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1. Dating Your Manuscript

Should you include current technology and pop references to flesh out your story or should you leave them out so your book is timeless?

http://kidlit.com/2010/11/19/references-and-dating-your-manuscript/

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2. SIX BY SONDHEIM for writers


The other day I watched the terrific documentary SIX BY SONDHEIM. (available streaming on HBO-Go, or on Amazon or iTunes.) It's part biography, part show-biz history, following Sondheim's career guided by six important songs in his life. It's excellent, and I was particularly struck by how many nuggets of wisdom I found, profound insights into not just Sondheim's creative process, but a creative life in general. Though he is writing musicals, obviously, I think that much of this is applicable to novelists as well. Just replace "put on a show" with "publish." You should watch the doccy yourself because I can't do it justice... but I can provide six things that I found worth remembering:


1) On "writing what you know":  "Part of the author is always in what he writes, and partly [it's] a work of imagination. It's like what Faulkner said about Observation, Imagination and Experience - you can do without one of them, but you can't do without two."

Sondheim was paraphrasing Faulkner, but yeah. This is good advice. You may not have lived something yourself, but if you have good observation and imagination skills, you can still bring it alive on the page.

2) On harsh reality: At 15, he showed Oscar Hammerstein something he'd written.... Oscar was nice about it, but Stephen said he wanted to get REAL feedback, just like he would rate it against something professional. (Young Stephen thought his own work was terrific, and was pretty sure he was about to be the first 15 year old with a Broadway show.)

Oscar said,"Oh well in that case, this is the worst thing I've ever read." Sounds pretty harsh, but Oscar then went on to show young Stephen point-by-point how his work was failing, and Stephen had to agree. Awkward! But a learning moment. You may not want to hear that your work isn't good enough - but if you are submitting to agents and editors for publication, they will expect your work to be on par with that of a professional.

And even excellent professionals get a LOT of stinging rejections!

3) On imitation: "One of the things he [Oscar] told me to do was not to imitate him. 'If you write what you feel it will come out true. If you write what I feel, it will come out false. Write for yourself and you'll be 90% ahead of everyone else.'"

4) On learning to write: "You can't learn in a classroom and you can't learn on paper. You can only learn by writing and doing. Writing and doing. A friend says 'write something, put it on. Write something, put it on.' -- well, you can't always put it on, but that's the only way to do it. That's how everyone who's ever been good got good.

5) On failure: "I experienced real failure when I did I Hear a Waltz... we thought, well, this'll be an easy job and we'll make a quick buck. Those are reasons never to write a musical.

It was a respectable show. It was not lambasted by the critics. It was politely received by critics, and politely received by audiences, and had no passion, and no blood, and no reason to be. And I learned from that, the only reason to write is from love. You must not write because you think it's going to be a hit or because it's expedient, or anything like that. It's so difficult to write, it's so difficult to put on a show, that if you have the privilege of being able to write it, write it out of passion

That's what failure taught me." 

6) PROTIP: "I work entirely with Blackwing pencils for a number of reasons. One is, it's very soft lead, and therefore wears down very quickly, so you can spend lots of time resharpening. Which is a lot easier and more fun than writing." ;-)




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3. The Master of Micro-Tension

I came across the following micro-tension exercises by literary agent Donald Maass. He writes about how to create micro-tension in his craft books “The Fire in Fiction” and “Writing 21st Century Fiction.” I’m quoting the following from an article that I found here. I’ll admit to never (yet) consciously applying his ideas, but, since I’m now involved in both a stem-to-stern rewrite of one novel and beginning a new one, I think I’m gonna do it. One exercise that really interests me is the last one below. See what you think.

Micro-Tension exercises by Donald Maass

  • Pick a passage of dialogue. Strip it down. Increase hostility between the speakers. It can be friendly ribbing, worried questioning, polite disagreement, snide derision, veiled threats, open hostility, or any other degree of friction.
  • Repeat the prompt above 100 times.
  • Pick a passage of action—anything from high violence to a stroll in the park. Freeze the action in a sequence of three to five still snapshots. Select a detail from each frame. For each snapshot record your POV character’s precise feelings. Discard obvious emotions. Choose emotions that contrast or conflict. Rewrite the passage.
  • Repeat the prompt above 50 times.
  • Pick a passage of exposition. List all of your POV character’s emotions. List all ideas. Discard what’s obvious. Find emotions that conflict. Find ideas at war. Grab what creates unease, uncertainty, fresh worry, new questions, a deeper puzzle, or agonizing dilemma. Rewrite the passage.
  • Repeat the prompt above 100 times. (If you are a romance writer, repeat 200 times.)
  • Pick a moment when your protagonist is still, simply waiting or doing nothing. Look around. List three setting details that only this character would notice. Detail her emotions. Find those that conflict or surprise her. What’s this moment’s personal meaning? Write a passage combining snapshot clarity and roiling inner intensity.
  • Print out your manuscript. Randomize the pages. (In a workshop I attended he suggested throwing them in the air and then pick the randomized pages back up.) Examine each one in isolation. Does it crackle? Are the characters on tiptoe? What question arises that the reader can’t answer? What’s going badly or wrong for your POV character? How does this page tell the whole story? Revise until the tension level is unbearable.
  • Repeat the prompt above for every page. Yes, seriously.

For what it’s worth.

Ray

© 2015 Ray Rhamey

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4. That weird story-planning stage

Right now, I’m in the planning stages for a new series. I’ve barely started writing — just enough to get a good feel for the voice — and I’m making lists and lists of things I know I want to include. It’s a weird part of the process. There’s not a lot to say, “Okay, I did this today.” Ideas come randomly, and there’s not much to show for it besides a lot of daydreaming. Here’s how I’m trying to harness it all. (And make myself feel better about all that daydreaming time.)

1. A notebook. 

I picked out a pretty notebook for this story. a) Pretty notebooks make me happy. b) It’s proven very useful for jotting down random ideas. (You know, those ideas you think, “There’s no way I’ll forget this!” and then immediately forget them. Know thyself. Write down those ideas.)

To be honest, getting a notebook for this story started out as an excuse to buy a notebook. But while traveling last month, I stuck the notebook in my purse — then found myself reaching for it when I experienced something that might fit with the book. I wrote down things I saw, heard, felt — and wrote lists of questions for myself. Almost out of nowhere, I wrote descriptions of fictional places I’d previously had no thoughts on.

I’ve been making note of title ideas, figuring out the story structure across the series, and stories about the world’s history. Every story-related thought that occurs to me ends up in this notebook. Unless I have my computer with me, and . . .

2. Scrivener.

I know it isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for me. I vaguely remember how I wrote before Scrivener, and let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

One of the first things I do when I open a new Scrivener project is make a bunch of chapters, character sheets, and location sheets. They don’t need to be filled in right away. It’s just nice to have them. I also open a bunch of documents under the “research” section with things like the original idea for the story (whatever it was that intrigued me enough to write a whole novel/series about it!), any notes I’ve taken, broken down by subject, a query-style pitch, and a synopsis.

It just makes me feel good to have all those things there, ready to be filled in when I know what needs to go there.

For this particular project, since the structure is a little different than I typically write, I pulled out the index card function and used the labels to help me keep track of point of view and timeline. (So some say “so and so’s past” while others say “present.”) And because it was difficult for me to wrap my brain around writing a synopsis for such a weird timeline, I began filling in the index cards with a chapter’s worth of story each. It may not stay that way in the end (few things do make it until the final draft), but it really helped me settle on how the various stories would work and overlap and influence each other.

3. Time. 

This one has been difficult for me. I get excited about projects and want to dive right in, but I’ve been forced to take this one a little more slowly. (Mostly because I haven’t had the opportunity for diving. Every time I vanquish a deadline, two more take its place.)

But taking my time with the planning stage of this project has also been incredibly useful. In my experience, the more I try to force story to happen, the less likely I am to be pleased with the results. I’ll forget details. Skip the sort of depth that I want to write about. Cause the characters to do uncharacteristic things.

Giving myself the space to dip in and out of the story — forgetting about any self-imposed deadlines — is letting me dig deeper. After all, the goal isn’t to win some imaginary race, but to write a book I’m proud of.


So, what do you think? Anything to add? Anything you do differently in this weird pre-writing stage? I want to hear it!

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5. I'm flabbergasted

I was on ebay tonight - I buy almost all my clothes there - and out of curiosity typed my name in the search box.  Lots of books and audio tapes and a few ARCs (kind of makes me wince, but whatever).  And then this:

Why? Who would want a photo of me with my first book? Why can't I still look that young?  What happened to that shirt? I loved that shirt.  And it's being sold by Historic Images. Does 2000 really count as history?

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6. Since April 19, 2015...

After Easter and the jury duty kerfuffle...

...to which I didn't have to go!
Happy dance, happy dance, everybody happy dance!

... I got a rejection on a query I sent to an agent about a month before.  Technically, she never responded to the query, which per the guidelines basically meant the same thing.  No reply, no acceptance.
Tears may have been shed.

But that's okay.  I dusted off my poor weeping query, gave it a little spruce up and sent it bravely back into the big wide world of agents.  I may have whispered a prayer to send it on its way.

Then I had a wedding I went to, last week of April/beginning of May, wherein my sister Amanda (keeper of the blog, Hit and Miss) designed floral arrangements for the altar, and we cleaned bucketloads of roses, carnations, baby's breath and greens and I made 15 centerpieces in glass milk jars for the reception.
Or rather:  Design ALL the flowers!

Speaking of which, I don't think I want to go to weddings anymore.  Waaaaaay too many people!
Way too many people I don't know, and way too many random people wanting to talk to me.
Talk? Talk?!   What makes you think I'd want to chat?  I haz nothing to say.  Unless we speak geek.  Then perhaps we speak.

Then we got BACK from the wedding and the weather has been liek dis:
Grey
Rainy

And liek dis:
*snarf, grumble, grouch
*whaaahaaahaaaaaa!












It hasn't been NICE.  It has been the opposite.  It has been DARK.  My mood goeth downhill.

Directly after getting back, we were into Mother's Day week.  Which made the flower shop a crazy busy place.  Which meant yours truly got to work a six-day work week, after a weekend filled with flower arrangements and wedding feels and socializing.
Source

Socializing, for me, can be physically more draining and damaging than a solid week's work, so piling MOTHER'S DAY WEEK on top of that was... was...

Sorry, words fail.

However, good news.  Before driving back from the wedding in Bakersfield, we stopped at Target and all four of us who had attended the wedding picked up copies of the Target Edition of Josh Groban's STAGES, which contains 17 tracks and are all of them amazing.
Make sure you get the TARGET edition with 17 tracks! The normal version
only has 13, so make sure it 's the special TARGET edition you're getting!

Josh has this superpower that never fails to make me marvel at how PERFECTLY he sings.
IMHO, he sings the only acceptable version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
*Oh Groban!

Speaking of Superheroes and Marvel, I also watched the first two episodes of Daredevil on Netflix during that wedding weekend, so when I got back from the wedding I proceeded to watch the other 11 episodes.


Matt Murdoch is the best!  I refuse to say anything, because, as Yoda say, "If Netflix you have, Daredevil you should be watching."  Seriously, he's a new favourite Marvel superhero.  He is so amazing and cool!  Unfortunately, now that I'm done with those 13 episode, the next season won't be up until 2016!  Netflix, why? Why? Whyyyyy?


Then I saw Age of Ultron.
Source

All I'm going to say about THIS is, OH MY GOSH! HAWKEYE!! TONYSTEVETHOR! QUICKSIIIIIILVER!  JARVISJARVISJARVIS!! And never, ever, ever have I let a ship sink as fast as I let Black Widow's and Hawkeye's.  I was surprisingly okay with it.  I waved a hand and thought, I don't mind Natasha and Clint being friends.

After this, Teresa and Jack and I started watching Harry Potter.  I have never really watched Harry Potter.
I know, right?

I had read up to the fourth book (which *I* thought was horrifying) and then watched the fourth movie which, IMHO, did NOT live up to the fourth books horrifyingness (which is not a word, but I don't care.  I'm a writer.  I do what I want).  Frankly, the fourth movie rather bored me, so I gave up on the series.

Then, I dunno, after the final book had been published and was no longer talked about, I thought I might as well finish the book series, and while I thought J.K. Rowling did a fine job with writing, I wasn't entirely sold on the series.  I don't know why.  I just wasn't a fan.
Sorry.

So I have had no urge to watch the movies until after Valentine's Day, when after a long grueling day at work I came home, ate something fortifying and turned on the TV, and discovered The Chamber of Secrets was playing.  Having nothing better to do, I watched it.
I mean, after all, why not?

Since then, I've been off again, on again wanting to watch them, and we started our sporadic marathon about two weeks ago.  While the first four were nothing special (for me, anyway - and btw, the fourth movie is NOT as boring as I remembered it being.  Perhaps one needs to have been away from books and movies for a significant amount of time or something), we just finished Deathly Hallows part 1, and I'll admit the 5th, 6th and 7-1/2th movies engaged me more and made me feel a bit more connected to the characters.  (Though, and I'm speaking from my experience of having read the books YEARS ago, I am pretty certain the scriptwriters could have clarified Harry as being The Chosen One.  That shtick sort of makes an appearance in the Half Blood Prince, and while I *think* it was clear in the book, it was NOT AT ALL CLEAR in the movie(s), and I honestly can't remember how or why or who or when Harry became this Chosen One or even what it has to do with the plot.)
I feel ya, Minion

I don't think I'm still (yet) techinically a fan.  I haven't entirely finished the series, after all.  Deathly Hallows part 2 will possibly (probably) happen tonight, but now that I've watched the movies I can see why people have become fans.  I will be honest even more and state that I do have a bad tendency to quote HISHE or Honest Trailer lines during crucial moments of the movies (such as, Wizzzzard lightning battle! or, Look out, Harry, he doesn't have a nose!, or, "Just saving your life.  And countless others.  In the future.  It's a long story.")  But overall, my favorite characters are Snape, Professor McGonagall, George and Fred, and Harry.  I like Ron and Hermione, but those first five are my favorites.
Source



Lastly, to bring my month to a close, the query I'd dusted off and sent back out came back with a request for the agent to see the full manuscript.
I may or may not have woken up my sister at the obscene
hour of 5:00 a.m. to show her the joyous news.


So I sent the full manuscript to the agent, and now I must wait up to 60 days to see what she thinks.  It's a bit torturous, but she was nice enough to admit that it was torturous, which was good to hear.  Empathy, empathy.  So all I can do now is pray... and hope... and pray... and, you know, hope.

So, that's been my month!  I hope yours has been just as exciting and eventful as mine, albeit less gloomy.  *Rain, rain, go away, come again some OTHER day.*

Until next month...

Cat! :)
Leopold!

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7. Writer Wednesday: Who Am I?


Did my post title confuse you? It confused me a little too if I'm being honest. And here's why. My agent, the very talented and uber intelligent Sarah Negovetich, recently posted about author bios, and I had to smack myself in the forehead after reading her post. Why? Because I did every one of the things she cautions authors NOT to do. ;) Oops! If you haven't read her post, check it out here. It's definitely worth your time.

I realized I had to change my bio because one thing I really pride myself on is being me. I embarrass myself all the time because I refuse to hide who I really am. Yet my bio was doing just that. It was stuffy and boring. My motto is, and has always been, "If you're not weird, you're boring." So why was my author bio boring?

Here's my old bio so you can see for yourself:
Kelly Hashway grew up reading R.L. Stein’s Fear Street novels and writing stories of her own, so it was no surprise to her family when she majored in English and later obtained a masters degree in English Secondary Education from East Stroudsburg University. After teaching middle school language arts for seven years, Hashway went back to school and focused specifically on writing. She is now the author of three young adult series, one middle grade series, and several picture books. She also writes contemporary romance under the pen name Ashelyn Drake. When she isn’t writing, Hashway works as a freelance editor for small presses as well as for her own list of clients. In her spare time, she enjoys running, traveling, and volunteering with the PTO. Hashway currently resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter, and two pets. Hashway is represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency. 

It's over, so feel free to stretch and wake yourself up again. Yawnfest, right? So, I'm trying to get my bio to convey who I really am, and while I'm not quite happy with it yet, I think it's getting there. So, I'm going to share it with you today so you can tell me what you think.

Here we go:
Kelly Hashway fully admits to being one of the most accident-prone people on the planet, but that didn’t stop her from jumping out of an airplane at ten thousand feet one Halloween. Maybe it was growing up reading R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books that instilled a love of all things scary and a desire to live in a world filled with supernatural creatures, but she spends her days writing speculative fiction for young adults and middle graders. Kelly’s also a sucker for first love, which is why she writes YA and NA romance under the pen name Ashelyn Drake. When she’s not writing, Kelly works as an editor, and also as Mom, which she believes is a job title that deserves to be capitalized. She is represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency.

For those of you who have known me for a while, what do you think? Is it more me? Would you change anything, add anything? I'm all ears. :)

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8. New Writers Digest Class: Writing and Selling Children's Books 5/21

I'm teaching a new Writers Digest Webinar this Thursday with critique incuded, and if you are interested in writing for kids, you should be in on it! The class on Middle Grade Fiction has been by far the most well-attended and often-asked-about - I think I've repeated it three times. But I kept getting requests for Picture Books, too! So this is a new class: WRITING AND SELLING CHILDREN'S BOOKS.

The live webinar is Thursday, 5/21 at 1pm eastern. Critique of your work OR query is included, and all questions will be answered.

If you cannot attend live DON'T WORRY! Everyone who signs up for the live webinar WILL get a critique and ALL questions will be answered, even if you can't be "in the room" on the day you'll have the opportunity to send questions in. And you'll have access to the program materials for a year.

The class will cover a brief overview of the children's market from baby books to middle grade fiction (some of this will be info that has been covered in prior MG only webinars). The ALL NEW sections are all about picture books, chapter books and early readers, including common Picture Book pitfalls, self-editing picture books, agent-snagging tips and more.

Some success stories:

I found my client Jennifer Torres from a WD Webinar when she submitted an early version of her awesome middle grade book STEF SOTO, TACO QUEEN to be critiqued. Not too long after that, she revised, queried me, I signed her, and we sold her book in a two-book deal to Little Brown.

I also saw this on twitter - Julie Falatko not only got an agent after the critique, but that agent went on to sell THREE books to Viking/Penguin. Awesome!




There's more info on the Writers Digest Website - hope to "see" you there! 

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9. A view or two from a MFA teacher

MFA artI came across a post by a former MFA writing teacher that had, for me, interesting thoughts on the nature and abilities of writers as well as the value of MFA programs. The article is titled “Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One.”

For what it’s worth.

Ray

© 2015 Ray Rhamey

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10. LDStorymakers Presentations

Thank you to all of you who came to my presentations at LDStorymakers this year. I always have a wonderful time presenting, especially when I have good audiences. For those of you who attended and wanted my notes, or who couldn’t attend and wanted to see them anyway, here you go! There first is about using music in your fiction, while the second is about creating your own audio books, much like I do for my work with BigWorldNetwork.com.

Weaving Threads of Song Presentation

Creating Audio Books

Please let me know if you have any questions!


