Monday, December 13, 2010

Writer's Block Survival

It's any writer's worst nightmare and whoever says they've never had it is lying. It's writer's block; that wall of non-inspiration, the chasm of blank thoughts, and when you're trying to write a first draft of stories, novel, or any type of writing, every writer dreads hitting the block. But fear not my faithful reader, there is a way to defeat the dreaded writer's block.

Firstly, the best way to prevent it is to prepare. Have an idea of what you want to happen before you pick up a pencil (or pen or keyboard, whichever you prefer). This will make the writing process go much smoother and writer's block is less likely to occur as you already now what is going to happen.

If writer's block still occurs, take a moment to pause. Think about where you are in your writing and think "what if." Using the "what if" method gets your creative mind thinking about different story plots and opens up possibilities. You then have several answers for "what happens next."

If the "what if" method fails and you still are starved of inspiration, take a deep, deep, breath. Stop whatever you are doing. Turn off the music, the TV, or whatever else is going on, lean back and just relax for a minute in the silence. Clear your mind. If you really need to, walk away from it for a minute and let your mind focus on something else. That usually allows inspiration to flow more freely.

If writer's block still persists, watch a movie and try again in the morning.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Don't Take It Personally

I learned an important lesson on writing last week. If someone or some people don't like what you write, don't take it personally. About 99.95% of the time, the reason they might not like your writing is simply preference, not the level of writing skill. Different people like different things; just because a couple people don't like doesn't mean others won't either.

For example: at the last meeting of my school's writing club (Writer's Guild) a friend of mine and I decided we wanted to have a poem war. We both submitted a poem, anonymously to ensure an unbiased vote, and had them read to the group. Then they voted. My friend's poem won 4 to 1. We talked about it today a little and she said that she was surprised she won because she thought mine was so much better, yet I thought she did better. We're both equally good writers, a vote doesn't make one better than the other.

Yeah, so I lost. Who cares? It's all about preference, not skill. Even if you fidn people that don't like your writing, there's always that one that does.

Unfortunately, that last 0.05% is skill, but keep practicing and that percentage will vanish.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Origianl Who-Dun-It

I can pretty much guarantee that most of you have never heard of Wilkie Collin's "The Moonstone" before. That's okay. I hadn't until I saw it on a table in a bookstore. What sets this book apart from others is that this is the original who-dun-it. Literally.

"The Moonstone" was first published in 1868, making it the first mystery to be written in the English language as well as the model for mystery novels that were to follow. Think of your cliche mystery novel scenarios: someone is murdered, someone is missing, something valuable has been stolen. Yep, it's all here.

"The Moonstone" is the story of a legendary Indian diamond called The Moonstone. The night it is given to a colonel's niece for her birthday, it mysteriously disappears from the drawer she kept it in, the only clue being a smear in the fresh paint on the walls of her bedroom. In one novel there is theft, murder, romance, and death by quicksand. There isn't anything like this anywhere else.

I have read a lot of mystery books and none of them have been quite like "The Moonstone." Arthur Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" is one of the most famous mystery novel series, but even the cases of the ingenious sleuth do not seem quite as suspenseful as the case of the missing Moonstone.

So who stole the diamond? Read for yourself. I'm not telling.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Not Just Summer Reading

I can guarantee you that anytime between June and mid September you can go into any Barnes&Noble or Borders and there will be a table piled high with different books with a sign that says "Summer Reading". Okay. No problem there, but what about the other three seasons? Do people just suddenly stop reading as soon as the weather turns cold and not pick up a book until summer starts again? I thought not.

While summer is a great time for reading, it's not the only great time. Autumn is cool and rainy. Rainy days are fantastic reading days. When winter comes around, it brings perfect reading weather with it. On a cold December day there's nothing I like more than curling up with a blanket, a cup of apple cider, a dog, and a good book. The dog is optional.

Autumn has just arrived. The weather is already turning cold. The rain has started to come. Time to find a cozy chair, a warm blanket, and that book you've been wanting to read for a while.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Love Your Editors and Betas

I can honestly say from experience that writing a novel is easiest the first time. It's mainly just laying out ideas- somewhat organized- on paper. It's most painful the second time. When faced with the mind-twisting pain of editing and rewriting, editors and beta readers are some heavy duty aspirin.

Before you start saying that no one has the right to mess with your writing, just let me give my sermon. Editors and betas provide that much needed "outside voice" that provides an opinion of your writing other than what you think of it. They suggest what may need to be changed, adjusted, or just plain deleted.

No protesting, I'm not done yet.

They also spot grammatical errors and if you hate having to worry about grammar as much as I do, this is a blessing. No one's grammar is perfect and no one knows how to spell every single word in the English language. When an author reads their own writing again, if they don't read carefully they can easily miss misspelled words since their brains know what it is supposed to be and will read it as that.

And then there's the all important "eye-opener" factor. What we may see as perfection can be far from it. Before you start prepping the army for retaliation, think about what they say. The best editor is the one that will not tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear. This is the reason I'm so thankful for Mary, who upon reading the first chapter of my novel told me that while I had a good hook to keep readers for the next chapter, the start of the chapter was boring and made my character seem boring too. I looked back over my first chapter and rewrote most of it. I'm glad I did. The next time Mary read it she said that it was much better and she found my character much more interesting. Your characters are always interesting, it's just how you write them. Remember, criticism is a ladder disguised as an anchor.

