Friday, May 28, 2010

Happy Friday! Happy Memorial Day! Happy Freedom! Happy Long Weekend! Happy Start of Summer! Happy (insert your own here)!

A big thank you to all who commented on my WIP yesterday, especially those of you who gave me such good ideas on how to make secondary characters come to life. They are all helping a ton right now. Seriously. I also happened upon Martina’s AMAZING four-part tips of characterization. Go check out Adventures in Children’s Publishing if you have time. Honestly, it is way better than anything I have to say.

What? You’re still here? Okay. Fine.

Then I have some sweet awards to pass on.

You are my Sunshine from my separated-at-birth-twin, Myrna. Thank you, Myrna-pronounced-MURRnah (because I actually asked)!

This is to honor a few commentors who make blogging days around here bright and shiny, so I’m going to pass this one on to:

KarenG (Check out her contest!)
Margo (Her blog is gorgeous!)
Anna (She's got the Storybug blog, but even more at!)

Aubrie (Check out the drawing for her book!)

Danyelle (She's often got a Belle of the Ball Blog Tour giveaway!)

Happiness 101 from Margo, who likes High Altitudes as much as I do. Thanks, Margo!
It may say 101, but I’ll spare you and only give you ten things that make me happy:
1. Getting up for the sunrise, with laptop in hand and stillness in the hour.
2. Watermelon. Fishing. Camping. Preferably together.
3. NBC’s Chuck
4. Long hikes after sunset.
5. Summer Reading Fun!
6. Summer in general, especially when the monsoons hit.
7. Asian Orange Chicken.
8. A clean house. Particularly when I didn’t have to clean it.
9. My son’s belly laugh.
10. My oldest daughter reading a book she’s really into.
I tag:
Elle Strauss
Myrna Foster
Sharon Mayhew
Theresa Milstein

Do what you will with the awards, I’ll not be offended.


what’s everyone doing with the long weekend?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

First Five and C.R.A.P.

My brain is fried and my eyelids are about to drop, but I want to check in and say, "Hi, ya'll!"

(I'm allowed to say ya'll even though I don't live in the south because I'm a country girl.)

So I'm stuck. I'm going to try and write through it today, but it's been a while since I've been at a plot stick. Usually they're character sticks.


I really, really struggle with this. Especially right now as I work on the May Scramble/Challenge.

But I'm loving the WIP still (at page 95), even though the writing is C.R.A.P.(tastic) first draft stuff. We'll see if I can finish it and make something of it.

(In case I haven't told you about it, here's the little pitch I use for it: Raised, groomed, and set apart, Jedda Hitler was her Fuhrer grandfather’s personal project to prove that even a small girl could be turned into a killing machine. Now at seventeen the grandfather she despised is dead and she’s left with a name and a life she never chose.)

Just for fun, or more because I'm too tired to know better, here are the first five sentences. Feel free to criticize/critique. My love of this book seems to be impervious right now:
Grandfather Hitler would have never allowed such a slipshod in his army. That would be one thing you could have said for him. And yet this is the jailer they give me, a former Commissioner of Police, with his sagging belly and eyes that dart from the door to me.

He wipes the sweat off his upper lip. He is afraid of me, this officer.

As well he should be.

Oh, wait. That was six. Oops.
...Did I mention that I'm tired?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Make a wish, use your strength

Hey! Progress is occurring in the sidebar! How is everyone else doing with their own personal May Scramble?

At the bookstore on Thursday night I made a wish on that special place between Alexander and Anderson. It’s a place that I rarely let the longing carry me. But that night I had written over 2,000 words and I claimed it as my reward for the huge effort. And with a whispered wish, I said one thing, “I am strong enough.”

So many things about the publishing process are beyond the control of a writer, but one thing isn’t: attitude. Last week Elana “Just Got a Book Deal!” Johnson and Carolyn V. blogged about something near and dear to my heart: tenacity and attitude. They said, “You can do hard things.”

And this is true. If you believe in something hard enough, than you can do the work it takes. You CAN do hard things. And what’s more, you have done hard things in your life before, haven’t you? It’s just the next step to overcoming and making things HAPPEN. Of course there are days/times/moments when I think I can’t do the hard things. That the obstacles against me are insurmountable. But there is always someone out there that has a taller wall to climb than I do. I take courage from them when I need it.

Here are two I want to share:

I am strong enough. And YOU are strong enough. We CAN do hard things.

Q4U: What hard things have you done? What hard things do you want to do?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I like lists... a little too much.

Well, Hello! Thanks to all those participating and/or encouraging others with the Great May Scramble. It’s not too late to join up! I stole a smart idea from Sharon and started posting my daily progress in the sidebar. Hopefully it doesn’t become a source of either guilt or gloating to anyone. It’s all about challenging yourself, right? So no worries…
By my own definition of productive, I had a strong first day… it remains to be seen if I’ll have a strong finish. (Ha, ha.)
How goes the May Challenge for those of you participating?

