Spring Cleaning

This is what spring cleaning means to me (erica):

any idea how to clean out brain cobwebs? (this is not a picture of me, btw)

eliminating a character and plotline from a WIP (every time I think I've got it all, oops)

Oh, and I almost forgot - it's T minus 8 days (or is it T plus 8 days) (okay, never mind, it's next Friday) before erica and christy live-pitch agents for the first time, go to their first in-person conference and OH, YEAH, MEET for the first time!! (sorry that you have to hear about this again, but we are super, super excited and can't stop yelling talking about it!)

So, what about you? Spring plans (home, family, brain, weight, or writing wise?)


Writing Five Year Old Style

While in Florida, my five year old wrote and illustrated his first book. 
(He illustrated it and dictated the story.  I wrote it down for him, word for word.)

 Here it is for you to enjoy!

Spider-Man VS The Vulture

Spider-man was hanging on the wall.  He saw a creepy villain.  That villain looked familiar. And then he suddenly knew his name.  The Vulture.

The Vulture was swooping up, up, up into the sky. He suddenly took a planet and threw it at Spider-man. And Spider-man fell to the ground.

The planet suddenly burst something out. The Vulture didn't know what it was, but Spider-man did. It was hot lava mixed with cold water. It mushed up and hit the Vulture. It turned the Vulture little, little and hit Spider-man, just one little sliver of it, and made Spider-man a little smaller, but still big. The Vulture wasn't big at all. The world was safe by Spider-man again. 


Reasons Why I Can't Write Today

There is absolutely no way I'll (this is erica) get any writing today (actually I can, I just won't because I'm full of excuses). First of all, it's a work day (but I upload my work to an internet server that I can access anywhere, including from my work computer while I'm on break). Plus, I have two kids (who actually play together quite well for an hour or so) and a husband (who likes it when he can watch ESPN uninterrupted) to take care of when I get home. Which reminds me, I have no plans for supper, so that'll take awhile (throw a roast in the oven when I get home and ignore it for two hours - voila).

Don't get me started on laundry (two minutes to load the washer, then 30 min. of waiting time, one minute to throw them in the dryer and 60 min. of waiting time), the dishes (pay the kids a buck to load the dishwasher), and sweeping the floors (okay, it's mud season, so this one I have to do, but it only takes a few min. to spot-clean). Then, even when I finish, my laptop's acting up again and I think it needs a new thing-a-ma-gig that you plug the cord into, so if I use a computer, it'll be the desktop and that's upstairs (where it's quiet and, oh, yeah, I also have paper and pens).

Every busy mom/teacher/writer needs some down time, so after my work's done, I want to check Facebook (for 5 min., tops), blog comments (respond by email throughout the day instead), other blogs (let christy do that), and email (not every 10 seconds, you don't). Wait, what's that show my family's watching (probably iCarly, ignore it, that really isn't research no matter what you tell yourself)? Oh, and hubby rented a date flick tonight, so that will take a couple hours (watch it after the kids go to bed and you're too tired to write anyway).

So, that's why I couldn't (chose not to) get any writing done today. How about you??

**Obviously, this was tongue-in-cheek. But I HAVEN'T been getting that much writing done and it's totally my own fault. I open the laptop (which actually did die again yesterday) and then I spend the entire day doing other things. I HAD time this weekend. I did do some. But I DIDN'T do as much as I should've/could've. And now you know why.**


Books on the Beach

I'm home from Florida--and unbelievably c-c-c-old.  We missed a snowstorm while we were away.  Luckily, my mother-in-law stopped over and decided to play with our snowblower.  We're so lucky!

linked to blog where image was found by google images

From eighty degrees to twenty.  SO not cool.  Well, actually....  (Poor word choice.)

We had a marvelous time in the sunshine.  The weather was amazing.  Blue, cloudless skies.  Eighty degrees.  Not one drop of rain.  Zero humidity.  We stayed on the grounds of our resort and bopped from one kiddie pool to another.  My boys LOVED it, and my five year old taught himself to "swim".  I came home with two boys who are now part fish.

The only time I left the grounds was when my hubby and I took a taxi to a piano bar to meet Michael from In Time.  We chatted for a few hours and totally had a blast finally meeting one another!  I still can't believe that only a few days ago we sat across from each other, live, in person.  Crazy!!!

You'll all be happy to know that books are not dead.  (In case you were worried.)  Poolside, there were MANY paperback novel readers.  Here's the breakdown for you.

Harry Potter (spotted twice, each read by teenage girls)

The Lake Shore Limited by Sue Miller (read by an adult female)

a Tom Clancy book (read by an adult male)

a Dean Koontz book (read by an adult female)

From the Heart by Nora Roberts (laying on a beach chair, no reader in sight)

The Pilots Wife by Anita Shreve (read by an adult female)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

a book by Michelle Richmond

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (read by a teenage girl)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

There were more.  Many more that I couldn't see clearly enough to discern the titles or authors of.  You know, during my unspyworthy walk-bys.  I have nothing on Jen Garner, er, Sydney Bristow. 

