Friday, November 30, 2012

Bits and Pieces of Coolness

Sticking this in here--
I never showed ya'll...
This is the bookmark
DeAnna Newsome
designed for me!
My last post talked about how I have been feeling about my writing lately, about how certain expectations have left me wondering if this really is God's path for me, and how I have realized I need to trust first.

Well, get this:

As part of that trusting first thing, I've decided to NOT look at Amazon for new reviews. It had become a bit of an obsession for me (yeah, sad, eh?) and I realized I just needed to quit cold-turkey. Since then, I've had two friends tell me they'd be posting reviews of Seeking Unseen, and a third friend from my homeschool group excitedly told me about how her husband loved Finding Angel.

Side note: the number of grown men that have enjoyed Finding Angel has really surprised me :).

Also, I posted last week on my homeschool group forum, in a message titled "Last Ditch....", where I basically laid it on the line that I didn't want to nag and sales-pitch, but even though I feel like I talk about my writing too much, an unusual number of people seem to be like, "You're an author? I didn't know that." So, I told them about the books--again--and explained clearly that I have them with me for sale when I come to park day...

Three moms responded, two wanting Finding Angel only and one wanting both books. That, for you math-challenged, is four books. When I left the park, though, I had sold TEN.

See, told ya, coolness!

Anyway, total change of subject here. Check out Mike Duran's post from Wednesday, in which he describes a new project he's working on. Sounds really cool. And he's tagged me in that post, so I will be posting next week on one of my works in I haven't shared much about.

Surprises, surprises....

Monday, November 26, 2012

Not Yet the Ocean

We were talking about being "peacemakers" in small group yesterday at church. The discussion turned toward ways of having civil and respectful conversations about theology between Christians and atheists, which turned toward a bit of a discussion about evolution vs. creationism, which led to me telling a paraphrased version of the following story...

I have a B.S. in Biology, and during my college years the evolutionary doctrine that pervaded our curriculum actually pushed me *away* from the theory of evolution and deeper in my belief in the Bible and Christ.

But the years following college were a bit rocky when it came to that stance. Life and time allowed doubt and fears to set in, and I found myself having a conversation with God a bit like:

"I think You need to prove Your existence to me."


"Helloooooo. YOU made me all scientific-y and logic-y, so YOU should understand why I'm asking for proof."


"Um, really. You want me to believe in You, then ante up. Give me SCIENCE. If You created it, You can at least back it up. The other team is doing it."


*me, searching online, at the library, wherever, and finding nothing*

"Seriously, this is uncool. I need facts, figures, something. You want me, You need to deliver the goods first."


*me, not knowing what to do, what to think, and getting depressed*

Then one day, at the bottom of the well....

"Fine. Okay, fine. Yes. FINE. Have it Your way. You are SO stubborn. I guess I'm just going to have to believe in You without proof if You insist on being that way. Sheesh."

A few days later, I'm at Lifeway--for a reason I don't even remember--birthday gift shopping for my grandmother?--and I spy a display of books. The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel. I open the book. I see that it's a compilation of interviews with scientists who have all written books about Creation science.

"Are You freaking kidding me??? This has been here the whole time? This, and all the books listed in the back here? WHY could I not find them before? Were You hiding this from me?"

Some of you may say it was just coincidence, but I assure you I was trying very hard to find answers. I truly believe God wanted me to take that first step of faith.

Why am I telling you all this?

It feels like it's happening again. Only this time it's my writing that I'm having to take that step of faith with.

"Huh?" you may be saying. I know, I've BEEN writing for over five years now! But I've been expecting, well, actual sales. I was expecting my sales to go UP after Seeking Unseen came out. I was expecting a lot of things that have not happened. Despite Finding Angel winning awards and some great reviews, I'm not seeing that translating into sales of Seeking Unseen. I'm not seeing word of mouth doing its job.

Sidestep a bit. After small group, I went to church service. One of the verses we were looking at was Philippians 2:3, which reads, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition..."


That hit hard. Is that what I'm doing? Yes, I started writing because I wanted to be published. To sell books. To have people read those books. But I didn't think I was being selfishly ambitious. I write as much for readers as I do for me. And it's the writing, the stories I want getting noticed. Not me!

Sure, I haven't been one of those writers who claims to not care if their books don't sell. "If just one person is touched by my story, it will all have been worth it." Really? God would have you write a whole novel, take years from your life, and not use it for more than one person? I don't think He grooves that way.

No, I think He still has plans for me and my writing. Bigger plans. But I am still mid-step, that first step. It's just a BIG, looooooong step. One that may mean me writing and publishing the whole Toch Island series. And possibly another book or two before anything major happens.

