Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve!

Happy New Year!

 Currently, I'm in Va. Hubby, the boys, and I are on our way to NC. My childhood best friend is getting married tomorrow. Isn't that the most romantic way to start a new year - with your wedding? I'm so excited for her!


I wish you all the best in the coming new year. I hope you enjoy time with your family and friends, eat and drink, be merry. I want the best for you all, I really do.

May this be our year. :)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I hope Santa brings you all the love and happiness that you'll ever need.


Oh, and presents too.


I'll see you all on New Years!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Medieval Love

Just a quick, short little post today. I wanted to share a link. I guest blogged at the Book Boost about medieval love and would love for you to visit and leave me some comment love!

And I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas Eve, spent with your family and loved ones, as we await for Jesus' birth on Christmas. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,


All I want for Christmas is a totally awesome story idea. Ideally it would make for an immensily popular movie too. #writingiseasy #Illfinishinaday

Love, Eager Wanna-be Writer

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is for that totally awesome story idea to be a totally awesome story. #whoknewwritingtookupsomuchtime?

Love, Wanna-be Writer with No Time to Write

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is a kick-ass query letter for that totally awesome story. #writingqueriesisworsethanwritingastory

Love, Writer Ready for the Query-go-round

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is my dream agent to offer to represent me. #hittingsendmakesmesonervous #Iwanttopuke

Love, Writer who is Losing Weight from Nerves

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is for my dream agent to sell my story at auction. #wouldsellmysoulifitwouldhelp

Love, Writer with a New Eyeglass Prescription from Checking my Emails Excessively

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is to earn out my advance. #needtohavereadersupport

Love, Writer who still feels Nervous and Anxious

Dear Santa,

Now that my awesome story has sold through three printings and is being turned into a major movie, all I want for Christmas is another totally awesome story idea. #writingisthebestpart Oh, and a new agent. My last one decided to become an author. #yeahneedtogobackonthequerygoround

Love, Writer who is Clearly Insane but more than Ready to Go Through the Vicious Cycle all over again.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The 2010 Goodie Tour with Danielle Thorne: Let Them Eat -- Orange Chocolate Cake!

Greetings, Nicole, and thank you for letting me visit your beautiful blog on my 2010 Goodie Tour. I've enjoying visiting all around the blogosphere with my sweet recipes and sweet adventures. I appreciate everyone who has followed me on this sugar trip. (Haha!) Today is my final stop, so I'm not only excited I shared the best for last, I'm also giving away a copy of my environmental romance, TURTLE SOUP, to one of the lucky visitors who comments on this guest post. Did you know TURTLE SOUP has a bonus recipe following the story? Now you do!

For your holiday banquet, tempt your family and friends with this luscious Orange Chocolate Cake that I found browsing through my buddy's cookbook collection a few years ago. Both the cake and the frosting originally come from THE CAKE DOCTOR series (with a few of my tweaks to make it my own). I matched the cake and its topping together. It is a rich, refreshing combination that will amaze your taste buds, and the frosting is my number one favorite – you know – the kind of stuff you want to eat out of the bowl with a spoon. Out of five stars, this recipe is a six, and I use it whenever I want to impress.

ORANGE CHOCOLATE CAKE AND FROSTING

Cake:
1 box of Devil's Food cake mix
1 1/3 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice (I use Tropicana Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice.)
½ cup of vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon of orange zest

Grease a 9X13 pan. Blend ingredients in mixer one minute on low. Beat on high for two minutes. Bake about 30 minutes or until cake springs back to the touch.

Frosting:
1 8 ounce package of cream cheese
½ stick of butter
¼ cup of dark (Dutch) cocoa
½ teaspoon of orange peel
2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed orange juice
3 and ¾ cup of powdered sugar

Blend cream cheese and butter on low. And the other ingredient except for the powdered sugar and blend on low. Beat in powdered sugar to spreading consistency. YUM!

Now, to go along with your amazing cake, check out one of my sweet romantic adventures, such as Regency Romance, JOSETTE, or my pirate ship treasure hunt, BY HEART AND COMPASS. Need a getaway? BY HEART AND COMPASS will take you on a trip you'll never forget!

When Lacey Whitman buys a restored Victorian home, she never dreams discovering an antique diary will lead her back to sea and into the arms of the dive bum she’d rather forget. Her habit of living in the past comes to a screeching halt as diver Max Bertrand and the diary of his ancestor take Lacey on the quest of a lifetime: To discover and raise the privateer ship, Specter, and bring the treasure and legacy of a true hero home again. But will finding it cost her heart?


Have a wonderful, sweet holiday season!

Sincerely yours,
Danielle Thorne

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Critiques for Christmas Winners!

It's time for me to announce the winners of my my Critques for Christmas contest.



 
And
  the
  winners
   are
    ...
     ...
       ...
       Everyone!

That's right! In the spirit of the holiday, I'll give a critique to everyone who entered.

Email me at Nicole.Zoltack@gmail.com with your query, synopsis, or first page.

Thanks everyone for entering!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Jolly Pictures and Dessert!

