Need a laugh? I've got one for you.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008
My husband and my 6 yr old were wrestling around on the floor. Dad has 6 yr old pinned. 6 yr old heaves with all his might, "throwing" his father flat on the floor.

"Just stay there, Dad," he says. "I'm bigger and I have the Force (Star Wars) with me!"

Dad starts laughing as he flexes his biceps. "Bigger? What crack are you smoking?"

6 year old levels his most steely of gazes. "Butt crack."

Updates on The Priestess Prophecy

Monday, December 29, 2008
I haven't posted any updates for a while. So for those of you just dying to know, Albert Longden, my agent, has submitted my MS to 10 publishing houses. I'm not at liberty to give any names here. Not until they've official made a decision either way, but I will say that they are all well known.

A lot of people ask me if I'm nervous or excited about this. I think I've been around the business long enough to know better. In the publishing industry, it's hurry up and wait. And Wait. And wait. I'm planning about six months, and it was submitted sometime in Oct. Even then, I don't want to get too excited. I've had too many severe disappointments. I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but experience has taught me to wait to break out the expensive chocolate until after I've signed something. I've simply come to a place where I've accepted where I am and hope for something better.

One automatic strike against my MS is that a lot of "experts" in the publishing industry think classic fantasy (the kind with Elves and Dwarves) has been overdone. My opinion strays from this belief. First of all, I write YA, and that markets hasn't glutted themselves on it yet. Also, good writing and a solid story are always in demand. Look at Christopher Paolini's books. Mega hits, and they have Elves and Dwarves.

There's always room for fabulous books. Rules are secondary.

Or at least that's what I would tell any curious editors.

I have an announcement . . .

Sunday, December 28, 2008
I haven't said anything, because I didn't want my agent to change how he dealt with my MS based on my medical condition, but I think I can safely say that he doesn't read my blog (nor do the publishing houses). And I doubt any of you will tell on me.

So, here's goes. My husband and I are expecting baby # 3. I'm 28 weeks along with a little girl. Our emotions are a complicated mixture of excitement and trepidation.

As far as the writing goes, this pregnancy has taken a lot out of me. I'm often too tired or sick to do much. But it won't last forever. Hopefully in another six months, I'll be over my c-section and the baby will be on some sort of schedule. After all, I began writing The Priestess Prophecy when colicky # 2 was born, and I finished the whole trilogy in a little under a year (not edited though--I'm not superwoman).

Plus, I now have a fancy chair to write with. No more folding chair for me!

Christmas truly is a season for miracles.

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I'm finally well enough to catch up on my blog. But, alas, Christmas is in two days and I'm behind. I have a house to clean, presents to wrap, and food to cook.

I'll see you all on the other side (probably some time next week).


I think we're cousins. . .

Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Sometimes some pretty amazing things happen on your blogs. For instance, I read Nathan Bradsford's blog, and he recently had a competition for the first paragraph of your MS. I entered and failed to win, but one of my favorite paragraphs did. So I chimed in to congratulate all the winners, and guess what? One of them actually got in touch with me. Turns out we're both related. Both Argyles. Pretty nifty.

Anyway, check out her blog at Her paragraph is amazing.

Second, I asked a question on another agents blog. She actually responded. If any of you are looking for a good Christian agent, check her out. If not, she has some fabulous tips on her blog.

And now it's back to my massive doses of Sudafed and Tylenol.

I'm done with my X-mas shopping!

Monday, December 15, 2008
I finished shopping today! Now I can leave the crazy traffic and hordes of people to their stores and just enjoy the rest of the season.

Next comes the planning and shopping for our Christmas feasts. For Christmas Eve, we make homemade corn dogs. It's a leftover tradition from my husband's family. At first, I thought it was weird, but our boys love it. Christmas morning is a breakfast quiche with sausage. Christmas dinner is ham, rolls, funeral potatoes (horrible name, but it's yummy), broccoli salad, and cheesecake.

Then all I have to do is wrap the presents and visit our families. And get over yet another cold. What is the deal this winter?

The agony of writing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008
For those of you that don't know the story, I was offered a publishing contract by a small house. I struggled over whether to "settle," because I felt like my work might never see book form if I didn't. I had conceded that I had to start somewhere, and was in the process of renegotiating the contract when I hit a brick wall. I did a lot of research into publishing contracts, and their's was AWFUL. Basically, I was giving them the copyright for the term of the copyright (some 150 years). Plus they'd wormed in some wording that assured I didn't get paid much of anything (we're talking 5% of the sale price).

Still, I would have signed the thing, had an agent not offered to represent me. I did as much research as I could--checked him out on Agent Verification, Predators and Editors, Writer's Beware, etc. He checked out as legit in every case.

So I signed.

And I waited. And waited. He sent it out in Sept., and I'm wondering how long it takes for publishers to get with it. I don't want to be that "pushy author." So I've tried to let it lie, but oh it's so hard! Especially when I'm such a worrier by nature.

I should have been a stripper. Much more straightforward.

That's it! I'm done!

Friday, December 5, 2008
This is one of those days that you want to throw you computer across the driveway, and then run it over again and again, swearing the entire time that you will never write again.

But it won't happen.

I will write again.

Just let me scream a few times first.

New story, Tentative title: Blood Oath

Wednesday, December 3, 2008
This story has been drumming around my head for well over a year. In fact, I wrote 100 pages of it before deciding it wasn't strong enough.

Well, now I've changed much of what I didn't like while keeping the elements I love. Here's the first 14 lines!

Hot, sticky peach juice dribbled down Arel’s chin, soaking the front of her shirt and making it stick to her breasts. Her gaze darted around the orchard in frantic sweeps. Plopping the pit in her mouth, she sucked at the remnants while rising from her crouch to reach for another fruit.

“Hey, you! What are you doing there?”

No! Not now! She was too close to the border. Abandoning her half hidden position, she snatched three of the fuzzy orbs and hugged them to her as she ran, heedless of the rocks and sticks that bruised and cut her already mangled feet.

“Thief! Stop!"

She risked a glance back to see a man drop from one of the trees, a short apron that bulged with peaches at his waist. She increased her speed, her fear adding lengths to her stride. The last time a man had chased her, he had caught her.

And taken everything.


Chapter length

Monday, December 1, 2008
How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was great. My husband makes a mean turkey. I was in charge of the celery and cheese whiz . . . Do you think they're trying to tell me something?

I did end up going to the Black Friday sales at 4:30 am. Holy early! We saved a ton of money. Over $250 at Staples alone, plus I won a $100 gift cert at Shoe Carnival! Waa*freakin'*hoo! (Like all women everywhere, I love shoes. You can never have enough.)

Fate threw a case of stomach flu in the midst, but I shook it off.

And, back to business. Let's talk about chapter length. I've seen lots of different styles. From 20 + pages, to one word.

Your chapter length varies slightly by genre. Literary fiction can go lots longer than YA. I write YA, and I feel that around 10 pages, plus or minus 2-3, is about perfect. I like my chapters to vary a bit--keeps the book interesting. Just imagine a teenager picking up a wheel block book, flipping through tightly packed words, enormous paragraphs, and 4 chapters in the entire book.

Some people will say that teenagers aren't patient enough to read that much. I'm going to digress and say that teenagers aren't patient enough to put up with the drivel. THEY WANT THE STORY, DANGIT! I'm the same way. I hate stories that go on and on and on and on and on and . . . do you get the point?

Orson Scott Card has said that he starts off with smaller chapters and gradually increases the length as the reader becomes inebriated with the story (I'm paraphrasing here. I couldn't help it. Inebriated was just such a great word!).

So how do you know when to make a chapter break? This is one of the artsy parts of writing. You start developing a feel for it as you continue. The more you write, the more your writing fits into chapters. Plotting has a lot to do with this. Each chapter should contain a mini plot, one piece of the larger picture. A writing buddy of mine, Jeff Savage, gave me an awesome tip a few years ago: Enter that chapter late and leave it early.

That one statement stuck with me. Think how powerful that is! And how versatile! How do you know where to start your book?

Start late!

The example Jeff gave was a chapter that ended with his character hitting someone with a car on a dark night. He started the next chapter with the character looking down at the lifeless body. Can you see how powerful that is? He could have written about the man wrenching the car door open, his thudding footfalls as he ran up the embankment. But he skipped all of that. He began and ended his chapter with the most powerful parts.

I could go on and on. I love getting my hands dirt with writing. But this post is getting plenty long. If you have any tips that work for you, post them on comments. If they strike a light bulb for me, I'll include them in the main post.


Twilight Movie

Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Our book club has been devoted fans of Stephanie Meyer since the first book. So of course, we all banded together to see the movie last night. It was the funnest "girl's night out" I've had in a while.

Without giving anything away, I will say you should go and see it. I really liked it. The casting of Edward wasn't my favorite, nor was Rosalie, but hey, you can't have everything. I really liked Bella's actress.

It has nothing on the book, but what movie does?


It's time for an upgrade.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I hate that commercial (the one that uses the same line as my title, case ya didn't know), but whaddya gonna do?

