Thursday, May 31, 2012

JumpStartWriMo Starts Tomorrow! And Musings on Motherhood

Okay, you guys, I have decided to do the JumpStartWriMo for the month of June.  I am so excited to share this with all of you.

As you know, I have had trouble finishing/editing this story and I have two more I want to dive into.  So, all this month I am going to have us state our goals for the month, provide motivation, guest authors, incentives, sprint writing, and more.  Ms. Shreditor has said she will check in with us and offer help where she can and I'm really excited about some of the other guests I've lined up.  I hope you'll participate and tell your friends.  We're starting tomorrow!



I'd also like to tell you about a compilation of essays I just finished reading, "Musings on Motherhood" by Susan Law Corpany.   You all know I'm the mother of eight and mothering for me is wonderfully chaotic.  These essays are fun and touching, with some great insights into what motherhood is when you're in the trenches.

(Susan was a single mom, a stepmom, and a grandmother and shares stories from all those stages of her life.)  Seriously, some of them are laugh out loud funny and some are so poignant, the emotion just jumps off the page.  Well worth the 0.99 on Amazon.  And while Mother's Day is over, it would still be a quick, fun read for any mothers that you know.  Or for yourself. 

Here's the back copy:

This humorous book about mothers in all their varieties is one woman's journey from devoted daughter to loving mother to non-wicked stepmother to well-intentioned mother-in-law to doting grandmother. Humorous and heartwarming, like a warm fuzzy pair of slippers with a lollipop stuck to them.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Word Count Wednesday

Well, all of my Canadian relatives are home now.  Sad.  It was a great weekend.

I bet you can guess my word count.  Zero.

But the good news is, school is out which means I will have more writing time (I provide incentives for older kids to babysit the younger ones for me for writing time.)  I'm excited to get some things going on my writing.

I'm also considering doing a sort of Blog-O-WriMo sort of thing on the blog.  Writing a book in a month with a bunch of my bloggy friends sounds fun.  What do you think?  Is summer too busy for that?  Maybe we could think of incentives for ourselves.

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Graduation

Today my son graduated from high school and I sat there in the stands, watching this amazing child of mine walk across the stage, ending a chapter in his life and ready to start a new one.  The speeches were all about remembering who you are, blazing new trails and making your own map, and making a difference in the world.

I admit it---I cried.

This is my child who is always at my right hand laughing with me, helping me, and just being a bright ray of sunshine in my life.  I will miss him when he goes to college, but I am so proud of the young man he has become.

So today I hope you will indulge me in being so late in writing my blog.  I did think of all my blog friends as I was sitting there, knowing that you would be cheering for us if you could have been there with me. 

It was a spectacular day, one of many more to come I hope.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day and a Book Review: Defenders of Faith





I hope all of you are enjoying your Memorial Day with family and friends.  We're having a big family party at our house today, with over fifty guests, so you can imagine what I've been doing today.


As most of you know, my books have a lot of military in them and I've been privileged to meet and get to know real soldiers as I've researched.  I am so grateful for their sacrifice and for what their service to our country means to people around the world.

Because of this, when I met Douglas J. Bell at a his booksigning for Defenders of the Faith:  The Book of Mormon from a Soldier's Perspective on Saturday, I was incredibly impressed by what he had to say.  He is a former military commander who served in Kuwait and Iraq in an intelligence unit and while he was stationed there, the so-called "war chapters" in the Book of Mormon started to take on entirely different meaning for him.  He had taught Book of Mormon courses at Brigham Young University, but being in a war zone changed him and changed his perspectives.

I started reading the book as soon as I got home.  From the introduction we are pulled into the author's life and relating it to the Book of Mormon.  For example, they were trained to set up a prison of war detention facility in northern Iraq for interrogations, but they got sent to Kuwait to live in tents in the desert.  The unit was not happy. It was hot in Kuwait so they had a hard time sleeping, during the day the wind would stir up a flour-like dust that stuck to everything, and it made everyone irritable and angry.  Mr. Bell realized that with the complaining, he had become like Laman and Lemuel because he wanted the comforts of home, like they did, he hated the desert and intense heat, he didn't understand where he was destined to go since the original mission had been scrapped and he was resenting the people who brought him there.  The author talks about how his behavior mirrors the two sons of Lehi who didn't want to leave their home in Jerusalem and go near the deserts of the Red Sea and rebelled against their father.  And once I read about the conditions they faced, it gave me a new perspective on Laman and Lemuel myself.  It just made me think about things in a new way.

Of course, once the author realized what was happening, he was better able to change his attitude.  He talks about the Iraqi military commanders he met, the fellow soldiers he served with, and how his perspective was so changed as to what was important.  The rest of the book is like that as he talks about the great warrior-prophets like Nephi (there is a beautiful soldier's song and explanation attributed to him), the Stripling Warriors and why they remembered their mothers so well, Alma as a defender of freedom and how his battle with Amlici is reminiscent of other great battles, Captain Moroni and his band of brothers, and Ammon to name a few.  I had never thought about these men in the way he described and I loved his military insight into what was important to them and how the self-discipline of the military would have helped these men in their religion and beliefs of the Savior as well.

So, if you are looking for a read that is intriguing and well as educational, this is the read for you and is especially apropos for Memorial Day.  (You can click here for his author website)

Here is the back copy:

Learn about the leaders of the Book of Mormon in an incredible new way---from a latter-day soldier's perspective. The heroes of the Book of Mormon were not only great prophets, but were also warriors, patriots, and defenders of liberty. They give depth to the witness that Jesus Christ is our Savior. Strengthen your testimony and love of these inspiring men with the unique perspective of a modern warrior.

Friday, May 25, 2012

First Page Friday

I planted flowers in my front flowerbed last night.  If you know me, you know that this is a huge accomplishment because I have a black thumb and kill every plant I, well, plant, so I gave up years ago.  This is me turning over a new leaf (teehee) and trying again.  We'll see how it goes.

I'm excited for this week's First Page Friday.  Let me know what you think!

The Entry

Dark Core
YA Fantasy

Chapter One
  
            Saekina woke up covered in blood.
            “No, no, no, no. Not again.”  
            She reached out, her hands trembling, and tried to lift herself up. Her arms buckled under the pressure and she landed with a thud on the ground. 
            Saekina squeezed her eyes shut. She slammed a fist into the floor. She winced at the pain. She needed it though. Pain would clear her head. Help her focus.
            She hoped.
            Saekina opened her eyes. It took a moment to adjust to the darkness of the room.
            She sucked in a breath. A mutilated body was lying only inches from her.
            It wasn’t the only one.
            Saekina tried to even her breaths out. Need to stay calm. Never panic. Those were her most important rules.               
She tried to remember what happened, but her head was pounding and she just felt so bruised and no matter how hard she tried to concentrate, she couldn’t. Part of her wanted unconsciousness to reclaim her. At least that way she wouldn’t have to worry about all this.
            Saekina gritted her teeth and then forced herself to sit up. Her head spun as she did so, stomach churning,
            She took another calming breath before trying to get an idea of her injuries. I probably have a concussion. A few cuts and bruised bones. Nothing too serious.
            Saekina wrapped her arms around herself, trying not to shiver. She sniffled, determined not to cry 
            I don’t have time to sit around blubbering. The police are going to think I did this.
            Saekina glanced down at the dried blood caking her hands.
            Getting caught could not happen. She wouldn’t let it. Not with her history.


Angela's (And Her Assistant Heidi's) Comments  
You’ve Got Our Attention Now

Very fun opening. Gets my attention with the “again.”  I am curious now. The “woke up covered in blood” feels just a tiny bit cliché in terms of the “shocking opening sentence” but I think you save it with the “again.” You could also just move the “again” to the first sentence.

Saekina is a very cool-sounding name. It sounds vaguely Japanese, and could work well regardless if it is a futuristic or otherworld setting or contemporary/urban fantasy. It is unusual enough to stand out, but not so much that it sounds strange.