This post is a part of the awesome Jen and Melissa's Be Jolly By Golly Blogfest! You can check out the rest of the awesome entries here.

Now I don't have any pictures to post of my tree but that doesn't mean I won't post pictures of some awesome trees:

And now for dessert. I am usually the queen of baking at my house but hubby made some delicious cookies the other day. So easy to make and absolutely delicious too.

Peanut butter cup blossoms:

Ingredients:

Betty Crocker peanut butter cookie mix
Sugar
Reese's peanut butter cups


Make the peanut butter cookies as directed on the back of the Betty Crocker bag. Roll the peanut butter cookie mixture into balls. Roll the balls into the sugar. Cook the balls as directed. Before removing the cookies from the oven, add a peanut butter cup in the middle of each cookie.

Now the peanut butter cups will melt a little so you may want to put the cookies in the fridge for about 20 minutes for them to harden. Enjoy with some hot chocolate!

Tomorrow I'll post the winners of my Critiques for Christmas contest!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Friday

If you’re here for the query letter blogfest, my entry is here.
If you're here for the Crazy Holiday blogfest, my entry is here.

And don't forget, today is the last day to enter my Critiques for Christmas contest!

So our tree is up and decorated, all of our Christmas shopping is done (just waiting on a few more packages), and our Christmas cards are all sent. Time to relax, right?

Naw. There are parties to go to, cookies and desserts to make, the house needs to be cleaned (I swear cleaning is evil. The house never stays clean so what's the point? I live by the saying that cleaning the house while the children are growing is like shoveling snow while it's still snowing.).

Hubby wanted son #1 to put the first ornament on the tree. So I gave him a plastic ball, which son #1 loved to throw on the kitchen floor. It bounced away from him, he would chase it, pick it up and throw it again. Eventually I "helped him put" (read: I put) the ornamanet on the tree. Then we strapped him and son #2 into their chairs so they could watch us decorate the tree.

Later on that night, son #1 somehow got free in the kitchen. Not all of our Christmas balls are plastic. He grabbed a solid red ball and threw it. Of course it was glass.

His face was priceless. Why didn't it bounce?

Poor little guy. He didn't know if he should be scared or heartbroken.

Luckily, it was a solid red ornament, not one of our nicer ones. Besides, we have more red than any other color so it was just as well. And because he threw it (even though he doesn't have a lot of arm strength yet, after all he's only 2), he didn't get hurt.

Now I make sure he doesn't get near the tree or in the kitchen. The one time he did follow me in there, he stayed away from the tree, lol

So are you ready for the holidays? What are your favorite traditions?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Where to Begin

If you’re here for the query letter blogfest, my entry is here.
If you're here for the Crazy Holiday blogfest, my entry is here.

And don't forget, tomorrow is the last do to enter my Critiques for Christmas contest.

The beginnings of story... I always have such a hard time writing the beginning. Endings come easy. Wrap up loose ends, everything just falls into place, the words practically type themselves. But beginnings... beginnings are another story.

I struggle with beginnings. I write and rewrite them, add new scenes before them as a new beginning. How do you know where exactly your story starts?

That's a very good question and it's not an easy one to answer.

You need to start shortly before the MC's life is turned upside down. The inciting incident doesn't have to happen on the first page, but it probably should be within or at the end of the first chapter.

The inciting incident in Alexia's Pen is when she receives the pen at the end of the first chapter. Why not at the beginning? I needed to show Alexxia and introduce her and Artex. Plus I wanted to show a little bit of her normal life before everything becomes crazy.

As writers, we've been told over and over again that the first line has to be incredible, our first paragraph has to be griping. Likewise our first page, our first chapter. This is all true but the same can be said for the next chapter and the next, all the way until the end. So many times, agents have talked about polished first chapters but then the shine isn't there for the rest of the ms.

Beginnings are hugely important. So is knowing when to start the actually story. But the middle and the ending has to be just as strong.

Do you find the beginning of a story easier to write than the end?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Guest Blog with Shawna Williams

If you’re here for the query letter blogfest, my entry is here.
If you're here for the Crazy Holiday blogfest, my entry is here.

 Everyone, let's welcome Shawna back to my blog. She's hear to talk about her latest book, Orphaned Hearts:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27 NIV

Orphaned Heart is my latest release. It's a wonderful little story set in Northwestern Arkansas, during 1932.

The story is about a minister, David Langley, and his search for a home for Caleb, an orphaned child with a missing arm. David is especially concerned with Caleb's situation because David knows that Caleb's disability will affect how people see him. David, who also grew up orphaned, was severely burned in the fire that killed his family. As an adult he is able to hide these scars beneath his clothes, but he always felt that his disfigurement was the reason he was never taken in by a family when he was a child. For these same reasons, he believes he'll never have one of his own as a man. So, in a way, finding a home for Caleb proves there's still hope for him.

Sadie, the town spinster, has been in love with David for years, but she doesn't think he can see past her label. Circumstances bring Caleb into her home on a temporary basis and her love for the boy blossoms, healing his pain and hers. But things become desperate when they learn of danger at the orphanage and that Caleb must soon return. David and Sadie team up, both working to find a permanent, loving home where Caleb will be safe, but while searching they discover a family instead.

