Friday, May 29, 2009

Got Platform, Will Publish...

I recently attended a writers meeting where the topic was creating a platform. For those that don't know, a writer's platform consists of his or her credentials as a writer and connection to the community. Basically, it answers the publisher's question, "And just why am I supposed to invest money in you, outside of actual ability?"

Lis Wiehl has platform. According to the book jacket of Face of Betrayal, "Lis Wiehl is a Harvard Law School graduate and former federal prosecutor. A widely popular legal analyst and commentator for the Fox News Channel, Wiehl appears regularly on The O'Reilly Factor and was co-host with Bill O'Reilly on the widely-syndicated radio show, The Radio Factor, for the past seven years."

Oh, yeah. Platform out the wazoo. She had to have order to get this book published.

No, it's not horrible. It's...competent. Average. Mediocre.

The writing isn't bad, but it lacks a unique "voice"--which is something publishers always say they are looking for. Apparently, being famous means you don't really need that. Also, the characters were pretty much cookie-cutter, and the ending could be seen a mile away. There was an attempt to hit on some controversial issues--abortion, spouse abuse, teen sex. I say "attempt" because it was very surface. Too many topics, so the attention to each was spread thin. And, specifically, as a writer for teens, I'd say this book sent the message that teen sex is fine as long as it's not with a man your father's age. NOT the best of messages.

I shouldn't be so harsh with Lis, though, should I? I mean, she wrote the book with April Henry, who is apparently a published mystery writer. So, it's just as much April Henry as it is Lis Wiehl. Not according to the cover though--Wiehl's name is in large print--equal in size to the title of the book, while April's is rather small. (Ever noticed that the more popular an author gets, the larger their name becomes on the cover? A newbie writer will have the title in big letters and their name much smaller in comparison, but the big authors have their names in HUGE print. I suppose the title is just a technicality at that point.)

I really do like supporting first-time authors, as I did in my last review for Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. But, I also insist on giving credit where credit is due. Maybe the issue is that I've still got that last book lingering in my brain and I'm mentally comparing the two as I read. Thirteen had me sucked in, unable to put the book down. I got to know the characters, and found myself invested in their story. It was ONE topic that was addressed, and addressed it was, in depth, and realistically.

But, in Face of Betrayal, I found myself fighting the urge to skim through. Honestly, the only reason I didn't just stop reading it is that I'm signed up as a review blogger for Thomas Nelson, and part of the agreement is that I am to read the book in its entirety.

But, there is nothing in the agreement that says I have to love the book or give it a rave review.

Thank goodness.

There are probably loads of people who are going to love this book and think I'm just a jealous aspiring writer. That's fine. I know what kind of book I like. Complex, deep characters, something that is going to make me want to read the book again and again. This book was none of those things for me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Thirteen Reasons Why"--Book Review

Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

I debated about reviewing this book. I stumbled upon it on a blog somewhere, and it sounded intriguing. A book about teen suicide. This is not an easy subject. The blog where I found mention of this book said something about being afraid the book would encourage suicide. I can see why he'd have that fear. The girl who has killed herself, Hannah, finds an interesting way to reach the people she blames--she leaves a set of cassette tapes behind telling the stories of the people who hurt her the most, with instructions that the tapes be delivered to those people in the order in which they appear in her story. I can see why there would be worry that a teen contemplating suicide would think this is a cool way to get back at those who dumped on him/her. But read on in the book, and you see how the story may give someone considering suicide second thoughts.

I must give fair warning, as I would guess that most of the people reading my blog at this point are Christian. Some of you are teens. Some of you have teen children. This book is not written from a Christian perspective--at least there is not mention of Christianity, or spirituality of any kind. And it portrays teens realistically. There is cussing, sex, drinking. Not glorified, though. Actually, the two protagonists in the book are good kids. They want to do what is right. But they do not live in a bubble. And every bit of it, no matter how graphic (not horribly so, but I would read this before letting a young teen read it) is relevant.

It's relevant. That is what made me decide to go ahead and review this book. Thirteen Reasons Why. Thirteen reasons Hannah decided to kill herself, and each of those reasons has a name. Each of them is a person from her school who has hurt her. She doesn't give them all the blame, but she details out their roles in her decision. She records her story on cassette tapes during her last days, and mails them off to the first person on the list, with instructions for the tapes to be passed on, one by one, to the others.

