Character names (and links)

If you've been researching agents and publishing houses long enough, you know that July is generally a down month - in fact, many agents are closed to submissions in order to catch up, go on vacation, etc. So it's a perfect time to start a new WIP, right??!! But first you need some characters...

Recently I read a couple of blog posts about naming characters. One blogger admitted that when she reread an old ms, she realized two of her current WIPs characters had the same names (and she didn't remember it!). Another one said that they visualized their character first and then attributed the proper name.

Christy and I have both been teachers for quite a while, so we have access to LOTs of current and trendy names (over the past 10+ years). The problem is, though, sometimes we have certain attributes to those names. Like all the [insert name here]'s we've ever had have been brats. Or our favorite student was [insert name here] and we wouldn't want their mom to think we've named a mean/morally questionable/teenage character after their prescious daughter/son. So, there's goods and bads with being privy to a lot of names.

My current WIPs main character is Kaleb. It's a name I liked and as soon as I came up with the premise of the book, I knew that was his name. I never even remembered that several years ago, I had a preschooler with that same name and spelling until this summer when he was on my son's baseball team (they're not in the same grade). Now, he is a kid I really liked and still do, but I didn't name my character after him. So I'm leaving it for now. (we live in a teensy-tiny town, so if I get published, yes, people will know he's the only kid with that name/spelling around and that yes, I do know him). But I do have a secondary character named Jed - I don't know any Jed's, I don't know if I'll ever know any Jed's, and it's an odd name for this area (maybe every area), but it's not my fault that's what his parents named him and that's his name.

So, I started thinking, why do our characters have certain names? Other than they pop in our head or remind us of someone? I came up with a checklist - feel free to use it if you need some backstory (like I do with Jed, even though it won't go in the book) or if you find yourself recycling the same names and need some new ones.

Where is your story set and what are the popular names in the area and for the year? Mine are set where and when I live, so that's easy. But for the most popular names by state and year, the Social Security Administration is here to help. Click here for help. (and yes, for the place and year I was born, Jason and Jennifer were the most popular. Erica was #83 and there were 72 of us that year! Cool, huh?) A little warning here - you might not want to use the most popular current names - suddenly there's 50 books being submitted to agents all with the same mc and you want yours to stand out!

Does your character have a trait that you want to capitalize on? You could find a name that means something important to your character or story line at this link. For example, a character dying of cancer could have a name meaning "warrior" - no one needs to know it but you, but it perfectly fits the struggle your character faces.

Can your readers identify with and pronounce the names? I think this one is especially important in fantasy - sometimes I have real difficulty keeping the names apart because I'm not sure of the pronunciation. But it can also be in contemporary if it's a strange spelling and it catches my eye for page after page after page. Also I once crit'd an ms with an unusual character name and several times the author herself misspelled it, yikes!

Will your readers be able to keep track of the different characters. Don't have too many similar names - if your YA book set at a high school featuring a group of friends all named Kerry, Karissa, Kiersten, and Kristen, you better give them enough personality traits that we can tell them apart! (it works in funny 80s and 90s teen movies, not in books) click here for more explanation of this trap

How do you feel about nicknames? If your mc has a longer name, their close friends and family will probably give them a nickname - at the very least shortening Jacob to Jake. Or they could have an entirely different nickname - like shortening (longening?) Jacob to Jellybean. Think how the name can influence the nickname.

Does the name reflect their inner character? If you have a down-to-earth, rural, intellectual, very serious character named "Jewel", you'd better be prepared to answer why! (not that anyone named Jewel is not those things, it's just a stigma a lot of readers would have about unusual names and as the writer, you need to convince them why it works)

Here are a few miscellaneous links regarding character names:

Some ideas from Jody Hedlund (I swear I didn't copy this blog post - I found it after I wrote everything above!)

A printable worksheet to keep track of your characters

Another good checklist (that I swear I didn't copy and just found! I especially like the tip at the end about not constantly switching between different nicknames)

Let us know if there's any good tips or links you have in the comments. And don't forget to get WIPing!


Christy's Babbling at You Again

A few things for you on this Monday. (Minus the recipe. No Mealtime Madness today.)

I wrote my first story beginnings when I was a little girl. As I approached the end of my elementary years and headed off to middle school, I stuck with my stories for a while longer, but never wrote past the middle. I completed my first novel at 116,000 words when I was 33years old. That was one year ago. Since then I've rewritten the beginning beyond a laugable amount of times and the entire thing once, not including the additional edits along the way. I'm also 60 percent done with a second novel with ideas ready to take off for a third.

My point?

I've learned a few things.

And want to celebrate by sharing them with you. Of course, you're probably the ones who taught them to me in the first place. So maybe what I'm saying is THANK YOU!

*The best writers out there 1) read A LOT. 2) write EVEN MORE.

