Sunday, October 31, 2010

In My Mailbox - 44

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Across The Universe by Beth Revis
Ruined (How to Ruin, #1-3) by Simone Elkeles
I'll Get There. It Better Be W... I'll Get There. It Better Be Worth The Trip by John Donovan

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Five - Big Changes

Exciting stuff this week!

One week ago today I was having one of those magic moments in a writer's life. I was meeting my critique partner Natalie C Parker in person for the very first time!

We met up at KidLit Con and she was every bit as AWESOME as I knew she would be. I've now been fortunate enough to meet 2 of my 3 CPs - watch out Kristi you're next!

I have TWO Tangled Fiction announcements.

First - The final part of our second story UNCHARTED written by Lacey is up!

When we last saw Alex he was faced with a choice. Go home, and leave one of his friends behind, or stay with the mysterious woman in the water and let his friends go free. What will he choose?

Second - BIG CHANGES at Tangled Fiction! We have gone from 4 writers to 3 (Anne Marie will no longer be posting with us.) And we're going to one short story a week! That's right. Tangled Fiction is starting November leaner and meaner, with shorter, faster short stories. Why wait a month when you can get a story a week? We'll be posting Monday, Wednesday, Friday from now on. With some other cool stuff. Read all the details on the Tangled Fiction blog!

I think I've settled (again) on a NaNoWriMo story idea, but I'm a bit fearful because I know so little about my characters and plot this time around. Not to mention I need to seriously research the world of my story. Last year I wrote IMAGINARY HEART, which had been marinating in my brain for several months. I was able to burst out of the gate with several thousand words. This month I think I will be doing a lot of exploration. If you want to be my NaNo buddy, I'm here: valeriekwrites.

Also, have you checked out Scrivener yet? I LOVE this program, and there's now a windows option that is free to use for NaNo! Plus the new Scrivener 2.0 for Mac. Check it out: Scrivener for NaNoWriMo

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pretty Little Liars Goodies!

You may remember that earlier this year I was a Secret Keeper in this awesome game from ABC Family and the TV show Pretty Little Liars. Well, yesterday they sent me a surprise Halloween present!

There was an adorable pumpkin candy dish filled with orange M&Ms that read Trick or Trick? and A. Plus a flashlight and a clue hidden in a photo that read Trick or Treat Witches! The clue leads where you can see a sneak peek at the new season!

It looks like we're in for some more fun times with Pretty Little Liars! The show returns on January 3rd. I know where I'll be then!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Critique Your Critiques

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend KidLit Con 2010. Where the Merry Sisters of Fate (Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff) gave a presentation on critique groups.

First let me say that KidLit Con was AWESOME! Really well put together, lovely venues, and great panels. Every time I attend a conference I'm reminded how awesome it is to be in a room full of writers. When the time came for Q&A with the Merry Sisters, every single question asked was about writing!

They talked about many fascinating and insightful things, but the one I want to focus on today is a comment they made about getting a critique.

Maggie was talking about editor's notes, but it really fits for critiques from crit partners and beta readers as well. She said (I'm paraphrasing), sometimes you might get a note back saying "I don't like that thing with the pickup truck at the convenience store, can you do something else?" And she said what you need to know is, the editor (crit partner, beta reader) isn't really talking the pickup truck. They're responding to something in the scene that isn't working. So if you like the pickup truck you don't necessarily need to take it out. You need to figure out what about the scene isn't accomplishing what you intended. You need to, in effect, (and this is me talking now) critique your critique.

Before you get all panicked and start slashing things, (or angry and defensive, whichever is your MO) really read over the entire critique and try to get a sense of what the critiquer is and isn't getting from your story. The things that tend to stand out to people are the things that are easily identified. So a reader might say "the pick up truck thing" but what they really mean is "I just didn't get why she suddenly went from sad to happy in that scene where he offers her a ride in his new pick up truck. It just didn't feel real to me, and it threw off what happened in the next scene."

These are the kind of comments the Merry Sisters work on together, and it's the kind of thing you can do on your own or with your cps. A lot of times a few in depth questions can help you figure out what's missing and what needs to be changed.

Before you start asking questions, be clear on what you want the scene to accomplish. Then work to figure out what it is and isn't accomplishing. The fix might be as simple as adding one line of dialogue or as huge as deleting the entire scene and starting from scratch. You might even find that what you were trying to get across isn't the best choice after all.

The thing I took away from the Merry Sisters' talk more than anything is when you get a critique that says something other than "that's brilliant!" Stop. Breathe. Read it, and then read it again. Take another deep breath, and then begin a dialogue either with your cp, or with yourself. Every crit is helpful no matter how basic it is. Try to find the useful bits and use them to make your ms shine.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"So" Unnecessary

I've come to form the opinion that there is almost no need for the word so. In narration anyway.

Why? Well I'll tell you!

SO makes for wordy complicated sentences. Also, it's explain-y.

He knew he was in trouble so he hid in the bathroom so the teacher wouldn't see him.

Um... yeah. See? Wordy. Long. Complicated. Telling. You could say all this much more actively and with less explanation.

Footsteps in the hall. This was it, if the teacher saw him he was busted. He jumped into the nearest doorway, the girl's bathroom, just as she rounded the corner.

SO frequently states the obvious. It strings together two sentences that are often better left apart.

It was raining out so I grabbed my umbrella on my way out the door.

Since we were just told that it's raining, we KNOW WHY she grabs the umbrella. So makes the sentence almost feel condescending. And it would be better said in two short sentences.

Rain pounded on the roof. I grabbed my umbrella on my way out the door.

When you juxtapose two things together, (it's raining, grabbed umbrella) readers make the connection on their own. It doesn't need to be spelled out.

SO is lazy. It's like "and then".

Chances are good that if you're using so somewhere other than dialogue (where it can make for lovely, awkward conversation), you're telling. Which is lazy. Also, whatever you're telling about is probably boring and unnecessary.

He was tired so he went upstairs and took a shower so he wouldn't smell like french fries when he woke up.

This is just a list of things he did with explanations about why. It's not particularly interesting and the purpose of it is really just to say that he went to bed so that we can move on to the next scene where something actually happens. Boring and unnecessary.

I was hungry, so I went downstairs to get a snack. Then I was attacked by a ninja!

Is it really necessary for us to know why he went downstairs? Isn't being attacked by a ninja the important part here? In this case the so sentence is being used as set up and that's exactly what it feels like. Like we're being lead to something rather than experiencing it as it happens.

I was staring into the fridge trying to find something that wasn't expired when out of nowhere, ninja attack!

So... the next time you find yourself using SO stop and ask yourself, is it really necessary here? Am I telling? Can I say this more succinctly? Can I say this more actively? I bet you'll find a better way to get your point across!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Part Three of UNCHARTED by Natalie C Parker is up at Tangled Fiction! When we last saw Alex, he was on the run from the extremely creepy woman in the pond. What happens next? Check out this teaser:

"With every step, I focused on two words: Get out. Get out. Get out. Branches and saplings, too small to see in the dark, slapped against me. They snatched at my skin, stinging my arms, my face, my legs. I stumbled and felt pain snap through my hand like fire, but I didn’t stop. I ran to the refrain on endless repeat in my mind: Get out. Get out. Come back."

You can also join the Tangled Fiction Community on livejournal!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Music Monday

I really like Haven on the SyFy channel. They use a lot of great moody music - (not to mention Nova Scotia is gorgeous to look at!). Here's a recent favorite I discovered thanks to the show. It's already made its way onto my WIP playlist!

Dotted Lines - Sweet Talk Radio

Favorite line:
My paper heart has been burning
Since you threw a match...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Five

If you've noticed I've been posting less this week it's because I'm neck deep in revisions. I have a self-imposed deadline and I intend to meet it! Hopefully with something that makes sense. Cutting 25,000 words or so and adding 30,000 new ones hurts my brain. Anyway, onto the Friday Five!

- Over at my crit group's blog Sisters in Scribe we have an awesome guest post by Andrew Jacobson of the new Middle Grade Fantasy series THE FAMILIARS! Stop by and check out the post for a chance to WIN a copy of THE FAMILIARS! Ends October 30th.

- Next weekend I will be heading to Minneapolis to the Kidlit Con 2010! I'm especially excited because I'll be meeting 2/4 of the girls from Tangled Fiction there, Anne Marie and my CP Natalie C Parker! Are you going to be there? Let me know! I'd love to meet you!

