Tuesday, September 27, 2011


My chicken is delusional.

She hides all day in her nest box, cozy under her perch. She won't come out in the yard to scratch and peck unless we drag her. What's she doing down there?

She THINKS she's sitting on eggs. But she's not. All her eggs are in my refrigerator, waiting to be made into breakfast. Even if we let her keep the eggs, she hasn't spent time with any roosters. She could sit there the rest of her life and no chicks would hatch.

But the worst part is, she's entirely stopped laying.

There was a stage of my writing career when I was like my chicken. I brooded over my first manuscript for ten years, picking at it, making little changes, polishing the prose to perfection. At the time I was sure it would hatch into a bestseller, but now it's obvious to me that I was delusional.

The worst part was, I wasn't coming up with any new stories. I poured all my writing energy into that one manuscript. Sure, I'd get story ideas, but I wouldn't take the time to develop them and write them. I was content to sit on one project.

That was until I went to my first writer's workshop. Day one, first thing the teacher said was, "How many of you have been writing the same book for seven years?"

It was ten years in my case, but I raised my hand with the others.

"I want you to go home and put that manuscript in a drawer. You need to work on something new."

How could he say that? He hadn't even read my story! How did he know it wasn't going to hatch?

It was the best writing advice I'd had in my entire life. I put that old manuscript away and wrote something new, and I couldn't believe how much better it was when I gave myself a fresh start.

So now, three years and three full manuscripts later, I'm feeling more productive. But I still have to fight my brooding tendencies. Here's my plan:

1. Get out of the nest box. Go to conferences and workshops. Participate in my local SCBWI. Read lots of books, fiction and non-fiction. Go to lectures. Keep up on publishing industry news. Don't let myself constantly say, "I haven't got time for that, I need to be writing."

2. More eggs. It's been way too long since I submitted a short story to a magazine, and the only contests I've participated in were associated with writing workshops I've attended. I need to do better. I should make myself write a short story between every draft of the novel I'm working on. Maybe I'll even do NaNoWriMo this year.

I know that some people have the opposite problem - they have a hard time focusing on a single project long enough to get it ready for submission. But as for me, I get TOO focused. I hide in my writer cave and let everything else slide, and then I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes time to reimmerse myself in the quest for publication.

So if you're a brooder, what do you do to stay in the writing game?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Shifting by Bethany Wiggins

After bouncing from foster home to foster home, Magdalene Mae is transferred  to what should be her last foster home in the tiny town of Silver City, New Mexico. Now that she's eighteen and has only a year left in high school, she's determined to stay out of trouble and just be normal. Agreeing to go to the prom with Bridger O'Connell is a good first step. Fitting in has never been her strong suit, but it's not for the reasons most people would expect-it all has to do with the deep secret that she is a shape shifter. But even in her new home danger lurks, waiting in the shadows to pounce. They are the Skinwalkers of Navajo legend, who have traded their souls to become the animal whose skin they wear-and Maggie is their next target.

Full of romance, mysticism, and intrigue, this dark take on Navajo legend will haunt readers to the final page.

About the Author:
Bethany Wiggins has always been an avid reader, but not an avid writer. Seriously!!! She failed ninth grade English because she read novels instead of doing her homework. In high school, she sat alone at lunch and read massive hardback fantasy novels (Tad Williams and Robert Jordan anyone?). It wasn't until the end of her senior year that the other students realized she was reading fiction--not the Bible

Several years ago Bethany's sister dared her to start writing an hour a day until she completed a novel.  Bethany wrote a seven-hundred page fantasy novel that she wisely let no one read--but it taught her how to write.  The fifth novel she write, SHIFTING, is being published by Walker Books September 27, 2011.

Book Power

What was your favorite place at your elementary school? Was it the playground? The cafeteria? The music room?

How about the library?

