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Painting Stories #10

What I got:

It was a chrysalis of light and sound, woven together by the brush of energy she felt. The centrifugal force of magic lulled together so quickly that it hummed. It resonated through her fingers, electrified her skin and shown brilliant and burning in her chest.


The Secret Of Spruce Knoll Blog Tour

My dear friend, (and fellow co-founder of #writersroad), Heather McCorkle, is hosting a wonderful contest on her blog for the release of her young adult urban fantasy, The Secret Of Spruce Knoll, which is releasing this month! To celebrate, Heather is hosting a blog tour and today is my turn to feature this wonderful book and an immensely talented writer! Below is more information about the tour and the wonderful prizes you can win!! Additionally, there will be a a live chat on YA Bound August 30th with a
separate giveaway. The blog tour and contest ends August 31st. Here's what you can win:

1st place:
*$50 gift certificate to B&N (or the Book Depository if you're over seas).
*Autographed copy of The Secret Of Spruce Knoll
*Special swag bag
2nd place:
*Swag bag filled with:
*Autographed copy of The Secret Of Spruce Knoll
*Spoiled by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
*Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
*Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
*A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young

3rd place:
*Autographed copy of The Secret Of Spruce Knoll
*Swag bag
Comment on this post on Heather's blog for your chance to win!

And now, let's get into The Secret Of Spruce Knoll. First, a bit more about this amazing book:

It’s hard enough being a teenager under normal circumstances; imagine being orphaned, sent to live with an unfamiliar aunt—and learning that there really is magic in the world. Following the tragic death of her parents, Eren Donovan moves to Spruce Knoll to live with her aunt. Little does Eren know the entire town of Spruce Knoll is filled with “channelers”—a magical group of people who immigrated to the small Colorado town when they were driven out of their own lands.

Channelers are tied to the fate of the world. As the world slowly dies, so do they—and they alone have the power to stop the destruction of Earth. Now, Eren learns she not only lives among them, but she is one. When she meets local boy Aiden, his charm convinces her that being a channeler may not be all bad.

For those of you paying attention, Eren is sent to live with an aunt she's never met following her parent's death. So I asked Heather, why is that? Why did Eren never meet her aunt prior to coming to Spruce Knoll?

Great question Tee, amazingly no one has asked that yet! Eren has never met her Aunt Sylvia before because her parents left Spruce Knoll before she was even born. Since her dad is Irish and her mom is Mayan, the people of Spruce Knoll frowned upon their marriage. It isn't that the people of Spruce Knoll are racist, just that they are worried about protecting their dying cultures. More than that though, Eren's parents wanted her to grow up a 'normal' kid so she would understand and appreciate those who weren't like her. Of course there is more to why, but you'll have to read the book to find out. ;)

Buy The Secret of Spruce Knoll on Amazon and Barnes and Noble


Painting Stories #9

What I got:
In the distant implosions of superclusters teemed with light and darkness, stars died and were reborn in the snowing dust of new galaxies and the debris of supernovae. Never had she imagined that space and time could coexist as it did here. There were flashes all around them, worlds she could not name or clearly identify.

Photo courtesy of this place.


Adverbs, Those Needless Little Buggers

There are many constants when you're a writer. Some days you will hate everything you write. Others, you'll think what you've penned is a lyrical masterpiece and you will question why other mere mortals dare write while you are. You will discover the necessary evil and illuminating worth of editing. You will face rejection. And, if you work-really work-at it, you'll improve, grow and ultimately thrive as a writer. These are constants. These are the inevitable little truths that you will encounter at one time or another over the span of your writing career.

You will also, I promise, hear many, many nuggets of advice on writing, on character development, pacing, query letter writing and all those dirty little publishing secrets. Those simply aren't avoidable.

What, I think, is one of the most important bits of advice you'll hear is how to structure your narrative so that you avoid any and all instances of The Clunk. Do you know where those come from, folks? Well, adverbs, of course.

Why are they bad?
Well, to the unskilled, they seem like an easy fix, the clearest and easiest path to lazy writing. These little monsters modify verbs and aren't, on their own, so bad. It's when they enable The Clunk, that you have to watch out.

Charlie Jane Anders, with explains it far more intelligently than I can with this article. Essentially, Anders echoes my long-held belief in why adverb usage is bad.


  • Cause redundancy- She crept stealthily. He yelled angrily. They ran quickly. As David Byrne says, "Say something once. Why say it again?"
  • SPEECH TAGS - This is a biggie and a personal pet peeve of mine. When your character is angry/upset/frightened, the worst thing you can do is TELL the reader what they're feeling. "I don't want to die!" needn't be followed by she said hysterically. If we know that the character is scared of death or is in a situation where death is imminent, the emotion is implied. This type of writing reeks of 'telling not showing' and is consistent with lazy, novice writing.
  • They weaken your verbs or point out when you have a bad one - First, let me explain weak and strong verbs.

