Saturday, September 15, 2012

A New Work In Progress

One of my new goals is to keep writing - even when I'm discouraged about the lack of interest in the dystopian genre and my completed novel.  It's time to write another novel, in another genre.

And I'm doing it. 

The novel I'm currently spending my time on is a 'Women's Fiction' novel.  It's about overcoming a seemingly insurmountable loss, rebuilding relationships that have been damaged, and becoming a stronger person.  

'In a Minute' is the tentative title.

And although I know these words can/will change, here's the opening of the novel as it currently stands:

“Hey, Hannah, grab your backpack,” I yelled as my daughter sped toward the front door, anxious for her first day of pre-school. Her golden ringlets bobbed on her back as she stopped suddenly and turned.

“I almost forgot.”  She giggled, running to the hook that held her new backpack - Dora the Explorer, of course. My daughter was nothing if not an explorer. The world held grand new adventures at every turn, and she was going to discover each and every one, much to my dismay.   

I shook my head as she headed to the door again. “We don’t have to leave yet.”

She contemplated that for just a moment, then pulled out the big guns, turning to look at me with her bottom lip pursed and jutting out, her big brown eyes round and nearly tear filled. “But Mommy, I want to be there early. My teacher doesn’t know me yet and I don’t know any of the other kids.”  Her pouty lip shuddered a little as she pretended to cry.

Not willing to be outdone, I pursed my lips and bent my knees to squat to her level. “I’m hurt. You’d rather be with your new teacher and friends than with me,” I said with a quivering voice.

Hannah immediately smiled and threw her arms around my neck. “I love you, Momma. My new class won’t be as special as you.”  She kissed my cheek and patted it with her tiny hand. “Now can we go?”

Master manipulator at the age of three. 

Any thoughts or input?  Feel free to comment.  ;)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Measuring Success

"To be successful, you must decide exactly what you want to accomplish, then resolve to pay the price to get it." -- Bunker Hunt

So, I'm sitting at work today, minding my own business, sulking (if I'm being honest), when I open a planner I was given and BAM! this quote.


First, I need to explain the sulking.

This week I participated in an online writing conference - WriteOnCon.  I'm still looking at all of the posts (work doesn't make it easy).  Anyway, I posted my query, my first 250 words, and my first 5 pages in the forum.  Got some amazing feedback from other writers.  But see, there were agents browsing.  Man oh man did I want a little feedback from one of them.  Anything.  Even 'this sucks'.  

Okay, not that.

But, much to my dismay, not only was I left without feedback, but my entire genre seemed to be skipped. 


Apparently, I have really awful timing.  Dystopian just isn't the thing to try to sell right now.  *sob*

So I'm pouting, sulking, maybe a little depressed.  I've just spent a year (yes, A YEAR) writing, revising, editing, querying, contesting, and everything else I can think of to make this story what it needs to be.  And...nothing.  

This is where the quote comes in.  

Yes, I was feeling a little sorry for myself.  Yes, I was cursing the Ninja Agents a little.  Yes, I was having my own brand of hissy fit.  

And then I read these words: resolve to pay the price to get it.


'Haven't I paid enough?' I ask myself.  'Isn't a year a lot?  A lot of time at the computer.  A lot of little notes everywhere.  A lot of time I didn't spend with my kids.'

Before you reach through your computer and slap me, let me say that after I took a deep breath and gave myself a stern talking-to, I got it.  Really got it.

One year is a lot, sure.   But obviously, it's not enough.  The price is higher.  

That begs the question - am I willing to pay the price to get what I want (published)?

The answer:  Yes.  

I realized today that it's going to come down to me.  I need to manage my time better.  I need to define my priorities.  I need to determine what I'm willing to give up and what I won't let go of.  

I'm going to continue to query - even though I know I'm going to see a lot of rejections.  That's just how it is.  *sigh* 

And I'm going to write.  I've got a women's fiction story I'm working on, a sci-fi story I've outlined, a historical fiction story that I'm dying to write (based on my grandfather's adventures as a teen), and a few other ideas I'm still chewing on.  Hell, I could even attack the non-fiction real crime book my brother wants to write with me.

I'm resolved.

And scared out of my mind.  :)


Friday, July 13, 2012

On How Baseball Relates to Writing

Yes, I have been watching a lot of baseball this summer.  A LOT.   (Braden is currently on two teams - the High School Automotive Team and the Babe Ruth All-Star Team. Some form of game or practice six days a week.)  It's given me a lot of time to think. 

And of course, I think about writing while I'm sitting in the hot sun, watching my son and his teammates play. What kind of writer would I be if I didn't think about writing all of the time? 

As I watched and thought about it, I realized that there are a lot of similarities between becoming a great baseball player and becoming a great writer.

When Braden started playing, he had thrown the ball with his dad.  He'd hit the ball with his dad.  Still, he'd never played on a team.  He was little and inexperienced.  Scared each time he came up to bat.  Dropped a few balls when they were hit to him.  But he did it.  Again and again.  And the beautiful thing is, he learned something every time he took the field, every time he stood in the batter's box.  Looking at him now, you'd never know that he was once afraid to try to hit the ball, that he once struggled to catch a fly ball.

He's got experience and training behind him now.  He's getting more every day.  He's confident.  And he's a GREAT player - with the potential to be a PHENOMENAL player.

So how does this relate to writing?

Well, those of us who write do something similar.  We come up to the plate time and again, scared that our writing will fail.  We strike out a few times.  We may even get hit by the ball or drop the fly that's hit to us.

But if we want to be GREAT writers, PHENOMENAL writers, we do it again and again, gaining experience and training each time. 

We practice a lot.  We play a lot of games by entering contests.  We accept coaching when we work with crit partners.  We stand at that plate with each query letter we send.

And guess what - we strike out.  A lot. 

But it's that one hit, you know the one, that grand slam that scores the winning run, that we're waiting for.

And if we're patient, it will happen.

You know, GREAT baseball players hit the ball only three of ten times at bat.  Those who hit it a few times more than that are PHENOMENAL players.  (I never thought of it that way until I watched the movie 'Martian Child', but it's true, look at the stats of most MLB players.)  And in order for those three hits to happen, they have to get up to bat ten times.

They have to put their hearts and pride on the line TEN times to get THREE hits.

How many times have I stepped into the batter's box?  Honestly, I haven't counted.  I will, later.

I haven't hit that GREAT level yet.  PHENOMENAL is still a dream.  But it's attainable.  With enough practice, coaching, and playing time, I may just hit that grand slam.

In the meantime, I need to get ready to take Braden to practice today.  And tomorrow, we're off to the All-Star State Tournament.  (Okay, I'm bragging.  They're District Champs.  That gives me the right as his mother.  Right?)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Who Am I?

Seems like a pretty simple question, doesn't it?

And on the surface, I guess it is.

I'm a woman who has been married for more than half of my life.  I'm a mother to four amazing individuals.  I work full time in a busy office.  I have friends who I join for dinner at least once a month.  I write as much and as frequently as I can.  I watch baseball, basketball, and dance competitions.  I work on fundraisers for my kids and their teams. I serve in my church. And I read when I can.

In my downtime (snicker - yeah, right) I dream of traveling and being published.  Maybe traveling to promote my book, even. 

But when I'm asked to include a biographical paragraph in a query, I freeze up.

All of the things I am, all of the things I do, well, they don't count in that particular paragraph. 

Agents are looking for information about prior publishing experience.  And well, I don't really have any that's relevant. 

Sure, I wrote for my high school paper for three years, I interned for a year at an all-news radio station writing stories to be read on the air, I wrote software documentation for clients, and thousands of letters to those same clients.  I've even written a successful grant - in less than 24 hours, and with very little to go on.

But I haven't been published.

No small articles in major sources, no books.  Nothing that I can add to that paragraph.  Yet.

Part of me winces when I get to that point.  Another part says 'skip it, just say thanks, and let it go'.  I try to listen to the second part of myself.

You see, I'm pretty happy with all of the things in my life that I can't include in that paragraph.  And really, when it comes down to it, those are the things that shape the way I write, the ideas I put into words.

My 'biography' may be unstated in my query letter, but it is ever-present in my work.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What's Next

May was full of excitement.  I was a contestant (thank you Brenda Drake!) in The Writer's Voice. 

What was the outcome of The Writer's Voice?

Eight agents looked over the queries and first 250 words of the 44 contestants' stories.  They 'voted' for the stories they wanted to look into further.

There were a lot of votes.  A lot of 'partials' and/or 'fulls' sent to agents.  And who knows, maybe a bunch of agented writers when the whole thing is said and done. (For those who are interested, in this contest a partial meant the first 50 pages of your book, a full the entire story.)

I received one 'vote', and sent a partial to an agent - Andrea Somberg at the Harvey Klinger Agency. 

While I have no idea what Ms. Somberg thinks of my story - yet, I do know that it was an amazing experience to send it.  To know that someone who represents books to publishers has part of my story is humbling, strange, and incredible.  No matter the outcome.

