Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goals for 2012!

Well, it's that time of the year again! Here are my goals for 2012:

1. Publish The Protectors series
Tentative release dates for each:
Promising Light, the first full-length novel of the series: January 9th
Shifting Light: Early February
Fire and Light: Mid-February
The End of Light: Early March
Future of Light, the sequel to Promising Light: ?? Late Spring/Early Summer
There may also be a third book in the trilogy, but I have to see how Future of Light ends. I don't plan that far ahead ;) I imagine along the way, there will be bonus short stories (one is in the anthology Love, Me coming in February!) and maybe even more novellas throughout the year.

2. Query Aaron and Anna and/or The Second Generation
Being two books I feel would benefit from the distribution and marketing of a traditional publisher, I would like to search for an agent for these novels, and obviously, querying will mean I need a final draft of both. Finishing TSG was a goal of mine last year, hehe, but I will get it done this year!

3. Finish writing the Aaron and Anna series, possibly called Le Garde
This will be a trilogy, so I'd like to outline and finish the first draft of the next two books in the series.

4. Finish writing The Illusionist and make plans for it.
I'm currently about 50K into The Illusionist, a fantasy novel. It currently looks like it's going to be long enough to have a sequel, so it will probably be a two-part series. By the time it's finished, I'd like to decide what to do with it. I may explore serialization, since that sounds like a lot of fun. I may self-publish it, depending on the success of The Protectors, or I may want to find a publisher for it. No idea, we'll just have to see!

5. Gain 40-50 more college credits. 
I've already enrolled for Winter Term (14 credits) and I plan to go Spring and Fall for sure. I'll go summer, too, if time and money allows.

6. Travel to Spain and France with my husband. 
Our goal is to use his tax return to buy tickets and save up using my fiverr and publishing money. The plan: early April. We've had plans to go back to Europe since we got back the first time, but this time, it's really going to happen! ;)

7. Mentor for Mid-Valley Mentors. 
I had a mentee match lined up about a month ago, but communication has fallen through since then. Once the new year starts, I'm calling them up again and hopefully spending the year as a mentor for a youth in the area.

8. Write 500,000 words. 
So far this year, I've written 455,245 words. I hope to write 500,000 words next year! I hope some of this is creative nonfiction since I've had good reviews on my religious nonfiction collection, Agape.

That's all I have for now! What about you, readers? Any goals for next year?

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Looking back on 2011

The end of the year already? Wow! I had a good year. 

Favorite YA Read:
Gosh, I read some great books this year. Divergent by Laura Roth, Lauren Oliver and Kristen Cashore's books. . .but if I had to choose, the ones that really stick out in my mind are Unearthly by Cynthia Hand and The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong.

Favorite non-YA Read:
The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers. SO creative and fun! Love, love, loved this book. Although I'm reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss right now and holy moly, if I finish this before 2012 comes, Moers has some competition!

Favorite "Indie" (aka self-published) Read:
Again, I can't choose. This is a toss-up between The Talent Chronicles by Susan Bischoff and Solstice by P.J. Hoover. I really loved both! Great plot lines and characters, and can't wait for more from both authors. 

Favorite Thing I Wrote:
Gosh, this is hard! I finished a lot this year: Finding Fiona, Promising Light, the prequel novellas to PL, Aaron and Anna. . .I'll have to say Promising Light, though. I love the characters and the story, and it's just the beginning of an epic story. You can read it REALLY soon!

Favorite Trip:
When Chris and I went camping over the 4th of July! First camping trip together, but not the last. We went to the Tillamook Cheese Factory, watched fireworks on the beach, and more!

Favorite College Class:
Religion 202, Western Religions. This was a fascinating class with a lot of discussion. I didn't learn a lot of new things about Christianity and Judaism, but I did learn a lot about Islam! I enjoyed hearing the different perspectives in our class and from the different authors we read.

Favorite Movie: 
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. I also liked Midnight in Paris, 50/50, and X-Men: First Class. But the last Harry Potter installment was AMAZING.

Favorite Band:
Typhoon. A band from Salem/Portland. Amazing, and I had the chance to see them live twice this year!

Here's to another year! 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Holiday Hop Winners!

For the Holiday Blog Hop, I gave the first and the last sentences of the seven stories in my short story collection Passages, and asked entrants to pair them up! Of those who got four or more right, I randomly choose three winners. . .and they are. . .drumroll, please. . .

Na S. 
Teressa Oliver

They each won a copy of Finding Fiona, my YA scifi novella! They'll also be entered into the grand prize drawing for a Kindle Fire! 

And here are the correct pairings, just in case you're wondering:

The Rowe Boys
First: Moments like this, when his world revolves around him and not his brother, are rare.
Last: Ethan nods, then begins to follow her back to the house, where he’ll get drunk and celebrate the end of high school and make-out with another girl, Mya Daniels on his mind every moment.

Death of the Sun
First: It's hard to believe it was so long ago.
Last: I drove towards a new life, the sun behind me.

You Remember
First: She's wearing your sweatshirt.
Last: She's wearing your sweatshirt.

Melanie's Secrets
First: My sister and I used to be good friends.
Last: Amy stares at her lap, then finally meets my eyes. “Maybe I do.”

Fettuccine Alfredo
First: Alyssa walked into the kitchen, trying to appear nonchalant.
Last: “You and me, mom, we’ll go to Italy.”

First: The back door slams shut, the hinges rattling.
Last: “You’ll make sure we’re still together, right?” she asks, tilting her head. // “Yeah,” I tell her. “I’ll make sure.”

The Prodigal Daughter
First: Teresa hated hospitals.
Last: “I want to try again. And I’ll try harder this time.”

If these intrigue you at all, feel free to buy Passages for 99 cents on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Thanks for participating, everyone, and Happy Holidays!

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

So, I picked this up because I liked The Gathering. In the end, I didn't like it as much. I'm not sure why. It feels like her writing has improved since this book. I know she's written dozens of books, but this is her first YA.

That said, I still enjoyed this read! I really liked the characters. Chloe is someone I rooted for the entire book. I love that Derek is not your typical male protagonist, and I also like that Armstrong doesn't dive headfirst into the romance. There is some tension between Chloe and Derek and Simon, but it doesn't play a huge part in this first book. Rae, Tori, and Liz were great, too.

The story was really interesting, too. Kept me guessing and reading and wondering what the heck was going on. You think the Lyle house is normal, but things keep getting weirder and the adults keep ticking you off. Chloe's abilities are intense, too! And I didn't see a lot of things coming with the other kids' abilities. Won't give anything away, though.

I read this book a couple weeks ago around Christmas (and I'm dating this to then but writing it January 12th :P), so that's why this review is kind of short. I just finished The Awakening, though, so I'll have a longer and more detailed review for that one!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Festival of Books

Hey, everyone! During this time of the year, everyone's concerned about Christmas trees, Santa Claus, the birth of Christ, etc., and there's a small group of people lighting up a hanukkiah (an eight-branched menorah) for eight nights in a row.

If you're not sure about the story behind Hanukkah, here's the short version: a Greek emperor Antiochus Epiphanes moved in on Israel in 160s BCE. They commanded the Jews not to observe Torah or their religious customs. The Israelites were having none of this, of course. They studied Torah, anyways, but they were prepared and when the Greeks came around, they'd hide what they were studying and act like they were gambling with spinning tops (dreidels!). Worst of all, the Greeks seized the temple and dedicated it to the worship of Zeus.

Well, after a while, they finally got fed up with the Greeks and went up against them, led by the Maccabees. The succeeded in taking back their land, but they needed to consecrate the temple, which had been defiled by the worship of swine. They found they only had enough oil for one day, but they light the menorah, anyway. And the Hanukkah miracle was that the oil last eight days, long enough for them to make new oil.

