Friday, March 26, 2010

Three Things for Thursday

1. It's Library-Loving Blog Challenge week. Many blogs are supporting libraries by giving a donation for every commenter that comments on their blog post! Please help. Some wonderful bloggers who are participating are Jama Rattigan, C. Lee McKenzie, and The Texas Sweethearts. Stop by and comment to support libraries!

2. Kristi tagged me in Build Your Book Boyfriend. Thanks, Kristi! Check out hers here. I will be posting that in a few weeks. I have some ideas for it, but it will take a little time to dig up some hottie pics! My sister, Denise, won Kristi and Kimberly's Twilight giveaway contest! She's so excited. She read the whole series in a week!
EDITED: Squeeee! It's the Maple sisters week this week! I won the other Twilight contest on Kristi and Kimberly's blog!! Stop by Kimberly's blog and read my Twilight parody titled "Belle and The Beast and Edward Scissorhands!" Thank you, Kristi and Kimberly for the contest (and autographed photo and gift card!)!

3. I will be unplugged for a little over a week to enjoy spring break and Easter with my family. I am also going to start the overhaul of my current manuscript. I'm going to see if it works better as a middle grade (instead of a chapter book). Lots and lots of changes and additions to be made!
Enjoy spring!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gettin' Funny Part Two

My husband and I have just a few more weeks left in our Get Funny class, and let me tell you, this house is never short of laughs. We hardee-har-har all day long.
Okay, I'm exaggerating. Guess what? Exaggeration is actually a form of humor.
The humorous elements of exaggeration and understatement can help bring laughs (or smirks) to your story.
Both of these need a touch of reality to be effective.
Samples of exaggeration are the "She was so old that..." or "It was so hot..." comments.

My exaggeration example for my class assignment was this:
"The rock concert in Chicago was so loud that farmers in Wisconsin were holding up their lighters during the ballads."

The realistic observation would be "The rock concert was so loud that the people across town could hear it." I then exaggerated it so that it wasn't the next town that could hear it, but the next state. In an exaggeration, if it's big, you make it ginormous. If it's cold, you make it five gazillion degrees below zero.

In The Simpsons, Homer's traits (his lack of intelligence, his laziness, etc) are exaggerated to make his character funnier. You can pick a trait of a character and make it bigger than life to amuse the reader or to get your character into interesting situations.

The opposite of exaggeration is understatement. You use it in the same way as exaggeration, but you go the other way. Instead of making something bigger, you add something trivial.

My understatement example:
"Johnny got into a car accident today. The poor guy totaled his car, broke his wrist, suffered a concussion, and spilled his Diet Coke from McDonald's!"
The spilling the drink action would be the understatement.

Here's a writing example:
Kelly has many aspirations. She wants to snag an agent, get a publishing contract, and buy lots of Sharpies to sign books.

What have you exaggerated lately?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Check It Out!!

I am being interviewed at Heather's Edited to Within an Inch of my Life blog today! Please stop on over and check out my very first interview as a writer! Thanks so much to Heather for featuring me today.

Other fun stuff:

1. Beth Revis is celebrating her awesome book deal with a contest! Head on over to her blog to congratulate her and to enter to win a choice of two fabulous prize packs!

2. Sara McClung is having a March Madness contest, too! Enter to win a chance to snag one of five different fun packages! Some include signed books! Go to her blog to enter!

3. I won two books at Jim Danielsen's blog this week! He is sending Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson and Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow to me. Just in time for some spring break reading. Thanks, Jim!!

4. Have a fabulous weekend! This will be the first weekend in months that we are not attending my son's basketball games. What ever shall we do?! I think some Apples to Apples, Wii tournaments, and spring cleaning are in order.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Five Questions with Marietta Zacker

Last month I won a fabulous prize over at Market My Words: a 30 minute conversation with literary agent, Marietta Zacker. Marietta is an agent at Nancy Gallt Literary Agency, and she owns a book store called SOMe Book Nook. I chatted with Marietta on Monday afternoon. I had a long list of questions plus my manuscript ready. Marietta was so friendly, honest, and helpful with my manuscript and incredibly informative about publishing in general. She even said she watched my "Won't You Be My Agent?" singing post, and it made her laugh! Our thirty minutes turned into almost an hour, and I thank her for spending the time to help me with my manuscript. Marietta is not only passionate about books, but about helping writers reach their potential.


