11.30.2010

November Author Series

We couldn't let November pass us by without one last author interview. So far, none of our authors have featured main characters over the age of twenty (in their published or about-to-be books, anyway). That's about to change. We know a lot of our followers write for adults - and we're certain we all read genre books at least occasionally - so we're offering up our next interviewee for you. Her book comes out fall, 2011 from MIRA.


**cue drumroll, please**

Rebecca Coleman

Tell us about your book. It's called "The Kingdom of Childhood," and it's about a middle-aged kindergarten teacher-- female-- who has an affair with a sixteen-year-old student at her private school. It's a provocative,
character-driven story, and I loved the process of writing it.

What's the best thing about writing? The most rewarding thing is when a character comes alive for me to the
point where it's almost hard to believe he or she is imaginary. Once I get to that point, the writing really flows, because I understand his or her motivations and nothing about the story needs to be forced. I think it's the writing equivalent of "runner's high."


What's the worst thing about writing? How do you deal with that part and keep writing? Writing is like sex and pizza-- even when it's bad it's still pretty good, and all that. Any day I'm writing is a day playing in the sandbox. It's the business side of it that can be no fun. When you're at the stage where you want to be published and aren't yet, the rejection is the worst part. Some people take it really personally. You have to remember it's the book they're rejecting, not you. You even have to think and talk in those terms-- not to say "that agent rejected me," but to say "that agent rejected my book." Writers know that words matter, and the words we use to talk about rejection matter, too. But where all the submitting and querying stuff is concerned, you just have to compartmentalize it and let it be its own thing that doesn't impact your love of writing or your motivation for it.


What do you want our followers to know about you and your journey towards publication? Mine was kind of unusual in that I published two novels with a smaller publisher before I got an agent who sold "The Kingdom of Childhood" to Mira. When that book sold, I wasn't a debut author, but I wasn't a known quantity either. I think the unexpected part about that sale to Mira is how hard I struggled for it. The fact that I already had two published books was irrelevant-- I didn't even mention them in my query because I worried my sales numbers would put off agents rather than attract them. So I was starting from square one like everybody else, and nothing about it was easy. I was incredibly determined. I think it's too common for writers to get morose and fatalistic about the process, and complain that it's rigged or unfair. I got pretty
jaded, but I didn't have the energy to grouse about whether or not it was fair, because I was too busy working to get published.



How did you break it to your family/friends/etc. that you wanted to be an author? The reactions to telling people you're a writer can be pretty amusing. Everyone either thinks you intend to be self-published, or they tell you they'll see you on Oprah. Apparently the highest accolade you can receive as a writer is to get the approval of Oprah. My friends have all been very encouraging. Five or six years ago, I was working on my first novel and printing out a lot of copies, which I'd end up recycling as art paper for my kids, who were really young. One time we went to the birthday party of my best friend's stepdaughter, who was about eight years old, and my daughter drew her a picture on the back of one of those draft pages. When the stepdaughter opened the envelope, she looked at the drawing, then turned the paper over to read the back. I guess she thought it was a card. I looked over her shoulder just in time to realize my daughter had drawn the picture on the back of a sex scene. I snatched it out of the kid's hands and passed it to my friend, who proceeded to pass it around to every adult at the party. Moments like that keep my job interesting to my friends.


What is the planning process like for your novels? Do you outline? Do you jot down notes? It varies from novel to novel. With "The Kingdom of Childhood" it felt like building a rose out of frosting, like for a cake-- starting with a tight little bud, and then adding the petals all around the center, so it gets larger and fuller and much bigger than what you started with. For the one I'm working on now, I fully outlined it before I started, and that has advantages and drawbacks-- it's nice to know where I'm going, but it removes much of the element of excitement that comes when you first think of a scene and need to get it down immediately. I have actually written about eight novels either in full or in part, and my planning process is all over the place. It's just like disciplining kids -- what works for one completely fails with another.


Thanks, Rebecca! Congratulations on finding the light at the end of the (writing) tunnel!



11.29.2010

mealtime madness monday

I've been reading and hearing a lot lately about people who don't/can't cook. christy and i both can, but we admit that we have some "go-to" dishes that fit any occasion/time constraint (like tacos) and only very rarely have to resort to frozen pizza or cereal (although our kids like those days, too). We can also follow recipes, which I just found out not everyone can do successfully.

However, one thing I never make is homemade soup. Maybe it's because my mom makes a delicious chicken noodle and my mother-in-law makes a delicious vegetable beef with dumpling - neither uses an actual recipe and they'd be hard for me to replicate. So, I've decided it's high time I learn. Wanna' learn with me? One more thing - some of you might have turkey leftovers, but for my family, I brought ham. So this is the fabulous recipe I found to finish using it up:

Delicious Ham and Potato Soup (my thanks to Ellie11 at allrecipes.com for sharing this and for suggesting to pair it with a nice Chardonnay)


  • 3 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes (although I'll use scrubbed baby reds instead)


  • 1/3 cup diced celery (christy hates celery and would probably skip this)


  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion (erica hates onions and would probably skip this)


  • 3/4 cup diced cooked ham


  • 3 1/4 cups water  


  • 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules


  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste


  • 1 teaspoon ground white or black pepper, or to taste


  • 5 tablespoons butter


  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour


  • 2 cups milk


  • 1. Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, ham and water in a stockpot/Dutch oven (i.e. big pot). Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the chicken bouillon, salt and pepper.

    2. In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour with a fork, and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk as not to allow lumps to form until all of the milk has been added. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 minutes.

    3. Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot, and cook soup until heated through. Enjoy!!

    Oh, and I'm teaching a cooking class tonight for my preschoolers and their parents. It's veggie pizza, so if you feel like that for supper tonight instead of soup (or if you're a vegetarian, since my meals typically include meat), click here and have fun making it with your kids, too (sorry, couldn't find a link to an all-veggie one - we're using broccoli, carrots, and tomato chunks in place of the pepperoni)!

