Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Word Count Wednesday

Well, today is the last day of November and the last day of JuCanWriMo. As you may recall, my goal was to write 18,000 words this month.

As I added up my totals this morning and added on what I got this week, (which was 4004 words) I am so excited to tell you that---

*drum roll*

my final word count in JuCanWriMo was 18,890 words!!

Woohoo! I made my goal. Just barely, but I still made it. It was probably one of the most productive Novembers I've ever had and I'm so glad you were a part of that for me. Thank you so much for all your encouragement.

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Review: Marian's Christmas Wish

This is one Christmas story you should definitely pick up. Carla Kelly brings to life a story of love and family and Christmas in a regency romance and then mixes it with intrigue and diplomacy and attempted murder that made this a book I could not put down.

We are introduced to Marian Wynswich, the girl who is trying to hold her family together after the untimely death of their father. He has left them with lots of debts and when big brother Percy comes home for the holidays, he brings with him the foul Sir William Clinghorn, who is to marry Marian’s older sister and save the family estate. This becomes more horrific to say the least, as we get to know Sir William, but also leads to some laugh out loud moments. The other guest Percy has brought is a diplomat, the Earl of Ingraham, a man with a scarred face and a mysterious air. Marian finds a friend in him as they find they have more in common than they thought.

Things take a turn and through extraordinary circumstances that made me laugh, Lord Ingraham finds himself on his way home to Bath, with Marian and her younger brother Alistair to accompany him. The plot really thickens as the mystery surrounding Lord Ingraham is slowly unraveled, and the intrigue is drawn out so much that I was turning pages into the wee hours of the morning when I should have been sleeping, just so I could see how it all ended. My only complaint was that the heroine was so young in contrast with the hero, (she’s sixteen, he’s twenty-eight) (and he called her ‘brat’ as an endearment) and I would have wished her to be even a year or two older. Other than that small issue, I really enjoyed this book.

It’s a beautiful Christmas story full of fun, with a dose of true love, and the spirit of giving. I am hoping Carla has written more stories about this family because they are delightful.

Here is the back copy:

Miss Marian Wynswich is a rather unconventional young lady. She plays chess, reads Greek, and is as educated as any young man. And she s certain falling in love is a ridiculous endeavor and vows never to do such a thing. But everything changes when she receives a Christmas visit from someone unexpected--- a young and handsome English lord

Click here to find it on Amazon (The Kindle version is currently $2.99)

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Small Black Friday Rant

Last Friday, I ventured out later in the afternoon with my son and daughter because we’ve been looking for a coat for my daughter for some time and thought we’d see what was on sale. That was a big mistake.

I pulled into the parking lot of the store we were going into, and spied a car just pulling out of a parking space near the doors. I hurried over and just as I was about to pull into the parking space the truck just down the row laid on its horn and the driver began gesturing and yelling through the windshield. It was obvious he was angry because he wanted that parking spot.

As he continued to make gestures and scream at me and honk his horn, I put up my hands, backed away and found another parking spot. FOUR SPACES DOWN.

Yep, he was putting on a big display of anger over a parking spot that was four spaces closer to the door. I think the saddest thing, though, was that he did all of that in front of children, not only mine, but his own and all the families in the parking lot.

I know this is going to sound kind of rant-y, but how ridiculous is it that we “kick off” the Christmas season by Black Friday events that are starting earlier and earlier, encroaching on the family time of Thanksgiving, and now include anger, pushing, shoving, people being Mace’d, trampled, and in general just treated badly all around the country. All for some “great deals.” (And I feel the most sorry for the people who have to work these sales and deal with these sorts of customers.)

It stuns me that people forget basic civility over “getting a deal.” The Christmas season isn’t supposed to be about getting stuff. It seems that some have lost the vision of what love and giving truly is all about.

I’m going to step off my soapbox today, and enjoy the Christmas decorations that are now up in my home and maybe sip a cup of hot chocolate and remember the good things in my life. And resolve right now to never go shopping on Black Friday again and to truly try to meet anger with kindness. Maybe I’ll make that my Christmas resolution.

Are any of you Black Friday shoppers?

Friday, November 25, 2011

First Page Friday

I am always so grateful to those who have submitted to First Page Friday to have their work critiqued by professional editors. Angela and Ms. Shreditor are some of the best editors I’ve come across and I’m so happy they offer their services to us on this blog so we can all learn from them.

If you are interested in submitted your first page, we are now taking submissions that will be critiqued in January. (We caught up and we’re so happy!) So polish up your stellar first page and see what a national editor has to say about it.

(I did want to mention that I walk a fine line with my blog because I don’t want to have it flagged as inappropriate by the internet filter on my computer, so I think it's best that I don't post swearing on First Page Friday submissions. Thank you so much for understanding.)

Today's submission has some language, but in order to access my page and because my no swearing policy wasn't clear, (and I didn't hear back from the author before today to discuss it further), out of respect for her, I just blanked them out. I hope the author will understand that I wasn't trying to change her intent in any way.

Today's critique is so useful for all of us, I really appreciate the submission!

The Entry
Bad Habit

by Crystal Cheverie

“Wake up.” Nothing.
D--n, she hated this part. Marie nudged – Wayne? Wade? Will? – in the side with her foot. There was a groan, but Marie’s hopes were soon dashed as Walter, Warner, whoever the h--l he was simply turned over under the white cotton sheets and resumed snoring. Clearly this called for extreme measures.
Marie stalked into the washroom, yanked her red washcloth off the rack and pulled the sleeves of her father’s old plaid shirt up to her knobby elbows. She wet the cloth under a stream of cold water and wrung it out just a little to avoid drips. Marie walked back over to the bed, standing over Winston, Wally, oh, f-- it, him, and made one last attempt to be civil.
“Hey. Wakey-wakey there, boy-o.” Still nothing. With a sigh, Marie held the cloth just above his head, and gave a twist.
“Argh! What the hell?” He sprang up, wiping at the water now dripping down his face. Marie backed up, ready to call her big German shepherd-husky mix Bruno if necessary. With a final face scrub, he crossed his thick, sunburned arms across his chest and fixed her with a baleful stare. “Was that really necessary?”

Angela's Review:

Strong points:

So there are a couple things agents/publishers are looking for when they decide to read a few pages of a manuscript. They might ask two questions of the sample: 1) am I hooked/intrigued by the beginning so that I want to keep reading, 2) am I passionate about the character/story as I read further? So my review is going to mostly focus on things to consider for the 2nd point, as I think you have achieved something that fulfills the first requirement—generally. I have a few comments below on how you could up the interest factor even more on the first page, but you have gotten my attention and I would read more just to answer a few questions for myself.

