Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fun w/ Keyword Searches

I came across this idea while browsing blogs recently and can’t for the life of me find it again. So if it was you, let me know and I’ll give you full credit. Otherwise, tough chicken nuggets!

As bloggers we often check to see how people are finding us. Sometimes the keywords make sense. Sometimes not so much. But hey if people need this information so much that they are searching for it, who am I to deny them? So with no further ado, here are some of my recent top search hits along with clarifying information.

#1 j. scott savage, j scott savage, j. scott. savage, j scott savage water keep, j scott savage blog

Yep. That’s me, my book, and my blog. The period after J is optional. Period after Scott is gratuitous. There has been a lot of confusion over what to call me. My wife has had quite a bit of success with, “Hey you.” As in “Hey you, get off the computer before your dinner gets cold.” And “Hey, you better look at the garbage disposal. I think it just fell off the bottom of the sink.” It had. (Note for future plumbers, garbage disposals actually just twist on and off. So don’t twist unless you want it off.) I actually answer to either Jeff or Scott, but not J. I’ll do another blog soon explaining in mind-numbing detail how I came to be the two named wonder.

#2 The second highest search is not surprisingly, “getting published with Shadow Mountain.”

If I could guarantee this, I would be able to make a living just off author fees. As I’ve said many times before, Shadow Mountain rocks. They are a great publisher. I can’t guarantee they’ll publish you. But I can provide a little additional information.

Shadow Mountain is the national imprint of Deseret Book. They are both based out of the same headquarters, but although DB is a primarily LDS (Mormon) publisher, SM is not. The books they publish are national content sold in bookstores across the US. Some of their most successful books have included the Fablehaven Series and several books by author Jason Wright, including The Wednesday Letters and The Christmas Jar. Both Wright and Mull have hit the NYT bestseller lists.

Shadow Mountain is open to both mainstream and YA novels. They do not require an agent, but they will work with agents. In the YA market, they will consider fantasy and non-fantasy works. One thing to be aware of when submitting to Shadow Mountain is that, although they do not want religious specific content, they are still looking at books with family content (no language, gore, sex, etc.) You can find more info at http://www.shadowmountain.com/

#3 Chris Schoebinger

Chris is the head honcho at Shadow Mountain. He is an incredibly savvy guy, and can take credit for much of the success at Shadow Mountain. Very sharp on all aspects of publishing and marketing. A little goofy, but hey aren’t we all? (Just kidding Chris, if you’re you know, reading this.) Chris does not take submissions directly but is very involved in acceptance down the road.

#4 Magic tour blogspot

Hmmm. Confusing. Are we taking about a blogspot for magic tours or a magic tour of blogspots? I’ll just assume it was someone checking on my Find Your Magic blogspot tour. At the end of my tour I’ll do a full recap with stats, numbers, and impressions.

#5 I look like John Depp

It’s true. I’m not gonna lie. I get confused for him a lot. When, you know, I wonder aimlessly around Tortugas with a bottle of Rum in my hand.

#6 How to do Savage magic tricks.

Talk a lot and try to say funny things to the audience so no one notices you are a lousy magician. There’s a reason I turned to writing.

#7 What monster is best for magic finding?

Trolls. Definitely trolls. Or ogres. Actually water elementals have incredible finding powers. But they don’t really count as monsters.

#8 Find your magic savage.

Look in the last place you left him.

#9 Are magic hooks any good?

No. But magic worms will keep you catching big mouth bass all day.

#10 Perfect publisher vanity

Well clearly it would have lots of room for books, a place for red pens, and a big mirror. Because editors have big egos. Unlike us humble writers.

#11 Lisa Mangum

Lisa actually held the number one spot for quite a while. But after the whole burger-gate incident, she’s really dropped in the polls. I’ve heard she’s looking for a new image consultant. Lisa is the real brains behind Shadow Mountain and she saved me from having to do something to my first chapter that I really didn’t want. All hail Queen Mangum.

