Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Boiled Potatoes

Have you ever read a book that painted such a picture that whetted your appetite?  That whenever you think of that edible item you remember the way it sounded in the book?

Years ago I read The Whipping Boy.  One of my favorites as a kid.  Whenever I think of potatoes I think of the boiled potatoes in that book.  I can't really recall what happened with the potatoes, but I can sense the cottage and the way the potatoes felt going down.  It makes me want to eat them all the time.

Today I had a boiled potatoe hot from the pot.  It wasn't as good as I pictured it.  Of course, they were eaten by starving boys in the book and we all know that when you are hungry everything tastes better.

Another thing I remember from The Whipping Boy is the bad guy who ate onions and how he reeked of onions.  (Whenever I smell someone with that particular odor I remember the bad guy) 

Now I need to pick that book up again and rediscover the boiled potatoes.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thanks For Playing

Last weekend I was at a dance competition. It's a world full of hairspray, sparkly costumes, and pop music. At the end of the day, everyone, from those who were amazing dancers to those who should find a different interest, got the same participation trophy. It's a small, eight inch trophy, bought in bulk, and handed out freely.

My daughter received one of these. She was also determined to work hard and earn a real trophy. Every day she practiced her solo, even listening to the music and watching her facial expressions in the mirror. She asked me to watch and tell her where she could improve. It was all about determination, perspiration and plain ol' hard work.

Her work paid off. She won overall high point soloist, earning a six foot trophy. Which one do you think meant more to her? The eight inch participation number, or the six footer? Even if she hadn't won the six footer, she would have been extremely pleased with her performance because she did better than before.

Glenn Beck had something to say about participation trophies:

"When everybody gets a participation trophy at the end of the season, it doesn't mean anything. Americans aren't about participation trophies or we better damn stop it. We're about telling the coach, take the trophy back. That's where you need to stand. Teach your children now. My son, my daughter didn't earn the trophy. They played hard. They played well, but they didn't win. We maybe will get the real trophy next year. Don't give me this bogus trophy.

Life isn't about the trophies. It is about improving yourself. It is about accomplishment."

I want to accomplish. I want to improve. In writing, it's either work hard to get published, or spend the rest of your life wondering what could have been with that great idea you had. I say bring on the hard work. And when my name graces the front of a book cover I can say, "Keep your stinkin' participation trophy. I succeeded."

So I can pat you on the back, congratulate you for your writing efforts, but in the end I say get back to work. I want to see your name on a book cover as well.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

An Opening

I just started reading a new book. Many of you have probably read it. Here is the opening:

When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world. His hand rose and fell softly with each precious breath. He pushed away the plastic tarpaulin and raised himself in the stinking robes and blankets and looked toward the east for any light but there was none. In the dream from which he'd wakened he had wandered in a cave where the child led him by the hand. Their light playing over the wet flowstone walls. Like pilgrims in a fable swallowed up and lost among the inward parts of the granitic beast. Deep stone flues where the water dripped and sang. Tolling in the silence the minutes of the earth and the hours and the days of it and the years without cease. Until they stood in a great stone room where lay a black and ancient lake. And on the far shore a creature that raised its dripping mouth from the rimstone pool and stared into the light with eyes dead white and sightless as the eggs of spiders. It swung its head low over the water as if to take the scent of what it could not see. Crouching there pale and naked and translucent, its alabaster bones cast up in shadow on the rocks behind it. Its bowels, its beating heart. The brain that pulsed in a dull glass bell. It swung its head from side to side and then gave out a low moan and turned and lurched away and loped soundlessly into the dark.

If you would indulge me, I like to know after reading that opening, would you want to read on (or if you have read the book, what made you want to read on)? Please state the reasons for and against.

The book is The Road by Cormac McCarthy, a #1 Bestseller/Pulitzer Prize winner.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gone fishing...

I'm stuck at work and my creativity has gone fishing. I hope it catches something soon and heads home.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Isn't that a great word?  The song is pretty great too. . .