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11. Monday Mishmash 5/18/15


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Editing  I'm finishing up a client edit this week. I've already gone through the book once. Now I'm reading it backward.
  2. Secret Project  Last week I got the idea for a new secret project. I've started on this already, but this week I'm hoping to really jump into it. I'm kind of working on it around other things though, so it might take me a little while.
  3. FB Takeover Party  I'm participating in KJ Farham's FB launch party for her new book, and I'll be taking over at 7:00-7:30 CST (8:00-8:30 EST) on Thursday night. I'll be giving away an ARC of The Darkness Within and an ebook of Touch of Death. If you want to join in the fun on Thursday, you can do so here.
  4. Reading  I admit my reading has suffered lately. Sure, I'm constantly reading books when I edit, but I haven't been able to sit down and just read for enjoyment in a while. I'm hoping to fix that this week.
  5. Good News  I just found out that Into the Fire (published as Ashelyn Drake) was picked up nationally by Barnes and Noble. That's pretty darn cool, and means my odds of being on shelves is much greater, so yay!
  6. Beth Fred's Cover Reveal  My friend Beth Fred is having a cover reveal on May 22 for her YA novel Decree of Hope. If you can host her reveal, sign up here.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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12. Recreating Digitally Tinted Sketches


I have now officially finished the text of the new book. Hurrah! 

Judging on the response to what I have been submitting over the last 6 months, we probably won't be changing the text that much - more tweaks that re-writes I should think - but that doesn't mean I'm done. There will still be a little jiggery-pokery with my image choices, once the layouts have all been designed, and there's also some new artwork to create specifically for the book (like the 'colour before line' step-by-step I did for the original presentation for the US co-edition).


The other big job that's left to do is the scanning. So far, we have been working with low-res images: either the photos I took of my tagged sketchbooks, or low-res scans lifted from the website. All those images now have to be located in the original sketchbooks and scanned at 300ppi, ready for print. John is helping with that, but I still have to go through all the scans individually, tweaking things, as my scanner picks up a lot of 'background noise' like paper texture and sketches coming through from the other side, much worse than you see with the eye.

Unfortunately there's another issue too. In 2010 I was rather into digitally tinting my pencil sketches, like this one of my new shoes (a reward after the first op I had on my poor feet). This means that there is another job for some of the scans from that period: because I was only playing, not consciously creating 'artwork', I only tinted the low-res scans I'd made for my website. Now that I want to feature some of those images in the book, I am having to create the coloured versions all over again.



This image is going into the 'drawing feet' section, because of the way the shoes are sculpted through shadow and highlights. Above is the new high-res scan of the original sketch, with a not very white background.

Once I had played with it in 'Levels' in Photoshop, it looked better. I moved the date across to the right a bit while I was at it, so it would better balance against the text (even though I suspect that the publisher will crop the text off this one):


Better. But the line-work in the old, tinted version was beefed up a bit and given a slightly blue tint, to help it to hold its own better against the colour, so I altered my new scan the same way (Photoshop is wonderful - how on earth would we have done something like that before?):


Then I painted the colours on a layer beneath the line work. The result was the sketch at the top. It was quite therapeutic actually - a nice bit of colouring in, with guaranteed success, so no brain power needed.

Sadly, those lovely red shoes have now bitten the dust. I did very recently buy myself another pair of bright red shoes though, so all is well.

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13. Inciting Incident

Everyone knows your book needs an inciting incident, but what does that really mean?

http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/your-books-inciting-event-its-not-what-you-think-it-is/

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14. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e May 15th 2015



Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:

What If It Can’t Be Taught? (Porter Anderson)
http://writerunboxed.com/2015/05/15/the-dreaded-training-debate-what-if-it-cant-be-taught/

Writers and Self-Torture (Ash Krafton)
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-funny-side-of-writing-writers-and.html

Sensitivity at Conferences (Mary Keeley)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/sensitivity-at-conferences/

Never Stop Learning (Stephanie Kuehnert)
http://yaoutsidethelines.blogspot.com/2015/05/never-stop-learning-stephanie-kuehnert.html

Writing a Book? 3 Reasons to Work in a Noisy Place (David W. Berner)
www.thewritelife.com/writing-noisy-place/

Manners Matter: 15 Etiquette Tips (Rachelle Gardner)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/etiquette-tips

That Overused Word “Community”—But Why We Still Have to Talk About It (Jane Friedman)
www.janefriedman.com/2015/05/12/community-platform/

Brilliant Description (Wendy Lawton)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/brilliant-description/

How to flesh out a character (Nathan Bransford)
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2015/05/how-to-flesh-out-character.html

Balancing Industry and Promo Research and Writing (Elizabeth Spann Craig)
www.elizabethspanncraig.com/3069/balancing-industry-and-promo-research-and-writing/

3 Wrong Assumptions about Agents (Janet Kobobel Grant)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/3-wrong-assumptions-about-agents/

Seven Secret Weapons That Will Make You a Better Novelist (Larry Brooks) Jon’s Pick of the Week
www.storyfix.com/seven-secret-weapons-that-will-make-you-a-better-novelist



If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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15. Submit Your Picture Book Manuscript to the New Voices Award!

New Voices Award sealSummer is almost there! That means that the sixteenth annual NEW VOICES AWARD is now open for submissions. Established in 2000, the New Voices Award was one of the first (and remains one of the only) writing contests specifically designed to help authors of color break into publishing, an industry in which they are still dramatically underrepresented.

Change requires more than just goodwill; it requires concrete action. The New Voices Award is a concrete step towards evening the playing field by seeking out talented new authors of color who might otherwise remain under the radar of mainstream publishing.

NEW VOICES AWARD submissions we have published include Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story, It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, and Bird.

The contest is open to writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a children’s picture book published.

The deadline for this award is September 30, 2015.

For more eligibility and submissions details, visit the New Voices Award page and read these FAQs. Spread the word to any authors you know who may be interested. Happy writing to you all and best of luck!

 

 

 

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16. For My Writing Friends: Some Great Books To Help You Up Your Game!

I’m so excited by these books, I have to pass them along.

First of all, right now you can get for the incredibly low price of $20 this entire story bundle of writing books. I would have bought just one of the books on my own–the horse one by Judith Tarr, since I’m writing a lot of horse scenes these days for The Bradamante Saga and yes, I’d like to make sure I get them right–but then once I saw all the other awesome craft books in this bundle: SOLD. Because every writer can get better, and it’s such a pleasure to read a great craft book by authors who are experts in their field.
Story Bundle Writing Books

And speaking of authors who are experts in their field, the great young adult author Tom Leveen now has a new book out on writing dialogue. Before turning to novels, Tom spent many years in the theater as both an actor and director. I’ve taught writing workshops with him, and his tips for writing great dialogue are always FANTASTIC. Treat yourself to this book. You’ll learn a ton.


That’s it for now, gang. Happy Writing!

0 Comments on For My Writing Friends: Some Great Books To Help You Up Your Game! as of 5/15/2015 12:27:00 PM
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17. The One Phrase Freelance Writers Need to Stop Using Now

By Jennifer Lawler

I can always tell when a writer isn’t going to make it as a freelancer.

The secret is easy. I just listen for the phrase “churning it out” — as in “I’m churning out a lot of work today” or “I churned out two articles over the weekend.” I hear that phrase, and I know they’re going down. Maybe not today, but eventually, and probably sooner than they think.

Related phrases include “cranking it out” and “grinding it out.”

Why is this such a foolproof method for gauging a writer’s likely success? Not because I think slow equals better. Sometimes slow is just slow. But because the phrase itself indicates a mindset that is the exact opposite of the one you need to succeed.

Churning work out means you don’t care about the work, you’re just doing it for the reward. It means you’re perceiving your efforts as being not much different from a machine at a factory. You’re a robot on an assembly line, producing widgets.

The problem with being a robot on an assembly line is it’s boring and dreary and it doesn’t pay very well. Also, you’re interchangeable with every other robot that can be programmed to insert tab A into slot B. Which means your competition is basically everyone in the universe.

I’ve been a freelancer for more years than I want to admit to in public, and I’ve survived — thrived! — this long because I love what I do, even on the days when it drives me nuts. When you love what you do, you don’t perceive it as “churning” things out. You think of it as a craft, one you care about getting right. You want to find the best example, the right turn of phrase, the most credible source to interview.

Your Editor Wants a Revise? This Is a GOOD Thing.


People who churn things out bitch about edits (for example) not because the edits are wrong or misguided but because the edits affect their bottom line. They seem to think that any time spent on making a piece of writing better is time that could be spent writing something else and (by their misguided calculations) making more money.

I like edits because I like becoming a better writer. Have I occasionally had questionable edits? Sure. Still, I think of edits as a fact of freelance writing and as an opportunity to grow as a writer. But to hear the churn-it-out writers talk, all edits are questionable and every aspect of freelancing that doesn’t involving depositing a check is of little value and should be ignored or completed as quickly as possible.

Instead of looking for ways to deliver value to their clients they complain about every small thing they’re asked to do. The editor says, “Can you ask the source if she has photos?” and you’d think Rumpelstiltskin had demanded their newborn child.

This wrongheaded approach will burn you out faster than just about anything else you could do to yourself.

Your Writing Is Not a Commodity


Now, I’m not saying you should work 80 hours on a 300-word piece for which you’ll earn $50. I am saying that you need to recognize that you are a craftsperson, not an assembly line. I’m saying turn down the 300-word pieces for $50 that require 80 hours of work.

I’m a prolific writer, and being able to write fast has certainly helped me make a decent income over my years as a freelancer. But “being prolific” and “churning things out” are two different things.

I’m prolific because I love to write and because I’ve set my life up so that writing is easy to do. I have dedicated time, space, and materials for it. I have spent a long time learning the craft — and practicing it. I know how to focus to get the job done instead of endlessly procrastinating and then having to rush to finish by deadline. I don’t over-research. I plan interviews ahead of time to keep them on target (and limited in duration). I have areas of specialization so that writing a new article isn’t like learning a new language. I have learned how to vet clients so I’m not wasting my time on “opportunities” that aren’t opportunities.

All of this takes time and effort, and it can’t be accomplished if all you ever focus on is the bottom line. If the choice is between researching potential clients to identify a few new possibilities that might pay well and writing two badly paying blog posts in an hour, the churn-it-out writer will pick the latter when the former is in her best interests over the long term.

A Bad Rate Will Never Be a Good Rate


People who churn it out often think they can turn a bad rate into a good one by doing the project as quickly as possible. But a bad rate is a bad rate — and you won’t improve your situation by having your name attached to crap work. However, even people who are earning decent rates for their work get suck into the churn-it-out mindset. They could get more if they went faster, right?

Either way, churning it out can lead to boredom, dissatisfaction, and burnout. The kinds of work that you can churn out are never the interesting projects. If you’re constantly working at warp speed just to tread water, you’ll end up giving up before too long. But mostly the work will dissatisfy you because you’re focusing too much on the reward instead of the process.

I get that we’re all doing this out of the profit motive, but if that were our only consideration, we’d be painting houses or fixing plumbing. The truth is, the more you focus on money-money-money, the less you focus on Am I doing work that’s worth doing? And yet it’s work that’s worth doing that inspires us, helps us enjoy our jobs, and makes our lives better. And interestingly enough, the work that’s worth doing is usually the better-paying kind.

The next time you find yourself thinking, “Yeah, I could churn that out in an hour,” stop and ask yourself why you’d ever want to evaluate the work of your life that way.

Jennifer Lawler is sponsoring a one-day-only fundraiser (May 15, 2015) for the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance. Buy any of her romances at the special fundraiser price of just 99 cents (Kindle edition) and she’ll donate her royalties to the TSA. Here’s where to go for more information.

Jennifer is a writer and editor whose articles and essays have appeared in print and online publications such as Family Circle, Cooking Light, Writer’s Digest, and Bankrate.com. She is the author or coauthor of more than fifty books.

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18. Mysteries of Cove, book 1: Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage

 

Myteries of COVE_coverAuthor Note:

Like many of my books, the inspiration for my new series Fires of Invention came from the collision of two ideas. The first time the story occurred to me was while I was watching the musical Wicked with my wife. The moment I walked into the theater and saw the huge mechanical dragon above the stage, I thought, Wow! I have to write a story about that! A few weeks later, I was talking with my nephew, who is probably the most creative kid I know, but whose inventiveness often gets him into trouble, and I thought, What if a kid who had the talents of my nephew lived in a world where creativity was against the law? What if the kids were building . . . a steam-powered dragon? Bam! I had my story.

Powered by great feedback from my agent, Michael Bourret, my good friend and author James Dashner, my publisher, Chris Schoebinger, and the song “Warriors” by Imagine Dragons, I wrote the entire first draft of the first volume in the series, Mysteries of Cove in four weeks. This book is unlike anything I have ever written. There are elements of City of Ember, Dragon Riders, and Hugo in it all mashed up together in a world I fell in love with from the moment I started writing.

I think what’s most exciting to me about this book is that it’s about giving yourself the freedom to imagine. To take chances. Too often we limit ourselves by only trying things we’re confident we can succeed at when what we need to do is give ourselves permission to fail. Often it is when we attempt things with no idea of how we can possibly pull them off that we achieve our greatest successes.

Book Description:

STEAMPUNK! Plus Dragons!

Trenton Colman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime and “invention” is a curse word. Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, whose father died in an explosion-an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the danger of creativity.

Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlikely anything they’ve ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on-and quite possibly their very lives.