Interesting characterization would keep me reading. The questions to which I want to discover the answers, and which would motivate me to read on, are as follows:

“She hated this part”: Which part, exactly? Waking up after a one-night-stand and realizing someone you don’t know is in your bed and you’re going to have to ask them to leave so you can pull yourself together? Or having to wake up someone whose name you can’t remember, which makes you feel embarrassed and maybe secretly ashamed of yourself? (Both imply that she engages in one-night-stands frequently, so I wonder what her issues and needs are as a character; and the 2nd implies that she’s particularly callous/distant from people and that she uses men for impulse-need fulfillment rather than seeking relationships. This does make her an admittedly interesting character, as stereotypically women are the ones seeking commitment and men fulfill the one-night-stand-who-can’t-remember-your-name role. (In addition, if she thinks she might need to call her dog to protect her, there’s the possible implication that she REALLY doesn’t know this guy at all, which makes us wonder if she was drunk or something when she brought him home; so then we wonder what motivated such a drinking binge).

What is the huge rush anyway? Why does his not waking up call for drastic measures? Does she want to get the virtual stranger out of her house immediately because she’s pretty sure she doesn’t want to actually develop a relationship? Or is there some other reason? And why the super uncivil approach—seems extreme. Again, it would support the idea that she’s afraid to let him hang around too long, or afraid to let him see a softer side, or doesn’t like something about him and so definitely doesn’t want him to get ideas about her? Or is she just mean for no reason related fears and insecurities? Her behavior reads as really angry or annoyed. So is it at him or herself?

Your nice use of description and general word economy paints a very intriguing psychological picture of Marie that makes us curious; is she a tomboy, given her dad’s shirt and the big, masculine dog? She doesn’t have to be, but the description made me curious—gave me a glimpse of her that I wanted to see more of so I could put the clues together. (The only line that raised a red flag with word economy was the line about the dog.)

Passing the 2nd test—establishing reader passion for Marie and her story:

Here are the elements of your story that might require attention; you may have already nailed these after the first page, but if not, consider:

1)The story is supposed to be romantic comedy. Right now the opening scene isn’t giving me a clear feeling of comedy. It is slightly comedic in a slapstick/cliché sort of way. I don’t think the opening is cliché, mind you, as the character is interesting, but the setup is cliché. Even though you’ve turned things on their head in terms of the usual jerky-male stereotype, the humor in the scene feels minimal.

2) I think part of that is due to the problem of not having much of Marie’s motivations. Your strengths in terms of creating a character we have questions about is a double-edged sword in this case—we may have too many questions. Not giving us any clear hints at her motives makes her a little bit unempathetic as we leave the first page of the story. The reader is asking, right along with the male victim, “Was that really necessary?” If you can imbue this scene with a little more humor—particularly humor coming from Marie’s point of view, so we have a sense of who she is or what she’s thinking—then I think the reader is more apt to like Marie despite her rather uncivil behavior.

She’s currently lacking in qualities that would make her really empathetic (swearing and rude behavior isn’t usually endearing), which is important, especially for a romantic comedy’s lead. Chic lit gave us a harder, more whiny female lead, but there was that soft underbelly exposed through the self-deprecating humor, so one could connect to such a character. A similar tactic, but in your own style and avoiding the whininess of the now-gone chic lit genre, would really make your opening even more engaging—enjoyable to read as well as simply interesting.

I assume you’ll expand on the character’s more likable side and the humor within a couple pages—especially since that’s all the time an agent will give a new book. But if not, and you are going to take a while to show us her vulnerabilities, you may want to provide some motivation and some stronger, more original humor here so that we empathize more with her predicament. Marie reminds me slightly of someone like Stephanie Plum from the Janet Evanovich series (that sort of tougher city girl that grew up with brothers or something), but the quirky humor in the Evanovich series attacks you as soon as you open the book. Which is an extra draw for the agent or editor looking for a new voice.

Conclusion: All in all, your style is clean, crisp, and strong, and your central character gets my interest right out of the gate, but based on the current level of competition out there today, I think you could add just a tad more humor and eccentricity to the opening to make it really stand out. You want a character that we instantly care about, as well as find interesting, because when we care, and we see what’s at stake for her (hopefully within a couple pages), we’re biting our nails as she faces those stakes. I think you’re almost there. Best of luck!

Thank you again to Angela and Crystal. Lots to think about! See you next week.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Book Reviews--Cold River & Not What She Seems

My turkey is roasting in the oven as I write this and my children are all safe at home and waiting for me so we can start our board game marathon. I am grateful for so many things this year. I would list them for you, but you would probably be bored.

One of the things I am grateful for, though, is books. I am grateful for authors who have amazing stories to share and go through all the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to get those stories into my hands so I can enjoy and experience them.

Two books I’ve finished recently are Cold River by Liz Adair and Not What She Seems by Victorine Lieske. They are both romantic suspense and both edge of your seat books.

Cold River introduces us to Dr. Megan Steenburg who has taken a job in a small town with a few secrets. She tries to fit in and do her job, but harmless pranks against her soon turn deadly and Megan can’t figure out who is trying to kill her. I couldn’t either and was very surprised when the villain was revealed.

The thing I liked best about this story is that is was such a slow burn with the mystery and the romance. It all starts out so innocently, but the warmer we get to figuring things out, the hotter the plot seems to burn. It wraps you up like the water surrounding a frog in a pot, turning up the heat until you hadn’t even realized it’s all about to boil over. Very well done.

Probably the next best thing is that we are given an in-depth Northwestern setting with quirky characters in a charming town. I don’t know that I’ll ever hear someone say herbs again and not think of Mrs. Berman. The setting was just so well done and I could easily imagine the cabins, Qwik E Mart, and school district offices. It was obvious that the author loves this part of the world because it was so evident in the beautiful and lyrical descriptions.

I also liked how Megan was portrayed and we got to know her so well. She was so layered and easy to like. I really felt her emotions as she tried to sort out the events surrounding her. There was also such a good romantic triangle in the book, I was a teensy bit disappointed that it was all wrapped up so quickly because I felt rushed and I wanted to really see her choice reflected in her actions, but overall, this was a book that I would definitely read again on a rainy day. Another plus is the intensely creepy cover. I loved it!

