Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Post Troubles And More On Self-Publishing

My computer won't let me sign on, but for some reason my iPad will. So what does that mean? This is going to be a short post. I had a friend pass along an article from the Wall Street Journal (from Dec. 9) about self publishing. It was about an author named Darcie Chan who wrote a manuscript a number of years ago. She submitted it to over 100 agents before finding one that would represent her. Then none of the major publishing companies would pick it up. After shelving it for years she finally decided to go the self publishing route and published it earlier this year through Amazon's Kindle self-publishing program, selling her books for 99 cents (Chan makes about 35 cents per book).

She did some research and purchased some ads and reviews, and after some fortunate mentions on websites, etc. she has now sold over 4000,000 copies. Her book has been on the NY Times best selling list, yet astoundingly, she still can't find a publisher. She's had six film studios request the rights to her book, along with audio-book publishers and foreign publishers. She hasnt accepted any offers because she's afraid it will make it more difficult to get a publishing deal here in the US. But the traditional publishers are still hesitant to take her book on because they now fear it's "run it's course" and won't be successful for them. Any offers she's received have been worse than the money she makes on her own. So frustrating!!!

It's an interesting article. It reminds us that we need to be informed when it comes to self-publishing or traditional publishing. We need to know what our ultimate goals are, and what roads we need to take to get there. And we have to be prepared if those roads lead us somewhere we didn't expect.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ode To Thanksgiving Leftovers

The month is gone, where did you go?
Goodbye fall leaves, it's time for snow.

And with another season change,
My food I'll have to rearrange,

Oh turkey, it is time to leave,
I know it seems hard to believe,

'Tween ghosts and elves you were the bridge,
But now your scraps are in my fridge,

And going bad, I'm sad to say,
They won't last even one more day.

Out rolls and sweet potato pie,
Out mashed potatoes, my oh my,

'Cause I need room for Christmas treats,
for custard, ham and yummy sweets,

So leftovers, it's time to part,
But know you'll stay deep in my heart,

Until next year when one more time,
we meet again to feast sublime.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Micro Tension: Welcome To Life

There was an LDS Family Services counselor who spoke at a multi stake meeting a few weeks ago about overcoming trauma and fear.  One thing really struck me in that meeting.  She said that our bodies are engineered to handle the big catastrophes.  People who have been through horrendous tragedies surprisingly don't always need counseling because their brains and bodies are essentially wired to help them endure.  Instead, its the smaller things-- the day-to-day trials and struggles-- that actually impact us more and do greater harm.  Especially when we're young.

I'm reading a book right now that I feel like I should love but I don't.  There's action (major, end of the world type stuff), a romance, good characters.  The writing is beautiful.  So why don't I like it?  It's boring. There's no micro-tension! Turmoil and major catastrophes?  Yes, there's plenty of those.  But from chapter to chapter it feels like the characters are numb to the crazy things happening around them and they just sit around worrying about the big picture.  It's getting a little annoying, honestly.  The author does a great job of getting us inside the characters' heads, but nothing is happening in there.  At least, nothing new. 

So what is micro-tension?  It can be a lot of things.  It's the animosity Harry and Draco have for each other while Harry is trying to defeat Voldemort.  Or the typical teenage/parent tension between Bella and her dad that Bella has to deal with while figuring out how to survive when dating a vampire.  Or the death of a little girl that Katniss honors while trying to stay alive in a horrific game of Last Man Standing. 

We need micro-tension in our stories.

If in life it's the small, day-to-day things that impact us the most, maybe it works that way in literature too.  Just like in life, micro-tension develops character, shapes decisions, and often directs the final outcome. The big story is important, but it's the micro-tension from chapter to chapter that keeps us reading.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The E-book, Self Publishing Dilemma

Hello strangers!  Yes, it has been months since I posted here.  I'm happy to report that it's mostly because I've been hard at work on my manuscript.  I tend to get distracted when I blog surf, so I've had to stay away for a while.  But I'm back, at least for the moment, with a topic that has often been on my mind.

