Inching Across the Finish Line (Maiden Update #7)

The last update I gave was the beginning of May, and a lot has happened since then in getting my YA novel – MAIDEN – ready for submission.

I have had two additional beta-readers go through and give (as always) wonderful feedback.
My critique group, the wonderful Richmond Children’s Writers, have helped me sharpen the first few chapters.  I am forever indebted to them.
A good friend with an eye for editing has gone through and red-inked the bejeebers out of it, helping me condense and clarify.
And that’s where we are. In the next couple of days I will give to my wife for final ‘approval’ and then I have my first 5 agents in the queue.
Thanks to everyone for the support and continued encouragement. Dreams do come true, you just can’t give up on them!

End of Summer…GIVEAWAY!!!

Did you spend all your money this summer (more than you should have)? Are you in need of a little end of summer bling?

Thank you for stopping by because to help cure your end of summer blues, enter below to win a $20 gift card to B&N or Amazon (winner choice). I thought that would brighten your day:-)

I, personally, have had a fantastic summer and am sorry to see it end. Things I did this summer:

  • Went to Emerald Isle, NC for the first time and LOVED it!
  • Actually trimmed the hedges (you can ask my wife, that’s a big deal)
  • Finished the final draft of my debut YA novel – MAIDEN. In the very near future will start querying agents (yikes)!!!
I hope you have had a wonderful summer and can’t wait to hear what fun things you did in the comments below. Feel free to share the giveaway with anyone and everyone and stop by often to keep entering.  
The giveaway will run until September 2nd!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Do you BlogFaceTweet?: A Comparison of Social Media Outlets (Tips on Writing #11)

I Facebook. I Twitter. I Blog.

For now, I refuse to get mired any deeper in this thing called ‘social media’.

Like most people I have talked too, I had a heck of a time trying to figure out how to use social media. I am still not where I want to be, but I certainly feel more comfortable. One of the things that has helped in overcoming my fear of building an online presence was to understand how each outlet is beneficial to helping me build an online community.

Your goal online is to build a community. That’s why it’s supposed to be “social” media…so you can actually interact with others.  The goal is not to sell your product, but sell yourself, and then the product will follow. Have something to give and be interactive and the result is you will not only increase sales, but – more importantly – you will make new friends and develop a community.

Sounds nice, but how does it work? It’s not a perfect analogy, but I think of it this way:

1) Your website/blog is your home!

My ultimate goal is to get people to my website (which for me is my blog). It should be where people find out all the information about you they can and find out how to purchase your product. I like to think of my website as mission control, the home base where I ultimately want members of my community to end up and enjoy returning too. Any other social media resource is utilized to find a community that wants to gather at my website/blog – my house.

2) Twitter is a quick text or broadcast to those in your community to convey information.  There is not much interaction. It is more formal in nature.

I look at Twitter as a news crawler at the bottom of the TV or a quick informative text. You don’t use it to push your product as much as you use it to share information. There isn’t as much conversation in this format, just quick sharing of information.

Whatever industry you are in (i.e. publishing, marketing, education, etc.) it gives you a quick outlet to share your thoughts and share the thoughts of others. It gives people online an idea of what your community is about and peaks their interest. If people agree with you or find value in what you share, they will follow and ultimately end up on your website/blog.

Items to share through Twitter: forwarding appropriate articles; links to industry related news stories; info about upcoming events or activities; sharing the name of Twitter accounts that you find informative

3) Facebook is an actual phone or face-to-face conversation with a group of people in your community. There is back and forth. It is less formal than Twitter.

A community should have a familiar, welcoming, less-formal feel to it. A social gathering. That’s what Facebook does, allows you to interact and converse with your community things about you. Not just business related things, or news regarding your product, but you in general. Your everyday life, your likes and dislikes, travels, etc. Your community on Facebook are interested in learning more about you and you should be interested in learning more about them.

Items to share through Facebook: short questions to get dialogue going, whether about your product/industry or every day life; pictures from industry events or every day activities; uplifting, inspiring quotes or pictures; updates on where you are on your projects

The above analogies have helped me wade through the social media waters. It might not work for everyone, but hopefully it will give you a foundation of understanding to start from. Just remember that in social media less is more and have something to give, don’t just try to take.

You will find your community, just don’t give up!

What outlets and resources do you take advantage of online? Are they working? Are you actually interacting with people and building a community?

