My reading list grows exponentially. Everytime I read a book, it'll mention three other books I feel I have to read. It's like a particularly relentless series of pop-up ads.
-A.J. Jacobs

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Best Blog You'll Ever Come Across

Kristen and I have begun a new epic journey. We made a blog. We made vlog. And we have a contest. An epic one. Watch us make fools of ourselves in our first vlog ever and then enter the contest over at our new co-authoring blog, Shade and Sunshine.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Writer Must-Have Numero Tres

Yeah, I decided to mix it up and throw in a little Spanglish with this post. Mostly because it's 1:20 AM as I type this. I must have pulled a DitzyTiff and forgot all about BrilliantTiff''s idea to blog all week long about the writer must-haves.

So this post will be short. Like, epic short for me. While you're picking up your stone paper, you MUST pick up Paper Mate Profile Pens in multiple colors.

Writing with  one of these pens on my stone paper, is better than...well, I'll let you fill in the blank once you get that paper and pen heavenly combo going. And don't forget to turn on The Sixty One. You will almost be in my writing bliss. Just you wait for tomorrow's post. By the end of this week, you will be a fantastic writer all because of me. You can send any royalties my way. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Writer Must-Have #2

I was sitting, staring at my computer screen wondering what in the world I could possibly write about when it hit me! (This doesn't happen often, so stand back, it could be the sign of the apocalypse, a zombie one at that).

So getting back to the scenario, this is basically how it went. I toned it down a bit. And yes, I do realize this is a conversation between me and me. Do you not talk to yourself? Okay, that's what I thought...

DitzyTiff: *taps finger on chin* What could we blog about...hmmm...

BrilliantTiff: *raises pointed finger in air* I know, we could turn this week's blog into daily posts about we can't live without when it comes to writing.

DitzyTiff: *scratches head* I don't get it.

BrilliantTiff: *slaps DitzyTiff across the face* What do you not get, idiot? Yesterday we posted about the awesomeness of Today we post about another Writer Must-Have, and then we continue for the rest of the week. Gah.

DitzyTiff: OMG! That's like, super genius! I totally get it now. Like how you always need your blanket from when you were a baby wrapped around your...

BrilliantTiff: *clamps DitzyTiff's mouth* What? What are you talking about? Shut up. *turns to the waiting audience apologetically* I'm sorry for her. She's a compulsive liar. She's been going to therapy for that.

DitzyTiff: *trying to pry BrilliantTiff's hand off mouth* mbmlblmblbmblalmbm...

BrilliantTiff: Don't mind her. She's also got a few screws loose up there. Anyway, today's EPIC Writer Must Have is STONE PAPER!

Yes, you read that correctly. There is such thing as paper out there, made from stone. And the paper is so freaking crazy/awesome because it's soft and sort of feels like it's damp in a way, and when you write on it, it is so stinkin' smooth, it's unreal. 

Basically I can't explain it to you, but if I could marry my stone paper, I just might.  You must run out and get you some stone paper TODAY. (Neither of the Tiffany's are receiving any royalties for shamelessly promoting this product, but if you do choose to go out and buy it today, you should go to Walgreen's. That's where I got mine.)

See? Isn't it pretty!! Okay,so it may not be visually appealing, but holy mother of bats it has a kinesthetic appeal. Because. It. Writes. So. Dang. Smooth.

What do you use to take your writing notes in? I guaranty you might change that answer once you try out the-rock-paper-of-awesome. :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

News Bulletin

I interrupt the regularly scheduled blog post to direct your attention to the most important thing ever. If you haven't heard of or checked out, then you should leave this blog post (after commenting of course) and lose yourself in some of the most ah-may-zing music ever. You can create play lists, download the music (some of it is free!), and support these undiscovered artists. I don't know about you, but I have to have music to write, and since writing, the diversity of my music has spread like no other. This website is seriously just about all I listen to now.

The best part about it, is that under the section Popular, you can click on Moods, and then click on what mood you (or if you're like me the voices in your head) are in, and it will play a non-stop collection of it.

Gah! I know, so exciting, right?

Are you like me? Do you need constant music reflecting the mood you're book is in at that moment?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

DFW Writer's Workshop

So, I've been on a crit kick this week. Heehee. That sounds funny. I went all soft yesterday talking about my awesome crit partner Kristen (who by the way is going Critler on me to get my book done).

Today I want to talk about the awesomeness that is critique groups that meet in person. Weird, huh? More like completely terrifying. Honestly, I didn't really get the whole point of Workshop at first. I was thinking, you could get the same thing accomplished with your online critters as you would in person, so these people must just need to interact with other real, live, humans in person.I reasoned with that. It makes sense.