Putting the Laundry Away

Sometimes, as we strive for snappy, succinct sentences, it’s easy to fall into a pattern, listing one action or event after another, and before we know it, we have what’s sometimes referred to as a “laundry list” (or alternately, a “shopping list.”)

Note how so many sentences start with the same pattern—this lack of variation in style is so noticeable it draws the reader out of the story. A few examples: Saekina squeezed…Saekina opened, Saekina tried…as well as “she reached out, she landed, she slammed, she winced.”

To remedy this, change up the sentence structure. Vary it. Cut out repetition. And intersperse itemized action with internal dialogue or other hints at Saekina’s emotions and personality. I would suggest cutting much of the focus on her moving various body parts and compress the first five or so paragraphs into two short ones—focusing on the key pieces of information. Much of her physical behavior just gives us clues to the same emotional state, so in that way it’s redundant information and slows down the plot—which you don’t want, because the reader is dying to find out what’s going on, so you don’t want to make them impatient.

Unreliable Narrators

Good curiosity hook—“covered in blood, again.” Now we definitely want to read more, because it’s not your average, everyday experience to wake up covered in blood once, let alone multiple times. Curiosity is great, but remember, one of the cardinal rules is that if the protagonist knows something, the audience should also. Saekina knows what’s up, so let the audience know also. It won’t diminish the curiosity; if anything, the reader will want to know the why’s and how’s.

If Saekina knows what’s up (and it sounds like she does, since she has had a previous experience waking up this way, and since she has a history with the police), withholding that information from the reader means she’s an unreliable narrator. This can be done, as in Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which the congenial narrator turns out to be the murderer, a fact he hides from the reader until the last chapter. However, employing an unreliable narrator can be risky. Your readers may love the quirky twist it provides, but may equally feel cheated at the reveal, as were many of Christie’s fans. Generally speaking, you’re more likely to stay in the reader’s good graces by keeping your protagonist reliable. Keeping us in suspense for a few lines is fine, great, actually, but don’t drag it on too long. I’m not suggesting you need to reveal the whole mystery—just little bits of it so the reader doesn’t think you’re withholding just to force the intrigue. A great book that reveals little tiny pieces of the mystery in each chapter (while at the same time making each into a cliff hanger/hook of its own) is Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Maybe check it out for study purposes.  

Where in the World Are We?

You’ve got a problem if the reader can’t tell within the first page what genre they’re in. Right now, Saekina could be in a historical, contemporary, sci-fi, fantasy, or even a mystery setting. There isn’t enough information for the reader to discern what type of world they’ve entered. The mention of police is the only obvious indicator of setting – but even that could be something in the past (the current word has been around hundreds of years, and the concept for thousands) or sometime in the future. Mainstream is the baseline genre. If your genre is something other than this, you’ll want to tip the reader off right away. Your protagonist’s name suggests something beyond mainstream, so clarify just a bit for the reader—at least establishing whether it’s speculative or not.

The Devil in the Details

In other ideas, I think the overall opening is great—intriguing, etc. But can you give it a little more personality and voice? Can you give us a bit more of the setting, snuck into the scene? Is she in a cave? A condo? A hotel? A kitchen? Is this the future or another world? As noted, our heroine’s name sounds very fantasy-oriented or sci-fi, but “the police” sounds very common to our current world. Can you work in a little more of the world-building (if it’s interesting) so a reader would have their appetite whet a bit more for the story at large? I think doing that would also help make your opening line more unique and not look like a “cheap trick” so to speak.

Go for more description. No, you don’t need to add purple prose. You may decide to be graphic or understated, but either way, provide some detail. For instance, there’s the mention of dead bodies. The location – right now it could be anything from the narrator’s bedroom to the abattoir in a horror film. A few well-placed details will let the reader clearly envision the setting, the situation, and the character – creating a film in their mind.

And then we need a bit more voice. Saekina’s emotional reactions to the pain and the situation are normal (other than her nonchalance and focus on escape, which is good character building), but what is her personality? Is the tone of this book deadly serious, or a little funny? Or sort of darkly sarcastic or satirical?  Work a little more of your tone and her personality (via her dialogue or internal thoughts) into this opening. You want to come on strong in all areas that are critical to hooking a reader/agent/editor.  A strong hook and plot are important for creating marketable books, but voice is also really important if you want to stand out from the competition. Many editors/agents still prefer the italicizing of internal dialogue: I don’t have time to sit around blubbering. The police are going to think I did this. This is no longer a rule in the industry, but whether to follow it depends on how you use voice. Maybe look into when it’s better to or not to.

An Intriguing Start and a Solid End

You’ve got an interesting beginning. You’ve also got a good end to the first page as well, giving us something at stake for the character, with a dire consequence if her goal of escape is not accomplished on time. And it provides a hook for the next page—what is her history, we want to know?

Saekina promises to be a captivating character. With a few more details, some hints at her personality, and a bit of sentence variety, your story will be off and running (pun intended).

 
One possible way to tighten up this scene: 

            Saekina woke up covered in blood.
            “Oh, no. Not again,” she groaned.   
            With trembling hands, she tried to lift herself up, but her arms buckled under the pressure and she fell back with a thud. Saekina squeezed her eyes shut and slammed a fist into the floor, wincing at the pain. Still, it might clear her head.            
            Opening her eyes, it took a moment to adjust to the darkness of the room. She sucked in a breath. A mutilated body was lying only inches from her.
            It wasn’t the only one.
            Saekina tried to even her breaths out. Stay calm. Never panic. Those were her most important rules.               
What had happened? How had she gotten here? As hard as she tried, the past few hours were overshadowed by the pounding in her head. Part of her wanted unconsciousness to reclaim her. At least that way she wouldn’t have to worry about all this.
           Her head spun as she sat up and tried to get an idea of her injuries. Probably a concussion. A few cuts and bruised bones. Nothing too serious.
            Saekina wrapped her arms around herself, determined not to cry. 
            I don’t have time to sit around blubbering. The police are going to think I did this.
            The dried blood caking her hands told her she was almost out of time.
            Getting caught could not happen. She couldn’t let it. Not with her history.



Thank you to our submitter and our editors today.  See you next week!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Book Reviews--Love 'Em or Leave 'Em?

I'm playing sad schmoopy music this morning because I killed off a beloved character.  *sniffle*  I haven't written The End yet, but I like where I'm at with this.

Hey, you want to see something really cool?  Remember last week when I compared unicycles to writing?  Here's a video of my son and his friend doing street unicycling.  Seriously, some of their tricks make me hold my breath!



Anyway, the topic at hand these days seems to be book reviews.  Do they really matter and should I do them?  I think they do matter, but that's because I actually read a lot of reviews and do put stock in some trusted reviewers.

As you all know I review books on this blog and I honestly state my opinion.  I put what bugged me in there and I put what I liked about the book.  I don't do it in a mean way (I hope) and I always try to find at least one or two good things to say about the book (the feedback sandwich--one good, one negative, then one more good.)  But some reviewers like to say they're honest reviewers and for them that means being mean I think.  I recently read a review that not only slammed the book but slammed the writer's ability to write in the first place.  For me, I don't think those sorts of reviews are needed.  As a writer, if that had been my book and my skills being reviewed I would have been in tears.  It makes me wonder if these reviewers know that the writers do read their reviews and we are only human.  Thick skin or not, personal attacks are hard to take.

But then that leads to the question, since I'm a writer, should I do reviews at all?  Some say no because I know the craft and look at things differently than just a normal reader would.  And the writing community is small, so I know most of the writers.  For me, reading is just as important to me as writing and I love to share great books I've found.  I don't think knowing the writer makes much difference.  My reviews are always meant to be my opinion and as I said, I try to keep them constructive.  But that point did make me think.  I mean, when I'm reading I don't think I'm judging it on writing merit alone.  For me, it's all about the reading experience.

