Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wanna Win Some Books?

Then get thee over to They're having a great contest and giving away copies of their top six favorite reviewed books, one of which was yours truly's Werewolf Rising. So if you don't have a copy yet, this is a great chance to get one!

And thanks, Dee!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Theodosia Throckmorton Website - The Unveiling

So, my web designer and I have just finished up the new website for Theodosia Throckmorton. While the book won't be out until Apri, 2007, you can check out the site and read an excerpt or Theodosia's blog.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I Won NaNo!!

Yippee!! I finished 50,000 words in 30 days!! Go me.

Now only another 30,000 words or so to go and the novel will be done. ;-)

Still, it's important to celebrate one's small successes.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Queen of Multiple Drafts

Um, that would be me. Unfortunately. And I’m not talking about three or four drafts. No, I’m talking more in the realm of ten or twelve or even—when working on a problem child of a manuscript—fifteen.

This kind of embarrasses me. I feel like a kid who has to keep taking a test over and over again until I manage to pass.

So, in an attempt to embrace my flaws and convert them into strengths (hey, I make my characters do it, seems only fair I should give it a try) I remind myself that writing isn’t a test, and there’s no finish line until I say so. So I’m beginning to take a perverse pride in these multiple drafts. (Perverse being the key word.) After all, they’re part of the quirky, wonderful, frustrating process that got me here…

So take heart if you’re not getting it right the first time. There are many (okay, at least one—moi) who rewrite ad nauseam.

My drafting process goes something like this:

First draft – Nailing the voice. This is critical for me because I refuse to write an entire book in the wrong voice. (Although I once did an entire mss alternating between 1st and 3rd POV because I couldn’t decide which one to use and that way would only have to rewrite half the book when I finally did make up my mind. See quirky, frustrating process reference above.) Sometimes this comes immediately and sometimes it can take up to a dozen tries, but I’m only working with the first twenty pages or so, which keeps it from being too painful.

Second draft – Dialog. In fact, this draft tends to look like a radio screenplay, nothing but dialog and an occasional physical action or quick paragraph of narrative. This is because my characters reveal themselves to me through their dialog. (Which is basically a polite way of saying I’m one of those writers who hears voices.) Entire conversations often come alive on the page, which is one of the very cool things about writing.

Third draft – Blocking. This is where I place these disembodied talkers into the physical world around them.

Fourth – Eleventh draft – Structure. This is the draft where I make sure I have an actual plot. I dissect everything that isn’t working and rebuild it using some sort of structure. I check for conflict and dramatic tension, make sure that every scene relates to the plot and moves the story forward. Check for cause and effect—that my characters’ actions are driving the plot and it’s not a string of pearls. Depending on how organic this story is, this can take one to umpteen drafts. Although, I do work in acts. By breaking my mss down into acts it’s much easier to manage. At least for me. Consequently, the first half of the manuscript may have fifteen drafts, but the last act only three or four, because I’ve gotten so much worked out by then.

Twelfth draft – Polishing. This is where I pay close attention to the language, making sure it’s as tight and evocative as I can make it. Also where I check for grammar gaffes, typos, etc.

It's pretty easy to see why I'm so very envious of those of you who can get it right in three. That is SO not me. Never will be, I’m afraid.

Friday, November 10, 2006

As Promised - Sneak Preview - Coming in Spring 2007!

Theodosia Throckmorton has her hands full at the Museum of Legends and Antiquities in London. Her father may be head curator, but it is Theo—and only Theo—who is able to see all the black magic and ancient curses that still cling to the artifacts in the museum...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

For the Cow Girl in All of Us

With my sons being 17 and 20, I don’t really have much occasion to read picture books anymore, but I did want to give a shout out to one picture book I’ve discovered that is a true delight and will tickle anyone who ever dreamed of being a cowboy or cowgirl.

Buckamoo Girls written by Ellen A. Kelley is an uproarious rollick of a ride where the playful illustrations perfectly match the author’s clever rhyme and concept. It’s a great reminder that even the most humble of creatures have dreams and aspirations, albeit sometimes hilarious ones. So if you ever wanted to be a cow girl, or know a little cowpoke, I highly recommend this book.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Anansi Pays Me a Visit

We didn’t have to decorate our house for Halloween. Since the lost tribe of Anansi seems to have settled their little arachnid selves on our front porch, there simply wasn’t any need.

I ignored it when my 6’5” son kept coming inside with cobwebs in his hair. After all, he’s so tall, it’s to be expected. I also ignored it when my 6’2” son began shuddering and ducking whenever he came into the house. After all, he’s almost an adult. Surely it’s time for him to get used to spiders.

But when the UPS girl began looking nervously at the ceiling of our front porch, I knew it was time to take action.

Thank goodness for shop vacs, that’s all I can say. Our front porch is now free of all fly and moth carcasses and tangled spider webs. There are five giant Anansis running free, however. I would like to pretend it’s because I’m altruistic that way, but the truth is, they were just too big to fit in the shop vac nozzle. (Eewwww!)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Feeling a Little Lonely?

Geez. Who knew it was going to take me an entire month to write and give a three minute presentation!

J-u-s-t kidding!! I've actually been very busy working on my next book, THEODOSIA THROCKMORTON AND THE SERPENTS OF CHAOS. It comes out in May of 2007, which means I've been up to my ears in galley proofing and second pass pages and designing a new website for the book; all sorts of good stuff.

Even so, I shouldn't have abandoned you all for an entire month. Bad me.

However, as compensation for this neglectful act, I'm going to share with you an amazing new blog by an amazing writer so that the next time I don't get a blog entry up soon enough, you'll have someplace else entertaining to go. (And the truth is, she is much more entertaining than I am. She is F-U-N-N-Y!!)

