Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Word Count Wednesday & Last Day Before NaNo

Well, no big shock here, but my word count was zero again this week.  But I'm fully expecting that to change by next Wednesday because I signed up for NaNoWriMo.  For those of you who aren't able to participate in NaNo, I'd still like to do fun Word Count Wednesday stuff as we set personal goals to reach in the month of November.  When I did the JumpStartWriMo over the summer, I found it so motivating to be going through it with you guys.

So, it's the last day before NaNo and what have I done to prepare?  Sadly, nothing.  I had all these pie in the sky dreams that I would outline and research and be totally ready to jump in.  But, instead, I made a Wendy and Peter Pan costume from scratch.  And my back hurts from sewing.  Hopefully it will all be worth it tonight.  I'm also a teeny bit worried because I'm sick with a horrible cough and cold.  But I can power through, right?  Send all your good chicken noodle soup thoughts my way, okay?

So, are you ready to write in November?  Are you setting your own writing goals if you're not officially participating in NaNo?  How did you do this week?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Castle Totally Rocked It Last Night!

Holy moly, did you SEE Castle last night?  One of the best episodes I've seen.  As soon as Esposito found Castle's fingerprints at the crime scene, my stomach sank.  He seemed so suspicious and I was thinking, "don't you know him better than that by now?" Of course, they were just doing their jobs yet it was tough to watch.  But Espo's reaction was nothing compared to Kate's.  The look on her face when they find that evidence in Castle's loft was absolutely amazing.  Stana Katic has such an expressive face and she uses it well.  Her breakdown with Lanie after the emails came to light about Castle's supposed "affair" with the murder victim was award-worthy.  Really well done and I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what was going on.

Nathan Fillion was no slouch either.  The look on his face when the 3XK killer comes into the holding area was pretty much mirroring the shock and surprise in my own.  I wondered a few seasons ago if 3XK would ever come back and the writers brought him back with a bang.  The creepiness factor was so high when he was telling Castle what was going to happen to him in the tombs.  It gives me shivers just thinking about it even this morning.

But the writers didn't stop there.  Kate is doing everything she can to figure this out and I felt as frustrated as she did when she was coming up with nothing.  It was seriously one of the best mysteries these guys have ever done.  I couldn't anticipate or predict anything and I've seen/written/read a lot of mysteries in my time.  When those "guards" left with Castle and then the real guards showed up?  I thought for sure Castle was in deep, deep trouble. It was so great.

I think the highlight for me was the little moments between Castle and Kate.  I wondered if this would come between them since it didn't appear that she believed in his innocence with such overwhelming evidence and Castle values loyalty.  I worried that Kate would believe the video and those emails and start to question everything she knows about Castle.  And I worried about how Esposito would take the news of Kate and Castle being together.  But with those questions came the sweet scenes of fingers held through a holding cell, reminiscing about their relationship and how, no matter what happens, it's okay, and Esposito's little, "I love him, too."  Honestly, those little moments were made so much sweeter by how much trouble they were in and the emotion behind them was palpable.  The ensemble work in this show never ceases to impress me and the acting is fantastic.

But it couldn't be done without the writers, so, Castle writers, two thumbs way up to you.  I loved every bit of this episode.  You totally rocked it!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Book Review: Evertaster

I am participating in the blog tour of Evertaster by Adam Glendon Sidwell and I am here to warn you that this book will make your mouth water as your heart races along with Guster while he tries to outwit the evil chefs who are after him.  The descriptions of chocolate alone made me crave it!  But I digress . . .

Guster has a delicate palate and is unable to eat most food because of it.  He can tell even where the smallest of ingredients in a dish came from and most of the time it makes the food inedible for him.  His mother takes him to New Orleans to try to find something that he can actually eat and while there, he finds an old, dusty patisserie that is closed to the public.  They go in the back way, however, and talk to an old coughing man who tells them about the One Recipe that people have killed for.  Guster is given a curious-looking eggbeater, but before he can ask anymore questions an evil chef tries to kill them and they must flee.  This is the start of a wonderful and thrilling adventure for Guster and his family as they try to stay one step ahead of the people who want what he has.

