Saturday, January 30, 2010

Call for Guest Post Bloggers

Hi all! I'm about to do something I've never done before...drop offline for a week or so while I do some work on things.

And while this means I won't be checking my Reader (should we have another contest to see how many unread posts I'll accumulate?), it also means that I need to step away from posting here for about a week.

To that end, I'd like to get five guest posts here for the week I'll be out. My unplug week will either be the week of Feb. 7 or the week of Feb 15--depending on my schedule.

If you would like to be a guest blogger here, please email me at bethrevis (at) with your idea for a topic. Anything reading or writing related is fair game!

Edited to add: If you're interested, please let me know the topic you'd like to write on, and I'll let you know if it will fit in with the blog and the week's posts. I need completed guest blog posts by February 8th. Please also include a short bio, if you'd like to have that sort of thing included.


Just one, but it's a good one.

Alexander Chee's 100 Things About a Novel, Part 1.

Writing a novel is sometimes like going to a party and hearing someone call your name outside the window and when you get there, a dragon floats in the night wind, grinning. How did you know my name, you ask it. But you already know it’s yours.
You do write because you have to write, in the end. You do it because it is easier to do than to not do. After all, a dragon has come all this way and it knows your name. And so families should try not to punish their writers.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Poetry Friday: First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Are You a Catcher?

Interview @ Mormon Mommy Writers

My friend, critique partner, and renaissance woman, Rebecca Carlson, just posted an interview with me on Mormon Mommy Writers about finding a literary agent.

Sample question:
How does a writer know when he or she is ready to seek representation?

I knew when... [HA! like I'd tell you here! Go read the interview and find out!!]

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nerd Spaz, now with more spaz

From Boy Genius Report:
Hardcore bibliophiles need their books. It’s part of the reason why the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook are such hot commodities right now. But would you pay for a Kindle or Nook if, for just a little extra, you can have an e-reader that supports over 140,000 applications and offers real web browsing and media playback? Probably not. The iPad features iBooks, an application that looks strikingly similar to the “Classics” app available for the iPhone now. Books are displayed on a bookshelf and selecting one opens the book, just like on the iPhone app. It’s a very slick and clean interface and easy to read. There is the argument that e-Ink is so much easier on the eyes, but we spend all day reading blogs and news on the Internet without too many complaints, especially with LED-backlit displays which the iPad makes use of. And with 10 hours of battery life and a month of stand-by time, you won’t be rushing to grab your charger just before you find out what happens to Alex Cross in the last chapter.


Nerd Spaz



Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why We Buy Books, Part 2

So, yesterday I told you that all that marketing stuff you're killing yourself over isn't worth half as much as writing a good book. And that's true. But it's also true that marketing--when done right--is totally worth it.

Here's why. I firmly believe in the "five-touch rule." I've no idea where I heard of it first, but it works. For most people, they have to heard of something five times before they buy it. So, sticking with books, I usually hear about a book five times before I go out and make an effort to purchase it. Take, for example, The Shifter. I heard about it on the author's agent's blog first, several months before it was out. I saw an online review a week before it came out. I went to the author's website and checked that out. Then I was in the store, saw it face out (another touch--the bookstore was advertising it), and I bought it. Four touches before it was in my hand.

This doesn't always work--I'd not heard of Fool before my friend recommended it for the book club, but since she did, I trusted her and bought it immediately. But quite a few books do require more than one source of recommendation. A couple of online reviews, a couple of GoodRead recs. The more touches, the better.

But you can also get all your touches from one source. Shannon Messenger recently did a week-long feature of Lisa Schroeder. I went in thinking I'd never want to read Lisa's work. I'm not a huge fan of poetry novels, and the covers of the books were not the kind that I would pick up on my own at the store. If Shannon had done one review, I would have skimmed it and forgotten about the books.

But she did a week-long party of the book and the author. There was the review, of course, but also an author interview. Both pretty typical in terms of online markting. Shannon took it even further: she offered a contest, a poetry sample from Lisa's books, shared some of her poetry, and encouraged others to write their own poetry--which she featured on her blog, as well as bringing in song lyrics. She got people excited about the author and the books.

I ended up being lucky enough to win a copy of one of Lisa's books--which I'm devouring. Shannon's week of posts turned me into a Lisa fan.

So, while writing is important, so is marketing. My point with these posts is that both are important. It takes a lot to get a book from your hand into the hand of your audience--a book buyer. But when thinking of how to market your book, think of ways to go outside the box. Something like what Shannon did is an excellent example, and proof that good writing generates word of mouth that generates more sales.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Why We Buy Books

I am always interested in how people buy books. Some go out and buy a book just because a friend said it was good. Some seek out books by the same author, no matter what. Some want series, some want variety.

I'm not the only one who wonders about this. Rachelle Gardner recently posted the topic on her blog, and the results weren't too surprising: most people buy books based on word of mouth.

That's certainly true of me. The last books I've purchased have been:
  • Fool: bought because one of my best friends loved it, and we chose it as our first book club book
  • Beautiful Creatures: actually, this one is a loaner from a friend, but I would have bought it based on that friend's recommendation
  • I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President: bought because I saw it on the Jon Stewart show, and because the title made me laugh out loud.
  • The Shifter: bought because I saw the blurb on the author's agent's webpage and it sounded really interesting
  • Ruined: bought because I was in the bookstore browsing, and it had been signed by the author (I'm a sucker for signed books)
Almost all of my most recent book purchases are ones that I can trace specifically to the person who recommended them to me. The one book I didn't buy based on a rec, I would not have bought unless it had been signed. I picked that one up specifically--and solely--because of the "Signed by the Author" sticker on the front. I would not have picked it up otherwise.

Where we hear about books counts. As an author, it's also important to know how your audience hears about books. I found The Shifter from reading an agent blog--but it's a MG fantasy, and most of the author's target audience isn't reading industry blogs. (Fortunately, Janice Hardy has a great idea of marketing and networking and reaching her target audience--so everyone, take a leaf out of her book!)

We can't all be featured by Jon Stewart, no matter how much we may want to be. But don't forget the power of word of mouth. The greatest marketing tool you have as a writer is finding the audience who wants your book and getting them to tell others about it.

And the best way to get others to talk about it? Write a darn good book. After posting last week about widgets and trailers, it worried me a bit about the number of people who wanted to do things like that, but were worried because they didn't know how. On my SCBWI list-serv, there's almost always a conversation about how worried an author is that they aren't reaching their audience because Facebook and MySpace and Twitter are beyond their grasp.

Calm down.

What's far more important that having an online presence is having a good book that people will talk about. Last week, I posted Cindy Pon's great trailer. But I did not buy her book because of the trailer. I bought it because my friend bought it and told me it was great.

If you hate Twitter, don't do it. If you can't see the point in Facebook, don't bother. I'm not saying that social online networking or technical gadgets like book trailers and widgets don't help. I'm sure they've sold books--in fact, I have occasionally bought books based on these things. I'm just saying do what you feel comfortable doing, but know that word of mouth will ultimately be more powerful--and the only real way to garner word of mouth is by having a well written book. Focus on writing first.

PS: I loved the picture Rachelle used in her contest so much that I shamelessly stole it. And I loved the background on it that I stole that, too. As Rachelle credits the picture:
Photo is from the bookstore Le Bal des Ardents in Lyon, France. Photography by punkinmom_{caroline} and Visit The Most Interesting Bookstores in the World if you want to be blown away!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Today, in Class... That Explains the Snow

My classroom is your typical classroom--except there's a door in one wall. This is because the small room on the other side of the door used to be a storage room, but (because of overcrowding, etc.) it's now an office for the guidance counselor. We just keep that door shut and locked and pretend it's part of the wall.

Yesterday was the first day of school with a new semester, which means: new kids.

New Kid: Mrs. Revis! Mrs. Revis!

Me: Yes?

New Kid: Where does that door go to?

Me: *deadpan* Narnia.

New Kid: *whispers* What?

Me: Narnia. For reals. It's snowing over there. Narnia, White Witch, all that.

Other New Kid, Who Sits Near the Door: Hey, it *is* colder over here!

New Kid and Entire Rest of the Class: *stares at the door in awe*

...and they're sixteen years old.

Poetry Friday: The More Loving One by WH Auden

The More Loving One

by W. H. Auden
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

"The More Loving One" by W.H. Auden, from Collected Poems. © The Modern Library — Random House, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

I copied this from the Writer's Almanac, a lovely daily email newsletter that provides poems and fun info on writers in each post.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Speaking of Doing it Right

I recently saw this book trailer:

Now, I'm actually...not a fan of book trailers. I'm sorry, but a lot of them are cheesy, using stock photos, using stock music, and using the same pitch used everywhere else. Very few have, in my opinion, really stood apart from the crowd to the point that they actually sold me on the book. But this one stood out from the crowd to me--and I'm going to make sure I get this book.

The best book trailer I've ever seen, is the one for Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix:

The problem with book trailers is that they're relatively easy to make. Which is also an advantage. With enough determination and a few computer knowledge and programs--such as explained in this article--anyone can make their own book trailer.

But after posting Maria Snyder's widget yesterday, I saw that many of your comments were geared to the "how do I make this?" style. And my first thought was: yeah! How do you make that?! And so I started looking it up.

Same way as I started looking up how to make a book trailer a few months ago.

And, just like then, I realized something important.

I can't do this.

I mean, I know how. Sort of. Enough that I could slap together something.

But something doesn't cut it. It takes a lot for me to bother downloading a book trailer or click on a widget. Because--let's be honest--there are tons of them out there. I'm not clicking on something just because it's there. For me to click on a trailer or a widget takes something special, like Maria's widget or the trailers above.


Does this mean I'm saying don't bother?


My (failed) attempts at making a book trailer made me think of my work visually, and made me consider the pace of my pitch. In researching how to make widgets, I started thinking of what kind of thing I'd want in a widget about my book.

Consider it a rough draft.

I now have a decent idea of what should go into a book trailer or widget, and a new appreciation for the people who can make them and make them well.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This is how it's done

I've been thinking about marketing and such lately. Never hurts to be prepared. There's a lot hoopla about on the benefit (or not) of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, GoodReads, etc., etc., etc. ad nauseum.

And sometimes this works. Tomorrow, I'm going to tell you about how I got turned on to an author 100% because of online marketing.

But--and here's the kicker--it's got to be unique. Everyone and their mom can get a blog (or twitter or facebook or whatever), and anyone with the ability to type can fill it with words. It is not enough to do something just because everyone else is and "they" say it's good marketing.

What's really good marketing? Standing out from the crowd.

Like this widget.


This is how it's done, folks. Check it. Everything's all neatly there in an eye-catching (but not annoying) little box. Easy to load, easy to share. And it really does go above and beyond. Info on all the books (albeit with a focus on the one most recently released). And did you see that thing in the middle? EXTRAS. As in, only find them here, one of a kind EXTRAS.

How clever is that?

People will see it--click on it--and discover a whole new author. This one little widget has it all.

And it will sell more books than tweeting about what you had for breakfast.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Music Monday: Almost There

I love Disney. There. I said it. I love Disney. I watched The Lion King 13 times in a row when it came out on DVD when I was in junior high. I can quote random scenes from Aladdin on command.

So, of course I planned on seeing the latest return to classic animation, Disney's The Princess and the Frog. ESPECIALLY after WriterGirl posted about her awesome adventure!

And. I. LOVED. It.

Seriously, guys, this is the best Disney flick I've seen in years. Go watch it, if it's still playing in a theater near you. Plan on purchasing the DVD.

But let me rein in my Disney fangirl. Because there's something I want to show you that is actually relevant to writing and this blog.

In The Princess and the Frog, Tiana is a working class girl with a dream--a dream to own a restaurant that she's so single-mindedly determined to see come true that she dedicates her life to success. Sound familiar to anyone? Heckyeah. How many of us are holding as fast to our writing dreams? While the lesson Tiana learns in the movie--to work hard towards your dreams but not give up your joy in life may be a lesson we could all learn from--there's a certain joy in seeing someone reaching for a dream, too.

So, here you have it--my favorite song from The Princess and the Frog, "Almost There." As a Disney film recently released, there's not many good quality links out there. I'd go here to see a better truncated version, but the full song is below.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Am zombie

Graded 60 student essays, 4-6 pages each. Have last brains. Brrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnssssssssssssssssssssss....................