Yes, the library was my favorite. I used to sneak off and go there every chance I had. I'd hurry through my classwork and ask the teacher, "Can I go to the library?" When I got there, I'd slowly walk along the shelves, reading each title, feeling like each book was a present wrapped up between its covers, a present waiting for me to open it.

So I was thrilled to read this article on Physorg.com about how funding for school libraries increases standardized test scores. Many studies have shown that increased spending on schools doesn't really improve student performance, but according to this article, when the spending goes to improve the library, kids actually do better on standardized tests and on other measures of learning.

Tell your local school board! How do we improve student learning? Better school libraries!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Killing Your Darlings

I've heard many times that you have to be willing to kill your darlings. You have to be willing to take things out of your story that aren't working, even if you really, really like them.

Today I found out how much that hurts.

For six drafts of my manuscript I hung onto a certain subplot, even though I knew from the beginning it probably wasn't going to work. I finally had to let it go. It was messing up my pacing, cost over ten thousand words, and really wasn't necessary to the story.

But as I watched all that gorgeous prose lie there, cut off from the rest of the manuscript, writhing and bleeding syllables as it slowly died, I realized it had been the most beautifully written part of the book.  I cared about it more than I cared about any other part of the book, and so I had poured my love into every word.

Can I learn to love the rest of the book as much as I loved that part I had to kill?

Give me a few days to grieve, and then I'm on it.

What's the hardest story decision you've had to make?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Where Ideas Come From

Ideas come from everywhere. Sparked by experience, memory, dream, they arc across the landscape of our minds in a constant storm of thought energy. It's easy to sit down and write any number of ideas for stories, for characters, for settings. Try it! If you're not worried about quality, you can fill a page in no time.

Coming up with ideas isn't hard. What's hard is coming up with good ideas. Original ideas. Ideas that can become something awesome.

So how do you know when you've got a good idea?

I don't think you can always tell right away. You  have to try it out. Work with it. Write that story, and then see what happens. I've had ideas for scenes I thought would turn out great, and then when I wrote it, it didn't work. Other times I struggled with something I thought wouldn't work at all, and when I wrote it, I was surprised by how well it turned out. So I've stopped trying to second-guess my ideas. I don't argue with my imagination any more. I put the words on the page and then I decide.

But with so many ideas coming all the time, I can't write about them all. I probably had three or four ideas for a blog post today, but this is the only one that I'm actually going to write.

So how to choose?

I think the good ideas tend to stick around. They're the ones I can't get out of my head. With a life of their own, they grow and collect more good ideas. I also think that the good ideas are the ones that fascinate me. If I care about an idea enough to turn it into a story, that means there's something good about it. I also think the good ideas are the ones that when I pitch them to other people, their eyes light up and they say, "I want to read that."

But most of all, a good idea gives me that rollercoaster rush of a feeling - like I'm so excited I could burst. Like I want to run around and shout it out to everyone. Like I can't wait to write it. Like I can't wait for people to read it!

How do you know when you've got a good idea?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Darkspell Review by YA Book Babes

Arrr, maties! This be one mighty fine voyage I's been taken on, care to join and see where it leads?

Read on . . .

Winter Sky believes she is everything ordinary . . . until she is kissed by Alex Stormhold. As seer of Stormhold Coven, Alex is sworn to be Winter’s protector against the darkness that hunts her. Violently thrust into a magical realm she always thought impossible, she stumbles upon a disturbing secret of her own.

Darkspell doesn't fit into a typical YA genre box. As a matter of fact, it's one of the most original books I've read this year. A richly woven drama unfolds as young Winter Sky meets two handsome and mysterious neighbors, both fighting for her affection. But one boy, the boy of her dreams--literally-- has already won her heart. But in short order her life is turned upside down as she enters the Stormhold world, a coven of powerful magic users (I'm hesitant to use the word witch/wizard here. This is really something very different.) where she is being hunted by the Shadoweaver. Suddenly everything is in jeopardy as she searches for her gift and fights to keep the boy she loves.

