Awards, Awards, Awards!

Happy Monday, everyone! I recently received two beautiful blog awards that I'd like to pass along to hopefully brighten your week.


The first is the Beautiful Blogger Award, gifted to me by the always clever and creative Jenny Phresh, whose blog is a true work of art. I'm serious. This is her profile pic:

Photo Courtesy of The Party Pony
How can this woman NOT be a creative genius??

When I received this award, I knew EXACTLY who I would gift it to right away: Lori Parker of GirlParker.com, who just gave her blog a beautiful facelift. It was lovely before, but the beautifulness has truly stepped up a notch. Well done, Lori! (And the most amazing news is that there are no rules associated with this award, so enjoy at your leisure!)


My next award is the Versatile Blogger Award, given to me by Yelena Casale, a new blogging friend who is an urban fantasy writer with an amazingly practical and helpful blog, filled with tons of great information for aspiring writers.

The rules for this award are a little more intense:

1. In a post on your blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.
2. In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.
3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

Would you guys be opposed if I adapted this award slightly and just passed it on to five of you? I hope not, because here's my list:

1. Rebekah Crane, who has the dual job of writing an amazing paranormal novel and also talking me down from ledges whenever I'm afraid I've stolen an idea from an already-exisiting novel, even if I've never read it before. Versatile indeed, my friend!
2. Beth Christopher, who I will love until the day I die. Her blog, "On the Trail," follows her life as an active, nature-loving Coloradan, and she writes some of the most poetic blog entries I've ever read. (Also, I've been fortunate enough to read the first few chapters of her current WIP. Quite simply put, it's badass.)
3. Peggy Eddleman, who has one of the greatest "brands" I've ever seen on her blog. Its title, "Peggy Eddleman: Will Write for Cookies" pretty much sums everything up. Also, her first novel, THROUGH THE BOMB'S BREATH, will be published by Random House in September 2013!
4. Jaye Robin Brown, an animal lover and writer of the type of fiction I go crazy to read. She also hosts this great "Memories of a High School You" series... Definitely worth checking out when you're in the mood for a trip down Memory Lane!
5. Lora Rivera, who I respect and admire so much. A contest win brought us together, and I'm so, so, so happy to know her. Lora is a a writer of literary adult and children's fiction, a freelance book editor, and a Life Book writer for Aviva Children's Services. She's also just a wonderful person.

So there you have it! I was fortunate enough to receive this award twice before (must be the whole, "Are you a zookeeper or are you a writer" thing ;)), so here's a link to my first seven random facts: An Embarrassment of Riches, and here's a link to my second seven random facts, which are about the main character in my novel BELOW THE SURFACE (formerly titled THE MERMAID GENE):Versatile Blogger Award and Seven Facts About Kai Murphy.

This time around, I think I will give you--in no particular order--my seven favorite books of all time:

Photo Courtesy of GoodReads

Photo Courtesy of GoodReads

Photo Courtesy of GoodReads

Photo Courtesy of GoodReads

Photo Courtesy of GoodReads

Photo Courtesy of GoodReads

Photo Courtesy of GoodReads
Oh my gosh, is it just me, or is it nearly IMPOSSIBLE to lower down your favorites to seven?? I'm already second-guessing myself, but I think this is a good cross-section.

Have a wonderful week!

Pay It Forward and 7x7 Link Award!


I am so excited to participate in the Pay It Forward Blogfest, courtesy of Dawn Kurtagich's awesome blog shout-out. If you haven't visited Dawn yet, I highly suggest stopping by to say hello. She's an aspiring YA author, represented by Weronika Janczuk, and her life truly reads like an adventure novel. (Think, elephant stampedes at close range and baboons stealing her underwear. I'm not making this stuff up.) Plus, she's just so friendly, approachable and nice. You will love her; I am confident!

Now to the blogfest. The purpose is to introduce others to three bloggers you find awesome. Then attack the list and explore! Find some cool new friends, and discover some great new bloggers to follow.

Here is my list:

1. Rebekah Crane actually lives in Colorado, and we just spent the most hilarious evening drinking wine and cocktails, laughing about the craziness of this submissions process, and generally just laughing. Oh my gosh, it was fantastic, and Bekah is so much fun. She has gotten like 15 full and partial requests for her YA novel so far, and she is perked on the cusp of great things.

2. Dan Brennan is "a mystery, an enigma, and a riddle rolled into one. He’s also a tiny bit pretentious, sorry about that." (Haha!) He's also one of my favorite writerly friends around, and his newest foray is an attempt to simultaneously seek traditional and self-publication (with different projects). His Infinite Circles series is his experiment in self-publishing, and he plans to post his novel, BURNING DAYLIGHT, chapter by chapter on his blog. Chapter One is currently up, and it's really (really, really) good.