    11.26.2010

    November Author Series

    So, today's a day off for most of us (well, unless you work retail, then get your game-face on). What better activity could you do today than read and write? Nothing except, well, maybe digest. And, for the more foolhardy of us, go out and catch some great deals. Right now, though, you're in for a treat only slightly less sweet than Grandma's Pumpkin Pie. Got your trigger fingers ready? Good, because when you're through with this, you're gonna' be itching to go to Amazon and do some preordering. Today's interviewee is my friend:
    **drumroll, please**

    Gae Polisner

    Tell us about your book. The Pull of Gravity (FSG, May 2011) is a young adult book about two teens who go on a secret road trip to try to keep one final promise to a friend and fall in love and learn a little about Steinbeck -- and the crappy truth about best laid plans -- in the process. It's poignant, quirky and funny and it was a lot of fun to write.

    What's the best thing about writing?  Not knowing how a lovely string of words that create a great moment come out of your fingertips and end up on the page.

    What's the worst thing about writing? How do you deal with that part and keep writing?  The revisions where you're not revising for substance and big changes anymore, but rather are revising to make each little word sing, and just when you think you've finished after your 10th pass through, you see a whole bunch of words that aren't singing. Yeah, I hate that part. How do i keep writing through it? No one will take the book if I don't. Basically. And if they do, they shouldn't. (note: erica says well said, i feel this pain)

    What's your favorite food/recipe? This answer totally depends on my mood. Something simple: angel hair pasta with olive oil, garlic, lemon and broccoli rabe; a great salad with lots of crunchy things in it; strawberries and sour cream with brown sugar. I'm not really a cook. I like simple pleasures. Please pair it with a complimentary (or your favorite) wine/beer/beverage. I'm not much of a drinker. I'll take a yellow tail Shiraz with the pasta, I suppose. And an icy pina colada with the strawberries and sour cream. But my favorite beverage is really young green coconut juice.

    What else do you want our followers to know about you and your journey towards publication? You should know I'm sunny and fun and a ball of light to be around. Generally adorable. Also, I am pretty much making these answers up off the top of my head. As for my journey to publication, you should know it never ends. Seriously. Each new manuscript is its own journey. Especially in this economic climate and given the crazy sea change of new technology. (If you are reading this and you are looking for quality women's fiction, please contact me, I have two manuscripts who are lost on that journey)

    What are your future goals as an author? I'm going to do my damnedest to work with my current editor again. I want to write the kind of books she puts out in the world. And, I'd love to find a house for my women's fiction. I'd love to write a picture book. I have two other finished young adult manuscripts and two in the works. Finished and published, that's the drill. And, I'm dabbling in a sexy novella. I don't want to be boxed in. I want to write work that matters or touches people in some small way. That's worthy of being put out there. And then see it get out there.

    How did you break it to your family/friends/etc. that you wanted to be an author? What did they say? What do they say now?  I don't get this question. (note: Gae is very lucky for that.)

    What is the planning process like for your novels? Do you outline? Do you jot down notes? Do you get naked and do the novel dance beneath a full moon?  There is no planning. There's a spark of inspiration; some small idea. Some characters I want to incorporate. What they want to say. Then, I douse myself in water. Any kind of water, as long as it's deep enough to swim in. Most of my writing comes to me in water. If you wanted to, you could read more about that here: A Day in the Life

    Who is your writing mentor and why? Or, alternatively, who do you emulate?  I don't have mentors or people I try to emulate. But I completely admire my editor, the legendary Frances Foster (Holes, Someday this Pain Will be Useful to You, and all of Peter Sis' magnficent picture books to name a few. She's worked with Roald Dahl). I want to write books that she loves. She makes me want to be a better writer every day. I can't believe she fell in love with The Pull of Gravity and fought to bring it to the house.

    If you had a pet elephant, what would his/her name be? How do elephants influence your writing style? How does the movie Dumbo make you feel?  I am not particularly influenced by elephants. Monkeys on the other hand? Very. I'd tell you in what way, but they've sworn me to secrecy. Suffice it to say it's a banana and coconut thing. (erica sighs over the elephant aversion that has gone rampant on her blog)

    Thanks for interviewing me. I hope I haven't put you to sleep. My website and blog links are here and my Facebook writer's page is here.

    Thanks, Gae!! We've had so much fun with these interviews and hope you have, too. We have one more for those of you writing "adult" fiction, coming up on Tuesday, the last day of November. Oh, and christy? Still planning on getting you those paranormal/fantasy authors one of these months!!

    11.25.2010

    GOBBLE GOBBLE

    BTW...inkygirl is a fun site to check out!


    happy thanksgiving to all of our American followers!
    and to all you NANO doers...um.  hurry up!
    xoxo, erica and christy

    11.24.2010

    Out of the Box Blogfest!

    There's a blogfest that's been going on over at Tessa's Blurb (click for details and the linky to other participants). She challenged writers to create a story that's out-of-the-box for them. I've (this is erica, btw) dabbled in a few genres, but usually write contemporary YA and MG.

    Last summer, a local magazine held a contest and I wrote a horror short story for it. Life got in the way, I didn't have time to do it justice before entering, and it's been shelved ever since. At over 1,800 words, that wouldn't do for a blog post at all. But I got it out, dusted it off, and decided to try it here. At around 480 words, it's still a little hefty, but if you have time, read it and let me know what you think. Or come back later. We'll be here.

    Oh, and as an added challenge, I changed the pov to first-person present (instead of first-person past, my usual). Not sure I nailed it, but it was an interesting experiment. Here it is:

    Short Story #1
    (have I mentioned I'm really bad at titles?)

    My family was created to destroy the Skintomieurs. They aren't zombies or vampires, since they're alive, but also very unlike humans. They eat what comes to them - sheep, deer, possum, even mice when the pickings are low. Not just their blood or brains, either - their entire bodies. Every few months they try to take a human. We usually make sure they don't succeed. That makes us their prime targets.

    On this night, I'm keeping my eye on the two I can see while watching for others that might be around and bend down to grab a long stick. They don't usually hunt in packs, but then why are they just looking at me? Were they waiting for me on purpose? Pretty high level for a bunch of brainless eaters. Scanning my peripherals, I grip the stick tighter. My eyes finally see the anomalies in the wheat field.

