Monday, December 21, 2009

A New Way to Network

Okay, so I know I said I'd be taking a break, but I wanted to pop in and let you all know about a great new feature on QueryTracker. The brain-child of Suzette Saxton, it's a great new social networking tool that will allow writers to connect to one another quickly and efficiently.

You follow my blog, but you might not follow me on Twitter. Are we Facebook friends? No? How about my website, have you seen it? Thanks to Suzette, you can see all of my on-line haunts on one page and with one click, you can link to everything Amanda Bonilla ;)

If you're not a member of QueryTracker yet, I strongly suggest you join. It is HANDS DOWN the best site for querying writers. I attribute all of my successes to the relationships I've formed since joining. Once you're a member click on "My Stuff" and "Edit My Profile". From there you can enter your blog, website, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc, etc... Whew! That's a lot of networking!

The new feature also allows you to connect with other writers based on your likes. You can add "Pen Pals" which is the equivalent of "friending" someone or "following" them. Click HERE to learn more.

Thanks Suzette and Patrick for helping all of us aspiring authors out! You're the best!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Taking a Break


I probably won't be blogging over the next couple of weeks, and I'm sure most of you won't be reading blogs either.

Have a restful, wonderful holiday season! I'll see you in 2010!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Blog Chain - Ode to Bad Writing

Shaun started this cringe-worthy topic and I guess I'm going to have to swallow my pride and jump right in. He asks:

What is the silliest thing from a book or short story you've written, and why? It can be a line or a paragraph or a whole page. Anything that you look back at and go, "Say what?"

Well, not to sound like a broken record, but I was a young mom. The first things I wrote were short stories starring my then 2 year-old daughter and my sister. Okay, before you read... 1) my daughter was a pretty sharp cookie when she was little 2) no child was abused in the writing of this story ;) 3) She was probably throwing a fit of some kind when I wrote the story. Get ready for an eighteen year-old mom's attempt at entertaining her child:

Once upon a time, in a kingdom often referred to as the Bad Lands, lived a young girl named Jacquelyn. She was the baddest of the bad and deemed ruler of the Bad Lands by the residents therein.

One day a young peasant girl named Mandy the Meek was mindlessly skipping through a patch of weeds. Little did she know that this certain patch of weeds was the pride and love of Queen Jacquelyn. Mandy, was simple of mind, had no idea that anyone would care a snit about an old patch of worthless stinky weeds, and skipped through them with carefree abandon.

From the window of her lofty palace, Queen Jacquelyn espied the young and silly Mandy girl doing a dance upon her most prized and favorite weeds. This sent the wicked Queen into a fury not seen often by the residents of the Bad Lands. She flew from her tower with the speed of a 747 and swept down upon the simple young girl with an agility that frightened the lookers on. The villagers cringed with guilt as they they witnessed the harsh tirade of the Queen and covered their ears at the screeching sound. One cowardly villager though, slunk away with a heavy heart.

Without a moment to spare the villager ran as fast as his stubby legs could carry him to the land of water, where he would find Niki Pickle, protector of all simple-minded fools. The villager told Niki Pickle of the evil Jacquelyn and her abuse of the Mandy girl. Niki immediately jumped astride her great steed and rode into the Bad Lands to once again do good for those who could not help themselves.

Niki Pickle arrived not a moment too soon, for Jacquelyn was spitting insults at the Mandy girl so fast that Mandy was crumpled in a pile of mush on the ground. Niki Pickle grabbed her staff of truth from her steed and proceeded to knock Jacquelyn in the head. One knock, and the staff of truth turned the wicked Queen into a good and righteous creature, never to do evil again. She still grew weeds, but it didn't bother her to have them skipped upon any longer. The villagers were so happy, that they awarded Niki Pickle with a lifetime supply of Spicy Mandarin Chicken, which kept Niki Pickle forever fed and happy.

The End!

Hope you enjoyed my silliest writing moment. Check out Rebecca's post before mine, and Sandra's tomorrow for more cringe-worthy stories!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Song for Literary Agents

Check out this funny song set to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" over at Tales of Extraordinary Ordinariness. Suzanne has a hit on her hands!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Remember...

I remember feeling like my life had ended. I remember thinking that I'd never finish high school. I remember feeling alone, even if I wasn't, and I remember assuming that I'd never acheive anything in my adult life.

But I finished high school. I grew up beside my child, and I pursued what I loved whether I was concscious of it or not. I still have the micro-cassett recorder I bought fifteen years ago, to record ideas that came to me while I was driving. I have boxes of short stories, a fun way to pass the time, leading me toward the path I would inevitably take. I've stored the three-ring binder, full of asperations and purple prose, to remind me of how much I've grown. And I have the battle scars, visible only to me, proof of my determination to succeed.

I love the worlds I create like I love my children. I cherish the stories like I cherish my marriage. And I sit down at this keyboard day after day, thankful for each keystroke, each request, each rejection. I'm thankful for the friends I've made, the writers who feel what I feel every day.

I'm thankful for the words.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Blog Chain - Priorities


I'm going to start this chain by apologizing. My first ever turn starting the blog chain is late. Beyond late really. I had NO idea everyone would trust me to pick a topic so soon! I'm flattered--and--hyperventilating.

I've had the most hetic two weeks I can remember. I've been working on my NaNo project, critting, revising and worrying. I've been out of town, helping friends and counting down the days until my daughter comes home for Thanskgiving break. I've been battling my husband for the right to pay attention to my laptop and trying to clean my hopelessly disgusting house.

So in the spirit of hectic lives everywhere I'd like to know:

How do you prioritize? How do you balance paying attention to your writing, critiquing for friends, spending time with your family and earning a living?

Since volleyball has ended, I find that I have more free time. And yet, there never seems to be enough. I start my day by getting my family ready for theirs. A quick drive to school and then home. I take care of our birds (chickens, duck and geese) making sure everyone is fed. Next I check my email. Then my blog roll, and after I've finished reading and commenting (I read more than I comment) I hit the WIP. Then I do a load or two of laundry, field a few phone calls, avert several crisis, and hit the WIP some more. THEN I wash some dishes, mop, sweep and dust, check my email (again) and read manuscripts for friends and crit partners. Then I head to the bus stop, start dinner, check my email (again), fold clothes, and serve up dinner. After that, I wash dishes, another load of clothes, check my email (yes, again) and finish up some crits. I work on the WIP during stolen moments and then fall in to bed--exhausted.

Whew! I'm tired just thinking about it.

We happened to see 2012 this weekend, and John Cusak's character happens to be a struggling writer who's lost his family in pursuit of his dreams. My husband gave me many pointed stares and a couple of nudges. His children said, "You promised you wouldn't work on your book this weekend." Ya. Seriously.

It's hard to find balance when you feel so empassioned about what you're doing. I get wrapped up in crits. I become obsessed with finishing a chapter. I write in between bites of food. And yes, I forget blog posts after an emotionally trying weekend and busy Monday. I've been trying. I spend less time on my computer than I did. I try to set aside chunks of time for each task. I no longer linger on Facebook or Twitter. And I blog less than I would like. I listen to my son's stories about his day. I spend time watching TV with my husband. I don't take my laptop when we go out of town (okay, I'm still working on that one) and I try not to write after five o'clock in the evening.

That's not to say that I don't want to. That's not to imply that the urge to plunk down a paragraph or two isn't killing me in the after-dinner hours. But balance is important. Family is important. There are still bills to be paid, mail to be checked, clothes to be folded and kids to pick up. I'm working toward regaining the balance I had before I was overcome with the constant need to write. Every. Single. Day. And as you can tell--since my first ever blog chain post is coming at 9:15 at night--that I'm taking baby steps. One at time.

Check out Sandra's post tomorrow, who was gracious enough to give me a little nudge. Thanks for the subtle reminder, Sandra. ;)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Two Kindle Contests

Want a Kindle? I do. There are two great sites right now giving them away and the deadline for entries is approaching.

Check out Lisa and Laura Write. In celebration of their publishing contract for their debut novel: A Kate Lowry Mystery: THE HAUNTING OF PEMBERLY BROWN, they're giving away a Kindle to one of their lucky blog followers. If you don't follow these ladies, check out their blog, they're going to be HUGE.

Over at Fangs, Fur, and Fey, in celebration of their thrid anniversary, you can email them for a chance to win a Kindle as well. Check out this site. Pretty cool.

The blog community is full of generosity this fall! I don't know about you--but I'd be pretty damn thankful for a Kindle!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Eureka!

