Monday, January 30, 2012

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful...

Artist unknown--if this is yours let me know!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Link Blitz

I'm having a tea party today.

With tea. And tea sandwiches. And crackers. I'm excited.

I'm having a tea party because my husband is hosting a Nerf war at the church.

Onto the links . . .

Writer's Potpourri:

January Query Time: What It's Not

January Query Time: What Not to Include

Pitching to an Agent

Cardboard Cutouts Make Rotten Villains

On the Fine Art of Titling

8 Tips for Making the Most of Your Writing Time

Trust Thyself (Writer's block)

4 Techniques for Creating Believable Villains

When You Are a Beginning Writer, the Keyword is Focus

How to Make Your Novel's First 50 Pages Stand Out

Other Babble:

Girls in Gowns (YA book cover trends)

21 Pictures of Cats on Glass

Fighting Girl Clothes (How do the costumes these women-warriors are given in video games actually hold up in battle?)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Coming Soon: Someday Stars

After some thought, I decided to add a new series to the blog: Someday Stars. These posts will occur on Thursdays, every two weeks or so, and spotlight the people who really make the blogosphere go round: the nobodies.

Now, that is not an insult. I'm a nobody, too, as far as the publishing industry goes--someone striving to publish their manuscript, to see their name on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. I read a lot of blogs about others who push to finish their manuscripts, who inflict themselves with daily word counts and endless revisions, just trying to get that book ready for the industry's eyes.

There are some amazing people out there--full-time moms, students, animal trainers, aerobic instructors... all vying for that shining moment on an editor's desk. So why not enlarge our circle and learn more about them?

Check back here next Thursday for the first post. I'll be stalking the Interwebs for fellow writers, so stay tuned!

If you're already ready and willing to be interviewed, please email me at CNHolmberg (at)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Once Upon a Time

I've really enjoyed the new TV series "Once Upon a Time." The premise of the show is basically this: the fairytale world has been trapped by the evil queen (of Snow White's story) into the town of modern-day Storybrooke, Maine. No one remembers who they are. Before the curse took its effect, however, Snow White managed to send her daughter Emma into the "real" world, where she's grown up in foster care and now works as a bailer.

The only one who knows the truth is a boy named Henry, Emma's birth son, and adopted son of the evil witch. Emma is the only one who can break the curse, if Henry can ever convince her it exists.

The show takes a lot of twists on fairytales, and even introduces new stories such as how Jiminy Cricket actually became a cricket. (Great episode, even if the motivation for the guy staying with his parents was more or less nonexistent.)

I absolutely love Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (Cinderella tale) and Daughter of the Forest* by Juliet Marillier (Seven Swans tale), but I've never written a twisted fairytale novel myself (unless you count TDSF, though Chicken Little is more of a fable). This show gets me thinking about them. If I had to start a book with the cliched "Once upon a time," what would my story be?

I recall being at a writing conference once (probably LTUE) and jotting down an idea regarding Little Red Riding Hood, but I can't remember what it is, now. Have to filter through all my little story notebooks to find it.

Have you ever written or wanted to write a story based off a fairytale? Read one you just couldn't put down? What fairytales do you think have been left out of the circle, or overused? (Cinderella has been done to death, we can all agree on that...)

*If you haven't read this book, you need to. Right now.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Refreshing My Nihongo

Once upon a time, 13-year-old Charlie decided Japan was pretty awesome.

Her then 15-yr-old sister had also decided Japan was awesome, and then thought, "Hey, it would be cool to learn Japanese." (Which she later majored in.)

So Sister taught Charlie all the basics of Japanese.

Charlie then took Community Education classes in Japanese, two years of [very, very bad] Japanese instruction in high school, and four semesters [of very, very intense] Japanese classes in college. And then she graduated in English and forgot all her Japanese.

My desire to rekindle my Japanese would always come when A) I watched the very rare Japanese TV show or drama [with subtitles, of course], or B) Someone else who spoke Japanese tried to strike up a conversation with me, and I failed about 20 seconds in. I've forgotten all my kanji and almost everything beyond basic grammar.

Then a long-lost penpal (we're talking 10 years of long-lostness) found me on Facebook and, in her simple English, asked if I was the same Charlie she had written to in junior high. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to hear from her.

