NaNoWriMo in Retrospect

2010 was my fifth year participating in NaNoWriMo. The first year, I won. The second and third years, I fell far short. The fourth year, I won again. I'm kind of superstitious, I guess, because it felt like a pattern was coming on, and I thought I was for sure not going to be able to win this year since I won last year.

This seemed especially likely given the fact that I am having some major challenges in my personal life right now.

Still, I decided to give it my best shot. I started off the month with a bang, writing 8500 words the first weekend of November at a writer's retreat in Park City. After that, though, life got intensely busy and hard, and I only wrote a few thousand the next week.

Then, when the 15th of the month rolled around and I had only written 12,000 words, I started to panic just a little bit. Now I would have to write 38,000 words in 15 days. By the 20th, I still had 30,000 to go, and by the end of the 25th, I was just barely past halfway done at 27,000 words.

I thought I was panicking before? Yeah, you don't know panic until you only have 5 days left and you have to still write 23,000 words.

I thought about giving up.

I thought about just saying, you know, I gave it a good try, and at least I've written 27,000 more words than I would have if I hadn't been doing NaNo.

In the end, though, I decided not to say any of that. I decided to say I was going to write those 23,000 words, and I was going to do it by the end of November. Come rain or sleet or blizzard or sun or piles and piles of dirty dishes, I was going to finish.

And I did it. I won. I climbed Mt. NaNo and stood at the peak and raised my arms high and shouted to the world, "I did it! I won despite incredible odds! I am Novelist, hear me roar!"

The book isn't finished to The End, and I'm going to keep pushing through December to finish the first draft. And even what is "finished" is far from being Finished. I don't even know if the story is taking the direction I wanted it to take. I don't know if any of the scenes are any good. I'm thinking of scrapping several characters' names because I've grown to hate them this past month.

Still, I did what I set out to do, and it feels amazing.

Finding Rose - Book Review and Giveaway

I recently had the opportunity to read Finding Rose by debut author Stephanie Humphreys. Finding Rose is an LDS romance set in the early 1900's.

Rose is a young woman who is about to be uprooted from her home and taken to Canada with her family, who have been called to go there by the prophet.

Miles is a new convert to the church, a friend of Rose's brother Sean, and a new doctor, returning soon to Montana to start his own practice.

I found both of the main characters likeable. There were moments where I didn't feel they acted in character, but I did find them sympathetic, and I rooted for both of them throughout the book

I also felt Humphreys did a good job of introducing new conflicts and keeping me guessing about what would come next, even if the ultimate outcome was predictable. Understandably so, given the genre, of course.

As much as I enjoyed the book, I was a little disappointed in the quality of the editing. The narrative felt choppy at times, and as a writer, I had to keep re-focusing on the story instead of going into critique mode. The story itself was sweet, though, and I did enjoy reading it.

Overall, I thought Finding Rose was a nice, clean romance, I loved the historical setting and details, and I would recommend it to people who enjoy the historical romance genre.

Want to win a copy? It's easy. Just leave a comment and let me know why you're excited to read Finding Rose. Remember to  include your email address. If you tweet about the blog tour, or post about it on your blog or facebook, leave the link in the comments section and you'll receive an additional entry.

Check out the rest of the reviews on the blog tour for more chances to win one of THREE copies of Finding Rose.

November 22 - Tristi Pinkston

November 23 - Alison Palmer

November 24 - Taffy Lovell

November 29 - Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen

November 30 - Amanda Thomson

December 1 - Sheila Staley
December 2 - Valerie Ipson

December 3 - Christine Bryant

More Days of Thanksgiving

Yes, I only made it to 8 days of Thanksgiving. Life got crazy, and Thanksgiving got crazy, and I'm trying to make a mad dash to the finish line for NaNoWriMo, and I just let posting to my blog be one of the things that slid off the radar.

It's not that I'm not thankful for lots and lots of things, though! I have another big post I want to do, but it will take too much time to put it together for now. Because I have to write more than 12,000 words in the next two days.

No, that was not a type-o. I really do have to write that many words in that many days. But I'm going to do it, so that I can have another thing to be thankful for - that NaNoWriMo is over, and that I WON. I'll report back on that on Wednesday morning's post. And then I'll post my last big Thanksgiving post on Friday. Since I'm now planning to get back on my MWF posting schedule. We'll see how that goes. But that's the goal.

I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving!

Oh, and stay tuned because later today, I'll be posting again because it's my day to post on the Finding Rose blog tour.

Eighth Day of Thanksgiving

As I attended church today, I kept thinking about how grateful I am that I have the Gospel in my life.

I honestly don't think I can do justice to this topic, but I will try because I don't think a series of posts on the things I'm grateful for could be complete without at least the mention of my gratitude for the spiritual blessings I have in my life.

I am so thankful for my Heavenly Father, who has given me literally everything I have, including my life,

I'm equally grateful for Jesus Christ, my Savior, who literally suffered all things and gave his life so I could have Eternal Life,

I'm grateful for the Holy Ghost and the direction and comfort that has come to me through this amazing gift,

I'm so thankful for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth, for living prophets on the earth to guide and direct us, and for temples where we can be sealed as families forever.

I'm also grateful that I had the opportunity to grow up with the knowledge of Heavenly Father's plan, the Gospel, and all the things that go along with it. My life is truly blessed by this knowledge and by my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Seventh Day of Thanksgiving

I bet you thought with me doing these Thanksgiving posts, you'd get a break from hearing me talk about writing and NaNoWriMo.

If you thought that, you would be wrong.

The fact is that my lifelong dream has been to become a published author, but I've run into lots of roadblocks. Mostly of my own building, which makes them all the more frustrating. I've suffered from fear of failure, perfectionism, busyness, distraction, and a crippling case of my-writing-sucketh that has lingered for more than a decade.

I don't know if I can really describe what's happened to me over the last few years that has started to change and soften me, because it's one of those things where a lot of factors have combined together. But I'll make a feeble attempt anyway.

My critique group has helped me hone my craft and increase my confidence that I really can actually write a book.
NaNoWriMo and the accompanying word sprints I've participated in have helped me learn how to write fast, turning off my internal editor and giving myself permission to create now and edit later.
Many of my friends who used to be hopeful authors like me have graduated to being real-live authors over the last few years, giving me hope that maybe if they can do it, I can, too.
People have come into my life who believe in me and encourage me and tell me I can do it.

So, I say thank you to everyone who has helped me feel like I belong in this crazy, wonderful, writerly world. Thank you to everyone who has encouraged me along the way. Thank you to my friends who have pushed me to keep writing when I felt like giving up. Thank you to all of you who have participated in word wars with me during NaNo this year. Thank you to my critique group, for all of the above and more.

When I finally reach my goal of being published, I will have all of you to thank for it.

Sixth Day of Thanksgiving

It's quite late as I write this post. My plan was to write all of these posts ahead of time and have them post at 6 in the morning each day. Maybe even be ambitious and schedule a few at a time so they could just pop up at the prescribed time and I wouldn't have to even worry about it.

That didn't happen, of course.

Even doing just one a day and scheduling them to post the next morning hasn't worked out so well, and as the week has gone on, the time of my posts has continued to slip later and later.

I'm forever thankful that I continue to always get another chance to do better. A lot of people believe in "Second Chances," but I don't think that would be nearly good enough for me. By the second chance, I haven't even begun to learn my lesson yet.

