Do you want to order cheese, enter a contest, or go to a conference?

Part I

Since it's a Monday and we do Monday Mealtime Madness posts here at erica and christy, we didn't want to disappoint you. MY FATHER-IN-LAW IS A CHEESEMAKER.  Yes, I live in WI.  What's really funny is erica owns cows.  Could we be any more Wisconsin-y?

Anyways....  Springside Cheese's website went live!  Yes, it's up and running. I'm totally not being biased when I declare to you that my father-in-law makes the BEST cheese.  I'd love for you all to order it, have it shipped to your house, and try it.  AND NOW YOU CAN!  (US only.  Sorry!)

Here's the site:

OH! And if you choose to check it out, like what you see, and place an order for some delicious cheese products, then add in the NOTES section (when you check out on the site) that you were sent to the site by erica and christy.  Along with your order, you'll receive a FREE order of squeaky cheese curds.  BUT THIS OFFER ONLY STANDS FOR THE FIRST TEN erica and christy CUSTOMERS! 

Part II

FIRST, I haven't taken a moment to CONGRATULATE my amazingly talented blog partner on her recent achievement in passing through the first round cuts for ABNA!  She is so deserving and I am so happy for her!  I'm wishing awesomeness for her and our other friends (mentioned on Friday's post) who also made it to Round 2!

NEXT, thanks to Heather @ Heather's Odyssey, I learned of another contest:  Gatekeepers Discovery Writing Award.

I posted an excerpt of my novel, Solstice under my pen name Lynnea West.  If you have a chance, I'd love for you to check it out here and offer any feedback you may have.  If you like it, please vote.  The top 100 entries (YA only) with the most votes on March 30 will have their pages read by Gatekeepers Post staff.  They will make their selections for round two, passing the entries on to top agents and editors (visit the site to find out the list of names).  Oh, and the winner at the end of round three wins $500.  To read and vote for Heather's entry, go here.

Part III

 Have you ever thought what it'd be like to actually meet each other?  You know, like if all of us blogging friends were actually together, in real life, not just hanging out chatting virually every day?  Su @ Cheekyness had a great idea in her comments recently for us all to meet up at Blade since I mentioned it in my post last Thursday.  I couldn't agree more that it would be a surreal experience. Maybe someday we all will!

While I won't be able to visit Blade any time soon, I am going to Florida at the same time Michael @ In Time will be there.  So Hubby and I are going to meet up with him.  Yay!

AND, erica and I just discovered a Writing Conference in WISCONSIN.  So...we might GO and MEET EACH OTHER!  Here's the goods on the conference in case any of you want to join us!!!!!
April 8-10

Not sure how to spend it?  Recap:  order cheese, read solstice/vote, register for WI writing conference




Sassy Saturday

Lies!  All lies, I tell you!

But really Rach made me do it (as part of the Crusade Challenge #1)!

Click here to see what I'm talking about.

Here's my confession.

  • I'm going to Florida and erica didn't know, so that was my secret.
  • There is a restaurant (with a full bar) called Blade in Miami, but erica's never been there and I have no idea if they serve rabbit or duck there.
  • I love Malbec.
  • I love my kids more than anything in the world, but really should get a babysitter one of these days.  It'd be nice to get out more with my hubby.
  • I am a bit of a germ freak.   I hand sanitize twenty times daily and wash my hands A LOT.  (I do teach second graders, though.  So maybe that makes a little bit more sense to you?)  However, I can go a little overboard with this this quirk.  For example, once while running a half-marathon, I stopped to use a porta-potty.  I had to run six more miles before passing my family on the side of the road.  The first thing I did (after hugging my boys) was rummage through the bag they carried for some hand sanitizer.  My running buddies were glad they could finish the race without having to listen to me complain about my germy hands.)
  • erica did go to an INDOOR waterpark yesterday.
  • I DO procrastinate.
  • Again, erica never went to Blade so we don't really know what's on their menu.
  • I WOULD NEVER EVER drink an old fashioned on a beach or otherwise.  Blech.
  • erica could never count on me to be a good blog hopper, however I did manage to visit a few blogs Thursday night.  If it wasn't yours, don't worry I'll hop to more.
I feel like I missed something.  If I did I'll let you know.  It's been fun meeting some of the new crusaders! We'll continue making the rounds!



Finally Friday

The first round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is over and the list of people advancing to the next excerpt round was announced yesterday. This process simulates how an agent or editor chooses what advances from the slush pile. (stick with us until, or else skip to, the end, please!)

Submission period: Two weeks to enter your 300-word pitch, the first 3,000-5,000 words of your ms (called the excerpt), and your full manuscript. They take 5,000 for General Fiction (you must also specify genre) and 5,000 for Young Adult (which they describe as ages 10-16, but I've known people who have entered, and passed through, with books featuring main characters into their 20s). This year, GF closed early, which means they got their 5,000 entries. YA did not, which means there were less than 5,000 (but they probably won't say how many there were, since they didn't last year).

First round: Your pitch is judged. This is a little different from a query, since it isn't personalized, but much the same. You're being judged on your "first impression" - if the judge who reads yours likes your idea and thinks you can pull it off, you advance. The other 8,000 don't. To see who did, read click the link above. It will be posted on the official site.

Second round: Your excerpt is judged by two Vine reviewers (people who do a lot of reviews on Amazon and have been chosen by them to participate in the contest). These are readers - not agents, editors, etc. This approximates the agenting process for those agents that use an intern or assistant to read their partials. The top 500 (250 from each category) move on to the quarterfinals. All 2,000 in this round get a short review from their judges - usually a few sentences saying what they liked or didn't like about the entry.

Quarterfinals: 250 from each category have their excerpts posted for public viewing and rating. Someone from Publisher's Weekly reads your full and gives you a review. Penguin editors use the rating system (supposedly, although plenty with good reader ratings haven't made it through in the past) to forward the contestants.

Semifinals: 50 from each category get their full ms read by Penguin Editors. Excerpts continue to be reviewed by Amazon readers (i.e. the public). You win bragging rights.

Finals: YAY! If you're here, you're in the top 3 in GF or YA. There is only one winner in each category, but being a finalist all but guarantees you'll be published. This is where the contest varies greatly from the typical agent/publisher search. The general public can vote on Amazon (by reading the excerpt) for which one they like the most in each category. And that one wins.

So.....like we said.....those that passed the first round were announced yesterday. Erica is delighted to say her name is on the list (Erica Olson - A New Day). Several of our other blogger friends, like Michael di Gesu, Hart Johnson, JC Phelps, Theresa Milstein, and Mike Wood, are also still in. Christy didn't make it through, but she's cheering everyone on and continuing her rewrite. Good luck to all (in the contest and elsewhere)!!


