Sunday, December 20, 2015

December Book Giveaway and 2016 Preview

December Book Giveaway

December is winding down, but there is still time to enter to win these books.
A Writer's Reference 2nd Ed by Diana Hacker
Who couldn't use a handy dandy desk reference? This book has side tabs for quick viewing. Are you looking for effective sentences? Word choice? Punctuation? This book has it and is light weight so it's easy to take with you where ever you go to write.
It also has an index in the back.

The Odd Squad Bully Bait by Michael Fry This is a hilarious book of one twelve year's battle with a bully. When the guidance counselor assigns him to mandatory safety patrol, things get a lot worse. The bully is talking to Nick's alternate universe girlfriend Becky and he collapses in an ant mound.
With the help of teacher, Mr. Dupree; Molly, Karl and Nick learn how to defend themselves against the bully.

2016 book giveaways

These are the books I have lined up for 2016 giveaways.
Please spread the news!

Please leave a comment if you have won a book this year.
If you have a book coming out next year, I would like to feature it here.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
See you next week.
I will the winners January 3rd 2016.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Anna, Banana, and the Friendship Split Book Review

Anna, Banana, and the Friendship Split  by Anica Mrose Rissi
Illustrated by Meg Park
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
2015 110 pages. Black and white illustrations

I was reading The Writer, January 2016 issue article: One True Rule by Anica Mrose Rissi. She was talking about her debut children's book. She came up with the title first. Which told her it would be a chapter book, target age 6-10, the tone would be funny and even had the conflict there. Anica said even with all that she still felt something was missing. While walking her dog she had an idea: add a dog!
Now all she had to do was write the thing, and boy did she!
Two best friends, one a little bossy and one a little passive. Anna has her birthday wish all planned out, but somehow Sadie talked her out of it at the last minute and it came true!
Sadie told Anna to wish for a pony. Where was she going to put a pony? She got a necklace with a pony pendant. Sadie tried it on and wouldn't give it back. They have a fight and Anna is miserable. She tries to apologize the next day, but Sadie is having none of it. Things go from bad to worse. Finally Anna is mean back to Sadie. Anna has a new best friend and things are just fine. Or is it? Will Sadie and Anna ever be friends again? And now that Anna has a new friend can she have two best friends?
This is written in first person POV and it really draws the reader in. Good job Anica on your first book. And if you like this one there's another one on the way! Anna, Banana, and the Monkey in the Middle.

The illustrations are right on target too! The eyes are so expressive, even Banana's.

Don't forget to enter for a chance to win books!
See you next week,

Monday, December 7, 2015

Contests and Book Giveaways

I'm excited to tell you about this contest. It is fun, short and you add your story with a link to your blog so you get blog exposure as well. Head over to Susanna Leonard Hill
blog to enter the Holiday contest or just to enjoy the stories. Starts today and ends on the 12th. No fee! 350 words with theme.

Next up is the WOW contest. I love these because you can actually get your story critiqued. The cost is $10 and an additional $10 for critique. This is an open prompt contest 250-750 words.

This months' giveaway:
The Odd Squad by Michael Fry
A Writer's Reference 2nd Ed by Dianna Hacker

See you next week!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Goal is a Dream with a Deadline

While enjoying the Black Friday deals and browsing the shops, I came across this saying:
A Goal is dream with a deadline.

That caught my eye because I am a goal setter. A list maker. I like to cross things off my list.
This past week while my boss was on vacation, he gave me a list of things to have done by the time he came.
I finished the last one and enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment.
For those doing the NaNoWriMo or something close to it, the time is getting near. Have you reached your goal? Don't you love the feeling that you have accomplished more this month?

Did you set goals for this year? Did you cross any of them off?
This year I had set a goal of reviewing two books a month and then giving them away.
I have done this every month.
By doing this I  made some new friends and reconnected with old friends. It was a happy day when on Friday I received a rejection notice, because in the mail that same day I received a thank you note from one of the winners. Even though we haven't met I felt a connection that far out weighed the rejection notice.

It is not too early to be thinking about next years goal. And it's not too late to enter to receive one of the two books I'm giving away this month.

What have you marked off your list? What would you like to accomplish next year?

See you next week and I'll announce the winners so check back to see if you won!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Crossing Jordan by Adrian Fogelin

There are seven more days until the drawing for the books: The Writer's Adventure by Sexton Burke and Crossing Jordan by Adrian Fogelin.

Crossing Jordan was Adrian's first book for young readers. Since then she has written many more. Some of the books use the same characters.

