Thursday, April 25, 2013


Okay, so I think I might be the last person on the planet to read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. Part of that is my rebellious nature. I automatically buck against anything that "everyone seems to like" or that "everyone is doing."

Might be lame. I don't know.

The other part of this equation is that I often don't like books that everyone else does. Then I have to wonder why everyone likes this book that I really don't. Is it them? Is it me?

So I held off on reading THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. I just couldn't do it when everyone else did, mostly out of fear that once again, I'd be disappointed and left pondering why I couldn't like a book that seemingly everyone else on the planet does.

Thankfully, that didn't happen. I read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, and I really liked it!

About THE FAULT IN OUR STARS: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

I think the thing I liked best was that while this is a tragedy, the main characters don't give up. It's a story that encompasses life--because those of us plodding along on this orb aren't giving up. We keep putting one foot (and in the case of Augustus, he only has one, which I thought was brilliant) in front of the other, and hoping.

I've read lots of reviews and such of this book, claiming I'd cry. Well, I didn't, but that just might be because I'm heartless (ha!). But I really did enjoy the journey Hazel and Augustus embark on together, and it reminded me that every day I live should be filled with hope no matter what circumstances I'm facing.

Check out what the other Bookanistas are raving about:
Katy Upperman ponders LOVE AND OTHER PERISHABLE ITEMS by Laura Buzo
Kimberly Sabatini wonders at WHEN YOU WERE HERE by Daisy Whitney
Tracy Banghart loves LACRIMOSA by Christine Fonseca
Corrine Jackson adores the ARCADIA BELL series by Jenn Bennett
Rebecca Behrens delves into CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein
Lenore Appelhans raves about THE RULES by Stacey Kade
Stasia Ward Kehoe wraps up National Poetry Month with THE POETRY TEACHER’S BOOK OF LISTS by Sylvia Vardell
Christine Fonseca celebrates UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi
Jessica Love hails THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE by Jennifer E. Smith
Shannon Messenger discusses some recent reads

Monday, April 22, 2013

Am I a Work-in-Progress?

Okay, so I'm in the throes of a major rewrite/revision. I think it's the biggest one I've ever done on one of my novels, both published and unpublished--and that's saying something, because I did massive amounts of editing on my published novels.

So I was looking back through some of my revision/rewriting posts, thinking I'd "see how it's done" and maybe re-post one of them for today.

As I did so, I realized something. I don't revise the same way I used to.

Imagine my shock! My mind was suddenly buzzing: What's changed? Am I better now? Or worse? Oh my heck, am *I* a work-in-progress?

I think we are. And I think it's a good thing. The more I've been thinking about it, the more I've been realizing that heck, yes, I better have changed how I'm doing things! I've learned so much from being professionally edited. I've learned from reading craft books, and regular novels, and being entrenched in the business of storytelling.

I actually think it would be sad if I revised a novel now the exact same way I did three years ago. I'm happy to say that yes! I am a work-in-progress, and I have grown and changed.

My revision process now is done on a much more holistic level. I used to separate my novel into thirds and work on paper. I suppose I might still do that, if the novel required it. But I find that I haven't printed a novel to revise it for a long time. I simply work on the computer.

Three years ago, I had no idea what set pieces were, and now I meticulously check my percentages to make sure my midpoint moment happens at the midpoint, and my act breaks are placed appropriately.

I've also found that I go much slower than I used to. I have specific projects I'm passionate about, and they deserve the time required to get them right (this is pretty ironic, considering that the most massive rewrite/revision I'm currently doing is on a time travel novel. Time... get it... the time travel novel deserves time... Okay, nevermind).

So tell me. Are you a work-in-progress?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Series Scavenger Hunt...

Okay, so see that header up there? Yeah, my husband built that. He's awesome like that. I know it's a couple of months out, but get ready for the POSSESSION series scavenger hunt coming with the release of the third and final book on June 4: ABANDON.

It's 10 days of awesome. 1 fabulous map. Over 60 book blogs. You really don't want to miss it. Really, really.

Along with that, here are a couple of other things I have going on around the world:

  • Today, Monday, April 15: Alhambra Civic Center Library, 3 - 5 PM: I'll be speaking about publishing and writing as part of their National Library Week celebration.
  • Friday, May 9: Book signing, Provo Marriott in conjunction with the LDStorymakers Conference

ABANDON launch events:
  • Tuesday, June 4: The King's English, 7 PM
  • Thursday, June 13: Orem Barnes & Noble, 6 PM

Other fun stuff:
  • Tuesday, June 18: Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference -- I'm teaching about blogging.

Spiffy graphic right? Does it cycle through for you? What do you think?

Friday, April 12, 2013

A BLIND EYE Trailer!!

Okay, so I'm always amazed by book trailers that are done well. I love the two-minute sketch of what movies and books are about. And Julie Daines has a great trailer I wanted to share with you today! It's for her novel A BLIND EYE, which came out earlier this year.

I mean, awesome, right? I can't wait to read A BLIND EYE!

What movie/book trailers have you seen recently that have you all jazzed to watch/read?

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Dude, I've really been enjoying a lot of the books I've been reading these days. And you'd be surprised to learn that I've branched out beyond YA. I know! You thought it would never happen! Well. It has!

This week's recommendation is THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass. I bought this book a long time ago, and recently found the time to sit down and devour it.

First, a bit about THE SELECTION: For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself--and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

I really liked America as the main character. I thought the set-up for the society and how a person lives in a specific caste. I found that system fascinating, and would read more about that specifically. I rooted for America and Aspen... until I met Prince Maxon.

He's a great lead male character as well, full of fire and faults--which isn't always the case with our heroes. Since he doesn't narrate, we don't know everything about him, but we know he's not perfect. I liked that in a literary world where often our male MC's are perfection on the page.