Every new day is another new chance to do better. And so, as I go to bed tonight, having already passed by my second and third and fourth chances to get my blog posting act together this week, I'm grateful that I get an almost infinite supply of 'nother chances.

And of course, this is only one of many, many examples of 'nother chances I get to have every single day.

Every time one of my kids tries my patience, I get to try again to react calmly.
Every time I let the dishes pile up to epic heights, I get to try again to maintain the pile by washing them as they get dirty.
Every time I put my foot in my mouth, I get to try again to have a conversation with a group of people without looking stupid.

And it's a good thing there are 27,000 or so new days in the average lifespan, because I'm really going to need a LOT more than "second chances."

Fifth Day of Thanksgiving

Can I just say how thankful I am for food?

I'm not talking about having an abundance of food, although I'm certainly grateful that I don't ever have to go hungry.

And I'm not talking about any foods in particular that I'm grateful for, although if I was, chocolate would be on the list. And ice cream. And twice-baked potatoes and tortellini and sweet and sour chicken and hot scones with honey butter melting on the top . . .


Like I said, though, that's not the point of this post.

What I'm really grateful for today is that we have food and we get to experience the joy of eating it and the variety of tastes it offers and the company of those we gather with for meals and the delicious aromas that fill the house as our favorite foods are baking in the oven.

I love food, and I imagine God didn't have to invent it, or at the very least, He didn't have to invent such a rich variety of tastes and textures and smells and just general goodness.

But I'm grateful that He did. And what better time to be thankful for food is there than at our Thanksgiving Day feasts next week?

If you missed it, click here to read about the Twelve Days of Thanksgiving posts I'm going to be doing from now until Thanksgiving Day.

Fourth Day of Thanksgiving

As I'm lying in bed, snuggled deep in the warm covers, typing this post on my iPhone, I can't help but be grateful for all the modern conveniences I enjoy.

Allow me to make a short list of the absolute luxuries I take for granted every day because of the simple fact that everyone around me has them, too:

* indoor plumbing
* climate control year-round via forced-air heating and central air conditioning
* electricity
* a grocery store near enough that I can drop by whenever I want and buy all the food my family needs
* a reliable car that can take me to said grocery store - and anywhere else I need to go, for that matter
* dishwasher
* washing machine and clothes dryer

I could go on and on, but this is the short list, after all.

How often do we take these blessings for granted? Every one of these things is outrageously amazing by itself; all of them together . . . I don't even have the words to describe how lucky I am to be living in a time like this where such luxuries are found in such abundance.

What are some of the things you take for granted every day that are really worth a large dose of gratitude?

If you missed it, click here to read about the Twelve Days of Thanksgiving posts I'm going to be doing from now until Thanksgiving Day.

Third Day of Thanksgiving

Today, I'm just really feeling grateful that I haven't had to work outside of the home since my oldest daughter was born almost 12 years ago.

I wouldn't say I've enjoyed a life of ease and bon-bons throughout these years of motherhood, but I would say that being home to raise my kids and not having to stress about money (for the most part, of course) has been a huge blessing.

Some of the things that remind me to be grateful for this are stupid and little, like after a bad night's sleep, being able to come home from driving the kids to school, put my preschooler in bed next to me, and both of us falling back asleep for a couple of hours.

Some of the things are more significant, like watching my kids take their first steps and being there for them when they get home from a bad day at school. Or when they get sick or hurt in the middle of the day, being able to go get them without a lot of fanfare and rearranging of schedules and asking of bosses.

I don't know if I'll always be able to stay at home with my kids or if I might have to work out of the home someday, so I try to remember to be grateful for this time while I have it.

If you missed it, click here to read about the Twelve Days of Thanksgiving posts I'm going to be doing from now until Thanksgiving Day.

Second Day of Thanksgiving

If you missed my post yesterday, click here to read about the Twelve Days of Thanksgiving posts I'm going to be doing from now until Thanksgiving Day.

Today, I wanted to talk about how thankful I am for my health. It's not like I haven't had my fair share of cuts and scrapes and colds and flus and toothaches and broken toes and even pneumonia and an injury that ended up costing me a surgery on my tailbone regions.

But by and large, I have enjoyed excellent health. It's sad to say, but I'm often guilty of taking things for granted, and I don't always think about being grateful for my health until it's taken away in some small measure, like the toothache I've been living with the past couple weeks.

I don't think we have to have a big wake-up call to be reminded to be thankful, though - we just have to consciously do it. So today, I'm planning to try and concentrate on all the things I'm able to do because I've been blessed with a healthy body.

First Day of Thanksgiving

For the next 12 days, I'll be posting something about thankfulness or specific things I'm thankful for in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

For my First Day of Thanksgiving post, I'd like to show you an example of what it means to be truly thankful. I really need to take a lesson from Jessica. What would the world be like if we all started out our day listing all the things we have in such an enthusiastic manner? I swear, I'm going to try it. I hope you get a laugh out of imagining me doing this.

Here's the deleted scene - this happened right after the above scene.

Word Sprints

I've been participating in some fun word sprints with my friends this past week as part of NaNoWriMo.

A bunch of us went to Park City for a few days' writer's retreat, which was awesomesauce.

One of the most helpful parts of the retreat were these little 30 and 15 minute contests we would do. You check your "before" word count, write like crazy for however long, stop at the end of the allotted time, and the highest word count wins.

The last one we did, I ended up with 1,301 words written in a mere 30 minutes. I think the winner of that particular contest had 1,306 words, so I narrowly missed victory, but it still felt epic. I turned my internal editor so far off, I wasn't even correcting spellin' errers. Which is maybe a little too far, but maybe not. I mean, you wanna get your first draft written, right? And you know you're going to have to go back and edit, anyway, right? Right.

So we've been continuing on with the word sprint challenges now that we're home, and last night I finally had a second off from my crazy schedule and joined in. It was a 1k in 1hour challenge, and I came away with just over 2400 words. In one hour!

This is the first time in my life I've really been able to turn off the stinkin' editor and just write, and it's awesome!

If you've been joining in the word sprint madness, let me know how it's going for you! If you haven't tried it yet, what are you waiting for? It's fun! It boosts your word count! You get to finally tell your internal editor to stuff it!

So join in the fun, and then report back here how it's going. (P.S. it's a little-known secret, but just so you know, you don't have to be doing NaNo to benefit from word sprints. It's just a great exercise no matter what.)

John Green on NaNo

Today, I just wanted to share with you a hilarious video by John Green, one of the vlog brothers / nerd fighters.

The two things he said that I really love are these:

1) NaNoWriMo forces you to be disciplined, and it gives you permission to suck, which are two of the things you most need if you're going to be a novelist.

2) Writing a first draft is like digging the clay out of the ground, and revision is when you actually use the clay to build something that you like.

The reason I love that metaphor so much is because usually those metaphors go more like this: Writing a first draft is like shaping the clay into the rough shape of the sculpture, and revision is putting the detail, etc. in. But in John Green's version, the first draft is just digging the clay out of the ground. It doesn't even have to look like anything yet. It's just raw material. The actual building and shaping comes in revision.

I like that. It helps to give me permission to suck. Which is one of the things I most need this month!

What do you think about the first draft metaphor? Do you agree with the digging-the-clay-out-of-the-ground version? Or do you see the first draft as more of a rough shaping of the sculpture?

Achieving Greatness

Leonard Bernstein said:
"To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time."
Isn't that the perfect NaNo peptalk, right there in one sentence?

