Monday, May 24, 2010

Making the Grade With Guest Blogger: Valerie Mann

The Book Boost Welcomes Author Valerie Mann! Stay tuned for a chance to win an Gift Card!

Now, let's hear what Valerie had to say about Making the Grade...

I was not an exceptional child. There aren’t many things that stand out in my mind (or probably anybody else’s) that tell me I was. I know I was a really good swimmer, I could jump a pogo stick like nobody’s business and I liked Alice Cooper and Elton John before anyone else on my block, which made me cool. But the one thing I could do better than anybody else—I could write a good story.

When my English class got a writing assignment, everyone else groaned—I rubbed my hands with glee because it was my time to shine. And when the teacher called on somebody to come up to the front of the class and read their literary treasure, everyone pointed at me and asked me to tell my tale. I was that good.

Then, in ninth grade, I had what my dad likes to call, the "Rude Awakening". Mr. Leavenworth, my English teacher, assigned a creative writing topic. I wrote my story and waited for the big, beautiful “A” to grace the top of the page. The “C minus” shocked and angered me. What did he mean, I didn’t know how to use commas? I do too know how to use the plural possessive correctly! And for some reason, I continued to believe I was right and he was wrong, all the way through high school until I got to college and my Written Expression instructor told me the same lies. But a humble part of me believed her because she was…well, a college instructor. I barely passed her class, tail between my legs, and gave up on writing. Who needs it anyway?

Many years passed with life experiences piling up and scores of romance novels read and digested. And suddenly I needed to write again. This time, I picked up my pen, joined writing groups, made friends with real authors and slept with the Chicago Manual of Style under my pillow. And I wrote. And I sold a romance novella. And now I’m an author. Am I exceptional yet? No. But I’m exceptionally happy with what I’m doing and that’s all I care about.

Do you have a Mr. Leavenworth in your past? Did you have a writing fan club when you were a kid? Did you like loud rock music? Did you wait until you were an adult to write? I’d love to hear your writing stories, funny or sad! (Music preferences are optional.)

A Note from The Book Boost: Thanks for joining us today, Valerie. That was too funny! Now, won't you tell us a little more about your book Hide & Seek?


When Kelly Donovan meets firefighter Nick Barrantes at her sister’s annual summer party, the sparks fly. Famous for its games, this year’s party includes Hide and Seek and Kelly is determined to find a cozy place to hide with Nick.

Trapped in a closet together during the game, neither anticipates the sizzling passion that flares between them. But after the smoke clears and the party ends, Kelly begins to have second thoughts about their encounter. And when she leaves the party without saying goodbye, Nick lets her know exactly how he feels. About the hot sex and about her!


I looked around for Nick. We were so going to play this game together if I had anything to say about it but after several precious seconds, I couldn’t find him. I was on my own. Bodies scattered in every direction while I stood still and assessed the lay of the land. I knew it better than anyone else in the game. Where to hide?

My dad’s workshop.

I took off, tripping around people who kept changing direction. The door of the small shed faced sideways and by the time I got to it, I could hear Marshall counting in the forties. I burst through the door and paused, making sure I was alone. Two of the walls had a small window that let in just enough light for me to see I’d made it there first. At the far end of the tiny workshop was the perfect hideout—a small closet my father had used to lock up his dangerous tools.

Running feet thumped nearby, spurring me into action. I raced to the closet and yanked on the knob. Locked. Fortunately, it had a simple push-button mechanism and I knew my dad had always kept a thin nail above the door to unlock it. I stood on my tiptoes and scraped my fingers across the top of the frame.

A second later, I had the door open, scooted inside and clicked it shut quietly behind me. Dust floated down from the ceiling and I batted at something stringy brushing against my cheek. A vertical half-inch crack ran the length of the wood door and I twisted around in the small space to peer out. One of the windows was directly across the room in my line of sight.

In the moonlight, I saw a shadow pass by and I held my breath.

“I guess I found one of the prizes,” a man whispered behind me.

Want more Valerie?

Visit her website here:

Want to pick up your copy of Hide & Seek today?

Click here!

Contest Time:

Valerie is giving away an gift card to one lucky and creative person in a random drawing. Please check back on Friday in the Recent Winners box (in the right hand column of the blog) to see if you've won! Good luck!


Margaret West said...

