Friday, December 31, 2010

It's the end of the year as we know it

Resolutions… this is the time of year when everyone wants to know what your intentions are for the coming year and every year, we oblige them by ticking off the stand bys… eat healthier, lose weight, spend less money, read the greatest novels of all time… perhaps that’s not a stand by for you, but it is for me.

This year, I’m taking a different approach. Instead we’re going with a theme: Family First. Yes, a cliché… how novel… but I figured something out. If I start to put the needs of my family before everything else, I will have the life I have been trying to get for years. I’m not talking a martyr thing were I give and give and then cry about how I do all the work. It’s the little things. Like making sure it’s quiet during the day so my night shift husband doesn’t make a mistake at work that could cost him his job or even worse… cost someone their lives. It’s making sure I go to the gym so the kids will have a mom who is healthy enough to yell at the refs when they make a bad call. It’s working on my book so that someday I can show my kids how following your passion can lead to a successful career. It’s about making sure not only I get to recharge my batteries with my friends, but that Louis does as well. It’s making sure that God is at the center of our home instead of a great uncle you see a couple times a month.

It’s about making the choice not to buy the toy because the kids need to understand they aren’t entitled to everything they want. It’s guarding our calendar so that everything that’s on the schedule is making us better as a unit.

Putting my family first will also remind me to savor the moments. Sure, they aren’t the Brady bunch or Cleaver family moments where everyone learns a valuable lesson… but when this life is over, it probably won’t be the iPads and remote control cars we hold on to. It will be the memory of playing cards against your mom on the iPads or racing against your dad with his old remote control car. It will be the moments in life that set our time on earth apart. Have more moments in 2011. And don’t forget to be bold.

Monday, December 20, 2010

End of the Year Cram Session

I've done it again.

This time last year I had planned to have my manuscript completed and ready to submit to agents. Luckily, I realized it wasn't ready. And so began another year of working on the book. But I have to be honest, it has been a roller coaster ride and right now, I am on the slow agonizing climb up that second time around. Getting motivated has been a problem. Not because I've lost my love of my characters or that writing has become a passing fancy. Quite the opposite. Life always has a way of creeping in!

I have become an instant gratification person. I want it now. But, as anyone in the writing business can attest... this is not how publishing happens, especially for an unagented, first time novelist in the YA genre where books about the supernatural are a dime a dozen. It moves slowly and patience and determination are a must.

Okay, I am patient. I am determined. I am much more patient than the three and five year olds who I have been blessed to raise, though they appear to have the upper hand on determination. Balancing life and writing is something that has been hard for me. I love my career, as unpaid as it might be. I love my children, as unpaid as being their mom might be. And sometimes, one must suffer for the other. There have been times where the writing has usurped time I would have normally spent with them, but lately, they have taken the reigns and my writing time has turned into wind down time. Hard to get the late night creative juices flowing when all you want to do is climb into bed with a glass of wine and watch mind-numbing movies to escape from the pile of dirty dishes still waiting for you in the sink.

The end of the year is approaching. I have 10 days until we ring in 2011. I have 10 chapters that need edits transcribed, and one last read through to catch all the minor changes that need to be made. I think I can do it. I can at least get the edits in before Christmas. But I hope the new year will bring with it wisdom to find balance in a life that is constantly demanding more and more. I hope the priorities that have been reshuffling themselves finally find a place where everything fits. And I hope that when I look back at 2011, I will be agonizing over edits to book number two while listening to my oldest read to my youngest and my husband snoozing quietly in the recliner. Sometimes the boldest thing to do is let go. So be bold, my friends, and if I haven't said it, Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Writer Gives Thanks

Tis the season to give thanks, and I must admit, as I reflect on the past year, I have much to be thankful for. Sometimes the things we want most in our lives, the things we yearn for in the quietest places of our mind, have a way of working out when we aren’t paying attention. And regardless of how big or small they are, we are forever changed by them.

So I offer up the things I am so very grateful for… from a writer’s perspective.

I am grateful that I have an understanding husband who not only allows me time away from the house to work, but rarely questions when I let him know I just ordered another $100 worth of ink or that I have overdue books at the library… okay, he really doesn’t like the last one, but he deals with it. I am blessed that, while he’s had the nerve to call my passion for writing a “hobby”, people I don’t know report that he’s been keeping them informed on my progress.

