Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Raven's Last Supper

Upon a thick gnarled branch sat a raven. He was a handsome bird, and not without his faults. His two main vices were: eating berries and thinking too much of himself. The berries he loved the most were inside the landscaped gardens of the large white house on the hill. The people who lived there disliked him very much, and had laid many traps for him to stop his berry eating. But the raven was as smart as he was handsome and no matter how hard they tried, they couldn't stop him from stealing the delicious, juicy fruit.

On one occasion, the people had placed a bowl of the sweet berries inside a large birdcage. The raven found the test irresistible. With one strong wing, the raven kept the door lifted as he slurped the berries into his gullet, then sat hidden in the branches of the tall oak bemused as he saw the people examine the empty cage and bowl, scratching their heads in disbelief.

Another time, they installed a fine mesh net over the bushes. After his sharp talons shredded the net, he ate more than his fill out of pure spite. He barely managed to lift his haughty frame into the air as a shovel came whizzing past his head, swung by the lady of the house, who had been gardening nearby. It had been close, to be certain. But as he slowly digested his meal and shined his black feathers with his stout beak, he smiled. The people would never outwit him.

On a particularly fine day, while gazing at his reflection in the still waters of the pond, that aching feeling came over him. Hunger. And when the raven was hungry, there was only one thing to eat- the sweet, red, juicy, delicious berries in the yard.  Over the tops of the trees the raven flew, silhouetted against an azure sky, his mouth watered in anticipation.

From the air, he spotted the bush. It was extra full, nearly folded over with its tasty crop. He dropped lower to the ground, looking for what he was sure would be there- a trap, a puzzle, a new-fangled contraption- something which the people would foolishly believe could stop him, and which he would undoubtedly overcome. But, there was nothing.

The raven drew closer to the ground, still circling. There was no cage, no net, no trip wires, no tape, no sticks, not a single thing standing between him and his supper.

“They’ve given up.” He cawed with glee. “They’ve learned that there’s no stopping a genius raven like me.” A moment later, he was tail-feathers deep in the bush, munching on the berries without a care in the world.

So busy was he, that he didn’t notice the sleek, black fur parting the grass.

So busy was he, that he didn’t see the large, round pupils or long, black whiskers below.

So full of conceit was he, that he didn’t ponder for a moment why the songbirds had all gone quiet.

With a pounce and a momentary rustle of leaves, the berries were safe, and someone other than the raven, was contentedly full from lunch.

Sunday, August 11, 2013



Through the magic and assistance of, I am happy to say...

Congratulations, ED*, you WON! a kindle copy of The Defiance by A.G. Henley.

and a BIG thank you!! to everyone else who entered the contest, and fear not- I will have more opportunities for free stuff in the future.

*ED, please send your name and email to for prize delivery. :)

~A. B.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Defiance by A.G. Henley: Book Blitz GIVEAWAY!!

As you may already know, A. G. Henley is one of my favorite authors. On July 29, 2013, Book 2 of her Brilliant Darkness series released, The Defiance.

In celebration, I am giving away one Kindle copy of A.G.'s newest arrival to one lucky reader!!! Wahoo!! This is the first time I've done a giveaway and I'm super excited!

Also, as a sweet cherry-on-top of this literary sundae, The Scourge, Book 1 in the Brilliant Darkness series will be a piddly $0.99 on Amazon from August 5-10 so you can get all caught up.

I have posted about this before- just a couple of weeks ago actually- when The Defiance released, but to save you the hassle of scrolling down through my posts, here it is again...

The Scourge by A.G. Henley
(Brilliant Darkness #1)
Publication date: January 31st 2012
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult

Seventeen-year-old Groundling, Fennel, is Sightless. She's never been able to see her lush forest home, but she knows its secrets. She knows how the shadows shift when she passes under a canopy of trees. She knows how to hide in the cool, damp caves when the Scourge comes. She knows how devious and arrogant the Groundlings' tree-dwelling neighbors, the Lofties, can be.

And she's always known this day would come—the day she faces the Scourge alone.

The Sightless, like Fenn, are mysteriously protected from the Scourge, the gruesome creatures roaming the forests, reeking of festering flesh and consuming anything—and anyone—living. A Sightless Groundling must brave the Scourge and bring fresh water to the people of the forest. Today, that task becomes Fenn's.

Fenn will have a Lofty Keeper, Peree, as her companion. Everyone knows the Lofties wouldn’t hesitate to shoot an arrow through the back of an unsuspecting Groundling like Fenn, but Peree seems different. A boy with warm, rough hands who smells like summer, he is surprisingly kind and thoughtful. Although Fenn knows his people are treacherous, she finds herself wanting to trust him.

As their forest community teeters on the brink of war, Fenn and Peree must learn to work together to survive the Scourge and ensure their people’s survival. But when Fenn uncovers a secret that shatters her truths, she’s forced to decide who and what to protect—her people, her growing love for Peree, or the elusive dream of lasting peace in the forest.


Praise for The Scourge:
“Lovable and relatable heroine? Check.  Swoon-worthy, kick-butt hero?  Check.  Compelling romance that makes your heart melt and toes curl?  Check.  Captivating story and fascinating world? Check.  Eagerly anticipating the next book?  Check, check, check.”-- Refracted Light Reviewsblog review

The Defiance by A.G. Henley
(Brilliant Darkness #2)
Publication date: July 29th 2013
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult

Read The Defiance (Brilliant Darkness, #2), the highly anticipated sequel to The Scourge (Brilliant Darkness, #1), a 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist!
Suspicion Trust. Fear Compassion. Hate Love.
It hasn’t been long since Fennel, a Sightless Groundling, and Peree, her Lofty Keeper, fell in love and learned the truth: the Scourge, and their world, are not what they seem.

Fenn and Peree are determined to guide their people to the protected village of Koolkuna, but first they must convince them that everything they believe is a lie. An impossible task, especially when someone seems hell-bent on trying anything—even animal sacrifice and arson—to destroy the couple’s new bond and crush the frail truce between the Groundlings and the Lofties. Not everyone wants to uproot their lives in the forest, and those who stay behind will be left terribly vulnerable.

Fenn and Peree’s resolve to be together, and the constant threat of the Scourge’s return, push both groups to the breaking point. Unable to tell friend from foe, Fenn must again decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice to ensure the future of the people of the forest.

Only this time, the price of peace may be too high to bear.


Praise for The Defiance:
"Fans of The Scourge, you will not be disappointed with this sequel. The Defiance was thrilling, romantic, and full of surprises. Loved this book!"
-- Imagine a World, blog review

"I had very high hopes for this follow-up novel, and Henley DEFINITELY delivers in her sophomore release!"
-- Booking It With Hayley G, blog review

"I absolutely LOVED The Defiance! No, I
more than loved it! It was breathtaking, intense, romantic,
suspenseful . . . the list could go on and on!"
-- ARC review

Excerpt from The Defiance, by A.G. Henley:
The morning passes quickly. There was more wood to move into the storeroom in the caves this morning, new stores of salt meat and dried beans to deliver, and our herbalist, Marjoram, told me she has some poultices and teas she wants me to bring in. Marj was underprepared for the accidents and illnesses resulting from such a long confinement last time. She won’t make the same mistake again.
There’s plenty of space in the storeroom—it was almost empty by the time we left the caves after the Reckoning. It’s an easy job to stow the supplies neatly along the natural stone shelves. My stomach rumbles, anticipating a midday meal, as I cross the cavern to the storeroom carrying the second-to-last load of wood. Even the lingering stench of crampberries doesn’t deter my appetite.
 “Fennel.” The word whispers across the cave.
 I freeze. “Who’s there?”
 “Stay away from the Lofty. Groundlings and Lofties aren’t meant to be together. You’ve been warned.”
 I can’t tell anything about the speaker—man, woman, their age. But quiet as the person’s words are, it’s hard to miss the implied threat. I drop most of the wood, keeping one thick log as a potential weapon. The person is between the passage out and me.
 I hold the log firmly in front of me, trying to tame my wild breathing so I can hear. Fear strangles my thoughts. An indefinable amount of time passes. Finally wrestling the courage to move, I step forward, keeping the log at the ready.
 And I cough.
 The air is wrong, and not simply human-waste wrong. Something else. There’s light where there shouldn’t be, and . . . smoke. That’s what I’m tasting and smelling.

 There’s a fire in the passageway, and it’s blocking my way out. Terror doesn’t steal through me. It rips my head off.


A.G. Henley is the author of the BRILLIANT DARKNESS series. The first novel in the series, THE SCOURGE, was a finalist for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award.

A.G. is also a clinical psychologist, which means people either tell her their life stories on airplanes, or avoid her at parties when they’ve had too much to drink. Neither of which she minds. When she’s not writing fiction or shrinking heads, she can be found herding her children and their scruffy dog, Guapo, to various activities while trying to remember whatever she’s inevitably forgotten to tell her husband. She lives in Denver, Colorado.

Author links:

OK! Now that you have all the information and are dying to read it- you need to know...


It's so easy. All you have to do is comment below, and list your favorite book of all time. That's it. On August 10, I will choose one participant at random to receive their Kindle copy of The Defiance, Book 2.

So, what are you waiting for?!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


EEEEK!! Today I have the honor of showcasing the cover reveal for an up-and-coming author in the YA genre, A. G. Henley. Her first novel, The Scourge (Brilliant Darkness Book #1) came out last year. I contacted A. G. when I became interested in indie publishing. Since then, she has been a source of advice, support, and an all-around awesome person to know.

Besides being a total sweetie, her story-telling ability is A-MA-ZING. Fennel's voice, the complex characters, and the gritty and dangerous world of survivors she has created in this series make this tale one of a kind.

Without further ado, here is the beautiful cover and intro to the undoubtedly suspenseful, lovely, and compelling sequel, The Defiance!

