Monday, September 28, 2009

Time sensitive post . . . check it out right away!

I know I already did a post today, but I wanted to let you all know about a super fun contest Lisa Schroeder is having over on her blogger blog. She'll be chasing her ARC of CHASING BROOKLYN around the USA.


Check out the contest here. But you have to hurry or you might miss out!


Write on!

A look back . . .

Robin's post of yesterday took me on a walk down memory lane and instead of posting this in reply to her post, I decided to create a post of my own.

Robin mentioned her love of singing in high school and college and some of her crushes. She asked what we experience now that takes us back to our teenage years . . . this post is in answer to her question.

I also sang in the choirs in hs. I never made it into the top show choir because I was too terrified to sing solo (despite encouragement from the director).

The funny thing is, I sing more now than I did in hs. I'm more confident in my voice and even occasionally sing solo (though it still terrifies me).  So when I attend choir performances, I'm taken back to my teenage years.

But my most vivid memories and reminiscences come when I watch a play.

My true hs love was the theatre. Our hs did two major plays a year and from freshman to senior year, I was in all but one of them (I didn't get a part in the first play of my freshman year, "Arsenic and Old Lace").

To this day, when I watch a play, I remember my hs days . . . and yearn to perform again. I even assistant directed and starred in a full length play and a one act. I was an active member of the speech and debate  team (that's what they used to call it . . . I think the hs here calls it Drama club or something now). The coach often asked me to help others with their competition pieces (from cutting to directing).

We attended competitions at different schools throughout the year, and at the end of my junior year, I placed fourth at the State competition with my Serious Prose entry ("On The Sidewalk Bleeding" by Evan Hunter).

Those competitions prepared me for writing because in order to fit the performance time frame, the selections had to be cut and an introduction had to be written (kind of like a hook). I performed in Duo acting, Dramatic Interpretation, Serious Prose, and occasionally Poetry Interpretation. After graduating, I became a judge of these competitions.

Oh there were many crushes on other actors/singers and one to this day that still tugs at my heart. We've both moved on but have remained friends. I will never forget him since he was my first HUGE crush. I won't even put his initials here in case he comes and reads this (because I'm not sure he realizes how deeply I felt).

I still think about him and wonder what life would have been like had he felt for me what I felt for him. I swear, everyone I dated I compared to him . . . and they never measured up. Yeah, he was the downfall of many relationships. LOL

Anyway, back to the actress in me . . .

I continued performing in college and in the community theatre right up until just before I got married.  It's only fitting that the last play I starred in was the community theatre production of "Arsenic and Old Lace." There's nothing like coming full circle.

Today I don't have access to acting avenues except through my writing. Getting into the mind of my main character is relatively easy for me, but actually transferring it to the paper sometimes isn't.

Write on.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday Wonderings

Yes, I know wonderings isn't technically a real word, but I wanted to try something new and couldn't think of a better word that began with W.

Anyway, I wonder about things all the time and decided to start using my wonderings (write it in your dictionaries, people) as writing prompts. Most of them will be in question form. In answering the questions, new worlds are invented, characters are built, and general fun is had.

I thought I'd share the fun and post my wonderings (have you written it in your dictionary yet?) in case other people wanted to try their hand (or keyboard) at answering the question in their own way.

So, our first Wednesday Wondering is this:


What would a village look like in a world with no land?


Write on.

Back from the ledge

Thanks to Robin and Allison (who talked me back from the ledge), I'm feeling much more confident about attending my first  conference. Hopefully this confidence will last all the way up to and through the actual event next Saturday.

If anyone else has any advice/suggestions/comments about attending a conference, feel free to share.

In other news . . .

Yeah, I've got nothing. Hope everyone has a great day!


Write on.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Topic Tuesday

Let's discuss . . .

. . . Conferences.

I will be attending the SCBWIAZ Welcome to Our House conference on September 26th (In Scottsdale, Arizona). I realize this isn't a huge conference like the Summer or Winter SCBWI events, but dang it, it's the first conference I've ever been to (because it is the first conference I could afford) and I'm nervous.

