Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays!!

My kids are home for winter break, and we've been having a great time. We've visited museums, gone ice skating, baked cinnamon rolls, banana bread, and cookies, and worked on a 2000 piece puzzle. Busy busy!! :) Of course, that also means I haven't gotten any work done, but that's okay. :) We're having a great time.

So I wanted to wish you all well this holiday season, and I hope you're having as much fun as I am. :) See you in the new year!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Interview with Karen Amanda Hooper

Today, I've got the fabulous Karen Amanda Hooper telling us all about her debut novel, Tangled Tides, which was released last month. This is just one stop in her blog tour.

Congratulations, Karen!! Tell us about your book.
Tangled Tides is an older YA fantasy novel about a girl who is turned into a mermaid and discovers she is the only soul who can save a world of sea creatures who are trapped in our Earth realm. It's full of magics, secrets, and romance.

What was the inspiration behind your idea?
The inspiration came from my love of mermaids which started when I was a toddler. Also, my lover for the ocean and my wild imagination about what might be going on beneath the surface.

How long did it take to get from the initial idea to a completed novel?
I wrote my first draft in about 5-6 months, and then I edited and revised for another 2-3 months. My critique partners always give such amazing feedback, and they helped make it a lot stronger.

How often do you write, and how much do you write in one sitting?
It varies for a million reasons. I'm bad with rules (as you can tell from my story being told from 3 different 1st person POVs) so I don't have a strict writing schedule. When I'm first starting a story I usually only write for an hour or two at a time, but once I get going on a manuscript my creative process becomes a little obsessive and I can write for hours on end.

Do you work on one project at a time, or multiple?
I focus on one at a time, but I play around with other ideas, or make notes for my future projects. I have random scenes written from three other story ideas, and I wish I could have all of them completed by yesterday, but as all writers know, telling a good story takes time.

Are you a planner, or do you write by the seat of your pants?
Seat of my pants all the way. I started an outline once and that same day I got the flu. I'm convinced the two were connected, so I'm not willing to attempt another outline because being sick drains my creativity.

Are you a paper person, or the computer-only-type?
I make notes on paper, and I might jot down a few lines or a scene here and there, but mostly I work on my laptop.

What does your writing space look like?
Ha. It's a small laptop desk that sits on my lap. While writing, I'm usually on my couch with my dogs napping on either side of me.

How much do you read, and what are you reading now?
I try to read one book a week, but if I'm super busy with my own project, or critiquing for writing partners, then sometimes I don't meet my goal. I just started CLOCKWISE by Elle Strauss and I'm loving it so far.

What are you working on now?
Book 2 of The Sea Monster Memoirs. And I'm thinking about submitting my other YA reincarnation based manuscript, but I'll probably go through it and revise it one more time before I do.

Congratulations on your book's release! And thanks so much for including Writer Musings in your tour so we can share in your success. :)
Thank you, and thanks so much for having me, Tabitha! :)

To see more of what Karen is up to, check out her website and her blog.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer

When Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemies, she's certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer, one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack and the man she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive.
I enjoyed Nightshade, for the most part. I had some issues with the characters, but the plot and the pacing were exciting enough to keep me interested and hope the characters would sort themselves out in the next book, Wolfsbane.

Well, not so much. My biggest issue with Calla in Nightshade was that she didn’t act like an alpha. She said she was, a lot, but her actions never matched those statements. The same thing happens in Wolfsbane, except she says it a whole lot more. It got tiresome after the first few chapters. Shay was the same forceful, arrogant, and closed-minded person that he was in Nightshade, amped up a few notches. I absolutely hated him by the end of Wolfsbane because he embodies everything a boyfriend should NOT be, especially at the end of the book. I was really bummed about that.

I was even more disappointed in Ren, though. I liked him in Nightshade. He was an obvious alpha, but he was also a good leader—he listened to Calla and respected her wishes. In Wolfsbane, he’s completely different. Even considering the pressure he was under from those around him, it still doesn’t explain his complete change in actions.

Most of all, there just wasn’t enough story to carry an entire book. The first 100 pages is all talking and posturing, and we still don’t learn much. When they finally go to rescue Calla’s pack, they make a stupid mistake—which is fine, because people make mistakes all the time. But they make the same kind of mistake when they go to Eden, and I just couldn’t overlook that. Plus, the 'big reveal' at the end didn’t feel so big because I’d figured it out in the first 50 pages or so. The plot in Wolfsbane wasn’t nearly as well thought out as Nightshade, which is really disappointing.