So remember, show some love to your editors and beta readers. They don't want to see you fail, that's why they can be harsh, but being harsh means they care. The next time someone tells you something needs improvement, don't just ignore it. Their suggestion may be the factor that gets you published.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lisa Mangum and the Hourglass Door Trilogy

Hello again! Sorry I haven't posted lately, but school started and things got hectic again. Not to worry, I still have room in my high school life for books, writing, writing books, and meeting authors. Which brings us to the main story...

Saturday the 11th, Lisa Mangum, author of The Hourglass Door and The Golden Spiral, was at Barnes and Noble at Sugar House for a book signing. The signing didn't start until three, but me being the hyper, super-prepared, book lover that I am was there an hour in advance-- that's right, you heard me-- wandering around until she arrived. Lisa was one of the authors that attended my teen writer's conference at the beginnng of the summer. I spent some time talking to her then and I was excited to get to see her again. The coolest part was that she actually remembered me. (She remembered me! Me!!) She asked how my writing was coming and told me about an upcoming writer and reader seminar at UVU.
If you've never read The Hourglass Door or The Golden Spiral before, you should really look into it. They're fantastic books. The third in the trilogy, The Forgotten Locket, will come out next summer.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Guess That Character 2.0

I was inspired by the post Mary did a couple days ago about reading the blurb about a character with no physical description and then guessing what they looked like so I decided to try it with one of my own characters. I chose to do Philippe because I haven't talked about him too much and it'll be harder to guess what he looks like. (whereas with Del I've given a full description on an earlier post) Give it you best shot. (by the way, this little segment isn't part of my book.)

Philippe turned a page of his book, yawning into his hand. He glanced at the dying fire, which was simmering in slowly fading embers. He closed the volume in his lap and set in on the side table. He stretched his legs, curling and uncurling his stiff toes. The calm was broken by a nasally snore. He turned. Del was asleep in her hammock. He smiled, stood, and picked up his candlestick. Journeying passed Del to the stairs, he slowly made his way up to the second floor. He gently pushed open the first door he came to. Sophia was curled up under the covers, her breath blowing a tress of hair back and forth. He smiled and shut the door again.
Downstairs, he opened the front door and stood watching the new snow drift down from the black sky. He shivered once and shut the door. Blowing out the candle with a soft breath, he reached for the cold doorknob of his private quarters. He turned to the quiet inn.
"Good night girls," he whispered. "Sweet dreams."
He closed the door and slumber settled in.

So? What does Philippe look like? Guess as much as you can or want to. Extra credit for guessing his age. Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Calming Effects of Short Stories

You know, now that I'm done writing my novel, I've noticed something. I'm bored. My mind is lacking that wonderful exhilaration I get when I write and now that its dulled, the insanity is starting to bubble up again. And its not the good kind of crazy either. I've been trying to find ways to bring the sensation back, but my little sister's chocolate chip cookies and "Home Improvement" reruns aren't helping. They're still nice though.
You know what does help? The only cure for lack-of-writing syndrome is more writing. But what do you do if you need to write, but don't want to spend all the time and effort required for a novel? Just need a daily fix of writer high? I have two words for you my friend. Short stories.
Short Story writing is becoming a lost art. All writers nowadays seem preoccupied with full fledged novels that they forget the joy and calming effects of just sitting down and writing a short story in an afternoon. It's great for that between books feeling too. It allows a writer to extend the adventures of their characters without the need of a 300 page novel. I've found my own characters, Sophia, Del, and Philippe, live on in short stories like "The Orphanage Trick" and "Del's Somewhat Brilliant Plan." I can also explore the world of Queen Angeline and her shape shifting servant Taiga in "Catacombs Under the Castle" or spend an evening in The Loft with Tara and her friends in "Bohemian Alley."
Writing short stories is the perfect cure for whatever ails writers. It relaxes the mind and calms the body, leaving you ready to take on whatever life throws at you. And you don't even need a prescription. Let's see a doctor do that.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book Selling Evolution

I've been noticing something. The 21st century is catching up to the noble art of book selling. It's no longer necessary to go to a bookstore and stroll through isles of shelves looking for books. Now all that is required to buy a book is to go online and scroll through Internet pages with images of the covers and summaries, sometimes even using a search feature to find a book instantly. You don't even need a book to read a book anymore. eBooks are becoming more and more common, but they're not actual books. They're screens with pixels.

Book selling is changing rapidly. The way of computers and electronics may seem all fine and dandy, but it's not the same as traditional book selling. When shopping for books online, it's just not the same as pushing my way through the door of my favorite little bookshop, being greeted by the smell of paper, smiling and waving to the clerk (who knows my face from all the times I've been in there) browsing through the piles of books for what I intentionally came in for and maybe even finding something I wasn't looking for. You can't do that online. Online you can't take a book in your hands, feeling the pages with you fingertips, and flip through letting your eyes lap at stray words. eBooks are not different. With an eBook, you can't feel the warm spine against your hands as you open it, you can't feel the breeze of fluttering pages. They take away the pleasure of a book; of opening a book to find that it smells just like the Brooklyn bookshop described in the story. eBooks just don't have the same life as actual books, the same soul. You may not have known this, but all books smell different. Old books smell different than new books, hardbacks smell different than paperbacks, books about pirates smell different than books about dragons. eBooks... last time I checked technology didn't smell so good.

How many of you just sniffed some part of your computer?

See? I told you.

Books are books, computers are computers. Please leave the two worlds separate.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pause the Chaos for Just One Second!

I'm sorry I haven't updated in a while, life's a little chaotic right now. Between my two jobs and my work on the editing of my novel, I barely have any time to breathe. Luckily, I have found one second of free time, as today is my day off. Time to catch up.