And they don't just write the scenes in their manuscript, but also the writerly thoughts that surge through their brain all day long. TRY IT! While out walking, what do you notice? Do the leaves on the weeds seem to be waving at you? Do solitary leaves do somersaults on the pavement as the breeze breathes life into them? Do trees bow down as your car drives beneath them? Do the crowds of trees that encircle you while treading water appear to be seated on bleachers around the stadium lake? Does a conversation at the table next to yours at the cafe strike you as note-worthy? Does the perfect color word for the sun setting on the horizon pop into your mind? YES? WRITE IT ALL DOWN!

You never know when one of those amazing thoughts might come in handy in a manuscript. Even if they don't. Write them down anyways!

*The best writers out there pay attention to what they read.

What makes the book you are reading memorable? Why do you keep turning the pages? What endears you to the characters? What dialogue makes you giggle? What dialogue makes you go "Awwwwww!" What dialogue makes you weep? WHY? What endings fall flat?

MAKE NOTE OF THESE THINGS. Why? So you can do it, too! (Or not.)

*When you're ready to be a serious writer, you need to take yourself seriously as a writer.

Make time to do it. NO. Set up time to do it. STICK TO IT. My husband continually refers to my writing as a hobby, and I don't know what it is about that term, but it aggravates me. I've given up arguing. No, I'm not making money. Yes, I'm a long way from finding an agent and an even longer way from signing books at the local Barnes and Noble. So, even though I might be the only one who realizes that I'm serious about being a writer, deep down, I have to believe it.

One of the things I'm doing now that I'm beginning to take myself seriously as a writer (I'm not there yet. I have a few doubts and insecurities left to tackle and discard.) is reading my very first WRITING book. So far, I love it. I think it was a great first choice. I got it for like 3 bucks on my kindle. Plot and Structure-Write Great Fiction by James Scott Bell. Bell suggests to take yourself seriously as a writer and to start out 1)buy yourself a mug that says 'Writer' and 2)set a daily word goal (NOT time goal). I'm working on both of his suggestions.

*Taking notes on kindle is an amazing feature that I love.

I've been rereading parts of The Sky is Everywhere to 'highlight' (underline) the imagery, dialogue and other quotable writing I find. I also highlight while I read Bell's book. THE BEST PART IS: the kindle stores the stuff I've highlighted in a separate spot so I can view ONLY the text I've wanted to remember. It separates each quote and makes note of the page numbers. LOVE IT!

*Having multiple readers/crit partners/beta readers is invaluable.

Everyone has different taste. Whether it's clothes or movies or food or jokes. This is no different in the reading/writing world. Your writing may not click with one person while another may want to devour every word you scribble. Why is this? Style. Genre. Word choice. Beliefs. Etc. People get second opinions from doctors. We need them before putting our writing under the knife also. Not only should you not take EVERY piece of advice a critiquer offers, but you should weigh several opinions and think on them before making hasty changes.

Recently I posted my first page here. (Okay, more than just recently. Just scroll down one post!) I DID post revisions. In the past, my posting revisions was a hasty move on my part due to embarrassment and uncertainty. If someone didn't like something I panicked and my cheeks burned and my heart sank. This time, I only felt gratitude. I really thought about the suggestions from commenters and was able to do so objectively. (See how much I've grown! LOL!) I made changes. YES. Many. BUT it was because I knew my words needed something and all the wonderful commenters gave me that something. I only changed what I knew needed to be. Because I wanted to, not just because somebody told me to.

Find yourself mutliple critique partners. I am a firm believer that this is hugely important and will benefit your writing.

Share your favorite lesson you've learned since beginning on your journey as a writer. I'd love to hear it!


shelley watter's first page critique and contest

This is version #2,095,003 of the first page of Solstice.  Please help me out by critiquing it.  Don't worry, I can take your honest opinions and would love feedback and advice.  I don't mind writing version #2,095,004 one bit.  Whatever works.  Thanks in advance!

Please go here to visit Shelley's Blog to find the links to all the other entries!

Title:  Solstice
Genre:  YA Paranormal Romance
Word Count:  65,000

(Original version.  After some great feedback, I tried to apply some of the advice by making revisions. Please see below.   The only thing I was unable to do was cure the excerpt of wordiness.  In fact, I may have made it worse.)
        Deep down I knew this was a bad idea.  If I chickened out, though, it would bug me all day, maybe longer.  So here I sat on a bed of dry, crunchy leaves with my back against one of the many tall oak trees in Haven Forest.  Early morning sunlight streamed through the trees and the mist, making the forest look eerier than normal.  The journal I’d sneaked from my great-grandma’s old trunk lay unopened in my hands.  Staring at it didn’t help.  If it had an invisible clasp, it didn’t flip open magically.  That would have been too easy. 
            Sure, I’d sneaked peeks at it over the years, but nothing I’d ever tried had opened it.  Giving up wasn’t an option.  Its mystery intrigued me.  That, and the whispered stories I’d overhead my dad and aunt share, years before, that taunted me, and reassured me that there was a story for me to read within it.  One thing I’d heard my dad say ran through my mind:  “Grandma Mari’s story is meant to be sealed.  When it becomes necessary for it to be opened, one of us will know how to do it.  Only then will our history be known.”  Something had quivered through me with those words, and I’d known who that one would be.  Me. 
            That was the first time my intuition had spoken to me, using a type of sign language on my skin with its icy fingers.(Revised Version) (A third below)
          Deep down I knew this was a bad idea.  Yet here I sat on a bed of dry, crunchy leaves with my back against one of the many oak trees in Haven Forest.  Early morning sunlight streamed through the trees and the mist, making the forest look eerier than normal.  The journal I’d sneaked from my great-grandma’s old trunk lay unopened in my hands.  Its binding was seamless and without a clasp or lock.  Staring at it didn’t help.  Willing it to open wouldn’t do the trick.
            Sure, I’d sneaked peeks at it over the years, but nothing I’d ever tried had opened it.  Giving up wasn’t an option.  Its mystery intrigued me.  Over time the desire to get in the journal grew, like a spark catching on dry fabric, the heat in the pit of my stomach a stark contrast to the shivers running down my back as I held the cool metal-bound book. 
            The whispered stories my dad and aunt had shared years before taunted me, reassuring me that there was a story within its hidden pages. One thing I’d heard my dad say ran through my mind:  “Grandma Mari’s story is meant to be sealed.  When it’s necessary for it to be opened, one of us will know how to do it.  Only then will our history be known.”  As soon as I heard those words, shivers quivered through me.  And I’d known who that one would be.  Me.
            That was the first time my intuition had spoken to me, using a type of sign language on my skin with its icy fingers.

You are all amazing.  Thanks so much for your help!  (Revised Version) (I may have taken the changes too far....)
          Deep down I knew this was a bad idea. Here I sat on a bed of dry, crunchy leaves with my back against one of the oak trees in Haven Forest.  Pale morning sunlight streamed through the trees and the mist, making the forest look eerier than normal. The metal-bound journal I’d sneaked from my great-grandma’s old trunk lay unopened in my hands. Its binding was seamless and without a clasp or lock. Staring at it, willing it to open, did no good.
             Nothing I’d ever tried had opened it. Giving up had never been an option, for no reason other than its mystery intrigued me. Recently, however, my desire to get in the journal flared, like a spark catching on paper, the heat in the pit of my stomach in stark contrast to the shivers running down my back chill in the air as I examined every corner of the book.
            My parents never talked about Great-Grandma Mari or the items in her trunk, skirting questions the few times I'd asked. The secrets taunted me though everyone else seemed able to ignore them.
             Whispered conversations between my dad and aunt, years before, had reassured me that there was a story within its hidden pages. “Grandma Mari sealed her story," my dad had said. "When necessary, one of us will know how to open it. Only then will our true history be known.” As soon as I heard those words, shivers quivered through me. And I’d known who that one would be. Me.
            That was the first time my intuition had spoken to me, using a type of sign language on my skin with its icy fingers.



summer giveaway #2!

SUMMER GIVEAWAYS @ erica and christy's!!!!

Prize Package #1
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Across the Universe

Prize Package #2
Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
Forever (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 3)

Prize Package #3
Dead Rules by Randy Russel
Dead Rules

Prize Package #4
 John Grisham novels-  Playing for Pizza, The Street Lawyer
+Bonus Legal Thriller by Richard Patterson North Degree of Guilt
Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct Details

 Prize Package # 5
Emilie Richards novels (mystery)-A Lie for A Lie, Beware False Prophets, Let There Be Suspects
Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct Details

Prize Package #6
 Janet Evanovich's Finger Lickin' Fifteen, Colleen Coble's (romantic suspense)Distant Echoes, Catherine Anderson's (romance) Early Dawn
Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct Details


Although, if the book you wanted is already taken, you can win an amazon gift card instead!

Enter today!

(You have until July 4 to enter for this (second) giveaway.  Your entries will count for ALL the summer giveaways, so you don't have to reenter each time.  But you can earn more entries each time if you choose to advertise for us again and again!  Watch for future post announcements!)

To enter:
Leave a comment for this post, including your email address, letting us know which prize package you choose and how you spread the word about our giveaway!

How many times do you want your name entered for the drawings?  It's up to you:
+3 for following
+2 for tweeting
+2 for blogging
+2 for sidebarring
+2 for facebooking (forgot this one the last time, but thanks to those of you who did it. i gave you 2 points for the first giveaway!)


Are you worth quoting?

Through meeting some published (self- and traditionally) authors, I've come to know the word "swag". Through reading blog posts about writers and agents who go to large conferences, I know that a TON of authors have it and hand it out to spread the word about their books.

SWAG = free stuff = book marks, pins, trinkets, etc. (and btw, most swag is paid for by the authors themselves. if anyone's interested in hiring a graphic artist to do swag for them, I know a great one and let me know if you want his contact info.)

