Sunday, June 27, 2010

In My Mailbox - 28-31

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

I haven't done an In My Mailbox posts lately so here's what's been in my mailbox the last four weeks.

Sadly, I haven't had the chance to crack open even one of these awesome books yet. Hopefully soon!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - 25 - Remember Me

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking The Spine. This week's choice is:

Remember Me: Remember Me; The Return; The Last Story by Christopher Pike(!) - Release Date: July 6, 2010

She won't let them forget?

Shari Cooper wakes up dead. The last thing she can remember is falling from a balcony during her friend's party. Her death has been ruled a suicide, but Shari knows she was murdered. All of her closest friends are now suspects. As she tries to find her killer from the other side, she discovers her friends may not have been so loyal to her after all. Now, Shari is not just out for justice, she's out for revenge?

So Christopher Pike was a HUGE part of my early teen years and probably a big influence on my storytelling, in terms of subject, today. I loved so many of his dark, twisty, and sometimes paranormal books, but without a doubt, the Remember Me books were my favorite. I wanted to re-read them not long ago and discovered they were missing from the big box of old books I kept at my mom's house so when I saw that all three books were being released in one I was stoked! I can't wait to see what I think about this story all these years later!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Visual Inspiration - Imaginary Heart

I was inspired by Steph Bowe's awesome Visual Inspiration posts and thought I would share some of my visual inspirations for my YA Paranormal IMAGINARY HEART (formerly known as WHISPER).
All images come from we heart it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pretty Little Liars Fans - What Do You Want To Know?

My time as a Pretty Little Liars Secret Keeper is coming to an end. I'm going to miss playing the game as Emily. It was a lot of fun.

Since I managed to keep most of my secrets - some of that is thanks to you! A is offering me the chance to ask ONE question to Shay Mitchell, the actress that plays Emily on the ABC Family tv show. They're going to film Shay answering it!

So my question to you Pretty Little Liars fans is what should I ask?

What do YOU want to know?

Post your questions in the comments and I'll pick one!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Birthday Extravaganza Winners!

It's time to announce the winners! WOW! I had a TON of entries! Picking the winners was a lot of work this time because the Contest Winner Picker is down and Excel hates me. Boo! At the close of the contest I had 498 followers, which means that both the 400 and 450 follower bonus prizes were triggered. Anyway, here they are!

Grand Prize
My Fave Books of 2010 So Far


2nd Reader's Prize
Choice of ANY pre-order from my wish list:

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
The Replacement by Brenna Yovannoff
Glimmerglass by Jenna Black
Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
Sister's Red by Jackson Pearce
Fixing Delilah Hannaford by Sarah Ockler


400 followers Prize
Choice of ONE of my Favorites of 2009


450 Follwers Prize
International Winner so Choice of ONE of my faves of 2009 or 2010


Writers Grand Prize
Choice of:

A 30 page critique
Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King

OR if you don't want a critique

Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King
The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler
Write or Die - Desktop Edition (works on both PC and Mac)


2nd Writer's Prize
The You Can Write A Novel Kit OR if you'd rather, 30 page critique
WINNER: I did not hear back from the first winner so the new winner isMELISSA (at I Swim For Oceans) SHANNON

Congrats to all the winners and thank you to everyone who entered and spread the word! It made my birthday that much more awesome this year!

Winners, I will email you, if I don't get a response by the end of the day Monday, June 24th, I will pick a new winner. If you don't hear from me, check your spam filter and/or email me at valeriekwrites at gmail dot com!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What Agents Wish You Knew - Or Why You Should Wait Until Your Book Is REALLY Ready To Query!

When I was just a fresh-faced Midwesterner, brand new to LA, I thought, hey, I'm in LA, maybe I should be an actor! (Because, you know, everyone was doing it.) So I started going to these Casting Director (*Casting Directors are the ones who go out and find actors, and audition them for roles in movies) workshops where actors would get a chance to hear a Casting Director speak about what they're casting, and give out some acting advice. One of the things I heard over and over from Casting Directors was "We want you to be good."

No one believed them.

The veteran actors who had been auditioning for years were sure that it was just some line they used to make them sound good, (because Casting Directors only wanted already famous people, anyway). And newbie actors thought, why would that famous casting director care about me? I'm nobody, there's no way they'd ever cast me.

