Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010, Hello Bright, Shiny New Year & Fests

Lifting, rising above gravity, reveling in each sunrise, every sunset. Allowing myself to breathe, to relax, to be. That's my goal.

I hope that by not making word count goals or resolutions to finish work by certain dates, that I will achieve these things through the exuberance of being alive, doing what I love. I want joy to shoulder out anxiety and doubt. So, I'm going to grab a broom and sweep 2010 out the door and welcome in a new year filled with effervescent hope and possibility.

Of course, Storyqueen says we need to be careful what we wish for, so if you see me floating off like some untethered helium balloon. . .

Since I had so much fun in my last post writing a scene-in-verse for a blogfest, I'm going to jump on in to another fest. Actually, I joined this one last year, and it rocked. Sunday (Jan. 2) is Frankie Diane Mallis' No Kiss Blogfest, and, yeah, you post a scene where a kiss comes tantalizingly close, but no lips touch. Be brave, put up a scene, or at least come read all the juicy entries.


And one more fest! I just saw Vicki Rocho's Eye Candy Blogfest, which is easy-peasy. Just put up a picture that makes you smile. Here is a wooden plate painted by artist Katrin Wiese. I can't help but grin every time, looking at all the magical passengers on that little boat.


Neil Gaiman has the best wishes for the new year, including "I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." That's something I aspire to. I love surprises. Thanks, Neil.


1/1/11, you got to believe in magic sometimes.


Happy New Year! *scuttles off to indulge in brie and bubbly stuff*

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A novel approach, in verse


I stumble through woods
where trees keep souls--
dead and gone,
I do not know.

I hear them breathe,
a different sound
than the thrum of sap,
the chitter of bare branches
one on another.

I do not feel my toes
anymore. They are stone,
but I feel the trees,
dug in deep,
weighted with snow.

Caleb? Is he wandering
through these woods,
alone and cold? So cold.
Can he hear the trees,
feel his toes?

I saw the woods
close around him.
I followed his footprints
until they faded under
falling snow.

He left me.
For dead?
I think he did not know
I was in the rubble,
digging my way out.

But did he look for me
as I search for him? I burn
somewhere deep—almost buried—
at the thought of lips
brushing mine.

That was a lifetime
ago. Before
my toes turned to stone
and the flame inside
fluttered like an injured bird.

The trees rattle
and clack in a knife-sharp wind.
They are restless, famished.
I must keep moving,
looking for him.


It’s colder now. I think
my bones are made of ice,
brittle, unforgiving,
but the woods stretch before me.
There is no stopping.

The snow has taken
all sound but the groan of limbs.
It’s smothered color.
Even the sky is fog-white,
no tattered scrap of blue.

Mile after mile of thickets
and endless snow. Something red
on a branch. An apple? A red bandana!
Caleb wore one pulled low
above his eyes.

It flutters. A blood-red rag in this
colorless world. He would not
leave it without purpose, a signal. A
sign that he lost his way.
Please, not that he lost heart.
This is my first attempt at writing novel scenes in verse format and is my little entry in Valerie Geary's fresh Scene-in-Verse Blogfest. Thanks, Valerie, for inspiring me to try something new. It was great fun.
I hope everyone is having a fantastic week and looking forward to 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Peace after the flood

On this Christmas Eve, I'm so grateful for the good in the world. My heart goes out to those who lost their homes or loved ones in the recent deluge of storms in California and other states. And my gratitude to those who worked in the driving rain to save homes and lives.


I was fortunate to only spring a leak in my home office, which I hope will soon be repaired without further damage. For me, this has been mostly inconvenient, but for others the clean-up will go on through the holidays.
It's hard to be happy in the midst of devastation, whether it's your own or someone else's, but all any of us can do is go forward and work for a brighter tomorrow.

On several walks after the rain stopped, I found a wondrous world where waterfalls and ponds appeared and disappeared, where snowy egrets by the dozens came to perch in trees above newly-flooded ground and a banquet of fish.

For many of us abundance is all around. I am humbled again by what the world offers us.



Whatever your beliefs or customs, my wish for you all is joy, friendship, comfort and, above all, peace.

Happy holidays.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Double-dare you!

Come on in.
The water's fine.

I have a writing challenge for you, but first a gush of gratitude for two of my critique partners.

Some of you will recall I started a YA novel last year with a mermaid theme and then found out from an agent that another book was coming out with some similar elements. I brainstormed ways to eliminate any similarities and started a rewrite. Then I saw more mermaid books and felt uneasy, so I shelved the work for now. I need a new surge of hope, and these gifts are nudging me back to the sea.

