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Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Sorry Attempt at Hanging On--or--Would You?

 When I first got my Kindle (a little over a year ago) I was reading it during my lunch break when a fellow-combatant in the Education War rolled into the staff lounge to heat her Lean Cuisine in our derelict microwave.

She stopped in her tracks. "You have a Kindle?"

The warm, lush feeling of Having overcame me, "Yes," I purred.

 

Galley Cat

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Is My Motivation?

I have been an avid reader (and movie watcher) my whole life and the number one thing that will shoot me right out of an otherwise otherworldly, out of body story experience is when characters do or say something that in my heart of hearts I know they wouldn't. I HATE THIS. I especially hate this when it, shortly thereafter, becomes clear that the creator of this universe (that has just failed to suspend my disbelief) uses this unbelievable doing or saying of something simply to set up a plot point later in the story.

This makes me cranky.


Given my day job, one thing I think I've gotten pretty astute at when working with a kid is (trying) to wade through all their overt behaviors (no eye contact, dirt looks, snotty tone, that chair they just threw across the room) and look for the underlying motivation. This is an important skill, for me, to develop because if all I'm concentrating on is the fact that this kid is refusing to do any school work, is defiant and confrontational with her teachers and will only draw pictures of burning buildings, I might miss the fact that her dad was just sent to prison--for life. (disclaimer: I don't talk about real kids, or their problems, here--or anywhere for that matter.)

Now this next statement is really only valid when considering what pen in the psychological theory circus your like to roll around in (assuming you don't just think it's full of clowns) but I happen to spend a lot of time with the cognitive behaviorists.

And as such, I happen to think all behavior has meaning.

What does this have to do with my writing and more importantly, yours?

Because our characters are people (and even if your character is a dog, alien or rabid space monkey, he needs to experience human like emotions, wants, and dreams in order to connect to your human audience) and these people need to have real wants and then make believable choices that (they think) will help them achieve that want. I don't think they have to be the right choices, the best choices, or even the smartest choices (and it's probably much more interesting if they aren't) but I believe they have to be choices that make sense to your character's personality.

Now by no means am I claiming that my writing executes this perfectly or even all the time. But it is something, as a reader, I am always trying to watch for in my own writing.

Win a Free Webinar with Mary Kole

My new friend Kimberly over at Meeting with My Muse is giving away a free Writer's Digest webinar with Mary Kole.

(Stolen directly from Kimberly's site)
Feb. 3rd - 1 pm Eastern - Publish Your Children's or Teen Fiction in Today's Market
Speaker is Mary Kole AND there is a 1-2 page critique if you attend! (I know the kidlit writer's will love this one!)

Feb. 10th - 1 pm Eastern - Sell Freelance Articles
Speaker is Chuck Sambuchino, Editor for Writer's Digest Books

For more details about these Live Webinars, check out this link.
http://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/webinars/upcoming-live-webinars/


Kimberly's contest ends at 9 pm Eastern on Friday, January 28th!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Winner--Delirium ARC Contest

And the winner is--

The candidates

My Charming Assistant





Congratulations Susan Fields!

Please email me your mailing address (rebecca@rrtaylor.com) ASAP and I'll pop this baby in the mail.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Delirium ARC Contest!

Saturday! I would probably love it more if my office didn't look like this.
And I could show you more pictures revealing the general state of cleaning affairs that I will be engaged in all weekend...but I wouldn't even let my mother see us this way.

So, given that I obviously need something in the spirit of procrastination, I am having my very first contest!

Here is the goody. The ARC of Lauren Oliver's newest book, Delirium.

If you loved her first book Before I Fall as much as I did, you'll want this.

Now this is my first contest, but I do know all competitions have rules:
  1. Leave a comment to the effect, "Yes, I want it!"
  2. Follow this blog.
  3. If you post about this contest on your blog or twitter account and provide a link, I'll double your entry.
  4. Let me know in the comments how many entries you are entitled to.
The contest will run from now until Monday the 24th at 3:00pm (and just to be difficult, that's my time--Mountain)

Happy blogging!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Waiting is Like...Hard


I've had a few emails from kind, interested people regarding the current state of affairs with The Book. (No, not That book...my book.) So here is my post about waiting, yes thank you for asking, but I am just waiting.

And, as I glance at my calendar and give myself (yet another) reality check, I see that it has now been a measly 2 weeks since the submission process started. That is practically prenatal in the publishing world.

I could email Wonderful Agent and bug her, she's is really nice and probably wouldn't mind...but I won't. I won't because I know if there were any news, she would have let me know.

