Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saturday Stories--win a critique!

Everywhere I look, I see stories. Whether it be something left on the street or a conversation I overhear, there's always a story attached.

This is why I'm starting Saturday Stories!

Here's how it's going to work:

  • Each Saturday, I will post a writing prompt (usually in the form of a picture). You then write a flash fiction piece based on the prompt.
      • All pictures will have been taken by me, and all conversations something I actually overheard. So rest assured, there actually is a story there!

  • Post your entry on your blog, and put a link to your post in the comments below. Entries must be posted by Wednesday! There is no cap on entries!

  • Between Wednesday and Saturday, I will read each entry and pick a winner.

  • The winner gets their flash-fiction posted here the next Saturday before I reveal the new prompt AND a 5 page critique!

Sound like fun? It certainly does to me! Please spread the word so we can get as many participants as possible!

Without further ado, here's the first prompt:

I can't wait to see what you guys come up with! Don't forget to put your link in the comments below!


Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Spirit of Christmas--I come bearing gifts!

Merry Christmas!!

Since I'm a strong Christian, there is much more to this time of year than Santa Claus and candy canes. But, even if I weren't a Christian, the Christmas season would hold a very special place in my heart. For as long as I can remember, my family has made a point of giving to those who need, of sacrificing our time and provisions to help others if only for one day.

So this Christmas, I'd like to give my time to you!

My Christmas present to all my wonderful followers is critiques! Everyone who comments on this post (the comment can be anything!) will get a critique. Please include your email in the comment so I can contact you.

Commenter 1 gets a 25 page critique!
Commenter 2 gets a 15 page critique!
Commenters 3, 4, and 5 get 10 page critiques!
Commenters 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 get 5 page critiques!
Everyone else gets a query OR synopsis critique!

If you don't have anything currently ready for critiquing, I'd be happy to let you have a guest post on my blog, or something else you can think of.

Happy Holidays!! May this season be filled with joy and happiness for you!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Writing Conferences--how to get the most for your money

I'll admit, I haven't been to as many writing conferences as most of you probably have, but it's crystal clear to me how important it is that you not only show up, but actively participate in as many conferences as possible.

I know it may seem like you're just one of many little fish in a huge conference, but it's easy for you to change that. The first step is to go to workshops you're actually interested in--that way, you'll have something to say or questions to ask.

That's another thing--make sure you go with plenty of questions ready! If you have a particular aspect of your writing you're trying to improve, plan out the questions you think will give you the most helpful answers. If you're going to a lecture, jot down questions as they speak so you can ask them at the end (or when you 'bump into them' in the hallway :D)

If there's a newly published author there and you'd like to go to their workshop, read their book beforehand. Even if the workshop isn't about their book specifically, believe me when I say they'll be referencing it. Knowing it will also give you more opportunities to ask questions and comment.

Sign up for pitches and any contests available. Go with a goal in mind. If you don't have anything ready to pitch, most conferences have short story contests that you can participate. It's fine to just go and attend workshops, but you'll get so much more out of it if you're actively working towards recognition.

Mingle with people outside the workshops. There are plenty of people in the hallways, including published authors, agents, and editors. You may not even know that who you're talking to is an agent. So NEVER say anything like, "Yeah, my book's not that good..." Talk it up as if it were the best thing in the world, and be interested in the other person!

That being said, always be ready to elevator pitch your book!

Not only will these steps help you meet more people and become a little more 'immersed' in the writing community, but they will enable you to take more from the conference (remember, you're paying for this!) There are so many people I know who've met their agent or editor at a conference, and they weren't necessarily participating in pitches. Magical things can happen in those halls, but only if you're ready for them.

What writing conferences have you gone to/are you looking forward to? Do you have any great stories from conferences?


Thursday, December 22, 2011

My life is a musical

♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ 

Ok, maybe not to that extent, but I'm not lying.

I hardly do anything without a musical accompaniment, whether it be on my computer, iPod, playing piano, listening to the radio, singing myself, whatever!! There's always music around me.

I realized today that it's kind of to the point of being ridiculous. If I'm not singing, I'm humming or tapping my foot or listening to someone else sing.

And to answer your question, yes, I make up songs on the spot.

I also take time to actually write songs every once and a while, but not as often as I'd like.

And I do burst out into dance every once and a while, but usually when I'm on my own.

I just regret that people don't join in with me.....*heavy sigh*

So when I'm writing my novels, I have playlists I listen to for each of them. These playlists inadvertently make it into the story (unless I'm working on my epic fantasy....I think our style of music wouldn't exactly have been available...). My main characters favorite song, though I may never mention it in the actual novel, will end up on repeat for about an hour or two as I work on the story. Different characters have different theme songs as well, so if I'm writing a scene that's heavily about them I'll turn that song on. Sometimes I just listen to Pandora and let myself discover new music to help the mood (and for my own enjoyment).

And when I'm writing a scary or adrenaline-filled scene, I HAVE to have ominous music on.

If it's not readily available, I'll hum or sing to myself.

I've actually had entire novels come into my mind just from listening to one song and imagining the characters (Taylor Swift's GREAT for this). I've also written a couple songs about my own characters, just to get a better feel of who they are. Music says so much more than words ever can, and I only wish I could include that music in my books for my readers to experience.

So what do you guys think? Am I just crazy here, or do you agree that there's something special about music? I personally feel that music is an amazing tool for communication and that it can bring out feelings and emotions in each of us that nothing else could.

What role does music play in your writing?

♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ 


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays and a book review!!

So I probably should have given all of you amazing people a heads up before I dropped off the face of the earth...I'm sincerely sorry for that. Rest assured I have been productive, if not writing-wise academic-wise.

The last few weeks leading up to finals are terrible, just so you know.


I survived, and I'm back!! I've sincerely missed this blog and all of you. This winter break I'll be jumping right back into the pool of amazing blogs and contests and (ugh) querying. Can't wait to see what you've all been up to!

As for me, I have a TON of reading to catch up on, and I started with this month's book for my AWESOME online book club, YA Today. I seriously love these ladies!

Anyway, this month we read/are reading DESTINED by Jessie Harrell! (My pick! :D)

Isn't the cover GORGEOUS??
Here's the blurb:

When Psyche receives a prophecy gone horribly wrong, she learns that even the most beautiful girl in Greece can have a hideous future. Her fate? Fall in love with the one creature even the gods fear. 

As she feels herself slipping closer into the arms of the prophecy, Psyche must choose between the terrifyingly tender touch she feels almost powerless to resist and the one constant she's come to expect out of life: you cannot escape what is destined. 

Simply put: it's a retelling of Cupid and Psyche, one of my favorite myths of all time. Unlike most Greek myths, this one is tender and (in some cases) has a happy ending. It's a true love story, not just a god lusting after a random woman.

***Side note: 'Cupid' is the Roman name for the god. In this book, and in any other stories using the Greek terms, he is named Eros. Just FYI :) ***

I knew before I even picked up this book that I would love it, just because I love the story so much. It was fun to read it in more detail from the point of view of a very spunky Psyche (contrary to how I normally envision her). There were definitely flaws in the writing and format (which is why this book isn't making it onto Afterglow Book Reviews from me), but I was giddy throughout the entire story and read it all in one sitting.

This really is a fun story about the power of love and what love really is. There were a few deviations from the classical myth that I liked and others I wasn't crazy about (though there was one I LOVED) but overall it stayed true to the classic myth, but Jessie brought her own spirit to it.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a sweet love story that's easy to read, but definitely to those familiar with the myth or who like Greek mythology. Even if you're not super familiar with Greek mythology, Jessie does a pretty good job of explaining who the different gods and nymphs and other figures are, though the story deals mostly with Cupid (Eros) and Aphrodite.

I'd give this book three and a half out of five butterflies, but I round up :D

Have a great week, I'll be back soon, I promise!!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Stealing Stories

One of my favorite quotes is from my Theatre Education teacher. She must have said this a thousand times over the course of the semester.

"You're only as good as who you steal from."

This statement is a hundred percent true. As writers, we very often talk about finding an 'original' idea, making our stories 'unique.'

The truth? There is no 'original' idea. Our ideas are a sum of everything we've experienced in our lives up to that point.

You can argue with me all you want, but think about your idea for your story. Where did it come from? You were most likely watching something, or reading a book, or talking about something with your friends, and this idea came into your mind. It was a result of something else--it didn't just appear out of nowhere.

This is even true for dreams. Though they can seem to come out of nowhere, science proves that your subconscious controls what you dream about, no matter how weird that dream may be.

Is this a bad thing? Heck, no! We take the best of so many things, and we put our own spin on it.

Because guess what? Even though there are no 'original' ideas, every human being is original! We are all unique! There is no one else, and never will be anyone else, who is just like you!

So the idea may not be 'original.' The story may not be 'unique.' But your style is!

You can do it. I believe in you!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Bane of My Existence

I'm about to scream right now.

"You're too general," "You're too specific," "Give me more information," "Give me more to wonder about"


There are so many different opinions out there, and guess what? 

Agents have different opinions too!

So what can you do to write the most effective query possible?

Work on it. Work, work, work, WORK! And make sure you save your drafts, because you may end up wanting to go back to something you had in a previous draft.

I really wish someone else could write my query for me. But that wouldn't really work, would it?

*Sigh* Back to working...


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

And so it begins!

*Shivers* I love the anticipation building up to NaNoWriMo. Love it.

I thought I'd share the first bit of my NaNo--realize, this is a NaNo and I wrote it in thirty minutes, so it's not edited AT ALL, but I like seeing what comes out of people's fingers on the keyboard when they're put to pressure :)

The first two (completely unedited) pages of CLOSED MIND:


            It was the only thought in my mind. I could hear them behind me, hear them following. There was no choice but to keep running, get as far away as possible—
            “Stop her!”
            The child in my arms cried. I shushed him, feeling tears come to my cheeks. I rounded a corner into an alleyway, searching for anywhere to hide. There was a hole in the wall, just big enough. I crawled in, soothing my son, praying endlessly to God.
            The knights ran around the corner. I held my breath. They entered the alleyway, confused, not thinking to look at the walls themselves. My son shivered in my arms, and I held him tightly, praying he wouldn’t cry out.
            “She’s not here,” one of them called.
            I exhaled loudly once they’d deserted the alleyway. “Thank you, God,” I breathed, kissing my little boy’s forehead.
            He whimpered, but stayed quiet. With some difficulty, I climbed out of the hole in the wall, grimacing.
            Hold on, Melinda. Just a little more.
            Limping, I backtracked a block, still keeping an eye out for knights. Only when I was sure there were none around did I knock on the door to the orphanage.
            “Please be awake,” I whispered.
            I strained my ears, and let out a sigh of relief when I heard the creaking of floorboards behind the door. A woman answered, not young and not old, a robe pulled around her shoulders. She frowned.
            “Can I help you?”
            “Please, can I come in?”
            The woman looked at the child in my arms and nodded, stepping aside. I staggered through the doorway and fell into a nearby chair. My breathing was becoming harder.
            Just a little more…
            “Are you hurt?” she asked, setting down her candle.
            I took a deep breath. “Take him,” I said, extending my arms.
            Her eyes widened in alarm. “You don’t want your child?”
            “It’s not my destiny,” I said with a gasp. “You must take him!”
            She hesitated for a moment before taking my son from my arms. A huge burden left my shoulders, and I smiled for the first time in months.
            The smile disappeared as another stab of pain went through my body. There’s still one more thing to do…
            I reached into my cloak. My hand brushed the tail end of the arrow, and the pain increased. I gritted my teeth, refusing to make a sound, but couldn’t keep the tears from coming. The woman holding my son took a step back in alarm at seeing the wound, the blood staining my dress.
            “I’ll find a surgeon—”
            “It’s too late,” I said, reaching out to stop her with my free hand. “You mustn’t tell anyone I was here. Not anyone.”
            I tried to meet her eyes, but my vision blurred. After a moment, she nodded, and a sob escaped my throat in relief.
            “This is his.” I removed the book from my pocket, holding it out to her. When she took it from my hands, my son began to cry, as if he knew. He probably does know…
            Exhaling, I slumped in the chair. My task was done—my destiny fulfilled. One hand grasped the side of the chair, the other the arrow protruding through my stomach. The woman knelt next to me, her features increasingly hard to read as the world around me faded into black.
            She spoke, and I strained to hear the words.
“What’s his name?”
A smile crossed my quivering lips, and I took my last breath.


