Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Trouble With Novel Beginnings

I've been to a few retreats now and I keep hearing the advice of 'start your novel with action'. While I bow to the experts who've been in the business far longer than myself and have sold thousands of books, I don’t necessarily agree with that. Perhaps it’s a genre specific thing of genres I don't write! The statement is too vague and easy to misunderstand. Too many people take it literally and feel like they have to start their book with explosions, murder, a chase, a fight, something huge and dramatic. But I don't think that's really what the advice means.

When you think of action try not to think of it as a Hollywood thing, think instead in a literary sense. Better yet, replace the word action with tension. War And Peace didn't start with action but it definitely started with tension.

So what does that mean? How should you start your book? Somewhere near the beginning of your book should be the catalyst, the thing that sets everything in motion and brings your protagonist to the inevitable end of the book. You can start with the catalyst. I often do myself. But if there's something else, something that will build tension and add to the plot then you can start with that. Just remember, the key is to catch the reader's interest with some kind of tension or a desire to know more.

Check out this great post on The Biggest Bad Advice About Story Openings by Jane Friedman of Writer's Digest:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Twitter Tuesday~Alissa Grosso

Alissa Grosso and I met while participating in a chat on Twitter. She isn't a frequent tweeter (person who posts on Twitter) but when she does it's something to take note of, usually a great link, tip, or bit of fun information. Shortly after following her on Twitter I checked out her blog. I love checking in and catching up with her on what she's reading and sharing what I'm reading. I'm almost always guaranteed at least one good laugh from her weekly posts. What more would you expect from a fan of Douglas Adamas?!

Look for Alissa's debut novel, The Balderdash Semesters in 2011. I'll keep you posted as she reveals more about the book and we get closer to the release date!

You can find Alissa on Twitter here:
And check out her blog here:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday's Muse~Winged Man

When I found this picture I could hardly believe it because it felt like the artist had reached inside my mind and plucked out a scene from my book. Despite an intensive search I couldn't come up with a website for him, but I did find his name. This heart pounding painting is by Joe Costello. I found a website for a Joe Costillo, but I’m pretty sure that isn't him. If anyone is able to find Costello's website leave me a message so I can check out more of his work and steer people toward him.

So why am I inspired by a painting of a winged man when I'm writing about dragons? Sorry, you'll have to wait to find that out. No worries though, I'm only a few chapters away from finishing the first draft. I plan on running it through several edits throughout the month of April and then submitting it to my agent in May! Its hard to believe I'm almost done with the first draft of this book. . .

Last week's song was Drums Of Doom by Manowar. Very appropriate for the chapter I was working on! Check it out here:

As for reading material to keep my mind creative, I'm reading Hex Hall by Rachelle Hawkins. So far so good, though I haven't had much time to sit down with it.
Last week I made great progress on the novel I'm working on, Grendar's Tale. In fact, just last night I nearly reached the end. I'm literally a few sentences away! I can't wait to finish and start editing. This novel was a blast to write and has really inspired me for the next one, another young adult fantasy!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Review of Still Sucks To Be Me

In March I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Still Sucks To Be Me, a young adult paranormal by Kimberly Pauley. I'm really glad I did because I haven't read anything this unique in a long time. As many of you know, unique in the literary world can damn you or make you. In this case I'd have to say it definitely makes the book.

Still Sucks To Be Me is a story about a girl who has made the difficult choice to become a vampire and has to deal with the consequences. Don't shy away folks, this is no Twilight knockoff, not by a long shot.

Kimberly has a way of getting us into her character's life as if we were living it right alongside her. Mina is such a beleivable person that I feel like I could walk down the street and bump into her. Still Sucks To Be Me reads as though I was walking down the hall in school, picked up a journal off the floor, and started reading it. And that journal just happened to be written by a girl who's family are vampires.

You won't find the cliques, excessive drama, or long deep stares that has made the vampire genre so yawn inducing lately. This book is different, in a very good way. Run down and pick up Sucks To Be Me and read it while you wait for  your pre-order of Still Sucks To Be Me to be shipped!

Check out Kimberly Pauley's website here:
You can order her books here on B&N(among other places):
FTA disclaimer: I did receive this ARC for free. I am not being paid or compensated in any way, shape, or form to read, review, or support it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Is Writing Talent Or Hard Work?

