Friday, April 30, 2010

Cover Letter Gems

Found some great faux pas this week in submissions (thanks to Eliza for showing me these great discoveries from the slush pile). For all of you budding authors getting ready to submit your manuscripts, check, double-check, triple-check your query letters. Then check them one more time just for kicks.


"This is my first nonfiction novel . . ."


"Thank you for your patients."

Yes! Love these! Please send more!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Today I am spring cleaning (even though it is snowing).  Part of that is putting books in the library instead of my night stand.

I am a Stephenie Meyer fan.  (There I said it.)  I just reread The Host and cried on the "last" page, even though I've read the book at least 4 times and knew there was more.  I really love her books.  They have their own section in my basement library.  Unitl today.

Bree Despain's The Dark Divine is now on that beloved shelf, instead of residing on my over-crowded nightstand.  It's been living there since I bought it last January.

This shelf has the books that I return to when I need a major escape.  The Dark Divine totally fits the bill.  If you have not read it . . . What are you waiting for?  It is amazing.
This shelf is front and center, just where it needs to be when I am in "need" of them.

What are your escape books?  Where do you keep them?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Weird Coincidences

It's now time to reveal a tiny bit of my weirdness. I'm sure you all experience a kind of deja vu now and then, but how many of you can claim the strange connections that haunt me. For instance, just last week I woke up with a Pearl Jam song stuck in my head. I hummed it in the shower and told Scott about it, but I couldn't remember the name so I turned on the iPod and ahha! "Unthought Known" (that's what it's called). Now, I'm a Pearl Jam fan from a long way back, so its not unusual for me to listen to them now and then, what is weird is that a mere day later, I was watching the new episode of "Castle" and that exact song was played at the end. What are the chances? But its not just one coincidence. Its a long string of coincidences. So many that I can't count them, nor do I keep track of them because they happen so often. So that's it. Any weird things you all want to reveal? But, of course, it's probably too soon....

side note: "Unthought Known" is on the Pearl Jam album called Backspacer. A couple of other great songs on that album are "The Fixer", "Amongst the Waves" and "Just Breathe".

Monday, April 26, 2010

Get Writing!

"Writing is work, even when it’s fun. What separates a writer from an author is the person that keeps writing, even when it stops being fun." -Aprilynne Pike

As I'm sure everyone knows, the writers conference LDStorymakers concluded on Saturday. It was great, so much fun with inspiration packaged up and sent home. There were many awesome moments, and I'll highlight a few:

-Bree Despain's class on Paranormal YA was a lot of fun to be in. She is a class act. Favorite part was discussing the paranormal metaphor, hiding the "heavier" real issues under the paranormal umbrella.

-Aprilynne Pike's class on Writing For The Market was incredibly informative. She is one smart chicky! She talked about how keeping your audience in mind while you are writing is just as important as keeping your grammar in mind. She also quoted Reverend Lovejoy, "Yes with an if, no with a but..." You can't get any better than that.

-Watching Jeff Savage's lego-man clip starring James Dashner with an english accent. I hope this shows up on YouTube soon.

-Friday evening entertainment, Shaun Barrowes.

-My ten minutes with Krista Marino. Great lady, very down to earth. And she really liked my first five pages. Huzzah! A couple of her notes read, "Great work at leaving the reader guessing for more," and, "I really like this sassy protagonist."

-Meeting agent Laura Rennert, and throwing out a thirty second pitch. She was lovely, didn't seem bothered at all that I approached her. And when I told her my book was a YA Dystopian, she was very excited. She asked for my first three chapters. Double Huzzah!

All three national guests (Krista Marino, Laura Rennert, and Nephele Tempest) had great things to say about the conference, and more specifically, the amazing talent we have here in Utah. We should all be so proud :)

What was your favorite part of Storymakers? If you had a pitch, how did it go? Why do you think the talent pool is so strong in Utah? What are you working on? Let's chat. There's nothing like talking about writing to get excited about it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Yesterday I attended day one of the LDS Storymakers conference. Always a favorite, it was a fun and informative time.

I met up with fellow Inkers Donna, Deb, and Kirk (who, wearing his S.E. hat, was there to hear pitches), and also saw Inker friends Graham, Jenn, Ben, and L.T.

