Friday, July 30, 2010

The Funniest Damn Thing

I stumbled upon this site called Slush Pile Hell and I laughed out loud, literally, not in the LOL way, but a real, hearty, out loud laugh -- seven times.

Had to share with all writers. Start reading from the July 28th down. Each line in italics is extracted from a real query letter and followed by a hysterical comment from the agent who received it. The agent is anonymous.

Don't worry, there's no writer bashing or public humiliation. It's only one sentence. And besides, if the writer who wrote the bizarro line would ever recognize it as their writing, then it should serve as a lesson -- don't be a crazy ass in your query letter. Duh.



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bad Things Happen

Stephen King's review: Great f***ing book, man. I was totally hooked.

I concur.

I read this book, cover to cover, in less than 48 hours.

It's a crime novel with brilliant twists, fascinating characters, fast pacing and incredible dialogue. Authentic dialogue. If you're heading to a beach or just want a well written good read, grab this book. You won't be disappointed. I promise.

I'm off to revision land...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hollow Writing

I'm not going to tell you. I won't. No matter what.


See, I've read two thoroughly hyped, new, YA thrillers recently and was extremely under-whelmed. As in, I had to force myself to not abandon. The book titles will remain anonymous because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

But I feel compelled to share my opinion of why the books fell flat for me. As I read I never connected with the characters or their plights. I turned page after page hoping to be delighted or thrilled or feel something...anything for these people. And then it dawned on me. The "people" were not fully formed. Their dialogue felt hollow and empty and unauthentic. I could actually hear the writer talking.

I don't know about you, but unless I'm reading non-fiction, I want the author to be quiet. I want the richness of the characters to grab me and not let me go. I want to get inside the characters' heads and muck around a bit...feel what they're feeling...experience their woes and joys because they're so real to me and I care about them.

With both of those books I couldn't do any of that. I repeatedly got distracted by the empty dialogue.

After finishing the second book I felt a burst of inspiration, and I dove head first into my novel, The End of Normal, and spent two entire days ripping it apart. Again. I wrote this book (my first) back in 2008 and took it through nineteen formal revisions. But now, after knowing what I DON'T want it to read like I'm back inside my pages, reacquainting with my people and my world. I don't want readers to ever feel like my MC isn't a real, flesh and blood sixth grade girl facing the most insane circumstances. And I never want them to feel like my dialogue is hokey or unauthentic.

I'd like to publicly thank the two yawn-tastic books for spurring me on and forcing me to re-tighten my own work.

Any sleuths out there trying to figure out what books I'm talking about...just so you know...I didn't list the titles in my "Books I've Read Recently" list in my side bar. I'm far too slick for that (and too nice). The titles will be my secret.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Magicians

We all know I half-liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Well, I just finished The Magicians by Lev Grossman and I'll sum it up in one word for you.


Yeah, loved it.

It is a gritty and very grown up book about a high school senior named Quentin who finds out he's actually got magical powers. Yes, Mr. Potter has popped in my mind a few times - the author even brilliantly weaves in a few nods to him - but this book is definitely for adults.


And about the writing, well, it is extremely strong and tight and sophisticated. Lev uses words I've never even heard of before, and I'm a voracious reader. I do enjoy a good, but not overwhelming, reading challenge and this fits the bill. Also, I can't tell you how many times, as a writer, I re-read a brilliant line and marveled at his sheer genius.

The guy can write like a muther.

If you're into fantasy novels then get your hands on this book...if you're a grown up (I'd say it would be appropriate for 17 and up).

p.s. I'll be laptop-free till Monday...taking the boys to Great Wolf Lodge for the weekend.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Just finished it yesterday. My husband said, "Did you like it?"

I scrunched my face up and just looked at him for a second. Then I said, "Parts of it...I liked parts of it."

The truth, after Entertainment Weekly put the book on the cover of their magazine, touting it is the number one book on the planet, well, I bought the book. I figured, hey, I live on this planet and I haven't read it yet!

More truth, I forced myself to read the first 250 pages. The magazine cover repeatedly flashed in my mind as I trudged through the book, teasing me...The REST of the whole planet loves this book...what is the matter with YOU?

The author adores complicated back story -- as in, he probably bathes in it, letting it sink into his body via open pores until he becomes one with the uber-rich-details of his characters' lives. I nearly required toothpicks to keep my eyes open as I plodded through those pages.

Once I weeded out the necessary stuff for the story to continue making sense I got to some relatively exciting parts -- but for the love of heaven, it took such a long time to get there. And the names...the countless character names...there are SO MANY characters. The only two I really cared about were the main guy and of course, the girls with the dragon tattoo. She was a deeply flawed, ass-kicking, wickedly brilliant character. I liked her.

