Blog Posts

Family Vacation: Yellowstone

So we took the kids to Yellowstone over the Fourth of July weekend.  It was awesome, and beautiful, and…great!  The kids weren’t always big fans of the driving, but the animals, waterfalls, geysers, springs, mud pots, sulfur smell (and yes, the boys did make “boy” comments about the smell 🙂 ), and being stuck behind a herd of buffalo blocking the road for an hour more than made up for it.  If you’ve never been, I totally recommend it.  It truly is one of the most beautiful places in the country.  Here are a few of our pictures.  The first is a picture of Great Fountain Geyser erupting, and which we were really lucky to see since it only erupts ever 12-13 hours.  The second and fifth are some of the hot pools.  The third, is of course a bison (a.k.a. buffalo).  The fourth is a picture of the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  And the last is a picture of the Grand Tetons, which we drove through on the way home.  They are truly spectacular, and this is coming from a girl who’s been surrounded by mountains her entire life and lives in a mountain valley.  Truly spectacular.

Book Recommendation…”Anna and the French Kiss” by Stephanie Perkins

So, “Anna and the French Kiss.”  This is a book I’d heard a lot about from a group of ladies on a forum I belong to.  Some of them loved it some thought it was just good.  I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary, so I didn’t quite know what I’d think.  However, from the very first page I was hooked.  Here’s a blurb from Amazon before I go any further.

Anna is not happy about spending senior year at a Paris boarding school, away from her Atlanta home, best friend Bridgette, and crush Toph. Adapting isn’t easy, but she soon finds friends and starts enjoying French life, especially its many cinemas; she is an aspiring film critic. Complications arise, though, when she develops feelings for cute—and taken—classmate Etienne, even though she remains interested in Toph. Her return home for the holidays brings both surprises, betrayals, unexpected support, and a new perspective on what matters in life—and love. 

Ok, so girl goes to boarding school, likes guy with girlfriend…in Paris.  Not the most unique premise ever.  BUT, it’s’ hilarious.  The first paragraph of the book talks about all the things she knows about Paris, which is really very little and revolves around pop culture.  It just gets better from there because  Anna’s voice and her outlook is just so enjoyable to read.  I found myself laughing out loud more than once — and one time in particular I was laughing so hard I was crying and my husband was looking at me like I’d lost it.  :).  But the humor isn’t the only thing about the book I enjoyed.  The characters felt real, the intricacies of teenage romance believable, and the misunderstandings relatable.  All in all, one of my few ventures into YA contemporary was very enjoyable.  Maybe I’ll even try again.  🙂

One note:  I know there are some of my blog readers who are more conservative than others.  There is a tiny bit of strong language and sexual reference that might be offensive to some.

 

Book Recommendations…”Matched” by Ally Condie”

Yes, I’ve decided not to call them “book reviews” any longer.  I think it’s better for me to call them book recommendations and then only let you know about the books I would actually tell someone to read.  It’s not that there aren’t books I don’t like, I just don’t want to publicly say bad things about other authors or their work.  Heck, if I’m lucky, I might meet some of them someday.  On Goodreads, I do rate books, and some have higher ratings than others, so take that however you want.

Anyway, I have a list of about seven or eight books I’ve read and haven’t posted here.  I’m going to start today with “Matched” by Ally Condie.  Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

For Cassia, nothing is left to chance–not what she will eat, the job she will have, or the man she will marry. In Matched, the Society Officials have determined optimal outcomes for all aspects of daily life, thereby removing the “burden” of choice. When Cassia’s best friend is identified as her ideal marriage Match it confirms her belief that Society knows best, until she plugs in her Match microchip and a different boy’s face flashes on the screen. This improbable mistake sets Cassia on a dangerous path to the unthinkable–rebelling against the predetermined life Society has in store for her. As author Ally Condie’s unique dystopian Society takes chilling measures to maintain the status quo, Matched reminds readers that freedom of choice is precious, and not without sacrifice.

I really liked this book a lot.  It was written well and kept my interest.  It is very similar to “The Giver” by Lois Lowry if you’ve ever read that.  This felt very realistic, and the world was easy to get into and enjoy.  I also liked the main characters and their interactions and how they dealt with the issues that faced them.  Some really rose above and I found myself really rooting for them.  I’m excited for the second book in the series and would recommend this book to anyone who likes dystopian, and even those who don’t.

If for no other reason, read it just because the cover is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!

Strong Female Characters

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about strong female characters.  One comment was about six months ago from a beta reader who mentioned that a particular scene in my book made the female character (who had previously been so strong) seem weak.  My first reaction was:  “But, but, but…”  And then I looked at a few things.  There were some word choices in that scene that I obviously hadn’t realized were creating the wrong impression.  I changed those and it made a huge difference.

However, the actual events that played out in that scene weren’t things I wanted to change.  AND I felt they were exactly true to the character.  Yes, she’s a strong character.  Yes, she is independent and capable.  That doesn’t mean circumstances couldn’t be out of her control.  Which is exactly what is happening in that particular scene.