1. What piqued your interest in the last few queries you asked for a full on?

MZ: Originality in both topic and voice. Characters that more accurately resemble the world we live in.

2. What kind of books are getting contracts in the last few months?

MZ: We continue to work hard on behalf of our clients and I think we are still seeing results. Editors are being much more selective though. Looking at the industry holistically, I would rank the types of books editors are acquiring (from most to least): MG, YA, and then PB.

3. How important is web presence of a potential client to you?

MZ: I always encourage clients to have a presence somewhere on the web, but to do what feels right for them. I think it's difficult to do it all well, so if branding yourself on the internet is new to you, I think it's best to take one social networking avenue at a time. I also feel it's important to remember that there are plenty of people who have mastered different aspects of the internet, so you should reach out to those who know more - again, especially when getting started. And although I feel it's extremely important to have a web presence, my decision to represent a client is not based on whether they do or do not have that presence.

4. Do you think magazine submissions/acceptances are important?

MZ: Everyone has different criteria, but I do think that if it is pertinent to your career as a writer or illustrator, then you should briefly list the places where your work has been published. Don't shortchange yourself; your accomplishments are important. Having said that though, at the end of the day, voice and the whole of the manuscript matter most.

5. What is your favorite musician/band?

MZ: I listen to it all. If I had to choose one, I'd choose the Afro-Cuban All Stars. Music that reaches my soul and makes me dance out of my seat is always a good thing!
Of course this music lover had to check out Afro-Cuban All Stars. Here they are. Just try to listen to them and not shake your hips!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Carrie Ryan Event

Last night I attended a book signing by a favorite author of mine, Carrie Ryan. Carrie is the author of New York Times best seller (as of last week!) The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I received The Forest of Hands and Teeth from a blog contest by YA author, Suzanne Young. I brought it on vacation last summer to read. I knew it was about zombies, and that's it. In fact, I wasn't sure I would like the book, because it was about zombies and I had never read a book about zombies before. Well, I liked it. I liked it a lot. I read that book in a day and a half. We were at my dad's cabin and even though I am usually an overprotective mother, I was not the day I was reading that book. I couldn't put it down. My kids played outside, caught frogs, went fishing while I sat on the porch and read and read and read.
So, I was pretty excited about Carrie's companion book, The Dead Tossed Waves coming out this month. I was even more excited that she was signing at a book store about an hour away from me and my children amazingly had no evening activities last night.
I had a front row seat as Carrie discussed how her writing career came to be or "How does one who loves pink knee socks write zombies?".
It goes back to when Carrie was five and watched the movie Poltergeist with a babysitter. She was terrified. Her parents came home with fifteen minutes left of the movie and took the babysitter home with no pay for the night. Carrie swore off horror movies until her boyfriend at law school took her to see the remake of Dawn of the Dead. She was frightened again, but really wondered how the movie ended. She kept wondering what happened and what would she do if she were in that situation. Her boyfriend then bought her a Zombie Survival Guide as a joke, and her interest in zombies continued.
Carrie actually started writing chick lit, but her boyfriend told her to write what you love when she couldn't think of something to write for Nanowrimo. And that was zombies. Her now fiance also thought of her unique title names for her books as well. What a guy!
Carrie was eloquent, funny, and friendly to all of us at the bookstore. She has already written the next book titled The Dark and Hollow Places, but it is still in the final revision process. The movie rights have been purchased for A Forest of Hands and Teeth, so I hope to see that in a theater in the next few years! But today I start reading The Dead-Tossed Waves.
Listen to Carrie read an excerpt from The Dead-Tossed Waves.

Here's my signed book!

In other book news, check out your Cheerios box for Lori Degman's debut picture book, 1 Zany Zoo! I bought mine yesterday! Lori is last years Spoonful of winner and also a member of my local SCBWI chapter. The picture book is in Spanish and English! This is the back of the Cheerios box. Congrats, Lori! The hardcover version of the book will be available at book stores in July!
Photobucket I also want to thank the ladies at Eco Women. I won a Mrs. Myers gift card and wool dryer balls at their site. My husband and I have been using planet friendlier cleaners so the gift card will go towards more natural and less chemicals! Check out their site to find out great tips for going green!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Twilight/New Moon Contest

You know I love my vampires (and werewolves). I finished (and loved) Shiver by Maggie Stiefvator a few weeks ago. Exactly one year ago I was reading the Twilight series. And I'm looking forward to when True Blood airs on HBO in June.
So of course I was thrilled to see Kimberly Franklin and Kristi Chestnutt's posts about their latest contest. They will be having a giveaway of fabulous Twilight prizes including the New Moon DVD. All you need to do is comment and follow both of their blogs. You can get extra entries by posting about their contest (oh, like this one!). And there's more!

They also have a sparkly contest where you write fan fiction, poetry or an essay about something Twilight inspired for even cooler prizes like gift cards and autographs! They even have some snippets of Robert Pattinson's eyebrow hairs in the gift basket (okay, I'm kidding about that one...). But seriously, this contest does not suck.

Visit Kimberly's and Kristi's blog for more details and pictures of the fab prizes! Put down your apple and chess piece and go!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Three Things for Thursday

1. Kristi at Random Daily Thoughts recently awarded me with the Creative Writer award! Thanks, Kristi! Look here for the salacious lies I told about myself, and here for the truth. Also, Kelly asked me to post the Matthew McConaughey excerpt from Us Weekly. Do you see my name under his pic? I guess that's as close to Matthew I'm ever going to get...

2. I hope you have been checking out Critter's adventure with MG Higgins in California! If you missed it, check out his adventures here! MG is sending Critter along to his next destination. If you would like to host Critter next, please stop by her blog today or tomorrow!

3. I have been on a concert drought lately. I usually see one at least every other month, but I have not been to one since (gasp!) November!! This week I bought tickets to two concerts in April: Jet and 30 Seconds to Mars. I'm pretty excited that the concert season is starting up again! And what are you excited about today?
WIBIJ? Catch the fever..

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar Wrap Up

Ahhh, the glitz and the glamour of the Oscars. Ahhh, I love watching the Oscars in my pajama pants. What did you think of the Oscars? What was your movie pick? Which dress was prettiest? I seriously only saw Avatar and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in the last year so I'm not qualified to guess who should win. But I am qualified to make sarcastic comments and casual observations.

Eleven Random Thoughts While Watching the Oscars

1. I love Neil Patrick Harris, but I'm sorry to say I fast forwarded through his musical number (sorry, Barney!). I was just trying to be efficient. I don't have time to seriously sit through the whole dang show...

2. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are hilarious! Steve Martin is a favorite comedian of mine. He reminds me of my dad, with his quips and dry humor. They were funny all through the night. My favorite line as he waved his arm toward the audience introducing celebrities, "Here are the Inglorious Basterds.....and here is the cast of Inglourious Basterds."

3. Ryan Reynolds is lookin' good....but is it me or does he look just a little too manicured? Still looks pretty darn good though. I have to see Blind Side. I got all teared up just watching the promo. (He introduced the clip.)

4. Awesome John Hughes montage. He had so many memorable movies with memorable lines. I saw all those movies numerous times. My favorites were Vacation and Weird Science. I liked seeing the Brat Pack stars. Man, Judd Nelson looks rough... I thought I saw Demi Moore in the audience..why wouldn't she be in that ensemble?

5. Zoe Saldana is so tiny! Love her sparkly bodice!

6. OMG, a blue Ben Stiller! Perfect for Best Makeup. That guy will do anything!

7. Fun Horror Montage. I'm a chicken and do not watch much horror, but I saw many of the movies in the montage. I must have been braver when I was younger. Did you see the young Johnny Depp from Nightmare on Elm Street in it? There was a quick flash of Matthew McConaughey too (from the 1994 Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre which I rented right after seeing Matthew in A Time to Kill...). This was an awesome montage, but I don't get why they threw it in there for the Oscars...Anyone? Bueller?

