Friday, July 29, 2011



Those of you who also follow Afterglow Book Reviews have already seen my rant about this book, but I couldn't stop myself from talking about it more.

Oh. My. Gosh.

To read my review, click on the Afterglow link above, but here I'm just going to say: READ IT. Please!! You won't regret it, and I neeeeed someone to talk to about it!! And once you do, go to the ANGELFIRE website and read the deleted scene and the scene from Will's point of view. It just about broke my heart.

I can't wait for WINGS OF THE WICKED to come out. Can. Not. Wait.

(Oh, and by the way, it's by Courtney Allison Moulton.)

Aaand I'm kind of obsessed with Will. This is my desktop now.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shakespeare's words were meant to be HEARD

If you look at my profile or "Who Am I?" page, you'll see that I am majoring in Theatre Education. This past Spring I was able to go on a London Theatre study abroad program with Brigham Young University, and lived across the street from Hyde Park for six weeks. They were six of the most amazing weeks of my life, and I saw at least three or four shows a week, from Shakespeare to the newest West End musicals. I loved every second of it.

(If you want to read about my adventures and see some great pictures, you can go here.)

Before we left the States, we had a guest speaker in our preparation class who spoke to us about Shakespeare and the best way to study him in his country. She talked about how lucky we were to be going to the Globe Theatre. "Shakespeare wrote his plays to be performed," she stressed. "Not to be studied."

When you think about it, it's true. He was writing to entertain the masses, and they did not have a copy of the script to read and analyze before the performance. Some of the lines are analyzed so much that we lose or change his original meaning of them. For example, "A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet". The Rose Theatre, one of the Globe's competitors, was on Rose Street, and it sat right where everyone would dump their refuse. The line was meant as a pun for the audience members, and would undoubtedly gain many laughs.

Is it wrong for us to look at it as a poignant line? No. Did Shakespeare mean for it to have a dual meaning? I'm not sure. But the fact of the matter is, that is one of the many instances where he wrote his plays to entertain the people, not to write something with amazing, poignant lines.

(Don't worry, I'm getting to the writing part)

Last night one of my best friends slept over at my house. It's the last time we're going to see each other for a while, possibly years, and she decided she wanted to spend it listening to me read my book to her. Crazy, I know. She wanted to read the story, but she hasn't had a lot of free time on her hands. So the last few times she's come over to my house we've sat down and read for a few hours. Tonight we finished the novel (107k) and she threatened to steal my flash drive to read what I have written for book two.

I learned a couple things from this: one, Chelsea Hanlon will make you keep reading at two in the morning no matter how tired she is. Two, what I was writing wasn't entirely natural. My novel's in first person, and there were times when I stumbled over the words as I was reading it out loud. Some of that was because of how quickly I was trying to read, some of it was because the sentences didn't make sense and roll of the tongue like they should.

By reading it out loud, I was able to learn a lot more about how to make my novel sound more natural. I fixed a few trouble spots and learned more about how my main character, Kenna, actually speaks. It's not quite the same as I do, and it's definitely not quite the same as I write.

Do I think you need to find someone to read your 240k MS to? Heck no. But it does help to read things out loud every once and a while. Even if you don't actually read it out loud, try to think about how it would sound for someone to say that, especially in dialogue. It's hard work, I'm not going to lie, but you'll be able to make your MS that much better because of it. 

And, as my favorite villain, Iago, once said, "How poor are they that have not patience!"


Saturday, July 23, 2011


So the wonderful Elana Johnson, author of the newly released  POSSESSION (which I haven't yet read but am sooo excited to!) is giving away an ARC of THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab. Here's more about it:

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

I don't know about you, but I am intrigued! If you are as well, go to Elana's Blog!

If you want to know more about POSSESSION, you can find the exciting info here!


Friday, July 22, 2011

Writing Sequels

As you all know by now, I am by no means an expert on any of these subjects. But I am currently working on writing a sequel to my first book, Open Eyes, and have a few observations to share.

First, the first chapter is the hardest part. You have to give enough background to refresh reader's memories, but not retell the whole story of the first book. If it's been a while since they read it, you want them to still be able to follow, but you don't need to have a whole synopsis of your first book (another thing I'm working on, and it's driving me crazy).

Another tip for the first chapter: incorporate your summary into what's happening. For example, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, JKR doesn't just talk about Ron and Hermione and how they're Harry's best friends. As Harry's trying to figure out a problem, he thinks of what Ron or Hermione would say, and JKR works in the summary that way. In my book, my main character, Kenna, is hiding from a man trying to kill her. As she's going about whatever she's doing at the moment, her mind drifts back to why she's in this predicament in the first place.

