yup. that about sums up our saturday now that the a-z challenge is ova.

once we're done doing that you can find us reading.

christy's going all sci-fi now with her newest novel idea all shooting excitement out her fingertips.  she just finished I Am Number Four and is now about to devour Across the Universe

btw:  sci fi is the new black.

 if you have any other sci fi novels (for a girl who never thought she'd read/write sci fi) PLEASE let me know so i can add them to my tbr list!  ("light" sci fi with a bit of romance, please)

oh, and a Z book:

i haven't read this, but according to the reviews it's all virtual reality games, zombies and drugs.  YA.  click for more info from amazon.com

(we made it! we made it!)
thanks for joining us bloggy friends! 

we're so excited to hang out with you at your blogs over the next few months! 
don't forget, we're changing our blog schedule for may and will post
mondays (erica) and thursdays (christy).  


Y? Because we love you.

Tomorrow is the end of the A-Z challenge. Today we are announcing our May schedule for us, erica and christy. We will not be posting daily for the month in an attempt to stay sane get our mojo back.

As we mentioned before, there was a bit of an unintentional blog fail by both of  us in April. We were bad virtual friends. We expected you to come here and we only occasionally reciprocated. We only found a few new blogs to follow (not because they weren't out there, just because we didn't hop around much!).

We already know May is going to be busy. It's the end of the school year, so we've got more than just the daily teaching stuff to do - there are also assessments and parent-teacher conferences and (for erica) a pesky federal review coming up.

Plus, we gave ourselves a May 30th deadline to vomit out finish the first drafts of our WIPs.

Which doesn't give us enough time to continue to post daily AND come over to your house and play. It really wouldn't be fair to do that two months in a row. Your houses are pretty and we miss them.

Next month, erica will post on Mondays and christy will post on Thursdays. We will each visit the blogs of others (i.e. you) twice a week.

Y? Because we love you and miss you and want to be better friends (as well as better readers, writers, moms, and teachers). Thanks for sticking with us and we'll see you soon well, tomorrow, since I've been informed that Y is not, in fact, the last letter of the alphabet.

I know, I know, I keep telling you I want more happy books and then go and post pictures of bleak, depressing books. This is another reason why we need more time to read not only to find happy books, but to find books that start with any of the last six letters of the alphabet.

image description

happy birthday

our good friend
for a piece of cake
over at his blog today! 

(And wish him a happy birthday while you're there!) 

You know the place. 


X: eXtraneous. Don't be.

i'll never forget an interview i read on marieke's blog (last fall).  she interviewed leah cypress, author of mistwood. leah said when she writes her first draft, it's as though the story is taking place in white rooms.  NO DETAILS, NO DESCRIPTIONS.  then she goes back through and adds that stuff in.  I LOVE THAT. (so much that i know i've mentioned this before, but can't find my own post link.)

you know why don't you? 

i'm a recovering overwriter.  and what better way is there than NOT to have that pressure on me to write all the details.  no shakes.  no hyperventilating.  no temptation. because  i've removed the vile need to binge on flowing, descriptive, purple flowery wordy strings of sentences.


just. write. the. story.

just. create. the characters

i promise you.  I PROMISE YOU.  your voice will improve.  your tone will BE there.  your writing will be CONSISTENT. 

your focus will not be lost.

you MAY find later that you don't need to add much in at all.

better writing.  cleaner writing.  less dusting required

(won't your merry maids aka beta readers be pleased???)

not pertaining to...impertinent...out of place...
not vital...unrelated...irrelevant

(why do you want to add in a bunch of irrelevant stuff? tell me. why? 
PLOT people.  CHARACTERS people.  that's what it's about. 
do you need to set the scene?  yes. 
sometimes can the setting BE so amazing it's like a vital character.  yes. 
BUT do it without irrelevant flowery page-filling garbage you call details. 

hahaha.  an X book...did you think i couldn't do it?  did you? 

(before i get too cocky, i guess i kinda cheated.  they don't actually START with x.  what?  extraneous doesn't either?  how many days until Z?)

click to learn more about this book


Water is good

There are so many words I could use for our W post today. Writing would be an excellent topic. Discussing WIPs would be fun. Since we're both teachers, talking a bit about our Work could be interesting. We're from Wisconsin, so, umm, duh, EVERYONE wants to know more about Wisconsin. W fell on a very timely day, so poems or thoughts about Wednesday would be completely appropriate. Choices, choices.

I (erica), chose Water.

{Water for Elephants}WATER FOR ELEPHANTS BY GRUEN, SARA[paperback]on 01 May -2007
Heard of this book yet?

Seen the movie yet?

Robert Pattinson -- whose fans know him best as Edward Cullen, the vampire lead in the "Twilight" movie series, plays Jacob Jankowski in "Water for Elephants." In this role, he is an Ivy League-trained veterinary student who joins the circus during the Great Depression.

One quick thing before we go - thanks so much for sticking with us through the A to Z Challenge. Part of the challenge was to go out and try to visit as many sites a day as we can. Yeah, blogfail, erica and christy. WE WILL, WE WILL, we promise, but man, April is almost over. We have a plan for May and we promise that if you're here for the A to Z and not commenting or following because you think we're ignoring you, we promise were aren't doing it on purpose. We love our blogging friends!!

So, it's Wednesday. Go Write!! (if you need inspiration, write about Wisconsin)

Ooh, and go Win (some books, including Randy Russell's, yay!): a 1,000th follower contest here!


the V word

you all knew it was coming. the V word.  i've talked about it before.  (and if you did, you knew before i did, because i sat going through the dictionary for v words until i saw it and had a "DUH" moment.) 