I’m thankful that I have two young kids who play really well together when mom is in an editing frenzy. But even more than that, I’m glad I have children who will, without provocation, go to their “personal library” and pick a book off the shelf to read. But even more than that, I’m grateful for the creative minds that are beginning to blossom as they immerse themselves in creative play and take delight in making up stories and songs to entertain us during dinner.

I am thankful for the friends who have been constant sources of encouragement, especially when I’ve been on the brink of quitting. The ones who have read parts or all of my book and said they really, really loved it, even though I look at it and think, “What crap.” I am also blessed that they seem to know just when I need a Girl’s Night Out (GNO) or just a coffee break for some over-priced java concoction… after all, you can’t put a dollar amount on getting your cup refilled.

Speaking of GNOs and coffee breaks, I’m thankful for the baristas and servers who remember I’m writing a book and ask me about it when I see them. Strangers have an odd way of holding you accountable. By giving my “elevator pitch” to someone I’ve never met, I’m encouraged that while this book may not be the one that launches my career, my ideas stir interest in someone who really has no vested interest in the books success or failure.

Another group of strangers I’m thankful for are the agents and publishers who blog about the complicated and sometimes frustrating industry of the written word. I have learned so much about what to do, and more important, what not to do that the process seems just a little less daunting. These people don’t have to blog. They don’t have to tweet. But they do, and for whatever their reason, I am a better writer because of it.

On that note, I am so very, very grateful for social media. And by social media I mean, of course, Facebook and Twitter. How else would someone who proudly embraces procrastination as a part of my brilliant literary process waste so much time. (Or get this blog post out to the hundreds of friends and fans?)

While this may sound funny to some, I am truly thankful for Dell’s quick turn around on my orders. Earlier I mentioned the ordering of ink cartridges, but what I didn’t mention is that I normally get the ink delivered to my door by the next day. Heaven help the company that disrupts my creative flow by unreliable shipping times.

Conferences and the people who plan conferences are another group of people who top my list of things to be thankful for, especially the ones who put on the Midwest Writer’s Workshop, seeing as how it’s the only one I’ve been to. But seriously, these resources are such an important part of the process. Yes, classes and workshops give you amazing direction and advise, but more than that, you have a chance to submerse yourself in the world of writing. You are around people who not only love reading and books as much as you do, but they also get, on varying levels, what it means to be a writer. I’ve made some great connections and found amazing crit partners after only 3 days… and I can’t wait to do it again next year… it’s like summer camp for those who prose. (Sorry about the bad grammar, but I couldn’t resist.)

In the last year, I have had a chance to meet some amazing published authors and you know what, they are the best teachers I have ever had. Regardless of the venue, be it a workshop led by a best-selling writer with an adaptation underway (shout out to Marcus Sakey) or a cowboy who took some time to mentor a young writer at a meet and greet (another shout out to Phil Dunlap), published authors not only know what you’re going through, they know that, with enough talent and perseverance, you can reach your dreams.

Finally, and I write this at the risk of offending some, but it’s my blog so… I am thankful for the gift of writing that has been bestowed on me by God. There has definitely been a muse at my side during this process and I would be remised not to acknowledge that while I am the one channeling the creativity in me, the talent is a gift I finally got around to unwrapping.

And with that clever reference to the holiday season, I will end this by wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and Black Friday. I hope you all have many things to be thankful for and don’t forget to BE BOLD!

Monday, November 15, 2010

My first

In addition to being a writer, I'm also a mom. And for the first time, one of my children gets to go to the book fair at school. And I, for one, am so excited. I've always been an avid reader, but I think my love affair with the printed page really blossomed during my class's trip to the make shift book store in the auditorium during first grade. I was able to browse through the metal shelving units and find just the right books to open my mind and expand my universe. I still remember the first book I bought at the fair: "My Mother the Witch". (It looks like my affinity for the supernatural has been a long time coming.)

I think my kids are well on the path to becoming a reader like their mom. Story time before bed is the only chance I have to get the kiddos to sit still for more than five minutes at a time and they willingly turn off the TV for a chance to immerse themselves in the tales of the Berenstein Bears or Curious George. They particularly enjoy Curious George because, like him, they are very curious about the world around them and often find their exploration lands them in time out, or at least earns them a swift finger waggling and a stern glare. They love to read back to me, and I have to admit that I’m not always the most patient when this happens… normally because it’s well after the time they are supposed to be snoozing in their beds.