Crossing Jordan won:
  • VOYA top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers
  • ALA (YALSA) Best Books for Young Adults
  • IRA Notable Books for a Global Society (Honor Book)
Crossing Jordan is about the unlikely friendship between a white girl and a black girl.
They become neighbors and share the love of running, but Cass's father has decided he doesn't want to be neighborly.
This book shows how even grownups can grow and change in a story.
The book is set in Tallahassee, Fl, where Adrian lives.
Please leave a comment or enter using the rafflecoptor.

See you next week,

Sunday, November 15, 2015


This week I have a special article to inspire you! My friend Pat Weaver wrote this and it was first published in 2007 at ICL. She has been around horses and dogs all her life.
Hope you enjoy.
Don't forget to enter for the book giveaway: The Writer's Adventure by Sexton Burke and Crossing Jordan by Adrian Fogelin.




One evening a fellow writer commented that her writing was “a thousand miles from nowhere.”  I think all writers have moments that their stories seem to be going nowhere and they are lost in the emotional sea of writers’ block.  Her comment triggered a memory of what my mother would tell me when I was discouraged, “When you’re in the pits of nowhere, start walking.  You’ll come out somewhere.” 

One of my goals has been to write a “Getting Started” article, but I’ve always hit the proverbial brick wall on ideas.  I decided to use my mother’s advice and start walking.  Taking a pen and pad, I started to put my ideas down in clustering form.

As a new writer that is older than dirt, I have become comfortable with my style of writing and try to write every day.  I read the new “How to” books and magazine articles, but I’ve found that other writers help me in a more personal ways.  Here are the six most important points I have used to help develop my writing skills.

  1. There comes a time that you have to stop reading and start writing.  If you don’t write, you won’t get published.  I’m not saying stop reading altogether, but sometimes the fear of rejection keeps us looking for the rejection proof technique of writing.  Let me save you the effort, there’s not one.  Let me share my first polished ready to submit story.  It started about two and half years ago, when I looked in the mirror and saw an old woman who had not achieved her dream of writing for children (or a romance novel but that is another story).  I bought every best seller “How to” book on writing, subscribed to all the top writing magazines, joined writing groups and took basic writing courses, but four months later I still had no story.  I had a wonderful game plan for my writing career, write two hours every day, read one hour every day, submit two stories every month; but no story was in my writing file on my computer.  I was scared.  Would any one like what I wrote?  All that changed the night my husband ask me “When are you going to stop reading about how to write and start writing?  Seems to me you’re just wasting your time if you never write anything.”  Bless his heart; he gave me the gentle shove I needed.  Two years later, my game plan is in place.  I submit at least four manuscripts every month to a publishing house, contest or magazine.
  2. Never change your unique style of writing to fit the mainstream.  Polish it, enhance it but don’t try to change it.  Your unique style is what makes you different in the ocean of unpublished writers and might be what makes your writing saleable.
  3.  Have some way of keeping all the wonderful ideas that pop into your head while you are driving, sitting at a doctor’s office, cooking supper, at a sport event or relaxing in a hot bubble bath.  I keep a small tape recorder in my car and another one at home.  I found that I lose notes written on paper and if I do find them I usually can’t get the “big idea” from my hastily written notes.  My tape recorder picks up the excitement of my emerging story idea and I can explain what gave me the idea.
  4. You can not force a story.  You have to let it simmer and stew before it is finished.  I usually just write, not worrying if it makes sense.  I know I can connect the dots later to make a wonderful story.  When I first started writing, I would put a note on my computer to remind me of deadlines.  That was a bad idea because I would worry about the pending deadline every time I sat at my computer and I never write well when I’m worried.  By the time the deadline came, I hate the story and received no joy from the finished manuscript.  Now I have a program that starts reminding me ten days before the deadline.  The first day it reminds me once, second day three times and on the tenth day every hour.  I get the manuscript ready long before the tenth day (I hate pop-ups).  Problem solved. 
  5. Use every tool available to improve your writing.  I check out every web site that is recommended to me, chat with on-line friends that keep me current on all writing events and enter contests that I feel I might have a chance of winning.  If I don’t win, at least I have a polished story ready to submit.
  6. My final tidbit of wisdom, “believe in yourself.”  Belief in your abilities and writing skills is not an ego trip.  Ego trippers believe everything they write is publishable without changes.  Belief in yourself is knowing you have the ability to make a story sing, maybe not the first time or the tenth time but eventually
    Okay, now I’m at my somewhere, the end of this article.  Remember, if you believe in yourself, achievement will follow.
    Happy Writing.
     Patricia J. Weaver          

Monday, November 9, 2015

Wild Irene Latham's Blogiversary

Today is Irene Latham's 10th blog anniversary. It has been 10 years since she first began her blogging adventure. She has invited me as well as a host of many other talented writers to celebrate with a blog roundup.

