Friday, September 30, 2011

Books Shape Us

A while back I wrote an article about how few books change the world so we shouldn’t take ourselves so seriously. One of my readers, Regectedriter, wrote something beautiful that changed my mind:

Even though it's easy to read a novel, the story does stick to the heart- for some a bit more than others. But the story will always be there, won't it? Even after the pages have stopped turning and teh book has been filed away to gather dust on a too-full shelf, it'll stay hidden at the back, or front, of the mind. Of all the novels you've read, I'm sure you'll keep the parts that impacted you in your memory and use them to bolster your spirit, whether you consciously realize it or not.

It got me wondering:  I’ve read a ton of bad books in my life. If I could go back in time and prevent myself from reading every book I didn’t like, how would that change me?

If I had that chance, I wouldn’t do it. Sometimes it’s the bad books that motivate me to write. “I could do better,” I’ll say, or “I disagree with that,” or even, “I can’t let this horrible book influence people without counterbalancing it with what I think is right.” Bad books help me understand what I care about.

Now I’m going to use the same concept to make a different point:

I came up with an idea for another book yesterday. Right on schedule. I come up with a book idea once a year like clockwork, which is wonderful… and it would be even more wonderful if I could get Sacred Fire finished so I wouldn’t have to sit on six ideas at once.

While telling my husband about my new book, he asked how I came up with the idea. “The Terminator,” I said without thinking, which surprised both me and my husband since my book is a historical fiction – without robots. (It’s such a freakin’ awesome movie, though. I want to name my first son Connor, but Andrew refuses to name our children after action movie characters.) 

I started to list other books/movies that influenced me: The Tiger’s Wife, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and Outlander.

Hunger was a mix between The Phantom of the Opera and Beloved, and I realize now I was influenced by every sappy romance and every stupid vampire/werewolf/ghost story I ever disliked. It all blended together into something wonderful.

As for Fierce, my Nano book… I don’t know where that thing came from. I’m going to look at my Goodreads list and see if I can’t figure it out.

What books did you have to read in order to come up with the idea for your novel?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How to Prep for a Book, Step 7: Putting it All Together


You've come up with a brilliant idea for a book. You wrote down everything you want the book to accomplish. You've done the research. You've made a brief outline and a detailed outline. You've made sketches of your characters. You've developed the setting. The next step: put it all in a notebook.

I've only just started on my notebook for Fierce, but I already love it so much that I'm seriously considering making one for Sacred Fire, even though I've already finished writing the book.

Check it out; my cover has a picture of my three main characters, and the other pages have pictures pasted on. I have my highlighters and note cards tucked into a sleeve, and there's a nice stack of blank paper in the back for me to scribble down notes.

Already I love that I can research in bed instead of having to get on the computer whenever I need to write something down. And I can't tell you how much I love having everything printed out and in my hand; it makes finding things so much easier. I will definitely do this from now on.

This will be more than just a valuable resource. I'm going to keep this notebook for the rest of my life. Ten years from now I'm going to flip through the pages and the pictures to see where my inspirations came from and how my precious book developed. 

I guess there's only one thing left to do: wait until November.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Embarrasing Parents

My parents are two very different people.

When I was in high school, my mom ran into the house with a grin on her face and a CD in her hand. "I just heard the best song!" she said. "You're going to love it!"

She popped it into the CD player, pressed play, and danced around the house. That was the first time I heard "I Like Big Butts." So my mom is pretty cool. 

My dad is the kind of guy who tells the same jokes as often as humanly possible. I hate cemeteries because of him. Everytime we pass by one, he says, "People are dying to get in there." I also never start a sentence with the word "surely" because he will undoubtably say, "Don't call me Shirley."

My parents rarely embarrass me, but there was this one time I'll never forget. We were in a store and my brothers and I found one of those video game demos and started playing it. When my dad was done shopping and told us we had to go, we didn't want to stop. We said, "We'll leave in just a sec," and kept playing.

My dad came back later and we said the same thing: "We'll be ready in just a sec."

The third time he came by we said, "Just a sec."

By this time, his face was red. My dad shouted loud enough for everyone in the store to hear, "No more secs, let's go!"

Confused people looked into our ailse to see who was having sex in the store. We covered our faces and ran to the car.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How to Prep for a Book, Step 6: Visualize Setting

This week is dedicated to preparing your novel before you start it, or “plotting.” The sixth step: visualize the setting.

Let’s say it’s October 31 and I already have my plot, my research, and my character sketches. Typically at this point, I start typing feverishly. When I’m done, I realize I didn’t say anything about the surroundings, the character’s faces, how things looked and smelt. I go back and add it in.

I wonder how my writing would change if before I wrote a scene, I took a moment to close my eyes and visualize as many details as I could. My guess is this would not only make the writing faster; it would also make it richer.

I’ve never tried this before. Should be fun.

My dear reader Matt Phillips left a comment that will really helpful to me when I start this:

"One thing I've done that's been helpful is to write up little "setting profiles." Kind of like character profiles, but centralizing all my research about a particular place in one document. 

"I don't do it for every location in the story, just major ones, like the towns the characters live in. They include maps I've found, who lived where and what their homes looked/felt/sounded/smelled like, major rivers/mountains, distances from one point to another, flora and fauna, daily life/customs, etc."

My book takes place in Africa, so it’ll be good for me to look at pictures, read descriptions, and get an over-all feel for the place. But your setting doesn’t have to be foreign for this step to be helpful. My last Nano book took place where I grew up, but I still had to think back on my memories to get a good picture of them.

If any of you have advice  for me and my readers about setting, feel free to comment!

Monday, September 26, 2011

How to Prep for a Book, Step 5: Character Sketches


This week is dedicated to preparing your novel before you start it, or “plotting.” The fifth step: character sketches.

A character sketch is when you write out all you can about your character: his dreams, his childhood, his favorite food, everything. There are hundreds of character worksheets online that are helpful for this, and I recommend trying a bunch of them to see what works best for you.

Character worksheets are fabulous – especially in the beginning stages – but they’re never enough for me. It’s good to know a character’s greatest phobia and her relationship with her parents, but a worksheet can’t predict everything you will include in your novel.

Example: I need to know how Tuccia, my main character, will feel when her best friend goes on trial for a crime she didn’t commit. How will this change her? Will she lose faith in the gods? No worksheet is going to ask that.

After I do my fun worksheets and get a good idea of the plot and how the characters fit into it, I open a word document. I write everything I can think of until the character takes shape. I’ll make a list of questions and try to answer them. I’ll include all the relationships she has with the other characters. I’ll have a page of her talking in the first person about what she thinks of the world. Whatever comes to mind.

Like the outline, this is flexible and I usually go back and change things. Personally, my characters are even more dynamic than my purpose

I would give anything to go back in time and make character sketches for Sacred Fire. I thought I knew my characters because I wrote down their age and hair color, but my beta readers kept asking me about their motivations and I couldn’t answer their questions. I had to make sketches, then go back and integrate the new information. It was such a pain!

Finding pictures of them helps too. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

How to Prep for a Book, Step 4: Chapter Outline

This week is dedicated to preparing your novel before you start it, or “plotting.” The fourth step: make a chapter outline.

This isn’t the same thing as the outline we talked about yesterday. The Plot Outline was the bare-bones of the story: boy gets bit by spider, boy discovers super powers, boy saves the world.

A chapter outline is a more thorough description of how the events unfold. Example: boy wakes up. Boy goes to school and gets made fun of. Boy goes on field trip and gets bit by a spider.

This kind of outline lists each and every step in the book. If there’s a moment when your character looks at a tree and thinks about life, you write it down.

It’s pretty time consuming, of course. You have to reeeeealy know your book before doing this, but that’s the whole point.

I’ve never done this before, but I’m halfway done with the one for my Nano book, and I love it. I can see my book in my head so clearly. Now when I sit down to write in November, I can look at my list and say, “Today I’m going to write about my MC looking at a tree,” instead of wondering what I should do next.

It’s helpful to make a chapter outline on cards. Since I have three POV characters, I need to do a lot of scene shifting, so lay my cards out on my desk and move them around until everything looks right.

Once I’m pretty sure where I want a certain scene to be, I go into a word document and write anything that’s in my head about the scene (quotes, imagery, etc.) so I don’t forget anything.

I won’t be able to finish this step until I’m partway (maybe even halfway) through the book. Even though I know my book pretty well, one can only know so much.