Here's the situation. For the past three years, I've been sitting on a folding chair lined with pillows from my couch. My behind is here anywhere from 2 to 8 hours a day. When I stand up, my hips hurt and I limp like a 90 year old lady until they both pop, then I'm good to go.

So this year for Christmas, when my husband asked me what I wanted, I told him a top of the line, leather, highbacked chair with lumbar support (I know, I know. "EXCITING!").

Problem is, they're all really expensive.

Hmmm . . . I know! I'll go to Staples this Fri at 3:30 in the morning, brave the below freezing weather, and get one for $100 off!

Maybe I'll bring my tent and make a camping trip out of it! Anybody wanna come? (If you can't read the sarcasm here, I'm sorry. I lay it on a little thicker).We could scrounge up some marshmallows and cook them over our lighters?

Seriously, have any of you ever tried this before? I'm not sure I'm cut out for that kind of torture.

Blog remodel

Monday, November 24, 2008
I remodeled my blog in an attempt to make it look more professional. Whaddya think?

I'm not sure about the picture in the title. Too much?

Paragraph length

Friday, November 21, 2008
I just read a pretty well known book. The book was really well written. The prose is striking, and the metaphors original and memorable. For me, the problem came with simply too much prose, metaphors, and description. Now, part of that is that it was written when the rules were more lax, or just plan different. But there's a lot we can learn by going through it and comparing it to now. For instance:

The cheerless cold of the Northland sky hung in thin strips of gray fog against the dull edges that formed the peaks of the solitary mountain of pitted blackness that was the castle of the Warlock Lord.

Not too bad, right? The writing paints us a fabulous picture of what the scenery looks like. Could have ended there. But the problems comes when the first 38 lines of the chapter are dedicated to describing the mountains and castle--lots of repitition here. And that is the norm. Now, we don't know which of the characters, if any, is seeing this scene. None of them are mentioned. It's simply the author painting us a detailed picture in exacting details.

I find this type of writing heavy and, dare I say, condescending.
Why? you might ask.

Because the author feels like they have to hold us by the hand to see the world exactly as it is.
This bugs me for two reasons. First, I have an imagination, thank you very much. Draw me a sketch and let me fill in the blanks. Second, this is an imaginary place, so why does it matter if I see it exactly as the author, or make my own slight variations? The castle and surrounding mountains of the dark lord are dark, cheerless, void, and dead. Got it. Done. Why do I have to know every minuscule detail. Variations of the word black are used no less than 7 times in these 38 lines!


Wish I could say that this was an aberration of the book, but the whole thing is basically like that.
So how do you fix it?

Go over you MS. How many paragraphs are there per page? In the passage I mentioned, there are 3 paragraphs in four pages. That's less than one paragraph break per page. If your paragraphs are that long, you're getting way too long winded.

Hold a page of you MS at arms length. It should be jagged and rough because of all the breaks. Long paragraphs should be broken up by dialogue. Description should be sprinkled throughout, not given in one big chunk. When writing YA or middle grade, the paragraphs are obviously smaller, while you can usually make the paragraphs longer for older readers.

Remember, the important thing is the story, always the story. Not the exact shade of your heroines hair or a step by step verbal map of the castle.

We get it. It's a castle. Move on.

A good tip is to have your main character see and experience the landscape. Don't simply tell us what it's like.

Lastly, watch the head hopping! My opinion is that if you're going to switch character view points, you need to have a chapter or section break. And then, your character better go on for a few pages before you switch back. This also breaks up the monotony (more on chapter length later).

One last point, and I promise I'll shut up. The whole first half of the book is the main characters fleeing the dark, flying creatures into dangerous, scary places.

The scary places seem invented merely to make the travels exciting. But what does traveling have to do with the plot?

In fantasy, it's impossible to avoid all the traveling, but try to cut it back. It shouldn't take up half of your book.

Okay, on more last point (cringe as you throw rotten fruit at the screen). Guess what compromised the company? One wizard, two small weak men that are totally dedicated to each other, one dwarf, two elves, and a king of men.

This group travels through the scary, haunted tunnels of the mountain of the dead. Anyway, I could go on, but is anyone else havin' flashbacks to LOR?

Don't do this. It's been done to the point that it's a cliche storyline.

Learn from David Farland for free!

Monday, November 17, 2008
A writing friend of mine, David Farland (Wolverton) sends out regular emails dealing with tips and tricks of the trade. I've been on his mailing list for over a year. He's been on the NYT bestselling list and has all the accolades and accomplishments most of us will give our husband for.

If you would like to be added to this list, just email and say, "Kick me!"

How to find an agent, Amber style.

Saturday, November 15, 2008
At Nathan's website, an interesting post was created concerning agents. One of the bloggers asked how to get an agent. The guest author didn't have any insights, because he's had an agent long enough to be out of the loop. So I thought I'd give you all my ideas.
You've heard the old standby that every rejection gets you closer to a yes? Well, I hated that statement too, but I found it to be true when finding my agent. If you want an agent, go to conferences. Networking will get you further than blind queries. At the conferences, introduce yourself to EVERY single agent in attendance. If possible, sit by them during lunch and be polite and engaging. Don't be weird about it. There just people--most of them really nice. If they're busy, tell them you have a few questions you'd like to ask them when they have a moment, and then make yourself available (don't stalk them--if they have to go to the bathroom--let them). Even if those agents DON'T represent your genre, they know agents who do. Don't be afraid to ask them if you can use them as a reference. Also, introduce yourself to all the visiting authors. They are great sources of information and resources. Ask them questions. Now in saying all this, please, please, please remember not to be pushy or condescending. The first conference is the worst, but it gets easier. Good luck, and keep working!

My other, other job

Thursday, November 13, 2008
In order to support my writing habit, I started a home based business selling jewelry. It's not to bad, considering that my other option was cleaning toilets at the HS.

But every once in a while, I'm forced to drive down one of those street. I gape in wonder at the ENORMOUS houses with their RV and matching pickup, Lexus, manicured lawn, or professionally done X-mas lights and I wonder, "How do they do it?"

I mean, really. My husband and I both have our bachelors. He has a job as an accountant for a local bank, and they treat him well. I sell jewelry on the side. Our home was marketed as a 'starter home'. But bills always manage to crop up that take any extra money we manage to save. Take my $500 dog bill this month. We really need a new car and we're looking at some pretty big medical bills.

So I scratch my head and ask again, "How do they do it?"

The first 14 lines

Monday, November 10, 2008
Arguably the most important part of your novel is the first 14 lines.
One could argue that if the cover and back of the book catch the reader's attention, the reader will then open the book and read the first page. If they continue to like what they see, they will buy.
But there's an even more important reason.
Agents/editors pick up your MS and start reading from the begining. If you're first 14 lines don't catch them, it doesn't matter how brilliant the rest is. They'll never see it. And neither will the bookstore patrons.
So craft your first page (14 lines) with the all care and precision of a heart surgeon.
2--Don't start with the weather. This isn't a forcast. I don't care if the setting sun looks bruised or if thunder is rumbling in (though a few spread out lines lines is perfectly okay.)
2.5--Don't overdue the description. A good rule is keep it to one sentence per paragraph and no more than three paragraphs in a row before we get a break.
3--Start with tension. I try to start my novels with a mini story. One that can creates a lot of tension and can quickly be resolved (ie-in The Last Witch, my main character is accused of stealing.) This gives the reader insights into your character's motivations, behaviors, and social standing.
4--Show don't tell. IE-Shanna was smart. This is telling. Show me she's smart--Shanna quickly scratched out three lines of equations and masterly rewrote them. Finished, she plopped the pencil down and smiled. "Kid's stuff."
5--Please, please, please, don't 'head hop'. I HATE head hopping. Stick with one character's POV.
6--Introduce your main conflict somewhere in the first chapter. The mini story can be part of the whole plot.
7--Keep it realistic. Don't overdue the grandiose. We need to relate to your character, not laugh at their epic speeches/thoughts/quests.
8--Make me buy you're quest in the first 50 pages. I need to yearn for your hero/heroine to come together, your hero to save their world/family/farm. I'm not going to care if Hebeshon saves his gourd.

Heres the first 14 lines of Witch Song. Here's your chance to bash me for not following me own rules! Happy reading!

The sun scorched Brusenna’s straw-colored hair and the street's dust clung to her feet as if begging her to take it away from this stifling place. She knew exactly how the dust felt. Every part of her wanted to whirl and run as she waited for the merchant. But she and her mother needed the supplies.
“Twelve upice,” Bommer said sourly as he wrapped the spools of thread in crinkling brown paper.
A ridiculous price. If she were anyone else, she could have bartered it down to half that. But she was not anyone else. She was a witch. She held out the coins. The man’s gruff paw swallowed the dull upice in mounds of fat. She wondered what marvelous things he ate to flesh out his skin that way. Things like the honey sweetened cakes that she could still smell in her clothes even after she'd left the marketplace.
As Bommer counted his money, Brusenna gathered the packages tightly to her chest and turned to go. She hadn’t gone five steps when a meaty hand clamped down on her arm. With a wince, she craned her neck up to see the merchant looming over her.
“You tryin’ to cheat me, chanter?”

Get creative, dangit!

Friday, November 7, 2008
Okay, so back to the conference. Louisa Ahern did a class on publicity, and even if you're not published yet, you will be someday (we're thinking positive here, buster--don't make me reach through your computer screen to smack you upside the head).
Her first tip was that Press Releases don't work, because of shrinking newsrooms. Well, that could save us all a lot of wasted effort. Nothing more fun than shoveling the driveway in a blizzard, right?
The next tip was not to promote YOUR BOOK, but SOMETHING BIGGER.
What the heck does that mean!?
It means that you need a platform. If you write nonfiction, this is a nobrainer. Say you write a novel on rare warts, your platform can be awareness, prevention, and treatment. Walla! Done.
Nonfiction is harder, especially when you write YA fantasy, like me. But, dangit, you're creative! After all, you're a writer! So get thinking. My novel is about a young girl that finds out that she is more than she ever dreamed. There you go. Go around to schools and teach about self worth and looking inside yourself to see that you are MORE--More beautiful, inteligent, talented, etc, etc.
If that doesn't work, you could always promote literacy.
Try to find a local angle--anyplace you've lived, seasonal (romance writers hit your valentines days and mothers days hard).
Tie into the BIG news story right now. If you've written about about the separation between church and state, now would be a great time to advertise.
Strange and unusual always sells--Did you hear about the lady that gave birth to a 20 pound baby! If you've just written a book about obesity in pregnancy, you're gold.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I've read some more books. I absolutely loved The Blue Sword by Robin McKinnley. LOVED IT!

I also read Brisingr by Christopher Paolini (sp). Not really impressed. Way too much time was spent on politics and traveling. Blah! The only reason I read it at all was because I'd already invested in the first two, and I did want to know what happened.

So, take these two books off the shelf and compare them. First thing you notice? Brisingr is heavy enough to use as a wheel block, while The Blue sword could have fit nicely inside my purse.

The point?


Take Stephanie Meyer's first book, Twilight and compare it with her other books. Notice anything? Each and every book is bigger, heavier, more wordy, and more disliked.

Same thing with Paolini. Each of his books are bigger than the last. Why? Because the publishers knew they would be successful and let things fly they normally wouldn't have, and because the authors got overconfident and lazy.

Ouch! That was harsh. But it was also true.

Without exception, those big, honking books usually drive readers nuts. Me included. So here's some tips:

1. Every chapter needs to have tension. No exceptions. If you're main plot doesn't come into play, than you dang well better introduce or work on one of the subplots. Don't have one? Make one.

2. For the love of all things holy and right, DO NOT spend entire chapters traveling. Skip the traveling. Readers can only handle so much, "My feet hurt, and I'm hot." before we all begin to vomit useless words.

3. Make every Chapter earn its weight. Chapters MUST have conflict and move the story forward. If it doesn't do these two things, MURDER IT! If it has some beautifully written prose or a tidbit of crucial information, save it and insert it in another chapter. An entire chapter cannot exist for one page of important information. It's a waste of the readers time.

4. I submitted my novel to a well known publisher--in reality my dream publisher. They absolutely loved it, but they didn't want anything over 100,000 words. My novel was 120,000. I sucked it up and deleted 20,000 words. One of the hardest edits I've ever done. BUT THE NOVEL WAS SO MUCH TIGHTER. It's one of the best things I could have ever done.

And even though they turned it down at the end, I don't regret it. That's what authors mean when they say their rejections got the closer to being published. It was after this that I found my agent (who's submitted it to some publishers. If you're a believer in prayer, pray for me. If you're a believer in luck, cross every appendage you have, throw some salt over your shoulder, and buy a lucky rabbits foot. If you're unwilling to do any of the above, think positive for me.)


Dogs are more trouble than they're worth

Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Animal control showed up on my doorstep on Saturday night at 7:30. Of course, my husband had just left for 'boy's night out." So I was on my own. The man told me that my dog had bit my neighbor's 13 year old son, and he was going to have to put her under quarantine for 10 days to make sure she doesn't have rabies (even though she's had her shots.) I was instantly confused, as we have an 8 ft. wooden fence surrounding our backyard and she's never out of it without her leash.
With both of my boys crying, and me trying to hold back tears, he loaded her up and took her away.
We found out later that the boy jumped into our backyard to retrive a ball and she nailed him. If he'd have been a burglar, we'd have bought her a t-bone steak.
But it wasn't.
It will cost us $150 to get her out of the pound, $200 for the ticket, and restitution to our neighbor--even though we've told him to stay out of our yard before.
It doesn't seem fair.
We've had quite a few people say we should put her down, but I just can't. She's so good with my kids. Granted, she's leary of anyone that comes near our yard uninvited, but if I introduce them, she's fine.
Anybody want to loan us the money to get our dog back?

I hate buying underwear.

Friday, October 24, 2008
I hate buying underwear. I hate even being in that section of the store. You know--the section filled with bras, panties, and an assortment of lingerie.
Buying underwear is definitely a "do it yourself" project. My husband won't even look in the direction for fear of being labeled a "pervert." But my three-year old son doesn't care. Poor kid has no idea what a bra is. So he's holding them up, making a study of them, bringing me handfulls which I have to put back, and playing "hide and seek" behind the racks.
Completely flustered, I grab a few likely bras and cross through two sections of clothing, where I try to hide the cup size from any would be perverts (I'm starting to see why my husband refuses to come with me.)
Taking a firm grip on my three-year old's hand, I head to the changing rooms. I triple check the lock to make sure it's closed and then strip down to my skin. Of course, the usual questions come from my son. "What's that?" "Mommy, are those your boobs?"
"Shhhh!" I say. I grab my cell phone and hand it to him. "Here, play with this."
He busies himself with the phone while I prepare to try on another of the bras. He seems pretty enraptured by the phone, and I'm pleased with my cleverness.
Reaching for the third and final bra, I realize he's being awful quiet. I look at the little built in bench. Empty. I glance down just in time to see his little foot disappear under the door. Frantically, I call, "Come back here."
"Mommy," he teases me.
Grabbing my shirt, I yank it on and and furiously work the buttons, not really caring if they align right or not. I jerk open the door just as he opens the door to another changing room.
"Oh my goodness!" A woman cries.
He smiles, as he always does when he knows he's in trouble, and shuts the door. Mortified, I grab my son and steer him back into the changing room. I'm tempted to tie him up with my purse straps, but I suppress the urge.
Changing back into my own clothes, I abandon the bras in a heap and leave the store faster than any shoplifter.
I'm not sure I'll ever go back.
I think I'll the rest of my bra's online.

The Hero and the Crown

Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I just reread Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown. Truly a classic. This is one of those books I want to own. I couldn't help compare the voice of 1984 to the voice of fantasy writers now. There were a lot of flashbacks in the first half of the book. Some show versus tell. Also, it took forever for us to actually here the main character's name. Things that would never pass now. But I loved the main character, Aerin.
A new discovery was Chosen by Ted Dekker. I thought the beginning could have been done better, but after that the story is wonderfully done. A definite read.
So, what are you reading?

Question about a

Monday, October 20, 2008
At the conference I went to last month, one of the presenters (James Dashner) recommended a site called I checked it out, and it looks like you have to pay a membership fee to access their articles. Does anyone have any experience with this site? I looked it over and it had some interesting articles, but I couldn't read more than the first paragraph.
Another website or service he spoke of was Twitter (kinda like Facebook or MySpace--I think I'll stick with Facebook).
I thought it might be fun to see if anyone else has any experiences to share about these sites or any others they like to visit.
If you want any of his other marketing tips, I'll include them below.
--smooze bookstore employees (they'll recommend you book that way).
--school visits (contact school reading specialist)
--check out websites that post high income schools and go there (His viewpoint. No mine.)

I also found another fun blog. Check it out:

My agent sent the signed agreement today! I take the happy when it comes my way!


8 Master Archetypes

Thursday, October 16, 2008
8 Master Archetypes for females

1. The Boss (male version is The Chief)—motivation is control, success, career

· Virtues
o Confident
o Dynamic
o Competative

· Flaws
o Blunt
o Workaholic
o Arrogant
o Aggressive

Examples: Martha Stewart, Oprah, Murphy Brown

2. The Seductress—motivated by finding security for herself

· Virtues
· Clever
· Strong
· Assertive
· Flaws
o Cynical
o Insecure
o Manipulative

Examples: Evita, Jessica Rabbit, Scarlet O’Hara
Villain=Black Widow

3. Spunky kid—motivated by finding their own niche

· Virtues
· reliable
· loyal
· tolerant

· Flaws
o sarcastic
o self depreciating
o skeptical

Examples: Bridget Jones, Lois Lane, Mimi from The Drew Carey Show.