I neglected to mention there are two other challenges I’ve committed to. They’re all year long reading challenges and by posting them, I’m hoping to commit better to doing them (since I haven’t so far):
 I. READING YA NOVELS IN VERSE. A couple weeks ago I accepted Caroline’s Verse Novel Challenge. Here are the ones I chose:
 1. Criss Cross By Lynne Rae Perkins
2. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
3. Out of the Dust or Aleutian Sparrow By Karen Hesse
4. Voyage of the Arctic Tern By Hugh Montgomery or Song of the Sparrow By Lisa Ann Sandell
5. Far From You By Lisa Schroeder or Home of the Brave By Katherine Applegate
Yeah, I fudged and gave myself wiggle room on the five I selected. The library has all of them on hand, so it’s just a matter of which I find first. Thanks for the challenge, Caroline! I’ve been interested to see what verse novels are all about for a long time.
 II. AN UPDATED/REVISED Debut Author Challenge LIST. In January I took Story Siren's 2010 challenge. And I need to recommit to it. Here's my list:
 1. Julie Kagawa By The Iron King
2. The Unidentified By Rae Mariz
3. Leaving Gee's Bend By Irene Lathan
4. Princess for Hire By Lindsey Leavitt (DONE!)
5. Scones and Sensibility By Lindsay Eland
6. Paranormalcy By Kiersten White
7. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins HEX HALL
8. A Most Improper Magick (The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson) By Stephanie Burgis
9. The Mockingbirds By Daisy Whitney
10. The Rise Of Renegade X By Chelsea Campbell
11. Kid Vs. Squid By Greg Van Eekhout
12. Hunger By Jackie Morse Kessler
13. Seventh Grade Superzero By Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich
14. Tortilla Sun By Jennifer Cervantes
15. Prophecy Of Days By Christy Raedeke
I’ve only read one to date so I’ve got to get going on these! The one I have read is awesome and you can find Lindsey’s interview here. (FYI: If you like Janette Rallison’s writing, I think you would love Lindsey’s as well.)

 And since this post was pretty much about me and the obsessive lists I make and remake, I’ll add something cool from my kids:

It new. It’s great. And my kids love it (especially the train fanatic three year old)! He may not get all the humor, but what he gets he thinks is hilarious. Check it out.

Have a great weekend and see you around the blog block!

Monday, May 17, 2010

CHALLENGE: The Great May Scramble

I happened to look at a calendar today. Did YOU know that it's the 17th of May?! That means in two weeks, I'll have all the kids home. While a good thing, it also means that my productivity will go way down. So I am committing myself to a new goal:

Want to join me?

For the next two weeks, I will write 1,000 words and visit at least 10 blogs every day.

Sound too much for some schedules? Okay, fine. I’ll make two options and even throw in prizes:

Option 1: From today to the end of the month, write 1k/day and visit 10 (different) blogs/day. You are welcome to claim up to three passes should you start late or not meet your goals three times. And of course, you can always take as many make-up days as you need (e. g. write 2k in one day rather than 1k).

Option 2: Write 200 words/day and respond or visit every commenter to your blog.
ETA: This word count does not have to be a new piece. It can be revision, journaling, or simply blogging. Writing anything counts on this.

Sound good?
 On Tuesday, June 1st we'll meet back and post if we met our goals. Those that took Challenge #1 will be entered into a drawing for a lucky reader’s basket of my design, prizes around here SOME PEOPLE (*cough, Shelley, cough*) have considered lucky. Those that took Challenge #2 will be entered in to win one of my favorite motivational books for writers: Walking on Alligators by Susan Shaughnessy.
 I know there are other challenges, but if you're interested in joining me, I'll be so grateful. It will help motivate me too, you know. (Besides, I’m going to enter my own name into the drawing this time. It’s going to be THAT good. Ha!)
 So prizes! Productivity! Who’s in?

If not, just leave a comment that you stopped by. Then I can visit yours and count it in my tally today. *grins*
 Happy Monday!

P. S. If you missed seeing The Many Adventures of Courtesy and Patience's book trailer, please check it out. For my sake. Thanks!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Super Secret Project Revealed

After all my hype about a super secret project, it's finally done. Yeah, it's a trailer for The Many Adventures of Courtesy and Patience (the manuscript on submission). My husband and I did it together and it was actually a fun project. My eye for beauty and his mad computer tech skills made for a great bonding activity. I highly recommend it over trying to move furniture together, you know, what with all the fighting that occurs in that situation.
Anywho... watch it. See what you think. Leave me the think.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday Throw Up

I didn’t get my super secret post up yet. Sorry. It’s taking longer than I had hoped and my computer doesn’t like the software I need, so I have to work on it on my husband’s computer when we’re both home and alone. Which is rarely. I’ll post it as soon as I can. In the mean time, I thought I’d throw up a list (as in throw it onto the screen, not as in throw UP all over the screen) of what’s been going on with me.