I’ll keep you updated in November on how this step is working out for me. I'm pretty optimistic about it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

How to Prep for a Book, Step 3: Outline

This week is dedicated to preparing your novel before you start it, or “plotting.” The third step: make a plot outline.

I keep this outline simple. Boy meets girl, boy can’t be with girl, boy sacrifices everything to get girl, boy and girl live happily ever after. The more thorough you can make it, the better. The outline for Hunger became ten pages.

Some people make changes, get into the book, and realize they want to change everything so they abandon it. I recommend just making a new one. If your outline makes you feel too restricted, make it simpler. Take out the details so you have blanks to fill in.

I make many changes to the outline as I write, but no matter how flexible you make it, it will always be an important foundation.

One thing I love about an outline is when I get ideas faster than I can write the chapters, I can scribble them down. I’ll add quotes, dialogue, or themes just to remember them.  

I also write in where there’s a gap in the story or where I have a question and highlight it in red. Then I know to get back to it later.

And here’s the thing; eventually, you will have to make a chapter outline anyway.  At some point in a novel you have to look at all your scenes objectively and decide what to keep, what to cut, what to add, and how to arrange it all. If you’re a pantser, you do this after writing your chapters. If you’re a plotter, you do it before. Personally, I'd rather do it before.

I didn’t make an outline for Sacred Fire and I made one for Hunger, and I can’t tell you what a difference it makes. It was awful being half-way through my book and then asking myself, “So… where am I going with this?” Having an outline beforehand helped keep the book structured and fluid.

Seriously, I swear by outlines.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How to Prep for a Book, Step 2: Research

This week is dedicated to preparing your novel before you start it, or “plotting.” The second step: do the research.

Every book needs some research. Even fantasies and sci-fis have facts, except those facts aren’t real. I highly, highly, highly recommend finishing the research before starting to write, if you can. You want your story to mold to the facts, not the facts to mold to the story. That’s how you get inaccuracies.

When I wrote Sacred Fire, a novel about the Vestal Virgins, I made one big document where I kept all my research. Whenever I found a fact, quote, or a paragraph of information, I pasted it in the document along with the source (web page, book title, whatever). Then I made a table of contents so everything would be easy to find.

I made a lot of mistakes while writing my book. The way I did my research is by far my greatest regret. It was so disorganized and incomplete, and it wasted more time than I care to think about.

I’m going to take the advice from Persia Woolley’s book “How to Write Historical Fiction” and try something drastically different for my Nano novel:

1.      Save Everything

While researching Sacred Fire, occasionally I would need to look up one quick little fact. When I didn’t think I would need the fact again, I wouldn’t save the information. I am shocked at how many “little facts” I needed over and over. Since I didn’t save the link, I’d have to search for it all over again.

 I’ve looked at a website about the structure of Roman homes a million times. I never saved the link because I always thought that was the last time I’d need it. Come to think of it, I still haven’t saved that darn information because I don’t think I’ll need it again.

When you open a web page, you can click on File > Save and save the page to a folder. Do it for every single page you ever open. It’s not like it takes up any space, and you never know whether or not you’ll need it. My guess is, you will.

2.     Save Everything in Its Entirety

The biggest problem with my one-document research method was I would only save the specific information I thought I needed. Later, I’d need information that I had already read but didn’t save. I’d have to search all over the internet for it, trying to remember what page it came from.

If I have to look up Livvy’s history of the Second Punic War one more time, I’m going to tear my hair out.

Instead of only saving what you think you’ll need, save it all and highlight what you think you’ll need. This is easy in a word document.

3.     Own All Your Books

My college had an amazing library that owned five books on the Vestal Virgins and several books about Roman religion in general. I read through them and took notes.
Just like the web pages, I often needed to see the books again and I had to go to the library.

Now I live on the other side of the country and don’t have access to those books anymore. I realized how badly I still needed them and bought a few.

Beyond looking up facts, it’s also wonderful to read through those books again to get in “the zone” before you write. My research books refresh me. They help me hear the voice of the Romans, visualize their world, get inside their heads.

Research books are also important for sentimental value. They were so much a part of my novel that reading them brings back memories.

