Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Love December

I'm sitting here sipping eggnog mixed with milk, the Christmas tree lights twinkling, the snowflakes falling silently outside, soft music playing in the next room, and thinking....Ahhh.

I love December!

And guess what - I did it!  I finished NaNoWriMo 2012, and I did it a day early!  This past year of really focusing on my writing has paid off.  Not only did I find the first draft process easier this time around, but the story ideas flowed more naturally, and my internal editor was more manageable.

So now it's on to the busyness that consumes December, with next year's writing resolutions at the forefront of my mind.  I have some ideas for where I want both my writing and my blogging to go in the next while, but you'll have to wait till January to find out more.

So Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and see you in January 2013.

P.S.  How was your NaNo experience this year?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Edenbrooke...Best Romantic Novel of the Year?

I know this blog appears to have been on Hiatus.  I am sad to admit I've let it slide these past few months, but happy to share that I've not been idle with my writing.  I spent a good part of my free time in the summer working on short story fiction that I entered into a couple of contests.  I've since been working on editing my first first draft (that's still so exciting to say!) and plotting, outlining and then plodding through NaNoWriMo 2012.  I'm at 40,000 words with less than a week to go.  Wish me luck!

As for the hiatus - part of it was busy life circumstances, and part was a need for a break to think about the value/vision/purpose of this blog.  Or rather re-think it.  I think I have an idea of how I want to shape this space as my author platform, but I'll go into more detail in the new year, so stay tuned...

In the meantime, I found another book I can adore, and have shelved with the best books of 2012.  Coincidentally, it is currently a semi-finalist with the 2012 Romantic Novel of the Year Awards on Goodreads.  If you read it, and loved it, go vote!

What is this books I speak of?

I was picking up my daughter from school a few weeks ago when a friend of mine approached. She handed me a copy of a book called "Edenbrooke" and said, "You have to read this. I just read it twice in two days. I've never done that before." I've always trusted the literary tastes of my friend, and so I dove right in.

Edenbrooke was written by the delightful new author Julianne Donaldson, and published by Shadow Mountain. The blurb for the story (as taken from the back of the book):

Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry.

From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.

I recently contacted Julianne and asked her to answer a few questions about her own unique writing and publication journey. I am so grateful that she agreed to answer, and here is what she had to say:

1. When and why did you start writing?

I started writing when I was young because I love to tell stories. As an adult, I would write stories here and there but never seriously thought about being published until I started having children. As a stay-at-home mom, I found within myself a yearning to create something outside of my home and family--something that belonged just to me--something that wouldn't come undone overnight (like the dishes, the laundry, the cooking, the diapering, etc.). I started small, with poems and ideas for picture books. Then I started dreaming bigger and bigger until I had written Edenbrooke.

2. How did you get the idea for Edenbrooke?
Edenbrooke didn't come to me as an "idea." I don't think it's an "idea" type of book. If I try to describe it, I usually end up saying inane things like "It's about a girl who lives in England in the 1800's who grows up and falls in love at a grand estate." No big ideas there. So writing Edenbrooke was not really writing around an idea, but taking a journey of emotional exploration. I escaped into a finer world than my own, where no children existed and money was not an issue. And in my escape, I tried to recreate what it felt like to grow up and fall in love.

3. What was the hardest part about writing your novel?
The hardest part about writing my novel was finishing it. I spent hundreds of pages writing threads of plot that I didn't know how to tie together. Huge gaps existed in the middle of my story that I didn't know how to fill. And the perfectionist side of me rebelled every time I attempted to call the story "done." The best thing I did for myself as a writer was attend a writer's conference, where I learned how to overcome those trouble spots. And sheer determination did the rest.

4. What future plans do you have for your writing?
I loved writing Edenbrooke, but after I finished it I vowed I would never write another historical fiction. It is so limiting to write in that genre, and I think it takes a lot of patience and attention to detail to do it well. I am, writing another historical fiction. My fans convinced me to give it another go, and I am currently working on Blackmoore, which is set in England in the same time period as Edenbrooke, but features a whole new cast of characters and problems. As I have been writing Blackmoore, I have sworn up and down that I will never write another historical--yet, I am obviously a person who can be persuaded to change her mind. So I guess I will take things one book at a time. I do know that there are a lot of stories I want to tell. And I have a real science fiction streak in me that will probably make itself heard sooner rather than later.
I invite you to go check out her blog. If you haven't heard of Edenbrooke, I urge you to go get a copy. I loved it so much, I bought my own, and you can bet I'll be reading it again.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Junk in the Trunk

I have a rule:  If I've had it for more than a year without touching or needing it: toss it.

In life, stuff accumulates.  With children, stuff accumulates.  I've often found myself calling it junk, but in truth, most of it is not, by proper definition 'junky' (though to be honest I've accumulated enough of that as well).  I've tried to rewire my thinking and remind myself that it is stuff.

That being said, stuff, like junk, can accumulate quickly and leave a home feeling cluttered.  At moments like these, it helps to dejunk - get rid of the clutter.  Hence, the rule.  The key to the rule?  The one that makes it most effective - time.

The last few weeks I have been working on the novel I finished writing in May.  I haven't really touched it since than, and I'm realizing what a blessing that has been.  I'm approaching my project with fresh eyes and a clear perspective, and its much easier to recognize the 'junk', or the 'stuff' that I don't need.  The first night, I deleted 15, 000 words (don't worry, I have many a back up copy in case I change my mind - but I doubt I will).  My story suddenly feels less cluttered.

The key ingredient - time.  I shelved my project - I gave it space.

That isn't to say it was forgotten.  In fact, I've though quite extensively about it over the past four months, making notes, plotting possible revision ideas, talking with crit friends, reading books about the craft of writing.  And I've kept my writing muscle flexed by working on side projects - a couple of short stories I entered into contests, my NaNoWriMo plot for November.  All the while, my novel sizzled in the background.

Do you have junk in the trunk?  How do you know what to toss, and what to keep?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Blogger Gets Sued For Borrowed Image

I read an article last month (perhaps by now you all have as well) by an author named Roni Loren, who discusses her experienced with being sued for using a google image without permission on a past blog post.

Essentially, she was under the impression, as a writer/blogger, that if you use an image on a blog post and credit back to the source, it was considered Fair Use under copyright law. I have to say, that was my assumption as well. When I add images to blog posts, I simply cite the source (webpage) from where I got it. Now I know, it is illegal.

Some time ago, she was contacted by the owner of an image she had used with a legal notice to remove it, which she promptly did, feeling bad that she had unknowingly infringed on the photographer's copyright. However, despite her immediate action, she was sued by the photographer.