Imagine now that you are Clay, who knew Hannah, liked Hannah, and you have no recollection of ever doing anything to hurt her. Ever. And you come home to find a shoebox full of cassette tapes on your doorstep. You have no idea where you fall in her story. You pop in the first tape and begin to listen....

Hannah was a girl who wanted to be liked. To be loved. To have someone care about her. She wanted to be accepted. Not talked about behind her back. Isn't that all of us? Maybe we all deal with a little gossip about ourselves, and people who bully us. But what if you felt like there was not one single person out there who cared?

What if there was someone who cared very much, but you never knew because that person never spoke up and told you so? Would you do what Hannah did? Would you take that road? Would you blame the people who didn't step up?

See, this is a two-way street.

One way--We have a responsibility to show people we care. They can't always ask. Sometimes they've been burned and hold back. But we are ALL insecure to some degree. I was really shy growing up. I always assumed that if someone wanted to talk to me they would come talk to me. But years of experience has told me that I'm not the only shy person in the world! There are loads and loads of people who are insecure, just like I was, and still am. Maybe if someone had been less insecure, less afraid of being burned themselves, Hannah would have had something, someone, to cling to and not done what she did.

The other way--Hannah could have gone to someone straight-up with her feelings rather than playing games. She did try to trust people. She opened up in search for friendship, but when she got burned, she added bricks to the wall she was building around herself. She hinted. She implied, but she never told anyone what was going through her head. Maybe if she had told one person how desperate she felt...but that is so hard. So, so hard.

I think this book speaks to readers without preaching. Maybe if the author--and I have no idea if he is Christian or not--had added a bit of spirituality the book would not have had the same impact. Kids would read it and think, "Well, Hannah should have just turned to Jesus, and she'd be fine. He loves her." That is true, but it's not the whole truth. We cannot look over one, very imprtant, detail. WE are the BODY of Christ. WE have to be there for people to turn to.

Read this book. It's relevant. It's, in my opinion, important. Teen suicide is a real problem. The signs are there, but they are subtle. If nothing else, read this book so you can recognize them. Read this book so you know that if you contemplate suicide, you are impacting lives just as much as they impacted yours. It's not about revenge. It's about knowing there is someone out there who cares. There is ALWAYS someone. ALWAYS. Somewhere. It just takes time and trust to find them sometimes.

We need to make ourselves easier to find.

Find Thirteen Reasons Why on Amazon:

PS--the book is really well-written. The author has great characterization skills. Really. Read this with a box of tissues nearby.

Deal from Bryan Davis

I just checked Bryan Davis' blog, and he's offering signed copies of Beyond the Reflection's Edge, the first book in his Echoes from the Edge series, for $5 plus shipping. That is an awesome deal! I read this book, and it's really good.

Here's the link to his blog:

Here's the link to the $5 book deal:

Here's the link for the Echoes in the Edge series website:

And if you'd like to see the trailer from the third book in the series, Nightmare's Edge, check out:

Well, that should keep you busy for a while!!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Quick Update--I'm Bustin'!

I just had to post because I've received TWO more acceptances for short stories. These two are both fiction, which really has me excited! I need to get more info on both of them before I post in detail. One story is based on Finding Angel, and will appear in Mindflights, but I don't know the date yet. The other is a dark fantasy (maybe even horror) that will be published in a secular magazine in August. I need to get a special post up on here before I give the details on that one.

And don't forget, I have another short fiction that will appear in Christian Fiction Online Magazine, originally schduled for August but has been moved up to the July issue!

I will, of course, post the publication dates and include links to all three stories when the time comes.

Anyway, I was just bustin' to tell everyone. Three short stories, all coming out within weeks of each other! There are more in the works, least one that I have a really, really good feeling will be accepted. I'll post as soon as I hear.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Why Am I Doing This Again?

This has been an eventful week for me. My homeschool group had our promotion ceremony, I finished putting together our yearbook (with the help of my faithful yearbook staff), there have been a whole slew of miscellaneous happenings, and I've gotten two replies on stories I had submitted.

The first reply was good. I've sold my personal essay ("Measurements") for the fourth time. I have no idea when it will be out, but I will post as soon as it is.

The second reply was not so good--another rejection for a short story I have out there. It's one I really put a lot of heart into and so far it's been rejected three times. I knew from the beginning it would be a hard story to place, but that doesn't make the rejections any easier.

What does? And what makes us writers put ourselves through this over and over?