4.     Print it Out

It’s easier to handle material when you have a hard copy. You can flip through to find what you need instead of opening files willy-nilly. Also, I’ve told you to save a ton of information you probably won’t need. If you print out your research, you can use a pen to highlight what’s important. Later you can go back and highlight more.

It might also be helpful to photocopy pages from books.

If you’re writing historical fiction you might need to a dozen 3-ring binders, but trust me, it’s worth it.

5.     Organize Your Folders

This goes without saying. Don’t just put all your papers in a single three-ring binder with no page dividers, don’t save your files in one folder on your desktop. Make folders for everything, even if there’s only one document in it.

6.     Use Your Research for More than Research

When I lose sight of the purpose of the book, or the voice, or it loses its flavor, flipping through my research puts me back on track.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How to Prep for a Book, Step 1: Purpose

This week is dedicated to preparing your novel before you start it, or “plotting.” The first step: outline your purpose.

For those of you who have started books before, remember that light bulb moment when you first have an idea? It feels like swallowing sunshine. Life is happier, there’s a skip in your step, food tastes better, and that idea is the only thing you can think about.

Somewhere along the line, we lose that feeling, don’t we? It’s easy to forget why we love our books.

Behind all books is a goal. It can be to inform, to inspire, or to entertain. As the writing develops, the goal can change along with the story. Sometimes it gets better. Sometimes it gets lost, and then you get lost.

Before I start a book, I like to write what I want it to accomplish. I’ll just type and type about my book without thinking until I have nothing more to say. Doing this helps me focus on my idea before I begin, and reading it later keeps me focused throughout the process.

I read over my Purpose Sheet for Sacred Fire not too long ago, and I was shocked. The story I planned on writing was very different from the one I actually wrote. I like what I ended up with much better, but I had some good ideas I completely forgot about.

You can change your purpose sheet as your book evolves, because your book will surely take different directions than what you intended originally, which is a good thing. Just be sure to keep your original draft; it’ll be fun to read once the book is done.

Monday, September 19, 2011

How to Prepare Before Starting a Book

There are two kinds of writers: plotters – people who plan their novel before starting it, and pantsers – people who just type and let the book develop how it wants.

As a plotter, I’m curious how pantsing a book would even work. I think plotting makes the writing easier, faster, and better… and if I’m going to write 50,000 in 30 days this November, I need my writing to be all three of those things.

Beginning a book can be daunting, especially for Nano, but preparing can make it much easier. For all Nano authors; if I were you, I'd start preparing now. For those of you who aren't, this should still be useful.

Between writing Sacred Fire and Hunger, I’ve learned a few tricks. I’m doing many things to prepare for Fierce before the clock strikes 12:01 am on November 1st.  Some things worked with my other books, some I didn't do but wish I had done, and some I've never tried before. 

For the rest of the week, I’ll share my methods. In November, I’ll talk about what helped, what I couldn’t live without, and what didn’t make that big of a difference.

Before we get started tomorrow, let’s discuss; are you a pantser, or a plotter? Which do you feel is better and why?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Obsession with Mummies

I've recently come to terms with my obsession with mummies. I resisted at first because I felt morbid, but there's something about them that intrigues me.
I'm not talking about Egyptian mummies; I like the ones that are so well-preserved, you can still see the look on their faces.

It's morbid, I know, but why fight it?

Take a look at the bog people, for example. They were thrown into a bog in Ireland over 2,000 years ago and were preserved so well that on one man, you can still see the wrinkles in his face and the way he styled his hair. You can read more about them on National Geographic.

These mummies were brutally murdered before being sent to the bog. This man, for example, was hung. They were either executed or sacrificed.

He cared for his nails better than most men I know.
Perhaps mummies carry such fascination for me because it connects me to the past. We spend so much time studying texts and artifacts, trying to understand these people, but on rare occasion, we can still see their faces.

Probably the most interesting mummies were the ones in Pompeii. This Roman town was destroyed by a volcano eruption and buried in ash. When archeologists excavated it, they kept finding holes in the ash. 

Finally, they decided to fill the holes with cement to see what they were. Come to find out, they used to be bodies. The ash came so quickly, you can see the people at the exact moment of death. Some were screaming, some were praying, some (like in the picture below) gathered with their loved ones and waited to die.
Laying down, waiting to die
 
A panicked dog
By the way, going to Pompeii was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It's a whole city... not just a few buildings, but a city. I walked down the streets, surrounded by houses and temples, and felt like I was in ancient Rome.

