Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Finishing the Rough Draft

I expect to finish my rough draft today. And it's very rough. The final word count should be just over 70K. For this draft. I tend to expand a lot when I revise. Does anyone else do that?

I've been fighting this 'pressure' to make my sequel longer than the first book. The first book, at last revision, was 97K. I know some things will get cut (still), but I know other things will get added. (Like setting. I'm horrible at it and I'm sure my editor is going to make me go back through and describe things.) So I really think it'll stay around 97K. Yet it seems like every series I pick up, the second book is longer than the first. Or at least just as long. Is it ever shorter? Is that even allowed?

I don't like to write for the sake of writing. Obviously, we write our story until the story is done. No fluff, no senseless rambling. My story might, quite simply, be done at 80K. As a reader, would you think it very odd that the second book was that much shorter than the first? Or would you even notice?

But anyway. So today I will finish up the villain's POV, add one more scene from the MC's POV, and then wha-la. It's done. Then come the revisions. Totally exciting! I love revising. It's like when you pick up a book and think, "If I were writing this book, I'd phrase it like this. Or I'd make this happen. Or change it to this." And I can do those things, because I did write the book!

And then I read those things I wrote and get giddy inside, and wiggle my toes and think, "This is good! Everyone will love this!" Except we all think that about what we wrote. It remains to be seen if everyone will love it.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 68,953
actual: 68,982
tomorrow's goal: 70,982

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What's My Platform?

It seems to be a hot topic. All the agents and authors are talking about how important it is to have a platform. How it's critical for getting published, and after that, for getting an audience.

I've been wracking my brain to figure out what my platform is. It's not a non-fiction book, so I'm not a highly qualified expert with years of experience to extol. It's not a novel about Girl Scout adventures, so I can't pull out all of my GS paraphernalia and relive the glory Brownie days. It's not about religion. It's not about high school. It's not about teenage pregnancy or abuse.

But it does have bits and pieces of many of these things. It's a book about overcoming adversity. That's not really a platform, though. It's a suspense novel, a thriller. I suppose I could learn to dance like Michael Jackson...no, bad idea. Should my platform be about writing the book? Believing in yourself? Should it be about who I am? A young mom who carves time to write while sitting on the couch and the kids are sleeping? Should it touch upon the religious aspect of the book? About believing Christ even when it seems like God's abandoned you? Should I focus on the teenage aspects? The fears, the fights, the crushes, the self-doubt?

It worries me not to have a solid platform. Like the question I saw on many publisher sites, "What makes you qualified to write this book?" Um...I'm the one who has the story in my head? What was Stephanie Meyers' platform? "How to Survive a Vampire Bite"? When I walk into a high school and ask if I can speak to the student body about my book, what am I going to say? "I was a kid once. So I want to talk to them about this book I wrote." Yeah. Great platform.

Those of you who are writers out there, what is your platform? Are you still working on one? How did you come up with it?

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 66,893
actual: 66,953
tomorrow's goal: 68,953

Monday, September 28, 2009

Back to the Grinder

I had a wonderful vacation/weekend where we picked up my husband and brought him home. What a surreal experience. After all these months, back together again. In some ways it just feels so right, so normal, it's like no time passed at all. But at the same time, I keep remembering, it's been months since he's been here!

I do have to brag on him, as my right as an Army wife. He got four awards at the graduation ceremony, including the top award that they award each cycle, that of the Honor Grad. Yep, pretty cool. And I'm his wife. Which makes me pretty cool.

And now back to real life. I haven't written in days. All weekend. And I feel it! Time to get going again. I'm crossing my fingers that I get this rough draft finished by this Friday. And I've got scenes playing through my head for book #3. Which makes me doubly anxious to get book #2 done.

I bought two books today. And in the process spoke to the owner of our local indie. I mentioned that I have a book coming out in a year and she suggested we 'do something.' Yes! Like a book signing!

That's it. I don't really have anything else to say today.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 62,371
actual: 64,893
tomorrow's goal: 66,893

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Blogwards for Me

I am very excited to announce that I have received two more Blogwards. Both are from JennyMac and her fantastic blog, Let's Have a Cocktail. And no, I don't drink alcohol (and yes, it's a religious and personal preference...I understand someone recently got attacked by an anonymous commenter for stating such a thing on their blog?), but Jenny's hilarious. Check out her blog sometime.

She's also nice. I think she thought I needed a pick-me-up, and since it can't be alcohol, she decided on the Blogwards.

Here they are! The first one is the Super Comments Award.
I'm assuming this one means that I left really awesome, thought-provoking, world-changing comments on her blog. Cool.

I am choosing three people to pass on the Super Comments Award: M. Gray, who always has thoughtful comments, LMJ, who is my new soul-mate, and Stephanie Faris, who with all the blogs she follows, somehow still manages to find time to give her 2 cents on mine. (BTW, there are no rules to this award. Keep it for yourself or give it away to who you want.)

The next one is the I Give Good Blog Award. Yeah. Because my blog is simply awesome.
This award comes with rules!!! Pick out some of your favorite bloggers. Send this award to 4 of them. Tell them why you think they give good blog.

Here are my four:

Christina Berry, because her blog is happy and uplifting.

Carrie Harris, for making me laugh.

Melanie J, because I can always relate to something in her blog.

Jody Hedlund, because she's a new author like me and it's fun to read her journey.

Anyway! That's the end of the Blogwards. If you're looking for new blogs to follow, I hope you'll check out some of these links. These are awesome people and they all have awesome stories to tell!

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 60,211
actual: 60,371
tomorrow's goal: 62,371

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Engaging Twitter

I joined Twitter about a month ago. And honestly, I was so lost. For awhile I hung out, followed people I already knew, waited for someone to follow me. Nothing was happening. I started tweeting. Nobody was reading them except me. So I abandoned Twitter.

I'd check in every once in awhile and see if anyone had left me a message, or was following me. Nope. Nothing. I couldn't even figure out how to find people. If a friend joined and started following me, I could reciprocate. But I couldn't initiate. Me=technologically stupid.