Mary is my writing buddy. We started out together lo those many (and no, I'm not tellin' exactly how many) years ago. We met in a writing class and hooked up as critique partners, and have been riding out the ups and downs of the writing life together ever since. She writes hilarious middle grade fiction, and she is a personal coach who specializes in coaching writers. She only posts once or twice a week, but her entries are Pure Gold. Funny and oh-so-wise. Go check her out. You'll be glad you did, I promise!

Coming soon! A sneak peek at my upcoming book cover!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Where Creativity and Technology Meet

I’m giving a short (as in three minutes) talk tomorrow and the topic is on how technology has most impacted your creative process.

Boy, let me count the ways! Because there are tons.

1. Putting me in touch with the vast community of other writers out there.

I have met some of my closest and dearest writing buddies through online writing forums and e-groups. We talk writing craft like lunatics, wrestling with plot, pov, pacing, character, conflict, pretty much any aspect of craft or the writing process you can name. And in the act of wallowing in all these different processes, my own becomes richer, I get to try new things, and even if they don’t work in the long run, they almost always jiggle something loose or spark an aha! moment, which makes them worth their weight in gold.

2. The World of Publishing at my fingertips

Never before has information on agents and editors and different publishing houses been so plentiful. If there’s an agent or editor you’re interested in, chances are you can find out much about him or her through the internet; who they represent or publish, what types of books they like, which conferences they’ll be attending. Some are very accessible and will often offer advice on how to make your work stand out or what common problems they see with first novels, offering you a chance to do some much needed polishing before submitting your work. Being closely in touch with the industry fuels my creativity in a big way, reminds me I’m part of this amazing process of getting books in front of readers.

3. Research

Okay, first I have to confess right up front that I’m a major research geek. But the truth is, there are books I couldn’t have written if not for the internet and the research I had access to. The most striking example of this is my May 2007 book, Theodosia Throckmorton and the Serpents of Chaos. This book takes place in Edwardian London, a place I certainly have never been. It also jaunts off to Egypt at the turn of the century, another place (and time) I have yet to visit. The beauty of the internet is that I found everything I needed to research this book, from maps of London around the turn of the century, to diagrams of the layout of pharaoh’s tombs in the Valley of the Kings, information on Egyptian gods and goddesses, archaeology, to the logistics of Edwardian life, such as transportation, lighting, and even the political climate. I was like a kid in a candy shop!

4. Connecting with my readers

The internet allows writers to connect with their readers like never before. From websites and email to blogs, writers have all sorts of way to communicate with their audience. I adore hearing from my readers, knowing what they thought about a book, even the parts that weren’t their favorite and I love having even more ways to connect with them. (But I don’t have to convince you guys, do I!)

Hah! It just occurred to me; the question was, What ways has technology impacted your creativity? Notice how I kind equated technology with the internet!

Pretty obvious which technology has had the greatest impact on me!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Why I Write For Boys

While I've always been driven to write, I caught a compulsion to write books for boys when my own two were growing up. I can so clearly remember when they'd finally mastered reading and were so excited to dive into the world of Books. Except there were so few stories that engaged them. Having been read to for years, they wanted action and excitement and adventure! Not the simple school/best friend/slice of life stories that were written at their reading level. In fact, that's how The Forging of the Blade was conceived, an action-packed, Tolkienesque adventure for emerging readers with third grade level reading skills.

The funny thing was, reviewers didn't get that book. At. All. But just about every elementary school teacher or librarian I talked to most emphatically did. And it was the Texas Librarians (TLA) who really gave that book a chance to find it's audience when they nominated it to the Bluebonnet list. (Have I said how much I HEART librarians!!)

When I wrote Werewolf Rising, I wanted to explore boys' puberty experience a bit. I'd watched my sons and their friends get hit by this wallop called male adolescence, and watched them struggle to make sense of all the emotions and sensations flooding their bodies, and I was struck by what an incredible transition it was. How much they were truly transformed. And I wanted to come up with a concrete, physical manifestation of that change, and thus lycanthians were born.

My own puberty experience, and that of my women friends, seemed more gradual somehow. Maybe simply because estrogen is a kinder, gentler hormone than testosterone, I don't know.

I was also struck by how much guys seemed to crave mentors. How much they loved being around men. They seemed to need that contact with older male role models in a way that was much different than girls. Probably because both tended to be around women more in their younger lives, so boys had more role modeling to catch up on, which was further fueled by the testosterone wave.

But here's a funny little thing about writing. You're not always writing about what you think you're writing about. At least, I'm not. I really thought the primary theme of Werewolf Rising was going to be control; learning to control new, unfamiliar urges. Instead, it really turned out to be about bigotry.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Who's Who In Lycanthian Society

Okay, due to popular demand, I'm going to try and identify who everyone is here in the collage.
(If you click on the collage, you can see it super-sized.)

Left Column, top to bottom
Ranger (black wolf)
Luna (white wolf - no she didn't have pups in the book, but she looks exactly like this)
Nuri (the class clown of wolves)
Bottom Two Wolves (subplot cut)

Middle Left Column,
Ranger again, this time howling at the moon
Sterling, Luc's grandfather
Kennet, Luc's father
Teague, pack's bard
Rolfe and Wiley

Middle Column
Snarling Wolf - general wolf picture
Playing Wolves - general wolf picture

Middle Right Column
Kevin, a half human, half Lycanthian who's subplot got cut. (He was mentored by into the pack by Luc's dad.)
Wanda, another half human half Lycanthian who's subplot got cut. (Unable to control herself, she keeps seeking humans out, even though it puts her in great danger
Wolf pup Keir (both pictures of black pup)
Wolf pups Kana and Zola

Right Column
Ulric, pack's Alpha
Sasha, Ulric's mate and pack priestess
Wolf pup Zola

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Writing on the Fly - Part Two

Five more ideas for when you only have a few moments to write...

Write about what the next scene has to accomplish; what the scene goals are, what the source of conflict might be, what your heroine needs to do, or what clues have to be revealed.

Do some character journaling of what the POV character will be feeling in the next scene. How will the actions of the upcoming scene make her feel? How will those emotions manifest themselves physically? You can also do this for a scene you’ve already written but want to deepen.

Do some character journaling to try and identify your characters internal wounds; what emotional scars does she bear and how do those influence her perceptions of herself and how she interacts with the world.

Write descriptions. If you know you have a new, unusual setting coming up, or want to create an eerie atmosphere, try just writing that description. Since descriptions aren’t usually in the heat of the moment of a scene, you can write them separately, then weave them in later.

Do lists of twenty. If you have a plot twist you need to come up with, brainstorm a list of twenty possibilities. Need a character flaw? Brainstorm a list of twenty. Perhaps you’re looking for a deep, dark incident in your character’s past that motivates their current actions; brainstorm a list of twenty.

The great thing about a list of twenty is that the first 5 or 6 ideas will be fairly common, and the last few will most likely be wild or over the top, just because you were really having to stretch to come up with twenty. But somewhere between numbers 7 and 15 probably lie a really good, unique plot twist or character trait.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Wolves: Friend or Foe?

I’ve always been fascinated by wolves, especially the huge contradictions in how we perceive wolves. From the myth of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, being raised by a she-wolf, to Little Red Riding Hood, our views of wolves have swung wildly from nurturing mother to an embodiment of all the evils that threaten mankind; the wolf at the door, throwing someone to the wolves, and a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Clearly, for a large part of our history, wolves have been perceived as evil, terrifying creatures that preyed on man.

But this wasn’t always the case.

Back when man was primarily a hunter, wolves and men respected each other and coexisted in relative peace. They were both efficient predators, keenly intelligent, and lived in highly structured social groups. They understood each other and were, in many ways, kindred spirits.

Then man began domesticating animals, and some wolves were brought to heel and became men’s companions. The wolves that didn’t make this transition were soon viewed as a threat because they couldn’t be controlled.

Men’s lives grew even more distant from their former hunter lifestyle. They began plowing the field and the forest became less and less familiar to them. Soon it turned into a frightening place full of dangers that they didn’t know or understand anymore, and wolves were one of those dangers.

Man quickly forgot that wolves weren’t savage killers, but efficient predators who helped cull down herds of elk, moose, and deer. (Wolves also helped keep these herds strong by preying on the weak and sick.) But man saw only that they competed for the same food source, and they felt threatened. And as much as they feared the wolf, they also feared their own natures, which had once had so much in common with the wolf.

It was easier to focus on the wolf.

They began demonizing wolves and grew to fear him, their fear growing to unreasonable proportions. In their minds, they began to assign wolves dark powers and man’s fear quickly bordered on hysteria. Within that hysteria and fear, the werewolf was born. Soon the human wolf was lumped with witches and demons and sorcerers, an instrument of evil, and the modern concept of the werewolf emerged.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wolf Collage

This is the collage I made when I was working on WEREWOLF RISING. When the characters were in wolf shape, I was having a really hard time keeping them straight in my head. Which wolf looked like what? So I bought a big, coffee table book on wolves from the remaindered section of the book store and tore out the pages and found the wolves that looked like my characters.

I was stunned to realize just how much variety there was in wolf's faces, once you started looking. Also how some seemed so distinctly feminine and others were obviously guy wolves.

The big picture in the center of the top row with the wolf standing in front of the tree in the snow is Luc. Suki is next to him on the right.

Ranger is the black wolf in the top left corner, and Luna is the white wolf just below him. Just below Luna, the third picture down on the left, is Nuri. Doesn't he just look like the class clown of wolves?

Reading Recommendation: FLY BY NIGHT

It took me a while to get into this book, although it may very well have been my mood as much as anything. I can be a very fickle readers sometimes and unable to “settle” into a book. At first, too, I thought it was a bit overwritten, and although the language was beautiful and delightful, it seemed like a littlte too much at first. But then it either faded into the background, or I got use to it, I’m not sure. The author definitely has fun with language.

But more importantly, Mosca Mye is a fabulous heroine! She is complex and flawed and makes many wrong choices and decisions, but each time she makes them the reader can see why she’s made them and would probably have made the same mistakes. If you're looking for strong girl characters, you'll find one in this book.

In fact, all of Hardinge’s characters are complex and fully drawn, and one of the joys of the book is we can’t be sure who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, right up until the end because everyone is so fully dimensional.

The world the author has built is fresh and fun and based on England just at the turn of the 18th century, but altered somewhat to make it less historical and give the book more of a fantasy feel. And I loved Saracen, the heroine’s pet goose.

The plot was complex and twisting and very well done, with many seemingly disparate threads weaving together at the end for a very satisfying conclusion. The author deals with some very sophisticated themes (including politics and, very obtusely, religion) and doesn’t tie everything up too neatly, which I appreciate because I don't care for things that are too pat. One of the themes of the book is thinking for oneself and making up one’s own mind, and the author echoes this in the way that the book ends, while still pulling off a very satisfying ending. One of my favorite lines of all time comes from Mosca at the end, when someone’s trying to talk her into a more sensible life; “I don't want a happily ever after. I want more story,” she thinks. Readers will feel the same way, wanting more stories about Mosca and her adventures.

