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  I joined immediately and since then I've been able to develop friendships with both published authors and other unpublished authors like myself.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.