Friday Favorites: September

I am posting my Friday Favorites on the last Friday of the month (this time), instead of the first! The month got away from me, with the RMFW conference and birthdays and life.

This month, I thought it would be fun to share some of things things I took away from RMFW (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers) conference. I learned so much as a writer, and had so many wonderful experiences, so I will share only the highlights! (All of this is paraphrased and taken from my notes.)

Sherry Thomas, Romance 101

Characters in conflict is the engine of your story – it drives your story forward.
• Characters must be introduced and conflict must be established as early in your book as possible.
• Dialogue should be used to further conflict.
• The first page sells this book – the last page sells the next.

James Hunter, The Villain’s Story

• Villains should have moral quandaries.
• Villains need nuances to be good villains.
• Protagonists / Antagonists are two sides of a coin, who play by different rules.
• Your Antagonists should have strengths that can exploit your Protagonists’ weaknesses. They should be each other’s opposites.

Bonnie Ramthun, How to Write a Breathtaking Action Sequence

• Raise the stakes – life or death.
• Suspense happens when the reader knows something the characters in the scene do not.
• Start emotions in a place where you can build from.
• Use flashing glimpses instead of lingering observations.

Diana Gabaldon (the author of Outlander!), Immersion: The Best Books Are Made of Quicksand and White Space: You Think It’s All About Words

• Don’t tell your readers anything they don’t need to know in that moment.
• There should be at least one action in each paragraph. Even small actions, like body language, create immersion.
• Create a cascade of questions that makes the reader want answers. They can be small questions that are answered quickly, but they will make the reader keep reading.
• A good sex scene is about the exchange of emotions. You don’t need to show much for them to feel deeply.
• You want friction in your fiction.
• Sometimes if you plan too much before entering a major scene, it loses its juice.

Thea Hutcheson, Fishing For Readers: How to Hook Em

• You have about 150 words to hook your reader before you lose them (agent, editor, reader).
• Sensory details light up the brain.
• Remember the first 150 words technique for the beginning of every scene/chapter.

Susan Spann, Coal to Diamonds

• When you finish writing for the day, try to stop right before something exciting happens, so you are excited to write the next day.
• Leave your chapters unresolved.

I would love to hear your thoughts on these notes! Which ones do you find the most helpful?

Finally, here are some cute pics of me and Brianna having the best weekend ever!

Image result for rmfw

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, closeup Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing



Title: Ever
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Mythology, Romance, YA
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: May 6th, 2008

Kezi is a beautiful dancer, a skilled rug weaver – and a mortal. And because of a vow her father made to their god in desperation, she only has 30 days to live. To make her life even more complicated, she falls in love – with an immortal god. Olus, the god of winds, believes that he can help Kezi escape her impending fate; together, they risk everything to find a way to be together, and to save Kezi before she must make the ultimate sacrifice.

Told in a style different than the rest of her fairytales, Ever switches back and forth from Kezi’s to Olus’ point of view, giving us an enriched understanding of both characters. Levine’s Mesopotamian setting is also a step away from her usual fairytales, and gravitates more toward ancient mythology. I find it fascinating that Ever was inspired by the Old Testament story of Jephthah and his daughter, found in Judges 11:30-40. This was a fun read, especially if you are already a fan of Gail Carson Levine.

Click on the link below to get your copy of this book:


Title: Fairest
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Genre: Fairytale, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Romance, YA
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: September 19th, 2006

Aza is an unlikely heroine, especially for a Snow White fairytale retelling. She is awkward, clumsy, and convinced she is far from beautiful. But her voice is truly the fairest of them all. Her magical singing gets her noticed by many in the kingdom of Ayortha, including the royal family.

When she goes from being an innkeeper’s daughter to the queen’s lady-in-waiting, Aza realizes her beautiful voice could put her in more danger than she ever could have known. She must navigate the attentions of the charming prince, Ijori, and the jealous new queen, while keeping secrets of her own.

In my opinion, Gail Carson Levine can do no wrong in her magical world of storytelling! I love her books, but my only problem with them is there are not enough.

Click on the link below to get your copy of this book:

The Two Princesses of Bamarre

Title: The Two Princesses of Bamarre
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Genre: Fairytale, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Romance, YA
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: March 1st, 2004

Addie has never been the brave one who dreams of heroic adventures – that would be her sister, Meryl. Quiet and shy, Addie is scared of almost everything. Her biggest fear is losing Meryl to her adventures; but she doesn’t expect to lose Meryl in the safety of their own castle in Bamarre.

When Meryl falls dangerously ill with the Gray Death, Addie realizes that it is up to her to find a cure and save her beloved sister. She must face her fears and venture into the unknown if Meryl even stands a chance. Even though this is a quest she must do alone, she is sent with gifts from her friends – including their sorcerer, Rhys – to help her in times of need. Addie battles specters, gryphons, and a dragon – but will her valiant efforts be enough to save the person she loves most?

As with Ella Enchanted, I fell in love with this book as soon as I read it. Gail Carson Levine is a mater of her craft, with her characters, plots, and voice. If you also love these kinds of stories, you need to add this to your bookshelf!

Click on the link below to get your copy of this book:

Ella Enchanted

Title: Ella Enchanted
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Genre: Fairytale, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Romance, YA
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: 1997

🌹 🌹 🌹 🌹 🌹

Happy 20th anniversary to Ella Enchanted

When she was a baby, Ella received the “gift” of obedience from a fairy. Now, she must obey any command given, great or small. More of a curse than a blessing, this gift controls her, and no matter how much she struggles against it, Ella always obeys in the end. Though many give Ella commands unknowingly, there are some who manipulate her deliberately – namely, her two stepsisters.

Ella suffers countless miseries in addition to the curse: the death of her beloved mother, neglect from her selfish father, abuse from her stepsisters, an insufferable finishing school. But through it all, Ella remains kind, vivacious, and brave, with the help of her friends – her fairy godmother, and the prince, Char. As Ella’s childhood friendship with Char gradually turns into something more, she realizes that her curse could be used not only to harm herself, but Char. Will Ella find a way to undo her curse, or will she be forced to sacrifice her happy ending to ensure the safety of the one she loves?

I read this book for the first time over a decade ago, and it remains one of my favorites to this day. Gail Carson Levine has influenced my writing in a huge way. Her fairytales are one of the reasons that made me want to write in the first place. Re-reading this book reminded me of what I’m looking for in fiction, and what I want to write. If you haven’t read it, read it.

Click on the link below to get your copy of this book: