Friday, December 31, 2010

A Royal Perspective

My Twitter friend @quickmissive (aka Kristina L. Martin) recently had an article published online (it's great- check it out!). This got me to thinking about publishing short stories and I found a helpful site that lists anthologies accepting submissions.

eChook is one of the sites that is accepting submissions for short stories. And get this: they pay $100!

Let's think about that for a moment.

I could write a short story between 750 - 2000 words and be paid $100.
                      OR....
I could write a novel between 75,000 - 100,000 words and be paid... um...
                     
*does quick check online for typical author royalties*

7.5% on the paperback version, 15% of which goes to an agent (assuming I have one).

Exsqueeze me? Baking powder? Eh...huh?

*whips out calculator*

I'm no accountant, but it seems to me that I'd have to sell about 250 copies of my paperback novel (at $6.99 each) in order to make $100 on the book that took me six months to write and another year to edit.

Or I could make $100 on a short story that took me an hour to write.

Hmmm.... Methinks that Kristina may well be on to something here!

What about you? Had any short stories published? Is $100 the norm?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Get ready to go "Awwww..."

My sister-in-law sent me an adorable Christmas eCard that I had to share with my writing friends!

Warning: This video contains material of Serious Cuteness which may cause the softening of your features, a dreamy expression, wrinkles from smiling, and overall swooning. Please consult your physician before watching this video if you suffer from a condition that might be exacerbated by the above-mentioned side effects.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Just for fun

This fun site: http://www.mylivesignature.com/ allows you to make an electronic signature for putting at the bottom of your blog posts. If you're tooling around the net and feel like making one for giggles, check it out. Here's mine! As my grandma would say, "For fun!"

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Harry Potter Fan Fiction

The blog "In Time" is having a Harry Potter fan fiction blogfest and asked HP fans who blog to write a short piece based on the characters, set during Christmas or Thanksgiving. Sounded like fun, so here's my scene (note that we had to write ourselves in as a character- not the easiest task!):

Ginny Weasley lay in bed on Christmas morning with Harry sleeping beside her, his light snoring the only sound in the sparsely furnished room. She glanced at the clock on the wall, at the images of her family members, their location firmly set to Home. All but one. Fred’s image no longer graced the clock. A wave of grief rolled over her at the loss of her older brother, but she set her jaw tight, fighting back the tears that threatened. Christmas was supposed to be filled with joy and she had much to be thankful for. She placed her hand over her stomach, the flutter of the child in her belly chasing away her melancholy thoughts.
She rolled onto one side and brushed her fingertip over the lightning-shaped scar on Harry’s forehead. He blinked sleepily at her and she felt the familiar tug in her heart that had been there since they’d first met.

“Happy Christmas,” he said. She kissed him and replied in kind.

He stretched and retrieved his wand from the nightstand. “Accio Ginny’s gift,” he said to the door, which snapped open at his command. A brightly wrapped parcel came winging toward his face and he caught it with one hand as the door slammed closed, then handed it to his wife with an uncertain smile.

She unwrapped the present, instantly recognizing the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes logo. Her chest clutched at the sight. When she pulled the string that dangled from the box, a life size hologram of her twin brothers, Fred and George, stood at the foot of the bed, dressed in Santa suits complete with pillow-stuffed bellies and red velvet hats.

“Happy Christmas from the Weasleys!” they chimed before Fred let go a loud whiff of air from his backside, which turned into flurry of snowflakes that swirled throughout the room like they were in the center of a snowglobe.

Ginny laughed as a tear slid down her cheek. “Idiots,” she muttered, her tone filled with love and longing. Harry squeezed her hand.

“I miss him, too,” he said, pulling her close. She buried her face in his chest and cried.

I could feel her emotions and desperately wanted to reach out to her, to assure her that the land beyond was a great joke shop filled with laughter and zaniness. I pressed a light kiss to the top of her head and she sat up, wiping her eyes. She squinted and reached out an unsteady hand as if she knew I were there.

With a wave of my hand, the snowflakes gathered to form the words "Happy Christmas Ginny! Love, Fred" before I slipped out of the room and on to my own Christmas celebration.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Fear of Failure

My co-worker has a sign in her office that reads "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" Lottery ticket buying aside, that question stuck in my head and something profound occurred to me today.

I am afraid of getting my heart broken again.

That's why I have not been able to write another novel. I have started and stopped several times. I come up with new stories, write a chapter and then stop. And, until now, I haven't understood why. The pain of rejection from the first novel has stolen my courage to get up and really try again because I'm afraid that I'll fail.

And that's just... well, sad. Now that I understand that's what's happening, I can look at it differently. I can take that fear and climb to the top of it, beat it down and conquer it. The fear of failure has kept me from jumping in and you know what?

I want to fall in love again!

I want to fall in love with new characters, overcome new obstacles and make my way to that happily-ever-after ending once more. I want to feel the rush when my characters start talking on their own, taking the story in a direction I hadn't considered, when writing comes to life on the screen.

And it's all there, in my head, just waiting for me to be brave.

*deep breath*

What about you? How do you conquer the fear of failure?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What Does It Mean to "Never Give Up"?

I've read some great comments on here and other blogs lately, writers supporting writers in the midst of publishing trials. A common theme is to "never give up". I've used the phrase myself (have a tag dedicated to it, as a matter of fact). But I got to thinking, what does that really mean?
What are we not supposed to give up on?

Is it the dream of seeing your book on the shelf? Some authors are perfectly happy with their eBooks being published and may never see their novels in print. Have they given up? Maybe that wasn't their dream.

Maybe the dream is to write professionally, as a career where you don't have to work another job, but can write instead. In the economy, some authors who had previously achieved this have had to find work (Sara Donati, for example). 

Maybe it's just that we're not supposed to give up on ourselves, whatever that entails. Don't give up the hope that you can achieve what you set your mind to, be it a novel in print, an eBook, a finished manuscript, a flash fiction piece, or even a full-time writing career. Whatever it is that you want, don't give up on getting it. Because giving up means you definitely won't get it.

Still, feel free to change your mind about what you want at any given time. ;)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bare It and Share It

So if you read my last post, you know The Epic Fail that has been my writing journey to date. I won't lie; it is hard to reveal that. It's much easier to stay silent and pretend that all is well, that the big break is just around the corner. But in keeping misery to ourselves, we lose the opportunity to support one another.

Some other writers I follow have been doing some soul-sharing of their own recently:

Natalie Whipple declares 2010 the Year of Suck (you MUST read all the comments, too!)