But I was excited to see so many readers.  One woman had a nook/kindle (sorry, don't know them well enough to be able to tell the difference) and another one had an Oprah magazine.  (Otherwise there were books, books and more books.  So keep writing people so beach goers have something to do while burning their skin!)

Me?  I have two books downloaded on my laptop, but read neither.  I did write a few thousand words for Solstice and read most of erica's A New Day.  Someday it will be published so you can enjoy it too!

Happy Monday.  Don't forget to visit http://www.writeoncon.com/ at 4 o'clock today for a chat!


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


WIP it and WIP it good

watch, listen, WRITE

let us know how you do this weekend (on your K).  comments, please!!!!
(repost...christy's still in florida.  last day. *sniffles*)


Book Review Friday

In our "real" non-virtual lives, March has been a busy month. Christy had parent-teacher conferences. Erica had home visits with her students. We both had spring breaks on different weeks with different family responsibilities. We've both been getting our mss ready for the conference we're going to in April. Cooking, cleaning, dog-feeding - it never ends!!

We've neglected some of our blogger friends. We've posted blog posts that probably weren't of our usual caliber. We haven't been around to meet new people. We neglected our Crusader duties. We're sorry. :(

We also haven't READ as many books as we'd like. Christy devoured the Hunger Games trilogy a few weeks ago, but hasn't picked a book up since (too busy). Erica has read a few middle grades in the same tone as her WIP and a couple books we've won in blog contests, but nothing she's felt like writing a review for, and hadn't read half the books she intended to (too busy).

Recently, though, I (erica) read Paper Towns by John Green and I had to tell you about it.

Paper Towns (Hardcover)

To be honest, I don't always feel super confident about writing reviews for published books. There are plots I like more than others, trigger phrases or words that pop out and bug me or pop out and I adore them, etc. Who am I to judge?

But in this case - I heart this book. A few months ago, on Gae Polisner's Facebook page, someone commented that the description of her book, Pull of Gravity, reminded her of Paper Towns, so when I saw it on the bargain shelf at Borders for three bucks, I noticed and bought it.

How have I never read a John Green novel before? It's baffling.

Anyway, in Paper Towns, a boy (Quentin, or Q) finally gets to spend a wild (read: taking pictures of naked cheating ex-boyfriends, dressing like a ninja, sneaking into SeaWorld, etc.) night with the girl he's loved from afar for years, Margo. The next day, she's gone. From his life and everyone's. Her parents are tired of her shenanigans (that's my word, not theirs, btw). The police think she'll return when she's ready. Quentin, however, finds clues that seem to be directed toward him specifically. And he goes to extraordinary lengths to find her - a girl he may never see, or be allowed to love, again. Plus, it taught me what a paper town is - fascinating.

This novel had what I've always wanted in mine - quirky characters, a unique plot, excellent voice, a loveable main character. And, um, excellent writing. EXCELLENT.

Go read this book. I donated a copy to my local library so hopefully more people do. Next, I'm tackling The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, but after that, it's definitely more John Green.

What are your weekend plans? Any reading we should know about?


Letter from Florida

Dear erica and Blogger Friends,

While I miss you all terribly, I am having a wonderful vacation in Florida this week.  I hope the weather by you is as nice.  Relaxation is bliss. 

Here's where I am.

Here's what I'm doing. (not actually me)

Here's who I'm meeting.  (look familiar?)

I'll be back soon!  Until then, enjoy your week working, writing, playing,
reading, cleaning,  and blogging.


Letters to our Betters

Ever wrote a letter to your main character? Or a letter from your main character? You should. It's actually pretty awesome. (scroll down to find more about erica's ABNA journey)

Dear Kaleb,

First off, stop calling me your mom. I so am not. I own you, baby. Cute face and all. And I own your parents. Yep, I'm awesome. So, um, why do you keep hiding from me, mister? Get your tukus out here!!

Your best friend, Jed? Man, I love that ant-socialized-mostly-smarter-than-me-kid. He's really smart. Except where it comes to your well-being. He doesn't make the best choices, kid. But stick with him, I think he's going places and he'll need you to help him get there.

Dude, I'm sorry your house is haunted and that you're having some trouble with them. I SWEAR I'm gonna' find a way out of this. Your friend, aunt, and that reality crew that invaded your world might help a little, but until then, it's you and me. All right, mostly me. (seriously, kid, stop hiding, I need you!!!)
Coyote? That pesky ghost that tends to scratch young kids and change the course of your novel? Man. This was the most challenging plot of my career. I think we're on our way, though. Thanks, Coyote. Thanks, Kaleb. You've done it. You've made me better. You've made yourselves better. Now to get this dang thing DONE already!!!
Love, Erica

PS to my blogger friends (since Kaleb doesn't listen half the time anyway) - I did not go through to the 2nd round of ABNA. But I did get 2 really complimentary reviews from the Amazon Expert (Vine) Reviewers. In "area of improvment" one reviewer only said that while he/she thinks it's very commercially appealing to young girls (hello, target audience), they didn't connect with it enough as an adult (and I'm totally cool with that). The other said that there seemed to be 2 plot lines - the death of her father and meeting a new boy - and they wished they knew which one was the main story (they didn't get to see the pitch, just a 5,000 word excerpt). btw - I entered A New Day, not the book with Kaleb in it (click on the link above to see more about what christy and I write).

