Tuesday, October 7, 2014

LDStorymakers Midwest Conference: The Funnest Little Conference Around

You should know by now that I have a thing for conferences and conventions. They tend to scratch my social itch in a way nothing else can quite reach. Because of this, I have been to lots of them. More often as an attendee than a presenter, but with a round view of both, I think.

Over the years, my favorite conference has always been the LDStorymakers conference in Utah. During my very first one, I made some lifelong friends and found myself welcomed into the loving arms of the writing community, even though I was 100% green at the craft. The foundation I found with these people has become a rock to which I have clung through my journey as a writer, and also as an evolving person.

That said, it’s slightly possible I may have some bias toward conferences sponsored by the LDStorymakers. But if that’s true, then it stems back to my first conference with them, in which we had only around 70 people in attendance, and James Dashner taught a class about writing strong supporting characters (during which we had a fascinating discussion about Star Wars—but I digress). If you can picture small classrooms in a small-ish hotel, crowded with hungry, eager soon-to-be authors, that’s what I remember.

And it’s also what I found again at this year’s LDStorymakers Midwest Conference held in Kansas. Small, intimate, and attended by hungry, eager writers who are fighting through the bottle neck of publishing.

Guys. I have SO MISSED that intimate setting. I didn’t realize how much I missed that until I was there. Of course, as always, the classes were stellar, the bookstore run professionally and with a large selection of books, and the offerings fantastic. But even more, the social time was killer.

What else can I say, other than YOU SHOULD GO! If you live anywhere in or near Kansas and are wanting to learn more about writing and publishing, go. If you have to travel a little distance to get there, it’s still worth it.

I could keep trying to convince you, but instead, I think I’ll let some pictures do the talking.
Authorpalooza at the library the Friday before the conference. So fun!

Agent Sarah Negovetich and I entertaining ourselves by organizing Danyelle's bookshelves (thanks for being patient, Danyelle!)

Because it just wouldn't be right without a specialized treat run.
And seriously, what better people to spend the opening night of The Maze Runner than the people who I met the same weekend as James?

And after it was done--late night snacks at Denny's. Because, obviously.

Traveling buddies.

Our authorpalooza panel.

This one is my favorite. It kind of says it all! (aka You will sing, you will dance, you will make forever friends!)

You can learn more about the LDStorymakers conferences (Utah and Midwest) at www.ldstorymakers.com.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Best Intentions

This summer life has clocked me in the head. Literally. As in, no matter how hard I think, my brain cannot compute where the time has gone and how it is not almost OCTOBER. So much for keeping up with my regular Tuesday blogs! Sigh.

But it’s okay. I’m coming to grips with a few things this month, and thought maybe I should share them with you.

1.       Sometimes it’s okay to not be able to keep up with everything you hoped to do. Life is a game of priorities, and sometimes the people in it get to come ahead of and above other goals or schedules.

2.       There is nothing in the world that will put a family of six in an emotional tailspin faster than a two year sequence that involves three big moves (not including my oldest daughter who added one more to that number) across a distance of 1500 miles. It is physically, emotionally, and mentally impossible to keep up with anything else—especially artistically, during this time.

3.       It’s important to live for life’s “ups” in order to make the “downs” more bearable.

4.       Sometimes even the best intentions just don’t add up to reality.

5.       Making my personal writing goals that involve manuscripts have become a much higher priority above blogging.

It’s that number five thing that has kept me from blogging. See, here’s the thing. I had big plans for this summer. I have books to draft and blogs to write, and conferences to attend, marketing to keep up on and, and, and… I’ve discovered that no matter how badly I want to keep up with all these things, the reality is that I can’t do everything, all the time.

So I let this blog slide a bit, and I don’t feel too bad about it because I have instead focused on other writing projects that I hope to see making important progress in the near future.

I very much hope that I am able to get back into a routine and keep up with blogging again this fall. But if I skip some weeks—if I don’t keep up the way I always have—I hope you can forgive me. I hope you’ll continue to come back and read anyway. Because I have come to the conclusion that it is more important to keep up with writing books than it is to stay consistent with this blog. (Though I truly do hope I can juggle both!)

Thanks for sticking with me, friends!

Stay tuned next tuesday for a report on the awesomeness that was the LDStorymakers Midwest Conference! 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Exciting upcoming release: Something About Love by Elana Johnson

Guys! I am SO excited about Elana Johnson's newest release, Something About Love. First, I fell completely, totally in love with her contemporary novel-in-verse, ELEVATED, and while this one is not related, it's done in the same style, and I think Elana is a genius at writing in verse.