Crusader Challenge #1

The Challenge

In 300 words or less, tell us:
· one secret
· one lie
· one interesting quirk
· one annoying habit
· one of your best character traits, and
· one of your favourite things in the whole world.

The post can be in any format, including poetry (for those poets among us), but must include the random words, “bloviate,” “fuliguline,” “rabbit,” and “blade” (tee hee).

Well, here goes.  You (may) all know how I hate to reveal too much about the "real" me here on my blog, but I'll do my best. 

Erica: Christy, have you finished that crusade challenge yet or do you just want me to do it for you? Seriously, your procrastination will be the end of me.

Christy: Um, that might be a good idea. If you just do it.

Erica: [insert the sound of crickets chirping]

Christy: No! No, kidding. I can do it. Just go and swim at the water park. Leave me to sit with the blog. No problem.

Erica: Are you kidding me? You took off for like the past month doing rewrites. I didn't even complain once. I'll be gone one night. One.

Christy: Oh, yeah. About that. Um, thanks. And....

Erica: And?

Christy: I'm going on vacation next month. I'll be gone for a week. To Florida. Can you, um, take over again?

Erica: [repeat cricket chirping]

Christy: Yeah, um, while you sit here in this freezing cold I'll be basking in the sun and sipping my favorite drink in the whole world.

Erica: Yeah, we all know you love a nice glass of Malbec. *yawns* *wonders if any tourists in FL dare to drink wine*

Christy: No! Not on the beach! Seriously? Blech. I'll have a tall, icy Old Fashioned. Mmmmm.

Erica: Well, I'd love to sit here and listen to you bloviate about your fantastic upcoming vacation, but, uh, I need to go and edit my MS for the thousandth time. *plus, I think you lie.*

Christy: Wait, now that you know I'll be gone, can I just ask you one question? What's the name of that restaurant you went to in Florida?

Erica: Blade. Why, are you going to Miami? *becomes only slightly intrigued*

Christy: Oh. No, we're not. Bummer! I wanted to try the rabbit dish you raved about and posted in our mealtime madness posts.

Erica: Oh, that wasn't from there. Blade only serves fuligulate dishes. You wouldn't have liked it anyway. Except for the full bar. That would have kept you occupied all night. *good, back on track*

Christy: Nah, the boys will be along.

Erica: *rolls eyes* When aren't you with those kids? It's time you got a babysitter. Really. Oh, and the bar at that place was gross. You would've needed like three bottles of hand sanitizer. I don't think you could've handled it.

Christy: You're right. We'll just grill out at our place. Thanks. Have a great time at the water park. I'll do tons of blog hopping while you're gone.

Erica: *slightly confused, but going with it* Enough, Christy. You probably already have five lies in this thing already. Nobody will ever guess correctly. Just once we should try to follow the rules. I'm out.

Christy: Me, too.

Aside from the fact that Erica had nothing (okay, a bit) to do with this post, I may have revealed something about me that isn’t strictly true, can you guess what it is? The answer will be in Friday's or Saturday's post.  :0)



Should books have a rating system?

On Monday when I (erica) mentioned the lexile scores and how they can help you find a reading list for yourself or a kid, I didn't bring up the appropriateness of the books, but someone else did in the comments. If your child/student reads above or below grade level, it could make it harder to find an appropriate, yet entertaining, book for them. There was a good discussion about this issue on the ABNA forums that I followed this past weekend also.

Watching your kids grow up and knowing you're partially (mostly, for awhile) responsible for what they take in and learn from is a scary thing. Luckily, there are some things out there to help, including parental advisory labels and movie/game rating systems. Even most TV shows have a box in the corner to show what age range the show would be appropriate for (such as Y for cartoons up to MA for mature) along with initials like V for violence.

But what about books? Sure, there are sections of the bookstore. But how do I know that a book located in the middle-grade section of Borders is something I want my child to read? Even vigilant parents can have trouble deciding - I let Zach read The Deathly Hallows only after asking a few trusted people who read it if it was something I should let my then-8-year-old read (and I read it with him). I knew there would be dark scenes and assumed some beloved characters would be killed. What age level is ready for that??

MG is generally 8-14, but trust me, 14-year-old boys are WAAYY more worldly than 8-year-olds. A 12-year-old girl will go right to the YA section of a bookstore, but I think most moms/dads would like to know if there's a rape scene or something similar involved that they should discuss (and/or postpone, depending on the parent). Note: I'm NOT talking pornography here, not at all. Just general labels of MG/YA and whether they (along with a dustjacket description) are enough. Frankly, I think a lot of parents will be surprised when they see the upcoming Breaking Dawn movies and realize THAT stuff was in the book their younger-teenage child read (using that as an example because it's a well-known series, but there are many others).

In my thoughts as a mother - I would appreciate a general sticker on books similar to the movie and game rating system. Y (young, also could be E for everyone), PG (or MG - for children up to 10), PG-14, and YA/MA (for those over 15) would be enough for me to make an informed decision and also to strike up a conversation between my son and me when shopping for books. (btw, these are my labels, not real ones and definitely not meant to be laws)

Another writer on the ABNA forums mentioned something like this could be a form of censorship. A writer could even feel forced to self-censor themselves to avoid (or to get) a certain label - for example, if they avoid a reference to masturbation, a panel could give them a PG14 rating, but if they add it in, they could get the YA/MA and maybe restrict their audience or risk becoming a banned book. Also mentioned as an issue for some is who would regulate it. I certainly think there would need to be guidelines (again, such as those for TV/movies/games) and a committee to decide that.

What do you think? Would you feel censored if you knew your book could get a parental advisory label? Would it change your writing at all? Or do you think it could be helpful? Please let us know, we're interested in EVERYONE's opinion here (plus, christy said she could be swayed either way depending how good of a persuader you are...hehe)

Or, as one ABNAer said, do you think I should let it go and accept the fact that eventually my boys will hide a Penthouse under their mattress and there's nothing I can do about it? (btw, I do accept that, I just hope they'll wait a few years since they're 10 and 4)


Twofer Tuesday: PLOT and thickening it up with action while thinning out the crapola

Since I've been taking more time out from life to write as opposed to blog and bloghop, it'll come as no surprise that more of my posts have been and will be about my writing ups and downs.  And since I'm still relatively new to this writing thing, most of the amaaaazing writing advice I can offer you needs to come from alternative sources like the ones I've linked to below.  However, I can at least use my writing woes and "ah ha" moments to share the lessons I've learned and hope they can serve some purpose to you in your writing.

And now I'll get on with it.

