Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

 The minstrels played their Christmas tune
To-night beneath my cottage-eaves;
While, smitten by a lofty moon,
The encircling laurels, thick with leaves,
Gave back a rich and dazzling sheen,
That overpowered their natural green.

Through hill and valley every breeze
Had sunk to rest with folded wings:
Keen was the air, but could not freeze,
Nor check, the music of the strings;
So stout and hardy were the band
That scraped the chords with strenuous hand.

And who but listened?--till was paid
Respect to every inmate's claim,
The greeting given, the music played
In honour of each household name,
Duly pronounced with lusty call,
And "Merry Christmas" wished to all.

--William Wordsworth

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Resolving to a Resolution

Hard to believe this year's almost over, isn't it? Sure, it sounds cliche. Probably is cliche. But it's true nonetheless. When I was sixteen, my grandfather, while driving me to school one morning, said, "Sweetheart, this is the time of your life. When you hit twenty-one, it starts flying." I'll never forget his gnarled, strong hands at ten-and-two (because of course he always wanted to set a good example), and I'll also never forget the crisp smell of his Old Spice shaving cream (because he always rose early, showered and shaved before he even read the paper and had a cup of coffee).

He drove me to school every morning, my maternal grandfather, and that morning was no different--complete with the random words of grandfatherly wisdom.

Only that particular morning, for one reason or another, I didn't want to hear it. Teenage angst? Could've been. Boy problems? Eh...who knows? I rolled my eyes at him. Surreptitiously, of course, because I did--and still do--respect my good ol' Southern-born-and-raised PawPaw. Really, what did he know? We were from totally different generations. Surely he hadn't the slightest clue what he was talking about or what I was going through or why I just couldn't seem to grasp freaking Geometry. (I'm a History/Literature girl, through and through, but I bet you could've guessed that.)

Grandpas always offer the best advice.

Here's the thing: Seventeen years later--before then, really--I realize he was right. Where did the time go? How come the years go by so fast? And since when did my dear old PawPaw become the wisest man on the planet? But he is, I'm convinced. He is, and here I am, watching time fly, children grow up right before my eyes, and celebrating yet another Christmas without publishing a gall-darn thing.

My strong-handed, wise beyond comprehension, never-leaves-home-without-his-sense-of-humor and a pocketful of Starlight peppermints grandfather taught me better. What did he teach, exactly? Oh, lots of things. But the one which sticks out in my mind the most is that with faith--true, unyielding, genuine faith--and a dash of perseverance and know-how, you can do anything, be anything. As long as it's moral, he always added, and I have to readily agree.

All our lives, we've heard of New Year's resolutions, maybe even made some, kept 'em for a month, broke 'em with a thick slice of Bananas Foster Cheesecake. Yum. But as for me, this year, I'm resolving to take PawPaw's wise advice, put some faith and trust in yours truly, and publish. Self, most likely, though traditional would be out of this world outstanding amazing. In March, I'm due to have our firstborn and by then I want to have emailed a proposal to Harlequin (UK or US, makes no difference) on this latest historical romance. Simultaneously, I plan to epub the first two historicals via Amazon Digital.

So, there it is. I've said it. Tell me, sweet and wonderful followers: What is YOUR New Years resolution? And even if you don't have one, is there something you want to achieve more than anything next year, big or small?

Wishing you and your family a safe and happy holiday season,

(L to R:) My grandmother (Nanny), Momma, Me, & my dear, wise PawPaw


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Your First Five Pages--Pt. 2

In the first part of this little series of posts, I indicated one of the most useful tactics in selling that first novel to a traditional publisher (or simply e-publishing online), of baiting your reader--hook, line & sinker--is to start with a fabulous opening.  Grant you, I have yet to "sell" myself (well, not really myself, but one of my books) to a big to-do publishing company, I really found these few tips worthwhile.

The next tip I have--and, by the by, these were laid out in detailed form by best-selling fantasy author Faith Hunter via her short workshop last Saturday--but this is another very important part of writing that novel which will (hopefully) grab hearts, move mountains, and award you, dear author, readers for a lifetime.

CONFLICT.  I've heard so many published authors tell their personal stories of how they landed a book deal. I'll bet you have, too. One common feat, it seems, they all had to overcome with their respective agents and/or editors was the issue of conflict.  These are great characters, but where's the conflict?  Beautiful, flowing prose, but... Well. You get the picture.