What words have you created to move along your story . . .


What words have you created to express an idea (sometimes it comes from blending words, or as my female relations call it "twixing your twords").

I used some from Gaelic Mythology to create religions, Aelfheimer and Tuatha De. 

I would love to find a dictionary of stems (Sorted by meaning) to create new words.

Back to Supercalifragili . . . I wish I was a little more like Mary--optimistic, firm, yet able to have fun.  I've no problem with the firm side of things, its the kid size fun that I lack.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Lord of the Rings, among other things....

I have nothing significant to write about today. In fact, the only thing you might find even remotely interesting is that my family has been watching the extended version of "The Lord of the Rings" which, when watched consecutively is about 12 hours of movie. They finished "The Return of the King" last night, to the delight of all. And, in spite of my daughter exclaiming to me this morning that "The Lord of the Rings" is her favorite movie, I still can't help but tell everyone I know that they should read the books, including said daughter. It's amazing to me how much gets overlooked in movie adaptations from characterization to coherent plot. Not that the characters in "The Lord of the Rings" movies were bad; they were just done so well in the books. My biggest beef is the character of Faramir. I happen to know (because I'm a geek) that in the extra commentary/documentary, one of the writers talks about making sure that the audience, especially those without a knowledge of the books, could understand how terribly bad the ring is. But I feel they did that by sacrificing essential character attributes in certain characters, especially in Faramir. At the risk of spoiling it for those who may not have read the series, in the books, Faramir never tries to take the ring to Gondor. In fact, he never tries to take the ring from Frodo at all. The point, I think, of their encounter was 1) to give Frodo and Sam some extra help before they actually get into Mordor, 2) to show how important it is to Frodo to keep Gollum with them, and 3) to show that the ring isn't all-powerful. In fact, you could say that we see this theme throughout the entire series of people being offered the ring or being in its presence and their reaction to it. First, Bilbo gives up the ring on his own even though he'd owned it so long. Frodo offers the ring to Gandalf, who declines. Then, Boromir tries to take it, but fails, though he ultimately proves how valiant he is in the end. Frodo then offers it to Galadriel, who declines. Then we see this interaction with Faramir, who happens to be Boromir's brother, and his reaction to the ring is 100% different from Boromir's. Faramir is the epitome of good and the way the movie people twisted his character was very disappointing.

But, enough about that. I'm in a rare mood today, otherwise known as cleaning frenzy. Yes, my house is relatively clean due to me cleaning last night from the moment my kids went to bed. Something clicked in my head and in the space of 1 1/2 hours I got my kitchen and living room back to good. If you'd seen the state of disaster they were in, you'd know what an accomplishment that was.

And, I've been writing to boot. :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Textually Active

I read a news story this morning that was a little appalling. Don't misread that word as "appealing," but appalling, as in horrible and shocking. Before anyone starts assuming I'm setting up some joke, this is a TRUE STORY.

A sixteen year old girl needs surgery on both her wrists due to over texting. That's right. Serious Carpal Tunnel from sending too many texts.

Wow. What is the world coming to?

Digital disconnect is a serious problem. With Facebook, Twitter, texting, emailing, and instant messaging, we are in danger of physically losing touch with reality. Since when is a text that says, "C@ch u l8r" more important than hanging out with a friend? How would this girl's day be different if instead of sending a text, she smiled at someone, and not one of those colon parenthesis emoticon ones, but a genuine smile that brightens a day. I can tell you that I've had my load lightened by a stranger who smiled at me.

Think of all the words that go into texting that much every day. This girl could have written a novel, maybe two. Where is the drive, the determination to accomplish something? I guess she's content to live in mediocrity, sending meaningless texts instead of pursuing her dreams.

Though I've posed many question, here is the biggest one: Where are her parents? If I got a phone bill that showed my daughter had texted 4,000 times in a month, she would be losing her phone. Period. Forget the iPhone, forget the "cutting down" of messaging. No phone privileges for the rest of her high school life.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With the passage of the new health care bill, we, the American people, can help this poor girl by having our tax dollars pay for her important surgery.


