Monday, October 31, 2011

Why I Love to Write Thrillers

Happy Halloween!
When I finished TRANSCEND, my YA psychological thriller, I accomplished more than finishing another novel - I found one of my favorite genres to write.

Psychological thrillers

I guess it is no surprise that I like to write stories with a strong psychological theme - stories that make you question the functioning of your own mind. But I didn't realize how much I enjoyed writing thrillers. I love leading the reader down an unreliable path - making them follow a particular lead only to find out their assumptions were wrong in the end. I love the suspense and drama involved in a good psychological thriller. And I really love crafting a believable, yet unreliable, narrator.

But what makes a good psychological thriller?

  • Suspense. 
  • A twist you don't see coming but makes total sense in the end. 
  • Strong emotions. 
  • Authentic characters.
  • An interesting plot

All of these are important elements I tried to create in TRANSCEND. I spent a lot of the revision process honing in to each of these elements and reading for that within the novel. Based on reader feedback, I think I achieved at least some of what I was going for.

My NaNo novel is another psychological thriller. And man-oh-man - I CAN'T WAIT to start!

What is your favorite genre to write? Why?

Friday, October 28, 2011

How do you prepare for NaNo?

So, here we are, three short days from the start of NaNoWriMo and I am wondering what else I should be doing to get ready? But before you rush in and answer that, let me tell you what I HAVE done to date, and what I am doing over the weekend to prepare:


  • Outlined the book - now before you get pictures of some massive document in your head, let me reel you in! My outlines are bullet points of the plot points, the characters, what happens per chapter/scene, approximate page count for each point point, any specific style elements (tense, POV, etc)
Yea, that's it.


  • Blogging for the MONTH. On both blogs - Yes, I will check them over the night before, but I know from experience this is really going to help me
  • Prep all November events - I have TONS of events this month! Having them prepared ahead of time will help keep me organized
  • Clean out email
  • Warn the family!!!
  • Illness - though we are trying to keep everyone healthy
  • Work fiasco - yea, thus are unavoidable from time to time. Best thing to do? Be FLEXIBLE
  • A change of plans due to super sekrit things I can't talk about - yea, nothing I can do about any of that too.
So, that's it...the plan to get prepared for NaNo.

What are you doing? Have I missed anything?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bookanista Books I am DYING To Read!

Time for another fabulous Bookanista Thursday! Before I get to the reviews and whatnot, I wanted to share a little news of my own. Last year I submitted a story for the DEAR BULLY anthology. Although my story was not included in the book, Harper Collins DID include it on the website as part of their weekly essays.
So go on over to DEAR BULLY to read my story, FINDING ME.

And now, the other great Bookanista reviews:
On to my Bookanista Shout out for BOOKS I AM DYING TO READ....

Our Bookanista's have been busy - really really busy - writing amazing NEW books I CAN NOT WAIT to get my hands on. So, today I thought I would share a few of them that I am really DYING to get my hands on and read:

IN HONOR by Jessi Kirby
Basic Blurb: (from Amazon)
Honor receives her brother’s last letter from Iraq three days after learning that he died, and opens it the day his fellow Marines lay the flag over his casket. Its contents are a complete shock: concert tickets to see Kyra Kelly, her favorite pop star and Finn's celebrity crush. In his letter, he jokingly charged Honor with the task of telling Kyra Kelly that he was in love with her.Grief-stricken and determined to grant Finn's last request, she rushes to leave immediately. But she only gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn's best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn't seen him in ages, thanks to a falling out between the two guys, but Rusty is much the same as Honor remembers him: arrogant, stubborn. . . and ruggedly good looking. Neither one is what the other would ever look for in a road trip partner, but the two of them set off together, on a voyage that makes sense only because it doesn’t. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn--but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?

I got to hang out with Jessi last week and here all about this book. OMGOODNESS!!!! MUST MUST MUST READ!!!

WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard
Basic Blurb: (from Amazon)
It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America--the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan's found, is to keep moving forward.
But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry into this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story.
I also hung out a bit with Kirsten. Besides the fact that she is epically FABULOUS, her next book sounds amazing - and I can not wait to see her drawings as well!

A MILLION SUNS by Beth Revis
Basic Blurb: (from Amazon)
Godspeed was fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos.

It's been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. And everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed. But there may just be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He's finally free to enact his vision - no more Phydus, no more lies.

