Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday - best book in June

From YA Highway:

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question to write about on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: Best Book of June
I have been trying to work through my TBR list while editing my WIP, doing line edits on other people's books and keeping up with reading and reviewing books written by people I know, chat with or just bump into. It's tough! So I have a book in progress on my Kindle, one on my laptop along with the open edit files and a hard copy.  The good news? I finally got to read THE SHIFTER, by Janice Hardy.
I highly recommend this book. But you all know it's a great book. What struck me was the effortless world building and Hardy's ability to carry the reader along with the character. Worth studying for an aspiring writer!
Now I'm heading back to local coverage of the terrible fire in Colorado Springs. We're about 20 miles south and have only dealt with occasional smoke. But the images are terrible and we have friends evacuated and at least one that probably lost her house. It's not even close to being over. Our thoughts are with all of them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I just received this email from Writer's Digest. Perfect timing as I edit my own WIP and completed an edit of someone else's manuscript. It took me a page to explain these few, extremely important points in "Becoming a Ferocious Self-Editor".

I love editing--my own or someone else's work. I love editing so much I may never finish my book.

As I watched this short video, I thought of how daunting applying these concepts to an entire book might seem. There are some exercises to make these things second nature when writing and obvious when editing.

One is to write flash-fiction. The intent is to write a very short, but complete, story, using as few wasted words as possible. Pick a topic, write a couple thousand words. Now, go cut it in half. Really--half. If you have to, read each sentence aloud, leaving out the iffy word. Does it make sense. Good, delete!

Another exercise is to pick one of those mostly useless words and do a search in your document. Read each sentence. Can you get rid of that word? Do it! By the time you finish, you will be so thoroughly sick of that word, and disgusted by how many times you used it, that you will never throw it down accidentally again. Up and down are perfect examples.

Do you have any exercises that can help the battle to ferociously self-edit?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Exciting weekend!

My weekends rarely involve writing. They are horse and husband time - preferably together. This past weekend was no exception. We delivered a horse to a friend to try out for a week. Once there, we all got distracted, hoof trimming another and doing some vaccinations.

Well, the new horse went exploring on the 35 acre property and somehow managed to wiggle through/under a gate. No big deal, it's a valley, where could she go? The answer is up! She climbed a cliff and was just gone. We had to drive the long way around and by that time, she had a couple thousand acres to hide in.

I drove home to get my horse involved in the hunt. Following hoof prints worked until cows and later rain obliterated them. We knew she really couldn't leave the area and had plenty to eat. We put out buckets of water and went home to organize a posse for the next day.

But at 8pm, we got a call from friends in the area that had seen her while playing on their ATV's. They finally snagged her and we picked her up. A bit thirsty, but otherwise in great shape. She is now back at her new home getting to know a smaller area until she realizes this is home! Smart girl though, I never worried that she'd get herself in trouble.

People think our lives are exciting. I don't know - kinda par for the course for us. We're just happy both horse and people ended the day where they were supposed to be. This is Callie: fences, who needs fences?

Friday, June 15, 2012

YA Giveaway

Please visit Rebecca Behren's blog - she's giving away a couple ARC's from BEA, and a copy of Insurgent.

Link to great post on your punctuation personality type!

Did you notice the exclamation point in my title? Yeah, I overuse them. I'm trying not to, leaving my current go-to punctuation as the hyphen. Which I have to then go back and convert to em-dashes. I'm a little frightened at what this says about me in this amusing personality analysis post by Leah Petersen on Bryan Thomas Schmidt's blog.

What is your puntuaction personality?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday!

This Week's Topic:
If you could go on a writing retreat anywhere, where would you go & who would you bring?
Well, I just missed one of the coolest sounding writing retreats I've heard of: Literature & Landscape of the Horse. It's located in beautiful Wyoming. Of course I would want to take my wonderful horse Bahzra. He's a 12yo Polish Arabian gelding that I adopted from a horse rescue. When he came to the rescue, he was 7 years old, completely untrained (not even halter trained) and still a stallion. He still has plenty of attitude, but he loves what we do and understanding his mind has been quite the learning experience.
Vee Bar Guest Ranch

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Never Surrender Blog Fest

Today, I'm taking part in Elana Johnson's Never Surrender Blog Fest, which is meant to celebrate the release of her sophomore novel, Surrender. Below is one of my experiences.

I discovered the sport of endurance in 1999, went out and bought a horse that was way too energetic for me - but hey, she was gorgeous! I spent 2000 teaching her to walk. Just one loop around the arena at a walk, that's all I wanted before I'd feel safe enough to venture onto a trail. I attended a 15 mile fun ride and - amazingly - was hooked on the sport. Pay no mind to the blisters and that I fought that horse the entire 15 miles. I built muscles for controlling my beautiful bay mare, Venesza, got her in shape and off we went.

After the events of September 11, 2001 we entered a ride called the Outlaw Trail. Five days in the grueling country of south central Utah, where the outlaws hid from the Pinkertons. The history, the terrain, getting away from cell phones, televisions - that was enough for this to be an incredible adventure.

I never intended to ride all 5 days. I'd never done anything like this - and my husband, my navigator, my McGyver had to stay home working. The first day, I held on to the reins with a death grip. We climbed straight up a cliff. Really, we did. Cuz the fire-breathing dragon I rode decided to take a short-cut. I don't know how many places I closed my eyes and just prayed. We finished the day with my horse still full of energy so everyone told me I should ride the second day, so that she would learn to conserve her energy.

I did. We completed, yet again blasting to the finish line. I hadn't planned riding the third day at all. It was the hardest, longest trail, going down to lower, hotter elevations. But everyone said I had to. By this time, there were only four people still riding. I made them promise not to leave me because I knew I'd get lost. One person pulled, concerned that her horse just wasn't feeling right - endurance might sound grueling for the horse, but they love it and endurance people take exceptional care of their horses. We ride for buckets - not money - the horse is everything.

That day I got to ride over the same slick rock that many famous outlaws must have traversed. The end of the course was a several mile climb up a plateau. The horses were tired and hungry - this is the desert. The right thing to do was get off and lead the horses to save their energy. We did, snatching the rare blades of grass and holding them for the horses to nuzzle from our hands while we walked, never stopping. Now anyone who knows me, knows that I don't walk up hills. That's what horses are for! But that day, for my horse, I walked and walked and walked. Once up top, she burst into a trot and raced into camp once again.

I had to go out the next day - it was a moral imperative. My legs were sore, I had blood blisters under my toenails, my back ached, who knows what else, those things are impossible to remember after a few days. But my ailments did not encourage balanced riding on my part, so my horse ended up with a sore back by the end of the day.

I was satisfied. I'd ridden more miles than planned, learned so much about my horse and seen some of the most beautiful country imaginable. But no, the supportive ride managers helped me massage my horse's back and convinced me that she'd be ready to go the next day. They were right. How could I stop now? My horse still danced around, she wanted to go. I decided that no matter what, I would take care of her back and off we went. It was a glorious day. Just three of us riding amazing horses through aspen, flower covered meadows, rocky hills and streams so clear I wanted to jump in and drink and swim.

My horse finished with no soreness. My muscles probably ached, I rode so properly, heels down, balanced and didn't pound her back no matter how little was left in my muscles. I love that horse. I love that ride. I love what I learned then and since about enduring. Never Surrender!

Now go check out Elana's blog She's amazing, some of the best advice I've read on query letters and then go buy her books!

Monday, June 11, 2012

22 miles today at Roxborough Park - I think I'm almost ready to commit to riding 100 miles just under 2 weeks from now. Not sure if I'm scared or excited!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Repost from "Writing from the Peak" blog

This was posted on the Writing from the Peak - blog of the Pikes Peak Writers group in Colorado Springs. I think this sounds like an excellent way to study writing craft. Enjoy!

Posted: 06 Jun 2012 08:58 AM PDT
As a creative writing coach, I ask my clients to find a model book. Maybe even two.

A model book is one that:
§ is typically in your genre
§ is something you have either said “this is the book I wanted to write,” or “I could have written that book.”

Together, we pick it apart and identify craft elements that the model author used that could teach us something about what the client likes or identifies with in a story.

