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Thursday, December 29, 2011

goals 2012

Being funny before the 2009 Other Half Marathon in Moab. Reminds me that I'm capable of amazing things when I put my mind and heart into something!


I'm not one for resolutions because too often they are set, failed at, then allowed to die a slow death by February. But I do love me some goals that can be set, tried, then adjusted as needed. So here are mine for 2012, writing and otherwise.

1. Always come back to the positive.

Because here is a truth, I have struggled with this off and on through 2011. The movement towards getting published has been interesting to say the least. Also, it's been filled with personal lessons and has taught me tons about the industry (absolutely!) but more importantly, about myself. And while I can't talk specifics, I will say that there have been amazingly wonderful things and also catastrophically heartbreaking things, but through it all there has also been me and this book. So here is my take away so far: It is vitally important to stay as centered and as positive within yourself as possible because outside of you is like a wind storm of variability that is completely outside of your ability to control. You can't allow any of that to effect your love, life or happiness because the reality is, pursuing something career related is never as important as you love, life or happiness. 

2. Visualize daily. (career, lifestyle, relationships)

This one is actually a no brainer for me personally because I love to do this anyway. But, I sometimes drift into daydreaming instead of concentrating on a more specific vision. So, I need to focus.

3. Write 500 everyday. 

I renew this goal all the time. It still needs work.

4. Give yourself deadlines

This is to help with #3

5. Blog at least twice a week

Honestly, this one scares me.  Such a commitment! :-)

6. Read 2 new books a month.

I LOVE this goal for obvious reasons. The challenge is simply a time issue (HA, simple right?)

7. Exercise daily.

Even if it is just going for a walk. Part of my #2 is visualizing my lifestyle (this frequently looks like a healthy strong me cavorting down a beach or ski slope happy and calm with my husband and kids.

Also, I am in great shape while cavorting. And well, visualizing is a TWO STEP process after all: Think It--Do It. 

So that's it--so far anyway. Remember I'm a "adjust as needed" kind of girl. How about it, what are your goals for 2012? If your blogging about it, please paste a link in the comments section. I'd love to come over and read yours!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Call

Christmas break, snow falling, writer who had very recently been tottering on the brink of disastrous thoughts and behavior that indicated she had given up on Ascendant ever finding the love of a publisher willing to invest the time, money and energy in helping the first book in a serious find a public.

Then, one night while sitting at The Tattered Cover (my favoritiest bookstore) over come with worry, self doubt, and surrounded with all those other books that already had their space on the shelf, I asked for help.

Please God, Universe, Everything, help me know what to do. Help me know how to move--because right now, I'm so stuck. Stuck in the middle of mire that I can't go back, I'm not moving forward, I feel unable to levitate out of this current situation, so please, please help me.

*continued typing on computer*
*several minutes pass*
*look up*
*notice book oddly displayed all by itself on the mantle in front of me*
*put computer down, get up, consider book, pick up book, sit back down*
*open to the first page*


"Step One--Understand Your Power"

So, I read that book in practically one sitting and then promptly purchased and read the author's other book, Infinite Possibilities and realized that the only person that had been keeping me from allowing my publishing career to flow into the next phase was myself.

I had been circling and circling around and around in that Waiting Place, worrying, not believing, thinking of every possible reason why it would never ever happen for me when honestly, all along, I was no more than an arms reach ahead of me.

But I had to believe that it was there, had to understand, without a doubt that all that was required of me in the situation that I had set up for myself was to step forward and say yes.

And so, I did.

I knew it was happening, things were rolling, I needed to get back into my story because changes were coming, edits would need to happen, discussions with My Editor were going to start flying.

Today.

So today, My Call came. My publisher loves my book, they are over the moon about the series. And I said YES. YES. YES.

The two first people I called:

1. My Husband
2. My Mother

I'm not going to lie, the feeling is amazing. And scary, but mostly amazingly excitingly hypnotically crazy. I'm going to buy a bottle of expensive Champagne today and take my wonderful husband out to a fantastic dinner downtown. Also, I am just going to roll back and forth in this joy for the rest of the day. There is work to do, oh yes, but I want to savor every inch of this feeling right now.

After all, when your dream comes true, it's an amazingly beautiful thing that should be completely digested.

Contracts are being drafted.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Getting what you want


I just wanted to share a somewhat large epiphany I've recently had.

If you're blessed enough to already know what you want in this world, hang that want to the front door of your consciousness and use both your hands to work towards getting it.

Don't stop.
Keep moving.
Never doubt.

You will succeed.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Top 5 Must Read YA & MG Books


I've mentioned it on Twitter--Everyone I know is getting books this year for Christmas. AND, most of those books have (or will be) purchased at The Tattered Cover here in Denver (my favoritest book store ever!) But here's the other thing, almost all the books I've purchased for the teens and adults in my life are YA or MG. Many of these people do not typically read this age group.

Now I haven't completely disregarded what I know to be their  reading proclivities. I've simply taken into account what books typically line there shelves and then thought long and hard about what genre within the YA/MG branch of lit would most likely be highly enjoyable for them. For example, my 78 year old grandfather loves Wilbur Smith--I purchased him The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. My grandmother loves historical romance = The Luxe by Anna Godbersen. My thoughts are that these books will be a fun alternative to their usual fare but still very close.

So I was browsing and thinking my way through Tattered Cover's YA and MG section tonight and I'm wondering, what are the staples of the YA and/or MG book world? If you had to recommend 5 books from each age range, what would you choose? Let's assume the Twilight saga is a given because regardless of if you are a fan or not, I think it's hard to argue that this series is NOT a must read for anyone looking to explore the depth and breadth of YA books on the shelf (even if it's just to know what all the hubbub is about.) So...

What are the top 5 must read YA books?

Top 5 MG must reads? (AND, no mentions of anything Harry. That, like Twilight, is a given.)

Why?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Belief

Belief: confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Six Months To Live

 Doing what I do in my day job (school psychologist) I have, utilize, and read about numerous "therapy tools." So the other day, I was seeing a kid for the first time and one tool I like to use is a game that is like Jenga but this version has question cards that go with it. The idea is that every time someone pulls a block of a certain color, the other person asks a question from a card with the corresponding color. The kids get to ask me questions too, and thus, get to know some things about me in the process.


So yesterday, this question came into my life:

"If you found out you only had six months to live, what would you do with the time you had left?"

And, without missing a beat, my answer was, "I'd spend every available minute with my kids."

I found it interesting that the 5th grader who asked me the question smiled at my answer and nodded sagely--of course this is what I would do.

And so, I don't think that my answer was particularly enlightening. I mean, I think most parents with young children would answer similarly. But, for the first time in a long time, this question did have an enlightening effect on me. It stirred in me that all too rare phenomenon of getting outside your own life and viewing yourself from a distance. Evaluating the choices you make everyday with the objective eye of stranger.

Later, driving home, the question was still in my mind. Six months? And the truth was that, as much as I love my day job, I would quit it. I would, tomorrow morning, self publish my book and spend every second I wasn't with my kids finishing the series. Don't get me wrong, I want traditional publishing. But remember hypothetical death is knocking on my door, even if I sign a contract tomorrow I'm not going to see a galley of my book inside of six months! Needless to say, I found the sudden and swift change in my priorities interesting. 

Are you living the life you want?
Are you living the life you want everyday?

Because, the fact of the matter is, I might live for another sixty years, sixty months, sixty days, or sixty seconds.