Most of the swag I've seen is focused on the book cover. But some of it (especially pins, I've noticed), have quotes from the book on them. Maybe a snippet of dialogue. Maybe the logline. Something that could only have come from that one book. (after all, everyone knows "May the force be with you." right?)

Which led both of us to wonder - are we quoteable? Is there something in our books that leaps out to readers and connects with them enough for them to want to wear it as a pin? Or highlight it on their kindle? Or write it down or memorize it or tell their friends?

What kind of line would make you want to remember it forever? Or do you have some you'd like to share (from your own book or anyone elses?)?


5 ways to engage your readers...

through imagery.

image from here
allow your words to really whisk your readers' imaginations away

1.  show don't tell:  the guy was hot vs. the temperature in the room rose twenty degrees when Bentley walked into the room (gag.  NOT, Bentley is a hideous excuse for a man and nobody that jerky could EVER be hot, not even to girls who like bad boys #bachelorette)

2.  use STRONG words, STRONG action words...did the 6 foot tall, built hottie really "walk" into the room?  or did he strut?  meander?  slip into? swagger?  parade?

3.  compareuse similes and metaphors to help your reader understand what you're describing.  use images that they will understand or will that help them get inside your character's head.  help them understand your character's background w/o the heaping info dump!

ERRRRRTTT.  i've come to a screeching halt.  hope you were wearing your seatbelt.  it's come to my abrupt realization this week that novice writers are REALLY GOOD at fine-tuning numero un et deux (1 and 2), but NUMBER 3 needs some work.  NUMBER 3 is what separates the good writers from the phenomenal writers.  (this is all completely and utterly my own opinion that i've held for all of 27 hours now. skip the next paragraph if you disagree.)

when reading unpublished works of my own, or those on online critique sites (from writers who are posting drafts of their first novels), there is something choppy about the writing.  the story is there.  the writing is clean.  description is there. BUT.  there's something missing.  the flow.  the passion. the depth.  advanced IMAGERY.  synonyms and metaphors.  BUT.  not cliche comparisons.  nuh uh. don't do that.


WRITERS, LET YOUR HAIR DOWN.  dig deep within your souls and hearts and let out the inner poets.  NO. i'm NOT a poet.  not by a long shot.  BUT.  it's the unique comparisons in your descriptions that will GRAB your reader and reel them in and mesmerize them and hypnotize them into turning every last page and longing for more words written by YOU with a feverish, desperate need so near panic that they will stalk you on your blog and twitter and email and beg you to write more, more, more!


don't use similes and metaphors one on top of another.  that will spit your reader OUTA the story super speedy quick.

4.  describe more than just physical characteristics.  yes,  readers like to know what the setting looks like and what the characters look like and strong size and color words are very nice and helpful.  BUT.  sound.  taste.  smell.  emotion.  spend time on the parts the reader can't already imagine for themselves.  readers know people and parks and houses.  they don't know what your character gets out of those people and those places.  when your protag meet a new person (character) what do they think about them/feel about them?  what is going on around them?  place your reader in the scene. in your protag.  (when you meet someone, are you ONLY thinking about their height and eye color?  are you in a white, soundless room?  or do you have many sensory things going on all at once?)

this is another novice mistake.  sight is described in detail.  the other senses are ignored.  what smells elicit certain emotions in the character?  what sounds are familiar to them?  when a strange sound occurs, what does that mean for the story?  (notice, i'm NOT saying to just list sensory descriptions.  leave them out unless they are meaningful to the character and the story.)

5.  make your setting about more than just your setting.  make it about emotion.  if your character is feeling jealous, how can you make the setting's description add to that?  does the smoky atmosphere look a little green?  do all the women in the crowd look a little more competetive and vicious than the night before when all was peachy?  is the music blaring a beat that sounds like a racing heart about to speed away from all the tension?

okay.  i'll fess up. this post was inspired by the novels i read this week.  i started reading city of bones by cassandre clare and started and finished the sky is everywhere by jandy nelson.  the comparisons, imho, were amazing.  fresh and unique.  then i read my manuscript and realized why it was a little flat.

NOW.  i brought this up to a writer friend of mine who feels that similes and metaphors are easier to use in third person and not first BECAUSE one has to stick with the voice of the protag.  DO YOU AGREE?  CAN any protag "think"/narrate using similies and metaphors?  or does the protag have to be literary and highly intelligent to do so?  (my words, not my friend's)

i think it can be done.

by any character. 

 and here's why.  i think the "things" the protag compares emotions and physical descriptions and smells and sounds to can add to his/her voice.  just think of how fun it can be to write that!  how would a loner who loves to play the guitar describe a loud, crowded restaurant?  how would a frivolous, hyper girl with her best friend describe the same scene?  what would each compare it to? 

the act of comparing to create imagery doesn't have to define the character, but it can define your writing style.  what/how the protag narrates and what he/she compares descriptions to will define your character...and on a much deeper level than if you don't use this form of imagery!

now.  take your post-it notes or napkins and a pen with you wherever you go and jot down comparisons.  try to get some for each of your senses.  including emotion.  how many similes or metaphors can you come up with by the time you go to bed tonight? 

yes.  i'm a teacher and i now assign homework on my blog.  chop chop writers!