What drives us to write? Why are we not content to keep it as a hobby? Why must we send our stuff out there, insistent on trying to put our work where others can read it? Most writers will tell you it is certainly not the money.

For me, it's the thought of bringing to other readers the experience I have when I read a great book. I love losing myself in another world. That is probably why fantasy is my number one genre--it's really, really another world I get to get lost in.

I've now created my own world to get lost in. I suppose I could be content in that. And in a way, I am. But to know that I've created a world other people can get lost in--that would be the coolest feeling. The thing is, there is no way of finding out if I've done that without subjecting myself to rejections.

And so, I keep trying. Not just with my book, but with my short stories. My mini-worlds. The possible stepping stones to getting my big world out there.

Yep, rejections are all part of this. And I ask myself all the time if it is worth it.

The answer--oh, yeah!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My First Interview :-)

Well, I never would have thought I'd be getting interviewed at this point. But, the awesome girl who wrote me the encouraging email I mentioned in my last blog asked if she could interview me for hers.

I consider this a great honor. So, it's not Newsweek. Big deal. I'm writing for teens! That is where my heart is, and that is where my loyalty is going to be anyway. She's a smart cookie, too, and I thought she came up with some great questions.

AND, I had FUN!

So check out my first interview at

Monday, May 11, 2009


I just received the nicest email comment from a reader today! She probably has no idea how much her words mean to me. I did write her back, of course, but it's hard to convey to someone just how meaningful encouragement is in the writing world unless you are a writer yourself.

Most people, to some degree or another, define themselves by their jobs. We put forth effort to do those jobs, and acclamation for work well done is always appreciated. But for most writers, writing is not just a job. It's who we are. It's much more than acclamation for a job well done that we hear when someone tells us they liked what we wrote.

I have children, and I see myself as a mother. I'm also a wife. I put my heart and soul into these things because I love my children and my husband. So, when I hear them say, "I love you," or get a giant hug, I'm not just getting the message, "Hey, you did a great job of making breakfast this morning"--I'm being told that everything about me matters to them.

This is how writers feel when we receive praise for our writing. We put our hearts and souls into what we write. Everything on the paper you read has come from within someone. It's much more than just arranging the right words. My books are a piece of me. The stories come from somewhere inside, and the characters are as real to me as if they were flesh and blood when I go into the writing zone.

So, please let your favorite authors know how much you appreciate them. Visit their blogs and websites--leave comments--tell them when something they've written has affected you. They need to hear it!

Oh, and if you're curious, the reader I mentioned is not someone I know--she's someone who visited my website ( and checked out the first chapter of my book. She asked me to "PLEASE publish it"...and oh, I promise you I am trying! I just need to find that agent who feels the same way :).

I discovered after posting this that the commenter is thirteen. Yes, amazing isn't it. I write a book aimed at girls that age and they actually take to it...just as all my teen test readers have. Too bad agents tend not to be teen girls :).

Monday, May 4, 2009

Get to know your characters

I've read many books on writing, and they often suggest writing out your characters' attributes, either as a list or a few paragraphs. I do think this is a great idea to keep things straight--characteristics like age (a specific birth date even), physical description, brief bio, dominant personality traits, etc. I have these things scribbled throughout my notes on Finding Angel, and it's one of my goals to compile everything into a file this summer so I can reference things more quickly.

Recently, however, I have discovered a fun and effective way to get to know my characters and really cement these things in my head. I'm writing short stories based on each of my characters from the first person point of view. Most of them will serve double-duty, as the main character of each story is interacting with other characters from the books.

The coolest part of this is that I'm discovering things about my characters I never knew before. If you're not a writer, you may not understand that statement. But, my characters have become real people in my head. And as such, they are complex, and even I can't know every detail of their lives from birth to death. I know some specifics, but many times it's more of a general idea. For example, one character has a rebellious streak because he has an overbearing and controlling father. Well, I'm working on a short story right now that describes one of his rebellious acts. It's given me some insight into why he behaves certain ways, and is helping me keep him consistent in my second book, Seeking Unseen.

The first short story I wrote like this actually gave me an idea for an element to work into Seeking Unseen, that will have a major effect on one of the characters. And, I must say, I think it's a pretty cool kind of magic :). Now, I've got this story submitted to an online magazine, and if it gets accepted and you get to read it, the element I came up with is not actually found in the short. It's a side-shoot idea that will only be in the book. But don't let that stop you from reading the story! I will, of course, post if it gets accepted anywhere :).