Jessica at Jordon
This was something I meant to post a couple weeks ago, but if I barely had time to breathe, I most certainly was going to have a hard time finding an opportunity to blog. On Friday, June 18th I went to a reading and book signing of "Princess of Glass" at Jordon Landing. As Jessica Day George is one of my all time favorite authors, needless to say I was spastic with excitement for the next few days after finding out about the reading. It died down then flared back up as the date approached. And lasted for several days afterward. It was great to meet my favorite author, to get a few questions answered, and to hear about upcoming projects. I feel "in the loop" now.

In other news...

Novel Repairs
Oh, boy. Just for the record, I really hate editing my own stuff with a passion like none other, but I'm just a poor zoo gift shop cashier/janitor and I can't afford to have a professional do it. Luckily for me, my new CD of solo Native American flute is helping to keep me calm and in the zone.d While there are moments I doubt my own abilities when I come across lines I like then, but loath now it also makes me feel better when I read lines that are really good and there's that moment of "Whoa, I wrote that." The good news is that all the editing is done now and the changes are in the computer. I can be happy again! Don't take my ranting of editing the wrong way, doing edits yourself is a good thing because you come across things that you may want to reword or something you forgot to add that you wanted to. To some it all up, that light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer by the minute. To all you writers in progress out there, keep going and you'll accomplish great things. I wish only the best for you.

And there you go. You're all caught up. I'll try to post more often in the future. Until then, happy writing!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Princess of Glass

Synopsis: Having once been cursed to dance every night with her sisters, Princess Poppy has vowed never again to put on a pair of dancing slippers. Which is why she's reluctant to participate in the royal exchange program that her father and some of the neighboring kings have cooked up. Life in far-off Breton isn't so bad, not when there's money to be won playing cards and a handsome prince promising friendship... and maybe something more. But when a hapless servant named Eleanora enters the picture and sets her sights on the prince, too, which girl will win his heart? And who is behind the magnificent gowns and slippers that penniless Eleanora has been wearing to the balls? Only Princess Poppy can see through the magic that holds the rest of the kingdom in a spell. And having fought against one curse before, she's just the girl to take on another!

My Thoughts: It's a new twist on a classic fairy tale. It's romantic, fun, and magical, bound to make every part of you smile. This is one of those books that you are going to stay up into the late hours of the night reading. Yeah, it's that good. Another masterpiece; on a scale from 1 to 10, it's a 15.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Teen Writer's Conference 2010

Hello, hello, hello! I hope your summer has been off to a great start. Mine certainly has. Saturday was the second annual Teen Writer's Conference and I'm so, so, SO glad I got to go. The moment I walked in it was like I had entered a writer sanctuary. 'There were teen writers all around and of course there were books. And authors, lots and lots of authors, Karen E. Hoover ("The Sapphire Flute"), Lisa Mangum ("The Hourglass Door"), Dan Wells ("I Am Not a Serial Killer"), and Julie Wright ("My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life") just to name a few.
I took Karen's morning class about getting ideas and it totally rocked. I will be reviewing her book on her later. During the lunch break I got to hang out with Lisa Mangum and a few other young, aspiring writers in what came to be called "The Circle of Cool." She is sooooo nice and funny and awesome, I'm so excited to read her book (which I will be reviewing as well). And then I had a fan-girl moment when I looked up during my editing to see that it was Bron Bahlmann ("Bone Warriors") I had sat next to. After lunch there were more classes to partake in, including one about preparing to submit to publishers, followed by the question and answer session. And then the most anticipated part of the entire conference-- the announcement of the contest winners. Just like last year they had seven places, but there was a slight change in the scoring scheme and because of that three people tied for first and four tied for second. Unfortunately, I didn't win anything this year. The first place winners all had 87, second place all had 86. I got an 85. I was off by one point. One. Stinking. Point.
Don't get confused, I wasn't too disappointed and for one main reason. We got to see our score sheets this year. The judges for the competition were published authors. Down at the bottom of each of the three score sheets was a space for comments. I had comments like: "Awesome! Would love to read this as a book!" "This piece totally rocked. I would DEFINITELY keep reading!" and "Loved the beginning of this piece. I would definitely want to keep reading. Well done!" Published authors, published, in print, go-buy-their-books-at-bookstores authors were saying this about my stuff. How cool is that!!!!! Overall, a very productive day and I can't wait for next year.
Be sure to keep an eye out for my review of "Princess of Glass."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tawnni's Bookshelf 2

Howdy folks! I'm back with more of my favorites to share with you. Let's start things off with an old classic that's very dear to my heart.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas- D'Artagnan came to Paris to be a Musketeer. While in Paris, he falls in the "three inseparables" Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. Together, they attempt to stop the villainous cardinal from advancing his own power.

To Catch a Pirate by Jade Parker- After the gold on her father's ship is stolen by the ruthless pirate Crimson Kelly, Annalisa Towsend will stop at nothing to get it back and clear her father's name. When she comes across James Sterling, a castoff pirate from Crimson Kelly's ship, she decides to use him to get the gold back, but can she really trust a pirate?

Pillage by Obert Skye- Beck Philips has just moved his with his crazy uncle. Soon after, he finds a hidden conservatory behind his uncle's mansion and a hidden basement containing a record of a family line that learned to raise dragons to pillage towns. Maybe his uncle's not so crazy after all.

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George- Creel's aunt decided to give her to the local dragon in hopes a handsome prince would rescue her. However, Creel talked her way out of the clutches of one dragon, even getting pair of slippers in the deal. Unfortunately, she finds her way into the lair of another dragon. And what's the deal with everyone being worked up about those slippers? (by the way, if you read this one, you're going to have to read the sequels.)

Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge- Mosca had to get out of her little town and Mr. Eponymous Clent is the perfect ticket to do so. It's not long before she realizes that Mr. Clent is not what he says. Now the two of them take off on an adventure to learn the mystery behind a floating school and an illegal printing press.

The Secret of Castle Cant by K. P. Bath- Lucy was maidservant to the Baron of Cant's daughter. Outside the castle, the chewing gum rebellion was at hand. Things only seem to worsen after the Baron dies of sickness and some claim that his daughter isn't the actual heir to the barony.

Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians by Mark Twain and Lee Nelson- In the novel that Twain never finished and Nelson did, Tom and Huck travel west to rescue two girls that were kidnapped by Indians. During their travels, they encounter the army, a Mormon wagon train, friendly Ute Indians, and trappers in a journey that takes Huck from Missouri all the way to California.

The Moor by Laurie R. King- In this more recent addition to my collection, we return to the scene set in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Hound of the Baskervilles." There have been recent reports of a ghastly carriage riding along the moor at night with a spectral hound running ahead of it. Now a local is missing. Sherlock Holmes thinks there's something going on. With his trusted partner and wife, Mary Russell, at his side they return to the moor to solve the mystery once and for all.

There you are. I've made my recommendations for summer reading. I hope you find one you love. I'm usually the one giving the suggestions, but do you have any suggestions for me? What are some of your favorite books?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Big Days Ahead

A couple of big days are coming up for me. Pegasus 2010, my school's literary magazine, comes out this Thursday, featuring two of my poems (The Jester King's Court and Open Eyes). There will be a reading after school that day and I'm super excited. June 5th is the annual Teen Writer's Conference in Ogden. Once again they're doing their writing contest and I'm entered in it. I came in 2nd last year and I'm eager to see how I do this year.

As for the editing of my novel, I've moved on to doing little nit picky edits, change a word here, reword a sentence there, add a paragraph over there. Unfortunately, the end of the tunnel is far away, but progress is progress no matter what speed.

And one more thing before I forget, Jessica Day George's new book "Princess of Glass" comes out on the 25th, that's only 8 short days away. She's amazing and you will absolutely adore her books. If you haven't read any of them before, there's still time before the 25th. You'll love 'em, I guarantee it.

Okay, that's all. Happy Writing!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Poetry for Non-poets

I don't know how many of you out there are like me and enjoy writing poetry in your spare time, but it's always a fun thing to try.
You don't want to make poetry writing too over complicated because then it would be work, not poetry. Which brings us to tip #1- keep it simple. Poetry doesn't have to be long and complex; sometimes short and simple gets the job done better. Don't over think things, just let it flow.

Tip #2- Style
The style is completely up to you. If you want it to rhyme, it can rhyme, but if you don't want it to, it doesn't have to. Just choose the length of stanzas you want to let the ideas come. It doesn't matter is the poem is serious or not. Silly poems are always fun to read. Your poetry should reflect your own personal style.

Tip#3- Inspiration
If you don't know what to right about, think about what inspires you in other parts of life. Whether it's nature, your family, those defining moments in life, or whatever it may be, odds are it will inspire your poetry too.

Rhythm is always a great thing to add to poetry. It makes it more fun to read aloud and it can contribute greatly to the poem. Take Edgar Allan Poe's "The Bells." This poem has a certain rhythm that almost sounds like bells. Rhythm, it's a fun little thing, go wild with it.

Tip#5- Word Choice
One small caution: be careful not to use the same word(s) over and over again. It makes a poem sound too repetitive. The only exception to this rule is when you are using parallelism, a method of using a similar, repeating style or phrase in a poem, but only during this.

To be honest, there really is no right or wrong way to right a poem. I probably should have said that at the beginning. It would you saved you a lot of reading and me a lot of writing. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The 13th Reality Book 3

If you've never read any of James Dashner's books before, I highly suggest starting, they're fantastic. The latest is Book 3 of "The 13th Reality" series "The Blade of Shattered Hope"

Synopsis: Things have chabged for Atticus Higginbottom. After the near catastrophe in the Fourth Reality, Tick is being homeschooled in the fields of science, trying to master the mysterious Chi'karda-- and learning how to control his growing power. But just as he begins to make progress, Mistress Jane reappears, now hideously scarred and much more powerful. She has tapped into the universe's dark secret to create the Blade of Shattered Hope, a weapon that could shatter reality itself if not used properly. In her quest to attain a Utopian Reality for the future of mankind, she ready to risk billions of lives-- including those of Tick's parents and sisters-- to set her plan in motion. Her vengeance knows no bounds and when rumors begin to circulate about the secret scientific experiments taking place at the Factory, Tick and his friends--Sato, Sofia, and Paul-- are faced with their most dangerous task yet. And they must not fail; the entire universe could cease to exist.

My thoughts: Firstly, before you read this, you need to read the first two books ("The Journal of Curious Letters" and "The Hunt for Dark Infinity") or there will be some things in this one you won't understand. Secondly, I'm crazy about this book and the series. It's fun, creative, and adventurous. It's one of those books where you keep saying "Just one more chapter" until you eventually run out of chapters. Dashner is quickly becoming a master of fantasy. I really recommend reading some of his stuff. I know you'll love them. Book 4 is coming 2011. I can't wait. No, really, I can't, the excitement is killing me.