(this is christy.  if you're now scared of my blog posts, you can still come around for erica's....)

i was totally going to provide examples from the two AMAZING books i read, but i've babbled on for way to long at this point and fear i may have lost 75 percent of you. 

(i'm not kidding about the homework btw.  so if you skipped down to this point, you may have to go back up and reread.)


Kindle Mania

Book giveaway tomorrow!! Click here if you aren't entered yet!

A few weeks ago, Christy asked you guys for advice on Kindle vs. Nook. Erica asked for her advice last week when my husband said he was sick of tripping over my books and he was giving me an e-reader for my birthday (which is next Saturday). My dad is the KING of consumer research, so I knew if I brought it up to him, he'd figure it out for me. (um, sorry for the change in pov here - this is Erica and I'm excited, so I'm switching from third to first and back - I PROMISE I don't do this in my novels!!)

erica and christy are proud to announce they are both the new moms to two Kindles. We are NOT saying anything bad about the Nook in anyway. Kindles were just the choice we both made (well, christy made her own decision and then erica let her dad buy her whichever he chose for her birthday - yes, her dad, so now she has no idea what her husband's going to get her...) (pretty sure it won't be an iPad, but a girl can dream...).

Don't get us wrong. We LOVE real books! We love shopping for them and reading them and curling up with them and looking at their covers and...well...everything about them. But we're also impatient (you can download a book to a kindle in like 12 seconds) and moms (shopping for books isn't easy with two kids running around the store) and sometimes poor (hey, we're teachers - and you can get FREE books on the Kindle as well as quite a lot of cheaper-than-the-real-thing books if there are some you just want to try). Plus, then we can have 2 copies of the same book and our husbands won't tease us for it (really, we like to buy books more than once. or maybe we just forget we already own them *whistles and backs away slowly*).

How about you? Have an e-reader? Any tips for us? (and as a treat to anyone who stuck with this post all the way through - christy has a secret reason why she hasn't been posting as much lately. she's very tired. scroll down the left sidebar to see how many miles she's ran this month and you'll find out what the secret is. :)

Oh, and since it's Monday, here's a recipe for a snack that's Kindle and laptop safe!!

Dried Beef Cheeseball
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 (3-4 oz) package dried beef, diced (rinse each piece to reduce saltiness if desired)
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 tsp. onion salt (can substitute garlic salt or seasoned salt if desired) (I've also heard you can sub chopped white onion, but haven't tried it)
1 Tbl. Worsteshire sauce

Combine all ingredients well (I put on gloves and smoosh it up with my hands). You can roll it into a ball and even roll it into crushed pecans if you want to make it pretty, but I just put it in a container if I'm not taking it to a party. Eat with Wheat Thins. You can also spread the mixture onto tortillas, roll up, and cut into pin-wheels. Super easy and super yummy!



I (erica) tend to think of myself as pretty reasonable human being. I wear my seatbelt and eat healthy foods and go to the dentist. I avoid large snakes, dark alleys, and jumping out of airplanes.

There's one thing that scares me more than anything. It's the completely irrational fear of failure. I've read about some writer's fear of success and how that could hold them back. I'm fine with success - stick me on a couch in front of [insert name of favorite TV host here] any day of the week and I'll get out there and sell my book.

But to not have a book to sell? I'm not putting anyone who self-publishes down here - it's just not for me
 That scares the crap out of me. Many of you know that in my real life, people don't know I write. They don't know about this blog. They think the writing conference I went to last April was a teaching conference and that Christy is a friend of mine from college (yes, we went to the same college. I think even at the same time for a year. no, we did not know each other).

This is how scared I am. That all my work and time and effort and research will accomplish nothing. That I've ignored my kids and my dogs and my husband and my house (yes, my kids and husband know that I write. trust me, this makes me very nervous). And that other people will witness my failure - and maybe even expect it. It's crippling me and I've all but shut-down. It's been weeks since I've written anything productive (I have done some revising, but nothing totally new). Days and days go by without me even opening my documents. Which makes me feel like an even worse failure - like I can't even look my characters in the eyes these days.

Have any of you read The Success Principles by Jack Canfield? I bought it several years ago when my life wasn't going in a way I was expecting and I felt overwhelmed. It really helped and I need to get it out again (well, buy a new copy, since I gave mine away).

Basically, the book told me to stop being afraid and make my life go the way it should go. I'm not afraid of whether or not I have the talent to write a book - I know I do. Now I just have to be strong enough to make it happen. And if for some reason it never does, I have to remember that writing and becoming published doesn't define my life - it just makes it better.

How do you feel about the fear of success vs. the fear of failure (or do you scoff at both?). And thanks for listening - maybe now I'll be able to get past this. (after all, they say confession is good for the soul) (click here for another post about writer's whining)

Happy Father's Day all you Dads out there!!