But, I recently was scouring the web for anything I could find came across these archived posts from Nathan Bransford and The Rejecter. It's great information and exactly what I needed to read right now. It gives more insight into what happens after the initial miracle (actually finding an agent) happens and your ms begins circulating in lands foreign to the previously unpublished.

Super, fantastic information. Of course neither of these sources mention anything about relieving psychological pressure while waiting. You just have to wait.

But then I'm reminded of this:

The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a
Yes or a No or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for
Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
NO!That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

And I realize that I might be standing on the edge of the waiting place. I might be about to get stuck in the waiting place. This is a very scary thought because I've been reading the blog of a perfectly nice, capable writer who has been swimming around in the waiting place for over a year and it doesn't sound like a happy place to me. I'm not sure, but I think the trick probably lies in not waiting. No, I'm not about to call up Wonderful Agent and tell her, "I'm done with this...I'm not waiting now, not ever!" I think it may only take a subtle shift in thinking. For example, when I get those well intentioned inquiries, "Any word yet?" I'll need to pish posh my hand and reply, "That! Why I haven't thought of that all day. Wonderful Agent has that under control. No, what I'm doing is getting super excited about where the next book is heading!"

Admittedly--I'll need to practice. 

I need to shift my thoughts. Meaning, I need to pretty much forget about the fact that other people are (or are not) doing things with my book right now. Right now, all I'm doing is what I have been doing--writing another book.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tis the Set of the Sail

But to every mind there openeth,
A way, and way, and away,
A high soul climbs the highway,
And the low soul gropes the low,
And in between on the misty flats,
The rest drift to and fro.

But to every man there openeth,
A high way and a low,
And every mind decideth,
The way his soul shall go.

One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
'Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
'Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.



--Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1916)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Amy Chua Tonight at the Tattered Cover


I missed this! Amy Chua will be appearing at the Tattered Cover 2526 East Colfax Avenue tonight at 7:30pm. She'll be signing her new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother  and discussing her experiences raising her two daughters, "the Chinese way."

I might have to see if I can't sneak away for this. I'll admit, when I first read about Amy Chua and her new book over at Galley Cat (and all the drama that ensued) my interest was piqued.


National Western Stock Show


Here are my pics from our family outing to the National Western Stock Show yesterday. I have grown a bit tired of driving in the snow here in Colorado, so the kids and I were checking out John Deer's latest All-Terrain family vehicle. But, on closer inspection I realized that not only does this model not have a third row of seats, it doesn't have a backseat at all. Once the salesman explained that, "Well ma'am, we don't put DVD entertainment systems on any of our John Deers." I thanked him for his time and WALKED.

I tweeted yesterday that there would be pictures of cows...so for all of you who have been waiting with bated breath, here you go.

Show cow

If you want to see thousands of perfect cattle (you know...if that's your thing) all under one roof, this is the place. But I was surprised to find empty spray cans of black, brown and white paint left behind in cow pens and actually witnessed (witnessed!) breeders applying coat after coat of paint to their cows. Turns out, the National Western Stock Show is really just the 90210 of the cattle world. All the ladies have had some professional help obtaining their lustrous shiny hides. 
Another show cow

And finally...
For you city folk, this is not a cow, it's a sheared sheep
And lest you start thinking it was all about the barnyard, let me correct you. They had all sorts of pitchmen hawking a gamut of must have items. From the Waterless Cookware to the machine that jiggled the holiday fat off your butt (my son was disturbingly distracted by one shapely woman who took the jiggler for a test drive.) They are also happy to sell you a truckload of turquoise and silver bangles to accentuate your western wear and S#@% kickers.

Son inspecting Pieces of Eight coins from salvaged ship
 
Daughter (hand on hip and looking like her mother) waiting to make rope
And finally, our chariot back to the parking lot
Over all, a pretty great day.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wendy

I'm not technically from anywhere. When I was three, my mother married a U.S. Marine and every three years we moved to a new station. The longest stretch of time I ever got to camp anywhere was when we lived on the Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, California.

About 8 miles from Disneyland.

When I was younger, I loved dance. Specifically the choreographed, brightly costumed kind that required jazz shoes and music like Deniece William's, Let's Hear it for the Boy.

Ahhh, the 80's. I'll admit, I secretly wish I could still wear leg warmers.

But I digress. So, given that I loved jazz dancing and lived 8 miles from Disneyland, it is no surprise that when I learned Disney was holding auditions for their summer parade and there was one, ONE, part for girls under the age of 16--well my twelve year old heart got to beating for the first thing I can remember truly wanting in this world.