To read the article yourself, click HERE.

I'm curious what everyone else thinks about this. So share, share.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Geeks Rule

I love me some geeks. You can keep your muscle-bound jocks, big men on campus, gorgeous vampires and the like. I'll take the skinny (or chubby), sensitive but funny guy with the big, beautiful brain. Clark Kent over Superman any day!

I have always been drawn to the misfit in a story, whether it be books, movies, or TV. Some of my favorites include The Geek a.k.a. Farmer Ted from Sixteen Candles, Harry Potter (All the main characters are geeks, as is my favorite supporting character - Luna Lovegood), Holden Caulfield, Liz Lemon on 30 Rock, Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything, Napoleon Dynamite, Paulie Bleeker in Juno, and of course, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Just so you know I'm not all talk, I married a self-professed geek and lay claim to geekdom myself. I wouldn't have it any other way!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Future of Book Publishing

Here's a neat poetic piece on the future of the book industry and how readers will want books no matter how they're produced. Be sure that you watch the first and second part of the video to get the full effect of the double-edged peom:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Daylight Slavings!!

I think its official, I'm a slave to the contrivance of day light savings. Whoever decided that it was a good idea to take an hour away in the Spring just to give it back in the Fall is totally laughing at me from their post in the cosmos. (I'm not going to speculate whether they are in a hot or heavenly place.) Suffice it to say that the mean joke is on all of us, except Ohio and Arizona...who opt out of this strange mass acceptance of time control. Two states can opt out, why can't I?

Why do I have to go to bed when I am NOT tired just to wake up an hour earlier than normal to a dark room and a clock that says I'm 20 minutes late instead of 40 minutes early?

Someone explain the madness. Then I can possibly explain it to my small children who completely ignore the clock and trust me to tell them when its bed time and when its time to get up. Twice a year for about a week, I look like an idiot to my kids.

This is how the conversation goes:
Me: "Okay kids is time for bed get your teeth brushed and lets say prayers."
Daughter:"Okay, Mom." She gets up to turn off the TV, but is detained by her brother.
Older Son: "Don't listen to her, its still light outside. She's just trying to get us to go to bed early."
Daughter: "Mom, why do you want us to go to bed early?" Suspicion creeps into her trusting face.
Me: "Honestly, it's bed time. Look at the clock."
Daughter to son: "What does the clock say?"
Son: "Doesn't matter what the clock says," without glancing at them, "Dad changed them all this morning so they're all wrong now. I think he's in on it."
Me: "It's called Daylight Savings time."
Son: "What are we doing with all the time we save?" He actually turns to look at me interested in manipulating time.
Me: "Nothing."
Son: "That's dumb!" He turns away disillusioned. "Does everyone do this."
Me: "Yes!...Well, unless you live in Ohio or Arizona."
Son to daughter: "Let's declare the living room Ohio and finish our movie."
Daughter: 'Great idea."

Thus begins the anarchy of daylight 'slavings' which fails all logic tests.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Visiting Old Friends In My Mind

I just got a new computer.   Today I tranfered old files onto the new one.

Seeing all the file names reminded me of the characters that I created and left on the shelf.  I smiled thinking over some of them.  These poor people are stuck in the prison of my mind. They need air, life, and freedom to live on the printed page.  Poor pale hazy forms . . . Here are some that I found and love:

Mrs Smythe is a great character.  I can't decide if she's truly mean or if she's over protective or if she's paranoid or prejudiced.  She is like Darth Vader in that she is evil, but can she be redeemed?

Saturn is another one that is lingering in my brain.  He is a 1970's Disc Jockey that is about to lose his job when a group of insane teenagers infiltrate his "Rings of Love" radio show upping his ratings and his anxiety.

Then there are the lovers who live in the far North and only socialize during the short growing season.  How is their love going to grow with such a short growing season and then months of darkness and isolation.