One litte reminder, Jessica Day George's new book "Princess of Glass" comes out May 25th. Check it out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Synopsis: Aliens have attacked Earth twice and almost destroyed the human spiecies. To make sure that humans win the next encounter, the world government has taken to breeding military geniuses- and training them in the arts of war... The early training, not surprisingly, takes the form of 'games'... Ender Wiggin is a genius among geniuses; he wins all the games... He is smart enough to know that time is running out. But is he smart enough to save the planet?

My Thoughts: Things are a little confusing at the start, but start to clear up the further along you go. I found this book to be really futuristic and it takes a second of thinking to figure out what some things are refering to. Overall, I thought it was interesting. I usually don't read science fiction or things with aliens and such, but this one wasn't a waste of time.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pegasus 2010

And no, I don't mean the winged horse of Greek mythology. "Pegasus" is the yearly literary magazine at my high school. It's published at the end of the year and features the school's best young writers and artists. I submitted three of my poems, two of which got in. Of my three, "The Jester King's Court" and "Open Eyes" got in. "To: You From: Me" wasn't as lucky. Here are this year's winners:

The Jester King's Court

The time is now, come gather around
The fire's high, the sun's gone down
Friend and poet, come make anew
Gypsy, drummer, and lute player too
The blood red flames are dancing high
Kissing excitedly at the star draped sky
And close by, within the fire's hypnotic light
A bold and roaming passion is sweeping the night
Gypsies dance and singers sing
All performing for the Jester King
And joining in, drummer pound
Onlookers tap their feet upon the ground
The rhythm grows and oh so fast
As if bleeding into the future and past
Guitars and lutes all start to strum
From somewhere off, the mountains hum
The skies whisper encouraging chants
And swifter the gypsies start to dance
Distant bells are softly swelling
We storytellers are storytelling
The night goes on, but we never slow
The pulsing music seems to flow
The time is now, come gather around
The fire's high, the sun's gone down
This is no place of challenge or sport
Only music and merriment in the Jester King's court

And "Open Eyes" goes:

Come dawn, the world awakes
And all begin to rise
Tis beauty at waking
That paints the azure skies
Flowers emerge from leafy shells
Evergreens seem to raise their heads
Mountains yawn, the breeze is sweet
And songbirds stir from treetop beds
The beauty of a summer day
When all is quiet and still
With leaves of green and whispering streams
The peaceful times do fill
The days grow short and cold
Green trees lit aflame
Winds blowing through red and gold treetops
Seemingly whisper some forgotten name
Snow covered mountains
And valleys painted white
Tis the beauty of deep winter
That grades both calm day an night
A rose wilted in the garden
Succumbing to November frost
Tis beauty in death
When life, not in vain, is lost
There is beauty in gloom
Though somewhat harder to find
And hearts and eyes that diligently search
Discover such beauty, refined.
There is beauty in a child's laugh
And in an infant's smile
There is beauty in the forest grove
Where you stop to rest a while
Many see the world through closed eyes
And settle for only this
Never stopping and wondering
The beauty that they miss
Open eyes see far more than they that hardly see at all
Open eyes know the beauty
From watching sun and stars rise and fall
Come see the flowers, trees, and streams
And soft clear springtime skies
Come see the beauty of the world
And see it with open eyes

Pegasus comes out May 20th and I'm so excited. One little reminder to look for my review of "Ender's Game". (As soon as I finish reading it.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

You're gonna survive editing

Ah, editing. A time of rethinking, redoing, second guessing, and, of course, the occational mental breakdown. Yes, there's nothing like reading something you wrote several months ago (sometimes longer) and saying "Did I seriously write that?!" Editing to some, myself included, is a long and annoying process, but it must be done. You can do it yourself, have a trusted friend do it, or hire a professional editor. A few tips for you do-it-yourself types:

-Be sure to keep an eye out for types. Read slowly since they can be easily passed over.

-Get more than one opinion. Just because you think something is fine or needs to be redone doesn't mean others will have the same point of view.

-Find ways to cope with the stress of reading and rereading. Take part in stress relieving activies between editing sessions.

-Don't be afraid to stop, step away from the red pen and manuscript, and get some fresh air, watch a movie, read a book, go for a walk, or anything else you like to do. It'll leave you revived and recharged, ready to start again.

-Remember that what you're doing is going to help you grow and flurish as a writer.

Don't get discouraged. You may not get a passage right the first time, or the second, or the third, but you'll get it. Don'g let the editing blues get you down; find the silver lining in the red pen laden portion of the novel writing journey. Keep your chin up. Each red mark you put on that paper brings you one step closer to the finish line. Happy Writing! And editing too!

P.S.-- This is a little reminder for all you readers out there that James Dashner's new book "The 13th Reality: The Blade of Shattered Hope" comes out tomorrow.

P.S.S.-- Coming soon is my review of "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card

Friday, March 19, 2010

Character Building 101: People, Not Names

Every writer knows that a story is not a story unless it's got good characters. Lovable (or unlovable) characters can make readers really love your book. Just remember one little rule about creating characters: Try to make them more than just names on paper. If variety is the spice of life, then personality is the spice of character building. There are a few tricks you can use to make characters better and unique, some of which I have used when creating the characters from my book: Sophia, Del, Philippe, and the Countess. By the way, I'll be using them as my examples.