    I activate the Bluetooth hidden in my thick hair.

    "Shay? Did you miss the bus again?"

    "Mom. They've declared war." I spoke quietly and without moving my lips, just in case they got smart all of a sudden.

    "Where are they?"

    "The field. Over forty, I think. Their leader's by the barn."

    "We're on our way."

    That's when hell broke loose. Snapping my stick in half, I start poking.

    The first one hits its mark right in the eye socket. Behind him my oldest brother, Benny, takes two down in rapid succession with a club in each of his hands. I hold out my hand and he tosses me one, grabbing another from the holster beneath his coat.

    Our training taught us to kill with one shot to the soft spot on their skull - a few inches to the side and they'd only be stunned. My dad and Benny's favorite technique is to kill one with the right hand, stun another with the left, and move down the line until they're all dead.

    The swinging makes my arms ache, but adrenaline keeps me moving. My sister Katherine, a few yards in front of me, slows down. I yell to her to switch to hitting one at a time and I'll follow behind to finish them off. My mom and little brother Garrett see us and do the same thing. Blood and brains and bone fragments fly everywhere and all I can do is hope my hands don't get slippery.

    Katherine and I get to the porch with no serious injuries and my dad and Benny chase the leader, who's way ahead. Garrett limps toward us, a bite mark evident in his calf muscle. Mom helps him into the house for our special version of a first aid kit. It will be a long and painful night for him.

    When Dad gives the all-clear signal, I join him to gather the bodies for burning. The leader escaped with a few others, he tells me.

    Dad makes the final statement of the night over a pile of burning, stinking corpses. "This isn't over."

    11.23.2010

    what THEY said--fave five

    erica and christy's fave five blog posts (in no particular order)

    five: eye candy from hart johnson

    4: QueryYes for $19.95 by t.h. mafi

    three:  friday with a side of shame at lisa and laura write

    2: the five stages of querying by t.h mafi

    one:  erica's post for crusader challenge #1 (christy still laughs every time she reads it)

    these posts entertained us...a must for aspiring writers who sometimes need a break from all things seriously writerly.  we have many more faves and we're sure you'll all write many more...so we'll do this again!  happy clicking!

    11.22.2010

    mealtime madness monday: a thanksgiving treat (from my second graders)

    At school, the students have been working on "retelling" details from books they've read.  To organize their information they are to use the time order words first, next, then, last, or in the beginning, in the middle and at the end....

    They are doing the same sequencing practice to organize their writing.

    Lucky for me erica you I (christy) had them practice on a traditional American Thanksgiving recipe:  How to Cook a Turkey.  A colleague of mine created this fantastic 3-D paper turkey and stuck it on a wall in our second grade hallway as a "table centerpiece" for all the student recipes.



    Kindergarteners, First Graders and Second Graders truly have no idea what goes into a turkey or how it gets cooked.  But they sure had fun trying to figure it out and writing it all down (and, let's be honest, we had some fun listening, watching and reading right along with them!)

    (I'm dedicating this post to Sue, the colleague I mentioned, without whom I would be incredibly lonely in our hallway and who also, btw, was one of my very first alpha readers for my first MS, Solstice, and its only editor.  AND, most importantly, the whole turkey thing was her idea!)

    Here are a few recipes from the students:









    And here's a recipe I love and maybe you'll get a chance to make and love, too!

    Creamy Cucumber & Tomato Salad
    (got this from my mother-in-law-yummy!)

    slice up 4-6 cucumbers
    cube up 1- 2 tomatoes

    mix into above ingredients:
    1 cup of mayonnaise
    1/4 cup of sugar (little more if you like it sweeter, )
    4 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
    1 tsp. of dill weed ( to your taste)
    1/2 tsp. of parsley flakes

    Simple and easy to make!

    Happy Thanksgiving Week to you all (even if you don't celebrate it!).  (And good luck to all our shoppers and Nanoers, too!)

    11.20.2010

    WIP it and WIP it good...

    it's another weekend so we thought we'd help you along on your WIP with another kick in the butt

    WRITE THOSE K!!!!

    WIP it and WIP it good

    see here--watch, listen, WRITE


    let us know how you do this weekend (on your K).  comments, please!!!!

    11.19.2010

    November Author Series

    Remember last week when I told you about the book trailer Megan Bostic did for her book, Never Eighteen? And remember how I asked you to vote for it so she could win a trip to the Sundance Film Festival and take her mom, who's a total movie lover? No?!? Well, click here and do it and to find out more about her book (and crazy awesome video talents). Then come back and read my interview of (um, no drumroll today, you already know who I'm talking about)

    Megan Bostic

    Megan's debut novel, Never Eighteen, will be released in Fall 2011 by Houghlin Mifflin Harcourt. Here she is:
    Tell us about your book. It's a book about life, love, and loss. A seventeen year old boy embarks on a weekend journey to help the people he loves realize that they only get one shot at life, and to not take it for granted.

    What's the best thing about writing? For me it's a form a therapy. For those who don't know me, I'm called the angsty writer (a self given name, but after a survey, four out of five authors agree). On a daily basis I roil with emotion, usually the only thing that helps is to take that emotion and pound it into the keyboard. This is why most of what I write deals with turmoil and tragedy. And much death. :)


    What's the worst thing about writing? How do you deal with that part and keep writing? Writer's block is definitely the worst. I hate when I'm hot on a story and all of a sudden I hit a brick wall. Usually I deal with it by making some notes, writing down where I want the story to go, and I figure it out from there. I just had to do that with my current WIP (Work in Progress for you lay people)

    What's your favorite food/recipe? Please pair it with a complimentary (or your favorite) wine/beer/beverage. My motto when it comes to food is "So much food, so little time" because I love it all. I suppose my ultimate favorite food is pizza. I like beer (Michelob Ultra) with my pizza, but normally my drink of choice is a nice Malbec.

    What else do you want our followers to know about you and your journey towards publication? That it's been hard at times, fun at times, but every "no", every heartbreak has been worth it. And you can witness my journey on Youtube. just look up itlnbos, or Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer. Heck, just go here  :)

    What are your future goals as an author? My future goal is just to keep writing. Never stop. And to write things that make people think, feel, cry even. And I wouldn't mind making a few bucks out of the deal.

    How did you break it to your family/friends/etc. that you wanted to be an author? What did they say? What do they say now? When I started writing, I just did it. And let me tell you, it's the first thing I've done in life that felt right, that I was good at. First I let my husband read what I'd written and he liked it and said I should do more. Then I accidentally left a manuscript at my parent's house and they said I have some talent, that I should try and get published. And that's what I've been doing since, which was eight years ago. Now, they're all proud of me because I've accomplished what I've set out to do.

    What is the planning process like for your novels? Pretty much I just sit down and write with reckless abandon. If I get stuck, like I said before, I make a few notes to get back on track.

    Who is your writing mentor and why? Or, alternatively, who do you emulate? I'm not sure I emulate anyone. My style is my style. There are writers I love but really don't write like them (Stephen King, Dennis Lehane), but if I chose a writing mentor, I suppose it would be Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why). When I read his novel it touched me in a way no other novel had before. It was resonant. I wanted to do that, do write like that, to make people feel. And he's a cool guy, very approachable. I want to be like that as a writer too. I want to talk to my fans, help other writers.

    If you had a pet elephant, what would his/her name be? How do elephants influence your writing style? How does the movie Dumbo make you feel? .) I'm partial to monkeys.

    erica hearts Megan (which, incidentally, is pronounced Mee-gan - yeah, I had it wrong at first, too). You can find out more about her and heart her, too, by going to her blog.

    11.18.2010

    is there a song writer out there anywhere? or a poet?

    My MCs love interest walked into the cafe she was in the other day (NO!  this is not the start of a joke!) and he had a guitar.  Well, I was as surprised as she was that he could actually play the guitar he carried.  As much as I screamed at him to just strum and NOT to sing, he did it anyways.  Now, if he hadn't needed my brain to help him with his words I'm sure they would have been lovely.  Unfortunately for him (and the other coffee drinkers in the cafe at the time) he had only me to type up those lyrics for him.  Not good.  I don't write poetry (well) and I've never written anything musical.  (I did play the piano growing up and considered minoring in music in college (performance minor. I played the flute. I chose no.  I'm just not that musical.  Which contributes to this problem I'm having.)

    So I'm posting all of this wondering if any of you ENJOY writing poetry/song lyrics and want to help me with mine?  ONLY. You have to promise not to laugh (too loudly) at what I've posted below for you to rip apart or, you know, modify.  I wrote it in about 30 seconds.  Zero plan.  Zero edits.  Zero attempts at rhyming.  So, have at her.

    “Been the one shut out for too long
    Been on the outside
    The one aching, never making
    it to your heart.

    Wanna make the strings of your heart
    Quiver like leaves in the fall
    Like the flames of a fire
    Wanna be

    Been hoping to help you see
    Been hoping you’d know
    I’m hoping, never showing
    my true heart.

    Wanna make the strings of your heart
    Quiver like the leaves in the fall
    Like the chords on this guitar
    Wanna be

    Yours
    Wanna be
    Yours.”

    If this is something you'd like to help with...post your ideas in our comments or email me, CHRISTY btw, lynnea.west@gmail.com

    merci beaucoup! (i did, however, minor in French.)

    11.17.2010

    Writing Wednesday - Favorite Lines

    Have you ever read something and thought, "wow that's a really great line"? Of course you have. It's especially fun when you come across them in your own writing.

    I (erica) heard about an editor (and a publishing company) asking for unagented submissions for YA romance, so I set aside my WIP and did a read-through on my completed project, A New Day, to get it ready to send out again. I had a few agents ask for partials and a few made comments on the first five pages, but everyone agreed I needed more "voice."

    grrrr

    But they're probably right. So, I added some "voice" (um, some thousand words, to be close-to-exact) - not sure if it's enough, but it's getting there. And on my journey through my ms, I read some lines that I hope never get changed. They might not be good or mean anything to anyone else, but I love them.

    If you'd like to know what they are, please read on, because I'm sharing. If you  feel comfortable enough to leave your own, please share in the comments section. Which lines do you love? (oh, and this is a safe place. no critiquing. these are lines we love.) (although if any of erica's suck rocks, feel free to privately email her!) Here we go:

    It was the kind of smile that made me want to look at it forever. The kind that said if I stayed with him, my life would never be boring again. The kind that could get me into some serious trouble.

    B:  "Maybe now you can give me some pointers. I am less than successful with Dylan lately. One phone call, a few texts, no dates." K:  "Thinking back, I'd have to suggest stalking."

    "Kenz, you have an undeserved inferiority complex and it's time to get over it. Let's go remind those two who they came with."

    God, I sounded like an idiot.

    And folks, that's where I end.

    Oh, wait, that's not the end, I'm also including one from my WIP, which has been collecting dust for a couple weeks while I did my edits (and progress notes, parent-teacher conferences, raising a family, etc., etc.): Twelve hours later, I watched her arrive in a VW Bug. Yep, a Slug Bug. The source of black-and-blue shoulders on young boys everywhere. Aunt Becky on wheels. (OMG I so want to be writing this book right now, but I'm stuck in Editing you-know-where and hopefullyigetdonesoonoriwillgocrazy!!!!)

    11.16.2010

    twofer tuesday: one hook review and TWO book reviews, well maybe three

    book reviews first

    if i stay by gayle foreman

    this book was heartwrenching.

    mia is a teenager.  a gifted cellist.  she loves her family, her boyfriend and her best friend.  her life is happy and her future promising.  until she's trapped in a coma.  she has one day to decide whether she should let sleep take her or if she should wake up.  if she should stay.

    mia enraptured me right away.  i fell in love with her family on page 2.  on page 154 i stopped reading because my heart and head ached so badly from the tears i needed to cry.  i skimmed until the last chapter or two and read them at warp speed.  then it was 12:08 AM and i doubled over in my living room and sobbed.  the next morning i fought tears while driving to work.  when i read the garderner (by sarah stewart, illustrated by david small) aloud to my second graders i teared up at the end. 

    someday i'll go back and read the chapters i missed in if i stay because this book was beautifully written and i need to know what i didn't read.  but the story got to me so much, i just couldn't.

