Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Love: 10 Books That Have Have Never Left You

I read a post by Brian Klems on Writer's Digest about the 10 books that have never left you. So, as my brain tends to do, I got to thinking about what books have had an impact on me? Which books do I return to again and again? 

My list is eclectic. Some are new, some are classics, and one is on the list because it is fun (and constantly read by my niecelets and nephew). Here's the list: 

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
3. Before I Die - Jenny Downham
4. Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher
5. Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
6. A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
7. Painted Faces - L.H. Cosway
8. The Giver - Lois Lowry
9. Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
10. The Gruffalo - Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

How about you? Which books have had an impact on you? 

And, in case you missed it yesterday, you can check out our fantastic September Mystery Agent reveal (and winners) here

Happy Wednesday! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mystery Agent Reveal and Winners!

Thanks to all who entered and gave feedback! Our September Mystery Agent is . . .

Rachel Brooks of L. Perkins Agency!

She has chosen two winners:




We will be contacting the winners shortly with submission information. Congratulations!

Want to get to know our Mystery Agent better? We've asked her a few questions!

Any exciting news to share?

I recently participated in #PitMad and have a bunch of amazing stories in my inbox as a result. Plus, it’s always exciting to see writers supporting one another online.

Any tips for writers struggling with their pitches? Common mistakes you see in them?

I’m receiving a lot of pitches that are extremely above or below their genre’s typical word count. It’s important to know or research the ballpark word count range for your genre. While there are always exceptions, generally you should aim for that range.
I also repeatedly see a simple mistake—not including sample pages with the query! Querying is a thrilling (and stressful) process, but don’t get in such a rush that you hurt your chances by forgetting something so crucial.

What books have you read lately that you’ve fallen in love with (manuscripts you’re currently working with or others’)?

I recently started reading a contemporary romance manuscript from my inbox that I think I’m falling head over heels for. As far as already published books, I’m reading Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead. She’s amazing, as usual!

What are you seeing a lot of in your slush pile lately? What would you like to see?

I’m seeing a lot of variety in my slush pile— new adult, picture books, and everything in between. Some queries I’m seeing aren’t for genres I’m currently seeking, like political thrillers or memoirs, but then other pitches are right up my alley, like fresh YA stories. I’m on the hunt for adult romances at the moment, including erotic romance.

And a few just for fun:

Coffee or tea? Neither. I’m a soda gal all the way!

Sea or mountains? Definitely sea. I used to be surrounded by water and dearly miss it now that I’m landlocked.

Chocolate or bacon? Dark chocolate.

Ebook or print book? Both! I’m happy it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation in today’s industry.

Favorite TV show? Ouch, only one? Well BBC’s Sherlock definitely makes my list of top five favorite current shows.

Thanks to our awesome Mystery Agent for her time! To learn more about Ms. Brooks and her list, check her out on Twitter and on the agents page on the L. Perkins Agency website

Stay tuned for more Mystery Agent news very soon!

Monday, September 15, 2014

To Pre Or Not to Pre

 (That's William Shakespeare threatening to dagger me [in the nicest way possible] if I ever use that To Pre Or Not to Pre joke again)

A few weeks ago, my book Crow's Rest showed up on Amazon as available to pre-order in paperback, and of course I had to tell everybody about it. But once the squealing was done, all kinds of questions about what pre-ordering does (and does not) mean for the book and author came up.

Firstly, I had to explain to a few less-publishing-savvy friends that pre-ordering it now means that they still won't get the book until it comes out in May 2015. So the inevitable followup question became "what are the advantages of pre-ordering it then?"

I had some vague recollection of being told publishers use those pre-order numbers for things, but I didn't really have a concrete answer to that question (still learning so much about the actual publishing process!). So I asked around among my fellow Fearless Fifteeners, and got the emphatic answer that yes, pre-orders are crucial for any book! Those numbers are used to:

  • determine whether the publisher may be interested in your next book
  • determine how large that initial print run should be (and possibly whether they should also print a hardcover version)
  • to gauge how much buzz the book is getting, and therefore whether it merits some extra swag or promotional budgeting

The exact explanation from my publicist, Jennifer Allis Provost, on that last point was:

Basically, once you've landed a publishing contract you've convinced someone to invest months (sometimes years) and thousands of dollar in your work, with no guarantee that you will sell a single blessed copy. Yep, that's why it's so hard to make it past the submissions stage; since publishers don't have crystal balls, they have no idea what will take off and what will tank.