Strong verbs = Irregular verbs (generally) that aren't aided by other tense endings (ed, d, t). They demonstrate action. Example: give, gave.

Weak verbs = Regular verbs that cannot form the past tense without the aid of compound endings (ed, d, t). They 'insinuate' action. Example: call, called.

So when you have a weak verb, your sentence structure is passive and the difference is obvious: Weak: She cringed at the horribleness of her long day. Strong: She had a bad day.

A better understanding of why adverbs should be avoided comes from Renni Browne and Dave King’s take on the evils of those ly monsters in Self Editing For Fiction Writers: “Ly adverbs almost always catch the author in the act of explaining dialogue – smuggling emotions into speaker attributions that belong in the dialogue itself. If your dialogue doesn’t need props, putting the props in will make it seem weak even though it isn’t.”

Still not convinced? I’ll give you an example from Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages (which includes both poor adverb and adjective usage):

In the bright, shiny sky there appeared two large, massive birds, circling slowly around the young, scared rabbit. It ran quickly, jumping bravely over small, sharp, rocks and trying to make is way desperately to its little hole. The birds dived ferociously and with long, sharp nails grabbed the baby rabbit’s short, white hair and swept him up pridefully into the large, open sky. There flew victoriously back home their wide, black slick wings reflecting the hot, afternoon sun.

And with corrections:

In the bright, shiny sky there appeared two large, massive (large/massive both describe the size of the birds. i.e, redundant) birds, circling slowly (circling implies slow) around the young, scared rabbit.(how do we know the rabbit is young or scared? Because the writer tells us so? No! Bad writing, there. What indicates that the rabbit is young? How does he look? Is he trembling?) It ran quickly, (run generally indicates moving fast) jumping bravely (Lukeman says this is an example of the writer not giving enough credit. Let the reader’s imagination work here, don’t do it for him) over small, sharp) (more redundancy here) rocks and trying to make is way desperately (the rabbit is running, trying to escape predators…of course he’s desperate. ) to its little hole. The birds dived ferociously (is there any other way for a predator to dive? cut) and with long, sharp nails grabbed the baby rabbit’s short, (this would have been better served above, when the writer was describing the age of the rabbit) white hair and swept him up pridefully (technically, that’s not even a word) into the large, (we know the sky is large and open, for that matter but I’ll leave that one in) open sky. They flew victoriously (how does won ‘fly victoriously?) back home with their wide, black slick (pick ONE description here and get rid of The Clunck) wings reflecting the hot, (bright, above, indicated this already) afternoon sun.

Okay, so this is what we have now:

In the bright sky there appeared two large birds, circling around the young rabbit. It ran, jumping over small rocks and tried to make its way to its little hole. The birds dived and with sharp nails, grabbed the baby rabbit’s white hair and swept him up into the open sky. They flew back home with their slick wings reflecting the afternoon sun.

Still not perfect, (the gerund use is ridiculous), but you get the point. The Clunk has disappeared along with the redundant and poorly used adverbs.

Happy writing!



On Monday, our baby will be here! Adrienne and I are proud to bring to you...

LitStack is a new reviews site dedicated to readers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short stories, literary magazines, ebooks, manga and graphic novels. (We'll probably even be posting some spoken-word stuff for the super-artsy types.) The site also features indie bookstores and literary landmarks across the world (one city at a time), and cool bookish finds and news we run across online.itack’s diverse staff comprises writers and reviewers with MFAs and various advance
In addition to daily book reviews and regular spotlights on indie bookstores we love, LitStack also features regular segments to promote current titles and build appreciation for older works.

LitStack’s Featured Author- This month-long series of posts includes reviews of previous releases by our Featured Author, along with a current interview and review to coincide with the author’s upcoming release.

LitStaff Picks- Once a week, we feature a collection of books new and old--the favorites of our staff within a specific theme.

ShortStacks - Original short stories and essays by established authors.

Footnotes - Multiple weekly posts highlighting literary events in history, including the birthdays of famous authors, publication and award dates of classic titles, and memorial posts for beloved figures.

Author Interviews - Launch week will feature interviews with Adam Schuitema and Hannah Moskowitz. In the coming weeks, Locus winner Cherie Priest, NYT Bestseller Terry Brooks and Irish Book Awards winner Marian Keyes are scheduled to appear.

The Book Club - Every month LitStack will have a couple of featured titles; a review, open-thread discussion and author Q&A (when available) will be posted for each book so you can read along and share your thoughts.