Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What Are YOUR Favorite Children's Books?

Alright, so my first love may be YA romance, but children’s literature has a special place in my heart now that I have kids of my own. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing children’s books for a long time. Now I have a story idea I can’t stop thinking about (always a good sign!). I love that feeling. So, since I’m currently gathering thoughts on this children’s picture book I want to write, I thought it would fun to post about some favorite children’s books that inspire me. What are your favorite children's books? Leave a comment below!

Books From My Childhood

Charlie Needs a Cloak
This was one of my favorites as a kid (I still have the ratty old book as proof that my siblings and I used it well!). Now my four-year-old has the exact same, well-used Charlie Needs a Cloak on her shelf, and she loves it! Charlie is in desperate need of a new cloak as his sheep have nibbled at his current one for years. With a little work (okay, a lot) and some help from his sheep and the farm mouse (not!), Charlie makes a new cloak just in time for winter.

The Giving Tree
I’m sure this one comes as no big surprise. The Giving Tree frequents many best picture books lists. “Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.” This story holds such a sweet message of love, giving and what it takes to be truly happy. This is one I will read to my own children time and time again.

The Golly Sisters
Ah, The Golly Sisters. On the lighter side, The Golly Sisters is a great beginner chapter book for youngsters that will elicit a laugh. Two sisters, May-May and Rose, have quite the adventures as they journey west on a covered wagon, get lost, put on a show for dogs, and more. I can’t wait to read these to my own daughters.

Books My Kids Read Now

Tally’s Favorite as a Baby/Toddler: Caterpillar Spring – Butterfly Summer

My daughter loved this book so much as a baby that we made her first birthday cake in the shape of a sunflower (like on the last page of the book) complete with butterflies. Such a cute book!                  

Tally’s Favorite Now: Bear Wants More

Great pictures, fun rhyming text and a super cute story. "In his warm winter den...a bear wakes up very hungry and thin!" I enjoy this book so much, I wish I had written it! We also have Bear Feels Scared, and we love it. Can't wait to read the others in the series.

Savy’s Favorite: Gideon and Otto
Oh my goodness, my almost two-year-old daughter is the cutest thing to watch when reading this story. "Otto!" she cheers and throws her hands above her head. We love this book. Love!                                          

Other Favorites

Pajama Time
This book has a great bouncy rhyme to it that makes you want to do a little bedtime dance. Me and my kids (and my husband) often do! Shh, don't tell. Yes, we put on our own pj's and "march around the room in one big line." This is a great bedtime book for young kids (alright, and adults too).

What the Ladybug Heard

My daughter picked this up at the library, and we both love it! What a creative story with a catchy rhyme. These farm animals are anything but passive as they carry out a ladybug's plan to save the prize cow. My family is on night eight of reading this book as one of our bedtime stories; we might just be taking a trip to the store to buy this one for keeps!                  
What are your favorite children's books? Please comment. I'd love to know.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sports-Related Romances: A Rising Subgenre.

A recent article in a Romance Writers Report (Romance Writers of America) magazine about the rising subgenre of sports-related romances intrigued me. Probably because the hero in my completed YA contemporary is a rising college football star. So many books feature the 'dumb jock' archetype, and oftentimes the jock is the antagonist. I wanted to tell a different perspective.
So, what do you think? Is there a rising interest in these novels? And why? According to the RWR article by author Cassandra Carr, many publishers believe sports-related romances will rise in popularity. One such publisher mentioned is Entangled Publishing, an impressive publisher with a unique (read: awesome) business model.

So back to the why. What is it about athletic protagonists that intrigues us? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. I believe physical strength, confidence, a bold character and an ability to commit and work hard are all common characteristics that can't hurt.

The article suggests that because a star athlete often has many women after him, when he does finally settle down and commit, it's that much more satisfying for the reader.

In the case of my novel, Austin Dobbs makes a choice between true love and football that could prove to be the demise of his hard-earned dreams. A sacrifice is made. And I hope it makes the happy ending between Sienna and Austin that much more rewarding for the reader. He had a choice, and he chose love.

