Friday, December 28, 2012

Party Like a Writer

I think, by nature, writers are observers of the human experience. We kinda have to be. It’s where a lot of us find our creative inspiration. As a manner of principal, I fore-warn all new friends that anything that do and say is subject to fodder, unless expressly state that it is off-limits… so I know to change their name. As you can imagine, most of them laugh it off, and occasionally I get a raised eyebrow like they aren’t sure if I’m joking or not. Those are the smart ones. Of course there are even less fortunate souls: the ones who are destined to become antagonists or dead bodies in my books. A word of warning: Never make a writer mad. They will not fight you openly, but they will burn you in effigy for as long as words exist.

With all that said, it stands to reason that the holiday season is a great opportunity to steal some stellar one-liners, squeeze some serious subplot inspiration from that family drama that inevitably occurs and take mental note of b study body image.  This last one is my favorite, mainly because I am so bad at coming up with other words for my fave go to combinations. ALL my characters shrug. A lot. So taking time to study people has been pretty interesting. I can normally tell when people are disappointed with their gifts or when it’s something they really want. It’s not always a good thing, especially when the gift of disappointment is the one you gave. Seriously, that totally sucks.

New Year’s Eve is another time to party like a writer. I have always wanted to walk into a crowded bar, find a perfect bird’s eye view vantage point and just take notes. How she tosses her hair, how he walks away dejected from the said hair tosser’s brush off. How my brain feels after listening to the thumping music for hours and how the sweat on the glass slips neatly down the side until it pools at the base.

The holidays are a mecca for inspiration and it’s amazing to me how often I forget to stop and ogle the literary eye candy.  We can draw inspiration from it like a well. Yet how many of us don’t. How many of us have our characters sigh and look down at their wringing hands?

Yeah, you, in the back. I see you trying to blend in with the crowd. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you.

The point is, partying like a rock star is a cliché. It’s time to party like a writer. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Check out this post I found on Lucky Leo Blog. Sure, we don’t have the same idea of partying like a writer, but it’s obvious the trend is catching on. Don’t be left behind.

No matter how you party like a writer, BE PASSIONATE about your good times and make sure they keep on rolling. (I couldn’t resist.)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

New Adult Fiction vs. the Literary World

You know how agents and authors are always telling you to write the story that needs to be told and not to worry about following the trends? I think this is true. Except when it comes to New Adult Fiction.

Now, in case you aren't familiar with "New Adult" Fiction, here's the gist of it: A couple years ago, St. Martin's Press thought it would be a great idea to introduce a new genre of fiction with main characters age 18-24. After all, the readers who bought Harry Potter and Twilight have to grow up sometimes, right? They held a pitch contest and the winners got a book. From what I can tell, none of the winners were ever published, other than in E-Book format, and that is most likely by their own accord.

The books St. Martin's did publish under this "new genre" was a re-launch of the Sweet Valley High books... where Jessica and Elizabeth are ten years out of high school and torn apart by some horrid secret. (As a quick review... I read the book... I read the first few chapters... I could not go on. It was so much less than I expected. From what I can tell, only two books were ever printed, and there are an additional four stories as part of the E-serial. I'm not saying the books were horribly disappointing... I'll leave that to those who posted reviews.)

But the cat was out of the bag and writers, like me, who were writing books about college students, or the recently graduated college students had reason to hope that this relatively untapped corner of the market would open up. We wrote about being on your own for the first time, not having mom and dad there to help you make your decisions, having to clean up your own mess (literally and figuratively), etc. And a couple have gotten past the gatekeeper to book deals. Cora Carmack, author of Losing It, comes to mind, but her success is a rarity.

Here's the thing, in the literary world, it's not the writers who run the show. It's not the agents. It's not even the publishing houses. It's the retail chains. If Barnes and Noble doesn't like the title or the cover, it gets changed. Publishing houses have to pay for prime placement in the stores. It's the way capitalism works. I get that, and I'm not complaining. It is what it is. However, for this "emerging market", B&N is the only nail needed to put it in it's coffin.

At my first writer's conference, I was ready to pitch my novel, The Partizans. But as the weekend went on, the only thing I heard from agents is how I really needed to make my 19 year old college sophomore a high school student. One of them actually suggested I have the story unfold in a prep academy, "which is almost the same as college, so I wouldn't have to do much revising". Except that this book is intended to be part of a series. A series in which the characters struggle with balancing their destiny with their desire to have normal lives. There's a wedding in the future. Babies. Learning that sometimes love isn't enough to get you through the rough patches. (And before someone says, Yeah, didn't they do that in Twilight, just don't.)

Back to my point: I wanted my characters to be in college. I wanted them to explore their freedoms and experience what it's like to have your dreams tampered with by reality. I didn't want them to be in a prep school... like so many books that were coming out at that time.

But that's exactly what I did. I made my MC three years younger, took out a couple scenes I felt inappropriate for the YA crowd and sold out. I told myself I was doing it for the right reasons. I wanted to be an author, not someone who writes just for my friends and family. I forgot the most important person I was writing for: ME.

Since I wrote this book, I've had some interest, but it's a paranormal, so most of the time I get the "saturation of the market" bit. After thinking about it, I decided to pull the book back and planned to submit it later, when the market wasn't so saturated. But it's been bugging me. Since doing this, I've written two more books. One is a first in the series YA Thriller with a "pre-dystopian" slant and the  other is a YA Ghost story ( think Mean Girls meets A Christmas Carole). But the Partizans has been on my mind a lot lately. The second version, or "The Academy" version is okay, but honestly, I don't have the passion about it that I had when I first wrote it. And as you can tell from my posts, being passionate about what you do with your time and your life are important to me... so much so that it's my mantra and will someday be my tag with my signature! (Coming to a book store near you in 20??.)

Last night, I decided it was time for a change. I decided it was time to stay true to my creativity and vision. So after I'm done with revisions on Replay, I'm going back to the Partizans. I'm taking what I have learned about writing these last two years and am making one more revision pass. Then I'm sending it out. And if every single agent turns me down, I'm doing something I said I would never do: I'm going to prepare it for self-publishing. I refuse to let a bookseller have so much control over the industry that it impacts the passion I have for my own work. I will not let my creativity and vision be hijacked by the layout of a store. Yes, by self-publishing, I will lose my "debut" novel status and thus be ineligible for several awards, but I didn't make sacrifices to be a writer on the chance I might win some prize. I made them because I want to share my stories with others. And if there isn't space on the shelf, I'm pretty sure I can find room on the internet.

So BE PASSIONATE about what you love and don't let anyone make you second-guess yourself! Be who you are and do what you love!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dear Santa

Halloween is almost upon us, so you know what that means: It’s almost Christmas!!!!

What? What do you mean “Thanksgiving”? I have no idea what you are talking about. Oh wait, you mean that day of the year where everyone stuffs themselves with turkey and then the women clean in the kitchen and the men watch football and complain about the quarterback or the defense? Gee… can’t understand how I could over look that festive event.

But, while I’m on the subject of Christmas, I might as well get my letter to Santa out early. You know, beat the rush.

Dear Santa,

2012 has been a wild year for everyone and I’m sure life is pretty busy up at the North Pole. In the next few weeks, you’ll be getting letters from Kidlets 1 and 2 with requests for Legos and Pokemon games for the Wii and DS, but for today, it’s just me.

I’ve been very good this year. Yes, I know you hear that a lot, but in this case, it’s true… well, mostly. And, in light of my mostly goodness, I would like to respectfully submit my Christmas wish list, along with an explanation as to why it’s so important.

1. More K Cups for the Kurieg you gave me last year. You see, I spend a lot of time in a java induced state, between raising the kids, keeping our family life in order (barely) and occasionally cleaning the house. That doesn’t include the time needed to write my current WIP. Without coffee, it’s likely I would be committed to the funny farm where, it turns out, life isn’t all that funny. However, the rising cost of everything added to my husband’s, noble yet time consuming job mean money and time for fru-fru drinks at the fancy coffee place down the street is precious. The Kurieg has taken the worry out of my addiction, but sadly, I’m running low on those bad for the environment plastic cups that can’t be recycled and the golden grounds that reside within them. Please help me maintain a healthy balance between life and writing by dropping off a few boxes… or ten.

2. A new, ergonomic chair for my desk. Something that comforts me when my butt is in it but the ideas aren’t flowing as fast as I want them to. Good posture is not a luxury for a writer. It’s a need. So a request for a chocolate brown leather chair with massage and heat options isn’t really a luxury at all, as you can plainly see.

3. A signed copy of any JK Rowling book. I would prefer Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. (That would be the UK edition). If you’re having problems getting this, check out ebay…. Just make sure you get a certificate of authenticity… and  a picture of JK actually signing it. You can’t trust anybody these days!

4. A finished writing room. In order to get this, the kidlets will have to be moved into their new suite and the Wall-E mural will have to be primed, so I would take a gift card from Home Depot in lieu of the actual finished project, along with the power to freeze time so I can actually get the room painted.

5. A finished novel. I’ve been making great progress on the current WIP, but in order to secure the next item on my list, a finished, revised manuscript is needed. Perhaps we can implement the previously mentioned freezing of time to allow me to deliver this to myself. After all, I love a DIY project!

6. As I mentioned, I need a completed manuscript for my next request. It’s not a big one… oh, who am I kidding… it’s huge. I would like an agent. I’m not saying I actually want you to gift wrap and agent and shove him or her under the tree. That would be ridiculous. But an actual partner to help me navigate my (hopefully) marathon-long career of publishing would be much appreciated. Perhaps, if you are unable to deliver this one, I’ll be forced to turn to your nemesis, the Easter Bunny… I’m just saying.

And that’s it. I hope you don’t find my list too long or the items too difficult to deliver. I realize the time freezing one may provide a challenge, but you’re the big guy in red. If anyone can pull this off, it would be you. I know you are working hard to get your ride ready for the big day and I won’t keep you any longer. Good luck as you enter the home stretch of living out your PASSION for bringing joy to good girls and boys around the world. I’ll have some cookies, Coca-Cola® and Aleve® waiting for you when you stop by the house!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Voices in my Head

Someone once told me that writer’s block doesn’t exist. And, to a large extent, I agree. If you sit in the chair long enough, words are going to run through your head. They will. But what if the words running through your head aren’t yours? What if they are the words of every bitchy, jealous, hateful person who has tried to pull you down, disguised as your voice?

Like many writers, I battle against the forces of negativity every day. Most of the time, I’m able to swat them away like they’re nothing more than an annoying gnat on a summer day. But then there are the darker times. When what I want is to climb into bed, throw Poptarts at my kids when they ask what’s for dinner, and hide from the voices that tell me I’m no good, or that I’m foolish for thinking I could ever write something people would want to read.

Where does this come from? Because, if I’m being honest, I mean completely honest, I have practiced my interview for when I’m on the Ellen Show. I have imagined what it would be like to see my story up on the marquee at the local movie theater. I have dreams that, most the time, don’t seem unattainable.

So, what I’m saying is, I rarely lack for confidence. But there are moments. Moments when I question if my house being in shambles because I’m in the middle of major revisions or heading off to the local coffee shop to get a chapter or two done in one sitting while my husband stays home with the kids is really worth it.

I don’t know if people who aren’t in the industry understand how hard it is to be a writer. I’m not saying it’s the toughest job out there, not by a long shot. As my husband likes to put it, especially when I’m being particularly whiny, “It’s not like you’re working in a coal mine in Chile.”

Touché, dear hubby, and have fun sleeping alone on the couch tonight. Okay, I jest, but being creative, taking your work with you every single place you go, can sometimes wear a person out. How many of you have taken your laptops on vacation just in case you can squeeze in a few hours of work in the hotel while everyone else is asleep? I know I’m not the only one. Heck, some of my best chapters were written in a dark room at Great Wolf Lodge.

Okay, back to the negative thoughts. I’m struggling right now. And based on conversations I’ve had with other writers, I’m not alone. So what do we do? What do we, as a writing community, do when we see other writer’s struggle? How do we tell them it will get better and that yes, it’s okay to let your kids play an extra hour of video games so you can finish a really tricky scene?

And if it’s not writer’s block, what is it?

I have a theory. I think it’s a test. A way for our creative selves to push us past what we think is possible. To make us struggle. To make us want it all that much more. To force us to believe in ourselves more than anyone else and look that negative Nancy in the imaginary face and knock her lights out.

It’s a chance for us to be the hero in our own journey. We rescue our manuscripts from the evil clutches of the evil manila envelope and carry it safely back to the land of completion where it will live happily ever after, at least until Lord Revision comes to marry it.

Can you tell I’ve been catching up on Once Upon a Time?

I’m not saying getting published or even finishing that first, second, fiftieth novel is a slam dunk. We all make the rookie mistakes. The difference is who can push through the negativity and disappointment to achieve the highest level of literary success they possibly can.

No matter what obstacles are in your way, remember to BE PASSIONATE about what you’re writing. You are your #1 Fan!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Everything Changes

On Wednesday, everything changed. No, the sun did not stop shining and time continues on, even as the tears fall down my face, but it is different. I was just beginning to adjust to the fact that my grams, my constant supporter, no longer walked along the mortal plane when my 19 year old cousin was taken too soon.

And my heart shattered. It aches for her parents who watched her grow from a fiery, trickster little girl into an amazingly strong and fiercely independent woman new to her adult life. It breaks for her friends who were inspired by her. And I weep for our entire family. Being far away from her, I didn’t get to see her as much as I would have liked. That’s what happens when you leave home to start your own life… you are always missing out. However, I have definitely received a crash course in all things Becca over the last three days, and I am so proud to call this courageous, vivacious and impish woman part of my family tree.

When my grams passed away, I was relieved. Seeing my rock withering in pain was more than I could handle. But for someone so young and full of life to die is mind-blowing. It’s like the brain refuses to acknowledge it’s even a possibility. In fact, when I learned she was on her way to the hospital, I called mom, said a prayer, and went on about my day after making the post on Facebook for more prayers. In the back of my mind, I thought, eh. She’ll be fine.

And then she wasn’t. She was gone. And I screamed at God. It’s not fair. It’s not right. How could He? What more can He take from our family? How much more pain does He want us to endure? And when I stopped screaming (in the parking lot of Starbuck’s I might add… a place I visit often), I cried.

And the tears continue, even as I write this. There is sadness that I will not be able to return for the memorial, coupled with the fact that I will be attending another service this weekend for a friend who lost her fight against cancer. To say this is going to be a rough weekend is an understatement.

But here’s why this post is titled “Everything Changes”. Because what mattered to me most on Wednesday morning was not what mattered on Wednesday night. The things I feared when I went to bed on Tuesday were minor compared to what I feared when I woke up on Thursday. Twenty-four hours was all it took for me to realign what’s really important. And there’s something freeing in that realization.

I got a chance to take an inventory of the mountain tall pile of blessings that are in my life and give thanks for them. To hug my kids and tickle them until they can’t breathe, only to smoother their faces with kisses as the giggles subside. To welcome my husband home after he gives his time to provide for our family. We may never have a dream house. But no matter where we are, we will always be home. And I have another chance to reconnect with the people who mean the most to me: my family and friends. To reach out and ask how they are instead of scanning Facebook posts and making assumptions. And I get to follow my passion of writing, regardless of an agent’s rejection or a bad critique. And that’s what really matters to me.

Everything changed when Becca died. Nothing will bring her back, but I hope others will take to heart that life if fleeting. We have only so much time to fulfill our dreams. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama at the office or on the playground. It’s easy to get lost in our own ambitions without regard to the people we’re taking out on the way up the ladder. It’s easy to think there will always be tomorrow. For me, what has changed is that today is the new tomorrow. No more putting off going to the gym. No more wasting time when I should be working on a book because I’m afraid someone won’t like it. No more waiting for something good to happen when I can make it happen.

Perhaps there is some irony in the fact that my latest novel is about a girl who dies and is given one last chance to change her life… to make it better. It seems only right to dedicate it to Becca, who got it right the first time. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Revised Partizans Query

Please feel free to take a look at this and let me know what you think!


When sixteen-year-old Hannah Slaughtery enrolls in an exclusive boarding school, all she wants is to get into an Ivy League school and finally shed her bullied past. The last think she wants is to stand out. And she definitely doesn’t want to become a witch and fight against monsters she doesn’t believe in.

After an aerial assault by mythical basilisks, Hannah discovers she’s part of the next generation of Partizans, a band of supernatural warriors whose origins date back to the dawn of man.  In order to stand against the Formorians, a ruthless and tyrannical empire of demons, Hannah must make a choice: Either refuse her calling and enter into a supernatural witness protection program to save her adopted family or overcome her fear and accept her battle-filled legacy.

Regardless of her decision, there’s one thing Hannah knows for sure: her chances of surviving until prom are pretty slim.

The Partizans, a YA paranormal is complete at 74,000 words and has series potential and would appeal to fans of the Hex Hall series. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.

First 150 Words:

Hannah Slaughtery’s courage faltered as the iron gate creaked open. The late afternoon sunlight filtered through the snow-topped pine trees as she steered her car through the fence, the only thing separating Piaculum Academy from the rest of the world. As she inched forward, something in the air sent a shiver down her spine. It was as if the wind was charged with bursts of electricity and her skin tingled from the connection.  She couldn’t explain why, but for the first time in her life, Hannah realized she felt safe. No. She felt like she was coming home.

Up ahead was a security checkpoint with tinted windows. As she pulled up to the window, a guard with a military haircut and aviator sunglasses opened the window and Hannah thought she caught a whiff of coconut sunscreen, which struck her as odd seeing as how it was early January.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reflections on the Eleventh Anniversary of 9/11

759.45 miles away. That’s where I was when the world stopped turning.

It was my first year of grad school at Indiana University, where I was enrolled in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Program. My husband, though he was my boyfriend at the time, called and told me to turn on the TV. When I told him I was still in bed and grumbled something about another five minutes, he told me about a plane flying into the World Trade Center Tower. I thought he was joking. And it wasn’t very funny. But the alternative… the reality, if you will, was inconceivable.

I turned on the television and sat silent on the phone, watching the smoke billowing out of the building. I prayed for the people trapped on the upper floors and jammed in the stairwells. And yet pride swelled as the reports of police and firefighters charging into the building began to emerge. At that moment, I was still innocent. Surely, this was a horrible, cataclysmic accident, but it was still, “just” an accident.

And then I saw it. Coming in from right side of the frame was another plane. If an inanimate object can possess human like features, this one flew with purpose. To kill. To destroy. To instill terror. It was successful. I was innocent no longer. There was no way, in my mind, that this was an accident. My thoughts were echoed by the reporters, though at the time, all I heard was my voice repeating over and over again, “Oh my God. Oh my God. All those people.” I was shaking and like so many, tears were flooding down my face.

I reluctantly hung up the phone and threw on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt and headed to class. I didn’t know what else to do. There weren’t a lot of people in the quad. But my entire cohort was present and accounted for. I should mention that HESA is one of those touchy, feely, tell us about your problems kind of programs. So we talked about what we were thinking… for about five minutes and then we left. Many of my friends had assistantships working with the students, mostly in Residential Life. I should mention that, for a school in the Midwest, IU has a huge contingent of student from the state of New York. In fact, the Orientation Program packs up every year and sets up shop in the Big Apple, so it’s safe to say that our campus did not escape this attack untouched.

But I worked in research, so I took the day off, went back to my room, changed, and headed over to Wright Quad where I met up with a friend. One thing that stands out about that day is the sound of the campus. There was no laughter. No birds sang a sweet melody. It was as if sound had ceased to exist and the silence was deafening to my ears.

Fast forward four years later.

Eight months into my pregnancy, I can’t wait to have an October baby. I imaged costume themed birthday parties and crazy decorations. But on September 11, 2005, I sat straight up out of a dead sleep. A moment later, my water broke. We went to the hospital and sure enough, this little creature that I had spent more than a year trying to have and 8 months doing everything I could to protect it, was on his way. 

After one particularly horrid contraction, the nurse leaned in and asked, “Does it bother you that your baby will be born on September 11th?” At first, I looked at her in confusion. The first epidural hadn't worked and I was trying to get up the courage to bribe the doctor to do a C-Section, so I have to admit,  my mind wasn't focusing on the date.  But she raised an interesting question everyone else had been avoiding.

My response was, “No. It doesn’t. Because my child, and all the children who have been born since that day are proof they didn't win.” I’m sure I would have said more if not for another contraction.

My son was born the next day, and I have to admit, I was relieved he wouldn’t share the anniversary, and thought occurred to me: His birthday is still momentous. September 12, 2001 was the day the United States of America stood up, dusted itself off and stood with resolve that we would be united. We would stand tall and we would take care of each other.

Fast forward seven years later.

Our country is no longer united. The sense of fellowship is being challenged by the sense of entitlement. We are a better nation than our behavior reflects.

Tomorrow, my little preemie will turn seven. He is still proof that the terrorists did not win. He’s is joyful and happy and innocent. And though I know he too is better than his behavior reflects, especially when dealing with his little brother, he loves with his whole being. There is such goodness in his heart and true compassion in his eyes. He is just one example of what makes this nation great.

A few years ago, we started a tradition of take a birthday cake to local first responder stations in our town as a way to remember and honor those who run into danger while everyone else is fleeing from it. This was his idea and, next to the presents, I think it’s his favorite part of his birthday. Tomorrow we are taking treats to the men and women of the Greenfield Police Department and he was concerned that there might not be any cupcakes for the men and women working the night shift if we took them in before school. So we are making three deliveries: one before school, one after school and I’ll drop some off after shift change.

