Friday, November 30, 2012

Link Blitz

Me and the doctor have become well-acquainted with each other this week as I battle this mutant cold (which may not be a cold anymore. I don't know what it is!). Hopefully my shiny new narcotics will help me get through the home stretch. I just can't drive anywhere in the meantime. ;)

Anyway, that's my excuse for today's short (and late) Link Blitz. /excuse

In other good news, I'll be hosting WIP Madness for December! I'm so excited! Never too late to join the hashtag party, and even if you're not a #WIPmadness participant, there will [hopefully] be some fun on the blog during the next four weeks!

Writer's Potpourri:

Too Good to be True? (Self-published Books)

Scare Readers with Your Mind, Not Your Monsters

The Agent Answers: Rewrites

What Question Should You Ask an Agent Who Offers Representation or Exclusive Revisions?

Other Babble:

Extremely Rare White Whale Spotted off the Coast of Spitzbergen

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Someday Stars: Meet Tiffany Demings

What’s your name, and where are you from?
My name is Tiffany Demings. In the writing world I like to go by TA Demings because I think it makes me sound writerly and sophisticated...otherwise I generally go by Tif. 

I'm from Richfield. If you don't know where that is, it's the belly button of Utah. Check a map and you'll see what I mean.

How long have you been writing?
I've been writing at least since the kindergarten when I learned to write out my name. I learned cursive in the third grade and have slowly combined cursive with an ugly scrawl that I can't even translate most of the time. I've been writing professionally since the 11th grade, which was when I won third prize (and consequently $25) in a BYU high school rewrite contest. Not long after that the New Era Magazine purchased one of my non-fiction short stories for $20, which they took about two years to actually publish. 

What genre(s) do you write?
I write a lot of things. I love to write poetry, and I was even a contest winner for a podcast called Word of Mouth. The funny thing about that is Charlie actually told me I won before the official contest people did (she was also a winner in that contest). I especially love non-fiction poetry, which if you think about it is most poetry. 

I've written some personal essays and had a couple of them published in student journals, but I don't write much of that anymore. 

My love is contemporary young adult fiction. It's my favorite stuff to read and has, thus far, been my favorite to write. 

My dream is to write picture books...someday. 

What’s your current WIP? Can you tell us about it?
I have two current WIPs. The first one is about a fourteen-year-old girl who has done something pretty awful and scary, but she's trying to keep it a secret and move on with her life...a little unsuccessfully. It's in what I call "chopped line," because it's not prose and it's not verse; it's just sparse (like I said, she's trying to keep a big secret). 

The second one is my NaNoWriMo novel, which is about a sixteen-year-old boy who wants to be part of this group called the Dare Devils, which does crazy tricks and stunts. I'm still figuring this one out, but basically he does everything to get into the club, even if it means abandoning some of his friendships, giving up his favorite sport, and doing something absolutely horrible to his best friend. I'm hoping he learns something at the end of it all, but like I said, I'm still working through it. 

What’s your current day job? How does it help or hinder your writing?
I'm really lucky because I don't really have a day job right now. This is probably the only reason I committed to doing NaNoWriMo, if I'm being honest. In the summers I work as a wild land firefighter and fire investigator. I make a lot of money because I end up working a lot of overtime, so I'm hoping I can go a couple more months without finding a "real-person" job. My goal, eventually, is to spend my summers fighting fires and my winters writing and revising my novels. If I can manage to do that then my day job will definitely help my writing because it'll give me a whole season to work on it. But, during this past summer I feel like I didn't get any writing done at all--again because of all those overtime hours. 

Who is your favorite author?
That's a hard question. I have multiple. Joan Bauer is one of my favorites because I love her fun, honest characters and because I wrote her an email once while I was in high school asking her how she started writing and if she had any advice for me as a writer--and she wrote me back!! She told me her story and told me not to get discouraged. To just keep writing.

I love Carol Lynch Williams--probably partly because she was my first mentor in novel writing, but also because she is a really good writer. Check out Glimpse and The Chosen One to see what I mean. Carol taught me to despise adverbs, and gave me a solid foundation in good novel writing. 