So, what is conflict? It's struggle. Uncertainty. Pressure and tension. An imbalance, if you will, in what the protagonist (and possibly the antagonist, too) wants more than anything in the world, but, for one reason or another, it's always out of reach. Or maybe just out of reach. We, the author, build events in the story that make the conflict stronger and stronger.

Think of it this way:  It's the "but" in your GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) sentence. Katniss Everdeen wants to win the Hunger Games (G), because she knows winning will provide a lifetime of food and money for her and her family (M), but she is weaker than most of the other tributes in the arena and therefore must use wit over brawn to survive. (C)

Rather rough, I know, but you get the idea. Within the first 5-10 pages of The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins paints a relatively well-defined picture of what the core of the conflict will be. Doesn't take long to figure out these people live in a sort of prison-like dystopia, where free-will is virtually non-existent. And of course there is that initial seed planted at the very beginning: This is the day of the reaping.

Novelist Caro Clark states that "a convincing story has many conflicts built into it, layered and connected."  The main character (and oftentimes the secondaries, but the mains are most important) will have internal and external conflict. Internal and external strengths. Internal and external weaknesses. These may change throughout the course of the novel, yes, but they exist nonetheless.

Draco Malfoy is but one of Harry's many external conflicts.

What about Harry Potter? Because you know I just love using him. :) ~ One of his main internal conflicts is the niggling idea that he will ultimately fail; that he'll never keep up with the other young witches and wizards who have, perhaps, been raised with magic their entire lives. So, how does Jo Rowling get him through it? By testing his abilities, letting him win and fail, putting him through external conflicts which will ultimately aid him with the internal. By defeating the basilisk in The Chamber of Secrets, Harry overcomes his insecurity of being able to speak parseltongue (snake language). He understands it is not evil, precisely, as everyone seemed to believe throughout the book, but a gift. One of the few perks of Lord Voldemort's curse.

Naturally, this is only one of the internal conflicts conquered by an external happening.

Remember always to respect your reader, especially when adding and building conflict. We want to reel in, not confuse. Personally, the author who makes me go back over and over, because I have to stop, scratch my head, and say, "Whaaaa?" too many times is the one I'm not apt to pick up again for a good while, if ever. But, of course, that is just me and what I expect out of myself in my own writing.

How do you lay out the conflict when writing your own novel? Do you plot it out? Pants your way through? Can you think of a story where you thought the conflict especially delicious? If so, please share!

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Monday, November 14, 2011

Your First Five Pages--Pt. 1

What can you do to engross your reader?

Saturday morning, at our monthly RWA meeting, multi-published best-selling author Faith Hunter spoke on the first five pages of a manuscript and how they can make or break a sale. Firstly, I just want to say how lovely she is and fun and vibrant. So committed to her work, yet striving to make it enjoyable at all costs. Much to look up to there. We were truly blessed to have her as a speaker, and I so hope she comes back again.

But moving on to her lesson: The First Five Pages. I won't break it down word-for-word, but I would like to tab out a few important things to remember--things that really grabbed me and on which I plan to work ASAP--before you send those few requested, vital pages to an agent or editor. The way I've planned this, however, is to give you a crucial part of the process with each blog post. Why? Many reasons, the main being 1) I can't do anything without explanation and examples, and too many can lead to a long, long post. Which brings me to 2) I want you to really chew on each morsel. Think it over. Because we all want to be the best writers we can be, published or no, right? Good! Here we go:

1. You must have a good, grabbing, baiting opening/beginning.  Now, that was a lot of -ing's, but hear me out: When was the last time you read a book that took, oh, a good chapter or two to really set your heels into it? Bet we can all remember one from recent weeks/days. But what about those that, when you read those first few lines, the first opening paragraph or patch of dialogue, you thought, "Wow. I wanna do it just like that." Or something close to it. Uh huh. I'll wager a buck-fifty one just popped into that brilliant brain of yours.

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim's warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.

Those are the opening lines of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. From that small paragraph, what do we know? Whoever is speaking is likely... what? Poor? Female, perhaps? More than likely--she sleeps with her sister, after all, who apparently has nightmares. And the author provided us with the will to read on. How? That last sentence: This is the day of the reaping. What's the reaping? No clue. But I definitely want to find out.