(if i didn't do this topic, i would have done "why vampires?"  we all love the "bad boy gone good" scenario and girls all love the idea of their man's man softening up when he realizes his undying love...but how did the vamps take center stage in all of this?  but, i already had my sparkly edward pic this week and there's a chance he'll be back tomorrow...a little less sparkly.  so, that idea was struck down.) 

that said. you're stuck with the following post.

VOICE (so hard to define.)

the style you choose to write in.  the tone of your story.  the manner in which you tell your story

finding your own unique voice may make ALL the difference in whether or not you get published. (and get published again and again and again....)

think about your voice when you develop your characters and create their dialogue.  (or rather, think about THEIR voices...not your authory one.)

make a choice which POV you will tell the story in. (and how many POVs you use. if more than one make sure each is distinct. don't confuse your readers!)

your writing (with or without you trying) will generate its own style and tone based on phrasing, syntax, diction, etc.  this is something that will become uniquely you.  something your readers will go back to the bookstore to buy book after book written by you.  even when the topics, age groups, genres vary...it will be there.

stick to the world view of the character telling the story.  be consistent througout the novel (tricky, tricky).  think about how your voice envelops the reader in the world of the story, how it fits the characters and the tone of the story.

be original.  own it.  be true to yourself.  you can't force voice.

erica made a great suggestion that i throw some examples in here.  and i would have, but i'm zonked.  so, we'll save that for a later post.  (i sat up too late at WOC (http://www.writeoncon.com/) where my query was critiqued and, um, compared to pizza.  yeah.  it was a super query crit sesson though. a great two hours!)

sorry, i haven't actually read these, but i had to post something vampirey.
should i add them to my tbr list?


U is for Uplifting

There's been a lot of discussion around the blogosphere and yes, in my own head, about edgy, dark (inc. dystopian and "issue") YA books. Even as you read that sentence, I bet you can think of a few. If you're a YA writer, you should immediately think of more than a few, in fact. and I'm not JUST saying that because my son's been watching Deathly Hallows Part I non-stop for the past week, I swear!

What about the happy? What about the uplifting, hopeful, fun, happy message we (okay, I, this is my opinion here) you do realize this is erica, right? want our kids to believe in?? Bring me that. I want it. I need it. It's almost summer and I don't necessarily need utopia, but I do want uplifting!! Publish your happy books and I will buy them and read them and recommend them yes, I am aware that the last three authors I blogged about wrote books about death, but hey, no one brought me happy or I'd talk about that, too!!!!

I took this from my front porch two years ago and it's one of my favorite pictures ever

I'm proud that my first ms is a happy, fun "beach read" (these are my own words, and no, not a logline :).

I need more. Know any other happy, fun beach reads that I can read this summer? Please share in the comments (or, you know, profess your undying love of dark books. I'll read them next winter, hehe).

Did I mention that Christy wants me to post a book/author starting with the appointed letter each and every day we post in April? Did I mention the end of the alphabet is hard? Well, if not, consider it mentioned. I'm just glad she's got V, X, and Z (there was a method to my madness of overtaking P and R last week on her days - ha!).

This is a U book I've read. I love Stephen King, but he does NOT inspire happy in me. Seriously, I need you guys to start to write happy!! Save me from my own melodrama!!

by Stephen King Under the Dome, A Novel 1 edition


T: we're Thankful for our muses. Today: The muse of all muses

enjoy.  revel.  imagine.  create.  write.

share your whole new world with the world.

T is for Twilight

(the video above (apparently) is from a guy who put his video camera on a mountain in spain...wherever the images came from, i thought they were beautiful.  i'm not sure where the music is from either, my guess is george winston, but...?  this post was about the wonderment of it all, not the facts.  sorry if that disappoints!)


S: Show Not Tell Crusader Challenge

**The winner of a preorder of Gae Polisner's Pull of Gravity is Julie Musil. Julie, I'll email you later today!**

Show Not Tell Crusader Challenge: In 300 words or less, write a passage (it can be an excerpt from your WIP, flash fiction, a poem, or any other writing) that shows (rather than tells) the following:

you're scared and hungry
it's dusk
you think someone is following you
and just for fun, see if you can involve all five senses
AND include these random words: shimmer, saccadic, substance, and salt.

From below, the surface of the ocean shimmered.  I knew I still had hours to wait, so I dove back down and into the depths of my cave.  Since I didn’t go to school like most of the others my age, days took too long.    I knew the job I’d been trained to do was important, more important than the whims I wished I could entertain.  Still, after about 25 minutes, I swam back out, restless.

I dove deeper, so that the length of my body almost touched the sandy bottom of the ocean as I glided across it.  Scanning it for a sign that food lurked, I swam for miles before catching the faint sweet scent of lemon.  Plunging forward, it grew stronger.  The blue tip stuck out of the sand.  I grasped it, my arm the same grainy color as the mucky substance I dug it out of.  The vine was short.  Though disappointed, I sucked at the sour plant.  The first taste of food in days, all it did was tease my tongue and stomach. 

Bubbles passed me from behind.  I flipped around.  Nothing showed to have created them.  I pushed off the ground and hurtled through the water toward home.  Twice I circled back.  Still, nobody followed.  More bubbles and the faint sound of swishing water led me to believe otherwise.  Once home, I lay on the gray ledge that surrounded my cave room and rubbed at my skin, watching it turn from deep blue to slate.  Hidden, I waited.  I’d ignored the rumbling of my hollow stomach for two days.  Now, however, it would give me away.  Slowly I turned my eyes upward.  I couldn’t see far enough to know whether or not the sun had begun to set, but enough time had passed, that I knew I needed to begin my mission.