Orphaned Hearts isn't my grandparents' story, but it was written because of them. My grandfather grew up in the orphanage I based the one in this story upon, and some of the details of his experiences there are woven into the story's pages. My great-grandfather was hired to work the orphanage's dairy during The Great Depression, bringing his young family with him to Arkansas. That is how my grandparents met.

My grandparents served as foster parents for many years and I have often wondered how many lives they affected. At my granddad's funeral, I sat in the pew marveling at the fullness of his life, but also thinking how unfair it was for him to have been orphaned as a young boy. Then I remembered a story my grandmother told me of a young girl who came to live with them through Child Welfare.

She was pregnant and cast from her house. My grandmother had been told that she would be a problem, but that wasn't the case at all. She was sweet, appreciative, and longing. For a few short months she got to experience a home -- a real, loving home. She decided that's what she wanted for her child and gave her baby up for adoption. The girl left not long after her baby's birth and my grandparents moved from the area. Life went on.

Many years later my grandmother ran into an old friend who went to church with the family who had adopted that baby. She learned that the little girl had grown into a lovely young Christian woman. She was smart, attending a university and had a bright future ahead. I can't help but wonder; had my granddad not been an orphan, had that compassion for hurting children not been embedded deep within my grandparents' hearts, what would have happened to that little girl, and so many of the others they took into their home.


To Nonnie and Papa.
Your story inspired mine.

Here's a short excerpt:

David ran back to the bench and removed his suit jacket. Sadie raised her brow. In the five years she'd known him, he'd never been without a coat and tie. A little peculiar -- yes -- however, he did take his position as a minister seriously. Perhaps Caleb was also helping David to realize that ministers could take time off for fun.

"Join us," David said.

"Join you?" Sadie looked down at her 'too full to be fashionable' skirt and then at her gloved hands. No telling how much flour was caked beneath her nails.

"But I'm--"

"You are the same girl who ran around in overalls, hoping to be a miner someday?"

She glanced up and noted David's challenging smirk. Suddenly the ball hit her in the shin. Caleb broke out into a fit of laughter.

With her youthful, tomboyish spirit revived, Sadie narrowed her eyes, shooting Caleb and then David an 'I'll-show-you' look. As an only child she'd fulfilled the roles of both daughter and son. Neither David nor Caleb had any idea just what she was capable of. If she was still capable?

Sadie picked up the ball and stepped away from the bench. She carefully set it on the ground and took two long steps back. She glanced at the ball, then -- squinting her eyes -- looked through the rays of sunlight streaming through the trees, off into the horizon and imagined the ball flying into the distant mountains.

Furrowing her brow in concentration, Sadie fixed her gaze on the ball, lifted her skirt to her knees and took in a deep breath. Then she rushed toward her target, slinging her right foot back and propelling it forward. It connected in a loud thud. She watched as the ball flew higher and higher, threading between the trees and disappearing from sight.

Sadie dropped her skirt and heaved a satisfied sigh as she dusted her hands. Both David and Caleb stood frozen with their mouths gaping wide.

"Wow!" Caleb gawked and took off running in search of the ball -- which may very well have rolled down the base of the hill. She hadn't considered that. Suddenly her mothering instinct kicked in. "Caleb, wait. There could be snakes."

Shaking his head, David chuckled. "I'll go with him." The spring in his jog showed of amusement more than worry.

Sadie smiled as she watched David close the distance. A euphoric sensation surged through her, and some strange power beckoned her feet to take flight.

Not just her feet. Her heart.

What a wonderful excerpt, Shawna! Thanks for dropping by. Shawn's website is here and her blog is here. The link to purchase Orphaned Hearts is here.

And if any authors would like to contact me about a guest blog spot or an interview, just email me. Nicole.Zoltack@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More about Sympathetic Characters

If you’re here for the query letter blogfest, my entry is here.
If you're here for the Crazy Holiday blogfest, my entry is here.

Sympathetic characters. What exactly does that mean? What do critique partners and agents/editors mean when they say you need to create more sympathy for a character?

The more I think about it, the more I think it means that the character isn't relate-able, they can't bond with the character. They don't understand the character's emotions and motive.

Which means I won't be giving Lorna a pet puppy. :)


Lorna undergoes huge character growth in the novel. In the beginning, she's cynical. Tough. Rough. She is an assassin after all. Has been for nearly a decade when the story starts. In the beginning, she enjoys killing. She's cocky and arrogant about her killing ability.


But she does change throughout the novel.


When I do back and read through the feedback that I've received for various beginnings of the story, I first was told to slowly add in her reason for being an assassin. So I changed it to reflect this. I drop hints (her first target is a druggie. At the end of the scene, you learn that he also used to beat up his son).


Then I was told that I should move up the sympathy. That readers needed to have sympathy for Lorna immediately, on the first page.


BUT most of those people that said that also said that they don't read assassin stories. I don't think they will ever feel for an assassin. Which makes them not my potential readers.