Between the language and the plot, it is definitely a sophisticated read, not for beginning readers, although they may really enjoy listening to it on tape. I think many adults would enjoy this is well. I know I did.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Writing on the Fly

When I first started writing, I had a part time job and young kids. It often seemed as if I never had more than twenty minutes at a time to write. So I adapted and I got a heckuva lot of writing done in ten to twenty minute spurts. Sitting in the car, waiting for soccer practice to be over, at the park while the kids were playing nicely (that never lasted longer than twenty minutes!) during a quick cartoon on TV, whenever a small chunk of time landed in my lap, I was ready.

Of course, this works best if you always have a notebook or laptop nearby, which I highly recommend.

Writing in spurts can be so effective that even though I write full time now, I still use the technique to either jump start my writing or when the writing just isn’t flowing. So if you only have ten to twenty minutes to write, consider:

1. Jotting down a quick conversation between two characters, but only the dialog, as if you were eavesdropping on a conversation. You can fill in the rest of the scene (Physical actions, character's reactions, etc.) later.

2. Block out a scene. Make a list of the physical actions that you know have to take place in a given scene. For example, Theodosia needs to come up out of Long Term Storage, look for her father, stop outside his office, overhear Clive Fagenbush’s scolding, have him see her when he storms out of the office. Just the bare bones actions of a scene, but then the next time you have a few minutes, you can just write one of those sections of the scene.

3. If you know the POV character’s overall character arc, brainstorm some baby steps she’ll need to take as she grows.

4. Do some quick character journaling to help you get to know some aspect of your character better. Write about a traumatic event that occurred during her childhood, at age seven or twelve, something that shaped her perception of herself.

5. Brainstorm a quick list of the next few scenes, plot points or events that need to occur in your story so you won’t have to grope around wondering what comes next when you have some time to write.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Back-to-School Night

I went to Back to School night at my son's high school. He's a senior so this is the last Back to School night for me, ever.

It is also his English teacher's last year before he retires. The English teacher, Mr. Baird, has been teaching there for forty years, and he's still one of the best-loved teachers there. After forty years and countless students, the man still shines in the classroom and has a way with kids that makes them want to suceed; to make him proud of their work. Truly, the man is gifted.

He was also my English teacher, too, lo those many years ago.

So when I went to my last Back to School night, which would also be his last, I took a copy of my latest book to give to him. I wanted to give him something, to let him know in some way how much his teaching had fueled a passion in me that never let go. To let him know that he had set my feet firmly on a path that had brought me incredible satisfaction and allowed me to reach my dreams.

But I had to wait until my fifth book to do it. It wasn't until then that I felt confident enough in my writing, proud enough of the story I'd gotten on the page, that I was comfortable letting Mr. Baird see it.

It was a complex moment, handing him that book. I felt awkward and embarrassed, but immensly proud, too. In some ways, it felt like I was turning in a paper that was thirty years late. And yet I also felt like I was handing him proof of how much his teaching had meant to me, proof of how profoundly he had affected my life.

Because the truth was, critics and reviewers be damned. It was what Mr. Baird thought that was truly important to me.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Reader Mail

One of my very favorite things ever is hearing from my readers. I've already gotten a couple of requests from readers for a sequel to WEREWOLF RISING, which is very gratifying. I keep forwarding them to the publisher, and if they get enough of them, who knows?

I also received a wonderful email from one of my readers who loved WEREWOLF RISING but said it was frustrating when the only other person who knew about me was his librarian.

I told him that I share his frustration.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

And The Winner Is...


Because really, in a contest with seven prizes and eight entries, I CAN'T leave one entrant out. Just can't.

So, Jill, Karen, and Val win a copy of Werewolf Rising for their schools, and Kim, Sheri, Charity, Becky, and Louise win a set of the trilogy.

When you get a chance, email me your snail mail addresses along with a reminder of the school name so I can sign the books "To the students of X school," at

Thanks so much for participating and helping me to get my books in the hands of readers who might enjoy them!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Extending the Deadline

Because (ahem) everyone seems to be so busy with back to school stuff that they don't have time to read any blogs, I'm going to extend the contest deadline until Tuesday, September 5!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Back to School Giveaway--Because I HEART School Librarians!

I know librarians figure prominently in many writers' lives, but when I was a child it was the school librarians who influenced me the most. In fact, I don't have any memories of going to the public library, but I have many fond memories of school librarians and teachers who placed the perfect book in my hands, planting me firmly on my path to becoming an avid reader and, later, a writer.

So, in honor of schools across the country starting back up, I'd like to do another book giveaway, this time for school librarians, many of whom are operating on severely reduced budgets.

Now, I realize this blog is not exactly School Librarian Central, nor even a well-known hangout of said school librarians. However, I am betting that some of the readers of this blog have school librarians in their lives, either through their own kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, or other close family or friends, so here's the giveaway.

I am giving away FIVE paperback sets of my Lowthar’s Blade Trilogy (The Forging of the Blade, The Secrets of Grim Wood, and The True Blade of Power). However, this giveaway is for your school library, meaning if you win, you agree to take the books to your local elementary school library and donate them to their collection (although you or your kids can read them first, of course!)

Also, I will be giving away TWO hardcover copies of Werewolf Rising to be given to a middle school or junior high library, so if you have a kid in your life that attends a middle school or junior high school, that might be a more attractive option.

That's SEVEN chances to win!

(And yeah, you could lie, but I trust the people reading this blog--and if by chance someone does lie? Well, if it's important enough for them to lie about, so be it. There's not a verification process involved.)

I did something like this a couple of years ago with my first book and it was a really fun way to get my books into the hands of readers I would never have come into contact with otherwise.

So if you’re game, post in the comments and let me know the name of the school, whether it's an elementary, middle, or junior high school, and the state where the school library/librarian resides. Again, there is no verification process, it's just fun to see the geographical spread. At the end of next week (Saturday morning, September 2nd) I'll do a random drawing and notify the winners on the blog.