We also have two new stops on the blog tour:

Kyle wrote a maniacal review at his blog Book Review Maniac

Jaime Theler nearly got me killed by falling off ancient ruins or getting swatted by an angry German. You can read her review here. And our fun Q&A here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Confession Time

Okay, I have a confession to make. No this doesn’t have anything to do with the potato I stuck in James Dashner’s exhaust pipe. Really sorry about the muffler, man, but it probably needed to go anyway. And this isn’t about those anonymous Go Farworld! signs someone has been plastering all over neighborhood garages. (I think that might have been Brian.) And it definitely doesn't have anything to do with that picture of Margaret Thatcher, that I added just because I had no other odd pictures on hand.

No this actually has to do with the wonderful post Kerry Blair, a good friend and excellent author, posted about the ten books you should read before you die. Before I make my confession, let me just say that I am probably the wrong person to ask this question. When people interviewing me ask what one book I would take to a deserted island, my first response is, “A book that would tell me how to get off the island, silly. Something like Deserted Islands for Dummies.” I’m also really bad at things like the live-each-day-like-it-was-your-last philosophy. I tend to agree with Lucy when she has this conversation with Sally in “You’re a Good Man Charley Brown.”

[SALLY]
You know, someone said that we should live every day as if it were the last day of our life.

[LUCY (passing by and overhearing)]Aaugh! This is the last day!! This is it!! I only have twenty-four hours left!! Help me! Help me! This is the lastday!! Aaugh!

[SALLY]Clearly, some philosophies aren't for all people.And that's my new philosophy!

With that forewarning, I confess that if I knew I was going to die in x amount of time, and I could only read ten books before I die, those books would be far more likely to include a fantasy novel than say, Dante’s Inferno. I wouldn’t even give a thought to Shakespeare, but I would probably buy the newest Dean Koontz novel. At least one of the ten would be a graphic novel and there might even be some—shudder—horror. Does that make me shallow? I’m sure it must. But you know what? I just don’t care. Yes there are times I read for deep meaning. You know like when I’m stuck in the dentist’s office and it’s taking forever, and the only thing in the lobby is a pristine copy of Hemingway’s short stories.

But in general I read to be amused. I read to be uplifted. I read to be inspired. And, as good as Grapes of Wrath is (I’m not kidding here. I really do like Grapes of Wrath in a sick and twisted sort of way.) it doesn’t pass the time the way something like “Life Expectancy” does. And it certainly isn’t uplifting. I know, I know, we’re talking “Masters” here. Writers with standing and gravitas draining out their long dead ear holes. But I don’t read to be impressed and I definitely don’t read to impress. I actually did buy a book of Somerset Maugham stories to read on my last trip. And I tried. I really tried to get into them. But I kept looking at what my kids were reading with great envy. Finally when they fell asleep, I ditched SM and started reading Star Wars.

The other day, a wonderful young woman, and teacher to be, listed her top ten books. An anonymous poster rediculed the list--presumably because it contained too much genre fiction. But as soon as I read that list, I thought, “This is the woman I want teaching my kids.” See here’s the thing. She listed books like “The Uglies” and “Harry Potter” and “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” In other words books that my kids would “get.” Books that would lift them to new heights, give them dreams, introduce them to new worlds. Books they could get into right away and enjoy. If my kids have a teacher who knows how good “The Uglies” is, I have no worries about my kids learning to read.

Now I’m not saying there isn’t a place for more weighty volumes. I mean shouldn’t college students have to suffer at least a little to get to wear the goofy caps and gowns and put letters after their name other than WAS HERE? There’s nothing like a college level literature appreciation class to make you appreciate that you don’t have to read literature all the time. And maybe it will even teach you something other than the fact that Tolstoy seriously needed some St John’s Wart.

What I am saying is that all too often we feel that reading should be work. We should preferably be reading the scriptures, and if not those, than non-fiction. But if you have to read fiction, make sure that is historically accurate, or better yet, so old it actually is history. Next time you see someone over thirty with a fantasy or Sci-Fi novel in their hand—or heaven forbid, a romance—ask them what they are reading. Watch how they blush, and kind of wave away the book as if they’d just found it abandoned on a bus station bench, and are on their way to the trash with it.