I have to hit the bottom of the well like I did before and accept that I have to do MY work FIRST. And THEN God will follow through.

I'll finish this off with the fortune I got in my fortune cookie with dinner last night:

"Faith is knowing there is an ocean when you can only see the stream."

Coincidence that I got that particular fortune yesterday? Hm. No. I'm standing in the stream right now. It IS moving. But it's not the ocean.

Not yet.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Finding Angel in AUDIOBOOK! (and a free mermaid)

Did I mention on here that I was having Finding Angel made into an audiobook? Well, I was. And I did. 

You can now find it at and Amazon.

The narrator's name is Jeanne O. Whitehouse, and I knew the second I heard her voice that she was Angel. She tackled the job with enthusiasm and was so easy to work with. If you are searching for someone to narrate a teen/YA book with a female protagonist, I highly recommend her. Just go to and search her name. I know she's got a couple of projects on her schedule now, but she's worth the wait :).

Don't forget: Christmas is coming soon. Audiobooks make great gifts :). Well, so do print and ebooks, too!

And speaking of ebooks, my friend Caprice Hokstad has written an interactive children's book called The Adventures of Princess Marina the Mermaid, aimed at kids about ages 4 to 10. 

It's short enough to read on one sitting, and it's like those "choose your adventure" books where you get to decide what the character does next in certain spot. Meant to be read on a Kindle, or a computer/tablet/phone with the free Kindle app. You choose by clicking links at the end of each section.

If you go to Amazon right now, you'll see it for $2.99. But starting tomorrow, it will be FREE. (Free sale runs Wed. Nov 21 thru Fri. Nov 23.) Bookmark it and get it this weekend! I have my copy already, and tested it out on my daughter, who loved it!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Review

This is going to be a strange review to write. The Raven Boys was a book that made me wish I wasn't a writer. That is something I need to explain before I can go on.

Two kinds of books make me wish I wasn't a writer:

One--the kind of book that is so beautifully written I feel like a complete idiot thinking I have a right to even attempt writing. Books like The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey. Those books just make me want to give up because what is the point if I'll never be that good?

Two-the kind of book with those little fiddly things that writers have drilled into their heads as no-nos. No adverbs, no telling, no head-hopping, odd shifts in voice/style, etc. Things that would not bother a normal person, but totally bug a writer who is new enough to still feel the drilling. (From what I gather, once you've gotten big enough, stuff like that doesn't bother you when you read. And it often doesn't seem to be a worry when you write for plenty of big authors either. I don't know--I'm not that far along yet :P.)  But the point is, I wish I didn't get bugged by this stuff--that it would just slip by unnoticed.

The Raven Boys was both. About 97% the first thing, and about 3% the second thing.

I spent most of my time reading completely immersed in the story. And when I say immersed, I mean it. Like, totally forgetting there was a real world around me. I could SO see the characters. So feel them. There were literally places where I found myself holding my breath. Chapter 36 was a big breath-holder.

The writing has such an intensity. The characters such depth. (Negative reviews on Amazon gripe about this. Really? You are going to complain that the characters are complex???) This book kept reminding me of the movie Dead Poets Society. The private school boys, with such different backgrounds, but such incredible bonds. And Blue was awesome. Strong but insecure at times. Sweet and funny. Different, and totally easy to relate to.

Aside--I was sitting at The Three Broomsticks in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. With a butterbeer in hand. And what was I thinking? That I was looking forward to getting back to the hotel room that night to finish off the last 20 pages of the book. Yes, that is how much the characters stuck with me.

I don't want to give you more. This book is about searching, and discovery, and you need to go into it just with your mind open for anything possible to happen. And be prepared to love these characters.

But those fiddly bits. You know how tiny nicks or scratches jump out at you more when they are on a flawless surface? That's how it was. They jumped out at me more because the contrast was greater, I think. I won't nit pick individually, because as I said, it's stuff that *should* slip right by me. The only thing that bugged me enough to mention outright was that sometimes the characters' cuss words (the actual words) were in the dialog, and other times they "breathed a swear word" or some such. Those step-around-it-without-saying-it bits felt so contrived for some reason. Maybe because that's a device used when one doesn't want cussing in a book at all, and it's used sparingly. It was both used combined with actual cussing (so what's the point?) and overused here. And there were moments that felt to me like the voice of the story changed--just for a sentence or two--and it took me out of the story.

And I have to admit, the ending left me a bit wanting. Not just because there is more to the story, but because it felt clipped, rushed.

Still, the awesomeness of the vast majority of the story makes up for the fiddly bits. And I will totally read the next book! And despite feeling like a hack in comparison, I will not give up writing :P.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Am I Really Not Successful Because...?

