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Thursday, February 28, 2013

ANWA Conference 2013

One week ago today, I went to my very first writer's conference. It was the ANWA - Time Out for Writer's Conference.
BEST EXPERIENCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Seriously, any writer who has not been to a writer's conference - please make the time and save the money to go. It was definitely very much worth it.
I learned so much that I thought my head might explode .... it certainly felt very scrambled. But in a good way! Like "I can't believe there is so much still to learn. Now I have to burn my manuscript and start over because I just figured out how to make it SO MUCH BETTER!!!"
Yup, that was how I felt by the time I got home!

So fun little side notes - I arrived on Thursday, which also happened to be my Birthday! Woot! Thanks to my Hubby who gave me this awesome birthday present of paying for me to come to conference! He is my biggest fan and my strongest support in all of my writing endeavors.

I didn't take a lot of pictures - mostly because I was so caught up in everything that I forgot I had a camera! But I am happy to share the few photos I did get during this conference.

There were so many fun people I met there or reunited with.
Me with Laura Johnston and Betsy Love
I attended some truly amazing classes including Aprilynne Pike's class Worldbuilding: The Invisible Foundation, Where I found myself absolutely captivated as she showed us amazing examples of the depth that goes into building your world. She talked about all the research and time the goes into building that world, even when most of it will never appear in the book. However, your readers will know the difference and the depth really comes through even though most of it is never actually written or discussed throughout the novel.
Me with Aprilynne Pike at the Antagonist Ball

I also attended her Query & Pitch Class and workshop. I have read a million things about queries over the years. But honestly I think I got more out of her class, and listening to her visit with each of our groups, then I ever learned from all the reading I have done about how to draft "the perfect query." She was very open, honest, and kept things to the point. I loved this, and spent that night completely redoing my query letter! I loved her personality and her style of teaching. And the information she gave was invaluable.

I also absolutely adored Literary Agent Lara Perkins class Crafting a Can't-Put-Me-Down First Chapter. She really helped me get an idea of why I've been struggling with catching agents' attention on my novel. I am so excited to start rewriting and ripping my work apart (which is a bit weird actually.) She talked a lot about how the first line and the first paragraph are Key Components to getting that interest and captivating a reader. I then went back and started opening all my favorite books to the first page in order to see what the first line was and how it caught my attention. My husband was extremely amused when I literally pulled one book after another off our bookshelf, read the first line, and put them in a pile on my desk.

During the conference we also had the Protagonist Ball, which was a blast. Lots of good chocolate and lots of people came dressed with their favorite Protagonist.

Liesl Jackson, Peggy Urry, and Me

We had classes all day both days. The Ball was Friday night, to give us a nice little break, and then back to putting more information into our already overstimulated minds! Loved it!

Some of my other favorite classes were Jennifer Griffith's Shine Up Your Story With Conflict and Archetypes, not Stereotypes: Nailing Down Your Main Characters. Wow!! I am now reassessing all of my characters and what their conflict is. I was so grateful for someone to point out how important these things are to really nail down and how it helps to hold onto readers. (Before I went to this conference I thought I was my worse critic, but I'm quickly discovering that really it is our readers who are the worse critic. They will notice EVERYTHING you do wrong. They know when you break the rules, when your characters don't live up to expectations, and when you haven't done your research properly - even when they never see the information spread out in the story, they know when you haven't fully developed every tiny detail and it's back story.)

There were so many great classes that I can't even list them all. But I loved every one of them. Shadow Mountain's Chris Schoebinger's class The 5 Things You Should Know Before Submitting Your Manuscript to a Publisher really made a huge impact on my as well. And now I hope every agent forgets who I am before I try again with my next book because I'm pretty sure I'm thoroughly embarrassed by what I first submitted and by not knowing all the things I know now.

Other fun things that happened: On Friday Chris Schoebinger and James Owen joined our table for lunch. We had a blast talking about our writing, sharing stories and books, and just enjoying each others company. It was really enlightening and fun! James has so many stories that had us all laughing pretty hard.

Me with James Owen
James Owen wrote the book series The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica starting with Here, There be Dragons. He was also our Keynote speaker and gave an amazing talk about the choices we make and how they will effect our lives for good or bad. He had some great thoughts that really touched me and made me think. He says, "The Sonner you start making better choices, the sooner your life will be better." and one of my other favorites (and I think a favorite of almost everyone at the conference) was this, "Live deliberately  Decide: Are you the kind of person things happen to, or are you the kind of person who makes things happen?"

He drew this dragon right in front of us as he spoke,
and also drew a smaller version in his book when he signed it for me!