Regardless if someone followed me or not, I pushed off the ledge and swam toward the surface.  Minutes later, I could tell that the fall sky had already begun to darken.  I emerged and crawled behind the rock, crouching for only a moment while my body transformed.  I scrubbed at the salt on my tan skin with a towel and slipped into the clothes that had been placed there for me.  Sneaking out, I glanced around, knowing my movements were so quick that to any human who tried to fix their eyes on me, I would be nothing more than a saccadic suppression.

our S book (Stieg Larsson)

 our Q book since christy forgot
click to learn more about this book
(sorry, i haven't read it!)


R X 2 = Randy Russell

You know how erica stalks finds people on the internet and then pretends they're her friends makes friends with them? And you know how it's generally authors who are super-nice and awesome? Well, she's forced another one to be here or she won't stop crying got another one for you today, just in time for R.

Randy Russell
*shouts hurray* *throws confetti* *bakes a pie*

(from Randy's website, click on the word website to visit)

Randy Russell has believed in ghosts since having to take the trash out at night when he was 12 and being chased back to the house by “something” in the darkness. (disclaimer: no, erica's WIP, which stars a 12-year-old boy who sees ghosts is NOT based on Randy's life. However, she now has a new idea...)

The Edgar-nominated author of five published novels for adults, two books of short stories about ghosts, and two volumes of Southern Appalachia folklore, Randy’s first paranormal novel, Dead Rules , will be released in hardcover by HarperTeen on June 21, 2011. (note: this is four days before erica's birthday. do what you will with this information, but there just might be a giveaway coming up) (erica hopes she wins this time)

Dead Rules
Sometimes, falling in love means you have to kill somebody.
erica would kill for this cover. just sayin'

Romeo and Juliet meets Heathers in this darkly comedic paranormal romance.

Jana Webster and Michael Haynes were destined to be together forever. Of that, Jana was sure.

But Jana just died - in a bowling accident. And when she finds herself in Dead School, her carefully planned future unravels. All she can think about is reuniting with Michael, so she decides to take matters into her own hands and bring Michael to her. And nothing, not even handsome, mysterious Mars Dreamcote and his irresistibly warm touch, will distract Jana from making her dreams come true.

Randy Russell's debut novel is a hilariously macabre story with a voice like no other.

Love it? Stalk Find Randy at Facebook, website, blog, email, and Twitter by clicking here.

Not quite enough Awesomeness yet? If you like to read click here. If you're a teacher or librarian, click here.


Q: Questions And Answers (plot and character)

recently our good friend and even gooder writer (author of the fiction novel entitled how to write a book you should never query) received these questions in her email inbox.  since she is incredibly busy writing book number 2 (how to find the addresses and favorite foods of literary agents) she forwarded these questions onto us. 

 and folks, we think we may do a better job of answering them for you.  *crosses fingers and toes*
(remember, we did just go to a writing conference, so we've got some goodies up our sleeves and pant legs.)

i mean, look at how well-written that first paragraph is.  we knows what we're talking about.


 Dear Pari Fait Plotter,

Can you tell me the absolute BEST way to go about organizing the plot of my novel, or if my plot is already completed, how to BEST double check that all the necessary parts are included?

Missy D Actdeux

Dear Missy,

First, what you need is a basic plot idea.  You'll be able to do it.  I've used the same thing with my second graders. 
  • Protagonist (Who)
  • Goal (Wants)
  •  Motivation (Why)
  • Conflict (But)
  • Plan (So)
  • Resolution (Then)
In short, what does your protagonist want and why?  What happens to keep them from getting it?  So...what will they do about it?  How will they try to get it anyways?

Of course, it can (and should?) get a whole lot more complicated than that.  You know, since it needs to be spread out over a couple of hundred pages.  Here's how:

(novels with romance include the lighter purple plot points)

1.  Introduce protagonist, his/her world, (meets love interest), his/her problem (Some, seriously only the absolute necesseties, backstory to create an understanding and sympathy/empathy for your protagonist), and the inciting incident-the scene that changes your characters ordinary world and sets the plot a-moving.  The protagonist may deny that he/she has to do something in order to solve the dilemma you introduced.  (At this point the problem may be one for society, one your protagonist can ignore.  External conflict.) 

2.  Give your protagonist some motivation(first kiss) Make their problem matter more now.  Maybe your antagonist has made it worse.  Increase the external conflict.  Add internal conflict.  Now your protagonist is going to become actively involved.  Only, don't make it too easy for him/her to solve the problem.  After his/her first try, make the antagonist strike back!

3.  Up the ante again.  Add another layer to the plot.  (the protag realizes love for romantic interest)Really make life difficult for your protagonist.  Now is the time for them to do something so there's no turning back.  His/her life will never be the same.  Remember that backstory and that world you briefly introduced in the first few pages?  Yeah, that's gone now.  Sorry, Protag.  Kiss it all buh-bye.  In order to salvage the rest of his/her life, though, he/she'd better keep trying to move forward and solve the problem/defeat the antagonist!

4.  No matter how hard he/she fought, this is the point when all appears to be lost.  The external conflict is winning.  Your protagonist is weak, hopeless, and fears he/she will never meet his/her external/internal goal.  What else can your protagonist do/sacrifice to get out of the horrid mess you put them in?  What choice will he/she make?  How will he/she grow as a character?