That gives me renewed confidence, even though I didn't go through. I've got something here, folks. I just need to make it happen. . .



We're not here today.  But we didn't take the day off!  With just one more click you'll find us HERE!  JC Martin is featuring Crusaders and today's our day!  To learn more about erica and christy's writing life, click!  We'll be back home tomorrow.  (So don't forget to come back!)


Got personality?

The quarterfinalists for The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards are being announced tomorrow and on their forums, a lot of the writers are wasting time distracting themselves with different activities and discussions. One thing that was posted this weekend was this site: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp. I've heard of this test many times, but for some reason, never took it until now. Basically - you answer a bunch of questions and it "ranks" you according to four criteria:
  • Extroversion/Introversion
  • Sensing/Intuition
  • Thinking/Feeling
  • Judging/Perceiving
Go ahead, try it. You know you want to. Go up a paragraph, click on the link, take the test, and come back. You don't have to share if you don't want to, but it's kind of fun if you have the time.
Me? I'm marvously inconsistent (might have something to do with the fact that I wasn't really sure how to answer a couple of the questions and just guessed). Yep, I'm an ESTP and proud of it. (click here to find out what that means)

I'm still trying to figure out how to improve my (previously finished at least three times) ms, so I'm thinking I could do this quiz on my characters to connect a little more and add some details to make my writing stronger. Hmm, that could be a good time waster worth the time!

**Don't forget to visit the auction at Write Hope - it all starts today at 9:00 eastern time**


More Pitching Prospects

Some of you regulars know that I (erica) am baseball fan. I'm not sure if it's the preseason games I've watched, the scouting reports I've read, the injury reports I've shed tears over, or the upcoming opening-day hoopla, but I CAN'T STOP THINKING/TALKING ABOUT PITCHING!!!

Oh, wait, that's not what christy told me to blog about today. AHEM.

Pitching. The art of condensing your novel into a sentence, two sentences, a paragraph, or, at the most, one page. Yeah, we're still working on it...

BUT if you have a completed MG or YA novel and you're still seeking representation and you're ready to pitch it to an agent WE'VE GOT THE LINK FOR YOU RIGHT HERE!!! 

We both posted our two-sentence pitches yesterday along with the title, genre, and first line - a requirement of the contest is that you're a follower of YATopia, provide a link in a blog post, and provide requested information in the comments. Done, done, and done. (if anyone from there is checking up on us - yes, we're two different people! :)

ONE more contest - looking for a full edit of your ms? Win one from Cassandra Marshall.

Also, last week we talked about pitching loglines and how we're going to be pitching live to agents in a couple of weeks at a conference. Read that post here. And now, we present to you: Day two of our conference.

Saturday, April 9th:

8:00 - 9:00 registration/breakfast - yay! we'll be together for this and won't have to search for someone to sit by!

8:30 - 9:30 Story Box as a Tool for Writers with Doug Stevenson (let's listen to the beginning and then maybe skip out for a quick walk if it's nice out) (sorry, Doug Stevenson, I'm sure you're lovely, but this will be a long weekend!)

9:30 - 10:45 - we should break up here. One to: Books That Help Kids—Really with Eric Braun and one to: The Plot Thickens! With Josie Brown (Advanced) (and share notes later)

10:45-11:00 break

11:00 - 12:30 - Revision Workshop: Ten Things Every Novel Needs to be Complete, and Six Tips for Getting There with Christopher Mohar (we both need this!!)

12:30 - 1:30 - either have lunch or take a walk or both

1:30 - 3:00 - I'm torn on this. There's a non-fiction workshop. Or another one with Josie, but it seems like we might see a lot of her and can decide if we want to continue. Which leaves us with Poetry: How Imagery and Metaphor Add Flavor to Any Text with Christopher Mohar. (Heck, this cost us $$, we want to get as much out of it as possible!!)

3:00-3:15 - break (think there's a bar? hehe, okay, maybe not...I still have a pitch coming up)

3:15 - 4:45 Book Proposal Bootcamp with Ted Weinstein

4:20 - Erica leaves for her 2:29 pitch, which she'll rock. Christy listens to the rest of the talk.

4:45 - either break or done (see below)

5:30-6:30 optional "speed pitching" practice or the Artistic Jam Session, which is basically networking and they divide the people there into 2 panels, from what I can see (this is the same as yesterday, maybe decide then if we want to skip it.) I would imagine by now, we've met some people to network and bounce ideas off and we can't wait to get to our wine glasses naps swimming pool laptops!

