Sunday, May 31, 2009

My baby has no eyes!

AAAAK! I was so excited for our new computer that it wasn't until hours later that I realized we're missing an essential component--

The monitor.

The computer deal included a monitor, and according to the packing slip and Dell's invoice, a monitor was shipped. But alas, nary a monitor arrived at my front door.

My old computer and monitor are going to a visually impaired child who had brain cancer (and I wish I was just joking) who needs it for summer school. I need a monitor so I can give this one away!! Grrrr. And Dell isn't responding to my email. I guess I'll have to get grumpy with Mr. Balakrishna on the Support line (because I'm pretty sure I've been calling India).

Friday, May 29, 2009

It's Here!!

No, not "The Call" from an agent dying to represent me. (I wish!) But I'll take this consolation prize.

Our new computer arrived!!



Isn't it bee-you-ti-ful?!

*Sniff*

And this one shouldn't freeze on me as much or freak out when I have more than 2 applications running at a time. (Next, when I'm big and famous, is a laptop of my very own.) Not looking forward to transferring over my data, but I'll make the sacrifice. :)

And in writing news, check out this great post by Kristin Nelson over at PubRants about The Number One Thing that gets first pages rejected. Good stuff.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday #4

I know, I know. It's really Thursday. Anyone else feeling like their week is out of whack after the holiday weekend? No? Well, humor me and pretend it's Wednesday, all right?

So, here is my progress for this Wednesday-that's-not-really-Wednesday-but-we're-pretending-it-is. No news on the two agents reading my full manuscript. And just so you know, checking your email 20 times a day does not, indeed, make them respond any faster.

I'm still working on character development for my current WIP. In fact, I had one character just burst into my head and tell me what's what. I like to find pictures of people that look like my characters just to help solidify things. So I found some great pics for one character. Then I was folding laundry and this character sauntered into my head, oozing personality, and informed me that he is *not* Jonathan (the one I had planned).

Meet Isaac.


*Note: If you know who this is in real-life, just keep quiet. This is Isaac, okay?*

Isaac was a really minor character that I hadn't even spent much time on because he had limited screen time and up until this point merely existed to serve a plot purpose rather than having much of his own weight. (You know the characters like that.) Well, Isaac was very clear that the pics I had found were of him, and an entire scene started playing in my head right then and there. I threw the clothes down and dashed upstairs to the computer so I could catch it before Isaac decided to quit talking.

And holy wow! My story just got a whole lot more intriguing with Isaac and his friends. Oh yes, he has friends. With their own powers and agendas and boy is this going to be cool! *rubbing hands together and giggling* I am really falling in love with this story!

And soon I have to quit flirting and get on to full-blown dating.

At Conduit this weekend I sat in on a panel of 4 authors who answered some really fantastic questions. In fact, it inspired me to work on an upcoming blog post on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers. (Doesn't that sound good?)

All authors on this panel agreed hands down that the best thing for a writer to do is to *make* the time to write. Not smash it in during your spare time, but plan on certain times to work, and then make the sacrifices necessary to do it. Kind of like that Nike slogan--Just Do It.

One of the panelists talked about how he makes deadlines for himself and then tracks his progress. He picks a date he wants to finish with a rough draft, for example, then he figures out how many words he has to write per week and day in order to meet that deadline. Then he tracks the time spent and words written on a spreadsheet.

My ears immediately perked up. Spreadsheet? I like spreadsheets. Um. A lot.

Yes, I'm a nerd. One of the funniest things about this panel was that all 4 panelists used to be accountants before they switched to full-time writing. So I'm in good nerd company. :)

I figured out that I'd like to start the nitty-gritty writing next Monday (June 1st) and my goal is to have the rough draft of Going Under/Mind Benders finished by the end of September. It's YA, so 65,000 words is a decent word count to shoot for. That means that I need to write 3600 words a week, or app. 750 words per day for 5 days a week to meet my goal. Manuscript pages average about 250 words/page, so that's 3 pages a day, 5 days a week.