What changes their mind? Pre-orders.

Let's say you're a debut novelist, and the publisher has assigned you a publicist, done some marketing, and whatever else is involved in their standard package. You know who the publishers go "above and beyond" for? The titles with hundreds or even thousands of pre-orders. Those pre-orders tell the publisher that the author is willing to do her part to get the word out, and do everything she can to make that title a bestseller.

So as a reader, all that pre-ordering does is reserve a copy for you, and to make sure you get it close to the release date.

But for the author, that pre-order is a really great thing to have on their side! Having a better understanding of how this works has prompted me to go through my Goodreads Want to Read list and actually follow through with pre-orders on the titles I'm really excited about.

Feel free to share some titles you're excited for, that you've pre-ordered, in the comments!

P.S.  I was tempted (and basically dared by Jessica L. Brooks) to add a "The More You Know" gif to this post, but, copyright

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Writing screenplays that sell is a lot like writing novels.  You must really love your story and feel compelled to share it. This drive will carry you through the process.  Ask yourself--What do I really love to write about? For me it was lighthouses.  I love how lighthouses are a symbol of hope, of light and shelter. A few years ago I wrote a novel about a lighthouse entitled, Fears of a Fisherman. This month I found out that my lighthouse novel, will be made into a film in 2015. I really believe it was my love of  lighthouses that made this dream possible.  
In addition to being passionate about your subject matter, you must also really know your characters. Make sure you have conflict and have your hero make solid choices. 
It is so important to show growth in your characters as well.  Have your antagonist attack and or damage your characters in the most personal of ways--this will make your audience become emotionally invested in your hero. 
Think outside the box. Be a rebel. Write about what moves you. What you love!  
Happy writing everyone!
Have a cool novel cover? send me a link by posting in the comments below! 
Check out my new Cover for my novel River of Bones.
Be sure to share yours as well!  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Clean Slate

I'm blogging late today because it took all day to clean my house. Four loads of laundry, an heirloom piano that hadn't been dusted for an embarrassing duration, and carpets that needed some serious love.

Cleaning my house was like revising my novels. I didn't think it could be done, but I knew it HAD to be done. I started with one corner of the house: decluttered the papers, toys, and half-eaten apples (I have four boys). Then I moved on to the next task: thoroughly dusting the scrolly nooks and crannies of my hundred-year-old piano. It's so old the cherry wood has gone black everywhere except the untouched inside. I had to dust quietly, which is no fun with a piano, because my babiest one was sleeping down the hall. If you've ever picked up a dusty old manuscript and tried to revise to your modern tastes, you have an inkling how I felt tackling this job.

The kitchen is the kitchen. It gets cleaned more often than anything else, even the bathroom, so that was easy... sort of like dropping my guilty pleasure adverbs from the first five chapters of my book.

Then there's the carpet. It's my least favorite to clean because it bears the brunt of everything, all the daily traffic of six people (maybe minus the baby who isn't crawling yet), and it weaves throughout the house. It's foundational. It's essential. And it was filthy. We live in the red dust of southern Utah right next to a city called Hurricane for its gale-force winds. My carpet is white. We just bought a Kirby in hopes of domesticating this over-sized rug. Imagine you reread your manuscript and realized it didn't just need the omission of a few badly placed adverbs or flowery adjectives. Imagine you looked at the whole house that you'd spent so many countless hours designing and organizing, and realized with horror that the very fabric that held up all your furniture needed a deep clean. I've got a couple manuscripts like that, which I probably won't be tackling any time soon. "Back to the drawing board," are five words I hate to hear myself mutter.

But if you're brave, maybe you'll tackle that white carpet turned mud-red rug (say that five times fast), and your book will end up as incredible as my house looks right now as I sit typing. Yay! It's a peaceful feeling when you've done the work and made something--book, house, yard, garden--just shine.

Don't look at this picture too closely. We're going for Most Improved.

Happy writing this weekend! And if you must, happy revising!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Blog Tour! Lisa Amowitz's VISION - and a giveaway!

Visit Rock Star Book Tours

My dear friend, the amazingly talented author/graphic designer/illustrator/book cover goddess Lisa Amowitz has a brand new book out and it's FABULOUS! Here are the deets:

About the Book
Author: Lisa Amowitz
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Pub. Date: September 9, 2014

The light is darker than you think… High school student Bobby Pendell already has his hands full—he works almost every night to support his disabled-vet father and gifted little brother. Then he meets the beautiful new girl in town, who just happens to be his boss’s daughter. Bobby has rules about that kind of thing. Nothing matters more than keeping his job.

When Bobby starts to get blinding migraines that come with scary, violent hallucinations, his livelihood is on the line. Soon, he must face the stunning possibility that the visions of murder are actually real. With his world going dark, Bobby is set on the trail of the serial killer terrorizing his small town. With everyone else convinced he’s the prime suspect, Bobby realizes that he, or the girl he loves, might be killer's next victim.

About Lisa:

Lisa Amowitz was born in Queens and raised in the wilds of Long Island, New York where she climbed trees, thought small creatures lived under rocks and studied ant hills. And drew. A lot.

Lisa has been a professor of graphic design at Bronx Community College where she has been tormenting and cajoling students for nearly eighteen years. She started writing eight years ago because she wanted something to illustrate, but somehow, instead ended up writing YA. Probably because her mind is too dark and twisted for small children.

BREAKING GLASS which was released July 9, 2013 from Spencer Hill Press, is her first published work. VISION, the first of the Finder series will be released in 2014 along with an unnamed sequel in the following year. LIFE AND BETH will also be released in the near future. So stay tuned because Lisa is very hyper and has to create stuff to stay alive.

To contact Lisa try:  
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  | PinterestGoodreads 

My thoughts:

I absolutely loved this book. It's chilling enough that I would have liked to only read it during the day but it was one of those "I can't put it down" books so I ended up reading into the night just to finish it. And then spent the next several weeks looking over my shoulder. The characters are the kind that stay with you long after you've finished the book, and not just the main character, but the side characters as well. Bobby's visions are truly horrifying, as are the consequences of those visions. The story kept me hooked and guessing and sad that the story ended (I'm hoping for a sequel!!). If you like murder and mystery and an amazing male main character, you definitely need to read this one. I highly recommend!


Lisa is giving away 2 Signed copies of Vision and swag for 2 winners US ONLY.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule
Week One:
9/1/2014- Word to DreamsInterview
9/1/2014- Books Complete MeReview
9/2/2014- Suzy Turner, YA AuthorGuest Post
9/2/2014- Her Book Thoughts!Review
9/3/2014- Mom With A KindleInterview
9/3/2014- The Bookie MonsterReview
9/4/2014- One Guy's Guide to Good ReadsGuest Post
9/4/2014- Reader GirlsReview
9/5/2014- Realm of the Sapphired DragonInterview
9/5/2014- Amaterasu ReadsReview

Week Two:
9/8/2014- The YA Lit ChickGuest Post
9/8/2014- Buried Under BooksReview
9/9/2014- Anonymous Interests - Interview
9/9/2014- In Between The Lines - Review
9/10/2014- Curling Up With A Good BookGuest Post
9/10/2014- Dalene's Book ReviewsReview
9/11/2014- Avid Reader MusingsInterview
9/11/2014- Operation AwesomeReview
9/12/2014- kellyvisionGuest Post

9/12/2014- Reese's Reviews- Review

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Plot holes and a simple suggestion

These are my sweat pants. They're falling apart. (I folded one leg over so you could see the back, too.)

I didn't realize how full of holes my pants were until I was getting ready to fold them recently, and saw them lying on the bed. 

Whoa, I thought. Those are practically goners. 

It made me sad.

It also reminded me of my current WIP. With OTH releasing on Monday, I've been working on Flora stuff for months now. With the Flora things being officially out of my hands for a while (whew), I've been able to go back to Cozenage 2. 

It's like seeing the storyline for the very first time. Tons of issues are jumping out at me, demanding my attention. I love it.

A lot of times, we writers spend so much time getting comfortable with our works-in-progress, it's easy to get to a point where plot/character holes are completely missed. The stories or specific aspects of them might be falling apart at the seams, but because we've been buried so deep in everything and know how the WIP is *supposed* to be, we don't even see this.

There are varying pieces of advice on how to fix this (CPs, betas, et cetera), but I've personally come to learn that taking a few months (yes, months--not weeks) away from a project that might *feel* like it's done is really the best. I know that seems like a long time when you're chomping at the bit to get it finished and move on to another project, but believe me, it's worth it. You'll be looking at your work with a pair of fresh eyes and only will plot holes stand out, but it'll also be easier to come up with solutions when you're not burnt out on the storyline.

I like what Neil Gaiman says:

The best advice I can give on this is, once it's done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. Finish the short story, print it out, then put it in a drawer and write other things. When you're ready, pick it up and read it, as if you've never read it before. If there are things you aren't satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that's revision.

How about you? Do you agree with this? If so, how long do you step away from WIP (or finished draft) before diving back in again? 

Monday, September 8, 2014

How All Work and No Play Kills a Manuscript

I'll admit, I've struggled with what to blog about this week. I was going to one about editing, but realized I'd already done that. I was going to post about creative inspiration from my Hawaii trip, but Aimee already did such a good job of that with Alaska that mine seemed redundant in comparison.

But perhaps I can do both--with what I learned in Hawaii during the limited hours I dared to hand-edit the last chapter I'd hacked to bits. It fell completely flat, and made my character a distant carbon copy of herself.

I'd been working on it too hard to notice. Unwilling to take breaks for fear I'd never get the revisions done.

It took getting me out of my routine, and putting me in a setting with lots of ocean, rainbows, and a touch of yoga to knock some sense back into me. Give me the perspective I needed.

And I realized the reason my scene fell flat is because my character literally had a gun in her pocket--and wasn't using it. In this scene, she needed to do a lot more than just sit there.

So when I got back home, I re-wrote the scene, splicing it together in the sequence it was meant to go, and had her hold that gun to someone's head, for goodness sake. I don't know if I'll keep it as is, but for now, it's enough to move forward with the rest of my revisions.

Another thing the time and space in Hawaii gave me was the realization that fun is not only a necessary part of writing (and living) but it has to be a priority. Even if I have to manually write it out on my to-do list. Staring at the Pacific Ocean, with its waves rolling in, reminded me that there is a whole lot more to life than being hyperfocused on work. And that being too driven actually hurts more than it helps.

So, instead of feeling guilty for the week I spent barely writing or revising, I feel blessed that it allowed me the space I needed. And if that doesn't help me remember not to work myself to death, perhaps these pictures will:

So what is your limit? What are some signs that tell you you've been working too hard?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Reasons for Requesting: Setting

As mentioned the last time I posted, I went to Alaska this summer on a cruise with my family. It was truly a beautiful, breathtaking landscape. The kind that gets you inspired to write epic fantasy with huge, sweeping landscapes. Mostly because it almost doesn't seem real. Below are some pictures from the trip, including some sleepy sea lions :)

The weather was amazing to match the scenery. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. So it can be hard to make an image come to life with only a few paragraphs.

One of the great powers of writers is to make places that exist only in words come to life in the readers mind. Its a hard task and definitely one I struggle most with as a writer. Dialogue flows easily. Plot and characters? One of my strong suits. But imagery of any kind, particularly setting? I struggle big time with that.

So when a see a writer who can nail that setting? GIMME! The setting is as much a character as anyone else in your story. It should be a fully integrated element of the story. A most recent example I've come across of pitch perfect setting is  The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Spain is a huge part of the story and this book makes me want to visit.

In the end, that's really what your setting should do. Make us want to BE there. Make us want to hop onto the nearest train to Spain, Italy, Alaska or any number of fantastical locations. There are a lot of important elements that go into fleshing out a world, but setting is one of the most important.

Helpful tip for setting if you're bad at it like I am: Practice with describing places. It doesn't matter if its your local coffee shop or the glaciers of Alaska. Practice setting the scene to help it become more natural. And use all five senses when you do. Practice makes perfect right? And it might just land you an agent!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dierdra Eden's Knight of Light (The Watchers book 1) - and a Giveaway!!

We're excited to help Dierdra Eden celebrate the release of her new book, The Watchers Book 1: Knight of Light. Take a peek at her awesome book trailer and be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of her book and $100 Amazon gift card!!

The Watchers Book 1: Knight of Light

 In England, 1270 A.D., Auriella (pronounced yurr-ee-ella) flees her village after being accused of witchcraft. Pursued by nightmarish creatures, she struggles to accept the truth about her humanity. Filled with fairies, dwarves, pixies, dragons, demons, and monsters, Knight of Light is an enthralling tale that will capture the imaginations of readers young and old.

The Watchers Series has been described as Braveheart meets Supernatural. The mythology for the series is based on many theological texts from dozens of sects with correlating themes. Ancient writings include The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Traditional Apocrypha, The Pearl of Great Price, and The Kabbalah.

“The Watchers” are supernatural beings in human form whose duty it is to protect and guard mankind from the armies of darkness. Unfortunately, as the Book of Enoch mentions, some of these Watchers go bad. Although the mythology is based on these texts, Deirdra Eden’s The Watcher’s Series is written in a traditional fairytale style with a young girl’s discovery of incredible, but dangerous powers within herself, a cast of humorous side-kicks, a quest for greater self-discovery and purpose, and villains of epic proportions

About the Author

"My goal in writing is to saturate my books with intrigue, mystery, romance, and plot twists that will keep my readers in suspense. I want to see fingerprints on the front and back covers where readers have gripped the novel with white knuckles! Aside from writing, I enjoy jousting in arenas, planning invasions, horseback riding through open meadows, swimming in the ocean, hiking up mountains, camping in cool shady woods, climbing trees barefoot, and going on adventures."
-Deirdra Eden

Find Deirdra Eden and The Watchers Series online on AmazonDeirdra's websiteFacebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Wattpad, and Pinterest.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


All images via Hyperbole and a Half

I like to procrastinate. Have you ever noticed how many things around the interwebs (and in general life) need attention right at the second you should be writing/doing stuff in general? 

There are definite cycles to procrastination. Some weeks I'm all: 

Other weeks:


And stuff piles up and attacks me until I submit: 

But once it's done:

Until next time... 

So tell me, do you procrastinate? 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Back to Writing!

Summer is officially over at my house and the kids will be back in school by the end of the week. I’m facing the moment I’ve been looking forward to all summer... Writing Time!!!

But man! My daily habits have completely changed (maybe for the better) while being off the grid. So... since I have a relatively clean slate to set up new writing habits, I’m working on a list of what my daily priorities should be.

1. Make a schedule! 
-One hour of exercise, three days a week with the hubs. Neither of us seem willing to put out the effort on our own, but we’re hoping to keep each other motivated. :-) You never know! It just might work! No more, “I don’t have time, I’m writing!”

-Dinner plans. No more, “I can’t think about dinner right now, I’m writing!” (which ultimately leads to $5 pizzas or frozen/boxed things with 8 minutes to spare before swim team practice.)

-I will NOT attempt to do any writing before the kids go to school. I generally wake up hours before anyone else does, but it ultimately leads to, “Oh my gosh! The kids are still in bed and we have 4 minutes to make lunches, eat breakfast, get dressed and out the door!”
But I might try jotting down a few scene/chapter notes that I want to tackle for the day... especially if I need to write three chapters a week to meet my intended deadline. (Thank goodness I have a (mostly) detailed outline to keep me focused!)

-Make laundry/cleaning a daily ritual—not a monthly “Ugh! I can’t work in these conditions!”

-Be extra cautious about balancing time between MY projects vs covers and editing for others. As much as I love working on other people's projects, I really do have a deadline.

2. Write the Schedule!
-Change that... PRINT the schedule as a daily check-off chart and live by the list each day until it becomes habit.

3. Stick to the Schedule!
-I seem to go through this I-need-better-habits phase every September and New Year. So...crossing my fingers and toes that I can be dedicated to more than just making time to write. :-)

I’m extremely grateful to have such a huge amount of flexibility in my day-to-day life. I know many writers who would LOVE to have as much time as I do. I just need to use the time more wisely to better balance obsessive writing and a healthier frame of mind. I’m 98% certain everyone in my house would benefit. :-)

Monday, September 1, 2014

September MA pitch critiques!

Welcome back to the Mystery agent critique portion of our contest. The 16 entries (some didn't turn in their pitches and some opted out of the crtique) will be open for your amazing feedback all week!

Our rules are simple:
  • Be helpful. 
  • Be relevant.
  • Be kind. 

Thank you to all of you, and to all our amazing entrants! Happy critting!

You can also visit the entries in the tab under the OA blog banner:  MA Critiques.

Just a little more info about the forum:
  • You DO NOT have to register to comment.
  • To comment on a pitch, just click Reply on the main post in the thread. It will bring up a comment box where you can enter your name and comment.
  •  To return to the full list,click September 2014 Mystery Agent in the top left corner of the forum.
  • And once again, we'd love to know what you think about the new format. Let us know here in the comments. Any feedback would be awesome! Thanks!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Excerpts and the Art of Ellipsis: Dot dot dot vs. yadda yadda yadda

Now that my middle-grade debut Deadwood is out, I have industry and blog reviews. Some writers won't read their reviews, but I do. At the very least, a review shows that your book exists! Someone read it and thought enough to write about it. I'm very grateful for each one and include review excerpts on my site.

And that's where the art of ellipsis comes in. Dot dot dot. What do you include, and what do you ellide?

Some reviews rings so many happy bells I'd love to include the whole thing, but I can't -- the copyright for the review is owned by the writer, and fair use doctrine means I have to choose an excerpt. Tough decisions!

Most reviews have phrases I love and others that I'd rather not put on a book jacket, and that makes it easier to decide what to include. Easier, but less straightforward.

Excerpt Best Practices

There are Generally Accepted Excerpt Best Practices, which actually may not be generally accepted or well known. Here are the three biggies (reference Kirkus):

1) Do not add words to reviews (including change cases/tense)
2) Use ellipses to indicate when words are omitted. 
3) Do not alter the integrity of the review.

Number one seems clear. Number two also sounds clear, but that's where things get fuzzy. If misused, your ellipses push you into number three, where the review is manipulated so that it appears to mean something it does not. For example, if a reviewer writes, "This is a great book for people with terrible taste," you can't just include "This is a great book..." because you are altering the reviewer's meaning (and why wouldn't you include the whole thing? The full pull quote makes the book sound fun!)

But experienced reviewers take pains not to include phrases that can be easily misconstrued, just as many of them purposefully include pull quotes that can be easily excerpted. Other times, you get a pretty good review with not a decent pull quote to be found -- every positive is snuggling up tight with a negative turn of phrase. And that's where it's tempting to elide, slice, and dice your way into number three territory.

The Guiding Principle:
Use the reviewer's words and intent as your guide, not what you wish the reviewer would have said and meant.


As an example of what works and what doesn't, I'm including a short excerpt from my review from Foreword Magazine here, and different ways to elide it that are right, ok, questionable, and wrong.

“Danger lurks around every corner, but these two strong characters — both of them sporty and clever, with diverse backgrounds — can hold their own. Short chapters amp up the pace and hold attention, bolstering the story’s wild suspense.” Foreword Magazine
Love the whole thing! Yay. Now, what if I excerpted it like this?

"Danger lurks around every corner, but these two strong characters ... can hold their own." 

That's not incorrect, but it's a little awkward. While the writer might just be pressed for space, a reader might wonder what is missing and suspect it's something bad.

How about this?

“Danger lurks around every corner, but these two ... characters ...  can hold their own" 
Definitely awkward, misleading, and bowdlerized into vagueness. The reader might play MadLibs with the missing modifier, and it may not be flattering:  "annoyingly peppy," "Marysue-like," "Completely unbelievable."

"Short chapters amp up the ....wild suspense.” 

This one crosses the line into number three. In this case, I'm changing the whole object of the sentence! The part that's missing is crucial to the meaning. In my example, it doesn't truly change the sense, but the elided phrase could as easily be "...the reader's impatience, finally spiraling into general silliness and..." This is where the dot dot dot is the review equivalent of yadda yadda yadda in an old Seinfeld episode.

Every review is individual, and every excerpt has to be included on case-by-case basis, considering the content and character count where the excerpt is to be placed. Now if only we could use ellipses in our everyday life! I'd replace every "but" with a dot dot dot.

Your work on that project was really sound but...
You're a great girl and I've enjoyed the time we've spent together but...
Your child has been working hard to improve his behavior but...
I appreciate your insight on ellipses but....

Saturday, August 30, 2014


Last week was a great week--an amazingly AWESOME week! I found out that another one of my novels is going to be made into a movie. This is the SECOND movie deal I have made in 2014.  I also formed, with a partner,  an intellectual property rights company and two other corporations. One of which is for ancillary rights such as beverages and marketing items related to my films. 

When I first pitched the idea of selling my books as screenplays--many negative people informed me that I couldn't do it. I wasn't a bestselling author, that it would be impossible for my novels to sell as a movie. That I wasn't strong enough as an author.

Thankfully, those negative people were all wrong and the advice was terrible. IF I would have listened I wouldn't have great projects in the works today.

Please keep in mind that I'm not telling you to NOT listen to your critique partners or those who are qualified to give you advice. What I am saying is--do not listen to those who do not support your dreams, those who give mean spirited and negative reviews to cut you down.

Keep pushing forward and do not abandon your dreams.

I believe in you!

Have a beautiful weekend! Angie

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Marriage of Exercise and Creative Thought

Did you know that exercising actually increases blood flow to the brain and helps a person to focus?

It's true. 

Brain research shows a correlation between physical activity and the development of brain connections. In 2010, the journal Pediatrics released a study showing that children with as little as 15 minutes of recess each day exhibited better behavior and attention spans than their peers who did not have recess. The Journal of Attention Disorders even states that walks outdoors that normally are associated with recess appear to improve attention and concentration scores of students with ADHD. -The Effect of Recess on Academics
 Not only does physical activity spur the development of brain connections, but it may result in clearer thinking and organizational ability, as research has shown an improvement in recall:

Recess provides a break that allows the brain to "regroup," and research has shown that recall is improved when learning is spaced out rather than condensed. After recess, children are more likely to learn because they are less tense and more invigorated. Even adults are given breaks during their work day, which allows for better production and clearer thinking.
Maybe you don't have time for "recess" in your busy day. Whether you're surrounded by kids or surrounded by other adults, it can be difficult to step out and get some physical exercise without somebody needing you. Yet we know that a break to watch TV and eat chocolate isn't going to have the same brain-clearing effects as physical exercise. It's worthwhile to carve out time in your day to exercise.

Personally, I get a lot of story ideas while running.

One of the scenic places I run by when I'm brainstorming

But I know some people prefer Zumba or UFCor even Spartan obstacle course racing. I have a crazy brother who does the latter and is a certified Spartan trainer. Someday I'll be that awesome. They jump over freakin' FIRE at the finish line!

Anyway, back to how exercise improves clarity of thought. How are you doing on your plotting? Characterization? Ever get stuck? A quick rise in blood flow to your brain might be just the thing...

Happy Friday, everyone! Enjoy your plotting, on and off the treadmill. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Is Beta Reading Right for You?

Beta readers... What do they do, exactly? I've compiled quite a list of articles regarding beta readers below, but first, a definition and my take on why they're so important:

When attempting to describe the definition of a beta reader, I came across this. 
Thank you, Wikipedia, for always being so prompt and informative.

So, in a nutshell, writers use betas for feedback. (Betas are a bit different from critique partners, as critique partners--also referred to as CPs--tend to who know their stuff and really dive down into the nitty gritty of a manuscript.) Beta readers don't necessarily have to have a background in editing, or writing. Their job is to look at the manuscript as a first reader. Betas are great at pointing out inconsistencies, especially series inconsistencies writers tend to gloss over/completely miss after reading that 70+ thousand word MS fifty times already (like, But two books ago you said her eyes were orange, not yellow, or whatever).

Betas are our a writer's best friend. Or, at least, my betas are. I'm not saying they're the people you hang out with and tell your innermost secrets, but they are your manuscript's best friend, because their job is to help you make it the best it can be. When I send stuff to my betas, I know they're going to point out things the readers will notice. I expect suggestions, knowing I might not use them all (but better to conteplate now rather than later, once the book is out and changes can't be made, right?). I expect my betas to tell me things politely, but they do have the right to disagree with my decisions, as long as they're tactful about it. It's important to remember that all beta readers are different, and that, if you choose to beta read for someone, it's okay for your personality to shine through. Some betas send back two pages of notes. Some have detailed suggestions on every page. Some only point out their favorite and not-so-favorite things. Some don't say much other than "yay" and "I'm so excited for ____". The point is, reading it and saying, "It seems decent" isn't going to help anyone, nor is sending twenty negative comments per page. 

Last, betas, a lot of times, end up being an author's core team of fans (but it's also okay if they don't). And by fans I don't mean crazy people who squee over you and stalk you online and get confused and think they ARE you (although, I could deal with that); I mean people who are your advocates. Who spread the word about your work, because they get it. Who you can count on in a pinch to read that novella or ask about a character list and if you missed something before sending something off to print. I don't know where I'd be without my beta readers. 

Now that I've explained what betas do, here are some great articles on beta reading that I've come across, as well as a great recent #k8chat (held by Kate Tilton on Twitter every Thursday night at 6:00 EST) regarding beta readers (lots of tips from readers and authors). I'd like to point out that most of these are written for the writer, not the beta reader, but they're still great and will also potentially give you ideas as to what to request as a beta reader (like knowing what format you'd prefer the document in, for instance). 

Another point real quick: it's important to remember that betas are not editors. It is not their job to point out the technicalities of punctuation (though, if that is your forte, you are more than welcome to mention that to an author before beta-ing... they might appreciate catching that stuff before their MS goes to the editor). I think of betas as the person you go to and say, "Hey, do these shoes go with this outfit?" To which they respond, "Well, last month you wore them with this dress, and it kind of goes but you seem to do better wearing these with pants. Oh and those earrings you had on last week would go great with it! That eyeshadow is not working for me at all, though." (Bad example? Oh well.)

Without further ado, here are some great tips on beta reading (including a couple from the OA blog, too): 

What is a Beta Reader and Where Do I Find One? via Casey McCormick (@Casey_McCormick***make sure to read the comments in this post!

* What is a Beta Reader? Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Getting and Giving Feedback on Your WIP via Jamie Gold (@JamiGold) at Anne R. Allen's blog

The "Art" of Beta Reading via Kati Brown

* Beta Reading Etiquette via Trisha Leaver (@Tleaver)

Five Things You Should Know About Working With Beta Readers via Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas of Beyond Paper Editing

* Agent Q & A part one: Revisions (in which agent Laura Bradford discusses the benefits of a beta reader) via Kell Andrews (@kellandrewsPA)

**This post was originally featured at my blog, Let Me Tell You a Story, but was tweaked a bit to be more applicable here at OA. :)

If you have any experiences, suggestions, or questions, feel free to share them in the comments!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Calling the Muse

I used to believe that writing took inspiration, that there were only specific circumstances under which great words might come through me. I don't remember what exactly the circumstances were... but they were complicated enough that it didn't happen often. Thus, I didn't often have to write. Because, you know, I couldn't. Right?

More recently, I've had a realization. This realization was potentially driven by the fact that in the past two years I've been writing under much different conditions than I ever had before. I have publishing contracts, and therefore, I have deadlines. And it turns out that when you have a deadline, it doesn't pay to sit around waiting for the stars to align and for the fourth of the month to fall on a Tuesday, or for your coffee grounds to form a small bird when dumped on a plate. It really doesn't pay to wait for anything, because waiting is no way to get a book written, is it?

And so I was forced to write, muse or no muse. And it turns out that the muse is really just an excuse to NOT write. It's nice to feel inspired and feel like the words are meant to be, that you're writing something cosmically correct and preordained. But the truth is that if you have any talent for writing and storytelling, that talent should be there regardless of the conditions under which you call upon it.

I don't write well when children are standing at my shoulder whining about apple juice and snacks and brothers hitting them. But that circumstance aside, I've found that I can write at practically any other time when I really have to. That said, I've also learned that I write best early in the morning when there are no distractions at all.

So my advice? Ditch the muse. Tell her to take a flying leap. You don't need her anyway. And that writer's block you hear people moaning about? It's a fallacy. It's no more real than the sneaky little muse who makes herself so scarce.

You've heard it before, but it's the truth. The only way to accomplish writing goals is to write. Sit down and start, plain and simple.

I've still got two deadlines ahead. I need to finish a book by October 1st. I've got 6000 words so far. Think I can do it? The simple truth is that I must. So I will. But not if I sit around waiting for the muse or allowing procrastination to circle my desk wearing a shirt that says "writer's block"... Starting Monday morning, I'll be at my desk for an hour each morning before work, pounding out the words that will get me closer to meeting that deadline. Will you be writing, too?

What are your strategies for getting words on paper? Do you need a certain coffee mug, or a specific kind of music playing? How do you make it all happen?