Here’s the back copy for it:

Mandy Steenburg thinks her doctorate in education has prepared her to run any school district—until she tangles with the moonshine-making, coon-dog-owning denizens of a tiny district in Pacific Northwest timber country.

She's determined to make a difference, but the local populace still looks to the former superintendent for leadership. When Mandy lands in the middle of an old feud and someone keeps trying to kill her, instinct tells her to run. And though she has to literally swim through perilous waters, she finds a reason to stay and chance the odds.

Click here for the Amazon link for Cold River.

(For some reason I can't make the cover bigger. Sorry about that!)

Not What She Seems starts out with billionaire Steven Ashton trying to get away from the stresses of his life and business for a while, and finding some peace in a small town in Nebraska. He meets a young woman and her four year old son, and soon gets wrapped up in their life and trying to help them. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know that she is wanted for questioning in a murder and is thought to be a con woman. Events spiral out of control and Steven is torn between trying to help her and not knowing if he can really trust her.

Ms. Lieske writes a compelling mystery with a surprising twist at the end, and while the writing was choppy in a few places, I was on the edge of my seat and read this book in one sitting because I HAD to know who the villain was and it was driving me crazy that the one I thought was it really wasn’t. This is my first time reading this author and I will definitely pick up something from her again.

Here’s the Amazon description for it and it’s currently on Kindle for 0.99 cents:

Steven Ashton, a billionaire from New York, and Emily Grant, on the run from the law...and when they meet he can’t help falling for her. What he doesn’t know is that interfering in her life will put his own life in danger.

When billionaire Steven Ashton couldn’t stand his high society social life anymore, he left the stress of New York on a vacation for his soul. The need to meet real down to earth people led him to a small Nebraska town. He didn’t want to lie about who he was, but he couldn’t exactly tell them the truth.

Emily could have easily fallen in love with Steven, under different circumstances, but her past was catching up with her and she needed a new life. If the authorities found out about her, she could lose the one thing that meant everything, her four year old son.

Click here for the Amazon link.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and I hope you get to relax with your family and loved ones and maybe squeeze in reading a good book sometime this holiday weekend!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Word Count Wednesday

Well, I had the wind taken out of my sails a bit this week. My muse left and every word I wrote was pulled out of me like the pulling of a tooth with very long roots and it wasn't very fun. Like doing dentistry with no anesthesia type of not fun.

It also wasn't very productive. I only got 2280 words this week.

Since it's a holiday weekend I might get a bit more time to write so I'm hoping to maybe triple that for next week and really finish up JuCanWriMo with a bang. Wish me luck!

How did you do in your word count this week?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What Last Night's Eps of Castle and Hawaii Five-0 Taught Me

I have realized something about my two favorite shows and probably me in general. I think I love action driven stories more than relationship driven stories. I mean, when you look at things, there are a lot of similarities between Castle and Hawaii Five-O.

Both Hawaii Five-O and Castle have a lead who has had a parent murdered and there is an over-arching mystery surrounding it.

Both of them have leads with witty dialogue between them.

Both of them have a core team of four.

Both of them are trying to add new characters this season that audiences aren’t warming up to.

Both of the leads had bosses who were corrupt and killed off last season.

Both of them have co-workers who are getting married.

Both of them have partners who are dealing with being single fathers.

Both of them are set in recognizable locations.

However, as last night showed, they are also very different. Both eps were promo’d to be intense edge of your seat stuff, which I love. I waffled between which show to watch first and I was so excited.

I ended up watching Castle first and I have to say I was disappointed. For a relationship driven show, they sure didn’t show much relationship. The sniper story was very much in the background of Beckett’s PTSD, which was fine, except that I had seen the previews of Beckett losing it and I really thought that we would be able to see Castle at least giving her a hug in that hallway, or touchage of some sort. But all we got was Castle running to Esposito every five minutes to ask how to deal with a snapping Beckett.

There was hardly any interaction between the two main characters, and I’m getting weary of Beckett treating Castle badly and never apologizing really, just thanking him at the end and expecting him to come back for more the next day. It just seems like they’ve done the “always” thing and it’s losing its shine for me. *sigh*

I’m sorry. I still love the show, but I feel like it’s a relationship driven show that is now being drawn out in unnatural ways. Yeah, yeah, she has to solve her mother’s murder first, she has to see her shrink, she has a million reasons why she can’t move forward with Castle, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem like she has any feelings for Castle at all, she doesn’t let him in on anything she feels, and it’s all very one-sided so it bugs me.

Then I turned to Hawaii Five-O. Holy. Cow. From the very start we have the adrenaline going. Murder, mayhem, witty banter between the leads, secret mission to North Korea, shades of 24 running through my head with the torture scenes and knee pins being dug out of dead bodies, yet not over the top (no one could match Jack Bauer), rocket launchers blowing up bridges, and then the emotions of the rescue, the team pulling together in the face of betrayal and possible loss of their team leader. It was awesome from the get-go. And I know some were bugged by Lori hugging Steve at the end, but I don’t mind because I like the potential love-interest story.

Anyway, this is what I’ve learned from last night. I think I love action driven stuff better than relationship driven stuff. Both shows are great and I still love them both. But for now, Hawaii Five-O is really shining with the action and a side of potential romance. Castle is still there, but seems stalled with Beckett working on her issues and Castle waiting around. Hopefully something moves forward soon.

Have you ever thought that your TV choices reflected what kind of stories/books you like?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Do You Have Time To Read?

Generally when people find out I’m an author, they like to talk about books. Inevitably I will ask them who their favorite authors are and lately, the response seems to be, “Oh, I don’t have time to read.”

It always surprises me a little when people say this. Maybe it’s because reading is such a needed part of my life. For me, with eight children, teaching, writing, blogging, my service commitments in my church, and everything else that comes with being me, I really have to take those fifteen minutes each night to just lose myself in a book. It rejuvenates and refreshes me in a way I can’t really describe. Reading is my time.

I also like that most of my children like to read. I love reading stories to them and making up stories for them. Some of our greatest memories have been when we’re all lying in the dark and I’m making up stories of princesses with magical powers and eagles that can take human forms to fight the dragons. And oddly, all these brave eagles and princesses have my children’s names.

I’ve even learned a lot just from reading. The books I read are often set in foreign countries or historical settings and I know I’ve picked up a lot more than I realize.

With all of that said, I know it’s hard to find the time to squeeze reading in when you are a busy person. In my home growing up, there were always books in the bathroom. I thought that was the grossest thing ever, until I became a mom myself and realized that sometimes, being in the bathroom is the only alone time you get! (And sometimes not even then!) But I do carry my Kindle in the car with me while waiting for carpools and appointments, so I can usually get in at least a bit of reading time each day. Mostly, though, the best time for me is right before bed, when the house is quiet and everyone is asleep.

Yet, even with my head knowing that it’s good to read to set examples for children and to learn new things so I should make time for it, my primary motivation is always my heart. I love reading and as a busy mom I love being able to have that small amount of time that is all mine, that transports me and rejuvenates me and gives me a little reassurance that it’s okay for me to take a small stop on my journey to smell the flowers and do something for myself.

How do you find time to read? And is reading important in your life?

Friday, November 18, 2011

First Page Friday

For some reason I have hiccups today and it makes it weird to type and hiccup. Anyway, let's get right to Ms. Shreditor's critique today. This is a good one!

The Entry

by Mario Almonte

Severe winter storm warnings closed businesses early in Manhattan and left the city to the occasional, lost traveler. An ambulance navigated the empty streets, and inside that ambulance I sat and watched Theresa. She rested on a stretcher and I held her hand, but I do not believe she knew that I was there. She was adrift in her private world of pain, confused and startled by the shadows that floated above her.

Theresa shuddered, and while a paramedic pushed a needle through her bruised flesh, a second one felt her bloated stomach and remarked that the baby’s heartbeat still sounded strong and steady deep inside. Theresa didn’t hear that. She was gritting her teeth and fighting the pain inside her.

I tried to hold her attention, hoping that my moral support could ease her suffering. Yet, I was wondering how much my presence really meant to her – until tonight, I had not seen her in more than half a year. I was wondering whether she had called me, as she crawled in agony on the floor of her apartment, her clothes steeped in blood where a metal rod had whipped across her stomach repeatedly – whether she had called me because she remembered me as the only true friend she had ever known in life, or because she knew it would obligate me to care for her and her unborn child. She knew I would do everything and go through every possible inconvenience to save them.

The rhythmic throbbing of police lights bathed the faces of the paramedics. It reminded me that we were being followed to the hospital; that other people also had questions about Theresa, and soon they too would demand their own answers.

Ms. Shreditor’s Comments

This is an intriguing first page for me because it hits close to home—literally close to home. I live quite close to Manhattan, and one of my best friends currently lives on the Upper East Side. The first two sentences offer up a fairly realistic depiction of the city during a blizzard, but I would think that the snowstorm would have to be already in full swing (i.e., with significant accumulation on the ground) for the streets of Manhattan to be empty. Moreover, if businesses had just closed early because of storm warnings, wouldn’t there be a flood of foot traffic to the subways and train stations, not to mention a steady flow of cabs? It would also take a pretty monumental snow accumulation forecast (like the freak October snowstorm that recently pummeled the northeast) to close Manhattan businesses before the white stuff actually started to accumulate. Lastly, I would imagine that plows would be out in full force if the snow had already started.

While we’re pondering the depiction of Manhattan here, let’s consider the opening lines. They’re descriptive, but I don’t think they pack quite the punch that an opening sentence should. Perhaps reorganize the paragraph to make a stronger first impression, because there is plenty of material in this sample that could make for a compelling hook.

There is something lyrical about certain turns of phrase in this piece. Take, for instance, the second sentence: “An ambulance navigated the empty streets, and inside that ambulance I sat and watched Theresa.” It's haunting. It manages to be poignant with very sparse language, and this should serve as a reminder to writers everywhere that you don’t have to manipulate the reader by piling on adjectives and flowery turns of phrase to pack a punch.

What I found particularly striking about this excerpt was the absence of sound imagery. This, paired with the emptiness of the city streets, lends a certain somberness to the introductory paragraphs. Strangely, I assumed that this took place at night (perhaps because this first page paints such a dark scene); then, of course, I realized that if businesses had just closed early for the day, it must still be daytime.

The story establishes some potentially meaty back-story between the narrator and Theresa. They’ve been estranged for six months, but the unnamed narrator is still willing to rush to her aid—and not without a certain amount of resentment, as suggested by his/her use of the word “obligation.” This brings up another point: I have no idea whether the narrator is male or female. Some kind of cue to the reader would help establish a character who is, at the moment, a blank slate. Why does this story unfold from his/her point of view and not Theresa’s? Remember that perspective is important, and consider whether or not the right character is telling this story.

So there are some perspective questions that you’ll want to consider. The narrator’s role must be defined early on. There must be something monumental at stake for him/her to justify making Theresa secondary during her moment of crisis. But the writing is good. Really good. It’s dark, haunting, and at times chilling. There are some minor syntax issues (e.g., the semicolon in the last sentence that splits an independent and dependent clause), but nothing egregious. It's off to a great start.

Thanks so much to Mario and Ms. Shreditor. I really enjoyed this one! See you next week!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Looking Outside the Box And a Book Review: Hope's Journey

As a writer, I’ve been asked to do some pretty great things like be a beta reader, edit something awesome, teach a class on writing, make up kids’ stories, that sort of thing. But I have to say one of the most awesome things I’ve been asked to do recently has been writing songs for a road show. It isn’t something you would necessarily think a writer would be asked to do, but I’m having so much fun doing it. It’s definitely out of the box for me. So, today, instead of giving you a writing tip for Writing Tip Thursday, I’m going to tell you two things.

1. Step out of the box and do something weird sometimes. It will make great material for a book someday.

2. Read a book you might not normally read.

For my number two, I want to tell you about a book I’ve been reading called Hope’s Journey by Stephanie Worlton. This book explores the ins and outs of teenage pregnancy and how it affects the teenage couple involved.

We are introduced to Sydney Steele, a girl who has it all---tons of friends, good looks, and lots of scholarships to consider as soon as high school ends. Until the day she finds out she’s pregnant. Then everything changes.

Her boyfriend, Alex Hastings, is a tall handsome boy with just as much going for him. He’s planning to serve a mission for the LDS church, planning to go to college, and planning for a future. A future that changes with two lines on a pregnancy test.

I thought the author did a great job in describing the roller-coaster of emotions that follows an unplanned pregnancy announcement---both for the couple and for their families. I liked the back and forth between the two points of view and how different they each saw the same events. I also liked the visual of how many weeks Sydney was into her pregnancy and how it sort of corresponded with the changes she was experiencing in her life. It was a nice touch on the page.

However, the author talks many times about Sydney’s insecurities and hints at family problems and I wish that angle could have been explored more to explain why Syd felt and acted the way she did. I also liked how the friends were explored so carefully and that throughout the journey they seemed authentic and real. I would have wanted Sydney’s friends for any of my teens. (And without giving anything away, I don’t know if I would have chosen what Sydney did in the end “friends-wise” anyway.) And I would have liked a little more depth with Sydney’s brother about why he makes the decisions he does, but it’s really a small detail in the book.

If I’m going to be honest, I loved reading about Sydney’s journey a little more than Alex’s and I thought he got off a bit too easy in some instances when his behavior was over the top. I enjoyed the deep emotional scenes and think this author has an ability to really paint the scene for her readers. Because of this, I really wanted to see some of the important scenes in the journey told right when they happened, but unfortunately the author just told us about them later. With her talent, this was the reader’s loss for sure.

All it all, though, this was an emotional book that pulled me in and really made me think about what I would do if any of my teens found myself in this position.

Here is the back copy:

Sydney is a straight-A student heading to college on a scholarship, and Alex is a quiet jock preparing to serve an LDS mission. But their dreams are shattered on the eve of their high school graduation when they find out that Sydney is pregnant. Separated, they must both trust in God as they search for the worth they once found in each other.

And you can click here for the Amazon link

The author is also giving away a free copy of her book. So if you'd like to enter, here is the info on that:

Hope's Journey Giveaway:

As part of Hope's Journey's blog tour, we will be giving away an autographed copy of Hope's Journey to one lucky winner. To enter, simply visit the author’s blog ( and leave a comment on the BLOG TOUR page. Plus, for a few bonus entries, “like” Hope's Journey on Facebook or become a follower of Stephanie’s blog. It's that easy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Word Count Wednesday

I went to the theater last night with my son and saw the musical The Marvelous Wonderettes. Oh man, I haven't laughed that hard in forever. Such a fun show!

We got home late and I was tired but as I was getting ready for bed, the solution to the problem I'd been having with my plot hit me.

At 1 a.m.

When I was too tired to go downstairs and write it all down.

So that meant I had to think about it all night long so I wouldn't forget it (and yes, it does give me weird dreams when I do that.) (And before you say, well, you should have taken a pad of paper out of your nightstand and wrote some key phrases down, yeah, it was 1 a.m. and I was barely coherent, so I didn't. I thought I could just remember it.)

Well, I'm happy to tell you that I DID remember it this morning and I am frantically writing it all down (and trying to separate what was the inspiration and what was part of my freakish dreams.)

And I'm also happy to tell you I wrote 4120 words this week. Woohoo! JuCanWriMo is going very well for me overall.

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review: Bitter Blessings

Author Christine Mehring has created some solid YA characters who are going through some very difficult life changes in her debut novel Bitter Blessings.

We are introduced to Megan who is happily eating dinner with her family.

Then the phone rings and it’s bad news. Mom has been killed in a car accident.

Megan is very sad.

But it only gets worse from there. Her grandma tells her to get a better job to put food on the table and gets all grumpy and wrapped up in her own problems. Then her sister starts being all secretive and rebellious and that all makes Megan very mad.

So there she is, trying to pick up the pieces of her life when she finds out that everyone seems to be harboring some secrets from her--her family and her best friend--and she doesn't know what to do. Megan's life is complicated and lonely while she tries to figure out what to do. Poor Megan.

It was one of those reads where you want to keep turning pages to see how the main character would end up handling it all and if she would be okay in the end.

So there you have it. I thought Bitter Blessings was an emotionally gripping book. The author’s main character, Megan, stays true to character with the unique voice of a teenager who is facing some daunting challenges in her life and she’s just trying to muddle through as best she can. I loved her relationship with her best friend Adam, and I really liked how the author made Megan so three dimensional in her coping skills with everything that happens to her. The only thing I had difficulty with was the reason for her mother’s secret. It didn’t quite ring true to me at first, but the author did a great job in making the motivations more clear as the book went along. A very nice debut novel and I will definitely be looking for more from this author.

Here is the back copy:

Megan has the perfect life, but when her mother dies in an accident, everything spins out of control. With the rest of her family falling apart, Megan must confront her past to uncover the truths that will keep everyone together. Thought-provoking and heartfelt, this book shows that even in times of trial, you can often find blessings.

Click here for the Amazon purchase link

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's Almost My Birthday And I'm Getting Old

So it’s my birthday this week and I’ve been thinking about how wonderful this past year has been.

In the past year two amazing things happened.

1. I had a baby who is the happiest baby I’ve ever had. He just always has a smile on his face. He is such a joy and I’m so lucky to have him.

2. I put out a new novel. It was a labor of love on that one and I’m so glad it’s doing so well, even if it didn’t have a particularly smooth road to publication.

In the past year I’ve learned a few things, too.

1. I learned that all my precious 80s music is now on the oldies station. To tell you the truth, it was a shock when I turned to the oldies station and found a song I liked. Then they played another song I liked, then another, and then I knew I was in trouble. Oldies station, people. OLDIES!

2. I learned that I am totally going for comfort with my clothing these days, rather than looks. A woman came into the bookstore where I was signing books last Saturday and she was wearing pajama pants and some moccasin-looking slippers and I was jealous.

3. I learned that some of my best days are when I’m in a brain fog because I had to get up early with toddlers after a late night of staying up waiting for teenagers to come home from dates. Why are those my best days? Because then I don’t care if I am still in my pajamas and listening to the oldies station. I can just feel good about it!

So, on my birthday, I am going to be grateful to see another year, for my health, a great family, and the opportunities to do what I love to do. Pass me the fuzzy slippers, some Def Leppard tunes, and a computer screen with my work-in-progress on it and I’m a happy girl. Oh, and I won’t forget the chocolate. What birthday would be complete without that?

Friday, November 11, 2011

First Page Friday

My heart is a little tender today because it is Veteran’s Day (or Remembrance Day if you’re Canadian). My sons got up early to go and put flags in our neighborhood yards. It’s such a grand sight to drive down the street and see those flags waving from every yard, like small sentinels watching over all who pass.

There are so many things running through my mind--being grateful for sacrifice, remembering my own relatives who have served, and love for those left behind. This video seems to capture everything I'm feeling today, so if you have five minutes to watch it, I think it's worth your time. Click here

I did think about not posting First Page Friday today, because of the significance of the day, but I didn't want to disappoint anyone who has been waiting for their critique, so here it is. For all my new readers, First Page Friday is where a national editor critiques the first page of your work, to help you make it the very best it can be. Guidelines for submission are in the sidebar, and the entries are critiqued in the order in which they are received, so thank you for your patience!

The Entry
Blessed by Venus

by Mazna Mundir

It was a beautiful misty November morning. The sun was just coming up. It was the crack of dawn. The Los Angeles skyline was naturally glorious at this time. The environment was extremely beautiful as the dew drenched trees and flowers were smiling at a magnificent morning. The neighborhood of Eagle Rock was just stirring up from a good night’s sleep with the chirping of the birds. Well, not all of them. A young girl, about nineteen years of age, was walking alone up the street leading to St. Mary’s Tower.

She was a pretty, average built girl who had dark chestnut brown hair and hazel eyes. She looked extremely tired. Once inside the apartment building she walked to apartment number 17 and entered. She dropped her keys and her coat on the table and went straight to bed without even removing her clothes. But just as she climbed on the bed the phone rang. Letting out a sigh of exasperation she picked it up. However all her annoyance at the disturbance evaporated as she heard Michael’s voice on the other end.

“Hi Mike, what’ up?”

“Thank god, you’re not asleep! I tried your mobile earlier but it was switched off.” Said

“Yeah, I just came home. I was working late for that presentation I’m doing. So why do you call?” said Genelle.

“Yeah, Gen can you drop by later? I’ve finished work on that article you asked me for.”

“Ok, I’ll come over. Thanks Mike.” Said Genelle yawning widely.

“Ok, see you at six then. And good luck for your presentation by the way.”

“Thanks, bye” said Genelle hanging up the phone. Stretching and yawning she fell on the bed and was instantly asleep.

Ms. Shreditor’s Comments

What this page lacks for me is identity. Where is this story’s pulse? What are its central conflicts? It’s important that the readers sense these things early on; otherwise, there will be nothing to compel them to read past the first page. Instead of drawing the reader into the story with a point of narrative impact or attention-grabbing first line, this story opens with a daytime version of “it was a dark and stormy night.” The first lines need to deliver more.

The characters also need a dose of identity. We don’t learn anything of substance about Genelle beyond what she looks like. Readers will need to identify with her on some level, and to do that they must first know something crucial about her. Even her job status is unclear. What does she do for a living? Why would she have to pick up an article at Mike’s place? Wouldn’t he e-mail it to her?

Be careful not to overwrite, as this can cloud meaning. Take this sentence as an example: “The environment was extremely beautiful as the dew drenched trees and flowers were smiling at a magnificent morning.” I understand the intention here: to describe just how beautiful sunrise in Los Angeles can be. It would be more effective to say so with just a few descriptive words, rather than introduce somewhat awkward personification (i.e., flowers smiling). Try not to fog up your writing with flowery turns of phrase like this. If you’ll pardon the cliché, sometimes less is more.

Think of the authors you love most in this world. What is it about their writing that strikes you? What effect do you want your story to have on readers? My recommendation is to try a new narrative approach. Start the story with a pivotal event or at a key emotional juncture for Genelle. Right now, this first page starts with a sunrise and ends with the main character falling asleep, and only a few lines of small talk bridge these two non-events. Strive for more intensity. Think about what you know that the readers don’t and insinuate, insinuate, insinuate. Give them enough to capture their attention, but not enough to leave them with a sense of resolution. Instead, make them crave resolution, and don't give it to them until the very end. This is how you turn a first-page reader into a full-story reader.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated today. It is appreciated.

And to our veterans and families, you are never forgotten.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Are You Participating in the Book Bomb Today?

Writers are a funny group. We can be isolated hermits while we’re plotting out the depths of a novel, but we are also compassionate people with a great ability to empathize and reach out to others. And when one of our own is struggling, we are there for them.

As such, Larry Correia is hosting a book bomb on his website today. Basically, a fellow author friend of mine (and former Six LDS Writers and a Frog contributor) Robison Wells wrote an amazing book called Variant. It is receiving incredible reviews, (Publishers Weekly recently named it one of the best books of 2011). Yet, all of his success has been tempered with the fact that he is having some difficult health problems. (He is dealing with a severe panic disorder.) His attacks have become so severe that he’s lost his job, and with Christmas coming and little kids in his home, we are trying to spread the word and help him as much as possible by a doing a book bomb, which means having as many people as possible buy Rob’s book today, November 10th. It's for a great cause, and is definitely a win/win for everyone. For all the details and to read what Larry thought of Variant, you can click here.

So, bottom line, if you are looking for a fantastic Christmas gift for your friends or family, want to donate a book to your public library, or want to read something yourself on those upcoming cold winter nights, please consider participating in the book bomb and buy Rob’s book today. Click here for the link.

Also, if you could, please feel free to help us spread the word and help out a fellow writer and friend.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Word Count Wednesday

Last week I announced I was doing a personal mini-NaNoWriMo and calling it JuCanWriMo. My goal was 600 words a day or 4200 words this week.

I am happy to tell you that I wrote 5286 words this week.


I am so proud of myself because this week was really busy and it was hard to sit down each day, even for a little while, and just pound out a scene.

I'm feeling really good about my JuCanWriMo and know I can do it again this week if I'm consistent with sitting down each day. The hard thing is the negatives that sometimes run through my head like, "I don't have time today," "I don't know where my scene is going," "just check Facebook and Twitter, it won't hurt anything." But if I put that sort of thinking aside, I seem to be able to get quite a bit done! Shocker, I know.

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Castle, Hawaii Five-O, And I Solve A Mystery Of My Own

Man, last night’s Castle and Hawaii Five-O were made of win. Serious, serious win.

Hawaii Five-O started out with an aerial-type Jaws attack, (instead of a shark, it’s a small plane about to hit the water with swimmers in it) and the idiot guy in the water is staring at his friend about a hundred yards away who is frantically pointing behind the guy and yelling and his friend just stares at him like, huh? and then just before the plane hits, he turns around. Cue the awesome Five-O music.

Probably the two scenes I liked best on Hawaii Five-O last night was first, seeing Steve McGarrett scrunched down in the backseat of Danny’s car while Danny is driving and the dog was in shotgun and second, seeing Danny cry over the movie Enemy Mine (I totally want to re-watch that movie now). Ha! Man, those were classic scenes with the two of them.

But the next best thing about last night was we got to see the entire ensemble working together (with Greg Grunberg. I MISS ALIAS!) and, of course, we got a great cargument with Danny and Steve about the dog. There was lots of action as usual, with the plane crash, the big chase through the city, breaking into two buildings, and the ATVing in the jungle. No explosions this week, but I’m sure they’ll make up for that next week.

Castle had the boys off to Atlantic City to investigate the murder of a casino owner. I realized why Kenny Rogers’ songs had been going through my head yesterday when I saw the scene of Esposito and Castle standing near the body. Castle starts quoting the song chorus, "you gotta know when to hold 'em" and Esposito finishes it and I had watched a spoiler clip of that earlier in the day. So that explains why I had a Kenny Rogers’ song in my head! Mystery solved!

The Castle mystery was almost as easy, and I called the killer in the opening ten minutes of the show. But it was still fun to see Castle dressed up as Elvis and his impersonation with the Thank you, thankyouverymuch to that casino girl. It was nice to see the boys get some screen time and the calling shotgun scene was hilarious, with poor Ryan ending up in back, (hey, at least is wasn’t a dog!). But my opinion of Gates is still the same---awkward and wooden. I am cringing whenever she comes on screen and hope she is kept to a minimum because she screws up my Castle groove. But the separation of the Fab Four was all worth it to see Beckett’s face when she saw the Elvis’ (is the plural Elvi?) that her team had turned into. Ha!

Of course the previews for next week look good for both shows. I seriously love Monday nights.

And I know I usually do a book review on Tuesdays, but I’m not quite finished with the book I’m reading, (yeah, yeah, I watched my two fave shows instead of reading. It was worth it!) so I’ll probably put up my review of it on Thursday. Thanks for being so patient!

Anybody have a book they've just finished that they'd like to talk about? Did you have a fave scene from TV last night?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Kenny Rogers' Secret Message to Mothers

For some reason I’ve had the chorus to a Kenny Rogers' song going through my head today, “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run,” and as I listened to this on replay in my head over and over I got to thinking. Doesn’t every mom need to know things like that? It’s like a required listening song for moms!

I mean, for example, you have to know when to hold your child, (there are definitely times when they don’t want to be held. Like when they’re about thirteen and you’re anywhere near their friends.) You have to know when to fold (laundry, for instance, and when to make the kids do it so they learn responsibility and all.) You can also fold when it comes to bending the rules (like curfew) a bit for special occasions because then you seem like an understanding parent, that sort of thing. You have to know when to walk away (from looking at rooms that aren’t clean, from arguments, from crankiness) and know when to run (that is self-explanatory. Every mom out there would know that one!)

It’s like Kenny had a little secret message of answers moms should know that I didn’t know he knew. (Sort of like when you used to play the record backwards for a secret message. Of course, if you don’t know what a record is, that won’t make sense. And yes, I’m old enough to remember stuff like that.)

But even with all the things I’m supposed to know as a mom, situations always come up where I don’t have the answers. Maybe it’s because I haven’t listened to Kenny Rogers’ songs for most of my life and he’s had all the answers all along.

So, Kenny, if you’re reading this, I’m going to go to iTunes today and download some of your songs. For the answers and insights you’ve obviously already provided with your music, this mom thanks you.

Friday, November 4, 2011

First Page Friday

I'm so excited about my JuCanWriMo. So far so good! I'm looking forward to checking in with all of you on Wednesday.

Today's First Page Friday is a good one, so let's get right to it.

The Entry
The Two-Way Leech

by Melanie Goldmund

“Blood-sucker, power-feeder, energy conduit,” the crewmembers chanted over and over again.Not wanting to understand, Vero reached up to her thought-translator, but as soon as she touched the gold circlet, Cur smacked her hand away, and fingered the handle of his short whip in unnecessary warning.Vero glanced away, back to the dais where the tyrant superior stood, staring out across the rows of assembled crewmen with his arms outstretched.At least they weren’t staring at her anymore, making her uncomfortably aware that she was a stranger and a female among them, and completely dependent on Cur for protection.

A crewman marched up the middle aisle and presented an open box to the tyrant superior.The man reached down, lifted up a gold circlet very similar to the one that Vero was wearing, then placed it on his own head.Was that a thought translator, too?Why would he need it, if he were the leader on board the ship, as Cur had indicated?It must be something else.The gemstone in the tyrant’s circlet was dark red and as big as an egg, where Vero’s was small and white, and as she watched, it began to pulse in time with the men’s chanting.She looked away.As the first crewman retreated, another approached, holding a round container.

The tyrant superior reached in and pulled out a long, thin wriggling creature, like a long, black worm.He held it aloft, and the men fell silent, but only long enough for him to call out, “The prisoner!”Then the crewmen began a new chant. “Blood!Blood!Blood!”

Cur grabbed Vero by the upper arm and dragged her into the aisle.She stumbled along, not wanting to get any closer to the tyrant superior and that writhing creature, but Cur propelled her relentlessly up on to the dais.Panting with fear, she landed on her knees at the man’s feet..He knelt down, too, then extended the hand that held the black worm.Vero flinched back, but Cur gripped her by the hair and under her chin.As the worm lashed towards her, Vero squeezed her eyes shut and tried to twist out of Cur’s grip.Something sharp bored straight into her jugular vein, burning as it went, and Vero opened her mouth to scream.

Ms. Shreditor’s Comments

This story gets off to a compelling start with the mysterious chanting of the crewmembers. We meet a very unnerved Vero, who witnesses the unfolding scene with a certain air of helplessness. I was a bit unclear about Cur’s role. There’s no exposition to introduce him, so the reader is left to decipher the few clues given about his character. The whip suggests that he’s somehow in charge of Vero, but we’re ever told exactly who he is. Even a simple identifier—e.g., “…but as soon as she touched the gold circlet, the guard, Cur, smacked her hand away”—would go a long way in terms of clarification.

I found the names to be intriguing. Are we to associate character names with their Latin meanings? For those of you just tuning in to the Dead Language Network, vero means “in truth.” Cur means “why.” My one comment: the name “Vero” strikes me as somewhat masculine. The narrative establishes her sex quickly enough, but it’s still difficult for me to associate this name with a female character.

The scene presented here is supremely creepy. The tyrant superior pulls up the wormlike creature from the container with the crewmembers’ eerie chanting as his soundtrack. The narrative is almost like slow torture as it guides the worm toward Vero’s jugular.