Who are some of your characters that are saved on a file or thumb drive and waiting to come out?

(PS Happy St Patrick's Day!!!  I forgot until I was scheduling it--hope you all have the luck O' the Irish)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Day to Post...

In case you haven't noticed yet, I'm a notorious procrastinator. Therefore, I haven''t plan a post for today. I'm happy to report, however, that I managed to write last week. :) Hooray! And because I'm on something of a roll, I'm going to leave this blog as is.

Discussion topic: How often do you finish a book, love it and recommend it to all of your friends only to find out that they think differently than you? Is it your taste or theirs that's at fault?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Your Offense Offends Me

Is it just me, or are you tired of people becoming "offended," especially over seemingly insignificant things? I never cease to be amazed at the variety of thoughts, words and actions that can cause people to find offense.

There's a line from the movie, "Pulp Fiction." Mia (Uma Thurman) and Vincent (John Travolta) are talking, and he wants to ask her something, but wants her to "promise not to be offended." She replies with, "No, no no. You can't promise something like that. I have no idea what you're gonna ask me. So you can go ahead and ask me what you're going to ask me, and my natural response could be to get offended! Then, through no fault of my own, I would have broken my promise."

While the line is meant to be facetious, I think too many people agree with this idea. Allow me to expound.

Your gut reaction to something may be anger, frustration, or yes, even offense. But by saying that you can't weigh your reaction implies you have no control over your emotions. Isn't that very control something that separates adults from children? If my child stomps and yells because of something I've said, I chalk it up to youth and a need to learn better. If my husband displayed the same kind of behavior, well, we really wouldn't be married. Adults (hopefully) have better control than that. There is a word to describe adults who can't control themselves, who throw childish tantrums, if not in a more adult way, and that word is "offended."

Strong, negative emotions will destroy your life. If left unchecked, you will become one of those spoiled, tantrum-throwing children who have no friends. Take control, own your emotions, and don't let someone else get the best of you.

One of my favorite quotes is by Brigham Young, a prophet for the LDS church and a founder of the state of Utah. He said, "He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool."

I couldn't agree more!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I had a couple of reminders about inspiration this week.

The first was, when inspiration strikes and you are on a mental roll with something you need to work on (in my case, the rewrite of the first few pages of my novel), for crying out loud, write it down as soon as possible.

Example: A couple of weeks ago, I was up in the night rocking my baby, who was in pain from yet another molar breaking through. As he quieted and was falling back to sleep, my mind began to review the first chapter and how I wanted to rework it. I got into a really good flow, seeing clearly, word for word, what I needed to do. Once the baby was in bed, did I immediately go to my notebook? No. I gratefully collapsed back in bed to write another day. The next day, during my writing time, the new scene was still pretty fresh in my mind, but I determined that I needed to keep moving forward with the story and not start the rewriting process yet.

So, this week I'm working on my rewrite and having to painfully dredge up from my weak memory the fine details of my inspiration.

Next, I have been trying to read some modern romantic novels to get some inspiration for the romantic subplot of my story. After reading a couple from some top authors and being underwhelmed, and finally, trying to read one that was so bad I couldn't get past page two, I decided that romance is timeless and rather than forcing my way through work that is mediocre, I needed to return to the master - Jane Austen.

I chose Persuasion as the title to re-read because its love story has an element similar to mine (true lovers separated for several years are reunited and sorting out their feelings for each other). Here is the passage that made me believe again. It is when our heroine Anne Elliot meets her former love Captain Wentworth for the first time in eight years:

Mary talked, but she could not attend. She had seen him. They had met. They had been once more in the same room.

Soon, however, she began to reason with herself, and try to be feeling less. Eight years, almost eight years had passed, since all had been given up. How absurd to be resuming the agitation which such an interval had banished into distance and indistinctiveness! What might not eight years do? Events of every description, changes, alienations, removals-- all, all must be comprised in it, and oblivion of the past--how natural, how certain too! It included nearly a third part of her own life.