The big highlight for me was my pitch session with Nephele Tempest of the Knight Agency - a very nice woman from my hometown of L.A. who graciously offered to look at my first three chapters and a synopsis.

Inkers Donna and Deb pitched to Krista Marino, a senior editor at Delacorte Press/Random House. She had good things to say about both of their stories and advised them to get an agent and submit to her. Our plucky gals found the first opportunity to make an impromptu pitch to senior agent Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and were invited to submit their first three chapters to her. Deb will have more about this and photos on Monday!

Other highlights included the breakout sessions with Laura Rennert and Krista Marino. Ms. Marino spoke about the importance of the first five pages and what she is looking for as an editor.

Following are some tips from Laura Rennert about querying an agent:

--include the Who, What, When, Where, and Why Should I Care (the Why Should I Care is what makes your story different from the rest in your genre)

--always follow the agency submission guidelines EXACTLY if you really want them to read it

--keep it short, but not too short

--include information about who you are and any work experience or other credentials that lend credibility to your story (the story behind the story)

--include anything special about you related to the story that will help with marketing (My example: your story is about the first woman to climb Mt. Everest and you have climbed Mt. Everest)

--Don't overhype yourself

--Don't send work in a category the agent doesn't represent

Following is Laura Rennert's exercise for putting together a good pitch:

1. Write down the title, category, setting, protagonist, and central problem.

2. Write down one vivid detail that makes any one of the above elements different.

3. Prove your novel has: a) credibility, b) inherent conflict, c) originality, or d) real emotional power

4. Write down 3 big emotionally laden words that relate to your story (example: love, pain)

5. Write a one paragraph pitch using steps 1-3 and in the last sentence, use a word from step 4.

Good luck to everyone out their pitching things around!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I am a hypocrite. I am a known rain hater and yet today when I stepped onto my front porch and I smelled the coming rain I was filled with glee.
You see, I lived in the Seattle area for 7 years (moving there from sunny AZ). And it really is as bad as they say. At first I didn’t mind the rain. I was in high school and I was busy enough not to notice. Then I married a native Seattleite and we settled down to raise a family. The starting point of raising said family was me being pregnant; 9 months with only 5 sunny days to claim. Plus during that time I was serving with the kids at church. We could tell on Sunday if the weather had been bad all week—the kids were crazy.
Two months after our darling baby girl was born we left the rain. We moved to the high desert of Utah and I’ve never really looked back. (My husband took a little longer to adjust, but he’s doing fine now.)

We visit the Pacific Northwest almost yearly and it is an amazing place to be . . . but the 9 months of rain gets old fast. (Now, a good monsoon cloud buster is another matter—the rain is warm and you can dance in the puddles. Plus lots of thunder—I love thunder. Seattle doesn’t see much thunder.)

But secretly, I love a little bit of rain. I love to be in the NW sometimes and put up with frizzy hair and cold toes. Just a little.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sushi gut and Barnes and Noble

Come to find out, I have a sickness that can only be cured by eating A LOT of sushi. Right when I think I've had my fill, I realize that I in fact have no limit to the amount of sushi I can consume in a one month period. Case in point: I went out for sushi last night with one of my best friends, happily stuffing my face until I couldn't breath, but I'm already excited for the sushi I'll be consuming this weekend when Scott and I go out for our anniversary. :) Once we were done gorging ourselves, we hauled ourselves over to Barnes and Noble to walk it off. This was a long overdue trip since I'd been meaning to go and get all of the copies of "I am NOT a Serial Killer" off the shelves and place them in strategic places in the store so that people will see it and buy it. (mwahahahahahah) I'm pleased to report that our covert marketing tactics were not impeded. May you all have fans as dedicated as me once you're published. :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Oh, The Agony!

Today I've been thinking a lot about suffering. Not the world calamity earthquake and volcano type of suffering, but the kind that comes with characters in the books we read.

We love suffering. The conclusion to a story isn't satisfying if it wasn't hard to get there. If Harry Potter lived a charmed life, never dealt with loss, and easily learned every potion and spell, his defeat of Voldemort would have been a mediocre pleasure, if that. But as a picked-on orphan, who struggles with school, watches friends die, and carries a heavy burden, we really like Harry and want him to win.

A lack of suffering makes for a "Mary-Sue" character, one that is practically perfect in every way. I found this "Mary-Sue" online test that was interesting. Not sure how accurate it is since some of the questions are a little unusual, but it was fun to take, nevertheless. Go ahead, check it out:

I scored a 19 for the main character of the book I'm currently working on. How does the test rate your characters? How does it rate the characters you've read and loved? What are your favorite characters and why? Let's discuss!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Holy Volcano Batman!

If you've been following the news at all this week, you will know a volcanic eruption on the small island country of Iceland has thrown all of Europe into a tailspin, creating ash-filled skies over the continent and shutting down major airports.

My first thought upon hearing this story was, "Iceland has volcanoes?". I hate to admit my ignorance, but my only previous knowledge of Iceland is that it is cold and the singer Bjork is from there.

It sparked my curiosity enough to do some very brief research. It reminded me how fun research can be and the many gems you can find to spark story ideas.

Here is some interesting info I found about Iceland (attributed to GVP/Smithsonian Institution):

Iceland has the land area of Virginia and the population of Virginia Beach (about 260,000 people). The country has the highest literacy rate (100%) of any nation in the world. Its history has always been closely related to volcanoes and knowledge of many volcanic eruptions since the middle ages are preserved in accounts.

First settled by Vikings in the 9th century AD, Iceland established its own parliament in 930 and recorded its first historical volcanic eruption only a few years later. After a golden age of literature in the 12th and 13th centuries (when the sagas were written), natural history reporting reached a low around the 15th century. In the years 1707-09 a third of the population died from smallpox, and the 1783-84 Laki eruption killed a fifth of the remaining population by famine. Iceland gained sovereignty from Denmark in 1918 and complete independence in 1944.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hood, by Stephen R. Lawhead

I enjoyed this first installment of the King Raven trilogy retelling of the Robin Hood story.

Stephen Lawhead focuses a lot of his fiction on Celtic myth, and this Robin Hood version is no different. As Lawhead explains in the book, the Robin Hood myth was very widely used and interpreted in the British Isles--something of an Everyman myth. Lawhead decided to interpret Robin Hood as a deposed Welsh prince during the times of the Franks/Normans' recent conquest of England and the start of their conquest of Wales.

Lawhead is immaculate and detailed in his Welsh backdrop, making for the most convincing Robin Hood version I've ever read/seen. The details of language, lifestyle, castle construction/use, armory, agriculture, etc., enrich the story.

His characters are gray, and Robin Hood himself is frustrating at times, even a Nancy boy, until he comes into his own. Friar Tuck, Little John, and the capricious Marian are delightful characters, somewhat different in their usually perceived roles (as is well manifested by Marian especially).

The book is not a standalone, as it ends in preparation for book two, even though it does have a natural climax and preceding rising action.

Baron Neufmarsh is one of the more interesting gray characters, someone who seems traitor and friend to the protagonist at times. I'm riveted on what Lawhead will do with him in the two novels to come.

Hood is a pleasant read for those Anglophiles who enjoy British history with relish while also delving into the legends surrounding the Isles.

Hood, by Stephen R. Lawhead. 2006. Thomas Nelson. 512 pp. $7.99 (PB).

King Raven Series:


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Into the Fire!

Have you ever noticed how facinating a fire is? Not in a pyromaniac-I-can't-live-without-it way, but in the skittering flashes of color that are gone almost before your brain can register them, cool campfire way.

I could tell you a long and probably not-super-interesting-to-anyone-but-the-Inkers story about how we sat around the fire pit last night and sacrificed our stress to the karma gods, BUT instead I want to talk about the fire and not us.

I started to think of ways that we use the word fire. It is a simple non-profane four letter word that can convey emotions from hatred to passion and destruction to rebirth. Such a versatile little word and often so unexchangeable.