And then I noticed that one person I followed would put this weird little thing at the end of their tweet: #amwriting. I thought, "Huh. That's kind of cool. I'm writing too." So I put it at the end of my tweet. The next thing I know, people are contacting me! Sending me messages and even following me!!!! I went from seven followers to twenty-five in five days, but who's counting?

What happened, I wondered??? I looked carefully at that tweet I'd made that attracted so much attention. The '#amwriting' was in blue font. I clicked it. With a gasp and a flash of light, I was transported to a world of beings who were writing. Writing and chatting and congratulating and encouraging.

For those of you who are Twitter savvy, you know I stumbled upon a hashtag. And that hashtag led me to a chat group. I joined a chat. By doing so, I made friends.

Totally awesome!

I had no idea how I did that. And then I noticed the hashtag #wordgoal. And the hashtag #litchat. And #wordathon.

Peoples! Twitter can be fun!!!

I'm feeling more Twitter confidant now. I'm exploring new avenues of expression. In honor of this, I'm going to search out that little bluebird icon and put it on my blog. I'm not sure how that works, but I'll figure it out.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 58,163
actual: 58,211
tomorrow's goal: 60,211

Monday, September 21, 2009

I heard from Mark!

I have to send out a sincere thanks for all of you who worried about me over the weekend, and all of your efforts to cheer me up. I'll admit to succumbing to the horrible dark cloud of gloom. And then Sunday night around 7pm, guess who called!!! Mark! They were given one hour to call.

Wow, it was like someone turned on a light switch to my spirit. I can do this now. I can make it. Four more days. Mark will be home in four more days.

Besides that, I just went out to lunch with my parents and the boys. We ate Thai food, which is my absolute favorite. And I am full. Way way full. Like, I could go to sleep kind of full. But no sleeping. Now is writing time.

I do want to give a quick review to the fantastic book I read last week, called The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Many of you have probably already read this book. Apparently it came out a few years ago. Well, I've been in hiding, I guess, because it just came to my attention a few months ago. And then I heard all about the sequel, Catching Fire, and figured I'd better read the first one first. When I realized she'd also written the Gregor series, well, I was convinced.

Let me tell ya, folks, there's a reason for the hype. If you haven't read this book, do it. You won't be disappointed. (Well, okay, out of 500 something reviews on Amazon.com, 7 people didn't like it. So there is the chance.)

The book follows a similar plot line as the Japanese novel printed a decade ago, Battle Royale. Two youth are selected each year in a government-sanctioned human sacrifice game. That's a total of 24 youth. Only one can win, and the government televises the battles for entertainment. The point is to watch them brutally murder each other until only one remains.

That's the basic idea. Of course, the book takes you into the battle in a much more personal way. Told in first person POV, we are deep in Katniss's psyche as we watch her explore this cruel demonstration of control. From the moment you start page one, you have to get to the end as quickly as possible, just to find out what happens. I prepped myself, imaging every possible scenario and deciding I'd be okay with whatever happened, otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to read the book. I can't handle disappointment.

I was not disappointed. Intense, fantastic, exciting, real. Very human. I loved this book. Get it. Now. Enjoy it.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 55,722
actual: 56,163
tomorrow's goal: 58,163

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fighting the Black Cloud of Gloom

I didn't get a letter all week from Mark. This had a very sad affect on my mood this week. But he's been able to call me every weekend for the past two months, so I set my sights on today. Yesterday I was positively jubilant, an emotion not easily come by lately.

The drill sergeants haven't given them their phones.

I am not a depressed person, but I'm reaching the end of my rope. I miss my husband too much. I put too much stock in today's phone call, and now I'm sinking because it doesn't look like I'll get one. I'm trying very hard to pull myself out of this, because I need to start cleaning the house and feed lunch to my children. (So far, I've sliced up a couple pieces of cheese and given them a bowl of frosted flakes. Sans milk.)

I feel like a weak person for feeling this way, because I know many women who are without their husbands for more than a year, in a dangerous combat situation. That's not me. He'll be home in a week. But I can't shake the dread of trying to get through this week with no contact from him.

Writing is my escape. I can't wait to sit down and write.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 53,544
actual: 53,722
Monday's goal: 55,722

Friday, September 18, 2009

Spotlight: H.B. Moore

Before we get on to our feature presentation (an interview with H.B. Moore, author of Abinadi and Alma), I have a confession to make. Yesterday I bought my book for the weekend. And I finished it several hours ago.

The book in question was The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. I didn't know it was the same author as who wrote the Gregor the Overlander series, which I loved! I knew this book was going to be good. I knew I wouldn't be able to put it down. So I should not have opened it.

I did anyway. MY BAD. Then I stayed up till midnight reading. How could I have known that the baby would wake me up at 4am, and I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep? Well, at least I put the time to good use.

I must add that this is the last weekend I will spend like this. When my husband is home (and he is home next weekend!), I will spend my weekends with him, not a book. Unless it's him and a book, which it often tends to be. (In fact, he might be mad at me for reading this book without him! I might have to read it again.)

And now, for our feature presentation! (Oh, and ignore the font changes in here. HTML illiterate = couldn't figure out how to make everything uniform.) If you missed the reviews of Alma and Abinadi, you can catch them here and here.

me: Hi, H.B. Moore! I'm so excited to have you here today. I love the way historical fiction takes us back to a place and time, shows it to us the way a history book never can. And your books do this with scripture. Why did you decide to write about scriptural history?

H.B. Moore: In 2001, I found myself at a crossroads in my writing. I had two ideas, one for a historical suspense novel set in the mid-1800’s (which I later wrote), the second a fictional account of Nephi and his family. I have long been intrigued by the tidbits I’ve heard in religion classes about Sariah and the women in Lehi and Ishmael’s families. I approached my father (S. Kent Brown), who had published non-fiction works on Lehi and his family, with the idea of fictionalizing Nephi’s story and asked if he was interested in co-writing it. After he hemmed and hawed, I realized I would have to undertake the project myself, knowing all the while that I would be hounding my father for information on a daily basis. I wrote the first five pages almost without stopping to take a breath. Then I brought them to my critique group, anxious about their reaction. They encouraged me to continue writing and assured me that there was room for it in the LDS market.

me: Nice of your dad to back you up! I imagine as you flesh out the lives of these characters, you get to know them on a personal level. Who do you think is your favorite character from the Book of Mormon?