I loved english too. My projects were so big, even the teacher got sick of them lol. Great blog. Glad I popped in now.

P.L. Parker said...

Actually, my 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Randall, was an inspiration to me. She was the best teacher and I loved her class. I did well, but didn't write after that until I turned 50 - I needed a new project and it seemed like a good one.

Anonymous said...

Hide & Seek sounds good! I had a composition class in high school. I was a big fan of R. L. Stine at the time so most of the stories I wrote were like his books. Mrs. Davidson always compared my writing to Stephen King's books. She said I always did the ending like he did his.

steph beck said...

Ha! I had Mr. Heise. I wrote a brilliant piece about two mice on the run from a gang of thieving, drug dealing ducks...and it got a C because I forgot spellcheck!!! He let me turn it in again for a B+ which I still thought was crap, but the darn commas got me there too!!! Thanks for sharing Valerie and for using your experience to help new writers find the right places for their commas :)

Margie Church said...

My college play-writing prof hated giving me an A on my class-graded play. I found his methods tedious and creatively stifling. I pretty much decided that his way of writing was much too difficult (or I was too lazy to learn his ways). I was one of those professional writers who did NOT have a book started someplace. I didn't write anything longer than a few pages for the next twenty years. Now I'm on my 4th novel and while I still find the work difficult, it's rewarding and I say thumbs down to nay-sayers and thumbs up to you, Val.

Reena Jacobs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reena Jacobs said...

Last fall, I had extra time and decided to use it to accomplish something worthwhile. It took me about 3 months to write an 85k novel. I was on top of the world. I'd finished a huge undertaking, had a great story and absolutely knew it. One round of editing later, and I was ready to get my book published.

After a bit of research on how to get the job done, I found this nifty concept called critique partners. Alright! That'd be helpful, especially since my husband refused to read my work. I sent off a chapter and waited eagerly for the critters to praise my awesomeness!!

That's when I received my wake up call. :) In an ever so polite way, the critters informed me my writing was drab, telling, and my characters sucked.

That was almost a year ago. I've refined my writing over the months and each time think the reworks are great. Then I search for a second opinion, get another wake up call, and learn new skills.

I'm proudly naive about the quality of my work but not too proud to use the advice I receive.

Maeve Greyson said...

I loved English but was warned away from the "evils" of writing. "You'll never earn a living doing that!" Now I'm nearly 50 and I've sold one manuscript. I'm not rich but I'm chasing a first love. I've adopted the motto: No one has the power to shatter your dreams unless you give it to them. Took me long enough, huh? ;)

Unknown said...

I've always written, from the time I was in seventh grade. Now, after raising my family and giving all I could to them, I am writing for me. I have two books ready to release and and working on several more. No one should forfeit a love or a need to write. I did it for too many years and the rewards for seizing the moment are much greater than I ever imagined.

Anonymous said...

I've always written stories and short articles, but it's taken me a long time to find a way to balance my love of writing with earning money from my degree. Now I've finally come up with a plan to break into medical writing alongside writing more pieces of publishable fiction.

Anonymous said...

I've always written stories and short articles, but it's taken me a long time to find a way to balance my love of writing with earning money from my degree. Now I've finally come up with a plan to break into medical writing alongside writing more pieces of publishable fiction.

Tami Winbush said...

My English teacher in 10th grade really put me in my place. We had to pick a month and write an essay about it. Everyone was writing about June, April, and all those cheery warm months. I on the other hand wrote about December the Depressing Month. He asked me if he could put my essay on the overhead projector for the class to see. SURE! I was proud that he thought it was that good. Well, he tore my whole essay to shreds, in front of the whole class. Embarrassment galore.

I still remember the first line:

December spreads her snow-filled wings and covers our world with cold despair.

I was a rather depressed teenager. :)

Mary Ricksen said...

I did well in English and I wanted creative writing, but they made me take Old English Literature, I hated it.
Writing for me became important after I stopped working. It fills my life!
The best of luck to you Valerie!

Anonymous said...

Hide and Seek rocks!! Loved the story :) I highly recommend it.

I always LOVED essay questions in school. Give me a test with essay questions and it was an easy pass :) I also had a poem published in high school, and had a teacher read it to all her classes (much to my embarassment I'm a total wallflower in real life.)

I wasn't so great at basic english class where you learned subject, predicate, and all that jazz. I'm all about the creativity and not the mechanics :p