Thursday, March 28, 2013

Guest Post by Wendy Knight, and Book Review of Feudlings

I am so pleased to host Wendy Knight, debut author of Feudlings, on my blog today! Not only is Wendy a fantastic writer and awesome human being, she is a dear friend of mine. I am SO happy she has reached her publishing goal! It couldn't have happened to a nicer or more deserving person. Wendy and I met back when we were both dreaming of publication (okay, I still am). I got to watch as she sent out her book, waited to hear back, and finally got the offer and signed the contract. I still remember when she told us in the chat room she had an offer and we were all so excited for her!

I am also lucky enough to be in a critique group with this gal. In fact, she was kind enough to offer to do a guest post on critique groups for us today.


Critique Groups and Why You Need Them
by Wendy Knight

So. Before I launch onto my soap box, I have to say thank you for letting me visit, Lindzee! I am sooo grateful for you and all your support with my book launch, and for helping me get Feudlings in Flames ready for press. Without my critique group, I never would have whipped that mess into shape.

Which is why we need critique groups! I worked my tail off writing Feudlings, but there are things that, as a writer, we just don’t see in our own manuscript. Sometimes they’re simple, like that we use speech tags too often (sorry Lindzee!), but some are bigger – plot holes, for example, or keeping our characters’ facts straight. We need critique groups because they have a viewpoint different than our own, and they see things we might miss.

It’s not a matter of, “Oh, I’m a very experienced writer, I don’t need a critique group.” The best writers in the industry have multiple critique groups, and beta readers, and proof readers, and all kinds of other readers. We learn so much from each other.

AND you develop the best, most supportive group of friends EVER. I would be lost without my writers groups!

Author Bio
Wendy Knight was born and raised in Utah by a wonderful family who spoiled her rotten because she was the baby. Now she spends her time driving her husband crazy with her many eccentricities (no water after five, terror when faced with a live phone call, etcetera, etcetera). She also enjoys chasing her three adorable kids, playing tennis, watching football, reading, and hiking. Camping is also big: her family is slowly working toward a goal of seeing all the National Parks in the U.S.
You can usually find her with at least one Pepsi nearby, wearing ridiculously high heels for whatever the occasion may be. And if everything works out just right, she will also be writing. 

Back Cover Blurb

Nothing makes a new school suck worse than discovering the guy you’re in love with is your prophesied nemesis.

Ari is the most powerful flame-throwing sorceress ever, and her people’s last hope in an ancient war. But she’s also a seventeen-year-old girl, and in her free, not-hunting-nemesis times, she jumps from school to school, trying to figure out regular people her own age and pretending she’ll get the chance to graduate.

Shane lives a double life. He goes to school and masters the art of popularity, hiding the fact that he has a fate with a slim chance of his survival. He’s destined to end a 300 year-old war by killing or being killed. He knows he’s hunted by a powerful enemy who’s not afraid to die. Only problem? He has no idea who that enemy is.



When Ari shows up at Shane’s school, angry and sullen and determined to keep him at arm’s reach, neither of them realize they are supposed to be killing each other, not falling in love. Until Ari does realize it, and she almost dies – by Shane’s hand.
 
My Take
Let me start by saying I loved this book. LOVED. Seriously, go buy a copy now and thank me later. Also, could that cover get any more gorgeous? I am seriously in love with the cover art.

I blew threw this book in two days, which says a lot about it...it usually takes me a couple of weeks to complete a book. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

One of the strengths of this book, for me, were the characters. I especially enjoyed the main characters, Ari and Shane. Ari is fierce and strong and wears high-heeled boots. I loved her character arc as the plot progressed, and loved getting inside her head. Shane is super hot and charismatic. What's not to love about that?

I liked how the girls at the school took Ari in and kept being her friend, even when she put them off. It's nice to see good role models of friendship in a YA instead of the stereotypical mean girls. I also loved the romantic tension between Shane and Ari.

This book was great beginning, middle, and end. It's extremely clean and a great YA for teens who love urban fantasy. I am so excited for the sequel! As Wendy mentioned, I've been lucky enough to read some of it in our critique group, and let me tell you, it is going to be fantastic.


If I haven't convinced you yet to go buy the book, then keep reading. Wendy was kind enough to offer us an excerpt. 

Excerpt

"Shane, I’m tougher than I look. I can handle it,” she said, although she wasn’t sure she wanted to know any more about his magic than she already did. It could get him in trouble. But she couldn’t just leave it alone. Part of her wanted to know. Maybe the monster-killer part of her. 


She squashed that thought. 

Shane stopped, studied her. Under his intense blue gaze her heart started to pound and she thought giddily that her favorite color just happened to be the exact color of his eyes. What were the odds?

“I’m serious, Ari. There’s this war going on, and knowing anything about it could get you killed.”

“Killed?” Ari tried to look dubious.

Shane glanced around and grabbed her hand, pulling her with him out the front doors. The air was crisp and cool; Ari could see traces of her breath. If Shane was aware that half the student population was watching them speed-walk into the woods, he didn’t show it, and after a final glance back Ari ignored them too.

When the school was out of sight, she stopped and pulled her hand away. “Okay Shane. Spill,” she commanded. She crossed her arms over her chest and tried to look cold. Normals would be cold right now, but because of the flames flowing through their blood, neither she nor Shane could feel it.

Shane sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Where to start? Even the short version is long. We’re sorcerers, and there are two sides to this war… of course, because that’s what makes a war, right?” he rambled. Ari raised an eyebrow at him as she tried to shiver. “I’m a Carules. I have magic that stems from these blue flames that, well, they’re in my blood. Hunter, too. And all other Carules. The other side is Edren, and their magic comes from red flames. Basically, we spend all our time trying to kill each other. It’s a lot of fun,” he said with a bitter frown at the ground.

“So you hide your magic because if an Edren found you...”

“They’d kill me. Or try to, anyway,” Shane finished for her.

Ari flinched at his words, and she knew right then that if she had seen him on that battle field in Adlington, she wouldn’t have been able to kill him. Her eyes widened in shock, her mouth opened into a silent “Oh”, and her heart started to pound. This was a very, very dangerous revelation she’d just made to herself.

She had a weakness. And it was Shane.

Okay, now I know that made you want to keep reading!

Buy Links
Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Astraea Press 

Social Media Links
Wendy's blog: www.writethroughthenoise.blogspot.com  
Twitter: @wjk8099 

Now clear your schedule, buy the book, and settle down for an enjoyable day of reading. Trust me, you won't want to stop until the last page.
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesdays in Twinland: Sometimes We Mix Up the Kids

One of the most-asked questions I get has got to be, "Can you tell your twins apart?" followed closely by, "How do you tell them apart?"

The second question always makes me feel incredibly stupid and unobservant. Because the truth is, I don't know how to tell people to tell Thing 1 and Thing 2 apart. I just do. Here's a very unhelpful list I give people.
  • Thing 1 is significantly lighter than Thing 2--typically by about two pounds--and it's obvious when you pick them up. 
  • Thing 1 has a stork bite between his eyes. But sometimes it's visible and sometimes it's not, and occasionally Thing 2 has a stork bite in the exact same place. 
  • Their personalities are very different, but they've been known to switch personalities without telling me. 
  • Thing 1 has a flat spot on his head, which is how daddy tells them apart most of the time--by rubbing their heads. 

The best answer I have is they just look different to me. But that's not always true either. It's strange because some days they look nothing alike, and other days I can barely tell who is who. I don't know what makes the difference, but that's how it's always been.

The completely, 100% honest answer to the first question--"Can you tell them apart?"--is, "Usually." Because it doesn't happen very often, and it doesn't happen for very long. But we have mixed the kids up before. Really just the one time.

I say "we" but really I mean "hubby."

When Thing 1 was about 9 months old, he had a helmet. He had a severe flat spot, caused by Thing 2 sitting on top of his head for 8 months in utero. We tried to round out his head by all the usual methods--positioning, turning, etc.--but eventually it was to the point where we needed to get a helmet for him. He only wore it for about three months (by 12 months his soft spot was closed up and his head was unable to change shape any more) but it helped tremendously and I'm glad we did it. I wish the pediatrician wouldn't encouraged us to do it earlier, instead of encouraging us to wait.

But that's a different story for another day. The point is hubby mixed up the twins and I didn't.

The twins were about 11 months old. Thing 1 had been playing with the velcro strap on his helmet of late, managing to completely unhook it, and I worried that soon he'd figure out how to take his helmet off. Thing 2 was known to try to assist Thing 1 in his efforts to go helmet-less.

It was Thursday night, which meant I had writing group. Hubby, being the studly guy that he is, watched the guys so I could go. That meant he had to get them in bed that night.

I got home from writers group a few hours later and asked, "How were the twins? Did they go down easily?"

Hubby said, "They were really restless tonight, but eventually settled down. I'm not sure what the problem was."

We shrugged it off and went to bed without checking on the kids. We could hear them stirring on the baby monitor, and if we check on them when they are restless they wake up, and it's at least an hour before we get them back to sleep. So we listened at the door, listened at the monitor, and knew from the stirrings both were okay.

The next morning, I went in to get the twins up. I opened the door, and then stood there in shock. The first thing I noticed was the helmet. It rested, unhooked, in the middle of the bedroom floor. The next thing I noticed were the kids. Thing 1 was in Thing 2's crib, and Thing 2 was in Thing 1's crib.

I looked back and forth between the kids, wondering if my mind was playing tricks on me. No, they definitely were in the wrong cribs. Did hubby do this on purpose? They grinned up at me and babbled nonsensically while I laughed in disbelief. I called hubby.

"Did you put Thing 1's helmet on him last night?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "Why?"

"Well he's finally learned how to take it off. It's in the middle of the floor." I paused for a moment. "Why did you put them in the wrong cribs?"

I heard the surprise in his voice. "They're in the wrong cribs?" he asked. I confirmed that was indeed the case. I'm pretty sure he swore at that point. "Then I put the helmet on the wrong child last night!" he said. "I am the worst dad ever. I feel awful!"

I couldn't stop laughing. "Wasn't it hard to get on Thing 2's head?" I asked. "How did it even close?"  Helmets are made very specifically for a head, and Thing 1 and Thing 2's head shapes were very different.

"It fit just fine," hubby said. I assured him he wasn't an awful father, tried to conceal my giggles, and hung up. Then I picked up the helmet, and sure enough, it fit on Thing 2's head. Not correctly, but it fit. Thing 2 had watched us take the helmet on and off Thing 1 for nearly three months, and so he was able to take it off and throw it in the middle of the room whereas Thing 1 still could not.

I just really hope he took it off before falling asleep. We're pretty sure he did, otherwise he wouldn't have settled down. At least, that's what we tell ourselves so we don't feel as guilty.

So yes, we mix our children up. Not often, but it has happened before. And seriously, this is one of my favorite stories to tell and one of my favorite moments in twinland.

Have any other twin moms out there mixed their children up with hilarious results?

TWIN MOM TIP: Don't beat yourself up if you mix up the twins. It happens, and it doesn't mean you love them any less or are a bad mother.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

How to Find Kindle Deals

I am a huge fan of ereaders. I LOVE my kindle. I wonder how I ever survived without it. There are a lot of things I love about it, but I think what I love the most are the awesome deals I find. I'm a bargain shopper like that. Because how often can you buy a print book for free? Try next to never. But I find free books for my kindle on a daily basis.

A few months ago, I found an awesome deal and posted in on facebook. Since then I've had people begging me to continue posting the deals I find. People ask me all the time, "How do you find your deals? Please keep posting them!" So I thought I'd share my secrets, which aren't really secrets at all.

Since I have a kindle, those are the deals I look for. On facebook, I generally only post deals on books I've personally read and loved, or books being recommended by people I know and trust. That being said, read at your own discretion.

However, there are a LOT of deals I find that I don't post on facebook because I know nothing about the book. There are three basic ways I find my deals--email subscriptions, twitter, and facebook. So keep reading, and get ready to buy a whole lot of free books.

Email Subscriptions
Most of the ebook deals I find are from a few email lists I subscribe to. I get an email once or twice a day, letting me know what's free and heavily discounted that I might be interested in. Just go to the websites, enter in your email address, and sit back and enjoy the deals.

http://www.bookbub.com/ I love BookBub because it customizes your tastes, and lets you know how long the deal lasts and what format you can get it in.

http://www.pixelofink.com/ This is the first list I subscribed to, and is where I find most of my deals.

http://www.inspiredreads.com/ This features deals on Christian books. I like buying the free romances from here, because I'm pretty much guaranteed they'll be clean.

You can also go to your Amazon account and edit your account settings so that you receive the daily deal email for kindle. 

If you don't like subscribing to email lists, you can just visit the websites daily for the deals. I like having them delivered to my inbox. Huge plus: I haven't really noticed an increase in spam since subscribing. Hopefully that continues being the case!

Twitter
I find a lot of deals on twitter. Just start following your favorite authors and publishers. They always can be counted on to post deals when they become available. You can also follow bookstores, the above websites, and book reviewers on twitter to find deals.


Facebook
I am either facebook friends with or "like" the pages of a lot of authors and publishers on facebook. Most authors have a page devoted to their writing or a facebook persona where they don't mind adding fans as friends. Again, they always are good to post promotions and deals on facebook. The majority of the deals I share on facebook I find on facebook. If you do a search, you can also join facebook groups devoted to posting deals on books in specific genres.

Some stats for you: Probably 70% of the deals I find and buy are from email subscriptions. However, I'd guess 80% or more of the deals I actually share with others (these are the REALLY good deals) I find on facebook and twitter.

