Friday, July 31, 2009

Week in Short

*yawns* Staying up until 1 am = not my brightest idea. I have to go to bed early tonight. I have to get up at 6:30 tomorrow on purpose for the first time since I got out of school. Oh, joy.

I'm debating whether I should continue this scheduled format or not... I like TT and WW though and I don't want to cancel WiS would just be Thursday that's getting changed. What do you guys think? Is there anything special you'd like to see more of, or do you like the schedule I have at the moment?

Not a lot to share this week, but here's what's going on in the blogosphere of late (besides the book cover debate that the agents have been discussing lately.)

Must Read: I got it down to one. My friend and fellow twiftie, Kristin, got an agent this week! :D Here's her report on the journey to being agented. Congrats Kristin and I look forward to seeing CoS in stores!

Agent Kristin went beyond the call of agent duty with a white water rafting trip with one of her clients.

Blood Red Pencil has some tips on using contractions in dialogue.

BookEnds Agent, Jessica has some great posts on providing feedback when rejecting, the truth about genre, how the market is doing, and submissions 101 for anyone that's new to the query process or needs a little refresher on how it works.

Kody -- another fellow twiftie -- has an interview with Hannah Moskowitz, teen author of Break which will be released in 25 days.

Queryshark had a winner on the first try this week. I'm not so sure about it, but apparently they did a lot right.

Rachelle Gardner details some lessons that can be learned from her series last week and a guest blogger has a post on how to plan a sucessful book signing.

Writer Unboxed has an awesome post on what to do if you just don't feel like writing. I'm probably going to have to reread that post and try out some of those tips today...

That's all for this week! Hope everyone has an awesome weekend and I'll be back on Monday with the fifth and final part to my beta readers series and answer a few questions from last week's part. (Yes, Celise I will get to those. ;))

Thursday, July 30, 2009

New Release Thursday

Went to the fair and now I'm so tired I don't even want to move. Not sure if that means I'm going to get any writing done today or not.

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever day, there's a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie---she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

Lauren Gray Hawthorne needs to make things pretty, whether she's helping her mother keep family skeletons in the closet or sewing her acclaimed art quilts. Her estranged sister, Thalia, is her opposite, an impoverished actress who prides herself on exposing the lurid truths lurking behind middle class niceties.

While Laurel's life seems neatly on track-- a passionate marriage, a treasured daughter, a lovely suburban home-- everything she holds dear is threatened the night she is visited by the ghost of her 13-year-old neighbor Molly. The ghost leads Laurel to the real Molly, floating lifelessly in the Hawthorne's backyard pool. Molly's death is an unseemly mystery that no one in her whitewashed neighborhood is up to solving. Laurel enlists Thalia's help, even though she knows it comes with a high price tag.

Together, they set out on a life-altering journey that triggers startling revelations about their family's haunted past, the true state of Laurel's marriage, and the girl who stopped swimming.

The Lost Summer by Kathryn Williams
"I died one summer, or I almost did. Part of me did. I don't say that to be dramatic, only because it's true. " For the past nine years, Helena Waite has been returning to summer camp at Southpoint. Every year the camp and its familiar routines, landmarks, and people have welcomed her back like a long-lost family member. But this year she is returning not as a camper, but as a counselor, while her best friend, Katie Bell remains behind. All too quickly, Helena discovers that the innocent world of campfires, singalongs, and field days have been pushed aside for late night pranks on the boys' camp, skinny dipping in the lake, and stolen kisses in the hayloft. As she struggles to define herself in this new world, Helena begins to lose sight of what made camp special and the friendships that have sustained her for so many years. And when Ransome, her longtime crush, becomes a romantic reality, life gets even more confusing. Told with honesty and heart, Kathryn Williams' second novel tackles the timeless theme of growing up, set at a camp where innocence is created and lost.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Writing Wednesday

Can't honestly say that was my best birthday. Because it definitely wasn't. I was on a writing roll and then my annoying mother (who seems to have a habit of yanking me away from the computer whenever I'm on a roll) made me go into town with her. So we could buy her a bathing suit for this weekend's to the water park (for my birthday) and tennis shoes. We went to the bookstore where I spent about twenty minutes trying to decide between ordering Handcuffs or buying Graceling, I'd Tell You I Love You, or Wake since I was only allowed to get one book. I ordered Handcuffs since I'm not going to be allowed to read anything else until 1984 is done. Mom and grandpa spent the entire ride home talking about politics (which is a depressing subject in general at the moment.)

We went home and I have an email from my brother and sister-in-law who have a baby girl that's just seven months old. My brother's been laid off and my sister-in-law's coworker has cancer so she's been working a lot and they don't think they can come up this August like they'd planned and that means they won't get to see me nor me them.

So basically I've been pretty depressed all last night and this morning. Trying to get some writing done, but not sure if it's going to happen.

Let's see how the WIPs are doing.

I had a pretty good week of writing over the last week. My best day was Monday with 4,380 words while I was working on Destiny and my worst were Thursday and Saturday with 0 words each. Though on Saturday I actually had a reason.

Last week's count: Polished at chapter 6 and 54,000 words.
This week's count: Polished at chapter 7 and 62,000 words

I seriously thought this rewrite was going to be done yesterday. It might've actually happened if my mom hadn't pulled me away from the computer. I had a plan to write one day in the book every day in real life, and if I did, then I could've finished on the 31st. I'm really going to have to do a lot of writing to make my goal now. Oh and even though it says I got another chapter beta-ed and polished, I really didn't. I split chapter one in half and that's how that happened. Hopefully I'll have a finished WIP to report next week!

Assassin's Wife:
Last week's count: 15,000
This week's count: 15,000

This one's just plain stuck. I've thought about working on it a couple times, but Destiny's more important right now. So until Destiny's finished I'm just going to let this one stew. I don't want to trunk it without finishing because it is a good story.

No Kissing:
Last week's count: 11,000
This week's count: 11,000

This one's pretty much the same as AW at the moment: stuck, but too good to be trunked.

Last week's count: 6,000
This week's count: 10,000

I made some major progress with this one last Thursday. It seems to grow in spurts. I can go a good two weeks without writing a single word and then one day BAM! an idea hits me and the words just fly onto the page. I've been itching to work on it since, but I'm restricted to Destiny until it's done. Then Jump is going to become my main concern.