Today, as we remember, I challenge each of you to think of something you can do to help our country unify behind the greatness we are capable. And as always, BE PASSIONATE about the ones you love. We never know when our fragile time on this earth is up.

So, where were you when the world stopped turning? And more importantly, how has 9/11 made you a better person? If you don't have an answer, what can you do, starting now, to have a response next year?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pitch Polish Blog Hop Post

I was pretty lucky to get in to the Pitch Polish with my YA Paranormal, but I decided to go ahead and post my YA Thriller to get some feedback from the awesome GUTGAA participants. Please feel free to be brutal... goodness knows I haven't been easy on some of you!!! If you would like to check out my official submission for the Pitch Polish, please go HERE!

Sarah J. Schmitt
The Acada Chronicles
YA Thriller
89,000 word count

Revised Query: In 2017, a virus destroys the world’s population leaving less than five percent of the human race alive. Sixteen-year-old Emily Tate is among the lucky ones. But her perception of luck changes when the Committee, a de facto organization that brings stability and supplies to survivors, sends her to work on the Human Sustainability Program. As a member of the program, Emily is forced into a conspiracy that involves biological terrorism and the genetic manipulation of future generations by way of made to order babies.

After her mother's mysterious death, Emily begins to unravel the truth about the Committee’s involvement in the viral outbreak and the real intentions of the program. The Committee isn’t just responding to the Acada virus – they released it in the first place. Their goal: total domination of the planet. As the Committee’s henchmen close in, she must find a way to protect the one thing that can bring hope to a bleak future: a test tube creation named Ava, who, by Emily's design, embodies everything the Committee fears: courage, creativity, and individualism. But keeping Ava and her surrogate mom safe may jeopardize the personal future Emily is trying to build or even her life.

THE ACADA CHRONICLES is an 89,000-word young adult thriller with series potential.

First 150 Words:

“Holy crap,” I say, taking an involuntary step back from the hurricane of perkiness lurking behind my locker door.

Jessica Millhouse, in her drama queen glory, beams a sugary sweet smile in my direction. “Emily Tate,” she says, with a fake but accurate southern accent. “Such language.”

I resist the opportunity to roll my eyes and instead look down at my planner. “What do you want?”

Sensing my immunity to her charms, the glimmer in Jessica’s amethyst eyes dulls. She leans in. Her breath smells like cherries and I almost gag. I hate cherries. “It’s about the biology project…”

This time I don’t stop the eye roll. There’s only one reason someone like Jessica would talk to someone like me. She needs help. “You do know this isn’t a group project, right?” I ask.

Jessica stares at me like I’m speaking a tribal dialect of Swahili.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Pitch Polish - I'm IN!

Now, I don't want to brag, but I was able to get into the Pitch Polish on GUTGAA (Gear Up to Get an Agent), and I am thrilled. Those successful entries won't be up until Monday, however, I'll be spending the weekend blog hopping to check out and comment on those who didn't make the list... You know, polishing up my polishing skills. Check out the queries/first 150 words and give some constructive feedback if you get a chance!

#GUTGAA Meet and Greet

-Where do you write? One of two places: Starbucks (when I need a dose of human interaction) and in my home office.

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see? Easy: My computer tower and my printer. They take up the entire left side of my desk.

-Favorite time to write? Late at night, when the kidlets are in bed. I find it easier to focus when I don't hear, "Mommy?" every five seconds. Call me crazy.

-Drink of choice while writing? Depends on the season. In the summer, it's passion tea lemonade, which I learned to make at home, saving us thousands of $$$; In the fall, caramel apple cider; Winter is peppermint white chocolate mocha, and spring is any kind of fruity tea. 

-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence? Music, please! When I'm editing, I listen to Pandora, but when I working on a new WIP, I normally set up a station for each book.

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it? My current books that are ready for querying are all about saving the world... in one form or another. My current book is about saving the cheerleader. I tend to write about redemption, which is fine, but can also become very emotionally exhausting. The new book is more fun and upbeat and while we see the character grow, she will hopefully keep us laughing from start to end.

-What's your most valuable writing tip? Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, without a doubt. You know when you find that book that just opens your writing up? That would be this one. It's the first book I recommend when a new writer asks what's on my shelf!

Wow... I started the post thinking I was more Harry than Sally, but I'm starting to reconsider! Anyway. That's me in a nice and tidy package! I look forward to getting to know you all better over the next 5-6 weeks!!!

By the way, if you want to check out the blog hop, check out the links below!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Confessions

Last week, I took part in Write On Con, and one of the suggestions for building your social media presence was to take part in a "meme". One of the "memes" I discovered, that spoke to my love of lists was this one: Top Ten Tuesday from Broke and Bookish.

Every Tuesday there's a topic for bloggers who love books to write on. I love this for several reasons.
1. It gives me a topic once a week that I don't have to come up with on my own and still addresses my love of books.

2. It's a list. (Duh.)

3. There are many other writers around the world writing about the same topic. It's like a synergy of literary cohesiveness... wow... where did that come from? Must be all the mind melding.

But I digress.

So here is my list of my Top Ten Bookish Confessions 

1. I have a library fine almost every month, even though I'm at the library, on average 2-3 times a week. I should also add I admit to telling the library I lost the book because it was cheaper than paying the fine. (I really hope no one at the library reads this!)

2. I have dog-eared books in the past. However, since discovering a pattern for Corner Bookmarks, I've curbed this habit.  

3. I almost lost an inter-library loan book from my book club. (I found it the day before I was going to walk up to circulation, my head hung low.)

4. I've spent hours on fanfiction sites laughing at the amazingly creative people out there.

5. I have a couple signed books I've never read.

6. If I really like a book, I get the e-book, hardback and paperback version. The e-book it to have with me where ever I go, the Hardback is for the shelf and hopefully getting signed someday and the paperback version is to loan. I have four copies of the Hunger Games... two paperback editions: one to loan and another to do a plotting/pacing exercise with.

7. I am horrible about figuring out where commas go. My motto is it's easier to take them out then put them in, so I slap them in where ever I think it should go and let my writing partners slap me around during crits.

8. I have bought pop-tarts with the intent of staying up all night reading and telling my kids to have at it when they complain they're hungry the next morning.

9. Sometimes I post on FB that I'm writing, but I'm actually on pinterest. I know... I'm horrible!

10. If I only had one book to take with me on a deserted island, it would be Pride and Prejudice. Deep down, I'm an Austen girl all the way!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Agented or Bust

I have made a decision that can only end with me finding an agent. If history has taught me anything, it's that there is one phrase that will get me what I want.


Since I was old enough to decide when it was time to get my hair cut, I've been a short haired girl. For my wedding, I grew it out just long enough to have an up-do and promptly cut it the next week. I like having short hair. My husband would prefer it long. I don't really care what he thinks, in this matter. It's my hair.

So, I've been growing it out for a while and was ready to chop it off when it occurred to me: I could use my hair as motivation. I know it sounds silly, but if it's fear of rejection that stops me from sending out my ms., then fear of having long hair is going to push me to get over it.

I know it may sound silly to you, but having longer hair is a constant reminder that only through doing the work can I actually accomplish my goal. Each strand that falls in my face is a challenge to take a risk, whether it's in the submission process or writing my next book.