- I LOVE this post by TH Mafi, which is so my life right now. 6 Things You Lose When Writing A Novel. Plus she's having a contest right now where you can WIN $100 for books! (No that's not a typo. That's one hundred dollars. For books!)So go check it out. And if you haven't been reading her blog regularly, you should be. It's hilarious.

- How awesome was it seeing all those miners pulled out of the mine? That's the kind of reality tv I like. I think I cried almost every time one of them came out. And I don't really cry much. I swear!

- The SCBWI conference I went to last weekend was AMAZING! I learned so much. This year's focus was on Fantasy and Sci-Fi and Cinda Williams Chima gave two awesome workshops on world-building, and hooking your readers. Once I finish my revisions I'll go through my notes and share what I learned, but in the meantime, you should totally check out her books. Her most recent is the second in her Seven Realms series The Exiled Queen. I got a copy of the first book in the series, The Demon King, signed and will be giving it away over at Sisters In Scribe.

Hope you have a great weekend! I'll be strapped to my macbook until I finish these stupid awesome revisions!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Books I'll Always Remember

There's a meme going around about what books will you always remember and why. I love seeing what books matter to people and I thought I'd share some of mine. Here are ten books I'll never forget:

Ramona Quimby Age 8
This is the first book I checked out of the library by myself! I was in kindergarten. It was the first chapter book I ever read. I thought every chapter was a story because they had titles! At first I read them out of order, based on which one sounded most interesting, but then I figured it out. (Also cool, the grandmother's last name was Kemp!)

Bridge to Terabithia
And thus began my love for sad books where people die.

Inexplicably, this audio book was one that they played over the loudspeakers when we went to bed at school camp. Nothing like being 10, far from home in the middle of the woods, and listening to the story of a little girl who dies alone in the woods!

Tuck Everlasting
And thus began my love for sad books about immortal people who wish they could die.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
I think I read this book around 20 times between 4th and 6th grade.

A Wrinkle In Time
Thus began my love for all things time travel, sci-fi, and fantasy.

Pet Semetary
The first truly scary book I read. I was 12 and I made the mistake of reading it one night when I was home alone.

The Stand
It was over 1000 pages! And awesome.

Interview With A Vampire
The first truly dark and emotionally complex book I ever read. And of course the beginning of my love for vampires!

All The Pretty Horses
I loved John Grady Cole so much that I didn't want to read the next book because I couldn't bear to see him go through the changes I knew would come and turn him into a grizzled cowboy. Plus, it was the book that taught me there are no rules when it comes to writing a book. Want to write would of instead of would've? Hate commas? Go for it!

The Time Traveler's Wife
Did I mention that time travel is one of my favorite things in the world? Plus, sad books where true love faces inevitable doom? This book will break my heart forever.

What about you? What are some books that you'll remember forever?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Guest Post!

My guest post The All-Important First Chapter is up on Nathan Bransford's blog!

I'm like Jesse Spano on the very special episode of Saved by the Bell when she took caffeine pills! I'm so excited! I'm so scared!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Five

This week turned out to be a surprisingly good week for me!

I entered Nathan Bransford's Guest Post Contest and my post was selected! I will be guest posting on Nathan's blog this Sunday, October 10th at 10am PT in case, you know, you want to stop by and check it out. Just sayin'!

I finally got into a groove with my current revision. I'm back at that place where I feel like I'm creating again instead of just moving words around. I love that feeling! (Although, I'm thinking of renaming my ms EVERYBODY SHRUGS because that's what everybody does in it. All the time.)

I got a Shiny New Idea for NaNoWriMo! Be my buddy! (I can't believe it's less than a month away!)

I posted the opening for our new story on Tangeld Fiction.

Today is the first day of my local SCBWI's weekend long Fall Conference! A whole weekend with people who don't think it's weird to write and read books for teens. Love it!

What about you? Anything awesome happen for you this week?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Review - Her And Me And You by Lauren Strasnick

Her And Me And You by Lauren Strasnick -
3.5 out of 5 stars
(release date )

Summary via goodreads.
First love, broken friendships, and heartache all play a part in this evocative, voice-driven novel about Alex, a girl whose world is ripped apart when her father’s affair splits her family in two.