While there are many challenges involved in writing a novel (no, not just any novel...a novel that will get published and read by millions, of course), the one I'd like to discuss with you today is *drumroll pleeeease*

Yes.  I'm talking about the what-the-heck-happens-in-your-book-and-to-your-characters-that-will-make-me-want-to-read-the-dang-thing thing because that is what I've been struggling with this week.  While editing and revising no less.  If you're thinking it's a little late to be going round and round in those plotty circles at this late stage in the game, you're not alone.  I'm right there with you.  BUT, when you cut 70k from a novel that you've been writing for a year and a half like I have, you'd understand that plot issues can arise when chopping a full length novel from your novel.

Here's the helpful part of the post:

First, I'd like to draw your attention to a recent blogpost by Janice Hardy @ The Other Side of the Story
One of my favorite lines from the post is "Story is, but plot does."  She also talks about how to move your plot along.  Great advice and worth a read.

Another, post I just found by Stina Lindenblatt at Seeing Creative was also on plot and about creating layers within your plot(s).  She writes about creating a multidimensional plot while also tying all those pieces together.  She also recommends a great writing workbook to help you out.

(This next part is all me and the questions that arose while working through my plot issues this week either alone or via email with erica.)
Next, think about this.  What moves the plot along?  External conflict?  Internal conflict?  Basically, the problem, right?  Then, how do you (the writer choose to) move it along? 

(This HOW is the tough part because plot can get bogged down by unnecessary actions and details.  I, for one, struggled with "bridging" issues.  I felt like I needed these HUUUUGE scenes in between my "real" scenes...the action.  So the 70k I cut was pretty much as all the bridge scenes that took me from one necessary plot event to another.  Now I'm left with ONLY the real plot of my story, except a few that I need to add in:  plot holes.  We'll talk about that another time.)

So moving plot along...

Through the use of dialogue.  Great, but be careful!  This is also one way to clutter plot and thicken it up with unnecessary words.  ONLY write dialogue that has a purpose.  How do you know when to use dialogue and when to use narrative?  No, really, I'm asking YOU.  thoughts/advice????

Recently I had this same debate going between "when to use self-talk and when to use narrative".  Maybe the answer is mainly the same.  What would come naturally?  (But not tooooo naturally.)  You've all read plenty of posts, I'm sure, on not having a scene where the characters greet one another and ask how the other is doing and talk about what they had for breakfast.  Boring.  AND, I'm certain those lines have NOTHING to do with the plot.  So...don't go there.

The use of setting and moving the plot along:  Does the place the character enters make it inevitable for the plot to move forward?  Just because your character is a fifteen year old and it's a Monday morning doesn't mean they have to be in school.  Unless that's where they need to be for the plot to be carried out. Otherwise, figure out a way to get them to the action.  Change the day or GET THEM OUT OF THEIR ROUTINE.  Don't waste pages on showing the reader their daily life BEFORE the plot occurs.  Just do it.  Tell the story.  The reader doesn't need to know how they lived life for the first fifteen years of life.  (NOT trying to be preachy...THIS was where MY biggest problem was and why I needed to eliminate 70k! yes, the bridge scenes.)

Does your character have/need an information source?  Does your character watch the news, read an article, get a text, observe a crime, overhear a conversation, have a gossipy best friend?  How does your character learn information that makes them do something to move the plot along?  WHAT TERRIBLE THING HAPPENED AND HOW DID THEY LEARN ABOUT IT?  and of course, what will they do now?  run?  plan to solve the problem?  (okay, now I feel like I'm planning a writing lesson for my second graders.  sorry about that.  switched from writer mode to teacher mode.)

Do your characters quirks add to the plot or a subplot?  Does your character have a quirk that constantly gets them into trouble?  Are they insanely curious, clumsy, scatterbrained, oblivious, studious, etc? 

Is the "bad girl/guy" or the villain the catalyst for your plot?  What do they do to your poor character and how does your character handle it? 
Last,  (and on a completely different note) how do you use your chapter endings?  THIS is one of my main concerns right now.  I don't know how to address it.  Part of my thinks I should leave out ALL chapter indicators (numbers for me) until the whole manuscript is done, then I can go back in and put them where they'd fit best.  AND....WHERE MIGHT THAT BE?  The first time I wrote my WIP I tied every single chapter up with a big nice fluffy bow and each chapter felt resolved.  Didn't that defeat the purpose?  If my reader is feeling satisfied, why would they turn the page?  Duh.  (I'd think it was a no-brainer, too, except, uh, that some of my chapters still seem to end up that way.)  I also "counted pages" so that each was about the same number of pages long.  Yeah, that doesn't always allow for a suspenseful chapter ending either.  WHAT DO YOU DO?  ARE ALL OF YOUR CHAPTER ENDINGS CLIFFHANGERS?  HOW WIDELY DO YOUR CHAPTER LENGTHS VARY?



Writing and reading...and recipe-ing

Christy and I have been having a great (email) discussion about reading books that have been published for the age groups we write for. Some of you posted this weekend that you're doing just that - reading. Yay to books!!

So, this ties into a story about my son and how we decide what he might like to read. It's his birthday today, btw - he's officially hit the double digits. The big 1-0. Ten. *sigh*

In fourth grade, our school district offers gifted-and-talented programming and I'm lucky enough to have a son who not only makes friends easily, is kind to others (except, occasionally, his little brother, but hey, he never claimed to be a saint), and plays four sports a year, but is also pretty gifted at reading and spelling. Can you tell I'm proud??? You might remember him from his blogfest post back in December.

Anyway, the school tested each 4th grader and sent home information on their lexile score. At the risk of embarrassing my son for life, I'm posting his here as an example of how to find books for a certain age group and how this can help you as a writer/reader. Stay with me, please (yes, there's a chance to participate at the end and it has nothing to do with this post. you know you want to.)

Zach's score, as a 4th grader, was a 793. If you don't know what a lexile score is, check out the website at http://www.lexile.com/ (it's okay, I didn't know either - I'm an early childhood teacher) Basically, they break down the score by grade level. So Zach's in 4th grade, but he reads as an average (50th percentile) 7th grade, 9th month student.

How does this help you? Well, say, you want to write a book that a fourth grade boy will read. Take Zach's lexile number and give it a range. Say 700 to 850, to account for differing levels, etc. Then enter it into the website and see what suggestions they give you (this is what I did when I bought him a new series for his birthday). Narrow by genre if you want to. And voila - a reading list. In fact, you don't have to do it for Zach (because I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who does). You can enter grade levels and find books. They might surprise you. OR perhaps you're looking for someone who reads at a fourth grade level, no matter what their age. Then look for a range of 400-500. Cool, huh? Barnes and Noble is also nice enough to put lexile numbers right on their website in most book descriptions. Find out more here.