Author Bio:

savage, j. scott

Scott Savage is the author of the Farworld middle grade fantasy series and the Case File 13 middle grade monster series. He has been writing and publishing books for over ten years. He has visited over 400 elementary schools, dozens of writers conferences, and taught many writing classes. He has four children and lives with his wife Jennifer and their Border Collie, Pepper, in a windy valley of the Rocky Mountains.

FACEBOOK:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/J-Scott-Savage/55805743891
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/jscottsavage

INSTAGRAM: jscottsavage

WEBSITE: www.jscottsavage.com


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19. From Library Desk to Library Shelf: My 10-Year Path to Publication

We're delighted to have Augusta Scattergood kicking-off our new Author Spotlight Blog Series.

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20. An Aran poem.

A smoke in Aran

 

Background grumbling

Brings closer words around me.

A slow stream of familiar scent

From plug tobacco packed loosely in a pipe.

 

I turn to see this silent silhouette

Swaying slowly at the bar.

Aran jersey pulled, blue colored,

Under a grease stained jacket.

 

Another sip of the black stuff.

Another puff on the pipe

Anchored by well-worn teeth

In a salt-cured face.

 

Nicotine stained fingers press tightly

On the crinkled cap.

A red glow.

Another blue cloud backlit against the open door.

 

No voice. No flash of eye.

A dark pillar of a man.

Like upturned currach

Black-bellied to the western sky.

 

The pipe goes down

As the pint goes up.

Memories and taste

Blend together in remembered motion.

 

A shuffle of a weathered boot.

A cough.

A well-aimed spit,

Like hardened plug, finds home in ancient brass.

 

A push of the glass.

Another pint.

No words spoken

And silence never broken.

 

Eyebrows like thatch above

Those dark brown eyes,

Buried in a wrinkled world

Of terror in a black night at sea.

 

Hands worn like burled hazel.

Worn smooth and hard

From years of oars

And pounding surf.

 

No separation between

Nails and skin.

Deep ridges from years of hauling stinging meshes

On fingers, gnarled and almost gone.

 

A movement, slow and even paced.

He pushes away into the night.

And casts off from the bar.

Like moon warmed skins of tar.

 

Denis Hearn 2015

 

Ireland April 2012 211.jpg web large

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21. Amazed by Grace

 9781629720395This book is based on an address given by Sheri Dew on the topic of Grace. You can view the address online here: http://www.byutv.org/watch/1d4f0f4e-ff51-4e38-b35b-8cdb6b4dd3ce/byu-womens-conference-sheri-l-dew-512014

Do we believe we are saved by grace? With access to sacred scripture and modern revelation, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ought to have special insight into the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the amazing power of grace in our individual lives. Yet how many of us truly understand grace and how to unlock the power it contains?

In Amazed by Grace , author Sheri Dew considers four questions: What is grace? What difference can grace make in our lives? How does the Savior make His power available to us? And what must we  do to gain access to the Savior’s power?

Expand your understanding of grace and broaden your gospel horizon with Sheri as she reminds us that “the central, most compelling, most life-changing message of all time is that Jesus Christ already triumphed over sin, death, hell and every kind of misery. Surely there is nothing our Father is more eager for us to understand than the breathtaking scope of the Atonement of His Son and the power the Atonement makes available to us.”

Sheri Dew is a native of Ulysses, Kansas, and a graduate of Brigham Young University. She has authored several books, including the biographies of two presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley and Ezra Taft Benson. Her most recent books are Women and the Priesthood, God Wants a Powerful People, and Saying It Like It Is. Sheri is the CEO of Deseret Book and Executive Vice President of Deseret Management Corporation

Purchase the book here: http://amzn.com/1629720399


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22. Exile (Book 1 in The Oneness Cycle)

Exile (1)
Book Title: Exile (Book 1 in The Oneness Cycle)

Author: Rachel Starr Thomson

Link: http://www.rachelstarrthomson.com/novels/#exile
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RachelStarrThomsonWriter

Purchase: http://amzn.com/B00D99V878

Bio:

Rachel Starr Thomson is a writer, indie publisher, and editor. She’s the author of the Seventh World Trilogy, The Oneness Cycle, and other books published by Little Dozen Press.

Rachel is a homeschool graduate, a dweller in southern Canada, a lover of long walks, good books, and hot tea, and a counter-cultural revolutionary who thinks we’d all be much better off if we pitched our television sets out the nearest window.

Synopsis:

When Tyler fishes the girl out of the bay, he thinks she’s dead.

She wishes she was.

For Reese, life ended when the supernatural entity called the Oneness threw her out. For Tyler, dredging Reese out of the water means life is nothing he thought.

In a world where the Oneness exists, nothing looks the same. Dead men walk. Demons prowl the air. Old friends peel back their mundane masks and prove as supernatural as angels.

The Oneness changes everything.

And getting Reese home, making her One again, will change Tyler–and his roommate, Chris, whose connections with the Oneness have been buried most of his life–forever.

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

“There’s someone in the net—Tyler, haul the net in!”

Dark clouds were billowing over a choppy sea, the boat charging up and down the waves, when the words sank in. Through the spray and the looming storm Tyler saw it too—an arm, a flash of shoe. He braced himself and hauled, every muscle in his arms and back straining, and Chris joined him, still shouting:

“Pull!”

The wind gusted and pushed them like a thing alive.

They got the net over the rail and dumped it on the deck, silver fish flapping, detritus, and the person—a girl—a woman, young. Alive.

Tyler’s eyes darted to the cliffs a mile off. “Did you fall?” he screamed over the wind.

She shook her head, hugging herself, gathering her feet beneath her. Long hair, water-dark, clung to her face and neck.

“I jumped,” she said.

“Why the—” he started to swear, but one look at her hollow, tormented grey eyes shut his mouth.

* * *

The rain had just begun to fall from black clouds when they finished tying up the boat safe in the cove and began the trudge up the cliff path to the cottage—not that it mattered much to the boys, spray soaked as they were, and their guest seemed to feel nothing, see nothing.

An hour later she sat cross-legged on the ratty plaid couch in the side room, surrounded on three sides by big, screened windows that showed the sweeping cliffs, sky, and clouds. The bay seemed far off and far below, farther than it really was. Stacks of ragged paperbacks and a few board games in cardboard boxes sat beneath the low windowsills, wearing permanent impressions in the brown shag carpet.

She wore jeans and a button-up shirt that belonged to Tyler—he was the smaller of the two—and had a fuzzy flannel blanket, dull green, wrapped around her shoulders.

The electric heater in the corner of the room creaked and seemed to settle its feet. Tyler pressed a steaming mug of tea into her hands.

As her fingers tightened around it, her eyes met his. The same pain that had punched his anger away on the boat was still there, making him wince, but this time there was an openness there too—and a reaching, a plea. For a moment. Then it switched off, and she retreated again behind the pain.