Elizabeth Mueller gives a great story, full of normal teen angst without tipping the scales to be annoying, she keeps us guessing, dropping nuggets for us throughout the story, but never tipping her hand. Combine that with the fantastic use of illustrations that give it almost a graphic novel feel as we read, and this is easily a five star read. I can't wait to pick this up in paperback and you should too! Mueller is a great addition to the YA world and I can't wait to see what comes next from this talented writer!


And I didn't even giggle, check it out:

Listen to internet radio with yabookbabes on Blog Talk Radio

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Out of the Ashes

I love living on the legendary North Shore of Oahu. My neighbors bring me home-grown bananas, I can walk to the beach, and I'm pretty sure my whole town would survive just fine in an all-out nuclear war.

One of the few downsides - the nearest bookstore used to be 23 miles away. I say "used to" because the nearest bookstore was a Borders and they've gone out of business.

Now I have to drive 25 miles to the nearest Barnes and Noble.

We heard that Borders was selling off their bookshelves, so we went down on Saturday to check it out. The place was post-apocalyptically empty. Only a few books left, scattered randomly on mostly empty shelves. I still managed to collect four titles that caught my interest - especially at 70% off. All the tall wall shelves had been bought, but some of the two-sided island shelves were still there. My husband and I picked one out and called the manager over to fill out an invoice. Since it was there, I couldn't help taking the "Writing" shelf. Maybe some of the wisdom that used to be on those shelves will leak out into my cove. You can see on the top shelf the four books I rescued from the ashes of the firesale.

As I walked among the barren shelves at Borders I couldn't help tearing up as it hit me that this was goodbye. There's nothing like browsing a bookstore. I love to pick up a shiny new hardcover, glance at the back, scan the flaps, inhale the first page, then hold it in my hands and consider whether or not to add it to my collection. Buying e-books just won't be the same. I can't say I wasn't part of Borders' demise. I already buy most of my books on-line from Amazon. But I don't browse there. I hear buzz about a book, decide I want it, and go to Amazon to get a copy. If I want to find something entirely new, something I've never heard of, some literary discovery to call my very own, I need a bookstore.

But I'm glad to have the bookshelf.  It's the best bookshelf I've ever owned! The shelves tip back so the books stand up securely in place without a bookend, and I can even turn them cover-out to advertize their presence (Remember me? You wanted to read me!). I've put all my writing reference material, my office supplies, my manuscripts, and my composition books on one side. The other side has all our picture books so the kids can come in and read quietly to themselves while I'm working. Ha ha. We'll see how that works.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Book Club 4 Boys!

As a writer, I'm always interested in ways to encourage the next generation of readers, so I was thrilled to find out one of my Laie neighbors, Laura Blum, has launched a blog devoted to book club ideas for boys. Click here to take a look.

She's also giving away a free kindle for new followers - check it out!

The site includes book club ideas with treats, book club ideas with field trips, book club ideas to use with cub scout activities, and book club ideas for books with movies.

I'm signing my boys up.

Darkspell Illustrations

How self-serving is it for me to use the "share buttons" from my own blog to do a shout out?

I love them buttons!

So here's the latest Darkspell ADO!

Want to sneak a peak at Alex and Winter? Click on link below for Darkspell's first drawing!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

. . . Or is it Just Me?

I think I'm high maintenance. There are many times that I want to visit a friend's house and write quietly while the kids sleep for the night. Where we can read our passages and laugh at our characters' antics or bounce ideas off of each other or work through a tangle of writers block.

It would be awfully nice to critique with this person and even daydream about the settings we've created.

I've longed for a friend who takes writing seriously enough that she wouldn't cancel out because it's only me and her showing up to a meeting, but who would make the most with every quiet moment for writing.

How freeing would it be to find someone who shares the passion of writing just a equally as you who would need you just as much as you need her?  Imagine the far places you'd travel with this kind of support!


Is this something that every writer wants, or is it just me?