Lucky me, I get to read it early! It's at the very top of my list this week as a reward for me finishing an edit I need to finish (but I am SO tempted to read it before then!).

Also, look at the pretty! Is this not a gorgeous cover?

About SOMETHING ABOUT LOVE: High school senior Olivia Winging gave up her love of photography when she gave up her boyfriend, Trevor Youngblood, a year and a half ago. She broke things off with Trevor because her mom married his dad, and dating your step-brother? Creepy. 

Livvy hasn’t been on good terms with her mother since, and one of her stipulations for staying at the Youngblood’s every other weekend is that Trevor can’t be there. When she gets nominated for the Junior Photography in Excellence award, Trevor insists she enter. She agrees—only if every photo in the portfolio can be of him. Knowing that Livvy can capture a person’s deepest secrets through her lens, Trevor hesitates before accepting the deal.

As Livvy gets behind the lens of her camera again, her love of photography is rekindled. Unfortunately, the time she spends with Trevor also re-ignites the old flame for him she’s kept smothered for so long.

In order for Livvy to finish her portfolio, she’ll have to face her feelings for Trevor as well as deal with the animosity between her and her mother. Livvy’s always been able to capture a person’s soul from behind the camera—but she’s not sure she likes it when the lens is suddenly focused on her. If she can’t find a way to forgive her mother and admit how she feels about Trevor, Livvy may end up losing more than just the photography contest. She could lose her heart. 

You can Pre-order SOMETHING ABOUT LOVE on Amazon and also talk about it on Goodreads.

And guys, this is very exciting too. ELEVATED, the book I mentioned above and which is my favorite of all favorites by Elana, is FREE on Amazon September 15-19 as a special promo as SOMETHING ABOUT LOVE releases. Make sure you grab it. You will NOT regret it. Promise.

Praise for Elana’s first verse novel, Elevated:
“The taut poetry keeps tension high. The plot is deftly paced, as past intrudes on present, like a photograph emerging in developing fluid.” ~San Francisco Book Review

“Every word Johnson writes carries an emotional heft that lifts readers up to the highest happiness and then sends them crashing down to the depths of despair. It is easy to flow from the first word to the last without ever putting down the book. Johnson shows outstanding talent in this form, and her words are beautiful, important and deeply felt.” ~The Deseret News

About Elana Johnson: Elana Johnson’s work, including Possession, Surrender, Abandon, and Regret, published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), is available now everywhere books are sold. Her popular ebook, From the Query to the Call, is also available for free download, as well as a Possession short story, Resist

Her self-published novels include two YA contemporary novels-in-verse, Elevated and Something About Love, as well as a YA/NA futuristic fantasy series, which includes Elemental Rush, Elemental Hunger, and Elemental Release.

School teacher by day, Query Ninja by night, you can find her online at her personal blog or Twitter. She also co-founded the Query Tracker blog, and contributes to the League of Extraordinary Writers.

Social Media Links:
League of Extraordinary Writers: http://leaguewriters.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Catching Up and Coming Back and Summer

Guys! You know how in my last blog I said I was going to take a two week hiatus? And it’s been like four instead. That is just how crazy moving has been for me. We have so much catching up to do!

To save time and space, here’s a quick rundown:

At the beginning of July, my husband was offered a new job that took us from Texas back to Utah. (You know it had to be good to drag me away from my beach!)

I spent the rest of the month packing and preparing to put my house on the market and move my family.

When my husband was finished with his job in Texas, we took a week to visit Orlando, FL, to look at apartments for my daughter who is going to school there (and yes, we did visit Disney and Universal, because—obviously.)

I finally got to visit Hogwarts!

Immediately after returning from Florida, it was time to move. Since our movers fell through at the last minute (their fault, not ours), we improvised. I learned to tow like a BOSS! While transporting a small zoo (2 dogs, a cat, a rabbit, 3 kids, 2 adults).

We arrived in Utah, and immediately picked up this beautiful family member—which we have missed tremendously. (Yes, I am a water person, clearly.)

A short week after arriving, it was time to move my daughter to Florida. So she and I took an epic road trip.

On my returning flight, I *finally* started editing a project I planned to have finished in June.

Last week, my kids started school, and I have been catching up on sleep. This week, I am BACK TO EDITING AND WRITING!