A writing friend of mine wrote on her blog recently about the rising issues and challenges with ebooks.  I brought it up during our monthly ANWA meeting (yay ANWA) and discovered there's a lot to this topic.  Here is some of what we discussed:

Ebooks are changing the face of the publishing industry, in some ways quicker than the industry can keep up. In the past, if an author didn't get a book deal there were very few options, but not anymore. An increasing number of authors are starting to self-publish, many of them using the ebook format and selling their novels for as little as $2.99 (which seems to be the magic number for ebook sales). Some of them have done very well, even getting great book deals from large publishers after their ebooks were a success (the Tiger'S Curse series by Colleen Houck, for example). On the other side, well-known authors are dropping their publishers and going straight to selling ebooks on their websites and garnishing 100% of the profits. So which option is best?

The ebook, self-publishing option has lots of positives. First,you get all the profit with very little overhead. This is appealing for authors who usually get about 10% on their books, and some of that goes to the agent. Second, there is something very tempting about foregoing the grueling and time-consuming process of finding an editor and agent. But this option comes with risks too.  When you don't have a publisher, then you lose support in marketing your book. All the work is up to you and you really have to do your research to know what are the best ways to spread the word and get your name out there. Second, when you forego the publisher the quality of your book is often compromised. You lose that team of editing support that can make a book shine.

Going the traditional route has it's benefits and issues too. As far as benefits, they have resources that in general go far beyond a self-publishing author. Marketing and editing resources are two huge ones. A publisher wants you to succeed, and (in theory) can help guide you in getting your book out there to the masses as a polished product. They can facilitate your meeting other successful authors. And there is just something appealing about seeing your book in hard copy, not just ebook format. But there are some challenges here too. For one, the author makes considerably less per book, which is understandable because there's a team of people working on your book who all have to be paid. Also, there are still a lot of issues with ebooks that have yet to be worked out. For example, publishers make a considerably higher percentage of the profit on an ebook than the author, whereas with hard copy books the percentage is about equal. Also, the profit reporting for ebook sales can get a little sticky. The ebook phenomenon happened so fast that some publishers may not have accurate systems in place to report profits, and some authors are concerned that they are actually selling more ebooks than are getting reported.

When it comes to ebooks, self-publishing and traditional publishing both have their benefits and problems. The most important thing in deciding between the two is to make sure you do your research and discover which option is best for you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Card, Characters, and Characterization

Right now I'm rereading the Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card.  He's one of my favorite authors.  I read his writing and realize I've got a long way to go (which should logically make me not like him, right?  Perhaps I'm a masochist, or I just like to understand what good writing is supposed to look like even if I can't duplicate it yet).

In the intro, he talked about how he came up with the idea for Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead.  In the later book he has a character with a handful of children who are all pivotal to the plot.  An author friend of his read the manuscript and complained that he was having a hard time telling all the children apart.  Orson Scott Card realized that what it really meant was that he hadn't developed those characters well enough that they stood out as distinct individuals.  Since I had just received the same criticism lately, I thought this insight was very... well, insightful.

So I paid close attention as I read to how he distinguished these characters, especially in scenes where there were multiple ones all together.  I noticed that he constantly referenced each of them in the scene, even if they weren't the ones speaking.  They were still doing something--  standing, sulking in the corner, smiling, or in one case peeing on someone else's leg.  Whatever the case, their physical actions were mentioned-- and those actions were as indicative of their character as their dialog.

He also pointed out that writing a story with a lot of characters is difficult, because there are so many relationships you have to work out.  Not only the relationships they each have with each other, but also how all the characters relate as a whole.  On top of that, you have to keep in mind that different people act differently depending on who they're with (who doesn't act different with a parent than they do when they're with their friends, especially as a youth).  So you are not only developing multiple characters, but multiple variations of each of those characters as well.

Whew!  Writing can be exhausting.  It also makes me realize why I'm so absent-minded.  With all those extra people in my head, it's a wonder I can still remember my children's names.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Change In Perspective (And Time Zones)

I just got back yesterday from a trip to Ireland. My head is still spinning from the jet lag, so if this post doesn't make sense forgive me. It was 60 degrees and raining the whole time... and TOTALLY awesome. The countryside was amazing, the food was fabulous. But what has stayed with me most is the day trip we took to Belfast. Did you know there is a twenty foot high wall that cuts right through the city? It divides the Protestants from the Catholics and it closes every night at 7 pm. Everything in the city is divided-- they go to separate schools, live in separate neighborhoods, and even take different transportation (years ago the Protestant side-- Belfast is still under English rule which supports the Protestants-- made a law that Catholics could no longer ride on public transportation. The Catholic community came together and bought a bunch of black taxi cabs so they could still get around.) They don't even agree about their nationality-- Protestants say they're English, Catholics say they're Irish. To the Catholics, the English are suppressors (in the 80's they had internment camps where prisoners could be held without cause and without a trial for up to 2 years and 4 months). To the Protestants, the Catholics are the terrorists (IRA).
I knew a little (very little honestly) about the violence in Ireland, but until I saw what was there I just didn't understand. It's amazing what a little change in perspective can do.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How Do You Generate Ideas?