8. Loved the James Taylor song during the Memoriam part. Very classy to have him sing and strum while showing the images.

9. Sam Worthington is Australian??!!

10. Gerard Butler and Bradley Cooper presenting together? The category must be Dudes who dated Jennifer Aniston. (Thanks, Alicia...)

11. Wow. Sandra Bullock won! She seems sincerely overwhelmed and thankful, but still cute and funny.

My best dressed pick is Maggie Gyllenhaal. I loved the bright color blue of her dress, and it fit her perfectly. Many pretty dresses, but nothing really wowed me this year though.

Best hair: Cameron Diaz. She hasn't had long locks in a while. Her longer hair looked pretty down and swept to one side.

Best makeup: Miley Cyrus. I thought her eyes looked gorgeous. The brown palette of eyeshadow rimmed with black and nude lips complemented her beige gown perfectly. Though she seemed to have too much foundation, overall the look was lovely.

Worst dressed: Mariah Carey. Yikes.

Here is a complete list of the winners. (Who do I look like? Billy Bush?)

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Don't even think about messing with that chick on the left.*

Basketball was a huge part of my life growing up. I started attending basketball games when I was old enough to walk. My dad was a basketball coach for a local high school. He started as freshman coach and then coached the boys' varsity team for 25 years (with 17 total championships). I am proud to say he was inducted in the Coaching Hall of Fame in our county, plus the Illinois Coaching Hall of Fame (Go, Dad!).

Needless to say, I've been to quite a few games in my lifetime. I figure I attended at least 10-20 of my dad's games every season with my mom since I was a young one. Then I played in my own basketball games 6th grade through high school. I played forward. I had my fair share of rebounds and fouls, too. My sister also played basketball, so I watched her games. So in high school, I played in my own games, sat through games of the other levels while waiting for my game, watched my boyfriend play his games, and watched a few of my dad's games. That's a whole lotta games. I probably smelled like a gym shoe in the winters of my high school life.
I also played intramural sports for my sorority in college, and we even won a three on three tournament once. Then there was a 15+ year hiatus where I'd attend my dad's teams' games here and there until he retired.
Now here I am in full basketball mode again. My son started playing organized basketball this year. He has 30 games this season. I have to admit I did push him into playing. He always enjoyed the game in gym and his friends played at recess all the time, so I knew he would like it. Of course we have a hoop in the driveway, too. I convinced him to commit to it for at least two years. Thankfully, he loves the game (and he even thanked me for getting him to join. Hurray!).

Last week my son's school had a fundraiser where the teachers/parents were able to play against the Harlem Wizards! A friend of mine recruited me to play. I was apprehensive as I hadn't played in SO long! We practiced a few times (man, I forgot how tiring it is to run up and down and up and down the court!), learned a simple offense, and we were ready to face the Wizards.
On the night of the game, my mother in law surprised me by having my parents, my inlaws, and kids wear white tshirts that said, "Team Kelly." (My ten year old was too embarrassed to wear it; he sat by his friends during the game.) The Wizards vs Grade School Teachers/Parents game was so much fun. The Wizards were dunking, dancing, having a ball (pun intended), and so did we. I even made a basket against them! If your child's school is looking for a unique fundraiser, this is definitely a good one! They travel all over the country.

Photobucket Here's me going up for the shot! Swish!
Photobucket Me and Big Mike!

My kids were pretty excited that they saw me play, so that in itself was worth it all. I also rediscovered how much I love to play basketball. Too bad there aren't many women's leagues around this area. I guess I have to play hoops in the driveway with the kids. And that's fine by me.

Is there a sport or activity that has been a constant in your life? And can you believe this March post is about basketball, and I'm not even going to mention the NCAA tournament? (I don't really watch college hoops nor pro, but I did see Michael Jordan at the airport once!)