Are they not the coolest? Julie made the bluesy ornament, and Rilla found the notebook in Spain. I love the edginess in these images. And I'm feeling the deep calling.


Meanwhile, I'm playing around with writing a novel (or at least a scene) in verse! This is thanks to Valerie Geary and her Scene-in-Verse Blogfest, which I now double-dare you to sign up for.

This is turning out to be so much fun. I'm not overthinking this, just trying out the verse format with a vague idea stemming from a photo of a woods in winter. For now, it's an exercise, and I can feel the writing muscles stretching and getting stronger.
If you're not sure what a novel in verse is check out the excellent books by Lisa Schroeder. We're not talking rhyme or even set meter, it's more a rhythm of words in the storytelling. Here's an example from Lisa's I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME:
Sleep doesn't come.
Night after night
I thrash around
like a fish
caught in a net
trying to escape.
And I cry
for what I've done
and who I've lost.

Please, click the link in this post or the fest button on the upper right of this blog to check out what Valerie is hosting. I've picked a photo of my own that I'm using as a springboard, but you can use any of the ones she posted for inspiration. The scenes will be posted Dec. 29.

Come on and play!


Finally, Shelley said I should post a picture of my decorated tree--the one I squeezed into the front seat of my Miata. So here's a circus acrobat wishing you high-flying joy.

The almost finished tree, and the old wax angel my mother-in-law gave me long ago. It's my favorite. Peace and best wishes for a happy holiday.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A day of small victories and huge news

Every year I wonder how I'll cram a live, aromatic, non-Charlie Brown Christmas tree in the front seat of my little red Miata.

And every year, the wonderful elves at the tree lot help me find one, truss it up and wiggle it in.

The journey home is snug, especially with a stick shift, but the scent of freshly-cut pine is intoxicating, and, for me, is essential to holiday happiness.

I've gotten good at carrying the tree in and setting it straight and firm in the stand, too.

See? It's so worth the effort to bring a bit of forest home.
Now for the pleasure of unpacking ornaments I've collected from around the world.

In other news, and this is HUGE, fellow writers. According to this article in the magazine of the American Library Association, there is an historic report in the Library and Book Trade Almanac, which for the first time counts the number of published YA titles separately from other kidlit titles.

The numbers left my jaw hanging. It's no wonder it's tough to sell books once they're published when you consider the amount of competition.
Preliminary numbers for kidlit titles in 2009 is--gasp--21,878. YA is 4,644. And I was proud of myself for reading 60 books this year.
I mean, I'm ecstatic that the market is exploding but wonder about long-term implications.
What say you?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Author adoration, adulation

I keep a little notebook to jot down book titles as I read them and was surprised to see I’ve devoured about sixty books since January.

A phenomenon, which I’m sure everyone’s observed, is how wildly diverse review comments can be. One person gives five stars and another says it’s the worse book ever. The point being that we’re each formed by genetics, environment and experience to have strong biases and desires that may differ radically from someone else’s. And, hey, maybe one day we're receptive and another we're cranky.

So my method of picking some YA books to showcase was seeing which ones stuck to me for one reason or another--it might be visceral impact or a fresh style. I dislike spoilers, so I will mainly mention why the craft of these books appealed to me. I’ve included snippets to give a sense of writing style.

THE MARBURY LENS by Andrew Smith
This is a book I normally would run away from, but it may be the most absorbing, riveting and deeply affecting book I read all year. I’m not a person who loves horror, and this one is horrifying. I almost couldn’t keep reading when I encountered an early scene that hit all my revulsion buttons.
I wouldn’t recommend this to a young or sensitive teen, but for the mature reader, this is an extraordinary tale that leaves you wondering if you’re reading a psychological thriller or a gritty urban fantasy or a mash-up. Smith is so skillful that I don’t care how it’s categorized. The characters and worlds he built have wormed into my consciousness. For better or worse, I doubt they’ll ever leave. How’s that for powerful storytelling?
Snippet: I guess in the old days, in other places, boys like me usually ended up twisting and kicking in the empty air beneath gallows.
Upper YA/Adult crossover for brutal, disturbing situations and language.

