Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Traveling to New York with Kids

Traveling with kids can be tricky, labor intensive, and baggage laden (literally and figuratively) but sometime in September, I got it into my head that I really, really wanted to take the kids to NYC between Thanksgiving and Christmas so they could see the city all trussed up for the holidays. As an ex-flight attendant and military kid, I have always loved to travel and have intentionally worked to instill that love in my kids as well. Maybe I'm weird, but there isn't anything I don't like about travel: the planning, packing, even the drive to the airport. The excitement of going somewhere else has always been a huge rush for me--even when it was my job.

Thankfully, (and luckily since I was barely into my twenties when I met him) I manged to hook my life up with a partner that feels the same. Rod enjoys the thrill of a distant city, shore, or exotic landscape just as much as I do (together we've been to Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, The Bahamas, and ALL OVER the U.S.) --which made heading to NYC with the kids an easy sell, even if the trip itself was not always such a breeze.

The Lady

Bryant Park

Grouchy outside the New York Public Library

New York Public Library

Who doesn't like a horse drawn carriage?

Horse drawn carriage through Central Park

Rock clambering in Central Park

Outside The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sometimes we still get a picture alone :-)

No time for a sarcastic expression, having fun


Catching him having fun when he wasn't looking

Looking up at One World Trade Center

Heading into FAO Schwarts--we were not alone

Wonderful Irish Pub near Times Square where The Boy played on my iPhone

86th Floor plus The Girl's signature "Really Mom?" look

From the 86th floor of The Empire State Building

One example of the 15 successful photo bombs The Boy executed
Some of the things they loved:
  • Central Park (all of it)
  • The subway (and making me crazy about staying behind the Yellow Line!)
  • NYC pizza
  • Times Square
  • FAO Schwartz
  • Cabs ("The yellow ones don't stop" --Elf)
  • Walking way out in front of me like they're all by themselves (also crazy making!)
  • Shopping (The girl)
  • Counting steps (The boy)
  • The M&M store 
The trick to traveling with kids is patience, deep breathing exercises, and occasionally heading down to the hotel bar with just your spouse to have a glass of wine while the kids watch ELF and eat NY takeout pizza up in the room.

Memories for a lifetime.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Amazon Buys .book for 10 Million

Just found out that Amazon bought the rights to the .book domain name for 10,000,000. 

I have been waiting, and hoping, for those domains to be released so I could secure rebeccataylor.book (since rebeccataylor.com is owned by the highly famous, and expensive, fashion designer, Rebecca Taylor--no relation. (Or discounts on her beautiful clothes!)

Who knows what Amazon will do with the domain. Keep it for their own exclusive use? Sell it to individuals like me? They haven't yet said and my guesses would be mere speculation.

But I have a feeling, if they do release it for the public to buy, it's going to cost me more than Network Solutions was going to charge me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Is Maintaining Your Publishing Virginity Important?

Reading the YA review section of last weeks Publishers Weekly (11/3/2014) I was struck by how many times I read "debut author" or the equivalent. So I went back and counted and 6 of the 11 reviews are for debut authors (1 additional was listed as a "YA debut" since the author has written adult novels. Side note: this sounds like marketing fishery to me--something along the lines of me trying to reclaim my virginity on Match.com despite having already delivered two kids)

Anyway, It has me now thinking about if there is some marketing advantage of being a publishing virgin. Also, I'm now curious about the statistics and staying power of all these "debut" authors. Like:

  • What percentage of debut YA authors go on to publish a second book?
  • And then a 3-25 more books?
  • What percentage of newly published YA books are by these debuts? 
  • What is the marketing/psychological importance of being a "debut author" as opposed to say a "not debut" author?    
  • What, in general, do the publisher acquisition table conversations sound like for these debuts?  Is everyone more excited about a "new author" as opposed to a "used" author?
  • Is there some secret advantage? 
Why are we so enamored with firsts?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why Write YA?