3. Peggy Eddleman just got an agent!! She is now represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, and she absolutely deserves to bask in this happiness. She's thoughtful, she's positive, and every time I visit her site, I am overwhelmed by a burning desire to eat cookies!

(Recipients, feel free to pay others forward on your blog if you'd like, or just sit back and enjoy your new visitors!)


On to my new award, which is the 7x7 Link Award, presented to me by the lovely Girl Parker, who is an aspiring writer, an aspiring photographer, an incredibly sweet and supportive friend, and freaking amazing cook.  (Seriously, just read this post: Date Night, German Chocolate Cake Style. Are you drooling yet?)

The purpose of this award is to ask bloggers to identify their own blog posts in certain categories (to breathe new life into some oldies but goodies). Here are mine:

1. Most Beautiful Post: The Quirks and Idiosyncrasies of Dolphins... Nothing in the world humbles me more than a pod of dolphins, and I posted some fantastic footage of them from Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, in this post. (Okay, this is kind of misleading, because "Most Beautiful Post" implies that I actually wrote something beautiful. But hey, how am I going to compete with a pod of dolphins?)

2. Most Popular Post: Announcing My New Agent...  Yeah, not too surprised about this one. The day Jamie Brenner (and Brianne Mulligan) entered my life was definitely a life changer, and I am so thankful for all the support and words of congratulations everyone shared when I announced my big news.

3. Most Controversial Post: The Hotdog... I love my hometown in Florida more than words can say.  But like most kids from small Southern towns, I didn't always feel this way. I posted this older essay about myself as a teenager because I'm proud of the risks I took while writing it.  But I also posted it with a great deal of trepidation, because the years (and life and wisdom) have pretty much erased every negative feeling I expressed while writing this.

4. Most Helpful: RMFW Lesson #1: Time Management for Busy Writers... This is my first--and currently the only--post in my "Lessons from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers" series.  Life got crazy busy right after this, but I can't wait to continue adding nuggets of wisdom from all the incredible authors I got to meet during my first-ever writers conference.

5. Most Surprisingly Successful: Dolphin Tale Premiers September 23rd!... I think I have excellent timing to thank for the success of this post.  I simply wanted to shout-out that adorable dolphin I remember from my time in Florida, but I didn't expect so many random readers to stumble upon my blog through their Google searches.  (And let's face it, Winter is fantastic.  Once again, how am I going to compete with a dolphin?)

6. Post That Didn't Get The Attention It Deserved AND 7. Post I Am Most Proud Of: The Product of Post-Crash Insomnia... Okay, so I cheated and combined these last two. But I am proud of this post on so many levels. I survived a pretty intense car accident in October of 2010, and I quickly realized the only way I could purge my experience was to write it down. It's gruesome and violent, and I posted it way back in March before I really had any followers, so I'm not surprised it has gone relatively unnoticed until now.  I also understand that many people probably don't want to join in on my car crash, but the writing, the editing and the reading was the only catharsis that actually worked, so I've never been prouder of anything.

And HERE are the five bloggers I would like to bestow with their very own 7x7 Link Awards. (Recipients, right-click the award to save it and post it in your own blogs if you'd like. Then feel free to pass it on to five more worthy bloggers.)

1. Deana Barnhart is hilarious, and she makes such an effort to support other writers by posting interviews, hosting blogfests, and researching great information for all of us to enjoy.  I am very excited to hear which posts she likes best.

2. Jenny Phresh... Okay, I have to admit, I'm posting this selfishly.  I just can't imagine which post the lovely Party Pony would put under "Post I'm Most Proud Of."  If you don't know why I'm so excited, go visit her blog, and then you will know why.

3. Beckah-Rah is dark and hilarious.  Check out this random sample of the first few words that just happen to be on her blog today: "Last night, I dreamed that my sister talked me into going swimming with her at this strip club’s indoor pool, which turned out to have a chemical in it that dissolves your clothing. Then, of course, we saw the pervs watching from the underground pervert rooms. We got out and were promptly man-handled by creepy homeless-looking strip club patrons, and then we got kidnapped by Santa Claus."

4. Audra has a really unique site called "Rediscovering Domesticity," where she shares all sorts of great tips for home life, from fun and easy recipes to budgets to children.  A great resource, and I'd definitely be interested to hear which posts she thinks are most helpful.

5. Perri's "Lesser Apricots" blog is fantastic, because she always posts random song clips, great pictures, and really unique posts. (i.e., These are the subjects that are "near and dear" to her heart: one-hit wonders, lesser apes, rural Florida and other relevant oddball bits.) Can't wait for a "Best-of" list!

