Wednesday, November 30, 2011

People Have Layers (Or What My Job Has Taught Me About Character Development)

For the last few holiday seasons I've worked at a book store. One of the things we do every year is a book drive for area children. Our goal is massive, around 400 books. In order to meet this goal, the store has a simple, but effective strategy. Ask EVERYONE. Even if they're frowning, even if they only bought a .50 newspaper, even if they're in a rush, even if they've said "no" to everything else you've asked them.

As a somewhat why person, this took some getting used to, but once I did, I noticed something fascinating. You never know who's going to say yes. Mr. Crankypants might just stop in the middle of his rant about rising costs, blink at you a few times and say "Sure." The sweet grandmother with the kind eyes might scowl at you and act offended you had the nerve to ask.

This is something I keep in mind when developing my characters, and writing my scenes. People have layers. There are all sorts of tiny things that affect them from moment to moment. What they show on their face or their body language might not be a true indicator of who they are or what they're thinking. They might be frowning because they can't remember a lyric to their favorite song, with no idea that they look angry. They might've just found out their kid got arrested while shopping for his expensive present.

So I try to make sure I have little moments like this in my book. Scenes where a character is thinking one thing but showing another, scenes where a character is completely misjudged or misinterpreted, because that's real, and I think it's always interesting to see the difference between the way a person is perceived, and the way they perceive themselves.

What about you, do you have any little tricks or reminders like this when you write?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday

Just a quick post to say that my YA Contemporary Flash Fiction is this week's story post on agent Sarah LaPolla's literary blog Glass Cases! You can read it HERE if you're interested!

Also, if you haven't ever visited Glass Cases before, you really should. It's a great blog!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NaNoWriMo Incentive and Inspiration

As we move into the second week of NaNoWriMo I thought I'd share a couple of great posts I've read recently that talk about persevering far better than I can.

The first comes from Chuck Wendig and his Terrible Minds blog. I like to think of it as incentive. You know, yes I can so finish my book!(Please note there is a fair bit of swearing in the post, so if that's not your thing, you've been warned.)

25 Reasons You Won't Finish That Story

Number 18 is one that is usually true for me.
18. Haven’t Answered Any Of The Critical Questions

Ask yourself: what is this about? Why am I writing this? Why will anyone care? Asking yourself some fundamental questions before you write — plus several others while you write — can help keep your nose to the grindstone and allow you to feel settled in both direction and purpose.

Also check out his list of those questions. He's got some really great ones.

The second is totally inspirational. It's about sticking with it when you've got that horrible feeling that you have completely failed at writing the book you wanted to write. It's a great guest post by Sara Zarr on Nova Ren Suma's blog:

What Inspires Sara Zarr

I bet you can't guess what it is. Failure. Yep. Go read why. If you've been feeling stuck, you'll be inspired to keep going, I swear.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Giveaway Winners!

The winner of DESTINED is:


The winner of THE WHITE ASSASSIN is:

Anita Saxena!

Be on the lookout for an email from me!

Thanks so much for entering. I will be having another giveaway soon!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Destined (House of Night) Giveaway!

Thanks again to MacMillian Publishers and Zeitghost Media, I've got another book giveaway! DESTINED The ninth book in the House of Night series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast. Check out the trailer!

"...Zoey is finally home where she belongs, safe with her Guardian Warrior, Stark, by her side, and preparing to face off against Neferet – which would be a whole lot easier if the High Counsel saw the ex-High Priestess for what she really is. Kalona has released his hold on Rephaim, and, through Nyx's gift of a human form, Rephaim and Stevie Rae are finally able to be together – if he can truly walk the path of the Goddess and stay free of his father's shadow..."


This book is being sent straight from the publisher so at their request, unfortunately this contest is for US and Canada mailing addresses only.(But I swear I'm working on a giveaway for all you international folks!)

To enter, leave a comment here with your email address so I can contact you. (Be sure to spell your address out to avoid spam bots! Example: yourname at gmail dot com.) For an extra entry, tweet about this contest (or retweet my contest tweet) and be sure to @ me, I'm @valeriekwrites so I can include your entry.

Contest ends Thursday, November 3rd at 11:59pm PT. I will announce the winner here on Friday, November 4th.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The White Assassin Blog Tour and Giveaway!

Today I'm excited to be part of the THE WHITE ASSASSIN Blog Tour! THE WHITE ASSASSIN is the second book in the middle grade Nightshade Chronicles by Hilary Wagner.

Check out the trailer:

Ooh, spooky, no? Perfect for Halloween! Here's a little bit more about THE WHITE ASSASSIN:

Book II in the Nightshade Chronicles begins three years after Juniper and his rebel band of rats liberate the Catacombs and defeat their oppressors.

A sense of peace has settled over Nightshade City, but it is a false one. Billycan, the white assassin, has been found. Deep in the southern swamps, he now rules a primitive horde of savage swamp rats eager to overrun Nightshade City and claim it for their king. With the help of an ancient colony of bats and an uneasy alliance with the swamp snakes, Juniper and his Council set out to thwart Billycan’s plans. When an old secret is revealed—one so shocking it shakes both Billycan and Juniper to the core—the fate of Nightshade City and the life of Juniper’s only son depend on Juniper’s decision: should he help his mortal enemy? The past resurfaces with devastating impact in this exciting sequel to Nightshade City, a dark tale of intrigue, deception, and betrayal.

Nightshade City, Book I of the Nightshade Chronicles is a CBC Best Book of 2011 and a Crystal Kite finalist.

I started reading this book last night and let me tell you, it is spooky, and exciting, and mysterious in all the right ways! For example, the book opens with the rats being carried by bats through the dark night to an abandoned church. Doesn't get much cooler than that! The Nightshade Chronicles promises action and intrigue and excitement. Boys will love this series. (Girls too!)

I am especially excited about this series because last year Hilary Wagner held a contest to name one of the characters that would have a small part in THE WHITE ASSASSIN. I won that contest and now, the rat I named, Topher, is going to have a bigger role in book three! How cool is that?

If you love a good middle grade, or know a boy in need of some new books, I highly recommend THE WHITE ASSASSIN! In fact, I recommend it so much that I'm going to give away my very own ARC signed by Hilary Wagner! (As soon as I finish reading it that is!) All I ask in return is that the winner reviews THE WHITE ASSASSIN once they receive it! In a timely manner, of course. Obviously I can't hold you to it, but you don't really want that kind of bad karma in your life do you?

This contest is open internationally. I will ship this book to you wherever you are. As long as you promise to review it. (If you don't have a blog, goodreads is fine.)

To enter:
- Leave a comment here with your name and email address. (Be sure to spell out your address to avoid spam bots like this: yourname at gmail dot com.

- You can get an extra entry for tweeting about this contest. Be sure to @ me, I'm @valeriekwrites

- Contest ends at 11:59pm Pacific Time on November 3rd, 2011. I will post the winner on Friday, November 4th, 2011.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My NaNoWriMo Process

It's almost that time again, can you believe it? NaNoWriMo starts November first. And after taking last year off, I've decided I have a goal I want to meet, and NaNo is going to help me do it. I'm just getting started with my prepping (well, sort of), so I thought I'd share my process.