What am I doing, or not doing, about living my life like I'm dying.

What would you do, or stop doing, if you found out you only had six months to live?

*also, for anyone who may be concerned, had I pulled this question to ask a 5th grader I would have asked a different question. But they get to ask me anything.*

*also, no, I'm not dying. Well, not any more than any of us are everyday.*
 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Power of Focus

Becky say: What should I freak out about first?

Right now I am focused solely on writing this blog post. Steady, that's it now Becky. Just this post. Not the edits waiting for you, not the laundry that just signaled your attention by beeping "I'm dry now!" not your worries about the 83 things going on at work that you can't do anything about till tomorrow, not Matthew's spelling list, not wondering why you volunteered to help your child's class make pumpkin pudding, not refinancing your mortgage, not your brand spanking new copy of Maggie Stiefvater's Scorpio Races...just, this, post.

And this post is about the swirling abyss of THINGS that always need to be either thought about, planned for, accomplished, or just plain grunt work DONE--all those things vying for your attention. Right now, there are hundreds of must do items that fall under the various categories my life is divided into: Mother, Aspiring Author, School Psychologist, House Keeper, Avid Reader, Cook, Money Manager, Exerciser, etc, etc, and at times, the sheer breadth and depth of all those things is enough to make me want to crawl back into bed on any given day and have a good cry.

Except, I have a little trick.

I noticed a few years ago, as life events began to grow and compound, that I would at times become paralyzed by To Dos. My mind would just spin from one thing to another and another. I would begin one task only to have my mind jump in 1/4 the way through and say, "wait! this thing over here! look at this stressful thing that you haven't done yet. drop that grocery list and do this NOW!" And, of course, half way through that I would again get side tracked by something else equally Need To. At the end of everyday, nothing was complete and everything felt just as stressful as it had the day before.

Since then, I have discovered the power available to me when I focus on one thing at a time. For example--this blog post. It has my complete attention right now and everything else (but never the kids, they're sledding out back) is being ignored. I mean, those things aren't going anywhere. They will still be waiting for me to either do or worry about doing as soon as I'm done with this--so why not just pretend they don't exist for a few minutes while I concentrate long enough on one of them to make a difference (and reduce my stress by the way.)

For me, when my brain starts to spin from one thing to the next, I find it extremely helpful to just write it all down. Every little thing that my brain is worried I will forget to worry about. Because if I write it down, I can tell my brain, "see, there. Now it won't be forgotten. Every little thing is written in plain sight. so now let's stop worrying about how LONG that list is and let's pick one. No now, I said just ONE thing brain."

And today we picked this post.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sit

So here is my totally not asked for writerly advice for the day.
Sit, writer. Sit. 

If you sit within your space and at your time (this just happens to be 4 am for me) the words will come--eventually.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Laini Taylor's Book Signing

What I'm reading now: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (of course)

So last night I got to attend Laini Taylor's signing for her new book Daughter of Smoke and Bone at the Tattered Cover in Highlands  Ranch. She was fantastic and so gracious. Besides sharing some of her personal journey through publishing over the years (including some of the bumpy parts) she spoke about how wonderful she felt the whole YA writing/reading blogging and tweeting community was and compared it to finding your tribe (even if you don't live anywhere near each other.)  Here are some pics!


Here Laini and I are posing with her beautiful new book!

My personal copy along with the very cool Mardi Gras masks that were passed out to all the book bloggers in attendance (who says there aren't any perks to this endeavour?)

  

Laini reading an excerpt from chapter 3



Me in my awesome mask (sadly, that's my pj flannel detracting from the overall glamor.) I am so totally figuring out what else can be worn with it for Halloween this year.


Also spied in attendance Colorado agent Kate Schafer Testerman from KT Literary with her beautiful baby boy. I swear, I only gushed over him a little bit while saying a quick hello.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hey Colorado YA Bloggers

Any Colorado YA writers/readers want to meet up at the Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch tonight??
Laini Taylor will be there at 7:00pm reading and signing copies of her new YA Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I'm gonna be there (with my camera) so if you feel like meeting up and saying, "Hi Becky!" send me an email and we'll figure out how to hook up!  Rebecca@rrtaylor.com

  MY BOOKS


I can't wait!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Those green eyes mean something...


I'm not, by nature, a jealous person. I can't really recall being ravaged by the green eyed monster when someone I knew got a new car, bigger house, lost 20 pounds, or a smoking new pair of kicks. No, usually I'm genuinely happy for my friends and family when wonderful things that they really wanted come into their lives--I'll be the first one to say, "That's so great!" and really, really mean it.

Except for when I don't.

There are two times that I clearly remember being mad with jealously. And I don't mean that, "oh, wouldn't that be nice...it's so unfair...blah, blah." I mean the bleeding canker of desire that sits somewhere near your esophagus. That obsessive fire of want that keeps you up at night. The slow moving rickety Ferris wheel that...okay, you get the idea. 

Obsession. I'm talking about blind obsession.

The first time it happened I was 26 and it felt like everyone, EVERYONE IN THE WORLD was pregnant. And I just happened to be married to the one man who didn't seem particularly interested in having a kid any time within the next decade. Aagghhh.

The second time, well the second time is much more recent--within the last few years, really. I had become inexplicably jealous of another writer, who doesn't know me from Eve I might mention, but who's success is something I covet.

COVET!!

Now before you start worrying that I've gone all stalker crazy, realize that I have too many real world cares and responsibilities to put in the time, energy and effort to truly go off the rails. Furthermore, in both of the above mentioned character flaws, I've learned something exceedingly valuable about myself.

My jealously taught me what I wanted in this world.

I wanted to be a mom.
I wanted to be a writer.

Now that might sound like a simple epiphany, but these statements have become brightly lit signposts in my life. There are many things I could be, there are many things I already am--But these were the things I really, really Wanted. I wanted them so much for myself that it felt nearly impossible to be happy for others when they strode forward and achieved them while I still idled in neutral.

Over the years, I have found that there is only one cure for jealously of this kind--it's getting up off your ass and going after what you want. Because that un pursued WANT will claw at your brain like a monkey on crack. The jealous crazy that spins you inside out comes only from not trying.

Believe me.

So I say, jealously is not always a bad thing. Pay attention to your jealously, it can teach you loads about what you want in this life. I became a mother. I became a writer. I don't (yet) have the exterior trappings of success that the object of my writer jealously has, but because I'm too busy stretching for that brass ring myself, I almost never even notice the burn anymore.

Well, almost never. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Beautiful Colorado

I had wanted to post these pics from when the fam and I headed up Trail Ridge Road and hiked around above the tree line--but I forgot.

Needless to say, it was absolutely gorgeous.

Mama Llama

Baby Llamas

Me and The Husband
I always tell people that, growing up in a military family, I'm from a little bit of everywhere. But now I'm all grown up I think it's pretty obvious why I call Colorado home.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Your Website is Hurting My Brain

Seriously, I recently visited a writer's site that had a background similar to this. My brain is STILL trying to recover.

I love to visit other writers' websites and blogs. I may not always comment but I do a lot of lurking and reading to be sure.

So here's my two cents about web design (coming straight from a non professional, strictly consumer view point.)

I don't care how great your content is, if it gives me a migraine trying to decipher it--I won't come back. First impressions matter--make yours accessible, and pleasant.

