Monday, December 21, 2009

Reviews and Character Flaws

Today I had the fun of discovering two reviews/mentions of When Mike Kissed Emma. Both were fairly positive.

The first, Miriam Foster at Red Room, suggested When Mike Kissed Emma as a last minute gift idea. (Which, personally, I think is a brilliant suggestion.)

The other was a review at Between the Lines, which included this smiling-inducing line: "the writing has clarity and sparkle and I can't wait to read other books by this author."

What I found interesting was that in both reviews mentioned Emma's character flaw of judging a little too much by appearances at first. It is definitely a flaw. It's the one that Emma overcomes during the course of the book.

I could have written Emma as a perfect teen - or close to it - but where would the story come from then? And actually a character who has no faults is rather annoying to read about too.

So when writing characters where is the balance between keeping them realistic and likeable, and yet interesting enough to warrant a story? If characters always makes the right decision the story is likely to be over rather quickly. If they make too many of the wrong choices the reader may give up on them.

How many flaws are you willing to put up with in a character as you read?

And how do you find the right balance as you right?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NaNoWriMo Update

I've been managing to more or less keep up with the pace of NaNoWriMo, but today I'm giving myself permission to stop. The story I'm working on isn't grabbing me and I feel like I'm forcing myself to continue instead of enjoying the process.

Instead I'm going to focus on revisions on three pieces that are in various stages of being done.

It's important to be flexible, right? And to enjoy the process. That's what I intend to do!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Thursday

Trying to keep up with NaNoWriMo has been a struggle this year. The story I'm working on is not flowing like the one I wrote last year at this time. But I'm meeting the daily goals and a story is getting formed. We'll see what I can do with it in revisions.

I think the big difference between the story idea this time and last time is that last time I knew where the story was headed. I wasn't sure how it was going to get there - but I knew in advance what the ending was, and I was simply working toward that. This year I started with a concept for the story in general- but I have no idea how it's going to end. Even 18,000 words in, I have no idea how it's going to end.

We're all healthy again here - with slight lingering tiredness and coughs - and I wonder if the illness we succumbed to was the dreaded H1N1 Flu? If it was it means I don't have to make a decision regarding vaccines for the kids... but how can I be sure? (I did say these were random thoughts.)

One very bright spot in my week so far was this sweet review at Enchanting YA. My favorite part?
WHEN MIKE KISSED EMMA is one of those romantic tales you want to curl up with and read.

And now it's time to face a Thursday!

Friday, November 6, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Six

Catching up. I am only a day behind now. Of course it will soon be tomorrow and I'll be two days behind again, but I'm making progress.

Today's word count: 2049
Total: 8105

Of course, had I felt at all motivated to write for most of today I bet I could have gotten a lot more done.

On the upside - my house is cleaner than it's been in awhile. :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Five

Am I missing a few days in here? Why yes, yes I am, thank you for noticing. We had a fever at our house this week, and everything else kind of got lost in the blur. This also made it very difficult to keep up with writing. I did actually get a little done each day. A very little.

As of right now I'm at 5,662 words. Which puts me about 3,000 words behind where I should be for today. Not great - but 2000 words above where I was yesterday - so progress is being made.

Sometimes real life gets in the way.

Monday, November 2, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day Two

Almost meeting goals.

That's what today was all about.

I had the goal to get to the grocery store. I didn't do it; but I will get there tomorrow.

I had the goal to do double the necessary daily word count of NaNoWriMo so that I could be all caught up with where I was supposed to be.

How'd I do? Not quite.

Total word count for today (and therefore my total since I did nothing yesterday) is 2792. Not the 3333 I needed to make my goal. But close enough.

I've discovered that goals are harder to meet when you have a cold. (I'm sure I'm not the first to discover this, and this probably isn't the first time I've realized it either.)

Now it's off to chug some cough syrup (not really, but I kind of feel like doing that) and get some sleep so I can meet those goals tomorrow (including the grocery shopping - and voting - don't forget to vote tomorrow.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day One

Progress report: 0 words.

Yeah. Not off to a rip-roaring start.

But... I did finish going through the last 30 pages of my WIP and made sure they at least made sense before sending it off to beta readers - so I did make some writing progress.

The evening was spent trying to get my incredibly stubborn son to eat his whole dinner. After two hours of that nonsense - the dinner was eaten - and any chance of me sitting down to write was pretty much gone.

I also need a name for my main character. Kind of hard to write without one.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


That's the number of words a person needs to write a day, in order to complete a 50,000 word novel in November. And why would a person want to do this? Why because it's National Novel Writing Month, of course. NaNoWriMo for those in the know. NaNo for short.

Last year was the first time I participated in NaNoWriMo and surprised myself by writing a 50,000 word story in two weeks. That story still needs editing (pretty much anything written that quickly is going to need editing.) So I'm going to try NaNoWriMo again this year. I don't know if I'll be able to keep up the pace, but I'll use this blog to keep track of how I'm doing.

Let's get ready to WRITE!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I spent the day revising.

I wish I had a good tried-and-true method for revising.

Today's adventure involved moving scenes from various places in book to other places. And then trying to keep track of what I'd moved and to where and what no longer fit in because of it. It's really not surprising I have a headache now.

Most of the way through I thought - hey, maybe I should have used index cards for this. Or I suppose I could have printed out the scenes and then done some literal cutting and pasting. Instead I had multiple files and things highlighted (and I ended up just highlighting things random colors - so it didn't even mean anything specific if it was highlighted in a certain color).

And I just realized that I'm now admitting how disorganized my revising process is. Maybe I should stop now (leave some mystery.)

Anyone have any really good revising techniques they use?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blogtoberfest over at Jeri's Place

This month Jeri Smith-Ready is celebrating her blog birthday with Halloween themed guest posts and book give-aways all month.

Today is my day. So go over and see what I had to offer in the way of a ghost story and comment for a chance to win a signed copy of When Mike Kissed Emma.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Writing a Scene

It's funny, when I write the first draft of a scene I find it often seems more like a radio play than anything else. It will be virtually all dialogue with a few essential movements thrown in. But when reading it back it's almost as if it's all taking place in a giant white room with nothing around the main characters.

That, of course, will never do. But yet, I need to know what happens in the scene before I can go back and add the finer details. So I let my first draft read like a radio play and then later I go back and throw in the color.

How do other people do this? Do you have all the details to start with or do you just write the dialogue you hear in your head (okay, I don't really hear voices or anything) and then go from there?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Writing and Reviews

There are days when I get a lot of writing done, when the words flow and the scenes add up and there are pages and pages to show for it at the end of the day.

And then there are days like I've had this week.

Yesterday involved not one but two trips to the E.R. (One to drop off a friend who was in severe pain and then later in the day so my son could have a more intense breathing treatment than he could get at the doctor's office, so his oxygen levels would go up.) Two trips to the ER in one day is two trips too many. It also meant that I got nothing else done. It was just that kind of a day.

Today, my son was back in school. I optimistically opened my word document early this morning - probably around seven. I haven't added a word to it yet. You see, besides getting the kids off to school there was the grocery shopping to do (since that had been put off when my son was home sick) and critiques to do - oh and of course I started reading a new book, so I had to finish that. Yeah and here we are at 9 pm and I might have time now, but I'm not sure how much brain power I have left.

So it goes.

On a positive note my friend Liz B, who I've been friends with for a very long time, reviewed When Mike Kissed Emma today over at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy. Liz actually played an integral part in the writing of this story. She's the one who pointed out to me that the subplot in another story I was writing could actually serve as a stand alone story. She pulled all the scenes out and put them in one document and named it Triangle and sent it to me as proof. And that was the very beginning of When Mike Kissed Emma (although at the time the characters all had different names.)

My favorite part of the review:
There is no way I can give this book an impartial review, both because of my friendship with Chris and because I know this book, I've seen it grow, like a niece or nephew. I love this book -- but I think it's only fair for you to know that connection.
Thanks Liz!

And in the craziness that is normal life around here I don't think I ever got around to mentioning another review I got recently.

Last week, Trisha Pearson wrote about When Mike Kissed Emma over at Trisha's Tablet.

My favorite parts of that review:
Even though When Mike Kissed Emma is set against the backdrop of the production of The Sound of Music and I'm not into theatre or musicals, I really enjoyed this book.

It has a great cast of characters from dreamy Biker Mike, to the boyfriend who seems perfect but really isn't, to a jealous best friend and a difficult sister.Blockquote

All in all, I really wish this book had been published when I was a young teenager. I would have loved it!

Thanks Trisha!

The "review" that really brought a smile to my face though wasn't on a blog or anywhere for the public to see it (except my facebook friends). It was from my cousin. He's not a book reviewer and as a Dad of three teenagers and an engineer he probably doesn't read a whole lot of YA lit, read it and this is what he had to say:

I finished your book today. Nice read! It brings back all of those feelings that you have back in the school days. All of that uncertainty with yourself, the feeling of crushes, and first kisses. I think any young reader will be able easily relate to it. Even as an adult I can feel that "rush." And I think it gives the reader the message that it's okay to mess stuff up--normal really, and even expected. Things will work out. If somehow you can convince young people that the mess ups are a learning experience, and they will be stronger after the pain subsides, then there would be less stress and anxiety and maybe even less suicides. Your book shows this to the reader in a covert way while it is a fun, enjoyable read. I honestly think this book can have a real impact on young people. Congratulations on such a nice job. -Steve

Thanks Steve!

That's it for tonight. Maybe I'll even get some writing done - because I have this awesome idea for a ghost story tickling around in the back of my mind, and I'd like to get to it!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Books I've Read this Year - Part 5

This is a continuation from last July's lists of the books I've read. If you're interested here are parts one, two, three, and four.

Continuing where I left off puts me at book number 55.

55) The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen by Mitali Perkins. I actually read an older version with the original title The Sunita Experiment. Ever since I've become twitter friends with the incomparable Mitali Perkins I've been searching out her books. I've loved each one I've read so far and must find more. I grew up in the dominant culture of the area so I did not experience the straddling cultures that Mitali talks about in this book, but many of my children's friends have parents from India or Pakistan (in fact my kids have had several friends move to India or Pakistan over the past couple of years) so I can relate in one small way that way. But the book isn't about being Indian in America, it's about figuring out who you are and every teenager goes through that.

56) Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors. It's got Shakespeare and time travel, what's not to like? When Mimi, who's been busy playing Juliet on stage, finds herself living out Romeo and Juliet in a bizarre alternate universe, she has to save the star-crossed lovers from their tragic fate.

57) The Servants' Quarters by Lynn Freed. Set in post World War II England this book didn't really capture my fancy, and now, two months later, I'm not really sure why.

58) The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale. This was a wonderful, hard-to-classify book. Some parts had me laughing out loud and others had me crying. It's a romance, but it's not. Does it have a "happily ever after?". Hard to say. But I can't imagine it ending any other way than how it did.

59) Best Friends Forever: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner. I haven't found a book by Jennifer Weiner that I haven't enjoyed. This one was no exception. Two best friends, who sometimes wonder why they put up with the other; but they need each other and have a interesting adventure along the way.

60) Secrets of Cirque Medrano by Elaine Scott. I don't know why this should be, but books about circuses tend to freak me out. This one wasn't completely about a circus, but it did have circus elements in it. It was more about Pablo Picasso as seem from the point of view of a girl who happens to work in the cafe he frequents. I also don't care for books that try to be about a famous person by having then show up peripherally in the life of the main character. But despite my own misgivings, I found the story well written and enjoyable.

61) The Navel of the World by PJ Hoover. I've had the distinct pleasure of reading more by PJ Hoover than has been published yet, since we are in the same critique group. And everything I read of hers I absolutely love. So it's no surprise that I loved this second book in the Forgotten World Series. It's got time travel, too. (I like time travel)

62) The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue. Set during the beginning of the British Women's movement, this story deals with an unfaithful wife, her faithful friend, and how the divorce system at that time was really not designed to be fair. An interesting read based on a real divorce case from the time.

63) Samantha Hansen has Rocks in Her Head by Nancy Viau a great short read for kids. Samantha's in fifth grade and the things that make the most sense to her in a crazy changing world are rocks.

64) Once a Witch by Colleen MacCullough. Tamsin doesn't think her magical power ever manifested herself, but that doesn't stop her trying to do something magical anyway. And in so doing, she finds she isn't quite as powerless as she thought she was. A fun story with great characters.

65 & 66) Eleven and Twelve by Lauren Myracle. Now I have to read Thirteen. I really do, because I so enjoyed these two books about Winnie trying to navigate these crazy years of her life that I totally want to know what happens next.

67) Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. My daughter recommended this book. I don't know if it was just bad timing (deciding to start it just as we went on vacation and I had no reading time) but I found I had a hard time getting into this book. The story is certainly captivating, but it didn't grab me like I thought it would.

68) Secrets of my Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita. Getting burned out as a TV star, Kaitlin decides to go undercover as a regular student at a private high school. As one might imagine, this leads to all kinds of additional problems and adventures. I enjoyed it enough that the sequel is in my TBR pile.

69) I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter. I'd read a lot of great things about this 'spy girl' book and finally I had to see for myself. It totally lived up to the hype. The sequel to this one is also in my TBR pile.

70) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. When my son was assigned this book for school I knew it was time to read it. I'd heard wonderful things about it, but I wasn't sure if it was really my type of book. Couldn't Put It Down. I completely understand why it won the Newbery.

71) Shelf Discovery by Lizzie Skurnick. This was another book I had to read based on things I'd read about it online. And I'm glad I did. I hadn't read all of the books that she discusses in her essays on teen books we read over and over, but I'd read enough of them to find myself nodding in agreement over and over.

72) The Tsarina's Daughter by Carolly Erickson. It seems that most speculative fiction on the executed family of Tsar Nicholas II focuses on Anastasia, but this one follows the Tsar's second oldest daughter Tania, and most of the story takes place before the family was executed as opposed to dealing with what Tania's life was like after she escaped sharing the fate of her family (that's where the fiction part came in, the author acknowledges that Tania definitely was killed with the family in 1918).