Basically, I am going to change the beginning. I'm going to add a scene where Lorna witnesses the abuse and decides to kill the druggie husband even though the mother wasn't able to come up with the money for Lorna's hefty fee. Doing that will create real smypathy in the reader (versus the fake sympathy from adding a puppy) but it will also show Lorna's god complex (you have to have a god complex in order to be an assassin) and will also lend more credibility to Lorna's growth and change throughout the rest of the novel.


What does sympathy mean to you? Do you have a hard time writing sympathetic characters?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas with Lady Nicole and Sir Todd

If you’re here for the query letter blogfest, my entry is here.


"Twelfth Night" by David Teniers the Younger
This post is part of Christine Danek's Crazy Holiday Blogfest. Enjoy! :)

The castle had never looked more festive. Holly, ivy, and mistletoe dotted nearly every surface, and the candle lights glistened, the flames giving the large dining room brightness and warmth.

Lady Nicole hurried outside. A light snow had started to fall on this Adam and Eve Day, the day before Christmas. She ran through the market to the trees beyond, where many of the villagers, including her husband, Sir Todd, decorated them with apples.

She snuck up behind him and covered his eyes with her hands. “Guess who?” she whispered.

“My Christmas angel.” He lowered her hands and turned around to kiss her.

Some of the villagers began to sing and dance around. Lady Nicole tugged on her husband’s hand. “Come, let’s join the carol!”

Her husband laughed, and the joined in the revelry, dancing in a circle and laughing so hard they could barely sing along. As the carolers increased the sped of the circle, Lady Nicole lost her footing and tumbled into her husband. They both fell onto the snow, unable to stop laughing.

Lady Nicole struggled to sit up, and Sir Todd kissed her forehead.

Lady Nicole smiled bashfully. Her hand went to her stomach, a faint blush on her cheeks.

“Is something wrong?” Sir Todd asked, concern in his dark brown eyes.

Lady Nicole smiled and shook her head. She brought his hand to her stomach. “I thought so, but I wanted to be sure.” She shivered with delight when she left the faint movement again, so soft and gentle, like bubbles popping or the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings. Quickening. “I’m with child.”

Sir Todd let out a loud whop and swiftly embraced his wife. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this.”

She smiled. “I know. The perfect Christmas present.”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Query Letter Blogfest

This Query Letter Blogfest is courtsey of Jodi Henry's blog. Here is my entry:


Dear Agent:

Traumatized by witnessing her father’s brutal murder, Lorna masters her feelings of powerlessness by becoming an assassin.

As a paranorm with the ability to create and hide in shadows, Lorna has been searching in vain to find her father’s murderer when the Paranormal Intelligence Agency tries to recruit her and her power. Lorna distrusts the agency and continues to accept assassin assignments including an island king.

King Alaric is everything Lorna isn't — noble, kind, good. When the two fall in love, Lorna tries to hide her past. When Alaric learns she is the world famous assassin, he wants nothing to do with her.

The PIA gives Lorna a deal. If she will kill an innocent person, they’ll tell her where here father’s murderer is. The old Lorna would have killed without a second thought, but now she finds herself conflicted, forced to decide if her thirst for revenge outweighs the love she never expected to need.

HIDDEN IN SHADOWS is a complete 97,000-word urban fantasy with romance elements. It is a standalone novel with series potential.

I am the author of a fantasy romance trilogy, The Kingdom of Arnhem – WOMAN OF HONOR (2009) and KNIGHT OF GLORY (2010) published with Desert Breeze Publishing with CHAMPION OF VALOR coming in 2011. I have also sold nine short stories for anthologies, including MERTALES by Wyvern Publications, and many collections from Pill Hill Press.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Family Fridays


I'm a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan. My husband, unfortunately, is a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. We HATE each other’s teams. Hate hate hate. If you don’t watch sports, it might be hard to understand just how much hate we feel.

The Eagles have a fight song. I love it, hubby thinks it’s corny, but I say he’s just jealous because the cowboys don’t have one.

Anyhow, I sang son #1 lots of songs when he was in the womb, including the Eagles fight song. So he had no choice but to be an Eagles fan. He is, btw. He loves to hand me his Eagles outfits, he’ll point to their logo and say “eagle eagle eagle,” he’ll clap and cheer with me when they score. I’ve been trying to get him to spell E-A-G-L-E-S.

I have many Eagles hats, one of which has the word Eagle on it but no emblem. I pointed at the letters so son #1 could read them to me.

Instead, he said “eagle,”

Yep, the first word he ever read is “eagle.” (who needs the ‘s’?)

Don’t understand why hubby wasn’t as thrilled as I was.


In case you’re curious, son #2 will be a cowboys fan. *sigh*

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Creating Sympathetic Characters

I'm sorry today's post is late - I blame it on not getting enough sleep. Son #2 is back in a rut where he likes to wake up 3-4 times a night to nurse. And if there are any typos, I also blame that on the lack of sleep. That and typing in the dark. Son #2 is still sleeping (and I should be too...)

Anyhow, today I want to talk about sympathetic characters. Specifically how to create one.*

1. Give them a puppy.
2. Give them red hair.
3. Give them zits and glasses (works best in YA novels.)
4. Make them tip the scale.

* Obviously this list is meant purely in jest.

 I've been receiving a lot of conflicting advice regarding Hidden in Shadows, stemming from Lorna, the MC. For one thing, she's an assassin, definitely an anti-heroine., automatically making her less sympathetic. (Btw, can anyone think of some good stories with anti-heroines? I want to read some for research but can't think of any off the top of my head.)

I had two versions of the opening scene, where Lorna hunts and kills a man. In version A, I mention immediately that the man is a druggie who beat his kill, almost trying to force the reader to align him/herself with Lorna. But I was told that it was basically an infodump (the paragraph about the druggie) and that I should sprinkle in the details as to why Lorna was killing him.

I agreed. I also pared down the descriptions more, thinking that Lorna would be more focused at the task at hand, killing a target, so I dropped hints that he was a druggie. But now Lorna wasn't sympathetic enough, even though I have her reflect on the druggie beating his child after she kills him.

So now I’m not sure what to do with the scene. I still think that having Lorna reflect on the druggie would be out of character. Basically, I’m not sure how quickly I have to make Lorna a sympathetic character, nor how exactly to do about showing it.

 Because of her profession, does she have to be sympathetic right away on page one? Or by the end of the first scene?

Maybe this is because I’m sleep deprived but is it so wrong that I’m actually thinking about giving Lorna a puppy in scene two?

I’ll have a more serious post on sympathetic characters on Tuesday.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Fantasy Novelist's Exam

Here's a fun link to the Fantasy Novelist's Exam. Basically, it's a list of questions about your fantasy novel. If you answer "yes" to any of the questions, the teacher will give you an "F" and suggests you should abandon your novel.

The list is a joke. It mentions many of the overused tropes in the fantasy genre (Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?) (Is the evil supreme badguy secretly the father of your main character?) (Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn't know it?)

However, I have written a fantasy novel or two or three that I would have to answer "Yes" to a few of the questions.

Is this the first book in a planned trilogy? (Yep - Woman of Honor is book I in a trilogy)

Do any of your main characters have apostrophes or dashes in their names? (Trolls do in Knight of Glory and Champion of Valor - there are new races that I explore in Champion of Valor and made sure there weren't any more apostrophes or dashes in them.)

Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings? (Orcs - no but they are mentioned. Elves - well, Drow are. Dwarves - yep. Halfings - no.)

All in all, it's a funny list. What tropes are you sick of seeing in fantasy? What ones don't you mind? Do you think elves are better than dwarves?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Charlie Schulz Philosophy



The following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the creator of the 'Peanuts' comic strip.

You don't have to actually answer the questions.
 Just ponder on them. 

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the  world. 

2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners. 


3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant. 


4  Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize. 


5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress! s. 


6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

 


How did you do?


The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. 


These are no second-rate achievers. 


They are the best in their fields. 


But the applause dies.. 


Awards tarnish.. 


Achievements are forgotten. 


Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
 

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school. 


2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time. 


3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile. 


4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special
.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
 



Easier?

 
The lesson: 


The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the
most credentialsthe most money...or the most awards. 

They simply are the ones who care the most
.


'Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia !'
 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Inspiring Mondays


I love the colors in this, the blues are beautiful. Who is she? Who is she waiting for?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friendly Friday - Critiques for Christmas

I'm a Catholic. Grew up Catholic, went to Catholic schooling all my life. Before you stop reading because you're a different religion or have different beliefs or no beliefs, I'm not trying to talk about religion or convert anyone. Just stating a fact about myself.

As a Catholic, I celebrate Christmas every year.

While I hate how commercialized the holiday has become, I love to give presents. Seeing other people smile when they open their presents - it makes me so happy.

So while I've been looking around online for presents for my sons and my hubby and my siblings and parents, I thought about you all.

The writing world is such a wonderful community and I want to give back. So I'm going to do something special for some of you this Christmas. I've giving away critiques. Calling this contest Critiques for Christmas. (So creative, I know, but it's really late when I'm typing this post so forgive me for not coming up with a better name.)

Anyhow, if you win, you can pick your prize:

Query critique
Synopsis critique
First page critique

Number of winners will be determined at a later date.

How to enter? Be a follower and comment on this blog. If you tweet/FB this, you get an additional entry (up to one per day). Leave a link in the comments.

This contest will be open until December 17th. I'll announce the winners on the 20th. If you get back to me right away with your query/synopsis/first page, I'll try to return the critiques before Christmas.

Enjoy!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nano Wrap Up and December Goals

I was originally going to update you all on my Nano story yesterday, considering it was December 1st, but Talli overtook the blog world in a huge way, and my blog was part of the splash.

But today is all me again.

I wrote just over 50k of Champion of Valor in November, making me a winner! Although I still have a lot of words to add - roughly 40-50k - before the story is completely finished. Then it'll need to be edited and sent to beta readers and edited again. I already wrote the ending but I'm sure some of the details will need to be adjusted/fixed. A lot of scenes were glossed over *insert battle between X and Y* *insert battle between Z and A* lol This book is full of action scenes, which is to be expected, after all, it's about a war.

I really like how CoV is shaping up. I don't want to go into too many details but here's the basic gist:

The final war between Speica and Arnhem draws to an end as allies are gained, lines are crossed, people die, and a mage and selkie struggle to make their love work as Lucifer attempts to bring about the Apocalypse before its time.


I've mentioned this before but book I in the series, Woman of Honor has a mostly historical feel to it, with some fantasy thrown in. Knight of Glory focuses more on the fantasy. Champion of Valor has both fantasy and religious undertones. High fantasy - meaning a medieval type world. In the Middle Ages, religion was a huge part of their everyday lives so I had to include religion.

I've created a lot of problems and dilemmas for my characters. It'll be interesting to see how they fix everything and restore order, and who's let standing to see things through til the very end.

Hubby was a big help, watching the boys in order to let me get some writing in when our sons refused to nap at the same time. Wouldn't have won without him!

I also was a PiBoIdMo winner. I came up with 32 ideas for picture books. Some are better than others but it was a lot of fun to sit and think up picture book ideas. Can't wait until I have some free time that I can devote to picture books.

I guest blogged at Loraine's about previous Nano experiences. Feel free to check it out and leave a comment!

So for the rest of December, I'm going to finish Champion of Valor. If I have time there are a couple of short stories I would like to write. Prime books is publishing an anthology of urban fantasy werewolf stories. Pill Hill Press has a romantic suspense anthology. And Fangtales, the next in the Tales anthologies from Wyvern Publications, scary YA stories about vampires. So December is going to be busy, busy, busy. If I don't get to the short stories, I don't get to them, but I'm going to try. Might as well set the bar high and strive to do all I can.

How productive was your November? Did you do Nano? What was your story about? Did you win? Have you read any good books lately? What are your reading/writing goals for December?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Hating Game

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/hNBkJk

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback.  Keep up with the latest at www.talliroland.com.

About THE HATING GAME:

When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Be Yourself Online

I read a blog post recently about The 10 Commandments of Social Networking for Writers. It's a great post so you should head on over and read it. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Good, you remembered to come back. Here's a cookie.

Anyhow, the article got me thinking about how easy it is to pretend that your someone you aren't online. You can 'show' the online world whatever you want. You can pretend to be younger or thinner or hide behind an avator or image. But why would you want to pretend to be someone you aren't?

It's a lot easier to just be yourself. And being real, I think, makes a person so much more relate-able. Makes a person more friendly. Makes a person someone I want to be friends with.

So keep that in mind when you tweet or are on FB. Who are you pretending to be? Or are you just being yourself? It makes a difference.

Me? I just like to be me. I hope you like me too. :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Inspiring Mondays

Credit for picture

I think this picture has so many possibilities. The explorer - where did he come from? What is he looking for? Is he hiding from something or someone? And the house - what's inside? Is it a temple? Or is it hiding a terrible secret beneath its stone floors?

And another issue of The Medieval Chronicle is now available! Click here to read my article. Enjoy! :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Credit for picture
Happy Thanksgiving all my blogging friends! I hope you enjoy lots of food and time with your loved ones.

I'm thanking for my family, who makes me happy and lifts my spirits when I'm feeling down.

I'm thankful for my friends, who love me despite my craziness.

I'm thankful that I'm able to spend my days at home, with my two adorable and precious sons.

I'm thankful that I'm a writer.

I'm thankful for the writing community, without which I surely would have pulled out all of my hair by now.

I'm thankful for my critique partners, my beta readers, my friends that I bounce ideas off of, that they aren't afraid to tell me what works and what doesn't, for helping to make my writing shine.

I'm thankful for all of you and your friendship.

What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Writing Backward

Yesterday I wrote about Alexia's Pen and YA and MG. I ended by saying that I was going to make the story darker.

By adding a curse.

Here's the new query letter for Alexia's Pen:


Fifteen-year-old aspiring novelist Alexia loves the colorful pen the mysterious Arthus, a recent transfer student, gives to her. The pen is special – anything it writes comes true. When the pen writes of its own accord about a mystical Land of Imagining, Alexia learns she’s not just an ordinary girl, she’s an All-Knower. So is Arthus, and her mother.

The rest of the magical All-Knowers are in terrible danger. The Head Demon seeks to enslave and kill them, determined to rule the Land of Imagining. Alexia is able to control the All-Knowers with her pen, but the power comes at a cost – each time she writes with the pen, an All-Knower becomes a demon. After the Head Demon kidnaps her family, Alexia must find a way to go to the Land of Imagining. She will do anything, even if it means giving up her power, to save her family and her people and to prevent the Land of Imagining from becoming the Land of Terror.

So now the query letter is finished. I just need to go back and revise the story so that the story reflects the query. Talk about writing backward! :) I think the curse definitely makes the story darker and more YA in tone.

Have you ever written backward before?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Whoops! MG versus YA

I've mentioned my fantasy YA novel, Alexia's Pen before. I had the honor of placing in a recent writing contest on a blog and my awesome prize was a query critique by the amazing Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe.