Haiti Blog

It's in my other post, but just in case you missed it: an online, updating blog from one of the volunteers in Haiti now. Here's news from a recent post:
Laurie just returned to the orphanage after being downtown. Her photos which she will post on facebook are pretty awful. The dead are being pulled out of the rubble and laid out on the sidewalk! Some places had so many dead bodies in the that blood was running out of the houses and into the gutter. Laurie said it was like water running down the gutter!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Help for Haiti

Haiti was recently hit with a traumatic earthquake. From this early report:
Haitians have piled bodies along the devastated streets of their capital after a powerful earthquake crushed thousands of structures yesterday, from schools and shacks to the National Palace and the UN peacekeeping headquarters. Untold numbers were still trapped.

It seemed clear that the death toll from Tuesday (Wednesday, NZT) afternoon's magnitude-7.0 quake would run into the thousands, with the country's prime minister estimating it could be as high as 100,000.

According to World Vision:
"We would be very concerned about a quake of this magnitude anywhere in the world, but it is especially devastating in Haiti, where people are acutely vulnerable because of poor infrastructure and extreme poverty," said Edward Brown, World Vision's relief director in the United States.

Several bloggers have posted about Haiti. And they have great ideas of ways to help, too. Nathan Bransford suggested Doctors Without Borders, saying: "If you'd like to donate to Doctors Without Borders, you can do so here, and you can keep up with their progress here." Another way to donate via Other Lisa: "Text "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 to @RedCross relief efforts in #Haiti. It is *that* simple. Learn more here." Karen mentions an organization,  Bethany Christian Services,which she's actually worked with previously, and says " can donate directly to one of the orphanages with which Bethany works, GLA Hait" Me? I've always supported World Vision. It's sometimes hard to tell which organization uses the funds to the greatest aid, but I have faith in this Christian-based organization.

You don't have to give everything. But the holidays were recent, and think about all the blessings you've had recently. If you can, consider sharing some of that. If not, just share a prayer. That's cool, too.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Speaking of Janice Hardy

If you've not checked out her blog on writing today, make sure to do so. It's got some brilliant ideas on planning a novel.

Interview with Janice Hardy

Yesterday, I reviewed Janice Hardy's excellent MG debut, THE SHIFTER. Janice graciously agreed to do an interview, and here it is! Thanks so much, Janice!

We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?
I have pointed ears. Not full-on elf pointed, but enough that I think there might be an elf in my family tree somewhere.

As a child, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?
My favorite book was THE SECRET GARDEN, and still remains one of my all time faves. My tastes have changed, but I still love science fiction and fantasy just as much as always. I find myself being drawn more to great characters with great problems as I get older.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer actually (grin), but I also really wanted to be an archaeologist.

How much of you is in your book? Is there a character like you? Is a situation in the book derived from real life?
I think a lot of me is in the book on some level, since everything comes from my imagination and my life experiences. But there's nothing specifically me or anything in my life in there. No, "Oh, that character was based on Uncle Bob" or anything. I draw from everywhere to create my stories, and the weirdest things can inspire me in the strangest ways. I think all the characters have bits of me in them, even if it's exaggerated for the story. Nya has my impulsiveness, and my ability (or fault?) to dive in without thinking, but thankfully I'm not as bad as she is. Aylin has my go with the flow attitude. Tali has my idealism. Danello my pessimism when I'm having a bad day. And, the bad guys always tap into my evil dark side.

What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages?
I got the original idea about six years ago, and I wrote a terrible outline and then stuck it in a drawer. Totally forgot about it. Then a few years ago I went to a conference (Surrey International Writers Conference) where they stressed original ideas. That was the end of October 2006. I came home, dug through my old ideas to see if I had anything fresh, and found the old outline. It was still terrible, but the core idea of pain shifting stuck with me. I started planning and world building, and began the novel in January, and finished it around June. Then revised a bunch of times. I started submitting it to agents in mid-September, and signed with my agent on Halloween. (I pitched her at the next Surrey, actually). We did a few months of edits and tweaks, and she started submitting it to editors the end of May. We sold it the end of June. So that's what? A year to write and get an agent, eight months to revise and sell. And then fifteen months until it hit the shelves (which is actually pretty fast). Wow, almost three years from when I started writing to when it released.