I'm not the only one fascinated with mummies. In Peru, they discovered mummies who were tied into a fetal position, which makes them look like they're screaming. Impressionist painters used them in their work. In fact, "The Scream" was copied from one of these bodies.
You have to admit, mummies are pretty amazing.


Friday, September 16, 2011

PotO Info with Real Post Tomorrow

Due to time constraints and lack of planning, I'm going to post something tomorrow, and it's going to be awesome, mark my words! Today, I need to share a little technical info about the Phantom of the Opera book group. 

I promise I won't talk about it all the time so as not to bore anyone, but this is important:

1. I changed the discussion location to Absolute Write Water Cooler. You can start discussing even if you haven't read the book yet. Example, you can say why you decided to read it, what you love about the story, etc.

2. I've started to post fun info about the book on the Facebook Event page. I'll post something interesting every day, so you should come check it out. Today, I posted a link to some amazing quotes from the book.

My favorite is, “If I am the phantom, it is because man's hatred has made me so. If I am to be saved it is because your love redeems me.”

Also, please feel free to post anything of interest you can think of, or a comment that isn't interesting at all, if you like.

3. You don't have to go to the party to participate in the group. People are telling me they'd like to read the book, but they'll be busy on October 28. There will still be a ton to do. The party is more like icing on a fascinating cake.
For that matter, you don't even have to read the book to have a party and watch the silent film. There are no rules here, people. 

Let me know if you have any questions whatsoever. Now I'm off to re-read the book for the fourth time so it's fresh in my head. Happy reading!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Phantom of the Opera: The Book was Better than the Movie

When I was eight and I first heard the music from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera, I thought it was the most beautiful thing I ever heard. I listened to it constantly. Eventually my tape mysteriously “disappeared.” I blame my brothers.
I read the book two or three times, and when I heard about the movie coming out, I was ecstatic. I watched the movie twice and loved it.
Then I watched it a third time and said, “Wait a second. This movie is stupid.”
This is why:
1.       Christine specifically says she’s being coached by the ghost of her dead father and then says she’s being coached by an angel of music. Whoever it’s supposed to be, the Phantom is obviously not either of them. You’d think she’d wonder who he is.
2.      In the Phantom’s lair, he feels her up. She should have said either, “You are the weirdest angel I’ve ever met,” or, “Daddy? What are you doing?”
3.      I’ll be the first to admit; being whisked away by a handsome stranger in a mask is very erotic. Making the movie sexually charged is all fine and dandy, except the Phantom’s supposed to be ugly. That’s kind of the whole point of the story.
4.      The movie doesn’t even touch on the “man behind the monster” theme until the last ten minutes, so that was really the only part I liked.
5.      When Christine kisses the Phantom, it’s supposed to be this monumental moment that changes his life. The kiss loses its potency when Christine has mini orgasms every time he touches her.
6.      Madame Giry: What was that character’s motivation? She helps the Phantom trick Christine for no apparent reason. That’s horrible.
7.      In "Past the Point of No Return," when the flames of passion are about to consume them (her words), Christine suddenly rips off his mask and humiliates him in front of hundreds of people. Rude. Then he kidnaps her and she says "Am I now to be prey to your lust for the flesh?" Five minutes ago, the flesh-lust was pretty consensual. Now she's prey? Make up your mind, air head.
8.     I know this is nit-picky, but remember when Madame Giry tells Raoul to keep his hand at the level of his eyes, then never explains why? Here's the reason: the Phantom would lasso people and strangle them, so Raoul had to keep his arm up to protect his throat.
9.      I laugh every time I see the Phantom pick up a rope from the water to tie up Raoul, then climb all the way up the stairs to get another rope. It’s logical for one rope to be in the water, but it’s absurd for there to be two.
If you liked the musical, I’m positive you will like the book. It’s beautiful, mysterious, and detailed. If you hated the musical, you’ll probably like the book even more.
Don't forget to sign up for the book group! It's going to be legen (wait for it...) dary! Legendary!

Kudos to whoever recognizes that quote.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Epic Celebration/Book Group/Party

Time to celebrate! I have 200 followers *takes a bow*. The work on my book is on schedule, and it will soon be ready to submit. I got a job after being laid off from my last place. I played as an alternate in a roller derby bout for the first time ever.

Not to mention it's the 100 year anniversary of when my favorite book, The Phantom of the Opera, was translated into English.
I could do another blogfest, but that’s just not good enough. This calls for a party.


I want to start a pimped-out version of a book group. We will read The Phantom of the Opera and discuss it on the awesome forum, Online Literature, and on this Facebook event page.
Over the course of a month, I'll post fun activities and info about the book.

The group will continue until October 28, three days before I start submitting Sacred Fire.  On that day (or a different day if you can't do it then), everyone participating in the book group will throw their own local party and watch the silent film version of the book.
We will not watch the musical because the musical was stupid.
You can do anything at the party. It can be as simple as a group of people eating French food to as big as a masquerade ball.

The day after our local parties, we will have an online party where we will chat on Facebook. We can talk about the book, our parties, what we thought of the silent movie, or anything we want.

Come join on the event page and you can be involved with all the news about the group.
Spread the word, both online and in your community! Whether only a few people participate or a ton, this will be a blast!


You can download the book HERE or order it online (link will take you to both).  You can also get it at any bookstore.

Click here to read about why I love The Phantom of the Opera so much.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why This Blog is so Freakin' Important to Me

Check it out; I made a bookmark! I had the idea at my writer's group when everyone asked for my blog address. I had to spell out my name and they had to find a piece of paper to write on, and it was a pain. I thought giving them a bookmark would be much easier.

Voila!



If you'd like some either for yourself or to pass out to your friends, send an email to teralynpilgrim@yahoo.com and I'll mail you either a pack of 10 or send you a template you can print out on your own.

When I had the idea for this bookmark, I got to wondering why this blog is so freakin' important to me. I mull over what I'm going to post when I'm away from the computer, and with all the time I've spent on this thing, I could have written another book by now.

It's not like I'm making any money off my blog... though come to think of it, I'm not making any money off my novel either, but I do that anyway.

I think I put so much work into this blog because people read it. That's the whole point of all of this: to be read. Writing can be for pleasure, for the art of words, for making a career, for fame and fortune. To me, writing is all of those things, but more than anything, I write to be heard.

Thanks for listening.


Let me know if you want a bookmark!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Nano: Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

I apologize about the title; I have a tendency to exaggerate. My husband is the best thing, then the HNS conference, then NaNo. Roller derby comes in fourth.
National Novel Writing Month is coming up in November, and I recommend planning ahead now. What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? It is a challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in only 30 days. Is that insane?
Of course. That’s what makes it so alluring.
You can make an outline for your book (which is highly recommended), but you cannot write a single word of the book before November 1. You can’t count words from anything besides the novel (no notes).
Over 100,000 people tried for it last year, and 35,000 writers won the challenge. Myself included *takes a bow*.
This is why I did it: For the first four years of writing Sacred Fire, I moved like a slug. I believed I couldn’t write every day, and my writing sessions got fewer and further between until a computer screen filled me with dread.
Nano was like breaking through a wall. I felt I was taking a sledge hammer to doubt and saying, “Screw you! I can do whatever I want!”
The novel exceeded my expectations. Sure, it’s unfinished, but I realized not only that I can write every day – 2,000 words, thank you very much – but that when I let loose, the writing is better.
On the site, you get your own profile where people can read about you and your book, and the site keeps track of your stats. You can make a friends list and keep tabs on them. Local writers get together for Nano parties; I hosted one last year. The community on Nano is amazing. I spent more time on the forums than I spent writing! There's also a store with fun goodies.
I can’t begin to tell you how much I recommend doing this.
Anyone want to add their testimony of Nano? Are you considering it, refusing it, or already dedicated to it?

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Comedy of the Vestal Virgins

While looking at videos on YouTube, I happened upon this hilarious skit about the Vestal Virgins, priestesses of ancient Rome and the topic of my novel, Sacred Fire. This video makes me so happy!




NOTE: I loved the hatred of Carthage because that plays a big role in my book. I heard about a famous orator (I can't remember his name) who would end his speeches -- no matter what the topic was -- with "...and I think Carthage should be destroyed."

I think the Carthaginian raps because he's from Africa???

