed in a way other's can see. they only have to change in a way the reader can understand.

As for the presentation I did I dressed as Hagar and gave her review of the book. Letting her character speak for herself.

On my  iPod:

Little Sparrow by David Cook

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dear Lucky Agent Contest!

Guide to Literary Agents is have another "Dear Lucky Agent Contest" through their blog. And this month it's YA!!!

I'm definitely going to enter this time. Each time they have a contest I consider entering, but so far I keep missing the ones for YA and the others haven't really screamed at me to enter. Mainly because they've been for categories where I didn't think any of my work fits neatly. So, wish me luck and it you're interested in checking out the details for yourself either click on the link in my blogroll or just click here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's been 1 year!

Wow! It's been one year since I started my blog, well, okay one year and one day. I can distinctly remember a time when I was anti-blog. I refused to blog and apart from my sister's short-lived Polar Penny blog I never read them. I just didn't see the point. When I started blogging last year, I was driven to it by the shere number of other writers in tNBW and Absolute Water Cooler that had blogs. Suddenly, blogging seemed like a good idea. An easy way to get some web exposure for myself and promote my writing.

When I started the blog, I wasn't sure exactly what I was going for. And even now I think my blogs are pretty much me rambling about writing and how it relates to my life. Sometimes when I read others' blogs I realize how inadequate my own is. I wish I had the time and patience and inspiration to write long blogs about how to improve one's ability to write, but since I'm still learning I don't really see myself as qualified to dish out writing tips. I also don't have time to do in-depth book reviews that detail how writers and readers can learn from an amazing (or crappy) book.

but I'm okay with that. My blog is what it is - a growing document, chronicling my journey to becoming a published author. One day, I'll be able to post advice on finding an agent, on signing a book deal, on marketing a book. One day, this blog will be about my journey to becoming a NY Times best selling author.

Make me Wanna Die by Pretty Reckless

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Reading YA

I write YA. I love reviewing YA on tNBW. I work with YAs. But for some reason I don't read YA, well at least the ones that are selling.

3 years ago, writing YA was probably the furthest thing from my mind. I hadn't picked up a YA book since Sweet Valley High was the big seller. Then the movie Twilight came out and I'm a sucker of cheesy teen romance movies. I dragged my husband and infant daughter to see it. And I loved it. The fact that it came from a book was even better, because to me reading was and still is one of my favorite things to do.

The next day, I picked up Twilight and was done before the end of the day. By the end of the week I had read all four books. And yes, I admit it. I loved the books. Not because they were amazingly well written, and not because Edward and Jacob were so beautiful and perfect. I loved them because they were an easy read, yet managed to give that feeling of being a teenager again.

About two weeks after I finished the series, I started writing. Stephenie Meyer made it look so easy.

It wasn't. I wrote and then scrapped the first 30,000 words I wrote, starting over again. When I joined tNBW, I thought I had some great piece of writing - Uh, NOT! Since then I've grown so much in my writing from all the feedback I've had. Just as significantly, I've seen better YA then Twilight. I'm not going to rag on the issues I now see with Twilight, because it doesn't matter - teens/people read it, she's a millionaire. The point is that on tNBW I've managed to read a number of YA books - fantasy, paranormal, romance, realistic - that I never would have read before. Yet, I know I need to read more. I can usually tear through a book in a couple of days, why not use it t broaden my knowledge of what I'm writing.

So, if you have a favorite YA book/series or you've written one, pimp it out here and I'll add it to my list to read.

Monday, October 11, 2010


For those of you who really know me, you know that I'm not a planner. I love he idea of it and occasionally I get a burst of energy  and think - Wow! How cool would it be to have my plans done for once. I do them and it's great until I have to do it again. That's where I fall apart.

Well, this past week I was struck by the planning bug twice! Yes, TWICE! First I decided to get ready for NaNoWriMo. Last year I just wrote and I ended up with Songbird, so glad I did it and I am very proud of what I accomplished with it. For me I feel Songbird is a much strong, and yes, better story than Evolution of Janie. I'm just not working on it because I know the rejections will hurt more. But it was hard to stay focused last year, because I never knew what I was going to write until I sat down each day and started typing.

For this year, I'm going to work on an idea I have called The Pass this is the one I posted the poll on a couple weeks ago. I currently have the opening scenes written, but I'm not going to touch it again until November 1st. The exciting part is that I have the first few chapters planned. Not sure after that, but it's more than I had last year!

The other great thing is that I lost my headphones. What does that have to do with planning? Well, I get really bored on the elliptical at the gym if I don't have music or the tele to watch, so instead I decided to take my notebook. I spent 20 minutes planning out the rest of Liar. It's still pretty vague but I know where it's going and some general chapter points.

I'm not expecting this planning phase to last too much longer, but for now I'm really enjoying knowing what I'm going to write about. :)

On my iPod

Billionaire by Travie McCoy ft. Bruno Mars

Monday, October 4, 2010


I keep getting ideas for blog posts. When I'm at work, in the car, laying in bed at night they just seem to come naturally.

Great, right?


The second I actually sit down at the computer to write one up, they're gone! I completely forget what I was going to write about and then when I finally remember I can't do it in a way that brings to mind the way I wanted to say it. I was thinking about Wales today and now I don't know what it was that I felt was so important to me, or funny. ARGH!!

Goal for the week - get a blog journal to write this crap down!!

On a positive note, I'm getting some actual writing done on Liar and sometime this month I've decided to start another revision of Evolution, focusing on pacing and cleaning up a few details.

On my iPod:

Haven't Got a Care by The Barra McNeils 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

In the Beginning...

I'm not sure what actually triggered my thoughts today but I was suddenly overwhelmed by the memory of how I felt when I first started writing The Evolution of Janie. It was a heady feeling, my chest tightened and a surge of excitement filled me. I can clearly remember sitting in the Barnes and noble bookstore in The Woodlands, flipping through pages of a Montana tour guide, hoping to find the perfect location for my story.

It was a feeling that I want to recapture. That rush of starting something completely new, that was going to change my life in a way that I never anticipated. Before starting Evolution I'd never seriously considered writing a novel. But once I started I found that the thrill of creating something of my own, where I could direct the characters to be what I wanted and to do what I wanted them to do, was better than reading what another had put down on paper.

I suppose now my goal is to find that feeling again and keep it going. So many times I sit at the computer and try to figure out what I'm doing. I've been too focused on trying to get an agent and get published that I've lost my love of creating. Since putting my querying on the back burner I've been feeling freer, but I know that to really get back to where I started I'm going to have to find a way to write for me first and my audience second.

There's always going to be a part of me that desires to get published, and when I had a full request on Evolution earlier this week, I did get a tingle in my stomach. But that needs to be second to the actual writing.

On my iPod:

Adam's Song by Blink 182

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When to Quit

When it quit is a question I've been pondering for a while. Not that I'm thinking of quitting writing but revisions. When I first finished my draft of Evolution I thought it was nearly perfect. HA! Well, after a few rejections I ended up taking a serious look at my 'completed' draft and realized it still needed serious work.

The results of six months of revisions was an almost completely different novel. I changed setting, defined and removed characters, and altered the core conflict of the plot. I'm so happy I made those revisions. I definitely feel that the result was a stronger piece. Since I finished that new 'completed' draft, I've continued to make smaller revisions, adjusting minor issues and clarifying plot and characters. Each time I feel better about what I've written. About three months ago I decided to start querying again. I've had a bit of interest, with two partials and a full. Considering I've only sent out about 20 queries this round I think the two versions of my query are working alright. 

Last week, I had a beta reader who graciously read through the entire manuscript in one sitting. Overall, she had a lot of great things to say - the stuff I wanted to hear. In addition to the positives she pointed out the problems she noticed as reading - the stuff I needed to hear. Redundancies aren't a big issue. I can give it a read through again and remove some of them. But the main problem she pointed to was my pacing. And she's right. I know she is. Pacing was what I was trying to fix, and I did. Well, I did a bit, just not enough.

There was a moment a few weeks back that I thought I was done with major work. Now I know I still need to do more. Maybe I don't know when to quit. I just don't see the purpose of having a completed novel still on the shelf (or in my hard drive)that no one wants to publish because I'm too tired or lazy or stubborn to make the necessary revisions to make to sellable.

I have multiple projects on the go; Reconstruction of Janie, Liar, Witness, The Pass, and Today I die. I have other things I could focus on, but part of me won't let go of Evolution. It was the first book I finished. The first novel I ever put any of my effort and heart into. It'll sell one day. It may not be my first to make it into print, but it'll make it.

When to quit? Not now. Not until it's published.

On my iPod:

New Orleans is Sinking by The Tragically Hip

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Power of Description

The blood-red moon hung heavy in the pitch black sky. It's beauty was broken only by the piercing wind that threw dried golden leaves across its palette.

Umm...Yeah. Not quiet the best I could do, but I think, in a way, it gets the point across. Some description is good, too much is well...not good. For me I always thought my issue was not enough description, but as I continue reading Jack Bickham's The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes, I wonder if my problem is really not recognizing description when I write it.

When I think of description the example I gave above is what comes to mind, describing the setting, setting the mood. Yet in Bickham's book he discusses that description is really just a pause in the action to tell the reader what things look like, what the characters are thinking and feeling. I've had a lot of reviews that tell me to describe more - but they are suggesting more details to the surrounding, something I readily admit I sometimes skip. My real issue comes with character thoughts and feelings. I have no difficulty doing this, in fact looking back at reviews from the first version of The Evolution of Janie, I was called out on it a number of times.

For myself, I find it hard to take out character thoughts and feelings since I'm writing in first person. How do you not include thoughts and feelings when you're supposed to be the character? It was a question I've asked myself a lot after reading Chapter 6: Don't Describe Sunsets. But I think I may have figured it out by referring back to his previous chapter about warming up your engine. Instead of worrying about thoughts and feelings I need to focus on what those thoughts and feelings address. In my original draft I used Janie's thoughts to give back story, a lot of back story which in addition to taking the reader out of the action it took them backwards instead of forwards. Overall, I think I've fixed this in my opening chapters, but I'm not done. I need to go back and reread, searching for little bits that repeat, that just don't move us forward.

Just one more thing to add to my editing/revision to do list!!

On my iPod:

Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Prepping for NaNo!!

Okay, I know it's 46 days away,'s only 46 days away! I've been thinking about how to approach NANO this year. For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo - it stands for National Novel Writing Month and the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

Last year I wasn't sure what I was even going to do it until I sat down at the computer and started typing. 30 days later I had almost the complete draft of Songbird. But it happened just like that. Every day I sat down unsure of where the story was going to take me, what I was going to write. The only goal I had for the story was to get my daily word count. And even though I loved writing Songbird I hated not knowing where to go each day, and the pull of words that sometimes took me hours to get to since I was waiting for inspiration.

I've been contemplating what to do for my novel this year. I have an idea that I'm playing with (this is Maddie's story) but I'm just not sure if I want to devote that much time to it yet. I'm about a third of the way through Liar and really want to get moving on Witness and Heal Me. But more important than picking which novel I want to do is decided how I'll write it. I really think that if I can work out an outline I'd enjoy NaNo so much more. It would keep me on track and reduce my freaking out about making my word count. Now, if only I could commit!!

On my iPod:

Teenage Dream by Katy Perry

Saturday, September 11, 2010


So, I've had a new character, Maddie, in my head lately and I haven't yet decided what to do with her. I now where she first introduces herself and a bit about her personality. The part that's got me stuck at the end of my first chapter with her is where exactly is she going? It's really starting to frustrate me because I have a picture of her passing through a portal. She's standing right in front of it and until I know where she's going I can't move forward with the story. I know, I know, I should plan this kind of stuff out so that this exact thing doesn't happen but frankly I'm resigned to being a "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants" writer. Once she gets where ever she's going I'll have the rest of the story since I have scenarios for each possible setting. I just can't decide where Maddie's portal leads, too.

Want to help? Please vote!!

[polldaddy poll=3750820]

Monday, September 6, 2010

Temporary Hold

I woke up this morning feeling crappy. Yes, it is a holiday Monday, but still, I felt horrible. Then I sat down at my computer to find a response to a query letter. Rejection. My crappy day just got crappier and it wasn't even 10am, yet. So, I read through the rejection, knowing it came from an agent who often personalizes query rejections and my stomach sank. She liked my concept, and title - gee, didn't she say that to some other people on QueryTracker? But after what I assume is her form ego-boost she says she reads the first few paragraphs (Should I take it to mean that she didn't bother with the rest of the chapter?) And found it wordy in the wrong places and too descriptive.

So, should I take it to mean that it's crap? It would certainly match my mood. I don't think I've ever had a reviewer say that before. It's not that I want to discount her words, because I know that there are always ways to grow as a writer, and maybe she's seeing something I'm not. That my reviewers aren't. But at the same time, do I place one agent's three sentence rejection above the twenty or so reviewers who've read that opening? Do I take the chance of changing the opening because one person says so?

The answer is I just don't know.

The longer I query the harder each rejection is because it's one less agent I can query in the future. It's one less door to open. I don't want to do it anymore, and that's scary because I haven't felt that way before. Even when I stopped querying on Songbird I did so because I knew I needed to do more work on it and on the query.

After stewing over it for an hour, I decided that I wasn't going to send out anymore queries until October. I'll use this month to give Janie a complete read over and maybe try to find a beta reader to help me see anything I'm missing. Hopefully, I won't be reworking that entire novel again. We'll see.

On my iPod:

You're Beautiful by James Blunt

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Who Has Seen the Wind

The first time I picked up W.O. Mitchell's Who Has Seen the Wind I was in eleventh grade, and was dreading it. I needed to read it if I was going to pass the test the next day. My lack of enthusiasm came more from my English teacher than anything else. She was an over analyzer. She killed To Kill a Mockingbird for me, by the endless symbolism I couldn't see.

But with Who Has Seen the Wind I sat down and began read. Six hours later I was done. I can even remember being curled up on my dad's chair , turning the pages and occasionally sending my mum dirty looks when she asked me questions like "Have you done your homework?"

I'm not sure where that instant love came, and even after reading it again, slower this time, over the past month, I still can't place my finger on it. A literary novel is not normally my type of reading. I much prefer romance, mainly because I like a tear-jerker as long as it has a happy ending.

Mitchell bounces around between points of view, although Brian remains the central character. And while I still wish he'd given more from Brian's father just before he died, he more than made up for it with Brian's grandmother's last days. Her constant need to hear the world, the wind while she prepared to die, was heartbreakingly shut down by her daughter's desire to keep the window closed in what I see as a desperate attempt to make her mother want to keep going.

So many times, I've read that writers try to emulate their favorite authors, but for me the difference between Mitchell and myself is what appeals to me. He is description heavy, uses dialects I sometimes had to reread, and allows the reader into the minds of multiple characters.

I had originally started reading this book again to do a book review on it, but I've since decided that reviewing isn't what I need as a writer. It's published and I need to learn from what Mitchell did that worked.

The way I see it, he set out to give us a picture of life on the prairies on the 1930's. He captures the simplicity of the people, while at the same time showing how complicated their love and prejudices are. He shows how a young boy faces death, the grief of losing his dog, the emptiness when his father suddenly dies and the disbelief that his grandmother has finally passed.

