Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Writer Wednesday - Hans My Hedgehog

Kicking off Writer Wednesdays, we have a special treat today. I have the opportunity to review Kate Coomb's fun retelling of the Brothers Grimm tale, Hans My Hedgehog, and you all have a chance to win a copy of the book!

This week's tip for writers fits in well with the review. Writers need to be readers first, and to read from the best books. Hans My Hedgehog would certainly fall into that category.

I've long admired Kate's writing. She has a beautiful way with words and a quick wit that makes her books fun to read. Her clever MG adventure tales Runaway Princess and Runaway Dragon are some of my favorites for just that reason. (How can you not love a dragon named Laddy?) Kate's also an accomplished poet, with a book of ocean poetry, Water Sings Blue, making its debut next month. We'll see if we can't get her to come back and visit for that release.

Now for a true story... the other morning, as I was trying to rush my 7th grader to get ready for school, he kept telling me, "Just a minute! I'm almost done reading!" When he finally came out of my office, he said, "That was a good book." He had just started James Dashner's The Maze Runner earlier in the week, and I was impressed he had finished already. "No," he said. "I it was that Hans My Hedgehog book."

Keeping a thirteen-year-old boy engaged in a fairytale retelling is an accomplishment. Which is an apt lead-in to this review. In Hans My Hedgehog, Kate has managed to make what could be a rather grim story charming and magical. In Kate's signature lyrical prose, Hans comes alive, a lonely boy/creature who turns to solitude and music when he feels like an outcast. Fun touches such as Hans's loyal pigs and their mischievous revenge on the first king, and the humorous details in the illustrations (including the clever silhouettes) make the book rereadable, again and again. I give Hans My Hedgehog five stars.

The official book blurb:

A classic tale of love and acceptance from the Brothers Grimm is beautifully rendered in this magical retelling.

Hans is an unusual boy. Born a hedgehog from the waist up, he knows what it’s like to truly be an outcast. Even his amazing fiddle playing can’t help him fit in. So Hans flees to the forest with his herd of loyal pigs and only his music to keep him company. But then a most unusual thing happens: When Hans crosses paths with two kings with two lovely daughters, his luck starts to change. Will this lonely soul find true love after all?

This lively and lyrical retelling of the classic Grimm's tale, paired with lush, detailed illustrations, reminds us of the power of music, the importance of belonging, and the transformative effect of love.

Hans My Hedgehog earned starred reviews from both Kirkus Reviews and Publisher's Weekly. The New York Times review praises the "welcome changes", and Booklist calls Kate's adaptation "eloquent and intricate."

You can find more about Kate and her books on her (very clever) website, on her Book Aunt review blog, and by following her on twitter.

To enter to win a copy of Hans My Hedgehog leave a message below, telling one thing you know about hedgehogs (or have learned by quickly googling so that you can enter this contest!) This contest will remain open until Monday, January 30th.

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This week's Links:

Getting enough sleep? (Ginger Calem) This week's Writers Butt post and challenges. Bring it!

How to publish an e-format picture book (jujubeeillustrations) Tutorial c/o Julie Olson. Gold!

25 Things Writers Should Start Doing (Terrible Minds) Do them.

10 Commandments for a Happy Writer (Nathan Bransford) Excellent.

6 Signs of Description Misuse (W.I.P It) Are you doing it wrong?

3 Questions to Ask to see if your scene is dramatic enough (Story Fix) C/O Scheherazade.

Writing a Lot... And then some. (Beyond the Margins) Push yourself one degree higher...

How To Build a Writer's Support Network (Rock Your Writing)

Tell Me First, Then Show Me (Writer Musings) Excellent examples

Tell it to the Mountain (Beyond the Margins) The problem with problem novels.

On Quirky Character Names (Writer Unboxed) Love them or hate them?

Placing Too Much Importance on Passions (Jane Friedman) Do they make you happy?

The New Author Pitch: Show, Don't Sell (The Book Deal) Good points.

Now go. Read a good book. And Write.

Happy Chinese New Year - Reset!

Yes, I know it was yesterday, but Happy Chinese New Year anyway!

This is the Year of the Water Dragon, which Chinese astrologists say has the potential to be volatile and unpredictable... but also magical and even mystical. A perfect combination for writers and book lovers!

One of the cool things about the Chinese New Year falling toward the end of January is that all those of us who have already messed up on our resolutions have a chance to start over. No looking back. Just press reset and move forward!