5.  She/he figures it out (creates a noble plan), faces the antagonist in one, final climatic scene...and wins!  (protag and love interest come together) How can you bring this accomplishment, this new world, back around to meet with the opening scene?  How did your opening scene mirror this finale?  How did your character change from how they handled the inciting incident to how they overcame the final dilemma?


with the help of presenters: http://www.loridevoti.com/, Josie Brown and Christopher Mohar and my writing notes from the Writer's Institute


Dear Chari C. Tar,

My characters either lay a little flat or else jump all over the radar on the personality scale.  How can I make sure I'm being true to their true emotions and write them to act appropriately to each situation without making my readers feel like they have multiple personality disorders or have been run over by a steam roller five too many times?

Ira N. Ator

Dear Ira,

There are many different ways writers develop their characters. 

One way is to use an enneagram.  To learn more about the nine personality types go here.  This is to ensure you know your character's main personality and therefore can better understand his/her wants/needs/fears.  Of course, once you choose/recognize which type your character is, you may "borrow" from the neighboring types on the enneagram.  The way I find this most helpful is it may help you to understand how your character may react to a situation/person when under stress (the opposite type on the enneagram).  The key to writing your character is to be consistent with his/her voice and reactions. 

A few basic ideas you should have in mind when creating your characters (and making them believable to your readers) are: 
  • What are they afraid of? 
  • What is their internal need/goal--the one they may not even realize they need to be happy? 
  • What is their internal goal (the one they are aware of)? 
  • What is their external goal-the one they may learn they don't really need to meet the others?) 
  • Also, know what they love deeply and what haunts them. 
  • Know what they think they can't do/ most don't want to do...and then make them do it!  (oops, that's bringing us back to plot, isn't it?)

(with the help of http://www.loridevoti.com/ and my notes during her presentation at the Writer's Institute)


Pre-orders, Polisner, and (The) Pull of Gravity

Okay, I know I've mentioned her a few times before, but I couldn't help but blog about my friend Gae Polisner and her book The Pull of Gravity, due out next month, but available on Amazon Preorder now. okay, so she's a virtual friend, but I'm still totally counting it (make sure you read, or at least skip to, the end of this post - there's a giveaway!)

Back in November, when we only had a few lovely followers, we interviewed Gae - read it here.

Here's the description of her book:

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.

Check out these blurbs (please don't die of jealousy, we'd miss you):

“Although the teens’ best laid plans go oft awry, they discover that the force of the universe is with them—or at least friendship, family and romance. Pulls the heart in all the right places.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Scooter, Nick, and Jaycee are real, and they’re funny. I love how they yearn for something beautiful, warm, and true to lift them from the lousy, sad absurdity of their circumstances. And I love the unlikely places where they find it: Yoda. A possibly misguided bus trip. Red wax lips. Real lips. And each other. I love that they find it mostly in each other.”—Lynne Rae Perkins, Newbery Medal-winning author of As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth

“Part love story, part adventure story, funny and serious, The Pull of Gravity is a delightful read.”—Francisco X. Stork, author of Marcelo in the Real World

“Gae Polisner writes with fluidity and grace. The Pull of Gravity will draw you in and keep you thinking long after you've closed the book.” –K.L. Going, author of King of the Screwups

The Pull of Gravity is the whole package—realistic, quirky, fun, and weepy. Polisner is an author to watch.” —Mary E. Pearson, author of The Miles Between

“The Pull of Gravity is a clever, masterfully told tale of loyalty and redemption that will pull you in and hook you 'til the last page.—Chris Crutcher, author of Deadline

Here's the cover: 

Now that I (er, some other famous people) got your attention, how would you like your very own copy of The Pull of Gravity (well, on or around May 10th when it comes out)? It's available for preorder on Amazon. There's a giveaway at Goodreads. Or comment on this post!! One lucky commenter will be chosen by random.org and erica and christy will contact you for your information (this time, we'll limit it to US friends - we love the rest of you, but in this case, we want to give the book away instead of a gift card and the shipping kills us). Oh, and, well, I *might* have a signed bookmark or two to include just don't tell Gae that I didn't give them all away to the teachers and librarians yet, I swear I only kept a couple...

Here's our question: What's your favorite "P" word???

Copied from Gae's comment: (also, note to any teacher that teaches Of Mice and Men and wants to use TPoG in conjunction with it, I wrote a quick essay on bridging The Pull of Gravity with Of Mice and Men here and would be happy to talk with you about a Skype visit!! click here for her email



(yes, I'm counting OMG as my O-post)
Textspeak. It's what all the teens are talking texting these days. (and yes, I'm aware that sentence doesn't make me sound very techy or teeny (er, teenlike). I accept that.

my name is erica and I'm a techno-newbie. *this is where you say, Hi, Erica.*

I'm the only person on the planet who doesn't have a cell phone (seriously, my grandparents have one and they never leave the house). I write contemporary, realistic, current-times YA and MG. I NEED to know what the trends are, right?? Or is it true that by the time I get my book written, edited, agented, and published, anything technology-related will be obsolete anyway (not including sci-fi - has anyone watched Back to the Future 2 lately? Funny interpretation of the year 2015...). Right?

In an earlier draft of my ms, I had the mom ask the mc about connecting with others on "one of those social media sites" because I thought I could always change that later (you know, in case Facebook went the way of the dodo bird Myspace. EVERY critique partner I had made fun of me for that one. I see all over the place what a busy place FB is for the teenscene (I know, stop using funny adult words for teenage stuff, but I can't help it, this is a blogpost and I'm not coming up with a better term right now, sorry!), but I have a few teens on my own FB friends list and they DON'T post ANYTHING. EVER.