What turns me off:

Font too small
Bad color contrast on eyes, black background white font
Too busy (background that's sending me into the Twilight Zone)
A million blog awards, tons of clutter, can't find anything

I want to read what you have to say and I don't think I'm alone in this.

Keep it simple?
Thoughts?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I Wasn't a Teenage Cougar


It seems like in the last year I've read a few YA books where I've gotten just the tiniest bit annoyed with the very adult like actions/attitudes of the MC. Whether it's an almost cougar like "come and get me" approach to a first sexual encounter or a voice and wisdom that I can only envision unfolding from the heart and mind of a life-lessons-learned 40 year old--Basically, I'm having a hard time hanging on to the idea that these characters are only 16. Consequently I spend too much time thinking, "she wouldn't do that." or "she wouldn't know that." or "she wouldn't say that." Tiny annoying thoughts that act like interruptions in the story.

AND I HATE FOR A STORY TO BE INTERRUPTED. Especially by my own stupid interjections folks. I mean, come on, I read to escape the never-ending commentary constantly cartwheeling through my brain. Let's not encourage it.


Maybe it was just me, but a ton of things scared the crap out of me as a teen, no matter how much I may have acted otherwise. I don't care how many demons you've faced or how many werewolves you've loved, when you're sixteen, you're sixteen. And isn't that part of the beauty of reading the genre in the first place? Remember when the thought of holding a guys hand, sitting next to him in the dark, even catching his eye at lunch was enough to basically launch you into orbit?

I realize that many of us are long married now to that guy (or gal) with whom we feel so comfortable with we can practically read their minds before they've even considered the thought you know they're about to have. But when you were a teen, the very idea of co mingling private body parts was not something to be considered, decided and acted upon in the space of a single chapter. 

Wasn't sex terrifying, exhilarating, momentous and even a little (or a lot) sad for you?

At least the first time?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Book Users


I'm always caught off guard when I find a version of my childhood self tucked away in the schools I work in. She's quiet, a good student (well, she's still a good student in elementary school anyway) and she reads a lot. A LOT. She reads so much that if reading weren't so pushed by adults upon kids who don't read even a fraction as much as she does, if books were not so socially acceptable, someone might worry over the way she uses books. Uses books to hide and run. She uses books to escape.
 
(Deleted a ton of words here about my own childhood)

Once I learned to read with the fluency and comprehension skills necessary to float away and get truly good and lost in a book, I was gone. Books have always been my getaway car. Throughout my life there has been no other activity I have found that allows me to exit completely from this world, this life, this bad relationship, this crappy job, this overwhelming financial pit. Books have always been my eject button.

They are, quite simply, my drug of choice. 

Do you read? Too much? 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Psychtember Guest Post


Danya over at A Tapestry of Words was kind enough to invite me to ramble on and on guest post on her blog as a part of her Psychtember posts this month. Please come watch me try to connect my passion for my day job (kids, education and school psychology) to my first love (reading and writing.)

It really was harder than I thought it would be--geesh.

Thank you Danya for posting the whole thing. (That was the shorter version, sorry.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Do you write to music?

What I'm reading now: Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick


It seems that many authors--YA ones anyway--post play lists on their blogs or websites to accompany their book titles. The songs are frequently, edgy, not mainstream, or filled with bands that have a wide enough following but may never grace the Top 100 lists. In short...they are songs that appeal to teens who not only read but who also see themselves as just left of the beaten path. When I think back to my own teen years, Depeche Mode comes to mind for some reason, but that is really, really dating me (although, they're still producing and touring these days. We can just pretend I didn't know them back in the day.)

I write with music in the background (turned down to barely a whisper) but it's classical or instrumental jazz. I'm always surprised by people who say they can write to music with lyrics. I for one can not get into a zone when someone else is crooning their words into my brain. Way to distracting.

So here are a few artists from my play list for Ascendant:

Bach
Mozart
Dizzy Gillespie
Beethoven
Charlie Parker
Tchaikovsky

Okay, so it's not exactly Noah and the Whale. But it's what works for me.

So I'm curious...Do you write to music with lyrics? Are you able to tune out the words or does it not affect you they way it does me?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Revision and Organization

Before I get to my post, I want to add a new something to the blog--updates on what I'm reading. So whenever I start a new book, I'll post it in red and the top of the blog.

What I'm reading: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

I love organization. You know The Container Store?..I haul my kids around there at least once every few weeks. Even if we're just window shopping. Sick, I know. But I hate clutter. It feels to me like you can't think straight when surrounded by material chaos.

Now, having said that, I bet you're thinking my house, office and car are simply the perfection of tidily stacked bins and perfectly collected paper clips.

Who are we kidding here. I have two little kids and work outside the home. Tis but a dream my friends. Sigh...here's the reality:
Yes, this is my desk! This is where bills are paid and schedules are managed...this is where I'm supposed to move through the birthing pains of creating a wip!! KELLY, my local Container Store sale representative would be shocked, SHOCKED. Oh, I can talk a good game about label makers and hanging file folders. But the organization walk requires a significant amount of up keep. *hangs head in shame*

Anyway, I'm going to clean my office (again) today. But I also wanted to ask folks about their organization techniques for revising their ms's.

Do you have any special tricks you'd like to share with me? I mean, I've revised and revised...but I'm feeling like maybe some type of overhaul may be in order. I feel like I need to stand back and observe the whole thing.

How do you do that? Anyone? What are your favorite secrets to ms revision?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Agent Interview: Emma Patterson, The Wendy Weil Agency INC


Have I mentioned how fantastic my agent is? Yes? Well I wanted to share more of her wonderfulment here on the blog and, I'm happy to say, she was kind enough to agree to answer some of my questions. But before we get to that, I wanted to say something to those writers out there who are getting ready to add Emma Patterson to their agent search list and that something is this--Emma has been amazing to work with over the last few months. From the moment she first expressed interest in my MS to the revisions and submissions, Emma has offered the voice of steadfast wisdom and commitment. I truly feel fortunate to be working with her.

And so, without further blubbering:

Emma Patterson is a literary agent with The Wendy Weil Agency INC. She is actively looking for new clients. 

emma

Can you tell us a little bit about you? How did you get your start as an agent?

I grew up in New Jersey as an avid reader and the daughter of a literary agent.  My mother had her office in our house, and I remember realizing at a young age that my house contained more books and stacks of papers than any of my friends’ houses.  And no one else had multiple copies of books in multiple languages, either!  I loved helping my mother organize her files and bookshelves (I’m still an obsessively organized person…), sort query letters, and read manuscripts that she was excited about.  Basically, I grew up comfortable around books, writers, and writing.  Then, in the secluded Ohio cornfields during college, my love for literature and writing only further intensified, and I knew I wanted to be part of it.  Luckily for me, after two fantastic summer internships with Wendy Weil, she needed an assistant right after I graduated from college, and I jumped at the chance to be part of her amazing team.

What genres are you currently looking for?

I am on the lookout for literary and commercial fiction, women’s fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction and nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, pop culture, and food writing.  I’m open to mostly any project with strong writing and a story that immediately grabs me – and I still think about weeks after I’ve finished reading it.  I’m not one to shy away from dark or quiet, either.

Can you tell us about a couple of the published authors/books your agency represents?

This is a tricky question because I’m very attached to all of our talented authors – and I’d gladly tell you about every single one of them if I could! 

I will tell you about Anthony Doerr, who has been a client of Wendy’s since I started working here, and whose work I’ve adored for years.  His most recent book, Memory Wall, is a wonderful collection of stories, and we’ve loved watching him receive his due credit in recent months – he won the 2010 Story Prize, Memory Wall was named a best book of the year by many newspapers including The New York Times, Boston Globe, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and a story of his won the 2011 Sunday Times Award in England (the largest prize in the world for a short story – a form that should be celebrated more than it is!) this past Spring.  Not only is he a beautiful writer, he is also one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met.  It’s been incredible to have been with this agency long enough to really watch his career develop and flourish. 

Are you currently accepting queries? If so, what would you love to see in your sub pile right now? 

Yes!  I’d love to see YA fiction with strong plots, great writing, memorable characters, and no vampires (please).  I’d also love to see transporting, powerful adult literary and commercial fiction – anything from a well-written literary thriller to a historical novel set in 19th century France.  I’d also love to consider more nonfiction queries about pop culture, food, history, and memoir.

What do you look for in a query letter? or When a query really grabs you, what is it that makes it stand out?

Honestly, for me, the most important thing is the writing.  If a query is well-written and describes an intriguing story or idea, I’m grabbed.

The most frustrating thing about being an agent is…

Relaying editors’ rejection letters to your talented authors whose work you’re trying to sell (and whose work you wholeheartedly believe in!). 

The best thing about being an agent is…

Seeing strangers reading your authors’ books and loving them as much as you do. 

What is something you wish every writer knew?

Most agents (or at least myself) don’t love being cold-called by writers.  It’s much more important to me to see the writer’s writing on paper…hence the query letter.

What one book, from you childhood, stands out in your memory the most? Why?

I’d have to say Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.  It was the first chapter book I can remember reading and adoring; it was the first book that made me cry.  After that, even though my reading tastes changed and developed over time (I went through various Baby Sitters Club, Judy Blume, and Mary Higgins Clark phases in my later childhood years), I can still remember the connection I felt to Island of the Blue Dolphins, a connection that I need to feel with any project I represent today.  And not even in a “this-book-is-so-beautiful-that-it’s-making-me-cry” sort of way (though that’s always a sure sign that I’m in love with a book!), but at least in a “this-book-is-so-good-that-I-can’t-put-down-and-I-want-to-share-it-with-everyone-I-know” sort of way.

If you weren’t an agent, what would you be?

Eek – I have no idea!  I know that if I lived in a fantasy world, I’d own a restaurant in a remote beach town and live within a 2 block radius of all my family and friends.  And I’d have a labradoodle.  And a never-ending supply of Cadbury eggs.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Your agent, a writer's shiny coin



I was lying in bed (awake at some ridiculous hour because of invisible rag weed particles blowing through my open window and turning my nose into a faucet) and thinking that since I was already awake, and everyone else was still asleep, that it would be a great time to get up and write. So I came down to my office, read a million blog posts and emails, browsed Twitter, fed the cat, made tea, took an allergy pill then decided maybe I should write a blog post first.

Yes, I sometimes blog simply to procrastinate.

But this morning, while feeding the cat, I was thinking about what's different about writing this year vs. last year. Last year I was finishing up Ascendant and getting ready for my agent critique and pitch sessions at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference. Last year, I didn't have an agent.

This year, I do. But as I dumped the syrupy meat byproducts into my cat's dish, I realized there is nothing different between now and then when it comes to writing. I still have to find the time and motivation all by myself. I still have to force my brain to focus away from twitter's scrolling time line of instant gratification. I still have to sit alone in my office and actually DO the writing.

But here's what is different. Someone other than me, my husband and my mother believes in what I'm producing during all those hours alone. And, she believes in it enough to think she can sell it. She spent hours of her time, unpaid and with no guarantees, reading, making notes, rereading, making more notes because of the belief that, when we were done with revisions, she would find an editor who loves those 390 pages as much as she does.

That's what is different between writing and having an agent and all the years I spent writing before having her. There's still no guarantee the book will sell, right? I mean, even if she and I love it till the end of time that doesn't mean we aren't the only two people, besides my husband and mother, that will. But I'll say this, in case you're like me and didn't come ready equipped into this world with a storage house full of self assurance, having someone on the inside like what you're doing is like having a shiny coin in your pocket. Whenever you're sitting at you computer and having one of those, "I really suck at this," moments, you remember that coin in your pocket. You remember that Emma, who is not your mother, doesn't think you suck. And then you realize, while you're not there yet, you are closer than you were last year. And maybe it won't be this book, but it might be the next.

Because you are close. Or at least, closer.

But what if you don't have an agent yet? What did I do during those years of writing without some margin of professional assurance?

I had my critique partners. I attended conferences and met other writers. I read industry blogs and communicated through the comments. I connected as much as I could with that world I wanted to belong to. And let's not forget, I had my mother.

But I also wrote. Alone.

The same as I do now. The same as you do.  


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What's Your Story?

 


I want to hear your story. Where are you? What are you doing? What are you working on and how much do you:

a. love it

b. hate it

c. feel certain it's the Next Big Thing

d. wonder why you started writing in the first place

You might notice with the above options I've given you no middle ground, no gray. Well, is it just me or do you too have a love hate relationship with your piece? Like some days you're just plowing through a field of weeds, no dream in sight but then, right behind a particularly nasty bramble, it's there. Your desert flower.

Hot and cold. Despair and joy. That roller coaster that makes you sick, sick, sick but you don't have the ability to get off.

Are you on submission? Do you have a query out to that agent you can't stop stalking? Do you have 50 queries out? Are you finishing your first MS? Your eighth? Where are you? How are you dealing? Do you ever feel alone? Connected to more people than your little introverted self can manage?

I want to know--I need to know. Let's commiserate, wallow, roll around in the mud. Let's shout from the roof tops, sing Beethoven's 9th, dance with joy.

Where are you?

Monday, August 8, 2011

I WON! (and I never win anything)

I am the big o winner of Anna Banks season of swag giveaway. Hardbacks people, I won hardbacks of The Wolves of Mercy Falls--yes, I'm a lucky girl today. But Anna is insane because she's going to be giving away cool stuff for the next year, right up until her debut The Gift of Poseidon releases in Spring of 2012. Also, Anna has a whole series of posts on getting her agent, selling her book and what the process has been like for her....so definitely worth a look see and a follow. I'll even make it easy:

Anna's book deal
Anna's success story
Anna crosses over 1/2
Crosses over 2/2

Go check her out...she'll be one to watch over the next year.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Anna Bank's Contest (Win The Wolves of Mercy Falls)

There are a few days left (I think you have until Aug 8th) to win hardbacks of Maggie Stiefvater's The Wolves of Mercy Falls over at Anna Bank's blog. The rules are easy (my kind of contest) follow her blog and her Tweety bird and sing a song about her contest (on Twitter...no karaoke required.)

If you don't already stalk Anna here's a little info: Anna Banks (pen name) is repped by Lucy Carson of the Friedrich Agency. Her debut YA Fantasy, OF POSEIDON, will be released through Feiwel and Friends in Spring of 2012.

Also, from what I can tell from 140 characters, she appears to be a very nice person.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Something Old, Something New


So I tried something new, which just happens to be something old, I tried writing in longhand. I've done this before and become so frustrated with how s  l  o  w the writing was I soon went running back to my ergonomic keyboard. I can type pretty fast and find that, when I'm really into the story, the words can fly pretty fast onto the page. Not to mention the minute to minute changes are like lightening and well, there's the many, many benefits of spellchecker---I love you spellchecker.