A year ago I went to a writing class on generating ideas.  There were four authors, one very well-known, who were teaching the class.  The first thing they said was, "Generating ideas is easy.  You wouldn't be here at this workshop unless you already had plenty of ideas.  So instead, we're going to talk about..."
I was so disappointed!!!  I looked around the class thinking, "Really?  I'm the ONLY one who thinks coming up with viable story ideas can be difficult?"
I think of probably twenty story ideas a day (or more), but they never usually make through a good night's sleep.  I read a book by Orson Scott Card where he said that a good idea takes a long time to develop.  He cited Ender's Game as an example (I LOVE that book).  He said the idea for a battle school in space came to him years before the rest of the story actually took form.
So how do you generate ideas?  Do they just come to you?  Do you get inspired by other people?  Do you brainstorm?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Free Books!

A few weeks ago my husband and I went on a business/pleasure trip to Palm Springs.  My husband is a huge bargain shopper, so naturally he checked Craiglist once we got there to see if there was anything worth looking at (yes, he really did this-- did I mention he's in sales?  The adage that salesman are the easiest to get sold is sooo true.  But that's a different post).  He found a furniture store that was advertising free books.   Yay for me!!
We drove down to check it out.  Sadly, most of the books were not really the kind we read, but we did find a few gems.  We walked out with two leather bound sets of books-- neither collection was complete, but they still look great on our family room bookshelves.  We looked up one of the collections and, even incomplete, it was worth over $100.
For good measure, I grabbed a romance book to have something to read while on vacation.  I tried to pick something that looked tame-- I figured it was free, so if it was awful I could always get rid of it.
But I discovered that I really liked it.  It was a Regency-era book that was not too graphic and was really well written.  After I got home, I went to the bookstore and bought the other three books in the series.
So why am I telling you this story?  First, because you guys are the best audience for a fun story about free books.  Second, I've learned that you never know where you'll find inspiration.

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Well, it's been a while since I've written something-- and not just on the blog.  My writing has stalled a little over the last month, and I'm having a difficult time jumping back into things again.  Here is what I've learned:

-Momentum is huge.  Once I'm writing, I need to keep on writing.
-When I go too long without writing I have to waste valuable time remembering where I was and getting into the groove of things again.
-I have a really bad memory.
-If I don't have a time and place scheduled to write, it's way too easy to put it off.  When I have a free hour, I find myself looking between my computer and my bookshelf and usually reaching for the books.  After all, reading is research too.  Right?
-This leads me to my final discovery:  I'm a master at excuses.

So now I'm headed to a writing conference this next week and much less prepared than I hoped to be *sigh*.   But on the flip side, I'M HEADED TO A WRITING CONFERENCE!!! WAHOO!!  Seriously, I think that even if I didn't write, I would like writing conferences.  It's an awesome place to network, learn great things about the industry, and meet fascinating people who tend to have the same quirks and idiosyncrasies that you do.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Would Voldemort Do?

Somehow I've managed to write 3/4 of my story without fleshing out my villain, and now I'm paying the price.  So this week I've done some serious pondering.  I've studied famous villains in history and fiction, I've studied some writing books about characterization, and I've brainstormed a lot.

Here's my problem.  I'm writing a middle grade book and no matter what I brainstorm, my villain keeps sounding just like Voldemort.   And he's been done before. 

As I return to the drawing board to work this whole thing out, I thought I'd post some of the things I've read about writing a good villain:

1.  The villain needs to be equally as gifted/powerful as the hero.  If the hero is too powerful, there is no tension or conflict.  The villain can appear more powerful at first, but eventually the hero has to gain the strength to conquer him.  If the hero wins by chance, the reader feels cheated.

2.  The villain shouldn't be all bad.  There ought to be some quirk or attribute that is good.  He loves gardening, or he has a favorite pet, etc.  Something that gives him dimension.  (I'm starting to realize that my favorite villains are the ones who truly believe they are doing what's right, but they are woefully mistaken).