Let's break it down: when I have enough time to do something, I never start right away. It's human nature - or at least I like to think that. It makes me feel better - to put something off if it isn't urgent. So to start at the beginning of the challenge already not having enough time, you jump right into urgent mode. It's perfect.

I'm planning to give short NaNo peptalks throughout the month of November, but if you're not doing NaNo, never fear! These bits of inspiration are good for everyone, not just people who are crazy enough to write a novel in one month. Feel free to drop in often and tell me what you think of my nuggets.

Happy Writing!

Don't Bother Me; I'm Writing

I have to apologize to all my many fans out there. I've had a seriously hectic last couple of weeks, and now NaNoWriMo is upon us, and I'm trying to write more than I blog. I'm only taking a brief reprise to say Hi and give an update.

I'm on my first-ever writer's retreat this weekend - 3 days and 2 nights of a little too much chatting and not quite enough writing, though I am getting some good work done on my novel as well. I came here with my word count at exactly ZERO for the month of November, but in just a little over 24 hours, I've written over 4,000 words. Not too shabby, though I want to get on the ball and really kick some wordcount butt.

I'll try to blog more regularly from now on, but anytime you miss me, just pop in and take a look at my status bar at the top of the right-hand column. And go ahead and cheer me on while you're at it.

This message is brought to you by a beautiful log cabin in the mountains above Park City, Utah.

Opening Scenes

I've been to quite a few writing classes over the years regarding how to hook your reader from the first page.

The general consensus is that something BIG has to happen right away. In fact, some presenters have gone so far as to say that your opening hook should be the moment of change for the character - the catalyst that thrusts them out of their current state.

For the most part, I bought into it, but I was never quite sure.

However, now I'm starting to seriously doubt whether this is the right approach.

Take the Hunger Games, for example. While I think she could have started it out a little faster, I think Collins did the right thing in putting the catalyst for change on page 20 rather than page 1. It's true that the first few lines didn't grab me by the throat, but we NEEDED the setup in the first chapter in order for the moment of change to MEAN something to us.

Katniss's moment of change is when Prim's name is called at the reaping. What if Collins had started her book there? We wouldn't really care. We wouldn't know what the reaping is. We wouldn't know about the tessera, the slim chance of Prim's one slip of paper being pulled out, or the fact that Kattniss's main goal in life is to protect her younger, vulnerable, sweet sister. We wouldn't know anything about what the Hunger Games are at all.

Yes, Collins could have filled that backstory in bit by bit, but by then the impact of Prim's name being called and Katniss taking her place would have been lost.

Maybe the main goal of some authors does need to be cutting out some of the fat in the first chapter, but I'm thinking I actually need to add a little more setup to my first few pages of Free Agents. We have to see the world the way it is before the change in order to understand why the change matters.

That's not to say the first line, paragraph, page, chapter should be dull backstory. No, they still need to be interesting and engaging and pull the reader in. But I think they need to be an interesting BEFORE picture. Otherwise, the AFTER picture loses much of its effect.

That's what I think, anyway. But I want to know what YOU think, too. Did Collins do the right thing by giving us a BEFORE picture? Should every book do that?

Down to the Basics

This isn't writing-related. At least, not technically, though you know me - I can turn anything into a writing metaphor if given enough time.

No, this is about music. I've always loved music. I've learned to play 5 different instruments over the years, sung in the choir (and in my car and shower), and have put all my kids in music lessons.

By far, my favorite music teaching tool ever, though, is called Let's Play Music, and it's all about teaching young children the basics in very fun, accessible ways. Instead of droning on about how a note high on a staff makes a higher sound than a note low on the staff, they sing a fun song about a red balloon. As the notes in the song go up, the balloon goes up and the kids all stand up and wave their own red balloons in the air. And then as the notes go down, the balloon goes down and the kids all move their balloons down with the music.

By the time they learn to play the piano, no one has to tell them what the staff is all about because they've learned the basics without even knowing they were learning.

One of my children is in her third and final year of Let's Play Music, and she's learning to do things I barely know how to do - like find the root of a chord, transpose music on the fly, and even compose her own song.

They're having a big giveaway right now, so go to the Let's Play Music Blog to check it out, or take a look at their website to learn more about the program.

It's a Matter of Opinion

I've been talking to people off and on over the years about the curious phenomenon that happens occasionally where one person absolutely adores a book and highly recommends it, and then others downright hate it.

Some friends were talking about the book Leviathan the other night, and I happened to be in the middle of reading it, so I was interested to hear that one of my friends loved the book, but another thought it was only so-so, and they both generally read and like the same kind of books.

I continued my reading, and found that I really enjoyed the book a lot, though I didn't think it was over-the-top amazing or anything - I think I'll give it 4 stars. And I'll definitely be reading Behemoth, the sequel that just came out this month.

I hadn't read hardly any steampunk at all before this, and I found the genre quite interesting. Leviathan is a strange mishmash of futuristic beasts and machines colliding with WWI history, and I can see how that might turn some people off and light other people's fire. For me, it was exciting, it was different, and Westerfeld kept the pace intense throughout, with only slight lags when changing character viewpoints, which I've come to expect.

What are some books that you loved and others hated? Are there any you hated despite the fact that others loved them? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Lost Book, Found

Two years ago, I moved 5 bookshelves into the library in my office. I was stressed at the time, so I filled all the shelves randomly with the full intention of coming back soon and organizing them.

That never happened.

The last few weeks, I've been desperately looking for a book (Save the Cat) to no avail despite combing through every shelf multiple times. Then, I proceeded to turn the house upside down, thinking it must be in a box or a drawer or a pile somewhere.

After a lot of that, I finally got desperate enough to start organizing my shelves, at least to some small degree. I cleared off one shelf for self-help books, another for picture books, and another for writing manuals and how-to's, etc. After about 45 minutes of that, lo and behold, I found the book I was looking for at the far end of one of the lower shelves.

I've been working on organizing a lot more than my books, and I'll be talking more about that in future posts, but I wanted to share this one small triumph with you today.

So, how do you organize your bookshelf? By type? Size? Color-coded? Alphabetically? Or some other way I haven't thought of yet? I'd like to get some ideas for mine as I fine-tune it. :o)

Being a Good Friend

At critique group last night, we were talking about going out into the blogging world and making friends - going to blogs, commenting, replying to comments, etc. I've obviously been very bad at that lately, but I'm trying to do better.

Anyway, the whole conversation got me to thinking about that old saying, "To have a good friend, you have to be a good friend." So when I got home, I actually googled the above saying and funnily enough, I came up with a WikiHow on making friends. You can read it here if you're interested. I personally found it funny, but still enlightening and profound at times.

My favorite line was, "Friends seldom come knocking on your door while you sit at home playing computer games."

It's the sad truth, friends. If you want lots of people to follow your blog and comment on it, you have to follow lots of blogs and comment on them. If you want to have lots of friends who are writers, you have to go to conferences and signings and other places where writers gather and talk to them.

I haven't been devoting much time lately to being a good friend because life has been overwhelming, but you can expect to see me around a little more here and there. Because I'd like to be your friend.

Drop me a comment and let me know what you do to make friends - on or off line.

Genre Discussion - Dystopia

I've been reading a lot of dystopias lately. On top of that, I'm writing one! So I thought it would be fun to talk about what a dystopia actually is.