Collins also delivers a simple, yet important example of what we all need to remember when starting a story: Today is the day of change. What do I mean by that? Your characters, the people you practically know as family now they've been in your head for so long, were going about their normal everyday lives. Washing dishes, paying bills, going to school/work, whatever. Until today. At the beginning of this story. This is the day of the reaping. Obviously, today is the day of change. This event should also prove pivotal later in the story.

Here's one more.

"Too old for this shit," muttered Craw, wincing at the pain in his dodgy knee with every other step. High time he retired. Long past high time. Sat on the porch behind his house with a pipe, smiling at the water as the sun sank down, a day's honest work behind him. Not that he had a house. But when he got one, it'd be a good one.

That is the first paragraph from Joe Abercrombie's The Heroes, and it's today's Kindle Daily Deal ($1.99--that's $23 off the normal price!). Unlike The Hunger Games, I haven't yet read this one, but from the several sentences which compose that opening bit of bait, I'd say this is a man, away from home--far away, even--who's perhaps waiting on an ambush of some sort. And he's done this many, many times, from the pain in his joints. Something also tells me he's also not gonna get that house anytime soon. I'll trust Mr. Abercrombie to fill in the pages to follow with battle and adventure, showing Crow's extensive cunning, bravery, and valor.

See how that works? Now, it's up to you, dear author, to tell us what happens next.

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Friday, November 11, 2011

A Veteran's Day Salute

The sunset over Long Beach, Mississippi

I grew up in South Mississippi in the small coastal town of Long Beach. Made my friends there, met my best friend there, and learned that writing would be my lifelong need and love. Developed a penchant for marching bands and full choirs, too, though I suspect that has a lot to do with the fact I played and sang in both.

A natural part of everyday life on the Gulf Coast includes the US Air Force training base, Keesler, which lies no more than a few short miles from my hometown to the bigger attraction of Biloxi. It's no big thing to walk into a local store and see several airmen in training. One simply gets used to it. For me, these guys, while automatic heroes for their sacrifice in serving our country, held little to no appeal in the dating/marriage department. One, I wasn't interested in traveling, which is inevitable for the spouse of a young soldier. Two... eh. I don't know. My adverseness to the military man could've attributed to the desire I harbored for an artsy-fartsy type. Perhaps a musician or a fellow writer, like myself. Someone with whom I could share mutual passions, likes, and dislikes. A guy who devotes his life to the Armed Forces couldn't possibly fill those big, big shoes.

At least, that's what I thought.

Now, here I am, fifteen years after high school graduation, and married to an avionics tech-sergeant in the US Air Force. And guess what? He loves most of the same things I do--music, good movies, panoramic scenery, chocolate, and good ol' Southern cooking. Plus, and he'll likely kill me for saying this, he likes musicals. I'm talking full-blown Broadway extravaganzas, with people dancing around and sporadically bursting into song. Yep. That's The Hubby. An all-American boy who would rather get up early, have breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and spend all day walking around historic Jefferson, TX, than sleep all morning and hit the nightlife/bar scene that evening. Now, as it turns out, no one can possibly fill his big, big shoes.

And I don't just mean that metaphorically.


So, why am I telling you this? Easy. When my husband got up this morning, I made certain to wish him a "Happy Veterans' Day." And here's my challenge for you, dear reader: When you're out and about today, if you see a man or woman in the Armed Forces, tell them, "Thank you." And if you want to elaborate... well, then, elaborate. But you don't have to. Because they'll know. And so will you.

Peace, Love, Junior Mints, and Freedom Forever,


Monday, November 7, 2011

Adverbs & Hearty Hand Slaps

I didn't mean to...

Woke up this morning, let the dogs out, got my shower. Tried to feed the dogs, but one can't eat because she's getting spayed today. So, naturally, the others won't eat, either. All for one, one for all, I guess. Sigh. Made coffee, sat at the laptop to check my email, and voila. A nice, sturdy, verbal hand-slap from a NYT Bestseller in one of my Yahoo! craft groups.