Along with Carol is Ann Dee Ellis. She has written two books that are very much like my fourteen-year-old girl story, which is how I learned of her. I showed my writing group some new writing experiments with the chopped line and they loaned me one of her books saying it was similar. The next semester I took a class from her. She is funny. And she's so good at taking a heavy issue and making it an easy read with funny and light-hearted spots. 
Finally, there's Virginia Woolf. She is just awesome in so many ways. If you want an easy access to her just watch The Hours--but I have to say that movie will make so much more sense if you read the book Mrs. Dalloway first. That book changed my life because there's a spot in the book where a man kills himself and around the time I was reading it I was in London and the exact same thing happened--a man threw himself onto the subway tracks and there was a very similar reaction from the group I was with in London as there was from the characters in the book. Also, a room of one's own--I"m still working on getting a room of my own so I can really, truly write :) 

Favorite book?
The Awakening by Kate Chopin--that book was the beginning of a big life-process for me, but I find it so intriguing because I hated every single character. How is that possible? 

I also love Mary Had A Little Lamp. It's a picture book and is brilliantly written--absolutely BRILLIANT. 

What other hobbies or activities do you do outside of writing?
I love to hike. Winter is hard for me, but I'm learning to hike in the winter too. And to go snow shoeing. Because of my Dare Devil novel I'm learning to long board, which has been a little scary, but very exciting. 

What is something unique about yourself?
I have a scar on my lip from my brother throwing a cat at me when I was young. 

Oh, and I have a duck named Clyde who I take on adventures with me. He has his own facebook page and has been to three different countries and about a dozen different states in the U.S. 

Do you have a blog, Twitter, and/or Web site we can link to? 

I'm TA Demings on Twitter , and my website is

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Microwave Fudge Recipe

This is one of my favorite desserts, and by far my favorite Christmas treat. It's become a sort of traditional gift for neighbors and friends as well--microwave fudge. Yep, all made in the microwave, and with just a handful of ingredients.


18 oz milk chocolate chips
2 cups marshmallows (mini preferred)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Dash salt
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts (+a little more for dusting)
2 tsp vanilla

Heat chocolate chips, marshmallows, sweetened condensed milk, and salt on high for three minutes, stirring every minute or so until melted. Stir in vanilla and chopped nuts.

Pour into a buttered 8x8 or 9x13 pan. Grind extra nuts in a food processor and sprinkle on top. Cover and chill. Makes approximately 1 1/2 pounds of fudge.

Do you have a favorite Christmas treat?

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Gripe with YA Book Covers

Okay, today's post is a little bit of a rant.

Young Adult book covers.

Seriously guys. What is up with the pretty-girl-in-a-dress meme?

Seriously. Nothing about these covers tells me what the book is about. Nothing makes me want to read them. They're like the ads in Seventeen Magazine that I always glossed over (well, back when I read Seventeen).

There's no intrigue to these covers. Heck, some of the models used don't even match the protagonist of the book!

The main character in this book, Yelena, has
long black hair and tan skin.

A great example is the book Liar by Justine Larbalestier, which went through a big online controversy due to the fact that the story's protagonist was black, but the girl on the cover was white. (And a quick Google search will tell you all about white-dominated [am I supposed to capitalize "white"?] YA covers, but I'm just complaining about the dresses and lack of creativity.)

Honestly, if my manuscript FOLLOWED BY FROST were to be published today, I already know exactly what the cover would look like, and it would fall right into this category (or the ever-popular here-is-one-half-to-three-fourths-of-my-pretty-face-taking-up-the-entire-cover trend):

A cover can do so much for a book--and we all judge books by their covers. Writers put a lot of effort into their manuscripts; I think it's high time publishers started putting some effort into their covers.

To end on a high note, here are some GOOD covers. :)

What do you think? Do you like the trend? What books covers have stood out to you?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Tomorrow!

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.