At the end of September, I had the pleasure of selling and signing copies of ASCENDANT at the Orange County Childrens' Book Fair. It's a wonderful event put on by some truly amazing people that clearly love kids' lit and kid lit authors.

During my time on the YA stage, a gentleman asked me a question that got me thinking, but first...PICTURES!

Here are some pictures of me with my now short, short hair, a rock musician, and Captain Tall Tale!
Rebecca Taylor and David Alpizar
My Table

Captain Tall Tale

Pic of me by Captain Tall Tale

Dangerous Selfie with Captain Tall Tale
While there, I did a little time on the YA speaking stage where I tried to not talk overly much about myself and attempted to divert the attentions of the audience to their own pressing questions about writing, YA, and the Universe in general.

There were some good questions!

But one in particular stands out in my memory. Partially because it was asked by a dad-looking fellow who appeared to have possibly been dragged to my event by his three daughters and partially because I think it's a good question for many YA writers to consider.

He raised his hand and tried to not look overtly smug as he asked, "Why YA?"

Now before we all start our collective moaning about YA not getting the appropriate amount of literary street cred (because there was that hint of disdain in his tone) I don't think this is a bad question for YA writers to actually answer for themselves (minus the staring down the nose, of course.)

After several seconds of ponder, here is what I came up with.

Hands down, I just love the love. The emotion. The rush. The first everything.

Secondarily, that whole phase of human development is just ripe for explosive story telling (sorry, my psychologist is showing.) The whole push pull of becoming an adult and leaving childhood. The confusion. The mistakes. The joy of new freedoms. The fear of new freedoms. Really, there are just sooooo many emotionally heady avenues to explore.

I love it, truly.

And finally, I love to write dialogue, body language, internal processing--all big ticket YA musts that are about the relationships between characters and the relationship we have with ourselves. I actually like that the YA character can be pretty centered on their own experiences and that doesn't make them completely self-centered because it's still developmentally expected (to a point, of course) for the 13 to 18 year-old.  

Maybe it's because I work with kids, maybe it's because I have them, or maybe it's because I'm a bit arrested development, but whatever the reason, It's a age range that comes naturally to me.

I don't write YA because it's easy (because it's not!) I write it because those teen experiences are so visceral for many of us--especially as adults looking back, adults that may still be trying to figure out exactly what happened to us during those years and why the hell we still care so much.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Success--Henry David Thoreau

I have been thinking lately about success. What it means. How it is measured. Where it can be found. I imagine the answers to these questions are as individual as the individual people who ask them.

"I have learned that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dream and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
 – Henry David Thoreau

What does "success" mean to you?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Entering the Classroom--Teaching at Regis University

Psychologist, Author, Mother, Wife...but starting in 2016, I'll be adding a new personal identifier--Professor.

Regis University is starting a new low-residency MFA in creative writing program, Mile High MFA, and I have been asked to teach the Young Adult Fiction writing class. It goes without saying, I am extremely excited for this opportunity!

More information about the program and the content focus can be found here!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How to Stop Worrying and Start Writing

My list with my fuel and my work
Lists are usually thought of as some of the least creative writing a person can do. They have even been used as the low end comparison for terrible writing. For example, "My grocery lists have more narrative voice!"

But, like all simple things of utility, lists can have their place in a writer's life. Especially when that life is not simply a "writer's life."

I work full time (as a school psychologist--a position prone to high stress and bouts of crisis.) I am the mother of two kids. And I, like many women I know, am the acting ring leader of our household circus.

And as if that were not enough, I write books that have nothing to do with any of the above.

On any given day, I can wake up and immediately feel completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of actions items that need to be performed across the multiple domains of my life. These "must dos" spin, and crash, and fight for space in my brain. They make my heart race and my anxiety levels shoot through the roof, every one of them begging me to "Start with me! I'm the most important thing here!" So much drama--and I haven't even gotten out of bed yet!

Sound familiar?

