Thursday, May 29, 2014

How writing this post made me homesick for a place I only visited

I taught English in Taiwan for six months. The culture, language and humidity were all new to this girl on the cusp of be coming a legal adult. Thankfully, enough people spoke a little English and were kind enough to help me when I was lost or didn't know how to tell the taxi driver how to get to my apartment. 

Most of the younger generation spoke English. They usually went to their regular school from 7 AM-5PM then they went to an English speaking school. I taught elementary kids (loved them & their teachers) in the morning and adults in the evening. I found myself judging intellect on the lack of conversation skills. Until one of the men I taught told me, in broken English, that he was one of the top physicists in Taiwan. What an idiot I was! I repented and vowed to never judge on someone's speech again. 

My students and ransom strangers loved to practice their English skills on me and I, in turn, I fell in love with the people and their customs. 
I can not fathom how hard it is to move from one country to another. To learn customs and language and try to feel a part of the community you live in. 

A few years ago I read a beautiful book about such a struggle. A Vietnamese family moving to America. I loved this book. 

A history lesson of Saigon's people written in free verse and set in two countries; Vietnam and America. 

A lesson of patience, love, family, endurance, bullying, sacrifice and generosity.

Ha is a young girl living in Saigon on the verge of war. Her family slips on a navy ship defecting from Vietnam and sails to a land of promise, America. The voyage is hard. Trying to fit into an all white school is even harder. But the strength of her family and friendship in unusual places guides and helps her.

I read this easily in one day. The images of a young girl relearning a whole new life stuck with me throughout the next few days.

Worth reading out loud to children/students to give them a good perspective of a person of a different nationality and their struggles.

Strange. Writing this post made me homesick for a land that I only visited. I loved those people and that land.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Paperback vs. Audiobook vs. ebook

I've used many, many different formats to read books. 

Kindle~ When I use the stationary bike at the rec center, I take my Kindle. Not only does reading pass the boring time of pedaling, I get a ton of reading done. I'm on netgalley (are you?) and have a ton of catching up to do. It's fun reading books that haven't hit the market yet. 

Audiobook~ I listen to audiobooks and playaways while I'm traveling or go walking. This too passes the time. I've learned this format doesn't work while I'm on exercise machines. I get too distracted by the TVs and their closed captioning. It's never a good idea to listen and read at the same time. 

Graphic novels ~ LOVE Shannon Hale's graphic novels, especially Rapunzal's Revenge. And ALL my kids have read the books at least once. I check out the history ones now and "accidentally" leave them around the house. 

Pottermore ~ Have any of you been on Pottermore? It's Brillant! Talk about interaction with your readers. This site is amazing. I'm making a vow right now to get on there more often with my children this summer. I wouldn't mind if they spent a couple of hours a day on Pottermore. Lots of reading and fun to be had. 

Paper books ~ By far, my favorite way to read is a book made entirely of paper. Nothing can beat the smell of a new book. Or how a book feels in your hands.

Of all the six people in my family, only one has gone straight ebook, and that is my husband. He travels a lot so it makes sense that he wants ebooks. My oldest and youngest both read only paper books. The rest of us read paper books and use our Kindles. 

Do you have a favorite format for reading?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Social Media and Author Platform

How many ways can you be on social media now? Here is a lovely picture to give you an idea:

(Do you recognize all of the symbols?)

There are different opinions about writers having their own platform. Some experts say YES! you need one while others say "do whatever you want".

I guess the question is what do you want? And the follow-up question: how much time do you have?

Social media can be confusing. Which place is better to send out launch dates or updates? Where is the best place to post pictures from book signings? I don't think there is one right or wrong answer. It comes down to what you are comfortable with and how much time you are willing to invest.

Here is a breakdown I found of a few popular sites that might help:

  • Facebook is for people you know, like from high school, college and family. 
  • Twitter works for 140 word observations.
  • Google+ tends toward passions like photography.
  • Tumblr is full of pics and gifs.
  • Pinterest is used for pinning recipes or ideas that you want to find later.
  • LinkedIn is for business connections and finding a job.

Those are short answers that can be expounded into lengthy posts. You can use one or all of these to build your platform, but how you use them and the relationships on them will be different.

So back to my earlier question. What do you want to do?

Just remember:

Be careful what you put out into the great Internet universe because it can come back and hurt you.

What social media outlets are you on?
Do you look for authors online? Are they using social media?

Armchair BEA and my intro

Since we can't go to NY together to experience Book Expo America, let's join in the fun from our armchairs!

Thanks to all the sponsors. Seriously, you should click HERE and see all the goods up for grabs.