As for myself, I'm going to take a page from Mitchell's book and focus on the little details. I've always had difficulty with setting, so I'm going to go back and see how I can develop this in some of my own pieces.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Warming my Engine

I'm continuing my reading of The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack Bickham and have found it surprisingly easy to read. When I first purchased the book I did so on the advice of a fellow writer from tNBW (Thanks Crazeesharon!), but I was hesitant to open it. My reluctance came more from my own insecurities than any aversion to reading. I just didn't want to know that I was doing everything (or in this case 38 things) wrong.

I posted about Chapter 1 earlier and I've taken steps to end that mistake - I now have a brand-spanking-new whiteboard above my desk, ready for me to record and plot my word count goals.

Today's post is about openings. Bickham calls it "Warming your Engines" and he suggests not doing it. Being an idler is definitely something I can lay claim to. When I think back to my original version of Janie, I idled as long as possible. I spent so much of my first few chapters giving background and setting the stage that I completely neglected to provide any action. It's only due to some honest and amazing reviewers that I scrapped my crap and now have a solid opening for Janie.

But as I started Reconstruction, I noticed that I was doing it again. Everything I read about sequels suggested that I needed to do some kind of recap for the read, just in case they didn't read the first book. So in my mind, it was better just to dump it into the opening chapter. Well, Thank God I had those honest reviewers again because they  called me on it. I've rewritten the opening chapter and will use the previous versions later in the book.

As I'm rewriting this opening with a focus on more action, I'm really finding it much more enjoyable. I can visualize the scenes and it's not feeling forced. I've managed to give bits and pieces of information without dumping and I think that it's enough for a new reader to come in and not feel completely lost. I've finished the first chapter and have started on the second, which is going to have some drama, and lead into where I need the characters to go, but still it's not forced. It's a conversation that a number of reviewers have asked about and I didn't put it into Evolution because it was going to open up the premise for the sequel, and really until I can sell the first book there's no point in writing it to need a sequel.

 So, I have decided to take Bickham's Chapter 5 advice: Don't warm your engines. Start the story with the first sentence!

On my iPod:

I wish I could tell you, but my battery is dead and my computer has crashed!! New hard drive is being installed and I'll be getting it back in about 3 weeks. Until then I'm destined to listen to the radio in the car, and I can never remember songs and artists :) 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tackling the Sequel

With The Evolution of Janie done for now (well, except for minor revisions and those nits that keep popping up) I've been working on the sequel, The Reconstruction of Janie. I already have an idea of where the story is going and I even think that my trilogy may be pared down to just the two books. So knowing where I'm going is wonderful, and even having an idea of where it will end is even better. The hard part is where to start.

Due to changes I'd made to Evolution my previous start to the sequel just wasn't going to work. So, I took a stab at an alternate opening, Janie and Marcus facing the council, that way I could recap what happened in the first book. Problem! It then felt more like the next chapter in the book, and like an info dump. Definitely not what I was going for.

I've had an idea that ties very nicely back to the opening chapter of Evolution, but I'm still torn. Where do I draw the line with the recap of info? Having an info dump is just too tiring, not just for me but also for the reader, because really if they wanted to know right away what was happening in the sequel, shouldn't they read the first one? I hate getting a sequel and having to wade through a retelling of everything that happened before, so why would I, as an author, want to do that to my readers?

At this point, I've managed to find a spot to start. What I've written with the Council scene will stay (with a bunch of cuts) and will come after my new Chapter 1. What I had from a year ago will also stay, although I'll need to do a lot of edits and revisions (five chapters of plotline that I'm keeping is too much to toss).

So, knowing where I'm starting is great, right? That's what I thought, then I began to wonder how I will distinguish Reconstruction from Evolution. And really, that's through Janie. The Janie of Evolution, starts off alone and weak, and by the end of the book she's facing her father and mother and has a sense of self-worth. Janie in Reconstruction is stronger and refuses to allow anyone to take away the confidence she's gained. Janie isn't what's giving me the problem now. In my head her voice is right, it's telling me exactly what she wants to say and do. The problem is my own voice trying to come through for Janie. I've been trying to tell her what to do and I've hit a road block because it's apparent that it's not flowing. The only thing I can think of to do is tell myself to just shut up and write. Which is exactly what I'm going to do - finish chapter 1 right now.

On my iPod:

Cleaning out my Closet by Eminem

Friday, August 20, 2010

Writing Mistakes

I've joined a small study group of writers and we're looking at a number of books targeting novel writing, and despite the amount of work I think it's going to take to work it into my schedule I'm really excited. I'm still waiting for my book to arrive, but in the meantime I've pulled another off my shelf - The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid )e by Jack Bickham.

So far tonight I've read the first two chapters (extremely short) and I've found it really interesting. The first chapter is about not making excuses. Well, hello!! Haven't I been talking about this endlessly and how I need to stop doing this!! He even suggests the calendar that I said I was going to do. Just another kick in the rear to get me going. After finishing the 2 chapters I even went to my sequel for Janie and wrote a page and half! Yeah for me! Now if only thisw book would tell me how to write the perfect query that will get me requests from every agent I send to. What? A girl can wish can't she??


On my iPod:

The entire Last of the Mohicans soundtrack

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Getting into Gear

For many, the new year starts on January 1st, but for me and most other educators the first day of the year is the day our students come back from Summer holidays.  For me this was last Tuesday, and I'm pleased to say that I made it through the first week and lived to tell about it!

But as I sat home today, I realized that despite every years saying I want to be organized and stay on top of things, I inevitably get behind and never seem to catch up. This week I made a concerted effort to stay on top of work. I did grading everyday , and when I left work on Friday I wasn't panicking thinking about Monday morning. It was a nice feeling. I only have one more batch of tests to grade and input into my data folder on Monday and I know what I'm going to be teaching once class starts.

It's almost 6pm and I just realized that maybe I can carry this over into other parts of my life. Going to the gym is always the last thing on my mind, but it doesn't hurt to go anyways. I've already been trying to go more often (as in once or twice a week) but really, I know that with the number of hours I spend on the computer a week writing I should be going at least four times a week.

Writing is the other part of my life that needs a bit more organization. I keep saying that I'm getting back on task, but it never seems to happen. I get distracted, because honestly Bejeweled Blitz is just too addictive. But even as I played yet another round today I knew I had to get to work. When I first started writing The Evolution of Janie I set daily goals for myself and each day tried to beat that goal. Most of the time I was ahead and could get as much as 5,000-6,000 words a week done.

So, since it's the beginning of the year for me, I'm setting goals for myself:

1. Get grading and lesson plans done Friday BEFORE going home

2.  Work out 4 times a week

3. Set up a daily writing goal calendar and post it beside my computer.

On my iPod:

Hate Every Beautiful Day by Sugar Cult

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Query H*ll

Since finishing my latest round of edits with The Evolution of Janie, I've spent a lot of time focused on the next step of my journey - finding an agent. I've gone through this hell before. writing the query, sending it out, rewriting it, sending it out, and the worst part of all - the waiting. I don't mind rejections. After the first one, I've found it gets easier to slide them off my back. I get a rejection, consider if I need to tweak my query letter and then move on.

 So, if I'm taking the rejection well, why call it Query Hell? For me it's the process in its entirety. Summing up the uniqueness of an 80,000 word novel into a 200 word paragraph, researching agents to try and something make each letter individual to each agent (without doing the whole - I read on your blog...), then pressing the send button. It's at that point the true hell starts. You wait and wait. There are those kind-hearted agents who pity you and click auto-reject, within days, sometimes less (my quickest reject was 39 minutes courtesy of Nathan Bransford last year), but the others are the ones that kill me. 4-8 weeks doesn't sound to long when thinking over the course of a life time. But when you're checking your email five times (okay, 50) a day it's an eternity.

Bring on the auto-rejects because at least I know to move on. I'm not sitting at my computer thinking there's still a possibility of getting a request. Which brings me to the worst part of the query process - when agents are known to respond within days, and you sent your's over a week ago and heard nothing. You then enter the land of "should I send it again?" warring with the "Does this mean my query sucked so bad they thought it was a joke and aren't replying?".

This is where I've been the past couple weeks. I sent out one query on July 25th to an agent who typically responds (positive or negative) within 5 days. After hearing nothing, I'd figured she's rejected me and I'd somehow deleted the email. Then yesterday I got a request for the first 50 pages! I refuse to get too excited mainly because I've sent out fulls before and been rejected. But I'm still in hell. I also sent out a query to another agent (know to reply within 2-3 days) and still haven't heard anything. She's an amazing agent and I know she's busy but it just gets me wondering if I screwed up with sending the query, and it somehow didn't get to her.

I've now been stalling with sending out the queries, but I know I need to get my ass in gear. The publishing world moves slowly and I need to move as quickly as I can since I'm ready. So I'm now setting my goal for this moth to send out three queries a week. I'll start tomorrow :)

HAHAHA! Just had a request for a partial from the second agent I was waiting on! Guess I need to be more patient :D

On my iPod:

Breakeven by The Script

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Strong Start

Almost two years ago, I searched the web for a writing workshop and found TheNextBigWriter. I was hesitant at first, worried about the whole credit system, but when they announced they were having a contest for members I decided to go for it. I entered last year's contest with my first novel The Evolution of Janie. I didn't win, but I got something much more valuable - an amazing group of writers and readers that helped me develop my skills and make drastic improvements to my story.

This year the Strongest Start Contest came around again, and I entered both The Evolution of Janie and Songbird. I wavered on where to put Janie. The paranormal aspects of it made me want to go for the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category, but at the last minute (okay, I had about a day to go) I moved it to the Romance category, because to me that is ultimately what it is. Thank God I did!

Both novels made it to the finals in the Romance category and The Evolution of Janie won!  

It was one of those moments when I was uncontrollably doing the "Oh, Yeah!" dance in the livingroom while still in pajamas. My two-year-old even joined in :) There was a moment when I thought how sweet it would have been to win the main category, but having read the novel Priscilla the Great by Sybil Nelson the thought quickly passed and I realized how lucky I was the powers that be (Sol) decided to split into categories.

I don't know if I'd mention winning this contest in a query letter, but I now have a voice inside of me saying - Someone liked this. Someone voted for it.

Swift on the heels of my success came the inevitable fall. Only an hour after finding out I'd won, I got the first rejection from my new round of queries. I have to say though it was a little easier to take knowing that I'd just won.


On my iPod:

Where I Started by Wide Mouth Mason

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thank you, Mr. Stefan

As part of my reading goal this year I've decided to read the complete works of William Shakespeare, so today I pulled off my slightly dusty copy of an anthology of his works. That's when I remembered what, or I guess it's really who, showed me how to love Shakespeare - Mr. Stefan.

In junior high I was not the drama-type at all, I was more interested in art you hung on the wall. It was ninth grade before I entered Mr. Stefan's classroom. Not that I hadn't heard stories about him and his room from my older sister, but until I entered his class I didn't get it. But that first day of Shakespeare class I had an eye-opening. Mainly because what she told me was true - the potty pass was indeed a toilet seat hanging by the door. If anyone was ever forced to use it, I don't know since I have no recollection of anyone in my class attempting to leave.

Mr. Stefan didn't have the best teaching techniques - we sat for hours that year listening to videos and filling in the blanks about life in the Elizabethan era, and watching movies based on Shakespeare's plays (sadly Leo's version of Romeo and Juliet hadn't been released, yet).  But what he lacked in teaching skills he made up for in personality.

The year I took his class (1993) was the same year he starred in a local production of Fiddler on the Roof. His beard was a magical thing. He was no ordinary teacher - he was an actor, a singer - someone who knew theatre and lived it. I can still see him standing on stage, with that magical beard and I knew if he loved Shakespeare so would I.

Almost four years later, I had an opportunity to spend a few months in the UK and took the train to Stratford-upon-Avon. I toured Shakespeare's reconstructed home, walked the same sidewalks he once tread and saw a production of The Merchant of Venice at The Royal Shakespeare Company.

There's a reason it's taken me so long to break open the anthology and it has to do with the question of "Will I like it?". Part of me thinks that if I don't I'll lose just a bit of the sweetness to my memories of Mr. Stefan. But I read a blog post today by Nathan Bransford (click here) that got me thinking of how to approach this without losing anything. Don't ask "Will I like it?" but  "Did the author accomplish what he set out to do?".

So, thank you Mr. Stefan for standing at the back of the class and pressing play on those videos, for growing that beard and for showing me how to love Shakespeare (even if I'll never completely understand it). RIP 

On my iPod:

Rasputin by Boney M

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Sequel Begins Again

I've finally reached a point with The Evolution of Janie that I'm doing nit picky fixes and need to get my arse in gear and put my query out there. With the first book done I now have pulled out my sequel. I already have the first four chapters done but after the major revisions I made to Evolution I have some fixing up to do. 

Having those first four chapters done is great because it's really helping me stay in Janie's voice and mindset. What's hard is catching a bunch of little details that once meant something else entirely, such as Justin's car smelling after being in the shop at the end of Evolution. Well, my idea was that there was actually something dead in there, left by Neil when he put Justin's car out of action. Scrap that now. I may have it stink just because it's Justin and he needs a bit of aggravation :) But the mystery and connection to the previous story must come out.

So, my plan right now for The Reconstruction of Janie involves school, but in a new town. A town where no one is a shifter except for those (good and bad) that follow Janie to keep an eye on her. Rachel will be a bigger part of the story from start to finish and we'll get to meet Cassie, Janie's other half-sister. I do have some really cool ideas for the effects Janie's blood will have on Marcus and her own development in her new life as infected.

The best part right now is that I feel as if I'm revisiting old territory and just need to see what's new.

On my iPod:

Daydream Believer by The Monkees

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Death of the Hardcover

Are Kindles and iPads the kiss of death for the hardcover?

I've always considered myself the middle of the road tech savvy kind of person. I'm computer literate and love surfing the web, but I also tend to resist certain aspects of the technology advancing world. When mp3s and iPods became popular I said I'd never do it. I just couldn't see the point. Well, now I have an iPod touch and can't imagine going to the gym without it.

But get rid of my books? I can't see it. Not for me. I actually already do a lot of reading online as part of . But that's a different kind of reading. While I'm online I'm reading, reviewing, editing and evaluating every words that crosses the screen and yes, I enjoy what I'm reading otherwise I wouldn't bother with it. But when I want to veg out, relax and read for pure pleasure, with no thought on what the author could have done, I curl up on the couch with a book. An honest to God book, with real paper pages and occasionally smeared ink.

Maybe, just like the iPod I'll cave one day and start buying ebooks but for now I will resist with every fiber in my body.

On my iPod:

Every Subway Car by The Bare Naked Ladies

Friday, July 16, 2010


I was searching my bookshelf this morning and came across one of my favorite books Genie: A Scientific Tragedy by Russ Rymer. I first read this book as a reading assignment in a Linguistic Anthropology class in university. The intent was to examine whether language is innate or learned.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Genie's story she was a feral child, a 13 year-old girl discovered living in a cage, severely abused and neglected by her parents. She didn't speak, walk properly and wasn't potty trained. When she was first found she was the size of a 7 year-old. Genie became a project and a pawn. Her doctors were more interested in exploiting her than in helping her. They saw her as an opportunity to test their theories about language. Could they teach this child who had no verbal skills, who's family had never spoken to her, to speak and communicate. Passed between foster families (where abuse continued in some cases) and doctors, Genie was lost again.

The book itself is written by one of those doctors, yet it manages to capture the pure horror of her situation and the sense of frustration in the system that let Genie down. Imagine David Pelzer's A Child Called It mixed in with textbook research. It raises a number of good points, about the rights of parents, the condition of the foster care system, the objectivity of doctors, and the origins of language. Still the question remains is language innate or is it learned. Researchers had the opportunity to learn from Genie, to see if they could teach her, but they were too caught up in the possible glory of their discovery they forgot that she was not an animal there for them to study. She was a child lost.