That's all! :) I hope to have some awesome news for you soon, though I probably won't wait until Wednesday to share it if "The End" gets written on Destiny any time soon.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Beta Readers Part Four: Sending the Project / Title Contest Results

It was a long weekend. I had a family reunion and remembered why I hate them so much (reunions, not my family). But I spent a lot of time on the lake in the boat and my cousins even managed to get me to go tubing. Unfortunately that means there wasn't a lot of work getting done...

Okay, enough delay, it's time to announce the winner of the contest! And the winner is...coming up after this commercial break! (Don't you hate it when they do that?) Seriously now, the winner is Madeline-Rose who suggested Destiny! *cue applause* There were a lot of awesome suggestions which is why this post is coming almost an hour late. Because it took me that long to decide. Madeline-Rose email me at the email I posted on the contest page to let me know which prize you'd like. If you want the critique, please mail me your first three pages.

And now that the excitement is over, let's get on to part four of my beta readers series. You've found the beta reader that's perfect for you and it's time to send them the project. Now what?

The first step -- if you haven't done it already -- is to edit the manuscript. Especially if you're asking for a line by line. There is nothing that I hate worse than a manuscript full of typos because it's a first draft. While I do sometimes do critiques on first drafts, I never enjoy them as much as I would've if the writer had taken the time to run it through at least one edit. And if you read through it, you might find that it's not good enough to be sent out yet. If you're sending it to beta readers it should be because you have it as polished as you can get it and you're looking for a fresh set of eyes before it goes out to agents/publishers. You wouldn't send a rough draft to an agent or publisher (I hope) so don't send one to the beta reader. Your beta reader is not there to edit for you. You wouldn't send a rough draft to your publisher saying 'here's the rough draft, it's your job to edit it for me' because they're not going to.

Once you've got it all polished up and you're happy with it, it's time to think about a few things.

How much do you want to send? I've read both partials and fulls and while I always send fulls, I wouldn't hesitate to send only a partial if I thought that was necessary.

Partials are good if the whole thing isn't edited yet or you just want an opinion on your writing. Common writer faults will often show up throughout the whole manuscript and if the beta catches them in the partial, you can fix the whole manuscript yourself. I've also read partials for people that liked to keep the ending secret, which is perfectly understandable especially if you don't actually know the person that's reading your story. Don't be afraid to send a partial, but make sure that it's agreed upon in advance. I hate reading someone's story and then finding out that I might never get to see how it ends. That's like buying a novel and then finding out that the last third of it has been ripped out.

Chapter by chapter is an interesting way to send manuscripts. I've never read one using it, but I have sent projects chapter by chapter. It's useful because you don't pile the whole thing on a beta reader at once, but it can also be a pain because you have to send each chapter when the last one is returned. And also if you have more than one beta reader using this format at a time, it could get confusing on who has what chapter.

Once you've decided on what you're going to send, you need to know how. Printing out the whole thing, even for a partial, is obviously expensive and only viable if you know the beta reader personally and they live close by. So the easiest way is through email. For partials and chapter by chapter it's possible to send the chapters right in the email rather than as an attachment, but as a beta reader I've always preferred attachments. That way I can make my comments right on the document and send it back. I've beta read via Google docs before too, but I'm not entirely sure how that works on the writer's end.

Now we're going to talk about the different ways beta readers use to comment on manuscripts. It's usually the beta reader's decision on which to use, but if you want the comments a specific way then you can ask about it.

Right on the document -- this is my favorite method for both myself and my own beta readers. I mark all my corrections and comments in red right on the document and then just send it back as an attachment. I have a beta reader that uses different font colors to mean different things and that can be very handy too (as long as you don't use every color of the rainbow). This format is most commonly used for line by line critiques.

As a separate email/sheet -- a different way to do it is to mark all the comments and corrections on a different sheet. I've had a beta reader that did this as well. They'd mark down the chapter and page number of the correction and then put the line in quotes with the correction marked in red. All I had to do was hit Find, look for the line, and correct it. It is a little more difficult, but I didn't have a lot of trouble with it. This format is most commonly used for general critiques.

Both -- I use this one. I mark all my typo corrections and thoughts right on the document and then if I have any general questions/comments, I put them on a seperate Word doc. Then when I'm ready to send back the project, I just have to paste the comments into the email, attach the document with corrections, and hit Send.

All at once -- this is where the beta sends you the full back with all their comments on it at once. This is nice because you get everything back, but it can also be a hassle because the amount can get overwhelming.

Chapter by chapter -- this is just like the sending format, only the beta is sending you each chapter as they finish it. It's great because you don't have to wait as long, you know exactly where the beta reader is at the time, and you don't have to be overwhelmed with editing because you can edit each chapter while the beta sends them. It can be a pain in the butt for the beta reader though. I really like this format, but because of the extra trouble it doesn't happen as often as 'all at once' does.

Once you've got your manuscript all polished up, and you and your beta have agreed on a format for sending the manuscript and receiving the comments, follow through with it and hit Send. Now begins the killer waiting process so sit back, relax, and start writing another book because you're going to need something to do. Next week is the final part of our series covering what to do when you have mail from your beta.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Week in Short

Okay, in theory, I probably should've done this yesterday before started my contest so that it would be on top all weekend. But for some reason, that particular option didn't cross my mind. So I'm doing this now... I'm still taking entries for the contest and loving the ones I've gotten so far. It's going to be a tough decision.

And let's take a look back on what happened this week.

Must Read: Once again I had a bout of indecision and there are three MR's this week. First up Nathan gives us all a look at the query that caught his attention. It's an awesome query, so make sure you check that out. Next up is, ahem, my post at TWFT this week: an interview with ICM agent, Tina Wexler. I apologize for using my own post for an MR... And finally, Jessica Faust had a brilliant post on novel word count this week. I found it very interesting that a good target count is 80,000 words rather than 50,000 like I'd thought, even if you're writing YA. Which means me and everyone else that struggles to top 50k is in trouble where some agents are concerned...

First up is a wonderful interview with Sara Zarr, a young adult author. There's some great advice and encouragement there.