She read my initial query and asked if the story was actually MG.

Oh... can we say whoops?

It's been years since I read a MG story. Well, other than Harry Potter that is.

The thought that Alexia's Pen might actually be MG startled me. But then to some extent, it made sense. After all, I started to write the story in the 6th grade.

And I'm no stranger to blurring lines. Take my Kingdom of Arnhem series. It's intended for adults but can be enjoyed by young adults as well. I purposely wrote those books that way.

So now I have a decision to make. Do I try to cut down an already tight story? Because at 79k, that's considered too long for MG. Or do I try to make the story more YA by making it edgier?

I'm not opposed to making Alexia's Pen MG. That doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that I thought it was YA. So now I'm doing to make Alexia's Pen more YA. It's gonna get darker. A lot darker. There won't be the possibility of a question of MG versus YA anymore.

Has this ever happened to you? Has a story started one way and ended up a different genre? Do you know the cut-off between MG and YA?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Inspiring Mondays

Credit for picture

Today's picture is a Kelpie. If you've read Knight of Glory, you already know all about this mysterious creature but if you haven't - the Kelpie is a water demon horse. It commonly looks like a lost pony and its mane is constantly dripping. To touch it could mean death, the horse is that cold. And if you should climb onto its back, it will race to the nearest body of water and drown you. Not the nicest of creatures, huh?

Extra little tidbit - the Kelpie will make a return appearance in Champion of Valor. But sh, I didn't tell you that! :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friendly Friday

I love horses. I used to tease hubby that I wanted two mustangs: the car and the horse.

Credit for picture
One time, hubby took me horseback riding as a date. I absolutely loved it even though I had no idea what I was doing. But it was incredible.

Then on our honeymoon in Hawaii, we took an excursion riding horses. We even went into the water. Now that was a thrilling experience! The backdrop of sapphire blue water. And I'll never forget our tour guide. Crazy guy, we're pretty sure that when he left our group for a little while, that he was enjoying a smoke. Yeah. Crazy.

One of my former coworkers back when I worked as a chemist owned a horse and took horseback riding lessons. We got to talking about riding and she gave me the phone number of the place. I signed up for lessons, once a week.


At first, it was hard. My legs didn't appreciate riding on such a large creature. And my allergies certainly didn't like it. But I continued with my lessons, got to be somewhat decent.


Then I became pregnant with son #1. I had to stop taking lessons. It's not safe. Although I had never fallen off of Jake, I couldn't risk it.


I still haven't resumed lessons. There's no point to, right now at least. I plan on having two more children. Might as well wait until they're all in school. But I will return, someday.


There's something majestic about riding a horse. Being so high off the ground, guiding a horse to where you want to go. I love everything about riding.


Have you ever gone horseback riding?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Fun Part of Writing

Sometimes it's all too easy to get bogged down by the not-so-kind side of writing to be published. Writing query letters, writing sucknopsis (whoops I mean synopsis), sending out queries, receiving rejections, receiving partial requests then more rejections. It's all too easy to start feeling down, to wallow in a pit of frustration and despair.

But what about writing makes you love it? Why are you a writer?

For me, the fun part of writing is... well, the writing part. I love writing first drafts, to take a spark of an idea and blow it up into 80-110k worth of words. To meet new characters, to give them flaws, to put them into dangerous situations, to find a happy resolution. To discover new worlds, strange fantasy creatures. To experience things I've never experienced before, will never experience. That's why I'm a writer. That's why I write.

What about you?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Heavenly Lawn Care Joke

I received this joke in an email and that it was too funny so I'm passing it on.
GOD & ST. FRANCIS DISCUSSING LAWNS

GOD: Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles. 

ST. FRANCIS: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It's temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS: No Sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS: You aren't going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.

ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough. I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have they scheduled for us tonight?"

ST. CATHERINE: "Dumb and Dumber", Lord. It's a really stupid movie about.....

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Magic - Writing like Crazy!

I have found my own personal magic for making myself more productive.

And yes, I think it's magical.

*drumroll please*

It's a timer!

Ok, enough goofing off and more seriously, using a timer has made me so much more focused on my writing. I set the timer for 30 minutes and type. Usually when the timer dings, I want to continue typing. When I want to stop and take a break, I'll set it for 10-15 minutes and goof off, go on FB or visit blogs or write new blog posts. When it dings, back to work!

It may not sound like anything special or even magical, but it has been a lifesaver for me. I can only write when my boys nap together (which is usually not the case) or if I sacrifice sleep and go to bed really late or get up early and write before they wake up. By using the timer, I force myself to use my time more wisely.

So I think it's magic. It's definitely working too. Before the magic timer, I used to average 1K an hour. Not bad. But now, I write just over 1K in 30 minutes. Insane, you betcha!

So what about you? Do you have any tricks or tips for using your time wisely or to make yourself more productive?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Guest Blog with Shawna Williams

Back in May, Shawna Williams, fellow Desert Breeze author, stopped by my blog for an interview in honor of her release, No Other. Now she's back with a guest blog to spread the word about her newest release In All Things. Take it away, Shawna!



