Thursday, January 31, 2013

Writing Romantic Foo Foo Stuff

Well, there's some romance in my work-in-progress.  Surprise!

If you've read my previous books you know that they're more adventure with a splash of romance.  But this one seems to be moving more in a half and half direction with the adventure and romance.  Which makes it a tiny bit harder for me to write.  Mostly because I like action stuff and sometimes it's hard to slow down and really feel the emotion.  So I'm slowing myself down.

Today, though, it's been hard to write the romantic foo foo stuff because I'm tired and grumpy.  Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to be romantic in real life when you're grumpy and tired?  That's how it is for a writer, too, trying to capture the emotion of it all.

I know some of my writer friends try out different scenarios for the romance scenes with their significant others (like hand placement during a kiss, for example, is there hands running through hair? Over a back?) and I thought that might help me, but my husband had to go to work.  So no luck there.

I thought about watching a romantic show, but the only one I could find was A Walk to Remember and we all know how that ends.  Not good in the romance department.  And if I start watching Alias or Scarecrow and Mrs. King DVDs I'll never get any work done.

So, I'm stuck.  Maybe I'll skip ahead to a death or action scene to match my mood.  *sigh*

Do you ever have that happen, when you just can't get into the groove of the scene you want to write?  How do you overcome it?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Word Count Wednesday

Well, I was holding off on posting until I could have a word count, but more or less I'm just reading the chapter and changing a few words here and there.  So my word count is about 8.  Sad, I know.  But can I help it if this is an epic chapter that I love?  I submit that I cannot.

Have you ever had a chapter that seemed perfect and you kept reading it over and over because you were shocked?  Looking for problems, plot holes or weird turns of phrase?  That's me.  So far so good though.

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Life As A Referee & How It Pertains To Writing

So, most of you know that I referee girls basketball games.  In my league, girls games are generally different from the boys in that when a girl fouls, she almost always apologizes, but when a boy fouls, he denies it and calls the other kid a crybaby.  (Although I have seen some girls who have clawed opponents.  That's rare to see in a boys game.)

Last week, the game was in double overtime and it was intense.  Both teams were in double bonus and we were running up and down the court with wild abandon.  (Okay, maybe I wasn't running with wild abandon. I was running with a wild plea heavenward to let it end, please for the love, just let the game end.)

I called several fouls and we had two fans that were heckling us as referees.  Every call made was, "Are you kidding me?  Are you blind?  Has blowing that whistle affecting your hearing and your eyesight?"  (The week before I was standing in front of the fans with my back to them, doing my job during the game, and one fan--a large man--said, "If something doesn't move soon, (meaning me) I'm going to spank it."  I think that's possibly the most shocking thing ever said to me as a referee).

But I digress.  At the double overtime game, we were being good referees and ignoring the hecklers.  Every time I ran down the court near them they would be armchair-refereeing with, "that's a foul.  See that?  Three in the key. Count that?"  It was annoying since they were obviously watching a different game than I was.  Or seeing it from a  perspective of their daughter that they loved was in a situation they wanted to make better for them---and see them win.

Which brings me to my thoughts today.  I thought about comparing the hecklers to editors, but that didn't come out right.  Although you can ignore hecklers and editors.  (But hopefully your editor isn't telling you, Hey, that's a misspelling there, see that?  Plot hole there.  Third one.  Count that?  It could get awkward that way.)

I thought about comparing the hecklers to fans in our lives who are well-meaning but perhaps misguided.  They want everything to be good for us and always have us on the winning side, but sometimes the method they use isn't the best.  Can't we all think of an annoying but lovable person in our lives?  But then I thought maybe that person in my life might recognize themselves in my post and I'd be in trouble.

I also thought about comparing the hecklers to reviewers, and that seemed to have some traction, but then I remembered that I review books and thought I better not go that route.  I don't want to compare myself to those hecklers.

So, I settled on, ignore the bad, remember the good, and be grateful a large hairy man never got close enough to spank you even though he threatened it.

New Castle and Hawaii Five-O next week.  Can't wait!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Flashbacks Can Be Hard On A Story

Well, the book I was going to review today wasn't one I liked.  It had a great story idea, and I did like the main character, but I had a hard time with how the author chose to tell the story.

It started out with a bang, an event that affected everyone and was quite chilling, actually.  But then the second chapter skipped ahead several years and we didn't get to see the immediate aftermath, we saw very different people that hadn't coped with the event well.  We did see some of the immediate aftermath through flashbacks, a lot of flashbacks, but it really started to drag the story down.  It was like, we would finally be pulled into the story, and then there would be another flashback to pull us out and we would have to start all over again getting into the story.

Which brings me to my point today.  Flashbacks are very hard to do well.  It can take a reader out of the story, it can get overly long, it can be overdone.  I think in this case the author would have been better served to show the immediate aftermath in the succeeding chapters instead of skipping ahead and then doing it in flashbacks.  Don't get lazy in your writing and resort to just telling the story through flashbacks.  Really show the story and draw your readers in.

Flashbacks are generally easy to do, but hard to do well.  Carefully consider why you're using them and if they really serve your story before you put them in.

Friday, January 25, 2013

First Page Friday

I apologize for First Page Friday being a little late today.  We had a tiny snafu, but it was taken care of, so here we are!

As always, thank you to Eschler Editing for their efforts and to all our authors who submit.  If you would like your first page critiqued, follow the directions in the sidebar.  See you next week!

The Entry
The Dunsters

Samuel brought the muzzle down slightly, eyeing the pale chunk of wood they’d placed in a tree crotch—a small dot in his vision.

Peter shook his head. “Too far.” His words were burred with his Scandinavian accent.

“Well, now,” Samuel replied, unconsciously copying the drawl of Henry Clegg, his brother-in-law. It gave an interesting effect, combined with the Italian lilt of his inflection, and the French thickness of his consonants. Quickly he brought the sight up to his eye, took a deep breath, steadying himself and allowing all around him to blur. He took a second breath, letting the slight tremble of his index finger relax on the trigger. With his third breath, the shot exploded from the barrel.

“You did not hit,” Peter insisted, marching toward the tree.

Samuel put the safety back on, took his flannel cleaning cloth and ran it over the shiny, flat surfaces of the octagonal barrel of his Remington pistol. .44. It had been a gift from his former employer, Bishop Joseph Toronto, President Young’s chief herder. Carefully, he slid it into his hip holster and sauntered over to where Peter stood, his head bowed as he looked at the wood, now laying on the ground behind the tree. There was a nick in it.

Samuel picked it up and tossed it to Peter. The boy flinched, then caught it. “You’re getting good. But you waste the bullets.”

Samuel shrugged. “It does no good to have a pistol if you aren’t a shot.”

