Friday, December 2, 2011

Black Friday Sales I’d Camp Out For

Within an hour of finishing my Thanksgiving Dinner, something strange, yet predicitble, happens. My Floridian blood, long dorment after a relaxing and productive summer, emerges and I am overcome by the familiar repulsion of cold. It’s around this time that I start wondering if global warming is really THAT bad.

You can imagine, given this scientific anomaly, that I am the last person you will see camped out, waiting for midnight sales while the mercury drops lower and lower. No thank you. But, as I watched the news report the insanity from around the country, I have two thoughts. The first is, thank goodness people is ultra-suppressed countries don’t have access to main stream media. After all, they don’t have enough food to feed their family and often have to fight for basic needs when we’ve just stuffed ourselves full of protein, carbs, veggies and sweets in preparation to wage war for the new Kindle Fire. (Why did an image of Katniss and Peeta on the train just pop into my mind?) Anyway, my second thought is what kind of sale would be enough to tempt me from my warm home to the long lines of frenzied bargain hunters. It didn’t take long for the consumer in me to start rattling off ideas.

1. Buy one case of (highly recycled) paper, get nine free. Hell to the yeah I would be waiting in line. I went through more than 7,000 pieces of paper last year. Between printing off copies for beta readers and the numerous drafts I marked up, that’s a lot of paper. (I added the recycled part to make up for being pro-global warming during the darker months of the year.)

2. Free books for one year to the first person in line from Barnes and Noble, including e-books. Seriously, with the amount I spend on books, I would skip Turkey Day all together and pitch a tent… starting on All Saints Day. (That’s November 1, for all you non-Catholics.)

3. Door Buster: Buy a gross of red pens from Office Max, get a $500 gift card from Starbucks. This makes sense. Afterall, I spend a lot of time at Starbucks with a red pen. It seems fair.

4. Also from Office Max, or any office supply place, really, buy a new office chair and plastic floor protector, get a custom-made desk built by Santa’s Elves to your exact specifications.

5. From Dell, since it’s been my computer of choice for the last eight years, buy a new desktop computer, get all the software needed to write the best-selling novel, a matching laptop and net book, along with all the accessories a budding writer needs to take it to the next level and an instant gift card for one case of paper (see 1… and watch the coupon diva emerge… )

That’s about it. There’s more on my Christmas wish list, which I will be posting as the holiday season gets into full swing. So to the people who make the decision of what goes on sale and when, please keep writer’s in mind when you pick your products.

What sales would catapult you into the crowds? No matter where your spending habits take you, BE PASSIONATE about what moves you! And have a wonderful Holiday Season! Also, don’t forget to check out my post regarding the signed copy of XVI I’m giving away! It’s an intense book and well worth the follow!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

SIGNED Book Give-A-Way

Welcome to my first ever SIGNED book giveaway! Getting a chance to win is pretty easy. Simply post a comment on any blog entry on my website ( and when I hit 525 followers on Twitter, I’ll draw a random entry to win a SIGNED copy of XVI by Julia Karr.

Here’s the jacket blurb for XVI:

“Nina Oberon's life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she'll receive a Governing Council-ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world - even the most predatory of men - that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a "sex-teen" is Nina's worst fear. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina's mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past - one that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother's killer.”

Ways to earn an entry into the drawing (you may do any or all of the following):

Follow me on Twitter
Post a comment on any blog post (one entry per post)
Retweet a link to my blog (one entry per new post announcement)
Follow my blog on Blog Roll
Become a fan on Facebook (Sarah J Schmitt)

Check back often (like when you’re leaving a comment) for updates! I'll also be returning follows as often as I can!

Until then, BE PASSIONATE about whatever is important to you!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Next Big Thing... or Not

As I’m sitting in the Indianapolis Airport, lamenting about my canceled flight, it hit me: I aspire to spend more time in airports, and so I better start saving up travel karma. This got me thinking about what I want from my writing career. It’s a fine line between being confident and being obnoxious.

Admit it, when you hear an unpublished writer say they’re the next Stephen King or JK Rowling, most of you roll your eyes. It’s a one in a million shot, right? Who in their right mind would think they could be the ONE? (Well, other than Stephen and JK.) In my genre, the current buzz names are Stephanie Meyer and Suzanne Collins. They both have best-selling series with movies raking in millions (okay, Hunger Games isn’t out yet, but I know I’ll be at the midnight show. Who’s with me?)

Why is dreaming big a bad thing? I mean, if you’re doing the work to become better and you aren’t spending all your time talking about how great your writing is instead of actually writing, where’s the harm? If you can walk the walk, why is confidence discouraged? Besides, I’m willing to bet not everyone wants to be the multi-book best-selling author, even the people who are consistently hitting the top of the charts and getting movie options.

I remember an interview done with Stephanie Meyer on the red carpet at one of the movie premieres. The reporter asked her what advice she would give to aspiring authors and her response was interesting. She said not to get into writing for the money. She said you have to love writing and make that the priority. She went on to add that she hadn’t been able to write much because of the PR for the movies and it was something she really wanted to get back to. But, being someone who only listens to TV with about half my attention, here’s what I heard. “I wrote this book. Lots of people liked it. I wrote more books. A production company optioned them. People went crazy over the movies and I sold more books. I made lots of money. But I’m not happy about it because I can’t actually do the thing I love to do: Write.”

So, because my flight was canceled and I have literally seven hours of hanging out in an airport today, I thought I would share my aspirations. Some may call them borderline arrogant, but I like to think of them as constant motivators pushing me to be better. They remind me that success rarely, if ever, comes without the price tag of hard work and dedication.

1. Write books that are on the best-sellers list. Number one would be nice, but just being on the list would be cool, too. Heck, at this point, being on Amazon’s top 50 in YA (insert genre) would be good.

2. Have a modest production company option my book. (Not at all interested in a TV series.)

3. Get interviewed by Ellen (I’ve been practicing that interview for about a year now.)

4. Remember that writing is the breath of my soul. If I ever get to a point where the joy of “breathing” is squelched by my “brand”, it’s time to re-evaluate my aspirations.

5. Never become so cynical about my career that I can’t find satisfaction in my work.

6. Spend the rest of my life writing books I would want to read. If my books become too commercial or don’t make me excited writing them, maybe it’s time to enjoy my moderate success and take a break from churning out crap. (My current WIP actually leaves me smiling when I finish revising and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!)

7. And of course, know where every Starbucks is in every MAJOR airport in the country. (Do they have an app for that?) ***REVISED TO REPORT THERE IS A STARBUCKS (or two) ON EVERY CONCOURSE IN THE KANSAS CITY AIRPORT***

So here’s my question for you, oh faithful readers: What do you aspire to? I hope, no matter what it is, you find a way to BE PASSIONATE about your goals and the role they play in your life. As for me, I’m going to find a more comfortable seat and dream about the day I can afford first class… oh wait, I’m a writer… maybe I should aspire to paying for the early check-in. When I'm published I'll be able to afford ten bucks, right?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How Zombies Can Change My Life

This year, my friends have been doing those 5K obstacle course races. I think it’s safe to say that some of them are addicted. I’ve watched from afar, admiring their passion, but not really getting into the craze. Until now. Next June, in the next town east of us, there’s going to be a Run For Your Lives Race. Not only is it a challenge in a location that can only be described as breath-taking, but it’s a chance to check off one of the items on my bucket list: Get chased by zombies. You read that correct. It’s a traditional climb up the vertical wall, hustle up the cargo net and climb under barbed wire in a pit of mud race, plus zombies are trying to steal your lives (think flag football belts).

How freaking cool does that sound? If it weren’t for the zombie part, I don’t know if I would be so excited, but since I’ve always thought it would be awesome to be in a horror movie but I lack a certain level of elementary acting training, this is the closest I’m going to get. Here’s the kicker. In order to do this race, which really will be a grueling one, I have a tough road ahead of me. I have to lose weight, break out the muscles that haven’t seen the light of day in a decade and of course, the first rule of the zombie apocalyptic: CARDIO!

It’s been a long time since I’ve trained for anything, and to be honest, I’ve always used the excuse that I’m not disciplined enough to do something like that. Except, wait. I was disciplined enough to write a book. And determined enough to revise and revise and revise. And I was passionate enough about it to subject myself to the gatekeeper’s (aka agents) rejections. Not only that, but I was persistent enough to start another book in order to start the whole process over again. It got me to thinking about how I can relate writing a book to training for a zombie invasion with sprints.

