Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas 2.0, Zombies, and Unicorns: A Perfect Marriage

Merry Christmas Everyone!  Hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend.  I may or may not be back next week (I know you're just dying to see what I have to drone on blog about).  Little Monster will be off to grandmothers' house(s) for the whole week so I plan to use my spare time revising!  I very boldly told Colene I was going to shut the internet off for the whole week (but seriously...knowing myself, I just won't be able brain does not compute a day without really- I get all dazed and confused if I don't get a chance to view the interwebs).

Ooh, and I got my copy of Zombies Vs. Unicorns in at the library, so I plan on reading that over the holidays.  I'll let you all know who wins: Team Zombie, or Team Unicorn

Reading about zombies and unicorns, revising my ms, resting, visiting family and holiday stuffing-my-face-and-gaining-five-pounds sounds like a great plan to me.

So I'll most likely "see" you all next year, when we're all rested, refreshed and chipper, ready to blast off full force with blogging again!

And now I leave you with the story of Christmas google-style.

The Digital Story of the Nativity:

Hope you have a nice holiday!  See you all next week!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Be Jolly By Golly!

Jen and Melissa put together this Blogfest and it looks to be a good one!  Thank you guys for giving me something to write about today! I'm taking a little break after today's post.  I'll be online on and off during the week, but I probably won't post anything (I have to find out what happens with Erica and Christy's 25 Days of Christmas countdown!!). 

Okay, so on to the blogfest!  They asked us to post pics of our decorations, how we celebrate the holidays, and also post a favorite recipe.

Hubsies and I try to incorporate different winter holidays into our Christmas celebration.  I've always had a great deal of respect for different religions, and since I don't follow one particular religion, I like to pull a little from each of the major ones.

The first tradition we celebrated was Hanukkah on Dec. 1.  I read a little story about it to Little Monster, and then she got some cute boots and chocolate gold Hanukkah coins as a gift.  We also set the Menorah up.

I had actually decorated my house for the holidays before Thanksgiving (I was a little excited...).  So we had gotten our lights up outside and everything out and ready by the time the fam came for Thanksgiving dinner. 

Yes, those are totally moose glasses from Christmas Vacation-
 thanks to my awesome Brother-in-law and his fiance`!

And then we finally put the tree up.  It's always a fiasco with us and the lights- we always have dead strands by the time we get them out for Christmas again. So I'm always having to run out and buy new ones as we are putting our tree up.  Luckily this year, I had bought some BEFORE we tried putting the tree up.

Little Monster decided to make us all name tags for our stockings so Santa would know whose was whose:

We also have garland up over our doorway, which symbolizes the Solstice for me. 

The idea of putting evergreen pine up actually originated with early celebrations of the Solstice.  Putting those items in the house symbolizes looking forward to the life that the sun and longer days bring.  It gives all hope that the sun will come back and bring warmth and life into their lives. 

The Solstice is tomorrow and we will give Little Monster her Christmas/Solstice present from "us".  I'll also usually read a little prayer to the sun, and a book to Little Monster about the Solstice and other winter celebrations. 

And then finally, Christmas Eve arrives.  Usually we do a traditional Polish Catholic dinner of perogies, potato soup, fish and greens.  It's actually supposed to be a big complicated 7, 9 or 11 course meal, complete with hay under the tablecloth and an extra spot for the "Unexpected Guest" (i.e. Jesus).  We are also supposed to leave a little bit of food on our plates for the animals, because they helped keep the baby Jesus warm in the stable.  Through the years my family condensed the tradition a bit.  I was raised Catholic (my great grandparents immigrated from Poland), so we like to hang on to the traditions that were important to our family.  It was always followed by Pasterka, or Midnight Mass.

My grandmother always made shortbread cookies and what we call chewie brownies.  I've included the recipe for those brownies- I don't have a picture but they look like chocolate chip cookie bars.  They are SO good.  You will love them, and it's easy to make!

2 cans sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 oz) package chocolate chips
1 (13 1/2 oz) package of graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients.  Grease 15x9 inch pan.  Bake in 325 oven for 25 minutes. 

They should be gooey in the center.  Yummy!

Christmas Day has turned into a relaxing day for Hubs, Little Monster, and I.  Since he works retail, we can't travel to see the rest of the family for Christmas.  We celebrate over New Years weekend now, so Christmas is just the three of us.  We love watching A Christmas Story all day, and just hang out together.  Hubs' brother and sister live near us so sometimes they stop by to see what Little Monster got.

That's our holiday traditions in a nutshell!  Can't wait to see how everyone else celebrates!  Have a great Christmas everyone! 

Friday, December 17, 2010

We All Need a Little TLC

People fascinate me.  I love to people watch and create stories for them.  I imagine many other writers do the same, which is why we're able to create these incredible worlds and characters.  They're so vivid in our imaginations and bursting to get out, that if we don't write it down they'll get lost in the crowd never to be seen again. 

The Duggars:
One of their cousins totally worked at the library with me...
he never really talked to them
 The perfect compliment to people watching is the TLC channel on satellite/cable.  Seriously- it's full of interesting people to study to our hearts content.  There's little people, families with 20 kids, abnormally tall families, political people who erm..kill elk in Alaska, women who don't know they're pregnant, and of course polygamists.  It's all there- take your pick.  From series shows to specials, usually there is something on that will catch your eye and make you go "what the..."  But then it's like a train wreck and you can't stop watching.  I'm not saying those shows are bad, or what the people are doing or what the believe is's just...even if I'm annoyed by it, I have to watch this totally nerdy dude marry his fourth wife. 