So there you go! Keep in mind that there are a lot of free books on Amazon that are not necessarily great reads. I figure since I paid nothing, it's worth it to wade through the bad books to the good ones. That being said, a lot of fantastic authors and publishers do promotional events for a limited time on truly amazing books. So enjoy finding your kindle deals!

Oh, and if you don't want to do the leg work for yourself, you can always friend me on facebook (if you haven't already) and let me do the work for you.

Where do you guys find your favorite kindle deals? If there are places you find deals that I haven't mentioned here, please, post a comment and share! We all love a good deal.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Happy Book Birthday to Wendy Knight!

Not only is today Tuesday, the twinliest day of the week, but it is Wendy Knight's book birthday for her debut novel, Feudlings!

I consider Wendy one of my dearest friends. She welcomed me into her online critique group last summer, and because of her I have met and become friends with a lot of awesome people. We've edited some of the sequel to Feudlings in critique group, and I've been DYING to read this first book in the series.

I'll have a guest post by Wendy on March 28th and more information about the book. Until then, here's the amazon link. Only $2.99 for hours of reading joy!  

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Tuesdays in Twinland: Spring Fever

Spring is in the air!!! The only winter longer than this one was last winter, when the twins were newborns and we never left the house. This winter we just rarely left the house, and then only for indoor shopping trips to Walmart or whatever.

Needless to say, I'm glad spring is here. Can I get three cheers for spring? Because this winter has given the twins and I have a serious case of cabin fever.

Last Friday it was a beautiful day, and so the twins and I decided to go to the outlet mall with my parents. The day before they got their 18 month shots, and so they were pretty cranky and I was dying to get out of the house. I thought maybe if we went somewhere new and exciting, they'd be distracted from their crankiness until nap time.

The outlets were a huge success, in more ways than one. First, I bought the twins 8 long sleeved shirts for next year for only $20. Bargain shopping always puts me in a good mood. Additionally my mom bought then two shirts and a jacket for Christmas for like $15.

Then we ran into an unexpected acquaintance. When my twins were in the NICU, there was another set of twins--these ones boy/girl--right across from us. These twins were born three days before mine at almost the exact same gestation. We got to know the parents a little bit, and were rooting for each other to get out of the hospital and cheering each little success. Those twins went home a few days before ours, and I've often wondered how they are doing.

Well, we ran into the mom, big brother, and twins at the outlet mall! It was so nice to chat and bring each other up to speed on how our kids are doing now. There's a special kind of bond that NICU moms have with each other, and add the twin mom bond on top of that and you feel like you could sit and talk forever, even though you really don't know each other.

So that was pretty sweet. But what Thing 1 and Thing 2 liked most about the outlet malls were they could run and run and run. There is a giant brick walkway between the stores at this particular mall, and on a weekday morning it was pretty dead. So the twins ran around squealing and having a grand old time.

Thing 2 took off in one direction and while my mom chased him around, I stuck with Thing 1. Thing 1 became particularly interested in the window display at Gap and started running towards it. I followed a little behind, content to just watch him run around and play.

He headed straight for the big glass display window at the front of the store. A very bright and colorful sign announcing the spring sale hung just inside the window, and was apparently fascinating. Thing 1 kept running towards it. I assumed he would realize that there was a window between him and the sign and stop.

He didn't. He ran smack into the glass and bounced back a little before landing on his behind. He looked up in surprise at the window and promptly started crying.

I laughed so hard there were tears. I ran over to him, picked him up, and tried to comfort him. But I just couldn't stop laughing. I know people sometimes put stickers on glass so birds won't run into it. But who knew you needed to do the same thing for toddlers?

The laughter continued. My dad witnessed the whole event and he was doubled up with laughter too. When my mom came back with Thing 2 and I explained, she started laughing.

I laughed at my child's pain. Am I Mom of the Year or what? But it was so darn funny I couldn't help it.

I figure it's nearly summer. This will be the first summer the twins are really mobile. They were just starting to crawl the beginning of last summer and barely taking steps by the end. This year, they are going to want to run around outside and play. And they will fall. And they will get hurt. And they may run into more windows. I can't protect them from all injuries, and even if I could I wouldn't. That's how they'll learn. So my goal this summer is to avoid anything but minor scrapes and bruises. With two of them and one of me, I'm not sure how great the odds are. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, we're just really glad for spring. 

TWIN MOM TIP: Don't take things too seriously. Laugh. Enjoy life. Find the humor in bad situations. If you don't allow yourself to loosen up sometimes, life with twins will be pretty darn miserable.

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