3.  Try to avoid the stereotypes (sorry Voldemort).  The crooked politician, the hypocritical clergyman, the super evil wizard who wants to destroy Harry, etc.  If you have to use them, give them some unique twist that makes them interesting.

4.  Generally, there needs to be a defining tragic event that has made the villain who he is.  He could've been wrongfully convicted of a crime, or he had a horrible childhood, or an unrequited love interested who was cruel to him.  Give him a reason for why he does his dastardly deeds.

Hope these tips helped any of you out there who are working on villains.  If anyone has other tips, please feel free to post them!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Reality Check

I just read the YA paranormal novel The White Cat by Holly Black.  I won't go into too many details for those of you who want to read it, but the story boils down to this:  Are we the kind of people we are because of the memories we have?

So what happens if those memories get taken away?  I know someone who was in a serious car accident during college.  He lost much of his memory, as well as much of his cognitive ability.  He appeared to change into a completely different person.
So what part of us is us, and what part of us has been formed by our circumstances (and memories)?
It's an interesting thing to think about while creating characters.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

ANWA Conference

This last weekend I went to the ANWA Conference in Phoenix.  I love writers' conferences!  If any of you are aspiring writers, I strongly suggest you get yourself to a conference or two.  It's a great way to learn about the business and network, network, network.  Honestly, I don't know how an author would ever get published if they didn't have a support group around them.   And there's no better place to find a writing/critique group, pitch an agent, learn from experienced authors, etc.
I even pitched an agent who really liked my idea and asked to see more.  Yay!  Of course, I'm pretty sure that she gave her card to everyone who pitched to her, but that doesn't matter.  She like my idea, so I'm claiming it as a victory.
We learned some awesome stuff about writing, pitching, querying, etc.  I stayed up until 2:00 am working on my pitch, then woke up again at 5:00.  I would suggest getting this done beforehand-- it's not fun to survive the day on 3 hours of sleep.  I would've been more prepared, but I thought I was prepared until I went to the pitch class the night before and discovered I had it all wrong.  Just another good reason for writing conferences.  
Thanks to all of the ladies at ANWA and for all the speakers/agents/etc. for putting together such a great conference.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's Time To Off The Parents

I'm currently writing a middle-grade novel.  One obstacle in writing for children-- and for young adults-- is figuring out a way to get rid of the parents.  Why?  Because when it comes to saving the world, parents just get in the way.  

No conscientious adult would knowingly allow a child to date a vampire, or go on a quest against the gods to find a bolt of lightening, or have a direct face-off against the world's vilest wizard.   They just wouldn't.  Somewhere along the way, a parent would say, "Hold up.  That's too dangerous.  I really don't think you should walk down into that dark cave by yourself to chat with that evil monster who just wants to kill you." 

So you have to get rid of the parents.  

The challenge is how to do this realistically and creatively.  I've only come up with a few ways to make this happen-- and none of them are that creative.  But I'm going to share them with you anyway:

First, you can kill them off.    Car accidents are always useful for this kind of thing.  Even better, you can  have them killed by the villain (that allows you the added bonus of giving the hero motive to go after said villain).   Killed in a plane crash, eaten by a monster, destroyed in some natural disaster--  really the options are endless (personally, mine get blown up in a grain silo explosion).  

The biggest obstacle with this choice is that it is so overdone.  Show me a child-hero and I can almost always show you an orphan.

A second option is to remove the parent from the scene of action.   Send them on a vacation, or off to work, or into the hospital.  It works even better if you get rid of the adult right at the moment they're needed most.  For example, an evil wizard is about to attack the school just as the headmaster is forced to give up his position (sound familiar?)  You can also move the child.  Send them on vacation or away to school. 

The problem with this choice is that usually when a responsible parent goes away, they leave a another responsible adult in their place.  If they don't, you have to provide a valid reason why.  Which means you're pretty much right back to where you started. 

This leads to the third option.  Give the parent (or other adult) a huge character flaw.  They can be crazy, complete idiots, or even evil.   This way, they are either oblivious to the danger of sending their child into that creepy cave all alone, or they're aware of it but have no qualms about sending them anyway.