WANTED

I WANTED to be Wendy, you know, from Peter Pan, in the Disneyland summer parade.

It hardly mattered to me that when my mother and I arrived to the open auditions, at 7:00 am with my dance bag slung hopefully over my shoulder, we stood amongst thousands of other tweens and teens vying for spots.

And there was only one spot for the girls in my age group. But I believed it could be me.

My mother and I were there all day. They taught us all a one minute dance and started running us through in groups of about twenty. As the sun beat down on us still outside the main audition building (we couldn't all possibly fit) they whittled us down further and further. The sun moved across the sky and they found their Mogli, Cinderella, 7 dwarfs but the sun had set and they still hadn't picked Wendy. By 9:00 pm, I was one of twenty girls left still hoping to be Wendy. By 9:15, I was on of 5. And at 9:30, there was me and one other girl, trying on wigs, getting measured for the costume, being scrutinized by The Deciders. The room around us was still filled with those waiting to see who got picked in the end.

The Deciders whispered amongst themselves. They looked at me, they looked at her. I practically burned from wanting it so much! I couldn't even imagine how miserable my summer was going to be if I didn't end up dancing for child wages at The Happiest Place On Earth in the blistering heat, 18 pounds of makeup melting off my face.

We both did the one minute dance again. Still, no decision.

And then, one of The Deciders had a brilliant idea. There will be a new dance. She unfurled her legs from beneath her and floated across the room to stand in front of us, "Do this, and this, and pirouette, pirouette, grand jete and finish."

And for the first time all day, I didn't believe I was going to be Wendy. I didn't believe because the other girl, with seemingly no effort, executed the new dance like she was born on toe shoes.

It was my turn and, even before I started, I didn't think I could do it. And even if I could get through the moves, there is no way I could compete with the Swan Lake the other girl just pulled off. I have never in my life taken a minutes worth of ballet lessons. But the music started and I spun and leaped across that floor while a hundred pairs of eyes watched. I felt more like a Lost Boy than the graceful Wendy. I jete and finished.

The Deciders whispered, but I already knew.

They actually brought the parade wig over and "crowned" the other girl Wendy.

I must admit, I was not very professional about my defeat. I crumbled into a river of tears and actually ran out of the room.

I could not bear it. I couldn't because I didn't know how to. At twelve, I didn't yet know how to fail.

I spent all summer feeling sorry for myself. I cried every time a commercial for The Happiest Place on Earth interrupted my new strange obsession with Twilight Zone reruns.

After that, I didn't want to dance anymore and I stopped taking lessons. Failure won the day.

That experience, obviously, has stuck with me. I can laugh now, especially when we take the kids to any of the Magic Kingdoms and I threaten to pull a Tonya Harding on their newest Wendy. But it sticks with me more now not because I'm still sad and crying over it, one would hope not after 24 years (OMG...it's been 24 years!) but because it was my first real lesson in not getting something I really, really, really wanted. And--now this is the important part--I never tried again.

If it's something you really want, you always have to keep trying. And if it's something you're not willing to keep at even after failure, it could be that it's something you don't actually want as much as you think you do.

It only took me 24 years to figure that out.  


Thursday, January 13, 2011

On Failing


The Missoula Children's Theatre is coming to our local community theater. They come every year, twice a year, and put on a production using anywhere from 50-70 kids from the community. They run them through auditions, hold them to rehearsal schedules, pack them into costumes, and finally, help them develop the courage it takes to get up onto a stage and perform.

Last spring, my darling daughter (age 7) got to be a pony in their production of Beauty and the Country Beast. Very cute I must say.

So their next interpretation will be of Sleeping Beauty and darling wants to audition again.

"Okay," says me. "But just remember, you're not guaranteed to get a part."

Darling gives me a blank stare.

"You know," I continue. "They have parts for about fifty kids and there are usually at least two hundred that audition."

She nods her head.

"I'm not saying you won't...just it's not a for sure thing."

"But I probably will."

"Maybe."

"I got one last time."

"Yes, but it's still not for sure."

"I know," she says prancing away and up the stairs to start posing and talking to herself in her closet mirror.

"No you don't," I whisper. Not because I don't think she is amazing and bright and capable, and was definitely the best seven year old pony the Missoula Children's Theatre Company ever had. But because there is something she, at seven, does not yet know how to do.

My dear daughter does not know how to fail.