But when Elder discovers shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a puzzle that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier, unable to fight the romance that's growing between them and the chaos that threatens to tear them apart.

In book two of the Across the Universe trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis mesmerizes us again with a brilliantly crafted mystery filled with action, suspense, romance, and deep philosophical questions. And this time it all builds to one mind-bending conclusion: They have to get off this ship.
I have heard nothing but GREAT things about this and can't wait to get my hands on it and DEVOUR it! Soon, I hope!

SURRENDER by Elana Johnson
Basic Blurb: (from Goodreads)
Forbidden love, intoxicating power, and the terror of control… 
Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi. 
All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn. Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque....

I was lucky enough to read an early draft of this and OMGoodnes....Trust me POSSESSION fans, you will NOT be disappointed! OH! And be sure to go to Elana's blog and see the actual cover

TEN by Gretchen McNeil
Yea, I couldn't find anything other than this blurb on the net -
Her second novel, TEN – YA horror/suspense about ten teens trapped on a remote island with a serial killer – also with Balzer + Bray is tentatively scheduled for a Fall 2012 release.
 Having read an early draft of this, all I can say is ...THIS IS FREAKIN AMAZING!!! I have no doubt the cover will be equally chilling!

So there you have it - some amazing reads coming soon. But not soon enough!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

WHOA! What happened to October???? (or, Man, I meant to finish that draft this month. Shoot!)

Happy Weds! Well, here we are...a mere few days from NaNo and NO! I have NOT finished drafting COLLIDE. Darn it all! I really wanted to have that done by the end of October. But, since I am only about 35% of the way through it (oh, and it IS a train wreck) it isn't going to happen.
But, never fear, I am going to finish it in December after NaNo. The truth is, I LOVE the story, so I must finish it.
On Friday I am going to talk about my NaNo plans. I am super excited for that story too.
So, to recap my plans for the end of the year:

  1. Finish COLLIDE
  2. Write NaNo novel - BEAUTIFUL MALICE
  3. Revising sekrit project. Hoping to have deets by the end of the year
  4. Yea, another sekrit project I am hoping to be able to talk about more by the end of the year.
As you can tell, I am really trying to finish strong! And I have about 12 events over the next few months too (you can check out the events page for info)! WHEW!!!

What are you plans through the end of the year???

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Spooktacular Giveaway

HAPPY ALMOST HALLOWEEN!!! I am so excited for today. From today through 10/31 I am participating in the blog giveaway hop sponsored by I Am A Reader Not A Writer and The Diary of a Bookworm. With nearly 400 blogs participating, there are literally TONS of books and bookish things being given away.

For this giveaway, I thought I'd give away some copies of my favorite creeptastic reads - 

POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil

Not sure about these books? Check out the trailers:

POSSESS Trailer -


Told ya they are fantastic!!!

Entering is easy. Just follow my blog in some way and leave a comment! Easy Peasy!!! Contest ends 10/31 as is open to the US only.

Oh! And for my fav recent find, check out my giveaway on my other blog,  An Intense Life.
For more giveaway fun, check out the other blogs participating , click over to the I'm a Reader Not a Writer blog and go crazy!

Way to have some fun...Yes???

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wherein I talk about angst and diversions....

Happy Friday! Last week was lovingly known as my week of rejections. This week - it's the week of crickets. To be honest, I am not really certain which one is harder to deal with. This week, at least, I had some amazing diversions to keep my angst under control.

First, work has been INSANE! Not fun - but it IS a diversion.
Second, Elana came for a visit. We didn't get a chance to connect until Weds, but man oh man did we have fun!

Weds was the 2-school-visits-and-a-book-signing day. Here are the pics (and yes, I got to hang with her, Jessi Kirby and Corey Whaley ALL DAY! - it was EPIC fun!)

We started the day at a Middle School, then went to a HS. My kids got to meet and talk with them - Highlight of their week!

Then we went to lunch at one of our local FABULOUS vineyards. For those who don't know this, Temecula is sort of the Napa Valley of Southern California

Then it was on to a book signing in San Diego.

On Thursday, I had to work.
But I did make it down to my fav BN in Oceanside for another event.

The highlight of the evening - dinner with 15 fabulous writerly friends. Truly a great time.

I was sad to say goodbye - but rest assured, I will see them all soon.

Man, what am I going to do for diversions next week? Oh! I start my month of too-many-events, not to mention NaNo is right around the corner. I guess I have nothing to worry about!
How do you stay busy when you are waiting, waiting, waiting???