What worked?

I like to teach from a model book. Teaching from a book that’s a finished product and one that’s presumably been edited (though that’s all changing with e-books, isn’t it?) allows writers to judge what worked and what craft elements they might be able to use in their own book. It also begins to help identify just what it was about that book that resonated with them.

Something else happens too. When you use a model book, there’s a focus on the positive – what did work? Because you only want to emulate what did work, right?

Even if you’re identifying what didn’t work in the model book, you spin that to a positive because the next question, of course, is: What would you do differently in your book?

Different than critique group discussions

In my years of coaching I have found this kind of work to have an important distinction from critique groups. I have participated, led and attended many, many, many critique groups. I find that in analyzing work that’s not complete, the focus is generally on what doesn’t work – helping the writer fix it. There are points of discussion about what does work, but the bulk of the conversation is about how the writer might change what’s on the page so that it does work according to the writers in the group.

When you use a model book, there’s no changing it. It is what it is. There’s only what you can learn from it and adapt into your work.

I run a monthly Writers Book Club where we dissect books for craft elements. Often one of the first things I ask is: what would your critique group say about this book? Interesting to note that we usually concur that most of the books we read wouldn’t have made it through our critique group intact.

Here are five things we might be focusing on when we’re dissecting a model book:

1.  Opening hook: you might actually pick apart the opening hooks of several books in your genre to get the feel of what works for you as a reader.

2.  Structure: this is a great use of a model book. What kind of plot is it? Is it traditional, lyrical, juxtapositional? Or a combination? Can you map the structure? Does your structure match? Can you learn anything from the model book structure?

3.  Backstory: Here’s a big one: When you’re writing you’re often figuring out the story as you’re writing so backstory creep is common. In your model book, look at when, how and how much backstory is conveyed.

4.  Arc: If you pull apart the individual character arcs, can you see something about the pacing? About the rise in tension? Can you see how the characters drive the plot?

5.  Story world: Is the world different than ours – different country, different time period, different species? If so, how is that difference communicated? If not, how much of a role does the world of the characters contribute?

One of my clients is working on a three-part YA series. So far, we have found a few model books to work from. They are all post-apocalyptic and they deal with certain differences in world structure, as does her book. How does the author orient the reader into the new world? Where does the story start? Do we get any backstory that tells what happened? Or does the book follow what the character needs to know and not what we readers think we need to know? How is the world different and the same as the one we know? What’s the story question? How does that question play out? Who is the character at the opening of the book? How does the character change? What did she face along the way?

There are as many ways to pick apart a model book for craft as there are craft elements that you can identify.

If you get experienced at picking books apart for their craft elements, you will begin to see what has worked in the past. Then you can decide if you want to follow a map you’ve created for yourself from your model book or if you want to veer away and create something different than the models that are available.

About the Writer:  Deb McLeod, is a writer, creative writing coach, co-founder and executive director of The Writing School. She has both an MFA and a BA in creative writing. She has been teaching and coaching for over ten years. Deb has published short fiction in anthologies and journals. She has written articles and creative nonfiction. Deb has been a professional blogger, tech writer, graphic artist and Internet marketing specialist.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday - Best book read in May?

I am in the middle of a re-write of my YA Fantasy "Elemental Fire", working with a crit partner and a review that turned into an edit. So reading for fun slowed down a lot in May. The best book I read was "The Fire in Fiction" by Donald Mass. Oh, my antagonist is getting a whole new side to him, thanks to the insightful exercises in that book. How I wish I'd read it before spending two years flying by the seat of my pants! Good thing I'm kinda weird and truly enjoy the revision process.

Monday, June 4, 2012

And now for something from the other side of my world! Yesterday we did 18 miles in preparation for a 100 mile ride later this month. Well, I think 100. Maybe 50. I can't decide! It's going to be a tough ride.

For those of you who don't know anything about the sport of endurance, we have 12 hours to ride 50 miles, or 24 hours to ride 100 miles with several vet checks to make sure the horse is fit to continue. I didn't think my horse, Bahzra, could handle a long ride with lots of mountains, but this year he seems to be telling me something different.

I might wait til the day before the ride to decide!