My first lesson on the subject was that it is a dysfunctional utopia. The Giver is often listed as a prime example of a dystopia, and it fits the bill. Imagine an absolutely perfect utopia - no pain, no violence, everyone is the same, everything is fair, everyone is happy. And then, of course, are the dark underpinnings that the society is built on, thus the dysfunctional part of the dystopia.

But not all of the dystopias I've read lately have any kind of utopian element. For instance, the Hunger Games. Yes, there is a lot of happiness and carefree-ness in the capital, so maybe that's where it comes in. Would you say the capital is a utopia, though? I wouldn't, not really.

Another example I'm thinking of is a book I'm currently reading, The House of the Scorpion. Not a utopia in any way for anyone.

So my current definition of a dystopia is:

A fictional work dealing with what our society could potentially become if we keep going down a path that we are currently on, sometimes with a utopian element.

Okay, so that's my definition. Now, I'd like to hear yours.


It's that time again! WriMo's (WriMoose, as we are sometimes called in the plural) are gearing up to write 50,000 words in 30 days, and I've committed to doing it. Again. Because it's just so darn fun! (Go here to learn more about National Novel Writing Month)

 Up through the end of October, I'll still be writing as it comes to me, but for most of my writing time I'm planning to do some intense character sketches, work on getting to know my world, and building it.

On top of all that, I have a book in my possession that has been recommended multiple times, most recently by my friend, Ali, called Save the Cat! I'll be reading that and potentially using it to plot the novel ahead of time.

Wish me Luck! And good luck to all of you who are embarking on this crazy, wonderful journey, too!

* updated to say: if you want to become my friend on the NaNo site, my username is jennylou *

Fantastic Friday News

I'm going to indulge in a little "good news minute," the idea of which came from my fabulous friend Nichole. (Is the alliteration getting to you yet? 'Cuz it's getting to me.) :o)

So, as I cast my mind about for some good news, the first thing that came to mind happened a couple weeks ago at the League of Utah Writers banquet. One of my submissions to the contest came away with an Honorable Mention.

(Interrupting this message to inform you of how exciting it is to hear your name called and to have your whole table burst into raucous applause despite James Dashner's stern warnings to hold our applause to the end. It's awesome.)

The win came for my picture book manuscript, "Annie is Such a Copycat." This is the one I already felt the best about, and having it be honorable enough to be mentioned conformed to me what I've known for a long time - I need to start submitting something, and this is my best shot at being published at the moment.

So guess what I'm going to start thinking about maybe starting to try to possibly do? Starting . . . soon . . . ish.


President Uchtdorf told an awesome story in conference this past weekend, and it goes along beautifully with something that happened to me very soon after watching it. Paraphrasing, this is the story:

When it was discovered that a ball-point pen wouldn't work in space, scientists spent thousands of dollars and millions of hours developing a pen that would write anywhere, in any temperature, and on nearly any surface.

In the meantime, what did the astronauts do? They simply used a pencil.

I'm afraid there are times when I'm spending massive amounts of energy, time, and money in order to do things the sophisticated way, when using something simple would work just as well.

Shortly after hearing this talk, I had a scare where I thought my laptop had crashed and all my work lost. Luckily, that wasn't the case and I was able to quickly back up the stories I was working on. And then make a silent vow to back up more often.

Though I will be using them more than before, I'm not going to switch to writing entire books with pad and pencil. But I am looking for other ways to simplify. For one thing, instead of making elaborate chore charts for my kids that I spend more time designing than using, I'll just tape up a piece of paper and mark off the times the chores are done. Easy peasy.

How are YOU simplifying? I'd love to get more ideas.

Reporting In

Right after talking up my schedule, I missed posting this morning. But it wasn't for lack of trying, I promise! I guess I just don't know how to do this whole scheduling a blog to post in the future thing. So, we'll see how it goes for the blog post I have scheduled to go live on Wednesday morning.

On to the point of my post . . . I did great for the beginning half of the week, not so stellar for the second half. I ended up writing for 215 minutes, which works out to be 3.58 hours. I had good reasons for missing some of my time, but reasons = excuses too often. Still, I'm glad I did what I did, and I'm hoping to do even better this week.

Now go check out my friends' blogs below to see how their weeks went. And be sure to drop me a comment and tell me how YOUR writing's going.

The Dreaded Schedule

Do you hear the spooky Halloween music in the background? You should. Because today I'm talking about scheduling

I'll just put it out there: I hate schedules. I hate being hemmed in by them. I hate feeling like I'm always behind.

On the other hand, I love the IDEA of a schedule. I'd love looking at the clock and saying, "Oh, Johnny, dear, look, it's eleven o'clock. Time to read stories . . . and now it's eleven thirty, so we're going to eat lunch now . . . oh, look, it's twelve o'clock. Naptime!"

Doesn't it sound like such fun? Maybe some of you are even living the dream.

For me, though, this is how it goes: "Oh, crap! It's eleven forty-five and I've totally blown an hour reading reviews on Goodreads, and now we've completely missed reading time, and lunch time is practically over and what the heck am I going to even make, and I can't even work in this kitchen because I skipped cleaning-the-countertop-time in favor of reading just one more (and then one more) chapter of that book I can't put down, and now it's way past naptime, and Johnny is fighting me tooth and nail because he hates taking a nap!"

Do you see why the scary music cues at the mention of the word schedule?

However! (This is the big BUT you've been waiting for.)

I'm finding that just a bit of scheduling here and there is actually serving me well. As I mentioned on Wednesday, I write while my daughter is in preschool. And that's working for me.

And now, I'm also setting up a schedule for my blog. I keep hearing about the need to blog often, and to blog on a schedule, but I screamed and got in the fetal position every time the word was uttered. Now, though, I feel good about it. Because my good friend Elana has finally convinced me that I can write my posts whenever I want (hallelujah!) and schedule them to post at the days and times I want them to go live.

Hmmm. Maybe I should just scratch this post and say:

"Hey, guys! I'm such a disciplined, scheduled person, that I'm going to get up every Mon, Wed, and Fri morning and post a new blog for you to read at 8 a.m. Mountain Time. Sharp."

The problem is, no one who even remotely knows me would believe it!

So, how about you? Do you blog on a schedule? Write on a schedule? Live on a schedule? Or do you duck and cover at the mention of the "S" word?

WiP Wednesday

It's time for another WiP-it Wednesday! I have been majorly absent from the blogosphere for quite a while, so it would be nice to be able to say, "I finished my novel!" or "I finished three novels!!!" Unfortunately, all I can say is that I haven't been a whole lot better at writing than I have been at blogging this past year or so.

Fortunately, I can also say that that's all changing now. My youngest is in preschool 3 days a week, which gives me roughly 6 hours a week of Freedom, Sweet Freedom! There are a lot of things I could do with that time, but I'm devoting it to writing. No doctor's appointments. No chatting with friends. No shopping. No reading. No blogging. In fact, I'm even flipping the little WiFi switch on my laptop OFF during my writing time so I won't be interrupted with the little boxes that pop up in the corner of my screen letting me know I have a new email that I just have to read right this very second.

I also joined with Ali and some other bloggers out there who are tracking their writing time this week. (Monday the 27th through Friday the 1st) It'll be interesting to see what comes of it. For myself, I'm hoping to just get a little motivational kick in the pants. So far, I have 165 minutes. Not too bad, right? Right.

Below are links for everyone who's participating in the blogfest. Check 'em out. Cheer 'em on. Keep track of your own writing time and let me know how you're doing, too.