H.B. Moore: I think Nephi’s story is probably my favorite. Although Alma is a close second. I admire their strength, their convictions, and their fortitude in the face of life-threatening challenges. It’s amazing to me that Nephi knew that what he was teaching his brothers would never be accepted. Yet he continued because it was the right thing to do. He had seen the future in a vision and knew that the Lamanites and Nephites would ultimately destroy each other. He moved forward in righteousness, patience, and learning. He wrote on the plates because he knew that thousands of years later, his testimony would change our hearts. You can’t ever discredit a man like that.

me: What LDS writers inspired you?

H.B. Moore: When I had finished my first novel, I went to a League of Utah Writers workshop that was taught by Jeff Savage. If you haven’t heard him speak, he is very motivating (a new career for him if this author stuff doesn’t work out). When I walked out of his class, I literally thought becoming a published author was possible for me. I kept returning to the League classes each month and learned from other published writers. Annette Lyon was the chapter president, and I looked at her and compared myself—we were both moms with 3 kids (she had #4 on the way), and her first book was just coming out. So I took inspiration from her and wanted to grow up to be like Annette.

me: That's so awesome! It's always cool when people actually figure out what they want to be when they grow up. What other writers inspired you?

H.B. Moore: Since I love reading mysteries, Mary Higgins Clark was very inspirational. I read her memoir, “Kitchen Privileges” and Ms. Clark says that she wrote her first novel by writing from 5:00-7:00 in the morning. She was a widow with five young children to support. Amazing! Also, I took a workshop from Rachel Ann Nunes—she said she wrote 2,000 words a day even if it meant staying in her pj’s. Also, when I moved from CA to UT in 2000, my sister-in-law handed me one of Richard Paul Evans’ books. I read it and thought: Wow. There was no mind-numbing suspense, historical research, or literary themes in that book—it was just a simple story told in a poignant way.

me: I can see how those people would be inspirational. They inspire me! I want to be like that. If you could be like one person, who would it be?

H.B. Moore: I would be my 5 year old. “Kitten-garden” sounds great right now. A couple hours of work, then the rest of the day is play-time.

me: Isn't it funny the way kids are? The entire days revolves around playtime. As long as they are constantly engaged, they're happy. But I guess that's how we are too. As long as we're engaged in something good, we're happy. Have you ever had to travel to research your books?

H.B. Moore: My Out of Jerusalem series starts out in Jerusalem (of course). I’ve lived in the Middle East off and on as a child and visited as an adult. But that was all before I started writing. So I haven’t technically traveled to a place that I’ve been currently writing about.

me: Wow, really? I'm jealous! I want to visit there so badly! What's your favorite part about writing?

H.B. Moore: Writing is a major creative outlet for me. Achieving my daily word count goal or some other milestone is very motivating and recharges me for other things in life. I love the first draft process—when everything can change and all ideas are fluid. It’s kind of like walking down the aisle at the fabric store and looking at all the different textures and colors of fabrics, rows of zippers, thread, and buttons. Each fabric choice will bring a different outcome to the project. You feel like there are a hundred different choices, and you just have to pick and choose.

me: I don't love the first draft stage! I'm all about getting it out ASAP so I an start the revisions. That's where the real fun lies! How do you do your revisions? Do you have a critique group?

H.B. Moore: Yes—I found them through the League of Utah Writers. Annette Lyon (mentioned above) announced one evening at the chapter meeting that her group had an opening. I told Annette that I was definitely interested. I had just won the “short story contest” sponsored by the group, so maybe that gave me a good recommendation.

me: What's your dream story (the one you can't wait to write)?

H.B. Moore: Most authors have too many stories to share. In fact, you’ll see some of the really big names out there using co-writers to get it all in. (James Patterson just signed a 17 book deal for the next 3 years, if that tells you anything). I wanted to write the ABINADI book for several years before I actually wrote it. I’ve also written a book that I love called QUEEN—an international thriller about the Queen of Sheba. Still trying to find a publisher for it.

me: If I were a publisher, I'd take it! What do you hope to accomplish as a writer?

H.B. Moore: My writing goals are pretty basic—to be able to continually produce books that I love and the readers will love. I love publishing in the LDS market, and I’d also like to add the national market to my plate.

me: Good for you! I'm glad the LDS market has been so successful for you. I hope you are able to break into the national market, also! That's what I hope to do someday. What do you do besides write?

H.B. Moore: I own an editing company (Precision Editing Group) so that fills in some of the blanks. Other than that, I still read a lot and I enjoy hobbies like sewing and crafty stuff. I spend my days from 3:00 on with the kids, which consists of homework, piano, lots of sports—it’s the season of football and soccer, with volleyball just starting.

me: Yes, I've seen your website for you editing company. You must be so busy! How clean is your house?

H.B. Moore: Right now? We vacuumed and cleaned bathrooms on the weekend. But the laundry is starting to pile up (again), and the kitchen needs a good scrub down!

me: I'm just working on this theory that writers don't like to take the time to clean. At least, that's my excuse. What's your favorite food?

H.B. Moore: My kids think I’m weird—I love soups, tomato soup, onion soup, egg drop soup. And chocolate—M&M Almonds are my fav right now. And anything with shrimp. Last week, I had mesquite grilled shrimp tacos from Rubios. Yum.

me: I'm a soup-a-holic myself. It's all I made for the first month of my marriage. If you weren't a writer, what would you be?