And more importantly, I was introduced to dozens of other writers.  I found the writing community to be supportive and helpful.  I had a coach who worked with me to improve my query and to polish my first chapter.  I gained confidence.  I told everyone on my Facebook and some friends at work that I write - something I had never done before. I came out of the contest excited to query my story, and with a plan to continue writing while I do.

So what's next for me?

Well, I have a list of agents who I will query.  I'll do that a little at a time.  I expect rejections, but who knows, maybe I'll get the 'yes' I'm looking for.

And in the meantime, I'm writing.  Camp NaNo is going on in June, and I plan to write 50,000 words this month.

With that said, I'd better get writing! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Yes, A Cheesecake Recipe on My Blog!

I'm posting my cheesecake recipe as a bribe to fulfill a Twitter promise.
First, you have to know that I vary my recipe depending on the type of cheesecake I feel like making. 

*See variations notes below.    

So, without further ado...

Basic Cheesecake Recipe:

2  8-oz cream cheese (full strength, low fat doesn't bake as well)
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 16 oz. container sour cream

Create your crust.  (1 pkg. graham crackers, crumbled, and about 1/2 c. butter makes a great, simple crust)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a glass bowl, warm the cream cheese in the microwave for 40 seconds.

With a hand mixer, whip the cream cheese for one minute - til smooth.

Add eggs - one at a time (yes, it does make a difference), mixing until smooth.

Add sugar.  Mix for two minutes.

Add vanilla (*see variations notes) and sour cream.  Blend until mixed - don't over mix at this point.

Pour your cheesecake batter onto prepared crust.

In a large roasting pan, crisscross two large pieces of foil.  Place your springform pan on the foil, and 'nestle' it in the foil.  Surround the springform pan with very hot water (about 1/2" deep).

Bake for 50-55 minutes.

Remove from oven, and from water bath.  Place cheesecake in springform pan on stove to cool for 30 minutes.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to set.

Eat it up!


I play with this recipe a lot. For instance, if I want a Triple Chocolate Cheesecake, I use a brownie mix and bake part of it as my crust.  (You can swirl the remainder of the mix into the cheesecake batter, or make more brownies.) Melt baking chocolate and add it to the cheesecake batter in place of the vanilla, then toss in chocolate chips. 

Or Oreos.  Use your food processor to crumble 2/3 of a package of Oreo, mix with about 1/3 c. of melted butter for the crust.  Chop the remaining Oreos and add them to the batter before you bake it. 

Okay, I could go on for days about the variations - but I won't.   I have to go to work today.  ;)

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Writer's Voice Contest

I am a very lucky girl today.  I got a spot in The Writer’s Voice contest.  It's a multi-blog, multi-agent contest hosted by Cupid of Cupid’s Literary Connection, Brenda Drake of Brenda Drake Writes, Monica B.W. of Love YA, and Krista Van Dolzer ofMother. Write. (Repeat.).  Huge thanks to all four ladies!
I'm entry #194.  :)

Plugged In - Summary:

Misty was only looking for a doll when she stepped into her mother’s art room in the attic, so finding a hidden notebook was unexpected - and terrifying.  Paper has been against the law since before she was born. 

Angry that so much is out of her control, and that she is being forced to stay away from her best friend, Berek Mulholland, Misty breaks the rules and reads the notebook.  As she digs, she finds clues to her mother’s disappearance, and more.  Berek, who is training  to become a Tech, gives her frightening new insight into their world.

Computers are self-aware.  Techs govern everything.  And people disappear frequently.

Berek’s family is taken.  Misty is threatened.  And the notebook has given her the courage to do something unthinkable – leave the confines of the biosphere.  The young couple treks into the Outland, looking for help.   And a way to fight Tech Central.

Plugged In - First 250 Words:

A strong breeze swept past Misty Evan’s face, causing her long red ringlets to twist and snarl, but she didn’t move to untangle them.  Her mind was elsewhere, her hazel eyes staring through the dense chain link as if it weren’t there, watching the water lap at the rocky shore of the distant reservoir.  She ached to touch it, to test her theory of how cold the water would be, but knew she never would.  Imagining the sound of the water kissing the rocks and the damp air touching her face, she closed her eyes and tipped her head back to soak up the August sun.

“You’ll get more freckles, you know,” her best friend Berek Mulholland whispered in her ear, and she giggled.

“Do you ever wonder how cold the water is?” she asked, squinting against the sun as she looked up at him.

His dark hair blew across his face, hiding his cobalt eyes.