Time to be helpful.

Don't forget about our giveaway!! Click here to enter!!! YAY SUMMER!!!!

You see, reading YA helps you write YA. So, we're helpful, yes?? hehe - here are some links:

Our friend Christa (who's awesome and if you don't follow her, you totally should, so go ahead and do it right now, don't worry, we'll wait) has this really cool link on her sidebar for a publisher who accepts non-agented (and agented) YA-crossover and adult romance. It's Entangled Publishing and definitely check it out if you write in that genre!

On the same note, one of their editors had a very informative series on writing YA vs. Adult romance.

Erica was not a winner at a first-page contest recently, but Shelley's doing another one. Click here to participate.

As a result of my very few Twitter visits (really, I'm almost 36 and Twitter seems like a bunch of bother - says erica, who feels very old this week) - I discovered that a couple of Harlequin imprints are accepting submissions. One, dear to our hearts (yep, we're old, and we use that phrase) is inspirational.

We've both been struggling with the e-reader revolution. Read this for more information. (btw: erica and christy are both the proud owners of Kindles. YAY!!)

And yeah, well, I meant to include more than this today. But life sneaks up on us and now it's late and I have to go. How about a music video to harness the teen in all of us?? Who was your favorite music sensation from your teen years?? (and remember, erica admitted her age above!)?? (also, she admits to two - ok, three - NKOTB concerts. and, um, yes, she knows there's a new tour. and she so wants to go doesn't care.):

(late addition - I meant to include this one and somehow it didn't make it!) Any picture book writers out there? Here's a contest for you - Put your book in a Cherrios box!!


Follow, Comment and WIN!!!

SUMMER GIVEAWAYS @ erica and christy's!!!!

(for the first three packages there's an alternative prize of a $15 gift card just in case you already own the awesomeness)

Prize Package #1
Divergent by Veronica Roth or $15 to online bookstore of your choice
Divergent (Divergent Trilogy)
Prize Package #2
Possession by Elana Johnson or $15 to online bookstore of your choice

Prize Package #3
Dead Rules by Randy Russel or $15 to online bookstore of your choice
Dead Rules
Prize Package #4

Home Collection:  John Grisham novels-  Playing for Pizza, The Street Lawyer
+Bonus Legal Thriller by Richard Patterson North Degree of Guilt
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or Home Collection: Emilie Richards novels (mystery)-A Lie for A Lie, Beware False Prophets, Let There Be Suspects
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or Home Collection: Janet Evanovich's Finger Lickin' Fifteen, Colleen Coble's (romantic suspense)Distant Echoes, Catherine Anderson's (romance) Early Dawn
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Enter today!

(You have until June 20 to enter for the first giveaway.  Your entries will count for ALL the summer giveaways, so you don't have to reenter each time.  But you can earn more entries each time if you choose to advertise for us again and again!  Watch for future post announcements!)

To enter:
Leave a comment for this post, including your email address, letting us know which prize package you choose and how you spread the word about our giveaway!

How many times do you want your name entered for the drawings?  It's up to you:
+3 for following
+2 for tweeting
+2 for blogging
+2 for sidebarring


Mealtime Madness Monday

Got a cookout to go to?  Need to bring a dish to pass?

Here's an easy recipe that anyone can make in a jiffy.

Taco dip:

Spread softened cream cheese on a medium-sized platter.
Spread a layer of salsa over that.
Cover the two layers with shredded cheese (cheddar or your preference).
Put the tray in the oven or microwave to melt the cheese and warm the layers just before serving with tostitoes or your chip of preference. 

(If you need some cheese options to choose from, check out my hubby's online cheese store selections. http://www.springsidecheese.com  If you find something you like, you can order and have it delivered to your home (US only)!  Stay tuned for Monday Mealtime Madness recipes featuring his dad's cheese made right here in Wisconsin!  I love cheese and married into a cheesemaking family to prove it!)


fun days ahead for our followers!

I don't have all the details decided yet, but since I agreed to post on Saturday, and didn't, I figured I'd better sneak a Sunday post in here...and let you all know that we have book giveaways planned for the upcoming weeks! 

This week I'll let you all know what you can win!  SUMMER GIVEAWAYS @erica and christy!

I hope you're excited!

Almost one year ago, I visited my first blog(s).  I didn't even know they existed before then!  And I'm ready to celebrate my one year bloggiversary of blog hopping!  Just wait until erica and christy's first year bloggiversary comes in the fall!  (More giveaways!)

We're feeling so generous because we are so happy you visit us!

And we can't wait to share our gratitude with you with multitudes of books!

Okay, enough teasing.  I promise to share the details very, very soon.