Ten years ago Genie inspired me to write my one and only poem.


They had no understanding

Of what they had found.

A mystery or Simple Simon

Or was it just a science?

From a barren room to Disneyland,

They tested her repeatedly.

They tried to teach her everything

As she began again.

Just a little bunny,

She cowered in the corner

Until they pulled her out

And tried to make her dance

To decide, just who was right.

She gave herself to them

Complete and utter trust.

They poked and prodded

Until she stopped in time.

Not satisfied with what they found,

They turned around,

Shoved her farther back than before

And turned the key behind them.

They didn’t want to see

The people they’d become.

And the Genie disappeared

Leaving her where she’d been found.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Motivated by a Movie

Last weekend was the opening for the third installment of the Twilight. And yes, I did go see it. :) I had lowered expectations and I have to admit it was better than the first two. I get why the story pulls in the young girls. the books may not have been the best, I am seriously, did they not have the money for an editor to cut those books down and two thousand words? And the movie script is entirely filled with stinky cheese. But the essence of the story is there, and that is what is  selling those books and tickets.

So how does that effect me? Well, it's motivated me. If millions can be made off that book, if legions of adolescent girls can fall in love with those characters, that story then there's hope for my work, right? Since seeing the movie, I've managed to edit 8 chapters, completing my latest round of edits for The Evolution of Janie (Still working on a new title!). A bit ironic that the Twilight movie was my motivation to finish since it was the reason behind the majority of my edits. Despite having no vampires or werewolves, just shape shifters, I got the same feedback from a few agents - too Twilight!!! ARGH!

Now there's no school and her boyfriend is much more normal. Well, as normal as a shape shifter gets. :) 

on my ipod:

Holiday by Green Day

Friday, June 11, 2010

Balanced Rock

When I started writing Songbird I decided on setting it in Denver. I'd just moved to Colorado and felt what better place than where I was?  I love the idea of my characters having a special place. For Janie it was a fictional waterfall. For Dani and Reece it was Balanced Rock in The Garden of the Gods.

The first time I saw the  location I thought it was pretty. problem was it was busy. Kids were climbing all over it and tourists were snapping pictures. But the second time...Well, that's when I decided it was te perfect spot.  My husband and I decided to drive around the park at dusk and the red rock looked beautiful. There were a few people still hanging around but I could see Dani and Reece sitting there watching the sunset and sunrise. Below is an except of Balanced Rock from Songbird.

A year ago, almost to the day, Reece had driven me down here for my seventeenth birthday.

"I can't believe you've never seen the Garden of the Gods before.” Reece's amazement was obvious.

"You say that like it's a crime."

"Once you see it, you'll understand."

We left in the early morning hours and made it to the park just before sunrise. We didn't stop at the visitor center, driving along the park road until we came to a pullout parking lot.

"Come on," he said hold my hand and leading me up a steep bed of red rock. At the top was a massive boulder, Balanced Rock he called it. We sat in the shadow of the rock and watched the sunrise fill the sky with a magnificent show of reds and oranges. In the distance, the crescent moon was still visible as it made its journey behind the Rockies.

Reece's arm was around me and in that moment, I almost believed the illusion. Anyone looking at us would have thought we were dating. Just for a minute, I let it be true. I rested my head on his shoulder, breathing in his spicy cologne.

On my iPod:

Sound Strange by Captain Tractor

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mild Blogging Success!

I finally reached 1,000 hits! After seven months of blogging I reached my first mini-milestone. I know it's actually kind of sad that it's taken me this long to reach this point but considering I've done very little promotion and this is my first forray into blogging I'm quite happy :D

As I get closer to being published I'll make more of an effort, but for now I'm satisfied with how it's going. I'm posting a few times a month and there's a few people who are obviously looking and interested enough to come back. Stressing about a blog is at the bottom of my list.

Thanks to everyone who's been visiting and reading! I really appreciate the support!

:) Ang

On my iPod:

Absence of Fear by Jewel

Monday, May 31, 2010

Under the Influence

I've been back in Canada almost three days and already I'm being bombarded with ideas and memories. I've posted before about how the small details of my life have made their way into my writing, but now I'm struggling with controlling just where those ideas are taking me.

Unfortunately, it's not to the end or even the middle of one of my current or pending projects. No, I keep finding inspiration for new pieces. I drove down the street I grew up on and all of a sudden these small memories came back. The girl at the end of the road with a pirate ship in her back yard, or the club house my best friend, Kelly's dad built or even the way we drove Micky nuts by singing "Hey Mickey, you're so fine" when we all knew he wasn't. 

So, where has it taken me? Well, I'm not sure yet, but nothing is fitting with any of my current plans. I have a series of snapshots in my head, pictures of characters and events but no solid leads yet. I'm not exactly sure where I want them to go. I know that I can't focus on a new novel but maybe a short story, or perhaps I need to take a look into a book I thought I was going to put to rest.

Today I Die, was about a young woman named Olivia and all I knew was that she woke up convinced she was going to die. I never knew if she did. I never got that far because I didn't know what motivated her character to act the way she did. But the way all of these childhood memories are flittering through my mind, I might just be able to find something for her.

In addition to a stroll down memory lane, I've been reading a series on the tNBW website and the author uses song lyrics at the start of each chapter. She puts her own twist on each, and while I don't want to copy it has given me an idea. I've begun thinking of creating a series of connected short stories around songs from either a band or artist. I have no plans on using lyrics or song titles or even mentioning the name of the band but I wonder at the legalities of it.

So many ideas, so many words to write. Now if only I could finish something completely!

On my iPod:

Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Renaming of a Novel

I hate google. I really do...sometimes. It's erratic, inaccurate, in-something. I've read books about writing, about creating a title for your novel. Google it, first. You don't want a book of the same title and neither does an agent or publisher. So I googled it. The Evolution of Janie. Nothing, except a description of a differently titled novel. No problem, right? WRONG! I guess I was just too specific with my search, because a search on the Barnes and Noble site turned up The Evolution of Jane.

Crap. Crap, crap, crap. I had it all laid out.

Book 1: The Evolution of Janie

Book 2: The Reconstruction of Janie

Book 3: The Fragmentation of Janie (possibly The Illumination of Janie)

So, I'm now left having to not just rename my first book, but also the other two books :( Well, if they ever happen!) I've already considered just calling it Evolution but I don't think that really gets the theme of the book across. I sit here now, desperate for ideas.

Any suggestions??

On my iPod:

Haven't Met You Yet by Michael Buble

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Back on the Horse

Motivation. I never even realize dI had it until suddenly I had none. It's been almost a year and a half since I first seriously considered writing as a career and until the last two months I never had a problem sitting down to write. Regardless of if my work was crap or the best I've ever produced, it just flowed. I wrote The Evolution of Janie in less than a year, Songbird was almost 80% finished within a month (Thank you NaNoWriMo!) And even though it took me another two months to finish that one I was writing every day. Whether I was editing, revision or producing new material it just came to me. Then I got sick and some other unforseen incident happened that caused me to not write for almost two weeks. What's really sad about that is I can't even remember what happened!

I know it's normal to take breaks, to feel completely de-motivated and I've been reading a lot of posts on the tNBW forum about how people stay focused. Once I would have gladly posted that it wasn't a problem for me, now I look at each of those and realize that's where I am, or was (hopefully).

Over the past five days my mojo has slowly resurfaced. I know, I know the point to that Austin Power's moving was that no one can take you mojo, but I get what he felt like when Fat Bastard sucked his mojo out. Lifeless, empty of creative thought and powerless to bring it back. I really think part of it was the rejection. I've never been a glutton for it, and after reject upon reject I just didn't want to do it anymore. I couldn't see the point. If the agents I thought were perfect for my novel didn't even want to read past the first ten pages then why was I subjecting myself to the barrage of disappointment? 