But something was different this time. I had just finished up a chapter that morning (on my computer) so I knew exactly where I was in the MS and also what needed to start off the next one. The kids and I were at the pool, they were playing and I was just sitting under the umbrella reading. I rummaged through the pool bag looking for food--me hungry--and pulled out the notebook I take with me everywhere with all my notes for the current WIP.

The pen was right there, shoved into the spiral coils.

Hmmm? Before I knew it, I had added an additional 500 words while my kids had their swim lesson without a computer in sight. It was like a ridiculous, backhanded epiphany. "You mean, I can like write, without a computer? Like, the way people have been doing for hundreds of years?"

See, as a stay at home during the summer mom, there are tons of times throughout the day when I'm just a nonparticipating supervisor: swim lessons, roller skating rinks, playgrounds, etc, etc. Usually, I just read. But now, thanks to the marvels of PEN and PAPER, I can write anywhere. The possibilities are endless.

Pen and paper people *shakes head in wondrous amazement*

It's slower, true. But my pad of paper is also not hooked up to the internet (that cunning marvel of distraction) and it was pretty interesting to see how quickly I filled up those sheets without informing twitter, not even once, that I was #amwriting.  

Monday, July 18, 2011

Update on Around the Word in 80 Days



Yes, yes, I've been keeping up. I realize I've not been 'checking in' however. We will try to remedy this. My goal was for a modest 500 words a day and that has been happening. So it's been 9 (work) days since I committed to the challenge and by my count I've added roughly 6600 words (which is more than the 4500 word goal mark, so yay.)

But I haven't felt like blogging.

Also, I haven't felt much like being on Twitter either. Which reminds me, I also recently unfollowed every single agent and editor that use to pop up in my Twitter feed (don't worry, I'm sure it didn't register on their radar) and I've been kind of avoiding all blog posts related to publishing.

The reason? you may ask. Well it's really very simple.

I was spending a ridiculous, some might even say obsessive, amount of time hanging on every word that industry professionals were putting forth. I was reading every 140 character bite and every single blog post that they produced and in turn, getting little writing done myself.

Turns out I'm not one of those people who can write and blog and tweet and stay completely abreast of every little thing at the same time. So we are engaged in behavior modification. ENOUGH with the Twitter I said (well mostly anyway).

I'm just writing. For me.

What have you been doing?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Around of Words in 80 Days


I was supposed to officially post this yesterday but...

I am going to be participating in round 3 of Around of Words in 80 Days! Now see, I like this challenge because you set your own goals and, if your life explodes in your face, you can CHANGE your goals.

This I can do.

So, here are my goals for the next 80 days.

  • 500 words per day 
That's it. Here's a funny thing about me. When I set a goal that is completely manageable, one I know I can easily make each day--I do. It's like I tell myself, "All you have to do, is this tiny little bit. It is just this scene, maybe the lead into the next--it's practically nothing." For me, it keeps me from feeling utterly overwhelmed with trying to juggle an entire book (or series) in my tiny little brain. Because this way, I'm not sitting here today trying to write 400 pages, I'm only writing two. The amazing thing is how quickly those just 2 pages add up when you're doing them everyday.

They're drops in a bucket.

And another thing, I often surpass my easy goal (although extra pages do not count against tomorrow's goal...sorry Becky.) But on those days when I only write 500, I still feel like a total success.

Mind games, I know. Did I mention my day job is in psychology?

For me, when a goal is too big, and I don't hit it, even if it just one day, it can be totally demoralizing. I'm suddenly BEHIND and slip into a "I have to catch up" mentality. Frequently, I don't catch up and after only a few days, my target has compounded so much interest and is so big, there is simply no way I'm ever going to get there.

This is when the writing might stop all together.

So, I'm all about little goals. They tend to add up pretty fast for me.

Oh, I also wanted to thank Kate Jarvik Birch for blogging and tweeting about the challenge--I found out about it through her. If you haven't checked out her blog My Next Life, do so right away. She's represented by Kerry Sparks at Levine Greenberg and is super nice. Thanks Kate!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Do you care? --Really?


Last week, I was reading what I thought was an honest and insightful blog post. You know, one of those rare birds that makes you cock your head and really think. So I clicked the comments to see what others where saying about it and was somewhat depressed to see that one of the first commenters decided to expound upon the author's incorrect use of 'it's' as opposed to 'its.'

All I could think was, "Really? Do people still do this?" To me it's the equivalent of watching a beautiful woman in evening wear descend a grand staircase. When she finally reaches you and flashes a radiant smile, the first words out of your mouth are, "There's lipstick on your teeth."

I used to be in a writers' group with a person who operated like a Word program. Every misspelling, every misuse--she would catch. She never had any comments about the other aspects of your writing: character development, plot, story arc--she was like our own private line editor. It should be no surprise to hear that when she would share her own work, it was flawless. Perfectly executed grammar, never a comma out of place, spelling that would make 5th grade teachers sing like a chorus of angels.

And characters that were flat and lifeless. Dialogue that rocked you to sleep. Pages and pages of, "Wait, what did I just read?"

So do I think typos are important? If there are so many that it becomes a distraction from the story, then yes. Also, they do make work look less professional and rushed, so we do need to try our level best to ferret out the infestations and eradicate them. But I absolutely do not think that a perfect grasp of the rules and regulations of usage are capable of making you a better writer. A more correct one?--sure.

Furthermore--a single typo in a blog post! Excuse me, but who the ---- cares? I don't know about you but personally, I've made a million mistakes in my life. Believe me when I say that typos are the least of them.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Writer Guilt?



Do you ever get writer guilt? Specifically, do you ever feel guilty that you (probably) spend a huge amount of time not only writing but blogging, tweeting, fb-ing, reading in your genre, reading about writing, reading other blogs about writing ( and agenting, editing, publishing, etc.)

In a nutshell--Do you ever (assuming you're not yet paid to do all those above things) feel guilty pursuing this thing you love?

I do.

Now if you're someone who has come to writing later in life (i.e., retirement from day job, kids are grown and fully functioning adults, spouse plays 80 hours of golf/week) I would think the guilt would either be significantly less and maybe even non existent.

But what about when you're still in the middle of all that? Just starting your day job career, raising little kids, being married to someone who only wishes they had 8 free hours a week (never mind 80.) There is limited time, always. And yet, you feel driven, compelled even to still pursue this part of your life.

For me, it sometimes feels selfish. It feels selfish to have so much going on but I still always carve out time for this. It is a priority for me and sometimes (especially during the school year) that means getting up at 4 in order to make sure it happens.

Still, I don't put writing first. When the kids are up, regardless of where I am, the computer closes. I try to make sure I spend some time talking or watching a movie with the Husband at least a few nights a week. It's never perfect but what balancing act is? You lean a bit this way and then, oh, agent sent revision notes, so you lean back and over the other way. Daughter is sick and wants her mom and you shift your weight back to the other side. Always the balance and you do your best to stay on the rope.

But here's the thing. One day, I picked my kids up from school and my daughter came running out of the building beaming. She asked me, "Mom how many books have you written?"

"I'm working on my third."

"I told my class today that you have three jobs, you're a school psychologist, a mom and a writer. Can I have three jobs when I grow up?"

"Absolutely. And if you're lucky like me, none of them will feel like jobs (well, sometimes they will but you can't say that to a 2nd grader.) You'll be happy to do all three as much as you can." 

But still, I do have guilt.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Professional Photos

Okay, I think I want some professional head shots taken. I really like this guy. But I'm wondering if I'm putting the cart before the horse. After all, it's kind of an investment. What do you think? Should professional photos wait until after you're official? Is it never too early to start getting all your ducks in a row? I'm I spending too much time worrying over something that is not a big deal and I should just make an appointment?

Is this yet another wile attempt at procrastination?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Creative Energy


In my day job, Perseverate is a word I seem to use a lot. A percentage of the kids I work with are on the Autism spectrum and frequently have difficulty getting stuck on a particular train of thought or behavior and are having a hard time shifting onto something else.

I love this word--perseverate.

As I surf through blogs and twitter and websites related to writing, it seems that the topic of writers block has been coming up a lot just lately. I, thankfully, have never had to deal with this. But I imagine for those who have publishing deadlines looming or are counting on their writing to pay the mortgage, writers block can feel like the angry troll blocking the bridge--you just have to get to the other side! You're standing on that bridge, standing, standing, waiting for that damn troll to go away. You can see the other side for God's sake.

You're perseverating on getting rid of that troll and to the other side. To your outcome. The outcome that is a deadline met and a check cashed. All of life begins on the other side of that damn bridge.

Ha, I just thought of something. That damn troll may also be the agent you're waiting for or your offer from the publisher (ahem.) It could be anything really that you are obsessing about and that obsession is blocking you in some regards.

That obsession is the troll.

I was reading yesterday about letting go of outcomes. That when we spin and spin and spin over the outcomes of our actions, we often times remove ourselves from the creative energy of our project itself. We put more time, thought and energy into the wanting of the outcome instead of into the project itself.

Basically, our project is less because of our obsessive desire for the outcome (finding an agent, editor, glowing review, whatever really.)

I don't know for sure what the answer is to this (I'm completely guilty myself.) But I do think it must have something to with shifting. We have to shift those spinning thoughts away from that particular bridge. Maybe we need to take a stroll along the bank we are currently on. Enjoy the thoughts about the bridges we've already crossed (starting to write, finishing a chapter, finishing a book, finding an agent, you get the idea.) Being thankful for where we are and putting out energy into the aspects of our work that we can control...the quality.

If we stroll along that bank far enough, enjoying that moment, we may find another, troll free bridge, just over the next hill.  

So what do you think, any trolls blocking your bridges lately?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How are you torn?

We're home! And we had sooo much fun. I will eventually post some pics once I get them off my camera but right now I felt the need to pontificate on home important I think breaks are.

I THINK BREAKS ARE ESSENTIAL!!

This one was so perfect because it absolutely transitioned me (and fast) from full blown analytical work mode to relaxed, feeling very creative and ready to write mode. Apparently lying around on beaches and next to pools for 8 days with hardly a care in the world besides picking the next restaurant does wonders for activating the right brain. Well, that and a steady diet of Mai Tais and coconut battered shrimp.

I'm so excited about working on the current wip and feel so lucky to have this unencumbered time for the next two months to work on it. When I sat down to write yesterday and today, it was like getting reacquainted with old friends. I love my characters so much, they almost feel like real people to me.

And speaking of breaks and day job work and such, have I mentioned that I will be switching to a part time work schedule for next year? Yup. Husband and I discussed it and we both felt that I really needed the time to try and focus as much energy as possible on writing. So that is pretty freaking amazing and I'm very, very excited to have the opportunity to shift even more time towards writing.

Although, admittedly, it is bitter sweet because it meant having to switch schools for next year (last years school needs a full time psych) so I had to pack my office and say goodbye to some extremely amazing teachers and wonderful kids that I love. So, yeah, that's hard. I will miss them.

That's how I'm torn. I love what I do and working with kids. But I love reading, writing and all things books as well. I think I would write full time if given the opportunity but I can't imagine giving up working with kids. Maybe in a different capacity? Hmmm.

How are you torn between your life and writing? What choices and/or sacrifices have you made or see yourself making in order to pursue what you love?     

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Off to Hawaii!

Okay, we are in the final countdown to vacation 2011. I'm taking my ipad with me but I'm not sure how much (if any) blogging I'll do. I'm going to be way to busy doing nothing after all.

Have a great week and I'll see you soon.

Love,
Becky

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Winner of the $50.00 Amazon Gift Card Summer Break Giveaway!!

 
And the winner of the $50.00 Amazon gift card is:
Laura Campbell

You can check out her blog here, Writing Unleashed
and her twitter handle is: @LCWordsmith

Congrats Laura--spend well!


Friday, May 27, 2011

$50.00 Amazon Gift Card Summer Break Giveaway!


Today is my last day of dayjob work for almost 3 months! I'm so excited, I'm having another Amazon $50.00 gift card giveaway.

Have you been eying some hot new releases?

Have you been saving up for a shiny Mr. Kindle of your own?

Or maybe you've been coveting a FURminator! (I sometimes forget that Amazon is not just for books.)

Anyway, since I hate, hate, hate having to jump through hoops in order to enter a contest all you have to do is:

1. Follow my blog
2. Leave me a comment so I know of your intention to win
3 For 2 extra entries, Blog about my contest (please and thank you)
4. For 1 extra entries, tweet about my contest (up to 3 additional entries)

See, so simple.

Okay, I leave for vacation on Wednesday the 1st so let's wrap this whole thing up by Tuesday 5/31 at 12:00 pm (my time--Mountain.)

Happy book shopping!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Give me your book recommendations

So I just got super excited because I realize I will need to load up the Kindle with airplane/vacation reading material. Can you imagine, no day job work for almost 3 months. That's lots and lots and lots of reading time.

So, any recommendations? I'd like to stick to some recently released titles--let's say the last two years. If you could choose what books I'm going to buy, what would you pick? What are your favorite recent titles?

Vacation--Yeah Baby!

So in 1 week, 1 WEEK, I will be boarding an airplane with all my significants and freebirding off to Hawaii for 10 glorious, warm, saltwater and sandy days.

I. Can. Not. Wait.

I'm going to try to find a few pics to get you into the summer spirit.

aahh, here's one




And here's another



Oh and look, here's me in my bikini

What? I could so look like this. If only I didn't love food quite so much...

The kids have never been and are super excited. Heck, we're all excited and can't wait for this much, much, much needed break. I'll be sure to post some great pics of us relaxing, drinking fruity things in crazy glasses, eating pig. Isn't that what they serve at luaus? pig and poi? And just what is poi anyway?--I will find out

Monday, May 23, 2011

I Love Chime by Franny Billingsley!

I finished Chime today. I'm not sure words can express how much I love this book. It's so original, fun, emotional--can't put it down.

It's the kind of book I always hope for as a reader.

It's the kind of book that makes me a very, very jealous writer.

The voice is amazing, The characters distinct and original. I fell in love with Briony, Eldric, Rose...like every great book I read, I'm so sorry it's over.

Dark and swampy in character, plot and emotion--Chime is a wonderful read!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ah Insomnia, my old friend

So I'm awake. Not by choice--again. It's about 2:40 here in Colorado and I've been tossing around in bed for just about an hour.

Very, very annoying.

There are actually different kinds of insomnia. Generally I have zero problem falling asleep (unless my husband is out of town.) No, my problem is getting back to sleep after waking up. It's like I took a nap and the old brain says, "Okay, I'm good." But the body is like, "Umm...not sure how I'm going to feel come tomorrow. But, whatever. Let's get up!"