Before I sign off, I'll leave you with another random thought from my head.  (Christy, btw)  I used to keep a journal.  Four or five years ago, my sister-in-law gave me one.  It was mustard colored.  The very same color that covers my walls and most books I choose from the bookstore.  Yes.  Cover color influences my choices.  I didn't realize it until one summer when all the books I'd read were piled up on my nightstand.  I happened to look at the pile and notice they matched.  Anyways, I started writing in the journal after the birth of my first son.  I didn't want to forget anything about his growing up.  I wrote down everything he did.  Every important event from those days.  Every word he uttered.  Every new food he tried.  Every thought I had about him.

Once my second son was born, I wrote in it...occasionally.  Now he's three and I don't think I've written in it for at least a year and a half. 

So today I was thinking of digging it up again and adding to it.  I don't want to forget the words he says either.  Or the funny, funny faces he makes.  The kid's hillarious.  So, long story short.  (Too late?)  Here's a list of words you may need help understanding if you ever end up conversing with my three year old (just in case I don't get around to getting the journal out):

tid= kid  (As in--  I a big tid, Mommy.  I not a baby.)
tidding=kidding (As in-- Brant not do it, Mommy.  I do it. I just tidding.)
Brant= Grant
brink= drink (As in-- I need a drink, Mommy.)  (Who doesn't?)
nack= snack (Only he no longer really asks.  He just ransacks the pantry on his own.)
nake= snake
yuk= Luc

There's many more, but I'll save those for the journal.



new post with(out) a creative title

I feel like it's been FOREVER since I posted. 

Hence the reason I can't come up with a title.  Apparently blog posting is NOT like riding a bike.

I'm suffocating a bit here in Wisconsin.  Don't get me wrong, I'm super thrilled it's summer, but the heavy heat is a bit stifling!  I'm all for zero humidity and low seventies.  Ah well.

It's my first day off and I spent it getting my son's first cavity filled.  He'd be happy it was over if he didn't have to go back on the 20th for another. 

Okay, I didn't spend the WHOLE day doing that.  Only the first 45 minutes of it.  THEN we had our first park playdate of the summer.  My son's lower lip was still numb, so he accidentally chewed on it while trying to eat his ham sandwich (three hours after the filling), despite how carefully I watched him.  We iced it after that.  I'll spare you the details of the rest of our fab and busy day.

My fingers are itching to get back into my writing.  I did very little during my partial blogging hiatus.  I'd planned to finish MS #2, and didnt, but even so am now planning to finish #1 instead.  (The type is always more intriguing in the other novel...(my lame attempt at using "The grass is always greener...."  as my excuse.))

  I've been reading an adult fantasy book entitled A Discovery of Witches that several colleagues suggested I read since they enjoyed it immensely.  It took me a bit to get into it.  It's only my third vampire book, including Twilight, so I'm finding it difficult not to compare the main characters (a witch and a vampire) to Edward and Bella.  There are parts that are so similar it's distracting.  NOT that I think the author copied or intended the similarities.  I'm assuming these would pop up in any vamp books.  The author has to describe their physiology and lifestyle, after all.

Anyways, while reading, I was also thinking about subplots and how they're woven into the main plot. 

In ADOW (erica's acronymphobia wore off on me) there are tiny pieces of information (that drive a subplot) that increase suspense and yet are just barely sprinkled through the novel.  I'm amazed at how a significant detail is dropped in the middle of a page and then not mentioned again for...ever.  Well, chapters and chapters later anyways.  I would have thought that would have driven me insane, but the actual outcome is that that's what is keeping me turning the pages! 

As a teacher who has been trying to perfect her 5-10 minute mini-lesson before giving the students guided practice, it seems I must also cut back in my writing.  (I have to watch myself because I can easily become a babbling lecturer who says the same thing over and over thinking the number of times I repeat something will definitely help more students to acquire the information.  Old habits....)  Oh, wait.  Is this OVERWRITING?  hehe.

I DON'T need to bat my students over the head to help them understand something (usually the OPPOSITE will occur...zzzzzz) and I don't need to do this with information in my novels either.  Poor readers.  Same effect, right?  zzzzzz. Or worse, they'll never open the book again!

You all have your main plot and your subplots (whether they've been carefully thought out or showed up randomly while writing freely).  The trick?  HOW you effectively weave, or better yet, SPRINKLE that subplot in. THAT is the challenge.  When/how often you let your reader in on something is the BEST part of writing.  I love knowing and deciding when my reader gets to know too! 

The underlying obstacles in your characters' lives will be what keeps your reader wide awake even at 3 AM.

Happy writing!  Remember, a little of this, a little of that.  Just like any good recipe.


What It's Like to Share Your Baby

Elana Johnson is sharing her baby with the world today. You can find her all over the blogosphere today, talking about her book and lots of blogs are giving away copies (some even signed). Here's what her baby looks like (I think it's a girl. Wait, it's blue, so maybe it's a boy. whichever it is, it's beautiful):

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I (erica) was lucky enough to win an ARC of this book over a month ago. Because of our blog semi-hiatus and writing goals and super busy May schedule, I didn't want the temptation to read it and gave it to my friend's teenage daughter. I also gave her my copy of Across the Universe (which I had already read). She read them and shared them with a friend. Who read them and shared them with a friend. Who...yeah, I'll never see them again.