Which led to a few questions…  Aren’t there times when even strong characters are in over their heads?  Isn’t that when they show the most strength?  Does being strong mean you are always sure, confident, and under control?

My answer to all of those is that strength may not be just in the moment, but how you deal with that moment, what you learn from it, and how it influences future decisions.

And strength is different for different situations.  For example, in “Pride and Prejudice” Elizabeth’s strength was not going to come in fighting armed bandits.  She was confined by the world she lived in.  She had to be strong in her own circumstances.  On the other hand, a modern heroin might not have Elizabeth’s strength to make decisions even in the face of social disapproval and family concerns in a world where those were paramount.

I guess the point of all this is that your character has to be strong in their own way, in their own world, and in their own time.  As long as they’re true to who they are and act in a way that doesn’t make the reader say something like “well, she was a believable character until…”

A little bit of everything…

So this past weekend I was able to attend the LDS Storymakers writers conference.  It was really good.  I attended some interesting classes and met a lot of great people.  Here were a few of my favorite people to hear: James Dashner, Jeff Savage, Sara Megibow, and Dave Wolverton.  They all had great things to share.  James and Jeff talked about the “hook.”  It was really interesting, especially since James read his query for “The Maze Runner.”  Sara talked about the process of publishing and it was very insightful, albeit a little overwhelming when she mentioned how many rejection letters they sent out last year.  And Dave did a class on resonance.  It was fascinating and I learned a lot from his discussion.

On a completely different note, I had a beta reader who read my book who came up with the best comparison.  She said HEIR was like Shannon Hale meets Prince Caspian.  I couldn’t have said it better!!!

And finally, I think I’ve had a great idea for what I’m going to write next.  It’s a concept that’s been floating around for a while in my head, but I didn’t quite know how to add that something that would make it unique.  I hope I’ve found the answer.  It takes a dystopian theme of the characters’ reality not actually being reality and inserts magic instead of technology.  We’ll see how it turns out.  🙂

Wow I haven’t posted in a long time!!

No, I haven’t died or anything.  I’ve just been busy.  But I have a few tidbits of promising news to share.

First, a few weeks ago The Knight Agency did a contest via their blog where they were looking for new talent.  I randomly got picked as one of the 125 people who got to send 3 pages of their manuscript.  Then I got picked in the top 25.  I got to send ten pages.  Then I got picked in the top 15.  I got to send three chapters.  I did not make the top 3, but I was still very encouraged.

Second, I’ve had two full requests so far on my manuscript.  I’ve already gotten a rejection on one.  The second agent emailed me, apologized for the time it had taken, and asked if I’d found representation yet or if they could have more time.  So, there’s still hope.  And there’s still agents I haven’t heard anything from.  Fingers crossed.

Rejections…

Yes, I’ve gotten four.  I just have to keep reminding myself that that’s all right.  Every book isn’t for everyone.  If you don’t like fantasy, you probably don’t want to read my book.  If you do…well, then I hope you’ll love it.  And I have to admit, I wish I could get someone to read my whole book and then tell me they don’t want it.

Which leads to what’s worrying me lately…that my query is good, but something is missing.  I write fantasy.  Fantasy has certain themes.  Mine isn’t an exception.  Soooooo, I’m worried that my query is great at giving a synopsis about what the story is about…BUT it doesn’t adequately convey why mine is different, unique, worth reading.  I’m going to think on it some more before I send out anything else.

I’m finally done!!!

I’ve spent the last week getting my query ready.  It is possibly one of the most terrible parts of writing.  I do feel pretty good about the query I ended up with, however.  I think, after a year of trying, that I finally grasped the idea of a query.  Before I was trying to hard to put in interesting plot points and side notes, instead of just focusing on Ethan’s story, why it’s unique, and what makes him do what he does.  Hopefully it will work.

Along the same lines, I sent out my first 8 queries yesterday and I’ve already gotten two rejections.  Oh well.  That’s just the name of the game.  You can’t let it get you down.  Every book isn’t for everyone.  You have to find the agent who loves your book as much as you do.  I’m hoping with all the time, effort, writing partners, and beta readers that I’ll be able to do that.

When a scene writes itself…

So, after a few weeks of either me or one of my kids being sick, I think I’m finally going to finish the final edit.  Hooray. 

Among all the other things I’ve realized during this edit, I’d like to add one more.  One of my beta readers had made a suggestion about a particular scene.  She wanted part of it to be longer.  At first I wasn’t sure, but I think that might have been because I didn’t have a good idea of how to do what she suggested.  After thinking about it for a while, I finally had a great idea.

I started writing and it was going great.  I was feeling the characters.  I even thought of one thing to include that I think adds a little more emotion.  Strangely enough, however, hardly any of what I ended up writing was exactly how I’d planned it.  I thought things would go one direction and while the basic idea of the scene didn’t change, the direction it took to get there was completely different.  And better.

I guess the lesson is that sometimes writing just writes itself.  Now that does have a caveat:  You do have to have a general idea of where you’re headed.  But sometimes, especially after you’ve really gotten to know your characters, they have a way of telling you what they want to do instead of the other way around.