The Shifter was an astonishingly easy book to write. If I hadn't had three other novels rotting in a drawer I'd have thought this whole writing thing was easy. I knew after a few chapters that I had something special, which felt great, and a little nerve wracking. I had always done third person before, but Nya just spoke to me in first. First person had always scared me a little, because it can be a hard POV to write in, but I found out it's where my strengths lie. I was hyper nervous when I started submitting, because I knew this was the best book I'd ever done. Rejections were going to be extra hard since I felt so good about it. And if I couldn't sell this one, how could I ever do better? Luckily, even my rejections were positive, and I got multiple requests, which really helped my confidence. I knew even if it got rejected, I'd taken an important step forward as a writer. I was at least writing on a professional level, even if they ended up hating the story.

Getting my agent was thrilling and wonderful and scary. Having an agent like your work is such a validation that you really can do this. And she brought great ideas to make the book even better, so I learned a lot working with her. Same with my editor. Selling my novel was amazing, and fulfilling. No matter what else happened, I'd sold a real novel! I'd proven to myself I could do it. It's surreal to have a professional gush about your work and telling you all the things she loved about your book. Every writer should have this experience once in their lives, LOL.And then there's seeing your book on the shelves. There's no comparison. It's a spectacular feeling. Every time I go into a bookstore I have to take a picture. I have a whole collection now, and even my friends send them to me.

It's an emotional roller coaster for sure. Huge highs and lows. Even after I sold my book, I still had the doubts I had before. Was I a one-book wonder? Could I do this again? What if no one liked my book and it failed? Then there's the good stuff, like getting great reviews and having readers email you to say they just finished the book and loved it. Those make it all worth it.

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be?
My whole goal in writing is to tell great stories, so I don't need readers to take anything more than "what a great story" away from it. But I'd love for them to have a sense of wonder, or that rush you get when you read something that jazzes you up. As for a theme, hmmm...maybe that everyone has reasons for doing things we don't know about, so give the benefit of the doubt when you can (grin).

What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?
I hope to keep writing and selling books. I'd love to be able to write full time in five years, maybe have a bestseller (or two) in ten, and be well known in fifteen. I don't think I want to be super famous, (that would be scary) but it would be really awesome if people knew my books and characters, even if they didn't read the genre or know my name.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?
I assume you mean published writer? I think how much of a team effort getting a book to the shelves is. Everything is so interconnected, from the writer, to the agent, the editors, the sales and marketing team, the booksellers. There's the notion that you sell your book to "a publisher" and you're done, but so much more happens, and so many people work so hard to get that book out. It can be a little intimidating, because it's your baby and you want control, but it's also comforting to know folks are working hard to make your dream come true. Sure, maybe they're just doing their jobs, but those jobs are often their dreams, and they're just as excited as you are.

Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?
Read a lot, write a lot. It's the only way to improve.

What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest?
Plotting. I'm rarely at a loss for what to do next, even if it's not my story (I brainstorm with writing buddies a lot). Granted, that "next" isn't always great, but it's easy to toss that aside and try something new. Weakest... a friend of mine would say description since I usually skimp on that until forced to add more, but characterization is something I've struggled with. My best friend has really helped me with that over the years, (she's awesome at it) and has pushed me to get into my characters' heads and get to know them. It doesn't come naturally to me, and something I know I have to go back and work at after I'm done with a scene.

What's a writing pet peeve that you have?
Words used incorrectly. Like "peruse," which means to study in detail, or with great care, is often used to mean "skim." There are a handful of words like that I see all the time and it always drives me nuts. It probably shouldn't since I'm sure I made the same mistakes until I learned they were wrong, but I can't help it. (grin).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Today, in Class... Of Love and Crackheads

Today, in class, the kids were *supposed* to be studying for their massive final exam, which is tomorrow. They were studying in small groups reading over their study guides.

Kid 1: Man, I don't remember this stuff. Heian period Japan? What was that?

Kid 2: I dunno, but I think that has something to do with courtly love.

Kid 3: She's messed up! Doing all those drugs. She looks like she's on crack. She's just crazy.

Kid 1 and Kid 2: *blink*blink*

Kid 2: COURTLY love, not COURTNEY Love.

Kid 3: She's a crackhead.

Kid 1: *blink*blink*

Kid 3: I mean Courtney Love's a crackhead, not you!

Writer's Book Review: Janice Hardy's THE SHIFTER

Why I bought this book:  I first heard of Janice Hardy's THE SHIFTER from reading her agent's blog, Kristin Nelson's PubRants. Kristin first posted Janice's query, which instantly grabbed my attention (although there are some other posts on the production of the book here).

I thought the concept behind this book was intriguing, and I planned to buy it from first hearing about it from Kristin's blog. When I was in my local bookstore just before Christmas, though, I saw THE SHIFTER on sale...with a big "autographed copy" sticker on it. My bookstore owner had gone to a conference where Janice was and picked up signed copies for the store. Moral of the story: SHOP LOCAL INDIE BOOKSTORES, PEOPLE! :)

But I digress. THE SHIFTER was one of the best MG novels I'd read in 2009. I put it on the shelf next to Sarah Prineas's work, which you all know is a high compliment. This had a thoroughly engaging plot, brilliantly drawn characters, and a ton of excitement.

Elsewhere on the web: Janice's webpage is a well-done example of what an author's webpage should be, and she has both a blog about her book and one about writing.

Five Sentence Summary: Nya isn't a healer--her sister is. And although that means her sister has a warm bed and assured meals (and Nya doesn't), it's not entirely a safe position. Their land, recently defeated and now occupied, isn't a safe place to be. When healers start to go missing, Nya's worried...and when her sister winds up among the missing, she becomes determined to save her. And she can, because she also has a secret: although Nya can't heal pain like her sister can, she can transfer it--which is a pretty powerful weapon.

So what can we, as writers, learn from this book? Highlight for spoilers!

1. Realistic Worldbuilding: When I say Nya's world is vividly painted, I mean it. This is one of the most complete worlds I've read in a long time. But it's not like Janice hits you over the head with it. It's just there. For example, Nya calls her grandmother "Grannyma" and periodically tells the reader of saying her grandmother used to tell her. They're like common maxims we know, but twisted to fit their world. It's the little details like these that really work and make the world whole.

But it's also important to note that Janice doesn't dumb things down for the reader. If you read closely, you'll pick up on subtle racial issues (the idea that the losing side of the past war, the Gevegs, are lesser is a common idea among the other citizens). There's even hints at a darker world that Nya sees--her friend works outside a dance hall, insisting that the outside is safer. It's not spelled out, but the reason why its safer on the outside is hinted at.

2. Smart Characters: I hate it when a character isn't as smart as they should be. I recently read a book (that I won't be discussing here) where the entire plot would have dissolved if the main character asked one simple, obvious question. The character never asked that question--until the last chapter. Nya and her friends don't do this. And I appreciate it.

Sure, Nya's impulsive. And she does do some stupid things sometimes. But they're logical for her character. When Nya confers with her friends for suggestions, she listens. When her best friend offers help, she accepts. She's not just a brainless engine for the author to pull along the plot, and the book is all the more interesting because of that.

3. Unique Magic: There is a clear, solid foundation to magic in Nya's world. I suppose I should group this in with worldbuilding, but it's distinct enough to deserve it's own bullet here. Janice created a truly unique magic system, where pain can be taken from the body and transferred to a large mineral, pynvium. There's decent explanations as to why Nya's different (she can transfer pain from person to person, but not to pynvium), and plenty of hints about her powers differences that I hope can be explained in future books.

Quibbles: Actually...none. I really liked this one. I devoured it in a few days, and loved every second of reading it.

The Bottom Line: This is a brilliant work, I loved it! Go buy it!

And make sure you check out tomorrow's post for a special interview with Janice Hardy on her latest book!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Yat-Yee posted a quote found originally by Nandini, which is the dedication in Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie.
Z emble, Zenda, Xanadu:
A ll our dream-worlds may come true.
F airy lands are fearsome too.
A s I wander far from view
R ead, and bring me home to you.
The full story of this unique dedication can be found here, but the thing that really struck me was that third line: "Fairy lands are fearsome too."

That one line, I think, is the key to modern fairy tales. It's the key to the really old ones, too--the ones that were used to frighten children into submission with squirrel shoes and missing eyes.

My point is: good fairy tales scare us. There's no point to the fluffy-bunny-happy-ending. By nature, fairy tales involve a certain level of magic--and that magic generally provides a certain level of comfort. Everything will be OK because magic can save us.

But the really good fairy tales balance that out with danger.

