Success only flourishes in perseverance -- ceaseless, restless perseverance.
--Baron Manfred Von Richtofen

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Keeping up the Momentum

I blogged a few months back about regaining my reading groove. I'm happy to report that I've kept up the reading momentum. Since that last post, I've read:

Blackout by Connie Willis. I love it! But then I love anything by Connie Willis. The only problem was that it ends on a cliffhanger. The next book, All Clear, will be out in the fall. I cannot wait.

I followed that with Fablehaven 4 by Brandon Mull. Wow. It was full of action and surprises and left me with yet another cliffhanger ending.

Being tired of cliffhangers, I was relieved that Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson was a stand alone. I absolutely adored this book. So funny and poignant and all-around wonderful. I think it's my new favorite book.

Hard to follow that. I went with satisfying one of the cliffhangers and read Fablehaven 5. What an awesome end to the series. There was never a dull moment in the book. I really like the way it all wrapped up.

Next up was Heroes of the Fallen by David J. West. It's an action packed novel about the last years of Nephite civilization. I was impressed with his knowledge of ancient cultures. Alas, another cliffhanger ending! Can't wait for the next one.

I also read The Last Rodeo by Linda Sandifer. I won it in a contest on her blog. Contemporary Western Romance is quite a departure from my usual reading, as you can see. But this one sucked me right in. The family dynamics were so real and touching. I really enjoyed it.

The latest book I read was Friends in Deed by T.M. Hunter. A great follow up to his first novel, Heroes Die Young, Friends in Deed was full of classic sci-fi action. A fun read, though the ending was a bummer.

Now I'm working on two books at once. The Sapphire Flute by Karen E. Hoover, a fantasy novel.

And Awakening Avery by Laurie C. Lewis (Another blog contest win. Not my usual genre, but enjoying it so far.)

What's up after those two? Well I bought the Hunger Games and even started reading it, but I just couldn't get into it. We'll see. I also have Sweethearts by Sara Zarr to look forward too. That makes seven books read since February. Yeah! Any good books you've read lately that you'd like to share?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Do Titles Matter?

When I attended agent Laura Rennert's class at Storymakers, she mentioned almost in passing that you really need to have a great title when you submit.

I've had titles come to me as the original spark for a story, and stories that I couldn't come up with a title for, and ending up hating the title I chose, even though that's what they were published as. I'm talking short stories here. My first novel has been through numerous title changes over the years (I wrote it twelve years ago, and set it aside for ten years). It's currently called Defenders of the Covenant.. Not bad, but I'm still not quite sure if it's right. The novel I'm working on has a title I think is pretty good, The Ransomed Returning, and I have no plans to change it.

One of my most favorite titles is A Thousand Words for Stranger (by Julie E. Czerneda). I think it's so evocative. One of my least favorite titles is Cars. I love the movie, but really, that was that the best title they could come up with? It tells you absolutely nothing.

What are your favorite book titles? How do you come up with titles? What makes a great title? I'm curious. Titles can be so tricky.

Speaking of titles, head over to Shallee McArthur's blog and enter her "Books you say you'd never read" contest. Pitch a book based on a Facebook security phrase. It's hilarious. Today (May 20) is the last day to enter, so hurry over.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Let's Talk Blog Fest!

Thanks to Roni at Fiction Groupie for hosting the Let's Talk Blog Fest! Be sure to go and check out the other blogs participating.

Here's a dialogue scene from my WIP, The Ransomed Returning. Enjoy!

Paul's heart was still pounding like a jack hammer when the shuttle departed for Earth. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the seat and tried to slow his breathing.
"Are you okay?" Tim said. "What happened back there?"
"Nothing." He didn't open his eyes.
"Did you kiss her?"
"You're kidding. Why not?"
Because I wouldn't have stopped. He wasn't about to say that. He kept silent.
"You really ought to marry her," Tim said.
"Believe me; I'd do it in a heartbeat if she'd wanted to."
"She wants to. Why else would she send for you when she could have contacted her bishop or your refuge bishop or her home teachers or a hundred other people?"
"We're old friends."
"Yeah? Well, I saw her watching you while you were asleep. It wasn't a 'we're old friends' kind of look."
"Hmph. I already asked her once, you know. She turned me down flat. I'm not ready to repeat that humiliation." Although remembering how it felt to hold her, he thought he might risk it anyway—beg for her like a complete fool.
"What are you going to tell Lily?"
Lily? Paul groaned. He hadn't thought about her. He didn't know where he stood with her anyway.
"Do I have to tell Lily anything? Maybe I should just keep my options open."
"Oh, that's nice," Tim said. He sounded angry. Paul sat up and looked at him. He looked angry, too. How odd. "So, you're saying, 'I'm in love with someone else, but I'll keep you around in case that doesn't work out'?"
"That's not what I meant."
Tim scowled and turned away.
"What's wrong? Why do you even care?" Then all at once he understood. "Good heavens, Tim. Why did you even introduce me to Lily if you felt that way about her?"
"I don't know." He turned around again. "I didn't think she'd be interested in me. I'm too tall and, well, goofy."
Paul sighed. If his love life got any more complicated, his head might explode. "You know what, Tim? She's all yours. As of this minute, I'm taking a vow of celibacy."
Tim snorted. "Good luck keeping that one."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Laid Up

I don't want to sound whiny or anything, but last week I missed a step coming down the stairs and sprained my ankle. :( I can't walk without crutches, can't get up stairs, and can't drive. I can't do all my normal cooking, cleaning, running around, stay-home mom type stuff. My family and friends have been wonderful about helping me out.