Wow, I thought. Certainly didn't mean to step on toes with what I said. Basically, I professed my dislike for when people say, "Nora can get away with it because she's Nora."  Meaning Nora Roberts, the bestselling romance novelist, for those of you who do not read this genre, can head-hop, overuse adverbs (not that she does; I'm just sayin'), and all sorts of other writerly crimes we little people cannot, cannot commit, else risk being turned down at every bend.

Needless to say, an entire can of worms apparently got opened, thanks to me.  Yes, yes. You're most welcome. Though I wanted to somehow find a way to verbally speak through the screen, into the group, "You're taking it the wrong way!!" ... I politely responded, "Didn't mean to step on any toes. My apologies." and left it at that. More than likely I'll not be adding my 2 shillings to anything for, oh, another decade or so.

Not to mention I still kinda feel like this...

Anyways. The original subject matter that kicked way too far into overdrive (big time) is what I wanted to bring up to you today: Adverbs. The author of the post mentioned that she recently got her hand slapped (whole lotta hand slappin' goin' on, yeah?) by an editor for alleged overuse of adverbs. She had, like, three on a page or some such.

But here's her argument: Sometimes you need adverbs to add to the overall flow of the manuscript. When using an adverb, we've all been told, I am certain, there's always a stronger verb. You've just gotta find it. Plus, too many can make your work seem amateur and altogether icky. And that's true. But I do tend to agree with this particular author in that 1) YOU are the writer; this is your story; if you want the adverb, add the adverb and 2) Adverbs can actually provide color and/or add to the flavor of the scene.

Preferably with words, though, not makeup

So, what is an adverb? Other than being your basic -ly words, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives us this definition:
: a word belonging to one of the major form classes in any of numerous languages, typically serving as a modifier of a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a preposition, a phrase, a clause, or a sentence, expressing some relation of manner or quality, place, time, degree, number, cause, opposition, affirmation, or denial, and in English also serving to connect and to express comment on clause content
Examples of this can show up in dialogue. "If you say so," he said blandly. (Suddenly You, Lisa Kleypas, 2001)

Or in regular sentences which compose exposition: Bravely she caught at the open edges of his shirt and urged his head down to hers. (also Suddenly You, Lisa Kleypas, 2001)

How about modifying an adjective, which, in turn, modifies a noun? She picked up a particularly frayed piece of linen and set it to the side.

We could seriously go on forever. What I'd like to know is how YOU feel about the use of adverbs? I'll bet you use them, but how often? Are there any specifically fabulous words you tend to use over and over and, therefore, have to slap your hand for doing so?

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Fun

... and at the office, of all places! (Click the images for a closer look.)

L to R: Tiffiny, Jennifer, Pam, Judge Wilson, Cyndy, Lisa, Edna, Terri,
Me, & Kristin

We didn't get much work done, as you can tell.

L to R: Jennifer, Tiffiny, Pam, Me, & Lisa

Me + Baby Jake (hidden beneath all the cobwebs) + Makeup = Halloween Spectacular

Most of us together, including the real owner of the top hat (sans makeup).

L to R: Edna, Cyndy, Kelsey, Tiffiny, Jennifer, Terri, Lisa, Me,
Kristin, & Rebecca.

We really had a great time, and I got to play makeup practically all day long, which I haven't done in what feels like centuries. For real, it's been at least a decade! Odds and ends of this and that composed most of our costumes. I purchased my former choir dress (empire waist, perfect for a growing Baby Jake) at Goodwill for $6.99, added netting and spiders from Walmart, and lacy gloves from Hot Topic. The makeup is thanks to all the awesome artists on YouTube--especially punkchyaz, pixiwoo, and goldiestarling.

Hope all of you had a wonderful, safe Halloween! Here's looking forward to next year's!!

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stuff I'm Lovin' Right Now

So, I thought it might be kind of fun to do... well... a fun post.  Perhaps maybe even a little bit of a girly-fun post (Andrew, I still love you) which features the odds and ends, gadgets and gizmos I'm loving at the moment.  Pregnancy has brought on a whole slew of emotions I never fathomed possible.  Food cravings, yes, and I'll get to that, but also changes (albeit slight) in music taste, pleasure reading, clothing (and not just because I've got a basketball in the belly).  Oh, and I've a wild penchant for all things makeup.  Just ask my CP; she'll likely elaborate after about two minutes of straight laughter.