73) Jane Austin Ruined my Life by Beth Patillo. A down-on-her luck professor decides to force a change in fortunes by exposing Jane Austin as a fraud through previously unpublished letters. Instead she learns things about herself. A few too many coincidences to suit me.

74) When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I'd read great things about this book and everything I read was right. I loved it. Great characters, unique premise and time travel (got to love that time travel)

Which brings us up to date on the books I've read so far this year.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Reading, Writing and Reviews

I find that sometimes I'm able to get a lot read and sometimes, not so much. August was a slow reading month - partly due to going on vacation, and then of course, the excitement of the release of my book. I've been making up for it in September, reading a lot of great books with several more books in a TBR pile patiently waiting. I'll do a post soon updating my recent reading. But it is good to be flying through books again.

Of course I can't fly through books and write at the same time. Something has to give. (I also can't crochet at the same time, and I have a blanket I have to finish by Friday, so we'll see how this week goes.) But even with doing a bunch of reading, I managed to get a lot of writing done this past week. None this weekend - there was a family wedding to keep me busy instead.

I love, when I'm writing, and a scene pops into my head fully formed. Then the words just fly onto the page. Those are the good days. Other days I'm just plodding along hoping to get to that take off point so I can fly again.

And to wrap up this rather random post, this week there were two reviews of When Mike Kissed Emma that made me smile.

The first was at Night Owl Romance.
My favorite line was:
I found myself flipping the pages as quickly as possible to find out what was going to happen next to everyone.

You can read the rest of the review here.

The next review was at Fallen Angel Reviews.
My favorite line of this one was:
This is a delightful story with all of the growing-up situations that happen to people in high school.

You can read the rest of the review here.

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Letting the Story Take Control

I've been revising my latest Work in Progress. This isn't the kind of revision where sentences are tweaked or words are deleted to make things stronger. This is the kind of revision that involves a change in title, a change in the main character's name and a bunch of other changes besides.

(At what point do I have to admit that I am writing a new story?)

I had a good idea where I wanted this story to go. After all, this had started off as a revision in order to bring a little more focus to the middle of the story. The story was already written. Or was it?

Because this story is not going where I expect it to. I'm trying to force it into a mold. But it keeps breaking out.

And then I realized there was no reason why I couldn't let it. There will be time for more revisions. Right now I need to let the story have free rein. I need to forget where I thought the story was supposed to go and find out where it wants to go.

Should be an interesting ride.

Anyone else have their stories wrest control from them?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Happy Dance Kind of Wednesday

Yeah, it's sort of raining out there and sure, the kids weren't excited about getting up and going to school, but I woke up to a great review of When Mike Kissed Emma, so it seems like a great day to me.

Here's an excerpt:
It’s a modern day story with a retro feel, something you no longer find on the bookshelves. The plot doesn’t revolve around new clothes, being the most popular girl in school, or snagging the homecoming crown. This is a lesson in learning about who you are, and more importantly, who brings out the person inside you want to be.

Very enjoyable, especially if you want something that doesn’t include an absorbent amount of teen angst. When Mike Kissed Emma is a wonderful read.

Go over to Long and Short Reviews to read the rest of it!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Little History for Release Day

Last week, on my actual, official release day, I was exploring the historic sites of Jamestown (the first successful Engish settlement in America) and Yorktown (the site of the surrender of the British to end the American Revolution). When Mike Kissed Emma came along for the trip and got to see inside a Native American dwelling, a replica of the ships the settlers came over on (those ships were small - if I'd lived then, I would have stayed in England), outside a house at Jamestown fort and soldiers tents at Yorktown. As you can see WMKE and I had a very full day.

That evening we ate at one of the historic taverns in Williamsburg, complete with eighteenth century entertainment. It was a great way to celebrate Release Day.
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A Book Giveaway

PJ Hoover over at ROOTS IN MYTH is giving away three great books. And one of them is mine. All you need to do to have your chance to win is go over and answer a question in the comments. Go on, go check it out. Oh, and there's an interview with me over there too.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

ExcerpTuesdays over at Chris Redding's

When Mike Kissed Emma is featured on this ExerpTuesday over at Chris Redding, Author. Thanks Chris, for featuring my book this way. And thanks, Kevin, for introducing us.

And one more link for today. I now have a page over at JacketFlap.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pictures from Release Week

On Tuesday of release week we spent the day at Busch Gardens, Williamsburg. WMKE came along for the ride (but probably should have stayed in a locker during the flume ride...oops).
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The Winner(s) of the Quiz Giveaway

Using a random number generator the winner of the signed copy of When Mike Kissed Emma is PJ Hoover. Yay!

I noticed, however, that Jim Danielson also commented on almost every quiz question - and he got the answers right too!

So, I'm giving away two copies. One to PJ and one to Jim.

Congratulatons - send me your snail mail address and I'll send you your books. Thanks for playing along last week and helping me celebrate my release!

(Oh - and why the original characters initials were K.C. were because they were my initials backwards.)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

How I Celebrated Release Day!

No, I didn't stomp grapes, but we did spend the week in Virginia. Here I am with my book and two kids, pretending to stomp grapes in Busch Gardens Italy section.

(If my son looks bored, I think it had more to do with it being well into the 90s then anything else.)

More pictures to come!
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A Little Linky Love

Back from vacation and pictures to come - of me and my book enjoying Release Day - but first I want to highlight a few places where there have been interviews or people have said sweet things about When Mike Kissed Emma.

I hope I didn't leave anyone out! If I did, let me know, it's not a snub, it's my post vacation brain not being fully back in gear yet.

I should be announcing the winner of the signed copy of When Mike Kissed Emma tomorrow.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Guest Blogging

Please stop by and visit me over at Climbing Rose Blog where I'm guest blogging this week. Today I'm wondering why I still have to do laundry, not that I'm published.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Guest Blogging

Please stop by and visit me over at Climbing Rose Blog where I'm guest blogging this week. Today I'm talking about when I first saw my books.

Keep Answering Those Questions

The trivia contest continues. Go back and answer any questions you may have missed. You have until Friday night to leave a comment to get a chance to win.

A winner will be picked this weekend.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Release Day!

It's here!

The official release date of When Mike Kissed Emma!

Here's me when I first got to hold a copy in my hot little hand:

And here's the trailer:

And the waiting is over, you can buy your copy today!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Guest Blogging

Please stop by and visit me over at Climbing Rose Blog where I'm guest blogging this week. Today I'm talking about magical first kisses.

Last Day of Quiz Giveaway

This is the last question in the trivia quiz question. But you can still answer the previous questions until Friday. The winner will be chosen over the weekend.

Quiz Questions Number 6:
What fan-fiction did I write as a kid (even though I didn't even know it was fan-fiction)?

Countdown: 1 day left til the release of When Mike Kissed Emma!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Guest Blogging

Please stop by and visit me over at Climbing Rose Blog where I'm guest blogging this week. Today I'm talking about the very beginnings of When Mike Kissed Emma.

Day 5 of the Giveaway Quiz

Only two more quiz questions left. Keep answering for your chance to win a signed copy of When Mike Kissed Emma.

Quiz Question Number 5:
In the very original version of this story the main character's name was Casey. Why?

Countdown: 2 days

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Interview over at the Climbing Rose Blog

This week I will be guest posting over at Climbing Rose Blog, starting with an interview today. So please stop by!

Day 4 of the Giveaway Quiz

Keep commenting to get a chance to win a copy of When Mike Kissed Emma.

Quiz Question Number 4:
How did my annual cookie baking event inspire a scene in When Mike Kissed Emma. Bonus points for anyone who knows what scene it was.

Countdown: 3 days

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 3 of the Giveaway Quiz

Remember the more questions you answer the better chance you have of winning a signed copy of When Mike Kissed Emma.

Quiz Question Number 3:
In When Mike Kissed Emma, why don't Emma's friends tell her to "break a leg" before she goes out on stage?

Countdown: 4 days

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Blast from the Past

I recently pulled out an old manuscript of mine. About thirty years old. And oh man, did I need an editor. If you want to know my take on fashions in 1980, you've come to the right place. If you want to know exactly how many siblings each of the students in the class had, and their names and ages, this is the manuscript for you. The story is action-filled with much heart-rending drama and I found myself laughing out loud way more than the story called for.

Right now I just want to share one line in particular that nearly made me lose it as I re-read it all these years later:

The mixture of emotions in him confused Caldwell, for he generally limited himself to one emotion at a time.

I read that to my daughter and she said "Who is he? Tinkerbell?"

Any embarrassing one-liners in your old stories you want to share?

Day 2 of the Giveaway Quiz

Remember, simply answering gives you a chance to win a signed copy of When Mike Kissed Emma. And the answers to these questions can all be found in one of the countdown posts from the previous couple of weeks.

Quiz Question Number 2:
What mode of transportation did I covet when I was a young teen? Bonus points if you know why I wasn't allowed to get it.

Countdown: 5 days

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Let the Giveaway Quiz Begin

First some guidelines for the quiz. There will be one question a day. Answer in the comments. Yes, I know this means if you answer 2nd or 3rd you can look at the person's answer in front of you. I'm not sweating it. Why not? Because the contest is based on simply commenting, not getting the answer right. For each quiz question you answer your name will be entered in a drawing to win a signed copy of When Mike Kissed Emma. That means if you answer all six quiz questions, your name will be put in the drawing six times. If you answer one, your name will be put in once. See how it works? This is one of those the more you play the better chance you have of winning contests.

So, without further ado. Here is the first question.
Quiz Question Number 1:
When I was in eighth grade I had a small featured part in the school production. I accidentally poisoned someone. Who did I kill?

Countdown: 6 days

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why'd She Do That?


We all have it.

Our characters all need it.

But what is the motivation? Do you know why your characters are doing what they're doing? Do you even know why you're doing what you're doing? I'm not always sure I do.

Yesterday PJ Hoover had an awesome blog post on this over at Roots in Myth and the conversation in the comments was fascinating - even if it did devolve somewhat into what would Scarlet O'Hara do if confronted with a vampire.

It all started with this question: Does the main character's motivation have to be pre-existing or can it be a result of the instigating factor of the story? For example: A vampire shows up and chases a girl. Her motivation is to get away from the vampire.

She didn't have this motivation before the vampire showed up, but it is clearly the motivation that keeps the tension high during the story.

In order for a character to be more than a cipher there has to be a pre-existing motivation. Scarlet O'Hara's motivation at the beginning of the story was to get Ashley Wilkes, by the end she wanted to save Tara. All along she really wanted to save herself. If a vampire showed up, her concern would be 'what could this vampire do for me?' Would he get me my drapes back in the windows? Could he help me save Tara? If the answer was no, that vampire would find itself with a stake through it's heart pretty fast (and yes, the Scarlet from the end of the novel could definitely do that). What if the vampire showed up in the beginning? If it would work to make Ashley jealous, she would have gone along with just about anything.

A story is not a biography. It does not detail all the aspects of a characters life (even a fictional character). A story tells of something that happened. Something changes in a person's life - that is the starting point for the story.

One way or another the motivation has to be impacted by the instigating factor. Scarlet's initial motivation is to wed Ashley, the war interferes and her motivation changes with it.

What if the story was about someone who wanted to be number one in her class but a really smart kid transferred in. The motivation remains the same, but now there is a complicating factor - the complicating factor is what makes it a story.

In When Mike Kissed Emma (you knew I had to bring it around to this, I'm still in countdown mode) Emma's motivation is to sing a romantic song with her boyfriend during the school play. She's all about the romance of it with the existing boyfriend. Then Mike shows up and complicates matters. I won't tell you if it changes her motivation or not - don't want to give anything away.

So what's your motivation? Is it to get away from the vampires, or something else?

Countdown: 7 days (1 week!)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The First Story

Today's countdown trivia won't be about When Mike Kissed Emma, but about me as a writer. I think I already mentioned that in middle school I wrote what amounted to fan-fiction featuring Charlie's Angels and the Brady Bunch (oh, I do wish I could find that story).

But before that, when I was in fourth or fifth grade, I started a story in a spiral notebook with Sally, Linus, Snoopy and a schoolhouse on the front. I still have that notebook and now, I will share with you some of my early ramblings. I still remember lying on my bed and writing these first lines. (Be prepared to be amazed - or not)

This story is about kids. Kids from the same family and from different families.

One of the family's is a family named Watkins. In this family there is a father named James Watkins, Sr., Alice Watkins, the mother. Their two kids: James Watkins, Jr. usually called Jimmy is seven and 2 days old. Jane is the baby of the family although she is three years old and in nursery school.

Where does this family life? In Bryn Mawr Pa.

Today is a Friday, Sept. 3. The first day of school. Jimmy is going into 2nd grade. He must be there by 9:00 and he walks. Now it is 2 minutes to 8. His mother's alarm clock will ring in 2 minutes. Tick-tock. ! minute is up. Tick Tock. Tick Tock, boy those minutes are sure ticking away fast.... bzzzz (here it goes be quiet) zzzz.

Can't you just feel the tension?

I've learned a lot about writing since then. Of course I learned a lot by writing, and naturally, by reading. And I'm sure I'm not done learning.

Countdown: 8 days.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Little Dance Trivia

School dances. There's a certain similarity to them I think. School gyms or cafeterias. Most lights off. DJ or band rocking the tunes. Some people dancing, others standing around looking at each other.

The thing is by the time I was writing the dance scene in When Mike Kissed Emma it had been a serious number of years since I'd been to a school dance.

And then a fortuitous thing happened, I was asked to help chaperone a middle school dance. My daughter (who was only in fifth grade at the time) got to go and hang with her middle school friends. I served soda and observed.

Many of the elements were what I'd remembered. Dark cafeteria. DJ doing his thing. Groups of girls hanging together. A guy here and there - sometimes with the girls, sometimes in groups of guys. Some people dancing, others not.

One thing that was new and different was the introduction of the cell phone to the mix. Kids were busy taking each other's pictures with the phones and then sending them to each other. They were texting each other and who knew what else. 60 to 70 percent of those kids were probably engaged with their cell phone for most of the night. Very interesting.

And the times when almost everyone got into the act on the dance floor? The line dances like the Cha Cha Slide and Cotton-Eye Joe. I decided that was a good way to have Emma and her friends get everyone dancing at their school dance: they requested the Cha Cha Slide.