I've pretty much had nothing to do all day except sit on the couch with my foot propped up and write. A silver lining if I ever saw one. One problem, though.

I haven't been writing.

I've written a bit, but I didn't even make my weekly goals last week. Weird. I mean, doesn't it sound perfect to have all kinds of time to write with no other responsibilities? I always thought I'd like that, but here I sit day after day hardly writing a word.

Could it be that the normal hustle and bustle of my daily life doesn't take away from my writing time, but actually adds to it? It certainly doesn't add any minutes to my writing time, but it adds something else. Joy, passion, drive, laughter, love and fun. Not that these things are absent, of course. They're still here. I just need to make a little attitude adjustment and accept the fact that not being able to do some things right now doesn't make me bad or lazy. It was just interesting to me to discover that all aspects of my life contribute to writing, just like writing contributes to all other aspects of my life.

Hopefully, I'll be up and around again soon. For now, I guess it's back to the couch. Hopefully, I'll actually write tonight!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Know What Else I'd Like to Do?

I have another crazy dream. Besides the crazy writing dream, I mean. I want to sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

I meet the following criteria:
1. Be between the ages of 25-55.
2. Live within a 100 mile radius of Salt Lake City
3. Be a member in good standing of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Okay, that's the easy part. First you have to fill out an application about your church and family background and musical experience. That doesn't sound too bad. They have right there on the website all the time requirements, which are considerable, so you can decide if you even want to fill out an application. Next, you're asked to create an audition CD in which you have to sing one of three hymns and do some other musical stuff. Harder. If you make it past that step, you have to take a music theory test which includes stuff like: listen to a musical phrase followed by three notes and determine which note is the key tone. Listen to a musical passage while looking at a corresponding musical notation and mark every measure where the pitch is different from what was played. And on and on like that--all live without the opportunity to hear anything repeated. Um, okay. That sounds really hard, especially since I have no professional musical training. If you pass the music skills and theory test, then you get a live audition in front of the directors. In. Person. This includes singing a hymn and part of a challenging choral piece, followed by some sight reading. Absolutely terrifying. (Kind of like pitching your book to an editor or agent at a conference, no? Actually, I think the choir audition would be scarier. You don't actually have to read your manuscript out loud at a pitch session.)
 (Here's me with the choir I sing with now. The Musettes.)

So, I'm wondering. Which of these crazy dreams of mine is harder to achieve? What do you think?

I'd say that, as hard and frightening as the Tabernacle Choir audition sounds, I think it's still easier than writing a book , getting that book critiqued, revising the book, making the book shine, writing a query, a synopsis, a pitch, marketing plan, etc. for the book, submitting it, and getting it published. There is no website for aspiring authors with all the steps clearly mapped out like there is for the choir. Wouldn't it be nice if there was? Last year, 400 people auditioned and 78 made into the choir. That's almost 20%. I can guarantee you that significantly less than 20% of manuscripts submitted last year were published.

I think I could get into the Tabernacle Choir if I really wanted to. I could study my butt off for that music theory test. I could work up the guts for the live audition. I really could. You know what else I think? I think I can do what it takes to make it as a writer too. I can work hard, develop my talents, and gather up the courage I need to succeed.

And so can you.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Storymakers Highlight: Inspirational Moments

Moment #1: Dan Wells praised the opening paragraph of my novel. Yes! (Actually, all of Boot Camp was totally inspiring.)

Moment #2:  The music video. (Watch it here.) I so want to enter the lyrics contest for next year's video.

Moment #3: Watching the "Become Legendary" video. (Watch the Michael Jordan bit here.) It was incredible. Hope the whole thing is posted online soon!

Moment #4: Meeting Danyelle Leafty in person! I've been waiting for that for a long time.

Moment #5: Meeting David West in person and finally getting a copy of his book. I've been waiting for that for a long time, too. 

Moment #6: Hearing Julie Coulter Bellon talk about writing with seven kids and another on the way. You rock, girl!

Moment #7: Listening to Jeff Savage and James Dashner talk about their writing journeys. "There is a word for writers who never give up. Published."

Moment #8: David Farland's keynote address. You have to plan and prepare in every aspect of your life for a successful writing career..

Moment #9: Realizing that I can make it. I really can!

Oh, it was a wonderful conference. I loved seeing some of my awesome writerly friends again. I seriously can't wait to go back next year!

What inspiring moments have you had lately?