It wasn't until I became a Casting Director myself and was faced with casting 6 major roles in my own film that I understood. It's true, Casting Directors are praying that every single actor that walks through the door is so amazing that they're THE ONE. They get excited by each new face they see. They really truly want actors to be good.

Here's why:

1. Auditioning actors is very time-consuming.
- First they have to sort through hundreds (literally) of headshots to find the ones who look most like what the role requires.
- Then they have to schedule auditions for all those with the right look (that might be a hundred again).
- Then they have to sit down with each one of those actors and have them read through the scene, narrow down the good ones, and do it all over again until they have 5 or 6 of the best that they can take to the director and producers.

If an actor comes in who is so amazing that they get immediately skip ahead to the meeting directors and producers stage, think of all the time the Casting Director has saved!

2. When a Casting Director finds the perfect actor for a role, that actor and film can win awards, which means more recognition and more money for the Casting Director. It's not in their best interest to cast their Uncle's cousin's best friend's kid. It just isn't.

Hmm... Does any of this sound familiar?

If you substitute Writer for Actor, Agent for Casting Director, and Editor and Publishers for Director and Producers, (and okay, obviously, books for movies) it sounds a lot like the publishing world, doesn't it?

So this is what I want you to know:


Before they click open your email they probably say a silent prayer like, Please God let this one be THE ONE!

Even though they might complain about their overflowing inboxes, they secretly thrill at all of those potential bestsellers just waiting for them.

How You Can Take Advantage Of This Knowledge:

Then, write a query letter that SHOWS your book is THE ONE. (Don't write "This is the book you've been waiting for!" Just. Don't.)

Don't let yourself think, It doesn't matter anyway, it's not like that agent will ever really rep me, I'll just send my query/partial/full and get the rejection over with. (WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?? WHY WOULDN'T YOU WAIT AND SEND SOMETHING YOU BELIEVED IN 100%?)

Because trust me, that agent isn't looking at their inbox thinking I can't wait to reject all of these losers today! They're thinking, PLEASE let this next one be THE ONE!

Friday, June 11, 2010

I Need Your Help! Now With Prizes!

I need help with the Pretty Little Liars Secret Keeper Game! A has threatened to reveal my secret unless I get 13 I just need 11 more! people to post a story on the Pretty Little Liars message board about how they got their friends to like their new boyfriend!

Here's the deal. I need to get these posts, so anyone who goes over and posts (AND CREDITS ME) gets an extra entry into my Birthday Extravaganza which ended last night! AND if I get all 13 comments today, I'll randomly select one of the posters and give away a Pretty Little Liars book of their choice! Just come back and comment here to let me know which post was yours on the PLL board.

If you have a second to help me, just go to my post on the boards here and reply with your story:

And tell them you're posting for me, Valerie. It's really really important that you say this is for Valerie because there's other people playing and I need to make sure the credit goes to me. Thanks so much!

If you don't already have an ABC Family account, you can log in using your facebook, twitter or myspace account so it's quick and painless!

Also, I was totally wrong yesterday and you have until 11:59pm ET TONIGHT to enter my Birthday Extravaganza contest, so hurry up and enter before it's too late!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Last Day To Enter My Birthday Extravaganza!

Today is the LAST DAY to enter my International* Birthday Extravaganza Giveaway!

Right now I'm 14 followers away from reaching 500! If I reach 500 by midnight tonight there will be an extra special surprise prize for both a writer and a reader! So spread the word!

In case you forgot, here's what you can win so far:

Reader's Grand Prize Pack
My Favorite Books So Far This Year:

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard
The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summer

2nd Reader's Prize
Choice of ANY Pre-Order from my Wish List:

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
The Replacement by Brenna Yovannoff
Glimmerglass by Jenna Black
Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
Sister's Red by Jackson Pearce
Fixing Delilah Hannaford by Sarah Ockler

Writer's Grand Prize Pack
Choice of:

A 30 page critique
Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King

OR if you don't want a critique

Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King
The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler
Write or Die - Desktop Edition (works on both PC and Mac)

2nd Writer's Prize
The You Can Write A Novel Kit

If I reach 400 followers DONE! I will throw in a prize of a choice of ONE book from my favorite books of 2009 (see list here)

If I reach 450 followers DONE! before the end of the contest, I will add in a mystery grab bag of at least 3 books for a US/Canada winner OR if the winner is International a choice of either one of my faves of 2009 or 2010 !

If I reach 500 followers you'll just have to wait and see!

* I will ship to any country the Book Depository ships to. (See list here.)

So what are you waiting for? If you haven't entered yet, click on the link at the top of my blog and get to it!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Telling When You Think You're Showing

You've heard it time and time again, SHOW DON'T TELL. If you have crit partners you've probably gone cross-eyed from reading it in your ms at one time or another. But you're past that now. You've worked hard on your prose, you're showing all over the place. Or are you?

Using internal physical reactions is a quick way to show a character's emotions. You've seen sentences like these:

My heart raced with fear.
Nervousness twisted her stomach.

These sentences seem, on the surface, that they're showing but in reality, they're telling. Why? Because it tells us what emotion the character is feeling. Fear, in the first sentence, and Nervousness in the second. Chances are, if the physical reaction is appropriate to the scene, that the naming of the emotion is simply excess information. This is sometimes called tagging your emotions and it's usually unnecessary.

In this case, that extra info creates a distance between the reader and the character. In a tense or emotional situation, the reader should be right there with the character, experiencing and connecting to everything the character feels. When something happens that causes your character's heart to pound your reader feels it, when you add in "with fear" you push your reader back a step because they're forced to process an external observation.

Think about it. When you're in the middle of a scary situation, you might notice your heart is pounding but do you actually think - hey my heart is pounding because I'm afraid? No. You just feel afraid.

I work with the rule of thumb that unless a character is experiencing an emotion that is unexpected (like, rather than fear, a character's heart pounds with excitement at being chased by an axe murderer) there's no need to name it. If you've done a good job at creating your character and revealing what makes them them to the reader, they will know what your character is feeling. And even more than that, they will feel a part of that character's experience.

Trust your reader! You don't have to explain everything to them.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pretty Little Liars Premiere and Secret Keepers!

So as you may know, I was selected to play the Pretty Little Liars Secret Keeper (to promote the new tv show based on the books airing on ABC Family starting TOMORROW June 8th at 8pm ET/7pm CT) game last month. They even sent me a Droid phone!

The game's been going on since May 25th and I have to say this is one of the most genius promotional projects I have ever seen. The amount of thought and preparation that went into this blows my mind. Not only that, it's FUN!

I'm playing Emily Fields:

Emily Fields' life is picture-perfect. It should be. After all, her mom makes sure everything in their world is just so. So why does Emily dream of getting out of Rosewood? She's a star athlete with a popular boyfriend, but Emily feels like an outsider. Maybe that's why she's drawn to Maya, the new girl in town. They become fast friends, but Emily's feelings are a little more complicated than simple friendship. Question is how far will she dare take them? Or will she have to hide them, too? As "A" points out, it's not the only secret Emily is hiding.

I'm in a group with three other players who are playing the three other main characters, Hanna, Aria, and Spencer. Every other day or so we get text messages with challenges that we have to complete or else, our secrets will be revealed by A (who is possibly our missing, presumed dead... or is she... friend.) A also likes to taunt us via facebook even commenting on our status updates! So far I've had to make embarrassing phone calls, scour the internet for various items, design cool outfits on polyvore and I'm VERY nervous about what might come next!

About The Show
(blurb from ABC Family)
Rosewood is a perfect little town. So quiet and pristine, you'd never guess it holds so many secrets. Some of the ugliest ones belong to the prettiest girls in town -- Aria, Spencer, Hanna and Emily, four estranged friends whose darkest secrets are about to unravel.

One year ago, Alison, the Queen Bee of their group, disappeared and the girls swore they'd never tell what really happened that night. They thought their secrets would bond them together, but just the opposite is true. Then again, who's to say what the truth is in Rosewood. It seems everyone in town is lying about something.

Now, as the mystery surrounding Alison's disappearance resurfaces, the girls begin getting messages from "A," saying – and threatening – things only Alison would know. But it couldn't be Alison. Could it? Whoever it is, they seem to know all the girls' secrets, and seem to be watching their every move. The girls are friends again, but will they be there for each other if their dark secrets come to light?

Check out the trailer!

Or Get A First Look at the Show Right Now!

Pretty Little Liars is being produced by the same people who do Vampire Diaries so you know it's going to be good!

Be sure to check out the Pretty Little Liars site at ABC Family. They have cast blogs, forums, photos, free music downloads from the show and so much more!