Have a great weekend everyone!!


Getting Into Character

When writing, it’s hard to get out of our own mind and into our characters’. I suppose it’s the same for actors. However, as writers, we have to play the part of several characters. In order to do that we have to research and have an understanding of several characters.

Granted, I don’t have to be inside all of my characters’ heads, meaning the novel may not be told from all of their POVs, but I do need to know what makes them tick and I need to know how they say the things that they say. I need to know how to make each of their voices come alive and be distinct (consistently) for my readers.  (Consistency is the tricky part, IMO.)

Here are some ways I prepare myself to write for my characters.

• I think about the predominant emotion they evoke in me. For example, my MC’s love interest (who actually does get a small portion of the novel told from his POV) makes me feel bitter. He feels like life kicked his hopes out from under him and he’s struggling to get back to his feet and make due with what he’s been given. And he’s got a whole lot of bitterness in his way, making it all the more difficult to accept his fate.

• So I think about events/people in my life who’ve made me feel that way.

• While running, I listen to songs that evoke those same feelings. At the same time I plot out his scenes and what he will say in them. And I think about how I want the reader to feel while reading those pages.

• I look through books I’ve read that made me feel bitter/hopeless/lost/hurt and find out what the author did to make the emotions jump from the pages to my heart.

• I pick a few key phrases/words that character likes to say and use them throughout the novel. (What does your character mumble/blurt/yell when ticked off, disappointed, shocked?) (What does your character tell themself over and over to get through the mess he or she’s in?)

• Think about the character’s personality. A peppy character might speak in short phrases or incomplete sentences. A pensive, well-read character might speak slowly and use a larger vocabulary. A boy-crazy character might not be interested in your mcs issues and continually cut him/her off to comment on a hot passerby.

Besides thinking about what the characters WILL SAY. Don't forget to pay attention (while you're writing) to what they WON'T SAY.  Yes, my friends, I'm talking about OVERWRITING and taking yourself (and your reader) right out of character.

From the moment I met Erica and she read my first piece of writing, VOICE was the number one thing I’ve needed to focus on. There have been MANY other things I’ve struggled with and improved on, but VOICE was the main theme of her suggestions for me. She can take one of my character’s sentences (one of my overwritten, filled-with-author-voice sentences), and make it into a clean, simple sentence that a teen spoke. She literally oozes teen voice. She has a magic wand for these things. And after her waving it at me severalteen times, I started to get it.

Confessional:  Hi, my name is Christy. I’m an Overwriter. I’ve been writing without writing flowery phrases for about 6 weeks now. When I feel the need to overwrite I think, “What would I say if I were talking to my friend? How would I tell them the same thing? What would I notice if I were my MC and in the same setting? Would I think about the color of each and every leaf on the overhanging branches? Or would I just sprint through the trees praying the blue psycho woman trying to kill me wouldn’t catch me?”

And I would read this link. GO HERE. (kidlit.com) Perfect for recovering Overwriters like me.

I mentioned that Erica read through my manuscript. A couple of my characters’ voices are inconsistent in a few places. That’s okay. I have work to do. The BEST part about hearing “oops, one character sounds too much like another one” is…that means they really DO have their own VOICES and Erica picked up on that enough that she thought they were mixed up. Even if it was inconsistent it was there. I made my characters have voice. It’s a start. I’ll take it!!!!!

There are tons of blog posts on creating distinct voices out there. Erica sent me an amazing link on one today. HERE IT IS.  (developing voices by janice hardy)

Your turn.  YOU know what to do.  Leave a message about how you make your characters' voices distinct and how you do it.


Writers helping others

First, I need to share something with you that makes me smile. It's something we haven't seen a lot of in Wisconsin lately, and when we have, it came with freezing cold temperatures and we had a sort-of love/hate relationship with it. Now, though, today, it came with temperatures around 50 degrees. YAY!!!

Although, with the sun and warmth come a few problems. See, this is my house (this is erica, btw):

this is how it looks in spring/summer

I don't know if you can tell from this picture, but it's on top of a big hill. With a long, steep, gravel driveway that looked like this after we got 22 inches of snow last December (and then several more inches several times between then and now):

What? you can't see a driveway? If you look closely, you can see my husband's footprints going down the left side of it.

So, go ahead and solve this equation in order to figure out what it looks like right now:

Sun + 50 degrees + leftover snow (including drifts from the plow) + downhill driveway =

This time of year, mud is my nemesis. Sometimes we can't get even our SUVs or farm trucks up and have to walk, with mud over our boots that threatens to suck in the 4-year-old and come into my house however much we try to leave it outside (I blame the dogs for this) until I have to sweep two times a day just to make it look like we were, in fact, not born in a barn, nor do we currently live in one...