H.B. Moore: My major in college was Fashion Merchandising with a minor in Business Management. The two fields I’ve enjoyed working in the past have been retail and human resources. Retail is very time consuming—weekends, holidays, nights. But when I see the “modest clothing” on-line retailers popping up, I’m intrigued. I shop at them with my girls and am tempted to give them tips, but don’t. Human resources is very interesting, and if I had to ever work an 8-5 job, that would be it. But I’m happy to be in a very flexible job right now.

me: I'm so happy to see the modest clothing lines. (First I wrote clothes lines, but that didn't sound right.) Most are kind of pricey, but they have good sales. You're so versatile. Good for you for finding and doing what you like! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. I'll watch for your next book, for sure!

I have officially passed 50K! It took me almost six weeks to get here. That means about the end of October, I should be wrapping things up!

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 51,443
actual: 51,544
Monday's goal: 53,544

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Countdown 13: Christmas Treasure

December 2006

Mark and I were living in Springville, Utah, in a beautiful four-bedroom house that I wish we still lived in. :::sigh::: Because of all of our space, we hosted Christmas. My parents drove out from Arkansas to spend the holidays with us. My other sisters were already in Utah. Since they were driving, my parents also loaded their van up with boxes and boxes of our stuff. You know, the stuff you 'accidentally' leave at home when you grow up and move away. Oops.

I had recently started writing again. In June of 2005, I sat down and wrote a fantasy novel, Branca, which has yet to see the light of the publishing world. But it had awakened something in me. I'd often mentioned that little book I wrote in junior high to Mark, but I had lost the diskette years before.

After my parents left, I sat down in the downstairs bedroom and started opening boxes. In one giant box, I found piles and piles of printed pages. Drafts. It was a chaotic mess. I even found pages of the original, hand-written first draft. Wow. I began to try and piece together the latest draft, thinking I might, just might, get up enough enthusiasm to retype the whole thing.

Inside the big box was a shoebox with letters in it. I opened up the shoebox and pulled out an envelope with a blocky shape in it. What could this be? I pulled out a diskette and my heart jumped into my throat. Written in red pen (because you couldn't use pencil on diskettes), in the tilted letters of a child's handwriting, were the words, "Tammy's story."

Don't try and call me 'Tammy' now. We won't be friends.

I freaked. Like, total excitement. I ran up two flights of stairs (multi-level house) and into the computer room. My heart pounded with anxious excitement as I pushed that disk into the a:drive of our old computer. (Anyone still have an a:drive?) I had to open it in a plain text file because whatever program I'd used to create it didn't exist anymore.

There it was! It opened! I couldn't believe it. After ten years. I'd thought the file was lost. I thought, what the heck. I'll see if I can make anything good out of this. (I am absolutely dying from temptation right now. I so very badly want to show you that first page. It's nothing like what it is now! But, I can't. I'm not allowed to.)

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 47,080
actual: 47,306
tomorrow's goal: 49,306

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Survived my High School Reunion

Give me a name tag. Survivor. Oh, wait, they gave me a name tag at my reunion. With a darling, black-and-white senior picture on it.

Wow! That was me?

Those of you who know me, know that I look 18. Don't let that fool you. When I was 18, I looked 11. I was surprised how many people looked at me, dropped their eyes to my name tag, and looked back up, mouths open. "It's you!"

Yep. It's me.

Friday night we met at a local restaurant, just to get together. I've been looking forward to this for--well, ten years. I was the quiet, studious girl in high school. The one with a small circle of close-knit friends. The one that never had a boyfriend. The one that didn't go on dates. Cute but shy. Self-conscious and not confident. (Probably, if a guy had asked me out--any guy--that would've changed.)

College changed me. My wonderful wonderful roommates (shout out to them! Emily Yu Severson, Colette Shaw Finnigan, Salley Myer [can't remember the married name], Julia Reding [again, can't remember the married name], and Wendy Nelson) and Brigham Young University introduced me to boys and confidence. Yeah! It was great.

And somewhere in all those years, I met my fantastic husband, the kind of guy that I would've given my left arm to date in high school. Of course, he'd matured, served a 2-year mission in Africa, and was ready to find a wife. And he was extremely good-looking, funny, kind, and all around a good catch.

I couldn't wait to show him off.

The irony. He joins the army in time to miss not only his 10-year reunion, but mine. Luckily, I'm still close friends with my high school best friend, Kelly Salsman Holland. I got a bad case of the nerves as I drove to this restaurant. I felt my heart sink into my toes, and thought, "I can't walk in there by myself. They'll look at me and think, Poor Tamara. Still a loner." So I parked in the parking lot and called Kelly. "I'm not going in without you," I said. "No problem. We're almost there." She had her husband with her, of course.

I had a miniature pity party in my car while I waited for her. Mark was supposed to be with me.

But Kelly arrived and we went inside, and started scanning the crowd. Looking for friends that we hadn't seen in years. Somehow, I had formed this idea in my head that because a decade had passed, all those cliques from high school would be silly and frivolous. Not necessarily forgotten, but certainly unimportant. I figured we'd all want to talk to each other and catch up on life and be friends.

I was wrong. It seemed like some people had reverted back to high school. A group of kids--and a predictable group--sidled up to each other and wandered of to, as one of them said, 'get smashing drunk.' Uh...doesn't sound like fun. I talked to almost everyone there. And what I realized was, I made the right friends in high school. The people who were my friends are the kind of people I still hang out with. And the people who weren't my friends--it appears there was a reason for that. I still wouldn't know how to be their friend.

The next day we met at a park and had a BBQ. This was family day, so I brought along my two boys. Talk about ice-breaker! Asher was dancing and stealing everyone's food and making friends. Nobody was drinking and I found it so much easier to talk to people! The atmosphere was friendly and inviting and I think a lot of people were able to drop the shroud of cliquehood that they'd been hanging on to.

But of a class of 640 something people, I was very disappointed that only 100 something showed up between the two days.

Of those 640 people, probably 60% still live in or close to my hometown.

Where were they? I was very sad not to see them. Kind of angry, because I know a lot of them didn't go just because...well, no reason. Because high school sucked? And therefore any memory of it does too? High school was the worst three years of my life. But the people weren't. Those that didn't go made me feel like those years were so unimportant, it wasn't worth seeing those people again. That kind of hurt. They were my friends too. Some of them I talk to on Facebook and emails, and even though they live within 30 minutes from my house, I don't even see them. I commented on Facebook about their absence. One said, "Oh...I guess I should've gone...I thought it would be lame."