LIAR by Justine Larbalestier.
I knew two things before I opened this book. One: there had been controversy over the first cover, which featured a white model, even though the protagonist is black. The publisher created a more representative cover after the uproar. Two: the protagonist is a liar.
I was prepared for an unreliable narrator but not for how ensnared I became in the story, which is suspenseful and surprising. The reader is made a participant, because Micah says on the first page that she’s telling “you” her story and promises not to lie. “This time I truly mean it,” she says. From there on, the reader knows Micah can’t be trusted, no matter what she says, and this makes for a dynamic reading experience in which the reader questions and sorts information.
I’m impressed with the writing craft--how pieces of the story are presented or withheld or turned upside down. Micah is a fascinating character, but you never know if you’ve really figured her out.
Snippet: I tell her I don’t have a broken heart. It’s still beating, the blood still moves around my body; it only aches when I remember to breathe.
Upper YA/Adult crossover for language and situations.

REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly.
I bought this because I like the look of the cover and the author’s style. I was beyond pleased with the surprise inside the covers—a contemporary tale of a troubled teenager with a kind of ghostly time travel via an old diary that renders parts of the novel historical fiction set in the French Revolution. I love the way the protagonist’s passion for music and the guitar help her stagger through overwhelming grief, and how her discovery of another girl’s life and unfinished mission gives her own life new purpose. This story is smart and layered.
Snippet: I eat my dinner alone tonight, like I do every night. In our big, empty dining room. It’s not so bad. I can study my music and no one asks me about the calculus test I failed; or reminds me of my curfew; or demands to know the name, address, and intentions of the delinquent du jour crashed out in my bed.
Mature YA/crossover for language and situations.

SHIP BREAKER by Paolo Bacigalupi
This book started in a claustrophobic, scary way and escalated. Set in a believable dystopian future, the haves and have-nots both struggle to survive. I liked the way the author organically wove in the effects of environmental disaster by simply showing how people found ways to exist in a world made smaller and more dangerous than ever. Nailer, the protagonist, is tough, vulnerable, hopeful and noble, despite his deplorable start in life.
Snippet: A few men were lounging in the shade, tats and piercings showing unknown affiliations. They watched as the three interlopers moved through their turf. Nailer’s neck prickled. He palmed his knife, wondering if there would be bloodshed.
YA with some brutal scenes.

PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White.
This is a romp--a fresh slant on paranormal stories. The teenage protagonist bags paranormals of all stripes for an international containment agency. What she doesn’t know is much about herself and why she is skilled this way.
Snippet: Just as he reached for my neck, I tased him. I was there to bag and tag, not to kill. Besides, if I had to carry separate weapons for every paranormal I took out, I’d be dragging around a full luggage set. Tasers are a one-size-fits-all paranormal butt-kicking option. Mine’s pink with rhinestones.
YA. Suitable for the younger end of the spectrum, too, the protagonist actually says “bleep” when upset.

The author is so good at finding fresh, spot-on ways of describing things that I think the book should be read for that alone, but the story is meaningful, as well. For instance, when Lennie, the teen protagonist, describes the way she and her Gram and uncle stare at nothing, following the death of her sister, Nelson writes that “it’s as if someone vacuumed up the horizon while we were looking the other way.” Lennie can only let out her grief in written words that she scatters, everywhere. Then a sexual awakening tied to her loss really upends her.
Snippet: Gram raises her hands to her face in distress, and I go back to scribbling a poem in the margin of Wuthering Heights. I’m huddled into a corner of the couch. I’ve no use for talking, would just as soon store paper clips in my mouth.
Mature YA for language and situations.

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver

I might not have picked up this book about a clique of popular mean girls, but I’m glad I did. Oliver impressed me with the way she peeled character revelations away layer by layer. Early on, the protagonist dies in a car accident but wakes up again and again the morning of the day it happens. With each new-but-same day, she changes her actions, altering events--at first, hoping to survive and later with more awareness of herself, her family, her friends and their victims. I don’t want to give away what happens but it’s a story that resonates long after the last line.
Snippet: It’s a good feeling knowing you can basically do whatever you want and there won’t be any consequences.
Mature YA for language and situations.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oh that swag

Ring those holiday bells! Contest alert! Beth Revis has a sack full of goodies to give to 100, yes, that's one hundred winners. That's a lot of envelope stuffing and stamps, people.

There's still a month until the release of her debut YA dystopian, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, which has one of the most riveting opening chapters ever. I don't want to give it away if you didn't sneak a peak of it online, but one of the dual protagonists gets put in a position that would scare the bejeebers out of anybody. Made my heart race, for sure.

I was one of the lucky people who won an early ARC. All I'll say (so as not to give spoilers) is Beth continues to weave suspense and intrigue throughout the story in which generations of people aboard a spaceship develop an insular culture and a distorted history of the past. It's both fascinating and chilling as the two protagonists, Amy and Elder, begin to unravel the dangerous secrets of the ship.