Basically - if you're struggling with either "dumbing down" or "talking up" your characters thoughts and dialogues, this is a must-do. Find out what your target age group is reading and what they can/should read. And then read, read, read. You can not skip this part. Ever.

Oh, and this is a Mealtime Madness Monday, but I'm too busy making baked chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and peas - along with birthday cake - to post a recipe. SO HERE'S THE GOOD PART OF THIS POST (besides all the other good things, of course):

erica and christy NEED YOUR HELP!!!!!!!

Please, please, please help us post recipes for Mondays in March. Email us your favorites at lynnea.west(at)gmail(dot)com. If you're chosen, we will feature your blog along with your recipe on one of our Monday posts!! Yay for exposure and yay for our blogging friends! We hope to see you and your yummy dishes soon!

Oh, and what are you reading today and how did you choose it? I'm reading Paper Towns by John Green. It is AMAZING. I picked it because Gae Polisner said that someone who read her ARC for The Pull of Gravity compared it to that book. It is AMAZING (did I say that?).


Who's writing?

Okay, come on people - it's time to step it up. Let's write. Last weekend I (erica) added 4,200 words. At least a few of them were NOT craptastic, I assure you!!! The rest of the week, um, not so much. A newsletter, a parenting class, and a bunch of report cards, check. Fiction, nope. (yeah, christy taught me once how to update that little thingy in the sidebar, but I long ago forgot. I'm at something like 20,800 words. I'll make the thingy move soon, I promise.)

So this weekend, I'm shooting for 4,300 words. Who's with me??  Come on, you know you want to.
For a bit of inspiration, I give you a Grammy winner and seriously, how cute is this video??:

Or this one could work, too if you like sexy more than cute:

oh, wait. my personal favorite. meatloaf. in love. sorry if it takes a million years to load. I love me some meatloaf.

Have a wonderful weekend, blogger friends. We're so happy for our new followers and love and our adore our old previous followers. We are so, so lucky and blessed. Now for that publication deal for us all... 


It's Friday and I'm not feeling funny.

First of all, I'm a teacher in Wisconsin, so it's been a stressful week.  Our governor is attacking our unions.  (Not just for teachers, but for all public workers.)  With the future of our public schools uncertain, this week has been a little bit off for me.  Mostly, I should stay off facebook because when people who don't fully understand the issues attack the teachers by criticizing us, it's hurtful.  I'm sure I'm taking the entire thing too personally, but for the past three days my chest has had a tight, painful feeling inside it.

Second, I'm reading Mockingjay.  Each book makes me feel a little bit more depressed.  Not depressed enough to stop reading, but I don't think the book is helping my outlook on my current situation.  In fact, I woke up at 3:30 this morning unable to sleep anymore with a great dystopian in the works.  So even when I'm out of a job because our public schools have gone down the tubes, at least I'll have a great bestseller on my hands.

With that being said, I have a question for you.  About Solstice.  Currently, it's genre is unstable.  Can it be realistic/fantasy?  Nevermind that.  I've decided I want it to be pre-dystopian.  IS THAT A GENRE?  I thought about this before reading the Hunger Games and before my state's political affairs depressed me.  Although, having the National Guard on call for little ol' us (the teachers) made me add that aspect into my novel.  See how this whole mess is helping my writing?!?  Good can come out of disaster, I tell you!

Okay, so my questions to you today are:  (No, I can never just let you read without nagging you to participate...I need help here-always!)
1-Can I list Solstice as a pre-dystopian?  (The events in the book will lead to a future dystopian...making a sequel or third book an actual dystopian....am I nuts thinking this way?)
2-What real-life events sparked a novel idea for you? 
3-Does writing serve as an emotional outlet for you?


When the good get jilted

It's Valentine's Week!!! If ever there was a holiday to celebrate for a week, it should be Valentine's. Your family is obligated to be nice to you. People are on a sugar-high. Red and pink and purple and chocolate abound. Happy, shiny people holding hands. That's Valentine's week.

What? Not so much, eh? Your kids gave you the card and moved on, your spouse made you dinner and fogot to do the dishes, and your dog did exactly the same thing your dog does every day????


Let's put this in terms of writing, shall we? yes, we shall, besides, it's our blog and we say so. We love our characters and want the best for all of them. At least, I (erica) do. I want the cute but misunderstood girl to get the cute but misunderstood guy and live happily ever after. I want the funny girl to get the funny guy and the insert-any-quality-you-want girl to get the whatever-she-wants guy. I'm not ashamed to say it. I want my characters to get what they want. (ooh, i refrained from shouting there. aren't you proud of me?)

Does this happen in every book? Well, some would say - yes, it does, and way too often (especially in romance, including YA). Characters are two peas in a pod. Peanut butter and jelly. SpongeBob and Patrick. The model for "you complete me." Perfection.

Darn it, perfection does not exist in the real world and the thought should not be entertained by us mere-mortal-writers (this is what i've been told)!!! People get jilted. And darn it, some characters should, too. Valentine's week or not. (insert erica's sad face here)

So, my thought (for now) is that I can't do it. Can my character be slightly jilted by the out-of-her/his-league possiblity? Sure. But can one of them show up at the top of the Empire State Building to find that his/her love interest didn't show up?? No. Can't do it. Nope. No happily never after for this girl. Call me Meg Ryan, but man, I love love.

What about you?? Can you leave your first love (character) jilted? Why did you do it and what can I learn from you? Or, hey, did you just learn from me? (er...)


Writing Wednesday: Crusade Round 2...WOOT!

On the crusade....

Woot!  (That's the word that most makes me think of Rach, as in Rach Writes..., you know the founder of the writing CRUSADE!  (No idea what I'm talking about?  Go here.)

We've all at one time or another posted about this AMAZING blogosphere of writers we're involved in.  We've all made TONS of friends and learned a multitude of helpful tips on writing from each other. (We love our followers and commenters and the bloggers we follow...see our sidebar.  We'd be so lonely without you!)

The Crusade is a way to formally support each other in this writing journey we've all set out on.  Writing may be a solitary act, but we don't need to face the ups and downs that accompany it alone.  Nuh-uh!  Don't do it.  We need each other!!!!

Crusaders, erica and christy have joined up a second time to connect with you all, follow your writing, and learn from you (we hope to help you out from time to time as well!). 

We're excited to take part in the First Crusade Challenge to be announced this upcoming Friday! We can't wait to find out what Rach has up her sleeve!  Stay tuned...!

On writing this week....

