Friday, December 17, 2010

My New Avatar

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may remember last January's CALAMITY JACK contest.  If not, you can read about it here. I just gave a copy of RAPUNZEL'S REVENGE to Daxton's teacher for Christmas. I'm a fangirl. These books even make children who hate reading want to sit and read for hours.

Rapunzel's RevengeCalamity Jack

This afternoon, I came home from room mothering to find this avatar in my e-mail.  

If you've read CALAMITY JACK, you ought to recognize the Pru-style pixie hat. I love it. It's my birthday this weekend. Thanks, Nathan (illustrator extraordinaire) Hale for the early birthday present! 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Matthew Kirby's Debut Novel

I ended up googling Matthew J. Kirby, after reading some of the comments on my post about his debut novel, THE CLOCKWORK THREE, and found this video where he discusses it. I also found a book trailer, but I thought this one gave a better feel for the book than the trailer did.

Yes, I'm still thinking about this one, even though I've read a couple of others since then. That's usually a good sign, right?

Has anyone else read it yet?

Friday, December 10, 2010

One Person

Last night, when I went to the post office, I opened my last rejection for 2010. It wasn't a good feeling. If you've been rejected, you know what I mean.

Then today, I went to eat lunch with my son at his school because it's his week to be recognized in his class. A girl I vaguely recognized came up to me in the lunch room. She smiled at me and looked fluttery, though I couldn't imagine why.

"Mrs. Foster?" she said.

I nodded.

Her smile got bigger. "You came to our class last year and wrote poems for us."

"Yes, I did," I said, realizing why she look familiar. She'd asked a lot of questions during my poetry workshop.

She ran off, and I ate lunch with my son, but I'm not feeling as upset over that rejection anymore. It doesn't take much to lift another person, the way this girl lifted me today.

One of my critique partners has pledged to make school kits for children in need, one for every book we buy for a child this Christmas. All you have to do is go over to Jackee's 200th Post Celebration and tell her you've bought a book for a child (by December 23rd), and another child will receive much needed school supplies. Oh, and you'll be entered in her drawing to win books. It isn't so hard to make a difference.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, December 6, 2010


I just finished an incredible story, a book I hadn't heard of that I picked up because our librarians displayed it in the children's section. Today's Marvelous MG Monday is all about THE CLOCKWORK THREE, by Matthew J. Kirby.

The Clockwork Three 

Isn't that a GREAT cover?

Three ordinary children are brought together by extraordinary events. . .

Giuseppe is an orphaned street musician from Italy, who was sold by his uncle to work as a slave for an evil padrone in the U.S. But when a mysterious green violin enters his life he begins to imagine a life of freedom.

Hannah is a soft-hearted, strong-willed girl from the tenements, who supports her family as a hotel maid when tragedy strikes and her father can no longer work. She learns about a hidden treasure, which she knows will save her family -- if she can find it.

And Frederick, the talented and intense clockmaker's apprentice, seeks to learn the truth about his mother while trying to forget the nightmares of the orphanage where she left him. He is determined to build an automaton and enter the clockmakers' guild -- if only he can create a working head.

Together, the three discover they have phenomenal power when they team up as friends, and that they can overcome even the darkest of fears.

The first point-of-view shift annoyed me because I wanted to read more about Guiseppe, but then I became just as attached to Hannah and Frederick. The historical fiction element (the little street musicians, kidnapped or sold as slaves and forced to work for their masters) reminded me of OLIVER TWIST, while the fantasy and danger reminded my husband of THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES. And while I can see his point, the magic didn't have anything to do with faeries. Mostly, it's more mechanical or functional. We both loved it. The prose is even more beautiful and functional than the magic. 

Have any of you read THE CLOCKWORK THREE? If so, what do you think? It's only been out since October, but I'm still surprised I haven't seen reviews for it.

Shannon Whitney Messenger is also hosting a MMGM and a book giveaway today, if you'd like to hop over there. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Writing Update

I've finished my revisions on Star Swans for now, and I'm about to dive into the story I mentioned in this post. I'm writing a rough draft on my old computer that doesn't have internet for a number of reasons, but here are the main three:

1. No internet connection means I have to switch computers to socialize *waves* over the internet.
2. No one in my house will need or even want the computer I'll be using.
3. I wrote the only novel I've ever completed on it and every poem I've ever sold; it's my "working" computer.

I'm really looking forward to focusing on a rough draft again, but I'm also dreading it. I haven't tried to follow any kind of writing routine since school started, and I know I'll get a lot more done once I start setting goals and making progress. I've been in love with this story and its characters for a few years now, so it's ready to come out. I just need to do the work. Why is it so hard to reestablish good habits? It's like exercise (another habit I need to reestablish). Is this paragraph degenerating into whiny and pathetic, or is it just me?

Also, it feels like I'm cheating on Star Swans. Is that silly, or is it normal? It's not like I've given up on my first novel--I haven't even tried to query it--but I think this new project will help me SEE my old project better when I pick it up again in a few months.

So, if you don't see me around as much the next couple of months, it just means I'm reestablishing good habits ;)

What are you working on?  

Monday, November 1, 2010

Marvelous MG Monday: The Lost Hero

Honestly, I'm surprised I haven't seen anyone blogging about this book. It's fantastic.
The Heroes of Olympus, Book One: The Lost Hero

It's the first book in Rick Riordan's newest series, the sequel series to his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and I thought it was even better than The Lightning Thief. The story is told from the points of view of three new characters, but it picks up only a few months after where The Last Olympian ended. So, you're going to recognize a lot of characters. I loved the twists the story took, and I can't believe how long it took me to figure out where "the lost hero" was. Though I'm sure that was Mr. Riordan's intent; my attention was thoroughly diverted elsewhere.