So many people are gushing about this book, and that’s great. I’m glad they’ve enjoyed it. I considered not finishing this book (which is HUGE for me), but wanted to know what happened to Ren so I kept reading. But it’s not at all my cup of tea, and I won’t be reading the next book.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Amazon Acquires Marshall Cavendish Children's Books

Last week, Amazon announced that it purchased the children’s trade division of Marshall Cavendish. There’s been lots of commentary and discussion around the internet, for good reason, I think. I sure didn’t see it coming. :)

Amazon hasn’t exactly been reserved in expressing their opinion about traditional publishing. When they launched their self-pub division, they gave frequent public statements about why traditional publishing is out of date and pointless. Then, they launched their Encore imprint, which is more in line with traditional publishing. I don’t know too much about it, though, since they don’t do much in the way of children’s fiction.

But now they’ve purchased Marshall Cavendish’s entire children’s trade business, which has an established publishing reputation and good editors that work on high quality books. One of their books was even nominated for the National Book Award this year. Amazon has no plans to change the way these editors do business, and announced that no one will be laid off. It seems like they want a solid foot in the traditional publishing world. The question is, why?

Honestly, I don’t know. Amazon goes to such extremes that it’s tough to discern what they truly feel about any subject. Plus, they haven’t exactly hidden the fact that they want to dominate everywhere, especially the book market. But this is what I hope will happen…

There are quite a few aspects of publishing that worked fine ten, even five, years ago. But with the recent explosion in technology and ebooks, plus the economy being what it is, some older practices aren’t working so well anymore. Amazon has lots of savvy business folks and innovative, forward thinkers. If anyone can modernize the publishing business, they can. And, they’re brave enough to experiment a bit to see what works and what doesn’t. Also, having a fully established, traditional publishing house under their roof might give them a bit more insight into what needs to happen in order to have a successful publishing business with high quality books listed in their catalog.

But still, it is Amazon, the company that wants to ‘take over the world.’ :) I don’t entirely trust them because they’ve done so many 180 degree turns, all in the name of promoting their latest venture. That said, I’m still hopeful. I have my fingers crossed that good things will come from this, both for the sake of Marshall Cavendish’s current authors, and for the future of publishing.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

39 Clues, last seven books

Series Plot Summary: Following the death of their grandmother, Amy and Dan discover that they’re members of the most powerful family in the world: the Cahills. The family is huge, with ancestors such as Benjamin Franklin and Mozart. And, there’s a family secret, which the grandmother sets in motion in her will. Each living member of the family may either take one million dollars as inheritance, or they can search for the 39 clues that lead to something more powerful than anyone can imagine. Amy and Dan choose the clues, and are thrown into an adventure that takes them all over the world.

A couple years ago, I started reading The 39 Clues series. It was enjoyable, both with strengths and weaknesses. I stuck with the series as each book came out, and I haven't been disappointed. The books are fun, and the initial awkwardness of the first three books is gone. The authors eventually figured out how to settle into unified roles of Amy and Dan Cahill, and even Nellie (their au pair). They authors even figured out how to make the characters grow in interesting ways, keeping them feeling consistent. I have to say that I'm impressed. Based on the first three books, I thought the series was going to be disjointed all the way through. Not so at all.

The adventures are fun and entertaining, and I often read each book in a day. And then was looking forward to when the next one would come out. I was a little worried about the fact that there were 39 clues but only ten books, however I really like the way the series ended. The concepts and themes introduced are ones I find interesting anyway, and I like the way the series explores them.

My eight year old son discovered these books earlier this year. He and a few of his classmates love them, and he's read them all. He's even moved onto the next series, Cahills vs. Vespers. I read the 39 Clues book 11, which is basically setup for Cahills vs. Vespers, and am intrigued. I think I will be reading this next series with my son. :)

Monday, December 05, 2011

A Bunch of Articles on Character

I've created another PDF of a compilation of articles, this time on Character. Writing overlaps so much that it's hard to separate it out into subjects like this, so I did my best to choose the articles that directly affected character in a story.

Here's what the PDF contains:

  • Various ways of creating characters
  • Dialogue
  • Point of View
  • Thoughts

So, if that sounds interesting to you, feel free to download it here. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

December Book Giveaway!