New Blog Name!

In the beginning, I thought the internet was a scary place and that I needed to be anonymous if I was going to be out here in it. In fact, I still think that to a degree, which is why I won't be posting pictures of my kids on this blog or talking about where they go to school and what time their after-school activity lets out.

On the other hand, I'm realizing that I need to get my name out there if I want to sell my books when they get published. And I'm thinking that people are going to have a hard time going into their local Barnes and Noble and asking if they can buy the new book by that "Confessions of a Lifelong Bookworm" lady.

I decided I wanted to have my blog actually be my name, but with a name like Jenn, you can imagine I was a little doubtful that it would be available. Lucky for me, all the other Jenn Wilkses out there have chosen cutesy names like I did, and I was able to snatch it up. And extra lucky for me, I didn't have to create a whole new blog like I thought I would and lose all my awesome followers in the process - I could just choose a new name and here I am. So if you follow me, I'll still show up in your blogroll like always. But if you use a link, you'll need to update it to

I'll be blogging more regularly, so if you want to keep up, go ahead and "follow" me if you don't already - see the little "followers" button on the side there? A little down, a little down . . . There! And while you're at it, leave me a comment and let me know how you feel about internet privacy - Are you anonymous? Do you just put it all out there? Or are you somewhere in the middle, like me?

Book Review: Alma the Younger

Alma the Younger is the newest book in H.B. Moore's Book of Mormon prophets novels, and I do have to say I really enjoyed it. Of course, that's not so surprising given the fact that I've always loved Moore's books. 

Taking three and a half verses from the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 27:8-11) and turning it into 250 or some odd pages of a book has got to be a serious challenge, and all the harder because not everyone is going to be happy with how you portray one of their favorite prophets.

I really enjoyed seeing how Moore developed Alma's character. She didn't make him evil - she made him rebellious, but she gave him motivation. I love how Moore's books always make the characters come to life for me. Even though I know that most of the book is fiction, I also know that Moore does a lot of research into the culture and climate of the time, so it feels real.

Some of these books are based on much larger passages of scripture with many more details than others. In a case like this one, the scriptures only tell us that Alma the Younger was going about seeking to destroy the church of God, basically. All the details of how he went about that needed to come from Moore's imagination. My only caution in reading a book like this is for the reader to take it as a piece of fiction, and to read the chapter notes for fascinating insights into the parts of the story that are, in fact, based on the truth.

Keep Calm

In 1939, the British government issued a series of posters to raise morale in the case of invasion. 2,500,000 copies of this one were printed, though only a limited number were distributed. In the year 2000, a copy of the poster was found in a second-hand bookshop, and since the design was now in the public domain, it was soon being copied onto T-shirts, mugs, doormats, and various other merchandise from a wide variety of vendors.

Enter my good friend Sara Olds, who just spent a good part of the summer in Europe. She brought us (meaning the SWCG, our critique group) back a bunch of goodies, and among them was a postcard with the Keep Calm and Carry On logo printed on it.
We found it to be an awesome inspirational message. It will probably become a long-lasting motto for our group. It's really a good message for all parts of life: parenting, long lines at the DMV, even waiting for the mail. But it's especially meaningful to us as writers. Let me give you some examples:

  • You're writing your first draft and it hits you suddenly that the thing completely sucks.
  • Your critique group tells you your third draft (which you thought was so much better) sucks. (Though they're nice about it.)
  • You finish your manuscript and find that it needs major revisions.
  • You send out queries and hear nothing for months.
  • When you do hear from the agents you sent those queries to, they tell you your story sucks. (Usually in nicer words, but not always.)
So, I made up the following poster for myself. Tell me what you think. How does the Keep Calm and Carry On motto apply to your life?

Check out what my critique group friends had to say about this topic here:

(A link to Sara's own post on the subject will be displayed here when she has it ready.)

Imprints - Book Review

It didn't take me very long to get through Rachel Ann Nunes's latest book, Imprints, once I started. As is true with most, if not all, of Nunes's previous books, the action is fairly fast-paced, the writing style is clean and easy to read, and the pages almost turn themselves.

This is the first paranormal romance Deseret Book has put out, and I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love to read books that have a sci-fi, fantasy, or paranormal twist, but I also LOVE to read a clean book that isn't going to jump out at me with bad language and graphic scenes. So Imprints was a perfect read for me.

Here's a little blurb about the book:  
Sometimes what you can't see means everything

A young woman is missing. In desperation, her parents turn to Autumn Rain for help. Autumn reads imprints—emotions left mysteriously behind on certain treasured objects. But is this ability a blessing or a curse?

Sometimes Autumn isn’t sure—her life has become far from normal—but for people who have missing loved ones, her talent might mean the difference between life and death. Even the infuriating Detective Martin has asked for Autumn’s help, though at times she feels more like a suspect than a consultant. Too often Autumn finds herself retreating to her antiques shop and the company of her best friend, Jake Ryan, to avoid notice.

But soon more than one woman is missing, and Autumn teams up with private eye Keefe McConnell to investigate their disappearance. Keefe’s attraction to her is a pleasant change from Jake’s frustrating offers of friendship, but once Autumn takes that first step, she sets in motion a series of events that risk not only her own life but the lives of those she cares about most.
 Imprints is a spin-off of one of Nunes's recent books, Eyes of a Stranger. You don't need to read that book to enjoy this one, though - but I do always love how Nunes takes a more minor character from one book and tells their story in the next.

Rebound - Book Review

I recently read Heather's Justesen's second book, Rebound, which follows the storyline of some of the characters in her first book, The Ball's in Her Court.

Here's the back cover blurb:

Lily's life is perfect--a perfect lie. With a successful husband, a gorgeous home, and a growing family, Lily Drake has it all. But when the FBI shows up, she realizes her husband is not the man she thought he was. Meanwhile, Lily's friend Curtis is about to be drafted by the NBA, but he suddenly feels pulled to find his birth family, and no one is prepared for what he'll discover. With so many obstacles in their way, Lily and Curtis must learn to rely on each other if they're ever going to find peace and learn to love again. In this heartwarming family drama, Heather Justesen, author of The Ball's in Her Court, weaves a stirring story of hope. Reunite with your favorite characters and discover how determination, love, and faith can overcome even the toughest trials.

If you enjoyed The Ball's in Her Court, I think you'll definitely enjoy this book as well. The tone and style are very similar, and some of your favorite characters from the first book make appearances in the second book. I always love that.

I did enjoy this book quite a bit. The characters were rich and the issues were pretty complex. I especially liked Curtis. I really liked the way he was portrayed in this book. The tone was a little bit distant for me, though, and I felt the climax wasn't fleshed out as well as it could have been. Still, all in all, I'd recommend it, especially for lovers of contemporary romance with touches of real-world issues.

Apologies, and NEWS

Sorry I haven't been blogging at all lately! I keep looking at the date of my last post, thinking, Has it really almost been a month???? I also have a couple of book reviews I'm supposed to be doing that I'm behind on. I've been writing a little. Here and there. Not like I'd planned. My triathlon went well. I finished at least! Huzzah! I did it in about 1 hour and 44 minutes. They canceled the swim and I had to do an extra mile of running because of it. :'( So I'm planning to do another one in August so I can really, truly say I'm a triathlete. Pray for good weather for me!!!