Alright, so I'll admit that I love athletic protagonists. My husband is one! (Was an athlete, that is, as he just now corrected me). I'll share an excerpt from my novel from a scene where Austin teaches Sienna to throw a football (taken from my experience with my husband teaching me how to swing a tennis racket while we were dating). Hot man putting his arms around you to show you how to swing. Mmm.

In this scene, Austin is tossing a football around with Sienna's little brother, Spencer...

“Catch?” Austin asks as I walk out.
I try to stand confidently as the ball zooms toward me. Despite my football skills—I don’t have any—I make a decent catch. Austin holds his hands up to catch a return toss.
“She’s even worse at throwing,” Spencer speaks up. “The fish out there catch more of her balls than I can.”
Austin looks at me. “Oh, yeah?”
“Spencer,” I whisper sharply.
I look to Austin and confirm it with a shrug. Austin closes the distance between us. I’m increasingly aware of him as he stands behind me and wraps his arms around mine. Oh, wow.
“I’ll teach you,” he whispers in my ear.
His hand cups the back of mine. I watch as he positions my pinkie and ring fingers over the threads and slides my thumb down. “Hold the ball with your fingertips.”
I glance at his face above my shoulder, his blue eyes, strong jaw, and thick lips. And suddenly, football is the last thing on my mind.
“Now, lift your arm.”
I clear my throat, concentrating. “Like this?”
“Mm-hm.” His nose brushes through my hair. I take several shallow breaths, my pulse flickering as he smells my hair. “Keep your eye on the target.”
I force myself to focus on Spencer. Since he’s staring at us like he would at a clogged toilet, I remind myself to make him promise not to speak a word of this to Mom.
“Now step into the throw. Put your whole body into it, not just your arm.” Austin practices the motion with me. “Then let the ball roll off your fingertips.”
His body guides my movements. After a few run-throughs of the motion, he tells me to let it fly, and I do. The ball rolls off my fingertips and soars through the air in a perfect spiral, landing in Spencer’s open hands.
“Wow! I’ve never thrown a ball like that. Thanks, Austin.”
“My pleasure," he says.
I blush.
Spencer clears his throat audibly. “I’m going to go play with friends now. Or maybe to the bathroom to puke.”

 Examples of sports-related novels:

Soccer book picture courtesy of ponsuwan via Freedigitalphotos.net 
Tennis picture courtesy of PinkBlue via Freedigitalphotos.net
All novels displayed can be found on goodreads.com or amazon.com

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ten Things to Avoid When Starting A Novel

It's time to begin a new novel. Exciting, isn't it? And terrifying. You're sitting in front of a blank word document with so many ideas in your head, you wonder how to put them all down to form a coherent--not to mention captivating--70,000+ word story. Or maybe the ideas aren't there and you're hoping they will come! Either way, your story must begin. At least that's where I am right now, and it has me thinking about beginnings. An effective beginning lures us in, sets the tone, and makes us want more.

So, in preparation to start my novel, I've complied Ten Things to Avoid in the Beginning, stuff I have learned from painful past writing and reading experience that I want to avoid:

  1. Trying Too Hard. Guilty! When I reread my first attempt at any first chapter, I laugh. Mainly because I was trying too hard. I have learned. Trying too hard includes using flashy words that inevitably draw away from the story (instead of adding to it as hoped). More description does not equal a more vivid start.
  2. Over-explanation. Trust your readers. They don’t need to know every minute detail of why something is happening, why your character is where they are, etc… Let your readers have brief tastes of the setting, deduct a character’s personality from their interactions with others, and gather what the consequences might be should your character fail. Don’t dump it on them! Which leads me to…
  3. Info or Backstory Dump. It’s all about pacing, isn’t it? Information overload or a backstory dump certainly won’t help. It may seem hard, but cut out these sections of backstory and incorporate them later in your book. Oftentimes, this only makes your story stronger.
  4. Characters we Don’t Relate to. Donald Maass suggests that we portray one weakness and one strength of our main character right off. Both within the first five pages. Do the test. Read your first five pages. Have you given us a reason to like your character while also leaving room for said character to improve/change? I’m amazed how many times I neglect to do this on my first drafts.
  5. Starting with the Mundane. A character wakes up, showers, pours his morning coffee. To me, this is a sign of neglect to infuse a story’s beginning with tension. Start in the action. That’s where your story truly begins.
  6. A Lack of Purpose. Send your character into any given scene with a goal; that is sound writing advice we have all heard. And it seems so simple, doesn’t it? Yet I still fail at times to incorporate or at least delineate this on my first drafts. Sending your main character on a mission from page one, and taking your readers along for the ride, is a necessary ingredient to a powerful beginning.
  7. Dialogue from Sentence One with NO Context. Alright, maybe there are exceptions to this. But I really struggle when I open a book to find a conversation in full swing. Who is speaking here and why should I care? we ask. Being thrown into dialogue can be a bit annoying with no context. It’s amazing what only a few lines can do to orient a reader before lunging into a conversation.
  8. Monologue Overhaul. Again, I’m guilty. Internal thoughts strewn across a manuscript, page after page, can really slow a story down. Pacing, pacing, pacing. Of course, no thought on the page can be annoying. But a character’s thoughts can come across in other ways than straight monologue. Dialogue and even a character’s actions, both large and small, can say a lot about what’s going on inside.
  9. Character Overload. It's a good idea to start with three or fewer characters on the first page or two. Maybe I’m dense, but too many characters introduced on page one can really turn me off. If too many names pop up, readers can become impatient. Or worse, confused enough that they have to go back and reread (which really kills pacing).
  10. At last of all, Cliches. Aren’t they embarrassing? I, for one, am always embarrassed to discover that something I’ve used has long since been classified as cliché. Let’s glance at a few cliché beginnings we know we don’t want use:
  •          An alarm clock goes off (or any waking-up sequence in general).
  •          Weather. On a dark and stormy night… Refrain!
  •          A room or family/friend tour. The character is sitting in their room, describing every detail through their thoughts as they look around. The same can be done with siblings, parents or friends.
  •          A phone rings. And, oh no, it's bad news!
  •          Looking in a Mirror. The character looks in the mirror and describes himself/herself.
  •          Driving to a new destination the character is unexcited about (which, believe it or not, is exactly how I started the first-ever novel I wrote that will stay under my bed forever).
Do you have any other tips to share? Please comment. And thanks for reading!

Image courtesy of Againstar from freedigitalphotos.net

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"Dying to Run" Blog Tour

I'm excited for my blog to be a part of Cami Checkett's book blast! Cami is the author of several novels  and she blogs at http://camicheckettsbooks.blogspot.com/. Learn a little about Cami and her books, and be sure to enter to win the amazing prizes below! Thanks, Cami!

Dead Running

Cassidy Christensen is running.
Running from the mercenaries who killed her parents.
Running from a scheming redhead intent on making her life miserable.
Running from painful memories that sabotage her dreams of happiness.

With two very tempting men competing for her attention, she hopes she'll finally have someone to run to, but can she trust either of them? When secrets from her past threaten her family, Cassidy decides to stop running and fight for her future.

Dying to Run

Cassidy Christensen wants to run.

Captured by the traffickers who killed her mother, her only hope is Dr. Tattoo, a man she loves but nobody trusts. When she finally gets a chance to run, someone else she cares about is taken. Running might be her only chance at survival, but she won’t allow another family member to be killed in her place.

This must-read sequel to Dead Running will have you laughing, biting your nails, and hoping for more.


Author Cami Checketts

Cami Checketts is married and the proud mother of four future WWF champions. Sometimes between being a human horse, cleaning up magic potions, and reading Bernstein Bears, she gets the chance to write fiction.

Cami graduated from Utah State University with a degree in Exercise Science. Cami teaches strength training classes at her local rec and shares healthy living tips on her fitness blog: http://fitnessformom.blogspot.com.

Cami and her family live in the beautiful Cache Valley of Northern Utah. During the two months of the year it isn't snowing, she enjoys swimming, biking, running, and water-skiing.


#BookBlast Giveaway

$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
$50 Gift Card to Running Chics
Ends 1/31/12
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareadernotawriter.blogspot.com and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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