-W. T. Purkiser

Monday, November 19, 2012

Writing Group Q&A

I've heard it in every class and conference I've attended since my freshman year of high school--writing groups are a must for would-be authors. I've been in a writing group for just as long, hopping from one to the other (I think I've been in three and a half, now. Half, because one writing group replaced roughly half its members).

Why join a writing group?

Are writing groups worthwhile? Yes, absolutely! In the beginning they encouraged me to write. Once I was consistent with draft, they helped me see where I went wrong. Now writing groups catch all the mistakes I don't see and help me mold my story into something enjoyable, something publishable. Do you use a writing group?

How did you find your writing group?

How are writing groups formed? I found my first by joining a club that sponsored it. My second was one that a friend put together, and my third a teacher mashed together for me (which ended up being my best writing group ever, namely because everyone in the group wrote in the same genre and for the same audience, which I've discovered is crucial). I've been pondering joining a new writing group, or creating a new one, but I'm not sure where to look or how to start. If you're in a writing group, how did you get there?

What do you use your writing group for?

I originally did writing groups in sync with my current manuscript--I'd send in 1,000 to 3,000 words a week to be critiqued, and I critiqued in turn. However, I've now found that the alpha-/beta reader system works much better for me: I prefer to finish my entire rough draft and get an overall critique for it. Then I fix it, and send it to a second set of readers. I think this is harder for group function, however, as it demands a lot of work without a consistent schedule. What set-up works best for you?

How does your writing group function?

I've done groups in person, online, and via Skype. In-person is definitely my favorite, as it's more personal (on the flip side, it also encourages more banter and therefore creates longer sessions). Due to distance, I'm currently limited to online/Skype groups. Is there a style that you prefer?

I would love to hear about others' groups, and if you're in an online group looking for members, do broadcast it! Myself and other readers are bound to benefit from it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"U Got the Look" Meme

Laura at My Baffling Brain tagged me in the "U Got the Look" meme (the editor in me cringes at that title, ha) :). It's a fun meme--you search your current manuscript for the word "look" and then feel super guilty for how often you use the phrase and then post the surrounding paragraphs on your blog. So now I'll barf some of EMPIRE OF CRANES AND SPIDERS on you.

Disclaimer: This is a rough draft, guys. Take it in good humor. ;)

Her father, regal in his red and yellow silk, had already stepped out of his carriage and was inspecting the head of his white gelding. Guozhi, Bingwen, and Liwei waited for their own horses to be prepared, for they were old enough to attend the hunt as well. Chunhua wondered what it would be like to ride a horse and hunt through the leafy forest so full of music, of wild songbirds and buzzing insects, lucky crickets hidden beneath the foliage, but even when she matched her brothers’ ages she would not go. Women did not hunt, especially women like her. Chunhua used to think it unfair, but now she tried to look on her mounting brothers gladly, for at the end of the day they would be sore from their stiff saddles and tired from riding, and she would not be. A woman’s duties always became more refreshing when looked at in a different light. Still, Chunhua sometimes wished she had been born a boy.

Chunhua’s brush paused, leaving a spot of ink on the sandy parchment resting on her lap. She looked past the paper, seeing something beyond the stonework of her bedroom floor, listening to the faint sounds around her—the crackle of a dying fire to her left, the faintest clanking of practice swords carried on the wind, the muffled conversation of two serving women in the hall, growing louder as they reached her door, softer as they passed. The panting and buzzing of a cicada sounded from her window. A brave insect, to have flown so far, and so high.

“Chunhua!” the servant screamed, but her worry didn’t last long. Her fearful eyes looked up at Crow just as he reeled back and slammed his elbow into the side of her head. The woman’s eyes rolled back, and she collapsed at the feet of the first.

Chunhua nodded and, gripping Niu’s forearm, managed to get to her feet. She felt more or less steady, though her stomach rolled as though she had eaten soap, and the dim light—it came through a window in the hallway—made her head throb. She turned her head, trying not to look at the bodies of the men near the door, not wanting to identify them. Merciful lord, but the smell—

He released her, but Chunhua didn’t fight. He took a step back, and Chunhua clawed at the silk gag over her mouth, pulling it off in one, sticky peice. Sucking in a deep breath of air, she looked at the Zhizhu man and croaked, “I know you.”

He walked around the outer wall now, which was guarded heavily by Zhizhu in their mismatched armor, prepared for battle if any lingering Qizhongji soldiers decided to seek revenge or reclaim their honor. He thought of his brief meeting with Chunhua only days before. She claimed she could feel his emotions, but hers were harder to decipher. He had felt her fear when he grabbed her, understandably, and then her sorrow—or was it anger?—as she spoke of her father’s reign, and of his unquenchable debt. She had looked at him with such fire in her eyes, and for the first time since the siege, he felt like a criminal.

Few had come from Baishan, however. The differences in uniform were slight, but Chunhua knew where to look on the shoulder or collar to find the symbol of a soldier’s state or liege lord, even his rank. Most of the men were those stationed in Riluo State, and several from Guan State, but not the capitol itself. Nearly one hundred men had heeded the call of Jiang Pan and the Heir to Shengda. More would come, and more would wait on standby at their posts until Chunhua had need of them. The thought made her heart flutter like a moth in a cage of light.

What I learned:

  1. Apparently I never use the word "look" when I'm in Crow's perspective...
  2. I use this word too much! (I could have put SO MANY paragraphs on here...)
AND I get to tag my fellow writers. Excitement ensues.

T.A. Demings
Leigh Covington
S.P. Bowers
Michael Offutt
Alexia Chamberlynn

Do enjoy.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Snow in Salt Lake

Wednesday Husband and I made an unexpected trip to Salt Lake City for a friend's funeral. The viewing made me cry, the eulogies made me laugh, and the grave dedication made me thoughtful. I was glad to say my final goodbyes and wish my best to his family.

The plan had been to drive home Sunday morning, but a little something-something postponed our trip* about three hours:

This was actually taken BEFORE the brunt of the storm.
Cue me sliding on the freeway going only 20 miles per hour. It FREAKED ME OUT. I've never had to drive in such poor conditions before!

Husband and I pulled off the freeway and into a parking lot, where I called my dad and got the storm RADAR. After a while we started creeping north, then got back on the freeway, which had thankfully been plowed (all the while it is STILL SNOWING). Really glad we replaced our windshield wipers that morning.

Fortunately, the storm was heading south and we were driving north, so we broke out of it fairly quickly. Unfortunately, it made us drive the last half of our trip in darkness [AKA made Husband drive in darkness because he's super nice to me and took the wheel when I had jelly-butt], but thankfully the mountain passes were all clear. We got home around 9:30 PM. (So grateful that the time zone change saved us an hour!)

Our apartment was FREEZING (we have baseboard heating and turned it off before we left) and we woke up to snow this morning. Looks like the storm caught up to us!

*Trip also meant I only wrote about 1,500 words over the last five days. Sigh.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Empty Friday

Due to unexpected travel plans, I'm not posting a Link Blitz today. I know, you're heartbroken. This is the highlight of your week and I've crushed your hopes and dreams.

To compensate, here's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Someday Stars: Meet Sara Bowers

What’s your name, and where are you from?
 Sara Bowers. I was born in Seattle, grew up in Utah, and currently live in Georgia.

How long have you been writing?
Short answer: Forever.

Long answer: Since before I could write letters. One of my earliest memories is of asking my mom to write out sentences so I could copy them down. In kindergarten I wrote and illustrated, stories about princes and princesses who got married (even then I was an incurable romantic) that I took to show and tell. I started my first chapter book when I was eight. It was only ten pages (short chapters) but it was a start. I’ve been writing in one way or another all my life. But it was only a few years ago that I got serious about figuring out publishing and joined the online community.

What genre(s) do you write?
Mostly fantasy, though I’ve toyed around with contemporaries, YA, and picture books.