A link to a blog post was recently brought to my attention. Jim Kukral (nope, not a clue who he is) lists "13 reasons you're not as successful as you should be." It's not actually meant to be aimed specifically for writers, but it was a fellow writer who pointed out the post and said it applies to us.

I agree. And I disagree. What I'm doing is putting Jim Kukral's reasons here and a partial quote from each of his explanations, along with my, um, adjustments:

#1 Reason  – Laziness
Kukral says, "I have to assume that you’re lazy. Every single successful person works their butts off to get where they are."

I say--I don't know lazy writers. I know obsessive writers. I know writers who don't sleep, and squeeze writing into every crevice of their lives. But we have day jobs. And children. Some of us homeschool. Many writers I know have chronic illnesses. Do we sometimes feel lazy because it's been three weeks since we've been truly productive as far as our writing goes? Sure. But we are usually unproductive because we are tired. Spent. Empty. From all the previous writing and from all our other responsibilities.

#2 Reason – Entitlement
Kukral says, "Quit thinking you are owed something. You’re not. Get to work."

I think many writers feel this. That because of talent and hard work we are owed success. That's faulty logic, yes. But it comes from seeing crap getting published all the time. Not just published, but famously published. And when we see crap becoming successful it is really hard not to think, "Hey! What about me?"

#3 Reason – Fear
Kukral says, "You are afraid...of looking silly. Afraid of what your friends and family will say."

I say, duh. We have put our souls on paper. We have bled from the deepest parts of ourselves. And we know that there will be readers who love our writing, and readers who will think we are talentless hacks. The latter tend to have no qualms about voicing their opinions (read: tearing us to shreds). And friends and family will think we are insane. Yes, we are afraid. Yet we do this anyway.

#4 Reason – Negativity
Kukral says, "...the people you associate with might be negative...Surround yourself with successful people. People you want to be like."

If the people I wanted to be like were willing to associate with me, maybe I'd BE successful. OK, that sounds whiny and blamerish. I admit it. But one thing I've learned about the writing business is that everyone is always trying to get an "in", which puts the successful people on the defensive. And they are right to be that way. I'm pretty low on the ladder, yet I can't do a speaking engagement without some newbie writer trying to  schmooze or get me to look at their writing and give them "feedback." I can only imagine what actual successful writers have to deal with. No wonder it seems they are cliquish. They are trying to avoid getting eaten alive. But it does make it hard to get one's toe in the door.

#5 Reason – Stop Thinking
Kukral says, "You think way too much about what you could or should do." He calls this "paralysis by analysis."

Oh, my. That is so me. And so every other writer I know.

But, listen. There is SO much conflicting information out there about how to get published. And the publishing landscape is constantly changing. It's so hard to know what to do. Sure, there are those writers who just dive in. Who write a book on a whim and, poof, they're published. Poof, selling millions of books. But they are very, very rare. The rest of us are subject to agent and publisher grocery lists. The rest of us are scrabbling for a foothold. Begging and pleading for someone to "just read it." The paralysis by analysis generally comes AFTER we've given 157% and have gathered enough rejection letters to wallpaper the Taj Mahal.

#6 Reason – No Goals
Kukral says, "You believe that someway, somehow, everything you always wanted will just magically happen."

Um, that one...well, the writers who believe this are idiots. I don't know any who do, though.

#7 Reason – “They”
Kukral says, "There’s no secret group of people that controls your success or failure."

Yes there is. They are called "literary agents." And after that "publishing committees." And after that "readers." I don't mean to say that "they" are out to stop us from being successful. I am saying that writing is one field where there are just strings of gatekeepers. Gatekeepers who say, "You can't go through here without me, but I won't go with you until you've gone through on your own."

#8 Reason – No “X” Factor
Kukral says, "The truth is even jerks, idiots and boring people can be just as successful as anyone else."

And I say, go back and reread number 2...

#9 Reason – Time Waste
Kukral says, "You spend hours and hours every day working on not-working."

Yes, I've known writers who do this. And I've been guilty of it to an extent myself. However, writing is often something that only comes with inspiration. And every writer I know feels like they are working on not working when they are actually working. In other words, when they are marketing they think they should be writing, and when they're writing they think they should be marketing. We spend so much time worrying that we're not working even when we are.

#10 Reason – Social B.S.
Kukral says, "You spend way too much time in social media land."

Well, yes. But, we are also told we HAVE to be "out there". Accessible. Marketing and making connections with readers. Sigh. Social media is a love-hate thing for me. I have made REAL friends online. I also know I spend way too much time sludging through FB when I should be writing. What can I say--I think the whole WORLD is guilty of this one! At least I can say I'm networking ;).

