Ditched On Halloween!

Happy Halloween! What a fun holiday, especially if you have kids who still dress up and go TOTING (Trick Or Treating), like all youthful candy-hoarders do. I'll admit, I've really enjoyed the annual excuse to eat too many Twix bars and Butterfingers. I have very little willpower.

When the kids were younger, we had them dress in coordinating costumes. How much say should kids under five really have about their costumes, right? My favorite year, our boys were the brave Prince and cuddly Gus-the-Mouse to match Bella's Cinderella costume. (Photo reference above...SO CUTE!)

When the kids were younger, we used to determine exactly how many pieces of candy they could ingest on Halloween and each day after, for roughly one week. At that point, the Candy Fairy would visit and magically whisk the candy away (except the Twix bars and Butterfingers), leaving a delightful treat in its place, sure to bring just as much joy to our candy-addicts' sugar-overloaded hearts.

When the kids were younger, we'd share a pre-TOTING meal with friends - chili, salad, cornbread and some sort of Autumn-blend, micro-brewed beer. Then we'd take pictures with ALL the neighborhood kids before setting out through elaborately decorated streets, dodging ghouls and collecting goodies, all the while capturing photos and video at each doorstep and reminding them of their lines: "Trick or Treat" and "Thank you!"

When the kids were younger, we had a little more control of the Halloween festivities. But now that they're older, the holiday has taken on a new feel. Today, our kids have their own thoughts on costumes and there's no way you'd find them in any sort of coordinating set. Dorothy, a Ninja Turtle and the Headless Horseman don't go together, and that's okay. Today our kids have their own hidden stashes of their candy favs and they don't have to ask for permission to indulge, and that's okay. Today our kids have their own plans for Halloween - parties and hanging with friends - and none of those plans include mom and dad following closely behind with a video camera, and that's okay too.

Today is a different Halloween and I'll admit, I'm a little sad about it. Not simply because they're growing up, but because the festivities lack the luster when the kids aren't around. So friends, keep those kids close and gobble up those Halloween memories. You never know when it's going to be the last one with them.

Happy Halloween! I'm going to make myself a cocktail and have a Twix (and maybe a Butterfinger.)


Holly and Jenn

Blog Tour Excitement and GIVEAWAY!!!

We are so excited to participate in our first Blog Tour and giveaway, especially because the book deals specifically with WRITING and our genre-NEW ADULT!

Writing New Adult Fiction by Deborah Halverson is a masterpiece to budding new adult writers like us. We have found her advice and simple insight into revising, character building and finding your “hook” to be exceptionally useful and, although she focuses on the emerging genre of fiction that involves protagonists ages 18-25, we feel it applies to any piece of fiction.

As writers of contemporary fantasy that blends elements of historical fiction and romance, our challenge is capturing the motivation, conflict and emotional development of several different characters while making them authentic and age-appropriate and keeping our plot compelling. Writing New Adult Fiction is the perfect guide in our endeavor, and here are a few reasons why.

In Chapter 2, Creating Your Premise-NA Style, Ms. Halverson discusses the importance of having a “Hook Statement” and all that it entails. A hook, she shares “describes what the story’s about, how it fits into the NA marketplace, and what makes it stand out from all the other books in that market, all in a single sentence.” Just a little pressure! But, pressure aside, being able to describe the premise of our story in such a concise way has saved us HOURS of time. Her suggestion of printing out the “hook” and keeping it above the computer to keep our story on track and acting as our compass, is priceless. She stresses how using a hook will prove to be invaluable throughout the writing process from editing, to pitching, to marketing and publishing. Although we have gleaned so much information from this book as a whole, this chapter stands out for us especially as we revise and outline several other books in a hopeful series.

The other chapter we continually reference is Chapter 12, Revising in a Speed-Driven Market. In it, Deborah gives an in-depth look into revision techniques that, again, can apply to any genre though she gives specific examples that pertain to new adult. We especially appreciate the Stop Looking Test which: "reveals weaknesses in characterization, plus generic language and missed opportunities in dialogue narrative beats. The revision work you do as a result of this test can significantly improve the story and your writing overall." No lie. Using the seek and find tool in MS Word, we found 497 instances of the word "looked" in our first draft. That's borderline obscene! But, with this test, we can easily correct the abuse of some of our favorite words, and we all have them. The first step to correcting the problem is admitting you have a problem. And the Stop Looking Test has helped us do just that.

The other very helpful revision tool that Ms. Halverson offers is the Story Evaluation Questions sheet. The guide, as she says, "will take you into the process of deep, meaningful revision, giving you the tools you need to revise your story effectively as well as efficiently." How can these questions help you with your work in progress?

"Where is the story’s heart—in the action, in the characters, in the relationship?"

"Do the characters talk like real people?"

"Which scene first pulls you into the story?"

"Can you predict the ending?"

"Are the words dynamic?"

With these, and many more, the editing process takes a relevant and directed approach and will produce a better book, every time. We're counting on that!

We have truly enjoyed being able to preview Deborah Halverson's Writing New Adult Fiction and if we had more space, we could showcase useful tools and nuggets of wisdom in every chapter, but you will be much better served to get your own copy and discover the magic yourself.

We thank you, Deborah, for your insight and your skill and for composing a masterpiece about the craft of writing this bold, new genre. Writing New Adult Fiction has been priceless in our writing journey and we hope to work with you very soon to make the final tweaks to our manuscript.