Like a film over her eyes, Tyler thought.

He cleared his throat. “Hope that’ll warm you—get the rest of the chill out.”

She nodded. She had showered, and with a plastic comb of Chris’s had patiently worked all the tangles out of her long, straight hair, which was drying to a dark blonde. Despite the shower and the blanket and the heater radiating too-strong electric heat, she still looked cold.

“Thank you,” she said.

Rain beat against the windows in a sudden assault. Tyler settled awkwardly on the ottoman across from the couch, displacing a couple of fishing magazines. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and clasped his hands in front of him.

You weren’t supposed to leave suicidal people alone, right? And Chris was doing the laundry.

“You’re, ah . . . you’re welcome.”

A click and more settling from the heater.

The question just jumped out. “You lose someone?”

Something flickered in her eyes. “I lost . . . yeah.”

“A husband?” Another flicker—deeper pain. He kicked himself inwardly. Idiot.

But she said, “No.”

Tyler took a deep breath and wished he’d made a second cup of tea. Not that she was drinking hers—she was just holding it while it steamed between her hands.

“Well, somebody must be looking out for you,” he charged in again. She shot him a look, but he just kept going. “To survive that fall in the first place . . . and then for us to pull you out like that, in the whole bay to be in just the right place, and with a storm comin’ in . . .”

He shook his shaggy head. “Somebody didn’t want you to die today.”

When he looked up from his speech, she had turned her head and was staring out the wall of windows toward the sea. One arm rested on the back of the couch, and she was covering her mouth with the heel of her hand. The tea sat nestled in her lap.

His heart did an awful sort of plunge, and he swallowed hard and stood up. His throat hurt. “I’ll come . . . check on you. Later.”

The room was an add-on. Tyler stepped through the old side door into what had once been a mudroom but now housed a washer and dryer, an old dog kennel, a pile of fishing nets, and lots of unclaimed clothing—coats, boots, old socks without partners. He concentrated, for a moment, on breathing.

Cripes. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard. Still.

Chris poked his head and big shoulders through the kitchen door. Unlike Tyler’s unruly head of long blond curls and ever-present scruff, Chris’s red hair was neat and short and his face clean shaven. At the moment he looked concerned.

“How’s the patient?”

“Warming up,” Tyler managed.

“You left her alone?”

“She needs space.”

“But what if she—”

“She’s not going to hurt herself. She just . . . it’s grief, Chris. She lost somebody. She needs space.”

Chris looked unconvinced. “I’m calling Mum.”

“Yeah, okay. Good idea.”

The kitchen door shut, and Tyler heard the sounds of Chris dialing from the other side. Trapped between worlds, suspended in the mudroom for a couple of minutes, Tyler waited.

Thunder rumbled, and the rain drummed on the roof.

* * *

With windows on three sides that covered nearly the whole wall from a foot above the floor to just below the low, sloping ceiling, Reese felt enveloped by the storm. Black, tumultuous clouds. Forked lightning; thunder that shook the walls. Pelting rain. It was a classic coastal storm, wind slamming the cliffs and churning the sea in a white frenzy she could just see from here, despite the darkness.

Bitter tears ran down her face, but she hardly noticed them. Her eyes were perpetually swollen and tender; light hurt them. Had ever since the . . . since the loss.

She stood by the window, placed a hand on the glass. Thunder cracked, and the glass strained against the wind howling up the cliff and battering the cottage.

Surrounded by the storm—except that she stood behind windows, in the warmth, smelling the faint burnt smell of an old heater, wrapped up and clean and dry except for her hair.

She was done with miracles. But perhaps they weren’t done with her.

She sighed and leaned her head against the window like it was too heavy to hold up on her own.

Something made her open her eyes.

She saw it coming and jumped back an instant before the huge, black thing shattered the window and went straight for her throat.

* * *

Diane Sawyer’s tea kettle was just starting to whistle, the high-pitched sound joining the thunder. She pinched the phone between her ear and shoulder, freeing both her hands to switch off the gas and lift the copper kettle off the burner.

“She what? I’m sorry, son, the thunder . . . yes. I heard you that time. Well, that’s a little hasty, don’t you think?” Steam wet her hand as she poured the water into the old ceramic pot, and she stuck her fingers sideways into her mouth to suck off the burn.

She frowned. “You don’t know that, Christopher.”

She switched the phone to her other ear, relieving the crick in her neck. “Mm-hmm. Yes, I’ll come. But you’d probably be best off just—”

A sound like mirrors smashing came from the other end of the line, Chris swore, and Diane said “Christopher? What’s going on?” just as an image loomed fully formed in her mind’s eye, blacking out all other vision and sound for an instant. When she came back to her kitchen, she realized Chris had hung up.

She grabbed her purse, tea forgotten. Storm or no storm, she had to get up to the cottage.

* * *

Reese stood in the midst of the shattered glass, breathing hard and staring at the object in her hand. Behind her, first Tyler and then Chris tumbled into the side room.

“What is that?” Tyler blurted, pointing at the corpse on the floor, at the same time that Chris demanded, “Why are you holding a sword?”

Why indeed? She’d not thought to hold one ever again.

“Didn’t think I . . . could,” she offered, aware that her trailing answer wouldn’t make sense to them. She nudged the thing on the floor with her toe and winced at the broken glass everywhere.

One more mess. The creature was only a renegade—thank God. But . . .

The sword disappeared, disintegrating into nothing, and she let her hand fall to her side. “I’m sorry about the mess.”

Tyler lurched forward and kicked at the body, turning it over. He blinked. “It’s a bat? But . . .”

Rain was blowing in through the broken window, spattering the piles of old books and quickly damping the carpet. Reese sprang into action, shuffling things aside and apologizing again. Night was falling, and it was dark. The wind through the window was cold.

Chris appeared at her side with a blue tarp, which he nailed over the windowsill with a few expert whacks of a hammer. With that little bit of a rain barrier in place, he stood back, regarded Reese with his arms folded over his chest, and said, “Who are you?”

She was still repositioning stacks of books, studiously avoiding looking at either of them. But she couldn’t just ignore the question. “My name is Reese,” she said.

“You have a last name?”

“No, we—I—we don’t use them,” she stammered. Why wouldn’t the words come out? His gaze was boring into her, and she dropped what she was doing and sat on the couch again, shoulders hunched, bone weary. Of course she needed a last name.

“Danby,” she let out in a whimper. “You can . . . Danby.”

She ventured a glance up. Chris was still staring at her, but although his gaze was stern, she could see now that it wasn’t angry. It was . . . protective, maybe.

