Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Thank goodness JP was on mail duty tonight! I didn't notice anything when I came home from work but JP saw a bright pink box on our porch as he pulled in. One look at the box and he was pretty sure it was for me without having to read the label.

Flowers! How cool is that? And utterly unexpected! I checked the return address, but it told me nothing! I opened the box to find....

Gorgeous -- stunning!! -- roses. Two dozen of them! And they're just amazingly beautiful. In fact, looking at the colors my first thought was "I want that for my wedding!" I was just overwhelmed with how beautiful they were, especially since it's been so dreary outside recently (I live in the South for a reason -- where's my spring???)

And then I read the card -- a congratulations from my editor Krista and the folks at Random House Children's Books. Seriously, I felt teary. I thought maybe they came from my mom or my sister, but to have my editor send them just leaves me speechless. All I can say is a huge thanks to Krista and everyone else who's just made so many of my dreams come true this year! I write for the best house ever!

I could just sit here and stare and sniff all night!!

Monday, February 25, 2008


The big news is that JP and I got engaged this weekend!!! Yay!!! So let me tell you all about it...

The first year we started dating, JP surprised me with a Valentine's Day trip. He refused to tell me where we were going but he sprinkled in all sorts of gifts during the day -- a CD for the trip, candy for snacks, etc. I had no idea what was up! As we entered Virginia I was still clueless and it took me about forever to realize that he was taking me to Williamsburg. All I knew about Williamsburg was what I remembered as a kid during field trips but I still thought it was a cool idea. We stayed in a part of the Williamsburg Inn that we loved, we took long walks and just forgot about life outside the colonial world. It really was wonderful and romantic (rose petals, more chocolate, truly romantic!).

On the way out of town, we saw signs for a vineyard -- the Williamsburg Winery -- and on a lark we followed them. We were just in time for a tour and tasting and so we signed up! We had a great time and bought a case (maaybe two) of their wine.

They say Southerners do something once and it becomes a tradition... well... this became our tradition. Every Valentine's Day we go to Williamsburg for a weekend. We have a candlelight dinner at a tavern, we stroll around (never actually getting around to going to the attractions), we buy tons of Godiva chocolate on sale :) And we always go to the winery -- increasing our haul every year. And every year we discover something new! Last year, for example, we signed up for a wine dinner in honor of Washington's birthday. Turns out, Washington was the guest of honor and he showed up to chat and answer questions. Sounds cheesy, I know, but it was amazing.

When we moved from Durham to Charlotte and the drive got longer, I wondered if we'd keep it up. If the longer drive would be worth it. It is. It's amazing how wonderful it is to fully exist in another world. How long and relaxing the days feel, how nice it is to forget blackberries, cell phones, internet -- all of it! This is the trip we look forward to every year.

This year no exception -- this was our fifth time going to Williamsburg. And unfortunately, our favorite place to stay was under renovation. As we were driving in and I was telling JP to "turn here, turn here!" to get to our hotel, he said "let me give you my Valentine's Day gift early" and he turned into the drive for the Williamsburg Inn itself. He'd booked us a room there -- complete with fireplace (just call the front desk before 11pm for them to bring wood and light it) and amazing bathroom (plus gorgeous views of the gardens). In a word, posh and indulgent.

We ate wine and cheese, had cocktails and dinner and then lounged in front of the fire. JP had booked us for an 11am wine tour for Saturday morning. Usually we just do the standard tour, but this year JP booked us for the reserve tour -- more in depth, more wine to taste. What I didn't know was that JP had actually booked the entire tour just to make sure that it would be the two of us! We ended up in the wine cellar (wrought iron gates, candles everywhere, wine stacked around the walls) for the tasting -- 14 bottles to taste. JP admitted afterwards that the wine did take the edge off his nerves.