The biggest problem with this choice is realism.  Seriously, wouldn't a loving parent at least have some idea that their child is dating a vampire?   And if crazy or evil is your method of choice, it's very difficult to portray a totally dysfunctional parent raising a totally well-adjusted child.  There's got to be some kind of fall-out.  Good authors can sometimes use this dysfunction as the very thing that makes the child a hero-- but it's tricky to do.

So what are some other options?  Does anyone out there have a brilliant way to get rid of the parents without killing them, sending them away, or making them crazy and evil?  But be warned, if you share it, I just might use it!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

You Know You're A Heroine In A Romance Novel If...

We all have times when it's hard to see ourselves clearly or analyze a situation in our lives with clarity and objectivity.  Heroines in romance novels seem particularly lacking in the self-awareness department.  So, in case any of you out there are wondering if you're a heroine out of a Romance novel, I've come up with some signs that might help you figure it out:

1. The first time you meet your love interest, you instantly hate him, and he feels the same way about you.
2.  Despite your hatred, you can't help but acknowledge that he has a devilish smile and smoldering eyes.  And for some reason that is completely beyond you, every time he touches you or even steps near you it sends chills up your spine. Although you still hate him.
3.  Your love interest is virtually bereft of morals.  A rogue.  But for some reason he can't explain, he feels protective of you and flies into a rage if your safety, reputation, or feelings are at risk (that is, unless he's the one that's putting them at risk).  Although he still hates you.
4. Despite your obvious distaste for each other, fate continually throws you together in strange ways- like in a barn during a freak and totally unexpected thunderstorm, locked into a room together without a key, or lost in the woods and separated from anyone else.  Sometimes, all three of these.
5. You see your love interest in a compromising situation and instantly jump to the worst conclusion.  You also refuse to question him about it because, as far as you're concerned, having a frank and honest conversation is theworst way to work out a problem.
6.  In a completely shocking and totally sudden burst of insight, you realize that you have been in love with him from the moment you first met and that he is also in love with you.
7.  You two live happily ever after.
1. The first time you see your love interested (and usually before either of you has uttered a word), you fall madly, deeply in love.  The kind of love that makes you willing to sacrifice everything you hold most dear- including your life.
2.  You wake up in the middle of the night to find your love interest has broken into your house and is staring at you from the corner of the room.  And you think it's sweet.
3.  Your love interest has an enemy who is intent on destroying him by hurting you (either that, or his enemy is in love with you.  Either option works.)
3.  Within a few weeks (or days) of meeting, you will have to sacrifice everything you hold most dear- including your life.
4.  Your love interest will also be willing to sacrifice his life, and somehow that cancels out both your sacrifices and you get to keep everything.
5.  You two live happily ever after.

And in case you were wondering if you were in a Paranormal Romance, all of the above apply, with a few extras:
1.  Your love interest wants to eat you, drink your blood, or sacrifice you to some unknown power (particularly if you are fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen-years-old.  You might think you are in a horror novel, but you're confused- you're actually in a YA Paranormal Romance).
2.  Despite the fact that you've never entertained the idea of anything supernatural before, you take the fact that your boyfriend has supernatural abilities at face value without questioning it, nor does it make you question if any other kinds of supernatural creatures exist.  That would just be silly.

And if you thought you might be in a Romantic Comedy:
1. At some point within the first few days of meeting your love interest, you utterly and completely humiliate yourself in front of him.
2.  You lose your job, a family member, your home, or your best friend.  But you can laugh at it.

I hope this helped you.  It certainly helped me.  Imagine my surprise, after compiling this list, when I discovered that I'm not a romance heroine.  I'm actually more of a side character in a middle grade novel.  Go figure.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Pay It Forward

Hi all,
For any of you that are looking to pitch to an agent, I wanted to let you know about this awesome opportunity that Shelli Johannes Wells is doing on her blog.  Click on her name for the details and how you can enter.
And now for my "pay it forward:"
First, I think Shelli's idea to do a pay it forward post is a great idea.  I've often thought about what I'd write in my acknowledgements page if I published a book.  I think I have more people to thank- even before I've ever published- than I could write on a single page.
Every prospective author deserves to have a friend who walks ahead of her, shining a light on the path she should go. I feel lucky enough to have several.
I've loved writing my whole life, but writing fiction is a whole different animal.  When I first decided to give it a try, I finished a very rough, very amateur manuscript and thought, "What do I do now?"  That's when I contacted family friend Bree Despain- who is writing the Dark Divine series.  She was very gracious, and told me to join SCBWI, find a writing/critique group, and get to a writing conference so that I could learn the business of writing fiction.
And so I did just that, and I feel so grateful for her advice.  I went to a writers' conference and met someone who told me about ANWA.  I joined immediately and since then I've been able to develop friendships with both published authors and other unpublished authors like myself.  I've developed some deep friendships, learned about great resources on writing, and progressed as a writer.
So here's a big thanks to Bree and all the other people who support me daily in my passion!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Kiss of a Stranger by Sarah M. Eden

Summary (from back cover): 

When Crispin, Lord Cavratt, thoroughly and scandalously kisses a serving woman in the garden of a country inn, he assumes the encounter will be of no consequence. But he couldn't be more mistaken--the maid is not only a lady of birth, she's the niece of a very large, exceptionally angry gentleman, who claims Crispin has compromised his niece beyond redemption. The dismayed young lord has no choice but to marry Miss Catherine Thorndale, who lacks both money and refinement and assumes all men are as vicious as her guardian uncle.
Trapped between an unwanted marriage and a hasty annulment, which would leave his reputation tainted and Catherine's utterly ruined, Crispin begins guiding his wife's transformation from a socially petrified country girl to a lady of society. Their unfolding relationship reveals encouraging surprises for both of them, and privately each of them wonders if theirs may become a true marriage of the heart. But their hopes are dashed when forces conspire to split asunder what fate has granted. As a battle of wits escalates into a life-threatening confrontation, will it be possible for Crispin and Catherine to live happily ever after?

My Review:
I decided to read this book because I really enjoyed Sara's last book, Courting Miss Lancaster, which I read because I met Sara at a writing conference and really enjoyed her as a person.  It actually took me two trips to Deseret Book to finally purchase this novel because the first time I went they didn't have it.  If you decide to buy it, you may want to check Deseret Book (or Seagull) online or call the store first, although it's selling really well so the bookstore may be making more of an effort to keep it in-stock.  
This story has the same light, funny quality that her other book has, so if you've read one of her novels before and enjoyed it, you'll most likely enjoy this one as well (it even makes reference to some of the characters from her other books).   However it does have some darker characters- specifically the Uncle who beats and abuses Catherine.  
In the beginning of the novel, Catherine is a flawed heroine-- injured from a life of child abuse-- which is a-typical of most of the Regency books I've read.  Sure, a lot of times the main character is the underdog for some reason (lack of wealth, a disreputable family member, etc.), but they're rarely as damaged as Catherine appears to be.  I think Sara does a great job of making Catherine seem like a realistic character- someone you believe has truly been injured but is likable enough to make you also believe they're capable of having a happy ending.
The story is fast-paced (I read it in one day) and enjoyable.  
I think this is the perfect read for someone who is a fan of Jane Austen and Regency romance in general.  Sara Eden does a great job of writing stories that are in keeping with the traditions of that time period and it's obvious in reading her books that she's done her research.  I look forward to reading more novels from her and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to anyone who might be interested.

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James


When Jane Austen's father dies, Jane, her sister Cassandra, and their mother are left homeless and nearly penniless. Although Jane's brothers pitch in to offer financial support, Jane still lacks privacy and a settled place in which to live and write. She has long since given up her dream of becoming a published author.

On a fateful trip to Lyme, Jane meets the well-read and charming Mr. Ashford, a man who is her equal in intellect and temperament. The two fall deeply in love. Inspired by the people and places around her, and encouraged by Mr. Ashford's faith in her, Jane begins revising Sense and Sensibility, a book she began years earlier, hoping to be published at last.