In the spirit of resets, I'm moving the writing tip posts to Wednesday to coordinate with our Writers Butt program. Starting tomorrow, we'll have Writer Wednesday instead of Tip Tuesday. (Taking the Tuesday slot, in honor of my upcoming Lights, Camera, Cassidy series launch, we'll have Tuesday Travels instead.)

This week, to kick the new year off, I've got something special planned for our Writer Wednesday - I get to review Kate Coomb's beautiful new book, Hans My Hedgehog. AND I have a copy of Hans my Hedgehog to give away to a lucky reader. Be sure to check back tomorrow for that, and for loads and loads of links.

Now go get your New Year on and rock the water dragon!

Monday, January 16, 2012

For Writers - "Trust Yourself" with Lucienne Diver

Please welcome Lucienne Diver to the blog! Lucienne is a long-time book addict, literary agent, writer, mom and sun-worshipper. She's the author of the popular YA series VAMPED, featuring fab protag Gina Covello, fashionista of the damned. This week, she's celebrating the release of her latest, FANGTASTIC.

The Official Book Blurb:

What do you wear to face down a cadre of killer kids?

Gina Covello would rather be working on her manicure than missions for the Feds’ paranormal unit to which she’s been recruited. That changes when a group of killer kids takes out a family in the sunshine state and disappearances begin to plague the lifestylers who only play at the kind of existence our fanged fashionista leads. She and her crew are sent undercover into the vampire clubs…which turn out to be run by real vampires. While Gina’s BFF Marcy hangs with the steampunk-styled Burgess Brigade that seems to have spawned the killer kids, Gina herself is supposed to get in good with the fanged fiends behind the scenes, even to the point of playing double-agent, offering to hand over her powerful boyfriend Bobby. Her playacting threatens to become a bit too real when she discovers things about her spy handlers that make her wonder whether she’s truly on the right side of the battle between Feds and fangs.

Kirkus calls Gina's narration "feisty and funny", VOYA says, "
Diver uses wit and adventure to hook readers", and Wondrous Reads describes the series as being "like Mean Girls with fangs, with witty dialogue and more pop culture references than you can keep up with.”

You can find Lucienne online on her website and on her blog. You can even find Gina on her own blog, Gina's Gems. : )

Lucienne says:

My writing tip would be to trust yourself…but only so far.

Writer’s block, for me, is often a matter of freak-out. I fear that I can’t do something or begin to panic because I can’t see what comes next. My husband reminds me that I go through this every time, and I always get through it. Bless him. With Fangtastic, I think that lesson hit home. I would force down the panic and just sit down to write, trusting myself that something would come out, and knowing that if I had to throw it out, at least I’d learn which direction not to take the story, which should get me one step closer to the right one.

Don’t put the pressure on yourself that every word that flows from your fingertips has to be perfect and that every scene has to fit. If you do that, you’re likely not to write anything at all or to get stopped along the way. Trust yourself to get through it.

The “only so far part” is the flipside of all of this. What you’ve written won’t be perfect, no matter how hard you’ve worked at it. You’ll need to revise and refine. I heartily recommend working with a good critique group or partner, because you’ll be too close to your own work to see all its faults. You’ll know what you meant to say, so you may not be aware of what actually made it to the page or how it’s perceived by someone not living in your head. That’s why professional authors have editors, to call us on those things we can’t see for ourselves…to make us look good .

This Week's Links:

Anyone else's arms super sore from this week's (Writers' Butt) challenge? For me, pushups are much harder than squats! But that burn is good, right? If you haven't joined in yet, it's never too late - you can jump in anytime! Follow the (#WritersButt hashtag on twitter), like the page on (Facebook), and check out (Ginger's Wednesday posts) for challenges and fitness advice.

You Don't Say (Between the Margins) Capturing the unspoken on the page.

A Question You Should Ask Before You Ask What If (Story Fix) Items on a menu...

Making Good Writing Great (James Killick) Make the readers forget they're reading.

10 Signs You're Not in the Zone (It's a Mystery) : )

6 Simple Ways to Reboot Your Writing Routine (Writer's Digest) Get going!

6 Revision Tips (Jamie Gold) How to force a story to evolve.

5 Productivity Tips (Writer Unboxed) Pay attention!

2 Surefire Symptoms of a Static Character (Word Play) Informative video.

On Logos, Arrows, and Storytelling (Words and Such) Use hidden elements.

Paperback Writer (The Kill Zone) How the Beatles got a query letter right.

The "Why" of Character Worksheets (Edit to Rent) What to do next...

Elements for a strong first chapter (Kim Harrison) Read through the first few para to get to it.

