Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday Thirteen - Favorite Bible Verses

I read somewhere about "Thursday Thirteen". On Thursdays, you post a list about any 13 things! Well, today, here are my thirteen favorite bible verses (in no real order). And I realize they're more than one verse each, but come on. I can't choose JUST thirteen! It was hard enough narrowing it down this far.

They're quoted from NIV unless otherwise noted.

1. Romans 8:28 - This is an encouraging verse for me, something I need to remember often. It's actually on my desktop!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

2. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 - Commonly known at the Shema in Judaism, recited every morning. This is the passage also put in tefillin, the boxes men wrap around their arms and heads, and mezuzahs, the cases people put on their door frames. Here's a picture of ours. We got it in Rome!
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

3. Isaiah 61:1-3 - This passages speaks about what Yeshua was sent to do for us. Beautiful language.
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

4. Ephesians 3:14-19 - I've always loved this because it talks about God's great love. It's also a prayer, so I love using it in my own prayers.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

5. John 14:26-27 - It was hard to choose just a couple verses from all of John 14 and 15, but I love this part about the Holy Spirit.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

6. Psalm 19:7-9: 7 - I wanted to post this entire psalm, but I love this part about God's commands.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.

7. Job 38:4-7 - I love when God tells Job off. The last four chapters of Job are so humbling, and a great end to a thought-provoking book.
Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone--
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?

8. Deuteronomy 10:17-22 - Basically summarizes what God's all about.
For the Lord your God is god of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigners residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He if your praise; he if your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.

9. Ecclesiates 12:13-14 - When I was 13, I was having a rough time, and my youth pastor could tell. She kept trying to pry it out of me, and she said, "What do you want to know about?" I said, "Nothing." She responded, "No, really. What?" I said, "I mean, nothing. I feel like nothing. I feel like there's no point to any of it." She pointed me to Ecclesiastes, pointing out I wasn't the only one who felt that way. The conclusion Solomon comes to is simple but profound.
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole [duty] of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.

10. Song of Songs 8:6-7 - This passage from this long love letter talks about the power of love.
Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot wash it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of his house for love,
itd would be utterly scorned.

11. James 1:26-27 - A good reminder of what God is looking for.
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

12. Mark 5:24-34 - This is a long one, but I love stories of Jesus healing.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a women was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the car of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"

"You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?'"

But Jesus kept looking around to see who has done it. Then the women, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."

13. Revelation 21:1-5 - I don't think I have to explain this one. It's just awesome. (Although I might miss the sea.)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Converting from DOC to MOBI in Calibre

Well, I just spent three hours converting Finding Fiona from a .doc to a .mobi with the software Calibre. I have a feeling it shouldn't have been as hard as it was, but here's a blog post for anyone who may have the same problems I did. You can read my entire, frustrating journey, or you can skip to the bottom, where I've bolded the steps of how I finally found a way that worked.

Calibre is a free e-book management software, but it also has the great capability to convert books. It's taken me a while to really get used to it. I've converted it for my own reading, but when it came to actually sending other people professional-looking files, I needed to do a lot to make sure it looked exactly the way I wanted it to. I wanted to try out Mobipocket Creator, but then I found out it was only a Windows program.

I wrote the book in Pages, a Mac program. I exported the story into .doc because Calibre can take a .doc file and zip it for conversion to .mobi, which is the file format I wanted to have available for book bloggers before I published the story on Smashwords.

At first, I opened the .doc in MS Word and saved the .doc as a Web Page, then converted it in Calibre. The converted .mobi file lost all bold and italics. I soon found out that Calibre doesn't pick up < span>< /span> (without the spaces) tags. It needs < i>< /i> tags instead. This gave me a huge problem because my .html file, exported by MS Word, was littered with < span> tags. Every paragraph had at least two, but my most important ones were italics. Finding Fiona has a lot of journal entries, especially in the beginning, but these just looked like the rest of the text.

So then I played around with file formats other than .html. I tried .pdf and .rtf, but I kept getting strange paragraph breaks. The journal entries were supposed to have two paragraph breaks to separate them from the rest of the text, but it didn't translate.

