24 April 2012

Confidence and Creativity

It's amazing what you can accomplish when you forget to remember that you can't do it. 

Luckily, I have lots of friends and family members who forget about my limitations on a regular basis, and I've discovered many hidden talents as I've worked to accomplish the things that my loved ones simply assume I already know how to do.

Need a custom-made hat in the shape of a U2 spy plane? 

Someone to fix your leaking toilet or install a new ceiling fan in your bedroom? 

Your favorite earrings broke and you need someone to fix them for you? 

Your daughter has egg allergies.  She feels left out at Christmas time when all of her friends are decorating sugar cookies, and you wish someone would invent an eggless sugar cookie recipe? 

School starts in two days, and you just found out that the dividers for the stalls in the newly remodeled pre-K bathroom won't be in until next week.  You need a temporary solution in place by tomorrow?

No problem.  "I bet Veronica can do that for us.  She's good at figuring things out."

Sometimes, it's a little overwhelming, the way everyone simply assumes that I already know how to fix whatever problem they're facing.  And I've thrown my share of temper tantrums as I stomp around, complaining to anyone who will listen, about the mile-long list of tasks I have on my over-full plate.  Because, really, my time is valuable, after all.  I can't really afford to take time to do all of these things!

And yet, I'm grateful for the challenges.  I've learned so many valuable skills - things I never would have even attempted, if someone hadn't simply assumed that I already knew how to do it.

What super secret skills are you hiding from yourself?

19 April 2012

Book Review: SPECTRAL

SPECTRAL by Shannon Duffy is amazing!!! It totally deserves 5 stars!!!! (If I gave out stars for my reviews, which, you know, I don't...)

Honestly, I read this book as a favor for a friend (the amazing Brenda Drake - if you haven't been reading her blog, you should!) and I was a little bit hesitant when I picked it up. I usually read YA contemporary novels, and I haven't been too impressed with the paranormal trend in YA lit. (I wasn't a huge fan of the TWILIGHT saga, and I'm probably the only person in the world who doesn't have any desire to read HARRY POTTER), so I wasn't sure if this book was for me. I began to read with a healthy dose of skepticism, determined simply to find a few good things to say about a book I was sure I wouldn't love.

But by the middle of the first chapter, I was hooked. I put my daughter on dinner duty and decided laundry could wait until I finished reading. This book was simply too good to put down! I've never been so happy to be so wrong!

Growing up in the witness protection program, Jewel has always lived on the fringes. Close friends are out of the question, as she never knows how soon she'll be moving again. But when she moves to Pomona Park, Florida, things start looking up. Not only does she find a true and fast friend in cute, bubbly Taylor, but she is immediately drawn to ultra-hot, super-sweet jock, Chase, who seems to really like her too. Jewel finally feels like a normal teenager.

But Jewel can't stop thinking about Roman, the super sexy bad boy, who may have all the answers she's been looking for, and the key to saving her life - if she can really trust that he isn't the enemy!

Take the magic and drama of the Twilight saga, weave in the romance of star-crossed lovers like Romeo and Juliet and sprinkle on a healthy dose of "Who do you think you are?" to get a book that will keep you turning pages until the very end!

I fell in love with Chase the first time Jewel saw him outside the ice cream parlor, and I rooted for him to win her heart... but Roman was a seriously yummy distraction. What if he was really THE ONE? As Jewel struggles to discover the secrets of her family and who she really is, each boy plays a crucial role.

Forget the whole Team Edward / Team Jacob debate. Are you Team Roman or Team Chase?

18 April 2012

What Inspires You?

Sometimes, I can be pretty fearless. I don't even think twice when it comes to putting on a silly costume and even posting pictures online for the whole world to see. I've gone cliff diving and swimming in the ocean. I've even told my kids the stories of my life's most embarrassing moments. But as you know, when it comes to my writing, I have a tendency to channel George McFly, from Back to the Future.

*I had a clip here of George McFly, explaining why he never lets anyone read his stories, because he fears rejection... but I couldn't figure out how to get it to play without tons of advertisements popping up, & if it annoys me, I'm betting it annoys you too, so I deleted it.*

I write my stories... then I send them to my critique partners and revise and repeat. But when it comes to sending my completed manuscripts out to the professionals - agents and editors who have the power to reject me - I can't help wondering: "What if they don't like them? What if they tell me I'm no good?"

Sometimes, that fear is strong enough to make me want to put down my story pencils, close my notebooks and find a less terrifying job - something like snake wrangling or shark documentarian. At times like this, I have to find ways to keep myself moving forward.

I have a few silly tricks that I fall back on when I need a confidence boost. First, I go back and read the twitter feed of @GoslingLitAgent. His corny, cliched romantic comedy-type encouragement makes me smile and gives me the shot of confidence I need to write my next query letter.

I did a happy dance around my room when he responded to one of my tweets - mentioning me by name!! - back in February. (I took a screen shot and made it into my desktop image on my laptop!)

I don't know who is really behind this account, and although I sometimes entertain myself with playing the guessing game, I honestly don't want to know who @GoslingLitAgent is in real life. The power here is in not knowing. I can read his tweets and tell myself: There is an agent out there who will feel this passionate about my book. She/He is out there somewhere, waiting for my query to arrive, and I can't give up until I find that agent.

Next, I play some encouraging music. Nick Jonas' rendition of Michael Buble's hit "Haven't Met You Yet" (as seen on the NBC TV show "Smash") makes me feel all giddy and excited about my mystery agent.