Here are some phrases that came to mind:
"We didn't start the ...."
"My hearts on ...."
"Someone yelled .... and cleared the building."
"My soul's on ...."
"He had a .... in his belly."
Now try to use a substitute like combustion or inferno, or flame. They just seem wrong.
Sometimes a thing just is what it is...Fire and as simple as it seems it really is the word that works best.
Hit us with some of your campfire stories...I know you've got some.

Shot in the Arm

Last night was our monthly writers' group.  We talked about pitch sessions again (since three of us are doing pitch sessions at LDS Storymakers).  We also talked about how hard its been to fit writing into our hectic lives.
Part of what makes our writiers' group so great is we are all in a similiar situation.  We are all parents, we are all involved in our church, we are all involved in our community, etc.  Sometimes it can get really depressing when we don't have time to write as much as we would like to.  Sometimes we get discouraged.

Donna sent out an email this morning cheering us on.  Telling us we need to find a shot in the arm to get us motivated again.  We need to make writing FUN! 

What do you do to get you motivated?  What boosts you up when your feeling sluggish?

Last week was Spring Break and I was camping in Moab with my family. (You might have noticed there was no post last Wednesday--sorry.)  That was a great shot in the arm.  We spent our time in the sun (vitamin D is awesome) and hiked and ignored all the pressures of home.  Now I am ready to shake off winter's dreggs and move into spring.  That was one great shot in the arm.

Let's hear it!  What moves you?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Did you know that 20 pounds of strawberries makes a lot of jam? I found out last night at around 3 in the morning when I finished making it. Can you say tired?....

On a different note, I'm sad more people didn't contribute to Linda's post about collaboration. I was looking forward to seeing where that was going. So if you didn't add to it, you can do so now by clicking here.

Happy writing!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Getting Gas

I was talking to a friend the other day and was surprised to find out she didn't know about the gas gauge arrow, you know, the friendly little pointer by your gauge to let you know what side of the car your gas tank is on. Almost every car has one. Check yours, you probably have one too. By using this arrow, you'll never have to climb out of your car to get gas, only to find you've pulled on the wrong side. So just in case another friend of mine wasn't aware of this wonderful help, I thought I'd blog about it.

That and I've got nothin' else today :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010


col·lab·o·rate–verb (used without object),-rat·ed, -rat·ing. work, one with another; cooperate, as on a literary work: They collaborated on a novel. cooperate, usually willingly, with an enemy nation, esp. with an enemy occupying one's country: He collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.

Does anyone else see anything ironic here? In any case, it has been a while since I have collaborated with someone on a writing effort. Let's do a story chain and see where our imagination takes us. Hopefully the result will be more like the example for #1 and not #2.

A woman, hampered by age and the many ailments that accompany it, hobbled down the sidewalk. Her slow gait almost got her devoured by the throng of the busy city several times, but she perservered, clutching the large black bag she carried tightly to her side...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring Break!!

If all goes well I am heading to Sacramento tonight to a signing for the US release of "I Am Not A Serial Killer" by Dan Wells. Not my favorite book because I don't do scary fiction. Only outdone on my NOT favorite-but I loved it-list by Mr. Monster. Both excellent books!!
This is the UK cover because the US cover has blood on it. Along with scary fiction, I also don't do blood.

I like Dan's writing very much and you will have heard from other Inkers that the books are great.
So enough about them. Can't wait to see Sacramento. Never seen more than the highway there. The Scarlet Tart aka Lene and I are going to the signing. Yep, that's right I packed up my 3 kids and the family dog for a visit to Reno. What else am I supposed to do for Spring Break? Daytona is too crowded.

On a completely different subject please check out my book review today on my other blog (click here). It's a good one...the book, not the review. To say the review is good would be too much like boasting for a modest mom like me.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Good Samaritans

I don't know about you guys, but I've heard some pretty awesome stories in the news lately. Here are two examples:

And the second is this story.

Take a minute to read both articles and see if you can find a similarity. Personally, I think it is refreshing to know that in spite of all the horrible things that happen every day, there are still people out in the world who are trying to do what is right. Both articles are short. Not a lot of time is spent dwelling on the good deeds these men have done. But, their examples inspire and leave a lasting impression on the heart. What a great way to commemorate Easter!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Just Breathe

On Thursday, Donna mentioned the two of us retreated for the weekend to write. She also kindly mentioned I would be accountable to post on it today :)

Well, I am glad to report that Donna and I had a successful writing/editing weekend.