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sara Zarr's How To Save A Life

Time for another fabulous Bookanista Thursday! Today I'm hanging out with a bunch of authors in Southern California - including two of my BFFs - to say I am PSYCHED is an understatement. Expect a tn of pictures tomorrow! But for today, check out these fabulous Bookanista reviews:
On to my Bookanista Shout out for Sara Zarr's HOW TO SAVE A LIFE

Release Date: October 18, 2011

Basic Blurb: (from Amazon)
Jill MacSweeny just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she's somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.
Mandy Kalinowski understands what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she's sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It's harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?
As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy--or as difficult--as it seems.
Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about the many roads that can lead us home.
Why I liked it: 
It is no secret that I am a huge Sara Zarr fan, so when this book came out, I had to read it. Let me assure you, it DID NOT disappoint! Sara captured both Mandy and Jiill's feelings and voice in a way that is a lesson for writers. Each voice is unique and special. I never needed to look at the chapter headings to "know" which character was speaking. The topic is a difficult one, and Sara tackled it in an authentic way that I consider both brave and heroic. This is a book NOT to be missed!

What are you reading these days? Have any MUST READS??

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's a matter of voice...

Writing a great story is more than simply putting words on paper in an interesting way. It involves the creation of characters that are three-dimensional. Characters that stay with you long after the story is finished. Through the eyes of these characters, the reader is transported in another life or another world.
But creating these types of characters can be a real challenge.
Yesterday, a friend and I were talking about just this - in fact, she is the reason I am posting today. You see, I am really into building authentic characters with authentic points of view and voice. I do this using a technique I adapted from transformation psychology - 
Developed by Hal and Sidra Stone, voice dialogue is a way of "getting in touch" with the many aspects of personality that lie within the self. In therapy, it is a way of putting to voice the dysfunctional aspects of self. Even some spiritual practices have incorporated similar techniques as a way of putting a voice those aspects of the self targeted for exploration or change.
With reference to writing, I use this voice dialogue technique to find and stay in the voice of my character throughout the writing process. 
So, what is the technique? For me it involves clearing my mind and "speaking" from the POV of each character. Try this - 
Write a letter to yourself (the author) from your character’s point of view.  This practice can unleash your subconscious creative mind and enable you to get in touch with your character more fully.  If you’re stuck in a scene, unsure of your character’s motivations, try this…ask to speak to that aspect of yourself (I know, sounds strange – but trust me, it WORKS).  For example, if your main character, is Julie, ask yourself to speak to Julie.  Tell Julie what the problem is, stay still for a minute and write.  Odds are really good that you will be able to release that creative nature again and write from that perspective.  (I have a friend that calls it channeling her characters – perfect…)
For the next couple of days, try writing from different characters’ voices in the first person.  Pick a variety of characters - the broader the variety, the better.  After doing this for a while, read what you wrote.  Does it all sound the same?  If so, you may not be speaking from the character’s voice – but from the author’s voice.  Try it again.  Eventually you will be able to completely stay in the voice of your character – regardless of POV, scene changes or plot developments.  As you master this, you will begin to create characters that leap from the page and give your story the heartbeat it needs. 
An added bonus – this technique will help you go deeper with your characters emotionally – much deeper.   
How do you find and maintain your characters' voices?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book signings and such

Hey all!

Randy Lindsay interviewed me over on his blog, asking about book signings and such - check it out here. And come back tomorrow wherein I answer a question about writing with an authentic voice.

See you then!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Wherein I Talk about Music and Inspiration

Most of you guys know that I can't write without music. But not just any music - movie soundtrack music. One of my non-writerly friends calls it my "intense" music. She always knows when I am working on a project as I only listen to specific movie soundtrack music - stuff that keeps me in my story, even when I am working or doing things unrelated to writing it. For me, doing this enables me to write the story in my head.
So, as I continue to draft my current novel, COLLIDE, I have, of course, sourced new soundtrack music that fits this story and keeps me mentally writing.

The story itself is a YA paranormal thriller. And the music I've chosen is from INCEPTION and X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. Here are a couple of snippets of the music (I am not ready to talk about the novel too much yet.)

From Inception:

From X-Men:First Class:

So, what do you guys do for inspiration????