PS – if you haven’t read it yet, the best book out today (IMO) on improving your presence online and building a community is Platform by Michael Hyatt.  Get it…today!  It’s his personal story of success online, but also serves as a one-stop-shop for all your social media question and concerns. 

Enders Game by Orson Scott Card (Through the Shelf Thursday #13)

Title: Ender’s Game
AuthorOrson Scott Card
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Fantasy
Description from Goodreads:

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister. 

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives. 

Date I Finished Reading: July 24, 2013

My Rating: 4 of 5

My Review: (also on GoodreadsAmazon):

Everybody told me I needed to read this book. “One of the best books I’ve ever read”, “My all time favorite”, etc. etc.  I tried to read it about 3 years back, but couldn’t get into it.  But with the movie coming out I finally picked it up again.

The book is an interesting, fun read, and gave me lots to think about.  Under the layer of action that happens in the books Battle Room, and the trials and struggles of the main character Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin, Card is laying down little suggestions/questions about morality, society, and what is good and what is evil. I like a book to have at least some depth.

The character building in the book is done well for the three main characters (all siblings): Peter, Ender, and Valentine.  But other than that, most of the characters, in my opinion, are glossed over.  I would have liked a little more information or background on Col. Graff, Petra, and Mazer.  But all that being said, I was pleased to see that all of the characters played a role and helped establish the story.

The relationship between Ender and his younger sister Valentine and his older brother Peter help drive the heart and motivation of the story.  Ender absolutely loves his sister and absolutely hates his brother, and we as the readers do, too.  It brings a connection to Ender from the start.  Card does a nice job helping us understand everyone’s beliefs, struggles and ultimate goals.  I have read by others that Ender has a strong desire for violence and that turned them off in the book.  I personally did not get that from the story, and felt his motivations and decisions – which were very difficult sometimes – were explained and helped us get a full understanding of him.

Even though the relationships had a solid foundation, I struggled with the ages of the characters.  When the book starts, and Ender is carted off to Battle School, he is 6 (or abouts).  It’s not that he’s 6 that was hard to swallow, it was the dialogue and the level of communication that was taking place between Ender and his military figures or Ender and his siblings.  Card certainly helps us to understand that Ender and his siblings are all gifted intellectuals and unique, but even still, as I read the first 1/3 of the book (when Ender is still young) in my mind I was envisioning a 12 or 13 year old conversing.  The author almost forces the reader to envision the characters at older ages than they really are.  Anyway, not to nit-pick, but it was hard to keep track of.

The idea of the Battle Room is intriguing and that that is where a good portion of the action takes place.  My only issue was that I had a hard time envisioning it.  I got the jist, but Card is very thorough with his battle sequence descriptions (to his credit) that it was hard sometime to get the full picture in my head, but I wanted to.  Regardless, the scenes in the Battle Room and other simulators that are brought up in the book help to build an understanding of who Ender really is and sets the stage for future reveals.

One of the things I give Card kudos for and loved about the book was the technology that was used, and the attention to detail.  Seeing as how the book was written in 1985, Card envisions things that have actually come to pass over time.  Very impressive!  I envisioned characters using iPads and surfing the Internet forums and posting to blogs or chat rooms…in a story written almost 30 years ago.

Probably my biggest beef with the story is the nudity. It is not detailed, it is not graphic, in fact there are no specifics mentioned other than to say that people are nude, but it just felt…inappropriate.  I understand that in a military setting, the privacy a person has is limited and people become comfortable with nudity, but I don’t need to read about 6, 8, 10, or 12 year old boy being nude around his comrades, running around the halls nude, or even wrestling in the shower nude. Some may disagree, but I didn’t think it had any necessary relevance to the actual story and was mentioned WAY too often.

Aside from some enhanced dialogue for youngsters and the obsession with naked cadets, the book was a good read.  I wanted to get back to it and see what was happening.  I related to the character and his desire for a simple life, yet shoved into one where he had to sacrifice.  The themes of seclusion and the depths to go for war were very intriguing and made me want to see what was actually going to happen.  The book has some great twists and turns (two in particular) that were very satisfying and that I did not see coming.

While it is not one of the best books I have ever read, it did manage to entertain and make me think.  I will also probably pick up the sequel just to see the direction the story goes (which is becoming less and less common in my reading).