I also was pleasantly surprised to win the book The Stranger she Married by Donna Hatch. I was extremely interested in her novels and wanted to buy them, but got lucky during a drawing and won it instead! I'm so excited to start reading it and have heard great reviews about it.
Me with Donna Hatch
I also found out that I had won a $25 gift card for the bookstore for being one of those who registered super early for this conference! Apparently they had sent out on email announcing this information and I hadn't actually seen it, so it caught me completely by surprise (and also they announced it at lunch and caught me with a mouth full of food!) I immediately went and spent it on a couple of books I had been eyeing by author Janette Rallison who also taught the wonderful and very insightful class She Loves You, She Loves You Not: Writing Romances Editors Want to Buy. (Super helpful since my main genre is Romance)

Me with my gift card - right before I ran to the book store and spent it

This conference was an amazing experience over all and I'm beyond excited to go to it again next year! Loved every minutes of it - even the parts when I was so tired I thought I would fall asleep on the spot.
Thanks to the ANWA conference staff and board of directers made this such a wonderful conference: Melinda Carroll, Janette Rallison, Peggy Urry, Tina Scott, DeAnn Huff, Faith St. Clair, McKenna Gardner, Anika Arrington, Torsha Baker, Donna Hatch, Jill Burgoyne, Deb Eaton, Angela Morrison, Chanda Simper, Peggy Shumway, Nan Marie Swapp, Margaret Turley, Sandra Udall, Nikki Wilson and Marsh Ward.
And also to all of the wonderful writers/authors who were present who made every moment enjoyable!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Simply West of Heaven Review


Twelve year-old Ginnie and her BFF, Tillie, schemed to get Ginnie’s widowed dad to fall in love with Tillie’s divorced mom. It worked. But before they could become ‘for real’ sisters, Ginnie stumbled across her dead mom’s journals. Which was totally awesome sauce… until her dad took them away and won’t tell her why. Now all their plans are starting to unravel.

If that’s not bad enough, Ginnie’s favorite uncle drops the mother of all bombshells and leaves her in a maze of uncertainty. While her head is still spinning from that news,  a blast from her late mother’s past shows up and makes Tillie goes nutburgers. Ginnie realizes her best friend has her own agenda and Tillie’s plans to merge their families may not be so innocent.
SIMPLY WEST OF HEAVEN is a contemporary MG novel that follows Ginnie West as she tries to make sense of one too many curve balls tossed her way in the most pivotal summer of her life. 

This book was extremely emotional. I thought Monique wrote with feeling and was true to the emotions that went through each character, specifically Tillie and Ginnie, and they tried to deal with all the news, changes, and situations of which they never imagined they would be part.
I loved how Toran, Tillie, and Ginnie really stick together and have each other's backs through this story. Ironically my favorite part was when Tillie has her breakdown and the twins are the one's that help her and get her through it, rather than running to the adults for help. I felt it really gives kids confidence that they can deal with difficult situations that help them grow.
There was enough turmoil in this book to allow almost any person reading it to connect in some way to one or more characters, which brings a lot of life to this story. Also allows for sympathy and an eagerness to see the outcome. These conflicts also allow for a reader to understand where people are coming from and how their pasts affect their present lives, both inside and outside it's pages. And it brought to life the realities that people live with each and every day. Yet it ended with a good resolution and with the hint and the next book to come, which was definitely intriguing and exciting. I was very pleased with this book, as I was with the previous two books in this series.
Thanks to Monique for letting me read and review her books. It has been a true pleasure.

To learn more about Monique and her other books please see the following links:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Blue Sky Review

Today I'm mixing it up a bit. Before you get to read the review of Monique's 3rd story in the West series, I'm taking a break to write a review for a book by Author Melissa Lemon.

Melissa has had many imaginary friends (and enemies) since she was a child. Her vivid imagination had her writing stories and jotting down book ideas for years until she finally sat down and finished a novel. She is married to an awesome man and the proud mother of three children. Music is also an important part of her life and she shares time with her music students teaching them piano, cello or guitar. Melissa is a graduate of the University of Utah and currently resides in the Salt Lake area.

Her story is BLUE SKY

Blue Sky Synopsis:
Sunny is bereaving the sudden death of her parents. Lewis is a homeless runaway seeking shelter in Sunny's basement from an early winter storm. When they unexpectedly meet, Sunny wants nothing more than to kill him. After a bizarre hostage situation and a poker game, Sunny realizes that Lewis isn't out to hurt her. Their initial distaste turns to friendship and love, but Sunny isn't keen on starting a relationship with a man she knows so little about. Lewis is loyal, and his patience paramount. Sunny is hesitant but her love runs deep and true. They are separated unwillingly, and must struggle and face overwhelming odds to find each other again.

This book was cute and fun to read. It was new and refreshing - the situation of a homeless guy and a heart broken girl finding each other was definitely unique and made for some fun twists and turns that I didn't expect. As the story rolls out it's easy to find yourself feeling for the characters and understanding their situations. Their need to lean on each other and help each other makes their relationship grow into a love that is believable and understandable. I found it easy to read and follow this story, making me smirk, smile, laugh, and also hurt for the characters and the things they go through. It was a good read and I'm glad I had the chance to read and review it. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fun contemporary romance novel.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Trouble Blows West Review


Putting her body in motion before her brain is in gear creates a mountain of problems for 12 year-old Ginnie West. She is certain that defending her twin brother, Toran, from the biggest bully in sixth grade was the right thing to do. But Ginnie couldn’t be more wrong.

She quickly figures out that Toran doesn’t appreciate being rescued by a girl any better than Charlie likes being knocked down by one. When Charlie seeks revenge on Ginnie, Toran sets aside his anger and helps her plot a playback prank at Charlie’s house.

