Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 In a Glance

Wow, what happened to 2010? I swear, every year zooms by faster than the last! For once, though, I'm sad to see a New Year on the horizon.

Most New Year's eves, I whisper, "Thank, God it's over. Hope next year's better." My Mom says I'm Murphy's Law incarnate, and that I inherited my Dad's "If I didn't have bad luck, I'd have no luck at all" luck.

But 2010 was a different story for this bad luck girl. I signed with the best agent ever in March. The first three books in my UF/Romance series sold to my dream editor in October. 2010 gave me everything I ever wanted and then some. This bad-luck girl still has to pinch herself every once in a while, just to make sure she's not dreaming.

I'm sad to see 2010 go because of all the great, exciting things that happened in my life this year. But, with 2011 on the horizon, I KNOW for the first time that things can only get better!

I hope your 2011 is filled with all the good luck you can handle! See you next year!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

One Track Mind

Son: Mom, could you please make me a sandwich? (He's 14 and always says please AND thank-you. Color me proud)

Me: Sure.

(30 minutes later)

Son: Uh, Mom, were you going to make me a sandwich?

Me: Crap. Sorry, I got sidetracked. Hang on a sec.

(an hour later)

Son: Mom...

Me: CRAP! *runs to kitchen and throws open cupboards*

Okay, so I'm easily sidetracked. I get tunnel vision. Which is why I'm not a super impressive, on the spot, like clockwork blogger. When something grabs my attention, it latches on like a Pit bull and doesn't let go. If I'm reading a good book... Laundry? What's that? Dirty dishes? They'll be there tomorrow. Dinner? Seriously, family? You guys are actually hungry? For food? When I'm writing, it's worse and since I've now got things like deadlines to think about, I'm obsessed.

My characters have taken up permanent residence in my head. I think about story lines for subsequent books and my current WIP most of the day. I dream about it at night. I wake up with narrative floating around in my head. Aside from the occasional impulse to play Bejeweled Blitz for two (or ten) hours, I've pretty much got one thing on the brain. It's not a bad thing, though. Sure, my house looks like it's been fire-bombed and and the dogs and cat are starting to watch me as if they're concerned. My single-mindedness has allowed my creativity to take over and I'm seeing my first book morph into an actual series. I'd worried, at first, that I was a one-trick pony. That nothing could compare to that initial idea, book numero uno. But thanks to my crit partners, family, and friends who don't mind listening to me ramble for hours about these imaginary people, I have a ideas coming out of the woodwork. My three ideas have morphed into six, and a standalone spin off.

If I were a multi-tasker, the type of person who could write, read, clean house, do dishes, laundry, and dinner all while making sandwiches, I wonder... would the ideas be flowing? Could I live in this imaginary world with these imaginary people and orchestrate their fates with such a clear vision?

How about you guys? Are you super-duper multi-taskers who don't forget to make their son's sandwiches? Or do you have a one track mind?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm heading out of town for Thanksgiving. It's my daughter's favorite holiday. Mostly because she has a deep, unconditional love for all Thanksgiving food. :) She's working over the holiday so we're taking dinner to her. And getting out of the snow for a couple of days.

But before I leave I want to give thanks. I mean, isn't that what tomorrow is all about? I've been incredibly blessed this year and I attribute a lot of my successes to the wonderful friends I have in the writing community. I've found many a kindred spirit over the course of this year and I'm grateful every day for the friends I've made. Suzanne, Sarah, Windy, I wouldn't be sane without you! Sandy, I'm SO glad we started exchanging emails and have become friends! I can't wait to read your book!!Cole and Shawntelle, you've made me laugh and given me great advice when I needed it. Oh, and Shawntelle, your writer's gadgets are the BEST! I mean, advance calculator, synopsis wizard... AMAZING! :)

Have a great holiday weekend, everyone! Be safe! I'll be back on Monday with a food hang-over I'm sure. Unless my daughter hijacks all the left overs!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Real Me

So I was thinking the other day. I know, amazing, right? I was thinking about the fact that in a year and a half my book is going to be on shelves. Printed. Bound. Glossy, beautiful cover. Dedications. Acknowledgements. And my words plastered all over the sweet smelling pages. And then I realized, HOLY CRAP! People are going to be READING my book!

It's not that I'm not proud of my book. I'm damned proud. But I live in a small town. Everyone knows everyone more or less. And as word got out that my book was going to be published, I noticed a common theme among my congratulators. They all think I write Young Adult. "I'm going to buy two copies for each of my granddaughters!" my husband's secretary said. "My little sister loves fairies! If you have fairies in your book she'll read it for sure!" a high-school student told me. "Tell your daughter I'm so happy for her!" my mom's collegues said. "She writes for children, right?"


Dead wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrongski.

It's not that I have anything against YA. I actually occassionally read it. And two of my awesomesauce crit parters write YA. You see, I was NEVER a conventional young adult. Having a baby at 16 sort of cuts you off from things like going out, angsting over a guy, the fact that Becky So-and-so is wearing the dress I wanted to wear to prom. Yeah, I was angsting over things like dirty diapers, a crying infant who refused to sleep until well after 3 am. Finishing highschool with my graduating class while taking two years worth of classes in one year. A husband who was in the Navy and living clear across the county from me. So to say I can't relate to teenagers is a bit of an understatement. Not that I didn't get into a little teenage trouble (obviously). But my experimentation and experiences were cut short. And, honestly, I don't regret ANY OF IT.

I've been reading "adult" books since I was 16. And this young mom was into the hard stuff: Dean Koontz, Kathleen Woodiwiss (I likes my historical romance), Shakespeare (ya, he turns me on), and Anne Rice to name a few. So when I started writing it was natural for me that I would write for an adult market.

I can really swear it up in my novels. Yep, nothing enhances a sentence like a few artfully placed F-bombs. And sex... well, I can go a little further than a YA writer can in the sex department. I can tell my story from an adult perspective and I can connect with an audience I get. And I can write in my comfort zone.

So, what's the problem, you ask? I'm afraid of dissapointing people. "I don't write for kids!" I've been putting the disclaimer out. "PLEASE, do not buy my book for your granddaughters." "Attention all highschool students: you will NOT find my book in the school library." I told a mother at my volleyball awards ceremony this year that I wrote "Adult Urban Fantasy" and she looked at me like I'd signed on to ghost-write for Penthouse Forums. In a small town, people are curious. I assume some people will read my book out of sheer curiosity if not for their personal enjoyment. And when they dive in, I just hope I live up to their expectations and they still think that I'm as sweet and personable as I've always been.

I am not my characters. Well, not really. I wish I was sometimes. My heroine is tough, foul-mouthed, and unapologetic, not to mention tall, gorgeous, and not afraid to cut your head off with her katana if you cross her. And while there are things about Darian that might remind some people of me, she's not me. And I'm not her. I'm a storyteller and that's my job. To create extraordinary characters for your reading enjoyment. Just... not for kids.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Reading the Fine Print or Why I Love my Agent

So... you all know that I've been blogging less and less lately. It's something that I'm going to try to remedy, though I suspect it's going to take some serious effort on my part to actually make it happen. I've got a few weeks of free time before I'll be gearing up for edits and so I'm going to make the most of my time.