Regardless, I’m excited to see what books my son will select and if his eyes light up at the sight of the infinite (at least to a 5 year old) number of possibilities. I can’t wait to snuggle under the covers and read about Toad’s Wild Ride or some other misadventure of another character and listen to him laugh at the words or pictures that tickle his imagination. And when I’m finished reading, I will remember that the delight of stories doesn’t come from reading every word perfectly on the page. It comes from being a part of the story and letting the experiences be yours, if only for a short while. So if you have a chance, read to a child… it’s an activity that is likely to bring giggles to them and to you. And don’t forget to be bold, dear reader! Be BOLD!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Social Media is my kyrptonite

It's a given that, in this day and age, you need to take advantage of social media and the vastness of the internet. But how do you get out there and get connected without giving up too much of the time you're supposed to be writing? I know there are bloggers who make a living off of their blogs, and that is awesome. But I am not nearly talented enough to come up with a new topic every week (as you can see) let alone every day. I wish I could, but it takes all the discipline I have to keep focused on my book.

So how does a cyber-introvert connect? I would love to know how my fellow bloggers/writers do it!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Query Letter for review!

I am at my wits end with this very important pain in my behind and so I offer it up to you, dear reader. I don't think it's so bad that the Query Shark would be willing to take a bite out of it, but still, it's not quite right. Please review and comment your thoughts.

Dear Agent,

{Insert personal statement relating to specific agent.}

For 18 year old Hannah Slaughtery, science has always been the easiest way to understand the world; a place to be studied and analyzed. When an unexpected invitation to a leadership seminar sponsored by the Institute arrives, she accepts, unprepared for the mystical journey that awaits her.

The guise of the conference soon gives way to the real reason Hannah and the four other participants have been brought together. Born of mystical bloodlines, each individual must chose whether or not they will relinquish their mortal lives and transform into a band of supernatural warriors called the Partizans.

Once changed, they must stand against a ruthless and maniacal organization whose nefarious reach threatens to rid the world of humanity. Their mission, though difficult, is nothing compared to figuring out how to work together without killing each other first.

While intended to be the first in a YA series, The Partizans is complete and can stand alone at 77,000 words. Thanks you for your time and consideration.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Final revisions are done!

Okay, okay, yes, I admit it. The title of this post might be a little premature, but with the exception of typing in the edits and rewriting the last chapter... I am done. Yeah... it's a lot premature. But honestly, in comparison to what I have been doing for the last year, this is the end. (Hearing Jim Morrison in the background of my brain... wow... now I really want to listen to The Doors!)

I gave myself until November 1st  to finish the edits. Why that date? Well, because I have been editing for over a year. Not writing... editing. At some point, you have to say, enough is enough. This is as good as you can make it. And second, November is National Novel Writing Month and I have a new series that I am ready to spend a little time on. No worries... the Partizans have not been put aside... I just feel that this next book will be a good change of pace and challenge me as a writer. Finally, I would like to get my query process under way. (BTW, I should be posting my Q in the next day or so. Please give feedback and let me know what you think.)

So, what have I learned about writing a book in the last year and a half? #1. There really is no such thing as a completely perfect manuscript, even after nine edits. #2. Writers conferences are so worth it. #3. Everyone needs critique partners. #4. If I had to break it down, I would say talent is 30% of the book writing success equation, good crit partners are 10% and persistence makes up the remaining 60%. Add a love of editing and you have the remainder of 110%.

Why 110%? Because someone only giving 100% isn't fully committed. Seriously. I have been fortunate enough to be able to stay home and not have to work out of the house, but that doesn't mean I haven't had to give up things. What, you ask? Well, first there's sleep. Oh how I have given up sleep. Second, my house is not at all ready for company. OK, OK, it's never ready for company, but now I don't even try to hide it. Third, and this is the one that hurts, but I have given up time with my family. When Lou is home in the evening, most of the time I take off to work at a place where they don't call me mommy. And I come back well after the boys are in bed.