Drum roll please......
COMING JULY 29, 2013

THE DEFIANCE (Brilliant Darkness, #2)

Suspicion Trust. Fear Compassion. Hate Love.

Fennel and Peree learned the truth: the Scourge, and their world, is not what it seems. Now they need to convince their people that everything they believe is a lie.

An impossible task, especially when someone seems resolved to try anything—even arson and butchery—to destroy Fenn and Peree’s new bond and crush the frail truce between the Groundlings and the Lofties.

Unable to tell friend from foe and with the Scourge pushing both groups to the breaking point, Fenn must again decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice to ensure the people of the forest’s future.

Only this time, the price of peace may be too high to bear.

The Defiance Publication Date: July 29th, 2013

While you're waiting for book 2, take the time to read The Scourge, Book 1 of the Brilliant Darkness series, available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It won't take you long, I promise. I couldn't put it down!

Author Bio:
A.G. Henley is the author of the BRILLIANT DARKNESS series. Her first book, THE SCOURGE, was a finalist for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award.

A.G. is also a clinical psychologist, which means people either tell her their life stories on airplanes, or avoid her at parties when they've had too much to drink. Neither of which she minds. When she's not writing fiction or shrinking heads, she can be found herding her children and their scruffy dog, Guapo, to various activities while trying to remember whatever she's inevitably forgotten to tell her husband. She lives in Denver, Colorado. Learn more at 

Author Links:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Work to Live or Live to Work?

I want to be a...

When we're looking at the world from the backseat window of our parent's car, the world is our proverbial oyster, "What do we want to be when we grow up?" We try our futures on like costumes. I want to be a ballerina, no. A scientist. No. A Rock N' Roll Star!

No one says, I want to grow up and hate my job. Yet, as adults, many of us do just that. We work to live, not the other way around.

Then there's those select few who, even if it wasn't what they thought they'd do, love their work. I've had a job like this. It came out of left field, a job I thought would bore me to tears, but ended up being my favorite job of all time. Why? Because it mentally challenged me and because the people I worked with were pleasant and fun to be around. But was working in a college financial aid office what I was meant to do?
If I'm going to keep my head in the clouds, at least there's a restaurant up here.

My personal goal has always been to have a job I enjoy- didn't care what it was, if I enjoyed the hours at work, I was thrilled. Most of the time, this meant a more enjoyable job over a higher paying one. Nowadays, this philosophy doesn't always help. My resume is a potpourri ranging from social worker to custom art framer to waitress. There's no clear-cut path there. My experience is all zig-zagged- less like an arrow and more like the haphazard way a wasp makes its way through your house- everyone's ducking and god only knows where it'll land. For some reason, employers don't always want to pay top-dollar for that level of expertise. Hm? But now that I have a family, I can't always have my cake in the shade. My choices don't just affect my weekend but the lives of 3 tiny people.

Last year, I decided to be a writer. Through the past 11 months, I have learned a lot about myself and have finally realized what I'm meant to do. It was there the whole time, and until I was 33, I didn't see it. However, my days of clocking-in may not be behind me, after all it takes a long time to build a career for any self-employed profession and there are mouths to feed and bills to pay along the way. BUT I truly believe writing is what I meant to do.

How do we know?

Me and sis and our sweet punch embroidery shirts circa 1985ish

When I was a kid, I played the flute. I wanted to play the violin, but not only are violins crazy expensive, but the flute was before the violin in the sample-an-instrument line the summer before I entered the 5th grade. When there's a million kids and you're hungry, sacrifices must be made. (I'm certain my mother has a different memory of this than I do.) In any case, I was pretty decent at playing that stick. I could toot up a storm and I participated in band every year until I was a sophomore in high school. But, did I practice willingly? No. Did I get mad and frustrated and wish I was the Hulk so I could knot that baby up? Yes. Did I ever want to go pro? Bwahahaha! (No.) Was I meant to be a musician? I afraid not.

It's all good. I tried lots of things out, that's the fun of life. Think you'll like photography? Try it out, take a class, live it for a while. Maybe you'll catch that elusive flame inside that burns for one thing and never dies. Or maybe you'll want to shove your camera down the trash compactor because it never catches what you see in your mind's eye. (A sure-fire sign you should keep searching for your true calling.) But don't despair, if you keep trying, you'll find what you're meant to do. And in the meantime, you can have fun sampling. Life is to be lived.

"warning face punch"

The thing that we're meant to do helps us cope with life, it compliments us, and we do it whether or not we get paid to.  We make sacrifices to ensure we have the resources to do it. We make it a priority over and over. And no matter what happens in life, we always come back to that one thing. And it's not always the thing that we want it to be. We have to be honest with ourselves, which is sometimes the hardest part. Because if we try to force ourselves to be something we're not, we'll never be truly happy.

In short, we live to do it and we do it to live.