Alas! with all her reasonings she found that to retentive feelings eight years may be little more than nothing.

I hope you all find inspiration this week, and if you do, for heaven's sake write it down! Who knows, maybe someone will be citing you almost 200 years from now.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

About my blind date...I mean pitch session

So this week we had a great 10 point discussion led by Sir Kirk-a-lot on making the most of a pitch session. Ben Hutchins and Graham Bradley guest starred at the meeting. The reference material came from an article by Cynthia P Gallagher.
Here's what I got out of it:
1) Do your homework- Don't pitch a picture book to an agent who only handles adult non-fiction and horror. (Well unless your book is on the mating habits of the Black Widow Spider, in which case the agent should love it.)

2) Be your best self--the business dressed, friendly, open, awesome you. Not the neurotic, pajama-clad, recluse obsessed with why hot dogs come in multiples of 10 and buns come in packs of 8.

3) If your blind date/ I mean editor or agent doesn't ask for your number, chalk it up to experience and get back out there. Ask questions that will help you make the most out of their advice even if you never see them again. (Who would you suggest I send this to after the rewrites/ when its finished/polished? What are you looking for in a debut author? etc.)

4) Kirk didn't mention this one, but the discussion reminded me of his advice for me last year when I went into my first pitch session. Spend most of your time listening. You paid for advice, so listen to it. (Maybe that was just for me though, since I tend to talk when I'm nervous, driving, awake...let's face it if I'm breathing I've usually got something to say.)

That's all. Studies have shown that if you don't review a lesson within 24 hours you retain only 25% of what was taught. So I'm above the average since I remembered 30% of what he taught and added a bonus point which brought me to 40%.

Until Tuesday night I wasn't nervous about my impending pitch session at LDS Storymakers Conference, but now I am. Suddenly it feels like a really overly anticipated blind date because I really really want Krista Marino to like me. I've seen her great work and think we were made to work together on my book, BUT she doesn't know that I exist. Maybe I've been reading too many Dan Wells novels. Anyway, suffice it to say that these four steps SHOULD help anyone who is going into a pitch session. If anyone remembers other points that they want to share, be my guest.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Graham's Story Blocking (The Index Card Way)

Last night we had our writers' group.  We had two guests, Ben and Graham.  Sir Kirk-A-Lot gave an awesome presentation on Pitch Sessions.  After the "official meeting" I asked Graham about his outline techniques.  He's been kind enough to let me share them here:

1) Do your prewriting--setting, character list (with individual motives--this doesn't have to be very detailed, just a few words) and so forth.

2) Write down what your main character will be doing from beginning to end, since most of the book will be following him/her around.

3) Go through your character list and write down what the other characters will be doing. Work all their storylines together into the overall storyline of the book. Again, this doesn't have to be too detailed. Just a few bullet points on who does what.

4) Get a stack of 3x5 notecards and start writing out every scene you can think of in your head. Keep it simple. "Character A gets in his car, character B is hiding in the back seat with a gun, character C is trying to call character A," etc. This is the part in the process where you're able to get all your pre-imagined scenes out onto notes.

5) Once you've made as many cards as you can think to make, set them out on a table in chronological order. Imagine a transition from each card to the next; if there's not enough information, or if for some other reason a coherent transition isn't possible, make up a new card to "connect the dots", so to speak. That's where you'll add in all the necessary filler scenes between the big "action" scenes. Try to throw in a joke or something interesting in these connector scenes.

6) When all your cards are finished, look over them again and compare them to your original list of character storylines. Fill in the blanks if you've left anything out. Also, if you need to foreshadow anything, make note of that on the various cards.

7) You should have a healthy amount of notes in place now. I had 25 cards for Sidewinder, and intended each one of them to be its own chapter. I ended up expanding it to 37 chapters later (this was the first time I'd used the notecard process for outlining--it worked wonders, but I learned to be a little more detailed later on.) I made 30 cards for Lunaratus, which was about the same length as Sidewinder (35 chapters).

