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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Book Review: I Hope They Call Me on a Mission

Today I’m reviewing something a little different from my norm: a kid’s book! And an LDS kid’s book at that. It’s called I Hope They Call Me on a Mission, written by Benjamin Hyrum White (who was my seminary teacher in high school!) and illustrated by Corey Egbert.


If the title doesn’t give it away, this book is about LDS missionaries, designed namely for kids (I’d say ages five to twelve) who may be considering serving a mission.

(For those of you unfamiliar with LDS missionary work, it’s a service of about two years for young single adults to preach the gospel. It’s usually done out-of-state unless handicap prevents it, and the missionaries pay for all their expenses out-of-pocket. My husband served in Paris, France from 2007-2009. :D)

The book has a great format for the information: Missionaries [do this], plus a few lines of description. Enough to understand, not enough to bore. ;) It covers things kids don’t always hear about missionary work as well, such as exercise and rejection.

I really like the style of art for the book too—it’s very colorful and isn’t monotonous. I Hope They Call Me on a Mission depicts both male and female missionaries, as well as multiple nationalities, so it’s very diverse.

The book starts with a missionary sending a letter home to talk about what he does. The only slightly negative thing I could say about the book is that I wish the motif of the “letter to home” had been kept up through the pages more, and not just at the beginning.

All-in-all, I think it’s a cute and informative book that I’d be happy to share with my own kid.

I Hope They Call Me on a Mission is being sold at Costco, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble, so go check it out!

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Paper Magician Art Contest!

It’s officially the month of valentines, cheap candy, social expectations, love, and heartache. This is great. Why? Because Valentine’s Day and The Paper Magician have one big thing in common: they both have paper hearts!

Ba-dum ch. (Cue drums breaking down into hot mess in corner.)

ANYWAY, I wanted to utilize Valentine’s month to announce The Paper Magician Art Contest.


What is it? It’s a contest for artists of all aspects to draw (paint, collage, photograph, etc.) their favorite character(s) from The Paper Magician series. The contest will be open for six weeks (February 16th to March 30th) and will have three winners.

Yes, yes, prizes. Behold:

First Place:

$50 Amazon gift card, signed paperback copies of The Paper Magician
and 
The Glass Magician, signed audiobook copies of The Paper Magician
and 
The Glass Magician, signed bookplate, bookmark, origami kit,
Cadbury roses, paper crane earrings, and an atomically correct silver heart necklace

Second Place:

Signed paperback copies of The Paper Magician and The Glass Magician,
signed audiobook copies of 
The Paper Magician and The Glass Magician,
signed bookplate, bookmark, origami kit, and Cadbury roses.

Third Place:


Signed paperback copies of The Paper Magician and The Glass 

Magician, signed audiobook copies of The Paper Magician and 
The Glass Magician, signed bookplate, and bookmark.


All entries will, with the artists’ consent, also be showcased on CharlieNHolmberg.com.

So, how do you enter?

Starting February 16th, email your entry to CharlieNHolmberg (at) gmail.com, along with the following information:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Title of work (optional)
  • Method used (optional)
  • Can we display this entry on CharlieNHolmberg.com? (Y/N)


…and that’s it!

This contest is open internationally, and there are no restrictions on who can enter. Each participant can send up to two entries.

Questions/concerns? Send them to CharlieNHolmberg (at) gmail.com or through the contact form on my website.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Cover Reveal! THE MASTER MAGICIAN

I've gots the cover to The Master Magician primed and ready to go! I'm really happy with how it turned out! And it's green, which I wanted (the first cover drafts for The Glass Magician were originally green).

I kept wondering who my publisher was going to put on the cover. I thought it should be Ceony, but she's on the cover of The Paper Magician already.

In the end, I think the publisher and the artist chose well.

Drum roll, please!

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Throughout her studies, Ceony Twill has harbored a secret, one she’s kept from even her mentor, Emery Thane. She’s discovered how to practice forms of magic other than her own—an ability long thought impossible.
While all seems set for Ceony to complete her apprenticeship and pass her final magician’s exam, life quickly becomes complicated. To avoid favoritism, Emery sends her to another paper magician for testing--a Folder who despises Emery and cares even less for his apprentice. To make matters worse, a murderous criminal from Ceony’s past escapes imprisonment. Now she must track the power-hungry convict across England before he can take his revenge. With her life and loved ones hanging in the balance, Ceony must face a criminal who wields the one magic that she does not, and it may prove more powerful than all her skills combined.


Ta da! What do you think?


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sold! FOLLOWED BY FROST to 47North

I am ecstatic to announce the release of my fourth novel, Followed by Frost, to 47North! This book is a standalone young adult fantasy unassociated with
The Paper Magician series. I am so happy to see this book come into print—to date it’s my favorite of anything I’ve ever drafted.
 
