Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book & Agent Contests and Giveaways

As I've been making the rounds today, I've noticed quite a few contests and giveaways going around the blogosphere. Since those chocolates I "gave" you in my last post didn't seem like enough, here are the links to some grooovy upcoming contests and give aways.

Agent Judged Competitions
1) June 25th: Ruth Lauren Steven and Michelle Krys are hosting an agent judged competition. 30 pitches will be accepted and looked over by 10 agents over the course of one week. All you need to do is enter a polished query letter and the first 500 words of your completed manuscript. Both adult and YA will be accepted. Follow Ruth and Michelle's blogs for more info.

2) June 29th: Daisy Carter is hosting a pitch contest with literary agent Tricia Lawrence. Query and first 250 words of a completed YA manuscript are required.

Book Contests/Give-aways
1) June 24: Elana Johnson is giving away a signed copy of
The Limit by Kristen Landon
Variant by Rob Wells
The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

2) Casey McCormick at Literary Rambles is giving away 
June 19: Indie Author Giveaway
June 23: Like Clockwork by Elle Strauss
June 23: Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
June 23: Both Surrender and Regret by Elana Johnson
June 30: One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

3) June 19: Rachele Alpine is giving away Butter by Jade Lange

4) June 24: Cynthia Leitich Smith is giving away It's Our Prom (So Deal With It) by Julie Anne Peters

Have fun and good luck!

<3 Gina Blechman

P.s. And though it isn't necessary, I would greatly appreciate it if you'd follow me. Who knows what other contests I'll be posting about next. Stay informed!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dear Bloggers, Manuscript, and Books: My life would suck without you.

I'm baaaaack! Guess who's excited? (ME! ...And hopefully you!) Life has been one busy thing after another, and the suffering that my blog has endured is not okay. First my lack of blogging was due to being abroad in Italy for the semester. Then, it was trying to catch up with everyone. Then, it was taking a double course overload during the Spring semester. 

Point is: There's always SOMETHING. Big or small, internal or external, life happens. And what happens isn't always bad. However, what I've been realizing lately is that despite all the accomplishments, pitfalls, and other miscellaneous things in my life, I miss the buzz, the excitement, the everything of editing my manuscript regularly, blogging regularly, and reading like a fiend (so that I can post reviews for you!) Therefore, I have returned from the dead and am working on a Summer to-read-and-review list and fixing up a blogging and manuscript editing schedule.

And fellow bloggers, those chocolates over there? (Look to your left. See 'em?) Those are for you. My life wasn't quite the same without you folks.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Creating Good Conflict Scenes In Your Story

No one likes boring conflict scenes. I mean, a boring anything scene is bad enough, but, by definition, conflict scenes need to be interesting. Since, as we all know, I'm very fond of checklists, I have created two checklists, one for good conflict and one for bad conflict, to help you assess your scenes. (And for me to assess my own.)

Good conflict involves problems that are:
  • external
  • internal
  • significant
  • pressing
  • ones that force your characters to act
  • informative

Bad conflict involves problems that:
  • are shallow
  • can't relate back/ahead to other parts of the story
  • don't move the story forward
  • don't teach us about the characters
  • have obscure or entirely too simple/obvious solutions that leave the reader confused or aggravate

Typically, your scene should start as close to the start of the conflict as possible and pick up pace, then peak closer to the end, leaving room for resolution.

In his book Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern calls scenes like this “Bear at the Door” scenes. As said before, there' s an external problem or trouble:  “Honey, there’s a bear at the door.”  A significant problem:  “Wow, the bear’s huge”.  A pressing problem: “I think the bear’s trying to get in.”  And one that forces character(s) to act:  “Do something!”

What are your strengths and weaknesses with conflict develop? Any tips you want to share?

<3 Gina Blechman

Monday, February 6, 2012

Review: The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder

4 out of 5 stars

The Day Before is an absolutely adorable book, a heartwarming story with a good message, and, best of all, it has unexpectedly candid and wonderful characters. (And it's written through poetry! Heck to the yeah!) I also really enjoyed that it doesn't rush to the extreme's with its characters. It's easy to make the "bad boy" a bully, or a drug addict, or a pimp or prostitute or super-angsty 'emo kid'. It's just as easy to dramaticize relationships between characters,bringing them to a totally unrealistic and, quite frankly annoying, level of "I met you two seconds ago but I love you" lust. But the MC's in The Day Before are actually realistic and relatable. And the story is still suspenseful even without that gobbledy-gook.

Description: "Amber’s life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself.
Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell he’s also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets.
The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she’s drawn to him.  And the more she’s troubled by his darkness. Because Cade’s not just living in the now—he’s living each moment like it’s his last."

<3 Gina Blechman

(P.S. Does anyone know how to spell "gobbledy-gook"?)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How to Break Anxiety/Procrastination Mode

You're there. At that pivotal scene where lots of big, important, mind-blowing stuff happens that all your readers will love. And everything's set, and everything's awesome can't write it. Maybe you're on your first draft or maybe you're on your twentieth, but there's something about this particular scene, whether it actually is epic or is just the start of something that could be, that keeps you far away from your computer. We've all been there. Those moments when your thought process goes

"Hey, I should really write that scene."
         "Oh look! E-mails I need to send."

"Hey, I should really write that scene."
         "Oh look! Dust on the floor! Let's vacuum!"

"Come on, it's really time to write that scene now."
         "But I have to catch up with my DVR...and I kind of want to bake brownies...and if I make brownies, I'll probably eat one, and then I'll have to brush my teeth, and..."

Yeah. Sound familiar?

Well, recently, I found a way to get around this. Instead of creating an entire scene, which can be quite daunting, just write the dialogue for that scene. No tag lines. No exposition. No setting. Nothing else but talking. Write what feels right, whatever pops into your head that you can imagine the characters saying. As you do this, you will start to see actions and envision the setting, though you will not be writing them down. This way, once you have the dialogue on paper (or on Word), you will probably want to add all the things you've been imagining or will at least be more curious as to what happens next. This should, maybe, possibly, hopefully get the ball rolling.

Does this sound like something you'd be interested in? What types of things do you do to beat your procrastination?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young

5 out of 5 stars. Gripping from the very beginning and beautiful all the way through.

Description: "We all want to be remembered. Charlotte's destiny is to be forgotten.

Charlotte's best friend thinks Charlotte might be psychic. Her boyfriend thinks she's cheating on him. But Charlotte knows what's really wrong: She is one of the Forgotten, a kind of angel on earth who feels the Need—a powerful, uncontrollable draw to help someone, usually a stranger.

But Charlotte never wanted this responsibility. What she wants is to help her best friend, whose life is spiraling out of control. She wants to lie in her boyfriend's arms forever. But as the Need grows stronger, it begins to take a dangerous toll on Charlotte. And who she was, is, and will become—her mark on this earth, her very existence—is in jeopardy of disappearing completely"

The pacing is perfect. The suspense is incredible. The characters are realistic, and the message is relatable and touching. A Need So Beautiful plays wonderfully on the common battle between doing what is right vs doing what is selfish and on the struggle between believing that we are in control vs giving in to a higher power or purpose vs taking control of our lives while putting our energy towards that higher purpose.

I enjoyed it thoroughly from beginning to end.

<3 Gina Blechman

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

4 out of 5 stars.

Excellent, excellent, excellent.

Description: "Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming."

There ya go, folks. It's got love. It's got fear. It's got teen hormones, and mystery, and dystopian intellectualism, and, essentially, it's got a whole lot of awesomeness.

At first, to be honest, I was extremely skeptical. The story is told from the views of the two main characters, Amy & Elder, and it seemed like every time it changed to Amy's part nothing was happening. (Just a warning to y’all, if you feel this as you read, push through it.) There was also, what I felt to be a lot of choppy instances of "telling" in the beginning to give us readers information that drove me a little more than crazy.

But I said the book was "a whole lot of awesomeness," didn't I? And it is. Because once you get past the start, you get lost in the characters and their mysteries and relationships, you have all the background info you need, and you find yourself in this magnificently created world that will shock you over and over again. 