Sister Wives: yeah...he's totally creepy

I think something like that in a novel makes it interesting, or would make a reader nod her head and go "Oh...okay" but in a good way.  It keeps the reader wanting to know more, and wanting to find out every little thing about this character or thing that's a little...weird.  Just like I want to find out just how many hours a day the Duggars as a whole spend in the bathroom, or now that Nerdy Dude has a 4th wife- how will his sleeping schedule adjust?  And seriously, what kind of fungus is probably growing in the Roloff twins' room?

The Roloffs:
Little People: Messed up Family
Do you have anything odd, or some kind of unconventional or interesting tidbit in your writing that breaks the mold?  Something that will make the reader do a double take, or read it over again just to make sure they read it right?  And I have to ask: do you have a favorite TLC show?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Aspiring Author Interview with Jen Daiker

Okay guys, seriously...does she really need an introduction?  We all know who Jen Daiker is- she's one of blogger's royalty soaring to 1000 followers in just one year.  She's gotta be doing something right, right?  Not only does she write YA and adult novels, but she also has TWO blogs, a hubs, and a 40-hour a week day job (um, can you say crazy?).  When she's not writing as Jen Daiker at Unedited, she's writing as Jules Ausborn at Jules and the Stars.  If you like celebrity gossip (and stalking) you'll love Jules.  Oh, and did I mention she gets over 300 emails a week?  Yeah, so I'm pretty lucky to call this blogger queen a friend and interview her (plus she was one of my first followers!).  So, without further ado, here's the lovely and talented Jen Daiker:

1. When did you realize you wanted to be an author?

I started writing in January of this year and haven't been able to stop. When people ask me this question I always want to tell them -since I was a little girl- but I can't, because when I was little all I wanted to be was an architect. Throughout high school I realized I had a ton of ambition and wanted to do EVERYTHING, then one day I realized I can do it all, I can write, and since then I've written three novels.

2. What genre do you like to write?

I adore writing young adult novels. Something about reaching out teens is really powerful. I've also tried my hand at thrillers, one in particular my husband is dying for me to finish, titled The Collector, it's about a serial killer (told first person) who paints portraits of his victims before killing them, only to hang the portraits on trees where he'll eventually bury the bodies... yeah that came to me in a dream... pretty messed up.

3. What authors inspire you?

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is the person who first inspired me to write. I know, it's strange considering she writes chick lit novels but I adore reading her novels. Next I'd have to say JK Rowling, her world building skills are phenomenal, and last but not least, all the bloggers I've met who've fought the world of writing/agenting/publishing and have their novels on the shelves, everyone of them inspires me.

4. How often do you write?

At least a little something every day. I'm not disciplined like I'd like to be, but my schedule gets nutty and with the full time job in the way the evenings is my only free time, which lately has been taken over by blogger. I'm slowly getting back on track.

5. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Umm this is tough. I'm going to say both. I'm a plotter in my head, I plan for weeks, the ideas, the characters, everything plays like a movie in my head, when I feel like it's marinated long enough that's where the pantsing comes in. I open up a word document and write my heart out. I'm fast... my life revolves around nothing except finishing that novel, luckily that is normally no longer than two weeks.

6. Where do you write best, and do you listen to music while you write?

Right now I'd say I work best on the couch with my laptop on a side table. Though ideally I'd like my own writing nook (less than a month away). As far as the music it depends on what I'm working on, for some stories I have a playlist, others I was never able to find the perfect music so I go with what I think I'd hear during that time. Mostly I watch television, bring on Bravo.

7. What is on your TBR pile?

Too many to list... however Fairytale of New York & Welcome to My World by Miranda Dickinson are at the top of my list. Also the white cover Twilight books (never read them), and several ARCs for 2011 that my lovely library sent me (that covers about 12 more)

8. If Stephanie Meyer and JK Rowling got in a cat fight, who would win?

Now for the record I never see this happening. But if I did, in my mind Stephanie Meyer would be a Vampire and JK Rowling would be a witch, therefore JK Rowling would win because she can always fight of Stephanie Meyer with her wicked abilities.

9. What is your "day" job?

I'm a data analyst, I keep track of well over 100,000 items in my companies inventory. Means I have to have mad typing skills and with my 100+ wpm and 98% accuracy rate they love me.

10. What can you not leave home without? (cell phones are off limits- NO ONE can leave home without one of those).

This is tough... it's a battle between chapstick and my mini notebook.

11. Mac or PC?

PC, Mac won't come until I've sold my first book.

12. Favorite Dessert?

Ooo, tough. A tie between chocolate chip cookies and apple crisp (then again pumpkin pie has been on the brain lately, but that's purely for the holidays)

13. Favorite desert?

Ummm... Sahara? Only because it's the only one I know... or at least think of when I think desert (that and I'm too lazy to google)

14. Where is your dream vacation?

I'm such a cheater, it would be a fight between anywhere warm near a beach with cocktails, and back home, among the open fields, the perfect place to write a book.

15. Finally, link us to your website,  blog, fb, twitter, and anything else you might like to shamelessly plug for yourself.

Blog: (Unedited)

Monday, December 13, 2010

What Do You Like in a Blog?

I've got a winner for my contest, so if you don't feel like reading my drivel post, feel free to skip to the end.

Rachelle Gardner posted a blog the other day about what she dislikes about writers' blogs.  Here is a little bit of what she said in case you don't want to click the link (don't worry, I'm lazy about clicking links too sometimes):

→ A humor writer whose blog doesn't seem funny to me.
→ A memoir writer whose blog consists of reflections on life (something I enjoy) but they're just boring.
→ A writer who rants and complains about the publishing business in general or agents in particular . (And I recognize the difference between ranting and simply processing inevitable disappointments.)
→ A writer whose blog has irregular and infrequent posts.
→ A blog that is really unfocused and doesn't know what it's about.

Read some of the comments from fellow bloggers if you have time- you'll get an idea of what they're looking for too.