Left unorganized, it has been my experience that all the THINGS can leave me in a complete state of paralysis in which NOTHING gets done. As an aside, this personal paralysis does not, I repeat, DOES NOT serve to reduce anxiety.

Ever wonder how impossible it is to write fiction when your brain is busy worrying about: day-job responsibilities; doctor appointments; scheduling flights; laundry; dishes; being out of milk, and eggs, and peanut butter; tooth fairy money; your office is a mess; your son's science project; there is something growing in the upstairs bathroom; paying bill; refinancing your mortgage; blah, blah, blah.

Enter, THE LIST.

Lists, for me, are the non-medicated solution to this anxiety because, the second I write the "must do" down, my brain stops worrying about remembering to do it. Lists have the power of a personal promise to yourself--This is what I will do today. Lists help your brain see, in a very concrete way, exactly what needs to happen in your life. They provide the structure to prioritize those things.

And when my brain stops worrying about ALL THE THINGS, it is able to think creatively about my characters, settings, and plot. My lists help to shut off all the noise so that my brain can tune into writing books.

So, while lists are hardly the most creative writing I do in a day, they are often the most powerful tool that helps me get to my writing.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Expert Opinions Are Still Just Opinions

My backyard this morning

You might be surprised to know that some people hold to their particular traditional publishing beliefs VERY tightly--very. I have tried to make it a practice to always at least listen to "experts" in the field, even if and when I didn't necessary agree with their opinion.

Here is something I have taken away from all this listening.

1. Frequently people socialize within a fairly small, like minded group (on Twitter, Facebook, or New York) and that small group tends to hold the same, or very similar, beliefs. Everyone is standing around patting each other on the back and so it can become one big circle jerk of same information.

2. People can feel quite hostile in the face of information and or beliefs that threaten their livelihood.

3. Rarely does any one person have a birds-eye, complete big picture view of a situation--I don't care how many Twitter followers they have.

So I try to always listen, especially when my knee-jerk instinct is to cry BS--but ALWAYS consider the source.

Change can be difficult and scary and sometimes people struggle to visualize their role (because maybe they won't have one unless they are willing to overhaul their current practices) in the "after" image.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Which Road--Traditional or Self Publishing?

With so much changing and in flux with the publishing industry, it can be difficult for a writer to know what are the best options, the best choices, to make for their writing and their career.

When I started writing, it was simpler simply because there were less real options. Write a book. Query agents. Get rejected.

Or not (if you were really, really, really LUCKY.)

And then, your agent sent you out on submission--and you got rejected.

(unless you were really, really, REALLY lucky)

So it was simple, even if that simplicity was ultimately a depressingly horrid existence that wrecked havoc on the majority of writers' innately delicate egos.

Today, with the ease and accessibility of self-publishing, there are more options, more choices--but we lose the simplicity of non-choice. Some writers yell to the heavens, "THANK YOU! THANK YOU!" Then stride happily on in full command, for better or worse, of their projects.

But some get a little paralyzed at where the roads diverge in that yellow wood.

With a completed manuscript in hand, which now equally traveled road should we head down?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

ASCENDANT Won the Colorado Book Award

My book, ASCENDANT, won the Colorado Book Award in the Young Adult category! Here are some pictures from the event that was held at the GORGEOUS Jerome Hotel in Aspen Colorado.

All the winners

My support group

Thank you Colorado Humanities and Center for the Book--I'm honored!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

11 Quick Tips To Increase Your Writing Productivity

11 quick tips to increase your writing productivity

1. Take your laptop with you--everywhere
2. Have a daily writing goal (that's obtainable)
3. Break that daily writing goal into small chunks
4. Write for 15 minutes--then stop. Repeat later
5. Macfreedom, turn off wifi!
6. Reinforcement--You can only do X (fun thing you love) after you write for 15 minutes
7. Get up 30 minutes earlier
8. Stay up 30 minutes later
9. Never watch a rerun or movie you have already seen
10. Lunch breaks are for writing
11. Try to never go 1 day without writing, even if it's only 1 sentence