The writertly world was abuzz this week with news of James Frey's Full Fathom Five, a fiction factory aimed at recruiting young MFA's and other writers to produce the next "big YA" novel for virtually no money and no rights whatsoever. Obviously, I disagree with what Mr. Frey is doing here, but it made me so very thankful for my agent that I thought I'd share with you all just why I appreciate her so much.

First of all, I want to start off by saying that being young doesn't inherently make you gullible or ignorant. I didn't start seriously writing with publication in mind until I was 34 years old. Not exactly a spring chicken. That first year was tough. The manuscript I was seeking representation for was not at all ready, my skills as a writer had yet to "mature", and I had very little knowledge about the rules of the biz. I didn't even have a crit partner! With each rejection rolling in I became a little more downtrodden and a friend of my husband sent him many links to self-pub services. His basic message: it's just too hard to get an agent these days. Self-publishing is probably your best bet.

I wasn't quite ready to go that route. I'd set out a goal for myself and I was determined to reach it. But I'll admit that if someone like Frey had approached me during that first year, I would have JUMPED at the opportunity to sign on with him. I realized that my manuscript was not going to get me an agent or a publishing contract and so, I put it away. And started the sequel. Stupid? Not really. Of course the sequel wouldn't do me any good in securing an agent, but what it did was give me more writing experience. In the meantime, I found crit partners (great ones, I might add), reached out to the writing community, and learned the ropes. By the time I finished my third manuscript, I was ready to jump back into the query waters. It wasn't easy, though. Seven months, and two revisions later I found the perfect agent. Why is she so perfect, you ask? And what does this have to do with the Frey situation? Well, I'll tell you! :)

First of all, she believed in me. She "got" me. She read my story and saw the potential meat in the skeleton that was my manuscript. She wasn't just looking to throw my MS out there and earn a quick buck. She saw the potential and helped me craft my MS into something worth selling. We writers have a tendency to doubt ourselves and never once during the submission process did she ever doubt that my book would sell. She knew the market, knew the editors, KNEW the business and I always trusted her advice because I knew she had my best interests at heart, rather than solely thinking about what this could do for her. She has a firm grasp of contracts. I know for a fact that she'll cross every T and dot every I. No way am I going to get less than I deserve. I could have never negotiated a sale on my own behalf. I just don't know enough about contracts and I probably would've gone blind trying to decipher the legal jargon. She's with me for the long-haul and I consider her a partner. She's worth her weight in gold and if I could, I'd pay her that and more. It takes a lot to trust someone with your livelihood and that's what you're doing when you sign with an agent. You're saying, "Okay, here's my hopes and dreams for the future. Go for it."

There are pubs out there that take unsolicited submissions. You don't have to have an agent. But even if you sell to a publisher without the help of an agent, I strongly suggest having at least a contracts lawyer take a look at the paperwork for you. As writers, as artists, all we want is to see our work out in the world, our pages perused by eager readers. Sometimes the fine print takes a backseat to our hopes and dreams. No matter how you do it, traditionally or not, agent, no agent, indie pub or self-pub, know what you're getting yourself in to. Don't let someone exploit your dreams.

I'm glad I stayed true to my course. I'm glad I stuck it out when I wanted to quit. I'm glad I have an agent who can be tough when I know I couldn't be and has the guts to say, "Calm yourself, Amanda," when she knows I'm about to go off the deep end. I'm glad I have her on this journey with me and even though I've told her more than once, I just want her to know once again: I am SO thankful for you! I can't wait to see what we accomplish next!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Official

I can finally scream it out loud: My AWESOME ninja warrior agent Natanya Wheeler has sold the first three books in my urban fantasy/romance series to NAL/Penguin!!!! I'm SO excited to work with the AMAZING Laura Cifelli and all of the wonderful people at Penguin!

I'm still pinching myself! WOOOOHOOOO!!!!!!!!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

When Revising Becomes an Ugly Tattoo

So I noticed something after turning in my last round of revisions to my agent: Sometimes revisions are like an ugly tattoo. It's the ink you get when you're drunk, or feeling impulsive, or on a dare. A week later, you look at the monstrosity on your arm and go to another tattoo artist and beg her to fix it! But it's HUGE. And even after she covers the portrait of--who the hell is that, anyway?--you realize the overlaying tattoo has made it bigger and even uglier than it was before!

Now, this is not to say that the writing was bad. In my case, the editor who's looking at my MS wanted me to change certain aspects in regards to the story's tone. You'd think that would be easy, but after revising the first chapter three times, I found that it had become irreparable. The realization came from a much deserved chiding from my agent. I'd sort-of lost focus somewhere in the revision process. I hadn't done my writing justice with the revisions. My agent was 100% right. Essentially, the entire chapter had to be scrapped and re-written.

I thought about why the revisions hadn't worked. I started out with my original chapter: the foundation of the book, the first glimpse of my characters and their personalities. Then, after the editor's feedback, I took that first chapter and rather than removing the elements she didn't like, I added another layer. When she asked for just a little bit more, I poured it on thick, adding yet another ugly layer to the previous two. I didn't remove what wasn't working, I just kept adding, and adding, and adding. What I ended up with was a friggin' mess.

In most cases, revisions are quick and easy fixes. A tweak here, a scene there... But if you have to change an entire element, I've learned it's best to to just start over. When I re-wrote the chapter this last time, I had a long talk with my characters prior to starting. I reminded myself of who they were, what they wanted, and how they ABSOLUTELY would NOT act. Then I hit the keyboard. The end result was a chapter that kept the integrity of my characters personalities intact. It laid down the foundation that I had originally laid while at the same time incorporating the story elements that my agent and the interested editor wanted. And when I turned the chapter in to my agent she said, "You nailed it!" I had essentially performed laser ink removal on that ugly tattoo that was my first chapter. Sometimes all you need is a blank canvas!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Blog Chain - What's Your Poison?

Margie started this round of the blog chain and she asks:

How did you come to write your YA genre (e.g. contemp, fantasy, etc.)? AND (yep, it’s a 2 parter), if you weren’t writing that, what genre would you be interested in exploring?

I've always loved stories with a fantastical twist. Even my favorite historical fiction is interwoven with rituals and ancient religions. I'm a fan of anything that involves sword-play, fighting, magic... My movie collection ranges from Lord of the Rings to Underworld, so urban fantasy was a no-brainer for me. But it wasn't until I graduated from writing paranormal into urban fantasy that I truly became a hard-core fan of the genre. The paranormal I'd been writing always had human MC's with extraordinary abilities. Sort of my twist on the super-hero. After I came up with the idea for my urban fantasy, I decided I'd better start reading up on the genre so I'd know how to write it. And since I started reading urban fantasy, I haven't stopped. Be it straight UF or with a romantic twist--I'll read it!

If I weren't writing UF and Paranormal, I think I'd write historical fiction. I would try to write an epic tale in the style of Bernard Cornwell, though I doubt I could live up to that standard! It's funny, but for me the research involved in writing historical fiction is more daunting than world-building for an entire race of mythical creatures!