So, what is it about?  Here’s a short pitch:

After 17-year-old Smitha is cursed to be as cold as her heart, Death himself offers her a chance for relief. Unwilling to give up her life, Smitha seeks redemption deep in the savage deserts, where her perpetual winter dares to make her a hero.

The wait isn’t a long one—the title is currently slotted to come out by summer’s end. Updates to follow!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Why Vulcans Are Way Better Than Elves

This was originally posted on Suzanne Johnson's blog as part of The Paper Magician blog tour.

~*~

I love to read fantasy. It’s my favorite genre, which is why I write in it. I eat up Sanderson and Marillier novels. At the library, I automatically peruse the books with the little white unicorn sticker on them.

I’m also a Trekkie.

Why do I bring this up? Because both fantasy novels and Star Trek have a race of people who look a whole lot like one another: Elves and Vulcans. However, as both a writer and a reader, I’m going to tell you why I love Vulcans and why I throw most books containing Elves across the room, if I pick them up at all.

Let’s start with Vulcans.

Leonard Nimoy as Spock, a Human/Vulcan hybrid,
demonstrating the Vulcan salute | Wikipedia
Vulcans appear, outwardly, just as humans do, save for their pointed ears and standard bowl-with-straight-bangs haircut (and the occasional blue eye shadow…). Vulcans thrive off logic: their desire to be logical at all times pushes them to learn, making them a highly intelligent race. This encourages them to deny all emotion, which is the bane of logic. They’re also about three times stronger than your average human.

Now, Elves.

Elves also look like humans, save for the pointed ears. Elves are graceful, beautiful, and immortal. In many novels or media outlets, they even have supernatural abilities. They’re fair to look upon, often war-free, and as Tolkien put it, have “great skill of body.” They’re tall, graceful, and resistant to disease.

This makes me loathe them.

Orlando Bloom as Legolas in Peter Jackson's
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers | Wikipedia
Now, if you’re an Elf fan, that’s fine and dandy—we don’t all have to like the same things. But let me tell you why I root for Vulcans whilst heckling Elves.

I call it Superman Syndrome. (Which apparently is already a thing.)

Vulcans one-up us humans in that they tend to be way smarter than us and could seriously mutilate us in a fist-fight. These are their strengths. But they also have their weaknesses: they don’t fully understand what it means to feel. You rarely see a happy Vulcan because happiness is suppressed. So is sadness, anger, surprise, love. Can you imagine a world without love, where you’re assigned a spouse and only mate with them once every seven years when your body decides to release its entire libido at once? For this reason, I pity Vulcans. Logic is a strength, but any Trekkie knows the episodes where stuffing down feelings ends up hurting Vulcans, not helping them.

When we look at Elves’ strengths . . . well, it’s the whole list, isn’t it? AKA Superman Syndrome.

Superman is my least favorite superhero (I’m a Marvel girl myself) because he’s too strong. The guy is invincible, unless someone manages to get their hands on some psycho rock from another planet, though even kryptonite won’t kill him. I feel it’s the same with Elves. All Elves are gorgeous, all Elves are strong, all Elves are immortal and powerful and smart and limber and nothing else. They’re too perfect; even Tolkien is guilty of this. Where is their weakness? Yeah, you could stab one (when Haldir fell in the “The Two Towers” movie, my first reaction was, OMG THEY CAN DIE?), but you can stab a human, too. Mankind has no upper hand with Elves. We’re just walking meat in comparison, and that, to me, makes elves wildly unsympathetic.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Collecting Criticism: Writing Groups vs Critique Partners

This was originally posted on J.D. Horn's blog as part of The Paper Magician blog tour.


~*~


Writing groups aren’t for everyone.

What? BLASPHEMY!

But hear me out.

When I say writing groups aren’t for everyone, I don’t mean that some writers don’t need criticism. Every writer needs criticism. Rowling and Brown and Martin and Patterson all need a second, third, and/or fourth pair of eyes on their work. But over the years I’ve noticed two models for critique: the writing group model and the critique-partners model. I personally started out with the first and have moved to the second with grand success.


So which model is right for you? Allow me to deconstruct them:

The Writing Group

The Writing Group is a very sociable setting, great for making friends and sharing cookies and just generally being loud. It’s like an in-depth book club.

Pros
  • Getting to hear group discussion on your work as though spying on a book club.
  • Acquiring a more social aspect to writing, which can be very isolating work.
  • Eliminating a lot of wait time. Everyone reads your manuscript at the same time and gives you feedback at the same time, so there are no gaps between critiques.
  • Real-time feedback. If you have a question, you can ask it and get an answer right away. No waiting on emails.
  • Keeping structure. At least, a writing group should have ground rules. Otherwise it’s chaos.