They were silent as they made their way through the brush back to where the herd was grazing on the long, grassy bench overlooking Provo City. The sun was low to the horizon, illuminating the sky in long, wavering bands of brilliance. The two of them stood for a few moments, quiet as they looked out over the valley. Samuel imagined he could see spires and turrets in the sunset. The kingdom of Enoch, he thought, feeling his heart swell. A golden city in the clouds.

Angela and Heidi's Comments

Strengths: I’m feeling grounded…

A key element of the strong beginning is our (the reader) being grounded in the story—tuning in to a clear tone and setting. You’re doing a great job with the dialogue (including the first mention of foreign accents) and descriptions in grounding us. The flannel cloth, the pistol details, etc., really bring the historical setting to life. (This model was probably produced between 1862 and 1875, and along with the Brigham Young reference, gives the reader a time frame for the story).

Samuel’s line about “no use in having a pistol if you aren’t a good shot” is a great way to show hints at his personality, his common sense. You’re building character in a nice, subtle way.

One note: The reader knows about Samuel’s relationship to Henry – who hasn’t even been introduced -- but we don’t know what the relationship between Samuel and Peter is. I like their interaction thus far, and find it interesting, but how old are they in comparison to each other, are they related or friends, in differing positions of authority? We need a bit more here to keep us from losing our grounding. You note Peter is a boy, but he seemed like an equal to Samuel in the opening (they interact like equals); since I assumed Samuel was a grown man, I assumed the same of Peter. But now I’m wondering if Samuel is young too. We need that cleared up right away.

Things to work on: Maybe too grounded…

So if you’re wanting to grab the attention of a reader right away, especially with today’s more impatient audience (unfortunate in some ways, but driving brilliant craft in others), you’ll want to shake up the ground just a little—even on the first page. You don’t need to start with the big reveal of danger or mayhem (and the danger might just be to the emotional/spiritual peace of the “City of Enoch,” which you’re potentially foreshadowing), but you do need to include at least a couple of lines giving the reader a hint of trouble to come or something at stake for the main characters. (Meaning a goal they have, that, if failed, will produce dire consequences in some personal way; or the reverse, where they want very badly for something not to happen, and we have an idea of what they will lose if it does.)

In short, the first page needs to establish some situation that is going to lead to the main conflict that needs to be resolved. There is no sense of urgency or trouble here on your current first page, but ideally the first page should at least hint that trouble looms on the horizon. The fact that Samuel’s doing target practice could be a great way to move over to why he is practicing – if he’s also a herder, then outlaws, hostile Indians, or wild animals would all be a possibility in this time (I’m placing it in the mid 1860s to early 1870s). Your last paragraph is pretty and lyrical, but doesn’t really move the story forward. The pace is too leisurely to grab us by the horns.

Another way to advance this element of the story is in the characterization. We don’t know enough about characters – who are they? Are they sheep-herders? Just settlers taking an afternoon off the homestead for target practice? What is the event that is going to have to be resolved in their story? What is their relationship to each other in terms of what’s at stake?

Your story has some good info, but not enough of the right info for getting off to a bang! (Puns intended throughout—sorry!)

Little details:

Though your details are wonderful, it’s all about the right amount and the right place. Misplacement of details can throw the reader out of the story or distract them by encouraging the asking of the wrong questions at the wrong time.

For instance, the line describing the flannel rubbed across the gun is a bit too long in the mouth. Separate some of the descriptions with separate sentences/actions.

Also, alluding to Henry’s (the brother-in-law) drawl is a bit too much in the opening as well. We don’t even yet know who these two main characters are, so throwing Henry into the mix distracts us from the events and people at hand, and since he’s not immediately relevant to what’s going on center stage or anything that will be happening immediately thereafter, his mention is definitely misplaced. (This is just extraneous info that doesn’t do anything for the opening of this story. Could be introduced later on in the chapter. For the first page, every word must count, must be a big hitter, must carry maximum weight. As I read this, I’m not even emotionally attached to or super intrigued by Samuel and Peter just yet, so throwing yet another character into the mix just muddles things up.)

I understand it was a tactic to slip in Samuel’s heritage (through his accents), but could you move it a little and thus find a more natural home? Or simply say Samuel was imitating a drawl many of his associates brought with them from X location, and thus leave the distracting Henry out of it. (Also tightening the accent-describing sentence a bit.)

One last related bit—mentioning the Scandinavian accent immediately before addressing this second, mixed accent seemed a bit too forced to me—drawing attention to the writing and not the story—as if you’re rushing to bring us up to speed on who everyone is so you can get that part of storytelling out of the way. Find a way to separate the descriptions of the men’s accents, etc., so it feels like we’re getting to know each man on his own terms and not getting a rushed intro so you can move on to something besides establishing characters. I think the combination of mentioning both accents together, along with throwing in Henry, made that bit of prose seem more awkward.

Lastly, your first sentence should attempt at being a mini hook in itself. I think your first sentence does this, given the pastoral setting and my assumption that you’re aiming for an older, more broadly read audience (not teens). It’s nicely worded and the details are interesting (though it needs to be supported as a hook by having more hints at something at stake or the trouble potentially coming—it would have more weight in the story if we could see the connection between target practice and anything dire coming). I think having the word “crotch” in your first sentence also gets the reader’s attention (especially if teens are in your potential audience). I can’t decide if that’s a good type of attention or not. It’s a perfectly useful word for the sentence, but these days, it’s hard for a reader to immediately dismiss all the crude connotations associated with the word. It is a well-drawn image though, so I think you could get away with it given a more mature audience. After all, it does serve as a hook for what you have going so far.


I think you’re a skilled writer and your story and characters are set up to be very interesting. I would suggest reading the book The First Five Pages, studying the sections on prose rhythm and pacing in particular (amount and placing of details). Just a bit more at stake in the opening and I think you’re off to a strong start.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Different Critique Group

So, you all know I do an in-person critique group with Jordan McCollum and Emily Clawson.  We started meeting a year ago now and while it's been wonderful and I've learned a lot, we do things a little different in our group.  Jordan McCollum posted her thoughts about it here, but I remember things a tiny bit differently. (Different POV and all that. See how I worked that in? Gold star for me!)

When we first started meeting we were each critiquing a chapter per person and meeting twice a month.  It was fun, but as Jordan points out, it would take us about a year to get through a novel for someone and how by the end of the book, would we really even remember what the characters were doing in the beginning?

Jordan claims she was reading some lady's blog about critique groups and suggested we read one person's work and a lot more pages, but I remember it more as, one of us had a deadline and asked if we could read fifty or so of her pages.  Then it grew into a discussion about, why don't we just take two months, read and critique her book in quarters and help her meet her deadline. (So, Jordan probably was thinking about some lady's blog while we were discussing.  She's a veritable fountain of knowledge.  Seriously, she is!  Ask her anything and she probably knows or has read something about it.  She also enjoys drowning my manuscripts in red ink a little too much I think. But I digress.)