Check out Kate's blog before mine and Sandra's tomorrow to find out what genre works best for them! Or you can start with Margie and work your way through the entire chain.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blog Chain - Hills and Valleys

Eric challenges us this round of the blog chain with the question:

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of being a writer? What is your greatest reward from writing?

I can honestly say that right now, I'm experiencing my greatest challenge so far as a writer. Since going out on submission I've been asked to make some pretty major revisions to my novel. Not once, but twice. The changes require me to take the characters I've spent over a year with and tweak their personalities. Not much, but just enough to make a subtle difference. Let me say, the whole thing is making my head ache. Whereas I'm usually a good reviser and a thoughtful one, this last round was done hastily and thoughtlessly. The end result: a tongue lashing from my agent that I 100 million percent deserved. As it turns out, my downfall in this situation was my inability to relax and realize that publishing moves at its own pace. Period. I can do NOTHING to change that fact. For me, the most challenging aspect of being a writer is the waiting. I struggle with being patient every day. Once I get a grip on the pace of things and learn to accept the fact that I can't hurry it along, I think I'll find my Zen.

My greatest reward in writing is seeing the end result of my hard work. And I'm not just talking about signing with my agent or going out on submission. I'm talking about the creation--the story crafted from my mind and laid out on paper. The intricate weaving of plot and character and story that comes together to form this real-to-me world. Knowing that I can sit down with a stack of Post-its and a Sharpie and outline an entire adventure puts me in perma-grin mode. The smiles and wonderful comments from readers is the icing on the cake. Nothing can compare to the feeling you get when someone tells you: "This was a great book. Really. Great."

Want to know what my fellow blog chainers consider the hills and valleys of their writing experiences? Check out Kate's post before mine, or Sandra's tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blog Chain - So.... What's Up?

Superhero incognito Cole Gibsen came up with this round's blog-chain topic. Kate posted before me and check out Sandra tomorrow. Cole asks:

Are you querying? Gearing up to go on submission? Writing? Revising? I'd love to hear what's new with you. And if you'd like to share a snippet of your WIP, even better!

I've been in a literary limbo for the past couple of months. My novel, SHAEDES OF GRAY went out on submission at the beginning of June. And while I play the waiting game, I've been working with my agent of awesomeness, plotting and writing synopses for the next three books in the series. Before that, I wrapped up an unrelated WIP, HUNTER'S MOON and it's resting until I get the opportunity to re-read and further edit.

So... though it's not anything I'm actively working on, I'll go ahead and share a snippet of that WIP with you. It's been on my mind lately, I can't wait to get back to work on it. Maybe I'll make it my "waiting" project. It's a little rough... just barely a first draft, so go easy on me. Enjoy!

The three of them whispered in his ear. They'd prodded him for weeks, urging him to take action against those who’d wronged him. They spoke as one, not nearly as strange as the fact that he couldn’t see them. But he felt their touch. Their hands never left him.

“We can give you pleasure,” they said. “We can make you the object of her obsession. We can give you anything you crave if you unleash us. All you have to do is ask.”

“No. You’ll hurt her.”

“Why would we do that?” they seethed. “If she is not your enemy, she is safe from our wrath.”

“I—I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think this is a very good idea.”

The hands pulled away and their hissing voices raised the hairs on his neck. “You want what is just beyond your reach. You crave what we can give you. We are vengeance.”

“No. I want you to leave. I want you to go away.”

Their laughter came as through dusty-dry throats. “It’s too late for that. You called to us and we are yours until you give us purpose.”

“If I do it… If I—give you purpose—then you’ll leave me?”

“Of course,” the three replied. “Once we’ve tasted the flesh of your enemies.”

He shut his eyes, the tighter the better. But he couldn’t banish the sensation of their invisible hands caressing him from head to toe. He wished he were dead. The suspicion he’d lost his grip on reality wore him down. If he told anyone, he’d be put away for sure. But they were as real to him as anything. It didn't matter that he couldn’t see them. He could hear them just fine. And his body knew their lover’s touch.

He was willing to do anything. Anything to get rid of them.

Tears squeezed out from his tightly shut lids. “Fine. Do it. Take revenge for me. Give me what I want and then leave me alone.”

Invisible lips took turns kissing his mouth. “They will taste our fury. Who is first?”

He knew who he wanted it to be. But just to be safe he’d try it out on someone less important. He whispered the name, barely audible, but they heard him and for the first time in months, left his side.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blog Chain - Revise Me a Story

This round's blog chain comes from the FABULOUS Sarah who, I might add, stayed up with me into the wee hours last night for an EPIC brainstorming session! Let me just say, that girl could write a book in a night! Anyway--she asks the question:

How do you handle revisions? Do you revise as you're writing, or do you wait until you've gone through beta readers and crit partners to revise? How soon after you finish do you begin your revisions?

I hate to revise. Well, at least, I used to. It always seemed like such a daunting task. I'd whine about making the changes with an "I can't" attitude. But now that I've found my revisionist groove, I don't feel that stress any more. Revising is part of the process and there are many voices chiming in, helping your novel to become a complete and finished product.

I do like to revise while I write. Sarah and I have a tendency to crit chapters as we write them and the rhythm works well for us. But my other crit partners like to have that finished MS in their hands and that works great too! Different methods=different results=all good! While I'm writing, I like to go back and read the previous chapter. I usually don't make any major changes, I'll just polish it a bit. After I've typed THE END, I know I should wait the obligatory 4-6 weeks, but let me tell you, it's HARD for me. I'm not a waiter--like--at all. I'd get so excited to "get the book out there" that I'd jump the gun. And more than once, I've suffered for my haste.

Wait. Do it, people. I may not be any good at it, but I know the benefits. Revise, let the MS sit and send it crit partners. Revise again. Shelf the book for a while--three weeks is even better than none!--and revise again. Once you get that draft to fighting weight, send it out there. And yes, be prepared to revise again, and again, and again!

Kate's response to this question came before mine, and Sandra's will pop up tomorrow. If you want to read about the entire chain's approach to revisions, Start from Sarah's original post and work your way through! Unless, you've got some revising to do! ;)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Climbing the Mountain and Facing Fear

My kids have been on my case lately. I think they're tired of my stressed-out attitude. To take my mind off of my worries, we've been having some adventures. Now, with little ones, an adventure can be as small as a walk to the park. But when your kids are 13 and 20... well... they expect a little more out of the experience. Today we took a break from the lake, tennis, movie marathons and short hikes behind our house for a larger-scale endeavor. This rock is known to the locals as "Thinking Point" and it's a steep 30 minute hike to get there.

I hate to admit that I'm not in very good shape. I'm going to be coaching in less than a month and I need to get my ass in gear! "Are you okay mom?" The kids asked as we hiked. "Yep," I said, panting just a little. "You wanna quit?" They asked. "NO." Was I tired? Sure. Was the thought of a cushiony couch a welcome distraction? You know it! But I signed up for an adventure, damn it, and I wasn't going home until I'd climbed to the top of that rock.

To say I've been distracted, cranky, and a bit crazy lately is an understatement. Being on submission is a million times more stressful than querying, and this week, the stress really caught up to me. "Are you okay, now, Amanda?" My agent asks. "Yep," I type back, embarrassed for the neurotic email I sent her. "You wanna do those revisions?" My crit partners ask. "YES." Am I worried about my subs? Um, yeah. Was the thought of editorial notes and further revisions a frightening thought. Yes, yes, and YES! But I signed up for this adventure too, damn it, and I'm not turning back until I see that publishing contract in my hands.

When we got to the top of the rock, I walked out to the very tip and took this pic. The red dot on the road is my car. As I looked down, I had that moment of fear where your breath stalls in your chest and your limbs just absolutely refuse to move. One misstep and I'd be a goner. Just like my submissions. One plot point, one similarity to another book on their list and my hopes and dreams tumble to the spiky granite below. But when I took a step back and looked at the magnificent view all around me I realized that the fear was worth the reward. The hard work hiking the steep trail, the vertigo, all of it was worth the view.

Just like my journey to publication, the hours spent writing and re-writing, editing and revising, refusing to quit not matter the rejections has been well worth the journey so far. I'm standing on the edge of that virtual cliff right now, my breath stalling in my chest as I wait. But I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. It might be next month, or next year before I hear the news I'm waiting to hear. Until then, I'm going to sit back and enjoy the beautiful view.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Power of Belief - A Guest Post With Author Christine Fonseca

I'm so excited to have author Christine Fonseca as a guest on my blog today! She's a talented writer (in both the fiction and non-fiction arenas) and always there for me when I need a pick-up. We've been talking a lot about the road to publication and what it takes to make it. Her post today literally brought tears to my eyes. Take it away, Christine!

Before I get into today’s guest post, I want to take a minute to thank Amanda for having me. Amanda and I met on the interwebz a year ago or so. Since that time, we’ve belonged to the same Blog Chain group and traveled similar circles. She’s hung out on my blog sharing an interview or her words of wisdom. Most recently, she’s been one of my go-to peeps to swap an idea or two with. Amanda is a great writer with a fabulous future. I am so excited to see what exciting things happen for her.

Which brings me to today’s post – The Power of Belief.

I stumbled across the following quote while wasting time researching on the interwebz.

“Believe in yourself and there will come a day when others will have NO choice but to believe with you.” - Cynthia Kersey

The words struck a chord with me, reaching deep into some unspoken place.

...believe in yourself…believe in yourself

The words wrapped around me, seeping into my skin. The missing ingredient over the past few weeks. The differentiating piece between success and failure.


We can all agree that it takes good writing, good timing and a little luck to make it in this business. But it takes something else as well.

The infallible belief that YOU WILL MAKE IT.

That belief will carry you through the hard times, because yes – there will be hard times.

And that belief will force you to do what is necessary for success.

It will force you to improve your craft, create new stories, and revise until your eyes bleed.

Belief in yourself and your success will force you to find honest – brutally honest – crit partners. It will force you to see the stories in a new light, force you to jump into the deep end of the query pool as often as necessary to find that agent or make that sale.

These actions will make the world will stand up and believe in your success as much as you do.
One of my writerly buds used to tell me to Dream Big. I have a new saying…

“Dream big and have the strength to believe it will happen.”

Do you believe?

Christine writes nonfiction and fiction for teens and adults. Her upcoming release, Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students (Prufrock Press, October 2010) deals with the often turbulent world of giftedness. When she is not working as a school psychologist helping adolescents deal with the transition to adulthood, or playing Band Hero with her husband and daughters, she can be found sipping a skinny vanilla latte at her favorite coffee house, writing her next book.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Blog Chain - The Inner Sanctum

I'm back for this round of the blog chain! My internet troubles and writing whatnot has kept me away but Bonnie's question this round came at just the right time!

Is there a place you like to write that's extra special? Have you carved out a writing niche? Is there a certain time of day (or night) when the words fall into place, and your brain is focused on nothing but writing?

I live in a tiny house. Like, just over a thousand square feet. There's no such thing as privacy, and my writing space consists of a kitchen table that my husband wishes we'd actually eat at once in a while. During the school year, I get the house all to myself four days a week. Friday through Sunday... well that's another story. But even when I do have the house to myself, real life sort of seeps through. There's the laundry, the phone, the dogs who want in and out, in and out. So even though it's just me and laptop, it's really not.

Adaptability is key for my writing. Pandora and headphones are all I really need to shut out real life. And when my husband travels to conferences, I often tag along. Hotel writing is one of my favs! Nothing but me, and a quiet room with no distractions. In the summer, I flee to my family's cabin by the lake. No internet, no phone, and a view to die for. Just last weekend I holed up by the fireplace and cranked out four-thousand words.

But those solitary moments are few and far between. I've learned how to channel my muse despite the distractions of every day life. I sort of like my little kitchen table in my tiny house. But I'm not gonna lie... I dream of building an addition with a nice little office. Sound-proof!

Where do you go for a little peace and quiet? Is there a special place where inspiration flows? Check out Kate's post before mine and Sandra's tomorrow for the inside scoop on their inner sanctums!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Blog Neglect

I have come to a decision: I'm a horrible blogger. It's okay, I've come to terms with it. I just can't make myself post on a regular basis. And I'm envious of my friends out there who put out the effort and write--sometimes daily--some really great posts!

I've hit the downhill slope of my WIP. I'm looking at 8 chapters. A mere 24 thousand words and I'm done! This is my favorite part of any WIP because the story just seems to fly! The loose ends all come together, and best of all, this is when my heroine gets to really kick some ass! I think I do some good writing in action scenes. I can crank out three or four thousand words and not even realize I've been sitting at my computer for a few hours.

Of course, I'll still be posting here and over at Writing Out the Angst. But as I sit here, antsy to get back to the WIP I can't help but think, Does it get better than this? Sitting at my laptop with a cup of coffee, letting my imagination run free on the page. I think not.

What's your favorite part of a WIP to write? The foundation? The rising tension that builds to the middle? Or the climactic ending?

Friday, June 18, 2010

St Vincent - Paris is Burning

I love summer. One of the reasons: So You Think You Can Dance! I find so many great songs to inspire me. This song from last week has become the theme song for my WIP. How about you? Where do you find new music to inspire you?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Being Coachable

You might have guessed since I'm pulling out the sports metaphors, that volleyball season is about to start. I've been talking to a university coach who's coming up to do our summer camp and it got me thinking about something we tell the girls every season.

Be Coachable.

Usually when I say this, the girls look at me with this glazed-over, confused expression. Most of them don't have a clue what I'm talking about and so I have to give the lecture every year. Being coachable means being open to suggestions, listening to your coaches and implementing the things they're teaching you. Don't argue. Don't insist your way is better, because it's not. If your serve isn't making it over the net, your way is NOT WORKING. We're the coaches, we have our jobs for a reason. Please listen to us and be open to trying our methods.