Since the quill pen was invented people have contemplated the idea of whether writing was a natural born talent or just plain hard work. We writers wish and pray for the times when our muse visits us and the words flow onto the page. But are we less of a writer without the muse? Should we wait around for it to visit, writing only when we feel inspired? Well sure, if you don't want to be an author. Authors, those writers who've crossed into publication, know how and when to push.

I believe writing is not one or the other, but both a talent and a lot of hard work. Can everyone write well? Absolutely not. Can everyone learn how to? I believe they can. Don't get me wrong, I also believe a certain amount of talent must exist. But if we wait around for the times when our muse whispers in our ear and moves that pencil across the page or those fingers along the keyboard, we may never finish our works in progress and we may never learn. I certainly wouldn't be working on my seventh novel if I waited around for that fickle sprite to drop in on me.

Still not convinced? Think of this way. Do you dance better when you've had a few glasses of wine, or do you just think you do? Be honest, you don't. It's the same with your muse. When you're tipsy on inspiration you don't necessarily write your best work, it just feels like you do. Sweat and determination is what gets that novel written, not your muse. I love my muse and look forward to when it visits, but I'm not going to wait around and neither should you. Editing will smooth the edges and fill out the anorexic parts. Don't be afraid of that rough first draft, embrace it, write it! Your muse will visit sometime during the process.

Check out this article from Writer's Digest on Inspiration or Perspiration:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Is Dialogue Dooming Your Novel?

Many agents say they can tell how good a novel is going to be just by how well the dialogue is written. I've even heard some say they've rejected a manuscript solely because the dialogue was sub par. You can't afford for you dialogue to be less than the very best it can be.

There's a fine line between keeping your dialogue realistic and keeping it from being so realistic it's painfully boring. Much of an actual conversation in life is full of long pauses, short phrases, and annoying words like well and uh. That doesn't mean you shouldn't use these words, it just means you need to limit them.

The dialogue you choose to put in your book should be meaningful. If the conversation doesn't move the plot or the character arc forward, chances are you don't need it in the book. If your characters are talking about something pointless that's fine as long as there's a point to the scene itself. Perhaps the reader learns something important about their mannerisms, their beliefs, or principles. In this case the conversation can be light but still meaningful.

When in doubt refer back to the books you've read. Check out the dialogue. What do they put in and more importantly, what do they leave out? You can learn a lot just by paying attention to what you're reading!

For more on the subject check out Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages, it has a great section on dialogue:

And check out this guest article on dialogue on the Writer's Digest website:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Twitter Tuesday~Mindful Musings

Natalie and I met on Twitter and as soon as I got a look at her book blog, Mindful Musings, I knew I had to follow it. This lady has fabulous taste! Though she reads everything Natalie loves fantasy/paranormal and young adult books. Her book reviews are fantastic and any time I'm looking for something to read I know I can stop by her blog and get a great recommendation that I'm going to love. I can't even name all the books I've picked up based off something I read on her blog! She regularly features authors and highlights other book bloggers as well.

Check her out on Twitter here:

And check out her book blog here:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday's Muse~Dragons & Hawaii

How could I not look at this picture and be inspired? You can almost hear the crackling fire and smell the burning flesh. This picture takes me back to some of the first fantasy books I ever read. Ironically~considering the picture~it stirs up comforting memories of good times and great stories. Unfortunately I have no idea who the artist is so if anyone knows please leave me a comment so I can give them credit, attach a link, and check out more of their work!

This week was another two chapter week. I was so inspired that my right hand cramped up in protest after two 1,000 word days. A warm cup of coffee works wonders to relax that by the way! This second picture is of Waimea Canyon on Kauai, one of the islands of Hawaii. The Hawaiian Islands are one of my go to places when I'm looking for inspirational pictures that make me think of other worlds. That could be part of why I like Hawaii so much.

This week since I had two chapters I picked two very different songs. The first is Allison Iraheta's You Don't Know Me

And the second is Manowar's Battle Hymn

To hold myself accountable I thought I'd also start posting my progress for the week on Monday's Muse. Last week was a big one for me, I wrote over 5400 words! My weekly goal is 4200 words so I'm pretty happy with that. :) You'll notice the progress bar on my work in progress over there on the right has moved by leaps and bounds. I love that!

Friday, March 19, 2010

De-Mystifying The Big 6 Publishing Houses

As my agent and I delve into the frightening stage of submitting to publishers the subject of The Big 6 comes up yet again and I realized, not all aspiring authors know what this means. Before the editor stage of submitting I didn't realize who The Big 6 were either. Here they are in no particular order (some subsidiaries may not be listed. Click on the link for a full listing):

Random House: There are a lot of publishing groups each with their own imprints under this huge roof. Here the groups: Crown Trade Group, Knopf Doubleday Publishing, Random House Publishing Group (including Ballantine, Bantam, Dell, and many others), RH Audio Publishing Group, Random House Children's Books, RH Information Group, RH International, RH Large Print.

Simon & Schuster: Atria, Folger Shakespeare Library, Free Press, Gallery Books, Howard Books, Pocket, Scribner, Simon & Schuster, Threshold Editions, Touchstone/Fireside, Aladdin, Atheneum Books, Beach Lane Books, Little Simon, Margaret K. McElderry, Paula Wiseman Books, BFYR, Simon Pulse, Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster Audio, Simon & Schuster Pimsleur.

Penguin Group: Ace Books, Alpha Books, Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, Avery, Berkly Books, Dial Books For Young Readers, Dutton Books, Dutton Children's Books, Firebird, Fredrick Warne, Gotham Books, G.P. Putnam's Sons Books For Young Readers, Grosset & Dunlap, Hudson Street Press, Jove, NAL, Pamela Dorman Books, Penguin, The Penguin Press, Perigee Books, Philomel Books, Plume, Portfolio, Printice Hall Press, Price Stern Sloan, Puffin Books, Razorbill, Riverhead, Sentinel, Speak, Tarcher, The Viking Press, Viking Books For Young Readers.

MacMillan: Bedford/St. Martin's, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Farrar Straus & Giroux Books For Young Readers, Feiwel & Friends, First Second, W. H. Freeman, Hayden McNeil, Henry Holt & Co., Henry Holt & Co. Books For Young Readers, Kingfisher, Macmillan Audio, Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave MacMillan, Picador, Priddy Books, Roaring Brook Press, Scientific American, Square Fish, St. Martin's Press, Tor/Forge, Minotaur, Bedford/St. Martin's.

HarperCollins: Amistad, Avon, Caedmon, Ecco, Eos, Harper, It Books, Rayo, William Morrow, Balzer & Bray, Greenwillow Books, HarperFestival, Harper Teen, Katherine Tegen Books, Walden Pond Press.

Hachette Book Group: Grand Central Publishing, Faith Words, Windblown, Center Street, Little Brown & Co., Little Brown & Co. For Young Readers, Orbit, Yen Press.

Now when your agent puts you out on submission and tells you he/she has submitted you to Margaret K. McElderry you don't have to wonder who in the world that is, you'll know it's Simon & Schuster! For those who haven't reached the editor submission stage yet, keep this handy, you'll need it someday soon. Don't forget, there are still a lot of great houses out there that aren't part of the big six.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Super Comments Award

Lindsey Edwards from The Write Words blog has awarded me (among a few fabulous others) the Super Comments award! Since I take my commenting responsibilities very seriously I'm truly honored to receive this award. When I follow a blog it's because I'm intrigued, entertained, or inspired by something in the blog, the writer, or both. I love connecting with those I follow and commenting on their entries is one way to do that. Supporting both aspiring and already published authors is a mission of mine and commenting and following their blogs is one way I love to do that. On that note I feel compelled to pass the Super Comments Award on to another five of my best commenters. Please click on their names to check out their fabulous blogs!

Alissa Grosso's:
Karlene Petitt:
Anne Riley's:

I have many more wonderful followers (and the occasional passerby) who comment regularly and I love each and every one of you! It always makes me smile when I see I have a comment awaiting moderation.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March Debut Author~Judith Graves

Since I love debut authors so much I thought it was only right that I start featuring one every month on my blog. I came across Judith while researching debut authors last week. Her name might sound familiar to you since I mentioned her in the post about authors debuting in 2010. You've got to love a name like Judith Graves! Shortly after that post Judith and I started following one another on Twitter. Judith loves tragic romance, werewolves, vampires, magick, and all things a bit creepy. If her book reflects her tastes, and I've no doubt it will, then it's going to be excellent!

Judith's debut book, Under My Skin, comes out March 27th. Here's what I gather Under My Skin is about: Eryn moves to the town of Redgrave and is quickly warned away from the Delecriox family. People say they're dangerous. That doesn't deter Eryn though because she's dangerous too. When she falls for one of the Delecriox boys though everything goes bad.