8) Number the cards so you can keep them in order. Then get a large drawing pad and write out your whole massive outline on one sheet of paper--that bad boy is going on your wall above your computer. That way when you're writing, all you need to do is look up, see where you are in your outline, look back down and keep writing. :-) ----Or, if you don't want to write it out on a larger sheet, just stick all your notecards up on the wall (I recommend putty-tack) in order. Same thing.

Thanks Graham for letting me share this.  (You can learn more about Graham here.) On my way home tonight I picked up some index cards.  I'm skipping out on a neighborhood party to use this method!!  Wish me luck.

What story organization methods do you use?

PS Sorry this is so late . . . I had to wait for Graham's permission to repost his idea.  It is just what I've been looking for.  Thanks again!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Collage of Thoughts about Writing

I have favorite characters that creep into my thoughts when least expected and I wonder if this happens to anyone else. I might be out running errands, having a conversation or just cleaning my house when a scene or image pops in to say hello. There's really nothing like doing your dishes with Bruce Wayne, Elizabeth Bennet and Katniss Everdeen at the same time. It's even better when the character in my head is one I've created...

I'm wrapping up reading the Mistborn series with 'The Hero of Ages', currently. It has the notable attribute of keeping me absorbed through over 2000 pages of story while inspiring me to finish my own novel. It's a great reminder of how I want to write, with satisfying highs and lows. And rational character arcs that take the characters in interesting directions.

When looking at and critiquing a published work, I tend to forget that most readers aren't interested in how well a book is written for a first try. Most people don't even think about how much experience the author actually has in the field of writing. In a way, it makes writing that first novel even more challenging, this knowing that people will judge me with no regard for the sliding scale I think I might deserve.

To tie this all up, I just want to say a big thank you to the authors that have inspired me with their creations in spite of their critics and self-doubt. I'm impressed with people like Brandon Sanderson who are able to put pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard more likely, and make their stories come to life through sheer force of will. Good on ya! Thanks for the examples of excellent writing that I can now aspire to.

For all you other guys out there, what are some of your favorite, memorable or otherwise interesting characters that stick with you through thick and thin? One of my favs is Edmund Dantes. He is by far one of my absolute favorite characters of all time. He is so incredibly flawed! It just makes me love him even more.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Those Three Little Words

I want to talk about those three words, those three little words that are so difficult for adults to say, but seemingly simple for kids. What are the three words? I don't know. To avoid confusion, those are the words, I DON'T KNOW, not that I don't actually know. Well, you get the point.

Anyway, my son uses those words on a regular basis:

What did you do?
I don't know!

I've noticed adults don't like to say them. We probably have our reasons, which I will not attempt to expound on. However, there are three common diversion tactics to use rather than admit you don't know.

First, the subject change:
So what should we do about it?
Honey, I just have to mention how beautiful you look tonight.

Tactic number two, the question rebuff:
What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
What do you mean? An African or European swallow?

And the third diversion tactic is intellectual pontification:
All right. Where is the poison?
But it's so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison in his own goblet or his enemy's? Now a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he is given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known that I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me...

I am aware that not everyone struggles with the words, "I don't know." The struggle is reserved for men and stubborn women, which I figure qualifies at least 85% of us out there.

I'm not calling for change or anything. So why am I writing this? I don't...errr... I mean, what's it to ya?! (Phew. Glad I cleverly employed tactic number two there.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Getting Simon-ized

I am a fan of American Idol. My favorite thing about it is watching undiscovered talent get discovered - like Chris Daughtry, who worked as a service manager at a car dealership when he auditioned and is now a major recording artist. He didn't even win the title, but his being a contender was enough exposure to take him where he wanted to go.

The successful contestants give hope to all the great singers (or better-than-average singers with a great look) who are out there doing their day jobs and plugging away at their art on the side. But, my heart always pains a bit for the contestants who do not have a successful experience on Idol and have to deal with having their talent (or lack thereof) being critiqued in front of millions of people.