I got my .doc file again, and coded it into html myself. I added < i>< /i> tags around all the italics, < b>< /b> tags around the bold, and < br> at the beginning of every paragraph. I saved it in Dreamweaver, but you could also use Nvu, which is free. I tried to use it, but it kept freezing up on me. Maybe it's because I would copy the entire 43,000 words at a time. :P Any WYSIWYG html editor will work since it's very simple html. Just add the tags in your word processor, then copy it into your html editor, and save it as an html file. You can add the tags in your html editor if you want, but I used the find/replace function to find paragraph breaks and add < br>.

When I did the conversion, though, I still had strange paragraph break problems. If I removed the paragraph breaks and added indents, my journal entries ran with the rest of the text without breaks. But I couldn't figure out how to add indents to my html file. I was thinking of non-breaking spaces, but I wasn't sure if that would work.

I found this helpful link ( and skipped down to "Paragraph Spacing." Lo and behold, it answered my question! How do you remove spacing for only some paragraphs and also add indents to them? You need to add this into your Extra CSS box on the "Look & Feel" window in Calibre:

p, div { margin: 0pt; border: 0pt; text-indent: 1.5em }
.spacious { margin-bottom: 1em; text-indent: 0pt; }

That meant I first had to change the < br> to < p>, then I went to my html file, and changed the p class to "spacious" on the paragraphs that needed an extra space below them. (That just means that instead of writing < p> for a paragraph break, I wrote < p class="spacious">) I also closed the < /p> at the end of the spacious paragraphs. I changed the text-indent from "0pt" to "1.5em" so they looked like all the others but with an extra break separating it from the rest of the text. You can also make your scene dividers the spacious class. It worked beautifully!

. . .in Calibre. But NOT in my Kindle app or on my Kindle. The text still ran together. It ignored my "margin-bottom."

So, I started over. . .again. And I wished I'd done this from the beginning.

1. Copy/paste story into a new document in OpenOffice (you may be able to just open your .doc, but I figured that might bring over too much formatting)
2. Save/export as html
3. Load into Calibre as "new book"
4. Convert to .mobi in Calibre
5. Choose "remove spacing between paragraph breaks" in the Look & Feel tab

IT WORKS. I still have italics and I have double paragraph breaks separating journal entries and articles. I don't know know how or why OpenOffice's html was better than the thousand other things I did, but THANK GOD it works.

If you can figure it out yourself using a WYSIWYG, more power to you. It would have been fine if I didn't need two line breaks in a row, but this is the story I had to write!

Sidenotes: You will need to add page breaks because OpenOffice doesn't do this. Either you can do this in the html file by adding this code (without spaces) before each chapter heading (or wherever you want to put the page break):

< DIV style="page-break-after:always">< /DIV>

Or, you can enable "Heuristic Processing" in Calibre and uncheck everything but "Detect and markup unformatted chapter and subheadings." I read somewhere that heuristic processing can convert non-breaking spaces to regular spaces, so that's why I unchecked everything. I added the non-breaking spaces for a reason!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why I'm self-publishing AND looking for an agent

Hello! As you may know, I'm going to self-publish a novella of mine, Finding Fiona. I also have two fantasy novels I plan to self-publish. At the same time, I will be querying for my YA urban fantasy to find an agent and go "traditional". This is a post about why I decided to do both.

I first dipped my toes in when I heard about people putting up their short stories. I had a handful of short stories that I didn't know what to do with. Most of them are YA, and magazine markets for YA short stories are very rare. So, I put a lot of them on Smashwords for free. I put a collection on Amazon for 99 cents. I hardly did any marketing or promoting for it, though, and it went nowhere. I recently made it free, as well, and it's now getting a lot of downloads.

When I wrote Finding Fiona, I realized it was going to be much shorter than most of my novels. It ended at about 40,000 words, making it a novella. I thought, 'What am I going to do with a novella?' I looked into e-publishing a little bit, but I was interested in putting it on as an experiment into self-publishing. It has an expected release date mid-September. My husband made an awesome cover, and it is getting its last polishes and edits this month.

