Monday, March 31, 2008

BIAM Challenge Starting Tomorrow

I'm doing TWO Book in a Month Challenges for April—one with and the other with Tristi's Challenges. (Don't get excited. I'm using the same word counts for both challenges.)

The purpose of these BIAMs is to write as much and as fast as you can on your Work-In-Progress (WIP). You don't do much editing. You're just trying to get the first draft down.

I'll be working on a middle grade fantasy about a girl and a unicorn. I have a pretty clear outline to work with—although sometimes these characters develop a mind of their own and just take off without you.

My "stated" goal is 1,000 words per day, but I'm hoping to hit closer to 2,500 words. (I just hate failing, so I'm officially going conservative.) I'll be writing M, T, Th, F & S. I'll track my word count over in the sidebar and post an update here every once in awhile.

Megan is doing the BIAM at with me. Or rather, I'm doing it with her. She wanted to do a Creative Writing internship for her last term of high school. They didn't have one, so she had to make it up. This BIAM is a big part of it because they want her to interact with other authors.

Both of these BIAMs are still open for participants. I'd love to have you JOIN US. The BIAM at is set up in a forum format and we're going on a virtual author tour, "visiting" 26 popular authors in three countries. To join this one, register here. Then go here and PM me with your user name and I'll get you added to the group.

To join Tristi's Challenge, go here and post a comment.

Fool Me Twice by Stephanie Black

That Stephanie Black is one twisted sister! Fool Me Twice is her second novel published by Covenant. I loved her first one, The Believer, but I love, love, love this one! I cannot believe the twists and turns in this book.

From the back cover:

When it comes to pleasing her twin sister, Megan O’Connor is an easy touch. She’ll do just about anything to gain Kristen’s approval, including trading places with her. After all, Kristen’s plan promises to get Megan out of a dead-end job and make them both rich. It will be a nice reward for a little genealogical investigation--something that couldn’t have happened without the help of Kristen’s new LDS acquaintances. And who could blame the twins for using a tiny bit of deceit to manipulate an inheritance out of someone as demanding as their estranged aunt Evelyn?

All Megan has to do is pretend to be Kristen, move into Evelyn’s house, and take care of the wealthy old woman until her failing health kills her. It shouldn’t take too long. It shouldn’t be too difficult. Megan’s the nice one. Except for the lie, the task is a natural fit. Everything would be perfect if she could just ignore the guilt--a feeling that only grows stronger as she spends more time with the new friends Kristen arranged for her.

But soon Megan discovers there is more to worry about. She’s living in a house of illusions where she isn’t the only one playing a part. Someone has developed a new plotline that ends with a death scene--and in this version, the victim won’t die of natural causes.

Beneath the surface of the sleepy New England town of Britteridge, deceit weaves a deadly web where turnabout is anything but fair play.

This is an LDS suspense thriller. There are some religious elements to it but no one gets baptized in the end. I found that very believable. It's not preachy and Stephanie doesn't beat us over the head with the Book of Mormon stick. If you're not LDS, I think you'd still enjoy the story and not be offended by the LDS references.

There are also some romantic overtones, but I loved the restraint Stephanie showed. The end of the book is the beginning of a relationship; Megan and Trevor do not declare their undying love for each other and rush off to the temple after only knowing each other for a couple of weeks. Kudos for that.

This book was very well written. The action was clear throughout the book. Sometimes in books like this, you can get lost in the fast action at the end, where the hero/heroine is about to bite it but is victorious in the end. The wrap up here was fast, but I could picture every step of it it clearly in my mind.

The twists and turns kept me guessing throughout—who's the bad guy and how bad are they, really? Even when we know who the creeps are (and one of them is extremely demented), it was minute to minute wondering how Megan was going to get out of it alive. I found it all incredibly believable.

This book gets 5 out of 5 from me and I've already nominated it for a Whitney Award!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Final Prizes for Winter Reading Challenge

Have you ever written a blog, hit "Post", then went on your merry way, only to come back two days later and discover you must've hit "Save" instead? I'm not saying I did that with this post, because that would just make me look like a ditz. So.

I have two final prizes for the Winter Reading Challenge.

The first prize is Invasive Procedures by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston. This is the "grand prize" and goes to Maria who was randomly selected from the Wrap-Up Mr. Linky list of readers who fully participated in the challenge—signing up the first week, posting at least one review, and then posting a wrap-up.

Congrats, Maria. Send me your mailing address and I'll get it right out to you.

The second prize is Tathea* by Anne Perry, and it's still up for grabs. Anyone who signed up on the original Mr. Linky and leaves a comment on this post will be entered to win this book. I'll leave the comments open for 3 days, then do another random drawing for the winner.