If you have any questions, post those, too!

Friday, August 18, 2006

An Author Interview

For anyone who's interested, there's an interview with moi posted over at Cynthia Leitch Smith's blog. Cynthia is an amazing advocate of children's books and children's authors, as well as a terrific author of kid's books. Her new one coming out next year is called TANTALIZE (Candlewick, 2007) and is a gothic YA and I can't wait to read it.

If you have time, poke around her website because as I say, it's an amazing resource for anyone who likes kids' books or has young readers in their lives. Lots of book recommendations and reviews, author interviews, etc.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

And on Another Note...

Dee and Charity over on deeceeonbooks are having a contest this week and are giving away a signed copy of WEREWOLF RISING. With a big fat doh! I realize I should have mentioned the contest earlier, but for some reason it didn’t cross my mind. Probably because I have a bad case of FOSP (fear of self promotion) Anywho, they have the contest entries up and are looking for judges. If you’re interested, pop on over there and vote for your favorite entry in the comments.

Reading Recommendation: RANGER’S APPRENTICE

On another note…

Trying to find books we think our kids will love, and that will consequently turn them on to reading, can be really hard. After all, there are so many books out there. One of the advantages for my boys was that I was steeped in children's publishing and following the market closely while they were young readers, so I often had a bird's eye view of books they might be interested in.

Even though they are well past the kid books stage, I am not and still read many, many books. It occured to me it might be helpful to post short reviews of those books that really worked for me and that I would put into a child's hand, thus Reading Recommendations was born.

However, just a cautionary note: These are books I would be comfortable putting into a kid's hands, but your mileage may vary. I realize caregivers have all sorts of different ideas of what's appropriate for kids. For my own kids, I tend never to censor anything they want to read as I think it can be a great catalyst for really important discussions AND I think often when kids read about things they are able to experience them vicariously and therefore don't feel the need to experience them first hand.

So grain of salt, that's all I'm saying. However, I WILL try to make a note if I think there might be anything parents might object to in any given book, just be aware that what blips on your radar might not blip on mine.

So without further a-do...

I just finished a terrific book that I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys fantasy. It’s called RANGER’S APPRENTICE by John Flanagan. It was an older MG fantasy and it really worked for me. In fact, I’d give it five stars. I would especially recommend it for boy readers 10-13. While it resonated faintly of Tolkein’s rangers, the book did a great job of really developing the idea into it’s own story. There was great characterization—a wonderful arc between two boys that had a contentious relationship and were able to solve it, and a hugely satisfying twist at the end. Just loved it. Sat down and read the whole thing in a day, which I RARELY do. So if you or your kids are looking for a great read, I’d highly recommend this.

Even More Conference Notes

One of the speakers was agent Jodi Reamer from Writer’s House. I’ve heard a lot about her as she was the agent that brokered the first $1,000,000 YA deal (TWILIGHT by Stephanie Meyers). And I was very impressed. She had some wonderful, concrete advice for the conference attendees.

1. Be careful in applying information about other authors to your own situation. Every author is different, and every author’s path to a successful career is different.

2. It really is ALL about the writing. The good news is that writing is a craft and you can always improve your craft.

Jodi Reamer’s Editorial Tips
1. Three most important things about the writing: engaging characters, strong voice, uniqueness
2. SHOW don’t tell
3. Character’s voice MUST ring true
4. Writing must be sophisticated
5. Don’t over simplify historical fiction
6. Don’t copy styles of another book
7. When considering literary vs. commercial, write to your own personal strength

On the Market (Jodi had some great guidelines for the different categories of children’s books which I’lll post here because they can be confusing.)

YA – Ages 12 and up (although some at the conference felt that most YA was read by 11-14 year olds)
40-60M words; 240 mss pages
Characters 18 and younger
Can’t be in college
Character drives book
(Caroline Cooney, another speaker at the conference, had this to say about YA: The most terrifying plot in this category is being without friends.)

Middle Grade
Ages 8-12 or 10-12 for older middle grade books
30-50M words, 180 mss pages
Flawed characters, complex, sophisticated writing, series making a comeback, but with limited arcs
Most editors looking for standalone titles
Publishers looking for one book a year from author

Chapter Books
Agegs 7-10
15-20M words, 110 pages
character driven, simple stories

Picture books
Must be evocative
Must be illustrateable
Can be no longer than 750 words

Saturday, August 12, 2006


A friend just informed me that my book, THE FORGING OF THE BLADE, has been nominated for the Children's Literataure Association of Utah's 2007 Beehive list.

What's especially cool is that these books are nominated by kids, so needless to say I'm sending out BIG LOVE to my young readers in Utah!

The really cool thing is that until last November, this book was very close to being written off as going nowhere fast. It had been out for over a year and had less than impressive sales. Then the Texas Librarians nominated it to TLA's 2006-2007 Bluebonnet list and now this Utah list.

I'm beginning to think of this book as "The Little Chapter Book That Could."

Friday, August 11, 2006

More Notes From the Conference

Another speaker at this year's conference who said some things that really resonated for me was Mo Willems, a picture book author and illustrator (Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus, Hyperion Books).

He said that if readers notice the work, then the work is ruined. It should be invisible to the reading experience and nothing should get between the reader and the story. Books should leave open spaces for the reader to participate. In order for the characters to truly come alive, the creator must disappear.

I just love that and think it is so true.

Another thing that he does (and can I just say that I love him for this?) is that he always makes sure that his artwork in his books is simple enough that kids can draw the characters themselves.