    (i can't decide if i'd want to write a book that can affect somebody this much.  it was beautiful and honest and breathtaking and riveting and real and inspiring and so, so sad.  i don't think there's enough kleenex in the world that could get me through writing a book like this.  there wasn't enough in the house for me to read one.)

    but.  it was worth it. read it.

    remember me by christopher pike

    eighteen is too young to die. unfortunately, shari cooper wakes up after falling from a balcony and realizes she is a ghost.  not only does she have to come to terms with her new state of being, but she is compelled to determine whether she comitted suicide as the newspapers report or if a friend murdered her.

    twenty years ago, i read this book.  i remembered loving it.  i found it again a few months ago and bought it, super excited because years after publishing remember me, mr. pike wrote not one, but TWO additional books to follow it. EVEN BETTER all three novels were in this ONE book i bought.

    i know i've started doing hook reviews (to inform my own hooks in my writing), but in all honesty, i'm rarely, rarely hooked before chapter 5.  now, i am of course hooked enough to buy books and keep reading, but lots of times i'll start a book, read a few chapters then let it lay around for a few months before i go back to it.  this happened with shiver, maximum ride and remember me.  then, once i go back to it and pick up where i left off, i'm hooked and usually finish the entire book in a day or two. 

    (for this particular book i read up to page 76, set it down and months later went back to it.  once i got to page 94 - the end of chapter 5- i couldn't put it down.  i even tried to read it while on the treadmill.  i bounced it around while running half a mile, then set it down only to get off every half mile to read another chapter.)  so over the weekend while i was supposed to read if i stay, i finished remember me on friday night.  yeah, the whole thing.  while my kids ran around and pulled out every board game we own. 

    (side note:  once i passed the fifth chapter i stopped reading like a writer.  when i do that i look at how sentences start, i notice every time the word "had" is written.  i pay attention to when the setting is being described, when emotion is expressed, how dialogue is written, etc.  but once i pass a certain point i'm lost, immersed in the story and then there's no turning back.  the pages turn themselves and before i know it, i've read the last word.)

    remember me was haunting.  truly, truly.  there were a few chapters when i was scared in my own home.  it passed.  then i was flipping through waiting, wondering whodunnit.  LOVED the mystery aspect and the unfolding of clues.

    hook review

    paranormalcy by kiersten white

    many of you may follow author kiersten white's blog like we do.  erica was a big fan of her's.  so naturally, through her, i learned about kiersten's blog and her book, paranormalcy.  then i noticed lots of other blogs had her book on their sidebars.  i added it to my list of future reads.

    while at barnes and noble the other night, getting coffee and watching my children read picture books and play on the thomas the train table, i picked up paranormalcy.  i thought, "hey, i'm doing hook reviews now, why not?"  (i couldn't buy it because i hadn't started if i stay yet.  BUT, know this.  i WILL buy it ASAP.  because remember how i confessed (up there) that i don't get hooked until at least chapter three, but usually chapter 5ish?  well, this book got me right away. page one.  i didn't even notice i turned to page two and read on to page 3.

    ( i am a HUGE twilight fan.)  i LOVED kiersten's take on a paranormal world.  loved the twist that the MC is like the "police" that catch the vamps, the werewolves and whatever other paranormal creatures lurk.  kiersten writes something about the vampire's beautiful white skin (rang a bell) but then goes on to describe the 200 year old shriveled body the MC could view beneath it.  the voice of the MC was fun, fun, fun (she's a teen with a sparkly pink specialized taser) and it was a fun new perspective on the paranormal genre.  did i say fun?  (keep in mind this is all from pages 1-2ish)

    on her blog she says something about if one loves twilight, one'll love this book.  if one hates twilight, one'll love this book.  and i can totally see her point!  (these are my own words for something she said way better, but for the life of me i can't seem to find where, exactly, i read this now that i want to direct quote it....sorry.  click on her link above and find it for yourself if you want (or anything else she said that i didn't direct quote anywhere for you!))

    **bonus book review**
    (here's the book i read to my class monday morning.  i mentioned it above.  the gardener by sarah stewart, illustrated by david small.)
    a sweet, sweet book.   a young girl goes to stay with her unsmiling uncle in 1935-1936 while her parents try to find work.  she's used to living in the country and loves to garden.  she transforms the top of her uncle's apartment building after planting seeds in window boxes, broken tea cups and bent cake pans from his bakery.  the girl's positive attitude and simple goal of trying to make her uncle smile is heartwarming and inspiring.  the story is told through letters the little girl writes.  (perfect for second graders learning to write letters!)

    11.15.2010

    Mealtime Madness Monday

    So, the other night, christy and I were hurling emails back and forth at lightning-fast speed (we can't figure out how to chat, so we email, we know, we know. . .) and she mentioned that she watched a fun show on TV that related recipes to history. It was my week to do today's post and she thought I might have fun with that concept.

    To me, history is not fun. I know several people who think it's awesome - especially finding out about one's own geneology. Not me. It just seems like work and I'm already too busy. Luckily, there's all sorts of room for differing interests in this country/world. In fact, if there's one thing I know about history, it's that tons of people have fought for the rights of other people - including the right to not enjoy history (that part I might have made up).

    So - here's my (semi) historical post tied to a recipe. In fifth grade, my classroom got its first computer. No one, especially our teacher, who retired 3 years later, knew how to use the darn thing (btw, this was 1984). Eventually, a younger teacher took pity on us and plugged in a floppy disk of the game Oregon Trail. My class loved it and I have many fond memories of killing prey to feed my family, only to have said family die off and me writing charming eulogies on their gravestone, such as "Fart." I'm pretty sure I myself have died of both dysentery and cholera at least 1,597 times. (yes, there is a recipe at the end of this post and I swear it's better than the pickled red herring one - which, by the way, was part of the requirements of the blogfest I was in that day, not something I actually eat!)