I've been reconsidering my Japanese ever since. I got a CD meant to play in the car to learn Japanese, though it's just a "repeat what I say" type of format, not actually anything conducive to learning. Fortunately, I can still use it as a refresher. I would LOVE to try the Rosetta Stone software, but it's painfully expensive. Painfully.

So, baby steps. I still have my old textbooks (and a great book called "Making Out in Japanese" which teaches you key conversational phrases and then some something-something). Hopefully I'll find some free time to look into them and smarten up.

Do any of you speak a foreign language? How did you learn it?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Link Blitz

Slept on my neck weird. Hurts to tilt my head back (which is a lot better than when it hurts tilting to the side. I've learned I look left and right far more frequently than up).

The grad school applications are almost in (for le husband, for those of you who don't know. A bachelor's was PLENTY of school for me), which means I'll know where we'll be moving in August that much sooner. Huzzah.

LTUE is almost here as well. I LOVE the panels of this conference. My sister may attend a day or two with me. I really want her to talk to Stacy Whitman of Tu Books, because her WIP* is perfect for her, methinks. Or at least very close. ;)

Writer's Potpourri:

Description in Fantasy: Finding the Sweet Spot

Book Marketing Makeover: 5 Ways to Promote Self-published Books

10 Ways to Improve Your Writing While Thinking Like a Comedy Writer

Sanderson's Second Law of Magic

All About Revision Requests: Agents' Defense and Authors' Risks!

Being a Better Blogger, Part 1

On the Growth of Fantasy and the Waning of Science Fiction by Brad Torgersen

Real Characters Harbor Real Dreams . . . and Real Fears

10 Ways to Start Your Story Better

Other Babble:

Star Wars Fanatics Spend Two Weeks Baking Life-size Stormtrooper Cake

The Bark Side: 2012 Volkswagen Game Day Commercial Teaser (This is AWESOME.)

*A WIP which, mind you, is almost done with revisions. :D

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Review: The Allow of Law by Brandon Sanderson

 I give this book 4.5 stars, and mind that I'm in love with the Mistborn series,* which is part of what made me love this book.

 It's books like The Alloy of Law that let me know I actually CAN read quickly, should I put effort into it. This is the kind of book that makes you put off work to find out what happens. Mistborn has the most fantastic magic system of any fantasy I've ever read, and it's that system that really drives the books toward excellence.

  The story itself is rather good, a mystery with fantastical elements and a western twist. I liked the protagonist for 99% of the story. The way he deals with the complications in his life seemed very realistic to me, even at the end, when he made the choice I didn't want him to make, despite knowing that, for his character, that was the best choice for him. It's definitely interesting to see how Sanderson handles the "romantic" plot line in this novel.

 My only gripe with the book is the occasional forced humor, whether it's in funny jokes that go a little too far, or an attempted laugh inserted in an inappropriate place. A lot of the humor depends on the reader, however--while I had a few [minor] issues with the comic relief character, my husband loved him, so all is well.

One of the best parts of the book is the references back to the original series. (I'd like to note that, without the support of the original trilogy, this book would have been weaker. Then again, I doubt anyone would read it without having read books 1-3.)

Be warned, Brandon likes to leave a few loose plot holes to drive you mad. ;)

Side note: I thought, based on the cover, that Waxillium had a really long braid, but that is just the fringe of his coat. My little fangirl heart broke a little.

*The Mistborn series is, by far, my favorite books of all time. I've never reread them, since when I plot my own novels I always find myself trying to steal from it (at which point I slap my hand and start over, I have a thing with originality), but after reading TAoL, I think I shall revisit my old friends... (I have a HUGE crush on the eunuch, after all...)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Burning Christmas Trees

First, I want to tell Patty Wells, Renovation Chair, how much I love her. Yesterday I got a letter in the mail saying thank you for helping make WorldCon a success, along with a check for $160--the amount I paid for my ticket to the conference. I was so surprised, and so glad! THANK YOU. That will cover LDStorymakers and then some. BLESSINGS.

In other news, I went to my first Christmas tree burning on Saturday. It was a lot of fun--drove out to the west desert and parked in the middle of nowhere (where there would be very few chances of starting any wildfires), roasted hot dogs and marshmallows for s'mores.* Then, we burned about 10 Christmas trees. Each pine needle is like a little fire cracker. They look really cool when they start burning down--like the needles are made of gold.