The wild ponies of Assateague Island
The theme? Wild! I had a lot of pictures to choose from but there were two that I couldn't do without. The first:
This pony escaped the roundup and seems to be enjoying a peaceful day alone. Who says wild can't be peaceful?

The other photo that won out was this one:

I never thought I would ride a roller coaster again, but after this one I was hooked and wanted to ride again and again.
I hollered and screamed and loved it!
Thanks for a wild ride and theme and Happy Blogiversary, Irene! I hope to read many more!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Writer's Adventure by Sexton Burke

I'm trying something new this month. I'm using Rafflecopter for the contest entries.
Please let me know if you like this better than just leaving a comment on my blog.
This month I will be giving away The Writer's Adventure by Sexton Burke. It is an interactive guide for writing fiction. This book is a book of exercises (184 of them!).
If you liked the Writer's Lab, then you will love this book.
For those doing the NaNoWriMo this month, it will help get you unstuck.
So use the rafflecopter at the beginning of the blog to enter for a chance to win. You must have a USA shipping address.
I will leave you with this one exercise: Make up a new word and use it in a sentence.
Happy writing!

See you next week!

P.S. Tomorrow I will be joining Irene Latham and friends for a blog jump celebrating her blogs 10th anniversary!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

October Book Giveaway Winners Announced

Congratulations to the winners!

The winner of The Summer of the Bonepile Monster by Aileen Kilgore Henderson is Chris Bailey!

The winner of Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury is Arlee Bird!

Please email me the address you would like this mailed to.
My email address is

Please visit next week to see what will be given away for November!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Zen in the Art of Wrting by Ray Bradbury

The second book I'm giving away this month is Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing.
It never fails to amaze me that famous writers had the same fears and doubts that I have now.
Ray writes that he received a fan letter from an art historian, that approved of his writing and told him to keep doing what he was doing.
"I needed that approval. We all need- someone to tell us  we're not crazy after all, that what we're doing is all right."

This book is very inspirational for anyone who wants to be a writer or is second guessing themselves.
Ray talks about the process that worked for him: He starts everyday with word association. He would weigh in either for the word or against it, then what it meant to him in his life. He would create characters to argue the points and before the day was out he had a story.

Make up a story with the following words in:

Leave a comment to be eligible to win this book or The Summer of the Bonepile Monster by Aileen Kilgore Henderson

Winners will be announced next week.
See you then,

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Summer of the Bonepile Monster by Aileen Kilgore Henderson Illustrated by Kim David Cooper

The Summer of the Bonepile Monster by Aileen Kilgore Henderson Illustrated by Kim David Cooper Is this month's giveaway along with Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing.

Growing up in Alabama in the small town of Red Bay, I was curious how Ms. Henderson would make this an exciting story  My town was very boring! Dolliver, Alabama is not. From the first page she sets the stage of conflict, inner and outer turmoil. Will Lou and Hollis's parents still be together when they get back from their visit with Grandma?
Then before they get to Grandma's they pass a gate with not only "Keep Out" signs, but real skulls as well. Stay away from there is all they are told. But Hollis can't, he has to know. His curiosity almost gets him killed.
Kim David Cooper's illustrations are right on target, too.

I hope you enjoy this book as much I did.

To be eligible to win please leave a comment. You must reside in the USA to win.

Next week I will review Ray Bradbury's book on writing.
Thank you for stopping by.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Insecure Writer's Support Group Anthology Contest 2015

If you are not a member of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, you need to join NOW!
Every month on the first Wednesday of the month, members blog about their insecurities and successes. There is a list of blogs to visit and it is growing. When you join you can add your blog to the list.
The Insecure Writer's Support Group Anthology Contest 2015 is a free contest for members. Check out the guidelines and good luck!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Winners Announced!

The Winner of 

61VVpdBqs6L._AA160_.jpgis Nell Branum

The winner of
is Nancy Kelly Allen

Check back next week to see what books will be given away this month.

Who's planning on doing NaNoWriMo next month?
What are you doing to prepare for this?
Leave a comment and you will be included in the book giveaway.

See you next week!