Anyway, it sounded like such a great idea because I had a deadline coming up as well, so, that's how we started to work all the time.  Each of us has a turn to be the one with a manuscript on the sacrificial critique table, to be ripped apart and then put back together in about a two month span.  So far, it's worked great for us. (And I'm grateful no matter how it came about because it's an invaluable tool.  I recommend Jordan read more blog posts from this lady so we can all benefit).

The thing was, we were reading the manuscript out loud each time and with spending a few (or four) hours socializing first, we were getting home at 1 or 2 in the morning every time.  Which makes for tired mamas the next day.  So, in December, when we were running out of time and one of us wasn't feeling well, we just went over our notes which brought out some really great discussion on characterization, plot holes, what wasn't working, and honestly, it was one of the best brainstorming sessions I've ever been a part of.  Not only were we helping her with her manuscript, but it was making connections in my brain for my own manuscript and was incredibly motivating.  So when we got together this week, I suggested we do that every time.  And it worked again.  It was energizing and fun, and we still got to socialize a lot in between our discussions.  I was even home by midnight! Win/win for all of us.  (Although it's almost my turn for my manuscript to be critiqued.  I guess I better get going on those revisions!  Eep.)

I'm glad our group has been able to evolve and change to meet our needs.  It's been fun to see my own writing get better, not only as I'm critiqued, but also as I sit and critique for others.  I've noticed things about my writing that I've never seen before and it's been helpful to be around other writers who are as anxious as I am to improve.  Plus, we're all about on the same writing level which is a rare find and something I am glad about.

Finding a critique group can be hard, but when you find a good one, it can be worth its weight in gold.  How do your critique groups work?  Do you do in-person or online?  What do you find helpful about them?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Word Count Wednesday

I had critique group last night and even though we weren't critiquing anything of mine, during our brainstorming session for one of our group members I had this idea for my own work in progress and came home so excited to write!  And guess what I've been doing this morning?  Revising my first chapter.  It's such an invigorating feeling after having a long break (like I've taken).

It's like diving into the pool after sitting in the hot tub for a long while, you know?

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Your Strengths Are Your Differences

I know I usually do a wrap-up of Castle and Hawaii Five-O, but I don't have a lot of good things to say about last night's offerings.  I thought some of the scenes went too far and were in poor taste.  The only redeeming factor for Hawaii Five-O was Wo Fat's appearance.  But even then we had to believe that Danny had such bad aim, he couldn't hit Wo Fat who had barely any cover and a rifle to defend himself with?  Yeah, not so much.

So today I'd like to tell you where I've been this morning.  I went to see J. Scott Savage's presentation to an elementary school.  If you don't know who J. Scott Savage is, then you've been missing out.  You can click here to go to his website to find out more about his books.  (Case File 13 Zombie Kid is out and if you have middle grade children, they will definitely want this book. My kids loved it!)

So, he started out his presentation talking about what kinds of books we like to read (the kids roared when he asked if anyone liked smooching books.  Haha!)  Then he did a Zombie rap which was hilarious (especially the bling and glasses.  It added just the right touch.)  And then he talked about how when he was a kid, he was a little different.  He liked to daydream and think up stories and sometimes people thought he was weird.  But that difference became his strength because now he makes a living making up stories.  He told about three other people who were different, people who had others tell them they couldn't achieve their dreams, but they went on and did it anyway.  Their differences became their strengths because they had the drive to keep going no matter what.

The kids that J. Scott Savage was talking to were completely enthralled.  It was amazing how he had engaged them, not only in what he was saying, but also in what he was doing.  He helped them see that they can write a story (they started one right there on the stage).  He helped them see that there are people who like to make up stories and people who like to read them.  Everyone's different and that's good.  I wish you could have been there because I don't think I'm doing it justice at all.  But it was just incredible and fun.

It made me think as I was driving home, am I encouraging my children in their differences?  How can I help them turn something that they may not think is all that great into a strength?

At the end of the day, I think I'm grateful for my own differences.  I can disappear into my own world and write stories that other people like to read.  I am so grateful for that and for the opportunities I've had because of it.  My strengths have grown out of being a little different.

Do you believe our differences can be our strengths?  And have you read any of J. Scott Savage's books?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: Drops of Gold

I love Sarah Eden's books.  She writes regency romance so well and Drops of Gold is no exception.  I think what I love most about her books is the way she writes her characters and how memorable they are, but also how she writes the romance.  It's "clean" romance, but so sigh-worthy.  That is hard to find in regency romance.

Drops of Gold is about a woman who names herself Mary Wood when she has had a change in circumstances because her father passes away and leaves no provision for her.  She applies for a position as a governess, but forges documents giving her a recommendation in order to get the position.  When she arrives at Farland Meadows she finds a household that is suspicious and oddly quiet.  The child she has been sent to watch over seems altogether too mature for her age and has questions about where her mother went.  It is a sad house indeed and Mary sets out to effect change there.  But then she meets Layton Jonquil, the master of the house and wonders if change can ever happen.

Layton Jonquil is mourning his wife and guarding the secret of her death.  He doesn't know what to make of this outspoken woman who says such things as "double dungers" and seems to bring sunshine and love to hearts long without it.  But Layton can't let himself get close to anyone, even if he wants to.  Can he risk being found out?  And why does Mary seem so reticent to share her past with him?  Could she be hiding secrets of her own?

It's a sweet romance between two people who have suffered in life that will touch your heart for sure.  It's also fun to see characters from other books, like Phillip and Sorrel and Crispin and Catherine and catch up a little bit as to what's happened to them.  The only thing I wished was different was that I badly wanted an epilogue.  I just love seeing certain things, but alas, I shall just have to imagine it on my own. Although I hear this is part of a Jonquil brothers series, so maybe I'll get that certain scene in the next book.

Here's the back copy:

Layton Jonquil has spent the four years since his wife's death in the isolated sanctuary of his home, Farland Meadows, with only his daughter Caroline. Mary Wood, a flame-haired, out-spoken, overly-cheerful governess descends on the household changing both their lives and unearthing secrets Layton would rather remained buried and forgotten. Can one woman bring love back into a house too long without it and reclaim a heart too long broken to heal?

Friday, January 18, 2013

First Page Friday

I am excited about today's First Page Friday.  There are so many great nuggets of information.  I hope you find them as well.

As always I am grateful to Ms. Shreditor, a national editor who loves to help writers, and to all the authors who submit every week.  If you would like your first page critiqued, we have spots open in February, so please submit your 12 pt. font, double-spaced page to with First Page Friday in the subject line.

See you next week!

The Entry
by Rebecca H. Jamison

There’s a skill set to being poor. So far, I’d figured out the exact spot on the gas gauge that meant empty and how to fix just about anything with duct tape— I wore duct-taped shoes to my father’s funeral, and they didn’t look that bad. Today, since I’d lost a game of rock-paper-scissors to mom, I was forced to learn one more thing—how to get food without paying for it.

Walking toward the red brick building, I held onto Grace, my fifteen-year-old sister. It was probably a mistake to bring her, but leaving her at home with our sister Maren would’ve been like leaving her alone. As I pulled the heavy glass door open and stepped into a room that smelled like vanilla pudding mix, my salivary glands kicked into overdrive. It’d been a while since I’d had real food, but I wasn’t about to drool like one of Pavlov’s dogs over vanilla pudding mix, was I?

In the center of the convenience-store-sized room were five aisles filled with non-perishables. Grace pulled her hand out of my grasp and rushed toward the center aisle. “Where’s the Pop-Tarts?”

I followed, reaching for her hand. “I don’t think they have Pop-Tarts here,” I said, feeling the heat rise into my face. The clerk at the front of the store had probably already judged us as the type of people who ate junky breakfast products.

Grace scanned the cans. “I want chocolate Pop-Tarts.”

The clerk walked to the back room, darting a glance our way, a glance that said she knew our secret—that Grace wasn’t a normal fifteen-year-old girl. Sure, she looked normal with her trendy jeans, striped top, and hoop earrings. That was part of Mom’s plan to help her fit in. But there was always that moment of truth when people realized there was something different. It was best that way. Otherwise, she came across as rude.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

I am a sucker for novels that open with a really succinct, really provocative first sentence. “There’s a skill set to being poor.” Seven words, no waste. Right away, we know that our narrator is poor with a strong set of survival instincts. The ensuing sentences offer us a glimpse of those survival skills at work—i.e., the duct-taped shoes and the need to obtain food without paying.

The setting is a bit unclear to me. There’s plenty of sensory imagery: the red brick, the smell of vanilla pudding, the heavy glass door. We know that this is a store-like setting wherein the narrator must somehow obtain food without paying. However, we’re not entirely clear on where she is. We know it’s a brick building roughly the size of a convenience store, but what kind of establishment is it exactly? Will the narrator be stealing to feed his or her family?

I liked the reference to Pavlov’s dogs. This unconditioned response drives home just how deeply hunger has affected these characters’ lives.

I find the character of Grace to be intriguing; however, I can’t deduce much about her condition from what we’re given. The narrator seems protective of her in a way that suggests she might harbor some sort of vulnerability. We know from the text itself that she is not a “normal fifteen-year-old girl,” a truth we see through the clerk’s objective eyes. This leaves the reader wondering whether she has some sort of psychological or developmental issue. The wondering isn’t a bad thing; the reader will pursue the answer past the first page. That’s the kind of momentum you want to build from the outset.

One thing struck me as contradictory: If these people are so poor that they live in a constant state of hunger, how does Grace have a trendy wardrobe? If the mother is so concerned about her children blending in, why would she allow another of her children to go out in public with duct-taped shoes?

Getting down to mechanics: This story presents a fantastic opportunity to explore the en dash (–). For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this dash is longer than a hyphen (-) but shorter than an em dash (—). We use this character when we want to, among other things, create compound adjectives or separate values in a range. In the third paragraph, we see a compound adjective, “convenience-store-sized,” modifying “room.” In an instance like this, when the item of comparison (i.e., convenience store) wouldn’t otherwise contain a hyphen, we use an en dash to create the compound. Thus, it becomes “convenience store–sized.” (Note: Many style guides, including the one I use at work, drop the “d” from the end of “size” when it’s used as an adjective.) Some other examples: Civil War–era coins, pages 15–30, Academy Award–winning director Ron Howard, etc.

Overall, I enjoyed this first page. The writing is quite good with very few errors. The only thing missing for me is more defining details about the narrator. Is this person male or female? Is he/she younger or older than the fifteen-year-old Grace? If this is truly the narrator’s story and not Grace’s, perhaps reveal more about him/her before introducing Grace. Because her character is portrayed so vividly, she steals the spotlight from the protagonist in the most crucial part of the book. She may be an important piece of the plot, but make sure that it’s your narrator who is driving it. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Some Cool Things That Have Happened

I've had three cool author things happen to me lately and I was excited and wanted to share with you.  (And really, you need to write the awesome stuff down so you can go back and read it on those days when your self-doubt creeps in to tell you that you are a terrible writer).

The First Cool Thing

I was sitting in a dental office's reception area and the receptionist had read my new book All Fall Down and was telling me how much she liked it when the lady next to me interrupted.  "You're Julie Bellon?  I've read your books! They're so good."  She was so happy to meet me and acted like she was meeting a rock star for the first time.  Which made me thrilled she liked my books and also glad I'd put makeup on to come to the dentist office.

The Second Cool Thing

I was mentioned in the 2012 Mormon Literature Year in Review.  You can read the entire article here but the best part of it, for me, was this paragraph in the recommended novels section:  

“In mystery/suspense, S. P. Bailey’s Millstone City (Zarahemla), a crime thriller centering on a pair of missionaries on the run from gangsters in Brazil, was a favorite. William Morris wrote, “In Millstone City, the LDS mission novel and the thriller collide to create something new: an intense, gritty story that is nevertheless shot through with resilience, honesty, optimism, and, yes, that certain willful naïveté that missionaries possess. Call it Mormon neo-noir. Or full-throttle faithful realism.” Gregg Luke’s medical suspense Deadly Undertakings (Covenant) also was frequently mentioned to me as a favorite book. Others receiving attention include Stephanie Black’s murder mystery Shadowed (Covenant), Josi Kilpack’s cozy/culinary mysteries Banana Split and Tres Leches Cupcakes (Shadow Mountain), Rachelle Christensen’s crime drama Caller ID (Cedar Fort), Julie Coulter Bellon’s romantic thriller All Fall Down (self), Traci Abramson’s romantic thrillers Royal Secrets and Code Word (Covenant), and Tristi Pinkston’s cozy mystery Targets in Ties (Walnut Springs).”

The Third Cool Thing

I've been asked to present at the Pleasant Grove Library Professional Writers Series on May 16, 2013 on Achieving Your Publishing Dreams.  I'm excited about this because there are a lot of options available for every writer out there now.  And I'm always happy to support a library and its literacy efforts.

So there you have it---my three cool things that are making me smile these days and feel like a worthwhile author.  Have you had anything cool happen to you recently?  What makes you feel like a worthwhile author?

Read more about 2012 Mormon Literature Year in Review, Part 2, Mormon market and independent publishing | Dawning of a Brighter Day on:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Word Count Wednesday Where I Make My Excuses

Well, I didn't actually write any new words on my manuscript this week, but I pulled it up and looked at it.  And brainstormed a bit.  But that's about it.  I know, I know, I'm going to get to it, I promise.  I'm starting to get an itchy writing finger.

I had a root canal this morning and the doctor explained everything he was doing as he went along.  I sort of liked that because there was no surprises.  Although he called me hon, a lot, which I found odd.  And my face is still tingly.  I hate that feeling.

Also, my son got his LDS mission call today, so tonight he'll open it and we'll find out where he'll be serving and proselyting for two years.  The envelope is sitting here on my desk.  And I am not a patient woman so this is hard to have to wait until tonight.

So, that's my excuse.  I've been freaked out over having a root canal and distracted by my son getting his call. (And sorry if I sound rambly.  I think root canals steal brain cells.)

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Castle and Hawaii Five-O Wrap-Up---Oh My!

Both shows last night were fairly unique.  Hawaii Five-O let the audience choose the ending (and they chose poorly in my opinion.)  You could go to to see the other two endings that weren't chosen, and I was glad I did.

There were three suspects in the professor's death (and did they really have to show the acid-riddled body? I'm really starting to hate how graphic they're being with the bodies lately.  But I digress).  Anyway, there was the boss, the teacher's assistant, and the cheating student.  So the audience voted during the show and . . . turn away if you haven't watched already . . . but the boss won.  Which didn't make a lot of sense to me because the teacher's assistant had a motive and opportunity.  He was holding a grudge against the professor and knew a lot about him, including his long nights in the lab.  Oh well.  The boss was okay, but the actor wasn't that great in my opinion.  (And if you do go to see the alternate endings, it's really just putting a different face on the guy trying to shoot the researcher on the island.  No new info or scenes or anything like that.)

Danny's nephew was incredibly annoying throughout the episode, but I did like him sending that pic to all of Danny's address book.  The look on Danno's face was so funny.  Another highlight was the slow speed chase and Kono with that slimeball with a heart they've brought back to the island. (I'm not even going to attempt to spell his name).  Overall, a good episode, but not quite as good as normal with the ending issue.

Castle on the other hand was funny and heartwarming from beginning to end.  It wasn't a Caskett-centric episode as it concentrated mostly on Esposito, but I liked fleshing out his character.  And there were more great one-liners like, "I know you're not a cop with that flashy shirt and poofy hair."  (Which makes Castle look in the mirror behind him.  So. Funny.)  We also had, "I want to talk to the hottie detective,"  "You're looking at him."  Haha!  And of course, the line from Espo to Ryan, "the lady makes records that are only listened to by 12 year old girls and you."

I liked finding out more of Esposito's previous life and how hard he had it.  I like that he had a teacher for a mentor.  I liked that he was so tough, yet had a tender side with the kid.  The banter between the two of them was so funny.  "Houdini?  Who's that?"  "How old are you anyway?"  "Ancient." When I first saw the episode description I thought it might be the kid of the lady from the Santa episode and Espo would take him under his wing, but I liked that it was a street kid with no one.  Esposito was protective of him with Shane and the bodyguard, and yet told the kid how it really was and showed him someone could care.  Really well done.

My favorite Caskett moment was the beginning, of course, and the conversation about if you pick a horrible movie then you lose a turn.  Beckett cuffing Esposito upside the head when he agreed with Castle was cute and funny.  I love their relationship and the chemistry with the four of them.

So, a pretty great episode of Hawaii Five-0 (and that sunset shot near the end completely enthralled me.  Hawaii, I love you and someday we will be together) and a great episode of Castle.  Twisty mysteries, funny one-liners, a girl really can't ask for more.

Do you watch a show and think of alternate endings?  What do you think when a show does that in real-time?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Double Book Review: Heart of the Ocean and Take My Heart

Well, in a bit of a snafu on my part, I'm a tour stop for two tours today.  But it's a bonus for you, my dear readers, because you get two reviews instead of one.  Read one, get one free, or something like that.  And both of these books are well worth your time.

The first one is Heart of the Ocean by Heather Moore.  It's a historical fiction and nothing like I've read before.  It's about a New York society girl who turns down a marriage proposal and has to go to Puritan Maybrook to escape the gossip columns.  While there she hears a voice that's connected to a town mystery, and just after hearing it, lands in jail accused of murder.  A handsome young lawyer with secrets of his own tries to help her out, but the two seek answers to the cold-blooded murders of people they love that could get them both killed.

Seriously, this book was spine-tingling.  I read it late at night (stayed up until 1:30 a.m. one night to finish) and just being in a darkened room with the wind howling outside my window provided the perfect ambiance.  The ghost angle to the book was spooky, the romance was sigh-worthy, and the mystery had several twists and turns that I didn't see coming.  I had one angle figured out, but just as I was feeling all smug about that, the author threw a curve and I didn't know as much as I thought I did.  It was great.  My only complaint was that I really wanted to see a certain young lady to get her comeuppance and realize what she threw away, but that was only a personal preference and nothing to do with the story really.  (I don't want to give anything away so I won't name her, but if you've read the book I bet you know who I'm talking about. She's really flirty and curvy and demanding).  I just didn't like the character in the book and would have loved to see her get her just desserts.  Also, I loved the character of Nathaniel Prann and I hope we see him in a future book (I'm really crossing my fingers this is a start of a series of some sort.)

As it is, though, the characters are well-rounded and the depth of emotion surrounding the circumstances really makes them believable.  The setting is very well done, but the best part that kept me up so late was the mystery.  It's one of those where you just say, wow, I didn't see that one coming.  Great job, Heather!

Here's more information on the book!

Tour Schedule

Heart of the Ocean
by Heather B. Moore

A dark secret . . . a grieving ghost  . . . a handsome stranger  . . .
What more could Eliza Robinson want?
Except for maybe her life.

In Heather B. Moore’s enthralling 1840’s historical romance, Heart of the Ocean, Eliza Robinson has turned down the very pretentious Mr. Thomas Beesley’s marriage proposal. As a business partner of Eliza’s father, Thomas quickly discredits the family and brings disgrace to the Robinson name.

While her father scrambles to restore his good name in New York City, Eliza flees to the remote Puritan town of Maybrook to stay with her Aunt Maeve. Although relieved to be away from all- things-male and unforgiving gossip columns, odd things start to happen to Eliza, and she is plagued by a ghostly voice. Her aunt’s explanation? That Eliza is being haunted by a woman who died of a broken heart twenty years ago.

After Aunt Maeve is tragically killed, Eliza's life is put in danger as she tries to uncover the mystery of her aunt's death. She encounters Jonathan Porter in Maybrook, whose presence in the town seems suspicious, yet she finds herself drawn to him. When she discovers that Jonathan’s dark secrets may be the link between the dead woman who haunts her and her aunt’s murderer, Eliza realizes that Jonathan is the one man she should never trust.


Author Heather B. Moore
Heather B. Moore is the award-winning author of ten novels, two inspirational non-fiction books, and two anthologies, including The Newport Ladies Book Club Series, A Timeless Romance Anthology, and Christ's Gifts to Women (co-authored by Angela Eschler).