Now you know the inspiration behind it.

Countdown: 9 days.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Gearing up for a Give-Away

Oops I missed a couple days of the countdown. Sorry about that.

As we wrap up the countdown I think I'm going to start gearing up for a give-away contest. During the next couple of days there will be a few more posts with trivia details involving me and the book. Next week will be devoted to quiz questions.

Anyone who comments and answers the questions will be entered into a drawing to win a signed copy of When Mike Kissed Emma.

Countdown: 10 days

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Another Review!

Beth at Writing it Out has posted a wonderful review of When Mike Kissed Emma.

It's kind of a scary feeling when you put a book out there - it's published now and anyone can buy it (and I hope lots of people do) but then there comes the concern: will the reader like it? So it's with great relief that the first two reviews I've seen, Barb's and Beth's both said sweet things.

Countdown to official release: 13 days

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Look What People are Saying!

Today I'm just going to point you in a couple of directions.

First, Barb at SFO Mom has the honor of writing the first review for When Mike Kissed Emma. Fortunately she liked it. You can read it here.

And Beth at Writing it Out has decided to dedicate part of her blog week to me. How cool is that? Today she reprises an interview she did with me earlier in the year and features my book trailer. Tomorrow she'll post her review of When Mike Kissed Emma. And on Friday she will post an updated interview - featuring questions posed by commenters. So if you have a question you want to see me answer, go put it in Beth's comments.

Countdown: 14 days

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's a Real Book!

Guess what came by UPS today? Okay, you've probably figured it out by now. I got my copies of my book.

Since I didn't get Advanced Review Copies, this is the first time I've seen it in print.

It's real! There's no denying it anymore. This is real. I have a book!

Here I am with my book.

And here's the box.

Notice the lovely oily residue all over it.

When I was waiting for the UPS truck to arrive with my precious cargo, I envisioned getting the box, opening it up with my delightful children looking on admiringly (a person can dream) and my husband documenting it all with the camera.

Then I saw the UPS truck drive past our house. Um. That wasn't part of the plan.

He parked two houses down.

I waited.

Sure enough in a couple of minutes he emerged and started walking toward our house with the box.

I went out to meet him.

"What's in the box?" he asked.

"Books," I answered. "My books."

Then he showed me the box. "Because something with coconut oil leaked all over it. We better make sure it's okay."

So I rushed inside for a scissors and the UPS man cut the tape on the box. The damage, luckily was only to the outside of the box and the books were fine. (Phew) But there went my wonderful unveiling.

Ah well. If everything always went according to plan there wouldn't be any story to tell.

Countdown (though what exactly I'm counting down to since the book is available and people have already started receiving it I'm not sure): 15 days.
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Monday, August 3, 2009

A Tag Line

I've started thinking that I should practice my handwriting in case anyone wants me to sign one of my books. And then I was thinking that I need some sort of a tag line. I've seen authors use them before - something like "reach for the stars" or "let your creativity soar." Often these have something to do with the theme of the book.

What am I supposed to write? "Go kiss someone." Doesn't seem quite right somehow.

I'm open to suggestions.

Countdown: 16 days

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Counting Down, But..... looks like it's already here! At least it's possible to place an order at Amazon for When Mike Kissed Emma. I'll keep counting down to the official release - but there's no need to wait any longer!

Countdown: 17 days

Saturday, August 1, 2009

And Another Excerpt

While I'm away here's another quick excerpt from When Mike Kissed Emma.

I needed to talk to Lauren. I didn’t know what I was going to say, but she was my best friend. We couldn’t let years of best-frienddom be ruined by me getting the part she wanted in a play. If our friendship had survived the lunchbox incident of second grade, and the very unfortunate “but I liked Matt first” incident of sixth grade, we surely could survive this.

Countdown: 18 days

Friday, July 31, 2009

Countdown Excerpt

Another quick excerpt from When Mike Kissed Emma:

I looked at him and smiled. “I want to dance that incredible dance in the gazebo with you, running from bench to bench.”

“I think the dance is only in the movie, not the play,” Trevor said, thumbing through the script.

That just wasn’t fair.

Countdown: 19 days

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Getting Ideas from Real Life

Every year I get together with some friends and the kids to do some Christmas cookie baking. If you watch the video in that link you'll see that in one of the pictures when my son was about two he has no pants on, only a shirt and a diaper. There's a story behind that.

My friend has a large house and our kids are close in age so it's possible for the kids to all be off playing somewhere, us not to hear them, and that not be a cause for concern. But this particular time we realized we hadn't seen my son in awhile and we started to get a bit suspicious that he was up to something. None of the other kids had seen him for awhile. We started calling his name (he was the quiet kind of hider - wouldn't answer, wouldn't giggle, nothing). Then we heard water running. My friend led the way to her master bathroom. And there was my son, standing in the middle of her whirlpool tub, the water on, a huge grin on his face.

So, the pants went in the dryer, he is photographed pantless and years later I'm able to incorporate that incident into a book.

Funny how that all works out.

Countdown: 20 days

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dreaming the Role

When I was a teen I liked to sing along with soundtrack albums. And there were certain characters I liked to think I would one day play on stage. There was of course Annie, from Annie, Eliza in My Fair Lady and either Liesl or Maria in The Sound of Music. I'm sure there were others, but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. So in the privacy of my room I'd sing the songs and act them out.

And that's what Emma does in When Mike Kissed Emma. She dreams of the perfect role for herself and she spends time practicing it and dreaming of what it will be like when she gets that role.

I never did play any of those roles on stage, but Emma does. What one is it? Does she get the role she dreamed of? Only three weeks until those answers will be available to everyone!

Countdown: 21 days

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Break a Leg - or Don't

An excerpt from When Mike Kissed Emma

Emma, her brother, Jake, and her best friend, Lauren are waiting for auditions for the play to start:

“Break a leg, Jake,” Lauren said, tossing her hair over her shoulder.

He smiled at her. “That would be inconvenient, wouldn’t it?” Then he leaned forward and grinned at me. He didn’t have to say anything; I knew just what he was thinking. I actually did break my leg in eighth grade by falling off a stage. People just wish me good luck now. It seems safer.

Countdown: 22 days

Monday, July 27, 2009

What's in a Name?

I've talked about Mike: how his character evolved and even what kind of motorcycle he drives.

Today lets talk about Emma and how she got her name.

I've mentioned before that When Mike Kissed Emma was more or less a spin off from another story. When I made did that the character name had to change. The name had been Meg. But even that wasn't the original name of the character.

Originally the character's name was Casey. It was a nickname based on her initials, K.C. for Katrina Caldwell. I came up with the nickname first and then found a name to fit it.

And why did I chose those initials. Simple. They were my initials backwards.

After a while Casey simply became Kate.

And then when my husband and I decided to use that name for our daughter the character's name had to change. That's when she became Meg.

But Meg needed a new name for a new story: thus Emma was born.

Countdown: 23 days

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Who is Mike?

Mike, obviously is the person who kisses Emma in When Mike Kissed Emma. And yesterday I explained that the other kids in school refer to him as Biker Mike. And he's not the kind of person Emma sees herself with.

But that's not how he started out.

In the first draft Mike was an ex-boyfriend, determined to get her back from her current boyfriend.

In a later draft Mike was a good friend who Emma simply never thought of in a romantic way.

Finally, Mike became Biker Mike, the person Emma can not see herself with in a hundred years.

But then Mike kisses Emma and ... well, you'll have to read the book to find out.

Countdown: 24 days.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Biker Mike Needed a Bike

Mike in When Mike Kissed Emma is known around school as Biker Mike. This is (surprise, surprise) because he rides a motorcycle.

I was more or less content to just leave it at that. But my wonderful critique group called me on it. "What kind of motorcycle?" "What does it look like?" and the suggestion "make it something unique that tells us a little more about the character."

Right. I know next to nothing about motorcycles. So I hit my trusty friend Google. And I found a motorcycle for Biker Mike: A 1941 Indian Chief that he's restoring with his dad. I suspect it looks something like this, or will when they finish restoring it.

Countdown: 25 days

Friday, July 24, 2009

And the Winning First Paragraph?

The opening paragraph for When Mike Kissed Emma is number five.

5) I walked right into him. I didn’t even see him standing there until I bounced off his chest. Books went flying. Pencils and pens clattered across the black and white floor tiles. And I would have landed on the floor too, if he hadn’t grabbed my arms and steadied me. I looked up to thank him, and saw the most gorgeous blue eyes. Really blue. I don’t think I’d even seen anyone with eyes that blue. And then I realized who those eyes were attached to.

Biker Mike.

Jim and Barb guessed right.

Though number two was actually a close second - it was the second to last version. Number six was actually one of the first versions - before I decided to switch to first person. And as for the others, you can see how I was trying to decide where to start the story: the dance, the auditions, the lockers by the hallway. Hallway won - but not at the locker.

Countdown: 26 days.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

First Sentences

Opening sentences are critical. If the opening doesn’t grab an agent or an editor then nothing else is going to matter. For that reason it sometimes takes many attempts to get an opening that works for a story. Fairy tale authors had it easy: their stories could all start “Once upon a time.”

Below are six opening paragraphs from various drafts of When Mike Kissed Emma. They are not posted in any particular order.

Which opening grabs you? Which one do you think is the one you will find on the first page of When Mike Kissed Emma? Put your guesses in the comments.

1) “Are you trying out for the school play?” I asked Mike as he effortlessly opened his locker, while I struggled with mine.

“Geez, Em,” he complained, “how many times are you going to ask?”

He had a point, I suppose. “I don’t know,” I tried the combination again, still nothing. I had asked him about four times today – but he was making me ask him over and over, because he hadn’t given me an answer yet. Once more with the locker – third time’s the charm, right? The lock clicked, now, I just had to get the latch open. And it opened, suddenly, sending me bouncing off Mike. I straightened up, casually adjusted my shirt, and put my books away.

2) I walked right into him.


And knocked him over.

Biker Mike. The last person you want to knock over in the hallway: leather jacket, long hair, tattoo.

3) The gym was decorated in some sort of aquatic theme with blue streamers and paper fish hanging from the ceiling. The band, a bunch of kids from school, was playing. The only lights on were in the back near the punch and cookies, so the dance floor was appropriately dim. But the dance floor was empty. Everyone stood milling around, watching the band from a safe distance, but no one seemed willing to get things started.

Well, I was willing.

4) “When you’re sixteen going on seventeen,” I sang to myself as I spun the dial on my locker. “left to five, ‘waiting for life to start’ to the right, spin past 25, now land on 25, good, ‘somebody kind will open your heart,’ now back to the left to 18.” I pulled on the handle. It didn’t open. “Damn.”

“Do you ever stop talking?” the guy at the locker next to me asked. His locker was already open, and he was putting on his leather jacket.

“Only when I’m sleeping, Mike,” I answered.

5) I walked right into him. I didn’t even see him standing there until I bounced off his chest. Books went flying. Pencils and pens clattered across the black and white floor tiles. And I would have landed on the floor too, if he hadn’t grabbed my arms and steadied me. I looked up to thank him, and saw the most gorgeous blue eyes. Really blue. I don’t think I’d even seen anyone with eyes that blue. And then I realized who those eyes were attached to.

Biker Mike.

6) “Until you find your dream,” the girl on stage warbled. Emma Landon winced. She had a feeling that some of the people trying out would be fairly easy to rule out, that was good, less competition for the role of Liesl. She took her strawberry blonde hair out of its ponytail, and then, put it back in again.

“Stop fidgeting with your hair,” hissed her best friend, Lauren Gardner, who was sitting next to her.

“I’m not,” Emma insisted.

“It makes you look nervous,” Lauren insisted.

“I’m not nervous.” Emma insisted.

Countdown: 27 days.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Putting Yourself in the Story

It was in middle school that I really started to write longer stories. There was one in particular that got quite long and involved. I'm not sure of the exact location of the story right now - though I know I have it somewhere. And what I started to write was fanfiction. I didn't realize it at the time, and I never would have called it that, but that's what it was.

You see, I liked watching Charlie's Angels (and yes, I know I'm dating myself) and I imagined myself getting a recurring role in the show. So I created a role for myself and would think of different episodes I could star in as Jamie, Sabrina's younger sister. Remember this was when I still had delusions of being a famous actress.

Soon I started one of these stories down. I remember that Jamie had a moped. Oh, how I wanted a moped (parental veto came into play on that one). In the story Jamie was in an accident with her moped (moped accident's were the reason for the parental veto in my household) and who should come upon her on the side of the road. Of course, (don't laugh - okay, go ahead and laugh) the Brady Bunch on vacation.

Yeah. That story's a real keeper. I'll have to find it before it can be used as blackmail material by my kids.

After a while I realized that if I wanted to actually get a story published (and be the youngest best-selling author in the US...can't say I didn't have dreams) it probably needed original characters and not the Brady Bunch or Charlie's Angels.

And so I started a new story. And many generations later part of that new story became When Mike Kissed Emma.

More on that other story another day.

Countdown: 28 days.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Countdown Continues

There will be a contest.

I don't have all the details worked out yet. Part of it will likely involve trivia from the various posts this month, so be sure to pay attention.

The prize, of course, will be a copy of When Mike Kissed Emma.

Countdown: 29 days

Monday, July 20, 2009

On Stage

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When I was in middle school I figured it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that I would be a Broadway star someday. Why not? I'd gone to see Annie, starring that unknown kid, Sarah Jessica Parker, hey, if she could do it, why not me?

Well, to start with - she could sing. Me, not so much.

But I had a good reading voice and was able to act some, so I did get a small featured role in our eighth grade production. I killed the prince. It was an accident. I felt bad about it. Can't you tell? That's me informing an astonished prince that I may have just poisoned him.

That was my last acting role. I figured I'd be in the high school plays, but after not getting in the show my freshman year I didn't try out again. Instead I worked backstage - which I loved, by the way.

In When Mike Kissed Emma, Emma is much more talented than I ever was. She gets the lead in the school musical. Now, if only her boyfriend, and not Biker Mike, of all people, were playing the male lead, then everything would be perfect. But when it comes down to it - what's perfect?