Here's what I personally need in order to have a successful NaNoWriMo experience:

- A Notebook (I like Mead 5-star college ruled, because I'm particular like that.)
- SCRIVENER (They have a 30 day free trial! Perfect for NaNo.)
- Write Or Die (I have the desktop edition, but you can also use it for free online.)
- A set block of writing time each day.

And of course, none of this is even remotely helpful without an idea. Which I have.

So, how do I use these things? I've found that NaNo only works for me when I know exactly what I'm writing. (And by "exactly" I mean, I know what my story is about, the basic plot, and usually the beginning and end - all of which may change once I actually start writing.)

I am not an outliner, but what I do is in the months leading up to NaNo, I fill a notebook with plot ideas, scene ideas, and character info. It's a lot of rambling, but it is SO helpful. And I find that handwriting this, rather than typing it, helps in a couple of ways. One, it feels very free. I'm just playing around. I'm not officially attempting to write a book, which is of course, scary, and difficult. Two, I find that when hand writing, I remember things better, and I tend to sort of ask and answer questions, which helps to flesh out my idea.

Once I've done that, if there's still space in that notebook, I write down a brief description of every scene I know is going to go into the book. If there's not room, I start with a brand new one, because brand new notebooks make me happy. I use this list as my jumping off point for NaNo. I find that if I have a chunk of things that I know I'm going to write, it feels much less scary getting started. Usually these scenes skip over many events I haven't figured out yet and sitting down to write them helps me figure out the rest. (Once I'm on a roll though, I try to save any pre-planned scenes for those days when I feel like I can't possibly write at all.) Also, I find it satisfying to open up that notebook each day and see whch scenes I've already written, and how far I've come. When I get new scene ideas I will also jot them down in the notebook just so that I have them and can cross them off when they're written.

And that means that yes, I'm one of those crazy people that sometimes writes out of order. This is where Scrivener comes in! With Scrivener I can organize as I go. I make each scene I write a separate file in Scrivener which makes dragging them around in index card mode (or just regular binder view) very simple. I also make notes on each scene in the "Documents Notes" section that let me know what information I haven't figured out yet, or what effect this scene has on what I've already written.

So how do I get those scenes written? I like Write Or Die. (Write Or Die is a writing app that you type in. It counts your words and prompts you with flashing colors and awful sounds, and even deleting your text if you're brave enough to use kamikaze, whenever you stop typing and start staring into space.) I usually set it at 40 minutes and 1000 words on "Normal". I find if I have a general idea of the scene I'm writing, I can keep writing all the way through, and often I will go over the 1k, or I will write more than one scene to reach that 1k with time to spare. When I'm less certain about what I'm writing, I'll do 500 words and 20-25 minutes. The prompting from Write Or Die is usually enough to kick me back into writing. I find that I can get more done by not stopping and trying to find the absolute perfect word. And a lot of times I discover that by having to write something, I end up figuring things out I would've spent hours pondering.

And that brings me to my final necessity. Time. I have to set up a specific time each day where I do this writing. I like first thing in the morning. I will sit down at the computer with my coffee, and my ideas fresh from sleep and just type those 1666 words until I'm done. I don't go over what I wrote the day before first, although usually I'll wake up with thoughts on what to do next fresh on my mind. And I find if I address those first, I'm more focused than if I've checked my email, and read blogs, and seen what's going on on twitter. I'm not normally this disciplined, but it's something about the idea that it's just for one month, that allows me to do this.

And that's my approach to NaNoWriMo. How do you NaNo? Do you find it easier to focus during that month than other times of the year?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Staying Focused?

So I've been going through some house drama. My bathroom essentially fell apart while I was in Amsterdam and since then I've had it ripped apart, my house filled with potentially hazardous dust, and have not been able to stay there. FOR THE LAST MONTH. It is extremely frustrating. Especially since where I've been staying doesn't have wi-fi and my macbook won't connect to the modem using the wire. Which means I have to go to my house, and attempt to accomplish things online while workers are stomping through my house, making all kinds of noise and I'm choking on dust. It is... not fun.

Top it off with the fact that I had a pretty important deadline looming, and my nights were filled with anxiety dreams of floods and toxic mold. It's been difficult, and I know my writing has suffered from it. I've been trying all kinds of things to help me focus, such as focus brainwave audio, which is basically the sound of waves crashing on the shore while underneath it tones that stimulates gamma or alpha waves play. I have to say that I was surprised that they sort of seemed to work. I don't know if it was just the fact that it was white noise, or if the brainwave thing was actually happening, but I did find myself able to focus more despite what was going on around me.

What kinds of things do you do to stay focused? I am sort of desperate for more tips. I tried the library, but they don't really have any "quiet" spaces there (plus they're doing construction, hello!) and I'm not so good in coffee shops where there's so much going on. Is there anything special that works for you?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Life Undecided Winner!

The random number generator has spoken and the winner of MY LIFE UNDECIDED by Jessica Brody is:

Chen Yan Chang

Be on the lookout for an email from me!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Smart Chicks Kick It Recap

Last week I went to the the Smart Chicks Kick It Tour at Schuler's Books in Lansing, Michigan. It was awesome. This was the biggest signing I've ever been to. There were 7 YA authors!

Kelley Armstrong
Melissa Marr
Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Rachel Caine
Melissa De La Cruz
Simone Elkeles
Carrie Ryan

It was so much fun. They gave away tons of goodies, one lucky winner even won an ARC of Jennifer Lyn Barnes' new book Every Other Day! (I was SO jealous, that book looks awesome.)

They answered a ton of questions, some serious, about writing, and some fun, like which character of theirs would they have had a crush on in high school. (Okay, that was my question.)

We also learned lots of info that we're not supposed to share online, such as release dates of upcoming books, and new projects. (Wait til you see the cover of Jennifer Lynn Barnes' next Raised By Wolves book, Taken By Storm!)

One of the coolest things was seeing so many people (there were over 100 there) with massive bags of books to be signed. I could barely carry mine! (And yes, I got some signed for a very special giveaway I'll be doing soon!)

I love seeing YA authors and hearing them talk about their work and their books, but what I love even more about signings is seeing old friends and making new ones. Writing is so solitary, even with the internet, it's always great to see people in the flesh who are doing what you're doing, and understand what it is to love YA. I was especially excited to see Carrie Ryan, who I had not seen since we were snowed in in Branson back in February (and who is made of awesome). I also had a great time getting to know Kristi (The Story Siren).

Below are some pics from the event. I didn't get a picture this time, but I wanted to give a shout out to the very awesome DJ DeSmyter whose first book HUNTED was published by Pendrell Press this summer, and who is still in high school!

Me and the Smart Chicks Authors
(Simone Elkeles, Kelly Armstrong, Me, Carrie Ryan, Melissa De La Cruz, Rachel Caine, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Melissa Marr)

Signing stock.

Me and Carrie Ryan

Me and Kristi aka The Story Siren

Unfortunately (for you, not me) Michigan was the very last stop on the Smart Chicks tour this year. But they're considering possibly doing another one next year.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Life Undecided Giveaway!

Thanks again to MacMillian Publishers and Zeitghost Media, I've got another book giveaway! This one looks like a fun one! Check out the trailer for MY LIFE UNDECIDED by Jessica Brody. It's one of the best I've seen in a while!

Brooklyn Pierce, a fifteen year-old girl notorious for making bad decisions, enlists the help of the online blog reading population to vote on how she should live her life. But some things in life simply aren't a who you fall in love with.

Also be sure to check out this fun website inspired by the book! Undecided about something? Go here:

Jessica is on tour right now with the Pen Fatale Tour. Get all the info on the Pen Fatale Tour Facebook Page!


This book is being sent straight from the publisher so at their request, unfortunately this contest is for US and Canada mailing addresses only.(But I swear I'm working on a giveaway for all you international folks!)

To enter, leave a comment here with your email address so I can contact you. (Be sure to spell your address out to avoid spam bots! Example: yourname at gmail dot com.) For an extra entry, tweet about this contest (or retweet my contest tweet) and be sure to @ me, I'm @valeriekwrites so I can include your entry.

Contest ends Thursday, October 13th at 11:59pm PT. I will announce the winner here on Friday, October 14th.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fight Your Way Through

I love what Ira Glass has to say in this video about that feeling of disappointment we can sometimes get when the vision we have for our work is not what we manage to create, and how the only way to make it what we want is to fight our way through that disappointment, and keep on writing.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

This backs up something I truly believe, even as I struggle with it. And that's that if you can dream it, you can do it. If you can imagine a book, full of amazing plot twists, and gut-wrenching emotion, and all the things you love in a book, YOU CAN WRITE THAT BOOK. It might feel like you can't. It might feel scary, and hard, and impossible, but trust me. That book is already inside you. It's already written. You just have to sit down and spit it out.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Smart Chicks Kick It In Michigan!

Michigan people! Have you heard? Next Tuesday, October 4th, the Smart Chicks Kick It tour is coming to Schuler's Books in Lansing (Towne Center)!

There will be an amazing lineup including Kelley Armstrong, author of the Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising trilogies, Melissa Marr, author of the bestselling Wicked Lovely series; Jennifer Lynn Barnes, author of seven young adult novels including Raised by Wolves; Rachel Caine, internationally bestselling author of over 30 books, including the Morganville Vampire series; Melissa De La Cruz, author of the bestselling Blue Bloods series; Simone Elkeles, author of the NYT-bestselling Perfect Chemistry series; and Carrie Ryan, author of the bestselling Forest of Hands and Teeth series.

Including signing their own books, they will also be celebrating the release of the new HarperTeen anthology Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong, which features short stories by several of the authors on the tour. (And many more, like Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl, Ally Condie, and Jeri Smith-Ready.)

The event starts at 6 pm, but you can get (FREE) tickets in advance over the phone or at the store to reserve your spot in the signing line. Get all the details HERE.

I'm going to be there, are you?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dreamland Winner!

The random number generator has spoken once again and the winner is Patsy! Be on the lookout for an email from me Patsy!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review - The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland...

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn't . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

What a fun book! It's classic in the best way, reminding me of both The Wizard of Oz, and Alice in Wonderland, and it's got a modern touch with issues such as September's father gone to war.

The vocabulary and wordplay in this book is fantastic. I would give it high marks just for the sheer amount of new words a young reader is bound to pick up. Plus, the wordplay adds another level to the story that makes it fun for adults to read as well.

September is a spunky girl and a bit of a tomboy who doesn't quite realize how strong and brave she is, but as her adventures into the world of fairyland continue, her confidence in herself grows. What I loved most about this book is it's subtle way of getting it's "messages" across (I hate to use that word in the sense that it can sound like it's preachy, which it isn't, but I can't think of a better one) without making September's experiences feel like LESSONS. It is truly charming.

This is a great book for parents and kids to read together, especially because younger ones might find some of the words challenging, although I don't think they will be off-putting. If you're looking for a fun classic (in the best sense of the word) story, you should definitely check out THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Does Your Character Have An Arc?

If you're not following Dear Editor you really should be. She takes all sorts of writing questions and answers them on her blog. Today she's got a great post on Character Arcs. I won't post everything she said, because you should check out her site yourself, but this really stuck out to me. About your MC:

"When he reaches The End, extract him from that last scene and drop him back onto Page 1. He should handle himself so well that you wouldn’t even have a story if this were the guy to really start it."

I thought this was a really great way of putting it. I'd never thought of it quite that way. But I can see this is an easy quick check to see if you've created growth in your character. Not the be-all end-all by any means, because of course every story is different and some characters might change in a way that still doesn't allow them to easily handle the problem, but you can still determine whether or not they would handle the situation differently. Because your character needs to have picked up some new skill, or way of thinking, or understanding that would allow them to take a different approach to the same problem.

I'm going to use this line of thought from now on when plotting. What about you, what do you do to ensure your character is growing an changing? Do you have a trick? Do you plot or outline or whatever you do with the character arc in mind?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Win DREAMLAND (Riley Bloom 3) by Alyson Noël!

I'm excited this week to have a Middle Grade book to give away! Thanks again to MacMillan and Zeitghost Media for the chance to give out the third book in the Riley Bloom series DREAMLAND by Alyson Noël.Check out the trailer below:

"Riley's finding that the afterlife can be a lonely place when all you do is focus on work. So she goes to the place where dreams happen, hoping to find a way to contact her sister, Ever. She meets the director, who tells her about the two ways to send dreams. As a Dream Jumper, a person can jump into a dreamer's dream, share a message, and participate. As a Dreamweaver, an entire dream can be created in a studio and sent to the dreamer. But Dreamweaving was outlawed decades ago, and the studio was boarded up. Thinking it's her only way to reach out to her sister, Riley goes in search of the old studio. There she finds a ghost boy, who's been creating and sending nightmares to people for years. In order to stop him and reach out to Ever, Riley is going to have to confront and overcome her own fears.

This book is being sent straight from the publisher so at their request, unfortunately this contest is for US and Canada mailing addresses only.(But I swear I'm working on a giveaway for all you international folks!)

To enter, leave a comment here with your email address so I can contact you. (Be sure to spell your address out to avoid spam bots! Example: yourname at gmail dot com.) For an extra entry, tweet about this contest (or retweet my contest tweet) and be sure to @ me, I'm @valeriekwrites so I can include your entry.

Contest ends Thursday, September 22nd at 11:59pm PT. I will announce the winner here on Friday, September 23rd.

Friday, September 16, 2011

All These Things I've Done Winner!

The Random Number Generator has spoken, and the winner of ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE by Gabrielle Zevin is Bookish in a Box!

Congrats! Be on the lookout for an email from me! And everyone else check back. I've got another giveaway coming very soon!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

This summer, I wanted to do something exciting. Something I'd never done before. So I decided, rather on the spur of the moment, to go to Amsterdam (The Netherlands) for a month. Alone. To explore and to write, and to see if I could.

And I'm so glad I did! I rented an apartment a bit outside the city center with a gorgeous rooftop terrace that, once it stopped raining, I sat outside on and wrote longhand. I had forgotten how much actually writing helps me think through things.

I also met up with the awesome Corinne Duyvis, YA writer and Amsterdam inhabitant. She showed me the city and we even got a chance to do some writing in a coffee shop (the kind that actually serves coffee). The coffee shop had this cute little cubby upstairs where you could sit, but you couldn't stand.


When I wasn't writing, I spent time just wandering around, and taking in the city. I don't think I could ever get tired of looking at the canals.

I had an amazing time. I didn't write the Great American Novel, but I did figure a lot of things out, explored ideas, and worked out a solid outline for a story I'm really excited to tell. To me, that spells success. How about you? How did you spend your summer vacation?

Also, my short story THE LAST BEST DAY is up this week at Tangled Fiction!

Monday, September 12, 2011

WIN All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin!

Once again I have an awesome giveaway thanks to Macmillan and Zeitghost Media! This week I'm giving away ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE by Gabrielle Zevin! Check out the trailer below.

ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE is a dystopian, set in near future NYC, but to me, it sounds more like a horror novel. Take a look at the blurb and I think you'll see why!

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidentally poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

Did you see that? NO COFFEE!! The horror! I just can't even imagine...

To win this book, you need to have a US or Canada mailing address. Sorry about that, this book is being sent straight from the publisher and that's their condition. I will be doing an international giveaway soon though!

To enter, just leave a comment here with your email address so I can contact you. (Be sure to spell your address out to avoid spam bots! Example: yourname at gmail dot com.) For an extra entry, tweet about this contest (or retweet my contest tweet) and be sure to @ me, I'm @valeriekwrites so I can include your entry.

Contest ends Thursday, September 15th at 11:59pm PT. I will announce the winner here on Friday, September 16th.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hades Winner!

The random number generator has spoken, and the winner of HADES is:
Martha Lawson

I will be emailing you shortly for your mailing info!

I will also be posting a new giveaway soon!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hades Giveaway!

So I'm back from Amsterdam, and I will post about that soon, but first I had to share this awesome opportunity. Yesterday HADES by Alexandra Adornetto released. HADES is the sequel to HALO. Check out the trailer!

More about HADES:

Heaven Help Her.

Bethany Church is an angel sent to Earth to keep dark forces at bay. Falling in love was never part of her mission, but the bond between Beth and her mortal boyfriend, Xavier Woods, is undeniably strong. But even Xavier?s love, and the care of her archangel siblings, Gabriel and Ivy, can?t keep Beth from being tricked into a motorcycle ride that ends up in Hell. There, the demon Jake Thorn bargains for Beth?s release back to Earth. But what he asks of her will destroy her, and quite possibly, her loved ones, as well.

And now, thanks to Zeitghost Media and Macmillan (Hades Publisher) I get to give away copy of HADES to one of my followers!

This book is being sent straight from the publisher so unfortunately it's for US and Canada mailing addresses only.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below along with your email address written out like this: yourname at gmail dot com. (So you don't get spambots emailing you!)

Contest ends Thursday, September 8th. It's not necessary to win but it would be great if you could tweet or post about this on facebook! I will post the winner on Friday, September 9th.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We're Baaack! (Or Three Things on A Tuesday)

It's been a bit longer than a month, but Tangled Fiction is back! (Well, almost. We return in September.) Get all the details on our extended hiatus and return on the Tangled Fiction blog.

In other news, I'm back! Not from Amsterdam. No I still have another two weeks or so here. But, I'm excited to say that I am FINALLY back in the writing saddle again with a story I'm wildly excited about. Like, seriously. The kind that keeps me up at night, working out the oh-so-twisty plot. So, yay me! Be on the lookout for that counter on the right to start going up.

Also, also, you should check out my awesome CP Natalie C Parker's equally awesome post on how Writing a Good Hook is like Running a Good Con. You'll be glad you did.

I leave you with a photo of my favorite writing spot, the rooftop terrace of my Amsterdam apartment!

Friday, August 12, 2011

MOAR Contests!

In case you missed it, we're giving away a signed copy of BAD TASTE IN BOYS by Carrie Harris over at my crit group's blog Sisters in Scribe.

Enter Here Hurry, the deadline to enter is this Sunday, August 14th!

And, Maggie Stiefvater just released the awesome stop-motion-animation trailer for THE SCORPIO RACES! And in celebration, she's giving away a signed and doodled in ARC!

Check out the amazing trailer which she animated herself, and wrote and performed the music for it!

And get all the details on how you can enter to win HERE

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Merry Fates Contest Poem

So the Merry Sisters of Fate are having a prompt contest over at their brand new website. To enter you have to write something, inspired by their prompt image. This is the image, “The Turret Stairs” by Frederic Burton:

And this is what I wrote:

there is only this

this dark corner
between up

between his

but it is an eternity
of sweet
of breaths like caresses and
gentle thumbs against cheeks

of wordless lips
that speak sonnets

it is
the silent cracks that
through my heart
when he moves past

to the place where
he will one day
become king

while i remain
in fractured pieces
scattered along the ground

Winners are randomly selected, so don't be shy. You could win a signed ARC of THE SCORPIO RACES or THE SPACE BETWEEN or a signed finished copy of BLOOD MAGIC. Contest ends Friday, August 12, at midnight CST so get started! Enter here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Lying Game Sneak Peek!

So I was thrilled to discover on Thursday that ABC Family had sent me a surprise copy of Sara Shepard's (author of Pretty Little Liars) new series The Lying Game.

I've been dying to read the book, especially since it was announced that ABC Family was making The Lying Game into a new tv series. Well, my copy of the book had a cryptic message hand-written on the inside. (Seriously, ABC Family is so awesome, they come up with the coolest ideas. I hope one day they make a tv show out of one of my books one day just so I can see what kind of game they come up with for it!)

The inscription read:

"To find the truth, you just need to know where to look."

And okay, yeah it took me a while to figure out it was a clue but when I finally decoded it, I was presented with a search term that lead to a sneak peek of The Lying Game! Check it out:

Ooh, dark and mysterious no?

The Lying Game premieres August 15th at 9pm ET.

Here's the blurb for the book:

Pretty girls don’t play by the rules. They make them.

Abandoned by her mother at age five, Emma Paxton has had a rough life in foster care, always longing for a family of her own. When she discovers Sutton Mercer, the wealthy twin she never knew she had, she leaps at the chance to meet her. But then Sutton disappears. . . .

Mistaking Emma for her sister, Sutton’s friends whisk her away. At first Emma plays along, eager to peek into her twin’s life. Sutton seems to have everything Emma never got—an adoring boyfriend, fiercely loyal friends, and a close-knit family—but as Emma is drawn further into Sutton’s world, she finds that everyone is hiding dark secrets. Worst of all, Sutton may not be coming back—ever.

Now, to find out what happened to her, Emma must keep up the charade. But one wrong move and she could end up missing as well.

Let the Lying Game begin.

Check out the ABC Family website for more info on The Lying Game TV series.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ki Hong Lee From Nine Lives of Chloe King Answers My Question

You might remember a while back I played the Nine Paths To Chloe King game as part of the launch of the new ABC Family show The Nine Lives of Chloe King. Well, as part of my prize for completing the game, I got the chance to ask Hi Kong Lee, who plays Paul, a question. Here is the video response I got!

My question was: What's your favorite thing about working on the show?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Where I've Been & Where I'm Going(!)

It's been a busy couple of weeks for me. I've been preparing to go on a bit of an exciting adventure (more about that in a bit). Plus, last week I got the chance to see not one, not two, but THREE writer friends at their book signings. Talk about inspiring! (Not to mention fun!)

First up was Maggie Stiefvater and Tessa Gratton at the Borders in Novi on July 18th. This signing was bittersweet since July 18th was also the day that Borders announced they would be closing all of their stores. Still, it was exciting; the turnout was massive. Over 200 people crammed into the seating area to hear Maggie talk. I got to see Maggie and Tess for the first time since we were all stranded in Branson this past winter, and I got to meet several other Michigan and midwest YA Authors! I failed to take a pic so I'm pointing you to this post on Tessa Gratton's blog where she has a group photo of Scott Tracey, Leah Clifford, Courtney Allison Moulton, Aimee Carter, and little 'ol me.

Here's the pics I did take though:

Me and Maggie

Me and Tess

Then on Saturday I was back in Ann Arbor for Carrie Harris' BAD TASTE IN BOYS Launch Party! We started the day with several of us writer and blogger types meeting up with Carrie and her Ninja husband for lunch. There was much laughter. And again, I was total picture fail so you'll just have to take my word for it. Carrie read a hilarious excerpt from her book - you might remember I shot a trailer for it -

She also answered questions, signed books, and served up lots of delicious homemade goodies! (Also, Carrie just might have the most adorable and well-mannered children I have ever seen.)

Me and Carrie

I also might just have a signed UK copy of BLOOD MAGIC to give away!

And now onto my big adventure! On Tuesday I'm going off to this beautiful place:

AMSTERDAM! For a WHOLE MONTH! Ever since Stephanie Perkins went to Paris to write, I've had this idea burning in the back of my mind, and finally I decided to take the plunge and GO FOR IT. So for the next month, my posts might be scarce... um, er. But hopefully that will be because I'm too busy writing and being inspired and wandering the beautiful streets of Amsterdam. I am SO excited, you have no idea. All these book signings really reinvigorated my drive to get a book out into the world. I can't wait to spend some time writing in such an awesome place. Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Three Things On A Thursday

First majorly AWESOME news! My crit partner and fellow Sister in Scribe Lacey has signed with an agent! Get all the details HERE including how you can win some awesome books too!

That's two of my cps getting signed in the last month! (You may remember the equally awesome Natalie C Parker signed with Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary and did a massive crit giveaway in celebration.)

Second there's a very cool book tour with some of my favorite YA writers happening soon and for once, it just may be coming to YOUR hometown. (But not mine, alas.) Myra McEntire, Victoria Schwab, and Beth Revis are doing an Asheville to Nashville Book Tour this August! And, even if you can't attend the tour, you can still win a ton of awesome books just by spreading the word. Head on over to the Ashville to Nashville Blog for details!

And finally, have you been watching The Nine Lives of Chloe King? It's just getting started but already SO MUCH has happened. Get caught up on the show with this video recap!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reading Day

It's a cloudy, muggy day, and I haven't spent an afternoon just laying around and reading in months, so I'm declaring today a reading day. I have SO MANY awesome books I've been dying to read just waiting for me to pick them up. The hard part will be deciding which one. Here's just a few that are calling me:

What about you? What are you reading - or wishing you could take the time to read - today?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Middle Grade Giveaway!

I've been given the opportunity to giveaway a copy of the awesome new middle grade book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente! Check out the trailer below:

More info:
"Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn?t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful."

This contest is only open to those with US and Canada mailing addresses. Sorry! To enter, just leave your name and email address (be sure to write it something like "yourname [at] gmail [dot] com" to avoid the spam bots!) Winner will be chosen at random on June 28th. I will email the winner. If I don't get a response in 24 hours. I will choose another winner.

There's no need to do anything for extra points, but if you want to spread the word to other MG lovers that would be great!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Awesome News!

In case you haven't heard, my seriously awesome crit partner, Natalie C Parker recently signed with an equally seriously awesome agent, Sarah Davies of The Greenhouse Literary Agency!

Natalie and I (me?) at the Branson Writer's Retreat

I am SO thrilled and so excited for her. Her book is amazing, and I can't wait for you all to read it!

In all the excitement Natalie has lost her mind decided to give back! And so, she's offering to crit the first 5k of every manuscript sent to her by tomorrow Friday, June 17th. Yes, really! All you have to do is send her your work and she will read it and give you some of her amazing (and sensitivity-level appropriate) feedback.

Get all the info HERE. But hurry, tomorrow's the last day to submit!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

No Love For The Present?

Since I made the switch from screenwriting to novels, I've discovered that some people don't care for present tense. In fact some people have violent hate for present tense prose. I find this curious. I rarely notice tense when I'm reading and the times I do, it's usually because a book written in past tense has suddenly confused me as to when something is happening/has happened. (That whole, "I'm saying it in the past tense but it's really happening right now" thing hurts my brain.)

I tend to naturally write in present tense. I used to think this was because of screenwriting - scripts are written in present tense. But then one day I was flipping through my old journals and I discovered I've always written in present tense. And that made me think about the way people tell stories. I think in our daily lives, we use present tense much more often than you might think.

I'm sure you've had a conversation that went something like this:

"You won't believe what happened to me today!"


"So, I'm in the store and this guy comes up and is like, did it hurt? And I go, um, what? And he gives me this big cheesy grin and says, when you fell out of heaven? And I was like seriously??"

(Okay, hopefully you don't have conversations like this, but you get the point.) The story was told naturally in present tense because she's sort of reliving it. It makes the moment more immediate. So with this in mind, I am really curious what it is that those of you that hate present tense find so awful about it. I've read terms like "jarring" and "annoying" and I wonder what about it gives you those feelings.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Catching Up on Chloe King

I've been on vacation and have fallen behind on posting my updates on the NINE PATHS TO CHLOE KING game. So today you get a massive Chloe King post because THE NINE LIVES OF CHLOE KING premieres on ABC Family in just two days! (That's Tuesday June 14 at 9pm, after the Pretty Little Liars season premiere.)

First up, you can win a very awesome Protection Charm just like this one:

To claim yours, just go to the ABC Family Nine Paths game site HERE and enter the code word DECEPTION in the box on the right hand side, just under the photo of the charm. The first 500 people to enter the code by June 14th get a charm so hurry on over and claim yours!*

So what have I learned about The Nine Lives of Chloe King over the past two weeks?

Chloe King is The Uniter. Only she can save her people, the Mai. The Mai are an ancient race of people rumored to be part God (thanks to the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet) who have cat-like abilities.