Also I am looking for writers to write about their conference experience. This can be from the speaker or attendee view point.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

How Writer's Work by Ralph Fletcher

Finally! The secrets on being a writer are revealed.
This slim book of 113 pages explores the different ways writers write. You mean they don't all follow the same secret formula? Unfortunately : No.
What works for one writer may not work for another. This book will help you find your own process.
This book will take you back in time to your deep memories and get you to think about what made you happy?Sad? Angry or Scared? It will help you tackle the times when the seamless writing peters out and you begin to struggle with sentence after sentence.
Several authors give input in to what works for them. There is even a chapter on the dreaded revision (radical surgery).

This is the writing craft book that is being given for this month.
Check back next week to find out if you are a winner.
Winners must reside in the USA. Please leave a comment.
Are you going to writer's conference this fall?
I would like to hear from you if you would like to do a guest blog on your experience.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Interview with Heather Montgomery author of "How Rude!"

Sheila: We have here with us today Heather Montgomery, author of numerous nonfiction books. But it took nine years to get "How Rude" published. That's encouraging to me, to not give up on something you're passionate about. Tell us how you went from idea to book.

Heather: I love bugs! When I started writing books for kids, I automatically turned to insects as a topic. 

One day I watched this crazy bug - an ant lion - slurp out the guts of an ant. Then the antlion tossed away the ant skeleton as if tossing litter out the car window. A "litter bug" - how funny and fascinating! This idea of bugs with improper eating habits struck me as hilarious and a way to hook kids. So, I began collecting information about "bad boys" - bugs who don't mind their manners. 

The problem was, I did not know how to write a nonfiction book for children. I loved books by April Pulley Sayre that use rhyme to introduce information to children, so I wrote it with rhythm and rhyme. It was awful. I loved Megan McDonald's Insects Are My Life, a fictional book that teaches about bugs so I tried that approach. Even I cringed when I read that version. I love the nonfiction poetry books by Joyce Sidman, so I tried that approach. Blaaagh! From 2006 to 2010, I tried and tried and tried but just could not find the right approach for this book. 

Meanwhile, I was attending conferences of the SCBWI (Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), intensely studying books that I respected, and participating in multiple critique groups. I was learning tons and changing my ideas about the what made a "good" kids' book.  

One evening in 2010, I decided to just stop paying attention to how everyone else wrote books and be myself. That night, How Rude!  came to life. All of these "bad boy" bugs in my head were in a competition to see who was the rudest, crudest dude around. The book poured out. 

In an ideal world, I would have sold that manuscript to a publisher the next week and published immediately, but this manuscript was weird! It presented advanced scientific ideas in a quirky, humorous way. It pushed the boundaries in terms of anthropomorphism, tongue-in-cheek humor and expectations of the reader. Rejection letter after rejection letter told me the publishing world was not ready for such an off-beat approach. So, I put it away and worked hard publishing other books. 

But, with the release of the Common Core Standards and subsequent interest in nonfiction, trade nonfiction books began breaking out of the traditional mold. Publishers began looking for unique manuscripts. My bad boys were ready and waiting. The manuscript was submitted in 2013, sold in 2014 and published in 2015.

Sheila: Tell us about the research process and organizing sources.

Heather: Research is my life! I have cultivated a habit of inquiry so I don't see it as a separate process, but looking back, I can say that I spent years researching this book. At the time I did not have a great method for organizing sources. Basically, I stored all of my notes in one huge Excel file and stored academic papers separately.  Since then I have learned to use OneNote (a Microsoft product) and EasyBib (online bibliography) which works much better. 

Sheila: Did you do any interviewing? If yes, tell us how you found experts to interview.
Heather: I often do phone or email interviews of scientists. I track them down through reading their scientific paper on the subject and then contact them through their university department.

Sheila: I know you are passionate about your subjects. It shows in your writing and is contagious. Do you test drive your ideas among your students?

Heather: I'm fortunate enough to teach in an outdoor setting. I've taught thousands of students about insects so I have a pretty good sense of how they will react to wacky, weird or gross bug behaviors, but knowing how they will react to reading about them is a different thing. I am sorry to admit that I did subject some students to early drafts (the rhyming ones) of this manuscript. By watching their faces, I could tell very quickly that they preferred my teaching to my writing. Right then and there, I knew that I needed to make a change.

Sheila:  How did you find a publisher for this book. 
Heather: I found potential publishers through attending SCBWI conferences and workshops plus studying the trade market (reading publications such as Publishers Weekly).

Sheila: Any pitching or query tips you could share with us?
Heather: Know the hook for your book. What makes it stand out from all the other books out there.

