Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book Review: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

                The False Prince is bound to be yet another Scholastic success story. I loved it. It kept me reading late into the night, its pages like barbeque potato chips (my guilty pleasure); I wanted to indulge in another and another.  The book isn’t scheduled for release until mid April, but I was lucky enough to win an ARC from a blog contest. You’ll definitely want to put this book on your to-read list, especially if you have young readers in your house.
                The book is touted as a YA fantasy, but there is not much fantasy past the make-believe kingdom of Carthya, with its royalty, castles, and orphanages. Since I’m not into mystical creatures that I can’t keep track of, that made it all the better for me. What this story did have was characters that jumped from the page. I loved Jennifer’s ability to create distinctly different, memorable characters. This was especially the case with her protagonist, Sage. He certainly had an attitude. It was reckless enough to be interesting, but not to the point of making you nervous. I couldn’t help but cheer for him. I loved how she gained her inspiration for this character from the lines of a song, “I knew all the rules, but the rules did not know me.”
                Sage is one of four orphans who are taken from various orphanages as part of a treasonous plan by one of the king’s regents. Conner, the regent, knows that the king, queen and heir to the throne are dead, their deaths being kept secret for the time being. Conner’s plan is to pass off one of these orphans as the king’s other son, presumed killed by pirates four years earlier, though his body was never recovered. Sage must learn to pass as the lost prince in two weeks time. He knows that if he isn’t the one chosen to be the false prince, Conner will never let him live—he will know too much.
                The story is full of twist and turns, action and adventure. I met a small hiccup, however, when about two thirds through the book, the direction of the story took a turn. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t expecting this turn. I became confused for a moment and had to go back a few pages to clarify things. But this didn’t stop me from enjoying the ride. I can’t wait for the second in the series.
                Jennifer A. Nielsen lives in my neck of Utah, and that makes her success even more exciting to me as a fellow writer. I wish her the best with her new series.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday's Word: NiNoCon

the dojo

NiNoCon. What is that you ask? An awesome online writers' conference that is going to take place on Saturday, February 4th. I've interviewed the amazing Ali Cross, the brains and force behind the conference, to help you learn some more about it.

As a debut author with your first book out there, and another on its way, I’m sure you are very busy. Why did you take on the task of orchestrating NiNoCon?
Because I have a hard time backing down from a challenge? Because Angela Kulig, who proposed we do the conference together, is very convincing? Probably both. But also because WriteOnCon is an awesome event, and I thought we needed more opportunities to gather and learn together in a similar fashion.

What does NiNoCon stand for? 
Ninja Novel Conference. Because every writer who’s dedicated to their craft is a ninja writer!

When did you first get the idea of doing NiNoCon?
I think Angela first talked to me about it in September, 2011. And that’s all it took!

How did you come up with your ideas of how to implement it?
I have a fairly reliable platform I use to visit weekly with ninja writers on my blog, so I felt confident in the HOW. The trick for me was how to find willing (and awesome) presenters to participate.

How difficult is it for people to participate in an online conference?
I think online conferences are tremendously easy to participate in—that’s the beauty of them! Come in your pj’s, cereal bowl in hand, and hang out with us, or watch later at your leisure and still benefit with the awesome information shared.

What do you hope participants will take away from the conference?
That they can have a black belt in awesome too! That the only thing that stands between them and achieving their publishing dreams is hard work and determination—two commodities we all possess and can strengthen over time. I want writers to have their minds opened to all the publishing possibilitie, to leave the conference feeling inspired and encouraged to think outside the box.
Is there any way for you to monitor how many people actually participate?
You know, I’m not sure there is. Well, I’m sure there probably IS a way—I just don’t know it!

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing seriously for nine years now. Seems like so much longer than that! Feels like writing has always been a part of me.

What/who helped you the most in becoming an author?
The WHAT would be conferences, hands down. I have learned so much—mostly confidence and hope!—from the conferences (both online and in person) I have attended. The WHO would be my critique partners, both current and past, who believed in me enough to drag me through my down times and always encouraged me to keep, keep, keep on keepin’ on.
Thanks so much for helping to spread the word about NiNoCon, Carolyn! I appreciate you!

Now that you are excited and ready to participate, make sure you keep February 4th open and click on this link and return to it on  Saturday, February 4, 2012.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Review: Ice Fall by Matthew J. Kirby

                 I just got through reading Icefall, by Matthew J. Kirby for the second time, and I must say, I loved it even more this time around.
                The first time I read it was as part of my critique group, Matt being a member of our group. Matt originally wrote the novel as YA, Solvieg being almost seventeen. It was through the encouragement of his editor, and not without some reluctance on his part, that Matt made the change. It had been purely a marketing decision by Scholastic, not because his YA version lacked that unique Kirby flare that pulls in an audience and keeps them reading. They felt that keeping his second book as a middle grade (his first book, Clockwork Three was middle grade), would be beneficial to help Matt establish his brand. I thought Matt did a brilliant job of maintaining the intrigue of Solveig’s near-claustrophobic situation while changing the voice to a girl several years younger.
                The setting I found unique, a refreshing change from all the paranormal stuff out there: a lonely outpost at the end of a fjord just as it freezes over for the winter. Solveig is the middle daughter of a Viking king, sent there with older sister and younger brother, to be protected from the war with a neighboring land. Her brother is the heir to the throne. Her sister is beautiful—a potential means to unit two kingdoms through marriage. But Solvieg has nothing to offer—or so she thinks. I love the seeing the growth that Solveig undergoes as she learns to find her strength through the telling of stories, becoming a skald (a viking storyteller.) As she hones her skills and pushes her courage to the limit, she transforms into a character you can’t help but love. Especially when, at the end of the story, you see how she becomes more valuable and stronger than her sister and brother put together.
                Icefall is an excellent read for all ages. I highly recommend it. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that it has been nominated for the Hugo Award.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday's Words: Step Back

Some times we are so close to our work we can't see its flaws.

This is exactly what has happened to me with one of my novels I'm currently working on. I wrote it a few years ago, but recently went through it with, what I thought was, a set of editorial eyes. Then I sent it off to Tristi Pinkston for a final edit before I self-publish it. She told me that the plot lacked focus. As I read through it again, I realized that she was absolutely correct. The ironic thing about this, is that as a guest on her blog last week, I wrote about this very thing. I criticized the movie Super 8 for being all over the place with its story line--I didn't know what the movie was really about. And then I went on to talk about the importance of a story question: what does the protagonist want more than anything else?

So I have taken Tristi's advice, and my own advice, and reworked my manuscript, clarifying the novel's story question. (By the way, I am so glad I have submitted my novel Hattie's Promise to a professional editor before self-publishing it. Watch for its release this spring).

There is much to be learned from this embarrassing little faux pas. It only goes to prove how important it is to step back from our writing and look at it with a totally different set of eyes. And the best way to do this is to have someone else be that set of eyes. We are too close to our own stories. We know what our characters want and feel, but sometimes we are so busy jotting down the details that we forget to include these essential elements. An outside reader, however, starts out knowing nothing about our characters and the plot, and thus can more easily see the gaping holes that we may miss.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Oh, Those Dreaded Typos

I'd like to welcome Tristi Pinkston as my guest blogger. Tristi is one to give a leg up to new authors like me. I always appreciate what she has to say and would like to tell her thanks for sharing blog posts today. (I've posted on her blog. Hop on over and check it out).

As authors, we spend days/weeks/decades working on our projects, and by the time we’re done, we have every word memorized, and we could recite the entire thing from start to finish almost without taking a breath.  We’ve read it so many times and revised it so many times that we’re sick to death of it and just want it to go away.  It’s no wonder, then, that we often don’t see the typos or other mistakes that remain.  We become blind to them.

This is one of the many reasons I advocate putting your manuscript off to the side for a little while before doing a final read-through.  If you go through eight rounds of edits and then dive right in to the last, chances are, you’re not going to see everything because it’s still right in the forefront of your brain.  If you put it aside and start something new, or take a couple of weeks off and read or watch movies or do something else you enjoy, your eyes will be fresh when you come back to it, and you’ll be able to see those mistakes much more clearly.

Typos not only make your work seem unprofessional, but they can sometimes be very … unfortunate.  I’ve found some that have been crass, crude, politically insensitive—all because of a missing word or a misspelled word.  I don’t want you to try to figure out what some of them might have been—that wouldn’t be a productive use of your time—but you can understand my meaning.  If you’re not careful to send out your draft as mistake-free as possible, you run the very real risk of causing offense without even knowing what you had done.

So take a deep breath and save the file.  Step away from it.  Fill your mind with other things.  Then, in two weeks or four weeks, when you’ve been outside for a picnic or you’ve watched Pride and Prejudice again (the Colin Firth version, which is the only true version, in my opinion) and your brain is recharged, dive back in.  Don’t force yourself to crank out your final edit within minutes after finishing the last one—you won’t be nearly as effective, you’ll give yourself a headache, and you know you really want to go for a picnic … maybe even with Colin Firth.

Tristi Pinkston is a freelance editor and author services provider, and she’s also the author of eight published books, with her ninth coming out in just a few weeks.  You can learn more about her, her books, and her company by visiting

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday's Words: Small Things

. . . "that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass."  (Alma 37:6)

As I contemplate my smallness in the gigantic collective of current-day authors, I often ask myself, "Will my writing ever make a difference? (For this is my main motivations to write). No one would ever know, or care if I just silently slipped out of the picture."

But the hope contained in that simple scripture keeps me going. True, my books will probably never have the impact of Harry Potter, or even the Book Thief. But if they touch but one reader in a positive way, all my efforts will be worth it. For I know there are many more of my fellow moral conscious authors who feel the same. If I can touch one reader, and each of them can touch one reader, together we can make a difference.

A grain of sand
you can ignore.
But not when combined with wind
and a multitude more.
they can wear down
mountains of stone,
or even create
hills of their own.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wednesday's Word: Resolutions

When I looked up the word RESOLUTION in the dictionary in preparation to write about about New Year's resolutions, I discovered something I found interesting. The first of many different definitions (don't you just love the English language?), was not the one I was looking for. The definition I sought was down a ways: the thing determined upon; decision as to future action; resolve. But as I re-read that first definition, it gave my quest to accomplish my new year's resolutions a new slant.

That definition reads: the act or process of resolving something or breaking it up into its constituent parts or elements.

Why do most of my, and perhaps other people's New Year's resolutions fail to be accomplished? Because often they are too grandiose. In principle they are great, but in reality they are overwhelming. But if I were to break them up into smaller parts, perhaps they would not be overwhelming and be more easily accomplished. For example, my resolution to lose my Christmas fat. Instead of jumping into a hard core diet right away, perhaps I'll start with a resolution to cut out all junk food first. When my body becomes accustomed to that, I'll move on to another step towards health, etc., etc. And my resolution to find a literary agent, I'll start with polishing one of my manuscripts to the point of dazzlement (is that even a word?). And then I'll take the next step and the next. You get the picture I'm seeing?

I'm excited to get going. How about you? What are your New Year's resolutions, and how will you break them down into manageable steps?

Why do most
New Year's resolutions fail?
Why do they fall apart
before Winter's last stormy gale?
Because they're too big,
difficult, or scary.
So break them up
into a load you can carry!