You can go to Elana's blog to see all the great blogs she's visiting during her launch week for your chance to win a copy of Possession (warning: if you get one, don't give it to a teenager unless you don't mind never seeing it again)! Awhile back, several blogs invited people to submit questions for Elana and ours was answered today over on Theresa Milstein's blog - did you know Elana wrote 10 books before she got a book deal?? WOW!! What a great accomplishment for her to finish this one and share it with all of us.

So, Elana wants us to admit about a time when we broke the rules. Hmm...what to admit to??
  • we tell our kids "watch this movie while mommy's working" and then we blog hop instead
  • erica wrote a contemporary YA book when everyone said contemporary wasn't selling
  • christy wrote a fantasy/paranormal YA book when everyone said that trend was over
  • we can never manage to follow the rules when we join a blogfest. we have no idea how that happens
  • erica forgot to schedule a post today, so this is what you get, 5 hours late  :)  (no offense to Elana - we really did want to talk about her, but it was supposed to be a book review. see above, about the teenagers)
  • oh, and our "we're back to posting daily in June" thing isn't happening. we're back to posting four days a week instead. you know, so you get actual helpful posts instead of whatever happens to pop in our heads at that moment
Don't forget to go wish Elana well and good luck with winning your very own copy!! Since I already won one, I'll be entering for christy and buying my own!


Yay! It's June!! Boo! It's Monday!! Yay! Salad!!

So - we apologized for posting daily in April, but not *getting around* enough.

We now apologize for posting occasionally in May and not *getting around * enough - but you guys noticed we were doing better, right??!!

One thing we know as being mothers and teachers is - teach by example. So we've been super busy writing and hope our actions teach you that it can be done, no matter how little time you have.

Sorry, couldn't pull that one off with a straight face.

We tried - and in lots of areas of our lives, we succeeded. We took our kids to soccer and baseball. We went to school every day and taught a lot and assessed a lot and progress noted/report carded a lot. We planted gardens and mowed lawns and fed dogs and even managed to clean houses.

We reconnected with lots of you again!!

What, you thought we'd get here and post all about our thousands of words written and fabulous book contracts?? Well, we'll save that for another day. *whistles* *hopes they realize "another day" means "whenever it's true"* *goes back to reading and mothering and looking up google images*

THE TRUTH: We are making progress on our WIPs. Our goal was to finish by now, but that proved too much for us. BUT we tried and we did a lot of important stuff and we're just glad that summer vacation is here for erica and close for christy and hope that our schedules this month include more writing than we were allowed in May. (remember, our kids are almost out of school, too!). BUT - YES, we did WRITE. And EDIT. And thought about you all!

Anyhow - hope you're up for a Mealtime Madness Monday post! We've spotted some lettuce growing and we know that some of you southerners have peas and onions and other crops just ripe for eating!! Writing can wreck havoc on your eating and exercise, so it's extra-important to eat well and hydrate when you're busy.

One thing my family loves (this is erica, btw) is 7-layer salad. It takes practice to get it right and it isn't the same for everyone. The response to it when you get it right? Yum, yum, yum!! If you can pick fresh veggies, all the better. If not (like us, so far), try out farmer's markets or tuck this recipe away for later!

Cut up and layer in order, then let sit for at least 2 hours before serving (overnight is better). You can serve it in a pretty clear dish - or, if you're really going for authentic, stir/shake it together and let it sit another couple of hours to really blend flavors! (I know it looks like more than 7 layers, but added up, it's okay. Plus, cheating is highly encouraged in this recipe! Take your time to figure out what you like for the dressing - some like it sweeter than others and some like dill or another herb added in).

Seven Layer Salad:
  • 4 cups torn lettuce (green leafy or romaine is really yummy and nutritious)
  • 1 cup peas (frozen or fresh) (if you can't find any, use mushrooms or broccoli)
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced thin or diced (diced is easier to serve)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • dressing - 3/4 cup mayonnaise (or salad dressing) mixed with 1 tsp. lemon juice and a dash of sugar
  • Cooked, drained, crumbled bacon (about 6 slices)
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 green onions, diced
Enjoy - and let us know what your hopes are for the summer!



IT'S (almost) SUMMER VACATION!!!! you know, if you're a teacher or a student....

assessments given and graded. check.
report cards completed. check.
life/work skills reports completed. still unchecked.
packing up my classroom to move to another classroom and grade level (for the 8th time in 11 years) still unchecked.

manuscript drafts #1 and #2 completed and edited. still unchecked.

MAJOR life decision made. still unchecked.

well...it seems i'm not quite ready to celebrate the coming of summer vacation yet, BUT believe me. i'm CLOSE! i can smell the relaxation. (swimming lessons. giggles and wiggles class. soccer. getting back into exercising. reading. WRITING. blog hopping. vacations.)

here, i'll help you get in the mood too!

you're welcome!
christy :0)