I start my training, officially, on Monday, when I begin the Couch to 5K program. (First rule, remember?) In a lot of ways, this is like writing the backstory, getting to know your characters, and developing your plot. It’s conditioning; getting ready to get into the good stuff.

In nine weeks, I will start the C25K program over, but this time, I’m hiking the incline on the treadmill up higher and higher each day. I’m also adding weight training. Those zombies aren’t going to get the drop on me when I have to hoist my body over a fallen tree. For me, getting the first few chapters done is a lot like this. There’s always so much to convey in those pages. It’s like going uphill in a wind storm. There are days where I just stare at the screen and wonder how the big time writers can churn books out time after time.

Now we’re 18 weeks into training. In case you can’t do the math, that’s exactly half way between today and the race. Now, I won’t be buff, yet, but one would hope the commitment is starting to show in my clothes. After a quick shopping spree to buy new workout gear, it’s time to rev up the training. Now I’m going to start the recommended training for the Indianapolis mini-marathon. I’m not going to actually do the marathon, but this will replace the C25K program and improve my endurance. I’m also adding three classes: boot camp, zumba, and pilates. In the writing world, this is where the work is flowing. I’m churning out a chapter a night. We’re cruising, baby. In the groove, got it goin’ on! But this is also a time when I’m most likely to get distracted by other things: youngest child’s birthday, spring break, life in general. This is where it’s easy for me to demonstrate self-destructive tendencies. But if I can avoid the pitfalls, I’ll make it to the home stretch.

Week 27. Nine weeks left until the big day. I’m still doing the Mini road training, weight training, the classes… what else can I possibly do? Amp it up. Look for the weaknesses and improve them. Wow. Sounds like the revision process, doesn’t it. Revise until the work sparkles, and not in a Twilight kind of way. Polishing and perfecting. Arms not quite able to make that vertical wall? More arms. Middle of the book dragging the plot down and messing up the pacing? Fix it!

Now, sometime during this last nine weeks I hope to get a chance to get real world training, from an Marine no less. I want to learn some of the techniques that will help me master the obstacles and continue to avoid the long arms of the walking dead. In the writing world, I would describe this as beta readers. It’s the first time the book is being taken for a spin, finding out what points of the plot others think work and don’t work. This is also a time for one more good revision. It’s one more chance to master the tone of the words and strengthen the story arc. This is the test-run.

Race Day. This is when I pray all the training and work pays off. It’s when I take something that’s been personal for the last several months and put it out there to be rejected. In the Run For Your Lives race, getting across the finish line is one thing. Doing it without skipping an obstacle is the difference between a finish medal and nothing. Since I want that medal for my motivation board, I cannot skip an element. It’s not an option. I have to find that one foothold that’s going to help me get over the top. But there are unforeseen issues. Maybe I'll get behind someone who steps on my hand with their size 13s and my bruised appendage just can’t hold on to the rope on the next obstacle. When I think about this, I realize it’s a lot like sending out query letters. All the work has been done. You’re as ready as you can possibly be and yet, there’s still one more hurdle to get through: finding the right agent at the right time who gets your book and wants to be a part of it. (In case I wasn’t clear, this is the finding the foot hold moment.) The rejections, and more importantly, the reason for the rejection are the unforeseen issues. There are all kinds of reasons why agents reject a manuscript, even one they really love. Those things are out of your control. You have to duck and weave when they come your way and keep moving forward.

But this is where the training and belief is going to shine. If you really dig deep, no matter how many obstacles you have to jump, if you have faith in yourself and in your work, you can reach the reward, whether it’s a finisher’s medal or a book contract. In the end, it’s all up to how much you want it and what you're willing to do to get it.

One more thing about the Race For Your Lives 5K… once you’re done, they give you beer. I think surviving the Zombie Apocalypse earns you at least that. But when I get my agent and that awesome person finds the right publisher for me book, we’re not doing beer. MARTINIS FOR EVERYONE! Until then, I’ll focus on my training and my writing, making sure I’m ready for whatever comes next. I never thought zombies could turn me into a race enthusiast, but it just goes to show you that you can BE PASSIONATE about anything you want!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

To Trend or Not to Trend

Before you read this, I should remind you that I write and read mostly YA, so most of my comments aren’t as relevant to adult literature. And, I should also mention that I tend to stick with SFF (Science Fiction/Fantasy) books, though not exclusively, so some of these comments are genre related and as always, my opinions alone.

My first novel, The Partizans, is about sixteen year old transfer student who Hannah Slaughtery never imagined her future would involve fighting against monsters she doesn’t believe in with people she’s not even sure she likes.

But when she and four other students attend a retreat at Piaculum Academy, they discover they’re the next generation of Partizans, a band of supernatural warriors dating back to the dawn of man. Each must decide how much of themselves they are willing to sacrifice as they stand against the Formorians, a ruthless and tyrannical empire of demons who have been wiping out the Partizan lines for generations in order to make way for their own ascension.

As Hannah struggles to comprehend her legacy, she is distracted by the unexplainable, yet undeniable connection she feels toward Finn, another Partizan, who is obviously hiding something from her.

Mentored by Garrett, a First Crusade era Catholic priest turned vampire, Hannah begins her metaphysical transformation to become a witch, knowing only one thing for sure: the carefree days of her youth have come to a screeching halt.

I loved writing this book and I still have hope that it will see the inside of a publishing house. But I happened to start writing this shortly after Breaking Dawn came out and the slew of YA vampire books that followed. I wasn’t writing to a trend. I was honestly writing a book that I wanted to read. But as I began to submit to agents, I was constantly getting the vibe that, as soon as they saw the words “YA Paranormal”, their eyes either rolled or glazed over . I did get a few awesome agents who asked for fulls and partials, which made me feel good, but it got me to thinking about trends and how to be the trendsetter instead of the trend follower.
Case in point: Fallen angel books. They are everywhere. Some are great. Some, eh, but what they have in common is that I can find any number of them in the book rack of our local Wal-mart. (It’s the closest thing my town has to a book store.) But how did those first fallen angel books get written? How did the writers start the trend?

Were they struck with brilliance? Did someone whisper to them in their sleep that there is a small aspect of their favorite genre that needs exploiting? I don’t have an answer. I really want to know. Because if I’m going to write what I like, which is another piece of advice you garner at writer’s conference and on blogs, then I’m going to be writing a lot of supernatural creature books. How do you train yourself, as a writer, to see beyond what you know?
I know this blog post is filled with more unanswered questions than I would normally post, but it’s something that has been on my mind lately, and listening to the Robert Frost inspired song by Sydney Forest, Road Not Taken hasn’t helped.

For those of you who are thinking about taking the literary road less traveled, BE PASSIONATE about it! And feel free to share a little wisdom with the rest of us!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Website updated

I'm such a slacker sometimes! I have finally updated my website... a little update. If you're at all interested in knowing more about me, stop by the site and click on the "About Me" tab at the top of the page. Hopefully the rest of the pages will get filled in over the next week.

Also, if you have some great websites that writers must know about, email them to me at or post them below. I really want to get the link salad page started. It will be a work in progress, but at least it will be in progress!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Literary Responsibility in the Digital Age

After reading Across the digital divide , a blog post about poverty and the digital age, I started to wonder: Am I a digital elitist?

I love my Nook. I do, and I know some of you might stop reading because of that one sentence, and that’s fine. It’s not like I’ve stopped buying print books. Actually, I have several books in both e and print format. It’s that I’m a forgetful person. I tend to find myself sitting in the pickup line at school, wishing I had brought the latest book from the To Be Read pile. My Nook is like my netbook. It’s always in my bag. Now, I am never without a book to read. It’s also handy when I’m doing critiques for my writer buddies.

After reading the above mentioned blog, I started to think about how this fast moving train into the digital age really has the potential to prevent some of our countrymen from advancing their lot in life. And, because you know I love lists, here are a few reasons why. (I should add that, while I can find all kinds of articles that support my OPINION, there are even more out there that support the other side. This is my blog, and thus my thoughts. You are free to disagree with me, and I always welcome opposing viewpoints, but please keep it civil!)