...but none of this compares even remotely to the devestation that has occurred due to last week's 8.9-magnitude earthquake and the resulting tsunami (and current nuclear reactor crisis). It is beyond my ability to even imagine what these people are going through right now - the loss is just too great.

The writing and blogging communities want to help. Please follow these links - you can get some great stuff while helping a great cause. Isn't it great how people who only know each other over the internet can come together to do something this amazing? Please add in the comments any other links you know of to help and we'll add them in throughout the day.

Authors for Japan (led by Keris Stainton) has an awesome auction going on. Hurry - it ends on March 20th and there's a ton of great stuff in there, from books to advertising to character names (how cool is that?) to critiques. And it's international (all money goes to the Red Cross relief efforts)!

Write Hope (led by some of our blogging/Crusader friends, Rachael Harrie, Marieke, Tessa Quin, Amanda Milner, and Luna) will launch soon. Click on the link to find out more and bookmark it so you don't forget and miss out!!

One more, courtesty of our friend Heather (this isn't about Japan, but it is about writers helping other writers. I love this community!!

Have a great (non-muddy, flooding, earthquake-ridden) Thursday!! And good luck when/if you bid on any of the above auctions!


Am I there yet?

I'm not listening to an ipod right now.  Nope.  The only "music" I'm listening to is the shrieking of two boys racing hot wheels and (ahhhh!)  crashing them into my walls.  (Our poor banged up trim.) Just minutes before this, I listened to, and tried to drown out, my five year old (with a foam stick from a yard game in his hand) pretending to be Harry Potter and turning my youngest into a toad.  The youngest did NOT like this game, so he stood screaming and crying in the foyer.

Ah, yes.  Music to write by.

However, while the oldest can be the squeaky wheel, he can also be mighty useful in getting the youngest to clean his room while I cook supper.

And that does NOT introduce the topic of today's post.  Moving on.


A novel is not finished when the manuscript is.  When I was a new newbie, I kinda thought it was.  Then I read like 3 agent blogs and submitted.  I'm past being embarrassed about this.

Now I've rewritten all but one section of that same manuscript (the first seven chapters of my current ms were not in the original).  And I've had my first friend (who's an actual writer) read it.  The whole thing.  THAT'S AMAZING.  You know, to have someone else who writes READ my work!  I could ask the questions I'd been dying to ask someone!  Like, "Was the scene after the fire at the dance totally rushed?"  "Did you get why the guy at the shelter was important?"  "Do you feel the relationships between my characters were deep enough?".  And then I GOT SOME FEEDBACK!  And that's even more amazing.  BECAUSE SOMEONE ACTUALLY TALKED BACK WHEN I BABBLED (via email) ABOUT MY STORY!!!!  I loved it. 

I also got specifics on what might make my story better and closer to being finished.  Because even after writing, rewriting, editing, revising, editing, thickening the plot, deepening character relationships, developing plot, etc it's still NOT done!

Part of me (don't worry, erica.  i KNOW better now.)  really wants to start querying once I finish rewriting this last big section and then continue filling in the plot holes afterward (is it afterward or afterwards?). BUT I WON'T.  I figure that's still the newbie blood in me.  DON'T SEND IT UNTIL IT'S POLISHED AND READY. Soooooooo.  When do you know your novel is really really finished, finito, kaput, ended, over and out, le fin, you ask?   When will I know?  I'LL JUST FEEL IT.  (and erica will tell me so.  hehe.) 

You don't have to take my word for it.

Take hers.  How do you know when your story is finished?

Or his.  Knowing when to cut or fix crap scenes.  (Well, this answers another question, but it will help you GET finished.)

Or hers.  This post made me tear up a bit. Something in it made me go, Ohmygoshyes!that's right!!! ( It's in no way sad. I think I read it after having a sip of wine.  Ignore me.) This post will also help you finish your novel.  Or start a new one in a more organized fashion.  Always speeds up the finishing process.  Great post on layering both your writing process and plot.

In case you didn't go to the link above this one, you missed her link to this post on organizing your writing.  This post INCLUDES tips to help you write a ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY of your novel.  Hmmm.... Weren't we just talking about that?  DON'T MISS OUT ON THIS LINK!  How to Write a Novel:  The Snowflake Method

Wish me luck.  I have parent/teacher conferences today/tonight and I'm almost ready for them!


How strong are you?

I (erica) shared with you guys last week that the rejection I got on my full recently said that although I had an enjoyable story and an interesting concept, the strength of my writing was less than that of other books they had for consideration.

So, if you're me, the first thing you do is find out what that means. Sure, experience (reading and writing) helps. Also, adding more voice. Making the characters more real, the emotions more raw, and the actions more, well, action-y. But I've already done all that - more than once, way more than once - so what now? Another rewrite. Will that make the book more publishable?

I hope so.

Until then, these are the links I found to help me. I hope they help you, too! (btw, if your looking for writing resources on the web and you've exhausted your usual favorites, I highly recommend checking out this site: Writer's Knowledge Base. (just click on the titles to go to the links):

Creating "strong" YA female characters

Ten tips to improve your writing and then ten more.