Leave your comment by 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2.

*The copy I have has a dark red cover.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

How do you know you're you?

OH HAI i has been catching sum rayz!

As any visitor to this blog knows, I've been severely off-kilter for several long months now. However, I'm getting my feet back under me and feeling more like myself.

I was thinking about that this morning and wondering, what exactly it is that lets me know that I'm getting back to myself. What are the clues that I'm becoming more "me"?

I used to think it was if I showered and dressed each day, or made my bed, did some housework, remembered to cook dinner, . . . but those are not a true indicators because I can spend 48 hours in the same pair of p.j.s when I'm madly working on a project I'm excited about! And housework, dinner? I've always got a reason to put that off for later.

After a full 5 minutes of very deep thought, I came up with the following things that let me know I'm back on my way to a healthy me:
  • I not only take my medicine every day, I also take various vitamins and herbal supplements. With a smile. Because I want to. And I also want to go for walks. (Took the grandbabies out for a stroll yesterday in the double-stroller Cadillac I found at D.I. for $15. It took me 20 minutes to go around the block, which is normally an 8 minute walk for me, but I'm still recovering. I'm proud.)

  • I wake in the morning remembering having dreamed. Last Wednesday I dreamed that Spike, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was helping me do my Christmas shopping. (When I told Megan, she asked, "Was it regular Spike or chipped Spike?" totally missing the point that I HAD DREAMED!) I've dreamed every night since then.

  • I have more business plans and/or novel ideas running around in my head than I could ever complete in several lifetimes. I have to jump out of the shower once or twice a week to jot down an idea. Tuesday, it was Dharma and Greg set just before King Noah comes to power; today it was a new publishing company.

  • Car dancing. Obvious enough to make passing traffic slow down and stare. I car danced all the way to Friday's LDStorymakers Conference. (Ask Megan. She can confirm.)

  • Computer dancing. I get a song stuck in my head and dance while I'm typing. It looks really goofy but it seems to help me type better.

So. . . how do you know you're you? What quirky little things do you do that let you know you are feeling uniquely yourself?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring Reading Thing 2008—My List

The Spring Reading Thing 2008 started on March 20th. I started reading then, but I'm just now getting my full list posted. Katrina and I do alternate challenges. She does Spring and Fall; I do Summer and Winter. I hope all who participated (or thought about participating) in my Winter Challenge will go over to Callapidder Days and sign up to do this Spring Challenge as well. (Katrina's prizes are great!)

I love these reading challenges. They get my blood going. There's just something about committing to reading a pile of books that MAKES ME DO IT.

[Click on the book titles to read my reviews]

Here's my fiction list (in no particular order):
  1. Fool Me Twice by Stephanie Black (Rating: 5!)

  2. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George (Rating: 5!)

  3. The 13th Reality by James Dashner (Rating: 5!)

  4. Red Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham (Rating: 3.75)

  5. Season of Sacrifice by Tristi Pinkston (Rating: 4)

  6. Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull (Rating: 4)

  7. Rules of Engagement by Stephanie Fowers (Rating: 4)

  8. Professor Winsnicker's Book of Proper Etiquette for Well-Mannered Sycophants by Obert Skye (Rating: 3.75)

  9. The Host by Stephenie Meyer (Rating: 5!)

  10. Heaven Scent by Rebecca Talley (Rating: 3.75; read but won't post a review until June 27th, as part of her virtual book tour)

  11. FarWorld: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage (Rating: 4; read but won't post a review until June 27th, as part of her virtual book tour)

Here's my non-fiction list (chosen because I totally need help in these areas!):
  1. How to Have More than Enough by Dave Ramsey

  2. Women and Money by Suzie Orman

  3. Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald G. May

  4. Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley

  5. Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern

  6. Forged in the Refiner's Fire by Candace E. Salima and Elizabeth A. Cheever (Rating: 3.75)

I'm sure I'll add to these lists. I always do. But this should get me started. Now, where'd I put that book I was reading yesterday. . .

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Winter Reading Wrap-Up

Time for my Winter Reading Challenge Wrap-Up. I ended up reading 26 books. (See list here.) Unfortunately, I did a horrible job of reviewing them. I might try to go back and review a few of my favorites, if I get time. But I'm on to the Spring Challenge and it might just be best to stay on top of that one. (Sorry.)

Which book I liked best: Tough question because there were several books on my list that scored a 4 (which is pretty good for me). There were 4 books that scored a 4.5 and so I'll list them here in order of preference:

Armegeddon's Children by Terry Brooks

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull

Desire of Our Hearts by Sariah S. Wilson

You'll notice that three are speculative. If left to myself, that's probably the only genre I'd ever read. But I've been trying to stretch, especially in the area of LDS fiction. One shocker for those who know me well—Desire of Our Hearts is technically a romance. All I can say is, it was good and the girl was tough; very little sighing and heart palpitations. :)

Which I liked least: There were three books on my list that only scored a 2. One was just too romancy; the other two I couldn't get into.