Have you read ‘Ender’s Game’?  What did you think

Sandy Foundation

NOTE: In honor of leaving for vacation today, I thought a beach themed story was apropos!

—–


“Ronnie, slow down,” Teresa yelled out. All of her girlfriends online said she was going to love Manner Beach. The beautiful water. The great shopping. The exciting night life. And most importantly…

The guys!

Teresa had recently graduated high school and saved for this special trip. To treat herself.  It had been everything all her friends said it would be.

Her feet fumbled through the sand as she caught up to her companion. They had met two hours ago at one of the piers. They talked, he bought her drinks and the night seemed to stand still.

“I know a great spot on the other side of the dune,” Ronnie said. Tall. Muscular. Not overly handsome, but good looking. More than anything he had a great personality. He reeled her in with his easy going manner and ability to not hog the conversation.

“I just finished my first year at college.  I’m down here with some friends hoping to meet somebody special,” he had said, his eyes twinkling.  A college man…her mother would kill her.

Teresa got over the dune to find Ronnie with his shirt off and a beach towel nestled on the sand. She stopped, sinking slightly. The wind caught her hair and she moved it out of the way. The waves crashed, the stars were high, and the clamor of the crowd was muffled slightly by the tall, sporadic grass.

They were alone.

Heart pounding, she slowly walked over to him. She had never done anything like this before. Sure, she had boyfriends in high school…two to be exact. But it wasn’t overly serious. She knew them, their families…it was innocent, teenage stuff.

This!  This was forbidden, spur of the moment, emotion. The only thing she knew about Ronnie was standing in front of her.  That’s all she needed to know.

He reached out his hand as she got close. She took it and gently laughed, a warm feeling running up her spine. “I’m glad we met tonight,” he said, quietly, honestly. “I would like to get to know you more, if that’s okay?”

“I think I’m okay with that,” she said, leaning in to him. He pulled her close, put his arms around her, resting on the small of her back. They kissed. Slow, deliberate, exciting.

I can’t believe this is happening. Nobody will EVER believe me!

Ronnie gently bent toward the towel and Teresa followed. Her head gently landed on the cloth, the warm sand forming around her. Ronnie kept his balance, one hand next to her cheek and the other elbow on the towel.

They stopped kissing briefly. He paused to look at her and she held his gaze.

Maybe he thinks I won’t go through with it. Maybe he is changing his mind.

“I’m okay with this. It’s what I want,” she said softly.

Ronnie smiled and straddled her. He gently grabbed both of her hands, sliding his fingers between hers. He moved her arms behind her head. “I was hoping you would say that,” he replied. “It makes it easier.”

Wow…those eyes!

She held his gaze, waiting for him to act. But he sat there, staring at her. His eyes began to change. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice deeper.

About what?

She cocked her head slightly, trying to still smile, as his grip on her hands intensified, holding them tight against the sand. His smiled faded and was replaced with an uninterested look, a grim look. She watched in horror, her pulse rising, as his eyes turned from sea blue to savage red. Not just his eyes, the entire socket, started to glow with an unearthly brightness.

What are you doing? Let me go!

The words were present, but no sound came out of her mouth. She tried to scream, but her open lips did not impart her plea for help. As his eyes continued to intensify, she felt a pounding presence in the back of her neck, running over her scalp. She was sinking. Literally sinking into the pulsating sand that was now covering her arms and ankles.

Tears welled in her fright stricken eyes as the sand started to fill her mouth.

Please stop! Please! Her eyes pleading, choking.  The guy she knew as Ronnie was in a trance, watching her slowly fall beneath the sand. She could not hear anything, only the pounding in her head and the sand filling her ears, her nose, every portion of her body.

Finally, blackness, and she was gone.

Ronnie’s eyes slowly changed back to normal as the last corner of the beach towel made it’s way under. With some amount of effort, he pried his hands and legs out from the sand. Standing, he turned his head to the side, his neck cracking. The expression on his face returned to the easy-going, laid back, interesting guy he had been earlier.

Taking a deep breath, he set off jogging over the dune, back toward the crowd.

Fire Country by David Estes (Through the Shelf Thursday #12)

Title: Fire Country (The Country Saga #1)
AuthorDavid Estes
Genre: YA Dystopian/Science Fiction
Description from Goodreads:

In a changed world where the sky bleeds red, winter is hotter than hell and full of sandstorms, and summer’s even hotter with raging fires that roam the desert-like country, the Heaters manage to survive, barely. 