I cannot even begin to say how impressed I am by this. Talk about subjugating one's ego for the work! But it's absolutely brilliant and SO giving of him, because of COURSE kids love to try drawing the characters they see in books. And how often is the lovely, breath-taking artwork far beyond the capabilities of their young fingers??

I can vividly remember sitting down with my own kids when they were (much!) younger and drawing with them. It took about 90 seconds before they looked at my drawing and started to get discouraged. Needless to say, I began drawing very messily--not hard since drawing is not my forte.

But here is Mo Willems making sure they have something in a professionally produced book that they are capable of emulating. He gives them hope that they have it within themselves to do what he does.

What a generous gift!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Notes From the Conference

I was recently at the annual SCBWI National Conference and had a chance to hear some amazing speakers. Every year, it seems as if there is one speaker who just really wows me with the power of their words or vision or writing. This year it was Jacqueline Woodson. She read from her amazing Newberry Honor book SHOW WAY, which simply blew me away. It is an autobiographical picture book that tells of her African-American heritage as passed down through the slave women who preceded her. Gave me goosebumps.

She also had some things to say about writing that really resounded with me, so I’m going to share them here.

You must trust the stories without doubt. Never open yourself up to doubt, it will kill the story.

When she was young, she was eager to put the pieces of people together so that they would form a whole story. I thought this was such a terrific way to describe how we writers try to make sense of the world around us.

She reminded us that the energy of devastation serves a purpose, and to use that to fuel our work.

Also, that when we write, try to remember the reader we were as a child and how fully immersed we were in that reading experience, then try to write to that ideal of fiction so that our readers will be as fully immersed in our books.

There is no such thing as writer's block--just the body saying that this is not what you're supposed to be writing. It can also be about fear.

Ask yourself: How will this story heal you by telling it?

Write the story with the most honesty you possibly can.

Your stories can have nothing to do with your physical experience, but should have everything to do with your emotional experiences.

Write to the other side of your emotional pain.

The first line of a book should tell you everything that story is going to be about.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Art Contest For Kids

I thought I'd pass this on to any kids out there who are interested in art (or parents who are interested for them!)

IGES 11th Annual Art Contest for Children in Grades 2-4

*    Theme: "Polar Exploration: Going to Extremes!"
*    Entries due: Nov. 10, 2006

If you think the North and South poles are boring, lifeless places that
have no impact on your life, think again.

The planet's northern (Arctic) and southern (Antarctic) polar areas are
teeming with plants, animals and even people. Polar bears and penguins
aside, these icy regions at opposite ends of the globe are important
pieces in Earth's climate system.

An art contest for grades 2-4 challenges students to pick a polar
region, explore it and then draw a picture showing what they learned.
This is the 11th annual art contest held by the Institute for Global
Environmental Strategies (IGES) in Arlington, Va. The contest supports
national science education standards for grades K-4.

The winning artist will receive a $250 savings bond, and his or her
artwork will be printed as the 2006 IGES holiday card. Second- and
third-place winners receive a $100 and $50 savings bond, respectively.
Artwork will be judged by a panel of artists and IGES staff members.

Entries are due Nov. 10, 2006.

This year's theme -- Polar Exploration: Going to Extremes! -- relates to
the upcoming 2007-2008 International Polar Year (IPY), a coordinated
effort by the international science community to learn more about the
roles of the polar regions in global processes. IPY will also serve as a
mechanism to attract and develop a new generation of scientists and
engineers with the versatility to tackle complex global issues.

For more information, including contest rules and entry form, fun polar
facts, lesson plans, and a listing of recommended books, movies and Web
sites, please visit:

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fact vs. Truth

I’ve always been fascinated by the way facts intersect with truth. It seems as if a fact would be pretty cut and dried. “My big brother hit me.” That’s a fact, and yet it isn’t necessarily the whole truth. The truth might be that the younger brother did something to provoke the older sibling, or perhaps he tripped and fell against the older sibling’s arm so it would look like he got hit because he was bored and wanted to start something.

That’s one of the reasons police and judges like to get so many different witnesses statements on what they say; everyone sees things in a slightly different way, their perspective colored by the way they view the world.

It’s also one of the things I love to write about, that fuzzy gray area surrounding facts, that bit that’s open to interpretation.

And even facts that are indisputable have different truths surrounding them, and that’s one of the most fascinating things for me to explore as an author.

Fact: Your best friend moved away.

That’s pretty simple, cut and dried, indisputable. But that fact also contains a wealth of truth behind it, truth worth exploring. Because you could feel miserable that your best friend moved away, sad and lonely and sure you’ll never have a best friend again.

Or, you could feel relieved. Maybe your best friend had grown too bossy or domineering and was beginning to suffocate you. Her moving away took care of the problem.

So some people might say that it is a fact that werewolves do not exist, but the truth is, most of us have a beast that lurks deep inside us, hidden in the darkest places of our soul. This beast is the part of us that we like the least, that part of us that does or thinks things we know aren’t right or kind or worthwhile in any way. But that beast is still a part of human nature, just as a werewolf’s beast is part of what makes him a werewolf.

And the truth is that throughout history there have been stories of men who could shift between animal shapes and their own; men who could access animal strengths and use them to make themselves even more powerful. Whenever a theme repeats itself through generations and societies and cultures like that, I tend to think there must be a grain of truth in the premise. As a writer, that’s what I love to do—try to search out that premise or, if I can’t find one, make one up that sounds absolutely true.

So here’s a question while I’m gone: What things do you believe might be true, even though the rest of the world believes that it isn’t?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

And the Winner Is!!!

::drum roll, please::


by means of a web based random number generator.

So Gilly, send you snail mail address to me at and I will get the ARC out to you!

And a big fat thank you to everyone who participated by posting. It is hugely fun to read everyone's comments!

On a logistical note, I'm off at O'dark-thirty Friday morning to attend the SCBWI National Conference in Los Angeles. I'll probably post again tomorrow, but will then have radio silence until Tuesday when I get back from the conference.

No, I don't have a laptop that travels with me. How sad, huh?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Book Influences

I think one of the reasons I'm drawn to writing kid's books is that the books we read as a child seem to have such a profound impact on us; the memories of those stories linger with us for an entire lifetime. And while I've read some amazing adult books, they just don't become a part of my bones like the books I read as a child did.

Books that saw me through childhood were: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, The Little House on the Big Prairie books, The Once and Future King. As a teen, The Lord of the Rings rocked my world. When I try to think of adult books that had the same impact on me, there aren't any. Although there are a few books that did radically shift my perspective, especially as a writer.

What about you? What books were the anchors of your childhood? How did they shape who you are today? Obviously my love of fantasy was planted very early.

And are there any adult books that you feel had the same impact on you as your childhood favorites?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Book Giveaway!!

In honor of (finally) having a blog, I think it only fitting to have a contest giving away the ARC of my new book that comes out next month, WEREWOLF RISING.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment any time in the next week, on any blog post. At the end of one week, on Wednesday August 2, I'll do a random drawing from the comments and select a winner. If you post as 'anonymous' please be sure and leave some unique identifier in the comment--a screen name or some such--so you'll know who you are when I announce the winner next Wednesday.

Good luck!

The First Steps of the Journey

I sometimes wonder if we really choose writing or if writing chooses us. It seems to me that almost all the writers I know write because they can’t NOT write, and that includes me. It’s something I’m compelled to do; tell stories. Whenever I tried to give it up and do something easier, the stories would keep growing in my head, crowding everything else out until I had to write or risk severe mental strain. (That’s only partially a joke!)

The truth is that I’ve been writing ever since I was seven years old and penned my first poem--an Ode to my Madame Alexander doll. After that I wrote an Ode to The Chronicles of Narnia--my favorite books at the time. Luckily, I quickly outgrew my Ode Stage and moved on to other genres. Embarrassingly enough, my mother still has all these old masterpieces and charges me an annual fee to keep them hidden from the public eye!

I wrote all through my childhood and during my high school years. I won awards in high school and considered going straight into writing then, but all the well-meaning adults in my life talked me out of it. It was just too hard. Too much competition. Too much rejection. And while all of that it true, it is equally true that in the end, passion and perseverance can pay off, which it did in my case. I took up writing seriously with a goal toward publication in my early 30's, when I had two young boys who were gobbling up books faster than teething biscuits. After a long apprenticeship during which I produced much dreck, I finally managed to create something publishable. Dutton Children's Books bought THE FALCONMASTER. My long journey toward publication had finally ended. Or so I thought.

Little did I realize that I'd only turned a sharp bend in the road and that the quest was never ending.

Friday, June 02, 2006

About Writing

Passion and Persistence

Someone asked me the other day what was the most important quality for getting published. It was an easy answer. Passion and Persistence.

Then they asked me, of those two qualities, which was the most important, and I said, Neither. You need them both equally.

You need to be persistent beyond imagination to succeed in publishing. There is a long apprenticeship involved. First, you need to be persistent about learning your craft. You'll need to fully immerse yourself in absorbing all the aspects of craft. And there are many! You'll need persistence to keep on doing one more draft to get the manuscript right, until you are embarrassed to realize you’ve got twenty drafts of that sucker. You'll need to be stubborn to keep going forward in the face of all those rejections, and yes, most writers get many; scores or hundreds, depending on your learning curve and how much your story taste jives with the market's.

Believe me, you'll need passion to fuel all that persistence. You need to be passionate about the stories you're writing, for that—or the lack of it—will most definitely come through in your writing. You'll need to have these stories burning so brightly inside you that there's simply no way you can NOT tell them. Even after you've given up on writing, thrown away all your old manuscripts and reference books, and sworn never to write another word, that story will still nudge at you, haunt you, and eventually insist it be written.

You'll need that passion once you're published as well. It will help you remain true to your story in the face of editorial or marketing demands. And if you're not passionate about your book, how can you expect readers to become interested in it?

So, passion and persistence. Those are the requirements. Oddly enough, talent is pretty far down on the list of qualities needed to become a writer. Talent will only get you so far.

The truth is, with passion and persistence, you can pretty much accomplish any goal you set your mind to.

World Building

There are two keys to world building, whether historical or fantasy. First, you have to cast the world building net far and wide and deep. It needs to encompass the huge (religion, creation myths, belief systems, and rites of passage) as well as the small (slang, what they eat at their morning meal, what words they’re forbidden to use, and whether or not they wear underwear). It’s important to understand where the fantasy world veers away from our existing world. At what point in history did the world we’re creating take a different turn from the real world? If we’re writing about vampires, what is the nature of them? Did they all descend from Vlad the Impaler, or are they a specific class of demon from one of the seven levels of hell? Is world you’re building a completely different physical world, not on earth? Or an altered earth? You can’t just toss stuff in there because it’s cool or interesting or a trick idea, there has to be a logical solid reason for it, one that ties back to the physical and social laws of that world.

Then comes the annoying part. We do this huge amount of work involving days, weeks, months of research and creating until we have mountains of information on this world of ours. But the truth is, probably only 10% of it actually has a place in the story.

This can end up feeling like a waste of time and energy, but it’s not. Without that depth of knowledge, we will have a hard time convincing the reader that that world is real and exists in all its three dimensional reality (even if only in our imaginations). The writer needs to know and understand the entire world so they can select the most effective 10% to include.