Next week I'll be at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference. Woohoo!!! I'm soooo excited! I only decided yesterday to do it for sure. It's just kind of overwhelming with the amount of babysitting I'm going to have to work out and the cost and everything, but I decided to go for it. Kristyn Crow still had spots in her class, and I'm really excited to work with her. She's a picture book author and her books are really good, and she seems to know what she's talking about in her advice to authors on her webpage, so I expect it to be awesome.

Speaking of picture books, I don't have my picture books on the sidebar - maybe I should update that! I have 5 that are polished pretty well to the best of my abilities right now, so it's just a matter of figuring out which one(s) to bring with me.

One is about Skye, a little girl who takes a BIG trip into outer space. (We're not just talking to the moon and back.)

Another is about Annie, and her Copycat, whose name is also Annie. (I told you she was a copycat!)

One is about Daxton Mason, a little boy who wants to become a rocket ship when he grows up. (No, not an astronaut. That would be boring. He wants to actually grow up to be a rocket ship!)

And one is in the style of The House that Jack Built, only it is The Earth that God Made.

I also have a fairy tale - it's actually not a children's picture book, though, it's an adult allegory. So I won't be taking that one. Maybe I'll find a publisher while I'm there that I can submit it to, though! :-D

So, any opinions on which book I should take to be workshopped on Monday? Which of them sound the most interesting to YOU? I may have time to do more than one throughout the course of the week, but she said to just bring one for now. And I'm stressing about having to pick a favorite. I love ALL of my babies!


Sorry I haven't been blogging much lately. I even missed Wednesday's WiP check-in last week. I'll have to make up for it tomorrow. I haven't been writing much lately, either, though. I hope I can get something done tonight so I'll have something to report on.

But part of my excuse reason for being such a slacker is that my first triathlon is coming up this weekend and I've been stressing training a lot lately.

It's a "sprint" distance tri, which is kind of funny because nothing I will be doing the ENTIRE time will even closely resemble a sprint, and it will probably take me in the neighborhood of an hour and a half to complete. But, nonetheless, I'm pretty confident in my ability to at least complete the triathlon. Then I'll probably be laid up in bed unable to walk for a week, in which time I will surely be able to get some writing done! :-D

Summer in Paris - Book Review

Michele Ashman Bell has authored more than 20 published books, but Summer in Paris is her first book intended for the national audience.

From the back cover:

    "I declared bankruptcy this morning. We've lost everything." Kenzie's father took a breath and continued. "We have thirty days to auction off our belongings and move out of the house."

    Kenzie's mouth dropped open with disbelief. "Bankrupt," she whispered. That one word had the power to reduce her life from chauffers and credit cards to nothing.

    "While we sort this out," her father continued, "we've made arrangements for you to stay with your aunt and uncle in Paris."

    Paris. That wouldn't be so bad.

    But wait . . . her uncle didn't live in Europe. He lived in Idaho.

So begins Kenzie Williams's fall from New York ballerina to Idaho farmhand.

I found the book to be pretty entertaining, though I didn't feel there was anything really original or fresh about it. I also felt like Kenzie's transition to farm life was a little too easy to be realistic. And I do have a pet peeve about authors keeping information from the reader that the protagonist obviously knows, which Bell does near the end.

Still, overall, it was a nice, light read, which is sometimes a good thing when all you've been reading about for a while is vampires and genetic manipulation and werewolves and Afghan history and wizards and dying cancer patients and post-apocalyptic dystopian societies. Not that that's what I'd been doing or anything. ;o)

I wouldn't feel comfortable recommending most of the books I've been reading lately to my kids. Even a lot of the "young adult" books on the market right now really aren't appropriate for young adults, IMHO. But this cute little book seemed like something my daughter would enjoy, and it was clean, so I didn't have any misgivings handing it over.

She did enjoy it for the most part, though the pacing slowed down a bit for her near the end and she had a hard time getting through some of the slower parts to get to the more captivating ending. But she said there were some exciting scenes throughout the book that kept her attention, (Sorry, no spoilers) and she liked Kenzie. When I asked her if she learned anything, she replied, "Sometimes going off to a new place and having a new life isn't the worst possible thing that could happen."

So there you go. If you're looking for a fun, clean summer read for your kids, Summer in Paris might be just the ticket.

Women of the Book of Mormon - Book Review

I've loved reading all of Heather B. Moore's books about the characters in the Book of Mormon. She really has a way of making them come to life. So I was excited to see that she was publishing a book specifically about the women in the Book of Mormon.

Women of the Book of Mormon: Insights & Inspirations is a beautiful gift-quality hardcover book with full-page illustrations at the beginning of every chapter. Moore teaches us about all of the women who feature prominently in the Book of Mormon, both those who are named, such as Sariah, and those who are only referred to in groups, such as the mothers of the two thousand stripling warriors. She paints these women in vivid detail, explaining the culture they lived in and the social customs that would have influenced their choices and responses to the events happening around them.

I really enjoyed reading this little book, so much so that even though I had already read it, I bought an extra copy to have on hand. I definitely recommend this book for anyone who has an interest in learning more about these great women. It's a quick read, but packed with good and interesting information.

Jenna Fox Winner!

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who participated in last Monday's National Hug-an-Author Day / Blogfest of Love / Spread the Awesome Contest Extravaganza! I had so much fun telling you all about a book I LOVE and hearing about all the books you LOVE, too!

For those who missed it or who didn't understand the full depth of awesome that IS The Adoration of Jenna Fox, here's a recap (and a different but equally awesome cover):

Jenna Fox wakes up from a coma not knowing anything about herself. She watches home movies and her parents tell her who she is, but the pieces aren't falling together as easily as she'd hoped. When they do, though, she and the reader are in for some shocking surprises.

This book is a mix of medical intrigue, futuristic science fiction, teen romance, and coming-of-age coolness that you will definitely not want to miss.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox was written by the amazing Mary E. Pearson, whose books are all on my to-be-read-very-soon pile.

Mary is so intensely cool, she has agreed to sign the winning book personally to the winner, and will be sending the book to him or her very soon.

It's not quite Monday at noon as I promised, but it is still Monday. And so, without further ado, I'd like to present to you the winner of the most awesome book, The Adoration of Jenna Fox. And that winner is . . .

Readerly Person

Congratulations! I hope to hear from you very soon regarding who you want Mary to sign the book to and what address you would like her to send it to. And just so you know, Readerly (I really wish I had a first name to use here. Unless Readerly Person is your true name, in which I apologize deeply for my faux pas) won with her "follower" entry. Woot! Woot! Yay for new followers. :o)

Happy Reading everyone!

WiP Wednesday

First of all, thank you to everyone who stopped by the blog tour of love on Monday! I've been conversing with Mary Pearson - I feel so cool just saying that! - and she has agreed to personalize the signed book and send it directly to the winner. Is she Made of Awesome or what? So be sure and read the last post and enter if you haven't already. You have until noon mountain time next Monday.

I've decided to jump on the WiP Wednesday bandwagon. I think it will help keep me on track and accountable. I've been going through some personal challenges lately and my writing has taken a nose-dive, partly because I'm deep in an everything-I-write-is-absolute-crap funk.

But I do know that I'm a much better re-writer than I am a writer, and I'm a firm believer in the idea that you can't revise a blank page. So, I'm ready to get back to work. I might even *gulp* send something to my critique group this week. And those of you who were at Elana Johnson's boot camp table or took her killer query workshop a couple of weeks ago know how scary that is! ;o) It's not just her, though - our whole group is pretty blunt about telling you when your stuff sucks.

