Monday, November 17, 2014

There's No Place Like the Library

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I'm moving across the country. While I'm very excited and ready to move on, there are some things I'll miss about where I live now. One of those things is, of course, my town's library.

It's the place I always go when I need a change of scenery. I have a certain table where I regularly sit and do my work, and after a few hours, I pack up my stuff and wander through the juvenile fiction section. Sometimes, I'll grab a middle grade book and settle in a nearby chair for an hour. Other times, I'll just check out a stack of novels and read them over the course of a week.

The feel of the library is pleasant, too. There are lots of windows that bring in just the right amount of light. People are friendly (but quiet enough that they don't distract me.) It's comfortable.

These are all things I'll likely be able to experience in my next town, though I'll miss the charm and familiarity of this one at first. But the last time we moved, I was bummed about leaving that library behind. (It was a very spacious one with a winding staircase in the center of the room!) Just like last time, I'll move on and make my new library my new hangout.

The more I think about it, the more I can't wait to see what the next one is like!

So tell me, what are your libraries like? Do you have a routine that you follow when you go to the library, or do you do something different every time?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Writer is Evolving!

If you think that's a weird post title, that's because it is.

I'm referencing the Pokemon video games, specifically the screen that shows your Pokemon evolving from one form to the next. It's a magical moment for people who play this game. The cute little animal they've cared so much for and trained so diligently has finally transformed into a more powerful and capable beast.

Writers evolve, too. But our evolution is usually less obvious and isn't accompanied by suspenseful music.

Sometimes, when I'm feeling brave enough, I'll go back and scroll through old short stories and manuscripts. It can be helpful to take a look at how far I've come. (It can also make me cringe and close the documents before I'm even done reading them.)

Here are some things that I frequently found in drafts from years ago:

- Excessive adverbs with dialogue tags. (Example: "What a fabulous idea!" she exclaimed excitedly.)
- Lots of telling instead of showing. (Example: "I was mad at him." "Her gift made me happy.")
- Forced, unnatural character introductions and physical descriptions.
- Unneeded banter that doesn't propel the story forward.
- Too many characters in a story, many of which aren't relevant to the plot.

And lots more.

By pointing out the flaws in my early writing, I'm not saying I'm a perfect writer now, or even close to it. Currently, one of my weaknesses is that I don't describe my settings as well as I should. (Thank you to my hardworking and honest CPs for helping me see this!) I'm also guilty of dipping back into my former bad habits, such as including extra characters and occasionally telling instead of showing.

But I have evolved. I'm better than I used to be. And just like the types of Pokemon that have multiple forms, I will continue to evolve.

Fellow writers, in what ways have you evolved?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Moving On and Moving Away

The past couple of months have been very busy around here. We're working on moving across the country, and every step of that process (packing, doing home repairs, looking at houses on the opposite coast) has been time-consuming, but also kind of fun.

Anyway, that's my latest excuse for not blogging as often as I should. *wink*

But despite all the busyness, I've still been able to make progress in the writing world. I'm editing a MS based on CPs' suggestions (while also continuing to receive feedback from new CPs) and simultaneously drafting a super fun WIP. I honestly adore the projects I'm working on, and would devote even more time to them if I wasn't getting ready to move.

Even when I have no time at all to work on writing -- and yes, there are days like that when it's all about packing boxes and cleaning -- I've still got writing on my mind.

As I fill box after box with a bunch of my belongings, I think about what these objects say about me as a person. It's a good form of showing. I could write a scene of a character packing his/her own boxes and show the reader just who that person is.

When I flip through real estate listings, I think about the settings of future novels. So far, all of my manuscripts have taken place on the east coast, where I've lived my whole life. I can't wait to change the scenery!

I might be quiet here and there as I spend less time at the computer in the coming weeks, but my mind will still be wandering, pondering, and creating.

Writers, what keeps you busy besides writing? Does anyone have experience with moving a long distance? Any advice?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Silly Ideas

The other day, I was deep in thought about something trivial -- I was thinking about how teens today communicate. They text, they Facebook message, they use whatever apps they have on their phones... and none of that was how I had communicated with my friends as a teen. I had a basic cell phone, but texting regularly would be expensive.