Writing is not work for me. It is my job. And sometimes it comes easier than others. But no matter what, I look forward to my writing time. I do not look at my day and try to stack everything up in front of my writing so I can't get to it. I don't bang on my computer and wish my writing time was over already. I cherish every moment I have and if someday I'm able to make a living at it, I will thank my lucky stars and God for helping me find my true love.

What do you think? Have you found your calling? Is it worth it to do what you love over making more money? Either way, I'd love to hear from you!

Up, up and awaaaaay!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Claire Legrand's Newest Masterpiece, The Year of Shadows!


Middle Grade Fantasy
Hardcover, 416 Pages

This book was a first for me- it was my first ARC, which stands for Advanced Reading Copy. This means that I got to read Claire’s book before its release to the public! Exciting!!

Let me tell you, I was a little unsure how this book would hit me- I mean, Claire’s first book, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, instantly became one of my favorites and I was curious how this one would stack up against it.

I already knew that Claire had a knack for the weird and creepy- her book and her short stories that she writes for the Cabinet of Curiosities are evidence of that. But this one showcases another of her skills- the ability to tug at heart-strings. Actually, let me be honest, this one didn’t tug at them, it YANKED them and made me cry…more than once. Now, I don’t usually like crying, but I have to admit, she made me realize that some stories are worth crying for. It's not sad though- it has it all, humor, suspense, the works!

Olivia Stellatella is one unhappy little gothling. Her mom left, her dad, the Maestro, puts her and her grandmother on the back burner while he spends every shred of money and energy he has on saving a failing orchestra. If it weren’t for her drawings or the cat that adopts her, she’d have nothing. Until something unusual happens- the ghosts appear.

The music hall, where they live backstage, is haunted. When they show themselves in a strange and terrifying display, Olivia’s life becomes interesting and she has something other than anger to focus on. But when she and a boy named Henry agree to help the ghosts “move on”, things get complicated. After all, when your friends are dead, life is anything but ordinary.

I won't spoil it for you, but rest assured, through a process of accepting her fate, learning to say goodbye, and struggling to forgive, Olivia’s life becomes something worth living.

Genuine. Endearing. Beautiful. Those are the words I would use to describe this story.

Available for sale in hardback and as an eBook on August 27, 2013 from Simon and Schuster.

TAGS: Claire Legrand, Ghosts, Haunted Places, Orchestra, Father/Daughter Relationships, Family

While you are waiting for this book from Claire LeGrand, read her debut novel, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls! I need to give it a separate review, and I will. Until then, take my word for it- it's AWESOME!!

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Say What? How to Make Your Writing Clearer

Image courtesy of digitalart at

As a parent, of small children, I'm constantly trying to make myself heard and understood. Also, like most parents, I'm constantly repeating the words, "no," "don't," "stop," and-- "I already said no!"

Then one day I heard this piece of advice. Children hear you better if you speak in the positive. Huh? What kind of loony new age thing is this?

Basically, it's a way to phrase yourself. Instead of saying, "don't run with a sharp ax", you say, "walk." Instead of saying "don't touch my house of cards," say, "keep your hands down."
Image courtesy of Boaz Yiftach at

So I tried it. And it worked! (when they follow directions, that is) My goal became clear, I have a quarter second of their attention and who knows what I'll be saying when that 1/4 second comes around, so every word has to convey the right idea. If I say "no running" and all they hear is "running," guess who is going to keep running? That's right. But if I say "walk", then we have no issue.

We should always strive to make ourselves easily understood as parents, writers, people. Writers, like parents, also have precious few moments to urge our audience to move forward in the story and wasted words are a great way to wear them out before we get to the punchline.

Image courtesy of Maggie Smith at

There are a few subtle ways to clean up your writing to convey the story so the writing is clean, comprehensible, and easily digested. After all, we want our audience to get lost in our words, not wonder why there's so many unnecessary ones.

First, use the positive form. When you're writing, make your statements assertive. Using the negative form of writing sounds weaker, less committed.

Example: He was not usually the good looking one.  Change it to: He was usually the ugly one. See how it changes the tone?

Second, use an active voice. Like the positive form, this is clearer and has more of an impact. You want your writing to turn heads, not fuel naps.

Example (and one from my own personal manuscript- oops):
Her clothes were hung according to weather and hue. The clothes are the doing the action here- lame and darn near impossible. Change it to: She hung her clothes according to weather and hue.

Third, get rid of the really, really, just there because you'd use it in real life words. Just because you say it when you're on the phone with your sister doesn't mean it should be written that way.

Example: The guy with the really cool bike was so rich. Unless you're like, writing the screen play for Clueless II, let's not. Change to: The guy with the custom Harley was a billionaire.

Fourth, KILL the adverbs. This is like a game. Find an adverb, wield your 'delete' button or red pen like a sword, and KILL IT! But, you need the adverb? Then your verb isn't strong enough on its own. Find a better one.

Example: She snottily stuck out her tongue as he walked away. You don't have to tell us she's snotty. The action tells us that. Simply omit the adverb. Or, if there was an unusual way she did it, with hatred or malice, show it in the verb, such as: She stabbed out her tongue as he walked away. Ouch.