My ten-year-old son and I read this book together and we loved it.  It had the right amount of adventure and  fun without being over the top.  It was dead on in what a child would find funny and there were several laugh out loud moments for both of us.  I thought the characters were well-written and the plot moved along quite quickly, leaving us both wanting more at the end of every chapter.  This book was very enjoyable and one I would highly recommend for kids or as a family read-aloud book.

Here is the back copy and what others are saying about it:

"Wonderfully talented writing; funny."
--Orson Scott Card, NYT Bestselling author of Ender's Game

"Sidwell is a talented comedian, and that is certainly reflected in his writing. The characters are quirky and likable." --Deseret News

When eleven-year-old Guster Johnsonville rejects his mother's casserole for the umpteenth time, she takes him into the city of New Orleans to find him something to eat. There, in a dark, abandoned corner of the city they meet a dying pastry maker. In his last breath he entrusts them with a secret: an ancient recipe that makes the most delicious taste the world will ever know — a taste that will change the fate of humanity forever.

Forced to flee by a cult of murderous chefs, the Johnsonvilles embark on a perilous journey to ancient ruins, faraway jungles and forgotten caves. Along the way they discover the truth: Guster is an Evertaster — a kid so picky that nothing but the legendary taste itself will save him from starvation. With the sinister chefs hot on Guster’s heels and the chefs’ reign of terror spreading, Guster and his family must find the legendary taste before it’s too late. 

 "One of the most original, well-crafted and imaginative MG stories I've come across in a long time." - WordSpelunking Book Review

About the Author: 

In between books, Adam Glendon Sidwell uses the power of computers to
make monsters, robots and zombies come to life for blockbuster movies such as Pirates of the
Caribbean, King Kong, Transformers and Tron. After spending countless hours in front of a
keyboard meticulously adjusting tentacles, calibrating hydraulics, and brushing monkey fur, he is
delighted at the prospect of modifying his creations with the flick of a few deftly placed
adjectives. He’s been eating food since age 7, so feels very qualified to write this book. He once
showed a famous movie star where the bathroom was. Adam currently lives in Los Angeles,
where he can’t wait to fall into the sea.

 You can learn more about Adam and his writing adventures here:





 Blog Tour Schedule for Evertaster by Adam Glendon Sidwell, 2012

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Friday, October 26, 2012

First Page Friday

It's Friday again and I'm so glad to have such great editors who critique for us and help us learn our craft.  If you would like your first page critiqued, just send your double-spaced 12 pt. font first page to 

This week's review is brought to us by Heidi Brockbank, a senior editor on the editorial team at Eschler Editing. Heidi assists on many of the reviews, and due to an illness in Angela's family, is the sole author of this week's review. Thank you to Fay and Heidi for their efforts today.  See you next week!

The Entry
by Fay Klingler
(Author's note:  This is a juvenile fiction chapter book)

“Gotcha,” squealed Grandma May, smacking her card on the table to beat my play. Her eyes shined with full-blown glee!
“No!” I shouted in disappointment. My strawberry-brown hair slapped the sides of my face as I quickly sat back in my chair. I threw my arms in the air crying, “Not again!”
I’ve played cards with Grandma May nearly every day since she moved in with us a few months ago, soon after Grandpa died. Grandma said I should call her “Grandma May” instead of “Grandma” or “Nanna.” “If you use my first name,” she told me in her slight Wyoming drawl, “there’ll be no question which of your two grandmas you’re talking about or talking to.”
Being named after both my grandmas, there was really never any question whether I’d remember their first names. I was given the name “Louisa” after my mom’s mom, and “May” after my dad’s mom. But everyone prefers to call me just “Lu.”
Grandma May says I’m a lot like her because I’m a good listener, but I see a lot of differences. Yeah, I try to listen to others before I speak. But when I get excited or upset, it’s hard to be quiet and keep my thoughts to myself. Grandma May, on the other hand, can stay calm and keep her thoughts secret. Another big difference is how we use time. I’d like to read a book, most any book, while she’d rather cook a special treat for the family.
Grandma May is 82 years old and quick in spite of her age. My ten-year-old, inexperienced fingers don’t seem to process the card moves like hers do. I rarely win. But I still love playing with her. Dad calls us the giggle girls because of our loud laughter. “There you go again,” he says, “having another of your happy parties!”
Each morning, before I leave for school, I knock on Grandma May’s door to say good-bye. Without fail she tells me, “Lu, people are going to love you today!”
“Oh Grandma!” I shake my head back and forth in reply.
She gives me a firm hug and says, “Heavenly Father placed me here to remind you who you are. Remember, let the real you shine today. Make it a good one! You’re a child of God, and I love you.”
I look up at her and smile. Then I turn to walk out the front door to make the best of my day.