In the article, she discusses many of the misconceptions that bloggers have about copyright and fair use. It is definitely an area I will also be furthering my own education in now.

She also shares some links to resources that provide free images for public use, such as Creative Commons (though some of the comments on her post suggested even there, one should be careful). The best advice she had to share was simply - assume it's copyright, then ask permission. You never know, the owner of the image just might say yes!

With 99% percent of bloggers probably using images the way I was until now, under the same misunderstanding, the chances of one individual blogger being sued are relatively small. However, as this author points out, would we want our work, our stories, posted without permission, whether that person gave the proper credit or not? I think the bigger issue, for me, is whether what I've been doing is honest or not. Since the answer to that is a resounding, no, I have gone through my blog and removed several images I had found on Google image search.  The only images left are ones received from others (which I'm hoping they had permission to send in the first place, though I may follow up on that), book covers and blog tours links that were given away for promotion purposes, and images I made or asked permission to use.

And then I think I will make a disclaimer that any image on my blog is free for sharing (unless otherwise indicated). Hopefully that makes up for all the copyright infringement for which I have been guilty up until this point!

What is your take on this issue?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Short Story Writing Contests

If any of you are interested, here are some short story writing contests (all three are free to enter) with deadlines coming up at the end of July.

1.  Mormon Mommy Writers (MMW) is calling for entries by July 31st.  They can be fiction/non-fiction/poetry, and winners will be published in an anthology later in the year.  For more information, check out this page.

2. If you are a Canadian writer, you should visit the Poetry Institute of Canada's contest page, which is also accepting short story submissions.  Just click on this link.

3.  Finally, a Canadian press called Polar Expressions Publishing is also accepting Canadian entries for their yearly anthology (of which I have twice been a published finalist, including once as an honorable mention).

Contests can be a great way to take a break from novel writing and hone our skills with quicker fare.  Consider it the fast food of writing, except that in this case (if you enjoy it) it's actually healthy for you.

Best of luck!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Revisiting Resolutions

So here we are.  July 2012.  The beginning of the month brings both the big National Celebrations for the USA and Canada.  July 1st (Canada Day) and July 4th (Independence Day) and their associated fireworks displays mark exactly half a year since the last big sparkly night sky bash - New Years Eve.

Image used with permission from
Do not repost without permission.

With six whole months, three seasons, and countless days filled with joy, and trial and work, it's time to reflect on where we were the last time we watched the fireworks.

It's time for a check in on our New Years Resolutions.  Sadly, I actually had to look mine up to remember what they were.  Gratefully, I'm not doing too bad.  Here's where I'm at:

1.  My first goal was to finish my Nano manuscript and edit it.

Well, that fell by the way side by February.  But between February and the end of May, I managed to write consistently every evening after the kids went to bed and finished a manuscript (different than the Nano one) for the first time ever.

2.  My next goal was to prepare for NaNoWriMo 2012. 

Yah.  Haven't even started thinking about that yet. 

3. My final writing goal was related to improving my skills through my critique group, my reading, and my blog.

I'm proud to say I've made a more consistent effort to post.  Consistency feels good.  It feels like a small measure of success.  And I've read so far 21 books this year.  Won't ever complain about reading.  And I continue to be a staunch believer of how important writing groups can be.

How about you?  How are your goals coming along?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Liebster Award

I've been honored with the Liebster Blog award:

Liebster is a German word which means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing and welcome. The Liebster Blog Award is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers and fit the definition

Carolyn Frank at Frankly Creative gave me the award.

The rules:
1. Each person must post 10 facts about themselves
2. Answer 10 questions the tagger has given you and give 10 questions for the people you’ve tagged.
3. Choose a few people and link them in your post.
4. Tell them you’ve tagged them.
5. Remember, no tag backs.

10 Facts about me (Mandi):
1. I am the mother of three.
2. I was born in the Northwest Territories, Canada (think Santa's turf - okay, not quite so far north, but in the neighborhood)
3. Despite my snowy beginnings, I graduated high school and promptly flew south to the warm and sunny beaches of Hawaii, where I attended my first year of college.
4. I went to Hawaii to learn Marine Biology.  I wanted to be a dolphin trainer.
5. I quickly discovered the program was not for me, but could not abandon it without fulfilling that dream.  So I worked for a summer at the Dolphin Lagoon and Sea Life Caverns at West Edmonton Mall.  Pretty much in the top ten list of coolest jobs ever.
6. I then changed my degree to Education and went on to teach grade one and kindergarten.  Again, in the top ten list for coolest jobs.
7. I'm not a fan of candy.  But I will never balk at dark chocolate.  Mmmm.
8. I can't stand creamed corn or cucumbers.  Uhhhhggghh.
9. I finished my first novel in May.  Felt pretty good.
10. I don't watch television.  Okay, I don't have television, which is why I don't watch it.  Which is why I actually have time to write. 

Blogs I've tagged:

Jolyn at Jolyn Brown's Blog
Kasey at the Beautiful Thrifty Life
Stephanie at Write Bravely
Cindy at Writers Mirror
Jaima at Words
Char at Chimney Sweeper
Jessica at Breathings

Here are my questions to them, along with my own answers.
1. How long have you been blogging?
I actually started blogging July 2007, but due to privacy concerns, changed to a different system about two years ago.  Now I keep my family posts and writer posts separate.

2. Why did you start up a blog?
It seemed like a fabulous means of sharing pictures and stories of my growing family with friends and relatives too far to visit on a frequent basis - much easier than trying to email people.  I also loved the visual appeal, and the chance to journal/write using technology.  Once I started, I was addicted.

3. What has been your weirdest experience with blogging?
Realizing just how dangerous personal information on the web can be - which is why my family blog is private now.  Don't worry, nothing bad happened to me, but to some friends of mine.  It's a long story, and not really mine to share.

4. What is your favorite book? 5. Who is your favorite author?
One of my favorite books is 'The Alchemist', by Paulo Coehlo.  Authors I love are JK Rowling, Jane Austen, JRR Tolkien, Regina Sirois, Mitch Albom, Kate Morton, Lauren Oliver, Monica Hughes, Shannon Hale, Eva Ibbotson - how do you make a comprehensive list on this topic?

6. What do you want to be when you grow up/what is your profession?
I am a teacher, a mother, and a writer.  Someday I hope to be an Author.

7. How many books do you think you might have?
Do the stories in our heads ever end? I hope not.  We'll see how many of those stories are actually translated to paper.

8. Do you prefer reading a proper book or a ebook?
I thought ebooks were a bad idea.  Until I tried one.  Now I'm hooked.  I will, however, always love my ink and paper books.