The brain spins and spins over the most annoying things. Usually stress related things. Work things. But, being the ever optimist, I figure at least I've got some great reading I'm in the middle of:


I just started Chime by Franny Billingsley last night and so far--Wow. I'm loving it.

So, I can't sleep...but at least I've got some good stuff loaded in my Kindle.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day Fantastic

Do you ever have those day where everything is just soooo right? Like the universe has just set you along a path for the day that includes cool people, awesome conversations, and kids that are actually playing nicely with each other...ALL IN ONE DAY.

I've had one of those days today. PLUS, I get to meet with my critique group tonight and we haven't gotten together in like months.

Seriously, I'm feeling the love and wanting to spread it around a bit.

Are you feeling it? Huh?


--Are you feeling it now?

Publishing Trends in YA and MG via Mandy Hubbard

You must check out agent/author Mandy Hubbard's Epic Post on Trends YA and MG. She spoke with 37! publishers and was kind enough share.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Throw Aways

I've managed to hack out about 20% while working, raising kids, managing life, etc, etc. But I know once I can concentrate fully on it...much of what is already there will change.

I always do that. I start a book, get going, then at about 20% realize I'm either not happy or I see where we're going in a whole new light and end up scrapping a large chunk of what's already down. (Or at least it gets significantly rewritten!)

Sometimes those first 60 pages are just warm up or "getting out of my own way" to quote someone I read somewhere...I don't remember who. I wonder if I didn't stop writing while working if I would still need to do these throw away exercises--like an athlete whose stopped training. I have to stretch A LOT or else I'll blow something.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

About Submission

This is all I will say right now:

You spend a great amount of time feeling like a needle in a haystack. Then one morning, you wake up and think, "Damn...what if I'm the hay?"

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Second Books

It could be because I'm staring at a blinking cursor hanging precariously between a block of text and an expanse of white, untouched virtual paper. Or it could be because summer is rapidly approaching and that means writing season's open for me. But whatever the cause, I've got second books on the brain.

The WIP right now is actually not my "2nd book" as in ever written. But it is the second in the series to the one currently out on submission. I've been spending a lot of my "writing time" thinking about where this next book goes. What parts from the first carry on and why are they important? What aspects are elaborated? And also, what gets left to die on the side of the road?

So here are my questions for you:

"What do you hate about some of the 2nds you've read?'
"What do you love about some of the 2nds you've read?"
"What series of books have disappointed you the most (i.e., you LOVED the first book and then lost the passion with the 2nd) and why?"

Actually, even if the author's next book was not a part of a series but you either loved/hated it more than the first--why?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Becky's Opinion

So I'm reading someone's work. I like it. I like the voice, the tone, and I'm mulling over this one specific question the writer has about the sample.

When I'm finished, I know exactly why they have this one specific question.

They're wondering about rewrites (and there are always those) and about making the beginning more obvious. Maybe stating more explicitly exactly what the MC is up to.

But I'm kind of thinking that the fact that I know the MC is up to something but I'm not sure exactly what, or rather, what the MC's motivation is, is what's making me turn pages. True, I don't want to put up with not knowing for long. But the intrigue is getting me invested.

So I'm emailing this writer and sharing my opinion that, "I like it. I'm curious about why exactly the MC is doing what they're doing. But if it was a book I just picked up, I would want to know the answer within the next five pages. In my opinion it doesn't need to be a huge back story kind of thing. Even a simple, but powerful, sentence that captures WHY she's doing this would be huge."



I always think around page 20 is your trigger point (for me anyway.) If I'm interested in the first few pages, you have until around page 20, give or take, to get me completely invested in what you're up to.

Working full time, having a family (and trying to write myself) I've been known to put a book down. If at page 20 I'm not invested, then I don't have time for you. Unless of course you've come with glowing reviews from sources I trust.

Time is a valuable thing.

But I so enjoyed reading this writer's first 15 pages that I'm wondering if there are others who might be interested in "Becky's Opinion." So would anyone like some feedback on their beginning? If so, let me know in the comments and send your first 10-15 pages to:

Rebecca@rrtaylor.com

If there's any interest, I figure I could probably read about 10.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Input

I remember the first time I attended a critique group. It was at the back of a Borders on 104th in Thornton. I had been careful (obsessively so) to follow the groups exacting instructions on formatting, printing, font and page count.

That night was the first time I shared any of my writing with anyone (I didn't even let my husband read my stuff back then).

On the drive there, my body shook. My legs felt like water and my stomach rolled over again and again. Maybe I wouldn't have the opportunity to read my pages--that would probably be for the best. Yes, surely there could be the chance that we would run out of time--I could make sure I was last--and I wouldn't have to read today. Maybe next time.

But there was plenty of time.

I did read, voice shaking, eyes darting frequently to the smattering of Border's customers browsing the Writing section we were camped in front of (oh God, were they listening?)

Then, thankfully, mercifully, I came to the end of my allotted 1200 words. I came to end and prepared myself to listen (silently as per their explicit instructions on how to accept critique) to what they had to say.

They said a lot. Some of it was dead on (and no, not just the good stuff.) Some of it was not helpful. And some of it I would need to think about when I had a moment to process what they were trying to get at. Like every other person who subjects themselves to this, the praise made me feel like I could fly and the criticism made cringe. Silently.

That's the hardest part about going through critique...you have to, at least outwardly, be open and accepting of it. The list of rules they provided me were valuable and I still use them--even when my agent and I were going back and forth with edits before submission. I don't think you should try to explain the parts someone is having difficulty with, especially in the middle of their suggestions. I don't think you should ever get, outwardly, defensive. I've seen this happen in the middle of a critique and it's just not a pretty sight. Come with your game face on. Sure, you're probably roiling inside but these people have taken time out of their lives to read your stuff, listen to what they have to say about it. After all, you did come here of your own accord and ask for it.

Now, having said all that, I don't think you should feel you have to listen to everything. For me it eventually became a gut instinct sort of thing. I always consider every piece of critique. Some of it I know right away is not very good advice. But some of it, some of it is like WOW! You are soooo right! Thank you, thank you. Also, if multiple people are having the same problem--auto fix for me. There's just no point in arguing the majority.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Histrionics

I was reading a series of blog posts today by someone who is hunting big game publishing and not having any success.

They seem pretty upset.

I feel for this person--sort of.

But having read six or seven posts, I can't help but wonder if the seemingly unbridled histrionics have something to do with all the bad luck.

Here's the thing, unless you happen to be Ernest Hemingway or Virginia Woolf, people working on the business end of publishing are not likely dying to work with someone who may/ or may not, be dealing with some serious emotional instability. 

So I'll share a belief that I hold dearly and one that I always check myself on before hitting "PUBLISH NOW"

Some things belong in your journal. Some things belong with your spouse/significant other. And some things belong in your therapist's office (that's why they make the big bucks.)

Many, many, many things do not belong on your blog.

It's kind of like walking into a job interview and spending the whole time complaining about how awful your last job was. Actually, it's worse than that because people can search though your archives and judge you for rants you made two years ago.

Just a thought.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Gratitude

I'm still so sad. Every few hours I just dissolve into these deep crying jags that last for like fifteen minutes. I finally got to sleep early this morning by lying to myself and pretending that Rusty was laying in his dog bed next to my side of the bed.

I miss that damn dog so much.