Beth Revis discloses her permanent state of jealousy

Kiersten White talks about the pressures once you're published

Romance Magicians blogs about losing focus and the Blank Screen

Ted Cross wonders whether he should be writing for the market instead of his passion

I applaud all of these brave authors for putting the truth out there, for baring and sharing not just their highs, but especially their lows. Because we've all been down before, drowning in a pool of suckiness and damn-it-all-I-hate-this misery. When writers throw life preservers to one another at times like these, beautiful things happen (as evidenced by the comments on Natalie's blog post and this one, too).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My OMG! story: The Epic Fail

Annie McMahon has been asking me for an OMG! story ever since I ran a post with that theme, so this post is for Annie. Not the OMG! story I hoped to write, but my story nonetheless.

This time last year, I finished writing the first draft of my novel, Between. I'd been working on it solid for about six months and when I got to the end, it was 188,000 words or about 800+ pages.

At the time, I didn't think that was such a bad thing, since Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series was a big part of my inspiration for writing it. If you've never read the series, many of her books top 800 pages without breaking a sweat. Why should mine be any different?

Speaking of Diana, I went to a book signing of hers in September of last year where she told the large crowd about how she became a novelist. She started writing, sent a few chapters to another writer she met on the Compuserve Writers' Forum who recommended she sent it to his agent. She did, calling it a "rather long historical novel". The manuscript was not even finished, but that didn't keep said agent from offering her representation and selling it to a publisher in a 3-book deal something like 3 days later.

So, here's me, at the time, coming to the end of writing my most awesome tome, thinking I just needed to follow in her footsteps. No problem!

So, here's me, a year later, realizing what an absolute fairy tale that was.

I bought Jeff Herman's Guide to Agents and Publishers, crafted a query letter ("I've just completed writing my first novel and am excited to share it with you!"), and promptly queried 30+ agents. Fail.

I did some research and learned my word count was an issue and the genre I chose was a problem (is it women's fiction, chick lit, romance, paranormal, fantasy, what???). So I cut the novel in two, did some revisions and sent it out once more. Failed again.

So I joined Authonomy, Compuserve Writers' Forum, started a blog and entered writing contests to get feedback and connect with other writers. Some people praised my work ("SO FRAKING AMAZING!!") and some people cut me down ("the writing is Meh"), while others offered helpful, specific feedback. I revised again. And again. More queries. More fail.

I checked out books from the library on writing. I changed the genre to Young Adult, worked with some crit partners, did a full revision, cut out all the yummy sex scenes, joined WriteOnCon, joined Twitter, joined Wattpad and queried again.

Fail. Fail. FAIL.

So one year after typing the last words to my brilliant manuscript (which, I'll be honest, I still think is damn good despite all the evidence to the contrary), this is where I stand. Loving my book, my characters and the story; hating the process, the emotional rollercoaster and the subjective nature of publishing.

OMG! This sucks. That's the OMG! story I have to share. Stay tuned as I plan to share other "OMG! This sucks" stories I've been reading on other blogs.

I may have lost the fairy tale but I have gained some editing skills and a supportive writing community.

Win! *hugs to you*

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Three Blogs Worth Following

I follow way too many blogs (all of them writing related) and there are three that stand out, again and again.

Don't Pet Me, I'm Writing by Tawna Fenske
Tawna is hilarious. Her quirky wit comes through on every post, making me want to comment. I can scroll through a hundred blog posts on Google Reader and when I come to one that makes me laugh, more often than not, it's hers.

Adventures in Children's Publishing
Even if you're not writing for kids, this blog has a weekly feature called "Best Articles This Week for Writers" where they go through all the trouble of linking up great blog posts, tweets and other writing-related items of interest. Save yourself time and follow this blog to get the weekly download!

Literary Rambles by Casey L. McCormick
Casey has put together an impressive collection of agent bios, and has them tagged by the genres they represent. The work she does in putting together her agent spotlights saves hours of doing research yourself on potential agents. The YA list she has is the most comprehensive I've seen, and she keeps them up to date. Invaluable resource for the aspiring author!

Congratulations to these blog owners and well done! You continue to light up the writing blogsphere with your contributions.

Do you have a favorite blog (or three) that you can recommend? Be sure to tell us why you like it!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

NaNoReaMo update

I quickly realized that NaNoWriMo was not within my grasp, so I decided to buy a boatload of books and have a reading month instead. I've been streaming through them at a pretty decent clip, to be honest. Some have exceeded my expectations, others have fallen far short. I have had a couple of 4 stars, a 3 star, a 2 star and a 1 star that was so bad, I didn't finish it.

The one I just finished earned a 2 star, I'm sad to say. It started out well, but over the course of the book, continued to drop in my esteem until it barely eeked out 2 stars when all was said and done. Funny thing is, I'd say she was a skilled writer.

It was the story that sucked.

I've been noodling on that the last couple of days. This writer had a knack for a descriptive turn of phrase, her dialogue was believable, and the tension between her characters was palpable. However, I didn't really love any of the characters and ultimately, I didn't like the story. That's it.

I might really like something else she wrote.

I received a critique note on a contest a while back where the reviewer said I had "definite potential". I think this writer had definite potential as well. Maybe I should give her another try, and myself as well. Hmm... we'll see.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Books, Books and More Books!

So I signed up for NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month) in which I, along with 300,000 of my closest writerly friends, did steadfastly swear to commit the month of November to writing at least 50,000 words. I'll save you the math: that's 1,667 words per day. For some, that's no big deal; for me (who writes at a snail's pace), that's crazy.

Turned out it was. It's the end of the first week and I've barely surpassed the word count required by the end of Day One. No catching up now. So, I could feel bad about it, stress out, eat a bunch of ice cream and get down on myself... Or I could get over it. In the interest of sanity and family harmony, I have chosen the latter.

I still have a good story idea I plan on fleshing out (one excruciatingly slow word at a time), but I no longer fancy that I might claim victory in the NaNoWriMo winner's circle. Instead, I rejoiced in the 40% off Used Book Sale at my local store and went Book-Bonkers!

Welcome to Cyndi's NaNoReaMo! Yay, me! *grin*

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The CreATION Process From Idea to Bookshelf

1) Inspiration: Wow, this idea is so awesome. My muse totally loves me and I can't believe I never thought of it before. I am SO gonna write this story so it sings! *does happy dance around the room*

2) Perspiration: Ok, this is harder than I thought it was going to be. I can't think of the right words, the dialogue is not coming out right, I feel like I'm dragging this thing, kicking and screaming, to the end. Oh right, and then I've got to edit. And edit. And edit. I'm gonna need another drink.

3) Elation: It's done! I did it! I can't believe I set my mind to it, I powered through, and I made it. It sparkles, it shines, it's the best story that ever was. Yay me! I so totally rock.

4) Aspiration: I hope hope hope hope hope hope everyone else loves it as much as I do (though how could they not, since it's clearly amazing). I'm going to send it off to multiple agents and I'll have to pick among many who'll call me to offer representation. Hmmm... maybe I should be looking at which one is best with foreign rights negotiations, 'cuz it may well come down to that.