Trick #1: Opposites
Characters that have personalities that are opposite of each other give your story some chemistry. Characters with opposite personalities can hate each other (like Philippe and the Countess) or they can get along perfectly (like Sophia and Del). Allow me to explain...
The Countess- meanest person on the face of the Earth. She never does anything for anyone else unless there's something in it for her and cares only for herself. So, if the Countess is the person that won't do anything for others, Philippe is the guy that's going to bend over backwards for anyone. He's very kind hearted and generous. He would always be the first to help someone who came to him in need, which kind of explains how Sophia gets mixed into this. Remember, opposite personalities can get along too. Del and Sophia are like sisters, but are completely different. Sophia is quiet, a little shy, and used to being on her own. She doesn't really want to get noticed and tries to stay under the radar. Del, on the other hand, has a personality up in the stratosphere. She's not afraid to put herself out there and stand up for herself. Unlike quiet Sophia, who tries to stay in the background, Del is more of "Look out world, here I come!" Opposite personalities are fun to play around with to see how the different personalities will react to one another. It's just like chemistry class, without things blowing up and burning your eyebrows.

Trick #2: Recognizable
Give your characters personalities that are recognizable and readers can connect to. This way your characters seem more real because when readers see it they will think "I know someone like that." It's okay for characters to have wild personalities that are out of this world, that just makes your characters even more outstanding.

Trick #3: Weakness
Remember, no one is invincible although we may want it to be that way sometimes. Characters are still human (most of the time, unless you're a fantasy writer) and everybody has weaknesses. Example #2- Sophia is a bit of an emotional wreck. On top of that, she's plagued with fears of her mistress, the Countess. Philippe is suffering from a broken heart and tends to let his gentlemanly (is that a word?) qualities stop him from fighting back when he should. Del is stubborn beyond belief. She's doesn't like letting people help her do anything; she has to prove she can do it herself. Weakness helps your characters grow and develop as people.

Trick #4: Inner Conflict
Everybody has things going on in their lives that no else knows about. The same should go for your characters. Conflict gives depth and gets readers to sympathize with your characters and what their going through. Simple as that.

Trick #5: Emotion
Another way to add depth is through emotion. If you want to make your characters people, they need to have feelings. Again, emotions help readers relate to characters and let them seem more real. When it comes to writing emotion, it's better to show than tell. It's way better to say "Her vision blurred as tears flowed freely down her cheeks and she erupted into pained sobs," than it is to say "She was sad."

It's as simple as that. Good characters need emotion, conflict, and weakness all rolled into one recognizable (or extraordinary) personality. Now, go and bring new characters and stories into the world. Happy Writing!

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Book Review of Epic Proportions

It's a book review of epic proportions! I'm reviewing not one, not two, but three-- count 'em, three-- books at once. Today's triple threat consists of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley, and Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. First, let us travel back in time to the French Revolution in The Scarlet Pimpernel...

Synopsis: It is 1792 and France is in the grip of a seething, bloody revolution. Mobs roam the Paris streets hunting down royalists, barricade block any chance of escape and everyday hundreds die under the blade of Madame Guillotine. But in the hearts of the condemned nobility there remains one last vestige of hope: rescue by the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel. Renowned for both his unparalleled bravery and clever disguises, the Pimpernel's identity remains as much a mystery to his sworn enemy, the ruthless French agent Chauvelin, as to his devoted admirer, the beautiful Lady Marguerite Blakeney.

My Thoughts: Unlike a lot of older books I've read, The Scarlet Pimpernel is not wordy and hard to follow. It's very easy to get into this book. It's very well written and you learn some new words along the way (like flippancy). It's really a great book. If you still need something to get you excited for this book, here's a little something from chapter 10: "It does seem simple doesn't it? When you want to kill a chicken... you take hold of it... then you wring its neck... it's only the chicken that does not find it so simple. Now you hold a knife at my throat and a hostage for my obedience... You find it simple... I don't."

Next, let us travel to Brooklyn in The Haunted Bookshop...

Synopsis: The story finds Roger Mifflin once again being heard from in his own ebullient way. Mifflin has settled down and now runs a second hand bookshop in Brooklyn. No ordinary shop this, as Mifflin's sign which hangs outside the Gissing Street address will testify: "Parnassus at Home R. and H. Mifflin, Book lovers Welcome, This shop is haunted." Among the livelier spirits who inhabit "Parnassus at Home" are, besides Proprietor Mifflin and his loving wife Helen, the radiantly beautiful Titania Chapman, set to lie in the Mifflin household by her rich father in order to correct the evils of a finishing school education, the friendly dog Bock, and a young advertising man, Aubrey Gilbert, smitten by Titania's beauty and eager to learn the world of books for her sake.

My Thoughts: Trust me, this is a really good book. It's got something for everyone; there's comedy, romance, action, and mystery. It's one of a kind, I've never read anything like it, and I've read a lot of books. The Haunted Bookshop is very entertaining and impossible to put down.

Last, let us journey to Europe at the start of WWI, but forget the history books. Brace yourself, this is not the war you know. Let's dive into Leviathan...

Synopsis: It is the cusp of WWI, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale ship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet. Aleksander Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men. Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered. With the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way... taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever.

My Thoughts: I've never read any of Scott Westerfeld's books before, but this one kept appearing everywhere. When books haunt me like that, it usually means that it's a good book. This instinct has yet to be wrong. There are two sides of this story so there's twice the story, twice the adventure, twice the awesome. If you read this, be sure to read over a towel because the action will spill out and get everywhere if you don't.

And that's the triple play. You can find these books at your local library or bookstore. Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Random Monologue #1: Amusement Parks

Here is one of the monologues I like to do for writing practice. I wrote this one at the end of the summer. Enjoy.