That doesn't sound too bad! Certainly I can do that. Even in the summer with the daily neighborhood parties that seem to spontaneously happen at my house. 3 pages a day. And by focusing on this story I can quit worrying so much about the agents.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Evil Overlords, Conduit, and Tavern Wenches

This weekend I had a number of friends attending Conduit--a sort of convention/ conference with tons of people dressed up in fantasy/sci-fi costumes, classes on how to draw wings and monsters, a masquerade ball, and a dealer's room where you could not only buy books, but also jewelry, costumes, and a life size Darth Vader.

I decided to scramble last minute and head up Saturday afternoon.

*NOTE: All attendees should thank me for tripping majestically on that extension cord taped to the floor as you walked in the Dealers Room. I had enough coordination (barely) to not break anything on the two tables next to the door as I flailed drunkenly--I mean, gracefully regained my balance. Interestingly, not 20 seconds passed before someone ripped the cord up and re-routed it. I could be wrong, but I think it was the guy with the table full of breakables on the right. He had that tripping hazard gone by the time I left the room. All the evil overlords, their minions, and the warriors for Good could now enter and exit the room in safety. It's the least I could do in the fight against evil.

Anyway, back to the main topic. Conduit was a lot of fun, and of course I have to name drop some of the cool people I talked with, laughed with, and endured lunch with at the restaurant with the worst service I've ever experienced. (Think an hour to get the food, and there were only 3 other patrons in the whole place!)

It was good to see friend James Dashner (he of the Maze Runner) who is kicking it in New York City this week for Book Expo of America. (That I am NOT going to, even though I would really like to go--Nay, would maybe consider selling my children for the chance to go. Okay, before you hyperventilate and call Child Protective Services on me, I wouldn't *really* sell my children. Rent them out? Maybe...).

I met and talked with Aprilynne Pike, niece of my neighbor and brand new New York Times #1 Bestseller for her book Wings. Editor Stacy Whitman was there with her super snazzy camera and Jessica Day George looked lovely sporting a fabulous shirt her sister (and wardrobe consultant) bought for her. I finally got to give Julie Wright a hug of excitement on landing an agent (expect to hear a lot more about her in the future). And it was great to see Eric Swedin (and wife), Graham Chops (who has almost sort of said he'll loan me his sword to go on a berserker rampage), Karen Hoover (minus the hat), Sue of the awesomely tights, Diva Donna (accompanied by her cute daughter) and Debbie of Dashnog fame, a really nice girl named Arlene, Arowen from Lord of the Rings, and various other people at the other end of the Harry Potter lightning bolt-shaped table configuration at lunch. (I felt this post really needed some more parentheses, because you can never get enough of those in a blog, right?)

I also finally met Dave Wolverton/Farland, who will be a keynote at the 2010 LDStorymaker Writers Conference (Squeeeee!). He is extremely knowledgeable (and a super nice guy to boot). If you write and do not subscribe to his "Daily Kick in the Pants" email newsletter then run--do not walk, do not collect $200--and sign up! After you finish reading this post, of course. (Click on the link on his name and scroll down just a little. You can subscribe on the right hand side.)

I didn't get to talk with Dan Wells, but someday I *will* get my hands on one of those "I Am Not a Serial Killer" buttons, because, you know, people might wonder and I want to set their minds at ease.

After a few classes and lots of standing around in the hall eavesdropping on the horde that surrounded Brandon Sanderson wherever he went, I had to get back home. It was a good afternoon, though.

And for some reason I have the urge to dress up like a tavern wench. With a light saber.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Word of the Week #53

flense - [flens] - verb (used with object) - flensed, flensing

Definition:
1. to strip the blubber or the skin from (a whale, seal, etc.).
2. to strip off (blubber or skin).

Usage:
The flensing knives of his words exposed my very soul, and it hurt worse that he didn't think enough of me to even realize what he'd done.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Okay, universe. I get it!

So I wrote my slightly down post yesterday, sent the youngest kidlet off to school, then turned on good old Pandora (more on the awesomeness of Pandora soon). The first song that came up? "Don't Give Up" by Peter Gabriel.

Ok, ok. I get it.

Onward!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sigh

Two more rejections today. That makes 5 this week.

I had another post I was going to write, but I'm not feeling very witty. And most of the weeds are pulled out of the yard so I guess I'll have to start deep cleaning my cupboards or the garage or something.

*drowning sorrows in the next writing project and some spring cleaning*

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday #3

First of all, the latest on The Horrible Smack Down of my Self-Esteem...er... I mean The Agent Hunt.

You may have guessed it--more rejections. I'm trying to look on the bright side and note that the latest batch (that had sample chapters) are more personalized, with comments like "you are a strong writer" and "there's some good writing here." However, they're always followed by the huge, ugly BUT... But the story doesn't resonate with me enough, but it's too solidly middle grade, but I don't feel I'm the right one to represent it, but... but... but...

My natural optimism pokes its head up very slowly and cautiously. "At least the rejections are helping you get the yard work done, since you take out your frustration on the weeds," it says.

"Oh, shut up!" I growl and try to hit it with a weed the size of a newborn sporting thorns that would penetrate a Kevlar vest.

"And you still have two full manuscripts out there," it reminds me as it scampers back into hiding.

And my optimism is right. I still have a couple irons in the fire, so I won't give up on finding an agent for this story just yet. But I'm feeling the pressure to get cracking on the next story, despite it's attitude. (See last week's WIP Wed. post.)

I've been spending the last week getting to know my characters. There are all kinds of character bio worksheets out there, as well as the idea of just sitting down and freewriting whatever pops in your brain about them. The worksheet approach and the freewriting approach work okay for me, but I thought I'd try something new, and it's been working great! I even have 16 index cards in a neat little pile with scene ideas just from getting to know my characters. (Note: I've tried the index card plotting idea before and it didn't work, but I'm trying it again one more time.)

So what wonderful character development scheme is working? Asking them questions. Questions about their compelling need, their work and play, who they love and hate, what traumatic things happened in their past and what they hope for the future, etc. I wish I could say I thought this up on my own, but I got it from author Holly Lisle. I liked her free tips and articles so much I bought her Create a Character Workshop and it's working for me. There's no way I go into as much depth as Lisle, but I'll discover more about my characters as I write. That's part of the fun.

I think I need just a few more days getting to know the main characters and then I'll be ready to get serious plotting and writing. And then I can actually put some progress on that word meter in the side bar. So my goal for the next week is to finish my preliminary character development and be working on plotting milestones. *crossing fingers* That's assuming no more major appliances become possessed (the hot water heater and I are about to come to blows).

I'm also wondering if I can work on two books at a time because I have another story demanding attention. This ones pretty pushy, too. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

But you promised!

Today I'm going to talk a little bit about promises. Not promises between couples, or parent and child, but the promise between a writer and a reader. Every story makes a promise to the reader. I argue that it's a two-part promise: emotional and intellectual. We are drawn to books that promise what we are looking for. I pick up a light, fun story when I don't want to think too hard and just want to escape. When I want to better myself, I pick up a self-help book. And when I want to be a little scared I'll pick up something a little darker.

For published books the promise begins before the first word. It's in the title, the cover, and the back cover or jacket copy. Look at these book covers, for example.



This will have adventure, elements of fantasy, and probably some fighting.



With this book you'll be able to fit in that slinky black dress hanging in the back of your closet.


This is most likely a romance. Probably with at least one wedding in it.

A suspense/thriller.

And this is Victorian, with a horror twist.

I'm going out on a limb here, but I think this is paranormal, and probably with a humorous twist.

You can see how the titles and covers give a promise. It's the marketing department's job to take care of the cover/blurb promise. Once you brand your name and/or series, then that gives your readers a promise, too. That's why it's not a good idea to try and genre hop too much. (At least at first, then you become Nora Roberts and can do whatever in the world you feel like.)

As a writer, you give the readers a promise. The first word, the first paragraph, the first page, and the first chapter all give that promise. In a non-fiction book you better make sure your promise is stated clearly by the end of the first chapter. In fiction it's not spelled out as clearly, but there is still a promise.