Well, it wasn't. That's okay. There's always next time. See you in ten years.

Check out these stats, people. I think I've officially hit the half-way mark.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 45,000
actual: 45,080
tomorrow's goal: 47,080

Monday, September 14, 2009

Review: Alma by H.B. Moore

Over the weekend I read Alma, the second in a series of historical novels by H.B. Moore. It follows directly after Abinadi, which I read a few weeks ago.

Alma covers a span of several years and has several story lines that at varying places join together and separate again. Alma was a priest in the infamous court of King Noah, renowned for money, sex, and alcohol (not necessarily in that order). We first meet Alma in the book Abinadi. When the young prophet preaches of Christ to King Noah, Alma is the only person who believes. Abinadi is killed for his teachings, but not before Alma flees King Noah's court.

Taking his life in his hands, Alma begins to teach others what he heard from Abinadi. As life becomes more dangerous within the city lines, he and several 'Believers' flee. They create their own city, free of idols, prostitutes, and the other vices that tore apart King Noah's court.

But King Noah doesn't get off that easily. He's made a lot of enemies over the years, and his city is invaded by the Lamanites, a warring enemy tribe. King Noah's own people sacrifice him, and that appeases the Lamanites enough to allow the inhabitants to live. As long as they pay a tax of 50% of all their goods.

Meanwhile, Alma and his people live in peace, upheld by their religious beliefs. Their new city is industrious and beautiful. But one day, quite by accident, a small party of Lamanites stumbles upon Alma's city. With no warning and no chance for an uprising, the Lamanites seize the city and make it part of their stronghold. They force the inhabitants to give up their homes, their possessions, and deny them the right to even pray. Repressed, Alma's people must pray for deliverance in secret.

If you've read the Book of Mormon, you know how the story ends. The telling of this story and the representation of the familiar characters enlivens the familiar Book of Mormon story. What takes place in a matter of verses in the scriptures occurs over several pages in Alma. The people and places have left an impression in my mind that will not be forgotten, no matter how many years pass by between reading.

I did feel like the romantic drama between some of the characters was contrived and unnecessary. But once they got over their inabilities to communicate their true feelings, all was well again. I enjoyed this book very much and know there is another on the way. This is a fantastic way to live out Book of Mormon history.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 42,652
actual: 43,000 (exactly!)
tomorrow's goal: 45,000

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spotlight: Rachel Ann Nunes

Our spotlight today is on Rachel Ann Nunes, author of Saving Madeline.

If you missed the online review, you can find it here.

Me: Hi, Rachel! Thanks for driving traffic to my blog today! I mean, agreeing to do an interview with me! I have to say, I was very impressed with Saving Madeline. I really enjoyed it. I noticed on your blog that you've written many novels. When did you start writing?

Rachel: I came up with novel plots as early as ten and eleven, but the dream of being a writer wasn't concrete then. The first remembrance I have of really knowing I would be a writer was when I was twelve. I loved reading, especially fantasy and romance, and I wanted to make up my own stories. I wrote my first short story in the seventh grade and started my first novel based on that story at seventeen.

Me: Wow! Seems to be a common story. Writers get the call to write when they are young. My first novel is also a rewrite of a book I wrote in seventh grade. (Did I mention I also find ways to shamelessly plug my own writing while I do interviews?) I read a little bit about what inspired you to write Saving Madeline. Very fascinating. Can you tell us a little about it?

Rachel: Several years ago, shock radiated throughout Utah when an infant was found dead after ingesting meth she had found in a plastic bag on the floor of her home. What made this tragic circumstance even more notable and horrific is that weeks, earlier her father had forcibly taken her across state lines, hoping to protect her from her mother’s substance abuse.

Authorities found the child, placed her back with her mother, and sent the father to jail for assault and burglary. A little over a week later, the baby was dead and the mother was charged with desecration of a dead body for moving her daughter to cover up the drug abuse. All charges against the father were eventually dropped.
When I heard this story, I starting thinking, wondering about how far a father would go to save his child. Would the ends justify any means? I thought about it for more than a year before I actually came up with a story I wanted to write.

Me: I want to cry every time I hear that story. I'm so glad you wrote a book that helps bring it to light. Do you think this is something that happens often? Children dying from a parent's drug problem?

Rachel: Sadly, during my research, I found that the story of the father and baby were far from the only instance of a child becoming the victim of a parent’s drug use. There are many more instances, some of which I’ve written under the Author Comments for the book on my website at http://rachelannnunes.com. Keep in mind that though the idea for this novel was inspired by the true-life stories I researched, the plot, characters, and resolution in Saving Madeline are completely fictional. No actual experiences or interviews of real-life people were used in the text itself.

Me: That's why I say this book was 'inspired by a true story.' How many of your books are inspired by real life events?

Rachel: I think about 5 out of 29 of my novels were directly inspired by real events: a bridge collapse, the death of child, a kidnapping, a subway bombing. But of course the plot takes on its own life and becomes its own story. I've also written many "issue" type books where I do a lot a research of real events even though the story wasn't inspired by any one true event. Writing is basically combining a lot of what you see, experience, and hear about, with what you make up or simply "feel" you should write.

Me: One of my biggest fears is being a on bridge when it collapses! I know, what a silly thing to think about. I'll have to check that book out. What sorts of books do you read?

Rachel: I mostly read national women's fiction, paranormal romance, and general fiction for myself. With my kids I read a lot of youth fantasy.

Me: How did you get started in publication?

Rachel: I always knew I was going to be a writer, so when I finally became serious, I checked out all the writing how-to books from the library and started following what they said. I ended up writing three complete novels in a period of a couple years before my first novel (the third I'd written) was accepted by a publisher.

Me: I know so many people who have done that. I'm always impressed with the ability to write more when the other novels aren't published. I mean, it's not like writing a novel is something that can be accomplished in a week! Speaking of which, what's your favorite color? Yeah, I know, the question has nothing to do with anything. I'm just curious.