Amusement parks always seem more like amusement parks when the sun is going down. Right at that point when the sun is almost gone, but not quite and all the lights have been turned on. It's only then, I find, that all the sounds of the park become more defined; the applause and groans of people winning and loosing games, the shouts and screams of passengers as a roller coaster drops down that first big hill, and the soft grinding of roller coaster cars running down twisting tracks.
Despite the enticing beckoning of neon signs and bright depictions of other rides, I find myself waiting in line for a somewhat milder ride to give the adrenaline currently pulsing through my veins time to dull. I stand, hands in my pockets, waiting in line between two strangers and vaguely listening to the Demi Lovato song playing over some nearby speakers and savoring the sweet and sugary aftertaste of cotton candy.
The term "amusement park" plays with my mind. It seems so appropriate, at least to me, advertising the only reason these brightly colored, neon laden attractions exist; so people can come, ride roller coasters, play games, and forget every worldly care for one day. The whole place is designed to be hypnotic and mind numbing. The outside world disappears in the smell of hot dogs and the warm evening air of summer.
The line lurches forward unexpectedly and I rush to take my seat in my solitary car. I lean back and put my feet up on the metal lip on the front of the car. Slowly, the metal beast rumbles to life and everything starts to spin. Through the dull noise, I catch a few lines of the Demi Lovato song still playing over the speakers.

"But you're so hypnotizing,

You've got me laughing while I sing,

You've got me smiling in my sleep."*
Shouts from a nearby roller coaster blur the music. I smile. I rest my arm against the back of the car. As the ride makes another revolution in its never ending circle, all my care spins out of my thoughts and spirals into space.

*lyrics from "Catch Me" by Demi Lovato

Let me know what you think and try righting your own monologue and leave it in the comments. All you have to do is describe what's going on around you and your thoughts. It can be about anything and any length. (and yes, I do except a minimum of two words.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Princess of Glass

Hear ye! Hear ye! Announcing Jessica Day George's new book Princess of Glass to hit bookstores everywhere May 25th!
If you haven't read any of her books before, you really should, they are fantastic. I've read them all and have loved, loved, loved, LOVED every one of them. She has five books out right now, which are:
Dragon Slippers
Dragon Flight
Dragon Spear
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
Princess of the Midnight Ball
You should read them, really you should. Go, go now.
I wish I had the cover image and synopsis for you, but I don't, which makes me sad. When it comes out and I read it, I'll post a review, complete with lots of happy smiley faces. Until then, enjoy the rest of her books and feel free to leave comments on her books and recommendations. (But, really, please do, I get lonely sometimes when people don't comment. Except for when Mary comments, then I'm not lonely. Thank you Mary.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

To: You From: Me

Well, it's Valentine's season. What comes to mind when you think of Valentine's Day? Cards? Chocolates? How about roses?

There was the tranquil moment of mind
As my eyes run down the rose stem to see
The small, simple, card declaring-
To: you From: me
A rich, red ribbon in a loose knot
The ends let run free
That is attached to the note stating-
To: you From: me
Rose petals feel of velvet
And smell of something soft and divine
An emblem of love and admiration
To a heart as elusive as mine
Perhaps I'll return the thought
And whoever he may be
He'll receive an emblem of my appreciation
With a card saying- To: you From: me

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Looking Glass Wars

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

Synopsis: When Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland throne, must flee through the Pool of Tears to escape her murderous Aunt Redd, she finds herself lost and alone in Victorian London. Befriended by an aspiring author named Lewis Carrol, Alyss tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Alyss trusts this author to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere will find her and bring her home. But he gets the story all wrong. He even spells her name incorrectly! Fortunately, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan knows all too well the awful truth of Alyss' story and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she can eventually battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

My thoughts: Forget the rabbit hole, this is not the Wonderland you know. I loved this book. It's well thought out and is very, very enjoyable. You will not want to stop reading this. It's wonderland like you've never seen before. If you like adventure and imagination, this book is for you.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Legend of Big Red

It's finished! Here's the legend for the plaza at Bear Lake.

The Legend of Big Red
One foggy afternoon, two men went out fishing in a small boat. They reached the middle of the lake and cast out their lines. Shortly after, the first man said he saw a dark shape in the water. His friend glanced over the side of the boat and into the azure water.
“There’s nothing there,” he said. “You’re seeing things.”
A few hours passed of reeling in lines and casting them out again. The fog only grew worse as evening started to approach. They didn’t get a single bite, despite it being one of the best fishing seasons either of the men had seen in years. The first fisherman saw the shape in the water again.
“See, there it is,” he said pointing over the side of the boat to the spot in the water the shadow had been.
“I don’t see anything,” said his friend glancing over the side of the boat again. “You must be going crazy.”
After a few more hours of no bites, they decided to reel in their lines and call it a day. Just as they set their rods on the floor of the boat, the water rippled and began to bubble. The two fishermen cautiously leaned over the side of the boat. The water broke and a cutthroat trout the size of a Great White Shark, possibly bigger, jumped over the boat. The two men looked up and for a moment all they saw was the trout’s bright red gills gleaming in the fog. The fish dropped back into the water; the wave from its reentry tipping the small fishing boat.
After the two had pulled themselves back into the boat, they returned to the docks. Meeting some other fishermen, they told the story and it spread like a virus. Soon, everyone knew about the giant cutthroat inhabiting the lake. Fishing rods were fitted with new lines and equipped with bigger, stronger hooks and boats headed out. The hunt was on for “Big Red”. Fishermen from towns all around the lake and even from towns miles away came to hunt for Big Red. Days were spent out in the middle of the lake where the trout had first been sighted, but the fish was never seen again after that first fateful afternoon, although some fishermen claim to have seen a dark shape circling under boats in the water. Weeks passed and weeks turned into months. Many of the hopeful fishermen finally vanished from the surface of the lake and the hunt soon subsided. Some still look, some have given up the hunt. Either way, should you go out to the middle of the lake, be sure not to dangle your toes in the water for too long as Big Red may confuse them for bait.