So would a senior in high school post something like "Pizza at (insert pizza place name) tonight at 7. Be there!" (no, the post doesn't appear in my ms, but he does post it from his phone)?? I hope they wouldn't post "My parent's aren't home, let's get drunk", but this one's pretty mild, so he might? Right? Help me, I need someone's expertise here!
How do you tackle technology in your ms (bonus points if you use textspeak - well, in your novel. If you use it with me I'll just have to email you for the translation)??

Today's featured "O" book is a hint to which fabulous book we're giving away tomorrow - make sure to come back!


Also, just because it's funny:


one more quick thing

go here to enter natalie fischer's pitch contest, hosted at yatopia!  you have until april 21 or until 150 enter.  they'll accept any age/any genre. good luck!


N: Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey, hey, hey, goo-ood bye.

(thanks for not accusing me of cheating on the a-z challenge)


End it.  End it all.

no, really. just finish it.
and here's how.

Don't tie it up in pretty little ribbons and bows.

Don't clean up all your character's messes for them.  What are you, their mother?  Well, okay maybe you kinda are.  (and, okay, solutions may be somewhat necessary.)


Make them turn the final page wishing you'd dragged it out.  CRYING.  "PUH-LEASE!  DON'T LET IT END!"

and running to the library/bookstore for another one of your books!

yes, friends that is today's post.  i'm ending it, leaving you wondering what happened to the other 173 sentences i usually drone on and on and on with.

that, and this:


happy, happy saturday bloggy neighbors.  what are you waiting for?  GET WRITING!

Product Details

Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic
due out in bookstores in January


M: the Meaning of success

What does success mean to you?

How long does the warm fuzzy feeling of success last before you're aiming for the next rung on the ladder?

Like Christopher Mohar, one of our presenters at the Writer's Institute Conference said, we don't need a license to write.  And we don't earn one either.  There's no test.  Anyone can pick up a pen (or in my case play the keyboard on my laptop).  As writers, we're constantly learning.  (Even the successful ones.  Or so I'm told)

We're constantly trying to maneuver ourselves around the next curve and over the next bump in the road.

erica and I discussed this while walking from our hotel to the conference center.  We admitted to each other that we don't just write to write.  I don't rewrite, revise, edit, etc just for my own happiness and well-being.  I do it because I want the best dang manuscript I can possibly write to submit to agents.  Because to me success is becoming a traditionally published author.  (I'm absolutely NOT saying that anyone who chooses to self-publish and market their work is anything but successful.  It's just not the path I'm choosing to take.)

However, or maybe I should say luckily, I have may other tiny rungs on my ladder to success to keep me climbing.  (And believe me, without them, I'd give up for sure.  I guess I'm just not that strong of a person.  I can take the harshest criticism.  Keep it coming, but unless there's some encouragement (and I don't mean "You can do  it, Christy.") to let me know my writing (manuscript) shows a glimmer of talent (however buried it may be), I don't want to waste my time or anyone else's.

Before I knew anything about any of this writing/publishing world, all I wanted was to complete my first manuscript.  check.  Then, I started a blog.  check.  I attended my first (online) writing conference and got my first critiques.  (okay, I didn't feel so very successful at that point, BUT learning was/is a really thick rung and I'd made it there.  so check.)  Then I made writing friends.  check.  We gained followers for our blog and more friends.  check.  I read more and more blog sites and continued learning (yes, learning occurs at more than one rung).  check.  check.  I attended a real writing conference.  check.  I got feedback that made me think I had something.  I started thinking of myself as a writer.  check.  I'm a writer!

So, I've gotten that far.

Do I have setbacks?  Yes.  For every "good job/gold star" there's about five setbacks.  But that's okay.  Because I do write because I love it.  I do write my stories because I love them.  So...there's that.

Mostly, I don't want to spend years on just one manuscript that doesn't have "it".  I've heard from several successful writers that they'd spent gruelling amounts of time on an early manuscript only to move on and complete a new one almost instantly.  AND it was the one that poured out of their pen that sold.  And sold.  And sold.

Just the other night (Weds night to be exact.)  Kiersten White was on #yalitchat on twitter and said that she wrote Paranormalcy in three weeks and its sequel in two months.  WHAT?!?  I'm guessing that even if I were to write a bestseller that magically wrote itself, it'd take me at least four months.  She also said she rarely has to rewrite.  Her first drafts are pretty solid.  (I'd love to reach that rung!)

Not that my WIP is going to be a best seller, but the first page of it (that I wrote, edited once, and submitted for the hell of it) won third place in a first page contest.  (Against my completed novel's first page.)  My completed novel (completed twice, actually) that I'm just about ready to query, and have been working on for a year and a half, hasn't won a pitch contest, two first line contests, a first page contest, nada.  Not even an honorable mention or runner up.  The WIP is 60% done and hasn't caused me many problems at all.  My completed novel has been nothing but trouble.  BUT I love it and right now I am not going to take my own advice, based on Kiersten's experience, just yet.  (You know...to give up and move on.)  Maybe it's taken loads of work and time, but deep down, my inclination to keep perfecting it is as strong as the one to drop it.  I'm not ready to give up yet.

image credits here

After a year and a half of writing, I am here---------------->

You know....even after I get the top of that ladder, there's still the moon.  And then the stars.  Hmmm.
Once I'm published I'll want it to be a bestseller.  You know that, right? 

And then there's the books to come.
Maybe it's not a ladder, but a carousel.

oh, and a book for M
now on our TBR list: 

Matched by Ally Condie



The Truth Behind Lynnea

Lynnea West. The elusive woman you follow daily for her blog posts. She's us. We're here. She/We thank you for following.