My goal for this week is to get something ready to send to my group, and to work on Free Agents every day. I've also decided to start first-drafting by hand. I'm hoping this will help me in several ways. 1- I won't be able to obsessively check my wordcount every 5 minutes. 2- I won't be able to obsessively check my email every 5 minutes. 3- I won't be as likely to obsessively re-read and tweak what I just wrote every 5 minutes.

Are you starting to see a pattern here? :-D

I also hope it will help me let go and really feel like this is a first draft and it's not set in stone and it's okay if it sucks. I get so hung up on trying to write it perfect the first time, but by writing by hand, I know I can change it as I'm typing it in. It gives me a built-in second draft, basically.

We'll see how it goes, anyway. I'll report back next Wednesday.

Now get off the Internet and go write something. That's what I plan to do. :o)

Books That Deserve 10 Stars

My good friend Elana Johnson came up with the idea for a bunch of us bloggers to shout from the rooftops about books and authors that we think are AWESOMESAUCE. 60 + bloggers will be posting their reviews today. After reading my review, head on over to Jenn Johansson's blog to read about another well-deserving author. Keep clicking through the links to read about all the books on today's tour. Lots of giveaways and other cool stuff will be happening all over the blog tour, plus you'll get a ton of new books to add to your to-read list.

The book I've chosen to spotlight is . . . wait for it . . .

The Adoration of

Jenna Fox


Mary E. Pearson

Who is Jenna Fox?

Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a year-long coma, and she’s still recovering from the terrible accident that caused it. Her parents show her home movies of her life, her memories, but she has no recollection. Is she really the same girl she sees on the screen?

Little by little, Jenna begins to remember. But along with the memories come questions—questions no one wants to answer for her. What really happened after the accident?

In this fascinating novel, acclaimed author Mary E. Pearson presents an unforgettable look at one human life and a glimpse into a possible future that may be closer than we think.

To see a book trailer, read reviews, get discussion questions and a lot more, go to the official Jenna Fox website.

The reason I loved this book so much is because it was beautifully and simply written, there were a lot of awesome surprises, it really made me think, I fell in love with the main character, and there was just a lot of wicked cool stuff scattered all throughout. Really, I can't say enough good stuff about this book. If Goodreads would have let me, I would have given it 10 stars.

Because it was so awesome and I want all of you to read it, I'll be giving away a signed copy. All you have to do is leave a comment and tell me what YOUR favorite book is, or tell me about another author you think is just awesomesauce. And if you become (or already are) a follower, I'll add a second entry for you.

Oh, and I guess I should say when the contest ends. I'll draw the name of the lucky winner next Monday, May 10, at noon.

Happy Reading!

*Important Update* I'll be getting a signed copy for my giveaway! Sweet!

The Cleansing of America

I recently finished reading The Cleansing of America, a sequel to The Majesty of God's Law, written by W. Cleon Skousen and published by Valor Publishing Group.

An interesting fact about this book is that Skousen died in 2006, but he wrote The Cleansing of America 16 years ago, and left it for his sons to publish when they felt the time was right.

The Cleansing of America is a collection of 7 different lectures concerning the last days. Skousen talks about the future of America as prophesied by modern-day prophets and scripture and setting up a Zion society in America in preparation for Christ's second coming.

I agreed to review The Cleansing of America because I'm interested in learning more about the last days. I've always wished I understood the revelations better, and I've been thinking about researching it and finding books on the subject.

As I was reading this book, however, I had mixed feelings. I found the revelations themselves very interesting, as some of them were things I've never heard of before. On the other hand, I wasn't sure about Skousen's interpretations of those revelations. Maybe it was because I don't know and trust Skousen as a gospel scholar. If the book had been written by an apostle, I think I would have read it differently. But there were parts of the book where I felt Skousen had a political agenda and was using the revelations to support his opinions. The book I was hoping to read was a purely gospel one.

As I said before, however, there were some interesting things in the book. I especially found chapter seven informative and enlightening. I never knew why the saints weren't able to make their Zion society work, and I enjoyed reading about that.

I have to admit, too, that I don't remember ever hearing about Cleon Skousen before talk of this new book began circulating. So I can't speak to whether people who liked or disliked The Majesty of God's Law or any of Skousen's other books will feel likewise about this book. However, I'm guessing that fans of Skousen will probably enjoy reading this book.

The Sapphire Flute

I was so excited when Tristi Pinkston approached me about reviewing some of Valor's new books! She let me pick which books I was interested in reading and reviewing, and Karen Hoover's debut novel, The Sapphire Flute, was at the top of the list.

I would like to say that even though Karen is a friend of mine, and I got a free book out the deal and everything, I've tried really hard to be unbiased in my assessment of the book. So that's my disclaimer. :o) Now, on to the review.

The Sapphire Flute is the story of two girls - Kayla and Ember. Both are young women who are just finding themselves. At the beginning of the book, Ember is beginning to discover that she can do magic, and Kayla is given guardianship of a magic flute. Both girls have to fight against the evil C'Tan.

The first thing I noticed about The Sapphire Flute was how compelling the story was. It kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next. Unfortunately, that fell a little short in places, especially near the end. Because of the way the two story lines were interwoven, there were times when I should have been compelled to keep reading, but I wasn't because we had switched to the other story. As I got to the end, I was prepared to stay up until the wee hours of the night because I was so wrapped up in the story. However, because the story switched away from the climax of one of the storylines and back to a storyline that felt resolved at the time, I actually put the book down a few pages in to the chapter and decided to read the rest the next day. So the pacing could have been tighter, especially there at the end.

That's a pretty small complaint, though, compared to how wonderful the book was as a whole. There was so much fun magic throughout this entire book. Between the mages and the spells and the shapeshifting and the warewolves and the dragons, there was always something exciting happening.

The characters were also very well written. I felt I really got to know them, and I thought Hoover did a wonderful job giving each of her two heroines a distinct identity. She also created a very convincing villain.

The Sapphire Flute is only the first in a series of seven books about Rasaan, and it definitely felt wide open for a sequel at the end of the book. However, it didn't leave me hanging on a cliff the way a lot of YA books that are planned series have been doing lately. The conclusion felt satisfying, but I'm also anxious to read more.

Another thing I absolutely loved about The Sapphire Flute is that it's a very clean read. I would have no qualms letting young adults read this young adult book, which is something I wouldn't say about many of them that are coming out these days.

Basically, I'd recommend The Sapphire Flute to just about everyone who loves a good book. Here's a link, in case you'd like to order it off of Barnes and Noble. Happy Reading!

More Kewl Kontests

I spent about 3 seconds trying to come up with a word to replace "more" that I could start with a K, but gave up pretty quickly. Because, really, finding ways to spell things wrong just isn't a good use of my time.

But I did want to blog about some contests going on at Elana's, Suzette and Bethany's, and Kimberly's blogs. Mainly for the extra points I'll get. :-D

Elana's giving away some awesome books signed by the authors, Suzette and Bethany are giving away a partial manuscript critique by Suzette's agent, among a few other kewl prizes, and Kimberly is giving away some of her favorite things, including an autographed copy of her book. So check them out.

I Wrote THE END!

I said this on Facebook last week, but thought I should take the time to write a little announcement here on the blog.

After a full decade of writing books, I have now officially finished a first draft of one of said manuscripts!