Heidi's Editorial Comments

A Good Start

This story has warmth, a good eye for detail, and upbeat characters I wouldn’t mind spending the course of a story with.  With a few tweaks, you’ll be off to a great start.

Children are a demanding audience, but they can be equally rewarding. Young readers want many of the same things that adult readers do: interesting characters, gripping action, a story-worthy problem. At the same time, an author needs to be aware of special requirements for this age group. Here are a few to keep in mind:

Finding Your Audience

A general rule of thumb is that your reading audience tends to be a few years younger than the age of your protagonist. Lu is ten. That will put your likely readers in the 7-10 year-old age range. The next level up is middle reader/middle grade books—targeting 8-12 year-olds. In recent years, a new level has been emerging for 10-14 year-olds. There is some overlap between these categories. The Clementine series, by Sarah Pennypacker, is targeted to 2nd to 5th graders, the transitional age group. Frindle by Andrew Clements, is a fun example of the middle reader group. James Dashner’s The 13th Reality and Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series fall more into the 10-14 age range. It’s important to pinhole which audience you are writing for, because not only will it affect the age of your main character, but also the length, complexity, and language of your story. At the moment, your protagonist’s age indicates this will be aimed at a younger audience, while some of the language points to an older group. This is easy to fix – either make Lu older or make her language more youthful.

Letting Kids be Kids

Age-appropriate dialogue and vocabulary is important when writing for a younger audience. Lu sometimes has observations that sound too mature for her age. For instance, analyzing the differences between how she and her grandma use time. Most ten-year-olds aren’t thinking along these lines. Also, Lu’s comment about her inexperienced fingers not being able to process the cards doesn’t sound like a kid her age. It’s not that the words are out of range—most kids will have probably had them on vocabulary tests. But comprehension isn’t enough. Young readers are pretty savvy – they’ll recognize when the cadence of the language speaks to them (or doesn’t), even if they can’t say why. You want to avoid usage that sounds “too grown-up.” One of the best things you can do is eavesdrop shamelessly. Really listen to kids—not only what they say but how they say it, so you can choose words and phrasing that will resonate with them.

Stirring up Trouble

Grandma May is charming, and her relationship with Lu is touching. But this isn’t the start of a story. You don’t have a story until you have a problem. As Les Edgerton says in Hooked, “There’s simply no reason for a story to ever exist unless it’s about trouble.” That’s as true for children’s books as it is for adults. Conflict is essential – if there is no problem, there is no story. As with adult and YA books, first sentence, first paragraph, or first page is where you’d like your hook to land. Your hook can be an attention-grabbing first sentence, fun or quirky language that pulls the reader in, or even a unique character. But in order for the reader to stay hooked, you need to follow that up as soon as possible with a story-worthy problem. (Note: Sometimes the hook and the problem are one and the same.)

This is demonstrated on the first page of Clementine. In the first sentence, she tells us that she’s had a “not so good week.” Then she starts explaining why, including having to explain to the principal that Margaret’s hair was not her fault and that she looks fine without it. That’s the third sentence in, and I’ve never seen a kid (or adult) that wasn’t already hooked by this point and dying to find out more about the trouble.

All the wonderful rapport and camaraderie between Lu and her grandma is great, but it doesn’t belong on the first page. It can come later, once we establish the trouble.