I have a pair of high fantasy novels - not a trilogy because the story didn't call for it. I guess it would be called a duo. The first one, Promising Light, is completed and going through revisions, and the second one is outlined, and I'm slowly working on finishing the first draft. At first, I wanted to go for traditional publication with these books. As I did research, though - and I might get flack for this - I came to realize I didn't know as much about the fantasy market as I might need to. I knew a lot about fantasy ebooks that were available, but not so much about print books. I feel like it's a good book with a unique concept and intriguing characters, and I wanted to self-publish these books to let the readers decide. (Of course, I'll go through beta readers and an editor to make sure my assumptions are right.)

Now, the other side of the coin: I have a young adult urban fantasy. It could also be called science fiction or even dystopian. I read young adult more than any other genre. I know about the market. I've done lots of research about agents and publishers that are interested in this genre. Overall, I feel like this book is very marketable. I think it would fit with other books of the genre. I want to find a traditional publisher for this book. It's still in revision because it's quite an ambitious book, but I've already started my list of agents to query.

A lot of self-published authors talk about "gatekeepers" and how so many good books aren't published because of old fogies who aren't "with the times." They say publishers don't give new authors any publicity or marketing, that if you don't make the bestseller list on your first book, they drop you. The list of claims goes on, and I'm sure a few have some truth to them. Others, however, don't really make sense to me.

For example, why would a publisher NOT market new authors? They are fronting the costs for this project, and they want to make a profit. They paid for the cover art, the editing, the copyediting, the printing, publicity, and much more. Why wouldn't they want to make as many sales as possible? To me, it seems like publishers are always looking for the next big thing, so they will invest their time in projects they see as commercial. They're looking for books that market to a wide audience. Granted, not all books will fall under that category. I think that's why self-publishing is neat, because a good book can usually find readers, even if a publisher isn't interested.

This is what I want from traditional publishing that I know I will get:
- Professional cover art.
- Editing and copyediting.
- My books in high quality print form.
- Distribution to bookstores.
- A marketing team (yes, I know it won't be a thousand people all working on my book, but I will get publicity).
- More time to write. (even though, like I said above, I enjoy marketing. I'll still get to do that, but I won't have to worry about formatting my book, doing the cover art, deciding whether to do print or not, buying proofs, paying for editing, and more)

I see the benefits of self-publishing, and that's why I'm self-publishing some of my books. I like the control, and I like the immediacy of it. I like doing the marketing, and I enjoy meeting other self-published authors. It's just as much hard work as publishing with a traditional publisher.

I just don't like the negative attitudes some in the self-published community have against traditional publishers. Agents aren't bad people trying to keep your book from print. The print/traditional publishing world takes a very small amount of books, and they have to take the best and most commercial. Sometimes, they mess up and take on a book that isn't so great. So what? It's not a perfect system.

Think about it - when you're reading the paper or talking with people in a bookstore or you're at the library, which books do you hear about? The traditionally published ones. Most self-published books are marketed, talked about, and distributed online. I'd like to reach the book readers who don't go searching for self-published books. The readers who aren't online as much as I am (which is probably too much :-p).

Now, everything is changing with technology. Self-publishing is getting easier by the day, and online sales are growing exponentially. Considering my genre is young adult, much of the next generation is online. Ebook sales will probably continue to grow, but I also think publishers will adapt. It might be slow, but they are catching on.

All this said, I would be willing to change my plans for The Second Generation (the YA urban fantasy). If agents and publishers thought it was a good book, but didn't have a place - in other words, if I'm completely wrong about it being commercial or marketable - then I'd consider self-publishing it. As long as I was confident it wasn't being rejected based on poor content or writing.

But after that, I have another YA fantasy I'll query to agents. All while self-publishing my other books. If all goes according to plan, I could have the best of both worlds.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Theft of Swords by Michael Sullivan

Theft of Swords by Michael Sullivan

ARC, Kindle version (paperback is 704 pages).

I was lucky enough to snag this ARC. This book was actually originally two books: The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha. They were self-published along with a couple other books in the Riyria Revelations, and the series was recently picked up by Orbit Books. Theft of Swords will be released the end of November, but if you just can't wait after reading my review, you can still get the ebook versions of the first five books on until 8/31/11.