But then say, “Oh, I love that book.” And watch how quickly they open up. A fellow degenerate. Next thing you know, you’ll be discussing the difference between Stephen Donaldson and Tolkien. You’ll be comparing Card to Heinlein. You won’t need to pretend that you prefer to go to bed with a copy of 16th Century Politics and It’s Effect on Modern American Economic Psychology. You can even admit that you’ve read all the Harry Potter books, and the Redwall books—twice.

Yeah, I know I’ll never earn the accolades of the New Yorker, and my mansion in heaven will probably be a little on the small side. But it will be lined with bookshelves from top to bottom, and they will ALL be books I like. I may let my grandkids come over and read them occasionally. Heck, I’ll bet would even like Hemmingway would like to read Dean Koontz, now that he’s sober.
I'm also excited to post several new stops on my tour. It's not every day you get to discuss things like having an extra eyeball in your pocket. Enjoy!

Sarah posted a great review on her blog Toddler Drama. Sarah is a talented writer, photographer, and graphic artist. As well as being the sister of some schlep of a writer names Dashner.

Next I got to go to Disneyworld with one of my most long-time fans, Brian at Bookworm. We had a fun interview and got to watch the fireworks from the Big Thunder Railroad. My stomach is feeling much better now.

You can read a fun review of Farworld by the wonderful Reader Rabbit the 2nd here.

Or you can drop by Mrs. Magoo as seen on TV, for her review at Mrs. Magoo Reads.

Qu Grainne and I had a chance to swap stories at the Alterra – Humboldt CafĂ©. You can read about it all here.

Gamila of Gamila’s Review and I chatted as we floated along the Avon River. You can read of Q&A here. And her interview here.

Trish and I had a had a ball at Hey Lady Whatcha Readin’? Check out her interview and review, and wish her congratulations on her recent nuptials.

Queen of Chaos and her 11 year-old son read my book togther. You can read her review and interview here.

And last, but certainly not least, (as she would tell you herself) the charming, talented, lovely, and writeaholic, Tristi Pinkston wrote a stellar review and interview on families.com here and here. (Did I get in all the superlatives you asked for Tristi? J )

Thanks all. This has been a riot.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Book Stuff and Protagonists

Just got back from meeting with Chris, Angie, Patrick, and Roberta, at Shadow Mountain headquarters. For those of you who haven’t been there, it’s right across from Temple Square in Salt Lake. Next door is where they are rebuilding the whole downtown mall area. I could sit in their conference room all day and watch the construction equipment work. What is it about watching other people work that is so relaxing? Apparently I’m becoming enough of a regular now that the older gentleman at the front desk recognizes me. (Hey, I’ll take whatever fleeting fame I can get!)

Anyway, the purpose of the meeting was to finalize my tour schedule, go over my school presentation, and—as a surprise—they gave me an actual dust jacket for Water Keep. Whoo hoo!
So here’s the official tour schedule. September 22 and 23rd I will be in Houston. On the 24th and 25th, I will be in Phoenix. And the 26th I will be in Portland. The following week I will be in Pleasant Hill, Ca, Roseville, CA, and Bountiful, Utah. This is still subject to a little bit of change, but if any of you are in those areas and would like to schedule an event, let me know. Also if you have contacts in the PTA in those areas, that would be much appreciated! I can’t wait. I will definitely be doing more visits during the year, so if you’ve got a great idea about where I should come, let me know.

The next thing on the agenda was my school presentation. This involved doing magic tricks in front of the whole crew, telling stories of my misspent youth, and dressing Patrick and Roberta up in capes and top hats. I have to admit the last part was pretty fun. Still working out the details of the presentation. But I can tell you it will include this picture of yours truly and his cousin. (Okay, I’ll admit it’s a pretty goofy pic. But at least it wasn’t as bad as an author who shall remain nameless. His childhood pics were apparently so bad they were pulled, for fear of frightening small children.)

Finally I got to see my actual dust jacket today. I keep running my fingers over the embossed lettering and sighing. Not sure what the other employees in my office think about this as they are keeping a provident distance.