Not that she should. I would like to think that, in general, most of her attempts in this world that occur outside of my or her father's control have been fairly successful. It's true, she did get a part last time. Thank God there were just the right amount of little kids auditioning for the number of little kid costumes the company provides. But, and this is hard for me to admit, she won't always get the part. Sometimes, there will be failure.

And I, having had my fair share of failure in many arenas of my life, want to help teach her how to fail. Because, as it turns out, failure doesn't have to be the end of a dream, pursuit, or life goal.

But you have to learn how to fail and not let it break you.

Tomorrow--How I Tried and Failed at Becoming Wendy.
Or--When I let Failure Get the Better of Me.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

When Is It Time To Move On?

 I've been writing (with the intention of publishing) since 2002. It's not that long in publishing years, but so much has changed even in just that last nine years from a consumer perspective...it's pretty mind boggling. When I was first getting serious, there wasn't much out there in the way of writer, agent, and/or publishing blogs in general. Most agents didn't accept email queries, heck back then I still didn't know what a "query" was--Now why am I going to want to ask agents a question?

Since then, I've belonged to a several writers' groups, attended a few conferences, and read approximately 52,468 blog posts by aspiring writers.

And I'll have you know, I've been paying attention. For one, many of us, probably not you, but some of us show just the slightest tendency towards "personal self reflection" that actually borders on obsession coupled with a penchant for red wine consumption. Like I said, probably not you.

But there's something else. I've noticed is that, sometimes, writers get stuck on one book, or one book idea.  When is enough enough?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thankful

Well, it is official--Ascendant is out on submission. Emma sent me the official email this morning and, at this very moment, my work is sitting, waiting at the next step--editors' inbox.

Dreaming of actually ever getting to this point, I imagined I would experience many, many emotions: crazy excitement, pride, worry, fear. And I suppose I do feel, on some level, all of these things. But to be honest, the number one emotion coursing through me has actually been sort of surprising.

Mostly, I'm feeling pretty quiet. Maybe even...calm?

I assure you this sense of quiet calm does not come from any kind of knowing, as in, "Of course my book will be picked up by an amazing editor who loves it as much as I do." I wish!

I think, if I'm being honest, it comes more from a place of thankfulness.

I wrote a book I'm proud of--and finished it. I'm thankful for that.
I found an agent who, apparently, likes my book an awful lot too. I'm thankful for her (and all her hard work with no guarantee that she will, eventually, be compensated).
My book is in the arena, competing for space amongst other books sitting in editors' inbox. I'm thankful for that too.

I am grateful that I have a chance to pursue something I really want to do.

P.S. did you know that when you take a photo of yourself in PhotoBooth you have to reverse the writing--like looking in a mirror?

Monday, January 3, 2011

What Do You Want


2011 
What will you do with it? Who will you be at the end of it? What is the #1 thing you want to make happen this year?
 
All questions that have been floating through my mind today and over the past few weeks as I finished up the second round of revisions to Ascendant and sent them off to Wonderful Agent. She is going to begin submitting sometime in January and I'm not afraid to tell you...I'm a little bit afraid. 

Is this the book that will make me official? Stay tuned, answers will be coming.


I have always been a "Go out and get what you want" kind of girl, but it was only about a year ago that I got really serious about WHAT exactly it was that I wanted. Up until a year ago, what I wanted was always blanketed by pragmatism, practicality, and a good dollop of pessimism. 

I had never, up until a year ago, ever flat out stated, with any degree of confidence, that what I WANTED was to write...for a living. It was a scary thing to say out loud, like making a promise your not sure you can keep. A promise you don't yet believe you can keep. 

After all, I was in the process of finishing up a graduate degree that had put me and my family into an ungodly amount of financial debt--how dare I even think I maybe didn't want to pursue that career! How dare I say I actually wanted to write books! How was that ever going to pay off? You know, that ungodly amount of financial aid? Do you know how hard it is to get published? Have you spent any time reading about the statistical improbability of ever getting your stuff, should you actually finish something, onto a bookshelf outside of your own home?  It takes a ton of time to write a book...aren't there other things (like laundry) that you should be using this time for?


But, a year ago, I did get serious with myself. I realized that I had to try and not only that, I had to do it. I'm still doing it.


What do you want? Have you asked yourself that question and given yourself a real answer. Not the answer that is couched in Well..., or If only..., or even I wish... I'm talking about the answer that is an emphatic I will ______ ______ ______! 


I can't see the future and I don't know for sure if Ascendant will find a home in the world of big publishing. But I do know, even if it doesn't, I will get there...eventually.