This is the Mai symbol for foe:

And Chloe's greatest foe is this mysterious man:

He wants her dead at any cost.

Poor Chloe just wants to be a normal girl. She even has a crush:

But with killers out to get her, and the fate of her race in her hands, it doesn't seem likely she'll get that chance.

I'm so excited to see this show! The ninth and final path begins Monday, I can't wait to see what it is!

* Prize Rules: The Nine Paths to Chloe King Free Gift offer (“Offer”) is valid from 5/24/11 at 8:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time ("PDT") to 6/14/11 at 11:59:59 PM PDT or until supplies last, whichever is sooner. Offer open to residents of 50 US & DC, 13 & older who follow a participating blogger in The Nine Paths to Chloe King Blogger/Journalist Program (“Blogger”) at time of redeeming free gift (“Free Gift”). Each 1 of 3 Free Gifts available is tied to a different code word which will be revealed by Blogger at 3 separate times (estimated to be 5/24/11, 6/6/11, and 6/10/11). To redeem a Free Gift (while supplies last), go to & enter code. Expect Free Gift within 8–10 weeks from 6/13/11. Limit: 1 Free Gift/person. Void where prohibited.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open only to persons who are, as of entry, 18 years of age or older, legal residents of, and physically located within, the 50 United States or D.C. and who are bloggers or journalists specifically invited to participate by Sponsor. Starts May 24, 2011 once game boxes are received and ends on June 14, 2011 at 11:59:59 PM PDT. Void where prohibited. Click here for Official Rules Terms and Conditions and complete entry and prize details.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My First Book Trailer! - Bad Taste In Boys

Before I started writing YA, I was (and still am) an indie filmmaker. I write, direct, film, and edit and quite frankly with all the time I've spent working on my book, I worried those skills might be getting a little rusty. Fortunately, Carrie Harris was there to help!

You might have seen Carrie and I tweeting a while back about a Secret Project. Well,this is it. I shot, and edited the trailer for Carrie's debut novel BAD TASTE IN BOYS and now after much computer drama, I can finally present it to you! So without further adieu, BAD TASTE IN BOYS - The Trailer!

I had so much fun, I want to do it again! So if you're in need of a book trailer, let me know!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Game Begins!

I got my Nine Paths To Chloe King game kit today! It came in a gorgeous wooden box complete with the custom iPad 2! It's so cool! It has special apps just for the game. And the rest of the items are very mysterious. (There was even a message from A from Pretty Little Liars letting me know she's still watching me! 0_0) Check it out!

And before I forget, I told you that you'd be able to play along too. ABC Family has it set up so you can join the game, and get a chance to win lots of free stuff, (right now they're giving away the circle charm you see in my box!

To claim one, enter the code word CIRCLE in the box under the "Latest Giveaway Item".) and the Grand Prize is a visit to the set of The Nine Lives of Chloe King! GO HERE to claim a gift and to start playing.

Some of the things here include: a birth certificate written in Russian, with a secret hidden message in it, a pink baby bib, a circle charm, and a wax sealed note that pointed me to my first clue!

And here's a peek at the Mai Uniter scroll we received today! (Click to enlarge.)

Blood Magic Is Here!

I just wanted to take a moment and celebrate the release today of Tessa Gratton's debut novel, BLOOD MAGIC. Not just because Tessa is an awesome person I've been fortunate enough to get to know in the last year (she is) but because BLOOD MAGIC is an AWESOME book and you NEED to read it NOW. Check it out:

Everywhere Silla Kennicott turns she sees blood. She can't stop thinking about her parents alleged murder-suicide. She is consumed by a book filled with spells that arrives mysteriously in the mail. The spells share one common ingredient: blood, and Silla is more than willing to cast a few. What's a little spilled blood if she can uncover the truth? And then there's Nick—the new guy at school who makes her pulse race. He has a few secrets of his own and is all too familiar with the lure of blood magic. Drawn together by a combination of fate and chemistry, Silla and Nick must find out who else in their small Missouri town knows their secret and will do anything to take the book and magic from Silla.

Why You Should Read This Book: First let me say, don't let the title fool you. There are no vampires (or any other paranormal creatures) in this book! What there is in this book is lots of magic, (it's so real that you can see it like a movie, and you'll want to try it just to see if there's magic in your blood too. Or... maybe that's just me.) There's also steamy kisses, a peek into a fascinating descent into evil, a real girl with real problems who doesn't need a boy to save her, steamy kisses, and my most favorite thing in a book, a plot that keeps you on your toes and guessing all the way until the very end! (And did I mention steamy kisses?) I really loved this book and the world created in it. I'm already salivating for the companion novel!

So if you haven't added BLOOD MAGIC to your must read list you're in luck BLOOD MAGIC is in stores right now! AND I might be giving away a copy soon, you just never know!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Next Buffy? Summer TV Fun!

You might remember that around this time last year I was invited by ABC Family to be a Pretty Little Liars Secret Keeper. Those of us selected were sent special phones where we received messages from the mysterious A who had us doing all kinds of fun stuff in order to protect our secrets. It was truly one of the most amazingly put-together and FUN games I have ever played. And for an awesome show.

Well, this year ABC Family has outdone itself. I've been invited to play The Nine Paths of Chloe King a game tied to to their new series The Nine Lives of Chloe King And this year, instead of sending me a special phone to play the game, they're sending me a custom ipad 2! Yes, really! I almost passed out when I read that. They're calling it a MaiPad because we will be playing as members of the ancient and mysterious Mai race.

And the best part is that this year everyone will be able to play the game too. (Albeit without the ipad.)

So what is The Nine Lives of Chloe King about? I wondered that too. It's based on a trilogy of books by Liz Braswell that came out a few years ago.

Judging from the trailer and the description, it sounds a bit like Buffy, which was a show I LOVED so, definitely looking forward to this one. Check out the trailer and the blurb:

Chloe King is looking forward to celebrating her birthday with her friends and single mother, just like every other year…that is until she starts developing heightened abilities and discovers she's being pursued by a mysterious figure. Chloe soon learns she's part of an ancient race which has been hunted by human assassins for millennia —and that she may be their only hope for ultimate survival.

The Nine Lives of Chloe King premieres June 14th at 9pm, right after the summer premiere of Pretty Little Liars. Until then, don't be surprised if you see making a lot of tweets, blog posts, and facebook updates involving the show. The game runs 5/24-6/14.

Is anyone else playing? Can't wait to meet you all!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fail Spectacularly

One of my favorite quotes ever (and unfortunately I can't remember where I heard it, a movie I think) is:

"If you're going to fail, fail spectacularly."

And no, that doesn't mean do a crap job. It means go for it. Don't hold back, or play it safe, in the hopes that you won't make a huge fool of yourself if you get it wrong.

If you shoot for the middle, all you'll get is mediocre. That and the knowledge that you could've tried harder but you didn't.

So the next time you sit down to write, or work out a plot, or anything else in life, ask yourself. Am I doing everything I can to make this great? Am I trying to make my story fit in with what everyone else is doing?