The retreat was good. Sometimes life gets a bit crazy (can I get an amen?), and the small things seem bigger than they are. In the words of Carrie Underwood:

"It's so easy to get lost inside
A problem that seems so big at the time
It's like a river that's so wide
It swallows you whole
When you're sitting around thinking 'bout what you can't change
And worrying about all the wrong things
Times flying by
Moving so fast
You better make it count 'cause you can't get it back."

I needed to make my time count. The busyness of life had taken hold and I needed a breather. And now I'm back, feeling great and ready to take on the world. Look out Storymakers. I'm ready!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Alter Egos

This week I found myself emphathizing with Dr. Bruce Banner as I struggled to keep my inner emotional Hulk under wraps when someone pushed my buttons one too many times. Normally I am as mild-mannered as Dr. Banner, but certain behavior riles me to the point of gigantic, green, clothes-ripping madness. I wished I could unleash all the strength of my true feelings upon this person and give them a serious smackdown, then blame it on my alter ego who I have no control over.

Alas, I do not have said alter ego, but it got me to thinking about some well-known alter egos; Bruce Wayne/Batman, Peter Parker/Spiderman, Clark Kent/Superman, etc. These comic heros have been done and redone so many times. I think it's time to see some new alter ego creations. Anyone up for the challenge?

Hopefully my nemesis will back off a little next week so the Hulk will stay dormant. As the comic says, "The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets." So there.

Oh yeah, and Happy Easter everybody. :)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Engaging the Enemy, by Elizabeth Moon

Open war has seized the galaxy as an organized syndicate of pirates attacks and overwhelms a planetary system--proving that the Vatta family aren't the only targets in these aggressors' crosshairs.

Kylara Vatta and the two crews of the two Vatta ships she's managed to recapture must find allies in order to preserve their safety in this perilous time. With heavy resistance from potential ally and foe alike, will Kylara and her comrades be able to stop the threat in time?

Elizabeth Moon's third installment in the Vatta War series takes the series on the offensive, whereas up to this point the Vattas have been on the defensive, struggling to remain alive.

Additional crew members are added to the story, some gunners for the new Vatta warship, an executive officer to help Stella Vatta command the Gary Tobai, and a few others. Also, as Ky seeks out allies in forming a privateer coalition, we see some interesting characters thrown into the mix.

The pacing starts out a little slow, with Moon's typical day-to-day narrative: the Vattas getting supplies and new crew, disputing with local authorities about her newly acquired ship (see Marque and Reprisal, book 2, for details, since I don't want to spoil anything), etc. But these details have been one of the enjoyable aspects of Moon's writing. It's not always from one conflict to the next--there's actual life going on in her stories.

Around midpoint on, the momentum escalates toward a very satisfying, very harrowing ending--setting the stage for the rest of the series.

Aunt Grace has an important subplot in the novel, as she helps the few Vatta survivors back on Slotter Key. Assassins have been sent to finish the job they started, and she must draw on all her black ops training to keep her sister-in-law and niece and nephew safe from the destroyer. Also, she makes arrangements to take the trouble to those who had sold the Vattas to their enemies.

The story is an impressive addition to the series, and I'm looking forward to jumping into the next book, Command Decision.

Engaging the Enemy, by Elizabeth Moon. Del-Rey. 2006. 416 pp. $7.99 (PB).

Vatta War Series:

1. Trading in Danger
2. Marque and Reprisal
3. Engaging the Enemy
4. Command Decision
5. Victory Conditions

Thursday, April 1, 2010


That's it. I've had it. Life is just too darn crazy and I'll never get me rewrite finished in time for Storymakers at the end of the month if I don't fall back and huncker down with my computer.
SO I'm retreating to a mountain condo this weekend with my good friend and fellow Inker, Debbie, who is also going to finish her book.
So much for standing and fighting. For a writer at least sometimes its better to just RETREAT!
We'll let you know our awesome progress next week. Deb posts on Monday. How's that for accountability?