Leave a comment to be eligible to win "How Writer's Work by Ralph Fletcher or "Eddie Red" by Marcia Wells

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Eddie Red Undercover by Marcia Wells-Book Review

Product DetailsThere's been some chatter about books for reluctant boy readers and I would like to recommend this one.
If you like the Alex Rider teenage hero  series by Anthony Horowitz then you will love Eddie Red's middle grade equivalent.
Copyright 2014 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 248 pages.
This is Marcia Wells debut novel. Prior to writing she was a middle grade teacher. She lives in Vermont.
Illustrated by Marcos Calo.

Eleven year old, Edmund Lonnrot (pronounced lawn rot) alias Eddie Red, has a photographic memory and not to bad at drawing. His best friend Jonah, is his sidekick and a genius.

How does a sixth grader become an agent? It starts with a trip to the ice cream shop. Edmund's dad has some bad news.His hours have been cut and his parents won't be able to afford the Senate Academy. Before this news has time to sink in, a cry for help comes from the alley.

Edmund's Dad takes off to help. This leads to Edmund and his dad going to the precinct and Edmund sits with an artist and describes the  man he saw running away. When the artist can't get it right, Edmund asks if he can try.

Now the Chief of Police wants to employ Edmund to help them catch art thieves.

Now the fun begins!

It's always good to have a running list of books to read, so a leave a comment with a book for a reluctant reader. You can list more one!

See you next week!
Toni Carlucci, if you're reading this, I need your address to mail Stephen Kin's book "On Writing".

Sunday, September 6, 2015

August Book Winners Announced!

The winner of the August book giveaways are:
Stephen King On Writing-winner Toni Carlucci


Witherwood Reform School by Obert Skye - Patricia Weaver

Please send me the address you would like your book mailed to. Pat I have your address and will get it in the mail.

September book giveaways will be Eddie Red Undercover- Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells and How Writers Work- Finding a Process that Works for You by Ralph Fletcher
Please leave a comment to be entered. You must have an address in the USA to win.

What writing books have you found helpful?
See you next week!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Insecure Writer's Support Group - Waiting

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

The awesome co-hosts for the the September 2 posting of the IWSG will be Julie Flanders,Murees DupĂ©, Dolorah at Book Lover, Christine Rains, and Heather Gardner! 

You've written your story/article, revised it, had it critiqued within an inch of it's word count.
Now you have sent your baby out and are waiting for a response.
And waiting. And waiting.
Things to do while you wait:
1. Go through your idea notebook or folder. Don't have one? Start one.
2.Research for next project. You can kill a lot of time doing this.
3. Go for long walks, commune with nature.
4. Volunteer at the library, the school, church.
5. Eat chocolate.
6. Start new project.
7. Research other markets to send story to if you haven't already done this.

The key is to stay busy. Before you know it you will get your response back. Be prepared if it is rejected to send it out again.

Good luck!

Monday, August 31, 2015

First Day of School Writing Prompt

I loved the beginning of school and looked forward to getting new clothes. It was the only time I got something that wasn't a hand me down. Then of course there were the books, lunchboxes and brand new crayons! Do you remember the waxy smell of the crayons as you pulled them out and tried to use them without breaking their perfect pointed ends? Construction paper and the smell of a freshly sharpened pencil?

Thinking back to my very first of school, I can remember standing outside with my new dress on and NOT smiling!
I grew up in a neighborhood full of kids my age, but not one of them were in my class.

So here is your assignment: Write a short story that deals in some way with the first day of school.
Leave a comment with the link to the story.
Have fun with it!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

What a Summer!

2015-08-15 10.49.33.jpg
Pat, me, and Pam in front of Gypsy Vanner horse
Hogwarts at Universal Theme Park
Hulk Roller Coaster
2015-08-15 10.06.24.jpg
Gypsy Vanner Horse

This summer was full of travel for me and some friends. First, Pat Weaver, Irene Latham and I went to Richmond, Va, Williamsburg, Va and Chincoteague, VA. Then in another couple of weeks Pat's daughter invited us to share their suite in Orlando and we did two days of Universal and Island of Adventure. Boy was I tired! But what awesome rides. The simulated rides were the best. It felt good to play like a kid again While Pat was visiting me, she discovered the Gypsy Gold Farm These horses are a fairly new breed and they are beautiful You may think they are Clydesdale, but they are not as tall.  I also got a free course on couponing. Not quite extreme. I got an awesome idea for a story or maybe a novel. The seed has been planted and is germinating as we speak
What have you been doing this summer? Writing? Researching? Brainstorming? Leave a comment for a chance to win one of two books: Witherwood by Obert Skye or On Writing by Stephen King. Must reside in USA

Sunday, August 9, 2015

August Book Giveaway Announced

I'm guessing you are anxiously waiting to see what books I am giving away in August.
Well you are in for a treat!

Stephen King's "On Writing" and Obert Skye "Witherwood" are the books for August.
I've read Stephen King's "On Writing" last year and was amazed this brilliant writer has the same problems I have staring at the blank page. His first novel was not snapped up! He writes with one reader in mind, his wife. He says he trusts her judgment if she says something needs fixed.

Witherwood Reform School by Obert Skye, illustrations by Keith Thompson. Pages 231
Copyright 2015, published by Christy Octavia Books a Henry Hot and company, LLC imprint.
Tobias and Charlotte Eggers may be a little more mischievous than most kids, but when they cross the line, their father loses it. He does what his father did to him, after all it worked for his father. He takes them to the top of the mesa and drops them off outside the creepiest, scariest building around. His plan was to let them think about what they did, while he drove down the hill. Then he would turn around, pick them up, and they would behave like good little children.
The only problem is he has an accident, and is unable to pick them up.
Tobias and Charlotte must fend for themselves.
The building turns out to be a school where kids are brainwashed. Wild animals surround the grounds, and these animals are strange animals, not like what we are familiar with.
Tobias and Charlotte are put to work, but at night they search the grounds, looking for a way out.
I can't wait to read the next book. I'm not going to tell you how the first one ends because it would spoil it for you.

Remember to leave a comment to be eligible to win the books. You must a USA address to win.
Check back to see if you have won.
Chris Bailey has won Janice Hardy book on Planning Your Novel. Please email me the address you would like your book sent to.

See you next week!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Winners of July Books

This is a picture I took of Rainbow Warrior. He is a 20+ year old horse on Assateague Island. He was much farther away, but I was able to zoom in on him. They stay on Assateague Island and are rounded up once a year for auction. This is the 90th year!
One of the newest foals.

PYN_Ideas_and_Structure_Cover small web.jpg
Winner of the book: Planning Your Novel by Janice Hardy is Chris Bailey

The Winner of the book All the Answers by Kate Messner is Michelle Wallace

Winners, please send me the address you would like books shipped to. My email address is
Next week I will announce the August book giveaways.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Figuring Out Your Writing Process

We have a very special guest with us today, Janice Hardy is the founder of Fiction University, and the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, (Picked as one of the 10 Books All Young Georgians Should Read, 2014) Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now.
The_Shifter_72.jpgJanice Hardy RGB 72.jpgPYN_Ideas_and_Structure_Cover small web.jpg

Figuring Out Your Writing Process
By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Blue_Fire_72.jpgEvery novel needs a story, but how you develop that story can happen any number of ways. For example, I'm an outliner who likes to know what happens in every scene before I start the first draft. One of my critique partners is a pantser who prefers to have a general idea of the story and jumps in with little to no preparation. She figures out the plot as she sees what the characters do in the novel. Still another friend writes her novels completely out of order based on what scenes come to her and stitches them together afterward to form a cohesive story.

All of these are perfectly valid ways to write, and they couldn't be more different.

Darkfall_72.jpgUsing a writing method that contradicts or doesn't support your process might cause you to focus on the wrong things or stymie your creativity. You might feel compelled to stick to an outline even when your characters want to take the story in a different direction, or you could find that plotting the story in great detail beforehand makes the novel no longer fun to write (and thus it feels mechanical and boring).              

To help understand how your own process works, grab a pen and paper (or screen and keyboard), and answer the following questions:

1. How many important events do you like to know about your story before you start writing?

This can help you determine where on the outline to pantser scale you fall. If you know you lean more toward one side, you can focus your creative energy in ways that support that.

Do you like to know just the inciting event? Only the ending? Do you know just two or three big moments? Do you like to know every chapter goal? Every scene goal? Or maybe you go in blind and the fun is seeing how the story unfolds. You might even focus more on the individual scenes vs. plot turning points, and you can immediately picture several scenes you're already dying to write. 

Think about the novel you're currently writing. What are the key moments you know you want in the book? What scenes do you know you want to write? When do you reach the point where you think, "now I'm ready to write!"?

2. Do you need to know your character arcs?

If you're a character-driven writer, your stories might come from seeing how your characters grow and change, and you'll crafts plots that allow those changes, or happen organically as you write.

Do you know how your characters change? Do they change? Do you consider their emotional journey or focus more on the external plot events? Do you use the character arc to create conflict in your plot arc?

Think about your characters and where you'd like them to be by the end of the novel. Do you have character arcs in mind for them, or would you rather see how they grow as you write the first draft?