Another month, and two more books! Here's what I've got for this month.

ARC of Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Every other day, Kali D'Angelo is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She goes to public high school. She attends pep rallies. She's human.
And then every day in between . . .She's something else entirely.
Though she still looks like herself, every twenty-four hours predatory instincts take over and Kali becomes a feared demon-hunter with the undeniable urge to hunt, trap, and kill zombies, hellhounds, and other supernatural creatures. Kali has no idea why she is the way she is, but she gives in to instinct anyway. Even though the government considers it environmental terrorism.
When Kali notices a mark on the lower back of a popular girl at school, she knows instantly that the girl is marked for death by one of these creatures. Kali has twenty-four hours to save her and, unfortunately, she'll have to do it as a human. With the help of a few new friends, Kali takes a risk that her human body might not survive. . .and learns the secrets of her mysterious condition in the process.
ARC of The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten
When her boyfriend breaks up with her on the first day of sophomore year, Lucy has no idea how she’s going to make it through homeroom, let alone the rest of her life. Enter three stunning girls with a magical offer Lucy can’t refuse. All she has to do is get a guy to fall in love with her in the next seven days, and then…break his heart and collect one of his brokenhearted tears. As the girls teach Lucy how to hook a guy (with the help of a little magic), she quickly discovers how far she is willing to go—and who she is willing to cross—to get what she wants.
To enter, fill out the form below. Then come back on Saturday, December 31st to see if you've won. Good luck!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she's spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed. Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can't be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.

The premise of this book is just too cool. That concept of language dividing class really illustrates the power of words, and my writer geek got all excited. :)

I really liked Charlie. She’s interesting, has an easy-going nature, a great sense of morality, and she’s smart. Her friendship with Brooklyn felt real, and I liked the irony of her submissiveness to Brooklyn and the significance of her gift of languages. Charlie grows into herself in this story.

The end had a tiny contrived moment that hugely impacted the rest of the story, which brought my enjoyment down a notch. If subsequent actions hadn’t been based on that tiny moment, then I could have easily dismissed it. But since the rest of the ending was dependent on that moment, I had a hard time believing it. I was completely riveted up to that point, though.

I’ve heard mixed reactions to the epilogue so far. I’m not usually a big fan, but this one worked (for the most part). There was one jarring moment between Charlie and Max, but I think it was because I didn’t really feel the passage of time. Though it is laid out in the epilogue, so I’m not sure what to think on that. Maybe it just came too much out of the blue. But I did like the very end of the epilogue, which opens things up to another book yet still gives me a satisfying ending to this story. I like stories like that.

Overall, this is a very entertaining read, and if there’s another book then I’ll be reading it. :)

100 Book Reading Challenge: December

Well, I'm at 64 books so far, so I think it's safe to say I'm not going to reach 100 this year. Too many things going on. But I have been getting a lot of writing done, which is good. So I'd say it's a fair trade-off. :)

This will be the last giveaway for the 2011 reading challenge, and it's been tough to keep up with it so I probably won't be carrying it over into next year. But I will keep doing the regular monthly giveaways.

This month, I've got a couple great books to give away.

Hardback of Legend by Marie Lu
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
ARC of How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Jill MacSweeney just wants everything to go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. You can't lose one family member and simply replace him with a new one, and when her mom decides to adopt a baby, that's exactly what it feels like she's trying to do. And that's decidedly not normal. With her world crumbling around her, can Jill come to embrace a new member of the family?
Mandy Kalinowski knows what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, she knows she wants a better life for her baby. But can giving up a child be as easy as it seems? And will she ever be able to find someone to care for her, too?
To enter, fill out the form below. You may join this challenge at any time. Also, you must follow these rules, or your entry will be disqualified:
  1. One URL per entry, and that URL must directly link to a book review. A general link to your blog or Goodreads profile isn't specific enough (I simply don't have the time to go sifting through the hundred or so of these entries to figure out what everyone is reading).
  2. You may enter as many times as you like, BUT you must keep to the one URL per entry rule. Otherwise your entry will only count as one.
  3. You must have reviewed the book IN DECEMBER. Past reviews don't count.
FYI--to get to a direct link to your Goodreads reviews, click on the title of the book, and then click on the "My Review" heading just above where you type in your review. A link to your profile will render your entry invalid.

Come back here on Saturday, December 31st to see if you've won. Good luck!!