4. Free Spirit—motivated by following her heart

· Virtues
· sincere
· upbeat
· imaginative

· Flaws
o impulsive
o meddling
o undisciplined

Examples: Lucy from I Love Lucy, Emma, Phoebe from Friends (hippies or ditz)
Villain=Lunatic (they live in a different world and you threaten it—extreme environmentalists)

5. The Waif—motivated to be loved. Mistreated, damsel in distress.

· Virtues
· pure
· trusting
· kind
· enduring—bending willow

· Flaws
o Impressionable—too trusting
o passive
o insecure—low self esteem

Examples: Rose from Titanic starts as a waif and changes to a spunky kid
Villain=Parasite (latches onto someone)

6. The Librarian—motivated by intellect and knowledge

· Virtues
· efficient
· curious
· dependable

· Flaws
o rigid
o repressed
o perfectionist
o sulky

Examples: Scully from the X-files
Villain=Evil Genius/Schemer

7. The Crusader—motivated by a cause.

· Virtues
· tenacious
· principled
· persuasive—especially in recruiting others to cause

· Flaws
o Self righteous
o judgmental
o rash

Examples: Mulan, Buffy, Xena

8. The Nurturer—motivated by love

· Virtues
· selfless
· optimistic
· capable

· Flaws
o idealistic
o uncompromising—strong moral code
o martyer—no life because she lives for others

Examples: June Cleaver, Marry Poppins
Villain=Smotherer, Matriarch

8 Master Archetypes

Monday, October 13, 2008
My favorite presenter was Tami Cowden, author of Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines—which I plan on buying. I went to both her workshop on Dynamic Heroes and Dynamic Heroines (I’ll do heroines later). Fabulous information. Here’s my notes (with some of my own thoughts mixed in), enjoy!

Dynamic Heroes

Archetypes (reaccuring symbol, model, or pattern) are created by the character’s motivations and actions (the two can be conflicted).

· Core Archetype—character remains the same throughout story
· Evolving archetype—begins as one/transforms to another
· Layered—more than one archetype
o World views and attitudes—not actions of 2 archetypes
o Ie: MacGyver—warrior and professor, Rhett Butler—chief and bad boy.

Tips for creating realistic archetypes:

1. Goals must be both tangible and intangible (ie—Hero wants to save the farm because it’s been in the family for 4 generations=intangible. Hero wants to save the farm because he needs a place to live=tangible).
2. Villains should never think of themselves as evil. Their actions seem right to them.
3. Character=views and motivations

8 Archetypes identified:

1. The Chief (alpha hero)-powerful. Motivated by the need to control.

· Virtues
--goal oriented
--decisive (follows through)

· Flaws:
--married to careers
--not family guys (unloving)
--stubborn (always right)

--ie-Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, Nicholas Cage in Family Life


2. The Bad Boy—sons of Chiefs. Motivated by rebellion (in control of others, but not themselves).

· Virtues
--street smart (savvy)
--can do the right thing, but are resentful/spiteful about it

· Flaws

--ie Founding Fathers, Rebels, Dr. House, Wolverine

--Villain=Disfavored son.

3. Charmer—motivation=Do as little as possible to get what they want.

· Virtues:

· Flaws

ie. McDreamy in Grey’s Anatomy, Cary Grant, Charlie Harper in Two and a Half Men, Magnum PI


4. The Best Friend (often side kicks)—motivation is to fit in and family.

· Virtues

· Flaws
--complacent/lacking ambition
--people run all over them

Ie—George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, George in Grey’s Anatomy, Sam in LOR

Villain=Traitor. Someone’s moving on and leaving them behind.

5. The Lost Soul—motivation is to become part of the family of man

· Virtues

· Flaws:
--overly sentimental
--tortured by past/disfigured/traumatized/Dark past they are trying to recover from

Ie—Phantom in Phantom of the Opera, Dexter, Beast in Beauty and the Beast, Monk.

Villain=The outcast.

6. The Professor—motivated by knowledge/truth.

· Virtues

· Flaws
--insular—don’t feel emotion
--Inhibited—don’t express emotions

Ie-Spock, Gil Grissom, Dr Reed in Criminal Minds

Villain=evil genius

7. The Swashbuckler—Motivated by adventure

· Virtues

· Flaws
--unreliable/chases fun

Ie—Hans Solo, Layne Frost (bull rider), Austin Powers, Jack Sparrow


8. The Warrior—motivated by their cause

· Virtues

· Flaws
--self righteous

Ie—Luke and Anakin (sp?) Skywalker, Maximus, Superman, Spiderman


So what's your opinion? Are there really 8 Master Archetypes? Can you think of more?

Whew! Awesome stuff though. Gives you some idea of where your characters fit and what flaws you can give them to be more realistic. It’s kinda fun to go through this and place all your characters.

Well, I'm back to my antibiotics and nasal steroids (will I have hairy nostrils and a muscular nose now? Imagine my nose as the Arnold Swartzenegger of noses. Perish the thought!)

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

I just discovered Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising. This book is awesome. Fabulous from begining to end. I highly recommend it. In fact, I might recommend it for my local book club. There were no sex scenes or swear words.
Read this book.
Why are you still here?
Go read the book!

Abram's Daughters, The Fall of Ile-Rien, Invader

Thursday, October 9, 2008
I've been reading some interesting books lately and I wanted to share them. It's always nice to know which books are worth the time and effort, and which to leave on the shelf.
The first was a series by Beverly Lewis entitled Abram's Daughters. This is a fascinating look into the Amish community and the Amish people. I thought the author handled the subject very well. Because of the setting, it felt more like a historical romance. Lewis does a good job of characterization and dialogue. The first book was my favorite. By the end, I found myself skipping descriptions in order to find out what happens to the main characters. There's a lot of time devoted to minor characters, which I find annoying. I was also really ready for the main character, Leah, to grow a backbone and fight for what she wanted instead of being so danged mousy. But I think it's worth a read. There wasn't any swearing or inappropriate scenes (the characters are, after all, Amish ;) ).

Another great book is the trilogy, The Fall of Ile-Rien by Martha Wells. Though I must warn you, it took me 50 pages to get over feeling lost and confused. After I finally figured out the the two main characters are from different planets and cultures, (one very much like Britain around WWI, the other more like the ancient Athenians) I finally started to get into it. The storytelling is great and the concept fairly origional. It doesn't follow the 'normal' formula for writing either. The characters are very real, with flaws and quirks that even lead me to dislike them for a while. While the villans were believable and even to be pitied. Wells does not, however, write emotions or romance well. I found myself wanting more emotions from the characters. Also, the characters jump around from one world to the other a lot, and she went overboard on the description--especially in the third book. All in all, I really enjoyed it. It doesn't have any inappropriate sex scenes, but it does use the occasional swear word. I'd guess less than 10 per book, but they were 'bad' ones. I think it was worth it.

The third set of books was Invader by CJ Cherryh. . . Maybe hard sci-fi just isn't for me. I couldn't get into the book.

20 Things I've Learned by James Dasher

Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Okay. So I've been a slacker about posting my notes, but I've repented and am striving to do better. Below follows, almost word for word, the handout James gave us. (Be forewarned, I'm not going to do a big edit on this. It's too long. So if you cannot abide a misplaced modifier, move on).

Differentiate your characters.
  • know their background
  • Think of something horrible that happened in their past
  • Something that makes them happy when they remember it
  • Give them a dirty secret
  • Make sure all your main characters don't sound exactly the same

Plot--at least a little

  • I challenge you to know how it bends before you begin. It will give you a destination to work toward. This doesn't mean you have to be stagnant. You can change whatever you want, whenever you want but start with a path.

Use all five senses in description

  • Don't forget smells

Avoid one-dimensional villains

  • create empathy for them
  • make the reader feel somewhat guilty for hating the villain

Try to eliminate as much of these as possible:

  • That (Bad=He knew that he needed to kill her. Good=He knew he needed to kill her.)
  • Was xx-ing (Bad=He was standing in the road. Good=He stood in the road.)
  • Would (Bad=Every few seconds, a blade would pop our of the robot's chest. Good=Every few seconds, a blade popped out of the robot's chest.)
  • Seem (Bad=Everything about him seemed to be hard and cold. Good=Everything about him was hard and cold)
  • Same words close together (word echos).

Semicolons. I love semicolons! (This is where James and I differ. For the most part, I like unadorned sentences.)

  • Okay= His back struck a hard metal wall. He slid along it until he hit the corner of the room.
  • Better=His back struck a hard metal wall; he slid along it until he hit the corner of the room.

Chapter structure can do wonders

  • Short, but not too short. My rule of thumb: 1500-2500
  • Intriguing endings but don't pull cheap tricks.
  • Bad=She opened the door and gasped
  • Good=She opened the door and gasped. There lying in a pool of dark liquid, sat a lumpy bag with her name scrawled across the front.

First lines. You must have an awesome first line and first page.

Set writing goals and track yourself. Be nerdy about it.

Dialogue. Read it out loud. Have writing groups read it. Make sure it sounds natural and true to each individual character. Use dialects if it makes sense. Maybe a character has a quirky word or phrase or way of speaking. But no matter what, your dialogue must be strong

Take your time. Develop things. Describe things. Give lots of internal thoughts. Envelop the reader in a journey, not just a step by step narrative.

Be original in your similes and metaphors, and use lots of them. As you go through the day, look for things that make an impression, writ them down, the use them in your writing.

Read like crazy--don't let writing lessen your reading time, AT ALL. I've learned more from reading Stephen King than any class or workshop I've ever taken.

Do research or people will catch your mistakes.