Rachelle Gardner:

Ms. Gardner had a wonderful five part series on the publication process when the hard work of writing, editing, and querying is over. Part one covering the submission to publishers phase, part two covering the publishing contract, three is the writing and editing stage, then pre-production, and finally the final phase: title, cover, and marketing plan.

Jessica Faust at BookEnds:
First up is how good is never good enough in the publishing world. Their take on negative query openers, which is something I'll never be able to understand (not the post, just the whole concept). Here's a great post on asking your agent or editor questions. And finally Jessica has her own post on query auto-rejections.

Blood Red Pencil:
Here are some tips for mystery/crime novel writers. Even if you don't fall under that category, check out the post anyway. Especially if you watch shows like CSI.

Writer Unboxed:
Here's a great post on writing for children for anyone who has ever written a children's book or is considering it.

Agent Kristin:
We've had lots of posts on why agents pass on queries, but here's a post on why Kristin passed on sample pages.

Guide to Literary Agents:
If you've ever wondered if it's required to meet an agent in person like I have, check out this post. It's not very logical in this economy, but I've still been curious. Here's an agent interview with Sheree Bykofsky who mostly represents non-fiction.

Romantic Reads:
I don't follow this blog yet, (I promised myself no more) but I wanted to share this great post on what to expect if you get the call from an editor. I assume that's if you don't have an agent, but I'm not sure...

Pimp My Novel:
There are lots of posts on what sells, but this week we have one on what doesn't sell well. That includes cookbooks for children and short story collections.

Miss Snark's First Victim:
Is having her first query contest, judged by none other than Jodi Meadows. Submissions begin Monday and it should be pretty cool, even if you don't enter.

The Rejector:
This week the rejector answers some editing questions.

I'll try to put them in alphabetical order next time, even though I hate doing that...Anyway, everyone have a great rest of the weekend!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Suggest a Title Contest

As suggested last night, I've decided to hold a contest to choose Andra's new title. Here's how it works. If you have an idea for a title, email it to me at rkhorserider(at)gmail(dot)com. All submissions will be read and considered and multiple submissions are accepted. If you have an idea for an awesome title after you've already sent me one, send me the second one anyway, but try to keep all ideas to one email.

Okay, I wrote this summary by booklight at midnight last night when I was trying to go to sleep so if it doesn't make sense, don't blame me.

Andra Summary:
When Claudia's best friend is arrested soon after revealing that she can talk to plants, Claudia knows that she can't just continue living her "normal" life as if everything's fine. So she sets off after Selma and the journey ends abruptly when Claudia herself is captured. She wakes up in a prison where kids with special abilities like Selma's are tortured for information.

Then Claudia, with Selma and her new friend Erik's help, uncovers a plot by the overseer of the prison, Nikolaus, Erik's brother and heir to the throne, to burn it down with everyone inside. Escape seems impossible to the three teens, but Claudia has a secret that could save them all and maybe free the world from oppression in the process. She just doesn't know it yet...

The winner will receive either a first three pages critique by me or the first chapter of Andra.

The contest opens now and will end Monday at 10 a.m. I'll announce the winner before part four of my beta readers series.

Good luck everyone and I look forward to reading everyone's entries.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Release Thursday

And it's Thursday once again and I don't have any book reviews to post this week so it'll just be three new releases again. Going to see Half Blood Prince again at four so I thought it best to post this now before I go so I'm not tempted to fangirl/vent depending on how the movie is seeing it the second time around.

Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne SelforsFrom the author of Saving Juliet comes a romantic comedy that is good to the last drop. When Katrina spots a homeless guy sleeping in the alley behind her grandmother’s coffee shop, she decides to leave him a cup of coffee, a bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans, and some pastries to tide him over. Little does she know that this random act of kindness is about to turn her life upside down. Because this adorable vagrant, Malcolm, is really a guardian angel on a break between missions. And he won’t leave until he can reward Katrina’s selflessness by fulfilling her deepest desire. Now if only she could decide what that might be . . .

Crash into Me by Albert Borris
Owen, Frank, Audrey, and Jin-Ae have one thing in common: they all want to die. When they meet online after each attempts suicide and fails, the four teens make a deadly pact: they will escape together on a summer road trip to visit the sites of celebrity suicides...and at their final destination, they will all end their lives. As they drive cross-country, bonding over their dark impulses, sharing their deepest secrets and desires, living it up, hooking up, and becoming true friends, each must decide whether life is worth living--or if there's no turning back.

Strange Angels Lili St. CrowDru Anderson has what her grandmother called “the touch.” (Comes in handy when you’re traveling from town to town with your dad, hunting ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional zombie.)
Then her dad turns up dead—but still walking—and Dru knows she’s next. Even worse, she’s got two guys hungry for her affections, and they’re not about to let the fiercely independent Dru go it alone. Will Dru discover just how special she really is before coming face-to-fang with whatever—or whoever— is hunting her?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Writing Wednesday

After finishing beta-ing an amazingly awesome full and catching up on blog posts, it's time for WW again...

I've done quite a lot of writing over the past week, mostly on Andra. My best day was Monday with 3,969 words (I seriously thought I might've had a chance to finish Andra that day, but didn't even come close) and my worst days were Wednesday and Thursday of last week with 0 words.


Last week's count: Polished at chapter 6 and 45,000 words
This week's count: Polished at chapter 6 and 54,000 words
As you can see, Andra's been growing very well lately. Unfortunately I haven't seen my beta in almost a week so polishing has slowed to a stop. I've polished it myself through chapter 9, but I don't consider it complete until I've had it beta-ed as well. The query that I've been working on somewhat has been declared complete and ready to be sent as soon as I figure out a new title. If anyone has a suggestion, let me know because I'm completely lost in this area. Once I figure out a title, it's pretty much stuck. I've never had to change it before...

There's no change in word count with any of my other WIPs. They've pretty much all come to a screeching halt. I blame a combination of writers' block and my current desire to get Andra rewritten and query-ready.

Assassin's Wife:

I think I did a little work on it sometime last week, but it was only a few sentences. I'm at a very major event and I just haven't figured out what's going to happen yet.

No Kissing:
I pulled out my 100 question sheet and started on it for Aislinn. Now I have a very good idea of her past and her voice, but I haven't figured out the most important part: how she became a Dreamwalker. I'm sure my subconscious will figure it out someday. I've been doing some loose brainstorming, but nothing yet.