5) Constipation: It's been months of agonizing rejections and no one wants me. Sure, there are still agents left I haven't queried yet, but could that many agents be wrong? I mean, really, I probably totally suck. The story sucks, I suck, everything sucks. I don't know why I wanted to be a writer. Well, maybe if I changed that one thing...

6) Determination: Repeat steps 1 through 4.

7) Desperation: A full request! I got a full request! From a real, live agent! Oh, please please please please please love the story....

8) Expiration: I've died and gone to heaven! The agent's on the phone, saying she loved it and knows just the right editors she wants to send it to. I can't believe it's really happening. Wow, I'm a little light headed and-- wait, why am I crumpled in a pile of drool on the floor? *picks up phone* Yes, I'm still here...

9) Deflation: What? You mean it needs some more work before we send it out? Okay... Repeat steps 2 through 3. Send it out to editors, repeating step 4 (and likely step 5), then steps 7 and 8.

10) Celebration: I'm holding it, I'm signing it, you're buying it. It's finally happened. *grabs a tissue so my autograph doesn't smear on the page* Yes, I'm fine, it's just... *hugs total stranger buying my book* Thank you- what's your name?-Minerva Mingles. Cool name, maybe I could use that in my next book...

And, as they say in the music biz'... Take it from the top, boys!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

That Awkward Question

If you're a single girl of child-bearing age, the dreaded question is likely to be, "So, are you dating anyone yet?" The cringe-worthy question that makes you want to scream, "It's none of your damn business!" You probably want to wear a sign that notifies the world that asking is not necessary; if and when that time arrives, you will make sure they all know.

For an unpublished writer, the question becomes, "How's the book thing going?"

Admittedly, if you are in my close circle of friends and family, I've spent countless hours boring you with every bump on the emotional rollercoaster, so you are not the person asking this question.

It's casual acquaintances, mostly, who ask it in a friendly way, knowing that it's important to me, that it's cool I wrote a book, feeling like they're bonding with me by asking. One word: Don't.

It's not that I don't appreciate your interest, it's just that responding causes me pain. Where do I start? That I'm chewing my fingernails, waiting for the rejections to come, that I live with the constant fear of not being good enough, that I should move on to the next big thing but am paralyzed that the next one won't be any good either? What part of that do you want to know? You don't.

So I smile and say, "Good," because you're asking the equivalent of "How are you?" and it doesn't matter if I'm dying on the inside, it's not really worthwhile to go down that road with an acquaintance.

So if you know an unpublished author, wait for him or her to bring up the book. If you're in the inner circle, it won't take long. If you're not, you'll be doing that person a favor by asking about something--anything--else instead.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Planting, Then Uprooting Seeds of Darkness

I am reading Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instrument series (they are fab- check them out). The YA paranormal books feature demon-killers who have a variety of tricks up their sleeves, one of which is a "witchlight": a smooth rock that fits in the palm of your hand that casts a strong light when the demon-killer (aka Shadowhunter) wills it to. At one point, the author refers to the witchlight as a "seed of darkness".

It got me to thinking about the seeds of darkness that we all have within us, things that we lock away, that we're ashamed of, or that we're insecure about, things we don't want other people to know.

Seeds of darkness make characters interesting.

When a character has a deep-rooted insecurity, it colors the way he sees the world, the way he reacts to good and bad; it becomes the basis of his motivations. Exposing these seeds that you've planted in a character forces him to confront the things he'd rather keep hidden and either triumph over them or be dominated by them. Because we all have seeds of darkness within, we can relate to the pain the character is going through, which brings us closer and makes us fall in love with the book.

When you're working on character development, think of what seeds your hero or heroine has rooted down deep inside, what insecurities, failings, fears, and worries make up his or her past. Then think about how you can bring those to light and force a confrontation. You might be surprised to find the process ends up being cathartic for you as well, as I have.

What "seeds of darkness" can you think of that we can saddle a character with? Share your thoughts so that we can glean ideas!

Monday, October 4, 2010

#amDONEediting- Squee!

I finished editing my young adult paranormal romance, Between, and got through the final read-through tonight. It's as spit-polished and shiny as I can, in my humble human condition, make it. So now I set off toward the path of querying agents. *gulp*

Before I swim too far into those waters, I just wanted to take a breath, have a celebration with my blogger buddies, and enjoy the moment. Thanks to all of you, for your comments, for your support, for keeping me going when there was all tunnel and no light.

I loves ya! :)

And if you have YA agent recommendations, please shoot them my way. I'll be doing my homework and can always use helpful info from the writing community.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Perils of Putting Yourself "Out There"

The last two books I picked up, I put down before I finished reading. One turned out to be way more violent than I was comfortable with, while the other was poorly written with an inconsistent POV. They were both paperbacks, so somewhere, an agent and an editor both loved them. I wanted to love them. I didn't.

Readers will want to love my book, but some won't. Some will think it's crap.

That hurts, no doubt about it. Yet, as a writer, I have to be okay with that. Putting my words "out there" for others to judge is tough because some readers will love it and others won't.

I want to make everyone happy, but I can't. You can't either.

In the end, what matters is that you've done your best, gave it your all, listened and incorporated suggestions as you were able, and that you love the book. If, after six million rounds of revisions, you don't love the book you're left with, then you've lost your way.

You. Must. Love. Your. Book.

Get readers, get suggestions, get feedback. That's all good stuff. But if the world loves your book and you don't, you won't be happy. You wrote the story that was in your heart. Polish it, make it better, but don't lose sight of the story you love. Because "out there", someone else will love it, too.

How have you dealt with negative feedback? Was there ever a point where you felt like giving up because of it? What did you do?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Singing In the Shower

With today's blog post, you were probably afraid (or excited) to scroll down, in case I had photos. Ha!

I love to sing. I sing everywhere I go. In the car, in the shower, in the supermarket, at work. It's not because someone is listening, or because I have a recording contract and there are cameras following me around. I sing because I enjoy it.

I need to look at writing the same way.

This blog post from Writers Beware describes writing as "deliberate play", something you practice and enjoy doing. I can get so caught up in crawling toward the oasis of publication that writing loses its joy for me. I need to stop sometimes, forget about the WIP and just write for the fun of it, write to get better at it, write for me.

A commenter mentioned a book by Ursula LeGuin called "Steering the Craft" that has writing exercises. I think I'll pick it up.

What do you do to keep writing fun, and to get better at it?

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Matter of Perspective

This blog is dedicated to love stories- reading them, writing them, enjoying all sorts of stories but particularly those about love. I've used it to share thoughts on writing and publishing as I go through this stage of my life. Today, though, I don't want to talk about writing or reading. I want to talk about what's important. Love.

Love one another.

It's more than a commandment from Jesus. It's the core of all that matters. At this very moment, I have one friend facing blindness, another facing deafness, two facing death from cancer, some with marital strife, and more who are unemployed.

