March 30, 2011

Three Times a Charm with Katrina Lantz

Three Times a Charm is a weekly feature that spotlights authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the publishing industry. I’m having so much fun getting to know knew people. Wish I had started this feature a year ago!

This week Three Times introduces you to, Katrina Lantz.

Katrina Lantz is an aspiring novelist and blogger extraordinaire who reads like it’s going out of style (heaven forbid), and writes YA/MG novels in her ‘spare’ time. She contributes to The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog and Operation Awesome and muses on her own personal writing blog. She lives in southern California with her husband, two sons, and a bunch of dead houseplants.

Tell us about the blogs you are involved in.

Operation Awesome, home of the Mystery Agent contest, was started by my critique group months after we came together online, and in six months we’ve reached thousands of writers with our tips, commiserations, and contests. We even have a few success stories of writers who found agents or got requests after they were scouted on our blog. Those stories make me giddy.

The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog is more of a news and tips site, featuring up-to-the-second literary news. Because of Cortnee Howard, Tee Tate, and Adrienne Crezo (editors), I’m always up to date on what’s going on in literary-ville. The website explains our mission: At BDCWB, we are committed to the empowerment of writers everywhere– regardless of genre or stage in their craft. We want to be a resource. Your resource. So whether you’re looking for MFA application advice, Twitter tips or even if you just want to stay informed on the latest in all things literary, we have something here for you.”

Wow, those sound great, plus you keep your very own blog! When do you find time to write? Now, for the Threes. Share with us some of your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

Top 3 books you’ve read in the past year:

1)      PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White. I wanted to read this book from the moment I read the beginning excerpt about a taser-toting blondie who sasses a crotchety costumed vampire. Nope, it’s not Buffy. It’s Evie, and she rocks. It’s a New York Times bestseller and the sequel (SUPERNATURALLY) is due out this fall!
2)      THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. I put off reading this dystopian trilogy for months because everyone told me it was awesome, but dark. I’m a romantic comedy girl, so ‘dark’ scared me. Yeah, I was scared… of a book. Finally, someone told me there was comic relief and I decided I just had to read it. Man, am I glad I did! I didn’t even know a book could do what this book did. Its place in history is totally secure. Watch for the movie to come out in 2012.
3)      Unpublished dystopian romance by one of my critique partners. I’ve never been so thirsty for someone else’s work to be published as I am for this book. It’s a trilogy with a great concept and a devastating back story. I can’t wait for you all to read it. Since I can’t talk about her book, I’ll just point you to her blog: Adventures in Writing (

Top 3 pieces of advice for newly aspiring authors:

1)      Get a critique group. Set up a schedule with them and keep your deadlines. It will be the best thing you ever did for your writing career. You can find accomplices online at forums like
2)      When you feel ready to query your first novel to literary agents, stop. Start writing your second book. Midway through that, go back and reread your first novel. You’ll see it needs more editing. Once it’s been beta-tested by readers who know your genre, then query. And keep writing that second novel while you do.
3)      Start a writing blog. Make yourself write in it and read/comment on other writer blogs at least once a week. The sense of community is priceless and the writing tips keep important industry knowledge at the forefront of your mind while you write.

Top 3 most admired authors:

1) C.S. Lewis, for always writing what was in his heart
2) Stephenie Meyer, for teaching me about passionate writing
3) Kiersten White, for being the kind of author to her fans that I hope to be someday

Where can we find all this awesome information and keep up with your writing career?

Le Blogs:

Thanks Katrina for being this week’s guest on Three Times A Charm. I really love that you highlighted your crit partner’s book. That’s super awesome of you. Best of luck with everything!

March 28, 2011

Unwanted Visitors...In the Shower!

I’m entrenched in writing a middle grade novel steeped in love, friendship, jealousy, bravery, cowardice, insecurities and loss.  If I try to read, instead my mind is doing character development. When I try to write a letter, my characters sit on the paper like a cat does on your keyboard.

I do my best thinking in the shower and I needed one, so I decided in order to straighten out my thoughts, I’d just go ahead and take one. So, was it slumber parties and body insecurities that show up in the shower? No. It was super villains! From the young adult fantasy series that I’m shopping right now.

I was like, “What? Who invited you?”

They smirked. Then, being villains they had to remark on how I’ve gained weight since they’ve last seen me.

To which I replied, “Shut up!” You can be mean to villains, they don’t care.

