Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Land of Shadows Giveaway at Goodreads

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Land of Shadows by Rachel Howzell Hall

Land of Shadows

by Rachel Howzell Hall

Giveaway ends February 09, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Thursday, December 5, 2013

“Proud non-reader” Kanye West turns author

Submitted without comment:  “Proud non-reader” Kanye West turns author

Okay. One comment:

"I would never want a book's autograph."

Okay. Another one:

"She [his mom Donda] raised me to be the voice to allow people to think for themselves, to find their own way."

Hunh. Huh?

Okay. Last one:

"Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed."

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha - whew - hahahahahahahahaha.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Another Happy Day!

So I pull up in my porch-corchiere (fancy way of saying 'covered driveway') and saw this big box sitting on my porch. The mailing label hailed from New York... the Tor/Forge part of New York. After preliminary squealing, I tore open the box to find these:

The unedited ARCs (advance reading copies) of Land of Shadows! And they're so pretty. And I'm so excited.

Check in for a give-away cuz you may want to read LOS before it hits the shelves in June! Until then, visit my new web page at www.rachelhowzell.com and 'Like' the Lou Norton FB page.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Contain the Brain Drain

Last week, I finished #2 of the Detective Lou Norton series. Yay! And now, I want to start #3. I know the story, I know the characters, I know 68 percent of what I plan to write. But!

I cannot pick up the pen for more than ten minutes without sighing and mentally pushing away.

You know that I write full-time. And that I have a fourth grader. And that I live in Los Angeles. Each of these activities require mental calisthenics. (Arrays and quotients in fourth grade? Really??) And around 2:35 every afternoon, I start going dim.

I guess my brain is saying, 'Basta!" And according to this Scientific American article, Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime, that's a good thing.

"Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets," essayist Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times.

And so, I'm resting some. Playing 'Dishonored.' Doing easy thinking as much as I can. Letting my mind stretch and pick up shells on the beach and eat popcorn and all of that. I'll be a better writer, a better mother, a better citizen for it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Girl Like Me... is what?

My family.

We're all quite... something. Very interesting in our own ways. Bright. Insightful. Crazy. Funny. Strange. Competitive. And smart.

The young ones - my nieces and nephews - are carrying the same smart-crazy-insightful banner, and I'm so very proud of them.

Recently, though, as I waited to see 'Gravity' (OMG, see that movie), I read an INCREDIBLE poem penned by my fourteen-year old niece Ryan. And as I read, my jaw dropped, and I held my breath as I read, and then, I jabbed my husband David in the arm for him to read it, to read it now, damn it, I don't care if Passbook isn't working, you gotta read what Ryan wrote RIGHT NOW.

Her piece truly struck me (even after reading it for the sixth time today). As you'll recall, back in August, I posted thoughts about Strong Female Characters.

And as a writer of The Strong Female Character, and as s Strong Female, and always questioning what that means, Ryan's essay completely overwhelmed me. The ease of her language, the sarcasm, the anger, the thoughts behind it, knowing the type of young woman Ryan is today and who she will be in seven years... Right then, I emailed my brother Terry to ask Ryan if she'd let me post and share it with you all. And Ryan agreed.

Background first: Ryan and her classmates have been discussing gender roles, with reference to a piece by Jamaica Kincaid. The kids were told to write in her style.

And here is what Ryan wrote:

Girl by Ryan H.
Don’t scream or play in the mud. This is how to dress up like a princess and like the color pink. This is how to raise your hand enough, but not too much. This is how to think boys have cooties and sit at separate lunch tables. This is how to wear dresses and be a daddy’s girl even though you have shorts underneath. This is how to be a girly girl or a tomboy. Never in between. This is how to have ‘fastest’ always followed by ‘girl.’ This is how to avoid contact and talk behind each other’s backs. This is how to be nice. This is how to smile. Don’t raise your voice or tell people what to do.

You would never want to hurt anyone, would you?

This is how to be a victim. This is how to need saving. This is how to exist for others and make other people feel needed. This is how to need others because I know you will. This is how to define yourself as strong because it isn’t implied. This is how to let others define your worth until you drift into becoming someone else’s. This is how to be his sister, his mother, his wife. This is how to be a mother because I know you will be.

This is how to be pretty and wear makeup. This how to be delicate and soft-spoken. This is how to listen first and pause before you speak. This is how to apologize when you’ve done something wrong. This is how to apologize when someone else has done something wrong. This is how to precede sentences with ‘I’m sorry’ even if nothing is wrong. This is how to use pretty language and giggle and flirt with your eyelashes even though you think it looks foolish.

You want to be ladylike, don’t you?

This is how to pretend you are half the person you are.

People like that.

See?! I told you! It's... DA BOMB, right? Gives you hope for the future.

Smart Girls.

Thinking Girls Who Know Gender-Shenanigans Are Afoot And Cock Their Eyebrows At Your B.S.

I absolutely love it!

Thanks again, Ryan, for letting me share!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why Even Bother with the Writing Thing?

So, I just finished the second book in my new Lou Norton series -- and sent it to my editor three weeks before the due date.

And I now have the cover artwork to Land of Shadows (which I will be sharing with you very soon)!

And now, the anxiety sets in. About writing the next story in the series, certainly, but also about the book I just finished, which my editor hasn't read yet. You know, those questions that many writers asks themselves:

Is it good?
Does it stink?
Is that weird?
Is that boring?
Will she like it?
What if she hates it?
Is it better than the last book?
Why can't I breathe right now?
Did I use the F word too much?
What about the S word?
Maybe I should've read over it one more time?
Does Stephen King ever feel this way?
Should I recall that message, the one with the manuscript attached?
Does Gmail recall?
Should I be worried?
Really: why can't I breathe right now?
Crap - did I resolve that plot line right?
Did I use too many first names that start with 'C'?
Why hasn't she emailed me back yet?
Did she read the first chapter, then shake her head in disgust and say, 'What the frack is this piece of frack?'
Will they find out that I don't know nothin' about anything and will it all come out right?

And then... THEN! Once I exhaust that poor horse, I return to the corral to saddle up another. And I start thinking about that next project. You know, those questions that buck about in many writers' minds:

What do I write about next?
Can I fill another 421 pages?
Do I remember how she spoke? The cadences in her language? The type of car she drove? Her world?
Why isn't she speaking to me? Doesn't she want me to write about her again?
Where is that notebook that I bought, the $12 one for the next story?
Is Office Depot open even though it's 6:25 a.m.?

There are easier ways to live. Other things to think about. I have a fourth-grade girl -- yes, she gives me plenty of things to think about. Math that I haven't done in thirty-something years, parallel circuits, sandwich book reports, Gradelink...

But I can't imagine NOT thinking about writerly things -- they are a part of me. Like the moles on my face. The red strands of hair on my head. The way I tug at my lip when I'm worried.

I ask these questions because I want to share: my world, your world, the good, the not-so-good, the 'remember whens' and the 'no ways.' And since I'm not a public speaker, and suck at math, and will never run for public office, writing is the way for me. And writing good. And worrying that I'm writing as good as I can. Which leads to 'Is it better than the last book.'

Is it worth it?

I found this essay: When Writing Pays Off | Thought Catalog.

It pays off when someone sees themselves in your syntax and under your paragraphs and behind your syllables. You can bring them places they’ve forgotten or expose pieces they’ve hidden or lead them to the strength they’ve misplaced.

Since my writing career began, I've had a life-lone dream come true, met incredible readers, had fictional love affairs or scorched-earth arguments with the people in my head who populate my books, had lovely conversations with other writers, met Judy Blume, rode in a chauffeured Town Car, become Google-able, received great reviews, saw my name in print, watched my parents see my name in print, watched my daughter see my name in print....

Yeah. It's worth it.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Kickin' Ass While Wearin' Heels

So, I just finished with the copy-edits for Land of Shadows. If you've forgotten what the first of my new series is about, here's a reminder:

In Land of Shadows, LAPD homicide detective Elouise 'Lou' Norton must learn the truth about the apparent suicide of a teenage girl which may be related to her own sister's disappearance more than twenty years ago.

I love Lou. She's a homicide detective in a traditional male's world. More than that, she's a girlfriend, a wife, a daughter, a citizen and a sister. Many things to many people. I love her because she is strong.


Just finished reading an article that makes me question that word. And not just that word, but the "Strong Female Character" trope. And I thought about Lou as the writer stated why she 'hated' these types of characters. The author says this about 'Strong Male Characters":

Are our best-loved male heroes Strong Male Characters? Is, say, Sherlock Holmes strong? In one sense, yes, of course. He faces danger and death in order to pursue justice. On the other hand, his physical strength is often unreliable – strong enough to bend an iron poker when on form, he nevertheless frequently has to rely on Watson to clobber his assailants, at least once because he’s neglected himself into a condition where he can’t even try to fight back. His mental and emotional resources also fluctuate. An addict and a depressive, he claims even his crime-fighting is a form of self-medication. Viewed this way, his willingness to place himself in physical danger might not be “strength” at all – it might be another form of self-destructiveness. Or on the other hand, perhaps his vulnerabilities make him all the stronger, as he succeeds in surviving and flourishing in spite of threats located within as well without.

And in many ways, I agree. She says:

I want a wealth of complex female protagonists who can be either strong or weak or both or neither, because they are more than strength or weakness. Badass gunslingers and martial artists sure, but also interesting women who are shy and quiet and do, sometimes, put up with others’ shit because in real life there’s often no practical alternative.

Click here to read the rest.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I'm a child of layaway and remember the crumpled yellow slip and the crumpled $10 bill and seeing your special leather jacket in the plastic wrap back there in the Wilson's Leather storage room... 

But a fur on layaway?! 

That's a lot of $10 bills.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Hero of Mine....

Passed yesterday:Elmore Leonard.