Thursday, June 5, 2014

16 Year Anniversary

Becky and Rod--16 years
Yesterday was my 16th wedding anniversary (although we never had a wedding--we eloped and I called my mother from a bar afterwards to tell her the news!) It's important to have people who love and support you in this life--I'm enormously grateful for this love, and friendship.
He said my eyes look "sexy" in this pic--I think I look drunk

He has the perfect long arms for selfies

Friday, May 30, 2014

On Writing: Confusing Openings

So here is my first vlog EVER--I'm no Diane Sawyer, but I might be enough okay with this to do some more in the future. Honestly, I considered doing my hair and makeup, even cleaning up my office first, but then I realized that after all that I would be too exhausted to bother with a video :-)

So you get me, and my world, all natural.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway! The Exquisite & Immaculate Grace of Carmen Espinoza

I'm giving away 10 signed copies of The Exquisite & Immaculate Grace of Carmen Espinoza on Goodreads! Enter now--open internationally!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Exquisite and Immaculate Grace of Carmen Espinoza by Rebecca  Taylor

The Exquisite and Immaculate Grace of Carmen Espinoza

by Rebecca Taylor

Giveaway ends August 23, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Bologna Children's Book Fair

Bologna Children's Book Fair 2014
For those who don't know, the Bologna Children's Book Fair happens every year in March. Before I started working at a literary agency, I had lots of thoughts about what I assumed happened at these big international book fairs (there is also the London Book Fair in April and the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, and others) but what actually happens is so much bigger than I imagined.

Basically, publishers from all over the world gather in a giant convention complex, set up booths with their books, and work to sell rights into other countries and create buzz for their titles and their authors. Agents, sitting at tables not big booths, also work to sell the rights to foreign publishers that their authors still hold.

What are these "rights" I'm talking about?

If I write a book, and my agent sends my book to XYZ Publishing, and XYZ Publishing wants to make me an offer for that book, they are going to want to acquire the "rights" to do so. What rights they ask for and what rights they are granted is negotiated between: XYZ, my agent, and myself.

Here is a (very basic) explanation of what they could get:

Rebecca Taylor, Bologna Italy 2014

World rights: XYZ has the right to sell the rights to publish my book to other publishers in other countries in any language. So instead of your agent (or their foreign rights co-agent) working to sell your book into other countries, the publisher is doing this in house. In Bologna, American publishers were meeting with foreign publishers to try and sell their books (for which they held World rights) into those countries.

World English rights: XYZ has the right to sell the rights to publish my book to other publishers in other countries that predominantly speak English. XYZ is going to work to sell my book into the United Kingdom, Australia, etc, etc. My agent/foreign co-agent will work to sell the rights into other, non-English speaking countries. In Bologna, there was a room called "The Agent Center" where literary agents met with foreign publishers trying to sell any rights their authors still held.

North American rights: XYZ has the right to publish my book in North America. My agent works to sell the rights into everywhere else.

North American English rights: XYZ has the right to publish my book in English in North America. My agent would work to sell the rights everywhere else (including Spanish translation into Mexico and every other territory.)

Some people think that giving your World rights to a publisher is a bad thing. Not necessarily so. It completely depends on that publishers ability to sell the rights into other countries. Some publishers, especially the largest houses, have foreign divisions in other countries that can facilitate the spreading of your book throughout the world. Your book, if it is a hot title, could find a home in other countries more readily because of these already established, in-house, connections. Furthermore, some publishers (large or not) have in-house foreign rights managers who have established relationships with editors in other countries--your agent, or agency, may or may not have someone who is capable of doing this. 