Happy NaNo-ing!


Ctrl + N

It's been so long since I hit that key combination on my keyboard. As far as writing is concerned, I haven't opened a new document in Word in months.

Until tonight.

It's sitting open on my laptop. Waiting. Just waiting.

Ever since I finished the outline for my NaNo, I've been itching to start writing it, but like a good little girl I'm waiting.


Here's why I love NaNo: it's exciting. Diving into something like this is thrilling and just a whole lot of fun. 

But from my experience, I've realized that the excitement wears off. Soon it gets hard to put aside the time needed to complete this challenge (especially this week for me), you have new story ideas, but you're stuck with this one because otherwise you'll never finish--

Don't forget that excitement of opening a new document.

And come November 30th, you'll feel the excitement of submitting your word count, saying you've done it.

My clock says twenty minutes left to wait.

Knock 'em dead, NaNo-Writers!


Sunday, October 30, 2011


You know that feeling you get after finishing a really great scene? Going through a round of edits, and making some fantastic changes? Finding out things about your characters you didn't previously know?


I just edited a third of my book. Today. A THIRD. And when I say 'edited,' I mean, 'maybe-two-paragraphs-from-chapter-two-stayed-the-same.'

Yeah. Talk about tiring.

But if I didn't have church in the morning, I can guarantee you I'd still be working on it. I'd still be editing. Why? Because it's freakin' amazing!

I love that feeling. I crave that feeling. This is why I started writing in the first place--to feel that accomplishment and excitement. To discover stories, not write them.

(Don't worry, most of my editing is not like my experience with chapter two. But it's definitely been a long haul.)

Don't forget why you started writing!


Friday, October 28, 2011

Killer Characters Blogfest--Antagonist Challenge!

Click here to learn more about the Killer Characters Blogfest, and to find links to others' entries!

Today is the final installment of the Killer Characters Blogfest, and we're supposed to pick our favorite literary antagonist.

I put off my decision until I'd read everyone else's posts, and there are so many good choices. I realize that some people won't agree with my choice, but here it goes!

Voldemort haunts my nightmares--often. He's KILLER in every sense of the word. Though the calm, cool collective-ness with which he kills people is haunting, he's even more haunting because of these scenes:

He attached himself to Quirrel's soul, then left him to die. He is the incarnation of Satan in this respect. He uses people to benefit himself and infects them with his evil spirit, then leaving them to die when things start turning around. This happens over and over in the books.

HE CAN'T DIE. Granted, once the Horcruxes are destroyed he can, but up until that point he is invincible! And look at that picture! Probably one of the most haunting, disgusting images I've ever envisioned (it was even worse when I imagined it before the movie came out!) Oh, and another thing: He's barely human.

He's been evil since childhood. I don't know about anyone else, but this scene in Half Blood Prince made me squirm. A helpless orphan is rescued by Dumbledore, told that he has a new home to go to. But think about all the things he did as that 'helpless orphan'. From the moment he was born, Tom Riddle was a Killer.

And last but not least, let's not forget this moment:

He tried to kill a BABY. I'm assuming he succeeded in killing others. But a one-year-old child was his target when he attacked the Potters, not his parents. I can't think of anything more evil.

Oh, and let's not forget about the rest of the hundreds of people he killed and had killed. Let's not forget about James and Lily, Alice and Frank Longbottom, Dumbledore, Sirius, Ms. Burbage, Fred, Mad-Eye, Snape, Tonks, Lupin, Collin Creevey---need I say more?

Voldemort will forever haunt my nightmares. How about you?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Killer Characters Blogfest--Protagonist Challenge!

Click here to learn more about the Killer Characters Blogfest, and to find links to others' entries!

So, I missed yesterday's Killer Supporting Characters, but I have an excuse! I passed out at work and my friend forced me to go to the ER, even though it wasn't necessary.

But here I am today, pleased to share my Killer Protagonist!

Ellie from Courtney Allison Moulton's ANGELFIRE!

It's no secret that I absolutely LOVE this book, and a large reason is because the characters are so KILLER! Ellie is not only a real, believable high school student dealing with normal teenage problems, but she's also a kick-butt, reaper-slaying heroine called the Preliator. Oh, and did I mention she has the best sidekick/love interest ever?

I. Love. Will.
There are so many reasons Ellie is a Killer Protagonist, but here's just a few:

1. She's a natural fighter. From the very start, her skills with her khopesh swords (which she summons out of thin air, by the way!) are amazing. At the same time, she trains hard, and gets even better as time goes on.

2. She can enter the Grim. As part of being the Preliator, she has the ability to sense reapers and fight them in a world invisible to mere mortals called the Grim. When she's in the Grim, her mortal friends cannot see her, despite the fact that she can see them.

3. She has a sense of humor. Throughout everything that happens in the books, her sense of humor remains constant. I laughed out loud at more than one point as I read!







You sure you want to read on? Okay...


She is the Archangel Gabriel!! 

How much more KILLER can you get??

Enjoy the rest of the blogfest!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Book review: POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil

To see my Afterglow for this book, click here.

This book was a wonderful, frightening surprise. Set in the Catholic culture, Bridget, a student at St. Michael's, discovers that she has the power to banish demons. Exorcism has never been something that really interested me, mostly because it creeps me out. This book did an amazing job of creeping me out but still keep me engaged--I cared about the characters and I wanted to know what was going to happen next.

There was a bit too much language for me at some points, and some of the adults acted too young for their age. Parts of the story-line were predictable, but the ending took me completely by surprise! It's rare that a character realizes something before I do as the reader, and when that happened here I was thrilled. I love being surprised, and Gretchen pulled it off in the end!

If you're looking for something spooky to read over Halloween (or any other time of the year) pick this book up! It's a wonderful addition to any book shelf!


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Time for an update

I've actually known this for a couple of days now, but I was just musing over it.

So, I didn't get in, but I wasn't rejected either.

It's complicated.

I'm going to be very candid here: I have depression. There was a point during my freshman year of college when it became almost too much to bear. I've come far from that point and am getting better every day, but that doesn't mean I don't still struggle.

When I received that email, I assumed it was because my advisers wanted to talk to me about my grades (my GPA's not as high as it should be, because of problems with the depression). In actuality, they were more concerned about my mental health than academics. They want to make sure I can handle the work and stress involved in this major before accepting me.

So I'm going to be meeting with them on a monthly basis to discuss my progress and what's going on in my life. Then, when time comes around to apply again next year, I'll hand in a new application.

This doesn't mean I'll definitely get in next year, but at least one of my teachers is confident I will. I wish they had accepted me and then monitored my progress, but I understand why they're doing it the other way around.

Positive: they care enough about me to work with me and not just set my application aside.

So I have another whole year to muse over my future. This truly is what I want to do for the rest of my life, and I'm hopeful I'll be able to show them the progress I've made and am making with my disease.

Thank you all for your kind wishes!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Theatre and writing: best friends!

Application update: I'm meeting with my advisers tomorrow at 3:00. Hopefully I'll have some good news for you afterwards!

All right, answers to questions:

Becky Mahoney said: Tell me about what you're reading!

(Becky's blog)

Currently, I'm reading both POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil and POSSESSION by Elana Johnson. Loving both so far! I've gotta finish POSSESS this weekend for my book group, and when I do there will most likely be a review on here :)

Amparo Ortiz said: If you could pick any character from a YA novel, who would you like to hang out with in real life and why?

(Amparo's blogOperation Awesome)

There are so many! At the moment, definitely Will from ANGELFIRE by Courtney Allison Moulton. I'm kind of in love with him. (For those of you who haven't read the book, just know that he's an incredibly protective guy who's head over heels in love with the MC. And he's hot. ;p)

Susan Francino said: Well, since I've read some of your work, I'm interested in how you reconcile religion and magic in your fictional worlds. (But if that's too personal it's OK.)

(Susan's blog)

Aah you ask the best questions! It's not too personal at all! Since there's so much I want to say on the topic, that's going to end up a blog post :)


Thanks for the questions! Now on to today's blog post.

(Kudos to you if you read this whole thing, because I have waaayy too much to say...)

This is inspired by Susan's question from yesterday.

Susan Francino said: How does acting and theater in general help you with/influence your writing?

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this question! I should have done a blog post about this a while back, but here it is now.

When I first started considering majoring in the realm of theatre, my heart was set of Music Dance Theatre (MDT). My life's goal was to be on Broadway. (It would still be nice, but I'm more realistic now :D)

My father, who's an accountant, sat me down one day and asked me to major in something more 'practical.' For some reason he actually wanted me to be able to eat when I graduated college.

I kind of rolled my eyes, but I told him I'd major in theatre education, just to appease him. Truly, it was a backup plan, because I still wanted to spend my whole life performing.

Maybe I just grew up, but something happened my senior year and my heart was opened to the possibility. I was the musical director for the four musicals we did (I was also in each one), and I felt such happiness and pride in helping others achieve their potential. I even had to teach one actor to sing--when we started, he couldn't even match a pitch, and by the performance he was able to keep in key the majority of the time. When he did mess up, it sounded like harmony and magically worked!

The joy I received from this was unbelievable, but nothing compared to when my little brother played Winthrop in our production of The Music Man. For years, I'd been trying to get him to do theatre, because I knew he'd be fantastic at it. Finally, he relented, allowing me to sign him up for the show.

Before the show, he spent all of his time playing video games, and was very shy and quiet. It was amazing to watch him open up and explore new possibilities. He gained so much confidence and had a blast, way more fun than he thought he was going to have! I was his coach when he didn't come to rehearsals, and I looked forward to that time so much.

From that moment, I knew that I wanted to be a drama teacher more than anything...well, anything aside from being a mother. I've seen how drama can change people's lives, and I've seen how it's changed my life. If I spend my whole life in the classroom and never get published as a writer, I have to admit I will be completely satisfied. (I will wish I was published, but most people only get to pursue one passion in a lifetime!)

There are so many lessons to learn from theatre, especially in relation to writing. For the sake of time, let me suggest just ten:

1. Writing itself! I've done a lot of playwriting units, and it's helped me get ready to write a novel.

2. Character development. I think this speaks for itself. If you don't learn how to properly develop characters, you can't portray them on stage.