Of course there are always some reviewers that just give five stars to everything and their reviews always seem to consist of loved the book, loved the cover, loved everything and then the back copy.  I don't know if those are particularly helpful.  When I read a review, I want some inkling as to what they thought of certain elements (plot, character) what set it apart maybe, so that I can make an informed decision on whether to buy it or not.  And yes, sometimes I even read the Goodreads reviews or look at stars.  If they have a healthy spectrum of stars, then I know it stirred emotions in people and I'll look closer at it.  I always rely on word of mouth and if you are an author I've read and liked before, I will most likely buy your new book.

What about you?

Do you rely on reviews?

Do you think writers should do reviews?

When you read a review, what are you mostly looking for?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Word Count Wednesday and I'm Having a Moment

First of all, if you are a Dancing With the Stars fan, could you believe last night?  Katherine and Mark were robbed.  They totally deserved that trophy.  *sigh*

But guess what?  After two months of whining, complaining, wrangling, thinking, and rewriting, I am writing the ENDING of my novel. Like right now.  I'm typing this blog right in the middle of a really cool confrontation of my protag and antag and we're all wondering what's going to happen because there's a bomb and a gun and some serious hate.  Man, I love being a writer today.

And guess what else?  Yesterday I fixed the beginning so it will go with the ending.  I am SO PSYCHED at almost being done with this book.  What if I write The End today?  That would be incredible.

So my word count yesterday was all editing stuff and I only added 684 words, but it was all worth it and for a good cause.  So I can be done with this puppy and move on to the two other projects that are yelling at me.

*happy dance*  *high-fives all my readers* So, yeah, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout people.  *busts a move*  *hurts self*  *sits back down to write*

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Open-Ended or All Tied Up--What Kind of Ending Do You Like?

Can I say I'm really missing Castle and Hawaii Five-O?  It's going to be a long summer.  At least we have America's Got Talent to get us through.  I didn't think I'd like Howard Stern replacing Piers Morgan because, well, he's Howard Stern, but surprisingly, I've liked him so far.  He seems witty and genuinely interested in the contestants.  And I thought it was funny when he said he was the first American judge on America's Got Talent.  He really is since Howie is Canadian (love you Howie!) And Sharon and Piers were from England.  LOL

Well, as I was lamenting the hiatus of my shows last night, the ending of my book came to me.  A solid ending that I've been thinking about since six o' clock this morning.  (I'm going to write it today I hope so I can pad my Word Count Wednesday totals).  The problem with it is that it's a bit too tidy I think and wraps things up with a big red bow.  I know my publisher likes things somewhat open-ended and some of my readers do, too, so I thought I'd take an informal poll before anything gets written in stone.

Do you like your books to end with all the loose ends tied up and the storyline having a firm ending?  Or do you prefer things to be a bit more open-ended with room for a sequel perhaps or at least using your imagination on how some things turn out in the story?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review: Royal Secrets


I got Royal Secrets for Mother's Day and I was really excited because I'd wanted to read this book since it came out.  I apologize to all the other books on my TBR list because Royal Secrets went to the top of the list, as in, I started reading it immediately and ignored all the other books I'd been reading until Royal Secrets was done.

Royal Secrets is the sequel to Royal Target.  In Royal Target we are introduced to the royal family of Meridia who needs the services of CIA agent Janessa Rogers to help foil a terrorist plot against them.  I really loved that story because Janessa was a kick-butt girl who didn't back down in the face of danger.  The only thing I didn't like about that book was the Prince's name was Prince Garrett.  (I know, it's silly, but there was just something that seemed so out of place with that name.)  In Royal Secrets Prince Garrett and Janessa are back, (and I won't tell you what they're doing because that would be considered a spoiler), but Janessa's friend Alora, who lost most of her family in a terrorist bombing, is coming to Meridia to be Janessa's assistant.  (Okay, never mind, it says right on the back cover that Janessa and Garrett are planning their wedding.  So don't blame me, blame the back copy people for giving away that little gem. Ha!)

Anyway, Alora and her two small sons arrive at the castle and it reminded me a bit of a CIA Cinderella story.  Poor woman with no family goes to the castle and meets a prince.  *swoon*  I liked Prince Stefano's character a lot because he was so flawed.  He's a bit arrogant and demanding, which I think anyone raised as the heir to the throne could be, yet he's got a soft side to him that is just as engaging.  But in Royal Secrets he's recovering from an assassination attempt when he meets Alora and her boys and the plot thickens from there.  (No spoilers, I promise!) 

The main plot is that there is a group trying to overthrow the monarchy and Alora, Janessa, and the princes are working to stay alive and figure out who's behind it.  I thought the plot was engaging and twisty enough to keep me turning pages.  My only complaint (another silly one I'm afraid) was that there were a lot of names starting with the same letter that made it hard to keep characters straight sometimes (i.e. Paolo, Pedro, Patrice, Phillippe, etc.)  (Meridia, Meridian, Merid)  I know, I know, I shouldn't be so picky, and it's my fault for staying up into the wee hours of the morning to finish and my poor brain can no longer remember who is Paolo and who is Pedro.  But the book is so good I had to finish, no matter who was who!  :)

I am a big fan of Traci's books and I highly recommend her SEAL series if you want an edge of your seat romantic suspense.  Royal Target and Royal Secrets are more of a fun romantic suspense, and I recommend them to anyone who wants a great afternoon read that turns into an early morning hours because I have to finish it right now read.

Here's the back copy:

It’s been three years since the tragic Christmas Eve when CIA agent Alora DeSanto returned from a doctor’s appointment to find her husband dead and her Paris home destroyed by a terrorist firebomb. Still mourning her heavy loss, she seeks a new life for herself and her two young sons by accepting a job offer from her friend and fellow agent Janessa Rogers, who is engaged to marry Prince Garrett of Meridia. As Janessa’s personal assistant, Alora takes up residence in the royal chateau in Bellamo, where Prince Stefano is recovering from a possible assassination attempt and reeling from some life-shattering news of his own.

As their paths repeatedly cross, Alora and Stefano are surprised by a budding attraction that draws them together in friendship. But as their hesitant affection evolves into romance, royal secrets plunge them into plots of espionage and blackmail that threaten all they hold dear—including each other. And as enemies arise to crush the Meridia monarchy, Alora must confront the fears that destroyed her past before they destroy her future
.

Friday, May 18, 2012

First Page Friday and The Hop Winner!

I had critique group last night so you know what that means---yeah, I didn't get to bed until 1 a.m. and I'm dragging today.  Honestly, I wish I could bring you all along for my crit group.  It is so fun!  We laughed a lot, but we also got a lot of chapters critiqued.  It is so motivating to have that.  I can't wait to dive into my WIP today.

We also have an amazing First Page Friday to read, but before we do, here is the winner of my LDS Authors Giveaway Hop (or whatever it was named. The one I started last Friday).

*drum roll*


Angela!

If you will email me your snail mail address at juliecoulterbellon@gmail.com then I will send you your book basket and dessert.  Thank you to everyone who entered!

On to today's First Page Friday.  And, as always, if you would like to have your first page critiqued by a national editor, then follow the instructions in the sidebar.  (Can I say I'm a little excited about this entry because I BEGGED Melanie for an epilogue to her book, The List, and this is pretty much what I needed.  So THANK YOU Melanie for giving me closure.  :)  (I hope that's not a secret.)

The Entry
Untitled
by Melanie Jacobson

I tore Trentyn Bach's large square head in half and dropped him in the garbage. Molly winced at the sound of the photo paper ripping.

“Sorry,” she said.

“This is officially irony,” I said. “We develop a whole web series to reform the Huntington Beach dating scene, and the star gets himself into a relationship.”

“Raina is a cool girl,” she said. “We should probably be happy for her.”

“I know. I'm trying.” I sighed. It would be easier to cheer on their blossoming relationship if it hadn't become official two days before I needed Trentyn to do things like save my business and revolutionize love and romance in HB.

“What are you going to do?”

“I have no idea. I barely got Trentyn to agree to do it. I don't know who I could convince to step in.”

Molly ducked behind her Mac screen and turned the radio up, leaving me to stew until I was ready to talk it out. Greatest best friend/employee ever. I snatched up my phone and texted my future sister-in-law, Ashley. Can you dump my brother for three weeks?