Last week I posted about cutting my manuscript down to half of what it used to be.  I cut hundreds of  "was ____ing"s.  Yesterday, I sat reading a published book at the local Barnes and Noble while my kids played on the train table or paged through books of their own.

Do you know how many "was ___ing"s I found on the first two pages alone?????  SEVEN.  Yes, seven.

????????????????????????????????????????????     WT(bleep)!

Just when I think I've figured out how to make my writing clean and crisp, I find that maybe the "rules schmules" I followed may not have been written in stone after all!  Am I not supposed to make my writing more active?  There must be a time when using "was" is totally acceptable, if not preferred. 

At times like these I feel like I'm an idiot for even trying to write AND publish a novel when I've had no "real" training (aka:  degree in English).  I'm going round and round in circles here.

I KNOW that writing actively is better, just like showing is better than telling.  I KNOW that.  AND I feel like my writing is cleaner now than it was before.  SO, I'm sticking to it.  Keeping my changes.  And I will continue to write actively in the best way I know how to.  Will that change and improve over the next year?  Certainly. 
But, is there a right and a wrong?


What rules have you learned and followed only to turn the page in the novel on your nightstand to find that very "no-no" staring you right in the face?



Two-fer Tuesday - 2 great new covers...plus a toe

This is gonna' be a quick one, but you guys don't mind, do you? I mean, you're all in a chocolate-induced-half-coma anyway, right? Which obviously should make you want to read - or at least order something to read - or maybe preorder something to read (don't worry, I have a point).

So, last November, we didn't have nearly as many followers as we do now, but erica was able to convince a few of her author-friends to come down here to our lil'-ol'-blog and talk about their self-published, traditionally-published, and soon-to-be-published books. It was super fun and you should go back and read them - we tagged them all as November Author Series over there in the sidebar, so just search for it. It'll be worth it. Go ahead. Then come back for updates. There are two that I have for you today (plus a toe, don't worry, it will make sense in a minute).

Gae Polisner's shiny new cover:

Come on, you know you want to read this book just from the cover (and our interview, of course). You can, on May 10th. Plus, you know what?? She's got blurbs. You heard me. Blurbs. Great ones. From great authors we would all die to get blurbed by. You want this book.

From Amazon: While Nick Gardner’s family is falling apart, his best friend, Scooter, is dying from a freak disease. The Scoot’s final wish is that Nick and their quirky classmate, Jaycee Amato, deliver a prized first-edition copy of Of Mice and Men to the Scoot’s father. There’s just one problem: the Scoot’s father walked out years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. So, guided by Steinbeck’s life lessons, and with only the vaguest of plans, Nick and Jaycee set off to find him. Characters you’ll want to become friends with and a narrative voice that sparkles with wit make this a truly original coming-of-age story.

oh, and there could be a bonus in it for you if you try this link instead. no harm in trying...

Megan Bostic's shiny new cover: note: not the final, final version. but still uber-cool.

 From Amazon: 「予約商品の価格保証」では、お客様が対象商品を予約注文した時点から発送手続きに入る時点、または発売日のいずれか早い時点までの期間中のAmazon.co.jp の最低販売価格が、お支払いいただく金額となります。予約商品の価格保証について詳しくはヘルプページをご覧ください。 詳細はこちら (細則もこちらからご覧いただけます (um, yeah, found her on Amazon Japan - not Amazon US yet. Megan's date got bumped to Jan. 2012. don't worry, Megan, we'll wait!!and then all our followers will hear all about it! or maybe one will translate it for us!)

Okay, so there's a group of us ABNA people who tend to be a bit on the goofy side and hang around and talk and email and Facebook and generally help each other remember that writing doesn't have to be a solo adventure. One of those people is Mike Wood. Find his auction here for his toe. I mean toenail. I mean book. (it is a good book, Gae, Megan, and erica have all read it. Although only erica is saying it's good at this point, because this is my blog and I only speak for myself. Oh, and christy, too - but she's in some sort-of chocolate-induced-half-coma, so I'm speaking for her today, too).

Thanks for visiting!!


Show Me The Love Blogfest

Stephanie Haefner is hosting a simply lovely blogfest for today.  Happy Valentine's Day! 
Click on her Blogfest button to visit all the fest participants!

All I had to do was answer these questions and post them by 10 AM EST.

1- What is the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for you?
For our first wedding anniversary, my husband ordered a limo to pick us up at our house, drive by the park we'd gotten our pics taken at the year before, and take us to the hotel we'd had our reception and spent our wedding night.  He'd gone there earlier that day place candles around the room and to scatter rose petals.

2- What is your favorite love song?
When You Say Nothing At All-Allison Kraus

3- Do you have a favorite romantic movie or book?
movie:  French Kiss, Roman Holiday

4- Do you have any romantic plans for Valentine's Day this year?
hubby and I are sending the kids to my parents so we can go out to dinner

5- What's your favorite romantic treat? (candy, chocolate, edible body paint, etc...)
red wine and dark chocolate


Did you name the titles correctly? Today you can find out!

If you stopped by on Thursday, you'll know what I'm (christy) talking about. If you didn't, scroll down to Thursday's post and then come back here.  (I posted some first lines from published novels for you to guess the titles of.)

Here are the answers!
(I think at least one person guessed every title.)  *claps furiously while typing with my feet*

B.If I Stay
D.Hunger Games
E.Harry Potter
F.Gone With the Wind
G.Anna Karenina
H.Jane Eyre

Thanks for guessing!!!!

And, today I'm promoting Stephanie Haefner's Show Me The Love Blogfest for Monday.  Here's the rules (it's super easy...if it weren't I wouldn't be doing it.):

There's only a few rules. First of all, answer these questions:
1- What is the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for you?
2- What is your favorite love song?
3- Do you have a favorite romantic movie or book?
4- Do you have any romantic plans for Valentine's Day this year?
5- What's your favorite romantic treat? (candy, chocolate, edible body paint, etc...)

Then, on February 14th, post your answers and/or pictures to the questions above by 10:00 AM EST. And make sure you visit the other participant's blogs that day to see what they said!! Let's have fun with this!!!

TO sign up, click on the red blogfest button in the sidebar to your right, and it will transport you to her blog.


That's YAmore Blogfest

Below is my entry for the That's YAmore Blogfest. But first, if you're here because you're also participating - I will get to yours soon. Both my kids came down with strep throat and ear infections and yes, of course it spread to me Thursday. If you haven't had strep throat recently, just know that it sucks. I'm letting the antibiotics do their work, then disinfecting and washing everything in the house. (if this sounds familiar - yes, I did the same thing last week, when son #1 had stomach flu and son #2 had a terrible cold). I'll get back online this weekend to comment, I promise!