I loathe the smell of campfire clothes/hair, but it was well worth it. ;)

*S'mores would make the top three cut if I had to pick my favorite desserts. Actually, right now it's probably:
1. Betty Crocker homemade chocolate chip cookies
2. Hot fudge pudding cake**
3. S'mores

**If you perchance want a recipe to any of these things (though s'mores are pretty self explanatory), feel free to ping me with your email address and I'll happily send said recipe(s) over.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Versatile Blogger Award

My lovely writer friend Lora Rivera has graciously passed down the Versatile Blogger Award into my lowly hands. Thanks Lora! I recommend you check out her blog, it's rather snazzy.

The rules of said award are as follows:

1. In a post on your blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.
2. In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.
3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

Seven Random Piece of Information about Myself:

1. I'm missing four of my molars (and have had 12 teeth pulled during my life, the equivalent of half my jaw).
2. I was filmed in the nude for public television.* (Yes, you'll want to read that footnote.)
3. I am one-quarter Austrian.
4. I am Republican. Mitt Romney all the way, baby!
5. I am secretly (or not so secretly) obsessed with the Korean girl band KARA.
6. I studied Japanese for about five years.
7. I've forgotten 90% of my Japanese skillz.

Don't think I can pull 15 names for nominations, but here are a few good ones:

@KristyGStewart for her Loose Leaf editorial blog. This girl is an editing genius and a smart poster. She knows the ins and outs of Chicago and probably any other style guide you could possibly throw at her. Check her out, especially if you're looking to indie publish.

Jennie at Beehive and Birdsnest. Jennie is a blogging mom of five who's filled with advice and a good helping of sass. I adore her posts. And hey, she's funny.

@RoniLoren at Fiction Groupie. Roni just published her debut novel, Crash into You. Even if you're not into erotica, her posts are extremely resourceful (she's the one who inspired my Link Blitz).

*I was two or three years old, and it was part of a meme for America's Funniest Home Videos. Said video included me, my sister, and my dog in the bathtub together.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Link Blitz

In case you've been wondering about my progress, I've unlocked both the white and black yoshis on Yoshi Story, AND unlocked all the second- and third-page levels. Also Ghost Castle on page 6, which was a little freaky. I really want to unlock round #4 on page six--it's supposed to be the hardest, and all I can remember from childhood was a big dragon and lots of lava. (Don't worry, the dragon was friendly.)

Oh, yeah. And writing is good, too.

Anyway, the Interwebs was exploding with great links this week! Enjoy.

Writer's Potpourri:

How to Avoid 10 Common Conference Mistakes That Most Writers Make

Nonverbal Communications and Your Characters

What I've Learned from Blogging (from agent Vickie Motter)

3 Secrets to E-book Cover Design Success

5 Narrative Mistakes You Can Fix Now by Author Elise Rome

3 Signs of a Publishing Scam

Agent Exclusives: Revising

12 Baby Steps That Rocked My Writing

How to Make Instant Connections with Authors and Experts

25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing

Other Babble:

Striking a Pose (Women and Fantasy Covers) (Hilarious.)

10 Really Inappropriate Coloring Books That Actually Exist

Brisk Commercial: Star Wars

The Rook book trailer:

Get More: MTV Shows

Thursday, January 12, 2012

LDStoryMakers Conference

I just signed up for the LDStoryMakers Conference! I'm so excited to go, and it even includes meals. There will be a lot of great people there and excellent panels. May can't come soon enough!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Me Talking about What I'm Actually Paid to Do

As you may not know (since I never had an "About Me" section until last week), I work full-time as a technical writer. I am the breadwinner of the family, and am putting my lovely husband through school (after which he'll make a butt-load more money than me, so it's all good).

I spend my business days at a great company called Fusion-io in Salt Lake City. I got the job right out of college and love working there. It's very deep in the technological sense--needless to say I've learned A LOT since being hired.

I work in the product marketing department and help with writing technical documents, blogs*, and a weekly sales newsletter. I also work a lot with the Web team to make sure things get posted to the site in an orderly (and aesthetically pleasing) fashion. Thanks to my grammatical OCD, I also created and maintain the company style guide. :)

Though I [obviously] haven't been hired to write about swords and sorcery, the job keeps me on my toes about how I word things and how documents read as a whole. It's helped my blogging skills a great deal. And it keeps that ol' editing minor of mine in constant use, so I don't get [too] rusty.

Today a tech writer, tomorrow a novelist. That's the plan, at least.

*Yes, my shirt has been photoshopped.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Book Review: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

Remember this?