But, oh no. That is not what it is. There of course are positives and negatives to every side of anything you do. And there are a few negatives to the Workshop, however, I truly believe that the positives outweigh the negatives by a million degrees. And even though at times I look at Workshop as an AA meeting for writers, hey let's face it, we need that, it is so much more.

Basically here's a run-down of how it works:
There's a meeting with the whole group sharing news, highs/lows of the week, introducing new members, and any announcements.

If you've signed up to read, then you are assigned to a group/room/moderator and told what order you'll be reading.

Quick break.

Readings begin. Last week I was the first to read which was seriously terrifying. I can't explain to you what comes over me when I read my stuff out loud. I get all weird and my voice tenses up, and my heart practically pounds out of my chest. No, seriously. I can hear my voice shaking when I read and I always read WAY too fast.

You may be asking right now, why in the world would you put yourself through that terrible torture. Here's why:
After reading, you give up the stage (not literally) and hand it over to the critiquers. People can crit for up to five minutes, and have seconds if there is time left over. The crits can sting and feel brutal sometimes, but they are always beyond helpful. And the crazy thing is that I can read a chapter a bajillion times out loud in the privacy of my own home and think I'm freaking brilliant, and then read it out loud to the group of critiquers and realize as I'm reading it, "Oh my God. This is horrible." And already know what they're going to say is wrong with it before they even open their mouths.

It's CRAZY. But ridiculously helpful. And in my opinion, a writer shouldn't do it all by themselves. They should rely on critique partners to help them out. We are too close to our own stories to have good judgement on what really matters. And yes, even though it does take longer to finish a ms while being in crit groups, I can guarantee you, that my ms is going to be much more polished and ready for an agent than if I had done it all on my own.

Plus, going to a Workshop where you can meet other writers in real life is pretty awesome in and of itself. I'm really lucky to have amazing people that attend Workshop with me to learn from. Some agented, some published, but all writers wanting to grow and become better at what they do. Not that I'm name dropping or anything, but you may have heard of Jamie Harrington, Jenny Martin, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Candace Havens, and A. Lee Martinez. All fellow Workshop attendees. And of course there are many, many more fab writers there as well... :)

If you live in the DFW area, you should check out Workshop. It is worth it. Not to mention the amazing conference they offer as well. So, do any of you guys have a Workshop type deal that meets in your area? Are you a member? Tell me about your meeting in real life with crit partners!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Online Critter Groups

First of all, I have to start out by saying that if you feel jealous of me and my crit situation after you read this, then you should. ;)  I met my other half and most amazing crit partner ever, Kristen, in February.  If you've ever seen us talk/tweet/blog each other, you would've thought that we had known each other since we were in diapers.

It actually seems this way to us as well. She can seriously finish my thoughts and sentences at times which has led us to try and figure out how our parents pulled a real, live Parent Trap stunt on us. We had to have been separated at birth. It's the only thing that makes sense. Sadly, she lives in NY and I in TX. Such a far, far distance apart.

When I say she's my other half what I mean is, on any given day, I talk to her more often than I do my husband. That's intense. We have something wonderfully unique. We don't just crit each other's stuff, but we talk each other off the edge of the cliff, think of other entrepreneurial types of things to do with our lives if we don't make it as writers (like sidewalk chalk artists and tight-rope walkers), work out plot problems, talk about the millions of book ideas that swirl in our brains, we trust one another, we are tough and harsh when we need to be, personal cheerleaders, and most importantly we are best friends.

I know our crittership is a rare thing and I feel so blessed to have her. More recently, her and I have joined two other writers, who have amazing stories and are a brilliant asset to the group. Now that I've gone on and on about how much I love my crit group, let me wash out most writer's issues with "problems" with crit groups. Obviously this is all based on finding the right group that you can trust and wear thick skin around.

  • Be honest and upfront - Tell what you are looking for in the group. If you know that you aren't thick skinned, then, well, maybe you don't belong in this business, but beyond that you're more looking for a personal cheerleader. That isn't what everyone is looking for. It would be a huge waste of time for me, personally, to be in a group where my critters didn't point out the minor and major issues my writing has. So make sure that you know what you are getting into and make sure everyone is on board and is wanting what you want.
  • Tell what your thoughts are as you're reading - Meaning, if you find something HI-larious, then say it. If something doesn't make sense or doesn't fit right, say it. But ALWAYS explain why something doesn't work.
  • Point out the plot issues - If something is not believable, then say it. If there are inconsistencies or things that just don't make any kind of sense to anyone other than the one who wrote it, say it. If you can't take this type of criticism, then how are you going to make it with an agent/editor/publisher's notes to change things?
  • Take some, leave some - If you don't take any of the critiques given, you are making a huge mistake and wasting valuable time of the people critting your stuff. If you are taking all of the critiques, you are most likely making a huge mistake. Everyone has different opinions on things and if you have 4 people looking at your ms, then obviously, there will be differing opinions. Take a look at the majority, leave the crits that don't settle well with you, and find a happy medium.
Do you guys have any other biggies when it comes to your crit groups? Anything that you find to be extremely valuable from your critters? Or is there anything that is extremely NOT helpful from crit partners you may have had in the past?  Tomorrow I'll talk about the membership with DFW Writer's Workshop. Happy Humpday.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Critter Groups