And on September 19-20 I will be visiting Kansas City, KS to present at the LDStorymakers Midwest Conference. There is a massive Author event at a local library the afternoon of September 19th, so if you’re in the area, definitely stop by and say hi!

 *deep breath* That’s a lot of stuff, y’all!

I am now back to blogging, and writing, and all that fun author stuff. I’m going to stick with my current once-a-week posting on Tuesdays for now, but if you want to hear from me more often, you can always follow me on Facebook, where I post a little more frequently, but not obnoxiously so (I hope). Also, for the most up-to-date news and contests, I’d love to have you sign up for my author newsletter (sign up on the sidebar thereà).

And now that I’ve caught you all up on what’s happening with me, what did you do this summer? 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


For the next two weeks, I am taking a short hiatus while we take a little trip and then finish our big move. I am so glad you stopped by to read, so I thought I'd share this lovely shot I took a couple weeks ago as my husband and I headed home from South Padre Island, Texas.

Here's a little writing prompt to go with it:

You have two characters, in a car, on this road. Who are they? Where are they going, and what happened earlier in the day that led them to this place, at this exact time?


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Benefits of Practice

Well, actually, it’s pretty much everything. I mean, practice keeps us on our toes, right? But since this will be our third move in two years, and since two of those moves have been major, cross-country moves, I’m starting to feel like an expert this time around.

I’m getting good at packing. Not that I wasn’t good before—I’ve moved so many times in my life, that I’ve lost track of how many homes I’ve lived in. And that’s okay. But when it comes to boxing things up—yeah. I’m getting there.

I’m also getting good at throwing things away. I know it sounds funny, but this is not a strength I’ve always had. I’m something of a packrat—or I used to be. I kept everything, even broken Rubbermaid containers, because I didn’t want to have to buy new ones. But broken containers do me no good when we’re moving, and so away they go. Along with the bench I’ve kept in the garage for the last year, planning to paint it. I love it, but it’s damaged, and heavy, and will cost more to transport than it’s worth, and so…it too goes.

Since we’re selling our house in Texas, I’m getting good at quick cleaning. Not because my house is always spotless, but because we’ve learned tricks on where to hide our dirty clothes and how to load the dishwasher in record time.

Another thing I’m learning through practice is how to juggle everything else in life and still get my packing done. For instance, this weekend, my husband and I took a day off to visit a beach we’ve been wanting to get to, but that is just far enough away that we’d put it off. We were gone all day, so we didn’t get any packing done, but we didn’t feel guilty, because we have a Texas bucket list which is also important.

Even though all of the above mentioned things seem to be all about moving, I think the practice idea is true for EVERYTHING. Writing. Reading. Playing an instrument. Sports. Whatever. The more you do a thing, the better at it you become.

And now I need to figure out how to actually plant new roots and stay put, because people, I do not want any more practice with moving.

What about you? What are you currently practicing? 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Land of the Brave, the Independent, the Free

I am of the patriotic sort. The girl who wears red, white, and blue on the 4th of July and who insists on attending parades (even though my kids think they’re too old) and planning barbeques (even though they all whine) and then finding the best local fireworks show (even if I have to go without them). I love everything this holiday is about, what it stands for, and how it came to be. And I have a very special place in my heart for The Star Spangled Banner, particularly after a few years ago when I visited the very place where Francis Scott Key became inspired to write it.

But sadly, in South Texas, there is no parade, no city carnival/festival, and only a very small fireworks show in one of the nearby towns. Instead, we got up before sunrise and drove an hour away to see baby sea turtles released into the wild. We spent the day at the beach. We had our barbeque and spent the day together, and regardless of the whining, my family remembered why the country celebrates this glorious holiday.

Because thousands of brave soldiers have fought, and continue to fight, to keep our country strong—to keep us free. Because of that freedom, I am brave enough to follow dreams of my own. Like writing. And my kids can follow their dreams.

So, you know how two years ago we moved to Texas so I could finally live by my beach (that I LOVE)? Well. Not all dreams last forever, and my love affair with the beach was to be short lived in order for my husband to chase a dream of his own. I won’t go into all the crazy exciting details about it, because you can read about it here, but the bottom line is, the Giles family is headed BACK to Utah! This means another cross-country move.

And it’s happening fast. As in, now.

So please forgive me if over the next couple weeks I’m a bit absent. I promise I’ll be back in due time. And hey, if you follow my Facebook author page, I’ll post pictures along the way.

Happy July!