That'll do it, folks!  Have a wonderful night!

WriteOnCon Update + Blog on Fire Award!

Whew, what a crazy week! The WriteOnCon online conference has been a whirlwind, and it's been great learning from pros, chatting with other writers and honing the craft. And holy crap, was anyone else part of the madness that was the opening of the live YA MG Pitch Forum Event with Carlie Webber and Christina Hogrebe? I literally had to stop on the side of the freeway to get my Twitter pitch posted!


I also recently scored a blog award I've been oogling for ages: the Blog on Fire Award, from the lovely and talented Cherie of Ready. Write. Go.  Not only is she a great blogging buddy, but she looks EXACTLY like the main character in my novel The Mermaid Gene.  I'm serious.  It's freakish.

The purpose of the Blog on Fire Award is to stoplight up and coming bloggers who deserve acknowledgement for all the hard work and dedication they put into their craft.  There actually aren't any rules associated with this one, so I'm just going to pick five great bloggers and call it a night.  Feel free to pay this award forward if you like, or you can just enjoy the fun!

1.  Kalen O'Donnell... He's too nice too brag, but the guy literally has FOURTEEN full manuscripts out right now.  He's also written like 300 books, so he's pretty much set for life at this point.
2.  Lori M. Lee... Both of our main characters are named Kai, and Lori just scored a request from a big-time agent during one of today's WriteOnCon live events.  The best part?  The manuscript isn't even ready yet--and she told the agent that--but the agent loves it enough that she's willing to wait!
3.  Jenny Phresh... is one of those people you don't want to go on a double-date with, because she's so damn snarky and hilarious that both dudes would totally pick her over you.
4.  An Alleged Author...  She is a fantastic writer, and I'm so glad Deana Barnhart's GUTGAA blogfest brought us together.  She's also been ripping up WriteOnCon, and she is definitely one to watch!
5. Michelle Fayard... gives fantastic editing advice, and her website is one of the best resources I've found for aspiring writers.

There you have it!  Have a wonderful evening, everyone!

My Query is the Winner! + Week Four of the GUTGAA Blogfest

I am beyond excited that Lora Rivera picked my query letter as the grand prize winner during Week Three of Deana Barnhart's "Gearing Up to Get an Agent" Blogfest last week. I received so much helpful query advice from everyone, and Lora just finished my free five-page critique, so I feel jazzed, refreshed and ready to take on some agencies! (Check out Deana's blog announcement here: GUTGAA Query Winner! + Final Week Around the Corner.)

Lora's feedback was invaluable, and I am so appreciative for the time and effort she and Deana have put into making this Blogfest a success. I am also indebted to the talented writers who have stopped by to give me so much great advice. What a great opportunity to hone our skills, meet other bloggers, build our platforms and learn about all the other awesome stories in the works!

Week Four of the Blogfest has now begun, and this week, we are all posting the first 200 words of our manuscripts in order to receive feedback. Two winners will be announced at the end of this week, and each will receive either a query and 30 page critique from agent Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, or a 10 page critique from Monica Bustamante Wagner, YA writer represented by Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary.

Here are the first 200 words of my YA urban fantasy, THE MERMAID GENE, and thanks in advance for your help!

Photo Courtesy of marfis75

The dolphin twists sideways in my arms. Eyeing me through one widened, gleaming black eye, she opens her blowhole and gurgles. Her voice sounds breathless and weak, and the tips of her flukes feel hot against my fingertips.

“What are you waiting for, Kai? Tighten up on her, or she’s gonna bolt.” My father’s warning booms from a nearby research vessel as I struggle for footing in the tea-stained waters of Tampa Bay. “Do it quick; she’s baiting you.”

The concern in his voice sends a fresh wave of anxiety grinding through me, and I wrinkle my nose in protest as I realize the truth of his words. Growing up watching him perform countless catch-and-release medical exams just like this one, I know researchers only have four, maybe five seconds to restrain a bottlenose dolphin before it fights back and escapes capture.

Wrapped around this animal’s tail, I should follow protocol by pulling her flukes into my chest and bracing myself for her inevitable thrashing. Instead, I find myself lost in her plaintive, lucid eye contact. Her pupils, shrunk into tiny circles in the sunlight, roll back and forth as she cranes her head, and a shallow scar splits the silvery bulge of her forehead.

Hesitating, I loosen my grip on her dorsal ridge and exhale. Poor thing’s exhausted. Isn’t even fighting anymore.

That's my first mistake.

An Embarrassment of Riches

Yay!  Holy crap, I am now the proud recipient of THREE new blog awards!  Sophie Li just bestowed me with an adorable strawberry shortcake, recognizing my "Irresistibly Sweet Blog."  (What can I say?  It's obviously those cuties in my right margin...  They're the real crowd pleasers here, not me! :))

If you haven't visited Sophie Li's blog, The Wordsmith Apprentice, you really ought to.  Not only is Sophie the most adorable Army vet and ex-parachuter you've ever seen, but she's also in the process of finishing her first manuscript, raising two kids and generally being fantastic.


My second blog award is from Pam Asberry, and it's so chic and svelte that I don't know what to do with myself!  My brand new "Stylish Blogger Award" proves once and for all that hiking boots and dirty clothes CAN be trend-setting!

As a disclaimer, take a stop by Pam's blog, Sometimes It's Cloudy, Sometimes It's Clear, to see what REAL style looks like!  Not only is Pam a writer, piano teacher, jewelry designer and single parent, but she's also an incredibly classy lady, and I'm honored someone so chic chose to give me this badge.


Last but certainly not least, Alison Beightol just bestowed me with my third honor, the "Versatile Blogger Award."  Wow, I looove this award; we are all juggling multiple paths as aspiring writers, so it's amazing to be recognized for my little corner of the world.

Alison's blog, Adventures of the Cautionary Tale, is a wonderful place to visit.  Not only does she jazz it up with hilarious pictures, but she provides tons of fun content, and she never fails to make me laugh.  If you don't know Alison yet, you really, really, really need to swing by and say hello!


Thank you SO much, ladies!  You have truly made my day!

After doing some soul searching, I am ready to pay my gifts forward.  Here are a few rules before I announce the recipients of MY blog awards:

1. Thank and link the person who nominated you.
2. Share seven random facts about myself.

3. Pass the Sweet Blog Award to 15 blogging buddies. 
4. Pass the Stylish Blogger Award to five new-found blogging buddies.
5. Pass the Versatile Blogger Award to five fellow bloggers.
6. Contact the winners to congratulate them.


Without further ado, here are my winners (in no particular order).  Some of you I've known for awhile, and some of you I've just met, but I've been touched by your kindness, style and humor, and I'm so pleased to be able to show my appreciation for you with these awards.

IRRESISTIBLY SWEET BLOG AWARD
1. Anita Howard
2. Amy Armstrong, MS, NCC
3. Lydia K
4. EEV
5. brenda
6. Marewolf
7. Charlee
8. K. Syrah
9. Girl Parker
10. Dawn Brazil
11. Deirdra Eden-Coppel
13. K.C. Blake
14. Bethany C.
15. Jennifer Snyder

STYLISH BLOGGER AWARD
1. Rebecca Dupree
2. Moonlight Gleam
3. Talia Jager
4. Kimberly Spencer
5. Eliza Faith

VERSATILE BLOGGER AWARD
1. Kalen O'Donnell
2. Katherine Jenkins
3. Coral
4. Beckah-Rah
5. Anna L. Walls

Now, on to my seven random facts.  Compiling these was great fun; I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them!

1. My original career goal was to be a garbage man. People think I’m kidding when I say this, but I absolutely wanted to be a garbage man when I was five or six years old. This was back in the days when garbage men actually stood on the back of the garbage trucks, and I used to stare longingly at those dudes, wishing there was some way I too could someday get paid to hang on the back of a moving vehicle. (The whole disclaimer that you actually had to stop and pick up trashcans every few feet obviously didn’t make a dent in my childhood brain.)

Photo Courtesy of California Cthulhu (Will Hart)
2. I am too tall to be Cinderella. While I attended college in Orlando, one of my dreams was to become a Disney princess at Walt Disney World. Utilizing the behind-the-scenes knowledge of some acquaintances who worked at the park, I actually managed to maneuver my way into a casting session. Upon my arrival, I was floored to learn how specific Disney’s princess requirements are. Princesses, apparently, should be between 5’4” and 5’7”, and their feet should be no larger than a size 9. (Sad news for my 5’8” and size 9.5 self!) Although I tried unsuccessfully to slouch and scrunch in my toes, I was quickly dismissed, and that was the end of my Disney princess dream. As a parting gift, however, I was cast as a dancer in Epcot’s Tapestry of Dreams parade, and I spent the next year and a half dancing, sweating, and smiling my gold-painted face off!