Story. It's all about story. Make it compelling, make it exciting, make it terrifying, make it full of conflict. Have your characters suffer sacrifices before they win. Have surprises and plot twists. The writing will come and should always improve. But first and foremost, make sure it's an awesome story.

BE creative in how your mysteries evolve. Even simple events and revelations can be tweaked to turn into a mini mysteries that intrigue the reader.

Avoid cliches like the plague (get it?). Don't write a book about a farm boys in a fantasy land trying to obtain a magical object to save the kingdom. If not exactly an original idea, at least put a new twist on it.

Rewrite. It takes work. A first draft is not publishable. Neither is the second. Probably not the third. Devote yourself to working hard on the revisions.

Make your characters strong. Act, instead of react. However, they do need flaws. Have them do things that makes the reader temporarily dislike them.


Monday, September 15, 2008
I just received an offer for representation! I can barely type this because I'm so busy doing my "happy dance!"
Of course, I haven't accepted yet because I want to give the other agents a chance to respond.
Update: I have accepted an agent. His name is Albert Longden.
It's so exciting to have someone who believes in my work as much as I do.

Update #2: Al and I broke up after one manuscript.

Debat between "hooks"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Version 1

Not wanting to see the villager’s disapproving scowls or the sheriff who dogged her every step, Brusenna kept her gaze trained on the packed earth as she trudged through the marketplace. The sun scorched her straw colored hair. The street's dust clung to her feet as if begging her to take it away from this stifling place.
Brusenna knew exactly how the dust felt. There was only one merchant that would sell to her, and then only because he needed the money. Keeping her amber eyes on task, she snatched the few meager items her mother needed and then took them to the owner.
“12 upice,” he said sourly.
A ridiculous price. If she were anyone else, she could have bartered it down to half that. But she was not anyone else. She was a witch. She held out the coins. The man’s gruff paw swallowed her tiny hand in mounds of fat. She wondered what marvelous things he ate to flesh out his skin that way. Things like the honey sweetened cakes that she could still smell in her clothes even after she'd left the marketplace.
The merchant counted the money, and then grunted as he counted it again. He pocketed the coins with a scowl—obviously disappointed that she’d paid the correct amount and cheated him of a chance to berate her. “Now get out, chanter.” He shook his pocket and the clink of the coins seemed to reassure him.
Bundling her packages together, she searched for the most unobtrusive path for egress and then darted through people that cringed or glowered at her in turns. At the unexpected sound of hoof beats, she stole a peek at an enormous black horse—its rider scanning the crowd. Ducking her head again, she hurried faster. She felt the rider’s gaze lock on her back.
If she could just make it to the streets, she could hide. Almost there. A few more steps. But she wasn’t quite fast enough. She started when the horse blocked the way. Before she could stop herself, she plowed into the animal’s girth. She stumbled backward. But her legs couldn’t keep up with the rest of her and she landed on her backside. Her purchases clattered loudly to the ground. Sucking air, she fought the urge to cry out as the pain blossomed from her bottom.
Forgetting herself for a moment, Brusenna glanced into the cobalt eyes of the most beautiful woman she'd ever seen. Her hair gleamed like a field of ripe wheat, and she was clad in creamy cotton with brown leather coverings. An expensive musket was strapped to the back of her saddle. That and the horse were signs enough that the woman had money. Those that could afford work animals simply for transport had means well beyond anything Brusenna could imagine.
But what frightened her most was that the woman stared coolly down at her. The fear began with a tingling in her scalp and then worked its way painfully to Brusenna's toes. She scrunched them in the packed earth to hold it in.
“What's your name, child?” The woman's voice was as sweet and lingering as the smell of the honeycakes.
Brusenna turned a pain-filled glance to the marketplace. It had come to a standstill to gape at the interchange. Beauty, wealth, and power didn’t mingle with witches. She forced herself to unclench her fists. The breeze felt cool against her sweaty palms. “Brusenna.”
The leather of the saddle creaked as the woman sank back into it. “Ah, Sacra's only daughter then?”
How could a woman like this know my name, the name of my mother? The marketplace had gone so quiet that her head buzzed. Her packages scrapped against the dirt and pebbles as she dragged them in. She managed to bob her head once.
The woman made a clucking sound and then dismounted. Brushing the dirt off one of the packages, she handed it to Brusenna. “My name is Coyel. Take me to your mother, will you?”
Brusenna swallowed to keep her breakfast of cracked wheat from revisiting her mouth. “I’m not, I mean, I shouldn’t, I mean—”
Coyel cocked an eyebrow and pitched her voice so that none of the villagers would hear, “I am the first of three sisters.”
Brusenna blinked in confusion. Coyel’s statement seemed to have a deeper meaning, but for all her searching, she couldn’t understand it. “I . . . I’m an only child. My sister died before I was born.”
A look of disbelief crossed Coyel’s face, and Brusenna knew that she’d missed the mark entirely. “I knew Arel,” Coyel finally said. “As well as your father, Rench, before they died. Take me there, Brusenna. I must speak with your mother.”
Hot waves of jealousy and wonder rippled along Brusenna’s scalp, traveling down her skin until they hit the ground. From there, they reverberated back through her, like a wave of shimmering heat. This woman knew her father and sister? They had died long before Brusenna’s birth. Her mother never spoke of them. If this woman knew them, then she might tell Brusenna.
She bit her bottom lip before nodding. With a quick glance at the townspeople, she scurried through the streets. Almost as soon as the village thinned, they crossed into fields flanked by deep forests—forests that drew over the gentle curves of the hills like a furry blanket over the sleeping forms of giants. Brusenna’s shoulders itched for the cool, comforting shadows of those forests. She felt naked out in the open like this, where anyone’s hate-filled eyes could watch her. More so with the echoing clop of the horse’s hoofs to remind her of the woman and her cobalt eyes.

Version 2 (begins a little later in the story).
After leaving the cool of the forest, the sun seemed unbearably hot. Sweat glistened on Brusenna’s forehead. She wiped at it with the back of her hand. The town loomed before her like some great, dirty sore on the earth’s crust. Tucking her straw colored hair behind her ears, she took a deep breath and plunged in. She had to endure the stares of all the town’s citizens before she finally reached Gonstower market. She froze at her regular merchant’s booth. It was empty. Trying to swallow the lump that kept rising in her throat, Brusenna kept her head down as she looked down the line of merchants.
Sweat trickled down her back and made her dress cling to her. She turned to the next merchant and met his eyes. He shook his head in disgust. She made her way to the next. He chuckled, “I don’t think so, witch.” Then she came to a young man; one she’d never seen before. He flashed a smile, his white teeth straight and even. “What does the lady need today?”
Brusenna’s cheeks flamed. Lady? No one had ever called her a lady. “I need a couple needles and some cloth to make a new dress.”
He looked her up and down. “Yes, you’ve outgrown that one, haven’t you? You’re probably old enough for a woman’s full length dress, wouldn’t you say?” He pulled out a beautiful sky blue bolt. “This would look wonderful with your soft yellow hair and . . .” He ducked to look under her lowered lashes. “Golden eyes. Like wheat that’s almost ready to harvest—hints of green. Hmm.”
She found the color rising to her cheeks for the second time. “That would be fine,” she managed.
He chuckled as he measured and cut the cloth and then stuck two needles in a corner. As he handed it to her, his hands touched hers. Her stomach jumped into her throat. Most people made it a point not to touch her, but he hadn’t even cringed as she’d handed over the upice. He smiled again as he put the money away and his skin crinkled around his pale blue eyes. “My name’s Wardof. I haven’t seen you here before. Where do you live?”
Amazingly, Brusenna found herself meeting his gaze. “In the forest.”
“Well, you’re husband’s a lucky man.”
“Oh, I’m not married,” she said quickly, part of her pleased that he thought her old enough for a husband—though she was really only fifteen. “I live with my mother.”
He gestured to his plethora of goods. “Perhaps she would like something?”
Brusenna shook her head. “No.”
“Oh, come now. I’ll throw in something free, just for her.”
Brusenna dug her toenails into the dirt. “Maybe when she comes back. . . “
“Oh,” he said. “Of course. When she gets back from . . .”
Biting her lip, Brusenna looked away. Back from fighting the Dark Witch, she thought. If she comes back at all.
He gave an easy laugh. “Well, whenever she does. Send her down to pick something up.”
She nodded, gave him a small smile, and turned to go. But he reached out and grabbed her hand. “Wait! I have just the thing for you.” He reached underneath his counter and pulled out a silver necklace with an amber pendant shaped like a crescent moon. “It matches your eyes perfectly.”
Brusenna’s eyes widened in shock. “I couldn’t.”
“Sure you could,” he said easily. “I’m sure you’ll make it up to me, someday.”
Brusenna gazed longingly at the necklace. It was beautiful, and she’d never owned a piece of jewelry before. She bit her lip. “I don’t know.”
He came around the counter to stand next to her. Without asking, he brushed her hair over her shoulder and fastened the clasp. The metal felt cool against her sweltering skin. She rotated it, watching as it caught the light. “It’s beautiful.”
“Well, so are you.” He squeezed her hand and stepped back around the counter.
Tears welled in her eyes. Her hand still feeling the pressure of his grip, she cradled it against her body. It had been so long since she’d touched another person. “Thank you.”
“Perhaps you’ll come see me another time?”
To see his smile and speak to him again, Brusenna might do just that. Nodding a shy goodbye, she practically skipped from the marketplace. At least until a group of boys blocked her path. “You’re the chanter, aren’t you?” the one with the crooked nose asked her.
Dropping her head, she tried to duck past him. But he blocked her. “Chanter! Why don’t you cast one of your witch spells?”
Knowing a reply would only make things worse, she tried again to slide past them. Crooked nose easily blocked her. “Oh, look at that boys, she’s scared.” He gave one of her budding breasts a squeeze and made to say something else. He never got the chance.
Her mouth opened of its own accord and a song erupted from the most primal part of her, “Plants, hear my song, an enemy wishes to do me wrong!” He instantly shrank from before her and would have kept going, but the vines twisting around his ankles stopped him. His face drained of color as the plant edged up his legs and the legs of his companions. They tried to kick free, but the vines held.
“Here now!” a voice cried from somewhere behind Brusenna. She whirled to see the sheriff coming round a corner at full speed. She shrank away, desperately wanting to run. But instead of scolding her, he stopped in front of the boy. “Corwood, you’ve done it now! I’ll have you locked up for a fortnight for that!”
Brusenna didn’t care to wait around. “Never touch me again,” she hissed as she stepped past the boys.
The sheriff called after her, but she pretended not to hear. She didn’t notice the pale blue eyes watching her with a knowing look in the crowd of merchants.

Let me know which is your favorite! I need to decide as soon as possible.

Query for The Last Witch

Friday, September 5, 2008
Dear _____:

This is the personalized section.

For decades, an underground war has been waging between two factions of Witches—the Sisters, who believe their duty is to unreservedly shore up the natural bindings that keep the Earth from falling into chaos; and the Dark Witch and her Servants, who wish to overthrow all other witches, giving them complete control over nature, and therefore, complete dominion over mankind.

Brusenna is ignorant to all of this until a stranger arrives, begging for Brusenna’s mother’s aid in their last stand against the Dark Witch. Left alone and untrained in Witch Dueling, Brusenna unwittingly leads the witch hunters to her hidden home, setting off a chase that ends in a grave discovery—her mother and the remaining Sisters have been captured. She is indeed, The Last Witch.

If Brusenna is to rescue her mother and the other Witches from the Dark Witch’s prison and save mankind from uncontrollable storms and temperature shifts, she will have only the aid of a young man and a faithful dog. Together, they face darkness only Brusenna can stop—if she can find a way to defeat the one witch who has toppled all others.

The Last Witch is a young adult fantasy of 91,000 words.

My previous writing accomplishments include the publication of a short story entitled Turning Point in The Western Horseman and NHSRA Times. I have also won numerous writing competitions (most recently the Eden Writer’s Conference and the LDSStorymaker’s Conference). I hold a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and am a Chapter President for the League of Utah Writers.

The Last Witch is a stand alone with sequel potential. Thank you for taking the time to review my query letter. I look forward to hearing from you.


Amber L. Smith

So whaddya think?

How tough is my Dad?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008
My cell phone vibrates. I look at the caller ID. My dad.
"Hey, whaddya doin'?" he asks.
My two year chucks a rock through my neighbors fence. "Just watching my kids make a mess." He chuckles.
"What are you doin'?" I ask in return.
"Oh, I'm at the hospital."
"Yeah. Guess I broke my leg in a couple places."
I lean back and take a deep breath. "How?"
"I was chasing cows with Bob Jensen up below the reservoir. It was kinda slick from all the rain. Horse slides right out from underneath me."
In my mind, I'm running through all the different horses my dad rides. "Which horse?"
"The three year old colt."
I roll my eyes. At fifty, Dad just won't stop breaking colts. "How'd you know it was broke?"
"Well, I should have bailed off, but I held on. Horse landed on my leg. My foot was stuck in the stirrup. When the horse rolled to get up, I heard my leg pop."
I shudder, imagining my dad's leg making that kind of noise. "Did you call for Mom to come get you or did Bob give you a ride home?" I ask.
He takes a deep breath. "Well, I told Bob I was alright and finished chasing cows. I figured I'd just sprained my ankle cause the burning was so low."
I know my dad rather well, and I'm beginning to see where this is going. "Dad, how long ago did you break you leg?"
He thinks for a minute. "Monday."
I run my hand through my hair. "Dad, it's Wednesday."
"Yeah, you Mom and your Uncle Bart wouldn't leave me alone about it."
I still can't quite believe I'm having this conversation. "So, are they going to cast it?"
"Have to wait for the swelling to go down. The broken part is kinda leaning in toward the other bone, so they might have to operate. I told 'em I had to have a walkin' cast. Gotta bring all the cows outta the mountains here in the next few weeks."
That's my dad. Can't stay away from the ranch for more than a few days or he turns into a moody teenager all over again. How many vacations did he not come on, or cut short cause he had to check on the cows. "Dad, you're hella tough."
He grunts. "Yer ma don't think so."
I sigh, unwilling to be dragging into that argument. What I call tough, Mom calls stubborn and prideful, but hey, I don't have to live w/ the guy anymore. "Tell me you're staying home today."
"Yeah. I gotta go in tomorrow though."
I sigh again. Might as well argue with a fencepost as keep Dad away from the ranch. "Be careful."
We hang up and I study my phone for a minute, wishing I were half as tough as the man who raised me.

I survived

Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Seriously, I survived this weekend. And before you think I'm using a metaphor, let me say, "I am not kidding." My son and I came very close to serious injuries. In the end, he walked, and I limped, away.
But let me back up.
We were camping in Mountains behind my home. I took my son on a four wheeler ride. We passed a few head of cattle, and my son announced, "Meow!" Immensely pleased with himself, he contiued to chant, "Meow, meow, meow."
I turned a bend and came upon a deep wash running down the center of the road. Immediately letting off the gas, I cranked the handlebars to straddle the wash. Just in time, the wheels straddled the center. Unfortuantely, the silt on the sides of the road came loose and sucked the back wheel in. That pulled in the front wheel. The machine tipped to the side and our weight threw it in deeper.
The thought flashed in my mind that we were going to crash. The next instant, I thought of my little baby. I threw my leg out and tried to hold the machine up. I wasn't strong enough. It jerked me forward and slammed me into the ground as it fipped, it's wheels still spinning in the air.
My son was trapped under the fourwheeler.
I screamed for my husband, but he was too far behind us.
I was on my own.
Wincing as I stood, I threw my weight into the machine. But I couldn't hold it up and pull him out.
"Connor, you have to get out."
Through his shrieks of terror, he managed to scramble out. As soon as he was clear, I let the fourwheeler fall back to the ground. As it finally choked and died, we scrambled to the side of the road. My back throbbing, I checked my son over. He crawled into my arms and cried it out.
A moment later, my wide eyed husband pulled up behind us. "Are you okay?"
Through my tears, I shook my head. "My back."
We both looked over to see our little two year old pouring silt over his head. "I think he's okay."
Strong man that he is, my husband flipped the fourwheerer. After a few tries, we got it started.
After climbing stiffly back on, I said a silent prayer of gratitude and headed back to camp.
As we drove, my little son chanted, "Meow, Meow, meow."

Helpful websites

Thursday, August 28, 2008
Hey all,
I've been doing lots of research on various agents. Some of them have very helpful blogs or websites, and I've listed quite a few on my bloglist. Make sure and check them out!
Some of my favs are Publisher's Marketplace, Agent Query, AAR, Writer's Beware, Preditors and Editors, and Agent Verification:
It actually allows you to type in the agents name (put in their first OR last name--the search engine isn't smart enough for the entire name) to see if they've made any sales lately.
This helped me when an agent offered me representation. I typed his name in to the database and found that he'd NEVER made a sale to a known publisher. NEVER. I don't think he was a scam artist. I think he just decided that he wanted to be a literary agent. But that isn't how the business works. Agents have to have contacts with publishers. You can't just decide that you want to be an agent and list yourself, any more than I could decide that I want to be an astronaut and get a ride to the moon.
Move over Armstrong! Here I come! (Probably wouldn't work with my fear of heights).

Interview by JoLynne Lyon

Tuesday, August 19, 2008
My reporter friend, JoLynne Lyon (she had a cool name, huh?) interviewed me. I thought it might be fun to post it here.

1. What is the timetable for the Nightstar Trilogy? Book two and three are written, but certainly not edited. I imagine you can expect the next book a year after the first.

2. What makes a good book for you? I love a writer who can pull your emotions in with the protagonist. When they cry, you sob; when they love, you burn; when they struggle, you fight for them. For me, the more subgenre’s the book has, the better (to a point of course). For instance, I love a fantasy that has strong romance elements, adventure, mystery, etc.

3. What are some of your favorite authors: I absolutely love Shannon Hale and Stephanie Meyer. Let’s face it, the girls can write and write well. I also like Brandon Mull, Tolkien, David Farland, Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, and Orson Scott Card. I could probably go on forever.

4. Why did you choose to write YA Fantasy? First, because it’s what I love to read, and it came naturally to me. Second, it’s how I dream, literally. I can create a word how I want it and not follow any preconceived rules. I love writing YA because of all the struggles involved in that age group: finding out who and what you are, choosing the path your life will take, deciding what kind of person you will be, falling in love, transitioning from a child to an adult, etc. All of these make for built in themes that add depth to a story.

5. If Ara were in high school today, who would she be and what would she be like? That’s a tough one, because Ara’s circumstances determine much of who she is. If the circumstances changes, so would she. But if we gave her the same restrictions, something to hide and an overprotective family, she’d probably be quiet and withdrawn of necessity, though that isn’t really her personality. She and Tenan would still be extremely close, but he would probably be rather popular. He would protect and defend her, going out of his way to look after her.

6. What is Kodan’s family life like? The Unicorns are very secretive about their society, but they have a connection with the earth and her creatures that affects them much as pollution does our climate. When evil and pain abound, the Unicorns feel it. In times past, they have interfered with these events and it has lead to tragic consequences. Their policy now is to provide minimal aid without interfering in the inevitable outcome. It is very difficult for them to put one of their own in harms way, for Unicorns are by nature, gentle and nonviolent. But they understand that they are part of the world and tied to the fate of it. Other than the interferences produced by the outside, their society is a beautiful Utopian.

7. What made you want to write this book: I always wanted to be a writer, but fear of failure held me back. When my second son was born with colic, I wrote for the simple solace of it. After stumbling around for a few chapters, I thought, “this story has to be told.” I dedicated myself to improving my writing and attending every writer’s group and conference I could. Two and a half years later, I was offered a contract.

8. Where do you get your inspiration for your characters: Some of the characters are complex mixtures of two of more people. Tenan is one of these—inspiration from two of my brothers, Chantry and Zach. My other brother, Adam, inspired Zacar (perhaps some day one of the three will actually read the book). Of course, Ara’s parents and upbringing are inspired by my own. As for Ara herself, people often think she’s me. She isn’t. I only wish. The setting for the Quander Mountains is loosely based on Star Valley, WY (where my husband grew up). The Tukendoom Desert is based off the Salt Flats (am I taking all the excitement out of this?) Kanovia is Idaho (I don’t know about you, but I think Idaho is pretty intimidating). The Blood Mountains is based off Zion National Park—Jarrer’s actual home is based off the Upper and Lower Falls. As far as Coen, I’ll keep that little tidbit to myself. Perhaps the most interesting derivation, the Hebocks, came from scary Girl Scout campfire stories about Big Foot or Sasquatch. I still shiver thinking about it.

9. How does your love of horses factor into the book? From chasing cows, to 4-H, to rodeo (barrels and poles), my love for horses plays a big part in the book. As a child, I often dreamed of Unicorns, flying or horned. In the book, Tenan’s horse, Killer, is actually based off my father’s horse. While chasing cows, Dad dismounted to check the cinch. The horse whirled around and kicked him in the face. Dad had broken facial bones and a nasty scar. Most people would have labeled the animal dangerous and put him down. Instead, Dad renamed him Killer and rode him until he died (wish I were half as tough). Talbot is based off my barrel and pole horse, Knight (whom I’ve used in more than one book).

10. Are there any themes in the book: One of the overarching themes of the trilogy is the concept that “You are more” and is aimed at women in general. We are all more than we see in the mirror. More beautiful, intelligent, powerful, strong, independent . . . I could go on forever. If only we could see ourselves as Kodan sees Ara, we would see so much potential, power, and beauty that our eyes would smart. Symptoms of self doubt would dissolve, because we wouldn’t settle for anything less than we deserve. And we deserve it all.

11. Are their any other themes? The theme for The Priestess Prophecy is: Great ends cannot be achieved without great sacrifice. I think of all the things that hold genuine, deep meaning for me, and I had to suffer/work/struggle for them all. My precious children. My marriage. My book. My home. My degree. My sanity. My handful of peas from the garden (why is it that I can never grow peas?).

12. Has trying to publish your book taught you anything? I think Randy Pausch said it all: Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things. They stop the people who don’t want it bad enough—the other people. Believe me, I hit a lot of brick walls. Some even invited me over the wall before tossing me back.

Writing As

Sunday, August 3, 2008
I'm trying to decide whether to write under my terribly generic name: Amber Lynn Smith. Or my maiden name: Amber Argyle.
Any thoughts? I'm not sure I want the hassle of a pen name. But I don't want a stalker either. Or to be confused with the playboy model "Amber Smith" (who knows, maybe having the same name as a porn star would sell more books).


I had my pictures taken for my book cover. As my photographer, Shauna, and I traipsed around the backcountry ten minutes from my home, Shauna suddenly freezes in the middle of the trail. A moment passes while I try to understand her sudden halt. Out of nowhere, she shrieks and runs toward me.
"What? What?" I ask.
She points down the steep terrain to a neatly coiled rattlesnake sunning itself on the warm path. "I almost stepped on it."
Forced from the origional path, we stumbled down lose shale toward the river. Carefully placing our every step, we make it through the shoot unbitten.
When we returned to the trailhead, we took the picture to the right to prove to any doubters that we hadn't been scared by a little watersnake.
How many people can say they risked their lives in the process of getting their book published? (Okay, so it was my photographer's life. Close enough! Sheesh!) :)

Eloise Owens

Monday, July 28, 2008
Our Roadmap
Within three interlinking circles (think Olympic rings minus one) are the words: Messenger, Message, and Marketplace. Pay attention to yourself, to your gifts, and to the marketplace so that your words will impact the heads and hearts of all who read your masterpiece.
She requested that we first Be present--stuff pulls at you, but live in the moment. When choosing between two things, do the thing that's important. Second, Ask questions. Third, Tell the truth--don't be afraid.
The most important quality of Great Writers is this: Self Management. Write even when you don't feel like it.
The Messenger:
Take your personal inventory. Ask yourself what motivates you to write, what is/are your strength(s), whatch out for your weakness' in your Messenger Personality.
What is important to you will reveal what type of Messenger you are.
  1. Theoretical: Data, information, knowledge, truth
  2. Utilitarian: Results, money
  3. Aesthetic: Creative, emotional, sensitive, artistic experience, experiential.
  4. Social: Change the world, 'others' focused, can't say no
  5. Individualistic: Quality, leadership, control yourself and others.
  6. Tradition: Strength of belief, systematic, militaristic, always right.

After you figure out what type of messenger you are, you can pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses. IE--Theoretical struggle with data over all else. Utilitarians focus too much on money. Aesthetic are sensitive, emotional, and messy. Social can't say no and are often taken advantage of. Traditional always believe they're right. Individualistic are controlling. Etc.

Pinpointing your type of Messenger will also help you understand what motivates your writing. Do you write because you love creating, or do you need to fill our heads with information and truth, or do you need to prove you're right. Each one of these reasons will help you figure out your messenger.

The Message.

Salable ideas speak to basic needs. Clarify the book's idea by developing a crisp answer to the question: What is this book about?

Ie--This book shows______________(your target reader) that they__________ (take away value. For example. In the Priestess Prophecy, mine would look like this: This book shows YA girls that they are more. (more powerful, more beautiful, more courageous, etc)

The Marketplace:

Speaking, Media, Launch parties, Fans, Partnerships, articles, Tie Ins, book signings. Know your audience. If your targeting YA girls, don't sell your books in sporting goods stores, sell them in malls. If you're targeting middle age men, don't waste your time doing school tours.

And that my friends, is the final installment of the Cedar Fort Conference.


Truth Time

Monday, July 14, 2008
I think the time has come to discuss a very important and very pressing matter. Soda Pop. Gasp!
I know, I know. It's a hard subject for most people to dive into. Those differing bottles of fizz tend to bring out the worst in people.
For me, the debate starts with two words: Pepsi or Coke?
Here I go, don't send me hate mail, Pepsi. I haven't always been a Pepsi girl. As a preteen, I was a Coke fan. But then I began to use hairspray, and I have to say, Coke has a very "Hairspray" aftertaste. Ruined me for life on Coke.
And now I digress. I am weird. I know I am. My husband and children confirm the fact daily, but once again, this is my therapy because I'm too poor to afford it on my own: I like my pop flat. *cringe*
Ah, that's strangely liberating. Yes, flat. I hate the bubbles that give you burps and burn your nose/throat on the way down. I will leave it opened in the fridge for a few days. If the situation is dire, I hold my mouth over the nozzle and shake it until most of the bubbles are gone (are you visualizing this? Good, because you needed to smile today. Serious, work on the attitude buster.)
We'll now that I'm out of the closet, I think I'll go have a Pepsi.

I discovered the Author's Guild

Friday, July 11, 2008
WOW! I just found the best sight for authors (the requirement is you have to have a contract).
Here's the description from their website:

Members of the Authors Guild receive free book contract reviews from experienced legal staff, discounted health insurance rates in some states, low-cost website services including website-building, e-mail, and domain name registration, access to our free Back in Print service, our quarterly print Bulletin, and invitations to panels and programs throughout the year.