They were really obnoxious, talking about how I should rename the first book and designate a clear series title. And then they told me how I could loop back around to that theme in the second book, which I’ve written about ¼ of, but frankly, writing a second book in a series that hasn’t sold is kinda depressing to me. I’m SO not J.K. Rowling.

They wouldn’t let up! They were telling me about mood, and specific conflicts and plot twists and…you know…what am I gonna do? Ignore them? Um, no! I can see it now, “Come back when I have time for you!” They probably would’ve stolen all of my clothes.

So, needless to say, the document I opened when I got out of the shower wasn’t my middle grade WIP.


March 26, 2011

Persuasive Writing

I attended my first local writer’s guild meeting this week. Yes, I’m a bit slow to only now be joining a writers' group, but that would be another post entirely.

The speaker discussed persuasive writing. Being a bit thick in the head, I sat and wondered, “How does this apply to a writer of children’s fiction?” Well, I’ve figured it out. Behold my persuasive writing:

Write. Write often. Write all the words in your head. Fix them later. Write.

§         A prolific writer has more chances of something being good enough to publish.
§         A prolific writer has a better chance at writerly freedom. 24 hours of pajama wearing, coffee guzzling, dirty haired freedom!
§         A prolific writer has to reach deep down inside to keep coming up with words and that’s where the best words hide. Words like “diddly-squat” and “fusty” that, used in the right context, can make kids giggle.
§         A prolific writer never has to resort to words like “underwear” or “fart” to make her audience giggle.
§         A prolific writer sells more, therefore has more bank deposits, therefore can afford vacations to inspiring places like The Alps or Death Valley or downtown Compton – depending on the research needed for the project at hand.
§         A prolific writer has a better chance of hitting on the next big thing, werewolves in space, fallen angels ascending, paranormal gangs in LA.
§         A prolific writer will have more public appearances putting her in touch with her audience and giving her access to their speech patterns, mannerisms and fashion sense. (Hopefully, a prolific writer will change out of her pajamas and wash her hair before said appearances.)
§         A prolific writer will spend her time at coffee shops, the library and indie bookstores. Somehow the grocery shopping and vacuuming gets done without her.
§         A prolific writer is unable to communicate mundane thoughts. She only speaks in the profound.
§         A prolific writer is never truly alone. Her characters travel with her and her setting forms and evolves around her.
§         A prolific writer doesn’t talk to herself. She is talking to her manuscript. It is alive. That is not creepy.

In conclusion, being a prolific writer allows you to live life from your butt, inside your dirty hair covered head, while mumbling senselessly, in your pajamas. Oh, in Los Angeles!


March 23, 2011

Three Times A Charm with Author Medeia Sharif

Three Times a Charm is a weekly feature that spotlights authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the publishing industry.

For my debut Three Times post, I am thrilled to welcome young adult author Medeia Sharif to Strands of Thought.

Medeia can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a Kurdish-American author who was born in New York City, and I presently call Miami Beach my home. I received my master’s degree in psychology from Florida Atlantic University. Prior to my publishing career I was (and still am) a school teacher—but that’s a whole ‘nother story. I became a voracious reader in high school and a relentless writer in college. My persistence paid off in 2008 when I attained agent representation and in 2009 when I got my first book deal. BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. is my first novel and it will be published by Flux in July.

What a GREAT title! Tell us about your book.

In BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. fifteen-year-old Almira Abdul fasts for Ramadan.  The holy month does not move smoothly at all when she experiences her first major crush.  Her best friend Lisa and the catty new girl Shakira are also infatuated with Peter.  If Almira pursues him, not only will she be in a bind with these two girls, but she’ll also go against the grain of her strict Muslim family. 

Sounds great! July isn’t too far away (gnaws fingernails). Now, for the Threes. Share with us some of your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

  • Top 3 books you’ve read in the past year.

LIVING DEAD GIRL by Elizabeth Scott – I read it twice and it haunted me both times.
THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson – This is my favorite book read in 2010.  The writing is beyond beautiful.
GOOD ENOUGH by Paula Yoo – This is a humorous, multicultural YA novel.  I still recall the MC Patti vividly, and I’d like to read this again.

  • Top 3 comfort foods for working.

salt & vinegar potato chips

  • Top 3 songs on your work-time play list.

Public Pervert by Interpol
Black Sheep by Metric
Young Blood by The Naked and the Famous

I know our readers are going to want to keep BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. on their radars. Where can we find more info about you and your book and stay hip on that upcoming release?

Thanks for being the first guest on my new Three Times A Charm feature! It has been lovely getting to know you better. Good luck with your book release!

March 22, 2011

Little Seed

Be sure to come back again tomorrow. I’ll be debuting a new weekly feature, Three Times A Charm. I’m so excited about it. I’ve already learned some fabulous things about fellow children’s authors, and some busy bloggers that I get to share with you. In the future I hope to bring illustrators, agents, editors, promoters into the feature as well.  I’m so excited. Repeating myself, time to move on.

I wanted to share this picture of little seed. Little seed is a character in one of the tales in The Weaver. There are many mini stories in The Weaver, but little seed’s story happens to be my favorite. It is a story about love, loss, renewal. It is a story that shows our parents aren’t always right, but it doesn’t mean they don’t love you well. It is a story that always chokes me up when I read it. I love little seed. Do you have a favorite mini story from the book?

Spring break. Kids are home and for some reason I think they should be doing chores 24/7 and I’m trying not to harp on them constantly that they aren’t. I get this way sometimes. Poor kids. Wait, no, it’s good for them. Builds character!

 Don’t forget that Goodreads is hosting a giveaway this month. If you haven’t entered to win a copy of The Weaver, please do so. Put the book on your to read shelf and then after you’ve read it come back to this post and tell me which is your favorite mini story.

March 21, 2011

The Ebb & Flow of Being a Writer

Being a writer is a lot like playing in the ocean.

Some people just take a run at the surf and dive in head first, knowing full well they may end up paralyzed from a neck injury, but the rest of us enter writing timidly. We stand just at the edge of the tide line, toes first. When the cold water laps up over our feet, goose bumps rise on our legs and arms. We step forward cautiously and slowly, getting used to the temperature as we advance.

The journey onward is unstable. Dips and unexpected rises have us hitching forward as unsteadily as personalized rejections and unanswered emails. Once we’ve been writing long enough to be in waist deep, we feel the tide pushing and pulling us in different directions. We bury our feet into the sandy bottom and try to decipher which advice is valid and which should be left to wash ashore.

Chest deep into the water, we watch the approaching tide carefully. Like good researchers, we gauge the distance and the height of the swell like we balance the benefits of small vs large publishing houses. We apply the knowledge of our previous ocean swims as well as knowledge gained from blog posts of our friends to determine, “Is this a swell I jump over or is this so big I need to dive under?”

No amount of research can dispel the distraction disaster. Perhaps a surfing writer has a spectacular wipeout and his wayward board comes inches from slamming you out of your Amazon ranking. Or perhaps a google alert that “children’s author (insert your name here) was charged with harassing a literary agent after receiving a nasty rejection letter” turned your attention away from the wave that slammed you into the ocean floor, giving you a mouthful of salt water and a bikini bottom full of sand. Disasters happen.

But eventually you make it past the breakwaters and into the smooth ocean. With a sigh of contentment you relax into the dead man’s float and stare up at the clouds, figuring out which one could play your main character in a movie and which one looks like writing freedom.  Your body rises and falls smoothly over the swells as they get ready to crest toward the beach. You watch the newbie writers battling through the tumultuous tide and you call out as many suggestions as you can from your cushy sun baked spot on the other side.

Then you decide it’s time to head back in and you scan the beach for your red polka dot beach umbrella.  Is that it way, way up the beach? That thing that looks like a tiny spot of blood? Riptide.

There is no rest for the weary in the publishing industry. And this analogy has only one happy ending. Another swim in the ocean. Or, perhaps like signing another book contract that might just be a frantic new beginning…?

Happy writing. Don’t forget your floaties.

March 18, 2011

Write It Out

I haven’t been blogging lately because each time I sit down to do it the only things I think to talk about are tragic. I’m going to give in and just talk about them. The images are horrific and humbling. Petrifying and poignant. They’ve been tweeted and facebooked about all week and I still haven’t been able to purge the sorrow from my system.

What’s that writing advice? “Write it out.” So that’s what I’m gonna do, I’m just going to get it all out on paper and share it with the world and then maybe my blogging can move onward. 