I try hard in my writing to live up to the promise set down in the first chapter. And if the book veers off on its own course, I want to make sure and go back to the beginning and tweak my promise. Because readers expect you to keep your promise. And they will put the book down in disgust if you don't.

Or, if they're like me, they will throw the book across the room. *To the library: I apologize profusely. But it's not my fault!

So why am I talking about the writer/reader promise? Because I'm very angry at Dean Koontz.

??


I used to read quite a bit of Dean Koontz, and he has written some truly creepy stories. But it's been a while, and I wanted to renew our relationship so I picked up this book. The back cover copy sounded pretty good, in a creepy Koontz way. Something about a dead woman stalking the man who got her heart in a transplant. And the almost freaky eyes of the woman on the cover boded well.

Unfortunately Dean broke his promise in a big way. I gave you 100 pages Mr. Koontz --100 pages!!-- and it is boring, boring, B-O-R-I-N-G. I get it your main character has lots of disturbing dreams. After the second dream I got it. No need to beat a very dead horse. And I know the whole "heart" concept is a theme throughout the book, but if I had to read any more heart metaphors I just might wish my own to stop beating. I was a third through the book and the character hadn't even been put on the heart transplant list yet, for crying out loud.

I refuse to read anymore. I might pick up Koontz's next book in case this was a mid-life crisis mistake or something. Maybe

Note to writers: Do. Not. Do. This. (Please, for all that's good in the world of writing!)

Especially if you're not as big as Dean Koontz; readers will give you less of a chance. So figure out your promise and keep it!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Word of the Week #52

myokymia - [mahy-uh-kim-ee-uh] - noun

Definition:
Twitching of individual segments of a muscle.

Usage:
The myokymia of my eyelid made the disgusting man on the bus think I was constantly winking at him.

*I've always wanted to know what this random twitchiness was called.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday #2


It's my second week of WIP Wednesday, and hopefully I'll do a better job of making goals. Last week I finished my goal by the end of the day.

It's time to get cracking on my newest story. You know, the one that wouldn't leave me alone while I was writing the last story, but has since run away to hide somewhere in my mind? It's called Going Under. Think a mixture of X-Men and the movie "Push" with a Dean Koontz flair and hint of Twilight romance (without the over-the-top goopiness). We'll see what it turns out to be once my story takes over.

But first we had to get back on speaking terms. Well, I hunted it down yesterday and we spent a good chunk of time getting reacquainted over ice-water and trail mix.

"Why hello there, Going Under," I ventured. "Remember me?"

"Vaguely," Going Under said, looking off in the distance at something obviously way more interesting.

"Listen, I'm sorry I neglected you, but I had to finish Bryan's story and get it off to agents. Surely you understand?"

"Whatever." Going Under checked her nails.

"I'm ready to give you all my attention. So you can keep me up at night again and I won't tell you to be quiet."

"I've heard that before."

"I mean it! I am 100% devoted to you. Well, 100% of the spare time I have to devote to writing, which will be drastically reduced in a couple weeks when school's out. But whatever time I have, it's yours."

I offered Going Under some trail mix. Sniffing in haughtiness, she picked out some M&M's and ate them.

"And remember all that great stuff we did during that Sketch a Novel in an hour exercise?" I asked.

Going Under looked directly at me for the first time. "We did come up with some good conflict and characterization," she says grudgingly.

"I even found a name for the one character that's the head of that special forces group," I mentioned as a sign of my sincerity. "Maximillian."

"I like Maximillian. But I'm not so sure about the title Going Under," she said.

"What?" I asked in shock. "But it's always been Going Under! Since that first day when you popped into my mind during a song."

"That's so last year," she replied. "I think we need to go with something more compelling. Something more 'with it.' Like Mind Benders."

"Mind Benders... hmmm. I kinda like it."

"I knew you would," she said with a smug expression.

"Now wait a minute," I protested. "I'll have to think about it. We'll see what feels good after we really get going."

She rolled her eyes. "Fine." She snagged some more M&M's. At least we were talking again.