I get so wrapped up in "my book"- editing it, getting critiques, queries, synopses, rejections... on and on it goes, this obsession with getting the darn thing published. And yet what truly matters is loving people. I've been blessed to meet people through this journey, great folks on this blog, through Twitter, through Facebook.

Sharing life with one another is what matters. The good, the bad and the ugly.

So thank you, for being part of this community, part of my life. For being part of this love story. Life is hard-- no one doubts that-- and the only way to get up each day is to have people around you (physically or virtually) who care, who prop you up. Be that person for someone else today, if you can. And I'll do the same.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Where The Story Begins (or Should)

Have you ever had a friend tell you a story that started something like this...?

"OMG, you won't believe what happened. Last Saturday, Luke and I went out- wait, was it last Saturday or last Sunday? I got my nails done on Saturday, oh yeah, so it must have been Sunday- and we ran into this old friend of his from California- wait, or was it Arizona? He seemed really tan, so it could have been either one, I guess..."

And all the while, you're thinking "GET TO THE POINT ALREADY!" while keeping your smile plastered firmly in place. You were sucked in with the enthusiastic "OMG!" and then the story was derailed with a bunch of detail that you didn't need or care about. So what if it was Sunday or he was from Arizona? Tell me what happened! That's what we really want to know.

And yet, when we sit down to write a story, we think it's all-important to set the scene, to give the reader insight into the character, to bog it down with back story. And that's just what happens.

The story- the OMG story- gets bogged down in all that muck.

I'm working on edits now and am going to keep this idea in the forefront of my mind, to help with pace and YA voice.

How would this thinking help you in your writing?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tales from the Critique Trenches

In the spirit of 'show versus tell', I thought I'd demonstrate what it feels like to receive a critique.

video


Yep, it's about that pleasant. I have the good fortune to be working with two very different crit partners. Between them, they've given me some outstanding feedback that (once I incorporate it), is really going to make my manuscript shine. I can't thank them enough. But it still hurts like a... well, you know.

There's no way around the pain of critiques and editing. You just gotta do it. And if you survive, if you don't give up, then the book will be better because of the sacrifice. *sigh* Whimper fi! Hehehehe...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Real Scoop on Trends

If you read through the comments on the blog contest I ran last weekend, you might have noticed that readers' tastes in ice cream vary widely. Some people love Rocky Road- even consider it amongst their favorites- while others count it in the 'bleuch' category. And it's not just Rocky Road that has people on opposite sides of the fence. There are very few flavors repeated, either as a like or dislike, which got me to thinking:

Ice cream flavors are like books.

Say what? Hear me out. Readers listed their favorite flavors of ice cream and their least favorites, and no two posts were the same. I imagine that if I ran a similar contest and asked people to list the best and worst books they'd read, we'd have comparable results.

Different strokes for different folks, right?

What's great about this is that we have an abundance of ice cream flavors and a whole bookstore full of tomes that range from the highly literary to the downright fun. What's bad about this is that publishers (and, I imagine, ice cream manufacturers) are looking for products that will appeal to the crowd because the more they sell, the more money that they make.

So while they are looking for the next cookies and cream blockbuster, maybe I am busy at work perfecting my pumpkin ice cream novel. I am going to do my level best to make sure it's the richest, smoothest, creamiest dang pumpkin ice cream that ever graced a cone, but no matter what I do, it's still pumpkin ice cream. If you like pumpkin ice cream, you will love the book I'm dishing out. If you don't, then maybe you won't. That doesn't mean that there isn't room for my unique flavor, or that there won't be people who list it among their favorites. It just means that everyone is different.

Maybe the pumpkin craze will be sweeping the nation and my book will come out at just the right time. Or maybe red velvet cake will be 'in' and pumpkin will be so 'out' that no one reads it at all.

That's not up to me. My only concern is putting everything I have into making the best pumpkin ice cream I can so that when it touches your tongue, it has the greatest chance of finding a lifelong fan.

To that end, I've been burning countless brain cells editing my manuscript. Someday you may be curled up on the couch with your toes painted, holding a bowl of your favorite ice cream and my novel in your hands. If I've done my job right and the fates align, when you reach the end, you'll tell a friend, "You have got to try this. It is fantastic!" And that is the sweetest ending ever.

Monday, August 23, 2010

And The Winner Is...

Marlene Breakfield!

Since she's a follower of the blog, Marlene won $25 in Amazon money, to spend to her heart's content. Congrats to Marlene and a big thanks to everyone who participated in the contest.

The record for the most number of comments on a blog post here at Love Stories was 15 until now. We hit 35 comments for this contest, all thanks to you! Woohoo!

Now, back to my book, ice cream and sly glances at those painted toes (Ted and Kurt- still waiting for those pics, ya know!).  Hee-hee...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

We All Scream For... a $20 gift card!

This blog is called Love Stories, so let me tell you a little story about some things I love:

1) Pampering. I just bought a mani/pedi gift card at Bliss Spa for 50% off through Groupon. My friend Karin told me about Groupon, which is a free service that emails you rockin' local coupons every day. Check it out if you aren't already hooked up: http://gr.pn/a4uO8z

2) A good book. Mmmm... there's nothing better than curling up with a good book (unless it's curling up with a good book and occasionally glancing down at your newly painted toenails- see number 1).

3) Ice cream! I am a lifetime fan of the creamy cold stuff. So let's add a little (but too little) bowl of ice cream to this love story, shall we?

4) Winning stuff! Now we're really talking my love language. Painted toes- check. Romantic tome- check. Sweet frozen fabulousness in a bowl- check. AND I win money? Ok, sign me up.

In the off chance that you are like me, welcome to my very first contest! All you have to do is leave a comment telling me your favorite ice cream flavors and your least favorites. Feel free to go on and on (we don't mind) since this contest is really all about you.

"But Vanna, what do I win???" you ask... How about a $20 Amazon gift card to buy that book you've been pining for? Yes, you read that right. The easiest $20 bucks you ever scored.

You don't have to be a follower of the blog, or tweet this, or post it on Facebook, or feature it on your own blog since I don't have the time (or energy) to keep track of all that. Of course, please do all those things anyway, but we'll just go on the honor system and say that you did. I will, however, sweeten the deal if you happen to be a follower of the blog at the time I do the drawing.

Blog followers, should their name be chosen in the drawing, will win $25 instead of $20. Oooooh!

I'll kick this puppy off with my own likes and dislikes:

Lurve
Cold Stone Creamery Founder's Favorite
Haagen Dazs Coffee and almond ice cream bars
Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby and Cinnamon Buns
Any old kind of Peppermint or Oreo Cookie

Blech
Rocky Road (cold marshmallows don't do it for me)
Anything with lots of coconut
Peach flavored ice cream
Chocolate and fruit together (love them separately, but not mixed- ewww)

The record for the most number of comments on a post is 15 so far. I think we can do better than that. Don't you? I'll draw a name on Monday night at 8pm PST and contact the winner directly.