Sequels are hard, but they are doable. General rule I've found, jump into the story, and refresh the reader's memory when you think it's appropriate. But in my opinion, you should assume they've read your previous book(s), so don't give them a play by play of what's already happened.

What are your suggestions for sequels? What are some sequels that you thought were particularly effective? Ineffective? Are you working on a sequel?

Happy Writing!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tuning out Distractions

Sometimes, life is like being on the subway. You're surrounded by people and noise, advertisements, performers--it can be impossible to focus. There are the far few who don't feel the same way I do, but personally, the subway is the most hectic place for me to be.

How do you tune out the distractions? How do you focus?

I have my favorite place to write in the house, but unfortunately it's not exactly in a quiet space. I sit on the couch right in front of the TV, and my twelve-year-old brother is always either playing video games or watching a show. When he's playing games I'm usually not too interested, but even if it's the worst show on earth I'll find myself watching out of the corner of my eyes, accomplishing nothing on my project. Luckily this past week he's been away at camp, and I've been able to really get some good work done.

But I've finally succumbed to the fact that if I want to focus, I have to relocate, no matter how much I like this brown leather couch. But even when I relocate, there's another problem: minesweeper. I already talked about this in my other post, but I'll find myself pulling it up when I get stuck for more than a moment, playing mindlessly. If I'm not playing minesweeper, I'm checking facebook, my e mail, twitter, and my blog (ironically, writing this fits into this category).

So I've made a rule for myself: I can't check the internet until I get to the end of the scene I'm working on. Sticking to that rule helps me to at least get something done during the day, and not just waste it away online.

Another thing that helps me is music. Not the kind of music I usually listen to, mind. I have a carefully manufactured playlist on that is all instrumental--as my mom says, it sounds like spa music. It relaxes me and helps me focus, even if my sister hates it.

So that's what I do. What do you do when you find yourself being unproductive?


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

As those of you following me on twitter saw yesterday, I finished my line edit of my WIP, Open Eyes, which you can find on the Projects page. I've been working on this nonstop almost all year, and I felt so accomplished when I was able to close the binder holding all those pages together and say I was done (for the moment).

But now what do I do? Since it's the first of a series, I'm extremely tempted to move on to book two, and already have worked on it quite a bit. At the same time, the clock is ticking for me to start sending out queries, but I'm not quite prepared yet. I've spent all day today trying to refine queries and 'stalking' agents that I think might be interested, and I am exhausted, and still not sure when I will actually start sending the queries out.

So I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. Work on book two (which kind of feels like starting all over again) or work on querying (which is starting for the first time). Part of me wants to just wait until my betas and alphas get back to me and then go back and edit again, but I know that won't get me anywhere.

So instead, I've decided that until my reviewers get back to me, I'm going to work on the second book in the series, Secondhand Heart. Though it's overwhelming, I'll actually be making some progress, instead of writing query letters that I have no idea when I'm going to send.

What are your thoughts? What would your next step in the process be?


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Endurance, Endurance

First of all, I'd like to thank Michelle McLean, Angela Ackerman, Angie Townsend, and Katrina Lantz for adding to my list of followers. I hope I can say something useful.

So here's my topic for the day:


Just stick with me here.

Doesn't that gardener look happy? Like there's nothing he would rather be doing than pushing that lawn mower. This morning I got up at 7:30 to mow my parents yard, since I'm currently away from school and don't have a summer job. Personally, I looked more like this:

Yard work is HARD. I live on a corner lot, and a hill, so the mowing is strenuous. I have to go over tree roots, around bushes, under a trampoline--all under the Southern sun. I had hoped that by getting up so early, I might avoid the heat, but that's almost impossible in the South.

But I have to remember my goal: that $20 I'm going to get. I know that at the end of the day, I'll be rewarded for my hard work. Even if my mom forgets to give me the money for a week (which she's done before), sooner or later I will get it.

So what does this have to do with writing?

As I'm sure you all know, writing is HARD. Though we may enjoy it at first, sometimes we hit a rough patch and have to slow down. We get caught in the sun. A piece of bark flies up and hits our leg. Pretty soon, we're praying for it to be over, wondering why we got ourselves into this project in the first place. Where's the reward? It's just too painful to endure.

So, to help keep you motivated during these hard times, I've come up with a few suggestions.


Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves that we love writing. Our gas trickles away, and our engine putters and dies. When I find myself needing to restart, I grab a good book and sit down to read. Reading other's finished work helps me feel motivated to keep working on my own. You know that the author labored over each sentence, each scene, just as you're doing, and now they have this wonderful novel that they can look at with pride. I want that for myself, and reading helps remind me it is possible.


This is different than refueling. Sometimes my engine's working just fine, but I can't go on one more minute without a glass of water. When that happens, I take a break, play a game I enjoy, watch a movie, something that doesn't have anything to do with my book. Afterwards I feel refreshed and have an open mind and am able to concentrate once more.


The mower won't start? Move on to edging. Sometimes while doing a line edit, I find that I just can't focus on it anymore. Try switching to characterization. Or work on a different scene. Or, better yet, work on a different story altogether. After a little bit of this, I find I'm no longer dizzy looking at the page.

What do you do when you burn out?


Monday, July 18, 2011

Agent Stalking

Why do I have a twitter? 
To stalk agents.

That honestly is my reason, and I'm not the only one. No one follows me on twitter, and I don't tweet that often. But I do read agents tweets.

Why? To get to know their likes and dislikes, to learn more about their lives and keep up with their submission policies. I'm not querying yet, but I will soon, and when I start I want to be able to know a bit about who I'm querying.

Agents like queries that are personalized. If you send out a generic query to twenty or thirty agents at once, they won't take a second look. On the other hand, if you quote something they said in an interview, or say "I'm querying you because [x, y, and z]" they'll know you've put some thought into it. They also love when you reference their recent successes--they're very proud of the books they've chosen to represent, and if you've read them and appreciate them (and if you think yours is similar) they want to know.

So that's my way of keeping up with agents. What do you do? How do you find agents that you think would be a good fit?


Sunday, July 17, 2011


As much as I love writing, there are times when I feel like I'm going to go crazy if I look at my MS for one more second. I'm sure many of you have experienced this as well. I love my book, but every once and a while I need a break.

That's when I turn to minesweeper.

I first started playing the game when J.K. Rowling mentioned on her website that she plays it to pass the time. I didn't realize then how addictive it was. Once you get good at it, it's almost a mindless game to play, and I can play for hours without even noticing the time fly by.

So while minesweeper can help me take my mind off my MS, it causes me to take my mind off of everything else as well, and a few hours later I find I haven't accomplished anything related to my book or otherwise. Mindlessly, I continue to click on squares and stare at numbers on the screen, forgetting why I started the game in the first place.

About six months ago I actually had my roommate remove minesweeper from my computer in order to rectify this problem. It really had become a dangerous addiction, and I wasn't even getting my schoolwork done. Unfortunately, the addiction was so bad that I started searching for online versions even after it was deleted. Kind of defeated the purpose. The addiction's now under control, but I still find myself gravitating towards it when my head's about to explode.

So, I have two questions: when you need a break, what do you do to keep yourself sane? And once you've taken the break, how do you get yourself to focus once again?


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Query? Huh?

This was exactly my response to my cousin about six months ago. We were chatting on facebook, and she told me she was working on querying agents for her middle grade novel. Foolishly, I acted like I knew what she was talking about, but eventually gave in and asked her to explain. So to help those that are in the same boat, I've decided to jot down what I've learned.

What is a query?

Remember applying for scholarships? You are one of thousands of people trying to get that money into your account, so how do you get noticed? How do you prove that you deserve the money more than anyone else entering an essay? How do you get yourself noticed?

That's the query letter. Believe it or not, you're not the only person trying to publish their novel, and you're not the only person with good reason to. But no matter how well written your book, no matter how much time you've put into it, at the end of the day your letter to an agent, editor, or publisher is going to be one of hundreds on their desk or in the inbox. Even though you're facing unbelievable odds, querying really is the only way to go about it.

So how do you get yourself noticed?

How do you convince an agent in a one-page letter that your book is the one they want to represent? How do you get them to ask to see more?

I went to a wonderful workshop by Jackie Lee Miles today, author of Divorcing Dwayne, Roseflower Creek, and Cold Rock River, and here are some of her tips:

  • Be brief. Query letters should never be more than a page long. If you're sending a query by e mail, you might want to make it even shorter. Basically, the less words you use while still getting your point across the better.
  • Be bold. Don't say "I'm going to make you a million dollars," but do show that you have confidence in your book and your writing. After all, why would you be querying it if you didn't think it could get published? At the same time, don't say things like "This may not be the best book you've ever read" or anything else that gives them reason to doubt your book. Be confident, but not boastful.
  • Have a strong, succinct concept. No matter how complicated your mystery novel might be, the query letter isn't the place to reveal the entire plot. You need a short, one to three line summary of what your book is about, and it needs to be captivating. I personally find this the most challenging part, but it can be done.
  • If you're sending the query in the mail, always include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. This isn't necessarily a rule, but it is a courtesy, and it makes it really easy for the agent to respond. Remember, agents are just people, and they appreciate people who think ahead.
  • Don't send them any more than they've asked for. You should always check the agent or publishing company's web site before sending a query, because they may have specific requirements. Some want just your query letter, while some want a query letter and a synopsis. Don't send them any more or any less than what they've listed on their web site, and if you're not sure, it is appropriate to call for clarification.
  • Whatever you do, don't ask about money. They wouldn't be able to tell you what you're going to make if they wanted to, and it just doesn't have a place in the conversation. They haven't agreed to represent you yet--you're still trying to win them over.
  • And last but not least, check for typos. If you can't make it through a page without mistakes, an editor won't want to deal with your manuscript. Besides, it's unprofessional.
But what do I put in the query?

You've written an 80,000 word novel about a secret world of elves, in which there is a secret world of dwarfs, in which there is a secret world of mermaids, etc. How do you sell such a complicated concept in just a page?

The first thing you need is a hook. You have to capture your readers attention from the very first sentence. Remember, these people get hundreds of letters/e mails every day, so they won't spend too much time on yours if it isn't interesting. Think back to high school--you could start with a question, a comparison to something else, a statistic, or an interesting line from your book. Whatever it is, make sure it makes them want to read more.

After your hook, you need a short description of your book: the title, genre, and concept. This should be no more than a few lines. You don't have to include all the characters in your story, you don't have to explain how the elves find the dwarfs who find the mermaids. Discuss the overall idea of the story in the simplest way possible.

Your next paragraph should be your credentials. Now, when you're writing fiction, they'll assume you haven't published a novel before, or else why would you be looking for an agent? But it is helpful to include other things you've done or worked on. If you have a successful blog, list it. If you've written opinion articles in your local newspaper for years, let them know. If you sent a short story into a contest and it was put in a collection, by all means tell them! This can also include life experiences relative to your book. If you've been working in law enforcement for thirty years and your main character is a policeman, that's pertinent to list. But do not list anything about your life that doesn't prove why you are the best person to write this book.

You should also include your reason for querying that agent/editor. Query letters should be personalized, not just sent out in bulk (though you should send out more than one at a time). Tell them why you think they would like your book, referencing their recent successes. If something's working for them, they'll want something else that is similar. Go on to list the length of your manuscript and the intended audience. If you're manuscript is 110,000 words and it's intended for middle grade, you have a problem. This is a chance for you to reflect on your work and to let the agent know what your goals are. Also, be sure to tell them that your manuscript is fully complete. They don't want to look at a half-finished piece of work.

You should end by thanking them for their time, not necessarily in those words. It is appropriate to offer your full manuscript, but don't follow up with them. If they're interested, they'll get back to you.

Don's just whip out a query and send it. Your query should be refined, polished, and show them that your book will be as well. No matter how amazing your book is, no one will look at it if your query is sloppy.

So what now?

You've sent your query off to twenty or thirty agents and are waiting anxiously to hear back from them. The truth is, not all of them will respond, and even those that do won't always pick it up. Remember, the goal of the query is to get someone to ask for your manuscript. It is not to get representation. Though representation would be nice and is the ultimate goal, the agent's not ready to make that decision. They are ready to decide whether or not they want to see your work, and if they do you've written a successful query. The rest is up to your manuscript.

Like I said before, you should query more than one agent at a time. Even when one of them asks for your manuscript, you shouldn't tell the others your manuscript is taken until the agent actually offers you representation. You will get requests from agents you will never hear back from again, but like I said, that's still a successful query.

In the end, your novel has to be able to stand on its own. Even the best written query in the world won't get you published if your book isn't up to par. The query is the first step towards publication, and then it's up to you.

Best of luck!


For more instructions and some very helpful examples, visit AgentQuery

I am a victim.

Our society functions through stories. Stories in the newspaper, on the television, in the room across the hall, within our own homes. Stories that are depicted in movie theatres and acted out by children, stories of distant lands and the girl next door.

But most importantly, stories of ourselves.

It doesn't matter how many times I get on stage, or how many times I put a pen to paper, each story I tell is a reflection of the life I have lived. With each note I sing, each word I type, each monologue I perform, I am bringing what I have learned and experienced into the story I am telling. No matter how different the character I am playing may seem, I can always identify with them in some way.

So I am a victim. I am a victim of music; I am captivated by the subtle chords and progressions that compose a song, and held prisoner by lyrics that cause my heart to beat faster. I am a victim of theatre, of the thrill of performing in front of a live audience and the wonder of experiencing a whole new world come to life in a once blank stage. I am a victim of telling stories, of sharing with others all I have learned and experienced and seeing their lives change for the better.

I am a victim of writing.
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