Why Rae Carson ruined me on reading.

Monday, November 26, 2012
Have you ever read something so intense, so new and different and wonderful that you knew you wouldn't be able to pick up another book for a long, long time. Simply because anything else would be like eating a tootsie roll when you could have had a Lindt truffle (and you all know how I feel about tootsie rolls). The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a story of the power within each of us, no matter how deeply we bury it. It's also a story about loss and redemption and finding oneself.  

If Fire and Thorns was fantastic, Crown of Embers was mind blowing. I couldn't stop reading. My life was literally on hold while I burned through the book. 

I'll be rereading both books. 

Help me pick Winter Queen's font

Tuesday, November 20, 2012
It's time to pick the main font for Winter Queen. The same font will be used for the whole trilogy. I want something that conveys the feel of the story, which is a YA high fantasy that had a lot of darker themes.

I tried to download these options, but couldn't figure it out. So you'll have to click on them to see. Sorry. (Also, I made the title Daughter of Winter Queen so I could see what the title would look like for more of the series, not because that will be the title).

-I really like this one. The "W" kinda bugs me though. 

-I really like this one, but I'm worried it might be too girly with the curlies on the ends. Also, I'm not sure how the smudges will work on the final cover.

-Simple, but has some fun stuff going on too.

-Doesn't get much simpler than this.

-I really like the "W" with this one. I'm not sure about how thin some of the lines get.

-Very different. It has a middle east feel to it. I like it, though it doesn't fit the first story.

Thoughts? Your ideas will be big for swaying me one way or another, so let me know what you think.
*Update* Final Four:
 -All caps on everything but the articles. Drop caps on the first letter (Thanks to Isaac Steward for the idea!). I really like this one, BUT I'm afraid it looks too much like the font used for the Witch Song series--if you give anyone an opportunity to be confused, they will be.
-If the cover ends up being too busy, we'll use this one to even things out.
-If we can use it w/ the lowercase "w" and size it up.

My formatter flat out said no on Beyond Wonderland. 

How I came up with the names from Witch Song

Thursday, November 15, 2012
I like my names to sound like what they are—that way they’re easier for the reader to remember. So for instance, in Witch Song, one of the villains names is Wardof, which I created by combining ward (magical barrier) and off.  ward off = Wardof
Garg, another villain, ends up blabbering a lot. He’s also kinda fat. Garg just sounds like a fat, blabbering kinda guy.
I always wanted to name Brusenna (the heroine) Senna, but that didn’t sound witchy enough for me. So I took brew (as in witches brew), changed the spelling, and added Senna to the back. Brew + Senna = Brusenna.
Joshen (the hero) is an easy going, laid back kind of guy. He’s always kidding or joshing around.  I also have a cousin named Josh (I pull in family names every once in a while). Plus it just sounds good. Though I wouldn’t recommend pulling family names into books. All of a sudden you’re hounded at family reunions (especially when you have as big a family as I). Then they don’t like that you made them a villain, that the character was bald, or had some other random imperfection that they think was pulled from them.
I introduce some new characters in Witch Born. Krissin is named after my sister-in-law, Kristin. Ellesh is named after my MIL, Ellen (please see above for why you should NEVER do this).
Cord is named after my son. Also, he’s kind of tied to Senna.
Prenny after a high school friend named Penny.
Drenelle just sounded like a woman who adores lace.
Ciara from Tiara, cause Ciara acts like a princess.
Pogg is a frog man. Pond + frog  = Pogg (I added an extra “g” to make it look more name-like).
Harshen is a harsh land.
Espen is from Aspen, because *spoiler alert!* the dark witch is turned into a tree with circular leaves. J
Grendi is taken from Glenda the Goodwich in Wizard of Oz (cause I like to twist things like that).
There’s also a couple names in there that only people from a certain demographic will recognize. ;)
Arianis is kind of a rival to Senna. And she’s a pain-in-the-ass = Arianis. See how that works. ;)

Have you entered to win Witch Born: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/28653-witch-born
Have you signed up for Winter Queen's blog tour on the tab above? 

Captcha sucks

Monday, November 12, 2012

I hate Captcha (word verification). It's this sneaky pop up that insists I enter the secret code to prove I'm not a robot (are you getting Terminator flashbacks? What's next, sniffer dogs?). I never get the code right the first time. So then I retype it. Sometimes I clear it on the second time. Sometimes not. 

But it gets worse. If I'm on my iPhone, I don't even try. I just leave and don't come back. 

Either way, that quick little comment I wanted to make is now a long, drawn out pain in the bum. And I'm a lot less likely to come back to your blog. 

"But the spam!" You cry out. "I cannot abide the spam." 

I don't use captcha and I never have spam. 

Disallow anonymous users. That's it. Now you won't have spam and your readers won't have to fight off evil robots disguised as steroid using robots. 

And thanks to Shelly for this fun blogfest. 

Have you entered to win Witch Born: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/28653-witch-born
Have you signed up for Winter Queen's blog tour on the link above? 

Enter to win Witch Born

Thursday, November 8, 2012
I'm giving away five copies of Witch Born on Goodreads. Enter here: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/28653-witch-born 

If you share this link on your blog/facebook/twitter, I'll enter you to win two bookmarks and/or two bookplates. Just
  1.  leave your links in the comments. 
  2. One point per share. 
  3. No limit on shares. 
  4. Contest ends November 20th. 
I'll be gone on vacation for a week this month, so I won't be around online for a while.

*also, have you signed up for Winter Queen's blog tour? Click on the tab above.

Sign up for Winter Queen's blog tour

Tuesday, November 6, 2012
 If you'd like to participate in Winter Queen's blog tour, you can sign up here: http://www.amberargyle.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html

I'm doing things a little different than previous years. If you aren't a reviewer or book blogger, you can sign up for the cover reveal, author interview, etc but you will not be receiving a book for review. The books are in ebook format only.

I'm debating about whether to actually put this one out a little sooner than the June release date, so keep that in mind. 

Here's the link for the Goodread's page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15829917-winter-queen
The synopsis: 
Mortally wounded during a raid, seventeen-year-old Ilyenna is healed by winter fairies who present her with a seductive offer: become one of them and share their power over winter. But that power comes with a price. If she accepts, she will become a force of nature, lose her humanity, and abandon her family.

Unwilling to pay such a high price, Ilyenna is enslaved by the one of the invaders, Darrien. While in captivity, she learns the attack wasn’t just a simple raid but part of a larger plot to overthrow her entire nation. 

With the enemy stealing over the mountains and Darrien coming to take her to his bed, Ilyenna must decide whether to resurrect the power the fairies left behind. Doing so will allow her to defeat Darrien and the other invaders, but if she embraces winter, she will lose herself to that destroying power—forever.

And the first page: 

Ilyenna’s horse danced nervously beneath her, the animal’s hooves clicking against the snow-covered stones that coated the land like dragon eggs. Reaching down, she patted her mare’s golden neck. “Easy, Myst. What’s the matter, girl?”
“There.” Her father pointed at the base of a forested hillock not fifty paces beyond the road. Ilyenna saw the shadowed form of a large animal.
Bratton soundlessly pulled an arrow from his quiver and nocked it. “Bear?” He directed the question at their father.
The word stirred currents of tension in Ilyenna’s body. The cold stung her checks and formed a vapor no matter how shallowly she breathed. As she glanced up and down the road, her hand gripped the knife belted around her bulky wool coat.
“I think it’s a horse,” Bratton finally said.
Ilyenna eased her mare forward for a better look. It was a horse—a bay. “Then where is his rider—” The words died in her throat when she spotted a motionless gray lump at the horse’s feet. Without thought, she rammed her heels into her mare’s ribs.
“Stop!” her father cried at the same time Bratton called, “Ilyenna!”
But the healer in her couldn’t be denied. In three of the horse’s strides, she was in the forest. She pressed herself flush against Myst’s muscular neck. Still, larch trees managed to slap her, leaving the sharp scent of their needles in her hair and clothes. Clumps of snow shook loose from their sagging boughs, falling across her horse’s mane and into her face. Yet Ilyenna barely registered the icy shock.

I need help from a librarian or teacher

Saturday, November 3, 2012
I get asked all the time if Witch Song or Witch Born has an AR test to go with it. The answer is always no. I don't have the time or desire to write an AR test for the books. But maybe one of do. 

So here's the deal: I'll send you a book and a bookmark in exchange for you creating an AR test for said book. Also, I'll love you forever. If you're interested, email me: amberargyle at yahoo dot com. 

Below is the info on creating an AR test. 

Writing and Adding an AR Teacher-Made Quiz
  1. How to Prepare a Quiz
  2. How to Format a Question
  3. How to Assess the Reading Level and Word Count
  4. How to Add Teacher-Made Quizzes to AR

“You can create and add your own Reading Practice Quizzes for use in Accelerated Reader; these are called Teacher-Made Quizzes. When you create the quiz, Accelerated Reader automatically calculates the point value based on the book level and the word count you enter. After you save the quiz, it will be available to your students. When your students take the quiz, the program will shuffle the answers for each question.” –Accelerated Reader Manual, p. 32
Things to know:
  • Anyone with access to the Accelerated Reader Management program can add teacher-made quizzes.
  • You can add up to 500 teacher-made quizzes. The Quiz ID numbers 900-1399 are reserved for teacher-made quizzes.
  • Book levels must be between 1 and 12.9 to be valid.
  • AR automatically shuffles your answers.
  • You must include the number of words in order for AR to calculate points.
  • AR automatically calculates point vales.

1. How to Prepare a Quiz
Your quiz should:
  • Accurately represent the content.
  • Encourage students to read actively and with interest.
  • Assess comprehension of the main events and characters.
  • Reflect what an excellent reader would know.
  • Represent events throughout the book(From: http://www.geocities.com/lisajunedenton/teachermade.html)

Based on the length of the book, level of interest and readability, decide on the number of questions the quiz should have. Typically, books with 32 - 74 pages could have 5 questions, those ranging from 75-200 pgs might have 10 questions and books with difficult vocabulary and more than 200 pages might have 20 questions.
1. Take the total number of pages and divide by the number of questions. 
2. Write a question for each section of the book. 
For example: 
Book=120 pages 
120/10=12 pages
For each 12 pages, write a question.(from: Sher Smith Ross, Librarian, www.mtbaker.wednet.edu/library/ar.htm)
Writing Questions
  • Use sticky notes to jot down questions and answers as you read, selecting the best ones after you finish.
  • Make all the answers plausible, with one outright winner.
  • Do not write negative or ludicrous answers.
  • Write thoughtful questions, do not try to "trick" the student.
  • Be sure each of your questions is a question and that it ends with a question mark.
  • Answers and distracters should begin with a capital letter and be a phrase or complete sentence, no one-word answers.
  • Please edit your questions, answers, and distracters for spelling, punctuation, and syntax.
  • Do not write “fill in the blank” questions.
  • Do not write all “of the above” questions.
  • Choose your vocabulary based on the grade level of the book and be sure it is related to the book.
  • Do not ask them to identify pictures, or illustrations.
  • Do not ask them to identify the author or the title of the book.

(From: Book Adventure, www.bookadventure.com)

If there is a movie, make sure your test will not allow 
a "movie-only" student pass the test.
  • Write questions that are grammatically correct.
  • Add questions in the order they occur in the plot.
  • Do not be too picky, a student may have to wait a day to test.
  • Do not be too general, a student who has not read the book well should not pass.

Questions should be written for basic reading comprehension. Five elements should be included in each quiz:
1. Main Idea and Detail - Who, What, Where, When, or How questions. This includes choosing the main idea or topic of the book. Some open-ended sample questions are: What is __? How did___ happen? When did __ happen?
(Student Competence = Knowledge)
Example 1: What is this book about?
  • What people do when they first come to America
  • How the West was won
  • Learning how to deal with new cultures
  • A journey to a new land

(These are not complete sentences so a period is not necessary.)

2. Constructing Meaning/Comprehension - This is an opportunity to demonstrate understanding of facts and ideas by organizing, comparing, translating or giving a description. Some ideas are related by sequence or time order. Questions could ask, "which event happened first" or "what happened next". Cause and effect are meaning questions - "why did someone do something". Sequence questions would have the words "first", "next", "later". Cause and effect questions could use words in the answers such as "because", "as a result", "since". We want children to explain what was meant or select the best definition or description.
(Student Competence = Comprehension)
Example 1: Which event happened first?
  • Jim went to the doctor.
  • Jim went to bed.
  • Jim began to sneeze.
  • Jim ate some dinner.
Example 2: Why did Jim name his kitten Eve?
  • Because she made him sneeze.
  • Because she was dark as the evening sky.
  • Because she like to sneeze.
  • Because she stayed up all night.
3. Evaluating Information - An example of evaluating information might be choosing something that is fact versus opinion or comparing and contrasting situations or ideas. Another example is to ask the child to decide why an author might have written a story or identifying motives or causes in the story. Key words are: analyze, compare, contrast, simplify, list, theme, relationships, judge, explain, or select.
(Student Competence = Analysis)
Example 1: Why do you think the author wrote Harry Potter?
  • To teach about pilots
  • To teach about a wizard boy
  • To teach about going to school
  • To teach about history
Example 2: Which sentence is true?
  • Harry Potter was an orphan.
  • Harry Potter was raised by his mother and father.
  • Harry Potter was born with no parents.
  • Harry Potter was a cat.
4. Characters & Plot - This might be a question about who the main characters were. Questions should be about how the characters felt about something that happened or what kind of person the character was, etc. (I.e.: Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web was a generous & kind animal, a shy and reserved animal, a lazy and boring animal, etc). Some words to think about with Characters and Plot questions are: Define and Describe, Which One or What is Best, etc. (Competence = Knowledge)
Example 1: How did Wilbur feel when he first met Charlotte?
  • He felt scared.
  • He felt angry.
  • He felt confused.
  • He felt excited.
Example 2: What causes Epimetheus to leave?
  • Zeus signals to him.
  • Epitmetheus is afraid of the box.
  • Pandora is too curious.
  • Hermes plays a joke on him.
5. Vocabulary Usage - Use a potentially new or challenging word from the book in your questions. We want children to be reading for vocabulary and word recognition improvement as well as for enjoyment.
Example 1: What did Harry Potter mean when he said it was "serendipitous" that he ran into Hagar?
  • It was a pleasant surprise.
  • It was unfortunate.
  • It was totally planned.
  • It was funny.
If you need assistance when considering higher level questions, visit Bloom’s Taxonomy at

(From: Book Adventure, www.bookadventure.com)

3. How to Assess the Reading Level and Word Count
It is vital that you accurately assess the reading level and word count.
Here are some suggestions:
Do a Fry readability study. You can find the graph in the Accelerated Reader User's Manual, online athttp://school.discovery.com/schrockguide/fry/fry2.html
and the directions for its use at 
Accurately count the words so students get the benefit of full points for passing the test. The formula for word counts are in the User's guide as well or can be accessed at:

Or, using Microsoft Word, do a readability test for the book:
“You can check the readability level of a passage using the Klesch-Kincaid Reading Level built into the newer versions of Microsoft® Word. In Word XP, to display readability statistics...
  • On the Tools menu, click Options, and click the Spelling & Grammar tab.
  • Select the Show readability statistics check box, and then click OK.
  • On the Tools menu, click Spelling and Grammar .
When Microsoft® Word finishes checking spelling and grammar, it displays information about the reading level of the document.”

Alternatively, if you are pressed for time, use a search engine like Google to scan another library's tests for the proprietary AR Reading level and points. Use author (LN, FN) or title and the words "ar test." 
Ex: for Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson your phrase would be "speak ar test" or "anderson, laurie halse ar test."
You may also go to

www.renlearn.com. to identify the reading level and point values

Using the point value of a book means you can experiment with the number of words until you get the points correct.
Place a sticker on the book to identify that there is a test available for that title.

1. To go to the Quizzes screen, click the Go menu and select Quizzes.
2. Click the Reading Practice tab toward the top of the screen.
3. Click the [Add] button.
4. In the Select Quiz Number dialog box, click the Quiz number that you would like to use for your new quiz; then, click the [OK] button. (You will need to scroll down to see some Quiz numbers.) Quiz numbers 900-1399 are reserved for Teacher-Made Quizzes, so you can add up to 500 quizzes. Only Quiz numbers that have not been used will be shown in the dialog box.
Note: If more than one teacher is creating quizzes, you may want to assign different Quiz numbers to each teacher, especially if the teachers are using different Accelerated Reader databases. Since two quizzes can’t use the same Quiz number, you will not be able to import a Teacher-Made Quiz from another teacher if your database already has a quiz that is using that Quiz number. You can only import quizzes from other teachers if you are using the same Accelerated Reader serial number as those teachers.
5. The Add Teacher-Made Quiz dialog box will open with the General tab selected. In this tab, click in the fields (blanks) and type the title, author, a book level between 0.2 and 12.9, and a word count. (The word count is necessary if you want Accelerated Reader to calculate point values.) Then, click the drop-down lists to select the book’s language, interest level, fiction or nonfiction, and the number of questions you want in the quiz.

The number of questions determines the passing percentage for the quiz; the passing percentage is 60% for 5-question and 10-question quizzes, and 70% for 20-question quizzes.
Interest levels show the grade range for which the book’s content is appropriate. You can select from:
“Unknown,” “LG” (lower grades, K-3), “MG” (middle grades, 4-8), or “UG” (upper grades, 9-12).
Note: To obtain an ATOS book readability level, go to

6. Next, click the Questions tab. You will see a list of questions, each labeled “New Question.” 
The number of questions has been determined by the number you chose on the General tab.
7. Click the first question; then, click the [Edit Question] button.
8. The Edit Question dialog box will open. Click in each field (blank) and enter the question, the correct answer, and the alternate answers. Accelerated Reader will shuffle the answers each time it presents the quiz to your students. When you finish entering the answers, click the [OK] button to close the Edit Question dialog box and return to the Add Teacher-Made Quiz dialog box.
9. Notice that the first question in the list now shows the text you entered for the question. Repeat steps 7 and 8 for each additional question in the quiz.
10. When you have finished entering the questions for the quiz, click the [OK] button in the Add Teacher-Made Quiz dialog box. The quiz you added will appear in the list at the Quizzes screen. --AR Manual, p. 32

How a cat can save you from hours of rewrites.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Writers, I'm giving  you a BIG tip here. Buy the book above. Print out the beat sheet (below). Read the book. Tape the beat sheet to your desk (I'm not kidding). It's taped to my desk along with my world's map.
You'll thank me later. 


1. Opening Image (1):

2. Theme Stated (5):

3. Set-Up (1-10):

4. Catalyst (12):

5. Debate (12-25):

6. Break into Two (25)

7. B Story (30):

8. Fun and Games (30-55):

9. Midpoint (55):

10. Bad Guys Close In (55-75):

11. All Is Lost (75):

12. Dark Night of the Soul (75-85):

13. Break into Three (85):

14. Finale (85-110):

15. Final Image (110):
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