Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blog Chain Wednesday


Don't forget to stop by Zoe's blog to read about her Aha! Moment™. :)


And congrats to Angie Lofthouse. I swear, if we could bottle her luck and her awesomeness, nothing would be impossible. ;-) She was lucky number 3 as per random.org.



Janette Rallison is hosting a contest to win a free copy of her new book. I love her books, and can't wait to read this one. My Beloved Spouse Creature got to the book delivery before I did and claimed first dibs on it. :)



And don't forget Elana's epic book giveaway that's going on all week to celebrate her totally epic book deal. :D

Have a great week!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Aha!


The blog chain for this month has been brought to you by Aha! Moments™. A nonprofit organization that can turn the world on its head and spin you in the opposite direction while you try to balance a whole host of things on the tip of your nose.

I tend to have a lot of these Aha!™ moments on a daily basis. Like, Aha!™ you really should have balanced the washing machine a little better! Or, Aha™ do you really expect the house to look like a magazine when you have four small children, and one tallish Spouse Creature? (Although, to his credit, he does the dishes, fixes dinner, and deals with the kiddos in the mornings--sometimes like 12am morning mornings. >.<)

In writing, there have been far fewer of those moments. Usually my characters have a very good handle on things. But there have been a few Aha! moments, and one quite recently.

I wrote a book a little while ago, because a goose looked out at me, her beady black eyes pleading. And who can say no to a goose? Especially when she informs you that she's really a human, and by the way, she's a swan, not a goose?

So I wrote it all down and was ready to move on. I queried and got some excellent requests, but no bites. And I to wondering why. My writing is solidish (and yes, that piping little voice is in my ear, reminding me that I have Achilles' Heel written all over this), my story was good. So why?

And something in my gut told me that one of the POVs needed to be changed. Beginning a novel with the villain is risky, because that's who the reader meets first. Beginning the novel with an extremely intense villain that lives stream of conscious and doesn't have a funny bone in her body and thus doesn't match the tone of the novel is not necessarily a good thing, no matter how solid and/or beautiful the prose is.

So I thought I'd change it. Fix it up. Make her less intense. Something.

And that didn't work. Why? Because my motivation was less than pure. I wanted to change it to catch an agent or five, not because that's what was best for the story. No matter how hard I tried, my fingers went mute whenever I even thought about changing things. Now, this isn't to say that it's a bad thing to make your work more appealing to people. This is actually a good thing. The more people the story appeals to, the more people are going to read and enjoy it, and this is what we want, right? Right! But I think it's also just as important to stay true to the story, and like it or not, my villain is an intense person that lives stream of conscious and doesn't have a funny bone in her body. So what to do?

And then I went to a conference and got some really good feedback on the opening chapter. And then I had my Aha! Moment™. I needed to change the POV. Now this may seem like déja vu, but it's not. And why not? Because my motives were different this time. As I looked at the Story as objectively as possible, I looked for ways to make it stronger no matter what the cost. And why? Because I believe in this story. It's not just about a girl that gets turned into a large, white waterbird right before she's supposed to meet her husband-to-be for the first time. Sure that's what happens, but that's not the essence of the story. Really, the story is just a mirror I held up to myself, because my subconscious had something to say and it speaks in prose.

And so I made those changes. And you know what? It didn't hurt. Was it a bit of work? Yep. Was it fun? Sort of. Was it worth it? A resounding YES! I made these changes not only to strengthen the story, but for the big picture. The person I thought was the main character--mostly because he weaseled his way in and is the reason I have four POVs--isn't who this collection of stories is about. It's really about the fairy godmother that lives in each of us, me specifically.

And so my Aha! Moment™ is that I need to see the story as the Story. I want to make it appealing to as many people as possible, but I need make sure that the focus is always on the Story. And it's possible to do both of those things at the same time.

So what about you? What is an Aha! Moment™ that rocked your world and sent the light funneling into the darkness?

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Official Cinderella Society Blog Tour Giveaway



To wrap up my part Kay's blog tour for her new book The Cinderella Society, Kay has graciously hosted a prize that is totally awesome:

I mean, what girl hasn't ever at least dreamed about having a miniature pair of glass slippers? At least in some form or another. So what do you need to do to make these yours? First, in the comments tell me your favorite fairy tale and why. That's all you need to do to enter. If you want more points (I'll be using a random generator to pick) feel free to tweet, blog, facebook, etc. about this contest. The only thing is, you have to tell me you did, otherwise I won't know and you won't get the extra entries.

One thing I enjoyed about Cinderella--besides the fact that the original tale proves that talking birds are necessary to complete one's Happily Ever After--is that Cinderella is, to a degree, empowered. Sure, she stayed in a rotten situation. She ought to have stuck up for herself more. And why did she need a Prince Charming to rescue her? And this doesn't even touch on what women would do to mutilate themselves in order to be found as an attractive marriage piece. (Stepsisters chopping off bits of their feet so they could fit the glass slipper.)

But from another perspective, how easy would it have been to remain kind and nice despite all of the abuse she was going through? Being kind in the face of adversity is harder than growing angry and letting bitterness control and shape you. Sure she needed a fairy godmother to get to the ball, but the point is she went. How hard would that have been, to seize an opportunity despite being crushed down every day for years? And the fact that she didn't go around bragging about the ball and the prince, didn't come seeking him out as her due. And, depending on the version, that she frankly forgave her stepfamily (which would have taken incredible strength) or that she now had a gate to lock them out and prevent them from hurting her any more. Cinderella didn't have a sword or a battle cry, but she was empowered in quiet, subtle ways. And in my opinion, the world could use both types.



And now, for the Belle of our Ball for May. I had a devil of a time trying to choose. You all are good, and I loved the different perspectives on empowerment. So, we have a Belle and two runners up:

The Belle of the Ball is Angie!


Her entry sparked my imagination as she brought something to my attention that I hadn't thought about:
 I have found that true empowerment requires a large degree of humility, which seems ironic but really isn't. The most empowering moment of my life was when I decided to stop trying to control the things I couldn't change and instead gave my whole heart to God and put my trust in His will. That was empowerment for me.
I'll send you an email later today, Angie, to give you all the details. :) But you basically won a 10-paged critique!

The first runner up is Amy Jane:

Returning to your point, I think “empowerment” is generally depicted as a freedom leading to advancement or better-ness, but in my definition it’s not that fully positive.
Since I have a character who is the opposite of empowered, I saw it as empowered for her to even make a negitive decision, because it is one she controlled– perhaps the first in her life.

I believe empowerment is when we know our decisions make a difference– and act with that in mind.
I'll email you as well, Amy. :D And you won a five-paged critique!

And the second runner up is Tabitha:
Empowerment is the complete and total belief that I can do what I set out to do. It may take me a while, but I'll get there eventually. You could call that confidence, or self-esteem, or something similar, but I see it as empowering myself to go after the things I want. Because no one is going to hand it to me on a silver platter.
I'll shoot an email off to you as well, Tabitha. :) You won a five-paged critique!

The contest will run until 9pm MST on Sunday, May 23, 2010. So good luck, have fun, and have a wonderful day!

(Beloved Spouse Creature is starting a new semester which means my comments will be a little more sporadic until I find my groove. But please know that I am there, reading and enjoying being able to see a little bit more of each of you one blog post at a time. Enjoy!)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Wicked(ly awesome!) Writers Society: Kay Cassidy


Welcome to May's Wicked(ly awesome!) Writers Society Meet 'N Greet!

But what is the Wicked(ly awesome!) Writers Society? This is the place where we celebrate writers that are not only awesome at word-fu, but are also wonderful contributors to the writing community itself. A new writer shall be posted on the third Monday of each month. A bonus interview question will be posted in the monthly newsletter. If you have anyone you would like to nominate, please feel free to send me their name via the contact page. Please put WWS Nominee in the subject line. Also, you will now be able to find a list of the WWS members under the Hall of Fame tab in the menu.

So without further ado, I present to you Kay Cassidy.



Kay has a new book that's just been released: The Cinderella Society. She is also the mastermind behind the awesome Great Scavenger Hunt Contest™. (More about this after the interview.)

1) Something that is absolutely wicked(ly awesome!) about you is your Great Scavenger Hunt Contest™. What inspired you to do this, and how did you come with ideas for it?

Thank you! The Great Scavenger Hunt ContestTM is a national reading program for kids and teens. I founded the program in April 2009, so I just celebrated the 1-year anniversary last month. Time has flown by!

I created it because I wanted to give back – to librarians who work so hard to engage kids in reading and to kids and teens who are bombarded with 100 things they could be doing other than reading. I'm a big believer in paying it forward, and that's what the Hunt is for me. It's my way of giving back and encouraging kids to become lifelong readers.

2) What are some of your writing rituals? And if you don't have any, feel free to be creative. ;-)

I create a playlist for my books because it really helps me make the transition from the real world of laundry, phones ringing and domestic crises to the world of the story. Some of the songs on the playlist would give away story twists, but the theme song of the book is Soar by Christina Aguilera. Jess's theme song is Who I Am by Jessica Andrews and Ryan's theme song is Savin' Me by Nickelback.