Is there a crazy idea you have for a story that in your gut, you know it could work, but you're afraid to try it? Are you shoving it aside to write something more mainstream/"now"/generic? Ask yourself it that's really what you want to do, and if it's not, go for it. And even if you fail, it will be the kind of glorious failure that shows your heart, and what's wrong with that?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Road To Success

Today I'm going to point you to an article I read recently and found very helpful:

9 Things Successful People Do Differently by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D.

Halvorson points out that most of us have a hard time figuring out what it is that makes us succeed when we succeed and therefore that makes it hard for us to repeat the process on each new project or goal. I had never thought about it this way but I think it's so true. When things go surprisingly well, we tend to think we "got lucky" but I truly believe that LUCK = PREPARATION + OPPORTUNITY so that means it's got to be more than just showing up, right? But rarely do we stop and ask ourselves why something we did worked. We just rejoice in it.

One of my favorite things on the list is: Focus On Getting Better Rather Than Being Good

Such a good idea, and SO hard to stay focused on. So if you've got a few minutes, I highly recommend checking out the link!

Monday, May 2, 2011

In Which I Attempt To Shame Myself Into Writing

So you might be aware, from some of my (sparse) recent posts that I'm starting a new book. Or, attempting to start one, anyway. I have an idea that I'm very excited about but it's a bit daunting in it's complexity and so rather than writing, I've been making lots and lots of notes. And staring into space. And sighing.

I've come to the realization it's time now for me to man up and start putting real words on the page so I've decided the best way to make sure that I do this is to announce my goal publicly so that my fear of humiliation will keep me on task.

So here it is. This month, starting today, I intend to write a minimum of 1000 words every day on my WIP PARADOX (see, doesn't that title just sound complex?), for an end total of at least 30,000 words on May 31st. I'm putting up a little counter on my sidebar so that I can keep tabs on my wordcount each day.

Please feel free to harass me on twitter or facebook and ask if I've done my 1000 words for the day. I'll try to post on my progress, but I'm not sure anyone wants to read the melodrama about all the hair I'm tearing out while trying to get this done.

If any of you out there are looking to do something similar let me know. Maybe we can support each other.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

3 Signs That I'm Starting A New Book

Inspired by Kristi's post yesterday, here's some signs that I'm writing a new book:

1. I can't hear you. What's that? Were you saying something to me? So sorry, I was thinking about that plot twist, and what it's like for my character to experience this whole new world I'm building her, and how I'm going to manage to squeeze in a kissing scene.

2. Flip-flop. Chances are I'm somewhere in the middle of W I D E mood swings from OMG this is the crazy-coolest most awesome idea ever!!! to What was I thinking? HOW WILL I EVER MAKE THIS WORK???

3. Gone missing. You can't find me anywhere. Not on g-chat, or twitter. I'm slow to answer emails. Hopefully because I'm typing away on that story or more likely, because I'm avoiding my computer like the plague.

So there you have it. My dirty little secrets revealed! How about you? Are you better behaved than me when starting a new project?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pretty Little Liars Sneak Peeks!

This past Earth Day (yes, I am woefully slow) ABC Family and Pretty Little Liars sent me a nifty trowel, some awesome yard work gloves, AND a special link to another sneak peak of the new season of Pretty Little Liars! Complete with info on whose shirt is coming off, and other vital info. Check out the video below, or go to the special link they sent me here for even more:

Who else is excited for the new season?? PLUS Did you know there are TWO new PRETTY LITTLE LIARS books coming out this year? I am all kinds of excited about this. These books were my crack last winter I read the first seven in like a week. The first one, TWISTED comes out July 5th, 2011.

So far there's no blurb up yet, but I can't wait to see what it's about and if the show has influenced the new book at all!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

When "I feel" Feels Distant

One of the great things about first person POV is its immediacy. First person takes the reader right into a character's brain, right into the middle of whatever they're experiencing. But sometimes, the very thing that's supposed to pull us into the scene, takes us out.

I think it's easy when writing in first person, to slip into a rhythm where, particularly when we're describing action we're constantly making "I" statements like, I feel, I see, I hear.

These "I" statements can be distancing to your reader. (Not to mention they get pretty tedious when almost every sentence in a paragraph starts out with I.)

Think about it. When I read:

Cold water trickles down my back.

I shiver because I feel cold water trickling down my own back. It's subliminal. We think to ourselves this way, so when reading a sentence that is something we would say in our own mind, we react as if it's happening to us.

Now, when I read:

I feel cold water trickle down my back.

I am forced to take a step back. I picture the narrator shivering as she feels the cold water. Because it's her experience. She's telling me what's happening and I have to picture it. So suddenly, I am sympathetic, and I'm still interested to know what happens next, but I'm not right there in the moment with her.

See the difference?

Of course there are times when you want to create that bit of distance, or an I statement is really the only way to drive your point home, but don't forget to pull your reader as close to the action as possible whenever you can.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Inspiration

I SO needed this today. How does the universe always know?

"The difference between taking baby steps and acting small, is that one prepares you for success, the other for a fall."
- Notes From The Universe

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

It's Not Cheating If It Helps

So I was perusing my copy of The Art of War For Writers by James Scott Bell, looking for tips as I prepare to start my brand new book from scratch and I came across this suggestion from Chapter 20:

"It's the little things that mount up to victory. So make yourself a reminder list..."

Bell suggests that you list the things you know you need to improve in your writing on notecards, or post-its --a sort of cheat sheet-- and keep them where you can see them when you're writing.

Some of the notes that he uses personally include:

Emotion! Emotion! Emotion! - Which reminds him that his primary objective is to give readers an emotional ride.

Be Dialogue Happy - Reminding him to let the dialogue flow, he can always edit it later.

And my favorite:
The Second Right Answer - This one could be a post all on its own. Bell suggests that we should learn to stop at every major creative decision in our story (for example: plot turning points) and think of several options before moving forward. This is because usually, the first idea we have (the right answer) for "what happens next" is the obvious, or cliche, or standard way of going.

This is something I actually do when plotting. I ask myself, what is the obvious expectation here, and what are my other options. Then I pick the one that's most interesting, or surprising, or emotional, that makes sense for my characters and my story.

I think this is a great idea and am definitely going to make up a few reminder notes for myself. Other than what Bell has listed, I know I'll have one that says "Description! Description! Description!" because I tend to leave that out of my draft.

What about you? Do you make reminders for yourself? What would be on your post its?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Getting Defensive: A Cautionary Tale

If you have not yet seen This Astonishing Post you MUST go read it now. No time? Okay, I'll paraphrase it for you. The link takes you to BigAl's blog where he gave 2 stars to a self-published book he'd been asked to review, and then the author comments several times with angry diatribes, and comments that make it clear she has not understood what the reviewer was saying, before finally signing off with a pair of F*** Off!s. I encourage you to read BigAl's review when you have a chance because I think it's a fair and honest review of the book.

He called the story "compelling and interesting."

He also said "the spelling and grammar errors, which come so quickly that, especially in the first several chapters, it’s difficult to get into the book without being jarred back to reality as you attempt unraveling what the author meant."