“Nope.  I’m too busy trying to figure out how to get around the latest Tricks that’ve been coded in the Big Game. I’ve gotta stay ahead of the guys.”

Berek turned away from the fence to look at the mountain that towered over the west side of their city. She knew he wasn’t being completely truthful when she saw his cheek twitch.  He’d never been good at lying to her.

He wouldn’t admit it, but it had to bother him as much as it bothered her, that they couldn’t go outside of the boundary of their city.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Procrastination, Writer's Block, or Something Else?

I missed the revision date that I circled in my planner.

I have a hundred 'reasons' for missing it.  A promotion - and still doing my old job in addition to my new job until they hire someone. Budget season and School Board Meetings.  Drill Team finishing up the year, and all that entails for a mom whose daughter doesn't drive yet.  The beginning of baseball season - and did I mention that my sweet husband told them I'll keep score?  Housework.  Church work.  Homework.  The list could go on and on.

But are they reasons or excuses? 

Is my list a form of procrastination?  Am I suffering from writer's block?  Or is it some combination of both, or something else all together?

In all honesty, I think I just needed a breather.

While I was anxious to make the revisions to my story, I also worried that I was too close to see everything that needed to be done.  So a step back was healthy, right?

The break gave me a chance to get excited about my story again.   It gave me the energy to dive in and make changes.

I've set a new deadline for myself.  April 30.  Yes - of this year.  And I have a writing partner who is working on revisions, too.  

Now I need to turn off Twitter and Facebook and all of the other distractions the internet offers, and get to work.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Scariest Word Ever: Revision

Okay, so it's not really the scariest word ever, even if I used to believe it was.

That was before.

Before I completed a novel.  Before I reworked and edited and rewrote and changed the words so many times my head was spinning.  And before I had a few crit partners read my story.

My outlook on revision has changed drastically in the last couple of weeks.

You see, I've had some input now.  And it was good, helpful input.  I can see where my characters are weak.  I can see where I need to describe more, where I need to alter the world, where I need to skip a scene or add a scene.

I've been provided with a new view of my writing, and because of that, I'm ready for revision.  Or Re-Vision - my new term, which is possibly less scary than the word 'revision'.

Honestly, I now have a new vision of certain parts of my story, and I'm ready to incorporate some changes.  My re-visioning will be put on paper, so to speak.  (As a writer I reserve the right to make up words as needed.)

I'm giving myself a deadline.  I need to push myself to do it.  The date I'm shooting for is circled in my planner.   In red. 

And once I reach my goal of finishing my Re-Vision, I'll work on my query.

Now THERE'S a scary word!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Once Upon a Time...

Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved to imagine things.

It wasn't surprising, really.  When she visited one set of grandparents, she would hear wild tales of a young Indian boy, including the howls of wolves and hoots of owls that accompanied his travels.  Or she'd hear about the gypsies who roamed the countryside, waiting to steal away young children who wandered too far from home.  At her other grandparents', she would make up stories about what was hidden up the narrow, twisted stairway that was behind the kitchen door. Her heart would beat wildly as she considered climbing to the top to peek at the goblins she knew would be there.

At home, her mother told her stories of little girls who had exciting adventures. Naturally, there was always one named Tina.  She was a princess or a dancer or a unicorn trainer.  Anything was possible in a story.

When her older sister would shut the bedroom door, demanding that she picked up her toys, the little girl would imagine a crooked old witch, setting a timer and threatening her with dark magic if she wasn't finished in time.  Monsters and faeries would battle around her as she worked.  Her vivid daydreams were full of brightly colored creatures. 

One day, the little girl discovered a story about a mermaid who loved a human.  Turning page after page, she came to the tragic end of the story. Tears filled her eyes.  It was the first time she understood the incredible power of words.  She was seven.

By that summer, the library had become one of her favorite places.  It was there that she borrowed every book she could get her hands on, transporting herself to different worlds - from the moors of England to the red villages on Mars - always landing back in the safety of her own room.

And then, she realized that she could tell stories, too.

She wrote story after story over the years, usually hiding them away - keeping her wild imaginings to herself.

Then, one day, as a grown woman with children of her own, she decided it was time to stop hiding her words.  

Embarking on a new journey, she started to write a story that she would share.    She was excited.  And scared.  Her words wouldn't be for her own eyes only anymore.

Using every extra (and not so extra) moment, she wrote.  And edited.  And dreamed of the story she was telling.   And when the story was finished, she worked on a way to share it.

And that is where we'll leave her story.

You may ask how this tale ends, but nobody knows.  The ending hasn't been written yet.  ;)