9. If you could choose to live one character's life in a book, who would it be?
Probably one of Shannon Hale's heroines.  I love her stories....

10. If you were stranded on a desert island what 10 items would you want to have with you?
It would go something like this: 1. My family 2. My books  3.  Scrivener  4. One seriously cool tree house (think Swiss Family Robinson) 5. palm trees  6. Basic necessities (food, clothing, shelter) 7. Dark Chocolate  8. a camera 9. a notebook (I'm a list girl) 10. my friends

Saturday, June 2, 2012

What Does Clarity In Writing Have To Do With Public Washrooms?

I learned a lesson this week on the value of clarity in writing.  I took my kids grocery shopping, and in usual form, the moment we were on the exact end of the store opposite the bathroom, my four-year old son, The Architect, had to use the facilities.

So we trudged with the cart load of food to the public washrooms.  Now The Architect has recently become 'morally' aware of the reason for separate bathrooms, and their connection between the differences in gender.  Therefore he no longer wants to enter the Women's room to do his business.  This is fine when my husband is with us.  However, in my opinion, he is still too little to go into the Men's room all by himself.  I just can't let him do it yet.  So through weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, I usually have to lay down martial law to get him into the bathroom I can actually enter with him.

This time, as I braced myself for the inevitable argument, The Architect noticed this sign on the washroom door, and said the following:

"Mom, look - this bathroom is for girls and old men!  I can use this bathroom!"

And that was it.  He was in, done and washed up before I could correct him, with a smile on his face.  He'd found a solution that worked for me, and for him.

What does this have to do with writing?

Simply this:  It is so important that we exercise clarity in our writing.  We cannot assume that our readers will understand what we are trying to say, just because we have a clear mental picture of the scene/plot point.  This is where critique groups can come in handy.  If your readers are saying "I don't get this..." and you have to stop and explain it, go back and give it some clarity.

Now as for my son, at some point I'm going to have to explain two things to him:

1.  What the symbol for disability means.

2.  He is not a little old man.

In the meantime, I'm going to use this lack of clarity to my advantage...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No, I didn't! Yes, I did!!!

I don't know how coherent this post will be.  It's very late at night, and I don't think well on so little sleep, but I'm kind of running on sheer adrenaline here.

Because guess what?

I finished!  That's right, I did it!  I finished my first book (I know you're all leaping and shouting with joy with me here, but keep in mind it's just a first draft).  Yippee!  It's 93, 579 words and officially ready to begin the long process of editing, revision and re-writing (after a well deserved break).

In the mean time, I feel a little bit like this:

I'm done!  I can't believe it!  Writing has never felt so good!

Oh my gosh!  What have I done?  A complete first draft?  Now I have to spend months and months editing and editing, and what have I got myself into?

I love this!  I want to stand on a mountain and shout to the world I finished my first book!

I'm terrified, I can't believe this!  I never thought this day would come!

In the meantime, I'm going to try and stop being so bi-polar, and get some sleep (all pictures from Disney's Tangled).

Sweet dreams everyone!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

ABNA Finalists

A note from the author, Regina Sirois. Visit, download the free excerpt, cast your vote for On Little Wings by May 30th in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition

Guess What???!!!???  Regina made the top three YA finalists for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  From 5000, to top 3.  That's like 0.06% odds - an incredible achievement in and of itself (I hope I did my math right - hehehe).

So this post is going to be short.  Here's what you need to do:

1. Click on the banner (or go to

2. Download the free excerpt for her book (and the other two finalists if you choose)

3.  Read it (or read the whole book - you are in for a literary treat)

4.  If you like what you read, please support Regina and 'On Little Wings' by casting your vote.  It's free, its simple and its open till May 30th.

I know she appreciates any support.  We're rootin for you, Regina!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On Creativity

My husband just finished one of the busiest semesters of his post-secondary education thus far, and as I helped him review his notes and articles for one of his finals, he came across a video from TED a professor had shown the class during a lecture.

He invited me to watch it, and I was glad I did.

I'm going to extend the same invitation to you - it's very entertaining - Sir Ken is an engaging speaker, but it also has an important message.

Though the context of the videos is based on the education system, I want you to focus on the points he makes about creativity.

Because as writers, creativity is like the flour of our story recipe.  It's not the only ingredient, but probably exists in the greatest quantity, playing a role alongside other important writing ingredients, such as research, grammar, spelling, plotting, characterization, editing and voice (this list is not exhausitive - there are as many different types and elements of stories as there are cookie recipes!).

So check them out, and let me know what you think!  Note - they are slightly long (15-20 mins or so):

Ken Robinson Says Schools Kill Creativity

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring On The Learning Revolution

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A to Z, Where You Can Find Me (aka the case of the missing blogger)

Wow - I can't believe how neglected I've let this blog become!  Part of my New Year's Resolution was to keep active with my posts.  While I don't aspire to post daily at this point, I should be making more of an effort than once a month...

I've been really focusing each night to finish my current WIP and I've managed to make it to 71,000ish words first draft.  I think I'm literally days from finishing and finally getting to write 'the end'.  I can't tell you how exciting that is for me - both to finish something I've loved writing, and to move on to something else.

Amidst all the frenzied late night writing, I also had a husband preparing for finals, my immunized daughter come down with the chicken pox, 10-11 hour work days and pre-garden/pre-yard work/change-all-the-kids-clothing-to-summer-wear season.  Oh yeah, and then there were taxes!  So while April did prove to be a hectic month, it was still productive.

My friend Jaima, who I blogged about in March, is a semi-finalist for the ABNA contest!  So pumped for her.  And while reading the list, I discovered that another talented online writer friend of mine has also made the semi-final round for the contest!  Yay Regina Sirois!  Now I'm holding my breath in eager anticipation for May 22, and the announcements of the next rounds.  Regardless of how these two ladies do, I'm so excited for how far they've made it - certainly an accomplishment worth celebrating.

I've also had a chance to participate in the A to Z bloghop, through the two group blogs I'm proud to be a contributor for.  You can see my posts here:

E is for The End, on Mormon Mommy Writers

F is for Forward, on The Writer's Dojo

K is for Kids, on Mormon Mommy Writers

Q is for Quotes, on Mormon Mommy Writers

I'm also up for W this Thursday, before we finish off the month long challenge.  You'll have to go check it out then.  Take a moment to check out the posts for the other letters - there's some amazing and inspirational topics for this challenge!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

MIMM - To Blog Or Not To Blog

This week is the last Manuscript in Motion Monday...for now... and the topic is, "To Blog, or not to Blog?"