    I'm dedicating this Mealtime Madness Monday post not to the game, however, but to the people of our history who travelled the real Oregon Trail. Some of them walked it. Many of them never made it - all in the hopes of creating a better life for their families. Amazing.

    These were the guidelines for making the trip: "The allowance of provisions for each grown person, to make the journey from the Missouri River to California, should suffice for 110 days. The following is deemed requisite: 150 lbs of flour or its equivalent in hard bread, 25 lbs.of bacon or pork, enough fresh beef to be driven on the hoof to make up the meat component of the ration, 15 lbs. of coffee, and 25 lbs. of sugar; also a quantity or saleratus or yeast powders for making bread, and salt and pepper."

    Keeping those ingredients in mind, and assuming they had some chickens along with them for eggs, I offer you my kid's favorite meal: brupper (you could call it "breakfast for supper," but we like "brupper" better). The protein would be needed to walk across the country for sure!

    Bacon Omelette
    2 bacon strips, cooked and diced
    2 eggs
    2 tablespoons water
    salt and pepper to taste
    (note: I also recommend onions, green peppers, and of course, Wisconsin cheese)

    In a small bowl, beat eggs; add water, chives, hot pepper sauce, salt pepper and bacon. Pour into the same skillet; cook over medium heat. As eggs set, lift edges, letting uncooked portion flow underneath. When eggs are set, fold omelet in thirds.

    That's it! Easy, peasy. Enjoy your brupper! And leave comments below - what's your favorite historical fact or era? Or are you like me and can barely remember a time before computers (or can't at all, depending on your age) and never took the time to learn about it?

    **oh, and here's your reminder to watch the live chat tonight on writeoncon. link here.**

    11.13.2010

    finally, the beginning of a soundtrack for my WIP

    LAST saturday i had a bad case of the writer's block blues

    THIS saturday will be a completely different story--i found my FIRST inspirational song that meshes with my WIP!

    so, i'll share it with you and hopefully get lots of k written!  BEST OF LUCK TO YOU GETTING K WRITTEN, TOO, WRITING FRIENDS!!!

    thank you miranda lambert!

    oh, and our friend - and next week's interviewee - Megan Bostic - entered a video trailer for her upcoming YA novel, Never Eighteen, to a contest at Mishmash. Please visit and - if you enjoy it (which you will) - vote for it. She can take her mom to Sundance if she wins!! Go here to vote.

    11.12.2010

    November Author Series

    Fridays are the best day of the work week. I have a planning day, christy gets done early, and the world just tends to be happier on Fridays. Plus, in November, we get to post our super-fun, super-helpful interviews! Today we bring you erica's first beta reader (who made her ms into something way, way better than it was before) and uber awesome lady all around. . .

    **drumroll**

    JC Phelps

    Tell us about your books.  I've written three books in a series, The Alexis Stanton Chronicles. The first book is titled Color Me Grey and introduces the main character, Alexis Stanton. Her parents have money and connections so she was able to pick and choose her education. Having been schooled in everything from being a lady to courses with Special Forces instructors she becomes bored with her current job and quits. Alex stumbles upon a strange 'HELP WANTED' ad and decides to check it out. She finds that job she could "just die for"... and it looks like she just might!

    The remaining two books, Shades of Grey and Reflections of Grey follow her career and adventures. She even adds to her job description, making things more interesting and precarious.

    What's the best thing about writing?  For me, the best thing about writing is writing. I love it when I get into a scene and I'm total immersed. It's a lot like reading for me, I am transported to that place and become that person. Except, when I'm writing the story, I decide what happens - kinda. My characters have a way of writing scenes for me.How do you deal with that part and keep writing? I've set aside the month of November for NaNoWriMo to see if having a collective goal with other authors will make a difference. But, I know how my brain operates (sometimes). If I get involved in a new book (working on the 4th in the series) AND I like where it's going it'll be easy to stick with it.

    What's the worst thing about writing? Everything besides the writing part is the worst thing about writing.  The re-writes, edits, marketing are all something I'd rather someone else did for me.  However, I chose the self-publishing route so I BETTER do it or my books won't have any readers.  I spend the majority of my time marketing and because of that, I've not been writing as much as I'd like.
     
    What's your favorite food/recipe? Please pair it with a complimentary (or your favorite) wine/beer/beverage. I don't have any favorite recipes, but I do have a favorite food group - dessert. Note: erica enjoyed many an email/FB status update about JC and her daughter making fudge last winter! She really, really loves dessert! Tis the season for warm foods and my cousin gave me a cobbler recipe that's wonderful and easy. The recipe is for peach cobbler, but I've also made apple cobbler with this recipe.



    1/2 cup butter

    1 cup flour

    2 cups sugar - divided

    1 tsp baking powder

    Pinch of salt

    1 cup milk

    4 cups fresh peach slices (or apples)

    1 Tbs lemon juice

    Ground cinnamon or nutmeg



    Preheat oven to 375. Melt butter in 13x9 baking dish. In a separate bowl combine flour, 1 cup of sugar, baking powder, salt and milk. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter over melted butter in the baking dish and do not stir. Bring remaining 1 cup sugar, lemon juice and peaches to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Pour over batter in baking dish and do not stir. Sprinkle with cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Bake in 375 degree oven for 40-45 minutes. Serve warm or cool.
     (To substitute apples follow directions except when heating the apples to a boil add a few Tablespoons of water to the apple/sugar mixture and add the cinnamon right to the apple mixture. Cook until the apples start to get tender - depends on the thickness of your slices but should be no more than ten minutes.)


    As for a drink to pair with this! I've thought of the best thing in the world! An ICE CREAM DRINK - with homemade ice cream. If you have an ice cream maker and want to use it - find your own recipe. Otherwise, here's the fun way to do it. 