Look for Under My Skin to hit stores in less than two weeks, or you could do what I've done and pre-order it here:
Or right from Leap books here:

Be sure to check out Judith's blog:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Twitter Tuesday~Anne Riley

Anne Riley is an up and coming author from Birmingham Alabama who is represented by Alanna Ramirez of Trident Media Group. I came across Anne on Twitter (are you starting to see why it's my go to site?!) and we've been chatting away ever since. As a woman who lists Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling among her favorite authors, clearly we have much in common! Her tweets are funny, sometimes heart warming, and always entertaining. She isn't one of those folks who will fill up your Twitter page with rambling tweets about nothing. Whenever I see her avatar I know the tweet is going to be something helpful or funny.

Anne is a huge supporter of aspiring authors and often does what she calls Pre-Famous Author Interviews on her blog. How can you not love that? She goes a step farther and regularly posts spotlights on literary agents. Just this week she spotlighted her own agent, Alanna, who was kind enough to stop by the blog and answer all kinds of questions for Anne's followers. Anne also hosts contests from time to time in which you can score a great book. Be sure to keep an eye on this one, with such a positive and giving attitude she's going to go far. And you're going to love her writing!

You can find Anne on Twitter here:
And be sure to check out her fabulous blog here:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday's Muse~Larry Elmore

This week is all about dragons. This picture is by my all time favorite fantasy artist Larry Elmore. His paintings have inspired me so much over the years that he is my go to artist for when I need something thought provoking. Larry Elmore will always be the fantasy artist as far as I'm concerned. Larry has done numerous covers for the role-playing magazines Dungeon and Dragon (yep, two seperate magazines) and you've probably seen his work on the covers of dozens of fantasy novels. Check out more of his fabulous art at his website here:

Last week's song was The Prophecy by Iron Maiden. Don't judge until you check it out! Remember, I told you I was diverse! You can listen to a bit of it here:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

2010 YA Debut Authors

As a huge supporter of debut authors I wanted to give my readers a taste of what's coming out this year in young adult. Check out these great debuts (click on the author name and title to be taken to their website):

Swati Avasthi~SPLIT a coming of age, releasing in March of 2010
Leah Cypess~MISTWOOD a fantasy releasing in April 2010
Shannon Delany~13 TO LIFE a paranormal releasing in June 2010
Alexandra Diaz~OF ALL THE STUPID THINGS Dec. 2010
Bonnie Doerr~ISLAND STING thriller releasing January 2010
Janet S. Fox~FAITHFUL historical YA releasing in May 2010
Judith Graves~UNDER MY SKIN releasing in March 2010
Jennifer R. Hubbard~THE SECRET YEAR releasing in 2010
Denise Jaden~LOSING FAITH mystery releasing in the fall 2010
Kitty Keswick~FREAKSVILLE paranormal released January 2010
Irene Latham~LEAVING GEE'S BEND  released Jan. 2010
Tom Leveen~PARTY releasing in April 2010
Shari Maurer~CHANGE OF HEART spring of 2010
Kristina Mcbride~THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES May 2010
Mara Purnhagen~TAGGED releasing in March 2010
Jame Richards~THREE RIVERS RISING releasing in April 2010
N.H. Senzai~SHOOTING KABUL releasing in June 2010
Jeri Smith-Ready~SHADE paranormal releasing in May 2010

You may also want to check out this great website self dubbed Class of 2K10 that is a great grouping of 2010 debut authors, many of which are on this list! If you know of any other great authors debuting this year leave me a comment with their name, the book title, and a website if you can find it. It doesn't have to be just young adult either, I read everything and supports like to support authors in all genres.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Painful Levels

Since I started writing again I've been going to retreats and conferences in an attempt to push myself to take my writing to the next level. Once I started this process I couldn't stop. So what has me so addicted to improvement? Isn't it good enough to just have the natural talent of a writer? I wish it were that easy. When I was in high school I thought it would be that easy. I thought I'd write a book and get it published. Anyone who has finished a book and has tried getting and agent or jumped that hurdle altogether and went straight for the publisher knows just how hard that really is. There is no easy road to getting published and there is always room for improvement.