By all means, fill your early drafts with as much world building as you need to make the world real to you and your character. However, when you’re on the final drafts, cut everything that has nothing to do with the story. If it doesn’t move the plot or character forward, it’s out of there. The good news is, you’ll have lots of details to sift through and choose from.

The second key to world building is even more important than setting the stage or providing description. All this world building is critical in creating an authentic WORLD VIEW for the characters. That’s where it really matters.

All that we learn and develop about our world informs our characters and their actions and their feelings. That’s where the great world building jumps off the page and makes us believe, because it isn’t just stage setting, it affects the very core of who the characters are; how they view the land, their family, and why they take the actions they take. A character living in a matriarchal world will have very different perceptions of people, and therefore make different story decisions, than one living in a patriarchal society. Characters who lived in the early Middle Ages will have a completely different worldview those who lived during the Renaissance (which means re-birth).

If your character “works” in either of those settings, then chances are they haven’t been fully developed. That means the writer hasn’t lived in their world long enough or deeply enough to truly understand what living in that world would be like. What things would cause fear, what would feel safe, what things would be taken for granted, and which would cause wonder.

Even if a single sentence of historical or fantasy description never makes it to the page, if we’ve built the world thoroughly enough, it makes the character who they are; completely unique and separate from anyone we could meet on a con.

The Creative Process

Writers find their stories in many different ways.

  • Some writers might “hear” voices inside their head and realize it’s their characters talking.

  • Others hear the words, the rhythm of the language and know how they want their words to sound.

  • Some see a movie or have images inside their head and write to describe those pictures.

  • Some writers feel what their characters feel and try to capture those emotions on paper.

  • For some writers, how the pencil or pen feels as it scratches against the paper is very important to their creative process. (It’s also why I collect pens! Each one feels so different!)

Whatever way your stories come to you is the RIGHT way.


On Writing, Publishing, and Promoting/Marketing

King, Stephen. On Writing (Scribner, 2000)
Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird (Anchor, 1995)
Lerner, Betsy. The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice for Writers (Riverhead, 2000).
Levinson, Jay Conrad. Guerrilla Marketing for Writers: 100 Weapons for Selling Your Work (Writer’s Digest, 2001).
Maass, Donald. The Career Novelist (Heinemann, 1996)
Maass, Donald. Writing the Breakout Novel (Writer’s Digest Books, 2001)
McKee, Robert. Story (HarperCollins 1997)
Vogler, Chris. The Writer’s Journey (Michael Weis Productions, 1998)

On New Releases, Market Trends, Buzz, and Publishing Philosophy

American Booksellers Association. BookSense 76,
Publisher’s Lunch, (free online newsletter and subscription website by agent/packager Michael Cader).
Publishers Weekly Magazine,


Author’s Guild,
Novelists, Inc.,
Mystery Writers of America,
Romance Writers of America,
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America,

Thursday, June 01, 2006

About Me

R. L. La Fevers grew up in Los Angeles, California. Even though she lived in the city, she had an unusually wide variety of pets. In addition to dogs, cats, and rabbits, at one time or another her family also had a goat, chickens, chipmunks, a baby anteater, and, for a few short weeks, two baby bear cubs, who were VERY wild and untamed. This has given her a deep appreciation for wild things and their need to live in their own environment.

Never let your brother

sprinkle birdseed in your hair.

Can't this thing go any faster?

Can you believe they let us go out into public

dressed like that!? What were they thinking?

In addition to all these animals, R. L. La Fevers was also surrounded by a gaggle of brothers who taught her an awful lot about how to get into mischief of all kinds. When she wasn’t taking care of her pets or getting her brothers out of scrapes, she usually had her nose buried in a book.

Now she lives on a small ranch in Southern California with her husband, two teenaged sons (who are also very good at getting into mischief and scrapes of one sort or another), a dog who thinks he’s a person, and a cat who is really a tigress in disguise. Although she no longer has any exotic pets, she does have raccoons who visit her back porch, coyotes who howl near her window, and hawks that soar high overhead.

Ten Strange Things About Me

  1. The scariest thing I ever did was jump out of an airplane. Don’t ever try it. I took a daylong sky diving class and jumped out of a plane at the end of the day. The. Scariest. Thing. Ever. Give me an evil warlord or vicious goblin any day.

  2. I can’t watch scary movies. They frighten me too much and I have horrible, horrible nightmares.

  3. At one point in time I had seven brothers. I was the only girl. I learned a lot about how boys think and the kinds of trouble they can get into. Occasionally, I would get into trouble with them. It was always fun until we got caught.

  4. I hate shopping. I know, girls are supposed to like shopping, but I HATE it. I’d rather read a good book any day.

  5. I got kicked out of the Gifted program in fourth grade because I was too imaginative.

  6. I LOVE history. The olden days fascinate me and whenever I do historical research I feel like I’m searching for hidden secrets of the past: What did people think about back then? How did they feel? What were they frightened by?

Yes, I was trying to claw

my way back into the plane!

  1. I am easily bored and daydream a lot. This used

    to get me into trouble when I was younger, but now it’s my job to daydream and make up stories! How cool is that?

  2. One of the best things I ever did was scuba dive. Being able to be underwater and breathe is amazing. It’s like stepping into a fantasy world, but it’s here on earth.

  3. Sometimes I read three or four different books at once. That way I have a book for whatever mood I’m in.

  4. I’m one of those adults who still believe in magic. Maybe not BIG hocus-pocus type magic, but little magic that’s hidden in the world all around us. Things we can’t understand or explain. Have you ever felt someone looking at you, even when you couldn’t see them? Can you tell if someone’s been in your room while you were away? Have you ever walked into a room and known immediately that the people in there were angry at each other, even if they didn’t say a word? Do you sometimes know the phone is going to ring, just before it does? Isn’t that kind of like magic?