Saturday, March 28, 2009


Spring Break beckons and I'm actually doing a break: I'm headed into the vastness where I will probably not have any Internet connection. I know. The thought truly boggles.

On the bright side, I get to spend the week with my very best friend and mentor and compadre in various nefarious crimes. (As she is some 45 years older than I am, I try to spend as much time as possible with her since Time is not on our side. Neither is the distance factor. But friendship IS, which is what counts, you know.)

Write on, friends. I'll be checking in with you all when I get back.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Compose a Couplet

If you waxed poetic with the Day in a Sentence fun, then you're in for a treat! Dogtrax is sponsoring a Day in a Couplet over at his site.

All you have to do is dice up your day into a skillet, sizzle over medium heat, and sprinkle some writerly mojo on it. Concoct a couplet. Post it. It's that simple!
See you there!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Check Out the New Team Blog!

Several writerly friends and I are launching a team blog on April 1st. Ahem. No, it's not meant to be a huge April Fool's Joke. Seriously!

[On the other hand, Anthony Pacheco: Hack Writer is also a member, so maybe... who knows, really!]

Do sneak in for a pre-launch peek -- we're just hanging out, introducing ourselves, and taking requests. Well, Anthony is :)

Official Story:
The Adventures in Creative Writing Blog is a place where aspiring writers can come for inspiration, resources, an inside look from the trenches, and success stories. Because it is a focused team endeavor, we will do our best to offer both the published and the aspiring writer something useful, something fun, something worth writing home about.
Well, not everything, but
collaboration is cool!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thought or Comment for RJ Anderson?

Aching to ask a question about faeries who have lost their powers? Wondering how your work can stand on its own, speaking a powerful message, without getting all preachy? Just wanna say, "hello and I wish you luck," because you're that kind of person? Well, here's your chance. If you have a thought or a comment for RJ Anderson or you just want to give her well wishes (or you just wanna rub the blarney stone, so to speak) give a shout out. Rumor has it that she just might stop by one day this week ;)

Faery Rebel: RJ Anderson Unveils the Writing Life

When I was a little girl, it didn't seem to me that writers were real people. Instead, they were otherworldly beings, touching down in our world just long enough to impart snippets of wisdom and adventure and magic. I wish I could say I've grown out of that world view, but, well, I'd be lying. And when you meet authors who reinforce such beautiful thoughts, how can you nay say them? Meet R.J. Anderson, author of Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, and you will see exactly what I mean.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? How long did it take to finally commit to the dream?

I started writing my own stories for fun when I was eight, but it wasn't until I was twelve that I really decided I wanted to sit down and write a novel that could actually be published one day. That first book didn't make it much beyond the third chapter or so, but over the next seven years I wrote probably about half a million words of fan fiction and original short stories. I completed my first fantasy/SF novel at nineteen, and it was awful. But writing it—and especially finishing it—was a big step forward for me.

What aspect of Spell Hunter are you the proudest of?

Just the fact that it exists and is actually going to be sold in bookstores is huge for me! But as far as the story itself goes, I think I'm most pleased with the way that certain themes and… I hesitate to say "morals" because that makes it sound preachy, so maybe "ideals" is a better word… came out naturally in the course of revising the manuscript. I didn't want to force anything in there, but on the other hand, I didn't just want to write an exciting story with no depth or substance to it, so it was a relief when I realized that there actually was more going on than just "tough faery action heroine kicks crow butt, saves world, details at eleven".

What do you feel is your best writing strength?

I used to think I knew the answer to that question, and now I really don't! But a number of editors have told me they think my prose style is really strong, flows well and has a literary quality to it. Which is good to hear, because I tend to obsess about the rhythm of every phrase, the way it looks to me on the page, and sometimes have to rewrite a paragraph five or ten times before I'm satisfied. So it's nice to know I'm not totally wasting my time there!

What writing quirk of yours makes your family nuts?

When I'm really focused on writing, I tune out everything around me. So I can have a whole conversation with somebody while I'm staring at the computer, and say "uh-huh" and "yes" and "no" in all the right places, but as soon as they leave the room, I've forgotten everything they just said. Which they find very annoying when they try to talk to me about the same thing later and I just go "Huh?"

Born in Uganda, raised in Ontario, schooled in New Jersey: How have your various environments influenced your writing?

I was too young when we left Uganda to remember any of it, but I grew up hearing about it from my brothers and my parents all my life. So in the book I'm currently working on, when I was trying to decide on a foreign country for my missionary-kid hero to be coming from, I naturally thought of Uganda. Since then I've been doing a lot of research, trying to appreciate the country from the perspective of someone who's grown up there, and the more I learn about it the more I think I'd really love to go there someday!

As for Ontario, I've lived in so many different cities around the province that I've got a really good sense of how each community is different, how each one has its own character and atmosphere and history, its own kinds of stories to tell. I think that's helped me with my world-building as a fantasy author, and also given me a wide range of settings to draw on for contemporary books.

I was only in New Jersey for a year attending Bible school, but while I was there I wrote the first draft of the book that eventually became FAERY REBELS: SPELL HUNTER. The school campus had beautiful wooded grounds that I used to walk around every day, with huge old trees, a big pond, and a river with a bridge over it… all of which inspired me for settings and incidents in Knife's story.

C.S. Lewis is one of your favorite authors. How do you feel he's influenced your writing? Your world view?

Hugely. As a child my father read the Narnia books out loud to me, and that sparked my lifelong love of fantasy. Reading Lewis's essays on writing, particularly "Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's To Be Said" and "On Three Ways of Writing for Children", helped me to understand something very important about writing for any audience – that you always have to let the story, the ideas and mental pictures that fire your imagination, come before anything else. You can't start with a message or a moral or even a "point" because if you do, the story will become glib and superficial; as Lewis wrote, "the only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author's mind." So when I write stories, I always start with the characters and their situation, and if anything of spiritual or philosophical significance develops naturally out of that, fine; but if it doesn't, well, I'm not going to force it in. Fiction and particularly fantasy can be wonderful for stimulating the imagination and getting the reader to think about the world in a new way, but it is a terrible medium for preaching sermons.

What advice do you have for authors seeking representation?

Firstly I always say: don't give up, no matter how many rejections you get or how frustratingly long the process takes. But at the same time, do take seriously any specific, constructive criticism you might receive, and try to learn from it. A comment like "This isn't the right manuscript for me" or "I'm afraid I'm going to have to pass on this one" isn't going to tell you anything and you'll only drive yourself crazy trying to interpret it. But if you keep getting letters from agents that say things like, "Your story has an interesting concept, but I felt the characters lacked depth," or "I liked the plot, but the heroine's attitude and actions in that situation seemed unrealistic to me," then maybe character is something you need to work on.

Another crucial thing to remember is NEVER BE RUDE TO AN AGENT. Never write back some snippy, defensive letter telling them how wrong they are or how sorry they'll be that they rejected you. In fact the only thing you should ever write back to an agent who's rejected your manuscript is, "Thank you for your time and consideration." That isn't sucking up, that's just good manners, and depending on the quality of your writing it might even inspire the agent to offer you some valuable advice or refer you to another agent who would be a better match for your work. That's how it happened for me!

Thank you, Rebecca! You've been awesome, and now I'm more excited than ever to get my hands on Spell Hunter!

I enjoyed doing this interview -- thank you for coming up with such great questions!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Rescued from the Shelf: A Certain Slant of Light

I have, like most of you, piles of books. There are so many books that we don't have enough shelves for them -- even though our house is full of shelves. We have boxes of books and stacks of books and piles of books. We hoard our pennies to buy more shelves, but we always end up with more books. Somehow. Oddly. As if the universe were conspiring against us.

There are never enough hours in the day (yes, I know: a topic for an entire week of posts, debating a myriad of sides), so, of course, I've only read a portion of the books I own even though I'm always reading. Not too long ago, however, I rescued A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb from the shelf and finally devoured it.

I had originally picked out the book because of -- you guessed it -- the title. Any reference to Emily Dickinson immediately piques my interest. Secondly, the picture was intriguing: a girl with long hair mostly submerged in a bathtub with only her hands showing.

The premise -- a ghost who falls in love with the only boy who can see her -- is not that of a love story or that of teenage angst or even that of being invisible, although these elements all permeate the text. Instead, it's a novel that explores both acceptance and forgiveness, more specifically the ability to accept and forgive oneself for past failures, mistakes, missteps.

My review in a nutshell: As an English major, I enjoyed the references to literary figures woven into the text. As a writer, I appreciated the nuances of emotion, both teenage and adult, deftly unveiled through character development. As a reader, I reveled in the plot less traveled. As a teacher of teens for the past ten years, I had to admit: I've seen far too many students in Billy's predicament, with home lives in turmoil and drug and alcohol abuse constant companions. I've seen none in Jenny's, however, none who live imprisoned in some gestapo-like "Christian" household. That was the one unrealistic part, the part that felt like Whitcomb abused as some authorial soap-box of sorts. It left a metallic taste in my mouth, even though I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the book. Even though I recommend it to you now.