Don't Forget About The Books Too!
I raced through the first seven books (written by Sara Shepard) at the beginning of this year and LOVED them. The 8th and final book in the series, Wanted, also comes out tomorrow! If you've never read the books, now's your chance to get caught up, for FREE. You can read the first book, Pretty Little Liars online here!

Who else is excited about Pretty Little Liars?

Friday, June 4, 2010


So I'm totally going to post an update on the Birthday Extravaganza, highlights from BEA, and the latest on being a Pretty Little Liars Secret Keeper... um later.

Right now I'm coming out of the revision cave to post that my entry from my WIP SLEEPER was selected as a finalist in Nathan Bransford's ROCK PAPER TIGER Chase/Action Writing Contest Extravaganza!!(gotta love anything with extravaganza in the name!)

See the official announcement with a link to my entry post on Nathan's blog.

I really thought I didn't have much chance because even though he also asked for suspense scenes, most of the entries were action or chase scenes.

I'm so excited that with over 500 entries I was picked as one of the top ten! Woohoo!

Be sure to check out the finalists and vote for your favorite!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Invoking the Senses in Description

When writing description or "setting the scene" it's important that you tell us more than just what something looks like.

When setting a scene use at least three of the five senses in the description.

I've seen it said many times, so I'm not sure who said it first but most recently, Ellen Hopkins spoke at my local SCBWI conference on this.

One thing she said that really stuck with me is that everyone has one or two senses that they respond to and focus on the most. While it's true that most people are visual and it's important for the reader to understand what they should be "seeing" it's not the only thing that draws a reader into a scene. Some people react strongly to smell, others to sound, or touch. If you leave those out, you could be distancing whole groups of readers who "can't connect" to your writing.

What are the five senses?
- Sight
- Hearing
- Smell
- Touch
- Taste
(and for writing purposes I like to include/separate internal - both physical and emotional - ie. heart pounding, etc.)

I think most of us tend to focus heavily on the visual when writing so, for example, if you want to set the scene as a summer evening at sunset you might say:

It was a typical summer evening. The sun was just setting behind the trees, coloring the sky in bands of red, gold, and purple.

That's nice, but it doesn't really give the full sense of what it's like to really be there.

Now here's the same night with the rest of the senses added in:

It was a typical summer evening. The sun was just setting behind the trees, coloring the sky in bands of red, gold, and purple. A slight breeze tickled the hair on my arms as it rustled the leaves of the Maple trees and carried the scent of the rosebushes throughout the yard.

See how incorporating touch (tickling), sound (leaves rustling), and smell (scent of the rosebushes) adds depth to the scene? There's something for everyone to relate to and it's accomplished in three fairly short sentences. It's succinct enough not to drag down your story, and active enough to not feel boring and/or tacked on.

If you wanted to add in some internal physical/emotional sense that also helps to set the scene before diving into the story, you might add on something like:

Even with the sun sinking, the heat of the day still pressed down around me, making even the smallest movement feel exhausting. -- But you know, say it better than that!

I find this tip most helpful during revision when I'm trying to flesh out scenes. If there's a scene you have that's not quite working take a look and see if there are some senses missing. They might be just what you need to turn a moment into an unforgettable MOMENT.

Pay attention to what senses you focus on the most. After Ellen pointed out that everyone has a dominant sense I realized I tend to focus mostly on the sight and touch and rarely mention sound unless it's plot specific. This helped me immensely in the re-write process.

If you think about it, the moments we remember most in books are the ones that we can really connect to and feel like we know exactly what the character is experiencing.

Re-read some of your favorite scenes and see how much sensory detail is included. If it's done well it's invisible and yet it totally adds to the overall experience.

I wanted to post an example from a published book but I don't have it with me. So I'll just tell you that one author I noticed that does this really well, is Kelley Armstrong. The particular scene I'm thinking of takes place in The Awakening, and at the beginning of the chapter, she completely creates the setting in about three short sentences. I'm going to have to get my hands on that book again and come back and post it.

What about you? What senses do you focus on the most? What are some great scenes (or great authors) you've read that suck you in with all your senses?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - the Delta Sucks edition

This Wednesday I'm not waiting on one book, I'm waiting on several.
ETA: They just delivered my luggage! All my books are intact. Woohoo!

Delta aka The Worst Airline Ever lost my bag full of my most prized BEA ARCs and signed books, including my signed copy of Shiver in which Maggie Stiefvater agreed to marry me (yes, really!) that my crit partner Lacey surprised me with this week.

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