I've seen a lot of posts about this recently. It's one of those hot topics that everyone has such a solid opinion on. It's one of those that is also hard to change a person's opinion on. Not that I'm going to try to do that, of course.

Most people's arguments as to why finding a good critique group is a waste of time is because it takes a lot of time and in most circumstances, it turns out to not be worth it.  I know everyone finds a thing that suits them well and to each man their own, but without my critique groups I would not be the writer that I am today.

I not only have several online critique buddies, some of the greatest friends in the world by the way, but then I also go to a local writer's workshop. Both of those avenues have worked for me as a writer and in an attempt to not go long winded on anyone today, I'm going to do 2 separate posts. One tomorrow about my critiquing experience through online avenues and then one on Thursday about my experience with DFW Writer's Workshop.

For today, tell me what types of experiences you've had with critiquing groups and if you feel that they've had an overall positive or negative experience on you. What made it work/not work?

Monday, July 12, 2010

To Read or To Write?

This conversation has come up a million times since I started really trying to write for a living. I talk to all sorts of people all the way from those who never read while in the midst of a writing project, to those who make reading a part of their daily routine even in the thick of writing their ms.

I find myself somewhere in between. I am a voracious reader. You put a good book in my hands, I will tear through it in no time at all. Sometimes in a few hours. That's how I've always been. I remember reading until midnight (GASP!) underneath my covers with a flashlight when I was in elementary school. All of the classics of course, RL Stine's Fear Street, Sweet Valley High, Babysitter's Club, and all of Roald Dahl's masterpieces.

I've always loved reading, which only makes sense as to why I want to be a writer. But lately I've noticed that the one thing that inspired me to want to be a writer is the one thing that I put on the backburner. I don't have time to read. I have to blog, and procrastinate on Twitter, critique and oh, yeah, write. All of those writerly things that are going to make me a real, live writer one day.

But ironically enough, I've noticed that when I'm not doing much reading, my own words dry up and POOF! they're gone. I mean, it's not rocket science we're talking about here. Besides the fact that you can learn so much from reading a story that you find yourself completely immersed in, as writers, we can see first hand the techniques the author uses that work, what doesn't work well, ways to add more depth to our writing, and so much more.

Funny thing is, I tell my 4th graders all the time, "Good writers read more than they write." Shouldn't this be true. In order to know how to make a YA book have that edge that's going to grab an agent/publisher's attention, we should be constantly reading the latest YA books. In order for me to write a believable MG book, I've got to read first hand what those 9-12 year olds love to read.

There's a hundred reasons why writers don't read as much as we should. There's never enough time. We're constantly worried that we might steal a plot idea, character name, beautiful sentence or idea. We get so caught up in these things that we forget that in order to become a better writer, we should be reading just as much if not more. So, I've decided that even in the thick of trying to get my ms finished, I will make time every day to read a wide range of books.

When I decided to write about this topic I googled: Best advice for writers. This is the first link that popped up.

Leave me a comment and tell me about your reading habits. And just for fun, what's the last book you read? I just finished Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. Brilliant of course.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bree Despain's Epic Contest

Bree Despain wrote the amazing book, The Dark Divine.

I know you've seen this beautiful cover in the bookstores. It is a great cover, isn't it? I read this book in a heartbeat and loved the characters and the plot. She is an wonderful author and does such an inspiring job keeping in touch with her fan base. If you haven't read The Dark Divine, what are you waiting for? Go and get it. Now!

Besides the fact that she has this fantastic book, she now has her book trailer up. It's a teaser, so go ahead and watch it before you buy the book (yes, I give you permission) because it will make you want to read it even that much more.

If this all wasn't enough, then her ridiculously enormous contest she is running right now might get your attention. You could win up to 11 books (yes, you heard that right, 11) and even an iPad. What? I know you are going to want to check it out. All you have to do to enter is spread the word about her contest.

Go forth, spread the word, and let's win some books!! :)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Barry Lyga Rocks!!!

Carolina Valdez at Carol's Prints has been holding this fabulous contest Barry Lyga Rocks!!! Part of the contest is to write a letter to the awesomely awesome author himself, Barry Lyga.  Make sure to check out the other letters-to-the-author here.