Kirkus gave a starred review, and high praises came from YA authors Carrie Ryan, Melissa Marr and Kiersten White. To read the reviews or the first chapter go here.

And now we're all invited to enter to win bookmarks, bookplates, buttons, signed ARCs and, for the grand prize winner, a signed hardback with the amazing reversible cover. That's the reverse cover with the blueprint of the spaceship, Godspeed.

So, what are you waiting for? Speed through cyberspace and enter.
Here, I'll nudge you with a couple of teaser lines from the book:
Sometimes it feels like a thousand years have passed; sometimes it feels as if I've only been sleeping a few moments. I feel most like I'm in that weird state of half-asleep, half-awake I get when I've tried to sleep past noon, when I know I should get up, but my mind starts wandering and I'm sure I can never get back to sleep. Even if I do slip back into a dream for a few moments, I'm mostly just awake with my eyes shut.
Yeah. Cryo sleep is like that.
Another suggestion: preorder a copy to gift someone. They'll be over the moon.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Jellies in the sky and frenzies of a personal sort




That's how fall/winter skies often are in California. Following winds and rain, the yucky smog and dust vanish. Pure blues, whites, golds splatter like paint on canvas.

I was captivated by the cloud patterns the other day and stopped on my walk to crane my neck and gaze for long minutes. Sometimes I wish I could be sucked into the sky to drift.


sky-jellyfish drift

on tropospheric winds

I can not feel.


The need to scrub my abode struck next. I have been on a frenzy for the whole weekend! Even scrubbing floors and vacuuming books!!!

Do you know Hyperbole and a Half? I can't clean now without conjuring the image of Allie's hilarious This is Why I'll Never Be An Adult/clean-all-the-things post here.

She's so creative and funny that she has more than 39,000 followers and gets beaucoup write-ups online. There's even a store on her site to buy her illustrations on shirts, aprons, mugs. And, no, I don't know her or have any connection to her sale stuff. I just think it's awesome.
So as I was struck with the cleaning frenzy, I realized a few things about writing. My writing to be precise. I have been stuck, in the dumps, churning my wheels uselessly in deep mud. I've felt covered with a layer of dust--very unshiny lately.
When I sorted through the whys, I came up with a new one. I'm driven, pressured by notions that I'm too late. There's at least one solid reason for that--a few months ago I learned that a story similar to mine was already being published. That took the wind from my WIP sails and put the driven-demon on my shoulder trying to keep the boat afloat. You must find another angle. You must get it out there fast before its time is past. But that's a problem in itself, I now realize. Being driven by any fear is not a healthy way to write.
If I want readers to feel joy and wonder, I have to feel it myself. I don't have any solutions to my situation that I know are fool-proof (oh, I'm capable of being the fool) but I have some ideas. I think I need to put aside the novel in question and work on other things. Like cleaning all the things that surround me and dusting off other stories I've let languish.
I'm hopeful at the moment that I'll sort this out, and hope is all anyone needs, really.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Secret doors to other worlds

I discovered this secret door shrouded behind a curtain of vines. It calls to me. What lies beyond?

Faerie? Or maybe. . .

Wizard Howl’s castle trundling along the moors.

The Queen of Hearts' lawn croquet game in full swing.

The tombs of Atuan.

Ethan Rayne’s Halloween costume shop in Sunnydale.

Ray Bradbury’s Veldt.

The Cat in the Hat, a Yottle in a bottle, a Yep on a step and Yooks and Zooks everywhere.

A wardrobe crammed with 1930’s coats.

The golden woods of Lothlorien.

The cantina on Mos Eisley.

Shotgun seat in a black 1967 Chevy Impala. Please don’t let the next stop be The Crossroad.

The Hunger Games Arena.

Ollivander’s Wand Shop in Diagon Alley. I’d like yew with dragonheart string ASAP.
What do you think is behind the door? Come on, what other world would you love or hate to find?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Help Talli roll in sales

Do you know Talli Roland? If not, do yourself a favor and visit her blog, which is always interesting with posts on writing (her own and other people's), traveling (London tubes to Slovakian mountains) and food (blueberry grunt and toffee pudding, anyone?).
But today is all about an experiment in social networking and how it can boost sales. Talli organized a websplash in which hundreds of bloggers and tweeters are spreading the word about her debut novel THE HATING GAME and trying to hit the Kindle bestseller list at and today. Even a few sales in a short period on Amazon helps push a book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.
Check out the deal (it really is a steal!) at or If you don't have a Kindle, download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

THE HATING GAME is also coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at Talli's website.


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?