Thursday, December 30, 2010

Off the Shelf Challenge - My List

Off The Shelf!

Back in November I mentioned the Off the Shelf Challenge, and told you I'd let you know which 15 books I'll be reading throughout the coming year.  I'm pretty sure I'll read more than 15 books, but kept the list shorter just in case.  I work full time, am editing my book, will be querying for an agent for that book, and will soon start working on the first book in my soon-to-be Urban Fantasy trilogy.  I have to prioritize, right? 
With being an author, I also get to be an advocate of reading, so join me in the challenge.  Here are the details:

During the 2011 year, BA Reading Challenges has encouraged us to read your "To Be Read" books that are sitting on your shelf. Click on the Off the Shelf button on my sidebar to enter yourself or go to the following link to get more information:
  BA Reading Challenges: Off The Shelf Challenge

The Off The Shelf Challenge runs from January 1, 2011 through December 31st, 2011. The challenge is to read books you own, but haven't read yet. (I'm cheating a little on the challenge cause I don't own all of the books on my list.  No worries though.) The number of books you read is up to the challenge level that you choose (listed below).

Challenge Levels:

1. Tempted - choose 5 books to read
2. Trying - choose 15 books to read
3. Making a Dint - choose 30 books to read
4. On a Roll - choose 50 books to read
5. Flying Off - choose 75 books to read

For extra hard challenges:

6. Hoarder - choose 76-1 25 books to read
7. Buried - choose 126-200 books to read

My goal target is the "Trying" category, but hopefully I can try "Making a Dint" by reading more books. Here are the books I'll be reading (not necessarily in this order):

1. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
2. The Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
3. The Mortal Instruments: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
4. Dracula by Bram Stoker
5. Tara Road by Maeve Binchy
6. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
7. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
8. In the Woods by Tana French
9. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
10. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
11. Veronica Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
12. The Giver by Louis Lowry
13. The Rangers Apprentice - The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan
14. Falling Under by Gwen Hayes
15. Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

I'll write a review of the books here on my blog after I finish them.

Enjoy your day and have a Happy New Year! 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

1st Day of Christmas - The Countdown Concludes.

Just listen . . . Need I say more.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Friday, December 24, 2010

2nd Day of Christmas

U2 - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

Alas, we made it to my favorite of all (well, tomorrow's song is my favorite just for the message it shares).  Yep, there has to be a U2 song in here.  I'm sure you're not surprised.
My family is celebrating Christmas today.  I'm super excited to play with my nephews and niece and, of course, see the rest of my family.  
Check in tomorrow for the fav of all favs on my 12 days of Christmas blogging gift from me to you.

What's your favorite Christmas tradition?    

Thursday, December 23, 2010

3rd Day of Christmas

The Nativity and "Breath of Heaven" by Amy Grant

The first time I saw Breath of Heaven played in sync with the Nativity produced by the LDS Church, I was absolutely in awe.  I almost cried due to the spirit of Christ that it emulates.  The music follows the movie perfectly, but to my knowledge, it wasn't planned to be played together.  Anyway, I hope today's gift from me to you of the 12 Days of Christmas will bring the real spirit of Christmas--Jesus Christ's birth--into your heart and mind more fully. 

Merry Christmas!

PS: Tomorrow's song for Christmas is my absolute FAV! Plus, don't miss Christmas day's song; it will amaze you!  I was amazed.  Can't believe there is only 2 days left of my 12 Days of Christmas.  It has come and almost gone so fast.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

4th Day of Christmas

Celine Dion - Oh Holy Night

Six years ago, I lived in Taiwan. During Christmas time a group of my friend's and I performed at a shopping mall singing Christmas songs.  I was chosen to sing a solo of this song.  Admittedly, I was terrified to sing in front of a bunch of strangers.  I practiced a lot because I'm not the best of singers.  I sang well in the end, granted not as good as Celine Dion, but portrayed the spirit of Christmas through my menial efforts.  Ever since then, I have adored this song.  It delivers the message of the Jesus Christ's birth perfectly.  I hope that you all can adore Oh Holy Night as much as I do. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Elf Dancing with a Few Rockin' Men

It took me becoming an elf to meet these four guys that rock (some really do too).  I finally am found in Bono's arms at the end of the dance.  It was fun to learn how to dance with these men.  I think they enjoyed meeting me too.   

Merry Christmas Friends and Followers.

5th Day of Christmas

Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas

Ok, how can you not like this song?  It was for a good cause, and it has incredibly great 80's musicians in it like Bono and Sting. Hehe. Hey, that's not the only reason why I like the song.  The best part, other than Bono and Sting, is Boy George with the cool aid colored red hair.  He does his eye makeup better than I do--that's sad.  Interesting little tidbit for you, I was two years old when this song came out.  Gees, I have little crushes on men (Bono and Sting) who way older than me.  Could that be construed as weird?  :) 

Question: What was one of your favorite Christmas memories and why?

One of my favorite memories was the year that my brother and I tried to catch the elves that were helping my parents wrap presents in their bedroom.  We put a broom under the door to wrangle the little guys in.  They were very elusive and difficult to see. :)  My dad ended up pushing the broom out and it hit my brother in the eye.  That was not the reason why I liked it, though.  I really felt bad for my brother.  Regardless of my brother getting hurt, we had fun. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

6th Day of Christmas

Celtic Woman - Carol Of The Bells

Today's gift of musical cheer for the my version of the 12 Days of Christmas includes the energetic song Carol of the Bells.  I found this incredible version of it by Celtic Woman.  The violinist is amazing.  The singers are angelic.  Enjoy!  And more songs to come tomorrow and up to Christmas Day. Christmas Day's song is my most favorite.  It brings a tear to my eye.  You won't want to miss it.
So, I asked this question yesterday on my post, but I want to ask it again; what do you want for Christmas?   

Sunday, December 19, 2010

7th Day of Christmas

Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas Is You
Great song, eh? Peppy and rockin song for sure.  The coolest part about the music video is the two dogs running around in the snow with reindeer ears on.  I am a sucker when it comes to dogs. I love them!
Well, dear followers and friends, here is what I asked my parents to get me for Christmas:

Despicable Me DVD - LOVE this movie.

The last two books of The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare.  I read the first book last month and loved it.  Great ending to hook you in for the rest of the series.
And Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.

Can't wait to watch the movie and devour the books.  It's funny cause I know exactly what I'm getting for Christmas already. Didn't even have to snoop. :)

What do you want for Christmas?  Can't wait to hear about your Christmas wish list.  Merry Christmas again!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

8th Day of Christmas

Sarah Brightman - Ave Maria

OK, who doesn't like Sarah
Brightman? If you don't then I implore you to listen to this song. You'll change your mind for sure--hopefully. Years ago, I worked at a music store and they had all of these demo CD's that they were giving away to the employees. I leafed through them in hopes of finding something I knew or liked. I found nothing that interested me very much except for one CD that caught my attention--Sarah Brightman's album Eden.  The album cover is what made me take it home.  It was so intriguing in it's striking red and black.  The music had to be just as good. I was dead on right.
Of course, I'd never heard anything by Sarah Brightman except for her perfect vocal range in The Phantom of the Opera.  Well, Eden was taken home, listened to, and adored.  I've enjoyed her music since. Thanks be to the free demo CD and the person who designed the cover. (BTW, Talk about great book covers that make you buy them.  I hope mine is just as good so people will buy it. Hehe) Well, some years after the demo CD steal, I got to see her in concert at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. She was exquisite. She was real, standing right there, singing her glorious music. Oh, yeah, probably the best concert I've ever seen, and I've seen to A LOT of concerts.

Anyway, back to the point at hand.  Six years ago, I lived in Taiwan.  It was Christmas, I was away from home, and my friend's mom sent me a holiday CD for Christmas.  It was graced with Eve Maria by Sarah
Brightman.  Since then I think I've listened to the song at least a hundred times or more. Seriously.  I share it with you now in hopes that it will bring Christmas cheer into your holiday season.  Again, Merry Christmas and enjoy the song.  

PS: More songs to come all next week with the best of the songs on Christmas day!

Friday, December 17, 2010

9th Day of Christmas & Important Writing Update

Coldplay - Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

I really like Cold Play's songs Yellow, Clocks, The Scientist, Viva la Vida, and Life in Technicolor II. Lead singer, Chris Martin has a distinct voice that draws me in, and the accompaniment makes me want to dance. Their version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is like warming myself in front of a crackling fire in my pajamas with a cup of hot cocoa in hand. The song warms me to the soul by illuminating the pure nature of peace. I love it. I hope you do as well. Merry Christmas again.

Now on to other news. Officially, I'm home from my writing sabbatical. I'm back to editing with a renewed sense of awe of the written word. I studied a couple books that I mentioned in a previous post. They were eye opening, inspiring. I'd highly reccomend them. Now, I feel better equipped to take on the daunting but exciting task of editing. The decision to take an editing break was quite possibly the best idea I've had in a while. To be honest, I was burned out. I was sick of editing. I was ready for my new project, but the manuscript was unfinished. I had to find something to enlighten my mind and create a new bond between me and my manuscript. And happily I can say that it worked. IT WORKED! I will scream in the streets now, "It worked!" I'm totally back in business with ideas and new ways to polish it for submission. Yes, these ideas will in some ways drastically change things, but totally for the better. That's a huge part of writing--making it better. Wish me luck dear followers.

Announcement time! I've planned to complete this crucial edit by the end of January. I tell you all so you can keep tabs on me. Hehe! No seriously, keep tabs on me. Ciao till tomorrow, the 8th Day of Christmas! Yes, I'll still post something on Saturday and Sunday for your listening pleasure in the spirit of Christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

10th Day of Christmas

Wham! - Last Christmas

Ok, the video for this song is pretty much cheesy in every way possible. Just don't be confused, I DO NOT have a little crush on George Michael like I do with Sting and David Bowie. George Michael instantly makes me think of Arrested Development. Just remember, there's always money in the Banana Stand. Hehe! If you don't get that, you'll have to watch Arrested Development to understand.
Tangent . . .
Anyway, the first time I heard this song on the radio I fell in love with it. Yep, and it has to be the Wham! version, no other version will suffice. Enjoy the song and possibly the creepiness of the video. I might think you weird if you do though. Oh, yeah, don't grow out a mullet because of this song. They are so 80's and should stay in the 80's. Have another great day!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

11th Day of Christmas

Sarah McLachlan - River

Oh, Sarah McLachlan has a beautiful voice. I've loved her music since the first time my ears were graced with her musical creations. Anyway, I love her Christmas album "Wintersong," this song is featured on it. Interesting fact: When Sarah released her "Surfacing" album, I loved her super short hair, so I had my hair cut exactly the same. Did it look good? Maybe. It was really easy to do in the morning though.
Anyway, we're one day closer to Christmas. I hope that our hearts are open to the true meaning of Christmas--the birth of Jesus Christ. Emulate his example by giving and loving during this season, but more importantly, continue to share those characteristics throughout the coming year.
Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

12th Day of Christmas

Sting - I Saw Three Ships

So, like David Bowie, I have a little crush on Sting. I actually call him Stingypooh--my term of endearment for him. I even call my Mom and Dad Momsipooh and Dadsipooh. Hence, "pooh" at the end of a tittle or name is a term of endearment. It's like Winnie the Pooh! But I really like this song, and Sting's voice is glorious to start with, but putting it to this song is even more amazing. I couldn't find a video that actually shows Sting in all his numminess but that's ok. The pictures shown in the video well represent the true meaning of Christmas; that is even better. Enjoy and Happy 12th Day of Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

12 (13) Days of Christmas - Day 13

Bing Crosby & David Bowie - The Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth
I have a little crush on Mr. David; however, David and Bing sound just amazing together in this song. Enjoy!

My 12 (13 - Christmas Day included) Days of Christmas includes some of the Christmas songs that I really, really like. Tune in every day from now until Christmas Day to see what I'll post next. Merry Christmas everyone.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Writing Your Voice

I’ve been thinking about writing voice lately. Voice is something that’s important to developing your characters. You’re writing what they’d really sound like if they were talking. This makes them real—practically human or inhuman depending on your genre. (Yah, for supernatural books. Love the vamps and warewolves - just not Jacob) Anyway, voice is also important to blogging and other forms of social networking. The voice you portray is who you are, how you sound, or how you want people to think you sound. Probably don’t put up a façade though. Keep it real.

An example of a writer who is A-FREAKING-MAZING at voice is Carrie Harris. Her voice brings a humongous grin on my face. I’ll admit her voice is delicious. You just want to eat more and more of it, like chocolate. Sounds, creepy, but she does write zombie books. Hehe. Carrie is probably the cleverest of bloggers I’ve come across; and I’ve read a lot lately. The way she writes her posts makes me ache to read her book “Bad Taste in Boys.” It comes out next year. I can’t wait any longer for the zombierific book to reach bookstores. I’m dying for it—literally. Just kidding, but you know that already. Right? (I hope so)

Check her blog out at

Anyway, what’s my voice? I can’t really peg it down, but I think my voice should be diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. I’d say I’m a conglomerate of silly, serious, angsty, and evasive. It will forever be named SANGSTIVE. Yes, I just created a new word. Shakespeare can’t be the only person to make up words. It should be in the dictionary. Like. Right. Now. I stamp my foot. See there’s my silliness coming out. Actually, I like the word silly so maybe that’s why silly is one side of my voice.
With all this thought about writing voice, I’ve decided I need to write more like I speak. It’s just cooler that way. It could get confusing though, cuz sometimes I don’t finish my sentences, and on rare occasions I stutter. But I like my voice—just not the recorded version of it. Who does though?

What kind of voice do you have? Do tell!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writing Revival

Two weeks ago, I was on fire—editing-wise. Last week, I was in a rut—writing-wise. Sometimes as a writer, you get burned out; you need a break. I’m on a break—a sabbatical from writing. I feel a little stupid doing this right now when I promised myself I would get through another edit by the end of December. I should be able to stay strong to my goals; but alas, I need a vacation away from my daunting manuscript, even if it just for a week of two. But the break is not necessarily a break from writing; it is a period of time to learn more about writing. I want to hone in my skills of writing, so I can revitalize myself out of my I-am-the-worst-writer-in-the-world rut. I’ll be better equipped to write and edit. In order to accomplish my said sabbatical from writing, I purchased two books to educate me further in the writing craft.

Book #1 – “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print” by Renni Browne and Dave King (no relation to me)

Book #2 – “38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes: (And How to Avoid Them)” by Jack M. Brickham

I’ve read almost half of Book #1. It has opened my eyes to ingenious ways to polish my manuscript. Book #2 is on its way snail-mail, but I am eager to lay my hands on it, mark it up, and apply what I learn from it to my editing and future writing.
Anyway, writing is so not easy. Sometimes you need to take a break to get through it. And then you come back with the fire burning—really bright—again. Perhaps, I'll make my goal to finish another edit by the end of the year. Maybe I won’t. But at least with this little writing revival, I'll come back with more enthusiasm to write.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Remember . . .

Starting Monday, December 13, 2010 my 12 Days of Christmas will commence. Well, actually, it will be 13 Days of Christmas but that includes Christmas Day. I have something extraordinary planned for Christmas Day. Every day from December 13 until Christmas Day something special will be posted on my blog. Look forward to whatever it is . . .

Thursday, December 2, 2010

So You Want to Write a Novel

When I started writing my novel, I'll admit, I sort of had a small, tiny, minuscule idea it was going to be easy, but after having written for almost a year now and researched the industry—A LOT—I found out it isn't easy. It takes a lot of work and a lot of hours at your computer. Gees and I’m not even to querying yet. Anyway, this video cracks me up because it's not a piece of cake to write a book. Enjoy, but most importantly enjoy your wonderful Thursday! Remember, tomorrow is Friday and that is just delicious!

BTW, look forward to my own version of the 12 Days of Christmas coming soon. Of course, it will start 12 days before Christmas. That is typical Julia, stating the obvious! :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Interview with Kiersten White – New York Times Bestselling Author of “Paranormalcy” - Part 2

Oral Interview with the charming Kiersten White continued . . .

Julia: How long have you been writing?
Kiersten: I have been writing seriously now for, I would say, since the summer of 2008 was when I got really obsessive about it, but I’ve been writing books since 2004. I was at home and my husband was in law school, and I had a very fussy baby, so I started writing just to entertain myself. My first book was a middle grade novel. And then in the summer of 2008, I started writing YA and that first book I wrote in a month. And then I wrote another book that December. And “Paranormalcy” I wrote the next January.

J: Now that you’re published, how does it feel?
K: Most of the time, it doesn’t feel any different. Honestly, it’s still quite surprising when I get an email from someone I don’t know who read my book. It is a little more intimidating to write than it was before. Writing under contract is a different experience because there’s a lot of pressure. You essentially are writing something you already sold. But it’s a little more exciting to create things because there’s not that question of will this ever have an audience. I know it will have an audience.
J: You’ll have me, for sure.
K: I know Julia will read this. (J & K laugh)

J: How did you make getting published happen?
K: I did all the research I could. I learned everything I could about the industry . . . The first book I wrote, I really had no idea what I was doing. I would send out one query letter a month, which I hadn’t really edited the book, hadn’t workshopped it, and didn’t have any critique partners. But once I started writing YA novels, I said, “I’m gonna make this happen.” I sent out fifty query letters before I got my agent. It was over the course of about three months and then once I signed with her I kept writing. I always say persistence, know what you’re doing, how the system works, keep writing, and always moving on to the next thing. Start writing the next project while you are querying.

J: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
K: Don’t write because you want to be an author. Write because you love it. Learn how to edit. You can have the best ideas in the world, but if you don’t know how to self-edit and streamline your story, and make that initial draft into a book, you’re not going to go anywhere with it. Be prepared to work because it is a lot of work at every stage. If you want to be successful as a writer, you have got to know there’s gonna be a lot of rejection and it’s gonna be a long process. And like I said, I’ve been writing since 2004. I have other friends who have been agented and on submission for a year, a year and a half, and they still don’t have any sales. Most of my author friends did not sell their first book—even the book they got an agent for. And most of them that got an agent, it was not on the first book that they wrote. It isn’t to say that it can’t happen because it does happen. It happens a lot, but you know there’s a learning curve, as there is with anything. Be informed and be persistent.

The End.

If you haven’t read “Paranormalcy” yet, you are definitely missing out. Buy it now. I promise you’ll never regret the investment. Plus, it’s a series, so you’ll have two more books to devour after this one.