Rachel: Red. I like black and hot pink, too. Baby blue is nice.

Me: Is it only girls that can't narrow the favorite color down to one? Mine's purple. But I really like blue and green too. And orange. Would you rather swim in a lake, pool, river, or ocean?

Rachel: I'd choose the ocean in a heartbeat. I love the ocean, sand and all. My husband was born by the ocean, so his love of it has probably influenced me. I love floating in the water, seeing the endless stretch reaching out forever. I adore sitting on the warm sand and reading a book, or playing soccer and volleyball without my shoes. It's a great way to spend an afternoon with the kids.

Me: Do you like to read in bed?

Rachel: I love to read anywhere, but especially in bed!

Me: Ha! I knew it! I'm a bed-reader too. What about eating and reading? Do you like that?

Rachel: I'd love to eat chocolate while I read, but that's terrible for my figure, so I try not to eat and read.

Me: Well, okay. How long does it take you write a book, from start to finish?

Rachel: Usually about five months. In the old days when my children were tiny and didn't need so much driving around and help with homework, I could do it in two or three.

Me: Really??? You mean these are the good years? For some reason I thought it would get easier when my kids got older! You know, the self-sufficiency thing...but wow, five months for a book? And that's your slow time?? How do you do that? Do you have a critique group?

Rachel: Not so much a critique group as author friends who exchange manuscripts with me, and a few friends who are readers who give me feedback. Also, my daughters often read my manuscripts.

Me: What do you do for fun with your family, besides read your rough drafts together?

Rachel: We go swimming, play soccer. Go to family camp. Watch seasons of movies together, read together. We're all big readers.

Me: If you could change one thing in your writing career, what would it be?

Rachel: I think I'd focus more on what I wanted to write instead of what my publisher expected of me. I'm only now exploring stories that have been waiting a long time to come out. That's not to say I haven't loved all my stories. I've been really happy with my progress so far, plus I've been able to publish and work from home. It's not easy, but satisfying.

Me: Very, very good point. I'll have to remember that. I am happy you're able to create what you really want to know. Thanks for sharing, Rachel! And good luck with your writing!

(That's it, guys. Interview's over. You can go now.)

Oh, and don't forget. If you comment, you get entered into a chance to win her book!

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 40,573
actual: 40,652
tomorrow's goal: 42,652

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Book Signings on the Mind

No, I'm not having a book signing anytime soon. Maybe in a year (if we stretch it a bit...my book release is set for Fall of 2010). But a lot of my friends have been discussing the pros and cons of book signings, and it's got my mind gearing.

Here are some of my ideas for making a book signing a success:

1) Places to go.
This is the part that is the hardest. I could spend tons of money traveling the globe, but really, nobody knows me. Nobody's going to go out of their way to come to my book signing. I need to go places that are close by or that already have a steady flow of traffic. Off hand, close to my house, I can think of: two independent book stores, two big-chain bookstores, four Walmarts, ten grocery stores, and one Sam's Club. And that's just in a ten-mile radius.

Before you roll your eyes about going to Walmarts and grocery stores, let me tell you a story. One time in Utah, I was grocery shopping, and tucked in the back by the milk was John Canann and his then publicist, Narelle. John was talking to customers and selling products. He was so friendly, nice, and complimentary of me and my baby. I had never heard of the guy before. Really. But I bought--not one CD, or even two CDs--three CDs and tickets to his Christmas concert. Call me a sucker. But I met him in person and wanted to support him. I don't think I'm the only one who would react that way!

Now that I've got my local places to go, I just have to schedule. I could knock these places out in a month. And then I can start seeing about traveling just a few minutes over to the next town. Or taking it even bigger and going to another state. This could be my chance to visit my sister in Massachusetts! Or my college roommate in Washington!

2) Advertise.
It'll be great to be in places that have a pretty constant flow of people. But it won't hurt to bring more people to me! I'll get my website up and running and my business cards made. I also plan on having special bookmarks made (more like a brochure) that have the first chapter on them. It'll be up on my website, but some people might be too "busy" to check it out. I'll make it easy for them. I'll also list the dates and places for my book signings in this brochure (bookmark).

Obviously by including the first chapter, I'm hoping readers will be so smitten that they'll come flocking to meet the brilliant, local author. Right? I'll leave copies of these brochures with all of my scheduled book-signees so they can begin including them in grocery bags and books. I mean, they want the book signing to be a success, too!

3) Invite.
You can bet I'll be contacting everyone I know, everyone I've ever heard of. It's time now to expand my friend list on Facebook and Twitter. I expect all of my old high school friends and everyone from church to show up. My mom I'll probably bribe to hang out at the bookstore for the duration of the signing and act like an interested customer. Then again, that might not work. She looks too much like me.

4) Incentives.
At the book signing, I'll probably have some cheap trinket that I give away with every sale. Like, a key chain that lights up or something cool. I'll also have cookies to attract attention. Everyone will take a cookie and a brochure, even if they don't buy the book. And that's getting my name out there! I'll also probably have a drawing for something. Maybe a free autographed copy, but probably not. Because then no one will buy the book. They'll be so busy hoping to get a free one. I know! I could do a $10 gift certificate to the bookstore I'm doing the signing at! Can't lose that way. (But I would probably only do that if I sold a certain number of books, unless the bookstore donated the certificate.)

5) Follow-up
I got this from another blog: have a list where people can sign up for my email updates! That way, everyone who buys my signed first book gets to find out when my second book comes out! By this time they will be rabid fans and bring hoards of family and friends to my book signings!

As you can see, I've spent all morning thinking about this. I'm quite excited about it. Too bad it's so far away!

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 38,410
actual: 38,573
tomorrow's goal: 40,573

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How Do You Choose What Book to Buy?

When I was younger (like, elementary school), I'd flip through the Scholastic Book order-form and choose books based on the summary. Same with the book fair and the library. On towards junior high and high school, like most teens, I loved going to the mall. But invariably, I spent all my time in the bookstore. Trying to decide which book to buy. (I didn't start caring about fashion and clothes until, um, college. Did I just admit that?)