1. Potty-training the Great Reluctant One… Need I say more?

2. Teething. Which means minimal sleeping going on and a baby who does not want to wean because where is her comfort without that? Not cool, I say. (What about MY comfort?)

3. Arthritis in my hands. Hard to type. (But even with that, I still managed to bust out 2,000 words on my WIP yesterday. The rest of my work load suffered because of it, however.)

4. Long walks. (Running is a much faster form of exercise, I should be doing that. Yeah, except it means I would actually have to RUN. Without anything chasing me.)

5. I was promised four (FOUR!) hours of uninterrupted writing time for Mother’s Day. It’s all I’ve been looking forward to this week.

6. I’ve already told you that three agents have Courtesy and Patience right now. I found another agent that seemed so wonderful I had to send out just. one. more. query.

And so I did.

Problem is that she only accepts exclusives and I didn’t know it. So when she requested the manuscript, I embarrassingly had to tell her it's out to three other agents already and then I looked like I was out to collect as many requests/rejections as I could. (Not the case at all. I am not a sadist, I promise.)

7. And I’m beginning to worry this is all my children see when they look at me. Really, I need to play more, ignore less…
P.S. I'm not a whiner. Okay, I am. But only in fine print.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Cursed Winner!

Just a quick note to say....

Congrats to Taffy, the Book Addict, for winning a copy of A Curse Dark as Gold! (Taffy, please email me your address at jackee(dot)alston(at)gmail(dot)com so I can send the book out ASAP.)

Thanks to all those who participated. I'm sure I'll soon be giving away a preorder of Starcrossed, so check back!

........ in the meantime, I'm working on a super secret project I hope to have posted for you to see tomorrow or Wednesday.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hard is the Heart That Loved Naught in May

Whew! I kind of disappeared again after Spread the Awesome. (BTW, don't forget to sign up for the book giveaway.) Sorry about that! My internet connection has been sporadic all week. And when not completely down, it's been way too slow. (You know those little dragons you can use in Windows rather than the wait hourglasses? Well, we're not friends anymore, the yellow one and I.)

But it’s May! And I can’t stay mad at little, yellow dragons that make me wait when May weather is here. When we don’t have spring, gale-force winds in Flagstaff we have the best weather anywhere—warm, yet never above 80 degrees. And then as summer moves in and the tempuratures start to rise, the monsoons come and cool it down again. I love it.
You know what else I love?
Blog tags and blog awards. Here are a couple I received while I was on blog break last week:

Blogging buddy award from Susan Fields. If she didn’t live so darn far away, I’d give her a hug, just like in the picture (I would be the short, blue one). Susan also tagged me in this cool questionnaire:

Where were you five years ago?
1. Working on a PhD
2. Preparing to move to Flagstaff, AZ and our “first, real job”
3. Hiking all over in the sagebrush and dragging along a two year old with me
4. Eating out way too often, what between traveling all over Utah and living in a city that has some great restaurants
5. Trying to sell our house and HIGHLY stressed out about it
Where would you like to be five years from now?
1. Still writing, hopefully a book a year
2. With at least some of those said books published
3. With all three kids in school (As bittersweet as that will be.)
4. Twenty pounds lighter (this last baby packed it on)
5. Building my own addition onto the house (Complete with library loft!)
What is your to-do list today?
1. Finish The Laundry Pile of DOOM
2. Write a blog post and hit blogs I missed last week
3. Clean for company
4. Tai chi and yoga practice
5. Change a dozen diapers, including those from the kid who refuses to potty-train
What five snacks do you enjoy?
1. Veggie chips & ranch
2. Grapes
3. Emerald’s cocoa-covered almonds
4. Coconut M&Ms—tried those today and now I'm hooked!
5. Watermelon
What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
1. Pay off my house and other debts
2. Set up a dozen different charities
3. Build the addition mentioned above
4. Plant a thousand trees
5. Buy a new truck
I tag for the Blogger Buddy Award some of my first blogging friends:
Myrna @ Night Writer
Shelley @ The Storyqueen's Castle
Susan Quinn @ Ink Spells
I tag for the meme (because I want to know their answers):
Wendy Ramer
Roxy Haynie
Jemi Fraser

Next, the lovely Roxy, @ A Woman’s Write gave me pretty Mr. Quillfeather:

I pass him on to some of my new blogging friends:
Michele Emrath @ Southern City Mysteries
Caroline Starr Rose @ Caroline by Line
Natalie Bahm, the Wife, Mother, and Writer
Rayna Iyer @ Coffee Rings Everywhere

Lastly but not leastly, the Wonderful Wendy @ On n' On n' On gave me the Beautiful Blogger Award

Here are the 7 things about me that go along with this award:
1. I won’t drive across the Navajo reservation at night because I’m afraid of Skinwalkers.
2. When I was thirteen I attempted my second novel, a cliché Old West romance between a handsome, young prospector and the wealthy, Nevada landowner’s daughter. My first novel? A contemporary MG about a tomboy named Jym Shoe. I was eleven.
3. I once cleared trail through 34 downed trees in one day, all without a chainsaw. That night I fell asleep with my clothes on and my backpack still on my back.
4. I started going grey at eighteen.
5. I was twenty-five before I really read fantasy, then I realized I’d been missing out!
6. I’ve had heat exhaustion more times than I can keep count.
7. My favorite writing companions are water bottles, Lifesaver’s WintO’Greens (only the individually wrapped ones), and my own trail mix blend (Craisins, almonds, and dark chocolate M&Ms). My more COMMON writer companions are a baby on one arm and a toddler on the other.

I bequeath the beautiful blogger award to:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spread the Awesome! (And a book to boot.)

Thanks for all the kind wishes I received during my blog hiatus. It was wonderful to focus on my family for awhile, though admittedly hard to stay away from blogging. I missed some dang good posts and updates about my friends!
And I’m happy to say that the surgery went well for my son and the surprise birthday party was a hit for my oldest daughter.

But that’s not why I’m posting. I’m posting because today, it’s Spread the Awesome Day! Brain Child of Elana Johnson, around 60 bloggers are linked up to broadcast their mad-passion for some amazing books and authors.

My chosen topic?
Elizabeth Bunce!

Her first (and oh so lovely) book, A Curse Dark As Gold, came out in 2008 and was/is brilliant! (It even won the William C. Morris Debut Award.)

I like what the School Library Journal had to say about it: “Too stubborn to let go of the troubled mill that has supported her community for generations, Charlotte Miller takes over after her father's death, fighting impending disaster with bargains with a mysterious Jack Spinner that eventually threaten her infant son. Set in a rural valley in the late 1700s, this reworking of the "Rumplestiltskin" story includes ghosts, witchcraft, elements of Georgian society, and much earlier folk magic in the guise of a novel of manners. The leisurely paced narrative gathers steam as it becomes clear that the family and the mill have not simply had a long run of bad luck, but are seriously cursed. Readers need not be familiar with the folktale to see where Charlotte's efforts to save her mill are headed. Though their roles in the narrative are clear, secondary characters are distinctive: foppish Uncle Wheeler is more than a stereotyped villain, and Charlotte's eventual husband is an admirable romantic lead with unsuspected talents. A rich opening to Jane Austen's world for teens.”

My own two cents: The book is lush with history and deep characterization. While it’s not a nail-biting thriller, the pace picks up when it develops a ghostly exchange between the main character and her tormentor. What I like most about this book? It’s ambitious! Bunce takes on a fairy tale that is not only weird, but hard to follow. (A short impish guy wanting babies? Come on—I can’t even get my husband to smile at any baby that’s not his own. Then again, he’s not a short, impish guy….) She takes the story, adds a highly developed setting to it, and makes it believable and meaty. She makes it her own. 

And what’s better than this well-thought out book? Another one on the way! Ms. Bunce has her second Young Adult (YA) Novel, Starcrossed, coming out October 1st. Here’s the PD on it: “16-year-old Digger thrives as a spy & sneak-thief among the feuding religious factions of Gerse. But when a routine job goes horribly wrong and her partner & lover Tegen is killed, she disguises herself in a group of young nobles & sneaks out of the city. Accepted as a lady-in-waiting at the stronghold of the powerful Nemair, she finds new peace & friendship (*and* some new targets). But when an old client from the city comes to the castle, she realizes her hosts may be planning the ultimate uprising against the king and rather than true peace, she may be at the heart of the rebellion.”

Now to spread some fun on to you: Leave me a comment! If you need a topic, I would love a YA or MG book reccomendation (preferably a Historical Fiction but it doesn't have to be) and I’ll enter you in to win your own copy of A Curse Dark as Gold. If you already have this one, I’ll preorder Starcrossed for you. How’s that for neighborly, eh? I will draw a name on Monday, May 10th (8 pm PST) and as soon as I know the winner, you’ll know.

So bring on those book recommendations—my bursting-at-the-seams shelves need more company! And then after you’re done wowing me with your favorite books, go to my link-up buddy, Rebecca @ Sometimes Nonsense for more Spread the Awesome fun. You won’t regret it (and those of you obsessed with books will thank me)!