But back to five days ago :)  I'd slowly been editing and revising Janie, and working on Liar but not consistently. But these past few days have been different. I'm not sitting down at my desk like a stranger. I'm not typing with a forced hand, only to delete the garbage that spews forth. I'm feeling confident and purposeful. Welcome back, Me!!

On my iPod:

Push by Moist

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Wow. I'm not sure what else to say. Wow, this is a classic? Wow, this actually got published? I in no way, consider myself a literary connoisseur, but seriously? How could I have gone three decades not knowing what a mess this book is? The story rambles endlessly in areas and those moments that are synonymous with Alice in Wonderland are barely there. As I read this aloud to my students I was floored to realize how boring it truly is. Oh, I understand that story was probably never meant to be read by children (what with all of the drug references - which by the way I did skim over for the sake of my students and my job) but if I had been reading it on my own I probably would have closed it long before I reached the Mad Hatter.

Perhaps my expectations were to high, based not on the work as a literary masterpiece but on the cartoon movie I watched countless times as a child, or on the brilliantly designed trailers for the Johnny Depp version. But as I turned the last page I couldn't help be feel that the children's theatre version I watched last week was more enjoyable than the book.

My verdict:

A for concept, D for excecution

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Query Letter

Have I mentioned how much I hate these things? If not, then let me reassure you that I'd rather change poopy diapers for the rest of my life than write one of these things! I thought I had a pretty good one for Songbird, I even made it through the first round of the Amazon contest, but not a single request for even a partial. I had more luck with my crappy query for The Evolution of Janie!

Where does that leave me? Writing a new one. So, here it is (so far!):

Dear (insert name)

I read on your blog that you are interested in young adult romance and thought that my novel SONGBIRD might interest you. Complete at 63,000 words, SONGBIRD is a Young Adult romance novel told through a combination of present and past events.

Seventeen year-old Dani Mays is living parallel life experiences, or so it seems when the slightest word or action reminds her of events from her childhood. Not necessarily a bad thing, if they were those bittersweet ones that made you long to be a child again. Problem is, Dani’s memories center around her older brother Jace and the day she witnessed her father murder him.

Dani finally has a stable life with a foster family and a best friend, Reece McCabe. Then Reece does the unthinkable, he proves he’s less than perfect and even the love she has for him can’t stop her from using the past to protect herself. As Dani struggles to hold herself together, threatening phone calls from a long forgotten person endanger keep her looking back to her childhood for answers and endangering those she loves the most. Ultimately, the pain of losing Reece may just be the one thing that can transcend her love for Jace and give her the power to put her past to rest.

 Thank you for your time. I have included the first five pages for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Angela Fristoe

On my iPod:

She's the One by Robbie Williams

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fresh Start

I took a moment today and surfed through the blogs I have listed on my blogroll and came across Courtney's (Creative Burst). She's just put up a post about her new blog theme and it inspired me.

Change is always good, and in this case I'm hoping it will inspire me to get back to writing. I'm going to forget about passive voice, about stress and not feeling as if I have enough time.   I'm not sure yet how long this theme will stick around, until I'm ready for my dark and deeply rich colors but for now it's nice to be looking at something fresh. So, thank you Courtney for the inspiration!

On my iPod:

The Gentleman Who Fell by Milla

Monday, April 19, 2010

Passively Blind?

I reread a few reviews of Songbird today and was struck by the confirmation that I write passively. Not all the time, but that I have more than the recommended dose within the confines of a chapter. I went back to spell/grammar check and did a run through of my document and came up with about 1%. What am I missing? This reviewer is amazingly thorough and has given me wonderful feedback. I don't doubt that I have passive voice in my writing and I don't really believe the grammar check with my surprising 1%. I just don't know how to go through on my own work and find the passive statements.  More than that there are some I just can't figure out how to reword into an active voice without entirely changing the meaning I was attempting to convey.

I wonder if part of the problem is the verb "to be". So often it's assumed that any form of this verb means passive voice - not true (yes, I checked)

So, my opening sentence: I was six when Jace died - is not passive. This sentence breaks down as noun verb adjective prepositional phrase. Even though there is a "to be" verb it's not passive, right? I feel like my head is spinning. It's a conversation I've had with myself and others that never seems to lead anywhere but to more confusion and frustration from me. Am I wrong about this sentence? If I am then I'm more screwed then ever!!

So where is it? How do I find it? This is what the grammar check pulled from my first chapter (an overall 2%passive voice)

His blue Chevy was parked crookedly, one of its front tires pushed up onto the grass.

His eyes were closed and his raspy breathing was barely there.

His words were stilted, coming through between his gasps.

I know why these sentences are passive and I know I could take this sentences and rewrite them, make them active, but to what end? So I don't have any passive voice in my chapter? So that the flow of the action and emotion is disrupted? When does passive become a problem? If 6% is the magic number that agents or editors go by how are they coming up with that? Grammar check?

I suppose what is bothering me the most is that until recently I never thought I wrote passively. I'm truly at a loss. I've taken syntax classing in university and made above average grades in the class. I remember dealing with active vs. passive, but I never had any problems with it. Until now. I would love to have thoughts on this and any pointers would be great!

 On my iPod:

Save this House by Spirit of the West

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Writing Hiatus

I feel odd and slightly out of place.  As if I'm in another person's chair at another person's computer trying to write their story.  It's been about a week since I even tried to write anything and now that I'm not sick or working it feels odd.  I want to just jump back in, but it's almost as if I don't know where to start, because I can't remember where I left off.

A week doesn't sound that long.  And it isn't. I've gone a week without writing before.  But this time was different.  Normally when I can't write, I'm thinking about it. Playing it out in my mind so that when I get to the computer I'm ready with a plan for my characters in mind.  This time I didn't think or plan or visualize.  I simply vegged. I played Facebook games and spent more time with my daughter and went to bed at a fairly decent time. 

And worst is that today I almost did something I haven't done in almost a year - I almost bought a book.  Nothing of great quality, just some random romance novel. I'd almost put it in my cart when I stopped myself. When the hell do I have time to read? I'm not saying that I don't read - I've lost track of how many novels I'm following on TNBW, and I reread books I have at home.  But buying a new book, investing hours into reading over the weekend just can't be at the top of my list.  I'm a compulsive reader.  I read a seven novel series by V.C. Andrews in three days.  I read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series in a weekend, and I can crank out three to four Harlequin novels in a day. Once I start reading I can't stop, especially if it's only a matter of turning a page.

I put the book back. I have too many things to do, stories of my own to write.

Now, I'm sitting here trying to get myself back into that mind-set of being a writer, of knowing my characters and their stories. Maybe it'll work to my advantage - to look at things with fresh eyes, but I know one thing for sure. I'll never let myself go this long without thinking about writing again.  It's a perilous path for me, one that would lead to me giving up. And I'm not ready to do that yet.

 On my iPod:

Touch Peel and Stand by Days of the New

Thursday, April 1, 2010

People watching

After making a goal to be more 'Frankenpoet' I took to the mall on Sunday and started my watching.  I sat in the food court and while trying to get my daughter to eat a bit of lunch, I watched. I sat at the back of the food court where a large open space separated me from the masses, and then it happened.  A teenage girl walked towards me.  She wore an apron, and carried a toddler and a bag of food.  She sat down and was soon joined by a young man. Neither of them could have been more than 18.  The girl didn't really interest me, I've seen girls in the same position. 

What did interest me was the boy.  He sat there across from his daughter and tore up bits of food for her, engaging with her.  I couldn't hear what the couple was saying but if got me thinking about why he was there.  What made him stay with his girlfriend? Did he feel trapped? And more importantly what would he have done if he'd been presented with an opportunity to be free of this responsibility?