When I finally decided that I was done messing around and sat down to seriously write, I was amazed at how quickly the story came to me. I started with a concept: migraine headaches, and ran with it. I gave myself a year to finish the novel (I had no idea what to expect) and instead completed the first draft in three months. As I researched, revised, and queried, I needed something to keep the momentum going, so I started a sequel. And four months later, I managed to crank out another completed manuscript.
I didn't write again for about four months. I worked on revisions, focused on my blog and networked like crazy. I met great friends, critiqued, and read for pleasure.

By May an idea for a new story hit me. One sentence, a hook, and I was back in the game. I have to admit, that although this novel was my favorite, it was the hardest to write. The words didn't flow quite as easily and I struggled with the plot. I stewed... and wrote... and deleted... and stewed. But by July I'd finished, sent the manuscript off for critting revised, edited and revised some more and then I queried with renewed enthusiasm.

Then I hit a wall. Terror! Panic! Hyperventilation! My idea fount had run dry. I worried hard core about this. I wondered if I was a one-trick pony. Maybe I'd used all of my creative juices and had nothing left. Perhaps my brain was officially fried. My lack of inspiration convinced me that I couldn't hack it. I mean, nobody wants a writer who cranks out one book and says, "Well, that's it. I'm done. That's all I had."

However, inspiration can be found when you least expect it. I find that I work very well with others. It's like my brain fires on all cylinders when there's someone else around. And while I whined about my lack of inspiration, my crit partner and friend TALKED me through it. She regurgitated ideas that I'd run past her, and she helped me brainstorm by asking questions. It's funny, being led along works for me. Ask me a question, and my brain kicks in to high gear. I can't ask myself, for some reason that doesn't work. Maybe it's the challenge of answering someone's question that gets me going. All I know is that it works.

So here I am, shiny new words and a plot that's building by the day. Not a one trick pony, after all!

How do you come up with story ideas? Do they pop into your head while doing dishes? Are they based on real life? Do you brainstorm? Whine to friends? Let me know!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blog Chain: Drama Queen




Christine started this round, and she cranked up the drama factor:

How do you create a wonderfully dramatic story? Are there any questions you ask yourself, or specific things you keep in mind to ensure that you have the level of tension necessary to propell the story forward?


I think that I have a tendency to go beyond a dramatic story and hop the border into melodramatic. As I've said many times, I consider myself a bit of a drama queen, so it isn't very hard for me to dream up some pretty hard-core drama. In fact, I find myself deleting entire scenes for that exact reason. Nobody needs THAT much excitement. ;)


In an earlier blog chain post, I wrote about my characters' journeys and their transformations. I love to use external and physical change, and for me, drama equals action. Aside from being a drama queen, I am an action queen. (is that a real term?) I LOVE anything with gun fights, sword play, the use of magic (with arms and hands flung for emphasis). Fist fights are okay too as long as my female protagonist is the one getting all the action. Emotional drama is great too, I love the occasional sob-fest. But I love the drama that comes from fighting for your life.


I think the best part about using hard-core action for drama is that the emotional stuff inevitably follows. With every near-death scrape our heroine (or hero) has someone waiting in the background, terrified that the person he cares about could leave him forever. In addition to the danger factor, there's obviously something propelling that character into these dangerous situations. I mean, no one pulls a knife on you for no reason in my imaginary worlds.


For me, the most important factor in maintaining good drama, is keeping my scenes realistic. I spend more time writing action sequences than I do anything else. I close my eyes, put myself in my character's place and draw on every good action movie, battle scene and author I've ever read. And I've been so into it lately, that I'm thinking about taking the next step: learning to fence, target shooting, taking a martial arts class. Yeah, that would be COOL.


Because I'm a strictly "from the hip" writer, I have a hard time pinpointing my dramatic moments until they actually happen. I let my characters walk me through the story, and when I know they've stuck their nose a little too far in the wrong business, I throw in some first-class danger. An ambush in a dark alley can keep me reading (or typing) into the wee hours of the morning, and I hope that by letting the action and its resulting conflict pull me along, I have succeeded in creating many exciting moments that weave themselves into a fun, entertaining, and DRAMATIC tale.


Be sure to check out Rebecca's post before mine, and Sandra's tomorrow to find out how they crank up the drama factor in their writing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blog Chain - The F-Word

No! It's not that. Get your mind out of the gutter. Kat picked the topic this round and I must say, pretty appropriate as we near Halloween. She asked the question:

What are the primary fears that drive your characters? Do they battle aliens or gangsters or monsters? Or do they battle unreconciled issues in their lives? Which do you prefer writing about? What do you fear?

I think that this topic is a nice chaser to the last chain regarding physical and emotional journeys. In my first book, Aura, my MC battles her internal fear of losing control. She doesn't like the idea of not being in charge, and her developing abilities send her tightly woven life into a tailspin. I think that I used my own fears as a road map for this character. If you had a week I could list maybe half of the things that freak me out, but one of my major fears is change. I DO NOT like change. My personal fear of change holds me back, it keeps me from taking chances and at times keeps me from things that would make me happy or make my life a little easier. It's the fear of the unknown, and I like to KNOW what's going to happen. So did my MC. Her fear of change led to a strangle-hold of control and through the course of the story, she had to face her fear and learn to let go.


Now, in my new book, I decided to take a new approach and made my MC a fearless, ass-kicking tough girl. Fear isn't really a word in her vocabulary. Dark alleys, scary creatures, swords and fist fights are her cup of tea. And not even a big, nasty, drooling creature out for her blood could make her run the other way. Did I make her completely fearless? Of course not. This girl was afraid of love. I made her nice and damaged, emotionally closed off, and through the course of the story, the fear she had to face was her fear of being loved and opening her heart. The idea of being fearless on the outside and a puddle of vulnerable goo on the inside is very appealing to me. ;)


Fear is irrational and unyielding and I know a lot about fear. I'm afraid to fly. I almost drove home from the Salt Lake Airport once after a particularly dicey landing. I'm terrified of spiders (any size). And don't even get me started about the fear I feel when my daughter drives home from college or when my son drives his four-wheeler. I'm afraid of failure as well as success (remember, I hate change) and I'm the most afraid of letting the people I care about down. I'm afraid that my writing sucks and I'm wasting my time, and yes, I'll say it, I'm afraid that one day and agent will actually tell me that they want to represent me (again, that whole change thing).


I like to write about my characters overcoming their fears because it's great therapy. Through my writing, I can work on addressing my own insecurities and through my characters and my words I shed a little fear every day. I figure if I keep it up, I'll be a tough-as-nails, ass kicking heroine in no time!
Be sure to check out Michelle's post before mine, and Sandra's tomorrow to find out what freaks them out.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

NaNoWriMo and Peer Pressure


Just when I thought my world was slowing down enough for me to focus on being a serious blogger (quit laughing Suzanne!) I was sucked into NaNo. Though I succumed to the peer pressure, I couldn't be more grateful. I am blessed to have a friend who pushes--in a good way--and she gave me the shove that I needed.

When I wrapped up the novel that I currently have out on submission I felt sated. Confident even. I had fallen in love with this project and was proud of my growth as a writer. The response to my queries was proof that I was becoming something more than I was but with that bliss came something altogether more frightening.


I think I'd lost some of my drive. Think of finishing your favorite meal. You've cleaned your plate, licked it even. You follow it up with the perfect dessert. You're full. Are you thinking about eating again any time soon? No way. That's how my project made me feel. Full. Content. It was literary triptophan for my soul. In my contentment, the idea of pursuing a new project soured on my pallet. I didn't have the fire to dive right back in. Like tomorrow's dinner recipe, a new story idea failed to spark.


Days became weeks and weeks, months. "I'm waiting to hear back on my subs," I told myself. "I have a sequel planned. I'll work on that when the time's right." Not until recently did the absence of my muse start to bother me. My excuses turned to worry, "Maybe I'm a one trick pony." "Maybe I won't have another idea to run with." "Maybe I'm done."


And at just the right moment, Suzanne decided to push. "Do NaNo with me!" she exclaimed with contagious enthusiasm. "I have an idea for a new story."


I was reluctant. I told her my idea fountain had run dry and rather than offer condolences for my drought, she talked me through it, helped me brainstorm and jumpstarted my beleagured creativity. Inspiration struck and I was once again full of passion, ready for a new recipe. I was hungry.


So here I come NaNo. I'm so sorry neglected blog and blog readers. I'll try to be a good poster between shiny new words. I'll keep you updated. See you on the other side of November!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Volleyball and Writing



I've been proscrastinating any and all blog posts lately.

