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.
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