This is true of all speculative fiction--and all fiction in general, if it's good. The good, the safe, the comforting must be counter-balanced by the fearful, the dangerous, and the spiteful. JK Rowling expressed this several times throughout the Harry Potter series--
Stephen Fry:
People often say in the real world: "I haven't got a magic wand to cure all the worlds ills," but what you show is that people with a magic wand still can't cure all the ills.
JK Rowling:
No, that's because it's about human nature and all the people with less pure motives have magic wands too, so you spend a lot of time trying to legislate for them.

So, whatever you're writing, remember: fairy lands are fearsome too. Raise the stakes, make the safe dangerous, and make the reader fear.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Book, too, can be a Star

A book, too, can be a star, “explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly,” a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.
--Madeleine L'Engle

I first saw this quote on Lu's blog, Regular Ruminations (a great blog, btw, that you should totally read), and it intrigued me. So much so that I sought out the source of the quote in order to read the context.

The quote is from Madeleine L'Engle's Newberry Award Acceptance Speech in August, 1963, entitled "The Expanding Universe" and is available in full here.

It is absolutely worth reading in its entirety, but I found this bit here to be particularly brilliant.

...I took a course in college on Chaucer, one of the most explosive, imaginative, and far-reaching in influence of all writers. And I’ll never forget going to the final exam and being asked why Chaucer used certain verbal devices, certain adjectives, why he had certain characters behave in certain ways. And I wrote in a white heat of fury, “I don’t think Chaucer had any idea why he did any of these thing. That isn’t the way people write.”
I believe this as strongly now as I did then. Most of what is best in writing isn’t done deliberately.
... I heard a famous author say once that the hardest part of writing a book was making yourself sit down at the typewriter. I know what he meant. Unless a writer works constantly to improve and refine the tools of his trade they will be useless instruments if and when the moment of inspiration, of revelation, does come. This is the moment when a writer is spoken through, the moment that a writer must accept with gratitude and humility, and then attempt, as best he can, to communicate to others.
...Very few children have any problem with the world of the imagination; it’s their own world, the world of their daily life, and it’s our loss that so many of us grow out of it....

Monday, January 4, 2010

Music Monday: Across the Universe

This is a big day for me. And this is a good song for that day. "Across the Universe" is my favorite Beatles song, and NASA agrees with me.

On February 4, 2008, NASA beamed a transmission of "Across the Universe" into space. From the NASA website:

The transmission was aimed at the North Star, Polaris, which is located 431 light years away from Earth. The song will travel across the universe at a speed of 186,000 miles per second. Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney expressed excitement that the tune, which was principally written by fellow Beatle John Lennon, was being beamed into the cosmos.

"Amazing! Well done, NASA!" McCartney said in a message to the space agency. "Send my love to the aliens. All the best, Paul."
Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, characterized the song's transmission as a significant event.

"I see that this is the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe," she said.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

PS: Newsletter

I sent out a copy of the newsletter to everyone on the mailing list today. It's got what the next contest prize will be. If you didn't get a copy, but you wanted one, then sign up in the box on the left, or email me!

Celebration Contest Winners

WOW! This was, by far, my largest contest. We didn't quite get enough followers for the super special surprise prize, BUT once I *do* get 300 followers, I'll hold another contest and randomly give one of the 300 the prize. (I've already got the prize here, and it's spiffy. So spiffy that I bought myself one, too.)

For those of you interested, the most popular prize (by far) was Megan Whalen Turner's THE THIEF--over half of you wanted a copy of that book! I don't blame you--it's quite good!

OK, OK, on to the winners...

According to, the winners of the Celebration Contest are....

#275: Lena, you won a copy of Megan Whalen Turner's THE THIEF

#394: Christina, you also won a copy of THE THIEF

#657: Ello, you won a $10 gift certificate to Amazon

Congratulations, winners! Emails are zinging your way right now!

Contest Closed!

The celebration contest that opened on December 15th is now closed! Thanks for playing everyone--I'll be tallying results and posting winners soon.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Best of the Next Decade

In the next decade, I hope I get...
  1. ...a book deal.
  2. ...a lot more book deals.
  3. ...a baby, or maybe two.
  4. ...a chance to be a full time writer.
  5. ...ten (twenty, thirty, a hundred) more happy years with my husband.
  6. ...everyone I love, happy together as much as we all want.
  7. ...a chance to travel somewhere entirely new.
  8. adventure grander than I can imagine.
  9. ...all the joy that I can wish.
  10. ...and world peace!