1. Eliminating cursive writing in the schools. BAD IDEA. I’m not an expert in linguistics or psychology, but I am willing to bet the teaching cursive writing has a positive correlation with reading ability. The more a kid studies the letter, the more they write the letters and form words has to have influence on not only reading speed, but also comprehension. I’m a fast reader. I mean fast. When I was in 8th grade, we had reading class once a week and we read those short stories and then answered the comprehension questions. Then, once our minds were turning, we would take a speed reading test. I aced that class. I couldn’t get enough of it. Yes, the stories were often lame and it was the one time I found myself leaning toward non-fiction pieces over fiction, but I got to sit in class for 90 minutes and read. I should also mention that, while I don’t show people my handwritten work often, I normally get compliments on my cursive writing once a week, if not more. After a quick Google search, I found several articles to back up my claim. Here’s one that talks about the writing-reading relationship.. On a personal note, my kids will be learning cursive, no matter what. As a fan of dystopian, I know, one day, the world is going to plunge into turmoil, society will collapse and eventually non-electronic communication will be difficult to come by. My future generations are going to make a killing by sending and reading letters for people!

2. Removing print books from schools and issuing each student an iPad in an effort to save money. This actually sounds good, at first. With school budgets being slashed, our schools must come up with ways to stay academically viable on a shoestring budget, though I would question how purchasing, even a discounted iPad could be cheaper than handing down used books from class to class. But here’s the problem. What happens when Tommy, a seventh grader, drops his iPad. Or worse yet, what if it’s stolen. Since Tommy’s dad just lost his IT job and they’re living paycheck to paycheck on his mom’s nursing income, can they afford to pay for the replacement? If not, does that mean Tommy can’t complete his homework assignment? It’s not like he can handwrite the five page paper that’s due on Friday because he never learned cursive in the first place and his print writing is horrid. And forget studying for a test. How’s he supposed to read the information? It’s on the missing iPad.

3. Just as, in my opinion, handwriting is an art, so is studying. I remember learning the a couple of different study methods when I was in middle school and let me tell you, all of them involved books and writing. Now, I’m sure there will be new methods developed that don’t require such rudimentary tools, but until then, what is little Tommy’s family supposed to tell him? Sorry son… I guess you’ll have to wait until college to learn anything? (Assuming Tommy can afford college after having to replace the iPad.)

4. Finally, the digital age and libraries. Do you know that there are people who actually want to do away with libraries? And then there’s the camp that says, “Sure, keep the library, but just do away with the books and make everything digital.” I’m not much for grabbing a pitch fork and torch, but those people would probably be at the top of the “To Do” list if it ever comes to that. Because here’s where little Tommy has a chance to survive school. He can go to the library and use the computer to turn in that assignment. He can ask the resource desk to do an inter-library loan to get the textbooks he’s lost. After all, there are probably going to be some communities where the parents are going to stand up and demand that some of the fundamentals of education still be observed. At the very least, they can be ordered from

5. One more, mainly because I can’t resist. It turns out, when (and if) little Tommy goes to college a lot of professor prefer students NOT bring their iPads and laptops to class. *collective gasp* I know you’re wondering if I’m making it up. I’m not. In addition to being a great educational tool, these electronic devices can also hook up to the internet, giving students the opportunity to completely tune out a boring Western Civ lecture by watching videos of cats and dolphins playing together. They can also download apps, like Angry Birds and Farmville, which, in my opinion, would have made my math classes go by a lot faster! Hmmm… I wonder if the same thing could happen in Tommy’s seventh grade class… what’s the teacher going to do? Take away his game, I mean textbook? Yeah, that will go over well. Parents just LOVE it when you pick on their kids!

Please don’t mistake that I’m saying technology in schools is bad. It’s not. We live in a world that is run by man and machine. I just don’t think we should embrace the future by pretending the skills upon which our society was built are now obsolete. And we certainly shouldn’t do it until we can ensure that everyone, from the richest or the rich and the poorest of the poor, has a chance to live the American dream!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, the expanded version of Stephen King’s The Stand is waiting for me on the Nook. (No way am I lugging that book around in print! Though, if I ever run into one of those down with library creeps, it could come in handy!) Regardless of technological preferences, always BE PASSIONATE about your life and future!

Monday, September 12, 2011

17 year old MC description

Hey all! I'm revising my pages and this is what I came up with to describe my 17 year old protagonist. Let me know if you can get a clear picture of both her and her mother. (Feedback desperately wanted)

I may have my dad’s eyes [denim blue], but the rest of my looks and my inability to lie come straight from my mom. A lot of people say Chloe looks like Isabella Rossellini if Isabella was ever seen wearing white paint splattered overalls and her hair pulled back in a loose, messy ponytail. People say I look like her, and maybe I do, but I definitely lack the undeniable assuredness that radiates from her when she walks in the room. If Chloe's the movie star, I’m the awkward assistant with a pencil behind her ear and a coffee stain on her shirt.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Time to Write, but First…

I love the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. I would say I watch it at least twice a month, mostly as background noise, but still, I know almost every line. In the opening scene of the movie, Sandra Oh’s character, Patty, comments, “Actually, if you knew Frances [Diane Lane’s character], you'd know these [brownies] are avoidance [of writing].”

Most of the time, I would rather spend my free time writing than anything else. Pounding on the keyboard is therapeutic. Each time I start with a blank sheet of paper, it’s like heading off on a literary hike. I can obsess over edits to the point that frozen pizza becomes a mainstay on our dinner menus. I actually pay for Pandora One because the allotted 40 hours you get with the free versions doesn’t come close to the hours I need it.

But then there are the times when I will do anything to avoid writing. I can’t exactly blame it on writer’s block, because when I finally run out of things to do on my avoidance list, I’m ready to return my WIP. So, in the interest of avoidance and the role it plays in the creative process, I thought I would share my go-to vices.

1. The Latest iPhone app: First, it was Angry Birds, then Frog Toss, Words with Friends, Hangin’ with Friends, 80 days (think Bejeweled with puzzles and global theme), and now it’s Prize Claw. Originally I thought I would only play these games when I was waiting in the doctor’s office or while I’m waiting in the pickup line at school. Ha. I tried to ban myself from this, but it didn’t work. However, there is timer on my iPhone as well… and I use it to tell myself that play time is over… GET BACK TO WORK.
2. Facebook: I have been known to be inspired by quizzes I’ve taken on this social networking site. The appearance of Cherubs in my first book and a reference to Amelia Earhart were both inspired by a quiz (and half a bottle of wine) and those parts turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself. And then there’s the not so helpful aspect of Facebook. Remember that girl in junior high who used to pick on you, but now, through the goodness of FB, you can spend too much time looking through her pics and analyzing every moment of her life through her status updates? No? Me either, but let’s suspend reality for a minute and pretend you did: Facebook gives you the perfect avenue to waste hours “reconnecting” with friends. And we can’t forget the apps they have! I’m willing to bet at least half of you have or had a Farmville farm at one point in your FB career. I have one. Of course, I also have a Steward (my friend Jessica) who hacks my account daily and tends to my flock since I’ve imposed a FB ban, which now limits me to updating my fan page (please feel free to “like” me:!/pages/Sarah-J-Schmitt/132681246744714), checking in on a few statuses as well as posting some so people know I’m alive. Sorting through pictures of people I haven’t seen in twenty years is strictly prohibited… unless it involves kids, dogs, or cats. Come on! Who can resist those pics?
3. Baking: Like Frances in Under the Tuscan Sun, I like to bake. I wish I liked to cook more, but unless the recipe comes out of Taste of Home, I’m helpless. There are times when I have several different types of cupcakes going at the same time, followed by cinnamon rolls and homemade doughnuts. It’s also not uncommon, when I am procrastinating in this way, to make a couple different types of cookies (not from scratch, mind you) and sit back with the munchkins and dip them in ice cold milk.
4. Go to the Gym: I hate the gym. I would love to profess that I am a reformed couch potato and now feel horrible when I don’t go to the gym, but I can’t. I don’t like to work out. Even when I was a student athlete, I hated work outs. It’s the fact that I HAVE to go that makes me crazy. Except when I’m in a slump. There are a couple reasons for this: First, when I spend all day sitting at my desk, every part of me aches the next day. Second, some of my best ideas come through the zen meditation I enter when listening to Lady Gaga on the treadmill. Third, I’m around people. Granted, I normally avoid eye contact, but as an extravert, that human connection can be grounding and revitalizing.
5. Cleaning: Ask anyone who knows me, when I’m cleaning, it’s a desperate cry for help. I’m not talking the type of cleaning that involves filling the dishwasher or washing machine. I’m talking about that move the furniture and clean the baseboards type of cleaning. Some people have that part of them that pushes them to keep a neat and orderly home, and I’ll admit, I wish I was one of them, but I’m not. I am who I am and that’s all that I am. When I hit this point, there is only one answer, and that brings us to my last vice.
6. Escape to coffee/movie/girls night out with my best gal pals. I belong to a book club called The Cacklin’ Bs… at first, I thought, yes, I can have a great discussion about books with women I don’t get to see all the time. But this book club has become something more. It has become a support network where I can vent about my insane neighbor, remember that my husband isn’t the only one to say stupid comments at the wrong time, and to laugh. Laughter is the best medicine, for the body and the soul. Trust me, after an evening with the CBs, I have been healed.