*Um. That's me in my glory days. Don't mess with me, man.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tune for Tuesday

I haven't done a true tune for Tuesday lately, and this song has been popping up on the radio a lot. When I first heard it, I pulled my car into the garage and sat there in the dark so I could listen to the whole song. I thought it was mesmerizing. Then I heard who sang it. It totally shocked me.

My beautiful song was sung by this group.
My 10 year old headbanger of a son likes a few Slipknot songs (he's only heard ones that are appropriate for his age, okay somewhat appropriate, like Psychosocial), but even though I like hard rock, I never got into them. Though I think they are growing on me.
This one is beautiful.

The video is Creepy with a capital C, then a little Psycho-ish ( the movie) confusing at the end, but intriguing all the way through.
This is called "Snuff."

Here's a shorter version of the song that shows the poetic lyrics.

It's only rock 'n' roll, but I like it. Yes, I do.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Five Questions with Mark McVeigh

Thanks to you for following The McVeigh Agency blog, I won a fifteen minute Skype chat with literary agent, Mark McVeigh. My chat was Friday morning. I was proud of myself to download Skype all by myself and figure it out. Then I practiced a Skype chat with Sharon Mayhew and prepared myself with my conversation with Mark. Thank you, my blogger buddies, for helping me prepare a list of questions. I had a long list to make sure I used my time wisely, but I didn't ask half of them as the time flew by!

Mark was friendly and so very helpful. I loved talking face to face with the web cam. It makes the conversation much more personal. We talked about query letters, email addresses (no or crazy email addresses; be professional), Blondie, and more!


1. What kind of books are getting contracts in the last few months?

MM: I've had the most luck with character driven middle grade novels, especially ones that have something unusually compelling about them--but not vampires!

2. Do you think magazine contributions are important when looking at a potential client?
MM: That really depends on the agent or the house. Honestly, unless you've been well published--with strong reviews or sales--the agent or editor isn't going to pay all that much attention to your background: the manuscript is what matters.

3. How important is web presence of a potential client to you?

MM: Web presence is very important. Everyone should start their media platform NOW through blogging, Twitter, and FaceBook. It's important to decide how much of the "real" you you want out on the web and how much is the "public, writer" you. It's a funny line to draw and, for me, it changes all the time. But remember--you are branding yourself for your public. A strong web presence is also great for connecting with other writers.

4. What is the most interesting or unexpected thing you have noticed during a Skype session?

MM: Probably the session in which my cat Ellen felt she needed to be a part of the call and kept walking in front of the screen, or even worse, turning to face me, tail held high, with you know what pointed directly at the webcam. Her editorial taste is impeccable, but she loses points when it comes to author care.
Here's Ellen's good side:

5. What is the last concert you went to and your favorite kind of music?
MM: I was more of a live music person when I was in high school and college, so the last period of my life where I went regularly was in the mid 80s. I loved the Ramones, Blondie, and X back in the day. I went to school in Boston, so we used to go to a place called the Rathskeller to see bands. I don't really like the crowds at arena concerts, so if you can imagine it, the last arena show I saw was The Police with The Go-Go’s as the opener in 1981! When I started clubbing in college I got into dance music, which I still like and used to go to a great alcohol-free club in NYC called Body & Soul. It opened at 2PM Sunday afternoon and closed at midnight, had the best DJs and the coolest crowd. Sadly, they lost their lease and closed. I have a pretty wide range of musical tastes: I like chamber music, Ella Fitzgerald, some opera, but also Madonna, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Angie Stone. Actually, Angie Stone was the last concert I went to, two years ago. She was awesome! Living in NYC you see a lot of musicians--I see Debbie Harry on the street in my neighborhood every so often, she lives just down the block. And I see David Bowie in SoHo, which is kind of cool.

Very cool, indeed!

Sharon Mayhew posted a very thorough account of her converation with Mark in two parts: here and here! Mark will be holding another contest in April for more chances to speak with him. I highly recommend following his blog! More information about The McVeigh Agency can be found on their website.

Thanks again to Mark for sharing his time and expertise and for introducing me to Skype!

Also a thank you to Jonathon Arnston . I won a contest on his blog, and he made me this amazing cover of my latest manuscript! Pretty flippin' cool, huh?!