::I'm starting to feel nervous:: *sweaty palms* Okay, here goes nothing.*deep breath*

Dear Mr. Barry Lyga, (It feels so informal, but since I'm not on Barr-man status with you, I shall call you by your full name)

I first heard of you at the DFW Writer's conference and was super excited to read a book of yours. Well, between work. writing, 3 maniac kids, and life I hadn't gotten a chance to get around to it (Goth Girl Rising had been sitting on my shelf for months). Anyway, when I heard about Carolina's contest, I figured that it would be a good time to read it.

I put down a couple of other books that I was trudging through to finish and picked up Goth Girl Rising and finished it in less than 24 hours. That is saying something huge about your book! You grabbed my attention with amazing writing, true, real-life characters, and a realistic plot.

And I do have to say you stepped into a mentally unstable 16 year old girl's role quite easily. Should I be worried about you? I think I should. Just a little. Kyra's history and life story leave her in an extremely vulnerable state during some of the most most impressionable times of a teenage girl's life. You do such an honest representation of her that I truly felt as if I knew Kyra. I felt for her and wanted to be there for her.

Kyra has a depth to her that I loved. She is a typical teenage girl in the fact that she thinks she knows what she wants, feels, cares about only to be utterly confused in certain times and start having reverse thinking on those topics. Even though she comes across as one who could care less about what others think, we get so close to her to see that even a person who appears that way truly does care on the inside.

Beyond the on-the-spot character portrayal, the writing craft and creativeness kept the story moving at an unreal fast pace. I loved how you switched between present, to past, to chat sessions, to poetry, to playing out scenes in comic book panels. I have one word for that: genius.

Out of all the ways that you wrote, I have to say that the piece of poetry that threads itself throughout the book, revealing itself in entirety only near the end was amazing. It kept me wanting to know what was going to happen. What she was going to do. What she was going to say. And then when the poem does end, it is nothing like what I expected. As a reader, there couldn't have been a better way to have done it. I applaud that well thought out idea.

Now that I've finished one of your books, I have all of the rest of your books on my TBR pile. I love discovering new authors that are able to keep my interest and keep the book in my hands until it is finished. I can't wait to start another book of yours. Actually, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I win the contest that Carolina is holding, so that then I can have 2 more books of yours! :)

Tiffany Neal AKA Your #1 Fan (Um, I had to do that-it's what my 4th graders do)

Phew. *wipes sweat from brow* Why do I get sweaty palms when I'm writing to an author? It's not like I'm meeting them face to face. Maybe writing is more stressful because that's what I want to be when I grow up and the author may look at my writing and say: NO! You will never be a published author! You can't write worth a damn.
Whatever the case is, I'm glad I got to share a great book by an amazing author. Check out his website which features his other books and blog here!

Friday, July 2, 2010

I Got Nothin'...

So since Eclipse released this week I thought I'd share one of the most hi-larious vids I've found covering Twilight. My favorite part: What I like to call The Kristen Stewart "No" Hospital Scene. Very spot on. Enjoy and Happy Friday.

The Twilight Before Christmas from Electric Spoofaloo on

Thursday, July 1, 2010


This whole No-Goal-Setting thing is all sorts of awesomesauce. That is, if you noticed (or even care) this is blog post #3, three days in a row. Whoa. Epic.

Aaaaand, I've been on a Super-Critting streak (record breaking - just ask Tina, Kristen, and Melissa) AND most importantly, I've been writing. Like, writing real words that are worth keeping around.
No more goals for me, NOPE, never again. So, please remind me of this when I get a wild hair up my rear end that tells me to make goals and I'm stupid enough to post them for the whole world to see and laugh at! :)

On to the real reason I'm posting. I was thinking earlier today (I know...that's a big one) about how close I am to the query stage of my MG ms, Post-It Bandits. Woot! I love the story, the characters, well, everything about it.

My concern: If I (by some crazy sort of luck) get this sucker an agent, will I then be an MG writer? Do I need to stick to that genre, that age? Because honestly, I love YA just as much, if not more than MG. Don't get me wrong, I love middle grade because I feel like that is the age to hook a reader and make them life long readers. It's also the age that I teach, and I love the idea of my students one day getting to read my very own book.

But my first ms was a Paranormal YA and I'm also in the process of writing a YA Dystopian and mapping out a co-authored YA Realistic Thriller with my oh-so-awesome critter, Kristen.

Can I be a MG writer and a YA one? What are your thoughts on this? And are any of you writers/lovers of more than one genre?

(Wow. It's good to be back!)

And, for those of you interested in the animal also known as a monkey-pig from my Bickering Blogfest post yesterday, I will leave you today with two equally disturbing pictures of one: