Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Today is my birthday! To celebrate, I'm giving away a gift to YOU!

A $25 gift certificate to Amazon or Barnes and Noble--your choice--delivered straight to your inbox.

As per the usual blog contest stuff, here's the scoop:

One entry if you follow me.
One more if you post this contest on your blog.
One more if you tweet about this contest.
One more if you follow me on twitter. @juliedaines

Up to four entries per person. Just post in the comments how many entries you have scored along with the links to them for verification.
(Link for blog entries. If you follow me on twitter or @ me, Twitter will notify me.)

Sunday, February 5, 2012, 10 PM Mountain Time is the cut-off for entry.


Wait! There's more! As a special surprise to me--which is quite amazing considering this all happened randomly--I received two--count 'em TWO--blog awards. My birthday keeps getting better and better!

Here they are, in the order I received them:

I received this from a cool writer I recently met (virtually) named Nikki Jefford. She's a great lady and has had lots of amazing experiences. Thanks Nikki!

In keeping with the general rules of blog awards, here how this blog award goes down:

  1. In a post on your blog, nominate 15 sister bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award. (Fifteen isn’t mandatory, but it’s a nice gesture. Try and pick at least five.)
  2.  In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.
  3.  In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you with a link back to their blog.
  4.  In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
  5.  In the same post, include this set of rules.
  6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

The lucky recipients of The Versatile Blogger Award are:
  • The Utah Children's Writers. I hope its not cheating because I'm a member of this blog. But this blog has lots of great advice for writers of picture books, middle grade, and young adult writers. 
  • Brooke at Silver Lining. Brooke is not a writer, but her posts are beautifully written and fun to read.
  • Taffy at Taffy's Writing. She's always got something fun on her blog.
  • Sarah M. Eden. I don't know if Sarah is collecting blog awards because she's already a big-time author, but I had to give her one anyway. Her I Need Friends Friday interviews are some of the most hilarious stuff out there in the blogoshpere. And her books are awesome too.
  • Jonene at The Wonderful Obsessions. She not only writes great stories, but she has cool step by step instructions of watercolor painting.
And to answer step 4: share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.

Well, since this is already too long, please click on the tab above entitled The Story of Me. Scroll past the boring bio and skip straight to Things I've done. There's lots of random stuff there! Trust me.

Award #Two:

I received this from the awesome Shell Flower at Tangent Shell. She's got a fun blog where she talks about writing, reading, and all kinds of interesting stuff! Thanks Shell!

Once again, the rules:

The rules are simple: Name 5 blogs with under 200 followers that are totally awesome and deserve the award. Link to those five blogs, as well as the blogger who awarded the award, and let your picks know they are the winners. Share the love and help an undiscovered blog find the readership it deserves. Yet another reason the blogging community rocks!

Here are my 5 blog choices.
  • Tiffany over at Scribble by Moonlight. She is a wonderful author who has put writing on hiatus to work a day job, but she still reviews lots of great YA fiction.
  • Yamile at The Che Boricuas. An amazing writer from Argentina who writes the most beautiful stories in English! 
  • Jamie Theler is a super writer and she helps organize one of the best local writer's conferences, LDStorymakers.
  • T.J. at They Won't Get Us. He writes and posts these crazy and scary short stories about zombies and other horrors. The babysitter one freaked me out.
  • Valynne. Another very talented writer who also posts slices of the hilarity of parenthood. 

Whew! That was a lot of work. Thanks to everyone for the awards!

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Glue In Your Story

I figure it's time for a serious post about writing, so here's a little something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

One element in story crafting that I frequently find missing is cohesion. Each story needs a few elements that bind it all together and carry the protagonist--and the reader--through to the end.

For some reason, I find that adventure type books struggle the most with this problem. Often, the main character sets off on the adventure, but it feels more like they are strolling through some kind of museum. They wander along the hero's path, going from one interesting scene to the next. It feels like a series of random events that happen to the main character.

So the question is, how do we keep our story unified?

There are many ways, but here are a few to get you thinking:

The Main Character's Goals Must Be the Driving Force: Whatever it is that the main character wants, that should be what influences all their choices and actions.

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy's goal is to go home. It is what motivates everything she does. In The Hunger Games, Katniss wants to protect her sister Prim. That is why she volunteers for the games, and that is why she wants to win the games, so Prim is not left alone with a wacky mother.

This is perhaps the most important element in cohesion. If your main character's object of desire (goal) is not present throughout the story, the reader will loose interest. Why is he/she doing this? If we don't know, we don't care.

The Threat of the Villain: Keep the threat of the villain ever present and constantly hanging over the hero's head.

JK Rowling did a great job with this throughout SEVEN Harry Potter novels, always upping the stakes with each one. Never once do we forget He Who Must Not Be Named lurking in the back of Harry's mind. And, every other "mini-villain" Harry faces ties back to Voldemort in some way, such as Draco Malfoy and Professor Umbrage.

Not only should the villain be always present, but what's at stake as well. What happens if the villain wins?

Keep the Main Conflict Front and Center: This is good for books that are not adventure stories and don't have a specific "villain," like Twilight. Not much happens in the story, but the conflict is always there, hanging over Bella's head--forbidden love, is he or is he not going to eat her.

I've named only three. What other elements of cohesion can you think of?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Favorite Character Contest

I'm participating in a blogfest in which I get to highlight one of my favorite characters I've ever written.

If that isn't a hard enough decision... I'm not at all good at picking favorites. My kids always ask me what's my favorite movie/song/food/color/... I can never choose!

Anyway, I've decided for this fest to go with Scarlett: a blind girl who has been kidnapped from London. What's been fun about writing Scarlett is that she speaks with a lot of British colloquialisms. She's a small girl with a big personality.

Here are a few of her lines:

"All parents are berks."

"We're here to gen up, savvy?"

"Pull yer finger out."

And the always classic, "Right you are, Guv'nah."

She makes a fun contrast to the stoic American kid who's trying to help her.

Thanks for stopping by and if you follow me, I will always return the favor!

*Click on the button above for full details and to sign up. You could win a critique from Melanie Billings, Acquisitions Editor at Whiskey Creek Press and other cool prizes.

Monday, January 16, 2012

VP: Vampire Preparedness

As promised, a post on Vampires.

Everyone knows not all vampires are bad. They all need blood to survive, so keep that inconvenience in mind before settling down with one.

Vampires are hot. However, it's important to remember not to confuse good looking with good. If you do come across an evil one, you must be prepared.

The number one rule of course: never invite them inside. Once invited across your threshold, they can enter anytime they wish. Garlic around any vulnerable entry points is a good idea.

Vampires are repelled by vervain. I drink vervain tea and always carry vervain lotion.

You are usually safe from vampire attacks in bright sunlight, as they seem to avoid it. However, using sunlight as a main form of defense can lead to skin cancer, so I don't recommend it.

If things get desperate, use a stake. I have a vampire stake, carved by my son and given to me as a mother's day gift. It says "Vampire's Bane" in Saxon. It's really cool.

Remember, all vampire stakes should be made of wood. Some people may tell you to use a silver stake, but they are probably a vampire in disguise. It must be wood because wood is alive, and only living material can kill the dead (or the undead, which is a confusing term because they are dead, just back alive--similar to a zombie, but better looking and better smelling.)

For more information on vampires and how to protect yourself, I recommend you read Bram Stoker's Dracula. It's the best and will teach you how they move in fog and can't cross rushing water except when the tide is out or something. And yes, I openly admit that I've been thoroughly entertained by Twilight, Moonlight the TV series, and a few episodes of Vampire Diaries.

Here is my awesome, crazy son who made the vampire stake, owns an anti-zombie gas mask, and is wearing--yes it's true--an authentic Russian ushenka hat.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How To Survive an Alien Invasion

I have at last come up with a viable and effective way to save mankind from a hostile alien invasion.
All we have to do is cover everything in that impossible-to-open plastic packaging. I believe the correct term is Rigid Plastic Clamshell Packaging.

No one can open it. The aliens will abandon the planet in frustration. They will try scissors, chainsaws, futuristic laser technology, and even mind control. But, alas, that form of packaging is unpenetrable.
Each year, millions of people suffer from the effects of wrap rage. We, the consumers, are fooling ourselves to think that because we buy a product we should be able to access said product.
Frustration isn't the only consideration, it can be dangerous as well. According to BBC, over 67,000 people injure themselves every year in the struggle against clamshell packaging.

And now to add insult to injury:
"Hard to open packaging isn't just a dangerous nuisance, it discriminates against the weak," said Valery McConnell, editor of Yours Magazine.
In a world of equal rights and political correctness, should we be made to suffer such discrimination?

Below is a link to a top secret site with valuable information. After years of research and siphoning government money, WikiHow has developed a few methods to aid in the removal of plastic packaging. However, the aliens MUST NOT SEE THIS. (Click Here)

So there you have it. The next time you curse and cut yourself attempting the impossible--opening a plastic package, you can take some small comfort knowing that in the end, it will save the world.

Follow this link to read how I singlehandedly save the world from Zombies!

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 - The Year in Preview

I know at this time of year, it's fashionable to look back fondly on all the of the magical moments of the past year.

But, I've never been big on nostalgia.

I prefer to look forward. So instead of a summary, I'm going to list my expectations for the coming year.

- I expect to be able to share some exciting news about one of the books I've written.

- I expect my oldest child to graduate from High School. (Yes, I'm that old!) And he'd better do it with honors after his crazy sleep deprivation project. And in conjunction with this, I expect some filling out of mission papers by the end of the year.

- I expect to take an amazing trip to England with the whole family. I figure this could be my last chance to show my kids all the places I know and love before they spread their wings and fly. 
Lindisfarne (source)
- I expect to lose 10 pounds before said trip. I know this doesn't sound like much, but I'm trying to be realistic.

- I expect the marriage of at least one of my nieces or nephews. So ya'll better get busy! And it better not be in June because I'm NOT canceling another trip for a wedding! Contact me privately if you're single and want a date with an awesome person!

- I expect the world NOT to end on December 21, 2012. Even if that was the plan, I think God wouldn't go through with it, just to show us who's in charge.
Mayan Calendar (source)
2012, here I come!