As a result, each year people around the world light candles for eight nights: one on the first, two on the second, etc. They also eat a lot of fried foods to commemorate the role of oil in the miracle of Hanukkah.

I didn't start celebrating Hanukkah until about eight years ago, but I've always been in awe when I heard the stories of these men and women sticking up for their beliefs. In one story, the Greeks tried to persuade one elder of the community to eat pork. They threatened his family, his life, but he wouldn't yield. They finally told him it wouldn't even be pork, but they would tell everyone else it was, in order to sway the community to Greek customs. He still refused, saying he wouldn't even give the appearance of evil. Many died rather than disobey God.

I marvel at the steadfast faith of these people. Despite their small numbers, they fought to retrieve their land and most especially, their temple where they worshiped God. In the face of an oppressive regime, they stuck by their beliefs no matter what the cost. This time of year always makes me wonder if I would have the same kind of devotion. Of course I like to think I would, and I say this now, but then I remember what Peter said when he fiercely promised he'd never disown his lord, and yet on night when the Messiah needed him most, he denied him three times. Fortunately, Peter realized his sin and repented. Tradition says he was eventually killed for his belief.

This time of the year also reminds me that God is watching over his people. He cared about his temple and kept the menorah burning for eight days. I think it was a sign he was on their side. He gave them victory, but the holiday isn't about the victory. It's about the miracle in the temple and how God sustained them after the victory. Although things seemed dire, he brought them out of it and he helped them consecrate his temple. I love the story of Hanukkah because it encourages me.

It's funny because a lot of people see Hanukkah as the Jewish Christmas. Its importance is pretty low compared with the High Holidays such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, but Hanukkah's proximity to Christmas has elevated it. I know some people may wonder I, as a believer in Christ, don't celebrate Christmas, but I think that might be another post. Keep your eye out if it really interested you.

Also, I have my own giveaway for Finding FionaPassages, and (bonus!) Beyond Home. If you comment here, I will randomly choose three people to win a copy of whichever ebook they prefer. Just answer two questions: 
- What's your favorite holiday custom this time of the year? Christmas, Hanukkah, whatever! 
- Which ebook do you want if you win? Finding Fiona, Passages, or Beyond Home?

Contest closes midnight on the 28th, and I'll choose the winners on the 29th.

THIS post is about Hanukkah. . .and the Festival of Books! We have eight participating authors:

Stephanie Abbott writing as Emma Jameson, author of Ice Blue (a cozy mystery): Blog and Twitter
Danielle Blanchard, author of Death Wish (paranormal romance): Blog and Twitter
Justin Dennis, author of Through The Portal (YA fantasy): Blog and Twitter
Lisa Grace, author of Angel in the Shadows and Angel in the Storm (YA fantasy): Blog and Twitter
Jonathan Gould, author of Doodling and Flidderbugs (both humorous fantasies): Blog and Twitter
Craig Hansen, author of SHADA (YA thriller): Blog and Twitter
Larry Kahn, author of The Jinx (thriller) and King of Paine (suspense): Blog and Twitter
Emily Ann Ward, author of Finding Fiona (YA Sci-Fi) and Passages (YA short stories): Blog and Twitter

We'll all be posting during Hanukkah, but here's your chance to enter the giveaway to win all twelve of our books. You can gain entries by tweeting about the entry, following out blogs and twitters, or liking us on Facbeook. So please spread the word!


Moon Spell by Samantha Young

Moon Spell by Samantha Young

Published 2010, read on my Kindle.

Yeah, another book I finished in one sitting! I don't normally read Paranormal Romance, but I really liked Smokeless Fire (which, tbh, I don't consider PNR) so I picked this one up for another dollar!

Caia left the pack ten years ago after her parents were killed, and she's lived in isolation with no one but Irini. When it's time to return, she finds out the pack is keeping a lot of secrets from her. Though it feels like the first time she's ever belonged, there are also things that are wrong. People seem to blame her for the murders that took place when she was young. She makes enemies with another girl her age named Alexa. When her emotions get the best of her, scary things happen. She also feels an instant connection to the Pack Leader, Lucien. What is the pack hiding from her, though?

To be honest, the beginning of this book was a bit rough. The author throws you right in without any introductions or description. We're just dropped into this conversation. I was confused at first, but I trudged through. Caia arrives in her new home with the pack and slowly starts to adjust to her new life. School, the pack dynamics, living with the Pack Leader and his family, new friends, new enemies.

The characters were pretty interesting and unique. There were a lot of them, and some of the minor ones went straight over my head, but the author did a pretty good job of keeping them separate and distinct. Caia was cool, I liked her. She was calm and collected, but she still had a fierceness to her. The story had a nice pace to it, too. I never thought, 'ugh, let's move on!' I DID want to know what was going on, but that was more the urgency of, 'Wow, I can't read fast enough!'

The romance was nice. Of course I wanted them to jump right into each other's arms, but it was more realistic that things took longer. Towards the end, I feel like they were on a bit of a roller coaster, hating each other, then loving each other, then having screaming matches. But it's understandable with their personalities. I really want to pick up the next one to see what's in their future. At times, the whole "possessive male" annoyed me, but it's realistic, too, considering they are part wolf. I think she did a good job of balancing it, though. Yes, they're protective and slightly chauvinistic, but the women were also strong characters and the men were never dishonorable or anything. Well, I suppose you could argue Lucien was in a few of his lies. . .

I liked the worldbuilding and magic system. Some of it is familiar, of course, but I liked how she mixed Greek myths with the paranormal races of witches, werewolves, vampyres, etc. I'm not 100% clear on the origins of the war, but I think I got it. I'd probably have to read it again, but I don't really have plans of doing that. I'll be reading the next one! XD

Mechanics could use some work, but the storytelling was great and they only distracted me for a moment (or not at all!) before I kept reading. Looking forward to picking up the sequel! I know I'll have to wait until I have some free time because I probably won't be able to put it down. ;)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Smokeless Fire by Samantha Young

Smokeless Fire by Samantha Young

Published in 2011, read on my Kindle.

Wow! Amazon showed me this book my recommendations, and this lovely cover caught my eye. The blurb was awesome, the sample snagged me, so I bought it. . .and finished it. . .all in one day! Man, I love being on break!

Blurb from Gooreads:

For the last two years Ari’s life has been anything but normal and on her 18th birthday, when her friends surprise her with a gimmick genie claiming to grant wishes, Ari discovers the truth. The tragic and strange occurrences surrounding her 16th birthday were not coincidental and her life is never going to be the same again.

Ari’s real parents are not normal. They are not loving. They are not human.

They are myth.

They are Smokeless Fire.

They are Jinn.

Wow, wow, wow. I know already said that, but  I don't think four times is enough. This story was fascinating. At first, I wasn't sure what to think about Ari since she wanted Charlie so badly. I thought she was kind of pathetic, like her friends did, but I kept reading. I felt sorry for her because she seemed lonely. Her dad was gone all the time, and she really had no one to talk to. When she suddenly wakes up in this other world and meets her true father. . .well, things just didn't slow down after that!

Samantha Young has created an amazing world with very unique world building. The Jinn have many different forms, and the magic system is really neat.

I really liked Jai. I'm usually turned off by sarcastic, arrogant love interests like him, but I think there was more to him than a typical Jace or. . .okay, I don't read a lot of PNR, so Jace is pretty much the only one I can name :P BUT I liked Jai. I think Samantha did a good job at showing his age. He doesn't act like a 17 year old, and I'm glad she didn't make him that young. He's much more mature than Charlie (groan) and it showed. I really liked the chemistry between Jai and Ari and I was hoping for something to happen. . .but I won't tell if anything did or not.