The last item I wanted to discuss is what makes a good protagonist. Recently I posted about the ten top movie villains and got some great feedback about what makes a good villain. It was interesting how many of the best villains are women. Kathy Bates—shudder. You liked villains that weren’t as expected. Voice of the villain seemed to be a big deal, as was believable motivation.

So what makes a good protagonist? Does he or she have to be likeable? Or do we just need to empathize with them? I’m rereading Lord Foul’s bane. The protagonist, Thomas Covenant is really kind of a jerk. I mean he rapes an innocent young woman shortly after arriving in the fantasy world. But yet, we see what has turned him into such an unlikable person. His leprosy has alienated him from people so much, that the girls’ acceptance basically breaks him.

What makes a good protagonist for you?

Oh, and also a couple more fun stops on the blog tour:

Rachelle and I floated down the Snake River. If you can't tell from my books, I've got a little thing about snakes. Hope the name isn't because of the reptiles! You can read our Q&A at Rachelle Writes

An interview with the my friend and fellow author Marsha Ward of Writer in the Pines

An interview with Jewel of Jewel's World

An interview with Dominique of The Book Vault

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Best Villians and More Tour

So apparently Moviefone has come up with their list of the top ten movie villains of all time. Cool. In my mind, the first character that popped into my head was Norman Bates. Especially considering when Psycho came out, he was the creepiest of the creepy. I think what sold me on him was that he killed pretty much whoever dropped by. Nothing personal, just doing my job. Slash, slash, slash. But then, the whole mother twist at the end. I had lots of bad dreams about him. So I was sure he would be one of the top ten, if not number one.

But then I see the list, and he doesn’t even make it. What? How can that be? That’s like leaving The Babe out of the MLB hall of fame. It’s like forgetting Queen in the list of the best rock bands. It’s like not including Harry Potter in the best fantasy books. Ahh, but there’s our problem. Harry Potter trumps all. So the top movie villain, hold your breath if you haven’t already heard, is . . .



Voldemort? What? Really? Voldemort is the BEST movie villain of all time? Are you kidding me? Okay, the dude was a pretty good villain in books. And he was okay in the movies. But are you telling me he was scarier than Nazgul in LOTR? Are you telling me he was meaner than Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty? This woman put a family's daughter to sleep for 100 years. Talk about rude!

I don’t buy it, but here’s their list.

1. Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter - Ralph Fiennes

I’ve said enough about this. Bad choice. Not even the best villain in the last ten years.

2. Darth Vader, Star Wars -James Earl Jones, Hayden Christensen

Who’s going to argue with this? Dude was a GREAT villain.

3. Wicked Witch Of The West, The Wizard Of Oz - Margaret Hamilton

Don’t know that I’d put her near this high. But yeah, she and her flying monkeys gave me some pretty bad nightmares.

4. Hannibal Lecter, Silence Of The Lambs - Anthony Hopkins

Oh yeah. Waaayyyy creepy. He is in my top ten. Although the guy who was taking the girls and sewing their skin was also pretty nasty.

5. Joker, The Dark Knight - Heath Ledger

Okay, I have a big problem here. He can make the list next year. But this list was made before the movie even came out. You can’t put a guy in the HOF before he even comes up to bat. Even if he is great. The entertainment world is going to miss him, but no sentimental vote here.

6. Goldfinger, Goldfinger - Gert Frobe

Huh? Nope. Lots of better villains, even in the Bond movies alone. I personally thought the Jaws character was pretty good.

7. Chigurgh, No Country For Old Men - Javier Bardem

No comment. Haven’t seen it.

8. Hans Gruber, Die Hard - Alan Rickman

Another swing and a miss. No idea why he made the list.

9. Max Cady, Cape Fear – Robert De Niro

Okay. He was scary.

10. The Queen, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs- Lucille La Verne

Base hit. But I think a homer would have been Maleficent. I mean, dude, she could turn into a dragon!

So who were your favorite movie villains? And just for fun, who are you favorite book villains. I’d have to put the clown from IT pretty high on my list. Bonus question, what makes a good villian for you?