Sadly, Ginnie learns that Charlie has a reason for being a bully when she sees his dad drop him to the floor like a ragdoll with one awful blow to the chest. Realizing he's a boy in big trouble, Ginnie switches gears and decides to be his ally, even if he won’t let her be his friend.

I have to admit that I actually read book 3 (Simply West of Heaven - review to be posted on February 27th) before I read this book (Book 2). This book was very different from the other two books. In the two other books the struggles that Ginnie, Toran, and Tillie face are more internal. Dealing with the confusion of Mama vs Step-mother, of not understanding why they aren't getting what they want, of dealing with family situations they didn't know they even had, or emotionally letting go of personal fears.
But in this book, there was the different perspective of the problem being an outside, non-family related issue. There was the need to stand up for each other and for their friends. It was a struggle to do what was right even when it was hard, and to look outside of themselves to find answers to other people's problems rather than their own.
I was really amazed at how Monique approached some very touchy subjects. The reality of the world today and of the scary things kids have to face is often a very hard topic to discuss. I was happily surprised to find that she was able to discuss this subject without glossing over the hard details, but while also allowing the reader to feel that there was a safe approach and protection for the characters who were hurt and scared. This book is definitely a good way to allow teens to acknowledge a topic that is easily overlooked due to awkwardness, and still allow them to end with a good feeling about the idea that there is hope and help for people who are in trouble.
I was really touched by this story and the lesson is taught about standing up for yourself and for others when the situation demands action. It also taught about forgiveness, kindness, humility, and love. I really was impressed with this book!

To learn more about Monique and her other books please see the following links:

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Review of The Secret Sisters Club

THE SECRET SISTERS CLUB: A Ginnie West Adventure (BOOK 1)

Author bio:

Monique Bucheger was born in Landstuhl, Germany to active duty Air Force parents. After watching her creative writing teacher's astronaut son lift off in the Space Shuttle Endeavor, she recalled a promise to her teacher to write the books only she could write. In January of 2011, her first book made it through the first 3 tiers of Amazon's National BreakThrough Novel Award Contest to the top 5%. In November of 2012 Mrs. Bucheger was offered a 3 book contract for her Ginnie West series. Book one: THE SECRET SISTERS CLUB: A Ginnie West Adventure was published March 8, 2012. Her second book: TROUBLE BLOWS WEST: A Ginnie West Adventure was published April 14, 2012. 
Mrs. Bucheger has championed the cause of children as a foster parent to over 120 children and her books embrace and empower people on all sides of the child abuse issue.

Book Blurb: 
Twelve-year-old BFF’s Ginnie and Tillie, want to be sisters. Ginnie's widowed dad plus Tillie's divorced mom could equal a lifetime of round-the-clock girl talk and slumber parties. Too bad Dad vowed to never marry again. Ginnie and Tillie form a secret club and come up with the perfect mission to change his mind: ‘Operation Secret Sisters’.

Before long, Tillie seems happier about gaining a dad than a sister. Ginnie suspects that Tillie has turned ‘Operation Secret Sisters’ into a scam called ‘Operation Steal My Dad.’  Things get more complicated when Ginnie stumbles across her real mom’s hidden journals. Ginnie can finally get to know the mother she doesn’t remember and Dad doesn’t talk about.

When Dad discovers she has the journals, he takes them away. Ginnie needs to figure out what the big mystery is before her relationship with her father and her best friend are ruined forever.

At first when I started reading this book I was very aware of it being a book for teens and it wasn't really my style, though it is very well written. However, as I read, the characters came to life and took on their own personalities. Monique truly captured the irrationally unstable emotions of a 12 year old so well. Specifically one who is missing her mother and therefore not willing to see reason or be understanding to other's needs
I found myself feeling for the Ginnie and Tillie, but also found myself to be in complete understanding with Ginnie's dad, even if she didn't understand his reasons for doing what he did. The characters were real, and their feelings, actions, and responses to situations were very true to life, making it easy to find myself inside their lives, rather than just reading about it.
I started reading it just for a quick read, but was soon captivated and lost track of time in my eagerness to find out how Ginnie was going to respond and wanting so much for her to understand what was happening. I would definitely recommend this book to both adults and teenagers alike.

To learn more about Monique and her other books please see the following links:

Friday, February 8, 2013

Post Plans

Dear everyone who reads my blog,
I haven't posted lately as my life took a very sudden and strange twist that had me dropping everything and flying to another state with no notice. I am currently now trying to put everything back together and get back on schedule with my writing, my blog posts, and my critiques.
But I do have good news. With everything settling back into place, I have agreed to do 4 reviews on books for some fellow authors.
For the next 4 weeks, every six days I will be posting a review for a book. These will include the author info and blog connections for everyone to visit and meet new authors.
I'm also excited to announce that the ANWA conference is coming up in 2 weeks and I will be attending. For any of you who may be attending, I am excited for the chance to meet you there! I'm super excited about all the workshops and the opportunity to further my writing skills and polish my books. Woot! Here's to a great month!
(Oh and PS - this month is my birthday too! Yup, it's bound to be a good one!)