     
    1 gallon sized ziploc bag - or other sealable baggie

    1 pint sized ziploc bag
    ice
    rock salt - table salt will work too but rock salt is best (or a box of ice cream salt if your store carries it)

    1/2 cup half and half (you can use milk if you prefer)
    1 Tbs sugar1/4 tsp vanilla

    Flavored liquor of your choice - add to taste. I would recommend your favorite Irish Cream brand (most people like Baileys - I like Brendans) or Cinnamon Schnapps would go great with the cobbler. (me again. JC's brilliant)



    Mix half and half (milk), sugar, vanilla and flavored liquor in the pint sized baggie. Remove the air and seal. Put some ice in the bottom of the gallon sized bag along with some salt. Add the sealed pint sized bag and cover with more ice and salt. Seal the gallon sized bag and shake until the ice cream forms - probably about five or ten minutes - maybe a bit longer if you add more alcohol.



    The easiest way to get to the ice cream is to snip the corner of the pint sized bag and squeeze into your glass or bowl. Serve with or without whipped cream on top.

    What else do you want our followers to know about you and your journey towards publication? I decided to go self-published partly because I didn't want to do the mandatory submit and repeat process. Partly because my royalties are higher per book sold and MAINLY so I could keep all rights and control of my work. My mother (who passed away in 2005) is on the back cover of Shades of Grey and I wouldn't trade any kind of marketing help or higher sales to replace her. (I don't think I would - anyway)

    What are your future goals as an author? I'm working on the 4th book in the series and hope to be able to write many more books and expand my genres as well.

    How did you break it to your family/friends/etc. that you wanted to be an author? What did they say? What do they say now?  I've heard other authors say that they haven't told their friends and family about their writing aspirations because they are afraid of how they will take it. They are afraid they will be told to do something more productive and/or not receive any kind of sincere support. I'm sure there are tons of reasons why an author would be afraid to share this with those closest to them but I have never had any reason to hide it. (Even the horrible stuff I've written).


    I was fortunate to be brought up with authors being much more important celebrities than those you see in movies or on TV and have always wanted to write. My father has the same aspirations, so when I finished my first book and brought it over to show it off, I was greeted with excitement. My mother, who was not a prolific reader, immediately read my book and told everyone she knew - as well as some that we didn't - as we passed them on the street. Yet, family and friends are completely different in the way they have "taken the news." I have some friends that have been with me every step of the way. My cousin and friend, Lynn, has read every draft of each book I've written and if it hadn't been for her I probably would never have finished a single book. I have other friends that have been extremely supportive and some friends that seem to always forget that I've written a book or three. So, I think it really depends on the person's view of books and reading.

    I can't really answer the "What do they say now?" because I had never told anyone about my writing until I'd already finished my first book and presented it for sale.



    What is the planning process like for your novels? Do you outline? Do you jot down notes? Do you get naked and do the novel dance beneath a full moon? I am trying the 4th novel with some preplanning otherwise I have always just let the characters pull me along. This time, since I'm going to try to write a full novel in 30 days, I've created an outline. (and she's asking for suggestions on her blog) The novel dance... I only know of this by overhearing other authors whispering in corners of darkened coffee shops. I have not yet been let in on the full secret of it all. Though, I really wish someone would enlighten me because I could use all the help I can get.

    Who is your writing mentor and why? Or, alternatively, who do you emulate? I've read many different authors and genres since I've started reading. The two genres that played a major role in my life, growing up, were fantasy and scifi. Heinlein is an awesome writer and I would love to be 1/4th the writer he was. However, the goblins, dragons, witches, sorcerers, Kings and magic of the fantasy world have always held my attention. Alas, I'm not smart enough to write scifi and not creative enough to write fantasy. Maybe someday.


    I try my very best NOT to emulate anyone. One of my biggest fears is accidental plagiarism. There are parts of books that stick with me forever and the last thing I want to do is write it down, thinking I came up with it all by my lonesome.

    If you had a pet elephant, what would his/her name be? I'm horrible at naming pets. It would probably be something like Hugo or Rotunda. How do elephants influence your writing style? Elephants actually play a large part in my writing style. If I happen to be in the middle of the herd, I write while dodging their feet as they mill around me. If I'm on the outskirts of the herd, I usually try to find a place where they aren't blocking all my light. If I happen to be near only one elephant at a time, I'm careful not to write with a feather tipped pen for fear of it being snatched away. How does the movie Dumbo make you feel? The movie Dumbo is something I'm not so sure my younger children should watch because of Dumbo's moment of drug experimentation.

    JC is a great interviewee, a great reader, a great critiquer, and a great friend. Not to mention her NaNoWriMo word count is out-of-this-world. If we're lucky, she'll post it in the comments. Prepare to be amazed. Check her out here and here.



    Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct Details

    11.11.2010

    hook review day

    so i  (christy) popped into the local barnes and noble to pick up the book If I Stay by Galye Foreman(recommended by my good friends, erica, stephenie meyer and possibly everyone else in the blogosphere), but got sidetracked and decided to peek at some first pages beforehand (also recommended by erica--see here--).

    i have to say, i read books differently now that i'm a writer. what used to be fun is now work. what used to be funny is now cliche. what used to be. . .okay, you get it. i did my best to read these hooks as a reader. if you've read them, or have comments about what hooks you, please comment. oh, and yes, i've gone paranormal here, because that was my first love (as a writer). someday erica will step in and post about contemporary, her first love.

     based only on first page reads, here are several hook reviews:

     
    Halo by Alexandra Adornetto



    I picked this book for two reasons:  I love the picture and coloring on the cover.  Unfair?  Perhaps, because how much input do authors have where their covers are concerned? (but of course i shouldn't be thinking about that, because right now i'm a reader)  I'm admitting to you that many books I've purchased over the years are mustardy in color.  They matched my bedroom.  (Ug...a horribly embarrassing confession.)  I also love the font and design of the title.  The font and design of the first pages did not disappoint.  The chapter titles appealed to me also, the first being:  Descent.

     So I turned and began reading.  I was hooked in just wondering who was speaking.  "Our arrival didn't exactly go as planned."  Whose didn't and why?  Obviously I assumed it was the angel on the cover.  Page one described the setting the angels descended on and the lone boy who witnessed it. 