This is a short list of things that can make your writing transition from convoluted to clear. In every story, there are things to consider when you make edits. Style, dramatic effect, character traits, and using vocabulary and writing style are just a couple of your tools for manipulating these elements.

One thing to consider, and the exception to nearly every rule, is dialog. When characters are speaking, these rules are often broken, for good cause. If it is part of our character's personality, then perhaps the rules must be broken to allow the reader to understand their nuances. And that's okay.

Ultimately, we have the power and right to scribe whatever words we want onto the paper. No lightening will strike, your English teacher will not rap on your door and give your manuscript an F. But, for those of us that enjoy reaching our readers, these elements help them see past the words to the story that inspired them.

For more tips, please read the small, digestible, and infinitely helpful tool, The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Time Off- Trusty Sidekick or Archnemesis?

Image courtesy of thawats at (edited in Microsoft Paint by me)

4:30 AM. Rise and shine, because the toddler is awake, you've been dreaming about planting your garden, and the coffee your husband is brewing before he goes to work smells delicious. Fast forward 5 hours- you're making yourself yet another cup of wake-up juice, just dropped off the kiddos at school and drove home through puffy, gentle snow (on the 5th day of spring!!) to the sweet sound of the early bird's purring snores from the car seat.

Sounds like a great day to...I don't know...take a nap! Right?

I'm sure no one would blame me if I did. But, here I am, writing a blog post instead. I also have the editing of  my first novel to accomplish (1/3 of the way there!) and a lot of preparing for upcoming conferences, books to review, books to read, my career to plan... A day off? NEVER!

But with all this hanging over my head, I can't help but wonder, is time off something we must embrace- that Trusty Sidekick so to speak, who shows up just when we need him, makes us feel super when we doubt, and perfectly compliments our hero costume? Or, is the need to take time our Arch Nemesis, always spying and waiting to stamp out our productivity with one dastardly plan after the next?

When we announced to the world we were professionals, not just "aspiring writers" (don't get me started!), we started something. Something that made us feel bad when we're not writing. We have to earn that title, after all. And truly, there are times when I'd rather be playing video games, watching movies with the family, knitting, reading, doing laundry (not!) but I have to shut myself into my office/laundry room, and get to work.

This is good. It helps me realize how much this career means to me. I helps me understand where my priorities lie, and it helps the other people in my life see these sacrifices too. When I'm taking it seriously, it encourages others to do the same, thus increasing my chances of success. In the end, being a Writer is still an occupation and in order to do it well, you can't just write when you have nothing else better to do.

That being said...

Writers, like everyone else in this world, need a break too. Undue pressure is a sure fire way to quench any creative flames that burn inside us. We have lives to run, children to love, parties to attend, houses to clean, and eventually, we have to pay bills (it keeps the laptop running.)

Not only do we need to manage our lives, but down time is a necessity to let our ideas breathe, work out plot and character issues, come up with new ideas, and keep our work fun and fresh. I consulted two of  my favorite authors including Leigh Bardugo author of Shadow and Bone, book one of the Grisha Trilogy and A.G. Henley , author of The Scourge, which is also the first in a trilogy (second book to release 2013.) Leigh, who is in high gear promoting her second book, Seige and Storm- June 4, 2013, agreed saying, "Personally, time off is a necessity for me..." and A.G., who is also runs her own business and a family, had this to say, "Taking time away from writing is not only good, it's essential."

Work times ebb and flow as do the words. My daily goal is 1000 words at a minimum. Some days, I'm 140 words in thinking I'll never make that goal, then other's I'm 2000 in and only stop because the baby wakes up. We have to take advantage of the urges when they strike and sometimes, be it personal dedication or deadlines, we work when we're not "feeling it."

Occasionally, there comes a day, scheduled or not, when you just have to let it go, turn the computer off, and live your life. If you love it, you'll be back. In the wise words of my friend and fellow author, Allison Marie Silver, we sometimes have to give ourselves permission to take a break.

Ahhhh.....back to work.
Image courtesy of anat_tikker at

Thank you!

I'd like to thank my friends, Leigh Bardugo, A. G. Henley, and Allison Silver, for their support.
Find Leigh Bardugo at her Website, Good Reads and Facebook. As a special treat, read the first two chapters online here!
Find A. G. Henley on Amazon, her website/blog and Facebook
Find Allison Marie Silver on Facebook and her blog, Snarky Sentiments of a Paranormal Writer

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thick Skin: Not Just for Pudding Anymore

One of my favorite motivational and real-world check artists, Kristin Lamb, just posted a great article titled "Enemies of the Art Part 10- Having a Thin Skin" as a reminder that we all must learn to accept feedback and criticism, and not just from the people that say what we want to hear.
Image courtesy of digitalart at

This pearl of wisdom for is everyone, not just Writers. As a matter of fact, the moments when someone has offered us crudely dealt harsh words is invaluable, even when we prefer to disregard them.

