Reading Category Archive

What I learned at the SCBWI Conference

The first thing I learned was how very, very similar we all are! There are so many of us out there, taking the same journey. It was an incredible amount of fun to make new friends and meet old ones.

I stayed with my critique partner Janice Foy while in Atlanta.


A few more of the amazing people I met. Unfortunately, none of these ladies are bloggers! Get on it girls! :)

I also had the privileged of meeting Jaye and Mary Ann. It was crazy meeting people I blog and tweet with. It’s such a small world! (Hope you don’t mind I stole your picture, Jaye :)

From Kirby Larson, I learned: Don’t be afraid to take big risks. There is a certain amount of uncertainty we all must have when we’re writing and we can’t be afraid of where that might take us. Kirby was an amazing keynote speaker and this message stuck with me through the entire weekend

From picture books, I learned (from Mary Kole): -Cut what doesn’t fit in the heart of your book. This was stated for picture books since the word count is so low, but I’m finding it completely applicable for my own 80k MS. Cut what doesn’t fit.
-Never strike the reader over the head with the moral. I heard this and immediately went to cut a few paragraphs that had been bothering me. I finally figured out, they were bothering me because I was far too blunt. Delete. Delete.
-Have a rich emotional arch, emotions are the glue that hold plot together.

On Dialogue (from Kristin Daly Rens): -Edit out anything that isn’t essential to the plot. Don’t use dialogue as a crutch for info dumping, to lengthen a scene or say instead of show.
-Dialogue always needs to move the story forward in some way. It can contribute to characterization, be used as a plot device, or to set a scene, but it always must be significant.
-Don’t overuse dialogue tags (woops. Another delete. Delete. moment for me)

On the Slush Pile (from Mary Kole): -Query 10-20 agents in the 1st round. Fix anything that needs fixing and send out to another 10-20 in the second.
-Be sure to follow agencies guidelines
-Ask yourself these questions when doing your agent search: What is important to you for your relationship? Don’t just pick the first agent that offers, be sure they are the right fit for you.
-The goal of the query is to get an agent to take notice. The manuscript is infinitely more important- the query cannot break you. Use the query to get the agent to your (hopefully perfected) MS.
a)isolate your hook- it’s your selling point
b)who is your audience? Find the right comparitive titles
c) be brief and professional, have a short bio but mostly focus on the project
d)a good idea and good execution is enough
-Make the agent care
a)who is your character?
b)what is the inciting incident
c)who/what do they want most?
d)who/what is in their way? The Obstacle
e)What is at stake?

On Writing a Thriller (from Greg Ferguson): (Yep, I’m totally going to write a thriller after listening to this ;)
-Must have non-stop action, dangerous situations where the protagonist is in grave danger, hair-raising suspense and a heroic character

On the First Page: On Saturday night, Mary Kole, Greg Ferguson and Krisin Daly Rens read multiple first pages and gave their insights on if the first page worked, or not. Here’s what I learned:
-The first page must be grounded in the world
-It must have specific cues as to the world it’s in and the main character
-Do you have your opening line or a opening line?

On Plots (from Kristin Daly Rens): -The opening must grab the reader and must not let go. It must make a promise that is kept through to the end.
-Don’t do too much in the beginning. All you need is the hook to lead on.
-Introduce the MC, central conflict and know what is to come ->make that promise
-Your reader should be able to begin reading and understand what’s going on without dropping back story on them.
-Begin with action that moves the story forward with momentum and tension, but do not have action that confuses your reader.
-As you continue with your story, make every word, scene, dialogue count. Continuously up the ante. Test scenes with the question, “What purpose does this serve?”
-Make sure you keep the promise you made in the beginning scenes. Again, test each chapter and scene to see if tension is increased? How have things changed for your MC? Be ruthless :)

Massive TBR List (only titles, I haven’t looked up the authors)
I Heart Killers
Spanking Shakespeare
All Alone in the Universe
The Disenchantements
The Madman’s Daughter
Rampant
Fat Vampire
Through to You
13 Reasons Why
Bad Girls Don’t Die
Bliss
Rosebush
Blood on my Hands
Bzrk
The Butterfly Clues
Ashes
Everneath
Defiance
Dark Divine
Repossessed

p.s. I’m sorry this post took a week to get posted. It was a lot to soak in and I hope I’ve been able to pass on at least a little to you!

OPPRESSION Virtual Launch Party!!

I am suuuper excited to help launch Oppression by the incredibly sweet Jessica Therrien!

Oppression
(Children of the Gods #1)
There are others like her. 
Many of them. 
And they have been waiting for her 
…for a long time.

Elyse knows what it means to keep a secret. She’s been keeping secrets her whole life. Two, actually. First, that she ages five times slower than the average person, so that while she looks eighteen years old, she’s closer to eighty. Second, that her blood has a mysterious power to heal. For Elyse, these things don’t make her special. They make life dangerous.

After the death of her parents, she’s been careful to keep her secret as closely guarded as possible. Now, only one other person in the world knows about her age and ability. Or so she thinks.

Elyse is not the only one keeping secrets. There are others like her all over the world, descendants of the very people the Greeks considered gods. She is one of them, and they have been waiting for her for a long time. Among so many of her kind, she should not be very remarkable–except for the prophecy. Some believe she will put an end to traditions, safeguarded by violence, which have oppressed her people for centuries. Others are determined to keep her from doing just that. But for Elyse, the game is just beginning–and she’s not entirely willing to play by their rules.

Isn’t that cover gorgeous?? I’m pretty much in love with it ;) Oppression is available for only .99 for a short time, so hop on over to Amazon or Barnes & Noble to grab it up! In two weeks Jessica will stop by my blog for a fun interview. Can’t wait to have you, Jessica!

The Night Circus- Audiobook Review

  • Author: Erin Morgenstern
  • Narrator: Jim Dale
  • Listening Length:13 hours and 39 minutes
  • Program Type:Audiobook
  • Version:Unabridged
  • Publisher:Random House Audio

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

After the last disc stopped playing in my car the other night, I still had a good half hour left of my drive. All I could do was sit in silence. I had physical reactions to this book- moments where I went Ahhhh. I don’t often purchase books, but I absolutely will buy this in both audiobook and written format. 

I truly can’t put into words how much I enjoyed his book. The writing is moving, inspiring and makes me ache to write something of equal power. I am highly anticipating whatever comes next from Erin Morgenstern.

And what can I say about Jim Dale that hasn’t been said before? I found this on youtube and I honestly think I could watch him read the entire book like this. He is the master of storybook reading and I am so very glad he read The Night Circus as he has such an incredible ability to bring characters to life.

Get thee to a library (or bookstore!) and listen away to Erin Morgenstern and Jim Dale work their magic.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver- Audiobook Review

Author: Lauren Oliver
Audio Length: 11 hours and 41 min.
Release Date: 1/24/2011
Narrator: Sarah Drew
Format: Unabridged

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love — the deliria – blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love. Goodreads.

This book really goes to show me not to judge a book before I read it. I thought this premise sounded ridiculous, but boy was I wrong. This book has completely transformed my way of thinking about writing. I 100% believe Lena is a real person- though that is partly due to Sarah Drew’s narration. Lena is a lush character, filled with hopes and dreams that are in accordance with the structure of her society (where love is a disease that people are cured from at the age of 18). After she meets Alex though, she is transformed.

Usually, I’m not a big fan of love as the theme of a book. It doesn’t hook me (check out next Tuesday’s post to find out why), but Oliver made this work. Love wasn’t a goopy, silly thing. It was full of power with the ability to take the film off Lena’s eyes and shows her the truth about her world.

I doubt I can say enough about Delirium and Lauren Oliver’s writing style. She has absolutely risen my expectations for authors and for myself as a writer. If you haven’t read this book, you need to and if you have read it then please listen to it.

Drew doesn’t read like she’s reading a book (which is what I’ve found many readers do). Instead, she becomes the character and completely made me forget I was listening to a book (Jim Dale, Jesse Eisenburg style). Drew is incredible. That’s it. I will absolutely be listening to the other books she has read. Go listen. Now.

(Next week, I’ll review Wither).

Missing You- Audiobook Review

Ever since a walk home on a particularly stormy day, Jessica Mastriani has had an ability like no other. She became known worldwide as Lightning Girl a psychic who could find the location of anyone, dead or alive. Jess finally had no choice but to embrace her newfound talent, and ended up lending her skills to the U.S. government.

But her work for them has taken a terrible toll, and Jess resurfaces months later a shadow of her former self, her powers gone, Lightning Girl no more. Her only hope is starting over in a new place, a big city where nobody knows her. It’s only when Rob Wilkins unexpectedly shows up on her doorstep that she’s forced to face her past. Rob, all the way from back home, needs her help. But how can Jess, her powers gone, find anyone, let alone the sister of a man she once loved . . . when she can’t even find herself?

Missing You, the fifth and final book in the 1-800-Where-R-You series

Author: Meg Cabot
Audio Length: 5 hours and 41 min.
Release Date: 12/20/2007
Narrator: Johanna Parker

I read the 1-800-Where-R-You series in early high school but never picked up the last installment. I happened across this audiobook in the library and figured I might as well finish the series as I enjoyed the first books.

As for the book, Meg Cabot did a nice job of rounding out the series. I was a bit fuzzy on the details of earlier books as it’s been..oh…a good eight or nine years since I read them, but I didn’t feel a bit lost. This book wasn’t as action packed as the others, but I honestly didn’t miss it. It felt like a good, solid end to the series with character plots coming to a full close.

I do recommend this series for anyone who hasn’t read them. Jessica is a fabulous main character.

I’ve lived in the South for long enough now that I can easily tell the difference between a real Southern accent and one put on. Johanna Parker began reading with one of the most awful Southern accents and I knew I wouldn’t make it past the first track. Thankfully, she dropped it come the second chapter. My main qualm with her reading was this and the fact that the voices she chose for characters tended to change, specifically the one for Jessica’s mother.

I have come to fully back Sophia’s claim that actors make the best readers. For some reason, they understand that for a woman reading male dialogue, they don’t have to do a fake attempt at making their voice low, sounding like a man’s. All they need to do is read with a different voice/accent/lilt. Parker’s male voices were a tad strange-sounding, along these lines. Next week, I have a great example of a woman reader who understands this. Stay tuned!

I say, stick with this book as a read, not as a listen.

—-

I was torn between TL and Kim’s suggestions. I love push ups and have already added her suggestion into my routine and Kim went above and beyond, coming up with some great ideas. I had to let random.org choose between them and the winner of Monday’s challenge is…

KIM VAN SICKLER! Yay! Shoot me an e-mail and I’ll line you up with your winnings. Thank you everyone who participated and gave me ideas. I am much happier for them :)