Other than that, I always have a giant mug of green tea with honey by my side while I'm writing. If I'm brainstorming, I'm either in my recliner with my plotting charts and a notebook or on our screened porch with the same items. Writing always happens at my desk in my office. And when I proof, I am always in my office with the door closed and no distractions. I'm famous for skipping words like "the" or "when"… the kind of words that make you go "Wait, wha???" when they're left out of a sentence. :-)

3) What is your favorite device you use to torture your characters? Any secrets you have?

I don't really have anything in particular, except that I do use Donald Maass's approach to raising stakes. He suggests asking "What would make this even worse?"repeatedly until you find something really fresh and high stakes to hang the story on.

4) Do you write by computer or by hand? Have you always written this way? If not, how has the switching affected your writing process? Also, are you an outliner, a panster, or something in between?

I've always written my computer, and I'm a huge plotter. I plot every scene in advance (usually just a sentence or two like "Jess discovers X and Ryan reveals Y") before I can sit down to hammer out a first draft. I've tried writing a lot of different ways, but once I found my writing process, the whole world opened up for me. I think it's easy to hear what an author does and think "Oh, so that's how I should do it!" when the biggest growth process as a writer, in my opinion, is figuring out how YOU write. You have to play to your strengths and not get caught up in the way someone else does it. There are a million ways to write a book. You only need to focus on your way. :-)

5) How would you describe the concept of plaid to someone who cannot see?

Hmm… block of colors with a variety of lines going through vertically and horizontally?

Thank you, Kay! :)

You can find Kay on Facebook, Twitter, and at her website. She has a ton of fabulous things on her site. Well worth checking out!

Here's the blurb for her book The Cinderella Society:


What a girl to do when the glass slipper fits, but she doesn't want to wear it anymore?

Sixteen year old Jess Parker has always been an outsider. So when she receives an invitation to join The Cinderella Society, a secret society of the most popular girls in school, it's like something out of a fairy tale. Swept up by the Cindys' magical world of makeovers, and catching the eye of her Prince Charming, Jess feels like she's finally found her chance to fit in.

Then the Wickeds--led by Jess's arch-enemy--begin targeting innocent girls in their war against the Cindys, and Jess discovers there's more to being a Cindy than reinventing yourself on the outside. She has unknowingly become part of a centuries-old battle of good vs. evil, and now the Cindys in charge need Jess for a mission that could change everything.

Overwhelmed, Jess wonders if The Cinderella Society made a mistake in choosing her. Is it a coincidence her new boyfriend doesn't want to be seen with her in public? And is this glamorous, secret life even what she wants, or will she risk her own happy ending to live up to the expectations of her new sisters?

*Side note: I'll be announcing the winners of the Ball on Monday instead*

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blog Chain Wednesday


*sneaks away from revisions*

Don't forget to check out Lydia's Ah ha! moment here.

Also, stop by and congratulate Bethany on her book deal here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Let's Have a Ball May: Empowerment


For May, the theme chasing itself around my head is empowerment.

So the question is, what does empowerment mean to you?


To me, empowerment isn't always a glowing neon sign. Sometimes it's quiet and subtle. I write fantasy, and it frustrates me that many female characters in fantasy are considered empowered when they're basically men in skirts. Physical prowess is one type of power, but being able to wield a blade (usually in strategically placed chain mail that does little for modesty and even less for protection) and be as physically strong, or stronger, than the male characters isn't really empowerment. And for the record, I don't read books that have covers that make me blush, and female warriors, as depicted by many fantasy artists, make me blush. But I know they exist, and it bothers me.

In my opinion, true empowerment isn't so much about what's on the outside as what's on the inside. External forces exist, and due to many external forces--societal expectations among them--women tend to get the short end of the stick. But in other ways, so do men. It all depends on your perspective.

And perspective is where empowerment begins.

People often act in line with how they perceive themselves. If you perceive yourself as weak--whether consciously or not--you're likely not going to seize the everyday opportunities that come your way. In fairy tale speak, you're going to pine in the tower, waiting to be rescued instead of finding your own way out. True empowerment, I believe, accepts help without being dependent upon it because it understands that we all have weaknesses. True power comes from looking those weaknesses, whether external or internal, and seeing them for what they are without letting them hold you back. Empowerment and realistic expectations go hand in hand. Controlling what you can--which is generally only yourself--and working with what you've got.

It's the chronically ill person that doesn't let the daily pain turn them bitter and angry. It's the person that turns their trials into triumphs instead of giving up. It's the person that stands back up every time they're knocked down. It's the person that speaks up when it would be easier to remain silent. It's the person that chooses to love when hate would be more natural. It's the person that sees beyond themselves in a world that teaches people to put themselves first.