And that's kind of how it went. So my goal is to get a lot done on characters and plot in the next week so I can get started on the rough draft. I'm not sure I'll get all that finished by next Wednesday, but I hope to get through enough that I can work on some scenes. I installed a word count meter on the side that is right now at 0 words written. I have to get something going so I can start inching it across the little bar. (Hey! Whatever works to motivate you.)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Editing Letter

So cute! And yes, so true.

Word of the Week #51

imbroglio - [im-BROHL-yoh] - noun

Definition:
1. A complicated and embarrassing state of things.
2. A confused or complicated disagreement or misunderstanding.
3. An intricate, complicated plot, as of a drama or work of fiction.
4. A confused mass; a tangle.


Usage:
Why is it that the thoughts in my mind often resemble the imbroglio of cords that surround my computer?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Nothing says Mother's Day like battles in space

Thursday night my wonderful husband gave me my Mother's Day present early. He walked in the door with a huge smile and handed me two little pieces of multicolored paper:

Movie tickets to the new Star Trek movie!



I do believe I squealed and jumped up and down. (Does my darling know me or what?) And I guarantee he wouldn't have gotten that reaction with jewelry or flowers.

I know you're dying to know. How was the movie? One word:

AWESOME

Oh Great Big Globs of Romulon Red Matter was it awesome!

From start to finish. Good acting, great script, epic music, incredible effects. I think I've had enough space battles, explosions, and inside Trekkie jokes to last me until I go see it again. (And yes, I will. Right after Terminator: Salvation and Transformers 2 and G.I. Joe and Harry Potter and...and... and...)

If you're curious, here's a review of the movie which is more than one word.

Happy Mother's Day to me!!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Update on. . . stuff

First of all, if you've been wondering about the clue picture over in the right sidebar--hello little clue--it is part of a fun and unique internet game put on by my friend, fellow author, and mastermind of fun, Tristi Pinkston. Go peek at her blog here to get the scoop.

Now on to other stuff. What a crazy few days! It's been quite the...

(Aside: Doesn't this look like a killer roller coaster?? I so want to try it out! It's the Hulk Roller Coaster in Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure in Florida. Awesome, awesome, awesome!)

Just because I want to keep you in suspense for why my life has been a roller coaster (and I know you're all on the edge of your seats, right?) I just want to report that I met my Work In Progress Wednesday goal. By Wednesday afternoon. Next week I'll revamp my goals a bit.

The last of the revisions I'd been putting off because it would be so hairy turned out not to be hairy at all. Basically I had to write out some scenes from one character's point of view. I thought it would make things all confusing at the end, but after I read my ending I realized that with a couple little tweaks it would be simple to just delete the said scenes and everything would be peachy.

So, a couple hours later...voila! I was finished.

I then sent an email to the one agent letting her know I was finished with her suggested revisions and asked if she wanted another look at the manuscript. The answer?

YES

So I sent out another full manuscript. Yippee!!!

I've bounced from the heights of euphoria, to the depths of despair (so bad that I contemplate eating... chocolate), back to euphoria again. I'm getting a little whiplash from the writers journey this week. Ain't it great?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday

Well, I'm a little grumpy I couldn't indulge in a full-blown pity party (with or without chocolate). Frankly I have to much to do to mope around too long. One of those things is jumping on the "Work in Progress Wednesday" bandwagon. I already planned on this so I guess I have to shake off the agent rejection of yesterday.

For details on the originator of the idea, visit the blog of writer Kate Karyus Quinn. She's even kind enough to share her cute picture.

See? Cute.

I'm hoping that by doing this and having some external accountability (of sorts) that I will get moving on my next book. This is a story that literally popped in my head one day as I listened to a song while driving. I broke a few speed limits rushing home and completely ignored my children as I wrote out the prologue going through my head. I've also had some scenes keep me awake at night until I had to write them out so I could sleep. A story that won't leave you alone isn't necessarily bad, though. The problem was that I was in the middle of a *different* project. So I wrote my scenes, yelled at the characters. "Just leave me alone for a few months, all right?!" and kept plugging away at the book I was working on, that is now finished and getting shredded by agent rejections.