What’s your current WIP? Can you tell us about it?
I’m still in the honeymoon phase with my current WIP. I’m about 20K into the story. Since I’m a pantser I don’t always know where I’m going so it’s hard to write a synopsis or logline this early, but basically it’s about a young girl who is chosen to be the bride of the crown prince, but first she must save him from the Rusalka’s spell.

I’m also half way through the first draft of the sequel to the novel I’m shopping around. When Samuel’s daughter is kidnapped by selkies, he must search to the ends of the land and into the ocean to get her back.

What’s your current day job? How does it help or hinder your writing?
I’m a stay-at-home mom to two wonderful children, a three-year-old and a two-year-old. In some ways it gives me more flexibility. Since I’m at home, I can snatch some time here and there to get a few words in, or write down that brilliant thought. But at the same time life is so completely consuming. There’s always someone to take care of or a spill to clean up so it’s hard to make time for writing. Especially if you can hear the kids screaming or feel the spilled cheerios on the floor taunting you.

Who is your favorite author?
Yikes. I can’t say I have one. There are so many excellent authors. Who I like most depends on my mood at the time.

Favorite book?
I generally say I can’t choose a favorite any more than a mom could choose a favorite child. Still, if pressed I usually say Jane Eyre. I’ve probably read that more times than anything else. Seriously, I can quote large sections of it and tell you exactly where the movies (I’ve seen a lot of them, none of them satisfactory) changed dialogue. I read it for the first time when I was 11 or 12 and it really showed me what a book could be.

What other hobbies or activities do you do outside of writing?
I don’t have much time for other hobbies but when I can I like to quilt, crochet, garden, bake, play games, and spend time with family. (Just in case you were confused, family is not a hobby. They’re the priority.)

What is something unique about yourself?
Huh, Um, let me think... (a few days later) still thinking...

Honestly, I’m pretty much your average Joe Shmoe. Except I’m a woman, so it should be something a little more feminine.

Do you have a blog, Twitter, and/or Web site we can link to?
Whew, finally an easy question. My blog, It’s Just Me, can be found at

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

When Characterization is Stifled by Stress

When I started writing my second book, CIRCUS SOUL HEIRESS, I loved my protagonist. He was the bee's knees. He was 5' tall, had a chip on his shoulder, and could to the splits on a swinging trapeze while killing the baddies. This was my chance to prove that I could not only write a proactive protagonist, but that I could write an awesome one.

And yet, again and again, my writing group came back to me saying that my protagonist wasn't their favorite character. In fact, some thought he was unlikable  What? But my protagonist was great! He was funny, he was outgoing, he was charismatic...

...but not in the story. At least, not in those first few chapters.

Why? Well, this was only my second book, so I didn't have characterization down pat, but that wasn't the reason, as I've noticed a similar problem with a protagonist in book number eight (and I'd hope that I'd have some idea of how to portray a character over six novels).

So, what did I discover?


Not stress on my part, but on the character's part. 

Allow me to explain.

In CIRCUS SOUL HEIRESS, I threw my protagonist into stressful situations right off the bat. In chapter one, he re-met the man who molested him as a kid, AND he failed an assassination that his group had been planning for months. Not only that, but he ignited a sincere hate-hate relationship with the story's other main character, which also starts in that first chapter. These incidents put an amazing amount of stress on the protagonist's shoulders.

How did my protagonist react to stress? With anger. 

Therefore, my readers perceived my protagonist as an angry person absorbed by his failures, especially since these stressors carried into following chapters, and some into the better half of the book. I've done something similar with EMPIRE OF CRANES AND SPIDERS, though to a lesser degree. My male protagonist is stressed with an upcoming battle and makes a grave mistake during it, so in my opening chapters he comes off as much more stoic than I had intended him to be.

How to get around this? Well, I could save the stress until later. I could create a character that deals with stress in a likable way. However, both of those options mean changing the story I want to tell.

Perhaps it just comes down to writing better, using each word to portray the aspects of the character that I want my audience to see. Or, it's a matter of relieving stress quickly so the true character can shine through. Still, the first impression is there.

What do you think? Have you encountered problems with warping a character's personality through emotion? How did you solve it, or how have you seen it done effectively?