That’s it. My six top vices. My go-to avoidance mechanisms. And rather than looking at these activities as a distraction, I look at them as a way to refill my creative cup and get back to work! Whatever your writing process is, BE PASSIONATE in everything you do!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Writer's Platform Building Campaign

Just in case I didn't have enough to do with my time, I've added this little challenge!

In the words of Rachael Harrie, the host of this event, "[The] Writers' Platform-Building Campaigns are ways to link writers, aspiring authors, beginner bloggers, industry people, and published authors together with the aim of helping to build our online platforms.

The Campaigners are all people in a similar position, who genuinely want to pay it forward, make connections and friends within the writing community, and help build each others' online platforms while at the same time building theirs."

So, in addition to bathing my children and getting the second novel done, my free "alone" time will be spent doing this. I really need to cancel cable!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Win a signed ARC of Ashes

Check out this contest at The book sounds intense!

From Amazon:

It could happen tomorrow . . .

An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.
Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.

Author Ilsa J. Bick crafts a terrifying and thrilling novel about a world that could be ours at any moment, where those left standing must learn what it means not just to survive, but to live amidst the devastation.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Library Fines Should be Tax Deductible for Writers

I don’t know about you, but I spend way too much on library fines every year. The sad thing is, I don’t always get to read all the books I borrow. It’s not that I don’t want to read them, but between keeping up with my genre, actual writing, revising, taking care of my family and trying to get in a few hours of sleep every couple of days, there’s not always enough time left to read the 15 “fun” books I checked out last month. It makes my husband furious.

So, while Congress is squabbling over how to trim the debt without raising taxes, I would like to officially propose that library fines be reclassified as justifiable deductions for writers. Consider it a tax cut for the creative types. Maybe I can even get the NEA to sponsor the proposal. (Wait, that might actually sabotage the whole crusade… never mind.)

Of course it goes without saying that I’ll tell you why I think this is a good idea. It should also go without saying that I will do so in list form.

1.       If the books in question are used for research and a writer needs the research materials for longer than the library will allow, isn’t the fine actually more of an extended rental on the books? It’s not like we’re going to keep them forever. And even if we do, eventually the fine will surpass the value of the book and then, at least at our library, you can swap out the replacement fee for the fine and tada: instant tax write off. Who knows… maybe allowing the fines to be written off will encourage more writers to return the books closer to the date they were due. It could happen.

2.       Writers write. It’s what we do. And sometimes, we get lost in the worlds we create only to be snapped back into reality. It’s hard to keep both worlds straight without a few things slipping through the cracks. I would even go so far as to say writers deserve hazard pay. Yep. I said it. We should be getting hazard pay on top of the money we don’t make until we sell… hmmm. Doesn’t look like hazard pay is an option. Surely allowing library fines to be tax deductible is a reasonable compensation alternative.

3.       Since purchasing books within the genre I write is a qualified deduction, then why can’t the fine be? Truth of the matter is, there are months when I spend less on books than I do on fines, so it’s a win for everyone. The government issues me a lower deduction, thus getting to keep more of my money, and I have more room on my bookshelves.

4.       On that note I present my final reason why library fines should be classified as a tax deduction. This is where the spouses and children of writers will get behind the movement. If library fines are tax deductible, I predict more and more writers will use libraries to get a bulk of their reading materials. (You, in the back, jumping up and down to argue that writers are already a large portion of library patrons… yeah, you. Zip it! I’m doing this for you.) So, back to my point: if more writers are checking out and eventually returning library books, perhaps we can finally get a handle on an ugly illness sweeping through the land: BOOK HORDING. First it was plain horders, now there’s a show about animal hording. It’s just a matter of time before the reality lens turns it’s intrusive eye on the private lives of writers. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. Look around your house and then raise your hand if you have any one of the following:
o   A stack of books higher than ten volumes high;
o   Shelves so crammed full of WIP and your prized possessions that it’s almost impossible to pull one book out without the rest toppling down on you;
o   Books piled in any height in the front or sides of the aforementioned bookcase, creating a literary moat around your leaning tower of prose;
o   A nightstand with so many books in your TBR pile that you have to get a clock that projects its read out onto the ceiling just so you can see what time it is;
o   A pathway from your office door to your desk with stacks of books, Writer’s Digest past issues you can’t possibly think of getting rid of.

So that’s it. That’s my proposal for why library fines should be classified as justifiable tax deductions. Feel free to circulate this to your members of Congress and remember, no matter what cause you’re fighting for, real or literal, BE PASSIONATE about it!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Why Writers MUST Face Rejection

Ask any writer who’s ever gone through the query process and they will tell you rejection sucks. It’s hard to have someone else tell you that your work isn’t right for them, especially when you’ve poured your heart and soul into your writing. Perhaps you’ve left the nurturing of your child up to the household electronics. Or maybe you developed sleep patterns that get you looks of pity from mothers of newborns. Regardless, to write means to sacrifice.
Sometimes rejections come in the form of well-worded, supportive notes about finding the right agent with encouragement to keep writing. Sometimes the rejection is more along the no response equals no interest line. And still others are form rejections. It doesn’t matter how they’re worded. They still deliver a sting to the creative ego.
But I have a theory that the rejection process is part of what makes someone a better writer. I admit, I cried when I got my first rejection, and for the record, I totally deserved it. Still, I had a moment where I thought I was fooling myself. What made me think that I had what it took to be a published writer? I was at a crossroads. In one directions was the easy life of being a stay at home mom and getting a job at a craft store when the boys finally went off to school or I could venture down the avenue where I had faith in my talent and followed my passion.
Some people might think taking the easy way would be the right choice. Except for one thing. I’m a writer. I may not be published yet, but when asked the question, “If you had an entire weekend to yourself with no commitments or obligations how would you spend the time?” I responded, without hesitation, “Write. And when I needed a break, read.”
So what does this have to do with rejection? Everything.
1.      Rejection weeds out the writers with a weak stomach. Those who aren’t cut out for bad reviews and editors who want you to change anything from your MC’s name to eliminating a sub plot that’s not working. This is not to say I think those writers stop writing. I truly believe that, if you are a writer, you can never completely give it up or it will be like letting go of what makes you who you are. But, and this may sound harsh, not everyone is willing to do what it takes to get published, and that’s okay.
2.      Rejection fans the fire in our belly. For those left standing after the first few rounds of rejection, we’re left with the determination to prove the guys who turned us down wrong. Sure, it might not be the current manuscript that lands us the agent or publishing contract, but one day, if we keep fighting, we know it’s going to happen.
3.      Rejection makes us better writers, if we learn to read between the lines. I’ve heard it said that a good query letter can get a 75% request rate IF SENT TO THE APPROPRIATE AGENTS. While I think that’s a little high given the current climate of book sales, I agree that you can tell a good query letter from one that needs work, based on the response. Same goes for the first 50 paged. If you have agents asking to read your work, but they all seem to be passing, maybe those first pages/chapters need revision. After my the first ten rejections, without a request, I put a stop to the query process and spent the next year revising. Now I’m ready to query my YA paranormal, even though it’s going to be an uphill battle. (You know, because there just aren’t enough YA paranormals in the slush piles right now.) Maybe someone will like it enough to take a chance. Maybe they won’t, but through the writing, revising, and query process, I know I’ve become a better writer. (And my non-paranormal YA WIP is evidence of that.)
4.      Finally, rejections induct us into the brother/sisterhood of writers. This is a blanket statement, but one that I’m willing to make without hesitation: no published author got where they are without experiencing rejection. It may be a sick commentary about me, but I actually get a little excited when I meet another writer who’s been turned down by an agent that’s also rejected me. Why? Because that person has literally been sitting in my seat. S/he knows how it feels to get the no thanks response. And because of that we can lift each other up and encourage each other to keep moving forward.
So you see, rejection can be a useful tool in the writing process. It’s not a fun part of the process, but, as I remind my children, you have a choice: you can get mad about it, pout, and waste your creative talent feeling sorry for yourself or you can have a two minute pity party, complete with black confetti, streamers and a cake pop (or two), and move on to the next move in the chess game of writing. Either way, it’s not the agent or publisher who determines what you do next. It’s you, the writer. Whatever your choice, BE PASSIONATE in your decision. I look forward to swimming with you all in slush pile hell, and for those of you who manage to get out of the big pond! Remember to share not only your stories of success, but the stories that came before.