Welcome to my blog, Taffy's (that's me) Writings (all things writerly).  I've been blogging for about five years. I mostly started this blog to record my writing journey and to put up my reviews.

I love to read. I mostly read young adult but I've read many genres just this year. My favorite book? How can a reader choose one? I'm looking forward to the next book in The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo though. I think I read more YA because there is always hope. Hope in life, hope in love and that first flush of excitement when That One boy calls.

I'm also a writer.
I don't have anything published yet but there's always hope. My manuscript is out at a couple of agents. It's a story about a seventeen-year old girl who can't remember how any of her friends died, even though she was there for each of them. I mostly write young adult.

Over on my sidebar I have links to most of the social media that's important. Let's be friends! I'm excited to meet you!

Here is a picture of my armchair:

What is your favorite book so far this year?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Foto Friends Friday

First of all, how can you not like a guy who is wearing a bow tie? Secondly, and one who can rock it?
Jeff, I mean, Scott, I mean J. Scott... 
Apparently, he answers to all of the above and many more that I didn't dare ask him about. He was introduced as Jeff and that is what I call him. Unless someone else calls him Scott then I'm all confused and I mentally wonder if I've been calling him the wrong-but-right name during the conversation. 
Yes, that ladies and gentleman, is Jeff/Scott Savage. Name confuser, gentleman and scholar. And writer. Impressive writer. My boys read his books. I read his books. And I can't wait to read more (hurry up and get them published, will ya?).
Jeff is also a classy guy. Look at the photo below. When he won his Whitney Award, what did he do? He took a hold of his wife's hand, and took her up with him. He gave her lots of credit for her support. Classy.

In the writing community, Jeff is a down-to-earth writer who is willing to listen to and help others, even newbie writers like me. He is genuinely interested in others and their work. He's a good listener and a good advice giver. He wins the award for the best writerly friend ever.

Monday, May 19, 2014

How Our Critique Group Got It's Name ~ Sharks & Pebbles

This video inspired our critique group's name. Some days we use our teeth and rip apart manuscripts and some days we are as gentle as pebbles (not really sure how pebbles and gentle go together but that
is the fun of a critique group).

Monday, May 12, 2014

Critique groups and partners

Do you have a critique group or partner? Why or why not? 

My stories always sound good in my head. I just don't always have the patience to make it sound good on paper. I gave my first story to a friend to read. She was kind and helpful. She pointed out that the dog in the story, a very important dog, didn't have a name or breed. 
"Can't you read my mind?" I asked.
"Nope. And neither can your readers."

I'm totally embarrassed by that no name dog now BUT my friends critique made me realize my story baby isn't as cute as I thought. I needed other writers to see the problems and help me fix them. I needed a critique group. 

At a local writing conference, Josi Kilpack presented on critique groups and how they work. This had to be a sign! I was pumped up and ready for a group after her talk. But I was still a newbie to the writing community. How do I find a group?
The answer was: another writing conference. 

I can't remember how our group started. From LDStorymakers? Yamile Mendez got us all together. Jaime Theler was the only published author at the time. Now we have three published books (thanks to Julie Daines) between the five of us, with many more to come, I'm sure. 

We are a support group for everything from writing to rejections. Each person in the group has a critiquing strength. And a writing strength. I love reading all their stories. I am lucky to be in such a good group.

We have five in our group. We try to upload and meet in person every month. One week, we upload, two weeks later, we meet. We get about forty or more pages done in a month. We have tweaked things over the five years we've been together. 

This is my critique group (minus the token guy, Scott Rhoades), Sharks & Pebbles.
Jaime, Yamile, Taffy, Julie at LDStorymakers

 I'll post the video soon that inspired our name, Sharks&Pebbles, sometimes shortened to, S&P.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Foto Friends Friday

Shout out to Erin Summerill, Jessie Humphries and Julie Donaldson. 
Julie won a couple of Whitney awards. 
Erin took hundreds of pictures.
Jessie rocked her two day book launch.
Amazing ladies, gifted women.

Did I mention fun and funny? No? Will, they are. Julie hates this pic and I don't blame her. When you are close to your due date and feeling huge and really, really hurting, it's hard to smile and laugh. She's a good sport and genuinely kind. Her acceptance speech is gracious and full of gratitude to a love Heavenly Father. Classy.

You know you're going to have a crazy time whenever you spend time with Summerill. From theme-coded outfits to crazy pictures and lots of laughs, Erin keeps me smiling. And bonus that she's a sweetie who loves her family and friends. We should see her books on the shelves in no time.

Jessie is the token Vegas friend. LOL. Long legs, shiny hair and kicking butt like nobody's business, she's hot. And not just in looks and brains. Her writing is hot. Read. Her. Book. It's hot. KILLING RUBY ROSE.