If you enjoyed the Percy Jackson books, you'll love this one. Besides the new characters, he's added layers that I'm not going to spoil for you. The way Rick Riordan uses mythology without ever letting information bog down the story, without ever confusing his readers, amazes me. Easy reading is hard to write, and this book kept me up late (because I had to know how it would end). Ben shook his head over when I went to bed, but he's probably reading The Lost Hero tomorrow, and then we'll see ;)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Paperback Boxed Set (Books 1-3) 

If you haven't read the previous series, you could still pick this up and love it, but the first series is very much worth reading. You can read my recommendation here.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is Shannon Whitney Messenger's brainchild, and today, she's not only telling you why you should read The Mysterious Benedict Society, she's giving away a copy.

Have a great week!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Answers, The Fourth (Blogging)

In case you've missed my other posts this month, I've been blogging for a little over a year now. 10/10/10 was my first blogoversary. This post wraps up my Q&A, and then I'll be taking break to get some serious writing done in honor of National Novel Writing Month (November), though I'm not planning on actually taking the NaNoWriMo challenge. I tried it last year, and I haven't even looked at the unfinished mess that I poured so many hours into last November. If you are taking the challenge, then good luck to you! GO! WRITE! WIN! No, I am NOT a cheerleader, but NaNoWriMo is HARD. 

So, questions, we have questions and answers.

Jude asked, "Hmm how many hours a day do you spend blogging and/or tweeting? Has it grown or waned as you're approaching the one-year mark?"

I'd say that over the year, I probably averaged one a day, but I don't tweet, and I don't blog everyday. It grew and then waned. I'm so busy with school and kids right now that it isn't a big priority. I blog because I enjoy the interaction.

Susan Kaye Quinn asked, "Any regrets of the year-of-the-blog? Will you do it for another year?"

My only regret is that I think I could have spent more time writing this year. I only have so much time to blog/read/write, and I think a greater portion of that time needs to go to writing. I don't intend to quit, just cut back.

Medeia Sharif asked, "How have your bloggie friends stretched you/enlightened you/assisted you in your writing endeavors?"

The best part of this last year of blogging has been finding great critique partners. I have three that I've traded with and three more that I'm excited to trade with when my manuscript is ready. But really, all of my "bloggie friends" have been encouraging and supportive, and it helps just to have people say they like my writing or even my blog. It counters the rejection.

Niki asked, "Do you get worried about what to post on your blog?"

Yes, I worry about posting information about my children or experiences that are personal, and then I go with what feels right. I prefer reading blogs where the writer lets their readers get to know them. I worry about sounding negative, but I like it when other bloggers share their problems. And I worry about voice. Do I have voice? I don't know. It's something that's easy for me to hear in other blogs, but it's hard to tell if I have it. I'm not trying to be someone I'm not or writing a character. It's just me.

And that wraps up our Q&A. Thank you for your questions, your comments, and your friendships. I look forward to getting to know you better over the next year, but please don't be offended if you see less of me on your blogs and here for the rest of 2010. I'm writing a rough draft (as soon as I finish the partial revision of Star Swans I'm working on), and I've learned over the last year that blogging interferes with my creative process. That doesn't mean I won't be blogging or commenting at all the next two months, just less (if I have any self-discipline) ;)

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Answers, The Third (Writing)

Adam Heine (who happens to have a great contest going this week) asked, "What's your publishing career goal (even if "career" is in quotes :-)?"

I'd like it to be a career. I can't think of any career that would be as much fun as writing and talking to kids about writing and books. I have a lot of little goals, but they're pretty scattered. I like to write poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, mostly for children. Whether or not I'm successful in getting my fiction published, it's fun to find my poetry in my favorite magazine in the children's section at our library.

Sharon K. Mayhew asked, "What was your first publication? and when?"

My first publication was a newspaper article when I was in high school, but I couldn't tell you the title or when it was published. I was too busy to keep track of them. My first children's poem "The Letter S," was published in September of 2007. It was Highlights High Five's first year, and I've had a poem in there every year since.

Catherine Denton asked, "Could you share one of your children's poems with us? (tips would be nice too)"

I shared my most recent publication, "A Place on My Bed," in this post.

My tip would be to anchor your poetry in concrete images and let your readers supply the emotion. One of the things I like about this poem is that while the O shape is concrete, readers are going to come up with their own interpretations of what it's opening into and what kind of treasure is inside. I loved the illustration for this one in Highlights.

Sue asked, "When did you first start writing...and what form did your early efforts take?"

I remember receiving and writing notes in class as early as first grade. Some of those notes, especially in second grade, may or may not have been written to a certain boy. I also used to make up games that were ongoing stories and play them with my friends. It wasn't writing, but it stretched my mind in the same direction.

Thank you for your questions! I'll wrap up the Q & A with my answers to your blogging questions in a few days. Have a great week!

*I took down "The Letter O" and the bit about my professor. Thanks for your positive comments!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Answers, The Second (random stuff)

Flowering Plum Pictures, Images and Photos

Sarah asked, "I've always wondered why no one (at least that I know of)--and especially a movie villain--has planted dark maples and other purple leaved trees all around their house. Why not surround a home with purple foliage?"

Actually, the first house we bought, I fell in love with the dark purple flowing plum that it had in the front yard. The pink flowers in the spring were just a bonus. The yard was tiny, so that was the only tree we had. Now you know someone who had purple leaves around their house. I think maples are beautiful too, but they don't grow well where I live.

Krista asked, "What took you to Mexico, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, and Canada?"

storks Pictures, Images and Photos

Having an airline pilot for a dad made traveling a lot less expensive (until I grew up). We went on a family vacation to Europe when I was 14, mostly to visit my cousin and his family who lived in Switzerland. My cousin and his wife talked my parents into leaving me with them for the rest of the summer, and they took me with them on their family vacation to Portugal. We drove through France, Spain (with their stork nests on churches and fields of sunflowers), and the barricades set up by revolutionaries in Portugal to stay at a beach house that belonged to some friends of theirs. That was the first summer I ever remember getting sunburned.

I went to Mexico on school related trips twice in high school and once while attending BYU. Spanish Education was one of my majors (though I dropped it later), and I lived in the Spanish House one spring term, and then a group of us went down to Obregon in Sonora and stayed there for a short while.

Carolina Valdez Miller asked,

"What is your number one goal in life?"                     To follow my Savior
"Where do you see yourself in five years?"               Writing and being a mom
"What is one thing you like to have while writing?"   Salt and Pepper Pistachios

Karen G asked, "Where do you live?"

I live in a small valley between Mesquite and Las Vegas, Nevada, in the desert. If you walked straight out my backdoor, you'd cross the railroad tracks into the desert, and you wouldn't run into any houses, not for days.

And Jackee asked, "What do you like/dislike about where you live?"

I love the people, and I love that I can garden year round here. I like that we get lizards crawling on our window screens, but I'm not so crazy about Arizona bark scorpions sneaking into our house. I love the weather in fall, winter and spring, but I want to move anywhere else in the summer. The temperatures get over 120 degrees F.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Answers: The First (Star Swans)

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to answer your questions. I've been unusually busy the last couple of weeks, but life ought to calm down after this week. Today, I'm going to answer the questions from Jackie, Krista, and Shellie about my YA Fantasy. The second two kind of echoed the first, so I'll just post Jackie's question.

Jackie asked, "When are we going to see a teaser/hook/pitch/tidbit of Star Swans?"

I'm going to share a couple of quotes from Star Swans' most recent critique--the first because it made me happy and the second because it's causing me stress.

"I am absolutely in love with what this book could be.  You have so many golden moments in here, so much that made me smile--and the story!  You have so much of it!  Furthermore, it's just classic enough to feel familiar when we slip into it, but it very much has its own flavor, which makes it fun and new.  I really don't think I've ever read a book with a style like yours."

"I really think this needs to be more than one book.  You have so much story, so much great story that I don't think you want to cram it into 90k words.  This overarching story could and should take 300k words or more, spread out in (I think) three books.  Yes, I just said three hundred thousand words.  Don't freak out--you have an advantage in that you have written a rough draft of much of the series.  That will help you."

So, now I'm deciding what to do with Q's advice, most of which was spot on. Star Swans has serious pacing issues that this would almost completely solve, but (much as I love this story) I didn't mean to spend the next five years of my life on it. I've known that I needed to write a prequel and a sequel since the second draft, but my CP wasn't referring to those. For fun, I wrote a teaser for each book that Star Swans would become if I split it into three.

The Star Swan: When Jaavan's mother becomes fatally ill, his best friend, Lani, suggests they seek healing from the Immortal Emperor's Star Swan, but even as they befriend the Star Swan, Jaavan learns how its master bound ghosts to become who he is and how the ancestors of the most important people in his life fought him.

The Mountain Shadows: Jaavan travels to Feoras where the Immortal Emperor holds Lani, but first, his mother and he have to cure the illness that the Immortal Emperor infected his mother's family with hundreds of years previously and find his father among the Mountain Shadows.    

The Sarki: In Feoras, Jaavan is betrayed to and protected from the Immortal Emperor by his sarki, and his hope that their master will take him and let Lani go are dashed from the beginning, but as Jaavan gets to know their master and his concerns, the Immortal Emperor's refusal to release Lani becomes the only major contention between them.

They're all a bit rough still, but it's not like I'm querying at the moment. I'll get to the rest of your questions over the next couple of weeks. Thanks for asking them!  

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


This Sunday, October 10th, will close my first year of blogging. Thank you for your comments, blog posts, friendships, book reviews, writing advice, interviews, e-mails, awards, contests, pictures, and comments. ;)

In honor of the occasion, I'll be answering any questions (but keep it PG) you might have (that don't involve Super Secret Info like passwords and SS#s). Also, in keeping with my other Q&A, I would love for you to share something about yourself, anything you like.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Need Feedback On Your Picture Book Manuscript?

Dear Editor is giving away a free picture book edit. If you're interested, click here for her giveaway post. You have until October 10th. And if you write for children, I recommend subscribing to her feed. She isn't requiring it to enter her contest, but she answers questions, both through her posts and in e-mails. Dear Editor is one of my three favorite writing industry blogs.

Also, I saw this over at Shannon O'Donnell's blog and had to share it - so funny.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Today's Highlights

I wasn't at all excited to get out of bed this morning. Tuesday is one of my crazy days, and I knew it was going to be even crazier than usual because I had to drop off the van to get it fixed and find a ride to work. This song is silly, but it describes how I was feeling.

But then today ended up being a great day, so I thought I'd share some of the little things that made me happy.

1.   One of the girls in my afternoon pre-school class brought me a flower today.

2.   Another of the girls had a purple extension braided into her hair.

3.   A very shy boy in the morning class and a very shy girl in the afternoon class insisted on hugs today. The girl is almost deaf without her hearing aid. The boy cried when his mother dropped him off. You get the idea.

4.   Tonight, not only did my very underdog middle school soccer team win their first game, 5-4, each of the five goals was scored by a different player. This is the sweetest, most respectful team I have ever coached. When I came home from the first practice and told Ben how nice they were, he said, "Nice kids don't win soccer games." And I worried. And then I saw the older kids on the other teams and worried more (watching kids you care about lose = not fun). But they've learned quickly, and they play their little hearts out, and I am super happy for them tonight.

What made you happy today?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Some of My Favorite Banned Books

So, Banned Books Week started today, and today, reading this article, I found out I read a banned book to both of my pre-school classes on Tuesday. And because the wee kiddos loved it so much, I read it twice in both of those classes (yes, they begged), and most of them chanted along with me the second time.

What was the book?
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?: 40th Anniversary Edition (Brown Bear and Friends)

Yes, the Texas Board of Education banned BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE, by Bill Martin, illustrated by Eric Carle, in January of this year because they thought the author was someone objectionable, someone else. In other words, they banned a fantastic book because of a mistake.

This reminded me of something that happened closer to home. A few years back, I went to a Scholastic Warehouse Event with several friends, and they were selling paperback copies of SURVIVING THE APPLEWHITES, by Stephanie S. Tolan. Ben and I loved the book, so I recommended it. One of my friends said it was a bad book, that a group of parents had made one of the 5th grade teachers remove it from her curriculum the year before. I asked my friend if she'd read it. Of course she hadn't and could only remember that the book had a bad kid in it. From what I gathered, only one parent had read SURVIVING THE APPLEWHITES and decided it wasn't appropriate for her child, and I thought how sad it was that no one had challenged her. I have to wonder if the lady even finished reading the book.
Surviving the Applewhites Guided Reading Classroom Set
I highly recommend it.

So many banned books are such well-written, life-changing, beautiful works of art that it makes me wonder if the people who ban them are afraid to feel. There's a controversy over SPEAK, by Laurie Halse Anderson, at the moment. I haven't read SPEAK, but it can't be a great idea, limiting access to a book that helps victims find their voice. Some of my favorite banned books are FARENHEIT 451, anything by ROALD DAHL, and the HARRY POTTER series, but it's hard to choose.
The BFG (My Roald Dahl)

Do you have a favorite banned book?

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Best YouTube Video Ever!

Okay, I might be slightly prejudiced. I've been friends with the two funnies who made it for almost 20 years, but seriously, it's great.

Don't you think so?

And thank you to everyone who took the time to read my first 250 words and comment! I love you! I've found that specific compliments about my writing affect me a lot like specific compliments about my children. Specific compliments about myself make me want to roll my eyes, but compliments for my writing or kiddos make me all kinds of happy. So, THANK YOU!!!

Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The First 250 Words of Star Swans and Sarki

So, I entered the first sentence of STAR SWANS AND SARKI in a contest a little while back, not really thinking much of it. I entered because the agent giving out page critiques for prizes, Natalie Fischer, is on that list of lovely people I intend to query when I feel my manuscript is ready. However, my first sentence isn't totally amazing. I feel like it's a great opening for my story, but that's something a reader would realize later on (kind of like the cover art for WHEN YOU REACH ME, only not so much).

In fact, I've been in a bit of a funk over the story since I realized I cut too much information from the beginning a couple of weeks ago. I don't want to put the parts I cut back in, so now I'm coming up with ways to show the information (which is going to take my word count back up). I've decided I need a ghost scene near the beginning. *grins* I love what I've been playing with because it involves one of my favorite characters. The character doesn't have a big role in the story because he stays behind to take care of their home, but he's important to the main character. This scene would show how they interact and keep my readers from being confused about the ghosts. I hope.

I'm feeling better about the story again (now that I have a solution), and my first sentence is a finalist over on Elle's blog. You can click here to read my first 250 words in her comments section, if you're interested. And you can laugh at the fact that it took me three times to post my entry without errors. ;)

Also, if you have a book on pacing you'd like to recommend, I'd be grateful. It's something I'd like to focus on this revision. Thanks!  

Thursday, September 16, 2010

And Our Mockingjay Winner is …

Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)
 … Maile!

Thanks to everyone who entered!

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Late Mockingjay Giveaway

If you'd like to get your hands on MOCKINGJAY, but for some reason or other haven't yet, this post is for you. I have a copy I'd like to give away.

Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)

To enter, leave a comment before midnight PDT on Wednesday. This contest is open internationally, and I will give two extra entries for each link you leave in the comments that you blogged, tweeted or posted this on FB. 

Have a great weekend!  

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Flower Mantids

I took two flower mantids away from Daxton's kitten tonight, the second about five minutes after the first. I don't know how or why they came in the house, but they've been hunting bugs outside our front door every night for at least a week. I didn't see any damage when I looked them over (not an easy task).

The first time I notice one (about a week ago), I thought a praying mantid was eating a butterfly and wondered what kind of butterfly it was. I'd never seen a butterfly with such beautiful pink and green markings. So, I broke off a bit of grass and moved the mantid with it to get a better look. It flew onto my pants, and I realized why I'd never seen a butterfly with those markings. Ben very cooly informed me there were two of them and went back to reading MOCKINGJAY.

Now I'm wondering why I've never seen a flower mantid. I'm not even sure they're native to our area, but that's what they are. After I showed the strange looking mantid to the kiddos, Daxton ran to look it up in his favorite book, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION: ANIMAL.
Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife
It's a rare day that goes by without his opening this book. He found flower mantids listed above common praying mantids on page 555, and after reading descriptions for both, we had a name for our mantids. If I manage to get a picture of their wings spread, I'll post it. They have ruby red eyes, a golden crown up around their antennae, and their spikes and mandibles are bronze. I've never seen such metallic looking mantids. And then they have fairy princess wings. I couldn't let the cat eat them.

I searched the internet for almost an hour, looking for a picture or video of mantids that looked like ours, but so far I haven't found one. This video shows a different type of flower mantid, if you're interested.

Have you ever seen a flower mantid?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Maria V. Snyder

There's been a lot of buzz lately about MOCKINGJAY, and rightly so, but I'd like to recommend another dystopian that I enjoyed more. Last month, I won a copy of INSIDE OUT on Kelly Bryson's blog. She interviewed the author, Maria V. Snyder, and Ms. Snyder offered to give one of the people who commented on her blog a copy. I didn't have to agree to review it, and I hadn't read any of her other books, but I loved the story.

Inside Out (Harlequin Teen)

Packed with action and intrigue, INSIDE OUT kept me turning pages and hoping the characters weren't a chapter away from meeting Chomper (a messy end). Trella accidently incites rebellion and hope in both likely and unlikely places by searching for Gateway (a way out of the society they're trapped in). She's good at keeping her head down and staying out of trouble, but when her best friend turns himself in to save her from suspicion, Trella knows she won't be able to save him or find Gateway (which is what he wants her to do) by staying out of trouble. 

I'd love to know what you thought of INSIDE OUT, if you've read it. If not, let me know when you have. ;)

If you're interested, Maria V. Snyder is giving away another one of her books, SPY GLASS, as part of the Squeaky Books Birthday Bash. The interview before the giveaway is a lot of fun too. This is only one of many giveaways, and I have a button in my sidebar that will take you over there, or you can click on the link in my last sentence.

Have a great week!   

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fourth Draft Finished!

And it's about time. My fourth draft took a lot longer (3 1/2 months) than my third draft (3 weeks), but I made a lot of changes (although the read aloud I intended to finish with turned into a silent speed-read). STAR SWANS AND SARKI went from somewhere around 96,000 words to 89,490 words.

This is the first draft that I've finished with fewer words than I started it with. I'm shedding information that I needed to know to write the story, but has become obvious or otherwise unnecessary. And I'm finding that as I take out the clutter, my story becomes more and more like the original version - the one I fell in love with and tried to capture with my first (messy) draft. I'm not sure why I'm taking such a roundabout way to get there . . . actually, I do. I had to get to know my characters and their backgrounds. Have you ever experienced something similar?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Happy Dancing

Anyone who wants to happy dance with me over finishing a picture book manuscript that I'm excited about can start dancing . . .

. . . NOW!                                   Happy Dancing Pictures, Images and Photos

This picture book has actually had a title (which I think I'll keep to myself just a bit longer) for about five years, and I've written two or three other stories with different characters and story lines, stories that made me say, "Meh." I'm excited to revise this one into something I can query or submit. So I'm giving myself a September 21st deadline to complete Shelley's dare. After all, that's technically the end of summer, right?

Because I have this other manuscript (still under 90,000 words) that I'm working on until Wednesday.

What are you excited about right now?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Writing Update

I'm still not done with my fourth draft of Star Swans and Sarki, but I like where it's going. My actual deadline for finishing is the end of the month, but I'm supposed to be squeezing a picture book into this month too. The Story Queen dared me to write a picture book this summer, and I not only accepted the dare, I told her I'd submit or query it as well. Unfortunately, the two picture books I've started this summer haven't cooperated. It looks like I'm starting over from scratch.

Fortunately, my revision is going well. My manuscript is more than 5,000 words lighter (under 90k) than it was last week, and I've added thousands of new words: shiny conversations and scuffles (which means I've probably cut closer to 10k). At the moment, I'm working my way backwards through the story and trying to catch missing punctuation and inconsistencies. At least, that was my plan. I've found that revising backwards is also helping me catch superfluous words, sentences, and even paragraphs that flow well when I'm reading it frontwards. Once I'm done with my backwards revision, I'm going to read the whole thing out loud and fix whatever problems I have left. It should be perfect in a week or so, right?


Yes, I'm laughing at myself over my perfection issues, but that's a subject for another post. The reality: I'll send my fourth draft out to a few more readers, and then I'll revise again. Meanwhile, I have another novel I started earlier this summer that I'm excited to get back to (once I've written that perfect picture book) and another friend's manuscript to critique.

I've critiqued three since May. Critiquing other writers' work has helped me see problems that need to be fixed in my own, and reading critiques on my own work has helped even more. I don't always take their advice. Even when I do, it doesn't always work. For instance, I cut a character that one of my critters didn't like, chopped her right out of the story, but then I wrote her back in today. Her part is smaller, but it's necessary. On the other hand, I also revised a scene where the same critter felt my characters didn't react to a betrayal. I made them react and wow--I love what it did for my character development. She saw something important that I missed. Of course, changing that part meant I had to revise other parts as well, but it was worth the work. In both instances, my story is better for the changes I made because of her comments. I (heart) my critique partners.

hearts Pictures, Images and Photos

And I (heart) my blogging friends. Thanks for reading my rambley-scrambley writing update. Have you ever revised backwards or tried something different to catch mistakes?

Monday, August 16, 2010

More Contest Love

WriteOnCon was great, wasn't it? That writing update I promised you isn't happening until the end of the week. Hopefully I'll be where I want to be by then.

But check out this contest. Shannon Whitney Messenger, one of the organizers of WriteOnCon, is giving away five amazing ARCs of books I've been dying to read (especially the first and the last). Here's Shannon's description:

PEGASUS by Robin McKinley (Available in November, 2010)

Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pegasi, Princess Sylviianel is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own pegasus, on her twelfth birthday. The two species coexist peacefully, despite the language barriers separating them. Humans and pegasi both rely on specially trained Speaker magicians as the only means of real communication.

But it's different for Sylvi and Ebon. They can understand each other. They quickly grow close—so close that their bond becomes a threat to the status quo—and possibly to the future safety of their two nations.

New York Times bestselling author Robin McKinley weaves an unforgettable tale of unbreakable friendship, mythical creatures and courtly drama destined to become a classic.


MATCHED* by Ally Condie (Available September, 2010)
*Note: The ARC I have does not have the now famous cover, but otherwise it's exactly the same.

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.


VIRALS by Kathy Reichs (Available November 2010)

Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage "sci-philes" who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.

As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot—if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer's scent.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends— they're a pack. They are Virals.


THE SEARCH FOR WONDLA by Tony DiTerlizzi (Available September 2010)

When a marauder destroys the underground sanctuary that Eva Nine was raised in by the robot Muthr, the twelve-year-year-old girl is forced to flee aboveground. Eva Nine is searching for anyone else like her, for she knows that other humans exist, because of an item she treasures—a scrap of cardboard on which is depicted a young girl, an adult, and a robot, with the strange word, "WondLa." Tony DiTerlizzi honors traditional children's literature in this totally original space age adventure: one that is as complex as an alien planet, but as simple as a child's wish for a place to belong.

Breathtaking two-color illustrations throughout reveal another dimension of Tony DiTerlizzi's vision, and, for those readers with a webcam, the book also features Augmented Reality in several places, revealing additional information about Eva Nine's world.


THE KNEEBONE BOY By: Ellen Potter (Available September 2010)

Life in a small town can be pretty boring when everyone avoids you like the plague. But after their father unwittingly sends them to stay with an aunt who's away on holiday, the Hardscrabble children take off on an adventure that begins in the seedy streets of London and ends in a peculiar seaside village where legend has it a monstrous creature lives who is half boy and half animal...

In this wickedly dark, unusual, and compelling novel, Ellen Potter masterfully tells the tale of one deliciously strange family and a secret that changes everything.

*          *          *

They all look amazing, don't they? Make sure you tell her I sent you.

And F.Y.I. - Stephanie Perkins is giving away her last copy of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. I'm not entering, but you can tell her I sent you anyway. ;o)

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Contest and a Conference

Carolina Valdez Miller extended her fabulous contest through August 15th, but you don't want to go over there. She's only giving away seven, SEVEN ARCs. ;o)


Also, if you're a writer and you haven't heard of Write On Con, you should check it out. It's free, and you don't even have to leave your home to interact with other writers, agents, editors, and illustrators. I'm registered as Myrna Foster in the WriteOnCon forums, if you want to add me as a friend. I'll be hanging out over there this week, but next week, prepare yourselves for a long overdue writing update (and no, that doesn't mean I have a contract or an agent to tell you about). I haven't had anything exciting to share since May.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Answers to Writing/Story Questions

Welcome to the question and answer session that will reveal my long time obsession with The Lord of the Rings series, among other things. So without further ado, I give you my answers to your writing and story questions.

Sharon K Mayhew asked, "Have you been to any of the Highlights workshops?"

I would LOVE to attend a Highlights workshop, in fact, I'd love to attend more than one, but even the plane ticket to get across the country is out of my budget right now. If, however, any of you live near Pennsylvania or have a healthy savings account, they offer a variety of wonderful workshops throughout the year. One of these days …

Shelley (storyqueen) asked, "And, favorite thing you've ever written."

"The Letter O" - the second poem I sold to Highlights is still my favorite.

Jackee said, "And I want a list of books written and poems published. Yeah, WIPs and publications."

The only novel I've ever finished a draft of (three actually) is Star Swans and Sarki. But I don't think I've ever mentioned the picture books I've tried submitting to publishers. They would count as books written. I've written others I didn't consider finished enough to submit. Hopefully, I'll get them there eventually.

Picture Books 
Bubbles Popping Everywhere
Monty's Piggyback Ride
We Paint the Night
Skunk on a Skateboard
Emma's Underwear 
The Baby Who Loves to Wear Shoes

Poems Published (all by Highlights High Five)
The Letter S                    (September 2007)
The Letter O                   (January 2008)
My Umbrella                  (March 2009)
A Place on My Bed        (June 2010)

You may have noticed the same pattern I have. As I've already had a poem published this year, I'm guessing Worm School won't come out until the beginning of next year. Though, I'll certainly let you know when I know for sure. :o)

You totally made me pull out my record book, Jackee, not that that's a bad thing.

Holly Ruggiero asked, "Do you have any work published online? What's your favorite part beginning, middle, or end?"

I don't. And my favorite part varies with the project, but usually it's the middle.

Susan Fields asked, "Question for you: What's your favorite movie, old or new?"

This is such a hard question. I'd have to agree that The Lord of the Rings movies are brilliant, but I've only seen them a couple of times because I don't want the actors and actresses to replace the character
s I've been carrying around in my head for so long. My favorite movie was Better Off Dead for years,k but I'm going with Second Hand Lions. The best movie I've seen this year is How to Train Your Dragon.

Julie Dao asked, "What books do you not have in your library that you would really like to get?"

At the moment, I'd really like copies of Kiersten White's Paranormalcy and Robin McKinley's Pegasus. I'd also like to own the Anne of Green Gables series and all of Jane Austen's books, except for Emma. The only one I have is Northanger Abbey. Oh, and while I have an unlimited budget, I'd like the rest of Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggy series, and Shelley Moore Thomas' Good Knight books. :o)

Beth Revis asked, "If you could make any character in any book come to real life, which would it be and why?"

Harold, I'd love to go on an adventure with him and that purple crayon of his. Do you think he'd let me borrow it? ;o)

Weronika Janczuk asked, "Favorite secondary character ever is . . . ?

  . . . Sam Gamgee, from The Lord of the Rings. However, if you feel that all members of the fellowship are main characters, I also love Eowyn. Most of my (few) gripes with the movies are Sam related. In the first book, Sam saves Frodo by slashing at the (tentacle of the Watcher) that grabs him and pulling him out of reach. Who saves Frodo in the movie? And in The Return of the King (the movie), they actually had Sam leave Frodo on the stairs going into Mordor. Yeah, right. Eowyn though, Eowyn was perfect.

Lacey asked, "Have you always wanted to be a writer or did someone or something inspire you?"

I've always liked making up stories and poems, and I had teachers who encouraged me. There are other occupations I've been interested in, but writing compliments any subject or occupation.

and "Do you ever fictionalize people you know?"

I did for a short story I wrote in college, but when my professor encouraged me to try submitting to literary magazines, the thought of selling it made me nervous. Since then, I've never intentionally fictionalized a real person, but I borrow character traits and experiences. Most of my characters have more of me in them than anyone else I know, even my antagonists. Most characters take on a life of their own, as soon as they start having conversations and interacting with other characters. And reading back over that short story from college, even those characters had bits of me in them. I doubt the people I fictionalized would recognize themselves.

Thanks for your questions! I hope you found something interesting in the answers.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Random Answers

First, I want to thank everyone who asked questions. I've decided to split the answers into two parts: random questions and writing/story questions. I also want to thank Krista, Q, Sue, and Susan for volunteering information about themselves. I've never made a chocolate souffle, and now I need to watch The Return of the King - at least the part where Eowyn challenges the Lord of the Nazgul. But I'm getting distracted. I was about to give you some random answers.

Krista asked, "Who is your favorite Muppet?

While I post more videos featuring Beaker,

my favorite would be Gonzo.

Q asked, "If you were a kitchen utensil, which would you be?"

Our freshman year of college, we actually had a poster over our couch that featured our personified utensils. Mine was the whip. It's versatile, and nothing does sauce quite like a whip. ;o)

Storyqueen asked, "Cake or pie?"

Pie, especially now that peaches are in season, I love peach custard pie.

Jackee said, "Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! I've one: How did you meet your husband?"

This is actually a fascinating story (blood, ER, late-night card games, love triangles), but it's long, and I'm not willing to post the whole thing on the internet (because it involves people I want to still like me). To make a long story short, it all started with a dare (that involved me) and a passing flirtation (that did not). I became friends with Ben's cousin/roommate that night because he said something to me in Spanish as I was leaving, and I answered him. It's funny how something so small can affect your whole life. If Jeff hadn't said those six words in Spanish, we wouldn't have become friends, and I doubt I'd have ever met Ben. That would have been a shame. It's been almost 13 years since the night I met his cousin, and we'll have been married for 12 in December.

Sue asked, "Question for you is, since you like Coldplay, what do you think of Gwynneth Paltrow, the lead singer's spouse?"

I'm afraid I don't know enough about her to have an opinion. I'm terrible with most celebrities.

Emily asked, "So did you name your baby after Gwynneth Paltrow?"

No, Gwenyth is an old family name on Ben's side of the family. His mom's dad was Welsh.

She also asked, " come you are so amazing??!! :)"

Is this where I confess to stealing magical vegetables* from your garden? No, you may not have my first born, but you're welcome to borrow her. :o)

Al asked, "Did you think you would get any questions you couldn't or wouldn't answer?"

No, but I could have spent an entire post or more answering each of Jackee's questions. That said, I'm happy with the questions that were asked and grateful to all of you for caring. Thank you!

*Emily has an AMAZING garden with gigantic vegetables, but I don't have to steal them. She shares.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I've never dedicated a post to letting you ask questions, but I've also never added this many followers in so short a time. And while I'd love to think I impressed you with my fantastic interviews, I know most of you hit the follow button because you wanted the books (who wouldn't) and probably the Nutella.

So, if you're new or old to my blog, ask me anything (as long as it's G-rated), and I'll give you an answer. I'd also love to hear something, anything, about you.

It's easy. I'll start by telling you that I like Coldplay and Muppets. I even like them together.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Contest Winner and Nutella Recipe

First, Krista interviews agents on her blog every week, and this week's agent is Kate Testerman, the agent who signed Stephanie Perkins. It's a great interview. Krista also links to all of her past interviews in her sidebar.

Second, after my interview with Stephanie, I went looking for a banana Nutella crepe recipe. I haven't made it yet, but this one includes a recipe for Nutella. If you have a jar of Nutella, the rest of the recipe looks easy, but a recipe for Nutella. I know: focus, Myrna, focus.

But have you TRIED Nutella? The first time I had it, I was having afternoon tea with my cousins and their friends in Switzerland, the summer before I started high school. We spread it on Petit-Beurre biscuits, and this is still my favorite way to eat the spread. Though I can never find the french biscuits here, there are latino equivalents (or near equivalents). Our local grocery store carries Gamesa's Marias for less than a dollar a package. I also like Nutella with bananas.

I would love for you to tell me your favorite way to eat Nutella in the comments. Sil vous plait.

And now, the contest winner is …

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Molly gave me permission to use this twitpic she made. Isn't it perfect?

(But I have to tell you: all three of my children were intrigued by the amount of time I spent cutting paper into strips and writing names on the bitty entries today. They wanted to help, so I let each of them pick three papers, and then I picked the winner from the ones they picked.)

 … Molly!

The crazy thing: she made the picture, and I asked her permission to use it before I drew her name. And no, I don't know her at all. She just left a link in her comment.

Congratulations, Molly! Thank you, everyone, for entering and for your lovely comments about our interviews and the books. I hope you all read and enjoy them!

BTW - I won't be around the blogosphere much for the next week. My husband's little sister is getting married on Tuesday, and their parents are coming home from Prague for a week. We're exited to see them. And my laptop is having issues. I'm hoping to get it fixed soon.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Kiersten White: Paranormal Creatures and Steph's Celebrity Boyfriends

There are only three more books coming out this year that I'm dying to read, and PARANORMALCY, by Kiersten White is one of them. I have a little over a month to wait (unless I win an ARC somewhere). Don't get me wrong: there are others that look interesting, and I'll read them, but …


Isn't this a great cover? I've never used an official book description on my blog before because I like to explain why I loved a book when I recommend it. However, seeing as I haven't actually read this one, I borrowed the following description from GoodReads.

Sixteen-year-old Evie's job is bagging and tagging paranormals. Possessing the strange ability to see through their glamours, she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency. But when someone--or something--starts taking out the vamps, werewolves, and other odd beasties she's worked hard to help become productive members of society, she's got to figure it out before they all disappear and the world becomes utterly normal. 

Normal is so overrated.

Tell me I'm not the only one who gets excited just reading the description. And to further tantalize you, I have a short quote from the book to help you get a feel for Evie, the main character.

"You aren't going to kill us?" the speaker asked, eyeing me suspiciously.

"Why does everyone keep asking me that?" Seriously, did I look like some sort of psycho assassin? Maybe it was the pink sneakers. Or the heart earrings?

Now you know why something pink and/or sparkly will be part of the giveaway. I just haven't found the right something yet. And to go with the pink and sparkly theme - for the interview - Kiersten's answers will be highlighted in pink.

What's the best part of having Steph for a critique partner?

Partnering with someone so much more talented than myself is an excellent way to stay humble.

Seriously though (which isn't to say that the previous statement wasn't serious), Steph is an incredible editor. She loves reading, and she loves teenagers, and she loves love and relationships and BOYS. She has an incredible talent for taking your manuscript each time she reads it and, no matter where it is, pointing out what needs to happen for it to reach the next level. She never tries to make it her own, just helps me figure out how to refine what I already have and somehow make it even more my story than it was before.

I fully credit her editorial advice with pushing me to the the point where I was good enough to get published. So if you hate my book, please blame her. It's all Steph's fault.

But aside from the fact that she is a brilliant writer and an incredible critique partner, Steph is one of the most genuinely kind and generous people I know. There is nothing about her that isn't delightful, and I don't know where I would have been without her friendship during these last couple of very crazy years. I feel very, very lucky that we found each other. And while I can't get a tattoo of her name for religious reasons, I may very well try and adopt her one of these days.

I know that Evie's favorite color is pink, but what's her favorite food?

You know, I'm not much of a food person. (I say, after desperately scouring the house for something--ANYTHING--salty, please for the love I need a snack.) I notice these gorgeous, food-related passages in other books, but I never seem to have any in mine.

That being said, Evie has a special affection for a certain pizza place's greasy, gooey cheese pizza, since she ate it on one of the best days of her life.

Does she have a favorite paranormal creature at the beginning of the story?

Absolutely! Although there's no love lost between Evie and vampires, she completely adores Lish, IPCA's main coordinator and Evie's foul-mouthed mermaid best friend.

Evie also happens to have a least favorite paranormal. That would be Reth, her faerie ex-boyfriend with some personal space issues.

Myself? I like Reth a lot more than Evie does...he's PRETTY.

How did you end up married to a part-vampire?

After living for two years in Romania and Transylvania, Hot Stuff came home with a few new...personality traits he was missing before. That first time I met him, when he looked up and his huge blue eyes met mine, that was it for me--that was all it took.

Thinking back on it now, I probably should have suspected something supernatural about it. No one should have eyes that enchanting! Still, I have no regrets, and our quarter-vampire children are incredibly beautiful and also sun-resistant. Although my son *is* slowly sucking the life from me by waking me up every single night in the middle of the night...

How many of Steph's celebrity boyfriends have you met, and which one is your favorite?

Most of them have been by at one point or another, although they don't ever stay with us because they miss their custom bunk-beds at Steph's house too much. Also, we don't have a Nintendo 64, which means they all fight over who gets to play games on the computer, and of course my kids fight with them too, and it's a big mess that ends in me sending everyone to time out and then giving up and taking us all out for ice cream and the beach.

Anyway...James McAvoy was one of the first things Steph and I bonded over. He's really a lovely person, although he's constantly losing his passport and calling us in a panic. He stops by when he's in California and we chat about our mutual adoration of Steph. But don't leave any chocolate out when he's around, because he's a notorious sugar-thief. His emails are nearly incoherent, but we don't much care because we mostly just like listening to him talk.

So he's probably my favorite, but I'm actually prouder of Lee Pace--did you know I introduced them? Lee and I had been friends for a while (since I started watching Pushing Daisies and decided we had to be friends) and I kept catching him reading Steph's blog--for hours on end--and pouring over my emails with Steph, smiling that sweet smile of his over her funny things and getting really stressed out and worried when she was having a bad day. So finally I forced him to just get on a plane and go see her. He was so nervous! But of course all went well and he's blissfully happy to be part of the Celebrity Boyfriends staff.

Really, they're all lovely people, as you'd expect anyone who loves Steph to be. Except I'm kind of terrified of Thom Yorke.

Yes, Thom Yorke can be a bit intimidating. My favorite is Chris Martin. He had Steph send me butterflies from one of his concerts because he knew I was a fan. I appreciated the thought, and I appreciate your taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions, Kiersten! I love reading your blog, and I can't wait to get to know Evie!

If anyone would like an extra contest entry, just leave a comment on this post. I'll make sure it goes in the drawing. And if you missed my contest post and interview with Stephanie Perkins, there's still time to read it and enter. The contest closes this Thursday, Midnight PST.

And I just remembered I have dinner in the oven. Be glad you're not eating at my house tonight.