I have to admit, I'm slightly biased on this front - I love blogging. I've been at it almost five years now - since two weeks after the birth of my second child. But blogging has often been a form of journaling for me - or a means of sharing life experiences and funny stories/pictures with family that cannot see me on a regular basis.

So as a writer, seeking to improve in my craft and build meaningful networks with like-minded individuals, where do I stand on blogging?

I'll admit, I mostly started my writing blog almost two years ago because I'd been told by several different knowledgeable sources that they were a meaningful asset for a writer. It wasn't hard to set the blog up. But then, what content to write????

What could I possibly have to say that would interest anybody? I'm not published, and I don't have a degree in creative writing. So my 'writing' blog became something to sit and stare at, between posts on the family blog, wondering what to do about it.

When I began my new years resolution to put more effort into the blog, I changed my attitude. I decided that instead of trying to be an expert at something, or waste time and energy looking for an unexplored angle, I would treat my blog as a forum to connect with other writers. Or, a chance to write and discuss topics that interest me, books I enjoy and want to recommend, and opportunities in the writing world worth passing along.

Do blogs promote book sales? I don't know, I'm not published yet.

Does a blog really make a difference? Again, I don't know. I hope that something I say, at some point, is meaningful to someone. That statement sounds really broad, but the truth is that I've been uplifted and encouraged on numerous occasions by posts of other bloggers. If I said just one thing that meant something to just one person, I would consider my blog a success.

And more importantly is this - if I never managed to publish a book, if I never said anything worth being read, I would still be blogging.

Why? Because it helps to fuel my love of writing.

And that's the answer that matters most to me.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cheering On A Friend

My friend and critique group partner Jaima has made it to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) Quarter Finals, and I am so excited for her!!!

If you want to read her work, then you can download her excerpt here. You just have to be forgiving of the technological system errors that have someone evaporated her punctuation marks, and replaced them with strange Greek symbols, or just invisible altogether (apparently it's a problem for many of the entries...).

She's a talented and insightful writer, but also one of the most intuitive and caring friends. I can't wait to continue to read her work, and I'll be there cheering her along the ABNA way, no matter how far she goes, and beyond.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You Want Me To Write What?

This post is my late edition of Manuscript In Motion Monday (MIMM). I know, I know, it isn't Monday anymore (nor has it been for several days) but I really struggled coming up with a post for this topic "You Want Me To Write What?", and in truth, almost gave up. Kasey shared an experience of having a friend ask for help with a written legal request, and though feeling inadequate, was able to rise to the task, using her talents and skills with the written word.

I've never done anything like that. I've never been asked to write something out of my comfort zone, and until recently, at least a few of my friends didn't even realize I do write. Why is that? I guess I just don't talk about it much, except on my blog, or with other writer friends.

So as I was formulating a written apology to Kasey for coming up empty with this weeks MIMM post, I had a thought.

It's something I've been wanting to talk about for a few weeks.

Critiques. And I'm not talking about the writer's group kind. I'm talking about the kind we usually label 'reviews' and slap up on Amazon and goodreads, etc.

I've read my share of amazing books. The kind you talk about and blog about and tell your friends about. I have no problem gushing about these books.

I've read my share of so-so books. The kind that were enjoyable to read, but you don't think much about after you turn the last page, and never really mention to others.

And I've read my share of terrible books. The kind that when you get to the end, you think, "Why did I bother to finish?". Those books are the easiest to criticize. And sometimes they are so horrible, I feel compelled to write up a critical review outlining all of their faults.

And then I realize, Why? Who am I to criticize this author? Is my opinion so important, that others should listen and heed?

There's been a few times I've looked a book I hate up on Goodreads to find it has a rather high rating and an equally large fan base. I'm just not one of them. And you know what? That's okay. Not everybody loves every book. But I certainly don't have to verbally attack the author because of it.

Which reminds me of the following Disney villain and one of the things he said:

"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so."
~ Anton Ego, Disney's Ratatouille

Shannon Hale also weighed in on this topic here.

What do you think, o ye book reviewers and published authors? Is there a place for positive and negative review? Is there a line that reviewers shouldn't cross, or does even the vicious and cruel have a place? If I read a really bad book, should I write an equal review?

Tell me what you think...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Got Green? Blog O'Hop

Mark Koopmans is hosting a St. Patrick's Day blog hop, and the challenge is to do a Paddy's day themed post on your favorite/best Green Day story.

I thought I'd share our favorite family tradition.

You see, in our house we love leprechauns, but we'd love their gold even more. So for the past several years, we've labored lovingly over intricate traps to catch the sneaky little green men.

We have yet to actually bag one, but they at least appreciate the effort, and leave behind a little treat.

This year we did three traps. My daughter (6) used recyclables with a fake floor, so that when the leprechaun climbed in for the treasure, he would plummet (softly) to the bottom. She had big plans for indoor plumbing, soft lights and air conditioning, but alas, I'm not mechanically (or handy man) inclined. Still, it was fun to build.

My son (4) is a Lego-maniac, and built this nifty trap, where 'fake' gold hangs from the ladder. Once the leprechaun pulls on the glittery piece, the ladder will come crashing down, trapping him inside.

Together, the three of us built a Lego home, with a box of glittery gems, hidden under a cage that will fall when disturbed, the rigging 'carefully' hidden by a rainbow on the nearby building.
The kids set their traps last night, after leaving a shoe on the front step, and went to bed with rising anticipation.

In the morning, the traps were all triggered, but once again, he got away, leaving a trail of glittery gold wherever he had walked. He did leave behind some chocolate coins, and a quarter in each shoe. There are already plans being drafted by the wee ones for next years trap.

That leprechaun had better watch out, these kids are getting craftier...

To finish up our green day, we will have a green dinner, complete with green chicken (basil pesto), green spaghetti (the spinach kind), cooked broccoli, limeade and green jello salad. Yum!
Got to love St. Pat's day!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Great Writers....Read?

You've probably heard this sage advice before. In fact, it's old enough and prevalent enough, that when you hear it, or see it, you roll your eyes and wonder, "How can anyone think that way?"

What am I talking about? The idea that some people propagate that reading is bad for your writing.

It doesn't make much sense, but many people that call themselves readers actually think this way. In fact, a family member told me recently about a Facebook post they'd come across - a friend looking for good book recommendations - where someone had commented along the lines of

"I'm a writer, therefore I don't read much."

Seems shocking to me, but I've seen it before. It's the equivalent of saying:

I'm a lifeguard, but I don't like to swim.
I'm a teacher, but I don't like kids.
I'm a police officer, but I don't like guns.

