Monday, December 21, 2009

Book Reviews

I'm catching up on my book reviews. These are just a few of the ones I loved.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight-- she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug.

She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po.

She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace--or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away... a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

I don't know what I expected from this book but it outweighed my expectations. I'm always a sucker for a good romance and for a strong character who clearly knows who she is and what she wants. Don't get me wrong, she did change throughout and was even stronger at the end. This is a great read. Now, Santa can you bring me her next book...Fire?

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink
Twin sisters Lia and Alice Milthorpe have just become orphans. They have also become enemies. As they discover their roles in a prophecy that has turned generations of sisters against each other, the girls find themselves entangled in a mystery that involves a tattoo-like mark, their parents' deaths, a boy, a book, and a lifetime of secrets.

Lia and Alice don't know whom they can trust.

They just know they can't trust each other.

I picked this book up at the library having never heard of it. From the very beginning it intrigued me and pulled me in. It had secrets all throughout that kept me guessing. The ending was quite the cliffhanger which always makes me want to pull my hair out! But in a good way. There are 2 more books forthcoming to make this a trilogy set. I can't wait to read them.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

In a single moment everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...

This book is written so beautifully. The way Gayle Forman intertwined back story throughout is absolutely amazing. I don't know if it's because I'm in the medical field, but this book made me boo-hoo through most of it and spoke to my heart. The characters were jumping out of the pages. This has been one of my favorite books...okay, yes I'll say it....Ever. Praise to Ms. Forman for writing this book. Loved this book!!!

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

This is the second book in the Hunger Games triology and it did not disappoint. It was a page turner which kept me up all night reading. It made me talk out loud to the book as I read. "Gale. No wait, Peeta. Umm..okay, choose Gale." I was as confused as Katniss on who to love more. Sorry if that was a little spoiler. These books are so different and compelling. Of course I wished I'd thought of something like this. Can't wait for the last book to come out 2010!

Happy reading and writing.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A little goes a long way

Last weekend a friend of mine and I went to Quartz Mountain to do some much needed writing.

See all that I got done!!! (Yeah, okay 2 scenes are blank but still... at least it's colorful)

We had a wonderful time and did some sightseeing as well. It was nice to get away from the noise of the city (and of my children) ~smile...but mostly just to get better acquainted with my characters and their story.

It is quite beautiful there.

You didn't know we had such diversity of landscape in Oklahoma, did you?

This little guy posed and everything.

And she did, too.

This sunset was absolutely breathtaking.

Now back to writing! Cheers.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Something amazing, I guess

I love the movie, The Incredibles. Especially the little neighbor boy who rides his tricycle around blowing bubblegum bubbles.

It seems I have been waiting around for something amazing to happen with my writing without putting the effort in. I don't put BIC like I should. I write in spurts and always give myself big goals that are often unrealistic. Then I get downhearted when I can't live up to those goals and want to give up. And I have this little problem of wanting everything to be perfect --well at least in my writing.

Yet, with all of that, I do believe in myself--that someday I will be published. And maybe, just maybe, something amazing will happen if I lay out my heart and piece together all the ordinaries and make them extraordinary.

So...I have tucked away some time for this passion I have called writing. Booked in a place that will empty the cobwebs and wash away my worries. Yay!

And hopefully I'll come home with something amazing (or the start of something amazing after 12 revisions, of course). Or even better, when I get that phone call from an agent they will yell.....

What? A girl can dream, can't she? :)

Monday, October 19, 2009


I am preparing to do an interview (as research) for a novel I started forever ago and finally dusted off. It's been one that is near to my heart, and I don't know why I strayed away from it. I'm a little nervous about doing an interview since I have never really done one for my writing life. I talk to people all day at my full-time job, but it's a little different talking about emotions and life-changing experiences with someone you hardly know. any of you have any advice for me on what to do or what not to do? I don't want her to feel like I'm grilling her. How do you do your interviews? How long do they last? Do you do them over the phone or in person? Just asking.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

31 days of Halloween

My friend and author, Susan Meyers, is blogging about the 31 days of Halloween. She is going to have fun puzzles, spooky haikus and ghostabulous illustrations to get you in the Halloweeny mood. Go check it out here

Happy Halloween!!

Monday, September 7, 2009


I'm in the middle of digging up research for a YA novel. It just got me wondering how everyone else goes about this process and what resources you use. Any suggestions or recommendations?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Tribute to Niki

My beautiful friend, Niki, passed away this week from a three year battle with hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer). She was the most gracious, joyous, loving person I have ever met and she always had a smile on her face, even in the end.

I feel very blessed to have been able to call her a friend. If I could only have a quarter of her gracefulness and dignity I would be so much closer to what God has intended for us. Niki touched every life she met with her quiet kindness, and I will miss her very much. I love you, Niki. Here's for you as you become a gorgeous butterfly. Enjoy your flight.

(She loved butterflies)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A few pics from vacation

I know it's been too long since I blogged. I promise I'll try to keep up.

My family went to the Riviera Maya in Mexico the end of June and had a nice, relaxing (okay, maybe not so relaxing with 2 kids arguing all the time) trip. It was very beautiful.

It was raining pretty hard this morning so we took the time to go
shopping that day.

They are acting like they like me or something??

And here, they are acting like they like each other. Don't
be fooled. :)

My husband and son at one of the many restaurants we went to.

My kids went snorkeling in the ocean for the first time and loved it.

This was at Xcaret, a zoo/water park. Lots of walking, but tons of things to see.
Although it was nice, we were ready to get home. Too much togetherness or something?????

We also got a new puppy when we got home, so I'll post a few pics of him next time.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

So... 10 years ago today I was at the hospital giving birth to my beautiful daughter. I never could have imagined time would fly so fast. I have tried to enjoy every moment- even the arguments- and especially the one on one time I get with her.

Pretty soon she won't need me so much and will probably be embarrassed to be seen with me. I have to remember back to that time in my life and think of all the problems that felt catastrophic to my ten-year-old-self.

It's hard to watch your children have struggles and not be able to do anything to help. Especially for girls. They have so many worries to contend with.

All I know is...she is my heart.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Books that make you go hmmm...

This is a little late, but I blogged at today about reasons that make me fall in love with a book. Go check it out or see below.

Many times I read a book and a week later think-- now what was that one about? Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but the characters just didn’t have that extra oomph that makes them stay with me. Could it be the plot is like every other one or the voice didn’t draw on my emotions? Maybe the setting is not unique or the story didn’t have enough layers? Perhaps the beginning didn’t pull me in or the ending left me unsatisfied? Hmmm…
This made me stop and really think about what makes me fall in love with a novel and why. Of course I want all the above in a story--I’m selfish that way-- but truly the characters have it hands down for me. I need to feel torn for them, know them like my best friend, and cheer for their successes. So what makes them memorable? Hmmm…
It’s different for everyone, but my thoughts are: they have to be a good person with some rotten luck, something I can empathize with. They have to change throughout the story and learn a bit about themselves. The main character has to believe in herself (who wants to listen to a whiney character). And mostly, they have to have honest relationships with the secondary characters.
The ending is the icing on the cake. I always wait for that fantastic ending that gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling even after I close the cover. The ones that make me whisper wow. Those characters and their story I know I won’t forget.
“With a good beginning, people will read your story. With a good ending, they’ll remember it!”-- Janet Evanovich.
Some of my favorites are:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
A Great and Terrible Beauty series by Libba Bray
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (Not a YA, but still great)
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (I know, I know)
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
What makes a book stand out for you? I’d love to hear your comments. If you don’t know… maybe you should go grab one and start reading. Like you need a reason!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Book Review

Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.
I loved this book. It had great voice, characterization and humor with so many layers woven throughout. It had me laughing out loud one moment and crying the next. Definitely one of my top choices from my reading list so far. Happy reading!

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Mom's little poem

Here's a poem that was inspired from a sweet calendar that my son made for me at Christmas. I don't know all the rules about poetry, but I loved how this turned out.

My life, My son

I open the book and see a handprint.
Your handprint.
All blues and yellows, oranges and greens,
smeared across the corners of my heart.
Tears flow and break like waves in a mother’s ocean.
Overwhelming pride envelops my soul
as pictures of flowers and fish, pumpkins and turkeys
pass before my eyes.
All painted carefully with my child’s love.
Your love.
No one knows, but I see your blue eyes
flash through the kaleidoscope of my memories.
Sweet temperament with sun kissed blonde hair.
Then…growing and learning fast.
Now…knowing more than your parents.
Soon…going off on your own.
My little boy smiling, and becoming a young man.
My life.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Hunger Games

Twenty- four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives.
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.
Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

All I have to say is... AMAZING! It was so addicting and drew you in from page one. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it and the characters. I really felt for them. Suzanne Collins did an incredible job on this and deserves all the awards she has won for it. I didn't want the book to end. I would have liked to see the ending with her family and Gale but luckily the sequel, Catching Fire, will be out September 2009.

Awesome read!!!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

SCBWI- Oklahoma conference

Last weekend we had an awesome conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma. First let me tell you of all the worry everyone had beforehand. A big snow storm was suppose to blow in. And it did! I didn't get pics during the day, but you should have seen how beautiful it was. It snowed and snowed and snowed all day long. When we went to our cars, a foot of snow was piled on our hoods. (seriously)

Our first speaker, art director, Laurent Linn with Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers was fantastic. He was very funny and personable. He talked about the Anatomy of a Picture book.

-The Physical--hardcover, paperback
-The Literary Sense--how it's perceived, the story
-What is a picture book ultimately?--it's about connecting with the kids

And also...
Six PB genres:
1. Holiday Books
2. Folktale or Fairytale
3. A child's discovery of the world
4. Nonfiction
5. Poetry
6. Animals

Next, the very sweet, Mary Kate Castellani from Walker Books for Young Readers shared the Five Elements that Make or Break a Manuscript.

-Plot: has to be unique and intriguing
-Characterization: reader has to care about your character, know them like they are real
-Voice: essential
-Setting: needs to be weaved throughout, it can sometimes be its own character
-Details: Show don't tell, can write physical look of character by comparing to someone else- immediate picture

She read from several books to demonstrate these elements.

After Mary Kate came Kristin Daly with Harper Collins. She was such fun and seemed excited to be there. She spoke about Bridging the Picture Book-Middle Grade Gap: The Role of Easy-to-Reads and Chapter Books

Easy to Reads:
1. Content-good story or plot
2. Character- appealing protagonist
3. Format issues-Vocabulary, language
4. Rhythm and Repetition
5. Sentence structure-avoid dependent clauses
6. Illustrations-interaction between pictures and text

Chapter Books:
*Age group:
Early Readers 4-8
MG- 8-12
CB-8-10, word count- 5,000-6,000 younger; 9,000-10,000 older

Most important things of Chapter Books:
-Edited with audiences reading level in mind
-Black and white illustrations
-Plots are straightforward, character based
-Most are part of a series

Then after lunch, we listened to Gail Gross, Royalty consultant. She went over things an author should look for in a contract. (These are pieced together because there was so much info)

1. Author or author's representative has right to review books of publisher
2. Right to review relevant records maintained by publisher with respect to any royalty statement not locked in.
3. Era
4. Look back clause-don't reject right to look at royalty statement within certain amount of time.

Deciphering Royalty statement (after 1st advance paid and check deposited)
1. How many total copies of books were sold in royalty period cumulative sales
2. Are royalties properly calculated
3. Royalty cover price-number of units and royalty
4. Special sales clause-outside of normal channels of distribution(eg. dog book sold at animal stores, vet clinics etc)
5. What are the reserve for returns?
6. Sub-rights-deals publisher makes with other publishers-reprint rights etc.

Next up was Abigail Samoun, Tricycle Press-Crown Books. She sat at my table at lunch and seemed genuinely interested in what we all had to say. She spoke of Three Wheeling down the Road to Publication.

The Editor's Role:
-They guide project through development
-Champions project
-Offers guidance and suggestions
-Acts as keeper of story's logic and clarity
-Helps to find illustrator
-Helps art director
-Communicates with production staff

Rejection Letters:
-Respect their history
-Keep a collection and treat yourself after you get so many, shows you are trying
-If advice is given, consider it carefully then follow up

The PB process:
From manuscript to finished book
I. Editing your manuscript
-Does proposed format fit story? Intended audience? Topic?
-Story arc
-Point of view
-Back and front matter
-the development letter

-Rhyme scheme
-Language level

II. Paginations
-how the text will fit on every page

III. Working with illustrator
-finding perfect artist for project

IV. Illustrations

-takes months

To end the day we had agent, Elana Roth from the Caren Johnson Literary Agency. She gave us a great metaphor for relationships with agents.

1. Make sure your book is ready
2. Know what you're looking for (check out websites. Find one that reps what you write. Do your homework!)
3. Put yourself out there- conferences, queries, use words masterfully
4. Do's and Don'ts
-Do check blogs and websites for submission guidelines
-Don't e-mail or call for submission guidelines
-Do spell names correctly
-Don't say "This can appeal to all readers everywhere," or "My kids love it."
-Don't burn bridges
-Don't e-mail back and ask why you got rejected
-Do be clear in queries about your book
-Do be patient when waiting on response

The Call: Questions to ask
1. Ask about communication style (How quickly do you get back to me? e-mail, phone)
2. What is agents vision for your career (What publishers do they work with?)
3. What kind of editorial work do you provide?
4. Foreign rights? Film rights?
5. Go with your gut, level of enthusiasm, intelligence

Run away if: (for agents)
1. Lack of focus, poor submission history
2. Too many manuscripts under the bed
3. Crazy- personality just doesn't click

Run away if (for writers)
1. Shady history-no background, not enough sales
2. Money- wants money up front
3. High turnover- staff, writers

1. Sign Contract- responsibilities, clauses
2. Balance of Power- partnership BUT author provides product, agent provides guidance
3. Communication- Be clear and honest with one another
4. Be kept informed and speak up if not happy

Agent should be passionate about your writing
Relationships sometimes change

1. Client not producing
2. If relationship is not working, do not stick it out
3. Terminate your agent before finding a new one
4. You deserve any and all rights
5. Don't burn bridges; be on best behavior

All of the speakers were amazing and friendly. Many of us went to dinner afterwards and had a great time getting to know them a little bit better. Kristen Daly sat beside me at dinner and she said our regional advisor, Anna Myers, was a rock star!! Anna really went above and beyond to make the guests feel welcome. Between Anna and our assistant regional advisor, Darlina Eichman, they never disappoint at our conferences. Thank you, Anna and Darlina, for always taking care of your Oklahoma writers.

May our next conference be as wonderful as this one was. Spring conference 2009.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Oklahoma writer, Darleen Bailey Beard, author of many children's books-including (PBs)The Pumpkin Man from Piney Creek and Twister;
(CBs)The Flimflam man and Annie Glover is NOT a Tree Lover (fall, 2009) and novels, The Babbs Switch Story and Operation Clean Sweep is now offering a Critique Service for writers.

You can check out her website at to find out just how involved she is in the children's book industry and with other writers.

Her Manuscript Critique Fees are:

$6.00* per page--includes line-by-line editing of your manuscript PLUS a typed critique that explains in detail the line-by-line editing, offering suggestions and helpful advice. *4 page minimum

$5.00 per page--for manuscripts over 20 pages

$4.00 per page--for manuscripts over 50 pages

All manuscripts must be typed and double-spaced for easy editing. SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) required.

If interested please contact Darleen at

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

So for my birthday my sister sent me a Barnes and Noble giftcard. Yay! But really what I got at the bookstore was the best present I could have ever asked for.
My son, C, who's seven went straight to the middle grade section and picked "The Monsters of Morley Manor" by Bruce Coville. This made me proud that he wanted to read up from the chapter books he has been reading. The week before he had read 100 pages from Charlie Bone in 1 day.

Then my daughter, S, decided she wanted a diary. I let them go off with Grammy while I perused the YA's. C came back with a cool journal and said he wanted that too. I didn't think much about this until later at home when he was excitedly writing in it. I told him boys called them journals, but he insisted his was a diary. Who cares as long as he's having fun writing in it. Woohoo.

I have always worried that he wouldn't like reading and now I'm relieved, for now, that he does.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!!

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!
Happy 40th Anniversary, Cat in the Hat!

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the children’s book, The Cat in the Hat written by Dr. Seuss and also his birthday on March 2nd. He was born as Theodor Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904 and died in California in 1991.
He wrote under a pen name, Dr. Seuss with Seuss being his middle name and adding the Dr. since his father had always wanted him to become a doctor. His first book, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street (1937) was rejected 27 times before being accepted by Vanguard Press.

Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated almost 50 whimsical picture books which include the very popular:

And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, 1937
Bartholomew and the Oobleck, 1949
Cat in the Hat, 1957
Fox in Socks, 1965
Green Eggs and Ham, 1960
Horton Hears a Who, 1954
How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 1957
I Am not Going to Get up Today!, 1987
If I Ran the Zoo, 1950
Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now, 1972
Oh, the Places You'll Go!, 1990
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, 1960
Sneetches And Other Stories, 1969
There's a Wocket in My Pocket! 1974
Yertle the Turtle & Other Stories, 1958

Test your knowledge and take this quick quiz for Green Eggs and Ham.
1. What is the first line in the book?
a. Sam I am.
b. I do not like green eggs and ham.
c. I am Sam

2. Which line is the one that’s not correct?
a. Would you like them in a house?
b. Would you eat them with a fox?
c. Would you eat them under stairs?

3. How many places would he eat green eggs and ham at the end?
a. 12
b. 14
c. 16

4. Would you eat green eggs and ham?
a. Yes, yes, yes
b. Absolutely not
c. Maybe

answers at bottom

To celebrate this special day, try this yummy treat that looks like the hat worn by Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat character.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
· Vanilla Wafer
· Gummy Lifesaver Candies (preferably red)
· Vanilla Frosting

Start out by placing the wafer cookie on plate; place a thick glob of frosting in the center of it. Place a gummy Lifesaver (preferably red) on the frosting. place another glob of frosting on the gummy Lifesaver, place another Lifesaver on the frosting. Continue this until your treat looks like the red and white striped cat-In-The-Hat hat.

Here are some of my favorite quotes by the great Dr. Seuss.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
“Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.”
“And will you succeed? Yes indeed, yes indeed! Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed!”
“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way.”
“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.”

My brain cells definitely need waking up! Dr. Seuss, thanks for making children's books fun and letting kids think out of the, I mean.

For more Dr. Seuss fun, go check out author Susan Meyers blog!

answers for quiz: 1. c 2. c 3. b 4. That's up to you!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Questions for Agents

I posted on Kidlitcentral today about Questions for Agents. Check it out or see below.

Have you ever wondered what you would say if you got the call to be represented? Or maybe after your excitement died down if you, in fact, said the right thing? Do you have some questions written down for that big moment so you won’t be flustered?
Here are a few gems I’ve come across. Some you should know before you send in your manuscript.
Who are some of your authors?
How many clients do you represent?
Are you a member of the AAR?
What publishers have you worked with?
What is your vision for my book?
Will you work with me on revisions, if necessary?
Do you keep your clients informed about correspondence with editors? Rejections?
What is your commission rate for U.S. sales? Foreign sales? Film rights? Audio rights?
What expectations do you have for your clients?
Do you have an agent-author contract?

Of course you don’t want to inundate them with all these questions at once. Find out a little bit about their personality and if they would fit with you best. It’s like marriage. Hopefully you’ll be together for a long time.

How to Get a Literary Agent by Michael Larsen –this book is fantastic, check it out for more details.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

ALA award winner calls

I loved hearing the winners reactions. It made me cry. Congratulations to all.

Okay, I have no idea how to make this look like a video? I tried to add it, but it won't let me.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day has never really been a big deal for me. The flowers are way too expensive, it's too crowded at the restaurants, and I definitely don't need all the chocolates. Usually my DH doesn't get me much because my birthday is in February and he goes all out for that which is great by me. But...this Valentine's he asked what I wanted and I told him I wanted him to make me a card. I really didn't think he would do it.

I got home from my critique group this morning and he had printed me out a card with a poem he had written in it. It was very sweet and touched me more than any other present could have. So I guess he's a keeper. :)

Hope you all got exactly what you wanted from your Valentine.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Darcy Pattison's PB retreat

Over the weekend, I went to Darcy Pattison's Picture Book Retreat. It was more than I ever anticipated. She gave superb suggestions on how to make your picture book stand out. From coming up with a focusing statement to new ideas and making dummies to marketing.

It was extremely challenging, but it made me aware that each little word counts.

Lots of great info. I came home with great feedback and lots of new friends. If you get a chance to take it, I highly recommend this workshop.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Book Reviews

Okay, I'm a little behind on the books I've recently read. Here are a couple:

My name is Chloe Saunders and my life will never be the same again.

All I wanted was to make friends, meet boys, and keep on being ordinary. I don't even know what that means anymore. It all started on the day that I saw my first ghost--and the ghost saw me.

Now there are ghosts everywhere and they won't leave me alone. To top it all off, I somehow got myself locked up in Lyle House, a "special home" for troubled teens. Yet the home isn't what it seems. Don't tell anyone, but I think there might be more to my housemates than meets the eye. The question is, whose side are they on? It's up to me to figure out the dangerous secrets behind Lyle House...before its skeletons come back to haunt me. (front jacket flap) 2008

I am intrigued by ghost stories and this one didn't disappoint. There is plenty of tension throughout that keeps you turning pages. You really end up caring for these characters. I did feel a little cheated by the ending, but you can go on Ms. Armstrong's blog and read the first few chapters of the sequel, The Awakening, which comes out May 2009.

As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also each other's only friend. So when Cameron disappeared without warning, Jennifer thought she'd lost the one person who would ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she is popular, happy, and dating---everything "Jennifer" couldn't be. But she still can't shake the memory of her long-lost friend.
When Cameron suddenly reappears, they both are confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken.
Sweethearts is a story about the power of memory, the bond of friendship, and the quiet resilience of our childhood hearts. (front jacket flap)
This story broke my heart (in a good way). It had a lot of emotion and made you really think about how lives are changed by one action. It was bittersweet in the end.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Turning Up the Tension

I blogged over at kidlitcentral about turning up the tension in your novel. Go check it out or just read below. Hope you can get some tips from it.

The first thing agents and editors say they look for on your beginning page is something that keeps them reading. Is it voice, characterization? Maybe. But more than likely that something is tension and conflict. Most readers want the book to begin with signs of trouble then watch how the main character struggles throughout the rest of your story.

These are some ways you can turn up the tension in your writing.
· Start first scene with trouble
· Avoid using flashbacks in beginning
· Use foreshadowing to heighten tension throughout
· Add cliffhangers at end of chapters
· Use short, punchy sentences
· Draw on emotions of all characters
· Let MC have flaws/Antagonist have good qualities
· Use dialogue to allow forward motion of story (don’t allow MC to be alone too often)
· Give MC a secret
· Use setting details to establish mood and tone
· Betray your MC and use suspicion and fear
· When MC is hurting, make it worse (kick them while they’re down)
· Build tension gradually for climax

Increasing your tension keeps your readers happy. Whether they want to scream, slap, or kiss your characters, you’ll be grateful you put the extra effort into it when they’re coming back for more.

Keep writing and learning!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bird Lake Moon

One of my writer New Year's Resolutions is to read 200 YA novels this year. Some will be new, some old and some that I'm embarassed to say have been out forever and I haven't read. So bear with me as I try to accomplish this and post about these books.

Spencer thought the house might be haunted.

Mitch knew it wasn't. And he knew why.

The whole time Spencer and Mitch hung out together at Bird Lake that summer, there were secrets keeping them apart.

And maybe a secret knowledge keeping them together, too---together like members of the same tribe. Like friends.

(front flap copy from Amazon)

This is a quiet book. It's about divorce, loss and the things these kids do in order to move on. I enjoyed reading it, but I didn't see why it was in the YA section (maybe it wasn't suppose to be?). I always love the way Kevin Henkes handles these big subjects for kids.


I give it a 7 out of 10 stars.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Has this happened to you?

I went to my local B&N yesterday to read a bunch of picture books (I'm taking the Darcy Pattison picture book retreat in February and she requires you to read a lot of PB's beforehand). I would grab about 10 off the shelf and find a spot, read them and log info then return them to their correct spot.

One of the workers kind of hovered around me the whole time. I got more PB's and he came up and asked if I needed a basket for my purchases. I told him "No thank you, I'm just reading them right now." He gave me this very odd (almost hateful) look and left.

Then he kept hovering. I finally said "I'm really not weird. I'm a children's book writer." He said, "That's okay."

I guess he expected me to buy all of those books. Or didn't want me there if I wasn't going to look quickly then go. Geez, it's not like I didn't just buy $50.00 worth of books the week before. Ah, well.

Has this ever happened to any of you?

Thursday, January 8, 2009