Ironically, I've loved this song for years, but it wasn't until I heard Nick Jonas sing it on "Smash" that I heard the lyrics as a reflection of my search for the perfect literary agent. Maybe it's because the TV show is about a group of artists struggling to find a voice... Or maybe it's because it was another song by Nick Jonas that inspired me several years ago to sharpen my very first story pencil and start writing. Either way, I often play this song on repeat, listening to it for hours while I work through a tricky revision or gather the nerve to send out a query letter.

Two weeks ago, I added another song to my routine: "One Thing" by One Direction. Because someday, I'll find the agent who reads my manuscript and says "You've got that one thing!"

If that doesn't work, I go back to read the personalized, encouraging rejection letters I've received so far. And I remember the horribly devastating rejection I received after the first contest I entered. Realizing that I've received praise and condemnation for the same story gives me hope. When agents and editors say that this business is highly subjective, they aren't kidding! I can't give up simply because I haven't met my manuscript's soul mate yet!

So what are the silly tricks you employ to keep your courage up? What inspires you to face your greatest fear? When all else fails, surround yourself with good friends who tell you you're amazing :)

p.s. Sorry about the commercials in the videos. If anyone knows how to take the advertisements off (without bending any rules or anything), I'd love to know!

15 April 2012


The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

When Janie Scott’s Hollywood scriptwriter parents fall under scrutiny during the McCarthy trials of the early 1950’s, the family moves from Hollywood to London to escape persecution from the U.S. federal marshalls.  Janie feels awkward and out-of-place until she meets Benjamin, the son of the local apothecary, who dreams of becoming a spy.  When the apothecary suddenly disappears, Benjamin’s spy games start to feel too real.  Janie and Benjamin must discover the truth and find a way to rescue his father, using the information they find in the ancient book the apothecary asked them to keep safe.  They discover that magic and science are closely related, allies might be found in the least likely of places, and sometimes taking the impossible path is the only option. 

Carefully weaving elements of mystery and intrigue, magic and fantasy into the tapestry of a very real historical setting, Meloy tells a captivating story about having the courage to do the right thing, even when it seems impossible. 

The first few chapters were a little slow as Meloy set the stage for the story, but by the end of chapter six, I couldn’t put the book down.  If you enjoy historical fiction with a twist of magic, this book is for you.

11 April 2012

I'm Amity - What Faction are You?

#teamAmity ftw
I love a book that makes me think.  One that asks questions that make me ponder long after I’ve finished the last chapter.  A book that makes me wonder: what would I choose? Who do I want to be? DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth is one of those books.
I have to admit, I was hesitant to pick it up.  I loved HUNGER GAMES by Susanne Collins, I devoured MATCHED by Ally Condie, and I enjoyed UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld… but as my close friends and family can tell you, I’m the kind of gal who likes to focus on the rainbows and bubbles of life.  I can only handle so much dystopia before I go screaming for something bubbly and pretty!

For months, I passed DIVERGENT on the shelves of my local bookstore and the library.  I was tempted to pick it up, simply because anything written by someone named Veronica already has a giant plus going for it (right?)… but I didn’t want to immerse myself in yet another “look at how horrible society will be in the not-so-distant future” series.  So I left it on the shelf.  I didn’t even pick it up to skim the first page.

Until, a couple weeks ago, I started seeing people tweeting about the upcoming sequel, INSURGENT.  People were choosing their “factions” and joining teams, and I wondered what the hype was all about.  So just for kicks and giggles, I did a google search to figure out what all of these “factions” were.

In Roth’s dystopian world, society has divided into 5 factions, each determined to make the world a better place by embracing one specific value.  Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent).  I immediately knew that I would choose Amity.  From the Amity Faction News blog, I found this definition.  The Amity faction values peace and friendship. Artistic, creative, and musical, this faction focuses on peacekeeping, harmony, and farming.”  Other than the fact that I can kill a plant just by looking at it (serious black thumb) and would never survive as a farmer, this defines me.  So I declared myself a part of Team Amity and joined the hype for the upcoming release of INSURGENT, promising to write a blog post all about why I chose the Amity faction.

But wait!  I still hadn’t read DIVERGENT! I realized that, even though I wasn’t trying to join the Candor faction, I wasn’t comfortable with promoting a book (or series) I honestly knew nothing about.  So I scoured my local library… but every copy was checked out, and the waiting list was long.  I could go buy the book, but did I really want another dystopian novel on my library shelves?  I decided I’d rather wait a few days to see if I could find a copy.

Finally, this weekend, I got a notice in my email that the library had a copy of DIVERGENT on hold for me.  I picked it up and read the first five chapters.  But when I set it down for a second, my daughter immediately picked it up and didn’t want to give it back. I had to buy a copy so that we could read it at the same time!

As I followed Tris on her journey of self-discovery, I found myself questioning my faction choice. Would I have been happier in Candor? Erudite? Dauntless? Abnegation? I don’t think I’m the only initiate to wonder if I chose the right faction for me.  I watched Tris and her friends go through similar struggles as they tried to make sense of this new phase in their lives….

But I’m happy to report that, at the end of the day, I’m proud to be a part of the Amity faction. It’s truly where I belong. And besides, Four thinks I’m beautiful J

(If you don't know what that all means, go read the book! I promise you'll love it!)

08 April 2012

What Easter Means to Me

Easter is one of my favorite holidays.  I love the flowers and the cute stuffed bunnies, and chocolate eggs, of course, but that's not what makes this day so special.  Because this day is about so much more than bunnies and baskets, chocolate and candy...

I wanted to write an eloquent and inspiring message about what Easter means to me, but the atoning sacrifice of Christ is so awe-inspiring, I find it difficult to put my feelings into words.  Instead, I thought I'd share with you one of my favorite Easter messages from Jeffrey R. Holland, an Apostle of Jesus Christ and one of the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon church).

This is what Easter means to me.