My Review:
I've been on a little Regency kick lately, and on a whim I went to the bookstore and picked this up.  Anyone who is a fan of Jane Austen has wondered how (or why) the author who wrote love stories that have touched so many people never appeared to have a love story of her own (Austen never married).
This book is written as if a lost memoir of Austen's has been recently discovered, and an editor's note in the beginning of the book is told from the supposed President of the Jane Austen Literary Society, Mary I. Jesse (actually an anagram of the author's name), who has been asked to authenticate the memoir.
Although the memoir is actually fictional, the author tries to stay in keeping with Jane Austen's real life-- including the type of person she was, the places she lived, and the people who surrounded her.
It's quite a feat to write a romance novel about a woman who is known to have died unmarried and alone.  How do you write an ending to the novel that both stays in keeping with her real life and yet satisfies the romantic-type person who would be interested in a story about Jane Austen?
It says something about the book that I kept reading even though I knew the romance couldn't end well.  I thought Syrie James did a wonderful job in capturing Austen's voice.  There was nothing in the story that seemed out of character for either Jane Austen or for that time period (one of my biggest pet peeves is reading a Regency book where the characters have modern day sensibilities).
The love story is sweet and sincere, and the closer I got to the end the more I began to dread how it would unravel.  However, I felt James presented a satisfying (though sad) ending.  It seemed plausible to me that if Jane Austen really had been involved in a romance in her life, it could have been very much like this book described.
One of the things I really enjoyed in the book is the way Syrie James references so many of Jane Austen's stories.  Anyone who is familiar with them will see characters and situations in this story that mirror Austen's novels- particularly Sense and Sensibility.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Jane Austen and Regency romance.

The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison

A Prince with the animal magic that must be kept secret, or he will be put to death. A Princess who has only ever loved her hound, and has a dangerous secret of her own. The last thing they should do is fall in love.

He is a prince, heir to a kingdom threatened on all sides, possessor of the animal magic, which is forbidden by death in the land he'll rule.
She is a princess from a rival kingdom, the daughter her father never wanted, isolated from true human friendship but inseparable from her hound.
Though they think they have little in common, each possesses a secret that must be hidden at all costs. Proud, stubborn, bound to marry for the good of their kingdoms, this prince and princess will steal your heart, but will they fall in love?

My Review:
I would classify this as a YA Paranormal Romance- though the romance isn't the typical YA style where they see each other for the first time and instantly fall madly in love for no particular reason.  The entire story is essentially about how they discover each other- and there's no real romance until right at the end.  
From the title,  it sounds like the Princess and the hound are the main characters, but the story is actually told through the point of view of Prince George.  As the summary states, both he and the Princess have secrets- and the book is about how he reconciles himself to his own secret and how he discovers hers.  
There are some dark-acting characters- but there is nothing too graphic.     There isn't really anything I would be concerned about a younger child reading, it just may be too difficult (probably most appropriate for a teenage audience).
Overall I enjoyed this book.  It's the first of a trilogy and I plan on reading the other two

Saturday, January 22, 2011

We Have A Winner!

First, let me thank all of you for your entries and book suggestions.  I was amazed at how few repeats there were.  It's encouraging to know that there's so many good books at there that touch so many different people.
Congratulations "Julie S".  You've just won a $15 Giftcard from Barnes and Noble!  I will contact you via email.  You have a week to email me back.  If I don't hear from you, the giftcard will be used for another giveaway.
Thanks again to everyone-- be sure to check back for future giveaways, reviews, and thoughts on writing.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Contest Is Over

Thank you all so much for your entries and book suggestions!  This contest ended at 12:00 am Eastern Time.  I will announce the winner sometime in the next couple days, so be sure to check back.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Another Giveaway- $15 giftcard from B & N!

Hi all,
I recently posted on fb that I needed a good book to read and got some fabulous suggestions (and even three books delivered to my front door!).  Because I cannot decide which book would be best to give away, I've decided to just give a Barnes & Noble $15 gift card instead-- then you can choose yourself!

So here are the rules:
- You must be a follower of my blog
-Leave a comment (preferably with your contact info) telling me your favorite book
*additional entry*
-spread the word:  mention this contest on fb, twitter, etc.

That's it.  Nice and easy.  : ) I will contact the winner sometime next week and I'll give you a week to respond.  After that, the giftcard goes back into the giveaway pile for next time.  

Be sure to check out the list below for other awesome giveaways.  I love blog hops!  Thanks for taking a look at the blog and good luck.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


 No, this is not a reference to what I feel at any given moment (macro-tension may be more accurate).  It's also not a microwave recipe.  It's actually a term coined by Donald Maass in The Fire In Fiction.  He uses it to describe the technique authors must use to hold their readers' attention through every word.  It is "the moment-by-moment tension that keeps the reader in a constant state of suspense over what will happen, not in the story but in the next few seconds."
Ever skimmed a paragraph of internal monologue?  So have I.  Sometimes when we're writing our character's thoughts and feelings, we use 100 words to say something that could have easily been said with ten.  Or we restate.  Or we say the same things again, just using different words (did I already say that?)
So how do we avoid these flaws and keep our internal dialogue (also called exposition) interesting and full of micro-tension?  Here are some of his tips- again in bullet points:

  • Find a passage of exposition in your manuscript.
  • Identify the primary emotion in the passage, then write down its opposite.
  • Look for what the character is thinking, summarize the main idea in her mind, and then find a conflicting idea.
  • If the passage involved mulling over something that happened earlier, find something about the prior occurrence that your character failed to notice or realize, raise an unasked question, or answer what new reasons your character has to feel uneasy, anxious, or in danger.
  • Without looking at your original draft, rewrite the exposition using conflicting emotions or warring ideas.  Make the contrast strong and add fresh questions and worries.
All right, that's about all the blog space I think I should take up for one day.  But before I finish, I have to acknowledge that I did very little (okay, none) of the research about micro-tension.  I took it almost verbatim from the lesson taught last night at our ANWA meeting (thanks Sandra).  Just one reason, among many, why I love ANWA.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years and Stupid Characters

First of all, Happy New Year!  I hope that this year is as great as last year-- except with more money and less problems.  And a cruise or two wouldn't hurt.  I'm now a team member of the ANWA Founders and Friends blog.  I'll be posting a little more about New Year's Resolutions on that blog in a couple weeks (I have every other Wednesday-- starting a week from this coming Wednesday).    Be sure to take a look.
Now for stupid characters.  One of my serious pet peeves in books is to have an otherwise intelligent and rational character miss a totally obvious-- and usually pivotal-- clue.  I just read two books that I really enjoyed except that in both books the POV character misses a blazingly obvious piece of information that was staring them in the face.  In one story, the girl doesn't realize that her new friend is actually a murderous villain even though everyone she complains to him about conveniently ends up dead.  In the other, the POV character calls for help from the doctor that he secretly suspects is poisoning his loved one, because "he has no reason to believe this doctor has any bad intentions."  Uh, what?
Sometimes an author is trying to leave hints for the reader without the POV character picking up on them-- which is extremely difficult to do since the very definition of Point of View character means that the story is told from their point of view.
Think of it this way-- if a fashion designer walks into a room, she is likely going to be able to tell you later what the other people in the room were wearing.  You would expect a person like her to notice things like that.  So wouldn't it shock you if someone in the room happened to be wearing a bright orange tutu and our fashion designer said she didn't notice it-- or if she did notice it, that she didn't have any reaction to it?  Of course it would, because missing that kind of detail is totally out of character for a fashion designer.
Yet authors do this kind of thing all the time.  In the author's attempt to heighten or prolong the conflict, the main character misses a totally obvious detail that they would never typically miss.  And missing that detail then seemingly justifies the character making ten more stupid, totally out-of-character, mistakes.
So how can the author leave clues for the reader without making their characters look stupid?  Since I have run into this problem in my own writing, I've brainstormed some ideas of how to get around it:
First, make the clue more subtle.  Let's take our fashion designer.  If someone in the room was wearing a bright orange belt as opposed to a tutu, we'd still expect our designer to notice it, but there is at least some possibility that she may have missed it.  And if the belt wasn't bright orange but more of a subdued color, then we'd have even more reason to believe the designer might not notice it.
Second, give the character extenuating circumstances that justify them missing such an obvious fact.  For example, the fashion designer just found out she lost her job and her mind was totally preoccupied, or she walked into the room and found her boyfriend with another woman (not the one wearing the orange tutu), or the lights were out in the room and the designer didn't see anything at all.  It doesn't matter-- there just has to be a reasonable excuse why the character would miss an obvious detail.
Third, have the character misinterpret the detail.  For example, the fashion designer is totally distraught over the lost job, but notices her boyfriend staring at the woman in the orange tutu.  The woman with the tutu also happens to be a famous model, and the designer automatically assumes that her boyfriend is ogling over the model's body.  She believes the model is wearing the tutu to draw attention to her slender waist, not because the she happens to have terrible fashion sense.
Finally, the author can have someone else notice the detail.  The boyfriend keeps looking across the room at someone, but before the designer can see who the boyfriend is looking at, the girl in the tutu leaves.    The designer knows there was something that drew her boyfriend's attention, but she missed it herself.
I'm sure there's plenty of other techniques that more seasoned authors use, but those were some ideas.  Bottom line:  don't make your characters look stupid unless you're doing it on purpose.