It wasn't until I attended my first writer's retreat that I realized just how much room for improvement there was in my own writing. The only people who had read my book were friends who praised it until I blushed. I figured it must be good if my friends liked it. I can see you flinch even without a webcam. If you didn't, you probably have the same wonderful kind of friends I do and you may not have learned the true meaning of critique yet. Criticism even in it's finest form--constructive criticism--is still a very harsh and painful process. But it's a necessary process. Without it your writing will not improve. If you constantly hear how good your book is and no one ever tells you how you could improve it, it will never be the best it can be. As wonderful as those praising friends are, you need different friends who will tell you exactly what's wrong with your book, using constructive criticism but without the gloves on.

Think of your writing like the construction of a good sword, it must be heated, folded, and pounded before it can withstand the rigor of battle. Becoming published is like battle and without a strong manuscript, your weapon will crumble and you will be defeated. So heat up the forge and invite the criticism!

Check out this great article on a similar subject by Kate Monahan of Writer's Digest:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Twitter Tuesday~Portia Sisco

Portia Sisco is a writer hard at work on her book. She believes in getting it just right before leaping into the querying process and I applaud her for that. There's sometimes a big temptation for a writer to start looking for an agent as soon as they finish that first draft, or in worse cases, before. But not Portia. She has a great understanding of the way things work in the literary world and a need to get things right. As a fellow perfectionist, I love that about her. I came across her on Twitter then shortly after I discovered her blog. She isn't a frequent tweeter (one who posts on Twitter) but when she does tweet something you know it's going to be good. I can always count on her for helpful links for writers or sometimes just things that make me smile. Portia is also a lady with a passion for a good ghost story. Her blog is chalked full of great writing tidbits and the occasional sidetrack into the paranormal. Be sure to check her out!

You can find her on Twitter here:

And don't forget to stop by her blog:

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday's Muse~Dragons & Lavender

Despite fighting for every word this week, it was a two chapter week. I'm certain those pages will see a lot of red ink, but I got them down and that's what counts with the first draft. Its not a particularly tough part of my book, I'm just working a bit outside of the outline due to some inspiration I had. The picture above is another by the artist Ciruleo Cabral. Here's Ciruelo's web site:

So how did I go from that fantastic painting to a field of lavender? What can I say, my muse must have ADD. No wait, that's probably me! Hopefully some day within this decade you'll get to read the book then it will all make sense to you. As random as my inspirations are, there's a pattern to them. The problem is, you can't see the whole picture until all the pieces are put together.

This week I made a point of using music to keep my muse going. This song in particular spoke to me as I wrote my two current chapters: Trouble Is by Allison Iraheta, off her debut album, Just Like You. If you haven't heard this talented lady yet you've got to check this out:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Follower Appreciation

We had a great chat last night on Twitter about social media that made me think about how much I appreciate the followers of my blog. The chat was about balancing your writing, family, and social media time (Twitter, Facebook, ect.). We got sidetracked talking about how important it is to reach out to people for the right reasons. It was a good sidetrack. Building your platform by having pages on a few different sites is something most writers aspire to do, myself included. However, before you do so you should ask yourself why you want to join the sites. If the answer is just to increase readers then you need to reevaluate your platform.

I'm not saying you shouldn't want to increase followers and readers, of course you should. However, you're main objective needs to be focused on the readers and followers instead of on yourself. Think of why you started writing in the first place. Chances are somewhere in your reasons was the need to share your stories with others. You should never forget that need to share; it's what will draw people to you.

The main reason I reached out in social media was because I live in a very isolated area where there is no chance of a writer group. Writing can be a lonely profession if you let it be. I decided not to let it be. That isolation sparked a deep rooted desire to help aspiring writers. From that desire this blog was born. With the crash of the economy and upset in the publishing industry came the desire to support debut authors. That desire has led me to read a lot of fantastic books I may not have otherwise picked up. And I helped those authors and the industry in the process!

So remember, when establishing your platform, it's not about numbers, it's about people and not only what they can do for your book sales, but what you can do for them. To all my followers, I love and appreciate you! Check out the transcript for that great chat here:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Dreaded Synopsis

Some people hate writing a synopsis so much they avoid agents who ask for it. I have bad news for those folks, chances are good that even agents who don't initially ask for one will want one if they take you on. So how can you take the pain out of this horrible process? One paragraph at a time.

It isn't easy to condense your hard work into a 3-5 or sometimes one page summary. It's even harder to do it and not make it sound like a stacatto scene by scene breakdown. Start similar to the way you started your query letter, with a hook sentence that sums up the heart of the book. From there hit on the important parts of the book. Infusing it with your writing style (or character voice) will help keep it from sounding like a scene by scene breakdown. Don't overdo the style though. The synopsis is about your story, not your writing. Finding that balance isn't easy, which is why most people hate doing one.