Understanding your weaknesses

Quotes to help you through the writerly-dumpity-dos.

So, there's lots more, and I'll post them as I go, but frankly, if I see a blog with 800 (er, more like 10, but sometimes it feels like 800) links, I get overwhelmed and leave without looking at them. Just sayin'.

Have you posted any great links lately that will help me strengthen my writing? Or, even better, have you posted your own tips? Leave them in the comments!


are you ready?

WriteonCon is coming back!  To learn more click here!  That's where I found the reminder.  Or you can go right to the source here

WriteonCon is near and dear to our hearts cuz that's where we (erica and i) "met".  Awwww!  So we're glad we'll get to participate in all the fun again this upcoming August. 

If you've never been to a writing conference before or haven't scraped up the money/time just yet, this is a super way to attend one!  It's free!  It's online!  Most of the sessions are in the evening!  You'll get to "mingle" with agents, authors, and aspiring writers.  The online critique forums and social networking is amazing.  You'll meet friends, crit partners and maybe even a blog partner!

The contests and giveaways are beyond amazing.  I know, I'm gushing. I'll stop.

Instead, I'll talk food.  Steak, actually.  Grilled steak.  Because who isn't ready for spring and grilling on the deck?  Bring on the sun, 50 degree weather and shorts!!!! 

(monday mealtime madness...yes, it's monday!)

my favorite grilled steak recipe (even the pickiest eater in the world requests and actually eats this)

do the following to your favorite tenderloin steaks (place them on a tin foil tray):

  • douce them in teriyaki sauce
  • give them a couple of sips of red wine and water
  • sprinkle them with salt, pepper, parsley flakes, garlic powder
  • pat them with butter (three pats will do) 
  • cover them in parmesan cheese
put them on the grill until prepared to your liking--for me that's medium-well
pair them with your favorite potato or rice, baked bread, and fresh veggie (of course some malbec, although recenlty i enjoyed a nice glass of cabernet. change can be is good.)

okay, so gear up for spring grillin' and get ready for summer and writeoncon!


WOOT! to our Crusader Group and its members! GO TEAM 3

(psst...wanna' have your blog featured on ours? look to the right. that right ------> we're looking for your favorite recipe for each Monday of the month. Email what you got and we'll post all about you and your recipe!)

Better late than never....  We're coming to find you all! (if you're not sure what this is, go click on our Crusader badge in the sidebar)

Group 3 - YA/MG

1. Marieke (Marieke's Musings) [Twitter] YA, MG

2. Akoss (A search for the Writer in me) (Nye Louwon - My Spirit) MG, YA (fantasy)

3. E.J. Wesley (The Open Vein) YA, MG, horror, suspense

4. Sharde Richardson (Realm Of Randomness) [Twitter] YA (paranormal), MG (paranormal)

5. Jess Lawson (Falling Leaflets) MG, YA

6. Vicki Tremper (VB Tremper) [Twitter] YA, MG (paranormal)

7. Laura Diamond (Diamond, Yup Like the Stone) [Twitter] YA (dystopian, urban fantasy), MG (adventure)

8. Margo Berendsen (Writing at High Altitude) [Twitter] YA, MG

9. Michael (In Time ...) [Twitter] YA (fantasy, contemporary), MG (fantasy, contemporary)

10. erica and christy (erica and christy) [Twitter] YA (contemporary and fantasy), MG (Ghost Story)

11. Shelley Batt (Voices of a Writer) YA, MG

12. SA Larsen (Writers' Ally) [Twitter] YA (paranormal, romantic, otherworldly), MG (tween/teen who's not-so-average), short stories, picture books

So, we're on our way to find the ones we don't know yet. Take a minute and do the same - we have no doubt you'll like what you see!


(almost) free critiques! (almost) free critiques!

For details on how to get your (almost) free critique, please click here to visit christy's post - and comment on her loglines while you're there (because, well, that's how you get an almost free critique).

If you're wondering what other people think about loglines, you can also visit this link to Miss Snark's First Victim blog. The link will take you to her logline critique contest from last November -it could be helpful to you to find one you like and check the comments to see if anyone else agrees (or vice versa).

btw, a couple of months ago I (erica) let everyone know I had a full out with a publisher who was accepting unagented submissions. I haven't sent out many agent queries and actually have a pretty good track record of personalized rejections and partial requests (with a couple non-responders), but wanted to try this. I got the nicest rejection letter today. It even sounded like someone at least skimmed my book - said it had "an interesting story" and they "enjoyed the concept" but that in this tight market, they had other books in line that had stronger writing.

So, yes, another edit is in my future. Tightening. Strengthening. (etc.) It's never done, huh?? Since it's still in the Amazon contest, I'll also get two Amazon Vine Reviewers (usually readers, not necessarily writers) reviews of my excerpt on March 22nd - hopefully they're helpful to the process, even if I don't move on in the contest.