How to Make a Boring Character Interesting (Superhero Nation) Good.

Dealing with Problems. Big Problems (Not Enough Words) Tackling revisions.

Createspace Ins and Outs (The Blood-red Pencil) Thinking of going e-pub? This is for you.

The Best Of... (Daily Writing Tips) 2011's most visited.

What's Your Writing Castle? (Face the Page) In which I confess mine...

Show Editors and Agents You Meet Their Guidelines (Scott Egan) Query = sales letter.

Dear Author, What Are You Selling? (A Life of Spice) Thoughts about author branding.

Everything Old is New Again (Nephele Tempest) Fill your story w/ what's unique in you.

How Much Does Talent Matter? (Writerly Life) Talent is overrated; dedication is not.

Writing Evocative Descriptions (Omnivoracious) For total reader immersion.

And, for giggles:

Striking a Pose (Jim Hines) Women and Fantasy covers. : )

Now go. Write!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

For Writers - What's the Worst That Can Happen? With Eileen Cook

I'm happy to welcome GCC sister Eileen Cook to the blog to celebrate the recent release of her latest, UNRAVELING ISOBEL. When she was younger, Eileen says she spend much of her time wishing she were someone else, or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. Now she has several books under her belt, appearing in six different languages, lives in beautiful Vancouver with her husband and two cute dogs, and she no longer wishes to be anyone else.

You can read more about Eileen, her books, and the things that strike her as funny at www.eileencook.com.

The Official UNRAVELING ISOBEL blurb:

Isobel’s life is falling apart. Her mom just married some guy she met on the internet only three months before, and is moving them to his sprawling, gothic mansion off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye, best friend. Goodbye, social life. Hello, icky new stepfather, crunchy granola town, and unbelievably good-looking, officially off-limits stepbrother.
But on her first night in her new home, Isobel starts to fear that it isn't only her live that's unraveling--her sanity might be giving way too. Because either Isobel is losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or she's seeing ghosts. Wither way, Isobel's fast on her way to being the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.

Lisa McMann calls UNRAVELING ISOBEL "Thrilling and creepy, super sexy, and so hilarious." Publisher's Weekly likes its "spine-tingling setting." And Hornbook Magazine calls Isobel a "compelling narrator."

Eileen says:

The very best writing advice I ever received came several years ago before I was published. I was taking a creative writing class and the instructor told me that my writing was good and I should consider starting to send it out for submission. I hemmed and hawed telling her I wasn’t sure if I could. What if it was rejected? She stared me down for a minute and then told me: “Eileen, I hate to tell you this, but you’re already not published. The worst thing that will happen to you is that you still won’t be published.”

That was my light bulb moment. I realized that I might not ever reach my dream of being published, but that if I didn’t at least try I certainly wouldn’t be. Now anytime I catch myself doubting if I can pull off a particular scene or book, I remind myself that I already haven’t done it. The worst that will happen is that it won’t be good, but if I don’t try I’ll never know.

This Week's Link Roundup:

If you haven't checked in to join (Writers' Butt) with us yet, it's not too late! You can follow the (#WritersButt hashtag on twitter), like the page on (Facebook), and check out (Ginger's Wednesday posts) for challenges and fitness advice.

**Finding Time (Sunset) Wisdom from Anne Lamott. LOVE her. If you don't have a copy of BIRD BY BIRD in your writer arsenal, you truly should.

12 Baby Steps That Rocked My Writing (Cowbell - You Need More of It) She makes me smile. : )

Dinner with Literary Agents (The Intern) What she learned...

2012 - The Year of Impossible Things (Crowe's Nest) Let this year be your year!

Just Make the Bed (Sarah Ockler) Overcoming the Problem of Writers' Resolutions

The Missing Ingredient in Most Goals (Michael Hyatt) Excellent. Thanks, Jen, for the link.

Already blew your resolutions? Get Back On the Wagon (Krissy Brady) << here's how.

The Drive to Write (Magical Words ) You are a writer.

5 Things Authors will need to Survive in 2012 (Jody Hedlund)

My Writing Process (Beyond the Margins) Title came first, story later.

Done is Better Than Good (Writers in the Storm) The key is to start writing.

The Key to a Quick First Draft: Breakout Premise (Lia Keyes) Most excellent post.

Interview with Editor Cheryl Klein (SCBWI Conference Blog) I love her.

Your Happy is Never Too Loud (Van Meter Library Voice) Lovely.