But I'm thankful he was a part of our family. I'm glad he was here even though his being gone feels like a hundred empty holes in my chest.

I'm grateful for a lot of things. I'm thankful for my husband and kids. The house over our heads. Never having to worry about food or clothes, heat or clean water.

I'm thankful (so, so thankful) that we are all healthy. That we are employed. My kids go to a good school and have kind friends.

I'm grateful for our neighbors (who I actually know!)

I have the opportunity to pursue something I enjoy doing that brings an enormous amount of creative satisfaction (writing.) And I'm thankful for all the wonderful people I've met online that share this same crazy dream (publication) who know what it's like to ride the roller coaster (the steep climbs and sharp belly lurching drops...the seemingly endless waiting in line.)

Mostly, I guess I'm thankful for not being alone--in every area of my life. 

Fear

I can't bear looking at my last post, I'm moving on (here anyway, you may notice I'm posting in the middle of the night. Insomnia feeds on sadness.)

So F is for fear, people have fears. All sorts. Fear of heights, fear of germs, fear of high ceilings (yes, it's a real fear.) Rational or irrational, people have fears. For instance, I am terrified of worms. Not snakes, not spiders, not rats--worms. Ridiculous, I know, and yet if I so much as even look at a picture of a worm I gag and feel a pressing (URGENT) need to escape.

No I do not care to psychoanalyze this--thank you.

But as ridiculous as they may be, characters should have fears too. In my book that is currently making the rounds my main character is terrified of the dark. Not an unusual fear for a child--but my MC is 16. Why is she still afraid of the dark?

Well I'm not going to say, I'm still praying that whole publishing thing is going to work out for me.

But, whether they are explicitly stated or otherwise inferred, I think a reader should be aware of what it is your character(s) are afraid of. It's a great way of revealing WANT (what it is your character is trying to accomplish) while exploring conflict on the psychological level. You know--you are your own worst enemy--and all that.

Anyway, that's all I've got right now. I'm going to try (again) to sleep.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Empty

That's how I'm feeling. Our family is dealing with a terrible loss.

Rusty Taylor, Best Dog Ever 2008-2011
We loved you, we miss you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Distress, Despair, Death

Distress, despair, death--novels have to have them. Maybe not all of them, character don't have to die (I suppose) but as as the grand orchestrator of your story you can't back off of punishing your characters.

A book with little to no conflict is the book that gets put down.

I have a confession to make. I can't believe I'm actually going to say this out loud but...

I loved the series as much as anyone but I think Harry Potter should have died at the end of DHs. (GASP!)

I think killing him and then bringing him back from the dead was a cop out. (Double GASP, GASP!)

There, I've said it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Characters

C should be for Catch Up even though it has become woefully apparent that I will never do so. I figure at this rate, I should hit G sometime around mid May.

Anyway, C is for Characters and I'm actually piggybacking off my Boring post. Now obviously, what doesn't work for me with that particular boring book (which will remain unnamed) is, in fact, working for thousands of others. Boring is an opinion.

But for me, and with this book, it's stemming from the shallowness of the character. And I don't mean that the character himself is shallow (in fact well done shallow with a great character arc is fun to read--think Before I Fall) I mean that this character feels stock to me--no depth.

When the author is telling me that the character is experiencing an emotion, I don't feel it.
When the author is telling me the character wants something, I don't care if he gets it.
When the author is showing me action, it's like watching an over done, too long car chase. All effect, no emotional urgency.

I love to read. Love, love, love it. The reason I love it is because of how various books over my life have made me feel. Made me believe. When I read, I want to fall in love with a character. I want to defy death with a character. I want pursue a real desire with a character.

When a character seems like a cardboard cut out that's moving through those high concept back flips, I ultimately don't really care what happens to them.

I know hook is important--and obviously you can publish and sell thousands based on that and a good command of grammar and sentence structure.

But if you want me to love you, you have to make me feel it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Boring

B is for the worst word in writing--Boring. Is your writing boring? Are parts of it? A scene maybe? Certainly I know I've gone through my own work and come across sections where I am dieing to put my own book down.

Eww, what was I thinking? NOTHING is happening throughout the entire scene!

I am thinking of Boring right now because of a book I'm reading right now. I won't say which and no it is not displayed in that rolling widget to your left. I have been trying to slog through the climax--THE CLIMAX PEOPLE--for the last four nights.

It's boring. I don't care. I actually kind of hope that the main character gets killed because that might be the only thing that could raise my emotional level to any degree.

This book is selling like ice in summer.

There is a major motion picture coming.

I am forcing myself to finish just so I can put it away and move on.

Watch out for the boring in your own writing--especially the climax!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ambition

So here is my first post for the A-Z challenge (which, by the way, I am already behind on.) A couple of weeks ago I sat down and planned out a few posts for this challenge. Don't go getting all impressed, it was really more of an A is for ____ and B is for____. Planned is really too strong of a word.

So my list said A was for Archetype but I don't feel like writing that post right now. Right now I'm thinking of a dirty A word named AMBITION.

I'm not sure why.

It could be because I was reviewing my own goals this morning. In 2009 I came across a little gift book that Starbucks was selling at the time. It was kind of funny. Not ha ha funny, but strange universal paths funny. I was still on my practicum for school psychology and I was sitting at another person's desk pretending to be incredibly engrossed in all aspects of Positive Behavior Support when really I was just filling training binders for the understaffed team--you know, free intern labor.

Everyone went out for lunch and I opened my sad brown sac (remember, I'm free labor) and I'm halfway through my peanut butter and jelly when I absently open this book that had been sitting next to me all morning.

The title was something like "Your Next Five Years" or "Where Will You Be 5 Years From Today." Honestly I'm not exactly sure and I'm too lazy right now to switch over to Amazon and check. But basically is was a gift type book with lots of color and big font and so it was pretty easy to flip through while licking jelly off my fingers.

But a funny thing started happening about halfway through this little gift book. (again, not funny ha ha.)

I opened up my laptop (my personal laptop...free intern laborer does not get assigned computers. You get a pen and a 5 Star spiral notebook) pulled up power point (don't ask me why it was power point, probably all the presentations I was having to do at the time) and I started answering some of the questions that little gift book was asking me:

  • Things I like about myself
  • Things I don't like about myself
  • Who's the happiest person I know
  • Two people I respect most and why
  • Who am I
  • etc
  • etc
Now these seems like pretty straight forward and easy questions. But, believe me, it took me awhile to answer them. Especially since I wasn't just rambling some half thought to myself. I was taking the time to actually write the answers down--and my answers were surprising me. After about the fourth slide, I realized I was creating something that mattered to me.

My answers were honest, especially the blank ones.  What were my top 5 values? What were my dreams? How had my past actions led me to this desk fantasizing about ways to escape?

Was where I was what I had wanted?

Was what I was doing leading me where I wanted to go?

At the time, I was about five months away from finishing a graduate program that had been a long haul for myself and my family. The questions that "gift book" was asking terrified me. But the answers, those were paralyzing.

Not a single answer I gave had anything to do with what I was pursuing in that moment. I was full of ambitions and all of them were directed down a path I didn't want to be on five years from that day.

I wanted to write. I wanted to write for a living.

I saved and closed that Power Point. It scared me to even know it existed. All that honesty. What if someone saw it?

What if they didn't?

It's 2011 now. I pull that slide show up every few months, review it, tweak it, make sure my ambition is still pointing towards the place I want to be in 2014.

It's a work in progress.