3. Do you plot off your reveals?

If you’re writing a mystery or thriller, the story might hinge more on when information is revealed. If events need to happen in a certain order, they can guide you through your plot.

When do clues need to be found? Secrets revealed? Secrets discovered? Are there any reveals that affect how the story will unfold?

Think about what information you want to reveal to your readers and when that information needs to come out. Does a large percentage of the plot depend on these moments?

4. Do you write towards a theme?

Themes are a great unifying structure for outliners and pantser alike. Major thematic elements can guide a story as easily as character goals. What problems best exemplify your theme?

Are there recurring themes that connect characters or story ideas? Do multiple scenes, conflicts, or goals all focus on the same theme? Do your scenes mostly explore the theme?

Think about how strong theme is in your storytelling drive. Is it something that's determined afterward, or is the entire story an illustration of this theme?

5. What stops you writing?

Now that you have a better idea of what you need to start writing, look for the things that stop you writing. The places you struggle with, the moments that drive you away from the keyboard.

Where do you often stall in a story? Do you find yourself having to go back and research something? Figure out a major plot point in the same basic area every time? (Like middles bog you down, or that next big moment right after the inciting event) Do you need to work on character arcs before you can move forward?

Think about the things that stop you. You might consider spending a little extra time on them at the start and avoid hitting a wall later. Make them part of your process so the writing itself goes smoothly.

Putting it all together

You might be the type of writer who needs just a general idea before diving into a novel, or you might mix and match any of the above--deciding on a few major plot events, the basic character arc turning point, and the big reveals to create a rough outline. You might only know your theme and your protagonist and run with it. Take a little time to think about how you’ve crafted your novels, what worked, what roadblocks you hit and when, and discover the process that works best for you.

For those who aren't sure how much planning they need, try this basic six-point outline for a little structure:

  • What's your opening scene?
  • What's the inciting event?
  • What is the first major event that goes wrong or changes the path of your protagonist?
  • What major surprise can happen in the middle?
  • What is the moment when it all looks hopeless?
  • How does it end?

A writer’s process is a personal thing. A cookie-cutter template might not work for you, but it doesn’t take a lot of work to create a guide that fits your style and guides you onward.

Looking for tips on planning your novel? Check out my book Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a series of self-guided workshops that help you turn your idea into a novel. It's also a great guide for revisions! 

Leave a comment and you might win a copy of Janice's book!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Stgructure by Janice Hardy

When I first started writing my work in progress, I had an idea, a beginning and ending.
Do you see anything missing here, like the middle?
That is why it took me years to finish the first draft!
I liked to write but other than poems that I would not dare share with anyone and a few short stories, I had never written a novel from beginning to end.
Then came the NaNoWriMo.
And I wrote garbage and it felt good. No one will ever see that mess! But it proved to me I could write and finish a novel. So the next year came around and I did NaNoWriMo again, and this time I finished my WIK. It wasn't too bad either. There are a few structural flaws and a lot editing yes, but I have the backbone down. The elusive middle has been filled.
So what does this "Planning Your Novel" have to do with this post,if I figured it out on my own?
For one thing, I could have saved myself years of going round and round in circles trying to figure out how to make the middle stand up and not lose track of where I wanted to go.
Why didn't I just outline and be done with it? You think I didn't try that? Ha!
At the Florida SCBWI Mid Year Workshop, Sara Pennypacker said that she writes her stories and then goes back to check to make sure it is structured correctly. That made me feel somewhat better, and that is how I will be using this book, this time. Hopefully the next novel won't take nearly as long as I will have found my writing/planning process.
In her book, "Planning Your Novel,"Janice Hardy says there is no right way or wrong way to plan your novel. Some writers use a mix of outlining, freestyle and panster. That was good news to me!
Now that the novel is written there is this thing called "theme". I was having trouble figuring out what my theme is for this novel, a mystery. In workshop number four, she gives clear instructions on how to define your theme, and yes you can do this after the story is written, and yes it would be easier to do before your story is written (hint for next novel).
Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is written in workshops, so you can go directly to the workshop you need to work on. Each has an exercise for you to do.
Janice Hardy also has a website in which she interviews authors on their writing process at Fiction University. I have found this book so helpful I'm keeping this one but have another one ordered and on the way for some lucky reader!
What is your writing process?
What are some of the problems you have or have resolved?
Please leave a comment to be eligible to win this book.

Next week Janice will be doing a guest blog here.
See you next week,

Sunday, July 12, 2015

July Books Giveaways Plus Study in Plotting a Chapter Book

The winner of last month's Where Do You Get Your Ideas? by Fred White is Courtney Rene.
Please contact me to collect your prize.