{H & J}

Writing New Adult Fiction by Deborah Halverson Publication Date: August 21, 2014 Genres: New Adult, Non-Fiction, Writing Craft

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Foreword by Sylvia Day "For the writer who wants to become a new adult author, or the new adult author who seeks to enrich her craftsmanship and stand out from the herd.” –Tammara Webber, New York Times best-selling author of Easy and Breakable From Sylvia Day’s Bared to You to Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster, new adult fiction has arrived—and it’s hotter than ever. But there’s more to this category than its 18- to 26-year-old characters: The success of your story depends on authentically depicting the transition of your young protagonists from teenhood into adulthood. With Writing New Adult Fiction, you’ll learn how to capture the spirit of freedom, self-discovery, and romance that defines the new adult experience. -Create memorable characters that act and sound like new adults. -Sculpt a distinct personality for your fiction with POV, voice, tone, and word choices. -Build a unique, captivating plot that satisfied your audience from beginning to end. -Learn tools for revising effectively and efficiently in a speed-driven market. -Weight the options for your path to publication: traditional, indie, and hybrid.
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About Deborah Halverson

Deborah Halverson spent a decade editing books for Harcourt Children's Books before becoming the award-winning author of Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies, Writing New Adult Fiction, the teen novels Honk If You Hate Me and Big Mouth, a picture book and three books in the Remix series for struggling readers. She is now a freelance editor, author, writing instructor, and the founder of the popular writers’ advice site DearEditor.com. Deborah also serves on the advisory board for UC San Diego Extension “Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating” certificate program. She speaks extensively at workshops and conferences for writers and edits adult fiction and nonfiction while specializing in teen fiction, New Adult fiction, and picture books. For more about Deborah, visit www.DeborahHalverson.com.

Holly and Jenn

Livin' La Vida Loca

I don't know about you but this summer, I didn't get nearly as much done as I had planned, mostly in the writing department. I had expected to finish revising my WIP (work in progress in writer's speak, but it can really apply to anything), draft some blog posts--IN ADVANCE, conduct research, network with other writers and accomplish a hundred other items on my to-do list.

But what happened was quite the opposite. I played with my kids, I hung out with my teacher-husband, and I read a dozen books. I balanced summertime easy-living with my part-time day job, and managed only the essentials. After a few weeks, I sat down to write and nothing. The well had run dry. Completely. I panicked and cried and consumed many summertime cocktails, for a good week. Then I put my fingers to the keyboard again. This time...IT WAS WORSE! So I took a different approach: denial. I tried to ignore that uncomfortable feeling, the nagging sense of a hidden block, because it's SUMMER! You can't have have anxiety during the summer. You have to RELAX!

So I forced myself to be calm. I was completely committed to enjoying my days at the beach with the family. But come evening, when I cyber-stalked all the writers I admire and witnessed their extreme productivity, I felt guilty for my underachievement. Pretty soon, I was overtaken by a crisis of confidence and I felt like a failure.

To my always-patient husband and my stalwart writing partner, I began to say things like, "Maybe this isn't the season for me to try this writing thing. Maybe when the kids are out of the house and I don't have SO MUCH STUFF to do. Maybe that's when I can pick it up again." I tried to convince myself that the sinking sadness in my gut was just part of the writing-dream-on-hold mourning process.

Holly totally understood. EVERY writer goes through this at one time or another. EVERY ONE. My husband thought something was really wrong with me and worried for my family. He had a more holistic approach. "You NEED to write. Because you're scary when you're not writing. Writing is like your Diet Coke addiction...it would be BAD for everyone if you quit." So I decided to let go of the guilt and panic, to lower my expectations and put the stalking on hold, and essentially wait the summer out. Really, what choice did I have?

A couple of weeks before the kids started school, when they were enrolled in prep classes and working on summer assignments and getting organized, when I'd finally stopped trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with the voices, I mean, characters, in my head, something happened. I wrote a list of blog post ideas down. And I even drafted one. Then I hid it because it could be an anomaly and I didn't want to get too excited. I read it the next day and made some revisions. Huh. When I took out my WIP, I made some easy edits there too. Then I added a few paragraphs. And outlined! And HOT DAMN! It all came back! Four blog posts drafted, two chapters revised, hope renewed!

The very best part of it all: I felt like ME! (My husband even noted that the borderline-crazy look in my eyes was gone.)

Today, looking back at the summer from the vantage point of a productive weekend writing retreat, I'm a little embarrassed that my resolve could be compromised so easily. I almost didn't have the guts to share this, but then I wouldn't be able to offer this take-away: With any project, whether we're thinking about going back to school or trying to switch careers or figuring out who we want to be now that all the kids are in school, we have to be three things. Flexible, forgiving and brave. We have to take things one day at a time, as long as the movement is forward. We can't let guilt for not doing enough have a louder voice than the drive. We must keep at it until we land at that ever-changing, often-blurry, imperfect finish line.

So next summer, when there's more sand in my toes than words added to my WIP, I won't panic. I'll simply remember that there's a time for leaning into the rhythm of the process and there's a time for taking a break.


(Photo courtesy of KeepCalmAndPosters.com and enhanced by the ABM app.)

Holly and Jenn