The same thing applies with writing. Someone mentioned to me that she couldn't believe how much my writing had improved since she'd seen the first draft of my manuscript. And the reason for that is coachability. I absorb feedback like a sponge. I only have to be told once that I'm doing something wrong. I am open to criticism and I strive to grow and learn every day. I weigh the pros and cons of every suggestion and never discount anyone's feedback until I've thoroughly thought it through. I am a coachable writer.

Flexibility is key. Be like a tree in the wind. You don't want to break, you want to sway. Be open to every crit, every suggestion, every ounce of beta feedback. Listen to what people are telling you. Don't be stubborn. Learn from writers who've been where you've been. Be coachable and soon you'll be a top-notch player.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

You Must Read This Post

Now. Just click the link and read the awesomeness. Cole Gibsen has written an epic post about writing like an X-men. It is without a doubt The. Best. Post. Ever. I dare you to disagree!!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Blog Chain - Dream On

I should NEVER be allowed to start a blog chain! For some reason or other, I always seem to forget and this round is no exception. Since finishing my agent revisions last week, I sort of went on mental hiatus. I still have comments to post from last round, and I'm sorry fellow chainers... I'll get to you ASAP! :)

I'm going to combine the blog chain with a post I've been thinking about writing for a while now:

What do you do to keep yourself motivated when you feel like you're not making any progress in your writing career?

It could have been last week's episode of Glee that inspired me. Aerosmith's DREAM ON has got to be one of my favorite motivational songs, and it made me think of all the times on this journey to publication where I felt like I was spinning my wheels and making no real progress at all. You begin to feel hopeless, and that's not a feeling I enjoy.

There were times when I had extreme ups and extreme downs. Requests for fulls and an agent conversation that had me soaring through the clouds, only to send me slamming down to earth. That was the worst for me, that episode almost six months ago. I leaned on my family. I whined to my friends. I cried. I cried for about three days. It was the one time that I truly felt like I needed to take an extended break from this dream of mine. My friends and crit partners rallied, telling me I was good enough, reassuring me it was only a matter of time. My kids urged me to keep going despite the odds. And my husband, usually a writing opponent, turned to me one night when I was at my lowest and said, "You're going to get up in the morning, you're going to sit down at that computer. And you're going to write."

I needed that kick in the ass. It was like waking up from a stupor. This was my dream! How could I even THINK about giving up so easily? I hadn't even broken the surface of the query pool! I wasn't even close to throwing in the towel!

Thanks to my friends and family and their kind words and in case of my husband, some firm commands, I sat down at my computer the next day and I spent the next two weeks revising my novel. I spent the next two months querying that novel, and three months to the day after that low moment... I signed with an agent. This is my dream. Some dreams are harder to achieve than others. But when I was feeling less than motivated to keep fighting, I listened to the voices around me, the ones that lifted me up from that dark place. To write a novel is a solitary thing, but I've never felt so surrounded by support as when I dreamed the dream of becoming a published author.

How do you keep motivated when you feel you're losing momentum with your writing? Check out Sandra's post after mine to see how she keeps her wheels spinning!

We Have a Winner!!

Sorry I didn't post this on Friday, guys! Blogger and I were NOT getting along. Anyway, the winner of my Patricia Briggs Book Giveaway was selected from my followers using to generate the winning number. And the winner of MOON CALLED by Patricia Briggs is....

Lady Glamis! YAY! Michelle, shoot me an email with your mailing address and I'll get the book sent out to you! Congrats and enjoy! This is one of my very favorite book series! :D

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blog Chain - Reading Obsessions

Blog chain time! I've been so excited for this post, because I get to talk about the books I love to read. The AWESOME Christine started us out this round asking:

“Which author or authors have most influenced your writing and how?”

You'll all be surprised to know that being the Urban Fantasy junkie that I am, the writer that has most influenced me has nothing to do with my genre at all. Bernard Cornwell writes historical fiction; my two favorite series being THE WARLORD CHRONICLES which gives a fresh spin on the Arthurian Legends, and THE SAXON TALES which centers around King Alfred's resistance of Danish invasion. Mr. Cornwell's writing strikes a chord with me. He writes the most honorable, heartfelt, complex, and strong protags. Granted, they're all men, but I aspire to write my female protags in much the same way. I also bow down to Mr. Cornwell as a writer because he taught me how to write a battle scene. My female protags are fighters! They can wield a sword or dagger with the best of them. I learned from his books about sword fighting, the gruesome details of battle, and the warrior's mentality. I can honestly say that when I received the revision notes from my agent, she didn't touch my battle scenes. And I have to admit, I am damn proud of myself for that!

Another writer who has influenced my writing is Anne Rice. Her fearless exploration of the dark and taboo only served to enrich stories woven with some of the most beautiful descriptive passages I've ever read. The woman was a vampire powerhouse before vamps were en vogue! A true Urban Fantasy Pioneer! She took literary flare, family saga, fantasy and psychology and wove them together to create books that have no comparison. I love Ms. Rice's writing so much, that everything I write has a secret little homage to her!

In my own genre, I have many loves. Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris, Ilona Andrews, Jeaniene Frost, Cheyenne McCray, Lilith Saintcrow, Caitlin Kittredge, and on the YA side, Melissa Marr and J. K. Rowling just to name a few. All of these talented women have taught me a thing or two about writing kick-ass heroines and writing tension that keeps a reader enthralled come hell, high water, laundry, kids, work... well, you get the picture! ;)

Be sure to check out Michelle's post before mine and Sandra's tomorrow to find out what books distract them from real life and fuel their creative lives!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Patricia Briggs Book Giveway!!

Okay, so I know I said I'd announce this contest last week, but I totally spaced the fact that I was going to be out of town. Better late than never, I guess!

In honor of Spread the Awesome two weeks ago, I am giving away a hard-cover copy of Patricia Brigg's first book in the Mercy Thompson series: MOON CALLED. All you have to do to enter is be a follower on my blog! No retweeting or facebooking necessary, but if you want to pass the word around, that would be great too!

I'll pick a winner randomly from my followers on Friday, May 21st. Good Luck!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Flexing my Writerly Muscles

I'm closing out this round of the blog chain. Sandra really challenged us by offering us a choice between two topics--or both:

1)Have you ever created a character different from yourself in some significant way, such as (but not limited to) different gender, race, ethnic group, religion, or sexual orientation? If so, what, if any, research did you do to portray these differences? Was this character a main character, secondary character, or walk-on? Did these differences have an impact on the story?


2)Have you ever written writing exercises? If so, did you find the experience useful? What type of writing exercises were they, and did you do them on your own or as part of a writing class or workshop?

Because it's relevant to my life right now, I've decided to tackle option number 2.

I'm currently working on round 2 of agent revisions. My world building just isn't quite there yet. The who's and why's of my imaginary world need to be set out--definite and firm. I'd held back vital information from the reader. Things I knew in my head and didn't bother to think another person might want to know. Creating rules for my characters to live by is hard. Like, aching brain hard. So, I've used a couple of writing exercises to get the ball rolling.

Two groups of characters in my book, Shaedes of Gray, needed histories. Namely, my Shaedes, and their antithesis, the Lyhtans. Where did they come from? *Amanda scratches her head* How to begin? I wrote their history. I used a cheesy fairy tale format, I told the story like I would read it to my children at bedtime. I used flowery purple prose and antiquated speech. I mean, it's not like any one's ever going to read it. This story was for me, to give me insight into my characters' origins.

Next, I needed to lay out some rules. Such as... What do Lyhtans eat? Where do they live? How do they make money? Where it might not seem relevant to the story itself(it's not like we take a peek inside their daily life) it IS relevant to the world building. And with that thought in mind... How do my supernatural creatures interact with one another? How do they get by in a world populated with humans? How do they govern themselves, who polices them? You can see how this may have triggered a migraine or two. Enter the storyboard! I was going to use this system to plot the next book in the Shaedes series. But I've decided to modify it and use my storyboard as a world building board. Sticky notes, headers, Sharpy markers, and viola! Rules and lifestyles mapped out and ready for me to incorporate into my novel.

In fact, the storyboarding is working so well for me right now, I can't imagine starting another novel without one! Character biographies as well have become an indispensable part of my writing process. Do you use writing exercises? Storyboards? What works for you and what doesn't? I'd love to know!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spread the Awesome! Books That Deserve Ten Stars

Spread the Awesome: Books That Deserve Ten Stars

Thanks to idea machine, Elana Johnson, May 3rd has officially become Spread the Awesome Day. Throughout the blogosphere you’ll find posts dedicated to authors and books so good, they deserve ten stars. As my own journey in publishing continues, I can’t help but think of the great authors who have inspired my own writing and I’m using today to pay homage to an awesome author who has distracted me from household chores, meals, kids, work, and my own writing: Patricia Briggs.

Believe it or not, my first experience with Ms. Briggs’s writing came to me via a fireman. One of my husbands colleagues and a voracious reader, he approached me one day and said, “You’ve got to read this book.” Moon Called was my first Patricia Briggs reading adventure, and from the first sentence, I became a head-over-heels Mercy Thompson fan.

Mercedes, the WV mechanic (cute, right?) is a shape-shifter. Thanks to her Native American father, she can shift into coyote form whenever the mood suits her. But raising a shifter was no easy task for her very human mother. She’s sent to the Marrok (the alpha of all alphas) in Montana and fostered by the werewolf community. Needless to say, she grows up more than able to hold her own. You have to be tough as nails to deal with werewolf egos. Mercy’s adventures in the Tri-Cities area of Washington have her tangling with vampires, fae, demons, and ghosts. And in the fifth installment of the Mercy series, Blood Borne, her plate is more than full:

When Mercy attempts to return a powerful Fae book she'd previously borrowed in an act of desperation, she finds the bookstore locked up and closed down. It seems the book contains secret knowledge-and the Fae will do just about anything to keep it out of the wrong hands. And if that doesn't take enough of Mercy's attention, her friend Samuel is struggling with his wolf side—leaving Mercy to cover for him, lest his own father (the Marrok) declare Sam's life forfeit. All in all, Mercy has had better days. And if she isn't careful, she might not have many more to live...

I just can’t say enough good things about this book. Not only is Patricia Briggs an excellent world builder, her werewolves ROCK! She’s done a great job crafting a tough, independent female protagonist who can hold her own in a fight while surrounding herself with Alpha males who can still bring a flush of excitement to her cheeks. In Ms. Briggs’s series, the Fae and werewolves have come out to the public. I love that even though the world knows about the existence of these creatures, an esoteric veil remains to conceal their deeper secrets. And as far as Mercy goes… well, Ms. Briggs has crafted a multi-dimensional, emotional character, unique as she’s a shifter and not a werewolf. Though she lacks the super-strength of the werewolves, she possesses her own magic that I suspect we readers know as little about as Mercy. I’m hoping to see that aspect of her character develop in future novels.

Haven’t read the Mercy Thompson series yet?!?! Well, you’re missing out! To celebrate this great day of blogging dedicated to our favorite authors, I’ll be giving away a copy of the first Mercy Thompson book: Moon Called right here next week. Stay tuned for details! In the meantime, if you’re looking for more awesome reads, check out Shannon Messenger’s blog to read about her featured book: The Candy Shop Wars by Brandon Mull. And for links to all of the Share the Awesome participant’s posts, check out the Recommended Reads page at Elana Johnson’s blog!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Characters, Playlists, and Bolero

Recently, a crit partner was reading my revisions when she emailed me. "I was reading some Shaedes and Ravel's "Bolero" fits Xander, musically speaking. It's just so full of itself and even, perfect rhythm."

Now for those of you who don't know--which is everyone :)--Xander is an over the top, full of himself character in my novel Shaedes of Gray. I reflected on my friend's comment and thought, Wow. That piece of music is TOTALLY him. She sent me a link to the piece and as I listened, eyes closed, I couldn't help but smile. "Regal and seductive," she said. Oh ya. That was Xander to a tee.

I've posted before about music and inspiration. For a writer the two go hand in hand. Playlists are a norm in YA right now, and as an adult writer, I envy YA writers that they get the extra attention of showcasing the music that inspires them. My crit partner Sarah has corresponding playlists with her novel and my other partner, Suzanne (who writes adult as well as dabbles in YA) has incorporated the music of the 80's (Zepplin and The Runaways just to name a couple) into hers. And though I don't have a particular song or piece of music to correspond to each chapter, I did include a link to playlists on my website. The songs I listened to while writing helped me channel the emotions I needed to set up a scene or had lyrics that spoke to me. Like I've said before, I'm a sucker for 90's alternative. Give me an angsty, gravelly-voiced guy with greasing-looking hair and I'm gone! But classical music as well, has fueled my creativity in a way that no other music can. The emotions conveyed in classical pieces (Vivaldi, Brahms, Mozart, just to name some of my favs) have no rival. I could write all day with the right crescendo to guide me.

What do you listen to for inspiration? Do you include your playlists on your blog/website? Are you a YA author bent on discovering the next big thing in music? Or are you an adult writer like me, wishing your playlists had their own page at the back of your book?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Blog Chain - For Love or Market

This round's blog chain, started by the fabulous Michelle is eerily relevant to me right now. She asks:

Do you write for the market or for yourself? Why? Are there times you do both? Or times when you've written something specifically because it was "hot" at the moment? If so, how did it turn out?

When I started my new WIP last spring, I ran with a single idea. A sentence, really. I didn't write it for the market, or the reader, or even with an agent in mind. This story was for me. I set out to produce something unique, an urban fantasy that broke out of the typical character line-up. The words flowed, the story unfolded and when I'd finished, I was beyond proud of the book.

When I started querying, I received mixed reviews. It was a love/hate situation in that some of the agents rejected me at the speed of light while others requested with enthusiasm. And the submissions went pretty much the same. One agent even told me that the novel was just too fantastical to be sold as an urban fantasy. But thanks to my friends and crit partners I persisted and continued to query. And after 6 months and many rejections, I finally found an agent who just 'clicked'. And I'm happy to say that I signed with her right away!

But again, market vs. passion came in to play. One thing that drew my agent to the story was the unique concept. But this got me to thinking... If it had been this hard to find the right agent, how much harder would it be to find the right publisher? Especially with the economy and market trends being what they are. In a waning industry, editors might not be willing to take a chance on a new concept. But then again... sometimes people need 'new and fresh' right?

In the end, I wouldn't have it any other way. Market trends or not, I write what I write. Period. Because if it doesn't come from my heart, it won't be believable. And no one's going to buy a book with no heart. I wouldn't.

Check out the equally fabulous Kate's post before mine and Sandra's tomorrow to find out who or what they write for!

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Big Announcement!!

I've been given the green light to let everyone know that I've signed with an agent!

I'm now officially represented by Natanya Wheeler of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency. Natanya is absolutely amazing and I can't wait to start working on polishing my urban fantasy so we can get it out there in the world! This has been a totally surreal experience and I can safely say that I wouldn't be in this position right now if not for my writerly friends and most of all my critique partners! Thanks you guys!!! You're awesome! :D

Monday, March 22, 2010

Who am I?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent the weekend re-vamping my blog and website. I really felt like my blog in particular was a generic, cookie-cutter product that didn't showcase any of who I want to be as a writer. Then, I got to thinking about it and realized that when I started my blog a little over a year ago, I had no idea who I was.

I wrote my first book in a flurry of keystrokes, cranking out a product that fit a preconceived notion of what I thought readers(and agents)wanted. It was soft, fluffy, and a bit non-committal. In essence, the book was a big fat bowl of vanilla ice cream. I took a break, queried, took my hits and started back up, this time working on a sequel. I relaxed a little, let my personality come though a bit more, and the end result was--well--more like pralines and cream. A step up from vanilla, but not by much.

The rejections rolled in, one after the other. My request rate, a little worse than ten percent. "Your writing shows promise, but it's not quite there," became the standard response to submissions. I took another break. A little longer this time. I networked, I blogged, I critiqued. And I made some friends in the writing world. But it wasn't until a rainy Saturday morning last May that I finally realized why my writing wasn't quite there.

A single sentence popped into my head. A voice in, of all things, first person. Um, I don't write first person! I don't like it! But the voice would not be silenced and an idea bloomed in my mind bright and urgent. I sat down at my laptop and in one weekend wrote the first 10,000 words. The story was dark, my heroine, bold, brash and unapologetic. Her steel-toed boots and samurai sword were a far cry from my previous characters. The tone of the novel, decidedly darker. I wrote the book in just under three months and couldn't have been happier with the end-product. My voice had finally shown through. The story had taken on a life of its own, no longer fitting the mold of what I thought readers and agents wanted. This book was one-hundred million percent ME. This book was a big 'ole bowl of Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey. And you know what? This book has had a much better reception. I can't believe how blessed I've been during this long query process.

One of my friends asked me the other day about my first book, now shelved and resting, maybe indefinitely. "You could always revise it," she said. "Do you think you will?" I thought about it, rolled the possibility in my mind and said, "I've been thinking about that, and I've decided that book just isn't what I want to be known for. It's not the kind of writer I want to be. I like the dark stuff, I like hard, angsty characters." And I know--KNOW--this dark stuff won't be everyone's cup of tea. But it's mine. And if I like it, there's other readers and agents out there that will like it too. I didn't try to please anyone but myself, and by doing that, I became the writer I knew I could be.

So when someone asks, "What do you write?" I'll no longer waffle on the answer, trying to decide what they want to hear. I'll answer, "I write dark urban fantasy. And I like it."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring "Cleaning"

I've been inspired by my super busy friends. Many of them are revamping their blogs and websites and since at this particular moment I'm in a holding pattern... that is, waiting, waiting, WAITING... I thought I'd spruce up for spring too with a new and improved blog backdrop and a title that I felt was more fitting to me as a writer. My website as well as been "enhanced" with a new photo and a new excerpt from my WIP. Do you get antsy as well? Are you constantly itchy to change your look? Let me know!! :D

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Quick Shout Out

I'm seriously going to TRY to be a better blogger, as in, I'm going to step out of the blog chain box and post more often. So, I think I'll take baby steps and crawl back in to it! ;)

My friend Michael's YA paranormal, The Dark Light of November, was recently released as an e-book! You can check it out by visiting his blog or you can purchase the e-book through the following links:



Congrat's Michael! And good luck!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blog Chain - Talk to Me

My poor blog... it's been pretty neglected lately. After a brief hiatus forced by a nasty computer virus, I'm back on line. But--I'm determined to finish all of my crit reading and give some much needed attention to my WsIP right now. (Yes, I'm working on multiple projects right now, something I said I'd NEVER do!)So, aside from blog chain, I've kept a pretty low profile. Thanks to everyone who still follows me, I'm sorry I haven't commented on your blogs lately and I appreciate that you haven't dumped me yet! ;)

Kate started the chain this round, throwing down the gauntlet with a many-parted question:

Do you enjoy writing dialogue? Do you use a lot of dialogue in your writing (for our purposes "a lot" will be defined as more than a smidge and yet not so much that the quotes key on your computer is completely worn out.)? Do you have example(s) of dialogue you especially enjoyed from something you've read? Do you have example(s) of dialogue from your own writing? What about these examples makes them special?

I LOVE writing dialog. It's one aspect of my writing that I don't mind tooting my own horn about. I think I do it well and I also think I have a knack for making dialog come across as natural and fluid. Though I don't think I overuse dialog in my writing, (I hope it's about a 50/50 mix), I use dialog as a means for description as well as a tension builder within a scene.

I have SO many favorite books, so many exchanges of words that I love. Finding a good example was hard. Ultimately, I decided on a short exchange that really shows how good dialog can amp up tension in a scene. I'm a HUGE Anne Rice Fan, and this exchange between Louis and Lestat in Interview With the Vampire is one of my favorites:

"Why do you do this, Lestat?" I asked.

"I like to do it," he said. "I enjoy it." He looked at me. "I don't say that you have to enjoy it. Take your aesthete's tastes to purer things. Kill them swiftly if you will, but do it! Learn that you're a killer! Ah!"

The dialog tags here are simple: he said, he looked at me. But the conversation between the characters shows me all I need to know. The heated tempers are there, the tension is there. I can tell the friction between them is building to a point that will soon explode. This--is great dialog.

As far as my own writing goes, I'm going to defer to one of my crit partner's suggestions. It's a small snippet, as I'd like to keep this post to a PG-13 rating ;)

“Finn, her house was decked out for a date night, candles, dinner on the table, wine. Are you seriously going to stand there and tell me that you stood her up? No phone call, no apologies?”

“You’re damn right that’s what I’m telling you.” He’d closed the space between them, his stance aggressive as he leaned down to eye level. “She was nasty to you every single day of your life. Do you really think I’d give two shits if her feelings were hurt about being stood up? She deserved it. In fact, she deserved a lot more than that. I’d never play nice with anyone who’d hurt you.”

“Did she deserve to die?” Jacquelyn asked.

“What? No,” Finn said, looking away. “But damnit, Jax…”

“What, Finn?” she demanded. “What?”

“Why can’t you see that I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get you back? I’m dying here. I can’t breathe without you. You’re killing me.”

I like this exchange because it's a tense moment between my characters. I mean, it's not every day you accuse your ex-boyfriend of bringing down some serious supernatural death down on someone. Both characters are stressed. Jacquelyn, because she's trying to stop a killer and has to face the possibility someone she loved is behind the murders. And Finn, because he can't believe he's being accused by the woman he's been trying to win back for the last few chapters. I wanted their exchange to be charged, real. And as I wrote it, my stomach tightened, my jaw clenched, and I hope that the reader feels that physical tension as well while reading the words.

Want more spectacular dialog? Check out Sandra's post tomorrow!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Blog Chain - Walking in My Character's Shoes

To all of my blog buddies out there, I'm sorry I haven't posted much lately. If not for blog chain, I'd be floating in a sea of characters, with a filthy house and unfed family wondering where the months have gone. Which is why Cole's question this round is so appropriate:

How do you get inside your character's world?

I'm one of those types of people who can get so caught up in a day-dream that I'm pulling into my driveway before I've even realized I'd left the grocery store. Visualization isn't hard for me. When I'm writing, I tend to walk through every scene, taking on the character's speech and mannerisms in my imagination, walking in his or her shoes. Even throughout my day, I find myself wondering, "What would this character do right now in my situation? What would she say?" It helps me write believable dialog and reactions.

As far as my character's physical world... I've tried to write about places I haven't seen and it didn't come off as believable. So I tend to stick to locations close to home, cities I've visited, even the town I live in. But like Cole stated in her post, sometimes I need a little help. Even though I've been to Seattle, I don't know it like the back of my hand--and my character does. So I use Google Maps a lot, you can actually position the camera view right on the street. It's like you're standing right in the middle of a still-frame. I talk to people who are more familiar with the night-life or the local nuances. I pull up stock photos and stare, and stare, and stare.

For me, the beauty of writing (and reading for that matter) is the escapism. The exploration of taboos, experiences, emotions and lives so unlike the person I really am. Check out Kate's post before mine and Sandra's tomorrow to find out how they build their wonderful worlds!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Blog Chain - Oh The Mistakes I've Made!

Between reading, writing, revising, critting, the stomach flu, and ice fishing (YES. Seriously. Ice Fishing! My husband is a lucky man!), another blog chain has come around. This round Rebecca goes all deep and thoughtful on us, asking:

What is the best mistake you've made so far in your journey as a writer? How has that mistake helped you grow :)?

I think I may have made every single mistake an emerging writer can make. Funny story, Tuesday night I actually received a rejection on a query I sent out two years ago. Yep. Your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. Two years. It was one of the first queries I'd ever sent out and man, it stunk to high heaven! Rotten. Honestly, I'm amazed it even garnered a response.

But if not for making the mistake of writing a truly horrible query, I would have never learned how to write a good one. How do I know? I've received a lot more agent love than I had in the past.

Another newbie mistake I'm glad I made was refusing to network. I dug my heels in and turned my back on the writing community. But when I finally came out of my shell, and overcame my shyness, I realized that a book isn't finished until it's critiqued. A lot. Period.

However, thanks to my mistake, I realized there was no way to navigate these waters on my own. I jumped in head first and made some great friends. Just look at my blog chain peeps. There are some kick ass writers here! ;)

And now, I'm going to break a taboo and share the biggest mistake I'm glad I made. I didn't let "No thanks" be the end of it. I know that we're told not to re-approach an agent after they've given us a rejection. I crossed the line and queried again and it's worked in my favor more than once.

Now don't go crazy... I didn't become an agent stalker. I didn't call their offices begging them to take a second look. I didn't re-query the day after the rejection. I took their words to heart. After all, they'd turned me down for a reason. I revised the manuscript and re-wrote my query and/or synopsis. I made BIG changes. Then, I re-approached the agent in a very professional manner. I've had partials and fulls requested this way. It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears. But it paid off.

Making mistakes is how we learn and grow and I'm grateful for every single one. Check out Kate's post before mine, and Sandra's tomorrow to find out what mistakes they're glad they made!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Blog Chain - Hearing Voices

It's blog chain time again. Didn't I just post? I've been in a revision time warp and just barely poked my head out. The super fantastic Sarah posed the question this time around:

How did you find your particular voice as a writer?

Your voice as a writer is the make it or break it secret ingredient. When I sat down to seriously take a stab at writing, I have to admit, it was like the equivalent of vanilla ice cream narrative. Not exactly a taste-bud stimulator. I was so worried about seeming "professional", using my words correctly, and sounding "proper"--or at least what I conceived proper writing to be. What I hadn't taken in to account was that I omitted "ME" from the story.

My second book was better, loose. I allowed my characters their personalities, but it still wasn't there. I was still afraid to let go, to let myself be heard. I hid behind what I thought people wanted to hear. It wasn't until I had one of those f**k it moments that I truly found my voice. I erased all of my preconceived notions and decided to throw the words out there and see what happens.

I let my character be who she wanted to be. I let a little of myself out on the page. I didn't worry about the profanity, the silly sayings that are mine alone, and the smart-ass tenor of the words. I let the story breathe and it came to life. I'm proudest of this book. It's gotten me the most attention. I've worked harder on it than any other project because it's a refection of how far I've come and a testament to how difficult it was for me to break down the walls and let my creativity take the lead. You have to trust yourself. You can't be afraid to be yourself. You have to bleed into every single word. And once you allow yourself to open up to your craft, you'll find your voice.

Check out Kate's post before mine and Sandra's tomorrow to read about how they found their voices!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Blog Chain: 2010 Writing Resolutions

It's the first blog chain of the new year, and Bonnie asks:

What are your writing resolutions for the year 2010?

I actually almost asked to skip this round. Yesterday was a particularly bad day for Amanda, the writer, and I thought about resolving to introduce my laptop to the snow-covered front yard. It was that bad. I almost resolved to pack it in: Put a fork in me, I'm DONE.

But after the sobbing and a manic desire to eat many bags of gummy fruit snacks, I pulled myself together. I put my cell phone minutes to work and I leaned on the shoulders of the fabulous friends and kindred spirits I have in the writing community. What an awesome feeling to connect with people who live thousands of miles away. I feel blessed that I can dial someone up, someone I've never talked to in person, and dive into an instant conversation that lasts over an hour.

I vented, I whined, I bitched and I moaned. And--I feel better. My friends pulled me from the ledge. And even though I'm still a little shell-shocked, I feel like I can sit at my computer and write this post about what I resolve to do in this fresh, new year.

I will listen to my peers and heed their advice. I will crit as many manuscripts as I can possibly read. My friends deserve it. I will continue to query my current novel, because I BELIEVE that it will find a home. I resolve not to neglect my two works in progress and I will finish them both by the end of 2010.

And last, but not least: I won't let this industry beat me down. I won't fall apart because of one bad experience. I won't let someone dash the self-confidence that I have fought two years to acquire. I won't allow a rejection or negative feedback to crush my spirit.

Check out Rebecca's resoltions before mine, and Sandra's resolutions tomorrow.