So, back then, we did what everyone was doing: we used AOL instant messenger. Boy, do I cringe when I think back on those days. (Any of you guys have a "buddy list" back in the day?)

Thinking about instant messaging reminded me of this dumb story idea I had when I was in middle school. It was called "Instant Message," and it was about an 8th grade girl who had the power to mentally instant message people. Well, no, she could only mentally message one person in the whole world: this boy in her class who she had a crush on.

I think I only wrote the first scene of this story before losing interest. Please don't ask me what the plot was besides a girl mentally IM-ing her crush during Spanish class, because I really have no clue!

But as silly as that idea was, I'm glad I had it. It didn't turn out to be a bestseller (or published at all, or even finished) but it was an exercise.

It may take a dozen ridiculous ideas before I come up with one that's decent, and that's okay. I even have completed novels that I consider to be exercises. I'm not ashamed. I've grown as a writer over the years, thanks to having a lot of practice. And I'll continue to do so.

What silly story ideas have you had that you ended up not pursuing? Did you use AIM back in the 90s/early 2000s? How did you communicate with your friends as a teen?

Monday, September 15, 2014

That's Out Of Character

Several years ago, I subbed for a fifth grade teacher on a regular basis. I got to know her students well, and still remember most of their names even today. But one boy in particular stood out to me. We'll call him Travis.

Here are some of the things Travis liked to do:

- Make fun of his classmates and call them names.
- Talk back to teachers.
- Roll his eyes whenever a new assignment was given.
- Act like he didn't care about anything or any person.

I thought I knew exactly who he was. He was a bully and a troublemaker. It seemed like every time I turned around, he was doing something he wasn't supposed to be doing.

One day near the end of the school year, I was on my way to the classroom after having lunch, and Travis caught up to me in the hallway. He surprised me by making conversation.

"Guess what? I saw [whatever horror movie was in the theaters at this time] last weekend. Did you see it yet?"
I shook my head. "I don't really watch horror movies. I'm too much of a wimp."
His expression softened -- a look I'd never seen on his face before, complete with a sincere look in his eyes. "Don't call yourself a wimp, okay? It's not true. You're not a wimp."
He walked away.

Now, if I were writing a character like Travis, I would have thought the above dialogue was way out of character for him! This is the boy who called his classmates wimps all the time. This is the boy who had no shame in being disrespectful to teachers. But out of nowhere, just that once, he got all... nice.

Maybe there's a story arc I'm not aware of. Maybe something about our conversation tugged at him in a certain way, reminded him of something else in his life, and made him react the way he did.

I think of Travis every now and then when I write characters who seem like they'd be predictable, but could end up surprising someone in the smallest way.

Have you ever thought of real life people in terms of what they'd be like as a fictional character? Have you ever looked for a story arc in real life?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Review of ROCK 'N' ROLL PRINCESSES WEAR BLACK by Kelly Polark

So, once upon a time, I wore a lot of black. Who am I kidding, I still do! But years ago, I wore black clothes almost every day and was criticized for it. (Which only made me wear more black.) But anyway...

This book rocks in more ways than one! ROCK 'N' ROLL PRINCESSES WEAR BLACK by Kelly Polark is a seriously cute book that I can so relate to. Here's more about it:


Music class and recess totally rock, but being teased in school and ignored at home totally stinks. Stefani Lucas is a rockin’ sixth grader who loves music and dresses like a mini hipster in all black, but there's one thing cramping her style - her lame baby brother who manages to hog all the attention from her parents.

When classmates tease her about her clothes and even double dare her to (gasp!) wear another color, Stef decides a minor makeover may be in order. Can Stef change for others and still stay true to herself?


(Summary from Goodreads.com)

I liked Stef a whole lot. I'm always thrilled to see a female protagonist who isn't afraid to be different, and who shows readers that there are more important things than looking a certain way. And Stef was a good example.

Besides the characters, I loved all the music references. It's clear that the author really knows her rock! I admit, I'm not always familiar with artists that kids are into these days, so some classic bands were a nice change.

I think middle grade readers will enjoy this fun and fast read, as well as adults who wear a little too much black...

You can find ROCK N ROLL PRINCESSES WEAR BLACK on Amazon, BN.com, and Kobo. Check out Kelly Polark's blog, too!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Emily Ungar, Author of LIBERTY BELLE, Guest Posts Today!