The beginning of the end for me actually came in a roundabout way. I sat down to outline what was going to happen for the rest of the book because I was kind of stuck. So I started writing in a stream-of-consciousness fashion, fleshing out dialogue and scenes as they came to me, and going back to more of an outline when they didn't. And suddenly, I knew how it was going to end. So I wrote the final scene. And then I wrote "The End" - what a great feeling!

That last bit needs more re-writing than most of what I write, but that's totally okay with me! I'm a lot better at re-writing than I am at writing anyway. :o)

So with that experience under my belt now, I'm going to go ahead and write the first draft of Free Agents that way. I want to have at least the first draft written by the time I meet with Nephele Tempest at the Storymakers Conference in April. I signed up for a pitch session with her, and that's the book I want to pitch, so it would be good if I have a better idea of how it's going to turn out. So even if the first draft is only a Quasi-Draft, it's better than nothing. I only have 6 weeks, so I better get cracking.

Blog Contest!

It's not my contest, it's my friend Elana's. But it's so fabulous, I just had to share.

Okay, so that's not exactly true. I agonized. Do I share the news and risk others reading my blog and entering and lowering my chances of winning? Or do I keep it to myself and lose 5 points toward my entry?

In the end, I decided to take the 5 points to better my chances of winning. :-D

The reason this contest is so fabulous is because if you're among the top 5 winners, a real live literary agent will read your query letter and review it on their blog.

I know!

So, hop on over to Elana's blog, and enter to win. Oh, and you could also possibly win a free copy of Elana's ebook, From the Query to the Call, or even -- and maybe I should have said this first because it's so rad -- some huge post-it notes!

And if you don't win, go ahead and buy Elana's book anyway. It's a great book, and your purchase also buys you a free query review from the master queryer herself, the fabulous Elana Johnson.

Writing Science Fiction

I'm writing a Sci-Fi story set in the year 2190. It's been so much fun to work on because, really, almost anything goes.

Right now, the story is quite technology-driven. In building my world, I'm constantly asking myself how today's technology might evolve throughout all those years. What will cars be like? What will fashions be like? Etc.

So when I get an idea of, say, the transportation system, I have to make my characters go somewhere so I can write about it. In order to make it really interesting, though, they have to be going somewhere important. It has to move the story forward. As I'm writing, I know my critique group is going to nail me if they're just going on a joyride for no real reason.

So far, between the basic story idea I have, the rough synopsis I was forced to write last year, and the technology I've been able to come up with, I've managed to push the story through to a certain point. But I keep getting stuck. What's going to happen next? How exactly is this all going to work out?

So, at LTUE this past weekend, I got some more ideas, and I'm fleshing more story out with even more detail and cool extrapolation of what the world will be like so far in the future. Unfortunately, I still don't really know what's supposed to /happen./ This has always been my biggest problem in writing.

Any ideas? :o)

A Few Tasty Tidbits

I spent quite a bit of time this weekend at LTUE. I do have to admit that not every moment was pure revelation, inspiration, or even, well, consciousness. But it was still a great conference.

Here are just a few of the things I picked up from some of my favorite classes for you to taste test:

1 - If you want to write a strong character, they have to MAKE DECISIONS.

2 - When writing young children, their thoughts shouldn't be far different from their words. If they think you're weird, they will say, "You're weird." If an adult thinks you're weird, they'll say, "Nice to see you again."

3 - Don't think that just because you didn't like a book that it's crud. It's okay to like something someone else hated, and it's okay to hate something someone else likes.

4 - Science Fiction and Fantasy are hopeful, optimistic genres. They demonstrate clear lines between good and evil, and that good triumphs over evil.

5 - Readers don't want to read about how Washington REALLY works. If it's too close to reality, it's boring.

6 - In Fantasy, you can deal with hard topics and more edgy material head-on without it affecting your readers as much because the whole world is fake, so they don't feel as much danger of it happening to them.

7 - By using fairy tales in your writing (either retellings, or even just using an icon like a glass slipper), you can evoke a lot of meaning and reaction in the reader with much less words, because they already know the story.

8 - And last but not least, everyone who came before Columbus was NOT an idiot, and they didn't believe the Earth was flat! In fact, they were the smart ones and Columbus was the idiot. He was just lucky America was here or they all would have died out there in the ocean because the world was too big for their food supply. :o) I actually knew this about Columbus already, but it's so interesting. Brandon Sanderson was talking about this in the context of blowing apart our perceptions. 90% of SF&F books are not crud, as is sometimes believed, just like the people in Columbus's time weren't idiots.

9 - Oh, and of course, it's a little scary to be in a room full of people who all know the Klingon language on sight. :-D

And, that's it. It's not everything I learned, but it's a few of the things that struck me as the most interesting and/or thought-provoking. :o)

My Current Fitness State, Goals, Etc.

Because it's not /all/ about the writing. :o)

So, I'm working on getting healthy and fit, and I thought I'd share some of what I'm doing because I've found a few things that I think are great.

First of all, I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma years ago, ever since I had pneumonia in 10th grade. But I actually cured it by doing Body for Life a couple years ago. By doing the 20-minute interval program, and just pushing myself a little more each workout, I was able to get not only my heart and muscles, but even my lungs strong and healthy. After that, I started running 5K's. It took me a while to work up to actually being able to run 3 whole miles without risking passing out right on the road. But it's an awesome feeling!

I decided to branch out last year and started biking and swimming. I ran a little "wimp's triathlon" last March and that was really cool, but it merely whetted my appetite to run a /real/ tri. I was training toward that end when I biffed it big time on my bike up on the trail in May. I then proceeded not only to fall off my bike, but off the wagon as well. I gained back all the weight I had lost, and lost a lot of the muscle I had gained.

However, I'm back in the swing of training, and I've actually committed to running the Women of Steel Triathlon in May. I'm excited and nervous all at the same time.

I also joined in a community weightloss blog run by the fabulous Tristi Pinkston. That's been helping me get back on track when I go astray - having some accountability to people. I've also garnered a lot of advice and ideas from the other members of the blog. One of which is my "new big thing."

It's called the Leptin Diet. It really makes sense to me, and seems to have some good science behind it. There are basically 5 rules:

1. Don't eat after dinner.
2. Eat 3 meals a day allowing 5-6 hours between meals. No Snacking!
3. Reduce Carbohydrates. (But do not cut them out -you need a 50/50 ratio)
4. Don't eat huge meals.
5. Have a high protein breakfast.

Here's a slightly humorous and quite informative video that explains the diet pretty well:

So, that's it. Eat well and exercise. Groundbreaking, right? :o) I'll report back in at some point in the future with how things are going.


I don't know why, but lately, I just can't get this Taylor Swift song out of my head. I thought maybe if I wrote a blog post about it, it'd stop haunting me.

The thing is, I've never been in the "if only I could go back and do things different" crowd. I'm happy to be just exactly where I am and the thought of going back even one day, whether to do things differently or not, just seems like masochism. :-D

But when I was listening to this song the other day, I had a real pang of "if only I could go back and do things different." I had to quickly slap some sense back into myself, but it was just proof to me of how much this song has affected me. (or is it effected? Where's Annette Lyon when you need her???)

So I found the video on YouTube and cried through the whole thing because the video was even more powerful than the song alone. So I thought if I had to cry like a baby, the rest of you would have to, as well. :o)

I hope you enjoy / get something out of / appreciate the message of this song.