Her reply was instant. Sure. Wait. I mean, HECK NO. Bachelor problems?

I snorted. Are there any other kind?

She sent back a picture of Ryan Gosling reading, “Hey, girl. Smile.”

So I did. Unfair trap.

The soulful ballad playing gave way to a party rock anthem the UCLA marching band used to play after every touchdown during my senior year there. Molly reached over to switch the station, but I waved her off.

“Leave it. Maybe it'll motivate me to come up with a good idea.” I drummed my fingers in time to the up-tempo beat but by the second chorus, I still had no answers.


Ms. Shreditor's Comments

Very good this week! You'll see below that I had some issues here and there, but not bad at all.


I like the first sentence of this piece. It’s an attention grabber. However, we lose a bit of momentum in the second sentence, which pulls Molly into the fray without any words of introduction. Who is Molly? We meet her in the first paragraph, but we don’t learn that she’s the narrator’s best friend/employee for another seven paragraphs. I would rework this so that her role is more immediately apparent.

The narrator has a fun, snarky voice. We don’t learn her name, but we do get a sense of what might drive this story (her search for a male star in her web series).

The musical element could use some minor tweaking. Molly turns on the radio, but we don’t know what kind of music she plays. The second-to-last paragraph opens, “The soulful ballad playing,” and the reader has to backtrack a bit to remember where this ballad is coming from. The easiest fix would be to recast as follows: “The soulful ballad playing on Molly’s computer gave way to a party rock anthem…” Or something to that effect.

Be careful with the word “irony.” I blame Alanis Morissette in part for how widely misused this word has become. So few things in “Ironic” are actually ironic, but I digress. Irony is, according to Merriam-Webster, “the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning.” An alternate definition from Merriam-Webster: “Incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.” There’s nothing incongruous about someone starring in a series about dating and getting into a relationship himself. It might be ironic if he were starring in a series about dating and decided to swear off relationships.

I would avoid abbreviating Huntington Beach at the end of the fifth paragraph. I had to stop in my tracks to figure out what “HB” stood for despite its close proximity to the first mention of “Huntington Beach.” I’d recommend spelling it out.

I’ve dissected a lot here, but I really do like the writing style. There are very few grammatical issues, and the writing has a nice, natural rhythm. The bulk of the work to be done here is minor reorganization so that identifying details accompany the first mention of a character or plot detail. Otherwise, well done!


Thank you to Ms. Shreditor and to Melanie.  I know I really enjoyed this one.  See you next week!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Writers and Unicyclists

"Every great success is an accumulation of thousands of ordinary efforts that no one sees or appreciates."  - Brian Tracy

My son wants to be a professional unicyclist.  Now, that may sound funny to some, but he can do all kinds of tricks and flips on that unicycle that take my breath away!  Unicycling is a growing sport and you would not believe the time and effort that goes into doing some of the amazing things they do.  (There's even a UniCon coming up this summer and people are coming from all over the world.)

My son and I were talking last night about reaching our dreams.  Of course, my dream was to be a published author, which I am, but as we talked, he didn't see the correlation to him spending hours and hour mastering crank flips and being able to ride down a guardrail with me being an author.  But this is what I know.

Being a successful author takes a lot of practice.  Generally speaking, your first novel won't be your best work.  You're still learning and balancing.  The more you write and the more you read, the better you get at your craft.  You begin to see words in a different light.  You practice some more in putting those words on a page in a way that makes your readers feel flutters in their stomach, whether it be dangerous flutters or romantic flutters.  You make them feel.

You work and work on that story (or stories) until you hate the characters and want to kill them all off.  You agonize over the finale scene because you want it to be just right.  And you take the rejections, the bad reviews, and the critiques without crying (or letting people see you cry) because you live for the fan mail, the acceptances, and the good reviews.

That's what makes writing worth it to me.  And I know I have to practice to get it right.   That's why I like that quote from Brian Tracy.  I think every novel is an accumulation of thousands of ordinary efforts (skipping that TV show to write, giving up an hour of sleep to write, working and researching until you can write those words, THE END) and a lot of times people don't see or appreciate those efforts because writing is a solitary profession for the most part.

So today I'd like to give thanks to all the writers who have put their stories out there for me to enjoy.  I know it may look easy, but I also know it isn't.  And I'd like to thank all the people who have enjoyed my books and let me know.  That's what keeps my motivation high and the stories coming.  I have to say, my readers are the absolute best among all the readers in the world.  Truly.

My moral to the story:  Unicyclists and writers have a lot more in common than my son thought.  What do you think?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Word Count Wednesday and Unclaimed Prizes

Before we get down to the nitty gritty of Word Count Wednesday, I just wanted to remind a few of the winners from the birthday bash that they need to send me their snail mail address so we can get their prizes out to them.  You can send me your addy at juliecoulterbellon@gmail.com 

I need addresses from Mindy, Stories from the Cline Clan, Heidi, Char, and Cheri.  I would love for you to claim your prizes after all that hard work!

I am very proud of myself this week.  I managed to write 3400 words.  Woohoo!  Sadly, it was on a new project that I'm working on, and not the one I need to finish.  But it still felt good to stretch the writing muscles and leave the editing behind for a while.  Drafting can be fun, too!

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hawaii Five-O Season Finale--What Were the Writers Thinking?

Last night's Hawaii Five-O Season Finale was full of a bit of everything.  I have to say the first thirty minutes were full of win.  The team being creepily watched, the fake phone call to Fryer and the scene in the alley.  Wow.  Tense.  Poor Max being shot had been spoiled in the previews, dang it, but it was still awesome to have the McDanno banter in the car while they were chasing the shooter back to . . . the police station.  haha.  Danny's comment, "the better question is why they're going back to HPD" was funny and the "I think it's the white one."  Man, I love Danny.  Although I figured out it was a woman and she was the one talking to Steve sooner than Steve did. 

Unfortunately, after the veterinarian's office scenes (they shot Steve!) it was sort of downhill from there.  The editing seemed choppy (we come back from commercial and Chin is setting Creepy Baldwin Brother free and we're all sitting there going, wha?  What happened?

It's sort of like the writers were sitting around the writing table going, okay, we've gotta end this thing.  Anyone been watching any good shows lately we could "borrow" from?

And one writer raises their hand and says, "hey we've got Reiko Aylesworth from 24.  She's good at the dead wife thing.  Why don't we use some of their old 24 standby stuff.  Like, have an impossible choice of who lives and who dies, then have Chin throw the bad guy up against something and grit through his teeth, "why are you doing this?"  Maybe he can channel Kiefer and no one will notice.  (Although no one will ever touch The Velvet of Kiefer.  And I totally called it when they brought Reiko back for a quickie courtship and wedding that she would be dead or dying.)

Head writer nods head and writes that down.

The next writer has been watching their favorite soap and says that since we've already done Danny cheating with the ex and a Who's the Daddy storyline, now it's time to go for custody.  (And seriously, who leaves their phone in the car like that?  It was so odd and totally plot point.)

Head writer nods head and writes that down.

The next writer has been watching a lot of Claire Danes/Romeo and Juliet/Shakespeare stuff and goes with those themes for Kono.  (Really?  Flowers and dinner make up for your Yakuza boyfriend pulling a gun on you and duct taping you?)

The last writer had obviously been watching his old Alias DVDs.  The whole looking for Shelburne thing was reminiscent of Sydney looking for the Man and it even ended the same way with both Steve and Sydney ending with the stunned look on their face and murmuring, "Mom?"  I wish I could screencap it because it would be the exact same look.

So, to sum up, the first half was at least original and twisty and kept me on the edge of my seat.  The second half was a bunch of people borrowing stuff from other shows and throwing it all together to see what would stick and hoping their audience didn't watch any of those other shows.

I'll still tune in for next season though.  McDanno is hard to resist.  Oh, and the Hawaiian setting as well.  One day, Hawaii, you and me . . .