Friday, October 14, 2011


I am so excited to be part of the Pay it Forward blogfest today. Brainchild of Matt (theqqqe blog) and Alex (Alex J Cavanaugh blog) this blogfest is a chance to find new, under appreciated blogs. Each of us was supposed to highlight three blogs we LOVE - preferably, unknown or newly discovered blogs. SWEET! I can't wait to hop around and find new places to hang out :D

For my three, I thought I'd bring three blogs I have followed for a while - ones I don't talk about often, but ones I really love reading every week:

  1. Laura Diamond at Diamond - Lucid Dreamer. Laura always has fabulous posts about her day job (psychologist) and writing, her journey in publication and her feelings about writing. She inspires and puts into words so much of the feelings about writing. GREAT JOB Laura
  2. Jen Merrill  at Laughing at Chaos. Jen predominately blogs about being the parent of gifted and 2E kids. But, I KNOW she as writing aspirations (and yes, I keep pushing her in that direction). She is easily one of the funniest writers I have EVER read. Her blogs regularly make me smile, laugh, and nod in agreement. Do yourself a favor and check her out - you WILL NOT be disappointed!
  3. Angela Brown at In Pursuit of Publishness. I have just recently started following Angela's blog, after meeting her through the Platform Building Campaign. Her posts are real, authentic, and wise. I love her thoughts about writing, her journey, and life. GREAT JOB Angela
And there you go - three of my favorite, lessor known blogs.

What are you favs?
Want more amazing blogs to follow? Just check out this list:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Bookanista Booyah for WITCH EYES

Happy Thursday. I'm excited to bring you another fabulous Bookanista debut today - Scott Tracey's WITCH EYES. But before I get to that, I need to give a quick shout out to Bookanista Stasia Ward Kehoe, whose book AUDITION is officially out TODAY! I am so excited for everyone to read it and see how amazing it is!
And now, here are the other great Bookanista reviews:
On to my Bookanista Shout out for Scott Tracey's WITCH EYES

Release Date: September 8, 2011

Basic Blurb: (from Amazon)
A boy who can see the world's secrets and unravel spells with just a glance.

Braden's witch eyes give him an enormous power. A mere look causes a kaleidoscopic explosion of emotions, memories, darkness, and magic. But this rare gift is also his biggest curse.

Compelled to learn about his shadowed past and the family he never knew, Braden is drawn to the city of Belle Dam, where he is soon caught between two feuding witch dynasties. Sworn rivals Catherine Lansing and Jason Thorpe will use anything--lies, manipulation, illusion, and even murder--to seize control of Braden's powers. To stop an ancient evil from destroying the town, Braden must master his gift, even through the shocking discovery that Jason is his father. While his feelings for an enigmatic boy named Trey grow deeper, Braden realizes a terrible truth: Trey is Catherine Lansing's son . . . and Braden may be destined to kill him.
Why I liked it: 

I've been looking forward to reading WITCH EYES ever since I first heard of the premise - a modern day paranormal, alternative version of Romeo and Juliet. Perfect. So when I finally got my hands on a copy, I devoured it in a few days.

The book did NOT disappoint. Kirkus reviews called it a "bewitching blend of paranormal romance and intrigue." Yep - it sure is. Other reviews have called it intense, beautiful, and original - also true. What I really loved was both the story and the courage Scott Tracey demonstrated in writing it! Not everyone will gravitate towards a LGBT version of anything. I so appreciate that Tracey did NOT steer clear of this topic, just because it is sensitive in some people's eyes.

I also enjoyed the writing itself. Tracey did not feel the need to throw me into constant action at every turn. He allowed me to get to know the characters through some of their every day activities, their likes and dislikes. The dialogue is smart, the pacing smooth and the story original. Way to go Scott! I hope to see more form you in the future.

What are you guys reading? Anything I need to add to my TBR pile since it is FINALLY shrinking a tad???

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Surviving the Query Process and a sneak peek at TRANSCEND

So, I've been officially querying for a month now. It really hasn't been too bad - just the normal send and wait. Send and wait. I've had requests and rejections. Gotten excited and freaked. All normal for this stage of the game.

I'm not new to this game. But, man, I DID forget how crazy it sort of makes me. And since I gave up chocolate, sugar, and alcohol, my usual treatments for the angst are out!

So, I'm finally taking my own advice and staying uber busy writing. I have two projects in the hopper at the moment - one I have outlined for NaNo, and one I am drafting right now in the hopes of finishing it by October 31. I know, CRAZY - but I am certainly giving it my best attempt (I just broke through the 10K mark!). I have progress meters on my left sidebar - so feel free to cheer me on, or kick me in the rear if I'm stalling on my progress. I can't share too much about either project just yet - suffice it to say I am sticking to the psych. thriller genre for now.