The Black Prism was a really good book. I'm not a fan of Brent Weeks's Night Angel trilogy, but I found this book to be very well written, with a great plot and even better subplots. The main characters are interesting, as I had reasons both to hate and love them--they have obvious weaknesses, but I was rooting for them in the end. I also liked that, for once, a fantasy book had a fat hero (one of the protagonists is fat, anyway. The other is ridiculously good-looking.)

I didn’t take to the magic system at first, not because it isn’t good, but because it’s not my normal cup of tea, but it grew on me. There’s lots of interesting twists and turns (one near the beginning of the book that’s a real shocker) that kept me interested, and by the end of the book I’m left wondering what will happen and being mad that book #2 isn’t out yet. Definitely recommend this to anyone who likes epic fantasy. Or rainbows.

Now onto The Allow of Law. Finally. ;)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Link Blitz

Three things:

First, CoT is coming along awkwardly, but coming along. I'm going to re-read my character sheets and look forward to future revisions. ;)

Second, I've officially learned the secrets of couponing. Now I must wait for the newspaper to arrive so I may conquer...

Third, to my fellow Utahns, the LTUE conference is coming up at the beginning of February. It's a small conference, but very professional, and has the best panels of any writing conference I've ever attended. I recommend a visit--I heard it's $30 if you sign up ahead of time!

Writer's Potpourri:

Villainous Characterization Techniques (Great read)

Writing Excuses 7:1--When Good Characters Go Bad

2012 Publishing Predictions

10 Ways to Harness Fear and Fuel Your Writing

The Road to Success Part One--What Kind of Author Are You?

Back to Basics: Every Scene Must Have Conflict

How Do I Set up a Blog Tour?

Other Babble:

Romney is an iPhone: A Gadget Lover's guide to GOP Candidates (I found this amusing)

File-sharing Recognized as Official Religion in Sweden

Partials Trailer (by Dan Wells)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

On Characters: Modern Family

I love Modern Family.

I'm not a huge TV watcher, but this is a show I can't pass up. It's absolutely hilarious. Husband and I recently got the first season (which we never saw, we got hooked when the show was in season two) and it's fantastic. The actors know their roles from the beginning. Humor ensues.

I realized that's what makes the show so great--the roles. The characters. There are a lot of characters in the show (11 main characters, if you count Lily), and yet each one is distinctly different from the other--without being absurd, and without being unbelievable. Eleven characters all in the same setting and same story, all unique.

That got me thinking. How hard is it to write 11 different main characters, let alone keep them all distinctly different? Many of which grew up in the same house, with the same families? And considering Modern Family doesn't have magic or fantastical whatnot to mold its people . . . dag--those are some savvy writers.

So I ask myself: how unique are my characters from one another? Fundamentally, in who they are, not just where they came from? If I were to rewrite my story giving everyone the same name and the same appearance, could I still tell one person from the next?

Something to keep in mind.

Monday, January 2, 2012

On World Culture

"Beyond Europe . . . there are thousands of potential world cultures to use for inspiration or as a base for your fantasy cultures. . . . One intent of these profiles is to hint at the great variety of foreign cultures available to writer from every inhabited part of the world and from every period of human development. Another intent is to inspire and guide writers to seek out more information about these exciting cultures and incorporate them into their own worlds.

"Writers should consider what point or points in a culture's development they are going to portray. Each has its particular allure and interesting characteristics. Cultures cannot remain static for long and are constantly changing, expanding, and contracting. Is the culture in the ascendant, with dynamic leaders striving to carve a place in a world of dangerous competitors? Is it a strong, powerful state, secure against all but the most dangerous enemies? Is it an ancient, now-decadent culture with indifferent leadership and on the brink of imminent decline? Or has that decline already begun, with collapse from the inside being hastened by aggressive outsiders?" --Michael J. Varhola

The above quote is from The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference, written by the editors of Writer's Digest. An excellent book, and if you writer epic or high fantasy, I strongly suggest reading it.  It literally lists different cultures around the world from which you can base ideas, different sorts of scrying, common fantasy races, types of weapons and armor, and so much more. The Anatomy of a Castle chapter is especially helpful for medieval European-based fantasy.

On a side note, I've finally named my current work in progress: CITY OF TEETH (CoT for simplicity's sake). And, now that the holidays are passed, I shall resume my querying. :D

What books on writing have you found especially helpful?