Show and Tell

A friend of mine just recently had an agent respond to her manuscript by saying that she loved the idea, but there was too much telling. Her advice to this author was to rewrite the first chapter completely, making sure that the reader will learn the information as the main character experiences it. Lu’s story starts with two show-y paragraphs. But the rest of the excerpt is told to the reader by the main character. One thing you could try, instead, is for Lu to discover the problem in a conversation during the card game. As for the rest of the information, some telling is okay, but spread it out and make sure that you have plenty of showing.

Lost: One Reader between Past and Present

The story starts out in past tense, but after a few paragraphs, morphs into present tense. Tense should be consistent through the story. Present tense can be trickier to use than past tense, especially if you are going to present back-story and events that have already taken place. You may decide that’s the tense you want for your particular story – just remember to stick with it.

Bracing for a Lecture

Avoid teaching obvious life lessons – the reader should be able to draw their own conclusions from a well-told story. Grandma’s words to Lu are sweet, but especially on the first page, most kids (who have a built-in radar detector when it comes to lectures) will already be on high alert. Grandma may be able to say something like this, but not on this page, and only if there is a realistic progression up to that remark.

Seinfeld Episode #68

You may recall the Seinfeld episode where Elaine has a fascination with exclamation points. She even breaks up with her boyfriend because he doesn’t put an exclamation when taking a phone message. Later, her boss at the publishing company has a conversation with her about the “inordinate number of exclamation points” she has put in a client’s manuscript. She explains that she was just trying to increase the emotion and intensity.

Let’s face it: exclamation marks are exciting! But you want to ration them out. If everything is exciting enough for exclamation marks, there’s no room left to get even more exciting. I counted seven exclamations on this page. Even Clementine, who is a very exclamation mark kind of kid, averages only one every 1.7 pages for the first 3 chapters (although to be fair, she sometimes uses 2 or 3 on a single page, and then goes several pages without any.)

Don’t be afraid to use them. Just be sure there’s balance. Also, avoid Elaine’s misconception: you can’t make the writing more exciting with an exclamation mark. The words have to carry enough punch by themselves. If there’s no zing without the punctuation, all the exclamation marks in the world won’t be a cure.

The Adventure Begins

Ten is a wonderful age to be, and Lu sounds like a sweet, spunky kid who is going to have great adventures, once she finds her problem. Once she has that, make sure that you “show, don’t tell.” Keep words and phrasing at the 10-year old level (think of it as writing a foreign language – that of elementary school kids). And let your words convey excitement, not your exclamation points! After that, you’ll be off and running. May your own adventures in writing be as wonderful as your character’s.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Blog Tour is Almost Here!

I've never done an official blog tour before, but with All Fall Down, I am pleased to announce I will be doing one.  The amazing Lexie Hogan from The Book Bug will be doing mine in November.  She showed me the tour banner yesterday and I'm so excited I wanted to share.

Isn't it great?!  Lexie does such a great job.  There will be reviews and prizes and lots of fun so I hope you'll visit all the blogs that are participating when the time comes.

I'm curious, though, what do you think of blog tours?  Overdone or fun?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How Do Authors Prepare for NaNoWriMo? & Word Count Wednesday

Well, I've been doing a lot of thinking about NaNoWriMo and all your suggestions from yesterday.  I googled around a bit at what other people do to prepare for NaNo and I found a few blogs that gave me an idea of how it's done by others.

What Jordan McCollum does to gear up for NaNo

Writer's Digest & Four Steps for Outlining your NaNo Book

Preparing the Pantsless Way by Amber West

Preparing with Erika Liodice

What You Should Be Doing to Prepare for NaNo

For someone who's never done NaNoWriMo I found these and a lot of other blogs that were helpful in knowing what to expect if an author does choose to do NaNo and it also told me that everyone does it different.  So many people just dive in with no prep and others do a ton of prep!  It's just like the writing process I suppose---everyone does it different.

After reading through all of this I've decided to go ahead and try to do NaNo this year.  I signed up as JulieBellon and apparently you can friend people there, so if you want, please come friend me.  I'd still like to do something on the blog on a smaller scale and of course, let you know how it's going for me.  It's a bit scary to do NaNo for all the reasons I mentioned yesterday, but most things worth doing were a bit scary in the beginning I think.

I've decided to write Colby's story (from All Fall Down) for my NaNo story, and I have a few ideas for the opening chapters.  But so far, that's all I've got.