Due to toxic air, life expectancies are so low the only way the tribe can survive is by forcing women to procreate when they turn sixteen and every three years thereafter. It is their duty as Bearers.

Fifteen-year-old Siena is a Youngling, soon to be a Bearer, when she starts hearing rumors of another tribe of all women, called the Wild Ones. They are known to kidnap Youngling girls before the Call, the ceremony in which Bearers are given a husband with whom to bear children with. 

As the desert sands run out on her life’s hourglass, Siena must uncover the truth about the Wild Ones while untangling the web of lies and deceit her father has masterfully spun.

Date I Finished Reading: July 10, 2013

My Rating: 4 of 5

My Review: (also on Goodreads, Amazon):

David Estes, if you are not aware of his work, is a VERY prolific writer.  For the past few years he has found the time to write full time and produce three different YA series…that’s write, not just three books, three trilogies (and a children’s series as well).  That’s A LOT of writing!

I have not read any of his first series, I read the first book – Moon Dwellers – and gave it three stars.  It was an interesting premise and I could relate to the characters, but I will admit I was not interested enough to finish the series (at least I wasn’t before).  When I heard about the newer series and the premise of the first book – Fire Country – I was intrigued enough to check it out.

I am very, very glad I did.

As a writer I personally know that only one thing should happen the more you write – your writing will get better.  I submit as exhibit A, Fire Country.

I can’t even begin to imagine where David thought of the idea for this story, but it is wonderful…full of conflict, humor, spirit, and heart.  There are great characters that serve a purpose in the story, powerful and sometimes witty dialogue, and one of my favorite things about David’s writing, FANTASTIC world building!  He sets the story in a setting that we can visualize in our mind, including specific dialect, mannerisms  and customs.  I really felt like I was with the Heaters, little tugs around my feet, the Sun Goddess searin’ down on me.

Sie is a strong female character, trying to avoid her female responsibility that is forth-coming.  She wants to hold true to the laws and traditions of her people, the Heaters, but the hatred of her father and her inner instincts help lead her on a journey to discover truths about what is really happening and how it affects her.  The story has very good pacing (though seems rushed at the end) and takes time to build up our investment in what is going to happen.  Very easy to turn the pages!

My major problem with the book is also one of it’s strengths – so many different groups of people to keep track of.  Mr. Estes is teasing us for future things to come so he can’t give away everything about the different groups, but I felt toward the end of the book the story was rushing to get done.  A specific group is introduced towards the end, but we don’t learn as much about them as we could have to make us feel closer to the story.

There are also some instances of “isn’t that convenient”, specifically towards the end of the book, but nothing overly damning to the author.  In particular, I found the change in Sie’s father to be fairly forced and not necessarily believable, but it played well with the story so I was okay with it.

Strong characters, hints of romance, lots of action, and twists and turns that draw a nice conclusion while also setting up for the future books.  Four out of Five stars for making me care and keeping me engaged.  Great job Mr. Estes, keep ’em coming!

PS – Now I am in it for the long haul and HAVE to read the 2nd and 3rd book in the Dweller Series.  David wrote the trilogy Dweller Series, then the trilogy Country Series, then will have a seventh book (called the Earth Dwellers) that serves as a finale for both trilogies, bringing characters and worlds together.  Very, very intriguing and one heck of an accomplishment!

Happy 4th of July – Help Give Independence to Someone in Need!

Good friend Don Bridges just recently had his 51st birthday.  A grand event seeing that he is one of the longest living ventilated quadriplegics…ever (27 years and counting)!  Each and every year is a blessing for him.

Don is an avid Virginia Tech alum and fan, an adorable cat lover, and one of the greatest people I know. While he strives to stay independent and live his life to the fullest, it takes the kind donations of others to help him do it.  This week marks the 5th annual ‘Drive for Independence’ and the opportunity for each of us to give a little (or alot) to help Don and others like him.

Please WATCH the video below, SHARE with others, and then visit Help Don Succeed to DONATE and help give independence this 4th of July!

Technical Difficulties

NOTE: In lieu of my problems with Blogger lately (which is finally fixed), I figured this was appropriate.