It does make me hopeful, though. I've got something. Plus, it's my first full-length novel, so like everything, experience should help. I'm going to pitch this one at the conference and then try to get my WIP done so I can do heavy edits, readers, etc. over summer break and start the querying process all over again...

So, if you're still with me, thanks. Here are my loglines for your review.

Seventeen-year-old Kenz Grayson never thought she'd spend her summer in a new town, let alone dodging a group of nasty girls, nursing her mom back to health after an accident, or learning to love, lose, and love (again) exactly the right guy for her, until she does it all.


Just when Kenz Grayson thinks the summer before her senior year will be a bust, she meets the guy who might change everything - if a car accident, an abuse allegation, and a horrible case of jitters don't make her ruin everything before she gets the chance to find out.

This is my first try at loglines. Hope you can help!!!


(almost) Free critiques! (almost) Free critiques! *today through sunday*

yes, we feel the need to bribe repay you.

Help us out by commenting, with suggestions for our loglines, and you automatically win a free critique from one (or both) of us!

If you comment on our logline(s), which will be posted through Sunday, email us and include one of  the following (in the body of the email) :

1)your own logline
2)your query
3)your first page (any genre, only let us know what it is!)

We'll critique it and email it back to you. (it'll all be private. we won't post anything of yours on our blog.)

You have through SUNDAY to comment, help us out, and "win"! (of course, you'll ALL be winners)

email:  lynnea (dot) west (at) gmail (dot) com
in the subject line write:  free critique
(because "lynnea" is not very good at cleaning out her email inbox...and it's atrocious in there, i tell you!)

(christy will post hers today and tomorrow, erica will post hers on friday and saturday)

throughout the four days we'll also add helpful links and info we've come across while researching loglines and/or anything pitch-related.  cuz this blog's not just about us.  we want to help you all out, too!

Via erica and Linda @ the Critique Sisters, I've used a couple of links to help me with my logline "formula". 

Below is what I've come up with so far.  I DON'T  love any of them, so either vote for your favorite or show me another way to pitch the idea in a one sentence logline. 

First, the links:

one of my all-time fave (former) blogging agents, nathan bransford's formula (quoted from his blog, click below to visit and find about 900ish  more links on anything writing-related you need to know):

"The resulting very basic pitch is: When OPENING CONFLICT happens to CHARACTER(s), they have OVERCOME CONFLICT to COMPLETE QUEST. There are lots different ways of structuring these basic elements, but they should be there."

linda gray, one of the critique sisters, recenlty went to a writing conference and is passing her pitching knowledge along to the rest of us @ her blog (it's amazing, you should visit and follow).  to see more of the fabulous advice and links she provides, click the quote below:

"...one sentence that describes the heart of your story. ...ask yourself what it is that truly drives the story. What is it the characters are compelled to do and why?...think in terms of what the private stakes are for the character (life, liberty, etc.), and what the public stakes are—what thing bigger than, or outside, the character created the possibility of this situation."

Second, *drumroll* my loglines: (some deleted/revised from wednesday's post) 

a) A teenage girl, believed by inter-dimensional Transporters to be the subject of a prophecy, must prove her innocence by finding the cure for the epidemic she's accused of spreading.

b) Unless Dawn can stop the spread of an epidemic she’ll go down in history as the shadow-maker, the one who is prophesized to overtake the Earth and Themura dimensions.

c) A teenage artist’s sketches turn into landscapes from a secret dimension, one she learns her family has been hiding, and unless she can uncover the truth about herself, people she love will die while she stands accused.

d) An intuitive teenager realizes her gifts go beyond sensing lies and danger when she starts viewing auras and shadows around the people in her town, but she doesn't expect to be the one responsible for saving them all from an epidemic in order to keep from being accused of spreading it.




twofer tuesday: everything we know about writing...

everything christy knows about writing, she learned from her second graders:

  • Don’t be afraid to use your imagination, even if it seems like a silly idea at first.
  • Use the names and places and events familiar to you and go from there.
  • Tell it like it is, don’t froo froo it up with unnecessary details.
  • Incomplete sentences are fine and add voice. (occasionally)
  • Every once in a while, a simile or a metaphor add description.
  • Don't start every sentence in the same way because always starting with "The sea turtle..." gets boring.
  • Start the story with a hooking first sentence like:  "Tommy dunked my face in the snow."
  • Spelling correctly is overrated, especially when computers have spell check.
  • What's an adverb?
everything erica knows about writing, she learned from her preschoolers:
  • If you can read it aloud and no one gets up and walks away, you've got a winner
  • If your book doesn't rhyme, it better have rhythm (see above)
  • Write about characters I can fall in love with, even if they do have some faults
  • If the main character has the same name as me, I now have a new favorite book
  • When I read you something I wrote, please tell me at least one nice thing about it or I'll cry
(Thanks to all our bloggy buddies out there who give us helpful advice and links and encouragement.  We appreciate it all!  We're still working on our loglines...expect to read them soon!)

have a great day reading, writing, and/or doing all the great things you do!