Was it worth it? You bet. Writing a first novel is tough. There is no one standing over you lightening the fire to get you to sit down and work. There is also no one there chanting your name at a movie premiere. But that's part of the process that makes it worth it. I did this. Yes, I had amazing help and support, but I am the one who put my butt in a chair and took all the words I've ever known and strung them together not to make sentences, but to tell a story. Even if this book never sees the inside of a publishing house, no one can take away the fact that I did it. I worked hard, and I can't think of a time when I didn't love what I did! So wish me luck and look for excerts in the months to come! And take some time to be bold!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A sad day in Greenfield

Today I am not blogging about writing… not exactly. This afternoon, my home town buried an officer killed in the line of duty. Now, I should mention, I live in a small town that’s about 15 minutes away from Indianapolis. We have our daily report of killings, murder, etc from the news, but this one is really hitting me hard. I didn’t know Officer Will Phillips. I know people who did, but I am not among the fortunate souls. I know he was a husband with two children close in age to mine. I know he was in the Marines. I know he helped out my friend when their vehicle was involved in a hit and run… how ironic that it was a hit and run accident that killed him. Anyways, it got me to thinking. Did Officer Phillips die doing what he loved?

One thing I have come to believe is that no matter how old you live to be, there is never enough time. Never enough time to tell the ones you love how much they matter to you. Never enough time to bask in the warmth of a bright fall afternoon. Never enough time to do the things you keep putting off until tomorrow. Why do we fill our time with things we don’t like? Why do we fill our heads with “I should” and “I would but” statements instead of “I can” and “I did”? Why do we push our children to fulfill our dreams instead of encouraging them to discover their own?

Yes, I know bills have to be paid. I’m not independently wealthy. But we live in a country where people acquire debt like it’s a status symbol. We have stuff filling our homes but we are empty in our hearts and our souls are choking on the chaos in our lives. We over schedule our children and our calendars yet have no time to sit together for dinner and talk about the happenings of our days.

So that brings me back to my question: Did Officer Phillips die doing what he loved? I will never know the answer. I hope he did. I hope everyone dies knowing that the life they lived was one that meant something to them.

Rest In Peace, William Phillips. May your death remind others that there is no time like today to do what sends your heart soaring. I know he has reminded me that moments can easily slip away from us. Be bold, my friends. Life a live worth remembering.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hunger Games... wow...

I know I should have spent this evening editing. I know that, but I made the horrible mistake of starting The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins this afternoon and I could not put it down. Now, I have to admit, it took a couple chapters for me to get into it, but once I did, I was hooked.
If you haven't read this book, put it on your to-do-list. I can't think of a single genre that doesn't at least get a nod. It's a thriller, it's dystopian, it's got some fantasy elements towards the end, there's romance. Seriously, this book will remind you how lucky we are to live in a pre-apocalyptic world! But even more than that, I think it's a warning of how close we are to crossing lines of human dignity.

What am I talking about? Hmm... 10, 15 years ago, you would never see a white cloth draped bloody body on the 6 o'clock news. Games that test our commitment to our partners or force of to betray and back stab our closest friends weren't considered entertainment. I wonder, in another 10 or 15 years, what the future will say about our programming. Will they say it's calm and bland or, and I hope this is true, will they say that while some programming is appropriate, for the most part, we sunk too low for words.

Sometimes, doing something brash isn't the same as being bold. Be bold!

Friday, August 6, 2010

I now understand what it means to think like a writer

Tonight I'm blogging from the patio of the only coffee shop in town and I had an experience that made me realize that I officially think like a writer. A couple stopped to ask directions to a sub shop down the street and after I told them how to get there, I watched them pull away and began to wonder about why they were going to this eatery. It's not like it's an unsavory place. In fact, it's a chain restaurant that has awesome fries, but still, they weren't local, so why were they looking for that particular sub shop? Of course my mind went to the most logical conclusion. They were meeting someone who had offered to sell them the baby they could never have. WHAT?

People watching has got to be like crack for a writer. As I watch people come and go, I'm distracted by the lives they might be leading. That's what thinking like a writer is... seeing something completely normal and innocent and distorting it into something sinister or awkward. Yes, the suspense guru's message was well received. So now I have lost two of my favorite activities to my passion. I can't read a book without seeing a missing punctuation and thinking, "What was your copy editor doing? Drinking on the job?" and I can't just watch people come and go and think the best of their lives... nope, they are obviously off to buy a baby.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Should you read what everyone else is reading

I know, in the wide world of the writing world, there exists literary snobs. You know, the ones who won't read something because they thing the premise sounds stupid, never mind that you can't throw a rock across the street without hitting someone who's actually reading it.