New authors I tried: I tried quite a few new authors due to my reading for the Whitney Awards. This is the list of new authors who I plan to read more of (** means I am drooling for their next book).
What (if anything) did I learn from participating in this challenge: I learned that while I read more when I'm sick, it's really hard to write up reviews. Also, this reinforced once again how much I love to read and that I read more when I've got a challenge for an incentive.

Therefore, I am immediately starting Katrina's Spring Reading Challenge. I will post my list tomorrow. (Hope all of you will join me for that.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

LDStorymakers Conference & Whitney Awards

I spent this past Friday and Saturday at the LDStorymakers Conference. It was wonderful. I had gone to one day a couple of years ago and very much enjoyed it. I'm so glad my body cooperated and let me attend all of this one. (I only had to sneak off for a rest a couple of times.)

Annette and Heather were the queens and organizers of the conference. They did a great job. Rob was in charge of the Whitney Gala which was absolutely wonderful. Thank you to all of the workshop leaders and others who worked so hard to make this a great event for all of us.

I got to meet a few bloggy friends who I've never met in person (Stephanie & Janet), and say a quick hi to a few other friends and associates who I mostly know from our online association (Ali, Anne, Brillig, Candace, Karen, Keith, Kerry, Heather J., Jeff, Julie B., Julie W., Josi, Marcia, Rebecca, Shirley, Stephanie, Tristi, Wendy—I know I'm forgetting some of you, sorry!).

I also got to hang out with my dear friend Cindy Bezas who lives so far away in Florida. Didn't get to spend nearly enough time with her.

Me & Cindy (author of Powerful Tips for Powerful Teachers)

Meg and I played groupies and had our photos taken with a couple of authors. That was fun.

Megan with Julie Wright
(author of My Not So Fairy Tale Life, etc.)

Megan with Rachel Nunes
(author of The Independence Club and Fields of Home, etc.)

Karlene and Rebecca Shelley (aka R.D. Henham)
(author of Red Dragon Codex)

Megan and Stephanie Fowers
(author of Meet Your Match, etc.)

And Tristi Bunny
(author of Season of Sacrifice, etc.)

The Whitney Awards Gala was also wonderful. Here are the winners with my commentary. (You can see my guesses here):

Best Novel of the Year: On the Road to Heaven by Coke Newell
This one surprised me. Not because it wasn't a good book but because I really didn't think a more literary type novel by a small press would win. Glad I was wrong on that one. I had picked Dragon Slippers because, all things being even, I am a fantasy junkie and will always choose the fantasy story, but I quite liked this book too.

Best Novel by a New Author: Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
Yes! I'm so glad she won this. (See note above about being a fantasy junkie.) Jessica Day George spoke at the conference and she is just hilarious. (See 5th photo down.) Meg and I tried to stalk her for a photo but the crowd around her was just too big. I am now a Jessica groupie. I bought her newest book, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, at the conference and will buy the sequel to Dragon Slippers as soon as it comes out later this year.

Best Romance/Women's Fiction: Counting Stars by Michele Paige Holmes
Yes! Right again. I, a confessed romance hater, loved this book. I bought a copy when it first came out and gave it to a friend for her birthday. She let me borrow it to read (my review). I had to buy my own copy at the conference—and yes, Michele signed it for me.

Best Mystery/Suspense: Sheep's_Clothing by Josi Kilpack
I'm so glad Josi won. This category was the hardest for me to pick. Sheep's_Clothing and Hazardous Duty were neck and neck for me. I finally picked Hazardous Duty just because it had more action and was more fast-paced. But I am just as equally happy that Josi won. Yea, Josi!

Best Young Adult/Children: Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull
Yes! I really liked this book. My second fav in this category was Janette Rallison's, How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend. I liked these two books equally well. It was hard to pick because they are so different—one a fantasy, one a humorous teen romance. But once again, the fantasy addiction reared it's head, so...

Best Speculative Fiction: Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
This was not my personal favorite (sorry, dragons always win with me, hands down). But I do like Shannon Hale and I was not disappointed too badly when she won this award. I loved the book—and she's hysterically funny. I thought this was the best book she's written. I liked it even better than Goose Girl.