Up first is Pixiwoo.  What, you ask, is a Pixiwoo?  Beats me.  But it's compiled of two amazing British makeup artists: sisters Nicola & Samantha Chapman.  Their makeup tutorials are wonderful, extremely helpful, and feature looks from everyday work-wear to the extreme high fashion runway stuff.  They also give you the low-down on new products, complete with reviews and great visual testing. To add extra icing to the delicious pile of MAC, Chanel, and Illamasqua, they have frequent giveaways, which is great for those of us who love freebies. And that's everybody, right?

Nicola & Samantha Chapman
Twitter ~ YouTube ~ Facebook ~ Website

Next is my favorite makeup & skincare finds.  I've always been obsessed with makeup.  Color, technique... you name it, I love it.  Lancome cosmetics took up the first four years of my working career. Starting out at Dillard's, ending up at McRae's as a counter manager, I not only learned the basics of makeup application and skincare but also developed a hearty taste for finding that perfect product.  Easier said than done when there's so many to choose from, am I right, girls?  If I named every product that's ever held a close place to my heart, we'd be here all month.  So, here's my can't live without's as of right now.

L to R: Victoria's Secret Vanilla Lace Body Spray, Thymes Lavender Body Lotion,
Essence of Beauty Makeup Brushes, Urban Decay Primer Potion,
Wet 'n Wild Eyeshadows & Blushers, & Lancome Visionnaire

I'm also lovin' flat shoes.  Largely to do with the fact I'm gaining weight everyday, I am certain, but there it is.  If I'm not wearing my Ariat cowboy boots (more comfortable than any pair of tennis shoes, trust me), I'm sporting flats.

While I'd love to have a pair of these...

Glittery Ballet Flats by London Sole

I'm perfectly content (for now) with these:

Sequined Ballet flats by Arizona Jean Co.

Let's see... What next? Oh! Crazy into nonfiction, which is weird since I'm generally a fiction/tell me an awesome-not-true-but-maybe-could-really-happen kinda girl.  However, since I write mainly historical, delving head-first into research is essential. Currently on my nightstand (or wherever they happen to land--computer room, coffee table, kitchen, bathroom):

L to R: Britons by Linda Colley, Prince of Pleasure by Saul David,
Dancing into Battle by Nick Foulkes, The Regency Underworld
by Donald Low, & La Grande Armee by Georges Blond.

My next obsession needs no formal introduction...

Triple Double Oreo Cookies.
Dip 'em in milk and oh my goodness...

Lastly, the Hubby and I are loving, loving, looooving FX's new original series, American Horror Story. It's different, it's brilliant. Scary & suspenseful as all get-out. Dylan McDermott (The Practice), Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights), and newcomer Taissa Farmiga star as Ben, Vivien, and Violet Harmon, a family seeking to remedy an anguished past.  The solution?  Moving from their quiet Boston neighborhood to an old, old mansion in Los Angeles. What they don't know is that the house is haunted.  Big time.  Day and night, all sorts of strange things happen.  From break-ins, to wild dreams, to meeting up with former residents of the house--both dead and alive.  It's a complete hour of edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting entertainment.  We watch it dvr'd as we're going to bed on Wednesday evenings. Needless to say, if I wake up sometime in the middle of the night and my arm's hanging off the bed, I snatch it back with a hearty gasp.

L to R: Evan Peters, Jessica Lange, Jamie Brewer, Alexandra Breckenridge, Denis O'Hare (burning guy),
Frances Conroy, Taissa Farmiga, Dylan McDermott, & Connie Britton.

Well, that's it for stuff I'm lovin' right now.  Tell me, have you got some strong affinities of your own, recent or old?  And if so, what?

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Winner: Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga

The giveaway ended tonight and the lucky winner of an autographed copy of Barry Lyga's Goth Girl Rising is:

Blogger Lela said...