Ouch, right? But a fair warning. He makes it clear that if you can get past these, you will find a compelling story, and he did in fact read the whole book, however, the difficulty he had reading it was one of the factors that lead to his low rating.

The author (who I will not name, nor will I post any of her writing samples for ridicule) took offense to the review and apparently misunderstood, or refused to believe that the reviewer was not talking about mere formatting problems within the ebook.

She made repeated negative references to the reviewers character and integrity, as well as his and many other commenters' intelligence.

In response, many commenters apparently went to amazon and rated her book, which previously had 4 and 5 star ratings, with one star.

It was quite simply, mortifying.

And it made me think. My first reaction was one of how can she be so angry? He said her story was good, just the writing wasn't up to par. But then I tried to put myself in her shoes. This was a book she'd put up for sale, as an example of her talent. And I remembered how the first few times I got a critique from one of my crit partners, I could only see the negatives -- the things that didn't work, the should've-been-obvious mistakes, the seemingly insurmountable amount of revision I was going to have to do even though I'd already worked so hard on it.

And then I felt kind of bad for the author.

She had a fairly natural reaction to a negative review, but rather than taking the time to process it, find the good, find the things she didn't agree with and let them go, she took it straight to the internet and sabotaged her reputation, and potentially her book sales and career by lashing out.

So today, I just want to remind us all (including myself!) to STOP, and BREATHE, and THINK before lashing out at those we have asked to help us. Remember that any crit or review is just one person's opinion, but also that there is almost always something worthwhile in a negative critique or review. You can't please everyone at once, but you can always improve.

And those of you going the self-publishing route, I think this author's experience is proof that you must be extra vigilent since you won't automatically have the eyes of a professional editor or copyeditor before your book goes out into the world.

Don't let defensiveness, pride, or hurt feelings keep you from making your book the best it can be!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chapters Vs. Scenes

So I was reading this awesome post at QueryTracker today about writing a synopsis and the section on chapters got me thinking.

I don't write in chapters. My brain doesn't understand them. Like, literally - I find it confusing how sometimes a chapter can take place over a period of three days, and another time a chapter ends in the middle of a scene and the next chapter picks up at the exact same place. I can't find the pattern.

I think in scenes and scene sequences - thanks to all my film and screenwriting education, I guess. My first ms is a dual narrative and for the most part each "chapter" is one complete scene or sequence.

H.L. Dyer says at QueryTracker, "Each chapter, like a novel, should have a beginning, middle, and an ending."

This makes sense to me, and I think this is true of my scenes and scene sequences, they are just generally too short to be considered a "typical" chapter. I'm also a fan of the short chapter in fiction, so maybe that says something about me and my writing.

As I'm in the planning stages of my next book, I'm finding the chapter issue interesting. This book will have one narrator and so switching chapters at the end of each scene doesn't quite work with how I want this book to be.

I don't outline, but I do make note of all the major scenes I know need to happen, as well as my beginning through to the inciting incident, and my ending. I'm fascinated by people who use chapter outlines, and know exactly what will be in each chapter when they sit down to write.

I don't know how they do this. But then I also tend to be more fluid with my scenes. I will switch them around and re-order them in order to best build tension, make motivations clear, and keep the story moving forward.

At this point, I feel certain that I will have to write first and separate into chapters later. I will probably but in chapter breaks in places where it feels right, but other than that I won't know where a chapter ends and the next one starts until I finish the story.

What about you? Do you know exactly what your chapters will entail? Do you think in chapters or scenes? Does anyone else split and number chapters after they've written the book? Am I crazy?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Three Things on a Thursday (WINNERS!)

Don't drink and drive!

1. Look what Pretty Little Liars sent me! A clover plant! How cute is that?

Next Monday, March 21, they're doing a marathon leading up to the Spring Finale! Don't miss it!

2. I wrote a letter to my teenage self for the awesome website Dear Teen Me and it's up today. Read all about My Tragic Youth (And see some rather embarrassing photos of my "fashion sense")! And then read the other letters from some amazing YA authors like Sarah Ockler, Hanna Moskowitz, Shannon Messenger, Jo Knowles, Sara Zarr, Elana Johnson, I could go on and on!

3. Now for what you've been waiting for, the winner of my Back From Branson Giveaway Part 2! They are:

Congrats to the winners! Look for an email from me soon! Thanks so much to everyone for entering and spreading the word! I have a lot more books to give away now that BEA is coming up! So you've got plenty of chances to win!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Starting From Scratch - Again

When I first decided to give writing a book a try, I was terrified. Not that my book would be bad - strangely, I never worried about that, don't know what that says about my ego. No, I was scared at the idea over a hundred pages full of words. As someone who had at most written a 100 page screenplay which has considerably less words on each page, and many short stories, the task seemed impossible. Where would all those words come from? What would they be? How could I possibly find a way to use so many of them to tell just one story??

I decided to make my goal simple. Just write a complete story, and make it to page 100. I thought if I could tell a whole story and reach three digit numbers I would know that I was capable of writing a book, which would be all the reassurance I would need. And so I did it, and it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

Ah, whoever coined the phrase "ignorance is bliss" was SO right. I look back now and I can't believe that I thought just finishing a book would be enough to turn me from under-confident writer wannabe to seasoned writer extraordinaire. You know, the one that churns out fabulous books and never has trouble with plots or dialogue or motivation. Ha!

Just like I knew that winning the lottery, or becoming mega-famous, or getting plastic surgery won't actually change who you are, I should've known that neither does writing a book.

Sitting down to write the next book is still hard. It still feels daunting to know I have to come up with 200+ pages of words. In some ways it's more daunting because I know how to spot the bad stuff as it's happening. In other ways, it's exciting, because I know this one will be SO MUCH better. I just also know that it won't be any easier.

Maybe one day I will sit down at the keyboard and gorgeous prose will shoot out of my fingertips like a sprinkler, but for now it's just me, a little bit wiser, trying to make the magic happen on my own.

I have a feeling that each book I write will get a little bit easier and a little bit harder at the same time. But I think that's good, because if it doesn't seem hard, I'm not trying to make it the best it can be. And as long as I learn from each book and make the next one better, I can live with that.

What about you? Do you find each book you write is harder? Easier? The same? How do you deal with it?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Contest Winners! Contest News!

First up, the winners of my Back From Branson Giveaway part 1 are:

Victoria Saavedra
Lindsay C

Congrats! I've emailed you. If I don't hear from you by this Friday night (March 11th) I will pick a new winner.

Now, I realize that the info post for the International Part 2 of my giveaway isn't the most informative. I had intended to use a goodreads widget so that you could check out all the books, but for some reason the widget wouldn't display properly so I took a screenshot instead. So, if you're wondering what your choice of books are, here's the list:

Beyond The Sea And Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore
Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton
Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford
The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
Hourglass by Myra McEntire
The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
Luminous by Dawn Metcalf
The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
The Revenant by Sonia Gensler
Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready
Supernaturally by Kiersten White
Sweetly by Jackson Pearce
Taking Off by Jenny Moss
The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell
Wanna Go Private by Sarah Darer Littman
XVI by Julia Karr
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