P.S. There is only one person who is prego in the above pic...

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

2014 Edgar Winners & Nominees Announced

Here is the official link of the 2014 winners & Nominees.

 How many have you read?

Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce, as we celebrate the 205th anniversary of the birth&nbsp of Edgar Allan Poe, the Nominees for the 2014 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television, published or produced in 2013. The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at our 68th Gala Banquet, May 1, 2014 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City. 


Sandrine’s Case by Thomas H. Cook (Grove Atlantic – The Mysterious Press)
The Humans by Matt Haig (Simon & Schuster)
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (Simon & Schuster – Atria Books)
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin (Hachette Book Group – Reagan Arthur Books)
Until She Comes Home by Lori Roy (Penguin Group USA – Dutton Books)


The Resurrectionist by Matthew Guinn (W.W. Norton)
Ghostman by Roger Hobbs (Alfred A. Knopf)
Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman (Minotaur Books)
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight (HarperCollins Publishers)


The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow Paperbacks)
Almost Criminal by E. R. Brown (Dundurn)
Joe Victim by Paul Cleave (Simon & Schuster – Atria Books)
Joyland by Stephen King (Hard Case Crime)
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (Penguin Group USA - Penguin Books)
Brilliance by Marcus Sakey (Amazon Publishing – Thomas and Mercer)


Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to
Take on America's First Sensational Murder Mystery by Paul Collins (Crown Trade Group)
Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal
by Michael D’Antonio (Thomas Dunne Books)
The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder
by Charles Graeber (Grand Central Publishing – Twelve)
The Secret Rescue: An Untold Story of American Nurses and the Medics Behind Nazi Lines
by Cate Lineberry (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company)
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War
by Daniel Stashower (Minotaur Books)


Maigret, Simenon and France: Social Dimensions of the Novels and Stories
by Bill Alder (McFarland & Company)
America is Elsewhere: The Noir Tradition in the Age of Consumer Culture
by Erik Dussere (Oxford University Press)
Pimping Fictions: African American Crime Literature and the Untold
Story of Black Pulp Publishing by Justin Gifford (Temple University Press)
Ian Fleming by Andrew Lycett (St. Martin’s Press)
Middlebrow Feminism in Classic British Detective Fiction
by Melissa Schaub (Palgrave Macmillan)


"The Terminal" – Kwik Krimes by Reed Farrel Coleman (Amazon Publishing – Thomas & Mercer)
"So Long, Chief" – Strand Magazine
by Max Allan Collins & Mickey Spillane (The Strand)
"The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” – Bibliomysteries
by John Connolly (Mysterious Bookshop)
"There are Roads in the Water" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
by Trina Corey (Dell Magazines)
"Where That Morning Sun Does Down" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
by Tim L. Williams (Dell Magazines)


Strike Three, You’re Dead by Josh Berk (Random House Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf BFYR)
Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking by Erin Dionne (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dial)
P.K. Pinkerton and the Petrified Man by Caroline Lawrence
 (Penguin Young Readers Group – Putnam Juvenile)
Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
(Disney Publishing Worldwide – Disney-Hyperion)
One Came Home by Amy Timberlake (Random House Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf BFYR)


 All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry (local author!)
(Penguin Young Readers Group – Viking Juvenile)
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal (Random House Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf BFYR)
Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy (Simon & Schuster – Simon Pulse)
How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller
(Penguin Young Readers Group – Razorbill)
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown Books for Young


“Episode 3” – Luther, Teleplay by Neil Cross (BBC Worldwide)
“Episode 1” – The Fall, Teleplay by Allan Cubitt (Netflix)
“Legitimate Rape” – Law & Order: SVU, Teleplay by Kevin Fox & Peter Blauner (NBC Universal)
 “Variations Under Domestication” – Orphan Black, Teleplay by Will Pascoe (BBC Worldwide)
“Pilot” – The Following Teleplay by Kevin Williamson (Fox/Warner Bros. Television)


"The Wentworth Letter" – Criminal Element’s Malfeasance Occasional
By Jeff Soloway (St. Martin’s Press)


Robert Crais
Carolyn Hart


Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Michigan

* * * * * *

(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 30, 2014)

There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Fear of Beauty by Susan Froetschel (Prometheus – Seventh Street Books)
The Money Kill by Katia Lief (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)
Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman (Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Books)
The Sixth Station by Linda Stasi (Forge Books)

# # # #
 The EDGAR (and logo) are Registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by the Mystery Writers of America, Inc.

A few of my favorite things I'm doing

I'm reading: Fiction: The Light After the War by Anita Abriel  It is 1946 when Vera Frankel and her best friend Edith Ban ...