And speaking of NaNo, whose participating this year? My username is christinef (original, yes) - friend me. Gosh knows I will need ALL the encouragement I can get

Oh, one last thing this Weds - I thought I'd share a very small snippet of TRANSCEND, the book I am querying -

 Pain, blinding and hot, sears through me as my thoughts float above the scene. The air clings to me. Ash and soot choke the oxygen from my lungs. Everywhere there is nothing but darkness – an endless oblivion that envelops me and blocks out everything but the agony I can’t ignore.My thoughts are quiet, but not calm. There is a terror on the edge of the silence, a terror fed by my burning flesh and the stench of death. Time races by in a haze. Nothing exists but the raw emotions I can’t escape, battering me against the shores of unconsciousness. Until, impossibly, the silence is broken.“Ien, I’m here…I’m here.”The voice raises a familiar longing.“Please Ien. You can’t leave me. Not now.”Kiera. Her voice fills the void inside, willing me back to existence. I fight the heavy emptiness bearing down on me as I concentrate on my lungs, forcing them to respond. Every gulp of air I manage to take sets me aflame while wave upon wave of misery tears pieces of flesh from my body.

So, there you go - a hint at the story. Thoughts? And how do you survive the query game??

Monday, October 10, 2011

Kick A** Debut Author spotlight - POSSESS

Hey everyone! Happy Monday. I am so excited to be part of some serious love floating across the blogosphere today. You see, Christina Lee and others came up with a fabulous way to show those authors who debuted this year some love - an epic love-fest celebrating some amazing books. 

When she asked me whose debut I wanted to celebrate, I was torn - I mean really...there are SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM. What a fabulous thing to say - so many fabulous debuts. I really think this is the up-side to the industry's recent difficulties - we are seeing amazing books on the shelves.

Anyways, I decided to focus on one particular book that hasn't gotten near enough press in my mind, despite some amazing reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and across the web.


Yes, I featured this one as a BOOKANISTA review not too long ago. But really, I could go on and on about my love for this book. Why, you ask?


Really. There are so many books I love, but the concepts aren't new. Sure the books are beautiful, and I enjoyed every word of them. But the storyline itself is somewhat predictable. Girl has powers she doesn't know about, meets a bad boy that she falls in love with, and now must discover her own power to save the world. Sound familiar??

While some of these elements are in POSSESS, this is a true classic thriller/horror story. There are creepy scenes that will make the hair on your neck stand on end. There are twists and turns you don't fully see coming. And there is intrigue.

Such a rich combination, and something not seen in great supply on the shelves these days.

Now, I will admit that I am a psychological thriller chunky, and yes, my fav books to write are those with thriller, gothic, and horror elements. But even if I wasn't that type of reader and/or writer I would STILL love this book. It is just that fabulous to me.

So, go get it. Read it. Love it! And, a little heads up - I am giving away a copy at the end of the month as part of my Spooktacular Giveaway hop, so be sure to come back and check that out.

At the beginning of this post I said that there are TONS of us screaming shoutouts and praise for our fav books. In fact, there are more than 30 of us. Just check out this amazing list:

Rachele raves about IMAGINARY GIRLS
Susan is featuring RIP TIDE
Matt loves SOLSTICE
Nicole wants to tell you about POSSESSION
Janet tells why she loves LIAR SOCIETY
Sheri  admires IRON WITCH
Jen would like to tell you about WITHER
Shannon celebrates DARK PARTIES
Michelle tells you about SHIFTING
Stina  gives you a taste of BAD TASTE IN BOYS
Jessie spotlights SPELLBOUND and BIRTHRIGHT
Willow admires DESTINED
Kristin really really likes CLARITY
Anne features READY PLAYER ONE
Meredith wants to shout about DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE
Amy Rose loves THE NEAR WITCH
Theresa  talks about DIVERGENT
Kelly focuses in on EARTHLING HERO and A SCARY GOOD BOOK
Christine gears you up for THE LIPSTICK LAWS
Laura  is wild about GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS
Ali  has plenty to say about POSSESSION
Patti tells you about HEREAFTER

Go show some love and check out these fabulous debuts!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Birthday Blog Chain and a CONTEST!

It's Blog Chain time again, and this time the topic comes from Sarah Bromley, who asked the following:

Do you work with critique partners? How did you find your crit pals, and what influence have they had on your work?

OOhh....I LOVE this question. Having just finished TRANSCEND and whatnot, the timing for it is perfect.

My very first CP was Elana Johnson. She and I met on the QT forum, where I had posted my first query letter for my gosh awful novel. Elana reached out to me to not only help with that letter, but just offer help in general. In a moment of audacious bravery, I asked if she would like to read my first novel and give me her opinion. She did something better - she asked if I wanted to join her in a crit group. Um...DUH! Of course I want to join her. That was more than two years ago and we have read for each other ever since.

Elana has been my best teacher in the art of writing. She has guided me to look at my writing in different ways. She is a tough and sometimes brutally honest CP - perfect for teaching me about both writing and criting. Having the opportunity to crit her work has taught me a lot as well, and influenced some of the story decisions I make when crafting my stories. On an interesting note, she and I approach writing in polar opposite ways - I am definitely a plotter and she is a pantser through and through.

My next CP was also found through QT and the crit group Elana formed - and that is Michelle McLean. Michelle and I became instant friends as we started working together. She has a keen eye for all things grammar - something that I feel is a weak strength of mine. She is also a romantic and can always point out where my romance fails or is swoon worthy!

Michelle and I used to be agent mates, both of us working on NF projects as well as our fiction endeavors. She is the sole person to crit my NF proposals and manuscripts. She has a great understanding of what I am trying to accomplish in nonfiction and does a great job of keeping me on message.

Danyelle Leafty and Ali Cross are my newest CPs. I met both through Elana and the interwebz. Both of these individuals have acted as my cheerleaders, fabulous CPs that are brutally honest and give both positive and negative feedback. With them, I get a sounding board for my often out-of-the-box structure ideas, my bizarre storyline things and my complex (sometimes too complex) ideas. I really can't image crafting a story without them.

Like those who answered this question before me, I have had many other readers (beta readers) of my various works, giving me guidance along the way. And this post would not be complete without a quick shout out to the following people who gave me encouragement, guidance, and some fabulous feedback on TRANSCEND. I wouldn't have the book I have without the above CPs and these guys:

  • Gretchen McNeil - you got the story before anyone else. THANKS for being someone I could brainstorm with and guiding me on this project
  • Sarah Bromley - your insight on the genre was helpful in a way I will never be able to thank you for!
  • Amanda Bonilla - your early encouragement really kept me from quiting.
  • Heather McCorkle - you have been an ideal cheerleader - something I am certain I am taking advantage of ;)
  • LK Gardner-Griffie - What a great eye you have for my incessant repetitions, not to mention places where I needed a bit "more". Thanks!
Well, there you go - my CPs and some extras! I just <3 these guys and all they've helped me accomplish over the years. No matter what happens with this round of querying, I know I have a good novel because of the gifts these peeps have given me!

And now - as the title for this suggests, I am celebrating my birthday today. And as is my tradition, I like to give to others on this day. At work, that means I am throwing a party for my group of children I work with. For my writing life, that means a contest.


And since we are talking about CPs, I thought I'd give a 10 page crit to a random commenter. Nice??? Hope so - hope you all aren't thinking "Um, whatever! No thank you!"

Just follow the blog and leave a comment. I will randomly draw a name tomorrow.


Who are your CPs? For more fab CP posts, checkout Jon's post before me and  Abby's post tomorrow.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Showing Some Love For AUDITION!

Time for another fabulous Bookanista Thursday! I'm so excited to talk about fellow Bookanista's book AUDITION, but before I get to that - 

A quick moment to mourn the loss of a true visionary - Steve Jobs. One of the best quotes from him:
"Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

On to the great Bookanista reviews this week:
And my Bookanista Shout-out for our very own Stasia Ward Kehoe and AUDITION

Release Date: October 13, 2011

Basic Blurb: (from Amazon)
When high school junior Sara wins a coveted scholarship to study ballet, she must sacrifice everything for her new life as a professional dancer-in-training. Living in a strange city with a host family, she's deeply lonely-until she falls into the arms of Remington, a choreographer in his early twenties. At first, she loves being Rem's muse, but as she discovers a surprising passion for writing, she begins to question whether she's chosen the right path. Is Rem using her, or is it the other way around? And is dancing still her dream, or does she need something more? This debut novel in verse is as intense and romantic as it is eloquent.
Why I liked it: 

Let me start by saying that I was a theater/dance minor in school. And while my background was in dance and choreography, I was NOT destined to be a ballerina. My knees and ankles prevented that. But man, I sure wanted to have a future in dance. So when I picked up AUDITION, I was beyond excited to inhale every delightful word.

Let me tell you - I was NOT disappointed. The story was fantastic, discussing all of the realities of the dance world, as well as the coming to age story that unfolds through Stasia's eloquent verse. Yes, that's right, the story is in verse. And let me tell you - it was MEANT to be in verse. I can't image the story being told any of way.

This is a story filled with full, authentic characters (you know how much I crave that in my books), a rich storyline, and wrapped together in language that is nothing short of beautiful. Definitely a MUST READ!!!

Well done, Stasia! This is definitely a book not to be missed.

What are you reading these days???

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The anatomy of a short synopsis

So...I spent Monday writing a synopsis. I used to love them. But, I am out of practice. So I went through all of my previous synopses and notes on writing them and ventured back into the land of few words. 

And then I wrote this post, just so I would remember how to do this next time.

See, for me, writing a synopsis can seem a daunting task - more so now that editors and agents are asking for shorter and shorter ones. I mean, just how do you take your 70K novel and shrink it into something around 500 words?

It starts with taking a close look at your story arc and your tag line. Yep, that’s right – you need to know your plot!

For me, I find it easiest to use a similar plot structure to our friends in screenwriting. By boiling your story down to 5 or 6 stages, with transitions, you will be able to not only write a concise synopsis, but see any plot holes as well.

Here are the typical stages and transitions I use when developing a story. The labels are called different things, maybe - but the basic flow is the same:

  • STAGE 1: Opening set up – Here the MC and his “normal world” is introduced
    • Transition #1: Initial Challenge or Problem – this is the problem the MC must solve

  • STAGE 2: New Scenario  - A new situation or scenario is developed as a direct result of the MCs choices regarding the initial challenge
    • Transition #2: Mini Crisis – this is the event that changes the initial goal of the MC and sets them on a new path

  • STAGE 3: Edge of Adventure – The MC is working to achieve his goal
    • Transition #3: Point of No Return – the MC fully commits to the new goal

  • STAGE 4: Complications – The MC is tested and the stakes are raised as complications arise, blocking the MC and his goal
    • Transition #4 – Despair – The MC is ready to give-up

  • STAGE 5: Transformation – The MC pulls himself together in order to make a final push towards his goal
    • Transition #5 – Climax – The MC faces the final obstacle to achieving his goal

  • STAGE 6: Resolution – The final outcome is revealed

To write your synopsis, write a sentence or two for each of the stages and transitions outlined above. Start with your long-line or elevator pitch and go from there, carefully addressing each stage. Kept the voice active throughout the synopsis and be careful about overwritten phrasing. You want to keep the synopsis functional. Finally, be sure to tell the entire story – there are typically no cliff-hangers when writing a synopsis.

As I mentioned earlier, reducing your story to a 500-world summary of the major plot stages serves to illuminate any holes in your storyline. For that reason, I like to write the synopsis out at the start of the writing process – just to make sure I have a well-crafted storyline. What do you think?

Happy writing!

Monday, October 3, 2011

October Happenings...

I can't believe it's October already. With the start of the month, comes the start of my 2 mos version of NaNo - trying to write TWO novels over the next TWO months. Yes, I am insane, I know. But I am tackling this and seeing what I can do.

In preparation for this week, I spent last week doing some plotting on both stories - I figured out the major plot pieces, characters, and even most of the scenes. And I started some writing. I didn't quite reach my goals, but I did get close.

I have decided to post my daily goals and actual progress on my side bar (goal/actual) - just to keep me on track. And I have also decided to schedule my blogging in a slightly different way. I will still be posting on M, W, Th, and F - but with the following features:

  • Mon - Writing craft or other relevant topics
  • Weds - YAtopia's I LOVE DARK YA blogfest (for Nov.) - otherwise WIP updates
  • Thurs - Bookanista
  • Fri - Just like Monday.
The schedule will get a little mixed up with Blog Chain posts, etc. But you get the idea. I may also be a little absent on the interwebz. I promise I'm not really gone - I'm just trying really hard to stay focused on get these books drafted.

Do you have some lofty goals for the rest of the year? What are they? Let's see if we can help each other along.

OH! One last thing - The winner of the arc of The White Assassin was ANGELA BROWN. WOOT!!!! Congrats!