What do you all think about that?  Do you generally agree with those statements or are you okay with a blogger "breaking" some of those etiquette-type rules?

For me, when I started reading blogs, I really just wanted to get to know the author better.  Whether he/she is an aspiring or published author, an agent, or editor.  I love getting sneak peaks into their lives, finding out about their writing process, or learning a little piece of wisdom.  But I'm not sure my opinion of blogs is as strict as Rachelle's.  I just really want it to feel genuine to me, no matter what the content.  I really don't mind if it's a post about someone's day, their families, their writing or something majorly profound.  I don't mind if their blog is all over the place- I think it makes it more interesting.  Honestly, as long as I'm entertained (which is really not hard to do for me- I'm pretty easy to please)...I don't really care what it's about.  Plus, if someone doesn't have a regular post schedule, I don't really notice that either- to me, family, writing, and other personal related stuff are more important than getting a blog out, so it's not a big deal if someone doesn't write a blog for a week.  I'll still be there when they come back.

I guess my only pet peeve is SUPER long blog posts.  Like, novel-length posts (which frankly, this one seems to be almost there so feel free to stop reading at any time) that take me a million years to read.  Of course, everyone has their own opinion as to what constitutes as a long post, so I won't get into that. 
I really want to know what you all think about the "etiquette" of blogs.  What stands out to you in a blog, whether it's good or bad?  What do you like reading about, and does it always have to be gleaming pearls of wisdom?  Are there any "rules" that you think a blogger should absolutely follow?

And now for the winner (completely chosen at random from this site- everyone got a range of numbers for the amount of entries they had) of The Sorcerers Companion!

Jennie Bailey!!  Woohoo Jennie!  Congrats!  Email me your address and I'll get that out to you asap!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Contest Ends Today!

OMG, you guys, I totally forgot today is the 10th and it's the last day of my CONTEST!  I'll be closing it up at midnight tonight (okay, well...probably not till tomorrow when I wake up, so if you're up at 3am and want to enter...totally fine by me).

I'll do some magic hat type thingy with everyone's entries and announce the winner on Monday!  So get those entries in so you can win The Sorcerers Companion and find out everything you wanted to know about the magic of Harry Potter (or a gift card if you absolutely hate HP ;p)  Good luck, and thanks for all the entries!

And now for a little Harry Potter Puppet fun:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Interview With Aspiring Author Anne Kenny

It's time for another Interview with an Aspiring Author!  Today's is with the wonderful Anne Kenny from Writers Quandary.  She's an awesome mother, writer, wife, and still has time to blog!  She also does some writing about video games, which is very interesting to me because my Hubsies sells them!  Plus she has a story published in the Christmas Fear Anthology!  How awesome is that??

So here's her fun interview, and I especially love her answer to #8.

1.      When did you realize you wanted to be an author?

I always loved creative writing but I knew completing a cohesive book would be a huge undertaking. When I finally decided to put my thoughts on paper a little over a year ago it transformed into much more than a hobby. It became my new way of life.

2.      What genre do you like to write?

I love to write YA fantasy but I've been known to switch things up. My short story in the Christmas Fear anthology is about an old dude who collects junk and then makes a new wife out of it.

 3.      What authors inspire you?

When I was growing up I loved all of Ray Bradbury’s science fiction but now I’m all over the map. Suzanne Collins was able to pull me into a series unlike any other author ever had. And John Green seems like he could be the coolest guy ever.

4.      How often do you write?

I try to write daily but with two young kids it doesn’t always happen.

 5.      Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I was a pantser for my first novel but as I progress I find myself becoming much more organized.

6.      Where do you write best, and do you listen to music while you write?

It always seems like I write my best stuff when I should be hurrying to get ready or running out the door. I’ll start off by simply jotting a few ideas down in a notebook before I forget but it always turns into full blown scenes that I can’t abandon.

I do listen to music when I write. I love sites like Pandora or because I can change it up so easily to accommodate my scenes and/or mood.

7.      What is on your TBR pile?

The last time I was at the library I grabbed MISTWOOD by Leah Cypress from a kiosk devoted to NaNoWriMo. All the books featured were the author’s debuts. (High fives to the MFPL for that one.) I also love to buy bargain books. I am a complete sucker for any book under 1$. So with that said, my TBR pile is actually gargantuan.

8.      If Stephanie Meyer and JK Rowling got in a cat fight, who would win?

Robert Pattinson.

9.      What is your “day” job?

Full time mommy! I am also a Girl Scout leader and I’ve been known to dabble in video game journalism.

10.  What can you not leave home without? (cell phones are off limits- NO ONE can leave home without one of those)

Don’t laugh. Coupons. I am such a coupon maniac.

11.  Mac or PC?

PC. But I’m using the Scrivener beta as my word processor right now. I love being able to swap chapters around and create “style sheets” for my characters all in one clean folder.

12.  Favorite dessert?

I’m going to cheat and say caramel frappachino from Starbucks. It has enough calories to be considered dessert, right?

13.  Favorite desert?

I’ve never been. So I’ll go with Corel Desert. (+10 nerd points to anyone who knows where it’s from.)

14.  Where is your dream vacation?

Someplace warm with little shops to discover during the day, and quaint pubs to relax in at night. Does this place exist? Let me know!

15.  Finally, link us to your website, blog, fb, twitter and anything else you might like to shamelessly plug for yourself J

My blog:

My Twitter:!/AnneNKenny

My Facebook:

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Editing

First draft done: check.  Suggestions and edits from Crit Partners: check.  New office chair: check.  New keyboard and mouse to make editing easier: check.  Having no idea what I'm supposed to do now: check.

Like how I jerry-rigged the mouse area because keyboard tray doesn't have a place for the mouse? Perfect for writing I'm sure...

So I finished my first draft, yeah yeah, cool and all that jazz.  As I stare at the two copies of my manuscript- one marked up by one crit partner, and the other marked up by the other crit partner, I can't help but feel a little overwhelmed.  Now what? 

Colene's edits on the left, Andy's on the right (obscured by my "title page")

Where do I begin?  This is my first time editing a 94,000 word novel that I've written.  I have no idea how to start.  Do I go over the two copies of my novel from each crit partner and compare notes?  Do I print out a completely fresh copy (oy, the paper) and do my own edits?  Do I open my word documents and make edits on the computer with the bubbles and stuff, while I have the marked up manuscripts next to me?  Or do I just do that when I'm ready with my crit partner's changes?

Editing can be a cruel mistress that leads you on and gives you false hope.  On the one hand, you are ecstatic to have finally finished your manuscript, but on the other the actual process is agonizing.  You have been through so much with your characters: laughed with them, cried with them, loved them, hated them, screamed at them and pleaded with them.  You know your world inside and out, and now you have to chisel away at it, like chiseling away at your own heart.  But it has to be done.  You have to break that mistress down bit by bit until she's perfect and you can make her into your wife.  (okay, that was a bit much on the analogy part, but seriously...I had to go there)  It's a constant pull of emotions- highs and lows that bring you on this roller coaster we call Editing, only to end up right at the beginning to start a bigger and higher roller coaster we call Querying.

So here I am, ready to go uphill with this thing and I don't know where to start.  How do you start your first round of edits?  What do you do to help get you organized and ready to tackle that mistress and tame her?  (okay, that was really bad...)  I'm going to stop with the bad analogies and let you do the talking.  Maybe you can come up with a couple awesomely bad analogies yourselves, and more importantly, tell me how you edit.

Friday, December 3, 2010

My Oun Buch

"My Oun Buch"
That's the title of Little Monster's first book she wrote several weeks ago.  I'm so proud *sniff*.  Now she's cranking them out faster than me, and comes up with great ideas like "All obaut Ranbos" (she gushes about rainbows in this one- I think she saw the double rainbow orgasm guy on youtube).  Or the classic, "All Obaut Haus's" in which she channel's Lady Gaga's Haus of Gaga to write eloquently about different colored houses (plus she's all about the diversity).  And then she dabbles in horror with "Stars in the Sci" in which you think its an innocent book about stars in the sky, but then the Wicked Witch of the West comes and eats the stars. 

I'm not gonna lie.  It can be hard to come up with some good book ideas (and blogs for that matter...geesh, how do you people do it every day?).  Everyone keeps telling us, it has to be unique!  It can't be the same old stuff we see every day (but at the same time, they seem to gravitate towards what they think will be popular).  Agents want that twist that will catch their eye, and publishers want good books they can sell.  I'm always so worried my idea isn't "original" enough, or my voice isn't strong enough, or it's just missing that "something".  And don't get me started on queries!  My hands are shaking just thinking about writing one.

So here I am, on the threshold of editing my own novel, and I'm scared I just wasted a year of my life writing the dang thing.  I wish I could crank them out on a whim every other day like Little Monster.  Life would be so much easier.  I'd have a million awesome stories to choose from (like the all-popular "All obaut graps and abbles and boobares and tmatos and urnges that come off of chrees" in which succulent grapes, apples, blueberries, tomatoes and oranges fall off trees and cover the ground...I mean, c'mon- genius!)

But I do have a ton of ideas that just come to me, so I guess I'm lucky that way.  I'll just be standing around and BAM, an idea forms and I have to jot it down or else I'll lose it.  I've always been like that- making up stories, daydreaming and imagining myself in different worlds.  I think thats why I love fantasy so much.

So this brings me to that all-important question everyone has to have at the end of their blog posts that makes you (my dear readers) think:

How do you come up with your book ideas?  Do they just come to you while you are doing something completely unrelated (with me, it's always when I'm at work scanning books or entering requests- totally inconvenient!), or do you have a time where you have to sit down and think deep and hard about possible stories?  Do you gather inspiration from the world around you, or do you look within yourself to find that perfect voice?

Happy writing people, and go eat some booberes and some stars for me.  I'll just be at my desk tearing my hair out and weeping silently over my current WIP while Little Monster bangs out her millionth novel.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Last WCW and Happy Hanukkah!

Today is my final Word Count Wednesday!  I can't believe NaNo is over, and now we can resume our normal lives of writing and rewriting manuscripts, crying over said manuscripts, and tearing our hair out with worry (oh wait, didn't we just do that for a whole month?  Ah well...the life of a writer...)

Congratulations to everyone for participating in NaNo whether you "won" or not!  You've won in my eyes just for attempting it, and if you didn't do it that's still great too- because it really shouldn't be the be-all, end-all of writing.  You can still write that novel, and it doesn't have to be in one month either.  To me, NaNo is just a fun exercise to get those creative juices flowing, and not something to get too worked up over.

So, what's your final word count?  Did you "win" or did you accomplish what you set out to do?  Even if I didn't "win" and get 50k words, I still finished my WIP, which I am very proud of.  Husbies rewarded me today with a new desk chair and keyboard to hook up to my laptop.  So now I can start on edits!  yay....

I also wanted to say Happy Hanukkah!  Today the Festival of Lights starts at sundown, and we celebrated by getting a cute little Menorah and will give Little Monster some Twinkle Toes shoes she has wanted for a while. 

While we don't follow one religion over the other, we like to celebrate some of the major winter holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah and the Solstice.  We usually have a gift for Little Monster on the start of each holiday, and also read about it that night.

Hope you have a wonderful Hanukkah if you celebrate it, and I also hope you are satisfied with your accomplishments either on NaNo, your current WIP or anything in your life right now!  Let me know your final word count, or even if you are just proud of something in your life- I want to be proud with you!

Monday, November 29, 2010

I'm Finished, so YOU Get the Reward! Contest/Giveaway!

Hey guys!  Welcome back after what was hopefully a relaxing holiday (except for those of you lovely crazies who actually went out on Black Friday - but you are still fabulous!) It was for me, and now we're back to the 'ol grind (but with a little more cheer, since we get to stare at Christmas lights and listen to festive Christmas music all month!)

I know last week was crazy preparing for Turkey Day, so I thought I'd post again about my contest!  It's in honor of finishing my novel/100 followers/HP mania!

HERE is my post from Wednesday about it- post as many comments as you want about your fav Harry Potter scene (from any of the books or movies), and you'll get that many entries to win the awesome A Sorcerers Companion: A Guide to the Magical World of Harry Potter!  Can't wait to see what you loved about HP!

AND, have no fear!  If you didn't like Harry Potter, just tell me your favorite book (or you can tell me why you didn't like HP- no judging here!), and if you win I'll send you a Barnes and Noble or Amazon gift card!!  I am ALL inclusive on this blog!

You can go ahead and leave comments here if you don't want to clicky on over to the other post (I totally understand- I'm lazy like that too)  It ends December 10!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Unintentional Novel Title Slam!

Jen over at Unedited discovered an awesome way to make up a story!  She found it over at Tahereh and Christina Lee's blogs.  Jen called it A Story out of Novels. 

Colene over at The Journey and I teamed up to do our own today!  Her fingers actually challenged mine to a duel: seriously.  Not her- her fingers.  They wrote it on their own accord.  So be kind to me- her story is probably way more profound and awesome than mine.

So, basically the challenge is to make up a story out of your book titles!  Make it short and sweet (and definitely profound...and a little dramatic)!

I'm going to make mine from my TBR pile (in random order):

This is So Not Happening, she thought.  Too many Lies, during a Twenty Boy Summer Blue Bloods poured from their veins.  Hunger blurred her vision .  She laughed, Carter Finally Gets It.  The Insatiable girl drank him in the Firelight.

What story from your own pile can you come up with?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Interview with Author Ryan Jacobson

Hey guys!  Hope you all had a wonderful and coma-inducing Thanksgiving!  (and if you're not from the states, hope you had a lovely time eating a turkey because you love me!)

First of all- I wanted to remind you of my super contest going on!  Enter HERE to win a cool Harry Potter prize!!

Now, I have a fun interview from you from author Ryan Jacobson.  He's on a blog tour, and so I thought it'd be fun to interview him on my blog. He's got several middle grade books out, including a choose-your-own-adventure titled Lost in the Wild, and you can check his cool website out HERE.

1        Who or what inspired you to write middle grade novels?

I was a reluctant reader for much of my youth, so I feel like I didn’t really discover children’s books until college. (Believe it or not, I was 23 years old when I read the entire Chronicles of Narnia for the first time!) That’s probably why I became a children’s book author; I found such books at a time when I was still developing my interests, finding my voice and deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up.

As far as middle grade novels in particular, inspiration came mostly in the form of a business decision. I was visiting dozens of elementary schools each year—and selling plenty of early reader chapter books in grades K through 3—but I didn’t have anything for fourth and fifth graders. I needed something to talk with them about and something to sell, so I turned to the only books I read as a child: Choose Your Own Adventures. I decided on the story for Lost in the Wild because I had an “in” with a nature/outdoors publisher, and I felt confident they’d publish it.

That was the one time I wrote a book based more on what I could sell than on what I wanted to write—and it’s my best book to date. Go figure.

2        What is your typical day of writing like?  Do you write every day?

I have a full-time job and two boys under the age of five; finding time to write is something of a challenge. I think you can relate, Abby. And while I don’t get to write every single day, I certainly try. Yesterday was fairly typical. I woke up an hour early to get some writing in. I wrote a little bit during my lunch break at work. Later, I was last to leave the office, so I stayed an extra 20 minutes to enjoy some rare peace and quiet—and to write. I hung out with my family all evening, until we turned on the traditional cartoon-before-bed. That’s when I went upstairs and stole 22 more minutes of writing. I came down in time to read stories with our oldest, watched an hour of TV with my wife and ended my day with one final hour of writing.

3        When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

It’s surprising how much my life revolves around books. Even the people I spend time with now are pretty much all authors and illustrators. Other than that, I share your obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When I’m plotting a story, I ask myself, “What would Whedon do?” (Hey, that should be a T-shirt!) I’m also a superhero junkie. I have a room full of comic books, superhero movies, artwork and toys. I’m a huge sports fan, although I’m not going to tell you I’m a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan because you’ll just make fun of me.

4        Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I used to be a pantser, but somewhere along the way—and I can’t remember which book—the illustrator was leaving the country and needed to get the artwork finished ASAP. I was forced to create an outline so that the illustrator knew what to draw. It made writing so much easier for me! I’ve never gone back. Of course, that’s not to say I don’t change my mind or think of something better halfway through a story. My outlines tend to change quite often.

5        What’s on your TBR pile?

I’m working my way through Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, but I’m just not into it. I know; it’s great. But as much as I want to like it, I don’t. I also have a copy of The Cat and the Canvas, which was written by my friend Deb Mercier. Another friend, Grant Gould, illustrated a trade paperback collection of web comics called Star Wars: Tales from the Clone Wars. I’m a Star Wars nut, so I’m really looking forward that. I’m reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules and can’t wait to start The Girl Who Played with Fire.

6        If you had one piece of advice to give aspiring authors, what would that be?

Just one piece? Yikes. Um . . . never give up? No, that’s too cliché. I guess the advice I wish someone would’ve given me was to think about your work from a marketing & sales point of view. If you’re writing 100% for the joy of it, then ignore this advice, but if you want to build a career as an author, you have to think about the marketability of your work. Let me use my first series of books, Santa Claus: Super Spy, as an example. I love these stories; I’m proud of them; I think they’re great. But they could’ve—and probably should’ve—been told without Santa as the main character. (I’ll take it all back if a Christmas special ever gets made.) By using Santa as the main character, I limited my sales in schools—because, right or wrong, some schools are shying away from all things Christmas. More importantly, I also limited my sales in general to pretty much one or two months out of the year. So to aspiring authors: Think about how your publisher and you will promote and sell your story to your target audience.

7        In your experience, what is the best way to promote your books?

The secret of my success is, quite simply, doing lots and lots of school visits. Another secret that’s becoming not so secret anymore is to be in places (ones that makes sense) where there are no other books for sale. If you sign at a bookstore, you’re competing against the Twilights and Shivers of the world. If you’re at a gift store or a craft fair or something like that, it’s your book or no book for the customer.

8        If you had to eat one piece of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Is this a trick question? Does “one piece of food” mean I have to pick something really big that won’t ever spoil so that I have enough to nibble on, one meal at a time, for the rest of my life? Hey, that sounds like the start of a good dystopian drama. Anyway, assuming this isn’t a trick question, I’d choose ribeye steak. It isn’t my favorite food (that’d be pizza), but it’d take me a lot longer to get sick of eating it.

9        How many books have you written, and how many are published?

I couldn’t begin to guess how many books I’ve written. Since most of my manuscripts are for picture books and chapter books, they probably number in the dozens. So far, I’m up to 14 published books, with six more coming out within the next six months. Admittedly, that may not be as impressive as it sounds, depending upon how you look at things. About half of those books are self-published.

10    And finally, link us to your blog, books, website, twitter etc!

You can find my books and my blog at

Thanks Abby, this was fun! And good luck with your novel. I can’t wait to read it some day soon!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Word Count Wednesday And Contest/Giveaway!

First things first:  My total word count for NaNo is 15,288.  It doesn't seem like much, but 15,000 words in less than a month  is pretty huge for me.  As most of you know, I am using NaNo not to write a whole new novel, but to finish the one I am working on.  And guess what?

Now for the Happy News I hinted to in my last post:


Yep, the total word count for my novel is 94,844 words- about 312 pages.  So even though NaNo won't officially recognize me as "winning", I totally won on a different level.  I accomplished something I never thought I could do.  Something that was just an idea almost 2 years ago.  Something that has become my passion since- something I can see myself doing for the rest of my life. 

And honestly I couldn't have done it without the support of my husbsies, family, friends and my new online friends and crit partners!  Everyone is so encouraging and supportive of my ventures, that even though sometimes I wanted to quit, I thought of them and it kept me going.  (Okay seriously, I'm not published yet...jumping the gun a little on the dedication part ;p)

Of course this is only the beginning of a whole new journey: editing.  I've got both my crit partner's edit suggestions- which by-the-way, are totally awesome.  Colene and Andy are the best, and see things that I miss and I'm all like, *facepalm* when I see it. 

***SO, in celebration of finishing my novel, AND of almost making it to 100 followers, and of seeing how many commas I can use in a sentence, I'm going to have a contest/giveaway/HP prize thingy! 

And, in honor if it being Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows mania, I'm giving away a copy of The Socerers Companion: A Guide to the Magical World of Harry Potter by Allan Zola Kronzek
Everything you ever wanted to know about the magic and mythology of Harry Potter all in one book!  It has awesome facts like where wands originated from, who wore the first invisibilty cloak, and what a grindylow really is.  You can look up just about anything from all 7 Harry Potter books, and learn where all these myths and folklores came from!

So, all you have to do is leave a comment with your favorite scenes from any of the Harry Potter books or movies!  And here's the cool thing- more comments equal more entries into the contest!  So leave as many as you want with all your favorite tidbits and adventures from Harry Potter!  This contest will end December 10, so get those entries in!

**If you didn't like Harry Potter- you can still enter!  Just tell me your favorite book, and if you win, I'll send you a gift card to Barnes and Noble or Amazon!

AND there are a couple of my favorite people doing contests right now too:
Colene over at The Journey- bad one liners, make 'em stink people!  That's all you gotta do for a super gift card!
Donea Lee over at Queen of Procrastination- all about the blogging and commenting for entries for gift cards and ornaments!
Fantasy and Sci Fi Lovin News - pick a book you would like to win out of this awesome list of books!
Kiersten White is giving away a copy of a signed ARC of Supernaturally to one lucky winner- all you have to do is donate to a good cause!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American buds out there!  And if you aren't from the 'ol US, go ahead, eat a turkey...because you love me :)

And tell me how you are doing with NaNo! The end is near, are you going to win?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Crit Partner Meet-Up!

What a great weekend guys!  The weather was beautiful (well, at least in my neck of the woods), I got to write at my Secret Writing Place with no distractions, and I met one of my Crit Partners for the first time!

Colene and I became crit partners several months ago and sent each other our manuscripts.  We found out we live somewhat close to each other and decided to meet this weekend and trade what we had done!

It was so much fun, and time went by way too fast!  Before we knew it, we had been chatting for at least 2 hours.  Not exactly sure how long, because one of us was late due to getting lost (not naming any names, cause you know, she'd be totally embarrassed).  And then we left and realized we hadn't taken any pictures!  So we turned around and went back to take some pics.  I always do that- in fact, in the beginning I told her that I always bring my camera but then forget to take pictures.  And then you know what happened?  I forgot to take pictures.

So here we are, yucking it up at the local Ruby Tuesdays:

Oh look, there's a baby growing out of my shoulder

Then we decided to try to take one ourselves, cause you know- we drove all that way back so we had to do something different:

Colene's got "cocktails" framing her face, hm, what does that mean?
 Anyway, so it was a blast and I'm so glad we got to meet.  She's super cool so go check out her blog if you haven't already. 

Come back on Wednesday for Word Count Wednesday and some happy news!

Friday, November 19, 2010



Dude, you guys.  This is it.  The beginning of the end. 

Emma Watson was NINE YEARS OLD when it all started....she is now 20.  Crazy, isn't it? 

Rupert Grint rapped in his audition tape about how he wanted a part in the series he loved so much

And Daniel Radcliffe had only just made his acting debut 2 years before Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone was released, and was also approved by J.K. Rowling herself for the part of Harry

When the first movie was released in November 2001, I was 20 and in my second year of college.  Hubsies and I had been dating for a year and a half by now.  I am pretty sure I had read at least the first book, if not more (my mom gave me the first one to read and said, you HAVE to read this....being that I love anything YA fantasy, I said sure!), but he hadn't read any of them.  We saw the movie and he was blown away.  We went on vacation with my family to the beach the next summer and he (and I) mowed through all the books that were out by then.  Up through Goblet of Fire I believe.  We read them all in a week.  We were hooked and every book after, we have gone at midnight of it's release date to get it. 

I remember one year, (2003) the local Barnes and Noble was SO crowded (I think it was for Order of the Phoenix) we went to walmart where we found a HUGE stand with a million Phoenix books on it and no one around.  Except a girl in a wedding dress and a guy in a tux.  Yep, midnight on their wedding night: superfans. 

Little Monster was born on July 12 2005.  And guess who went at midnight on July 16th to get me Half Blood Prince?  Yep, Hubsies (we were up anyway with a hungry/screaming/pooping baby).  I'm pretty sure we read it during 2am feedings, and afternoon naptimes. 

Deathly Hallows came out in 2007, and I'm pretty sure Hubsies went to get this one at midnight for us too (I wanted to leave the 2 year old in bed and go too, but I guess that's frowned upon).  Pretty sure we devoured it in just a couple days.

Anyway, during our college years we went to every midnight showing.  Once Little Monster came around, it got a little harder.  But we always went within the first few days. 

I just can't believe how much time has gone by, and how much our lives have changed during this roller coaster of someone's imagination.  I went to college, dated my husband, graduated college, married my husband, got a job, moved 10 million times in the same city (renting..ugh), had a baby, bought our first house, and now just recently celebrated that baby's 5 year birthday.  Just crazy. 

And now we're going this morning after we drop Little Monster off at school!

So where were you during all this?  What can you remember from the past 12 years since the books were published and the movies came out?  What changed in your life?

**Stay tuned on Monday for the recap of meeting one of my crit partners for the first time, Colene Murphy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Word Count Wednesday And Some Heart-Breaking News

Hola, Peeps.  Welp, it's Word Count Wednesday again!  My word count as of today is 10,462...wah wah wah...I've had a few distractions this past week including but not limited to: Little Monster's new habit of reading (geesh, kids these days...), migraines, work, blogs and naps.

Thats okay, cause we're half way through NaNo, and I am almost done with my book.  I'm at, as they say, the "last battle"...or something.  Anyway, this coming weekend I'm so excited because I get to go to my Secret Writing Place.  I get to write ALL.DAY.LONG.  Without any distractions.  Little Monster is going to my sister-in-law's, Hubsies is working, and I'll be all by my bitty lonesome!

But GUESS WHAT?  I also get to meet my Crit Partner, Colene Murphy from The Journey!  How AWESOME is that??  I'm so excited.  Also nervous- all we've ever done is email back and forth.  I think it might be better for us to sit on opposite sides of the restaurant and just email back and forth for a half an hour- you know, to break the ice.

Okay guys, now for the heart-breaking news.

Wills is engaged.  Le sigh.  I've lost my chance at the crown. 

Oh well, his family is a bit stuffy anyway.  Not really my type with the whole Polo and big ears thing.  It just wouldn't work sorry, Wills.  I've decided to go ahead and just stay in the states and live my humble life as a mother, wife and writer.  I know its hard...but you'll get over it... eventually.

Anywho, what's your word count?  How's NaNo going for y'all? 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Interview with Aspiring Author Jennie Bailey

Hello friends!  It is my great pleasure to bring today's Aspiring Author Interview with Jennie Bailey over at Garden Full of Lily.  She is an animal lover who is allergic to pets but still has a ton of them!  Now that is love and dedication!  Plus she has her own non-profit called the Paws and Learn Humane Education Center. 

Hop on over to her blog, and today she's doing an interview of ME, too! (totally didn't plan it like that- I mentioned to her I was putting this up today, and she was like, OMG- I'm putting yours up too!)  So that worked out perfectly!  Thanks so much for doing the interview Jennie!

1. When did you realize you wanted to be an author?

       I've wanted to be an author as long as I can remember.  I started writing small books when I was in the fourth grade - Ghost Carnival, Indian Princess, The Elephant and the Moon.  In high school, I poured all my teen angst into poetry.  My mom kept everything.  Everything.  I read some of the poems now and I cringe.  Others make me laugh.  In college, I wrote screenplays and television scripts.  My entire life, I've been a writer in some capacity.  I returned to wanting to be an author in 2000.  I was over 300 pages into a fantasy novel (adult) when my computer crashed and I lost everything.  I walked away for a few years because I was so heartbroken.  I still haven't returned to that particular story.

2.      What genre do you like to write?

      Young Adult Fantasy.  But my NaNo idea is dystopian.  We'll see how that goes!

3.      What authors inspire you?

      Laini Taylor.  Patrick Rothfuss.  J.K. Rowling.  Tolkien. 

4.      How often do you write?

     I try to write daily.  If I have a few days where I don't have the time, I start getting antsy.  It feels like I woke up with no coffee in the house, every store and coffee shop are closed and I'm three hours out of bed with NO caffeine.  I can rip heads off verbally.  I need to create!

5.      Are you a plotter or a pantser?

     Plotter.  But for NaNo, I'm pantsing.  I'm stepping outside of my comfort zone.  We'll see how that works!

6.      Where do you write best, and do you listen to music while you write?

      It depends - I've written some great scenes in a crowded teacher's lounge on a break with no music.  I prefer to write on the couch in the living room with music on, balsam fir scented candle burning and the windows open.  Our house is tucked back in on a property behind a front house.  It's like a little hideaway.  You can see the hills from our window and we have a great big Jacaranda tree in our yard.  I love writing with the view from the couch.  I can also do some great writing in the Den with no view and just a soundtrack on the computer.  I love to have music on when I write.  I'm very visual and music drives that.

7.      What is on your TBR pile?

      CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh.
The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan (Book Twelve in Wheel of Time Series)
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant
and I need to finish On Writing by Stephen King

8.      If Stephanie Meyer and JK Rowling got in a cat fight, who would win?

      My money is on Rowling.  It wouldn't even be close.

9.      What is your “day” job?

      I have a non-profit.  We go into the schools and teach Humane Education.  I'm in the schools at least three days a week teaching a variety of topics from Safety Around Dogs, City Wildlife, Kindness to Animals, Pet Needs, Pet Overpopulation, The Truth About Pit Bulls...We also do adult education so on the weekends, I'm frequently at community fairs or adoption events.  Our website is also a very comprehensive resource so I'm constantly updating it, writing articles for it, etc. so that I can refer people to it when I'm out and about.  I'm big on educating.  I love it!

10.  What can you not leave home without? (cell phones are off limits- NO ONE can leave home without one of those)

      My purse.  Or is that cheating?  You should see how much I have crammed into it - obviously, the essentials.  Also, healthy snacks, favorite pens (for when inspiration strikes!), a notepad, sugar free cough drops (an addiction), lip gloss, money for a Venti Shaken Iced Green with two Splenda, San Diego Chargers 2010 schedule, my inhaler, my epipen. 

11.  Mac or PC?

     PC but not by choice.  The Hubster is too cheap to fork over for a Mac.  So we replace our PCs every two years when they crash.  (Insert eye roll at hubby here)

12.  Favorite dessert?

     Weight Watchers Chocolate Cookies and Cream Ice Cream Bars.  YUM!

13.  Favorite desert?

     None.  I'm not a fan of hot and sandy.  When you throw in rattlesnakes, a poisonous lizard and the fact that you can dehydrate and die in short matter of time, I'm totally out!

14.  Where is your dream vacation?

     New Zealand.  We're going for our five year anniversary.  I can hardly wait!

15.  Finally, link us to your website, blog, fb, twitter and anything else you might like to shamelessly plug for yourself  (I'll shamelessly plug the non-profit as well because I'm just as proud of that!)

Thanks so much Abby!  That was fun!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Books to Movies: Love Em? Hate Em?

So, I'm sitting here watching The Golden Compass on tv, and I started thinking about why some books that are made into movies succeed, and others tank.

Movies like The Golden Compass, Eragon, and Percy Jackson didn't get very good reviews. Others, like Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and The Princess Bride are just spectacular*.

I was SO excited when they announced the making of The Golden Compass, and when it fell flat I was disappointed.  But I couldn't quite put my finger on why it (and others) have fallen flat.  I think when it comes down to it, it's the ability of the director and screenwriters to translate the book into a movie.  Honestly, the acting in The Golden Compass was pretty good (plus there were lots of big actors in it), and the same can be said for Harry Potter.  Seriously, Daniel Radcliff's performance in the first Harry Potter was far from oscar-worthy (luckily his acting improved a million times with each film). 

So I think the key lies in whether the director knows how to translate the book into a movie.  He/she has to know what to put in and what to leave out.  They have to know what can be changed without angering the audience too much, and how to flesh the dialogue out and adapt it for the screen. 

I absolutely fell in love with Lyra and Pan, Lee and Iorek, and the relationship of Lyra and Will in subsequent books in Phillip Pullman's series.  The book itself is so complex and riddled with political commentary, but at the same time weaving a beautiful world of fantasy and souls that live outside the body.  I wonder if it was just too much to put in a PG film.  (Okay, and honestly, as I'm watching it- it's not too bad.  But maybe because I read the book- it's bringing back all those emotional feelings I felt while I read it.)

I always said the problem with Eragon, was it was just a "skeleton" of the book.  There was no flesh, none of the rich history to it


Percy just changed a whole lot of things, even though the kid that played him was wonderful in my opinion. 

So now I'm a little worried about The Hunger Games movie- what will happen with it? Will it go the Harry Potter route, or the Eragon route?  I've also heard rumors about a Sabriel movie which worries me even more- what if it's awful?  What if Garth Nix waited all this time (like Phillip Pullman) only to have a not-so-good movie?  I just hate that it might not do the book justice, and it will turn people off from reading it. 

It also seems like nowadays people are jumping to make all these YA books into movies.  They should let them simmer a little...get people excited about the book, let it become a classic, and then they can choose who they want to make the movie.  I think part of the problem is many authors have almost no say in how the movie is done.  Meg Cabot had pretty much nothing to do with Princess Diaries and Avalon High (which premiered on the Disney Channel the other night) and they were drastically changed with not-so-good reviews.

So what do you think?  What books-to-movies did you like or not like?  Is there a certain formula they have to follow, or is it just luck/bad luck on how well they do?

*Um, yeah, so I didn't mention Twilight for a reason- so many people loved the movie, but c'mon glittery vampires with make-up lines on their necks, looooong teenage angsty pauses, and dude...where the heck did Carlyle get that accent?  So, Twilight's kinda in a league of it's own.