So, Drew was formed.  He's not the boy in the mall, he's who the boy could have been if his girlfriend had made a different choice.  I can see Drew's story forming in my mind, his anger, frustration and contentment. Although I'm not sure yet how he's right for yet, Lily or Chloe.  Lily would be perfect for him, but Chloe needs someone with that kind of baggage. At this point I'm leaning towards Lily. The only problem is that Lily already has so much going on in her story that I'm just not sure I can give his character the attention it deserves. 

Maybe a trip to the gym will help tomorrow.  There's a lot of young guys there, maybe I can find the right one for Chloe and settle this in my mind.

On my iPod:

Paralyzed by Finger Eleven

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spoken Like a Frankenpoet

I'm not sure what exactly inspired me today, but I went to my CD shelf (yes, I still have one) and pulled out a CD I bought oh, 12 or 13 years ago.  Scott Wicken's Something Wicken This Way Comes! I originally bought the CD during the Edmonton Folk Festival after hearing Scott Wicken perform.  I think what originally drew me to him was the word Frankenpoet printed on the side cover of the CD jacket. 

To this day, I really have no clue what a Frankenpoet is (probably a production    company or something) but his presence on stage and his words captivated me.  Never before had I been interested in Spoken word poetry, and really, I can take or leave most poetry.  But the way he expressed himself, the raw thoughts he wrote, spoke and recorded made me think about life and how I and others perceived it.

He takes the most ordinary things and makes them a story, a guy walking down the street becomes a character with a story we need to question and wonder about.  So, I'm sitting here now, wondering how many stories have  I missed, because I haven't looked around me.  Not at the people whose stories I already know, but the Joe on White Ave, or in the Winnipeg bus station, or even the flies in the light fixture.  

Tomorrow, I'm setting out with a goal.  A goal to find a character, a story, a poem in the ordinary; to let my mind wonder, wander and create. 

On my iPod:

Crazy Dave by Scott Wicken

If you're interested in any of Scott Wicken's work, you can check out his website at Scott Wicken he has free downloads of his music, spoken word poetry and rants.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Author Website

After months of debating about the usefulness of a website when I'm not even published yet, I've gone ahead and created one.  It may not be the best site, but I like it :)  I've managed to set up the basics and I feel like it's something I can develop more as I grow in my career (or at least the career I hope to have!)

On my iPod:

Sound Strange by Captain Tractor

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Voice meets Content

I had an interesting moment today reading an expository piece by one of my students.  The prompt asked the student to tell about where they would go on vacation if they could go anywhere in the world.  Well, this particular student began with Yippee! Where would I go if I could go anywhere in the world? I'd go to... 

This really got me thinking about how to teach voice in writing and how connections between voice and content play such a vital role in producing quality pieces.  This particular student had been taught that by adding in an interjection it added voice.  True - sometimes.  They've also been taught to use a question paraphrasing the prompt to create a topic sentence.  Good - but not great. And together it made me question if voice can really be taught.

Until I joined The Next Big Writer my reading was really limited to romance and classics I was forced to read in high school and university.  Now I've had the opportunity to read so many different writers and styles that voice has taken on a new meaning to me.  I look at some of the stories I've read (sexy vampires, love starved virgins, serial killers, warrior princesses from other worlds)  and I realize that those characters and stories aren't just a collection of words on paper, they're the voice of the writer.  So many of these novels I've read, I could never even imagine creating.  Yet to the author, they're completely natural.

All of this leads me to wonder how far can you take the process of teaching writing. Not everyone who writes can write well, and I truly think that voice is what separates the good from the bad.  A story can be well organized, descriptive, and grammatically correct yet do nothing for the reader.  Another piece could be riddled with inconsistencies, and spelling mistakes yet the voice of the author draws the reader in so that nothing but the characters and tale matter.

What does this have to do with the student's writing?  Well, I just wonder how this child got to the point where they thought it was okay to have a complete disconnect between their voice and their content.  Obviously they've been taught, somewhere along the way, these 'rules' of voice and organization, and along that same road through school they've lost their own voice.  It's possible they never had one, but this kind of teaching doesn't help develope one either.  Is it good to use interjections to create voice?  Sure - if they fit the content. Is it okay to use a question paraphrasing the prompt as a topic sentence - sure, if you can't think of anything better and you're out of time.

As a teacher, I wonder how to grade a paper like this. Content? Good. Organization? Good. Conventions? Good. Voice? Zilch. A student who studies and applies these learned 'rules' does his or her best.  They've done what they've been told is 'good' writing. Yet, I can't imagine how much more formulaic it can get.  It's like the five sentence, five paragraph structure I learned in high school.  I didn't have to think about making connections, just filling in the blank lines.  Does this really work? For some people undoubtedly.

Just as in art a child needs to learn how to draw a straight line, children need to learn the structure of writing. But like art, writing is subjective. Math has an answer.  It's right or wrong, but with art and writing there are rules that are meant to be broken.  Imagine if Picasso only painted realism, or if Shakespeare used the same number of sentences per paragraph in his plays.  We can't teach a child to be the next Picasso or Shakespeare, but we can teach them to emulate the greats to find a style, a voice that suits them, that inspires them to find their own.

The rules are there, yes. Teach them, show them and then show them better. Or we may end up with a bookstore full of:  Whee! One day my dog died. I felt sad and blue.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

First draft of query for Liar

I thought I'd post this here, mainly to give myself the encouragement to continue working on it.  This is my first draft of the query for The Gifted: Liar. 

Lies.  Everyone tells them and at seventeen, Phoebe Maddock was never very good at telling when someone was lying.  It’s supposed to be her gift.  Her sisters, Chloe and Lily have been using their gifts since birth.  But for Phoebe it just never happened.  Then her best friend, Tonya tells a fib so small it seems inconsequential.  Even if Phoebe had managed to ignored the severe cramps, there was no way she could pretend she didn’t hear the whisper of Liar in her head.

That’s when things get complicated.  Sure, it’s nice knowing that her crush is hot for her and it’s even nicer knowing that her dead mother did love her, but when Tonya’s lies continue, Phoebe begins to suspect that her friend is hiding something far worse than a date with a guy she met on line.  But in lies, intention is everything and Tonya’s lies are a cry for help that Phoebe can’t ignore.

The Gifted: Liar (Paranormal YA, 70,000 words) is the first novel in a trilogy following the Maddock sisters.  

On my iPod:

36-24-36 by Violent Femmes

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Delay Tactics

The Evolution of Janie - third round of revisions in process

Songbird - first round of edits in process

The Gifted: Liar - first draft in process

The Gifted: Witness - outline in process

The Gifted: Heal Me - outline in process

Last Day - still in concept development

My final realization?  I've managed to find every delay tactic in the book or in my case the internet!  I turn on the computer with every intention of finishing something, but first I need to check FaceBook, email, tNBW, PerezHilton, TMZ and then I need to check them again.  I open a file to work and I'm suddenly aware of the fact that I also need to check out MNS Entertainment and QueryTracker and let's not forget about Agent Query Connect.  I had such great goals at the beginning of the year, heck even at the beginning of February they were still there.  So, what happened to my drive? I feel like I'm in neutral, gently rocking back and forth in the wind hoping that I'll inch forward to the edge of the hill and plummet down into overdrive.  Is today that day? Maybe.  We'll see.  I have to check my email first.

On my iPod:

She Ain't Pretty (She just Looks that Way) by The Northern Pikes

Friday, February 26, 2010

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

I made the first round of cuts! Whoo! I didn't even realize how anxious I was until I woke up yesterday morning expecting the results.  When they didn't show and no email came I started thinking I hadn't made it.  The only thing that kept my same flame of hope alive was that there didn't seem to be anyone who'd received an email.  After ten hours of constant check the list was finally up.  I think I opened the file about ten times before I actually believed it was my name and my book title.  Together.