Some of you are aware that my son’s band had a trip scheduled to Japan. They were supposed to go this coming Wednesday, for a week.  If the earthquake had happened two weeks later…well, I can’t even imagine what I’d have done.  We’ve been involved in this exchange program for four years. Our oldest daughter has gone over twice and we’ve hosted students from the Japanese band twice. So we’ve gotten to know many of the young adults.  Their town, Matsudo, is located outside of Tokyo. Though their city didn’t receive damage from the quake, it is being impacted regardless. Rolling black outs, gas shortages causing 4-5 hour lines at stations, the neighboring town didn’t have running water. And of course now they are told to stay inside because of the radiation. These are young adults with hopes and dreams and focus and determination. They have families and schedules and needs and all of that is tossed aside like it isn’t even a consideration. For a culture of discipline and structure, this continual havoc has got to be wearing heavily on their psyche. A couple days of disruption, we all could deal with, but this isn’t going to end soon. This country will be faced with rebuilding for a long, long time. And they really don’t even get to start because of the threat of radiation. I did see that they started construction in a couple northern towns today on temporary housing. I’m very glad to hear that. I think it is the first rebuilding report I’ve seen. Admittedly I’m trying to stay away from news. Regardless, what I’ve learned is that the earthquake and tsunami have a far-reaching impact on the country, not only on the areas they struck.

That said, there is another story that is haunting me. This one is from right here in my own town. It is a heartbreaking story. March 9th, 72 year old Sandra Meyer disappeared.  She never made it to the book club meeting she was supposed to attend. She never made it home that night. Her car was found parked in the parking lot of a shopping center the next day. No signs of foul play. My son and his friends watched the police boats driving up and down the river when they were at Red Robin. Every store, restaurant, library, gas station I go to has a flyer hung up. Everywhere. Her friends and family have even attended several church services to plea for information. The police brought in a bloodhound. Nothing. Then just over a week after she disappeared, her husband was found dead of a gunshot wound in their home. I know where most people will go with that information. I’m trying not to guess or judge. I didn’t know them but they seem like the kind of people I really would have loved to know. As I said, I’ve been trying to avoid the news, but today I was driving up the parkway and a billboard had been erected.  The cherry picker was still there. They’d just finished erecting her image and the phone number. My heart wrenched in my chest. The husband is dead, but the family is still desperate to find her, of course. How tragic! I hope to never truly understand the depth of sorrow they must be experiencing. I’m desperately trying to have hopeful thoughts. I’m praying it isn’t as bad as it looks. The family…the poor, poor family.

As so often is the case, when I feel hopeless, I write it out. I didn’t want to write these two out. They are too big. They hurt too much. There is still so much left unsaid. But I simply couldn’t avoid it. I’m going to link to a website put together by Sandra Meyer’s family, here. She is so loved and I so very much want her to be brought home.

I love life and I’m not walking around lamenting or sorrowful. However, though dreadful and dire, these situations deserve the respect of acknowledgement and the balm of cure that the shared word can create.

Please keep these situations in your hopes, your prayers, your thoughts. Wherever it is that you tuck things away that need to heal and restore.

March 14, 2011


Don't forget about the Goodreads giveaway of The Weaver. Ends at the end of the month.

Recent Reads

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff– humble rating: Motivational Speaker –Loved the originality of this story, and the depth of the characters, and the awesome brother/sister relationship, and Rowland and…yeah, I loved it! Thanks again to Medeia Sharif, because I won this in her contest and that rocks.

Life, Liberty and Pursuit by Susan Kaye Quinn – humble rating: Golf Clap++ – So charming! Great cross over book for young adult into adult. I was so captivated by the unfolding relationship and the realistic internal conflict of the main characters.

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles - humble rating: Motivational Speaker – Completely captivated by Carlos Fuentes. These Fuentes brothers…WTH? I wanted to be reading this book all the time and it haunted me when I wasn’t able to. Read it on my Kindle and when I got to the 85% complete mark, I started to mourn that I was almost finished.

The Mortal Instruments City of Bones by Cassandra Clare  - humble rating: Motivational Speaker – Was this her debut novel? The writing did seem somehow ‘greener’ than Clockwork Angel, but don’t get me wrong, good story. I’m forcing myself to read OTHER books that I already have before I move on to City of Ashes. But it is hard. I’m in danger of turning into a Cassie Clare fangirl.

Recent Rents

Book of Eli
Crazy Heart

My own humble rating system: Please feel free to ask for clarification or to dispute my opinion.  I only ask that we ALWAYS remain respectful to the author.

