Wednesday, June 29, 2011

PULL Wins the National Reader's Choice Award!!

I just returned to Chicago from the American Library Association meeting in beautiful--and incredibly hot--New Orleans.  When I arrived I was greeted by the news that this morning, at the OK RWA breakfast during the Romance Writers of America contest in New York City, PULL was awarded first place in the National Reader's Choice Awards.

I wish I could have been in New York at the reception, but I had to make a choice and ALA and librarians won. I had a friend aaccept my award (and my wonderful breakfast) for me.  This is a major honor that I hoped for, but didn't dare expect. It's just great to know that there are people who believe that books about teen guys can be just as wonderful and enjoyable as those about teen girls. PULL features a multi-cultural cast and two gay boyfriends, and themes involving both domestic and sexual abuse.  I am so glad the book is finding an audience that appreciates it.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

PULL moves on in Nerds Heart YA contest!!

PULL has made it through the first round of the Nerds Heart YA contest!!  Special thanks to ARI from the  Reading In Color blog who interviewed me for the contest.  My judge, The Rejectionist reviewed PULL and its competitor, Efrain's Secret, and gave the final nod to PULL in what was termed The Agony of Indecision.

The next round will be in July. Right now I'm doing the happy dance.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Plotting vs. Pantsing

I am a plotter. I've tried pantsing it, and I get lost every time. I need to understand my beginning, middle checkpoints and ending before I can write word one. Especially I need that end, something for me to aim toward.

That said, things change a lot between word one and the time I can write THE END.

Truth be told, I think I'm more of a "puzzler" as I've seen it called on another thread. I have the big picture, my beginning checkpoints and end as I said, and then I write individual snippets of the story, not even remotely in order, and spend the rest of my time stringing those snippets into working scenes. I have never actually written a book that conforms to the original outline or synopsis, although the checkpoints are almost always solid. Just another reason why I don't bother with a synopsis until after completion. I generally need to be around the 40K word mark before I'm really sure of the structure. I would love to be a writer who can, as they say, begin at the beginning, go all the way to the end and then stop. But it's never happened so far and I have no reason to believe that will ever change. It's my process and I've learned to accept it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This too shall pass

Part of me knows how vulnerable I am, but all the modern conveniences have dulled the idea that I too live on the edge. We had a storm last night. Not one of the huge disasters that leave thousands dead, than God. The sky went dark, trees fell over, and a transformer blew, plunging my neighborhood into darkness.

I admit to being petty enough to envying the people on the other side of the street that still had power. How unfair, I thought, that I live on the wrong side of some boundary line I didn't know existed.

This too shall pass, I realize that even as I cope with a day of no electricity.  By tomorrow at the latest things will be back to normal.  So many people around the world have suffered worse disasters, so I've already left my pity party behind.  No electricity just means an inconvenience to me, no air conditioning, no TV or radio, no automatic garage door opener.  But it's also a reminder of how fragile my world is, and how little it would take to plunge my life, and the lives of my neighbors and friends, into real trouble.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Review - Evenfall

EvenfallEvenfall by Liz Michalski

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved the premise, a ghost, Frank, not giving up on his love for the woman he did not marry, Gert. Gert is unmarried and in her eighties and dealing with Frank's recent death. Her thirty-something niece Andie has come back home to nurse her wounds after the end of a three-year relationship with Neal and to help her aunt. She stays at Evenflow, Frank's old farmhouse where his ghost now resides. The story is told round-robin from the points of view of Frank, Andie and Gert.

I loved reading this women's fiction story that involved two mature women. And I really the heat between Andie and twenty-three year old Cort ("little Cortie" the boy she used to babysit). Cort loved her back when he was eleven and watched her go out on dates with the older boys. Twelve years later, he's man enough to do something about his feelings when she comes home.

I enjoyed watching Andie and Cort, saw the love and felt both their pains when they fought. Of course, her old boyfriend turns up right at that vulnerable moment. This book unfolds slowly and deliberatly, as I rooted for Cort to fight for Andie and for Frank to find some way for a ghost to interfere with the living.

The biggest problem for me was the ending. It was flat, sudden, unpredicted, and, for Gert and Frank, at least, left issues unresolved. Unfortunatly the back cover information does not match what I found in the pages. If this book hadn't been touted as the story of the ghost trying to win her back I don't think I would have found the ending so unfulfilling. As much as I enjoyed reading about Andie and Cort's steamy relationship, I kept waiting and hoping for more between the Gert and the ghost. I wanted to see their development and character arcs (as much as a ghost can have one). I just didn't see that in this book.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

I've been interviewed

I have been interviewed by Jo Ramsey about my writing journey on her blog, Where Fantasy and Reality Collide.  Join me there, and read an excerpt from PULL.

I hope you'll visit ... and comment - it's lonely out there.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Review - Amelia O'Donahue

Amelia O'Donohue Is So Not a VirginAmelia O'Donohue Is So Not a Virgin by Helen Fitzgerald

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is so not about Amelia O'Donohue.

It is about secrets, and the danger of keeping them too well hidden.