#11 Reason – Think Small
Kukral says, "You are constantly looking only a day or a week ahead instead of years ahead."

To Sorry. No. Not a single writer I know is guilty of this. Some get impatient. Some publish too soon. They don't edit properly, and they slap up shoddy cover art on their books. They sign with a questionable press because they are so desperate to be published, by anyone. But not thinking of this as long-term? Of only seeing this week or today? No. Nope. We all know this is step one. That it's years and years of writing and getting nothing in return before we actually start gaining.

#12 Reason – Don’t Want It
Kukral says, " your heart you are afraid of what might happen if you really get it."

I think this one is valid. For writers maybe even more than others. Many of us dream of being the reclusive writer, writing at odd hours, living anonymously. But writing is so much more. And the pressure is a lot more than we expect. The idea of a bazillion people reading our books...the pressure of worrying what they'll think of the next book....all the freaking marketing and stuff that we now realize is part of the job and we had no idea when we started.....

Still--do we want it? Yes. Very, very badly.

#13 Reason – Don’t Believe
Kukral says, "Society taught you that only a few “exceptional” people get what they want. Everyone else should just settle."

Actually, for writers this is quite the opposite. Society has taught us that writing is an easy road. That talent will make doors swing open automatically. That we ARE exceptional. Our family and friends ooh and aah over every word. They are amazed by us. "How do you think of all this?" they ask in pure wonderment. And they assume we'll become millionaires as soon as our book hits the shelves.

In other words, most of us go into this completely delusional. We believe too much. And when the rejection letters start coming....flooding in....and we discover that there's about a bazillion other authors out there just like us, studying craft, writing and writing and writing, busting their tails in hopes of "making it"...the bubble bursts.

Mr. Kukral, if you read this, know I am not writing it to disparage what you have said. I actually think ALL your points are valid for most unsuccessful people out there in a multitude of endeavors. I thought your post was rather brilliant, actually. But writing is a unique beast, especially fiction. Talent and hard work often still result in obscurity in writing. Success of a published book relies about 80% on word of mouth--something we can't control beyond writing the best book we can. That in mind, I am taking your advice to heart and I am pushing forward and trying to make my attitude even more positive. And I appreciate your candor on the topic.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Weekend at Universal and Blatant Self-promoting

So, the fam went to Universal Studios again, where we, of course, spent most of our time in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you're friends with me on FB, you can see the pictures HERE. If not, well, friend me :P.

For ya'll who simply don't wanna do either, here are a couple pics:

See how nice I am? Showing you pics like this even though I worked so hard to get them all posted on Facebook? Don't you feel guilty now?

And, here's the blatant self-promoting:

A new review for Finding Angel showed up on Amazon this week that totally made my day when I found it.:

"I looked at Finding Angel at first and thought, "Nice little fantasy book, I'm sure." Well, now that I've finished it, I owe the author a HUGE apology for not expecting more. Not only did the plot and characters hold my attention well, the writing was first-rate, and I was amazed to discover that this book was not just a fantasy, but suspense and mystery as well."

You can see that I'm not making it up HERE

Also, the newest blog review of Seeking Unseen is up HERE. Woohoo--love that readers are enjoying the second book even more!

Last, and yeah, probably least, I made a new banner for my other site: I like the way the banner turned out, but I still need a new background. But at the moment, the plain light gray is better than anything I've tried :P.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Costume Pictures

I haven't blogged in a while because I went out of town to the Necronomicon this past weekend, and have been sick pretty much ever since I got back. :(

So, in lieu of writing a brilliant blog post (mainly because I'm lacking the brain power right now), I'm posting costume pictures from both Necro and Halloween. If you follow me on Facebook, you likely have seen some of these.

The Necronomicon:

Yeah, I know that's not a costume pic, but come on, it was my first year officially there as an author!

Here's the costumes:

Poison Ivy was shy when she first got there.

This Jester was such a little gentleman.

Murphy the Fire Chief.

The laughing Weeping Angel.

The, um, Three Horsewomen of the Apocalypse.

I feel like I'm at Disney World...

Evil was never so adorable.

This Cthulhu could barely climb the stage...

Coolest fairy wings ever.

Contest winners.

Minecraft dude. The way he moved was so cool.


Beastie 2 (Merida from "Brave") and her BFF (Katniss from "The Hunger Games".).

Beastie 1. Yep. And he wouldn't even let me post the whole pic because he was making a face at me.

Beastie 1's BFF.

Not a costume and not a good pic, but this was cool....
And now back to slogging around in a decongestant-induced haze and gobbling zinc and vitamin c...