3. Plot structure. You learn how to best convey a plot to an audience to keep them engaged. Unlike writing, in theatre you have the advantage of knowing whether or not your audience is engaged in the story the moment you start. It's taught me so much about how to formulate dialog and action.

4. On that note: dialog and action. You don't get inner dialog or description in theatre, just action. The story moves quickly, and if it doesn't the audience stops paying attention. It's helped me to keep my story more active and not dwell on certain scenes longer than I should.

5. Discipline. My senior year of high school, I was at the school every day from September 15th to April 26th, most Saturdays and some Sundays. We did nine plays a year, and very often I was in two or three (one time four) at the same time. On top of that, I had church responsibilities and had to complete all my schoolwork and apply for college. I learned discipline, all right, and that's helped me make and keep goals pertaining to my writing.

6. Interpretation. So many times high schools in the area did the same shows, and it was so interesting to see everyone's different interpretations of the same script. It's helped me look at concepts a different way to make my stories more original.

7. Confidence. I had to make choices with each character I played, and those choices weren't always easy to sell to the other actors or director. I learned to stick to my guns and do what I believed was right, and it always turned out well in the end. Same with writing: I have to remind myself when my CPs tell me to change something that this is my story, and I know the best way to tell it.

8. Teamwork. In accordance with that, I learned how to work with other people and take their suggestions to make me better. I also learned how to give constructive criticism in order to help others.

9. Persistence. Auditioning is painful. Even more painful than querying for me, because if you're rejected in an audition they're rejecting you, not your book. (I'm not saying querying isn't incredibly painful, because it is, but this is how I personally feel!) But when I've persisted, it's always ended up landing me some amazing parts. I'm hopeful someday I'll get an amazing agent :)

10. Be positive! The rehearsal process is long and tiring, just like edits. But every time I get up on that stage to perform, all my hard work pays off. The exhilaration and excitement I feel reminds me why I'm putting myself through all the work. There's not a better feeling in the world than an audience's applause, to know you've affected their lives in some way. That's my goal with my writing as well.

I could go on forever, but I won't make you stay here that long. Suffice to say, I wouldn't be where I was without theatre. I wouldn't be nearly as determined to get published and wouldn't have the discipline to have even finished my first novel. Something else may have given me the drive, but for me personally it was theatre.

This is why I want to be a drama teacher: because I know that theatre will influence every one of my students, no matter what profession they go into, because the concepts taught are applicable to life in general, not just the arts.

What's influenced you? What in your life effects your writing so much you can't even express it?


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Answers to questions....and the BIG question

Thanks to those who asked questions! Here are my answers!

Katrina L. Lantz said: What's your favorite movie from the past couple of years?

(Katrina's blog)

That's so hard because I love movies so much! One of my top favorites is definitely Harry Potter 7 part 2. Closely followed by Tangled. Sherlock Holmes is up there as well, as is Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. I can't really narrow it down further than that...

Becky Mahoney said: What aspect of writing (dialogue, description, action, etc) do you think you're best at? (P.S - GOOD LUCK!)

(Becky's blog)

Thanks for the good luck wishes :) I'm definitely best at conveying emotions. I was going to say description, but sometimes I describe way too much and sometimes too little. But conveying emotions, whether through dialogue, inner monologue, or descriptions is my strength.

Prerna Pickett said: favorite books?

(Prerna's blog)

ANGELFIRE by Courtney Allison Moulton is my all time fav at the moment. Closely followed by Harry Potter, the COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexander Dumas, the ODYSSEY (yes, the epic poem), and TEN LITTLE INDIANS (also entitled AND THEN THERE WERE NONE) by Agatha Christie. All are amazing works of literature for all different reasons. If you haven't read one of them, do it!

Michelle McLean said: any weird writing habits you MUST do while writing?

(Michelle's blog)

For a while, I could not write without a bag of Doritos at my side. Thankfully I've broken that habit. In general, I HAVE to have music on, and there's one particular playlist on that works best. Also, whenever I get stuck I play Minesweeper. Trying to break that habit too...

Susan Francino said: Hi Tiffany! I'm on blogger now :D How does acting and theater in general help you with/influence your writing? And good luck--I hope you got your major of choice!

Welcome to blogger, and thanks for the good wishes!

LOVE this question! I can't even begin to describe how many ways it's helped me improve my writing and be a better writer from the start. There's characterization, the structure of a story, making things seem natural, dialogue--sooo many aspects! I think I'm going to have to make an entire post about this one (thanks for the idea)!

And now for the BIG question I know you're wondering about...

Did I get into my major?

I got this email in my inbox about an hour ago:

Dear Tiffany,

Thank you for your recent application for admission to the Theatre Arts Education program at Brigham Young University. We are unable to make a decision on your application at this time. 

We would like you to make an appointment as soon as possible to meet with [such and such a counselor] to discuss your application and interest in the Theatre Arts Education program.  Please initiate contact with [said counselor] to schedule a time to meet; she can be reached at [provided email].

We appreciate your interest in the Theatre Arts Education program and look forward to meeting with you.

The BYU Theatre Arts Education Admissions Committee

So the answer is, obviously, I still don't know. It's about to kill me. This is worse than querying could ever be.

I'm trying to set up an appointment for tomorrow, so hopefully I'll have some news for you then.

In the meantime, any more questions to keep me distracted? lol


Question Me!

Ok, to get my mind off of the pending email telling me whether or not I got into my major (eek!! I'll get it today!!) I'm opening up to questions!

Any questions you have, just put them in the comment section, and I'll answer them in the next post. You can ask about my favorite book, movie, what my book is about, how I got interested in writing, why I'm majoring in theatre, or anything else you can think of! I'm an open book!

Looking forward to answering your questions! (And getting my mind off the waiting!)


Friday, October 14, 2011

The Waiting Game

Though I am querying right now, that's not the waiting game I'm talking about.

First, let me say hello and welcome to all my new followers! I look forward to getting to know you all!

So now to what's on my mind...

For the past four years, I've wanted nothing more than to be a drama teacher. The theatre education program at my university is an amazing program, and every step I take to get closer to my goal is exhilarating.

This morning, I turned in my application. Twelve hours later, I'm still sick to my stomach. By Tuesday night, I will know whether or not I've made it into the program, and there's nothing more I can do about it now.

My future is out of my hands.

It's like querying, only a million times worse. I want to be an author, but my desire to be a teacher is absolutely overwhelming. I'm so passionate about theatre, about the arts, and about helping those around me. I want to do that for the rest of my life, and now four strangers are deciding if I'll even get the chance.

At least I know this will be over by Tuesday. I'll either get in or I won't. It's not quite as long of a waiting game as querying.

But it's still torture.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Twenty-Two Days....


My plan? A story about a young boy destined to be a king...
Yeah, that sounded dreadfully boring.

What do YOU plan on writing about??

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Idea Parade!

So, I've been posting a lot on inspiration lately, and here's yet another one!

Today was our homecoming parade, and I sat out on the side of the road in the cold for an hour and a half, all in the name of school spirit. I've never been a huge fan of parades, mainly because they always seem to be super crowded. I do like the social aspect, though, which is why I attend. I love spending time with friends and family, and it's even better when people are throwing candy at you.

Because of my knee injury, I wasn't able to participate in the candy-grabbing, but I was able to witness it. The parade was only held on half of the road, so the other half (where I was sitting) was still open for cars to drive on. Candy flew through the air towards us, but a very small amount made it safely to our group. The majority of it landed in the middle of the road, to be run over by unsuspecting cars before any of us had the chance to save it.

This got me thinking about inspiration. When an idea comes to us, sometimes it may not come so far as to hit us square in the face. Sometimes we may need to get up and go out to it. Are those ideas any less precious than the ones that come to us? Can we sometimes go to ideas?

How many small ideas have you had that you let float away? Now, I'm not saying we can write something about every little idea we have, but I have a folder on my computer with endless ideas, most of which I will probably never use. Sometimes I get an idea in the middle of a conversation and have to jot a note for myself. I don't know if I'll ever use it, but an idea is precious, and can spark new ideas.

So my challenge to you is to not let those ideas be run over by the cars. Try to pick them up quickly, before it's too late. You never know what jewels you may find.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Two Cents on Outlining

"To outline, or not to outline, that is the question."

Apparently it is according to quite a lot of bloggers out there.

I am by no means saying it's a bad thing to post about outlining (what am I doing, after all?) but I challenge the idea that it really matters whether you do or not. For some people, outlining is an essential step in the writing process. For others, it's a deterrent to their muse. Personally, I do both depending on the project and the phase it's in.

I outline when:

  • The plot is particularly complex
  • I already have some ideas for the end (or later books) and I don't want to forget them
  • I'm having trouble moving the plot on past every day activities
  • I'm about halfway through my first draft
  • I'm getting ready for NaNoWriMo
I do not outline when:
  • An idea or concept pops into my head and I just have to start writing
  • I'm getting to know my characters in their 'natural' environment, without worrying about what happens next
  • I'm super familiar with the subject (ie the story is loosely based on my life)
  • I don't get an outline done for NaNoWriMo (by the time November runs around, you just have to start!)
  • I have absolutely no idea where the story is going and just want to play with it
(All of these are subject to change depending on the day, time, weather, mood I'm in, place I'm writing, underwear I'm wearing, etc.)

Here's the one thing that bothers me about outlines: authors, if your characters are not fitting in the plot you outlined for them, change either the plot or the characters. Don't be afraid to deviate from your outline if that's the right thing for the story!!

So outline or don't outline--whatever works for you. Because quite honestly, I don't see it as any of my business.

Happy writing! :)


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hey, I'm a person too!

This morning was the first session of my church's general conference. The man in the middle of this picture is President Thomas S. Monson, our Prophet and head of the church. When he got up to speak this morning, he wore the same goofy smile as the one in the picture, and squealed out "Hello! I was wondering who I should get to substitute for me today!"

I love President Monson. He is such a spiritual man and truly cares about each and every member of the church, as well as those who are not of our faith. He is such an inspiration to me. But, if he didn't have that wonderful boyish personality to go with it all, I don't know if I would feel the same connection with him that I do.

Too often, especially in YA, the authoritative figure, or the one who's supposed to have all the answers, doesn't seem to have a personality. He or she seems other-worldly, as if the rules that apply to everyone else don't apply to them. They have no family, or it is never mentioned, and they don't seem to do anything but sit around and wait for the next scene they're in in your book. How boring is that??

President Monson is one of the many examples we have in real life of an incredibly inspirational person who is also an incredibly easy to relate to. I feel like President Monson is just like me, and that he went through the same process I am of strengthening my faith in God and his gospel. Shouldn't this be our goal when we're writing? Shouldn't we want our readers, and characters, to feel like they can relate to those characters? After all, they're people too! They have a backstory, families, hopes and dreams--shouldn't we give them all of that?

What are some of these characters you could relate to? Couldn't? Do you struggle making your 'authority' figures easy to relate to?


Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Question: Where do you find inspiration?

My Answer: Everywhere.

For my Theatre Education class, we're asked to post 'teaching ideas' rather regularly. These range from short ideas about how to teach something to full lesson plans. I've found inspiration for these from the strangest places--sometimes one word someone says sparks something in my brain and it just takes off.

Pan, the Greek God of shepherds and flocks
Most recently, I was trying to think of a lesson plan to outline, and as I sat at my laptop I chatted with one of my roommates. I can't remember what we were talking about, but I said the phrase 'pan out'. Pan. The Greek God. Satyrs. Satire. Theatre. Greek chorus. "I GOT IT!!"

It's amazing how the human mind works, isn't it? It makes connections that we don't necessarily see if we aren't keeping our mind open. It is from these connections we gain the most invaluable inspiration, because only your brain can make those specific connections.

I think I've mentioned before that the idea for the paranormal novel I'm working on right now came from chatting with my cousin on facebook. The idea for my series, VICTIM OF PROPHECY, came simply form wanting to write a book about a boy destined to be a king--that's not even the focus of the story anymore. The idea for another book in my 'story ideas' folder came from a dream I had. Another was inspired by events in my own life and how my life would be different if I'd changed one decision.

You never know when an idea is coming, so don't ever squelch your creativity!

Where have you found inspiration?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Recurring Injuries

A year ago, I was texting my best friend, Houston, while walking up some stairs. As a consequence of this foolish action, I fell and banged my knee up pretty bad. Still, I could walk on it so everything was fine. I would just deal with the pain.

That weekend I worked the football game. It was raining and the ground was very slippery. I worked at the top of a small flight of stairs and unfortunately fell three times. The third time, I wasn't able to get back up. The EMTs took me from my post to the hospital where the doctors determined I'd sprained my MCL (the tendon on the inside of your knee).

Because the actual sprain happened at work as a consequence of the rain and my position, I was given worker's compensation for it. I was on crutches for a few days and then wore a knee brace for a few weeks. Everything seemed fine afterwards.

Earlier this week, my knee started hurting again. At first, I ignored it--I am overweight, after all, and as such my legs are often sore and tired. But when the pain didn't go away, I started noticing how similar it felt to when I'd sprained my MCL last year. I was still hoping there was nothing wrong, but walking home from work today I could feel the tendon moving around under the skin. *sigh*

So I'm going to go to the doctor tomorrow. I hope it's not as bad as it was last year, and hopefully it's not even sprained. Maybe it's just a little sore...

Sometimes things that we did years ago come back to bite us. A decision we made to put our novel in third person may have been completely wrong for that particular story, and a year later when you think you're ready to query you have to go through and change it to first person. Sometimes a character's name may be wrong, or the name of a city, or some other small but important detail that effects the entire story. Sometimes we say or do something at a conference that gives an agent the wrong impression of us. I could go on and on.

The problems aren't going to go away if we ignore them. It doesn't matter how long we've been working on our WIP or how ready we feel to query, if we don't address the problems that are there they're only going to get worse.

I certainly hope my knee doesn't get worse...


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Discovery: "Ooh, look what I found!!"

We have little moments of discovery every day of our lives. For example, today I discovered that I absolutely cannot read a book while I'm doing the laundry. If I do, I will never know when the washer stops.

I also discovered that the catering service I work for makes breakfast burritos.

Another one: there are people in this world that play out weddings with their dogs.


Though these discoveries can have an affect on our lives (I will never look at a pekingese dog the same again...), they're not the kinds of discoveries I want to talk about. I want to talk about FIRE!

Sometimes we're just playing around with our WIP, testing our characters, getting to know them, having fun (yes, writing can still be fun!) when all of the sudden something jumps out at us. Something BIG. I mean oh-my-gosh-I-have-to-add-another-book-to-my-series-big. Okay, it doesn't always have to be that big, but you get what I mean.

The problem is, a lot of the time authors choose to ignore these moments of inspiration. They're so close to their goal that they don't want to have to deal with a new character or plot point, even if it will greatly enhance their story. That's when you get books that seem rushed and incomplete.

Personally, I had a trilogy and a prequel planned for my series. I was almost through writing the prequel (for background research) when someone pointed out to me that the story was moving waayy too fast. When I sat down and thought about it, she was right. Thus, book one became two books.

Is this a lot more work? Heck, yes! But totally worth it in the end.

What kinds of discoveries have you made in your writing? Has it changed the way you approach a first draft?


YA Confidential Launch Party!

There are so many awesome blogs out there, but have you guys been to YA Confidential yet?

Click here!

Not only is it a fabulous site with fabulous people (and an awesome idea for the site--who wouldn't want to be a secret agent? ;p) but they're hosting a HUGE giveaway AND the chance to win critiques from Sarah LaPolla and Vickie Motter!

To find out more about these agents and the awesome ARCS YA Confidential is giving away, head over to their post! You won't regret it, I promise you!


Monday, September 12, 2011

Jump and Fall 'Till You Fly

(That is an actual picture of me standing on a cliff in the Orkney Islands.)

When I graduated from High School, I wrote a song entitled I Could Be for my family, talking about how much they've influenced my life and how they've always believed in me. Here's part of one of the verses:

And now I have courage to try
I'll jump and I'll fall 'till I fly

When I wrote these lyrics, I believed every word of them. Since, I've obviously had times when I've doubted  and haven't been willing to get up after I fall.

Since my first week of school here at Brigham Young University, I've been auditioning for shows. Every single show. A year and a half, I auditioned, not getting a single role in anything.

Friday night, I was ready to give up. I was signed up for auditions for a Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre, but decided to skip it. I thought I was just wasting my time.

As I sat in the fine arts center, my friend Darcilee came up to me. She'd just auditioned for the murder mystery, and was wondering why I wasn't there. I told her about my fears, how I didn't think I was good enough or would ever get a role in anything.

She had two words for me: bull crap. Okay, she didn't say those specific words (because it's not her way of speaking) but that was her message to me. She didn't try to force me to do anything, but she let me know she believed in me.

I took a deep breath after she left and decided to suck it up and try again. When I looked at the audition board, I saw there was an audition that night for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. By coincidence, I'd watched the movie earlier that week. Though I only had half a monologue prepared and the director wanted two contrasting monologues ready, I decided to go anyway. Luckily she had some cold reads for people who weren't as prepared.

I felt better after the audition and had a good time, despite my worries. The next morning, I got up and immediately checked my email. I'd made callbacks. I was excited, but still not hopeful--I've made callbacks before, and nothing ever came of it.

Callbacks were a blast, and I had a lot of fun just letting go and being myself. In the back of my mind, though, was the thought that this wasn't worth it. I wasn't going to get a role. I might as well give up.

The director, Heather Starr (coolest name ever, right?) told us she would have the cast list posted by Monday morning. She said she would email us, and when I still didn't have an email this morning I figured my suspicions had been correct. Still, I wanted to check the board and see who'd made it. I knew it would be hard for me to not see my name on the list yet again, but it was something I had to face.

I walked up to the board and read that Heather's internet had been down, which was why she didn't email us. My stomach flipped. I scanned the page.

Gertrude/Player 2------Tiffany Garner

If I knew how, I would have done a backflip right then.

So what's my point in telling you this story?

Don't give up. Never give up. Someday, you'll find the right fit--the right agent/editor, the right publishing house--and fulfill your dreams. You are worth it, and all your hard work will pay off. I'm going to remind myself of my experience with auditioning as I start to query. It will be long and hard, but it will work out in the end.

I'll jump and I'll fall till I fly


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years ago...

I was only nine, but I remember as if it were yesterday.

We were out of school for the day. My mother called me and my three younger siblings into her room. The news was on. As she scrambled for the phone, I watched the second plane hit. I didn't understand what was going on.

It wasn't until I saw the panicked look on her face that I realized it was real.

I sat on her bed, staring at the TV screen even after my mom had turned it off. How could anyone do something so horrible?

The house was silent all day. Even my three-year-old brother was quiet.

When my father came home, we all gathered as a family and prayed for those who were still trapped, and for those who had lost loved ones. I prayed for what felt like hours that night even after we'd finished praying as a family.

I remember going to the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City and secretly being terrified we would be the next target. Every day before I left my home, I made sure everyone in my family knew how much I loved them.

November 2002, my family flew to Europe for a two week trip. Though it was amazing, every time we stepped into an airport my heartbeat quickened. I remember how much security there was and how intimidated I was by the people around me.

When we moved to New Jersey, I remember talking to the families of people who died, or should have died but for some reason didn't make it to work that day. One of those people is my cousin.

I am proud to be an american, and raise my voice in song to my Lord and Savior on this day and all others.

Where were you?


Friday, September 9, 2011

Even a Chameleon Has Limits...

This is one of my pet peeves--some people are so plot driven that they fail to notice when they're characters don't fit in that plot. They can be great characters, but when they're placed into these cookie-cutter positions for a certain plot structure, they're uncomfortable and unhappy.

And the reader doesn't like it much either.

You may sit there looking at your little chameleon and say, "Oh, doesn't he look so cute?" But if he's miserable, your readers won't be able to connect to him. You won't be able to connect to him.

Don't force your characters into roles they don't fit. Craft the plot around them, not the other way around. And if you have a specific plot in mind that you're character's not meshing with, give him a different role or find a new character! Everyone's flexible as long as you don't force them into things.

Even a chameleon has limits.


PS--New followers! SQUEE!! Welcome, welcome, welcome!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Let's Play Tag!!

You wonderful five followers of mine have been TAGGED!

Brigid Gorry-Hines at My Life as a Teenage Novelist
Lynda at W.I.P It

Now that you've been tagged, you have to share 10 random facts about yourself on your next blog--whether they be funny, exciting, embarrassing, or simply interesting (or even boring) is up to you! When you've finished, pick five worthy bloggers to be TAGGED! I can't wait to see what you all say!

A huge thanks to Kelley at Writtled for tagging me! She just got her 200th follower, and you should definitely add to the list! Also, she has some great random facts of her own posted here!

So here's my ten facts:

1. I am afraid of corners. Not being cornered (though that too)---corners. As in, there are four walls in a room and the spot where two of them meet. Yeah.

2. I own nine Harry Potter wands. Eight of them are replicas from the movies (Harry's, Ron's, Neville's, Luna's, Ginny's, Voldemort's, and Hermione's x 2) and one is my very own from Ollivander's Wand Shop in the Magical World of Harry Potter! In addition, I also have the time turner, a Gryffindor house uniform (cloak, tie, sweater), and other random nic nacs from the movies. Thank you Warner Brothers and Universal Studios!

3. Going along with the last one: I sewed Hermione's dress from the yule ball in the fourth movie for Easter one year. Here's the picture of me in it:

4. Over the summer, I did a six week study abroad in London. During those six weeks, I went up to Scotland with five other girls. While in Scotland, we backpacked, flagged down a bus, and were stalked by cows. Yes, cows.

5. I am a musical theatre enthusiast, but I have yet to see such classics as Oklahoma and South Pacific, amongst many other things I should be familiar with but am not. I have, however, seen Naughty Marietta, which is hilarious!

6. I am constantly using the British spelling of words without even realizing it. Like 'traveling'. I had to work hard just now not to spell it with two 'l's.

7. I have a passion for the Sims. When I get stuck in a spot in my WIP, I open up Sims and create my characters in the game. I recently bought the Sims Medieval, and I pretty much squealed.

8. Favorite TV shows: Psych (James Roday is my hero!!), Bones (can't wait for the new season), and Doctor Who (what's going to happen next?!?!)

9. I hate horror movies, but I love horror stories. It's just watching it that I can't stand.

10. I am obsessed with swords. Obsessed.

Can't wait to read your ten facts! And, if you weren't tagged, what's a random fact about you?
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