Alex moves with her mess of a mother to a new town, where she is befriended by hot, enigmatic Fred—and alternately flirted with and cold-shouldered by Fred’s twin sister, Adina. Others warn Alex to steer clear of the twins, whose sibling relationship is considered abnormal at best, but there’s just something about Fred—and something about Adina—that draws Alex to them and makes her want to be part of their crazy world…no matter the consequences.

First of all let me say that I recently finished Lauren Strasnick's debut novel NOTHING LIKE YOU and I LOVED it. It is easily one of my favorite reads so far this year. If you haven't read NOTHING LIKE YOU, you should definitely check it out!

Because of my love for Strasnick's first book, I had high hopes for HER AND ME AND YOU. I think she delivered when it comes to a complex, realistic character, stuck in a situation that has no easy answers. Alex is dealing with so many difficult issues: a father who completely let her down, a mother who can't cope, a best friend who's moving on without her, conflicting emotions about her sexuality, and being the new girl in town.

I loved that Alex was struggling to figure out who she was in so many ways. Is she the good girl? Does she like boys or girls? Does she need to fit in with the "right" group or the right group for her? All of this is handled realistically, and is well done.

When Fred and Adina enter the picture, things get interesting, twisty, and dark. I loved the dynamic between Fred and Adina, and the fact that Strasnick didn't shy away from Adina's serious mental health issues. I would've liked to have seen more development of Fred and Adina, and Alex's relationship with them. Fred and Adina, as well as Alex's parents and best friend Evie, all felt a bit underdeveloped. Mainly because they all had the potential to be so interesting and complex had we gotten to know them better.

What I love about Strasnick's books is that people don't get redeemed just because it's the end of the book. Just like in real life, not everything ends happily or gets resolved easily.

HER AND ME AND YOU is a very short book, written in spare prose. I would've loved to have seen the entire story fleshed out more, with a little more insight into everyone. That's where the book fell a bit flat to me. It was maybe a bit rushed. I think it says a lot about Strasnick's writing though, that I was left wanting more rather than the other way around. I'm already looking forward to her next book! If you love contemporary YA, I highly recommend you check out NOTHING LIKE YOU and HER AND ME AND YOU.

Cover: OMG I love this cover SO MUCH! Even better, it does actually fit the story, sort of.

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3.5/5
Plot: 3.5/5

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New Month, New Story!

It's October, and that means there's a new story up at Tangled Fiction! This month's spooky story is started by me.

"In the fragments of moonlight that broke through the thick canopy of leaves, it was hard to tell where the tree began and Mason ended."

What happens when four boys end up at the bottom of a ravine in the middle of nowhere with no cell service, no way out, and something very strange in the woods? You'll have to read it to find out!

Read UNCHARTED at the Tangled Fiction Livejournal Community or at Tangled Fiction on Blogger!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mega International Giveaway Winners!

So this took waaaaaay longer than I thought it would. Buzz My Blog and the Contest Winner Picker have disappeared from the internets, which means I had to hand enter every entry into my spreadsheet (and some people had 40 entries!). This also means that I was extremely disappointed when I went to check the randomly selected winners (I ALWAYS check every winner to make sure they earned all the points they said they did. It's only fair.) only to find that they had lied. And then I had to remove their entries, because, yeah, not going to sit there and figure out how many entries you actually earned, and start all over again. So in the future, PLEASE don't say you linked to me/added me to your blog roll/etc when you didn't, or lie about how many entries you have. It just wastes everyone's time.

And now, the winners!

Winner of the Paranormal Prize Pack!

Winner of the Contemporary Romance Prize Pack!

Winner of the Boy Books Prize Pack!

Winner of Any Two Books from my shelf!

International Winner of Any Two Books from my shelf!

Winners, look for an email from me today. Thanks for entering everyone! I've got another big giveaway planned for the holidays so check back!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Faves - Jordan Catalano Forever!

There were many things I loved about this week's Britney episode of Glee, but this was my absolute favorite:

1. Aw... *sigh*
2. I love that song.
3. Finn got teary-eyed.
4. I am always in awe of the way Rachel can do the single tear down her cheek while she's singing.
5. It pays homage to one of my all time favorite moments on one of my all time favorite tv shows, My So-Called Life. See below. (The homage starts at 1:14 on the Glee video.)

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