I liked that there was more to this plot than just a romance. There's some dangerous things going on outside the castle that I was extremely interested in. I didn't get all my questions answered in THE SELECTION, so I'm excited to read THE ELITE.

If you liked WITHER, you'll like THE SELECTION. If you liked MATCHED, you'll like THE SELECTION. It has the same feel as both of them, while being able to be unique enough to be discussed on it's own merits.

Check out what the other Bookanistas are talking about this week:

Favorite read this week?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Is It Worth It?

Okay, sometimes I wonder at things. Most recently, I've been wondering if this publishing thing is worth the time and effort I've previously put into it. Notice I didn't say writing. I do love to write, and often I have a side project that I pour my energy into that no one will ever see. I don't want anyone to see those things.

But sometimes I wonder if pursuing publishing is worth what I'm sacrificing. Sometimes I wonder if the emotional investment I'm depositing is too much. Sometimes I'm eating dinner with my family, but I'm thinking about publishing. I'm obsessing over publishing. What makes my day "good" or "bad" is dependent on what publishing news I've had--or haven't had.

I feel like I've achieved some level of balance between my real life and publishing in a physical sense. But in an emotional and mental sense, I fear I am still far too focused on publishing. And I'm wondering: Is it worth it?

What are your thoughts? Tips on achieving mental/emotional balance with this publishing roller coaster?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Make Your Scenes Work Harder

Okay, so today I'm excited to welcome to the blog Don McNair. He's the author of EDITOR-PROOF YOUR WRITING: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Editors and Publishers Crave. I got a copy, and it's been a welcome addition to my arsenal of writing how-to books.

Don's here today to talk about making your scenes work harder, so let's let him take it away!


Years ago, while my wife and I were dining with her parents, her father said something that changed my whole approach to writing.

Bill Hadley was an award-winning school superintendent, known throughout the teaching profession for his staff's high quality. On this occasion we were discussing education in general, and I asked him how he achieved that sterling quality.

He smiled. "Well, it's how I select my teachers. Most employers select a new staff member to fill a single job. Me? I make sure they have at least two talents I can use. The one I'm actually hiring them for, and at least one other I can use as a bonus."

I pressed him for details, and he gave the example of hiring an English teacher. Several applicants may be qualified to teach English, but one or more may have additional skills. So he hires the one who also likes to direct school plays, or oversee a school newspaper or yearbook.

Multiply hiring for this one position by the number of teaching slots on his staff, and one can easily see that the parts definitely add up to more than the whole.

I thought about that conversation many times since that evening, and realized his hiring technique could be used in many fields. It seemed to be a Universal Truth. One day, while I was writing a scene for a new novel, the power of his technique hit me. Why, scenes were just like those teachers! If writers made every scene do at least two things instead of one, they would have a more powerful manuscript. I applied that thinking to my writing, and saw it take on a new life.

Use Two Talents
I think using the technique will make you a better writer, too. All your scenes should provide the reader information. That's the first talent. The second talent should be to move the story along.

Readers need certain information so they can follow the story. Some fiction writers provide it, in part, by having two people discuss the information in an early scene. Often this takes place in the heroine's apartment (or its equivalent). Nothing else happens in the scene.

This approach is deadly. Readers sometimes feel they're forced to sit on a couch in this cramped apartment and listen as the heroine and her sidekick discuss these pertinent must-have facts, perhaps glancing at the readers occasionally to see if they are picking up what the author is putting down. A much better way to pass that information is to do it as something else is happening.

A good example is a first chapter I read not long ago about a Manhattan girl going to a Texas dude ranch. One option the author had was to sit me down on that apartment couch and feed me a scripted message about why she is going to that ranch. This author, however, found a better way. She took me with her to the airport.

The chapter opened with the three of us—myself, the heroine, and her sister—arriving at LaGuardia. We looked around, and I began enjoying the outing. I watched people hurry by, heard the throaty announcements of departing flights, felt air gush from the air conditioners as we walked under them—the author presented all that information in a way that let me experience the trip. At the scene's end I boarded that plane with the main character and we searched for our seats.

It occurred to me, while I was anticipating my free peanuts and staring out the window at the tarmac activity, that the author had tricked me. While I was enjoying myself in the terminal the main character and her sister discussed the reasons for the trip. Sitting there in that airplane waiting to take off, I knew all those reasons. But I hadn't been forced to sit in a smoky apartment to learn them. I swear I absorbed them by some form of osmosis while accompanying my two new friends.

You can—and should—take this same approach to your scene writing. Advance the story as you provide that information, and you'll take your reader on that fictional trip with you.

Hey, this is heady stuff!


Wow, right? I mean, it makes sense, but actually putting it in action is a whole other matter. So let's raise a glass to making our scenes work harder, yeah? Who's with me??

Oh, and be sure to get your copy of EDITOR-PROOF YOUR WRITING. You won't regret it.

 Don McNair, an editor and writer for more than forty years, has written six novels and four non-fiction books. His latest, titled “Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave (Quill Driver Books),” helps writers self-edit their work. Learn more at his website.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Writerly Quirks

Okay, so I've been dabbling with a new novel. They were honestly words of intuition. I have done no planning. No plotting. No saving of cats or beating of plot lines.

I was just writing.

And I realized as I was going along that I have a writerly quirk. It's names. I re-use the same names over and over again.

Ruby, for one. And the last name Carpenter must really sing to me for some reason. I think I've used it four times, in four different novels.

But that's not all, my friends! Oh no! I steal names too. From critique partners (Joel), and family members and students and billboards (come on! You've done it too!).

I really don't get this quirk. There are like, a bajillion names. And I'm choosing the same ones over and over again?

Pathetic. (Ha!)

Do you have any writerly quirks? What are they?

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