Yeah, that's a horrible blogpost. Sorry. But really, our names are Christy Lynn and Erica Lynn. The rest (um, west) is a tribute to christy's grandmother.

So - that brings us to a discussion of character names. Christy knows the heritage of her characters (Greek and French Canadian) and went with that (specifically, Dawn and Lawrence). Erica fell in love with the names first and went with it (specifically, McKenzie and Lincoln).

How do you name your characters? And, well, your blogs?? We want to know!!!

Voice. Plot. Movie Potential. Yep, it's there: (plus, Erica was born in Madison, WI)

Product Details


Keeping up

Wow, it's almost the middle of April!! We're Keeping up with the A-Z challenge and with our personal challenge of naming a book/author for each letter. What we aren't Keeping up with is visiting new blogs. Parent-teacher conferences took up the end of March and the conference took up the beginning of April. Now we're on the home stretch and hope to find lots of new friends before the month is over - let us know in the comments if there are any MUST SEE blogs you've found lately. 

This summer we are focusing on our WIPs. They will become completed first-drafts. They MUST become completed first drafts. Since we're both teachers, we'll have more time once June gets here. Since we're both stay-at-home moms to 2 boys (who never want to stay home), though, time can really fly and before you know it, a day week month summer is gone. We're definitely going to need some time-management.

We were thinking of setting aside 30 minute segments of our day for some free writing/blogging time (aka kids watch movies or play together nicely, please let the nicely part happen...). Since there's two of us writing this blog, it works a little differently than it might for you. One of us will take 30 minutes to write a blog post and the other will take 30 minutes to visit other blogs and comment. Then we'll carve out another 30 minutes where we can only open our document to write or edit at least twice a day (or, if we're lucky and the kids are content playing, sleeping, bathing, etc., we can combine it into one-hour segments). Again, at night, after the kids are in bed, we'll commit to a half-hour for blogging or emailing and a half-hour for writing. That's the plan, anyhow!!

How do you Keep up with it all??

here we are

I (christy) tried to find a K book, but the first K that popped into my mind was Kiersten,
as in Kiersten White
I hope I'm not kicking myself when P rolls around.


J: Just a bit more conference info (Part Two) and a Joke

Okay, here's a look into my notebook from the conference.  (Only I typed it up.  Otherwise you'd have no idea what the scribbles were meant to say.  To be honest, sometimes I don't even know.  And yes.  I DO teach elementary school and make students rewrite messy work.  Shhhh.  Life's just one big hypocritical little mess.  Isn't it great when you can just get back at it by adding to the lie?  Okay, okay.  I don't mean that at all.  This was for my eyes only, so it could be messy.  My students writing is totally different.  Their work is for my eyes only.)

Some notes are "No, duh.  christy, seriously are you even gonna try to be helpful?"  Some are a tad more helpful than that. (y'all get this is christy, right?? thxkbye, erica. :)
  • Be Prepared.  Don't query until your work is ready to go.  If you get an email saying to send it all,  send it all.  Not an email saying you don't have it all.
  • Vampires, as surprised and dismayed as the agents seemed, are continuing in their popularity.  You have to realize that trends have a two year lead time, from the time your work is accepted by a publisher and printed.  So, be ahead of the game.  Not a follower of it.
  • Write what you believe in.  Not just something trendy.  (See above.)  Because you may be sacrificing your passion and, therefore your voice, if you're forcing yourself to write what you really don't feel in your gut. If you feel a past trend, and have a great voice/concept/etc., write it. You might succeed.
  • Small-town, traditional romances are predicted to make a comeback. (erica thanks her lucky stars)
  • (on trends) NY Times was quoted saying that if women stop reading, the trend will die.  (So, apparently women just love those blood suckers.) (and, well, you know, books...)
  • 80% of books are bought by women. (sorry, male followers. it's up to you to convice your compadres)
  • Mass market books are still outselling e-books. (Yay!!) (sorry, I love paper books)
  • Amazon now has Amazon singles with novellas, perfect for readers with short attention spans (and, um, anyone who loves novellas.)
  • If you publish an e-book you'll get 85% of the profits, if you  publish traditionally, you'll only get 5%.   (was that stat right, erica???) (erica says no - it's more like 15-25%. Thanks for asking. :)
  • Word Count:  Books have gotten shorter.  Write them under 70k.  (There was an agent at the conference who wouldn't look at work if he thought it was too long.  One woman told us he told her to cut it down to 80k before she could send it to him.  She was unwilling to cut 30k.)
  • Women's Fiction:  75-95k
That's enough for today, but I do have more.  I'll add it to tomorrow's post.  NOW FOR THE JOKE!

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

"Oh my," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now."

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

"Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"

"Oh no, it's not," replied an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published."


--christy (including, perhaps, a bit of erica)

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explanation of J book picks:

First, erica loves Sarah Dessen.  So Just Listen was a perfect pick for J.  Second, christy (while searching through amazon for J books) found a book on Audrey Hepburn (her idol!) and couldn't be more excited to get it!  Third, christy enjoys reading Junie B. Jones to her first/second grade students and finds her to be a super example of writing with voice.  :0)


I: Inspirational Monday

We were tempted to label today's post "I'm tIred" but sInce there are two of us, that wouldn't really work. After all, us Is wrIters. (hehe)