The rules were so easy, it was basically: take a page (250 words) from your YA WIP that shows a romantic scene and post it today. So here's mine, from A New Day. Just before this page, Kenz finds out that she'll be home alone for a few days/nights. Things have gone from hot to heavy with Lincoln and she suddenly panics, worried he'll be disappointed once the "big moment" officially happens. She decides to have some girl-time with her best friend and in this scene, she's telling him he can't stay.

Page 137 (ish) of A New Day - erica's blogfest entry:

His look changed from playful to suspicious, but he got in the car and took me home without arguing. My feelings and actions were strange to me and impossible to explain to him. It wouldn't be fair not to at least try, so I invited him in.

Once inside, he grabbed me and pulled me close. I reached up and pushed my fingers through his wavy hair, trying to distract myself from how close our bodies were. His eyes blazed in what I guessed was a combination of understanding and frustration. I hoped he couldn't read my eyes or we'd end up in the bedroom after all. I pulled away a few inches just in case.

"Are you okay?" he asked as he bent his head down to look at my face. "You look upset about something."

"No, of course I'm not upset, I had a great time." I moved one hand down to his cheek and tried to make my face appear more confident.

"I'm not sure if I'll see you tomorrow. I made plans before I knew I'd be leaving so early tonight."

"That's good, Lincoln, I want you to spend time with your friends, too." Thankfully, he was smiling and seemed to believe my excuses. Everything but my voice ached to be with him.

"Have fun at your sleepover, but remember that I have very imaginative dreams," he suggested as the playful look returned.

"You are so not playing fair." I couldn't help myself and put my hands on his hips, returning the look. "I love you."

"Then stay."

"Not tonight." I opened to the door and led him out.


Can You Name The Title?

Wow!  We haven't been blogging a year yet and I'm curious, are there always this many blogfests at this time of the year?  Or are there just always this many year-round, and we just hear about them more now that we're comfortably settled in our niche in Blogland?

Speaking of Blogfests....

I entered Brenda Drake's First Line Blogfest (the Dark and Stormy one) the other day and thought, WOW, one can really spend an eternity dissecting just ONE SENTENCE.  It's amazing we ever get through an entire novel.  I know, I know the BEGINNING is what hooks the reader.  But still.

So....I wanted to look at the books on my shelf to see what published first lines look like.  And being the only child that I am I thought I'd SHARE them with you (yeah, that's right we can do it...just ask my kindergarten teacher.  She couldn't believe I was "an only".  A proud moment in my history.  LOL)

(Excluding Prologues/Prefaces)

A.  My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down.

B.  Everyone thinks it was because of the snow.

C.  "Wait--did you--You just yawned!"

D.  When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.

E.  Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

F.  Scarlet O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.

G.  Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

H.  There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

Okay, so some might be a teensy bit obvious.  BUT, what are your thoughts on these as first lines?  You don't have to answer me, but think about it and apply those thoughts to your own first line(s).

In the comments, make your guesses. How do you feel about waiting for the answers until our Saturday post?  If it upsets you terribly (ahhh.  an adverb),  I can add it to erica's blogfest post for tomorrow!


Writing Wednesday

I've come a long way in one year of writing. 

I now totally understand all the advice I read after finishing my first manuscript.  Especially the advice to set it aside for six months.  It was so much easier to delete and tear the thing apart after leaving it be.  I kept the core story close to my heart, of course, but I could really see all the gunk I'd surrouned it with (and I hadn't been able to before). 

I haven't even told erica this yet, but I trimmed my 116,000 word novel down to 62,000 words.  Uh-huh.  Wow, did I overwrite EVERY SINGLE DETAIL the first time around.  It was incredibly BORING.

Yeah, me and my delete key went to town.  Click, Drag to Highlight, Delete.  Again and again and again.

Going back to that manuscript a year after finishing it helped me to see how much I've improved.  I've still got a long way to go, but wowza...I did not write well back then!

I'm pretty sure I had an adverb in every sentence as well as tacked on to every dialogue tag.  (I'm certain erica and Michael are nodding as they read this.  So know that I'm NOT exaggerating.)  Oh, and the dialogue tags were different every time.  Every Time.  I never, ever just wrote "said".  croaked, gasped, yelped, yelled, cried, said petulantly, etc.

Oh, and if erica could get her hand on even my rewritten version, she'd rewrite every sentence with her amazing teen voice.  Yeah, Dawn's vocabulary gets older sounding with every chapter.  Sure, we want our MCs to grow and change as they venture through the novel, but would a 15 1/2 year old girl say "obliged"?  (I'm sure erica would love to add a list of Dawn's mature vocabulary to the comments to show you all just how non-teen Dawn can sound sometimes!)

So, let's see:  adverbs, dialogue tags (more like phrases) and vocabulary issues.  What else can I add to those amazing blunders?  Passive writing. 

Again, just ask Michael and erica.  Michael loathes the word "was" (when used too often ,of course) and erica frowns on the word "had".  (Both of them hate my obsession with -ly words.)  With them helping me, I'll become the most active writer ever!

You can't possibly imagine the number of times I used the word "was" in my manuscript.  Twice per sentence.  I swear it.  She was running.  He was hoping she'd see him standing there.  Okay, these are made up, but these are the types of sentences I wrote over and over and over.  HELLO!  She ran.  He hoped she saw him.

I'm still working on tackling the hads...and 'ds.  When is it okay to use had and when should I just use simple past?  We've looked into this, but I still look at my sentences and dissect them for longer than I should have to .   (Don't get me started on lay and laid and lying....)

Another bit of advice I "just didn't have time to take" back when I used every spare second to write: READ THE GENRE YOU WRITE.  Wow.  That helps TONS!

So now I am.

This past Sunday the ABNA deadline loomed.  So, stupidly, (YES, I refuse to give my -lys up on my blog) I sat and read The Hunger Games.  (You all know how addicting it is.  Can you blame me?)  (I read while I eat my meals. When else can I sqeeze it in?)  So, after breakfast, (I didn't notice my kids left the table to go play.) I sat and read until my husband said, "Are you crying?"  And, yeah, I was.  But, he distracted me enough to go and blow my nose and type away some more.  Until that afternoon when I read for another 30 minutes.  And wouldn't you know it, an hour (or less) more and I may have finished the dang manuscript before ABNA locked me out at 10:59PM (I even wrote during commercials for the Superbowl!). 


I'm actually on the final chapter now and having passed the point of no return, this time away from the book is nothing less than painful.  I need to go read now.  And, lucky for me, the second and third books in the trilogy are waiting for me on my nightstand!