There were some things, writing style, that rubbed me the wrong way. Mainly mechanics stuff. Like mixing up you're/your? Come on. Or there were a couple sentences I had to reread where an extra comma could have helped. That's mainly the reason it's 4 instead of 5 and because I think Ari could have been a tad more dynamic. I'm not sure how, I just think. . .I'm not sure. I did like her quite a bit. Even in the beginning, I just thought she was kind of naive. I still feel bad for her, too, considering all she's been through. I hope she doesn't let things get to her. I feel like she needs someone she can actually rely on, but she's kind of this island and it's sad.

I'm excited to see what else is coming up in the rest of the series. Obviously, big, epic things considering what's revealed in this book. And the second one comes out in February, yay! I will definitely buy the sequel.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sample Sunday: Magnitude from Beyond Home

This is a portion from the beginning of Magnitude, the leading short story in my collection, Beyond Home.


They could never agree, not in all of her twenty-three years, so why would they start now when things seemed much more important? As much as Laura wanted life to be different in the wake of her father’s death—for everyone to be more pleasant and realize that life was beautiful and meant to be lived—things just went back to the way they were. Her mother still washed the dishes every night at seven fifteen, and her eighteen-year-old sister couldn’t agree with a word she said.

“I just think it would be really awkward,” Jessica said. “We haven’t seen them for years, but now that Dad’s dead, we’re going to go visit them?”

Laura wished she wouldn’t say he was dead. She knew they all meant the same thing, but passed away, gone, or even left, they all seemed different. “They’re family,” she said. She remembered the funeral, and seeing her first cousins, who she had only seen in pictures every few years. They were growing tall and scrawny, like their dad and uncle.

Jessica scoffed. “Right.”

“Look, it’s just one stop,” Laura said. “Cheyenne, Wyoming. Add it to the list.”

Jessica huffed, but obeyed. Cheyenne, Wyoming, where their dad grew up and where his brother and sister still lived. “That’s number five.”

Laura examined their road trip destinations in Jessica’s loopy handwriting. The first one was the one that seemed the most important. Since Laura had been old enough to walk, Dad had promised that he’d take them to the Grand Canyon. Something else had always come up: Jessica’s broken leg, Disneyland, his mom dying. Some nights, he’d tell them stories about the canyon to get them to go to sleep, how big and far and wide it was. And Laura would fall asleep, amazed that anything in this world could be bigger than her school.

They had a lot of ground to cover. They’d leave from Chico, California and travel to Flagstaff, Arizona, then up to Colorado, where Dad met Mom. Laura couldn’t remember whose idea it had been, but now that it was being put into action, it seemed like something they had to do.

“Did Mom go shopping?” Jessica asked. She stood up and walked over to the fridge.

Opening the fridge answered her question; there was a wealth of food inside. Their mom was thrilled to have her older daughter home for a while. She had cooked something grand every single meal: banana pancakes, homemade potato salad, lamb roast, apple pie. Laura was pretty sure it took her mind off of Dad.

Jessica started warming up leftover lamb.

“Come on,” Laura said. “We’ve got tons of planning to do if we really want to leave in six days.”

“Six days is an eternity!” Jessica exclaimed, flipping her light brown hair off of her shoulder. “All we need is money.” She left the room, whistling, and Laura didn’t bother to ask where she was going. She was just going to have to do this herself.


A few days later, the three of them sat on the back porch. The crickets were chirping loudly, almost drowning out the soft music that came from the old record player. Mom had a bottle of beer in her hand, and it looked odd, like she was wearing a bikini or something. A lot of things seemed odd, though: Dad’s empty chair, the way everything in the house looked the same even after four years, but just the air felt different.

Mom looked at Laura, a sleepy smile on her face. “I’m glad you guys are here.”

Laura nodded. “Me, too.”

The stars spread over their heads in the deepening sky. They seemed to go on forever, twinkling and spelling out stories. The four of them used to lie on the back porch in the summer, bundled up in sleeping bags. Dad would tell them about Orion, Leo, Andromeda. Jessica would always fall asleep first, and Mom would go inside because of her back. Laura would try to stay up longer than he did, but she usually fell asleep anyway and woke up with mosquito bites on her face.

Jessica went inside for a moment, then came out with a slice of apple pie. She settled back down in her lawn chair, and the three of them sat in the silence, listening to Dad’s records and the crickets.

“When do you girls leave?” Mom asked.

“Tuesday,” Laura said.

“You’d better be careful,” Mom said. “I’ve heard stories about rapists at campgrounds.”

“There are rapists everywhere,” Jessica said with a full mouth.

“Geez, Jessica, swallow your food,” Laura said.

Jessica mimicked her in a high voice. Mom began laughing, and Laura rolled her eyes. “How old are you?” Laura asked.

“I don’t know how you’re going to survive two weeks on the road with each other,” Mom said with a chuckle.

Jessica gave Mom and Laura a smile that worked on her teachers in fourth grade, the one that said, I’m completely innocent.

Laura couldn’t believe Jessica was eighteen already, old enough to vote, to buy cigarettes. She had a high school diploma and probably a boyfriend, though Laura hadn’t asked yet.

She wasn’t sure how they were going to survive two weeks, either.


Laura woke up early Tuesday morning. She took a shower and finished packing. The last trip she went on, not including driving here to her mom and dad’s house, was going to the Coachella Festival a few months ago with Nathan, Kayla, and their friends. She had camped in a small tent with three other girls. They were up giggling at three in the morning every night and tried sleeping in the next morning only to be forced out of their tents by the heat.

Dad’s truck had definitely seen better days, but Jessica assured Laura it would get them all the way to Colorado and back. Laura knew they didn’t really have any other choice. Mom wouldn’t give up her Excursion, and Laura’s small Honda would be useless with Dad’s pop-up tent trailer on the back. It was something they had used a few times when they were younger, mostly during Memorial Day weekends, a trailer that had sat in the driveway for five years now.

Laura remembered coming home after Dad’s burial and memorial service. She and Jessica sat in her car in the driveway, not yet ready to go in for the reception. “We should go help Mom,” Jessica had said.

“Yeah,” Laura had said, but they sat there, feeling the emptiness of death. She saw the trailer in front of them. “Is that thing still working?”

They got out and worked to bring the trailer to its full height: cranking it up, putting the bars in place, fitting the door on, bringing the table down, even attaching the bungee cords. When they were done, they were sweaty, and their dark-colored dresses were covered in dust and dirt. They stood back and admired their work, staring at the trailer Dad had been so excited to bring home fifteen years ago. Mom came out, asking where they’d been, but she stopped short and came to stand next to her two daughters, looking at the trailer in silence. It almost felt as if he were still alive.

They now loaded their things into the back of the truck, which Jessica had taken to get washed yesterday. Laura opened the front door, only to find it still littered with Dad’s things. A half-finished pack of cigarettes rested in the console, trash was scattered across the ground, and his sunglasses hung from the rearview mirror.

“Jess!” Laura called. “I thought you cleaned it out.”

Jessica looked up from the hitch, wiping her forehead. She just stared at Laura for a moment, and then said, “I cleaned the outside.”

“Well. . .” Laura said, motioning to the dirty truck. Jessica went back to attaching the trailer to the hitch, silent. Laura looked back into the truck. It still smelled like him, like tobacco and sweat and his aftershave. She began taking out the trash. She left his sunglasses, his cigarettes, his scent.

Mom was crying as she said goodbye. “Take pictures for me. You know I’d come, but. . .”

“Don’t worry,” Laura said. “I’ll call Aunt Julia and make sure she’s taking care of you.”

“I’ll be fine.” Mom wiped her face and pulled Jessica over for a hug. “I love you both. Have fun. Call me when you get to Las Vegas.”

“We’ll bring you back lots of money,” Jessica promised.

Mom laughed as they got into Dad’s truck. Laura remembered learning how to drive in this thing, her dad giving constant instruction, and Laura swearing when the brakes took longer than she thought. The stop sign had ended up almost completely past the truck.

“Love you, Mom,” Laura said. She smiled, starting up the engine. “We’ll be back before you know it!”

They pulled out of the driveway. Jessica immediately took out her iPod and asked, “What do you listen to these days?”

Laura shrugged. “Anything. I like oldies, though.”

“Hmmm. . .I haven’t got anything old but Michael Jackson.”

“Nah. Put something else on.”

Jessica began playing a pop-rock band. She sang every word, and Laura wondered how long it took her to memorize the lyrics. Aside from occasionally talking about school with Jessica and commenting on her pictures, they hadn’t talked much. Her senior year had taken up most of Laura’s time.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” Laura asked.

Jessica just laughed. “No.” She put her seatbelt on and put her feet up on the dashboard.

“What about that Jake guy?”

“We just went to prom together,” Jessica said. “He’s nice, but he’s kind of an airhead.”

There was a moment of silence as Laura maneuvered the truck and trailer through town, headed for Burger King. “Want some breakfast before we go?”

“Yeah,” Jessica said. “What about you?”

“Yeah. I love Burger King’s french toast sticks.”

“No, I mean, are you still going out with Nathan?”

Laura, too, laughed in response to this question. “No. We broke up in May.”

They got through the drive-through, though Laura was convinced she was going to sideswipe the trailer, and ate in the parking lot. Laura was feeling proud of herself for being able to drive the trailer well when Jessica asked her what happened with her and Nathan.

“I guess we just grew apart. It was like he was suddenly a different person. I don’t know.” She paused. “I don’t think Dad would have liked him.”

Jessica munched thoughtfully on her sandwich. “Who will walk us down the aisle?”

This simple question brought tears to Laura’s eyes. She didn’t want to think about the rest of her life without her dad. But all of these unanswered questions loomed before them. Who was going to take over Dad’s shop? Who would disapprove of their boyfriends? Who would take care of Mom?

“Sorry,” Jessica said quietly.

“Forget it.” Laura started the engine up. “Let’s go.”


This short story was originally published in Literary House Review 2010. The entire collection is for sale now for only 99 cents. 

Coming soon to Barnes and Noble and the iBookstore.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fiction Fridays: The Protectors Prequel Novellas

At first, I thought the prequel would be one cohesive novel. But instead, I’m going to release three novellas, best read in succession.

The Protectors are merely rumors and distant whispers for Sashe until a new boy moves to her hometown. Seth’s parents were killed by the Protectors, and he personally killed four of them. As pregnant women start dying, Sashe realizes just how far reaching the Protectors’ hatred is. When the Protectors come to their home to take Sashe and her sister away from the shape changers, Sashe must choose whether she’ll stay with the only family she’s ever known even with their dangerous future.
A Protectors novella, approximately 21,000 words

Sierra has always considered Evan like a brother, but suddenly she sees him as more. When he confesses his feelings for her, she shies away. In the midst of her confusing feelings for Evan, the Protectors try to convince Sierra she’d be better off with them. Sierra thinks she’s brave enough to stay with the shape changers, but is she brave enough to risk her friendship with Evan?
A Protectors novella, approximately 24,800 words

An elder of the shape changers tell Sashe and Sierra of a vision that claims they can break the curse set on their family by the Protectors. How? By getting pregnant. Even though a pregnancy hasn’t been carried to full-term for eight years, and many women have died. Sierra, Sashe, and their husbands must decide whether to trust the elders and whether or not to risk their lives for the chance at breaking the curse. And when a spy reveals the vision to the Protectors, the consequences could be catastrophic.
A Protectors novella, approximately 26,200 words

The first will be released mid-February. I can’t decide if I want to release them all at once or within a few weeks of each other, but I’ll keep you guys updated! An omnibus edition called Burning Light will also be available with all three novellas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tempest by Julie Cross

Tempest by Julie Cross

Coming 2012, ARC copy from Goodreads. 

I got this book from a Goodreads "First Reads" giveaway, and I'm so happy they picked me! This book was great; it had a perfect balance of action, romance, mystery, and science fiction.

Jackson can time travel. Unlike what you see in the movies, though, he can't change anything in the past. He can only jump backward, and his body in his "home base" looks like a vegetable. But everything changes when suddenly men come and shoot his girlfriend Holly. He suddenly jumps to two years earlier, 2007, and can't find a way to return home. After finding his old friend Adam, a science whizz, he tries to adjust to life. Mysteries surround his father, who he suspects is a CIA agent, and Jackson searches for answers as well as a way home.

This book is intense! Okay, the beginning went by pretty quick. The middle is when it started to get confusing. There was a lot of information to take in, and I was trying to remember how it all connected. The end is WOW. I saw somewhere "the beginning of an epic trilogy" and epic is a great word for it. There's so much revealed at the end that makes me wonder what the rest of this trilogy is going to explore. There are big, big things, like genetic testing and future worlds and all kinds of stuff. You should have seen me when reading. I was so into it.

I liked these characters. It's neat to read a young adult book (though I think it has crossover potential) from a male POV. Jackson is like a typical guy but he also has more depth to him. It took me a while to really "get to know" Holly, but once the author established her, I really liked her as a character. And of course Adam was awesome. I even liked Jackson's dad, though I'm hoping we get to know more about him in the future books.

The romance was neat. It was interesting to see Jackson with the 2007 Holly especially since she was a little bit of a different person then. It gave the romance a new twist. You were sort of rooting for Jackson with 2007 Holly, even though you knew he belonged with 2009 Holly.

Jackson and Adam's friendship was cool, and Jackson's relationship with his sister was sweet. And sad, of course. And still has a few unanswered questions, to be honest. Like I said, I hope we get to see more of Jackson's dad. Maybe they can rebuild their relationship a bit.

I really liked this book, and I cannot wait for the sequel. It's sad because not even the first book has come out, and now I have to wait a whole year for book two! But there's a free short story out that's a prequel to Tempest, and I'm about halfway through. I don't want to finish it because then there won't be anymore for a long time :(

But yeah, read it if you want a book with lots of twists and turns and a good dose of romance!

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Published 2011, 358 pages, Library copy. First in the Darkness Rising trilogy. 

Maya lives on Vancouver Island in an isolated town called Salmon Creek. The St. Clouds own a medical research facility there and there's a very small group of people who live there working at the facility. Maya's father is the park warden, and Maya helps him with wounded animals. She has a way with most of the animals, even the old cougar Marv.

Her life is mostly normal, but strange, unanswered questions surround Maya and her town. Her best friend Serena died a mysterious death a year before the story. An old woman calls her a witch when she sees Maya's birthmark tattoo. A reporter starts sneaking around town and no one believes she's really there to write an article about being a teen in a small town.

It's interesting trying to write a short blurb for this because honestly, not that much happens in the first half of the book, and yet I couldn't put it down! Kelley Armstrong's characters are so likable and well-characterized. The main ones all have a distinct personality, and I found myself liking all of them. Her writing flows really well. I could see this small town perfectly--the forests, the kids, everything.

Okay, I say nothing happened, but that's not really true. It's just that the author brings up a lot of questions and doesn't answer them until the second half. . .or not at all. Maya starts to get to know this new guy named Rafe. At first she brushes him off, but they really start to hit it off after a few talks. She and her friend Daniel investigate the reporter. She has strange encounters with animals--seeing what they feel, telling them what to do. The second half is more fast-paced as things start to be revealed. You can predict some of it, and other parts come out of left field, which is cool.

I really liked this story! Like I said, the characters were great. I really liked Maya. I liked the romance between her and Rafe, although I'm still wondering if there's anything at all between her and Daniel. Maybe next book she'll explore that a bit more.

One of the things I really appreciated was the morals of the story. And I don't mean it had a message, I just mean people were decent and there wasn't anything that made me question Kelley Armstrong's belief in gender roles. Maya was a strong female, and although Daniel was completely chivalrous, he wasn't condescending to any of the women in the book. He's a perfect gentlemen, actually, as is Rafe, without treating the females in the book like they're inferior. When Maya suspects she was drugged at her birthday party, she was ready to drop the suspecting male in a second.

Armstrong was conscious about issues that teens face and her characters were totally sensible, even honorable, about it. This is probably a book conservative parents wouldn't mind their kids reading--she'll use "Rafe cursed" instead of actual words and the book is light on violence and sex while still being realistic and still being a really strong story.

Long story short: READ IT. I cannot WAIT for the sequel. I keep starting these series' even though I know I'll have to wait forever for the next one. I'm going to do read her Darkest Powers series so I can just read one right after another!


Holiday Hop is a blog hop with Indie Writers Unite which runs from December 15th-25th. One lucky participant is going to win a Kindle Fire at the end of all this! So enter as many contests and sign up for as many giveaways as you can because this is an awesome deal!

You have a chance to win quite a few things! Open all ten days: the chance to win copies of Finding Fiona or Passages and my upcoming short story collection, Beyond Home.

Finding Fiona is a YA scifi novella packed with adventure, mystery, and romance. It's a perfect weekend read. Cuddle up with some hot chocolate and follow Fiona on her journey to find her past. There are a lot of samples around this blog.

Passages is a YA short story collection. Seven mainstream stories about life, love, family, and God. Bite-sized pieces of characters in a variety of situations: Halloween parties, graduations, hospitals. You can find quite a few samples around the blog.

Beyond Home is a mainstream short story collection featuring three new "new adult" short stories centering around travel and transitions. Two sisters travel to the Grand Canyon after their father dies; a young man travels to Hawaii with a runaway bride; and a young woman reminisces about a journey she took with an ex while deciding whether to move across the state with her current boyfriend.

So, how do you win a copy? Just play this little game. I have the first sentences of all seven young adult short stories in Passages, and I have the last sentences of each short story. Try to pair them up!

If you get four or more right, you'll be entered into the contest that will have three winners:
2 people will win an ebook copy of Finding Fiona or Passages via Smashwords coupon.
1 person will win an ARC of an upcoming short story collection, Beyond Home (e-mailed to you in your preferred format)

(If you get all of them right, then I'll assume you read the whole collection and loved it so much you want a chance to win Finding Fiona for free.)

Here they are!


I'll announce the winners on the 26th in a blog post, but I'll also e-mail you if you win. If you do, I will put your name in the pot for the Kindle Fire that IWU is giving away after Holiday Hop!

You can go through the list (like you're supposed to ;), but if you're interested in books similar to mine, check out:
Danielle Kazemi, who's giving away copies of her urban fantasies and science fiction novels.
R.M. Strong, the author of YA superhero novel Karis, is giving out an Amazon gift card.
Laura Eno, who's giving away copies of her YA fantasy novels. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pre-Orders for Finding Fiona Paperback

The victim of a brutal attack, Fiona remembers little about her life until she meets someone who claims to be from her past. He tells her that her parents were killed for a human replication machine. He's shocked to discover she's still alive since her body was found in the wreckage of the fire. 

She soon travels to her old home in New York to figure out what happened to her and her family. She needs to find out who she is, but more importantly, confront the men who killed her parents. 

This coming-of-age scifi novella is full of mystery, action, and romance. At 176 pages, this book is a perfect weekend read. 

Would you like a paperback copy of Finding Fiona? Maybe you don't have an e-reader and don't like reading on the computer. Or maybe you just want Finding Fiona on your shelf. Well, it's coming soon from Createspace, and I'm taking pre-orders!

I'm selling them for $6.99 a copy plus $3 shipping ($4 for two copies, $5 for three, etc.). If you'd like a SIGNED copy of Finding Fiona, follow the link to the pre-order page!

Oh, and this picture is an example of what you'll like like while you're reading it.

Also available as an ebook for only $1.49 during December on Amazon, Smashwords, or Barnes and Noble.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

New book covers!

I have a new cover for Beyond Home. The stock photo is by Jesse TherrienI'm also really excited to release the official cover for Promising Light, designed by my husband Christopher Ward. I love them both!

Male Protagonists in YA

I had the chance to read Tempest by Julie Cross after scoring an ARC from Goodreads. Jackson Meyer can jump in time, and after his girlfriend Holly is suddenly shot, he has to save her life by jumping back in time. It's a great read, full of twists and turns, and I'll write a review really soon!

The book got me thinking, and I thought I'd make a post about young adult fiction (and some middle grade) with male protagonists.

The Big Ones
The ones you probably already know about, but they're so good I couldn't leave them out.
1. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
2. Camp Half-Blood series by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson)
3. Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini (Eragon)
4. The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer

1. Beastly by Alex Flinn
2. The Monstrumologist series by Rick Yancey
3. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
5. Malice by Chris Wooding
6. The Chronicles of Vladimir Todd by Heather Brewer
7. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
8. Night Road by A.M. Jenkins
9. The Demon's Lexicon series by Sarah Reess Brennan
10. The New Kid by Temple Matthews
11. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
12. Overflow by Jason Letts
13. A Song After Dark by Grant Palmquist
14. Demon Whisperer by Tawny Stokes
15. Death Whispers by Tamara Rose Blodgett

Science Fiction/Fantasy
(P/D = Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian, SP = Steampunk, EF = Epic Fantasy, CF = Contemporary Fantasy) 
1. Gone series by Michael Grant (P/D) (shifting POV)
2. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (CF)
3. The Dreamwalker's Child by Steve Voake
4. Leviathan and Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (SP) (one of the protagonists is male, one female)
5. Monster Blood Tattoo series by D. M. Cornish (EF)
6. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (SP)
7. The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner (shifting POVs through the series)
8. Matt Cruse series by Kenneth Oppel (SP)
9. Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness (P/D)
10. The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein
11. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (P/D)
12. Tempest by Julie Cross (CF)
13. Talent Chronicles by Susan Bischoff (CF) (one male, one female)
14. The Giver by Lois Lowry (P/D)
15. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
16. The Gates by John Connolly
17. The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber
18. Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble by D. Robert Pease
19. The Soulkeepers Series by G.P. Ching (CF)
20. The Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan (EF)
21. The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney
22. Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix (P/D)
22. Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage
23. The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Johathan Shroud
24. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
25. Pendragon series by D.J. Machale
26. Tales of Otori by Lian Hearn (EF)
27. The Heir Chronicles by Cinda Williams Chima
28. Incarceron by Catherine Fischer (P/D, SP) (shifting POVs)
29. My Sparkling Misfortune by Laura Lond (EF)
30. Rex Rising by Chrystalla Thoma
31. Dioscuri by Chrystalla Thoma
32. LS: The Beginning by Kelvin O'Ralph (shifting POVs)
33. Scourge by David H. Burton (SP)
34. The Legend of Witch Bane by Kevis Hendrickson (EF)
35. Footsteps in Time by Sarah Woodbury (could also classify as Historical)
36. Prince of Time by Sarah Woodbury (could also classify as Historical)
37. Through the Portal by Justin Dennis (EF)
38. The Moreno Brothers series by Elizabeth Reyes

General Fiction
(H = Humor, A = Adventure, M = Mystery)
1. John Green's books: An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and Looking for Alaska. John Green's fiction deals with a variety of subjects, and his voice is great.
2. Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
4. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (H)
5. Also Known as Rowan Pohi by Ralph Fletcher
6. Deadly, Unna? by Phillip Gwynne
7. I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak
8. Wolfe Brothers series by Markus Zusak
9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
10. Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys by Chris Fuhrman (H)
11. Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick
12. My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
13. It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
14. Burger Wuss and Thirsty by M.T. Anderson
15. The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci (M)
16. Skin by Adrienne Maria Vrettos
17. Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner (H)
18. Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz (A)
19. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
20. Going Bovine by Libba Bray
21. Holes by Louis Sachar
22. Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini
23. Slow Burn by Joel Arnold (A)
24. The Farewell Season by Ann Herrick
25. Bailing by Carol Hanrahan

Historical Fiction
1. Montmorency series by Eleanor Updale
2. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
3. The Five Ancestors by Jeff Stone

These are brand new reads with male protagonists

This list will be updated. Hopefully with your suggestions in the comments! Who are your favorite male protagonists in YA fiction or otherwise?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Romance YA Anthology: Love, Me

I'm very excited to announce that one of my short stories will be featured in an anthology coming this February titled Love, Me. My story, A Reason to Stay, is sort of a prequel story for the two main characters in Promising Light, Grace and Dar (who you'll meet on January!).


A first kiss, a high school prom, the county fair, a tender embrace, finding true love, and coming of age are themes weaved into the stories found in Love, Me. From established YA authors comes this sweet and telling anthology of young love. 

Authors Shana Norris, Sarah Tregay, T.K. Richardson, Ela Lond, Amy Kinzer, and Emily Ann Ward offer these exceptional tales of sweet romance. 

With one voice these authors also join together to offer hope. The profits from this anthology will be donated to CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for their work with children in the foster care system. 

Please consider each short story in this anthology signed by the author Love, Me


Love, Me contains six short stories. 
(27,300 words, or 111 pages.)

I'm honored to be a part of this anthology. You may notice some pretty big names. I will definitely post an announcement when it's published in February, in time for Valentine's Day. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fiction Fridays: Beyond Home

I have a new short story collection coming up! It's titled Beyond Home. It should be published by the end of this month once I get the last beta readers' feedback and the last edits and proofreads in.

Here is a tentative cover. I'm still playing around with it. Just kidding! Here's the official one.

But here's a complete list of the short stories, centered around travel and transitions in life.
Magnitude — Two sisters visit The Grand Canyon after their dad dies. A short story published in Literary House Review 2010.
Song for Megan Leclare — A young woman remembers a trip with an ex while deciding whether to move to another state with her current boyfriend.
Number Six — A young man takes an impulsive trip to Hawaii with a runaway bride. 

There are only three, but it's just about the same length of Passages, about 13,000 words or around 52 pages. It'll go on sale for 99 cents the end of December. Keep your eye out -- I'll be giving away an Advanced Reader's Copy during the Holiday Hop! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Editing After Nanowrimo (or any first draft extravaganza)

So, you wrote a novel in 30 days. Now what? That's the question of the century. . .er, month. You could put it in a drawer and only bring it out to read it and laugh (that's where my 2004 Nano is). Or you could try to bring it to a polished, maybe even publishable, piece or art. How do you revise now that you have a first draft?

Here's what's worked for me for Finding Fiona. Hopefully you can find something helpful out of it.

First, take a break from it. 
Step away for a couple weeks (or longer, if you can bear it!). Get a breather. Don't try to delve in as soon as you've finished it. The story is too fresh on your mind. Write something else. Read something else. Just forget about it for a little while.

A couple weeks later, read through it. 
Take out a weekend and read through your novel. Try not to have too many breaks between it. Enough to keep your eyes from glazing over, yes, but if you wait a couple days, you'll lose the flow. You need to be wrapped up in the story without forcing yourself to read on. Mark stuff up if you want to, but try not to get too in depth yet. Some things will stick out to you right away -- like changed names or spellings -- others will take longer. Don't get caught up in editing, though. Five minutes is your max!

Okay, onto the real list! Keep in mind #1-3 don't necessarily have to be in order.

1. Look at the big picture. 
Make an outline of your entire novel. Maybe scene by scene, maybe chapter by chapter. Look at where the characters start, where they journey, and where they end up. Ask yourself these questions:
-- Have you written a beginning, a middle, and an end?
-- Is there an inciting incident in the first 50 pages?
-- Do you have a sagging middle or is it tight and concise?
-- Is there a climax where everything comes to a head and your characters make that last life-changing decision?
-- And do things wrap up neatly at the end?

What do you think? Can you clearly see scenes you don't need? Can you clearly see scenes you need to implement?

I'm going to be honest here. I cleaned up the text, but I didn't really look at the big picture of Finding Fiona until after #3. 

2. Consider what you want out of this novel. 
When I start revising, I like to have an "end plan." This could be accomplished by asking yourself what you want your readers to feel when they put the novel down. Do you want them to be crying in agony from the main character's death or just catching their breath for the first time since they picked up the book? This can help you because you can consider what a reader might think about how your characters fall in love and kill each other and defeat evil.

You could also find your end plan by asking what you want the characters to be like at the end of the novel. He started off as a poor farm boy, but now he's a wizard embracing his destiny to save the world in the sequel. Or perhaps your MC started the book off as a spoiled brat, but after falling in love with the guy from the wrong side of the tracks, she's reevaluated her way of thinking. How will your character change? Asking this can help you during revision because you'll be thinking: how will this help my MC to her new self?

Another suggestion is to consider your theme: the overall messages of your book. Love conquers all? The love of money is the root of all evil? Books don't have to have a preachy message, but if your characters have morals instead of being morally ambiguous, it's inevitable that their values will come through in their decisions.

I wanted Finding Fiona to be a fast-paced novella with some romance and mystery. I also wanted people to wonder about the question, "What does it mean to be human?" and consider how science can overstep boundaries when trying to create something created by nature (in this case, a human being). 

3. Get a second opinion. 
Sometimes, we're just too close to our work. We can't see its own flaws. Sign up for a critique group (Critique CircleScribophile, Critters, ReviewFuse). Don't be rude and shove your completely unedited work on some poor unsuspecting soul. At least learn proper grammar and spelling first. I find it is much easier as a critter to critique someone's big picture issues if I can actually read a sentence of theirs. (And it will probably easier for you to clean up your writing before assessing if Character A's motivations made sense or not!)

Be nice and return the favor. Critiquing other people's works will really help you when revising your own work. You may think you don't have anything to offer. Just read the work like a reader and tell the reader if their story makes sense, if you enjoyed it, if you would read on, and if you answered negatively to any of those things, tell them why not. Worry about writerly terms (POV, setting, dialogue, description) once you feel comfortable with it.

Also keep in mind that it's hard to find critique partners who will read your entire novel in its first draft form. That's usually for a beta reader and they may come later. If you're lucky, then that's great! But don't expect someone to read your 75K unedited first draft unless you're willing to read theirs. In that case, good luck!

I sent Finding Fiona, originally 35K in its early drafts, through Critique Circle. I had about 11 chapters around 3K a submission, so I sent them through the submission queue week by week. I also had a couple beta readers look over it during the CC submission and afterwards.

4. Find out what you need to change.
You have your outline, you have your second opinion (maybe on the first few chapters, maybe on the whole thing). Now look at your draft critically and look at it with the eyes of a cruel editor who wants a best-selling novel under his belt.

POV -- Are you consistent with your POV? Have you chosen the right POV?
Setting -- Do you make it clear to the reader where the story is set? Have you placed the story in the right setting? Is it vivid and a part of the story instead of the backdrop? If I've invented a world, have I thought every logistic in this world through, but only shown the parts that affect my character?
Dialogue -- Is the dialogue realistic? Can I realistically see people saying that dialogue in real life? Do I use dialogue to info dump or to move the plot along? Do I use too many dialogue tags or adverbs? Have I punctuated it correctly?
Character Development -- Are my characters likable? Sympathetic? Three-dimensional? How do I reveal character? Do my characters change or remain the same?
Plot and Pacing -- Do I have an inciting incident early on? Is something at stake? What's the conflict? Are there any parts that drag? Does everything make sense?
Writing Style -- Is there a certain word or phrase I overuse? Maybe a certain sentence structure? Do I show instead of tell?

Not sure what the heck any of this means? Get a writing book and see if you're implementing its techniques. Read articles (I really recommend Writers Digest) on writing and compare their ideas to what's in your book.

Better yet, read lots and lots of fiction in your genre. Ask yourself what works and what doesn't work. What could the author have done better? What did they currently have that was absolutely crucial for the story to work? Then compare it to your own work honestly. Could you see your book on shelves? Or on the top charts of Do you think readers would rave about your characters and your plot and your writing?

After my crits from CC and my readings, I realized Finding Fiona had a sagging middle. The characters sat around and talked a lot instead of doing things. I also saw that Fiona needed to be more of a proactive character instead of reactive; that the villains needed to be a bit more threatening yet more human at the same time; that I had way too many dialogue tags, sighs, and rolling of the eyes; and that one of my secondary characters needed more fleshing out. There are a lot more little changes, but I'm not going to bore you ;) 

5. Make a list of goals. 
This is a more detailed version of #2. You should have an idea of what you need to change by now. So, make a list of the changes and what the end result should look like after the changes. This works as a physical list, but it could also be mental. As long as you consider how to change the problems.

For Finding Fiona, I said: Okay, there's a sagging middle. I can cut this scene without too much trouble and combine these other two scenes. In order to make Fiona more reactive, Fiona won't ask James to talk to Greg for her; she will plan to go by herself. 

6. Go through chapter by chapter. 
Go through each chapter with your notes, your goals, and your critique partner's/beta reader's notes. Implement the changes.

Easier said than done, I know, but you can do it. If you need your character to be more spirited, then have her argue with her parents when they ground her. If you need your dialogue to be less boring information, then rewrite the conversation with just the essentials. If you need the climax to be more difficult for your characters, then put someone's life at stake. You can do it!

I opened up Finding Fiona in one window and my crits from Critique Circle in another window. Then I went paragraph by paragraph and made the changes. 

7. Get another opinion. 
This may seem repetitive, but you should get another opinion. Preferably from different people. A few of the old ones is fine because you can ask if it's an improvement, but get some fresh eyes.

I found some more beta readers for Finding Fiona and sent what I felt were the roughest chapters through Critique Circle.

8. Make the changes again. 
Pretty self-explanatory, right?

9. Get another opinion. 
Yes, another one.

I asked my husband to read over my "final" draft and and sent my first chapter to my local writing group. I implemented changes and posted again on Absolute Write. 

Your process may vary after this. Some people believe drafts need to be revised and sent to beta readers and revised and sent to beta readers until there isn't one flaw. Others believe that too much revising will cause your story to lose its spark.

I'm somewhere in the middle. I think there is such a thing as too much revision, but it varies from story to story. Some just need enough tweaking to let the characters shine. Others are going to need an overhaul. But I do think it's important not to let yourself lose the original vision of revising. Remember your goals way back before hours of editing, before you had a dozen betas all with different opinions? What did you want out of this novel? Keep that in mind.

If you're going to self-publish, then you really do need to revise and edit until your eyes bleed. You need to get as many opinions as you can and read this story until you are absolutely sick of it. Comb every sentence and every paragraph. You are a businessman/businesswoman, and this is your product. If you are going to ask people to spend money on it, even only a dollar, this needs to be the best product possible. Really, this makes sense for those who are querying or searching for a publisher, as well, but I can't stress this enough for self-publishers. Put your best foot forward. If you can, maybe believe that hiring an editor and/or proofreader is essential to self-publishing.

I think the hardest things for writers during revision is knowing what needs to be changed and then having the perseverance to change it. First, you need to recognize what's flawed in your work. Then, you need to find ways to fix it. It's not that hard once you get down to it, it just takes more work than the first draft for most people. Think of it this way: you found a beautiful gem in a trash dump. Now you need to polish it up so it can shine and everyone can see it's true potential.

Sometimes, you may need more than this. There are a few novels of mine that I know need an entire rewrite because the plot doesn't make sense. It's based on villains that don't make sense and worldbuilding that's nonexistent. I could make all the goals that I want, but I'd need to go back and completely change the structure of the novel. That may be necessary for you, but the important thing that will help you is bring able to ask yourself hard questions and giving yourself honest answers. Or getting honest answers from beta readers and critique partners.

Some more resources:
Natalie Whipple's Stages of Revision
Holly Lisle's One-Pass Revision
Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King (what's super helpful with these is they actually have exercises at the end of each chapter that help you put what you've learned into practice).

Good luck with Nano or other first draft revisions. You can do it! Stick with it. Don't give up. I'm starting to like revision more and more as I do it for more novels. Kind of messed up, I know, but there it is.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

How to make a good book trailer

This was a guest post on Adopt An Indie, and I thought my readers might enjoy reading it.

Book trailers have recently grown in popularity with the advent of YouTube. Large publishing houses have budgets to hire actors and produce special effects, but self-publishers and smaller presses are “stuck” with a lower budget. What are some ways to set yourself apart and make your video look professional?

DON’T go too long.
DO keep it under two minutes. 

Unless you have interactive or extremely interesting content, you’re going to lose people if you go longer than a minute and a half. If you have a nonfiction book and you’re featuring an interview, that would be a good reason to go longer. 

DON’T make your video look like a family slideshow someone plays at a high school graduation.
DO vary from simple stock photos and cheesy transitions. 

Some things you could incorporate to avoid the boring stock photo slideshow:
-- Stock video. One website is (You do need to register to download their videos, but I can vouch that I never received junk mail or anything crazy from them.) Just google "stock video" and you're bound to find a lot of resources.
-- Voiceover. Read your blurb or speak from your main character’s POV. Make sure you're using the best quality you can. Download Audacity, a free and simple recording program available for all three major operating systems. 
-- Use a list ("How to tell if your best friend is a werewolf", "Three things Carrie Smith is about to find out", "Three ways to know if your father is haunting you". The last one is from Haunting Miss Trentwood, and I loved it.)

-- Use lines from a journal of the main character (which is what I ended up doing for Finding Fiona)
-- Explore effects from other video editing software. For example, Amanda Hocking’s Switched trailer. (I searched and searched, but I can't figure out what software she used to make this. It's her best kept secret so far, but it reminds me of effects I've seen for After Effects, which I doubt self-published authors are going to buy and learn how to work simply for their book trailers.)

DON’T make your video a dry rehashing of the blurb. 
DO make use of the audio and visual mediums. 

Is your book a horror? Use creepy music. 
Is your book fast-paced? Put the video to fast music and avoid slow transitions. 
Is your book a renaissance fantasy? Make sure your photos and text give off the feel of an older time with magical possibilities. 

DON’T take pictures and music from anywhere.
DO make sure you have the proper rights to use commercially.

Your video is trying to sell something, thus it's commercial use. Respect the hard work of photographers and music artists by gaining permission and crediting as much as you can. If you have a Mac, you can use the loops in GarageBand to make your own music, which is what I ended up doing for the Finding Fiona video. 

DON’T throw together transitions, fonts, and photos from all over the internet.
DO give it a seamless look. 

Use the same look throughout the whole video. This isn’t your time to experiment with different effects. It’s your time to snag a potential reader, and if everything matches everything else, you’ll give off a professional vibe. Bonus points if your video matches your book cover, your blog, and your website. Branding!

DON’T be confined to one simple way of doing things. 
DO explore your (or other!) video editing software. 

If you have Windows, you'll probably have Windows Movie Maker; and if you have a Mac, you'll have iMovie. If you want the opposite, visit your library or a college library in your town to see if they offer those operating systems and programs. Or ask around to see if any friends or family has something you could use for a couple hours.

Here are some other free video editing programs:

Video Spin
List of 10 Free Video Editing Programs

This is a big learning curve. If it's too much hassle, don't bother with it. Which leads me to the next point. . .

DON’T stress yourself out over something that hasn’t yet been proved to drastically influence sales. 
DO treat it as a learning experience and have fun!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fiction Fridays: Another Conversation

Another conversation from the Promising Light prequel. The prequel takes place over a long period of time, about eight years, so this takes place a couple years after the last one.

Sierra looked over her shoulder at him, then turned completely and faced him. “Tisha tried to talk me into leaving the Avialies again.”

Evan gritted his teeth and shook his head. “He’s such slime.”

“I know. He even hinted at me working for them.” 

“What?” he snapped. 

She sighed. “It’s kind of creepy. I’m sixteen, I don’t have any magic in my blood. . .why does he even care?”

“He thinks we’re corrupting you. He’d probably feel really good about himself if he was the one to save you from us monsters.” He scoffed and flopped down on his back. The next firework that burst into the sky resembled a dragon, and he wondered if Mahris had helped with them. The Protectors were fine with magic when it suited their purposes. 

Sierra leaned on her elbow. “I wonder if they’ll ever see you as real people.” 

“I doubt it. In their eyes, Avialies are abominations.”

“Do you think we’ll ever find a way to break the curse?” 

Evan glanced at her. Her gaze was fixed on him, her face serious. He sighed. “I don’t know. It’s been three years already. You’d think if they could have broken it, they would have already.” 

She touched his tunic, playing with a string. He held his breath. “I wish we could do more.” 

“Me, too. I wish I could hunt that Thieran down and kill him.” 

Her fingers stilled on his chest. “Kill him?” 

“After making him reverse the curse.”

“How would you do that?” 

“I don’t know. I’d do whatever I had to.” He fell silent, thinking of torture or threatening his family members. He gazed at the fireworks above them. What kind of a person did that make him, that he’d be willing to do things like that for his family’s future? How else were they going to reverse the curse?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Biblical Literalism, Biblical Lifestyles

I haven't updated too regularly this month. I had midterms, then Nanowrimo, then a bunch of other real life stuff. But I've recently been reading Marcus Borg's The Heart of Christianity for my religion class, and I really wanted to write about it.

He speaks a lot of the "Earlier Paradigm" vs. the "Emerging Paradigm." Basically, the earlier paradigm characterizes traditional Christianity, biblical literalism, emphasis on the afterlife. The main difference, Borg seems to think, is the function, origin, and interpretation of the Bible. The emerging paradigm sees the biblical as more metaphorical, a human response to God, and they emphasis transformation in this life.

I grew up in a traditional Christian home. My parents were Salvation Army Officers, and our first doctrine is, "We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice." My dad is like a biblical guru. Go to him if you want to know something about the Bible. He quotes of verses like it's nothing, and from a very young age, I read and treasured this book.

These days, my family and I aren't your typical traditional evangelical Christians--no, we also take into account the laws of Torah, including keeping kosher, biblical feasts, Sabbath, etc. We don't see the Old Testament as old or the "former" covenant, and we embrace the "New" Testament. Our rule? "Scripture interprets scripture."

So, reading Borg's book has been a little difficult for me because he's questioning what I see as the very foundation of Judaism and Christianity. At first, I felt like by questioning it, he could hardly be considered a Christian at all. He views the most basic tenets of Christianity such as the virgin birth, crucifixion, and the resurrection as metaphors. But I kept reading, and I think I've become more forgiving of his views as he goes on.

One of my favorite chapters of this book has been a chapter on the Kingdom of God. Borg asks, 'What does the kingdom of God look like? How are we as Christians trying to implement these ideals and bring these changes into our world today?' The specific examples he uses are health care (taking care of the sick), the environment (taking care of God's creation), economic justice (being fair and just with our money), the use of imperial power (being compassionate and helping instead of violent and proud). I thought, 'Wow, how much does this relate to the Occupy movement that is going on right now?'

Then I started to consider if I look at my bible, the one I profess to believe every word of, what does it have to say about belief? Paul does say that we will be saved by our belief (Romans 10:9), Jesus says those who believe without seeing are blessed (John 20:29), but there is much more of an emphasis on a lifestyle dedicated to God rather than a belief that God created the world in six days, cursed the tower of Babel, then killed everyone with a flood a few hundred years later, etc.

Will Jesus be separating the sheep and goats based on what they believed, or on how they treated the poor? (Matthew 25:31-46) Actually, earlier on in Matthew (7:21-23) Jesus says there were be people who say to him, "Lord, Lord" but he won't even know them.

Did God smite cities such as Sodom, Gomorrah, Tyre, and Jerusalem because of what they believed, or because of the injustice in their societies? (Ezekiel 16:49-50, Jeremiah 21:11-14)

Does he promise blessings on the Israelites because they believed there was one God, or because they lived their lives as though there was? (Deuteronomy 30:1-10)

Did Jesus say we would know them by their beliefs, or by their fruits? (Matthew 7:15-20)

I will admit there are some serious things I disagree with Borg about. I do believe that he is underestimating God when he views the resurrection of the dead as a metaphor. I do believe that my God can do all things, even--no, especially--the impossible. But am I going to judge Borg, or other Christians who view the Bible as metaphorical, if they worship the same God and uphold the same tenets of love, justice, mercy, and holiness? I don't think I should.

I also don't want this to come off as a "as long as other religions are doing good things, they're okay" post. The Bible speaks about idolatry and following after other gods nearly as much as being unjust and cruel, so I can't ignore that aspect if I'm going to listen to another.

One last note: Jesus and his crucifixion and resurrection. Borg tends to think of God as a metaphor and sacrament of God, not God himself. At first, I'm inclined to be harsh on this mindset, but then I have to think of how I view observant Jews. They believe in the same monotheistic God, they align their lives to his laws, and they dedicate all to him. If they don't recognize Jesus as the Messiah because of how we have presented him, is that their fault or ours? It varies from case to case, I'm sure, but I think I want to give extremely liberal Christians the same grace.

I do believe Borg and other biblical metaphoricalists (I just made it a word, okay?) are shortchanging God a bit. Do they really believe he couldn't do those miracles if he wanted to? I feel like they're missing out. Jesus' resurrections points to his triumph over death. It points to the fact that God is willing to do anything to be close to us. It means we were separated from God by our sin and we have a chance to be reconciled to him. What's neat, though, is I've gathered that even if Borg doesn't think these things actually happened, he still sees the messages. And those messages are important because they shape the way we view God and how he factors into our lives.

Perhaps this has rambled a bit, but I felt like there was so much to talk about and get into one blog post! I haven't finished the book yet, but I will soon.