I didn't write at all this week, but I thought a lot about writing.  Does that count?  How did you do?  And if I'm doing NaNo does that change your mind at all about doing it, too?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

NaNoWriMo---Yay or Nay?

Since we had no Castle or Hawaii Five-O last night because of the presidential debate, I had time to mull over whether I might participate in NaNoWriMo this year.

For anyone who doesn't know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month where you write a novel (or 50,000 words) in the month of November.  There's a place for you to track your progress and get encouragement and almost all of my author friends participate each November.

But I've never done it.

For one thing, I have limited and irregular computer time so that makes it hard for me.  And, you know, those kids demand my time since I'm their mother and all.

But a tiny part of me is thinking that I might be able to do it this year.  The baby is two now and the older kids do help quite a bit.  I am a good meal-planner so no one would go hungry and my older kids are also great cooks if I get in a bind.  Not to mention my husband is also a great support with whatever I need.

But I'm still scared.  What if it's too much?  What if I only think I can organize my life and time enough to do it?  What if halfway through I know I just can't do it without my other responsibilities suffering?


I even have an idea for a book which is why I thought I might do it in the first place.

As a compromise, I was thinking that maybe I wouldn't officially sign up, but just do something here on the blog for accountability.  Sort of like my own personal NaNoWriMo, but more like the JumpStartWriMo we did last summer on the blog.

What do you think?  Do you do NaNoWriMo?  Would you be up for doing something on the blog for those of us who just aren't sure we can really jump all in to do it in an official capacity?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Book Review: Daughter of Joy

I was first introduced to Kathleen Morgan when I got her book Child of the Mist for free on Kindle.  (I noticed it's still free if you like Christian romance in the Scottish Highlands.)  I sort of liked that story (in an overall sort of way)  (Maybe I should explain.  I thought it was fluffy and the heroine wasn't particularly bright.  I mean, she was almost killed fifty times but still runs around getting herself into scrapes and needing to be rescued.  But, you know, it wasn't horrible and the story premise was pretty good) and so I got another of her books, Daughter of Joy (Brides of Culdee Creek Book 1).  This one definitely did not walk the fine balance between a Christian romance and an overbearing sermon disguised as a romance.

I was drawn to the description on the back copy of a woman who has lost her husband and young son and is searching for some direction in her life.  She ends up at Conor MacKay's doorstep to apply for the position of housekeeper, even though he has a bad reputation in town and a daughter who is a handful to say the least.

I really liked the hero, Conor, and while a bit predictable with starting out gruff and gradually softening, he had a lot of things thrown at him that he dealt with in a realistic way.  He got angry, was a bit forbidding in his ways, but he had a lot of heart and loyalty.

The heroine, Abby, started out as someone I liked, but she quickly became so preachy and know-it-all I started to dislike her intensely.  Every time something happened (and the author threw everything in there from long-lost wives, to hookers trying to get out of the business, to loveless marriages) Abby was preaching to anyone who would listen and it was unrealistic and over the top for me.  I really really wanted to like her again and I thought she had a lot of potential, but came to the end feeling like I'd read a lot of scripture in that "romance."

I also had a hard time with the author skipping several months of the story and just summing it up in a letter to the heroine's relative.  It seemed like lazy writing to me when I would have rather "seen" that for myself and really felt the story progress.

The best character in the book was the little girl, Beth, who has been through a lot in her life (her mother was Native American and not married to her father which caused a lot of prejudice and grief for her) and she really blossoms in the story.  The relationship between Conor and his little girl was sweet and quite well-done and easily the highlight of the entire book.

So, to sum up, the story premise was good, the first half was pretty good, but then it went downhill from there into a mess of preaching and scripture.  Not that I'm opposed to that in a Christian romance, mind you, but there was just way too much of it inserted into the story for my taste.  

Here is the back copy:

Love, heartbreak, and triumph lie deep within the wilds of the Colorado highlands. Abigail Stanton's whole life was rooted in her faith, a faith she now clings to for survival. After losing her husband and young son, Abby sets out alone, bereft, and heartsick. And when she is led to Conor MacKay's doorstep, the very foundation of her belief starts to shift. As the volatile rancher's new housekeeper, Abby is supposed to keep his affairs--and his capricious little girl--in order. Abby feels anything but order, though, when she and Conor are together. Can love heal the wounds of the past? Or will Abby and Conor risk even greater losses than they have already suffered? The first in the Brides of Culdee Creek series, Daughter of Joy takes you on a journey of grief, intrigue, and redeeming love in the nineteenth-century Colorado highlands.

Friday, October 19, 2012

First Page Friday

I am so glad it's Friday, not only because it's been a long week, but because it's First Page Friday!  I'd like to thank Joshua and Ms. Shreditor for their efforts today.  I learned a lot!  If you'd like your first page critiqued please submit your double-spaced, 12 pt. font first page to

See you next week!

The Entry
Origin of Storms
by Joshua Berry


          Rolling thunder frightened the people of Taylor Springs to near panic. The strength of its voice even shook the bones of those lying in the town cemetery. People all around predicted the very next day would bring the end of the world. Following another burst of lightning across a darkened sky a clap of thunder was accompanied by human screams. Then, without further preamble, the lights of Taylor Springs, every one, went dark.
            Mike Cannon walked through his darkened bedroom. He retrieved a flashlight and made his way to a cupboard where he stored several candles. He lit one to illuminate a cluttered kitchen. The clutter didn't include dirty dishes, however. Mike was good to keep dishes washed. He didn't want small rodents roaming around. Pouring a glass of water he considered the people of Taylor Springs. Why did they believe the world would end the next day? He thought it was total nonsense.
            Kaleb Browning's many conversations with his brother-in-law about the end of the world always ended the same. Even before he'd married Michelle Cannon he and her brother, Mike, had engaged in spirited dialogue concerning the earth's final days. So many events of nature spoke clearly of the earth's end. And Kaleb believed something else of which he wasn't shy about telling others. Satan had control of the earth and when all was finished it would belong to him.
            The sin of the earth's inhabitants would mark their downfall, Kaleb believed. He'd been taught as a child the earth was created by someone who loved him very much. This creator did only good things and believed in peace in the world. But Kaleb saw death at every turn, destruction along every path, and he knew Satan, the author of all evil, had taken control. The hold wouldn't be relinquished easily because the people on the earth favored his ways. They were easy to live and the people felt comfortable in their grasp. But the deception could only lead the people to one thing, eternal damnation.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

This first page has good bones, but it needs some developmental editing to bring forth the bits that will make the most compelling beginning. Once the thunder has rolled and the lights have gone out, we meet Mike Cannon briefly before the story shifts to Kaleb Browning’s point of view. While we learn next to nothing about Mike, we learn a great deal about Kaleb.

Having multiple narrators on the first page creates a lot of confusion, so I would consider separating the two throughout the book. The best option would be to separate Mike and Caleb into separate chapters. I get the impression that this story will highlight two men with vastly different perspectives. To convey this dichotomy effectively, make sure that each character gets enough face time for the reader to forge a meaningful connection.

The first paragraph makes effective use of sound as a suspense-building agent. However, this section also leaves the reader wondering why the townspeople are predicting the apocalypse tomorrow, and even Kaleb’s thoughts in the fourth paragraph don’t illuminate why people are homing in on a specific day. Is the world in such a shambles that the apocalypse seems imminent? All we know from the text is that the thunder is rolling and the power has gone out, but this doesn’t seem noteworthy on a global scale.

Try to avoid extraneous details as a general rule, but particularly on the first page. When we meet Mike, he responds to the power outage by lightning candles and then goes on a tangent about dirty dishes and rodents. Then he pours a glass of water and ponders the mass hysteria. It feels a bit disorganized as is. The most important thing we learn about Mike comes at the end of the paragraph, when he questions why people are so convinced the world is about to end.

As you continue to write this story, consider some of the aforementioned issues. Allow one character at a time to command the narrative, as head-hopping creates reader confusion. The opening paragraph has the right idea; it serves up an eerie setting and sets the plot in motion with the power outage. The challenge will be stringing together a cohesive story that successfully interweaves two characters’ narratives.