The Riyria Revelations starts with two thieves. Not common thieves, Royce and Hadrian work for nobles, occasionally double-crossing them. They take jobs that pay well, and they've worked up some notoriety as Riyria. They take a job that sounds almost too easy to steal a sword in the castle, but they find out it's a trap. Soon, they're arrested for the murder of the king. The princess hires them to kidnap her brother, thinking she'll save him from the same fate as her father. The story goes from there, following all kinds of twists and turns. The heroes of the story search out a wizard who's been in prison for a thousand years, battle a creature conjured by elves, and witness the church begin building an empire.

This book is a great read. The story is immensely interesting. The author obviously put a lot of time into world building: histories, religions, heroes of old, magic. At times, it was hard for me to keep up with everything. There were a few info dumps along the way, but once I sorted out who was what and why it was important, I just moved on. All in all, it's an adventure story with some political intrigue, but magic becomes a big part of the story halfway through The Crown Conspiracy. I think it's Lord of the Rings meets Pirates of the Caribbean.

I really enjoyed the characters. There's a big cast, and the author finds a way to connect them all. Some of them have so much personality. I loved Myron; he was so funny. Hadrian is my favorite, though, and I can't wait to learn more about his past. I'm not used to such a distant POV, but maybe that's because I don't read high fantasy too often. I felt like, aside from the occasional internal monologue, we rarely knew what the characters were thinking or feeling. We usually saw their emotions through their actions. It sort of takes from the story, but at the same time, there are so many secrets and lies, it leaves the reader guessing. You don't know who to trust!

There were a few times when I didn't want to put this book down. The day I finished it, I spent pretty much all afternoon and evening reading. I finished it around midnight! It was a good way to spend my birthday. :P I got online and bought Nyphron Rising right away because I wasn't sure if I was going to be lucky enough to score another ARC and because I wanted to support the author. I love how the series has overarching plot issues, but each novel deals with a certain conflict.

Okay, I'm going to go read Nyphron Rising. Pre-order your copy of Theft of Swords now!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Birthday + Finding Fiona Sample

Two things:
1. Today is my birthday! I'm twenty-three years old :)
2. I'm ready to start the last polishes on Finding Fiona! The ARCs should be ready by next week.

In celebration, I'm going to post a small excerpt from the first chapter of Finding Fiona that has to do with birthdays. Fiona's just met someone from her past, someone who tells her things about her mysterious past, but not nearly enough. He leaves her with a journal he says used to belong to her and promises to contact her soon.


A knock on her table made Fiona jump. She slammed the journal shut. Troy stood by the booth, frowning. “Is your phone off or something?”

Fiona shoved the journal under her purse–she didn’t feel like explaining to Troy why she’d gotten in a car with a stranger–and pulled out her phone. “Oh, would you look at that. I’m so popular.”

Troy nodded to her lap. “What’s that?”

“A journal I bought in the bookshop a couple stores over.” Fiona shrugged.

“Another dream journal? You fill up your last one?”

“No, but this one was. . .pretty,” she said, placing it on the table. “And soft.”

Troy looked at it for a moment and shrugged. “I’m going to get a coffee.”

Fiona frowned, wishing Troy would go back to whatever he was doing before. It’d definitely look weird if she opened a newly bought journal to reveal dozens of pages filled with her handwriting. While his back was turned at the checkout stand, she peeked at the third entry.

March 16th

It’s Mom’s birthday today! Dad and I took her out for Indian food like we do every year. Dad got her these gorgeous diamond earrings. I’m pretty much broke, but I bought her a new purse from the flea market. It’s purple and shimmery and I think it’d look perfect with that lavender top she’s always wearing.

Fiona had to stop and take a deep breath. A couple weeks ago, Hannah and Fiona went to an Indian restaurant. The smell of the curry, the taste of the chicken, and the sizzling sounds from the kitchen–all of them had triggered deep emotions inside Fiona. She’d had to go to the bathroom to fight back unexplained tears and splash her face with water. She’d simultaneously wanted to run from the place screaming and stay to try to figure out the reason for her reaction.

The entry continued:

Spring break is coming up, but I don’t have any huge plans. The Remus project is so fascinating, I might just stay in the lab all week! If James lets me. He says I work there too much. I do miss him (and sunlight) when I’m there too long, but I feel like we’re really making improvements.

Troy returned to the table, and Fiona shut the journal, trying to look casual although her heart was pounding.