Monday, May 14, 2012

Book Reviews: Daughters of Jared and Dangerous Favor

Can you believe it's Monday already?  That weekend flew by way too fast.  I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day.  Mine was wonderful---I had all eight kids home with me to enjoy my favorite foods.  And I got some beautiful flowers, chocolates, books, and hand-drawn gifts.  Those are always the best.

But today, I have something special for you.  TWO book reviews!  Because I was a very busy girl last week when I found two incredible books and finished them both in a 48 hr. period.  They were just that good.  So I have to warn you about something.

There is going to be major gushing.  MAJOR.

So prepare yourself.


Daughters of Jared by H.B. Moore





Daughters of Jared is a tightly woven Book of Mormon historical that honestly kept me in my comfy chair long after I should have been up making dinner and doing some other Mom-like things.  (I know it's just after Mother's day and I probably shouldn't admit that.)  But I just had to see how it all ended!


We are introduced to our heroine, Naiva, the long-suffering second daughter of ousted King Jared.  She is level-headed and doesn't have much ambition when it comes to being a royal queen or getting her father's crown back.  She seems to want to have a normal, quiet existence.  Her sister, Asherah, on the other hand has a lot of ambitions.  She wants her father's crown back, she wants to be queen, and she has thought of a cunning plan to do it.  Unfortunately, her plan relies a lot on Naiva's silence and presence which puts Naiva in danger more than once and causes Naiva to have to make a choice---her own happiness or her family.

The relationship between the two sisters was exceptionally well done.  I could completely empathize with Naiva, who has lost her mother, is largely ignored by her father, and is wanting that close sister relationship she's always had with Asherah.  She is forced to make so many hard choices that I found myself wondering what I would do if I were in that position.  The strength of the book for me was that the characters, the sisters, the family, the gray-shaded villains, and our hero, were so real, the royal intrigues so easy to believe and hard to predict, that it was easy to lose myself in the story.

And speaking of losing myself in the story, part of the reason that was so easy was that the setting was well-researched and completed the illusion of getting lost in that time period.  Whenever I read a book by H.B. Moore I really feel as if I were there because she is so thorough as an author in paying attention to the details. 

I couldn't find anything I didn't like about the book.  It is easily one of the best historicals that have come out this year.  Two thumbs up and more.

Click here for a link to the book trailer.  I thought it was well done as well.

Here is the back copy:

 Naiva, daughter of the dethroned King Jared II, lives in the shadow of her privileged elder sister, Asherah. But when Asherah develops a secret plot to return their father to the throne, Naiva's resentment turns to fear. Thwarting the scheme becomes more complicated when Naiva discovers that Akish, the first man who has shown interest in her, is an integral part of the plan. Asherah traps Akish in a ploy to make him marry her, breaking Naiva's heart and leaving her feeling more alone than ever. Somehow Naiva must find the strength to stand against the encroaching evil in the kingdom and a sister who will stop at nothing to become queen. When Akish's wickedness escalates and threatens to destroy the bonds of sisterhood, Naiva must decide between protecting her sister and honoring her new belief in the true God,a forbidden belief that could cost her life.


Dangerous Favor by Joyce DiPastena


When I finished Daughters of Jared, it was late at night and I had that let-down feeling, wishing I had something else just as captivating to read.  There, just staring up at me was Dangerous Favor by Joyce DiPastena.  It was already late, but I thought to myself, I'll just read one chapter.  Wow, was I ever sucked in.  Reading until 2 a.m. sort of sucked in.  The next day I carried that book with me everywhere, desperate enough to read even a paragraph or two while I was at a red light, just so I could see what happened!  I read whenever I had two minutes during the rest of the day and finished by supper time.  (Yes, my kids got a great dinner that night.  I promise.)

This is a medieval adventure romance that had it all---mayhem, massive misunderstandings, medieval jousting, and of course, murder.  It was like an incredible French mille-feuille with all the layers of delicious intrigue mixed in with the cream of romance and love. 

Mathilde, our heroine, is determined to find a man to help her prove her father's innocence since he was accused of being a thief.  She meets Lord Therri and knows from the instant she sees him, after he's accidentally knocked her to the floor, that he is the knight of her dreams.  His friend, Etienne, with his laughing eyes and teasing voice takes a favor from Mathilde to wear on the jousting fields the next day, but Mathilde, an innocent, believes Etienne to be a seducer only trying to make the lovely Lady Violette jealous.  The laugh out loud misunderstandings and hijinks that follow quickly become serious when an assassins' crossbow cuts through the air and murderous demands are dealt with.  Just when I thought I had it all figured out, a new layer was introduced and I was quickly turning pages wondering who could really be trusted and if our fair hero would prevail.

I would highly recommend this book to any historical lover.  The medieval setting is incredible, and the author has given her readers plenty of action, intrigue, and clean romance---all the ingredients of a book that will remain on my keeper shelf.

Here is the back copy:

Her father has been accused of stealing from the king, an allegation that has reduced her family to poverty. She has one chance to find and marry a man who can help her prove her father's innocence. Lord Therri, heir to a rich barony, has the wealth and connections Mathilde needs to delve into the mysteries of her father's past. Furthermore, Therri embodies all her romantic dreams.

Etienne, the younger son of a disgraced family, has neither wealth nor connections, but is smitten with Mathilde at a glance. She finds the knight intriguing, but believes he is only out to seduce her. While she seeks for a way to win Therri's attention, Etienne tricks her into granting him her favor, an embroidered white ribbon, for a tournament, setting in motion a dangerous chain reaction of events. Can Etienne save Mathilde from a nightmare from her past and prove himself the true hero of her dreams?


Friday, May 11, 2012

First Page Friday

I am so grateful to the authors who are brave enough to submit their work each week to be critiqued.  I find it so helpful to see the corrections in someone else's work so I can learn what not to do in my own.  If you would like to submit your first page for First Page Friday please refer to the instructions in the sidebar.

 
The Entry
Becoming Wildcreek
by Joy Allen

England, 1888
Early May 

“He’s really going to do it!” Jane Carlisle, Duchess of Chatham, hid behind the gnarled trunk of the old Sycamore tree and watched the duel begin between Henry, her husband, the Duke of Chatham, and his younger brother. “I didn’t believe that jackanapes William had enough bravado to step out on the field with my Henry, let alone hold a pistol in his hand while doing so.”

“Your Grace, please!”

Jane wasn’t sure if her maid’s exasperated words were a reprimand of her street language or whispered in worry for their Duke. Henry Carlisle, being fifteen years Jane’s senior, had more than time in his favor. He had a steady hand and an even temperament. Henry never seemed to get angry at Jane, or at his foolish brother, or at Henry’s employees even when he probably should do so to keep their respect. But what Henry failed to do in terror, he accomplished with patience and love.             

“Stop fretting, Ella. Henry is the best shot in all of Yorkshire County, if it comes to that.” Jane risked a glance at the older woman huddled close behind her shoulder. Elle’s gray hair, pulled tightly on her head, matched her pallid complexion at the moment. Henry’s father, the late Duke, had employed Ella since Henry had turned two. Losing him would be too much like losing a dear son. “All Henry need do is stare menacingly at his brother and surely he’ll regret his words and apologize to me, forthwith.”

Ella grasped Jane’s elbow. “Yet, they pace away from each other, Your Grace.”

The morning’s fog had lifted enough for Jane to see Henry’s face. The breeze played with loose strands of brown, curly hair around his pinked cheeks. He smiled, and Jane felt like he wore a suit of metal armor instead of lamb’s wool. His shoulders were back, his spine ramrod straight as he walked in the muddy field. Even in the throws of a duel he was the proper gentleman.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

What struck me first about this piece was the heading. It sets a vague scene. Where in England are we? Why just “early” May and not a specific date? Does this information need appear in chapter headings, or can it be worked into the text somewhere? In most cases, just a chapter number will suffice in fiction. If the entire story takes place in England, I think you can establish time and place in the text without the headings.