We taste everything and then JP thanked the tour guide and then turned to me and I wish I could remember what he said but I can't :) Something about love and living our lives together :) The tour guide tells me that JP did get down on one knee (I remember this) and said "Carrie Ryan, will you marry me?" and apparently I said yes about 20 times (I wanted to make sure he heard me!). And then they popped a bottle of champagne and we had a blast just enjoying the feeling (while I tried to pry my eyes off the ring). Apparently, the entire winery had been in on it and the tour guide had been stressed out in case I said no! Haha!

After the tour our guide announced our engagement to another tour upstairs and it was just so wonderful to see all the excitement. Then we ate in their tavern where I grilled JP on all the planning and details and then we bought about 9 cases of wine! We ran into the winemaker just as we were leaving and he gave us a bottle of reserve wine as a gift to celebrate (which we promptly drank that afternoon!).

It was just a wonderful amazing and romantic day all around. We went to a candlelight dinner that night at one of the taverns and our server was overjoyed that we'd just gotten engaged. He brought us champagne, introduced us to his fiance, had the performers dedicate songs to us -- all just so celebratory! And of course, for the drive home I bought every wedding magazine at Barnes & Noble :) (and no, no idea when or where yet)

In the end, it was a perfect weekend! JP did just an incredible job with everything -- it was all amazingly special and memorable. Except for memories of him actually asking me to marry him -- still no idea what he said and he doesn't remember either). And he'd been so busy with work and life that I really had no idea he had anything like this up his sleeve. Tricky tricky guy!

So thanks, JP, for giving me a wonderful story that I could share with all of my friends and a wonderful memory to savour in my daydreams :) I never expected anything like this, it was more than I could have ever dreamed up! I truly am a lucky, lucky girl!

And the winners are.....

The winners of Mark Henry's debut, Happy Hour of the Damned, are Wendy (from blogger) and lalam (from LJ). Congrats! Please email me your address (carrieryanwrites [at] and I'll get those right out to you!

Thanks everyone for commenting and helping me celebrate Mark's book!

Promise to post my news later tonight but wanted to go ahead and announce the winners now!!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Don't Forget!

Don't forget to comment on the post below in order to win a copy of Mark Henry's book, Happy Hour of the Damned! I'll be picking a winner on Monday, when I get back from a romantic weekend with my fiance :)

Oh, and for those who don't pick up on it, I'll have some news to share on Monday too :) Let me just say, it's been a VERY amazing weekend!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Mark Henry -- he's so hot right now!

I owe a lot to Mark Henry and there’s a long story behind that but I cut it from the post because this is about him and not about me :) [imagine story here of how I met Mark and how important he’d been to my career].

So naturally, I’ve been DYING to read his book,
Happy Hour of the Damned. I don’t think two zombie books could be more different -- my zombies are old school, his have attitude. I was blown away by his book. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this -- this book is so fun and creative and crass and wonderful. It’s full of lists and recipes and footnotes. The main character, Amanda, is one of the most distinct characters I’ve ever read. And I think that Mark’s best skill is keeping her honest.

I know that sounds strange, but let me explain. The book starts out with a mystery and then quickly meanders away from it (it meanders into things I love like how Amanda becomes a zombie, how she lives -- really cool stuff that’s very unique). It’s tempting as a reader to want to go “Yo, Amanda -- what’s up with the mystery? Did you just forget about your friend? You know, the one in trouble that you’re trying to help?”

You don’t do this for a few reasons. First, Amanda would kick your ass for thinking such things. Doesn’t matter that she’s trapped in the pages, she’ll find a way out. Second, you’re so interested in the world that’s being created that you yourself kinda don’t care. But third, Amanda is honest with you -- she comes right out and tells you that she’s veered away from the mystery and you just have to deal with it. I loved this part of the book because it’s totally self-aware and it plays off its own self-awareness.

I’m not gonna lie -- Amanda can get crass and there were a few times I was genuinely squicked out. But I’m sure Mark (and Amanda) would chortle with glee to hear this because Amanda does love to cause a reaction.