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Modern-day Knight: Joshua Pratt Hooper

What is a knight?

A knight is courageous.

He protects the weak, deals swift justice to lawbreakers, and wages a war against evil.

A knight is venerable.

He has the strength to do what he believes is right, no matter the circumstances.

A knight is loyal.

He pledges his service to his Lord.

A knight is courteous.

He adheres to a strict code of honor and practices chivalry.

A knight is brave.

He defends his family, the poor, and his kingdom.

A knight is dedicated.

He works long hours and asks for nothing in return.

A knight is kind, dutiful, honest, selfless, courageous, and noble.

True knights did not pass with the coming of time and the onslaught of technology. They did not die out as candles in the night when empires rose and fell, nor when war and plagues ravished and remolded the earth. They did not fail when countries moved borders or changed leaders. They did not vanish when men no longer read their stories.

However, on November 3, 2012, one of them passed on from this life.

Saturday afternoon I got a call from my father-in-law telling me that my friend, Joshua Pratt Hooper, had been killed in a shooting range incident in Utah’s west desert. He leaves behind his wife of two and a half years and a loving family.

It’s ironic, since just last week my husband and I were talking about how Josh really is a modern-day knight. He is one of the best people I have ever known, and I am grateful to say that he was my friend.

I have no fears for Josh in the life beyond this one—if anyone was prepared to meet his Maker, it was Josh. Josh had no ill bone in his body. He never lost his temper, and he was always ready and willing to help anyone, even those he didn’t know.

He always gave me balloons when I visited him at work.

Josh served his fellow men for 24 years before his God called him back home. I can only begin to imagine what work the Lord has in store for him now.

Rest in peace, Joshua. Until we meet again.

My good blade carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten
Because my heart is pure.

When down the stormy crescent goes,
A light before me swims,
Between dark stems the forest glows,
I hear a noise of hymns:
Then by some secret shrine I ride;
I hear a voice but none are there;

Three angels bear the holy Grail:
With folded feet, in stoles of white,
On sleeping wings they sail.
Ah, blessed vision! blood of God!
My spirit beats her mortal bars,
As down dark tides the glory slides,
And star-like mingles with the stars.

A maiden knight-to me is given
Such hope, I know not fear;
I yearn to breathe the airs of heaven
That often meet me here.
I muse on joy that will not cease,
Pure spaces clothed in living beams,
Pure lilies of eternal peace,
Whose odors haunt my dreams
And, stricken by an angel's hand, 
This mortal armor that I wear, 
This weight and size, this heart and eyes, 
Are touch'd, are turn'd to finest air. 

The clouds are broken in the sky, 
And thro' the mountain-walls 
A rolling organ-harmony 
Swells up, and shakes and falls. 
Then move the trees, the copses nod, 
Wings flutter, voices hover clear: 
'O just and faithful knight of God! 
Ride on! the prize is near.' 
So pass I hostel, hall, and grange; 
By bridge and ford, by park and pale, 
All-arm'd I ride, whate'er betide, 
Until I find the holy Grail. 

-Sir Galahad, by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Read the full poem here.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Link Blitz

We have WAY too much leftover Halloween candy. Made Husband take it all to his graduate lab so I wouldn't eat it, because I will. I have a hard time saying no to junk food when it sits and stares at me all day. We have a love-HATEYOU relationship, for sure.

Hope your holiday went well! Now onto Christmas! (Er, Thanksgiving, I guess.)

Writer's Potpourri:

10 Hidden Gifts of Rejection Letters

7 Reasons Agents Stop Reading Your First Chapter

How to Write a Novel in a Month

I'm Querying You Because...

10 Strategies to Keep you Afloat in the Treacherous Social Media Waters

Three Reasons to Write the Premise BEFORE You Write the Book

Melissa Foster: How She Did It--And How You Can, Too (Self-publishing)

Other Babble:

DIY: Thankful Turkey

Disney/Lucasfilm merger resurrects 'Star Wars' franchise for a new generation