So now it's your turn. What are your faves and least faves in the cold case? And feel free to send me a pic of you with painted toes, a book and some ice cream should you be the lucky winner (that includes Ted and Kurt- ha!).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Patience is a Four-Letter Word

So you can tell by the title that I am not a patient person. I want what I want when I want it. Is that so much to ask? And lately what I've been wanting most is that phone call from an agent telling me that my book is fabulous and exactly what XYZ editor is looking for. It hasn't come yet.

Le sigh.

So while I've been waiting for this, I've been revising the book and query. And guess what? It's better than it was before! Yippee! So now I want to shoot off queries to a batch of new agents, because now they'll love me for sure.

But wait. Breathe. Be patient.

These are the lessons I learned from the first go around. I won't query again until it's as spit-shined-polished as I can possibly make it. And since I've found a fabulous new critique partner, I'm seeing the manuscript in a new light. It's getting better each time I go through it. And I need to get all the way through it once (or twice) more before I wrap it in a bow and present it to that fabulous agent.

Waiting is hard. But being patient is divine. Like shredded wheat, it's *gulp* good for me. Yikes!

Monday, August 9, 2010

From This Life to the Next

This weekend, our 14 year-old cat, Mow, had a stroke and we had to put her down. She'd become decrepit little by little over the years, so it wasn't a real shock. Still, it was very sad, mostly just to see her in such a difficult state. My 9 year-old daughter took it really hard. She'd been through it before with other pets, but this one was particularly tough for her. I think it was because she got to say goodbye to Mow, whereas the other pets died without her seeing them in tough shape beforehand.

Grief is hard. It's especially hard to watch your kids mourn.

I curled up on the bed with my daughter as she cried it out. I stroked her forehead and told her stories about the cat I had as a little girl, an orange cat I named Butterscotch and called Bubs. She slowly came around and even laughed at my animated retelling of how Grandma used to get all upset when Bubs would weave in and out of her fragile mementos on the mantle without ever touching them.

I can't say for sure, but I think the time I spent with her, working through those emotions, will be locked in her long-term memory. When she's grown with kids of her own, she may well remember this weekend and how her mom loved her. I certainly won't forget it.

Godspeed, Mow.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

God is now following you on Twitter!

I received this email today: Michael J. Smith is now following you on Twitter! I did a double-take. I was thinking Michael W. Smith, the famous Christian music recording artist (who I'm sure is secretly following me on Twitter). It got me to thinking...

What if God followed me on Twitter? What would he think of my tweets?

I am truly shocked sometimes by the content of what is put out there (the swearing, the sexual references, the snarky attitude). You take the bad with the good, though, so I mostly ignore it. It's easy, I think, to get sucked into the relative anonymity of the Internet and to say (well, type) things you would never say to a person face-to-face.

My grandmother taught me at a very young age that you can't take back something you've said. Once it's out there, it's out there, so you'd better think before you speak. Wise words, and applicable all the more in this digital world where once it's out there, it is truly out there forever.

I like the idea of God following my tweets. It reminds me to be encouraging and use my words to build others up instead of tearing them down. Go and do likewise, my friend!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Tweet Nectar of Twitter

I was inspired by today's blog post by Janet Reid regarding why authors need to be on Twitter.

I resisted joining Twitter for a good long time. I mean, what kind of real communication can people have when they are limited to 140 characters, right?

Wrong.

I finally succumbed and signed up for an account about a month ago and it has been amazing. I've met all kinds of people with common interests, and have even had interactions with authors Jill Mansell and Sherry Thomas (who recently won a RITA- congrats, Sherry!).

There is real community support for fledgling writers such as myself, where agents and editors routinely set up chats where you can ask questions to your heart's content. And if you're too shy, you can just 'lurk around', reading other people's questions and the answers.

It's a place where you can get immediate input from others 24/7. One person I 'follow' was working on a piece and couldn't think of the name for a culvert. He described it, I asked my hubby (who knows all kinds of random things), popped off the answer and voila, he had just what he needed to keep going.

It's very cool.

If you're on Twitter, what has been your experience. If you're not, why not?

Monday, July 26, 2010

In Defense of a Wimpy Heroine

I like comments, so I'm going out on a limb today in hopes of stirring up some healthy debate.

I loved Twilight. There, I said it. Let the flaying commence!

I've read several blog posts vilifying Bella Swan for being such a weak female (and I'm talking about the book here, not the movie, 'cuz I don't really care for the movies). It's true, she is. And at times, I wanted to throttle her, but to be honest, I was pretty wimpy and emotional as a teenager (even without vampires and werewolves fighting for my affection). Why should she be any different? And if she were, wouldn't that actually detract from the story?

It seems that many agents are looking for books with a 'strong female character'. No namby pamby, wimpy dames need apply! We want the women of urban fantasy novels that are kickin' butt and taking names. And why is that? Is it because we want to be women like that? Is that the female ideal? Can we relate to these strong female characters in a way that we can't relate to whiny teenage girls like Bella? Or is it that we want our female characters to be 'role models'?

I can't say (hence the need for your comments!). I can tell you that I enjoy books more when I connect with the main character, when I can understand what made her do or say what she did (however heroic or stupid). And I like when the characters don't have it all together, since I certainly don't.

My favorite characters make mistakes, have doubts and fears, and are stronger for having come through the trial (as is Bella). They don't have to be rock stars, and in fact, I prefer them flawed. If they are "too strong" and "too perfect", it bores me. That being said, if a character doesn't grow over the course of a novel, I feel let down. So I'm all right with a wimpy heroine who eventually finds her strength and goes after what she wants. I'm even okay with being angry with her for the foolish decisions she makes along the way. Just as long as she pulls it together at the end ('cuz I do love a happy ending).

What about you? Are you looking for a strong female character, and why (or why not)?

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Treadmill-Worthy Book!

I hate exercise. Passionately. Still, there is a commonly-held belief that it has some health benefits and therefore is a worthy pursuit. But I still hate it.

So when I'm exercising, I need a fantastic book to distract myself from the torture I'm inflicting on my poor body. A Treadmill-Worthy Book is worth its weight in gold and when I find one, I like to tell all my friends (that would be you!).



Millie's Fling by Jill Mansell
The quote on the cover of this book says you won't want to do anything else until you're done reading it, and I concur! I chewed through this novel and loved every minute of it. Mansell's writing style reminds me of Sophie Kinsella, but not quite so over-the-top. As the main character, Millie was believable and fun, though I honestly enjoyed the subplots just as much as the love interest for Millie!

I know that most reviews tell you what happens in a book. I also know you can look that up for yourself. I'd rather tell you that I loved this book because it was engaging, kept me guessing, had characters I could relate to and cared about, and it made me laugh. No, not just that. It made me smirk, giggle, gasp, clap and forego other enjoyable activities. It was truly a 5 star book, and I rarely give those out.

Millie's Fling was just what I needed to keep my mind off the self-inflicted punishment of the treadmill (even though I'm jealous of Jill Mansell's ability to make it look so easy to write)! Thanks, Jill. You rock!

Go out and get a copy!

Monday, July 19, 2010

So I'm A Little Crazy For Scotland

The Highland Games start in two weeks and I'm way excited. I adore all things Scottish (even tried haggis, that's how deep my crazy goes). Last year was my first trip to the games and I wandered about, mouth agape like a kid at Disneyland. I even bought a dirk (a small dagger) with a leather scabbard and a glass hilt. It's no sharper than a letter opener, but I love it. It makes me feel dangerous. Ha!


video
It's Diana Gabaldon's fault that I love Scotland, and Aiden MacRae is the manifestation of my adoration of Caledonia (and men in kilts). Read Between and maybe you'll fall in love with it, too!



What are you crazy about? C'mon, don't be shy!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Don't Be a Writer

Someone I follow on Twitter posted this the other day:

"Don’t be a writer. Be writing.”

This simple admonition stuck with me (as words of wisdom should). I’ve read several forum threads about what makes you a “writer”. It seems there are two distinct camps: those who believe you’re officially a writer once you’re paid for your work, and those who think you’re a writer regardless.

While I’d love to get paid for my *fabulous writing*, I’ve been firmly in the latter camp until now. Because of my tweeting friend, I’ve started a new camp: Writers are people who write.

Crazy, huh? I wrote a book, but that doesn’t make me a writer. If I don’t ever put down another word, I can’t say I’m “a writer” just because I’ve done it once. I’ve run before (and barely lived to tell about it), so does that make me “a runner”? Of course not. Heck, even if I’d enjoyed it (yeah, right), I wouldn’t be able to label myself that way.

So, truth be told, I’m not a writer because I wrote a book. I’m a writer because I write this blog, and I write itty bitty action scenes and I’ll continue to be a writer as I flesh out the latest characters dancing in my head. I think you get the idea.

Don’t talk about it. Just do it! There is no try. There is no spoon. Ok, having too much fun with the tag lines here! Hee-hee!

Monday, July 12, 2010

So You Think You Can- Articulate?

I set the DVR to record So You Think You Can Dance each week so that I can buzz through the commercials and most of the recap show. Last night, I was watching the episode where Alex Wong takes on a Broadway number that is supposed to be reminiscent of Bob Fosse (I know, I know... I'm behind!). I can't say I've ever watched Bob Fosse dance, but I thought he did a smokin' job.

Mia Michaels didn't agree with me. She was looking for something more "eeee", more "sssss", more "internal" and "sinewy". I don't know about you, but I have no idea what the heck she's talking about, and I'm pretty sure no one else did, either. She was hunching her shoulders, squinching up her face and making claws of her hands, as if that would give us a better idea of the emotion she was trying to convey.

It didn't.

The trouble is, when you're trying to get a point across, when you're trying to communicate your ideas, you have to be articulate. And it's not easy! Good writers make it look easy. When I read a good book, the words don't get in the way. I float along on a sea of black and white, oblivious to the author's precision and care in painting the ocean. I see what I'm meant to see when a writer is articulate.

I'm sure it can be taught (to some degree at least), and I highly recommend Mia take some classes on the art of providing feedback so she can bring her A game as a judge. 'Cuz right now, I find her critiques... well... a little 'ffff' and 'gggg', and not nearly 'mmmm' enough for me.

Friday, July 9, 2010

My First Interview!

Special thanks to Melanie Ray, who decided to take the plunge and read Between for her 7-day challenge on her blog: http://www.readitin7days.com/. She enjoyed the book and asked to do an interview with me, which is now posted on her site. My first interview for Between- so cool!

Melanie's new book The Great Destruction is now available, and we're a stop on her blog tour. Yay! She's had a review as well, so check it out!


Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Center of the Cinnamon Roll

I've been reading Stephen King's On Writing, which is a non-fiction memoir/how-to guide about writing. It is a phenomenal book and I am sure I'll be blogging more about the many nuggets of insight scattered throughout the book.

However, the first thing that jumped out at me as I was reading was the section where he recalls meeting his wife. He includes a brief retelling of how they met, followed by "a year and half later, we were married."

It says a lot about me that I feel a gaping hole when I read that, like the center of my cinnamon roll is missing, the best part of the story. To me, it's all about how you met and fell in love. The rest is good, but it's the outer layer, not the best part. It would be the equivalent of saying, "I think we should have a baby" and then having the next chapter skip ahead to the kid's college graduation. What happened in between there? That's where the yummy stuff is.

To be fair, he does flesh out their relationship throughout the book, paying due homage to his loving wife, but I couldn't help but feel cheated out of the gooey center. I guess that's why I have entitled this blog "Love Stories"- because those are the types of stories that really resonate with me.

What about you? What's the center of your cinnamon roll?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Where Have All the Words Gone?

At the advice of someone on Twitter, I headed to my local Barnes & Noble to check out a romance novel I was assured was fantastic. I found it and couldn't believe how thin it was. This was a regular single-title contemporary romance novel, not a Harlequin book. It was 330 pages and cost $7.99.

Call me cheap, but I don't want to spend $8 for a book I'll be done reading after a lunch break. I don't mind forking out the dough for a good book. In fact, I prefer to buy my books so that the author gets a little something out of the deal (since I know what hard work it is!), but 330 pages? Really?

I know that long books are hard to sell (particularly for debut novelists), but it seems like novels are getting shorter and shorter while the prices keep going up. Why is that? What happened to sinking your teeth into a good book? I, for one, prefer my books to be about 500-700 pages or I don't feel like I got my money's worth.

But enough about me. What do you think?

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Measure of Success

My husband and I stayed at the Dalhousie Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland last month (dream come true). I had a peek past the reception desk into the office, where a small sign was posted:

Success is not measured by the level you achieve, but the obstacles you overcame to reach it.

This reminded me of a conference I attended a couple of years ago where Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, was a speaker. His book is a fascinating study in the benefit of having obstacles to overcome. Something he said really stuck with me: "Maybe it's harder to handle success if you come from success, rather than from adversity."

These are words of encouragement to me (and perhaps to you, as well) since I had unrealistic expectations of what the path to publication would look like. I was inspired by Diana Gabaldon and Stephenie Meyer (as I have mentioned before). Both of these ladies found a fast path to success with their first books. Why should I be any different, right?

Wrong.

It's been a torturous uphill journey, scattered with wonderful heartfelt comments from readers and devastating rejection from agents. It hasn't been what I'd expected at all. And I've felt like giving up. Maybe you have, too.

Sure, fast success would have been great, but would it have meant as much? What about the lessons I have learned about myself (and others) on this emotional path? I am the better for it, though a bit road weary. I have the power to choose what I consider success, and so do you! Choose joy and perseverance today!

"Up, down, up, down, life's like a jump rope"- Blue October

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Itty-Bittty Scene is Famous!

You may recall that my 250-word action scene received Honorable Mention in Nathan Bransford's contest recently. I entered it into the Strong Scenes contest for June and am a finalist! Check it out:

http://www.strongscenes.com/

WooHoo!

:: does wiggling dance of joy ::

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's Time to Celebrate!

No, I haven't gotten an agent (yet) and I don't have a big publishing contract to get excited about, but I figure, why wait? Today is worth celebrating and here's why (in no particular order):

1. There is blue sky right now in Seattle. I swear, it's true!
2. I have hot coffee in my mug.
3. My family loves me.
4. The book I finished last night made me tear up a little.
5. Jody Hedlund became a follower of the blog!
6. Noah's Bagels are yummy.
7. I am healthy (don't even have the sniffles!).
8. God is in control of this crazy life so I don't have to sweat it.
9. YOU are reading this post, which makes me exceedingly happy.
10. People are jogging outside my window. They're fun to watch. :)

Today's song selection is from Plus One:
"If you need love, take the time and be love. Breathe it out, create love. See how things can turn."

What's your reason to celebrate today? C'mon, you know there's at least one!

Monday, June 21, 2010

God's business vs. My business

On Sunday morning during a prayer, the pastor thanked the Lord for our church being 'about God's business' and the phrase really stuck with me. I should be a person who is about God's business, but the majority of my time and energy is about my business. It's all about me, to be honest. My book, my efforts to get published (including every social media outlet I can find), my kids, my house, my job, my relationships...

I am the center of my universe. No wonder it's so exasperating! :)

I wonder what life would look like if I were truly 'about God's business' rather than thinking that my business is so all-important. New perspectives can be powerful paradigm shifts!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ooh, pick me! Pick me!

Lorraine Holloway-White and the rest of the team over at Authors On Show have selected Between to be in the running for this month's reviewing contest! The top three authors get their books reviewed by a reviewer from a publishing house (which would be way cool) so check out the link and vote for me!

Ok, ok, you can vote for two more that you like as well, but definitely vote for me, too. ;)

Thanks to the folks over at Authors On Show for the honor of being selected for the contest! There's some good talent out there and I'm proud to be a part of it!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Pity Party Playlist!

Ok, so rejection number 3,715,859 came today (give or take). So, in the spirit of a true pity party, here are some songs that came to mind (and some I found while surfing the web).

All That Could Have Been- Nine Inch Nails
Broken Dream- Justin Hayward
Cry Me A River- Crystal Gayle
Crying- Roy Orbison
Heartbreak Town- Dixie Chicks
Hello, Mr. Heartache- Dixie Chicks
I Can't Cry Hard Enough- Paul Williams
I Can't Make You Love Me- Bonnie Raitt
I Gotta Get Drunk- Willie Nelson
I'm Not Okay- My Chemical Romance
I'm On The Outside Looking In- Little Anthony
Is That All There Is?- Peggy Lee
It's My Party (and I'll Cry If I Want To)- Leslie Gore
It's The End of the World As We Know It- R.E.M.
Let the Sad Times Roll On- Buck Owens
Misery and Gin- Merle Haggard
Not Goin' Cry- Mary J. Blige
So Much For My Happy Ending- Avril Lavigne
Sounds of Silence- Simon & Garfunkel
Teardrops On My Guitar- Taylor Swift
There's a Tear in My Beer- Hank Williams
Too Much Time On My Hands- Styx
What Hurts the Most- Rascal Flatts
What's Going On- Marvin Gaye

Ok, enough whining and moping about! I WILL find the agent who loves my book and it WILL get published!

So here's my new theme song! Tubthumping by Chumbawamba

That's right: "I get knocked down, but I get up again. You're never gonna keep me down!"

Ah, much better :)

Feel free to add your own songs to the play list, my friends!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Totally Unrelated- Celebrity Sighting!

I went for a walk today and guess who I saw? Bill Gates! I was pretty excited, since I have never had a celebrity sighting before (if you don't count local news anchors).

Tell me about your celebrity sightings! Whom did you see and when? Let's live vicariously and have a little fun!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Are You a Monogamous Reader?

I don't know about you, but I have my nose in a number of books at any given time. Right now, I'm reading Judith McNaught's Whitney, My Love (which is pretty good), but I also have a couple of books at work on my shelf in case I forget to bring one from home. I am also partway through Memoirs of a Highland Lady by Elizabeth Grant (a book I bought in Scotland). And we can't forget the constant critiquing of books on Authonomy. Whew!

I guess it just depends on my mood, so I don't commit myself fully to one book at a time. Of course, sometimes a book is so amazing that I foresake all else until it's finished (including sleep- ha!).

What about you? Are you a monogamous reader, or do you have lots of books in play at once?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Atttributes of a Leading Man

I received a comment from Alex Riley on Authonomy (who is a great writer, BTW) and she mentioned her amusement at the Americanized romanticism of Scottish men because of Lindsey's reaction to Aiden's accent and kilt in Between.

It got me to thinking about the attributes that we find attractive in leading men. Sure, handsome is a given, but what about beyond that? I, in particular, have a thing for Scottish men (thanks to Diana Gabaldon). I could listen to a Scottish man talk all day; I adore the accent.

What do you like in a leading man? Is there anything in particular that really works for you?

(Side note: this is a topic at the upcoming RWA conference, too!)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Gold star for NEB

My four year-old son left his computer game to run over and get my attention. "Mom, I wrote my name on the 'pewter. Come see!" he said, his face lit up with excitement. And sure enough, on the screen were the letters "NEB". Trouble is, his name's not NEB, as I am not a horribly cruel mother. ;)

He was so proud of his accomplishment; I didn't want to burst his bubble with the truth. So I paused a moment before saying anything, and it was in those few breaths that I realized he truly had accomplished something. He'd chosen the correct letters and ONLY the correct letters of his name. He'd simply put them in the wrong order.

It got me to thinking about the first draft of Between, and how it compares to the manuscript today. Writing a book was an accomplishment, to be sure, and I was puffed up just like Ben when I finished it. Look what I'd done! So I ran out to agents to tell them the good news and over time, the message sunk in that maybe I needed to take another look, to refine, to reorganize the letters, if you will.

Ben was a little deflated when I pointed out his error (in the most loving way possible), but he made his changes with determination, confident he was going to get it right. And so have I. I'm still puffed up about the book and I know it'll get picked up at some point. But just like Ben, I had to learn that even though it might not be perfect the first time around, keep trying and eventually, the letters will line up just like they should.

Thanks, NEB. Mommy loves you.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Honorable mention in Nathan Bransford's contest!

Blogging agent extraordinaire Nathan Bransford hosted a writing contest this week. He challenged us to write a chase/action/suspense scene (500 words or less). He received over 300 entries! I told ya he's a popular guy. ;)

The prize was a critique of a partial (which would be fab), so I wanted in. Problem is, I write love stories, not action. In fact, I don't even read action or suspense, so I was starting out at a disadvantage. But hey, I wasn't going to win, so what harm was there in trying, right?

So I hammered out a scene over my lunch break and posted it. I was surprised at how good it turned out (in my humble opinion).

Results day today and voila! Nathan has chosen 5 finalists and 5 honorable mentions. Yours truly was in the honorable mention category! Woo Hoo! Happy dance of joy! :)

Click on the Cyndi Tefft link in his blog to see my entry! And thanks, Nathan, for the vote of confidence. I am so glad you liked it!

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/06/finalists.html

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Caught in a bad romance

I watched last week's episode of Glee last night, and the theme was Lady Gaga. They did a rendition of her pop song, "Bad Romance" and it got me to thinking about what makes a bad romance book.

I love romance novels, chick-lit novels, any book where romance and love play a central role. But I get weary of the formulaic approach of 'boy and girl hate each other but are hot for each other' that you often find in romance novels. I don't find that romantic at all, to be honest, though some books pull it off better than others. I also don't like books where the leading man is a total neaderthal. And why is it that in romance novels the hero can be a 'rake' while the heroine is almost always virginal? The books I love the most bring romance in a fresh way and focus on the love, not the fighting.

What about you? What characteristics do you think take a book into the 'bad romance' category?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Deciding what's important

I've come across a few inspiring quotes from agents recently about doing what you love.

Rachelle Gardner with WordServe tells us we have to believe in ourselves and reminds us of God's greater purpose. It was just what I needed to hear today. "Believe you've been given this passion for a reason. Understand that you have to work to bring it to fruition - but you've also been given the energy and enthusiasm and time you need to make it happen. I believe it for you. I believe it for every single one of my clients. But you've got to believe it too. God gave you something powerful - a story or a message, and the desire to share it. God is not in the business of tricking people, or of squandering anything - not talent, not passion, not time. Pursue your God-given passions with an unwavering faith. Praise and bless the obstacles. And keep believing."

Jim McCarthy with Dystel & Goderich has these words of wisdom for the writer, which I thought particularly poignant. "If you think you can give up writing, then give it up. If you can't ... if you know that no matter how much stress or rejection or frustration you face, that you can never stop writing? In that case, never give up. Publishing is too hard to face if you aren't in it for the right reasons. But it's not too hard to break into if it's what you need to do."

Finally, Nathan Bransford with Curtis Brown has a Top 10 List that showcases his fantastic sense of humor but drives the point home. "Keep writing. Didn't find an agent? Keep writing. Book didn't sell? Keep writing. Book sold? Keep writing. OMG an asteroid is going to crash into Earth and enshroud the planet in ten feet of ash? Keep writing. People will need something to read in the resulting permanent winter."

Thanks to these and other agents who take time to remind us about what's important. Do you have some words of inspiration to share? I invite you to do so in the comments section!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Smirk-worthy Books

I recently received a review for Between recently that was so right on, I had to share it with you.

"I always know when I am reading a good romance novel because I will start smirking, whether all alone or in public. Well, you've got me smirking! Especially, about the kilt! ... I would definitely buy it and have my boyfriend wondering what I am smirking about!"

The review was longer than I've posted here, but the part that's stuck with me over the last few weeks since I read it is the bit about smirking (hence the name of this post). It's true, but I hadn't ever realized it before she pointed it out. I do smirk when I'm reading a good romance novel. Actually, a good chick-lit novel gets me smirking, too.

The latest smirk-worthy book I've read is Sophie Kinsella's The Undomestic Goddess. It's the second I've read of hers (the first was Can You Keep A Secret?) and I enjoyed them both tremendously. In particular, I loved the sex scene in 'Goddess'. It was more about the buildup than about the sex, more about the emotions than the deed. It definitely had me smirking.

What about you? Read any smirk-worthy books lately? I'd love to hear your recommendations!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Paying homage

Any blog where I write about inspiration would be sadly lacking without mention of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. In my previous post, I said that I was inspired to write Between after reading Twilight. I'd watched an interview with Stephenie Meyer where she'd said she had a dream about the meadow scene, and just started writing. She was a nobody (like me), so I figured I could give it a try.

So I wrote a scene, not the beginning but the lynchpin, critical scene. It wasn't good. I let it sit for a couple of months while I kept reading.

So I picked up Outlander at a friend's suggestion and to this day, it is my favorite book. Originally, I'd planned to make the hero of my book from England because I like accents. It didn't occur to me at the time that English accents are hard to convey on paper. It wasn't until after I had finished (yes, finished!) the whole Outlander series that I went back to writing. By then, I wanted my hero to be a Scottish Highlander. I couldn't get enough of Jamie Fraser so I had to make my own Highlander: Aiden MacRae.

I was surfing the net, looking for information about cairns and such when I followed a random path of links to Eilean Donan Castle's website. It was exactly what I was looking for by way of backstory for Aiden, and he was born. Just like that. And he has brought me great joy ever since. By the time I got around to rewriting the critical scene of Between, I didn't use anything I'd written the first go around!

So I'd like to say thanks, Diana! Maybe someday, I will be able to send you a signed copy of Between. I told you once that Jamie's name will be in my acknowledgments section, and I still intend to do that. And even though their paths would never cross (Aiden died before Jamie was born), I think they would have gotten along swimmingly.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Home for Between (for now)

I finished my first novel last year, an accomplishment I never thought I'd see. I didn't set out to be a writer. It sounds pompous now, but I read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series and thought, "I wonder if I could that." Turns out I could!

Ok, maybe I haven't written the next Twilight series, but I did finish my novel. And it's good. But I am a new writer and I needed to get some input, to learn how to edit, find out what was working and what wasn't. So I signed up for Authonomy and have received comments on Between from over 200 people. It's helped me to recognize trends and edit accordingly.

The book has been through a great deal of polishing (if you count blood, sweat and tears as polishing!) and is better now than it was when I first "finished" it last year.

Still, there is much to learn about the publishing industry for a newbie such as myself, so I have been actively reading agent and editor blogs to immerse myself in that world. The most helpful blog I've come across lately is Janet Reid's Query Shark. I plan to send her my query and let her sink her teeth into it. Lord knows, the more specific feedback, the better!

I've had to grow some thick skin through this process, but I've learned lessons I would not have had I received a "Yes, please!" from the first agent I queried. So when Between hits the shelves, the readers will be the lucky recipients of the lessons learned along the way.