If you're interested in an ARC, leave a comment and I'll send you one as soon as it's ready! Otherwise, Finding Fiona will be published in September! I love exclamation points!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Liebster Award

So, my friend Traci gave me the Liebster Award the other day!

Totally copying and pasting because I've never heard of this lovely award :P

Liebster means friend in German so this is pretty much the best award ever! There’s no tell-us-seven-things rule to go along with this award. It’s sole purpose is to connect bloggers, specifically those with less than 200 followers. Rules of acceptance and new recipients are the bottom of this post.

1. Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Post the award on your blog.
4. Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the internet—other writers.
5. And best of all – have fun and spread the karma.

So, here are my picks!

They have some fun blogs. Visit them. Love them!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Passages Soundtrack

Passages - YA Short Stories
(Buy on Amazon for free)

1. OneRepublic - Secrets (Melanie's Secrets)
Got no reason, got no shame
Got no family I can blame
Just don't let me disappear
I'ma tell you everything

So tell me what you want to hear
Something that will light those ears
Sick of all the insincere
So I'm gonna give all my secrets away

2. Linkin Park - Leave Out All the Rest (Death of the Sun)
When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I've done
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed
And don't resent me
And when you're feeling empty
Keep me in your memory
Leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest

Don't be afraid
I've taken my beating
I've shared what I've made
I'm strong on the surface
Not all the way through
I've never been perfect
But neither have you

3. Dashboard Confessional - For You to Notice (The Rowe Boys)
I'm starting to fashion an idea in my head
where I would impress you
with every single word I said.
Would come out insightful or brave or smooth or charming
and you'd want to call me
And I would be there every time
you'd need me
I'd be there every time...
But for now I'll look so longingly
For you to want me, for you to need me, for you to notice me

4. Mindy Smith - Edge of Love (You Remember)
The edge of Love, here I stand
Feels like sky where they should be land
I want to fly, want to take your hand
And just let time stand
Just let time stand still

The weather's fine
Maybe I'm your leap of faith
I know it's right
cause you're my amazing grace
and you make time stand still

5. Flyleaf - There For You (The Prodigal Daughter)
I don't deserve you
'Cause I'm not there for you
please forgive me again

I wanna be there for you,
someone you can come to
runs deeper than my bones
I wanna be there for you

6. Beirut - Scenic World (Fettuccine Alfredo)
When I feel alive
I try to imagine a careless life
A scenic world, where the sun sets are all
Breathtaking, breathtaking

7. Mumford and Sons - The Cave (Together)
But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

Cause I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I'll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sample Sunday: Passages

The last couple Sundays, I've been doing samples from Finding Fiona, my light scifi novella coming in September. This week, I'll post one from my short story collection Passages, which is now free!

Just a reminder, I have a contest going on to win a free copy of Finding Fiona and this sample might help you win! Just pair up my first and last sentences of the seven short stories - you only have to get three right to win!

Anyways, here it is, a sample from the short story, Together.

The back door slams shut, the hinges rattling. My sister stomps out, pouting. “That stupid air conditioner smells like moldy socks,” she says. “The entire house smells.”

“At least it’s a house,” I say, playing with a bouncy ball.

She huffs, rolling her eyes, and flops down unto the lawn chair next to mine. Whether she likes it or not, I’m right. We had been in trailers, in apartments and in basements since we were eight years old. It’s a house.

She’s not used to the heat. It’s stifling, humid. The sun beats down on her tender skin, hardly covered by her clothes. She fans herself, searching for any source of cool. “The only good thing about this heat,” she says in a slightly hoarse voice, “is my tan.”

Her skin is getting darker, of course. It’s in our blood. The two of us are naturally dark, and we both tan easily.

I remember one day in middle school after our dad died. It was an uncommonly hot day for Ohio, possibly breaking a hundred degrees. We ditched school after lunch and went swimming all day. When we caught the bus home, we were baked red. The school called, our mom noticed our sunburns, and we were grounded for weeks. My sunburn peeled a little bit, but in the end, it only turned my skin a dark hue.

That had been all her idea, anyway. Even though I’m a year older, she’s the impulsive one dragging me around. I usually go around with her to keep watch on the guys with whom she spends time.