All in all, this book is fun and unique and different. I love what Mark has added to zombie lore. It’s a whole new twist on the world and it’s truly great. Amanda is a character that stands out and that I will not forget (and I tend to forget most characters quite quickly). Mark's created a great world here and he made me laugh. I can’t wait to hear what happens to Amanda and her pals next.

In honor of Mark’s debut and as a thanks for all of his and Amanda’s efforts at spreading the zombie love, I’m giving away two copies of his book. I’ll choose one winner from the blogger comments here and one from
my livejournal comments (and yes, you can comment on both if you want to up your chances). To up the ante even more, I’ll add an extra entry for anyone who also links to this giveaway (make sure to let me know if the comments if you’ve linked). I’ll choose the winners next Monday.

And lest we forget, I'm not the only one crowing over Mark's debut -- others have loved it too! He got 4 stars from Romantic Times! I couldn’t be more thrilled at all the positive responses he’s getting. I think he took some risks with this book, I think he pushed the envelope, and I love that it worked so well!!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Have a Heart

When JP and I made our ten year plan back at the start of 2006, my first step towards becoming a published author was to get back into the community. I needed to meet people, learn what was out there, find where the market was, remember how everything worked. And so I joined RWA and a few subchapters and I started reading author blogs. I noticed that one person in particular, Diana Peterfreund, was very helpful -- she answered questions with knowledge, she posted thoughtful and meaningful blog posts, and she just seemed like a downright cool person. So I always took care to read her posts and I learned SO much about the industry.

And I met a few more people, slowly learned more and the the summer came and it was time for the RWA National Convention. At this time I knew *of* people. I read a lot of blogs and yahoo group messages, but I was generally a lurker or one comment of so many that I was pretty sure that no one knew *me.* In fact, the only person I really knew was Diana and she was so sweet when she met me -- she made me feel like I wasn't quite the outsider that I felt. I actually like social situations and meeting new people -- but try going to a massive convention where you know *ONE* person (who everyone else knows as well) and things can get scary. But I forced myself to a chapter cocktail party and there I met up with two more writers who took me under their wing: Erica Ridley and Kelly Remick. These girls knew I was alone and they introduced me to their friends, made sure I was included. In fact, I'm a member of their chapter -- TARA -- even though I live states away because I felt so included and welcomed at Nationals.

I decided that this was the type of person I wanted to be. As I gained more knowledge of the industry, I wanted to share that information and take the time to pay forward all of the goodwill and patience that I was shown (and oh, was there a lot of patience involved when it came to me!). I wanted to make that new person (or any person) feel welcome and comfortable. I've been on the other side -- in the hotel room at Nationals terrified of walking into a room where everyone else is friends and trying to find a way in or trying to learn the ropes of the writing profession.

This is part of who I am now, as a writer, and I really enjoy it. I like trying to help out as much as I can (and I fully recognize I have SOO much to learn). I like encouraging writers, I like trying to inspire people and show them that yes -- you can sell from a query letter.

At the same time, I also to try to stay away from drama and intrigue. I try not to indulge in the negative and backbiting. I've been told it exists (some people think it runs rampant) and I've always been *so* proud of the people I know in the writing community because I feel like everyone I know is supportive, helpful and friendly. Of course not everyone is going to be besties, but I feel like the people I know don't bring personal issues out into the world for everyone to see and comment on.

I bring all of this up, because recently I saw some ugliness in a moderately public forum. I am not going to get into details because remember -- I like to stay away from the drama -- but there was miscommunication (what else, it's the internet) etc etc. Here's the thing -- I don't think it's appropriate to threaten the careers of our fellow writers. Bitch about them to your friends, fantasize that their books get riddled with typos, whatever. We are all colleagues here and we should all be professionals -- it's about the writing and shouldn't be about the personal lives of the writers and the choices they make. You will never see me speak ill of another writer personally on this forum -- I do not believe in it. I have no problem critiquing books, or discussing the implications of plagiarism, etc -- we're writers and writing is our career.

One thing about having a blog is that it's really easy to think that what you say might matter somehow. And if anything I say ever matters, I hope it is this: we are a community and we are all doing the best we can to follow our dreams and we need to support each other. Over the years, I've watched people get jealous and think that they can only succeed if other people fail. I disagree. I look at the surge of fantastic YA literature over the past few years and I look at all the amazing books on my shelves and I realize that it is because so many writers shine and succeed that YA is doing so well.

As a former litigator who could be so forcefully disagreeable at times, I find it kind of funny to be saying these things. But I know that I have benefited from the generosity of other writers. And that's the type of writer I would like to be.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Making it Different

This is a topic that's been floating around in my head for the last week and it seems that everywhere I turn, there's another facet of the discussion. It's about what's been done, what hasn't been done, what to avoid, what not to avoid -- really, it's about being unique. Let me show you all the things I've been pondering...

First, I was judging some contests (somehow, I have found myself inundated with contest entries this year. Note to self: keep track of obligations to not be so overwhelmed next year). Anyway, I've always said that you can learn a ton from judging contests and this one was no exception. Since I have more contests to judge I'll save the whole "what I've learned post" for later, but one thing really jumped out at me with these entries: the need for originality, to take a common and oft-used situation/set-up and make it their own. It really felt like a lot of these entries were falling back on the easy, weren't digging deep to really portray their character's life and setting as deeply as they could.

Second, I read on Kristin Nelson's blog (she pulled it from Joelle Anthony) a "25 Things that show up repeatedly in YA literature" list. I've seen these lists before and I always read them and take them for what they're worth -- meh, not too much. I'm a firm believer that the story will triumph over all. And agents echo this all the time, that's why they're so hesitant to list things they're tired of seeing or that they would never be interested in: because even an idea that they might be tired of could be done in such a new and amazing way that they think "wow! gotta have it!"

Third, JP wrote a really thought provoking post on his LJ that really tied everything up for me and made me understand what I felt was off about the contest entries I'd judged and the list I'd read. His post is very very worth reading -- short and to the point (with examples!). Essentially, his conclusion is
"For me, the take away is that you don’t have to come up with the world’s most original plot to create a great story. You just have to tell the story in a unique way."
Yes, though it is not a long quote, it deserves to be set off as such because it is such great wisdom! Reading that post was one of those moments when I was like "duh!" but where you need someone to tell you what should be obvious. And for some reason, it's not obvious enough!

So, to backtrack a little, how does JP's little tidbit fit in with contest judging and the lists? As for contest judging, as I said, I felt like the writers could dig deeper. For example... contemporary teens go to school therefore a lot of contemporary YA books will deal with school. It's important when writing these school scenes to make them your own and not to fall back on the common cliches. We've all watched The Breakfast Club and Saved by the Bell and we all know that school isn't like that. It's really easy to fall into archetypes when writing in a school setting and my advice is to try to bend those archetypes. Don't always make the head cheerleader the witch/most popular girl who wreaks havoc for the poor protagonist. Give her some flaws. This actually reminds me of High School Musical and that scene where all the archetypes break out and sing about the things they do that don't fit with their "type" -- this only serves to deepen the character, to make him or her more complex.

I think it's easy when writing a school scene to fall back on the easy -- to make the teacher boring ('Bueller.... Bueller.... Bueller..."), to make the protag complain about having to take a test that won't help them later in life, etc. But this is just the picture of school we've been painted and to get it right, we have to remember that school isn't like that picture at all and we have to bring that stuff up in our writing. Plus, we have to remember that for most of us, school has changed a lot. If you're writing a contemporary school scene you have to address cell phones and iPods and security and stuff like that -- it's such a different world!