The lump in her throat suddenly grew until all she wanted to do was curl up on the couch, cover herself with the flannel blanket, and give vent to all she felt until she had exhausted every tear and more, until every muscle ached and her skin burned with the emptiness inside.

His anger would have been hard to take. But protectiveness was a memory, too fresh and far, far too potent.

“A bat couldn’t have broken that window—and I could have sworn it was something else, something way bigger when I walked in here. So what was that?”

Tyler wasn’t paying attention to the exchange, and his question, to her relief, deflected the force of her grief. She considered lying, but she was too tired for that. She leaned back against the scratchy plaid upholstery.

“A renegade,” she said. “Just one . . . so you don’t need to worry that others will come.”

Outside, headlight beams came around a curve in the road just below the cottage, disappearing behind the tarp after only a brief flash.

“That’ll be Mum,” Chris said. He frowned. “I think I hung up on her.”

“A renegade?” Tyler pressed.

“Do you believe in demons?” Reese asked.

Chris shook his head. His forehead was creased with worry. “I’ll put tea on,” he said. “Wait this conversation. Until Mum’s in here.”

Tyler looked apologetically at Reese. “Diane is good for this kind of thing.”

Reese felt the slightest glimmer of humour. “For discerning crazy?”

Tyler gave her a wry smile. “For helping us know what to do.” He stood, leaving the bat he had been examining on the floor. “I don’t think it’s going to get any warmer and drier in here tonight. We’d better go to the living room.”

He escorted Reese through a cluttered laundry room and a small kitchen, equally cluttered but surprisingly clean, where Chris was putting another kettle on. On the other side of the kitchen counter was a tiny room almost entirely occupied by a couch and an easy chair. One wall was swallowed up by a fireplace, over which hung a massive sword—a claymore, Reese thought. A small fire was going, and the room was warm.

She closed her eyes for a second. That only two hours ago she had thrown herself off a cliff in a vain attempt to drown herself seemed about as far away and unreal as hope. Strange how life could hang on and continue even when she didn’t want it to—stranger that it could bring her somewhere like this, now.

And the sword. Why had the sword come to hand?

The rain nearly masked the sound of a car pulling up outside the cottage, and in a moment the front door pushed open and a woman stumbled in, wrapped in a sleek rain slicker and wearing a kerchief which she promptly pulled off and wrung out. She was short and comfortably built, and her pale hair was twisted in a French knot at the back of her head. Her sharp eyes fixed on Reese immediately.

“So you’re the girl,” she said. “I’m Diane. How are my boys treating you?”

Reese stammered something . . . even she wasn’t sure what words she was trying to say. Mercifully, Tyler and Chris both began to talk, telling this woman—Chris’s mother, Diane—what had happened, from the rescue right down to the demon that had turned into a bat and the sword that had appeared and then dematerialized in Reese’s hand. Getting out of her rain slicker and boots, Diane listened intently and nodded, without interrupting or appearing surprised at any point.

Finally she crossed the tiny room and took Reese’s arm. Her hands were weathered and heavy veined, older than the rest of her, and cold from the drive through the rain.

“Sit,” she said. “I think we should all sit.”

They did. Chris and Tyler looked uncomfortable, and after about half a second Chris stood up again and positioned himself in front of the fireplace. His mother didn’t chastise him.

“I saw it,” she said without any more preamble. “The demon. I see things sometimes—the boys know. That’s how I knew to get up here fast.”

She peered along her nose at Reese. Her eyes were blue. “And you,” she said. “You are a part of the Oneness.”

For an instant Reese thought she would not find her voice, or even the breath to say it. But she did—somehow she did.

“No,” she said. “No, I’m an exile.”


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23. Sacramental Reflections

916aZnHcZqL

Purchase: http://amzn.com/1629720224

These devotional reflections from the heart of Truman G. Madsen can help bring you face to face with yourself as you prepare to meet Christ at the sacrament table each week. There is a feast awaiting the honest guest who accepts the Lord’s invitation to bring to the altar a “broken heart and a contrite
spirit.” Alma promises it will “begin to be delicious” (Alma 32:28) and that “ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled” (Alma 32:42). Find new meaning in the sacrament and new resolve as you participate in this sacred ordinance. A perfect Easter gift for adult children.

Truman G. Madsen received graduate degrees in philosophy and the philosophy of religion from the University of Utah and Harvard. He served as the director of the Judeo-Christian Studies Center at BYU and as director of the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. He is widely recognized as an expert
on the life and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Brother Madsen, who passed away in the summer of 2009, was a prolific author who is also known for his memorable audio and video
presentations on a variety of gospel subjects.


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24. This is Jesus

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Purchase: http://amzn.com/1629720186

With Artwork by J. Kirk Richards

The life of the Savior is portrayed in stunning fine art pieces by award-winning artist J. Kirk Richards. These striking new images were created by the artist exclusively for this book.

Accompanied by a harmonized account of the Savior’s ministry, Atonement, and Resurrection, these exquisite paintings reflect a deep reverence for Christ’s mission and sacrifice. Each page is beautifully designed to complement the unique style of the artist. A perfect reminder of the true reason we celebrate the Easter season, this handsome volume will be treasured by the entire family for years to come.

The award-winning artwork of J. Kirk Richards has been featured in galleries across the United States and in various exhibits, publications, and documentary films. His work is highly sought after by collectors (eleven of the seventeen original paintings for this book sold within 24 hours). He has studied with many notable artists, including an apprenticeship with Swiss-born symbolist Patrick Devonas. Kirk and his family reside in Woodland Hills, Utah.


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25. The Continuous Atonement for Teens

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Purchase: http://amzn.com/162972016X

Brad Wilcox’s The Continuous Atonement  is a landmark work that helps to clarify what the Atonement is—and what it isn’t.

It corrects misperceptions and offers hope to those who struggle again and again.

This teen adaptation will help teenagers better understand and apply the Atonement in their lives and help them teach the nuances of the Atonement to others, whether on a mission, at home, or with friends. As they better understand and apply the Atonement, its transforming power will have a lasting effect in their lives.

Each chapter opens with a teen-appropriate question and includes subheadings to clarify content, new stories relevant to teens, and a Prepare to Teach section to help readers internalize and share what they’re learning. This shorter edition will be printed in paperback, perfect for teens to carry with them through their busy days.

Brad Wilcox is a professor of teacher education at Brigham Young University, where he also works with Especially for Youth and Education Week programs. He served a mission to Chile and later presided over the Chile Santiago East Mission. He and his wife, Debi, are the parents of four children. He is a popular speaker and the author of The Continuous Atonement and The Continuous Conversion, 52 Life-Changing Questions from the Book of Mormon, and a new children’s book, Practicing for Heaven.


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