She used to complain about me being protective, but as we sink further and further down, she’s come to appreciate me. Guys got slimier and slimier as Mom began to seek ways to ease the pain. It wasn’t just guys, but Mom, too, when she forgot to go grocery shopping. It was the winter and the heating bill that hadn’t been paid. It was social workers and psychiatrists.

There’s a loud noise from the driveway that both of us recognize as our aunt’s old car.

Our aunt is always smiling, even though her house does smell like moldy socks and her husband left her two months ago and the laundry piles up while she struggles to bring in money. Our social worker told us in what was supposed to be a whisper that our aunt needs company.

Never mind that she has four cats and two dogs. She needs real company. Humans who talk and laugh. Humans who, like the two of us, swore and glare and complain. We have always been good at swearing and glaring and complaining.

“He has an attitude problem,” the teacher told my mother during a parent teacher conference. My mother had quite an attitude problem, too, and the teacher found that out.

That was middle school, which was harder than anything we’d faced before. Fresh out of childhood, suddenly the two of us realized we didn’t have a family, even though we needed one. We had a handful of absences more than anyone else from skipping school or from family fights or from sleeping in because there’s no electricity for the alarm clock or from our mom running out of gas.

When I was actually at school, I enjoyed learning. Science and math, mostly. When I brought home a test with an A on it, my mom would put it up on the fridge, ruffle up my hair, and tell me that my dad had always been smart. Then she would hit me on the back of the head and say, “Now do your homework!”

We never got caught up in anything too bad, though, despite the toiling work we had to put into each day. There were lots of gangs at school. Girls tried to get my sister to put-out, saying she was too pretty to be a virgin. Somehow, the two of us had stayed out of trouble.

My first year of high school, though, we weren’t together any longer. That year had been, in a word, terrible.

Passages is available for free at:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Eden by Keary Taylor

Eden by Keary Taylor

Published 2011, Kindle Edition, 110,000 words or about 400 pages.

Eve's world is Fallen. An advanced technology was developed to grow new organs and limbs in humans, but the machine grew, slowly taking over human bodies. The infection spread quickly, and now only a small amount of humans are left. For Eve, that world is thirty-six people living in a village called Eden. When newcomers arrive, she finds out about her mysterious past and is town between two men. Eden soon has to move as the Hunters become more aggressive, and Eve goes on a journey to find out what it means to be human.

I found this book on Goodreads. The cover snagged my attention first. Very "eye" catching. Ha! I'm hilarious! I skimmed the sample to make sure it was passable, and spent a hard-earned dollar on this dystopian novel. A dollar not wasted!

Eve's world isn't easy, and Keary Taylor's writing pulls you right into it. The woods, the survival aspect. Eve reminded me of Katniss because of her survivor skills, and this book actually seemed like a Finding Fiona meets The Hunger Games. (Hmm, maybe Finding Fiona needs a love triangle. . .nope. No, it doesn't.)

Anyways, this book had me riveted. I didn't want to put it down! I read the second half all afternoon today. Fascinating world, and I kept wanting to know what was going to happen. Good actions scenes (I wanted more!). It was a pretty balanced love triangle, too, until about three fourths of the way through, then I started to see who Eve would choose. I started to root for him, too.

My only qualm: this should have been three fourths as long. After a while, the author started to repeat herself, and nothing really happened until the second half of the book. The love triangle started to get a little overdone, and I think with 20-30K less words, the story would have been much smoother and tighter. A few typos (other's instead of others, you're instead of your), a frustrating ending to the love triangle (not who she chooses, but. . .oh, you'll see). So I guess that wasn't my ONLY qualm, but my main one.

The second half was much more exciting to me than the first. Eden is forced to move because the Hunters are becoming more aggressive, and we see more of this apocalyptic world. We see if there are any other survivors. We see Eve grow emotionally. We see some pretty awesome action scenes, too.