The first round was the pitch round.  I made it so I know my premise isn't crap and that essentially my query isn't crap either, although I have improved on it since submitting my pitch. Being rejected in round one just means you need to work on your pitch, find a way to distinguish it form the rest of the pack. I was kind of hoping to be eliminated in round one, that way I could tell myself that it's just my pitch they don't like.

Going into this second round, I'm scared to face the reviews of people I don't know, who I haven't established a writing relationship with. It's a month until the next elimination and I'm determined to put the contest to the side.  To not worry about what the reviewers will say or whether I make it or not. But for now, I'm going to basking in the glory of having made it through round one! :)

On my iPod:

I'm in Love with a Girl by Gavin DeGraw

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Staying Two Steps Ahead

I was on a forum today and someone made a great observation: What really bothers me is that you've got agents saying that certain paranormal creatures are getting tired, but then they keep selling and when you offer them something different, they "don't know where to place it" BECAUSE it's different (Thanks to Roly on AWWC) 

Right now the market seems to be saturated with vampires and werewolves, yet despite agents saying they've had their fill they still keep coming.  I'm not big on reading paranormal YA novels (I know, I know how can I write what I don't read? But mainly it's so I don't get influenced by someone elses concept), but I haven't noticed a lot of angel stories lining the shelves, but all I hear about is how they're the next hot thing.  Too bad for those people just figuring that out when, even as they make their debut on the market, they're out.  It's too late to write the next great angel story because in two years time after you've written, edited, queried, revised and found a publisher the market will be full for those stories.

Everything has a life cycle and the publishing world is no different.  So, I find myself wondering now if I should be moving two steps back.  What was popular 4 or 6 years ago in teen fiction?  There I might find the next big thing.  Too bad the characters in my head aren't interested in being the next big thing.  I guess I'll just have to write what the voices in my head want me to and pray that its what's about to be hot.

On my iPod:

She is Beautiful by Andrew WK

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Moving Forward


Today I spent almost three hours getting my butt in gear and using to create a proof copy of Songbird.  No, I haven't given up hope that I'll meet that perfect agent, nor am I self-publishing, but I needed something to motivate me in the next step of the process for Songbird.  I need to query more.  I've sent out a total of nine queries and had four rejections so far.  I can't keep waiting, but it just seems surreal. I continually doubt whether I'll ever get an agent, much less get published.  So I am now anxiously awaiting my proof copy so that I can actually see my name in print.  The picture above is what the front and back cover will look like.  If you've had the opportunity to read Songbird you'll probably understand why I chose  a swing instead of a bird for the cover.

As for how good Createspace is, well that remains to be seen.  Once I hold my book in my hands, I'm hoping I'll be able to say they're fantastic :)  Once I get it in the mail I'll take a better picture.

On my iPod:

I'm Your's by Jason Mraz

Monday, February 8, 2010


Since I started writing I've been plagued by the question of how much of myself and my memories do or can I put into my stories.  It's not that I put people I know into my stories, but there are bits and pieces of me and my experiences in each of my novels.  In The Evolution of Janie I have it set in Montana and I can clearly remember a summer vacation we took and how tame the wildlife seemed, although I never ran across shape shifting humans.  There was also a shopping scene with Janie and Justin that included some of Brandon's sage advice about buying multiple pairs of pants in the same style to reduce washing.  Songbird however included far more personal memories, my dog Pepsi that died and the Rainbow song my Dad used to sing to me.

There are some pieces that are nearly inconsequential.  I went to school with a boy named Jace and always liked his name.  I haven't seen him since 9th grade and have no idea what kind of a person he is, but still the name was stuck in my head, same with Jacey.  I visualized the park where Jace was shot as the playground at my elementary school.  Yet others are far more significant and the events changed the way I viewed life and as I wrote about them I felt that surge of pain as I relived the moment. Jace's funeral scene was based on an a friend's funeral and the reaction her son, Seth had when faced with putting her to rest.  Never will I forget the way he met my eyes and let out a sob as he realized his mother was truly gone.

As hard as that scene was to write, when I finished I realized that it was a moment I would never forget and that by putting it on paper, I've given my word to never forget them.  Maybe all of these little things I add from myself are really just memories I'm scared of losing.

On my iPod:

Lover's in a Dangerous Time by Bruce Cockburn (BareNakedLadies version)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

8 Things I've Learned After 8 Years Living in America

The Olympics have always stirred my Canadian pride.  Normally I have little interest in sports but seeing a Canadian wearing a medal of any color just makes me even prouder.  So today, I was talking with my students and I began to think of how different it is here in America, how different I see things now and what I've learned during my time here.  Without further ado, here are the 8 things I've learned after 8 years living in America!

1. People don't appreciate what they're born with.  I grew up in southern Alberta, and spent summers running through the coulies oblivious to the rattle of snakes in the tall grass.  Winters were filled with snowball fights, sledding and skating.  Each summer we ventured out to Waterton National Park and wandered through Red Rock Canyon.  I loved it but never really appreciated it.  But when I moved to Texas my favorite thing in my apartment was a large framed print of the prairies.  I finally realized that I never enjoyed Alberta for what it was; a diverse and beautifully sculpted landmass (the largest rat free landmass in the world).  What really proved this point to me is the massive number of people I met who had grown up in Houston, yet had never taken the 45 minute drive and seen the Gulf of Mexico. 

2. As large as it is America is still small town USA. Okay, so not all of America!  But definitely the south. Houston is a huge city, yet the people you meet are friendly and accepting.  And no matter how much of a rush you're in, everybody else is moving at their own speed.

3. Canadian bands are better down here!  In 1998 I paid $50 to see The Tragically Hip in concert at the Edmonton Coliseum.  I sat in section 325, row 27 seat 15.  Gord was the size of my pinkie finger.  Great concert, but nothing compared to seeing them in a bar with 100 other people, so close he was practically sweating on me as he moved spastically. That I paid $20 was just an added benefit.

4. Americans think all Canadians speak the same. I've tired of hearing a-boot and eh?.   I'll admit to the occasional eh?, but a-boot has never, I repeat, never crossed my lips.  I went back to Nanaimo for my wedding and I could barely believe the number of times eh? echoed through the Black Bear Pub.  But that doesn't prove anything.  Head to Alberta and eh? takes a dramatic dive in frequency, head east again and it probably picks back up.  As for a-boot, well I'm going to blame the Newfies since nobody can understand them anyways.

5. While Canadians learn about the U.S. they learn nothing about us. "I was in the state of Ontario", "Whose your president?" "Canadians pay 80% in taxes".  Need I say anything more?  If you're American and you've said or wondered these things my only words to you are "Google it!"

6. Cable down here isn't better, it's just more. I say this with all honesty, as my husband has worked for Time Warner, Comcast, DishNetwork and Direct TV.  More channels just means more time flipping to get to the same 4 channels.

7. American chocolate sucks! How have I lived 8 years without Smarties (the real ones), Crispy Crunch, Coffee Crisp and Caramilk?! Well, if you're lucky you find the rare places that carry them.  The British Isles store in Rice Village sells Smarties for $4 a box ($3 price hike), and the one lone gas station at the corner of Beltway 8 and Hardy Toll Road that carries Coffee Crisps (regular price!).

8. American's just don't get our jokes. I've lost count of the number of Molson commercials I've down loaded to my computer, laughing hysterically while Brandon stares over my shoulder in complete confusion.  It's not his fault though.  He never learned about Canada growing up, he doesn't get why it's funny when we flip over people asking us about our pet beavers.

I've made it my mission to share Canada with my students.  I constantly compare life in the US to Canada, and talk about my experiences.  I share Canadian history and culture with them.  And above all I always tell them about the Canadians burning down the White House :)

On my iPod:

Tik Toc by Keisha