So, as a writer, should you at least attempt to read what everyone is reading? This is an interesting thought. On one hand, I say yes. You absolutely should, if for no other reason to keep your finger on the pulse of the reader. On the other hand, who has time. In the last three days, the number of "for fun" books (which means books not about writing but that will hopefully help me to continue to grow in my writing), has gone from 3 to 8. Seriously... they are stacking up next to my bed.

But as someone who has read Twilight and Dan Brown and more obscure writers, I have come to one conclusion. No matter how much you like or don't like someone's book, there is always something to take away from it that can make you better at your craft. Perhaps Twilight finally drives home how important a realistic and flawed character is to connecting with a reader. Perhaps Dan Brown's books will finally help the concept of pacing click with you. Whatever you read, even if you think it's absolute crap and you can't believe he or she got a book contract, let alone that much of an advance, there is always something you can take away from the work!

As always, be bold!

So, it turns out I'm a YA writer

A couple of weeks before I attended MWW, I realized that I just might be a YA writer. I suppose it should not have come as such a shock, but in the interest of total disclosure, it did. As a result of this late breaking ephinany, it is clear that I am behind in my YA reading. In fact, with the rare exceptions of a few YA books I've read in the last year or so, I have to admit the truth: I really don't know the genre very well. When people start rattling off their fave YA authors, I have to do the raised eyebrow, "yes, I totally agree with you" head bob and make a mental note to hit the bookstore on the way home. Now that I have embraced the YA writer in me, I'm actually excited to start working my way through the racks.

This morning I picked up The Hunger Games by Suzane Collings and the first book in the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. The Hunger Games was a no-brainer. I'm pretty sure I was the only person at the conference who hadn't read it. (Maybe a slight overstatement, but not by much.) Plus, I'm actually really interested in dystopian fiction. The Vampire Academy pick is an effort to know more about what is going on in my particular sub-genre of YA. It's hard to compare your work to something when you haven't read it. Plus, every author I talked to repeated the same advice when looking for an agent... find a writer you really like and find out who represents them... so the hunt is on! Wish me luck, and I'll report back when I come across something incredible!

Until then, be bold!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Should you attend a writing conference?

Um... the short answer is yes. The long answer, well that's yes as well. I spent three days at the Midwest Writers Workshop held at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. To say that I have been exposed to the craft is an understatement. I have been overwhelmed not only with information on writing and publishing, but I have been blown away by the people I have met! For a musician, one of the coolest things is to sit around with other musicians and riff... did I get that right? Well, for a writer, there is nothing better than to sit around with out writers and talk about books. Do you have a story, but not sure where you want your plot to go? Sit down with a couple writers and before you know it, you will have a ton of idea from speculative fiction to a steamy romance to an action filled thriller! You'd be surprised the kind of story people can come up with a duck, and court case and a muck farm... trust me!

Plus, there is the extra bonus of getting to hear from agents and publishers first hand. You get to know what they like and if you are lucky, you might even get a request for a partial manuscript if your book is done. If you love to write and think you might want to be writer, save up the money, take a couple days off and go.

Did I forget to mention you can actually hang out with best selling authors. Seriously, I got to hang out with Marcus Sakey and John Gilstrap this weekend and shoot the breeze. (What? You haven't heard of them? Well, head to the bookstore and pick up one of their books.)

Finally, more than anything, it's a chance to go outside of your comfort zone and improve your storytelling ability! Trust me, you won't regret it!

A quick welcome

If you have found this site, then you are my new hero. I woke up this morning and decided, given my new attitude about myself as a writer, I needed a new blog. One that cast aside the prose of insecurity and stood, head held high, ready to take on the universe! And, in my former blogging life, I had no way of highlighting the amazing talent that's out there... some... oh, let's me honest, most of which is better than mine... for now!

I know the site is sparse right now, but Rome wasn't built in a day and I have ten hours of editing to do today and only 3 hours of spare time. But check back... frequently. Bits and pieces of my novel The Partizans may show up from time to time and of course the dubious writing prompts I need to do to keep the writer in me from curling up in the fetal postion while I labor under the aforementioned editing process! In the meantime, grab your favorite drink, pick up the book that everyone is saying you must read right now, find a cozy chair, and read. What else are you going to do until my book comes out?

Oh, and do something bold today!