I have no idea what happened to this baby. I'm thinking about putting her on the shelf for a while and seeing if I can come back to her when Andra's done. I love the concept and what I have so far, but I just seem to be stuck.

That's all I have for this week! Hopefully when I come in next week Andra's rewrite will be complete and I'll have some query-related news to report. Until then, how are everyone else's projects/WIPs coming along?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Beta Readers Part Three: What Kind of Beta Reader Do You Need

It's Monday once again. :) Hope everyone had an awesome weekend as we look forward to what will hopefully be a great week.

Last week we talked about finding a beta reader. Now that you know where to look, let's talk about what kind of beta reader you need. Beta readers vary as much as writers do in terms of style. They're all good, but they might not be right for your story.

One major way that beta readers vary is by what kind of critique they offer. Some betas are best at line-by-line and others are best at general, big picture critiques. Line by lines involve pointing out typos, grammar mistakes, awkward sentences, plot holes, and anything else that occurs to the reader. They're generally stricter and more thorough and are best for third or fourth drafts before the author begins querying. General critiques involve the reader giving their opinion on their general impression of the story: plot, characters, etc. It's more of a "looking at the big picture" critique rather than taking things line by line. General critiques are best for earlier drafts when the writer wants a reader's opinion on the story in general. Other beta readers do more of a mix of the two. They point out things line by line, but also up their general opinion. They aren't as thorough in any one category as some, but they can make good betas.

Whether you need a line by line or general critque depends on what you need the most help with and what stage you are in the writing of your manuscript. If it's a second draft and you want to know what a real reader is going to think about the story, find someone that does general or half and half critiques. A line by line of an early draft could take a lot of time because of the amount of errors -- especially a first draft. Some people can write a moderately good first draft, but most won't be as good as they could be. If it's a later draft that you want someone to read for typos and plot holes after you've ran the manuscript through several edits and just want to know if you've missed anything, spring for a line by line. These take more time and are commonly quite strict if you have an attentive beta reader. Be prepared to read all the comments and make changes if necessary.

In addition to line by line or general, beta readers all have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, I'm very good at picking out spelling mistakes. But I'm not so good with pacing. So if you need particular help with pacing, don't come to me. Make sure the beta reader you choose is strong in the area that you need help with. If you're not sure how realistic your characters are, a beta reader that's not good at analyzing characters wouldn't be a good fit. Be honest with yourself on what you need help with and find out what each potential beta reader is best at doing. Every writer has their strengths and weaknesses and beta readers aren't any different.

Whatever kind of beta reader you have, you want them to be honest. The best beta readers are strict and honest, but tactful. Others will be softer on your work, especially if you want them to be. If you want them to be really hard on your manuscript, tell them not to hold anything back, but make sure that you want them to be hard on it. If you can't take the criticism, either learn to take it or ask them to be softer. Softer DOESN'T mean dishonest. No matter how strict or soft a beta reader is you want them to be honest. Agents and publishers will be honest with you. If the work sucks, they'll reject it. If something doesn't work, they'll reject it (or if they're really nice, they'll tell you to fix it and resubmit, but that doesn't happen often and only if they really like the work.) If they don't like the beginning, they're not going to ask for more. Use beta readers as a chance to get a real reader's opinion and fix any last mistakes that you might have missed.

Now that we've spent the last three weeks talking about why you need a beta reader, where to find one, and what kind of beta reader you need, next week we'll talk about actually sending the project.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Week in Short

It's Friday again, which it's time for a look at the last week. It's been a short, but great week. :) HBP finally came out and did not disappoint, I did a lot of writing, and a friend got an offer for representation! :D Congrats!

There are four Must Reads this week. Yes, there were so many great posts I couldn't decide on one. The first two are in the same boat: 17 reasons why agents reject manuscripts and Why agents turn down good books. Both are from blogs that I didn't follow before. No more or I won't have time to write... Blood Red Pencil has a must read post on adverbs. And finally, my friends over at OPWFT (Old People Writing for Teens, the blog created by YA writers that are just older than us twifties...) have a great interview with Jay Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why.

Rachelle Gardner has some great advice to write another book and an update on ICRS including a look at what publishers and editors are saying.

BookEnds blog has a great post on how passion isn't everything when it comes to an agent on the fence about a project. There was an interesting discussion going on in the comments too.

There's 6 tips for submitting to publishers at adventurous writer and I'm sure these tips can apply to agents as well.

Queryshark went on a critiquing spree this week, with five queries. This first one is a great example of what NOT to do in a query. This second one is a little short and written in first person with the character's voice. It also occurred to me that genre is not shown. A very long query for chick lit was third. The next query began with 'I hate Lost.' Now, I have never seen Lost and don't plan to, but what was this person thinking? I mean, what if they queried an agent that loved Lost? Okay, that one got revised. I saw the old version which you can read if you scroll down. A finally, a crime novel that's labeled as mainstream that I didn't really get, but the shark would've requested pages for.

Writer Unboxed has some great advice on trying to create fantasy languages, words, and names.

Elana at QT has a great post on letting queries and manuscripts cure. That's something I've always had a lot of trouble with...

Agent Kristin talks about what to do if you plan to meet an agent at a conference.

Blood Red Pencil has a great post on exclamation points this week. If you've ever emailed someone that seemed to feel the need to use an exclamation point at the end of every sentence, you'll know that it does get annoying.

And finally, Janet Reid has her own query tally for yesterday where she read 52 queries in an hour, requested two fulls, and wrote a quick note on why she rejected each query.

That's all for this week. Hope everyone has an awesome weekend!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Release Thursday and Behind the Shadows Review

I'm doing another new release and review on the same day. I wasn't sure if I was going to review Behind the Shadows (more on that later), but I changed my mind. Trying to catch up on all the work I missed over the last two days. Apparently when I only get four hours of sleep, my brain is like mush. That's how it felt yesterday.

Oh, and I've also started to link the pictures in my "Currently Reading" box to their amazon page if you want to know more about them.

Touch by Francine Prose

What really happened at the back of the bus?

Did they, or didn't they?

Did she, or didn't she?

Something happened to fourteen-year-old Maisie Willard—something involving her three friends, all boys. But their stories don't match, and the rumors spin out of control. Then other people get involved . . . the school, the parents, the lawyers. The incident at the back of the bus becomes the center of Maisie's life and the talk of the school, and, horribly, it becomes news. With just a few words and a touch, the kids and their community are changed forever.

From nationally acclaimed author Francine Prose comes an unforgettable story about the difficulties of telling the truth, the consequences of lying, and the most dangerous twist of all—the possibility that you yourself will come to believe something that you know isn't true.

Behind the Shadows by Patricia Potter Review


In a race against time to save her mother's life, Kira Douglas is stunned to discover something that turns her world upside down. The woman who raised her is not her biological mother. Kira was switched at birth by someone with a mysterious motive...

Desperately searching for answers--and the woman who can save her mother--Kira uncovers a tangle of clues that leads her to a beautiful heiress who refuses to see the truth and a handsome, ruthless man who is either Kira's darkest nightmare--or her greatest destiny...


Now, the reason I wasn't sure if I was going to review this book is because it is an adult book, and I mostly write and talk about YA. But it's a good story whatever you call it, and I wanted to talk about it anyway.

The story jumps right into the action from the beginning, which I liked. Sometimes it's nice to get to know the characters before the trouble starts, but best to get to know them as they struggle through the conflict.

It's written in third person, and told by several people's POV. The main three are Kira, the girl whose mother is dying; Leigh, the heiress whose parents were killed; and Max, Leigh's attorney who struggles to protect both Kira and Leigh, while his loyalties lie with Leigh's deceased grandfather. A couple other characters enter the story at various times, bu they're minor ones.

The characters were quite well done. They all had pasts, desires, secrets, and agendas of their own. But there were times when I just wanted to slap them. For example, there was one character who I'm still trying to figure out. Her decisions don't seem to fit her character unless you really think about them. All the characters were well-rounded with their own personalities, but I didn't feel like I really knew them. Some books it feels like the characters are my best friends I know them so well, and this wasn't quite there.

There was a huge twist towards the end. One that I didn't see coming at all, but definitely enjoyed when it did. It's nice to have a twist at the end, as long as you don't do it for the sake of surprising everyone. And this one wasn't done in that way at all.

Ending wasn't unexpected, but it was good. The epilogue nearly made me cry and that rarely happens anymore. Beautiful ending.

Overall I give it an 8/10.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Writing Wednesday

This is my 50th post! *cue applause, streamers, and those fun and slightly annoying party noisemaker thingies*

If you get this post at 9 am (my time of course, EST. Which I think is like 6 am PST and 8 am whatever time zone Chicago's in...) that means either my scheduled posting is fixed or I'm on a Monster-induced writing spree and stayed up all night.

My review of Half-Blood Prince will be up later when I wake up enough to write one. There WILL be spoilers and either angry ranting or fangirl screaming. Or, depending on how last night went, some of both.

Okay, on to writing which is today's normal topic...

I've decided to remove my word count goals after a wonderful twiftie pointed out that they're quite pointless if all you're doing is trying to reach word count and not caring what you're actually writing like, ahem, I have been known to do. But I'll talk about that subject later...

I've started setting goals for each day and then keeping track of how many words I actually write. This week my best day was Friday with 4,000 words and my worst was Tuesday with none. I was too excited to write anything. :)

Andra -
Last week: Polished through chapter 4 and at 36,000 words.
This week: Polished through chapter 6 and at 45,000 words.
Andra is going really well lately and I'm hoping to finish the rewrite by August -- especially if I go on vacation -- and be querying by September. I'm also trying to come up with a new title for her. I have a few options -- one that really appeals to me -- but nothing concrete yet. I've also started working on a new query, but it's still in the first draft stages.

Assassin's Wife -
Last week: 12,000 words
This week: 15,000 words
I can't believe it's come that far. It really doesn't seem like I did that much work on it over the last week, but I guess I did. I wrote some major scenes and was a little worried that it might be moving too fast, but I got over that. The first half is going to have to be rewritten anyway. I've been having severe concerns that it might be too dark for YA and not...the right voice for adult.

No Kissing -
Last week: 10,000 words
This week: 10,000 words
No change in this one. Aislinn isn't willing to cooperate yet and tell me about her past. I hate it when my characters don't want to talk to me. (That didn't sound insane, did it?) One of these days I'm going to pull out my 100 questions sheet and start at the top.

Jump -
Last week: 5,000 words
This week: 6,000 words
I did a little work on it Friday. Got past the funeral scene I was avoiding (though I'm not sure if I like it, but I can worry about that later) and stalled after that. I'm not entirely sure what's going to happen next so I'm waiting around for an idea to hit me.

Half-Blood Prince Review

Yep, I was there. At midnight. With everyone else. Now I only had four hours of sleep and I seem to be having trouble thinking so if I get incoherent, I apologize. I warn you, there will be spoilers. Lots and lots of spoilers. Even a few from Deathly Hallows, but if you haven't read that by now I don't know why you're here. GO! READ! NOW! (It's my favorite one of the series.)

General Overview: *screams* IT WAS AWESOME! Hands down, best one yet. Unless you're my mother who didn't particularly like it and only gave it a 5/10. I gave it a 9/10. Which is weird because usually it would be the other way around, but that's beside the point.

Non-Spoiler Comments: They could've followed the book closer is all I'm going to say. I'm glad that I didn't read it prior to seeing the movie because then I probably would've had a lot more to complain about on the way home. They seemed to vaguely follow the book's plot, but as for most of the story it didn't. The acting was great as always especially with Snape and Hermione. I love them, even if I did want to murder Snape for about a year between the books.

Things They Added:

  • Well, the first scene they added is at the very beginning in the train station with the little muggle girl that Harry apparantly had a crush on. I thought it was cute, but unnecessary and my mom just hated it and thought it was stupid.
  • The whole thing with the fish that Lily had given Slughorn was just weird. I'm still trying to figure out what the writer was thinking when they wrote that.
  • Then there's a part -- which isn't even really a spoiler because you can go to and watch the clip -- where Bellatrix comes to the Burrow during Christmas and lure everyone out and then she and Greyback destroy their house. I have no idea where that came from or how it fits into the story at all. I suppose the director has a plan (he better because that's so far from the book there HAS to be an excellent reason for it.)
  • And finally the scene where Cormac throws up on Snape's shoes....Brilliant. It's now my favorite added scene out of all the movies.