Empowerment is what gives us the strength and the vision to make the world a better place to live in, one person at a time.

So, what about you? What does empowerment mean?


The winner will be chosen and announced on my website on Friday, and will receive a 10-page critique. (The only things I will not critique are erotica and extreme gore and/or violence.)

Also, the rest of this month, I will be on Blogging Lite™ while I'm finishing up on revisions. I would like to thank all of you for your kind comments and for stopping by. And since you're here, have a cupcake. :D

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Blog Chain Wednesday


Color me purple and paint me plaid. >.< I've been up to my eyeballs in getting a manuscript ready and haven't been paying attention to time. Well, except for the part that it is light sometimes, and at other times dark.

*cookies to Laura*

So...we're going to engage in a little time travel. As writers, time travel is good, no? Yes! So. It's not Thursday night. Nope. It's Wednesday morning. The birds are twittering, the sky is a pearly gray that means dawn, not dusk. And here, Laura Diamond has a post on Aha! Moments. Heh. Very timely as I just had one of those moments a few minutes ago. >.<

So. Aha! It's Wednesday. O:)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spread the Awesome: Forest Born by Shannon Hale

Because Elana Johnson is simply brilliant, she's brought a bunch of writers together to share some of our favorite ten star books so we can spread the awesome...


FOREST BORN is the fourth book in the Bayern series. And my absolute favorite of all of Shannon Hale's books.
"Rin is sure that something is wrong with her…something really bad. Something that is keeping her from feeling at home in the Forest homestead where she’s lived all her life. Something that is keeping her from trusting herself with anyone at all. When her brother Razo returns from the city for a visit, she accompanies him to the palace, hoping that she can find peace away from home. But war has come to Bayern again, and Rin is compelled to join the queen and her closest allies—magical girls Rin thinks of as the Fire Sisters—as they venture into the Forest toward Kel, the land where someone seems to want them all dead. Many beloved Bayern characters reappear in this story, but it is Rin’s own journey of discovering how to balance the good and the bad in herself that drives this compelling adventure."

When I read books, there are certain things that have to be there for me to fall in love with it. Here are a few things I love about FOREST BORN:

Language: For me to fully fall into a story, the author's use of the language is a huge consideration, and one of the first. While I adore Shannon's other books, the language and imagery in this one drew me in like threads of silk--beautiful, intricate, and strong. I love the way she makes me see Rin and enables me to slip of my shoes and slip into her skin. Good prose, to me, is like living poetry.

Characters: Next on the list is characters. Language brings beauty, and characters bring life. Reading about Rin was a lot like reading about myself. Not only was Rin a strong character in her own right--one that grew and developed as the story flowed past--but she was also someone I could really connect to. Characters can all find their own places in my heart for various reasons: voice, personality, wit--but Rin found her place in my heart because as I read, I found my own heart beating between the pages of the book.

Plot: I love the fact that her internal conflict was tightly bound to the external conflict that was going on. It's no secret that I enjoy torturing my characters, and I enjoy reading books that aren't afraid for there to be a price and a consequence to the MC's actions. I loved that Rin was human, that she wasn't perfect, and didn't always do things for the right reason. And she grew. She learned how to embrace who she was so she could choose who she would become rather than allow her language talents to determine that for her. I love the way this novel made me think--that we may not be able to control who we are (the person we are when we're born), but we not only have the ability, but the responsibility to choose who we are to become, and that life isn't a vacuum. The choices we make for ourselves will always impact someone else, and often in ways that we never could have predicted.

Emotion: A good book makes the reader feel something. Because, in some ways, I've lived Rin's life to an extent, I could connect with her on a deeper level. There are parts that make me laugh, and parts that make me cry--every single time I read them.

So this is why I loved FOREST BORN so much. It does what my very favorite books do: it provides compelling characters that change, grow, and aren't perfect. The words themselves are full of beauty and provide windows into a world I've come to really enjoy. The plot is just as much about what's happening outside of Rin as what's happening inside of her. And the story becomes a mirror that I hold up and find parts of myself and my world staring back at me in a slightly different light.

Shannon also has a page for FOREST BORN on her website. It has the first chapter, deleted scenes, and reviews among other things. I'd encourage you to check her out. Not only does Shannon Hale write awesome books, but I love reading her blog as well.

You can find the full list of recommended reads here. For another awesome read, check out Kristen Yard's post on Wings by Aprilynne Pike.

So what about you? What's a book you've read recently that screams ten stars?