In blog tour news, I’ve been having a ball globe trotting and doing virtual interviews. Here are some more of the tour stops.

Jessica at The Blue Stocking Society joined me in Park City

Kimberly of Temporary? Insanity fattened me up on fondue.

Anna Hedges joined me for a fun Q&A on her blog ThE bLoG oF A. e. heDgES

Karlene of Ink Splasher and I ate fruit and listened to the dawn chimes sing.

“Weston” Elliott and I hung out in Farworld. You can read her Q&A and review at Wendword

Heather Justesen did a review on her blog, and will be doing a Q&A shortly

G Parker and I got to hang out at her sister’s cabin at Fish Lake. You can read about it at Musings From an LDS Writing Mom

And Mikaela did a review at her blog

Thanks so much to everyone who is taking part. If you have posted a review or interview and I missed you, please let me know. If you have sent me questions that I haven’t answered. I’m hurrying. I promise!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Flying the Not-So-Friendly Skies

I think that I quite possibly have the worst airplane luck of anyone I know. Not that all my flights are bad. And I’ve never been in an actual crash, thank heavens. But it’s just that I’ve never met anyone with so many bizarre airplane stories. Now this might have something to do with the fact that I’ve logged nearly 600,000 miles with Delta alone—probably 1 million total miles over the last 15 years or so. But it doesn’t seem like enough to justify all the weird things I’ve seen. I mean I’ve driven tons and tons of miles and I don’t have hardly any driving stories. But flight stories? Here are a few examples.

Once I was on a plane that was getting ready to close the doors and pull out onto the tarmac, when this guy who looked remarkably like Owen Wilson boards. He seemed like a nice enough guy. Maybe a little weird, but nice. As he gets on, he heads to his seat which was 16D singing, “Ah, sweet, sweet 16. I love 16.” So people generally smile and carry on. After he sits down, he leans across the aisle to these two older women and says, “How are you two lovely ladies?” They laugh, blush, you know. He starts chatting with them, and turns the conversation to God, saying something to the effect of, “Have you discovered God? Because I wouldn’t fly anywhere without him. I know God. Do you know God?”

By now the ladies are starting to get a little uncomfortable. They try to ignore him, so he starts talking to the whole plane, shouting that he has been saved and the plane needs to be saved too. Quickly a flight attendant approaches him and asks him to keep his voice down. He gets this little embarrassed smile and whispers an apology. Then as she starts to walk away he shouts, “Because I wouldn’t want to bother anyone with God would I? I wouldn’t want to bother anyone!” Shortly thereafter he was escorted off the plane by a nice security officer. Turns out he was supposed to be on some medication that he had stopped taking.

Then there was the husband and wife who boarded the plane with their three small children. I was on one aisle, the husband, sat on the other, and the three children sat between us. The wife sat one row back. When I offered to change seats with her, she smiled sweetly and said, “No thanks.” About half an hour into the flight, the kids wanted hot chocolate to drink. The flight attendant put all the drinks on the father’s tray and said, “These are very, very, hot.” So of course the dad hands them right over to his kids, the youngest takes a big gulp and begins screaming wildly—and understandably. I turned back to the mother who was reading a book and offered again to let her come up and help with her child. Another smile. Another, “No thanks.”

That was a long flight. But not as long as the flight I took where I was given the last seat on a flight that left a few hours earlier than the one I had originally scheduled. First, I have to point out that I have a semi-serious case of claustrophobia. I can go in an elevator, plane, etc. But caves are generally out, and anything where I start to feel cramped can get pretty bad pretty quick. So it turns my seat is in the very last row in the plane. It only has seats on one side of the plane, and only two seats, as there is a lavatory across from it. I am given the window seat back where the plane starts to narrow. Not good, as I am already going to be pushed up against the side of the plane. Hopefully I have a small person sitting next to me. Can you see this coming?

Have you ever seen those 18 inch seat belt extenders? Well this guy needed two. I have nothing against big people, but this guy could not—and did not—fit in one seat. Instantly I am smashed between him and the side of the plane. My first—and wisest thought—was to get off right then. The two reasons I didn’t were that it was only about an hour and a half flight, and I couldn’t think of a polite way to tell this guy I was leaving. During the flight, I managed to lose myself in a pretty good book, and I did okay. Right up until we landed and taxied to the gate.

As soon as we reached the gate, though, the engines shut down and all that nice moving air stopped. This is not good for claustrophobics. We need moving air. Of course everyone with an aisle seat stood up—except for my friend. Now I am counting down the minutes, watching as each row exits. I’m sweating like crazy and trying not to begin pounding the guy next to me, when a man opens an overhead bin and a metal briefcase falls out and knocks a woman unconscious. You think I’m making this up? I wish.

We were stuck on the plane for an extra half hour with no moving air, while they brought on a backboard to carry the woman off. And not once did the guy beside me even offer to move. I know, I know, the woman with the head wound was worse off. But I would gladly have been the one knocked out if given the choice.

I also had a flight redirected over the Atlantic after a truly terrible and possible fatal accident with a cart elevator. You really don’t want to know the details on that. I’ve been on many, many flights where they asked if there were doctors on board. I’ve got tons of these stories.

So yesterday when I had a perfectly good first class upgraded seat on a 7:30 flight from JFK to Salt Lake, you would have thought I’d stick with it. But the Delta agent at the airport assured me I could catch the 3:30 flight. She even changed my ticket so I’d get another first class seat. Of course when they actually filled the flight, somehow my first class seat disappeared. “I don’t know who told you that, honey. But you’ll lucky to get on this plane at all.”

“What seat did I get?” you ask. Middle seat, non-reclining in the back of the plane. As I am the last person to board, I ask the smiling flight attendant if there is room in the overheads for my duffle bag or could I put it in the front closet? (I pack light and I don’t check bags unless I have to. Want to talk lost bag stories?) She assures me there is room for my duffle bag and computer bag in the back. That’s fine. But as I start by, the other flight attendant gives me a wink and moves some things in the closet so I can put it in.

“Thanks,” I whisper. “You are awesome,” as she tucks the bag down. Five minutes after I am seated, here comes the first attendant with my bag. She gives me a glare, opens an overhead compartment and literally throws it in.

“Is there a problem?” I ask.

“When I tell you not to use the closet,” she says, with a really dirty look, “don’t try to sneak your bag in.”

“I didn’t sneak it in,” your other attendant told me I could.

“I just asked her and she said she didn’t”

“Why else would I put it there? I brought my computer bag back here. I wouldn’t open the closet myself.”

“I have no idea why you did? I told you not to use it and you did anyway!”

At this point everyone is staring at me, and I’m thinking about the scene where Adam Sandler is escorted off the plane in “Anger Management.” “That’s fine,” I say. “Apparently I misunderstood.” I open my book and look up to see that she is just standing there scowling at me.

So eventually she leaves. But once the flight starts, I discover I am seated next to the incredible peeing man. He doesn’t look like he weighs more than a hundred pounds or so, but every ½ hour he nudges me and says, “Excuse me.” Then I and the French girl who speaks no English have to get out of our seats and wait while he hits the lavatory. At least it is close by. Right behind us in fact, with all its unique smells.

But all that was okay. Because I had just purchased a new book at the airport bookshop. It was a horror novel. A “national bestseller, now a major motion picture.” Stephen King proclaimed it, “The best horror novel of the new century.” And it’s even a whopping 500+ pages. How can you argue with that? It turns out this book is all about a bunch of people trapped on a hill with a horrible, intelligent, killer . . . vine.

I kid you not. A vine, for crying out loud. And kind of a stupid killer vine from what I can see. I mean, it grows everywhere—except on this clear path that it leaves for walking. It’s smart enough to tear down the warning signs other people put up, it’s fast enough to catch buttons out of thin air, and it’s hungry enough to slurp up a puddle of vomit when a girl throws up on the trail. But somehow it’s not smart enough to just wrap you up and eat when you tromp through the middle of it. And from what I can tell, it also does impressions of cell phones, and birds. Although I still haven’t figured out how it manages to makes these sounds since it has no vocal cords of any kind. To give Smith, who I hear is a great writer, the benefit of the doubt. I have not finished the book, so maybe it has a great ending. I like the beginning a lot. But come on. 300 pages of people whining about a vine? Oohhhhhhhh.