Read it. Love it. And tell me what you think.

<3 Gina Blechman

Monday, January 23, 2012

How to Relax Without Harming Yourself or Others

Warning: If you find yourself doing any of the following while trying to relax, you're going about relaxation the WRONG WAY:

1) Strangling small children (or any children really, but, with small children it's particularly cruel) to create quiet 
2) Setting the house on fire. (NOT relaxing)
3) Trying to perform self-acupuncture (Bad. VERY  BAD.)
4) Eating your body weight in chocolate. (It always sounds like a good idea at the time, but from experience I can tell you: You will feel like a fatass afterwards.)

So how do you relax properly then, if you can't do any of that stuff?

1) I like to start off by taking a nice shower and releasing the stresses of the day (or the week, or the ever since my main character's stopped listening to me and started driving me nuts). I try to focus on the feel and sound of the water and imagine my issues washing down the drain.

2) Light some candles--remembering not to burn the house down--and turn off or dim the lights. Even if you end up staring into the light of your computer screen the whole time, I’ve found that candle light still greatly adds to the atmosphere.

3) Put on music that helps you relax. It doesn't have to be your traditional waterfalls. Just something you like.

4) Stretch a little. No, nothing rigorous. Stretch your arms, wrists, hands, fingers, legs. Touch your toes if you’re feeling festive. I like to do a mini yoga-type thing. A mix of downward dog, child’s pose, and cobra. If you don’t know yoga, no worries, just do whatever you feel you need to wake your muscles up.

5) Lay down, stretch out your body, and zone out. (I ask so much of you, I know, but this will help you get rid of mind blocks later.)

6) Put on comfy clothes. Pajamas. Yoga pants. Boxers. You choose.

7) Keep some snacks with you. Something light that won't make you feel icky afterwards and something that won't get all over your keyboard as you eat it.

8) Be productive in your new, zen, candle-lit, snack-ready space. Do that editing or blogging or query writing or work report that you need to get done.

9) Celebrate reaching your goals by doing something fun that you don’t usually have the chance to do.

So, what d’ya think? Easy enough?

What do you normally do to stay relaxed? Is there anything you've find that works really well for you? Or maybe something that works for your friends but not for you?

<3 Gina Blechman

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Few Words on Greatness and Doubt

When you tell someone you plan on being a writer, it often comes with a warning. "You know that's a hard path," people say, or "you know that probably won't make you a lot of money." (That's if they say anything all and don't just grunt and raise an eyebrow.) Due to this and a variety of other reasons, doubt is easy to come by in the world of art.Well, here's a little anecdote that I hope will brighten things up for you:

Last week, a close friend of mine had a mental breakdown. After four months off of antidepressants, she relapsed and is now in a facility getting help.

Though it didn't hit me so hard at first, in the past 24 hours, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. It's not that I'm worried about her--I know she'll get the help she needs--it's that I'm in this odd role of having been there but knowing that I'm in a better off position than her, because I've been off meds for almost a year.

Relapsing is bad with anything, but relapsing with depression is extremely difficult. You find yourself thinking "What is wrong with me that I fail at being happy? I mean, it's not like I'm out smoking crack or something, I just want to be normal and I can't."

Crazy, huh? Because the more that I thought about it, the more that I couldn't help but feel like I could be better. That we should be better.

We all have those moments where we wonder if we're good enough or if there's something wrong with us or if we'll "make it" or if our efforts will be worth it, or if those around us--friends, family members, and others--are actually listening to us and learning from us or if they'll just forget it all once they have the time. As artists and creative people, it's shoved down our throughts that the chances are high that we won't succeed or, if we manage to, we still won't get very far. But we're no worse off as striving people than anybody else and our chances get better and better the harder we try. What I would tell you or myself in moments of doubt is just about the same as what I'll tell my friend once she get's out of wherever she is right now and that's that you won't succeed every time. You can't. It's impossible. But the odds get greater with every failure that your next try or the one after that will have to be a success. Doubt won't get you anywhere but into a bad mood. You are stronger than you think. So go out and be great.