The Connection:
A Certain Slant of Light perched on the chair next to my computer desk for a month or so before I happened to read on KatW's blog that she too was reading it. How funny that both of us picked up a book, published in 2005, and read it at the same time. I just love connections like that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Meet Knife, a Faery Rebel

And here is the promised excerpt from Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson. Her ability to combine vivid language with strong characters has sucked this reader into an exquisite world where faeries have lost their magic. Read, enjoy, salivate for the release date!

Although not released until April 28th, you can pre-order now from Amazon. (Don't forget: if you pre-order, you save money!)

(And friends in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, you can purchase now under the title Knife, though it has a different cover.)

Still clutching Paul's shirt, she gave one last kick--and felt herself shoot upward, shattering the pond's surface. She flung her head back and gulped air, then scissored her legs, propelling herself and the limp body in her grip toward the shore.

Her feet touched bottom almost at once. She stood up and dragged Paul through the shallows to the edge of the pool. His face was spattered with mud, eyes closed and mouth hanging open. Pulling him as far as she could up the shore, she wrenched him onto his side and began to pound his back. He lay motionless as she thumped him, and she feared that she had reached him too late. Then suddenly he coughed, and water gushed from his mouth.

She waited until he had stopped coughing before rolling him over again. His eyes remained closed, but when she laid a hand on his chest she could feel his breathing, ragged at first, but growing deeper. She slapped his cheeks. "Paul. Paul! Can you hear me?"

He did not respond. With her smallest finger she wiped the slime from his lashes, looking for some glimmer of consciousness beneath those lids. "Paul, please--"

His cheeks puffed out in a last, weak cough; he stirred, and opened his eyes.


Alarmed, Knife let go of him and leaped back. Only then did she realize what had made him cry out, and she stared at her filth-spattered hands in disbelief.

"You," croaked Paul. "You're--"

"I'm big," said Knife blankly.

EXCERPT from pgs. 138-139 of FAERY REBELS: SPELL HUNTER (c) R.J. Anderson 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Must-Read Author: R. J. Anderson

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, one and all -- and may the luck o' the Irish be with ye & yourn.

The luck is with me as well: In this latest follow-up to the infamous Hated Book Give-Away where I choose three new, up-and-coming writers to read and savor, I must say that R.J. Anderson has been a delight to work with. She is genuine to the bone, kind and clever and so down-to-earth. You are going to love her.

I will be posting an excerpt from her new book Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter tomorrow, so check back and see for yourself that this is a must-read book. Don't forget that you can pre-order from Amazon (title release date is April 28!)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bloggers: Be Well-Read; Enter the Dialogue

My favorite college professor would tell us, "Writing an literary analysis paper is, in essence, entering the existing dialogue on the topic. Pretend you're having some friends over for dinner. Just as you would listen to the various points of view sitting around your dining room table, and just as you would agree or dispute or at least consider, so do you need to read the published opinions of the subject you're analyzing. Respond to those in some fashion, and then -- most importantly -- add something. Don't just sit there, nodding your head."

Her advice has stuck with me through all these years: Be well-read; Enter the dialogue. It's occurred to me that this advice applies not only to writing literary analysis essays but also to many other writing endeavors, not the least of which is blogging.

Enter the Dialogue of the Blogosphere:

1. No man is an island: I'm sure Donne will excuse my usurpation since these words ring true in the blogging world as well. Find or create a community; seek out like-minded writers and read their blogs; leave comments. Link back to posts you agree with or disagree with or find interesting.

2. Build community: If you're a lurker -- one who reads blogs but leaves no comments -- now's the time to change. Leaving a comment, even if it's just one that says Hey, I was here, I read your post, I liked it allows others to 1) realize you exist, 2) appreciate your presence, and 3) follow you back to your own blog to read your posts. Make sure that your account is set to public and provides a link to your blog. Otherwise, no one can find you.

3. Enter the dialogue: The final part of the equation is making sure that you add to the dialogue. Create posts that enhance what has already been said by going deeper into a subject or by extending the subject wider. Or provide an alternate point of view. Or disagree entirely. But somehow comment on what's been said already (making sure to link to those bloggers' posts), then add to the conversation in some fashion.

Which brings me to your blogs: I gain so much from reading your thoughts. From musings, mis-adventures, and mini-articles to victories, vices, and vanities, they all settle into my being, marinate, and filter through my subconscious in a half dozen delightful ways. Without that vital food for thought, where would I be? No doubt, stuck in the vast ocean and paddling with only one oar.