For July we have All the Answers by Kate Messner AND

Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure by Janice Hardy.   

Janice will also be joining us Sunday July 26 for a guest blog.
Mark it on your calendar.
More about this next week. But be sure to leave a comment to be eligible to win.

Now on to my self study for plotting a chapter book.

I've been reading Barbara Seuling's book on How to Write a Children's Book and Get it Published.
In Chapter Ten- Writing Early Chapter Books  Ms Seuling suggests reading a chapter a book and then write a one sentence summary for each chapter. By doing this I discovered how a plot and subplot coincide.
Each chapter mentions both the plot and subplot even if it is only a sentence or short paragraph.
Since I'm interested in writing mysteries I chose Oh No, It's Robert by Barbara Seuling. In the first chapter, Robert wants something to go on his family's award shelf. We learn about how Robert is not good at anything.
In chapter three the mystery is revealed: Who's scribbling in the books.

This exercise showed me how to plant clues, red herrings and how many and tie it in with the main plot.
What are you working on?
What do you struggle with?

See you next week!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Write Yourself Out of a Corner and Winners Announced!

I hope everyone had a happy and safe 4th of July. We spent ours in the comfort of the movie theater with friends watching Jurassic World.

I had just finished reading the article: Creative Under Pressure (How to Write yourself Out of a Corner) by Steven James in the July/August 2015 Writer's Digest magazine.  I was watching for the corners the screen writer's wrote themselves in and out of.

Steven says to take advantage of those times when you have written yourself in a corner. That no matter how experienced you are it can be a daunting task. You want your story to be memorable and the only to do that is to put your protagonist in a situation they can't get out of and then to brainstorm until you find a way for them to get out.

Many times in Jurassic World the characters found themselves backed up against a wall with nowhere to go.
This increased my heart rate not to mention theirs.
But time and again the author did find a way to get them out of trouble.

I don't want to give too much away, but I will just say this about Jurassic World: Not everyone survived. Not even the animals.
So how do you write out of a corner?

The first step is limiting yourself. He gives the example of using an empty cardboard paper towel tube. Hold it up to your eye. You begin to notice things in more detail, then the next step is to brainstorm.

So write your self into a corner and have fun mapping out the possibilities.

Now on to the winners of June's book giveaways!

The winner of Where do You Get Your Ideas? by Fred White is drum roll please; dum, dum, dum, dum:
Courtney Rene!

The winner of Clementine ad the Spring Trip by Sara Pennypacker is : E. Arroyo
Please send me the addresses you would like these mailed to
Next week I will announce the books given away for the month of July. But don't wait! Leave a comment and you will entered for a chance to win.
See ya next week!

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Insecure Writer's Support Group

The purpose of the Insecure Writer's Support Group  is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.
Clicking on the link above will take you to the sign up page and you can also read other bloggers that participate.

So for this month I wanted to share my writer's journey.
My New Year's resolution (yes I actually made one and so far have kept it) was to blog at least once a week.
Finding something to say that is of interest to others every week is hard! But I forced myself to send it out regardless of whether anyone left a comment or not. Just the writing has helped.

The second thing I'm doing (and this is the really hard part) is to send out submissions.
I have entered 2 contests (won a door prize from one) sent in one nonfiction article.
Within the week it was back: Rejected!
So I feel as if I'm earning my 40 lashes. I really didn't expect to be an overnight sensation (hahaha).
But I am developing the thick skin needed to be in this writing market.
So what are some of your rejection stories?
You're in good company!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Contest and Book Giveaway

I have found that contests are a good way to stay motivated.  I have three I plan to enter. The last two I have entered before and can vouch for them. The first one is new to me so if you have any information about the Atlantis Contest I would appreciate your comments.
The Atlantis Contest gives feedback to each entry. I'm not familiar with this contest, but plan on entering it. Open now and deadline is November 30,0105.
Then there is the Institute of Children's Literature Early Reader Mystery contest. Entry fee  $15 and you receive a free e-book for entering. Deadline is July 18, 2015. I have entered this one before and will again.
The last contest I'm mentioning today is the Creative Writing Institute. This is open from July 15 to August 15.
 This is a themed contest so check the guidelines carefully.

Next Sunday I will be announcing the winners of the book giveaways:
Where Do You Get Your Ideas? by Fred White
Clementine and the Spring Trip by Sara Pennypacker

What are some contests you have entered/won?
Please leave a comment to be eligible to win one of the books. Only USA addresses.
See you next week!