Cons
  • Disappearing into the crowd. If you tend toward introversion, it’s easy to get your voice swallowed up.
  • Defensive authors. A writer who won’t take criticism and defends their every word makes for an awkward meeting.
  • Lazy readers. Sometimes group members don’t stay on the ball, and you end up with only a portion of the feedback you were hoping for.
  • Possible embarrassment. Not everyone is tactful in a writing group. I once sat in on a writing group where a guy actually printed out a speech about why another member’s writing was terrible. Made her cry. It was awkward.
  • Scheduling problems. Finding fellow writers who can all meet at the same time and the same place can be a headache, especially if your group is online and you have to deal with time zones.


Critique Partners

Critique partners are fantastic if you don’t have fellow writers in your area. A few of mine I met online; others are friends from previous writing groups or from high school/college. It’s a great way to get feedback without changing out of your pajamas.

Pros
  • Having a wider range of people critiquing your work (since they don’t have to be local).
  • Receiving all your critiques pre-written for you. No note-taking; it’s all in the document. This also makes organizing the criticism a lot easier.
  • No scheduling required.
  • Picking and choosing your readers is a lot easier. If you use a critique partner you end up not liking, it’s simple to cut them out of the loop and use someone else; in a writing-group setting, if you don’t like someone’s critiques, you either have to deal with it or leave the group as a whole


Cons
  • No community desserts.
  • There’s a lot more wait time. Some critique partners are really quick to get back to you, others aren’t. And sometimes you’re not sure if that email actually went through…
  • No group discussion. Someone may point out a problem, and if you want a second opinion on that opinion, you have more emails to write and more waiting to do.
  • You have to actually find each critique partner. Joining a writing group is a two-step process: find the group and join it. Finding the same number of readers you’d have in a writing group to use as critique partners is much more time-consuming because you have to seek out each one personally.
  • It’s less sociable.



So how do I do it?

I have about fifteen critique partners, which I suppose I could split into two “writing groups”—my alpha readers (fellow writers) and my beta readers (non-writing readers). My rough draft goes out to the first set of readers, and I make changes to my manuscript based on their comments as they filter through my email. That modified manuscript then goes out to my beta readers, and I incorporate their changes as well.

If you go the route of the critique-partners-model, I highly recommend using several of them. That way you get the varied feedback of a writing group, and if someone is too busy to read your stuff, you have others to fall back on.

Side note: If you’re one of those writers who won’t share your work for fear of others stealing it, you can always do a poor man’s copyright and email the manuscript to yourself. Don’t open the package when it arrives. The post office stamp will more or less keep your creative works yours.




Monday, December 22, 2014

Brain-brewing (and Aqua Notes)

This was originally posted on Alex Bledsoe's blog as part of The Paper Magician blog tour.


~*~

There are millions of places a writer can go to get an idea: museums, national parks, Wikipedia, even other writers’ books. The “what ifs” and crazy combinations of stuff in this world are endless. (Jim Butcher’s Furies of Calderon, for example, came from shoving Pokemon and a lost Roman legion into the same story.) Ultimately, the question of, “Where do you get your ideas?”, is relatively moot, because ideas are everywhere. Though, alternatively, I’ve recently discovered that sometimes the best place to get an idea is inside my own head.

The human brain processes thousands of stimulants and chunks of information daily. All of these—news articles, your strange new neighbor, that weird pear tree that smells like a corpse*, the story of your best friend’s cousin’s most recent breakup—leaves involuntary dregs inside your mind, much like a snail trail. Whether you’re actively thinking about the information or not, it’s all sitting inside your skull, forming piles of puzzle pieces that don’t seem to fit together. It’s surprising how many ideas I can come with when I’m forced to stand in a locked white room with my own brain, staring at said puzzle pieces until I see a bigger picture.

Ever heard of Aqua Notes? 

This product is ingenious. I can’t think of how many times I’ve gotten a great idea in the shower and have had to repeat it to myself over and over so I could remember it by the time I got out. We’ve all been there. But why do great ideas come in such a strange place? Because [usually] we’re alone. Just us and the ceramic. Just me and my brain.

Road trips are even better. Instead of twenty minutes alone with your thoughts, you have hours. Long, boring hours of dry southern Idaho countryside. After you’ve played the alphabet game and forty rounds of 20 Questions, it’s either white-room-brain-time or jumping onto the pavement whizzing by at eighty miles per hour.

I’ve “discovered” so many story ideas just by letting my thoughts drift until I reach one that’s especially unique or bizarre. It was during the long, twelve-hour trip from Moscow, ID to Salt Lake City that I came up with the idea for The Paper Magician: the idea of using man-made materials to cast spells. The idea of making the setting of the story an internal organ. The idea of giving a man a paper heart.

An idea is like good wine (or so I’ve heard, I’ve never actually had wine). The longer it ages, the better it tastes. And sometimes, when writers step away from the world and stare at the bottle long enough, they discover a blend of flavors that makes their writing excel.

Go ahead, try it. This drink’s on me.




*These are all over BYU campus.