And that plays back into the list that Kristin posted and which has caused many posts around the blogosphere (I only link to two out of sheer and here). Yes things have been done and I'm sure done to death, but what's key is how you approach it, what new thing you bring to the table. So what your protag's mother is dead? The key is to make sure that her being dead means something to the book. Just because something on that list is in your book doesn't mean you have to rewrite your book, but you should examine why you chose to put it in there and what purpose it serves (you should do this for everything in your book, actually).

I know I'm rambling on, but bear with me :) I remember a talk Suzanne Brockman gave a long time ago where she talked about how she analyzed the market to figure out what to write. She'd always wanted to blow romance out of the water, to do something totally and utterly original. I think one of her first books had a rock star as a hero (used to be a big no no). She didn't want to write the same old same old cop hero because there were so many books out there with the cop hero. But then she realized that people liked the cop hero, they wanted to buy books with the cop hero and that it wasn't about making the hero something totally wild, but about taking what people wanted and doing it in a unique way. It was all about the execution.

I always think about that story when I'm pondering how to approach the market. Because I think we all want to be that visionary that breaks the mold and forges a new path. And so we come up with these awesome ideas but then maybe we find out that someone else has done something similar and so we think we have to go back to the drawing board. But in reality that's not always the case. As JP said so well, the take away is that you don’t have to come up with the world’s most original plot to create a great story. You just have to tell the story in a unique way.

So when you find yourself slipping towards triteville or clicheopolis, remember to dig deeper, to think about what traits you can add to set your character or your setting apart. That's what will make your story stand out of the pack. At least, that's what I think :)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

For an awesome story...

For an awesome story, click here. Yep, that's right -- the Manuscript Mavens had so much fun with the Halloween Choose You Own Adventure (CYOA)* that we've brought it back for Valentines day. Monday will be day four and you can catch up over at the Mavens site. While there are no zombies (yet), there's tons of action and I've cracked up every single day. I'm telling you, we've had some fabulous writing!!

Here's a list of the guest authors:

Historical romance writer Colleen Gleason, author of the Gardella Vampire Chronicals.

Jody Wallace writes paranormal comedy, fantasy romance, and Southern women's fiction, including A Spell for Susannah. She has also written several novellas for Red Sage publishing under the pseudonym Ellie Marvel.

Amie Stuart writes erotic romance for Kensington Press and futuristic urban fantasy, including her upcoming book Nailed.

Multi-published author, renowned speaker, and National Reader’s Choice Award Finalist Debra Dixon, author of GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

Deanna Lee is the author of numerous print and e-book titles, including Bounty Hunter.

Historical romance writer Karen Lingefelt, author of True Pretenses and past president of the Tampa Area Romance Authors.

Avon FanLit winner and Thursday Maven Lacey Kaye, president and webmistress of Seattle's East Side RWA.

Multi-published author for Steeple Hill Love Inspired, RWA Region 4 director, and RITA Finalist Terri Reed, author of Her Christmas Protector.

Friday Maven Jackie Barbosa writes both historical and contemporary romance with an erotic edge for Cobblestone-Press, including her May release Wickedly Ever After.

Mystery writer Julia Buckley author of The Dark Backward and the Madeline Mann series.

New York Times best-seller Virginia Henley, author of 25 historical romances, including Notorious and Infamous.

Agented, multi-contest finalist, and Monday Maven Erica Ridley, webmistress for the Tampa Area Romance Authors.

Debut Zebra author and Golden Heart Finalist Delilah Marvelle, author of Mistress of Pleasure.

New York Times best-seller C.L. Wilson, author of Lord of the Fading Lands and Lady of Light and Shadows and president of the Tampa Area Romance Authors.

Grand prize drawing and title contest!

There are prizes every day and you get to choose what happens next by voting in the comments. So stop by and get your action and laughter -- it's totally worth it!!

*As always, the Manuscript Mavens would like to thank Chooseco for graciously letting us borrow the CYOA name. Choose Your Own Adventure is a trademark of Chooseco LLC, Waitsfield, VT. Check them out at The trademark has been used by permission herein. Thanks, CYOA!