Countdown: 30 days.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

One Month To Go

I'm in countdown mode now. In one month, on August 19, 2009 When Mike Kissed Emma will be released. As a lead in to it I plan to do something fun on this blog every day until then. There may even be contests and giveaways.

And to get you in the mood here's another glimpse of the trailer.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What Does the Character Really Want?

Characters in a story have to want something. They have to really want it. And they should be thwarted in getting it right away. That lays down the conflict for the story (it sounds so simple when put like that.)

But what does that character want? It's not simply a matter of they want to solve the mystery or find a new love. There has to be a desire for something more. Something they strive for.

Which got me to thinking - what do I strive for? What do I want? I want to be a published author. Woo-hoo as of August 19 I'll be able to say that I am. I want more than one book published, so I'm still working on that part of the desire. Other than that I'm fairly content. It's easier sometimes to think of things I don't want.

1) I don't want a tattoo. This isn't a matter of not liking needles (which I don't) or having any philosophical objection to tattoos (which I don't). I just don't want one. I don't need to debate with myself over whether I should get one or not. The desire is simply not there.

2) I don't want to jump out of an airplane. Even with a parachute. There's no little part of me that says 'if I only wasn't afraid' or 'if I had the money' I'd do this. Nope. It simply does not appeal to me.

3) I don't want to be an astronaut. I do not think it would be cool to be in a spaceship out in the middle of space. Cool views - yes. Send the pictures, I'm satisfied.

4) I don't want to go on a rollercoaster that goes upside down. This is largely because that would make me dizzy and nauseous - in which case, no one else would want me on that roller coaster either.

What do I want? What things would I do if money and time were not an object?

1) I want to go to Ireland. It's the only country where I have ancestors from that I haven't been to yet. (I should probably get to Boston too - I had ancestors from there too and it's a lot closer)

2) I'd love to take a world cruise and see exotic places. (This one requires much time and money)

3) I want to see the Grand Canyon. Not sure about riding a mule down to the bottom, but I'd love to see the Canyon.

4) I want to have a book of mine be on the bestseller list sometime.

Maybe I wouldn't make the most exciting main character in a book - but it's good to think about these things now and then.

What things do you want? What things do you totally not want? And don't go calling me a wimp because I don't want a tattoo or to jump out of an airplane, I already know I'm a wimp.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Choosing Something to Read

I was at the library today and had an epiphany of sorts.

My son was at tennis, my daughter at the camp program at the playground, so I had a few minutes to browse in the new book room and pick something out.

And nothing appealed to me. No titles jumped out at me. No authors who are on my personal 'must read list' had new books on the shelves that I hadn't already read. I pulled a few books off the shelf and read the jacket copy, then put them back.

Then suddenly I had some inkling of what an agent goes through every day as they read through their queries. Now, I realize that an agent can't simply base things on "what do I feel like reading today." An agent has to look for marketability and other things as well, but a part of it is going to come down to "does this appeal to me right now".

People caution that sometimes when an agent says no it's simply because the project wasn't right for that particular agent. And today I totally got that. All of those books on the shelves had been chosen by someone - either an agent or a publisher - and eventually even a librarian. They were the winners. The ones that got published. Yet, I couldn't find one to interest me.

So kudos to the agents who sift through queries all day looking for the gems.

And now it's time to go prepare a gem that an agent will want to read (and represent). But, if I get another rejection, I'll remember those books I didn't want to read in the library, and try again. Someone wants to read those books - and someone will like my new novel too.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Books I've Read this Year - Part 4

This is a continuation from last month's lists of the books I've read. If you're interested here are parts one, two and three.

Continuing where I left off puts me at book number 45.

45) The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary by Karen Edmisten. I've been reading Karen's blog (with the shockingly clever title) for a while now, so I was delighted to find her book in my local Catholic bookstore. It's a wonderful, clear, easy to understand book sharing the mysteries of the rosary.

46) The Wednesday Sisters: A Novel by Meg Waite Clayton. This book about friends who bond over playground time with the children who all seem to harbor a secret desire to write a book was a pleasant read, but felt predictable, from the friend whose marriage falls apart to the one with cancer.

47) The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (and it wasn't that I was in a Wednesday mood or anything). This YA book had a delightful hero and a great supporting cast of characters. The Shakespeare thrown in through out was a lot of fun and the history of the time (the 60s) was interspersed in such a way that it never felt like the author was making a point of "this is what life was like then". I recommended it to my 12 year old, who and loved it (and now wants to read The Tempest so she can find the good Caliban curses.)

48) A Lion Among Men (The Wicked Years, Part 3) by Gregory Maguire. I found I didn't enjoy this book as much as the first two in the series (Wicked and Son of a Witch). The lion is not a very sympathetic character and there is a lot of back story and not so much new story.

49) Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy. There is something so soothing and pleasant about Maeve Binchy's books. She has such a way of creating characters who want to know more about. I was eager to read this newest book and I wasn't disappointed.

50) The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas. Fifteen-year-old Antonia wants to be a saint. She thinks she can do this without being dead. While its a cute story, it was a bit lacking in the authentic Catholic teaching department. Her obsession with saints reminded me of Millions; I thought the obsession was handled better in that book.

51) Prairie Tale: A Memoir by Melissa Gilbert. I'll admit I watched Little House on the Prairie obsessively while I was growing up, so naturally I was interested in what Melissa's real life was like. It was nothing like the life she had on the TV show. The book is honest and entertaining. She doesn't hold back as she tells of some of the difficult things she's dealt with in the past.

52) Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder. This book was a pure delight to read. The comfy style and magical adventures made this a book I immediately recommended to my twelve year old. She read it and adored it. Now we've got to convince the nine-year-old to read it (but he's busy with Goosebumps books right now.)

53) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This was a book I saw recommended by Melissa Wiley, so when I saw it in the library I grabbed it. I am so glad I did. The book was a delight to read. I was a little leery when I saw it was written in letter format - but it worked very well. Set in 1946 with a wonderfully diverse cast of characters and a lot of history about the Channel Islands during WWII thrown in.

54) The Secret (Seasons of Grace book 1) by Beverly Lewis. While I often enjoy Beverly Lewis's writing style and her stories of a simpler life among the Amish, I found that this book didn't deliver. It is the first in a series and simply is not a stand alone book. Of the many plot lines started in the story only one is resolved and although the eponymous secret is revealed to the reader, most of the characters in the book are still in the dark. I enjoy series books but I think that each should tell a complete story on its own, not leave so many loose ends that I feel like I'm still in the middle of the book not the end.

55) Up and Down Scratchy Mountain by Laurel Snyder. After reading Any Which Wall I decided I had to read Laurel Snyder's first book. This is a delightful fairy-tale style adventure with a plucky milk maid and a prince (though it's not his fault.) A very fun read.

I guess I've made the 52 book challenge, and that brings me up to date on what I've read so far this year.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Trailer for When Mike Kissed Emma

The release date for When Mike Kissed Emma is coming up fast (August 19) so I decided it was time to finalize the trailer and get it out here for people to see.

