Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Big Hot Mess

Normally I am not a huge fan of movies that are based on books. For two reasons.

One, the movies are NEVER as good as the books. Movies are one dimensional. You can't get inside a character's head like you can in a book.

Second, I hate having a visual thing for stories because it changes the way characters looked to me. Know what I mean? I used to picture Tris a certain way and now when I reread Divergent I see Shailene Woodley. When I reread Hunger Games I see Jennifer Lawrence. I like the secret place in our heads where characters are unique to each of us. Movies make them universal, and that bugs me.

But, those thoughts aside, I am ridiculously excited about this:

Just the trailer turns me into a hot mess of tears.

If you haven't read The Fault in Our Stars, you need to.  Such a great story.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Meet my hunky love interest

So, it's interesting to me that when I first started writing my book, there was no love interest. None. Zip. It was just a story about a girl, and her father, and her past.

Somehow, M slipped in. I have no idea how he popped into my head. But one day there he was. And oh my, he would not leave. Sigh...such an M thing to do. He's crazy persistent.

M works for A (R's dad). So yes, he is a trained killer. Rugged. Navy Seals-esque. (Are you swooning yet?)  M's love for order and discipline is rivaled only by his loyalty to his King and Captain and fellow men in his company.  He thinks ridding the world of evil means keeping law breakers and assassins at bay, and he is trained to do just that.  Such a straight laced, play by the rules guy.

I always pictured him dark haired in my mind. This maybe:

Hunky, yes?

Or this, but with green eyes.

Little bit Robin Hood

M prides himself on being able to anticipate things and adjust at a moment’s notice so that he can protect what he has to.  His friendship with his captain’s handful of a daughter is proving to be something M can’t figure out or prevent from tilting his world on end.    His type A-ness does not know what to do with her.

Why yes he will
M doesn't understand just how much the horrors of R’s past affect her, and as his relationship with his captain’s feisty daughter deepens, M has a hard time figuring out where his loyalties lie and what he’s really fighting against.  

Tough, duty-bound boy will go against everything he's loyal to for her. 


His falling for her is beautiful. I've read it a bazillion times, and it still makes me swoon. Sigh...

Monday, April 21, 2014


Ya'll, I am beside myself with joy.

Last January (as in 15 months ago) I started putting this idea I had for a story down on paper.  It was slow, and hard at first. And it scared the crap out of me.

But I was doing it.  The words kept coming.  I would type 28 pages and throw it all out except for two sentences.  But it was encouraging, because I was finding my voice.  Finding my characters.  It took me eleven months to finish the first draft.  Then I let it sit for two months, picked it back up, and tore it to pieces.
I threw out scenes.  I added scenes.  I deleted characters.

I started reading blog after blog online about writing.  I learned what made good storytelling.  I fanned out index cards with scenes and evaluated them.  I trusted my little story to three people--my lovely first readers!--who read it and gave me feedback.  It felt polished-ish when I gave it to them but it wasn't.  It was changed a ton, not so much in story, but in the telling.  My writing has gotten better.  Scenes are fuller and emotions fleshed out and dialogue crisper because I've spent months doing my homework and applying it.

For example. At first I would write something like this:

Susan shut the door and then went into the kitchen.
See that "and then".  You don't need both.  Just one.  "Susan shut the door and went into the kitchen."

Or dialogue tags (he said/asked/exclaimed, etc)

Jane furrowed her brows.  "What do you mean?" she asked.
You don't need the "she asked"  We know it's Jane talking because we mention her, and the sentence itself is a question. Dialogue tag = unnecessary here.

Little things that seem inconsequential, but when you run rules like that through an entire manuscript, it's amazing what they do.  I've gone through my manuscript twice now and applied edits.  I've cut nearly 4,000 unnecessary words.

This last read through I did left my heart so giddy.  Because I think now the story is actually (lean close so I can whisper)...good.

It always had the potential for good for me.  But it wasn't quite there.  And now?  Oh, I'm proud of myself.  The story is cohesive.  The writing tighter and stronger than I ever thought I could write.  The story may not be the best, but it is mine, and it has come to life in a 325 page thing that has worked its way into my heart and shaken me alive.

Writing has been so life giving.  Finally, finally, I have found something that makes me come alive and that makes my soul whisper Yes, yes.  This.

I have no idea what will come of this.  I would love to get it published and live inside the hearts of other people.  I would love to create stories and rewrite and remake them a thousand times over every single day of my life.  I have fallen in love.

As of now, I think this little manuscript is done.  Finished.


Maybe some day you'll be able to pluck it from a shelf and skim your fingers over its pages.  It would delight me to no end to share it; to let this little thing I've breathed life into for months and months flutter through your brain and heart and leave you feeling...something.

Here's to hard work and hope and maybe, just maybe, the start of dreams come true...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Meet my second MC

So, I'm introducing the characters in my book.  Last time, I introduced my main character, R.  Today, we move on to the men.

Meet A.

A is R's adopted Dad (remember he was married to her mom, but then when she left he went searching for her and found her illegitimate child instead).

A works for the King in a bodyguard/soldier/trained assassin type of way.  Think Navy Seals meets Secret Service meets Jack Bauer. A is a total bad@#* -forgive the crassness but really, that's the best way to describe him.

At first I pictured him like this:

Not quite rugged enough-
Not quite right, so I moved to this:

Ah, the beard makes it better
But then....I saw the movie Captain Phillips (which is a great movie by the way) and as soon as it showed the head Navy Seals guy, oh man-

Guy's real name is Max Martini

Yes, yes, yes-this is A.  As soon as I saw him in the movie, that is the thought that clanged loudly in my head.  You really get a feel when you watch the movie because the Navy Seals thing really adds to it.  And A is the captain of the Navy Seals-esque group of soldiers in my book. So this guy is a perfect representation for him.

A is hardened.  Bitter and mad as all get out when his wife left him.  Then overnight he became the father to a broken, bold, half starved 13 year old girl.  The man is trained and capable in so many ways, but sweet mercy, not for that.

Ah, but he rose to the challenge.  A is fierce and unyielding with his men, but gentle as can be with his daughter.  He can kill with his bare hands, but holds her tenderly when she wakes screaming from nightmares.
This is his anthem over his daughter

Protective? Overly.
Intolerant to disobedience? You better believe it.
Was he blessed with a mild daughter who always does as she's told?  Of course not.

But his love for her is just, ah, so unwavering and sweet.  Think this:

See that face? That's him with her.

Don't worry, he is not perfect.  A has fears that lurk under his skin too.  He struggles with rejection and feeling inadequate (darn that woman who left him!)  His fears end up being the weapon that drives a wedge between he and R.

He'd die to save her, but he can't save her from things that have already happened.  Powerlessness is a hard thing for him to bear.  And bear it he will have to.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Meet my main character

I have completed line edits on my book (woot! woot!)  It's getting closer to being ready to pitch to agents, which is both wildly exciting and absolutely terrifying. 

I don't want to divulge details of my book, mostly because the world wide web is ripe for plucking someone else's ideas and I don't want mine stolen.  So, I'll hoard the details and keep them to myself. But some people have asked what it's about so I thought I would share a little.

Book One is a Young Adult book set in fictional medieval times. (I made up the places instead of using real ones, because that's more fun).  It's told from three points of view.  R, my lead.  Her father, A.  And M, the love interest (insert swooning here).  Ironically enough, when I first started the story M did not exist, and it was just a story about a girl and her father.  Then M showed up out of nowhere and oh my, he's very persistent, and I could not get him to leave.  He's wildly loyal and determined like that.  

I made a Pinterest board when I first started writing this story because I needed to visualize it.  I've found it's helpful to get a strong sense of who my characters are as people. Here are a few things I pinned that helped me visualize R. 