Monday, August 8, 2011

You be the judge

Thanks to all of you who submitted your thoughts on the two versions of my first page. After reading your feedback and tinkering with the original manuscript, I'm going to stick with the first person/present tense. I know, I know, some of you weren't big fans, but honestly, the character wants everything filtered through her eyes and she's kinda stubborn (thank goodness or she would get her butt handed to her on a platter in the book).

Again, thank you for your feedback and wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Moment to Breathe and Reflect

Since returning from the Midwest Writer's Workshop, I have been in a frenzy to get some minor, though important, plot changes done on my completed manuscript. With those requests sent out, I feel like I have a few (stress few) minutes to sit back before pounding away at the keyboard on my next novel.

It has been an incredible and unbelievable ride over the last week. No, I'm not represented (far from it) and I'm certainly not published (even farther from that). But I got a chance to learn from some really incredible professionals in the literary world. I hate to name drop, but I will.

Let's kick off with Kelsey Timmerman. Talk about being a self-starter! He decided to take a self-funded tour of the world to find out about the people who made the clothes he was wearing. And then he chronicled his experiences in a book called, “What am I Wearing?” Now Kelsey is (self-proclaimed) one of the top ten underwear journalists in Indiana, but I would beg to differ. I think he just might be one of the top ten underwear journalists in the country!

Then we move to the agents. For a small conference in a mid-sized Indiana town, MWW has the ability to pull in amazing agents. You know those people you follow on twitter? Yeah, I met ‘em. Between Kathleen Ortiz’s explanation of how to deliver the perfect pitch, Roseanne Wells’ process for developing your world as a character and Jessica Sinsheimer’s session on how to write a query letter, I finally feel prepared to enter into the query arena, armed for battle. Though I was unable to attend Lois Winston’s session on why manuscripts get rejected, a friend was kind enough to share the information and I’m happy to say I am better off because of it!

In addition to gathering as much knowledge as I could, I also got a chance to pitch my novel, The Partizans, to Kathleen, Roseanne, and Jessica. I’m not gonna lie. I was nervous to approach them with my book. But within seconds of sitting down and blurting out my two line pitch, they all managed to put me at ease, asking questions that helped me help them understand the story better. After I was done, there was still time for me to ask questions. And let me tell you, I did. I asked about how I could make my query letter better. (Excellent question, I must add.) I also took a chance to pick their brains on a dilemma I had regarding my next project. Again, they were incredibly helpful and supportive! So, what I have learned about agents is they are, in fact, human. Here are the most important lessons I learned from each of them: Jessica – chocolate covered espresso beans are awesome; Kathleen – cyborgs have a future in YA; Roseanne – do not submit pony driven novels to her. Word to the wise!

Moving on…

Authors… you know the ones who were once writers, but then someone thought, “Hey, let’s print that,” and then they magically became authors. Those people rock. They have been in the same spot I am and have succeeded. Not only that, they’ve come back to mingle among the wannabes to share what they have learned on their journey. I love authors for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fantastic books they have written. They give me hope that, with enough perseverance, patience, and faith in my ability, that I too may take my place among the growing number of authors who found their agents at MWW. Authors like D.E. (Dan) Johnson, Veronica Roth and Kelsey Timmerman. And let’s not forget the people who defy the odds, like Karen Lenfestey, who sold over 20,000 copies of her novel A Sisters Promise though self-publishing/e-books. Something tells me she’s going to have an agent… if she wants one, of course!

But yet, there’s more…

It’s one thing to write a book and another to get it published. But unless readers buy the book, you run the risk of being a “one hit wonder what the heck happened to that guy”. MWW has an amazing relationship with Jane Friedman… if you’re reading this, you more than likely have heard of her. (Or if you ever want to learn anything about how to use twitter or Facebook or any other form of social media, you should check out her blog!) Seriously, go now.

And then there’s Dana Kaye (also known as Marcus Sakey’s publicist). I just have to bow down to this woman when it comes to understanding what motivates people to do things. #1 rule: Keep your tweets relevant to your work and the publishing world, with the exception of rule #2. Rule #2: never be afraid to tweet about your cat, your dog, or your kids. (Thank goodness I have two kids. No way can I handle a dog right now!)

Still more…

I can’t forget the amazing men and women who work all year to put on a conference that allows everyone to come together for the love of writing. They work tirelessly to provide the highest level of faculty, the greatest amount of comfort, and space where creativity can flourish and be discovered. I personally plan to be in attendance for as long as the conference continues… and since I write paranormal, I totally believe it’s possible for me to haunt the Ball State Alumni Center.


I’ve said it before and I stand by my statement. Gathering the grains of knowledge from authors, agents, publicists, publishing insiders… it’s all great. But in the end, when you walk away from the conference, salivating over and dissecting every single interaction, remember that the best moments live in the twitter vault. And the relationships and friendships that you cultivate will nurture your talent, grow your confidence and harvest your greatest creative potential. Stay connected, keep coming back, and BE PASSIONATE! It might not hurt to bribe people with chocolate covered espresso beans. Seriously, these things are a food group within themselves!

PS. Look for a link salad post this weekend!

Friday, July 22, 2011

In Defense of the Elusive Agent

Like many aspiring writers, I stalk and with regularity. I need to know things like who’s accepting (or not accepting) queries and the exact hour they will open up again, should I use Mr. or Ms. when addressing the query letter, and reconfirm the submission guidelines.

What? You don’t believe me? Ok, I’ll tell the truth. I really log on to see who’s saying what about which agent. This is important stuff! Has the agent signed anyone new? (Oh yeah, I good naturedly hate that person.) Are they on vacation? What’s the response time for rejections? Partials? Fulls? What’s their form rejection sound like? Are they the no answer=no interest type of agent? This is breaking news stuff.  Some of the information is really helpful and those brave enough to post their rejections (and ultimately their success stories) remind us that while writing can be very lonely, there are people out there who get it. Still, there are the few who feel slighted by the response (or lack of response) they receive and they let everyone else know about it.

As artists, we aren’t always the best at accepting rejection. It’s not too hard to convince us that we were unfairly and personally judged by the high and mighty agent who’s making so much money on his/her other clients that he/she doesn’t want to take on a talent such as ours.

But I’ve had the chance to interact with some great agents in the business at conferences. I follow their blogs more religiously than I follow the Indianapolis Colts (*gasp*) and I get tweets from even more. (Thank goodness for social media!) I’ve learned a lot from them. More importantly, I’ve learned a lot about them and the jobs they are so passionate about.  Which is why I feel I am qualified (*chokes back laughter*) to give you my take on the life and times of an agent. (And since I’m in query mode, I will add I am in no way sucking up to any agents who might find this post.)

Here are some comments I have seen or heard regarding the role of agents and my take on them.

1.       “The agent never responded to my query. I bet she/he isn’t even looking for new clients.” Okay, and this may or may not apply to the top unnamed agents at the top unnamed agencies (You know who they are… the ones that roll of the tongue when you start listing your dream team), but writers are an agents bread and butter. You know that word “commission”? (Don’t worry… we’ll get to that soon.) Well, in case you forgot, commission normally indicates that, if you don’t sell something, in this case, someone’s manuscripts/foreign rights/film options/etc, you don’t get paid. Sure, they may be able to pick up side jobs and take on other responsibilities in the office to make ends meet, but ultimately, they want the commission. The more contracts they get for their clients, the better quality of meat they can eat for dinner.