Without further ado - here it is:

Monday, June 29, 2009

I'm a Guest Blogger Today

If you want to read what I have to say about writing and revising today you need to go to the Enchanting Reviews blog. (It's a MySpace blog, so I believe you have to have a MySpace account to access it. I signed up. But I have absolutely no information in that account, so don't go looking for me there.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Required Summer Reading?

After the various conversations about kids reading above grade level, I'm sure the other hot topic for this time of year is required summer reading.

Yesterday my 12-year-old daughter came home from school positively incensed that she was going to have to read two specific books and write a three page paper on them for the first day of school next year.

And when I say incensed, I mean all the injustice of the world had fallen on her soon to be 7th-grade shoulders.

The thing is, she loves to read. Absolutely loves to read. She's not mad that she has to read two books. She's mad that she has to read these two books. And it's not even that the books are so horrible (though not necessarily her chosen reading material). It's more that she's mad that she has to read these two books.

As far as the paper - she is not happy about it, but she writes more than that on her stories every night, I'm sure three pages comparing and contrasting these two books won't be too horrible.

This is the first time either of my kids has had a specific reading assignment over the summer. I know a lot of kids have them even at younger ages. And I understand the purpose behind them. 1) to make sure kids are actually reading and 2) to have kids read the same books so that they can have a discussion of them in school. Neither of these are bad things.

Of course as my daughter was reading one of the books last night (she plans to finish the assignment before school is out next week because she doesn't intend to do any homework over the summer) she was complaining about how much she didn't like the book.

"Is that because it's that book, or because someone is making you read it?"

She admitted it was probably a little of both.

So that begs the question - even with good motives, are required summer reading lists counterproductive? I understand that teachers want to make sure that kids (at all levels) are reading during the summer, it's an important skill to keep up. But is turning fun into work the best way to do that?

And as a side note -- this assignment is only for kids in Honors English, and these are kids you probably don't have to encourage to read for fun.

Oh - and the books she has to read: Crispin, the Cross of Lead and True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle both by Avi. Books I think she would like if she allowed herself to.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Don't Throw Out Those Toys Yet.

The other day I jumped in on the discussion about kids and reading above grade level. Today over at The Simple and the Ordinary I'm talking about not pushing kids to stop playing with toys too early. Stop on over and weigh in.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Harry Potter at Five

Age five that is. Or maybe six. That's the standard used to prove that your kid is a brilliant reader. He or she read Harry Potter at five. To which people reply 'but what about picture books', or 'don't force a child to read above their level just for parental bragging rights.'


Except the thing is my kids did read Harry Potter at five and six. So maybe I feel a little defensive when I hear this or maybe it's just that I can provide a different perspective on it all.

I started thinking about this after reading Jen Robinson's post about an article in Babble and then Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy weighed in on the topic. Now it's my turn.

Okay here's the story of those "advanced reading kids" from a parent's perspective.

My kids always loved being read to, and we had reading as an established part of bedtime starting when they were very young (didn't read to them in utero though as far as I can remember).

When my daughter (now 12) was two she saw my boxed set of Little House on the Prairie books on the shelf and asked about them. I told her they were for when she was older. "Read now!" she insisted (in that way that two year olds have). So that night at bedtime we read her a chapter of Little House in the Big Woods. She loved it. And every night would demand "chapter Laura" as her bedtime story. We read through Little House in the Big Woods and Little House in the Prairie this way. We did not read the whole series - some of it was too advanced for a pre-schooler.

When she was four she learned to read using old primers that had been my mom's in the fifties. Yes, she learned to read using "Dick and Jane" - only they were the Catholic version - so instead of Dick and Jane and Sally it was John and Jean and Judy... Spot stayed the same. She was so proud of herself and every night she would read to me. And of course I would read to her.

She was still about four years old when she discovered the American Girl dolls. And of course, she wanted one. I looked at the price tag and at my four year old daughter and thought 'not yet'. What I told her was that the dolls came with stories. And when she could read one of those books on her own, she could have a doll. She was still reading "John, Jean and Judy," I figured I'd bought myself a good year and a half.

Six months later she had read through American Girl book about Molly. Granted, I helped her with some words - but if I was to keep my bargain, she truly had earned her doll. She was in pre-school.

At this point her little brother was two and so there were lots of picture books in the house to be read to the both of them. But at the library she whipped through the easy readers - making short shrift of the Biscuit books and Henry and Mudge and the like and before long she wanted more. (Please note - she wanted more... I would have been happy to stay on the easy reader shelf for more time).

I discovered the Pixie Tricks series which she absolutely devoured. She discovered Junie B. Jones. She loved the My America series and would happily tell people that she "loved history". And she started kindergarten. I thought it would be a wonderful thing to have a school librarian that could help guide her to books that she could read and would enjoy. (I hadn't discovered the kidlitosphere on the internet yet). Instead the librarian would not allow her to take out Junie B. Jones or any other chapter book. Those were for second graders and above.

So I had them test her reading level. I figured, any parent can say "my kid can read". They did and in November of kindergarten they determined that she could read at a late second grade, early third grade level. But she still couldn't take out Junie B. Jones. Those were for second graders.

In the meantime the librarians at the public library got to know her and would order books that they knew she would like. That was how she got into the Fairy Realm series.

She was either in kindergarten or first grade when Judy Blume came to our local B&N. In preparation my daughter read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. At one point when she was getting ready for bed I checked the book to see where she was in it. Reading the next page I saw the characters were talking about there not being a Santa Claus. Eek! I wasn't ready for her to see that yet. I told her to skip to the next chapter because there was something in this one she didn't want to read (luckily she was biddable this way.)

People rightly worry about their third grader reading about sex or other topics that are too mature - but when it comes right down to it books written for 3rd and 4th graders may not be completely appropriate for 1st graders either. The thing is that the books written for first graders were not ones she had any interest in at that point.

She is now finishing 6th grade, she has read Twilight (only the first book) and I pretty much let her read any Middle Grade book she wants. YA or above, she asks approval - for instance she sees Wicked on the shelf and keeps asking "When will I be old enough to read that". I'm not sure - I just know - not yet.

Now for my son. When he learned that his sister had started reading at four you can bet he decided he had to do the same thing (competitive much). And he did. He spent more time in the early readers at the library though - for which I was glad. And then one day he told me he was bored with those. Wanted something else (and naturally all of the books I'd discovered for his sister were not books he was interested in). We discovered Magic Tree House and by the middle of kindergarten he had read them all (in order). His sister was reading James and the Giant Peach for school. He asked if he could read it. I figured it was above him, but I wasn't going to limit him and said sure. He read it in a week. And he read Harry Potter.

I wasn't convinced he was really 'getting' the story. Sure, he was reading the words, but was he really understanding what they said? I shoudln't have worried. After he read the book, they were watching the DVD of the movie. Right away I hear him say. "That's not what he said in the book" "that's not how that scene went in the book". So I figured that comprehension wasn't a problem for him.

He's in third grade now and the only problem I have with keeping him in books is that he is very picky. If he finds a book (or preferably a series) he likes he'll rip through them, but if he isn't interested he won't finish the book. He reads what he likes. Right now he's decided he likes Goosebumps.

So he read Harry Potter at five and Goosebumps at nine. Nothing wrong with that.