There were also a few plot holes, some of them pretty big, but overall, it was a good read. I liked the three main characters. I wanted to see more of the minor characters, actually. I enjoy dystopian novels a lot, and this one fits in well with the others!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dream to Novel to Best Seller #9

Hey, guys, remember these?? Yeah, this was me trying to adapt my dreams into best selling novels. Here's one that makes no sense:

A group of people narrowly escape a harrowing kidnapping attempt. . .but when they join the real world again, they've jumped forward in time and arrive in Paris, France. The current president is dead and they show up in the middle of his funeral (don't ask me why he's being buried in Paris). There's also a lot of paparazzi.

Passages is now free! AND a chance to win Finding Fiona

Hey, guys! My short story collection Passages is now completely free! Check it out at these different websites:
Barnes and Noble
Diesel eBook Store

To pique your interest, I have a little game! I don't know who will play because I don't know who comes around here, but I have the first sentences of all seven young adult short stories in the collection, and I have the last sentences of each short story. Try to pair them up!

I know that one for sure might be obvious, so -- if you get more three or more right, I'll send you a copy of Finding Fiona for free a week before it's published in September!

(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!

First sentences
1. Moments like this, when his world revolves around him and not his brother, are rare. (The Rowe Boys)
2. It's hard to believe it was so long ago. (Death of the Sun)
3. She's wearing your sweatshirt. (You Remember)
4. My sister and I used to be good friends. (Melanie's Secrets)
5. Alyssa walked into the kitchen, trying to appear nonchalant. (Fettuccine Alfredo)
6. The back door slams shut, the hinges rattling. (Together)
7. Teresa hated hospitals. (The Prodigal Daughter)

Last sentences (to make it a little easier, some are more than one sentence)
A. I drove towards a new life, the sun behind me.
B. 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.
C. “You and me, mom, we’ll go to Italy.”
D. “You’ll make sure we’re still together, right?” she asks, tilting her head. // “Yeah,” I tell her. “I’ll make sure.”
E. “I want to try again. And I’ll try harder this time.”
F. She's wearing your sweatshirt.
G. Amy stares at her lap, then finally meets my eyes. “Maybe I do.”

Good luck! The deadline is the night of my birthday -- August 18th at 11:59pm PST. Or when I wake up on the morning of the 19th haha! That gives you plenty of time to spread the word about the contest ;)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Late Sample Sunday: Finding Fiona

I drove home yesterday from across the state. We went to a friend's wedding where we used to live. I saw my family (well, most of them!), and we even visited the park where my husband and I got married!

Last night, I was sitting at home, and I thought, "Oh, tomorrow I can post another Sample Sunday!" This morning, I woke up and realized it was Monday. Not Sunday.

So, here's my Sample Monday. Another excerpt from Finding Fiona, this time from the third chapter. It's quite short this time because I don't want to give away too much of what's happening so far.


“We’re here,” James said.

Fiona looked up. They approached a cemetery with large iron gates. The grassy hills were covered with brightly colored leaves. Other visitors walked through the aisles between the tombstones or crouched by headstones. Some carried flowers. Fiona wished she had brought something.

James stopped in front of three matching tombstones. Richard Normans lay in the middle with his daughter and wife on either side of him. They all had the same date of death, and Elizabeth was born April 3rd, 1991.

Fiona had spent the last year of her life wondering if she’d had any family. Elizabeth was an only child and her parents were now dead. Fiona fought back tears. She remembered that crushing weight from her nightmares as she ran down the steps, the knowledge that something was lost. Something irreplaceable. The hopes for a teary reunion, cozy Christmas dinners, embarrassing baby photos were gone now. She had James, Hannah, an anonymous uncle, and her life to fight for.

“What were they like?” Fiona asked James. “My. . .Richard and Fiona?”

James put his hands in his pockets. “They were great. Richard was protective of you at first, but we started getting along. We’d watch these really cheesy science fiction movies, things reputable movie theatres don’t even think about showing.”

Fiona smiled. “I’ve seen a few of those this summer.”

“Your mom was great to be around, everyone loved her,” James said. “She was the most amazing cook.”

There were yellow flowers on all three tombstones. “Do they get a lot of visitors?” Fiona asked.

“A few.”

She swallowed as tears trickled down her cheeks. She wiped them away. She should have been here to help bury them. No, the fire never should have happened. If the Alarias were truly responsible, she’d never forgive them. She’d do anything she could for justice.


More excerpts to come soon. Finding Fiona is a light science fiction novella that will be published in September!