We all love to be told how great we are, how our work is impressive, how wonderful we are at our trade, but when we are told everything is perfect, how do we learn where we need to improve? Where do we get the motivation to do better? When you're at the top of the mountain, how do you climb higher? The thing is, we aren't perfect, we do need to do better, and there's always room to aspire for a higher level. And that's what those awkward, maddening, hurtful moments are good for, if nothing else. To give us ammunition, motivation, and something to ponder when we're done pontificating about how wonderful we are.

True enough, we tell ourselves that these "Bubble Bursters" are filled with jealousy, misinformation, or lack of understanding, and sometimes they are. But sometimes they're on to something and I'd wager it's worth your effort to consider it every time. Even if it exploded in your face like some kind of gift wrapped bomb from Wile E. Coyote, there's something you can learn from it.

Personally, I can pin point several points in my life where those words ("You're being small minded," "This is just unreadable," "There's no hook. No action."), equivalent to gut punches, have made me thankful. Thankful that they got the wheels turning, got me thinking from a new angle. And after cursing under my breath, crying, and getting through the embarrassment, I have found, more than the nice ones, those words that stung caused more evolution, more development in my skills and mindset than I ever could have thought (however bitterly I had to admit it.)

Before you quit the reading group, the critique circle, the friendship, think about what you're told. Decide if it's pride, discomfort, denial, or our unavoidable subjectivity with which we see the world that makes us want to run to the nearest chocolate cake and dig with our hands.

It takes practice, but when you open your mind and step away from your ego, personal growth is sure to happen.
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at

Please read "We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media" by Kristin Lamb and "Are You There Blog? It's Me Writer", a fantastic combination to be inspired and to get your Author Marketing Platform off the ground ASAP!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

NEWS AT 11: Budding Writer Feels Like Insecure Teenager Again

I DID IT, you all! I've found the Fountain of Youth. I didn't need an antique map or magical compass, though I did have to charge through uncharted territory to get there. And now, instead of being the 33 year old adult that I was- happy to wear two different socks, satisfied without makeup in public, and totally at ease with my faults, I have become an insecure teenager again. HIGH FIVE! (Or is that, like, totally lame?"

Unfortunately, I still have the body of someone with three kids and all the financial responsibility that I had before, but now I get to wonder if I'm good enough, if anyone will ever want me, and compare myself to others that are cooler, more successful, and better than I writing. YIPPEE!

Hey you! No shoving! There's plenty Agua de Vida to go around...

No matter what age you begin writing (God bless those souls that start while they are insecure teenagers already- of course, getting it over with in one punch seems like an alright idea now that I think about it) everyone will go through an "I'm just a kid again" phase. The one where you attempt in vain to make yourself a part of the "cool table", tight roll your pants, and meekly opt to keep your true self buried while you try on all the hats from other's heads and wonder why they don't look right on you. Hold on to your seatbelts, it's a bumpy ride...I should know, I'm in the middle of it now.

Don't fret because, like the awkward teenage years eventually did, it'll pass. (I tell myself this anyway) And we will become surer writers in the end, ones that can read a published book without comparing it unfairly to our own rough draft. We will finally find our own voice, which had been there all the time but was shyly peeking out from behind Mother's skirt. We will embrace our weaknesses, learn from our mistakes and in the end, we will be strong enough to hug up the next generation of evolving writers, give them some Oxy, and remind them it will all be okay- we know because we were there.

This is the lecture I give myself from time to time. Of course, the times of insecurity are maniacally contrasted by periods of overconfidence when I declare I am the best at everything. But hey, I'm a teenager- I'll grow out of it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Winds of Optimism and the Sands of Self-Doubt: A Lesson Never Truly Learned

Once upon a time there was a person who enjoyed writing. One day, this person decided that she wanted to be a Writer, instead of just a writer. She set out with pen and paper and imagination. Where she would end up, she didn't know, but with the Winds of Optimism beneath her wings, she took flight.

Not long after setting forth upon this adventure, she wrote something of her very own. And then, she read it and she thought, "This is terrible." and the Winds ceased to blow. Without the Winds of Optimism to help keep her adrift, she landed in the Sands of Self-doubt, which are more like quick sand than fun sandbox-type sand and with every negative thought, she sunk a bit deeper.

Being stuck in the Sands of Self-doubt and no longer feeling she had the capacity to write anything worthwhile, she decided to read books by other Writers, ones that surely soared with the Winds of Optimism. But as she gazed over the polished words, she continued to sink farther and farther into the Sands of Self-doubt for never could she, a lackluster and incompetent writer, ever be capable of creating such fine works of art.

The sands rose higher upon her until her waist was buried. Then she got an idea. She would write in a new voice, one that was better than her own. Yet, for some reason, the Winds of Optimism did not swoop her into the air, but rather only helped to blow strands of hair from her face now and then.

Her first attempt didn't feel right. Her second was forced. Her third was better than the first, but didn't quite meet her expectations. The Sands began to take her once more and when she was up to her nose in the quickening pit, she read her original manuscript again.

And something magical began to happen. She realized it wasn't so bad after all. It wasn't perfect by any means, but there was something right about it. It was hers. And with that realization, the Winds of Optimism burst across the desert's surface like a tidal wave and wrenched our Writer out of the sand. Her wings spread open wide and the Winds thrust her into the air triumphantly and all was well...

But be warned: the Sands of Self-doubt are always down there, ready to bury us with our own undoing.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Happy or Otherwise, What All Book Endings Must Have

Authors are mean. We create worlds and characters that appeal to our readers, then we methodologically trouble, wound, and even kill them- all in the name of literature. We do our best to force our creations (which we love too, by the way) through a plethora of situations ranging from mildly awkward to brutally maniacal peppered with some promise, hope, and other sugary things then, eventually, we have to figure out how to wrap it up. But what do readers want? 

Some may say that they like a "happy ending" or perhaps a "tragedy" or anyone of the different classifications, but if you simply shift things around at the last minute, will the story be satisfying? Let's say our hero must sacrifice himself to save the world, but then, due to some random interference that is totally improbable, he lives. The ending is happy, but are even your happy ending fans going to enjoy it? Probably not. Why? Because it's off... Let's say boy meets girl, they have their issues, but then in the end they kiss and love conquers all...until that semi-truck comes barreling down the street and smooshes the whole wedding party. Oops. Will our tragedy fans appreciate the irony and relish in the fact that they found love before they died...doubt it. It's too forced.
Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at
Of Course the ship sinks in the end...

As readers, we want the same things no matter how the "ending" is resolved. (Of course there are no endings really, the book just stops and we have to live with that.) For one thing, we want the story's resolution to be probable, somewhat logical. If it's not a realistic chain of events, or at least within our willingness to believe could have happened, it won't sit right. People can't just jump out of a plane without a parachute and land on their feet, unless there is something in the story line that has prepared us for the possibility.

To have a satisfying ending, we need to have all the loose threads tied up. We don't want to wonder what happened to So-and-So, who was an important supporting character. Ending up with questions is a sure-fire way to frustrate us.

We want the message to come through all the way through and we want an appropriate resolution. If the message is about self sacrifice, then we can live with the fact that the main character dies if suits the story. Even "happy ending" fans can love it because the satisfaction comes not from how the story ends but how fitting it is. Is the message watered down or is the ending completely off the mark? If so, we'll feel it when we get there, even if the reader isn't experienced enough to know how to articulate it.

Be them happy, melancholy, tragic, or just...ambiguous, the final pages must be earned, plausible, and represent a proper resolution or individual tastes won't matter- everyone will agree on one thing. The book stinks.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Tell me, what kind of ending do you like? We've all read books with endings that have stuck with us- for better or worse. Help me out by sharing your experiences!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Middle Grade Fiction- Fun or Functional?

As I've been writing the "Currently Untitled but Previously Referred to Story- Edge", I've been researching middle grade fiction and reading a good deal of it too. As a parent, I feel it's important to have my characters evolve for the better, to learn lessons and do what good children should. But, will that appeal to my readers?
Image courtesy of stockimages at

Middle Grade fiction is characterized by younger protagonists (they are geared toward 7-12 year olds, thus the heroes need to be someone they can relate to), and typically, the themes revolve around the how the character fits into their world. Often, the stories are somewhat shorter in length, in the 45-50,000 word range  but I find that this is not a hard and fast rule. I've read many stories that are just as long as a typical novel and some of the books in the MG section are pretty darn thick! But, does there need to be a moral to the story built into the theme? Can there be a good MG story that doesn't teach the reader something?

Of course, there are cartoons that seem completely void of life lessons. Though it cracks me up, Spongebob Squarepants is one that comes to mind. The oddities of daily life are entertaining but not built to teach the observer anything. Basically, they're like junk food for the brain.
Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane at

Then there's the cartoons like Thundercats (I'm old) and even some of the newer versions of My Little Ponies, or the Carebears, that though they entertain, there's an element of good over evil or right v. wrong involved and the characters learn lessons though the hardships they face. In the Ben 10 cartoons, Ben fights aliens and saves the earth but also learns about relationships, loves and idolizes his Grandfather, and constantly struggles with his arrogance. Both types are popular with kids, but with the parents, are they equal? Not in my house. Some "junk food" shows are banned because the themes are more destructive than entertaining and teach my kids to call each other rude (though perceived as hilarious) names, and laugh uproariously at disgusting things like boogers, farts, and poop. (not that I can't appreciate the humor, but you know, sometimes we have to go into public.)

The "MOM" in me knows that it's better to have my characters face challenges, make choices, and survive the consequences so that over time they become better, more confident, considerate, empathetic people. Can I do that without getting on a pulpit? Can I accomplish an entertaining story that feels good to kids and parents alike? There's a fine line between lassoing the human condition, our need to be accepted, loved, and trusted, and preaching these ideals like I do in real life, when I feel my kids are veering off course. After all, I don't always want to be the person wagging my finger and looking over the rim of my glasses.

There is a way to do this. If we focus on the story and the story is something universally true, then we add a hero we can relate to- imperfect but who answers the call for adventure, and we make their journey a difficult one but one that ultimately causes them to learn something about themselves and the world, we can entertain our readers and sneak in a life lesson to boot. It's not impossible, but it's not easy either. But whoever said that being a writer was?

The next thing I'm wondering about....does it have to be a "Hollywood Ending?"
Image courtesy of porbital at

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Editing is a Nightmare!

There comes a time in every new author's life when they reach a momentous occasion. It's a happy day. A day to celebrate annually, a great big deal:  the day they finish their first rough draft. But after the initial shock of the accomplishment wears off, reality hits. Not to burst my own bubble here, but there's still a lot more work to do.

Having finished my own first draft before the end of 2012, I first had to lock myself away like a werewolf for the suggested 4-6 weeks to let the details of the book leave the forefront of my mind. Being slightly obsessive in nature, this was only minimally successful. Continually, I thought about the book. I had to tighten the finger cuffs to prevent myself from digging in early and mentally, I had already begun battering it down to the point where I was ready to toss the whole thing into the recycling bin. (Yes, even when we are being dramatic, we must remain environmentally conscious.) Had it not been for a fellow writer reading my rough draft and convincing me that it was worth fixing, I'd be 70,000 words in the hole!

And now, after waiting for the requisite time frame, I have begun editing. But since I don't know what works well for me, I'm trying all kinds of approaches. I've been told to read it through, make notes, then go back and start fixing it with small stuff first. That didn't really work for me. Parts of the book are too slow, and the issues that I want to fix are too big that it was distracting. I have this wee devil sitting on my shoulder telling me how it's no use to read it, because my time is spent better fixing it. I hate that little thing.

Then I began writing over the original with the new "voice"I thought it needed. It didn't take long before I realized that I was writing a whole other book at which point I had to stop writing (with like 5 versions of the story saved with various points stirred around) and think. Think. Think. Think. And start reading it again. And think. Think. Think some more. For days now, I've been thinking, pondering, reading other books in my genre, and then thinking until my thinker is all thunked out.

Is the original so bad? No. Really it's not. It can't stand on it's own yet, but it's not a total wash.

Is the rewrite better? Not exactly, it's just different.

So what then? Meld them together? Perhaps. That's still not it though.

At this point, and this is still early in the very cumbersome and awkward process of editing my first rough draft. I have opened a blank document and am compiling the bits that I like of each and gluing them together with new ideas. I'm not exactly sure where that leaves me.

The original was a good start but there's a better book in there.

I think that we just have to do what is right for us. You can get advice from every angle, read tutorials and how-to books about the craft, you can seek feedback from others, but at the end of the day, WE are the ones writing. WE get to make the choices what twists and turns the story takes, WE get to choose what does and doesn't make it through the final edits and trusting your gut is sometimes what you have to do. (As long as your "gut" isn't making choices based upon laziness or self-loathing)

We live and we learn from the process, and much like I will have to watch my children learn their own lessons, you will all have to watch me crash and burn if I must- but I WILL finish it...eventually.

So put on your flame retardant pajamas because it's going to be a late night.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Verisimilitude. What does that even mean?

This isn’t one of those 'word-a-day' calendars, and yet here I am throwing out words I’ve never used but plan to…in three…two…one--

Verisimilitude is the word that I’ve been avoiding in my writing…well not the use of it, but the effect of it. It’s believability, the appearance of truth, and it’s really getting under my skin.

Confession time. I’m not a very patient person. (Ok, whew, glad that’s off my chest.)One of the great things about writing fiction is that you can create worlds and if you write it, it happens. Right? Well, sort of. You can write about flying gorillas and worlds that exist inside of peanuts, but if you do like me and rush right into the thick of things without doing some research somewhere along the way, you’ll find yourself in a great big mess.

This is something that I’m learning as I type this.

I hear that J.K. Rowling had boxes of notebooks where she evolved her world on paper. Boxes?! And guess what? People of all ages love her story. They can’t get enough. Was it worth the plotting and planning? Absolutely. Is it totally necessary to create a good story? I don't know that we need dozens of notebooks full, but I’m realizing that without some research, we don’t know our world as well as we should to make it believable, and that is what engages readers…unless I want to write about a slightly nutty mother of three that lives in the Midwest. Interested? I didn't think so.

It will be a lesson in patience but it must be done.

It frustrates me to be in the mode to write yet sit down to the computer and scratch out meager tidbits about setting, characters, you know, the things that make a story fun? I want the entree- no potatoes, no parsley, just get to the story. Words on paper. Yet that’s not enough and I, like everyone else, must take the time and appreciate all parts of writing, even the slow ones that make us feel like we wasted our day doing nothing at all.

Verisimilitude. Research it. Own it. Make people believe (at least temporarily) that it could really happen.