So how do you connect? In what ways do you enter the dialogue? There are so many blogs to read: how do you find the time to read, leave a comment, and then respond in some fashion?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day in a Sentence

It's here, folks! The weekly Day in a Sentence, brain-child of Kevin of the Meandering Mind (better known as Dogtrax), has officially arrived at the Alex Moore blog. Last week, Dogtrax held the event at the Stixy site and you can view it here. Many thanks to the man of vision and inspiration for graciously tagging me to host for a week.

If you've never participated in the event, all you do is boil down your day or week into one pithy comment, rich with imagery, pulsing with your own brand of energy, and leave it in the comment section.

Although I thought about challenging everyone to a haiku as a nod to literary agent Colleen Lindsay's recent Query Haiku Event, I decided to stick with simple yet elegant. Less angst over syllables, more spark over daily life.

So, here's the challenge: infuse your sentence with a metaphor or simile that captures the essence of your day or week.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Query Land: An Oldie But Goodie

As I'm currently in the querying mode again, I was thinking of Cindy Pon's 121 queries sent out into Query Land. That reminded me of a post I did last summer sometime that dealt with precisely this topic. I went back and re-read it -- and realized that I need to take my own advice. Again.

I'm re-posting it for your reading pleasure. Please tell me what you're currently going through, agent-wise, or what has worked for you in the past.

August 15, 2008
OK: I'm guilty of it myself. I've toiled hours over my query letter. I've perfected it. I've tweaked it. I've buffed it. In fact, my query letter is a work of art, right up there with coffee ice cream.

And then I've sat on it. For six months.

Next step? GUILT. If I'm not out there beating the bushes for an agent, then how will Ceilyn see the light of day? I'm certainly not going to be hit over the head and dragged off by the hair to some publishing cave. So I decide to send out the query letter.

Retrieving the somewhat squished and wrinkled pages is the easy part. Determining the agent is pretty simple, too. Head held high, I mail off my one query letter. I'm still awaiting the results.

So -- if you were wondering -- this is the wrong way to do it. If you've taken even one class in statistics, you'll know why. Elizabeth Lyon, author of The Sell Your Novel Toolkit, pleads with us writers to do it the right way, the kinder, gentler, smarter way, the Lyon way.

The Lyon Way:

1. After you've perfected your query letter, send it out to ten agents.

2. Keep track of how many agents request your manuscript. A successful query letter nets 30%, or three out of ten requests.

3. If "successful," send out individualized letters to scores more agents. Increase your odds.

4a. If your query nets you zero, then your query letter is a failure.

4b. This is the good news: you haven't been rejected; just your query letter.

5. Re-write your query letter. Repeat steps 1-5.

If you have successful query letter stories or even "don't do what I did" stories, please share them! Are there better methods out there? Must-read books on the subject?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Chain Reaction: Next Book Give-Away

Haven't won a book yet? Hoping your luck will change? Well, here's your chance. Head over to Dogtrax's blog and enter your sweet little self into his Book Give-Away. Recipient of the Artemis Fowl book I gave away, Dogtrax has risen to the challenge of hosting his own give-away AND upped the ante to five books. Woot!

I am, however, totally blaming him for the Red Hot Chili Peppers' song tumbling through my head right now. over and over. and again.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Proving Connections Exist

Exhibit #1: Nathan Bransford, agent extraordinaire and classy gentleman (he seriously did not participate in the Agents of Twitterville's #queryfail yesterday, which was a hilarious but humiliating romp for the said query writers), has risen to the challenge of penning a positive week's worth of blogs posts. Yesterday he wrote The Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer, which is a thoroughly pithy & enjoyable read. I loved commandment eight, however, that instructs writers to "park your jealousy at the door." That topic, in itself, is worthy of an entire series of posts, but it's not where I'm headed today.

Exhibit #2: Anthony Pacheco, Hack Writer, the one of the sly wit and diabolical humor who deftly amuses and informs the blogosphere, is also a classy gentleman. Case in point: He writes, and I quote, "You will not find any negative (non-recommendation) book reviews here. That would, as unpublished writer, be a mistake and also a bit arrogant on my part, eh?" (This is, of course, not a snarky comment regarding my Hated Book Give-Away project whatsoever.) Pacheco seems to make it standard procedure to uplift and promote others whom he admires. There is no jealousy, no angst, no toddler temper tantrums from the Hack. Just happy kudos. And, that is an admirable practice.