Rachel keeps secrets. Not her own, she keeps everyone else's secrets. She knows who had an abortion, who sneaks out in the middle of the night, who throws up to keep thin, and which teacher is messing around with which student. People tell her their secrets because she never tells. Once, years ago, she shared a secret that resulted in personal tragedy. Now, no matter what, she will not tell and secret, for any reason.

Until she opens a cupboard door and finds the biggest secret of all.

Now she struggles with what to do, because this secret is alive and needs his mother. This time the owner of the secret has to come forward. Someone has to reveal the truth.

Rachel just can't be the one to do it.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Your chance to win big

The clock is ticking - The Nerds Heart YA blog is featuring a reader contest where one of the prizes includes an autographed copy of PULL. There are only a few entries, and the contest closes at midnight June 13, so anyone entering has a huge chance of winning. - see contest rules at

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Characters - Part 2

Today I am doing my once a month blog post at Romancing The Genres. I'm going deeper into the subject of creating characters readers love--and love to hate. Come join me and tell me about your favorite characters.  This is a follow-up to my first blog last week as a guest at Gemstate Writers

Monday, June 6, 2011

Book Review - Long Drive Home

Long Drive Home: A NovelLong Drive Home: A Novel by Will Allison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those stories that reminds us that we are all interconnected, and every decision we make can have far-reaching, and sometimes tragic, consequences.

Glen, an ordinary man, drives his daughter home, flips off a cop, succumbs to a moment of road rage, and changes his life and the lives of his family and of strangers, forever. He never intended to hurt anyone, just to vent a little frustration. But after one thoughtless deed his life moves forward on a course he cannot correct. The law never finds him guilty of a crime, but over the next few years everything he holds dear, including his wife and daughter, is stripped from his life.

The story is a true page turner, it moves fast and I found myself both blaming and sympathizing with the protagonist. No one is a real villain in this story, not Glen, not his wife, not the young man who dies. Glen is not the only one who suffers for his misdeed, and when he almost gets away blameless, I felt a mixture of relief and pain. The one true feeling is his determination that his daughter never suffer any feeling of guilt for his actions that night on the empty street.

The Long Drive Home is an emotional journey for the reader, and one that may make the reader stop and think every time he or she feels herself giving in to the temptation to act first and worry about the consequences later.

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BOOK Review - The Doomsday Box

The Doomsday Box: A Shadow Project AdventureThe Doomsday Box: A Shadow Project Adventure by Herbie Brennan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book first, before it's predecessor, The Shadow Project. It's the first time a book sent me on a mission to finds it's prequel. Turns out this is even better than the first book, all the suspence and pace with none of the confusion.

The three teens from the first book are joined by a new member, Fuchsia, with a new power, one she is still developing. The four British teens working for MI6 find their way from Britain to New York where they are to investigate a long-forgotten CIA experiment in time travel, one that never really died. Seems you can rip a hole in the space-time continuum, but you can't put it back together again even when you shut off the power.

Just as the teen Shadow Project crew determine there is no danger at the site of the rip, danger appears, in the form of a box a military man opens to unleash a virulent plague, one that kills in less than a day and leaves billions at risk unless the kids, who have been vaccinated, go through the rip into 1962 to stop the man who will eventually unleash that plague on the 21st century. The catch - that man is a CIA agent who doesn't know what he will do in the future. The other catch - if they can't persuade him they have to kill him.

The kids end up back in the height of the cold war, travel to Russia, and end up captured and interrogated by the KGB and a pair of torturing twins you never want to meet in a dark alley. Young readers will see the height of the Cold War for the first time, older readers will revisit the dark days before the Cuban Missile Crisis, and see an alternate scenario that would have plunged the world into nuclear war before those dark days in October. One member of the Shadow Project team is an African prince, and he gets to see a touch of 1962 racism as well. Fuchsia’s developing power reveals that the 21st century plague they were sent to stop has to take second place to a nuclear holocaust due to begin in weeks and plunge the world into an alternate future in which they and billions more are dead.

It’s a high-stakes story, a true cross-over book, one that middle grade, young adult and adult readers will all enjoy.

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Friday, June 3, 2011

Characters - Part 1

Todat I'm doing double duty - attending the Love Is Brewing In Milwaukee conference, and guest blogging at Gem State Writers.

My post there is the first of two blogs I'll be doing on ways to make characters walk and talk and act  real.

Please stop by and tell your own tactics.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Book Review - The Shadow Project

The Shadow ProjectThe Shadow Project by Herbie Brennan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first in a series, and highlights Danny, a teenaged thief in Britain, who steals to take care of himself and his grandmother and handle his self-esteem issues rising from being jeered at by snobbish schoolmates, and ends up in the wrong house where a sum of errors allows him entry into a top secret MI6/CIA facility in time to see a paranormal agent being prepped for a mission.

Turns out he has a few paranormal abilities all his own.

The story line was confusing at times, too many people with too many powers, including Danny's capabilities as a natural born Sohanti or with doctor who can fight and destroy demons. But I enjoyed the cast, and the idea that the intelligence agencies had to use teens to combat terrorists because only the young have brains malleable enough to allow them to literally control out-of-body experiences. Turns out the terrorists are using demons to accomplish their ends. Or is that vice versa.

The pace was fast, the premise strong, and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. And don't let me forget the interracial romance between the young African teen and the daughter of the projects leader.

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