After I finished reading, the scenes that stuck with me were the over-the-top violent scenes -- especially the ones involving women. Those scenes were incredibly disturbing and, in my opinion, glorifying violence against women. Each scene had deeply misogynistic undertones.

To me - the strangest part - the author started out each new section of the book with a Swedish statistic on violence against women. It was like he was trying to be anti-violence in one vein and then in the other vein pumped ultra violent blood. Weird.

I wish I could write to him and ask him to clarify, but he passed away before any of this success. Sad, eh?

Bottom line, I'll read the next book in the series because I like Lisbeth (THE girl). But, I'm going to read a book or two in between because the thought of jumping back in to his back story-rich writing exhausts me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'm Still Alive

Wanted to touch base lest you fine people think I've fallen into a crevasse or something equally as mysterious. What in the world have I been doing?

REVISING myself silly.

I've had two brilliant beta readers work their beta'ly magic on my current YA. I threw myself back into my book to muck around a bit and make it stronger...better...closer to query ready. Thank you ladies. You know who you are.

But the main time-sucker-upper? I am in the THICK of official revisions with the math book I co-wrote. They are a wee bit mind-bending.

I'd like to tell you the story. No fretting, it's a good one...

Back when we were still coaching our teachers, Margie and I dreamed up a list of who we wanted to write the foreward to our book. We cooked up a list of THE BIGGEST and BEST heavy hitters in educational writing and mathematics. Our number one smarty pants is a man named Arthur Hyde. Click HERE to see how many books this dude has written in the field of mathematics instruction. I'll wait.

Brainy, eh?

Actually, he is one of Margie's heroes -- you should see her copy of one of his books -- it is FILLED with post-its and her notes. It looks like a Thanksgiving Turkey.

We quote the guy many times in our book, so when I hit send on the email asking if he'd do us the honor of writing the foreward to our book, I was pretty dang nervous. Margie and I called it our, "pipe dream" and both said it couldn't hurt to ask. We emailed our editor and told her who we just emailed and she said, "It would be incredible if Art wrote your forward!"

We waited a day.

On the second day his email came through and he, THE Arthur Hyde, genius extraordinaire, Margie's mathematical hero, said he wanted to have a phone conversation with us...and that he loved our voiced in the chapter we shared with him...and he wanted to read the whole thing. Yah, he really wrote that.

Cue jumping and much screaming. At work.

We set up a time and then huddled together around Margie's cell phone on speaker in my car. And we had a half hour conversation with Arthur Hyde. We kept stealing bewildered glances at each other and mouthing, "Wow!" repeatedly. He was so humble and kind. And he got our book on such a deep level.

He ended up telling a story that Ellin Keene (his equivalent in the Language Arts world and equally as brilliant and famous) agreed to write the foreward to his first book, and he was a complete unknown. And he wanted to do the same for us. How cool is this guy? He also asked us if we'd like him to give us his editorial notes on our manuscript. We mouthed another Wow and told him it would be an honor.

Margie and I have just completed seven straight days of revisions based on his editorial comments, and our book is even more cohesive. We sent our editor the revised version and her editorial comments came to us this morning.

You won't see me 'round these parts for a while. My head will be in Numeracy-land. Wish me well fine blog friends. Wish me well.

p.s. Check out the link above about my video parody word-spread contest.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Billionaire Parody

The BIG Reveal!

Before you watch...2 things:

1. If you aren't familiar with the song Billionaire by Travie McCoy & Bruno Mars then I insist you click HERE and have a listen first.

2. Even though what you are about to watch is dedicated to unpublished writers out there, it really applies to anyone with a dream.

Without further ado. Te da.

Click HERE for some video awesomeness, if I do say so myself. Stop back after you watch and finish reading this post.

After you watch...2 things:

1. Yeah, that's me singing. If I didn't have vomit inducing stage fright I probably would've pursued my dream of being a singer with a little more verve. But I didn't want to be nauseous at my job every day.

2. If you laughed, enjoyed it, smiled, liked me spread the word any way you can.

  • The most creative public-word-spread WINS A $50 GIFT CARD to the book store of your choice.
  • The "most creative" part will be judged by my two boys, who are both rather creative, so go for it.
  • Just tell me how to check it out it via a comment below.
  • The judging will take place July 31, 2010 & Winner announced August 1, 2010.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I had this idea right before we went away for our family vacation. I let it simmer a bit, boiled down the dumb parts, and oh boy. Yeah, oh boy.

I will reveal this awesomeness on Monday. I have to continue making it even more awesome.

It's good. It's real good.

The world better prepare...