The beginning of this sample felt a bit choppy to me. My first instinct was to break the second sentence into a new paragraph, but then I realized that it bridges the gap between Jane’s two bits of dialogue. Consider revising so that it reads something like, “Jane Carlisle, Duchess of Chatham, exclaimed as she hid behind the trunk of the old sycamore [note lowercase] tree...” That way, the exposition doubles as a dialogue tag to improve flow.

The duel presents some immediate suspense, and the author ups the ante by making it between brothers. The precipitating event, however, is unclear. What could William have said to incite his own brother to a duel? Jane seems almost flippant about it in places, so it couldn’t have been anything mortally offensive.

Of particular concern to me is characterization. This first page tells us a lot about Henry and not much about Jane herself. We’re not sure exactly what has sparked the duel, and we don’t know much about her beyond her title. Although she’s the catalyst of the unfolding action, she spends more time observing other characters than telling us anything about herself. This makes it difficult to connect with her.  

Make sure to proof your first page carefully before submitting to an editor or agent. Two spelling errors stood out immediately: 1) In the fourth paragraph, Ella’s name is misspelled as “Elle” in the fourth sentence. 2) The last sentence of the sample reads “throws of a duel” instead of “throes of a duel.”

Minor errors like these are bound to happen in a full manuscript, but they can be costly on a first page or in sample chapters. Book acceptance is contingent upon a lot of factors beyond a writer’s control: the market, competitive titles, reader trends, individual publisher preferences, etc. A writer can, however, control the quality of his or her work. Get a second or even third set of eyes on a submission to clean up any lingering errors. I’m not saying, of course, that a book will be automatically rejected on the grounds of a typo. But if an editor is on the fence about your story, errors could tip the scales out of your favor.



Thank you so much to Ms. Shreditor and to Joy.  Your hard work is appreciated.  See you next week!

LDS Authors Giveaway Hop


I am excited to be part of the LDS Authors Giveaway Hop starting today and going until May 17th.  It is a way for everyone to get to know LDS writers that they may not have thought of before.

For my part of the hop, I am giving away an LDS book readers basket including Lockdown byTraci Hunter Abramson and Rearview Mirror by Stephanie Black---and a yummy dessert for you to eat while you read.

All you have to do is be a follower of my blog and leave me a comment in the comment trail.  Easy peasy!  And you won't be sorry.  Both Traci and Stephanie's books will keep you turning pages long after you knew you should be in bed.  And dessert? Well, who could pass that up, right?

Here is the list of other participants so you have a chance of winning tons of books by other LDS authors!


Good luck!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Plot vs. Character What Do You Think?

I've been thinking a lot about plot vs. character lately.  My most recent example is the Castle over-arc of Beckett's mother's murder.  When I wrote on Tuesday that I loved the step forward we'd taken in Beckett and Castle's relationship and I didn't really care about the mom's murder stuff tacked on at the end, I started to analyze that.

Setting aside the fact that I believe the writers have drawn the murder "mystery" out too long and provided such clues as "you don't know who you're dealing with,"  and "this is so much bigger than you imagine," without actually giving any backing so it seems silly now, I think that the original premise was good.  But the reason I tune into Castle is for Beckett, Castle, Ryan and Esposito.  And when I thought back to my favorite books I realized that while I loved a great plot, it really was about loving the characters for me and wanting to know more about what was going on in their lives and how they were going to deal with it.  (Another great TV show that did that was 24.  The plots were fast-moving and sometimes silly (hello, remember the cougar and Kim? Haha, good times)  but we tuned in to see what was happening to Jack Bauer and how he was dealing with things.

When I brought this up to an author friend of mine, she disagreed with me to some extent.  "Without a great plot, who cares about the characters?" she said.  So, then I thought about how I would feel if we just tuned in to see the mystery of the week for Castle, or maybe I just read about Sadie Hoffmiller's neighbor being murdered without learning anything about her kids, her boyfriend, or anything else.  And I decided that for me, the characters are the most important thing because if you don't have likable, relatable characters, you don't have anything to make the reader care about the plot.  You could have the greatest plot in the world, but if you have flat characters, I don't believe you will find an audience that will care.  I think audiences like to be transported to someone else's life, to see their trials and how they're dealt with and for a moment, live vicariously.

I know I could do better at this in my own writing.  I like to think I write stories with great twisting plots that take people away to foreign places and hurtle them through events intertwined with people that leave the reader breathless.  Now I'm thinking I need to dig deeper into my characters and show how, in any given situation, my hero is worth rooting for.

What do you think?  Plot or character?  How can you balance both?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Word Count Wednesday

Well, I haven't made much progress on my novel, as I've been doing a lot of research.  However, I was asked to speak in my church this week and I've been writing that talk.  And stressing over it.  You see, it's Mother's Day on Sunday and there are some people who feel sensitive about that day and since I'll be speaking I want to make sure my message is really what's in my heart.  So, yeah, I'm stressing a bit.

But I'm counting the words I've written for that talk and so far we're up to four pages single-spaced.  I know, I know, I'll probably end up deleting, but for now, wish me luck on this speaking engagement, okay?

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Castle, Hawaii Five-O, and a Book Review: The Duke's Undoing

Oh man, I am still on a Castle high from last night.  Can I say how much I loved that finale?  Yeah, I really loved that finale.  *le sigh*

The highlights for me were Castle's speech to Beckett in her apartment.  "Because I love you."  "Four years I've been right here, waiting for you to open your eyes and see I'm right here."  "Every morning I bring you a cup of coffee just to see a smile on your face." "I think you are the most remarkable, maddening, challenging, frustrating person I've ever met."  "I love you, Kate, and if that means anything to you, if you care about me at all, then please don't do this."  Nathan Fillion's delivery was perfection.  That man can act, the emotion on his face was so real.  He sold it.  And I ate up every word.

Such a departure from the overall rest of the season for me.  I've been frustrated with the lack of movement, and I thought that Castle had lost its mojo, but in this episode, it got it back in spades.  Castle himself with the "I'm done"  And he stuck to it.  He really was done.  He stopped taking calls.  He greeted Kate at the door with, "What do you want?"  And to have the backdrop of Alexis' speech with Kate on the swings where the season started was so perfect---everything familiar is going away.  Everything's changing.

And then we got the best scene of the entire series thus far.  Kate at his door.  The moment of surprise and confusion on Castle's face as he pushed her away from him to ask what happened.  The care, concern, and love. The kisses.  The holding of the face as she apologizes over and over.  The kisses.  The scar from her gunshot wound.  The joining of hands. Yeah, I'll admit I thought it was swoon-worthy.  It made the long slog through this season totally worth it.  And to top it all off, the show's creator has said that the opener for Season 5 will begin very soon after this one left off.  We'll see if he keeps his word.  

(One odd thing that struck me was when she was hanging off that building, there was a balcony and a ladder not too far away.  Why didn't she try to scooch over to it?  Weird.) And you know what else I thought?  If the series ended I would be satisfied with that ending.  I loved their relationship, the characters, the growth I've seen.  I don't really care about Beckett's mom being murdered anymore because this "conspiracy" seems over the top and overdone now.  They've given so few clues that it seems silly to me that it's a recurring "mystery."  (It's like Shellburne on Hawaii Five-O.  LOL)  But the Castle/Beckett relationship took a huge step forward and that, my friends, is why I love Castle.  It's so totally the characters. So today, I say, I love you Castle.  You are still my favorite show.

Hawaii Five-O delivered as well with all the pretty.  Steve McGarrett is back, fighting in the jungle with Wo Fat and I have to say there was a lot of pretty in that scene.  (I'm talking about the Hawaiian scenery.  Yep.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)  We have a protective Danny, Kono and her new Yakuza boyfriend (yowza that was pretty, too, and there are a ton of storylines that could come from that.  It reminded me of the old show The Practice when the defense attorney was dating the prosecutor.  So many conflicts.  I sort of miss that show.)  Anyway, the season finale promo for next week looked incredibly intense.  But I'm sad all my shows are ending for the summer.