Know what the agent wants in the synopsis. Some want to know every detail, including the ending, some don't. Many agents preference differs on this. When in doubt, ask. Read the jacket of books. This is a good guideline to go by and will give you a feel for how the synopsis should flow.

Don't just take my word for it though, here are a few great links to Writer's Digest articles on the subject:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tax Writeoffs For Writers

As tax season creeps up its important for writers to remember that many of our costs can be deducted as expenses. There are a lot of stipulations and many of them vary depending on what state you live in. Last year I talked to a tax consultant and got the low down on what was acceptable in my state. He told me I can claim expenses for two years as self-employed but if I haven't profited from my writing by the third year I have to stop claiming it as a type of self-employment and change to claiming it as a hobby. Thankfully, I'm only working on my second year of claiming my writing expenses and I'm really hoping to sell my series by the end of this year and make that three year profit deadline!

There are quite a few things that count as expenses. Think of everything you use for your writing; paper, ink, pencils, pens, a new computer or printer maybe. All those things are deductible. Once you start keeping track of those types of expenses you'll be surprised how quickly they add up. I have a credit card I use only for business (writing) related expenses. If you can do this I highly recommend it. My card sends me a year end summary that breaks everything down into categories. It saves me a lot of work!

You can also claim your office space if you use it exclusively for your writing. Take the amount of space your office takes up and find the percentage of your home that it is. Let's say you have an 1100 square foot apartment and there is an 8x10 room you use exclusively for your writing (the exclusive part is really important). In that case you could write off 13.75% of your mortgage, utilities, home insurance, and internet (if you use internet for your writing-networking counts).

Check out this great guest post on Chuck Sambuchino's blog (of Writer's Digest) about tax tips:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Twitter Tuesday~Lia Keyes

While looking for different chats for writers on Twitter I came across something called scribechat. It sounded perfect since it welcomed writers from all genres and I love to get as many different perspectives I can when it comes to a chat. The host (and I later found out, creator) of the chat was writer Lia Keyes. Lia is represented by Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. I was welcomed with open arms into the chat and soon after began following Lia. She is a dedicated writer who is sweet and helpful. Her tweets are always full of excellent links and encouraging tidbits. Aside from hosting scribechat every Thursday at 6:00pm PST, Lia also runs the Scribblerati, a social network for writers and illustrators.

You can find Lia on Twitter here:
Learn more about scribechat here:
Check out Lia's site here:
And learn more about the Scribblerati at:

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday's Muse~February's Reads

Since it’s the first Monday of the month I'm recapping what I've read for inspiration (or just fun) this month. With the writer's workshop smack in the middle of the month, February was pretty busy for me and I didn't get to read as much as I would have liked. But what I did read was excellent. I started the month of February with Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. It's a tale of magic, mystery, and a terrible curse, set in the south. This debut novel was breathtakingly pulled off, not only with living, breathing characters that I ached for, but with such descriptive talent that I feel like I've been to the south now. If I hadn't known this was their first novel I never would have guessed. In a literary world packed with vampires this unique tale was a breath of fresh air. Not a bloodsucker in sight. Loved, loved, loved this book!

Don’t get me wrong, I love my bloodsuckers, as my next book for February will indicate. I'm sucked in~no pun intended, okay maybe a litte~to the Vampire Academy series by Rachelle Mead. This month I got to read Shadow Kiss, the third in the series. What would draw me to such a clique series you might ask? Despite the title, The Vampire Academy series is as far from clique as a vampire story could get. In the third book I'm especially enjoying the development of the main character, Rose Hathaway. She's a faithful girl who cares more about her friends than herself and isn't afraid to kick butt to protect them. You've got to love a strong female protagonist! I'm not going to give away too much because the characters reach some really pivotal points in this book. Loved it though!

The third book I just recently picked up and have only started to peruse. But it is so good it warrants mentioning already. It is Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. For those who don't know (waves at you under the rock there), Donald is a literary agent with the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Donald's agency represents some of the biggest names out there, Elizabeth Bear, Jim Butcher, William Bernhardt, Anne Perry, Dianne Duanne, among others. I started learning how to improve my craft on the very first page. I'm adding this to my essential books for writers!