—-

Thank you for using ‘Glogle Boggler’ support chat.  Please type your first name in the space below and the Boggler site you have a question about and press ‘ENTER’.  A support representative will be with you shortly…

ME: Chris…http://bestseller4ever.boggler.com

WELCOME CHRIS, PLEASE HOLD WHILE…ROBERT…IS LOGGING ON TO OFFER ASSISTANCE…

ROBERT: Thank you for using support chat, Chris.  How can I be of service to you today?

ME: I haven’t been to my blog in over a month and when I went today, it was all messed up and the text and pictures were wrong.  I haven’t changed anything recently and wanted to know if there is something I need to do to fix it or if it’s a problem on your end?

ROBERT: Certainly, I can help you with that.  If I understand you correctly, you are having a problem with your Boggler account?

ME: Uh…yeah, that’s why we’re chatting.  Can you check on your end to see what is wrong?

ROBERT: One moment while I pull up your website…

[4 minutes later]

ME: Hey, Robert…you there.

[2 minutes later]

ME: Hello?!?

ROBERT: Thank you for your patience, Chris.  If you could please verify a working email address for our records.

ME: chris@buymybooksprettyplease.com

[3 minutes later]

ME: Did you find anything?

[6 minutes later]

ROBERT: Thank you for your patience, Chris.  That email matches our records. Could you please also verify a working phone number in case a representative needs to talk to you directly?

ME: 804-777-6666

[4 minutes later]

ME: I don’t mean to be rude, but I only have a certain amount of time remaining.  Can you please help me with my website problem?  If not, is there a number I can call.

[2 minutes later]

ROBERT: Thank you for your patience, Chris.  That phone number matches our records. Please hold while I connect you to a live customer service representative.  They will be able to better assist you with your account.

ME: What!?!  I’m talking to you live.  Are you kidding me!!!!

You have been pre-qualified by ROBERT (Robotic Online Boggler Evaluation Resource Technology) to have a genuine Boggler service problem.  

PLEASE HOLD WHILE WE CONNECT YOU TO…BOB…WHO WILL ASSIST YOU FURTHER.  YOUR WAIT TIME IS…72 MINUTES. 

It’s Been Too, Too Long…GIVEAWAY!

SOOOO much!

Long story short…I have missed keeping up with everyone in cyberspace for the last 2 months or so.  My regular day job as a full time writer high school counseling coordinator pretty much goes full blast for the last month or so of school.  Thank you for your patience.

I have been gone so long in fact that when I went to the site today it was all screwed up!  Apparently Blogger has changed their formatting specs.  So…consider this an introduction to my new blog layout:-)  Little more simple…I hope you like it.

And what better way to celebrate a site overhaul than to do a giveaway?!?!

WOO-HOO!!!  One $20 gift card to BN or Amazon.com…your choice!  Just a small way to say thank you for your continued support (and patience).  Look for more Sentence to Story posts, reviews of what I’m reading and updates on ‘MAIDEN’ – yes, I swear I am working on a novel titled ‘MAIDEN’ and yes one day you will be able to hold the proof in your hand!

Feel free to share the giveaway with whoever you want;-)

A Haiku on Editing and Revising (Maiden Update #6)

Doing something a little different today.

For about the last month I have been getting feedback and critiques on ‘Maiden’ from people I respect .  As much as I look forward to their insight – honestly, I do – it gets hard to keep going.  I am not a great writer.  But I want to grow and hone the craft, because I feel like I have a great story.

Having a great story is not the same as being a great writer.

I want people to see what I see and feel what I feel when they read ‘Maiden.’  I want them to love the characters and the places as much as I do.  I want them to laugh, cry, cheer and overall enjoy the experience.

Which is why I have to be patient and keep fighting the good fight,

One keystroke at a time…

Focus!!!

One edit at a time…

One revision at a time.

Don’t hide from the critiques of others.  Maybe all of the feedback you get does not necessitate a change.  But when your gut tells you something can be improved, don’t think about all the extra time that will be spent changing things you thought were already fixed.  Embrace it and how it will help your story be great.  In the process, your writing is becoming great as well.

So in honor of the great encouragement I have received, the characters and plot points that will have to be sacrificed, and the many, many more hours still left to go, I present a haiku on editing and revising:

Potential
A Haiku by Chris Sorensen

How much good is best?
Things need to be fixed.
Away pride and false deadlines.