Yeah, she's blond.  That she looks like me wasn't intentional.  I first had her dad's image in mind (and he looked like Keifer Sutherland) and at first she was his biological daughter, so she had blond hair.  She's tall which is intentional because Mary mother of Jesus, I cannot stand it that all female leads are tiny.  As if the only girl who can save the world and be worth loving is a tiny scrape of a thing.  Hogwash.  I've been 5'9" since I was 14 and hated that in so many books and movies it's the little girl who is the one who gets rescued.  I understand that by being small it makes what some female leads accomplish seem that much more impressive, but glory, for the sake of anyone who is a normal height and size, I cannot stand it. R is tall and not tiny.  And people still fight for her.  So there you go Hollywood.  (rant over)

Story of her life

R is a wounded character, both literally and figuratively. She's lived a pretty horrible childhood and now lives with the man she calls Father.  He's not her real dad.  He was married to R's mom, but when she left he went searching for his wife, and found his wife's illegitimate daughter instead.  She loves her father to pieces.  The two of them first bonded over the same woman abandoning them, and now are impossibly close.  He is the only person she trusts and the only person she cries in front of.  She'd rather die than lose his love.

Hair in a braid. Yes.

R loves reading dark and scary stories (how ironic) and going for rides on her horse.  She cannot stand seeing someone get hurt, and is so stinkin' honest and genuine you either love her or hate her. 

R is feisty, but damaged.  Fear lurks underneath her skin and she can't shake it.  

Stubborn as a mule she is, but utterly delightful

R is fierce, but not a warrior.   I didn't want a Tris or a Katniss.  While those characters are great, they are not everyone.  Not all of us will save our faction or district.  We don't all use literal weapons to save those we love.  But we all are wounded.  And we all battle names that were spoken over us and get to decide if they are true or not.  That's R.  

fear is her story
R has to face some pretty big fears throughout her story.  And for some of them, she can't borrow her father's courage to face.  She's up against them alone.  

I love her to pieces.  I love when she went from  being an idea in my head to a person on a piece of paper.  I loved it even more when she started taking on a life of her own.  Sometimes while writing she would say or do something and I would stop typing mid-sentence and think "where the heck did that come from?"  

I'm so proud of R and the person she becomes at the end of Book One.  Even more proud of her in Book Two, and by Book Three, glory-she's someone I aspire to be.  

Stubborn, fiery, sweet, wounded girl that she is; I absolutely adore her.

Stay tuned for more tidbits of my other characters!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How writing is killing my hobby

So, writing life is busy right now.  I'm editing Book One, trying to finish the first draft of Book Two, working on a synopsis for both, and a query and researching agents, etc, etc.

I love it, but it's killing me, because it's robbing me of reading.

I haven't checked a book out from the library in a month.  I got an Advanced Reader Copy of Ann Brashare's "The Here and Now" that I have not finished.  I have the Throne of Glass novellas that I have not read.  And heaven help, Laini Taylor's last installment in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series is on its way from Barnes and Noble to my doorstep, and I am a freak in that I must reread previous books in a series before I read the new one (because my brain is fluff and I forget things and I don't want to miss something, so I must reread the others!)

Have a gazillion books that I want to read.  I need to find a better balance between reading and writing.  I don't want to ruin my writing groove when I get in it, but taking a step back from it is essential and good stories are what makes me want to write anyway, so I need to keep feeding myself them.  And oh I want to.  It's just hard finding time between a full time job, a reno house, friends, exercise, chores, and a husband who I'd rather hang out with than do anything else.

Hang in there little Goodread's To Read List....I have not forgotten about you!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Book Review-The Here and Now

The Here and Now
I was given an ARC of this for a fair review.

I was really excited about this book.  First because it's Ann Brashares (of the famous Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, and of The Last Summer of You and Me--which was fantastic).  Second, I was excited because of the concept.

Here's the premise:

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins. 

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. 

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves

Interesting concept right?  I loved the idea.

(Spoilers here so if you want to read the book, don't read this)

I hate to hate on books, but this one disappointed me.  It was really short, not only in actual length but it's a huge concept that was tied up so neatly (except it wasn't because the ending wasn't an ending at all).  There were lots of pieces to the story and you think the stakes are super high, right?  The future of humans is at stake.  But I didn't feel it.