Happy Writing AND Happy Reading, Friends!


Leftover Frosting (and a late addition to the It was a Dark and Stormy Blogfest)

(scroll way, way down for the
It was a Dark and Stormy Blogfest Entry. 
look for brenda drake's blogfest pic and link!!!)

Blogging Buddies!  I'm back!  It's me...christy!!!!!  I hid out all last week writing furiously.  (What a relief to use an adverb and  just leave it in the sentence where it wants to be!!!!!) 

I feel like I've been gone for a month.  (I'm sure erica does too since I left her to fend for herself.  But it looks like it was lots of fun here at erica and christy!  A BIG Super Bowl win for our Packers (I live 30 min south of GB so some schools had off today to welcome them back!  It's like our own private holiday!), wins galore!  mugs and books!  Recipes!  And a THANK YOU  to new and old followers alike.)

What have you all been up to???  I can't wait to visit you all to find out!  I feel so out of it.  I wish I had good news and could say I polished my manuscript to where it needed to be before ABNA locked my access to edit my entry, but, um...no, I don't. 

HOWEVER, had I not taken every spare moment I had to rewrite,revise and edit, I wouldn't have come as far as I have.  What's left?  I just need to rewrite the ending, rewrite three chapters in the middle that I skipped over, do another read-through and edit, send it to erica to read and edit, do a final edit and then, hey!  I'll be able to query agents!  There's a light at the end of my rewriting tunnel!  THEN, I can revisit Shelby, my mc in novel #2!  I miss her!

I'd like to take a moment to THANK ERICA for being so understanding while I ditched her, abandoning her to the point that she wondered if I'd ever return an email again.  My gift to her?  I'm blogging here the rest of the week.  So, yes. YOU'RE STUCK WITH ME.  Until Friday. Then she's posting a blogfest entry.  Have you signed up for this one, yet?  That's YAmore Blogfest.  Starts Friday.  Click to sign up!  And be sure to visit us on Friday for another excerpt from erica's manuscript!

Oh, and by now you've probably forgotten that I titled this post Leftover Frosting.  But don't you worry. I didn't!  My son turned FIVE today.  YES, FIVE!  I know.  I can't believe it either.  FIVE IS SOOOO OLD!  I even registered him for kindergarten next year.  ALL DAY KINDERGARTEN.  He's a big boy now.  (Excuse me, I need to grab a kleenex. *sobbing mom here*) 

Oh, the frosting.  We made cupcakes for his preschool class over the weekend.  There was half a canister of frosting left.  It's in the fridge.  Um,  I can't stop eating out of the dang thing like it's a bowl of ice cream.  DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW YUMMY FROSTING IS????  (And those six sentences gave this post its title.)

Since I've been away so long I'm sure you're just hanging on my every word to find out all the other unexciting things I've been up to.  One thing:  I've gotten back into my workout groove. YEAH!!!!!  And, I've gained three pounds.  NO, they're not from muscle.  GRRRR.  (Last May I ran my first full marathon.  I gained five pounds during my training time.  AGAIN, NOT from muscle.  I had the tummy fat to prove it.  When I run, I think I can eat anything and everything and as much of it all as I want.)

I've decided that (besides running) writing is a fattening activity.  Since I can't write while my kids are awake, I resorted to writing from 8-12 every night for the past couple of weeks.  In order to do that, I made half a pot of coffee and ate to stay alert and creative.  It didn't help the writing, and it only added to my flab. (Because it's not like I reached for the carrot sticks to much on. With coffee?  Blech.  No, no, no.  I ate Toast, Froot Loops, M and M cookies.  (Didn't have the frosting yet.  Thank goodness!)

Stay tuned tomorrow.  There's a chance I'll post about my biggest writing no-nos I discovered and battled while rewriting these past weeks.  After all, tomorrow is a Writing Wednesday here at erica and christy!  See you all then!!!!

ooh!  before you go!  here's my blogfest entry!

I clutched pressed the journal and pressed it to my chest, twisting it side to side as my feet pounded the frosty earth.

With the journal pressed to my chest, my feet pounded the frosty earth.

I pressed the journal to my chest as my feet pounded the frosty earth.

I pressed the journal to my chest and ran.



Monday Means Winning

So, anybody do anything interesting last night? *whistles* *hums* *hopes someone gets her joke*

Okay, fine, I'll tell you what we did.

We both wrote a bit on our mss. christy celebrated a family birthday. erica took care of two sick kids (yes, two - and not with the same illness, oh no, that would be too easy). christy reported to erica's 82nd email that she was, in fact, not dead. (thrills a minute over here, folks)

And there were two winners last night. First, um, did anyone else hear there was a football game on?

yeah, we totally take credit for the win

Oh, and yeah, there was a 150 followers contest, too, wasn't there?
Why yes, yes, I think there was.

Not to be outdone by the NFL, erica and christy announce our winner of either the Hunger Games series or the first three books of the Gone series by Michael Grant. The winner will get an email from us. And will be announced in a minute. But first, a few observations:
  • When we announced this, we were at (around, sorry, don't remember exactly) 142 followers
  • Today, we're at 163
  • That's 21 new followers (we're good at maths and stuffs)
  • We had 19 contest entries (not including Abby and Lindsey, who are awesome and bowed out because they already had the books) (or christy, who I disqualified. :)
  • You know what that means? We had new followers who didn't enter
  • We don't actually know what that means. We hope it's just because they like us and aren't Darth Vader or he-who-shall-not-be-named or that other weird guy erica posted last week
  • Yes, I wanted to alternate between green and gold for this list, but gold is hard to read against our background, so we stuck with black
So, our question for today is - how do you choose to follow other blogs?

Oh, and we have a link to offer, if you haven't heard about it yet. It's Rachael Harrie's 2nd Platform-Building Crusade. Check it out.

Oh, wait, so you want to know who the winner is?? Okay, fine, give it up for.....



GO PACK GO!! (part deux)

You guys doing anything this weekend? *whistles* You know us, same old, same old. Writing, editing, blogging, mothering, wiving (is that a word?), cooking, cleaning. . .right up until 5:00 Sunday night (central time).

yeah, we said it

Won't you join the millions of Packer fans out there (okay, fine, maybe some Steeler fans, too, but who's counting?) for a Superbowl party? There's food....and beer....maybe even wine. Oh, and yes, cheese. Sliced or cubed, fresh or fried - you know you want some!!

Need another reason to cheer the Pack on to victory? How about three? One - read this post by YA author Elizabeth Eulberg to find out how easy it is to win her books and some swag (she's from Wisconsin, after all). Two - join our 150 followers contest (erica will pick a winner as soon as the Superbowl winner is announced) here. Three - if we win, the kids in Green Bay get some free time off of school to welcome the team home. Read about it in this bulletin.