*Note: You get some weird looks when you yell at yourself like that. Just cover your ear with your hand and pretend you're talking on a Bluetooth.

Now it's time to get cracking on the story, and... I'm not. Frankly I'm a little scared of touching this incredible--but still nebulous--idea. What if I ruin it? What if it doesn't live up to my initial excitement? The other problem is that the story took me seriously and left me alone. It's sulking in some dark corner of my mind. I have to go find it and either coax it back to the light or drag it kicking and screaming like my daughter when she doesn't want to get dressed (a daily occurrence). And whether it's my daughter or my story kicking and screaming, that just takes a lot of energy. Maybe I'll just go spray my weed-infested lawn instead.

Wait. I already did that. Darn!

I'm also one of those strange people who really likes revising and editing. Writing the rough draft? Not so much. I spend the whole rough draft stage chanting to myself, "It's okay if it's crap. It's okay if it stinks. Yes, this part is really awful. Just keep going." and other such things. It's really a liberating thing to realize that a rough draft is just that: rough. But I still struggle sometimes with gagging my internal editor.

But I have something else that I simply have to do before hunting down my story. I have to finish up the revisions of my just finished manuscript so I can send it back to the agent that did like it and connected enough to send me revision suggestions. And I have to do it soon.

My Goal: By next Wednesday my goal is to have revisions finished and the new version sent off so I can get going on the new story. *crossing fingers*

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Optimism is overrated

You know that earlier blog post about not giving up and being optimistic? Well, forget it!

I'm having a pity party.

Agent response from reading my full manuscript: "You’re a very strong writer and you have quite a commercial concept. That said, I just didn't connect with your manuscript to the extent that I need to in order to offer representation, so I'm going to have to pass. "

I'm going to pout for a few hours. Then I'll pull myself back together. But this pity party would be much more effective if I liked chocolate. Binging on baby carrots and yogurt just doesn't feel the same.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Word of the Week - First 50

Calling all fellow word nerds. We've now had 50 words for Word of the Week!
*applause*

So for this week I thought I'd put up links to all of them so far. Then you can just click on the words that interest you.


Ta Daaaa!



Saturday, May 2, 2009

Random thought

The Mystery of the Rubber Ducky



After a being used as a bath toy for a while it starts squirting these disgusting black flakes from inside the ducky. What are they? Do we even want to know?

Ponder.

Friday, May 1, 2009

About the Agent Hunt

I realize it's been a while since I posted anything about "The Agent Hunt." First off, I am still on the hunt for an agent. And I live in a house where boys outnumber the girls, and they like statistics, so I keep updated stats in the sidebar. I'm not sure how kosher it is to list specific agents, but I'm not angry at any of them, so I'm going to do it. I would recommend writers to query any of them because I have had very positive experiences, with professional and courteous interactions.

Here's the latest:

I have submitted to a whole bunch of different agents, and received a whole bunch of rejections, which I will print out and keep in a file, so when I'm dripping with fame and money I can give a speech on how not to let rejections get to you. I have also had two agents request a partial manuscript - meaning the query was interesting enough that they wanted to see more. The first agent (Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Management) replied that the story wasn't for her. The second agent, Joanna Stampfel Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary, also passed on the book, but she explained why she was passing. She liked the story, she liked my main character, she liked the voice, and she liked the writing. What she didn't like were some POV shifts. And she hoped that I'd revise.

Now Joanna is on the top of my super-nice and super-helpful list. I had a question about her suggestions and emailed her back to ask for a clarification. Not only did she reply, but she did so in less than 24 hours. And after I got going on her suggestions I realized she was spot-on. I will be sending it back to her shortly. So consider this an official internet "You're way cool!" shout out to Joanna.

In other hunt news, Lindsay Davis of Writer's House requested the full manuscript, as did Becca Stumpf of Prospect Agency. So I guess my writing doesn't totally stink after all. Either that or the universe eventually rewards bull-headed tenacity. :)

The moral of the story: Don't give up after the first 35 rejections!