Prenna was a really flat character for me.  Huge things happen and her responses lacked depth.  I loved Ethan as a character and I liked the idea of the two of them in love, but it seemed almost forced.  I think maybe because the readers didn't see years of their friendship; we just walk into the story with that already set up.  Which could work, but, I was disappointed by how one dimensional Prenna felt.  And consistency in the story itself kindof fell apart because it bounced around with subplots and I never really got a good sense of "Oh, this is the big thing at stake," because there were lots of little subplots competing for that title.

Don't get me wrong, I liked the book.  But I didn't love it.  And the way it was pitched made me think it was going to be bigger and better.  I think honestly it flopped a little for me because YA books are supposed to be all about feelings.  This had a lot of information and description, but I didn't feel things along with Prenna and Ethan.  The POV is told first person from Prenna's perspective but it felt really distant to me.  I think that's why I had a hard time with Prenna's emotional responses because I never connected with her like I have other YA characters.  I never felt the urgency of she and Ethan wanting and not being able to sleep together which is supposed to be a big part of the book.  Prenna made a lot of stupid decisions, which is fine-characters do that--but I never understood why.  When Tris makes bad decisions in Divergent I still love her; when Prenna made dumb decisions I muttered out loud "What an idiot."

I wanted to like her.  I wanted to like the book.  And I think I could have; the story just wasn't fleshed out and brought to life the way it could have been.  Ann Brashares is a talented writer.  I wish she would go back and flesh this out and add some layers to it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lone Ranger

(photo from IMDB)

Our gym has a cardio theatre and we kept catching enough pieces of Disney's "The Lone Ranger" that we decided we wanted to rent it.  It's much grittier than the original movie previews let on (they really played up Johnny Depp's character in the previews; and he was good, but the movie isn't as funny antics as they made it out to be).  All that to say, it's a good movie and we enjoyed it.

What I really loved about it was how the story was told.  It opens with some events, but then takes you forward to way past all those events.  A kid meets a now old Tonto and begins to hear the story from him.  So then it goes way way back to before the events it first showed and starts, then intersperses the story with Tonto and the boy.  To make it even more fun, it leaves out events and then the boy will stop Tonto and ask him something and then it goes back and fills in, sometimes layering on what's already been shown.

That sounds about as clear as mud as I tell it.  But oh, it's so well done.  The more that I write the more I realize how hard it is to not only to come up with a story, but to tell it in just the right way.  There's a reason why ghost stories are told in whispers with the lights turned out, and why the movie soundtrack to a film can totally make or break it.  A story is made better by its telling.  I love it when I see stories told in a way that just makes the story so much better.

It makes me wonder, if we took a story we know and loved, and told the same story in a different way, what would we think of it?  If Schindler's List was told like a Marvel movie, or Divergent written lyrically, or Anne of Green Gables retold in a modern setting, what would that do to it?  Stories retold intrigue me.  I think that's why I love it when stories get told through a new perspective or lens.  It's why I love writing in multiple points of view, because the story is different depending on who is telling it, and how it's being told.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Work in Progress


So, I'm working on edits for Book #1, along with polishing my query and synopsis.  To help my brain not fry out completely, I am also working hard on Book #2.  (It helps me to have multiple things going on at once so my brain can stretch and not collapse in on itself)

Book 2 has an interesting history.  After I finished Book 1, I was so in love with my characters I wanted to write more.  So I came up with the most horrific thing that could happen, and made it happen.  I wrote Book 2's first draft in about 6 weeks (contrast that to the 9 months it took me to write draft one of Book 1).  I was so frantic to write the sucker I just vomited it out as fast as I could.  It was only about 35k, and after I wrote it I let it sit.

Book 1 went through some serious rewrites (right now it sits at about Draft #14 or so).  Then I started looking at Book 2.  And the more I thought about it, the more I thought that I could turn Book 2 into Books 2 and Book 3.  Which is working because the first draft was so bare bones.  And, the first draft was all from one POV (and book 1 had morphed into a 3 person POV story).  Lots to add.

Drafting is hard for me (I much prefer rewriting and editing).  So I set a goal to have the first draft of the new Book 2 done by May 1.  On March 30 it was at 28,700 words.  As of last night I was at 44,119 words.  That is pretty stinkin' good.  I've hit a groove a couple of evenings and words just keep flying.  A lot of them will end up getting cut or changed, but I just need something on paper to work with.

Average length for a YA is 55-90k.  This second book isn't going to be as long as the first (or the third I think though who knows, because I haven't started that one).  My goal for this one is around 60k.  Not that I'm aiming for a specific word count--I just want to tell the story well--but I think 60k is about where it'll land once it has all it needs to.

First week of April and I'm only 15k or so words short of my goal.  (Fist pump!)

Back to typing!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Book Review: A Snicker of Magic

Normally Young Adult is my preferred genre, but I have started falling in love with Middle Grade.  There is just something about that special balance of story that makes a good MG book that kind that stays with you forever.  Such is the case with this little beauty:

A Snicker of Magic
My friend Natalie Lloyd wrote this book, and it is spindiddly!  Here is the blurb from Natalie's website:

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck's about to change. A "word collector," Felicity sees words everywhere---shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog's floppy ears---but Midnight Gulch is the first place she's ever seen the word "home." And then there's Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity's never seen before, words that make Felicity's heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she'll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that's been cast over the town . . . and her mother's broken heart.

This book is endearing and magical.  It will make you believe in hope and overcoming.  When I finished reading it, I started looking for words to flow out from the trees and to dance on top of people's heads.  I wanted to take a bite of Dr. Zook's Blackberry Sunrise ice cream and risk the memories that a taste of it would bring to life.

I must say, Three Time Lucky had won the top spot on my list of favorite MG books.  This book just took its place.  I always knew that Natalie would be a published author some day (Snicker just got a spindiddly review from the New York Times!).  I think one of the things I loved most about this book is that it is Natalie in book form.  I don't know any other authors personally (and really, I hardly know Natalie), but I love that she is there in every page: whimsical and fluttery sweet like cotton candy but completely solid like a hug from your best friend or a good meal fed to you by your granny.  If I had picked this up and not known the author I would have finished and thought to myself  "My goodness, this sounds like Natalie's words!"  Ever since I started writing myself it's been interesting to see pieces of myself manifest themselves in a story that isn't about me at all.

This book is wonderful!  Full of small town quirk and charm, unforgettable characters, and words that will stir up feeling in all of us.  A must read if you love words, stories, or ice cream!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Book Review: The Summer of Letting Go

This week I read The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner.  Lucky for me, I got an Advanced Reader Copy of this little gem!

The Summer of Letting Go

From Gae Polisner's website.

Four years ago during an outing to the ocean, Francesca's little brother drowned, and she was the one who should have been watching him. Now almost 16, Francesca's used to playing second fiddle to her dead brother's memory, and to her best friend Lisette who's blossoming into a beauty and leaving Francesca behind.

Stuck at home while Lisette spends her summer days with a boy Francesca wants but can never have, Francesca begins to suspect her father of having an affair. She trails the woman to the local country club where she meets Frankie Sky, a four year old boy with a hole in his heart who bears a striking resemblance to her brother. Hope of an otherworldly connection leads Francesca to places she thought she'd abandoned, as well as to new places she never thought she'd have the heart to go – and it begins to seem possible to forgive herself and move on, whether or not she solves the riddle of Frankie Sky. 

This book was wonderful.  It tackles the issue of grief in such a real way.  I love it when an author can make a character's emotions believable and natural without making things seem forced.  (Well done Gae Polisner!)

Francesca (Frankie) is a very wounded character, which I find myself being more and more attracted to.  I guess because all of us are wounded in our own ways.  Frankie carries a lot of burden and weight on herself, most of it put there by her own assumptions and guilt.  I loved watching Frankie confront her past, and the lies she believes about herself.  I loved watching her face the things that scare her, and embrace hope against all odds.  