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia.org

Summer 2003: That's me!!
3. I’m a crappy surfer, and I apparently don’t have the sense to stay out of shark-infested waters. I lack upper arm strength, but that didn’t stop me from really, really, really trying to pick up surfing during the six months I lived and worked as an apprentice chef in Australia. (I know, random, right? I’m almost as bad at cooking as I am at surfing.) The crowning jewel of this failed attempt at greatness took place off the coast of Adelaide when my friend Simon and I spent an afternoon surfing on a fantastic, hidden and remarkably empty stretch of beach just south of wine country. Upon our return to town, a few locals stopped us. Seeing our boards, they asked us where we’d been, and their jaws dropped when we told them the name of the beach and remarked how unusual we’d found it to be so empty on such a beautiful day. Yep, you guessed it. The beach was renowned great white territory, and none of the locals were stupid enough to step foot in the surf. (I still get the willies when I tell this story!)

Photo Courtesy of Terry Goss, Wikimedia Commons
4. I once lived in a tent for four and a half months. I spent the summer of 2004 living and working in Yosemite National Park, and my assigned employee housing was a 10’ x 10’ tent with canvas walls, a wooden floor and a pair of creaking, rusted army cots. (Did I mention I SHARED this 10’ x 10’ tent with a roommate??) Despite this rustic housing, I truly view those 4.5 months as an amazing turning point in my life, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. By living simply, I realized how much crap I actually didn’t need in my life. My summer in Yosemite also cemented my love of the outdoors, and I don’t think I would be where I am today if not for the lessons I learned while hiking, biking, stargazing and floating down the Merced River. (I will actually be returning to Yosemite next week to be a bridesmaid in my Yosemite roommate’s wedding. Mary Schwab, you are an angel, and I can’t wait to be part of your big day!!)

Photo Courtesy of Rainer Marks, Wikimedia Commons
5. The tattoo my left foot depicts the footprints of my six favorite animals at the Alaska Zoo. When my husband and I made the difficult decision to leave Alaska after nearly four fantastic years (see Thoughts on Leaving the Last Frontier), I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my job at the Alaska Zoo without taking along mementos of my six favorite animals. The result was this tattoo, which symbolizes (from bottom to top) Knobby the Bactrian camel, Elf the moose, Tracy the mountain goat, Mac the red fox, Max the raccoon and Peabody the great horned owl. (I have many more zoo loves, but these six animals in particular touched my life in so many ways that I’m ecstatic I get to carry them around with me every day.)

My bony feets!
6. I survived a horrific car crash last October, and nothing has been quite the same since. During my husband’s and my exodus from Alaska last October, we ran into a patch of black ice on a remote stretch of the Alaska Highway just south of the town of Fort Nelson in northern British Columbia. (See The Product of Post-Crash Insomnia) Our truck flipped six times and one of our two dogs was tossed out the back window, but we all miraculously survived. (My husband, our boy dog and I suffered only minor scrapes and bruises, and our girl dog suffered a hairline fracture on her pelvis, which healed after six weeks or so.) Although we walked away mostly unharmed, I couldn’t sleep for weeks, and I was haunted by the idea that the sum of our lives—our memories, our relationships, our goals and our dreams—could have been extinguished so easily in that split-second. The accident taught me many things, and the strongest of these is that we should ALWAYS tell people how we feel about them. If they are important to us, they should know that, because we might never get a second chance to express that. (On that note, thank you—ALL of you—for stopping by to visit me here. I know I’ve never met most of you in real-life, and I know I don’t know most of you very well yet, but our commonality and purpose as aspiring writers {most of us, anyway} is so powerful, and I’m incredibly thankful that I’ve found all of you to share in this journey with me.)

July 4, 2009: Milk Glacier, Girdwood, Alaska
7. A snake took a ride on my backpack this Tuesday. Now that I’ve gotten all “Debbie Downer” on you, I’ll end on a funny note. I’m currently working as the Director of Education at a nature center in Denver, and I had a huge field trip group out at the site this Tuesday. As I was wrapping up their field trip program, I set down my backpack to say goodbye to the teachers and pass out evaluations and whatnot. After leaving the backpack unattended for no more than five minutes, I picked it up, slung it over my shoulder and headed back to our educational shed to put my gear down. As I turned a corner, I caught a flash of movement at the corner of my eye, and THIS SNAKE fell off my backpack and hit the ground at my feet. WTF? WTF? WTF? WTF? I’m not really allowed to be afraid of snakes in my line of work, and I’ve worked with enough of them that I’ve kind of gotten over my girlish fear of them, but OH MY GOD. How are you supposed to NOT freak out when a 16-inch bull snake falls off your backpack and lands on the ground at your feet??? The best part, of course, was the fact that I had to grab a stick, pick this guy up, and run him to a safe place before the kids found him. Yikes!!!

Photo Courtesy of Antonio Muniz
That's all from me...  I can't wait to hear YOUR seven facts!! :)