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I Touched A Llama

Me and Cricket

There was a Hari Krishna temple near where I lived in Utah, of all places. Every month they had a celebration at their gorgeous temple (including the Color Fest). The first event I went to was the Llama Festival.

My friend Whitney and I made more Jimmy Neutron jokes than my poor husband could stand. For the twenty minute drive, we kept saying “Yay, we get to touch a llama!” Finally Andrew cried, “What on earth is your fascination with llamas?!” We didn’t realize he hadn’t seen the movie and he thought we had some weird obsession.

We got henna painted, ate vegan food, and watched people showcase their llamas to a panel of judges. We went to the pens and started petting the animals, careful not to get spat on. Their spit is made of stomach acid, and it’s green and it burns. One girl got it in her hair and it was really funny.

As I pet a large black one, an usher thrust a rope into my hand and said, “Hurry! It’s his turn to be judged!”

I looked around for the llama’s owner. He was nowhere to be found and the woman was glaring impatiently. I figured it would be easy and I’m always up for adventures, so I took the rope and guided him to the judges.

His nametag said “Cricket.” That’s a stupid name for a llama.

We got second place. Woot woot! I still have my ribbon. I was about to put him back when the announcer said through the microphone, “And now it’s time for the obstacle course!”

Say what?

The first contestant guided his llama over a bridge, through a path of tires, into a mini van, and through various other challenges. I decided to go for it because Cricket was a good llama, so it shouldn’t be too hard. Besides, we had developed an attachment by this point and I didn’t want to let him down.

We were last in line to go. Right before my turn, Cricket went crazy. He kicked his legs, huffed, and ran circles around me. Apparently, some genius had brought in the female llamas to compete when the males were done.

He calmed down for the obstacle course and we did pretty well, except when I banged his head on the roof of the minivan. Oops.

We got third place. That was a proud moment.


When we were done, I put Cricket back in his pen with his ribbon attached to his harness. The owner probably came back and said, "Who on earth is winning awards with my llama?"

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Winner of the Design Your Book Cover Contest

Thank you to everyone who entered their gorgeous covers into this contest! I didn't think I'd get a third of the contestants I did. I also had no idea the quality of the pictures would be so amazing. You are such great artists!

Now, without further ado, I give you the winner of the Design Your Book Cover Contest:

ALI CROSS

Congratulations, Ali!

Second Place: C.K. Bryant                                
  
Third Place: Lori M. Lee
 


Here are some honorable mentions for covers I felt did a superb job:









































Thanks again, everyone! This was a lot of fun!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Support Your Favorite Authors


At a bookstore near my house, I saw one of my favorite books – Pope Joan – on the counter in the special order pile.

“I love that book!” I told the book store owner.

She perked up. “Really? You’re the second person to mention it.  Maybe I should put it on the shelves.”

“You totally should. It’s pretty popular in England; they even made a movie out of it.”

“No kidding?” She picked up a piece of paper and wrote order Pope Joan. “You know of any other books I should get?”

I had just bragged to some friends about the conference in San Diego and wanted to show them the books of the authors I met, but I couldn’t find any in the store. Not even the bestsellers. I was disappointed both that my friends weren’t being read in my area and also that people were missing out on good books.

When the owner asked for recommendations, I thought, Is it really that easy? I listed off every name I could remember from my Facebook “HNS Conference” list and she got excited as she scribbled them down. When I was done, she thanked me and got on the computer to order them right away.

This got me thinking about support networks. I used to think when I got famous I would have the influence to help out other writers, but readers have a lot of influence already. 
Here are some ways to support your favorite authors:

  1. Recommend them to book store owners and managers. Apparently, they appreciate requests.
  2. Recommend them to any book groups you’re in. Recommend them to your friends. 
  3. Buy them at full price. I try to buy from small bookstores instead of chains. If I have to buy books online, I prefer to buy from actual stores instead of Amazon or Half.com.
  4. Give them positive ratings on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and Powells. 
  5. Post that you liked the book on Facebook, your blog, twitter, and any other online venue you can think of. 
  6. Send the author fan mail. I’m sure a kind word never goes amiss. Maybe I should send Donna Cross an email since I didn’t get to meet her in San Diego (grrrrr).

If you can think of any other ways to support authors, let me know!
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