And, it's a physical manifestation of my commitment to my career. So one of two things is going to happen. I am either going to have lots of hair to donate to Locks of Love OR I am going to have an agent.

So here it is, without further ado: I WILL NOT CUT MY HAIR UNTIL I HAVE SIGNED WITH AN AGENT. (I reserve to change this decision based on the fact that I have free-will, but not before one year has passed. What did you expect? There's always fine print,)

So, reader peeps, what goal are you working toward and what is the zaniest thing you would be willing to do to make it happen. All superstitions allowed. Leave a comment and follow this blog to enter. My favorite answer gets a signed bookmark from Erica O'Rourke, author of the amazing Torn Trilogy! 

No matter what you have to do to push yourself, BE PASSIONATE about the goal and the destination!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Write On Con 2012

Write on Con 2012 is about to begin. Having spent the last few weeks frantically getting the kidlets back to school while making revisions to the WIP before sending out requests, I am really looking forward to WOC and here's why:

1. The conference is free. (Hubby can appreciate that.)
2. The conference is online.
3. Since it's online, I am free to attend sessions in my PJs, hanging out in the hammock, or both.
4. I've told everyone I'm attending a writing conference, but I failed to tell them about facts #2 & 3.

I don't know much about the conference and I have a feeling what I think I know if probably off, but I'm glad to be taking part in it with my writing group and I hope to make more writer friends along the way. Look for more updates as the conference goes on. No matter what the next week has in store for you, BE PASSIONATE about everything you do!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Early Morning Thoughts Before #MWW12

The air conditioner in my hotel room sounds like a Geiger counter and the internet is, at best, spotty. The humidity is 140% and I’m afraid to look at the heat index for the day, which really is irrelevant because the classrooms at the Alumni Center are going to be freezing. Yeah, it’s great to be in Muncie!

While sitting around a huge wooden table last night with friends I haven’t seen in exactly a year, a pint in front of all of us except Kelly who went for a bottle, I, one who normally doesn’t shut up, found myself at a loss for words for a while. The conversation about writing was flowing and the laughs were coming one after another, but I was caught up in a feeling I rarely experience: Contentment.

I don’t know what it is about the Midwest Writer’s Workshop, but it feels like coming home to a lot of cousins with great personalities and jaw-dropping imaginations. I know Hoosier’s take their hospitality serious, and perhaps that’s part of the charm of this conference. It’s intimate and yet highly energized. (I think those who have been here for more than a year will concur that is in large part a result of our fearless director, Jama Bigger… SHOUT OUT!)

Now, perhaps I am a little bias. MWW was my first writer’s conference and you know what they say: you never forget your first. For those participants who took a chance on a little Midwest Conference, I know you won’t be disappointed, but I would offer a few words of wisdom… mainly because I like to make lists and this post is REALLY short.
  1.  Ask questions, even the ones you think are “silly”. If you’re wondering about it, chances are, someone else is, too. 
  2. Don’t be afraid of a pitch session. Turns out, as I have stated in other posts, agents are just people and a pitch is just a conversation between two people. (Kathleen Ortiz… SHOUT OUT.) Oh, and if you see me hanging out, feel free to practice your pitch on me. Someone did that for me my first year and it made all the difference!
  3. Bring a sweater or jacket. I’m not kidding about how cold it can get in the classrooms.
  4. Go to breakout sessions that aren’t in your “genre”. You can learn a lot by looking at things “upside down”. (Kelly Stanley… SHOUT OUT.)
  5. Take advantage of the social media drop-in sessions… MWW likes to blow up Twitter (#mww12)… one day we will be trending… maybe only in the Indianapolis area, but oh yes, we will be trending.
  6. Don’t be afraid to say hello to the person next to you. Who knows… maybe next year you’ll be sitting around a huge wooden table with a few really awesome “cousins”. (Joe, Irene, Terri, Kelly, Kelsey… SHOUT OUT.)

That’s all I have time for… breakfast awaits! Regardless of whether you think MWW is the best conference in the world or not, BE PASSIONATE about the time you have around other writers. Without each other, we could never become better than we are!

Monday, June 25, 2012

And Now the Fun Really Begins

The first book of The Acada Chronicles is about half way over and I'm thrilled to say I love this book more and more each day. My main character, Emily Tate is really evolving, becoming a better version of her previous self.

This is what I love about being a writer: revisions. I know so many people who dread this stage of the game. It's like they finish the book and they can't wait to move on to the next story. But there is an old saying that goes, "Good things come to those who wait."

This phrase got me distracted enough to send me on a tangent of what I could compare the writing and revising process to. I already compared this time to poison ivy, but that might have been a little harsh.

And, since it is summer, a season of food and drinks and letting life slow down just a while, I thought I would  use that for inspiration.

1. The writing and revising process is like drinking a good wine. Writing the novel is the pulling (or in some cases, the unscrewing... hey... there are some good wines that now come with a twist top. I have a bottle in my fridge right now) of the cork. That's the grunt work. But the revision is the part where you pour the wine into the decanter, letting the fullness of the wine take effect. And of course, looking at your completely polished manuscript is like kicking back in a hammock on a cool summer evening with a glass of liquid perfection.

2.  The writing and revising process is like a good steak. In the beginning, just like writing, the first step is when everything is raw. You can see the ribbons of fat that need to be trimmed and once that's done, you are ready to marinade, letting the seasoning get absorbed into the meat/story. Next you toss it on the grill and let the flames lick at the cut, darkening it, bringing out it's natural (and marinade induced) flavor. The hard work is keeping the fire from getting too high or too. You need to find the perfect blend of heat and timing. Once you have mastered this and dropped just a tad of seasoned butter on the top, it's time to dig in and enjoy the taste of patience.

No matter how you view the writing and revising process, I hope you remember to BE PASSIONATE about everything that goes into your story. Make each word count. If you want, leave a comment comparing your writing process to anything. I'm always interested to know how other's see their work!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Having Poison Ivy is A Lot Like Being a Writer

Kidlet #1 managed to get one of the most severe cases of poison ivy I’ve ever seen. His right eye was swollen shut and walking was painful due to the rash covering the back of his legs. He missed three baseball games and a pool party. Needless to say, we’ve been home a lot the last week. Thank goodness we’re on the recovery end of this ordeal and with plans to basically kill our entire yard to ensure we don’t have a repeat occurrence in the works, I’ve been thinking about how having poison ivy is a lot like being a writer.

1.       Like poison ivy, once writing gets under your skin, it’s impossible to ignore. Even if you’re stumped on where your story goes or you’re on “hiatus”, you can’t stop thinking about it. Everything you see or experience is fodder for future works.

2.       A bad case of poison ivy requires a prescription of steroids, much in the same way that being a writer requires massive amounts of caffeine, though the delivery method varies from person to person.

3.       In order to handle the itching of poison ivy, we’ve had to apply countless layers of hydrocortisone for days on end, kinda in the same way I go about rewriting/revisions: one pass at a time until I have all the plot issues worked out.

4.       When it’s a kidlet that has poison ivy, the situation requires patience on the part of the mom… me, much like the patience I must show when waiting in alpha readers, beta readers and agents. Getting frustrated only makes the situation worse.

5.       When progress is made and the rash is finally under control, it makes me think of how I feel when I realize the book is as good as I can possibly make it: relief followed by the realization that it’s time to get back to the real world and figure out what’s next.

And that’s it. I know it’s a short post and perhaps one of my less insightful ones… did I mention I’ve been dealing with a whining, poison ivy infested six year old for a week? Did I forget to mention Kidlet #2 has complained about not getting together because of Kidlet #1 since Friday? This would be why it’s short and sweet. At least I’m posting. I count it as a win! No matter what challenges fall on your path, BE PASSIONATE about possibilities that wait for you as you make your way around them.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Inspiration from Quiet Grace

Like so many, I have a list of people who have inspired me over the years. I have friends that have read countless revisions of my pages, crit partners who have shredded them and famiy members who have praised them. But there is one person who has always, no matter what I’ve done, supported me like few others.

In a few days, I’ll be flying to Kansas to see my Grams one last time. I know death is a part of life, but I would be remised as a writer if I didn’t acknowledge her in prose. 

When I was little, Grams was a constant in a crazy world. She was this calm force who never got worked up, never really raised her voice and always had the canned Del Monte pudding in the cupboard.

When I got older, she was the voice of reason when I wanted to rebel against my parents. She carefully made me look at life from my mother’s point of view and validated my feelings of wanting independence while encouraging me to take time to consider my options.

When I was in high school and going through a rough time, she was a silent angel working behind the scenes, helping to pave the way for me to finish high school with my friends and even though I never really thanked her, being the selfish teenager, she never stopped giving.

When I graduated and was lost, unsure of which way to go or how to swim, she was the kick in the ass I needed to go to college. I joke that she practically wrote out my application for me, but in all seriousness, without her, I don’t know if I would have made it.

While I was in college, I’m sure she worried about the choices I was making but came to my rescue on more than one occasion. She never gave up on me and while I took that fore granted, I don’t know where I would be without her.

When she first met my to-be husband, I could see the look of relief on her face. I think she knew I had broken my cycle of damaged “boys” and had grown up enough to accept the love of a good man.

When I called to tell her I was FINALLY getting married, I could hear the sadness that she couldn’t make it to the wedding, but I also heard love. Not just for me, but for the man who is now my husband.

When I called to tell her she was going to be a great-grandmother, pure joy flooded the phone line. And when she met my oldest and a year later, my youngest, I watched my grandmother fall in love.

When I told her I was going to be a writer, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But like everything I had done in my life, I was greeted with support and love and acceptance that has never faltered but grown greater.

When she is gone, I will have to carry on in a world that is just a little less bright and remember the values she instilled in me. I can only hope to be a third of the woman she is. She is a constant reminder to work hard, do my best, and pick myself up with life knocks me down. For those lessons and so many more, I will be eternally grateful.

I am so blessed to have a woman in my life who sees the good in so many people and never gives up on those she loves. I know the days and weeks and months and years will bring with them moments of sadness, but I will strive to remember the great times we’ve had and BE PASSIONATE about those around me who make me better.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Save the Cat

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been collecting books on writing since the day you decided you wanted to be a writer. You’ve drooled over Writer’s Digests Book Club, you’ve scoured the writing section in the library, and you’ve spent countless dollars on books written to help you defeat writer’s block, craft the perfect plot and develop a character everyone wants to have as a best friend.

And these books are great. I have a ton. But only a handful have the honor of being on my desk, within arms reach, 24-7. Joining the Making the Perfect Pitch (Sands), No More Rejections (Orr) and Real Revisions (Messner) is a little gem called Save the Cat: The Last Screenwriting Book You’ll Ever Need.

When Marcus Sakey, NYT Best-selling author and host of the new Travel Channel series Hidden City, (don’t you love name droppers?) reviewed my manuscript at a conference a few years ago, he said my synopsis lacked structure and suggested I read this book. I have to admit, I was cynical. How could a book on screenwriting be the cornerstone of my writing library? I am so glad I listened to him.

In Save the Cat, Blake Synder introduces a 15 “scene” plot development concept that has not only made writing a synopsis easier, it’s also makes plotting a new novel idea much less frustrating. According to Snyder, there are 15 key moments in a movie and everything else is linking these moments together. He even goes so far as to determine on what page of a script the action should take place. (I took the liberty of applying basic mathematic skills to figure out about when they should occur in a 300 page book. I’m going back to do the calculations for a 400 page novel, as the current WIP is going to be a bit longer.)

What I found out is regardless of whether you’re writing a screenplay or a novel, you have an obligation to keep the reader interested in your plot. There are tons of books out there that have amazingly rich characters but the writer puts too much faith in the characters carrying the story without giving the same attention to developing the plot. As a reading writer, I feel let down by books that held so much promise but failed to deliver. I don’t want to be that writer, ever. I have faith that, with a rich imagination and Save the Cat, I can avoid at least that one complaint from the critics.

What are your go-to books for writing?

Whatever motivates and shapes your work, BE PASSIONATE about your characters and your plot!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

NESCBWI from a Hoosier's POV

This past weekend, I got the chance to attend the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Regional Conference in Springfield, Massachusetts. Overall, it was a great conference with lots of networking opportunities and chances to improve my craft. Most important, I spent three days with writers and illustrators who love kidlit as much as I do.

If you’ve just found my blog, you might not know it, but I like to list things out. And I don’t think I could encapsulate this amazing weekend without slipping into my go-to format. So… without further ado, here are the first five things I learned at NESCBWI.

1.       Contrary to popular belief, there is NOT a mob of angry Patriots fans waiting at the state line for unsuspecting Colts fans who happen to enter into their territory. (I still kept the Colts gear in the hotel room. Better not to tempt fate.)

2.       It’s an incredible thing to get a chance to hear someone deliver a TED speech, especially when you don’t have to pay $7,500/person. Kate Messner (pay attention, her name will pop up later in this post) was among some outstanding people to give a TED 2012 speech. If you don’t know what TED is, google it. Kate’s talk was about how dystopian/apocalyptic fiction shows us how not to build a better world and how kids need to be involved in solving the problems facing our world was so moving and encouraging that it literally brought me to tears. (I also learned that maybe, just may, I use the word literally too much.) For more information, check out {insert}.

3.       Micro-revisions and macro-revisions are not the same thing. In fact, micro-revisions aren’t even revisions. Not really. There’s a distinct difference between revising and editing. Revision is about cutting, slashing, adding to, rethinking, rewriting or even starting over. If that scares you, you’re looking at it all wrong. Revision is where the fun begins. After listening to Kate and Mark Peter Hughes (author of Lemonade Mouth), I’ve come to look at the revision process as a snow globe. You have this pretty, docile, boring world (let’s be honest, the final draft is always more exciting then the first) and you turn it upside down, shake it and let the pieces settle back into place. And then you do it again until you have a complicated jumble of conflict.

4.       The following things must be included in your writer’s toolbox: post-it notes in a variety of colors and sizes; colored pencils; a sharpener for the pencils; highlighters; pens in lots of colors, especially red; and really big paper. Not being a school teacher, I didn’t know the value of big sheets of paper, but believe me, I do now. Oh, and don’t forget the book Real Revision by Kate Messner. She makes revising seem like a hootenannie. 

5.       Frog and Toad tories aren’t just for kids. Turns out, there is some great wisdom for writers as well, and I want to thank Sara Zarr for opening my eyes to this and making me laugh like a child at her readings… no one can read a kidlit book like a kidlit writer. And no one can point out how messy and wonderful a writer’s life is, either!