The presence of “thought-translators” suggests to me that this will be some sort of dystopian sci-fi story. Make sure that, in the pages and chapters that follow, there is motivation behind the world you build. Too often, I crack open dystopian fiction only to find some generic world with “big bads” in power, but the story never offers up a reason why these corrupt figures behave as they do (or, even worse, the dystopian element is incidental to some tepid romance). Vivid world-building is a vital component of any story like this.

So, long story short, keep on keepin’ on. The story is creepy, and the pacing is just right. Consider the world you wish to build carefully so as not to fall into the “generic dystopian universe” trap that currently plagues the genre. But you are on the right track.

Thanks to Melanie and Ms. Shreditor. This has definitely been a "creepy book" type week on my blog. :)

See you next week!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Guarding Our Writing Time

Now that we’ve made our writing goals, I thought I would talk a bit today about reducing distractions and guarding our writing time.

If you’re like me, your writing time is limited. I generally get about 30 minutes a day to actually sit in front of the computer and write. With such a short amount of time and some pretty ambitious goals, I really need to make sure I’m using my writing time wisely.

Since I generally write when my two youngest children are watching Kipper (a children’s show), I look forward to that time and make sure I’m prepared for it.

For example, I make sure they have a small snack with them and a sippy cup of water, so they can watch TV and eat some apple slices or something. This always cuts down on my distractions.

I don’t answer my phone during my writing time. I keep it near me and check Caller ID in case it’s an emergency call, but I don’t pick it up otherwise.

I don’t get on Twitter, Facebook, or email during my writing time. I’ve done it one too many times where I tell myself, oh I’ll just be a second, or I’ll just quickly check something and half an hour later my writing time is gone, and I didn’t write one word.

I try to prime the pump. By this I mean that when I’m doing my morning chores, feeding breakfast to the kids, or whatever, I’m thinking about my scene, what I want to add, where the novel is going, what’s going to happen next. When I can see it in my mind, it makes it so much easier to sit down and just start writing because I’ve heard the dialogue and seen the scene in my head all morning.

So far, I’m doing really well with my writing goals and I know it’s because I’ve reduced my distractions and really tried to focus on using my computer time wisely.

What do you do to reduce your distractions?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Word Count Wednesday

So November is NaNoWriMo (or National Write a Book in a Month) where participants write 50,000 words on a new novel.

Because of the family and time commitments that I have right now, I’m unable to participate (and probably won’t until my kids are much older,) but I still like the idea of working for a month and setting goals that work for me.

So, I’m going to do a mini-NaNoWriMo and call it JuCanWriMo (JulieCanWriteMore). (Doesn't that sound motivating?) I want to set a goal to write 18,000 words this month. And while that sounds like a lot for me, (okay, a TON!) I broke it down so it won’t seem overwhelming.

It’s 4200 words a week.

Or 600 words a day.

When I put it that way, it seems more manageable and doable for someone like me.

I hope you’ll join me and put your goal count in the comments so we can check in with each other every Wednesday on how we’re doing.

So, for this week, I’m not going to post my word count since it had some October in it (but I did really well!) and I’m going to start counting from yesterday.

I think this is going to be fun!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Castle, Hawaii Five-O, and a Book Review--Bet Me

I love Monday nights. Love them. Last night had two amazing episodes of Hawaii Five-O and Castle. Moments that I want to re-watch even. I started to list all the moments, but it got too long, so suffice it to say, I loved, loved, loved last night. And contrary to some, I am really enjoying Lori Weston’s addition to the team. When Kono was trying not to tell the guys about Lori’s costume, I was seriously laughing. Kono needs another woman around, and I like what Lori brings to the show. Steve’s concern for her when he found her on the floor unconscious was really sweet, too, and I like sweet Steve. As for Castle, was there any sweeter moment for him and Beckett than in the bank vault after the explosion and she can’t let go of his lapel and is smiling that smile at him? *le sigh* Those two will be the death of me.

Oh yeah, Halloween was fun, too.

As for reviewing a book today, I’ve been reading a national book, “Bet Me,” by Jennifer Crusie. This book was such a surprise to me. After reading the synopsis, I honestly didn’t know if I would like it, and it’s not a book I probably would have picked up on my own. But it came highly recommended, so I gave it a chance.

The first thing I loved about it was how realistic the heroine was. She’s an overweight woman, who has a lot of insecurities about herself. Her boyfriend has broken up with her in a truly awful way, and her friends encourage her to approach a gorgeous man who is in the bar. At the same time, this gorgeous man is being pressured by the people he's with to bet that he can’t get the “chubby girl” to go to dinner with him. (Although the exact bet is debated later.) He takes that bet and the fireworks start.

Our heroine doesn’t take many risks because she's been hurt before, and Cal is a love 'em and leave 'em type guy, but as they both peel back the layers it becomes this amazing romance that I honestly couldn’t put down. I have never read a book like this, and I completely enjoyed the witty dialogue and the way the characters were portrayed. It was sweet and funny and while there was some profanity it was sprinkled throughout and not every other word, and in fair warning, there were also a few steamy kisses, and a sex scene, but again, not over the top, mostly brief, and easy to skip if that’s not your cup of tea. I think this is an author who really got it right with her character development in dealing with such issues as body image, insecurity, domineering parents, dyslexia, and what makes a person feel loved and beautiful. Very, very, well done.

Here’s the back copy:

Minerva Dobbs knows all about risk management, which is why it's such a shock when David, her extremely logical choice for a boyfriend, dumps her three weeks before her perfect sister's wedding: David was not supposed to be a wild card. So when Min overhears David make a bet with his old nemesis--the gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey--that Cal can't get Min into bed in a month, she decides that fate has just handed her a stacked deck: she can make Cal sweat his sex appeal and get a date to the wedding, if she plays along and doesn't fold. What follows is a novel of destiny, chaos theory, Krispy Kreme donuts, the spirit of Elvis, Chicken Marsala, and a gamble for the highest stake of all: true love.

So, even though it looks like all I’ve been doing is reading books and watching TV, I assure you I’ve been writing. As all of you probably know, today is the start of NanoWriMo, and while I’m not participating on the official page, I have made goals for myself. I’m going to post them tomorrow for Word Count Wednesday and check in every week to see if I’ve met them. I think it’s going to be fun!

So, tell me what you’ve been up to. Did you have a fun Halloween? Any great shows you’ve watched that really had some memorable moments? Read anything amazing lately?