Yeah, well, rush right out and buy your own copy of “The Ruins” by Scott Smith if you are into killer vines. But if an older flight attendant from New York offers to let you put your bag in the front closet, just say, “No.”

Monday, July 7, 2008

Tour, Tour, Tour

Hope everybody had a great weekend. I had a chance to hang with most of the relatives on my side of the family, cooking burgers and shooting off fireworks. And I only came away with a few minor burns on the backs of my hands and one on top of my head. Okay, so maybe I stay a little too long trying to light just one more firework as the others are starting up. For those of you sending me questions, I’m catching up as fast as I can. But keep them coming because I’m having a ball answering them.

I just heard from my publisher that the blue lines are done and the books are actually in the process of being printed and bound. I’ve got a book show signing scheduled for early August and they are hoping I’ll have hard copies by then. Whoo hoo! Can’t wait. I’m even officially listed on Shadow Mountain’s web site. No reviews from the big boys yet, but all the feedback I’m getting is positive. The only real negative I’m hearing is that the pace of book one is so fast there is not as much time to get to know the characters and the Dark Circle as people would like.

I don’t plan to slow down the pace in book two, but I am going to provide a lot more meat to Kyja, Marcus, and the bad guys. In a way it is shaping up a little like HP 4, which was my favorite HP book. The plan is to get it to my editor by the end of August/Early September. Speaking of early September, we are finalizing the two week book tour and should have firm dates and locations soon.

Here are the newest reviews on the tour.

Jewel from Jewel’s World who I had the pleasure of writing a blurb for recently. If you haven’t read her blog, you should. She really is a jewel.

KT at What KT Reads wrote a great review and will be doing a Q&A soon.

Sandra, Ethan, and James at The Dance went rafting on the Provo River with me. Which was a ball, until James pushed me out of the raft. We’re going to have words.

Danyelle of Queen of the Clan and I got to hang in her newly remodeled kitchen. (check out the pics of it!)

Candace Salima and I hung out in her newly remodeled blog at Dream a Little Dream.

And Christine at She Reads Books gave me a review of more than her first six word review.

Wait, just added one more!! How could I have forgotten my trek into the Australian Outback with the lovely and talented, T. For her blog You Asked For It? It was a lot of fun.

Thanks everybody! You all are awesome!!!!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independance Day! & More Stops on the Tour

I’ve read many wonderful blogs today, recognizing the freedoms we have and the people who have sacrificed so much to protect that freedom. I know there is a lot of division in our country, maybe more so than at any time since the civil war. But as long as we can all unite on days like today in support of the many good things we have and the right of people to say what they think and stand up for what they believe, I think we’ll be okay.

I know that for me personally, I couldn’t be more proud to recognize over two hundred years of freedom. I’m proud of the many cultures, races, religions, and beliefs that can all survive and thrive in a single country. I’m proud that I can go to schools around the country and tell children that they can become anything they set their minds to and know it is absolutely true.

With all of our flaws, warts, and freckles, I’m proud to call the US home. Even if we don’t have Wonder Bars and Ketchup Chips. That was for you, Canada. Sorry I missed your Canada Day celebration. I was thinking about you. For the rest of you outside the US, let me know anytime you’re in the Utah area and I’ll take you all out for a burger and fries (with that unique Utah conglomeration known as fry sauce.) Those of you outside the US and Canada, what is your equivalent of Independence Day?

Here are two more blogs that I had a chance to visit.

Teacher Tasses did a great review over at Let the Wild Rumpus Start. She’ll be doing a cool interview and contest later. She’s also going to create a literature teaching guide for grades 3-6. Can’t wait to see it.

I also visited with the lovely and talented author, Shirley Bahlmann. We did our Q&A at the bottom of the lake in Water Keep no less. Let me just say in fair warning that Shirley is at least as weird as me. And I mean that in the nicest way. Check her blog Shirley Bahlmann Bizz, then check out her books. She is a great writer!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

And We're Off!