Film Options, Explained (YA Highway) by Kody Keplinger

Beyond Orcs and Elves (Omnivoracious) Fantasy writing wisdom from Stacy Whitman

Writing as Conversation (Officially Twisted) Great a-ha post.

Mighty Heroes REQUIRE Mighty Villains (Seeking the Write Life) Excellent.

Innovators Dream (The Heart of Innovation) Dreaming and creativity.

Writing Quickly: A Secret Strategy (Writability) I knew there was a secret to it. : )

Incorporating Backstory to Hook the Reader (Livia Blackburne) Brain scientist's take on writing

Hooks, Loglines, and Pitches: What every writer needs to know (Anne R. Allen) Gold.

**Reminder to bookmark The Bookshelf Muse. Excellent writing resources. Platinum.

How to Write Strong, Silent Types (Wordplay)

What's Your Genre-Identity? (Beth Stilborn)

What's Your Writing Space? (Teacher Writer) From Jen McAndrews: Just write.

To Do Well in Life, You Have to Read Well (NPR) Audio interview.

My Secret for Battling Procrastination (Jane Friedman) Old post. Timeless advice.

Now go. Write!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Writers Butt - an Explanation

2011 was a tough year for me health-wise. Without going into the details, I'll just give you my takeaway: Health matters. You don't understand quite how much until yours takes a vacation. Then it becomes your main focus. Your obsession. Your goal. Nothing like a compulsory blood-doping session in an open-backed hospital gown to bring that message home.

Lucky for me, one of my writing partners - Ginger Calem - is a fitness guru and personal trainer. I asked if she would be willing to come up with a program writers could follow - something that would fit into our busy - but often sedentary - days, strategies to protect our health by eating right and slipping more exercise into our established routines. Ginger graciously agreed to share her insight and expertise with the greater writing community. I, in turn, agreed to be her guinea pig. Our other writing partners committed to give it a try as well. And so Writers' Butt was born.

I'm really excited to share the result with you all. (This includes you, illustrators, readers, teachers, and librarians!) You can jump in by joining the conversation on twitter (following the #writersbutt hashtag), and by checking in to Ginger's blog on Wednesdays, where she will post health and exercise tips, creativity connections, and even recipes, perfect for busy writers and other desk-bound types. Within a couple of weeks, we'll have the facebook page up and running, and we can share stories of progress (and challenges) with each other. Together, we can make 2012 the healthiest year yet - one writer's butt at a time.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

For Writers - Help Wanted

It's January 4th already and I feel like the new year is finally starting. Winter Break has ended - today's the first day all the kids are back to school and my DH is back at work. Even so, this morning slipped away due to back-to-back doctor appointments, so I am just now sitting down to write... with only an hour to go before kids start getting home from school.

So this week, I'm turning the advice thing around. I need tips on getting back into the groove, managing time, and consolidating tasks. Anyone have any wisdom to share? Comment below, or shout out on twitter or facebook. I could use the push!

This week's links:

Weighing in on Weight (Under the Green Willow) Not a writing link, per se, but an excellent post by Rae Carson, whose book GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS was just nominated for the Cybils Award, and is an excellent read. CONGRATULATIONS, RAE, ON THE NOMINATION!!

Brave New World: The Stages of Indie Publishing (Beyond the Margins) Good info.

The Make or Break Part of Your Story - Story Fix (Part one) (Part two) Must read.

Farewell to Inky Girl on Writer's Market (Inky Girl) Worth a peek for the cartoon. : )

New Year's Wish (Neil Gaiman) "Make mistakes." Lovely.

Writing Through Writer's Block (Brave New Words)

What to do Before Your Book Debuts - Beyond the Margins (part one) (part two)

Evaluating and Setting Goals (Liberated Life Project) Good timing for this...

The Grand Finale (The Book Deal) On writing great endings.

Dealing with Rejection (Fiction Factor)

Head's Up! 10 Wake-up Calls for Writers in 2012 (The Prosperous Writer)

Mapmaking for Fantasy Authors (Fantasy Faction) Too fun.

Ugh... connection blip and blogger did not save. I love you guys, but I really do need to go write, so I will have to wait to repost the, like 30 other links I had up here. : ( We all should be writing and not procrastinating anyway, right? Sorry! @*#! blogger!

Now go. Write!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy 2012 - The Year of the Dragon!

Chinese Astrologists say the Year of the Water Dragon has the potential to be volatile and unpredictable... but also magical and even mystical. I say we tap into the spirit of the dragon and make this year be our best one yet. May we all breathe fire and fun into the new year and find health, prosperity and success in 2012!