I've been looking at lawyers that charge $400 an hour to go over my contract. 90 dollars a year gets me access to all of the above! I'm so excited I found them.
Check it out at

The Priestess Prophecy Query

Thursday, July 10, 2008
This is the personalized section.

For decades, the world Ara calls home has been divided by a bloody war between the Kanovians and the Nonaeans. Generations of Gifted men and women have been murdered by Assassins in order to cripple Nonae’s armies. But neither side has been able to gain an advantage big enough to win the war once and for all—until now.

When the Unicorn chooses Ara for the priestess, the fate of her kingdom is suddenly thrust into her hands. Once the Assassins learn of her Gift, she must abandon her life, family, and everything she has ever known to follow a mysterious young man who promises safety, training on how to use her abilities . . . and perhaps something more. Ara must decide whether she can trust the man whose motives are unclear at best, and along the way unravel her past—the key to ending the war. But unless she can stay ahead of the Assassins, she may not live long enough to develop into the priestess fate is forcing her to be.

The Priestess Prophecy is a young adult, fantasy novel of 97,428.

My previous writing accomplishments include the publication of a short story entitled Turning Point in The Western Horseman and NHSRA Times. I hold a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and am a Chapter President for the League of Utah Writers. I am currently in the editing stages of my next novel.

Please be aware that this is a multiple submission. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Amber L. Smith

Rejection sucks.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I had an agent that loved my book. She said so herself. I waited for a couple weeks and every communication I had with her was so positive. I started to get really, really excited.
Then she offered a rejection wrapped in mounds of praise. Like all pirates everywhere, I would like to say, Argh!

Agents and snail mail

Friday, June 27, 2008
So I've been in touch with a few agents. One of them requested my stuff, so I emailed it to her. She emailed me back to say she liked the beginning and she'd let me know the rest. Fast, cheap, effective.

The other guy wants it snail mailed. I hate that. It's expensive. Not only in paper, but postage. And time. My home printer is only good for about 400 pages. That's one book. Meaning I have to email my book to a copy center (my CD thingy no longer opens thanks to son #2), load up my kids, drive there, unload my kids. Help the counter lady find the document while trying to keep my kids from using a packet of stickers. We finally get the right document printing when wham, paper jam. Now I'm trying to fish the paper out of the printer and figure out which pages I've lost so I can reprint them.

I look over to see my children arguing over whether or not the TV in the kids room is really broken.
It is.
At this point, I want to say, "Will someone please take care of their children!" Instead, I go tell my children to be quiet.
For this joyous and educational outing, I pay around 10 bucks.
But we aren't done yet, folks.
Now we get to load up the kids, go to the post office, unload the kids. Stand in line . Restack all the boxes the two year old pulls down because he wants to make a fort out of them. Then we pay for the postage (5 bucks), load the kids back in the car, drive home, unload the kids and fall onto the couch.
Five minutes later, my husband walks through the door and asks why I haven't vacuumed yet.
Can I make a passionate plea to agents and editors everywhere? Email. For the love of all things holy and right. Email.

Doug Johnston

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Tips from Doug:
  • always carry business cards
  • call and thank people (even if they give you a bad review--any publicity is good publicity)
  • the best publicity is free publicity
  • never send a book w/o media kit
  • always follow up
  • If you get a review, send a thank you letter
  • every published author should have a website

Advertising outlets:

  • newspaper
  • magazines
  • radio
  • TV
  • Blogs
  • Websites
  • Youtube
  • word of mouth
  • advertisements
  • friends, family, and people you know


  • Determine if the paper is big enough/geared toward your audience for you to spend time on.
  • Find editor that deals with the issues in your book (themes, etc).
  • Do you have a contact at the paper? Go over their staff pages.
  • Find out how big the paper is. Sometimes the same article will run in 8 papers because they're all co owned.
  • will show you who owns it
  • less than 20% of newspapers have a book reviewer.
  • 95% never review a book unless someone give them the review (the newspaper reviewers usually don't even read it). Translation: You write your own glowing review and they print it.

Signing etiquette

  • never chew gum
  • dress professionally
  • be prepared
  • make friends with your audience and they will buy your book. Maybe not today, but they will buy it.
  • never sign for other coauthor
  • always talk to the person your signing the book for--not the next person in line or your friend
  • smile
  • tell them about the book
  • ask them if they want it personalized
  • let them watch you sign it
  • be on time
  • have plenty of books
  • prepare your 20 second pitch
  • get their emails and compile an email list
  • bring business cards
  • follow through

When you sign a contract, ask who will be helping you market and what you can do to help them.

Janet Jensen--new information added.

Third instalment:
Media Kits--send with every review copy, keep up to date. Send media release page to local papers, university alum, libraries, and organizations that might be interested (historical societies, social, etc.)
In email--put mini media release in body (don't attach).
Send with a copy of your book to media outlets. ie--newspapers, radio stations, etc.

  • Media Release on publisher letterhead
  • Information about book--image, ISBN, price, etc
  • Awards/honors
  • Blurbs from published reviews
  • Author Bio, contact info
  • Published Articles/interviews/sample Q&A (interview yourself).
  • List your availability as a speaker, with topic of expertise (ie League of Utah Writers, BYU Education Week, youth groups, PTA Literacy Night, book clubs, etc). List contact info and fee if applicable (travel $)
  • CD with video preview, audio files, etc.
  • Business card, flier, t-shirt, pins, bookmark, postcard, signed bookplate, keychain, magnet, etc. Be creative!
  1. Get Listed! Find databases where your books should be listed. Add tags to your listing (see other side.)
  2. Signings: Publicize beforehand in paper, etc. Set up displays themed to match your work--use multimedia, giveaways. Make your poster taller than your table so people can see. Come early, have extra books in car, greet staff and managers, write personal thank yous.
  3. Enter Contests--they get your books distributed to schools, libraries, etc. And the publicity for winning is great. See articles at Carolyn Howard-Johnsons's site for specs.
  4. Reviews: The more the better. Look up books similar to yours , see who has reviewed the, request reviews for your books. Swap books with other authors, post reviews on blogs, exchange links.
  5. Blogs: hold contests. Caveat: be professional on blogs and webpages. Link your blog to Plan blog tours. Gather email lists through blogging, send email newsletters to interested readers. Learn to do podcasts.
  6. Books clubs are always looking for speakers and love real authors. Read from your own work. Always allow time for Q&A. Bring freebies, have drawings for free book.
  7. Libraries: See that copies of your book are placed in as many libraries as possible.
  8. TV, radio--use internet for contact info., follow contact instructions. Prepare Q&A for interviewer, practice in front of video camera. Do your homework re the show, interviewer, format.
  9. Brainstorm with other writers! Keep your publisher updated!

League of Utah Writers:

--sign up on their speakers bureau, list topics.

Critique groups are invaluable. Join one or form one.

Other organizations: historical societies, murder-mystery writers, children's writers, romance writers, etc.

Magazines: The Writer, Writer's Digest, Poets & Writers, Publishers Marketplace, ByLine--check your library.

Offer to speak to organizations: PTA Literacy Nights, Reading Councils, Civic Groups, school groups.

Get a wikipedia page.

Amazon: Check out their most prolific reviewers. Find one that likes books similar to yours. Request a review. If they agree, send them a book. Create detailed tags. Both will create more hits.
email Janet for a copy of her media kit:
The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard Jonson

Abel Koagh

Okay, I missed most of Abel's comments because I had a pitch session. I felt bad because it sounded so darn good. Here's the five minutes I heard:
4 Reasons Authors need a website:
  1. Marketing, branding, and promotional tool.
  2. Low cost
  3. Spreads your voice across the globe
  4. Lets you share ideas and upcoming events


We got a Wii!

Seriously, I hate video games. My brothers always got nintendo games as a family present for Christmas. Used to drive me crazy because I never liked to play them and it was a big part of our Christmas.
So when my husband wanted a Wii, I wasn't too thrilled. But he rarely buys anything for himself, and he works so hard. Plus I thought my boys would love it. I was right about that, but I was wrong when I thought I wouldn't like it. It's so much fun. And a really good workout to boot. My arms are jelly after only 2 baseball games (Derek and I tied with no runs, in case you wanted to know ;) )

Cedar Fort Agrees to Publish The Priestess Prophecy

Friday, June 20, 2008
So with all the changes going on at Cedar Fort, I contacted them to see what would become of my MS. Kammi Rencher came on the phone and said not to worry. I would be working with their new editor, Jennifer Fielding. I wasn't quiet sure what she meant, as I hadn't been accepted yet. So my next question was what they thought of it, if they thought they might want to take it, or pass.
She then asked me if I'd received her email the day before. Apparently, she'd emailed me, telling me that they loved the Priestess Prophecy and wanted to publish it. Of course, my spam guard had to delete that. If I hadn't called her, who know how long it might have been before I found out.
Kammi Rencher said my MS was outstanding! A high compliment, coming from an editor. I've been telling everyone I know. Two and a half years of struggle: rewrites, critique groups, conferences, rejections, near acceptances (worse than flat out no's in my opinion), edits, networking . . . I could go on forever. But I finally made it. And I think The Priestess Prophecy is good enough for all of it.
Today, I'm all smiles.
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