The FARWORLD BLOG TOUR is officially under way. (Like how I put it all in caps? Makes it look more official. Can’t you just hear the bugles and drums?) But before I take you on a whirlwind tour involving much eating, drinking, reading, and generally being merry, I thought I’d answer a question quite a few people have been asking me.

Basically the question comes down to how do you feel about getting feedback from readers/editors/reviewers?

I think that learning how to request and handle feedback both positive and negative is one of the hardest things for new writers to master. They tend to overreact to both the positive and the negative. Combine that with the fact that often they don’t even know what they want when they ask for feedback and you can see where it’s easy for them to get their feelings hurt.

The first thing a writer has to understand is the level and type of feedback they are getting. I think I’ve pointed this out before, but I am not an expert on art. Not even close. But I have a co-worker who is. He graduated from a prestigious art school. He is an amazing painter. If he and I were to look at the same painting, we would each be entitled to our opinions. But, and this is key, my opinion would the opinion of an art patron. His opinion would be that of an artist. Neither is more valuable in and of itself, but they are definitely different. Let me explain.

Ultimately the person who matters most is the reader. That is who my responsibility is to. If most readers don’t “get” my story, I have failed, not the readers. Much as I want and would be thrilled by nominations, awards, and positive reviews from prestigious publications like Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, ALA, etc, what matters most to me is what the readers think. So I am every bit as thrilled by a 13 year-old girl who loves my book as I am by a big publication.

I also realize though, that not all readers are going to like my book. Some will be the wrong audience. But some will just have different tastes. Just for fun, I looked up the first books in several best selling series. Harry Potter got 68 one star reviews. Twilight 87. Artemis Fowl 58. In fact the more successful you are, the more likely you are to get a significant number of negative reviews, just by sheer numbers. The key is to focus on what people liked and what they didn’t like, determine what if anything you’d like to change in the next book, and move on. You can’t please everyone.

When it comes to constructive criticism, I place a lot more credit with professionals in the publishing industry: editors, other authors, and book reviewers. Because they read many books and understand the process of creating a good story, I want their brutal opinion. I don’t want them to hold back. I will usually let them know whether I am looking for a content edit, a writing edit, or a line edit. It’s not that their opinion is any more important than an average reader, but they can not only tell me what they liked and disliked, they can suggest why something did or didn’t work.

My suggestion for beginning writers? Don’t ask for brutal critiques at first. That’s hard on even the most successful writer’s ego, and you haven’t built up enough thick skin yet. Instead, ask people to tell you what they liked. Ask them what characters they felt were the most real. Ask them where they felt the most attached to the story. Once you’ve received enough positive feedback to convince you your story is not a piece of garbage, ask them what parts they thought were slow or which characters they didn’t relate to as well.

When you’ve received feedback from enough people you will be able to decide for yourself what areas need work, and where you have got it down right.

I know this sounds like I am setting you up for a bunch of bad reviews on the tour. But that’s really not the case. In fact, I’ve been delighted by all the positive feedback and excited to hear what people wanted to see improved. So let’s jump in.

For my first stop, I jetted out to Washington state where Annaliese and I had a wonderful meal in the Space needle. You can read her review and our Q&A on her blog, Life of a Story Engineer.

Next on the tour is She Reads Books, where Christine did six word reviews of her June books

Over at The Lyon’s Tale, Annette Lyon gave away all my innermost secrets

Then I raced all the way up to Canada for a gondola ride. (But don’t be thinking boats and long poles) with Melanie Nielson at The Nielson Family

Finally I enjoyed a . . . hearty? . . . meal with Murph of From the Mind of Murph at Darrow’s Bar & Grill, Home of the 10 Pound Haggis. Ummmm.

I’ve also had several fun reviews over at Goodreads.

Thanks everyone for the excellent reviews and fun content. There are lots more on the way, and nearly all of these blogs are doing contests.

PS Also wanted to wish a hearty congrats to my good friend James Dashner who just sold a book I happen to love called Maze Runner. You can read the details of his deal over at his blog, The Dashner Dude.