I love books about hope.  My own YA story that I wrote is about hope and my protagonist overcoming her past.  It's set in medieval times, but I felt like it is a mirror of The Summer of Letting Go; because it's about grief and overcoming it, and about the hope to move on.  And how no one can make us move on but ourselves.  And that sometimes, we have to break before rebuilding can happen.

Loved this story; sweet and heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful.  If you want to fall in love with a character and cheer her on, then you need to meet Francesca!  Definitely recommend!

Heart of a Storyteller

All my life I have been a storyteller.

It's something that I don't think I realized about myself until I was an adult.  I love stories.  It's why I devour books and cry over movies and love the personal story pieces that ESPN does.  I love to tell stories too.  Girls in my small group used to tell me I had the best stories.  Friends always wanted me to be the narrator when we played Mafia.  A handful of people throughout my life have told me that I'm a storyteller, and it's been the highest compliment I've ever been given.

I've been writing and telling stories in my head all my life.  But I've never tried to put one of my stories down on paper.  Until this past year.

Last January, I kept feeling this urgency to start writing this story I've carried around and developed in my mind for years.  I was so scared to do it; scared that I would run out of words.  But oh, how the words have grown and carried.  I fell in love with making and refining this story.

I would write 34 pages, all of which would end up being tossed out, but I loved it, because it led me to finding my voice and finding my story buried somewhere under the first and second and third drafts.  Constantly this story fills me.  I think about it when I weed our flowerbed or when I'm driving down I-40.  Scenes and words and character traits and conversations come to me in bits and pieces.  I'm so tangled up in it.  It's incredible.

My little story is now on about draft 12.  It looks so different now than what it did even a few drafts ago.  I joined an online critique group, I've shared it with friends who I know would give good feedback, and I've shaped and reshaped until it finally looks like something.

I feel that I am finally doing what I have been called to do.

Writing has been so incredibly life giving.  It's been amazing to connect to God in this way.  God, the ultimate story teller, who dreamed us all up and determined our own stories--has placed a little bit of that in me.  I write my own little tale and am taken aback sometimes.  And I ask God out loud, "Is this what it's like for You?"  This exhilaration that comes from shaping a character or editing a story and making it just so.  Crazy to think he has done that with each of us.  Shaped the story, shaped who we are in it and how the story is around us.  I am so thankful that He's allowed me to experience Him in this way.

And this week another lesson hit me.  I read this a post about getting through hard times.  I cried when I reached the point where the writer says:

"God, we're confused."
And He answered, "I'm not done yet."

I cried when I read it.  Right now I am working on the sequel to my story, and in it I am allowing some really, really horrible things to happen to my character.  When I started on this section I got so excited to write it, which sounds really horrid but bear with me.  I am excited to write this part because even though it's horrible, it is wonderful because it sets the stage for the redemption that is to come.  Without this horrible, awful, no good middle, the end would be worthless.  The magic of the story would not exist and the characters would not have lived and would not know the love, the goodness, that awaits in the next chapter.

In essence, I am saying to my story, to my protagonist and all that love her:  "I'm not done yet."

And it just hit me because I'm in the middle of my story this way, how God does the same thing.  He is not done.




All these pieces of my life that are unsettled or unanswered or confusing (the sobbing, wailing, breaking of the heart kind).  He's not done.  And I get it now in ways I haven't before.  I get how the horrible, awful, no good middle makes for the most beautiful type of ending.  Katniss had to take her sister's place and Tris had be taken my Jeanine and Buttercup had to be kidnapped and Ruth's husband had to die and Abraham had to be infertile and Jesus had to die this horrid death....all that so that the next chapter could unfold the way it was meant to.

I think we're so tempted in life to want to jump to the last chapter.  But without the middle, would we even want it?  Would it satisfy us or make sense?

Probably not.

Our Storyteller is not finished.  Is not finished.