YAY BOYS! :) I can't wait to buy him all kinds of noisy toys! All my WIPs have been kind of pushed back. I always have the best of intentions to write when I'm in school but, so far, it hasn't worked out that way. My time gets sucked up by homework and family. And rescuing cats and whatnot. ;) Oh, the email is
Congratulations, Lela! I just sent you a confirming email. And thanks to everyone who followed, commented, and participated. You're all my lucky stars. ;)

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Picking up the Pieces

Here's the deal: You've got stories, right? And I'm not talking about that current WIP... the one you're kinda getting sick of for reasons you cannot readily (or, perhaps, willingly) explain. I mean unfinished stories/projects. Piled in a folder on your laptop, shoved under the bed, scribbled in the notebooks cluttering either end of your bookshelf. For one reason or another, you started them, then quit. Why?

Your guess is as good as mine. But here's the thing: Ain't it a good feeling, knowing you can always go back, pick up where you left off? Or, in most cases, read from the beginning, edit (because you're so much better now than you were then, yeah?), weed out the unnecessary rubbish, adverbs, et cetera, and finally move on with the story. The story you started, because it convicted you at one time. Made you believe in the characters, the plot, the space and time, the list goes on and on.

That's where I am right now. I started a story (historical romance) and got about 8 chapters in before calling it quits. However--and to make a long, drawn-out, pity-party tale short--I sort of had an epiphany the other evening and came up with this: It's a good story and there's no reason at all I shouldn't finish and sell it.

Easier said than done, I realize, but I can't allow myself to think on the negative. I won't. So, here's my plan, my intended course of action for picking up the pieces. If I wrap up the story within 25-30k words, I can edit, edit again. And again. Probably another time for good measure. And then I can offer the story to Harlequin Historical (UK).

In order to do that, however, I've got to push my Pantser tendencies to the side a smidge (just a smidge, mind, because I am a Pantser by nature), put on my Plotter panties (sorry, I couldn't resist), and outline the rest of the story. Complete with character arcs, GMC, satisfying ending, all wrapped up in a big red bow--or maybe a Redcoat, since this is about a British soldier post-Waterloo--and ultimately, ultimately feel some satisfaction for mapping out a game plan, then executing it.

I guess you can say Baby Jake's given me a sudden burst of energy. And confidence. Can't forget that.

So, I ask you, gentle reader:  Have you started a project... and it can be any project; a story, home improvement, organization, something work-related... but have you started something you really feel as if you should revisit and, ultimately, complete? If so, what?

By the way, don't forget the Barry Lyga Goth Girl Rising book giveaway! The deadline's this Saturday @ 10 PM CST and, yes, I will ship overseas. Good luck to all!

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Sunday, October 16, 2011

I'm Back! And with a Book Giveaway!

Wow, it's been a while, hasn't it? I can't lie--life is still running a bit hectic around our household. The day job has gotten almost out of hand, it's so crazy-demanding. Sometimes I wonder how people with equally or more time-consuming, stressful jobs actually find time to write. Don't get me wrong; I love my job. Really. It's fun, interesting, and there's never a dull moment to be had. But it's physically and mentally draining, especially when you're nearly 5 months pregnant.

But enough of that. I really didn't have anything planned for today. Well. I haven't had anything planned for a while, which you're all quite aware of, I am certain. Writing is slow for me. I've gone back to my first love: historical (adult) romance. Not to say I won't eventually go back to YA, but for now I've gotta do what's best for me as a writer. And that's to write for me and me alone and quit worrying about this enormous publishing industry. The very idea of it has almost totally taken the fun out of the art for me.

And, yes, I'm well aware that was one too many "me's". Somewhere across the bridge, my CP is on the verge of conniptions.

So, here's what made me get off my keister, march on over to the keyboard (with a cup of coffee, mind, because I can't very well write without it--at least not this early in the morning), and kick up a new blog entry:

1. To let y'all know that I'm expecting a baby boy next March. (Yay!) This will be my first, and though my husband is skeptical because of his own dreams of a football star, I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that our little prince will be the next President of the United States or knighted by the (future) King of England or both. Wouldn't that be awesome?!

Jacob's (Jake's) Coming Home Outfit

Ahem... Moving on...

2. Evanescence's new album is incredible. Beyond incredible, it's phenomenal and smart and, oh my goodness, the guitars and vocals are so amazing you'll swear you're listening to Eddie Van Halen rocking alongside the Heavenly Hosts. It's totally got me in a Gothic mood (great for Halloween!), which leads me to... (after the picture, of course... wait for it...)

