Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pitch Wars Pimp My Bio

It's Pitch Wars time again! Don't know what that means? Check out Brenda Drake's website. (Hi mentors and fellow contestants!) I've updated my bio for this year.

About me: I was born in Illinois, so I am a midwestern girl, though I spent many years in the Southwest and a year in the South. I studied violin at Arizona State University and received both a Bachelor and Master of Music in Performance. After that, I had four beautiful daughters, all of whom I've taught a musical instrument:

I am a licensed practical nurse and  occasionally pick up shifts at in a long term care facility aka "nursing home" when I'm not teaching violin lessons or homeschooling my girls. I am married to the sweetest man anywhere.

My writing: Lately, I've been working on a YA fantasy set in a fictional middle east/African-like world, but decided that wouldn't be ready for the contest, so I'm entering a YA contemporary that wasn't quite ready last year, but has gone through lots of crits and edits since. Think Emily Martin's The Year We Fell Apart meets Sara Zarr's The Lucy Variations. It's on the quieter, intense weepy side with LOTS of music. (Here's a playlist.)

  My Favorites 

2016 Books: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, Beyond the Red by Ava Jae, Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake, Days Made of Glass by Laura Drake
pre-2016 Books: Lilith by George MacDonald, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, Strangers and Sojourners by Michael D. O'Brien, LOTR by Tolkien, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
TV Shows: Outlander
Authors: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Maggie Stiefvater, Tahereh Mafi, Diana Gabaldon, Michael D. O'Brien, Regina Doman, Jandy Nelson, Rainbow Rowell, Sarah Dessen
Movie: Life is Beautiful
Place to visit: a huge Polish cemetery near Chicago.
Color: blue (green is a close second)
Food: something with chocolate in it.

Other random info:

I do not understand how pantser's do it (beat sheets/outlines are a must!)
I love drafting
Revising is not my favorite (but I will do it!!!)

Really Random info:

I can't scream (truly), but my kids will tell you I can yell
I have no idea how to do gif's
I love happy endings (the irony is my MS is more bittersweet)
It's not easy to make me laugh, but I can break into hysterics over things no one else gets
I have extraordinary focus at times
Love You Forever makes me cry
I can't stand seafood

A big thank you to Brenda Drake and all the people who help pull Pitch Wars off, and also to Lana Pattinson for hosting the Blog Hop. Thanks to you too for reading my bio. Any questions? Just ask.

Looking for other #PimpMyBio posts? See here. Found my post there? Comment below and I'll check your bio out!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Seven 2016 Releases on My TBR I Plan to Buy

The following are 7 titles (in random order) that release in 2016 which I either already own or plan to buy because they either a) sound amazing, b) are part of a series I already love, c) are books by debut/newer authors I want to support, or d) a combination of the above.

1. Fear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh (September 2016)

     A witch's apprentice, romance, and something evil in the sea?
     I'm in. And Sarah is one of the sweetest people I've "met" on
     the internet!

2. This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (January 2016)

24529123A debut about a school shooting, I first saw this premise back
when it was a contest entry and was intrigued. Still am, and
just bought it so I'll be reading it soon!

3. Beyond the Red by Ava Jae (March 2016)

I'm still hoping to pre-order this. Ava Jae is a debut author who provides a lot of helpful advice to aspiring writers and the premise of an alien queen with a half human bodyguard trying to prevent genocide reels me in.

289542004. Illusion by Martina Boone (October 2016)

I own the first two books in this Southern Gothic trilogy by
Martina Booneso naturally I can't wait for the conclusion to 
Barrie and Eight's story!

5. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (January 2016)


 Two witches in a new fantasy world being chased by a
scary bloodwitch? And the start of a new series by an author
who devotes so much time to giving advice to other writers?
Yes, I bought this!

179273956. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (May 2016)

I love the Throne of Glass series and bought the first book in
this other series by Sarah J. Maas. Now that Feyre's been
transformed into one of the Fae, I'm impatient to see what
happens next.


          7. Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake (January 2016)

         I already bought this new book by Brenda Drake, because
         she is the queen of writer's contests and deserves my
         support. Plus libraries, portals, romance, and magical
         sentinels? I'm only three chapters in and I'm planning to
         savor every page.

So that's my list of some of the books I plan to buy in 2016. How about some more suggestions in the comments?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Need some writing tips?

Happy New Year!

I really like this post by Alex Yuschik. If you are looking to write or revise a manuscript this year, try one or more of her 16 tips. And happy writing!

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Favorite Books of 2015

Above all when I read a book, I want to be transported to another world, where I can live vicariously through someone else's viewpoint. I'm a sucker for an awesome premise and a good one will keep me reading to find out what happens, even when the writing is so-so. But, I love when a book blows me away so that I can't stop thinking about it when I'm finished, or is so well done writer-me is jealous.

According to my Goodreads reviews, I read 59 books this past year with 14 of those garnering a 5 star review. Lest I seem too generous, not all my books  read make it on my Goodreads list. I don't usually post reviews of books I didn't like or didn't finish, plus I won't start a book if the premise doesn't appeal (the rare exception being ILLUMINAE  this year). Of the books on my 5 star list, some that topped the list:

I liked this one because I love fairy tale retellings and this one is a gritty contemporary without magic while still following the basic plot. Bonus points for a moral that hits the heart without preaching.

I admire Kate DiCamillo so much for her ability to write a touching story. Bonus points here because the idea of  comic book style illustrations seemed stupid to me at first, but I loved the whole book!
I added this to my TBR because it won so many awards and I wanted more diversity on my list, but wow, Jacqueline Woodson drew me into her life story with the beauty of her writing and the strength of her experiences.
I read this because a PitchWars mentor mentioned it in her bio and it turned out to have some eerie similarities to my current WIP. Jandy Nelson's writing oozes color and life on every page.
Did I mention I like books that take me to places I can only imagine? A beautifully told story about sisterly devotion with romance and adventure thrown in, this won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for Young Adult in 2014.
As the fourth installment in this series, this book amazed me with how the character arcs keep growing, and I love both them and the fantasy world Sarah Maas has created.

This YA contemporary about a blind girl and the boy who betrayed her trust has voice that leaps off the page.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Top 7 Writer's Blogs of 2015

Every writer needs encouragement and advice from time to time. During this year, I've honed my craft by taking advice from various authors who have kindly shared their expertise on their blogs. Narrowing the list to the top ones is difficult, but these are seven I visit and learn from most often.

     This is a blog founded by four women and features posts several times a week on topics such as writing craft and the business side of being an author. In addition to insights by the four founders, there are frequent guest posts including fairly regular appearances by Margie Lawson, who usually offers a giveaway of one of her writing classes. 

    Michelle Hauck posts all kinds of info of interest to budding writers, from posts on writing craft to agent interviews to success stories. She also co-hosts a couple of awesome contests, including the upcoming Sun vs. Snow, where entrants can try to garner a manuscript request from agents. If you are a querying writer, you should be following this blog.

     This website, founded by Martina Boone, has a wide variety of guest posts, contests, giveaways, and helpful posts about various elements of writing. A cool feature is the monthly 1st Five Pages Workshops, where the first few entrants each month can receive feedback on their pages (and revisions!) from an agent, a published author, and each other.

     This blog has a wealth of information, some of special interest to independent authors. Her posts usually go live on Sundays, and frequently discuss issues in the world of publishing such as how to run a writer's blog, timely issues like Amazon's review policy, and  legal issues for writers, in addition to writing craft posts.

     Ava Jae is a young writer who offers periodic critiques of first pages, writes about writing craft, does book reviews, and posts about her writing journey. She also has a vlog link on her website with short weekly writing tips for those who like video format. Very fun and relevant for writers of YA genres.

     Brenda Drake is the queen of writer's contests. She is a tireless supporter of other writers, almost daily featuring other writers launching a book or sharing the story of how they got an agent or book deal (most of these are directly or indirectly related to Brenda's contests). Again, querying writers should follow her.

     If you're a writer who isn't following Janice Hardy's blog, you don't know how much you're missing. With frequent guest posts and near daily posts about a myriad of fiction craft topics, Janice has enough info on her website to justify her blog's title. Use the handy searchable list for topics regarding planning, writing, and revising novels. The blog also features posts with Janice's critiques on short excerpts of writing from her followers. If you can't afford to spend money learning how to write fiction well, this is the blog to read.

So these are among my most frequently visited blogs of 2015. Please share your favorites in the comments.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Grudging: A Review

I was not sure how much I would enjoy this epic fantasy at first. The opening of Grudging begins with a young soldier, Ramiro, hoping to be battle tested in a fantasy world seemingly based on the Spanish empire in America. As I really don't like war stories, I was pleasantly surprised at how much the characters, and the conflict, drew me in.

The story and style remind me somewhat of Rae Carson. There is great world-building and great characterization, from the struggles of Ramiro to overcome his fears and inexperience to the young witch, Claire, who has good reason not to help Ramiro, though she may be his city's only hope. Even the minor characters, such as Ramiro's parents and the leader of the Northerner enemies, are well fleshed out. The novel has a strong climax that completes the story, even while setting up book two.

Michelle Hauck has done a lot to help and promote other writers with her website and contests, which is why I already posted a spotlight about this book, but having purchased and read my own copy, I can attest that she can write a gripping tale as well. 5 of 5 stars. Highly recommended for fantasy lovers.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

New Book Release: Grudging by Michelle Hauck

So, a few months ago I was browsing one of my favorite blogs for writers,  and noticed that she's got a new book coming out. I put it on my Goodreads TBR immediately and you should, too. Since Michelle is a tireless promoter of other writers, she is very deserving of my humble efforts to promote her book, so without further ado...

Author: Michelle Hauck
Pub. Date: November 17, 2015
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Format: eBook
Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Goodreads

A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.

The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.

On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.

The Women of the Song.

But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power.  And time is running out.

A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.


Shortly after the combat, Ramiro made his excuses to the men at the wall and left, returning to the citadel and taking the stairs to the roof. Some alcalde’s wife from the past had turned this spot into an outdoor garden and dining room, making it a favorite retreat for many. A peaceful place when he felt anything but.
Other people’s blood spotted his white shirt. Had things gone differently, it could easily have been his own. He needed a bath and a rest, but his mind hummed from the conflict, leaving him unable to stop pacing. Cold chills claimed his limbs. His stomach was sourer than when alcohol had filled it. With no clear single-combat victory, he hadn’t earned his beard. The night reeked of disappointment.
How long? How long could they keep the Northerners out?
Stars spotted the night sky here, where the citadel met the top of the world. Or so it had always seemed to him as a child. Life was no longer so certain now that he was older.
He drew in the cool scent of creeping jasmine, carefully tended and watered by hand in pots across the rooftop. Colina Hermosa spread before him, a humbling sight. The city stretched away from the citadel on all sides, a jewel shining with lights. It spread down the hill, becoming wider and grander as it sprawled, with imposing avenues and white-clad stucco buildings whose thick walls and small windows kept out the noonday heat. There was squalor and dirt as well, fits of temper, rudeness, and often impatience. But the darkness hid all that, washing the city of its faults and giving it a fresh life until it tumbled like the sea against the immovable stone walls that now held out the Northerners.
His heart swelled with love. Something worth defending. Home.
Outside the high, white walls, well beyond arrow shot, was a sight not so welcoming. There, jammed between the city and a deep, old quarry used to build the city walls, campfires burned. A red swarm of rage and death, brimstone and smoke, offering a grim contrast with the peaceful firmament. Not by the hundreds did they burn, but by the thousands, mirroring the stars in the sky. How many peasants’ houses did they demolish to feed so much hungry fire? They must be down to burning cacti. How they kept it up night after night, he couldn’t begin to comprehend. Salvador had talked on about supply trains and quartermasters, but Ramiro had let his imagination dwell on his first ride instead. An indulgence he regretted now.
If only each fire meant a single enemy, but that was wishful thinking. Each fire contained tens of men. Tens and thousands. And behind them, the siege machines waited their turn. A lethal combination for Colina Hermosa.
He touched the spot above his spleen, and whispered, “Santiago, don’t let me give in to despair.”

About Michelle: 

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query Street, and Sun versus Snow.

Her epic fantasy, Kindar's Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, is published by The Elephant's Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer's Double Edge. She's repped by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.