(thIs may or may not be erIca pretendIng to be chrIsty) made erIca run (well, I ran, she walked) at the hotel gym well before she even thought she was goIng to get up yesterday mornIng. You see, musIc and runnIng gIve me InspIratIon and I wanted to share that wIth erIca. Now, I'll share It wIth you. (yes, there were pIctures taken of us. No, we're not sure we'll be sharIng them. conferences really tIre us out) (yes, christy's cute, but she's 9 inches shorter than me. really. it makes me look uncute and humongous. i tried to delete them all, but one or two might have been salvaged. darn christy)

Back to more wrItIng posts soon - tIme to nap go to work!!

okay. thIs really Is me (chrIsty).  that, up there, not.  :0)
but It was sooo nIce of erIca to start my post for me because my mom vIsIted me for dInner (she cooked).  then, once she left, I spent an hour hIdIng In the basement hallway wIth my kIds because of a tornado warnIng.  now I'm wIped.  I had planned to share conference InformatIon part deux wIth you all today, but am just too tIred.  so, I'm sorry.  tomorrow.  or the followIng day.  I PROMISE.  and a pIcture of erIca and me.  YES, ERICA.  IT WILL BE POSTED.  (I totally stood on my tIptoes so It's just fine.)

here's the InspIratIonal musIc for all of you wrIters.  I doubt mIley Intended It for us, but It totally works.

and our book challenge book for I
Island of the Blue Dolphins
by Scott O' Dell

We'll see all of you this week at your blogs because we're dedicated to getting back into visiting you now that conference prep is over.  (And we won't forget that we have some writing info for you.) 


Hotels, Hottubs, and Holy Heck, our conference is over

Okay, we'll admit, we've now spent almost 48 Hours between our Hotel and our conference Hall and never once set foot in the Hottub. We Have, However, eaten danish, bagels, muffins, bread, Hamburgers, sandwiches, brushetta, and quesadillas. We've also drank coffee, water, diet coke, diet mountain dew, sprite zero, a cosmopolitan, beer, malbec wine, chardonnay, and some yummy chocolatey drink called a milky way martini. Did I mention we've only been here for 48 Hours? (yes, we did sleep. a little.)

Tomorrow, we won't have time for the Hottub. We'll be too busy in the exercise room!

So, yes, the conference. It was a whirlwind of authors, agents, and editors. Erica live pitched to two agents and Christy to three (did you see our Twitter post yesterday? be very kind to the kid handling the pitch schedule - he'll let you in at the end if there's time and you can score another quick, free request for pages, if for no reason other than the agent wants to get out of there and go home!). Here's our stats:

erica - one request for 3 chapters, one request for 50 pages, one pending request (from the missing agent) that will be emailed to me on Monday, and a suggestion by both an agent and an editor (separately, for 2 different projects) to submit a book proposal for a non-fiction book based on my experiences as a teacher.

christy - one request for 3 chapters, one request for 50 pages, one pending request (from the missing agent) that will be emailed to me on Monday, one personal referral to another agent, and one request to see pages from her WIP when she's done with it.

So - basically, it doesn't mean we're any closer to an agent. It just means we're closer than we'd be by sitting in that agent's slush pile (right now). Just think, if each of the agents there saw 10 people per session for 3 sessions, that's 150 pitches. If they all requested at least 30 pages, that's 4500 pages about to deluge their inboxes (that doesn't even include the referrals to other agents or the one that wasn't able to attend, but is still willing to see pages and/or do a phone pitch).

Here's Hoping ours are the ones that catch their eye. First, we need to exercise. Then write and edit. Check out of the Hotel. Drive Home (3.5 Hours for erica, 2 Hours for christy). Happy Sunday!!


Green With Envy

So are you?

Because we're in Madison, Wisconsin on a rainy day?

Or, maybe not.  But we are at a great Writing Institute!  (So you should be!  But we'll share everything with you so it'll be almost like you were here!)

It's official.  We've met!

We have no pics as of yet, but we'll share as soon as we do.

So far we've met published authors, editors, agents, aspiring authors and one weird guy.

We've learned, we've networked, we've ate  eaten, we've drank (bobviously), and now we're going to bed.  (Soon.)

This may not be the most brilliant post we've ever written, but we're having fun writing it--together!

Before we leave you without any info whatsoever, here's some insight into what the agents we saw here are looking for. 


Marilyn Allen
April Eberhardt
Paul Levine
Ted Weinstein
Michelle Grajkowski
John Bolger

  • Can I sell it? (I don't have to fall in love with it.  I just have to know it will sell.)
  • I need to connect to the text (w/in the first three chapters).  There needs to be aesthetic appeal and it needs to be marketable.
  • Connections are important.  We want to rep you for your 2nd, 3rd, etc novels,...we want long-term relationships.
  • VOICE! across books.  Make your author voice recognizable.
  • IF you query, get their name right.   DON'T CC all agents.  NO pink or fancy font.
Worst query ever:

Dear Mr. Allen (woman),
     My last agent died.  How is your health?

About Trends:
  • You need a great voice and great writing.
  • By the time the first book in the trend is published, the trend is already over.
  • If you do write a trendy book, tell us how it's different.
  • Sweet, back to the basics romances are making a come back.
 We've got more to share, but it's just too late.  So, we'll add it to tomorrow's post. PLUS, there's bound to be more great info after another great conference day! 

And maybe even a pic of your fave blog partners!

I read this book while eating breakfasts in college.  It was my "enjoyable reading time".  Me.  A bowl of Frosted Flakes.  Sitting at my desk with my reading lamp on while my roommate slept off her nighttime...adventures.  (All before rushing down the BIG EAU CLAIRE HILL to my 8 o'clock French class.)

I also loved this movie and remember watching it while stringing cranberries for our Christmas tree. 