Her historical fiction is published under the pen name H.B. Moore. She is the two-time recipient of Best of State in Literary Fiction, two-time Whitney Award Winner, and two-time Golden Quill Winner for Best Novel. Her most recent historical novel under H.B. Moore is Daughters of Jared (2012 LUW Gold Award of Excellence & 2012 LUW Best Book Trailer).

                          Website * Blog * Facebook * Twitter

Tour Schedule

The second book is Take My Heart by Marie Higgins.  This is another historical fiction, but also had unique elements to it.  Mercedes is called to an insane asylum to visit her twin sister.  She hasn't seen Katherine since her sister's marriage to William Braxton, but is shocked to see the depressed shell of a sister lying on a dirty mattress.  Kat tells her how brutal her husband is and how awful her life was with him. She says that she believes William to be a spy against the crown.  Mercedes is a widow of a man who used to hunt down spies and turn them over to the English government so she makes a plan of revenge against William for what he's done to Kat.  She'll gather evidence against him, turn him over, and see him hang.

She goes to William and ends up taking her twin sister's place so she can get close to William and find the evidence she needs.  As events unfold, however, she begins to realize not all is quite as her sister said.  Danger surrounds her in William's home and the tenuous relationship between the colonials who are meeting in secret to solidify their fight for freedom and the English officers comes to a head with Mercedes square in the middle.  It is definitely a page-turner in the fact that you wonder when William will figure out that the wife he knew and the one at his side aren't the same woman, as well as the mystery behind who is trying to kill William and round up the colonial sympathizers.  

I thought the setting was well-done and I really loved the main characters. I liked Mercedes' interaction with the family and William's genuine puzzlement to the change in his wife.  The mystery was good, but without giving anything away I didn't think the villain had a particularly strong reason to do what they did.  It felt like it needed something just a little stronger to justify what they did in the book, but it was still a great way to pass an afternoon.  The best part of this book for me was the romance since there was so much distrust going around and the author does a great job in the falling in love department.  But can the revenge plan go through if Mercedes loves the man and his children?  So many intriguing questions and thankfully, they are all answered by the end. Another historical read that is definitely worth your time.

Here is more information on this book and the GIVEAWAY:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Take My Heart by Marie Higgins

Mercedes Maxwell’s sister’s last wish was for Mercedes to find evidence against Kat’s husband, William Braxton, and have him hung as a traitor to the crown. Mercedes isn’t naïve when it comes to capturing traitors, because her own deceased husband had once been an agent for the King when they lived in England.

When she meets William Braxton for the first time, all is not as it seems. Portraying her twin, Mercedes knows this is the only way to get close enough to William to discover his secrets. What she finds along the way are little surprises she hadn’t counted on, especially when she begins to give her heart to a man who may be a spy against the crown.

Book Trailer

Praise for Marie Higgins

”I enjoyed this book immensely. Each book of Marie's that I read is better than the last. I recommend this book to young adults and older who enjoy historical mystery, intrigue, fight for freedom, clean romance. This is the book for you.”
~~Mary Walling / Goodreads

“Few authors have mastered the art of storytelling like Marie Higgins. In this Colonial-era romance, Marie takes her reader on a wild ride. Every chapter, every scene, every line envelopes the reader's senses and imagination with passionate romance, deep emotional struggles, unexpected twists and turns, and neverending ups and downs. This was a hard book to put down and earns an unequivocal five stars from me. Thanks, Marie, for writing such great romances!”
~~Wanda Luce / Goodreads

 “Marie Higgins's Take My Heart is a stunning colonial romance. With well developed characters and heartwarming scenes, this book will steal the hearts of romance lovers and historical fiction fans. There are numerous twists and Higgins keeps you guessing at every turn as to who the real villain is. This book is a "must-read" for anyone who loves romance, history, or just a good story. FIVE STARS ALL THE WAY!!” ~~L.D. Smith / Kindle

“Breathless! From start to finish you will keep wondering, questioning, and hoping. You will root for the underdog, and smile as love conquers all. Great read. You won't put it down until you're finished!”
~~M. Henning / Kindle


Author Marie Higgins

Since Marie Higgins was a little girl playing Barbies with her sister, Stacey, she has loved the adventure of making up romantic stories. Marie was only eighteen years old when she wrote her first skit, which won an award for Funniest Skit. A little later in life, after she’d married and had children, Marie wrote Church roadshows that were judged as Funniest and Best Written. From there, she branched out to write full-length novels based on her dreams. (Yes, she says, her dreams really are that silly)

Friday, January 11, 2013

First Page Friday

Well, it's a snowy January day.  What better way to spend it than gleaning writing tips from First Page Friday!

As always, I would like to thank Ms. Shreditor and all the authors who submit their work so we all can learn.  See you next week!

The Entry

by John Forsythe

He put his right hand into the scanner as the electronic voice instructed. He felt the warmth of the machine as it scanned not just his fingerprints but his palm print as well. He hated the next part, and he winced just as he always did as the metallic teeth, like a saw blade, scratched from the base of his palm all the way to the tips of his fingers. The teeth peeled the top layer of skin off his hand—a precaution against anyone trying to beat the fingerprint scanner with some kind of synthetic.

What you are guarding is more dangerous than nuclear weapons…

Next was the retinal scan, first the regular, then a blast of cold air almost hard enough to push him back from the scanner, drying out his eye and forcing him to hold his eye open with his fingers to make sure his eye didn’t close. If it closed, he wouldn’t be able to continue. He would have to go in for an hour of training on the check-in procedures. Thankfully, his eye stayed open, and the door unsealed. He yanked on the door, knowing he had only five seconds before the door snapped shut again with enough force to cut a man in half. It took two seconds to get the door open, and another second and a half to get through. If you were slow, you were either dead or you had to start the check-in process again.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

This is a really compelling first page overall. I found myself wondering what the narrator might be guarding and shocked at the extreme security checkpoints through which he had to pass. Particularly horrifying was the machinery that peeled off the top layer of skin on his hand. This did raise one question for me: How often does he pass through this checkpoint? Wouldn’t a hand get pretty raw if the top layer of skin were removed often? I’ll admit that I’m not well versed in security technology.

For the most part, the writing in this piece flows really nicely. It’s evident to me that the author A) has a knack for language and syntax, and B) has edited this thoroughly. Aside from a punctuation tweak here and there, I think my red pen (or, perhaps more accurate, tracked changes in Microsoft Word) would remain fairly quiet on this first page.

I only tripped over the rhythm in one place: the first paragraph. Here, we have three consecutive sentences that begin with “he” + [verb]. If you read this aloud to yourself, you’ll hear the inadvertent choppiness that this structural repetition creates. You might try identifying the narrator by name in the first sentence to eliminate one “he.” You might also recast one or both of the subsequent sentences for variety—e.g., “The machine warmed his hand as it scanned not just his fingerprints but his palm print as well” and/or “The next part made him wince: Metallic teeth, like a saw blade, scratched from the base of his palm all the way to his fingertips.”