Today, we have a special guest with us -- Emily Ungar, author of the middle grade novel LIBERTY BELLE, which was just released on August 12.

You can learn more about LIBERTY BELLE below, but first, Emily's here to talk about her favorite childhood books:

I really enjoyed Shelley’s recent post on favorite childhood books. As soon as I saw her image of those familiar worn covers, I felt an instant comfort. I loved all of the Beverly Cleary books, Boxcar Children, Babysitters Club, Sleepover Friends, The Gymnasts...I could go on forever! Books have always been an incredible source of comfort for me. Back when I had more time, I prided myself on alphabetically organizing my bookshelf, and within the alphabet I would also organize by series. Because my family moved around a lot, books were things I could take with me that made me feel like I was at home no matter where we were living.

I’d like to share some of my favorite middle grade series and why I fell in love with each:

The Sleepover Friends (by Susan Saunders)

This was a lesser-known series, but I loved it. It was a contemporary book about 4 friends. One wanted to be a famous film director. Another only wore outfits with red, black, and white. It’s funny the little details about people that we remember. Reading this series as a 10-year-old gave a glimpse into the splendor of teenhood--shopping in the juniors’ section, wearing yellow leg warmers (eeek!), and roller skating on Friday nights.

Babysitters Club (by Ann M. Martin)

This series is classic for anyone born into the late 70s or early 80s. You have a terrific cast of characters, strong plotlines, and no shortage of babysitting drama. Plus, how cool was it that Dawn was (as she called it) “bicoastal?” The idea of living on both coasts was pretty exotic!

The Gymnasts (by Elizabeth Levy)

I wasn’t a gymnast. In fact, I’m terrified of even doing a somersault. But there was something awesome about the group of young gymnasts who competed in events and did things I couldn’t do, like rub chalk on their hands and fly around on the uneven bars or do a back handspring from a vault. Plus, in the Halloween edition there was a gymnast in a hot dog costume. Now what other book can boast that?

The Mandie Books (by Lois Gladys Leppard)

I didn’t read too many historical books as a middle grader, but I loved the Mandie books. The main character was a turn-of-the-century girl who along with her beloved Uncle Ned solved many mysteries. It was a really sweet and suspenseful series that I read over and over again.

There are so many other series and standalone books that I adored, and I wish I’d kept more of them like Shelley did. Thanks for walking down memory lane with me, and I urge you to revisit those innocent childhood reading days of reading your favorite book under the covers with a flashlight!


Thank you for sharing, Emily! I hadn't read the Gymnasts or the Mandie books, but I loved the others.

Here's more about Emily and her fantastic-looking book, which I've read the beginning of and can't wait to read more:


On the same day she turns twelve years old, Savannah moves away from everything she’s known in sweet, sunny Georgia to preppy Washington D.C. Not only will she miss her best friends Katie and Tessa, Savannah will start a new school. She soon discovers that her schoolmates love to brag—about their clothes, their parents’ governmental connections, and even who has the in with the school authorities.

Unhappy and lonely, Savannah decides if she can’t make life better, she can at least make it sound that way. Soon she is living in the childhood home of George Washington, riding in the limo of the vice president’s daughter, and even moving into the former Luxembourg embassy.

All is well until she learns that her true friends from Georgia are coming for a visit. Now Savannah must create the life she’s been talking about in her letters—and fast! Will Savannah find herself or lose her friends?

Buy the book here:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Liberty-Belle-Emily-Ungar-ebook/dp/B00MMZCR34
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/liberty-belle-emily-ungar/1120079472?ean=2940046058567
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/455093

And also check it out here:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21802855-liberty-belle
Anaiah Press: http://www.anaiahpress.com

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About Emily:


Emily Ungar is a graduate of Indiana University, where she majored in journalism. After living in seven different U.S. states by the time she finished college, she now lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, with her husband and very curious twin toddlers. When she isn’t chasing after her twin boys, Emily loves to curl up in a chaise lounge with a book in one hand and a lemon cupcake in the other. Emily loves connecting with her readers, so she welcomes you to say hi on her blog at emilyungar.com.

Twitter: @emilyungar
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/emilyungar/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/13863166-emily-ungar
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/emilyungarauthor

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