It's not that you still couldn't do these things with those attitudes. It's that you can't do them effectively.
It's not that you can't be a writer if you don't read. It's that you can't be an great writer if you don't read.

Why do some writers feel that reading is bad for their craft? Truthfully, I don't entirely understand their side of the argument, but I think it has something to do with some of the following points:

1. They think reading similar books will kill their original ideas
2. They think reading requires too much time, which they could spend writing
3. They think there isn't enough quality literature out there that could stand up to their own skills (I know that sounds snobbish, but someone actually told me that once!).

What I'm not trying to do is be critical of those that hold this opinion. However, I believe people, in general, don't read enough these days, and as writers, who thrive on readers actually reading our work, we need to work to change that.

So here is why great writers read:

1. To set an example
2. To support other authors - we are all in this together!
3. To learn from the best and the worst (yes, you can gain something by reading a book that is poorly written)
4. To engage our minds in healthy, creative escapism, essential to our growth and positive well being.
5. To learn more about our world, and beyond.
6. To strengthen and refine our ideas, and plotting, and characters .... this list could go on.
7. Because reading books is what convinced us we wanted to write them in the first place.

This is in no way an exhaustive list. I'd love to hear what you think: why should great writers read?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What Inspires You?

It's Manuscript in Motion Mondays (let's call it MIMM for brevity's sake), and this week I think I might actually get this blog-link-party-thing right (sorry Kasey!). Don't you hate it when it's very apparent that you are a newbie? Anyway...

The challenge for this week was What Inspires You?, and Kasey has given us a week to think through some of our favorite books and passages of text and reflects on their influence in our writing.

So I thought, and I thought, and I thought. And I couldn't think of how to answer the question. Not because I don't have an answer, but because I couldn't single one down. With so many positive literary influences and so many favorite books and authors, I couldn't think of just one passage to reflect on. I began to feel frustrated. Why is this so hard? Come on Mandi, can't you just pick one???

Then the other day I came across a list that got the wheels in my head turning. I realized I had my answer, and now I'm going to share it with you. And since today is MIMM, I'm going to relate it to my current WIP.

So I'm writing a Dystopian right now. In fact, I'm almost finished. Really close. Painfully close. So close I've actually slacked off on blogging and laundry other things that should be getting a little more attention, because once the kids go to bed every night, I just write.

And because I'm writing dystopian, I'm reading it as well. I've been scouring goodreads and blogs for recommendations on good dystopian reads.

I've read the Hunger Games, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but aside from that and Lois Lowry's The Giver, back in Jr. High, I didn't think I knew much about this genre. Since that time, I've happened upon some amazing dystopian reads, such as Abel Keogh's "The Third" and Jeff Hirsch's "The Eleventh Plague", Ally Condie's "Matched", Lauren Oliver's "Delirium", and Scott Westerfeld's "Uglies". And with each novel, my love and interest in the genre has grown.

So where, I ask, did this interest grow from? All my life I've considered myself a YA speculative fan, of anything fantasy, sci-fi or paranormal based (as long as it's clean!), and while Dystopian certainly fits in that category, until the past year, I didn't even know it existed as a trend, never mind a genre.

So when a critique partner pointed out that my current WIP was dystopian, and then I learned that it was currently a trend in literature, I hit the library looking for more great dystopian reads. And like I mentioned earlier, I keep finding them. Rodman Philbricks "The Last Book In The Universe" was fantastic. So was Kristen Landon's "The Limit". And there's more, and still several waiting on my shelf begging to be read. And I can't wait to get to them.

To bring this story full circle, and back to the MIMM, imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a list of dystopian fiction, that get this - dates back to the 1950's! (The link is on my sidebar right under the dystopian reading challenge)

Curious, I began to pour through the list and was amazed at how many of the books I had read and never really realized were dystopian until I stopped to think about it.

And then I hit 1990, and a name jumped out. Monica Hughes. A Canadian writer whose books I gobbled up in Jr. High. And guess one type of book she'd wrote, all of which I'd read?
That's right - dystopian.

So the answer to this weeks question - what inspires you?

The list is too long for just one post. But at the moment, without a doubt, because of the labor of love that is my current WIP, my inspiration draws back to my early days of reading, and the high quality of literature in the dystopian genre I read then, and continue to read now.

Don't you just love little surprises like that?

Your turn - what inspires you?

On a side note - I'm realizing I've barely scratched the surface of this fascinating genre, despite it's current lime light. If you know of any good dystopian reads I haven't discovered yet, please share! Just leave a comment below.

If you are interested in participating in the MIMM challenge, just like on this image and join the linky party!

Mormon Mommy Writers

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dystopian Reading Challenge

I don't usually sign up for reading challenges, mostly because I read by what interests me at the moment, which changes based on my level of energy, and my mood. Also, because I find that my list of 'to-read' books just keeps growing longer and longer, as I find more amazing authors and compelling stories.

However, dystopic and post-apocalyptic literature is currently about 2/3 of what sits on my 'to-be' read shelf in the fiction of YA speculative.

And, it's quickly becoming one of my favorite genres. So for fun, I'm going along with it!

If you're interested in signing up as well, you have until June 1, 2012.

I'm declaring, for now, that I will read the medium level, of 8-14 books. Wish me luck (I've already done five this year, and will get to their reviews this month, I hope).

This challenge lasts from January 1st, 2012 to December 31st, 2012
All books must be started on/after January 1st, 2012
Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.
After the challenge has started, you can decide to choose a higher level,
but you can not choose to go down a level.
All books must be dystopian (duh) and either Young Adult or Middle Grade (I
can't think of any MG dystopian though).
Must post all your reviews to either your blog or goodreads. Sorry, non
blogging folks!
Must create a sign-up post that includes a link to this post, the level
you've signed up for, and the button above.
Must sign-up before June 1st, 2012.

Important Info:
After each month I will do a recap where you can link your reviews, I will
also declare what the prize will be for the current month and the winner of last
month's giveaway.
Each month there will be a giveaway for all those who reviewed a book, each
review = one entry. The giveaway item could range from a gift card, a book,
swag, and more.

The Levels:
Easy: Read 5-8 books.
Medium: Read 8-14 books.
Hard: 15-20 books.
So Hard it Would Have it's Own Apocalypse!: 21+

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Well, I felt like posting today partly because of a couple of fun books I found, and partly because it's the 29th of February, and how do you not blog on a day that exists once every four years? It sounds like something out of a fairy tale, or a sci-fi thriller, or maybe a mixture of both...

Anyway, at the library last week we (the kidlets and I) stumbled upon a book by an author I mentioned previously named Tom Lichtenheld. The book was called E-mergency!, and since I love everything else he writes, I picked it up and added it to my bag. And I wasn't disappointed. the gist of the story is that all the letters live together in a house, but one day E gets hurt, and by the doctors orders, nobody is allowed to use the letter E until she has a chance to recover, and O has to step in to pick up the slack. Makes for some pretty funny spelling. My kids can't get enough of it, and the illustrations add a whole new dimension to the story. I laughed out loud when I closed the book the first time, and saw the caption, "Look, it's and E-book!".

This book got me thinking to a novel a read a few years ago. One I picked up on a whim and absolutely fell for. It's a novel in letters, and it basically follows the same type of concept. Ella Minnow Pea is a young lady living on the island of Nollop in the Atlantic ocean, named after the man who 'supposedly' penned the famous pangram:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Hint: all the letters of the alphabet are used at least once. Anyway, the book is essentially a series of letters written between Ella and her friends and family discussing the political and social issues that arise when letters start falling off the monument established for Nollop, causing the island's high council, by divine will, to banish them from the alphabet.

At first, Ella and friends, find other ways of saying words with banned letters (my favorite is when the council 'renames' the days of the week. But as the alphabet continues to diminish, the text, and the task, become harder, and funnier.

This book is definitely not within my genre, but I considered it so clever and unique, it's moved up the list to one of my all time faves. Check it out, if you need a good read!

And Happy Leap Day!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Flash Fiction Inspiration

So I was blog hopping last night and found an entry by Mark Koopmans for a flash fiction contest. I read his short story (has to be less than 100 words) and inspiration struck. Actually, it was the title of his entry and the concept of telling a very short story of an inanimate object. I think it can also be partially credited to the frozen water nature so graciously dumbed on my doorstep overnight. I'd take a picture if I could get out my front door (lol).
Here is the contest details:
Usual rules: write a story with 100 or fewer words. Post in the comment column of this blog post. (Comments closed until the contest opens). If you need a mulligan, delete your entry and enter again. Only ONE entry per person will be considered for the contest.Use these words in your
choice destroy risk sequel allegiance
Contest opens at NOON on Friday (2/24) and closes at 6pm on Saturday (2/25). Winner receives an ARC of INSURGENT by Veronica Roth, the sequel to DIVERGENT which was voted Best Book of the Year by the readers at (among many other honors!)
Here is my entry (just for your enjoyment!). I didn't think writing a story of less than 100 words would be hard, but I spent more time cutting it, then I did plotting and writing it (and yes, I did some plotting - in my head - for this story. Crazy, I know!
Title: Pairs
They say death takes you to a better place.
The sisters stood in motionless reverence, staring down at the lifeless thing, its empty black form in stark contrast to the harsh white snow.
It seems that nature favors pairs, and the twins grasped hands in wordless recognition of their own allegiance, and the chasm that could destroy, dividing this one from its sequel.
The playground was abandoned - children called inside due to risk of bitter cold.
The silent choice was made.
They pulled the frozen mitten from its icy grave, and took it to the lost & found.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Two Exciting Announcements

I'm very excited about two new opportunities that have become available to me this month.
I was invited to be a roaming contributor (occasional blogger) for Ali Cross' Dojo at I'm really enjoying the daily posts and the insight and confidence and motivation they provide to get working on the craft of writing. If your looking for a daily boost of motivation to keep moving forward with your writing, this is definitely the place to visit.
One cool thing Ali has done is to create these little buttons you can add to your blog, to earn your Ninja writing black belt. Let me tell you - I am so excited for that day! In the mean time, I'm going to enjoy the process of learning and improving in the craft of writing. I studied the requirements of each of the buttons, and found that some matched and some didn't what I have already accomplished. So I am going to go with the highest level I seemed to have achieved, and work my way up from there. If you want your own ninja writing belt, go check it out and see where you qualify.
Here's what I've done to earn this badge, according to the list of requirements:
  • Have been blogging for a year or more (almost five now)
  • Joined a writer's association (Authors Incognito, Southern Alberta Writer's Workshop)
  • Joined a critique group (three years now)
  • Have at least five writer friends (too many to count - isn't that a wonderful feeling?)
  • Started visiting writing blogs
  • Entered a writer's contest (lots, and won or placed in a few!)
  • Have been writing in earnest for six months or more (or years...)
  • Attended a writer's conference or workshop (several of both)
  • Have your work critiqued by another writer (and now know how important this is)
  • Read at least 50 books in your genre (again, too many to count)

I'm excited to keep working towards the purple belt, with my eye forever on the black.

I've also been invited to be a regular contributor with the Mormon Mommy Writers Blog. Starting next week, I will be making weekly posts on Thursday. They have a cool new project called Monday Manuscripts in Motion, encouraging you to pull out a project and do something to tweak it at least once a week. Should be fun! Come check it out:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Move Over Sitcoms, Here Come Webisodes!

I meant to make this post a couple of weeks ago, so I'm going to take a moment to bring it to your attention. Back in December I happened upon a blog promoting a sight called Big World Network. The basic gist is that instead of watching episodes of your favorite TV sitcom or dramas, you can now read or hear chapters of high quality fiction. AKA, books are being presented in the same type of format as a television series. And they're calling them webisodes.
The author I read about in that post is Taryn Taylor, and her book, The Secret, is being released an episode at a time, once a week, on I was curious, and clicked to check it out. I started the series about five episodes in, so I was able to read up to the point where she released the sixth part. And like any great TV show, now I'm hooked. What a fabulous idea! I checked out some of the other authors with books being released on the site, and was quite impressed by the high calibre of writing. There seem to be stories and series from a variety of genres and interests.
I must say, this new little trend may quickly become an addiction.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Teach Them To Read, Tip #1

Wow - so it's been way too long since my last post - I apologize. And I plan to make up for it with an over abundance of dashes in the following 'play catch-up' post. We've been dealing with some health issues - not to be alarmed, I'm talking standard winter cold and flu like symptoms - nothing serious. However, trying to keep on top of life is hard enough when you're healthy. Feeling slightly under the weather trumps blogging, and therefore, my somewhat lengthy silence. However, as promised, lots of dashes.

I promised to give some tips on teaching children how to read, or more importantly, how to love reading. I want to emphasize once again that I'm in no way a certified professional, but having worked as a teacher in the field, I do know the basic tricks. In fact, you may be surprised to learn you actually know them too, even if you weren't aware of it.

And the things I've learned about literacy education I have turned around and used with my own children, so from personal experience, I know they are valid. My six-year-old daughter (notice how I snuck the dashes in???) finished reading Ramona the Pest last night. By herself. I don't say that to brag - I'm just pointing out that there's at least a little bit of truth to these simple teaching techniques.

Aware that I am probably 'preaching to the choir', I will get down off my soap box and get to the point of this post.

How do you teach a child to love to read?

Tip #1 - You read to them.

That's the first and probably most important tip. Read to your kids daily. At least fifteen minutes (that's about three books). We'll get to the how, and what and why in another post, because I think the true emphasis in this technique lies behind the action.

Read to them. Or with them, if you prefer that semantic.

And as simple as it sounds, it works. Professional studies prove that if you do nothing else to teach your child to read but this, they will learn to read (if there are no learning difficulties involved - such may require a different approach).

And as simple as it sounds, it's not as common as it should be. Too high a percentage of parents these days don't even spend fifteen minutes one-on-one with their kids, never mind reading to them. I don't say that as a political/philosophical opinion. I'm just stating a truth.

The beauty of the solution lies in its simplicity as well - it's not hard to adopt the practice of reading fifteen minutes daily. If you are analyzing you're own habits right now, and realize you are missing out on this vital learning opportunity, it's not too late to make a change. If you know of someone who could use this important interaction, encourage change.

Need some inspiration? There's some well known, successful storytellers in the world of children's literature. Names such as Don and Audrey Wood, Robert Munsch and Eric Carle span two or more decades of high quality, well loved story production. But just as in the world of novels, children's literature does not stagnate. Here are some suggestions for authors I have found that are making huge headway with their picture books - because they're that good.

Mo Willems has some incredibly popular books available - including the 'Pigeon' series. This books, however, will remain one of my all time favorite children's books. It's about Leonardo, who just can't scare anybody, and has to learn that there is something more important in life than being a scary monster.

Melanie Watt is an author on fire. Here books are fresh, original, funny and plentiful. Not only does she have the scaredy squirrel series (that includes an admontion to wash your hands with antibacterial soap before reading) but the incredibly popular 'Chester' series, in which Melanie has to wrestle with a Narcissic (did I spell that right?) cat over a fat red pen and the rights to authorship of the story. If you've never read her, head to the library Pronto!

Tom Lichtenheld is also producing a large array of high quality books (most of them co-authored by other up and coming talents). This is one of my favorite. A little cloud who dreams of being something more Cummulous (again with the spelling - I'm too tired to google it).

Finally, for the night, an author I found just this month. Michal Hall makes shapes exciting. This book is about a square that thinks he's perfect until he gets torn up and realizes he can be so much more. I read this book five times today, and still not sick of it. Plus, it has great opportunity for quality art time with the kids.

Snuggle up with one of these fantastic reads with your kids, and I promise you won't regret it!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

For The Love Of Reading

A couple of days ago, I promised to write a wrap-up post on the theme of self-publishing (since I've been talking about it all month) and my thoughts, insights, and feelings after the research I've done. However, after much consideration, and some failed attempts at fleshing out the subject, I'm going to postpone that blog for another day. I'll explain more when that day comes.

In the mean time, because it is such an interesting topic these days, and because the field of self-publication is changing so rapidly, if I can across anymore interesting posts/articles/stories, I'll be sure to let you know.

I'd like to kick off the month with a brand-new topic for discussion - and it wasn't even hard to come up with. Because February is symbolically the month of love, I'd like to dedicate the majority of my posts to the topic of love. Not the mushy kind (though that's wonderful too).
The love of reading.
And writing.
And books.

And more specifically, giving our children the gift of loving to read.
My inspiration for this topic actually came from my own daughter. I scanned something I'd like you to read, but before you do, I'll lay out some back story: First, the book referred to, "Meet Kit", is a short early children's novel from the makers of the American Girls Dolls, and was given to my six-year-old daughter for Christmas from a friend at school.

Second, about two weeks ago, my daughter woke up one Saturday morning on the wrong side of the bed. Literally. And she never recovered. It was like a bad preview of what to expect in the teen years. Grouchy. Irritable. Moody. Pouty.

And this from a little girl who scatters sunshine everywhere she goes. Something was definitely off, and though she couldn't find the words to elaborate on what, I figured it probably had something to do with sleep.
So she went to bed early that night. Very early.
The next morning, I found the following note: (Note - I've removed her name and dubbed her 'lil miss' for privacy reasons).
Now my heart absolutely soared with joy when I read this (and yes, some empathy as well - anyone who's read late into the night knows exactly where she is coming from!).
Why? Because I believe one of the most important skills I will pass on to my children is a love of reading. Notes like these are positive signs that all my hard work is paying off. Disclaimer - I certainly am not encouraging her to lose sleep over a book, especially at such a young age. But it is nice to know she loves reading that much, already.
I have a background in early literacy, and experience teaching kindergarten and grade one. I'm not going to pretend I'm even close to being an expert in these fields, but for the month of February, I would like to share some of the activities, books, and ideas I use to teach children to read and write. They're not necessarily peer-reviewed or research-proven methodologies, but they've certainly worked for me and others I know.

I'm also going to highlight some of my favorite children's books and authors!! (One of my all time favorite subjects - Yay!)
You know what else? I'd love to hear about your strategies too. How do you teach kids that books can be fun, and make reading a pathway to future success?

And because I know that there is more to life than children's literature, I thought I'd quickly share two links with you. I saw these recently and thought they fit perfectly with my theme.
The first, from author Jennifer Clark is about an article she found about the statistics on how much people read every year - and the numbers are scary! She weighs in on why it's so important to make the time to read.
Also, writer Lisa Asanuma has proposed a special event for Valentine's Day 2012 - she's calling it Books For Lovers, and the idea is to go out an buy a book on Valentines day from one of the brick-n-mortar stores, instead of purchasing online. To find out why, and how you can support this campaign, visit her blog! It's an interesting post.

In the meantime, I have some reading and writing to do, because hey, I love to! How about you?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Roles of the Self-Publisher

It's late, and I probably should be getting ready to sleep, but I wanted to quickly share some of the interesting blog posts I've found this month on the topic of self-publication. I think it is very important to go into an enterprise with a full array of research and an open understanding of what is involved.

So whether you're considering self-promoting your work, or pursuing traditional publication, there is something to be learned from each of these authors:

Enjoy! Oh, and if you get a chance, tell me what you think!

(Please note, these are in no particular order)

S.R. Johannes put together a eye-opening list of the various roles played by a self-published author. At first, the list sucks the romance out of the vision you keep in your head of the newly emerging ever evolving definition of Indie Authorship. Once you get over the initial shock, you realize that some of the roles that seem so overwhelming are still required by major publishing houses. Not only that, but when all is said and done, the work is worth the achievement of a dream, right?

J.A. Konrath is a name I've heard floating around a lot this month, so I had to check out what the buzz was about. I quickly discovered why he has become a guru of the Indie market - over the Christmas season, he sold $100,000 worth of books. And, he'll tell you how and why, in his opinion, self-published authors can find the same success.

Amanda Hocking is the next stop on my mini-tour. If you haven't heard of her, don't despair - I hadn't either, until three weeks ago. But she quickly caught my fascination with her amazing tale of do-it-yourself success.

Susan Kaye Quinn has put together a great post that gives advice and encouragement to any one trying to market their own books. She includes anecdotes relating her experience with her self-pubbed book, and I found this article very informative. She brings to the light seven questions you should ask yourself - and answer honestly before you decide to take the leap.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

NiNoCon Ninja Self-Publishing Conference

If you are someone who has ever considered self-publishing, or, if you are always on the lookout for an opportunity to learn more about your craft, I have a link to a great conference opportunity:

Ali Cross and some other talented writers are helping to put on a conference to discuss certain aspects of self publishing and writing. The beauty of this conference is three fold:

1. It's free
2. It's online (which means you can come in your pajamas)
3. It features authors with experience (which is the best source for correct information)

Ali is an author with a background in martial arts, and she has connected this to her love of writing. Therefore, NiNoCon stands for Ninja Novel Conference, and is a fun blend of the two different worlds. If you want to join the ranks of writing Ninjas, head on over to NiNoCon on Saturday, February 4th, 2012. I am unaware of the time the conference begins or its duration, but I'm sure Ali will keep us updated as Saturday draws closer.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Self-Publishing Surprise Success Story

How's that for alliteration? And I just want to begin by clarifying that I don't mean it's a 'surprise' that this book is successful, more a 'surprise' at the unexpected momentum with which it rose to the top.

When I heard the story of Regina Sirois and her newly released novel (very, very new - as in January 2012) On Little Wings, I knew I had to include it in my monthly discussion on self-publishing. In trying to find a way to contact her for an interview, I stumbled upon her blog, and I must say, I think I've developed a tad of a writer's crush on her. Okay, I admit it, I'm smitten.

I'd love to tell you her story, but I think she'll do a much better job, and with greater eloquence.

Meet Regina Sirois.

"I am really happy to get to tell my side of the story because I think there are many misconceptions floating around about me.

Misconception #1: I have made it big in the publishing world. the truth- I haven't. Not even close. I was contacted by two very talented agents in New York this week and I have decided which one I am going to sign with. That means she will try to sell my book to publishers. That does not mean they will buy. She feels good about our prospects, but there are no guarantees in this business.

Misconception #2: I just lucked out.The truth- this is almost entirely true. If you count working on my manuscript for years, sending it to many test readers, enduring harsh critiques, querying everyone and their mother and finally giving up on myself as lucky. Because that is what happened. I worked as hard and tortured myself just as long as other writers. The difference is I believed the silence from the agents and gave up on myself. I put my manuscript in a drawer and refused to talk about it or look at it for over a year. I stopped writing. And I made peace with that. So then how do I explain you knowing about my book? Well, I got a gift. A teenage girl who test read the book for me almost two years ago asked for a copy. I told her "no, don't worry about it. It's not any good." She told me that she loved it and had been thinking of it for months. She asked if she could please read it again. I brushed her off and went back to life. But it got under my skin. I kept hearing her say she missed it. So one day I timidly pulled it up on the screen. It was like making up with a friend after a big fight. It took some time to get comfortable with it again. And I started working. I worked for weeks. I neglected all my chores and wrote. And then, right before Christmas, I finished. There is a great amount of luck involved in any literary success, but it doesn't take unless there's a thousand times more work than luck.

Misconception #3: I had a marketing strategy. Truth- what is a marketing strategy?I decided to give my book away for free to any friends who wanted to peruse it and print up copies for my family as gifts. On January 4th I put a post on my blog and told my handful of followers that I wrote a book. I announced it on facebook. I worried people would think I was bugging them or bragging, but I did it anyway. I decided if I worked that hard I should at least tell the people who cared about me what I did. I did not think I would make a penny. I didn't really want to. That wasn't the point. I'm not sure what the point was, to be honest. I just wanted to stop being afraid to try. I don't know how 14,000 people found me in five days. I really don't.

Any marketing tips or strategies? I refer you to my last answer. :) I believe that free is a great way to plant your book. If it really touches people and lands in fertile ground it might just grow. Just remember that there will be no word of mouth if it doesn't resonate. No one says, "hey I downloaded a mediocre book for free. You should get it." Let your work speak for itself and see if people pass along the word. And say a mediocre book does make it big online. When an agent reads a copy, then what? They will say, 'what the heck is this?' You have to have a product that stands up to the most critical eyes. Self publishing is not a short cut! It is just another path through the jungle. For me it was an accidental path. But trust me, I had tried to get through the jungle before I self published.

How long have I dreamed of being an author? I fought being a writer for a long time. I always said that writing is a crap shoot. It doesn't matter how good you are because even dogs write books nowadays. Dogs! So how do you compete with that. And if you knew me you would know that if I have a competitive bone in my body it is my pinky bone. Or maybe one of those tiny bones in my eardrum. I fight hard with myself but I hate competing with anyone else. When I finally gave in and decided to do this it was because I was sick of telling my husband, "If I ever write that book..." It sounded so lazy and stupid to me. I told myself, "Just write it if you're going to write it, or shut up about it." (See, I told you I can be hard on myself. But in a good way) Every time I wanted to give up (there were many) I told myself to write it to my daughter. I can do for her what I cannot do for myself.

The most exciting part of this experience? The first time a complete stranger blogged about my book. I found it by googling my title. She said I was a master of the English language. Another woman called me a "wordsmith." I looked at my husband and said, "I'm a wordsmith?" Then I covered my mouth and cried in the kitchen. Cried happy, happy tears. Seeing that people who don't know me and are not trying to be nice to me care about what I wrote is the biggest reward."

Okay, this is Mandi speaking again. I know, I'm sorry, I was completely hypnotized by her writer's voice as well, and almost forgot I was supposed to be writing this post. If you haven't read this book yet, don't miss it! If you don't believe me, go check out the 20/22 five star reviews on Amazon! There is a reason this book has gone from zero to sixty in under ten seconds, but I'm not going to tell you what.

I'll let you read it and find out for yourself...

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