Lastly, watch out for word repetition. In the third paragraph, there are four occurrences of the word “door” in three sentences. I’d recommend revising to eliminate some of that repetition.

If this first page is a reflection of the state of the rest of the manuscript, I think it’s pretty close to ready. It sets up some pretty high stakes with the mysterious object that is more dangerous than nuclear weapons. Because the story is action-oriented, it sustains a suspenseful pace right out of the gate. Well done!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Three Steps To Keep Myself Motivated

“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

Sometimes writing feels like that for me---there are days when I'm flying through the pages, days when i'm running, then walking, and finally just crawling to the keyboard to write a page or two if I'm lucky.  This has been tough sometimes when I'm under a deadline or needing to finish. But then I discovered something.

I am much more internally motivated.

I can promise myself all sorts of external treats and rewards for finishing things, (and that's not a bad thing) but for the most part, it comes right down to the feeling of satisfaction I get when the writing is flowing as opposed to the feeling of frustration when it isn't.  I want the satisfaction more than the frustration, and that's where my internal motivator comes in.

In order to keep the frustration at bay, and to want to sit down and get my story out and have it keep flowing after the initial chapters, I have to have a plan.  I have to have done some research and a general outline to know where I'm going.  Then I'll get the satisfaction and inner motivation I'm looking for.  If I've missed a step, all I'll get is frustration as I crawl along aimlessly.

So, today I am going to follow three steps to motivate myself:

  • Visualize the ending.
  • Do my research for character and setting purposes.  Use notes to keep myself focused.
  • Make a plan to get to the already visualized end in the form of a general outline.

I know if I follow these steps, my motivation will increase and I'll have more than zero to report at the next Word Count Wednesday.

What motivators do you use?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Word Count Wednesday & Do You Think There Should Be Book Guides?

So my word count is zero again.  But I thought about it more this week.  I think that's progress.  Or at least I'm calling it progress.

I've been reading a lot of books instead of writing. (I know, I know, but maybe it will inspire my muse to come back or something.)  But I've been reading historical fiction to be exact.  And some books are definitely better than others.  There are some I wish I hadn't paid for and that could come with a warning or rating of some kind.  You know, like on IMDb there's a parental guide that says what kind of violence, language, and sex scenes are in a movie, that's what I want to find for books.  I know there's some sites out there for YA and kids books, but I sort of wish there was something out there for adult books as well.

Case in point:  I read a book that had great reviews on Amazon (remind me to take all of those reviews with a grain of salt from now on) and it also had the recommendation of a few friends who'd read it and rated it on Goodreads.  I thought I was pretty safe buying it, and it was on sale, so I did.

The first twenty pages were actually pretty good.  I was turning each page, anxious to see what happens.  Then the heroine, who is supposedly a proper and innocent girl in Regency England, goes into a man's bedroom, stares at his bare chest, then when he awakens and seems shocked to find her in his room, she goes over and kisses him.  And if you've read regencies before, you know this is a big no-no.  Of course things escalate from there and several other implausible things happen, but the book degenerates into mindless sex scenes about every other page.  Like, scenes that don't even make sense, that don't contribute to the characters or the plot, and are just there to . . . annoy me? Sell books?  Show that the book has no real plot so it needs something to fill the pages?  It reduced the main characters to one-dimensional cardboard types and the story ended up just making me shake my head and think, really?  REALLY? No rhyme or reason to it at all.

I was so disappointed and could not imagine how I'd spent good money for a book like that.  And it's not the first time I've been disappointed.  I wish there was some way to have a book guide that said something like:

Violence: None
Language: Some
Sex Scenes: About 35 or so
Plot Cliches: About Seven.  Maybe More.
True to Setting (Regency or otherwise): On a scale of 1-10 about 3
Character Depth: On a scale of 1-10 about a 1. Maybe a 0
Chance you should spend money on this book:  0

I know, I know, people's tastes are different, but really, just some sort of guide would be nice sometimes.

What do you think?  Guides like Goodreads and Amazon reviews have to be enough?  Guides would be too subjective to be helpful?  Smacks too much of censorship?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Castle Review: Button Up Kitten We're Going Home

Last night's Castle was so good.  There was a great twisty mystery, a Caskett kiss, and quotable lines.  I loved the forward movement in the Caskett relationship as well.  Beckett's look at the end says to me that we're going to be peeling back the Castle onion sooner rather than later and I, for one, am looking forward to that.  After all, we know a ton about Kate and her mom's murder blah blah blah, but hardly anything about Castle, his father, that whole mystery.  If the writers do it right, it could be really good.

I think my favorite parts were the look on Castle's face when Meredith arrived.  Oh man, the situation itself was just funny and Beckett's little one-liners for the rest of the ep about how men do dumb things around their ex just made me smile.  She was not shy at all in saying how she felt and I loved that.  No more insecure Beckett, please.  The show's scene-stealers, though, hands-down were the couple that was breaking everything.  Oh man, I laughed really hard at that.  

As usual Ryan and Esposito stole the show.  "Your worlds are colliding man."  "You're going off a steep cliff."  *whistles*  And Esposito's flying takedown of the boyfriend was awesome.  Even Ryan looked good last night.  I sort of love how Ryan and Esposito act like Beckett's brothers whenever something comes up.  Them turning to Castle and saying, "what's that all about?" really caught me in how much they look out for her.  Although my absolute favorite moment with them was when they were at the door and Ryan's talking about the dream of having a house like that and Esposito is all talking about his dream woman when Ryan calls him out with, "yeah, but then you'd dump her and look for your new dream woman."  The look on Esposito's face was hilarious!

As for Castle and Beckett I loved her line of "Button up, kitten, we're going home" because she called it home.  She acted like the other half of the couple, not giving ground, but really working with Castle through the mess.  I loved her once-over of Castle when he asked what her and his ex-wife would have to talk about, I loved their kiss (so sweet!) and I loved how Beckett was looking at him at the end.  It just bodes well that they seem to be heading toward delving into Castle's background.  Cannot. Wait.

Did you watch it last night?  What did you think?  What shows are you watching these days?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review: Finished Being Fat

With so many people having a New Year's Resolution to lose weight, (including me) this book seemed right up my alley.  It's not a how-to book, it's a book about the author Betsy Schow's journey as she looked at herself in the mirror one morning (naked) and said she was a 216 lb. "lump."  That started her on her road to self-discovery and how she became a finisher.

(Here's her before and after photos)

You see, she'd always been great at beginnings and would start things with gusto, then peter out---including weight loss.  Finished Being Fat is about how she got to a place where she could be a finisher, with weight loss, the way she raises her kids, projects, you name it.  She talks about her self-image, her self-talk, and how both external and internal things had weighed her down.  Something that all of us have dealt with at one time or another (and you know she's got it pegged when you find yourself nodding your head while you're reading because you totally know what she's talking about).