World rights are not such a great thing to give away when working with a very small house (who quite probably does not have foreign connections nor do they have a foreign rights manger working to sell rights into other countries.) If your small press holds World rights, and they are not actively trying to sell those rights into other countries, they are basically just sitting on them and preventing you, or your agent, from working to sell your book to foreign presses--or even self-publish your title in foreign countries. Of course, many small presses have "non-negotiable" contract language so just know what you're getting into.

As I said before, this is just a basic explanation and I am certainly not an expert. Contract language can get pretty thick in the weeds, so always turn to your agent or literary lawyer for a more detailed explanation. Also, if anyone has a better or more complete understanding/explanation, please feel free to jump in on the comments--I'll edit the post to be more correct if necessary. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Colorado Book Award Finalist--Ascendant


My book, ASCENDANT, is a finalist for the 2014 Colorado Book Award! The Finalist Reading will be held May 8th, 2014 at the Oxford Hotel in downtown Denver. The winners will be announced and the awards will be presented on June 13th at 2:00pm at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Interview With Author, Kristi Helvig

Author photo

Kristi Helvig

Tuesday April 8th 2014, I had the opportunity to attend Kristi Helvig's book launch for Burn Out at the Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch. What a great event, with yummy cupcakes, to celebrate the release of a fun, face paced, young adult sci fi! Here are some pics!
Kristi Helvig and Rebecca Taylor
Kristi Helvig answering questions about Burn Out
Kristi Helvig Burn Out release, Tattered Cover Highlands Ranch

Today I'm interviewing my fellow Darkly Delicious YA author, Kristi Helvig, about her young adult debut--Burn Out.

BURN OUT CoverYour debut title, Burn Out, is a young adult science fiction published by Egmont USA. Tell us about Burn Out, what can we expect?
It’s about a 17-year-old girl, Tora, who is one of the last people on Earth when the sun burns out early. She finds other survivors, or rather they find her, but they turn out to be even deadlier than the planet. Expect a fast, tense ride.

What would you say makes it stand out from other books in the same category?

Hmmm. I haven’t seen the concept of the sun burning out before and it involved a lot of science research because I’m a total nerd. So I could say it’s nerdier than other books, but that’s probably not a strong selling point-lol. I will say that I’m a huge Star Trek and Battlestar Gallactica fan (I’m really not doing much to dispel the nerd thing, huh?), but a big part of that for me is the characters and not just the sci-fi setting. Shows like BSG and Firefly had characters that made me care about them, which was what I wanted in my own book.

How long have you been writing fiction? What inspired you to become an author?

Either a few years or forever, depending on how you view it. I wrote my first picture book at age 5 or 6, and then my first novel a few years after that. However, I didn’t write anything other than angsty teen poetry until after I had my kids. The first book I wrote with the intent of it being published was a few years ago.

I see that you also work as a clinical psychologist; do you feel this has any bearing and/or impact on your fiction writing?

Yes, I’ve always been fascinated with what makes people tick, and why they make the choices they make so I got my Ph.D. and have been working as a psychologist for over 12 years now. It definitely helps with characterization and motivation in novels. I also worked with teen girls in youth corrections and met a lot of smart, tough girls, so writing a tough girl came pretty easily.

How do you balance work, your writing career, and family?

Ha. I should ask you that because I’m not sure I’m balancing anything at all right now. I’m lucky in that I only work part-time in my private practice which leaves more time for writing. However, right now I’m juggling the deadline for Book 2 revisions with the launch for Book 1 and feel more unbalanced than ever. Whenever I have crazy times like this, I make sure to create some down time afterward. I have things planned with my family after my launch, and a mountain trip with girlfriends. Other tips are appreciated. ;)

What tips or recommendations do you have for aspiring authors?

Keep writing, keep learning, join a critique group, attend conferences, read blogs. And chocolate and wine always come in handy too.

Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Rebecca! :)

Kristi, thank you so much for being on the blog. Your release was great!

You can follow Kristi here:
Website: www.kristihelvig.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/KristiHelvigAuthor
Twitter: @KristiHelvig
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/6997226.Kristi_Helvig