Hi, Nicole! Thank you for having me on your blog today. Last time I visited I shared about my debut Novel, "No Other". Today, I'd like to share about my newest release, "In All Things", and some of my favorite elements of story-telling.

"In All Things" is the sequel to "No Other". The story picks up with Jakob and Meri ten years later. Jakob has put all of his effort into fulfilling his promise to Roger by making Meri's dreams come true. They've moved to Hollywood and Meri is a successful actress. But what you have to ask is this; was this really Meri's dream, or was it what he thought was her dream, and by achieving it was he really trying to prove himself?
                
Meri on the other hand has her own set of issues. She's tried to put the past behind her, but a part of her still craves her parents' approval – something most children want even when they come from an abusive home. She hopes that time and her success have brought a change of heart to her parents, but when she finds that it hasn't she sets out with determination to shove her success in their faces and shame them that way.

Both Meri and Jakob are faced with coming to terms over the fact that success has proved dissatisfying. Likewise, an unhealthy nature to their relationship has stifled their growth in Christ, and they have to overcome that, too.

Along with Jakob and Meri's story is the story of healing that takes place in Jakob's family. Though, some things get worse before they get better. This story is actually more literary in that sense than romance. It's very focused on the characters' personal journeys.

One of the questions I get asked most is how I go about developing my characters. I'm most definitely a character writer! For me, characters define the story. I may have a sense of what the storyline is, but how it will play out to completion is very much determined by my character's response to events within the story. I think an author has to allow room for this or else you end up with a puppet and not a believable character. I've found that what helps is for the author to know what has taken place in the character's life before the book they're writing. In detail! Like flesh and blood people, a character should be molded by events. In this book, "In All Things", this was a little easier because much of the back-story was laid out in "No Other". However, my characters have quite a back-story beyond that book, too. 

When I profile my characters, long before the writing begins, it goes far beyond hair and eye color, height, occupation, etc. Those are the least important if you ask me. It's all surface stuff. To really dig into a character you need memories -- experiences that mold and define -- and you need both spectrums -- good and bad -- as well as stuff in between. These are the things that a person draws on when facing choices. They guide the course.

Another element of story-telling that I like, and believe adds depth and meaning to a story, is symbolism. If you'll notice on "No Other's" cover, and "In All Things", there is a farmhouse and a locket. Yep, they're important! The farmhouse is Jakob's childhood home, and it coordinates heavily with both stories' themes. In "In All Things" it becomes Jakob's personal mission to see the house restored. At the same time this is taking place within his family, which is still recovering from the lingering effects of their internment during WWII.

Meri's journey is represented through other objects, like the locket and a brooch in this story, but she is also very much tied with the farmhouse. Very much! 

The last element of good story-telling I want to talk about is conflict. Without it you have a whole lot of snooze. There are different kinds of conflict, but since I'm a character writer I'm going to talk about my favorite, internal. As I mentioned, my stories tend to be character journeys and usually my main characters serve as both protagonist and antagonist. They are their own worst enemy. The nature of their struggle is a mixture of plot and character development. As mentioned previously, my characters are molded by life experiences. These frame how they will handle the external issues of the story

I'll use Jakob's situation as an example. I worked out his family's history all the way back to their immigration from Germany. He is of a dual culture, born in America, raised in a German home. He claims both cultures, speaks both languages, so in "No Other", when these cultures clash, he has a major identity crisis. It's very difficult for him to process why certain things have happened to his family. So that story started off with heavy emotional conflict right at the start. 

That inner conflict evolves during the story of "No Other" so, in "In All Things" there is a new source that Jakob must come to terms with, as well as some unresolved old stuff..

Meri is a whole other story. In "No Other" her background isn't laid out in quite as much detail for the reader, but it is shown to have been pretty terrible. "In All Things" digs far deeper into this so the reader can see the pit she's trying to dig out of.

The process I use for resolving conflict is first to fully understand it. I do a lot of journal writing for my characters, where I ramble, in character, as to what they feel, what they think they need or want, and how they plan to get it. 

Then I work on scenarios that might bring this about.  Usually the first drafts are entirely too preachy because I'm trying to clarify the message to myself, but I go back and edit to try and make it so that the message is conveyed to the character, and not to the reader. I don't want to pull the reader out of the book for a sermon. I want them to experience the growth of the character.

The last thing I'd like to leave you with is this: We've all heard the phrase, 'write what you know.' I think it's equally important, if not more-so, that an author writes who they are. Yes, we have to learn the craft, pay attention to trends and whatnot. Those things are important. Just be sure that in doing so you don't lose yourself. The best stories come from the heart.

Nicole, I'd like to give away a freshwater pearl bracelet and a pdf copy of either book, "No Other" or "In All Things". I also have pdf files of the first three chapters of each book that I'll give to anyone who wants. Just email me at shawnawilliams@allegiance.tv

For more about me:

Thank you so much for dropping by, Shawna! I'm sure whoever wins will love your book. Inspiring Mondays will be back next week.