*check out this post announcement from one of our favorite bloggers (now a debut author)!  i know what i'll be doing on november 15!  way to go tahereh mafi!*


We interrupt these proceedings...and an awesome recipe

Wow, things can change in a few hours. I (erica) thought I had nothing to blog about. Then, well, miracles happened. First, I'm posting an amazing recipe and blog. Then, I'm talking about my amazing blog partner. Sorry if this gets long, try to hang in!!

Michael (yes, click on his name. we are so happy to know him and love him and will soon claim that we have met him in real life!!) gave us a super, super, yummy, yum, yum recipe, and totally low-fat. Thank you, Michael!!!

Sauteed Turkey Breast in Brandied Apple Sauce. (serves 6 - 8)

3-4 pound turkey breast, sliced scallopini style- quarter inch thick on an angle
2 granny smith and 2 red delicious apples, diced a quarter inch
1/4 cup of chopped parsley
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
One teaspoon cardamon
One teaspoon all spice
One tablespoon of cornstarch diluted in 1/8 cup of milk
salt and pepper turkey to taste

In saute pan add a quarter cup of olive oil. Lightly saute turkey for 2 minutes on each side. Take out and put aside.

In the same pan add water, brandy, maple syrup. cardamon, all spice... bring to a boil add apples and cook for two minutes.

Lower heat to simmering point and cook for 10-15 minutes until apples are tender.

Place turkey in sauce. Cook for 3 minutes.

Add cornstarch - a little a bit a time. (constancy should be like maple syrup.- if too thick add water)

(and onto the second half of our post) (i almost claimed to have nothing to blog about and no time to write a post, but only because i spent part of today emailing this to christy.  and this is only the half of it...)
Day One of our Conference (yes, I will tell you about day two at some point. I figure you can only handle so much excitement in one day):

Friday, April 8th

7:30-9:00 - arrive, find a parking spot, fix makeup in car, rush to registration, get lost, turn around, find someone to direct us, register, get cup of coffee - and try to look calm, cool, and collected (breathing, yes, breathing is good)

8:30 - 9:00 - wander around, listen to director talk about what's new this year. Look anxiously for a tall brunette (if you're christy) or a short brunette (if you're erica). Try not to wave furiously. Do it anyway.

9:00 - 9:30 - find each other, almost hug, decide instead to act all calm, cool, and collected, and find chairs together. Then jump up when our names are announced as contest winners (or, you know, clap appreciatively. Whatever everyone else does)

9:30 - 11:30 - Session: I Can’t Hear You! Finding Your Author’s Voice, and Putting It on the Page with Josie Brown

11:00 - Christy takes leave for her agent pitch session and rocks it. Erica listens to rest of Josie's talk.

11:45 - 1:00 luncheon and christy tells erica everything about her pitch session.

1:15 - 2:45 - Enticing Openings: Hook Readers (and Editors) from the Start with Angela Rydell (bring your opening paragraph) - one of us might go to the plotting party session here -

1:55 - Erica leaves for her agent pitch, which she'll rock. Christy listens to the rest of the talk.

2:30 - 2:45 - break (erica tells christy all about her pitch session)

2:45 - 4:00 - Characters - Beyond Goal, Motivation and Conflict with Lori Devoti

4:00 - 4:15 break

4:15 - 5:30 - Agent panel

5:30 - 6:30 optional "speed pitching" (I'm assuming we won't do this since we already pitched) or the Artistic Jam Session, which is basically networking and they divide the people there into 2 panels, from what I can see (if we aren't asleep!)

Either 5:30 or 6:30 - drive to and check into hotel. Nap. Hot tub. Wine might be involved.

Okay, blog followers who are still here - you know you want to join us, so do it if you can! Here's the link: (I won't even accidentally hide it this time): click here to link to the conference.

To come from erica and christy this month? Loglines and pitches and first pages, oh my!! (not to mention a ton of links that will benefit you guys on these same subjects)


Now for something really scary!!

You know that erica and christy will meet for the first time face-to-face in Madison, WI on April 8th, 2011, right?

Yep. Madison. Us. April 8th.


This is us, simply thinking about meeting our soul mate blog partner for the first time:

Then, we realize we're going to a conference, and it's more than just meeting each other. It's about networking and socializing and learning and perfecting our craft and . . .we look like this:

Then - and this is where it gets really scary - we realize that we're pitching to real-live agents. For eight minutes. Eight. Ocho. Huit. 8. At which time we look more like this:

Seriously, have you thought of all the things you can do in eight minutes? 'Cuz we have. Let us share:

okay, this is christy. hehe. she won't be happy.

So, anyhow, we will be heavily looking into tips for face-to-face pitching in the next few weeks. Plus ways to get through an 8-minute monologue. What would you like to know about it? We'll share what we know/find out!!!!! (and also, um, 8 minutes? any tips?)