Here are some ideas for your very own Packer Superbowl party. Enjoy!

Tons of ideas for the main dish

Yes, of course, cheese recipes

The beer from WI that will be sold at the stadium is Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat (brewed near where erica lives)

Okay, one more picture. We can't resist:


Don't forget to tune in Monday to find out who won the Superbowl 150 followers contest!!!


Paying it Forward

(christy is writing/editing nonstop lately. you're stuck with erica. sorry. but also, yay! christy's working! and erica loves links!)

Thanks to Shelli at Market My Words, today I'm remembering to thank someone who was completely instrumental in my life as a reader/writer. Yes, Shelli is recommending this in conjunction to her contest, but also because she really believes in it and we all should, too.

Someone inspired you. Probably many someones. It could have been a month ago, a year ago, a decade ago. For me, it was almost a lifetime ago.

My parents were young when they got married; after all, Mom graduated high school a mere 2 weeks earlier. Two years later, they had me. That's when having a big family really comes in handy! You see, my mom has 10 siblings and my dad has 5. And us cousins spent tons of time together through the years. Even hours away (some of us), we traded off weeks at each other's houses and everywhere we turned, people were supporting us. It was a wonderful way to grow up. It still is.

One aunt of mine (and my sister's, of course) had no children. She's my mom's twin sister and has been unwaveringly supportive of everything I've ever done (and continues to provide that for my kids). The funny thing is, when I was 3, she convinced my mom that all 3-year-olds should read and that I was behind because I barely knew how to write my name.

Yeah, as a preschool teacher now, I laugh at that.

But as a 3-year-old, I became determined. I learned those darn 26 letters with their darn accompanying 850 sounds (okay, not so many, but it seems like that when you're three) and, before we knew it, I was reading.

I don't recommend forcing your 3-year-old to work on letter worksheets for hours on end. Luckily, that's not how she did it. This woman, with no children, no college education, and no background in teaching, instilled in me a love for books that has never left. And for that, I will be forever thankful. Today I thank Aunt Linda. (except for that one time in high school when I had the flu and stayed at her house and she forced me to watch the movie Gone with the Wind. I still hold a grudge for that). Trust me, for every "no" I listed before, there's 10 "yes" answers. Yes, she's beautiful. Yes, she's smart. Yes, she's fun. Yes...(the list goes on. I wish she could read it, but, she doesn't have a computer. yes, I will print [most] of this out and send it to her).

So, how about you? Who can you thank? Was it someone who put a story idea in your head? A friend or critique partner who told you that you could do it? A mentor? Or, like me, someone you've known since the moment you were born?


What Agents Want

We all need to write the stoies in our heads. We know that. But - what then? Query, query, query, right?. And research, research, research, right??!!

Well, here we are on Writing Wednesday, sending you good vibes and some agent wants (just in case your story happens to be a little flexible and can fit one of these). Follow your heart, and then query your perfect match. We wish you the best of luck!! (note: we highly recommend Query Tracker, Agent Query, and P & E.) Oh, and we write YA/MG, so we're mentioning only that. If you write something else, click on the links and see what's write right for you! (in fact, always click on the links before querying!)

oh, and my (erica) completed ms is a contemporary romance, my half-done WIP is an MG ghost story and I've got a couple upper/edgy YA in the works (but trying to finish one before I end up with a drawer [er, harddrive] full of 15,000 words beginnings!)

Kathleen Ortiz at Lowenstein Associates : YA: male POV romance, cyberpunk, complex thriller with a strong MC, historical fiction with a commercial hook (think outside the box), apocalyptic (as in during, not before or after). MG: contemporary or fantasy adventure, a boy book (beyond "friends"), a technology slant, steampunk.

Mary Kole at Andrea Brown: This list as been there for awhile, but since she hasn't updated, assumably it's still active: YA that's edgy and dark (with voice); YA/MG ghosts, murders, and mystery (highlight some creepy ghosts); anything set in a theatre; really good issue books; YA dystopian; YA in verse; MG with an incredible voice.

(interjecting advice from WriteOnCon about Pippen Properties - advice I wish I would've known a few weeks ago): The tone of your query can get you far. Your voice as a writer is visible even as you introduce yourself. Watch every noun, verb, and in between words too, they all count. no no to jumping right into your synopsis, let us know who you are and what you're about. also  if you really feel like we're perfect, offering us a one-month exclusive gets major brownie points, and we often read give the query priority. one more yes to high fantasy, yes to fantasy, yes to everything...

Back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Alyssa Eisner Heinkin at Trident Media: YA epic romance, snarky contemporary, a YA counterpart to Steig Larsson (erica says, really?? I had no idea this could exist!!)

Jill Corcoran at Herman Agency: YA/MG out-of-the-box paranormal with a huge payoff at the end, MG with true middle school emotion (think hormonal, yet babes-in-the-woods), commercial (always).

Greenhouse Literary: thrillers, historical, "something wonderful."

 Taylor Martindale at Sandra Dijkstra: gritty contemporary, unique paranormal/urban fantasy, and any story with a captivating voice.
There are, obviously tons more. I don't tweet or I'd maybe pick a few more up there (yes, we have a twitter account, that's ALL christy.) If you know more, please post in the comments. We're all here to help!!

So, what about you? What are you writing??


Three Quick Things Before I Get Back to Writing and Editing

This is going to be short and sweet.  Many of you probably don't think I can do it.  But I entered a contest without being ready for it, and so now I have some MEGA work to do.  I'm writing and editing like never before.  Should I have done this sooner?  Yes.  Could I have?  Maybe.

First,  thanks to everyone who posted pics of their mugs and to those who hopped around to see them all.  The posts were fantabulous!  I had the hardest time choosing a fave, but a Cheshire cat who disappears when the hot coffee fills the mug, leaving only his smile showing, well, I couldn't help myself. 

Second, I have a question. How do you feel about self-talk in a novel?  Mine has quite a bit.  It didn't seem to bother erica too much when she read my pages.  Although she did have some good advice, reminding me not to use it if my MC wouldn't really think it.  There were only a couple of places she suggested I change the sentences to narrative instead.  I think I added so much in to aid me in creating my character's voice.  Is that just a newbie mistake?  Do too many italics annoy you?  What's the line here?  When does it become too much?

Third,  here are some links for you.

Daily Dose:  Saturday Smackdown- Vampires VS Werewolves

Beyond the Margins:  Writing Group Etiquette

The Millions:  The Story Problem-10 Thoughts on Acadamia's Novel Crisis