I loved Betsy's writing style.  There were several times where I laughed out loud.  Like when she's describing gym rats and gym bunnies and how she does in her first Zumba class.  She has a very real, down-to-earth style that I easily related to and found motivating.

I also like that Betsy doesn't sugarcoat anything and writes down her successes as well as those things that didn't go very well.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is struggling to achieve their goals and needs a little kick in the pants for motivation that's delivered with a smile.  Perfect for someone who's made goals for the new year, but doesn't want to be preached to or made to feel guilty.  Just a great book for inspiration in how to start a life-changing journey.

Here's the back copy:

After many years of being fat and miserable, with a few years of being average and less miserable mixed in, I finally had a lightbulb moment. The reason I was unhappy was not just the extra 75 pounds around my middle. It was the weight of all the things unfinished that hung around my neck.

I was always having grand ideas. I’d get excited about this diet, or that workout routine. Or starting a new hobby or project. Even trying to write a book. Problem was, within a few weeks the excitement would fade and that little voice would kick in. You know the one I’m talking about. “You’re no good at this. You’ll never keep the weight off. Why are you even bothering.” That little voice had kept me from finishing… anything. And every time I quit, my wall of failures would get a little higher — making success that much harder to see.

My adventure started when I decided I was finished being fat, but it snowballed into year of changing my life and accomplishing seemingly impossible dreams. Join me while I discover that “Not everyone can win the race, but everyone can finish.”

And everything is worth finishing.

You can learn more about Betsy and her book at her website

Friday, January 4, 2013

First Page Friday Refresher Course for the New Year

I recently had an author ask if she could be critiqued for a First Page Friday, but not have it posted on my blog.  I've also been asked a lot of questions about Ms. Shreditor and what my point is with First Page Fridays. Because of this, I thought I would take a few minutes today to explain why I started this on my blog.

I was at a conference where there was a panel of national agents and editors. They all said the same thing---that if a manuscript hasn't caught their attention by the first page they reject it. They wanted to see fresh and original writing that drew them in, and of course, one free of typos and grammar errors.

As I talked to my writer friends and my editor friends, we all came to the same conclusion---everyone wanted a clean first page that would appeal to editors and agents. (Of course it goes without saying that we all want a clean manuscript, but for this purpose, first pages fit.)

So, I asked my national editor friend if she could critique first pages that were submitted to my blog to help writers achieve their publishing dreams. With my friend's job schedule at a publishing company on the East Coast being so tight, she could only critique on Fridays and so First Page Friday was born. We affectionately named her Ms. Shreditor because she is a tough but fair editor and I knew she would do great.

Along the way, we had some wonderful experiences and we felt like we were really helping writers on their journey, but Ms. Shreditor's job schedule got even tighter and so I asked my former editor, Angela Eschler, if she could come on board. She was more than happy to take the last Friday of every month.

I have been so blessed to have both of these women critique for First Page Friday. They both have different styles and approaches, but I know them both to be incredible editors and very good at their jobs. Ms. Shreditor is known for her talent in the publishing industry and really does love her job. Angela Eschler is well-known for her editing services and now has her own editing business called Eschler Editing.

First Page Friday is about helping writers and we have two of the best editors around to do that. If you want to submit your work to be critiqued by some of the best in the business, all you have to do is submit your double-spaced, 12 pt. font, first page to with First Page Friday in the subject line. I do it on a first come first served basis, and right now we have one opening in January available. But no matter when you are critiqued, in my opinion, they are well worth the wait.

First Page Fridays have taught me so much. Even as a published writer I am always learning and both of our editors have given me a lot to think about as I've read their critiques each Friday. I hope it has been the same for you.

I want to thank everyone who submits because it's a hard thing to put yourself out there and have your work critiqued. I want to thank everyone who reads the submission and makes comments for being respectful. And I want to thank our amazing editors for giving of their time to help us writers be the best we can be.

So what are you waiting for? Get your submission in today!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pinterest for Authors (and Regular People)

So, I joined Pinterest a few months back and I've found some awesome things on there.  Recipes for sugar cookie bars, fun stuff to do with my kids, and I've pinned a few things myself like If My Books Were Movies and then I cast them (with famous actors and such) and Books I've Loved.  It's been a fun place for me to hang out.  You can find me on Pinterest here if you want.

Until I read an article by Jordan McCollum about using Pinterest as an Author.  You can read it here.  (But don't get sucked in!  Come back to me!)

It told me so many things that I didn't know about Pinterest. (I should totally do an inspiration board, but I think that if I pinned things about international terrorists, somebody in the government might call me).  But it also talked about how to use it with other social media and the things you should never do.  Very informative.  So I thought I'd pass it along in case other people were wanting to know some tips and tricks to it.

Happy pinning!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Word Count Wednesday

I'm sad that the Christmas holidays are over and everyone is going back to school and work.  Mostly because it's been so relaxing and fun to have all my kids home.  There is nothing like having a full house and lots of laughter and staying up late every night to chat.  It's been a great holiday.

But I haven't done any writing.  I didn't want to miss a minute with my family.  That will come soon enough.  Maybe even next week!

I did read a lot of books though.  Some were good, some not so good.  And I cut up all my keepsake t-shirts from high school and college and am getting ready to make them into quilt blocks.

What did you do over the holidays?  Did you do any writing?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My Report on 2012 New Year's Resolutions & Some For 2013

I was looking back over my New Year's Resolutions for 2012 and was pleasantly surprised that I'd accomplished a lot of them.

Here's what they were:

  • Read 112 books this year. (I had to really work hard on this one and barely squeaked in by reading the 112th on New Year's Eve. It stretched me for sure, but I did it.)
  • Write ten pages a week minimum on my work in progress. (I didn't do so well on this one, but I did write a manuscript and a half last year so I'm counting that a success.)
  • Organize my papers and pictures. (I organized almost all of my paper boxes and got rid of them. Now I'll start on my pictures I think.  Organizing, not getting rid of.)
  • Do one memorable family activity per month. (I sort of accomplished this one. Depending on your definition of memorable.)
  • Be more understanding with myself and others. (I like to think I accomplished this one. I feel like I did.)

I'd also like to set a few resolutions for 2013 and post them here for accountability's sake.

  • Read 113 books this year. 
  • Finish two manuscripts this year.
  • Organize my pictures by scanning them in and categorizing them.
  • Organize my file cabinet.
  • Delete at least 7000 emails from my inbox.
  • Make a t-shirt quilt with all my old "keepsake" t-shirts.

I know those goals will stretch me a bit out of my comfort zone and I like that idea. I stink at quilting and my reading time might not allow for 113 books, but if I write it down and look at it often, I know I can accomplish all of these.

Do you make New Year's Resolutions? What are some of yours?