 In addition, author Lori Devoti referred to Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara several times during our Characters:  Beyond Goal, Motivation and Conflict session today.  (Stay tuned for more info/links on that!)


Double Dose--Late Edition

(for a-z challenge, scroll down a post, please) (we'll do both weekend days to make up for the missed letter)

Tomorrow's the BIG DAY!  Not only do erica and i finally meet after "meeting" at writeoncon this past august, deciding to co-blog in september, and perhaps most importantly, bounce ideas off one another and read each other's writing, BUT tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, we'll actually be together.  Live.  In person!  We're virtual best friends who've emailed countless emails over the past months and now we'll actually...speak to one another!


And what could be more perfect than meeting at a writing conference in our very own state of WI?

erica's on her way as I type and I will be leaving bright and early tomorrow morning.  We'll meet at 8AM.  Then we'll walk/take a shuttle five blocks to become better writers. 

At 11:10 I'll have my LIVE AGENT PITCH.  I'm not nervous right now, but I was nauseated earlier in the week. 

CHECKLIST:  My synopsis is finally written and so is my pitch.  My first pages need one more reading before I print them...just in case.  My query?  Well, I'll bring along a rough printed copy of that, too.  You never know what the agent might ask to see.  And I want to be ready in case she feels like offering any advice! 

I'm most nervous about the questions she'll ask.  I don't want to sound like a newbie.  Even if I am.  Although I've decided the best thing for me to do is to be honest.  erica and I also discussed a super strategy:  pitch and walk away before we can sound stupid.  I mean, it's only eight minutes, right?

I've written a paranormal novel.  Yet I've only been reading the genre for a year.  Yeah, I hardly wanted to admit that to YOU much less an AGENT!  But, in the past year I've spent TONS of time blogging and writing, so reading hours went down some.  This is where the honesty thing will have to come in.  And perhaps she won't even ask me my dreaded questions:  Who are your favorite authors in the genre you've written?  Which paranormal author do you feel your writing is most like?

Anyways.  I wanted to say a special thanks to Alexia Chamberlain who answered a few questions for me since she recently attended a writing conference.  Visit her blog if you're going to one soon.  She wrote some great posts to get you ready and linked to some fab blogs.  Especially Rachelle's.  Check those out.  They helped me so much with my pitches and what to expect in my session.

Hopefully we're ready.  For this first time, it's all about the experience.  And meeting, of course.

Stay tuned for some updates.  And PICS!!!    I have a bottle of red wine and a bottle of white wine so we can add our faces to our profile pic, wine in hand!

Oh, here's my pitch.  It's a little longer than I'd hoped, but, um, I'm a fast talker so I should get it out in only a minute or two!  :0) 

My logline is:

An intuitive fifteen year old sees shadows outlining dying people, only to learn she must find the cure or stand accused of killing them.


Fifteen year old Dawn Buchanen’s acute intuition isn’t the only thing that sets her apart from the rest of humanity. She can also see auras around Transporters, a rare and secret race of humans with the ability to travel to an alternate dimension called Themura, and shadows around non-Transporters dying from a fast-spreading flu epidemic.

She tries her best to ignore all the outlines, until her secret vision is found out and she’s accused of spreading the bizarre Influenza X. Since she stresses she’s not a Transporter and her talents are too powerful for anyone who’s not, Transporters believe she must not be who she says she is.

With a spark-throwing figure following her, either to turn her in or frame her for its deadly destruction, the break up with her Transporter boyfriend, and the death of her best friend, she’s no longer hesitating to learn the truth or find the cure. She searches through the forbidden parts of Themura, finding beds used to cure the same influenza strain decades before, and learning about her past and the past of the dimensions. Once she learns how powerful of a Transporter she really is, she’s able to fulfill her role and erase the secrets afflicting both worlds.

oh, ef....

(note to our readers - we're feeling angsty this week. All comments in black are christy's. All comments in blue are erica's and christy has no idea she's making them. comment accordingly. hehe)

i'm not a swearer.

well,  okay sometimes a naughty word or two will slip from my innocent lips. we all have our moments

i have moments when heat scorches my cheeks and i have no control over my boiling emotions. oh, man, more like a grill on my stomach, but yeah

i blame these moments on being a girl. or a smart, strong, opinionated woman

my husband thinks it's just a lame excuse. true, that

For you male readers, i'll just stop there. er, nope, we won't

the reason i want to swear today is because i'm rather...F-F-Frustrated.  (really what i am is disappointed, but D was two days ago.) yeah, right

i SO badly wanted the ARC of shatter me (written by debut author tahereh maFi) and i lost it.  i was outbid at the last minute.  (i won't even say by who...but the maine character (no link available?) who beat me by what was supposed to be my strategy won eFFing Fair and square.  so i will eventually get over it.  preFerably, erica thinks, by Friday morning.) erica does, indeed. really, christy, again with the random capitalization? my guess is christy's a bit miffed. i got her back. er)

on a brighter and less selFhish note, have you been to write hope to bid on an auction item?  there's some amazing things over there.  go and help raise money for the children's relieF Fund of japan.  and get a little something For yourselF on the side.

shoo!  beFore you see me really go oFF. (i think there's one thing left for auction and the rest are closed. don't tell christy i disagreed with her here - man I have to face all 5'2" of her face-to-face tomorrow. i'll talk her down, i promise...)

(erica, i did pop back in here before scheduling.  and i'll have you know i'm only 5'1".  and the random capitalization is for the sake of the A-Z challenge. hello...the Fs are capitalized!)

(oh, and can't wait to meet you in 24 hours!)

i looked through my bookshelf and here's the only F book i could Find.  Funny stuFF.