As is widely known, judge Simon Cowell is the most brutally honest judge on the panel, often crossing the line between constructive criticism and just plain meanness. Here are a few of his nastier comments:

"Did you really believe you could become the American Idol? Well, then, you're deaf."

"You have the personality of a handle.”

"You came across as a background singer for a background singer."

"I’m tempted to ask if you sang that the night before your wife left you."

You get the idea. Aside from the meanness, I have to say he is the judge my opinion is most often aligned with.

As I watched an episode this week, I imagined how I would handle it if I were on an Idol type show that was judging my writing. Would I be one of the contestants who argues with the judges and rejects the criticism? Would I politely rebut the criticism with the assertion that I do have what it takes? Or, would I accept whatever is said and promise to do better next week?

I've noticed that the contestants who argue with the judges (yeah, I'm talking about you, Jermaine Sellers) almost always get voted off the following week. Knowing my personality, I'd probably be in the accept the criticism and try to do better category, but I would hope if the criticism was really unfair I would have the guts to respectfully defend myself.

Luckily for us writers, I don't think there will ever be a TV contest show based around writing - Great American Novelist Search, or similar. Although I know the rejection letters will be a bummer, I'd rather get a quiet letter telling me I suck than have to hear it in front of millions of people while they watch me squirm.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Specials, by Scott Westerfeld

I waited a long time to read Specials, the third and final installment of the Uglies Trilogy. Partly the ending of the 2nd book, Pretties, didn't really compel me to keep reading.

While I was enchanted with the ideas and characters in book one and part of book two, I struggled through Specials, like a mountain climber trekking up an icy cliff, one pick at a time.

First of all, Westerfeld takes us back to Tally's "relationship" with Zane (from the beginning of book 2). I thought that was a dead relationship because of how close she is/was to David. So it felt like a replay of book 2 entirely.

Secondly, the themes are scattered and not focused. One chapter you're worried about getting society to the point where there isn't any controlling government messing with people's heads. The next chapter you're worried about people encroaching on wildlife (a heavier-handed approach for the environmentalist angle--even for me . . . a moderate environmentalist). This especially took a turn for the worse when the book's epilogue (NO SPOILER) focuses on Tally and David become glorified forest rangers (who cares about the people they've tried to rescue from oppression for the entire series . . . now we're going to save the trees and rainforests). A little sudden. Quite out of place.

Thirdly, the coined cliches (bubbly, rusty, icy) drove me to distraction, and I nearly had to put the book down for good.

Overall the series is interesting, but the finale left much to be desired and was only tolerable for me as I tried to find closure. I like Westerfeld's style overall, and I have hope I'll like his Leviathan better.

Specials, by Scott Westerfeld. 2006. Simon Pulse. 372 pp. $9.99 (PB).

Uglies Series:

1. Uglies
2. Pretties
3. Specials

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Sapphire Flute

Take a blue flute, a white wolf, a green-eyed girl, and a black-hearted villain, throw them all together in a broken world with plenty of mayhem and you have the Sapphire Flute by Karen Hoover. In her debut YA fantasy novel, Hoover begins the tale of Ember Shandae, a young girl breaking free to follow her dreams, and Kayla Kalandra Felandian, a debutante forced to leave her dreams behind to fulfill the call of destiny. As expected these two girls run into adventure and Kayla even meets the arch villain C'Tan, who is determined to stop them both.

Hoover does a good job of relating authentic family struggles in Ember's storyline. She alternates between Kayla's and Ember's perspectives with a few dips into C'Tan's point of view. However, don't let the cover fool you, the meeting of the storylines is not destined to occur in this first book of 'The Wolfchild Saga.'

I love fantasy and have always been a fan of romance. Having read some of Karen Hoover's award winning first chapters from her works in progress, I couldn't wait to get my hands on her debut novel. While her adventurous prologue captured me immediately, the switch to Kayla's storyline felt stilted and awkward. This impression stayed with me throughout the book. I just felt Kayla's storyline lacked the depth and fluidity of the Ember Shandae plot line.

Both girls have great potential and Hoover sets the foundation for an interesting series in this first book, however, it is clearly a first book. Be prepared to wait for the second installment. The good news is that “The Sapphire Flute” is the first of a series of seven novels. Valor plans to publish a new book in the series each spring.

Teens and fantasy readers will find interesting magic and a creative mythology in this book and readers of all ages will find appropriate content. It is a fun, safe read in a market where that is not always the case in YA fiction. Both girls face difficult decisions morally and ethically. Though they are not perfect, they learn from each mistep and are supported in each right choice.

Find out more about Karen Hoover at her blog and for more information on The Sapphire Flute see the Valor Publishing website.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Emotional Pendulum

I have a theory.  I came up with it after watching my own kids.  What if people had an emotional pendulum?

I have one kid who never gets really mad, but she also never gets really excited.  Her pendulum has a small swing.  My other daughter can be the giddiest, happiest kid, but beware when her pendulum swings the other way--she can be downright awful. (Speaking of this child, yesterday I asked her to pick up her dirty clothes in her room.  She started scrying--that screaming and crying together--and shouted to me that Princesses get whatever they want.)

So, some people have big arcs on their emotional pendulum, while others have small arcs.  It's fun to think about when creating characters.  Of course emotions aren't two dimensional, and the timing isn't equal like a pendulum, but the theory is that if a person gets really happy, they could get really mad.  (As adults I think we try hard to hide the negative side of our arc.) 

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Two Books I Read Recently: Mr. Monster and Mistborn

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

That's right folks. I read 'Mistborn'. I'm putting in a caveat right here so that everyone knows where I'm coming from. The last real fantasy novel I seriously got into (barring Harry Potter) was The Lord of the Rings. After that, I sort of stopped reading fantasy so much. Can you blame me? It's hard to follow a series as awesome as that. But, when Donna recommended 'Mistborn' so highly my interest was piqued. Anyhow, I picked it up and let me tell you, it doesn't disappoint! The magic system alone was enough to keep me reading, but added to that was the impeccable timing and well-developed characters. I love a novel that builds and builds until everything comes together in a tidal wave at the end and that is absolutely what Brandon Sanderson accomplishes. Read it!

Mr. Monster by Dan Wells

Mr. Monster came out in the U.K. recently, but I didn't have to wait for shipping because...oh, that's right! I bought it from the man himself at LTUE 2010. Woohoo!

Be warned: 'Mr. Monster' is not for the faint of heart. The story picks up not long after 'I Am Not a Serial Killer' ends. John Cleaver is as messed up as ever, a situation not likely to change anytime soon. We see early on that John is having difficulty containing his darker side, manipulating his rules to accommodate his changing needs. While 'I Am Not a Serial Killer' deals with John letting his darker side out, 'Mr. Monster' deals with John trying to lock his darker side back up. Whether or not he is successful is debatable. He spends a lot of time with his daydreams which are incredibly disturbing and not for wide consumption. However, if you can stomach the ride, the entire book is worth the read for the last page alone. Dan Wells does an excellent job creating a character that is not lovable, but that we're still able to root for right up to the end. I can honestly say that I can't wait to see how the whole thing wraps up!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Foggy With a Chance of Brainstorm

The morning mind fog. It's that state when we wake up and are surrounded by a cloud of blah. There are many supposed cures for it: caffeine, shower, or exercise, but sometimes the fog won't dissipate, and the morning fog turns into afternoon and evening fog.

That's how I feel today.

Reactions are slower, thoughts illogical, sentences incom...wait, I have to wipe away my space-out drool. Now, where was I?

I'm challenging myself, and all the other mind foggers out there, to make this a matter of brain over mind. Let's turn the fog into a good brainstorm. I really think there is hope. At least that's what I keep telling myself so I don't count the day as a loss.