3. I am giving away an autographed copy of Barry Lyga's current release Goth Girl Rising. If you missed out on my last post, Barry Lyga is a comic book guru/young adult novelist extraordinaire who writes real, raw stories for teens and adults alike. After reading Boy Toy, he made a lifetime fan out of me and the CP, and that's a pretty big feat these days. Not too many people wow us anymore, but this guy... he puts the awe in awesome. And he was cool and kind enough to send me a book for YOU, dear reader, to win.

Yes, this is the actual book. Woo hoo!

All right, so, yeah! Autographed copy. Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga. How do you win it? Easy! Just leave a comment about your current WIP (what are you writing? how's it going?) --or-- what you're going as (or, perhaps, wish you were going as...) for Halloween --or-- both! Include your email address, and I'll pick a random blogger on Saturday, Oct. 22 @ 10:00 PM CST to win the brand new paperback pictured above.

Good luck, readers! And thanks for sticking with me.

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints (and cute itty bitty baby booties!),


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Review: Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

So many books... So little time...

So, last week, while working the dreaded day job (I really do like my DJ, but it's harder to take while pregnant or something, I don't know...), my CP walks in with this book she picked up in the YA section at our local second bookstore, The Thrifty Peanut. (I know, right? But this bookstore defies awesomeness in so many ways; they even have free coffee!)

"Just flip it open and read a passage," she says.

"Which?" I ask, one, because we're busier than a hooker at a bachelor party, and two, she's always got a particular passage she wants me to read.

But, alas... "Any," she confirms. "Just do it."

So, I do my norm. Flip to the middle, start reading. I land on a scene where, apparently, because it's young adult , a young boy is diligently attempting to see up a woman's--a grown woman's--skirt. And thinking all sorts of bad thoughts in the process, colorful language included.

Of course my eyes bug, jaw drops. "Wow," I say.

"Yeah," comes her short, 'I told you so" response. "I bought this for my fourteen year old son. Thank God I skimmed through it first."

I asked if I could do the same, she said, "sure," and the rest is history.

Check out Boy Toy on

I loved this book. Couldn't put it down. Start to finish, 416 pages, in less than 2 days. Which, for me, is a record, because I'm a slow reader. Not to mention I sleep all the time and have, like, no extra time whatsoever to do anything but try to write or check email, etc.

Mr. Lyga, to me, wrote a masterpiece. The characters are more than memorable, they're astonishingly, sometimes shockingly real. Off the charts. The type who stick with you every second of every day, and you can't get anything done, because you can't wait to pick up the book again, reacquaint yourself with Josh and Eve and Rachel and Zik. Seriously. By the second day, I was sneak-reading this novel at work, and I haven't done that, I kid you not, since grade school and Beverly Cleary.

When finally I handed it back to the CP, I dolefully added, "With great reluctance, mind. I will own this book." (She got it for $2.50, hardback, pristine condition. Sick, right?)

From the inside cover: 

Josh Mendel has a secret. Unfortunately, everyone knows what it is.

Five years ago Josh's life changed. Drastically. And everyone in his school, his town--seems like the world--thinks they understand. But they don't--they can't.

And now, about to graduate from high school, Josh is still trying to sort through the pieces. First there's Rachel, the girl who he thought he'd lost years ago. She's back, and she's determined to be a part of his life, whether he wants her there or not.

Then there are college decisions to make, and the toughest baseball game of his life coming up, and a coach who won't stop pushing Josh all the way to the brink.

And then there's Eve. Her return brings with it all the memories of Josh's past. It's time for Josh to face the truth about what happened.

If only he knew what the truth was...

Josh is more than troubled. He's broken.

Based on a super-touchy subject matter, Barry Lyga's disturbingly beautiful novel speaks out not only to older teens, but to adults eager to understand their children in a way which no one I've read has depicted accurately thus far. At least not in commercial fiction. For writers, you will love the deep characterization, stellar word choices, believably endearing, sometimes very raw dialogue, and the colorful supporting cast. Most of all, I really think you'll love the growth of this young man, seeing the world through his eyes, cheering him on as he struggles to escape his torrid past.

Bravo, Barry. I am a fan for life.

Read all about Barry, as well as his other
novels & comic books on

Happy reading, everyone. Tell me: Where's YOUR bookmark right now?

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,

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