2.       “I sent in a steamy erotica that would make Heff blush, but all I got was an email that said it wasn’t for them.” Just out of curiosity, did you send it to an agent who reps children/YA books? Are you sure they were looking for your style of writing? Uh, no, I just sent it to every agent on the list. Okay. Now we’re getting somewhere. Some agents are listed on QT and AT as taking everything under the sun, which is why it’s always a good idea to double check on their websites before you send off your query. If you don’t, you’re wasting their time and adding unnecessary hash marks to your rejection tally.  

3.       “The agent only asked for 3-5 pages. How could they possibly know my story isn’t for them?” (This is perhaps my favorite one, quite possibly because I am guilty of allowing this indignant thought to pass through my mind.)  Let’s try that honesty thing again: it only takes a couple of pages to figure out if your editing process consists of fixing the mistakes caught by spell check. Second, there’s this thing called a hook. You know… the thing that hooks a reader in? You don’t know what that is? That could be your next problem.  When you’re searching for that hidden treasure in a stack of books, how long does it usually take to know if it’s the right one for you? What’s that? 3-5 pages? Same here. (Though my book club has taught me there are rare exceptions to that rule, ie. Story of Beautiful Girl)

4.       “Why does it take an agent so long to get back to me? Aren’t they waiting by their computer for my jaw dropping letter?” Perhaps a better question is, “Would you want to be represented by someone who just sat at their desk and answered the queries of others?” I would guess that, when we reach the illusive promised land of representation, we would actually prefer our agent spend time trying to sell our latest work. You know, so everyone can get paid.  Now there are those agents who can reject (or request) quickly. In fact, my fastest rejection is nine minutes. (That one did leave me using #3 as I pouted my way to sleep.) We live in a society of instantaneous gratification. But rising to the top of the slush pile takes time. Suck it up and get to work on your next masterpiece.

5.       “15% Commission? 20% for foreign rights? WTF?” Remember when you first started writing and you had that doe-eyed, romantic impression that, as a published writer you could spend your days at the keyboard spewing forth all the passionate prose you could think of? How’s that working out for you? In this day and age, it’s more important than ever to promote our work (like this blog or twitter {you can follow me @writinghoosier}). Now, maybe you want to keep as much cash as possible and have opted to take the self-publishing route. Very cool. Nothing wrong with that. But I, personally, will gladly hand over 15% to someone who’s going to be looking out for my best interest! Heck, I tip my servers 20%. Shouldn’t someone who’s helping me plan and achieve my dreams get a decent cut?

I was going to stop at five, but since I’m preparing for the Midwest Writer’s Workshop (, I thought I would throw out one more. (PS. It’s not really agent related. Sorry for the false advertising!)

6.       “Why should I go to a writer’s conference? I’m a great writer already.” I can only laugh at this because I said the same thing one year ago. I attended my first conference convinced I was going to walk away with an agent and well on my way to a six-figure advance, 3 book publishing contract. (Okay, maybe I wasn’t that naive, but it was close.) The writer I was then and the writer I am now aren’t even in the same league. I’m not saying that my books will ever be described as epic, but in three days I not only learned that I had a lot to learn, but I left with the tools I needed to overhaul my novel. I took advantage of a manuscript review by NYT Bestseller Marcus Sakey who showed me how I could up my game and really add suspense to my YA fantasy. I pitched an agent and got a partial request. (For the record, I’m still waiting for a reply, one year later… just a friendly reminder not to put your eggs in one basket.) And those two things were great. But what was really helpful is that I recharged my creative battery by being around people who love books and words as much as I do. And, even better: I found three very honest critique partners who have helped me craft my novel over the last year. Now I’m honored to call them friends. Friends who can empathize with the sting of rejection and celebrate finally figuring out how to make your character do what you want them to do. As I mentioned, I’m heading back to MWW next week and I have another pitch scheduled, which I plan to knock out of the park (as long as I don’t knock the table over with my nerves). But the energy that comes from being around other writers: you can’t beat that!

That’s it. There is no more. I’ve espoused all I can muster on this topic. Agree with it, disagree with it, whatever. Just remember to Be Bold in whatever flames your fires of passion!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Read in Movies

I love film adaptions. Not because I think they are better than the books, which of course they are not, but because they are a writer’s vision brought to “reality”.

I write movies in book form. Each and every scene has been acted out in my head. Dialogue has been rehearsed late at night, when no one can hear me. And casting the characters is a long and daunting process.

As I wait for my chance to see the final Harry Potter movie this weekend, I wonder what JKR thought when she first saw the set of her literary masterpiece. I can only imagine what Stephanie Meyer will be thinking when she sees Bella transform from a waif-like girl to a full on pregnant mom-to-be. And, when The Hunger Games comes out, what will Suzanne Collins think of the arena?

I know it’s going to sound vain, but I want to see my books become movies. I would love for someone to do what I cannot. I am not a screenwriter. The very thought of doing so brings on instantaneous writer’s block. I would never survive in Hollywood. I like writing in my office in Indiana. I like having fireworks on the Fourth of July without fear of starting a forest fire. I would, however, jump at the chance to get to go on set and observe the film making process. Seriously, I’ve thought about writing a book about life on a movie set just to see if I can gain access to the process.

Not only do I write in pictures, I read in pictures, too. It’s not always a good thing. Sometimes, if I can’t get into the writer’s vision, I can’t get into the book. When I read a book set in the south, take The Help, every character has a southern accent, ranging from a hint to a full on drawl. I feel the heat of the day and the tension of the social conflicts send shivers down my spine. The history of Jackson, Mississippi that I learned in school suddenly goes from the past to the moment.

So, after all that rambling about, here’s my question: Can Hollywood exist without books and can the publishing houses exist without movies? Who needs who more?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What I've Learned: A Baker's Dozen

It’s been almost two years since I finished the first draft of The Partizans. It’s been two very long years of agonizing over every single word I’ve committed to paper (and then uncommitted when I realized I used the completely wrong word). After putting the last comment from my betas into the master ms, I started thinking about what I have learned since October 3, 2009. So here we go, in no particular order:

1.       Facebook can be a blessing and a curse. It can inspire you with quizzes and distract you with work on an imaginary farm or the chance to stalk your high school boyfriend.

2.       Writing is a solitary passion, but it will never exceed your expectations if you don’t find someone who secretly hates you to tell you what’s really wrong with your character, plot line, comma usage, etc. (Thanks, mom! LOL)

3.       When starting out on a new project, estimate the amount of ink and paper you will need and then multiply that times five. Anything less is a joke.

4.       To be a better writer, find a critique partner who is better at the craft than you are.

5.       Even if your muse is on vacation, sit your butt in the chair and wait for a long distance burst of inspiration. Likewise, if you are on vacation, expect your muse to show up for work regardless of your plans.

6.       Writer’s conferences are binges for those drawn to prose.  You spend a couple days surrounded by people who love to read and write as much as you do and come home on a mega high, only to crash under the weight of reality. Luckily, your new writer friends can give you the occasional fix through great tweets!

7.       A pitch session really is just a conversation with someone who knows more about the industry than you do. Take advantage of the one-on-one time!

8.       When you start to query your first manuscript, you might want to establish some drinking game rules. It will make the sting a little less painful, at least until the next morning when your muse wakes you up in the form of a four year old screaming for breakfast.

9.       On the subject of agents, even though many requests for a partial and full ultimately end with a rejection, I think each should be celebrated. After all, you made it through the slush pile and that’s more than most people.

10.   When beginning a new project, feel free to look at a situation and wonder to yourself, “How can I really screw over my character?” (You may use more explicit words if you so decide.)

11.   When you think your query letter/synopsis/manuscript is perfect, put it away for a few weeks and then try to read it without picking up a red pen. If you can do that, you’re good to go.

12.    I hate to workout. It’s no secret. I tell everyone. However, nothing shakes the writer’s block off like a couple miles on the treadmill with a good friend. Especially if that person hates working out as much as you do!

13.   Finally, the only way to become a writer is to actually be a writer. Don’t let others determine your fate. A writer has commitment and passion that many only dream about. We are the inspiration of tomorrow and the preservationists of yesterday. Of course, we are the self-loathers of today, but that’s completely beside the point.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by my blog. I’m hoping to keep it more up to date and always entertaining in the future. Until my next post, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @writinghoosier and Be Bold in whatever you love to do!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Muse Cometh

In a week, we are heading out for a two week family vacay to Mexico. Between now and then I have to wash and pack summer clothes for three people (DH is on his own), clean up the house so we don’t return home to chaos, do yet another run to Home Depot so dad has plenty of supplies to continue on the remodel while we’re gone, and spend some quality time with my betas… it’s going to be a busy seven days. And, as it so happens, my muse, who must have been at a Muse Convention, has reappeared in the form of my second book. Of all the things I said I have to do before we leave, the one thing I didn’t say was “start a new book”. The real problem is that you can’t turn your back on the Muse. At the very least you have to humor her. I’ve promised two days of writing on the beach, free of the restraints of motherhood (again, DH is on his own), and I’ve allowed her the privilege of walking me through the pre-write synopsis… what more can the woman want. CHAPTER ONE???

I love my muse. She is, without a doubt, a gift from God. But I’ve found that it’s best not to ignore her… she’s very persistent. So here are my options: forget about packing, except for the basics (they have clothes in Mexico) and send the men to the Depot while hiring someone to come to my house while I’m gone and make the messes disappear (personally, I like this part of the option the best); ignore my muse and possibly face her wrath; embrace sleep deprivation (there will be plenty of time to sleep on the plane (this time DH would be on his own with two kids); or appease my muse by striving for balance in everything I do. Now, this last one sounds the most logical. Yes, it means planting crops that take days to grow on Farmville, but that is a small sacrifice. But it also means sticking to a plan, a schedule if you will. I’m not always good at that. But maybe this is why my muse has returned from her hiatus at this time. To help me learn that without balance, there isn’t much hope that I will be able to sustain my dreams of being a published author and front runner for Mother of the Year. (I have to believe it’s that or the only other explanation is that while away at this supposed muse convention, she attended a seminar called, “How to torture your creative talent for enjoyment”, and if that’s the case, she’s starting off with a bang!)

Be Bold, everyone and try to stay warm. I’m going to earn some brownie points with my muse by taking her on vacation!

Sunday, February 6, 2011


If you are at all familiar with the Myers Briggs Personality Type, then you know that, according to the theory, all people fall into one of sixteen personality type. I am proud to say that I am an ENFP. Say it with me… E… N… F… P. I love being this personality type. We love people and we love ideas, as long as we aren’t expected to focus on the details. In short, we are horrible writers! Sitting alone with a computer is a challenge… thank goodness we have out characters to keep us company. We love an idea of a book and get started, only to find the pull of another story catching our attention. (And of course by “our” and “we” I mean “I”.) But here’s the problem with me being me. When I have been focused on one project for a long time, I tend to get distracted by… um… anything else. I once read a list of bumper sticker slogans for the different MBPTs and the ENFP goes something like, “Yeah, I can get that to you… oh my, what a pretty bird… anyways, what were we talking about?”

Why am I rambling about my personality type? I have this new book… the beginning of a new series, and while it’s still YA, it’s a total departure from The Partizans. It’s kind of a thriller/pre-dystopian plot, and I am totally obsessed with the structure of it right now. I think it may have more to do with the fact that working on my query letter and writing my synopsis is more about the technical side of getting published and less about hanging out with my characters. It’s taking all kinds of control to attempt to stay focused on finishing up all the loose ends of the book and getting it ready to go out to agents. I keep wanting to just send it out so I can say I did it and move on to the next project. I suppose this is good training. Once I get an agent and eventually a contract, I will have to stay focused regardless of my personality tendencies. After all, I don’t think a publisher or agent would accept the “My ENFP made me do it” excuse.

You know the old saying, “What doesn’t kill us will make us stronger?” Yeah… I think, when I get through all the crossing “I”s and dotting “t”s, that I will be able to lift poor plot structure from the abyss and carry shallow characters to the point of redemption without breaking a sweat. Unless, of course, I see a pretty bird.

Happy Superbowl everyone!!! Be BOLD!

Thursday, February 3, 2011


There is a saboteur at work today! I have taken a short break from working on my novel to accommodate for some life changes and now, as I return to work, I am left with a mind-numbing lack of motivation. I know what I need to do, but it’s like I have work block… much bigger than writer’s block. So, being who I am, I decided to try to figure out the root cause of why my get up and go is in the corner blowing strawberries and I have come up with one answer. Being a writer is hard. I’m not complaining. I’m just stating a fact. Coming up with an idea, for me, is easy. Creating back story is a breeze. Even sitting down and pounding out the first draft comes as naturally as breathing. And that is where it ends. From that point forward, being a writer is a labor of love. Stray but a little from your focus and you begin to wobble under the weight of it all. I’m bored with doing research on agents, though I know it’s important to ensure my chances of finding the right match. Editing has become a bad word around my house and forget about the word syn…syn… synopsis. (It took a lot of effort just to type the word.)

But here’s the thing. The difference between a published novelist and an unpublished writer is persistence. Pushing through the negative thoughts, the mental and physical fatigue, making time in an already hectic life to repay those who have offered crits, and making sure that no one gets left at school because I’m living in a writing bubble are just a few of the things a writer must deal with on a daily basis. And I wouldn’t change it for anything. I was born to write. I am destined to be published and I am blessed to have the support carry on.

So it’s time to call back the muse, fire up Pandora and pull that writer’s fedora tight to my head and be who I am meant to be. Saboteur be damned!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Chapter One Teaser

I swore I wasn't going to do this, but I'm caving. Here is the first chapter of my book, The Partizans. Please, please, please feel free to give feedback either on this post or on the facebook link! I hope you like meeting my people!


Chapter One

Hannah Slaughtery knew she didn’t belong here. While other girls were joining sororities and going to parties, she had spent her first semester of college studying in her room. Alone. And while she was arguably one of the smartest students in the Bio-Chemistry program, she was sure the invitation to attend a leadership seminar sponsored by the mysterious Institute had been delivered by mistake. Still, here she sat, afraid to drive up to the foreboding gate that guarded her destination.

With a nervous sigh, Hannah examined her reflection in the visor mirror. She had never given her appearance much thought, but her fashionista roommate had insisted on giving her a make-over the first week of classes. She touched up the smudged eyeliner below her pool blue eyes and tucked her short, blonde hair behind her ears. Finally convinced this was as good as it was going to get, she snapped the cover shut and started the engine.

A key pad illuminated as she pulled her car into the private drive and she punched in the access code that had accompanied her invitation. The imposing barrier creaked open and she steered down a tranquil, tree lined road. Being inside the Institute presented a unique opportunity for Hannah. She’d heard rumors the fabled laboratory occasionally offered internships to top students in her department and she hoped her participation this week would increase her chances of being selected.

A security checkpoint with dark tinted windows appeared and a guard with a military haircut looked down at her through aviator sunglasses. “Good afternoon, Ms. Slaughtery. May I see your driver’s license and student ID?” he asked as he surveyed the back seat.

She fumbled for her wallet. “You know my name?”

He looked at her, amused. “The code alerted us to your arrival.”

“Oh, right.” Hannah handed over the cards, her face flush.

After a quick examination, the guard returned her information, along with a sleek phone and map and Hannah caught the faint scent of coconut coming from his hand. “Most carriers don’t have reception up here,” he explained. “You can use this to make calls. The route to Garrett Manor has been highlighted on your map. If you need assistance, dial star-nine-nine.”

Hannah thanked him before she asked, “Is anyone else here?”

“The first participant rolled in about fifteen minutes ago, but we expect the others shortly,” he answered and Hannah smiled, relieved not to be the first to arrive.

The winding road that led to Garrett Manor was flanked by hearty vegetation and thick trees that parted as her temporary home came into view. The tall columns and semicircular arches reminded her of early Renaissance architecture and as she drove through the stone entrance, she was surprised to discover the parking lot was actually a converted piazza, complete with a large marble fountain. Carvings of saints peered down at her from their protective niches. Clearly out of place in the rustic peaks of Colorado, the romantic imagery made her smile as she shoved the phone and map into her purse.

When she finally emerged, a grey-haired man in a black suit greeted her. “Welcome, Ms. Slaughtery. May I assist you with your bags?”

“That’s okay,” she stammered. “I can get them.” She yanked her suitcases and backpack from the trunk and added, “Call me Hannah.”

He nodded. “My name is William. Please, follow me to the lounge. You can leave your luggage in the foyer.”

Hannah scurried up the steps behind him. William’s quick gait took her by surprise and she was slightly winded by the time they reached the mahogany entry way. An arched door frame led to the lounge and the view from the tall windows took her breath away. While the clouds of the anticipated storm loomed in the distance, the last rays of sun cast a warm glow over the Rocky Mountains.

The sight added to the grandness of the room. A roaring blaze in the large fireplace complimented the deep red walls and black leather furniture giving the space regal elegance. A table, piled with food and drinks of every variety, was set up nearby. Another participant stood next to the buffet, an empty plate in his hand.

He was boyishly handsome with sandy blonde hair, and though his tanned face looked familiar, she knew they had never met. “Mr. McKenzie,” William called out and the man glanced up. His easy grin reached out to welcome Hannah and she couldn’t help but smile back. “I would like to introduce Ms. Slaughtery,” William continued. “She will also be taking part in the seminar.” With the brief introduction complete, William turned on his heel and left the room.

“Thanks, Billy,” the young man called as he walked toward Hannah, his faded blue eyes bright with laughter. “I bet, if you get a little drink in that guy, he’s a riot.” He extended his hand. “Rafeerty McKenzie, but everyone calls me Rafe.” Hannah shook his hand and managed to murmur her name. He gestured to the table. “That is a quality spread. You should try some.”

“I’m fine, thank you,” she replied and sat down on a long couch near the fireplace.

“Suit yourself. Hope you don’t mind, but I’m starving.” After making his selection, Rafe joined her and skillfully balanced his overflowing plate of food. “So, what do you know about this seminar?” he asked.

“Nothing, really,” she admitted. “I have no idea why I was invited. I’m not exactly a social butterfly.”

“Social butterflies are overrated,” he muttered before he cleared his throat. “I thought it was some clerical error. In fact, I was going to skip it until my buddy got a new job and bailed on our kayaking trip. Didn’t you have plans for break?”

“My family normally leaves for vacation the day after Christmas,” Hannah replied. “Mom was less than thrilled when I told her I wanted to come here instead.”

“Where’d they go?” he asked between bites.

“Hiking through the Austrian Alps.”

He let out an appreciative whistle. “And you voluntarily chose to come here?”

“I’m guess I’m not real outdoorsy. I’m more of a nature girl.”

“What’s the difference?”

“I like being in nature. I just don’t want to hike, sail, ride, or bike through it like the rest of my family,” she explained.

“Do you get along with them?” he asked.

“Yeah, we’re just different. I blame it on the fact I’m adopted,” she replied self-consciously.

“Well, their loss is our gain. Still, it sounds like a fun trip. Give me a campfire, some ice to climb, a little hypothermia and I’m in heaven.”

Hannah laughed. “Speaking of weather, I guess there’s a blizzard heading our way.”

“When isn’t there one?” Rafe continued a steady stream of chatter despite her silence. Without warning, his attention was drawn to something behind her and his mouth gaped open. Hannah turned to see what had distracted him and felt her stomach tighten.

Shayne Westmoreland’s long, lean physique lounged against the door. Everyone on campus knew Shayne, or at least knew to stay out of her way. In addition to being rich and beautiful, she had a reputation for using her sex appeal to get what she wanted. Her gaggle of friends secretly loathed her and her enemies probably ended up keeping Jimmy Hoffa company.

The way the vixen’s sharp violet eyes took in every detail of the room reminded Hannah of winged predators who appeared peaceful and bored until the moment came to swoop down and snatch up an unsuspecting rodent. The new arrival twirled her raven hair around her finger and zeroed in on Rafe. A slow, seductive smile spread across her sun-kissed face. “Why Rafe,” she said. “As I live and breathe. I never dreamed I’d find you here.” Her southern drawl clung to each syllable.

“Shayne.” His voice matched the hostility etched on his face. “I’m surprised you aren’t out buying a small island nation. You could have legions of loyal subjects to work your succubus magic on.”

The debutante’s eyes narrowed and any pretense of good will disappeared. “You know, I would think, after all this time, you would have recovered from our little tryst.”

“When your girlfriend cheats on you with a professor in order to pass a class, it leaves a lasting impression,” Rafe retorted.

Shayne rolled her eyes and turned to Hannah. “He’s exaggerating, of course. It was a grad student. Hi, I’m Shayne.” A territorial warning reverberated in her simple introduction. The light-hearted atmosphere was replaced with palpable tension until William reappeared escorting another student.

Even Hannah, who rarely ventured out of the library, knew Marcelo dela Cruz. Since his arrival at Sanguinity College, the Division II football team had become a conference powerhouse. The tall, broad shouldered Filipino moved toward the trio without waiting for an introduction. “How’s it going?” he asked, with a broad smile.

Shayne batted her eyes and linked arms with the football star. “I can’t believe our big man on campus would be relegated to a mid-break seminar with the commoners,” she gushed.

“I would hardly call you common, Shayne,” Marc laughed as he nodded to Rafe. When he saw Hannah, he detangled himself. “I don’t believe we’ve met.” He extended his hand. “I’m Marc.”

She gingerly accepted his greeting and said, “I’m Hannah.” After a few awkward moments, he turned back to Rafe and Shayne and rubbed his hands together. “I hear there’s food around here.”

Rafe gestured to the buffet. “Help yourself. It should tide you over until dinner time.” On cue, Marc’s stomach growled and everyone except Hannah erupted in laughter.

“I doubt that,” the football player replied with a chuckle.

Marc and Shayne walked away to survey the array of food and Rafe moved next to Hannah. “Sorry about her,” he offered through clenched teeth. “Long story.”

Hannah nodded sympathetically and changed the subject. “How do you know Marc?”

“We were roommates freshman year. We get along okay now, but back then,” his voice trailed off.

“Too much ego?” she teased.

“Maybe,” Rafe admitted. “He’s a good guy, just a little too intense.”

Hannah nodded and looked at the darkening western sky. “I would hate to be stranded in the mountains tonight.”

“Billy-boy said there were five of us total, so I guess we’re waiting for one more.”

“One more what?” Marc asked, as he settled into the chair across from Hannah.

“Another participant,” Rafe answered.

The football star began to devour his food. “Yeah, what’s the deal with this seminar?” he asked. “I wasn’t going to come, but somehow I ended up three credits short for graduation. Unless I want to stick around this summer, which I don’t, this is my only option.”

“You’re getting credit for this?” Rafe asked in disbelief. “Must be nice to have friends in the athletic department.”

Marc shifted uncomfortably. “Technically, it’s an independent study. Before the end of the semester, I have to turn in a paper about my experience.”

“Dude,” Rafe said. “I was just messing with you. You’re the one who was always complaining about the fluff classes your teammates take to maintain their full-time status. Just wanted to make sure your morality compass was still pointing to righteous.”

“Any idea who our fifth is?” Shayne interjected. “I hope it’s a guy,”

“Watch out, world. Shayne’s on the prowl for another victim.” Rafe said under his breath.

For a moment, rage flickered across Shayne’s face. Instead of detracting from her looks, the reaction only served to intensify her beauty. “You really need to get over it. I did.”

“Obviously,” Rafe snorted.

As if sensing the impending conflict, William appeared and everyone turned to see the final member of their party. Hannah’s breath caught in her throat. There was sadness in the new arrival’s dark brown eyes and her initial instinct to look away was over-ridden by the intensity of the connection that surged between them.

“I would like to introduce Finn O’Connor,” the older man said, though his words sounded muffled to Hannah’s ears. “Now that everyone has arrived, I’ll show you to your rooms,” Someone will meet you in the common room of your living quarters in an hour. Dinner is served promptly at six. That should give you plenty of time to unpack your belongings.”

Unaccustomed to being kept out of the loop, Shayne moved close to their guide. “It seems this seminar is a bit of a mystery. Maybe you could give us a hint of what to expect.” Her voice was sugary sweet and yet, it had no effect on William.

With a stern face, he replied, “All your questions will be answered in time. For now, follow me.” From his steely response, even Shayne recognized it was a battle she wouldn’t win.

Rafe fell in step with Hannah and whispered, “I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I saw a horror movie that started out like this.”

“Great,” Hannah whispered back. “The first person killed in a slasher flick is always a girl, and since it’s obvious Shayne is the killer, my moments are numbered.”

Rafe burst out laughing. “Look at you, getting your funny on. I think this may be the beginning,” he started.

“Don’t say it,” Hannah giggled.

Rafe grinned. “Of a beautiful friendship.”

“You really said it,” she groaned. Without warning, Finn pushed past them.

“Watch it,” Rafe said. “What’s his problem?”

Hannah shook her head in stunned silent. What Rafe had missed was the unprovoked look of jealousy on Finn’s face. A look directed at her.