Luckily, even though my shows will be on hiatus, my TBR pile will not.  I read a new regency that just barely came out called The Duke's Undoing by G.G. Vandagriff that is continuing my romantic high.  There's just something about the regency period that speaks to me and not every regency book gets it, but, for me, this one does. 

We meet Elise Edwards who has the misfortune of having had three engagements---one to a soldier who was killed in battle, one to a madman, and one to a viscount whom she believes to be in love with her best friend.  Elise has an inner strength about her as she tries to deal with the ton, her charity work, and her nutty ex-fiance recently returned from Italy and wanting her back.

A mysterious duke, also known to everyone as a rake of the worst kind steps in to help her and the adventure---or misadventure---gains steam as we hurtle through danger, intrigue, and murder.  I loved the memorable characters, the well-researched backdrop, and the main characters who were three dimensional and nicely developed.  My only complaint was that the ending that we'd been anticipating for the entire book seemed a bit choppy and rushed  (I would have loved an epilogue actually), but it still wrapped things up nicely overall.  The book was well worth my time and I was definitely transported back to the regency period and enjoyed my time there.


(I just checked and it's $0.99 on Amazon Kindle.  Just FYI).

Here is the back copy:
Meet the Duke of Ruisdell, the unlikely hero of this traditional Regency Romance, after the manner of Georgette Heyer and Candice Hern.

The duke has just returned wounded from the Napoleonic wars. He is weary, cynical, and very bored. Known as the worst rake in England, he finds he has no interest in upholding that distinction, when his friend, the Marquis of Somerset, proposes a bet: "Five thousand guineas says that seducing Miss Elise Edwards will cure your ennui." Because his friend has just lost a packet to him, he agrees that the bet be posted in White's famous Betting Book.

The following day, while walking in Green Park, he spies a mysterious young woman, veiled, and obviously grieving. A disembodied voice, sounding strangely like that of his late adjutant, informs him, "The jig is up. That is the girl you are going to marry!" He scoffs, but is nevertheless intrigued by something about the slight figure. He even sketches her and asks if he can be of assistance to her. She declines his offer kindly.

At the opera that evening, he is captivated by a beauty across the Opera Hall. He hears the same voice, saying the same thing. The marquis informs him that the woman in question is Miss Elise Edwards. When he meets her, he recognizes her voice as that of the woman in the park. Now she is surrounded by a surfeit of ex-fiance's, one of them dangerously unbalanced. Ruisdell discovers an actual bond between them which renders him honor bound to protect her.

Thus begins a train of unstoppable events--dangerous, humorous, devilish, and amorous--that carry his life along at such a pace that the duke soon knows not whether he is on his head or his heels. And then there is that bet . . .

Enjoy this delicious romance that will carry you back to the Regency period in English history, where manners were dictated by strict rules of fashion. It is the Jane Austen era, populated by gentlemen and ladies of leisure. These books are best enjoyed with a box of chocolates, and are guaranteed to enliven any boredom (ennui) that you may be experiencing!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Announcing The Winners!!

Thank you to everyone who participated in my blog's birthday bash last week.  We really did it up right and I'm so grateful to all of my old friends and my new friends for celebrating with me.

Here are the winners . . .

(before I announce them, aren't you so excited for Castle and Hawaii Five-O tonight?  I read two amazing spoilers about both shows and honestly, I cannot believe what I heard so I'm sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to see how it all plays out.)  *sigh*  I think it's going to be a long day . . .

Okay, now here are the winners . . .

For the first day:

1.  A Stephanie Black book personally autographed to you

Kate!

2.  A copy of Rachelle Christensen's new book, Caller ID

Mindy!

3.  A copy of Robison Wells' book, Variant

Stories from the Cline Clan!


For the second day:

1.  A copy of Cami Checkett's new book, Dead Running

Brooklyn!

2.  A copy of Sweet and Snarky by Susan Denney

Heidi!

3.  A copy of Defenders of the Covenant by Angie Lofthouse

Melanie!

4.  A copy of your choice of a Trina Boice book

Char!


For the Character Contest the winner was #4 written by Fatima Sattar!  I loved all the entries and thought you all did an exceptional job.  Congratulations to Fatima, her name will appear in my new novel, Hostage.  As a villain or a heroine, we'll just have to see.  :)



For the fourth day:

1.  A copy of one of Josi Kilpack's culinary mysteries

Tamera!

2.  A copy of Joyce DiPastena's new book, Dangerous Favor

Books are Sanity!

3.  A personalized copy of Hidden Sun by J. Lloyd Morgan

Cheri!

4.  A personalized copy of Ribbon of Darkness

Bridget!


For the last day:

1.  A 30 page critique by Danyelle Ferguson

Melanie!

2.  A copy of Secret Sisters

Kate!

3.  A copy of  Daughters of God---You Have What it Takes!

Debra!

4.  A copy of any Shirley Bahlmann book and a first chapter critique by Shirley

Jon!


Again, thank you to everyone who entered and congratulations to all the winners!  If you entered on that day and see your name listed as a winner, please email me your snail mail address at juliecoulterbellon@gmail.com and we will get your prize out to you!

Friday, May 4, 2012

First Page Friday Plus Last Day of the Party and Four Great Prizes to Win!

So as to not mess up our First Page Friday schedule, I am included the piece and the critique in our prize blog.  I hope you don't mind!  Be sure to read to the very end. :)

(Oh, if you're new to the blog today, we have a cool feature here where you submit the first page of your manuscript and two incredible editors critique them every week.  More info is on the sidebar.)

The Entry
Untitled
by Gina Denny

 A stake dance isn’t exactly my idea of a good time, but my parents insist that I get out and make more friends. They say high school is supposed to be fun, and that it’s time for me to stop moping and get used to my new surroundings.

My family moved to Glendale five months ago when my parents decided they wanted a bigger house. We are only eleven miles from our old house, but the move put us in a different stake, different schools and a gated neighborhood. Basically, a whole different world. And I’m still not sure how I fit into this world.

“Elisa, please. Trust me. You’ll be fine.” Lily says to me.

Easy for her to say. She’s lived here her whole life. This is her world. So far, she's the only friend I've made, and she happens to be in my Mia Maid class, seminary class and freshman algebra class.

Lily and I walk into the cultural hall much too quickly. Part of me wants to just hover by the door, observing, before I walk into the room, but Lily doesn’t seem to agree. She walks in as if there is absolutely nothing to be scared of.

“Why are there so many people here?” I hiss to her as we approach a group of girls from our ward.

“This is a tri-stake dance. Didn’t I tell you?”

“No.” I say quietly. Now there are three times as many people to face.

I don’t know what I had really been expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this. The lights are all off, except for some colored flashing lights coming from in front of the DJ setup on the stage. A smoke machine is pouring smoke from the corner, and a long table is set up with bowls of candy and some cheesy Halloween decorations on it.

And not one single person is dancing.


Ms. Shreditor's Comments

I’m having some trouble getting my bearings in this piece. Although the first sentence mentions a stake dance, it doesn’t actually tell us that the narrator is at one; thus, it feels disembodied from the rest of the sample. Immediately thereafter, we hit upon a short information dump about the circumstances that have led Elisa to this point, immediately followed by dialogue from Lily, who is presented to us as if we somehow already know her. I’d recommend revising the dialogue tag to identify her as Elisa’s friend right off the bat.

There are compelling elements here. Perhaps the meatiest bit of this entire sample is the sentence that reads: “And I’m still not sure how I fit into this world.” It tells us a lot about Elisa in very few words. It tells us that we’re reading the story of a girl who is out of her element in the suburbs. To add fuel to the fire, she’s found herself in the most awkward of teenage social situations: the dance.

But I think the readers need more to go on if they’re to follow Elisa across hundreds of pages of narrative. What sets her apart from other young adult heroines in this same storyline?

Lastly, be careful not to let your secondary characters outshine your heroine. Lily commands this scene, and she strikes me as more interesting than Elisa herself. Perhaps it’s because Elisa comes off as so passive, a trait that afflicts too many young adult heroines right now, and I find myself craving more self-assured heroines like Lily. Of course, this amounts to personal preference, but because there are already so many passive heroines in suburban YA novels, it’s important that a character like Elisa make some sort of lasting impression from the get-go. It’s important that she establish strengths and interests of her own so that Lily doesn’t have to hold her hand throughout the entire story.


Thank you Gina and Ms. Shreditor!


Can you believe the party is coming to a close?  My throat is still hoarse from karaoke, I definitely have a chocolate hangover, but I really did have fun.  (And I'm not playing board games with some of you people anymore.  You are brutal!)

Today is the last day for prizes and then I will tabulate all the entries and announce all the winners on Monday!  I hope you've had as much fun as I have.



 The first prize being offered today is a 30 page critique from Danyelle Ferguson.  She is a published author of  (dis)-Abilities and the Gospel and is a respected editor.  She looks innocent in that picture, but she knows her stuff and will give you a solid critique.

Here's a bit more about her:   Danyelle discovered her love for the written word in elementary school. Her first article was published when she was in 6th grade. During high school, she placed runner up in the Pennsylvania School of Excellence for Arts program, specializing in creative writing. Since then, she's won several awards for her poetry, short stories, articles, and other writings. Her work has been published internationally in anthologies, newspapers, and magazines. Her book, (dis)Abilities and the Gospel, was released in May 2011.  You can go to her website here to find out more.


  The second prize being offered today is Monique Bucheger's middle grade book, The Secret Sisters Club.  Here is the back copy:

Twelve-year-old BFF’s Ginnie and Tillie, want to be sisters. Tillie's divorced mom plus Ginnie's widowed dad could equal a lifetime of round-the-clock girl talk and slumber parties. Too bad Dad vowed to never marry again. Ginnie and Tillie form a secret club. They come up with the perfect mission to change his mind: ‘Operation Secret Sisters’.

Before long, Tillie seems happier about gaining a dad than a sister. Ginnie suspects Tillie has turned ‘Operation Secret Sisters’ into a scam called ‘Operation Steal My Dad.’ Things get more complicated when Ginnie stumbles across her real mom’s hidden journals. Ginnie can finally get to know the mother she doesn’t remember and Dad doesn’t talk about.

When Dad discovers she has the journals, he takes them away. Ginnie needs to figure out what the big mystery is before her relationship with her father and her best friend are ruined forever.

Doesn't that sound fun?!


The third prize being offered is Fay Klingler's Mother's Day gift booklet, Daughters of God---You Have What It Takes!  Here is the back copy:
 
At times, women of all ages struggle with how to confidently follow the plan of happiness and distinguish between those things that are important and those that are not.

Daughters of God—You Have What It Takes! is an inspiring message of hope: “No matter what season in life, you do have the power to succeed. You have what it takes!”

And here's a little more about Fay!   Author and illustrator Fay A. Klingler is an award-winning creative and technical writer. Her most recent book release—A Woman’s Power: Threads that Bind Us to God—can be purchased at Amazon and all LDS retail outlets.  For more information on Fay and her books, you can visit her website here






And the last prize being offered is a double whammy---a book of your choice (go to Shirley's website here to choose which one you might like.  They are all so amazing and it will be hard to choose!)  but Shirley has also offered a first chapter critique and if you know Shirley, you know that that is an amazing prize!  But if you look closely at her picture you will see that she is the type of person that everyone needs to critique their work.  Firm, yet fun. :)



So here's what you have to do for entries:
1.  Tweet or Facebook the final day of the contest
2.  If you haven't already, go vote for your favorite Flash Fiction entry on Wednesday's post.
3.  Tell me what book you're currently reading.  
4.   If you wanted an editor to know one thing about you or your writing, what would it be?
 
5.  Bonus Question:  What famous person did I meet when I was twelve years old?



I hope you all had fun.  I know I did.  Thank you all for participating and partying with me.  And thank you to all my incredible prize donors.  You are all much appreciated!  Come back Monday and see who won! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Four Incredible "J" Prizes to be Won Today!

I think I've been partying a bit too hard this week.  I had to peel myself out of bed this morning and I feel like I'm dragging along today.  So in order to perk myself up, I'm offering all the amazing "J" prizes today.  I know you're going to love them!



The first one is your choice of any one of Josi Kilpack's culinary mysteries.  If any of you follow my reviews you know that I am a huge fan of Josi's culinary mysteries.  Sadie Hofmiller is hilarious and I've loved following her on all her adventures.  This is definitely a series you don't want to miss if you are a fan of mystery.  You can read more about Josi and her mysteries, (and pick out what book you might want should you win)  here






The second prize is an ebook (your choice Kindle or Nook) of Joyce DiPastena's brand new book, Dangerous Favor.  This is one prize that I would love to win myself.  I've read her other books and really loved them.  She brings the medieval time period to life so well you feel like you are really there.  Incredible. Here's the back copy:

Her father has been accused of stealing from the king, an allegation that has reduced her family to poverty. She has one chance to find and marry a man who can help her prove her father's innocence. Lord Therri, heir to a rich barony, has the wealth and connections Mathilde needs to delve into the mysteries of her father's past. Furthermore, Therri embodies all her romantic dreams.

Etienne, the younger son of a disgraced family, has neither wealth nor connections, but is smitten with Mathilde at a glance. She finds the knight intriguing, but believes he is only out to seduce her. While she seeks for a way to win Therri's attention, Etienne tricks her into granting him her favor, an embroidered white ribbon, for a tournament, setting in motion a dangerous chain reaction of events. Can Etienne save Mathilde from a nightmare from her past and prove himself the true hero of her dreams?




The third prize is a signed personalized copy of J. Lloyd Morgan's book, The Hidden Sun.  Here is the back copy for it:

Eliana and Rinan are in love. However, she is destined to become queen of Bariwon, obligated to marry the victor of a competition called the Shoginoc, while Rinan, her royal guardian, is forbidden to marry. Normally they could renounce their titles to be together, but these are not normal times. Abrecan, the malevolent governor of Erd, is determined to win the Shoginoc, thereby placing his easily manipulated son Daimh on Bariwon’s throne. Can Eliana and Rinan find a way to be together without jeopardizing the peace they are so desperately trying to protect?

Doesn't that sound like an adventure?




The fourth prize is Julie Coulter Bellon's book Ribbon of Darkness.  It's a high stakes romantic suspense set in Indonesia.  Here's the back copy:

 A split-second decision could change the world’s darkest hour to one of triumph--but who is willing to pay the price?

Kennedy Campbell has been running away for a long time--using her position as an international journalist to escape the ghosts of her family's past. She finds some solace working in an Afghan refugee camp, until the Taliban attacks them and Kennedy is forced to flee. She is pulled into a terrorist's realm of darkness as she fights to save those around her, but will it come at the expense of her own life?

Ethan Barak leads a double life, helping MI-6 bring down arms dealers all over the world until his father is murdered by an old associate. Ethan makes his next mission a personal vendetta by tracking down the killer to Indonesia. While there, he finds himself in a position to either avenge his father or stop a terrorist attack on the Malacca Strait that will jeopardize innocent lives across the world. Can he look past his father's murder to save others?

The line between justice and mercy is blurred with each passing second, and international intrigue becomes intensely personal as the age-old struggle for redemption is brought close to home.


Not bad if I do say so myself.  :)


So there you have it.  Four great prizes from Josi, Joyce, Jason and Julie!

And here's what you can do to get an entry into this contest.  Each thing is worth one entry.

1.  Go to Wednesday's post and vote for your favorite flash fiction in the comment trail.

2.  Tell me what was the most memorable party you've ever been to and why it sticks in your memory.

3.  Tell me one thing you like about my blog.

4.  Tell me, if you could visit one time period in history, what would it be and why.

5.  If you still haven't liked me on Facebook or followed me on this blog, this is your chance to do it now!


We'll be wrapping up all the prizes tomorrow, so be sure to check back!  And since we've danced, eaten food, and thrown confetti, today I shall get the karaoke machine out.  It's not a party until we've done karaoke, right?