It's not that I'm being lazy. I've been reading a lot of blogs (even if I don't always post a comment) and I've had my nose in everyone's business via Twitter (even if I don't always "tweet"). My volleyball season concluded on Tuesday and though it was the most enjoyable season I can remember, it was still a little rough and took up almost all of my spare time.

I like to compare writing to sports. At the beginning of the season we start with high hopes. The coaches get together, we set goals, we plan out our practices, we observe each girls' skills. In essence, we outline the sports season. Once my team is formed, I place girls on the court where they'll contribute most to the team. I replace weak servers with stronger ones and I always make sure to have a tall middle-blocker front and center. I form rotations and run systems that cover all of the "holes" on the court and consult my assistant coaches for input. When it's all said and done, I have a complete, ready-to-play team.

The team has practiced, our defense it tight and our serves are precise. We're ready to face our opponents.

Here's the kicker: you either win or you lose. There's no second place. There's no "let's try that again". There's no do-over. My team played this season one district higher than we should have. We played some tough teams; some TALL teams. We played with tenacious determination and even though we won a set or two, we didn't win any games this season.

Writing is a lot like volleyball. I start off with ideas, choose the best ideas and put them in some semblance of order. I replace weak words and descriptions with stronger ones and I try to make sure that my middle is nice and strong, with no lag, ready to hold up the rest of the story. I form chapters and place them in a smooth running order. Then I edit, and ask my crit partners (assistant coaches) to give their feedback and make sure to fill all of my story's "holes" along the way. When I'm done, I have a complete, ready-to-query novel.

The writing kicker? Same as volleyball. You either win or you lose. There's no second place. And even though I've had a couple of "let's try that agains", I haven't had any do-overs. The writing community is enormous. Instead of competing against six other people, you're competing against hundreds. I've queried with tenacious determination, and though I've had a few requests, I've yet to bring home any wins this year.

How can you not feel a little down? My team endured some pretty snarky comments this season, as I've endured some pretty snarky blog post comments. They've had doubts about their abilities as I've had doubts about my writing. But not one single girl quit. They came to practice every day with smiles on their faces. They cheered at games and gave many-a-high-five. They practiced hard, they played hard. MY TEAM DID NOT QUIT, and neither should I.

As writers we hone our skills with each completed project. Every queried novel gets us closer to a win. Every blog post is practice for the larger scale chapter. When our crit partners give us feedback, they're our assistant coaches, helping us to point out the flaws that we failed to catch. Writing is certainly a team sport, and I'm ready to start the season!



Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Chain - Journeys


I want to start off by saying that I officially hate being last. I'm the last link in the chain started by Sandra and this round's topic left me feeling like a very small fish in an ocean-sized pond.

The question for this round:

What kind of journeys do your characters make? What effects do they have on the characters and the plot? Also, if you wish, please tell us about one of your personal journeys and how it changed you.

As I read the posts before me I gulped down a golf ball sized knot. I'm as organic as it comes as far as my writing's concerned. Armed with nothing but a high school diploma and a decent grasp of grammar and the written word, I've always felt like I was a natural writer rather than trained at--well--anything. Ask my crit partners and they'll tell you, sometimes I need some leading.

Though my characters experience some sort of emotional journey, the journeys that they tend to take are physical. My characters actually experience a physical transformation by the end of the book. In my first book, Aura, the main character develops a super-human ability that by the end of the book changes her physically. She does, however, become a stronger woman emotionally as a result of the physical transformation and the journey she had to take to accept that change in her.

In my current "love" and novel that I have out on submission, the main character changes into a completely different creature by the end of the book, but during the course of her transformation she softens up emotionally, becoming a more caring person by the time her journey ends.

As I sit here, chiding myself for not being smarter, not being a better plotter, not being an outliner and a novel writing/character developing genius, I realize that I use the physical journey as a catalyst for the emotional journey. I also know that that there's probably something metaphorical about all of that, but as my brain is fried from a daunting volleyball season, it hurts too much to think about that. ;)

My own personal journey began with an extreme physical transformation. Pregnancy at 16 was not something my body was prepared for, let alone my psyche. I walked the high school halls, hyper-aware of my changed physical state while I showed emotional composure, never letting on that I knew I was different in any way, shape or form. But I was. My life was changing with each day and each growing inch. Flutters graduated to kicks while I graduated from student-without-a-care to soon-to-be-mom, responsible for another life. And with the birth of my daughter, that physical transformation brought about a permanent change emotionally. I had to grow up to a certain extent. I had to reassess my priorities. I would never again be that smiling, seemingly perky girl, who was good at sounding like she didn't have a clue.

I had become--me.

Check out Kate's post before mine, and please feel free to share your own personal or literary journeys with me. I love a dusty road!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blog Chain - Nurture vs. Nature?


Michelle is the first link in the chain this round, and she posed a question that brings to mind the whole Nurture vs. Nature debate:

Do you choose WHAT you do because of WHO you are? Or is who you are determined by what you do?



First of all, I'm not embarrassed to say that I do believe in fate. I think that everyone has a path laid out before them and they are subconsciously pulled in the direction they need to go. As for me, I believe that I am meant to write because I am by nature a story teller. I've always had a more than vivid imagination and I am also a self-proclaimed drama queen. I'm a daydreamer and fantasizer and often find my mind wandering while I play out mini scenes and scenarios; pieces of stories (or short stories) while I'm driving, doing dishes, folding clothes.....

I think that because of who I am: a daydreamer, I could have followed the path of theater, or art or music. But, my life took twists and turns that took me away from drama. I can't draw or sculpt or paint. I don't dance anymore. I don't play an instrument and my singing is probably just above average. So, I have come to the conclusion that I was meant to be a writer because it is the artistic outlet that I excel in.

Now, I suppose there are those who would say that I have nurtured this artistic talent one way or another and it has nothing whatsoever to do with my nature or "fate". But I wasn't nurtured in an artistic household. Neither of my parents are artistic per se. I have loved music, art, dance, the written word for as long as I can remember, with no coaxing, or outside influence from anyone. I honestly believe that I was born this way. I was born to create, and I was led to writing. I didn't choose it. It chose me.

I could go all philosophic and address the choices we make. Do we make these choice by free will, or are we pre-destined to make these choices? Everything happens for a reason. Do we lead the way, or are we led? Every event in my life, from my love of old musicals at age 6 to my pregnancy at age 16 led to my writing. If I hadn't been pregnant, I wouldn't have immersed myself in books. If I hadn't developed that love of reading, I wouldn't have been prompted to write. This was not the path I would have chosen voluntarily, but it is the path that was laid out before me.

Check out Kate's post before mine, and look for Sandra's post tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What Writing Has Given Me



Well, it hasn't given me an agent or a publishing contract..... yet. But I've had a rather emotional couple of weeks and times like these cause me to do a lot more thinking than I usually do, and let me tell you--that's a lot of thinking.

I had to do something last weekend that was really hard for me. I spoke at my grandma's funeral. We were pretty close, and I'd helped to take care of her during the last few years when her health had declined rapidly. She was an amazing woman. Strong, forward thinking, a modern woman for her generation. She inspired a matriarchal family and no one, (not even my grandpa) complained.

When the pastor asked my mother about the eulogy, she didn't know how to answer him. She didn't want to read it, but who would? "I'll do it," I answered. "I'll read it."

Relief washed over her features. "Thanks Mandy," she said. And I know she meant it in a very real, very deep way.

I wrote the eulogy, certainly I could read it. But as the week wore on, I wondered if I could really do it. I gave myself many a pep talk, and as the moment approached I talked to myself out loud in a low murmur, "You can do this. You can do this."

I did it. I read it and then some. My voice didn't crack, I only shed a tear or two. I can't tell you how that made me feel. I can't tell you how that made my family feel. I wondered all day and the next where I found the strength to do what I did. I can't even speak in front of a school assembly or public hearing without a quavering voice and sweaty palms. Just last year, addressing the parents of my volleyball team sent me into a state of near shock and mental shut-down. So how in the hell did I get this done?

Writing. Writing has given me the gift of strength. Strength I didn't know I had; strength that was hidden away so deep that it would never surface. Writing has empowered me in a way that nothing else has.

I am a different person than the woman I was last year. I AM stronger. I AM more confident. I AM more comfortable in my own skin. It just solidifies my belief that writing is what I'm meant to be doing. I may never land an agent. I may never see my book bound in cardboard with a shiny dust cover. But I know that despite all of that, I'll keep writing, because writing has given me an invaluable gift. It's given me a piece of myself that I didn't know existed.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Love...