Along with Ira Levin and Stephen King, I cannot read Mr. Leonard's work while I am writing. He's just too good, and too clever, and his words aren't words at all and so I feel immensely inferior and so I won't read until I'm done with my own crappy pile of story.

For Elmore Leonard, there are 10 Rules to Writing:

1. Never open a book with weather.

2. Avoid prologues.

3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.

5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.

6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

"My most important rule is one that sums up the 10. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

Number 10 is my favorite. Wish more writers did that -- I'm finding myself skipping parts that make my eyes cross.

Closer and Closer...

One of my favorite parts of the publishing process just happened.

My wonderful Tor/Forge editor Kristin just emailed me with the copy-edited version of Land of Shadows.

So, now (since I haven't read a lick of the story since.... months and months ago, I get to re-discover Lou and Colin and the rest of my peeples -- with corrections!

And. And! This is where the author gets to write the dedication and the acknowledgements and Stet stuff.


It's all going so lovely and Kristin's so great and so smart and funny and I can't wait to share some wonderful THINGS with you.


Cross my heart.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Ooh! Coupons!

So the mail just came and we got coupons from Volvo!!

How does one redeem a coupon for Everyday Low Prices? And will I get Crappily Trained Service Technicians if I   didn't have this coupon for the Expert?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Rockin' That First Sentence

It was a dark and stormy night.

It was all a dream.

Bad first sentences -- we've all written them. And crossed them out. Hopefully.

Did y'all see the recent Atlantic article? Stephen King on why first sentences matter?

Stephen King: There are all sorts of theories and ideas about what constitutes a good opening line. It's tricky thing, and tough to talk about because I don't think conceptually while I work on a first draft -- I just write. To get scientific about it is a little like trying to catch moonbeams in a jar...

And there's MORE.

Here's the linkety-link.

Also, I love Stephen King and I was thrilled to see a compilation of three of his novels on the Classics table at B&N last night!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Coming Out of Deep Editing to Share This....

Er-mah-ger (as the yutes say nowadays)!

As I'm working on the next book of the Lou Norton series, I'm delving into this:
Write of Passage: Writing a Character's Dark Side: The dark side is not only for two-dimensional villains and vampires. It's part of everyone in real life who has lived more than a couple...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Next Big Thing: Land of Shadows

So there's this 'thing.'

It's called The Next Big Thing.

Writers are doing it. On blogs everywhere.

And Nina Sankovitch of Read All Day tagged me to play!

Pop over and learn more about my upcoming novel The Land of Shadows (Forge 2014).

Friday, January 18, 2013

Top Ten Worst Gifts for Writers - The Loft Literary Center

My friend Betsy (waving to Betsy right now) sent this to me a while ago and I now have the bandwidth to share. The gaming part? Er-Ma-Ger! Courtney is talking to me, y'all. When I was playing Skyrim? Writing? What writing?

Top Ten Worst Gifts for Writers - The Loft Literary Center

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pajiba Be Writin'

I love the crew over at film review site Pajiba. They have a list of their nastiest reviews and the words and turns of phrases. Their annual posts are like... like... my McRib.

Here's a snippet of what they said about The Wrath of Titans:

It’s a weak video game plot, a series of fetch quests committed to celluloid with a cast of utterly boring characters listlessly going through the motions, trying to look like they give a shit about finding the mythical island of whatever-the-hell so that they can speak to the mighty whoever-the-fuck so that he can tell them where to find the magical I-just-don’t-give-a-damn.

The 10 Most Scathing and Bitchy Film Reviews of 2012

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Something to Say!

Hey, all! A new interview discussing my self-publishing experience is up at new friend-of-the-blog Wordpreneur. Knowledge, knowledge people.

Please stop over and stay for a while.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Snickers.... No, Doritos.... No...

I like Ian Rankin. His books are smart and different, and not precious. And he's funny.

After reading this interview in The Guardian, I like him even more. He shall be my mentor.

One great question, and then, I'll link to the article so you can also smile and nod and rub your chin and then, become melancholy because you (me) will never be this clever:

What's the biggest myth about being a novelist?

That we're introspective, sensitive souls and have arcane knowledge. I used to think that: whenever I heard that someone had taken 10 years to write a novel, I'd think it must be a big, serious book. Now I think, "No – it took you one year to write, and nine years to sit around eating Kit Kats."

Read the rest here.

Being Ray Bradbury

So I'm not crazy! Okay, I am -- but so was Ray Bradbury, who wrote:

I can work anywhere. I wrote in bedrooms and living rooms when I was growing up with my parents and my brother in a small house in Los Angeles. I worked on my typewriter in the living room, with the radio and my mother and dad and brother all talking at the same time. Later on, when I wanted to write Fahrenheit 451, I went up to UCLA and found a basement typing room where, if you inserted ten cents into the typewriter, you could buy thirty minutes of typing time.

Yes. Yes!

Are you a member of our tribe?

Can you write in a car? At a bar? On a star? In a plane? On a train? On Fifth and Main?

Read the rest over at Passive Guy.

The Daily Routines of Famous Writers