Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Funday! (16)

Happy Sunday everyone! Well, maybe happy for you, but I'm doing my taxes today, so it's definitely not happy for me. Maybe if I get a refund big enough to buy a MACBOOK it will be happy...then again, I'm shackled to another human being for life married, and the person I'm married to really needs a car and/or new tires for his motorcycle (currently his only form of transportation) so here's hoping that we get a GIANT REFUND...ok, that's so not happening, because I'm going to be in Freelance Writer Taxing Hell. But that doesn 't matter for you, dear readers. What matters to you is that it's Sunday, which means it's time for another Sunday Funday!!! Here are some hilarious/helpful posts from around the blogging community:  

Hey, I'm holding a contest! Win a copy of The Art of War for Writers, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, and some extra goodies! 

Contrary to popular belief of anyone who might be querying, agents are actually human. And the Rejectionist proves it. 

I know we all worry when we read ideas or plots similar to ours in other books. I've read more than one blog posts on this topic. But it turns out editors are worried about this kind of stuff too. Editorial Ass sheds some light on this phenomenon, and explains why it didn't matter any way.

Kiersten White is a LOST fan, just like me! In fact, she had TWO LOST-themed posts this week. In the first, she shares with us the never-aired episode of the show which she wrote. In the second, she explains why we, as authors, should never strive to be like LOST.

As a magazine editor, I take it for granted that everyone else will be able to decipher the unintelligible code of copyediting marks. But for those out there who have no idea what those little marks might mean, author Gary Corby shares his insight on their definitions, and just what the heck authors are supposed to do when they get copyeditors' notes back, anyway. 

As part of their ongoing series on teen archetypes in YA literature, the First Novels Club talked about jobs and teen characters in literature.

Laurel's Leaves discusses sleight-of-hand in fiction, why it's important, and gives a break down of the elements of narrative misdirection.

Finally, I don't think it's any secret how much I loved Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins. It comes out March 2nd (though it has been spotted in a few places on the shelves already!), but you can enter to win a free copy on Free Book Friday Teens (and I have it on good authority that Forever Young is holding a giveaway next week!)...and if you don't win, just suck it up and go buy one, because it's awesome.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The elusive "teen voice"

Before you read this post, check out my pre-famous author interview on Anne Riley's blog

This post is for my YA writer friends, or anyone who puts teen characters in their novels. If you don't, you can feel free to skip this in your Google reader line-up, blogger dashboard, or whatever other method you use to enjoy the fuzzy goodness that is my blog.

About two weeks ago, I won a contest on the lovely Ms. Myra McEntire's blog for a copy of Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins. But the day before I found out I won, a friend of mine, who had read the book and was dying to discuss it with someone, offered to send me her ARC, on the express promise that I return it to her when I was finished. By the time I found out I won, the other copy was already in the mail. So I told my friend that I would read her copy until my copy arrived, then return her copy and finish up whatever was left with my own copy (and if I say "copy" one more time in this sentence I think my blog is going to explode). Needless to say, I devoured my friend's copy of the book in a few days, and it is already in the mail back to her. I am so thrilled to have my very own copy of this book on my way to me so that I can add it to my collection and visit it over and over again, not only because the story and characters are fun and engaging, and the plot quite brilliant, but because Rachel Hawkins has mastered something that most YA writers agonize over trying to perfect - the teen voice.

Hex Hall is narrated by Sophie Mercer, a 16-year-old who found out three years ago that she's a witch. And even though I love that aspect of the book (and the fact that Hawkins freely references Harry Potter in an extremely appropriate way), what I love even more is that, by the end of the book, I felt as if I knew Sophie and all of her quirks. More than that, I wanted to be her friend. I found her hilarious and sarcastic and smart, but not in-your-face about it. I felt like I was really reading from a teenager's point of view, but not once was I annoyed with trivialities, and I don't remember there being an "OMG!!!" or a "like, totally!" to be found. (Although "like, totally!" might be very 1999 of me. I have no idea. I am old and out of touch. Well, not really old, but old enough for the kiddos to think I'm out of touch, anyhow.) But not for one second did I doubt that Sophie was 16. She made me laugh with her quick-witted retorts. She was genuine. She gushed over boys in almost the same breath that she condemned them. She simultaneously hated her mom and loved her. Her vocabulary was appropriate for her age, and she didn't talk down to the reader. I honestly can't remember the last time that I thought a first-person contemporary teen narrator was this genuine, believable, and just plain fun.

I know this book is on a lot of people's radars, but if you're writing a contemporary YA with a teen narrator, especially a female teen, this book is a must-read. Hawkins completely nails the teen voice. I can't believe she's a debut author, and I look forward to seeing more of both her and Sophie. Rachel Hawkins is also on Twitter, and you should follow her there, because she's fabulous. 

OK, now that I've totally gushed over a book given you some required reading, here are some tips to help make the teen voice in your YA novel more genuine:
  1. If you are old and crotchety out of high school like me, go somewhere and just listen to the way teenagers talk. There's nothing worse than an adult trying to pretend they know what a teenager sounds this means watching lame sitcoms doesn't count. (Although you should definitely watch Degrassi: The Next Generation, just because it's awesome, it's Canadian, and it has given us such stars as Nina Dobrev of Vampire Diaries fame and Shenae Grimes, current star of the new 90210.) I'd suggest going to the mall or other public places and listening to how various groups of teens interact with other people - with their parents, their friends, their boyfriends, etc. Notice the differences when it's just two teens talking than when there's a larger group. This might make you a creepy stalker, true, but it's excellent research. 
  2. Here's a radical idea...go find a teen and, uh, TALK TO THEM. You should probably be doing this anyway if you want to write YA. For this one, though, I don't suggest heading to the mall, because while slurping on your Starbucks and window shopping with your ears open is one thing, approaching teens for a casual conversation is another, and is a sure-fire way to get you arrested. But I'm sure most of you have a teen in your life, a sister, daughter, niece, nephew, student, cousin, SOMEone, who falls into your target demographic. And if not? Volunteering would be a great opportunity to give back to the community and get to know a young adult. Plus, Disney is giving out free passes this year to people who spend just one day volunteering. Novel research, volunteering, and free passes to Disney? It's like the Trifecta of Win.      
  3. Finally, try to get a teen beta reader or two. Most teens will be up-front with you and tell you if they think your teen-aged MC sounds like an adult in teen clothing. Gather those teens I mentioned in number two and ask them to read your manuscript, or find some volunteer teen betas through writing groups such as YALitChat
What about you, readers? What's the best book you've read recently with a believable teen voice? And what tips do you have for making the teen voice more authentic?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Proof that outstanding writers have no rules

I've talked before about how adverbs can ruin your story and make agents and editors run screaming from your partials. They are a sign of weak writing, and you should use them sparingly if you want to be at all successful as a writer. In that same post, I mentioned something that Tom Franklin, southern writer extradordinaire, said at the writer's conference I attended: no matter the rule, some writer somewhere has broken it and broken it beautifully.

I couldn't help but be reminded of this rule on my drive to Atlanta this weekend. During road trips, I always listen to books on CD to pass the time, and this time I decided to revisit an old favorite: Jim Dale reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (for the ride up) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (for the ride down). I don't know what it is about the way that he reads, but for some reason I noticed something that I've often heard is a weakness of J.K. Rowlings but I've never noticed before - overuse of adjectives.

To prove my point, here is a random sample from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (pg. 187-188):
Harry ducked swiftly behind his cauldron, pulled one of Fred's Filibuster fireworks out of his pocket, and gave it a quick prod with his wand. The firework began to fizz and sputter. Knowing he had only seconds, Harry straightened up, took aim, and lobbed it into the air; it landed right on target in Goyle's cauldron.

Goyle's potion exploded, showering the whole class. People shrieked as splashes of Swelling Solution hit them. Malfoy got a faceful and his nose began to swell like a balloon; Goyle blundered around, his hands over his eyes, which had expanded to the size of a dinner plate -- Snape was trying to restore calm and find out what had happened. Through the confusion, Harry saw Hermione slip quietly into Snape's office.

"Silence! SILENCE!" Snape roared. "Anyone who has been splashed, come here for a Deflating Draft -- when I find out who did this --"

Harry tried not to laugh as he watched Malfoy hurry forward, his head drooping with the weight of a nose like a small melon. As half the class lumbered up to Snape's desk, some weighted down with arms like clubs, others unable to talk through gigantic puffed-up lips, Harry saw Hermione slide back into the dungeon, the front of her robes bulging.

When everyone had taken a swig of antidote and the various swellings had subsided, Snape swept over to Goyle's cauldron and scooped out the twisted black remains of the firework. There was a sudden hush.

"If I ever find out who threw this," Snape whispered, "I shall make sure that person is expelled."

Harry arranged his face into what he hoped was a puzzled expression. Snape was looking right at him, and the bell that rang ten minutes later could not have been more welcome.

"He knew it was me," Harry told Ron and Hermione as they hurried back to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. "I could tell."

Hermione threw the new ingredients into the cauldron and began to stir feverishly.

"It'll be ready in two weeks," she said happily.

"Snape can't prove it was you," said Ron reassuringly to Harry. "What can he do?"

"Knowing Snape, something foul," said Harry as the potion frothed and bubbled. 
So, in a page and a half we have five adverbs, two of which are the super-evil speech attribution adverbs, and three of which are within one line of each other.

BUT...does anyone really care about this? Because let's look at something else this scene gives us...some damn fine description, and some bits that even make me laugh out loud. It also gives great characterization for Snape - the hush when he finds the firework (although maybe it shouldn't have been "sudden," which I've heard is on a lot of agent/edior hit lists), and the fact that he can whisper a threat and it is even more menacing than if he had shouted it.  SPOILER ALERT AHEAD FOR BOOK FIVE. DON'T READ THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THROUGH ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (although if you haven't read them by now, that's really not my fault) Something else that this scene gives us is an incling that Snape can read Harry's mind, which of course we find out later is something he's quite skilled at. And all in this little scene in potions class.

So even though this writing sample does show some signs of weak writing (and even though JKR put an adverb in the title, the TITLE, of her seventh Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), how many people really care? Her skill as a world-builder, storyteller, foreshadower and ability to keep us involved allows us to forgive her love of adverbs. Would her writing possibly be better if she took the adverbs out? Maybe. But then these books would be so great that no one else would ever want to read anything, ever, and the rest of us would all be out of dreams/jobs.

Proof that, once again, if you're a good enough writer, you can break any rule you damn well please.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

100 Followers Giveaway!!

Before I get to the contest details, I want to tell you to check out my guest post on Forever Young, a YA Lit Blog, where I talk about Will Grayson, Will Grayson! Jessica's blog is one of my very favorite YA book blogs, and it helps that she's a super awesome person. You should check it out if you haven't already!

Hey everyone! Guess what? I have 100 followers!! Woot!

I've only been blogging since October 28, 2009, so this feels like a pretty big accomplishment to me. In just four short months, 100 people, most of them people I've never even met in real life, thought my blog was interesting enough to click that little follow button over there and read what I have to say. You comment on my posts and fill my heart with joy. So for that, I must say thank you!

And what better way to say thank you than with some FREE BOOKS!!

I agonized for some time over what books to give away. After all, my last giveaway had some signed books by bestselling authors, and unfortunately I don't have access to that right now. There are some YA books I'd love to give away, but I know not all of my readers are into YA, and right now I want to thank ALL of you. I also know that not all of my readers are writers, but ultimately this is a writing blog, so I've decided to give away some books on writing.

What can you win?

As my readers are all over the place in terms of where they are in the writing process, I'm giving one lucky winner two books, which should help at different stages of the writing process.

The first book, The Art of War for Writers, is one I recently picked up for myself. This one is a more recent publication, but I've heard nothing but good things about this little red book. It has three sections, Reconnaissance (preparing to write well), Tactics (how to write well), and Strategy (how to sell your writing).

The second book is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. This is one that's been on my to-read list for awhile, and seems to be full of the kind of editing advice that every writer wants. It was written by a former publisher, and has information on how to edit your novel like the editor for a publishing house would. There is even a page where they authors mark up a scene from The Great Gatsby - a book I loathe, which I'm sure could be greatly improved.   

You'll also win a few extra goodies, one of which will be handcrafted by me!

And because the whole point of this contest is to thank you and tell you how awesome I think you are, I'm going to make it extremely easy for you to enter. All you need to do to win is be a blog follower. That's it. No extra entries (though it would still be awesome if you helped spread the word, and maybe if you followed me on Twitter). No crazy point-counting. Just make sure you're following me, then fill out the form below.

Contest ends on Friday, March 5. Good luck!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sunday, er, Monday Funday!

Well, today is Monday, which means I'm a day late and several dollars short of my Sunday Funday post. See I was in Atlanta this weekend visiting with some very awesome ladies and didn't get home until 7 yesterday. Then I had to go review a bar, and do my Sunday night girls' night ritual of watching Desperate Housewives and whatever trashy show is on VH1 (this month: Tough Love 3), and before I knew it, it was midnight and I was exhausted. But I have been saving up these posts for a week, and there are some seriously awesome ones that I can't pass up posting! I should have scheduled the post to go up while I was gone, but I didn't, because I'm stupid. Oh well. This week and this week only, Sunday Funday will be MONDAY FUNDAY!!! Woot!! Here are all the links that I thought were awesome this week: 

Frankie told us all about a terrifying affliction that is hurting writers everywhere. It's called the Sexy New Idea Syndrome, and it can be deadly and fatal to your WIP!! What do you do when it strikes? 

That Frankie was pretty much on fire this week. She and Shannon Messenger are in an ongoing blog war, and her most recent dare was fulfilled with this Web Cam for Writers video.

Speaking of Shannons, Shannon O'Donnell from Book Dreaming posted the only 12 1/2 rules you'll ever need for writing.

I don't really know what's going on in this picture over at The Rejectionist, but I sort of love it.

One of the things I struggle most with in my writing is dialogue, which is why I really appreciate The First Novels Club's two-part series on dialogue this week. Find the posts here and here.

On WordPress, there's a blog called Old People Writing for Teens. LOVE the name. What I love even more is these five facts every aspiring YA author should know.

YA Highway and Anne Riley have different views on which pets are right for animals. YA Highway thinks dogs are superior, while Anne is really more supportive of the cats. I make my view clear here.

A creative director from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group explains the evolution of a book cover, along with pictures of cover mock-ups along the way. The reasons they changed covers were really interesting; one of my favorite reads on covers!

Finally, Natalie Whipple helps you figure out what to do when you get a critique back - how do you separate the CRAP from the DOH! from the PERFECTION?

In other news, I am ONE FOLLOWER AWAY from 100!!! Squee! Contest will commence when I hit the target. You know what to do, you lurky-loos.
UPDATE: WOOHOO!!!!!!!! I now have 100 followers!!! It's like Blog-Christmas. Details on the contest coming tonight! 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

On Endings

One month and one day ago, I wrote a blog post on beginnings. I did this because I had attended an extremely brilliant workshop on beginnings, run by the fabulous Anita Shreve, and learned so much my brain was going to explode a little. Plus, beginnings are an important part of your book. Some would even say the most important part. They hook the reader (and before that, the agent, and somewhere in between, the editor), and set the tone of the novel.

But more than once I've heard agents express their disappointment over full manuscripts they've received that just didn't live up to the shine and promise of the first few sample chapters. That's probably because most writers get it drilled into their heads how important the beginning is that they often neglect, or at least don't criticize as harshly, the middle and the end. But the truth is, although the beginning is what hooks a reader, the middle is what keeps them going, and the end is what makes them beg you to write another book.

There are several ways to end a novel:

1. The happy ending. We're all familiar with the happy ending. Everything gets wrapped up in a neat little bow, the evil-doer is vanquished, the lovers OMGTOTALLYMAKEOUT, and all is well. Most fairy tales, unless they're German and/or the Brothers Grimm, have a happy ending. The problem with the happy ending is that it's not always totally true to life. In real life, everything isn't perfect all the time. Sometimes the bad guy wins. Sometimes the lovers don't work out. The good thing about the happy ending is that it will probably make most of your readers pretty happy, as well.

2. Everybody dies. I don't necessarily mean this literally. What I mean by "everybody dies" is basically the opposite of "happily ever after." Your main character does not successfully complete their goal. The villain gets away with the diamonds. The girlfriend cheats on her boyfriend. A black hole envelops the world. And then you have to put your dog down. It's a tragedy, in other words, and when done well it can be a perfect ending (just ask Shakespeare). The problem, of course, with this type of ending is that a lot of readers don't like them, especially in contemporary YA, so you're going to piss some readers off. I also tend to think that they aren't realistic, for all the same reasons I think happy endings aren't realistic.  

3. The cliffhanger. This is an ending you'll often see in a series, particularly from established authors, or in the middle of a trilogy or longer series. (Think Catching Fire) You typically don't see cliffhangers at the end of the first book from a debut author. Why? Because even though the author might know that the book will go on to be a well-loved seven book series, and will in fact be one of the biggest literary phenomenons of our time, the publisher doesn't know that. They want to make sure that you write a book that leaves room for a sequel, but also could stand alone in the event that the book isn't successful enough to warrant follow-ups. After all, they don't want to annoy the few fans you did manage to snag. Remember to keep this in mind as you write: if you have a series planned, the first book needs to be able to stand on its own.

4. The ambiguous ending. This is the kind of ending were you leave it up to the reader to figure out what happens next. The most recent book I read with this kind of ending was The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper. In that book, it was done well, and I loved it. In general, though, these endings are very hard to pull off. They take a sophisticated, coy writing style. They also can infuriate some readers, and you should prepare to be asked, for the rest of your life, "So did Jack really get away with the diamonds? Or did Mona push him off the cliff after all? I HAVE TO KNOW!!!!!"

5. The happy median. It should come as no surprise that this is my favorite kind of ending. In this ending, some loose endings are tied up, while some are left dangling for the reader to speculate on. The hero wins some battles, but faces tragedy as well. I like this ending because it is the most realistic. Life itself is a balance of good and evil, happy events and sad, and I think that novels should reflect life. So my current project has a happy median ending. However, this is a planned series, so if this WIP gets picked up, hopefully the next book will end in a cliffhanger...

What kind of ending do you like to read? And, if you're a writer, what kind of ending does your book have (if you want to share)? If you think there are more ending categories (I know this isn't a comprehensive list, but I think I got all the basics), please share them in the comments!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why I Write YA

I love my brother. For as long as I can remember, I've looked up to him as the person I want to be like, the person whose footsteps I want to follow in. When I was a kid, I thought he was the ultimate in cool. Even to this day I will listen to pretty much any band he recommends, simply because it has the Andy stamp of approval.

Unfortunately, nowadays, I only get to see my brother once or twice a year, always at major holidays. In 2009, it was during my wedding in May and then again at Christmas. This year, I'm sure it will be during his wedding (in two weeks!) and again at Christmas. I'll also admit that my family isn't huge on phone calls. We talk on the phone maybe once a month, not because we don't love each other, but just because we are afraid of the brain tumors that cell phones obviously cause (just kidding - I think it's really the sweaty ear factor that turns me off.)

So when my brother visited during Christmas last year, I was catching him up on several months of my life. Our few phone calls had touched on the Big Stuff - how law school was going for him, how day job was going for me, whether I liked being married, etc. Then we started talking other life events, and I decided it was time he knew what I was spending every evening from 8pm - 11pm (times may vary) working on (my sister, a loyal blog reader, already knew. For the record, I love her too.). The conversation went something like this:

Me: So I'm writing a novel.
Big Brother: Yeah? What about?
Me: It's a YA future dystopian novel.
Big Sister: It sounds really interesting, I really want to read it. (Told you she was loyal and I love her.)
BB: What does that mean?
Me: YA? Young adult.
BB: And that other thing? Dystopian? (I promise my brother is an intelligent guy. But he's more math/science, not as much English.)
Me: Like the opposite of utopia.
BB: Oh. So you're writing for young adults? What's that, like teenagers?
Me: Yeah, pretty much.
BB: So are you going to use a pen name?
Me: Why would I do that?
BB: So that when you get published you don't pigeon-hole yourself, and when you want to write real literature you can.
I know what my brother was trying to say. He was assuming that I was using YA as some kind of easy-in (ha!) to establish a career, then I could write something more serious, literary fiction or something, when I was established. But I bet my entire Harry Potter collection that every YA writer winced a little when you read what he said.

I've mentioned before my thoughts on the snobbery associated with YA lit, and how I hate when people assume that just because something is written/published as YA means it's easier to read. And when I was at my conference, I'll admit that I got more than a few side-glaces or mislaid pieces of advice when I told people I wrote YA (for example, multiple people told me, "You should write about angels! They're the next vampire!" Sure they are, if I have Becca Fitzpatrick's timing.) Ultimately, though, I found myself telling a lot of people why I chose to write YA - and when I explained it (aside from the fact that it's one of few markets where debut authors are actually getting published), everyone seemed to back off - my brother included.

So, why do I write YA?

I write YA because there is only one time in a person's life when you can make them a fan of reading. As adults, we're already fans of reading. We're not likely to pick up a book, think, "Wow, this book changed my life, it's so good I want to read another book!" By the time we're in our 20s, 30s, and 40s, we've already fostered a love of reading (or we've fostered a love of reality TV shows). I would love to be the author for one person - just one teen - who made them find their love of reading. We have so much opportunity as YA authors, and we need to recognize our impact.

Even more so, teenagers are going through such a crazy time. So much is happening, so much is changing. Many of them are looking for a place they can escape to, or they're looking for somewhere or someone like them, or they're looking for advice - I know when I was a teen, I turned to books for all of those things. That's why I write YA. For the undeniable chance to change a person. For life.

Why do you write YA, if you do? And if you don't, why did you choose the genre you love?

Special thanks to Heather Zundel for inspiring today's post. I kept thinking I would write something on this topic, and you can tell I've been gathering material for awhile, but her post today reminded me to finally do it. 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Seriously amazing contests!

There are some amazing contests going on this week and I had to share the details! Elana Johnson and Shelli from Market My Words are holding simultaneous contests, and they are both awesome!

Elana is giving away:

  • 5 Query Critiques by five top literary agents 
  • 5 free copies of her eBook, each with a free query critique from Elana
  • 5 writing tools prize packages
Get the details here!

Shelli is giving away daily prizes, plus some EPIC prizes on Friday and an even MORE epic prizes related to a scavenger hunt.

See her blog for more details.

You must be followers of BOTH blogs in order to qualify for the prizes. But you won't regret following either of them, because both of the blogs have outstanding content!

And speaking of contests...I'm only 10 followers away from 100 followers!! OMG!!! And when I hit 100, I'll host a contest where I give away some fab books. So spread the word about how awesome I am :)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Funday!

Happy Valentine's Day, readers! It's time for Sunday Funday!

Today isn't just Sunday Funday; it's also the Love at First Sight blogfest, hosted by Courtney Reese at Critique This. Now I didn't participate in this particular blogfest, although I've had fun with my past forays into blogfestery (, bad word choice, Heather). Mostly this is because I don't have any real "first sight" scenes in my book, and the scene where the potential lovahs meet for the first time isn't particularly romantic or flirtatious. And what with all the Writerdise-ing I've been doing, I just didn't have time to write a quality new scene for this blogfest. But a TON of awesome bloggers participated, and you can blog-hop your way through the fest right here. 

The Undercover Book Lover is holding an EPIC contest, where you can win 10(!) YA books published in March. 

One of my biggest distractions in writing is my Wii. The hubs comes home and asks me to play New Mario Bros., and I just can't say no. Fortunately, Kiersten White has reimagined a classic poem into a video game so I can play and research form. Genius. 

The Super Bowl was a week ago, but that doesn't mean you still can't learn something from it...even if, like me, you didn't watch the game and couldn't care less about football. The Urban Muse tells us what every writer can learn about storytelling from Super Bowl ads, and unknowingly inspired me to write a similar post (what every insurance agent can learn from the Super Bowl) for my day job, which I won't be linking here because no one here cares about insurance.

I'm still totally upset about my geographic location and lack of funds to get me to awesome conferences like SCBWI NY. Fortunately, there were a ton of posts around the blogosphere that almost made me feel like I was there. The very awesome Shelli from Market My Words thoughtfully compiled a huge list of some SCBWI posts in one easy-to-navigate place.

The Shark is back, in one of my most favorite queries ever.

Natalie Whipple of Between Fact and Fiction has a great post on the different ways to edit, including my new favorite, "The Find and Replace."

And finally, a Valentine from me to you, taken from the Post Secret blog. (Did you read my character's secrets yesterday?)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday Secrets! (WIP style!)

One of my favorite Web sites is Post Secret, where people from around the country have been mailing in their deepest and darkest secrets (and some silly ones) anonymously. Every Sunday, the site posts new secrets. There have also been several books of secrets, and the founder of the site, Frank Warren, tours the country giving talks (he's coming to my area soon, and you bet I'll be there, if I can get in, to hear him.)

When you're a writer deeply immersed in a project, you can't get that project out of your head. So of course, I started thinking about what kinds of secrets my characters would mail in if they were to send something to Post Secret. Then I decided to make some postcards and share them with you, because, well...their secrets are more fun than mine.  The whole thing was a great character exercise, because not only did I have to consider the secret itself, but also the design of the postcard, fonts they would use, etc. For example, if I had written that first secret, it would have had some hearts or a prettier font, but that character wouldn't have used those things. And I never would have sent in a secret that looked as messy as that third one. (I might be slightly crazy for thinking this hard about things. I'm OK with that. The best part is my novel takes place in the future, and I don't even think P.S. will be around 400 years from now.)

I would have posted these on Sunday, to coincide with the regular update on the Post Secret blog. But Sundays around these parts mean Sunday Funday, and I have some great links set up for tomorrow. I couldn't skip it this week. So I'm calling it Saturday Secrets! And in keeping in the anonymous tradition of P.S., I'm not going to say who belongs to the secrets, either. Enjoy!



 Feel free to post some of your character's secrets in the comments!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Flashback Friday: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles

Flashback Friday is hosted by Jacki at Lovely Little Shelf. The goal is to highlight a book you loved as a kid or teenager.

I won't be participating in Flashback Friday every week, but after my post Wednesday on creating kick-ass female characters, I realized that many of you might not know one of my most favorite characters and books in YA fantasy literature. And that just won't do. So, ladies and gentleman, may I introduce you to The Enchanted Forest Chronicles.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles is a four-book series by Patricia C. Wrede, whose name was recently in the news for the controversy surrounding her exclusion of Native Americans from her new book, The Thirteenth Child, which takes place during the American Colonial period. But long before any of that happened, Wrede was winning the heart of a young Heather with these tales of Princess Cimorene, who would rather learn fencing and Latin than how to behave like a lady.

In Dealing with Dragons, Cimorene, tired of living in the palace and dreading being married to her betrothed, decides to run away to the Mountains of Morning to make it seem as if she's been kidnapped by the dragons. The fiesty dragon Kazul takes an interest in her and agrees to take her in, allowing Cimorene to organize her library and make large batches of cherries jubilee for her. Eventually, the two become friends. There are also wizards, some evil dragons, very cool ideas about where magic comes from that made me want to reach into the air and see if I could pull on a thread of that magic myself, and places like the Caves of Fire and Night. Plus a sassy witch and her talking cats.

Each book is fun in its own way. Dealing with Dragons will always be my favorite, but I like the others almost as much. Talking to Dragons, though often presented as the final book in the series, was actually published several years before the others. The first three books are prequels.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles was my first introduction to fantasy literature. I checked it out from the library so many times that eventually my sister got me the boxed set for Christmas. I still have all of them, except the first one, which I gave away as a gift to complete a set I gave the girl I was babysitting (I was reading the books to her and she was about to move away. No local bookstore had the first one, so I gave her my copy.) It was my bridge to books like the Dragonriders of Pern series, and, eventually, the Harry Potter books. I'm sure I would have picked up Harry Potter eventually, but my love for wizards, magic, dragons, and fantasy created by Wrede made that happen years sooner than it otherwise would have (and I therefore got to enjoy years of anticipation, midnight releases, and speculation about what would happen next).

If you'd like to participate in Flashback Friday, visit Jacki's blog for more info!

In other news, I'm approaching 100 followers! And you know what that means...contest time! As soon as I hit 100 followers I plan to give away some great YA books. And it will be the easiest contest you've ever entered. So spread the love and help me hit 100!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


And it's gorgeous.

Click here to read what David Levithan has to say about the cover and the book.

And click here to read my real blog post from tonight, which is about creating kick-ass female characters. Since Katniss got a mention, I thought this announcement deserved its own post.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What makes a character kick butt?

Tonight on #YALitChat, we started talking about strong female characters. (I believe the term we used was "kick-ass," but strong works too.) It seems that most everyone is tired of the damsel-in-distress act, and is striving to create girls who are OMGTOTALLYKICKASS!!!!!

That's great, in my book. I'm even doing that myself - Kaia, my female MC, doesn't need a man to get her out of her biggest scrapes (though there is sometimes a man involved, to an awesome degree). But she's not like a martial arts master or a sexy assassin or something. She's just a normal girl who sticks up for herself and gets herself and her friends out of jams. But after the chat got going, it seemed people had different definitions of what exactly made a strong female character. Does a kick-ass female have to be like Lara Croft here, all brawn and no emotion?

Well, that's certainly one way to look at it. No doubt that Lara was a kick-ass character. I mean, she's a TOMB RAIDER. WITH GUNS. And just look at those biceps!! I'm pretty sure she could kick my butt.

But I don't think Lara makes a very interesting character. She's definitely textbook kick-ass, but is she really a strong female character? I mean, yeah, she can beat up some evil-doers, but can she crush on that hot new guy, even though he gives her the stink-eye in biology? That would be the other extreme, the one who's all emotion and no defense, the one who's more like:


Bella Swan. I don't think there is a single blog reader who would disagree with me when I say that Bella is pretty much the complete opposite of a kick-ass female character. Sure, she can be emotional when she needs to, but let's face it: She watches a car come flying toward her and hardly does anything. Every scene where she's in her OWN car with a boy, the boy is usually driving. She drops her entire life to be with her boyfriend, and when her boyfriend totally bails on her (sorry, I didn't give a spoiler alert, but those New Moon previews were everywhere, and if you haven't read these books by now, you're not going to) she literally curls up into a ball and DOESN'T MOVE. Then she leaves her diary blank (or has a moody emo montage, depending on the medium you're enjoying your New Moon experience in) for months while she thinks about the good ole' days with her Adonis boyfriend. Yeah. Not strong, in the head, heart, or body. At least she shows her emotions, though. 

So I tried to think of the perfect kick-ass female character. And I couldn't decide on just one. I thought of three that I loved, all from YA, because that's what I write. I'm going to talk about them here, but you can feel free to mention your favorite in the comments!

Kick-ass character No. 1: Princess Cimorene from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
I'll admit that most of you will have no idea who Princess Cimorene is. (Shout-out to my sister, who I know for sure is squealing with delight at her inclusion on my short list.) That's really a shame, because Cimorene was my first introduction to the kick-ass female character. Cimorene is a no-nonsense princess who turns the very notion of a damsel in distress on its head. She gets tired of living in the castle and runs away to live with dragons. While there, she scrubs floors and teaches other princesses how to think for themselves. She even turns away knights when they try to rescue her. She solves very serious problems for the king of the dragons. But later in the series, when she finally does meet someone who is a good match for her, she marries him. They even have a child together. This shows that, even though she's totally kick-ass and knows how to fence, she still isn't afraid to find love. She is a kick-ass female character.

Kick-ass character No. 2: Lyra Belacqua from His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Petulant and impulsive and totally bratty, Lyra is one of my favorite characters in YA literature. You can see how much she matures as the series goes on. She starts off in Oxford College as a disobedient little girl, but by the end of the series she is making very grown-up decisions about love, loss, life, and the fate of the universe. And riding polar bears! I'm not going to say any more because I don't want to spoil this incredible series for anyone who hasn't read it yet, but trust me when I say: Lyra is definitely a kick-ass female character.

Kick-ass female character No. 3: Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games/Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
No list of kick-ass female characters would be complete without Katniss. She stands up for her family, and yet she's emotionally conflicted about boys. She can kill you with a bow and arrow, but she can't decide whether or not kissing Peeta feels right. She is strong physically and emotionally. She is a kick-ass female character. 

The truth is, a 100% kick-ass female character just couldn't exist. Because it wouldn't be realistic. No matter how much we ladies like to pretend we're strong all the time, all of us, even the most hardened, have our emotional breakdowns. We are all vulnerable at times. The best way to create a strong female character is to let her be strong in every way possible - then show her weaknesses.

Win an ARC of LINGER!!!!

I'm bumping this afternoon's blog post to tonight for a VERY EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT:

Frankie is giving an ARC of LINGER away!!! Because she is awesome and covered in delicious, 100% vegan awesomesauce.

Just look at how pretty it is:

Click here to enter! (And let her know I sent you!)

And stay tuned tonight for your regularly scheduled blog post, in which I talk about something much less exciting than a free ARC of Linger.

Monday, February 8, 2010

We interupt these revisions to bring you...WIPadise!!

So the lovely and talented Ms. Sara McClung (who very generously sent me a Borders gift card just because I psycho-tweeted about her contest, and sent along some adorable ladybug bookmarks to go with it) is holding a Saradise for herself, wherein she commits to making writing her priority for the rest of February. She invited some of her blog followers to join her, and by-golly, we did!! (Wow, the lack of activities aside from revising is really getting to my head.)

I am pretty stoked about this whole thing. It's nice to have other people on board with me; that's part of the reason I was so successful during NaNoWriMo. Also, Heathadise doesn't sound quite as good as Saradise, so I named my own version WIPadise...which I love because it sounds like I'm cracking the whip!!!

Tonight, I accomplished the following things:

1. Finished revisions on the first four chapters, including all the major rewrites suggested from my workshop (OMG THIS WAS SO HARD.)
2. Ignored my husband when he asked to play Mario Wii with me (ALSO HARD. But the focus of this month is writing, not Mario. This is not Mariodise, it's WIPadise.)
3. I didn't watch any episodes of LOST, even though I've been watching old ones for clues to the new season. My resolve might not be so great when my new Dexter disc comes, but that's not for two days.
4. Before I go to sleep tonight, I will be sending my first few chapters to my critique partner, and I know she's very excited to get the pages, and will be waiting with bated breath for them. (I might be exaggerating here, but I have been making her wait since before the conference because I am very mean.)

This is really a lot, and I'm hoping to keep up the momentum and have first-round edits done by the end of the month! Maybe I can even get ahead of schedule, get some comments back, and start on the second round!! Oo!! I'm being ambitious. (But seriously, all you people almost ready to query makes me a little jealous. I know I can't rush it. But still. Jealous.) I do have a lot of days off, though, thanks to furloughs, Preisdent's Day, etc.

The point of all this, whether or not you're one of the lucky few who are participating in the event, is that it's important to set aside some time for yourself every now and then to just write. Dedicate yourself to the craft that you love. Shun things like TV, video games, showering, etc. (I think I've mentioned the showering thing before. I'm cool if none of you shower. We're Internet friends, after all.) Just remember that the more you write, the more you grow, so you won't become a better writer unless you WRITE.

Finally, something to get all of us Saradise/WIPadise/Whatever-dise people in the mood...and a fun song for the rest of you:

I was totally in a production of Footloose in high school. No, I did not play Ariel. I was Ren's mom, because clearly when I was 17 I could play a convincing 40-year-old. I do have a tape of the event, but fortunately for you me, it's not on a DVD and therefore can never be put online for Heather Shame. (Don't get any ideas, Frankie/Shannon/people that dare.) 

Now you can officially put me in a game of six degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Funday!

It's Sunday Funday! Here are some of the blog posts that caught my attention this week:

Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary had a contest of sorts where people posted jokes, and she compiled all of them in one post for our viewing/laughing pleasure.

Shannon O'Donnell from Book Dreaming reminded us of the power of details in fiction writing.

Heather Zundel, who has pretty much the coolest first name EVER, reminded us of the awesome power of Reading Rainbow, and also taught us how the honey makes it into the jar (well, SHE didn't teach us, but we got taught.)

Editorial Anonymous explained why publishers/agents won't pick up a book on a good idea alone - and how much writing talent has to be there to get a response.

Anne Riley has started a series of pre-famous author interviews, where she's interviewing writers before they're famous. This is pretty much a great idea anyway, but her first one was this week, and her interviewee, Boudreau Freret, is seriously hilarious.

Jade (who hears voices) compared finding an agent to finding a man.

And finally, Jacki from Lovely Little Shelf started a new meme called Flashback Fridays, where she's encouraging everyone to post an old favorite from their childhood every Friday. I didn't participate in this first week, but I might participate from time to time when I'm feeling nostalgic. Her blog is pretty great, even though it's not on blogger, so head on over and check it out (and try to put your blogger snobbery aside...I know, I have it too...)

I also recently received the Over the Top award from Anne Riley, which I think is pretty fun, even if I'm not really sure what it means (and I'm totally cool with saying that, because Anne said the same thing.) Part of taking the award means that I have to answer a bunch of questions with only one here goes:

Your Cell Phone? Blackberry
Your Hair? Dyed  
Your Mother? Deceased
Your Father? Elderly
Your Favourite Food? Spaghetti
Your Dream Last Night? Novelish
Your Favourite Drink? Wine
Your Dream/Goal? Published
What Room Are You In? Living
Your Hobby? Writing
Your Fear? Spiders
Where Do You See Yourself In Six Years? Successful
Where Were You Last Night? Work
Something That You Aren't? Tan
Muffins? Yum
Wish List Item? MacBook
Where Did You Grow Up? Jersey
Last Thing You Did? Ate
What Are You Wearing? Sweats
Your TV? Cableless
Your Pets? Snugly
Friends? Fabulous
Your Life? Busy
Your Mood? Exhausted
Missing Someone? Yeah
Vehicle? Honda
Something You Aren't Wearing? Socks
Your Favorite Store? Target
Your Favorite Colour? Pink
When Was The Last Time You Laughed? Today
Last Time You Cried? Hm....
Your Best Friend?
One Place You Go To Over And Over Again? Hogwarts
Facebook? Meh
Favourite Place To Eat? Everywhere

That was kind of fun! I'm supposed to pass the award along to 5 other blogs, but let's face it, I think you're all awesome, and I've given a lot of linky love in this post. So if you're eying those questions thinking you want to answer them, please, consider the award given from me to you.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Short End of the Stick (On Cutting Your Novel)

I always think it's funny when I see people desperately trying to cut their WIPs down to a more marketable length. I follow a lot of seriously wonderful writers, both published and soon-to-be-published (do you like how I did that? Just went ahead and assumed you would all be published one day? I'm good like that.) on Twitter and blogger. Lately, I've noticed a lot of them/you talking about how you need to cut another 10,000 words from your novel because it's just too long, or how you can't believe that your first draft ended up at 225,568 words, because you know you're going to need to cut more than half of them out. (In fact, Frankie wrote an excellent post on the topic of knowing when to cut your scene, which I admit I totally forgot about when I started writing this one at 1am. So I'm giving her lots of linky love, because she is awesome, and I'm not worthy, and you should read her post, too, because it's very good.) I see these tweets and blog entries, and I laugh, then I die a little inside.

Why is that? Because I am currently sitting on a WIP that is 56,689 words long. My first draft was a little more than 53,000 words. And this just doesn't seem long enough. Ideally, I'd like it to be 65,000, but at this point I'd be happy to crack 60,000. (I'm currently reading Feed, and I read somewhere that's just over 50,000. And it was a National Book Award Finalist. But I'm not M.T. Anderson, so I can't do whatever I want.)

What is it about me that makes me capable of writing a novel in 53,000 words, when other people have frist drafts that are well over 200,000? Simple. I'm a journalist. Journalists are trained in brevity. I spend hours - literally - each week at my full-time job cutting sections out of articles to make them fit the magazine layout. I got assignments in college where we were given a 2,000 words article and had to trim it to 500 words. Of course, the thing still had to make sense and be interesting. Most of the feature stories I write can be 2,000 words, tops. My freelance bar reviews aren't supposed to be more than 500. After years of practice at cutting news stories down to their essentials, I became a bare-bones writer, and have become an expert at doing the same thing in fiction.

With my WIP, that wasn't neccisarily a good thing. I'm adding words as I edit, not as filler, but because sections of the story were definitely lacking in descriptive detail. But I thought, for those of you who have the opposite problem that I do (and it seems there are many of you out there) I would tell you what I learned in copyediting class about what to cut from your story (with a little fiction fun thrown in).  
  1. It's all about the Ws. And I'm not talking about our former president, here. I'm talking about Who, What, Where, When, Why and (sometimes) How. (That's a vowel joke; I don't mean to imply that the How isn't important. It's very important.) As you look at each scene or subplot, think about those Ws. Which sentences answer those questions? Which ones don't? Once every question is answered, pretty much everything else is extra. Look at all that extra stuff and decide what you really need.
  2. Keep detailed records. This one isn't specific to cutting stories, but it is key to journalism in general: keep a record of everything you do, whether it's an interview, a draft of a story, anything. This translates simply into fiction writing with an idea I picked up from Sarah McClung, but I know lots of writers do it - keep a deleted scenes file. Every time you delete a word or phrase or paragraph, no matter how big or small, put it into the deleted scenes document. You might find a place for it later, or, at the very least, you'll get a thrill from seeing the progress of all the words you've so far. (For the record, my deleted word count is up to 1,616, which really isn't much - but I'm on my first serious pass.)  
  3. Necessity vs. Interesting Detail. In newspaper journalism especially, all of the necessary information rises to the top of the story like fat. Anything that's not totally integral to the news piece - quotes from the second or third witness, for example, goes at the bottom, if they make it at all. That's so the layout team can easily cut what's at the bottom of the articles and still have the story make sense. Of course, we all know it doesn't work that way in fiction. If the most important details of the Harry Potter series had been explained in the lead sentence, I doubt many people would have stuck around for 1 million + words. But the idea of necessary information vs. interesting detail is still definitely useful. If your manuscript is too long, with every sentence or paragraph you read, ask yourself: "Is this moving my story forward?" Even if it's only subtly, every single word in your novel must play a part in moving the greater story along. 
  4. When in doubt, cut. Say there's a sentence you've been thinking about cutting for awhile. You're not sure if you want to part with it, but you think you don't need it. If you've thought about whether or not you need the sentence for more than 30 seconds, trust me: you don't. You want every word in your book to be needed, to be so absolutely essential to the story that it has to be there. If not, readers will pick up on that, and they'll get bored and put the book down.
Those are just a few tips to help cut those stories down, while I'm over here feeding mine some steroids and trying to get it to fatten up.If you have other tips for cutting your MS, feel free to share them in the comments!

(And don't forget to read Frankie's post on cutting your scene! She touches on some different points, so our posts work well together...I promise it's not reading the same thing twice. Or maybe I'm just trying to make up for the fact that I accidentally/subconsciously totally ripped off her blog post idea? Oh well, just read the thing.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Writer's Block!!!!!

I had it. For my blog and my WIP. But not in the traditional sense, I suppose, because I'm writing this entry right now, and with my WIP, I knew where I wanted to go, I just wasn't sure how to get there.

I didn't even realize that I had writer's block until I turned to my husband tonight at 11:06PM - much later than I usually start writing - and asked him what I should blog about tonight. His suggestions included "Why Mario Bros. for Wii makes me yell" (What does that have to do with writing? "Someone has to write those story lines.") and "My wife is the most beautiful person in the world" (Gag. No one cares. Trying to kiss up much?) Of course it was then I realized that writer's block was a great topic for a blog entry.

After attending my conference and getting some excellent (albeit terrifying) feedback, I know exactly how I want to reshape the beginning of my story. Unfortunately, every time I opened my MS, the words just stared back at me, that blinking cursor mocking me and my lack of ability to find the right words to tell the story the way it now needed to be told. Ugh.

I honestly think this kind of writer's block - the kind where you just can't find the words - is much worse than the kind where you find you have no story in the first place. Truthfully, you can find a story anywhere. Think about something that happened to you today. Now, think about if that thing had happened differently. That's a story.

Take today, for example. My day job is in an office that has been under construction for about two months now. Today they were lifting some heavy something or other onto the top floor using a crane. The area was roped off, but I still had to walk underneath the dangling heavy something to get into the building. Someone was standing by the whole time, and no one was injured. But what if someone had been injured? What if it had been me? What if it had been my boss? Or my best friend? Or my worst enemy? There is a story in all of those options. The truth is, there are tidbits of my life sprinkled throughout my writing, especially in the storyline of my next project, a contemporary YA novel (my bff will either laugh out loud or strangle me when she eventually reads it). And I've heard a lot of authors say the same thing.

But what if you're just not comfortable writing from your own life? Maybe you're super paranoid that people will recognize the stories you insert, no matter how many details you change. Or maybe your life is super boring, so that even the what ifs aren't particularly interesting (What if I chose the garlic roasted hummus instead of the original? What if I picked cucumbers instead of carrots? Not much of a story there.) In that case, I suggest you invest in something like this:
This book was given to me years ago by a former boyfriend. I remember thinking it was a cute gift, sticking it on my bookshelf, and more or less forgetting about it for a few years. Then I moved out of college and started having time to (gasp!) write for fun, and I needed an idea for a short story. So I opened this bad boy up and found myself faced with some photographic inspiration. The story that came out of it was pretty awful, but the exercise got me writing - which is the whole point, really.

A similar option is story dice, which are basically dice that have images, places, emotions, whatever on them. You roll the dice and write a story based on what comes up. I saw the idea originally at Simon's blog, Constant Revisions - his wife made them for him as a beautiful gift. I thought it was a great idea. Fortunately, Google is fabulous, and since not all of us have spouses as crafty as Simon's, I found out you can get story dice at etsy, The Small Object, or just make them yourself to your own preferences!

Of course, The Writer's Block book and story dice still didn't solve my problem...I just couldn't seem to get the words out. So what did I do? At first I avoided it. I watched TV - caught up on the ten essential episodes of LOST, watched some Dexter, read until I fell asleep. Then I opened my MS, skipped right over the stuff I had to change, and started editing the second half of the book - the part of the plot which is staying the same (for now, anyway).

Finally, I sucked it up, put on my big girl pants, poured myself a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and just started typing. A lot of it was crap, which was exactly what I was afraid of. But once I got into the groove, I started to get excited again. I know I'm onto something with this new beginning, and pretty soon I'll be ready to send it off to my critique partner.

And that glass of Sauv Blanc? It's sitting, barely touched, on my end table. Sometimes the writing is more important.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Query critique contest! (Don't worry...I'm not hosting.)

A lot of you are getting ready to query. Being not only unpublished, but not even ready to query myself, I can't really offer my readers any advice on how to write a query or make queries any better. (How many times can I saw query in one post? QueryQueryBoBeeryBananaFanaFoFeeryMeMyMoMeery....Query!)

I can, however, link to this awesome query contest put on by Kathleen Ortiz, known on Twitter as @KOrtizzle, tweeter of hilarious things she gets in queries (seriously. A recent tweet said, ""Um...queries in first person POV from the character's POV are really creepy #pubtip") She's giving away two query critiques, and not crappy critiques, but good, quality, "she'll bust out the red pen and tell you what she REALLY thinks" critiques.

Enter the contest here! If you do, please mention that @HeatherTrese sent you! (You get extra points for the referral, too!)

Does the idea of having my query ripped apart by an agent totally terrify me? Of course. But it's got to happen eventually, and at least this way the ultimate goal is constructive feedback, right? RIGHT?

I can haz winners? (Also: making time to write)

 I drew the winners of my first-ever contest!!! Hooray!!

But before I announce them...let's have a post. (Mwahahaha...that's my evil, I'm-keeping-you-in-suspense laugh. Is it working?)

I was at a bar with one of my friends Saturday night and we were talking about one of her friends. This person was supposed to be producing art work for a show she'd agreed to do, but said she just couldn't find the time to create anything. She works full-time, and has a side job on the weekends, so by the time she gets home from work most nights she's just too exhausted to pick up her camera, canvas, or whatever and create. She misses her art, but she just doesn't have time anymore.

And you know what I said to that? Cry me an effing river. (Was that harsh? Maybe. Harsh but true.)

Here is my reality: I have a full-time job, a part-time job, and two freelance commitments. I also have two dogs and am married to an 8-year-old (no, really. I bought him Transformers boxers for one of his stocking stuffers.) All of these things take time, and I am, quite frankly, exhausted most days. (And I don't even have kids, like I know some of you do, so my house is quiet most nights.)

But I still can't wait to write, every single day. I spend time at work thinking about my next plot twist. I doodle my signature during phone calls so I will be prepared for future book signings. I even (OMG I can't believe I'm about to admit this) hold "interviews" with myself in the car sometimes (Wow, I am a freak.) And it's all because I love to write, and I can't wait to live my dream.

I honestly believe that if you have a passion for something, if you really want to do it, you will make time for it. I'm up most nights until 2am or later, writing or reading. Other writers I've talked to are up at 5am banging out a few hundred words before their kids get up, or before they go to work. The point is, the ones who really care about it make it work. Maybe they steal 15 minutes here and there throughout the day, but they do it.

Now it might happen that you're in a slump. Maybe you used to write every day, but now you only write every other day, or a few times a week. One of my friends recently (as in, uh, today) recommitted herself to writing, and I think that's wonderful. If you're reading this and you've noticed that you've let your writing fall by the wayside lately, I want to challenge you to pick it up. Find little times when you can write. Skip an hour of TV to write instead. Stay up half an hour later and wake up half an hour earlier. Bring a notebook with you everywhere and write in line, at stoplights, or on the subway. Stop bathing. Do whatever you need to do - just write (although if you stop bathing, let me know so I can keep our relationship strictly online). 

OK, but enough about's time to announce the WINNERS!!!!! of my first-ever contest!!!!!!

I had quite a few entries, and almost everyone earned extra points! I took everyone's entries, including extra points and tweets, and put them in an Excel sheet. Then I went to and had it pick a number for me, and that's how I picked the winner!

The prizes were signed copies of The Given Day by Dennis Lehane and The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve!

We'll start with The Given Day...let's look at how pretty it is:

Oooo, aaaah.

OK, and the winner is....number 35!!

which is...


OK, for The Pilot's Wife, the winner is...number 42!!!

Oh, wait, we forgot to drool over the prize, didn't we?


OK, and number 42 is Carol from Carol's Prints!

I am especially excited to give this book to Carol because, before she even knew I was giving away a signed book, she left a comment on one of my posts (On Beginnings) which read:
And I LOVE Anita Shreve ... I am crazy jealous of you right now.
So I feel like I made her verra happy.

Congrats to Carol and Tameka! You have 72 hours to claim your prize - just shoot me an email at heather (dot) trese (at) gmail (dot) come with your address and I'll ship your goodies out this week! And to those of you who didn't win...I really, really wish I had enough prizes for everyone, because people wrote some really sweet messages! But never fear because....

I am approaching 100 followers pretty quickly. Once I get there I will be hosting another contest, so tell your friends to stop on by!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Last call!!

Have you entered my contest yet? Today's the last day! Look how pretty these books are:



Enter here! 
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