6.       Meditation can take you deeper into your character and sometimes reveal missing elements of your story. As long as you aren’t afraid to let your character step into your body and lead you!

7.       You can spend a lot of money in the Conference book store and still gaze longingly at books you can’t take home with you.

8.       Apocalypsies ROCK! Don’t know who they are? I bet you’re reading them right now and if you’re not, you need to google A.C. Gaughen, Gina Daminco, Hilary Weisman Graham, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, and Diana Renn. Then, buy their books when they come out! (You can never have too  many!)

9.       There is a great need for a “Revision Drinking Game”! A list has been started, but feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section. I foresee a blog post on this in the not so distant future.

10.   NESCBWI Conference Planners and Volunteers did an amazing job! I was impressed by their never ending enthusiasm and willingness to take in a stranger, and that means something coming from someone who lives in a state where “Hoosier Hospitality” is a way of life.

So much happened at NESCBWI that I could go on and on, but in case you haven’t figured it out, I have a lot of revising to do! I hope those of you who attended had a great experience and those Kidlit authors who haven’t been to a SCBWI Regional Conference, find one! Until then, BE PASSIONATE about every moment you spend doing what you love!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Reflections from 30,000 Feet

I’m on my way home from my first Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Regional Conference. I didn’t go to my home conference in Indiana, but rather headed out east to the great state of Massachusetts to rub elbows with the North Eastern region. And now, flying from Hartford to Indianapolis via Atlanta, I have some time to think. But this post isn’t about the conference. That will be up in a day or two. This post is about what being a writer means to me.

My love for writing started at a young age. But as I grew older, I started listening to the “shoulds” and the “can’ts” of the world. “You should major in something where you can make a lot of money. ““You can’t make money as a writer.” “You like politics/helping people/college life, you should get your poli sci/psych undergrad/ Masters in Higher Education.”

So, I stopped writing and got degrees in political science and psychology and then on to grad school for HESA. And I’m glad I did. Had I strayed from this path, even slightly, I wouldn’t have the family and friends I have now, and without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

I no longer worry about what I should do or can’t do. Instead, I’m plagued by the “what ifs” and the “if onlys”. (And it only just now hit me that these might be the grown up versions of my earlier doubts.)

“What if no one likes my book? What if I send out this query and all I get are form rejections? What if all the sacrifices I’ve/we’ve made have been in vain and my book never sees the inside of Barnes & Noble?”

“If only I could find an agent, everything would be solved. If only I could have written my book before the genre started trending. If only I could quit my job and write full-time.”

Being a writer isn’t easy. It takes an insatiable passion coupled with unwavering commitment to put my butt in the chair every single day, even if it’s the last thing I want to do. (And trust me, there are days when I would rather pull the fridge away from the wall and clean under it then sit down at the computer.) It means learning to balance the requirements of parenthood with the demands of trying to get published. It requires me to look at writing as a job, not a hobby, and ignore the notion that I’m not working unless there’s a paycheck at the end of the week.

Being a writer means having second thoughts about telling my friends and family I’m working on a book because after a couple of years it starts to sting when someone asks when my book is going to FINALLY be published. I know they mean well, and I would probably be upset if they didn’t ask me about it, but it still makes me a little wistful for the day when I can finally say, “Why yes, you can order my book online. Better yet, Let’s go to Barnes & Noble and sign a bunch of them for some lucky, unsuspecting reader.”

Being a writer means finding the strength to realize the novel I’ve spent the last seven months writing is in dire need of revisions that would make the Extreme Makeover producers cringe and probably walk, no run, away. Sometimes it means going so far as to put a beloved book in a manila envelope and tuck it in the back of a drawer, hoping it still has a future, but realizing it might not.

Being a writer means reading a lot of books I wish I would have thought of and some I still can’t figure out how they got published in the first place. It means telling my inner critic to shut up and leaving treats to entice my muse to show up.  

Being a writer means feeding my addiction of over-priced drinks at my local coffeehouse where, when I do get that book published, they better hang a plaque, honoring me for the multitude of hours I’ve spent writing said novel in their establishment.

Being a writer means reaching deep down inside my soul and pulling up the very best and worst I can imagine for my character (who is sometimes kicking and screaming at me to leave it alone.) It means sending out my literary baby and methodically exposing it to rejection. It means looking into the unknown and then taking a head first leap into the query abyss.

But most of all, being a writer means being alive. Being more myself then I ever thought possible. It means saying to the universe, “I have a story to tell and somehow, someway, someone is going to hear it. And then they’re going to love it.” (Which is followed by, “And then, the movie rights will be sold, the foreign sales are going to go through the roof and I’ve got to remember to schedule time to practice for my interview on Ellen. She’s going to know my name someday.”)

It doesn’t matter if you are called to write, be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or pick up garbage for a living, What matters is that you live every day being proud of who you are  and spend the time you have pursuing your dreams, not just following them. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comment or better yet, make your own list of “Being a __________ means….” And of course, BE PASSIONATE about every moment of your life!

Friday, April 20, 2012

My Dream Writing Space

With the Kids Suite renovation nearing an end, I get to start planning how to repurpose the space to become my dream writing room. It’s a good sized room, so I definitely want to go with an “open” feel. I hate clutter, though it invests my house and my writing room needs to be a place where I can get down to work without a whole lot of picking up. It also needs to be a place that makes me feel relaxed and creative at the same time.

I’ll need a desk, and as luck would have it, I have a perfect writing desk I picked up when I was in grad school. The chair that came with it is nice, but it lacks wheels and since my wireless printer will be on the shelf behind me, I’m going in search of the prefect brown office chair.
Brown? Yes, brown. I’m going with teal walls, chocolate curtains and cream and lime green accents. In addition to the brown office chair, I’m also looking for an oversized brown chair. Before I select my exact shades, I’m going on a hunt for the perfect fabric on which to base my design.
I’ve also found enough Golden Book fabric to make a quilt and matching pillows, to keep me cozy on those cold Indiana nights. Don’t ask me when I’m going to find time to make said quilts, but someday, it will happen and the first books I ever read will remind me why I do what I do!

Once the room is done and the furniture has been found, I’ll move on to the TV. At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted a TV in my sanctuary, but now that some televisions are coming wireless-ready, I’ll be able to stream Pandora around the clock. Plus, since I was in high school, I find that having something on in the background actually helps my mind keep from drifting off. It’s a weird thing, but I know I’m not the only one with this little tick.

Two final touches that will make the room uniquely mine, as if it isn’t already, are a Scentsy warmer with Thunderstorm melting away and a Kurieg machine. I could keep the device in my kitchen. After all, that makes the most sense, but I have a coffee maker in there for all practical purposes and a tea kettle for boiling water for all other drinks. But the Kurieg is special. It’s like having my own little barista next to me. And believe me when I say nothing can tick off the muse more than finding SOMEONE has finished off the last of my favorite flavor. And we can’t have that now, can we?

What would your dream writing nook have in it? Whatever you choose, remember to BE PASSIONATE about the things you surround yourself with.

Friday, April 13, 2012

#NESCBWI Practice Elevator Pitch

Hello Fellow Writers!

Next week, I'll be attending the New England SCBWI Regional Conference and I'm excited to have the chance to learn from some of the best in the business, rub elbows with my favorite writers like Sara Zarr and A.C. Gaughen, to name two, and be surrounded by people who love books as much as I do!

I'm also excited to have a chance to talk about the new book. And, as every conference goer knows, the perfect elevator pitch is key. So, I submit to you my elevator pitch for The ACADA Chronicles. Let me know if it catches your attention or what you would suggest to make it better. Any and all comments will be appreciated... though some may take a day or two to get there! ;) Thanks in advance for your help and if you're going to the conference, I'll be the red head from Indiana!

The wind up and the pitch:

I have a completed 85,000 word YA thriller with a “pre-dystopian” slant titled The ACADA Chronicles about Emily Tate, a 16 year old high school student who, after surviving a cataclysmic world-wide outbreak, finds herself working on a genetics project that has far reaching political and moral implications.

When her mother is murdered, Emily discovers her assignment is part of a sinister plot of enslavement and world domination. She must find a way to protect the one thing that could alter the bleak future, even if it could ruin the new life she’s worked so hard to create.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A New Page of Thanks

I've added a new page to this website. It's not my writing, at least, not exactly, but it is a place for me to revive an old world art with a new twist. Remember when it was customary to send thank you letters to people? Well, that's what I'm doing, but to people I don't know (most of the time) who do jobs I couldn't even begin to attempt. This started as a status update on Facebook but I wanted to share it with as many people as possible.

Words have power, and here's how I have decided to wield mine! Check it out and let me know what you think! Thank You

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Living in Query Hell

This is just a quick post. I would love to spend hours crafting the perfect blog entry, but honestly, I'm in query hell. I don't know anyone who loves writing this letter, and while it is a vital part of writing a book, I can do without the query migraine.

But as I'm scratching out this line and rewriting that one, I thought about the poor agents who have to read query after query after query and all I can do is laugh. At least my query hell occurs one book at a time. Weeding through the slush pile must be an agent's version of Groundhog's Day. And you know not all of the letters are perfect... or edited... so I was wondering what their ailment would be: query coma, perhaps.

That's all I've got today. Work is calling me. But I do have a post about writer's trading cards in the hopper, so be on the lookout. (Instead of tasteless bubble gum, my version would come with chocolate covered espresso beans.) And, even if it's a query letter, remember to BE PASSIONATE about every word you write.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tough Love

I’ve often said writing a book is the easy part. That is if you consider sacrificing time with your family and staying friends with people after boring them with your latest plot dilemma easy. Me, personally, I’m okay with my children being raised by Phineas and Ferb for extended periods of time. No, the hard part is the inevitable rejection every writer is destined to encounter.

I still remember my “first rejection”. I was a senior in high school and was working on my dialogue between two characters. I knew it sucked, but I was also smart enough to know it wasn’t ready for someone else to read. But it fell into the hands of someone I definitely didn’t want to reading it who then proceeded to publicly mock me. That was all it took to push me from budding writer to future college administrator. I wish I had been stronger then.

Writers are creative beings. We NEED to create worlds that are real and characters that won’t stop talking to us. But with creativeness comes a curse: we really don’t like anyone tearing apart our masterpieces. Even our closest friends are capable of the ultimate betrayal known as constructive criticisms. And, unlike the countless agents and publishers who have the power to judge our work, we can make our friends pay for days and months, years even. It took me a long time to get a thicker literary hide. If I’m being completely honest, there are still some worn thin that make it impossible not to take things personally. And those are dark days in my house, let me tell you!

My writer’s group often begins each of our meeting by saying something along the lines of, “Let the shredding commence.” When we first formed, we had a couple of agreements: 1. everyone brings something every meeting; 2. everyone comes prepared to give each member feedback; 3. we are only supposed to answer questions about our work, not defend it (I suck at this rule) and 4. while we must be civil to each other, the only way we will ever be better than what we are is to get the brutal truth, so everyone has to give honest feedback. Truth time: we have lost a member, in my opinion, to the intensity of our feedback. We aren’t mean and I think everyone is careful to temper the negative with positive, but we don’t hold back either.

I once told a fellow member that I couldn’t connect with the MC, but if “she” was changed to a “he” and the story was written more like a bromance then it would make a better connection. The writer didn’t make the change and it’s become a running joke within our group, but the point I was trying to make is I wasn’t connecting to the character. I should add that I am now able to connect with the character better, but our relationship is still a work in progress (the MC, not the writer). With that said, I take it as much as I give it.

I had to miss our first November meeting due to a family commitment but my group mates were able to get me their notes. As I was going through them, one in particular crawled under my skin and laid eggs. The next day, the eggs had hatched into full on irritation.

Here’s the beauty: that comment forced me re-evaluate the way I had written the chapter and I realized the critique was right on. There’s something awesome about being a part of a group that wants you to succeed so much they are willing to make you mad in order to make you better.
So be creative writers, but realize that getting your worked hacked to shreds is a chance for you to pick up the pieces and put it back together six million dollar man style, without the dragging back story and characters that take you on a journey to the bridge to nowhere. But no matter what anyone says, no matter how much they think your “she” should be a “he”, BE PASSIONATE about everything you write!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Challenges, challenges

I have a new blog entry I'll be posting in a day or two, but I just wanted to say I hope I survive 2012. It has nothing to do with the end of the Mayan calendar... if I keep at the pace I've set for myself, I might be wishing for the end of the world by December. I've added a new tab on the menu called 2012 Challenges and it outlines my reading and writing goals for the year. Let's just say I'm in an optimistic mood today.

So if you see me at pick up and you're wondering if I was wearing the same outfit yesterday, there is a slight chance you may be correct. For the record, I have an almost infinite number of black yoga pants and long sleeve black t-shirts.

For my local followers, enjoy the sunshine and I'll see you at drop off tomorrow.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Debut Author Challenge

As if I needed more things to do on a regular basis, I have signed on to take part in the Debut Author Challenge, hosted by The Story Siren. There's a couple reason why... and here goes the first list of the year:

1. I'm always looking for great reads from people who have made it through the slush pile and are living the dream.

2. My "To Be Read" (henceforth known as "TBR") pile isn't very big. (First sarcastic comment of the year... it only took 11 hours.)

3. It makes it easier to plan my 2012 reading list if someone else has already done the leg work for when new YA/MG releases are coming out. I can get them on the hold list at the library or pre-order them (to help debut author's prove they're viable to the publishing house) earlier.

4. Everything's linked to good reads, which I'm a member of, but don't use often enough.

5. I want to start adding reviews to my blog so why not help a sister/brother out by spewing my opinion, which is another favorite thing I like to do.

6. Since I would love to find myself on the 2013 debut list, it never hurts to build up a little writing karma.

That's it. My list of why I'm taking part in the Debut Author Challenge. 12 books in 12 months... please... I'm so in. Are you? Sign up at the link above if you think you can handle it!

If you have any suggestions on upcoming debut YA or MG book (in the US), post below... I want to get started reading ASAP!!! Check back for my reviews!

Oh, and Happy New Year, everyone! I hope it was a safe celebration! Here's to a productive and enjoyable year of prose, red pen edits, coffee, success stories, and amazing milestones! No matter what the year has in store for you, remember to BE PASSIONATE about everything you do! Happy Reading, friends!