Exhibit #3: On Wednesday, Pacheco blogs in his usual punchy manner about running across Gary Corby, fellow writer who has a book coming out next fall. Then he tweets about it, sending me and others to flood his blog post and Corby's website, in that order. Corby has an phenomonal landing-an-agent story that you simpy cannot miss. I laughed my way through it, then read the entire thing over again to the hubby. It was that good. You've got to read it for yourself. (And, congrats to Corby on all accounts! I'm looking forward to the book's release!)

Exhibit #4: Friday morning eases in, snow blanketing the world once more, and I'm still thinking about Gary Corby. I go back to his site, read his latest post about Aristophanes, and enjoy that as well. Then I start thinking about the connections -- fine, dewy spiderwebs spun of thought and word -- that invisibly touch our lives, then spring out into the world, brushing past others, looping us all together in a delicate and sometimes fragile cadre of writerly folk. And that makes me smile, which in turn makes me a happy writer.

Exhibit #5: You. What are the connections you've experienced? How do you know you're connected -- and what do you do to maintain or improve your connections? Or is it all in my head, something I've created in order to prolong my faith in humanity? You tell me :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Five Book Buying Secrets Revealed

What makes you pick up a book? Out of all the spines lining a shelf, what draws you to one over another?

Tell me you never do this: browsing through towers of books, whether in a bookstore or a library, a cover catches your eye. It's intriguing. Captivating. Maybe even inspirational. You know it houses a rollicking adventure with a kick-butt heroine. You can feel it. Your palms itch. You judge the book by its cover, glance around surreptitiously, then slip it into your stack of planned purchases. You buy it.

Actually, I'm kinda hoping you do buy books that way. Then I'd feel comforted in the knowledge that I keep dang fine company. Because, honestly, judging a book by its cover is one of the main ways I buy books.

Buying Books: People buy books for many reasons. I'm aware of that. But book lovers, people like you and me, who can't get enough of the written word, who breathe deep in the dank mustiness of used book stores, who caress the frayed edges of an old hardcover book, we buy books for different reasons. For sensual reasons. For possessive reasons. For lustful reasons.

I buy books...

1. because of the cover art: you can't judge a book by its cover, but you can sure be enticed by it. This is so unfortunate for authors, because they often have little say over the cover art.

2. because of the title: if the title is a catchy one, I'll pick up the book and read the back. Titles may not convince me to purchase a book, but they help me choose the ones to peruse more closely.

3. because the author is compared to one I already know and love: ever see those nifty little lists librarians put together? If you like XYZ, you'll love 123. I don't always trust these lists, but I definitely give them a glance over.

4. because of a friend's recommendation: For example, D. M. McReynolds just suggested that I pick up Dragon in Chains by Daniel Fox. That book totally went to the top of my radar because of his recommendation, and I'll be hunting it down soon via library or Amazon.

5. because of the buzz: I'm not even really sure why I typed this last one. I suppose it's because I'll occasionally look at a best-seller list or listen in on what's hot or glance at a publicity poster or read a book review. But not all that often, really. To be frank, I'm not that interested in what others have to say about a particular book. And if a book takes the world by storm, I usually don't read it. So, I haven't read The Da Vinci Code or any of the Harry Potter books or The Notebook. (Eeek -- I know, sacrilege!)

How about you? Why do you buy books? And what makes you initially pick up a book? follow through and purchase it?

Monday, March 2, 2009

And the Winner is...

One of the most delightful oddities of life is that magic happens when you least expect it.

It all started when I decided to throw joy out into the universe with no expectation of anything in return. I had read three decidedly crappy novels, felt my feathers ruffled with the precious time spent between those pages, and decided to make the entire farce into a game. I held a contest, mailed those books out to the (un)lucky winners, and started searching for three new replacement authors to grace my shelves, to introduce to my blog readers, to take into my classroom.

What I found was Cindy Pon. And new blog friends. And the synergy crafted from the writerly electrons tossed into the blogosphere by all you who entered. What a magical weekend -- and I'm still visiting your blogs and still getting to know all of you -- and I'm thoroughly enjoying the experience.

Thank you for celebrating Cindy Pon (her up-coming book, the Silver Phoenix, and all of her adventures in Chinese paint brush, feasting, and travels) with me and for giving her such a warm welcome.

And finally, the part you've all been waiting for, the part where the winner of Pon's ARC is announced. Well, actually, Cindy already announced it. I'm just re-announcing here because it's so much fun! Choosing at random, Cindy drew the name out of the proverbial hat this morning. Without further ado, I present you Llehn.

Llehn: please contact me so that I can send you your book!

Oh, and about that magic? Try your hand at tossing joy into the universe. It has a way of splashing the hand that tosses it.