I can't draw. Not even a stick figure. I sing all the time, but I'll never sign a record deal. Play- dough remains a lump on my table no matter how I mold it and though dancing speaks to my soul in a way that words can't describe, the last time I took the stage, I was twelve years old.


I consider myself an artistic person. I have a deep and reverent love for all things creative and I think that my ineptitude in the previously mentioned departments is the reason why I write. I was talking to one of my dear friends the other day about this emotional roller-coaster of a journey we're on and she said... "Let's be the ones who see this to the end. Let's not be the ones who quit after a few months or a few years..." Of course, I agreed right away. But why? Why was I so quick to agree? Why was there no pause, no moment of thought to weigh the pros and cons of what I was about to agree to? Why such faith in my response?


Dancing really does speak to my soul. When music and body movement come together to convey an emotion, an idea, a story, my chest swells with emotion. I cry. Literally. I think that dance is one of the most beautiful things in the world. I dance in my kitchen, I wiggle in my car seat, I sway and move without even knowing that I do it. I feel the same way about writing. It sort-of plugs the hole that nothing else in my life can fill. If you asked my family, they might say that writing is the only love of my life, but that's simply not true. After not writing for so many years, I guess you could say I'm in that teenage stage. You know the one, the first-boyfriend stage where he's all you think about, he consumes your thoughts and all of your time. Sort of like a new love. Writing isn't the only thing that makes me feel whole, but it's the creative outlet that I need to make me feel like I'm following a path, that the ebb and flow of my life is right where it's supposed to be. That I'm where I'm supposed to be.


Writing is my art. The keyboard is my paintbrush and my fingers are my legs moving to the beat. The words are my lump of clay and pallet of color. The white screen is my canvas. I won't ever have an exhibit in the Louvre, and American Idol can count me out next season. I'll watch the dancers from the audience and the play-dough can just be what I squeeze to relieve stress. My pencil sketches notes rather than still-life and even though my words haven't found the public stage yet, I'm going to see this to the end. I won't be the one who quits.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Blog Chain - Taking and Breaking the Rules



Kate started the chain this round, and she really threw me a curve ball here. The question she posed was running a loop in my head when I woke up at 3am this morning. Wow, I'm really going to have to use my brain !

What writing rules/advice - whether it was a matter of cannot or will not - have you broken?

I think I may have broken them all at one point or another and I have to say that I think everyone should break the rules at least once as well. Now, I'm not encouraging sloppy writing or disregarding the guidelines that everyone pretty much follows. But what I am saying is that you learn from your mistakes and if you don't break the rules, you won't know to follow them later.

Like Kate, I've written run-on sentences that were small paragraphs and no matter how many times I read them--they sounded just fine to me. I've thrown caution to the wind and infused my sentences with as many "ly" words as I could type, thinking that rather than violating a huge rule, I was spicing up an otherwise bland sentence. I've told and not shown, opting to shrink a large chunk of narrative into a Reader's Digest-sized bite of information. And I've violated POV so many times, I'm sure my crit partners were banging their foreheads against their keyboard.

But by breaking the rules, I became a better writer. I learned how to craft my run-ons into more manageable sentences. I've discovered that the occasional "ly" adverb is okay, as long as every sentence doesn't end in one. I know now that telling is fine in certain circumstances and the reader does not need to be led by the hand through every--little--detail. And I've discovered that violating the POV..... okay, it's NEVER alright to violate the POV, but like I said, breaking the rules taught me some valuable lessons.

My first novel is FULL of broken rules, and has been revised more times than I can count and is about to go back to the "crit pool". But what I learned from all those broken rules helped me with my new WIP and the result was a cleaner, tighter chunk of writing that needed less critique, less revision, and less work.

It's like I tell my volleyball team-- "This is how we learn." By making mistakes, violating rules, we become better players. We learn what does and does not work for our team and individual players. It's how we hone our skills and excute those skills to the best of our ability. And by testing the waters, the players know when it's okay to break form and go for the emergency dump. Or never, never under any circumstances, recieve a serve with one arm.

I say break the rules at least once! And then, once you've learned your lesson, you can decide whether you should break them again. Check out Sandra's post tomorrow to find out what rules she does... or doesn't break!


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Slacking...

I have been a bad, bad blogger lately. I usually post once, or twice a week, but I've paid less and less attention to my dear blog in the last few weeks.

I've been furiously polishing my finished MS, which was something that I didn't think would have to be done for a while. But thanks to my crit partners (Suzanne and Michael) as well as Mary, Elana and Suzette, I was able to crank out what I feel is my best work ever. I've sent the MS to the requesting agent, and now the waiting game begins.

Also, volleyball season started two weeks ago. I'm the varsity coach and therefore in charge of the program so I've been in the trenches, preparing for our season and the school year. It's taking a lot of my time.

School starts Monday, and the pace will finally slow. Then I can take a deep breath, dive into a new project and finally blog again! Yay!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blog Chain - Words of Wisdom





It's blog chain time again, and Cole chose a topic that's a game as well! She asked her fellow bloggers to pretend that we are adressing a crowd of aspiring authors eager to soak up our words of knowledge. But the catch is this: we only have one sentence (no more than twenty words) to share and we are only allowed to elaborate or address questions in the comments section of our blogs. Take a look at Kate's advice before mine, and Terri's tomorrow! Here are my words of wisdom for aspiring authors:




"Edit, edit, edit, and when you're sure your manuscript is polished, edit one more time."



Sunday, August 16, 2009

Awards!





Thanks to B.J. Anderson, blogger extraordinaire for passing on the Kreativ Blogger Award! I'm so lucky to be a part of such a great community of writers! The rules for this award are pretty simple:




1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting. (see below)
5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.



Let's see... I'm pretty open about all of the crazy things that make up Mandy, but I'll try to think of something new...

1. My family has owned the property my house sits on for over 100 years. In fact, my house sits on an old barn site where my great-grandfather boarded horses for a local Native American tribe.

2. I rolled my mom's car down an embankment when I was 15. My boyfriend (now husband) was in the car with me. Nothing solidifies a relationship like matching neck braces!

3. I am a high-school volleyball coach. I spend three months a year, knee-deep in teenage girls and the rest of the year recuperating.

4. I've lived ten miles from a ski resort my entire life, but didn't learn how to ski until I was in my twenties. I learned with my daughter. She went on to be a junior ski racer, I went on to watch!

5. My favorite physical activity is swimming. We have a cabin by the lake and I've been swimming since I was about five. I could swim all day.

6. I don't drive in the city. Period. Unless I'm by myself with no other alternative. I'm a small-town girl all the way and if I'm headed to a city, I hand over the wheel.

7. I tried to write my first novel at eighteen. It was a historical romance and I still have it. I got about half way through before I talked myself out of finishing it. But I like to look at it every now and then to remind myself that writing is all I've ever wanted to do.

There you have it, seven interesting (or not so interesting) things about Amanda Bonilla. Check out my fellow bloggers who I've passed this award on to and learn some interesting things about them! Abby Annis, Annie Louden, Lynnette Labelle, Cole Gibsen, Windy Aphayrath, Christine Fonseca and Melissa Ann Long. Check out these fantastic bloggers and learn something interesting about each of them!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blog Chain - Multitasking





First of all, I’d like to thank the other blog chain members for inviting me to their group. I’m so excited to be a part of this!!

I’m the last writer in the chain this round, but be sure to check out Kate’s post before mine.

Terri asked the question,

Do you focus on one project at a time, or do you have many irons in the fire at any given moment?

I am obsessive in my single-mindedness. I’m a hobby freak and when I find something new I usually throw myself into said project head first. I’ve made jewelry, soaps and lotions; I’ve even knitted beanies (skull caps). And when I was involved in those projects, that’s pretty much all I did.

Writing was the only on and off hobby I’ve ever had. That is until last April. When I finally sat down, determined to write an entire novel, my previous obsessions were left in the dust. Laundry stayed dirty, dishes piled up in the sink, the world dissolved around me and my laptop became my universe. It’s a little better now than it was, but I have to work at peeling myself away.

The same goes with a writing project. Once I’ve committed to the story, that’s all I work on. New ideas don’t even occur to me while I’m focused on a WIP. It tends to leave me with a bit of downtime between novels, but if an idea were to grip me mid-project, I’d probably spontaneously combust. I don’t even sleep well while I’m working because I wake up in the middle of the night with entire character conversations playing out in my mind. Multi-tasking writing projects present me with the possibility that I might confuse the narrative voice, causing characters from different stories to bleed into one another. It’s hard enough to assign personality traits to each character in a book, let alone divide my creative energy between more than one story.

I wish I was a better multi-tasker, and I KNOW that my family wishes I was. I’ve written a couple of short stories and then there’s the occasional blog entry, but even those are things I have to force myself to do while I’m actively engrossed in a WIP. I’m taking baby steps toward allowing my mind to wander. The benefit would be less down-time between projects or at the very least a new one would be queued up by the time I finish a current one. But I have faced the fact that I am OCD about writing, and I’m okay with it!

How about you? Do you see a single story through to the end, or is your WIP folder packed to overflowing with the beginnings of your new obsession? Let me know.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Confessions of an Addict

"Hi, my name's Mandy, and I'm an addict."

This was basically my husband's tag line for me this past weekend. It's not that funny. Not even mildly amusing. But since he only talked that way around our friends, I'll forgive him.

His twenty year high school reunion was held Friday and Saturday. We met up with some close friends who we see outside of the every ten years required by reunion law and the first thing his good buddy's wife said when she saw me was, "I heard you're on the internet.... writing books or something?"

Ouch. Thanks, dear. You're a champ. "I'm not on the internet...." I said, a little put out, "but I am writing books."

Face red, check. Pulse quickening, check. Heart pounding, oh yeah. Embarrassment kicking in, you betcha.

For some reason, he tells EVERYONE that I'm writing. I tell NO ONE. I don't know if it's because he's secretly proud of me, or that he's looking for a segue to complain about the fact that I'm having a love-affair with my computer (because that's what seems to be at the top of his gripe list). And at the same time, I don't know why I'm so embarrassed to shout to the world, "Yeah--that's right--I'm writing, so what?!?!"

I really dreaded that aspect of this reunion. People asking what I was up to and me trying to decide if I wanted to blow them off.... "I'm still coaching, blah, blah, blah". Or if I really wanted to spill the beans..."Well, I'm glad you asked. I've been writing for the last year and a half." I decided to go with conversation number one.

It's not that I'm not happy with what I'm doing as a writer. I am. I feel like I've finally, really followed through with something and found my true calling. But I guess it's my lack of success that keeps my mouth clamped shut. I know that I'm not doing too bad. I've had a few requests for partials in the last year, and a request for a full or two. That's further than a lot of people get. I guess its my nagging self doubt, rearing its ugly head yet again.

Two things happened, though to really snap me out of it. First, said wife answered me with, "I tried to sit down and write a book once, I got to page five and quit." That sentence led to a conversation about writing and she knew her stuff! Face, back to normal. Pulse, slowing. Heart, no longer pounding. Embarrassment, gone. The second thing that happened occurred while I was talking with one of my few "local" friends who knows all about my writing. We were catching up on the phone and she told me that she was going to have a stab at finally writing on her blog, and not just updating her family's goings on. "I'm so proud of you," she said. "It's really brave to put your stuff out there to let people read it."

Wow, I guess it is. I usually kind of pooh-pooh that comment off when someone says it, but this time, I really considered it. It is very, very hard to expose your soul like that. And writers put their souls into every word they write. Writing is so personal, so solitary, a little lonely at times, and by showing others our work, we give them a glimpse of what that loneliness produces. I'm glad that I can plunk that secret part of me down on the computer screen and have the guts to hit send over and over as I share my work with agents in the hope that someday I'll get to share my work on a much larger scale. I guess it is a little brave, and when I hit "send", I'm certainly not embarrassed or ashamed.

I think everyone decided that ten years was too long to get together and so the next reunion is slated for five. My own twenty year reunion is in three and I can't wait for people to ask me what I'm up to. "My name's Mandy, and I'm a writer."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Shakespeare and a Picnic Dinner

After nineteen years of jewelry, trips and whatnot, my husband gave me the perfect anniversary present. On Saturday we drove to Boise to see the Idaho Shakespeare Festival's performance of Twelfth Night.

I have been a die-hard fan of Shakespeare since I was a little kid. As I look back on it now, I find it a little strange. But, I grew up on old movies, elaborate musicals and so on, so I suppose it stands to reason that Shakespeare's plays would appeal to me. The Festival has been in business for about 20 or so years give or take. I remember being twelve years old and reading the fliers advertising Romeo and Juliet and wishing I could go more than anything.

Well, twenty three years isn't too long to wait... ;)

The company has a permanent home with a lovely and simple outdoor stage nestled among trees and green grass. We had great seats in the third row, lawn seats, and we bought a picnic dinner and lounged in our low-backed chairs. When the play started I was like a kid again, smiling through the entire play, surely looking like an idiot!

The actors were wonderful, the costumes beautiful, the comedy perfectly timed. I glanced to my husband out of the corner of my eye once or twice and noticed that he was smiling, but not laughing himself to tears like I was. I kept asking him, "are you having a good time?" and he would say, "Yes!" Then I asked him, "do you like the play?" and he would answer, "uh-huh." Okay, I know there were a million other things he'd rather be doing, but I was happy as a clam and he gets serious brownie points for thinking of me.

When Feste closed the show, singing, "But that's all one, our play is done, and we'll strive to please you every day..." tears spang to my eyes. It's over?!?! So soon?!?! The lights went dark and the crickets sang and I smiled so big I thought my face would break. Curtain call came with the return of the stage lights and I stood and clapped so long and hard that my hands hurt. WOW. What a great experience. Better than going to the ballet last Christmas, better than any concert I've ever been too... it was the best night ever!

And hubby.... if you want to give me the same thing next year, (wink, wink) that would be fine with me!

Friday, July 31, 2009

An Award? For Me?


I am excited to announce that my wonderful friend Suzette Saxton has awarded me the Humane Award for my "downright sweetness"! ;) Thanks Suzette, I think you're pretty sweet too!
I have the privilege of passing this award on to five others! Now, if he had a blog, my son would for sure get one of these. He's the sweetest, kindest kid I know. Sorry, kiddo, maybe next time. I am, however, going to pass this award on to fellow bloggers who have been supportive of my endeavors and have spent countless hours listening to me ramble and complain, whine and cry, laugh and (occasionally) snort or just commiserate in the writer's experience.

So congrats to Extraordinary Ordinariness, MJ Caraway, Novelcrafter, Elana Johnson, Author, Mary Lindsey's Weblog and Gumbo Writer, the recipients of my "Humane Award". Keep up the Good work gang!
Winners:
*Accept and post the award to your blog
*Link to the person from whom you received it
*Pass the award to 5 other blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement
*Let them know they've been chosen for this award

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Soap Box

Blogger hates me lately, so if this post looks like a two-year-old formatted it, my apologies!!

I'm going to take a break from "The Keyboard" today to jump aboard my soap box. There's an issue brewing too close to home for me right now and it's sapping most of my creative energy.


Where to begin....


I live in a VERY rural area. In fact, the picture in this blog is the view from my front patio. I have great respect, reverence and love for the open fields and quiet setting that is being threatened by a developer who is proposing a PRIVATE AIRPORT and exclusive fly-in community ONE MILE from my home!


I've been to two Planning and Zoning meetings, with another coming up in a couple of weeks. I've heard the developer's attorney talk in so many circles that I'm dizzy. I've heard the property owner (a VERY old and VERY rich rancher) yell and scream at the top of his lungs that if we (his neighbors) stand in the way of this development that he'll sue us all, and I've heard the speeches of teary-eyed residents just like me, begging the Planning and Zoning Commission to re-think this project.


As I drive past the wet-lands that serve as a home to Sandhill Cranes, Blue Herons and Curlews, I wonder--will they come back once ground is broken? As I watch the herd of elk that have crossed this property for years meander through the grass, I wonder--where will they graze after the backhoes and dumptrucks come? As I sit outside and listen to the sounds of nature, I wonder--how much longer do I have before those sounds are drown out by the whoosing engines of a corporate jet? It makes me sick.


A noise expert spoke on behalf of the developer last night and assured the P&Z Commission that most of the noise from the airport would occur at 65 decibles near my home (which according to his chart is pretty damn loud). He told my daughter that the current decible rating for our area is at about 40. He also assured the commission that those occurences are classified by the FAA as "single occurences and not a continuous assualt" and then in the same breath proclaimed that these "single occurences" will OCCUR approximately 50 times during the 15 hours of daily operation. If I'm doing my math correctly, that figures out to about 3.5 OCCURENCES per hour. I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty constant to me.


I feel so helpless against the "Big Money" that I'm up against. The David and Goliath implications of this fight are exhausting and emotionally draining. My neighbors (some 300 rural community members will be directly affected) are all trying their hardest to fight the good fight. Lawyers have been commissioned, consultants have been hired, and bulk mailings are going out at personal expense. I'm proud to belong to a group of people that are so dedicated to coming together to fight against something so large and oppressive in comparison to our little group. I'm glad that people are still willing to stand up against greed and big money.


I'm going to have the opportunity to make a presentation at our next planning and zoning meeting. I'm speaking on behalf of my family's land trust and therefore I'm allowed more time to speak than a single home-owner. I've got A LOT of research to do and a killer speech to write. I want my five minutes to make a sixty minute impact. I'm so nervous--I hate speaking in public. But I've got to do what I can and not lay down and allow my way of life to be steam-rolled by an elitist development. I'm particularly interested in population numbers for Sandhill Cranes, Curlews (which I believe were on the threatened list a while back) and Herons for the Valley County, Idaho area. I'll be hitting the books hard, so to speak, and if anyone out there in the blogging community has any information that might help, I'd be eternally grateful.


Like I said, if I don't at least try to do something, that lovely picture at the top left corner will have a sleek corporate jet in it next year.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Huckleberry Fever

(First of all, I'd like to pat myself on the back for FINALLY putting a picture up with a blog post! It wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be.)
Once ever few years where I live, if the weather conditions are PERFECT, we have a banner huckleberry year. For those of you who think this is a made up fruit--it isn't. The huckleberry is smaller than a blueberry and has a sweet-tart flavor. It is also worth its weight in gold.


If you're lucky enough to live in an area where huckleberries grow wild, you'll know what I mean. Locals covet their secret picking spots and wouldn't dare reveal their locations come threat of torture or death! Pickers go out in a frenzy, picking their little hearts out until their knees creak, backs ache, and fingers are dyed purple. Then comes the mad dash to clean and freeze said berries because.... well, because you never know when they're going to come back.

I am very, very fortunate in that I don't have to travel far to find a good picking spot. Huckleberry bushes (or brush) grows wild on my family's property and a quick jaunt on the four-wheeler delivers us to opitmum picking locations. I know, I should hike it all, but it's a twelve minute ride, so if I dragged my 35-year-old butt along those trails, I might not ever get there.

The ride is nice and as I look around I am so thankful for the beautiful land that is my legacy. The scenery is idylic and as close to perfect as you can get. Aspens and all variety of pines grow in thick clusters and ring meadows. Tall grass sits alongside pink, purple and red wildflowers. Birds sing, squirells chatter and the wind rushes through the branches that toss shadows on the grass below where the sunlight filters through. I can't tell you how standing out in that forest makes me feel.

When I was a kid, my Aunt Nancy used to take me, my sister and my cousins out on forest excursions. We would pack a lunch and set out, plowing through the tall grass, building forts alongside enormous boulders with fallen trees and branches. We played so many fantastic games. We were fairies, forest animals, orphans on the run. We ran, walked, skipped and sat. We breathed in the clean air and played in the streams. It is the foundation for all of my writing.

My husband can pick twice as many berries as I can. But the number of berries in my bucket is pale in comparison to the beauty all around me. I haven't written, edited, cleaned my house or done a stitch of laundry in three days. But I have been inspired by the scent of water, pine sap, wilting clover and--oh yeah, huckleberries.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ten Honest Things....

Suzanne posted ten honest things about herself this morning, which honestly only made me love her more! She's a great friend, an awesome crit partner and a flat out rock-star in my book. So--I thought I'd keep this going and list ten honest things about me. Do with it what you will!

One: I HATE confrontation. In fact, I hate it so much that to avoid it I will sometimes agree to do something I shouldn't or agree with someone I would rather disagree with.

Two: I was a teen mom! I know, it's scandalous. My daughter was born when I was sixteen. But, I finished high school and I honestly feel that I am one of the few success stories. I do not bow to teen-pregnancy statistics.

Three: I am deathy afraid of spiders. Any shape, size, color. When I was two, I had night terrors and my mom says that they were ALL about spiders. *shiver*

Four: I love musicals. Old, black and white, newer color, I love them all! My all time fav is My Fair Lady. I have a crush on Audrey Hepburn. I wish I could've been her. She was fabulous.

Five: I've only been drunk a handful of times my entire life (all of them over the age of 21) and I've never used drugs. I attribute that to the fact that I used up all of my wild-child opportunities with the teen pregnancy thing. That, and I'm a control freak and have to be in control of my faculties at all times!

Six: I drive like a fiend. I've got a pretty illustrious history of speeding tickets and the one luxury item I would buy myself is a fast car like a Porsche or a Lamborghini so I could really tear up the highway!

Seven: I am extremely shy. Sometimes it comes off as unfriendly or when I was younger "stuck up". I'm not a joiner and I never attend any function without a wing-man. But once you get to know me, you'll have a hard time shutting me up. :)

Eight: I love animals. I own a LOT of pets. And all of my pets have a "buddy" because I believe that EVERYTHING needs a companion. I own two dogs, two cats, two bunnies, two geese, two ducks and a few chickens. (organic eggs!) I despise people who mistreat or are cruel to animals and I make sure that our outside birds have heat during the winter!

Nine: I am a highschool volleyball coach. It's something that I really love doing and if you were to ask me to name one thing that I do very well, I would say "I was a great volleyball player". I'm usually too shy to toot my own horn, but on that subject I will.

Ten: Like Suzanne, I have a potty mouth. I can't help it. I flavor my speech with profantity but thankfully I've learned how to curb it around certain people and certain situations. But, it's part of who I am and if I didn't throw in a @#$%^&*( now and then, I wouldn't be me!

So there it is, ten things about Amanda (Mandy) Bonilla that you didn't know. Or maybe you did. Let me know more about you! Send me a comment stating one thing about yourself that I might not know. :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Fun Twist on The Short

The other day my friend Michael sent me an email with some rather strange instuctions, "Send me a beginning sentence and an ending sentence".

Alright.... I was a little off my game, but I played along. He crafted a short story from my two sentences providing the middle to my beginning and ending. It's a great exercise to boost your creativity not to mention improving your short game. His story was so far from what I was thinking when I plucked those sentences down. But that's the fun part. Here's his story based on my two sentences.

She finally felt it, a reason, a good excuse to finally quit being such a doormat and do something about it.

Anna Lucia returned to her boss's office. She had only a minute or two before he would return from the parking garage. The package looked perfect, the cream-colored paper crisp, the silver bow fluffy. But this was the last anniversary present she would wrap for him. She wondered if his wife would notice someone else's handiwork next year.

Probably not, that cold bitch. He deserved so much better. Or maybe not.

Anna Lucia peeked down the long hallway but didn't see him. If he stepped into view she would have at most twenty seconds. She looked at the pretty package. Oh, what the hell. Why not?

She peeled the tape with her fingernail and unfolded the paper. Five years of marriage. Four years of sleeping with his admin behind his wife's back. And for Anna Lucia, no sign of commitment.

She peeked into the hallway again, and he rounded the corner. She drew back into the room, knowing the race was on. Nineteen seconds at most. She hiked her skirt and slipped off her panties. After stuffing them into the box, she refolded the paper, re-affixed the tape, and fluffed the bow.

He entered the office. "Wow, it's beautiful," He clutched the box and patted her ass before heading out the door. "See you on Monday."

"I hope you and your wife have a wonderful anniversary," she said, intending never to return.

Walking from the room, she smiled.


Give this fun exercise a try with your own friends or crit partners. Keep it going! Shoot me a comment and I'll link your partner short story from the blog!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In The Interim

Well, I finsihed my WIP by my July 13th deadline. I also hit my 85k word count almost exactly. All in all I'm extemely happy with the finsihed product which I've put through the first round of revisions. But I've been wondering what I should do now that I'm done.

I still have a previous novel out on submission so this book will have to sit and stew until I've heard back from a couple of people. Then there's further revisions and critiques. No matter how anxious I am, I have to face the fact that I can't send this book out for a long time. I've tried twice to work on my query, but that's a slow and tedious process because I absolutely hate writing queries. And to those of you who love to write them (Elana), WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU? ;)

So what to do? Well, the answer came to me (again) by way of my friend Suzanne who I've asked to write a poem for the intro. She agreed on the condition that I write a history of the creatures that I've made up for my novel. What a great idea!

Making up the many fantasy species for this book was harder than I'd thought it would be. I did a lot of research, looked up some old folk legends, and used some old stories to lay down my ground work. I knew what my characters strengths and weakness would be, assigned characteristics and so on, but beyond that, the many players had no history to back up their existence.

Laying down a difinitive history is giving a true identity to my characters. Their lineage isn't important to the book, but it is important to me. Plus, its a great exercise in character development, to know who begat whom and how he or she came about, etc, etc. I get to really flex my creative mucscles by constructing family trees, feuds and marriages. Plus, in the long run the history that I'm writing could lead to future projects and a reference companion to those projects.

I have to admit that when I don't have something to write I kind of feel lost. I wander around my house like there's something I've forgotten to do and I plunk down in front of my computer, staring at the blank screen with my fingers poised and ready for no reason.

I hate the interim. Thanks Suzanne for giving my fingers something to do!

Let me know what you do in your "in between time". Do you immediately start a new project, work on revisions, write your query or synopsis? Or do you simply wander aimlessly in circles around your laptop?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Social Networking that Damages

My friend Suzanne recently blogged about some of the joys of social networking.  Well, I decided that it was time for me to take the flip-side.  I'm not talking about facebook, myspace, blogger. I'm talking about the social networking sites that can literally suck the creative juices right out of you.

Several months ago, when I was still too shy to reach out to other writers, I joined a website that I thought would not only allow me to stew in a huge collective pot, but it was a chance to get my work noticed by a publisher.  I publicly supported this site time and again.  "It's amazing, innovative, such a big help!"  Naive and maybe a little desperate, I posted the first four chapters of my novel on this site which will go unnamed in this post.  The platform of the website is to invite critique from other writers or readers.  If the reader likes your work they leave you comments and have the option to publicly support your book.  This in turn gives you a numeric score that ultimately leads you to the center ring where your first few chapters will be reviewed by a publisher.

I'm not going to say that every critique I received was a pile of poo.  Actually I did receive a few useful suggestions and I made a couple of friends.  But out of the 75+ crits that I got, only those few were useful.  A lot of if was harsh, rash and sometimes even a little strange.  One critter went so far as to dive into a dramatic monologue about how he wanted to: see, feel, touch, taste and smell every tiny detail of my story.

Being the eternal people-pleaser that I am, I dove into revisions at the speed of light.  Whatever someone suggested, I changed it like they were some sort of writing expert sent to save me from self-destruction.  I wish now that I had never touched a single word.  

The changes I made essentially nullified my narrative voice.  The first four chapters became a conglomerate of suggestions from people that didn't even have the decency to read past the first chapter and none of them had read the entire MS.  The feedback that I'm getting now from honest to goodness critique partners and the few agents who've looked at the MS is that the book is much better from chapter 5 on.  AFTER the chapters that I let a society of nameless faces re-write.  I wonder all the time if I should go back and re-write those chapters from scratch, give my story a breath of fresh air and put more of 'me' back into it, but I think I've done all that I can.  The damage done was irreparable. 

Someone gave me a good kick in the pants the other day when I was whining about what "this person said" and what "that person said" about certain elements about my book.  She said, "not to be mean... but...  YOU'RE THE AUTHOR!  IT'S YOUR STORY!  Those were the words I should have had in my head all those months that I sat hunched over my computer, writing to please the mass of commenters that may or may not have actually read my manuscript.

These sort of social networking sites do nothing but damage in this humble blogger's opinion. They offer false hope of a publishing deal (which I don't think in two years anyone's landed one) plus you have to network like a fiend to get enough people to read and back your book to even nudge you up in the standings.  All the site manages to do is take valuable time away from the writer that he or she could use to ACTUALLY write, join a REAL critique group and QUERY and interact with AGENTS.  There is no magic formula, or website that's going to get you published.  This is HARD work and that's why when it finally does happen, you hear about your friends dancing around their kitchen like they just won the PowerBall or something.

The best way to find a critique partner or group is to follow writer's websites such as AgentQuery or QueryTracker.  Visit their forums.  Look out for other writers on Facebook or Twitter.  Read as many blogs as you can.  But don't stop there.  Don't just hand your MS over to someone just because their blog is cute. Do your research, swap emails, phone calls and really get to know the person before you start.  This is what I did and let me tell you--it's paying off.

Some may say that it sounds like "sour grapes" because my work didn't thrive on the site. Well, it IS sour grapes.  I wasted months of time and energy pushing my book to absolutely NO ONE. That's right, no one.  I won't make the same mistake with my new WIP.  I have friends and critters that I trust will help me live up to my potential as an author.  Plus, I TRUST myself.  I AM THE AUTHOR and IT'S MY STORY!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Love, Longing and Romance

Yeah, I like romance.  But it's not as fluffy as a lot of people assume.  And I don't think that what I write could be classified as 'sweeping romance', but I like a little mixed in to the story.  

The thing about a romantic sub-plot that draws me in isn't the love and it isn't the romance.  It's the longing.  It's one of those deep, dark emotions that I wrote to you about the other day.  Longing is the predecessor to any great romance and that's why I write it.

Love is an emotion that fills you up.  It makes you feel complete and its the motivation that allows mothers to do anything to protect their children. Romance.  Let's see, so as not to offend anyone, I'll just say that romance in my opinion, is just the feel-good marshmallow fluff on the sundae.  It's not the ice-cream foundation, just an added bonus on top.  Longing, on the other hand, is the ice-cream.  It's the drive, the pull, the motivation behind it all.  Longing is the voice of our heart's desire.  

Longing isn't a feel-good emotion.  Instead of making you feel full, it tells you that there's a big black hole inside of you that needs to be filled.  Longing is the reminder that there's something missing in your life.  If the main character in the story didn't have that deep, dark emotion, there would be no motivation to seek out the missing puzzle piece.  There would be no journey, no discovery and no reward.  It's the search to fill the void that pulls the characters through the story to arrive at fulfillment and a happy ending.

But from the darkness comes light and through trials and tribulations, gun fire and sword play, magic and mysticism, my characters bond and through their longing, find love.  And isn't that lovely, full feeling the best reward?



Saturday, June 6, 2009

In The Dark

Sometimes when I'm reading Twitter feeds, I honestly feel like an eavesdropper.  Conversations between people you follow pop up for you to "listen" in on and once again I've been inspired by something I've seen.  I guess I should mention that I reluctantly joined Twitter, and once I did was instantly hooked.  It's like a bite of cheesecake instead of the whole slice.... ANYWAY....

A pair of tweeters were discussing dark fantasy, particularly YA and essentially what, why, how, when, prompts these readers to seek out dark subject matter. This is entirely a Cliff Notes version of what I read of the discussion....

...ANYWAY..... This got me to thinking.  Not about the YA market in particular, but why some of us gravitate to darker stories, twisted tales and so forth.  I'm not primarily a doom and gloom reader.  In fact, I'm not primarily a doom and gloom writer.  But I do like a good Anne Rice novel now and then, and let me tell you--that woman can write dark!

I think we gravitate to a dark story because we're looking for depth.  Don't get me wrong, everything I write is seasoned with a shake or two of romance and love is a deep emotion, but tragedy, hate, death, and downright spookiness has a way of sinking their collective teeth right into the fleshy parts of your soul. Maybe YA readers do seek this out.  They are hormonally driven, still finding themselves and trying to define their lives.  I don't know a darker time than the 'teen years', so I guess, maybe, they really can connect to that tone of emotion.  

I am lucky enough to have found a great critique partner who, unlike me, has really harnessed her dark side.  I don't think I could ever write the haunting scenes that she does, but nevertheless, that darkness pulls me in and doesn't let go, even after I've read the last word. The depth of emotion is amazing to me, and I enjoy the heartache just as much as I enjoy 'happily ever after'.  Where as a happy ending fills my heart with helium, a dark story can wring it like a wet rag.  Sometimes it's nice to have a cry and let the sorrow in for a moment or two.  It's a very human reaction to connect to those deeper emotions and wallow hip-deep in them.  It's okay to let a chill run down your spine.  And if you have to lock the door after you've read a few pages late at night, that's okay too.  

Bring on the dark!! Let me roll around in misery and spookiness.  When I'm done I'll read a bright, happy romance or a dashing adventure and it will all balance out. What's light without the dark--right?

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Hip

I write from the hip.  It may have something to do with the fact that I've never been much of a planner.  I have a tendency to live in the here and now.  But for whatever the reason, the art of outlining a book is lost to me.

I usually start a project from a single idea, or in the case of my new WIP, a single sentence.  Then I run with it.  It's kind of exciting--not knowing what's going to happen next.  If the words are flowing and my muse is in the mood, the story writes itself, taking turn after turn before I have time to think about what might happen next.  But when the word fount is dry, I just have to wait.  I'll sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with an entire character conversation fresh in my head, or an idea will come to me while I'm loading the dishwasher.  I plop down in front of the screen and run with it.  

With my first novel, the words came fast.  Almost too fast.  It was like I'd bottled up all of my creative energy for years, gave the bottle a good, hard shake and pulled the cork.  It took just shy of three months to plunk down 137,000 words.  Can you say OVERKILL? I guess I really had been holding it all in! My second novel took a little longer.  It was a sequel, so I already knew the characters, but the story developed at a much slower pace. Six months later, I had a finished product through one round of edits and revisions.  The third installment took off immediately after I finished with book two.  I already had an idea, and I thought that it would be pretty easy to hit my stride. But as some of you know, I decided to shelf book three for a while, worried that I was wasting my creative juices on a dead end.  So I challenged myself to write something new, fresh and completely different.

The story was founded on a single sentence.  Not an idea this time, which upped the ante a little.  The new characters sparked my passion and just like that, I was back in the swing of things.  I can safely say that I am half-way done.  But--being a 'from the hip' writer, I've hit the brakes.  I have a general idea where I'm headed, but the road to get there is a little curvy. If I'd only taken the time to think the story through, write out a chapter outline, maybe I wouldn't be having this problem.  Maybe I would.  My characters are hanging out, mid-conversation, stuck in a sort of limbo.  I think they'll be okay with it though ;)  If I force myself to continue, I know that my writing will also be forced, and that just detracts from the reality of the story and the honesty of my voice.  I can wait.  I'll mow my yard again, plant some herbs, wash dishes. The story will make its way back to me.  I'm half way through the story and only a month in to writing it.  I've got time and I'll let my muse enjoy spring for a while and then just like a gun slinger, I'll pull the words right from my holster at where?  You guessed it... The Hip!

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Waiting Game... From the Other Side

I've been on the long end of waiting for a long.... long time.  We all have.  And just like me, everyone with queries, partials or fulls floating around in agent heaven wonder every single day, Why Haven't I Heard Anything?

It's the bane of our writer's existence, the waiting.  It's a torturous game of patience that not many of us win, at least not with our sanity intact ;)  But lately I've been trying to see it from the other side, and it's not so pretty.

I follow a few agents on Twitter.  They post funny blurbs, observations and advise.  Also the occasional link to bigger and better posts.  During one particular 'Tweet Session' I read a post from Colleen Lindsay that blew me away.  It was something along the lines of "My inbox has 1300 new messages! There has to be a better way to do this!"

What?  Excuse me?  Beg your pardon?  1-3-0-0  N-E-W e-m-a-i-l-s!!!! You have got to be kidding me!  How can you possibly weed through 1300 new emails?!?  

I tried to imagine what the breakdown of emails might look like.  Five or six hundred queries, a few hundred from industry connections, a hundred or so follow-ups... That's only around a thousand and I couldn't even think of anything else to add to the list.  

If it's hard for me to wait for a response, just try to picture how hard it must be to answer the 1,299 other people that hit 'send' around the same time I did. Then picture reading each and every email, while at the same time taking care of your current clients, reading requested submissions, and managing your day to day work.  How do they do it?  Do they ever sleep? See their families?  How do they keep track of the stuff they do request?  Will they remember me two months later when they finally make it to my manuscript at the bottom of their pile?

Putting myself in their shoes really helped to put things into perspective.  Am I going to stop worrying?  No.  Am I going to stop obsessively checking my email? Probably not.  But I'm going to try to be patient, because no matter how hard it is for me... some agent... somewhere... is looking at an inbox with 1-3-0-0 new emails!!! 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Query Tracker Turns Two!

For those of you who don't know this.... I LOVE Query Tracker!  This website is more than just something to help you keep track of the agents you've queried and their responses.  It's an invaluable research tool, a friend maker, and a teaching tool.  I've learned so much, made great friends and connections this year, and I couldn't have done it without Patrick and the Query Tracker Blog team!

Query Tracker is celebrating its 2nd Anniversary and they're giving away some GREAT prizes.... a free website (the prize that I'm personally coveting), an upgrade to a premium membership, as well as books and other goodies.  If you're a writer, I strongly suggest you sign up and take advantage of all this site has to offer.  Even if you simply sign up for the free membership, you won't be sorry you did.  If you're not a writer, I suggest taking a look at the Query Tracker Blog.  The articles are informative, funny and entertaining.  You can get a rare glimpse into the publishing industry and all of it's ins and outs!  If you're a networking fiend (like I'm becoming) check out Query Tracker's sister site Rally Storm.  You can join some great groups or start your own forums and talk about whatever you want! My current favorite is the Throwdown group started by Elana Johnson.

Thanks Query Tracker!  Someday I hope to be one of your many success stories!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jumping Out of the Comfort Zone

For a year straight I've dedicated my creativity to a single subject.  My first novel was promptly followed by a sequel and the beginnings of another installment after that.  I gave myself a little pat on the back.  I'm ahead of the curve!  If I find an agent to rep book #1 I've already got book #2 queued up and ready to go!  Woohoo!

I currently have a couple of submissions out and as I furiously typed the 'continuing saga' I realized something: living in the story was only increasing my anxiety over my submissions. We've all been there.  Sleepless nights, restless days, obsessive email checking, the urge to not stray too far from internet access, the constant second guessing... you get my drift. Continuing with the story was a daily reminder that these character's had all of my hopes and dreams thrust on their imaginary shoulders.

The worrying (and some well-written agent blogs) prompted me to face the very real possibility that this book won't be picked up.  I may not find an agent this round.  The idea might not resonate with anyone. Then I choked on my coffee when I thought about the fact that an entire year of writing has been dedicated to one story.  The story that might not fly.  So I shelved book #3.  My subs are still out and I'm not giving up hope, but I'm not putting all of my eggs in one basket either.

I came to my laptop on a rainy Saturday morning with a challenge: write in the first person. I'm a third person, multiple POV type of girl myself, so sitting down to write "I did this" and "I did that" terrified me.  But you know what?  It's growing on me!  I kind of like literally stepping into a character's shoes; living her life and seeing things through her eyes.   Plus it's a fresh idea, so unrelated to what I've been working on that it's taken my mind off of my obsessive-compulsive worrying.

I'm not saying that I've abandoned my trilogy, saga, whatever.  I'll finish it.  I need to have closure, no matter what.  But I am going to broaden my horizons and have a back up plan, because maybe this next project will be THE project!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Call For Shorts Cont.

My friend Elana Johnson threw down the gauntlet with her short story blog chain.  The topic for May: flowers.  Go to elanajohnson.blogspot.com  to read her awesome story.  Here's mine at just under 600  words:

Sascha’s heart pounded so hard that she expected it to hop out of her throat and bounce down the pink and red petal-strewn aisle at any moment.  She clutched the bouquet of wilted calla lilies at her chest, which heaved despite the slow and cleansing breaths.  The dead flowers mocked the life they had, their vibrant yellow blooms now brown and their supple texture which once reminded her of silk, now crisp and rough against her passing fingertips. 

            Her friends and family were seated.  The groom and his best man waited with bright and expectant faces at the end of the long corridor that might as well lead to the execution chamber as a happy future.  What would he think of her after this moment?  Would he be sickened, repulsed, frightened?  She fought against another round of nausea. 

            The organ music piped its first ghastly notes.   Looking down at the dead flowers one last time, she pushed her right foot in front of her and forced the left to meet it.  Again and again, her feet separated and met to the cadence of the wedding march, and she knew a hundred miles had passed before she finally met Jace face to face in front of the minister.

            His quizzical gaze meandered first from the dead calla lilies to settle on her soft blue eyes.  He titled his head to the side, a silent question, and waited for her response.

               Sascha’s lids fluttered.  She pulled from the very core of her being, and the heat flowed through her, drawing from her center, racing like liquid fire through her veins and pooling at the tips of her fingers.  She felt the transfer of energy, as familiar as taking a breath and allowed the heat to pour from her body into the stems of the crinkled and lifeless lilies. 

            As if infused with air, the withered stems expanded, becoming solid and bright green.  Dried leaves unfolded and the pathetic brown blooms stood tall, as if taking in a great breath, and erupted into a shock of yellow showered with morning dew.  The living bouquet banished every trace of death, quivering in the bride’s clutched fists.

            She looked to the brilliant blooms and her bridegroom followed suit, his round brown eyes taking in every detail.  He looked up to see a single tear blaze a path down her cheek. Gripping her hand, he brought it to his lips and bestowed a tender kiss.  Without warning, he snatched the flowers from her, blowing gently into the blooms which withered again from the touch of his breath. 

            A smile as bright as the rising sun dawned on her beautiful face.  They turned to face the minister.

            “Dearly beloved,” his voice rang out, “we are gathered here today…”