Things They Cut Out:

  • No Dumbledore's funeral. I was expecting this one because I read it on a spoiler site (what do you know, it was right). I was sad about it, but I think the ending was good enough that they didn't really need it. Or maybe that was just my desire not to cry my eyes out. I'm saving up tears for the 7th movies.
  • There was no real battle at Hogwarts. They just kind of killed Dumbledore and ran. Of course there was the part where Bellatrix was running through the Great Hall (shown in trailers), but other than that nothing.
  • After Ginny and Harry's kiss, there wasn't much about them dating or anything. Prior to it you knew that they were starting to get closer, but there wasn't much focus on it. Which was weird because the movie really was focusing more on the relationships than anything else.
  • Then he didn't break up with her at the end. I'm thinking they're going to do that in the beginning of the next movie and my mom's thinking they're not going to have him break up at all (she's pessimistic when it comes to the next movies).
  • There was only a little Tonks and Lupin and there they made it sound like they were already dating. Which made me kind of sad because I love how they end up together in the book. And of course there's the whole thing with them having a baby in the next movie. Which I hope they have.
  • There was no Bill or Fleur so I'm not sure how they're going to get married in the next movie. And if they don't get married, that means the Death Eaters can't come to break up the wedding. Oh and that means Harry can't go to their house after they escape from Lucius and Dobby dies.
  • There was also nothing about the Dursleys so it remains to be seen if they'll be back for the next movie. Though that WAS kind of important you know.
  • They left out the part where Mundungus was stealing from Harry. Which is VERY important because that's how Umbridge got the locket in the first place!
  • They left out Sirius's will and Kreacher. Which is also important in the next movie. Seriously, did the writers actually read the last book before they wrote this or did they just wing it? Why is it that the writers always seem to cut out the details that are important later in the story and add things that have no relevance whatsoever?
  • They left out Dumbledore's wish for Harry to return to the Dursleys. Which is the main reason why I think they're going to leave that part out in the next movie too. But then how is George going to lose an ear and Moody and Hedwig die?
  • They also cut the part where Dumbledore talks to Harry when he drops him off at the Burrow. In fact, in the movie, Harry went in alone and they weren't even expecting him.
  • There's no mention of Arthur's promotion, Fudge being sacked, OR the Minister of Magic trying to recruit him. I really didn't care, but it was something I noticed afterwards.
  • There's nothing about Snape's DADA classes in the movie.
  • The whole bit with Hagrid mad at them was cut out. Which I didn't really care because I always thought he was being rather stupid.
  • They left out the memory where Tom murders his father.
  • Completely left out apparition classes and tests. Which is how they get around through the whole seventh book.
  • Dobby and Kreacher don't trail Malfoy. In fact, neither of them is mentioned. They've only had house elves in the movies twice and that was Dobby in the second and Kreacher in the fifth. Everything else that Dobby did for Harry they had someone else do. So who's going to save Harry's life and die for him if it's not Dobby?
  • No memory with the cup and locket. That's very important too, I don't know how they're going to get away with that one.
  • They left out the part where Dumbledore talks about what the next Horcruxes are. Which is stupid because how are they going to know what to look for? How are they going to know that they need to kill the snake?
  • Harry wasn't cursed while Dumbledore was being killed. Which only makes his guilt worse because he knew he could've stopped it if he'd just done something.
Parts I Loved:
  • The part where Ron takes the love potion. He did some awesome acting in that scene. Brilliant and hilarious!
  • The Sectumsempra scene was very good. It's probably my least favorite scene for the book, but Draco did some awesome acting.
  • The Horcrux memory was very well done as well. They could've made Tom a little more charming, but it was very good nonetheless.
  • The Inferi were very good as well. Very scary, I admit I jumped when the one in the water grabbed him and I was expecting it.
  • Oh and Harry on the lucky potion was very funny too.
  • And finally where Ron and Harry were lying in bed talking about what Dean saw in Ginny was definitely an awesome scene to be added. Very funny and cute.
  • Ginny and Harry's kiss. I've been looking forward to that for ten months now. Though it was nothing like the book, it was still very cute.
Other Things They Seemed to Have Forgotten While Writing:
  • This was probably the thing I'm most ticked about. There is no stone in the ring. I didn't care that they said it was his mother's instead of his uncle's. But there should've been a stone, HELLO it's the Ressurrection Stone! One of the Deathly Hallows! I'm not exactly sure how you're going to have Harry uniting the Deathly Hallows if one of them isn't even where it's supposed to be!
  • Like I said earlier, they also seemed to forget that Harry can't just go running all over the world looking for random objects without knowing what he's looking for! They didn't even bother to mention that Voldemort would only choose objects that meant something to him.
Okay, I'm done. :) It was a good movie, but they seem to have some major problems with it. I'm very curious to see how they fill up those gaps. Anyone know when the next movie comes out so I can start counting down the days?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Beta Readers: Part Two - How Do You Find a Beta Reader?

So you've gone through the pros and cons and have decided that you need a beta reader. So how do you go about finding one?

The first place most people look is their family and friends. Maybe you've talked about your idea with someone and they wanted to read it. That's all fine and dandy, but make sure you can trust them to be honest and critique fairly, but strictly. It's like on American Idol with those people that can't sing but are convinced they can because all their family and friends told them they're awesome. Well of course they say that. It's their job as family and friends. So make sure whoever you choose isn't going to just say 'I liked it' and move on. You want them to say 'I like it, but...' and tell you what works and what doesn't. Because that's what a good beta reader does. I actually avoid letting my family and friends read my work for this reason. I don't want to hear that it's good, I want to know what I can fix. I wouldn't let family within ten feet of my WIPs, but that's just personal preference for a variety of reasons.

Another place to look is a critique group. These are places that are created to read other writers' work and give feedback. Some groups are live and others are online. Live groups are great because you can meet in person and make new friends with people that share your love of writing in your own area. If there aren't any, start your own. Otherwise you can look online. There are many wonderful groups online -- I belong to one -- but make sure the one you choose fits your needs and has members you can trust.

Then there's my favorite method: online. I know none of my beta readers in real life and all of them --with the exception of Andra's first reader -- came through Absolute Write. This forum has a whole section dedicated to beta readers offering their services and writers looking for them.

Wherever you look, make sure it's somewhere you trust and that you find someone that fits the bill. Next week I'll talk about what kind of beta reader you need.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Week in Short

What a LONG week it has been! Here's to hoping that next week will be better. Let's take a look at some of the highlights of the publishing blogosphere... There are a lot of them this week.

This week's Must Read was posted today at Guide to Literary Agents on how to write a synopsis. I'm not sure about the 7-8 page thing since the usual range I hear is actually 2-3 pages, but it's excellent advice nonetheless.

BookEnds has an excellent ice cream metaphor for the meaning of different. By the way, does anyone know if Strawberry Marscapone ice cream with Sugar Cookie Chunks exists yet? Because it sounds delicious...

And Miss Snark's First Victim is throwing another Secret Agent contest over at her blog! Submissions begin Monday so check that out! I can't enter because YA fantasy isn't accepted and I have nothing query ready anyway...

There's a great list of query do's and dont's over at Query Tracker this week.

And one of Nathan Bransford's guest posters over at his blog this week sheds some light on book sales. Check that out to see what happens a book when all the writer's, agent's, and editor's hard work is over.

The Rejector answers some manuscript formatting questions this week.

Writer Unboxed's new contributor Ann Aguirre has a wonderful post this week on doing what works.

The Public Query Slushpile is branching off from their usual queries to post a short interview with agent, Jessica Faust.

BookEnds has a wonderful post on how to know if an agent is right for you and also a post on the trouble with 'will respond by' times.

Writer Unboxed has a post on the payoff of being on the best seller list, something a lot of writers dream about.

And last, but not least, another helpful post for those that are writing queries: the BookEnds blog has a post on what they think about rhetorical questions.

All right I need to go freak out because I just saw a spider hanging from the ceiling a foot away from my face (I HATE that). Everyone have an awesome weekend and I'll be back on Monday!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New Release and Runaway Book Review

Just one new release today, but one that I'd really like to get... I'm posting my Runaway review today too because I don't want to interrupt my Beta Readers series and I usually take the weekend off posting.

Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison

My name is Madison Avery, and I'm here to tell you that there's more out there than you can see, hear, or touch. Because I'm there. Seeing it. Touching it. Living it.

Madison's prom was killer—literally. For some reason she's been targeted by a dark reaper—yeah, that kind of reaper—intent on getting rid of her, body and soul. But before the reaper could finish the job, Madison was able to snag his strange, glowing amulet and get away.

Now she's stuck on Earth—dead but not gone. Somehow the amulet gives her the illusion of a body, allowing her to toe the line between life and death. She still doesn't know why the dark reaper is after her, but she's not about to just sit around and let fate take its course.

With a little ingenuity, some light-bending, and the help of a light reaper (one of the good guys! Maybe . . . ), her cute crush, and oh yeah, her guardian angel, Madison's ready to take control of her own destiny once and for all, before it takes control of her.

Well, if she believed in that stuff.

Runaway by Dandi Daley Mackall

First Book in the Starlight Animal Rescue series


Meet 16-year-old Dakota Brown. She used to love all things horse until she lost everything, including hope. The minute she sets foot on her foster parents' farm -- Starlight Animal Rescue -- she plans her escape. But can an impossible horse named Blackfire and this quirky collection of animal loves be the family she's always dreamed of?


At first glance this book would seem like it's for younger animal lovers and while it could be, I think older readers like me would enjoy it as well.

Unlike many horse and animal rescue books, those aspects of the story are sidelined in place of Dakota Brown, a young girl that's been shuffled from foster home to foster home that has a talent for running away from them.

This book is well-written with a wonderful voice. From the very first page I felt like I was there and I knew Dakota as well as if she was my friend. Even the minor characters are 3-D, like the social worker Ms. Bean that appears only in the beginning of the book.

As a horse lover myself, I enjoyed the horse aspect, but they did confuse me a little. Honestly who is going to believe a 16-year-old girl that's never lived on a farm is a good enough rider to ride a stallion that has a reputation for being wild even if the horse does seem to have a liking for her?

The ending was enjoyable, but not altogether unexpected.

Overall I give the book a 4/5. It was a good story with great voice and writing. Most of the time I didn't even notice that it was in present tense, unlike some stories which can get a little awkward at times in that tense. This is one of those books you can pick up to read for a few minutes and then look up a half hour later and not believe how much time has gone by.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Writing Wednesday

I've got advance tickets to the midnight premiere of Half Blood Prince!!!!! Sorry, had to say it. I'm fangirling right now. :D (That is going to be a word someday.) Oh and Push and Knowing are both out on DVD! Knowing I've been dying to see, Push I want to see but have been avoiding because I'm still working on Andra.

Okay writing...I haven't done a lot of it lately. I'm determined to get some work done this week, but it doesn't seem to be working.

Andra - Wrote 3,500 words on it Friday. I'm currently 800 words into chapter 15. Hoping to get some writing and polishing done since my beta's returned.

Assassin's Wife - No change in word count. I'm still stuck on what the letters in Taryn's cabinet say.

No Kissing - Wrote 300 words on it Saturday night and went to bed after I decided they all sucked. Am trying to figure out Aislinn. She started out as a minor character and she's determined not to stay that way. But she's a complicated character and I'm still trying to figure out what she's all about.

Jump - Screeched to a halt. I'm supposed to write a very heart-wrenching funeral scene and I am not in the mood for that right now.

I had a wild and mildly disturbing dream last night which I am thinking about turning into a story. (Minus the disturbing parts because I don't know what I ate last night to give my subconscious those kind of images...) But not yet of course. I'm still determined to finish something. It's never taken me this long to finish a book though... I'm not even halfway through any of them. Maybe I just need to sit down and write like I used to...

Oh, almost forgot, sorry about my non-participation in Teaser Tuesday yesterday. :) I just couldn't think of anything that I wanted to post. Next week I'll be back, hopefully with some new word counts to post too. :D

Have a great day everyone! The weekend is just two days away and HBP is 8!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Beta Readers: Part One - Why Do You Need a Beta Reader?

I'm going to start a five part series today on beta readers. The first subject is: Why do you need a beta reader?

The answer is: You don't. It's as simple as that. You don't have to have a beta reader. No one's saying you can't submit something to an agent that's only been read by you. Should you? I don't think so. A beta reader has many advantages and disadvantages.

I've been beta reading for several months now. I enjoy beta reading for others and having others beta read my own work. It's very beneficial for both parties.


  1. A beta reader can see your work objectively. Some writers are too close to their own work to notice something as simple as a misplaced comma or misused word. Or there might be a huge plot hole that you are just too close to see. Good beta readers can pick these mistakes up.
  2. There might be something that you haven't explained properly. For example, in Andra the secret police are known as Bevak. In early drafts I didn't explain it enough for the reader to understand. I didn't realize this until a beta pointed it out because I already knew what the Bevak was. So I didn't see the need to explain it more.
  3. You get a second (hopefully honest) opinion on your work.
  4. You can find someone that knows things you don't. For example, I knew very little about pacing. So I could've found a beta that was good at deciding whether the pacing was good and not too slow or fast.

  1. One disadvantage is when the beta reader has a different vision for the story than you do. Perhaps they think a plot point doesn't work within the story. That part might not necessarily be bad, it's just not what the beta reader was expecting. Like readers and endings. Some readers will hate an ending (*cough*BreakingDawn*cough*) because it wasn't what they wanted/expected.
  2. There's also the risk of having a beta reader that steals your work, but fortunately those beta readers are in the minority. Make sure you trust 100% the beta reader you choose. Not to scare you off finding one, just to make you aware of the possibility.
Thanks to Red at TWFT for helping me with disadvantages. :)

Next week will be "Beta Readers: Part Two - How to Find a Beta Reader"

Friday, July 3, 2009

Week in Short

Yay it's July 3rd! I'm still hoping to get away this weekend. The neighbor's fireworks sound like bombs they're so loud... Of course, I wouldn't mind so much if I could see them through the trees.

Anyway... it's Friday so it's time for news of the publishing blog world.

I had trouble choosing this week's Must Read of the Week because there were so many awesome posts, but...

Must Read of the Week: TWFT interview with Cyn Balog, author of Fairy Tale!

The Querytracker blog had a wonderful article on flash fiction, something I enjoy doing from time to time.

BookEnds blog thoughts on re-pitching agents.

Over at Rachelle Gardner's blog she had a post on querying agents while entering contests.

Back to Query Tracker for a post on something we all deal with: rejection. It's a fact of the publishing world: we'll all get rejected at some point.

And Kristin has a wonderful post on what she requested out of 52 queries. Of course, as she corrected later, the stats aren't as wonderful as they first seem...

The writers over at Blood Red Pencil had a two-part blog on critique groups this week. Part one deals with why you need a critique group and how to find one. Part two discusses some possible guidelines for a critique group and some possible techniques for doing the critiques.

Another post that almost won Must Read is BookEnds post on trusting yourself.

A blog that I recently started following (as if I need anymore) has this great post on three reasons why you need an agent.

Last, but not least, Jennifer Jackson has a post that ends with her stats for the first half of the year on queries.

Everyone have an awesome Fourth of July weekend and I'll see you on Monday! :D

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New Releases Thursday

It's Thursday again and I have three recent releases that need to be featured. I'm going to need to go through and renew my list for July though... All summaries and pictures are from Amazon.

Prism by Faye KellermanPrism takes us to a slightly alternate universe in which medicine and health care do not exist, and in which sick people are allowed to die without any care. Set in New Mexico and California, the novel features three teens who fall through a cave at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico while on a field trip. They are plunged into a frightening parallel universe—seven weeks in the past, in which their "normal" worlds of family and high school remain the same…except for the fact that no medicine exists and when people die in the street they are picked up and disposed of.

Sea Change by Aimee Friedman16-year-old Miranda Merchant is great at science...and not so great with boys. After major drama with her boyfriend and (now ex) best friend, she's happy to spend the summer on small, mysterious Selkie Island, helping her mother sort out her late grandmother's estate.
There, Miranda finds new friends and an island with a mysterious, mystical history, presenting her with facts her logical, scientific mind can't make sense of. She also meets Leo, who challenges everything she thought she knew about boys, friendship...and reality.
Is Leo hiding something? Or is he something that she never could have imagined?
The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Nick and his brother, Alan, have spent their lives on the run from magic. Their father was murdered, and their mother was driven mad by magicians and the demons who give them power. The magicians are hunting the Ryves family for a charm that Nick's mother stole -- a charm that keeps her alive -- and they want it badly enough to kill again.
Danger draws even closer when a brother and sister come to the Ryves family for help. The boy wears a demon's mark, a sign of death that almost nothing can erase...and when Alan also gets marked by a demon, Nick is des-perate to save him. The only way to do that is to kill one of the magicians they have been hiding from for so long.
Ensnared in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Nick starts to suspect that his brother is telling him lie after lie about their past. As the magicians' Circle closes in on their family, Nick uncovers the secret that could destroy them all.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Writing Wednesday

Ahhh it's Wednesday again. And the first of July! Which means only 3 more days until the fourth and 14 more days until Half Blood Prince comes out! I saw a new clip for it on youtube this morning. *fangirl squeals* It rocked!

On to writing...

Andra - Finished rewriting chapter 11 finally! I had a random idea that allowed me to get past my writers' block. This whole section is outlined on little note cards so I don't forget any scenes. Now I just need to get up the passion to write it out. My goal is to polish chapter four today (something that's been on my To Do list for a while) and write at least 1k.

I gave up my attempt to not obsess over word count and brought the word count display back so I can make goals and give updates that way. :)

Assassin's Wife - 12,000/75,000 words - Stuck. I'm a little bit stuck here with this one. I know what needs to happen, I just can't figure out how to write it.

No Kissing - 10,000/50,000 words - Stuck. I got past a major point in the story that I was aiming for and I'm just not sure where to go from here. I have some ideas, but nothing concrete yet. I know what happens at the end, but I'm just not sure how to get there.

Jump - 5,000/50,000 - Stuck. This is another one that I know what needs to happen, I just can't seem to write it. Plus I need to be a particular mood to write the next scene, and I'm not really in it.