Best Historical: Out of Jerusalem #4: Land of Inheritance by H.B. Moore
Although I picked a different book to win, the book I chose was not really a true historical—that was just the best category for it to go in. This book, however, is a true historical epic spread over four volumes. Heather uses very descriptive writing. She definitely paints a scene and makes you feel like you're really there. I like Heather and I'm glad she won.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Whitney Awards Announced Tonight!

The Whitney's are being announced tonight so I thought I'd post my picks now. Then I'll report about how well I did later. Or if you're interested, they'll be doing live blogging during the ceremonies here, beginning at 6:30 p.m. (Mountain).

Best Novel of the Year
Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Best Novel by a New Author
Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Best Romance/Women's Fiction
Counting Stars by Michelle Paige Holmes

Best Mystery/Suspense
Hazardous Duty by Betsy Brannon Green

Best Young Adult/Children
Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull

Best Speculative Fiction
Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Best Historical
Beyond the Horizon by Judy C. Olsen

See info on each of the finalists here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Winter Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

The Winter Reading Challenge ends today. I apologize to everyone for dropping the ball this time around. I got sick the day after Christmas and I'm still battling it. (Ugh!) But for those of you who soldiered on without me and made your reading goals, yea, you!

Write a summary post and use the Mr. Linky below to link to it. In that summary post, tell us which book you liked best (and why), which you liked least (and why), any new authors you tried and if you'll read more by them, and what (if anything) you learned from participating in this challenge.

I will do one final prize drawing next Friday (March 28th) and everyone who finished the challenge and posted a link below will be eligible. (Kristi, Juliette & Tristi, I added your links.)

Also, the Spring Reading Thing sponsored by Katrina over on Callapidder Days starts tomorrow. I hope you'll all join me over there and then come back here for a Summer Reading Challenge (which I promise will be much more exciting and have more prizes than this Winter Challenge had.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Good News, Bad News

I was so proud of myself on Friday. I ran some errands. It was the first time I'd gone out into the real world for something other than a doctor's appointment. I could feel all my skin cells shift into overdrive absorbing the sunshine and converting it to vitamin D. Ahhh.

First, I went to the bank (yea! my checks won't bounce).

Then I went to the post office (sorry, Suan, haven't shipped your cookies yet).

Then I treated myself to a Gandolfo's Radio City with cheddar cheese. I thought that was an appropriate reward for still being alive.

After that, I went to the bookstore to get Stephanie Black's new book. I was a little surprised when it came to $64. However, upon inspecting my bag, I discovered six other books had jumped in there with it. (thanks Mom & Dad--that was the last of my Christmas money).

Last, I went to the grocery store to get a few things. As I drove home, I was feeling really proud of the way I'd paid attention to my energy level and not pushed too hard—until I realized I didn't leave myself quite enough to get the groceries into the house and put away. Fortunately, Megan drove up at the same time I did and she took care of the groceries while I took a nap.

That's the good news. The bad news is after resting all weekend (as the doctor suggested when I had a recheck on Thursday), I woke up this morning with . . . wait for it . . . sore throat, headache, itchy ears, and the snot factory powering up again.

This is really getting ridiculous. I'm going in to see the doctor again in about an hour and I'm telling him he's got to fix me because I'm going to the writer's conference this weekend even if I have to go in a wheelchair with a portable IV! (Grrrr!)

On the upside, if I do have to spend most of this week in bed again, I have a whole stack of books to read.

Now playing on my iPod: Can't Seem to Get it Right Today by Joe Purdy

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I'm Alive!

Little by little, I'm coming back to the land of the living. It's been a long haul and I'm not back to full strength yet, but I can see progress every day. Yea! All of the flu/strep/infection symptoms are gone. The only thing left is an incredible muscle weakness that still keeps me in bed most of the day. Doing simple things, like taking a shower or getting dressed or fixing something to eat, wears me out.

However, yesterday, I dressed, changed my sheets and put in a load of wash before going back to bed. Today I've started another load in the wash and put away three loads of clean laundry. I also dressed, put my hair in a ponytail, and fixed and ate breakfast. And although I can feel my strength waning, I still have enough left to sit here and type this post. Life is good.

Now Playing on my iPod: Still the Same by Bob Seger (inspired by my sister)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

I need a keeper

I am still sick. :( It is just amazing to me how much snot one nose can produce! I would be fascinated by that if it weren't my own nose doing it.

I've been a little concerned about how slowly I seem to be recovering. I've been on antibiotics for over a week now, and while I am feeling some better, I'm still sick. My daughter, who got the same thing at the same time I did, is almost completely recovered. But me? I'm still spending most of my day in bed going through a box of Kleenex every 24 hours.

This morning, I discovered why. I was supposed to be taking two pills twice a day, and I've only been taking one twice a day. I thought it was odd that I was on 20 days of antibiotics, instead of the usual 10.