One of the worst things I ever did was join a book club. I'm sure this works great for some people, but me, well, you can't judge a book by its cover, or its jacket. I had so many books that were just unreadable. Awful! I hate buying a book only to discover that you can't stand it!

After that I began borrowing heavily from roommates and the library. Isn't it great when you find an author you love? Then you can just buy their books at leisure, confidant that you'll enjoy everything they write.

Now I don't buy books unless they've been recommended to me. Sure, I can look at a book review, but opinions are so varied. It's when friends of mine who have enjoyed what I enjoy and like what I like say, "This book is awesome!" that I decide to buy it. I'll admit, it's hard to venture out and try new writers. At least for me. The feeling of disappointment when the book doesn't hold up to its promises dampers any adventurous-book-shopping plans I may have had for the future.

That's why I'm realizing how important it is to do things like blog tours and goodreads. If my friend's blog says the book is great, I'm 100% more likely to look at the book than if the blog said nothing. (Seriously. And sometimes it takes seven of such blogs before I add the book to my shopping list.)

What are your shopping habits? Do you buy spontaneously? Or go to the store with a book in mind? Or both? When my book comes out, are you going to buy it based on a pretty cover and nice summary, or because all of your friends recommend it? (Just wondering who I'm going to have to bribe here...)

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 36,266
actual: 36,410
tomorrow's goal: 38,410

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Review: Saving Madeline by Rachel Ann Nunes

I'm home. And happy to be so. No place is quite as productive as my own couch, quite as comfortable as my own bed, and quite inviting as my own kitchen. Even if it's a little messy.

But I'm also battling a horrible depression because my husband is not here. I almost wish I hadn't gone to see him. My boys need their daddy. Just three more weeks. Sometimes I find myself lacking the energy or motivation to do anything. ANYTHING. It gets quite hard.

Enough about me!!! I finally get to blog about that great book I told you about last time, Saving Madeline. I will say this book is inspired by a true story, because it's fiction, but I know true events inspired Rachel Ann Nunes to write this book.

Set in present day, Saving Madeline follows Caitlin, a public defender (read: free lawyer) and Parker, a man who kidnapped his daughter from his ex-wife. Caitlin is a stout defender of justice and morality, and sometimes this is hard in her job, where she's paid to defend her client, good or bad. Parker looks like just another crook. On the outside, it appears a vindictive, jealous father took his daughter from her mother and is trying to destroy her reputation.

But Parker is different. His sincerity and concern for Madeline, as well as his kindness for Caitlin, tell a story about a man who will cross whatever line necessary to protect his child. How can Caitlin argue with that? She finds herself doing everything she can to prove Parker is in the right. But what she doesn't fully grasp is that they are in a race against time. Because if Parker is telling the truth, Madeline's life is in danger.

Nunes is a fantastic writer. This book held my attention from chapter one. It's a suspense novel, a thriller, and of course, no book would be complete without romance. This is the book that had me up until after 1 am, reading and waiting for the resolution. The book provides a lot of insight into the public judicial system as well as the child protection services--what they can and can't do. This is one book you want to read.

Want this book, but don't want to buy it? Everyone who comments on this post will be entered into a contest to win a copy of the book! So good luck!

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 34,162
actual: 34,266
tomorrow's goal: 36,266

Friday, September 4, 2009

Spotlight: T. Anne

Okay! I'm finally getting online. The boys and I are making a surprise trip up to Missouri tomorrow to see Daddy. I sent Mark a letter to let him know we were coming, but apparently the Drill Sergeants are holding on to letters this week. Luckily, Mark borrowed someone else's phone (the Drill Sergeants are collecting phones, too) and called us. So I got to tell him. Otherwise, it really would've been a surprise. (The fort is giving them a three-day pass because of Memorial Weekend, that's why we're going up.)

But today we have a wonderful guest with us! T. Anne from her blog White Platonic Dreams. I've only recently met this lady and I'm so excited to get to know her more. Please welcome her!

Me: Hi T. Anne! Okay, before we get started, I gotta know: What should I call you?

T. Anne: T. Anne something. I haven't quite pinned down my nom de plume. My daughter is rooting for T. Anne Princess, or Crown. It's nice to be thought of as royalty, I suppose. In actuality I descend from the Hun's. I'll wait till she's a little older before bowling her over with that little tid bit.

Me: Okay...T. Anne the Hun. You're right, Princess sounds better. So! T. Anne Princess. Tell me about your writing! What is your work in progress?

T. Anne Princess: Oh I'm so glad you asked! Currently I'm working on the third book in a young adult series aimed at the Christian market with strong cross over potential, entitled The Rockaway Island series. It's modeled after the old school Sweet Valley High series but with modern dilemmas and an oh-so-awesome cast of characters, free of vampires and zombies. Mostly.

Me: Mostly?

T. Anne Princess: No, really, there are none of those.

Me: Breaking the mold, huh? Sounds awesome! I remember Sweet Valley! Oh, I was a fan.
What's the plot, since you have no vampires?

T. Anne Princess: The series rotates around the life of Laken Alexander, a freshman at Crystal Bay high. Each book is rife with it's own mishaps and horrors. It's written in first person with a light edgy sense of humor... like say that of a fourteen-year-old girl? Oh wait, she is fourteen! Perfect. It's written perfectly. I hope to grow the series throughout her high school years, following Laken to college and potentially the grave and beyond if publishers allow. I can dream, right?

Me: Yeah, I guess that's allowed. After all, you must've been dreaming when you thought up the name 'Laken'! That's totally cool, though. I love those sorts of books. That's kind of how I see my series with my main character, Jaci. She's fifteen and I want to follow her into college. At what point are you in the submission process?

T. Anne Princess: I've actually received some excitement over the series from a few different agents. I'm just waiting for responses and making sure I get at least one rejection a day, it keeps me at sanity's edge. That's where I function best.

Me: Ahh!!! Good for you! That's so very exciting. How long has this process been for you?

T. Anne Princess: It's been a little less than half a year. I was focused primarily on my literary fiction prior to this.

Me: Oo, literary fiction. Brave soul. I'll skip those questions for now. Enough about your writing! Who do you live with?

T. Anne Princess: Many a mammal. My wonderful husband-person who I lovingly refer to as Soprano, our three sons, one daughter and two furry children who shed something awful.

Me: I'm dying to know why you call him Soprano. No answers? Okay, I'll come up with my own. He reminds you of someone off "Meet the Sopranos"? Hmm. Where do the Princess and Soprano call home?

T. Anne Princess: I live in the urban sprawl that is Los Angeles. We are currently a glowing ember on this spinning blue marble, so all prayers are welcome.

Me: Yes, I'm sure you need them. What's your favorite thing to do on a hot, breezy summer day? (And I know you get a lot of hot ones in LA.)

T. Anne Princess: Lay by the pool and listen to the kids have a splashing good time.

Me: What's your favorite movie?

T. Anne Princess: The Princess Bride and Ground Hogs Day. I'm not too big on movies, I read mostly, while feigning interest in whatever Soprano's watching. Shh... don't tell.

Me: Mum's the word. So, what do you want to be when you grow up?

T. Anne Princess: Organized, well loved, very old and if there's still time, a published author.
Me: At least you have realistic expectations. Do you have any pets?

T. Anne Princess: A golden retriever who is almost 10. He is destructive beyond belief but he has a sweet side too. Also we have a pekingese and he's the cutest one on the planet, I do believe. He's in charge of the golden. We also house a small yet exquisitely graceful Beta fish named Tinkerbell.

Me: Wow! I'm so excited to read your books. Be sure and tell me when you get a contract!!! It was so fun to meet you!

And that's T. Anne Princess. Or T. Anne Crown. I guess she can still change what she's known by. Be sure and stop by her blog and say hi! Oh yeah. Don't count on seeing me again until Tuesday. Have a happy holiday!

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 32,072
actual: 32,162 (+2,090)
Tuesday's goal: 34,162

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Support your local Indie!

I'm on a campaign to get people to buy from their local independent bookstore.

I'll be honest, before I was offered a contract by an independent publishing company, I didn't realize that independents ("indies") operated alone. I guess I kind of assumed that all book stores had the same connections, got the same catalogs, received the same deals. Not only is that not true, but many big bookstores (Barnes & Noble) don't even buy books from independent publishing companies. OUCH.

As I began to prepare my marketing campaign, I came across a blog that said something like, "If you want your indie to buy your book and have a book signing for you, start showing your support for them. Buy books there. Frequent it. Get to know them." That makes sense. Indies are owned by individuals. The owner often mans the register.

Here's something from www.indiebound.org, an indie website:

Why shop Indie?

When you shop at an independently owned business, your entire community benefits:

The Economy
  • Spend $100 at a local and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.
  • Local businesses create higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
  • More of your taxes are reinvested in your community--where they belong.
The Environment
  • Buying local means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money to beautify your community.
The Community
  • Local retailers are your friends and neighbors—support them and they’ll support you.
  • Local businesses donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains.
  • More independents means more choice, more diversity, and a truly unique community.

I, for one, do not want to see the demise of the printed book. Or the demise of bookstores. Many love the Kindle; I'm not converted yet. Many love amazon.com; I also use it if I can't find what I want locally. But many of use feel the woes of businesses closing. What are we doing to stop it?

I suggest you go out and find your local indie. Chat with the owner, thank them for their business. Then buy a few books! Indies have their own bestseller list, and it's not the same as the New York Times bestseller list. Better yet, join an indie community! I found the coolest website (many of you may know it): www.indiebound.org. You can find all the indies around you and create a profile and get to know people. I just joined yesterday and am looking for FRIENDS! So if you're already on there or joining, let me know!

For you authors out there, this means one big thing: NETWORKING. Networking with people who actually go out of their way to support writers.

Have fun! If you get a chance, tell me what treasures you find!

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 29,710
actual: 30,072 (+2,362)
tomorrow's goal: 32,072

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Non-linear Writing

I'm doing something different this time around with my novel. Previously, I've just followed my outline, writing every chapter that popped up. This time, I'm skipping around.

Since I'm writing from four different POVs, I've noticed each easier for me to keep my train of thought if I write the sections from one POV for a few days. When I find myself growing tired of that character, I switch to a different POV. The result is that I've written something like this: Chapters 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 3, 7, 11, 6, 9.

It's been quite fun, actually. I know that when I finish, I'll need to go back through and iron out the seams, make sure the whole thing fits together seamlessly. It's keeping me energized, though, fueling me on every day to take a fresh look at my manuscript.

I suspect this way of writing isn't new, though! Certainly I didn't stumble upon it by mishap. Those of you who write in multiple POVs, how do you do it? What method do you use? I'm very curious!

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 27,597
actual: 27,710 (+2,113)
tomorrow's goal: 29,710

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Oh, Negligent Mother

That would be me. My kids ran havoc this morning around the house while I slept. And it's my fault.

See, last night around 9:57pm, when my eyes were heavy and my heart rate slowing down for sleep, I decided to just read for three minutes from the book I started on Sunday.

You can imagine what happened from there. At the beginning of each chapter, I'd think, "This is the last one." Then the chapter would end, and I'd have that totally unresolved feeling--you know, like when you fight with your significant other and you're agitated and restless and need to get it figured out??? So I'd start the next chapter. And the next. And then the climax of the book came and I wasn't even tired anymore.

I think it was just after 1am when I finished. So this morning I let my three-year-old watch the one-year-old while I slept in for an hour. Bad, bad mom.

Oh, and if you're wondering about this book--because it was a good one, and I know everyone's going to want to read it--it's called Saving Madeline. It's not out yet, but I'll be doing a book review on it on September 8. So stay posted for more info.

Sequel Stats:
today's goal: 25,581
actual: 25,597 (+2,017)
tomorrow's goal: 27,597
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