Chirping Cricket – At the end all you hear is the chirp of the cricket.  I doubt I’ll ever use this because I can’t publicly embarrass someone knowingly.  However, I must have a ‘beginning’ rating in order for the rest to make sense. 

Golf Clap - The polite ovation that follows a well-placed shot.

Motivational Speaker –You are left fired up and eager to get to work making the world a better place.  You can’t wait to tell your friends all the insights and inspiration you took away from it. 

Rock Concert – Hooting and hollering, cheering, singing and clapping throughout the performance.  Swaying and lit lighters accompany ballads.  Riots break out if there is no encore.

March 9, 2011

Happy Read Aloud Day!

Be There Bedtime Stories is offering a free recording today only. Click on over to their site and see how to take advantage of it.

March 3, 2011

Marie and Her Friend the Sea Turtle by Nicole Weaver

Marie and Her Friend the Sea Turtle

By Nicole Weaver

About the book: This story is about the love that developed between a little girl named Marie and a stranded sea turtle. The story tells the struggles Marie had as she helped the sea turtle back out to sea.

What I enjoyed: I loved that the story is told in three languages, English, Spanish and French. Many families are bi-lingual and this story allows the native language speaking parent/grandparent to sit and read with the English speaking child. And it exposes that child to a third language.

The illustrations are lovely, with bright colors and lots of action.

About the author: Nicole Weaver was born in Port-au-Prince Haiti. She came to the United States when she was ten years old. She is fluent in Creole, French, Spanish and English. She is a veteran teacher of French and Spanish.

Nicole’s schedule is jammed packed with teaching, writing, reading, reviewing, reading and more reading.  I was very thankful to Nicole for carving out a little time to answer some questions.  Let’s click our fingernails on those keys and give a warm blogview welcome to Nicole!

The tri-lingual component of this book is what lured me in.  Nicole, tell me, what benefit(s) do you feel a child gains from being exposed to bi or tri-lingual books during this stage of their young reader lives?

Children are like sponges they learn very quickly.  Studies have shown children have a unique ability to pick up a language faster than adults.  In my experience, I have found this to be very true.  I taught a group of Mexican children in Houston Texas, at the end of the school year they were able to communicate very well.   Later on, I decided to teach at the high school level, students encountered a lot more difficulties mastering the language.

What resources to you suggest for parents who want to include exposure to another language in their child’s early years development?

The local library is a great place to start.  Look for places where classes are being taught by native speakers.  The Alliance Fran├žaise is a good place to start.  Most big cities have an Alliance Fran├žaise.

Nicole is excited to announce that Marie and Her Friend the Sea Turtle will be available on Kindle for the low price of $4.99. Nicole, what can a Kindle reader expect if they purchase this book? Are the illustrations included?

All the illustrations are included.  The only difference is the Kindle edition is not in color.

What is next for you?

I have a second trilingual book due to be published summer 2011.  I am currently working on revising several manuscripts that I will be submitting to publishers.

Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?


Thanks for stopping by Strands of Thought, Nicole.

Lovely readers, don’t forget, Goodreads is hosting a giveaway of The Weaver this month. Be sure to enter to win and add it to your to-read shelf. 

March 1, 2011

Attention Readers - GIVEAWAY!

I’ve heralded my love for Goodreads all over the place. But now I have even more of a reason to give them a shout out!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

That’s right, they are hosting a giveaway of The Weaver in the month of March. I figured this would be a perfect time for me to explain the benefits of Goodreads to those of you who are not familiar.

1.      Membership is free.
2.      You can make friends with people who have similar reading interests as you.
3.      You see what they are reading and what they think of the books.
4.      You can WIN FREE BOOKS in their constant giveaways.  Who on earth doesn’t want free books?
5.      You can even win Advanced Reader Copies and read books before they are even on bookstore shelves.
6.      You have a convenient place to keep a tidy “to-read” list that you can refer to when you are heading to the bookstore or library.
7.      You can see what is on friend’s or family’s “to-read” list at gift giving time. Never give another unwanted gift!
8.      You can become a fan of you favorite authors, like ME.
9.      No one should cyber stalk you. You can get as many or few notifications as you are comfortable with.

Please help me spread the word about The Weaver giveaway on Goodreads this month. Feel free to Tweet this, Facebook this, email this, link to it in your blog, print it out and send it USPS to your Grandmother.  Spread the word!

Then go enter for your chance to win and be sure to add The Weaver to your “to-read” shelf on Goodreads.