The plaza won't be ready for a while, but it feels good to have a part in it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My First Hired Writing Gig

JSA Architects called me and said they were doing a small plaza by Bear Lake and there were going to have bronze statue of some of the local trout. They said they were going to put a legend about "the trout that was never caught" and they wanted me to write it. Yes, me!!!! I'll probably post it when I'm finished. I'm so excited!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Just for laughs.

I know I haven't posted anything lately, mainly because I've been focusing on getting the rest of my novel into the computer, but now I've decided it's time I posted something. Disclaimer: this little piece is not meant to be serious. I was with two of my friends (Kylie and Gracie) and we started joking around and one thing led to another and the idea of "The Adventures of the Hobbit, the Hobo, and the Hermit" was born. I've got to get some normal friends. But that would be no fun. I'm not done with it yet, but here's a little taste of the story in all of its laugh out loud humor.

One day while the hobbit was looking for her pet squirrel Juju (who liked to run off and play with all the other pet squirrels who ran away from their owners) she came across the hermit dangling upside down from a tree, one foot caught in a snare.
"I might be wrong," said the hobbit. "But aren't you supposed to be the other way around?"
"No duh Sherlock," snapped the hermit, curling like a worm on a fishing hook to reach her entangled foot, but without success. "You think I didn't know that from all the blood rushing to my head?"
"Is that a troll trap?"
"A goblin trap?"
"A gremlin trap?"
"It must be an ogre trap."
"Then who's is it?"
The hermit looked embarrassed. "Mine."
The hobbit cocked a eyebrow. "You got caught in your own trap?" The hermit swung back and forth, groaning loudly when she slammed into the tree from which she dangled. "Do you want some help?"
"No, I can get down myself. I just need to reach my kni-- hey, get away from that you dumb squirrel! No, wait, don't chew through that, no--ahh!"
The rope snapped and the hermit came crashing down. A squirrel darted down the tree truck and sat in front of the hobbit.
"Juju!" she squealed.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fighting Chance(?)

I was thinking the other day and started to wonder if my novel (Castaway Inn) would attract readers. I want you guys to tell me what you think and if I have a fighting chance or not. Here's the plot:

Sophia only knew the life of a servant. She had no family, no home (aside from the small, cramped, drafty room in her master's house that she lived in) and no friends (aside from Evelyn, who leaves at night, leaving Sophia by herself). On top of all that, there's one person who wants nothing more than to make sure her life is horrible: Sophia's black hearted mistress-the countess. In a desperate attempt at freedom, she runs into the woods one stormy night, leaving only a note at Evelyn's door. While on her flee in the middle of the night, she meets Philippe, a French businessman turned innkeeper with a heart that's been bruised, and Del, a lass with spunk, spirit, and a mysterious limb. Sophia finally felt like she had people she could call her friends, maybe even her family, but the bonds of their friendship is tested when Sophia's pursuit of freedom turns into a deadly game of hide and seek.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Smell of Rain

Look what I found in the back of my computer! I write a lot of poetry along with my other projects and this one is one of my favorites. I got into my school's literary magazine with this one last year, which was so cool to be able to do that as a sophomore. I've always loved rain and this peticular poem, along with a few others to be posted later, holds a special place in my heart. Enjoy.

Dark clouds envelope once starless skies
The hiss of the storm in the wind as it flies

Lightning shatters the ink splattered night
And midnight carries chill with its flight

Endless rain tumbles to a final resting place
Thunder echoes rhythmically through an almost endless space

Storm clouds billow like great black sails
The wind whispers gently like the brush of bluebird tails

White strokes of lightning paint stripes in the dark
And midnight flies on the wings of a meadowlark

But the rain, the rain, that sweet silver thread
Tearful pearls streaking down my head

The smell of rain as it hits the ground
The rumble of thunder, oh sweet the sound

The way the lightning seems to dance
The way the twisting wind enchants

But the smell of rain is what I wait for
Why I spend those days by my front door

The reason I sit by that open window pane
Just to catch the smell of rain

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The First Step

They say that a journey of thousand miles begins with a single step. Writing the manuscript for my novel has really seemed like that journey. Surprising, my "single step" that started this journey of ink wasn't the first words of the book, it was a paragraph that came in chapter six. This paragraph right here:

The first thing Sophia noticed about Del was not her flaming red hair that flowed to her chin from under the rim of a weathered blue bandana. It was not her dusty brown eyes that gave her the look of someone deep in thought. It was not her ensemble of a baggy brown shirt and knee length cotton pants that looked like it belonged on a sailor on a merchant ship and not on an innkeeper’s errand girl. It was not that she was bare foot. Oh no, the first thing Sophia noticed about Del was that she walked with a limp.

This paragraph has remained in the rough draft the entire time I've been writing and I still love it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Passing of the Scepter

Since Mary will not be contributing here as much, or not at all, the scepter has been passed to me. I shall try and continue with the same things Mary did, I'll post review of my favorite books and I'll post about my writing as much as possible. Which reminds me, I am proud to announce the completion of my manuscript and I am moving into the re-writing and editing stage. Writing the book the first time was the easy part. I'll be posting about my experiances and some tid bits of my novel. However, something new I will be trying is that I will be taking requests on what you would like to see on the blog. Help me keep this going. Happy Writing!