Okay, technically I'm terrified!

What's there to be afraid of? Let's see . . .

People will be there

People I don't know

People who might talk to me

People who will expect me to talk back

When I'm nervous I babble

When I'm nervous I babble

When I'm nervous I babble

Seriously, It's like some horrible magic spell comes over me and my mouth won't close and my voice goes on and on and on and I see people looking around to escape and and though in my mind I'm screaming, "Shut up! Just shut up!" . . . I can't stop.

Now, there is a solution to this little problem, and I've employed this defense mechanism often. I don't talk to people and if I'm asked a question, I answer with one word comments. However, this makes people think I'm stuck up . . . which I'm not. I'm just nervous and shy and don't want the magic mouth to get me in trouble. ;-)

When I attended the ANWA retreat back in July, I was pretty quiet for the first little while until I felt comfortable enough with those around me to speak . . . and it helped that I knew one of the people in attendance (she introduced me to people and drew me out of defense mode). Still, the retreat was three days long and I wasn't really comfortable until the final day . . . even then, there were only a couple of people I talked to (and some of them I babbled to who probably thought I was an idiot). *sigh*

That was a retreat with only fellow authors in attendance. This is a conference type setting where agent/editor people will attend and it's only a one day event.

Yeah . . . I'm on the verge of a panic attack and the conference is over a week away . . . not a good sign.

I feel like I'm going to a brand new school in a new town. What if people don't like me? What if I wear the wrong thing? What if . . .?

I'm sure you're wondering what you can do to help . . . and if you're not, what kind of friend are you anyway? Can't you see I'm distressed here? ;-)

One thing has helped me in the past. The more I know, the more prepared I am, the calmer I am. When I'm calm, I'm better I am able to control my magic mouth.

Soooooo . . . I want you to tell me about your first conference experiences. Were you terrified? Nervous? What was your conference experience like?

What should I expect? Do people take laptops or paper and pencil/pen for note taking? What advice or items did you find helpful?


Write on.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Fraction

It's Friday and that means it's time to give you a taste of my work. Last week's came from DESTROYER'S HOPE so it's only fair I give you a bit from WOLFSBANE AT MIDNIGHT this time.

A bit of clarification before you dive in. Wicche is what they call those with magical powers (it's pronounced WIK-chee so bewicched below would be be-WIK-cheed). Also, this is their first meeting, but Oren has just kissed Scarlet.

It still needs work, but here it is:

Oren stumbled back. "I think you've bewicched me, Scarlet Dimity." His eyes flashed as he glared at her.

"I can't, I don't have any powers." Scarlet's blood pounded through her veins. She wanted nothing but to feel his arms and taste his lips again. Her body trembled with longing. She turned from the anger in his eyes and bent to fumble with the spilled contents of her basket. "I don't understand what just happened. I've never . . . I mean, I'm sorry if you . . ."

"You didn't cast some sort of spell on me?"

"What? No, of course I didn't. You're the one who's been buying potions from my grandmother." Scarlet's hand flew over her mouth and she shot to her feet.

"She told you about my potions?" Oren reached her before she even saw him move. He gripped her arm so tightly her fingers went numb. His eyes bore into hers, daring her to lie.

"No," Scarlet said quickly. "No, she wouldn't do that."

"Then how do you know I've been buying potions?"

"I only know what I saw through the curtain," Scarlet blurted. She burned with embarrassment.

"You spied on me?"

"Not you in particular. I spy on other people too." Scarlet clamped her mouth shut. Why hadn't she been born mute? Life would be so much simpler.

Silence hung in the air between them.

Scarlet tore her arm from his grasp, snatched up her herb basket, and hurried away toward the garden. She was seriously considering eating some belladonna berries to end her misery.


I hope you enjoyed today's fraction.

Write on.

Novel Novel Review

Yeah, I'm way behind on my reviews so I'm interrupting the regularly scheduled blog post to do this first.

It's that time again. Here's a quick reminder of my rating system

A+--I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this book. In most cases, I passed it on to my child/teen.

A--I enjoyed this book and I might pass it on to my child/teen.

B--I liked this book, but probably won't pass it on to my child/teen.

C--I thought it was okay, but I won't pass it on to my child/teen.

D--I didn't like this book, and won't allow my child/teen to read it.

F--I hope I never have to go here. =D

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. If you find your book here, don't panic if I rate it below an A. These are my personal preferences and I'm only one small person in a large market.

Okay, here we go.


Paris Pan Takes The Dare by Cynthea Liu

Rating: A+++ (and a few more too) Yeah, I really enjoyed it. Not only did I pass it on to my teen, but I passed it on to my younger daughter, my mother, my sister, my nieces, and my cousin!

Age Recommendation: 9+

Twelve-year-old Paris Pan has just moved to a new town. With a crazy home life, friends who make better enemies, and the boy Paris has a crush on being considered a dork, this move isn't going well.

When, Paris learns a girl mysteriously died near her new house while taking the Dare (a seventh grade rite of passage), she's completely freaked out. And now strange noises are coming from the shed. Could the missing girl be trying to make contact?

Paris and her friends dig into the past in search of answers. The answers lead them down a path they may not want to go, and Paris becomes a reluctant participant in the Dare. This is the night that will forever change her life, uncover the truth of the missing girl, and reveal who her true friends are.

PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE draws you in and won't let you go until the end. I couldn't get enough of this story! Liu does such a great job of creating believable characters and realistic scenes that I had no trouble completely immersing myself in Paris's world. I have to admit, some of it even freaked me out a little bit.

Don't let this one pass you by. I DARE you to read it.

Write on!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Stirring up some Wednesday goodness

I ditched school (shhh) because I'm tired and not feeling my best (that monthly thing). Since I'm being naughty, I figured I may as well ruin my waistline while I'm at it.

And besides, kimberleylittle finished her proofreading on her book so I HAD to make brownies to celebrate on her behalf.

Yeah, I'm trying to make up excuses, but the fact is, I WANTED brownies!

Unfortunately, I didn't have any brownie mix and didn't feel like going all the way back into town to go to the store (a super long five miles away). So, I rummaged through my cupboards and found the necessary ingredients to make brownies from scratch.

I used a recipe I've never tried before so we'll see how it turns out . . . I doubled it (I like thick, chewy, evil brownies), so I'm kind of worried.

The oven is on, the brownies are baking, and I'm going to go back to whipping my manuscript into shape.

Hope everyone has a good day.

Write on.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Novel Novel Review Blog Tour version

It's that time again, but this time I'm taking part in a blog tour as well as telling you about a great book. I feel honored and I'm happy to be doing this for Joyce. So, let's get to it. =)

Here's a quick reminder of my rating system

A+--I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this book. In most cases, I passed it on to my child/teen.

A--I enjoyed this book and I might pass it on to my child/teen.

B--I liked this book, but probably won't pass it on to my child/teen.

C--I thought it was okay, but I won't pass it on to my child/teen.

D--I didn't like this book, and won't allow my child/teen to read it.

F--I hope I never have to go here. =D

I will give reasons for my rating in my review, but if you have any questions, please feel free to ask. If you find your book here, don't panic if I rate it below an A. These are my personal preferences and I'm only one small person in a large market. =D

If you'll remember, I also did a review of another book by Joyce, LOYALTY'S WEB, so I was thrilled with the opportunity to read this one as well.

Okay, now here we go.


Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena

Rating: A+ I didn't pass it on to my teen (he wasn't interested), but I did pass it on to my mother and sisters who also loved it.

Category: Historical

After the deaths of her husband and brother, Siriol de Calendri is directed by her brother's will to travel to France and live under the guardianship of her brother's friend, Sir Triston de Brielle. Unfortunately, Siri is nearly identical to Triston's late wife, Clothilde, and to make matters worse, her brother's will requested that Triston find a husband for Siri.

Siri wants to put her training in illumination to good use and earn her living in an illuminator's shop, and besides, she has no desire to marry anyone else; she's in love with Triston. But can he get past her resemblance to his first wife and learn to love her for herself?

Using some of the characters introduced in LOYALTY'S WEB, DiPastena paints a tale of sweet romance in twelfth century France. In the classic romance format, the characters lives are entwined and twisted together with difficulties at every turn until the reader isn't sure they'll be unraveled in the end.

It was my pleasure to be drawn in by ILLUMINATIONS OF THE HEART and once I started Siri's journey, I couldn't put it down until I reached the last page . . . and then I still wanted more. While this is an adult title, I believe it's appropriate for teens as well.

As part of the blog tour, if you leave a comment, you'll be entered in a drawing for an autographed copy of ILLUMINATIONS OF THE HEART. You can comment on more than one review (on other blogs) and be entered multiple times.

Here are some blog links you can check out for further information on the contest and the book:

Walnut Springs Press's blog

Joyce's blog

Buy the book at

Write on!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Searching . . .

I put out a call on Verla's message board. I've had some response and may have found a crit partner, but I'm still open to at least one more crit buddy.

Here's the low down:

I'm taking a leaf out of Maggie's book (or off her tree or whatever) and searching for crit partners her way. Maggie's the Queen and one can't go wrong following her, right?

Anyone looking for a crit partner?  If so, let's exchange some critiquing and if we like what we see, we'll keep going, if not, we say thanks for the critique and move on.

I will read and critique the first chapter of anyone's novel if they will do the same for me.

This means, you send me a chapter, I send you a chapter, we critique and if we like what we see, we take it to the next level. If we don't like each other's style, writing, critiquing, etc. we say thanks but no thanks and move on NO QUESTIONS asked.

I write MG and YA (though mostly YA right now) fantasy (though not high fantasy) and the occasional PB. I don't have an agent and I'm unpublished, but I won't hold it against you have an agent or are published.  =)

I'm looking for someone who can give and take an honest critique. While my writing leans more toward fantasy, I have experience in reading and critiquing other genres as well.

I like hearing what works in my MS, but I'm mostly interested in knowing what I need to change to make things better. I'm blunt but not mean and can give a thorough critique.

If you think we might be a good crit match, send an email with your info to justjoan @ (without the spaces).


Write on.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fun with art

Today I decided to flex my artistic muscles. Some of you know I do a bit of sketching and those who didn't know .  . . now you do.

Many moons ago I used to oil paint, water color, acrylic paint, but once I had kids, I set these art mediums aside (no time). The one medium I kept was my pencil sketching.

Lately, I've felt the desire to get back into that side of my life, but I didn't know what medium to try. Oil paints are expensive, watercolor and acrylic can also be on the expensive side (brushes, paint, canvas/watercolor paper, etc.).

Last Saturday, I went to a local art gallery to get a piece of glass for a picture frame. I didn't get a piece of glass, but I did buy this:

Rose box

It's a little wooden box with a rose. Carole Snyder is the artist. The picture doesn't do it justice. I couldn't take my eyes off it. I love roses, but there was something more to it. I couldn't figure out what medium had been used so I asked one of the people in the gallery. It happened to be the artist, herself!

Carole told me she had done it on scratchboard then colored it with ink used for coloring scratch art.

I asked her what the heck scratchboard was and she explained it's a piece of either cardboard or, in the case of the box, claybord covered with black india ink. The image is created by scratching away the black ink. In the case of the rose, Carole then went back with ink and colored the image.

I did some research and discovered it's a relatively inexpensive medium (I found I can get a good start with tools and three 5x7 scratchboards for around $20). I ordered a kit from It's a picture of a squid attacking a boat. The picture is pre-inked onto the cardboard and a tool is included to scratch away the colored ink, thus revealing the image.

Anyway, the kit included a small square of scratchboard to use for practice (to get the hang of using the tool). I opted not to practice but dove right into the squid picture. After doing it for a bit, I decided it was fairly simple and figured I could use the small "practice" square to do my own art.

I decided to do a unicorn . . . well, a unicorn head. As I started scratching, I discovered the board underneath the ink wasn't white, but silver. It still turned out okay, though I won't be able to color it. Anyway, here it is:

Scratch art unicorn

The picture doesn't show all the detail. It's really kind of cool looking. Anyway, it took me about 20 minutes to do and isn't bad for a first attempt, in my opinion. And most of all, it was fun!

So, I think I've found a new medium.


Scratch on!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Fraction

I've decided to quit hiding behind my computer screen and really put myself out there . . . well, put my work out there anyway.

So, every Friday (if I remember). I will be posting a fraction of one of my WIPs. Today's fraction comes from my YA fantasy, DESTROYER'S HOPE.


The Wisen disappeared into the tangle of black trunks. Tim stood frozen in place until the rope tugged him forward, forcing him to follow. As he lurched into the blackness of the forest, an icy chill spread through his veins.

It took a while for his eyes to adjust to the gloom. As the trees came into focus, their gnarled, black trunks seemed to contort into sinister shapes. It was difficult to discern where one tree's branches ended and another's began. Coiling together, they slithered toward the sky like snakes.

The thick air of Forgietan wrapped around Tim, squeezing the fresh air out of his lungs. His next breath drew in the musty odor of the forest. He coughed it out, but it was no use. His lungs tightened with each breath of stale air.

Was that a footfall?

He glanced over his shoulder. A never-ending coil of trees twisted in every direction. The hairs rose on the back of his neck. He shuddered. His heart thudded against his ribcage as though it could beat itself out of his chest and escape the forest on its own.

The feeling of being pursued continued to haunt him. He shuffled through the blood red needles that had fallen from the trees and scattered across the earth. The spines beneath his feet appeared to scurry over each other like bloody insects searching for a meal.

Was that a growl?


And there you have it folks. Your first Fraction. I hope you enjoyed it.


Write on.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

School day

I will not have time for much revising today since I have classes from 11-1:30 and then from 6-8:30.

While this makes me kind of sad, I did a lot of great revising yesterday so I still feel a sense of accomplishment. Knowing I'll have time for more writing tomorrow and Friday afternoons also helps. *grin*

I say afternoon because mornings will be spent at the kids' school. Thursday I will be observing a couple of classrooms (homework for my Education course) and Friday is my volunteer morning.

Early this morning I woke up to read the required textbook chapters for my Children's Literature course. The book is CHILDREN'S LITERATURE, BRIEFLY by Michael O. Tunnell and James S. Jacobs (4th Edition). Though it's for a course that focuses on reading books and learning to adapt them to classroom lessons in many different ways, I found the chapters to be extremely informative as a writer.

The first chapter focuses on "Why read?" and discusses unengaged and engaged reading. This was interesting, but as a writer the next two chapters interested me more.

Chapter two is entitled, "What Is A Good Book?" and discusses thirteen elements used to judge literary quality as opposed to personal taste. These thirteen elements are quality, style and language, character, plot, illustrations, pacing, setting, design and layout, mood, accuracy, tone, point of view, and theme. The book says three of the thirteen provide most of the information used to judge quality of fiction.

Those three elements are style and language, character, and plot. "When a book reveals its story in powerful language, contains memorable characters, and follows a compelling plot, the fiction generally can be said to have quality."

And then there is the question of "Taste." An author can pay attention to the elements of writing fiction and create an "accurate" book but still not win the reader's heart because taste varies.

I believe the reverse is also true. An author can not pay attention to all of the elements that define a "good book", but readers can be drawn to it. I've read some books and wondered how they ever got published (as I'm sure most of you have), but now I know why. The agent/editor liked them despite their faults.

Within these flawed pages, something intrigued and connected on a deep level with those in the publishing world. We may not know what it is, in fact, those who read it may not know what it is, but it is there for them.

I suppose this is why we are instructed to write what we want to write; write the story we want to read. The hard part comes in finding an agent/editor who connects with your book on the same level you do.

Difficult? Maybe. Impossible? Not always.

Write on.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Revision is yummy!

Okay, I spent the brownie cooking and cooling times revising the first chapter of my YA . Not WOLFSBANE AT MIDNIGHT, but DESTROYER'S HOPE. Some of you know I set DH aside to work on WAM and haven't gone back to it.

"Why now?" you ask.

I'm currently re-writing WAM into first person (and then back to third) and was curious what would happen if I re-wrote DH in first person. The result? A much better book (so far). I think I will leave DH in first person except the part where Raychel reads Tim's story from the book; that will remain in third person.

Yeah, now I'm all excited and want to work on them both. I think I'll have to set up a schedule for re-writing WAM and DH and doing homework and housework. But, hey, I have more hours in my day than the rest of you, so it won't be a problem, right? =p

Really, I'm going to make this work!

And because I did so good on my revision, I treated myself to this:


Here is the lovely pan of brownies  before I cut into it. I used two packages of mix for the deep dish recipe because I like me some thick, chocolaty brownies.


Here's the lovely pan of brownies after I cut into it and took a piece. Yes, I ate the little chunks from the other pieces that stuck to the knife. You have to, it's a rule! And yes, I took a piece from the middle . . . it's a thing I have . . . I can't eat an edge piece first. I'm sick, I know. And yes, in the upper left corner is a glimpse of the pink cup of milk I had to go with the brownies. You can't eat brownies without having milk too . . . at least, I can't. =D


And here's me taking my first bite (ignore the bad hair day and lack of make-up . . . it's revision day so I don't have to look nice and that's a rule too).



Oh, that brownie tastes SOOO good!



I know, I'm a horrible person for posting brownie porn. If it makes you feel any better, as I was trying to maneuver the camera with my right hand and eat the brownie with my left hand, a corner of the brownie broke off and fell down my shirt.

And NO, I won't be posting a picture of that. I didn't even take a picture of that, thank you very much. =p I said brownie porn, nothing else!

Now, everyone get busy and bake up some brownies in honor of Karen's birthday . . . and anyone else who has a birthday today (and if you know of anyone, let me know so I can have an excuse to eat more brownies).

Back to revising!


Write on.

Ten o'clock and all is . . . well . . .

Okay, by the time I get this posted, it will no longer be ten o'clock, but I promise I started this at precisely ten.

First of all, I'm supposed to be working on revisions. I promised myself I'd start revising at ten o'clock to give myself time to read and comment on my friends' blogs as well as do a post on my own blog. However, things didn't go according to plan. Yes, I read some friends' blogs and commented on them (even replied to comments after they commented on my comment), but I'm not finished yet.

I have a good excuse though. I decided to take a few minutes (about 15 .  . . at least that's the amount of time I'm counting) to make some brownies in honor of Karen's birthday. I know she won't be able to eat any of them since she lives a million miles (give or take some) away from me, but I'll be sure to eat her share for her.


In all honesty, I may have made brownies anyway, but this way is better for me. Everyone knows if you make brownies in honor of someone's birthday and then have to eat the birthday person's share, the brownies have ZERO calories. It's true! And even if it's not, I must believe it's true so I won't gain any weight when I devour the entire pan of brownies later today.

So, help me out by clapping your hands and saying three times, "I believe in zero calorie brownies. I believe in zero calorie brownies. I believer in zero calorie brownies."

Hey, if it can bring Tinker Bell back to life, it can take calories from brownies! *grin*

And with that, my fifteen minutes are nearly up. I better get this posted and get busy revising.


Write on.