    The first page served it's purpose. I give it a YES, I WOULD TURN THE PAGE AND READ ON. I would read the first chapter before deciding whether to buy it or not. I am definitely intrigued to find how this paperboy from page one gets involved with the angels.


    Intertwined by Gena Showalter



    This one I picked up only because it's sequel which just came out called my name.  Unravelled.  I love the word.  I love the word Intertwined also.  So, okay, covers AND titles get me every time.

     This one is a little unfairly judged because there were two "cheater hooks" or previews/excerpts in the pages before the actual page one.  I should have skipped them for the sake of sharing an accurate opinion of the hook, but I didn't and I'm sorry.

    Based on the first page it wasn't enough because I read on halfway through the second page.  Well, if I'm being honest, I guess it was enough to make me want to read on to find out what was really going on.  So, it's a YES, I'D READ ON.  Page one almost turned me off in the first paragraph because it started out with the MC upset about ending up in a cemetary and my first thought was that he just discovered he'd died.  Reading on I thought "whew" because he was still alive.  Although apparently by stepping  into a cemetary voices come alive in his head and the dead also come alive, or something.  I'd read on, especially since romance is promised in the future.


    Fallen by Lauren Kate



    Oh, I'm terrible at this.  Okay, so this one started with a prologue chapter.  I read the first page of that then skipped ahead and read the first page of the actual first chapter.  They were tremendously different.  Different voices, different time periods.  YES, I WOULD READ ON to find how one relates to the other.  As erica would say, JEESH. 

     Based on first pages alone, this is my least favorite of the book hooks i reviewed today.  Purely based on the historical voice in the beginning. I'd have to be in the right mood to read it.  And because the MC in chapter one is in a hospital where meds are discussed and, again, it was a mood thing for me. 

     I DO very much like the font of the title.  And the author's name. 


    The Fallen 1:  the Fallen and Leviathan by Thomas E. Sniegoski



    So now I have to admit that when I picked up the other Fallen (above) I thought it was this one.  You probably already knew that there are several books and series of books with this title.  I am behind in my reading.  I picked this one up a while back (over the summer), flipped through it, and wanted to go back for it ever since.

     I reread the first page and YES, WOULD READ ON and most likely WILL BUY and read this one for a complete book review in the future.  hint, hint...tune in one day in the next month or two.  I won't lie. It'll be a little while.  I'm busy, but it WILL happen.


    That said, I would buy the last one purely because it's been on my mind for a few months.  BUT my favorite after reading hooks alone (for the most part) was the first one, Halo.  I'll get that one eventually and review it, too.  I would have bought that one tonight if my sole purpose for going to the bookstore wasn't to buy my book for next week's review.  (Read on for an explanation.)
    now, i did eventually just buy the book i went for and will actually read the whole thing.  so next tuesday expect a completed book review of If I Stay by Gayle Foreman. 

    and maybe another hook review or two in the near future.

    11.10.2010

    50% done and, uh, stuck

    recently i reached the halfway point of my WIP!  (and by i I mean me, it's christy...again)

    at that moment, i thought "hooray" i just have to do the same thing all over again and i'm done!

    only, have you ever noticed that the second half of a work-in-progress-novel-to-be can be SO much more difficult than the first half?

    (or, maybe not?)

    almost as soon as i hit the 50% mark, i felt very stuck...and very alone in my stuckness, until i came across this post while procrastinating my way through my writer's block late Saturday night (click this link to mia's superb graph) (it was great to know it wasn't just me...this halfway blues happens to other writers, too!)

    so then, feeling so much better (the next day)....

     i wrote!  and got myself over that horrid halfway point hump hill skyscraper mountain.

    here'a picture message to you delineating my journey since the start of this WIP (inspired of course by mia's nifty graph, (only not nearly as crafty and wise)...)

    It all began with an exciting new idea.  The entire project outlined itself in my mind in just seconds.  And it was all
    
     smooth sailing..ahhh






    about a quarter of the way through i did get a little bit

    bored,

    which was okay because at that point i just went back to my completed ms (attempt at writing a novel #1) to rework the beginning for the millionth time. 

    as you can imagine that was way more fun (note the sarcasm), so i returned to my WIP

    until i reached the halfway point and hit one, big


    me

    rock-solid block (aka: writer's block)


      then i did it. i just took that
         leap.  i put my fingers on the keyboard and started typing...i stopped (over)thinking, worrying, editing, backtracking...

    and the words just totally

    flowed...!


    so while i'm only 60% done,  i have some direction.
    i may not be quite ready to

          party,

    but i made it through (over, around, under) that daunting block.

    AND if while leaping i wrote something hideous, there's always the eraser/delete key...so what? why wait? write until something works

    SO... know that if you get to that halfway ho-hump part in your WIP
    that we all (or at least some of us) get there and feel that way, too



    and while you might just want to

                                                                         snap!

    don't give up. i didn't.

                              happy landing!


                                                                 
                                                

    11.09.2010

    (almost) 100th follower contest and GIFT GIVEAWAY

    wow. and by that we mean WOW!! (almost) 100 followers. we're speechless. well, we would be speechless if we were sitting here looking at (almost) 100 people who didn't want to listen to something we said. but in this case, if we're speechless, well, we wouldn't exist, right?! so, here we are, semi-speechless, wanting to send a personal thank-you to each and every one of you.

    thank you x (almost) 100

    now. one of (almost, jeesh) 100 of you will get an even more personalized thank you in the mail.

    all you have to do is answer this question (in our comments or via email--see contacts tab) and your name will be put into a "hat" and then we'll draw ONE lucky follower's name out and voila!  we'll announce the winner (and of course send them a basket box filled with goodies! (um, please be kind and only enter if you have a US address. we're teachers. in Wisconsin. and not published. thanks!!!!)

    and the question is: Who do you wish was your sidekick? (you can't say either erica or christy.)

    enter by SUNDAY, november 14, 2010  at midnight (CST)

    
    we have the BEST followers
    all (almost) 100 of you are TOPS!